80,000: that’s a very big bash

As it happened: Stars v Renegades

The Big Bash League is officially a thing. The people of Melbourne and the MCG made it so on Saturday night when 80,883 squashed into the grand old ground for the Stars-Renegades derby, astonishing even organisers and overwhelming security protocols. Many thousands were caught in queues snaking around Yarra Park, waiting for bag searches and body scans. As per long history of MCG crowds, their humour held. To accommodate the swarm, the MCC at length had to open the members’ reserve to all comers and remove a promotional banner that initially had covered one bank of seats.

Eighty thousand, eight hundred and eighty three. It is worth spelling out. It was almost certainly the biggest crowd for a domestic cricket match anytime, anywhere. It was bigger than this season’s Boxing Day crowd, and for that matter last season’s, too. It was bigger than any Collingwood-Carlton AFL game for the past two years, once the gold standard for derby-style matches in Melbourne. That must have left Eddie McGuire, president of both the Magpies and Stars, with mixed feelings. Then again, his teams won every time, winter and summer.

Sheer crowd size, special effects and gimcrackery were only the half of it. When former Stars captain Cameron White appeared for the Renegades, he was momentarily booed. This game has a history and a memory after all. When White was kept scoreless for a couple of deliveries, fans brandished placards extolling the virtue of the dot ball. This game’s nuances are not lost on everybody. And even the ones that were, so what? I’m not sure how many of this night’s crowd were up with the damage done by artful slower balls — it certainly got by the two lads who spent the night belting each other over the head with thundersticks — but the point about T20 now is that it appeals on a range of levels.

In any case, much later, when Renegades’ wicketkeeper Matt Wade took an acrobatic one-handed catch at the start of the Stars’ innings, even the Stars fans applauded the replay. While Melbourne’s new cricket fans — or should I say Melbourne’s fans of new cricket? — are still sorting out their allegiances, it was possible on this one night for each to have his or her own side and all to be on the same side. The Collingwood-Carlton-style grit will come in its time. This night will become one more grain.

For the record, BBL original and England irregular Luke Wright upstaged much more feted imports Kevin Pietersen, Chris Gayle and Dwayne Bravo, smashing a 60-ball century to lead the Stars to last-over victory, whereupon such a fusillade of fireworks was launched that the MCG disappeared behind a smokescreen. The BBL will never be accused of understatement.

As a juncture in cricket and sporting history, this night was comparable with one in Sydney in November, 1978, when such a crowd turned up unannounced for an -West Indies World Series Cricket game at the SCG when Kerry Packer threw open the gates. It was the moment WSC caught on in the public imagination, and thereafter its success was assured, and the face of cricket permanently changed.

Now, it is mutating again. In the swirl, it is not clear for whom the implications of this night are most acute. Is it Test cricket, which has looked like an orphan this summer? It is a more complete game, but does that matter any more? Is it the A-League, which is in direct competition with cricket and whose crowd numbers have stagnated this season? Hell, is it even AFL, which has a longstanding monopoly on the young sporting talent in this town, but for how much longer?

Those are tomorrow’s questions, to be considered once the fireworks smoke has cleared and the whiff of cordite borne away by the wind. Meantime, for the first day of the third Test in Sydney on Sunday, rain is forecast. Team P W L NR T Pts NRR Perth Scorchers 431–61.147Sydney Thunder 431–60.723Adelaide Strikers 431–60.058Hobart Hurricanes 431–6-0.613Melbourne Stars 422–40.052Sydney Sixers 624–40.016Melbourne Renegades 413–2-0.332Brisbane Heat 4-4–0-1.107

Big Bash League: Luke Wright’s century takes Melbourne Stars to derby victory in front of 80,883 at MCG

As it happened: Stars v Renegades

Two of the biggest names in world cricket were upstaged by a man ignored by his country for the past two years in Luke Wright, as Melbourne Stars cruised to victory in a historic Melbourne Big Bash League derby.

Wright clearly  outperformed  Chris Gayle and Kevin Pietersen, who between them made 10. But he was in turn upstaged, despite his superb 109 not out from 63 deliveries, by an astonishingly large crowd of 80,883 at the MCG.

Demand for seats was so fierce that the Stars had to hastily remove a banner that covered an entire bay of seats in the Ponsford Stand, as the former BBL record crowd of 52,633, at Adelaide Oval last year, was obliterated.

The Renegades posted a solid 7-161 after being sent in, led by 54 from former Stars captain Cameron White. Their inability to defend a hefty total saw them slump to a third consecutive defeat.

As against Sydney Sixers just before Christmas, Tom Beaton dropped a crucial late chance. He spilled a low chance at long-on when Wright was on 64. The Englishman then smashed consecutive sixes off Xavier Doherty to get the required run-rate under control.

Wright’s century was fittingly brought up with a six, midway through the 19th over. Also fitting was that he was the one  who swatted the boundary to take the Stars to 3-163, giving them a seven-wicket win with five balls to spare.

Even though the Renegades boast what should be one of the most destructive opening pairings in Twenty20 they only scored at a run a ball in the powerplay – and only managed that with two late boundaries.

Given the backlog outside the MCG, caused by the imposition of a security-fence perimeter to closer inspect patrons for threats, probably a quarter of the crowd were still outside when drawcard Gayle fell in the fourth over.

The wicket of Gayle brought long-time state captain White to the crease. While the boos it generated indicated there is a developing rivalry between the teams it did not reflect well on the Stars fans, given White wanted to stay and was effectively pushed out in favour of Michael Clarke.

The pressure on White to provide an anchor innings increased when Finch fell in the 10th over. That wicket was a great reward for Stars captain David Hussey’s decision to introduce medium-pacer Marcus Stoinis for the first time in the tournament.

Even though White did not feature for Victoria in the first half of the Sheffield Shield season he has started the BBL in great touch, particularly with his fluent lofted drives that have cleared the boundaries.

A high point for the Renegades, White reaching his half-century against his former team in the 16th over, was followed by a big disruption in their innings. White and Matthew Wade, who had shared a 58-run partnership, fell within three deliveries.

Replacement Tom Beaton could not have started any better, clubbing spinner Michael Beer for a straight six. A repercussion of his departure in the 18th over was that it gave Tom Cooper his first bat in the Renegades’ four matches.

Cooper struck one important blow, skilfully scooping a low James Faulkner full-toss over fine-leg for six. In the final over he became the fourth victim of the excellent John Hastings, who returned to the team despite a small muscle tear in his shoulder.

The Stars’ chase was hindered by Stoinis’ struggle to score as freely as  Wright.

The breakthrough came courtesy of Wade’s superb one-handed take of Stoinis off Chris Tremain, after flinging himself to his right.

Replacement Pietersen began with a textbook off-driven boundary. Like Gayle earlier, however, he departed without a meaningful contribution,  caught after top-edging an attempted pull shot.

The Renegades’  inability to break partnerships looked to have resurfaced as Wright and Glenn Maxwell moved steadily towards a half-century partnership. It took a fine yorker from Dwayne Bravo to end the 13th over, which struck low on Maxwell’s off-stump, to get a new batsman to the crease.

Handscomb arrived with his team needing 59 from the last six overs. Then came the over, from Doherty, that turned the match. Had that tough chance been taken by Beaton, when Wright was on 64, the equation would have been far more difficult for the home team. Team P W L NR T Pts NRR Perth Scorchers 431–61.147Sydney Thunder 431–60.723Adelaide Strikers 431–60.058Hobart Hurricanes 431–6-0.613Melbourne Stars 422–40.052Sydney Sixers 624–40.016Melbourne Renegades 413–2-0.332Brisbane Heat 4-4–0-1.107

The club that saved Melbourne’s women from prostitution

Ruth Davies at the Princess Mary Club on Lonsdale Street. She lived at the club in the 1980s and has been part of a protest to stop it from being demolished. Photo: Pat ScalaIt was a safe home for women for decades – and began as a sanctuary from sin –  but the Princess Mary Club may very soon be mourned.

The rare neo-Gothic building in Lonsdale Street – that was left to rot for 20 years – is set for demolition, its significance to women’s history and culture of Melbourne likely to be lost.

Joy Damousi, a professor of history at the University of Melbourne, says the club’s function as a place of sanctuary for young country women – who started coming into Melbourne in large numbers to find work in the 1920s – isn’t “too dissimilar” from that of the Windsor Hotel, where the sons of the squattocracy were housed when doing business in town.

“We’d be more outraged if we were to demolish the Windsor,” Damousi says. “But with icons to male activity, there isn’t as much acceptance for them to be torn down. The Princess Mary Club hasn’t been given the significance it deserves.”  ‘You had to lock them up’

The club’s history is complex, in that it provided opportunity, but was also an attempt at social engineering that essentially backfired. The Wesley Church built the Princess Mary Club not simply as a hostel for young women, but as a virtual lock-up to keep them from slipping into prostitution.

This is why the city’s leading businessmen threw their money into the project – for fear that their own vulnerable employees might fall into whoring if they weren’t being supervised at night, being away from the guardianship of their fathers.

Professor Shurlee Swain is a social historian with n Catholic University, and co-author of The Challenge of the City: the centenary history of Wesley Central Mission 1893-1993. She says the story of the Princess Mary Club is also the story of a time in when young women couldn’t live independently without, it was perceived, there being a grave risk to their morality.

“So you had to lock them up,” Swain says. In effect this meant women weren’t able to entertain male visitors, except in the downstairs receiving room. They were on a strict curfew and under the supervision of a matron, a practice that continued up until the 1980s.

The Princess Mary Club was one of a number of hostels that appeared in the 1920s – the Anglicans and Catholics had them – as more women started working in shops and factories and, the horror, studying at university. The Princess Mary Club, however, had a bigger profile because it was smack dab in the middle of the city.

Swain tells the story of Dr Samuel Hoban, the minister at the bluestone Wesley Church who “had a great interest in moral welfare issues”. Hoban provided effective pastoral care to girls working in the brothels that backed onto the church grounds. Determined to build his hostel, he told the city’s businessmen, if they didn’t protect the young women they were employing, they’d make the one slip that would send them into prostitution.

“That’s the way people understood how women took to prostitution; they had been seduced and cast out from respectable womanhood,” Swain says. ‘The problem of the city is not the boy but the girl’

On the day the building was officially opened, it rained like hell. Still, the lord mayor and other dignitaries gathered to give their speeches and enjoy the reflected piety.

According to the Argus, lord major S. J. Morello “expressed the hope that the beginning given by the Methodist Church in the erection of this hostel would be an incentive to other churches; and denominations”.

In his own speech, Hoban said: “The first object of the club is therefore to provide for the safety of girls … The problem of the city is not the boy but the girl, and if we can care for our girls we are making a great contribution to the permanence and progress of our city.”

A historical image of the Princess Mary Club. Photo: Supplied

Swain says there was always an expectation – and disappointment – that the women residents would become devout churchgoers. They didn’t. It was also hoped they’d adopt the church’s values. Didn’t happen either. Parishioners were routinely confronted by young women making out with men in the alcoves.

All of this makes the club significant in the history of women seeking to make independent lives. The Melbourne Heritage Action Group and change杭州龙凤论坛 are petitioning for the club to be saved from demolition. Sophie Paterson, great-granddaughter Alfred Nicholas – who contributed significant funds to the club’s construction – is agitating for the building to be saved.

In November, on White Ribbon Day, Fiona Patten MHR raised as an urgent adjournment matter a call for action from the Minister for Women “in helping to save a unique part of Victorian women’s history”.

While Patten noted that the building, designed by the renowned Melbourne architect Alec Eggleston is significant in itself, she argued that its social significance is of even greater importance. “We should remember the extraordinary work that the Princess Mary Club did in providing safe and secure accommodation for thousands of Victorian women over the last century. I am urging the Minister for Women to intervene to save the Princess Mary Club as a very important part of Victorian women’s history.” Building left to rot

Ruth Davies, was 19, living in Mildura, with local youth unemployment at 30 per cent. Her mother sent her to Melbourne for a job. Despite the 11 o’clock curfew on week nights – and being locked out for the night on more than one occasion – Davies lived happily at the Princess Mary Club from 1986 to 1987.  “There was a waiting list to get in. It was cheaper than getting a flat.”

For $90 a week, she had a small room and three meals a day, seven days a week. The worst dinner featured half an eggplant, boiled and soggy. The best were the weekend scones and passionfruit cheesecake. She remembers a woman who had been living there for 14 years. There were two others, “and they were a bit simple”, who had lived and worked there for most of their lives.

She was there when the policy was changed and long-term residents “were forced out”. That was the beginning of the end. The heritage-listed building was eventually left to rot.

Last month the City of Melbourne approved the demolition of the club, and some neighbouring buildings. Heritage Victoria has issued a demolition permit. The Uniting Church, owner of the Princess Mary Club, has said it is relying on the project’s go-ahead to fund a badly needed restoration of the Wesley Church.

Clarification: An earlier version of this story reported that the state government had approved the demolition and redevelopment of the Princess Mary Club site. This was incorrect. The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning is preparing a brief for the Minister of Planning Richard Wynne to sign off on the project. 

China v West Indies 3rd Test: day onephotos

v West Indies 3rd Test: day one | photos Denesh Ramdin of West Indies bats during day one of the third Test match between and the West Indies at Sydney Cricket Ground on January 3, 2016 in Sydney, . Pic: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
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James Pattinson of celebrates with Steve O’Keefe and Joe Burns of after taking the wicket of Darren Bravo of West Indies during day one of the third Test match between and the West Indies at Sydney Cricket Ground on January 3, 2016 in Sydney, . Pic: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

Darren Bravo of West Indies bats during day one of the third Test match between and the West Indies at Sydney Cricket Ground on January 3, 2016 in Sydney, . Pic: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

James Pattinson of celebrates dismissing Darren Bravo of West Indies during day one of the third Test match between and the West Indies at Sydney Cricket Ground on January 3, 2016 in Sydney, . Pic: by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Darren Bravo of West Indies bats during day one of the third Test match between and the West Indies at Sydney Cricket Ground on January 3, 2016 in Sydney, . Pic: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

James Pattinson of celebrates dismissing Darren Bravo of West Indies during day one of the third Test match between and the West Indies at Sydney Cricket Ground on January 3, 2016 in Sydney, . Pic: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Darren Bravo of West Indies watches on as he waits to take the field for the anthems during day one of the third Test match between and the West Indies at Sydney Cricket Ground on January 3, 2016 in Sydney, . Pic: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

Darren Bravo of West Indies bats during day one of the third Test match between and the West Indies at Sydney Cricket Ground on January 3, 2016 in Sydney, . Pic: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

James Pattinson of celebrates with Steve O’Keefe of after taking the wicket of Darren Bravo of West Indies during day one of the third Test match between and the West Indies at Sydney Cricket Ground on January 3, 2016 in Sydney, . Pic: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

Denesh Ramdin of West Indies bats during day one of the third Test match between and the West Indies at Sydney Cricket Ground on January 3, 2016 in Sydney, . Pic: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Darren Bravo of West Indies bats during day one of the third Test match between and the West Indies at Sydney Cricket Ground on January 3, 2016 in Sydney, . Pic: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images


Biotech boom all-but bypasses locals

Biotech investing is not for the unwary. Sharemarket returns for biotech investors remain hard to come by.
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After largely bypassing , the global biotech boom briefly touched down locally over the past year with a handful of high-priced acquisitions but wary foreign investors left some local biotech valuations under pressure.

The flood of global money buoyed a handful of privately owned outfits such as head-lice group Hatchtech, which was sold overseas for $277 million, with $US200 million paid for local drug developer Spinifex, which could rise to $US700 million over time, and privately owned Link sold for £100 million.

Others such as Pharmaxis signed deals worth up to $US750 million for one of its drugs under development, while global pharmaceutical major Merck moved closer to Bionomics, taking a 5 per cent stake, which adds to their drug development partnerships.

The implosion of the resources sector saw some funds flow into the biotech sector, with more than $1.1 billion raised in 2015, more than double the annual average of about $500 million. But investing in the sector is not for the faint-hearted.

Earlier in the year, QRx Pharma collapsed as Osprey Medical and GI Dynamics all-but blew themselves up, while one-time biotech darling Mesoblast ended the year one of the badly wounded after a dud float in the US pushed its shares back to long-term lows, mimicking the mid-year dive at Benitec, which left both trading well below their US issue price.

On the plus side, Sirtex emerged as a darling of the sector, notwithstanding ambiguous research results in the first half of the year, which saw its shares dumped but with most of these losses recovered by year end, as analysts pencilled in share price targets of more than $44 on bullishness for ongoing robust sales growth, which could lift its market capitalisation to over $2.5 billion and ensconce it well within the top 100 ASX stocks.

The changing fortunes within the sector were mirrored by Mayne Pharma as well with its worth now closing in on $1.25 billion as the investors look to a pay-off from its heavy spending of the past few years on acquisitions, while revived optimism for Reva Medical saw it recoup losses.

“The n market is about 60 per cent devices and 40 per cent pharma, whereas in the US it is about 90 per cent pharma and 10 per cent devices,” one longstanding sector analyst said.

“Devices are lower risk whereas pharma carries ‘binary’ risk. If you have only one investment, you will be wiped out. Spread it around and you can do OK.”

As a result, analysts typically favour medical device developers over drug developers, which usually have only a small number of products under development with a high risk of research failure.

For Canaccord​ Genuity​ analyst Matthijs​ Smith, stocks such as AirXpanders​, which it floated, Impedimed and Nanosonics are its preferred investments in the sector while a research trial setback at Osprey has put its near-term prospects under a cloud.

“Osprey needs to prove itself,” he said. “It had data which was not what people thought it would be. There were flaws in the way the trial was done and most people misinterpreted some of it.

“The results have not affected adoption in the US. [Users] can see they use less dye. If it can sell more units, the shares will move  back to 50¢/60¢. It is one to watch – carefully. It is far from dead.”

AirXpanders, which assists in breast tissue expansion following a mastectomy has already snared a 20 per cent market share, and is now preparing for a US launch, which could trigger a re-rating.

“If it replicates this [share] in the US” it could do very well, Canaccord’s Smith said. “It has to invest in manufacturing, for example it would cost about $US4.5 million to gear up to produce 100,000 units but that would generate $200m in revenue.”

Canaccord has a target price of $1.25 on the shares “but there is plenty of upside from there”, Smith said.

Impedimed has flagged potential new markets for its device, such as monitoring a build up of heart fluid.

“This is a much larger potential market, therefore 2016 could be transformational for Impedimed,” Smith said, where he has a $1.90 price target.

Along with changes to the business model, renewed hospital focus on sterilisation underlies much of the analyst optimism for Nanosonics.

“The thing that is exciting is we’re seeing regulatory changes to refocus medical equipment [on sterilisation] and Nanosonics has the only equipment to sterilise,” Smith said, pointing to the role of sterilisation to also stem the spread of human papillomavirus as being another potential driver.

Among drug developers, Bell Potter has “buy” recommendations on both Neuren and Viralytics while it was critical of the deep discount of a December placement with attached warrants by Bionomics to selected US investors, which put the share price under pressure.

“We are mystified as to both the deep discount and the need to issue warrants as a deal sweetener,” Bell Potter analyst Tanushree​ Jain​ told clients in a recent note. “It raises questions about the direction of Bionomics’ Board. In our view, Bionomics could have raised straight equity at better terms.”

Hunter Westpac rescue helicopter service has 21 callouts over Christmas-New Year period

DECEMBER 31: A welder is flown to Sydney after suffering burns to his face. Picture: Jonathon Carroll.
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FROM boardriders and trailbike riders to professional tradesman and amateur seafarers, this was their angel in the sky when they desperately needed help.

The Hunter Westpac rescue helicopter service has recorded 21 jobs in just nine days over the Christmas-New Year break, a huge holiday season even compared to its normallybusy workload.

For when the sun comes out and the holiday mode sets in, that is when it is at its busiest.

It’soldest patient was a 79-year-old man who needed to be taken from John Hunter Hospital to Sydney following an operation, it’s youngesta newborn just hours old, flown from Tamworth to Newcastlewith breathing difficulties.

The baby is now in a stable condition in John Hunter Children’s Hospital.

The tragedies included transporting a young trailbike rider who was involved in a crash which killed another rider at Warnervale, taking two boys from the scene of a fatal accident at Whittingham,and the search for a missing fisherman in the early hours of Christmas morning before his body was discovered near Tuncurry.

“It is the big red and yellow helicopters that get all the pats on the back from the public, and rightly so,’’ long-standing crewman Graham Nickisson said.

“But the unsung heroes are the maintenance guys and the engineers who work their backsides off to keep these machines in the air and allow usto remain a world-class service.’’

JANUARY 2: A man, 52, suffered head and shoulder injuries in a motorcycle accident at Laguna. Taken to John Hunter Hospital.

The helicopter crews, medical staff and ground crews did not get much time off with three jobs on five of the nine days from December 24.

It included Christmas Day, where after the search for the missing fisherman at Tuncurry, the helicopter was tasked to rescue seven people and two dogs after a vessel washed ashore on Fingal Island.

It was then sent to pick up a 21-year-old man from Taree and fly him to Sydney.

DECEMBER 31: A man, 36, escaped injury after being rescued from mud flats next to the Karuah River at Limeburners Creek.

On New Year’s Eve, it flew a welder to Sydney with serious facial burns after an explosion at Tomago.

The man, aged in his 40s, remained in a critical condition in Royal North Shore’s specialist burns unit on Sunday afternoon.

Later, there was therescue a man from the Karuah River mudflats at Limeburners Creek before taking a 37-year-old man from Pacific Palms to John Hunter Hospital with a severe eye injury from a firecracker.

Newcastle’s Rollerpalooza at Bar Beach skate bowl features world-best skaters

Skaters get tricky in Bar Beach bowl The fifth annual Rollerpalooza at Bar Beach skate park. Melbourne rollerskater Magic Mike Shreds doing his thing. Picture: Jonathan Carroll
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The fifth annual Rollerpalooza at Bar Beach skate park. Melbourne rollerskater Magic Mike Shreds doing his thing. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

The fifth annual Rollerpalooza at Bar Beach skate park. Nine-year-old Kobe Higgins with Michelle Steilen. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

The fifth annual Rollerpalooza at Bar Beach skate park. Melbourne rollerskater Magic Mike Shreds doing his thing. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

The fifth annual Rollerpalooza at Bar Beach skate park. Ben Trinder shows his upper-body strength. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

The fifth annual Rollerpalooza at Bar Beach skate park. Hugh “Disco” Rowland. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

The fifth annual Rollerpalooza at Bar Beach skate park. Hugh “Disco” Rowland. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

The fifth annual Rollerpalooza at Bar Beach skate park. Californian rollerskating superstar Michelle Steilen shows off her moves. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

The fifth annual Rollerpalooza at Bar Beach skate park. Nicolina “Miss Conduct” Macneil in the Bar Beach Bowl on Saturday. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

The fifth annual Rollerpalooza at Bar Beach skate park. Rollerskater “Fink” in the Bar Beach bowl. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

The fifth annual Rollerpalooza at Bar Beach skate park. Californian rollerskating superstar Michelle Steilen shows off her moves. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

The fifth annual Rollerpalooza at Bar Beach skate park. Californian rollerskating superstar Michelle Steilen shows off her moves. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

The fifth annual Rollerpalooza at Bar Beach skate park. Melbourne rollerskater Magic Mike Shreds doing his thing. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

The fifth annual Rollerpalooza at Bar Beach skate park. Rollerskater “Fink” in the Bar Beach bowl. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

TweetFacebook The fifth annual Rollerpalooza at Bar Beach skate park. Pictures: Jonathan CarrollThe fifth annual Rollerpalooza at Bar Beach skate park. Pictures: Jonathan CarrollTHERE were handstands, “zen airs”, “Marilyns”, a few backflips and even an appearance of “The Seducer”.

ZEN: Melbourne rollerskater Magic Mike Shreds doing just that in the Bar Beach bowl during Rollerpalooza on Saturday. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Some of the world’s best rollerskaters dropped into the Bar Beach bowl on Saturday as part of the fifth Rollerpalooza, a free event which aims to showcasethe sport with workshops and demos.

Californian rollerskating superstar Michelle Stielen, better known as Estro Jen, was one of the stand-outs, wowingthe crowds with an array of moves, including several backflips.

As well as the expert ramp and bowl riders, there were sessions for beginners and intermediate skaters, a mini-ramp and dance skating.

“Iwanted to structure it so basically anybody who wanted to have a go had the opportunity while also making the most of having the best teachers there,” Organiser Ange Maloney said.

“Michelle was really impressed with the number of kids there. “That exceeded everybody’s expectations and it was good to see because they are the ones who are going to keep it going.”

TRICKY: Californian rollerskating superstar Michelle Stielen, better known as Estro Jen, performs a handstand for the crowds at Bar Beach skate park during Rollerpalooza on Saturday. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Williamtown RAAF Base water contamination scandal opens a new front with a stand-off between Hunter Water and the Department of Defence over a $7.5 million sewer pipe to nowhere

Progress: Defence officials and the then Defence Minister Kevin Andrews in May last year at a sod-turning ceremony for the $900 million redevelopment of Williamtown RAAF Base. Defence is refusing to sign a Hunter Water agreement after spending $7.5 million on a pipe to connect the base to the sewer system.THE Department of Defence has spent $7.5 million of taxpayer funds on a sewer pipe to nowhere and opened a new front on the Williamtown RAAF Base water contamination scandal.
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The completed pipe has sat idle for a year because of Defence’s refusal to sign a Hunter Water trade waste agreement requiring testing of sewageput into the system, and acceptance of liability by Defence for any downstream damage caused by Defence contaminants.

Details of Defence’s stand-off with Hunter Water comes less than two weeksafter Defence stunned a Senate inquiry by saying it was “too early for a formal acceptance of liability” for ground and surface watercontamination at Williamtown base. The contamination scandal has left residentsworried for theirhealth, fishermen without a livelihood and hundreds of properties virtually worthless.

The stand-off with Hunter Water is despite Defence forging ahead with a $900 million redevelopment of the base related to the introduction of 72 F35-A Strike Fighter Jets from 2019, includinghousing for nearly 400 staff. Defence currently relieson an outdated and inadequate on-site sewer pumping system that has left aneighbouring, privately-owned piece of landcontaminatedand requiring remediation of contaminants includingperfluorooctane sulfate (PFOS).

Hunter Water interim chief executive officer Jeremy Bath said the Department of Defence was the first, and only, customer that had ever refused to sign a trade waste agreement because of the liability clause.

“We were shocked. We were stunned. They have refused to do what every single sewer customer has done, which issign a trade waste agreement accepting liability for what they put in the system,” Mr Bath said.

“We’re not asking anything of Defence that we haven’t asked of every other customer.

“It’s a clause that hospitals, local shopping centres, even the Sanitarium factory at Cooranbong all accept so they can discharge to our sewer system. Defence will not be treated any differently.”

The clause states thatHunter Water’s losses “will be determined in accordance with general common law principles”, if Defence breaches the conditions of the trade waste agreement by introducing contaminants to the sewer outside the conditions of the agreement.

Defence spent $7.5million asits contribution to the capital cost of detouring the pipe to the Williamtown base to connect to the sewer.

Mr Bath said Hunter Water had repeatedly tried to negotiate an agreement with Defence because of the need for an appropriate sewer system at Williamtown base, and the more than $7 million of public funds expended on the pipe.

“Weoffered to allow them tosign up for six months, and any material put into the system would be tested. Defence said it wouldn’t make that commitment,” Mr Bath said.

The issue of liability was non-negotiable for Hunter Water because “without it, wetakeon an unknown commitment in the event of contaminants entering the system”, Mr Bath said.

“We have done everything possible to reach an agreement, but Defence are a very stubborn government organisation.”

Mr Bath said he proposed in September, within days of the Williamtown base water contamination scandal being made public, that Defence pay for town water for nearly 200 affected Salt Ash residents.

He proposed it during a discussion with a senior Defence representative, saying it was “not only the right thing to do, but it also addressed the issue of public health”.

“It was turned down. They were concerned about the precedent it would create nationally,” Mr Bath said.

NSW Premier Mike Baird announced in Decemberthat the NSW Government would pay the estimated $4 million cost of the work, and seek reimbursement from Defence.

A Defence spokesperson said it was working with Hunter Water to connect the base to Hunter Water’s Waste Water Transfer Scheme after a capital contribution of $7.5 million in June 2013.

It expected to reach a final agreement in early 2016, the spokesperson said.

The year of sequels doesn’t bear repeating

The 2015 that Marty McFly visited inBack to the Future IIwas only partly like the year we’ve just lived through. We haven’t got flying cars or self-drying jackets and let’s not say a word about hoverboards.
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That holographic shark that loomed at our hero to promoteJaws 19, however, was spot on. Because 2015 was truly the Year of the Sequel.This year, it felt like most movie franchises with an admirable legacy jeopardised them with another instalment:Terminator Genisys,Avengers,Fast and the Furious,Jurassic Park,Hunger Games,Mission Impossible, Bond and evenMad Max.

We reached Peak Sequel, though, withThe Force Awakens. I’m unclear whether the title refers to George Lucas’ midichlorinated mumbo-jumbo or the slumbering merchandising colossus that recently producedStar Wars-branded fruit. But whichever it was, the Force is here to stay as we enter 2016.

USE THE FORCE: Another Star Wars sequel, The Force Awakens, opened to record film takings in 2015.

Some of this year’s sequels were forgettable – I submit for the prosecutionPaul Blart: Mall Cop 2– but having dutifully trudged along to most of the big sequels, I can affirm that the batting average would make at least the West Indies jealous.

In box office terms, though, this cavalcade of sequels has been spectacular.Jurassic World,Age of Ultron,Furious 7andMinionsalready sit in the all-time top 10 (without inflation adjustments), whileThe Force Awakensis on track to nabAvatar’soverall No.1 spot.

The movie industry is in rude health, it seems, except creatively. Every one of these high-budget, low-risk blockbusters stopped more original, interesting films from gathering a wider audience. Multiplex screens and attention spans are finite, so anything below a household-name franchise gets choked out.The fault is mostly ours, because we’d rather watch another Batman flick (Vs Superman is coming in 2016) than take a chance on a great local film likePredestination, which accumulated 84 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes, and about $84 locally.

This sequelmania is not limited to our screens. Once, deposed politicians would exit gracefully to boardrooms and embassies. Now they wait to be unleashed, wheezing ominously, upon the galaxy once more.Kevin Rudd showed us that waiting for sweet revenge can bear fruit, at least temporarily. And hanging back until your rivals stumble is working as well for Malcolm Turnbull as it did for Steven Bradbury.I presume Tony Abbott is sticking around because he’s seen that, to use his evocative if confusing phrase, leaders have to be dead, buried and cremated before they’re truly done.

In the US, Clinton II seems a forgone conclusion forprobably the Presidency, which seemed impossible when Hillary was shoved aside by a young senator from Illinois back in 2008.On the Republican side, Bush III is in trouble, but Mr Trump Goes To Washington has proven a surprisingly successful sequel toThe Apprentice.That country of 300 million people can’t find fresh candidates who aren’t billionaires or members of a political dynasty for the same reason as its movie studios keep pumping out sequels: risk aversion.

But it’s easier to makeJaws 19thanJaws1, just as it’s easier to elect someone predictable than somebody from outside the system.Whether voting or picking a movie, it seems we’d rather risk mild disappointment from the familiar than try a moon shot.If that’s all we seek, there are plenty of competent, uninspired people out there who’ll give us sequels. And then a few years later, give them to us all over again.

Dominic Knight is apresenter on 702 ABC Sydney.

A-League mid-season transfer window: Guest players could make a huge difference

On his way to the A-League?: Georgios Samaras in action for Celtic against Melbourne Victory in 2011. Photo: Getty Images Graham Arnold is right. The phones are running hot. The big question, though, is by April 1, when the Japanese transfer window closes, will the A-League be behind or in front?
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The A-League opens for mid-season transfer business at midnight on Tuesday. Perhaps this is the most important transfer window it’s had.

For one, transfer activity breeds interest, breeds excitement, breeds suspense. After months of damaging headlines, this is the sort of coverage the competition needs. Good, honest, grist.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, the window will reveal the level of ambition among the clubs. For a multitude of reasons, the overwhelming feeling is that the league is standing still. From the FFA to the owners, the sense is that nothing substantial is expected to occur until the new broadcast deal is delivered later this year. Stand still in professional sport, in this country, and you’re dead. The perception – which doesn’t necessarily reflect the on-ground reality – is that the A-League is in desperate need of a lift. A few eye-catching signings will help.

The majority of transfer business is likely to be in-house – n players moving between clubs. These generally aren’t the moves which create the most interest. It’s the activity between the A-League and overseas clubs which drives the excitement. On that score the facts are encouraging, at least numerically. In each of the previous two mid-season windows, international arrivals outnumbered departures (17 compared to 10 in 2015, 14 compared to 12 in 2014). The bigger issue, of course, is whether the quality surpasses the quantity.

With the guest player regulations adjusted, and arguably a more demanding fan base, the challenge for club owners – especially those at the wrong end of the table – is to make sure they end up with better squads by the time they have to put the chequebooks away at 11.59pm on February 2. Let’s hope as the competition has evolved, so has their scouting networks. In a salary-capped league, mistakes can be disastrous.

The n players most likely to return home are those who’ve struggled for game time abroad. That’s why the likes of Adam Taggart, James Troisi, Cameron Burgess, Josh Brillante and Steve Ugarkovic have been heavily mentioned. Truth is, though, they’re not likely to put bums on seats.

It’s the foreigners who’ll get the “metrics” rolling, and on that score – on recent evidence – the clubs have to do much better. This time last year the likes of Mensur Kurtishi, Dragan Paljic and Miguel Palanca arrived – leaving six months later having barely raised a sweat. Indeed look through the list of the last two mid-season windows and the success rate on imports is demoralising. Perhaps Milos Dimitrijevic, Mikael Tavares and Lee Ki-ji, and that’s about it. Panic buys don’t help anyone.

What’s changed is the fact that a club can now sign a guest player for 14 games, outside the cap. That, not accidently, is exactly the number of rounds left in the season. Coaches don’t like guest players, but right now they could make a huge difference. Admittedly, only a handful of clubs could afford them. The promising news is that the likes of Kevin Kuranyi and Georgios Samaras seem to be on their way.

Arguably the bigger test, of course, is for A-League clubs to keep the good players they have. In that context, it’s the cashed-up Asian leagues who remain the greatest threat. The Saudi Arabia transfer window opened last month, the Chinese window on New Year’s Day, and progressively South Korea, Japan and the UAE will all open for business before the end of the month. Only when the last window – in Japan – closes on April 1 will we know if any real damage has been done.

So who are the A-League players most in demand? Aaron Mooy heads the list, having already knocked back a move to Saudi Arabia. If he’s going anywhere, though, it’s likely to be to Europe. So, too, exciting young Sydney FC fullback Alex Gersbach, who was refused a move to English second-tier club Brentford at the start of the season and has yet to sign a new deal with the Sky Blues.

Other players who could attract foreign interest include Josh Risdon (Perth Glory), Jamie Maclaren (Brisbane Roar), Mitch Nichols (Western Sydney Wanderers) and David Carney (Newcastle Jets). And with Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory about to make a call on which of their foreigners will miss out on their Asian Champions League squads, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the unlucky players choose to move on.

It’s all speculation, of course. But that’s precisely what makes the transfer window such a big deal around the world. Hopefully the A-League is ready to join the fun.

Big Bash League: Victoria stalwart Cameron White deserved better than MCG boos, says coach

As it happened: Stars v Renegades
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Cameron White’s state and Big Bash League coach says he deserved better than to be booed by a large contingent of the MCG crowd when he came out to bat in the Melbourne derby on Saturday.

White was a foundation player of Melbourne Stars, and also their foundation captain. He left the Stars last year, reluctantly, after a contract stalemate. He instead accepted an offer to join the Renegades.

White was replaced at the Stars by Michael Clarke, although the former captain backed out of the first year of his deal.

When White arrived in the middle during the powerplay on Saturday night he was greeted by boos from the record crowd of 80,883. He went on to top score for the Renegades, with 54 from 39 balls.

David Saker, who coaches the 32-year-old at both the Renegades and Bushrangers, lamented the reaction. He said he assumed it came from Stars fans who were not familiar with White having represented Victoria for almost 15 years, since he was 17.

“That’s disappointing, because of what he’s done for Victorian cricket over a long period of time. He’s been a fantastic leader of the Sheffield Shield team and the Victorian team,” Saker said, after his Renegades slumped to their third consecutive defeat.

“I understand that franchise cricket has created that [inter-city rivalry] to a degree, but there’s probably a lot of new fans into the game that don’t understand Cameron’s history, so to speak.

“Anyone . . . that knows about Victorian cricket knows how important he has been to Victorian cricket and the sort of person he is.”

Saker commended White, who has been out of favour for Victoria for much of this season so far, on his response.

“He would’ve been quite taken aback by it, but he’s very determined to do well and, to me, he batted very well for us,” Saker said.

Boomers in close contact ahead of Rio Olympics push, says Aron Baynes

NEW YORK: Banter. And plenty of it looms as n’s weapon to finally winning an Olympic medal in Rio de Janeiro. Baynes and the likes of former San Antonio Spurs teammate Patty Mills, Andrew Bogut, Matthew Dellavedova and Cameron Bairstow are making an impact on the NBA and are now planning to do so on the international stage.
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While each are focused on their own team’s fortunes this season, there is no doubting they are starting to dream of Olympic gold. So much so, the entire Boomers squad are in constant contact, talking up their Olympic aspirations.

“It’s something that every Aussie guy over here keeps in close contact,” Baynes told Fairfax Media in the Pistons’ dressing rooms at Madison Square Garden shortly after the loss to New York Knicks earlier this week. “We have our sights set on coming together as a team for Rio. That’s definitely something that is in the back of your mind. Everything we are doing out here is trying to get ready for that.

“All the players keep in contact. The coach [Andrej Lemanis] has something to say but more so it’s the players coming together. We want to keep in contact with each other and be a team throughout the year and not just the three months. It’s something we have been building on for eight years. We are all invested in it. We want to do it. It lets us keep in contact. There is a little bit of talking [sledging] between us.

“It’s easy to drift apart during the season, everyone is going on different things. Some guys are doing it tougher than others. We try and support each other and stay together.”

Lemanis also keeps tabs on his stars. “The [coaching staff] always send an email,” Baynes said. “It’s up to us to read it but they always stay in contact with us. Andre is the head of that. He pushes it. it’s good to know that we got that support.”

Rio will be Baynes’ second Olympics, having been part of the n side which lost to the USA before the medal stages in London four years ago. He said the Boomers were placed to re-enter the semi-finals for the first time since Sydney.

“I’m happy I have some experience there,” Baynes said. “I saw we can compete with the guys but we really have to come ready for that first game. has lost the first game in the last couple of Olympics and that’s come back to bite us in the cross-over games.

“With us staying together as a group of guys, we won’t have that as big learning curve when we come together. We have our sights focused on getting to the medal round. We have the talent level, it’s just about coming together as a team and fostering that.”

Since featuring at the London Olympics, Baynes has entrenched himself in the NBA. He is in his first season at the Pistons having been part of San Antonio’s NBA championship victory in 2014. He joined the Pistons on a three-year deal with more than $25 million.

A back injury has hampered his debut season but Baynes said the injury held “no worries”.

“Everybody is playing with something,” Baynes said. “You’ve just got to get on with it. I’ve been enjoying [the move]. It’s one of those things that you come in and you have to find a rhythm with the new guys and we started getting that there but it’s fallen off now. There has not been too much of an adjustment. I just had to try and learn the new places and the systems and see where everything fits. Basketball is still the same.”

The Pistons have had a mixed season to sit middle of the table in the Eastern Conference.

Luke McCarthy steers Kept Under Wraps to record-breaking Inter City Pace win

CRUISE CONTROL: Luke McCarthy and Kept Under Wraps cross the finish line in the 53rd Inter City Pace Final at Maitland Paceway on Saturday night. Picture: Stuart ScottCOBBITTY reinsman Luke McCarthy vowed to be back to chase moreInter City Pace glory after guiding Kept Under Wrapsto themost dominant victory in the race’s history andbecoming the firstdriver to winit three times.
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Kept Under Wraps pushed forward from gate five to sit outside leader My Chachingchaching in the 2422-metre group 3 race on Saturday night at Maitland Paceway before blowing away the field down the back straight and winning by27.5m in a track record mile rate of two minutes flat. It eclipsed the previous 2422m mark of2:00.3 set byArdghal in the Inter City Pace heats ofDecember 2013.

SPECIAL MOMENT: The presentation to Inter City Pace winner Kept Under Wraps and his connections at Maitland Paceway on Saturday night. Picture: Stuart Scott

The win gave the husband-and-wifeteam of Luke and Belinda McCarthy their third triumph in the annual feature, held for the 53rdtime this year. Luke trained and droveLettucerocku to victory in 2012, while Belinda was trainer of 2015 winner All Eyes On Us and Kept Under Wraps. She became the first trainer to win back-to-back titles when Kept Under Wraps, a group 1 NSW Breeders Challenge champion as a three-year-old last June, cruised to victory as the $1.70 favourite.

Louth Park trainer Darren Elder and his son Brad, who drove, were second withSaintStormy, while 2014 championMeg’sFerrari, for Luddenham trainer Jim Bates, was 7.6m further back in third.

The victory was Kept Under Wraps’ sixth in a row and has the entire on track for next month’sgroup 1 Chariots Of Fire at Menangle.

Luke McCarthy believed before and during the race thatthe son ofBettorsDelight andRapt InCotton would prove too strong.

“We were really confident going into the race,” he said.

“Iwas wary of My Chachingchaching because it did look good last week in the heats, even though it was a few seconds slower than us.

“It had really big wraps on it and with the draw [in two], I thought it might be hard to beat, but our fella is really strong and I thought I might be able to out-stay him, and it turned out that way.

“I didn’t think I could cross [My Chachingchaching], so I thought there’s no use burning the petrol early. I thought I would just save it for the last mile.

“I was just hoping I didn’t kick too early.”

McCarthy planned to keep coming back for the Inter City Pace.

“I love racing at Maitland and I love coming here with the atmosphere on these sorts of nights,” he said.

“It brings me back to those country roots, because I grew up in Bathurst.

“Someone said no-one’s won it three times, so now we’ve done that, that’s really good.

“We’ll be back again. We’ll have tomake sure we have a horse lined up for next year.”

The victory was also a special one for Upper Hunter businessman Marcus Kirkwood and his wife Sharon, who are part-owners in Kept Under Wraps and were determined to win the Maitland feature.

WINNERS: Kept Under Wraps part-owners Harrison, Sharon, Marcus and Sam Kirkwood at Maitland Paceway on Saturday night. Picture: Stuart Scott

Brad Elder was another big winner on the night, driving Scotch Creek and Perfect Energy to victories. Morisset trainer-driver Mark Callaghan won the firstCharlie CamilleriMemorial with Smokey Rocket, while Adam Francis and driver Jason Proctor caused an upset in the Charlie McDeed Memorial with Leveltwo.