Giants flying visit

Big visit: GWS Giants players Lachie Whitfield, Tom Downie and Devon Smith visited Liverpool Eagles AFL club at Rosedale Oval, Warwick Farm last week. Picture: Chris LaneThe Liverpool EaglesJunior AFL Club had some extra motivation heading into the opening round on the weekend.
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GWS Giants players Lachie Whitfield, Tom Downie and Devon Smith made a special visit to their home base atRosedale Oval.

The trio met players from the club and ran a mini coaching clinic.

The club has come a long way.Two years ago it was on the verge of folding, now they have three teams –under-9s, under-11s and under-13s – and they also run an Auskick program.

This Friday the Paul Kelly Cup school competitionwill be held at Ash Road Sports Complex inPrestons.

Fun: Liverpool Eagles enjoying the activites run by GWS. Picture: Chris Lane

Game one: Liverpool Eagles’ players participate in activities.

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‘Our whole family has been amazed’: Steph Scott’s family comforted by Leeton’s love

DEARLY MISSED: Steph Scott.THE pain of Stephanie Scott’s death is still incredibly raw for her family.
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But one thing that does give her loved onesnursing broken hearts strength is the support and love shown by the Leeton community.

One year after her death,the impact of her short life is still felt far and wide.

Her father, Robert Scott, said as time went on, the depth of their loss became clearer.

“It takes time to sink in what you’ve actually lost,” Mr Scott said.

“When it all happened in a bit of a hurry it was very sad and very distressing, but as time progresses you realise just how deep the loss is because of the way she’s impacted on your life.

“(The pain) is not just going to disappear,grieving is an ongoing process and when you’ve got someone who was such a delight to have in your life there’s a lot to miss.”

The Scott family still receives cards and letters filled with words of support and in return they attend events held in Stephanie’s honour and meet with people touched by their daughter.

In February, Mr Scott visited Leeton High School to see an amphitheatre being built in his daughter’s memory. When he was introduced as “Steph’s dad”, the students’ faces lit up.

On Saturday, Mr Scott and his wife, Merrilyn, were inAlbury to presentthe Stephanie Scott Cup at awomen’s league tag competition. Fittingly, the Leeton Greenieswon the event.

“Our whole family has been amazed at the way she’s been received,” Mr Scott said.

“It didn’t matter whether you met her for a day or she’d been part of your life for an extended period, she just had an impact on you.

“Shewas very vivacious, very genuine in what she said and the way she formed relationships with people.

“She was just an absolute joy, a happy girl who enjoyed her part in sports and the teaching life and being part of the Leeton community gave her a lot of pleasure.”

Mr Scott said his daughterhad coached Leeton High School’s girls soccer team. He said the winning teams in the Bill Turner Cup, an inter-school soccer competition, would be presented with Stephanie Scott Memorial Shields.

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‘Our whole family has been amazed’: Steph Scott’s family comforted by Leeton’s love

DEARLY MISSED: Steph Scott.THE pain of Stephanie Scott’s death is still incredibly raw for her family.
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But one thing that does give her loved onesnursing broken hearts strength is the support and love shown by the Leeton community.

One year after her death,the impact of her short life is still felt far and wide.

Her father, Robert Scott, said as time went on, the depth of their loss became clearer.

“It takes time to sink in what you’ve actually lost,” Mr Scott said.

“When it all happened in a bit of a hurry it was very sad and very distressing, but as time progresses you realise just how deep the loss is because of the way she’s impacted on your life.

“(The pain) is not just going to disappear,grieving is an ongoing process and when you’ve got someone who was such a delight to have in your life there’s a lot to miss.”

The Scott family still receives cards and letters filled with words of support and in return they attend events held in Stephanie’s honour and meet with people touched by their daughter.

In February, Mr Scott visited Leeton High School to see an amphitheatre being built in his daughter’s memory. When he was introduced as “Steph’s dad”, the students’ faces lit up.

On Saturday, Mr Scott and his wife, Merrilyn, were inAlbury to presentthe Stephanie Scott Cup at awomen’s league tag competition. Fittingly, the Leeton Greenieswon the event.

“Our whole family has been amazed at the way she’s been received,” Mr Scott said.

“It didn’t matter whether you met her for a day or she’d been part of your life for an extended period, she just had an impact on you.

“Shewas very vivacious, very genuine in what she said and the way she formed relationships with people.

“She was just an absolute joy, a happy girl who enjoyed her part in sports and the teaching life and being part of the Leeton community gave her a lot of pleasure.”

Mr Scott said his daughterhad coached Leeton High School’s girls soccer team. He said the winning teams in the Bill Turner Cup, an inter-school soccer competition, would be presented with Stephanie Scott Memorial Shields.

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Hamilton flying high

YEAH BABY: Hamilton will be aiming to be the first team to win consecutive premierships since Maitland in 1998-99. Picture: Jonathan Carroll
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CAN anyone stop the Hawks?Buoyed by the minor-major premiershipdouble, Hamilton are well placed to be the first team to win consecutive premierships since Maitland in 1998-99. On the surface, Wanderers and Merewether appear the likely challengers in a competition that returns to 10 teams and hasa revised player points system.

HAMILTONCoach:Scott Coleman

Last year: 1st

IN:Geraint Weaver (Wales),Liam Kearney, Joe Finn (Nelson Bay), John Agnew (Scotland), Ben Harriss (Norths).OUT:Eric Vasukicakau (Perth), Chris Pusi (Easts, Sydney), Rob Smith (England), William Soe (Waratahs), Marty Lisiua (retired).Bottom line: The Hamilton machine rolls on. Again Bubba Coleman has a wealth of talent and depth at his disposal. The return of Harriss and Bryce Madden (knee reconstruction) compensate the loss of Smith andVasukicakau. Keeping Lamont and Akkersdyk away from the doctor’s table is key. Tip: 1st

WANDERERSCoach: Viv Paasi

Last year: 2nd

IN: Elliot Jennings, Howie Grant (Maitland RL), John McSorely (Scotland). OUT:Blake Walsh (knee reconstruction), Col Hovell (retired), Andrew Fletcher, Mark Sherwood, Anthony Barrett (lower grades).Bottom line: The Two Blues production line continues to churn out talented youngsters. Dan Kevill is hungrier than ever and his off-loads could have been the X-factor they needed in the grand final. They loom asthe biggest threat to the Hawks. Tip: 2nd

MEREWETHERCoach: Stacey Sykes

Last year: 4th

IN: Tom Azar (Warren),Brad Sheridan (Ourimbah), Josh Stewart (Tamworth Pirates), james Robinson (Ireland)OUT: Michael Dan, Kent Hatchwell (retired), Shaun Rich (Randwick), Isaac Wilton (rugby league).Bottom line: There is a lot to like about the Greens.Sykes returns after two years at the helm ofNSW Country andhas broughtCockatoos Stewart, Sheridan and Azar with him. Questions remain at the set-piece.Tip: 3rd

UNIVERSITYCoach: Mark O’Brien

Last year: 4th

IN: Darcy Christie-Johnson, Oliver Crowe(Bathurst), Newton Tananyiwa (Zimbabwe), Matt Yeoman (Spain), Ed Richards (Lindfield), Richard Hunt (Narrabri), Ben Sutter (Southern Beaches), Matt Brennan (Mackay), Alex Lloyd (Wales). OUT: James Wilkinson (work). Bottom line: The Students are a year older and a year stronger. They need to develop a hard edge at the breakdown but if they can convert the close losses into wins, look out.Tip: 4th

THE WARATAHSCoach:Matt Chidgey

Last year: 3rd

IN: William Soe (Hamilton). OUT: Tim Riley (retired), Josh Afoa,Adrian Curry, Rob Harlow (New Zealand),MichaelFakava (Sydney), Todd McDean (retired).Bottom line: With no Riley and Pedersen you have to ask where the points will come from?Again they look solid up front, but lack the intimidation factor of previous years. One of four teams likely to fight for fifth spot.Tip: 5th

SOUTHERN BEACHESCoach: Johan Laurens

Last year: 6th

IN:Alan Bruitnbach (Ourimbah), Mitchell Gibson (Wanderers), Jackson McLean (Norths). OUT:Glenn Stone (North Lakes), Mick Iopa (year off), Ken Vilamu, Willie Fraser, Tavita Polamalu, KG Lam, Barcelona Lupenastasila, Ben Chidgey, Ben Smit (Lake Macquarie) , Ben Sutter (University).Bottom line: Mark down May 27 on the calendar and the clash against Lake Macquarie. Of the departures, Glenn Stone could be the hardest to replace. Any team with Va Talaileva and theDelore brothers can’t be discounted.Tip: 6th

LAKE MACQUARIECoach: Tim Chidgey

Last year: 9th, withdrew after round 9

IN:Ken Vilamu, Willie Fraser, Tavita Polamalu, KG Lam, Barcelona Lupenastasila, Ben Chidgey, Ben Smit(Southern Beaches),Aston Talia (New Zealand), Joe McDonagh (Gold Coast). OUT:WiremuMatakatea(Central Coast RL)Bottom line: The only way is up after they made the decision to withdraw from the competition midwaythrough last season. The bottom three teams from last year have an extra 12 points under the cap and the Roos will need them. Chidgey is proven atputting structures in place and rebuilding a club. Expect a major improvement. Tip:7th

MAITLANDCoaches: Ryan McCormack, Mick Hickling

Last year:7th

IN:Mick Howell (France), Adam McCarthy (work), Chris Logan (Nelson Bay), John Birrell (work)OUT:Josh Gray (Brisbane), James Johnston (Brisbane), Sean O’Connor (lower grades), Luke Cunningham (lower grades).Bottom line: Howell adds starch and sizeto a pack led by Anderson Medal winner Nick Davidson. They have some good kids coming through, but they will need to step up quickly. Tip: 8th

NELSON BAYCoaches: Adam Edwards, Michael Hotene, Matt Affleck

Last year: 8th

IN: Zion Takarua (Hamilton), Todd Arnold (Waikato), Rhys Cutbush (work), Ed Clarkson, Doug Randall (England). OUT:Adam Edwards (coaching), Dan Collins, Chad Northcott (England),Liam Kearney, Joe Finn (Hamilton),Tom Hart, Ross Aitken (Scotland), Chris Logan (Maitland).Bottom line: Any team that loses the calibre of Collins, Northcott and Kearney is going to do it tough. Strong Oval has always been a tough place to play. Nothing changes.Tip: 9th

SINGLETONCoach: Bruce Harris

Last year: 10th

IN:Samson Salanoa. OUT:Sione KamotoBottom line: The Bulls will be better for their first season back in premier rugby. Again they will rely on home-grown youngsters but lack the depth and quality to trouble the top sides. Tip: 10th

Parents give evidence at missing son’s inquest

Kyle Coleman’s mother Sonia (facing away from camera) is escorted away from Mount Isa Coroner’s Court.PARENTS Robert and Sonia Coleman gave evidence to the inquest of their son Kyle at Mount Isa,both saying they wanted answers to his disappearance.
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Kyle Coleman was never seen again after he went on a hunting expedition on February 21to Undilla Station with friend James Coleman (no relation), who himself committed suicide a few days afterwards.

James Coleman told Kyle’s parents that they had abandoned the trip due to floodwaters and returned to Mount Isa late that night where they were drinking before he said Kyle walked home.

Sonia Coleman said the first she knew of Kyle’s disappearance was a text she received from James on the afternoon of February 22which said “Hey old girl, what’s Kyle up to, can’t get hold of him?”

Mrs Coleman said it was not unusual to get a text from James asking about Kyle but this was unusual as she thought Kyle was with James.

She told the coroner that Kylewould always contact her if he was staying the night somewhere different.

“It is very out of character for him (Kyle) not to ring me,” Mrs Coleman said.

When she and her husband went over to talk to James, he repeated the story about Kyle walking home and his girlfriend Toni-Lee Sabin asked him (James) why he didn’t wake her up to get her to drive him home.

Mrs Coleman said they spoke again with James Coleman on the Sunday morning but this time he was unresponsive.

Father Robert Coleman contacted police after that meeting on the Sunday to report Kyle as missing.

Robert Coleman told the court that the explanation of events James Coleman gave him did not match up with police statements.

Robert Coleman saidJames told police they had ventured deeper into Undilla Station and did not initially turn back due to flooding.Instead they went to a campsite where they lit a fire and took shots at trees.

“I had warned Kyle beforehand that alcohol and firearms don’t mix,” RobertColeman said.

Robert Coleman said he and the station owner had subsequently found charred remains of a watch that Kyle wore at the fire site and they also found spent .303 calibre shells and evidence of a tree that had been shot at.

Mr Coleman told the coroner he believed his son was killed at the campsite but his remains might never be found due to the wild dogs, cattle and other animals that live in the area.

A police ballistics expert also gave evidence saying there was no evidence of human remains at the fire site and the fire would have needed to be extremely intense to burn all of the human matter.

The case continues.

North West Star

No power, but sailing a breeze for Nicholson

NEWS flash! Superboat syndicate 222 Offshore has joined the sponsorship ranks for the Sail Port Stephens regatta starting Monday at Nelson Bay.
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It’s the exemplar of powerboating muscle marrying his gentle sailing mistress, where once ne’er the twain would meet.Think Hatfield son kissing a McCoy daughter …

But, of course, 222 pilot Darren Nicholson has always had a soft spot for yachting. As a tacker he skippered Pelicans and 16-Foot skiffs on Belmont Bay and teamed with younger brother Chris to win a 505 world title.

Driving high-powered raceboats at breakneck speeds is a more recent pursuit and Nicholson is hoping to win over a new legion of fans from sailing’s ranks with his participation at Sail Port Stephens.

His company Hunter Parking and Storage is also aboard to present one of the most dynamic and panoramic days on the NSW boating calendar, with on- and off-water regatta action reaching a crescendo for ‘Super Saturday’, April 16.

This year sees the debut of a Broughton Island passage race, a 26 nautical mile lap of the pristine islands off Port Stephens, as part of the NSW IRC Championship and Port Stephens Trophy.

Also new, Sail Port Stephens has linked with the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) to raise vital funds for brain cancer research, honouring regatta mentor Roger Hickman who succumbed recently to a brain tumour.

The HMRI Cup will now be presented annually for the Broughton Island Passage Race and proceeds from the ‘End-of-Season Sailebration’ evening at Broughtons at the Bay function centre will be donated to HMRI.

“The faster yachts will have a chance to ‘stretch their legs’ and the race track will also offer unique challenges for the tacticians,” says Sail Port Stephens Regatta Director Geoff Campbell.

“Because Hicko loved his offshore sailing, it’s a good way for us to acknowledge the support he provided when our club was establishing the regatta.”

A top-quality IRC fleet is assembling for the State title, including TP52 heavyweights Balance, Ichi Ban, Koa and Celestial along with the DK46 pairing of Nine Dragons and Khaleesi. Queensland sailor Peter Harburg is bringing his smaller Black Jack Too.

Two feeder races begin this weekend, with Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club holding the Pittwater-Newcastle race tomorrow from 10am then Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club staging the Newcastle-Port Stephens dash on Sunday.

The second race is the perfect opportunity for Sydney crews to get a feel for what Lake Macquarie and Newcastle’s sailing communities will bring to the table at Sail Port Stephens. So far 32 yachts representing a good spread of clubs are registered for the 10am start.

“Similar to previous years the Newcastle to Port Stephens coastal dash includes the ability to conduct a unique rolling start whereby, if wind conditions require it, the race committee will instruct the fleet to start motoring towards Port Stephens until such time as they deem there to be enough wind to start the race,” NCYC CEO Aaron Harpham says.

TOP CONTENDER: Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club entrant Anger Management which will be leading the charge across Stockton Bite on Sunday.

STILL TIME TO ENTER: A Melges 24 sports boat – the door is still open to divisional entries.

Insight into a leader

Artistic talent: Detail from a sketch of Morpeth by EC Close.
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HE’s the founder of Morpeth township, but what do we really know about pioneer settler Edward Charles Close?

Monument: St James Church at Morpeth.

Also called the “father of the Hunter”, ECClose lived a long, satisfying life, which is a bit of a miracle considering he could have died in battle many times in faraway Spain during the bitter Napoleonic Wars.

He’s best remembered today perhaps for a vow recorded in his diary that if spared in the particularly savage battle of Albuera, in 1811, he’d build a church to the glory of God. Right?

Captivating: Author Ann Beaumont with her book, A Man of Many Parts.

Well, no. Nowhere in his surviving diary (republished last year) is that wartime vow recorded from the brutal Peninsula Wars. So, is the story a myth?

Historian and Mittagong author Ann Beaumont after studying Close’s life for the past six years to produce the pioneer settler’s first biography is convinced the story is true.

“It was at Albuera that Close was nearly killed. His close brush with death had a deep effect on him,” she said of her new biography, A Man of Many Parts.

“Close obviously spoke of his vow to his family and friends and many years later (in 1840) he fulfilled his vow to build St James Church, at Morpeth.

“A lot of material written about Edward Close over the years though has just been recycled. I needed to know more, so I started from scratch, including research in England,” Beaumont said.

She saidEdward Close (1790-1866) enlisted with the British 48th Northhampton Regiment in February 1808 and was soon promoted to lieutenant. He served two tours of duty in Spain, eventually being involved in seven major battles.

Just how brutal the Peninsula Wars were in best illustrated in the victory over the French enemy at the Battle of Albuera with its terrible loss of life.

Close wrote about the first and second battalions of his 48th regiment (comprising 450 men) coming out of the battle with only 25 men and six officers, himself included. The rest were dead, wounded or missing.

“Edward Close had left England in 1808 as a naïve 18-year-old and arrived back in his homeland as a battle-scarred 21-year-old veteran,” writer Beaumont said.

He then left the killing fields of Europe to come to NSW with his regiment in 1817 before resigning his commission. He then carved an estate from Hunter Valley wilderness with convict labour, creating his private town of Morpeth on land grants in an area known as Green Hills.

Beaumont said the soldier settler built a world for himself with opportunities that would have been impossible in England.

She said while he was one of many former military men who created the backbone of the colony, he stood above most because of his empathy, kindness and his practical Christianity.

“I tried to find dirt on Edward Close. I didn’t find any, but in writing biography you have to show all sides of a personality,” Beaumont said. “Born in Bengal in India in 1790, Close later grew up on his family’s estate in England, living a privileged life. His mother was a quaker and I’m sure a lot of his attributes, like a love of art and religion, came from her.”

His father, silk merchant Edward Close snr, was gored by a wild bull and killed in India six months after his son’s birth.

“It had always been assumed ECClose was an only child, but before his father married he’d had a common law Indian wife called Peggy who produced two daughters. His will stipulated they be sent to England,” the author said.

Beaumont said Edward Close was appointed in 1819 as a military engineer to Newcastle Harbour where he removed hazards to improve navigation, put down mooring chains, built a small hillside fort and erected a coal-burning beacon to safely guide ships.

Close was again busy with his pencils and paints, painting landscapes.

“A lot of what we know about early Newcastle, what it looked like in 1819-1821, comes from his paintings. A lot of them were later wrongly credited to his wife’s aunt and they were kept in a cupboard in England for 150 years,” Beaumont said.

“The Mitchell Library then bought them at auction [in 2009]for almost a million dollars.

“Before his Newcastle duty, Close was down around Camden way, in Sydney, chasing bushrangers. Here he painted the natives. This is a man interested in other people who was trusted enough to be allowed to sketch them, “ she said.

“I did find, however, while Edward Close was generous in donating land, he was hard and a businessman. He was very controlling, particularly with his own family, and was very much the squire of Morpeth.”

Beaumont said Edward Close had a wry sense of humour, but was a hesitant speaker all his life. Despite this, Close was always in demand as a moderator during debates.

Although Close sold his fine stone house called Closebourne to the Anglican church in 1848, it was actually the third home he’d built locally, all on prime positions.

“When colonial Governor Darling took over in 1825, he demanded Close surrender his grant so it could be used to build a government town. Close agreed, provided he was fully compensated for his labour, his financial investment and the disruption to his family. Darling refused and Close kept his land,” Beaumont said.“In 1833, the government came to an agreement with Close for him to provide waterfront land to build a public wharf. The place became known as Morpeth from 1834 when Close started to sub-divide his land into town blocks.

“As Morpeth was the head of navigation on the Hunter River, it was a major port for settlers moving into the interior and to ship goods to and from Sydney and Newcastle. I think he also built two pubs,” she said.

“When Close started subdividing land for sale at Morpeth he was advertising it as suitable as sites for merchants. In 1842, he tried to create Closebourne Village, half way between Morpeth and East Maitland, about where Raworth is now,” she said.“Some 100 blocks went up for sale and it was quite blatantly advertised as being suitable for the lower classes, for the working class.SoClose was a man of his time. He’s good to people, but there’s still that class distinction,”Beaumont said.

A Man of Many Parts, by Ann Beaumont,$29.95, is in bookstores now.

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Murder accused to apply for bail

SILK: Arguably Australia’s most prominent barrister Winston Terracini SC will represent Ben Batterham. Picture: Supplied. ONE of Australia’s leading criminal defence barristers will represent the man accused of the Hamilton break-in murder and says he will “expedite” an application to release the 33-year-old from jail.
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Top Sydney silk Winston Terracini SC and barrister Brian Murray visited Benjamin Batterham at Cessnock Correctional Centre on Tuesday, a day after taking over the high-profile murder case.

Mr Batterham, an apprentice chef, is alleged to have murdered Ricky Slater-Dickson after he discovered Mr Slater-Dickson inside his Cleary Street home about 3.30am on March 26.

Mr Slater-Dickson died in John Hunter Hospital on March 27.

ACCUSED: Ben Batterham. Picture: Supplied

The Newcastle Herald reported last week that Mr Batterham would remain in custody until at least May 25 after his legal representation declined to apply for bail on his behalf in Newcastle Local Court.

But Mr Terracini SC told the Herald he planned to make a bail application “as urgently as possible” and Mr Batterham’s family was in the process of organising a surety.

​He was alsoarranging for a forensic pathologist to look atthe post-mortem examinationof Mr Slater-Dickson.

Mr Batterham, who the Herald understands doesnot have any priorcriminal history, is alleged to have discovered Mr Slater-Dickson in the hallway of his home.

It’s believed Mr Batterham chased Mr Slater-Dickson outside where the pair were allegedly involved in a fight.

It’s understood Mr Batterham suffered a number of injuries to his face as well as bite marks to his body.

When police arrived Mr Slater-Dickson was being detained by Mr Batterham and his friend, a 32-year-old who was visiting from Queensland.

Mr Slater-Dickson suffered serious injuries, however the Heraldcan confirm his neck was not broken

Mr Slater-Dicksonlost consciousness a short time later.He was treated by paramedics and taken to hospital.

His life support machine was switched off the following day and Mr Batterham was charged with murder.

The Herald understands Mr Batterham willclaim he acted inself defence and that he was alsodefending his property and his family.

It’s believed Mr Batterham and his friend had been celebrating Mr Batterham’s 33rdbirthday on the night of March 25 but there was no party at the home and Mr Batterham and Mr Slater-Dickson did not knoweach other.

REVIEW: THE 39 STEPS

REVIEW:The 39 StepsTheatre on Brunker,St Stephen’s Hall, Adamstown (4956 1263).Ends April 23ALFRED Hitchcock’s thrillers invariably had elements of comedy, so it’s not surprising that this stage adaptation of his 1935 film The 39 Steps has audience members constantly laughing and smiling as hero Richard Hannay is chased by spies and police alike across the Scottish moors.
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This brisk adaptation of the film script by English playwright Patrick Barlow is all the more engaging because it has just four actors playing more than 130 roles, with two males having watchers in fits as they make rapid changes from one character to another.

Derek Fisher is the only actor in a single role, as Richard Hannay, a debonair bachelor who begins the tale going to a theatre “for a bit of fun”. He finds himself sitting beside a foreign woman who fires a gun at the stage, then asks to come home with him. But the spies the woman is trying to escape follow them, and Hannay finds himself on the run after she is murdered.

Alison Cox has three roles, as the woman involved with the spies, who are known as the 39 Steps, a frustrated farmer’s wife who helps Hannay get out of a jam, and a cool blonde, Pamela, who is handcuffed to Hannay ahead of a pursuit.

Pamela and Hannay initially pass each other as strangers on a train (one of many references to Hitchcock’s films), with their subsequent meeting in a highlands town community hall, where Hannay finds himself introduced as a guest speaker who has failed to arrive, leading to Pamela calling out that he is someone else.

Mark Spencer and Peter Bird do amazing things with their voices and bodies as all the other characters, with the pair as music hall performers, the husband-and-wife owners of a country pub, a professor who proves to be someone else and his sinister partner, and numerous police, spies, farmers and street people. And, somewhere along the way, Alfred Hitchcock, as was his custom, makes an amusing appearance.

Director Brian Lowe, with the support of an excellent technical team, engagingly stages incidents such as a chase on the roof of an express train with minimal props, and the pursuit of Hannay and Pamela by a crop-dusting plane that is seen in silhouette as the sound reveals its increasing approach.

The references to Hitchcock’s films are amusingly used, with the birds in one scene created by puppet characters, and Hannay told, when trying to escape from one team of pursuers, to use the rear window, with a real window appearing so that he can climb through it.

THE actors in the current Newcastle production of the English hit play The 39 Steps had a surprise when they took their bows at the end of a matinee on Sunday.

Special guestThey learnt that the play’s writer, Patrick Barlow, was in the audience. And he came on stage and said it was one of the best productions of the work that he had seen.

Patrick Barlow is married to former Novocastrian Jodi Shields and arrived in Newcastle with her on Saturday for a holiday at her parents’ home.

The parents, aware that he was keen to see the show, booked tickets for Sunday’s matinee at Adamstown’s Theatre on Brunker. In conversation with company administrator Meri Bird at interval, they revealed that he was there.

Meri Bird kept his presence a secret from the four actors, afraid that they would be nervous during the second act.

They kept the show flowing smoothly, and, along with the audience members, were delighted when Barlow signed programs for them.

Barlow adapted The 39 Steps from the 1935 Alfred Hitchcock film of that name which has its hero, Richard Hannay, being pursued by spies in Scotland after they murder a woman who asks him to help protect her.

Barlow’s stage version has four actors playing more than 130 characters, with the Theatre on Brunker cast including Derek Fisher as Hannay, Alison Cox as three very different women, and Mark Spencer and Peter Bird as spies, police, farmers, innkeepers and a host of others who deliver a mix of comedy and drama.

The writer told the Herald that he was delighted with the production.

“They did a great job, with the barest minimum of a set,” he said.

He praised the way the production team, headed by director Brian Lowe, put together the tale’s elements, including wheels coming off a plane and the amusing handling of police dogs without any canines on stage.

“I was thrilled with the staging,” he said.

The 39 Steps opened in London in 2006 and ended a nine-year-run last September. It has played to millions of people around the world.

Barlow’s wife, Jodi Shields, was a member of the renowned Newcastle Castanet Club, which presented song and comedy programs around Australia in the 1980s and ’90s.

She was also the administrator of the Castanets and met Barlow after moving to London in 1998, where she became a talent agent managing some of Britain’s biggest show business names.

The pair holidayed in Newcastle at Christmas in 2008, a few weeks before the first Australian professional tour of The 39 Steps was due to begin, with a season at Newcastle’s Civic Theatre in February, 2009.

Patrick Barlow said at the time that he regretted he would be returning to London without seeing that show, but the Theatre on Brunker production has shown him just how well it could be staged in Australia.

Abundant Produce’s magic beans to hit the ASX

Abundant Produce has spent five years developing its technology with the University of Sydney. Lucrative opportunity: Abundant Produce is pinning its hopes on developing hardier cucumber, tomato and eggplant seeds.
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What can be packed into a small snap lock bag, weighs about 30 grams and is worth $2000?

No, it’s not suspicious white powder but 2000 mini cucumber seeds.

It sounds like the stuff of fairy tales.

Will these seeds grow into an enormous plant that will lead to a land of giants and a goose that lays golden eggs?

After all, the seeds are almost worth double the price of precious metal. But this is no joke.

The seeds have been designed by Abundant Produce, which will list on the ASX next week.

The company has spent five years developing its technology with the University of Sydney’s Plant Breeding Institute.

Chief executive Tony Crimmins said the company was the first of its kind to list on the ASX, specialising purely in agriculture intellectual property, generating revenue mainly from royalties.

“It costs 0.8 of a cent to produce a seed,” Mr Crimmins said. “The rest [of a seed’s overall value] is distribution and IP.

“And the divide between distribution and IP is the negotiation you have with the companies that you are trying to sell the seeds to.”

Typically, royalties range from 5¢ to 11¢ a seed and some of the world’s biggest seed companies such as Monsanto, Syngenta, DuPont and Limagrain, are taking notice of  the Sydney company’s technology.

Mr Crimmins said those big four companies controlled about 80 per cent of the market, meaning working with them to secure distribution contracts was a necessity.

“Those big boys don’t like each other dramatically,” he said. “But we’re small and have great ideas and these large houses are the beneficiaries.

“The majors tend to buy innovation rather than breed it.”

The company – which has raised $3.5 million from mainly institutional investors and will list with a market capitalisation of $9.3 million at 20 cents a share – is aiming to differentiate itself from other seed designers.

It is focusing on creating varieties that can withstand the harsh climates in emerging markets, such as India and Mexico.

“These areas are developing a proliferation of greenhouses with products being shipped to more developed markets in the northern hemisphere during the winter,” said Abundant’s research manager, Graham Brown.

“These areas have low cost structures but more extreme heat and more extreme cold. And whether you believe in climate change or not there are more extreme weather events.”

The harsh conditions can damage entire crops or leave blemishes on produce, slashing farmers’ incomes, but Mr Brown believes Abundant can help mitigate these risks.

For example, it has already developed a heat-tolerant gene which resulted in tomato plants still being able to produce fruit in 50 degree heat in Pakistan.

It’s not alone in investing in IP. Australia’s biggest horticulture company, Costa Group, has partnered with US giant Driscoll’s to develop and market superior varieties of berries.

Meanwhile Greg Hunt, the chief executive of herbicide and pesticide company Nufarm, said his business was not just helping farmers grow bigger crops but ones with added health and consumer benefits.

“The next wave is going to come on output traits and that’s where you see canola crops that are rich in omega 3, grain-based products that produce a flower that may have some other benefit such as gluten-free,” Mr Hunt told Fairfax Media in January.

Mr Brown has more than 20 years’ experience in product development in the wheat and ornamental flower market – but he said high value crops is where future growth is.

Mr Crimmins adds that in developing countries like Vietnam, supermarkets were overtaking traditional markets and this was an opportunity for Abundant.

“I was in Ho Chi Minh City about 20 years ago and it was mainly wet markets back then. But that’s changed. It’s all supermarkets and sometimes you can’t physically touch any produce before you buy it, it’s all wrapped up.

“The food market is growing as the world’s population grows and people are becoming more affluent. It’s rapidly changing.”

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

Frigate ‘gift’ a lesson

WHEN the Department of Defence “gifted” the frigate HMAS Adelaide to NSW to create an artificial reef off Avoca Beach in April, 2011,Australia was onthe cusp of something big.
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We are at the startof a giant Department of Defence house-cleaning exercise.As the Australian National Audit Office described it in a performance reviewin 2015, Defence is going through the“biggest disposal of military equipment since World War II”.

By 2030 Defence expects to replace or upgrade up to 85 per cent of its military equipment, which means it’s going to have a lot of surplus material. The National Audit Office outlined just how much.

“Defence plans to dispose of up to 22 ships, 14 boats, 70 combat aircraft and 100 other aircraft, 110 helicopters, 470 armoured vehicles, 10,000 other vehicles, and a range of communications systems, weapons and explosive ordnance,” the Audit Office said.

The problem is that Defence is not good at letting go, as the HMAS Adelaide“gift” and scuttling five years ago showed.

The Defence“gift” of HMAS Adelaide to NSW, and HMAS Canberra to Victoria, ended up costing Australian taxpayersmore than $13 million in federal funds alone.

That is notto mention a few million more bythe NSW Government, once the three Administrative Appeals Tribunal of Australia hearings were finalised, and the tribunal was satisfied the wreck was not going to be an environmental hazard as it sat on the seabed1.8 kilometres off the coast.

The Department of Defence manages about $75 billion of Commonwealth assets, including $41 billion ofspecialist military equipment like HMAS Adelaide.

While it spends a great deal of time, effortand public resources buying new specialist military equipment like the 72 Joint Strike Fighter jets, carrying a $17.8 billion price tag and with the majority bound for Williamtown RAAF Base, Defence is not so good at disposal, the National Audit Office concluded.

“The major disposals examined as part of this audit have had a largely disappointing history,” it found.

“Overall, Defence’s management of specialist military equipment disposals has not been to the standard expected, as insufficient attention was devoted to achieving the best outcome for the Australian Government, reputational and other risks that arise in disposing of military equipment, managing hazard substances and adhering to Commonwealth legislation and policy for gifting public assets.

“In the cases examined, disposals have generally taken a long time, incurred substantial and unanticipated costs, and incurred risks to Defence’s reputation.”

The $13 million price tag for the cost of “gifting” HMAS Adelaide and HMAS Canberra to the states prompted a 2011 Defence reform review of its disposal program.

But even that failed to address the issue.

A first round of reforms aimed to“reduce if not eliminate” disposal costs andmaximise revenue from the sale of military assets”.But adisproportionate focus on revenue without full regard to costs; insufficient attention to risk management; the quality of internal guidance; fragmented responsibilities; and limited senior management engagement meant the 2011 reforms were gathering dust while HMAS Adelaide was still settling into the seabed.

The Audit Office raised one example, among many, to highlight why focusing on a sale, without looking at the potential costs of the sale, can end up being an expensive exercise.

The Department of Defence negotiated a sale price of $540,000 for a Caribou aircraft. The only problem was it cost Defence $743,000 for the disposal, including $242,000 to pay contractors to identify and pack Caribou spare parts.

A more concerning aspect of Defence’s focus on selling the equipment it no longer wants is its record when it comes to equipment with asbestos.

The Audit Officeidentified cases where the cost of removing asbestos, and the“prospect of greater disposal revenue”, led Defence to dispose of items that may contain accessible asbestos without“transparent declaration of those risks to potential purchasers”.

The “gift” of HMAS Adelaide started with an offer from a federal government minister to the State of NSW, and ended with the Adelaide becoming a lesson learntfor the Department of Defence.

The full cost of a dive wreck is estimated at $10 million, and Defence’s response these days is “cautionary”.

Scuttled: The $6 million “gift” of HMAS Adelaide to create an artificial reef off Avoca Beach led to soul-searching in the Department of Defence.

Eating whale, Japan style, in the name of science

A website promoting whale meat recipes, revealed to be hosted by the Institute of Cetacean Research, the organisation responsible for Japan’s so-called “scientific” whale hunt. A selection of whale meat. Photo: Twitter
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Two minke whales, possibly a mother and calf, are hauled aboard the Nisshin Maru in 2008. Photo: Australian Customs

 “Whale bacon”, it turns out, is a critical component of scientific inquiry into the habits of peaceful ocean giants. Ditto for whale steak. And edible slabs of raw whale meat (aka sashimi).

Gourmet recipes to prepare and cook whale meat are being promoted on a website owned by the Institute of Cetacean Research, the Japanese organisation supposedly conducting “scientific” research to justify whale hunting in waters near Antarctica.

The latest harvest – which defies a 2014 international court ruling that declared Japan’s whaling illegal – included the slaughter of about 200 pregnant minke whales in waters near Antarctica.

The Institute of Cetacean Research, having sent its whaling fleet into the Southern Ocean over the summer, boasted last month that the high number of pregnant cows meant the whale population was in good health.

The institute, a non-profit organisation “authorised” by Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, has an official website that includes details of the “scientific contribution” and “research results” of the whale hunt – findings universally dismissed by the world scientific community.

But the institute has also been revealed as the owner of an otherwise separate website, Whale Street, which includes glossy promotions for the consumption of whales.

The recipe website overflows with jolly whale meat dishes and messages supporting whaling, and features as its mascot a cartoon of a (presumably edible) blue whale designed to appeal to children.

The surprising discovery was made by Nick Jaffe, a Melbourne-based technologist, who stumbled across the whale recipe website and used a commonly available network administration tool to search out the owner of the site.

Hidden in the code of the whale recipe website he discovered the name for the organisation responsible: “Institute of Cetacean Research”. Whale recipes & links to where you can buy whale meat https://t.co/G4TNl6HckA – Domain owners? The Institute of Cetacean Research, Japan.— Nick ☠ Jaffe (@hellojaffe) March 29, 2016

The whaling controversy has continued to cloud Japan’s charm offensive to win the rights to build Australia’s multibillion-dollar fleet of submarines.

Australia successfully challenged Japan’s claim to “scientific” whaling in 2014 in a landmark ruling by the International Court of Justice, but Japan has since withdrawn its whaling program from the jurisdiction of the court.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop last week warned that Australia was considering further legal action against Tokyo over the whale hunt.

The institute has been approached by Fairfax Media to ask how the recipes advance scientific understanding of whale behaviour.

The recipe website also promotes “Friends of the Whale Association” (Kujira Tomo no Kai), with the objective of supporting the Institute of Cetacean Research and “consumption of whale meat as a byproduct of whale research”.

Members join for ¥5000 ($60) and are promised delivery of “a selection of whale meat food products with value above this amount”.

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

Doncaster Mile winner Winx’s half-brother sells for $2.3 million

Winx half-brother Photo: SegenhoeWinx won’t run in Queens Elizabeth StakesPresnell: Donny star Winx deserved better
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What does a half-brother to a superstar cost? It was $2.3 million for Winx’s relation at the Inglis Easter Sale on Tuesday with Gai Waterhouse to train the colt.

The six-time Golden Slipper-winning trainer waged a bidding war to secure the Snitzel colt – out of Winx’s mother Vegas Showgirl – and turned her back on the ring when the frenzy reached $2.2 million.

But after indicating she was out of play, Waterhouse was prodded by Hussain Lootah, the son of Emirates Park principal His Excellency Nasser Lootah, and put her hand up one last time.

“I spoke to the son and he said, ‘I want the colt’,” Waterhouse said. “I’m over the moon. [Full brother and Kindergarten Stakes winner] El Divino is the sexiest horse I train and this horse is so perfect, he just glides over the ground.”

Lootah said his interest in the colt spiked after Winx’s crushing Doncaster Mile win on Saturday, which came just a few hours after El Divino dead heated with Astern for his first group success.

“I was expecting [that price],” Lootah said. “We were in love with him, he’s an exceptional horse and we had to have him.

“He’s got an exceptional pedigree, is exceptional looking … he’s just a cracking colt.”

Winx has reached superstar status with her five group 1s and nine wins in a row, but will skip the $4 million Queen Elizabeth Stakes on the second day of The Championships after trainer Chris Waller confirmed on Tuesday morning she will be sent to the paddock.

While Waterhouse and Lootah expected bidding to crash through the $2 million mark, Winx’s breeder John Camilleri wasn’t so sure about his latest progeny from Vegas Showgirl.

“​I’m not sure what to say, but what a great thrill … what a great result,” Camilleri said. “We thought he’d be hovering around the $1.5 million mark and when it shot past $2 million I was quite surprised, but pleasantly surprised.

“He’s a late November foal, if you can imagine him in May and June he could transform into something when he fills into himself. She’s as good a trainer of two-year-olds as you will find.

“She trains his full brother [El Divino], she’s trained Vancouver, Pierro, Dance Hero and I think she has more than got the credentials on the board.”

The colt was the opening day sales topper before the second and third sessions are conducted on Wednesday and Thursday.

The bidding started at $500,000 and went up in $100,000 increments to $1.7 million when Waterhouse went for the knockout with a $2 million bid.

It would take her another couple of bids to win the colt at $2.3 million.

“With a family like that we were thinking around $1 million and anything past that was a bonus,” said Segenhoe Stud’s Peter O’Brien, who offered the colt on account of Camilleri. “We’re naturally very happy.”

The Snitzel colt was the third lot to break the $1 million barrier late on Tuesday afternoon after a Redoute’s Choice colt out of Top Cuban, a half brother to Havana, sold for $1.5 million to Shadwell Stud.

Coolmore’s Tom Magnier, in partnership with Waterhouse, paid $1.2 million for a Fastnet Rock colt out of Rose Of Cimmaron, a brother to Bull Point.

Snitzel continues to be the leading stallion in the country. Shadwell Stud paid $900,000 for a colt of Rose ‘n’ Wine, a half brother to Spring Champion Stakes winner Hampton Court and New Zealand operation Wexford Stables parted with $800,000 for another Snitzel colt out of Subsequent.

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