Watson bowling fitness test

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AUSTRALIAN coach Mickey Arthur is upbeat about the possibility of Shane Watson returning for next week’s second Test in Adelaide, but the all-rounder and vice-captain has been told he will need to prove his fitness as a bowler and will not be considered as a batsman only.
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Watson strained a calf muscle while bowling for New South Wales in a Sheffield Shield match in Brisbane 12 days ago, forcing his withdrawal from the first Test at the Gabba.

His replacement, Rob Quiney, scored only nine with the bat at No. 3 but made a strong impression with the Australian hierarchy, taking two outstanding catches and, according to Arthur, fitting in well.

If fully fit, Watson would slot straight back in at the expense of the Victorian and there is an increasing likelihood that both will be named on Friday in an extended squad for Adelaide, with the all-rounder getting the nod if his calf is cleared by team physiotherapist Alex Kountouris.

Arthur said on Wednesday Watson would return to bowling practice on Friday. ”Watto has had two net [sessions]. He’s come through them very well.

”He did a bit of running [on Tuesday] and he came through that well. He’s having a bowl on Friday and we’ll see later in the week, and into next week, exactly where Watto is.”

If Watson can bowl in Adelaide he would add vital additional balance to a bowling attack that early in the Gabba Test struggled to make an impact against the top-rated South Africans, with left-armer Mitchell Starc also providing a different flavour if he is brought into the side for Ben Hilfenhaus.

Australia has previously baulked at picking Watson as a batsman only and that is a mantra it will not retreat from in this series.

Australian general manager of team performance, Pat Howard, said on Wednesday that selectors decided on a series to series basis whether Watson had to play as an all-rounder, or could be chosen as a specialist batsman, and against the Proteas it had been decided he must be in a position to bowl.

”If the Test match was tomorrow he wouldn’t be playing,” Howard said. ”But he’s progressing and I think when the team goes [to Adelaide] on Sunday we’ll have a far better indication of where he is at.”

Howard said it would count heavily against Watson at the selection table if he could not bowl. ”The value and the balance of the team is what the selection panel talk about. It’s the selection panel’s call when they come together on this,” he said.

”The ability for people to take up bowling slack is important, so without making it a Shane Watson conversation, the ability to take overs up was pretty well demonstrated in that first Test.”

Hilfenhaus lacked penetration in Brisbane and selectors will consider him making way for Starc on an Adelaide track in which Starc could take advantage of the rough produced by spinner, Nathan Lyon.

”Mitchell is playing a shield game at the moment – we’ll see how he goes in that one and it might give us another option come Adelaide,” Arthur said.

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Nakia’s rep call-up eases pain

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PAUL Davis usually finds it hard to smile at this time each year.
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On Monday, the Central Newcastle rugby league coach and former Balmain Tigers five-eighth will commemorate the third anniversary of the death of his 15-year-old son.

Paul Davis-Welsh was killed in a car accident at Kempsey just days after being named in the NSW under-16 Indigenous team to play the curtain-raiser to the inaugural NRL v Indigenous All Stars exhibition game on the Gold Coast.

Paul had signed a three-year contract with the Titans and had the world at his feet.

Davis still chokes back tears when he talks about his son, but that pain was eased last weekend when his 16-year-old daughter, Nakia Davis-Welsh, was selected in the Australian Indigenous Women’s All Stars team.

The Year 10 Hunter Sports High School student had not played organised rugby league until six weeks ago, when she helped the Mindaribba Sisters win the annual Koori Knockout at Raymond Terrace on the October long weekend.

‘‘She got picked for the NSW Indigenous team from there and they went to Queensland at the weekend and played the Queensland girls, then she texted me after that and said, ‘Dad, I got in,’’’ Davis told the Newcastle Herald last night.

‘‘I couldn’t believe it. She’s only 16 – 17 next April.

‘‘We’re over the moon, me and my family, because my son was killed in a car accident three years ago.

‘‘This weekend is the trials for the Indigenous under-16s, and three years ago he got chosen in that team, then three days later he was killed in a car accident.

‘‘It’s mixed emotions for us … We were over the moon that she was even considered for it.’’

Three of Nakia’s Mindaribba teammates, Candice Clay and sisters-in-law Rebecca and Emma Young, will join her as Newcastle’s four representatives in the 20-woman squad to play before the NRL v Indigenous All Stars game at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on February 9.

‘‘I still can’t believe it. It’s a privilege to be picked,’’ Nakia said.

Davis’s role as Central coach set Nakia on the path to All Stars selection.

Central’s captain is former Knights forward Michael Young, whose sister is Emma and wife is Rebecca.

‘‘Mick was getting a team together for Mindaribba for the Aboriginal knock-out carnival, and he asked me if I knew any girls who wanted a run,’’ Davis said.

‘‘I told him my daughter’s played touch before but she’s never played league before but … she’s been to Canberra playing AFL with the school team and was player of the tournament.

‘‘She plays netball … CHS touch football, now she’s in the Indigenous All Stars team.

‘‘It’s been a hard road for us … but Nakia is helping to fill those gaps.’’

GOOD NEWS: Paul Davis with daughter Nakia last night. Picture: Simone De Peak

ICAC: Coal farm tip-off

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THE Obeid family used ‘‘inside information’’ that coalmining would start in NSW’s Bylong Valley to snap up farms sitting on lucrative coal deposits, a corruption inquiry has heard.
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The Independent Commission Against Corruption is investigating former Labor minister Ian Macdonald’s decision in 2008 to open the Bylong Valley to coalmining and how it benefited another ex-minister, Eddie Obeid.

Mr Macdonald is accused of doing the bidding of Obeid family members, who allegedly hid their involvement through complex trust and company structures.

Confidential documents made by Chris Rumore, a lawyer for the Obeid family, were shown to the inquiry yesterday, revealing the Obeids knew about a government expressions of interest (EOI) process to open up coalmining in the Bylong Valley before the EOI was issued.

One of the documents referred to a meeting between Mr Rumore and Paul and Gerard Obeid, two sons of Eddie Obeid, on June 23, 2008.

The government EOI was issued on September 9, 2008.

‘‘The Obeids were telling you that an EOI would issue … and they knew that it would relate to obviously coal,’’ counsel assisting the inquiry Geoffrey Watson put to Mr Rumore.

‘‘Yes,’’ Mr Rumore replied.

The inquiry has previously heard only high-level officials inside the department of primary industries or the minister’s office should have had access to the ‘‘inside information’’.

The inquiry was told that in 2008 the Obeid family acquired two properties in the coal-rich Bylong Valley located close to another property, Cherrydale Park, that Eddie Obeid had acquired in September 2007.

Mr Rumore said the Obeids stood to gain financially from the purchases after the EOI was issued and mining leases were granted over the land.

‘‘I was always told that the Obeids expected that when the mining lease was granted that their property would increase three to four times its current value as a rural property,’’ Mr Rumore told the inquiry.

Mr Rumore said at the time he did not consider the EOI information was secret because it was openly discussed by the Obeids.

Earlier, John Cherry, a former accountant and farmer who sold Cherrydale Park to the Obeids, said Eddie Obeid wanted to change details on documents to hide his involvement.

Mr Cherry said Mr Obeid wanted to make the changes to create the appearance that ‘‘he was against coalmining in the Bylong Valley’’.

The inquiry will continue today.

TESTIMONY: Lawyer Chris Rumore, right, leaves after giving evidence.

State power up for grabs

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THE ‘‘for sale’’ signs will be officially slapped on the state’s electricity generators today with state cabinet signing off on the sale process.
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The sale, which includes the Hunter’s power stations and other electricity assets, could raise up to $3billion.

But debts of the generators would need to be settled from the gross proceeds.

The government is also facing a potential loss of $1.5billion on the Cobbora coalmine that it will also seek to sell or lease.

Treasurer Mike Baird said the sales would still proceed only if they were of net benefit to taxpayers.

Proceeds would be invested in state infrastructure.

The sale process would be carried out over 2014 and 2015, with legislation enabling the privatisation having passed state Parliament earlier this year.

The government would begin with Eraring Energy and Delta West.

The former Labor government sold the rights to trade their output under its ‘‘gentrader’’ contracts.

The government would now offer the generators themselves to the gentrader owners, TruEnergy and Origin Energy.

Macquarie Generation, which operates the Upper Hunter’s Bayswater and Liddell power stations, and then Delta Central Coastal, which runs Colongra and Vales Point power stations, would be offered through a competitive bidding process.

Coal- and gas-fired power station developments sites at Bayswater, Tomago and Munmorah would also be sold.

Macquarie Generation can generate about 29per cent of the state’s electricity and Delta Electricity about 28per cent.

The power stations are major employers in the region.

The government agreed earlier this year that permanent power station workers would be given a four-year job guarantee, as part of negotiations with Shooter and Fishers Party MPs.

Mr Baird said the sale would save the state about $1billion in ongoing operation and refurbishment costs, and a further $6billion that would otherwise be needed to meet future electricity demand.

Proceeds from the sale of the state’s electricity generators will be invested in infrastructure.

Knight visits teen who ‘died’ twice

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BOORAGUL teen Blake Tweedie, who has emerged from a coma after a horrific accident, had his spirits lifted with a visit from Knights star Jarrod Mullen.
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Mr Tweedie, 18, faces a long recovery, having become a paraplegic with brain damage after being hit from behind by a four-wheel-drive.

Mr Mullen visited Mr Tweedie in John Hunter Hospital recently, giving him a signed jersey and hat.

‘‘The club got the call after Blake’s accident because he is a mad fan and his family thought we could help lift his spirits,’’ Mr Mullen said.

‘‘We were more than happy to spend some time with Blake.

‘‘He is obviously doing it tough but he responded to us, which was great to see.’’

Mr Mullen hoped he brightened his day and ‘‘helped in some way’’.

‘‘I told him we would come back to check on him and I would take some of the other boys with me,’’ he said.

Mr Tweedie’s mother Melissa Tweedie, of Toronto, said she appreciated the Knights’ compassion.

The Newcastle Herald reported last month that a vehicle hit Mr Tweedie while he was walking home from Booragul railway station with two mates along the side of Toronto Road near St Paul’s High School, Booragul.

The impact threw him 20metres through the air.

After emerging from a coma, Mr Tweedie was moved from intensive care to the hospital’s high-dependency unit.

‘‘They’re not sure how much brain damage he has until he goes to Sydney in a fortnight for rehab,’’ Mrs Tweedie said.

Mrs Tweedie said her son had died twice, once on impact and a second time on the operating table.

It will be a long road ahead for Mr Tweedie, but he has improved and started to communicate.

Mrs Tweedie said her son would be in rehabilitation for about 12 months.

While he could not talk, and needed speech therapy, he was texting.

‘‘We took him his iPod to listen to music and the next minute we gave him his phone and he was texting,’’ she said.

THUMBS UP: Knights star Jarrod Mullen visits Blake Tweedie in Hospital after the teenager emerged from a coma. On October 5 the Newcastle Herald reported a vehicle hit Mr Tweedie.

EDITORIAL: Secrets that can injure

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THE main point to make about the debate now raging over the sanctity of Catholic Confession is that a great many of the allegations of church inaction in the face of evidence of criminal acts against children don’t relate to formal Confessions.
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Much of the outrage and unhappiness expressed by victims of abuse by clergy has been directed at those who appear to have become aware of crimes and alleged crimes in situations well removed from the Confession box.

So those demanding the truth about who knew what, when they found out and what they did, should not let themselves be too distracted by the argument about the inviolability of Confession. It is an important issue, but not the main one.

Still, the argument that priests who hear Confessions of child sexual abuse should keep that information secret is so transparently morally bankrupt that the merest moment’s reflection should reveal it as inimical to everything Jesus Christ preached or stood for.

It is one thing to say that, without confidentiality, transgressors may not confess their sins at all. And in many circumstances it would be reasonable to agree.

But when the crime confessed is the black, wicked sin of sexual abuse against children, no argument suffices to maintain secrecy.

Indeed, a mountain of evidence, an ocean of human misery and an uncounted number of suicides demonstrate beyond doubt that keeping these deep crimes concealed behind clerical robes and doctrinal smokescreens is utterly destructive to everybody involved.

It is sad that the worldwide Catholic church, a light and comfort to so many, seems at one level to regard public criticism of its unfortunate past record of child abuse as an attack on its role or status. The fact is that almost everybody – of any faith – would concede that the church is peopled in large part by fine and humane idealists.

Indeed, much of the impetus for the royal commission soon to begin has come from those who represent the Catholic church at its best.

The royal commission is not just about the Catholic church. But to the extent that it must and will concern the church, the inquiry represents a healing opportunity that the organisation’s hierarchy should not ignore.

Just as the many victims of child sexual abuse need justice and healing, so does the church.

Attempting to cloak in liturgical respectability the use of the traditional sanctity of Confession as a defence against revealing heinous crimes is a grave moral error that can only deepen the injuries the church has already suffered.

Makeover for Yellowglen in champagne fight

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TREASURY Wine Estates will introduce new packaging and branding for its sparkling wine house Yellowglen to arrest softening sales, as a proliferation of locally produced sparkling wines and heavily discounted imported champagne tempts drinkers away from the 40-year-old label.
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The renewed marketing push will be targeted at the important $10 to $15 price bracket and coupled with the release of a new premium range of Yellowglen wines that will sell for around $49 and attempt to match well-known champagne houses in terms of flavour and quality.

Michelle Terry, managing director of the Treasury Wine Estates division that overseas Yellowglen, said the changes to the well-known label’s look followed a year-long review of the brand.

”We looked at the commercial performance, where we were strong, where we were not strong, the market structure, trends and what was happening with the Australian dollar, movement of French competitors into the market and then also domestic competitors,” Ms Terry said on Tuesday.

The review found that Yellowglen, Australia’s No. 1 sparkling with a 25 per cent market share, was dominant in the $8 to $10 price range but had ceded territory and customers to its rivals when it came to $10-plus.

”We had seen some softening in our position in the market in the teens … so it’s important for us that, given that is a growing market, we re-establish our credibility in that part of the market as well as in a premium offering,” Ms Terry said.

The refresh would include packaging changes to be introduced between now and Christmas and a marketing campaign in the new year.

Yellowglen has improved its performance within the Treasury Wine Estates portfolio, with its core brands returning to growth in 2011-12 and up 3 per cent in Australia/New Zealand for the period. But the sparkling wine category in Australia has been overshadowed by the booming champagne market, fuelled by the high Australian dollar that makes the imported French bubbly highly price competitive.

A global oversupply of champagne has seen the close-knit French champagne houses look for markets to soak up excess supply, also forcing prices at the shelf down and closer to the traditional price points for sparkling wine.

According to industry data, champagne growth remains robust, up 10.5 per cent in value terms and 14.1 per cent in volume for the year to June.

Import competition, namely champagne, was a threat at higher price points for sparkling wine, Ms Terry said. ”Sometimes we see consumers trading up [to champagne] and that’s one of the reasons why we are firmly trying to establish Yellowglen as the premier house of sparkling from Australia in that territory as well.”

As part of an added premium offering, Yellowglen has launched a new label called ”XV” (Exceptional Vintage), which will have a limited supply and retail at $49-$59 a bottle. The XV range will use quality parcels of fruit from vineyards around Australia.

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Thinking about sex all the time becomes an honour

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World first … the 2012 NSW Scientist of the Year, John Aitken, who has patented a male contraceptive.THERE are few men who can claim to know the intricacies of sperm like John Aitken.
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The reproductive biologist has patented a world first: a chemical contraceptive that kills sperm as well as the bacteria that cause sexually transmitted infections.

”If we could combine fertility regulation with protection against sexually transmitted disease, that would be a wonderful benefit to the population,” Professor Aitken said.

The contraceptive is having safety trials and, for this research and more, Professor Aitken has been named the 2012 NSW Scientist of the Year.

The British-born biologist first became interested in the biology of sex after reading a book on elephant reproduction when he was a university student. He completed a PhD under the tutelage of the book’s author, the reproductive biologist Professor Roger Short.

After a stint at the World Health Organisation in Geneva he realised ”the most important single thing to deal with on the surface of this planet is the unsustainable rate of population growth”.

”[It was then] I became very interested in developing improved forms of contraception.”

The University of Newcastle laureate professor also set himself the difficult task of developing the world’s first biological male contraceptive. ”When you designing contraceptives for women, you’re trying to stop the ovulation of one egg a month. Men produce 1000 spermatazoa a second,” he said.

To top it off, Professor Aitken also studies the reproductive workings of domestic animals and has developed a non-surgical technique to sterilise cats and dogs, as well as produced a medium to improve the shelf life of the semen of horses and cattle.

But before he invented methods to prevent pregnancy, his research laboratory at the University of Edinburgh in the mid 1980s tackled the reverse issue: why about one in every 20 males were infertile.

Professor Aitken and his team found that too many free radicals in the body, a process known as oxidative stress, left sperm unable to fertilise an egg.

Since then, small studies suggest the problem can be remedied with antioxidants, found in fruit and vegetables, a treatment that may have enabled thousands of men to become fathers.

”Our understanding of male reproduction is probably 20 years behind our understanding of female reproduction,” he said.

Professor Aitken hopes his award, one of eight NSW Science and Engineering Awards announced on Wednesday night, will highlight the contribution his research team has made in reproductive science.

He said his objective is to ”give people the choice to have exactly the number of children they want”.

The NSW Deputy Premier, Andrew Stoner, said Professor Aitken’s research also improved the efficiency of NSW’s world-leading horse breeding industry, worth more than $4.2 billion each year.

Other awards went to Matthew England and Angela Moles, from the University of NSW, and Peter Robinson from the University of Sydney.

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The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part Two

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Sensual and smouldering … Bella and Edward’s romance steals the show in the final Twilight film.Directed by Bill Condon
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Written by Melissa Rosenberg, based on the novel by Stephenie Meyer

115 mins, Rated M

Cinemas everywhere

After five movies, the series that brought abstinence back into vogue for teenagers concludes with a rebirth, a fair bit of tasteful sex within marriage, and a long and dramatic fight with the forces of darkness. Admittedly, the two people getting it on are dead, or undead, but that doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy their newfound freedom. Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) may have died at the end of Breaking Dawn Part 1, but her topaz eyes open as the first shot of the final film, revived by a vampire’s love. Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) looks on with the gaze of a vampire who’s been waiting a long time for love. In vampire movies, if not in the lives of actors, romance can be permanent and perfect, and consummated in front of a log fire.

The final film satisfies on many levels. It is looser and funnier than its predecessors, less driven by boring action and fighting than the middle films and more confidently realised than its immediate predecessor. Bill Condon has relaxed into the story and characters, or perhaps he has earned the right to make it his way – albeit under the watchful eye of Stephenie Meyer,  writer of the books, who has a prominent credit as producer.

The series was always about the eyes, rather than the fangs. There has rarely been a prettier group of actors assembled on a movie screen. The film’s sensual close-ups were a part of the meaning. The sensuality, the restrained smoulder, was newish in teen movies when the first film appeared four years ago. The series got tired along the way, veering into action and bad dog effects as the wolf pack Native Americans fought the middle-class vampires. The final film restores order and balance, with a firm grasp of what made the series exceptional in the first place: the belief, the insistence, that teenage love could be as dramatic, life-threatening and complicated as any other love story. It was not trivial, even if it was between vampires. That seriousness is the real achievement of the series.

Read Paul Byrnes’s full review on Friday

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GREG RAY: Freeway to frustration

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SWANSEA MP Garry Edwards has suggested that slow drivers who hog the right-hand lane on the F3 freeway ought to be booked.
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He’s got a fair point, but the slow-coaches shouldn’t be the only F3 transgressors to feel the brunt of the law.

I’ve been up and down the freeway a few times lately, and it’s only served to remind me how much I hate that road. It brings out the worst in many drivers.

Certain roads seem to make the drivers who use them behave in particular ways.

You get the Darby Street crawl. Even before they made it a 40km/h zone, Darby Street was a pain for super-slow progress. Pedestrians darting about (some of them drunk, on weekend nights) and drivers looking in vain for parking spaces.

And the Maitland Road slalom, as drivers weave around those turning either left or right.

There’s the Glebe Road “box-em-in” game, where you have to weigh up the benefits of trying to be nice to people trying to turn left at the lights, against the knowledge that many drivers in the left lane will – if they can – box you in behind people turning right.

To be considerate, you should stick to the right-hand lane at the City Road lights, eastbound, unless turning left, because if you are going straight ahead you will prevent left-hand turners from getting the advantage of the green arrow.

But if you do that, it’s a race to move left on the other side of the lights before the box-em-in champs race up the inside and trap you.

There’s the King Street pain-in-the-neck, stop-and-start run, late afternoons and early evenings where they have the lights rigged to make you stop at every single last one, from Darby Street to Beaumont Street.

And the 5pm Hunter Street West total clog, that really started to get serious after they closed Hannell Street and forced everybody onto Stewart Avenue.

The Carnley Avenue lottery, where those who know the police often put radar traps near the top of the hill fight with their accelerators to stay on 70km/h.

Meanwhile, those who still think it’s an 80 zone or who are willing to take a risk go blurting past at full tilt. It sometimes takes them a while to realise the bloke standing on the road in the fluoro vest is a highway patrol officer. Bad feeling.

But the F3 is the worst. It’s like a video game where the main aim is to get to the end in one piece, but it’s got a whole heap of games within games that people play for extra points or to relieve their boredom.

“Box-em-in” is really popular, and it’s a reason so many people hog the right.

Because no matter how long the turkey behind you has been sitting happily at four car lengths, as soon as a slow vehicle looms ahead, he has to pass you, at just the right speed to box you in and make you brake so that you will be stuck while 25 cars dawdle by.

“Outta my way” is another great F3 game. Every time you pull out to overtake, a turkey (usually with bright driving lights) appears out of nowhere and rides your bumper, letting you know that you are slowing them down.

Meanwhile, the turkey you were overtaking because they were driving at 95km/h, has now sped up to 115km/h, daring you to risk a ticket.

I reckon the answer to most of the nonsense is to put those point-to-point cameras on the freeway – the ones that film you at various stages of your journey.

If you get to the end of the road too quickly that means you were speeding, so you get a ticket in the mail.

And while they’re at it, they could film the slow-coaches in the right-hand lane and send them a letter too.

In the meantime, I’ve started rediscovering the joys of the old Pacific Highway from Brooklyn south which, with all its twists and turns, can be a less stressful alternative than the mad racetrack of the F3.