Euphoric scenes as Tigers end 37-year wait

Battered by powerful waves of yellow-and-black pressure and passion, the lid came off and the AFL premiership cup came back to Punt Rd after a 37-year wait.

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The grand final is synonymous with scenes: be it among the capacity crowd, on the streets of Melbourne or in the middle of a heaving MCG.

Saturday was no different.

If you want proof of how much football clubs mean to their constituents, watch footage of club icon Matthew Richardson and long-suffering members cry tears of joy during Saturday’s fourth quarter.

Watch Trent Cotchin, the captain who became the face of Richmond’s recent meek elimination-final surrenders when he opted to kick into the wind against Port Adelaide in 2014, celebrate the 48-point win over Adelaide.

Listen to Damien Hardwick, the coach whose supposed incompetence had plenty of pundits calling for a sacking after last year’s 13th-placed finish, speak from the heart about his team’s transformation from hopeless to heroes.

Listen to Dustin Martin, who became the first footballer to win the Brownlow and North Smith medals in one season, scream the words “YELLOW AND BLACK” in a predictably short acceptance speech.

Richardson, enlisted by the league to hand Richmond’s 11th premiership cup over to Hardwick, was among so many of the 100,021-strong crowd to have invested so much in the Tigers.

Their reward was a barnstorming triumph over the minor premiers, who took an early 13-point lead then were harassed into submission.

The Tiger Army were out in force but the league’s grand-final ticketing policy stopped plenty from storming the MCG.

It meant the roar wasn’t as loud as last week’s preliminary final, with fans instead setting up camp a torpedo punt away at the club’s spiritual home of Punt Rd Oval.

If you grant AFL the status of religion, as some supporters do, then you might look for miracles and omens on the most holy day of its calendar.

Especially when you’re a cynical Richmond fan, having built a well-founded fear of abject failure and false dawns since the 1982 grand final.

That stretch had featured so little resilience but so much rudderless football and regular heartbreak; so many rage-worthy random blunders, regrettable draft choices, repetitive jokes about finishing ninth on the ladder.

No more – finally they are the Tigers of old, strong and bold.

Nick Vlastuin could have become part of grand-final folklore for all the wrong reasons when he watched the Sherrin inexplicably slip through his hands and quickly onto the boot of Eddie Betts.

It meant the Crows had the opening two goals of the contest, and all the momentum, but Vlastuin didn’t drop his head.

Jack Riewoldt, the subject of trade speculation this time last year, missed Richmond’s first three chances to kick goals but didn’t drop his bundle. He laid a team-high seven tackles.

Richmond rallied. The Crows capitulated.

And suddenly, everything the hosts touched started turning to gold. Even Connor Menadue, running the halftime 100m sprint, saluted in 11.39 seconds and had time to turn and do his best Usain Bolt impersonation.

Rex Tillerson meets Chinese leaders to pile pressure on North Korea

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with China’s top diplomats in Beijing on Saturday to discuss efforts to curb North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and prepare President Donald Trump’s November visit.

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Tillerson, whose arrival was delayed due to technical problems with his plane in Tokyo, held talks with State Councillor Yang Jiechi and Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the Great Hall of the People at Tiananmen Square.

The visit comes as relations between the two superpowers appear to be improving after months of tensions over how to handle North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un’s nuclear provocations.

“Our two presidents have developed a very regular and close working relationship,” Tillerson told Yang.

“I know President Trump is very much looking forward to the upcoming summit as is everyone on his team,” said Tillerson, who was due to meet Xi later in the day.

Yang, who is China’s most senior diplomat, said Trump’s trip was of “great importance” for Sino-US relations.

“Let us concentrate on cooperation and properly manage our differences in the spirit of mutual respect and mutual benefit so that we can keep moving the China-US relationship forward in the right direction,” Yang said.

In a separate meeting, Wang told Tillerson: “At present, China-US relations overall have a positive momentum and have arrived at an important opportunity to progress further.”

None of them mentioned North Korea in their public remarks before reporters were ushered out, but the topic was expected to be on the agenda.

Tillerson had been due to arrive on Friday evening but his aircraft’s problems forced him to travel to China on a military transport plane on Saturday.

0:00 North Korea says ‘millions’ ready to fight US Share North Korea says ‘millions’ ready to fight US

‘Two trains of thought’

Trump has repeatedly urged Xi to exert more economic pressure on Pyongyang to convince the renegade regime to give up its nuclear ambitions.

China, North Korea’s main trade partner, has responded by backing a slew of new United Nations sanctions.

For its part, Beijing has insisted that the sanctions must be coupled with efforts to organise peace talks, but Trump and Kim have traded increasingly personal insults that have raised fears that the crisis could spark a conflict.

“There appear to be two trains of thought in the international community regarding denuclearization of the peninsula: Crush North Korea or talk to North Korea so as to increase its sense of security. China and Russia hold the latter view,” China’s state-run Global Times newspaper said in an editorial.

0:00 UN says North Korea has made ‘rapid progress’ Share UN says North Korea has made ‘rapid progress’

China applies sanctions

The acting US assistant secretary of state for East Asia, Susan Thornton, told sceptical US lawmakers ahead of Tillerson’s trip that China appears to be on board with the plan to squeeze Pyongyang.

“We are working closely with China to execute this strategy and are clear-eyed in viewing the progress – growing, if uneven – that China has made on this front,” she said.

“We have recently seen Chinese authorities take additional actions,” she said, referring to new controls on the cross-border trade and finance that is North Korea’s economic lifeline.

On Thursday, China said it was ordering North Korean firms on its territory to close by January.

The announcement came days after China confirmed it will limit exports of refined petroleum products to North Korea from October 1 while banning imports of textiles from its neighbour.

The measures were in accordance with UN sanctions that were approved earlier in September after North Korea detonated its sixth and most powerful nuclear bomb — a test that triggered an earthquake felt across the border in China.

Trump’s November trip will be part of a tour that will also take in regional allies Japan and South Korea.

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Teenager dressed in black armour and carrying knife arrested in Melbourne CBD

Video footage taken by passersby and posted online shows the green four-wheel drive reversing at speed down Swanston Street in the CBD before spinning 180 degrees.

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A member of the public threw a hire bike under the 4WD to try to stop it, while police rushed to the area.

Officers say they are treating it as a mental health situation and don’t believe there was any terrorist links.

0:00 Man allegedly carrying knife tasered and arrested Share Man allegedly carrying knife tasered and arrested  

The teenager was wearing a black armoured uniform, black helmet and carrying a black rucksack.

He got out of the vehicle and was pacing in circles at the corner of Swanston and Flinders streets when police surrounded him shortly before 8am.

He appeared to lunge at one of the officers, who fell back, before the teen was tasered and subdued.

No injuries were reported and the teenager was arrested and is in police custody.

The Bomb Response Unit were searching the 4WD as a precaution and the area has been cordoned off.

“He was driving certainly erratically which is concerning to Victoria Police and the community but there is no intention, that I’m aware of, that he was deliberately trying to hurt anyone,” he said.

“Obviously it was concerning but this paraphernalia he had is freely available, the clothing [was] certainly from any army disposal store but obviously [being] in the CBD dressed like that is of concern, but I think that’s clearly in line with his mental health condition which we’re assessing.”

Police are urging people to avoid the area.

It comes as thousands pack the area for the AFL grand final between Richmond and Adelaide.

0:00 Eyewitness account of Melbourne CBD incident Share Eyewitness account of Melbourne CBD incident

Something major going down in Fed Square. #melbourne #AFLGF pic南京夜生活,/AlzUUYVsh6

— Thomo (@liamthompson1) September 29, 2017

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Hardwick chokes up about captain Cotchin

If Richmond are looking for people to build a statue of after the club’s breakthrough AFL premiership, Trent Cotchin will almost certainly be at the top of the list.

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There will never be another Jack ‘Captain Blood’ Dyer, whose status as a club icon was immortalised in 2003 when his death prompted a bronze likeness to be erected outside Punt Rd Oval.

But Cotchin’s class and captaincy will be remembered and revered every time the tale of the Tigers’ 2017 turnaround — and any future success — is told.

Coach Damien Hardwick became emotional when talking about Cotchin’s work as a midfielder, motivator and match winner this September.

“I sort of choke up a little bit speaking about this guy. About what he means to me and means to our football club,” Hardwick told reporters.

“He’s a freak. I love what he does, I love how he’s led the club.

“He’s an incredible player and we’re very lucky to have him.”

The feeling is mutual.

“I don’t know if there would be a prouder person (of Damien Hardwick), other than Mrs Hardwick,” Cotchin said.

“He’s a special person and I’m just so rapt for him.”

Cotchin epitomised leadership throughout this year’s finals series, crashing packs and the opposition’s best-laid plans.

“I don’t know what his possessions were today but he would have had 15 ‘smashes’. He was just a battering ram,” Hardwick said.

Off the field, Cotchin has been just as immense.

Footage of the 27-year-old cleaning up the Tigers’ changerooms after their qualifying-final win went viral.

It is that sort of mindset that has rubbed off on so many teammates.

Hardwick noted Dustin Martin would not be the player he is without Cotchin’s influence.

“Not anywhere near,” Hardwick said, detailing how it hurt to see Cotchin cop so much criticism during the Tigers’ recent failures.

“He’s been enormous in that aspect (of improving the club culture).”

Not even Hardwick believed the Tigers were capable of winning the 2017 premiership at this point last year, when a 13th-placed finish prompted an aborted board challenge.

“I was confident if we played our best we’d make finals … a premiership cup? I’d have said you’re kidding yourself,” he said.

“I get the plaudits because I’m the coach but .. a lot of people are responsible for us winning that premiership cup.

“I’ve got an outstanding bunch of assistant coaches, they’ve inspired me.

“The players grabbed it and ran with it.”

Crows coach puzzled by grand final flop

Don Pyke has no idea why.

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But the defeated Adelaide coach has vowed to find the reasons in a forensic examination of the Crows’ grand final flop against Richmond at the MCG on Saturday.

The Crows were belted by eight goals, leaving Pyke puzzled why the competition’s season-long pacesetters and minor premiers stumbled on the grand stage.

“When the big games are on, you have got to bring your best and we didn’t bring our best,” Pyke told reporters.

“And that is taking nothing away from Richmond, I thought they were fantastic … we clearly could have been better.

“If you asked our players individually, there would be some of them that felt like they produced one of their poorer performances on what is obviously a big day.”

Pyke sensed a collective funk descend on the Crows late in the second quarter.

After holding an 11 point lead at quarter-time, Adelaide was outscored 0.5 to 4.1 in the second stanza.

Richmond then demolished Adelaide in the third term, booting 5.4 to 1.2 – when the Tigers recorded 20 more contested possessions – which Pyke made particular reference to.

“At one stage the numbers I was looking at was minus 27 (contested possessions) in the quarter and that is a phenomenal number,” he said.

“Richmond outworked us at the contest. They won the contest, they had extra numbers there.

“And no surprise the game got played in their half and they were able to score. And from that point it became a long way back.”

Pyke said players and coaches must learn from the harsh lessons of failing to produce their best in the club’s first grand final since 1998.

“That is the conversation we had after the game: it’s important we reflect,” he said.

“They are shattered, the players. They put a lot of energy into the season and walk away with nothing.

“We’re not sitting here going ‘woe is us’.

“We came to a grand final, we weren’t good enough.

“We have got to accept that and we have got to try to do something about it to work our way back into this position again.”

Australian asylum seeker deal included in US refugee cap

The Trump administration’s new 45,000 cap on refugees will include people resettled in the US under a deal struck with Australia.

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This week more than 50 refugees who had been in limbo for years on Manus Island and Nauru departed for a new life in the US.

Up to 1,250 refugees are expected to be resettled in the US.

The US resettlement agreement was the subject of a heated phone call between Donald Trump and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in January in which the new US president characterised the deal as dumb.

Mr Trump has since reluctantly agreed to honour the agreement, which Mr Turnbull struck with the Obama administration.

Overnight, the White House released a document outlining the new cap for the 2018 financial year, which is the lowest in decades.

The Trump administration says the lower cap is necessary so that US officials can address a growing backlog of people applying for asylum inside the United States and to do better vetting of refugees.

Refugee advocates say the lower limit ignores growing humanitarian crises around the world that are causing people to flee their native countries in greater numbers and represents a departure from US global leadership.

Former President Barack Obama had wanted the US to accept 110,000 refugees in 2017, but the end of the financial year total will actually fall short at 45,000.

Asked if the US refugee resettlement deal was affected by the new cap, a spokesman for Australia’s immigration department said: “Questions about the US refugee program should be directed to the US.”

The US State Department has told reporters in a special briefing that the new cap will include the intake from Nauru and Manus Island.

From whipping boy to AFL premiers’ star

Richmond’s much-maligned forward Jack Riewoldt has enjoyed the last laugh.

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Riewoldt, a whipping boy for frustrated fans and opinionated pundits throughout his 225-game AFL career, was overcome with emotion on Saturday after the Tigers’ grand-final win.

“Who would have thought we finished 13th last year, beaten by (113) points in the last round and now we’re f***ing premiers,” Riewoldt said in his on-field interview.

Riewoldt proceeded to rock out with The Killers, gatecrashing the US band’s post-match gig in the middle of the MCG.

The 28-year-old took to the stage, was handed a microphone then belted out Mr Brightside. All to the delight of delirious fans.

Riewoldt was the subject of trade gossip last year, while even this September, he had his fair share of critics after Richmond’s final wins over Geelong and Greater Western Sydney.

The 28-year-old delivered on football’s grandest stage in style.

He booted two goals, clutched a game-high three contested marks but even more impressive was a team-high seven tackles.

There was an early screamer and serious nerves, with Riewoldt missing the Tigers’ opening three chances to kick a goal.

But he continued to apply serious pressure, with the highlight being a pair of run-down tackles in the opening half.

“I was about to swap him and Rancey (key defender Alex Rance) at one stage,” coach Damien Hardwick joked.

“Jack was great today.”

If asked whether Richmond were grand-final material at this point last year, Riewoldt would have given you an honest answer.

“Probably no,” Riewoldt said during Friday’s parade.

Riewoldt has been at the fore of an incredible turnaround.

They key forward played a far more selfless role in 2017 but finished the season with 54 goals.

Legendary coach Paul Roos suggested the Tasmanian was unlucky to miss out on All-Australian selection.

“He has really owned that forward line group – it has been special to see,” captain Trent Cotchin said.

Renewables opportunity in Puerto Rico

Hurricane Maria destroyed Puerto Rico’s antiquated and bankrupt electrical system, leaving millions in the dark and utility crews scrambling to help.

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Now some politicians and renewable energy investors see a golden opportunity in the crisis to use federal funds to re-invent the US territory’s grid as a storm-resistant network that relies less on costly coal and oil imports and more on local wind, solar and batteries.

If it happens, it could ease power bills on an island that struggles with the second-costliest electricity in the United States, behind Hawaii, as well as infrastructure prone to failing in the region’s frequent hurricanes.

“We cannot waste the opportunity of this crisis and federal aid package,” said Ramon Luis Nieves, a Puerto Rican politician in the Popular Democratic Party, who headed the island’s senate energy committee until his term expired in January.

“We need to focus on not only getting the grid back up but improving it so it can tolerate more renewable energy.”

A set of bills introduced this week by US Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon would call on the Department of Energy to make the US electric grid hardier against natural disasters and offer grants for small scale, grid-connected solar and other projects.

A Wyden aide said Puerto Rico’s utility, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, could apply for such grants to modernise the grid or get funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to rebuild and then apply for the grants to help pay for upgrades.

About half of Puerto Rico’s electricity is generated from imported fuel oil, with another third coming from natural gas and much of the rest from coal, according to the Department of Energy.

Renewables supply about 2.4 per cent, though the island has set a goal to obtain 20 per cent of its electricity from renewables by 2035.

O.J. Simpson set for imminent release

O.

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J. Simpson could be a free man within days.

The One-time Trial of the Century defendant may be released from the Nevada prison where he has been held since 2008 for a botched robbery as early as Sunday (Monday Australian time).

Simpson, 70, won his freedom from a Nevada parole board in July after nine years behind bars, at a hearing that did not take into account his 1990s trial for the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and a friend, Ron Goldman.

The former football star turned actor and TV pitchman nicknamed The Juice during his playing career was found not guilty in 1995 following that sensational, 13-month trial in Los Angeles, which was televised live daily, transfixing much of the nation.

A civil court jury subsequently found him liable for the deaths and ordered him to pay $US33.5 million ($A42.7 million) in damages to the victims’ families, a judgment that remains largely unpaid.

The Nevada Department of Corrections, seeking to avoid the kind of media frenzy that often accompanies Simpson, has declined to say exactly when and where he would be released.

A department spokeswoman warned media not to try to chase his vehicle from the prison gates, saying officials could postpone the release for weeks if necessary to avoid “risk to the community” from such a frenzy.

Also unclear is the former star athlete’s ultimate destination. He told parole board members he hopes to move to Florida, where he has friends and family, a plan that must be approved by probation authorities there.

During the parole hearing, Simpson joked that he was willing to stay in Nevada but “I’m sure you don’t want me here”.

His Las Vegas-based attorney, Malcom LaVergne, reiterated the Florida plans during an interview on ABC’s Good Morning America program on Friday.

LaVerge said his client was looking forward to spending time with family members, eating steak and seafood and buying an iPhone.

Florida corrections officials say they had not received a parole transfer request for Simpson and had not been contacted by their counterparts in Nevada.

Simpson is a native of California, born in San Francisco, and played his final years as a pro football player for that city’s team, the 49ers. He lived in Los Angeles at the time of the murders.

But California corrections officials say he has not filed papers to live in that state either.