GWS’ Williams ready to play AFL idol Betts

Greater Western Sydney young gun Zac Williams grew up idolising Eddie Betts.

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Come Thursday night’s AFL finals opener at Adelaide Oval, Williams is likely to be tasked with curtailing the small forward who inspired him as a young Indigenous Australian.

Williams still speaks with a giddy sense of reverence when asked about Adelaide star Betts.

It’s understandable.

Long before he developed into one of the league’s most potent rebounding defenders, Williams was using his trademark pace to hurt opposition sides all over the field.

Betts was an inspiration then, as he is now for the the 22-year-old who grew up in the Riverina town of Narrandera.

“I love watching him. Every chance I get to watch him on TV, I do it,” Williams told AAP.

“I’ve always looked up to him.

“I used to go for Carlton as a young bloke.

“I’ve watched his whole career, watched him do what he does best and kick amazing goals.

“To get the opportunity to play on him … it’s unbelievable.”

GWS coach Leon Cameron has already suggested Williams, who was one of the Giants’ best in their season-opening loss to the Crows, could spend time on Betts.

“We really value Zac Williams’ offensive game but the last six weeks his defence has really gone through the roof,” Cameron said last week, adding Heath Shaw and Aidan Corr were other options.

Williams admitted finding the right balance of attack and defence would be tricky for whoever is responsible for the three-time All Australian forward.

“You always have to be wary of what Eddie Betts is doing. He’s a very classy forward and if you don’t keep an eye on him, he can easily kick a bag,” Williams said.

Williams said lessons learned from retiring teammate Steve Johnson during the past two years would also come in handy.

“As a young backman, he’s given me a few ideas and helped me with ball movement and stuff like that,” he said.

“He’s done a fair bit for me over the last couple of years.”

Uni rankings raise warning over cuts

Australia’s universities are steady performers on the international stage but fast-rising Asian competitors are overtaking them.

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And that could happen more quickly if the Turnbull government’s proposed funding cuts clear parliament.

The University of Melbourne (32nd) and the Australian National University (48th) again top local entrants on the Times Higher Education World University Rankings.

All up, 35 of Australia’s 40 universities made the rankings.

Out of these, 11 jumped ahead, 14 held steady and 10 fell compared with their results last year.

By comparison, Chinese universities are rapidly climbing the rankings each year.

In 2017, Tsinghua University overtook the University of Melbourne while the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology now outperforms ANU.

“Australia’s leading institutions are already falling behind peers in mainland China and Hong Kong, which receive high and sustained levels of state funding,” global rankings director Phil Baty said.

“Funding cuts proposed by the government could seriously harm the country’s institutions in future editions of the rankings.”

Australia had to continue to invest in its universities and stay a welcoming place for international students and staff if it wanted to remain a key global player, Mr Baty said.

The government wants to cut funding from universities in 2018 and 2019 and lift student fees.

Its proposed changes to temporary working visas have also raised concerns about the impact on academics and researchers coming to work in Australian institutions.

Education Minister Simon Birmingham said the results showed Australian universities punched above their weight.

“These rankings highlight that Australia’s university sector continues to go from strength to strength,” he said.

“In a competitive world Australia and our universities cannot rest on their laurels. We need to adapt and respond to student needs and ensure our universities are set up for the future.”

He insists the government’s funding overhaul will maintain a strong level of investment in universities.

Opposition education spokesperson Tanya Plibersek called on the government to shelve proposed university cuts.

“We know that student education will be compromised,” she told reporters in Canberra.

“They’ll be expected to pay more, sooner, for a poorer quality education. We won’t be attracting students from around the world if our university rankings continue to slide.”

AUSTRALIAN UNIVERSITIES IN THE GLOBAL TOP 100

* University of Melbourne (32)

* Australian National University (48)

* University of Sydney (61)

* University of Queensland (65)

* Monash University (80)

* University of New South Wales (85)

Wilkinson out to reverse Trestle surf woes

Matt Wilkinson’s world surfing title hopes faded dramatically at Lower Trestles last year but the top-ranked Australian believes he’s learnt his lesson.

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Wilkinson led the championship for much of 2016 but his 25th placing on the eighth tour leg at the famous Californian break appeared to hammer his confidence.

The world No.3 failed to progress past the third round of the remaining three events to finish fifth last year.

This season has been somewhat similar, with the 28-year-old taking the tour lead after winning in Fiji in June, but he relinquished to Jordy Smith after a fifth-round elimination at the last event in Tahiti.

“Last year, I started so well then slowly just let it slip away,” Wilkinson said before the Trestles competition window opening on Wednesday.

“But I definitely gave my best and learned a whole lot about myself.

“Now, being in that leading pack just makes me a little more hungry to get some more ground on people.”

Wilkinson has never reached the quarter-finals at Trestles but has worked out a strategy before his first heat against fellow Australians Bede Durbidge and Ethan Ewing.

“As a goofyfooter, you have hold off the temptation of going left a little bit,” he said.

“It’s one of the most rippable waves on tour and I think just keeping tempo on the waves is pretty key to hunting big scores out here.”

Wilkinson sits 1900 championship points behind South African Smith, with Hawaiian defending world champion John John Florence second.

In the women’s event, world No.2 Sally Fitzgibbons believes she’s primed to push for a maiden career championship having last been a genuine contender in 2015.

But she’ll have to wrest the lead off fellow Australian and defending world champion Tyler Wright, who claimed the Trestles crown last year.

The Lower Trestles event will be contested to September 17.

Hanson claims credit for Nationals debate over burqa ban stance

Federal Nationals MP George Christensen is proposing a motion at the party’s federal conference this weekend that calls for a ban on wearing the burqa and niqab in public.

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He argues the Islamic garments are not conducive to the Australian way of life.

Senator Hanson, who controversially wore a burqa in parliament, believes the Nationals are falling in behind her campaign to ban the garment.

“After polls showed majority support for my actions Nationals have followed my lead & will vote on banning the oppressive burqa,” she tweeted on Wednesday.

After polls showed majority support for my actions Nationals have followed my lead & will vote on banning the oppressive burqa. -PH #auspol

— Pauline Hanson (@PaulineHansonOz) September 5, 2017

Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce is predicting a “jolly good debate” at the conference, but won’t say how he will vote.

“I’m never going to stand in the way of democracy but whether I support (the motion) is something completely different,” he told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

Nationals senator Bridget McKenzie expects a vigorous debate saying the supported and valued religious freedom.

“But we’re also very keen to ensure the safety and security of Australians,” she said.

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Nationals MP David Gillespie argued the burqa was not a religious garment.

“In most of Australia, people like to see people’s faces. I can appreciate the sentiment. In Islamic countries, it’s the norm but here it’s not,” he said.

Labor deputy leader Tanya Plibersek said having governments tell people what to wear was not on other than for specific situations where people need to be identified.

0:00 Frydenberg says he won’t back burqa ban Share Frydenberg says he won’t back burqa ban

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“Do (the Nationals) really think it’s convincing to say they support freedom of speech but they don’t support the freedom to wear what you want if you’re a woman in Australia?”

Liberal MP Trevor Evans doesn’t believe in banning things “full stop”.

“Blanket bans are poor and clunky policy and we live in a country where we should be trying to support freedom,” he said.

Greens MP Adam Bandt said Australia was meant to be a place where people respected beliefs different to their own.

“If the Nationals want to turn Australia into a place where everyone thinks the same thing and isn’t allowed to practice the religion they want then the Nationals want to turn Australia into a very different country,” he said.

Calls for probe after boy, 5, dies shortly after being discharged from Sydney hospital

Health authorities and the coroner’s office are investigating how a five-year-old boy died just hours after being discharged from a Sydney hospital.

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The boy, from Wahroonga in the city’s north, was taken by his parents to Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Hospital with stomach pain in the early hours of last Thursday, AAP understands.

The previous night he had struggled to eat dinner and sleep through the night, prompting them to seek medical help.

He was discharged about 7am and his parents were told to monitor him but by 2pm his condition had deteriorated and he was rushed to Sydney Adventist Hospital.

Staff worked to save him but at 4.15pm, he was declared dead.

A crime scene was established but his death was not found to be suspicious, a NSW Police spokeswoman told AAP.

A coroner will investigate the death, while the North Sydney Local Health District will carry out a pediatric review into the incident.

“Our deepest sympathies are extended to the family and friends of this little boy for their tragic loss,” NSLHD said in a statement on Wednesday.

Opposition health spokesman Walt Secord has called for an independent investigation into the resourcing of Hornsby Hospital.

“Hornsby Hospital was under enormous pressure and has more than 40,000 patients go through its emergency department every year,” he said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Hornsby Hospital lurches from crisis to crisis. Doctors, nurses and allied health workers say they are working with one arm tied behind their backs due to the lack of the much-needed upgrade.”