Monthly Archives: May 2019

VIDEO: Deans tips sore Jets to recover

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IN DOUBT: Craig Goodwin, right, at Jets training yesterday. Picture: Peter Stoop
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SWISS defender Dominik Ritter sat out training yesterday and housemate Craig Goodwin failed to finish the session, but Jets assistant coach Craig Deans was confident both would be fit to take on Wellington Phoenix at Hunter Stadium on Sunday.

Ritter had soreness in his left quadriceps after getting through 90 minutes in his return from injury in the 2-1 win over Western Sydney Wanderers on Saturday.

‘‘We did not expect Dom to get through 90 minutes on the weekend,’’ said Deans, who deputised for ill coach Gary van Egmond yesterday.

‘‘It might take just a little bit longer to settle down. Come Friday he will be right.’’

Goodwin, who covered for Ritter at left-back in a game against a fringe XI yesterday, received a knock on his right shin and limped off early in the second third.

‘‘He keeps getting kicked in the same spot,’’ Deans said.

‘‘He had the shin pad on today to protect it. I don’t think it will stop him playing but when you get a kick on the shin bone it gets pretty sore.’’

After a spectacular start to the season, Goodwin’s form has dipped in the past two games.

‘‘It is tough for a young kid,’’ Deans said. ‘‘When you come in and have a few good games early on … it does put a lot of pressure on a young player.

‘‘He obviously has more attention from the opposition now.

‘‘Any attacking player in any competition in the world will be marked for special attention. He is a good kid, a diligent kid with his football, and will continue to work hard.’’

James Virgili made an impact off the bench against the Wanderers and is likely to come in if Ritter or Goodwin do not recover.

‘‘Chilli has done well all year,’’ Deans said.

‘‘Some games suit Chilli and some are not necessarily games for an out-and-out winger.

‘‘But he has done really well, whether he has started or come off the bench.’’

After opening the season with a win and two draws, Wellington have lost their past three to slip to ninth place.

But they will arrive in the Hunter with a degree of confidence having beaten the Jets in their past five encounters by a combined margin of 13-2.

“We’ll have a good look at Wellington on Friday and see where they’re at and how they’ve been playing in the last couple of weeks, but we pretty much know what to expect from them,” Deans said.

“They’ve got some good individuals in the front third in Brockie, Ifill and Huysegems, who has come in this year and scored some good goals for them.

“They’re always a threat in the front third.

‘‘They work hard as a team, they’re well organised as a team.’’

The Jets are fresh from a 2-1 win on the road over Western Sydney Wanderers, their fourth win in six games.

“We’ve scored at least two goals in every game, bar the first game against Adelaide, so that’s a real positive for us,” Deans said.

“We just need to tighten up the other end because you can’t keep relying on scoring two or three goals every week to win games.’’

IN DOUBT: Craig Goodwin, right, at Jets training yesterday. Picture: Peter Stoop

Frei aims to make impact at Knights

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KNIGHTS recruit Mitchell Frei has arrived in Newcastle for the chance to develop his game under master coach Wayne Bennett.
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Frei has joined the Knights from the Brisbane Broncos, signing a one-year contract with Newcastle’s NRL club with an option for another season in 2014.

The hard-hitting 20-year-old has spent the past two seasons in the Broncos’ National Youth Cup team.

He signed a second-tier deal with the Knights to play NSW Cup and hopes to make Bennett’s NRL squad.

Frei believes signing with the Knights is a great opportunity.

‘‘There wasn’t the same opportunity up there as I have down here, so it was time to move on, and Wayne gave me a great opportunity,’’ Frei told the Newcastle Herald yesterday.

‘‘Wayne was at the Broncos when I first got there.

‘‘I didn’t train with him or anything. I’d see him around and he’d say ‘g’day’ and important things like that, but I’m really looking forward to being coached by him full-time.’’

Frei began getting to know his new teammates at the club’s fitness testing at the University of Newcastle yesterday and said he was looking forward to 2013.

‘‘Training was good. They are a great bunch of blokes, they’ve made me feel welcome and I’m looking forward to getting into it.’’

Bennett is confident Frei will strengthen the squad.

‘‘Mitchell adds depth to the young front-rowers we are establishing at the Knights, which we identified as an area we needed to strengthen going forward,’’ Bennett told the Knights website.

The front-rower, who is also a goal-kicker and plays golf off single figures, had a stellar season last year, representing the Maroons under 20s.

Frei will not be the only new face to wear the red and blue in 2013.

He has joined Beau Scott, Jeremy Smith, Toka Likiliki and David Fa’alogo as new signings, and former Knights winger Anthony Quinn is also close to agreeing to terms.

SEEKING EXPERIENCE: Mitchell Frei at The Forum yesterday. Picture: Peter Stoop

Scott feels right at home

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KNIGHTS recruit Beau Scott said the familiar faces of former teammates and coaches had made it easier for him to feel at home at his new NRL club.
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The rugged NSW and one-time Australian utility has been reunited with former St George Illawarra coach Wayne Bennett and fellow ex-Dragons Darius Boyd, Neville Costigan and Jeremy Smith, with whom he won the 2010 NRL premiership.

Knights Chris Houston, Alex McKinnon and Kevin Naiqama also did time at the Dragons during Scott’s six-year stint with the club.

Scott, who has signed a four-year deal with the Knights, officially clocked on for his first day at work yesterday when he joined the squad for fitness testing at the University of Newcastle.

The Knights are Scott’s third NRL club, after the 28-year-old Picton Magpies junior made his debut among 28 appearances for Cronulla in 2005 and 2006.

He returned to the Dragons in 2007, having played in the club’s junior representative teams before joining the Sharks, and went on to play 118 NRL games for the Red V.

Three of his six years at the Dragons were with Bennett, so he knows what is in store.

‘‘It does make it easier, being under Wayne and the coaching staff that’s at the Knights at the moment, and knowing what to expect,’’ Scott said yesterday.

‘‘He’s pretty intimidating when he wants to be but, like I said, I know what to expect with Wayne and the styles of the group of coaches we’ve got here, so I’m looking forward to it.

‘‘It’s the first day back at training with the group itself.

‘‘They’re a great bunch of fellas and I know a fair few of them already … so I’m looking forward to getting amongst it.’’ Scott is still recovering from groin surgery but does not anticipate missing much of the pre-season program.

‘‘I’m still on a rehab schedule, but when the groin gets back to 100per cent I’ll jump back into full training. It’s sort of a week-to-week thing now, so we’ll just manage it as it goes,’’ he said.

Scott is equally at home in the back row or the centres but said he was yet to discuss what role Bennett envisaged for him.

‘‘I’m pretty happy to fill whatever spot I need to do for the team,’’ he said.

He hoped to add to his five Origin games for NSW and one Test match for Australia, but his priority was to nail down a spot with the Knights.

‘‘First and foremost it’s a solid pre-season, and start to play football with the Knights … You’ve got to play good club football to be in that representative circle ,’’ he said.

Though he falls short of being one of the club’s ‘‘thirty-somethings’’ – he turns 29 in May – Scott will be one of the senior players expected to play a mentoring role.

‘‘At nearly every club they’ve got a senior playing group and the young stock coming through. I guess to get that balance right at the club is the main thing, so I’m not too worried about the playing group’s age at all,’’ he said.

‘‘I guess we’ve been around for a while now, Jeremy [Smith] and myself, and I guess we can help steer the young fellas on the right path, which is good for the club.’’

AMONG FRIENDS: Knights member Beau Scott.

Skipper relishes chance to atone

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MARK Littlewood plans to exorcise a few demons when he leads Newcastle in the northern carnival of the NSW Country cricket championships at Belmont this weekend.
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Littlewood was skipper last year for the corresponding event when Newcastle, sent in on a seam-friendly Cahill Oval pitch, were beaten by giant-killers Western Zone, costing the home side a berth in the Country Championships final.

It was Newcastle’s first loss in a NSW Country championships match in eight years, and Littlewood has no desire for a second serve of such disappointment.

‘‘It was a bit of a wake-up call for us, to lose last year,’’ Littlewood said yesterday.

‘‘It might have been a good thing. It’s a motivating factor for us and was probably good for country cricket.

‘‘We’ve been the benchmark in country cricket for a long time now and all the other zones have been trying to hunt us down.

‘‘It worked last year, so it’s up to us to try and be one step ahead this year.

‘‘But the boys have been training hard, we’ve got a good team, and we’re feeling confident.’’

Littlewood said last year’s defeat was a reminder there was little room for error during the three-day tournament, in which Newcastle will play Central Coast tomorrow, North Coastal on Saturday and Central North on Sunday. ‘‘That’s the nature of this carnival. You really can’t afford to have a bad match or a bad half-hour,’’ he said.

‘‘You have to be on your game for the whole three days . . . there’s plenty of talent around rural NSW, so there’s always some challenges.’’

If Newcastle finish on top of the northern group, they will face their nemesis from last season, Western Zone, in the championship decider at Wade Park, Orange, on Sunday week.

Western won the southern pool last weekend with a clean sweep of Southern Zone, Riverina and Wollongong.

Newcastle’s 13-man squad features a blend of youth and experience, from teenage leg-spinner Ben Evans to veteran run machine Simon Moore.

Littlewood was sure selectors had covered all bases.

‘‘It’s a strong side, well balanced,’’ he said.

‘‘We’ve got a good mix of all-rounders in there and good variety in the attack.

‘‘I think it’s a pretty good-looking side on paper and we just have to get down to doing the business.’’

FOCUS: Mark Littlewood believes Newcastle will benefit from last year’s disappointment.

OPINION: Cost-effective light rail a dividend for city

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IT’S not easy to come up with a viable and achievable plan when you’re talking about light rail.
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But it is too easy to write it off with simplistic density or unrepresentative cost arguments.

I believe all possible leverage options should be carefully looked into with a ‘‘can do’’ approach, considering all benefits as well as costs.

Many parties say light rail systems have a high cost, when comparing other developments worldwide.

In most of these cases, however, substantial parts of the costs were associated with acquiring land right of way, and entire infrastructure construction.

Our situation in Newcastle has the potential to deliver a system for substantially less cost, and from this, a lower population density hurdle can and should be applied.

There is a mooted concept of ‘‘tram train’’, where light rail vehicles ‘‘share’’ track with existing heavy rail traffic.

This operates successfully in a number of overseas locations.

If one sets aside the issue of regulation and approvals required, and analyses the existing operation of heavy freight and passenger operations in Newcastle, the challenges become apparent.

The area of rail line between Hamilton and Warabrook would necessarily be an integral part of ‘‘tram train’’ operations and is already close to saturation.

That is, there is no available ‘‘bandwidth’’ to accommodate the train paths required for a suitable frequency of light rail vehicles.

There is continual discussion about the need for a Fassifern to Hexham rail bypass as the long-term solution to heavy rail operational problems, including freight in the suburbs and the Adamstown crossing. Unfortunately scant actual planning action has taken place.

The looming increase in coal traffic from the Cobbora Coal mine through Newcastle’s suburbs will put the blowtorch on this issue in the next couple of years.

One shining light appears in the recent Infrastructure NSW “First Things First” document, which describes this link as of strategic merit.

It points out the merit of ‘‘engineering’’ the northern section of such a link with the proposed “F3 Extension” through Hexham.

This approach has the dual positive of reducing the likely rail cost, as well as potentially bringing forward the timetable for delivery.

The Hunter Business Chamber, in its recent publication Newcastle Central, outlines the importance of designing any relocated heavy rail terminus to incorporate future light rail capability. This would include using the existing inner-city corridor for such a light rail right of way.

The only problem is the call to remove the current rail infrastructure, whereas the track in its present form should be retained as it is perfectly suitable for light rail vehicles.

Removal and subsequent reinstatement is an unnecessary cost when compared with landscaping and covering options available.

The completion of the mooted Fassifern to Hexham rail bypass relieves the constraint on heavy rail operations between Hamilton and Warabrook.

As well as removing coal and freight trains from much of the Newcastle suburban areas, it also opens the door to light rail traffic using tracks to the west of Hamilton, either as ‘‘tram trains’’ or consolidating heavy rail operations on to two tracks and permitting exclusive light rail operation on the remaining two tracks.

In combination with the construction of a light rail track into the heart of the Newcastle University Callaghan campus, it is possible to envisage a Newcastle CBD to University campus light rail spine, with a cost of about $100million.

One has to stress that the majority of the ‘‘real’’ cost is already borne by the new heavy rail terminus and Newcastle rail bypass projects, which live or die on their own merit. A cost-effective light rail system can be seen as a dividend from the correct planning and delivery of these projects.

If a new light rail system indeed reaches into the Newcastle University campus, one tantalising future expansion possibility is to ‘‘co-engineer’’ light rail tracks from the university into the mooted SR23 extension from Jesmond to New Lambton Heights.

This would deliver a light rail station into the heart of the John Hunter campus, and everyone would see the enormous benefits to improving hospital access.

Tim Bohlsen writes on behalf of theHunter Independent PublicTransport Inquiry.