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Belmont video shop robbery victim speaks

SHE’S 64 and has only worked in a video shop for the past 12 months, but Lynn Becker knows an action movie sequence when she sees one.

So when a young man, brandishing a knife and wearing a balaclava, stormed Network Video at Toronto about 7.50pm on Thursday and demanded cash, she thought he was trying to emulate what he’d seen on the big screen.

“I didn’t take any notice when he came in, but then he came behind the counter and started waving the knife at me,” she said.

“He said ‘Give me the money, bitch’, just like what they see in the movies. That’s what it felt like – like he was acting out a movie.

“He wanted the money, so I took the $5, $10 and $20 [notes] out of the drawer and put them on the counter.

“He picked them up and he said, ‘Where’s the fifties?’.

“He seemed to know where they were, and once he’d found them he screamed, ‘Where’s the rest of it? Where is it?’.

“I said ‘That’s it, there’s no more’ and he pushed me and said ‘Where’s the rest of it?’.

“I fell to the ground and bruised my arm and hit my hand on something and cut it.

“I told him, ‘You’ve got it all, that’s it, there’s no more’.

“Then the phone rang and he said, ‘Don’t touch the phone, don’t answer the phone’.

“Then he left and as he was going he said, ‘Don’t ring the police’. As soon as he was gone, I locked the door and rang the police.”

It was initially thought Mrs Becker had been stabbed on the back of her hand, but the police have since ruled it out.

The offender stole about $700 from the video store, which is owned by Mrs Becker’s sister Judy and her husband Hans Szubert.

Mrs Becker said she was shaken after the incident and wasn’t sure when she would return to work.

The man is described as being about 165 centimetres tall, in his late teens and of a slim build.

Anyone with information can contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

Tristan returns to put Souths in the hunt

FULLBACK Tristan Hunt returns on a high from the Australian Country Championships to give Souths a much-needed boost in Hunter Coast Men’s Premier League Hockey tomorrow.

Hunt captained NSW Country to a dominant national titles victory in Geraldton last Saturday when they defeated tournament favourites Western Australia 6-1 in the final.

Former Souths striker Jaden Ekert, who is originally from Queensland, scored four goals for NSW, who conceded their only goal of the tournament in the decider.

It was Hunt’s first Australian Country title in nine attempts, four of which came with the Australian Defence Force.

He had led NSW to final defeat the past three years.

“It was one of the best experiences,” Hunt said.

“As a team, we were so cohesive. We had no individuals, we had lots of team players, which is what made us so unstoppable.”

Hunt will hope to stay on a high when he makes a timely return for Souths against Wests at Newcastle International Hockey Centre tomorrow from midday.

The Lions have lost their past two matches, to Norths and Gosford, and sit second on the table, one point clear of The Entrance. Norths are first and in the box-seat to take the minor premiership with three rounds remaining.

While Hunt is back tomorrow, utility Warwick Smith is out with a groin injury.

Smith played with the Australian Defence Forces in Geraldton and gained his first Australian Country call-up.

Souths regain Kyle Bosworth from suspension but John Fernance and Ben King are still overseas.

Norths take on University (3pm) at Broadmeadow, The Entrance take on Tigers (11.20am) and Maitland play Gosford (12.45pm) at Wyong.

In Women’s Premier League today at Broadmeadow,University’s Katie-Jayne Kelly returns against face Souths after playing with the triumphant NSW side at the Australian Country titles last week.

Oxfords will regain ADF representative Zalie Munro-Rustean for the game against Regals but teammate Shannon Dunn, who played for South Australia, is in doubt due to injury. Tigers play Central in the other match.

Cruel draw for Tritton 

THE luck of the draw has again abandoned Shane Tritton, but the Keinbah trainer was looking on the bright side as he prepared another double shot at a second group 1 win tomorrow at Melton.

Tritton has qualified Light In Every Day and Major Bonus for the $100,000 Victorian Breeders Crown Series final for four-year-old mares.

Major Bonus won her heat last Sunday and Light In Every Day was a creditable second, but both pacers have drawn poorly for the 12-horse decider.

Major Bonus will start from gate eight, the inside of the second line, and Light In Every Day is in seven, on the extreme outside of the front.

It comes a month after Tritton’s hopes with Suave Stuey Lombo and NSW Breeders Challenge winner Mach Beauty in the group 1 Blacks A Fake at Albion Park were cruelled by second-line draws.

Tritton, though, believed the Melton draws gave him hope.

“They have both drawn reasonably OK,” Tritton said.

“We like to go forward with Light In Every Day and she keeps drawing out the back, so she’s probably a little bit better off than she has been by drawing the outside. The other mare likes to sit on the fence and get a bit of cover.

“If they were the opposite way around, it would be a disaster, so it probably didn’t work out too bad. But we would have liked to have drawn one, that’s for sure.”

Born Again Sassy defeated Light In Every Day in the heats and drew gate one for the finals. She will be expected to lead, which should help Major Bonus into the race.

But Tritton believed Light In Every Day was his best chance.

“I don’t think there are too many mares going around better than Light In Every Day,” he said. “If she drew one, she’d probably be favourite. She’s good enough to win but keeps drawing badly. If she’s gets a bit of luck, she can win.”

The race will be one of nine group 1 races on the 10-event Melton card.

Labor boost to school music

Dandenong South Primary School students get into the music of The Song Room. Photo: Jason SouthThe gym at Dandenong South Primary is throbbing with #thatPOWER, a dance track by American recording artist will.i.am featuring teenage heart-throb Justin Bieber.

”And ooh, I’m alive, I’m alive, I’m alive … And I’m loving every Second. Minute. Hour. Bigger. Better. Stronger. POWER.”

The year 3/4 class are not children, they are robots, frowning in concentration as they punch the air in time to the beat, fists clenched. ”Show me your robot position,” shouts Colette MacLaren, a teaching artist from The Song Room, a non-profit organisation that runs arts and music programs at disadvantaged schools. The robots flex their muscles. ”From the top?” asks Miss Colette.

”Yeeeees!” screams the class, as #thatPOWER cranks up again, and the children enthusiastically repeat the routine.

”Look at the behaviour of the kids,” whispers leading teacher Angela Savaglio. ”A couple can be quite challenging (in other lessons), but you don’t see it when you come to The Song Room because they are so engaged.”

Eighty-six per cent of students at Dandenong South Primary speak English as a second language; 20 per cent of families are refugees from countries including Sudan, Albania, and Afghanistan. But right now the only language any of them speak is Bieber fever. The class chose #thatPOWER as their song and they are utterly absorbed in practising the dance they will perform at the school concert on August 27.

In 2010, an evaluation of The Song Room program by international research company Educational Transformations found students who participated improved their NAPLAN reading scores by the equivalent of an extra year at school.

The evaluation, conducted in 10 schools in highly disadvantaged areas in Western Sydney, also found 65 per cent less absenteeism, higher grades, including in science and technology, increased confidence and decreased levels of depression.

”The findings were stunning. I have been engaged in educational research for nearly four decades and I have not seen anything like it,” lead researcher Professor Brian Caldwell said.

Education Minister Bill Shorten said federal Labor was determined to address the fact that 63 per cent of Australian primary schools currently offer no classroom music.

”There’s a recognition that schools that are offering music do better overall … I think that’s the same for all performing arts,” he said in an interview with Fairfax Media. ”Schools should be about putting children in touch with their imagination.”

Mr Shorten said the federal government would invest $1.25 million in music education programs, including $600,000 for The Song Room to help it expand its school workshop program, develop its website and provide resources for the national arts curriculum.

It had also allocated $450,000 to the Music Council of Australia’s Music Count Us In program, which helps teachers develop song-writing skills and $200,000 to complete digitisation of Australian musical scores, manuscripts and recordings for use in classrooms. The funding is already included in the budget.

The announcement comes in the middle of a Victorian parliamentary inquiry into music education in Victorian schools, established amid fears some schools are sacrificing subjects such as music for NAPLAN preparation.

In a submission to the inquiry, Educational Transformations said about 700,000 students in public primary schools in Australia have no opportunities to participate in arts programs, which may be putting Australia in breach of UNESCO’s Convention on the Rights of the Child.

”UNESCO considers education in the arts to be a universal human right,” the submission says.  It says the tens of millions of dollars spent on other strategies to improve NAPLAN results have had minimal effect and there should be a reallocation of funds to support arts education – including music – for all students, with disadvantaged students the highest priority.

The inquiry is expected to publish its findings by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, Dandenong South Primary year 4 student Jessica Costa Tchu is ”waaaay” looking forward to the school concert.

Principal Leonie Fitzgerald says while it is too early to assess whether NAPLAN results at the school have increased as a result of The Song Room, there has been a measurable improvement in attendance among the participating year 1 to 4 students.

”The kids show up on Thursdays (when The Song Room classes are held) – they are never sick,” Ms Fitzgerald says. ”They are so engaged – it’s the sort of thing that makes them happy to come to school. That’s so important because if they are not here, you can’t teach them in other subject areas. There is a real flow-on effect, so it is very exciting.”

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History’s top ten teenaged talents

Tavi Gevinson’s first blog, Style Rookie, received about 30,000 visitors a day. She was interviewed by The New York Times and given front-row invites to shows at New York and Paris fashion weeks. Her opinion was sought by everyone and anyone interested in fashion.

All this was when she was 12 years old, an age when most kids are wistfully saying farewell to My Little Pony and contemplating falling in love with a member of One Direction.

At the ripe old age of 15, Chicago-born Gevinson developed a new-found maturity, put away childish things such as fashion, and founded Rookie, a wildly successful online magazine.

She also acts, has given a TED talk and, naturally, hangs out with uber-hipster Ira Glass. This week, the 17-year-old is in Australia to speak at the Opera House on the future of journalism.

If we’re lucky, she might just be given a Nobel prize soon, then retire having achieved everything humanly possible and leave the rest of us to get on with feeling old, bitter and unsuccessful.

And just when you were feeling intimidated by the outrageously smart Gevinson, here is our pick of teenage creative geniuses throughout history. This is not so much intended to inspire as to remind you that if you haven’t made it by 20, you should probably just give up trying.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-91)

Regarded by many as the greatest classical composer, Mozart wasted no time demonstrating his freakish musical talent, picking out chords on the piano at the age of three. He famously knocked out that ditty beloved of nursery mobile manufacturers everywhere, Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star, at five years old, an age when most kids are coming to terms with using a knife and fork. At 14, he penned Mitridate, re di Ponto, a three-act opera that is still performed today.

By 17, he got the gig as court musician for the ruler of Salzburg. Among other achievements before leaving his teenage years, he composed his five violin concertos, some string quartets and a series of church compositions. According to The Oxford Companion to Music, even at this age he was ”a complete master in nearly every genre and had the makings of an international reputation”.

Beyond the teens Mozart lived until only 35, when he died of a mystery illness, but his output was astonishing. Concertos, sonatas, chamber music, Masses, symphonies, operas and organ music flowed from his pen during his short life.

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)

The English poet and political theorist developed a reputation very early on as a somewhat … unusual … child. Quiet, withdrawn and bookish, he was bullied mercilessly at Eton before winning over his tormenters with pranks that included running an electric current through the door handle of his room and blowing up a tree with gunpowder. ”I could not descend to common life: the sublime interest of poetry, lofty and exalted achievements, the proselytism of the world, the equalisation of its inhabitants, were to me the soul of my soul,” he wrote of his schooldays. By 18 he had published his first gothic novel, Zastrozzi. This was followed by an anonymous book of poetry and another novel, St. Irvyne. The following year he was tossed out of his Oxford college after writing a scandalous pamphlet called The Necessity of Atheism, which was the first material printed that attacked Christianity.

Beyond the teens Shelley’s output of poetry, prose and political writing in his colourful but short life is legendary. Chambers Biographical Dictionary concludes he was an ”inspirational polemicist” and a ”poet of genius”.

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

Somehow, it seems, the painting giant skipped the finger-painting phase and went straight to knocking out masterpieces. Later, he said: ”I never drew like a child.” His father was an art teacher but, by the time Pablo hit 13, he admitted his son’s talent already overshadowed his own. At 14, he produced a significant work, Girl with Bare Feet, which astonished those around him with its maturity. That year he also blitzed the exam to get into the senior art course at La Lonja art school in Barcelona.

Beyond the teens No sign of burnout here, with Picasso going on to become one of the most influential and best-known artists of the 20th century. As he put it, with characteristic humility: ”When I was a child, my mother said to me, ‘If you become a soldier, you’ll be a general. If you become a monk, you’ll end up as the Pope.’ Instead, I became a painter and wound up as Picasso.”

Arthur Rimbaud (1854-91)

The French poet is perhaps the ultimate precocious teenager, in that he did all his writing before he was 20. When he was 16, he published his first book of poems, and also ran away from home in north-eastern France to live in Paris, where he became part of the decadent movement (and, frankly, if you have to join a movement, this sounds like the one to join). According to Chambers Biographical Dictionary, he devoted this part of his teenage years to ”leisure, drinking and bawdy conversation”.

He was 17 when he began an affair with Paul Verlaine, another poet 10 years his senior. Things got a bit messy when Rimbaud tried telling Verlaine ”it’s not you, it’s me”, and Verlaine shot him in the hand (he was subsequently jailed for attempted murder). The shot in the hand also proved a shot in the arm for Rimbaud’s writing, and many of his greatest works come from this period.

Beyond the teens Rimbaud famously quit all forms of writing at age 20 in favour of travelling the world as an explorer, soldier and sometime gun runner. At 37, he contracted a leg infection and died after the limb was amputated.

Vaslav Nijinsky (1890-1950)

The greatest male dancer of the past century was knocking the socks of balletomanes before he turned 10. Born in Ukraine, his parents were noted dancers. His father in particular was admired for his leaping ability, something that later became Nijinsky’s trademark. He was nine when he started at St Petersburg’s Imperial Ballet School. A high-spirited lad (he was once expelled after an unfortunate incident involving a catapult and the hats of passers-by), he got through school largely on his astonishing dancing ability. By 17 he was a soloist at the Mariinsky Theatre, appearing in classics such as Swan Lake and The Sleeping Beauty.

Beyond the teens Nijinsky went on to become a ballet superstar, in particular as the leading dancer in Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes. He had a famously complicated and turbulent private life and left the stage aged just 29, when he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

Judy Garland (1922-69)

According to Garland (nee Frances Ethel Gumm), she was ”born at the age of 12 on a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer lot”. But even by that tender age, the kid from Grand Rapids, Minnesota, was already a stage veteran. At just 2½ years old, her obsession with performing was apparent when she sang Jingle Bells at her father’s theatre and had to be physically removed after the seventh rendition of the song. As a youngster she went on to tour and make several movies with her siblings as the Gumm Sisters. She was snapped up by MGM and made several musicals with Mickey Rooney before being cast in The Wizard of Oz in 1939. She was just 16 when she won an Oscar for her portrayal of Dorothy Gale in what was to be regarded as one of the greatest musicals. By 18 she was already under the care of a psychiatrist.

Beyond the teens Garland’s well-documented battle with booze, drugs and depression began almost immediately after The Wizard of Oz. But despite her personal torments, she went on to make movies including Meet Me in St Louis, Easter Parade and A Star Is Born. She overdosed on barbiturates in London aged 47.

Anne Frank (1929-45)

When one considers precociously talented teenagers throughout history, it is impossible to ignore the work and tragic life of Anne Frank. Frank was 13 when her father gave her the book in which she wrote the diary that was to become her memorial. Shortly after that, the family was forced to hide themselves in a secret suite at the back of an Amsterdam office. They were betrayed less than two years later, and Anne died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. When the diary was discovered and published after the war, it became one of the most significant works dealing with the Holocaust. The maturity and insight of Frank’s writings have made the work a classic, read by millions. There is much unintended pathos in her diary, such as this fragment: ”I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.” One can only speculate what she might have gone on to achieve had she not been murdered at the age of 15.

Keith Jarrett (1945-)

One of the greatest-living jazz pianists, Jarrett wasted no time starting his career; he began taking piano lessons aged three. Even then he showed a remarkable aptitude for the instrument. He also had perfect pitch (the ability to recognise and name individual notes with no reference pitch). He began composing almost straight away and at six he played his first complete concert, which included two of his own compositions. At nine, he had a gig at Madison Square Garden and by his early teens he was getting professional engagements. To this point, Jarrett’s focus had been on the classical repertoire and in his mid-teens he was offered the chance to study in France with legendary composer and teacher Nadia Boulanger, which he turned down in favour of a jazz career.

Beyond the teens Jarrett went on to play with jazz royalty, including Miles Davis and Art Blakey, as well as leading many other ensembles of his own. He is also famous for his solo improvised performances, including the ground-breaking Koln Concert, the best-selling recording of solo piano music.

Stevie Wonder (1950- )

At 11, most children make extra pocket money with a paper round. By that age, young Steveland Judkins Wonder had already signed for Motown Records. Born in Michigan, Wonder was a premature baby and an incubator accident left him permanently blind. Not that his disability held him back. Just to underline his prodigious early talent, his first album (released when he was 13) was titled Recorded Live: The 12-Year-Old Genius. The Berry Gordy-produced album went to the top of the Billboard chart as did the single Fingertips.

While still a teenager, Wonder recorded smash hits including For Once in My Life and Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Your’s. He also wrote Tears of a Clown, which became the signature song for Smokey Robinson.

Beyond the teens Wonder’s post-prodigy career has been punctuated by massive hits and a willingness to experiment with different genres beyond soul music. Tracks such as Sir Duke (with its catchy horn riff that has bedevilled generations of school bands) and Superstition more than made up for kitschy outings such as I Just Called to Say I Love You.

Kate Bush (1958-)

Like so many 13-year-olds, Kate Bush spent a lot of time writing her own poetry and lyrics. Unlike most 13-year-olds, her adolescent scribblings were rather good. In fact, as it turned out, they were extraordinarily accomplished. At the age of 14, she met Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, who was impressed by the teenager with the unique voice and recorded some songs with her at his home studio. She signed to EMI shortly after that and was on top of the British charts at the age of 19 with her debut release, Wuthering Heights, which, depending on your viewpoint, is a classic pop song of romantic genius, or one of the most irritating earworms ever released.

Beyond the teens Bush has proved to be anything but a one-hit wonder. Her songs have featured in the British top 40 on 25 occasions. She was also the first female solo artist to have an album go straight to No.1 in Britain. Earlier this year, she was made a CBE for services to music.

Tavi Gevinson will speak at the Opera House on Sunday.

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Mills happy to pass on NBA lessons

Australian basketballers Lauren Jackson and Patrick Mills will play in Canberra on Sunday. Photo: Rohan ThomsonAction Jackson finds form

He has been schooled by some NBA greats, now Canberra point guard Patty Mills wants to ensure the Australian Boomers are the major beneficiaries of those lessons.

A bench player at San Antonio for the past two years, Mills’ basketball education has been accelerated by Spurs ”big three” Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli.

Their mentorship is helping him adjust from NBA role player to the Boomers ”go-to” man for game two of the Oceania championship against New Zealand in Canberra on Sunday.

”I’ve created a level of friendship with those guys that’s pretty close, and they’ve shared some stuff I wouldn’t be able to get anywhere else,” Mills said.

”Two years with the Spurs and playing the NBA finals, what I’m looking to do now is play games where I can put in place what I’ve learned. These two games for the Boomers is the first place to do that.”

Australia overcame a scare against New Zealand in its 70-59 game-one win at Auckland on Wednesday, rallying from seven points down at half-time.

Mills has transformed from student to teacher at the Boomers.

The 25-year-old has taken exciting teenagers Ben Simmons and Dante Exum under his wing, and both showed promising signs in game one.

”I still look to guys like Tony and Manu and how they lead, I’m always taking mental notes on how they do that,” he said.

”This is just another chance for me to take what I’ve learned from the NBA and put it into work here.

”Dante and Benny are bringing a whole new level of energy, we saw that in the first game.

”I can teach those guys what I’ve learned and the experiences I’ve been through, hopefully they get a bit out of it.”

Guard Exum is tipped to be a top-10 pick in next year’s NBA draft should he decide to bypass the US college system.

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Action Jackson finds form

Australian basketballers Lauren Jackson and Patrick Mills will play in Canberra on Sunday. Photo: Rohan Thomson Sport.Australian Boomers’ Patrick Mills and Opals’ Lauren Jackson ahead of their games against NZ on Sunday.Filed: Friday, 16 August 2013 4:03:16 PM Photo by Rohan Thomson, The Canberra Timesrt130816LaurenPatrick-9641.jpg Photo: [email protected]

Mills happy to pass on NBA lessons

After ending a year of injury hell with a superb performance, a wave of relief washed over Australian Opals superstar Lauren Jackson.

In her comeback from 10 months out with a hamstring problem, Jackson racked up 22 points to steer the Opals to a 66-50 win over New Zealand on Wednesday. The centre was the major difference between the two sides, quashing any doubts she could return to her dominant best.

She is hoping to build on her remarkable comeback when the Opals attempt to sew up a World Cup berth in game two of the Oceania championships in Canberra on Sunday.

”It was the first game in 10 months I think it’s been, it was definitely a sense of relief,” she said.

”I was so happy to get through it and get it done. I feel great physically and haven’t felt this pain-free in so long.

”I’m well aware I need to focus on my fitness, that’s going to come.”

Asked if she was surprised by her immediate impact Jackson replied ”Not really. Brendan [Joyce, Opals coach] has been great. He’s been getting me back on court slowly and I gradually started feeling better about myself, and my game. I didn’t feel underprepared at all.”

Jackson’s stellar display in Auckland was a stinging reminder to the Canberra Capitals what they’ve lost after negotiations for her to play in the upcoming WNBL season fell through.

The 32-year-old was due to begin a $1 million, three-season deal with the Capitals in 2012-13, but injury prevented her from playing a single game.

She was keen to alter her contract to play this season, but terminated negotiations after the Capitals failed to meet a final deadline.

The Opals centre will only get better as Australia prepares for next year’s World Cup in Spain, where the team will look to atone for a worst-ever fifth placing four years ago.

”Obviously that was a disappointment, but it also gave us a chance to reflect on it and figure out the things we need to do better,” Jackson said.

”So much has happened since then, and it’s time to move forward.”

Joyce expects Jackson to take her game to a new level once she adapts to a new-look Opals squad which has played just four games together.

”I think physically and mentally she needed a break, and it’s always tough to get back into it,” he said.

”It’s just pleasing to see her play so well. Lauren and the team haven’t had a lot of time together and it was a great performance.”

They may have missed out on Jackson, but the strong Opals return from Natalie Hurst in game one was an upside for the Capitals.

The club favourite will return this season, and made a statement with 12 points after missing last year’s Olympics squad.

Joyce is an unabashed fan, giving the point guard hope she can revive her international career.

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With Goliath gone, what will become of David’s United?

If Manchester United perform as well in their start to life in the English Premier League without Alex Ferguson as they appear to have done in the transfer market, then they could trot out for their sixth game of the season, at home to West Brom on September 28, with just three or four points and in the bottom half of the table.

There is time for United to dig deep and add Geoffrey Kondogbia in midfield or Leighton Baines at left-back. There is even time for United to sell Wayne Rooney for a king’s ransom and replace him with Marouane Fellaini or, better still, Wesley Sneijder. But no matter how they perform between now and September 2 when the market closes, United’s choices over the past few weeks seem ill-advised.

Thiago was there for the taking; he’d been a long-term project and United met the player’s father plus his representative, Pere Guardiola. The club did its research about the young man it was proposing to buy – I was a small part of that process. Two different Manchester United people involved in trying to secure Thiago called me and asked about my knowledge of the player, his attitude, his potential and his lifestyle off the pitch.

Wages were fine but the terms that Mazinho and Guardiola wanted, (a fixed-price get-out clause if Thiago wasn’t playing regularly enough) and how to approach the complicated financial situation around the stated buy-out clause in his Barcelona contract, slowed things sufficiently for two things to happen.

First, David Moyes began to assert himself and let United know that while the club had been coveting Thiago for nearly three years, the Italian-born Spaniard of Brazilian parentage (what a playing DNA that is!) wasn’t his top priority.

Second, Pep Guardiola followed up on a phone call he had made to his former pupil, Thiago, four weeks earlier and persuaded Spain’s under-21 European Championship -winning captain to join the European club champion.

Then there is Cesc Fabregas. In late May, Ryan Giggs knew, and was happy to share, that the Spanish World Cup winner was not only United’s No.1 target, he was most likely coming. We are now in mid-August. No Cesc. United haven’t quite given up and, I suppose, when I witnessed Mo Johnston pose with a Celtic shirt at Parkhead one day and then sign for Rangers a couple of nights later, you have to admit that anything can happen.

But from the outset it has appeared that Ed Woodward, replacing United’s market expert David Gill, and Moyes have been fed red (and white) herrings.

Told by Fabregas’ agent Darren Dein and by Robin van Persie that the player wanted a move to Old Trafford, I guess you have to roll your sleeves up and try.

You prepare your finances, you check your sources, you bid. But when the selling club says ”no” over and again and when the player makes no public acknowledgment that he might be open to the move, instead twice knocking the subject out of the park when interviewed about it, then you begin to suspect your initial information.

A week ago Fabregas announced: ”My dream has always been to play at Barca and nothing has changed. I’m very, very happy here and I never thought about leaving.” Players have been known to be economical with the truth, but those aren’t the words to repay United for three bids plus their briefing that the Catalan remains their top priority.

This hasn’t been a great start. It’s also worth pointing out that if the club wanted Thiago and Moyes wanted Fabregas, they patently think United are short in the attacking-midfield department. Just as fate has handed Moyes three thorny player situations, the EPL computer has had a little malevolent cackle at his expense. If microchips could speak this one said: ”So you fancy taking over from Fergie do you?”

Game one, Swansea away, is loseable. Michael Laudrup has bought so well that South Wales will have many party nights this season. From then until West Brom, United have Chelsea at Old Trafford plus Liverpool and Manchester City away.

If things go badly, the visit of Crystal Palace in the middle of it all could be the only safe three points. City have done early and high-quality business; they are stronger and more unified, too.

Chelsea, pining for Rooney, have only moderately improved thus far and I have no doubt whatsoever that they offered United, verbally, a chance to put either David Luiz or Juan Mata, or both, in the Rooney deal they were trying to construct.

Yet Jose Mourinho should benefit from being out of the hornets’ nest he created at Madrid. He’ll know his way around. Moyes knows he will be constantly under the magnifying glass. While the pre-season matches, including the 3-1 home defeat to Sevilla that showed how to pass the ball, have been underwhelming, it’s true that he’s been working his players terrifically hard (with many double sessions) and there will come a moment when that kicks in.

Moyes and United give the impression that it would be healthier for them if the league started in three or four weeks – match fitness refined, off-pitch homework completed. But the club has a shrewd, resourceful, and determined man in charge. Should England’s champions start badly then many in the media and in the stands will shout ”Panic! Disaster!”. He won’t and nor should he.

Mike Phelan, Rene Meulensteen and Eric Steele, the three central coaches under Ferguson, all left the club in the summer. They have been replaced by Steve Round, Jimmy Lumsden and Chris Woods, while Phil Neville and Giggs have also been given coaching roles.

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Zwaanswijk backs Jaliens to lift Jets

PATRICK Zwaanswijk crossed paths with new Jets defender and fellow Dutchman Kew Jaliens many times during their playing careers in Holland.

Zwaanswijk, 38, spent more than a decade at Utrecht (1998-2004) and NAC Breda (2005-10) before joining the Central Coast Mariners.

Jaliens, four years Zwaanswijk’s junior, spent a similar period at Sparta Rotterdam (1997-99), Willem II (1999-2004) and AZ Alkmaar (2004-11).

Now, after a two-year stopover in Poland, Jaliens is about to venture Down Under and spearhead the Jets defence.

Zwaanswijk retired after the Mariners’ grand final success this year and is regarded as one of best imports to grace the A-League.

He has no doubt Jaliens has the pedigree to be a hit.

‘‘He has always been a strong defender,’’ said Zwaanswijk, who is now the Mariners’ head of youth and community football.

‘‘When I played him he was more a right fullback. In the national team he played there, but at times he played central defence at AZ.

‘‘His motivation will be the key.

‘‘In the past there has been players from all different countries who came here for a holiday and did not get to the standards of the past. Knowing Kew, I’m sure that won’t be a problem for him.’’

Zwaanswijk admitted he initially struggled in Australia and believed the biggest challenge for Jaliens would be adjusting his mentality.

‘‘In Europe, it is a bit higher level tactically, the way we play the game.

‘‘Here you have to be patient and be positive with the players. Not all are at that pedigree that you used to play with.

‘‘In the beginning I got frustrated, but in a good way. I wanted more from the players. I had a good mentor in Arnie [Graham Arnold]. He explained they weren’t there yet and he needed my experience at the back as a leader to help them get to the next level. That is the role of an import, in my view.

‘‘The league is growing and getting to a really good level. It is not a Mickey Mouse competition. Technically it is going up, and that is where we need the foreign players to be an asset.

‘‘Kew was coached by Louis van Gaal and has had great coaches in the past.

‘‘He knows total football. He knows that Dutchy [Jets coach Gary van Egmond] wants to play football out from the back and is one who can lead from the back.’’

● Emerging Jets striker Cameron Joice has been named in a 20-man Australian under-16 side for the ASEAN Championships in Myanmar.The tournament is the start of the Joeys’ build-up to the 2015 FIFA Under-17 World Cup.

Kew Jaliens.

Tasman trip for Speers Point gay couple

MONDAY is the big day for Speers Point’s Trent Kandler and Paul McCarthy, who will be among the first same-sex couples to marry in New Zealand.

SET FOR VOWS: Trent Kandler, left, and Paul McCarthy. Picture: Dominion Post

Same-sex marriage becomes legal next week, and Mr Kandler, a teacher, and Mr McCarthy, a vet, will wed at Te Papa national museum in Wellington from 9am.

It will be one of the country’s first gay marriages since the Marriage Amendment Bill passed.

Thirty-one same-sex couples, including six from Wellington, 14 from Auckland, one in Manukau, six in Christchurch and four in Rotorua, have told Births, Deaths and Marriages they intend to wed on Monday.

Mr Kandler and Mr McCarthy’s whirlwind wedding is the result of a last-minute entry into a tourism campaign, which offered an all-expenses paid trip for a same-sex couple to the Kiwi capital.

“We’re doing it to show our love for each other and we’re doing it really because we don’t have the opportunity back home, not even for a civil union,” Mr McCarthy said.

However, the flow of same-sex tourism from across the ditch may be brief, with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announcing this week that he was throwing his support behind marriage equality.

By then, Mr Kandler and Mr McCarthy, who got engaged two years ago, were already about to wing their way to New Zealand.

They felt sure many other Australians would follow their footsteps down the aisle, regardless of law changes at home.

They will proudly don pink ties to match their bridesmaids’ dresses on the special day, Mr McCarthy said.

A threefold leap in the number of marriage licence application forms downloaded overseas in just four days has taken New Zealand’s Department of Internal Affairs staff by surprise.

A total of 172 application forms had been downloaded by people from all over the globe between Monday and Thursday this week, including 19 for civil unions.

Almost half came from Australia.

Births Deaths and Marriages registrar-general Jeff Montgomery said registrars reported that same-sex couples had lined up outside registry offices nationwide yesterday to pick up marriage licences.

“They were really excited, congratulating each other,” he said.