12 Dec 18

Collins hopes golden guitar success shines light on mental health

SHINING: Travis Collins was the star of the n Country Music Awards on Saturday, winning three golden guitars. Picture: Dan HimbrechtsTHE phone of Travis Collins’ manager Ken Outch has been running hot since his client cleaned up at the n Country Music Awards on Saturday night in Tamworth.
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The Cessnock musician won three of his six golden guitar nominations, includingmale artist, best song for Call Me Crazy and single of the year for Just Another Girl. It ended an astonishing run of 19 nominations without a victory.

“It was a huge thrill and just an honour to be held in the esteem from the industry that votes on it,” Collins said.

Winning song of the year with the ballad Call Me Crazy was particularly satisfying.

“I’m glad its win in that category has been able to shine a light,” he said. “I’ve also been able to talk to people like yourself [media] about suicide prevention and mental health in and I’m really happy that that song had already been a vehicle for it and has now been thrown into a spotlight and I get to spread that message a lot more.”

Collins plans to spend the next four months writing in the studio before he tourswith Amber Lawrence in June.

TROPHY SHORTSO close, but no cigar. Newcastle punk lads Trophy Eyes missed cracking their maiden Triple J Hottest 100 last Thursday by the slimmest of margins.

Lead single Chlorineoff their second albumChemical Miracle finished No. 101, falling just short of Birds Of Tokyo’sBrace. Chlorinewas the only Novocastrian single to crack the top 200, with The Gooch Palms’ Ask Me Why a surprise omission.

However, Newcastle drummerDom Borzestowski featured twice in the poll of2.24 million votes with his Sydney band Gang Of Youths claiming 50thand 146thfor Strange Disease and Native Tongues.

GOOD TIMES ROLLEVEN the ruling in 2012 that Men At Work’s anthem Down Under was plagiariseddoesn’t diminish itsenduring popularity. Newcastle’s Civic Theatre will no doubt be filled with that iconic flute riff on May 31 when Colin Hay performs at the venue for the Good Times Tour.

Joining the Men At Work frontman will be The Black Sorrows with Vika and Linda Bull, Deborah Conway and Mental As Anything.

It is the fifth annual Good Times Tour, which last year broughtDaryl Braithwaite, Kate Ceberano, Jon Stevens and John Paul Young to the Civic Theatre. Tickets go on sale on Thursday for Ticketek members and on Monday to the general public.

WITH THE BOSSBRIAN Lizotte will live out the dream of millions of music fans when he shares the same stage asBruce Springsteen on the rock icon’s upcoming n tour.

The Lizotte’s owner has been invited to play trombone withhis brotherDiesel, when he supports Springsteen and The E Street Bandat The Boss’ Melbourne(Thursday), Hanging Rock (February 11) and Hope Estate (February 18) shows. The Newcastle Herald understands Lizotte was hesitant to wrest himself away from his duties at his Lambton theatre, but staff ensured him it was an opportunity not to be missed.

EMOTIONAL DAYEXPECTa few wet eyes on stage at Lizotte’s on Sunday when Tamworth’s Aleyce Simmonds launches her third album More Than Meets The Eye.

The album is candid about the issue of domestic violence, but the title track could well be the record’s most emotional moment. The track was co-written with Hunter Valley alt-country musician Tori Forsyth and the late Country Music Association of n Academy teacher Karl Brodie. Brodie died last April from pancreatic cancer aged 44.

Forsyth will support Simmonds on Sunday, alongside CMAA Academy graduate, Newcastle’sKate Pope.

PROLIFIC BLACKMOST of us would struggle writing a song once in our whole life, little alone one for every day of the year. However, that is the amazing feat completed by The Hard-Ons’ frontman Peter Blackin 2016. Black wrote, recorded and released 366 songs during the leap year through hisBandcamp account.

Black performed with the Hard-Ons at the inaugural Thrashville at Lower Belford two weeks ago and will return to the Hunter at the Grand Junction Hotel on February 23 to perform his solo material. Joining the Aussie punk legend on the road will be French-raised acoustic artist Forest Pooky.

The pair previously toured Europe together and recorded an EP.

LITTLE RELEASEMELBOURNE garage rockers The Pretty Littles are returning to the road in March to promote HelluvaTuesdi, the fourth single off their record Soft Rock For The Anxious.

The tour includes a March 18 support show with fellow Melbourne band Ceres at the Cambridge Hotel.


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12 Dec 18

Mayor calls on new Premier for round two of Hunter Infrastructure Investment Fund

A 20-year infrastructure plan for the Hunter could be back on the State’s agendawhen Maitland Mayor Peter Blackmore calls on new Premier Gladys Berejiklian to resurrect theHunter Infrastructure and Investment Fund.
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Mayor Peter Blackmore.

Cr Blackmore wants to invite Ms Berejiklian to Maitland to discuss the possibility of extending the fund for a second round so the region can push ahead with projects that did not see the light of day during the first round.

Cr Blackmore chaired the board that was set up to advise the government on the best use of the $350 million fund that was announced in 2010 as a key plank of the Coalition’s subsequently successful election campaign.

Another $100 million was added to the fund in 2014 and almost $400 million has been spent or allocated to projects selected by the infrastructure fund board.

It was set up to guide 20 years of infrastructure development, including transport, education, water and health, support economic growth and enhancethe liveability of the region.

The government quietly abolished the Hunter-based board late last year.

Cr Blackmore told Fairfax Media this week that he wantsto invite the Premier to Maitland to discuss a number of issues, most importantly the fund.

“I want to see what plans the government has for the Hunter and call for a second round,” the mayor said.“The previous round was a huge success and there were other areas in NSW pounding the pavementasking ‘why can’t we get this’.Each project submitted for consideration is based on its merits and there are serious guidelines.”

Projects to come out of the fund include$20million for wine region roads, $44million fora New England Highway upgrade at Maitland, $4million forThomas Mitchell Drive at Muswellbrook, an $11million Newcastle Airport expansion, $5million forKurri and Cessnock hospitals, $25million for John Hunter Children’s Hospital and$25million for the University of Newcastle.


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12 Dec 18

Price hits right note in Adele tribute

INSPIRED: Naomi Price said the ordinariness of Adele makes her a compelling character to perform on stage. Picture: Dylan EvansNAOMI Price was just like millions of women around the world when she was first touched by the music of Adele.
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Heart-broken and looking for something to cling to, Adele’s second album 21 in 2011 provided the remedy the Brisbane stage performer sought.

“Her album 21 came out when I was going through a really bad break up,” Price said.“Initially, I identified with all those songs about heart break and everyone has got a memory of hearing her songs for the first time, and for me, it was the soundtrack to this really difficult part of my life. I connected initially on a more emotional level, especially her more painful ballads.”

Price wasn’t alone. Adele’s hits like Rolling In The Deep and Someone Like You made21a global smash. In an era where record sales are continually plummeting, the album sold 35 million copies worldwide to be the highest-sellerof2011 and 2012.

On October 12, 2012 Adele gave birth to her son, the same night Price debuted her Rumour Has It tribute show.

”It was perfect timing in that she disappeared from the public eye and we were able to create this show and satisfy people’s desire to see her songs performed live,” Price said.

Unlike most tribute acts, Adele is at the height of her fame and creativity and is touring for the first time next month. Therefore English-born Price, who has previously starred in Jesus Christ Superstar and Wrecking Ball about Miley Cyrus, has attempted to articulate Adele the performer and the person to audiences.

“The other thing that drew me is her speaking voice and who she is in every day life,” she said.“She’s the kind of girl you would want over for dinner because she’s an absolute laugh.

“She sings like a goddess then talks like a chimney sweep. It’s a really nice contradiction and as an actor that’s awesome to play, as you can sing these incredible songs and then start swearing and being bit of a dickhead, and people just love you for it.”

Rumour Has It –Adele plays at Wests New Lambton on February 10.


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13 May 19

Graham Anthony George Sloan murder trial for death of Windale woman Renee Mitchell

HAPPIER TIMES: The body of Renee Mitchell was found by walkers in Bangalay Reserve at Windale on November 12, 2014. Graham Anthony George Sloane has pleaded guilty to manslaughter, but not guilty to murder. Picture: SuppliedA MAN accused of brutally murdering an aged-care worker and dumping her body in a Windale park has raised a defence of substantial impairment, claiming he couldn’t control himself at the time of the woman’s death.
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There is no dispute that Graham Anthony George Sloane, now 68, was the man who took Renee Mitchell, 38, from her kitchen while she was cooking dinner for her family on November 11, 2014, Newcastle Supreme Court has heard.

There is also no questionthat Mr Sloane took Mrs Mitchellto nearby Bangalay Reserve andstabbed her four times in the chest and once in the neck.

And it’s not disputed that those injuries caused her death and that Mr Sloane intended to kill Mrs Mitchell.

But what a jury will be asked to decide is whether Mr Sloane was suffering from an “abnormality of the mind” at the time of the killing, meaning his capacity to understand events, judge right from wrong or control himself wassubstantially impaired by mental illness.

If they make that determination, then the jury will be asked whether his capacity to control himself –which both sides acknowledge is the central issue to the case –was so substantially impaired that it would reduce what was otherwise murder to manslaughter, the court heard.

“Not guilty to murder, but guilty to manslaughter,” a frail-looking Mr Sloane told a jury panel during his arraignment on Monday.

Barrister Janet Manuel, for Mr Sloane, told the jury of nine women and three men that Mr Sloane was showing “clear signs of mental illness in the days, weeks and months” leading up to Ms Mitchell’s death.

Mr Sloane had began telling people he was a stand-up comedian or a musician, that he was embarking on a national tour or heading overseas to “entertain the troops” and had even hired a “showbiz manager”, Ms Manuel said.

None of these things were true.

“But that didn’t stop Mr Sloane,” Ms Manuel said. “Because he not only spoke about these things, he acted on them.”

Mr Sloane bought thousands of dollars worth of musical and electrical equipment as well as a new car to use during the tour, making repeated visits to Musos Corner, Harvey Norman and a car dealership on the day he killed Mrs Mitchell.

During his opening address, Crown prosecutor Lee Carr submitted that, ultimately, the jury would reject the defence of substantial impairment and find that Mr Sloane had the capacity to control himself.

The trial, before Justice Helen Wilson, is expected to run for two weeks.


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13 May 19

Market volatility not as scary as it seems

Volatility on share markets can be a reminder to make sure you are in the right super fund investment option. Photo: Peter BraigStrap yourself in, 2017 is set to be “volatile” in financial markets. That’s the view of many fund managers and other investment experts, and you can see why it seems a pretty safe prediction.
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With Donald Trump in the White House, market-moving comments are just a presidential tweet away. A host of European nations also hold elections this year, which could open the door to more anti-establishment leaders, adding to the many unknowns in the world economy.

It’s easy to get the impression of a more turbulent world – which is reinforced by a 24-hour media cycle that naturally emphasises the more dramatic events.

But what’s the hard evidence that the financial world is more volatile than it used to be?

And if markets are becoming even more or a roller coaster, how does this affect your superannuation?

For all the talk about volatility, it is certainly not reflected in what market insiders call the “fear index”.

The VIX, or volatility index, is traded on the Chicago Board Options Exchange, and viewed as a global benchmark for volatility, because it shows the price investors pay to insure against wild market swings. Yet last week, the VIX fell to the lowest level in its 27-year history.

The VIX did spike when Trump was elected, but remained well below the recent 2015 highs reached when China’s sharemarket was tumbling, and even those highs were a fraction of the genuinely scary peaks of the global financial crisis in 2008-09.

The low level of the VIX suggests the recent market swings are more a case of share prices bouncing around, rather than investors being deeply uncertain or worried.

However, it is also true that investment returns for super funds have been getting bumpier.

SuperRatings has measured the rolling volatility over one and three years for balanced funds – where most of us have our super.

They did this by measuring the funds’ percentage change in returns, compared with its longer-term average. The message is that things did indeed get more volatile in 2015-16 financial year, after five or so years of greater consistency. Yet returns have still been positive, averaging 9.5 per cent a year over the past five years.

Yet it’s important not to overstate the significance of volatility for superannuation, the ultimate long-term investment.

SuperRatings chairman Jeff Bresnahan says market volatility itself is not necessarily a problem for super fund members – the more important issue is making sure you are in the appropriate investment option for your situation.

“If there is market volatility this year, which you would expect, the important thing for ns is that they are in the right investment option, and that’s the thing a lot of us don’t look at,” he says.

The basic rule here is that younger people, such as those in their 20s, can withstand greater volatility in their super fund because these short-term changes should be outweighed by longer-term gains.

“A 25-year-old with money in super can be 100 per cent in shares that bounce around like crazy for 12 months and it should not bother them,” Bresnahan says.

As you get closer to retirement, however, volatility can make a meaningful difference to the size of a nest egg you’re left with. The problem is that most people don’t think about whether they are in the most appropriate option, because most of us are not especially interested or motivated in checking out such things.

So while volatility might not be as scary as it can look on the news, it’s probably a useful prompt for people to ensure they are taking the right amount of risk with their savings.


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13 May 19

David Wotherspoon coronial inquest day two: Indigenous death in custody in Cessnock Jail

Cessnock Jail.
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INMATES at a mental health unit where an Indigenous man was found unconscious in 2013 were often kept locked down in their cells for 23 hours a day, Newcastle Coroner’s Court has heard.

David Wotherspoon, 31, was in a “safe cell” under constant video surveillance at Cessnock Correctional Centre on April 5, 2013, when two correctional officers found himunconscious with a cordaround his neck.

He never regained consciousness and died in John Hunter Hospital nine days later.

An inquest being held in Newcastle Coroner’s Court this week is examining a number of issues, including mental health treatment and referrals for inmates in custody, procedural, staffing and training practices, among others.

Mr Wotherspoon, who had a history of mental illness, self-harm and suicide attempts, was referred to the mental health screening unit (MHSU) at Silverwater on March 15.

But the inquest is exploring why that referral was delayed for nearly a week,leaving Mr Wotherspoon at Cessnock.

Laurel Kibble, a mental health nurse at Cessnock Correctional Centre at the time of Mr Wotherspoon’s death, was asked how much time inmates in that unit had outside of their cell.

“They were locked in their cell most of the time,” Ms Kibble said.

“It would vary, but up to 23 hours a day, I would estimate.”

When asked what effect that would have on someone with mental health issues, she replied: “It’s not good for someone’s mental health to be isolated for such long periods.”

The inquest heard on Tuesday that Mr Wotherspoon was not found to have any “suicidal ideations” at a risk intervention team (RIT) review only hours before he was found unconscious.

However, the team conducting the review was without a Justice Health representative, despite it being required under the guidelines.

The inquest, before State Coroner Michael Barnes, continues on Wednesday.


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13 May 19

Celebrity charities just compete with all other charities – so why start one?

The Shane Warne foundation closed last year after it was revealed it was only donating 16 per cent of its income. Photo: Jesse MarlowDespite the enormous number of charities in the world, more are established every year – and many also disappear. n Charities and Not-for-profits Commission data shows that, since 2012, 8,500 charities have been registered and more than 13,500 have been revoked.
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Former tennis player Pat Rafter’s Cherish the Children Foundation, which closed in 2011, is just one of many examples of a charity that has come and gone. Rafter has a long history as a philanthropist. He donated half the prizemoney from his US Open wins to the Starlight Children’s Foundation as well as starting up his own foundation in 1999.

But, unable to compete against established foundations, Cherish the Children was forced to close.

Why, then, do so many celebrities attempt to start their own charity, when they add to an already fragmented and competitive sector?

Whatever the motivation, the stated rationale is often that this new charity can offer something not in the market. However, our research shows these charities compete head-on with other charities. The public sees them as near look-alikes. Sharing is caring?

Charities share supporters with other charities in line with their size. For example, a medium-sized n charity will share more of their donors with the Salvation Army or the Red Cross than with Parkinson’s .

We see the same pattern when looking at how charities share donors. We surveyed 570 ns who reported supporting 393 distinct charities. They gave to the Queensland flood relief and established charities, such as Cancer Council , during the 12 months to April 2011.

Examining many people donated to each charity (percentage of donors). the Salvation Army (32 per cent) and Red Cross (26 per cent) dominate the market.

They were followed by the Queensland Floods and Cancer Council (each 9 per cent), the RSPCA (8 per cent), World Vision (7 per cent), Vinnies and Guide Dogs (each 6 per cent), the Heart Foundation (5 per cent) and Oxfam (4 per cent).

The interactive graphic below shows donors support multiple charities, with sharing largely occurring as predicted, based upon the size of the charity.

[Story continues after graphic.]


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13 May 19

Low-priced IVF competition slashes margins at Virtus Health

Eggs are identified for retrieval in preparation for a sperm injection at a clinic in California. Photo: New York Times Low cost competitors have hit Virtus hard.
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Shares in fertility clinic operator Virtus Health slumped Tuesday following a profit downgrade as lower priced competitors muscle in on the industry.

In the process, it has become the latest in a growing list of former small cap market darlings falling out of favour as earnings have faltered. On Monday, for example, shares in construction services outfit Aconex dived 40 per cent on a profit warning.

Virtus shares were down 16.4 per cent at $5.19, after touching a low earlier of $4.98 as investors dumped the shares on the downgrade.

Monash IVF was collateral damage, with its shares marked down 10 per cent to $1.65.5c It is the second largest domestic player in the IVF market, with a quarter share.

In particular, Primary Healthcare has targeted the fat margins in IVF services, opening clinics in Melbourne, Sydney and more recently Brisbane, which appears to be causing problems for Virtus, the country’s largest IVF provider.

Last November, Virtus said it was experiencing weaker than expected IVF cycle volumes, and this morning it pointed to recent Medicare data for the December quarter which indicated a 6 per cent decline in volumes in the states in which Virtus operates.

Virtus confirmed its sales volumes fell 7.2 per cent in the December half, blaming low cost competition, most notably in NSW where volumes have slumped by 19 per cent.

“The level of this volume shortfall, should it continue in the second half will have a material impact on Virtus full year financial results compared to prior year,” it warned investors this morning.

“The exact level of the shortfall is highly dependent on fresh cycle activity in the second half of the financial year, and in particular, activity in the final quarter. We anticipate that volumes and margin in our [fertility clinics] in Queensland will come under pressure in H2FY17 as a result of increased low cost competition.”

Primary has made it clear the high margins on offer had drawn it to the IVF sector, with anecdotal evidence it can cost up to $10,000 per cycle. It’s most recent clinic was opened last November, in Brisbane.

Virtus has sought to meet some of the lower priced competition in the fertility market by competing head on, by unbundling some services, although analysts have warned that this could also serve to undermine margins.

Virtus has made a series of offshore acquisitions, expanding into Ireland, Singapore and most recently Denmark in a bid to reduce its reliance on the n fertility market.


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13 Apr 19

Brisbane Tens: Lote Tuqiri to make comeback as NSW Waratahs marquee player

When Lote Tuqiri received a text message from NSW Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson in November asking if he’d be interested in coming out of retirement for a cameo at the Brisbane Tens, the dual international was genuinely torn as to whether he should commit.
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“I was interested, but I didn’t give him a firm answer,” Tuqiri said. “We conversed over Christmas and New Year’s and I finally got over the line in convincing myself. I just didn’t know whether I was confident in myself getting it done and I finally came to that realisation only a couple of weeks ago.

“You don’t want to get back on the big stage and embarrass yourself.”

Tuqiri joins Chris Latham (Queensland Reds), Stephen Larkham and Andrew Walker (ACT Brumbies) and Morgan Turinui (Melbourne Rebels) in the old brigade of former Wallabies who will dust of the boots as wildcard players for the two-day tournament at Suncorp Stadium.

The 37-year-old – whose last professional football match came in 2014 for the South Sydney Rabbitohs – will line up in the sky blue of NSW after 89 appearances for the Waratahs between 2003 and 2009.

He is very happy about the unlimited interchange rule but firstly had to convince himself he would be in good enough physical shape to compete against a string of international stars.

“When you haven’t played for a while you have a bit of fear mixing it again with the young guys,” Tuqiri said. “When you’re playing you have that supreme confidence about yourself but when you’re coming in cold … it’s a different beast.

“I don’t know what to expect to be honest. I don’t know how teams are treating this. Maybe another selection trial for the Super Rugby season?”

Tuqiri threw down the gauntlet for Latham, saying he his former Wallabies teammate would be under the most pressure of the older heads coming back as marquee players.

“I’m expecting big things from Chris Latham actually,” Tuqiri said. “He has kept on top of his fitness and is looking quite fit. If there’s anyone that should have expectation on them of the older blokes, it’s Chris Latham and I’m sure he won’t disappoint.

“I’m obviously not as fast as I once was but I’ve still got the long legs. Off the field I’ll mix with the old crew and share war stories and everything else. I’m in there to enjoy myself and put a relaxing spin on the place.”

Gibson said Tuqiri’s inclusion would be beneficial for the younger members of the squad who will be in line to wear a NSW jersey for the first time.

“Lote brings loads of experience to the Waratahs playing group and it will be a good chance for our younger guys to take the field with someone who has played rugby at all levels,” Gibson said.

“Having the opportunity to learn from a playmaker like Lote will provide an added boost for the boys and a different type of preparation.”

The Waratahs squad is headlined by Israel Folau and will include three other players who featured for the Wallabies in 2016 in Tom Robertson, Tolu Latu and Taqele Naiyaravoro.

Fellow Wallabies Nick Phipps, Bernard Foley, Rob Horne, Michael Hooper, Sekope Kepu, Dean Mumm and Will Skelton have been rested for the inaugural two-day tournament that starts on February 11.

n Olympic sevens representatives Cam Clark, Pat McCutcheon and Con Foley have also been named in the 26-man squad.

Waratahs squad for the Brisbane Global Rugby Tens:

Israel Folau, Tolu Latu, Tom Robertson, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Paddy Ryan, Hugh Roach, Damien Fitzpatrick, Ned Hanigan, Ryan McCauley, Michael Wells, Rory O’Connor, Patrick McCutcheon, Brad Wilkin, Jamason Schultz, Matt Lucas, Jake Gordon, Mack Mason, Bryce Hegarty, David Horwitz, Andrew Deegan, Con Foley, Andrew Kellaway, Cam Clark, Harry Jones, Reece Robinson, Lote Tuqiri.  Stunning sporting comebacks

Lote Tuqiri has announced that he will join the likes of Andrew Walker and Stephen Larkham in coming out of retirement to contest the Brisbane 10s. But he is not the first professional athlete to make a stunning comeback or attempt a bizarre code switch.

Andrew Johns Johns attempted to make the switch to cricket in 2006/07 when he represented New South Wales in the Twenty20 Big Bash, a precursor to the current Big Bash League. It was largely a flop, with Johns finishing with nine runs across his two matches, but he has still played two more Twenty20 matches for NSW than Michael Clarke ever did.

Auckland Nines Retired rugby league stars coming out of retirement to contest the Auckland Nines has become an annual tradition. In the first year it was Steve Menzies and Brad Fittler, last year it was Jason Croker and this year it will be Ruben Wiki who takes to the field in the shortened form of the game.

Pat Rafter Rafter made a shock comeback to Grand Slam tennis when he partnered with Lleyton Hewitt in doubles at the 2014 n Open. It was nine years after his last professional doubles match and the comeback was shortlived. The pair went down 6-4, 7-5 in their first round match and Rafter has made no more attempts at a comeback.

Michael Jordan The greatest basketballer on earth shocked the world when he announced he was leaving the sport to try his hand at baseball. While conspiracy theories swirl over why he made the switch, his baseball journey was shortlived and he returned to basketball after just one season in the Minor Leagues.

n swimmers Numerous n swimmers have attempted comebacks in recent years, with some more successful than others. Geoff Huegill and Grant Hackett both returned to the national team after long absences from the sport, although both had their Olympics dreams dashed. Ian Thorpe was another to attempt a comeback, but like the other two, he also failed to qualify for the Olympics and the comeback was aborted shortly after.

Diego Maradona

At the ripe old age of 53, reports emerged that Diego Maradona would be making a comeback with fifth-tier Argentinian side Deportivo Riestra in 2014. Unfortunately Maradona did not make his much hyped return, instead continuing in his existing role as a spiritual coach at the club.


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13 Apr 19

Sydney Sixers’ Indigenous prodigy Ashleigh Gardner picked for Southern Stars

Sydney all-rounder Ashleigh Gardner will become just the second Indigenous woman to play cricket for her country and the first in 59 years when she debuts against New Zealand in February.
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Fresh from winning the women’s Big Bash League with the Sydney Sixers, Gardner follows in the footsteps of lightning quick bowler Faith Thomas (nee Coulthard) who in 1958 became the first Aboriginal woman to represent her country in the sporting arena.

Selectors simply couldn’t ignore the 19-year-old who pummeled 414 runs throughout the WBBL including an equal high 13 sixes, to go with her 10 wickets. They’ve picked her in the T20 squad for the home series against New Zealand, and the one-day international squad for the three-match tour of New Zealand that follows – an ideal platform to display her credentials for the Women’s World Cup later this year.

Much has changed in the time since Thomas travelled by ship to Britain to make her sole international appearance for , and the significance of her selection is not lost on Gardner.

“She has told me a couple of stories that she had to give up her nursing career to play for ,” Gardner said of her few meetings with Thomas.

“They obviously had to pay quite a lot of money to go overseas, that was one of the reasons why she stopped playing cricket because she couldn’t afford to travel overseas.

“She told me a story that she bowled out one of the best batsmen in the world, and snapped his middle stump. I think she was quite quick back in the day.”

Gardner was born to parents Katherine and James in Bankstown 19 years ago, some four decades after Thomas blazed her Indigenous sporting trail.

Katherine is of the Muruwari people, centred around Brewarrina in central north NSW while James’ ancestry is English.

Fittingly, Gardner will prepare for her impending n debut in Alice Springs next week at the Imparja Cup, an annual Indigenous cricket tournament.

She’s been told by the Southern Stars coaching staff to play as much cricket as possible in order to prepare for the T20 series against New Zealand, which begins on February 17 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

“The only time I get to really experience it [Aboriginal culture] is when I go up to Imparja Cup where we get to visit communities in Alice Springs,” Gardner said.

“Hopefully in the next couple of years I’ll be able to experience that a lot more.

“It’s a massive honour to be named in the [n] side. Not just my immediate family but the Indigenous community as a whole, it just sends a message I guess that there’s no barriers any more, there’s no stereotypes that Indigenous people can’t represent their country in any sport that they choose.

“Hopefully I’m seen as a role model to young Indigenous kids that if they put their mind to something, they can definitely achieve whatever they’re determined to achieve.

“It’s only going to get bigger and better from here, they’ve put more money into Indigenous cricket, hopefully in the next couple of years you’ll see a lot more male and females hopefully representing their countries.”

squad: Meg Lanning (c), Kristen Beams, Alex Blackwell, Nicole Bolton (one-day series only), Lauren Cheatle, Rene Farrell, Ashleigh Gardner, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry (one-day series only pending fitness), Megan Schutt, Molly Strano (Twenty20 series only), Elyse Villani, Amanda-Jade Wellington

v New Zealand T20s February 17: MCG, Melbourne, 2.05pm AEDT February 19: Kardinia Park, Geelong, 2.35pm AEDT February 22: Adelaide Oval, Adelaide, 2.05pm AEDT

v New Zealand ODIs February 26: Eden Park No.2, Auckland, 9am AEDT March 2: Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui, 9am AEDT  March 5: Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui, 9am AEDT


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13 Apr 19

21 remote NSW schools struggle on sub-standard internet

Booligal Public School principal Linda Stewart with students in an earlier year. There is a steady stream of new students to the school, but not a steady stream of internet capability. It’s a long wait for 21 remote NSW schools caught in a Department of Education technology black hole that forces them to struggle with some of the slowest internet speeds in .
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At Booligal, the far west town Banjo Paterson made famous with his poem Hay, Hell and Booligal – it’s hell for the town’s seven enrolled children this year trying to be part of the webrevolution.

Parent Ali McLean has timed internet speeds at the school over the last three years, and the average is two to 3 megabitsper second. That’sslow.

Mrs McLean says the slow internet service from a Department of Education contract through Optus that uses the old interim satellite, means the schoolkids miss out on a number of major opportunities.

It isolates them from regional online discussions and virtual excursions. “It basically stops them from being able to access 21st century learning skills.” Ali McLean says.

“Due to the fact that 21 schools are locked into a contract that the Department of Education has with Optus, we are told we can’t escape until the contract runs out – somewhere around 2019.’’

Every Friday this year when school is on, the Booligal kids will hopin a bus and travel 80km to Hay, where the school kids enjoy high internet speeds and join in online class activities.

“We were told, by the Department it is a situation we basically have to live with.” Booligal will have seven students this year, down three on last year. But Ms McLean says there are many young families in the area with a good stream of students expected over the next decade.

Claire Butler of the Isolated Childrens and Parents Association, whose children attend Clare school, says she was alsotold security was an issue the 21 schools could not be migrated to the new Sky Muster system.

It is frustrating situation for Ali McLean and her two children she has at Booligal school. She has Sky Muster at home, with occasional drop outs, and an NBN tower in Booligal that delivers high-speed internet. But when her kids go to school, it is all backward technologydespite great facilities and a great teacher-principal.

In a response, the Department of Education said it could not bring in a new system until security over the internet for children using the system was finalised. NBN could not provide a new service andit was not cost-effective to go to a new contract at the moment.

The 21 remote public schools on slow internet are: Bald Blair, Booligal, Afterlee, Kellys Plains, Enngonia, Upper Coopers Creek, Clare, Empire Vale, Tulloona, Wattle Flat, Mallan, Louth, Naradhan, Wanaaring, Whian Whian, Macdonald Valley, Conargo, Tuntable Creek, Weilmoringle, North Star, Lord Howe Island.

The full response from the NSW Department of Education to the issue was:

“Students are provided with filtered internet access appropriate to their cohort as required by the Department’s Duty of Care obligations. Regardless of whether delivered through satellite or cable, the Department can only consider using internet service providers that have the technical capacity to support our enterprise grade network, secure connectivity, and safe browsing. This includes access to multicast protocols that allow our data to be used effectively and efficiently with our teaching software. Consumer grade products do not have these capabilities,’’ the Department of Education said in a response.

“’We are liaising with NBN and are aware that they are working towards meeting these requirements, but the service is currently focussed on providing domestic broadband services for domestic and commercial rural users. The technology to provide connectivity of similar bandwidth across urban and geographically isolated schools does not exist in a way that can be delivered within a feasible cost-benefit scenario.

“The Department monitors technological upgrades and market offerings and discusses its technical requirements with numerous vendors including NBN Co in an ongoing fashion.

“Elements of the hardware, software and network are continuously upgraded with major upgrades undertaken at the conclusion of existing contracts through formal procurement processes.”


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13 Apr 19

Phil Bradford makes step from Wanderers to West Harbour to NSW 20s

STEPPING UP: Former Wanderers hooker Phil Bradford will play in an all-Newcastle front row for the NSW under-20s on Saturday. Picture: Marina Neil NSW Waratahs general manager of rugby Tim Rapp has no doubts that Wanderers hooker and former n Schoolboy Phil Bradford has the toolsto take his game to the next level.
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Bradford will form an all Newcastle-bred front-row alongside Harry Johnson-Holmes and Harry Chapman when the NSW under-20s take on the Central West senior side in a trial at Mudgee on Saturday.

The hit-out, which is a curtain-raiser to the Waratahs versus Brumbies match, is the first of three trials before theopening Super 20s clash against the Western Force on February 25.

Bradford, who has a part of the Wanderers side which went down 37-28 to Hamilton in the Newcastle first-grade grand final last year, has joined former Two Blues coach Todd Louden at West Harbour and trains three sessions a week with the NSW 20s.

“The biggest thing for Phil is just getting used to the consistency of the training,” said Rapp, who is from Singleton and played for the Newcastle Wildfires.“The challenge for these kids to move out of Newcastle or rural NSW, wherever it may be, is not that easy. He has the football ability, no doubt.It is a matter of getting allthe off-field stuff organised and his time-management right and looking after himself in a new environment.”

Johnson-Holmes, who moved to Sydney last season and plays for Sydney University, has been one of the stars in the pre-season.

“We have thrown him into a few Waratahs sessions and he has held hisown,” Rapp said. “He did full contact, scrummaging, lineout, fitness, the whole lot. “

Chapman, who went to The Kings School and plays for Randwick, earned a late call-up to the n under-20s last year.

“He and Harry Johnson-Holmes should be the pillars of the scrum going to the championships,” Rapp said.

Former Wanderers fly-half Greg Thompson is the NSW 20s backs coach.

The Super-20s consists of one round, with top two teams to meet in the final after which ann squad will be picked for the World Championship in Georgia in June.

NSW has remodeled its junior talent identification process which begins with the under 15s Junior Gold Cup.In the under 16s, players are selected in either the NSW Schools, NSW Country or Sydney sides. The three sides play one another in trials before two NSW sides will be picked to play at the revamped National U16s championship.

“We have a lot more opportunity to identify players from all backgrounds and regions right across the state now,” Rapp said.


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13 Apr 19

The people of the Hunter have a right to be negative

OPINION: We’ll miss the man who wore thongs and trousers to the Bogey Hole | POLL, PHOTOS Scot MacDonald in thongs and trousers at the Bogey Hole. Pictures: Jonathan Carroll.
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TweetFacebookHerald on Monday as saying she wants to end Novocastrian “negativity”.

The thing is, one person’s negativity is another person’s positivity. Who decides what’s negative?

Sometimes when this correspondent writes anews story, a person being interviewed will say: “Is the story going to be positive?”.

“Positive for who?”, wereply.

How do you define what’s positive anyhow? Some might say that having citizens stand up for their rights, speak their mind and criticise, question and challenge governments,public officials, corporations, bullies and anyone in power is a positive thing.

But some politicians appear to want the people to be obedient, compliant stooges. We’re not saying Catherine thinks this. But if Novocastrians want to be “negative” about stuff they don’t like, that’s their choice. This isn’t China, North Korea, Russia or Saudi Arabia.

Vladmir Putin is a master of propaganda. He’s also known for murder and mayhem.

If Catherine is a politician worth her salt, she’ll accept criticism and respond constructively, hopefully withpassion. If she makes her argument well, some critics might even change their positions.

It’s been interesting to watch the hyper-sensitive Donald Trump berate and denigrate journalists in the US who write critical articles about him.

We’ve seen the same thing happen here, even at a local level. It’s not uncommon for politicians and senior bureaucrats to become dictatorial, autocratic and domineering.

Some of them panic like scared little children when anyone criticises them in the media.

They appear to want total control and domination. They probably have total control over everyone else in their life. Not being able to control pesky journos and activists hurts their fragile egos and stokes their inner rage. Or does it just upset their inner child? (You know, daddy didn’t love them and mummy didn’t hug them).

If only everyone was like the sycophantic acolytes and propagandists that surround them, hey?

Mind you, some journos can fall under the manipulative control of pollies and others in power. They get fed “exclusives”, which sometimes leads to an informal, unspoken arrangement that these same journos won’t publish stories that criticise their sources. You know the drill – don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

It’s a cunning and devious way to stifle dissent. This is turning into a bit of a rant, isn’t it?

Anyhow, our point is, we urge citizens to express themselves. And we urge journos to report without fear or favour. And maybe Catherine could lay off on the positive psychology stuff.

Geez, now we’re feeling a bit self-righteous. Politicians must know that feeling pretty well.

Double NegativeWe just read Scot MacDonald’s last press release as the Hunter’s parliamentary secretary.

“I also urge the Hunter Labor MPs to move beyond their approach of negativity and protest,” he said.

No Scot, noooooooooo.

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