Chaplains filling a need in sports like Australian Rules

The blokey, beer-swilling reputation of the local football club is gradually becoming a relic of a past sporting era across Australia.


And across many sports, local clubs are increasingly providing social and emotional support to men and women embracing the shift in attitude.

Adam Baird was a star in four senior premierships with the regional Victorian Australian Rules football club Golden Square.

Radio commentary captured one of his more memorable plays.

“Handpass out towards Adam Baird, who’s got space. He can run and gallop … has two bounces, thinks about a third … won’t want to bounce in the middle of that mud pile … handpass over the top’s good … the one-two … Baird kept running … looks like … (Goal it, son!) … goes all the way … tries it out … (Sharp!)”

But off the field, things were far from rosy.

A failed relationship thrust the 25-year-old into what he now describes as the “dark times.”

“Drinking on Friday nights before footy and things like that were starting to occur, and during the week, and (I) just wasn’t coping with it. (It) could have ended up really bad. Like, real bad depression could have come into play.”

Fortunately for Baird, Golden Square had appointed former player and accredited sports chaplain Bruce Claridge to oversee the welfare of the players.

The chaplain says he began regular catch-ups with Baird.

“The real role of a chaplain, I think, often is just to be someone who’ll listen — and listen more than talk — so that they’ve got someone to offload to and maybe get perspective on their challenges.”

Bruce Claridge says the voluntary chaplaincy job combines his passions.

And he says seeing young men like Baird realise their on- and off-field potential is extremely rewarding.

“It’s like you’re a net in a trapeze artist’s performance, where you’re just hanging around and, hopefully, just watching the performance — and I love being at footy — but sometimes someone falls, you’ve got to catch them.”

There is a growing demand for sports chaplains around Australia.

There are currently around 800, but Sports Chaplaincy Australia has requests for 5,000 from a range of local sporting clubs.

Cameron Butler heads the organisation and regularly presents to clubs on the virtues of having someone oversee the health and wellbeing of their players.

“When someone’s going through a tough time, it’s really hard to know who do we turn to during those times.”

Cameron Butler was chaplain at the Melbourne Football Club when Troy Broadbridge died in the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami and when club president Jim Stynes was diagnosed with cancer.

He says there is a stigma which still exists among Australian men.

“I reckon most Aussie blokes want to hide some of the real pain that they’re facing, and it’s hard for them to talk about it.”

But he says he has detected a shift in attitude among the demographic — and among the clubs themselves.

Adam Baird, who now has his life squarely back on track, says he agrees, for several reasons.

“More knowledge, a new face and just someone to talk to, just someone to ask, ‘How you going? How (have) you been?’ Just to get through some tough times, yeah.”

All sports chaplains are vetted and undergo an accreditation process.




Gunman caught after shots fired in US Capitol complex, bystander injured

A man with a gun walked into the underground US Capitol Visitor Center on Monday and was shot and wounded by police after he pointed the weapon at officers, police said.


The suspect and a female bystander, who suffered wounds, were taken to the hospital, Capitol Police Chief Matthew Verderosa said at a news conference.

No police officers were injured.

There has been an isolated incident at the US Capitol. There is no active threat to the public

— DC Police Department (@DCPoliceDept) March 28, 2016

“Based on initial investigation, we believe this is an act of a single person who has frequented the Capitol grounds before,” Verderosa said.

“There is no reason to believe this is anything more than a criminal act.”

CBS News reported two tourists at the Visitor Center had minor injuries from bullet ricochet.

Police did not identify or describe the suspect and added that there were no additional suspects, but they did confirm no evidence had materialised of a connection to terrorism.

A US government official told Reuters that initial reports were that a suspect walked into the Visitor Center, pointed a gun at a police officer on duty and a shootout erupted.

Mr Verderosa said the suspect was known to police through previous contact.

Congress is in recess, with few lawmakers in Washington but the shooting happened just a few hours after a drill for an active shooter took place at the Capitol, creating further confusion.

Cathryn Leff a licensed therapist, tweeted that she was at the visitor’s center when she heard gunshots while going through a security check point.

“That moment when it goes down . Everyone is screaming & running and you can’t see where the #ShotsFired are from,” tweeted Leff(@Cathrynlefflmft).

The Secret Service temporarily cleared tourists from an area surrounding the White House after the incident, but activities quickly went back to normal.

The Secret Service temporarily cleared tourists from an area around the White House, but activities quickly returned to normal.

The Secret Service temporarily closed the north and south fence lines as a “routine precautionary measure”, a spokesman said, as police reported gunshots were fired at the US Capitol Visitors Center.

The fence lines, which are normally thronged with tourists, were reopened shortly afterward.

A report that a person tried to gain entry to the White House was incorrect, a US Secret Service spokesman said.

Get the budget in balance quickly: CEDA

A national think tank has offered the Turnbull government options to return the budget to a surplus two years early.


In last December’s mid-year budget review, Treasurer Scott Morrison pushed back the timing of a surplus by a further year to 2020/21.

The Committee for Economic Development of Australia says successive governments have promised to return the budget to surplus but this is yet to eventuate.

“No economic problem in Australia is graver than the persistence of large budget deficits,” CEDA national chairman Paul McClintock says in new research that aims to balance the budget by 2018/19.

“The particularly concerning aspect is that we have had continuous deficits, eight years in fact, during a sustained economic expansion.”

Mr McClintock released the report during an address to the National Press Club in Canberra on Tuesday.

It shows pushing out the timing of a surplus by a year resulted in a further 2.5 percentage point rise in net debt by 2025/26.

The mid-year economic and fiscal outlook forecast gross debt would be $647 billion by 2025/26 compared with just under $420 billion now.

“Prolonged deficit penalises today’s youth and future generations, who will end up paying for current spending despite Australians being wealthier than they have ever been,” Mr McClintock said.

The CEDA report offers various combinations to cut government spending by $2 billion annually and raise revenue by $15 billion to achieve a balanced budget by 2018/19.

Revenue raisers include halving the capital gains tax discount, raising taxes on luxury cars, alcohol and tobacco by 15 per cent, and making the flat 15 per cent flat tax concession for superannuation contributions a 15 per cent discount on a saver’s marginal tax rate.

Among its proposals on the expenditure side, it calls for a reduction in drug prices under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme and a 10 per cent cut in assistance to industry.

Mr McClintock says these options are “realistic and politically palatable”.

Williams’ bid for ninth Miami title ends

The loss on the Miami hardcourts was the first since 2012 for William, who had swept the last three titles in her unofficial home tournament.


“I’m really thrilled,” said Kuznetsova after registering her first win over Williams since 2009. “I’m sorry fans, who are disappointed that Serena’s not going to keep playing, but for sure she’ll be at more events than here.

“I’m really happy with my performance. I tried to stay at a good level the whole game. I think I did that pretty well and I’m happy with the way I served today.”

It was a day of dramatic upsets at Crandon Park, as Williams stepped onto the Stadium court for her Round of 16 match immediately after third-seeded world number two Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland was tripped up by 19th-seeded Swiss Timea Bacsinszky 2-6 6-4 6-2.

Radwanska was the winner on the Miami hardcourts in 2012 before Serena Williams embarked on her three title run.

The upsets continued into the afternoon with fourth-seeded Spaniard Garbine Muguruza falling 7-6(6) 7-6(4) to 13th-seeded Belarusian Victoria Azarenka, still in top form following her victory this month at Indian Wells.

A tight first set saw both Williams and Kuznetsova register a break but neither player could gain the upper hand, sending the opener to a tie-break which the top-seeded American dominated 7-3 with the help of a pair of thundering aces.

A battling Kuznetsova controlled the second set from the start, breaking the 21-times grand slam winner to go up 3-1 then sweeping the next three games to level the contest at a set apiece.

The Russian upped the pressure with a pair of breaks to start the third as she stormed through the opening three games before Williams finally stopped the bleeding with a break of her own at 3-1.

The relief was brief, however, as former U.S. and French Open champion Kuznetsova immediately hit back with yet another break and went on to finish off the upset in just over two hours.

In other action, fifth-seeded Romanian Simona Halep eased into the quarters with a tidy 6-3 6-4 decision over British wildcard Heather Watson.

Britain, however, will be represented in the last eight as Johanna Konta tamed another Romanian, Monica Niculescu, 6-2 6-2.

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Larry Fine)

Qld steals new biofuels industry from NSW

Queensland has again defeated NSW because the state “wanted it more”, and this time the financial stakes are higher than State of Origin glory.


The state government has secured a $16 million biofuels pilot plant for Gladstone in central Queensland, despite the NSW-based company behind it, Southern Oil Refining, already having the facilities and plans to establish it in Wagga Wagga.

The change means Queensland is on the cusp of creating a lucrative large-scale biofuels industry, particularly if the Northern Oil Advanced Biofuels Pilot Plant is successful.

There are plans to expand the plant into a $150 million commercial-scale refinery that would produce 200 million litres of advanced biofuel a year, suitable for military, marine and aviation use.

Southern Oil Refining managing director Tim Rose said the company was won over by Queensland’s determination and strategic vision, which included its 10-year biofutures roadmap.

“We’ve been talking to the NSW government (and) honestly, the Queensland government were the guys who wanted it more,” Mr Rose said.

“What we’re trying to do here is really one of the first of its kind in the world, so this is a pretty major step and … the Queensland government are fully behind this, whereas the NSW government really wasn’t.”

Mr Rose said the Queensland government had offered a grant to help cover the extra cost for the company to set up in Gladstone instead of Wagga Wagga.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the “small amount of money” was worth it to bring thousands of potential jobs and a completely new industry to the state, currently hit by the mining downturn.

“If it means jobs for Queenslanders, I’m prepared to fight NSW and get those jobs here and that is exactly what we have delivered here today,” Ms Palaszczuk said in Gladstone on Tuesday.

The pilot plant is expected to be operational later in the year and will aim to produce one million litres of fuel within three years for use in field trials by the US and Australian navies.

Virgin and Qantas are also interested in using biofuels for their aircraft, Ms Palaszczuk said.

The plant will use biomass material like sugarcane bagasse as feedstock for the production of bio crude oil, which will then be distilled into saleable kerosene and diesel products.

The announcement comes after state parliament last year passed new laws to mandate that at least three per cent of petrol sold in Queensland must be ethanol blended by the start of next year.