Monthly Archives: November 2018

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Cheika ready to lead the Waratahs to glory

ACCORDING to blink theory, first impressions are often the truest impressions. The first time I met Michael Cheika, the new coach of the Waratahs, was at Manuka Oval decades ago. Randwick, with Cheika as one of their aggressive loose forwards, had come to Canberra to play the local side.
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As the Randwick side walked into their changing room, Cheika spotted me among the small crowd watching the great men arrive. ”Spiro Zavos,” he called out, ”the rugby writer who never goes to matches.” ”What I am doing here, then?” I replied.

What I took from this brief encounter was that Cheika was an abrasive personality (as well as a player) and what rugby players call ”a needler”, someone who likes to provoke a reaction in people he is dealing with. What he was really saying was that if I had gone to matches I’d have to be promoting him as a Waratahs player in my columns. I immediately warmed to someone who had such self-confidence and a certain bravery in expressing it.

I subsequently followed Cheika’s successful career as a coach in Europe with great interest. He coached Leinster to Celtic League and Heineken Cup triumphs. His teams played aggressive rugby in front of large and enthusiastic crowds of supporters. I have high hopes that this sort of take-no-prisoners approach by Cheika to his rugby, to promoting himself, his team and to his coaching will work well for the Waratahs this year.

Like Rod Macqueen, Cheika is a successful businessman. He can walk away from coaching without a financial worry. This will enable him to cut through all the politicking that has bedevilled the Waratahs since 1996. This politicking, involving power disputes between the leading Sydney clubs, board struggles and incessant power plays by senior players, has made the Waratahs a dysfunctional team for too long. A clean-out of administrators has created a new environment at the Waratahs.

The new chairman of the board, Roger Davis, has looked to Cheika to fulfil the potential of the team and win a first Super Rugby trophy. So far in 2013, so good. I watched the Waratahs defeat the Rebels in a friendly at Hobart a couple of weeks ago. Israel Folau revealed himself as the X-factor player teams need to win Super Rugby tournaments. The Waratahs forwards, too, tore into the rucks and mauls and, initially, gave away penalties. It was explained to me the reason for this was they were trying to work out how far the referee, Angus Gardner, would let them go. The Waratahs, too, played in a style that had many similarities to the old ”Galloping Greens” Randwick game. One dazzling back movement was started from behind their own posts.

Against the Crusaders, in a second friendly at Allianz Stadium, there were fewer ruck penalties. Folau made a sizzling break from the kick-off.

The Waratahs, too, gave away shots at goal to score tries, which they did, scoring two to the one conceded. Cheika explained afterwards that he wanted his team to learn how to score tries.

For the first time in years, the Waratahs are really fit. The runs up the Coogee Steps have produced a side that looks, in body shape, more like a New Zealand side. Cheika, too, has imposed his way on the team by naming a new captain, Dave Dennis. He has dropped a former captain, Benn Robinson.

Tom Kingston, a player with a high work rate, has been preferred as a wing to Lachie Turner, whose early promise has been diminished through injuries.

There are 14 Wallabies in the Waratahs squad, nine of them in the forwards. The Waratahs have the players to be contenders. The Chiefs finished 11th in 2011 and won the Super Rugby tournament, with a new coach, last year. The Waratahs finished 11th last season. First impressions of Cheika suggest that sooner rather than later the Waratahs are going to be contenders.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Clarke belts a ton after lucky let-off

INDIA refused to budge on the vexed issue of umpiring technology, and their distrust is unlikely to disappear anytime soon. Their stubborn opposition to the decision-review system, however, has already come back to bite them in the first Test against Australia.
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If there was one batsman they did not want to be let off the hook at the MA Chidambaram Stadium it was Michael Clarke. Far and away the world’s most untouchable scorer of runs during an unforgettable 2012, he has proven time and again – via three double centuries and a triple in one calendar year – that when he gets a start, he is difficult to stop. A 23rd Test century, and third in India, proved him as good as anyone against spin.

The Australian captain’s reprieve came on Friday just before tea when, on 39, he appeared to be caught, via an inside edge, at short leg by Cheteshwara Pujura. He was given not out by Sri Lankan umpire Kumar Dharmasena, a decision that soon after was confirmed as horribly wrong by replays and a Snicko reading that showed up so clearly it was as if Clarke had clubbed the ball out of the ground.

MS Dhoni, India’s captain, had no avenue for review, as is the case throughout this series. Their own choice, they can have no complaint.

However, the Clarke let-off hurt more deeply as he and an impressive Moises Henriques (68), on Test debut, produced a resurrection mission on a first innings in which Australia had fallen from an enterprising 2-126 to be languishing at 5-153. The pair put on 151 together, and while India struck again late, a day-one total of 7-316 was decidedly more healthy than it might have been.

Ravichandran Ashwin, the tall off-spinner who learnt his craft with a tennis ball on the streets of Chennai, was the bowler who was cost Clarke’s wicket by the umpiring blunder. It would have been his and the team’s sixth of the day, having already secured a five-wicket haul in a session-and-a-bit as he frightened the life out of Australia’s middle order on a south Indian dustbowl.

He would get his half-dozen later, claiming 6-88, but Clarke’s would have been doubly valuable.

It was not Clarke’s first win of the day. Victory at the toss – the word ”bat” could not come out of his mouth fast enough – was just as important.

Batting third against a coterie of hungry spinners will be difficult enough. Chasing even 100 to win in the final innings would have been about as easy as a foreigner driving a hire car in Chennai peak hour.

If Ashwin’s success was not plain enough, the ground staff’s activities in the session breaks spelled out just how specially prepared this pitch was for India’s three spinners. Armed with straw brooms, they swept the red soil deck at length, emitting a large plume of orange dust with each pointless swipe. The only sign of life on it for the past fortnight were the odd grass clippings sprinkled on the deck like coriander leaves on a stir fry.

The Australians will try their own luck with reverse swing and variable bounce when they take the ball, and there was plenty of the latter around on day one to inspire encouragement.

Australia was in strife until Clarke stepped in, as is almost custom these days, and saved the day, in the process surpassing 7000 Test runs and Sir Donald Bradman’s career tally.

He was ably supported by Henriques, whose selection was wholly justified by a mature half-century ended shortly before stumps, by Ashwin.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Hunter’s rich in the coal belt

LOYAL: Ben Hedley outside his store Sports Power, says the local economy relies on mining. Picture: Peter Stoop
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IDYLIC: Enjoying the lifetstyle are Gary Shirley, Marian, Steve and Brendan Sampson. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Big bucks following coal belt workers

SO you thought the people earning the big bucks all lived at Merewether and Bar Beach?

You’d be partly right, but new data has confirmed the Hunter Region’s ‘‘new rich’’ live in the coal belt stretching between Maitland and Muswellbrook.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics this week released its latest wages and salaries data.

The figures are based on the 2009-10 financial year and therefore lag the bureau’s full national figures, but the data is the latest that can be broken down suburb by suburb.

Merewether, which has traditionally topped the suburban earner’s rich list, slipped to fourth in 2010 as the height of the coal boom pushed the wage earners at Singleton and Muswellbrook to the top.

The average annual wage in Singleton fell just short of $63,000 in 2009-10, with the average wage in Merewether coming in at a still-healthy $56,811.

Suburbs such as Maitland and Branxton also scored highly, reflecting the large number of people living there and working in the mines further up the valley.

Of the top 10 areas in the annual wages stakes, only two areas – Merewether-The Junction and Newcastle-Cooks Hill – weren’t in or near the mining areas.

At the other end of the scale, Forster, Tea Gardens and the Nelson Bay peninsula all recorded low average wages, but those figures were heavily influenced by the high number of retirees on pensions, and self-funded retirees who live there.

Merewether regained its No.1 crown on the list that incorporates all household earnings – the list includes wages as well as investment earnings, business earnings and the earnings of superannuated retirees.

Meanwhile, the bureau yesterday released new national figures which show the average Australian adult worker in full-time work earned $1393 a week in November last year, a rise of 4.8per cent on the previous November.

In NSW, the average adult full-time wage hit $1398.90 per week last November, behind Canberra ($1645.10) and the mining rich Western Australia ($1590.60).

LOYAL: Ben Hedley outside his store Sports Power, says the local economy relies on mining. Picture: Peter Stoop

SINGLETON:Drive for high earners to keep funds in town

BEN Hedley makes no bones about it.

‘‘Without mining, Singleton wouldn’t be so strong, and my business wouldn’t be either,’’ he said.

Mr Hedley owns Singleton’s SportsPower store. He used to work for the store’s previous owner, but 18months ago he poured in his life savings and bought the store from his boss.

‘‘When we talk to our customers, most work in the mines, or their husbands do,’’ he said. ‘‘The store goes well here, even though retail is down a fair bit. I know some people struggle to keep their heads above water, but it’s a pretty good community here that is loyal.

‘‘Without the mining, though, I don’t think this local economy would survive.’’

The average annual wage in and around Singleton is more than $62,500, above that in Merewether, Bar Beach and Cooks Hill, traditionally the Hunter’s more affluent suburbs.

‘‘The crazy thing is that a lot of money leaks out of Singleton,’’ Gill Eason from Singleton Chamber of Commerce said.

‘‘High wages also reflect the shortage of skilled workers. There are plenty of people around town who will tell you that this downturn is the downturn we had to have so that ridiculously high wages in some industries come back to where they should be.’’

The Australian Bureau of Statistics data putting Singleton at the top of the high-earners list in the Hunter was collected before the recent downturn in the mining sector, but Ms Eason said Singleton was still a strong and resilient community.

‘‘What we and the council have been trying very hard to do is make Singleton a place that people want to come and live,’’ she said. ‘‘It’s one thing to have all this money being earned here, but another to keep it here.’’

NELSON BAY: Digging for cash comes second to lifestyle

SINGLETON and Muswellbrook can have their cashed-up miners. Nelson Bay residents wouldn’t swap their idyllic lifestyles for the world.

The Nelson Bay region, and the area north to Tea Gardens and Forster, is home to seven of the bottom 10 suburbs where average wages are at the lower end of the scale.

That is due largely to the high proportion of retirees and superannuants living there, along with the lack of major industry.

But the residents don’t care one iota.

‘‘My office looks out over the bay and I reckon that’s a whole better than looking over a coalmine,’’ small business owner and Nelson Bay resident Marian Sampson said.

Mrs Sampson and her husband Steve, the local chamber of commerce president, moved their family and Bayview Group of businesses from Sydney’s western suburbs to Nelson Bay almost seven years ago.

‘‘We have a wonderful environment here, the water is pristine, there’s no pollution, the streets are clean and the community here is just fantastic,’’ she said.

‘‘And there are jobs here for the kids that are dream jobs. Our 16-year-old son is working as a deckhand on one of the charter boats. He went out marlin fishing last week and got paid for it.’’

Gail Armstrong and her husband put down roots in Corlette after fleeing Adelaide and driving around Australia for three years in search of a new place to call home.

‘‘Everything is here, including the things I had on my shortlist, such as good library, a movie theatre, a beautiful beach where we can swim all year round … It’s a beautiful place and the community is so strong and supportive.

‘‘A lot of people earn a great deal of money working in the mines, but it’s not just money that adds to the social value of towns. It’s a wonderful lifestyle, we wouldn’t swap it.’’

Meningitis baby misdiagnosed

THE mother of a baby boy with meningococcal disease, who was misdiagnosed twice in two days at John Hunter Hospital as having gastro, has slammed claims the emergency department is adequately staffed.
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She said her 10-month-old boy, Sunny, pictured, was lucky to be alive after being sent home, and then waiting almost six hours to see a doctor when he returned to hospital.

She decided to speak out about her ordeal after reading comments in the Newcastle Herald last week by hospital administration that the department had enough staff.

The Newcastle woman called on NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner to review staffing levels at the hospital, saying doctors and nurses were “run off their feet”.

“It was just so busy and after waiting hours in a cubicle, I eventually took matters into my own hands and went looking for a doctor,” the mother said. “This is not an attack on the staff as they are obviously doing their best to cope, but it’s very clear to me that there needs to be more of them.”

Sunny was taken to the emergency department about 5.15am on January 27 suffering diarrhoea, vomiting and a rash. He was discharged two hours later with instructions to return if his condition deteriorated.

They returned about 1am the next day and the boy was not seen by a doctor until 6.30am.

Opposition Health spokesman Andrew McDonald described the wait yesterday as “completely unacceptable”.

“The maximum wait for a baby is two hours and two hours is unacceptable, he should have been seen in 30 minutes after his mother took him back,” he said.

Sunny was eventually admitted to John Hunter Children’s Hospital, with his mother told he had gastro.

The baby was struggling to open his eyes, was limp and had a “blank expression on his face”. A short time later, a nurse raised concerns about Sunny’s condition and asked a doctor to take a look at him. The doctor diagnosed a bulging fontanel and said it could be a case of meningitis.

A lumber puncture confirmed Sunny had meningitis meningococcal and his mother was told the next 24 hours would be critical.

“They didn’t know if he was going to make it or not, the whole experience was absolutely terrifying,” she said.

“I just kept thinking that he couldn’t speak for himself and I should have demanded that he was seen earlier in the emergency department, but it was so busy in there, there were babies crying everywhere.”

The Herald reported last week that John Hunter’s emergency department treated 3641 more patients last financial year, almost an extra 10 a day, when compared to Liverpool Hospital.

This was done with 20 fewer full-time equivalent nurses and three, or almost 40per cent, fewer full-time equivalent advanced trainee doctors.

Hospital general manager Michael Symonds said the emergency department was adequately staffed.

After reading Mr Symonds’ comments, Sunny’s mother said she had no choice but to speak out.

“It was made clear to me that it was extremely busy at the time and there were staffing issues. So to read in the paper claims there were not, made me extremely angry.”

Mr Symonds apologised to the family yesterday, but said there was a “full complement of clinical staff” on at the time.

“Sunny’s condition was monitored at regular intervals by the emergency department team and appeared to be stable,” he said.

Mrs Skinner also declined to request a review of the emergency department’s staffing levels.

The boy who was misdiagnosed twice in two days as having gastro.

For further informationwww.meningococcal.org

Steam heritage vehicles auction

HAMMER: Auctioneer Tony McTaggart is expecting a big response. Picture Peter StoopONE of Australia’s most impressive collections of rural machinery and heritage vehicles will go under the hammer next month in Muswellbrook.
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Thousands of items, including vintage steam engines, sulkies, heritage vehicles and antique paraphernalia, some 160 years old, represent a lifetime of collecting by the late Ian Gordon.

The treasures will be auctioned by his wife, Barbara Gordon, through auctioneer Tony McTaggart, on the family farm on March 17.

Mrs Gordon said she never thought to complain about her husband’s hobby, which still enthralled him until the moment he died on November 25, in 2010.

“He had this passion all his life, even before I knew him and we had been married 55 years,” Mrs Gordon said.

“He was in the shed looking over some of the things when he died.

“I wanted this auction so these items would go to collectors who felt the same way about the things as he did, better than they deteriorate away.

“But it will be mixed emotions for me because he collected all over NSW and they meant so much to him.”

Rare items including harvesting machines and ploughs dating from the 19th century will be the centrepieces of the sale.

Two cars, a 1927 Buick and a Morris Issis, and sought-after nostalgic advertising signs are expected to create interest.

Mr McTaggart, the owner of Muswellbrook real estate agency Edward Higgens, Parkinson First National, itself 120 years old, said he had never seen anything like the collection for its range and diversity.

“They are wondrous items of the past and so many, but it is hard to put a figure on what they would fetch because of their rarity,” Mr McTaggart said. “There is a big interest in steam in this region.”

He had received calls from throughout Australia and New Zealand from enthusiasts keen to know every detail of the collection.