No expense spared reaps its reward

6 Myee Avenue, Strathfield, sold for $2,760,000 – $260,000 over reserve. Photo: Supplied 19 Orchard Road, Chatswood sold for $2,222,000. The reserve was $1,750,000. Photo: Supplied
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21 The Boulevard, Sans Souci sold for $3,430,000. Photo: Supplied

20 Gregory Street, South Coogee sold for the first time in 58 years for $2,150,000. Photo: Supplied

It was certainly a May Super Saturday for the vendors of 6 Myee Avenue, Strathfield, selling their European-inspired masterpiece for $2,760,000 – $260,000 over reserve.

As the autumn auction season closed on Saturday, it was the second-busiest auction day of the year with 900 Sydney homes listed to go under the hammer. With 568 of the results in by Saturday evening, the Fairfax-owned Australian Property Monitors reported the clearance rate was 78.9 per cent. The highest price paid was $3.85 million for a home at 35 Bonnefin Road, Hunters Hill through BresicWhitney Hunters Hill office. The biggest price paid for an apartment was $2.95 million for an apartment at 5/45 Wolseley Road, Point Piper through Century 21 Coyle & Everett. 

Back to the Myee Avenue, Strathfield auction, in 2011, owner-builders Richard and Rachelle Nader purchased a small red-brick house on the 765-square-metre site for $1.3 million. In the past 12 months, they have demolished it and rebuilt an architecturally designed five-bedroom mansion.

Leaving no expense spared, everything was designer to the point that all their luxurious finishes were handcrafted and flown in from around the globe. Even the toilet has a chandelier.

The grand residence has four bathrooms, marble floors, a French-inspired kitchen, three-metre-high ceilings, a grand staircase, an in-ground pool and a detached summer house with a built-in barbecue kitchen.

The couple said they were a little unsure of how things would turn out on the day but were happy with the result.

”It’s been a really quick turnaround in building this house; we’ve loved living here, it’s a great family home to entertain in,” Mrs Nader said.

”We don’t have far to move. We have another, more luxurious project we are working on right across the road, which we plan to sell in a year’s time.

”After that, we have our biggest project yet, a 1200-square-metre, heritage-listed home around the corner.”

In front of the crowd of 150 with 12 registered bidders, all local professionals, Ricky Briggs from Cooley Auctions took an opening offer of $2.2 million. After a 20-minute intense bidding war between four parties, it was sold.

Strathfield Partners agent Norman So said he knew it would get a fantastic result because he had 120 groups inspect and issued 20 contracts.

”We have a great stock shortage in Strathfield and a high level of demand. That’s why the prices are still high,” Mr So said.

”I expected the property market to plateau out but this has been a great testing ground showing that Strathfield is still strong and prices are still increasing.”

In north Sydney, the 892-square-metre Federation home at 19 Orchard Road, Chatswood sold for $2,222,000. The reserve was $1,750,000. There were 190 group inspections, 35 contracts issued and 15 registrations. The owner of the four-bedroom home sold a similar property two doors up at number 17 earlier in the day for $2,220,000.

In the south, a five-bedroom mansion with indoor-outdoor pool at 21 The Boulevarde, Sans Souci sold for $3,430,000. The house on 993 square metres of land smashed the St George non-waterfront record by $300,000. There were six registrations.

In the east, 20 Gregory Street, South Coogee was sold for the first time in 58 years for $2,150,000. There were five registrations. The house sits on a 746-square-metre block with sweeping ocean views with scope to rebuild.

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Shares drop as RBA keeps rates on hold

Shares suffered their biggest fall in nearly a month as the Reserve Bank of Australia elected to hold the official cash rate at its record low 2.5 per cent for a tenth month, as was widely expected.
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The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index and the broader All Ordinaries Index each lost 0.7 per cent on Tuesday to 5479.7 and 5460.5, respectively. Following the rates announcement the market was pricing the chances of a rate hike in the next 12 months at 20 per cent, compared to a zero chance a day earlier.

Local shares started to tumble minutes after trading began having taken a soft lead from offshore. Shares on Wall Street and around Europe were broadly flat on Monday night, while London’s FTSE added a modest 0.3 per cent, amid expectations the European Central Bank will act to increase stimulus when it meets on Thursday.

The ASX continued to decline in the afternoon despite Asian sharemarkets providing more support. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng and Japan’s Nikkei were each trading about 0.7 per cent higher when the Australian market closed.

“We are likely to see a cap on the local market around current levels until a catalyst for company earnings comes along,” Morgans stockbroker Stephen Pill said.

“A major theme at the moment is the reaction to last month’s federal budget, with consumer confidence slumping and a number of cyclical stocks, such as ALS Ltd, issuing profit warnings.”

In an accompanying statement to the rates decision, RBA board members upgraded their global growth outlook while welcoming slower house price growth domestically. The RBA also noted the dollar remains high by historical standards, “particularly given a decline in commodity prices”.

In another departure from previous statements the RBA noted that, “volatility in many financial prices is currently unusually low”.

In other local economic news, Australian Bureau of Statistics data showed the current account deficit almost halved in the March quarter, boosted by record shipments of iron ore and coal.

In China, new data indicated the economy improved in May. China’s official non-manufacturing sector purchasing managers index showed rose to 55.5 in May from 54.8 in April, while the final reading of the HSBC/Markit manufacturing PMI for May rose to 49.4, lower than a preliminary reading of 49.7 but up from 48.1 in April.

Resources giant BHP Billiton lost 0.5 per cent to $36.40 after the company announced plans to slash 500 jobs in New South Wales’ Illawarra region as the company scales back coal mining operations amid a weak commodity price, while the head of its US shale gas operations said cost controls are working.

Main rival Rio Tinto gained 0.7 per cent to $59.65 as the spot price for iron ore, landed in China, edged up 0.3 per cent to $US92.10 a tonne.

Late on Tuesday, June 20 was set as the new meeting date for Westfield Retail Trust shareholders to vote on a controversial restructure with the larger affiliated Westfield Retail Group. Shares in both stocks declined.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Westpac Banking Corporation each lost 0.4 per cent to $81.90 and $34.45 respectively, while ANZ Banking Group was unchanged at $33.71. National Australia Bank fell 0.7 per cent to $33.64 as it apologised for a glitch and launched a zero interest credit card promotion in a bid to win new customers.

Retail was the was the worst-performing sector, down 1.6 per cent as an ABS report showed retail sales grew 0.2 per cent in April, missing expectations for a 0.3 per cent increase. Woolworths lost 1.1 per cent to $37.55, while Wesfarmers, owner of Coles, shed 1.3 per cent to $42.98.

Telstra Corporation fell 0.6 per cent to $5.36. Credit Suisse analyst Fraser McLeish

cut his recommendation from “outperform” to “neutral” noting the company’s mobile growth is at risk from price moves by main rival Optus. SingTel-Optus fell 1.2 per cent to $3.31 as it announced plans to boost its 4G coverage and spend more on advertising.

AGL Energy added 0.5 per cent to $15.48 following the release of a report from Australia’s chief scientist that paves the way to the end of moratoriums on fracking in many states, with “strict controls”.

Credit agency Veda Group was the worst-performing stock in the ASX 200, down 5.7 per cent to $2.15.

Rare earths miner Lynas was the best-performing stock in the ASX 200, jumping 9.7 per cent to 17¢.

Building materials supplier CSR, owner of Gyprock, fell 4¢ to $3.34 as it traded without the rights to a 5¢ per share final dividend.

Standards publisher SAI Global lost 1.7 per cent to $5.11 amid speculation Pacific Equity Partners may pull its $1 billion takeover bid after the company said it would open its online data room to other bidders.

Local shares started to tumble minutes after trading began having taken a soft lead from offshore.

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Frisoli murder house sells for $200,000 above reserve

17 Goodsir Street Rozelle 17 Goodsir Street Rozelle, scene of the Frisoli murders.
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The lounge room at 17 Goodsir Street, Rozelle. The house sold for $2,265,000, more than $200,000 above its reserve.

The Rozelle house that was the scene of a double murder five years ago has sold for $2,265,000, more than $200,000 above its reserve.

The strong result was a case of the freestanding property’s generous size and a good renovation triumphing over its tragic history.

The former home of the Frisoli brothers, who were murdered in the lounge room in 2009, was purchased by a Byron Bay buyer.

It was one of almost 900 auctions on Saturday, the second biggest auction day of the year so far, and concluding the autumn selling season before next week’s long weekend.

The successful sale may force agents to rethink the impact that material fact laws have on a property’s value, given the Rozelle house sold for a price comparable with similar properties nearby, despite its gruesome history.

In 2009, property developer Albert Frisoli and his brother Mario Frisoli were found stabbed to death in the house’s lounge room by a former business associate of Albert’s, Giuseppe Di Cianni.

Before Di Cianni was sentenced to 30 years in jail last September, the Supreme Court heard he had dressed up in women’s clothes and entered the Frisoli brothers’ home. He first stabbed Mario to death, then waited two hours for Albert Frisoli to return before killing him, too.

Of the 10 groups who showed an active interest in the property at 17 Goodsir Street, three walked away from the sale once they heard about its history – but seven were undeterred by its past, according to agent Adrian Oddi of BresicWhitney.

Six contracts were issued and there were three registered bidders.

There was a strong turnout of inquisitive neighbours and a few local agents at the on-site auction, held at the rear of the property, well away from the front lounge room where the murders took place.

After a slow start and an opening bid of $1.9 million, it took auctioneer Gavin Croft a few minutes to extract a counter bid; this kicked off the competition among the three active bidders, taking the result well past the $2.05 million reserve.

The Byron Bay buyer was on the phone and represented at the auction by a BresicWhitney agent.

”In the end, the open auction format reassured all the buyers that there were other parties interested in the property for its own sake, and that gave them all the confidence to bid competitively for it,” Mr Oddi said.

The house, with four bedrooms, separate living areas and a self-contained studio at the back, would have been marketed at $2.2 million-plus if had not been the scene of the murders.

It was sold by Albert’s children, his de facto partner, Natasha Kourea, and Mario’s daughters.

Earlier this week Mario’s daughters, Shannon and Erica, said: ”In spite of the … tragedy that occurred at Goodsir Street, we still hold some very happy and memorable moments there.

”The home was full of fun and laughter, and pranks and games, and meals and discussions, and just normal family stuff, and we hope that whoever is lucky enough to secure the home – that it will give them lots of happy memories.”

In keeping with decade-old material fact law, all prospective buyers of the Rozelle house were told about its history once they showed interest and, in this case, details were also included on the contract of sale.

The material fact legislation was introduced a decade ago after the 2001 murders by Sef Gonzales of his family in their North Ryde home, and the subsequent sale of that house to a buyer who wasn’t aware of the property’s history.

That buyer only became aware they had bought the house where Gonzales committed the murders after they paid the $80,000 deposit. That deposit was later refunded and the property sold the following year to informed buyers for $720,000.

In 2012, the North Epping house where Lian Bin ”Robert” Xie is accused of allegedly murdering five members of the Lin family in 2009 sold for $766,000, well down on the advertised guide of $900,000 plus leading up to its March auction.

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Adam Taggart in Socceroos final 23

Adam Taggart in Socceroos final 23 Adam Taggart kicks for goal during the practice game against Brazil second tier side Clube Parana. He and Oliver Bozanic both scored.
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Adam Taggart in action against Parana Clube.

Adam Taggart.

TweetFacebook Socceroos defeat Parana Clube 2-0The Socceroos make a solid start, defeating Brazilian Parana Clube in a warm up match. Pictures: Getty ImagesADAM Taggart has tonight became the first Jets player to be selected for a World Cup.

The 21-year-old striker was a surprise inclusion in the Socceroos’ final 23-man squad to compete in Brazil.

His promotion came at the expense of Josh Kennedy, who along with attacking midfielder Tom Rojic was ruled out due to fitness concerns.

Taggart, whose birthday was on Monday, was one of seven A-League players to make the cut.

“I’m over the moon,”Taggart said after the announcement.

“It’s a dream come true and something you can onlywish for as a little kid.”

He said he was “extremely grateful” and selection was “something I won’ttake for granted”.

With Tim Cahill and Matthew Leckie the only other strikers in the squad, the adopted Novocastrian has a chance of getting game time.

The Socceroos begin Group B against Chile on June 14 (AEST) before matches against Holland (June 19) and Spain (June 24).

There was no room for Jets teammate Mark Birighitti, who missed out to Germany-based Mitch Langerak, Adelaide United’s Eugene Galekovic and Mat Ryan (Club Brugge).

Langerak is on the comeback from a knee injury and Birighitti will stay with the squad until the opening game against Chile.

Right back Luke Wilkshire was the other player trimmed from the group, which has been in camp in Vitoria, Brazil.

Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou had insisted from day one that fitness and form were the main criteria for selection and lived up to that mantra.

Kennedy’s injury is not thought to be serious, but having missed five weeks for Japanese club Nagoya Grampus on the eve of the World Cup, his back flared up during the Socceroos’ high-intensity sessions.

The stringbean striker, who scored the goal against Iraq which earned Australia a place in Brazil, was on course to play in the warm-up game against second division side Parana Clube on Monday before his back seized up at the end of training.

His setback opened the way for Taggart, who made the most of the opportunity with a well taken goal to seal a 2-0 victory.

Selection caps an amazing rise for the Perth-born front man, who scored a club-record 16 goals for the Jets to claim the A-League Golden Boot and Young Player of the Year awards last season, his second at the club.

Recruited by Gary van Egmond, Taggart was lured east after two seasons at the Glory in which he was stuck behind Shane Smeltz and Billy Mehmet.

He scored two goals in 19 appearances, nine in the starting side, in his maiden campaign in Newcastle before exploding into form.

Col ‘‘Bunny’’ Curran is the only Newcastle-born player to compete at a World Cup.

He was a member of the 1974 side, who until 2006 were the only Australian side to have made the final.

Ray Baartz was vice-captain but had his dream dashed by a career-ending blow to the throat in a lead-up game against Uruguay.

Meanwhile, coach Phil Stubbins confirmed that the Jets were close finalising a deal with a South American striker.

‘‘We have a couple of little hurdles in dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s to overcome, but hopefully that’s a formality and we will be in position to announce something very soon,’’ Stubbins told SBS.

‘‘He has played for his national team at an early age and is from a country doing good things and he would be a good, solid signing for us.

‘‘We believe that in tandem with Adam Taggart and Joel Griffiths he can be very effective.

“He has pace, strength and would handle the rigours of the A-League with no problem.”

The striker is a replacement for marquee Emile Heskey.

‘‘Emile was somebody who came and had a real impact at the club,’’ the coach said.

‘‘You can only say good things about the guy as a person and as a professional – but that said we have decided to take a different direction with the player we have in mind.’’

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Ruben Zadkovich : I didn’t want to leave Jets

Perth bound former Newcastle Jets Captain Ruben Zadkovich with his fiance Bianca Foteff, relaxing at Bianca’s parents home in Cooks Hill. Ruben wanted to stay at the Jets, but has been told that he doesn’t feature in the clubs plans. Picture Jonathan Carroll RUBEN Zadkovich never wanted to leave the Jets.
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In the end, the wholehearted midfielder felt he had no choice.

Zadkovich last week agreed to terminate the final year of his contract at the Jets and will head west on a two-year deal at Perth Glory.

‘‘It is bittersweet,’’ Zadkovich told the Herald yesterday.

‘‘I love Newcastle. I think everyone knows that. It was such a massive honour to lead the Jets. It was one of the highlights of my career and something I hold very close to my heart.

‘‘All the fans, members, sponsors, business owners, media – all of the honest, hard-working people I have made friends with in Newcastle – I’d like to think I’d be friends with them long after the stadium lights are out. That is what I will be taking away from Newcastle.

‘‘It was a hard pill to swallow at first.

‘‘From what I have learned in football, you are best to be around people who really want you.

‘‘[Hunter Sports Group CEO] Troy Palmer told me that if I wanted to stay until the end of the contract, go for it, and that he would support me.

‘‘When it came down to it, the Jets didn’t really see me in their plans.

‘‘While that can be a slap in the face, you just have to find the positives.’’

Zadkovich played 97 games in four seasons at the Jets.

He won the club’s Ray Baartz medal in 2013, finished third last season, and 10th inthe Alex Tobin Medal for the Fox Sports player of the year.

The only Jet to start every game last season, Zadkovich was called in to a meeting with club management last month and told of the interest from Perth.

‘‘I was not outwardly looking to leave,’’ he said. ‘‘I was keen to stay here and captain Newcastle as long as I could.

‘‘Management made it clear to me that I was not in their plans moving forward.

‘‘I was told it was more a business decision. They wanted to free up some money in the cap and look for more attacking players. Initially it was a shock. I thought there would have been a bit more loyalty and respect shown. Football is a business. I’m no mug. I know what it is like.’’

Although yet to speak to Zadkovich, coach Phil Stubbins believed the best outcome had been reached for both parties.

The Jets have missed the finals for the past four years, and Stubbins decided something – someone – had to give.

‘‘I certainly needed, along with the direction of the staff, to make some changes,’’ Stubbins said. ‘‘Everyone knows Ruben is a very good player and has been a good servant for the Jets. There is no doubt about that.

‘‘Having looked at the squad, and a good salary goes to a good player, it was felt that we needed to get somebody else in at the pointy end who could service the needs of the team in the front third.

‘‘We had quite a few players in that central midfield position who could fulfil that role – Ben Kantarovski, Josh Brillante, Zenon Caravella, Mitch Oxborrow – and quite a bit of money tied up in that position.

‘‘When the interest came from Perth and they offered him the time frame of the deal they did, it made sense.’’

On the surface it might have seemed a cut-and-dried decision for Zadkovich. But nothing is that simple when, like Zadkovich, you have given your heart and soul to a club – to a region – for four years.

‘‘I had so much going on and, to be honest, it [the decision] was getting the better of me,’’ Zadkovich said.

But any lingering doubts were dispelled after a get-to-know-you chat with Glory coach Kenny Lowe.

‘‘I asked him what role he had in mind for me,’’ Zadkovich said. ‘‘He laughed and said, ‘I just want you to do what you do.’ It was a simple sentence, but it says a lot.

‘‘He doesn’t want to change me. He knows I can more than hold a spot in that position and he is grateful to have me. That means everything to me. To have people who want you, I will look to repay that faith by giving them 150 per cent.’’

Zadkovich and fiancee Bianca Foteff have recently bought an apartment in Cooks Hill and are in the process of planning their wedding next May.

‘‘We have a lot of things going on,’’ he said. ‘‘Things like this happen for a reason. That is the silver lining. It gives me and Bianca a chance to let our relationship evolve. It is a new challenge for both of us.

‘‘She has never lived anywhere but Newcastle, whereas I have been around the world a few times.

‘‘Her family and friends are very supportive.

‘‘We will set up camp somewhere near the beach.

‘‘All the people I have spoken to over there love Perth and the area around it.’’ Zadkovich will replace retired Glory skipper Jacob Burns, who now works for the club in football operations

‘‘I think that says a lot about the kind of club they are looking to build,’’ he said.

‘‘They are keeping the good-quality players involved in the club when their careers have finished.’’

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Valeri signs with Melbourne Victory

Carl Valeri is set to sign with the Melbourne Victory.Socceroos veteran Carl Valeri has signed a three-year deal with A-League club Melbourne after completing a medical on Tuesday.
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It ends the midfielder’s 11-year stint in Italy, where he fell narrowly short of realising his dream of playing in the Serie A – Italy’s top flight.

The 29-year-old always planned to return to Australia at an age when he could contribute, rather than just to cash in during the twilight of his career.

His wife is originally from Victoria, which makes Melbourne a perfect fit for Valeri and his young family.

He sustained a dreadful ankle injury during his 50th game for the Socceroos – against South Korea in November 2012 – and spent more than a year on the sidelines.

“I’ve certainly watched and admired the A-League from afar,” Valeri said.

“The league just keeps getting better and better each season and I’m really looking forward to being back home and playing in a competition that has such great potential.

“You just to have to look at all the quality young players over in Brazil with the Socceroos to see how far the game has come in this country.

“A lot of those boys started their professional careers in the A-League, and that speaks volumes.

“The opportunity to join Melbourne Victory and work with [coach] Kevin [Muscat] was one I certainly couldn’t pass up and I can’t wait for pre-season training to get under way.”

Valeri joined Italian giant Inter Milan as a teenager, but couldn’t crack their Serie A side.

After years playing in the second-tier Serie B, Valeri finally looked like making it when Sassuolo was promoted to the top flight for the 2013-14 season.

But when he was finally over his ankle injury, Sassuolo couldn’t guarantee him game time and he opted to move to Serie B’s Ternana during the January transfer window, where he helped them avoid relegation.

Now he’ll join the Victory, where fellow Canberran Tom Rogic was on loan from Scottish giant Celtic last season.

Muscat said Valeri’s expertise on the pitch wasn’t the only asset Victory were getting.

“Carl has a wealth of football experience and will be a very valuable addition to our club and we can’t wait to see him in Victory colours,” Muscat said.

“Carl is a versatile midfielder and I have no doubt he will have an impact on the A-League and we are very much looking forward to his leadership around the club also.”

Valeri is back to full fitness and while he’s missed out on Ange Postecoglou’s squad for the upcoming World Cup in Brazil, his move to the A-League could still re-ignite his Socceroos career.

The Asian Cup will be held in Australia, including games in Canberra, next summer and if Valeri finds form at Victory then he could add to his 50 international caps.

”I am back at full fitness and looking forward to the next challenge … maybe [playing for Australia at the Asian Cup] can happen, but there’s work to do between now and then,” he told SBS’s The World Game last week.

The Melbourne Victory didn’t return Fairfax Media’s calls.

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Charlestown to coast cycleway plan hits obstacle

IT’S long been a dream of cyclists – a cycleway from Charlestown to the coast, linking the Fernleigh Track.
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COAL ROUTE: Phil Buckner and Don Owers want a cycle path on the old rail route used by trains from Burwood mine. Photo by Marina Neil

IT’S long been a dream of cyclists – a cycleway from Charlestown to the coast, linking the Fernleigh Track.

The route would use the historic coal-haul railway line at Dudley and take in schools and a public swimming pool on its way to Charlestown.

Dudley residents have been pushing for the track for 20 years.

They were buoyed when Lake Macquarie City Council was set to conduct community consultation on the plan last September. .

Dudley resident Phil Buckner said the council “put the kibosh on it at the last minute”.

Asked why it did this, the council did not directly say.

“Council has a comprehensive cycling strategy that was compiled using community consultation,” it said.

However, in an email to Mr Buckner, the council said its resources “can be more effectively deployed engaging community members about projects that will be funded in the short and medium term”.

Charlestown MP Andrew Cornwell said the council’s cycleway strategy had underestimated the cost of the Dudley route.

Mr Buckner said there were “various funding sources we could go for”.

“All we needed was a plan from council and costing,” he said.

Dudley resident Don Owers said Gosford MP Chris Holstein had won millions in state funds for transport infrastructure, including a $25 million pedestrian and cycleway underpass at Woy Woy.

“If they can do that in Woy Woy, they can do it here,” Mr Owers said.

“We are probably going to get a ghastly [Glendale] interchange that will cost more and give land to developers.”

The Dudley miners train at Burwood Colliery. Photo by Ralph Snowball 1898

Mr Cornwell said he was “very supportive” of the Dudley project but the council must do more before applying for state grants.

“Council needs to conduct further consultation with adjacent property owners because they have concerns,” Mr Cornwell said.

Mr Buckner said officials had prevaricated over the plan because of “opposition from a few residents”.

He said the two-kilometre route would require a tunnel under Burwood Road, costing about $1 million, and a further $2 million for the track.

It would be a “fitting acknowledgment of our mining tradition and the men who built the line 122 years ago”, Mr Buckner said.

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Classic comedy Withnail and Ihits stage

PHILOSOPHICAL: Actors Jay Piper and Michael Byrne engage in long pub sessions in the British comedy Withnail And I. Picture: Max Mason-HubersTHE cult classic British film comedy Withnail and I looks at two young men coming to terms with life’s realities. So it’s not surprising that a group of Newcastle people in the same age group saw it as an appropriate first work for their new theatre company.
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The members of the group, Pencil Case Productions, have adapted writer Bruce Robinson’s screenplay for the stage.

It will begin a four-performance season at Newcastle’s intimate Royal Exchange Theatre on Saturday.

Director Libby DeVenny, who appeared as a teenager in Tantrum Theatre productions, said Withnail and I appealed to the group because of the quality of the writing.

“The hilarious dialogue and characters entertain watchers in what initially feels like a light and somewhat flippant plot,” she said.

“But it deals with profoundly enduring themes, including the dynamics of friendship, the decay of youth, the loss of ambition and the end of an era.”

Pencil Case Productions isn’t alone in seeing Withnail and I as the basis of an engaging stage work. There have been numerous adaptations, including one that played to packed houses last December in a hotel called the Old Timers Bar near the University of Essex in Britain.

Robinson’s complete screenplay, which was based on his early life as an actor, was published just after the film’s release in 1987 and incorporates incidents that were cut from the film.

In their adaptation, the Pencil Case team have included lines and incidents that didn’t make the final cut, including a comic duel between the two title characters.

Scenes and characters that wouldn’t work in a theatre setting have also been cut.

Pencil Case Productions was formed late last year by Michael Byrne, Alp Akbas and Libby DeVenny and targets theatregoers aged from youth to middle age.

Their co-operative will program gritty comedic dramas that explore and reflect people’s aspirations, obsessions, disappointments, mistakes and successes.

The trio also want to offer opportunities for people with interests in writing, theatre and design to gain experience.

Ultimately, they hope to focus on works set in Newcastle and written and performed by Novocastrians.

The company’s name, Pencil Case Productions, incorporates the team’s hope that eventually much of the work will be locally written.

Bruce Robinson based Withnail and I on his experiences as a young actor seeking work in London in 1969.

He’s the “I” of the title, a character whose surname, Marwood, appears in the script’s commentary on the characters’ movements, but is only mentioned once in the dialogue.

Marwood succeeds in getting a good stage role, but his friend and flatmate Withnail finds success to be elusive.

The story has the pair becoming unhappy about their life in a gloomy and dirty flat in London’s Camden Town, with long pub sessions filling their spare time.

They talk Withnail’s uncle, Monty, into letting them have the key of his Yorkshire country house and head there for what they hope will be a relaxing holiday.

Things don’t go that way, of course.

The cast includes Michael Byrne as Withnail, Jay Piper as I, Simon Cattell as Danny, a young drug dealer who takes over their Camden Town flat while the pair are away, Libby DeVenny as Withnail’s effusively gay Uncle Monty, and Joe Lappin and Gus Milan in roles including a poacher, farmer, bartender, teahouse proprietor and policemen.

The show incorporates a narrator, played by Aaron Silver, who voices some of the comments about the characters’ behaviour that Robinson included in the directions in his screenplay.

Michael Byrne, who won a CONDA last year for his sensitive portrayal of a very troubled husband and father in Newcastle Theatre Company’s When the Rain Stops Falling, said the actors realised while rehearsing Withnail and I that at one stage in their lives they had lived in much the same way as Withnail and Marwood.

“It’s a story about moving into adulthood and making the most of your potential,” he said.

Libby DeVenny noted that Withnail is aware of the expectations placed on him by his experiences in attending a good school and acting college and feels betrayed by society as the story develops.

Withnail and I has made the top-50 British films list in several polls conducted by film organisations and magazines in the past decade.

Margaret Pomeranz, one of the reviewers on the ABC’s At The Movies, noted recently that it was the first film she gave a full five-star rating in her career as a film critic.

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How did AFL chief fare at the top?

“While his blunt and aggressive style has earned him a reputation as a bully among some clubs, he has at least as many admirers in the football industry for his political ability.” Caroline Wilson on Andrew Demetriou in The Age, May 3, 2003.
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The more things change…

When Andrew Demetriou assumed the mantle of top dog at the AFL in late July 2003, Carlton was playing underwhelmingly under a multiple premiership-winning coach, Richmond was flattering to deceive, and Paul Roos was winning rave reviews for lifting a rag-tag bunch of misfit footballers up the ladder.

As the man Kevin Sheedy labelled “Vlad” for his supposed dictatorial qualities exits stage left, it is worth travelling back to that innocent time – before anyone had heard of the MRP, GWS or AOD – and posing the question: Did Demetriou achieve what he set out to do?

A new 2IC

“My first priority is to find a new football operations manager,” the then 42-year-old declared, knowing the value of a capable second-in-command, having been one himself before taking over from Wayne Jackson.

It took Demetriou four months to find his man, a little-known media and sports lawyer named Adrian Anderson. Like the man who eventually replaced him as deputy, Gillon McLachlan, Anderson was a keen amateur football enthusiast. Arriving with little fanfare, he was at times derided for his staunch defence of the match review panel, but he provided doughty service for the best part of a decade. That’s a tick for Vlad.

Grow the game

His next stated aims were to maintain a 16-team competition and promote national growth. While the AFL is no longer a 16-club competition, it has been expansion rather than dreaded contraction that has prevailed. While financial and on-field turmoil inevitably pervade several clubs at any given time, none has ever seriously teetered on the brink of extinction under Demetriou’s watch. Further to this point, when he realised North Melbourne was too stubbornly resolute to be transplanted to the Gold Coast, Demetriou remained undeterred, and oversaw the foundation of 17th and 18th AFL entities. While their current fortunes differ, the Suns and Giants are truly Demetriou’s legacy, and the league has made abundantly clear its determination to promote the long game up north.

Put the fans first with scheduling

In 2003, Demetriou pushed the mantra of fan-first fixturing. “I think [it goes] a long way towards our relationship with our supporters, which is our most important relationship,” Demetriou said. In that respect the CEO leaves the game on a sour note. 2014 is preparing for a tantalising second half of the season, with as many as seven legitimate premiership contendersyet scheduling is a mess.

One of Demetriou’s proudest achievements is doubtless the glut of money he and and McLachlan acquired in the 2011 TV rights deal. Unfortunately though, the balance has not been struck, and even if Demetriou’s predecessor Wayne Jackson scoffed recently at the suggestion that football was becoming a “TV sport”, the end of Demetriou’s tenure has provided little evidence to the contrary.

Keep the bounce

A traditionalist at heart, Demetriou has stayed true to his word and ensured that the centre bounce remained sacrosanct, even if the footy is now tossed up elsewhere around the ground. The Demetriou era also brought about the sensible amendment whereby poor centre bounces are recalled.

Build a bridge with the MCC

It might seem a long time ago now, but back when he took over, one of the urgent issues Demetriou had to address was an impasse with the Melbourne Cricket Club over the contractual sticking point of an MCG final every week in September, even if a non-Victorian club had earned the right to host the game. While it took until 2005 to sort out and arguably cost the Brisbane Lions a fourth consecutive premiership, the issue was eventually sorted.

Fix the broadcasting “black hole” in NSW and Queensland

Back in 2003, footy devotees in the northern states almost invariably had to wait until 10.30 to watch Friday night footy on pay TV, and often even later on free-to-air television. The advent of secondary digital free-to-air channels and a deal with Foxtel ensured that diehards up north are no longer deprived.

To finish: Moments of humour

One thing you couldn’t accuse Demetriou of was not having a sense of humour. Our take on his top-three moments of levity:

1. The 2008 Brownlow night blunder of starting the count in unorthodox manner: by reading out the round two votes before the round one votes.

2. Meat Loaf’s grand final performance, possibly worse even than Port Adelaide’s effort in 2007.

3. Announcing Robin Nahas’ Brownlow votes by bellowing: “R. Naaaaaarhaaaaas.”

And one not so funny moment: Having a laughing fit live on Channel Seven after hearing that a dwarf entertainer had been set on fire by St Kilda players.

Farewell Vlad, we hardly knew ye.

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Does your club strive for success?

The relevance ladder.Bulldogs bite back
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When big AFL clubs are successful they appear even bigger again. When those clubs are not winning they somehow still seem to appear almost as big and interesting.

When small clubs are winning they become interesting. When they start losing they are prone to become invisible. When the team drops, the club falls off the cliff.

The Western Bulldogs have become invisible. St Kilda is fading. This is in part cyclical – they have stopped winning and they have become less relevant – which is why they have agitated successfully for those structural inequities to be addressed at a meeting on Wednesday of club presidents.

The presidents are expected to agree to a raft of measures that will improve equalisation funding arrangements for the poorer clubs.

The invisibility occurs because suddenly no one wants to watch them any more and they are hidden away in graveyard slots on pay TV. The invisibility also occurs when they cease contributing to the football conversation, to the conversation about them, about others, about the game. They stop telling any story let alone their own.

For the Western Bulldogs, the most prominent narrative about the club over the past year has been about the dry but important issue of equalisation. This is clearly a critical argument to have, but it is not the most engaging story to be told at the club. For fans interested in their team, the storyline has been only one of poor club fighting big club.

Plainly, with an articulate and intelligent president in Peter Gordon, who has been at the centre of equalisation negotiations on behalf of the smaller clubs, this was unavoidably the case. Gordon has given the Dogs a voice in the debate among presidents, and on radio slots and in the broad footy debate that they have needed.

The Dogs have a quiet and measured coach, a captain of a similar, understated approach, but no football manager to talk on football matters. Consequently, there is no one contributing to the conversation about the Bulldogs.

This is not said to criticise coach Brendan McCartney or captain Ryan Griffen, both of whom are good people doing good jobs. But as a club, one senior person in football must be comfortable to contribute to the football discussion to retain some traction in the market and give fans some reason to engage with the club. Bob Murphy, through his columns in The Age and on pay TV, is the most visible Dog.

The Saints have remained more prominent in a football conversation because of the change and unrest that has gone on there in the past 12 months. This, though, has not always been the narrative the club has liked, or needed, about itself.

The newspaper coverage of the Victorian clubs this season tells part of a tale. The Western Bulldogs have appeared on the back pages of The Age or the Herald Sun with a story or a picture fewer times than any other Victorian club. Indeed, if that is broadened to all clubs, Gold Coast has featured on the back pages more often (courtesy, admittedly, of having the best player in the game at the club). The Bulldogs obviously do not make those decisions, but it is neither conspiracy nor coincidence that it is the case.

The Sweeney Sports Report, the authoritative sports marketing analysis used by advertisers and sponsors to measure performance and market penetration of sports and clubs, uses Australian Bureau of Statistics-weighted market surveys to assess the market. It found that of people across Australia who admitted to following AFL as their preferred sport, the Bulldogs were ranked lower than the Gold Coast and above only Greater Western Sydney.

When that filter was refined to AFL followers in Victoria alone, North Melbourne was the least supported team below Melbourne, then the Bulldogs and the Saints. Collingwood and Geelong were equal on top, with Hawthorn next.

These figures are largely unsurprising as they reflect the structural issues that the presidents will be discussing on Wednesday. But sports marketing and communications company Team Epic said the clubs fluctuated in their level of awareness in the market separate to their on-field form, and that their levels of engagement with their members was important in this.

According to sports marketing expert Ben Crowe, who left sports marketing company Gemba this week to launch a new digital sports story website, Unscriptd, the failure to tell your own story was a slippery slope in the sports market.

”If your story does not get told you become irrelevant in the marketplace very quickly and that is the biggest fear any brand has,” said Crowe, who has written business plans for several AFL clubs..

“If you construct a business where you rely on the idea that winning games and on-field success is the only story you have to tell, that is a very fragile approach.”

Crowe said any football club had three stages: success, hope and despair. Only one club a year was able to win the flag, so the idea of selling the club on the basis of success was a wafer-thin approach. Hope was the market all clubs essentially wished to occupy. Despair was nobody’s idea of a place to be.

“Your story does not just have to be about on-field success,” he said. “In fact, you probably do not want to tie your story to what is happening on the field.”

Regardless, a club has to be the one telling that story and you can’t stop talking because your club is not winning.

“Great brands do not make you feel good about the brand, they make you feel good about yourself, and so you want to associate with that brand. That is what sporting clubs do,” Crowe said.

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TOPICS: Sabre Norris shows world how to flip script

SHARP: Olympic swimmer Justin Norris’s daughter Sabre is a hit on YouTube. Picture: Marina NeilWHETHER skating works out or not, nine-year-old prodigy Sabre Norris has a future in broadcasting.
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The daughter of Olympic swimming medallist Justin Norris made national news this week when YouTube footage emerged of her landing a 540 on a skate ramp.

Which makes her just the third female in the world to complete the trick. Topics could barely do it in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater on Xbox.

Equally impressive is Sabre’s gift of the gab; she gives better quotes than your average NRL coach.

The pint-sized star told us she practised for a month and felt like giving up. But then . . .

“I could’ve taken the ordinary path and could’ve gave up. Or I could take the champion path, and that was to keep going.”

Blimey. Sabre hopes her sport makes the 2020 Olympics because her dad discovered that the athletes in Sydney got access to an all-you-can-eat buffet.

He got through 97 nuggets, falling ill just short of a sparkling hundred.

“He still ate the last three,” added Sabre.

The advice for skaters her age is to be positive and believe you can do it.

“But don’t get angry, or the rail will get you,” she warns.

“You’ll get hurt.”

The video of the 540 had nearly a million online views at the time of writing. Sabre’s next big trick is the “McTwist”, which is what she just did but upside down.

Snubbed Newcastle The Voice contestant Emily Rex.

ARE we just paranoid, or was The Voice’s snub of two Newcastle singers a kick in the guts?

The family of Cooranbong’s Emily Rex, 25, were fuming that her battle with fellow Team Will hopeful Chita Henneberry didn’t make Monday night’s episode.

Social media was onto it – one tweet, “Wtf? Where is Emily Rex?”, summed it up.

A family member, who asked not to be named, said the Nine show had ample opportunity to show the performances of Emily and Elise Baker, 20, also from Newcastle.

“The fact is the battle rounds were recorded in late February, so they’ve had three months to tweak the show to ensure all contestants are featured,” said the family member.

“Aren’t we good enough for national television? I feel it is not only a personal insult to the girls but an insult to the Hunter region in general, as if we’re just a pack of coalminers.”

The family said Rex and Baker, both eliminated, were bumped to make way for performances by pop starlet Katy Perry and country singer Keith Urban.

Voice executive producer Adrian Swift told Topics he’s lived in Newcastle, and the call to edit out Rex was “an arrow through the heart” for him.

“We make every attempt to show [contestants], but we don’t guarantee for exactly these reasons,” said Swift.

“These things happen in television, and it’s the nature of television.”

Rex’s family say they get the constraints of TV, but Emily was robbed of “her moment”.

Ashley Giles , Iberian overlord. (maybe)

WE never get sick of this story, and the sudden abdication of Spanish king Juan Carlos is just an excuse to retell it.

In the early 2000s, England cricketer Ashley Giles was honoured with a series of souvenir mugs.

“Ashley Giles: King of Spin,” they were meant to say.

And the mugs sold well. Too well. Turned out, a manufacturer’s typo had immortalised the spinner as the “King of Spain”.

Some observed, harshly, that the England left-armer had a better chance of turning out to be the Spanish monarch.

“Juan Carlos’ abdication at last means Ashley Giles formally recognised as King of Spain,” noted someone on our Twitter this week.

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Ex-bishop Michael Malone says evidence misinterpreted

Former Maitland-Newcastle bishop Michael Malone.FORMER Maitland-Newcastle bishop Michael Malone says the inquiry into the Catholic Church’s handling of sexual abuse cases had misinterpreted some of his evidence.
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Bishop Malone, who served as the Hunter’s most senior Catholic figure from 1995 to 2011, was one of those criticised by Commissioner Margaret Cunneen, who handed down her findings on Friday.

In his evidence to the inquiry, Bishop Malone said that in 2002 the diocese had a file on paedophile priest Denis McAlinden ‘‘so big you couldn’t jump over it’’.

Ms Cunneen ruled that Bishop Malone failed to report McAlinden to police at any stage between 1995 and August 1999. When he handed information to police about allegations made by two victims that year, he withheld similar allegations from another two victims. He was also found to have altered a diary entry ‘‘with the intention of creating a false record to support his version of events’’.

In a statement yesterday, Bishop Malone said he was standing by his evidence and was ‘‘disappointed that the commission has chosen to interpret some matters differently from myself’’.

He said he learned of the diocese’s ‘‘troubled state’’ on his appointment as bishop.

‘‘Immediately on my appointment a priest was arrested, charged with child sexual abuse and jailed.

‘‘This was followed by a number of offenders, at least two of whom were sentenced to jail.

‘‘At the outset I was an inexperienced bishop who revealed his lack of experience in sometimes hesitant and indecisive ways. I felt torn between wanting to support the unfortunate victims of abuse and protecting the reputation of the Catholic Church.’’

He agreed, however, that the commission had rightly shone a light on the diocese’s ‘‘toxic’’ history.

‘‘I renew my deep regret and sorrow that too many innocent people were hurt in that time when we failed to effectively intervene and consequently allowed abuse to continue,’’ he said.

‘‘It takes a big effort to turn a culture around, but I am confident that change had begun in my time, is continuing under Bishop Wright and this report will continue that process.’’

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Catholic Bishop Bill Wright on Church’sshame, regret: poll

BURDEN: Maitland-Newcastle Bishop Bill Wright carries the heavy weight of a shamed Church. Picture: Jonathan CarrollTHE Hunter’s most senior Catholic has spoken of the shame and ‘‘tremendous regret’’ created by some of his predecessors, but the Church is yet to take any disciplinary action against any of those still alive.
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Maitland-Newcastle Bishop Bill Wright became a willing but heavily burdened face of the Church on Tuesdaywhen he issued a public response to the special commission of inquiry’s findings that during their time in the diocese, at least seven senior clergy had played a role in covering up the abuse by paedophile priests Denis McAlinden and James Fletcher.

Bishop Wright, who assumed his role only three years ago, acknowledged that his diocese carried a dark history, a ‘‘sad and sorry story of which we can only be ashamed’’.

The commission found that Monsignor Allan Hart and Father William Burston were ‘‘unsatisfactory’’ witnesses and provided ‘‘inconsistent’’ evidence. It also found that Bishop Leo Clarke (now deceased), Monsignor Patrick Cotter, Father Brian Lucas and most recent bishop Michael Malone knew of McAlinden and Fletcher’s offending but failed to notify police and, in some cases, covered up the crimes.

The commission has also referred a senior member of the Church to the Department of Public Prosecutions, but the Newcastle Herald is not yet able to identify the person.

Bishop Wright revealed yesterday that he had asked Monsignor Hart and Father Burston to stand aside from ‘‘any of the official structures of the diocese that advise me’’.

But they will remain in their parishes, he said, because they ‘‘are both very senior men and they are both very well regarded in most respects’’.

There has been no action taken by the broader Catholic Church.

Father Brian Lucas is the currentsecretary-general of theAustralian Bishops Conference.

Bishop Wright noted that his predecessor Malone was instrumental in establishing victim support network Zimmerman Services and was among the ‘‘good people … who give great strength to me’’.

– Bishop Bill Wright

The commission, however, found that while Bishop Malone was the first senior Hunter Catholic to co-operate with police investigations, he was selective in what information he gave them and had deliberately altered a diary entry ‘‘with the intention of creating a false record to support his version of events’’.

Bishop Wright, though, made no defence of ‘‘the failings of our diocese’s former leaders’’ and offered genuine concern for victims and their families.

‘‘It is an appalling story, first of all because many children have been abused, but secondly because it details senior figures in this Church … that were aware at least in part of the offending behaviour of McAlinden around their time, and yet he was never stopped,’’ Bishop Wright said.

‘‘Various efforts that were made to do something about him were ineffective to say the least and were driven by a concern to prevent scandal, or protect the Church’s reputation, and the needs of the victims often ran a very poor second to that.

‘‘Throughout all those decades it’s a sad and sorry story of which we can only be ashamed.’’

He also warned that investigations are ongoing and may reveal even darker days ahead for the Church. The royal commission, he said, ‘‘may in time take an interest in Maitland-Newcastle as well’’, while Strike Force Lantle, the police investigation launched after the Herald revealed the extent of child sexual abuse cover-ups within the Church, was ongoing.

He said the diocese will continue to analyse the commission’s findings for ways in which to improve practices as well as improve services to ‘‘survivors’’ of clergy abuse.

‘‘I also feel a sense of hope,’’ he said, ‘‘based on the fundamental goodness of people, the enduring strength of our Catholic faith and our capacity as a community to learn from our past failings and rise above them.

‘‘Our diocese continues to invest significant resources into systems and personnel designed to protect our children and work with those who have been harmed, to explore new pathways towards healing.’’

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