Hodges deserved captaincy: Parker

There were no awkward moments when Justin Hodges was named Brisbane captain ahead of Corey Parker.

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“Coz (Parker) was probably the first to congratulate me,” said Hodges, who shared the Brisbane reins with Parker last year.

However, one looms ahead of Thursday night’s NRL season opener against South Sydney at Suncorp Stadium.

Hodges had been expected to lead the team out after returning coach Wayne Bennett opted for the veteran centre ahead of Parker and Sam Thaiday.

But Broncos tradition indicates a player celebrating a major milestone runs out first.

And Parker becomes just the second Brisbane player to shatter the 300-game barrier in the NRL blockbuster.

It has the potential to strain the friendship but Parker seemed bemused by the predicament.

“We haven’t actually spoken about that but Hodgo is the captain so I assume he will run out first,” he smiled.

Parker confirmed he was the first to embrace Hodges after Bennett made the captaincy call last week.

“Why wouldn’t I? He is a great mate of mine,” he said.

“He is the captain and I endorse that.

“It’s a great achievement. It was only right for me to go and congratulate him.

“It was a great reward for him.”

However, Parker said no longer having the ‘c’ against his name would not alter his on-field leadership role.

“Nothing is going to change with me,” he said.

“We have leaders throughout different departments on the field.”

It may be a milestone match for Parker but it also looms as a big game for Bennett.

It will mark the foundation Broncos coach’s official return since ending a seven-year hiatus and reclaiming the Brisbane coaching reins.

Asked if Bennett’s return was like putting on an old pair of slippers, Parker laughed: “They are an old pair of slippers.

“(But) he has been refreshing for the club.

“He made it clear as soon as he came back that things were going to change and for the better.”

Asked if Bennett was nervous ahead of his comeback match, Parker said: “You have to ask him.

“He holds a pretty good poker face.”

Meanwhile, Lachlan Maranta slotted onto the right wing ahead of Daniel Vidot, while Aaron Whitchurch was named as a utility on an extended bench.

Whitchurch last played for Brisbane in 2013 before suffering a back injury.

Big name recruits named to make their Broncos debuts are pivot Anthony Milford, Kiwi prop Adam Blair and impact forward James Gavet.

Morgan at No.1, Lui at No.6 for NQ

The race for North Queensland’s No.

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1 jersey has been won by Michael Morgan.

And Robert Lui has snapped up the five-eighth spot – not that you could tell from the official team list.

Incumbent Morgan has relegated ex-Penrith No.1 Lachlan Coote to the second-tier Queensland Cup after emerging triumphant in an intriguing pre-season duel for fullback.

Morgan had been tipped to slot into the halves with co-captain Johnathan Thurston despite a sensational 2014 at fullback that ended with a Kangaroos Four Nations train-on squad nod.

But Morgan will remain at fullback for Saturday night’s NRL season opener against Sydney Roosters in Townsville with Lui at pivot – but not according to the team list.

Eyebrows were raised when Thurston was named at five-eighth and Lui at halfback for the round one clash.

But Cowboys coach Paul Green has reportedly since called it a “typo”, reassuring fans that Thurston will remain at halfback.

He said Lui’s combination with Thurston in the halves during the pre-season sealed his start.

“Robbie worked hard over the pre-season and his trial form has been pretty good too,” Green said.

“I picked the team on form.”

Green believed Coote was set to play a key role for North Queensland – but just not yet.

“It was his jersey to lose,” Green said of Morgan at fullback.

“Given Cootey hasn’t played a lot of footy in the last two years – I think he has played six games – he needs a bit of footy in the legs.

“Cootey will make a contribution for us this year at some stage – I am not sure when that is, but.”

In other team news, ex-Bronco Ben Hannant will partner co-captain Matt Scott in the front row, relegating former Test prop James Tamou to the bench.

Still, Green dipped his hat to Tamou who completed a long comeback from neck surgery with a head-turning 45 minute trial display last weekend against Cup side PNG Hunters.

North Queensland take on the Roosters for the first time since their controversial 31-30 loss in the 2014 NRL semi-finals.

Green did not have to be told his side were expected to go a couple of steps further in their 20th year.

“I’ve been a little bit excited this week,” he said.

“I said to the boys to make sure we build our week ready for Saturday, we don’t want to get ready for the game too early.

“I’ve got to keep myself in check as well.”

Panthers ready to go one better in NRL

Jamie Soward has declared the Penrith Panthers have the spine to go one better than last year and make the NRL grand final.

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The Panthers have one of the strongest creative cores in the competition in veterans Soward and Peter Wallace forming the halves, last year’s surprise packet James Segeyaro at hooker and representative star of the future Matt Moylan in the custodial role.

Soward said the quartet’s combination had improved after a year, and a pre-season, together and had the potential to go better than last year’s heart-breaking preliminary final exit.

“I’d like to think I’ve got a better understanding of Matt and James’ games,” Soward said.

“I understood Wal’s a lot earlier because we’re older guys and we room together and spend a lot of time together.

“With the young guys, just keeping up with them is the main thing.

“We’re a tight-knit spine. You’ve got Isaac John there as well who can step in at the drop of the hat.

“Between the five of us, we’ve got a real good combination there and if everyone does their job right, we can go further this year.”

The Panthers will kick off their season with a grudge match against Canterbury at Pepper Stadium on Sunday.

It was the Bulldogs that brought their fairytale run to an end last year, one game short of the grand final.

The Panthers’ playmakers have had a disrupted pre-season with Soward (ankle) and Segeyaro (ankle) having minor surgery while Wallace is returning from an ACL injury which cut short his 2014 season.

Moylan, meanwhile, returned late after earning a call-up to Australia’s Four Nations squad.

“Wal coming back in different stages through the pre-season, he had to get his knee moving, we had him chiming in and then I had surgery and Chicko (Segeyaro) had surgery and Matty was in the Four Nations,” Soward said.

“Before Christmas we didn’t really have much to do with each other but after Christmas we got back together and I think we understand that we’ve all developed our games from last year.

“Everything’s looking good, I can’t say that enough at the moment, we’re ready to go.”

Gilmore’s dominance can be ‘infuriating’

Layne Beachley reckons Stephanie Gilmore’s dominance of the women’s world surfing tour has left her younger Australian rivals furious and frustrated.

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But the seven-time champion has urged them to use that as fuel to break through.

Gilmore is just one crown short of Beachley’s all-time record, having claimed six of the past eight championships.

Hawaii’s Carissa Moore is the only other winner since 2007.

Compatriots Tyler Wright and Sally Fitzgibbons have both been runner-up twice to Gilmore – and last year were within arm’s reach of the 2014 title at the final round.

“I know that can be infuriating, it can be frustrating,” Beachley told AAP.

“You get to a state where you keep asking yourself: `How can I beat this girl? What more do I have to do?’

“When you have your competitors questioning themselves against you, then you have a distinct advantage over them.

“But then, when you’ve got someone as young and passionate and hard-working as Tyler, vying for your position, then it keeps you looking over your shoulder as well.”

The 42-year-old said the likes of Wright and Fitzgibbons needed to try “shake off” the heartbreak and return fresh, energised and focused.

“That’s what I did throughout my career – I was winning every year, but I would start fresh every year as well, so I would never bring last year’s results into this year’s mindset,” she said.

“Having the capacity to do that and then the motivation to maintain that mindset is another skill in itself.”

Beachley said she could never rule Gilmore out of a world title position, given her experience, competitive nature and ability.

“But I know she’s got a hell of a job ahead of her to repeat it considering the level of talent she’s up against,” she said.

Much has been made of Gilmore’s chance to match Beachley’s record title haul, but they are yet to chat about it beyond a brief TV interview for 60 Minutes last month.

“That was only on camera – we haven’t actually spoken about it off-line,” Beachley said.

“So I will definitely have that conversation with her when I see her next.

“Steph’s just got to be conscious of the fact that she may be looking for excuses instead of ways to achieve it.”

Gilmore has been nominated for the Laureus World Action Sports Award – Beachley, who is now a Laureus ambassador, won that award in 2004.

The winners will be announced at a ceremony in Shanghai on April 15.

Badminton lacks future ‘star’, says Indonesia’s Taufik

As the world’s best prepared for this season’s first Premier Superseries, with China seeded to win four of the five titles, Indonesia’s Taufik Hidayat, the 2004 Olympic champion, said the game was “only about Lee Chong Wei and Lin Dan at the moment.

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That long-lasting rivalry, however, will not continue in Birmingham, as Malaysia’s Lee is still suspended indefinitely for failing a doping test at last August’s world championships.

Lee, who won silver medals at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, remains confident he can clear his name when a Badminton World Federation panel conducts a hearing into the case.

With Lee missing, Taufik said he could not predict the next big rivalry to excite the sport, largely due to inconsistency among the players at the top of the men’s game.

“For a great player, we will have to wait five more years as the standard is going up and down,” said twice All-England runner-up Taufik, who retired in 2013.

“Everyone has a different style. After (Lee) Chong Wei and Lin leave, who else is there? Chen Long [the current world number one] perhaps, but he is not like these two. He has a different style and a different character.

“Badminton needs an icon like Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in tennis. It is a question of how you become a champion and stay at the top.”

TRUE STAR

Taufik’s view was echoed by Denmark’s former world number one Peter Gade.

“The combination of finding a true star is a complex thing,” said Gade, the last European to win the men’s title here in 1999. “We need to see some of the younger players coming through and show that they have the full package.”

Gade and Taufik were speaking at a Yonex event to celebrate a major sponsorship deal with Lin, indicating the Chinese will be a regular on the world circuit ahead of an expected tilt at a third Olympic title.

Lin, looking relaxed in a suit during a question and answer session, last appeared at the championships in 2012 when he won his last All-England crown.

“I have played here 12 times and won five titles,” he said ahead of his first round match on Wednesday against Hong Kong’s Wei Nan. “The history is very special.”

On his great rival, Lee, he added: “He’s not only my opponent, but also my good friend. I’m hopeful he will make a swift comeback.”

(Editing by Ken Ferris)

Thousands pay respects to slain Nemtsov

Thousands of mourners have paid a last homage to slain Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, who was gunned down near the Kremlin in the most stunning assassination of Vladimir Putin’s rule.

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Crowds thronged the Russian capital to mourn the 55-year-old former deputy prime minister, a long-time Putin critic and anti-corruption crusader who was laid to rest at a Moscow cemetery.

The funeral caused a fresh spat between Russia and the European Union, which condemned what it called “arbitrary” bans after Russia blocked prominent figures from Poland and Latvia from attending.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was also unable to attend as he is behind bars, but speaking from jail he accused “the country’s political leadership” of ordering a hit on Nemtsov.

Putin himself has branded the killing a provocation and his spokesman said of Navalny’s charge: “I am not going to comment on such lunacy.”

Moscow has pledged a full investigation as speculation swirls about who was behind the assassination.

Clutching flowers and candles, mourners formed a huge queue outside the Andrei Sakharov rights centre in central Moscow where Nemtsov’s body lay in state.

As Bach’s St Matthew Passion played, well-wishers filed past the flower-covered coffin, many crossing themselves and weeping.

Nemtsov’s mother Dina Eidman, who turned 87 on Tuesday, his children, widow, and former partners and friends stood by the casket.

Ordinary Russians were joined by government officials and dignitaries including Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich, former president Boris Yeltsin’s widow Naina and former finance minister Alexei Kudrin.

Ex British prime minister John Major and Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius were among foreign dignitaries to attend.

Putin, who was hosting the authoritarian leader of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, did not attend the funeral at Moscow’s prestigious Troekurovskoe cemetery.

Many mourners blame Putin for the murder, saying the Kremlin – locked in a bitter confrontation with the West over the Ukraine conflict – whipped up hatred against dissenters.

Mealamu to break Super Rugby games record

Keven Mealamu’s durability has been hailed after he was named for his record 163rd Super Rugby appearance on Saturday.

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All Blacks and Blues hooker Mealamu will become the most capped player in the 20 years of the championship when he starts against the Lions on Saturday, surpassing the record held by retired Australian lock Nathan Sharpe, who represented the Queensland and the Western Force.

Mealamu, 35, was rested for the Blues’ first three games, which were all lost, but returns in place of James Parsons in one of five changes for the game in Albany.

Blues coach Sir John Kirwan says the record couldn’t have fallen to a more worthy player.

“Keven is an inspirational character both on and off the field.

“He exemplifies all of the qualities that we strive for at the Blues in desire, hard work, resilience, loyalty and integrity.

“He will bring a real lift to the team and I am sure the boys will want him to celebrate his milestone with a good performance.”

It is another longevity record for Mealamu, who has indicated this year is likely to be his last.

During last November’s All Blacks tour, Mealamu moved past Colin Meads’ New Zealand record of 361 first class games.

His 123 Tests is second behind Richie McCaw for the All Blacks and the fifth-most by any player.

A flanker at New Zealand schoolboy level, Mealamu made his Blues debut in 2000.

He struggled to hold down a regular starting spot during his first two seasons and was picked up in the 2002 draft by the Chiefs, where he played 11 games.

He returned to the Blues in 2003, helping them to the most recent of their three titles.

Mealamu will pack down alongside prop Ofa Tu’ungafasi, who gets his first start of the season in place of rested All Black Tony Woodcock.

Two changes to the backline come at inside centre, where Francis Saili replaces Mike Northcott, and on the wing, where Frank Halai makes his first start of the year following off-season shoulder surgery.

Halai’s return demotes Tevita Li and results in a shift to the left wing for Melani Nanai, who made his debut on the right wing in last week’s 25-24 loss to the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.

Blues: Lolagi Visinia, Frank Halai, Charles Piutau, Francis Saili, Melani Nanai, Ihaia West, Jimmy Cowan, Jerome Kaino (capt), Luke Braid, Steven Luatua, Patrick Tuipulotu, Josh Bekhuis, Charlie Faumuina, Keven Mealamu, Ofa Tu’ungafasi. Reserves: James Parsons, Sam Prattley, Angus Ta’avao, Hayden Triggs, Brendon O’Connor, Jamison Gibson-Park, Simon Hickey, Hamish Northcott.

Golden Gate bridge jump survivor helping men who struggle

When US man Kevin Hines was 19, he made what he describes as his biggest mistake of his life.

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“I tried to take my own life by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge,” he said.

“And I have always maintained that that was the single worst action I could have taken.”

Against the odds, he survived.

“I prayed that I would live. Because I didn’t want to die.”

He is not alone.

Deaths by suicide have reached a 10-year peak, and there are some men who are particularly vulnerable.

“I prayed that I would live. Because I didn’t want to die.”

In Australia’s construction industry, for example, suicide rates are nearly 2.4 times higher than in the rest of the population.

Peter McClelland, CEO of suicide-prevention charity Mates in Construction, said many men in that industry struggled to ask for help.

“Construction workers like to see themselves as tough and able to fix problems,” he said. “And, like a lot of men, we’re not very good at seeking help.”

Retired Highway Patrol Officer Kevin Briggs said communication was important.

“What I’ve found is folks haven’t been listened to a lot of times,” he said. “The mental illness, the depression, the bipolar is with them. They’re just not being listened to.”

Mr Briggs said police were trying to prevent the deaths and are working to target vulnerable communities, including Indigenous Australians.

“What I’ve found is folks haven’t been listened to a lot of times.”

“A lot of studies have shown that they have higher levels of suicidal behaviour,” he said.

“We need to be able to open up. And if we can do that, life much, much easier.”

Kevin Hines agrees, and he’s using his experience to help other men speak up.

“Every day I’m happy to be alive,” he said.

* Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467 or follow @LifelineAust @OntheLineAus @kidshelp @beyondblue @headspace_aus @ReachOut_AUS on Twitter.

Technology doesn’t judge: using the web to address domestic violence

By Laura Tarzia, University of Melbourne and Kelsey Hegarty, University of Melbourne

For every woman who speaks out about her experiences or reports the abuse, many more remain silent through fear, shame, or simply because they don’t know who to turn to.

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Many don’t even tell their closest friends, family members, or general practitioner, let alone pick up the phone to call a domestic violence hotline or counselling service.

This reluctance to seek help is alarming when we consider the grim statistics on domestic violence. One in five women in Australia have experienced physical or sexual abuse at the hands of an intimate partner. One woman is killed each week by her current or ex-husband, partner, or boyfriend. Seventeen women have already died this year, and it’s only March.

Thanks to activists such as Rosie Batty, there has been a renewed focus on challenging gender stereotypes and men’s attitudes towards women in an attempt to prevent violence from occurring. While this is certainly a vital piece of the puzzle, the patriarchy is unlikely to be dismantled overnight.

The proposed terms of reference for the Victorian government’s Royal Commission into Family Violence argue that domestic violence requires a coordinated response across government, services, and the community. But this will be difficult and time-consuming to achieve, particularly in light of the Abbott government’s cuts to critical domestic violence services.

Clearly, we need to think more innovatively about how we respond to this hidden epidemic. Technology – specifically, the internet and smartphone apps – may provide part of the solution.

Existing technology

The internet and smartphone apps are readily available to large numbers of people. They allow users to access help, information, or support anonymously and privately.

In the context of domestic violence, women who may not yet be ready to name their experiences as “domestic violence” can use the web or smartphone apps to assess their relationships and figure out the next steps. Most importantly, women can access help without the need to disclose the abuse to anybody, which may reduce concerns about judgement and stigma.

Globally, many countries are beginning to explore the possibilities for web- and smartphone-based applications to respond to domestic violence. In the United States, South Africa, and New Zealand, for example, interactive tools are being developed and evaluated to help women make decisions and learn about respectful relationships.

In Australia, we are also starting to recognise the potential of technology, with several domestic violence apps such as Aurora and iMatter already helping women connect to formal services and access practical information. iMatter, which is targeted at younger women, also promotes self-respect and empowerment.

Towards tailored support

Technology has the potential to do more than inform and link to services; it can help provide the individualised, tailored support women need when experiencing abuse at the hands of an intimate partner.

Our research team is developing a web tool called I-DECIDE, which allows women to reflect on an unhealthy or unsafe relationship and manage their situation.

I-DECIDE uses validated tools to identify the type of abuse (emotional, physical, or combined) a woman may be experiencing, as well as her level of danger and risk, and provides feedback. It also incorporates reflective exercises around relationship health and safety.

Drawing on a face to-face counselling program for general practitioners, I-DECIDE uses motivational interviewing and non-directive problem-solving techniques. These help women determine their own needs and the steps they might take to improve their safety and well-being, acknowledging that the step chosen may not always be leaving the relationship.

I-DECIDE responds to women’s individual priorities by providing strategies and resources that are unique to her situation, rather than general standardised links to information and resources. Perhaps most importantly, the program culminates in an individualised “action plan”.

Preliminary testing has been positive. One woman commented that after using I-DECIDE: “I feel affirmed and deserving. I feel it helped me recognise what I had been prioritising over my own health and well-being, and reminded me to keep perspective about my partner’s behaviour.”

Potential barriers

There are, however, some challenges that need to be addressed when harnessing technology to respond to domestic violence.

The rise of online abuse and cyber-stalking by partners or ex-partners is a major concern. Appropriate security measures need to be put in place to ensure women’s safety when using websites or apps.

Additionally, it’s difficult to address the whole spectrum of relationship issues with one website or app. Telephone and face-to-face contact will still play an important role in responding to women’s needs.

Any response approach has the risk of alienating women through use of inappropriate language. Many women will not identify with “domestic violence”, “family violence” or “violence against women” language or services. We have carefully called this website “I-DECIDE About My Relationship” in an attempt to reach out to women who may not have named their relationships as abusive.

I-DECIDE is currently being evaluated through a randomised controlled trial, which will determine its effectiveness in addressing domestic violence in the wider population. Women eligible for the trial can access I-DECIDE immediately. It will be made available to all women in 2016.

 


If you or someone you know would like to participate in the I-DECIDE project, visit the website.

Anyone at risk of family and domestic violence and/or sexual assault can seek help 24 hours a day, seven days a week, either online or by calling 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732). Information is also available in 28 languages other than English.

Read other articles in The Conversation’s ongoing domestic violence coverage.

Laura Tarzia is the coordinator of the I-DECIDE project at The University of Melbourne. She receives funding from the Australian Research Council.

Kelsey Hegarty is the Chief Investigator on the Australian Research Council funded project I-DECIDE

The Bali Nine: where are they now?

The Bali Nine: then and now

MYURAN SUKUMARAN, 34

THEN: Sukumaran was a uni drop-out working in a Sydney mailroom when the opportunity for a “big pay cheque” – the Bali Nine plan – came up.

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NOW: On death row in Kerobokan jail, with no appeals left. Sukumaran has lobbied for better rehabilitation options for prisoners, including an art studio and T-shirt screen printing room, where he spends much of his time teaching and studying for a fine arts degree by correspondence.

ANDREW CHAN, 31

THEN: Chan was the self-confessed black sheep of his Sydney family. He and Sukumaran both went to Homebush Boys High School, a few years apart.

NOW: On death row in Kerobokan jail, with no appeals left. Chan has embraced Christianity in prison and is involved in pastoral care for the prison community. He also started first aid and cooking classes, and is trying to launch hospitality courses for inmates.

Chan’s workmates:

MATTHEW NORMAN, 28

THEN: Norman lived in Quakers Hill, Sydney, and worked at the Eurest catering group where Chan worked. He was the youngest member of the Bali Nine.

NOW: Serving life at Kerobokan. Norman had always been into sport and tries to stay fit behind bars. In a 2011 interview, he described Chan and Sukumaran as “nice people, to me, they’re just friends”.

RENAE LAWRENCE, 37

THEN: Lawrence, of Wallsend, in Newcastle’s west, also worked at Eurest. She was down on her luck, having broken up with her partner, and had money troubles.

NOW: Serving 20 years in Bangli, Bali. Lawrence was moved out of Kerobokan jail after her plot to kill a prison guard was discovered. She has since been rewarded reductions to her sentence for good behaviour and may soon be eligible to seek parole.

MARTIN STEPHENS, 39

THEN: From Wollongong, former barman Stephens worked at Eurest and took part in the Bali Nine operation as a mule with Lawrence.

NOW: Serving life at Malang, east Java. He also turned to Christianity in prison and in 2011, married Christine Puspayanti, a woman who had visited Kerobokan with a church group.

SI YI CHEN, 29

THEN: It’s unclear how Chen, from Sydney, met Chan and Sukumaran. His role in the Bali Nine it seems was running errands for them.

NOW: Serving life in Kerobokan, he has learned to be a silversmith and his designs reflect his devotion to the practice of Taoism.

The Queenlanders:

TAN DUC THAN NGUYEN, 31

THEN: Nguyen lived in bayside Brisbane with his family, who ran a bakery. He recruited Rush and Czugaj into the Nine on a night out in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley.

NOW: Serving life in Malang, east Java. He has never given a media interview. He was moved out of Kerobokan with Stephens last year, to ease overcrowding.

MATTHEW CZUGAJ, 29

THEN: Czugaj, from Brisbane’s southwest, was working as a glazier. He met Rush playing football in high school and had never been overseas before the trip to Bali.

NOW: Serving life in Kerobokan. He has suffered mental and physical ailments in jail. In 2010, his mother revealed she had been sending him money in the realisation she was funding his heroin habit.

SCOTT RUSH, 29

THEN: Rush, from a riverside Brisbane suburb, was applying to enter the RAAF before he agreed to go on the trip to Bali. His father Lee suspected his rebellious son was in trouble. The AFP was tipped off but did not intervene.

NOW: Serving life in Karangasem, Bali. Rush is also recovering from drug addiction and has proposed marriage to his girlfriend, London banker Nikki Butler.