McGregor chuffed with Dragons showing

St George Illawarra boss Paul McGregor has lauded his troops for keeping the faith after breaking a three-match NRL losing streak against the Warriors on Friday.

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The Dragons romped to a 30-14 victory in Hamilton, wreaking havoc through the middle of the field and forcing 57 missed tackles from their opponents.

They also managed 20 offloads and nine line breaks as they nabbed six tries – four down their left edge – on the way to a pressure-lifting victory.

The Dragons, while never being completely outplayed, had lost three matches on the bounce against the Roosters, Storm and Sharks before heading across the ditch.

McGregor said his fourth-placed side’s display in dour Waikato conditions, against a dangerous opponent, was an outstanding result.

“The boys really deserve what they’ve done tonight, come here with a really good attitude and worked hard throughout the week – made the opposition miss 57 tackles, doesn’t happen often in the NRL,” McGregor said.

“Our forward pack, I thought they dominated tonight, had a really good opening to the game and had a lot of support around the footy, created a lot of opportunities.”

Despite their fruitful efforts down the left flank, McGregor denied his side had specifically targeted rookie Warriors winger Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad.

The side’s left edge – centre Tim Lafai and stand-in winger Kalifa Faifai Loa – had simply capitalised upon the forwards’ hard work to nab four-pointers.

They scored half the side’s tries between them.

“The platform was laid by everyone, not just the left edge – the left edge got to finish with quality, and they worked hard,” McGregor said.

“If there’s numbers down the short side we’ll take it, and if they fill up the short side (then) we’ll go to the open side.”

McGregor also backed a number of his troops – including in-form prop Paul Vaughan – for Blues selection in this year’s State of Origin series, saying any experience they pick up in the representative environment would only help at club level.

Vic Labor slams opposition’s CFA ‘lies’

Victorian Labor has attacked the opposition for “scaremongering” over the government’s plan to split the CFA while defending the reform to the party faithful.

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Opposition Leader Matthew Guy was peddling “lies and misinformation” on the CFA debate, Deputy Premier and Emergency Services Minister James Merlino told the ALP state conference on Saturday.

“Of course, the leader of the opposition would not miss an opportunity to use this issue as a political football,” he said.

“But yet again he was caught out lying and he’s making a habit of his, scaremongering about the number of CFA volunteers in Victoria compared to NSW.”

Mr Merlino also hit out at his shadow counterpart, Brad Battin, who incorrectly claimed in parliament that career firefighters did not go to the Black Saturday fires until about five hours after they started.

Mr Battin has since admitted he got it wrong and apologised.

The proposed changes would make the CFA a volunteer-only organisation, with career firefighters joining their metropolitan colleagues in a new authority.

The reform package includes $56.2 million to strengthen recruitment, training and retention, while the number of female firefighters would quadruple over the next four years.

“Victorians will get the modern and reliable fire service they deserve,” Premier Daniel Andrews told the conference.

The move has been criticised by the state and federal Liberals and volunteers, and the United Firefighters Union also says it has concerns.

The government says the change is needed to circumvent a deadlock created by the federal government’s changes to the Fair Work Act.

Federal Employment Minister Michaelia Cash says the claim is false.

She said the legislation did not prevent the CFA entering a new agreement with paid firefighters.

Fired FBI chief James Comey will testify publicly in Congress

James Comey, the former FBI chief whose firing by President Donald Trump has triggered uproar, has agreed to testify publicly about Russian interference in the 2016 elections, lawmakers said.

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“I hope that former Director Comey’s testimony will help answer some of the questions that have arisen since Director Comey was so suddenly dismissed by the president,” the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mark Warner, said in a statement.

“Director Comey served his country with honour for many years, and he deserves an opportunity to tell his story. Moreover, the American people deserve an opportunity to hear it.”

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Both Warner and the committee’s chairman, Richard Burr, indicated they were looking forward to Comey’s testimony about Russian interference in the November 8 presidential elections that saw Trump secure the White House by scoring the electoral college, though Democratic rival Hillary Clinton won the popular vote.

No date has yet been set for the open session hearing, though the statement said it would take place after the Memorial Day holiday on May 29.

Watch: US Democratic representative on Comey firing

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The White House has been thrown into turmoil by a succession of stunning allegations against the president this week, including that he may have obstructed justice by asking Comey to drop an investigation into one of his top advisors.

On Friday, The Washington Post reported that a senior White House official was now under investigation as part of a probe over Russian efforts to tilt the elections in Trump’s favour. 

And The New York Times said the US president had told top Russian officials Comey’s sacking had relieved “great pressure” on him.

Trump told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov last week that Comey was a “nut job,” according to the Times, citing notes taken at the meeting and read to the paper by a US official.

That flies in the face of the White House’s public insistence that Comey’s dismissal was not linked to his ongoing investigation.

The president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner is among those whose contacts with the Russian government have come under scrutiny.

On Thursday, Trump declared himself the victim of the “greatest witch hunt” in American political history and denied allegations of collusion.

“There is no collusion between certainly myself and my campaign, but I can always speak for myself, and the Russians – zero,” Trump told reporters.

The White House on Friday predicted that the investigation would back up Trump’s account.

“As the president has stated before – a thorough investigation will confirm that there was no collusion between the campaign and any foreign entity,” said spokesman Sean Spicer.

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Walkinshaw hunts return to Supercars power

Walkinshaw Racing will plough more resources into engineering as the Supercars team aims for a return to power after sacking team manager Adrian Burgess.

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Owner Ryan Walkinshaw said the team’s unacceptable performance over a longer period was behind Burgess’s axing, rather than a knee-jerk reaction to an abysmal weekend at the last Supercars round in Perth.

“We’ve had bad race weekends in the past and we’ll have bad race weekends in the future, but I don’t think it is unreasonable for someone in my family’s position to expect an increase in performance year on year,” Walkinshaw said on Saturday.

“For the last couple of years we seem to be going around in circles a little bit and for us that’s not acceptable.”

James Courtney and Scott Pye sit 15th and 18th respectively in the drivers’ standings heading into the series’ fifth round at Winton.

The team’s best placing on the drivers’ standings during Burgess’s stint was sixth by Courtney (2014) and veteran Garth Tander (2015), who was replaced by Pye.

Walkinshaw said he was hopeful the team could return to past glory, which saw them win the drivers’ championship six times and plundered seven Bathurst wins.

“It’s a top priority at the moment that we give some additional resources to the engineering group,” Walkinshaw said.

“There is a feeling that potentially we haven’t given them the full resources that we now think they should have.”

He confirmed acting manager Mathew Nilsson was auditioning to get the job full-time.

“It would make me very happy if we could go down the route of looking at something internally,” Walkinshaw said.

“Through the whole process we’re going to be looking internally, externally, locally and internationally.”

While Nilsson has an opportunity to prove himself, the team will also use a recruitment agency in the hunt to replace Burgess.

“We’ll see which CVs we get through the door. There’s a couple of targets we’re looking at but we’re pretty open-minded,” Walkinshaw said.

Assange’s team calls for Turnbull’s help

One of Julian Assange’s legal advisers wants the Turnbull government to intervene and help the WikiLeaks founder.

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Barrister Greg Barns’ call comes after Swedish prosecutors on Friday announced they would discontinue a rape investigation against him.

Assange has been holed up in the embassy since mid-2012 when he sought asylum there to avoid extradition to Sweden to face accusations he raped a woman in 2010 in Stockholm.

But the silver-haired activist says his legal fight was not over and it was “extremely regretful” he was still being threatened with arrest if he leaves the embassy.

Assange faces arrest by British police on charges of skipping bail and also fears extradition to the US over WikiLeaks’ publication of secret US military and diplomatic documents.

Assange said British authorities had refused to confirm or deny if the US had issued a warrant for his extradition from the UK.

Mr Barns, who is part of Assange’s legal team, wants Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to intervene and speak to Washington and London.

“The Australian government which washed its hands of Julian Assange a long time ago now needs to get involved – this is one of its citizens,” he told Sky News from Hobart on Saturday.

Deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek, speaking in Sydney earlier, said Assange still had questions to answer, but Mr Barns said there were no outstanding issues and he would welcome a call from her.

“This seems to be that element of the Labor party which is in a cabal with Washington and London and refusing to stand up for an Australian citizen,” he said.

Appearing on a balcony of the Ecuadorean embassy in London on Friday, Assange told supporters and a large media throng he had been detained and slandered as his children grew up without him.

“That’s not something I can forgive, it’s not something I can forget,” he said.

The 45-year-old gave a clenched-fist salute as he welcomed the Swedish decision, hailing it as “an important victory”.

He said he was prepared to talk to UK and US authorities about his position despite “extremely threatening remarks” being made.

Assange said the claim the UK had the right to arrest him for seeking asylum when no charges had been laid against him was “simply untenable”.

Assange looks set to remain in the embassy for a while yet.

For skipping bail in the UK over the Swedish accusations, Assange could face a year in jail.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said in 2016 that Assange was in effect being arbitrarily detained in violation of international law.