Big Pharma spends big on doctors, reaps profits

The logo of AstraZeneca is seen on a medication package in a pharmacy in London April 28, 2014. U.S. drugmaker Pfizer Inc is working on its next move in a potential $100 billion bid battle for Britain’s AstraZeneca Plc after having a two bids rejected, as deal-making grips the healthcare industry. Pfizer said on Monday it made a 58.8 billion pounds ($98.9 billion) bid approach to AstraZeneca in January and had contacted its British rival again on April 26 seeking further discussions about a takeover. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth (BRITAIN – Tags: BUSINESS HEALTH) The Hilton hotel 255-269 Pitt Street, Sydney. 27th March, 2012. Photo: Kate Geraghty

Sponsoring “educational activities” for doctors is so financially lucrative that pharmaceutical companies are spending upwards of $200,000 on a single event, sparking fresh calls for a ban on industry funding.

The latest sponsorship disclosures from industry body Medicines show drug company AstraZeneca spent the biggest amount on a single event – $241,000 – followed by Celgene and Novartis, between November 2016 and April 2017.

In terms of total spend on all events in the half-year period, AstraZeneca came second to Roche, which saw fit to splash $877,000 on 64 meetings, from breakfast symposiums to journal club meetings.

“Sponsorship is a key part of a company’s marketing strategy, and we know industry money can lead to increased prescribing of drugs that tend to be newer, so there’s less data on safety, and more expensive,” said Alice Fabbri, an expert on corporate influence at the University of Sydney.

“They’re profit-making multinationals, not charities, and if they’re spending huge sums of money, it means they’re getting a good return.”

AstraZeneca spent $241,000 as the sole sponsor of the Lung Foundation’s Australasian Lung Cancer Trials Group (ALTG) Lung Cancer Symposium in 2016, covering accommodation and meals at Hilton Hotel in Sydney, as well as airfares, transfers and other event costs.

The industry’s code of conduct states the sponsor must not select the speakers, but Fairfax Media found the international guest speakers – Professor Keunchil Park from South Korea and Professor Glenwood Goss from Canada – have ties with AstraZeneca, accepting its research grants and holding advisory roles.

Both AstraZeneca and the Lung Foundation rejected suggestions the pharmaceutical giant had a say on the selection of speakers, with both saying an organising committee independently chose the speakers, attendees and educational content.

The two professors did not respond to a request for comment.

Dr Fabbri said that even if an independent committee made the final decisions, in such situations it was likely the sponsor could still be “subtly” exercising influence.

“The problem is that with industry funds, there is an implicit understanding that additional funds won’t be offered in the future if the event doesn’t present topics of interest to the company or the speakers aren’t favourable,” said Dr Fabbri.

“A recent analysis has shown that even a single sponsored meal worth $20 is associated with increased prescribing of the promoted medication.”

The new data shows 33 drug companies shelled out $8.6 million on 1302 events attended by 231,000 healthcare professionals, including students and nurses, in the six-month period.

The Lung Cancer Symposium was the most expensive event, yet it only offered 12 hours of educational content over 1.5 days to 126 oncologists.

In contrast, the next three most expensive events – each topping $100,000 – offered on average 30 hours of educational content over four days to about 960 attendees.

The Lung Foundation said it was aware of concerns about undue risk of influence, but insisted industry funding was necessary because lung cancer was the leading cause of death from cancer, yet research funding for it was disproportionately low.

“This is the only national lung cancer research meeting of its type and is crucial to facilitating lung cancer research, developing stronger clinical research collaborations and designing new studies which will ultimately deliver better lung cancer care in ,” said Professor Christine Jenkins, respiratory clinician and the foundation’s chairwoman.

Associate Professor Nick Pavlakis, chair of ALTG, added: “The importance of attracting research funding and contributions from interested commercial and non-commercial entities ensures a sustainable lifeline to lung cancer research.”

Dr Fabbri said one option was for the industry to place funds in a blind trust that could be controlled by an independent group.

“The end goal is a ban on industry funding, but there are some steps that can be taken in the meantime,” she said.

A separate database shows 20 companies provided 145 sponsorships worth more than $200,000 each between October 2011 and September 2015.

Overseas, AstraZeneca forked out $US5.5 million in 2016 to settle charges following allegations it paid bribes and conveyed gifts, trips, and hard cash to healthcare officials in China and Russia.

In 2010, the company paid $US520 million in fines for illegally marketing to and manipulating American doctors with cash and luxury trips in order to increase sales of an anti-psychotic drug.

And in 2003, it paid $US355 million for defrauding the US Medicare system with a cancer drug marketing scam that involved bribing doctors.

Inspirational Newcastle triathlete returns to racing after freak training accident

RACE RETURN: Newcastle triathlete Lauren Parker in action on Sunday during the Paratriathlon Continental Championships in St Kilda. Picture: Delly Carr, Triathlon Poor conditions caused the cancellation of the swim leg but Lauren Parker could not have been happier to be racing again on Sunday, nine months after a life-changing accident left her paralysed from the waist down.

Parker’s efforts in theParatriathlon Continental Championships in St Kilda could be enough to earn her a place in the n team for the Commonwealth Games in April.

The course was changed on the morning of the race to instead comprise 2.5 kilometres in the racing wheelchair followed by a 20km hand cycle then concluding with another5km in the racing chair.

The Newcastle 29-year-oldofficially finished second in herrace but there was some confusion over the changed course with the rest of the field doing four kilometres less of the hand cycle.

Parker’s times were enough to put her in the frame for Commonwealth Games selection with two possible spots available but the team will not be announced until next month.

“Aside from the drama that went on I had a great race and was so excited to finish,” Parker said.

“Idefinitely need to work on the racing chair a lot to get big improvements in that area but I know my swim is there and my hand cycle is there. It’s exciting.”

If she does earn selection, Parker will line up for her country at the Gold Coast games 12 months after a freak cycling accident turned her world upside-down.

“It was so good to be back racing,” she said.“I was out on the hand cycle and just loving it.

“I was lovingthe feeling of racing again and I had a huge support crew down here, it was amazing. I wouldn’t have been here without the team behind me. I felt really special and really good that everyone was there at the end cheering me.”

Parker has only been training on hand cycle and in a racing wheelchair for the past six weeks.

Horse Racing: Kris Lees-trained Lomazzo put down after Magic Millions Country Cup

PUT DOWN: Lomazzo winning at Newcastle. Picture: Lees Racing websiteKris Lees-trained Lomazzo wasput down on Saturday after fracturing a seasmoid in theMagic Millions Country Cupat the Gold Coast.

The five-year-old Newcastle-basedgelding, by Magic Albert from Graphite Lass, was taken from the trackto the nearby Gold Coast Equine Hospital after pulling uparound 250 metres from the finish line and falling behind the field to runlast.

Lomazzo, with $117,080 prizemoneyfeaturing two wins from 22 starts, did not recover from the injury.

He could fair dinkum ride a broomstick home at the moment. Jason Collett brings up another win, this time on Zafina in front of a wall of horses for Matty Dale! pic.twitter苏州美甲/iAuyYJ3n9U

— Sky Racing (@SkyRacingAU) January 13, 2018

A woman was later arrestedafter attempting to steal the ambulance that took Lomazzo to the hospital.

She was charged with offences including unlawful use of a motor vehicle and public nuisance.

Reportedly she was drunk and not a protester.

The incident delayed the next race.

Zafina won the $242,500 Country Cup (1200m) by 0.2 lengths from Suggan Buggan and He’s A Moral.

Not Surprising, Lees’ other horse in the same race, was fourth.

Elsewhere on the card for Lees, chestnut filly Sasso Corbaro ran sixth in the $2million 3YO Guineas (1400m) while Powerline was 13thin the $1million Magic Millions Cup (1400m).

The Hunter’s hope in the $2million 2YO Classic (1200m),David Atkins-trained Jonker, ended up last after being controversially knocked into the rail early in the contest.

Meanwhile, Singleton-raised and Lambton-based jockey Aaron Bullock claimed his first metropolitan winneron Saturday.It was on board Lees-trained Sugar Bella.

Jarrod Woodgate and Keira Maguire together at the polo

Before Channel Ten has even set an air date for its upcoming, highly anticipated Bachelor spin-off, The Bachelor in Paradise, it seems that the cat might be out of the bag when it comes to the outcome for at least two of its contestants.

Jarrod Woodgate and Keira Maguire, the stand-out stars during their respective seasons – Woodgate coming runner-up last year alongside Sophie Monk on The Bachelorette and Maguire in 2016 on Richie Strahan’s season of The Bachelor – have been keeping each other company ever since they landed back in after their jaunt to Fiji, where filming took place late last year.

Despite signing Ten’s notoriously strict contract that bans them from being seen in public so as not to spoil the ending for fans, it seems that Woodgate and Maguire just can’t bear to be apart.

They have been spotted kissing on set in Fiji, meeting up for multiple secret weekends away, and on Saturday, they attended the annual Alfa Romeo Portsea Polo on the Mornington Peninsula, Melbourne, with the same group of friends.

Standing side-by-side in the exclusive, Italian summer-themed, Alfa Romeo marquee, Woodgate denied they were together, explaining that their appearance in the same place at the same time was nothing but a coincidence.

When asked by Fairfax Media about the rumours that they were a couple, Woodgate said: “No comment on Keira Maguire.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he added.

Maguire has had her eye on Woodgate since his passionate stint on The Bachelorette, where he was labelled by fans a “stage five clinger”.

Woodgate confessed his love for Monk, but she chose millionaire Stu Laundy as “the one”, leaving Woodgate in tears.

But Maguire need not worry about Monk as Woodgate said that’s all water under the bridge.

“I realised now that I loved Sophie as a person and I think I was being very protective because the other guys were around and it took me a while to realise that,” he said.

Woodgate believes that he acted more like himself on The Bachelor in Paradise as he felt more at ease around a mixture of male and female contestants.

“The Bachelor in Paradise is better with the pressure because you are there with a mixed variety of people. When I was stuck in a mansion with 20 other blokes when I had no idea who they are or what they want, it’s harder,” he said.

Woodgate has no regrets about his time on The Bachelorette, with his appearance helping to triple visitors to his family’s vineyard, Toms Cap Vineyard in Gippsland.

“Life since The Bachelorette has been epic,” Woodgate said.

“We get people calling up to find out if Jarrod from The Bachelorette will be there and then they come down to get pictures with me, just because of the show.”

Despite the downpours on Saturday, the stars still turned out in their Sunday best for what has become one of the most stylish events on Melbourne’s social calendar.

Actor and director, Gracie Otto, Offspring’s Asher Keddie and her artist husband Vincent Fantauzzo, and fashion influencers Clementine McVeigh and Rozalia Russian were all special guests of the main sponsor, Alfa Romeo.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, Bec Judd, Lindy Klim, Georgia Love, Sam Wood and his fianc?? Snezana Markoski??? were also in attendance.

Fairfax Media has asked Channel Ten for comment.

Brumbies women’s coach backs Super W to become professional

New Brumbies women’s coach Tony Doherty and player Jane Garroway. Photo by Karleen Minney.ACT Brumbies women’s coach Tony Doherty has backed Super W to become a professional league in the coming years on the back of the n women’s sport movement.

The inaugural Super W season kicks off in March but first the women will play in conjunction with the men at the Brisbane Global Tens on February 9-10.

Female players were the biggest winners when rugby’s new collective bargaining agreement was announced last week, with entry-level full-time minimum salaries for Super Rugby and male and female sevens players.

The Wallaroos will receive Test match payments for the first time and Doherty believes Super W players are next in line for a pay day as the competition grows.

“We have a few Wallaroos in the squad, so if they’re selected again this year they’ll get paid but it would be great to get all the Super W players paid,” Doherty said.

“We hope that will be the situation soon as it would put everyone on level pegging, currently most have to rely on their jobs for income and it would be awesome to have a professional income through rugby.”

The Brumbies held an open trial on Saturday which attracted more than 60 players from the ACT region, before Doherty named his 30-player squad on Sunday.

“We put the girls through fitness and skills sessions then had a few trial matches and it was an arduous task coming back to 30 names,” Doherty said.

“It’s great for the sport to have so much competition, we’ve selected a squad with some experienced players as well as some new and exciting talent.”

After the Brisbane tournament the women will play in a four-game round robin Super W season, with the top two teams playing a grand final.

“The NRL, ALF, Cricket and the W-League are all growing women’s sport and it’s great rugby is providing another platform for women’s sport to be on the big stage,” Doherty said.

“For our girls it’s about being competitive in all our games and the players are really excited for the opportunity and to be a part of n rugby history.”

ACT Brumbies: Emerena Aviga, Brittney-lee Bedford, Kate Brown, Louise Burrows, Skye Churchill, Peta Cox, Harriet Elleman, Charlene Gubb, Jess Howard, Anna Korovata, Michaela Leonard, Irene Macarthur, Shellie Milward, Georgia O’Neill, Tayla Stanford, Merrin Starr, Violeta Tupuola, Tania Afamasaga, Izzy Atkinson-Smith, Kiahan Bell-Chambers, Kasey Dragisic, Courtney Frankl, Jane Garraway, Ash Kara, Paremo Marsh, Kiara Meredith-Brown, Michelle Perry, Darcy Read, Cecelia Smith, Talei Wilson, Remi Wilton.

Wiasak hopes crash doesn’t ruin Commonwealth Games dream

From the high of winning a national crown, two-time world champion Rebecca Wiasak came crashing back to earth.

The Canberra cyclist was hopeful her concussion wouldn’t prevent her from realising her Commonwealth Games dream, after she was forced out of the Women’s Tour Down Under following her crash in Adelaide on Thursday.

Wiasak was in seventh heaven less than two weeks ago when she sprinted to victory in the n criterium championships in Ballarat, but pleasure has quickly turned to pain.

While the concussion was her most serious injury, Wiasak’s face has a serious case of gravel rash, along with her shoulder, hand and knees.

The 33-year-old was using a brief stint on the road bike in early January in her bid to be part of the n women’s team pursuit team for the track event at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in April.

“[There was] a few moments of panic when I think, ‘I’m running out of time to get my qualifying performance for Comm Games’,” Wiasak said.

“I hope my head does recover because one of my thoughts is that, ‘I hope this doesn’t prevent me making Commonwealth Games’.

“I’m trying to stay positive and push that thought out of my head, and just focus on doing everything right.”

She’ll be able to ride a stationary ergo bike on Monday and if she passes her next concussion test on Tuesday could return to the track on Wednesday.

The crash happened just 50 kilometres into the first stage of the Women’s TDU, with a concussed Wiasak apologising to the Holden Cycling team she was guest riding for.

Riding in the middle of the bunch, a rider swerved in front of Wiasak and clipped the Canberra cyclist’s front wheel sending her over the handlebars.

She was especially disappointed to miss Sunday’s final stage – a street circuit in Adelaide – where Wiasak was hopeful of wearing her green-and-gold jersey as national criterium champion.

“I’ll have the concussion test again on Tuesday and hopefully pass it, and be back on the track and the road on Wednesday,” she said.

“My recollection is a rider swerved to the left very suddenly and just clipped, literally took out my front wheel … it happened very quickly and I went obviously head first into the ground.

“I have very little memory after actually falling. I don’t remember hitting the ground and I have very little memory from even the ambulance trip and then arriving at the make-shift medical centre they had in the footy sheds at Gumeracha.” This sport provides some of the most exhilarating highs and the crappiest of lows. Bummed to crash out of @tourdownunder in Stage 1 on Thursday. Turns out I was a bit of a dud guest rider for @holdencycling. Mild concussion means a few days off the bike to recover. pic.twitter苏州美甲/JtwqLwMKwm??? Rebecca Wiasak (@RebeccaWiasak) January 13, 2018Unfortunately I have abandoned #WTDU Winds like Qatar our there today. On the freeway whilst in a team car – two bikes flew off the roof racks in front of us. So glad to avoid two bikes thru our windscreen at 110km/h ??????? Kimberley Wells (@Kimbers_Wells) January 13, 2018

East Timor’s minority government could fall within days

SPECIAL 010829 xanana pool.010829.pool photo by andrew meares.fairfax.east timor… East Timorese presidential candidate Xanana Gusmao is held aloft by the crowd as they welcome him to the village of Malelat in Occusi, East timor on Wednesday 29 August 2001. Gusmao visited several regions in East Timor pleading for calm ahead of the August 30 poll to elect a constituent assembly. .Only four months after taking office East Timor’s minority government is set to fall, possibly within days, amid tense political manoeuvrings in ‘s nearest north-western neighbour.

Uncertainty about the make up of a new government could delay ratification of a landmark agreement to develop billions of dollars worth of oil and gas reserves in the Timor Sea.

The government led by Mari Alkatiri from the one-time revolutionary party Fretilin faces a second vote of no confidence in its programs from a three-party opposition alliance which holds a majority of seats in Parliament.

Alkatiri has attempted to delay the vote, claiming opposition parties are attempting to stage a coup, as money for government programs rapidly runs out.

Defeat in the vote would automatically trigger the government’s fall.

President Francisco “Lu-Olo” Guterres, who is aligned with Fretilin, could dissolve Parliament and call fresh elections to be held within months.

Guterres could also invite the second largest party – the National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction led by former president and prime minister Xanana Gusmao – to form government, with two other smaller opposition parties.

At the centre of the fractious stand-off are Alkatiri and Gusmao, the country’s two most dominating political figures who have had bitter fallings out in the past.

Gusmao, a wily political operator and hero of East Timor’s struggle for independence, has wielded the most power behind the scenes while leading his country’s negotiations with on a Timor Sea maritime boundary and sharing arrangements for the $50 billion Greater Sunrise oil and gas field.

As political tensions have risen Gusmao has stayed out of the country, prompting many Timorese to ask what role he will play in any political resolution.

Analysts say without his approval of a new government political uncertainty will remain.

Professor Michael Leach, an expert on East Timor from Swinburne University of Technology, said the impasse has brought to the fore lingering divisions between resistance figures during the independence struggle and leaders who remained outside East Timor during Indonesia’s 22-year occupation.

Some local newspapers have used this potentially divisive theme openly in headlines.

Leach said while some East Timorese see a personality clash between Alkatiri and Gusmao, many see a deeper clash about the type of government and which parties should be included.

“Despite the political ructions, East Timorese society remains largely calm,” he said.

“Leaving aside the return of a more belligerent form of democracy and the accusations of an institutional coup, this political standoff demonstrates that the checks and balances in the constitutional system are operating, with strong accountability to Parliament.”

In March, East Timor and are set to sign a treaty on maritime boundary that has been negotiated under UN supervision at The Hague, ending years of bitter disagreement that strained ties between the neighbours.

Any new government in Dili will have to ratify it.

Details of the agreement have not been made public.

Over years Gusmao has demanded that any development of the Greater Sunrise involve an nshore LNG processing plant on a remote part of East Timor, which he envisages becoming an industrial hub.

But the field’s joint venture partners, led by Woodside Petroleum, say bringing the gas ashore to East Timor across a deep undersea trench is uneconomic.

They want to exploit the reserves through a floating LNG platform or pipe the gas to an existing LNG plant in Darwin.

Gusmao is tipped to head a new authority to oversee Greater Sunrise’s development, which is critical to East Timor’s future as existing joint gas fields with run dry in the next few years.

Cricket: Newcastle all-rounder Joseph Price completes extraordinary clean sweep at Chinan Country Championships

Joseph Price has capped off an extraordinary n Country Championships with a whirlwind 24 hours that saw him namedplayer of the tournament andselectedin the national merit XII after the Bush Blues miraculously claimed the overall title.

The Adamstown 35-year-old picked up the individual honours at the official presentation in Geraldton on Saturday night after NSW Country completed a late-carnival surge to narrowly finish on top of the standingscourtesy ofnet run rate (NRR).

Price hadfigures of3-12, taking his personal tally to18 wickets, in the Bush Blues’ double-bonus-point victory over South on the final day of competition.

Joseph Price

NSW Country dismissed SAfor 95 and successfully chasedthe target four wickets down in the 21stover of the one-day fixture.

The nature of thatresult, combinedwith a loss to equalleaders Victoria bylast year’s champions Queensland and an upset win for hosts WA over contendersEast Asia Pacific,saw NSW Country jumpfrom fourthto clinch the silverware for the first time since 2012-2013.

NSW Country (1.1852) had abetter NRR than Victoria (1.0729).

Both sides finished on 22 competition points, three in front of Queensland (19) and four ahead of East Asia Pacific (18).

NSW Country won their last two 50-over encounters with double bonus points after losing their opening three. Earlier at the tournament the Bush Blues won the T20 crown undefeated.

Wests all-rounder Price also scored 277 runs at an average of 25.18.

He was joined in the n Country XII by Bush Blues’ teammates Caleb Ziebell, leading wicket taker Cameron Sudigest andwicketkeeper of the tournamentTom Groth.

Meanwhile, the women’s title was won by South with Bush Breakerspair Rebecca Cady and Naomi McDonald named in the n Country XII.

ASX to catch Wall St’s bullish wave

AFR photo. generic ASX stock board shares investors investment portfolioThe local sharemarket, which has lagged overseas rivals so far this year, is poised to start the week sharply higher as Wall Street bulls shift into yet a higher gear.

The S&P/ASX 200 has risen a mere 1 per cent this month, lagging behind the 4.2 per cent advance in the Standard & Poor’s 500, the Nasdaq’s 4.7 per cent gain and the Dow Jones Industrial Average’s 5.3 per cent leap. The fast start to 2018 in New York has been reasonably broad based and there’s little evidence that the upward market melt is cooling.

Over the weekend ASX futures surged 31 points or 0.5 per cent. The n dollar topped US79?? as the greenback swooned.

A key test for local investors this week will be December’s employment print on Thursday, which will provide a fundamental check on November’s retail sales and December manufacturing.

The longest run of job creation since 1994 is set to continue, with the market expecting a 15,000 month over month gain, according to NAB, which sees “upside risks” given solid job advertising trends on job site SEEK as well as a “reassuringly steady” employment index in NAB’s monthly business survey.

NAB is expecting the economy to have added at least 35,000 jobs last month. The bank expects the unemployment rate to hold at 5.4 per cent, though NAB markets strategist Tapas Strickland said “the trend is firmly lower in 2018”.

“Trend employment growth currently exceeds the level needed to keep the unemployment rate unchanged and at +22k is enough for it drop 0.1 every 2-3 months,” Mr Strickland wrote in a weekend note. “The most recent employment indicators suggest it could fall below the RBA’s 5 per cent NAIRU in 2018.

“Our view of a continuing strong labour market is part of the reason why NAB sees the RBA hiking rates twice in the second half of 2018,” Mr Strickland also said. Bond market turning

It’s the prospect of higher global rates that has put investors on notice over this past week, reflected in part in the spike in US government yields; the 10-year yield hit a 10-month high last week and over the weekend the yield on the 2-year Treasury topped 2 per cent, its highest since the 2008 depths of the global financial crisis.

The yield moves lead Bill Gross to declare that a “mild” bear market had begun for bonds. But there’s not yet a consensus; Morgan Stanley strategists still see value in Treasuries.

Bank of Montreal chief economist Doug Porter attributed at least “some of the back-up in US bond yields” to “much more conventional, homegrown factors – a solid domestic economy, an uptick in inflation, and a rising budget deficit” – a reason why he agrees that “yields are more likely to rise than fall this year”.

Mr Porter is far from alarmist. Inflation is rising and could get a push from the recent leap in oil prices. The US government is going to start selling more debt in part to cover the cost of Republican tax cuts, at the same time as the Federal Reserve is planning to pare its $US4 trillion-plus ($5 trillion) balance sheet. There are no black swans here.

“Against this backdrop, one doesn’t need to concoct any stories about China trimming its purchases to make a bearish case for Treasuries,” Mr Porter said.

“The global economy is beginning to behave in a much more normal fashion, and so should monetary policy.”

To that point, and first off the rank on rates in 2018 is widely expected to be the Bank of Canada, which meets this week – Thursday morning AEDT. Governor Stephen Poloz is expected to announce a third 25-basis-point hike in its current upward cycle, lifting the bank’s target rate to 1.25 per cent.

Over the weekend, the latest US consumer price data bolstered bets that the Fed will lift its key rate by 25 basis points in March – the first of potentially three hikes in 2018. In the wake of the CPI data, TD Securities said it now sees three hikes as its base case for this year, up from two. That in turn led TD to lift its yield expectations on the short end of the US curve, up to five years, however it held its year-end 10-year yield forecast at 2.65 per cent.

BasketballSuzy Batkovic stars as Townsville win the first game of the WNBL grand final series.

CLASS ABOVE: Townsville Fire skipper Suzy Batkovic puts her team on the attack in Saturday’s win against Melbourne Boomers. Pictures: AAPSUZY Batkovic is one game from the fifth Women’s National Baketball League title of her career after Townsville’s 69-64 win against Melbourne Boomers in the grand final series opener.

FOCUSED: Suzy Batkovic takes a shot from the free-throw line.

The Fire now travel to Melbourne and will try to wrap up the series on Thursday and make the third and final game redundant.

Batkovic, the three-time Olympian from Newcastle,became the first Townsville player to surpass 3000 points as she finished her 150th game for the club with 16 points along with 15 rebounds.

“I’m really proud of my girls at the defensive end,” Batkovic said in aFox Sports interview.

BATTLE: Suzy Batkovic attracts the attention of Liz Cambage.

“There was a time that we couldn’t convert, but we did such a solid job on defence and that kept us in the game when things were tough.”

If Townsville win the grand final, Batkovic will match her former Opals teammate, Lauren Jackson, as a five-time title winner. Long-serving Canberra capitals skipper Nat Hurst holds the record with six titles.

Townsville coach Claudia Brassard credited her team’s defensive play and experience as the keys to the Fire’s game-one victory, which puts them in the box seat to notcha third championship in the space offour seasons.

“It’s nice to get that out of the way and while it wasn’t pretty, it’s still a win and we are one up,” Brassard said.

“Offensively, we probably got bogged down quite a bit but Melbourne were the best defensive team in the competition and they showed that here.”

The Fire matched Melbourne’s intensity on defence and while towering centre Liz Cambage (26 points, 13 rebounds, four blocks) proved too tough to stop, they restricted the visitors to 13 per cent shooting (3-of-23) from three-point range.

“Our threes didn’t drop, we just had a miserable percentage tonight,” Melbourne coach Guy Molloy admitted after the loss.

“We make two or three more of those shots and turn it into a mediocre percentage, the game could have been ours.

“We needed to knock down our shots and we just didn’t tonight.”

The big-game experience of Batkovic, along with guard Kelly Wilson and centre Cayla George, proved invaluable for the Fire as they held off a fourth-quarter charge from the visitors.

“They have all been there before, they know what finals are like and I think down the stretch we are going to rely on them,” Brassard said.

“We have a lot of experience and we can draw on a few of those players to come out and get it done for us, which is nice.”

Needing a win to keep their title hopes alive, Cambage expects her side to turn around their shooting woes in game two on Thursday night as they attempt to set up a deciding game three back in Townsville on Sunday.

“We’ve got a pretty young team, we’ve got a lot of girls playing in their first grand final,” Cambage said.

“Hopefully they got a lot of their nerves out tonight and they’ll be pumped to go and hit those shots on our home court.”