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  • Newcrest delivers some good news

    Embattled Newcrest Mining has given its investors some much-needed good news by beating its own expectations on quarterly gold production and costs.

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    However the positive numbers were offset by the news that Australia's largest gold producer had conceded ground to the tax office and will take a $120 million hit to resolve a dispute.

    The 586,573 ounces of gold it produced in the three months to the end of September puts it on target to beat guidance of 2.0 million to 2.3 million ounces, with the miner also predicting a stronger fiscal second half.

    The report follows a tumultuous two weeks in which proxy advisers criticised the company's failures to meet production targets for several years and advised against re-electing some directors at next week's AGM.

    The events culminated in Newcrest announcing departure dates for chief executive Greg Robinson and chairman Don Mercer.

    The gold production was 10 per cent above some analysts' expectations, nine per cent below the previous June quarter as forecast but 27 per cent above a year ago.

    The overall cost of producing gold in the quarter of $A1,093 an ounce was below its 2013 financial year average of $1,283.

    It sold the gold at an average $1,442 an ounce and said it could afford the price to be below the $1,450 floor it previously said it needed to break even due to cost and operational improvements.

    Mr Robinson said all of the company's gold mines had performed better than expected during the quarter, excluding Hidden Valley in PNG where costs of $1,889 an ounce remained high.

    Morningstar analyst Mathew Hodge said it had been a long time since Newcrest had delivered a good quarterly report and both cost cutting and production were positive.

    He also praised it for securing a new $US450 million ($A472.47 million) debt facility for providing more liquidity headroom.

    Newcrest said it would voluntarily amend some R&D claims made from 2009 to 2011 in relation to its tax office dispute related to 2005 to 2011.

    Ian Smith was the company's chief executive at the time - which included the controversial $9.5 billion takeover of Lihir Gold - and was replaced by Greg Robinson in 2011.

    The full year net tax impact will be $70 million, due to some tax losses and comes on top of its standard tax rate.

    Newcrest's share price was four cents down at $10.16 at 1530 AEDT.

  • Siddle to benefit from McDermott return

    Peter Siddle will be the first beneficiary of Craig McDermott's return to the Test fold, with the fast bowling coach planning to lift Australia's pace leader back to his inspirational best.

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    Siddle was brilliant in the first Ashes Test at Nottingham but, from then on, he appeared to tire as the series went on, with Ryan Harris taking the reins as Australia's leading wicket-taker.

    But newly appointed Test bowling coach McDermott says the attack will need to be firing on all cylinders if they're to steal the urn back from England this summer, and reinvigorating Siddle is one of the first items on his agenda.

    After quitting his post as a national assistant in May last year, McDermott returns in a more specialised role as Test bowling coach, with incumbent Ali de Winter shifted across to oversee Australia's limited-overs bowlers.

    McDermott has just over a month to work his magic before the first Test starts in Brisbane, with the 48-year-old's goal to get four-to-six quicks, including Siddle, hitting their peak at the same time.

    "I would like to get him (Siddle) up just a little bit higher with his consistency," said McDermott.

    "We've got to have four-to-six guys bowling well from a fast bowling point of view to bowl in conjunction with our spinners ... we've got to make sure they're all firing.

    "I'd just like to talk to (Siddle) about a few things I've noticed over the last couple of months, and the same with a number of the other bowlers I've been watching on TV around the place."

    Siddle took 17 wickets at 31.58 in the Ashes, the fifth best from either team for the series, and he's still ranked sixth in the world.

    However, he took just one wicket in the final two Tests.

    Siddle's rise to premier fast bowler a couple of years ago was heavily influenced by McDermott, and the former Australian tearaway is confident of once again making an impact.

    McDermott has also been impressed with the transformation of Mitchell Johnson, and is eager to see how the left-arm quick adjusts to the red ball when he returns from Australia's one-day tour of India.

    With fellow lefty Mitchell Starc, as well as James Pattinson, Pat Cummins and Jackson Bird all injured, Johnson has a big opportunity to re-establish himself in the Test team.

    "He's changed his run up, he's well balanced ... he's getting through the crease and his arm is higher than what it used to be," McDermott said.

    "He's bowling anywhere between 145 and 153km/h over the last couple of months ... and, if you're up around those figures and moving the ball a little bit either way, it's a handful and certainly his bouncer will be a handful as well.

    "We've got some good young guys in behind the scenes, who have been on some tours of late in Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Coulter-Nile.

    "Obviously there's Ben Hilfenhaus who is back in the fray, fully fit."

    Cricket Australia will have a pool of eight quicks they use for the duration of the series, but McDermott said he won't be excluding other bowlers who show good form in Sheffield Shield cricket.

  • McKenzie challenges Wallabies to back up

    Coach Ewen McKenzie has challenged the Wallabies team to reproduce the sort of form that spanked Argentina against the All Blacks in Dunedin on Saturday.

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    Overcoming the world champions, unbeaten on their home turf in 29 Tests since mid-2009, sounds a near-impossible task for a Wallabies team that has won just three of nine Tests this year.

    But McKenzie is having none of that.

    "You've got to fancy your chances," McKenzie said on Thursday.

    "Hopefully we've bottomed out and are now climbing."

    McKenzie stressed the importance of backing up the vastly-improved performance the Wallabies gave in their 54-17 win over Argentina in Rosario two weeks ago - their highest-ever scoreline against the Pumas.

    While they've already lost the Bledisloe Cup for an 11th straight year, the Wallabies will march out under the roof of Dunedin's Forsyth Barr Stadium on Saturday night wanting to prove they've closed the gap after being well beaten in the first two Cup games and also twice by South Africa.

    "You need to back up, play consistently and find solutions to win every game, which has been a large focus for us heading into this match," McKenzie said.

    McKenzie has promoted Matt Toomua from the bench to inside centre following an injury to his Brumbies teammate Christian Lealiifano.

    Toomua started at five eighth in the first two Bledisloe defeats at the start of the Rugby Championship but will line up outside Quade Cooper, who has reclaimed that role since.

    A big question will be whether they can maintain the free-flowing attack Cooper orchestrated in Rosario against stronger opposition in New Zealand - especially with the booing that will echo around the closed in stadium every time he touches the ball.

    Having fellow five-eighth Toomua outside of him will ease some of that pressure.

    "(Toomua's) got all the attributes to play (centre), and we've already made it quite clear that we're playing a first and second five-eighth arrangement," McKenzie said.

    "He'll have a good chance to impose himself in the game in defence and attack."

    Whilst known for his stout defence, Toomua admits he'll have his hands full against New Zealand centres Ma'a Nonu and Ben Smith.

    "They are brilliant runners, and they also bring in (winger Julian) Savea to the attack," Toomua said.

    NSW Waratahs flyer Betham, who was struggling just to earn a Super Rugby contract 12 months ago, will play his first Test following the unavailability of eight other specialist wingers.

    NSW skipper Dave Dennis pipped fellow loose forward Liam Gill for the final forwards spot on the bench, while utility back Mike Harris has earned a recall to the bench.

    The Test will also be Will Genia's 50th, just the third Wallabies scrumhalf to reach that milestone behind George Gregan and Nick Farr-Jones.

    "It's obviously very humbling. But to be honest, I'm concentrating on more getting a result," Genia said.

    Wallabies: Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tevita Kuridrani, Matt Toomua, Peter Betham, Quade Cooper, Will Genia; Ben McCalman, Michael Hooper, Ben Mowen (vc), James Horwill (capt), Rob Simmons, Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore, James Slipper. Res: Saia Fainga'a, Benn Robinson, Sepoke Kepu, Sitaleki Timani, Dave Dennis, Nic White, Mike Harris, Bernard Foley.

  • Oliver in search of fifth Caulfield Cup

    Damien Oliver's Cox Plate hopes were dashed in the stewards room on Wednesday but his chances of Cups success this spring remain alive.

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    The top jockey is due to start a careless riding suspension after Saturday's Caulfield meeting which rules him out of the Cox Plate.

    He was to have ridden second favourite Fiorente who he hopes to reunite with in the Melbourne Cup.

    But on Saturday, Oliver's hopes are for a fifth win in the $2.5 million Caulfield Cup (2400m) in which he rides the David Hayes-trained Jet Away.

    The import showed he was back on track with a game first-up seventh in the Group One Turnbull Stakes (2000m) after an interrupted preparation.

    "Hopefully he can repeat his Turnbull performance and he'll be right in the race," Oliver said.

    Oliver believes Jet Away's performance in the Turnbull, in which he was beaten less than two lengths, showed he had not been affected by the setback which forced him to miss a lead-up run in the Underwood Stakes.

    Jet Away has firmed from $11 to $9.50 with TAB fixed odds since the barrier draw and Hayes believes the stayer is fit enough to run a big race.

    "Daniel Moor rode him on Tuesday morning and said he felt better than he did the week before the Turnbull, so in other words if trackwork and the way he's feeling is any guide he's better this week than he was last week," Hayes said.

    Jet Away drew barrier 13 which Hayes said was the owner's lucky number.

    "You never want to draw out but that's a perfect barrier because you can just get on the back of something, not get knocked down and give him a clear run for the last half mile," he said.

    "And he'll stay all day."

    The Chris Waller-trained pair of Hawkspur ($4.50) and Royal Descent ($6.50) remain at the head of betting while fellow Sydney trainer Gai Waterhouse won't discount the chances of her two runners, Julienas and Glencadam Gold.

    She rates Julienas as "your long-shot in the Caulfield Cup".

    "He's flying," Waterhouse said of The Metropolitan runner-up.

    Craig Williams is aiming for his third Caulfield Cup in succession and like last year on Dunaden he will have to plot a winning course from a wide barrier aboard Dandino.

    But he believes it can be done.

    "I did flinch when draw 19 came up, so it just means he is going to need a lot more luck in the early part of the race," Williams said.

    "But he gives me great confidence going into the race even from the wide draw."

  • Ten targets ratings boost after $285m loss

    Ten Network is using the clout of its mega-wealthy shareholders to help fund a ratings turnaround, after posting a full year loss of $285 million.

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    Lachlan Murdoch, James Packer and WIN TV owner Bruce Gordon have all agreed to guarantee a new $200 million debt facility from the Commonwealth Bank, which Ten will use to pay for new programs it hopes will lift ratings.

    "The board and management of Ten recognise time and financial investment are required to build ratings and revenue, which is why the new financing facility is proposed," chief executive Hamish McLennan said.

    He admitted the network would not have been able to secure the finance facility on such favourable terms without the backing of the trio.

    Ten's other high profile shareholder Gina Rinehart supported the loan but will not be acting as a guarantor.

    Ten's $285 million loss in the 12 months to August 31 was much larger than the previous year's loss of $12.9 million, due to a 22 per cent slide in revenue and a $292 million writedown on the value of its TV licence.

    "Our ratings performance this year has not been acceptable and everyone at Ten Network is focused on improving it," Mr McLennan said.

    After another dismal 12 months, which have seen it stuck in fourth place behind Seven, Nine and the ABC in primetime ratings, Ten will invest heavily in new programming.

    Key to its strategy will be the November 4 launch of breakfast program Wake Up and morning talk show Studio 10, both overseen by former Sunrise producer Adam Boland.

    The network is focusing on "event TV", which includes programs like Masterchef and the revived So You Think You Can Dance, along with sporting events including Twenty20 cricket, the Sochi Winter Olympics and the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

    "Not that long ago Ten owned event TV with Australian Idol, Big Brother and so on...we still have event TV programs but we need more," Mr McLennan said.

    Ten has also shifted its target demographic from 16-39 year olds to 25-54 year olds, in an effort to boost revenues.

    "This is a lucrative and large demographic for Ten to target," Mr McLennan said.

    Meanwhile, Ten's annual report shows former chief executive James Warburton, who was sacked in February, was paid $2.2 million for his final six months at the broadcaster.

    Mr McLennan, who replaced Mr Warburton in April, was paid $900,000.

    Ten's shares dropped half a cent, or 1.72 per cent, to 28.5 cents.