Monthly Archives: July 2019

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Family first as PJ Ellis plans to hand over coach role

UNCERTAIN FUTURE: Maitland Pickers captain-coach PJ Ellis at training. Picture: Stuart ScottMAITLAND captain-coach PJ Ellis appears likely to hang up the clipboard at the end of this season.
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While the veteran hooker is not 100per cent certain about quitting, he said family commitments with three young children made coaching difficult.

The 37-year-old had planned on retiring from playing but remaining as coach next season. He said he was now more likely to continue as only a player.

‘‘I probably won’t have the time to coach, and you don’t have that down time a player might have with the kids,’’ Ellis said. I’m still undecided. I’m not 100per cent.’’

■ Matt Lantry has a handshake agreement to continue coaching Central next season, which is expected to be signed off on next week.

Butcher Boys secretary Terry Bryden and Lantry made the verbal agreement a fortnight ago and have been formulating the club’s budget for next season.

‘‘It’s a handshake agreement and we’re rolling forward for next season, there’s just a few things to tidy up before I sign on the dotted line,’’ Lantry said.

Once Lantry signs, retaining most of his squad is his top priority.

‘‘One thing I have noticed in the last six weeks, that obviously winning helps, but the culture among the club has really galvanised as a team on and off the field,’’ he said. ‘‘That always takes time to happen, your successful teams stay together for a long period of time.’’

■ As expected, Cessnock five-eighth Riley Brown has withdrawn from the NSW Country tour of Hawaii due to family commitments.

Brown’s place is taken by Berkeley Vale’s Alex Moore.

The Country squad fly out for Honolulu tomorrow, with Brendan Hlad, Chris Adams (Cessnock), Jake Finn, Callan Richardson, Simon Williams and Peter Mannion (Wests) the Newcastle representatives in coach Jamie Feeney’s squad.

Knights tip crowd will rise for Alex McKinnon

KNIGHTS officials will be hoping the #RiseForAlex round can prove the catalyst for a much-needed reconnection with the Novocastrian community.
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Newcastle’s home clash with the Gold Coast on Sunday week will signify the first time Alex McKinnon has returned to Hunter Stadium since the terrible accident that left him with a career-ending broken neck.

While it has not been decided if the 22-year-old Aberdeen junior will appear on the field before the game so that fans can pay their respects, a bumper turnout is anticipated nonetheless for what shapes as one of the most emotional days since the Knights were founded in 1988.

A host of other activities, including a post-match concert headlined by Jessica Mauboy, will ensure it is a special occasion and a season-high attendance is expected.

The Knights would welcome a revival in home-ground support.

In six games at Turton Road this season, their average crowd is 17,151, which represents a decline of 9.8per cent on last year’s average of 18,836.

Last year’s attendances were down 9.9per cent on their standard 2011 turnout of 20,919.

So, in the space of three seasons, Newcastle’s home crowds have slipped by an alarming 17.5per cent.

Poor performances have undoubtedly been a contributing factor, but many believe the Knights also lost touch with their traditionally loyal fan base during the three tumultuous years under Nathan Tinkler’s ownership – despite Tinkler’s initiative to cut the price of season tickets.

Knights officials felt the NRL draw did them no favours earlier in the season, but they apparently have no complaints about the scheduling of their final four games, which was confirmed last week.

A statement on the club website said ‘‘the Knights are overall pleased’’ with home fixtures against Melbourne (Saturday, August 9, 5.30pm), the Warriors (Sunday, August 17, 2pm), Parramatta (Saturday, August 30, 3pm) and St George Illawarra (Sunday, September 7, 2pm).

Barring horrendous weather, it is hard to imagine their crowd figures will not improve significantly over the last third of the season, starting with the #RiseForAlex round and finishing with the annual Old Boys reunion day at the last home game.

■ Never before has there been such a disparity in the experience of two rival coaches.

Veteran Knights tactician Wayne Bennett will control his 700th top-grade game – a competition record – when Newcastle face Cronulla at Remondis Stadium on Sunday.

His opposite number will be interim Sharks coach James Shepherd, who made his NRL debut in last week’s miraculous win against the Roosters.

Incidentally, NRL chief executive Dave Smith has thrown his support behind the retention of Bennett, whom he described as ‘‘a wonderful man and been a wonderful part of the Newcastle team’’.

“Hopefully he chooses to stay, but ultimately that’s up to Wayne. We need to make sure we do all the right things to make [Newcastle] stronger,’’ Smith said this week.

■ The debut of former Canberra prop Sam Mataora was a rare highlight for Newcastle’s NSW Cup side in their 26-0 loss to Illawarra Cutters last weekend.

Mataora (114kilograms) is a comparative lightweight compared to coach Rick Stone’s starting props Toka Likiliki (134kilograms) and Pat Vaivai (120kilograms).

Last week’s result left the Knights clinging to eighth and they will be hoping to bounce back against struggling Manly at Brookvale Oval on Saturday.

■ Newcastle’s under20s can take a further step towards the National Youth Competition minor premiership with a win against the Sharks on Sunday.

The Knights are joint leaders with Brisbane after both teams have posted 11 wins, one draw and three losses from 15 games, but Newcastle have a superior for-and-against record.

Cronulla are third last and are winless in their past five starts.

The Knights have won three successive games. They also have the best away record (7-2) in the competition.

SEVEN DAYS: July 3-9

PERSUASIVE: Tariq Sims’s partner and model Ashleigh Sudholz.TODD Carney’s reputation might be mud on the east coast of Australia but on the other side of the Nullarbor, the punters are cheering his name in absolute delight.
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In remote Pinjarra, a town with a 4255-strong population situated 86kilometres south of Perth, Carney – a three-year-old bay gelding – wins a 1400-metre maiden and delivers a dividend of $5.70.

Apparently Carney wins by three-quarters of a length.

There is surely a double entendre in that, just waiting to be exploited, but it would be in poor taste. A bit like urinating in your own mouth.

THE Knights confirm the NRL’s worst-kept secret by announcing they have signed North Queensland forward Tariq Sims to a two-year deal.

This is a great boost and Seven Days fearlessly predicts Sims will realise his potential in Newcastle and represent NSW and Australia next season.

But there is one aspect of this coup I find slightly confusing.

A number of media outlets have reported that Sims asked the Cows for a release because his partner was ‘‘unsettled’’ in the tropical north and wanted to move nearer to family after the birth of their first child.

It gets me to wondering who wears the pants in this relationship – the big, fiery back-rower or his better half?

A quick trawl through the internet soon solves the mystery, shortly before my computer overheats and short circuits.

Sims’s partner just happens to be Ashleigh Sudholz, the Ralph Australian Swimwear Model of the Year in 2008 and the 2009 Miss Indy winner.

If Ashleigh reckons Newcastle is the best place to work on her suntan, I’m not surprised Tariq agrees with her.

Meanwhile, I read with interest where Robbie Farah declares ‘‘it hurts every time when people say [Cameron Smith] is a better hooker than me’’.

Given Farah apparently rates himself the greatest dummy-half of all time, he is not surprisingly still filthy about suggestions he was lucky to be picked for last year’s World Cup tour ahead of premiership-winning Roosters rake Jake Friend.

‘‘Some people didn’t even think I should have been in the last [Kangaroos] squad,’’ he says. ‘‘Some dickhead journalist in Queensland … I’d love to see him for a couple of minutes on a footy field.’’

Yeah, good one, Robbie.

I’d love to see a dickhead footballer trying to file a 600-word match report within minutes of full-time to meet a Friday-night deadline.

THE hapless Cronulla Sharks defy their basket-case reputation to somehow secure a major sponsor for the rest of this season and possibly next year.

The new backer is a company called Labour Health, whose website claims: ‘‘We implement rigorous substance abuse checks … to ensure your workplace remains alcohol and drug free at all times.’’

Hopefully this will ensure Cronulla players are squeaky clean and nobody makes the mistake of taking horse steroids on the advice of some blow-in sports scientist.

Rumours that the recently unemployed Todd Carney has been offered a job as sample collector – no beaker required – are unable to be verified.

Buoyed by the good news, the Sharks produce their second rope-a-dope stunt in as many weeks to stun the Chooks 30-28.

Following last week’s successful game plan of giving the Broncos a 22-0 head start, Cronulla let the Roosters rack up leads of 24-0 and 28-6 before stiffing them 30-28.

The result is a triumph for James Shepherd, who in the space of a week has upgraded his LinkedIn profile from ‘‘Remondis Stadium security guard’’ to ‘‘NRL super coach’’.

In a triumphant Shire, people rejoice in the streets with a stirring rendition of the time-honoured Psalm: The Shepherd is my Lord.

THE Sunday Telegraph reveals the NRL’s plan to ‘‘clean up the game’s grubby image’’ by appointing at least one female director on every club board.

‘‘The best companies I have worked with have had females at senior and board levels because they bring genuine skills to the table,’’ NRL boss Dave Smith says.

‘‘Having more female representation will also enable clubs to better grow the game.

“We want more women at games, we want more women to play the game – and we recognise that will only occur if we have more women making decisions.’’

Seven Days is 100per cent behind this proposal, and the Knights are the ideal club to test the waters, given that they are still in the process of assembling a new board.

The obvious candidate, in my humble opinion, is our own Jennifer Hawkins.

Glamorous, well connected, an astute businesswoman … and able to fill in at short notice if any of the cheerleaders pull a hamstring.

If our Jen is unavailable, perhaps Ashleigh Sudholz would suffice.

Or why not both?

CRONULLA are becoming so confident in their new guise as the NRL’s miracle men they are boldly eyeing the greatest escape of them all.

Last on the NRL points table after four wins from their first 15 games, the Sharkies reckon they are still in the race for the playoffs.

‘‘Anything’s possible in this comp,’’ fullback Michael Gordon declares.

In normal circumstances, this would be laughable but, given their past two results, maybe the $51 on offer for Cronulla to make the top eight is worth a flutter.

Mind you, there is still plenty of smart money riding on them at $2.20 to collect the wooden spoon.

DISGRACED former Canberra and NSW centre Blake Ferguson seems determined to drag his public image even deeper into the gutter.

If it is not enough that Ferguson has been convicted of an indecent assault and likes hanging around with Anthony Mundine and Josh Dugan, news breaks that the wayward star has completed a referees course.

‘‘He performed really well and showed a real interest in it … refereeing isn’t the most glamorous of things to be involved in, but it’s a very crucial part of the game,’’ former ref Greg McCallum says.

All I can think is that by hanging around refs – the only people in rugby league more unpopular and maligned than Ferguson is – it somehow bolsters his self-esteem.

McCallum reveals John Hopoate undertook a similar course several years ago after he was involved in an incident at a junior match.

The mind boggles.

Hoppa as a referee. That’ll do me. Talk about lunatics running the asylum.

NSW collect the State of Origin shield for the first time since 2005 and I am reminded of why they no longer sell beer in cans at sporting arenas.

It was at the same venue – Lang Park – in 1987 that the locals started lobbing tinnies on the pitch when King Wally Lewis was sent to the sin bin.

No doubt the Cane Toad faithful would love to have showered Paul Gallen and company in XXXX just as they collected the spoils of victory.

Plastic cups don’t quite have the same impact.

Prabowo Subianto and Joko Widodo both claim victory in Indonesia’s presidential poll

Joko Widodo decisively asserted his claim to Indonesia’s presidency in a speech to supporters last night which repudiated his opponent’s tactics and warned him not to tamper with the count.
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Mr Joko and opponent Prabowo Subianto have both used quick counts of ballot papers carried out by private companies to claim victory in the poll.

Mr Prabowo again refused to concede in a late evening appearance on the TV station owned by his coalition partner. But he urged his supporters to “exercise patience, cool down” and respect the final count of the Electoral Commission.

ANU academic Ed Aspinall said Mr Joko’s claim to victory was legitimate, whereas Mr Prabowo’s was based on numbers from survey organisations that were “rather disreputable outfits” which had “a history of inflating” Mr Prabowo’s numbers.

As evening fell on election day, Mr Joko went to the symbolically important Proclamation Monument, built on the site where Indonesia’s first president Sukarno declared republic independent of the Dutch in 1945, and announced his victory to screaming supporters.

He began his speech by saying that all the six survey organisations which showed him as the winner — by around a 52 to 48 per cent margin — were “accurate” and had been accepted by all parties in the past.

Then he spoke as the president-elect.

“Today, Indonesia has decided its course. All of us want a better Indonesia. An Indonesia in which people are healthy, people are smart, civilised, prosperous, and enjoy justice,” he said.

“Today, a new history has been made: a new chapter for Indonesia … this is a victory for the Indonesian people.”

Mr Joko, who has spent most of the campaign avoiding any criticism of Mr Prabowo, then subtly criticised his opponents campaign tactics, which involved paying large numbers of people to attend rallies, and offering financial inducements, or even ministries in his government, to groups in return for expressions of support.

“The real victory is of the people and has been achieved through participation, not through mass mobilisation. It was achieved through hard work, day and night, not by promising rewards,” Mr Joko said.

He urged his supporters not to relax, and to “guard” the rest of the counting leading to the announcement of the official result, which the election commission has said will be available on July 22, in case anything left a “stain” on the will of the people.

Mr Joko thanked his opponents, saying Mr Prabowo and running mate Hatta Rajasa were “patriots” who would “still contribute to Indonesia”.

In his speech, Mr Prabowo again hinted at a xenophobic thread running through his campaign, saying, “The truth cannot be bought by any nation … our power cannot be hired out to foreign powers”.

He said his supporters should maintain their strength, but “be patient, abide by the law, try to be polite”.

“We don’t need to show off; the real patriot does not need to show off. A strong man does not need to show off,” Mr Prabowo said.

Earlier in the day, Mr Joko and his political patron, Megawati Sukarnoputri, of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, had declared less than two hours after polling booths closed that they were confident of victory.

Mr Joko’s mother Sujiatmi Notomiharjo came on shortly afterwards saying in the Javanese language, “Do your duties wisely, now that you’ve become president, son”.

But about an hour later, Mr Prabowo, more equivocally, also claimed victory.

Mr Prabowo told supporters: “We are grateful that from all the incoming data, we … received the support and mandate of the people. But we will wait until all the data comes in, and after 90 per cent of the data comes in, we will declare our position”.

Worryingly for those who hoped the election might produce a clear result and a peaceful process, both men asked their supporters to “guard” the voting process.

“We ask all members of the coalition parties, the red and white coalition, to guard this victory until the KPU [the election commission] announces the official result,” Mr Prabowo said.

Local reports suggest Mr Prabowo has trained more than 1000 paid scrutineers at his ranch near Jakarta, and deployed them around Indonesia this week.

Dr Aspinall said it was a “major concern” that Mr Prabowo might try to manipulate the count and “bribe or coerce their way into power”.

However, he said with the release of credible polls, that would be difficult to achieve.

Mr Prabowo’s supporters made the best of their claim to victory, but, in contrast to the unrestrained joy at Mr Joko’s speech, Mr Prabowo’s supporters looked grim-faced.

A quick count by company, LSI, showed Mr Joko and running mate Jusuf Kalla with 53.38 per cent of the vote against opponent Prabowo Subianto and Hatta Rajasa with 46.62 per cent. CSIS had Mr Joko up 52.2 per cent to 47.8 per cent. On the streets of Jakarta earlier in the day, voters said they had picked either Mr Prabowo for his toughness, or Mr Joko as the man of the people.

“Jokowi is for the people, a leader who is born from the people and he’s for the people,” said Hery Wijaya, sitting with friends in inner-city Glodok.

“I voted for Prabowo because I know Prabowo follows Suharto,” says Tanah Abang market stallholder Eti. “He’s firm, he’s military. I want Indonesia to revive, be spirited, not just lame, so I want a firm leader, not a lame one.”