Bravery of Thai cave rescuers honoured

Cave rescuers Craig Challen (L) and Richard Harris (C) say they’re just ordinary blokes.They’re just two ordinary blokes with an unusual hobby who happened to pull off the most daring rescue in living memory, captivating people across the world.

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Cave diving mates Richard Harris and Craig Challen, along with seven other Australian heroes, have been honoured for their efforts in rescuing 12 boys and their soccer coach from deep inside a flooded Thai cave.

Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove presented the nine with bravery medals and Australia’s highest civilian honour during a ceremony in Canberra on Tuesday.

After receiving the Star of Courage, Dr Harris and Dr Challen played down their life-saving roles, admitting they were embarrassed and shocked by the global attention.

“We’re two ordinary blokes with an unusual hobby not many people have heard of,” retired vet Dr Challen told reporters at Government House.

The veteran cave divers played a crucial role in the international rescue operation, with Dr Harris’ experience as an anaesthetist critical.

The precious lives of the boys were in their hands.

Dr Harris described meting out sedation to the malnourished, dehydrated youngsters in the back of a cave as the most frightening part of the week but insisted he was never in peril and did not feel courageous.

“We went cave diving for a few days and helped get the kids out,” Dr Harris said.

He assessed the boys’ conditions before giving them the medical all clear to undertake the perilous mission out of the cave and advised authorities on the best way to bring them out.

The pair feared for the boys, with monsoon rain expected to trap them underground for several months.

“I can’t tell you how bleak the outlook was for those kids in there,” Dr Challen said.

“Just overjoyed that it all worked out okay because it could have easily not.”

Sir Peter lauded the courage and selflessness of the nine as he presented them with Order of Australia medals.

“We think you were remarkable, skilful, tireless, compassionate and courageous,” Sir Peter said.

“Your nation is so proud of you. Today, Australia salutes you.”

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told them: “You made us proud – superbly, professionally competent – we could not have better ambassadors showing the best of our Australian values than you.”

Bravery medals were awarded to navy Chief Petty Officer Troy Eather, and Australian Federal Police officers Acting Station Sergeant Robert James, Leading Senior Constable Kelly Boers, Detective Leading Senior Constable Benjamin Cox, First Constable Matthew Fitzgerald, Senior Constable Justin Bateman and Detective Leading Senior Constable Chris Markcrow.

The men were deployed at short notice, spending long days diving kilometres through the caves to move hundreds of air tanks, pumps, pipes and cables as part of the extraordinary rescue effort.

They knowingly put themselves in life-threatening danger, refusing to give up until each trapped boy was gently shepherded to safety and the warm embrace of family.

The prime minister said it was impossible to overstate how dangerous the task was and how many were inspired by the divers.

“Yours was a mission of practical love to save the lives of others, weaker, younger, more vulnerable,” he said.

Royal wedding choir signs record deal

The Kingdom Choir, who performed at the royal wedding, have signed a record deal.The gospel choir that performed at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have signed a record deal.

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The Kingdom Choir performed Stand By Me in front of a huge global audience at the royal wedding at Windsor Castle on May 19.

The group have now signed a record deal with Sony Music UK and will release their debut album on November 2.

They will go into the studio later this month and the album will include their arrangement of the song that made them famous, having received more than 10 million views on YouTube since the wedding.

The choir, which has also announced a headline concert at London’s Union Chapel on November 28, was founded in 1994 in London by award-winning conductor Karen Gibson.

Before performing at the royal wedding, the group’s largest audience was just 200 people – but on June 2 their version of the song was at number one on the Billboard gospel charts.

Gibson said: “The Kingdom Choir are absolutely delighted with the journey of the past few months.

“It’s been a roller coaster, but we wouldn’t have it any other way – first, the honour of being able to sing at the royal wedding, and then the thrill of being signed to Sony.

“It’s like an un-dreamt dream – one that you wouldn’t even consider, because you never thought it could happen to you. We’re very grateful and very excited about what’s to come in the next few months too.”

Nicola Tuer, COO of Sony Music UK, added: “We are absolutely thrilled to have signed The Kingdom Choir to Sony.

“Along with the rest of the world, we were stunned by their incredible performance at the royal wedding, so we jumped at the chance to sign them.

“The choir believe in love, music and power and we are excited to capture this on record for their fans across the globe.”

NRLKalyn Ponga throws a scare through the Knights camp but still a likely starter against the Cowboys in Townsville

Knightsofficials are confident a training mishapwon’t prevent boom fullback Kalyn Ponga from making his much anticipated return from injury against his former club North Queensland in Townsville on Friday night.

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Due back from a hamstring injury that saw him miss consecutive wins over Parramatta and Gold Coast, Ponga hadcoaching staff and teammates collectively holding their breath on Tuesday after he rolled his ankle during a field session.

Ponga came down awkwardly after leaping high to bring down a Mitchell Pearce bomb during an opposed session and required treatment on the ground.

After a few minutes, he gingerly walked off for further treatment and did not complete the session.

Pongawas later seen walkingaround with his ankle strapped but was not in a moon boot with the injury highly unlikely to keep him out of the Cowboys game.

Immediately after the training session, coach Nathan Brown did not appear overly concerned.

Kalyn Ponga

“His hamstring is fine, but he rolled his ankle a bit so it’s a bit more precautionary. I’mnot sure what the situation is with it,” Brown said.

“He’s running freely. The main thing is his hamstring is good so that’s the pleasing thing. We just have to see how his foot is.

“Hopefully, it’s only a minor thing.”

Later in the day, the Knightsnamed Ponga at fullback but his stand-in over the past fortnight, Nick Meaney, will travel with the squad to Townsville on Wednesday as a precaution.

Young playmaker Jack Cogger will also travel with the squad to Townsville on standby should five-eighth Connor Watson be ruled out.

Watson was also named but is battlinga chronic ankle problem that flared up afterthe Knights win over the Titans last weekend.

It is understood he had a cortisone injection earlier in the week and did not train with the rest of the squad on Tuesday.

“We are not sure with Connor–he’s a bit touch and go at the moment,” Brown said.

“He’s got a bit of a slight issue. Coggs [Cogger] played with Mitchell against the Tigers and did very well and I’ve always wanted to give Coggs another shot with Mitchell if the opportunity came.

“It might come this week or it might not–we’ll know more with Connor tomorrow.”

Knights co-captainPearce admitted there was plenty of initial concern when Ponga did not get straight back up after catching his bomb.

READ MORE: Newcastle Knights“We definitely got a scare so hopefully it’s only just a bit of a sprained ankle and he’ll be right for this week,” hesaid.

Pearce said he is looking forward to the prospect of joining forces on the field with Ponga again.

“I’m really excited. It was awesome fun playing with Kalyn at the start of the year,” he said.

“He’sobviously a brilliant player and makes your job easier as a halfback so I’m really excited for getting back and hopefully, getting some combinations going.

“So hopefully,he plays but if he doesn’t, he’ll be there the week after.”

Pearce said the possibility of losing both Ponga and Watsonwould not change his side’s approach to the game.

“If they don’t play, I’m sure there are other guys that are going to fillthat role and we’ll attack the game the same way as we were going to in the first place,”he said.

In a boost to the Knights, centre Sione Mata’utia is considered a certain starter after missing the win over the Ttians with a fractured eye-socket.

His return has forced a backline reshuffle with right winger Nathan Ross shifting back to left centre at the expense of youngster Cory Denniss, who drops out of the 17.

Despite the Cowboys’ dismal run this season,Brown expects his side to face a major challenge led by the retiring Johnathan Thurston.

Sharon Jenkins of Newcastle wants answers from NSW Ambulance after her husband Tony Jenkins died by suicide in April

NEEDING ANSWERS: Sharon Jenkins stands outside the Hamilton Ambulance station on Tuesday, waiting for answers from NSW Ambulance after her husband, Tony Jenkins, died by suicide in his paramedic’s uniform on April 9. Photo: Simon McCarthySharon Jenkins feels she has been forced to “humiliate herself” to get the answers from NSW Ambulance after her husband died by suicide in his paramedic’s uniform in April.

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Tony Jenkins, a Hunter paramedic of 28 years, died hours afteranunscheduled meeting with senior ambulance officerson April 9 about his alleged use of the opioid Fentanyl taken from Hunter ambulance stations.

“Two managers took him into a room for an hour-and-a-half (and) we don’t know what went on,” Mrs Jenkins said. “They dropped him back to his car and he was dead within two hours.”

A toxicology report showed that Mr Jenkins had no Fentanyl in his system when he died.

In June, NSW Ambulance chief Dominic Morgan issued an unprecedented apology to paramedics, admitting the service had failed some employees.

Read more: Cidney Jenkins pens an open letter to NSW Ambulance(May 25, 2018)

Mrs Jenkins finished work on Tuesday and headed straight to the Hamilton Ambulance station.She and her daughter Cidney took framed photographs of Mr Jenkins and stood on the corner outside thestation on Denison Street, calling for a response to her husband’s death from NSW Ambulance.

“I will stay here for quite a while,” she said.

Mrs Jenkins wants to see the notes taken during the meeting and for the two senior ambulance officers who conducted the meetingto be moved to different positions whileWorkCover and NSW Ambulance investigate the events of April 9.

A spokesperson for NSW Ambulancesaid the service hadextended its condolences to the family of Mr Jenkins “and will continue to do everythingto support themduring this difficult time”.

“NSW Ambulance haspromised the familythey will be given thefirstdetailed report into Mr Jenkins death as soon as it’s finalised in the next few weeks,” the spokesperson said.

They said the service hadintroduced a range of new programsto supportstaff, andwill be introducingnew reforms tofurtherimprove health and wellbeing.

Read more: Paramedic’s families united by grief, seeking answers from NSW Ambulance(June 14, 2018)

Mrs Jenkins said she was trying to keep her calls for answers from “getting hysterical”, but said she felt her hand had been forced.

“I feel like they are pushing me to do this,” she said. “And it’s not what I want –it’s what’s right.”

“Tony deserves that. He was a paramedic for 28 years. He was a great guy. He was struggling, I suppose, and he asked for help.”

Lifeline: 13 11 14

AFL premiers Richmond hit 100,000 members

AFL powerhouse Richmond have ticked off another major milestone by passing 100,000 members.After singing onstage with The Killers after the 2017 grand final, announcing Richmond had become the first sporting club in Australia to reach 100,000 members was nothing for Jack Riewoldt.

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The star forward delivered news of the historic milestone to the rest of the excited Tigers playing group on Tuesday, with the club confirming their membership is at 100,063.

Richmond smashed their previous record of 75,777 in February, more than a month before round one, following their first premiership in 37 years.

Collingwood set the AFL record in 2014 by reaching 80,793, but the Magpies haven’t released their figure this year and a number isn’t visible on thier website.

The Tigers targeted 90,000 members heading into their flag defence, but shot past that figure in April.

“I am truly blown away by the milestone, to reach 100,000 members is incredible, the Tiger Army continues to amaze us,” Richmond chief executive Brendon Gale said.

“As a club, we will continue to find new ways to engage and invest in our members, because without them, we couldn’t continue to thrive and win both on and off the field.”

Adelaide have the second biggest membership base in the AFL after announcing in April they had 82,699.

Hawthorn passed 80,000 members on Monday for the first time, while Essendon’s tally stands at 78,562.

Richmond’s figure monsters the top clubs in the NRL, with the Brisbane Broncos leading the charge there with 35,527 members followed by South Sydney (29,056).

The A-League’s leading club last season was Melbourne Victory as the champions notched up 26,095 members.