• Former Wallaby back from the wilderness


    It’s not quite hell and back, but former Wallaby Stephen Hoiles has endured quite the journey trying to revive his Super Rugby career.


    Hoiles has been to Sweden and back.

    “My father and I flew over. We had about 11 flights in 11 days,” he told AAP.

    “It was like a massive trek to get there and then I was back out of there about five days later.”

    But it’s mission accomplished after the 32-year-old globetrotted on a wing and a prayer hoping last-ditch surgery on his troublesome achilles tendon could get him back on the paddock for the first time since 2010.

    The gamble paid off, with Hoiles making two appearances for Randwick in Sydney club rugby last August to earn a training contract with the NSW Waratahs.

    Painstaking research, doctors and former coaches pointed him to Dr Hakan Alfredson, who Hoiles hailed as “if not the best, then one of the best tendon surgeons in the world”.

    “He just deals with chronic cases or people who are a little bit left of centre.”

    Hoiles was definitely that, if not at his wits’ end after being frustrated by an injury that started as a “stiff foot” from double training loads with the Brumbies and the Wallabies midway through 2010.

    Clean-up surgery at the end of that season was meant to sideline the classy back-rower for 12 weeks.

    But he’s been in the wilderness since.

    Apart from the emotional toll its had on Hoiles, who couldn’t even chase his two young children on the beach without pulling up sore, the former Brumbies captain has also lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost earnings.

    “I had to leave Canberra because of it because I had another year left on my contract and Jake White wasn’t really happy coming into the side with the captain potentially not going to play for the whole year,” he said.

    After two unsuccessful six-month rehab programs at the AIS, Hoiles emailed Dr Alfredson last January and was on a flight two weeks later for surgery.

    “I was either going to go over there and he’d tell me that it’s unrepairable and that I’m done, or he’d be able to fix it,” Hoiles said.

    “So either way, it was going to be closure. If it was no good, I could accept that. I’d have given it every shot.”

    Dr Alfredson asked Hoiles to run up and down on the spot to aggravate the injury before an ultrasound identified a loose bone fragment in his foot.

    “Then he split me down the back of my heel, opened me up and cleaned it up while I was awake,” Hoiles said.

    “It was probably a two-hour operation but, after pretty much two-and-a-half, three years of utter frustration because of it, it’s all sorted now.”

    Hoiles has completed 10 weeks of intense off-season training with the Waratahs without needing achilles treatment even once.

    His only focus now is on the Waratahs’ February 1 trial against the Melbourne Rebels in Albury.

    “There’s been no guarantees, no promises,” he said.

    “I don’t know where it’s going to lead me footy-wise. I’ve got to work pretty hard to try and get an opportunity to play here because there’s a lot of guys in front of me.

    “But I still believe that the years I missed may be a bit of a blessing for me.

    “I still feel like I’ve got a couple of good years in me at least.”

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  • Indonesia warns anew on boat turnbacks


    Indonesia has again warned the federal government against asylum-seeker turnbacks following reports the Australian Navy secretly turned around at least one boat in recent weeks.


    Reports from Indonesia and Australia say an Ashmore Island-bound boat was turned back either in December or on Monday – or possibly on both occasions – and subsequently became stranded on Rote Island, near West Timor.

    The Indonesian reports quoted local police, while Fairfax Media cited unnamed Australian Defence sources and the Indonesian water police.

    Immigration Minister Scott Morrison would not comment on the conflicting reports for “operational security reasons”, despite the coalition having a pre-election policy to turn boats back when safe.

    Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa also refused to comment on the specifics when asked about the reports on Tuesday.

    “But as a policy, I shall repeat this once again: Indonesia rejects and is against the policy of boat turnbacks because it’s not a solution,” he told reporters in Jakarta, speaking in Indonesian.

    Agus Barnas, a spokesman for Indonesia’s Coordinating Ministry for Politics, Law and Security – which has responsibility for people smuggling – said he was unaware of any turnbacks.

    He said Indonesia was still observing a moratorium on co-operating with Australia on people-smuggling after last year’s spying scandal.

    “So far, there’s no policy that the co-operation would resume,” Mr Barnas said.

    “The talk on forming a code of conduct is still in process.”

    Speculation about possible boat turnbacks follows a stand-off in November when Australia tried to force a vessel back into Indonesian waters.

    The Abbott government backed down after Indonesia refused to accept the asylum seekers, who were eventually transferred to Christmas Island.

    Mr Morrison says that Australia respects Indonesia’s territorial sovereignty “and will continue to do so”.

    “It is not the policy or practice of the Australian government to violate Indonesian territorial sovereignty,” he said in a statement on Tuesday.

    Dr Natalegawa said Indonesia’s relationship with Australia was still in a “difficult phase” in the wake of the spying revelations.

    But he said he was in daily contact with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop in an effort to repair the damage.

    “What’s needed is a gradual process of restoration of confidence or trust, and this is where we are just now,” he said.

    The Greens want Mr Morrison to provide details of any turnback operation, saying the lives of asylum seekers could have been endangered.

    “These people could have drowned,” Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said.

    “How many other boats has this occurred to that we’ve never heard about?”

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  • Women’s drawcards crash in Sydney


    Refusing to panic, Agnieszka Radwanska and Caroline Wozniacki insist they remain Australian Open contenders despite making premature exits from the Sydney International.


    Radwanska slipped up 7-5 6-3 against American qualifier Bethanie Mattek-Sands, marking the first time in the professional era that the women’s champion has bombed out in her opening match of her title defence.

    Wozniacki, the sixth seed, followed her out the exit gates later on Tuesday with a 6-4 7-6 (9-7) second-round loss to Czech Lucie Safarova.

    Radwanska is adamant she remains an Open threat despite having not won a competitive match since October and also seemingly carrying a shoulder injury.

    The world No.5 received treatment on her serving shoulder during last week’s Hopman Cup in Perth and, while loath to blame the injury for her loss to the 48th-ranked Mattek-Sands, admitted it was still bothering her.

    “Maybe a little bit, but I have good painkillers,” Radwanska said.

    The non-sanctioned Hopman Cup aside, Radwanska hasn’t won a set – let alone a match – in more than two months after also losing all three of her round-robin encounters at the season-ending championships in Istanbul.

    The former Wimbledon runner-up’s run of outs is a far cry from last year when the Pole arrived at Melbourne Park for the season’s first grand slam riding a nine-match winning streak after picking up back-to-back titles in Auckland and Sydney.

    But the 24-year-old isn’t concerned, claiming four wins at the Hopman Cup exhibition event is proof enough she’s not playing badly.

    “Every week is different story. You start over and over again,” Radwanska said.

    “You’re not winning every week every match. I think just couple of guys can do it.”

    Wozniacki was the last Sydney champion not to win a match in her title defence – back in 2011 – but insisted her latest defeat was no setback ahead of the Open getting underway in Melbourne on Monday.

    “I played two matches here then I get a few days over there and get to play a few sets as well with some of the girls and with different types players,” the Dane said.

    “Yeah, I should be ready for Melbourne.”

    Mattek-Sands’ surprise second-round win – after she beat higher-ranked Canadian Eugenie Bouchard and Radwanska enjoyed a first-round bye – thrust her into a quarter-final with fellow American Madison Keys, a 6-0 3-6 7-6 (7-4) victor over Croatian wildcard Ajla Tomljanovic.

    Czech second seed Petra Kvitova and German fifth seed Angelique Kerber avoided the carnage to safely progress to the quarter-finals.

    Kvitova thrashed US qualifier Christine McHale 6-1 6-0 in one hour neat to book a last-eight date with Safarova, while Kerber downed big-hitting Estonian Kaia Kanepi 6-3 6-4 to set up a quarter-final with Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro.

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  • Gold closes higher on the Comex


    Gold prices have risen as a mixed US employment report forced investors to recalibrate their assumptions about the Federal Reserve’s future monetary policy.


    Gold for April delivery, the most active contract, on Friday gained $US5.70, or 0.5 per cent, to settle at $US1,262.90 a troy ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. This was the highest settlement price since January 27, when futures closed at $US1,263.40 an ounce.

    The Labor Department on Friday reported that the US economy added 113,000 new jobs in January, well below forecasts of a 189,000 increase. The disappointing data fanned hopes that the Federal Reserve would keep its stimulus program in place for longer than previously thought, sending gold to the day’s high of $US1,272 an ounce.

    However, gold futures were unable to hold those intraday highs. Some market participants pointed to bright spots in the jobs report such as the upward revisions to November’s employment data as well as a month-on-month improvement from December.

    “It’s a bad report, but I think you’ll need to get another one or two pretty bad ones before the Fed makes a move,” said Bob Haberkorn, a senior commodities broker with RJO Futures in Chicago.

    The Fed voted last month to reduce its monthly bond purchases by $US10 billion to $US65 billion, continuing the tapering process it started in December. Gold had benefited in recent years from the Fed’s efforts to spark the US economy to life, as successive rounds of bond buying fanned investor fears of high inflation or a weaker US dollar and many purchased the precious metal as a hedge. However, gold fell 28 per cent in 2013 on expectations the Fed will start reducing its bond-buying program.

    Bill Baruch, a senior market strategist with futures brokerage iiTrader, said that gold’s lacklustre performance is in part because recent labour-market weakness could be explained by poor weather. Much of the US has been blanketed in snow during parts of December and January, disrupting people’s ability to find jobs in key industries like construction.

    “These bad reports can be blamed on the weather, so that’s keeping the market in check,” said Bill Baruch, a senior market strategist with futures brokerage iiTrader in Chicago.

    In the equity market, US stock futures initially fell following the jobs report only to rebound shortly thereafter. The S&P 500 was up 1.1 per cent in recent trade. Gold is considered less risky than stocks and tends to lose favour with investors when equities are doing well.

    Settlements (ranges include open-outcry and electronic trading):

    London PM Gold Fix: $1,259.25; previous PM $1,256.50

    Apr gold $1,262.90, up $5.70; Range $1,255.50-$1,272.00

    Mar silver $19.936, up 0.8 cent; Range $19.755-$20.090

    Apr platinum $1,379.20, up $4.30; Range $1,374.40-$1,392.30

    Mar palladium $708.80, down $1.55; Range $708.00-$715.00

    Reading More >>

  • Moyes searching for killer instinct as United struggle again



    United enjoyed the lion’s share of possession but could not turn their dominance of the ball into the solid currency of three points and were undone in the 94th minute when Fulham’s Darren Bent grabbed a late leveller.


    “We deserved to get back in the game and we deserved to win it, but we gave away a diabolical second goal,” Moyes told reporters.

    “We should have made it 3-1 and it was really disappointing that we didn’t do that. We should have seen the game out.

    “I don’t know if we could have done an awful lot more. We completely dominated the game and should have won it comfortably.”

    He added on MUTV: “We needed to take the opportunities that were given to us, like some of the half chances.

    “I don’t think anyone can really say we did a lot wrong, we tried to play it, get it wide at the right times. What we needed to do was get the third goal when we were 2-1 up.”

    The draw was a blow to United’s hopes of qualifying for next season’s Champions League and left them in seventh place, nine points adrift of Liverpool in fourth.

    United’s leaky defence were undone after 19 minutes when Steve Sidwell was left unmarked to sidefoot home a pass from Lewis Holtby.

    The champions set up camp in the Fulham half but did not find a breakthrough until the 78th minute when Robin van Persie finished from close range.

    When Michael Carrick’s deflected effort gave them the lead it looked like United were set to complete a deserved victory, but out of nowhere Bent headed home in stoppage time to leave Moyes scratching his head for answers once again.

    “I was probably the most relieved person (when we went 2-1 up) because I thought ‘my goodness’ as we needed to win the game,” Moyes said.

    “Even in the last five minutes Fulham weren’t even coming up for the ball, we were keeping the ball and they weren’t necessarily trying to score an equaliser – but somehow they did…

    “But maybe there were a few things today that we didn’t quite do well enough. Maybe our finishing wasn’t quite good enough and bits of our defending weren’t quite good enough either.”

    (Reporting by Toby Davis; editing by Rex Gowar)

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  • Grumbles drowned out as Sochi party gets under way


    As the $51-billion (31.


    09 billion pounds) Winter Olympics got into full swing on Sunday, the answer from spectators, seeing the Olympic Park up and running for the first time, was a resounding “Yes”.

    “It’s just fantastic,” Sergei Klyuyev, from the Adler area where the park was built, said as he walked through with his family, admiring the state-of-the-art stadiums and enjoying the party atmosphere.

    “There’s been building work here for five years but look at all this around us. We regret nothing, not even the cost.”

    Some Sochi residents are still angry that hosting the Games meant turning the city into what even President Vladimir Putin described as the world’s biggest construction site, and have set up a website – Blogsochi.ru – to vent their spleen.

    In the heart of the sub-tropical city on the western edge of the Caucasus mountains, cranes still tower over half-finished apartment blocs.

    But the critics were nowhere to be seen at the venues far from central Sochi as the Games began, partly because some have been barred from travelling to Sochi and partly because of the good impression created by the new stadiums.

    Putin hopes the Games will portray Russia as a successful and thriving modern state, and protests would threaten that.

    “There are definitely people who had a hard time of it here,” said Yevgenia Mertilova, referring to the hundreds of people whose homes were razed to make way for Olympic buildings and were mostly housed elsewhere by the state.

    But, as she walked beside the main Fisht stadium with her nine-month-old baby, she said: “Look how good these stadiums are. After the Games there’ll be a trade centre here, which can only be a good thing. I’m impressed.”

    “BETTER THAN 1980”

    On one side of the park, men in red peasant tunics and women in colourful blue and white dresses performed traditional dances to the music of balalaikas.

    In the centre, the Olympic flame burned fiercely in its cauldron towering over the park. In fountains beneath it, shoots of water rose and fell to the music of Pyotr Tchaikovsky.

    “I was at the Moscow Olympics in 1980 and this is much more grandiose,” said Nadezhda Kharitonova, a woman in her seventies who was dressed in her red Sunday best as she walked hand in white-gloved hand with her husband.

    “It’s all down to Putin. Without him, it would never have happened. Whatever the cost, it was worth it,” she said.

    That will be music to Putin’s ears after months of carping at home and raised eyebrows abroad over the high cost, plus criticism of his stance on gay rights.

    Russia’s first medal of the Games brought whoops and cheers from a crowd watching on a big screen, and concerns about security seemed to have been forgotten as security officers patrolled the perimeter fence on horseback.

    There were, however, a few in the crowd who were still unhappy at the hefty price tag.

    A man who gave his name only as Vasily said he had taken leave from his job as a clothes designer to work as a cleaner at the Games so that he could soak up the atmosphere.

    “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event. I wanted to see it from the inside,” he said, a broom in his hand. “It’s all amazing but of course the cost is too high for Russia. You should really think more about the many poor people.”

    Putin says the Olympic construction will give the city and region an economic boost. Critics doubt this and Blogsochi.ru posted its latest criticisms as the Games got going.

    “Because of the Olympics endless queues have appeared in Sochi like queues for sausage in Soviet times,” wrote Alexander Valov, who has repeatedly used the website to draw attention to problems in Sochi.

    But even he wrote of an “unforgettable experience” at the Olympic Park and the criticisms on the site were interspersed with entries celebrating Russia’s first medals at the Games and unusually positive interjections such as: “Hurrah! Well done!”

    Reading More >>

  • Residents recall terrifying Victorian fire


    Residents have described scenes resembling an atomic bomb blast as they packed children into cars to escape a blaze that destroyed three homes and threatened many more at Warrandyte in Melbourne’s northeast.


    Hundreds of people packed a school hall in neighbouring Park Orchards on Sunday night where residents heard how fire destroyed three homes and damaged another.

    Follow the latest bushfire emergency updates

    Marisa Dantanarayana, who lives in the street where the fire started, said she left on Sunday afternoon after seeing smoke.

    “I’d just got home after being out with my kids and I just smelt smoke … I saw billowing smoke and I just knew it was so close that we had to get out,” she said.

    The fire started in the the middle of a residential area about 1pm and burned within a 10 hectare area.

    During the meeting several residents thanked the local Country Fire Authority for their efforts, inspiring loud applause.

    Ms Dantanarayana said the actions of the CFA probably saved her home.

    “They (the CFA) were there so quickly … they had 52 trucks right in our street area, that’s just unbelievable, they do a fantastic job,” she said.

    Bijal Latham said her parents live in Warrandyte and left their home as soon as they saw the fire from their backyard.

    “Mum and dad saw it and everything just went up and it looked like an atomic bomb had just been dropped,” Ms Latham said.

    Sara Longo could see flames about 400 metres from her home and said she left with her two children.

    “I was in the pool and I was swimming with one of my sons and I could see the smoke and the flames,” she said.

    “I just got my kids, I had to get dry and got dressed, get in the car and get out.”

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  • Off-screen drama at Berlin film festival


    The longer, more explicit version of scandal-courting Danish director Lars von Trier’s sex addiction opus Nymphomaniac Volume I premiered to cheers at the Berlin film festival on Sunday.


    But while the no-holds-barred director’s cut of the film generated excitement at the 64th Berlinale, the antics of the cast and crew threatened to upstage the screening.

    Von Trier, 57, who took a “vow of silence” with the media after being booted out of Cannes for a maladroit Nazi joke to reporters in 2011, showed up at a photo call wearing a “persona non grata” t-shirt with Cannes’ golden palm leaf logo.

    He refused to join the subsequent news conference, leaving his stars Stellan Skarsgard, Shia LaBeouf, Christian Slater, Uma Thurman and newcomer Stacy Martin to face the press.

    But when fielding his first question, about doing a movie with so much sex, a scowling LaBeouf quoted French footballer Eric Cantona’s infamous insult of a pesky press corps.

    “When seagulls follow the trawler it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea,” he said.

    The 27-year-old actor, wearing a dirty baseball cap and chomping on chewing gum, then marched out of the room, drawing stunned smirks from the rest of the cast.

    The main event, the world premiere of the uncensored, two-and-a-half-hour-long Nymphomaniac Volume I, nevertheless went down a storm at an afternoon press preview.

    The movie, which screened out of competition, tells the story of Joe, played by Anglo-French actress Charlotte Gainsbourg, and her sexual awakening from birth to age 50.

    For a film with major Hollywood actors, the erotic encounters leave little to the imagination, complete with full-frontal nudity and explicit sex acts filmed using porn actors as doubles and prostheses.

    Martin, a model in her first film role, said that she developed a relationship with von Trier and her on-screen lovers which allowed her to abandon her inhibitions.

    “I’ve always really loved his films so for me the sex scenes really were part of the film and I trusted Lars… so immediately it makes the job much easier,” she told reporters.

    “I wasn’t nervous. I didn’t really have anything to lose, being my first film.”

    Thurman, who turns in a fierce, hilarious performance as a wronged wife and mother of three, said von Trier’s more theatrical approach to filmmaking with extremely long takes was refreshing and lively and exciting.

    “Lars wrote this basically fantastic monologue — this fury of a woman scorned,” she said.

    “It was a really great challenge to memorise seven pages of Lars’ female diatribe of rage.”

    Producer Louise Vesth said the version of Nymphomaniac Volume I seen in Berlin included more graphic footage than the film that has already released in some markets.

    “The sexual content is more explicit in the long version than the short one,” she said.

    “It’s not like it’s another story, it’s kind of all the material that Lars wanted to use from the shooting is in the long version and therefore you will have a deeper feeling of the topics discussed in the film.”

    She said it was not yet clear when the uncut Volume Two at a length of around three hours would be shown.

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  • Corby to begin life outside Kerobokan prison today



    Schapelle Corby knows freedom from a Bali jail is hours away – now what matters most is when the postman arrives.


    As Corby nervously prepares for life on parole, Indonesians are debating whether the Australian “ratu ganja” – drug queen – is getting off lightly.

    The boss of Kerobokan Prison, Farid Junaedi, confirmed on Sunday the documents needed for Corby’s release had been sent from Jakarta.

    If he gets the critical paperwork by Monday morning, the Australian could be free to go that afternoon, after serving nine years for drug smuggling.

    On Sunday, the Jakarta Post newspaper’s headline read: “RI (Republic of Indonesia) losing ground in drug war”.

    It quoted a spokesman from anti-drugs group Granat arguing that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was sending the wrong message by cutting five years off Corby’s 20-year sentence in 2012.

    Without his clemency, Corby would have had to serve two-thirds of her original sentence before being eligible for parole.


    The deputy to the minister who granted Corby’s parole, Denny Indrayana, appeared on television to defend the move.

    He told Indonesia’s TV One that since 2004, only 15 per cent of sentence reductions sought by prisoners on drugs charges had been granted.

    Australians holidaying in Bali were more relaxed in their views of Corby.

    Emily Lewin, a Perth student, said she had read the book Hotel K, about life inside Kerobokan jail, and believed Corby would have had a tough time.

    “After nine years, and because even now she can’t leave the house, I think that’s long enough,” she told news agency AAP.

    Oscar Gentner, a regular visitor to Bali from Albury in NSW, also wished Corby well.

    “She’s probably done her time and deserves to move on,” he said.

    When Corby, 36, emerges from the prison’s steel doors, she will be plunged into a media pack that has grown in size and excitement since last week.

    Corby’s family members are expected to do all they can to protect her from the media, she’s been reportedly suffering from depression for several years and emotional scenes are expected as she realises her freedom after nine years behind bars.


    From Kerobokan, officials say she will have to go to a parole office in Denpasar for fingerprinting.

    The next stop is the corrections office, also in Denpasar, where she will be interviewed further about the conditions of her parole.

    Corby will then be free to go to the Kuta home of her sister Mercedes and brother-in-law Wayan Widyartha.

    The agreement says she must live there, but authorities say she can move elsewhere in Bali, provided she advises them of her new address.

    It may be necessary, given the number of reporters visiting Wayan’s home daily, and the fact one of Corby’s parole conditions is that she doesn’t create “unease in society”.

    The traditional Balinese compound that’s home to Wayan’s extended family is down a narrow laneway with a steady flow of motorbike traffic.

    Around the corner, on a bustling Kuta street, is Wayan’s small surf shop, Kuta Boardroom, which will sell a range of bikinis Corby intends to design while on parole.

    The former Gold Coast resident was arrested in 2004 for smuggling 4.2 kilograms of cannabis into Bali.


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  • Lego Movie earns $US69M on debut in US


    The Lego Movie clicked with moviegoers, assembling an exceptional $US69.


    1 million ($A77.33 million) on debut at the weekend US box office.

    The better-than-expected result made the Warner Bros. collaboration with the Danish toy company easily the biggest hit of the year so far. A sequel is already in development for the 3-D animated film, digitally drawn to mimic a world composed entirely of Lego bricks.

    The film has drawn raves from critics. Co-directors and co-writers Phil Lord and Chris Miller (21 Jump Street, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs) gave the film a playful tone to capture the whimsy of a child playing in a box of Lego. Characters are largely voiced by comic actors like Chris Pratt and Will Ferrell.

    The film marks the biggest animation hit for Warner Bros., a studio that despite popular live-action franchises has struggled to develop animated hits on par with other studios.

    “I can’t imagine this not turning into a long-term franchise,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for box-office tracker Rentrak.

    “This is such a runaway success that Warner Bros is now a major player in the animated genre.”

    Dan Fellman, head of distribution for Warner Bros., said the film, made with a production budget of $US60 million, resounded because of the popularity of the Lego brand. This is the first feature film for the toy company. Fellow toy-maker Hasbro has seen mixed results since the launch of the Transformers franchise, which was followed by G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra and the notorious flop Battleship.

    George Clooney’s World War II caper The Monuments Men, starring Australian Cate Blanchett, opened in second place with $US22.7 million. Reviews have been weak for the based-on-a-true-story tale about the mission to retrieve artwork stolen by the Nazis.

    The Sony Pictures film was postponed from a Dec. 25 release because, Clooney then said, more time was needed to finish the visual effects. Clooney served as director, co-writer, producer and star on the film.

    The Monuments Men, based on the nonfiction book by Robert Edsel and Brett Witter, was particularly popular with older moviegoers, with 75 per cent of its audience aged 35 and older.

    “It’s right where we hoped to be,” said Rory Bruer, head of distribution for Sony. “There’s a lot of love for George and the ensemble cast.”

    Sliding to third was the cop comedy Ride Along, with Kevin Hart and Ice Cube. After three straight weeks atop the box office, the Universal film earned $US9.4 million.

    The Weinstein Co.’s bid for a young adult franchise, Vampire Academy, opened poorly with just $US4.1 million. The PG-13 film, based on Richelle Mead’s young adult novels, is about mortal vampires at a boarding school.

    Before opening in North America next weekend, Sony’s RoboCop took in $US20.2 million overseas.

    Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at US and Canadian theatres, according to Rentrak. Where available, latest international numbers are also included. Final domestic figures will be released on Monday.

    1. The Lego Movie, $US69.1 million ($US18.1 million international).

    2. The Monuments Men, $US22.7 million.

    3. Ride Along, $US9.4 million.

    4. Frozen, $US6.9 million ($US24 million international).

    5. That Awkward Moment, $US5.5 million ($US1.1 million international).

    6. Lone Survivor, $US5.3 million ($US1 million international).

    7. Vampire Academy, $US4.1 million.

    8. The Nut Job, $US3.8 million.

    9. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, $US3.6 million ($US5.3 million international).

    10. Labor Day, $US3.2 million.

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  • Coetzee gets maiden win in Joburg


    South Africa’s George Coetzee claimed his first European Tour title, winning the $US1.


    77m Joburg Open at the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club on Sunday by three shots.

    Coetzee, who started the final round fours shots off the lead, closed with a 66 for a 19-under winning total.

    Three shots back and in a share for second place were Justin Walters of South Africa (73), Tyrrell Hatton of England (66) and South Korean Jeong Jin (71).

    Coetzee, who had finished in the top 10 on the European tour on 24 previous occasions, said he was “lost for words”.

    “I’ve been waiting a while and I started doubting, so I am very happy,” he said.

    “I get to share this with my family and friends and my caddy.

    “It was my mum’s birthday yesterday and I wanted to win it for her because I forgot to get her a present.”

    The win also qualifies Coetzee for the British Open at Hoylake in July.

    He birdied all three par fives on the front nine, including a ten-footer at the fourth, going out in 33.

    The 27-year-old took the lead for the first time at the tenth.

    His victory was confirmed by a slice of luck at the 15th.

    Coetzee’s drive was heading towards a stream when it hit a tree and ricocheted back onto the fairway. He then birdied the hole.

    Three pars at the final three holes left him waiting on compatriot Walters, who needed an eagle on the 18th, but he ended up posting a bogey.

    Coetzee, who received a winner’s cheque of 206,050 euros ($A315,000), is the sixth South African to triumph in the eighth staging of the Joburg Open.

    The top three players automatically earned qualification for the British Open, with the unlucky Hatton missing out to Jeong and Walters, because of his lower world ranking.

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  • Bank of England rates policy to be axed


    The Bank of England’s flagship forward guidance policy linking interest rate decisions to unemployment is widely expected to be ditched – in its current form – this week, after just six months.


    The guidance pledges that policy makers will not even consider a hike in rates from their current low of 0.5% until joblessness has fallen to 7%, but this now looks likely to be achieved much more quickly than previously thought.

    Bank governor Mark Carney told business leaders in Davos last month that the policy needed to “evolve” with changing circumstances – signalling that this would begin at its quarterly inflation report on Wednesday.

    The aim of guidance is to assure households and businesses that the cost of borrowing will remain low for some time, giving them the confidence needed to help the recovery take hold.

    Economists expect that it will now be tweaked to take into account a broader range of factors, in a way designed to bolster that message.

    When the policy was announced in its current form in August, the bank did not expect the unemployment threshold be achieved until 2016 but since then it has dropped much more quickly than forecast.

    Latest figures showed the jobless rate had fallen to 7.1 per cent, within a whisker of the target.

    It has brought forward expectations of an interest rate hike, with some predicting they will rise as early as this year.

    But policy makers have stressed they are in no hurry to increase the cost of borrowing. Any pressure to do so will have been eased by the fact that inflation has now fallen to the bank’s target of two per cent.

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  • Packer ‘thought Corby was guilty’


    Kerry Packer didn’t believe Schapelle Corby was innocent even though his TV network became a “cheerleader” for the convicted drug smuggler’s innocence, according to a media report.


    Uniting Church pastor Tim Costello has told Fairfax media he had asked the dying mogul in 2005 if he thought Corby was guilty.

    “And Kerry said `yes, I think she is’,” Costello says in the report on Monday.

    “I remember saying, `But Nine is the cheerleader for her innocence. And Kerry told me that this was how current affairs TV works – the audience was totally convinced of her innocence and so the network goes with what the public feels passionate about.”

    Nine aired its much awaited telemovie Schapelle on Sunday night, a day earlier than originally scheduled, after she was granted parole on Friday.

    If prison bosses receive the necessary paperwork by Monday morning, the Australian could leave in the afternoon.

    The drama about the arrest, trial and conviction of Corby, stars Krew Boylan as the former beauty school student who was sentenced to 20 years’ jail after marijuana was found in her boogie board bag in Bali in 2004.

    On Friday Nine announced it would carry “rolling coverage” on the parole hearing and latest developments in Indonesia “as events surrounding the impending release of Schapelle Corby continue to build momentum”.

    This has fuelled speculation the network has secured exclusive interviews with the Corby family, but a Nine spokesperson would not confirm that.

    Schapelle, which also stars Colin Friels and Denise Roberts, is based partly on Eamonn Duff’s book Sins of the Father. It was made by FremantleMedia for the Nine Network.

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