Nibali’s journey from Sicily ends in yellow in Paris

The 29-year-old Italian, as soft-spoken in life as aggressive as he is on the bike, joined Eddy Merckx, Jacques Anquetil, Bernard Hinault, Alberto Contador and his compatriot Felice Gimondi as winners of all three grands tours.

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The son of Giovanna and Salvatore, who own a movie rental shop, Nibali quickly realised riding his bike around the local streets would not be enough to emulate Gimondi.

“With my father, we would watch videos of Merckx, Gimondi, Sarroni, Moser,” the humble Nibali said.

“But I can also talk about Hinault, Bobet. I know their story.”

In a region where family ties are like glue, leaving home could have been a heart-breaking move, but Nibali learnt to love his independence. He moved from Messina to Tuscany to ride at junior level under the guidance of sports director Carlo Franceschi in the Mastromarco team. Nibali, who lived at Franceschi’s home, quickly impressed, taking third place in the junior time trial world championships in 2002 and third again in the Under-23 world championships.

But just like Contador, he is not one to be content with second or third. The chisel-featured Nibali is an attacker and he long paid a heavy price for it.

In the 2011 Tour of Lombardy, one of the most prestigious one-day races, he attacked in the descent of the Madonna del Ghisallo, some 50 kilometres from the finish.

He was caught, but the move was as bold as it was brilliant. In 2012, he was the only rider to attack a dominant Team Sky in the mountains. He never managed to break the British outfit’s stranglehold on the race, but that is how Nibali rides.

On this year’s Tour, he took the yellow jersey in the second stage after a late attack caught his rivals cold in Sheffield. This time, he was not caught.

Instead of playing it conservatively, Nibali was on the attack on all terrains, distancing Contador in the pouring rain on the treacherous cobbled stage to Arenberg as Britain’s defending champion Chris Froome crashed out.

After Contador was also forced out following a crash in a descent on stage 10, the Astana rider’s lead was not to be threatened, yet the ‘Shark of Messina’ attacked again in the mountains, taking his fourth stage win at the top of Hautacam, a mystic pass draped in eerie fog.

MYTH AND DISENCHANTMENT

In a sport that was long marred by doping scandals, however, myth has often been mixed with disenchantment.

Nibali is no exception to the habit of making Tour de France champions prime suspects. Bradley Wiggins and Froome, in the wake of the Lance Armstrong scandal, faced repeated grillings over their ethics.

Nibali, the first Italian to win the Tour since the late Maro Pantani in 1998, inevitably had to answer doping-related questions as comparisons were drawn with his disgraced compatriot who was known as “the Pirate”.

“It’s hard to make a comparison between what Pantani did so many years ago and what I’ve done now because Marco won his Tour in the last week, while it was the opposite for me,” Nibali said.

“I took the jersey after two days, I don’t know what to say.”

He will visit Pantani’s mother to give her one of his yellow jerseys because he admired her son.

“I loved his bravery,” he said.

Nibali chose to leave his Liquigas team to work at Astana with manager Alexandre Vinokourov, who served a two-year ban for blood doping on the 2007 Tour de France.

“Astana is a team who invested a lot in an Italian group, precisely because they wanted to give it credibility and because they wanted to change their image,” said Nibali.

“They didn’t just choose me, they also brought in (coach) Paolo Slongo. Let me remind everyone that I worked with him when I was 17 in the national team, together with Antonio Fusi.”

Nibali did not wait to be questioned on the Tour to speak out against doping.

Eight years ago, he said that dopers should be locked up and this year, after former team mate Danilo Di Luca said that it was impossible to win a grand tour without doping, he commented: “I can only think that he has become a bit brain-damaged.”

On Saturday, after his fourth place in the final time trial effectively secured his Tour title, Nibali was questioned again.

“It is true that in 2008, I felt a bit sad and disappointed. I wanted the white jersey (for the best Under-25 rider). But a lot of progress has been made and we can see the results now,” said Nibali.

“If there had not been all these controls, targeted controls, the biological passport, maybe I would not be here.”

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

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Pinot leads the way for new French generation

Veteran Jean-Christophe Peraud and youngster Thibaut Pinot finished second and third overall behind Italy’s dominant Vincenzo Nibali with Romain Bardet in sixth place.

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While Peraud, 37, may never feature on the Tour podium again, Pinot and Bardet both have long careers ahead of them as they lead a new generation of bold Frenchmen.

In a sport continually fighting the stigma of drugs, France has been at the forefront of the battle against doping, and for years – when the blood-boosting EPO was ravaging the peloton – stage wins and occasional spells in yellow were the reward.

But in 2008 the implementation of the biological passport started to level the playing field, as this year’s Tour champion Nibali has pointed out.

Since Laurent Fignon and Bernard Hinault posted a French one-two in Paris in 1984, the host nation have never had two men on the podium and the last local who triumphed on the Champs Elysees was Hinault in 1985.

Will there be another one soon? Possibly, said Pinot, who was 10th overall in 2012.

“It is possible, yes, but in the two or three coming years we’re going to be too short,” said the 24-year-old.

“I’m still far from Nibali, I’m more than eight minutes behind him. But in 2012 I was 18 minutes behind (overall winner Bradley) Wiggins.

“But Romain (Bardet) and I still have 10 years to ride so there is time.”

Both have been backed by teams supported by sponsors who stayed despite the drugs scandals.

Pinot’s FDJ.fr team have been in the sport since 1997 while Peraud and Bardet’s Ag2R-La Mondiale team started their involvement in cycling in 1992.

“When they arrived they just asked us not to do anything stupid,” FDJ.fr manager Marc Madiot said as he paid tribute to his long-time sponsor.

FRENCH RENEWAL

“Thibaut (Pinot) is the symbol of the renewal of French cycling.”

“It shows that tenacity and hard work pay off,” said Peraud.

Pinot finished his first Tour in 2012 in 10th place overall, becoming the youngest top 10 finisher since 1947 before taking seventh place overall in last year’s Vuelta, the Tour of Spain.

Bardet, 23, was 15th in his first Tour last year and he long held provisional third this year before Pinot cracked him in the Pyrenees.

Another possible contender in the near future is Warren Barguil, 22, who was left out of his Giant-Shimano squad as they made their selection around sprinter Marcel Kittel of Germany.

Barguil last year won two mountain stages in the Vuelta at the age of 21.

“Barguil is a huge talent,” said Hinault.

France also have the chance to shine on grand tour stages and one-day races with a few sprint specialists rapidly working their way up the ranks.

French champion Arnaud Demare, 22, already has a few decent placings in classics while Nacer Bouhanni, 24, won three sprint stages on this year’s Grio d’Italia, of which he claimed the red jersey for the points classification.

The 22-year-old Bryan Coquard, who won silver on the track in the omnium at the London 2012 Games, switched to the road and finished third in the points classification on the Tour.

“In the next few years, the green jersey could be a target,” he said.

(Reporting by Julien Pretot, editing by Tony Goodson and Martyn Herman)

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Mercedes ready to put focus on driver duel

“Maybe what we decided at the beginning of the season doesn’t function any more,” team boss Toto Wolff told reporters at the Hungarian Grand Prix on Sunday.

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“We cannot really ask either driver to give up their position or jeopardise their own championship chances for the benefit of the team,” added the Mercedes motorsport head.

Hamilton refused a request in the race to allow championship-leading team mate Rosberg, who had started on pole but was behind him on a different strategy and still had a pitstop to make, through.

The message ‘don’t hold him up’ was made twice to Hamilton, who eventually finished third with Rosberg fourth, over the radio with a third of the race remaining.

“I’m not letting him past me, if he gets close enough to overtake he can overtake,” replied the 2008 champion, who stayed ahead for eight more laps until Rosberg pitted.

Had the Briton made way, Rosberg – who denied making any request to be let through – might have been able to win for Mercedes instead of both being beaten by Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.

But Hamilton, who had started from the pitlane, would have fallen further behind in the championship instead of cutting the gap to 11 points with eight races remaining.

VERY SHOCKED

Hamilton said he was “very, very shocked” by the request.

“I was in the same race as him. Just because he had one more stop than me doesn’t mean I wasn’t in the same race as him,” he explained. “And naturally if I’d have let him past, he would have had the opportunity to pull away and when he does pit, he’s going to come back and overtake me.

“To be honest, he didn’t get close enough to overtake but I was never going to lift off and lose ground to Fernando (Alonso) or Daniel to enable him to have a better race. So that was a bit strange.”

Mercedes, dominant this season, have made a point of not imposing ‘team orders’ in an effort to keep the fans entertained but that has brought friction between their drivers as well as some thrilling wheel-to-wheel battles.

Wolff said in March that the pair were free to race, within defined limits and as long as the team did not lose out.

He said on Sunday that with Mercedes now 174 points clear or Red Bull in the constructors’ championship, and the drivers in a duel of their own for that title, there needed to be a fresh discussion of how to proceed.

“It’s a difficult situation now,” he said. “The longer the season goes, the more intense it gets. At the beginning of the season it was easy to say these are the rules and this is how we are going to do it.

“Now it’s clear these two are fighting for the world championship and it’s more intense. We need to sit down and discuss it.”

Mercedes have won nine of the 11 races to date – five for Hamilton – and Rosberg had been expected to celebrate his fifth on Sunday after starting from pole position with Hamilton last.

Instead, the safety car threw the race on its head with Rosberg on a three stop to Hamilton’s two.

Niki Lauda, the retired three-times world champion who is now non-executive chairman of Mercedes, said Hamilton did what he had to do.

“I do understand that Lewis said ‘Why? Why should I stop now in the middle of the circuit to let my team colleague by.’ He is fighting for the championship,” he told reporters.

“From my point of view, Lewis was right. Why the call came, this happened out of the panic and we had to make up for what we were losing.

“The call was unnecessary, afterwards, but it was made. Lewis ignored it and finished third, so looking backwards nothing wrong from my point of view,” he said.

“It is important Lewis said ‘No, I’m racing my team-mate anyway’. So he did the right thing.”

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Martyn Herman.)

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Alonso keeps Ferrari sweet with second place

The result was the Spaniard’s best result of the year, after a third place in China, and came at the circuit where he took his first win in Formula One with Renault back in 2003.

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Last year Alonso earned himself a rebuke from Maranello on his 32nd birthday, the day after he finished fifth at the Hungaroring and told reporters he wanted the car the other drivers had.

Asked at the same time what he planned to do over the August break, the Spaniard had replied: “I will pray”.

Those remarks led to a sharp telephone conversation with Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo, in which the driver’s ear was officially ‘tweaked’, and came after speculation about Alonso’s future with the team.

The double world champion can expect a more effusive conversation with the big boss this time after steering well clear of any such controversy on Sunday.

“I am extremely proud of the team, extremely proud of the job we did today and very, very happy,” declared the Spaniard, whose 33rd birthday is on Tuesday.

“This podium means a lot to me and the whole team, because after so many difficult races, we managed to get the most out of everything, also taking a few risks and second place seems like a win.

“To do 31 laps at the end on used soft tyres was a great challenge. At that point, the strategy suggested that if we had made a third stop, we could have finished fourth, but we decided to run to the flag instead.”

Asked what he might wish for his birthday this year, he recognised that his words had caused a stir in Italy last time round.

“So, this year, I will not wish anything about the car and I will wish a happy day to everyone in Italy,” he said.

Ferrari team principal Marco Mattiacci, who replaced Stefano Domenicali in April, sounded happier already than he has been in a while.

“Fernando’s second place is a confidence booster and a sign that the major effort everyone is making to bring Ferrari back to the top is moving in the right direction,” he declared.

“However we have to be realistic about it. Here, the weather and the track conditions levelled out the performance differences and that’s why we must not delude ourselves. Now we must just go back home, set on always doing better.”  

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Martyn Herman.)

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Battling Cook and Ballance put England in control

Ballance was unbeaten on 104 at the close and beleaguered captain Cook survived a dropped catch to silence his critics with a battling knock after making a brave decision to bat first.

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Ian Bell (16 not out) and Ballance safely negotiated the second new ball and the pair will resume on Monday when England will bid to post a large total as they bid to level the five-match series.

Cook, in dreadful recent form which has led to calls from former England captains Michael Vaughan, Geoff Boycott, Mike Atherton and Kevin Pietersen to step down, had a huge slice of luck on 15 when he was dropped by Ravindra Jadeja at slip.

He survived to add 158 with Ballance, who joined an elite group of players by scoring his third century in his first six tests.

Cook batted with few alarms and was looking good for his 26th test century when he feathered a faint edge down the leg side off Jadeja and was caught by wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

“The reception was like nothing I’ve ever experienced. It was a really nice feeling,” Cook said.

“I was delighted to get 95 but also frustrated that I didn’t get a hundred but if you’d have offered me that score yesterday I’d have snapped your hand off.

“It has given me some confidence that my batting is going in the right direction and hopefully I can carry on scoring runs.”

Cook did, however, reach a significant personal landmark as he overtook David Gower to move into third place in the list of England’s all-time leading test run-scorers, on 8,257. Graham Gooch leads the list with 8,900 from Alec Stewart on 8,463.

“They’re really nice achievements aren’t they but at the beginning of the day I wasn’t thinking about it at all,” Cook said.

Cook made the brave call to bat after winning the toss and despite a hint of movement for the seamers, the hosts lost only Sam Robson for 26 in the morning, caught at third slip off Mohammed Shami.

The afternoon session belonged to England, although India’s Bhuvneshwar Kumar and debutant Pankaj Singh began to find their length with much greater consistency.

CLOSE CALL

Ballance survived a close caught behind call and several deliveries whistled just past the outside edge before he and Cook reached tea with an unbroken partnership of 131.

Cook looked nervous in the nineties and he perished trying to pull a short leg-side delivery from Jadeja which he nicked through to Dhoni.

Ballance had upped the scoring rate and reached his century, which included 15 fours, with a perfectly-timed boundary.

He was well supported by Bell, although the experienced right-hander was fortunate to survive following a close lbw shout off Singh.

“Today the scoreboard says it’s not our day and it wasn’t the best day on tour for our bowling attack but Pankaj bowled pretty well and if things went his way he would have had a couple of wickets,” India bowling coach Joe Dawes said.

“There’s improvement to make tomorrow and hopefully we can get an early breakthrough.

“If we can get two or three poles in the morning we’ll be well back in it. We need to make them play a little bit more.”

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

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Shelling near MH17 site blocks Aust police

Heavy shelling around the crash site of downed Malaysian flight MH17 has forced Dutch and Australian police to scrap a planned trip, as the latest clashes in east Ukraine claim 13 lives including two children.

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The unarmed contingent of law enforcement officers were due to head to the location 10 days after the disaster following a deal with rebels aimed at allowing a long-delayed probe to go ahead.

But international observers overseeing the trip had to abruptly ditch their plans on Sunday after clashes shattered a supposed truce between government forces and insurgents in the area around the site, where some remains of the 298 victims still lie decomposing under the summer sun.

“There is fighting going on. We can’t take the risk,” said Alexander Hug, deputy chief monitor of the European security body OSCE’s special mission in Ukraine.

“The security situation on the way to the site and on the site itself is unacceptable for our unarmed observer mission,” he told reporters in the insurgent stronghold Donetsk.

Artillery bombardments could be heard just a kilometre from the rebel-held town of Grabove next to the crash site as black smoke billowed into the sky.

Terrified local residents were fleeing and checkpoints controlled by separatist fighters were abandoned.

The Dutch justice ministry confirmed that security advisers had also halted a trip by a team of forensic experts.

“Because of fighting in the area, the situation is still too unstable to work at the crash site,” the ministry said in a statement.

Earlier Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said 49 officers from the Netherlands and Australia – which together lost some 221 citizens in the crash – were due at the scene Sunday and that there would be “considerably more on site in coming days”.

That came after Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said he had reached an agreement with the pro-Russian insurgents controlling the site to allow the police deployment.

So far investigators have been able to visit the site only sporadically because of security concerns, even though a truce had been called in the immediate area around the site.

Fighting was raging elsewhere as the Ukrainian army pushes on with its offensive to retake the vital industrial east.

Local authorities said 13 people including two children aged one and five were killed on Sunday in heavy fighting in rebel holdout Gorlivka, about 45 kilometres to the north of Donetsk, and which has a population of about a quarter of a million.

Mining hub Donetsk itself was also subject to heavy bombardment throughout the night, some of it apparently unguided Grad rocket fire.

The city of one million has been serving as a base for international monitors and journalists who are travelling daily to the crash site.

Ignoring safety warnings, an Australian couple had travelled to the scene without any escort on Saturday, saying they were fulfilling a promise to their only child that they would be there.

“She was full of life,” said Angela Rudhart-Dyczynski of their 25-year-old daughter Fatima, an aerospace engineering student.

Dutch authorities, who are leading the probe into the downing of the Amsterdam-to-Kuala Lumpur plane, have identified the first victim, after 227 coffins were flown to the Netherlands for identification.

The insurgents have also handed over a sealed train carriage filled with victims’ belongings to the Dutch.

In Brussels, the European Union is drafting tougher sanctions against Russia – which it accuses of abetting the insurgency by arming the rebels who allegedly shot down the aircraft.

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Ricciardo wins dramatic Hungarian GP

 

Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso took a fighting second and Rosberg, who had started on pole position looking like a runaway winner, finished fourth and saw his 14 point lead over Hamilton trimmed to 11.

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The German was caught out by two safety car interventions that turned the race on its head – and also by Hamilton refusing to give anything away despite being asked controversially to let him through.

With eight races to go, and double points for the last in Abu Dhabi, Rosberg has 202 points to Hamilton’s 191. Mercedes have a 174-point lead over champions Red Bull in the constructors’ standings.

Ricciardo, a revelation in his first year at Red Bull, bellowed in elation after he took the chequered flag 5.2 seconds ahead of Alonso for his second win of the season and his career.

“It feels as good as the first, it really does,” beamed the Australian, who was triumphant in Canada in June, after a rollercoaster of a race packed with incident.

“The safety car at the beginning played to our advantage…when the second one came out it didn’t really help us, but we managed to pull it off at the end.”

All of the top four had led over the course of a race that started after a brief downpour, was interrupted by two big crashes, continued with the ever-present threat of rain and finished on a knife-edge.

Just 6.3 seconds separated the top four, with Hamilton crossing the line just half a second clear of Rosberg.

 

TYRE GAMBLE

Ricciardo, who had led earlier in the race and was on fresher tyres, swept past Hamilton three laps from the end and then overtook a determined Alonso to regain the lead for good.

“We took a gamble. We risked today just trying to get the victory and we went very close,” said Alonso of his second podium finish of the season.

“We need some crazy races to get some podiums and today we took the opportunity.”

Behind them, Rosberg – who made three stops to Alonso and Hamilton’s two – was closing in remorselessly and was all over the back of his team mate’s car as they started the final lap.

Hamilton hung on for a podium finish that had looked improbable on Saturday, but he was unhappy with his team for asking him to let Rosberg through with a third of the race remaining.

The German had yet to make his final stop, whereas Hamilton had done his final tyre change already and knew Rosberg was sure to come back at him with a vengeance in the closing stages.

“I’m not letting him past me, if he gets close enough to overtake he can overtake,” Hamilton had said over the radio.

In the end Rosberg did not get close enough to pass and eventually pitted.

“Just because he had one more stop than me doesn’t mean I am not in same race,” Hamilton told reporters later. “I was very, very shocked that the team would ask me to do that.

“But to be honest he didn’t get close enough to overtake. I was never going to lift off and lose ground to Fernando or Daniel to enable him to have a better race.”

Hamilton, who had won for the last two years in Hungary and was chasing a record fifth win in the country, had finished third in Germany last weekend after starting 20th and he said he was pushing as hard as he could to see where he ended up.

The Briton started from the pitlane, behind Danish rookie Kevin Magnussen whose McLaren was also moved off the grid, after his car caught fire in qualifying without completing a lap.

He spun at the second corner, skimming the wall with his front wing, and was 21 seconds down on Rosberg after the first lap with a mountain to climb.

By lap seven Hamilton was up to 14th and events played into his hands when the safety car was deployed after Sweden’s Marcus Ericsson crashed his Caterham at turn three.

While the top four decided not to pit, in what proved out to be a game changer, Hamilton and others did. Ricciardo then took the lead when they came in a lap later.

Frenchman Romain Grosjean kept the safety car out for four more laps when he crashed his Lotus on lap 11 and there was a further interruption on lap 23 when Force India’s Mexican Sergio Perez speared into the wall on the pit straight.

Brazilian Felipe Massa was fifth for Williams while Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen raced from 15th to sixth and his highest finish of a disappointing season so far.

Quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel, who spun and was lucky not to emulate Perez in crashing into the wall, was seventh after starting on the front row.

Finland’s Valtteri Bottas took seventh, ahead of Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne for Toro Rosso and McLaren’s Jenson Button.

Sauber failed to score points for the 11th race in a row while Germany’s Nico Hulkenberg crashed and drew a blank for the first time this season.

 

(Editing by Ed Osmond/Tony Goodson)

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Finance News Update, what you need to know

WORLD FINANCE UPDATE:

The Australian dollar has drifted back below 94 US cents following positive economic data out of the US.

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At 0630 AEST on Monday, the local currency was trading at 93.96 US cents, down from 94.15 cents on Friday.

And the Australian share market looks set to open lower after Wall Street tumbled following some disappointing earnings reports in a move that some analysts attributed to profit taking.

At 0645 AEST on Monday, the September share price index futures contract was down eight points at 5,522.

ELSEWHERE:

MOSCOW – The Russian central bank has moved to shield the country’s economy from tightening Western sanctions over Ukraine, raising its main interest rate in a bid to forestall a resurgence of capital flight.

WASHINGTON – Durable goods orders in the US rebounded in June from a sharp fall in May, boosted by a jump in defence aircraft orders, official data shows.

LISBON – The Portuguese parliament has passed new public sector wage cuts in a bid to meet its target of reducing the deficit.

MOSCOW – Nearly a quarter-century after McDonald’s startled and delighted Soviets with their first taste of US fast-food culture, the company is facing a law suit that could ban it from selling some of its signature products.

DETROIT – The US government’s highway safety agency has decided to seek further information from General Motors about air bag failures in some Chevrolet Impala full-size cars.

LONDON – Rupert Murdoch’s media empire 21st Century Fox has struck a mega deal with British satellite television group BSkyB to create a pan-European pay-TV giant.

SAN FRANCISCO – Audio technology veteran Bose Corporation is suing Beats Electronics over patented technology for cancelling noise in earphones.

LONDON – Anglo American has announced a tripling of first-half profits as the global miner shrugged off disruptions caused by strikes at platinum mines in South Africa.

BEIJING – The top one per cent of households in Communist-ruled China control more than one third of the country’s wealth, while the bottom 25 per cent control just one hundredth, official media said, citing an academic report.

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I’m a Dragon for real now: Benji

Benji Marshall has hailed St George Illawarra’s “surreal” win over the Wests Tigers in his first game against his former club as his final farewell from the joint venture.

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Much of the pre-game hype had revolved around the Dragons halfback taking on the side he left in emotional circumstances last year after 13 seasons, including the 2005 NRL premiership.

Marshall admitted there were moments during the Dragons’ 28-12 win on Sunday that he struggled with, before realised he was truly a Dragon now.

“It was pretty hard to prepare for it to be honest,” Marshall said

“I just tried to make it not about me this week, it was about the team needing the two points. There were times in the game where I was a little bit fazed out by the occasion but Gareth (Widdop) just took over and really stood up.

“There were just times in the game where it was a bit surreal, playing against the old club. You look across and see your mates who you played with for so long, I was just happy to get the two points.”

Dragons coach Paul McGregor said Marshall dealt with the occasion well.

“I’m comfortable with Benji. I’ve said that from day one and I’m still comfortable with Benji,” he said.

“I like the way he plays, I like the way he trains, I like the way he goes about his stuff.

“I’m very comfortable with where he was and I knew the emotion wouldn’t get hold of him because he’s a 200 game player, he’s played a lot of emotional games.”

Marshall revealed McGregor has emphasised the importance of the occasion to his Dragons teammates.

“He sort of said to the whole team that I’m one of them now, to look after me out there,” Marshall said.

“The boys did that. It wasn’t my best game but I just played a pretty basic role and Gareth brought the all-out flair.”

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Asylum seekers arrive at WA’s Curtin Detention Centre

The group, who were part of the 157 asylum seekers detained at sea for weeks on a Customs ship, arrived at the detention centre yesterday evening, a Curtin spokesman said.

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More asylum seekers are expected to arrive at Curtin today.

The Refugee Action Coalition says the asylum seekers were seen disembarking in the early afternoon on Sunday.

They were headed to the island’s airport from where they were due to be flown to Curtin detention centre in Western Australia.

“There’s no schedule, but given the lack of facilities on Cocos Island, they will probably try and get them on a plane soon – not everybody by today, but most,” spokesman Ian Rintoul told AAP.

The federal government did not confirm the movements.

The group of 157, including children, were being detained at sea since their boat was intercepted 27km from Christmas Island on July 7.

After arriving at Curtin, they will undergo identity checks by Indian consular officials.

India has agreed to take back its citizens and will consider taking Sri Lankan nationals who are Indian residents.

Australian Greens say the group has a legal right to apply for asylum in Australia.

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young is travelling to Curtin in the next few days to inquire on the children’s welfare and to brief the asylum seekers of their rights.

“Just because (Prime Minister) Tony Abbott wants to trade in their lives, doesn’t make it legal,” she told reporters in Adelaide on Sunday.

Mr Abbott has said the handling of the asylum seekers is not illegal and in accordance with Australia’s international obligations.

But he stressed they could never call Australia home because they did not come the “right way”.

The decision to bring the group to land pre-empts a High Court challenge against their detention at sea.

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