Court hears Morcombe accused ‘confession’

“Yeah ok .

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.. yeah I did it.”

Daniel Morcombe’s accused killer thought he was confessing his “deepest, darkest secret” to an underworld crime boss.

But it was actually an undercover police officer who heard Brett Peter Cowan describe how he murdered the 13-year-old Queensland schoolboy.

Video and audio recordings of the 2011 confession were played to the jury at Cowan’s murder trial on Thursday.

In them, he describes abducting Daniel from the side of the road and later choking him to death in a panic.

Cowan told undercover police he offered the teen a lift to a shopping centre but instead drove him to an isolated, abandoned house in the Sunshine Coast hinterland.

“He came inside and I went to pull his pants down. He panicked and I grabbed him,” Cowan can be heard saying in one recording.

“I never got to molest him or anything like that.

“He panicked and I panicked and grabbed him around the throat and before I knew it he was dead.”

Daniel’s parents Bruce and Denise Morcombe watched from the public gallery while the video and audio recordings were played to the court.

In the video Cowan can be seen demonstrating with his own arm how he put the teen in a choke hold.

“There was no screaming or nothing,” he said.

He described how he drove the teen’s body 150 metres to an overgrown former sand mine and threw him down an embankment.

He stripped him and covered him with trees and branches before tossing the clothing in a creek, the court heard.

He returned about a week later and found only a fragment of bone, which he destroyed with a shovel.

In one conversation Cowan expressed regret over the “spur of the moment” decision to abduct Daniel, made on his way home from picking up a garden mulcher.

“If I was 10 minutes later getting the wood chipper I wouldn’t have seen him,” he said.

“… It’s only because he struggled and I panicked, otherwise he would still be here today.”

The confession was the culmination of an elaborate undercover operation by West Australian police, the court heard.

Officers posing as criminal gang members spent more than four months convincing their target they were part of a powerful underworld organisation.

Cowan was led to believe he could earn $100,000 in a drug deal but there was a catch – the gang had information he murdered Daniel Morcombe.

The gang’s “big boss” met Cowan in a Perth hotel room and told him he’d be dumped “like a hot potato” unless it could be sorted out.

Cowan insisted police couldn’t “pin it on me” because he’d told no one else his “deepest darkest secret” and there was no forensic evidence.

Undercover police arranged to return with Cowan to the alleged crime scene under the pretence of cleaning up evidence.

Cowan said he didn’t know whether returning to the crime scene would give him “the heebie jeebies”.

Cowan, 44, has pleaded not guilty to murder, indecent treatment of a child and interfering with a corpse.

The trial continues.

Series decider could be South Africa’s crowning glory

The tourists blazed their way to a comprehensive 281-run victory in the opening game in Pretoria, but South Africa proved their resilience with an equally emphatic 231-run success in Port Elizabeth last weekend.

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The Proteas are now seeking a first home test series win over Australia in 44 years on a ground where they have lost just once in 12 years and 16 matches – to the Australians in 2006.

A worry for the home side is the form of captain Graeme Smith, who has scored just 37 runs in four innings, but Proteas coach Russell Domingo has backed his skipper to come good on a ground where he averages 52 in tests.

“Graeme’s record speaks for itself, it is rare he goes through a series without making a contribution with the bat. His contribution as captain is always huge. He has just found ways of getting out, there have been some strange dismissals.”

Australia have a similar problem. Captain Michael Clarke has not gone past 24 in his last 11 test innings and is the only one in the top six not to get significant runs in this series.

South Africa will hope to be more clinical in the field, where they have put in two nervous performances in the series so far.

Smith joked at the post-match presentation in Port Elizabeth that his side had actually taken 28 wickets in the test given their high number of spills.

For Domingo though it was no laughing matter and he called it is a case of anxiety getting the better of the players.

“We have always prided ourselves on our fielding and generally we have fielded well in the past,” Domingo said.

“But if you put one or two down, there is some anxiety that comes in and it leads to more errors. It’s part of the game and nobody does it on purpose. It’s the same with referrals to the third umpire, if you get some wrong you begin to doubt yourself.”

Both teams face selection posers. For South Africa it is who to replace the injured Wayne Parnell and whether to bring in a specialist spinner. Domingo praised the work of part-timers JP Duminy and Dean Elgar in Port Elizabeth, suggesting it is unlikely Robin Peterson would be recalled.

“I was very happy with the spinners in PE, being a spinner in South Africa is a tough job, it is more of a holding role. I think JP and Dean did a very good job.”

Australia will offer a late fitness test to all-rounder Shane Watson, who will be selected only if he is able to bowl.

If he clears the test, Watson would likely replace Shaun Marsh, who picked up a pair in Port Elizabeth.

“We’ll make the decision when we see the wicket but he’s got to be fully fit,” Australia coach Darren Lehman said.

“Watson will play as long as he is bowling well and fit. It’s a question of waiting to see. It’s a conundrum for the selectors.”

(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

Real looking to bury Atletico’s title challenge

Atletico stunned their bitter local rivals 2-1 at Real’s own Bernabeu stadium in last season’s King’s Cup final and followed up with a 1-0 success at the same venue in La Liga at the end of September.

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However, Real have greatly improved as the season has progressed and they dumped holders Atletico out of this term’s Cup 5-0 on aggregate in their two-legged semi-final this month.

Unbeaten in 27 matches in all competitions, Real are in ominous form before Sunday’s trip across town to Atletico’s Calderon stadium and will be buoyed by their 6-1 success at German side Schalke 04 in the Champions League on Wednesday.

They took over from Barcelona, who host promoted Almeria on Sunday, at the top of La Liga last weekend when both Barca and Atletico suffered surprise defeats.

Real have 63 points with 13 games left, with Barca, chasing a fifth title in six years, and Atletico on 60.

Real coach Carlo Ancelotti, who took over from Jose Mourinho at the end of last term, has eliminated the defensive lapses that cost his team earlier in the season.

With Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale in a three-pronged attack, the Italian has one of the most lethal forward lines in football and each scored twice in Wednesday’s romp in Gelsenkirchen.

“We have a lot of potential up front,” midfielder Xabi Alonso, whose composure and passing ability help Real control their opponents, told reporters after the Schalke game.

“We create a lot of chances and it’s good news that the three forwards are fired up,” added the Spain international.

“Sunday’s game is very important for us and it is going to be very tough.

“We are confident but we know that each match is a different story. If we don’t go out with the same focus as today any team is capable of giving us a scare.”

GENUINE CHALLENGE

Atletico, who are also through to the last 16 of the Champions League, are mounting a genuine challenge for the La Liga title for the first time since they won a league and Cup double in 1996.

Diego Simeone, a former Argentina midfielder, was part of that team and has transformed the club since he took over as coach at the end of 2011, leading them to a Europa League triumph in 2012 and the Cup success last season.

However, last weekend’s shock 3-0 reverse at Osasuna, when Simeone left a number of key players out of his starting lineup, suggested they may not have a deep enough squad to cope with a gruelling calendar.

Fullback Juanfran said the team are keen to put last week’s stumble behind them and reignite their title challenge.

“We are keen to prepare the match well and if we beat Madrid things will be different,” he said on Atletico’s website (www.clubatleticodemadrid南宁桑拿网,).

“We are playing at our stadium, where we are unbeaten (in La Liga this season) and I am convinced we will play a good match and win,” he added.

(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

Colorado deaths raise concerns about pot

Two deaths have raised concerns about Colorado’s recently legalised recreational marijuana industry.

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This concern is heightened by data suggesting cookies, sweets and other of the drug’s edibles can be exponentially more potent than a joint.

In one case, a college student ate more than the recommended dose of a marijuana-laced cookie and jumped to his death from a hotel balcony. In the other, a husband with no history of violence is accused of shooting his wife in the head, possibly after eating pot-infused lollies.

“We’re seeing hallucinations. They become sick to their stomachs, they throw up, they become dizzy and very anxious,” said Al Bronstein, medical director of the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center.

Colorado is one of the first two US states to legalise the recreational use of marijuana and authorities across the country are watching carefully for what happens next.

Studies are mixed about whether there is any link between marijuana and violence. Still, pot legalisation opponents said the deaths are a sign of future dangers.

Twenty-six people have reported poisonings from marijuana edibles this year, when the centre started tracking such exposures. Six were children who swallowed innocent-looking edibles, most of which were in plain sight.

Five of those kids were sent to emergency rooms and two to hospitals for intensive care, Bronstein said.

Supporters of the state’s marijuana law and some experts counter that alcohol causes far more problems among users and the issues with pot can be largely addressed through better regulations.

“It really is time for regulators, and the industry, to look at how do we move forward more responsibly with edible products,” said Brian Vicente, who helped lead the state’s legalisation campaign.

An autopsy report listed marijuana intoxication as a significant contributing factor in the death of 19-year-old Levy Thamba Pongi.

Authorities said Pongi, who travelled from Wyoming with friends to try marijuana, ate six times more than the amount recommended by a seller. In the moments before his death, he spoke erratically and threw things around his hotel room.

Toxicologists later found that the cookie Pongi ate contained as much THC – marijuana’s intoxicating chemical – as six high-quality joints.

Less is known about Richard Kirk, 47, who was charged in Denver with shooting his 44-year-old wife to death while she was on the phone to an emergency dispatcher.

State lawmakers last year required edible pot to be sold in serving sizes of 10 milligrams of THC. Lawmakers also charged marijuana regulators with setting potency-testing guidelines to ensure consumers know how much pot they’re eating. The guidelines are scheduled to be unveiled next month.

For now, the industry is trying to educate consumers about the strength of pot-infused foods and warning them to wait up to an hour to feel any effects before eating more. Still, complaints from visitors and first-time users have been rampant.

“One of the problems is people become very impatient,” Bronstein said. “They eat a brownie or a chocolate chip cookie and they get no effect, so then they stack the doses and all the sudden, they get an extreme effect that they weren’t expecting.”

Police officer killed in Cairo blast

An Egyptian police officer has been killed in a bomb blast targeting a traffic police kiosk in Cairo, security officials say.

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A policeman and a civilian were also wounded on Friday evening when assailants threw the bomb from a nearby bridge onto the kiosk, located on a main square of the Egyptian capital, the officials said.

Militants have stepped up their attacks against security forces since the army ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July and the military-installed authorities launched a deadly crackdown on his supporters.

Friday’s attack comes a day after a little-known jihadist group, Ajnad Misr, vowed new attacks against security forces in retaliation for their crackdown on Morsi supporters that, according to Amnesty International, has claimed 1400 lives.

But the deadliest attacks have been claimed by Sinai-based Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, a jihadist group inspired by al-Qaeda.

Official figures show that more than 500 people — mostly policemen and soldiers — have been killed in bombing and shooting assaults by militants since July.

Most militant attacks have been in the restive Sinai Peninsula, but in recent months brazen attacks have also been launched farther afield in the Nile Delta and in the capital.

On Tuesday, two bomb blasts wounded six people including at least two policemen in Cairo and on April 2, a police general was killed when three bombs exploded in front of Cairo University.

More than 15,000 Islamists, mostly from Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, have also been jailed, while hundreds have been sentenced to death after what are often speedy trials.

The authorities blame the Brotherhood for the attacks and have blacklisted it as a “terrorist organisation”.

No more NSW conspiracies: Cowboys coach

Coach Paul Green has urged North Queensland to put thoughts of a southern conspiracy to bed after the Cowboys were on the wrong end of a highly contentious obstruction call in their loss to Manly.

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The officiating howler continues a trend of awful decisions against the NRL club that includes the seventh-tackle try awarded to Cronulla in their semi-final last season and Manly’s ‘hand of God’ try in the sides’ finals match in 2013.

With the Cowboys leading 20-14 at Central Coast Stadium on Friday night, Kieran Foran dummied his way over from close range.

Decoy runner Jamie Buhrer appeared to hinder the attempted tackle of Ray Thompson on Foran and referee Gavin Badger referred the decision to video referees Paul Mellor and Bernard Sutton.

Channel Nine’s commentary team, for one, unanimously agreed it wasn’t a try but the green ‘TRY’ signed flashed up on the big screen to the disgust of captain Johnathan Thurston, who remonstrated angrily with Badger.

“He directly runs at the line and takes him out,” Thurston said to Badger.

“It’s not good enough.”

The converted try allowed Manly to draw level at 20-all.

Thurston landed a field goal in the 74th minute to put the Cowboys ahead before Buhrer scored the matchwinner with two minutes left.

The Cowboys captain maintained the rage after the game. When asked if he thought his side was hard done by Thurston replied: “Very much so.

“Like I said to Freddy (Fittler), when you’re in this jersey and it goes to a video ref, it’s a lottery.”

But Green said the Cowboys can’t afford to dwell on past refereeing controversies.

“We’ve got to move past that as a club,”Green said.

“There’ll be no talking about ‘poor Cowboys, the world is against us’.

“That was just a poor decision. What’s disappointing for the game is that decisions like that are deciding outcomes, and that’s not good enough.

Row over pension age heats up

The federal opposition has accused the Abbott government of breaking an election promise to pensioners amid reports it will push ahead with plans to lift the retirement age to 70.

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In the lead-up to May’s budget there has been ongoing speculation the eligibility age for the pension will be increased from 67.

The new retirement age could come into effect from 2029, and the federal government is also considering changes to pension indexation rates, The Australian reported on Saturday.

The changed pension age would affect every worker born since 1959, the paper said.

Labor families spokeswoman Jenny Macklin said pensioners had a right to be furious.

“No amount of weasel words can change the fact that the prime minister is planning to break the solemn promise he made to Australian pensioners on the eve of the election,” she said in a statement.

Parliamentary secretary Simon Birmingham said it was reasonable for the government to look at the long term structure of the budget and ballooning costs, but he declined to confirm the report.

Any changes would be over the long term, he said.

“You can’t just, if you’re being sensible about it, say we’re going to up pension age … in the next couple of years and disrupt everybody’s retirement plans,” he told Sky News.

“You have to make decisions today that are about 20 or 30 years hence.”

Labor MP Matt Thistlethwaite said it was unfair for blue collar workers.

“The brickie’s labourer, the plumber, the carpenter, how are they going to physically be able to work until 70 years of age?” he told Sky News.

Twice lucky for Randwick Championships

Prince William and Kate are otherwise engaged but there is still a royal presence and some star power at Royal Randwick for Sydney’s richest-ever horse race.

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The sun has come out on Saturday for Day Two of The Championships at Randwick, the $18 million racing extravaganza intended to steal some attention from Melbourne.

Punters flocking through the gates are hoping for a fairytale finish to the day’s headline event – the $4 million Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

Carlton House, owned by Queen Elizabeth, is among the favourites for the event, which is the richest 2000m turf race in the world.

Carlton House is trained by Australia’s own queen of the turf, Gai Waterhouse, who is chasing her fifth Queen Elizabeth Stakes win.

And riding Carlton House is crowd favourite Tommy Berry, who tragically lost his twin brother and fellow jockey, Nathan, to illness on April 3.

Tommy rode to an emotional victory on The Offer last Saturday at Randwick and dedicated that win to his brother.

A Carlton House win would add a fairytale element to a day that has lifted the spirits of racegoers and race officials hoping for a strong turnout of 30,000 after poor weather dampened crowds down to 25,000 a week ago.

Celebrities and famous faces are among the crowd. Actor Simon Baker, star of US TV series The Mentalist, is on hand to judge a fashion parade, while Prime Minister Tony Abbott is lunching with his parents Dick and Fay, his wife Margie and broadcaster Alan Jones in the Directors’ Room of the members’ stand.

Rachel Reilly, 27, of Kellyville Ridge, was among the thousands arriving early to grab a trackside table in the public area for herself and friends.

Ms Reilly, a regular racegoer during the spring and autumn carnivals, said the Championships was attracting a lot more people to race days.

Dressed in purple, Ms Reilly said she aimed to make her day a mix of horses and simply socialising.

“I’m not going to be one of those people who comes to the races and does the bar-bet-bathroom cycle all day,” she said.

“It’s got to be a social event as well.”

North Korea hits out at UN abuse meeting

North Korea has hit out at an informal meeting of the United Nations Security Council in which the body was urged to slap sanctions on Pyongyang officials responsible for human rights abuses.

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Michael Kirby – the head of a special UN inquiry into North Korean rights abuses – had told Thursday’s get-together convened by Australia, France and the United States that “perpetrators must be held accountable”.

“It is necessary to deter further crimes,” Kirby, a former Australian High Court judge, adding that he also wanted the reclusive regime hauled before the International Criminal Court (ICC) for prosecution.

Kirby’s Commission of Inquiry on North Korea released a hard-hitting report on the nuclear-armed totalitarian state in February that documented a range of gross human rights abuses, including extermination, enslavement and sexual violence.

“The commission of inquiry therefore recommends to the Security Council the adoption of targeted sanctions against those individuals most responsible for crimes against humanity,” he told the informal meeting.

North Korea refused to cooperate with the probe and said the evidence was “fabricated” by “forces hostile” to the country.

Pyongyang did not send a representative to Thursday’s meeting, which was also snubbed by China – North Korea’s sole major ally – and Russia.

On Saturday, the North’s official news agency KCNA released typically robust quotes attributed to a spokesman for Pyongyang’s foreign ministry in which he slammed the meeting and Kirby’s report.

“Such frantic racket is aimed at tarnishing the image of the dignified DPRK at any cost and bringing down the ideology and social system chosen by the Korean people in the long run,” he said.

“The US and the West had better put under control the worst human rights abuses in their own countries and mind their own business,” the statement added.

SA horse racing carnival draws protest

Jumps racing will never be made safe in South Australia and horses are being killed purely for human entertainment, an animal rights activist says.

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Campaigner Elio Celotto is one of about 50 protesters calling for an end to jumps racing at the opening of the Oakbank Easter Racing Carnival this weekend.

The death of Black Moon at the racecourse last Monday has spurred the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses to remind racegoers of the dark side of horse racing.

Mr Celotto said it’s appalling how seriously injured fallen horses can be euthanased right there on the track.

“Even if they don’t fall we’ve seen many horses stumble and then never reappear again,” Mr Celotto told AAP on Saturday.

“We are hoping to draw attention to the fact that jumps racing can’t be made safe and that horses are killed for human entertainment.

“It’s akin to bull fighting where the competitors are treated as disposable objects.”

Mr Celotto said the number of people attending the Oakbank carnival had dwindled in the last five years as more and more people turned against the sport.

Protester Ward Young says the real gamble is not on reaching the finish line first but whether the horse lives or dies.

“Jumps racing is intrinsically cruel and dangerous – and the racing industry knows this, they just don’t care,” he said.

“It’s time to kill the sport not the horses.”

RSPCA chief executive Tim Vasudeva said that since 2009, 15 horses had died as a result of jumps racing in South Australia and that since 2010, five horses had died at Oakbank.

“We are hoping no other horses join Black Moon on Oakbank’s death roll this Easter,” he said.

Fancy a ride, William teases Kate

Royals are routinely schooled in the art of entering and exiting limousines with grace, but a fighter jet is another matter entirely.

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The Duchess of Cambridge proved her pedigree in Queensland on Saturday, when she accepted her husband’s invitation to climb into the cockpit of a F/A-18F Super Hornet.

“Do you fancy jumping in the back,” the duke, a former RAF officer, asked her.

But Prince William must have taken some pity on his wife, and climbed into the back himself, leaving Kate to slide, without incident, behind the controls from a flight of mobile stairs.

Commanding Officer Stephen Chappell remarked there was some “byplay between the two as to who was sitting in what seat”.

The couple touched down at Australia’s largest air force base at Amberley, west of Brisbane, about 11am, where they were greeted with an honour guard and fly over by the Super Hornets based there.

The couple chatted happily with dignitaries including Governor Penelope Wensley, Defence Minister David Johnston, Premier Campbell Newman and his wife Lisa, and the mayor of Ipswich Paul Pisasale, who last spent time with William as the city recovered from its devastating 2011 floods.

Later the couple bowed their heads in prayer at the dedication of the planting of a Plunkett Mallee tree in the base’s memorial garden, which honours the service and sacrifice of members of the Royal Australian Air Force.

After the brief dedication service, two young girls, aged about eight and dressed in matching gold and silver frocks, stole the attention of the duchess.

The girls handed her posies of vibrant pink flowers, at times shyly staring at the ground but occasionally summoning the courage to meet her gaze, but just what they discussed remains between them, for now.

The couple then spent time with military personnel and met relatives of four Australian soldiers killed in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

They include the family of Lance Corporal Stjepan Milosevic, who was among three Australians killed by a rogue Afghan soldier in 2012.

Kate’s choice of dress for the occasion was a sympathetic nod to the importance of the poppy as a symbol of remembrance in the military community.

The royal couple will later head to Brisbane’s South Bank for a civic reception.

Royal watchers are already gathering at the parkland precinct, hoping to steal a glimpse or perhaps a quick word with the couple during a public walk.

The couple will leave Brisbane to return to Sydney and Prince George just after 3pm.

The Ipswich mayor said he and Prince William had shared a laugh while remembering an amusing moment during his 2011 visit, just a month or so before he married Kate.

William had accompanied Mayor Pisasale to a flood evacuation centre, where he met an Ipswich woman who was due to walk down the aisle on the same day.

“Quick as a flash, William told her: ‘If you invite me to yours, I’ll invite you to mine,” Mr Pisasale told AAP on Saturday.

“We had a laugh today when he said: ‘She never did send me that invitation. Come to think of it, I didn’t send her one either’.”

The mayor said he again thanked William for his 2011 visit and for the comfort it brought his community at a time of great need.

“For me it was about saying thank you again. I call him the people’s prince. He’s just so easy to get on with.”

He said the duchess gave a little chuckle when asked how she managed to play cricket so well in a pair of heels during the couple’s New Zealand tour.

“She told me she tries anything. It was lovely to meet to her.”

Mr Pisasale said the royal couple’s time with the families of fallen diggers was hugely important, as was the focus their visit gave to Australia’s military personnel.

“We enjoy our freedom because of defence force personnel. Sometimes we forget about it and complain about the aircraft noise, but it’s the sound of freedom.”

Police later said a small number of Aboriginal protesters had been moved on after trying to stage a demonstration at South Bank, ahead of the couple’s arrival for a civic reception and public walk.

One activist was ushered away after going behind barricades meant to keep the royal route along Grey Street clear, outside the South Brisbane train station.

Police said no arrests had been made.

North have Good Friday chance: ‘Pies

North Melbourne deserve the chance to have the first crack at hosting a Good Friday AFL game in 2015, but they need to make it work.

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Collingwood chief executive Gary Pert, whose club play in the blockbuster clash each Anzac Day against Essendon at the MCG, says such events don’t work on TV without a good crowd atmosphere at the game.

“The Kangaroos are in the front running for this and in some ways they deserve the opportunity,” Pert told ABC radio on Saturday.

“But you’ve got to get the crowds if you want to make it a rivalry game.

“The Kangaroos need to get the big supporter numbers if they want to be a key player.

“It doesn’t have the atmosphere and energy to these games if you don’t get the big crowds.”

North Melbourne chairman James Brayshaw is confident the Kangaroos will be involved in Good Friday football in 2015, as league officials ponder new fixturing.

The departure of AFL chief Andrew Demetriou this year is expected to pave the way for change.

“I understand why lots of other clubs are trying to jump the queue because it’s a pretty enticing day,” Brayshaw said on Friday.

“But we’d like to think, for 20 years, we’ve been beating the door down … so we should be at the front of the queue.”

Brayshaw agrees with Pert that pulling a big crowd is crucial. He says a North-Carlton fixture would be a good fit.

“They (Carlton) are a big team,” Brayshaw said.

“To make a blockbuster work, you need to have a big

team involved.”

Demetriou has been among those expressing concern over the need to give the Royal Children’s Hospital Good Friday Appeal due prominence, rather than schedule a game on that day.

Brayshaw says the timing of the match will be crucial. A twilight match is one option.

Moyes ready for United rebuild

David Moyes, the Manchester United manager, is poised to make a flying start to his major rebuilding job for the fallen champions after the end of this season.

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Moyes revealed Friday he was already “well into my planning” regarding recruits as he nears the end of his difficult first season in charge, following the retirement of long-time manager Alex Ferguson.

However, Moyes was acutely aware that the World Cup, which opens in Brazil halfway through June and lasts for a month, will impinge on his efforts to reinforce the squad.

“It’s difficult as players are going to be going away for the World Cup, so it’s maybe not quite as easy,” said Moyes.

“Ideally, all clubs would like to get the work done early. We cannot guarantee it but will try to make that happen.”

Hopes of a late recovery to claim fourth place, and a chance to qualify for the Champions League, are all but mathematically impossible, with United 10 points behind fourth-placed Arsenal heading into the final four league matches of this season, starting with Sunday’s clash at Moyes’s former club, Everton.

While the likely absence of Champions League football will be a blow to finances as well as prestige, there will be no shortage of funds.

A new kit deal is imminent, with current suppliers Nike in pole position for a contract that could be worth up to STG600 million ($A1.08 billion).

United’s US-based owners, the Glazer family, are believed to be prepared to make STG100 million ($A180m) available for Moyes to reconstruct the squad which, only a year ago, won the Premier League title but has fallen well short this season.

Moyes will lose his captain Nemanja Vidic, who is to sign for Inter Milan, and he could be joined on his way out of Old Trafford by left-back Patrice Evra.

Meanwhile former England centre-back Rio Ferdinand is also expected to depart, and at 40 years old, Ryan Giggs’s golden career is winding down.

Moyes was in Lisbon in midweek for a cup tie between Benfica and Porto, whose French centre-back, Eliaquim Mangala, is thought to be earmarked as a successor to Vidic, while Benfica midfielder Andre Gomes, 20, was outstanding.

The United manager, unable to prise Leighton Baines from Everton last pre-season, now has Southampton left-back Luke Shaw, 18, in mind to replace Evra.

The England defender, valued at STG30m, has also interested Chelsea and Manchester City, but is thought to favour Old Trafford.

“Not everything you read is correct,” Moyes said.