Hunter students knuckle down for Selective High School Placement Test

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By , 18/01/2019 12:48

High stakes: From left, Astrid Morson, who said Merewether was “really good”, Brody Rousell, Leo Long, who said he “wanted to do the test even if I don’t go” and Kate McTaggart. Picture: Simone De PeakASTRID Morson was dismayed when she realised she would have to spend her 12thbirthday sitting theSelective High School Placement Test.

“At first I thought ‘Oh I don’t want to do that!’” she said.“But then I realised it wasn’t that bad–some people said getting in may be a belated present. Plus I knew I’d get to go out for milkshakes afterwards.”

Astrid and her best friend Kate McTaggart from The Junction Publicplus Brody Rousell and Leo Long from St Joseph’s at Merewetherare among a record 14,959 students who sat the test on Thursday. They are vying for a chance to secure one of the4226 year seven places atat the state’s21 selective and 26 partially selectiveschools. Merewether Highhas 180 spots available.

“I’d heard this is a really great high school and can open up a lot of opportunities for you in the future,” Brody said. “You can get a great job from getting in so I really wanted to come here.

“I’ll behappy if I don’t get in because I know I’ve tried my hardest, but if I do get in I’ll be even happier.”

The students satthree 40 minute multiple choice tests in reading, mathematics and general ability. They were also given 20 minutes and a statement as stimulus for a piece of writing. Kate said afterwards she was feeling “relieved” while Astrid said she “felt good knowing everything is over and now I can relax”. Brody said he was glad he “used all his time at tutoring well and it’s paid off”, while Leo said he was now a “little nervous about whether I’m going to get in or not”.

Brody and Leo said the tests were easier than expected but still challenging, Astrid said they were“quite difficult, as I had expected” while Kate said they were“easier than when I started practising, but not as easy as school tests”. All said the general ability test was the hardest, “because we only had 40 seconds for each question –and you either knew the patterns or you didn’t”.

Brody started tutoring in term three last year and cut out screen time over the past week to focus on practice papers, while the other three recently completed a six-week course to prepare for the test. They attended their tutor’s house once a week to sit two practice papers, plus takeone home. “We also learned strategies for how to manage our time and how to eliminate answers in the multiple choice questions,” Astrid said. “It made me more confident coming here, I knew what to expect.” The girls also did additional papers each weekend.

The Department of Education will send parents a letter on July 6 about whether their child has been offered a place. Astrid said she was “nervous and wanted to get the results today” while Kate said she would “need something to distract me from the wait.”

Victory re-sign AL coach Muscat until 2020

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By , 18/01/2019 12:48

Melbourne Victory A-League coach Kevin Muscat has extended his contract for two more years.Five weeks ago Kevin Muscat’s future at Melbourne Victory was threatening to sink into the abyss.

Roundly booed by fans following February’s home A-League loss to Brisbane – the latest below-par result of a wishy-washy season – the club legend’s chances of a contract renewal appeared delicate.

But a recent uptick in domestic fortunes, along with this week’s stirring Asian Champions League win over Kawasaki Frontale, has secured Muscat’s tenure for a further two seasons along with a pledge for more internal support.

On the same day as Victory officially appointed long-time chief operating officer Trent Jacobs as new chief executive, the club also re-signed Muscat until 2020.

It comes as reward for a sterling track record, including the 2014-15 championship and last season’s grand final, along with the 2015 FFA Cup.

The 44-year-old former Victory player also boasts the A-League’s second-best winning percentage and hasn’t missed the finals since succeeding Ange Postecoglou in 2013.

That success saw him linked to the Glasgow Rangers last year and also named as a prospective long-term Socceroos coach before the job was given to Graham Arnold.

“I’m honoured the board has given me that opportunity,” Muscat said.

“I’m excited about what is ahead and can assure our members and fans that we will continually be looking at ways to deliver the best outcomes for the club.

“My mind is on the here and now, to deliver the best results in the two competitions we’re involved in.

“The standards at this club are extremely high and we will be looking to deliver success this year.”

From fourth place, this year’s title will be an uphill battle, especially given Victory are also closing in on the knockout stages in Asia.

There are also other challenges, namely rebuilding an ageing squad to ensure the club can maintain its powerhouse status.

Chairman Anthony Di Pietro said a review of the football department concluded Muscat would benefit from an “increased level of support”.

That would allow a more targeted approach to list management and recruitment, as well as better integration of the youth and senior programs.

“We will be looking to add resources around Kevin and we will keep our members and fans informed as this unfolds,” Di Pietro said.

Jacobs, 41, will start on Monday as chief executive, filling a role vacant since Ian Robson moved to Rowing before Christmas.

The former Richmond AFL marketing manager joined Victory in 2007.

Newcastle District Cricket Association: Club coach Michael Hill and first grade captain Steve Mace team up for finals at Charlestown 33 years apart

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By , 18/01/2019 12:48

COMBINATION: Club coach Michael Hill and first grade captain Steve Mace at Charlestown cricket training at Kahibah Oval this week ahead of another finals campaign together. Picture: Simone De PeakIt won’t be the first time, but it may well be the last.

Club coach Michael Hill and first grade captain Steve Mace will join forces at Charlestown for yet another finals campaignthis weekend, 33 years after the partnership started.

Back then the roles were a little different –Hill the former NSW representative and skipper with Mace a 16-year-old debutant in a Newcastle District Cricket Association semi.

They may not have gone on to win that title in 1984-1985 and Hill finished his decorated careernot long after, but the legacy lived on with Maceplaying in each of Charlestown’s seven major premierships since.

The most recent was 2005-2006 with Mace in charge on the field and Hill assisting with all things off it.

And now, another dozen summers down the track, fate has brought them backtogether again after coaxing each other to return at different stages.

Hill, 73,in his third campaignmentoring once more at Charlestown and recently out-of-retirement Mace, 49, leading from the frontfor a second straight season.

It’s a pretty good match, and rare to be done so many years apart.

“It’s a nice circle that’s formed,” Hill said.

No surprises either that symmetry also exists in the upcoming opponents. Charlestown meet Merewether at No.1 Sportsground on Saturday and Sunday, the same battle Hill and Mace first encounteredalong side one anothermore than three decades ago.

“Hilly was my first, first grade captain all those years back,” Mace, then a medium-pace bowler who batted a bit, said.

“He was always a guy I looked up to, admired and respected so it’s good that he’s back involved with the club because he set a lot of the cultures there that I’ve hopefully carried on.”

Hill reckons little has changed with Mace.

“What you see is what you get,” theformer Knights chairmansaid.

“He’s quite an exceptional character, very single minded andvery determined. His success has come through whatever needs to be done.”

Mace said he can feel similarities to 2005-2006,which also featured the club championship claimed by Charlestown after the last round on Saturday.

“It’s a similar sort of campaign,” Mace said.

“We’ve been buildinga little bit of momentum.”

Mace said it was unlikelyfirst-class import Saliya Salanwould return from Sri Lanka for the play-offs.

SEMI-FINALS: Wests v Hamilton-Wickhamat Harker Oval;Merewether v Charlestown at No.1 Sportsground.

A-League: Socceroos squad member Dimi Petratos confirms commitment to Newcastle Jets for rest of season but eyes future overseas

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By , 18/01/2019 12:48

Jets’ Petratos wants more FOCUS: Socceroos squad member Dimi Petratos training with the Newcastle Jets at Ray Watt Oval this week. The 25-year-old remains committed to the A-League club this season despite interest from elsewhere. Picture: Marina Neil

TweetFacebookAt the moment I’ve still got another year on my contract and I’ll be finishing the season off at the Newcastle Jets.”

Dimi Petratos

“There has been a little bit [of interest], but I’ve just left it withmy agent and I just want to focus on where I’m atat the moment.”

Petratos, who joined the Jets in June from Korean club Ulsan, said he was undecided about what overseas league he would like to join but admitted “La Liga is nice. I’d like to play there [Spain] one day if it’s possible”.

Reports last week about Petratos joining former Jets teammate Andrew Nabbout in Japan before thetransfer window closes on March 31 were quickly dismissed by the club’s chief executive Lawrie McKinna.

It all comes as second-placed Newcastle race towards a drought-breaking finals appearance next month after finishing last season with the wooden spoon.

Leading goal scorer Petratos, with nine, and Nabbout have been key ingredients to that dramatic turnaround under new Jetscoach Ernie Merrick.

Both players have been recognised and rewarded for their break-out performances with spots in the Socceroos’ 26-man squad for upcoming friendlies against Norway in Oslo on March 23, followed byColombia in London four days later.

“It came a bit out of nowhere, but it was a very good feeling,” Petratos said.

“It’s every Aussie players dream to represent their country.”

The World Cup will be held in Russia from June 15.

CHANGES:Shabow travels to New Zealand for Brown

SOCCEROOS:In-form Jets attacker one step closer to World Cup spot

A-League: Newcastle Jets forced to make four changes for round 23 encounter against Wellington Phoenix

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By , 18/01/2019 12:48

OUT: Wayne Brown. Picture: Max Mason-HubersNewcastle Jets coachErnie Merrick has even more selection headaches this weekend with Mario Shabowcalled-upfor the clash against Wellingtonfollowing the late withdrawal of Wayne Brown.

Shabow travelled to Auckland on Thursday for the ill Brown and the midfield switch means at least four changes will be made to the first XI that beat A-League leaders Sydney FC at home less than a fortnight ago.

It marks the most disruption to the Jets starting side since the first round of this season, which included six new faces from the team that began the club’s last match of 2016-2017.

The highest number of changes previously this campaign has been three on two occasions –between rounds 13 and 14 as well as 18 and 19.

But all fourtrades for round 23 againstthe Phoenix on Saturday have been forced, rather than any tactical tinkering from Merrick.

Brown, who trainedon Wednesday, joins striker Roy O’Donovan (suspended) andinjured skipper Nigel Boogaard (left leg) on the sidelines while Andrew Nabbout left last week for Japanese clubUrawa Red Diamond.

Joey Champness and Lachlan Jackson are the likely replacements for O’Donovanup front and Boogaard at the back respectively while returning PatoRodriguez may slot on the wing for Nabbout. Ben Kantarovski could interchange for midfielder Brown.

“We’ve just got to give positive information and defend as a team,” Jets key man Dimi Petratos said.

Making up the bench would beShabow, Nick Cowburn, Angus Thurgate, goalkeeper Glen Moss and marquee Ron Vargas, comingback after almost five months out injured.Nikolai Topor-Stanley is captain.

JETS: 1 Jack Duncan, 3 Jason Hoffman, 5 Ben Kantarovski, 6 Steven Ugarkovic, 7 Dimitri Petratos, 8 Ronald Vargas, 11 Patricio Rodriguez, 12 Mario Shabow, 16 Nick Cowburn, 17 Daniel Georgievski, 20 Glen Moss, 22 Lachlan Jackson, 24 Joseph Champness, 27 Riley McGree, 32 Angus Thurgate, 44 Nikolai Topor-Stanley(c).

Newcastle country star Grayson presses play on next album

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By , 17/12/2018 16:22

NEW PHASE: Grayson started recording his fifth album Window Dreams last week.GRAYSON jokes his baby son Hunter had visited 14 US states by the time he was 10 weeks old.That’s the life of a travelling musician, come family man.

Ten months ago Grayson, aka Newcastle country musician Michael Edser, and his Gunnedah bred-wife Brianna (nee MacKellar) welcomed their first baby in Nashville.

“It’s the best thing in the world and also the hardest thing in the world,” Grayson tellsWeekenderfrom Nashville.

“We literally didn’t have time to record with touring and not sleeping with a brand new baby.”

It meant plans for Grayson’s long-awaited fifth album were postponed. Finally last week he pressed play onWindow Dreams, which is expected to be released later this year.

“It’ll be a bit different to the last couple of songs I’ve released,” he says.“A little more stripped back and a little more real.”

Window Dreamswill feature nine tracks that Grayson wrote with American country star Jeff Wood, who has previously written songs for Neal McCoyandPhil Vassar.

In the meantime, Grayson has given fans a sugarypop single that is unashamedly written for US country commercialradio, much like his previous single10-9-8-7that topped theUSNew Music Weekly Country Charts in 2016.

Margaritawas inspired by a three-day hangover that refused to dissipate.The culprit? Taco Tuesday and a lot of tequila-packed margaritas.

“Every Tuesday night I go out for Taco Tuesday, I eat tacos and drink a shitload of margaritas,” Grayson says.“The wife hates it, as every Wednesday I’m hungover as all hell.”

Over the summer Grayson returned to Newcastle to introduce Hunter to his family, play shows and filmMargarita’svideo clip at Redhead and Dudley beaches.

Grayson loved the experience of returning to the beaches where he first learnt to surf, but it created some curious scenes for locals who didn’t realise a country music video was beginning filmed.

Grayson – Margarita“We used drones, which are a great technology, and the guys who manned them werein the bushes,” he says.“So I must have looked like an absolute tool standing on the beach with no cameras around.

“People would have been thinking, ‘what the hell is this guydoing, it’s 5.30 in the morning and he’s singing to himself’. The end product is good and it’s worth the embarrassment.”

Over the past six months Grayson has watched with pride as his“gym buddy” and fellow Novocastrian Morgan Evans hasbecome a breakout country pop-star with his singleKiss Somebody.

“He actually stayed on our couch for the first month he lived over here,” Grayson says.“I went to his wedding in Mexico last year with [US country star]Kelsea [Ballerini], so as a friend, a mentor, and a fellow musician it’s awesome that he’s kicking goals, because nobody works as hard as him.”

Grayson has also been workinghard to crack the lucrative Nashville scene. Since 2011, in fact. But as a new father he admitshis career aspirations are beingre-evaluated.

“If you’re serious about your career you’ve got to be here,” he says.“We’ll see how this album goes and Hunter is only 10 months old. The way the world is going right now I don’t want him growing up in schools here, there’s scary stuff happening.

“The next couple of years are make or break, regardless of whether I’m kicking goals, I’d love to come back home.

“I’m a proud Novocastrian and always will be. It’s the best and worst part of my job in that I don’t know what’s next.”

A beached cow shows the extent of flood damage to farming, says Bob Katter

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By , 17/12/2018 16:22

Bob Katter MP, Shane Knuth MP, with Mission Beach Surf Life Saving Club members Dyana Brown and Shane Gee with the cow carcass. Photo credit – Anne Pleash.INDEPENDENT federal Queensland MP Bob Katter and his party’s state MP Shane Knuth say a cow thatdiscovered washed ashore at Mission Beach provides a graphic illustration of the damage done by recent flood waters.

“We’ll never know the full damage but I’d say it’s around $20 million worth when you tally up crops, stock losses, property damage, machinery etc,” Mr Katter said in a statement today.

“We can’t stop them but in the instance of little ones (floods) where if we’d been able to take away a foot or more by going ahead with the North Johnston Transfer it would have helped prevent a lot of damage.”

The recent flooding in North Queensland due to torrential rain saw the worst conditions experienced since the 2010 floods which caused billions of dollars in damage and resulted in the federal government introducing a flood-levy to aid relief efforts.

An area between Townsville and Cairns was declared a disaster zone by the state government due to the recent flooding event, with sugar cane and banana crops caught up in the damage, as well as emergency evacuations.

Farmers have suffered heavy losses due to flooded paddocks and crops – but on Friday AgForce said a few days of good falls are not enough to break a drought that had lasted more than half a decade in many parts of the state.

AgForce North Queensland Regional President Russell Lethbridge said many regional and rural communities were still doing it very tough.

“The prolonged drought has taken an enormous financial, environmental and emotional toll on farming families right throughout Queensland, with more than two-thirds of the state still drought declared,” he said.

“The recent rain has certainly bought a smile to many faces in rural and regional Queensland, but it has been very patchy and it should not be forgotten that many regions in the west were first drought declared back in early to mid-2013, so it’s a long road to recovery.

“The ongoing nature of this drought has overwhelmed even the best efforts of producers to prepare and has been compounded by other challenges such as the kneejerk live export ban in 2011 and continued uncertainty around vegetation management regulations.

“The drought assistance and support measures provided by the State and Federal Governments are very welcome, but are really designed to assist people through a drought that lasts two to three years, whereas many producers are now facing their sixth year with severe rainfall deficits.”

Farm Online

Chinan order surprised by allegations against Chinan-ordained priest in Papua New Guinea

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By , 17/12/2018 16:22

Investigation: Papua New Guinea Vincentian Bishop Rolando Santos and n-ordained priest Neil Lams in PNG where police have investigated “touching” allegations against Father Lams.

THE head of the Vincentians order in said he had no control over an n-ordained Vincentian priest under police investigation for “touching” allegations in Papua New Guinea.

Vincentians Oceania head Father Greg Brett said he was unaware of the police investigation because Father Neil Lams was under the control of the bishops of Papua New Guinea, and not the Vincentians. He had been assured by a PNG bishop that two church investigations relating to Father Lams had been finalised in the priest’s favour. Father Lams was ordained in in 2011 and volunteered to work in Vincentian missions after two years.

Father Brett said he was advised he would receive a church investigation report but by Wednesday had not received it. A copy of an interim investigation report was supplied to the Newcastle Herald by Alotau Bishop Rolando Santos in September.

The interim report confirmed at least two teenage students at a school “frequented” the priest’s nearby home, but it found there was no sexual abuse. The interim church investigation report found the priest’s “slapping the cheeks or laps” of students during confession was “inappropriate”.

Father Brett said any touching was a breach of the order’s code of conduct and was unacceptable, but he was not aware of the report’s contents.

“The rules of confession are very strong,” he said.

Allegations against Father Lams were reported to Papua New Guinea police in September by Port Stephens woman Wendy Stein after meeting a school delegation during her work in PNG running family planning services sponsored by Rotary.

This week she joined Hunter survivor of Catholic paedophile priest Anthea Halpin, and Hunter survivor advocate Peter Gogarty, in calling on the n Catholic Church leadership to take responsibility for the legacy issues of decades of transferring priests and religious brothers to overseas missions after child sex allegations in . They have written to the church calling for an audit of all priests and religious sent overseas after n allegations.

Truth Justice and Healing Council chief executive Francis Sullivan said the church had to “deal with” the legacy issues of its overseas transfers and “at the very least, put in place clear policies and procedures to respond to overseas survivors with compassion and justice”.

PNG police commander Andrew Weda on Tuesday said he would meet with investigating police this week to discuss the Father Lams case.

In February the administrator of Milne Bay province in PNG wrote to police investigating allegations against Father Lams instructing them to “ensure that a full investigation has been carried out by the police force who are the mandated agency to ensure that law and order is enforced”.

In his letter administrator Michael Kape confirmed the Division of Education had held a separate investigation into allegations against the priest.

“As much as possible we want to ensure that the children of Milne Bay are being taught in safe and conducive institutions andenvironments,” Mr Kape said.

Sacked Border Force boss refused to resign

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By , 17/12/2018 16:22

There are reports the governor-general is preparing to sack Border Force boss Roman Quaedvlieg.Sacked n Border Force boss Roman Quaedvlieg refused to resign after he was found to have improperly gotten his partner a job.

Mr Quaedvlieg was fired on Thursday for abusing his power by helping his partner get a job at Sydney Airport.

He also made a “false statement” to now-Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton about his personal relationships, and failed to disclose a significant change in his personal life.

“I had been given a short opportunity to resign prior to termination, however I chose not to do that as it is tantamount to a concession of culpability, which I strenuously deny,” Mr Quaedvlieg said in a statement to media outlets.

Governor-General Peter Cosgrove on Thursday sacked Mr Quaedvlieg, on advice from the government, after he modified policies to advantage a candidate for Border Force employment.

“Needless to say it is extremely unfortunate that it was necessary to terminate Mr Quaedvlieg’s appointment,” Mr Dutton said in a statement.

“He has provided long and conspicuous public service in the critically important areas of law enforcement and national security.

“However the relevant conduct went beyond an isolated error of judgment and ultimately undermined his capacity to continue in the office of ABF Commissioner.”

Mr Quaedvlieg had also not disclosed the relationship within a reasonable time and his conduct amounted to “misbehaviour”.

The now-sacked boss has been on paid leave since May last year, earning more than $500,000 while off work.

Mr Quaedvlieg reportedly helped his girlfriend, an ABF employee, get work at Sydney Airport, but he denies the “particularised grounds” of the inquiry.

He has previously criticised the length of time it took to investigate the matters, and he says he will pursue his options “more formally in the relevant forums”.

His conduct has been the subject of two confidential reports, one from the corruption watchdog and one from the head of the prime minister’s department.

“He engaged in acts, and made omissions, which materially advantaged that candidate over other comparable candidates for ABF employment,” Mr Dutton’s statement said.

Attorney-General Christian Porter said he was called in to make the decision on Mr Quaedvlieg to make sure there could be no allegations of bias against Mr Dutton.

Labor’s Shayne Neumann said he was concerned about leaks from the investigation into Mr Quaedvlieg and wants police to look into them.

CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said it has been “incredibly frustrating” for Border Force officers watching Mr Quaedvlieg’s drawn-out case.

“Staff want to see that the same standards are applied to everyone, including those at the very top,” she said in a statement.

Roosters say Keary won’t solve everything

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By , 17/12/2018 16:22

Luke Keary will make his return for the Sydney Roosters in their NRL clash against Canterbury.Trent Robinson warns Luke Keary won’t be a panacea for the Sydney Roosters’ problems as the star five-eighth makes his NRL return against Canterbury on Friday.

Keary has been cleared to play his first game of the season after being sidelined because of a broken jaw following a training accident and subsequently suffering worrying headaches.

The heavily hyped Roosters misfired in their opening-round loss to the Wests Tigers and coach Robinson said Keary wouldn’t immediately solve their problems.

“It’s not a matter of him making a difference,” Robinson said.

“You train for five weeks with your halves pairing and then he goes out with a broken jaw and you change that.

“There’s a combination between the forwards, the halves and the backs – there’s got to be some links. That’s up to us as coaches to make sure we have those links on.”

Friday’s clash with the Bulldogs at Allianz Stadium will mark Keary’s first game alongside new halves partner Cooper Cronk.

While the Roosters came into the season as the shortest price premiership favourites in years, questions have been raised as to whether their new-look side time to gel following the addition of Cronk and James Tedesco.

Robinson was bullish that they would hit their straps sooner rather than later and said there were still promising signs against the Tigers after holding them to just 10 points.

Like the Roosters, the Dogs were last-start losers after going down to Melbourne and have left out veteran forward Greg Eastwood.

Dogs coach Dean Pay said the Roosters would be a different side following Keary’s inclusion.

“Luke Keary’s a quality player and if you put quality players back in the side, you’re going to get a better performance,” Pay said.

“They’re a little bit like us – their combinations are growing. It’s going to be a tough battle.”


* The Bulldogs will become just the third team to play 1800 premiership matches behind the Roosters and South Sydney.

* Since 1980, the Roosters have lost their opening two matches of a season on just six occasions.

* Canterbury’s defence struggled in round one, conceding the most points (36), tries (6) and second most metres (1529).

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