Archive For 07/29/2019

Gagai sheds light on his toughest decision

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MOVING ON: Dane Gagai agonised over his decision to leave Newcastle and join South Sydney next season. Picture: Getty ImagesKNIGHTS flyer Dane Gagai admits he agonised over his decision to part company with the club at season’s end to join South Sydney.
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The Queensland Origin winger, a two-try hero of last week’s series-saving win against NSW, accepted a four-year deal with the Rabbitohs earlier this month.

“It was a tough decision, but I guess at the end of the day, I had plenty of time to think about it,’’ Gagai told the Newcastle Herald.

“It wasn’t just something that happened overnight.

“I talked a lot withmy family about it and wedecided it’s the best thing for me and my family.’’

DANE GAGAI

Gagai joined Newcastle in 2012, when he was sacked mid-season by the Broncos.

He has since played 119 NRL games for the Knights and six consecutive games for Queensland.

His goal for the rest of the season is help Newcastle win games and climb the ladder.

“I love this club and I love the boys, so I’m going to put up my hand and do whatever I can to help us get over the line,” he said.

The 26-year-old was bitterly disappointed with Newcastle’s 32-28 loss to St George Illawarra last week, after the Knights surrendered an 18-point half-time lead.

“Not the result we wanted,’’ he said. “We led the half well but obviously that second half wasn’t up to first-grade standard.’’

Meanwhile, there was speculation that Brisbane’s decision to omit propHerman Ese’ese from their squad that played Melbourne on Friday night was a reaction to him signing for Newcastle.

The Knights have been circling bothHerman Ese’ese and teammate Tautau Moga for several weeks and it appears both will be in the red and blue from 2018 onwards.

Ese’ese, 22, made his NRL debut for Canterbury in 2015 before linking with Brisbane, for whom he has played23 first-grade games, including 14 this season.

Moga, 23, started as an 18-year-old at the Roosters in 2012 and then spent three seasons with North Queensland before joining the Broncos this year. He has 47 games under his belt, including 14 tries.

Newcastle have already confirmed the signings of Kalyn Ponga (North Queensland) and Aidan Guerra (Roosters) for next season, and this week added former Rooster Shaun Kenny-Dowall to their roster before the June 30 mid-season transfer deadline.Kenny-Dowall is recovering from a hamstring strain but is hoping tobe availablefor Newcastle’s clash with Canterbury at Belmore on Sunday week.

The Knights’ signing spree is far from finished. They will be expectingto add at least one more high-profile import. They will also start sifting through a host of off-contract incumbents, including Jaelen Feeney, Sam Stone, Luke Yates, Peter Mata’utia, Brendan Elliot and Josh Starling.

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The price of talkback

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SUCCESSFUL: Popular and award-winning Hunter broadcaster Aaron Kearney took legal action against 2HD Newcastle after a talkback caller falsely claimed that he had been caught drink-driving three times in two years. ITstarted with a defamation battle between prominent Huntermedia personality Aaron Kearney and radio station 2HD Newcastle over an early-morning talkback call.
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Now a law firmhas been grantedpermission by the Supreme Court to chase the caller for $46,796 in damages.

The long-running defamation stoush was initially settled out of court in December 2010 with an agreement awardingMr Kearney almost $70,000 in damages and costs from 2HD.

Kearney, who was hosting ABC 1233’s breakfast program at the time, launched a defamation case after 2HD aired false allegations from acaller that he’d been convicted of drink-driving three times in two years.

Several months later, a cross-claim was brought by 2HD against the caller, Craig Stephens, of Thornton, claiming he was jointly responsible for defaming Mr Kearney. The broadcaster said the case had cost it more than $106,000 and wanted Mr Stephens to paypart of the bill.

A Supreme Court hearing in April 2012 heard Mr Stephen’s called 2HD at 3.21am on February 23, 2010, and was put live to air telling presenter Gary Stewartthe false allegations aboutMr Kearney. He claimed they were detailed on the front page of the Newcastle Herald. That was also false.

“Front page of the paper there … local ABC presenter Mr Kearney done for drink driving for the third time in two years,” he said. “I, um think it’s a might hypocritical how these people get on and they are all high and mighty about moral and standards and stuff yet they can’t follow the law themselves. I think it’s pretty bad and I think the ABC should do something about it … I don’t even know how you keep a licence with that sort of record.”

Mr Kearney had never been convicted of drink driving and there was no story in the Newcastle Herald.

Mr Stephens, a regular talkback caller, later admittedhe accepted the wordof a “complete stranger” he met at a truck stop and then called the radio station. He told the presenter it was on the front page ofthe paper because when he’d called radio stations before “they don’t take third-hand information”.

“I believed it was true,” he told the court. “I had no reason to doubt it was true.The bloke who told me was convinced, I believed him.”

After being contacted by Mr Kearney, 2HD general manager Guy Ashford agreed to air an apology on the program 10 times between 2am and 4am over three days.”I want to completely retract any adverse claim that was made and on behalf of myself and this station I want to apologise to Mr Kearney for the embarrassment that the broadcast may have cost him,” the apology read in part.

SEARCH: Former 2HD Newcastle station manager Guy Ashford employed a private investigator to track down the early morning caller.

The radio station employed a private investigator to find the caller, and several months later Mr Kearney followed up with legal action against 2HD, for whom he had worked previously.

NSW Supreme Court judgeDavid Davies said Mr Ashford formed an “early view” that his“radio station was being set up by the call made by Mr Stephens”.

His suspicions, which Justice Davies described as “not surprising”,were sparkedby the fact that the day beforethe call, 2HD broadcast a “blooper” of Mr Kearney accidentally leaving his microphone on while reporting on a football match.

ON AIR: 2HD presenter Gary Stewart was told by the caller that the false allegations were detailed on the front page of the Newcastle Herald. There was no story.

“He had a suspicion that the planitiff, Mr Kearney, or someone on his behalf may have been involved …,” Justice Daviessaid.

“When he [Ashford] found out about the blooper tape he thought there was too much of a coincidence in the fact that 2HD had played such a tape the day before, which had upset the plaintiff, and then this extraordinary call has been made by Mr Stephens resulting in 2HD defaming Mr Kearney.”

A link was neverfound and Justice Davies ruled Mr Ashford’s“conspiracy theory”was not relevant to 2HD’s claim against Mr Stephens.In another bizarre twist in the case, the court heard that Mr Ashford took to Twitter providing updates of the matter. “75 down to 35 hmmm civil action pending,” he tweeted.

Mr Stephens’ lawyer argued that Mr Ashford’s suspicions and the use of a private investigator resulted in increased legal costs that 2HD was trying to recoup.

2HD successfully argued its cross-claim and Mr Stephens was ordered to pay the radio station $46,796.

With the money not paid, 2HD assigned the debt to its lawyer Stacks Gouldkamp last year and the Supreme Court lastmonth paved the way for the firm to pursue Mr Stephensfor the debt.

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Census data answering the coal, hard questions

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Planners across the Hunter would have looked eagerly last week at the first release of census data for their patch. Their eyes would have been on population growth statistics. Since the 2011 census, total population in NSWhas grown by 8.1 per cent. In the Hunter population growth has varied a lot. The standout local government area is Maitland, which has grown by a massive 14.6 per cent. Then follow Cessnock at 9.3 per cent, the Upper Hunter and Dungog shires both at 7.9 per cent, and Port Stephens at 7.3 per cent. Intriguingly, Newcastle and Lake Macquarie LGAs lag the state average growing by only 4.6 per centand 4.4 per centrespectively. More retirees and fewer kids in the city?
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The big population slow down, however, has been in Muswellbrook and Singleton shires with growth of only 1.9 per centand 1.3 per centrespectively. The census also tells us that us there are now significant numbers of unoccupied dwellings in both shires. One in six dwellings in Muswellbrook was found to be empty. For Singleton it is one in nine. Is this evidence that the mining boom is over for the mid-Hunter and it hasn’t left the area in good shape?

What’s going on?

The evidence points to economic stagnation. In Muswellbrook unemployment peaked at 12.4 per centin late 2015 following job shedding and a fall-off in new mines construction. By early 2017, however, Muswellbrook’s unemployment rate fell to 5.9 per cent, which looked like good news. But census data, capturing the state of the shire in August 2016, suggest that displaced workers and their families have left.

FIGURING IT OUT: What has the mining industry given to its Hunter hosts?

Housing data paints the same picture. House sales have been on the rise in both Muswellbrook and Singleton but not with good results. House prices in Singleton are flat while those in Muswellbrook are falling.

Muswellbrook and Singleton are test cases of the long-term impacts of coal mining. I have read dozens of impact statements over the past three decades with thick chapters arguing the economic benefits for districts in the Hunter when this or that mine is built and operating.The mines are now built and operating. Those who work in them are doing well as a consequence. The Australian Taxation Office tells us there were 5408 pay packets in postcode 2333, Muswellbrook, in 2014-15. They contained on average $81,237. The median Australian salary at the time was only $47,502. Local miners in work do well.

But where are the benefits for the rest of Muswellbrook? Where are the local supply chains that the reports said would be established? Where are flow-on effects for main street retailers? Where is the town’s fair share of the coal royalties that flow to the NSW government, estimated to be $1.67 billion over the coming year?

I’d prefer to be wrong on this. I’d like someone to tell me I’m misreading the numbers. I’d love to drive through Singleton and Muswellbrook – the great mid-Hunter towns – and see enduring investments that will take them to prosperous futures, where local kids get first class education and training, where local businesses thrive, where the spread effects from mining to the wider economy are bleedin’ obvious. I’d love it for the mining industry to stand before these towns proud for what it has given its hosts.

Instead are we seeing long-term decline? More census data will be released soon. We need to watch the Muswellbrook and Singleton stories very closely. A big question is being answered. Does the Hunter really benefit from coal mining? Watch this space.

Phillip O’Neill is professor of economic geography at Western Sydney University

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Fatale attraction

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HEADLINER: Demi Mitchell unveiled many songs from her forthcoming second album at Ramblin’ Nights – the Femme Fatale special on Thursday. Picture: Josh LeesonTHREE deadly female songwriters. Three different voices. Each doing their own unique brand of dark alt-country.
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On paper the concept for Ramblin’ Nights –The Femme Fatalespecial appearedseductive.And in the flesh Femme Fataledelivered.

In the first all-female show of the Sydney Americana and alt-country series, it featuredNewcastle-raised SydneysiderKatie Brianna, Melbourne’s “new queen of dark country” Jemma Nicole and Novocastrian Demi Mitchell, previously known as De’May.

After taking the headline spot with her band at the first Femme Fatale the night before in Newtown’s LeadBelly, Brianna opened proceedings in the Cambridge’s smaller warehouse bar.

Unfortunately only a handful of mostly other musiciansturned out onthe chilly evening.Avoice as amazing as Brianna’s deserved better. One positive was the small attendance created an imitate jazz bar-style ambience, as punters sat around at tables on stools, nursing their drinks.

Brianna’s second albumVictim or The Heroine was nominated for best alt-country album at the Golden Guitars in January and her set focused on that record.

Alone with an acoustic guitar, which was troublesome to tune,the Elermore Vale girl exhibited wonderful control ofher melancholic voice. Her songs Birmingham and Victim or The Heroine were particularly poignant.

Nicole was the highlight of the evening. She certainly inhabits the bleakestspectrum of country. There were repeated apologiesfor playing sad songs or attacking men in the track,Only aMan.

This male reviewer didn’t mind. Nicole carries were haunting tales of heartbreakwith a combination of intensity and good old-fashioned songwriting. It didn’t hurt that her guitarist Mitch Power constantly produced impeccable improvisations.

Power was even given lead vocal duties on their Americana-flavoured rendition of the Bee Gees’ To Love Somebody.

Mitchell was given the closing honours in her home town. It was just the second performance of Mitchell’s new band, that also featuresBrennan Fell (bass), Jason Lowe (slide guitar) andAlex Quayle (drums).

Only Lowe joined her initially as Mitchell unveiled her new song Overflow. Once Fell and Quayle jumped on stage proceedings picked up.

Mitchell is attempting to steer away from her folk and alt-country roots towards a more rock sound, but she’s still in a state of transition. New songs like Out Of Here and Get It Togetheroccupy Americanaterritory.

However, Mitchell embracedgreater rock attitude in her performance. Her smokey vocal was almost delivered with a pout during Coming Down, based on “the good ole drug culture in Newcastle.”

“I had my first rock’n’roll moment last night,” Mitchell joked. “Someone vomited on my amp. I haven’t cleaned it yet.”

It might have been a rock’n’roll moment, but Femme Fatale was certainly an alt-country evening. A bloody intriguing one at that.

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Papas up for one last shot

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Papas up for one last shot TweetFacebook Reece PapasReece Papas has come so desperately close to his dream of professional football, he is not about to let it go without a fight.
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The 21-year-old midfielder anddefender returned to his junior club, Hamilton Olympic, this week after two years in the Central Coast Mariners youth system.He spent much of that time training with the first team and warmed up as 17th man before several A-League games.

The former Jets youth player has trained at the Nike Academy in England, played in Australian and Greek junior national teams and was the Mariners’ 2015-16 National Youth League player of the year.

Buthe never quite did enough to convince coach Paul Okon to offer him a senior contract, and it was clear his opportunities would be limited as the club started recruiting for next season.

“I was disappointed that I didn’t get anything there. All the signs were good. I was with the first-team squad pretty much from day one I joined the club,” Papas said.

“I was always told I was in the running for a contract, but I was pretty much told my chances would be slim with the players they were bringing in, which was fine by me.I understand that’s football and they’ve got to look after themselves. It was a great opportunity down there.

“I left on good terms. I wish them good luck for the A-League season.”

Papas will make his Olympic comeback off the bench against the Jets youth team at Darling Street Oval on Saturday.He said he was focused on staying fit for the next three months and “enjoying football again”with a view to a possible overseas trial or another shot at an A-League club.

“I’m just trying to keep these next eight weeks really dedicated to football.

“I’m going to give it one last crack at football and have a red-hot go with no regrets.

“Being so close, where I was at the Mariners, to getting something,I’d probably be silly to throw it all in because of one person’s opinion. There’s other opportunities out there, I guess.”

Also on Saturday, Rosebud entertain second-placed Valentine at Adamstown and leaders Lambton host Lake Macquarie at Edden Oval.

On Sunday, Broadmeadow play Charlestown in the first of three consecutive home games for Magic as they try to resurrect their season.

Ruben Zadkovich’s side won just once in April and May then won three straight on the road in June to sit just a point behind fourth-placed Olympic.

“It was always going to turn for us. There were a lot of games early where we played well and got nothing,” Zadkovich said.“You go home and watch it and we dominated all the chances and somehow lost one-nil. I think we had 10 penalties in the first round we gave away three other set pieces.

“It was a little bit of Murphy’s law where everything was going wrong, injuries started to stack up, results went against us and before you knew it we were right down the ladder.

“But in the last few weeks the boys have really worked hard and have thoroughly deserved the games and won them comfortably.”

Magic’s past two wins, 3-1 at Valentine and 3-0 at Lake Macquarie, have coincided with the arrival of classy former Jets and Perth midfielder Mitch Oxborrow.

But Zadkovich is wary of his side’spoor home record.Theybeat Weston and Valentine at Magic Park early in the season then lost to Lake Macquarie (4-1), Maitland (7-0), Hamilton (2-1)andEdgeworth (3-0).

“The worrying thing is ourhome form’s not been very good at all,” he said.“But, again, it’s got to turn eventually, and hopefully we can start it this weekend.”

At Cooks Square Park, in-form Maitland host Edgeworth on Sunday.

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