Body in car believed to be former Rebels bikie Ricky Ciano

Ricky Ciano’s disappearance was described as out of character by his family. Photo: Facebook The crime scene outside of Oberon in the Central Tablelands where the body was found. Photo: Channel 10

Ricky Ciano was allegedly targeted in a conspiracy to murder plan at his Central Coast home in 2015. Photo: Facebook

The body of a man found in an abandoned BMW in rural NSW is believed to be a former bikie gang member who disappeared from Sydney on Saturday.

Family and friends of Ricky Ciano, 35, had feared the worst for the former Rebels bikie who allegedly survived an attempt on his life in 2015 shortly after he left the outlaw motorcycle gang.

The former president of the Rebels’ Sydney chapter disappeared after going to a friend’s house in Penrith on Saturday night.

He had been visiting Sydney from the Gold Coast to see his daughter but never made it.

On Tuesday night, a body was found in a white BMW on the side of a road in Duckmaloi, 15 kilometres from Oberon in the Central Tablelands.

While the man has not been formally identified, police suspect it is Mr Ciano.

The Homicide Squad is assisting local detectives in investigating his death.

It is understood he showed no signs of visible injury and it is unclear at this stage how he died.

On Tuesday, a close friend of Mr Ciano’s told Fairfax Media his friends and family were frantically searching for the father of five.

He last spoke to his wife on Saturday night, sending her a few text messages including one saying there was a blackout and he couldn’t charge his phone.

“It is completely unusual because he was down to visit his daughter and his daughter is his life so he wouldn’t miss it,” the friend said on Tuesday.

“It is completely out of character for him not to contact friends or family for three days.”

He said that Mr Ciano arrived in Sydney on Saturday and picked up his car from the airport.

Mr Ciano was in the Penrith area that day but had to leave his car on the roadside after he was pulled over by the police, he told his wife.

Mr Ciano left the bikie fraternity behind in 2015 to move to the Gold Coast, where most of his family live, for a lifestyle change, friends say.

He was the target of an alleged failed murder attempt at his Central Coast home in 2015.

Former Rebels Burwood chapter member Abuzar Sultani was allegedly offered $500,000 to kill Mr Ciano and conspired to carry out the contract through a staged pizza delivery.

However, the alleged execution attempt was thwarted when Mr Ciano refused to open the door to his Wamberal home.

Mr Sultani has been in custody since November, charged with conspiring to murder Mr Ciano, along with the alleged murder of crime figure Pasquale Barbaro.

Fairfax Media has previously reported on the conditions that come with leaving a bikie club, including handing back one’s bike or paying a hefty fee.

It is understood Mr Ciano was told he could walk away from the club under certain conditions, including that he remove his club tattoos.

“A post-mortem will be conducted in coming days to determine the cause of the man’s death,” a police statement said. */]]>

Sydney derby to launch Super Netball

New season: Team captains Collingwood Magpies’ Maddi Robinson, Sunshine Coast Lightning’s Geva Mentor, Melbourne Vixens’ Kate Maloney, Giants Netball’s Kimberlee Green, NSW Swifts’ Abbey McCulloch, Queensland Firebirds’ Gabi Simpson, Adelaide Thunderbirds’ Erin Bell and West Coast Fever’s Nat Medhurst. Photo: James Brickwood Suncorp Super Netball season launch. Photograph of the teams captains. LtoR Collingwood Magpies – Maddi Robinson, Sunshine Coast Lightning – Geva Mentor, Melbourne Vixens – Kate Maloney, Giants Netball – Kimberlee Green, NSW Swifts Abbey McCulloch, Queensland Firebirds – Gabi Simpson, Adelaide Thunderbirds – Erin Bell and West Coast Fever – Nat Medhurst. Photographed at The Rocks, Sydney. Wednesday 15th February 2017. Photograph by James Brickwood. SMH SPORT 170215 Photo: James Brickwood

Netball NSW will consider moving future derby games between the Swifts and Giants to the Qudos Bank Arena, with Saturday’s season-opener between the two clubs expected to sell out the Sydney Olympic Park Sports Centre.

The brand new Suncorp Super Netball competition was launched at Sydney’s picturesque Hickson Road Reserve on Wednesday ahead of this weekend’s Giants-Swifts clash, which will christen the eagerly anticipated eight-team competition.

Giants captain Kimberlee??? Green and recently returned Australian Diamond Susan Pettitt will run out against their old club for the first time after switching from the Swifts in the off-season to play under former coach Julie Fitzgerald.

The intriguing contest between the heavily favoured competition newcomer and the rebuilt Swifts should have no trouble filling the 4000-capacity Sydney Olympic Sports Park Centre, with only limited tickets left for sale as of Wednesday afternoon.

Down the road the Qudos Bank Arena can house 17,500 for a netball game, but the cost of hiring the facility is roughly four times as much as the venue chosen for round one. Netball NSW will use the venue three times throughout the season to house double-headers.

“It was just too big a risk to take for the first game but gee whiz what a response [to ticket sales] we’ve had and I’m happy to say that in the future we will certainly look at options around that,” Netball NSW chief executive Carolyn Campbell said.

“Qudos Bank Arena with 8000-plus in it is a good atmosphere and venue, but the cost of it is the critical factor to be considered so you want to be very sure before you take it there.

“I believe we’ve taken a really big leap of faith and a good business judgment to take three double headers to that venue.”

The first of those is next weekend when the Swifts play the Adelaide Thunderbirds before the Giants host the West Coast Fever. Double-headers at Qudos Bank Arena are also scheduled for rounds nine and 14.

But it’s this weekend’s contest which should give Sydney netball fans a guide as to how well their teams will fare this season.

Netball experts across the country, including Australian games record holder Liz Ellis, believe the Giants are capable of winning the entire competition, while the Swifts have been tipped to struggle after the significant turnover of their playing roster since losing last year’s ANZ Championship decider to the Queensland Firebirds.

“We are going for a championship, we’re not going to lie,” Green said.

“We’ve got really good depth, in our shooting, and in our mid court and in our defensive end.

“The cool thing is we can mix things up, especially in our shooting end we’ve got two moving shooters and a tall holding [shooter] and the ability to be able to mix that up. They’re three world-class players, too, which is really cool.”

Swifts captain Abbey McCulloch expected the round one clash against the Giants would be tighter than people were predicting.

“It’s going to be interesting because we play very similar as well … it’s going to be very close and I think whoever’s the fittest team will run over the top in the end,” McCulloch said.

“I’m expecting them to play very similar to how the Swifts played last year, Julie obviously was a Swifts coach for a while. They’re going to play very connected, very fast, very slick netball.”

Winx’s breeder John Camilleri falls in love with another Street Cry filly

Big fans: Trainer James Cummings and jockey Glyn Schofield have high opinions of Villa Carlotta. Photo: Vince Caligiuri Derby winner: Glyn Schofield wins the Victoria Derby on Prized Icon. Photo: Vince Caligiuri

Wizard of Odds: Live Odds, Form and Alerts for all Racing

“Don’t fall in love with them,” is often the advice for breeders, but there is something about Villa Carlotta that attracted the man who sold Winx, John Camilleri, to keep her.

“From the first time I saw her [Villa Carlotta], I loved her,” Camilleri said. “I just wanted to keep her. I usually sell them, but this filly was a little bit special.”

Like Winx, Villa Carlotta is a daughter of Street Cry, and Villa Carlotta got her racing career off to the perfect start by winning a maiden at Randwick on Wednesday.

“That was exciting to watch,” Camilleri said. “It was as good as watching Winx on Monday, and I’m like a proud dad with her, but it is different when you own them. She is special to me.”

Villa Carlotta has plenty of fans, including trainer James Cummings and jockey Glyn Schofield. Cummings was confident before the race, but tempered that enthusiasm with “you want to see them do it on the track”.

“She is as good as any two-year-old I have had in the past couple of years,” Cummings said. “I wanted to get that out of the way and now we have three or four options where to go next.

“It was important to have that run, so we can look at the better races coming up and we have some decisions to make.”

The race was supposed to be at Kembla Grange on Saturday and Schofield was going to try to ride the filly before coming back to Randwick, such as his opinion of her.

That was not going to be possible, so when that meeting was called off because of the heatwave and the race was rescheduled for Wednesday, Schofield was delighted.

“I wasn’t going to be able to do it on Saturday, so it was good to be able to ride her out there,” Schofield said. “She is a nice filly and we thought she was pretty good and she showed that. She was very strong at the end.”

Villa Carlotta will proceed to the Slipper lead-ups or Black Opal, but remains $101 in the Golden Slipper with Ladbrokes despite the strong win.

She was headed in the straight before fighting back to win by three-quarters of a length from Faeger and Pahruli.

Schofield made sure Villa Carlotta had plenty of room, sitting three wide with cover, coming to the turn as odds-on favourite Alizee was getting held up to his inside. Villa Carlotta hit the front and was then headed by Faeger before kicking into another gear.

“I never felt that she was going to get beaten,” Schofield said. “She felt like she had more to give.”

The Schofield-Cummings partnership will be looking for bigger fish when dual group 1 winner Prized Icon returns in Saturday’s Hobartville Stakes.

Prized Icon won the Champagne Stakes as a two-year-old and then finished his last preparation by taking out the Victoria Derby.

“He has never been underrated by us,” Schofield said. “He has come back really well and I think he could sprint well at the 1400 metres. He has been one of those that keeps getting better with every preparation.”

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Kim Jong-un’s assassination removes an embarrassment and rival to North Korean regime

Kim Jong-nam and his half-brother Kim Jong-un (inset), who is North Korea’s leader.The apparent assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s older half-brother, Kim Jong-nam, at Kuala Lumpur Airport on Monday seems intended to remove an ongoing political embarrassment and potential leadership problem for the North Korean regime. According to South Korean media, Kim Jong-nam was travelling on a valid passport in the name of Kim Chol.

Early reports say Kim, 45, was attacked by two women suspected to be North Korean agents using a chemical spray in the airport’s shopping concourse. It was obviously quick-acting because Kim died on the way to hospital.

South Korea’s national news agency, Yonhap, reported that the North’s intelligence agency, the Reconnaissance General Bureau, carried out the assassination.

The bureau is North Korea’s premier intelligence organisation, responsible for covert external operations. It has been associated with multiple attacks, including the 1968 attempt on South Korean president Park Chung-hee, the 1983 attempted assassination of South Korean president Chun Doo-hwan in Rangoon that left 21 dead, the 1987 downing of Korean Air flight 858 killing 115 people, and the 2010 attempt on high-ranking North Korean defector Hwang Jang-yeop in South Korea.

Assuming the women were bureau agents, the conduct of the attack and evading capture would have been considered carefully beforehand. It’s likely the agents will now either lie low in Malaysia or try to get to neighbouring Thailand or Indonesia, which have less stringent entry controls than Singapore.

Kim’s death by assassination would be the highest-profile North Korean death since the execution of his uncle Jang Song-thaek in North Korea in December 2013. Jang was responsible for North Korea’s economic reforms under Kim Jong-il and had supported Kim Jong-nam as the expected successor to his father, Kim Jong-il. However, Kim Jong-nam greatly embarrassed the North Korean regime when he tried to visit the Tokyo Disney Resort in 2001 using a false passport and was detained by Japanese authorities.

After that, he was effectively out of the running for the leadership and spent most of his time abroad. In September 2010, Kim Jong-il named his younger son Kim Jong-un as his chosen successor and, after his death, Kim Jong-un became supreme leader in December 2011.

Kim Jong-un was thought initially to lack the ruthlessness of his Kim dynasty predecessors, Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il. But he has since shown a ruthless streak in executing senior cadres seen to lack commitment to the Kim dynasty or to pose a potential threat to Kim Jong-un’s hold on power. His most unexpected act was the execution of his powerful uncle, Jang Song-thaek, for belittling Kim Jong-un behind his back and “factionalism”.

Meanwhile, Kim Jong-nam’s actions abroad were also probably causing disquiet in Pyongyang. Kim had been living in Macau under Chinese protection. It seems China found it useful to keep him in the wings as a potential pro-China replacement for his half-brother. Kim Jong-nam travelled regularly to Beijing for talks with officials and was believed to have the ongoing support of factions of the North Korean Workers Party. He had also been publicly critical of the dynastic succession process in North Korea.

Because of Kim Jong-un’s belligerent foreign policies and China’s lack of control over North Korea, there has been increasing support in China for a hardline policy against North Korea. Since 2012, plans to oust Kim from power and replace him with his half-brother have surfaced at least twice, but of course they might have been deliberate leaks to keep Kim Jong-un in line.

Any decision to eliminate Kim would have come from the top. Kim was always watched closely by the Reconnaissance General Bureau and it had, according to an arrested North Korean agent, considered killing him via a hit-and-run “accident” in China. However, it would have been considered preferable to avoid problems with China by killing him elsewhere. His regular travels to Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and France provided a better option.

For the record, Kim Jong-nam was the product of Kim Jong-il’s extramarital relationship with Sung Hae-Rim, a South Korean-born actress.

Clive Williams is honorary professor at the Australian National University’s Centre for Military and Security Law and an adjunct professor at the Australian Defence Force Academy.

NSW Waratahs’ Jake Gordon putting pressure on Nick Phipps, says Nathan Grey

Jake Gordon will start at halfback for the NSW Waratahs on Thursday in their trial against the Highlanders. Photo: Les SmithNSW Waratahs halfback Jake Gordon has earned a trial match starting spot against the Highlanders and Nathan Grey says the rookie is putting pressure on Wallabies representative Nick Phipps.

The Waratahs have recalled stars Michael Hooper, Israel Folau, Sekope Kepu, Dean Mumm, Will Skelton and Bernard Foley for their final pre-season match, at Brookvale Oval on Thursday night.

Irae Simone will start at inside-centre, Andrew Kellaway at fullback, while Harry Jones and Reece Robinson have been selected on the left and right wings, respectively.

An all-Wallabies front row of Tom Robertson, who has switched over to loose-head, Tolu Latu and Kepu will pack down in front of second-rowers Mumm and Skelton.

Jack Dempsey, Hooper and Michael Wells round out the back row.

The most eye-raising selection is that of Gordon, who had a stellar NRC campaign last season.

That is not to say Phipps, who featured in four of five Tests on the Wallabies spring tour – he did not get on the field against Ireland in Dublin – will not walk straight back into the starting spot next Saturday in round one.

However, Grey said there was a genuine selection headache brewing when it came to the halfback spot.

“There’s three [number] nines in the program at the moment that are all training and performing in a way that is making the decisions difficult for [head coach] Daryl [Gibson],” Grey said. “Jake and Matty Lucas will be getting time and they’re pushing really hard.”

Asked whether Phipps was still the frontrunner to play halfback against the Western Force in just over a week, Grey said: “We’re very confident in what Nick can do. Daryl’s really clear and honest with the guys around that nine spot is up for grabs. It’s up to the other guys to probably really step up and take it off him.”

The Highlanders will field a strong side, with New Zealand backs Ben Smith, Waisake Naholo and Malakai Fekitoa all getting a run.

All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith, regarded by many as the best in the world, will also be there in what will be a “really good contest” for Gordon.

“It’s really good to test yourself against a quality outfit,” Grey said. “We’ve got no doubt he [Gordon] can do that and it’ll be a really good test for him and a few other guys around just trying to execute what we can against quality opposition in a tough arena.”

Foley slots back into the chief playmaker role and will have a new man in Simone outside him, a player Grey and Foley have big wraps on.

“He’s been impressive and does a lot of the fundamental things well, which is really pleasing to see,” Grey said. “He’s played well in the trials, so he’s performing at a high level in the company that he is in and it’ll be another step up this week against the Highlanders.”

Foley said: “Irae has set the place on fire. He’s an extreme talent and he’s a big guy. He doesn’t shy away from the contact. He’s been really impressive in trying to fill that void of Kurtley [Beale] gone.”

The match will begin at 6.30pm and will be split into two 45-minute halves.

Waratahs: Tom Robertson, Tolu Latu, Sekope Kepu, Dean Mumm, Will Skelton, Jack Dempsey, Michael Hooper, Michael Wells, Jake Gordon, Bernard Foley, Harry Jones, Irae Simone, Israel Folau, Reece Robinson, Andrew Kellaway.

Reserves: Hugh Roach, Paddy Ryan, David Lolohea, Sam Needs, David McDuling, Nick Phipps, Matt Lucas, David Horwitz, Senio Toleafoa, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Ned Hanigan, Brad Wilkin, Maclean Jones, Con Foley, Bryce Hegarty, Andrew Deegan/Mack Mason.

Highlanders: Daniel Lienert-Brown, Liam Coltman, Siate Tokolahi, Tom Franklin, Jackson Hemopo, Liam Squire, James Lentjes, Luke Whitelock, Aaron Smith, Lima Sopoaga, Tevita Li, Rob Thompson, Malakai Fekitoa, Waisake Naholo, Ben Smith.

Reserves: Aki Seiuli, Craig Millar, Siosuia Halanukonuka, Guy Millar, Adrian Smith, Josh Dickson, Alex Ainley, Elliot Dixon, Gareth Evans, Dillon Hunt, Kayne Hammington, Josh Renton, Fletcher Smith, Sio Tomkinson, Teihorangi Walden, Matt Faddes, Pat Osborne, Jason Emery.

Bernard Foley wants Waratahs to channel their inner Tom Brady against Highlanders

Focused: Bernard Foley is excited to get back in the sky blue of NSW to take on the Highlanders in a pre-season trial. Photo: Peter RaeBernard Foley wants the Waratahs backline to channel their inner Tom Brady by remaining composed at all times when they tackle the Highlanders on Thursday.

Foley, a keen NFL fan, tuned into the Super Bowl last Monday morning to watch star New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady orchestrate a miraculous comeback to win his fifth championship ring.

Foley tweeted late in the game, “You think you’ve seen it all, and then this”.

Brady will go down as one of the all-time greats and be remembered for his ability to always keep calm regardless of the situation.

Foley used the Brady analogy when discussing how he wanted inexperienced Waratahs duo Jake Gordon and Irae Simone to go about their business against last year’s semi-finalists the Highlanders.

“It’s communication and composure, ease those guys into the game, a bit like the Tom Brady effect,” Foley said. “Just allow them to do their job, not to overplay their hand, not to try and push the pass or do too much for the team.

“As you always do when you’re a young person or inexperienced in a team, you want to go out there and prove yourself first-up, but for those guys they’re really capable footballers. It’s for them to do their job for the team.

“My brother’s a big Tom Brady fan, so he always is preaching to me about it. He’s a very impressive athlete and the way that he can control himself and show that composure especially in those drives in that Super Bowl … that’s something I’ll take out of him and the Patriots’ organisation in what they believe in.”

Thursday will mark Foley’s first game of 2017 after a busy season last year, in which he started all 15 Wallabies Tests.

Foley has had the benefit of a proper off-season given he went to Japan to play after the 2015 World Cup leading into last year’s Super Rugby season.

But his pre-season was far from ideal, with injury ruling him out of the first three matches.

“This year I’ve really enjoyed coming in and having a four-week block of pre-season,” Foley said. “We’ve been training pretty hard. It’s hot, we haven’t been able to escape the heat, so I’ve been eager and watching on the sidelines. Looking forward to getting into this competition.”

Foley said the Waratahs were a little unsure about their structures last year under new coach Daryl Gibson.

NSW were slow out of the blocks, winning just two of their first six matches, something Foley said might have been because of some confusion as to what style they wanted to play.

“At the start of last year … we were probably a bit hesitant on how we wanted to play on the new structures Daryl implemented,” Foley said. “We’ve changed things again but everyone is a lot more certain in where we want to go. It’s in no way going to be perfect in these couple of rounds but I think the style and the attitude that the players have shown in the first couple of pre-season games … has been impressive.”

Foley, 27, said he felt an added sense of responsibility to lift his game in the absence of playmaker Kurtley Beale and a number of other experienced figures who have left since the Waratahs won the Super Rugby title in 2014.

“In the past couple of years you’ve looked around and had the likes of Adam Ashley-Cooper, Kurtley Beale, guys who have been stalwarts of rugby,” Foley said. “Now looking around in that backline there is a bit of a void but it’s a challenge that I have to take up along with myself and Israel [Folau].”

Australia v Sri Lanka T20 series: Packed calendar blamed for Australia’s poor form in Twenty20s

Australian captain Steve Smith could go nearly two years without leading the Twenty20 side as his deputy Aaron Finch said the packed international schedule was not helping Australia’s development in the shortest form of the game.

Despite the raging success of the Big Bash League, Australia is well off the pace in the international Twenty20 arena. Ranked fifth, the country has a poor record at the World T20, which they will be desperate to improve heading into the next edition at home in 2020.

The three-game series against Sri Lanka is a rare opportunity for Australia’s Twenty20 team to play but first-choice players Smith, David Warner, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood are all unavailable as it clashes with preparations for the Tests in India.

Australia are scheduled to play only another 11 Twenty20 games before the 2020 world title in the current future tours program, which finishes at the 2019 World Cup. The need to manage Australia’s stars means it will be long odds their best players will be available for the bulk of those games.

Smith, who last played in the World T20 11 months ago, will not lead the side again until the back end of next summer at the earliest, against England and New Zealand. But If recent history is a guide, it would not surprise if Cricket Australia gave Smith time off during those games, which are wedged between an Ashes series and a marquee Test tour of South Africa.

“Ideally you’d love the best 11 players available for every game Australia plays but that’s not feasible at the moment,” Finch said.

“There is a lot of cricket. When you’re looking at the schedule it’s hard to see where guys will get a break. I totally understand it, the players want to be available for everything but you need a break here and there.

“These guys are going into a huge Test series as well so you have to take that into consideration. Out of the three [formats], T20 internationals would be the least prioritised until the World Cup year – I understand that but at the same time it makes it difficult.

“There’s a fine line between how many is enough preparation for a tournament and expect to be successful. If you tack on one or two games to the end of each series then the summers blow out and become too long in my opinion and guys will be worn out.

“You have to rest people and give guys a chance to be at their best for Test and one-day cricket, which in my opinion are more highly prioritised than T20 internationals.”

Australia’s squad against Sri Lanka includes four men yet to represent their country. Only Finch, Pat Cummins, James Faulkner and Travis Head are regular players at international level.

A crowd of around 40,000 is expected for the first game on Friday night, which features the Southern Stars as a curtain-raiser, well down on the 71,162 who turned out for the BBL’s Melbourne derby on New Year’s Day at the venue.

“There’s a lot of pride still. Every time you represent your country it’s a huge honour and there will be some guys who do it for the first time,” Finch said.

“Someone like Maxy Klinger, who gets an opportunity after the best part of 15 years grinding it out and being very successful.

“We haven’t been as successful as we’d have liked in the T20 format. This is a great opportunity for some young guys and experienced guys to get some international experience and put their name up there.”

Cycling stunner: Australian champ set to race for Russia

Shane Perkins is switching allegiances. Photo: John Veage 07.02.16-Adelaide-Shane Perkins wins the Australian Keirin title.Picture John Veagemkeirin11.jpg Photo: John Veage

Gutted by being left out of Australia’s track cycling team for the Rio Olympics, Shane Perkins has moved to switch sporting nations and compete for Russia at the 2020 Tokyo Games.

The 30-year-old, who won a world title for Australia five years ago and gold at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, has already been photographed in the Russian team kit.

Cycling’s international governing body will have ultimate approval power over Perkins’ switch for competition, but it’s understood Russia’s cycling federation is assisting the application that would effectively grant the Victorian dual citizenship.

The development came as news to Perkins’ one-time manager, Bade Stapleton, when Fairfax Media sought explanation on Wednesday, but was later confirmed by former Australian cyclist and Commonwealth Games medallist Emily Rosemond, who said she has been assisting Perkins with his Olympic pursuits since late last year. Stapleton said he has been less involved with Perkins, a bronze medallist at the 2012 London Games, since Perkins missed the cut for Rio.

Australia’s reigning national keirin champion, Perkins spoke to Fairfax Media last year about his great disappointment at being excluded from an invite-only Olympics training camp. He was effectively cut from the national elite track cycling program after losing his Australian Institute of Sport scholarship in 2015.

Though unable to conceal his surprise initially, Stapleton said Perkins’ move to chase a Tokyo Olympic berth made sense strategically given his experience, and ongoing opportunities, in Japan’s multi-million dollar keirin circuit where cyclists compete into their forties and earn huge sums.

Less obvious, prima facie, is the motive behind Perkins’ move to race for Russia, a nation with its sporting reputation in turmoil and one that was banned from entering track and field competition in Brazil last year due to endemic doping. Perkins’ connection, however, has apparently come through friend and training partner Denis Dmitriev who won the bronze medal in the individual sprint on the track at the Rio Games.

“Shane considers everything very carefully,” Rosemond said when asked about any misgivings Perkins might have about aligning himself with Russia in the current sporting climate.

“He definitely would have considered, obviously, the reputation of Russia. But he’s of the opinion that he’s going into a clean environment, he’s a very conscientious athlete and will remain a conscientious and clean athlete and he would expect the same from his new teammates.”

Fairfax Media has been told Perkins, who moved from Adelaide to Brisbane with his wife and their two children late last year, cannot represent Russia in this year’s track world championships, in April.

He has been training in Queensland’s new velodrome, built for the 2018 Commonwealth Games – held on the Gold Coast – but it’s understood he would not anticipate representing Australia at that major event in light of his decision to compete for Russia.

“I think the colours you wear don’t always define you as an athlete,” Rosemond said.

“Shane has been fully supported by Cycling Australia for a number of years but unfortunately the circumstances at the moment have meant that he’s had to seek some support elsewhere ??? if that’s with the Russian cycling team, well, so be it.

“Shane is a real fighter, he’s a real athlete, and he’s doing whatever it’s going to take for him to make it to the Olympics [again] and unfortunately there’s not an opportunity there within the Australian cycling program, so he has had no other option except to pursue other opportunities … we’re working with the cards that we have on the table.”

A two-time world champion on the track – in the keirin (2011) and team sprint (2012) – Perkins has been riding on Japan’s lucrative keirin scene for the last seven years including, for a period, with Dmitriev.

Riding later this week for a Japanese professional trade team at a world cup meet in Columbia, Perkins had hoped to be picked in the last Australian Olympic track team up until it departed. The Cyclones were plagued by bad luck in Rio and missed their medal target by more than half.

Perkins, who coaches juniors in cycling in Queensland, did not appeal his non-selection.

If Perkins continues riding keirin events successfully in Japan in the countdown to the Tokyo Olympics his profile in that country will strengthen.

He would of course have to be selected in Russia’s Olympic cycling team in three years time, but if he is – and if he then happened to perform well at the 2020 Games – it could prove a further launch pad.

Paul Perry’s Australian Derby aspirant Hollywood Mo returns to the racetrack at Newcastle today

Paul Perry’s Australian Derby aspirant Hollywood Mo returns to the racetrack on Newcastle’s Beaumont track on Thursday and the master trainer is expecting a strong performance.

The colt resumes in the 1250 metre Maiden Plate in his first hit-out since the group 1 Victoria Derby, in which he finished sixth after a tough run.

Perry took the horse to Melbourne in the spring and after a solid second in the Geelong Classic on October 19, Hollywood Mo was never on the track when beaten 4½-lengths in the Victoria Derby on October 29.

The three-year-old trialled impressively on the Beaumont track three weeks ago.

Perry said on Wednesday that the horse should sprint well fresh. “As you would expect, Hollywood Mo is only about 75per cent fit for his first-up run,’’ he said.

“However, this is a nice race for him to kick off his preparation and providing the back markers are running on, I expect him to sprint well.

“The horse spelled well after the Melbourne trip and I was happy with his recent trial. I have nominated Hollywood Mo for the Australian Derby to be run at Randwick during the Championships.’’

Another of Perry’s promising three-year-olds, Walk RightIn, also resumes tomorrow in the final event, the 1150mBenchmark 65 Handicap. He was placed twice on metropolitan tracks during the spring and he was runner up to last Monday’s group 3 winner, Zestful, in a recent Newcastle trial.

Walk Right In has drawn off the track but with any luck his trainer believes the gelding will go close.

Randwick trainer James Cummings heads to Newcastle with five runners, and his smart filly Mega Mall has prospects of notching back-to-back wins on the track.

HOPEFUL: Paul Perry

After a luckless second on the Beaumont track on January 21 she was an impressive winner here at the meeting on February 4. She will contest the 1350 metre Class 2 Handicap, and she should have a cosy run from her ideal barrier.

Cummings will be looking to another of his team Static Lift to atone for a narrow last start defeat on the track when he steps out in the 1350 metre Class 2 Handicap. The four-year-old was run down by the smart California Nike at the last meeting on February 7.

Chris Waller’s New Zealand filly Midnight Delight a fast finishing second on this track at her Australian debut on February 4 should go one better in the 1350 metre Maiden Handicap. The three-year-old has drawn nicely and she was placed in her only two New Zealand starts before joining the Waller stable.

The first of eight races kicks off at 1.15pm.

Greens call on Labor to return Santos political donations

Greens MLC Jeremy Buckingham wants Labor to return a political donation from energy company Santos. Photo: Simone De PeakNSW Labor is being accused of a lack of credibility on coal seam gas policy after accepting $2250 in donations from Santos, despite handing back a similar amount from the energy company before the last election.

Less than two weeks before the March 2015 poll, NSW Labor announced it was returning a $2200 donation from Santos after criticism from the Greens amid a fierce battle for the seat of Ballina.

Labor had announced that if elected it would permanently ban coal seam gas activity across the Northern Rivers. The Greens’ candidate Tamara Smith went on to win the seat.

Data published by the Australian Electoral Commission reveals Santos donated $2000 to NSW Labor in January last year and $250 the following March.

“Once again Labor have been caught out taking easy money from a coal seam gas company, despite promising the public that they would not do so,” said Greens MLC Jeremy Buckingham.

“Taking money from Santos shatters Labor’s credibility when it comes to opposing coal seam gas.

“The public is tired of seeing Labor promise something in opposition and then do the bidding of their donors once they come to power. [Opposition leader] Luke Foley must return this dirty money.”

A NSW Labor spokeswoman pointed out that the most recent donations were for federal election purposes.

“NSW Labor has accepted no donations from Santos for NSW state campaigns,” she said.

In February it emerged that Santos has lodged an application to develop its controversial billion-dollar Narrabri coal seam gas project in and around the Pilliga Forest.

The Greens challenged Labor to state whether or not in power the party would tear up a production licence that might be issued by the Coalition government.

Opposition energy and resources spokesman Adam Searle said a Labor government would not do so – a position reflected in its bill promising a moratorium on coal seam gas activity.

“Any existing production lease in place will not be affected by Labor’s moratorium,” he said.

“That is why we are pressing for the bill to be passed in this Parliament and we call on all parties to support Labor’s sensible and balanced legislation that resolves this important issue”.