Hird expresses concern for player’s mum

Essendon coach James Hird says he sympathises with the woman who called a radio station claiming to be the mother of a Bombers player and attacked Hird’s handling of the supplements saga.

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The woman told Melbourne’s Triple M Radio on Thursday that her 20-year-old son was stressed out and considering quitting.

She accused Hird of thinking only about himself.

“It was very concerning,” Hird told reporters on Friday.

“I think the welfare of our players is something that we all hold in high regard and are very concerned about, so it was very concerning to hear it.

“We are still trying to (make) contact and find out who that person is.”

Essendon assistant coach Simon Goodwin fronted the club’s pre-game media conference on Friday after Hird was a late withdrawal, only about 10 minutes before the conference was due to begin at 11.30am.

Hird said later that he was determined to continue as senior coach despite his legal battle with the AFL over the club’s supplements scandal.

Hird on Thursday lodged a writ with the Victorian Supreme Court.

Essendon, Hird and three other club officials have been charged with bringing the league into disrepute.

Hird wants AFL chief Andrew Demetriou barred from sitting in any judgment of the AFL charges, saying he has a conflict of interest.

Hird also wants the charges heard by an independent body, not the AFL Commission.

The coach of the seventh-placed Bombers is under intense pressure to step aside.

Asked if he would be staying on, Hird said: “Ah, yes.”

Essendon great Tim Watson, father of Bombers’ skipper Jobe Watson, told SEN Radio this week that Hird should consider standing aside if he did not feel he could properly fulfil his duties as coach.

Hird said he skipped the media conference because he was busy with other things related to preparing for Saturday night’s round-22 clash at the MCG with Carlton.

Goodwin said it was important for others around the club to share the load in trying times.

“There’s a lot going on in and around the footy club,” Goodwin said.

“As far as I know, he’s definitely going to be senior coach (on Saturday night), yeah.”

Essendon’s 17 rival clubs on Thursday backed the league’s stance that charges relating to Essendon’s use of supplements should be heard by the AFL Commission and not by an outside tribunal.

Panesar let England down – Cook

Troubled spinner Monty Panesar “let the England shirt down” with the unsavoury incident that sparked his exit from English county side Sussex, captain Alistair Cook said, but insisted he could revive his Test career.

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Panesar, 31, was fined by police for urinating in public after he was ejected from a Brighton nightclub on August 5 and Monday saw Sussex announce he’d played his last game for the south coast club.

Panesar was not included in England’s squad for the fifth and final Ashes Test at The Oval starting on Wednesday despite the south London ground’s reputation for taking turn, with uncapped Lancashire left-armer Simon Kerrigan called up instead as the second spinner behind off-break bowler Graeme Swann.

“First and foremost, certainly what’s happened over the last couple of weeks has been disappointing,” Cook said at The Oval on Tuesday.

“I’ve spoken to him – he actually rang me – which shows he knows he’s done wrong and let the England shirt down a bit.

“But he recognises he needs a bit of a change in his life which I think is always the first step,” added opening batsman Cook.

Cook said he was unaware of the extent of Panesar’s off-field problems but took heart from the way in which he’d called him to apologise.

“I didn’t think they were as bad as that. I don’t really know all the details but he has that side of his life that he definitely needs to get right because we know what an off-field life can do to you.

“It wasn’t the most pleasant phone call for him to make — to the England captain to apologise.

“But we know the class Monty has as a bowler and what he can do when he gets it right. We’ve seen that time and again. He just has to go back to basics, work as hard as he can and do what he does best — which is taking wickets.”

In a statement confirming his departure from Sussex, whom he joined in 2010, Panesar said Monday: “I apologise for letting the club, my colleagues and my fans down. I am determined to do whatever it takes to gain selection for England this winter. I want to become the best I can be.

“I have endured a challenging time this year off the field and my frustrations have sometimes got the better of me professionally,” Panesar, whose wife has reportedly filed for divorce, added.

Panesar has taken 164 wickets at 33.78 in 48 Tests, the last of those against New Zealand in Auckland in March.

Evidence builds that life began on Mars

Life on Earth may have started on Mars, growing evidence suggests.

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An element believed to be crucial to the origin of life would only have been available on the surface of the Red Planet, it is claimed.

Geochemist Professor Steven Benner argues that the “seeds” of life probably arrived on Earth in meteorites blasted off Mars by impacts or volcanic eruptions.

As evidence he points to the oxidised mineral form of the element molybdenum, thought to be a catalyst that helped organic molecules develop into the first living structures.

“It’s only when molybdenum becomes highly oxidised that it is able to influence how early life formed,” said Prof Benner, from The Westheimer Institute for Science and Technology in the USA. “This form of molybdenum couldn’t have been available on Earth at the time life first began, because three billion years ago the surface of the Earth had very little oxygen, but Mars did.

“It’s yet another piece of evidence which makes it more likely life came to Earth on a Martian meteorite, rather than starting on this planet.”

All living things are made from organic matter, but simply adding energy to organic molecules will not create life. Instead, left to themselves, organic molecules become something more like tar or asphalt, said Prof Benner.

He added: “Certain elements seem able to control the propensity of organic materials to turn to tar, particularly boron and molybdenum, so we believe that minerals containing both were fundamental to life first starting.

“Analysis of a Martian meteorite recently showed that there was boron on Mars; we now believe that the oxidised form of molybdenum was there too.”

Another reason why life would have struggled to start on early Earth was that it was likely to have been covered by water, said Prof Benner.

Water would have prevented sufficient concentrations of boron forming and is corrosive to RNA, a DNA cousin believed to be the first genetic molecule to appear.

Although there was water on early Mars, it covered much less of the planet.

“The evidence seems to be building that we are actually all Martians; that life started on Mars and came to Earth on a rock,” said Prof Benner, speaking at the Goldschmidt 2013 conference in Florence, Italy. “It’s lucky that we ended up here nevertheless, as certainly Earth has been the better of the two planets for sustaining life. If our hypothetical Martian ancestors had remained on Mars, there might not have been a story to tell.”

The Goldschmidt conference is jointly sponsored by the European Association of Geochemistry and the Geochemical Society.

Malthouse says Blues own eighth

It is the AFL’s equivalent of Willy Wonka’s golden ticket, but Carlton coach Mick Malthouse says it’s now the Blues’ to lose.

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Essendon’s expulsion from the top eight over the supplements scandal has left Carlton with the inside running to take their place.

If the Blues beat Port Adelaide at AAMI Stadium on Saturday, they will play finals.

A defeat leaves the door open for others – Brisbane, North Melbourne or even Adelaide or West Coast – to sneak in.

Malthouse’s answer to whether his side deserved to make finals, given their chances had appeared to vanish with last weekend’s narrow loss to Essendon, was to look at the ladder after this weekend.

“I don’t make the rules,” he said on Friday.

“At the end of round 23, the AFL produce a ladder which says final eight … when they say that’s your final eight and you happen to be in it, you’re in the finals.

“If you’re out of it, you’re out of the finals, regardless of how it works.”

With Carlton’s finals destiny back in their hands, and opponents Port Adelaide already booked for September regardless of the result, Malthouse reminded his side they had their hands on a top-eight spot.

“We’re currently eighth, so we own it,” Malthouse said.

Malthouse also confirmed star midfielder Chris Judd, who has been battling a knee injury, was most definitely a chance to return should the Blues book their finals place.

Port will be without key defender Alipate Carlile with a back injury.

Assistant coach Shaun Rehn said it was a legitimate injury, rather than a case of resting the backman for next week’s first final.

“(Coach) Ken (Hinkley) has been pretty clear on how he wants the boys to play all year,” Rehn said in Adelaide on Friday.

“We had areas of our game that dropped off last week (in the 74-point loss to Fremantle) and getting form in the key areas that Ken rates is really important going into a final.

“Other sides might be looking at resting players going into a final, but we want to show we have learned from Fremantle and have some solid form under our belt.”

Tall defender Jack Hombsch is a straight swap.

It is also the last AFL game to be played at AAMI Stadium – the old Football Park – before Port and the Crows move to Adelaide Oval from next season.

Hansen juggles All Blacks injuries

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen wants to experiment with selection against Argentina next month – but just how much will depend on a batch of medical reports.

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Hansen is facing a sizeable injury list following Saturday’s Bledisloe Cup-clinching 27-16 win over Australia.

The status of his walking wounded after a week off this week will dictate Hansen’s selection approach for the Rugby Championships Test against the Pumas in Hamilton on September 7.

He is reluctant to stray too far from the side who opened the championship with resounding wins over the Wallabies in Sydney and Wellington

“We’ll look at introducing a couple of guys but it will really depend on how we come through the next week,” Hansen said.

“We’re battered a lot at the moment.

“If we can get some people recovered, we can look at our selection policy then.”

Most intrigue again surrounds first five-eighth, where fourth-choice Tom Taylor is ruled out due to a rib injury sustained late in his impressive debut at Wellington.

Hansen is hopeful Dan Carter and Beauden Barrett will have shaken off calf muscle injuries in time to face the Pumas but will take fifth-choice Colin Slade to Hamilton as insurance. Aaron Cruden is likely to be missing with a knee injury.

Backup at prop may also be needed after first-choice tighthead Owen Franks sustained a groin injury on Saturday.

Second five-eighth Ma’a Nonu needs a scan this week after playing through ankle pain in recent weeks.

Blindside flanker Liam Messam is a chance to return from a hamstring injury at his home ground.

Messam would replace the dynamic Steven Luatua, whose Wellington performance was a step up from his first start in Sydney seven days earlier, Hansen says.

“There was less walking this week, I think he’s got used to the speed and intensity of the game.

“He looked more assured, more comfortable being out there wearing that jersey.”

Luatua was part of an All Blacks side who scrambled well on defence, something which delighted Hansen.

The coach was more animated about Ben Smith’s desperate, but futile, chase when Wallabies wing Israel Folau raced clear to score from an intercept than he was about Smith’s own two tries.

A strong second half scrum and lineout performance was also pleasing, particularly ahead of the challenge of Argentina, who Hansen says will try to attack at set piece.

The Pumas produced a vastly improved performance against South Africa in Mendoza on Saturday, losing 22-17. A week earlier they lost 73-17 in Johannesburg.

“It was a nice wee reminder that they’re going to be hard to beat,” Hansen said.