Australian Open 2016: It’s a fine mess as Nick Kyrgios is hit for swearing and Venus Williams for a no-show

Nick Kyrgios has been slapped with the second largest fine of the Australian Open to date after swearing in his first-round victory against Pablo Correno Busta on Monday. Kyrgios was hit was a $US3000 ($A4380) fine on Wednesday for audible obscenity during his straight-sets win against the Spaniard.

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While Kyrgios has a suspended $25,000 fine and 28-day ban hanging over his head, the strict guidelines around verbal and physical abuse are only applicable at ATP events, not grand slams. The suspended sanctions were put in place after his now infamous “Kokkinakis banged your girlfriend” sledge at Stan Wawrinka in August last year.

However, the biggest fine of the tournament has been handed to former world No.1 Venus Williams, who copped a $US5000 fine for not fronting a mandatory post-match media conference on Tuesday. Williams was not in the mood for talking following her shock straight-sets defeat to the Sydney-born Johanna Konta, who now represents Great Britain.

Australian Open officials announced the sanction against the 35-year-old, who went down 6-4, 6-2 on Rod Laver Arena, on Wednesday. While her sister Serena attended her post-match commitments, she did call a premature end to the conference, saying: “I’m calling it, I’m out” as she left the room.

Venus, the tournament’s No.8 seed, was given the largest fine a female competitor has been given for brushing the media conference, and the second highest since former Australian Open champion Marat Safin was fined $10,000 at the French Open in 2001.

Serena was asked on Wednesday about why Venus did not front the media. “I don’t know. If you want to, you can ask her,” a laughing Williams said sarcastically. “Yeah, I don’t know. I wasn’t here.”

Australia’s women have struggled at this year’s Open, but Konta – who represented Australia from 2008 to 2012 before joining Great Britain – has no plans to return.

“No. Unfortunately, my home is Great Britain,” she said. “It has been for a long time now, over a decade. Yeah, no, that’s where my heart is.”

Don’t follow Daddy

He is likely to be remembered as the greatest in the history of the sport, but Roger Federer admits he does not want his children following in his footsteps.

Federer waltzed into the third round of the Australian Open for the 16th consecutive time on Wednesday morning, but the former world No.1 does not harbour a desire to keep coming back to Rod Laver Arena for much longer.

His six-year-old twin daughters Charlene and Myla have begun playing tennis, but their father is hopeful they do not make a career out of the sport.

“I will support them all the way whatever they want to do, but I don’t see myself doing that right now,” Federer said about the prospect of following his children around the tennis tour for the next few decades.

“I’d rather support them in another sport. Go see them be a super skier. That would be exciting. To go watch tennis matches, I don’t know. [Laughter]. As much as I love it now, I’m just not sure what my excitement level will be in 20 years’ time from now. You never know.”

Sweet smell of success

The scent of Rod Laver Arena sent Victoria Azarenka on a walk down memory lane, reminding her of her success in 2012, when she waltzed back on to centre court on Tuesday night. “I have no idea what it smells like. It takes me a little bit down the memory lane. It just, you know, makes me excited. So I would say it’s less of a smell as much as memories, you know, and the feelings that I get.”

Huge rise in g​ambling

​The allegations of corruption in tennis have done little to hinder interest in gambling on the Australian Open. Tournament partners William Hill, the first betting agency to sponsor a grand slam, have recorded a significant rise in gambling on last year. There has been a 93 per cent increase in turnover compared to the first two days of last year’s tournament. There has also been a 258 per cent increase in turnover on live betting, with total bets up almost 150 per cent.

Serena not so serene

If you listened to some of the questions being asked of Serena Williams in her press conference, you could understand why she looked so disinterested following her second-round victory. There has been no escaping her shock loss to Roberta Vinci at last year’s US Open, nor is there any escaping questions about it four months later. Asked if she has watched the match since, a frustrated Williams said: “Yeah, I watch it every day. Every night to get ready”. She might not have ended her own press conference this time around, but she at least provided warning that her patience was wearing thin saying: “I’m coming apart, though. Do we have any more questions?”

Danny O’Brien says the fight against his four-year ban has only just begun

Suspended: Trainer Danny O’BrienTrainer Danny O’Brien believes the fight against his four-year cobalt disqualification from the Victorian Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board has only just started, claiming he was looking forward to “examining [the case] properly in a real adult court”.

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O’Brien and Mark Kavanagh appealed immediately to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal after they were yesterday handed four and three-year bans, respectively,  for cobalt offences. The  trainers said their lawyers would be looking at every level of the process.

“You’ll all be aware that we’ve raised some real issues with how this scenario has played out over the last 12 months before Christmas there,” O’Brien said.

“We still haven’t had any answers from RVL. The chief integrity officer [Terry Bailey] has gone missing for I believe it will be seven weeks when he supposedly comes back on the first of February.

“I guess that’s probably the first time where we’ll get some idea of where they stand on all this but at the end of the day, they’re really only holding back the tide for when we get to VCAT and everything is examined properly in a real adult court.”

O’Brien and Kavanagh’s vet, Tom Brennan, was disqualified for six years, backdated to August 1 last year,  for his part in the cobalt positive swabs taken from  Caravan Rolls On, Bondeiger, De Little Engine and Bullpit from the O’Brien yard and the Kavanagh-trained Magicool in the spring of 2014.

The Championships place in Australian racing continues to be strong with the Queen Elizabeth Stakes and TJ Smith the equal top ranked race in Australia in the world’s top 100 group 1 released on Wednesday.

Australia had the most races in the top 100 with 23, but it doesn’t include the Melbourne Cup as it is a handicap and over 3200 metres. However the Queen Elizabeth and TJ Smith, which is the best sprint in the world, only ranked at number 25.

“It confirms The Championships place as the grand finals of racing in Australia,” Racing NSW chief executive Peter V’landys said. “It was good to see so many races from our autumn carnival in the list.”

The world’s best race according to the list is the Prix de l’Arc Triomphe, ahead of the Breeders Cup Classic and Juddmonte International run at York.

Warwick Farm trainer Louis Baudon chalked up his first Sydney win when Evason came with a late charge to win over 2400m first-up for nine months at his home track on Wednesday.

It was a remarkable training performance by the Frenchman with an imported son of Galileo, which was having his first start since running in France in April last year.

“Him and me are adapting to Australia together. He needs longer, the longer the better with him,” Baudon said.

‘An absolute circus’: Nick Kyrgios changes outfit mid-match because his shorts were too small

Inbetweener: Nick Kyrgios attempts a trick shot against Uruguayan Pablo Cuevas. Photo: Joe ArmaoNick Kyrgios is used to his short temper getting him in trouble, but it was his short shorts that caused problems during his second-round Australian Open clash on Wednesday night.

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The Australian tennis star dispatched with Uruguayan Pablo Cuevas in straight sets at Hisense Arena in front of a supportive crowd.

Kyrgios did, however, have to contend with a challenge more familiar to AFL players: his shorts were too small.

The 20-year-old appeared bothered during the first two sets by his white shorts, which weren’t big enough to hold an extra ball for his second serve.

While a snug pair of shorts never held back the likes of Warwick Capper, it became too much for Kyrgios, who was allowed to change into a roomier black pair late in the second set.

It’s unclear exactly what happened, but Kyrgios was clearly displeased about the wardrobe malfunction.

“Mate, it was an absolute circus,” he said during the post-match interview.

“I’m not going to talk too much about it, but it was just a massive mix up and that’s just part of the challenges you face.”

Asked if he would be wearing different shorts for the next match, he replied: “I’m hoping so, I hope I get that right ones, I’m just glad I got through that.”

Kyrgios comes back with different shorts. But your outfit, Nick! It’s ruined! #AusOpen— Max Laughton (@dshban) January 20, 2016

Kyrgios doing a heck of a job promoting Nike Uncomfortable Shorts #AusOpen— Mich (@SurfBumMich) January 20, 2016BREAKING: Nick Kyrgios’ shorts delivery dumped into the Yarra River #AusOpenpic.twitter杭州夜网/vCAWBtKB5t— The Magnet (@mikkithompson93) January 20, 2016I agree that shorts that have no room for balls are frustrating. It shouldn’t happen. @NickKyrgios— Dave Hughes (@DHughesy) January 20, 2016It’s all about the #[email protected] oh I mean #Shorts live on #7Tennis >https://t.co/jNi2Rxuht2https://t.co/Qgdtw4E5R7— 7Tennis (@7tennis) January 20, 2016C’mon #AusOpen commentators, enough about the #Kyrgios shorts. If I wanted people harping on about trvivialities I’d tune into #AUSvIND— Anthony Sharwood (@antsharwood) January 20, 2016Comms speculating Kyrgios is upset b/c pockets in his shorts are uncomfortable when stuffed w a ball, ie, that outfit is UGLY AND USELESS!— betti w. woo (@bettiwettiwoo) January 20, 2016White shorts. Black shorts. Have I missed something important? #Kyrgios#AusOpen#shorts— Angie Dreese (@writeAngiewrite) January 20, 2016

Byron Bay festival gives koalas the blues as furry neighbours look to escape racket

Crowds flock to the annual Bluesfest Byron Bay. Photo: Edwina Pickles George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic at the 2015 Bluesfest. Photo: Edwina Pickles

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A music festival in the Byron hinterland has put some of the furrier locals at an increased risk of disease, a new report has found.

The report, published this month, links the “aversive behaviour” of a number of the koalas observed to Bluesfest Byron Bay, where the koalas moved away from their home-range area, “perpendicular to and away from staging areas where music was played”, the report showed.

“For koalas to get up and leave their home-ranges is quite significant,” author of the report and managing director of Biolink Ecological Consultants, Steve Phillips, said.

“Koalas are very particular about what they eat and where they live so, if they’re bombarded by this low noise, it’s potentially coming from a bigger koala. They’re going to pack up and leave; they fear it,” he said.

The report showed three of the radio-collared koalas whose core home-ranges were within 525 metres of the festival arena moved out of these areas.

Three others located further out also showed movement patterns that led away from the festival but stayed within their home-ranges.

Behavioural observations on the last koala showed signs “morbidity”, including lethargy during the music event. This koala was found dead after the study but the cause could not conclusively identified.

The report suggests the increased stress from the noise created by the festival that causes the koalas to move about could “compromise immunological processes”, leading to increased susceptibility to disease.

“The question the paper asks is, ‘At what cost are the koalas moving?’ And we don’t know what that cost is,” Dr Phillips said.

Sean FitzGibbon from the Koala Ecology Group at the University of Queensland said, “It is commonly known stress predisposes animals to disease, but there is not a lot of evidence to say this occurs in koalas.”

Dr FitzGibbon, who heads the consultancy team for Bluesfest, said the group had made huge progress treating diseased koalas since the five-year-old data was taken when there were very high levels of disease, causing death in local numbers.

“We’ve been monitoring them in the four years since [the study was done] at every festival. At each Bluesfest we track the koalas daily to make sure they’re comfortable, in a normal area and out of harm’s way,” he said.

“The conclusions from Mr Phillips’ study are not supported by the data we have collected in the four years since.”

Dr FitzGibbon also said the koalas’ stress responses from the festival were “minor” because three of the koalas tracked in the study didn’t move out of normal ranges, showing no “aversive responses” and three that did moved only short distances, returning soon after.

“That’s what we hope they would do at a festival site,” he said, and some of them “were in the area we would expect to find them. You can’t know if they moved because of music.”

“I think the main threats to koalas at the site are disease and wild dogs and Bluesfest is making big efforts to mitigate [their] impact,” he said.

Bluesfest director Peter Noble said the monitoring of koalas on the Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm property was “best practice”.

“What we’re doing on my site is hard work. We’ve invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to create an environment where the koala population can increase,” he said, adding that Bluesfest was the only festival to have a koala plan of management approved by the NSW government.

“Our goal is to have disease-free koalas on our site. We take this seriously,” he said.

Dr Phillips said ongoing monitoring was important to ensure a healthy koala population and performance indicators needed to be used to measure their progress.

“We all want to arrest decline [in koala numbers],” he said. “If the result [from the paper] is that we learn and improve our managing techniques, that’s a good thing.”

Racing’s saddest day just got worse

Trainer Mark Kavanagh (pictured) said he remained confident of having the findings overturned. Photo: Pat ScalaRacing’s cobalt saga has now claimed the careers of two more top trainers and a once-distinguished veterinary surgeon after the Racing And Disciplinary Appeals Board disqualified them on Wednesday.

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Melbourne Cup-winning trainer Mark Kavanagh was given three years, fellow Flemington trainer Danny O’Brien four, and vet Tom Brennan five, All sat quietly as the sentences were announced.

The cobalt doping case is the biggest in Victoria’s long racing history. In fact, the scourge has wracked the sport nationally since cobaly was first introduced from the United States three years ago.

Cobalt has now all but ended or threatened the careers of five Victorian trainers. Lee and Shannon Hope were disqualified for three and five years respectively last December.

Peter Moody, once Australia’s leading trainer, has his own cobalt case returning to the appeals board next month and he too could face three years in the racing wilderness.

Cobalt was outlawed by Racing Victoria in April 2014 after intelligence was gathered that cobalt doping was occurring overseas and in harness racing in New South Wales.

Cobalt causes the body to produce more of its own EPO, so cobalt abuse is akin to EPO doping – the drug of choice for cheats.

The drug was put on racing’s totally banned or zero-tolerance drug list, meaning a positive swab would result in a mandatory three-year disqualification.

Disqualification means a person is banished from the sport, not allowed to go onto race courses, stables or have interaction with any licensed people.

While the penalty may seem harsh it is in keeping with doping penalties in other sports such as cycling and athletics where minimum bans of two years are given.

For the first time, veterinarians have been heavily implicated. Brennan has been associated with cobalt positives across two states and involving three trainers.

However, he has maintained that he did not know that the vitamin mix he was injecting into horses contained 170 times the normal concentration of cobalt in commercial vitamin mixes.

Before Christmas, Moody’s hearing was told that his vet, Peter Angus, routinely injected Moody’s horses intravenously with syringes yet he did not know the contents of the syringes.

There have been payments declared at the last minute from private bank accounts to individual veterinarians yet never put through any business account.

There have been denials of any treatment, the blaming of feed supplements but anything other than an admission of doping.

The trainers found guilty have said they will appeal to Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. But their reputations are forever tarnished as they have been found guilty of cheating by the RAD board, racing’s independent court.

O’Brien and Kavanagh briefly told the media after their guilty verdicts that they remain confident at having the findings overturned at VCAT later in the year.

These decisions must be seen as a massive victory for Racing Victoria’s integrity team headed by Terry Bailey and vet Brian Stewart, who embarked on a change of culture just four years ago.

Racing Victoria’s chairman David Moodie said that he and his board fully supported Bailey and his team and maintained respect for the RAD board.

Bailey confirmed to Fairfax Media on Wednesday that he was on annual leave and would return on February 1.

Australian Open 2016: Novak Djokovic accused of throwing match, denies allegations

Roger Federer eases past Alexander DolgopolovDaria Gavrilova stuns sixth-seed Petra Kvitova​

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World No.1 Novak Djokovic has dismissed as “absurd” Italian media reports alleging he deliberately threw a match as a 19-year-old in 2007.

Following yet another straight sets win at the Australian Open on Wednesday night, Djokovic was bombarded with questions about the match he lost when he was world No.4 to the now retired Fabrice Santoro at the Paris Masters nine years ago.

Djokovic admitted at the time that he was struggling to perform at his best during the match in question because of dental surgery he had prior the Paris Masters to remove two wisdom teeth.

He wasn’t impressed with the line of questioning, but when pressed on the allegations in Italian newspaper Tuttosport, the Serbian denied he intentionally threw the match.

“It’s not true,” Djokovic said.

“What it is to say? I’ve lost that match. I don’t know if you’re trying to create a story about that match or for that matter any of the matches of the top players losing in the early rounds, I think it’s just absurd. Anybody can create a story about any match. That’s my point.

“There hasn’t been too many matches where top players lost in last decade or so in early rounds. You can pick any match that you like that the top player lost and just create a story out of it. I think it’s not supported by any kind of proof, any evidence, any facts. It’s just speculation. So I don’t think there is a story about it.”

The opening grand slam of the season has been thrown into turmoil following reports from the BBC and Buzzfeed suggesting 16 top 50 players had been flagged to the Tennis Integrity Unit over match-fixing suspicions.

According to the report, authorities have been repeatedly warned about a core group of 16 players, all of whom have been ranked in the top 50.

Djokovic himself admitted he was the subject of a non-direct proposition to throw a match in St Petersburg in 2006 for $200,000.

But the five-time Australian Open champion said all he wanted to say about the match-fixing scandal in the sport after the first round on Monday, when he said there was “nothing happening at the top level, as far as I know”.

“My response is that there’s always going to be, especially these days when there is a lot of speculations, this is now the main story in tennis, in sports world, there’s going to be a lot of allegations,” Djokovic said on Wednesday night.

“I have nothing more to say. I said everything I needed to say two days ago. You know, until somebody comes out with the real proof and evidence, it’s only a speculation for me … You don’t want these kind of subjects or speculations going around. I think that certain media is just trying to create a story out of it without any proofs. So as long as it’s like that, it’s just a story. That’s all.”

But, later in the media conference on Wednesday night, Djokovic commented generally when asked whether it was sad to see his sport surrounded with such allegations.

“You don’t want these kind of subjects or speculations going around,” he said.

“I think that certain media are just trying to create a story out of it without any proof.So as long as it is like that, it is just a story. That’s all.”

Tour Down Under: BMC still poised for two-pronged attack with Rohan Dennis and Richie Porte

Defending Tour Down Under champion Rohan Dennis is the leader of the BMC team at this year’s race, but as it approaches halfway his team’s two-pronged attack plan with Richie Porte is still in active mode.

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Like last year when the now retired Cadel Evans was BMC’s leader and Dennis their second option before he took the lead with his stage three win on the climb to Paracombe, the team is keeping an open mind as Thursday’s third stage looms.

The climb to Paracombe is not in this year’s route, but stage three – 139km from Glenelg to Campbelltown – should be as crucial with the steep, twisting Corkscrew climb 5.7km from the finish and an equally challenging decent of it.

Hence, BMC general manager Jim Ochowicz said on Wednesday during the 132km second stage from Unley to Stirling when asked about Porte’s role or chances: “Nobody is going to put the brakes on.

“This sport is pretty unpredictable. You have to take chances when they are there. A two-pronged approach in a race like this gives us an opportunity. We had it last year with Cadel and Rohan. It worked fine.”

Soon after Ochowicz spoke, Dennis showed his desire to leave an early mark by placing third on the stage behind Queensland winner Jay McCarthy (Tinkoff) who pipped Italian Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) to win.

The finale was marred by a crash inside the last 500m that took out Victorian favourite Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE), who did not sustain serious injury and because the crash occurred inside the last three kilometres did not lose time.

During the day, Gerrans also picked up five seconds on time bonuses at two intermediate sprints, while McCarthy, Ulissi and Dennis collected a 10, six and four second bonuses respectively for their first to third placings on the stage.

As a result, McCarthy leads the tour overall by four seconds over Ulissi, while Gerrans is third overall at five seconds and Dennis fourth at six seconds. Porte, meanwhile, is 58th at 10 seconds with 82 other riders.

With the Corkscrew on Thursday and the stage-five finish to the top of Willunga Hill on Saturday, there is plenty of opportunity for any number of riders to win the race.

Hence, BMC’s two-pronged attack, where Dennis and Porte can take their chances, or cover the moves of their rivals for each other to still keep BMC in the hunt.

Dennis’ strong finish showed he is in good form, but he conceded that he may not have placed third had there not been the crash involving Gerrans, South African Daryl Impey (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Lieuwe Westra (Astana).

“The plan was to stay out of trouble – if I was up there, with a chance to sprint, I would. That ended up happening,” Dennis said.

“If the crash hadn’t happened, I probably wouldn’t have been third.

“I was a little too far back and I was lucky enough to miss that [crash].

“I was probably the first person not to hit it. Everyone else got caught up, at least, and I was the first one to get around.”

Simon Katich says Manuka is ”certainly good enough to host a five-day game”

Umpire retires hurt after being hit by Finch driveLive blog: How the fourth ODI unfolded

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Former Test star Simon Katich has dismissed claims the Manuka Oval pitch is not lively enough to host Test cricket, and believes another one-day international sellout in Canberra could help the goal become reality.

Katich is now involved in player development with AFL club Greater Western Sydney Giants, who have played three premiership matches and a pre-season game in Canberra since 2012.

The Giants have enjoyed an upgrade in the quality of fixtures played in Canberra as crowds have grown.

Having been allocated non-finals teams like Melbourne and Gold Coast initially, last year’s Geelong clash at Manuka sold out, while it is expected Cats and Richmond games this year will follow suit.

Katich says Canberra cricket can enjoy a similar domino effect as ACT government chief minister Andrew Barr chases the “holy grail” of a Test match.

A sold-out crowd packed the ground to watch the Australia-India clash on Wednesday night.

Manuka has come further into the frame as Test crowds have dwindled this summer, with Brisbane, Perth and, in particular Tasmania, coming under pressure to retain hosting rights.

“The Giants have certainly spent a lot of time down here playing games regularly and the public has supported it with the first sellout game last year,” Katich said.

“It goes hand in hand, you can’t expect to receive handouts and not give anything back. Canberra has had World Cup games and one-day games and they’ve got good crowds, Test cricket is the next step.

Katich, who was part of the ABC commentary team for Wednesday’s Australia-India one-dayer at Manuka, does not subscribe to former Test batsman Dean Jones’ theory a drop-in pitch is required due to its low and slow nature.

Batsmen have traditionally dominated, a trend which continued on Wednesday.

“I played against Tassie down here a couple of years ago for NSW and it was a result,” Katich said.

“It was a good wicket. It spun, there was reverse swing and it was good to bat on.

“It’s certainly a big advantage if you bat first, but there’s a lot of wickets like that around the world anyway, like in India and the Adelaide Oval.

“It’s certainly good enough to hold a five-day game.”

Katich does not feel Tasmania should be judged solely on the poor attendances for this summer’s Test against the West Indies, who set the trend for the rest of the series with a shocking display.

“It’s hard to judge them on that because it didn’t help the way the West Indies played. On the first day they were woeful,” he said.

“Tasmania is obviously keen to protect their Test cricket down there but if the conditions are good, which they are here [Canberra] and the crowds are here, no doubt Cricket Australia will look at it depending on who is touring.

Cricket NSW has recently voiced its desire to campaign for two Tests per summer, including a day-night fixture after the success of the historic Australia-New Zealand clash at Adelaide this season.

SCG Trust chair Tony Shepherd is also the Giants chairman and Katich does not believe the bold bid will happen.

“I’m pretty sure Tony was just creating a bit of a stir with that one, having spoken to him afterwards,” Katich said.

“Melbourne and Sydney are entrenched in the Test summer and probably Perth as well, that time difference works well for TV on the eastern state.

“For me it [Canberra Test] has to tie in well with the right time and the right series.”

Katich was unsure whether a day-night Test would work in Canberra.

The pink ball came under heavy fire from Test batsman Adam Voges after it was used for the Prime Minister’s XI-New Zealand game at Manuka earlier this summer.

“It’s hard for me to comment on it because I don’t think I ever played a day-night game down here, but I’m assuming the lights are at a suitable level given they’re playing one-day internationals here,” he said.

“There’s a lot of speculation about the pink ball. It was overwhelmingly positive [after the Adelaide Test] so who’s to say it couldn’t happen in a Test here.”

British extremist Abu Haleema turns to Australia

Abu Haleema, in a YouTube video. Photo: Supplied Abu Haleema has produced YouTube videos attacking moderate Sydney sheikh Wesam Charkawi. Photo: Supplied

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A panel session at Liverpool’s MIA mosque featuring Sheikh Abu Adnan (left) and police officer Danny Miqati (second from left) that attracted the ire of Abu Haleema. Photo: Facebook

A British preacher considered so extreme in his home country that he has been kicked out of mosques and spurned by the Islamic community has turned his gaze to Australia and is quickly building a support base in Sydney and Melbourne.

Abu Haleema, who had his passport cancelled in Britain and was arrested on terrorism offences last year, has produced YouTube videos in recent weeks attacking moderate Sydney sheikhs Shady Alsuleiman and Wesam Charkawi.

He also attacked Liverpool imam Sheikh Abu Adnan for allowing Bankstown policeman, Danny Miqati, to give a talk in the mosque about domestic violence.

However, Australian authorities are powerless to stop Haleema from spreading his hardline sermons on YouTube and Facebook, where he is gathering a following among young Australians including some of those on the periphery of a group charged over the murder of police accountant Curtis Cheng.

Counter-terrorism police told Fairfax Media they were aware of Haleema’s influence but could do little other than monitor his online interactions.

“This is the problem, a lot of the influence is coming from overseas via the internet,” said one officer.

On Tuesday, Britain’s Channel 4 aired a documentary, The Jihadis Next Door, in which a filmmaker spent two years with Haleema and his small group of extremist preachers.

It shows them being turned away from mosques and preaching on the streets, where British Muslims yell abuse at them for brainwashing teenagers and supporting Islamic State.

Haleema doesn’t speak Arabic and has no formal qualifications. His videos resemble rap videos, filmed in front of graffiti walls or underground train tunnels and shouted in a fast, repetitive style.

It’s not known why Haleema has turned his focus to Australia, however he is receiving a warm reception.

“He’s definitely playing to the audience here,” said one Sydney Muslim leader, who asked to remain anonymous. “People follow him because he’s so staunch and he’s attacking the leaders who are trying to do the right thing.”

Melbourne-born Islamic State recruiter Neil Prakash previously hinted on social media that he was close with Haleema.

The preacher was also instrumental in radicalising the 14-year-old British boy who contacted Melbourne teenager Sevdet Besim and allegedly urged him to launch a terrorist attack on Anzac Day.

He had about 7000 Facebook followers until his page was shut down in mid-December. His fans included several men targeted in Operation Appleby raids in Sydney.

On his newly-created fan page, a Gold Coast man said, “love your shirk shady video akhi its good to know you stand behind us”.

In the video, Haleema attacked Sheikh Shady for giving Australian Muslims a fatwa, or religious ruling, allowing them to join the police, army and navy. He called the sheikh a “shirk”, or idolater, for supporting democracy and non-religious law.

“It seems they’re all in Sydney. Sydney needs to be re-named the land of the heretic scholars,” he said. “Even the other day on Instagram, I seen someone saying they’re joining the army coz Shady gave them a fatwa.”

He berated the sheikh, who is widely-respected among the youth, for counselling a schoolboy who refused to stand for the “Anzac anthem” at school and for supposedly teaching the theory of evolution to students.

He also criticised Sheikh Wesam, another respected youth worker, for condemning the Paris attacks and for taking a photograph alongside a woman. He incorrectly stated that the sheikh hugged the woman, which Sheikh Wesam denied.

Edith Cowan University professor Anne Azza Aly, founder of People Against Violent Extremism, said the spread of such “online theological superstars” could only be fought by a young person’s friends and family offering counter-narratives.

“What we can do is actually very little to be honest,” she said. “I could come up with a video that challenged everything Abu Haleema says. The government could fund a counter-propaganda campaign. But it will never be as effective as when one friend says, “are you mad dude, why are you liking this guy?” That challenge has to happen in a very organic way.”

The Grand Mufti has previously lamented the influence of “Sheikh Google and Sheikh YouTube,” blaming it for the radicalisation of Farhad Jabar, the teen who killed Mr Cheng.

A spokesman for the federal Attorney General’s Department said the government has invested $21.7 million to challenge terrorist propaganda and has partnered with social media companies and communications agencies to take down extremist material and build “digital resilience”.

NSW Police said they routinely monitor social media. A spokesman said the key to silencing online hate preachers “will always be awareness and the reporting to authorities [of extremist material]”.

Haleema has been contacted for comment.

Finch’s forgotten century as much-maligned Manuka pitch produces another cracker

It’s apparently the pitch imperfect, a much-maligned deck, but it proved to not only be a happy hunting ground for Aaron Finch, but cricket as well in another amazing runfest at Manuka Oval.

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Finch produced his second consecutive century in Canberra, having also passed the ton against South Africa there last summer.

And he did it in impressive fashion, switching seamlessly from playing second-fiddle to Warner to setting the pace.

His 107 was two short of the total he scored against South Africa as Australia looked certain losers with just 12 overs remaining before an astonishing Indian collapse gifted them the game.

The visitors were coasting with Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli in total control of the game, but their demise in quick succession was the start of a remarkable collapse.

It was just another thriller at Manuka — on the back of last year’s Big Bash League final, which went down to the last ball, and a record-breaking Chris Gayle double century during the last summer’s World Cup.

But unlike the controversial Gayle’s match-winning knock, Finch’s century was all but forgotten after the manner in which the Aussie bowlers turned things around.

“I hope [it’s not forgotten] because that was a serious innings. [Finch] and Davey [Warner] set the tone I guess and us bowlers were loving it, but we weren’t really because we knew we had to go out there and bowl on that wicket,” Aussie man-of-the-match Kane Richardson said.

“He did the same thing here [last summer]. He loves Canberra I think, this wicket, that was a good knock for him and will give him a lot of confidence going into Sydney, and he’s the T20 captain as well so it’s the perfect time for him to make a big hundred.”

While Finch continued his love affair with Manuka, it wasn’t the happy homecoming Nathan Lyon would have wanted, the former ACT Comet struggling with the ball to post figures of 1-76 off his 10 overs.

He was hoping to press his case to be Australia’s leading spinner in all three forms of the game, but Australia captain Steve Smith’s gamble to open the bowling with Lyon didn’t pay off.

He went for 22 off his first two overs and continued to struggle until he fought back to get a wicket as the Indian scalps were tumbling late in the game.

Having not only established himself as Australia’s No.1 spinner at Test level, but also the greatest ever offie for his country, Lyon was hoping he to become the No.1 tweaker in ODIs as well as the Twenty20 World Cup in India this March.

Lyon played his last ODI against Pakistan in Dubai in October 2014, while he’s never played an international T20.

It will be interesting to see whether the selectors stick with him for the final one-dayer at his NSW home ground of Sydney on Saturday.