Month: March 2019

New saddest words in the English language with the loss of Carrie Fisher

Sparky … Carrie Fisher. Photo: Instagram/@glamourofthepast Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford in the original Star Wars. Photo: Twentieth Century Fox
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Carrie Fisher on the set of Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. Photo: Sunset Boulevard

Carrie Fisher once wrote, in her novel Postcards from the Edge, that two of the saddest words in the English language were “what party?”

After the news broke, the saddest words in the English language for many were suddenly “Carrie Fisher has died”.

It seemed the actor and writer’s condition had stabilised after a heart attack on a flight from London to Los Angeles two days before Christmas. But at the close of a year when way too many beloved entertainers have died – among them Alan Rickman, David Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen and George Michael – there was one more famous name on the sombre list.

Once again, there was sadness among fans across generations, memories to be shared, collections to be rifled through for favourite moments.

Less than two weeks after Fisher had surprisingly reappeared as the spirited young Princess Leia in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, offering hope to the galaxy as dark forces massed, she was gone at 60.

While little consolation, it was at least a fitting showbiz exit: appearing in the biggest movie in the world over Christmas, just as she did with Star Wars: The Force Awakens last Christmas.

The daughter of actor Debbie Reynolds and singer Eddie Fisher, Fisher was also a brilliant writer of sharp social comedy in both novels and memoirs, a scriptwriter whose movies include an adaptation of Postcards From The Edge with Meryl Streep and a Hollywood script doctor. In her private life, she won praise for her honesty about her struggle with drug addiction and mental health.

“I grew up on the back side of show business,” she told The New York Times in 2006. “So I had no desire to go into it. It had beat up my mother.”

But Fisher was still a teenager when she appeared alongside her mother in a Broadway revival of Irene (1973), then in the hit movie Shampoo (1975).

She might have gone into the first Star Wars (1977) as a 19-year-old with just one movie credit but she turned Leia into a feisty princess for changing times that appealed, for different reasons, to both young females and males. She more than held her own as a sparky freedom fighter alongside Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker and Harrison Ford’s Han Solo, saying many times how much she hated the “metal bikini” she had to wear in The Empire Strikes Back (1980).

The sexual tension between Leia and Han resonated throughout the trilogy. Yet it was still a surprise when Fisher revealed in the memoir The Princess Diarist this year that she and Ford had a passionate three-month affair when she was 19 and he was a 33-year-old married father of two.

As well as Return of the Jedi (1983), Fisher’s other movies included The Blues Brothers (1980), Hannah And Her Sisters (1986), The ‘burbs (1989), When Harry Met Sally (1989) and Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (1993). There were also many little-seen films including an n sci-fi pic, The Time Guardian (1987).

Fisher’s writing revealed how charismatic, outspoken and witty she was. In 1987, the semi-autobiographical Postcards from the Edge was about an actor trying to put her life back together after a drug overdose. There was more candour in the memoir Wishful Drinking (2008), based on her one-woman stage show of the same name.

“You know how they say that religion is the opiate of the masses?” she wrote. “Well, I took masses of opiates religiously.”

In a tumultuous personal life, her 1983 marriage to musician Paul Simon lasted less than a year and she later had a daughter, Billie Lourd, with agent Bryan Lourd in 1992.

In The Princess Diarist, she wrote touchingly that she still wanted to grow old with Harrison Ford: “And if we’re going to get back together, we’re going to have to do it soon.”

With filming having wrapped in July, Fisher will appear in the next Star Wars movie at the end of next year. Given what digital artists did with the late Peter Cushing in Rogue One, it’s possible she could keep featuring as long as the sci-fi saga continues.

Almost 40 years ago, the very first instalment opened with the line: “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.” In this galaxy at least, Carrie Fisher will be remembered for a long time to come.


Chinan Jockeys Association fear health of jockeys at risk over Racing NSW’s new handicapping situation

Health and pay fears: Jockeys gather at the winners area at Doomben racecourse to pay their tributes to Tim Bell in November last year. Photo: Robert ShakespeareThe n Jockeys Association fears the health of the state’s riding population is being put at risk and heavyweight riders could lose up to a quarter of their income as a result of Racing NSW’s bid to provide a greater spread of handicaps in non-feature races.
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The first week of the new handicapping system –  under which non-feature races must contain a horse weighted at the minimum of 53kg in an attempt to induce an 8kg spread – has caused chaos for jockey managers with weight-restricted riders who are booked weeks in advance for mounts.

A number of benchmark races at Canterbury on Saturday featured the weights being dropped so the new minimum of 53kg could be met, meaning jockeys who can’t ride at such a light weight have been forced to renege on longstanding commitments.

The AJA has sought a meeting with Racing NSW over the festive period to air their concerns and Fairfax Media spoke to several jockeys on Wednesday who were privately aggrieved at the new system, which could see heavier riders giving up close to 25 per cent of their earnings through lost bookings.

But of more concern are fears jockeys whose opportunities may now dry up will starve themselves to lower their minimum riding weights to tailor the new system.

“We’ve insisted a meeting with Racing NSW to discuss the full ramifications of the system and the meeting needs to take place as an absolute priority because the health and wellbeing of NSW’s riders is being put at risk due to the decisions and policies that have been put in place now,” the AJA said in a statement provided to Fairfax Media.

Some of Sydney’s top riders – including the country’s most celebrated – Hugh Bowman, Melbourne Cup-winning hoop Blake Shinn, Godolphin’s retained rider James Doyle and premiership hopeful Josh Parr – face the prospect of sitting in the jockeys’ room on a more regular basis given they don’t ride light weights.

Racing NSW rubber stamped the handicapping changes only three days before Christmas, arguing a greater spread in weights would increase field sizes and eradicate instances of horses carrying big weights above 60kg under compressed scales. It is due to be reviewed after six months.

But the changes have already rankled the jockeys. Already 3 rides I was booked to ride this Saturday have been taken from me due to this new weighting system. It is beyond pathetic.— Joshua Parr (@JoshuaParr8) December 27, 2016

“There’s still plenty of rides for the heavier jockeys and I don’t think they’re going to be as affected as they think they’re going to be,” Racing NSW chief executive Peter V’landys said. “There is no doubt that the spread of weights has improved field sizes and made racing in the metropolitan area a lot more competitive.

“We did a survey of the jockeys before we introduced it about going to a 53kg minimum and I met with some of them and they were keen to experiment with the 53kg. Naturally some people are going to be impacted, but we’ve got to act in the best interests of the industry as a whole when we do these things.”

The $150,000 Canterbury Classic features nine declared starters – excluding emergencies – carrying 53kg while in other key Magic Millions lead-up races preferred jockeys have lost rides due to the changing weight scale.

Stewards have given Christian Reith permission to ride Le Cordon Bleu 1kg over his allotted weight of 53kg in the Canterbury Classic given there are so few featherweight jockeys in Sydney this weekend.

“It’s been very frustrating for everyone,” said leading jockey manager Bryan Haskins, whose roster includes Bowman and Shinn. “If it doesn’t appear to work it is usually not working.

“You’ve got to think of the owners too and they are excited when they’re told Hugh Bowman is going to ride their horse and then come acceptance time they’re screaming for a 53kg jockey because the weights have been lowered.”

Sydney’s leading trainer Chris Waller has long argued the previous handicapping system was forcing horses to carry too much weight, which at least has been alleviated under the recent changes.

“The concept is right because I’m just dead against horses carrying big weights, but we’ve now got to be very careful of what jockeys we book,” he said.

“We’re ringing an owner telling them they’ve got Hugh Bowman or Blake Shinn or Tye Angland to ride – it might even be a 54kg rider – but when the weights come out we’ve found they’ve dropped. We need to find that happy medium.

“We shouldn’t be afraid to try things and I commend them for that, but at this stage it’s very hard booking jockeys.”

Added Peter Snowden: “I just can’t understand how we can be changing weights at acceptance time. All hell broke loose on Tuesday when we realised what was going to happen and we lost four riders on our horses for the Canterbury meeting and we’ve had to get new jockeys.

“I’m all for reducing the topweights, but we shouldn’t be reducing the minimum to 53kg and we’re going to end up with a situation where instead of booking jockeys two or three weeks in advance to get your rider of preference we’ll be doing them on a Tuesday and Wednesday morning.”


David Warner, Usman Khawaja launch counter attack on Pakistan in Boxing Day Test

As it happened: v Pakistan, Day Three
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David Warner rode his luck to slay his MCG demons with a century, spearheading a bold counter attack by that has left the door ajar for a push at an unlikely victory.

The batting crisis of a month ago seems a world away now after ‘s senior batsmen returned fire at Pakistan, making serious inroads into their imposing first innings total.

The first half of the day belonged to Pakistan, whose defiance with the bat exacted further toll on ‘s quicks, but it’s the home side who head into the fourth day with a more realistic hope of winning.

Both teams, however, will also have to beat the elements with more rain forecast on Thursday in a game already severely interrupted by wet weather.

finished the third day on 2/278, trailing Pakistan by 165, with Usman Khawaja needing a further five runs to join Warner in triple figures. If weather permits the hosts will be ahead as early as lunch if they can maintain their strong scoring rate.

“We’re in a good position now. Our aim is to take the scoreboard out of the equation and just bat,” Warner said.

While would love to wrap the series up in Melbourne, they will be wary of asking too much of their attack late in this game with only three days’ break heading into the third Test in Sydney.

Talk of an n win seemed unlikely when Azhar Ali became only the fourth overseas player to score a double century at the MCG, however, Warner has not only dug his team out of trouble but put the visitors on the back foot.

The opener had been curiously short of runs at Test level this year, despite strong form in the one-day international arena, but said pre-game the tide would change. Those words proved prophetic when he completed his 17th Test century and first at this famous ground.

“It was my bogey venue but I got it off the back,” Warner said.

“It’s a lot of weight off the shoulders. You put so much emotion into thinking why I’m not scoring them in Test matches but scoring them in the one-dayers.”

Warner played with his customary aggression, his 144 coming at better than a run a ball on a pitch Pakistan’s top seven, including Azhar, scored at a pedestrian rate. His century, brought off a French cut, came in just the 39th over of the innings.

His other major slice of luck came through a no-ball from Wahab Riaz when on 81. It proved a costly error.

Wahab was extremely disappointing, losing the plot with five no balls in two consecutive overs, including one where he overstepped by a foot. His follow through into the danger zone on the pitch was also concerning the umpires.

Pakistan’s absent-mindedness was on show as early as the fifth over when they burned a referral on Warner for a caught behind despite the batsman missing the ball by a considerable margin. That a fielder at third slip, Azhar, and backward point, Yasir Shah, instigated the challenge only added to the embarrassment.

Yasir did not seem to be on the same page with his captain either when he had the ball. While he bowled a more attacking line outside of off stump to the left-handers, Misbah-ul-Haq had set a four-five field, leaving plenty of holes on the off side for Warner and Khawaja to pick. Accordingly, Yasir conceded more than six runs an over.

“If you keep doing the same thing, you’ll keep getting the same result,” an exasperated Michael Clarke said on Channel Nine.

“Misbah needs to see this [wagon wheel]. Somebody in the support staff for Pakistan needs to tell him this, if he doesn’t know already.

“It makes it hard to attack from the other end because you can’t build dot balls, you can’t build any pressure.”

Mohammad Amir was the pick of the bowlers but his toil went unrewarded.


Boxing Day Test: one good hand deserves another, and another

After two-and-a-bit rainy days, the Boxing Day Test has made up for lost time thanks to four innings of contrasting styles but equal effect. Variously, Azhar Ali made the first double century by a Pakistani in , Sohail Khan his first 50 and David Warner his first MCG Test hundred and his first anywhere for nearly a year. Usman Khawaja’s 95 not out was not a first, but it was timeless.
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If that makes bowlers sound like incidentals, they were. Their strike rate was poorer than Kiss Cam’s. The counterpoint was a 150km/h nuclear flash of a ball from Wahab Riaz immediately after tea that clean bowled Warner, then 81, but was called “no ball”, one of a rash for Wahab. In the way of Test cricket, that one bowler’s transgression might yet count for more than all the batting virtuosity.

Predictably, Bay 13 gave Wahab an ironic ovation. Less forseeably, and mostly nobly, he then signed a few autographs for them. His bowling continued to have a Kiss Cam-like effect, often prompting an alarmed reflex, but nothing more, until at last he hustled Warner into a hook shot which kissed his glove most chastely and was caught by the wicketkeeper. Warner had made a run-a-ball 144 and the complexion of the game has changed.

Immensity, novelty, vitality were the batting keynotes. Azhar’s 205 not out, the second-highest score made by a visiting batsmen at the MCG, was a vast 10-hour opus, started and restarted a dozen times in a dozen different circumstances over three days. It was distinguished not by its range of great shots but that so few were false, a deceptively simple feat over such a span. Where the ball was bowled he played it, hour upon hour. Indeed, when the need for speed arose and he tried to slog, his efforts were amateurish and quickly abandoned. It was endearing.

Sohail gave the match the shove it needed. His preamble was a scoop from Nathan Lyon that Steve Smith, running from slip to leg slip, anticipated, yet somehow passed inside him. Gratified, also amused, Sohail then launched the hapless Lyon for four sixes, each progressively longer than the last, and suddenly had his maiden Test 50. Momentarily, he fumbled about for an appropriate response, as if lost for words, until Azhar hugged him. His innings was a cat among the seagulls.

Warner’s innings was a different calibre again. His beginning was so rough as to make emery paper look like marble. He could hardly get bat on ball – one he missed by so much that the confused Pakistanis referred it to the third umpire, wrongly thinking catch behind –  but when he did, the ball took a battering. This is his great strength as a batsman, that he needs neither to be balanced, nor to hit the ball in the middle for it to fly away for four, and sometimes even a ball that looks about to burst through his fortifications he will jam to the boundary, too, and so his minimum scoring rate is brisk.

Once in, he  is one of few batsmen able to invert the idea of bowling as attack and batting as defence. This was one of his less fluent innings, and still it occupied less than four hours, go to whoa. Usman Khawaja fell in alongside, almost unnoticed, and in an instant, they had put on 198. Whereas Warner muscles the ball, Khawaja, his bat and the ball all seem to be of a piece, his runs as flowing as cursive writing. You watch Khawaja, you watch out for Warner.

Pakistan did not bowl especially poorly, but luck was not with them, nor did their eccentric tactics work, though Wahab eventually did get his man. This is the second of three Tests between these countries in little more than three weeks. For batsmen, this means many opportunities, with little time either to bask or brood. For bowlers, it means double jeopardy; they are being tried twice, and it is showing,

The sunshine flooded in, a warm breeze blew, flags flapped, more than 25,000 were kept in good cheer and all was well in the world. But, says the forecast, Thursday is another day.


A-League: Dynamic duo Andrew Nabbout and Andrew Hoole lead Jets revival

FLYING HIGH: Andrew Nabbout and Andrew Hoole have helped spark the Jets mid-season revival. Picture: Getty Images
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THEYare the men who have turbo-charged the Newcastle Jets.

High-octanewinger Andrew Nabbout motored atank-emptying10.87 kilometres in the pulsating 2-all draw with Wellington Phoenix.

His output was marginally ahead of the 10.72 kilometresAndrew Hoole powered through on the right wing.

Hoole’smeterage included a season-high 1.14km at high speed (greater than 20kmh).

Both players scored a goal and reached a maximum velocity of 33kmh, a tick under the 37kmh Usain Bolt averages over 100 metres.

The figures against Wellington, recorded on the club’s Global Positioning System technology, are typical of their weekly contribution.

“They are our best athletes,” Jets coach Mark Jones said. “Hoole is probably slightly ahead in terms of ability to keep running. Nabbout is very sharp and direct.”

The most ground Nabbout has covered in a game is 10.95km. Hoole has rangedfrom 10.03km to 10.92km.

Against Wellington, they caused havoc down the flanks and were still able to reach top gear in the closing stages.

“The [Wellington]game was end-to-end, very open. A lot of running up and down the pitch,” Hoole said. “I have always been pretty fit. In the pre-season I had some good scores in the testing. It is a stage now where we need to be very fit to keep up with the other teams.”

Nabbout, restricted early in the season bygroin and ankle issues, has played all bar two minutes of the past three games.

“The more I play 90 minutes the fitter I am going to get,” Nabbout said.“I was glad to get through it and still getting into dangerousareas later in the game.”

Hoole burst into the box and drilled a cut-back from Morten Nordstandinto the left corner to level at 1-all.Then, with the Jets down 2-1,Nabbout turned Phoenix captain Andrew Durante inside out before curling a shot inside the right post.

“It was one of my better goals,” Nabbout said.“We work on it on the training pitch and it was good that it worked for me.”

Jones said the danger the wingers pose in behind has made them more flexible in attack.

“We are playing out from the back much better than we ever have,” he said. “Stevie and Mateo have helped with that and obviously the centre backs. We have played out through the back and kept possession which has enabled us to do well. That can’t happen unless you have fullbacks who want to be positive and wingers who get high and wide and are dangerous.If both Andrews get high and wide and you don’t cover them, then you are asking for trouble.We have started to earn the respect of teams who are being more cautious.”

As well as provide strike power, the wingers have shared their load in defence.

“There is a lot of back behind the scenes running that we do,” Nabbout said.“Not many people notice;getting back and tucking in, that is our job.”

Jones said both players had worked hard on their defence.

“Hooley’s discipline has improved immensely,” he said. “He has been able to get back and not dive in and not makesilly fouls. Early on he was giving away sillyfouls. He has been working hard, making repeat efforts and not losing his cool.”

​Meanwhile, the Jets are close to finalising a release for little-used midfielder Mitch Cooper.His departure will open two places ahead of the January transfer window.