My dumping helped inspire Cows: Henry

Getting sacked is never fun but Neil Henry admits his dumping as North Queensland coach has helped inspire the Cowboys’ unlikely NRL finals tilt.

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Henry was understandably unhappy when told last month his services would not be required next year.

However, Henry could find one positive from his axing as the 11th-placed Cowboys looked to extend their three-game unbeaten streak against Newcastle in Townsville on Saturday night.

Asked what has been the difference in the side the past three weeks, Henry said on Tuesday: “There’s a bit of certainty about a few things.

“Obviously my contract, that’s over and done with now. That does alleviate pressure on the players.

“And there was also probably the notion that we weren’t going to make the finals and we relaxed and played a bit of footy.

“Another thing is we have some continuity in our key positions.”

North Queensland have not lost since Henry got the dreaded tap on the shoulder, moving them to one win outside the top eight with three rounds left.

They must seal a club record six straight victories to ensure they remain a finals chance.

But it is enough to keep Henry focussed on the job at hand despite his looming unemployment.

Henry had been linked to an assistant coach role at the Gold Coast Titans.

However, when asked about his future, Henry said: “My job is here, I am not finished yet.

“I will leave it up to any club to make any announcement about my future if they see fit.

“At the moment there has been no commitment to any club but we will wait and see.”

Henry described the current Cowboys’ mood as “quietly optimistic” ahead of their must-win clash with the seventh-placed Newcastle.

“We are getting close but not close enough to start worrying about finals footy yet,” he said.

“But there is a lot of confidence about our footy.”

Henry also credited their turnaround with the emergence of hooker Ray Thompson and halfback Robert Lui, Matt Bowen’s return to form at fullback and rookie Kyle Feldt’s ease at filling injured winger Ash Graham’s big shoes.

But Henry was clearly unhappy with forward Ashton Sims who accepted a one match ban for a grade one careless high tackle charge stemming from last round’s 22-10 win over the Titans.

Asked if Sims needed to change his tackling technique, Henry said: “He’s been told that.

“He needs to re-think it because it has been a bit costly.

“Normally that charge would not incur a week’s suspension but Ashton’s had priors.”

Marquez MotoGP golden run continues

Spanish Repsol Honda rider Marc Marquez has won the Czech MotoGP for his fourth successive win and extended his lead at the top of the overall standings.

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Marquez won a thrilling race ahead of compatriots teammate Dani Pedrosa and Yamaha rival and defending world champion Jorge Lorenzo as the Spanish trio dominated proceedings.

Marquez finished the 22-lap race of 118.866 kilometres in 42min 50.729sec, 0.313sec ahead of Pedrosa and 2.277sec ahead of Lorenzo.

The 20-year-old leads the championships on 213 points after 11 of 18 races, ahead of Pedrosa with 187 points and Lorenzo with 169.

“I enjoyed the victory but also the battle with Jorge, and also Dani was there,” said Marquez.

“So I’m very, very happy. Jorge and Yamaha were so strong here (and) Dani won last year. I didn’t expect a victory, I expected to finish on the podium,” he added.

In his first MotoGP season, Marquez has scored the fifth victory and the fourth in a row, beating a 35-year-old record by American Kenny Roberts who won three straight premier-class races as a rookie in 1978.

In that same year, Roberts also won the championship – a feat unrivalled by a rookie to the present day.

Starting fifth, Lorenzo sneaked into the lead before the first turn and widened the gap on the Honda duo to 1.4 seconds by the end of lap two.

Marquez and Pedrosa then worked patiently to narrow his lead.

Marquez then struck three times in lap 16 and got ahead of Lorenzo, who took the lead back two laps later.

But Marquez fought back immediately and then widened the lead on Lorenzo who also gave up to constant pressure from Pedrosa two laps before the end.

New iPhones were the most leaked yet

Apple’s newest product launch was also its least surprising.

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Under Steve Jobs, the company forged a reputation for secrecy.

But when the latest iPhones were revealed about 0330 AEST, what also became clear was that the Apple-watchers had been spot-on, on the back of numerous leaks.

Nothing Apple chief Tim Cook unveiled from Apple’s California HQ overnight came as a big surprise.

As predicted, Cook introduced two new lines of iPhone – one a faster, snazzier version of the iPhone 5, called the 5S; the other a cheaper plastic-shelled model called the 5C.

Pundits called it all – from the colours of the 5C’s shells to the fingerprint security sensor and gold colouring of the 5S.

Sonny Dickson, who runs a self-titled Apple blog from suburban Melbourne, said he was so sure of what Apple would reveal he hadn’t even bothered to get out of bed for the announcement.

“I knew everything was coming,” he said in an email.

Dickson had been instrumental in revealing Apple’s plans. He is well-known in tech circles for publishing pictures of leaked parts and prototypes which he sources from Chinese contacts working in Apple’s manufacturing chain.

In August, Dickson got his hands on the 5C’s colourful casing, and the gold-coloured 5S shell. Then last week, he published high-res images of the 5S’s fingerprint scanner.

In three leaks, Dickson revealed three of Apple’s signature innovations before the company had the chance.

A new, faster processing chip in the 5S was to be expected, he said. Apple always boosts the chips when it upgrades its iPhones.

A beta version of iOS 7, Apple’s new operating system to be released on September 18, had hinted at camera improvements, Dickson said.

He called Apple’s latest launch the most-leaked ever, spurred by himself and other bloggers.

Several leaks were published on Chinese sites and then picked up elsewhere.

Then days before the launch, a Chinese telco accidentally published an advertisement for advanced orders of the phones.

Apple-watcher Jonathan Stewart, the editor of specialist Apple website Macworld Australia, said the launch was one of Apple’s “most correctly predicted events”.

“In recent times the hype and surprise of Apple events has diminished with the increasing levels of correct rumours and speculation in the lead-up to the events.”

But he said Apple was unlikely to be fazed.

“While it certainly takes some fun out of the launches, it also keeps Apple in the spotlight and in the conversation.”

Griffin not surprised by Broncos critics

Critics “singing like canaries” won’t ruffle feathers at the battling Broncos, unfazed coach Anthony Griffin says.

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Griffin says he is not surprised the knives have come out as Brisbane look to finish off their worst season in club history against the Bulldogs at Suncorp Stadium on Thursday night.

But he may be surprised by the source of one of the fiercest critiques on Wednesday – club great Gorden Tallis.

The former Brisbane captain called for a “massive shake-up” at the club in his News Corp column, taking aim at everything from the club’s development and recruitment to Griffin himself.

“Players used to dream to play for the Broncos. They don’t any more,” Tallis wrote.

“The last three years, the Broncos have gone backwards.”

Griffin – who has held the reins since 2011 – said on Wednesday six-time premiers Brisbane were always going to come under fire after missing the finals for just the second time in 21 years.

But it has been the way they missed it.

Brisbane are currently 13th with a 9-1-13 record.

Their previous worst season was an 11-win effort in 2010 – a tally that resulted in then coach Ivan Henjak being sacked.

“We are fair game at the moment,” Griffin said.

“Everyone is singing like canaries so we will just let them go.

“That was always going to happen.”

Asked what he thought about a club great taking aim at the Broncos, Griffin said: “I have been told about that (column) but everyone is entitled to their opinion.

“From my end we are not going to get dragged into that.”

Still, Griffin admitted it was a bizarre feeling winding down their season just as the finals were about to crank up.

“It’s a bit strange, something we are not used to or want to go through again,” he said.

“I am hurting as much as anyone.

“There are a lot of different answers (to what went wrong), we could speculate about it all day.

“We’ve got some things wrong this year but you can never question the players’ commitment.”

Griffin said he was more focused on acknowledging the likes of Scott Prince (playing his 300th and final game), Peter Wallace (Penrith-bound) and David Stagg (200th game) with a win in front of their home crowd on Thursday night.

Vodafone and Verizon in $US130bn deal

US telecoms giant Verizon has reached a deal with Vodafone to acquire its 45 per cent stake in Verizon Wireless for $US130 billion ($A146 billion).

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The blockbuster deal – which would be one of the biggest transactions in corporate history – will allow Vodafone to bounce back from hefty losses, pay down debt, make new acquisitions and return money to shareholders, according to analysts.

It would also mark the British group’s exit from the US market and inject several billion euros into the British economy that is struggling to lift out of the doldrums.

The company’s share price jumped 3.59 per cent on Monday to close at 213.65 pence before the announcement the deal had been reached, while London’s FTSE 100 index rose 1.54 per cent overall.

Vodafone had earlier confirmed talks were advanced.

Vodafone said that it would return $US84 billion of the funds it receives back to shareholders and plough over $US9 billion into organic investments over the next three years to improve its networks and services.

Vodafone says shareholders will receive all Verizon shares “totalling $US84.0 billion, equivalent to 112p per share and representing 71 per cent of the net proceeds” from the transaction.

Vodafone Group Chairman Gerard Kleisterlee said the company’s investment in Verizon Wireless has created a great deal of value for shareholders and “Verizon’s offer now provides us with an opportunity to realise this value at an attractive price”.

The gigantic buyout will be the second-biggest merger and acquisition deal in global corporate history, according to data firm Dealogic. The world’s biggest M&A deal remains Vodafone’s purchase of Germany’s Mannesmann for $US172 billion including debt, in 1999.

The deal will be so big that some analysts say the effect on the British economy will be as great as the hundreds of billions of pounds injected into the British economy since 2009 by the Bank of England.