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of the New Zealand Herald
Kiwi rugby league international
Russell Packer told his father during
a Christmas Day Skype session that
"everything is sweet" and he was
confident he would be bailed on a late-
night assault charge.
e 24-year-old did not even pack
any clothes before his court appearance
in Sydney s Downing Centre Local
But the former Warrior was sent to
jail for two years, leaving his partner
Lara Wilcox devastated and so upset
she struggled to talk to Packer s New
Zealand-based family last night.
"She s upset to the max, she s gutted,"
Packer s father Russell snr told the
Herald. "It s a shocker, she s devastated
... She wasn t saying much, mate, she
was crying, she was in tears."
Packer, who has been refused bail
while he appeals against the sentence,
pleaded guilty to assault and failing
to leave a venue after a fight that left
a man with two broken bones during
a late-night scuffle in central-city
Sydney in November.
Packer, who left the Warriors at the
end of last year s season and signed
with the Newcastle Knights, had been
asked to leave the Chambers Hotel
because he was drunk, the court heard.
He then walked 20m to a public
seating area where he got into a
disagreement with a man.
e court heard he repeatedly
punched the 22-year-old and stomped
on his head in the attack, which
left the victim unconscious with a
fractured eye socket.
In sentencing, Magistrate Greg
Grogan described the assault as
deplorable and cowardly and said the
courts were sick of alcohol-related
violence as he imposed the maximum
penalty available to him on Packer.
Packer snr last night told the Herald
he was shocked. He said his son, who
had started pre-season training with
the Knights and could have been a
chance for the Auckland Nines next
month, was in a good mood at the
time as Ms Wilcox and their two
young children had recently joined
him in Australia.
"He told me I ve got two lawyers on
it, dad, everything is sweet ."
Packer snr told Ms Wilcox he d
spoken to a friend who could help him
try to get bail but the only words she
could say were: " ank you".
"It will take a few days to get over.
She s stuck in Sydney and the driver
is in jail --- I don t know how she s
getting back from Sydney. She was
expecting him to go home. ey
drove over there and went out for tea,
breakfast and everything."
It would take time for the reality to
"She just has to go through that
period ... you can t get much sense out
Packer snr said he could not
understand why his son was jailed,
having admitted his guilt early on.
"It s a bolt out of the blue, I m gutted,
mate. ere are people around who do
more serious things and they get a slap
on the hand."
e jailing comes as Sydney grapples
with an outbreak of violent assaults.
"I think they re making a point,
people going around king-hitting
people. So they making Russ an
Packer s lawyer, Murugan angaraj,
told the court his client over-reacted
and while the injuries were serious,
the assault was not a king-hit. Packer
was having counselling for anger
management and alcohol issues.
New Zealand rugby league chief
executive Phil Holden said the NZRL
had run extensive alcohol and anti-
violence education programmes for
Packer signed with the Knights in
October but the NRL had refused to
register his contract because of the
charges he was facing, pending an
e Knights said Packer had been
stood down from club duties but
would not comment further.
It is often said professional sport is
becoming an increasingly younger
athlete s business but it doesn t
seem to be the case in tennis.
e average age of the top 20
players in men s tennis is 28. ere
are five in their 30s and only two
under 25 (Milos Raonic is 23 and
Kei Nishikori 24) and on Sunday
two thirty-somethings, Lleyton
Hewitt (32) and Roger Federer
(32), slugged it out in the final of
the Brisbane international.
At 35, Tommy Haas is the oldest
player inside the world s top 20.
e world No 12 has been on the
tour since 1996 and last year had
one of his best seasons in collecting
two titles and reaching the quarter-
finals or better in 11 tournaments,
including the French Open.
He was beaten at the quarter-
final stage of last year s Heineken
Open, when he went down to Gael
Monfils in three sets in one of the
best matches in the tournament s
history, and this year lines up as
second seed behind world No 3 and
three-time defending champion
David Ferrer, himself 31.
Haas has no plans to retire but
admits staying near the top can
sometimes be a struggle, especially
now he has children. But it can also
be an advantage being more aged
and the German takes considerable
pride out of the fact he is the oldest
player in the top 20.
He has played 851 singles matches
on the ATP tour, won 15 titles
and banked $US12.7 ($NZ15.3)
million in career prizemoney and in
2002 was ranked No 2 in the world.
ere have also been some big
slumps and in 2011 was a lowly 896
after a couple of seasons wrecked by
injury. His resurgence in 2012 saw
him named ATP comeback player
of the year for a second time.
"Maturity helps with everything
in life," he said.
"When you ve been on the road
for quite a bit, you know what
works for you and what doesn t.
You know how you feel and what
you ve done in the past to prepare
"Sometimes it s mind boggling if
you think about the fact that you re
playing against a 19 or 20-year-old
and I m 15 years older than this
kid. at s crazy. But it is what it
is. You try to use your experience.
Sometimes it works and sometimes
it doesn t.
"You can have as much experience
and knowledge about the game as
you want, but sometimes you can t
execute the shots. Maybe your legs
are not as quick as you want them
to be, you step too slow or you go
for the wrong shots.
"It s dangerous also, the more you
know about the game, the more
options you have and the tougher
it is. For players who can change
things around, they think too much
Haas will take on a considerably
younger player in his second-round
match at the Heineken Open
tomorrow --- as one of the top-four
seeds he received a first-round bye.
Haas will need to call on his
experience because his off-season
consisted of "eating a lot", "trying
to spend time with family" and a
"boys trip" away. He also spent the
last week training in Hawaii, when
he was trying to get used to the
design of his new racquets.
is year marks his fourth visit
to the Heineken Open and he will
hope to go one better than in 1999
when he was a beaten finalist. Haas
will be the first to admit that seems
like a long time ago now.
Tuesday, January 7, 2014
out in first round
PICTURE: Getty Images
Stephane Peterhansel on day one of the Dakar Rally in Santa Rosa de Calamuchita, Argentina.
Peterhansel moves into
Dakar Rally lead
San Rafael, Argentina
Defending champion Stephane
Peterhansel bounced back today to move
into the lead of the 36th Dakar Rally
following the second stage from San Luis to
San Rafael in Argentina.
Peterhansel, in a Mini, was down in sixth
at 4min 21sec from overnight leader Carlos
Sousa of Portugal after suffering a puncture
yesterday s opening stage.
e Frenchman, looking for a 12th Dakar
title following six in the motorcycles and
five previous ones in cars, prevailed after
433km in temperatures reaching 40degC
in 3hr 52min 05sec, 46sec ahead of Spain s
Carlos Sainz and 5min 34sec from South
Africa s Giniel De Villiers.
He now leads Buggy SMG driver Sainz by
28sec in the overall standings with his Mini
team-mate Qatari Nasser Al-Attiyah, who
crashed three times on the dirt and dunes
course, in third at 4min 10sec.
Peterhansel was far chippier than he had
been after yesterday s stage.
"It was a nice stage, really fast at the
beginning because the average was more
than 100kph," he said.
"It was a mix with a lot of fast tracks, then
it was rios (riverbeds) with a lot of rocks
and the risk of getting a puncture. At the
end there were also very nice dunes, but the
navigation was easy in the dunes because
there were a lot of people everywhere in
the dunes. At the top of each dune, it was
necessary to follow the public, so it was easy
to do the navigation."
Sainz moved up after starting the day in
fifth at more than 4min down.
"I think it was a good stage. We didn t
have any problems and we just went
through very fast," the former World Rally
"Some parts were very fast, there were
some difficult dunes as well, but everything
was ok. We didn t have any punctures. I was
a little bit careful to stop the tyres wearing."
Briton Sam Sunderland won the day s
359km motorcycle stage on a Honda in
3hr 42min 10sec ahead of Chile s Francisco
Lopez on a KTM, at 39sec, and Spain s Joan
Barreda, also on a Honda, at 2min.
Barreda maintained his overall lead, 2min
03sec ahead of Lopez with 24-year-old
Sunderland, taking part in only his second
Dakar Rally having abandoned last year, up
to third at 2min 33sec. --- AFP
of the New Zealand Herald
e parlous state of New Zealand
tennis was laid bare on the opening
day of the Heineken Open, with
all three New Zealand hopes
outclassed in the qualifying rounds.
Artem Sitak, Michael Venus
and French-based Sebastian Lavie
were all ousted yesterday, leaving
wildcard Rubin Statham the sole
New Zealander in the main draw.
e only player to offer any
resistance was Sitak, who took the
second set off American Donald
Sitak, playing on the outside court,
looked headed for a swift exit after
dropping the first set 1-6, before
rallying to win the second 6-3. at
proved all the fight he had, as he fell
1-6 in the third.
e other two were bundled out
in less than a hour after being
dismissed in straight sets by their
Lavie fell 6-2, 6-2 to Spain s
Daniel Gimeno-Traver, ranked
80th in the world. Despite the
pairing being an obvious mismatch,
Lavie was clearly frustrated by
his inability to compete with the
Spaniard, his anger spilling over
early in the second set when he
kicked the ball on to the roof of the
Robinson Stand after dropping his
first ser vice game of the set.
e next match on centre court
was virtually identical to the first,
with Venus also dispatched 6-2, 6-2
by Slovakian Lukas Lacko.
While disappointing to see
the local competition look so
despairingly out of their depth, the
results were to be expected when
you consider the experience they
were up against.
Venus, who has an ATP ranking
of 399, said he was realistic that he
needed to be at his absolute best to
challenge Lacko (90).
"I didn t play well today. at s
why he s a top 100 player --- he took
care of business pretty quickly," said
"It s disappointing because you
don t get to play (tournaments in
New Zealand) much so when you
do you want to play well. Maybe
I had too many expectations on
myself, maybe I should aim to go
out there and enjoy myself and just
Venus will still feature in the main
draw of the doubles this week,
pairing up with Statham as he
prepares for next week s Australian
Open. Ranked 120 in doubles, he
was awarded a wildcard to the year s
first grand slam.
e 26-year-old New Zealander
said he was confident he and
Statham could give the local crowd
something to cheer about in the
"I feel completely comfortable
with these guys in the doubles ...
so I m really looking forward to
getting out there again."
With the top four seeds handed
a first-round bye, the day delivered
little in the way of top-flight action.
Columbia s Santiago Giraldo
was the first player to win his
way through to the second round,
defeating Spain s Albert Montanes,
a player ranked seven spots above
him, 6-1, 7-6 (3).
Two seeds will be in action today,
Germany s Philipp Kohlschreiber
(playing Spaniard Pablo Carreno
Busta) and fifth seed Benoit Paire
of France against Poland s Michal
Former world No 8 Marcos
Baghdatis plays US qualifier Steve
Johnson in the evening. --- APNZ
ere has been a "slight improvement" in
Michael Schumacher s condition, a source
close to the Formula One legend said today,
eight days after a skiing accident left him with
Schumacher remains critical, but doctors say
there are small signs of improvement and his
loved-ones hope he will pull through, said the
source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Schumacher has been in a medically induced
coma since the accident on December 29 in the
French ski resort of Meribel.
Earlier, doctors treating Schumacher said he
remained in a stable but critical condition.
" e clinical state of Michael Schumacher
is considered as stable and is being constantly
monitored as he receives medical treatment," a
statement from Grenoble s University Hospital
said. "However, the medical team in charge
of his care underlines that they continue to
consider Michael s condition as critical."
e team treating Schumacher said they
would be giving no details of the treatment the
45-year-old is receiving in order to protect his
right to privacy.
" e privacy of the patient demands that
we are not going into details of his treatment,
and this is why we do not envisage any press
conferences or statements in the near future."
French prosecutors meanwhile said they would
this week brief journalists on their investigation
into Schumacher s accident. --- AP
NZ tennis weakness
Haas keeps on top of
the young brigade
Russell Packer and Lara Wilcox
Jail term stuns
Packer s family
Marina Erakovic has had another
first round exit in the lead-up to
the Australian Open.
e New Zealand No 1 lost in
straight sets 6-4, 6-1 to Belgian
second seed Kirsten Flipkens at
the Hobart International yesterday.
Erakovic also lost in the first round
of the ASB Classic in Auckland
Erakovic and doubles partner Jie
Zheng are the top seeds in Hobart
and play their first match today.
Meanwhile singles top seed
Samantha Stosur downed
American qualifier Madison
Brengle 6-7 (4-7), 6-1, 7-6 (7-5)
for her first win of the season.
In a rain-interrupted match that
finished nearly five hours after it
started, Stosur overcame the tough
conditions and a determined world
No 147 to progress.
Brengle saved four match points
before Stosur punched home a
volley to convert her fifth in a
Two rain breaks, wind gusts and
temperatures that hovered around
15degC made for a gruelling first
set before world No 17 clicked
into gear to win the second in just
She broke in the third to lead 4-3
but failed to serve it out, Brengle
saving three of the Australian s
match points before taking it to a
Stosur will meet either Spain s
Silvia Soler-Espinosa or France s
Kristina Mladenovic in the second
round as she tunes up for the
Australian Open, where she exited
in round two last year.
e win will come as a relief
after three straight losses at the
Hopman Cup in Perth.
A frustrated Stosur had struggled
to hold her serve, and find the
middle of her racket, in the first.
e 29-year-old saved four break
points in a marathon first service
game but led 2-1 with a break
when the first rain interruption
She broke again to lead 4-1 and
served for the set at 5-4 but could
A second rain delay of nearly an
hour-and-a-half did not help and,
after she had led the tiebreaker
4-3, Stosur watched Brengle
convert her first set point.
e second set couldn t have
been more different as a dominant
Stosur rediscovered her serve and
raced to a 5-0 lead before closing
Earlier on Monday, Australian
Casey Dellacqua downed Belgian
qualifier Alison Van Uytvanck 6-4,
Dellacqua will meet American
Alison Riske in the second round.
--- Newstalk ZB/AAP
of the New Zealand Herald
Manu Samoa rugby
legend Brian Lima
has resigned from all
forms of rugby in the
island nation following
allegations of an assault
on his ex-wife.
Lima, the defence coach
for the Samoan rugby
team, handed in a letter
of resignation last month,
the Samoa Obser ver
His former wife,
Lemalu Sina Retzlaff,
last month spoke out
about the alleged assault
and appeared in the
local newspaper sporting
a battered face and
bloodshot eyes. e pair
have three sons together.
Lima has been charged
with causing actual
bodily harm and being
armed with a dangerous
weapon. He is due in
court next week.
Chairman of the Samoa
Rugby Union Prime
Minister Tuilaepa Sa ilele
Malielegaoi told local
media that Lima had quit
from all active roles and
had apologised to the
Tuilaepa said it was a
time for Lima "to solve
issues in their family."
Lima is widely known
rugby, having been the
only player to play in
five Rugby World Cup
He is also nick-named
because of his bone-
crunching tackling style.
Last November, he led
the Manu Samoa team s
Siva Tau against Ireland
in an emotional tribute to
the late Peter Fatialofa, a
Lima quits rugby
after assault charge
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