Author Archive

Hunters’ hopes on the line

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ON THE BALL: Emily Keith and Joel Rauch modelling the one-off red Charity Night uniforms which the Hunters will wear on Saturday night. Picture: suppliedIT will be a case of all hands on deck for defending Waratah Basketball League women’s champions Newcastle in their must-win game against Sydney Comets at Broadmeadow on Saturday.
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The sixth-placed Hunters (5-7) will be without triple Olympian Suzy Batkovic, who is attending a wedding in Townsville, and injured young guns Cassie Pentney and Bianca Green. Centre Sophie Parente is also in doubt, having been laid low with a virus all week.

Newcastle must beat seventh-placed Sydney (3-8) and hope for favourable results from games involving third-placed Manly (8-4), fourth-placed Bankstown (7-4) and fifth-placed Sutherland (6-5) in the final month of the regular season to have any hope of sneaking into the semi-finals at Maitland on August 12.

Hunters coach Mark Gledson hopes the anticipated biggest crowd of the season will help his team produce a special performance. Coinciding with the club’s third annual charity night, Newcastle’s championship women’s and men’s teams are playing their last home games of the season.

All five senior Hunters representative teams will be at home on Saturday and will wear one-off red uniforms in a show of support for charity night partners Variety, The Children’s Charity.

“This is a great challenge for us this week. We need a real team effort, and obviously a win to keep our play-off chances alive,” Newcastle coach Mark Gledson said.

“Defence is the key, then converting it into offence.

“We will be without Suzy and several other players, and we have a number of other minor injuries to deal with. I guess it’s that time of the year that these injuries surface, but the atmosphere from the crowd for charity night should be electric and hopefully that works to our advantage.”

Games start at 1pm (youth league women), followed by division one men and youth league men at 3pm, championship women at 5pm and championship men at 7pm.

Men’s coach Darren Nichols said the Hunters (2-12) were bracing for an onslaught from leaders Sydney (13-1), who won 94-54 when the teams met at Alexandria on March 25, but he was confident they would not take a backward step against the title favourites.

“It’s our last home game and it’s an extremely tough assignment against the league leaders. We can’t afford a slow start with Sydney because they are big and unforgiving and will punish any mistakes,” Nichols said.

“But I’ve been very happy with the consistent effort every week from the team, and that’s all I can ask from such a young and inexperienced group.

“We were all disappointed with the two-point loss to Illawarra last week, but that’s basketball.

“Unknown to us, our captain Ben Hawkesley was suffering from food poisoning and is still recovering, so we’re hoping he is able to play. We were very happy with the maturity shown by our three youth league players Jacob Foy, Joel Rauch and Jakob Dorricott, who contributed 71 of our 91 points last week, so that’s an encouraging sign for the future of the Newcastle Hunters.”

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Naughton set to be cleared for Maitland

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CLEARED: Knights signing Curtis Naughton is set to debut for Maitland on Saturday. Picture: Facebook via Hull FCNewcastleKnights officials are confident English Super League recruit Curtis Naughton will be cleared in time todebut for Maitland against Macquarie at Coronation Oval on Saturday.
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The Knights recently signed the former Bradford, Hull FC and Leigh player on a part-time contract with their reserve grade squad and Naughton is keen to show his wares in the Newcastle Rugby League competition.

The 22-year-old, mainly a winger and fullback, hopes to make it with the NRL club and has been linked with Maitland to get some match practice.

However, after training with the Pickers on Thursday night there were concerns on game eve that Naughton wouldn’t join fellow English Super League pair Luke Dorn and Dane Tilse for the upcoming encounter becauseonline registration procedures would not be completed before kickoff.

The Herald understands Naughton will get the green light for the last-placed side as they look to keep their semi-final aspirations alive.

“It’s a boost we definitely need,” Maitland coach Trevor Ott said.

“We’ve just got no outside backs at the moment.”

Naughton is set to wear the No.1 jersey and Dorn will shift to the halves.

Macquarie coach Adam Bettridge said fullback Mitch Manson and prop Adam Swadling were among five players to pass fitness tests at training this week.

Over at Cahill Oval on Sunday and Lakes skipper Chris Adams makes his long-awaited return from a fractured radius in the Seagullsmeeting with Central.

TheButcher Boys may secure the services ofJace Delaney at hooker as he waits for work visa issues to be sorted ahead of an overseas trip.

The Creer Cup will also be up for grabs at Belmont.

The remaining round 10 fixtures featuring Souths, Cessnock, Wests and Kurri have been postponed until later in the season with Townson and Harker ovals still closed by Newcastle City Council.

Meanwhile North Newcastle quartet Caitlin Moran, Kylie Hilder, Bec Young and Simone Smith were on Friday named in the NSW women’s squad to defend the Blues interstate title against Queensland on July 23.

The 31-player team, coached by South Newcastle mentor Ben Cross, will gather in Wollongong on Saturday for training and fitness tests.

RE-SCHEDULED: Western Suburbs vKurri Kurri(July 15-16);South Newcastle v Cessnock (August 12-13).

SPORTING DECLARATION: Why Sunday’s game is so important for the Knights

SET OF SIX: Tony Butterfield tackles this week’s issues in rugby league

COMEBACK: Macquarie’s Nathan Hinton inspired by son

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Hunter’s a happy median

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Hunter hot spots.Where the million dollar houses areStockton joins pricey property clubNEWCASTLE real estate prices have been getting a lot of attention lately, and with good reason.
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Data issued this week reveals that regional areas are the new lands of opportunity for buyers and theHunter is booming.

It has been one of the best performing non-capital city areasin Australiafor the year to May according to property information group CoreLogic, and predictionsare for continued steady growth.

Price rises were recorded across the Lower Hunter, with the best performing local government area being the Great Lakes, which had amedian house pricejumpof $55,296, or 13.1 per cent, to $477,404.

Great Lakes also recorded the largest percentageprice gains in median unit prices, jumping 9.7 per cent to $365,172.

Lake Macquarie and Newcastlelocal government areasboth had 10.1 per cent median house price increases.

Newcastle tops the price list with a jump of $52,577 to $573,146, followed by Lake Macquarie increasing$49,618 to$540,893.

CoreLogic senior research analyst Cameron Kusher said many Sydney residentswere using equity in their homes to purchase investment properties in lifestyle markets.

He said the Lower Hunter was ideally placed to benefit due to its proximity to Sydney and the coast.

“The data indicates that after a long period of soft housing market conditions following the financial crisis, housing demand is starting to pick up across many of the larger regional areas,” he said.

“Those areas that are continuing to see values fall are in many instances linked to the mining and resources sector.”

In a report last week, BIS Oxford Economics predictedcontinued growth for the region, as capital citypropertymarkets weaken.

Prices are tipped to continue growing in the Lower Hunter, butexperts warn the biggest price gains are behind us and the market is tipped to cool.

The Lower Hunter’s median house price was $560,000 at June 1, ajump of36 per cent in the past four years.

Median house prices in the regionwere expected to increase about11 per cent in the year to June.

Real Estate Institute Newcastle Hunter divisional chairman Wayne Stewart said the Lower Hunter could expect price gains of about 6 per cent this financial year.

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Blues cling to hope of matching Terrigal

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Newcastle City coach Mitchell Knight is confident the Blues have the firepower to challenge runaway Black Diamond AFL leaders Terrigal-Avoca.
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The two sides meet at No.1 Sportsground on Saturday, 10 months after City smashed the Panthers 14.13 (97) to 5.6 (36) at the samevenue in last year’s grand final.

But while Terrigal have stormed to 10 straight wins this season to lead the BDAFL ladder on 40 points, City have limped to a 6-4 win-loss record and were almost run down by winless Warners Bay last weekend.

City say the league’s controversial recruitment restrictions have hurt them on the field this year, but Knight is hopeful that his side can match it with Terrigal if they are at full strength and play to their potential.

“They haven’t even looked like losing a game this year,” Knight said.

“They’ve pretty much got exactly the same side as last year, but they’ve got a few big inclusions.

“Mark Skuse is a Sydney representative player.

“Alastair Richardson, another Sydney representative player,has come back as well.

“Their team is a lot stronger than it was lastyear, that’s for sure.

“I have no doubt, if we had our best squad playing our best footy, we can definitely match them and cause an upset.”

The Panthers have beaten City twice comfortably this year, by 36 and 48 points, both times on the Central Coast, but Knights could see chinks in theirarmour.

“They’ve still got a fair few younger guys on their list, and they can play inconsistent footy, but they’vealso played pretty well this year,” he said.

“If you’re going through a season undefeated, it can do funny things to your mentality going towards finals.”

City will need to be better than they were last week, when they scraped home 9.10 (64) to8.9 (57) against the Bulldogsat Feighan Oval after leading by 30 points at three-quarter time.

“We didn’t really get out of second gear last week,” Knight said.

“Our intensity wasn’t really up to where it needs to be.

“But pleased to get the points there. We can still push for second place and have a second chance in the semi-finals.”

Key ruckmanAaron Seen returns this week, and Knight hopes to get key players Nick Gill and Hugh Kelleher back before the play-offs.

In other games, Warners Bay will look to finally break through for a win against second-last Killarney Vale at Feighan Oval, and second-placed Cardiff host inconsistent Nelson Bay at Hillsborough Oval.

The Bombers have been struggling with injuries this yearand have lostrepresentative midfielderAlex Bailey (overseas) for the rest of the season.

The Hawks’ only losses have been against Terrigal, but their two wins over the Marlins have been by a combined margin of only 14 points.

Last year’s BDAFL player of the year,Jayden Rymer, kicked five goals for Nelson Bay last week in a big win over Killarney Vale.

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In-form Dane plans to bring running game

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THINKING ON HIS FEET: South African product Dane Sherratt will make his run-on debut for NSW Country against Queensland Country at Ernie Calland Field at Gateshead on Saturday evening.
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DANE Sherrattis at his best when running the footy.

It is as much about his state of mind as anything else.

Sherratt grew up in Cape Townwhere rugby was all aboutstructure and field position. His trusty right boot, more thananything, earnedthe fly-half a spot in theCheetahs under-21side.

However, since moving to Australia three years ago, the 24-year-old has rekindled his running game, with great rewards.

“When I am confident, I run the ball,” he said.“That is when Ifeel my game is at its best.You won’t see me kick it.”

Sherrattwill make his starting debut for NSW Country against Queensland Country at Gateshead’s Ernie Calland Field on Saturday.

“It was awesome be a part of it when we played down in Canberra,” Sherratt said of his first appearance off the bench for the Cockatoos in a50-34 triumph over Brumbies Provincial a fortnight ago.“I am feeling confident and can’t wait to get out there.Last weekend for the Tahs, we didn’t get the win overHamilton but I scored a try. I ran the ball quite a bit andfelt good. I want to carry that into Saturday.”

Sherratt was named player of the carnival after leading Newcastle to the Caldwell Cup at the Country Championships in April.Newcastle played a“tournament” style of rugby in Port Macqaurie based on field position and pressure.

“[Newcastle coach] StuPinkerton was heavy on not playing in our own half,” Sherratt said.“At Country they encourage us tohave a go from pretty much anywhere on the field. The backline has been given that freedom. Obviously, we know when to exit as well.”

Sherratt conducts a Cockatoos backline that includes fellow Newcastle and Hunter players in halfback Jono O’Toole, fullback Jack Arthur (Nelson Bay) and winger Sireli Bainivalu (Hamilton). Maitland No.8 Travis Brooke and Singleton lock Nathan Brennan are among the tall timber in the pack.

“We are aiming to play a bit more expansive;run it rather than kick it,” Country coach Matt Thomas said.“We want to showcase the players’strengths. The eight-nine-10 is the Newcastle combination. When they have combined it has been pretty good to watch.”

The battle, whichkicks off at 5.50pm and has an under-19 clash between the same two teams as a curtain raiser, is Queensland’s third in a week.

They went down 57-27 to a Brisbane Premier Rugby President’s XV on Sunday and edged out touring side North Canterbury 22-18 on Wednesday night.

“They beat us on the bell last year and we are expecting a tightly contested game,” Thomas said.“We have a very different squad, where they have the nucleus of the same squad.Their strength is probably the forwards, which is fine by us.”

A win would complete a rare clean sweep for the Cockatoos, and follow triumphs over Sydney Subbies and the Brumbies.

“We have 15 new players this year which has rekindled the Country spirit,” Thomas said.“Toget a country jersey is often the pinnacle of these players’ careers.”

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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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