Sharks coach praises departing Bird

Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan says he’s come to terms with Jack Bird’s decision to fly the coop, praising his centre’s handling of his NRL contract drama over the past week.

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Two days after informing the Sharks of his decision to leave the Shire at the end of the year, Bird scored a decisive try in his team’s 28-2 demolition of Penrith on Sunday.

Flanagan was full of superlatives for Bird post-match, saying he’s thankful the NSW State of Origin representative is at least at the club as they aim to win back-to-back titles.

“I just spoke about it in the dressing room, how he handled the whole week. It’s a tough decision for a young man to make,” Flanagan said.

“The reason why as a club we’re so disappointed that he’s going is because of what you saw there today. He’s a quality player.

“In the end I’ve got to be real happy and grateful that he was with us last year to win a competition and he’s here for the rest of the year.

“Good luck to the Broncos or whoever’s got him for next year, but grateful that we’ve got him now.”

Flanagan said the 22-year-old did an outstanding job limiting Panthers counterpart Tyrone Peachey on the Sharks’ right edge, and he also proved a handful in attack.

He finished the match with 85 metres off 11 carries with four tackle busts.

“He’s a dangerous player Peachey – a couple of times there Jack nailed him first contact. And then he scored a great try, turns up in the right place all the time,” Flanagan said.

“Some of those carries was very similar to the grand final.

“He found Peter Wallace, made him have a tough night. I think Wallace will be sick seeing the sight of Birdy carrying it off the sideline there.”

Sharks skipper Paul Gallen admitted Bird, who declined to talk to media post-match, will be missed but is adamant he will be a key contributor for the rest of the season.

“We’ll miss him but that’s the game we play. People come and go and it’s unfortunate,” he said.

“Not only is he a good footy player, we really like him as a bloke and person. But he’s going to have to be replaced and next year the club will do that.

“There’s not a chance in hell that he’s not going to leave every stone unturned to bust his arse for us this year, he’ll be going flat out every game.”

Treason: former Afghan president hits out

Former Afghan president Hamid Karzai has accused his successor of committing treason by allowing the US military to drop the largest conventional bomb ever used in combat during an operation against Islamic State militants in Afghanistan.

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Karzai, who also vowed to “stand against America”, retains considerable influence within Afghanistan’s majority Pashtun ethnic group, to which President Ashraf Ghani also belongs. His strong words could signal a broader political backlash that may endanger the US military mission in Afghanistan.

Afghan defence officials have said the 9797kg GBU-43, dropped late on Thursday in the eastern province of Nangarhar, had killed nearly 100 suspected militants, though they acknowledged this was an estimate and not based on an actual body count.

“How could you permit Americans to bomb your country with a device equal to an atom bomb?” Karzai said at a public event in Kabul, questioning Ghani’s decision. “If the government has permitted them to do this, that was wrong and it has committed a national treason.”

Ghani’s office said the strike had been closely coordinated between Afghan and US forces and replied to Karzai’s charges with a statement saying: “Every Afghan has the right to speak their mind. This is a country of free speech.”

Public reaction to Thursday’s strike has been mixed, with some residents near the blast praising Afghan and US troops for pushing back Islamic State militants.

While the bomb has been described as one of the largest non-nuclear devices ever used, its destructive power, equivalent to 11 tonnes of TNT, pales in comparison with the relatively small atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945, which had blasts equivalent to between 15,000 and 20,000 tonnes of TNT.

During Karzai’s tenure as president, his opposition to airstrikes by foreign military forces helped to sour his relationship with the United States and other Western nations.

“I decided to get America off my soil,” he said. “This bomb wasn’t only a violation of our sovereignty and a disrespect to our soil and environment, but will have bad effects for years.”

Turkish referendum is a vote for country’s future, Erdogan says

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the tightly-contested referendum on expanding the powers of the head of state was a vote for the future of Turkey.

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“We carried out some referendums (in the past) but this referendum is a choice of change and transformation for a new administrative system in the Turkish Republic,” he said after casting his vote in an Istanbul school.

“God willing, this evening our people will walk to the future by making the expected choice.”

Erdogan cast his vote in Uskudar on the Asian side of Istanbul, posing to cameras together with his headscarf-wearing wife Emine, his grandchildren, elder daughter Esra and son-in-law Berat Albayrak, the energy minister.

“First of all, the referendum today is not an ordinary vote,” he said.

“I believe our people will, God willing, decide to open the way for a much faster development,” he added.

“Because we must make an out-of-the-ordinary choice in order to attain the level of modern civilisations envisaged by the hero Mustafa Kemal,” the president said, referring to modern Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Turks are voting on whether to grant Erdogan strengthened executive powers for a change of the parliamentary system into a presidential system. 

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Critics say the move is part of a grab by Erdogan for one-man rule, but supporters say it will simply put Turkey in line with France and the United States and is needed for efficient government.

Over 55.3 million Turks are able to vote in the referendum.

Polling stations opened in Diyarbakir and other cities of eastern Turkey at 4.00am GMT on Sunday, an AFP correspondent said, with voting in Istanbul, Ankara and other cities getting underway an hour later.

Opinion polls, always treated with caution in Turkey, predicted wildly divergent scenarios with analysts saying the outcome remains too close to call despite the clear advantage in resources and airtime enjoyed by the ‘Yes’ campaign.

As the rival sides held rallies up until the last hour of legal campaigning Saturday to sway undecided voters, Erdogan confidently predicted that the ‘Yes’ camp had victory in the bag.

But he urged people not to succumb to “lethargy” in voting, saying “the stronger result the better”.

“A ‘Yes’ that emerges from the ballot box with the highest margin will be a lesson to the West,” he said in the Istanbul district of Sariyer, the last of a stamina-busting sequence of rallies.

‘Turning point’

If passed, the new presidential system would dispense with the office of the prime minister and centralise the entire executive bureaucracy under the presidency, giving Erdogan the direct power to appoint ministers.

The system would come into force after November 2019 elections. Erdogan, who became president in 2014 after serving as premier from 2003, could then seek two more five-year mandates.

A wave from President Tayyip #Erdoğan as he departs his final #TurkishReferendum campaign event in #Istanbul @SBSNews pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/R23JUpQR7g

— Brett Mason (@BrettMasonNews) April 15, 2017

But it could also have even wider implications for the key NATO member, which for the last half century has set its sights on joining the European Union.

Erdogan has warned Brussels that in the event of a ‘Yes’ vote he would sign any bill agreed by parliament to reinstate capital punishment, a move that would automatically end its EU bid.

Western reactions to the referendum outcome will be crucial, after Erdogan accused Turkey’s allies of failing to show sufficient solidarity in the wake of the July 15 failed coup.

“The referendum will mark another turning point, or rather crossroads in Turkey’s political history,” wrote Hurriyet Daily News chief editor Murat Yetkin.

Sinan Ekim and Kemal Kirisci of the Brookings Institution think-tank said in a report the changes if agreed “would set in motion the most drastic shake-up of the country’s politics and system of governance in its 94-year-long history”.

WATCH: Pro-Kurdish party’s final rally in Turkey

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‘Bus with no brakes’

The opposition has cried foul that the referendum has been conducted on unfair terms, with ‘Yes’ posters ubiquitous on the streets and opposition voices squeezed from the media.

The poll is also taking place under a state of emergency that has seen 47,000 arrested in an unprecedented crackdown after the botched putsch.

Supporters see the new system as an essential modernisation step for Turkey but opponents fear it risks granting Erdogan authoritarian powers.

The standard-bearer of the ‘No’ camp, Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, warned at his final rally that Turkey was deciding if “we want to continue with the democratic parliamentary system or one-man rule”.

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He described the new system as “a bus with no brakes and whose destination is unknown”.

Key factors influencing the result will include whether the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) can perform the delicate balancing act of bringing both nationalists and conservative Kurds behind the new system.

Jihadists nabbed pre-poll

After a slew of attacks over the last year blamed on Kurdish militants and jihadists, security is set to be a major issue on polling day.

Authorities in Istanbul on Friday detained five people suspected of planning an attack on polling day, following the arrest of 19 alleged Islamist extremists in the Aegean city of Izmir earlier in the week.

The Dogan news agency said a total of 49 IS suspects had been detained in Istanbul alone over the last week.

More than 33,500 police officers will be on duty in Istanbul alone on referendum day, according to Turkish media.

Italian Emma Morano, last known survivor of 19th century, dies at 117

Morano, born on November 29 1899, died at her home in Verbania, in northern Italy, the reports said.

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“She had an extraordinary life, and we will always remember her strength to move forward in life,” said Silvia Marchionini, the mayor of Verbania, a small village of some 2,000 residents.

According to the US-based Gerontology Research Group (GRG), Morano ceded the crown of the world’s oldest human being to Jamaican Violet Brown, who was born on March 10, 1900. 

Morano’s death, at the age of 117 years and 137 days, means there is no one living known to have been born before 1900. 

Her first love died in World War I, but she married later and left her violent husband just before the Second World War and shortly after the death in infancy of her only son. That was 30 years before divorce became legal in Italy.

She had clung to her independence, only taking on a full-time carer a couple of years ago, though she had not left her small two-room apartment for 20 years.

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She had been bed-bound during her latter years.

In an interview with AFP last year, she put her longevity down to her diet.

“I eat two eggs a day, and that’s it. And cookies. But I do not eat much because I have no teeth,” she said in her home at the time, where the Guinness World Records certificate declaring her to be the oldest person alive held pride of place on a marble-topped chest of drawers.

‘Age at a slower rate’ 

She also refused to be taken to hospital, with the exception of a cataract operation.

Her Eyesight did become very poor and she latterly spent much of her days  sleeping. 

But she kept her sense of humour till the end.

“How does my hair look,” she asked before blowing out the candles on her 117th birthday cake last year.

“What impresses me most is her memory. She forgets nothing,” Yamile Vergara, her nurse for over 40 years, said at the time.

“Her sense of humour is her therapy”.

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The eldest of eight children, Morano outlived all of her younger siblings.

Robert Young, director of the Los Angeles-based GRG’s Supercentenarian Research and Database Division, said he had been following Morano ‘s progress for the past seven years, calling her an example of “super-ageing individuals who seem to age at a slower rate than normal — maybe even a few percentage points slower, but enough to make a difference”.

The world longevity record, he noted, remained with French woman Jeanne Calment, who died at 122 in 1997, having outlived both her daughter and grandson. “That’s superconfirmed,” Young said.

Emma Morano goes into the record books as the fifth longest life ever verified.

In 1900, when Violet Brown was born, Jamaica was part of the British West Indies, so her records are from the British government, in Queen Victoria’s time.

“Unless a surprise candidate comes out of the trees, she is the oldest living Victorian,” said Young.

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WATCH: Obesity huge cause of premature death

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Celebrating Easter Sunday around Australia

Australians have celebrated Easter Sunday with chocolate eggs, church services and shows across the country.

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In Sydney, Catholics flocked to the imposing St Mary’s Cathedral for services, while Anglican Archbishop of Sydney Glenn Davies preached at St Andrew’s Cathedral near Town Hall.

Tens of thousands of people chose to spend the day at the Sydney Royal Easter Show, which had attracted 78,000 people by 4pm.

In Brisbane, religious leaders urged worshippers to stave off fear and absorb the hopeful message of the resurrection.

“(Easter is) about God launching a huge repair project in the world as we know it,” Archbishop of Brisbane Phillip Aspinall said.

Watch: Pope blasts migrants’ suffering in Easter prayer

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“There’s no shortage of suffering in the world. But Easter has a different message, it says that those things do not enslave us.”

The Melbourne Easter Show is being held in the city’s southeast suburb of Cranbourne, while the Big Goose farm and adventure park on the Mornington Peninsula is hosting huge “Easter egg scrambles” through to Monday.

St Paul’s Cathedral, the cathedral church of the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne ran services throughout the day and some of the city’s Catholics attended St Patrick’s Cathedral, where Archbishop Denis Hart held a solemn mass.

Australian political and religious leaders, including Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull praised the work of emergency service workers during cyclone Debbie and floods in their Easter messages.

On Sunday, Labor leader Bill Shorten paid tribute to the nation’s battlers during a visit to a Melbourne nursing home, where he took part in an egg hunt with elderly residents.

“Easter is a great time to catch up with family and friends but I think it’s also important to remember that so many of our fellow Australians are doing it tough,” he told reporters.

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Pope Francis urges faith against adversity at Easter

Pope Francis says Catholics must have faith against adversity as he marked Easter Sunday with an open-air mass to be followed by the Urbi et Orbi (To the City and to the World) message and blessing.

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“In this land of pain, of tragedies, amid so many calamities, the faith in the resurrected Christ gives us a meaning, [it allows us] to look beyond,” the Pope told crowds in St Peter’s Square, which was decorated with some 35,000 flowers and plants from the Netherlands.

Dozens of cardinals and bishops and other high-ranking prelates were in attendance, along with tens of thousands of faithful, who were subjected to security screenings due to terrorism concerns.

Watch: Easter celebrations around the world

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In unscripted remarks, the Pope said he had a phone conversation with a sick man on Saturday and told him there was “no explanation” for his illness, but reminded him that even Jesus Christ had to suffer crucifixion.

“Nobody asks us: Are you happy about what happens in the world? Are you prepared to carry this cross?” the pontiff said.

Easter is “more than a party with many flowers,” Francis said, ending his speech with the entreaty, “As you go home today, repeat to yourselves: Christ has resurrected.”

As he finished his unscripted homily, heavy rain started.

After Mass, the Pope toured St Peter’s Square with the popemobile to greet the faithful, and then was due to deliver the Urbi et Orbi message – usually a call for world peace – from the central balcony of St Peter’s Basilica.

Watch: Migrant ‘shame’ in Pope’s Easter message

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Catholics celebrate Easter on the Sunday that follows the first full moon after March 21. For the Orthodox, who use the Julian rather than Gregorian calendar, it often falls a week later.

Several rituals punctuated the Catholic run-up to Easter, including Holy Thursday’s foot-washing ceremony, which Francis this year performed in a prison for Mafia turncoats south-east of Rome.

On Friday, the pontiff led the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) procession at the Colosseum. On the eve of Easter, Francis celebrated the traditional Vigil Mass in St Peter’s Basilica.

Sunday also marks the 90th birthday of Francis’ predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. He is the only Catholic Church leader in almost 600 years to have quit while in office, rather than serving as pope until death.

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Aleppo bomb attack toll rises to 112

The death toll from a bomb blast on a crowded Syrian bus convoy outside Aleppo has reached at least 112 people, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said.

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Syrian rescue workers the Civil Defence said they had carted away at least 100 bodies from the site of Saturday’s blast, which hit buses carrying Shi’ite residents as they waited to cross from rebel into government territory in an evacuation deal between warring sides.

The British-based Observatory reported its new toll early on Sunday and said the number was expected to rise.

Those killed were mostly residents of the villages of al-Foua and Kefraya in Idlib province, but included rebel fighters guarding the convoy, the Observatory said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which pro-Damascus media said was carried out by a suicide car bomber.

The convoy was carrying at least 5,000 people including civilians and several hundred pro-government fighters, who were granted safe passage out of the two Shi’ite villages which are besieged by rebels.

Under the evacuation deal, more than 2,000 people including rebel fighters were granted safe passage out of Madaya, a town near Damascus besieged by government forces and their allies.

That convoy was waiting at a bus garage in a government-held area on Aleppo’s outskirts, a few kilometres from where the attack took place. Madaya evacuees said they heard the blast.

Meanwhile the evacuation of rebel fighters and their families from a neighbourhood in the central Syrian city of Homs has been delayed following the Aleppo attack.

The Observatory said the fifth phase of the rebel evacuation from al-Waer neighbourhood, the only district in Homs city that still has insurgents, was set to take place on Sunday.

The monitor expected the evacuation process in al-Waer to resume on Monday.

Pence in Seoul for talks hours after North Korea’s failed missile test

A North Korean missile “blew up almost immediately” during its test launch on Sunday, the US Pacific Command said, hours before US Vice President Mike Pence landed in South Korea for talks on the North’s increasingly defiant arms program.

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The failed launch from North Korea’s east coast, ignoring admonitions from major ally China, came a day after North Korea held a grand military parade in its capital, marking the birth anniversary of the state founder, displaying what appeared to be new long-range ballistic missiles.

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South Korea said the combined show of force “threatened the whole world” but a US foreign policy adviser travelling with Pence on Air Force Two appeared to defuse some of the tension, saying the test of what was believed to be a medium-range missile had come as no surprise.

“We had good intelligence before the launch and good intelligence after the launch,” the adviser told reporters on condition of anonymity.

“It’s a failed test. It follows another failed test. So really no need to reinforce their failure. We don’t need to expend any resources against that.”

The adviser said the missile’s flight lasted four or five seconds.

WATCH: North Korea ready for all-out war

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“It wasn’t a matter of if, it was a matter of when. The good news is that after five seconds it fizzled out.”

Pence is in Seoul at the start of a 10-day trip to Asia in what his aides said was a sign of US commitment to its ally in the face of rising tension.

Speaking after his arrival, Pence said the United States’ resolve and commitment to its alliance with South Korea has never been stronger.

The US nuclear-powered USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier strike group is also heading to the region.

A US Navy attack on a Syrian airfield this month raised questions about US President Donald Trump’s plans for reclusive North Korea, which has conducted several missile and nuclear tests in defiance of UN sanctions, regularly threatening to destroy the South and the United States.

South Korea, which hosts 28,500 US troops, warned of punitive action if the launch led to further provocations

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“North Korea showing a variety of offensive missiles at yesterday’s military parade and daring to fire a ballistic missile today is a show of force that threatens the whole world,” South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.    

Timing significant

The North has warned of a nuclear strike against the United States if provoked. It has said it has developed and would launch a missile that can strike the mainland United States but officials and experts believe it is some time away from mastering the necessary technology, including miniaturising a nuclear warhead.

The timing of the test, coinciding with Pence’s trip and a day after the military parade, would suggest deliberate defiance.

The North launched a ballistic missile from the same region earlier this month ahead of a summit between the United States and China to discuss the North’s arms programme.

That missile flew about 60 km (40 miles) but what US officials said appeared to be a liquid-fuelled, extended-range Scud missile only travelled a fraction of its range before spinning out of control.

WATCH: Bob Carr on China’s North Korea influence

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China, which Trump has urged to do more to rein in North Korea, has spoken out against its missile and nuclear tests and has supported UN sanctions. It again called for talks to defuse the crisis on Friday.

China’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson exchanged views on the “situation on the Korean peninsula” by phone on Sunday, China’s official Xinhua News Agency said. It did not elaborate.

Its national airline, Air China, has cancelled some flights to the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, due to poor demand but it has not suspended all flights there, it said on Friday.

China banned all imports of North Korean coal on February 26, cutting off the country’s most important export product. China’s customs department issued an official order on April 7 telling traders to return North Korean coal cargoes, said three trading sources with direct knowledge of the order.

Sinpo, where the Sunday launch took place, is the site of a North Korean submarine base and where the North has tested a submarine-launched ballistic missile it is developing.

Tension had escalated sharply in the region amid concerns that the North may conduct a sixth nuclear test or a ballistic missile test launch around Saturday’s 105th birth anniversary of founding father Kim Il Sung that it calls the “Day of the Sun”.

The White House has said Trump has put the North “on notice”.

Missile test? What test?

Impoverished North Korea and the rich, democratic South are technically still at war because their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.

Chinese tourists in Dandong, a city bordering North Korea, piled on to ferries and speedboats on Sunday as usual for cruises on the Yalu river and up-close views of North Korean border guards and villages.

“North Korea is just trying to gain more attention and gain more leverage,” said tourist Huang Xiaojie.

US Vice President Mike Pence burns incense at the Seoul National Cemetery, in South Korea.GETTY IMAGES POOL

In Pyongyang, there was a festive atmosphere at a flower show, with families out, taking pictures with North Korean-made smart phones. There was no mention of the test failure on the KCNA state news agency.

Company worker Rim Chung Ryol, 30, said he had not heard of the test.

“If it is a failure, then failure is the mother of success,” he told Reuters. Asked if he believed international media reports, he said no, because “international media often lies and reports negative news about North Korea”.

Factory worker Ri Gul Chol, 37, enjoying the exhibition with his wife and child, also had not heard about the missile test.

“But whatever Kim Jong Un decides and instructs will succeed and all the citizens will support him,” he said, referring to the North’s young leader.

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Too little, too late for flat Pies in AFL

A frustrated Nathan Buckley says Collingwood betrayed themselves with their inconsistent effort during a scrappy loss to St Kilda.

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The Magpies remain anchored to the bottom eight of the AFL ladder after going down to the Saints by 14 points at Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

Buckley’s side wasted chances in the first half, and with the exception of a last-ditch burst in the final quarter, looked well off the pace during the 9.15 (69) to 7.13 (55) defeat.

With conditions optimal underneath the closed roof, neither side seemed able to kick straight – either in front of goal or up the ground – and the scoreline read 4.7 to 3.7 at halftime.

But St Kilda lifted their intensity during a dominant third term, out-tackling the Pies 22-13 and winning twice as many inside-50s to open up a 22-point lead at the final break.

Collingwood improved their pressure around the ball late in the game but it wasn’t enough to turn the tide.

“Clearly in that last 10 minutes, there was a greater workrate and intent and it was too little, too late,” Buckley said.

“Players felt like they betrayed themselves in that regard, and there’s great frustration at that. We need to be a side that is more consistent bringing our brand of footy. Tonight we lowered our colours.”

There were few positives to salvage for the Magpies coach, who is bound to come under renewed pressure after his side’s 1-3 start.

The high-flying Jeremy Howe was brilliant in the backline, taking 10 grabs – including a mark of the year contender in the third quarter – and ruckman Brodie Grundy dominated St Kilda’s Tom Hickey.

But Collingwood’s midfielders lacked their usual impact, with captain Scott Pendlebury sitting out a large portion of the pivotal third quarter after winning 15 disposals to halftime.

Buckley said Pendlebury “probably wasn’t as sharp” as he had been in previous games but denied that he was carrying an injury, or that he had been benched due to form.

With the 13th-placed Magpies badly in need of polish, Buckley said star recruit Daniel Wells had been declared fit and would be considered for next week’s crunch Anzac Day game against Essendon.

The Saints relied largely on some of their lesser lights to carry them to victory, with half-back Dylan Roberton (32 touches, 12 marks) and skipper Jarryn Geary playing vital defensive roles.

Tim Membrey and Josh Bruce led the goal-scoring tally with two majors each as the Saints improved their record to 2-2.

“It’s pleasing a couple of weeks in a row to win when you’re not at your best,” coach Alan Richardson said.

“Our ability to be able to convert some of our hard work continues to be a real opportunity for us. I thought our method stood up and I thought our defence was really positive.”

N Korea missile blows up, Pence in S Korea

A North Korean missile “blew up almost immediately” on its test launch, hours before US Vice President Mike Pence landed in South Korea for talks on the North’s increasingly defiant arms program.

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Sunday’s failed launch from North Korea’s east coast, ignoring repeated admonitions from major ally China, came a day after North Korea held a grand military parade in its capital, marking the birth anniversary of the state founder, displaying what appeared to be new long-range ballistic missiles.

China’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson exchanged views on the “situation on the Korean peninsula” by phone on Sunday, China’s official Xinhua News Agency said. Yang said the two sides should maintain dialogue.

South Korea said the North’s combined show of force “threatened the whole world” but a US foreign policy adviser travelling with Pence on Air Force Two appeared to defuse some of the tension, saying the test of what was believed to be a medium-range missile had come as no surprise.

“We had good intelligence before the launch and good intelligence after the launch,” the adviser told reporters on condition of anonymity.

“It’s a failed test. It follows another failed test. So really no need to reinforce their failure. We don’t need to expend any resources against that.”

The adviser said the missile’s flight lasted four or five seconds.

“It wasn’t a matter of if, it was a matter of when. The good news is that after five seconds it fizzled out.”

Pence is in Seoul at the beginning of a 10-day trip to Asia in what his aides said was a sign of US commitment to its ally in the face of rising tension.

The US nuclear-powered USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier strike group is also heading to the region.

US Navy attack on a Syrian airfield this month with Tomahawk missiles raised questions about US President Donald Trump’s plans for reclusive North Korea, which has conducted several missile and nuclear tests in defiance of UN sanctions, regularly threatening to destroy the South and the US.

South Korea, which hosts 28,500 US troops, warned of punitive action if the launch led to further provocations such as a nuclear test or a long-range missile launch.

“North Korea showing a variety of offensive missiles at yesterday’s military parade and daring to fire a ballistic missile today is a show of force that threatens the whole world,” South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The North has warned of a nuclear strike against the US if provoked. It has said it has developed and would launch a missile that can strike the mainland US but officials and experts believe it is some time away from mastering the necessary technology.

The US Pacific Command said the missile “blew up almost immediately”, adding the type of missile was being analysed.

“The North attempted to launch an unidentified missile from near the Sinpo region this morning but it is suspected to have failed,” South Korea’s Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.

The timing of the test, coinciding with Pence’s trip and a day after the military parade, would suggest deliberate defiance.

Pence had been briefed on the failed launch en route to Seoul and had been in touch with Trump, White House aides said.