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Trader sees up-side of Supercars road work

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Optimist: Bocados Spanish Kitchen owner Raul Cabrera says road work on Watt Street is inconvenient, but believes major events like the Newcastle 500 will provide opportunities for businesses. Picture: Marina NeilRelated content:
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Cold Chisel confirmed for Newcastle 500Trees come down for Supercars trackSupercars release Newcastle ticket pricesEast End rallies to ‘save the park’ from SupercarsNew race circuit for Newcastle 500Supercars lock in 2017 date with NewcastleMajor road work in the centre of Newcastle is a matter of short term pain for long term gain, a CBD business owner believes.

Crews are busy upgradingWharf Road, Nobbys Road and Watt Street ahead of the Newcastle 500 Supercars race in November.

The work on Watt Street, between Hunter Street and Church Street, has taken on-street car parks out of action in front of several businesses.

Restaurantowner Raul Cabrera said some of the issues caused by the road work were“not ideal”.

But Mr Cabrera, who owns Bocados Spanish Kitchen on the corner of Watt Street and King Street, saidhe was optimistic about the opportunities the major sporting event would bring the city’s businesses, by way of an influx of activity in the CBD.

The intersection of Watt Street and King Street in Newcastle. Picture: Marina Neil

“I guess for my staff and customers, closing off the parking isn’t doing anyone any favours,” he told Fairfax Media.

“It has been a change, but we are just dealing with it and working around it.

“We’ve been getting regular updates about what’s happening so we kind of know this is going to be happening for the next couple of months.People are just aware that they can’t park here so they are finding other ways of getting here.

“Ideally I wish that [the road work area] was for parking for my customers, but I’m not seeing people making a big fuss over it.”

Mr Cabrera said major events, like the Newcastle 500, were part of city life.

He said he had seen much progress in the city centre since he first started trading, in the premises next door to the current Bocados restaurant.

From the “tumbleweed” of almost a decade ago, Mr Cabrera said he saw Newcastle’s future as that of a city –not a regional town.

“I can see a theatre up there, I can see a casino overthe water, I canjust see all these things that would happen that would be city-based,” he said.

“It is a city. There is concrete, there is steel, it’s high-rise here in this part.

“I can just see that we have to go through change before that happens.

“This is part of that change –there are these yucky bits.

“Of course there are going to be hiccoughs. It’s an ‘I don’t know’ situation, which is kind of exciting.For me, I’ll make the most of it.”

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Where to turn when a loved one tries to take their life

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REAL CHANGE: Guiding Their Way Back Support Groups send the message to all people affected by a suicide attempt that they are not alone.Suicide is a major issue of community concern throughout Australia and in the Hunter.
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More than 3000 people take their lives each year in Australia and this issue is getting more attention. But what is less known and less talked about, is the number of people who attempt suicide each year and the affect that this behaviour has on those individuals and loved ones who care for them.

As a conservative estimate, more than 65,000 Australians make a suicide attempt each year. These individuals can experience a range of physical, psychological, emotional and social challenges following the eventand are at much higher risk of a further attempt or death by suicide.For a person who has attempted to take their life, the days and weeks following the event can be stressful and emotional.

But, it’s important to note, that it is also a difficult and emotional time for those who love and care for the person. Feelings such as anger, fear, shock and questioning why the suicide attempt has occurred are commonly experienced by close family and friends. While there has been progress on ensuring better supports for people after a suicide attempt, like the Way Back Support Service being run between Hunter Primary Care and the Calvary Mater Hospital, less focus locally or nationally has been given to supporting families, friends and carers.

We know that for many people with health or mental health problems, most of the practical and emotional day-to-day support is provided by family and friends. The same is true for those who are recovering from a suicide attempt, yet partners, parents, sibling, friends and colleagues are largely left unsupported.

Family members often have a list of unanswered questions about the suicide attempt, how to navigate the myriad services and professionals in the community that support suicidal individuals.

After a national consultation with people who had attempted suicide and their loved ones, the Hunter Institute of Mental Health has worked with local service providers andcommunity members to design and pilot a new approach to support those who need it.

In partnership with Relationships Australia, a new support program is available in Newcastle for anyone who is caring for or supporting someone recovering from a recent suicide attempt.Guiding Their Way Back Support Groups are free for anyone in the community, with the option of a one-off information session or an additional four-week small group program where people can get further information, learn skills and receive support from others.

The program has been designed with people who have real experience of a suicide attempt. It includes skill-building on how to manage difficult conversations with their loved ones, tips on how to care for themselves during this very stressful time, and information on support services. This program will no only provide immediate information and support to family members, friends and carers locally, but will be used as a prototype for a national service.

For information on finding a Guiding Their Way Back Support Group, contact Relationships Australia NSW on (02) 4940 1500. For more details about the groups, visit himh.org.au/GTWBsupportgroups

For immediate help 24/7:Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467;Lifeline13 11 14;Kids Helpline 1800 551 800;MensLine Australia 1300 789 978

Victoria Clack is senior project officer at Hunter Institute of Mental Health

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Judgment day for Newcastle’s family court

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IT IS an extraordinary day when a retired senior judge openly and very publicly criticises a senior member of a government.
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Not unprecedented, but worth paying attention to, nevertheless.

So we should take note of what retired former Newcastle Federal Circuit Court judge Giles Coakes hadto say about federal Attorney-General George Brandis and appointments to the Newcastle court that hears family law cases.

Mr Coakes blasted Senator Brandis for the length of time it has taken to replace two judges in the past two years and the consequences on the court’s two remaining judges.

Certainly figures released by Senator Brandis’ office to Newcastle MP Sharon Claydon are extremely concerning. While the national average caseload for comparable courts is 376, Newcastle’s Federal Circuit Court has dealt with 770 matters this financial year.

The large number of cases has pushed the time families have to wait for matters to go to trial out to 19 months, which is an extraordinary delay given only the most serious family law matters end up in court.

It is clear how serious this matter has become, when Mr Coakes and Hunter Valley Family Law Practitionerspresident Chris White agreed to speak to the media with Ms Claydon.

Mr White’s example of the direct impact of these delayed decisions on Hunter families was chilling.

The case of afather with drug abuse and mental health problems, who took his child to Queensland despite little contact with the child up to that point, was given an urgent hearing date –but that was two months later.

Serious domestic violence cases, where children as well as adults are at risk, are similarly placed in a queue while the Federal Government is yet to replace a judge who left in February for a special inquiry.

It is hard not to see this as another example of the mixed messages from governments on domestic violence and support for families.

It is unfortunate given Senator Brandis’ very positive moves on domestic violence announced in the Budget -a major review of the Family Law Act and proposed amendments to the Actto ensure domestic violence victims cannot be cross-examined by alleged perpetrators who represent themselves in court.

Issue: 38,533.

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The millionaires’ club

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Stockton joins pricey property clubHunter prices a happy medianA RECORD number of Hunter residential property owners have joined the millionaires’ club, with a new cashed-up crowd emerging from the region’s real estate boom.
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Exclusive data prepared for the Newcastle Herald by leading property information group CoreLogic reveals in the year to March, more than $9 billion worth of residential property changed hands across the region.

This equates to buyers spending on average more than $1 million every hour.

Sydney investors, low interest rates, relative affordability and lifestyle properties underpinned a flurry of buying, that recorded almost 20 per cent median house price growth in some suburbs.

The frantic buying saw the doors to the Hunter’s property millionaires’ club blown open, with 62 of the region’s 65 postcodes now boasting residential property with a million-dollar price tag.

With buyers desperate to get in, dumps have been selling for more than they are worth, auction clearances have been strong and, best of all for sellers, reservepricesare being smashed.

This year’s price surge has pushed a swag of Hunter suburbs into the million-dollar club for the first time, including Windale, Shortland and Kurri Kurri. The region now has 10,085 homes and 1218 units with a price tag above the million-dollar range.

The figure is more than double five years ago when there were 4155 homes and 524 units.

In the year to March, there were 677 homes sold for more than $1 million and 59 units.

As inner-city house prices break records, experts warn that $1 million sales will continue to spread through the suburbs.

The price rises have meant that many people’s homes are making more money each day than they are.

Real Estate Institute Newcastle Hunter divisional chairman Wayne Stewart said million-dollar sales were pushing way beyond the CBD.

“I have no doubt that we’ll be seeing sales above $1 million in places like Fletcher in the next 12 to 18 months,” he said.

“We’re talking about suburbs that have never seen property prices anywhere near this high.”

Novocastrians have always paid a premium to live close to the beach. More than half, or 54 per cent, of the homes sold in the year to Marchin the 2291 postcode – covering Merewether, Merewether Heights and The Junction –were valued at more than $1 million.

There were 196 houses sold for a total of$231,443,100, and 107 were valued above$1 million. Of the 4028 homes in the 2291 postcode, 65 per cent or 2656, have a price tag of more than $1 million.

Mr Stewart said blocks of land in inner-city suburbs were now so valuable that having a two-bedroom cottage on them no longer madeeconomic sense for some residents. Hesaid second and third generation “blue collar” families were selling up and cashing in.

“You are looking at getting $1.5 million for a knockdown in Merewether,” he said.

“Anything within half-a-kilometre of the coastal strip is hot property.”

Mr Stewart saidMayfield and Tighes Hill were the hot spots to watch this year, but he did not expect double-digit growth.

“I think we’ll see growth more around the 5 and 6 per cent mark,” he said. “That’s still pretty good going though.”

Street Real Estate director Damon Sellis said buyers were being forced to look further afield, creatingan emerging corridor of millionaires branching out from the city.

He said over the past year peoplewere flocking to Wickham, Maryville and Islingtonto buyunrenovated propertiesfor more than $700,000.

“We’re noticing a stronger presence of buyers who are considering the fringe suburbs more and paying between $800,000 and $1.1 millionin suburbs like Adamstown, Charlestown andHamilton,” he said.

“Peopleare starting to realise that they can’t buy in Merewether for under a million dollars and they know they can getmore value for money by considering the next circle of suburbs.”

LJ Hooker Cessnock owner Bryce Gibson said activity in the Coalfields market had intensified over the past year.

Mr Gibson said the strongest performer was Pelaw Main, which had seen 19.8 per cent median house price growth, to $326,500, in the last financial year, with an average of 39 days on market.

“We’re not talking million-dollar properties, but we’re talking really significant growth,” he said.

“Backyards are getting smaller andfamilies that want a backyard are now looking out of the city.”

Investors priced out of the Sydney market have floodedIllawarra and the Hunter, with real estate agents reporting hundreds of properties selling before theygo to market.

PRD Nationwide Newcastle and Lake Macquarie managing director Mark Kentwell said locals werefeeling more confident in the market, getting price growth and moving into the next bracket.

He said Warners Bay, Eleebana and Speers Point experienced good growth and were predicted to do well in the coming year.

“You are looking at water and there is a dining precinct that has really come into its own –the sort of dining that people go to The Junction and Darby Street for,” he said.

Despite widespreadwindfalls, analystswarnprospective home buyers to think before rushing into the market.

Since 2000, households have consistently borrowed more against the family home or investmentproperty, withdrawing from their piggy bank of equity.

Deloitte Access Economics’ director Chris Richardson warnscheap credit and high leveraging poserisks.

Mr Richardson, one of Australia’s most respected economists, used his recent speech at the National Press Club to advise young people to rent.

“The one bit of advice I give to young Australians amid our housing market right now is: don’t buy,” he said.

Nevertheless, activity in the Lower Hunter propertymarket remainsstrong, with agents reporting widespread growth.

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Singer still as strong as steel

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CELEBRATION: ARIA Hall of Fame inductee Tina Arena brings her Innocence To Understanding Tour to the Civic Theatre on September 12.
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Curating 40 years of songs into a two-hour live show hasn’tbeen easy for Tina Arena.

Singer still as strong as steel TweetFacebookInnocence To Understanding is the name of her upcoming tour and a line from her 1995 hitSorrento Moon (I Remember). It is also an apt description of just how far she has come since being cast on YoungTalent Time at the tender age of eight.

Arena released her successful debut albumStrong as Steelin 1990 followed by 10-times platinumDon’t Askin 1994, the multi-platinumIn Deepin 1997andJust Mein 2001.She hastwo best-selling French-language albums to her name,two much-loved volumes ofSongs of Love & Loss, the 2013 platinum-sellingResetand the gold-certifiedElevenin 2015.

Arenais the only Australian artist to earn a gold or platinum certification for each of her original albums in every decade since the 1970s. In fact, every album in her career has gone gold, platinum or multi-platinum.

“Today I feel I have finally reached a place where I am 100 per cent comfortable with who I am, and I am free to enjoy my life and my work,” the 49-year-old says.

“I’ve always followed my own trajectory anddone things that I value and that I see a sense of worth in doing.

“This tour tells a story of a little girl who had a dream, like many little girls and boys out there have a dream. I definitely have a greater sense of understanding these days but timegives you that privilege.”

We discuss the horrifying May 22 terrorist attack at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchesterand thecourage and maturity the singer demonstratedinreturning to the city for the One Love Concert.

“This young lady of 23has certainly jumped a few chapters because she has been confronted with something so far removed fromher own humble place,” Arena says.

“That event will shape her, like it will shapemany performers, and increase the weight that they are already carrying on their shoulders. Not only is it a big responsibility putting on a show but now there’s another layer of bullshit that you have to contend with. It’s ludicrous.”

Arena is fiercely protective of fellow performers and says people should rethink preconceived notions that every artist is “living in an ivory tower and has a great life”.

“The artistry of music is a lot of hard work, a lot of disillusionment anda big risk. Even if you think your work is great there are never any guarantees,” she explains.

“If a business is to invest in something they want a guaranteed return. However we make investments in our careers but nobody ever gives us a guarantee as to whether we are going to have our investment returned.

“I feel that the music industry has in some ways not been treated with the respect it deserves. As artists we tell stories and convey a message and we do that with the greatest of intentions and vulnerability. We fund our own careers and yet people want everything for free.

“Does a business give away a product for free and say no worries?In the world we live in technology has totally got everybody by the balls.”

When the MP3, Arena says, it was “the beginning of the end”.

“I knew straight awayit was going to have a major effect and people were wondering what I was on about it. Ifind it a difficult pill to swallow that our lives are ruled by technology but all I can do is try to take control of my own world. Social media and technology has a place in my life, and it is not number one and it is not number two and it’s not number three.”

Catch Tina Arena at Newcastle’s Civic Theatre on September 12. Tickets are on sale now.

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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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