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Monthly Archives: May 2019

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Shock over Junction school promise backflip 

THE Junction Public School Parents and Citizens Committee says it is shocked and disappointed that Newcastle MP Tim Owen effectively reneged on an election promise for a new building at the school.
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P and C spokeswoman Janet Ball said Mr Owen had backed down from a vow to make the new building his ‘‘top educational infrastructure priority’’ for the region.

Mr Owen said publicly this week he was ‘‘politically naive’’ prior to election and a building to replace demountables at the school was a way down a department priority list.

‘‘[The Junction] was the first thing ever asked of me,’’ he said. ‘‘I didn’t really have a good sense of how these things are managed through a Department of Education infrastructure plan.’’

Mr Owen said top of the Hunter list was buildings for Rutherford High, which is almost entirely made up of demountables, with 14 of the structures.

‘‘[The Junction] certainly isn’t the highest priority in the region or else we would have built it.

‘‘I’m disappointed. I really wanted the school to have that opportunity. For me, it certainly is an educational priority.’’

The school has been campaigning to get a classroom it lost in the 1989 earthquake replaced because the school grounds are overrun by seven demountables.

Mr Owen said the demountables were catering for the 208 children from outside of its zone and he wants to get a project control group together to build a case for a new building and get it moved up the list.

Ms Ball said Premier Barry O’Farrell was not politically naive and had also given parents commitments.

‘‘I feel like we’ve been had,’’ she said.

A NSW Education Department spokesman said the schools involved in the Newcastle Inner City Education Futures project agreed to try to cater to out-of-zone enrolments to allow parents more choice and keep siblings together.

Janet Ball, of the Junction Public School P and C committee, is annoyed at MP Tim Owen’s backdown. Picture: Simone De Peak

SPORTING DECLARATION: Fire in the Belly

SPORTING Declaration had massive respect for Craig Bellamy long before I finished reading his newly released book, Home Truths.
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Part of that stems from his remarkable achievements at the helm of the Melbourne Storm.

Regardless of your opinion on subjects such as the salary cap scandal and the grapple tackle, it is undeniable that Melbourne have been the NRL’s benchmark team for almost a decade.

That they have been able to survive in an AFL stronghold – let alone prosper – has been a mighty feat in its own right.

Other clubs have had highs and lows but the Storm have been constant, and come the business end of the 2013 season, they will surely once again be heavily involved.

The other reason I’m a Bellamy fan is that my first two years at the Canberra Times coincided with his last two seasons as assistant coach at the Raiders, during which time I became acquainted with him.

My main impression of Bellamy was that he was an easy-going, likeable bloke – the complete opposite of the fiery customer the TV cameras seem to capture in the coach’s box on game day.

Nonetheless, I learned from first-hand experience what a fierce competitor the man they called ‘‘Bellyache’’ can be.

Each Wednesday the local media types would play touch footy against the Raiders coaching staff.

It was the only good thing about living in Canberra.

Invariably, they would towel us up – no surprise when the likes of Tim Sheens, Mal Meninga, Dean Lance and Bellamy would supplement their ranks with the odd player returning from injury, like Bradley Clyde, Steve Walters, David Furner or Ricky Stuart.

Anyway, one day we were copping our usual 20-0 drubbing when this columnist flummed an intercept.

As I set sail for the tryline at the speed of a startled snail, I had delusions of scoring my first-ever try. Certainly none of the opposition seemed interested in chasing me, presumably out of sympathy.

But out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a blur of movement from the far side of the field.

It was Bellamy, who not only realised yours truly was so slow that (even with a large head start) he could run me down, but was determined enough to do so.

Sure enough, he rounded me up and ruined my day. Good job we weren’t playing for sheep stations.

Anyway back to Bellamy’s new book, which, for the record, was one of those rare reads that I just couldn’t put down.

I really related to his no-nonsense philosophy, how he can accept a bit of ego in his players but prefers them to remain humble and treat outsiders with manners and respect.

In particular, there were a couple of pages that struck a chord.

The first encapsulated his refreshing attitude towards dealing with the media, in an era when most sporting organisations are becoming increasingly paranoid and basically encourage their athletes to give nothing away.

‘‘I will tell my guys: ‘You get asked a question, well, tell them what you think.’ They should stand up on their own two feet and have the courage to be themselves – that’s what I encourage my players to do,’’ Bellamy writes.

Another theme that resonated was his preference for an honest appraisal rather than one that has been sugar-coated.

‘‘A lot of people say I am not a positive person, and I probably agree with that,’’ he writes.

‘‘Sometimes the ‘glass half empty’ adage applies to me, but I think some positive people can have a false positivity. Others can look on the darker side a bit too much.

‘‘I like to think that I am pretty realistic. Sometimes people will take that as negative or positive, but I am in the middle somewhere; I am a realist.

‘‘I don’t like being negative for the sake of it, but I don’t like being positive for the sake of it either. I like to play the percentages.

‘‘If things are wrong, I am not going to pretend it is all rosy.

‘‘I could not do that, even if I wanted to.’’

Hear hear, I thought.

Give me home truths, however blunt, instead of positive spin any day of the week.

● Sporting Declaration would like to wish a long-time workmate, Grant Sproule, all the best after leaving the Newcastle Herald in search of new challenges.

Grant’s talents have livened up this page many times over the years. As I’ve told him on the odd occasion, I believe he is the finest graphic artist in Australia, if not the world.

Good luck, Sprouley, champion.

It’s been a pleasure working with you.

Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy.

Weston welcome chance to erase last-round nightmare 

WESTON will not need extra motivation today when they travel to Edgeworth for the Northern NSW State League elimination semi-final.
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As well as playing for survival, the Bears are hurting and desperate for redemption after an 8-0 drubbing on home soil to Lambton Jaffas in the last round.

But if they are looking for an extra spur, Weston coach Darren Elkin believes they should look no further than club captain Chris Cousins.

The 35-year-old father of three, who has led the Bears since 2006, will retire at the end of the season after more than 150 first-grade games for the club.

Elkin said the centre back was a respected figure at Weston and deserved to go out on a high.

‘‘Couso does a lot of the talking and a lot of the leadership around the club,’’ Elkin said. ‘‘He will be missed, but I don’t think the club will realise how important he is until next year, if they are going through a rough patch. He has great leadership qualities.’’

Cousins, who started at the Bears but had stints at Cessnock and Beresfield, was confident his teammates would not need an added push to fire up today.

‘‘I said to the guys after the game [last week], because they were all gutted and filthy about the result and how we played, that the good thing is we get an opportunity to right the wrongs,’’ Cousins said.

‘‘If we finished sixth, we’d have to swallow that pill over the whole off season.’’

Elkin said he had tried to keep training relaxed this week because he believed his players had placed too much pressure on themselves in recent games.

The Bears will be without midfield enforcer Rob Macbeth, who was sent off last week for using an elbow and copped a three-week ban, and playmaker Jason Cowburn due to suspension today.

Edgeworth will also be down two key players.

Goal-scoring midfielder Aaron Pritchard is suspended due to yellow card accumulation after picking up one for kicking a ball away last week.

Striker Chris Wheeler, who has battled a hamstring problem all season, is highly unlikely to play after limping off late last week.

A still confident Eagles coach Gary Wilson said 17-year-old Brody Taylor would come in for Wheeler, while Alex Johnson-Young or German Marco di Biccari would replace Pritchard.

RESPECTED: Chris Cousins.

Young guns aim up for Hamilton

TOM Davies started the season as a 15-year-old thinking he would be lucky to get on the bench for Hamilton’s under-23s.
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Pat Brown was a young man with a point to prove in first grade.

Neither expected to be starting players in a top-grade semi-final.

Tomorrow the teenagers will be just that for Olympic when they take on Lambton Jaffas at Edden Oval in the qualifying semi-final.

Davies, now 16, has carved out a starting position in his first season at Hamilton after beginning the season in under-19s.

It has been a rapid rise for the year 10 student at St Philip’s Christian College, who has taken every chance coach Michael Bolch has provided.

‘‘After the first five or six games, we needed a right fullback in 23s,’’ Bolch said.

‘‘We were worried he was too young but he came off the bench and did really well. ‘‘Then he started in 23s. Then against Phoenix when we won 5-0 we blooded him in first grade. He came on in the last 20 minutes and did really well. From there he’s been with the senior squad.

‘‘Realistically I could bring Joel Grenell into the starting line-up this week, but Tommy doesn’t deserve to lose his spot.’’

Brown, 19, has also seized his opportunity, scoring nine goals in 15 games, including a hat-trick against Charlestown.

The striker was part of Olympic’s under-23s grand final win last year. That came after he was cut from the Newcastle Jets Youth squad.

Determined to prove himself, he has taken on a greater role in first grade this season after a handful of appearances last year.

‘‘He used to have a couple of bad habits, putting his head down too much and losing the ball, but the senior players have really taken him under their wings,’’ Bolch said. ‘‘He’s come along really well.’’

Like Brown, Davies said the support of senior teammates had played a big part in his development this year.

‘‘I was NSWIS last year but I just had enough of it all and decided I wanted to come back to club football, because I enjoyed playing it before,’’ Davies said. ‘‘All the boys have been good. They’ve helped me out a lot and I’ve got a lot of confidence out of it.’’

Both were confident a fresh and in-form Hamilton could turn the tables on the Jaffas after two 2-1 losses to them.

‘‘The first game we were all over them but they took their chances,’’ Davies said.

Brown added: ‘‘The second game with all the midweek games we were playing, we were just stuffed.’’

Hamilton will be without captain David Hodgson (broken wrist, finger) but get back Matt Swan (hamstring).

Jaffas coach David Tanchevski, who will be without the suspended Abe Wheelhouse, expected the loss of Hodgson to hurt Hamilton.

‘‘I think Hodgo was the focal point of their attack,’’ Tanchevski said.

‘‘They play that long ball a lot for Hodgo to flick on to their strikers, so I don’t know how they are going to reshape their game without him.

‘‘But they’ve got plenty of pace up front, which is always a danger, and their defence is always solid, so they’re going to be tough to beat.’’

Teenagers Tom Davies, left, and Pat Brown at Darling St yesterday. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Game 100 for Merewether captain Mick Gill

MEREWETHER captain Mick Gill is not big on maths.
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He joined the Greens in 2008 and approaching this season guessed he would be closing in on 100 games.

‘‘I asked at the start of the year where I was at and got confirmation that is was 82,’’ Gill said.

It didn’t take a great deal of arithmetic for the centre turned breakaway and now hooker to look at the draw and circle round 18.

Wanderers at Townson Oval almost jumped off the page. He couldn’t have scripted it better.

‘‘I was pretty stoked when I realised it Wanderers,’’ he said.

‘‘We have had some classic battles and it’s a game that you always lift for.’’

Gill also didn’t require a calculator to work out that the winner today will claim third place and a second chance in the semi-finals.

Maitland made the grand final from fourth in 2010 and Uni did likewise in 2008, but no team has won the premiership from outside the top three in recent memory.

‘‘It is my 100th game but the big thing is that top three, and both sides will be chasing that hard,’’ Gill said.

‘‘It gives you that week up your sleeve, which is handy as history has shown.’’

With Mitch Steele, Mark Wade, Keith Barlow and Adam Nolan returning, the Greens will field their strongest line-up of the campaign.

‘‘We always thought if we could get everyone back on deck we would give it a good shake,’’ Gill said.

‘‘It is a good time to be at full strength, coming into the finals.

‘‘We have to get the job done tomorrow. That’s first and foremost.’’

Merewether came back from 21-0 down and then hung on desperately at the death to trump Wanderers 26-24 in their first encounter at No.2 Sportsground in round nine – a match in which the home side turned down three penalty shots directly in front.

The triumph was the Greens’ seventh straight over their fierce rivals since the epic 2009 grand final, which the Two Blues won 21-20 in extra time.

Gill played down the record and doubted that it gave them a mental edge.

‘‘It is just the way it has panned out,’’ he said.

‘‘I don’t think there is too much behind it.

‘‘If they take three points [from a penalty] in round nine, we aren’t talking about the record.

‘‘There have been some close games which they could probably look upon and say ‘if we did a few things different we could have walked away with a win’.’’

Merewether have won five of the past six, with the loss being a 29-17 defeat at home to premiers Hamilton three weeks ago.

‘‘Every time you lose you look at things,’’ Gill said.

‘‘ We went back to the drawing board.

‘‘I was playing five-eighth and I think those days are behind me, and we had a few injuries as well.

‘‘We did learn a few things and have worked on it.

‘‘The last couple of weeks we focused on us and how we want to play in the back end of the year.’’

Wanderers have made four changes, one forced, from the 30-7 loss to The Waratahs – a defeat that cost them third place. Luke Gibson comes in for Blair Rush (shoulder) at lock, while Vilai Kelemete and Corey Te Koeti add grunt to the back row.

The backline has also been reshuffled. Tapaki Rahui moves to fly-half, Luke Menchin shifts to outside centre and Lewie Catt to the wing.

Mick Gill hopes to celebrate his milestone game with a win over arch rivals Wanderers. Picture: Jonathan Carroll