Cowboys eye Eels’ formula to beat Broncos

The finals formula is pretty simple for North Queensland ahead what looms as another epic NRL showdown with arch-rival Brisbane on Thursday night – win and you’re in.

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However, the Cowboys claim they’ve had their eyes on Parramatta’s blueprint for success against the third-placed Broncos, rather than the NRL ladder.

North Queensland can clinch a seventh-straight finals appearance and finish as high as fifth with victory in the final round clash in Townsville.

Lose and they must sweat on other results over what would be an anxious weekend to scrape into the eight.

“You know what, we honestly haven’t spoken about it – it’s a game, we have to win it,” Cowboys assistant David Fairleigh said.

“To be honest I haven’t even looked at the ladder, I just know we are down near eighth.

“It doesn’t matter how other games go, we’ve just got to do what we’ve got to do.

“We haven’t spoken about ‘if we win we’ll finish wherever’, we’ve just got to get out there and compete.”

Brisbane may be already assured a top-four finish but the desperate Cowboys were given a timely cheat sheet on how to dismantle them thanks to the Eels’ stunning 52-34 rout at Suncorp Stadium last week.

“We are a different team to Parramatta but one thing they did well was they turned up to play,” Fairleigh said.

“What got them in that situation was they were very physical to start with, they upset Brisbane’s rhythm with the way they moved off the line.

“Things didn’t click for Brisbane on the night but we know that can turn around very quickly.

“I am sure we won’t see that Brisbane team tomorrow night.”

Fairleigh also hoped he didn’t see the same Cowboys team as last week despite notching a morale-boosting last round win over Wests Tigers.

While the victory snapped a four game losing run to keep them in the finals mix, Fairleigh said the Cowboys could not repeat their slow start.

“We were lucky enough to have some quality players get us home in the end but Brisbane won’t give us that opportunity,” Fairleigh said.

“We’ve got to play better, that is the bottom line.”

But motivation won’t be an issue ahead of what is expected to be another epic showdown against Brisbane.

Four of the past five derbies have been decided by one point and in extra-time.

“It’s a big game, a big occasion,” Fairleigh said.

“The two teams bring the best out of each other.

“And despite what happened to them last week and our own situation I am sure it will be a quality game tomorrow.”

Cowboys fullback Lachlan Coote (ankle) was cleared after training strongly on Wednesday.

STATS THAT MATTER

* North Queensland have won the last five games against Brisbane in Townsville.

* North Queensland are chasing four straight overall wins over Brisbane for the first time in club history.

* Brisbane have won three of their past four matches as the away team.

Ministers’ decisions could be under cloud

A constitutional expert says it would be wise for ministers under a High Court cloud to step aside or the federal government could face legal action over its decisions.

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Five members of parliament, including Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, face a High Court test of their eligibility under section 44 of the constitution, which bans dual nationals from being MPs.

Another two, including cabinet minister Fiona Nash, will be referred to the court by parliament next week.

One ministerial colleague, Matt Canavan, stood aside when issues were identified about his status.

Professor George Williams, one of the nation’s foremost constitutional experts, says it’s difficult to see that any of the seven MPs facing the court had taken reasonable steps to renounce their citizenship of other countries.

He said that while no law was likely to be undone because it was “tainted” by the election of an ineligible member – based on previous High Court decisions – there were question marks over government decisions.

“The situation of ministers is less clear,” Prof Williams told the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday.

“The wisest course is for them to refrain from making decisions or to step down pending the outcome of the High Court hearing.”

He said this was because their authority to run their departments and to make decisions under legislation depends upon the law regarding them as being properly appointed.

Section 64 of the constitution says that “no minister of state shall hold office for a longer period than three months unless he is or becomes a senator or a member of the House of Representatives”.

“If current ministers are ruled in breach of section 44, they will have made many decisions without apparent legal support from when the three-month period of grace ran out late last year,” Prof Williams said.

He said decisions about contentious matters such as Adani’s Carmichael coal mine in Queensland might be challenged in the courts.

The University of NSW academic said the issue may get much worse, and after the court makes its decisions there may be merit in an audit of all MPs which he believed could uncover 20 or more members with eligibility problems of various kinds.

However, an audit would face the difficulty of some members refusing to comply and others arguing it’s a matter for the courts.

Asked whether Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was right to say he was very confident the court would clear his ministers, Prof Williams said such comments were unwise.

The court will hear the cases from October 10 to 12.

Growth driven by engineering, construction

A surprisingly strong rise in engineering work suggests economic activity has perked-up after a sluggish start to the year.

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It will give the Turnbull government something to cheer about as it tries to get the focus back on the Australian economy when parliament sits next week, after the distraction of the citizenship fiasco.

New figures show construction work jumped by 9.3 per cent in the June quarter, buoyed by a 21.5 per cent surge in engineering.

Economists had expected an overall rise of just one per cent.

The rise in engineering, due to the installation of a large piece of LNG infrastructure for a West Australian project, comes after a more modest 2.7 per cent increase in the March quarter and many quarters of negative growth beyond that as the mining investment boom unwound.

Commonwealth Bank economist Kristina Clifton said outside of WA, engineering was also supported by solid infrastructure spending in other states.

The construction data feeds into next Wednesday’s national accounts for the June quarter.

Building construction was more subdued but not unexpected by economists.

Residential construction fell 0.4 per cent while non-residential construction rose 1.1 per cent.

“We expect residential construction to drift lower for the next couple of quarters before rising a little until the RBA begins lifting the cash rate,” Macquarie Research economist Shane Lee said.

The construction data joins already released retail sales and trade that also surprised on the upside.

Ms Clifton says while there are further reports to come before the national accounts, at this stage, the construction figures overall suggest there are upsides risks to CBA’s preliminary forecast for a 0.5 per cent GDP rise in the June quarter.

This would come after the limp 0.3 per cent rise in the March quarter and take into account the impact of Cyclone Debbie in late March.

Treasury had expected the cyclone that hit northwest Australia would reduce economic growth by about a quarter of a percentage point in the June quarter.

Thursday will see the release of business investment spending for the June quarter, followed by company profits and business inventories early next week.

Diana no frivolous airhead: Aus professor

When Bob Graham, his wife and three children were invited to afternoon tea with Princess Diana they thought they were in for a nice chat over tea and treats at her luxury hotel overlooking Sydney Harbour.

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But when the family arrived they were stunned to find Diana hiding in the dark.

“She had all the blinds closed and we said, ‘Why have you got the curtains closed because it’s a lovely sunny day’,” recalls Prof Graham, who as head of the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute hosted the princess during her three-day stay in November 1996.

“She said, ‘Well, every time I go out on the porch two helicopters take off wanting to take photos’. So she was virtually locked in this room.”

The moment offered a compelling glimpse into Diana’s life and her constant battle to escape the prying eyes of the media.

Diana’s visit was her final one to Sydney, coming just nine months before her death in a Paris car crash on August 31, 1997.

It was also her first solo visit to Australia following her divorce from Prince Charles.

Diana was in town to raise money for the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, where her secret boyfriend at the time, heart surgeon Hasnat Khan, had trained.

Prof Graham, like the rest of the world, was unaware of the relationship when Diana visited but remembers that while the princess never mentioned Khan she knew an incredible amount about heart disease.

“I was impressed that she wasn’t just some frivolous airhead,” he said.

“She was someone who was genuinely interested and who had learned quite a lot about medicine and heart disease and had a genuine interest in helping people, and not just because she had someone who happened to be a cardiologist as her boyfriend.”

Diana dazzled Sydney’s social set at a glittering charity dinner for the institute, where pop star Sting serenaded her and hundreds of people lined the streets to catch a glimpse as she arrived.

“It speaks volumes for the people of Australia that despite the passage of time you’ve still both recognised and remembered me,” Diana told the dinner guests.

The confident princess who took Sydney by storm was a far cry from the shy aristocratic 19-year-old who secretly fled to regional NSW 15 years earlier, just two days after Prince Charles asked her to marry him.

Unbeknown to the world at the time, Lady Diana Spencer spent three weeks with her mother Frances Shand Kydd working on wedding plans while staying with a friend at Mollymook on the NSW south coast and the family’s Bloomfield sheep station near Yass in February 1981.

“That was a complete disaster because I pined for him but he never rang me up,” Diana later told journalist and author Andrew Morton in a series of taped conversations he used for his blockbuster book, Diana Her True Story.

After their fairytale wedding in 1981 Diana and Charles chose Australia for their first official tour in 1983 – a trip that also caused angst for the princess.

The royal couple brought their nine-month-old son Prince William with them on the six-week tour, which Diana described as “make or break time for me”.

She found the crowds overwhelming, confiding in tears to her lady-in-waiting at the end of the first week how she wanted to flee home to London.

Prince Charles was also surprised by how wellwishers were more interested in his new bride than their future king.

“Everybody always said when we were in the car, ‘Oh, we’re in the wrong side, we want to see her, we don’t want to see him,’ and that’s all we could hear when we went down the crowds and obviously he wasn’t used to that and nor was I,” Diana told Moreton.

Despite the behind-the-scenes tensions, the tour was judged a success.

The crowds came out in force again when Charles and Diana returned for Victoria’s 150th anniversary in 1985, and Australia’s bicentenary in 1988 when speculation was mounting about the state of the royal marriage.

In between those official tours Charles rekindled his affair with long-time love Camilla Parker Bowles while Diana embarked on a five-year affair with former British Army captain James Hewitt.

But amid the searing summer heat of January 1988, Diana and Charles put on a good public show of togetherness as they spent Australia Day on Sydney Harbour before touring Darwin, Adelaide and Melbourne.

During a rare public speech, Diana pondered the future.

“Like most people with small children I often wonder what sort of world our sons will inhabit in the next century. When I meet people like you all here today, I am encouraged to believe that the future will, after all, be something to look forward to,” she told a crowd in Adelaide.

However Diana’s next few years were far from enjoyable, with prince and princess separating in 1992.

Diana was determined to forge her own path and reduce her public engagements, saying she had found the media attention of the past decade overwhelming and wanted to focus on her sons William and Harry.

Her affair with Hewitt had ended a year earlier, but Diana eventually found love again with Pakistani-born heart surgeon Hasnat Khan and even dreamed of moving to Australia with him to escape the Fleet Street press.

The romance fizzled out just weeks before Diana’s death after Khan refused to marry her because he had no desire to be thrown into the public spotlight.

Prof Graham says while Diana hated the spotlight just as much as Khan, he was struck by how she tried not to let the media attention stop her from doing what she wanted.

“Her attitude was, not that she ever said it, was she just couldn’t give a damn, she just wanted to do what she felt was right, which I thought was very impressive.”

Diana’s thoughts on Australia

FIRST OFFICIAL VISIT TO AUSTRALIA WITH PRINCE CHARLES, 1983

“It was make or break time for me,” Diana told journalist Andrew Morton in a series of tape recordings for his blockbuster book Diana, Her True Story.

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“It was hot, I was jet-lagged, being sick. I was too thin. The whole world was focusing on me every day. I came back from this engagement and I went to my lady-in-waiting, cried my eyes out and said: ‘Anne, I’ve got to go home, I can’t cope with this.'” – After her first engagement visiting the School of the Air in Alice Springs.

“Everybody always said when we were in the car, ‘Oh, we’re in the wrong side, we want to see her, we don’t want to see him,’ and that’s all we could hear when we went down to the crowds and obviously he wasn’t used to that and nor was I.” – On the royal couple’s surprise at the huge crowds that followed them on tour.

“He took it out on me. He was jealous; I understood the jealousy but I couldn’t explain that I didn’t ask for it.” – On Charles’ surprise at the overwhelming attention paid by Aussies to Diana.

“We didn’t see very much of him (William) but at least we were under the same sky, so to speak.” – On having Prince William with her in Australia.

“I was more grown up, more mature, but not anything like the process I was going to go through in the next four or five years. Basically our tour was a great success.”

1988 VISIT TO MARK AUSTRALIA’S BICENTENARY

“When I meet people like you all here today, I am encouraged to believe that the future will, after all, be something to look forward to.” – In a rare speech in Adelaide

“It’s a bit hot, not what we’re used to in England.” – Diana’s reaction to the oppressive heat in Adelaide.

SPEECH TO THE VICTOR CHANG CARDIAC RESEARCH INSTITUTE CHARITY BALL 1996:

“It speaks volumes for the people of Australia that despite the passage of time you’ve still both recognised and remembered me.” – On her eight-year absence from Australia.