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Jobs surge pushes dollar to near parity

A new surge in jobs pushed the Australian dollar towards record highs on Thursday as traders bet on a swift rise in interest rates.

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Official data showed Australia’s mining-powered economy added a higher-than-expected 49,500 workers to reach 11.3 million in September, holding the jobless rate steady at 5.1 percent.

The Australian dollar rose more than half a US cent to breachits previous post-1983 float record of 98.48, at one point reaching as high as 99.2 US cents, reports said.

A Sydney-based trader told AFP the dollar was testing parity with the greenback.

“It’s been an extremely intense up-trend against the US (dollar),” said the trader, who did not want to be named.

Soon after 7.30pm, the Aussie had settled back down to 98.9 US cents, according to leading currency conversion site xe南宁桑拿会所,.

Pressure still on RBA

Economists said the Reserve Bank of Australia, which surprised markets by leaving rates at 4.50 percent on Tuesday, was now more likely to lift them next month to contain inflation.

“It will certainly make the Reserve Bank more nervous about not acting on their tightening bias for too long,” said Citi economist Paul Brennan.

“It’s definitely now more likely they will feel compelled to act on their tightening bias in November.”

Nomura Australia chief economist Stephen Roberts says the data raises concerns of capacity constraints and inflation, and it could lead the Reserve Bank to be back hiking interest rates in

November or December.

JP Morgan chief economist Stephen Walters says Australia is pretty much at full employment, so the big risk from here is wages growth picking up and adding to inflation pressures.

He predicts the central bank will raise the cash rate from 4.5 per cent to 4.75 per cent.

‘It was the stimulus’

The government hailed the jobs figures as an endorsement of its economic record, which includes helping the country avoid recession in the financial crisis with $70b in stimulus spending.

“What we are seeing is the Australian government stimulus plan really bringing home for Australians job opportunities and strong employment growth and that’s to be celebrated,” Jobs Minister Chris Evans said.

Unemployment has not been higher than 5.5 percent all year, contrasting with current figures of 9.6 percent and 10 percent respectively for the United States and Europe.

Australia’s annual growth is running at about 3.3 percent, powered by strong coal and iron ore exports to Asian countries including fast-growing China.

Australia was the first G20 country to take its foot off the stimulus pedal in October, lifting rates six times before pausing in May over renewed global turmoil.

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Malaria deaths hugely undercounted: Report

Malaria kills more than 200,000 people in India each year, 13 times higher than UN estimates, according to a paper published online Thursday by The Lancet.

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The UN’s World Health Organisation (WHO) says that the malarial death toll in India, the most populous country where the disease is endemic, is around 15,000 annually, comprising 5,000 children and 10,000 adults, reports AFP.

But the new study says the WHO’s reporting method is flawed, as it depends indirectly on patients who have been diagnosed by a doctor.

Many deaths in India occur at home, rather than in a hospital or a clinic, which means the underlying cause of many malaria fatalities is likely to be misattributed, it says.

Investigators sent out field workers to 6,671 randomly-selected areas of India to interview relatives or careworkers of 122,000 people who had died between 2001 and 2003.

The field workers sent back a half-page report on each case as well as answers to specific questions which were asked if the individual had died of a fever, AFP reported.

This data was then analysed separately by two physicians, who each gave an independent opinion of the underlying cause of death. A review board adjudicated in cases where there was a dispute.

Rural areas hit hardest

The doctors determined that 3.6 percent of deaths they attributed among people aged one month to 70 years occurred from malaria. Ninety percent of these happened in rural areas and 86 percent occurred outside of a health-care facility.

The fatality estimates coincided geographically with local transmission rates compiled by the Indian malarial control programme, they found.

Extrapolated nationwide, malaria kills 205,000 people a year before the age of 70, comprising 55,000 in early childhood, 30,000 at ages five to 14 and 120,000 at ages 15 to 69, according to the report.

The authors say the WHO may also hugely underestimate the toll of malaria in other countries, which would have big repercussions for health policy.

“If WHO estimates of malaria deaths in India or among adults worldwide are likely to be serious underestimates, this could substantially change disease control strategies, particularly in the rural parts of states with high malaria burden.”

According to the WHO’s website, “nearly one million” people died from malaria in 2008, most of them African children.

In an interview with the BBC, the WHO said it had some doubts on the methods used for the paper published in the Lancet.

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Pool bans skimpy outfits for Ramadan

An official directive for swimmers to “cover up” at a Melbourne swimming pool has drawn criticism from many who say it’s restrictive and unfair.

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A group of Muslim swimming enthusiasts has successfully requested the ban on skimpy outfits to coincide with Ramadan next year.

In multi-cultural Dandenong, east of Melbourne, many residents hail from land-locked African nations.

There’s a strong push to increase water safety awareness after a spate of drownings in the community.

But it hasn’t stopped criticism of an inter-faith women’s swim group which called for a temporary “dress code.”

Some residents are angered that they are being asked to cover up.

But others are disappointed at such a reaction, after organisers were trying to organise the event to foster tolerence and harmony within the community.

Dandenong Council sought the exemption from the equal opportunity act to allow for the restriction during Ramadan, and it’s been granted by Victoria’s Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

The Mayor of Dandenong says it’s not such a big deal.

“The dress code is t-shirt and board shorts. It’s covering the shoulders and covering the knees. Most people dress in board shorts and t-shirts every day.”

The restriction would apply only in August of next year, for two hours in the evening, for one night.

A Liberty Victoria spokesperson said the outcry is overblown.

“It’s a religious event. They’re imposing a dress code as all sorts of people do in all sorts of situations – there’s really nothing remarkable about this.”

Melbourne’s Muslim community remains divided on the restriction.

Some say there should not be restrictions on non-Muslims, while others including Baha Yehia are keen to leave the decision-making to the organisers.

“As organisers, they’re the ones who set the rules, and if they see that it’s in their interest to have these rules, then they know best.”

The ban applies to those aged 10 and over.

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NRL agent ’emotional’ after charge dropped

Emotional NRL player agent Paul Sutton is extremely relieved to be reprieved from a manslaughter trial but feels for the deceased man’s family, his lawyer says.

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The prosecution withdrew its manslaughter charge against Mr Sutton on the third day of his trial in the Brisbane Supreme Court after conceding they were unable to prove he wasn’t acting in self defence.

The Crown had argued Mr Sutton used unreasonable force by throwing 43-year-old former bush jockey Shaun Miles to the ground during an altercation in a Kingaroy pub in May 2013.

The court was told tensions rose when Mr Miles thought he heard Mr Sutton make a disparaging comment about the attractiveness of local women, and swung a punch at him in the hotel’s beer garden.

Mr Miles suffered a skull fracture when his head hit the concrete ground and despite being able to walk out of the hotel unassisted, he was later found dead near his home.

However the charge was withdrawn after Justice Martin Burns raised concerns about the Crown’s ability to prove to the jury that Mr Sutton wasn’t acting in self defence.

Emotions were running high outside the court after the trial was discontinued.

“It’s a very trying time for my client and the family of the deceased,” lawyer Paul McGirr said.

“Out the front of the court the family very fairly hugged my client and said they never wanted it to go this far.

“It’s just a tragedy.

“He (Mr Sutton) never meant to do what he did … he was always acting in self defence but still feels for the deceased and the family.”

Mr Sutton manages a number of NRL players including Manly’s Kieran Foran and St George Illawarra’s Josh Dugan.

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‘Nowhere to hide’ for AFL’s Lions, Suns

Queensland’s big wet means there will be nowhere to hide for the state’s two winless AFL teams on Saturday.

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The Gold Coast Suns and Brisbane Lions face off in the ninth edition of the QClash at Metricon Stadium – a match that, if anything, has been made significantly more appealing by south-east Queensland’s recent downpour.

What loomed as a slapstick meeting between arguably the AFL’s two biggest disappointments should now serve as a true measurement of their desire.

Up to 200mm of rain is expected to pelt the region prior to the first bounce – and while conditions should ease from then on, Suns coach Rodney Eade anticipates a “game of attrition”.

“It probably changes the way you play a little bit,” he said.

“It becomes a real grind as a game, and obviously both teams are desperate for a win, so you imagine it’d be that sort of game anyway even if it’s dry.

“The weather just adds another element to that.

“There’s going to be more contests and (the game will be) played between the ears.

“There isn’t anywhere to hide so it sharpens the focus on it.”

Eade’s counterpart, Lions coach Justin Leppitsch, described wet weather football as the “purest” form of the game earlier in the week.

It comes almost as a blessing in disguise for two sides that, while decimated by injury, have still badly let down their supporters over the first month of the season.

Eade said he has never coached a side with as much inexperience as the one named by the Suns, which features two debutants in Henry Schade and Josh Glenn.

“(But) even if you’re 17 or 31, you’ve got control over the way you go about a contest,” he said.

“You mightn’t play well and you might make mistakes, which inexperience can do.

“But it’s about the way you apply yourself.

“I think the name of the team is irrelevant this week, it’s the way we go about it.”

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Meninga backs Fiji’s NSW Cup push

Mal Meninga has backed Fiji’s push to enter a team in the NSW Cup, saying Papua New Guinea’s presence in Queensland’s Intrust Super Cup has done wonders for the development of the game.

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Fiji will take on the PNG Kumuls in the first of two Pacific Test matches on the Gold Coast on Saturday, with the Fijians heavy favourites to take out the inaugural Melanesian Cup.

But the Kumuls have a distinct advantage since many of their players play together for the PNG Hunters, who were accepted into the Intrust Super Cup competition last year and have been a raging success.

For years Fiji Rugby League has been advocating for a similar opportunity in NSW, with Queensland and Kangaroos legend Petero Civoniceva – a proud Fijian – this week revealing he is behind a renewed push for a license to compete in 2016.

PNG coach Meninga said he would love to see it happen.

“The Hunters program is probably a typical example of what will happen if you get a national team playing in an Australian competition at the second-tier level,” Meninga said.

“It’s had enormous benefit for rugby league in Papua New Guinea with the Hunters and whilst they didn’t make the finals last year they certainly had a huge following.

“It’s unheard of in the Intrust Super Cup to have thousands of people there watching a game every weekend, so this is the sort of interest the players have generated.

“But just from a pure development point of view up there, the players have become better players, they’ve got a greater understanding of the game, a greater understanding of what it takes to get to the top and then it creates some aspirations among their people up there.

“That’s what I think we should be working towards and trying to improve and propagate rugby league in the Pacific through those vehicles.”

Fiji coach Rick Stone said a NSW Cup slot was a recommendation of his following the nation’s involvement in the 2013 Rugby League World Cup.

“A Fiji team in the NSW Cup coming to Sydney every second week and a team going over to Fiji would hopefully make an inroad into rugby union,” he said.

“I think there possibly could be some players happy to cross over and come to Sydney every second week and showcase their talents and possibly get an opportunity to go to another level.”

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Richmond turn to top-tier draftees

Richmond will call upon a string of Tigers old and new to rid themselves of poor form and their biggest AFL bogeyman.

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In giving a debut to Corey Ellis on Saturday against Geelong, Richmond are fielding eight of their past nine first-round draft picks.

Only Reece Conca is missing from the elite Tigers group, and he could return next week by proving his fitness in his first VFL match of the season on Saturday.

It’s an almost unprecedented situation – though even more remarkable is that none of them have ever played in a team that’s beaten the Cats.

In 10 straight matches dating back to 2007 the Cats have beaten Richmond, and some of them have been absolute doozies.

Of Saturday’s team, only Chris Newman knows what it’s like to beat the Cats in a Richmond guernsey.

Returning defender Troy Chaplin beat Geelong while at Port Adelaide and hopes the injection of youth can help the Tigers beat their curse.

Chaplin was wary of talking up Ellis before he took the field, but said Tigers fans could expect to see shades of the Collingwood captain in their No.32.

“He’s an inside player, very smooth … very similar to (Scott) Pendlebury in the way he moves,” he told radio station SEN.

“If he can be half the player Scotty Pendlebury is we’ll be rapt.”

Richmond have endured a week of criticism in the wake of their loss to Melbourne.

In a season where many expected the Tigers to go a step further than their eighth-placed finish in 2014, they currently find themselves 2-2 and stuck outside the top eight.

But Chaplin said the club’s policy was to continue blooding youngsters before loading up in future years.

“They were always going to go to the draft this year because I don’t think there was much in the free agency pool,” he said.

“They wanted to inject youth so that’s what they did.

“I’ve got no doubt they’ll look at free agency this year and next year.

“What that missing piece is, that’s up to the list management guys and coaches to decide.”

Chaplin said the group was from panicking after their start to the season, saying the players were level-headed.

“Our two games we’ve lost we’ve played poorly,” he said.

“People expected us to win those games but this year it’s going to be very even.”

But despite their dreadful recent record against Geelong, Richmond were backed into favouritism on Friday against Geelong, whose only win to date this year was an unconvincing effort at home against hapless Gold Coast.

The Cats have been forced to turn again to ruckman Dawson Simpson, with talls Rhys Stanley and Mitch Clark both out due to injury.

EIGHT SEASONS OF TIGER FIRST-ROUND PICKS

2014 – Corey Ellis (pick No.12)

2013 – Ben Lennon (No.12)

2012 – Nick Vlastuin (No.9)

2011 – Brandon Ellis (No.15)

2009 – Dustin Martin (No.3)

2008 – Ty Vickery (No.8)

2007 – Trent Cotchin (No.2)

2006 – Jack Riewoldt (No.13)

Missing – 2010 – Reece Conca (No.6)

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Nepal’s ‘miracle baby’ becomes symbol of hope in devastated nation

Incredible photos have emerged of the moment an infant, now known as the miracle baby, was pulled from the wreckage of a building in Nepal.

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After being buried under the rubble for more than 22 hours, amazingly, baby Sonit Awal was found alive and healthy.

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CNN reported that the baby’s mother, Rasmila Awal, was out shopping and had just returned home when the earthquake struck. She watched on as the building collapsed, knowing her children were inside.

“I had very little hope that they had survived,” told CNN.

But after two hours her 10-year-old daughter Soniya was found alive.

“We started digging out our little girl, and when she came out we kept searching for the boy.”

The Nepalese army arrived to help with the search and rescue effort but by late that evening the baby was still missing. The family went to sleep in a nearby field, but never gave up hope. They returned to the wreckage the next morning where they heard a faint cry beneath the debris. 

“We heard a voice, that’s when we were assured that the little boy was alive. After hearing the voice, we started digging again,” she told CNN.

The Nepalese army were back to help with search and eventually one solider pulled the infant from the rubble.

Rasmila Awal said her neighbour told her it was destiny.

“[She said] If he is destined to live, he will or else god will take him away.”  

 

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Senator raises downloading frustration

Labor senator Jacinta Collins freely admits to being a relatively frustrated consumer of online content.

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And she was happy to share her frustration with representatives from the music, television and film industries, telling them at a Senate inquiry hearing on Friday there’s not enough access to legal downloading sites.

The inquiry is examining new online copyright laws which will allow rights-holders to seek a court injunction forcing internet service providers to block access to piracy websites hosted overseas.

The changes are crucial, industry representatives argue.

Recalling her own experience, Senator Collins mentioned attempts to find more episodes of the TV show Rome.

Her daughter piped up and told her “Oh, I can pirate it for you”, she told the hearing in Sydney.

“Just the complexity of finding another legal site and the time involved in downloading builds a level of frustration with the legitimate services,” the senator said, noting politicians often have to find content at strange times and locations given their job.

Foxtel’s Bruce Meagher conceded it was an issue and the pay-tv provider was working to make its content more accessible to consumers.

“There is a journey that we’re on,” he said.

“We’re not there yet. But we’re certainly doing everything we can to try and address those sorts of issues.”

Senator Collins said there was a sense of entitlement, especially amongst young people, to online content.

Industry representatives pointed the inquiry to a site – digitialcontentguide广西桑拿,广西桑拿网, – where safe and licensed content could be accessed.

Brett Cottle, from Music Rights Australia, told the inquiry the music industry had been waiting a long time for legislation in the face of a two-decade-long “assault” on their rights.

The 80,000 Australian songwriters and composers he represents had seen their livelihoods threatened and in many cases “decimated by the digital onslaught”.

Senators were told the legislation was not a silver bullet and would need some tweaking but it was a necessary start.

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Pakistan accept terms to elect Indian rival

Patel was elected unopposed as the AFC VP from the seven-nation South Asia (SAFF) block in Bahrain on Thursday after Pakistan’s soccer head Faisal Saleh Hayat withdrew in the final hours.

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With Pakistan, who played only two matches in 2014, knocked out of joint 2018 World Cup and 2019 Asian Cup qualifying in the first round by Yemen they faced a long spell in the international wilderness. Not any more.

“We’ve had an offer from the Football Association of Maldives for a tournament there,” Pakistan Football Federation marketing official Sardar Naveed told the Dawn newspaper after Patel was elected.

“Similarly, Bangladesh Football Federation chief Kazi Salahuddin has agreed to a three-match series there in July.”

Naveed said they had also been assured that three Pakistan players would be involved in next season’s Indian Super League, despite broken promises on that happening for the inaugural campaign last term.

There was also talk of a two-match bilateral series between the old foes, who have fought three wars and endure an uneasy truce, starting in early next year.

India, dubbed the “sleeping giant” of world football by FIFA president Sepp Blatter, also only played two internationals in 2014 but Patel has the benefit of guaranteed matches and television rights money in the offing after his side beat Nepal to make the second round of the dual qualifying tournament.

They have been drawn in group D alongside Iran, Oman, Turkmenistan and Guam with the prospect of further games thereafter with the new revamped qualifying process introduced by the AFC.

(Writing by Patrick Johnston in Singapore; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

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Living veterans a priority: Lambie

Australia should have spent less on Anzac centenary commemorations and more on supporting its living veterans, Senator Jacqui Lambie says.

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The Commonwealth is reported to have spent some $400 million marking 100 years since forces landed at Gallipoli and while Senator Lambie concedes it was an important event, she said the money could have been better directed.

“We did overspend that money and some of that money could have been better placed for the homeless veterans and the veterans,” she told reporters in Hobart on Friday.

Senator Lambie recounted the story of a soldier suffering post traumatic stress disorder who was refused treatment at a facility where half the beds are empty because there isn’t enough funding.

In partnership with fellow independent senator Nick Xenophon, Senator Lambie on Friday announced plans for a reform of defence entitlements through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“We’re still not doing anything about the veterans’ suicide rate and the attempted suicide rate and the homelessness,” she said.

“I will respect the dead … but myself and Nick will continue to fight like hell for the living.”

Senator Xenophon said the federal government set aside some $325 million “or more” for Anzac Day 2015, to fund “appropriate” commemorations.

“I’m not quibbling with that amount but I am concerned that just as it’s appropriate for us to honour the fallen, we need to make sure that we help those who are broken and living, get back on their feet,” he said, standing beside Senator Lambie.

“If we can find hundreds of millions of dollars for the Anzac commemoration … I am concerned there doesn’t seem to be enough money for veterans who are suffering quite deeply.”

The pair also called for a royal commission into defence force abuse, announcing that within months they will put draft legislation to the Senate.

The government’s Defence Abuse Response Taskforce had started to address some problems but more needs to be done, Senator Lambie said.

“The victims out there, they don’t want a small amount of (compensation) they want their predators held responsible for their actions and some of those predators are still serving in our defence force,” she said.

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Illegally bought $30m mansion sold as 100 similar cases investigated

A $30 million mansion overlooking Sydney’s harbour that was illegally bought by a Chinese-controlled company has been sold to an Australian citizen, Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey said on Friday.

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The sale of Villa del Mare, a six-bedroom Mediterranean-style home in the city’s affluent Point Piper suburb, was ordered by Hockey earlier this year as part of a crackdown on illegal buying by foreigners blamed for helping fuel a surge in house prices. 

Hockey said around 100 other similar cases were being looked into. 

The property was found to have been bought illegally for $39 million last November by Golden Fast Foods Pty, a firm owned by Hong Kong-listed Evergrande Real Estate Group through a string of shell companies in Australia, Hong Kong and British Virgin Islands. 

“The property that has been reported has been re-sold to an Australian citizen, and we are investigating around 100 other cases,” Hockey told Reuters in an interview.

“In some cases people are disclosing their own failure to comply with the law.” 

Hockey declined to identify the new owner of Villa del Mare.

Ken Jacobs, a luxury real estate broker who helped sell Villa del Mare for Christie’s International Real Estate in November was not aware the property has been sold again. 

“It has not been put on the market, nobody has been shown the property, as far as I know.”

Property prices, particularly in Sydney, Australia’s most populous city, have risen sharply, fuelled by record low interest rates, strong investor appetite and limited supply of housing stock after years of under-investment.

Sydney house prices have jumped 15 per cent in the past 12 months, according to property monitoring group CoreLogic.

Australia limits foreigners to buying new residential properties, but a parliamentary inquiry last year found widespread abuse of the system. 

To cool property prices, the government in February said it would charge fees to foreign nationals buying homes and fine those breaking foreign investment laws. 

Evergrande, the fourth-largest property developer in China by sales, is owned by Hui Ka Yan, China’s 15th richest man with a net wealth of around $6.4 billion, according to Forbes. 

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Docker Fyfe ready to handle Demon heat

Fremantle coach Ross Lyon says Nat Fyfe is a “big boy” who’ll be able to handle any punishment that comes his way in Sunday’s AFL clash with Melbourne at the MCG.

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Fyfe is the raging favourite to win this year’s Brownlow medal following his hot start to the season and Gary Ablett’s shoulder woes.

Demon hard nut Bernie Vince looms as Fyfe’s likely shadow on Sunday, and it could be a torrid affair if recent history is anything to go by.

Just two weeks ago, Vince bullied star Adelaide midfielder Patrick Dangerfield from pillar to post in a tagging effort that raised a few eyebrows.

Lyon isn’t worried Fyfe will cop a similar dose of harassment this Sunday.

“Nat’s a big boy. We’re all big boys. We can all look after ourselves,” Lyon said.

“I just think he competes fiercely, Bernie Vince. You’ve got to admire that.

“He’s leading from the front. We take no backwards step. We’ll just see what happens.”

The Dockers have been boosted by the return from suspension of goalsneak Hayden Ballantyne, who copped a two-week ban for his high bump on Geelong’s Harry Taylor.

Ballantyne has now been suspended seven times during his 108-match career, but Lyon said the 27-year-old didn’t deserve to be overlooked for selection this week as extra punishment.

“We didn’t see it as an undisciplined act. It was a split-second decision,” Lyon said.

“He’s stacked such a high level of commitment and performance over a long period of time.

“And we liaised with our leaders, and really our whole player group, and they were unanimous he should play.

“We don’t expect miracles, we just expect him to do what he does – which is come and pressure and the opposition extremely well, and crumb some goals.

“It’s a good addition, and it should help Michael Walters, who gets sat on pretty tightly.”

The Demons impressed in last week’s win over Richmond, lifting the perennial strugglers up to 12th on the table with a 2-2 record.

Fremantle haven’t lost to Melbourne since 2011, but Lyon predicts Sunday’s clash will be a hard-fought affair after watching the Demons beat Richmond last week.

“They are the number 1 tackle team in the AFL and that says it all,” Lyon said.

Meanwhile, Lyon says he holds no ill feelings towards discarded midfielder Colin Sylvia, who retired earlier this week after 18 months of struggle at the Dockers.

“It didn’t happen here for Colin but hopefully somewhere in his life he fulfills on the possibility and the potential he has got,” Lyon said.

“There is no ill feeling here, it is just the disappointment that the relationship didn’t work.

“The actions didn’t stack up here and therefore we come to a mutual agreement.”

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