CSIRO has confirmed that WA is Australia’s great white shark hot spot Photo: ShutterstockA study suggests there may be twice the number of adult great white sharks off WA’s coast.
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Preliminary results from the CSIRO have found white shark numbers in WA are not increasing but are steady and remain somewhere between 750 to 2,250, with a 90 per centmake these bold statements that tougher measures need to be taken, without outlining the details of any plan and how it would make people any safer.”

Opposition tourism spokesperson and Liberal member for Vasse Libby Mettam has slammed the McGowan Government’s approach to the issue.

“The complete absence of a strategy to manage shark numbers means we can expect them to grow exponentially,” Ms Mettam said.

“This debate has to be taken from the ‘sharks over people brigade’ that is currently holding the McGowan Government hostage and given its rightful priority as a serious public safety issue.”

Mr Kelly said Ms Mettam’s comments were “ridiculous”.

Ms Mettam said the subsidy program was a tokenistic approach to shark attacks and suggested that concerns about shark safety could take a bite out of the tourism industry.

“As the Margaret River region opens its doors to a swelling population of tourists, the Fisheries Minister should refrain from patting himself on the back and look at what more he can do to address the public safety of the hundreds of thousands of people taking to beaches around the state this summer,” she said.

Ms Mettam said it was the previous Liberal Government that had invested in science to better understand shark populations, while the current government had provided only a limited subsidy which only benefited scuba divers.

“I remain convinced that providing $200 towards a $750 commercial product for 2,000 scuba divers is not an appropriate government response to what is a major public safety issue,” she said.

WA Tourism Minister Paul Papalia said Ms Mettam’s concern for WA’s tourism had no basis.

“The amount of sharks has had no impact on tourism in WA,” he said.

“What has had an impact on tourism is the appalling tourism strategy that was implemented by the last government.

“If she focused on things that actually have an impact on tourism she actually might be conceding their failure and supporting the government responding much more appropriately and aggressively towards improving tourism in WA.”


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UNCERTAIN: Maitland Pickers president Frank Lawler at Maitland No.1 Sportsground. Picture: Maitland Mercury
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PICKERS president Frank Lawler fears the Newcastle Rugby League club could be $50,000 out of pocket underproposed fee and canteen policies at the redeveloped Maitland No.1 Sportsground.

The Pickers’ traditionalhome has undergone an $8.6 million facelift, including the construction of a 1100-seat grandstand, and the club is set to return there next season after playing out of Coronation Oval this year.

However, Lawler said the clubfaced a rise from about$5000 to $18,000 in costs under Maitland City Council’s draft fees and charges restructure, which was available for public comment until December 4.

Of greater concern was the plan to put exclusive catering rights for the ground out to tender.In the past, the Pickers, like most Hunter sportingclubs, have been able to operate their canteen and bar on game days with minimal cost or restriction.

“For us, the canteen is a big one,” Lawler said.“We probably take $8000 through the bar and canteen at a home game. About 50 per cent of that is profit and you would be looking to make at least $30,000 out of the canteen and bar over a year.

“Kurri survive on their Old Boys and their bar takings. Cessnock have total control over their canteen and I think all the other [Newcastle RL] clubs are same.

“We need to do something to have use of the canteen because without that, together with the increase in fees, we could be $50,000 out of pocket.”

The Pickers have long been main tenants of Maitland Sportsground, which council hopes to make a multi-use venue in a sporting precinct taking in redevelopedadjacent athletics fields.

Lawler said there were manysubmissions to council criticisingthe fee hikeand asking“how was a club like Maitland, as a main user, going to be able to afford to do it?”

He said the club was discussing a potential tender for catering rights“but that’s an additional cost and if we lose the tender, we lose potentially a lot of income”.

“It’s just another battle we face up here in Maitland,” he said.“We always seem to face something, but nothing has been confirmed yet and we are talking to council about it.”

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American actress Heather Menzies-Urich, who played one of the von Trapp children in the iconic 1965 film The Sound of Music, has died; Menzies-Urich was 68-years-old.
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Menzies’ son Ryan Urich told US media his mother had been diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme about a month ago.

Glioblastoma is one of the most aggressive brain cancers; Urich said his mother’s health had declined rapidly in the wake of the diagnosis.

Urich, Menzies-Urich’s son by the actor Robert Urich, said his mother died surrounded by family at home in Canada.

“She was an actress, a ballerina and loved living her life to the fullest,” Urich said.

“She was not in any pain but, nearly four weeks after her diagnosis of terminal brain cancer, she had enough and took her last breath on this earth at 7.22pm.”

Though Menzies-Urich had a diverse acting career, the role with which she remained associated her entire life was that of Louisa von Trapp, the 13-year-old daughter of Captain Georg??? von Trapp (Christopher Plummer) in the film adaptation of The Sound of Music.

In the film’s iconic scene where aspiring nun Maria (Julie Andrews) is introduced to her seven charges, Menzies-Urich’s Louisa is remembered for attempting to impersonate her younger sibling, Brigitta.

The character of Louisa was based on the real-life Maria Franziska von Trapp, the second eldest daughter of the real-life Georg von Trapp; Maria Franziska died in 2014, aged 99.

The Sound of Music, in which Menzies-Urich appeared, was based on the true account of the family’s life in Austria and their flight in the face of German occupation to the United States of America.

Menzies-Urich won the role in The Sound of Music at the age of 14 not long after her family moved from Toronto in Canada to Los Angeles, to help her pursue a career in acting.

Though she worked after The Sound of Music, Menzies-Urich never equalled that film in terms of cultural impact or enduring memory.

Her later credits include the genre horror films Sssssss (1973) and Piranha (1978) and, on television, series such as Marcus Welby, M.D., Bonanza, Love, American Style and The Bob Newhart Show.

In the mid-1970s, while filming a television commercial, Menzies met actor Robert Urich; the pair later married and they had three children, Ryan, Allison and Emily.

After Urich’s death in 2002 from synovial sarcoma, a rare form of cancer, Menzies-Urich created the Robert Urich Foundation and devoted much of her time to raising money for it.

“After my husband lost his battle on April 16th, 2002, I vowed that I would make it my life’s mission to continue to fight for his dream and vision: a world where the word cancer is simply a memory of war we have won,” she said.

Menzies-Urich’s later television credits included the short-lived TV reboot of the science fiction hit film Logan’s Run.

Menzies-Urich’s on-screen sister, Kym Karath, who played Gretl, said she was “filled with infinite sadness” upon learning of Menzies’ death.

“My precious friend and [Sound of Music] sister Heather Menzies passed away this evening,” she said. “[I am] devastated.”

Ted Chapin???, the president of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organisation, which owns the rights to The Sound of Music, said “we are all lucky to have known her, and she will happily live on in that beautiful movie. We will miss her.”

Dan Truhitte???, who played the Nazi-sympathising Rolf in The Sound of Music, said it was “such a great sorrow to lose Heather Menzies Urich.

“She was a joy during filming, such a warm smile, and such a talent and I know she is now with her husband, Robert Urich. Aufwiedersehn for now, Heather,” he said.

Menzies-Urich’s on-screen elder sister, actress Charmian Carr, who played the eldest daughter Liesl, died in 2016.

Menzies-Urich is survived by three children and eight grandchildren.

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WORTH 1000 WORDS: Each day we will publish a finalist in the Herald short storycompetition. The winner will be announced on January 27. Picture: Jonathan Carroll“WE should head home.”
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Petey nudged me with his shoe. Sunlight failed to breach theclouds most days, so it was really more like the shadow of his shoe. To look at it, it was withoutsubstance – a lot like Petey.

I glanced up. The sky was leaden: dark, pregnant with thunder andpossibly rain. That wasn’t necessarily a good thing. It could go months without a drop or anentire year’s worth might hammer the parched earth in just a few hours. I heard rumbling in thedistance but it didn’t have the rich timbre of thunder.

“Jimbo’s working on his tunnel again.”Jimbo spent a lot of time playing with the excavator he’d tinkered into life. I watched itonce. Great metal teeth gnawed at the growing maw, spewing dirt and heat as if Jimbo wereboring a hole straight into hell. He said it would protect him from ghost-lights and data-loops.

The racket was as bad as the thick black cloud that puffed from the excavator’s exhaust. Thunk. Shoosh. Thunk. Whomp.

Right now I could just make out the thumps. Petey stood and gazed out to sea. I wassprawled on the brittle grass but I knew he was staring at the lights twinkling way out from theshore. Ghost-lights. They were all that remained of ships that would never sail through theheads into port: afterimages of vessels blinked out of existence back when the glitch hadvanished everything electronic from the world. Gran said her “fone” and “telly” and “conpooter”and some “world-wide tentacles” thing hadn’t stopped or died, but had simplydisappeared as if they never existed.Sometimes I wished Petey would disappear as if he never existed.

“Sandman’ll be around soon to flick the wicks.”Petey’s shadow turned and kicked myshoe again. “Don’t wanna end up like Bob.”A shiver that had nothing to do with the weather raced up my spine and made my headshimmy like a wet dog. Bob had been caught out after the Sandman came to spark thestreetlights into tiny golden flames before the full-dark. The skeletons of the old lights stillarched their skinny necks high above the potholed streets but the ghosts living in them hadforgotten how to shine. We found Bob clinging to one of the ghost-light poles after the full-darkhad turned to half-dark. His eyes were silvery orbs and he didn’t hear us calling his name. Hewas climbing to nowhere and shouting about things written on some wall in a book of faces.We knew he’d been caught in a data-loop but nobody could say if or when he might get flungback out again.

Loops were like memories from the never-more before the glitch remade everything. Theywinked into existence without warning, trapping those caught out after full-dark inside theirown thoughts and beyond our reach. Bob was wasting away while his mind was held captive ina phantom world that ceased to exist when Gran was younger than I was now.

We only knew of one person that had escaped a never-more loop: Mollie Havershell. Shewas lost for more than a year when the loop suddenly spat her out and she woke updemanding breakfast and something called a pea-hess-for. Nobody knew what she wasprattling about but the human resources agency had informed her family that she was nolonger required to hand in her card to be ticked. She was what we call “loopy” now: prone todisappearing into her own mind at times, although she always comes back soon enough andraving about strange things that make no sense to us.Bob had only been gone a few months. There was still hope for him. But, even if the loopspat him, he’d never be wholly Bob again.

“Sandman!”Petey’s shadow grabbed my hand and yanked me to my feet. He hauled mealong the edge of the street where the gutter was supposed to channel the absent rain intodrains meant to dump it into the sea. It was the only part left without gaps and holes.

I glanced behind to see the little yellow light of the Sandman’s lantern bobbing down thehill towards us. The man, himself, was nice enough. It was what his job represented that mademy skin crawl with fire ants. Full-dark. Little flashes of sparks burst behind the clouds in thewest while the brooding clouds in the east simply disappeared into pitch. The data-loopsroamed the pitch: ice pale lights that winked on and off, randomly appearing and disappearingalong a haphazard path. Inside the light, like Gran’s no-globe back home, you could see theafterimage of a world that no longer existed, like a negative imprint of the shadows and blightthat afflicted us.

Petey squealed and dropped my hand. He just vanished. I hadn’t meant it about himdisappearing. Honestly. I looked for him but he was relegated to shadow in a fast-fadinglandscape. The Sandman’s bobbing light swooped – not that the wan glow revealed much.

Ghost-light stole Petey’s shadow as a data-loop opened between us, and the Sandman’s lanternexploded into bright fog. Spidery veins of shimmering mercury webbed the fog and trapped thelight, dancing with iridescent sparks. I vaguely heard shouting but everything outside the loopwas darker than pitch.

Images scrolled across my vision in colours I never knew existed: millions of technocolours.Sunlight bedazzled a golden beach and there was a pale pearl on a nest of black, dottedwith glittering specks that shimmered. Water cascaded from the lip of ridge into a swirling poolthat defied description. Birds squawked and swooped in a clear sky. I poked at an image andwas sucked into a place of green fields and soft music, where I rode a purple dragon through aswarm of flutter-wings in search of treasure-diamonds in a pea-hess-for.

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HUNGRY: Riley McGree has returned from Belgium and hopes to get regular game time for the Newcastle Jets. Picture: AAP ImagesRILEY McGree’s decision to join the Newcastle Jets on loan from Belgium powerhouse ClubBrugge was not made lightly.
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But the ambitious midfielder is certainly not returning to the A-League with his tail between his legs.

The 19-year-old touches down in Newcastle on Wednesday after spending Christmas with family in Adelaide. He will undergo a medical and meet with Jets coaching and playing staff in the start of what he hopes is a productive five months.

“I learnt a lot in my first six months in Europe, butI knew it was probably better to come back and play regular football,” McGree said.

“At my age, I need to be playing consistently week-in, week-out at the top level. I don’t worry what other people think,I just concentrate on working hard, playing well and improving.

“They (Club Brugge) will be keep a close eye on me, watchgame footage and getconstant updates on training loads and game loads.”

Read more: Riley McGree stunned by Socceroos call-up

McGree’s home-town club Adelaide, where he burst on to the scene in 2016-17, and Scottish giants Celtic were also interested in acquiring the attacking midfielder.

“I thought the A-League was my best option,” he said. “I was familiar with itand keen to come back and prove myself.The Jetsshowed they were really keen.

“They got in contact with me and were really friendly. Straight off the bat I spoke to the CEO Lawrie and the gaffer as well. The playing group is good, they are up their competing and getting good results.

“Throughout the whole process they were calling me and hada plan for me.”

Read more: Give kids a go, says Postecoglou

McGree will spend the rest of the A-League campaign in Newcastle and then return to Belgium.

“I like to focus more on the here and now than what could happen in the future,” he said. “I want to come back, do the best I can, hopefully get the team to the finals and take it out.

“I have heard good things about Newcastle and understand it is a really nice place.”

At Club Brugge McGree trained full-time with the first team squad and played for the reserves onMondays.

“I played as an eight or No.10,” he said. “I did OKbut there is always room for improvement. As I got used to it, I started to get more comfortable.

“Europe is much different than the A-League. It is a bit fasterand the quality is better. It was tough at time. You obviously miss your family and friends. It was a learning experience and I have taken a lot from it.I have definitely improved as a player and mentally.”

Read more: Jets fans and players go wild after 4-nil thumping of Wanderers

McGree will spend a couple of days with his new teammates before jetting out with the Australian under-23s to contest the Asian Cup in China, which runs until late January.

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THE Samaritans Christmas Day lunch in Singleton has been the centre of many people’s Christmas Day for more than a decade, but this year it was not held because there was not one person who was willing to be the supervisor.
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ON THE SHELF: Singleton’s Gary Holland said he took his spot as greeting elf at Singleton’s Samaritans lunch on Christmas despite the event not proceeding this year.

This once-a-year lunch has previously attracted more than 100 people from all sections of our society, and all walks of life.

The work of the volunteers was exceptional and made the day happen in the past. They ensured the guests were comfortable and fully catered for.

I went to the venue at the time folk would be arriving. There was not a notice on the door and people did turn up. Some did not realisethe lunch was not on. Others had heard, but were not sure. I had to turn them all away. One gentleman told me the Christmas lunch was the only time someone else made a meal for him. He ate at a table with others and people talked to him. This made him feel very special and he waited one year to the next.

I was very shocked and amazed when the Samaritans staff member informed me that no one, not one person, had applied to undertake this task. She also said that their staff in Singleton and Newcastle were unable to organise the event as they were busy with their clients.

It was only with the amazing support of many sponsors thatthe function became possible,and I do hope we can look to them again in the future.

As the greeting elf, I havemycostume ready. The lunch must return bigger and better than ever, which would be fantastic but offers little compensation to thosewho did not have a Christmas lunch in 2017.

Gary Holland, SingletonNOBBYS LOOKS BETTERON A scorching Christmas Eve, I took my pup to Horseshoe Beach and checked out the recent upgrades to Nobbys Pavilion. I have to say that I was impressed.

The new parking layout, made possible by the Supercars event, works exceptionally well. Horseshoe Beach was clean, and lots of dogs and their owners were enjoying the opportunity to escape the heat.

Walking back towards Nobbys, the new toilets and introduction of a higher frequency cleaning schedule have improved the amenity of the facilities. Extra wide stalls provide private change rooms while the nearby Newcastle Baths continue to offer full changing sheds and indoor showers.

With heritage constraints, child safety concerns and hygiene improvements needed, council staff have done well to design renovations which meet the needs of the vast majority of beach users.

The new bar and function space as part of the surf club also proved popular and will no doubt become a favourite place to enjoy our fantastic beach and harbour entrance.

Declan Clausen, deputy lord mayorAN UNWELCOME CHANGEIT is regrettable that Newcastle Council has not seen fit to provide the community with change rooms at Nobbys Beach.The upgrade of the facilities, including extra toilets is welcome.However, the loss of the change rooms is a tragedy.

In an era where we are fighting obesity in the community, every effort to make exercise accessible is to be lauded.Every summer I have swum at Nobbys Beach before work, showering and changing in the provided facilities. The facilities were well utilised by parents with children, school children swimming after school, andother adults such as myselfswimming before and after work.

The shower facilities and change room are missed,and I can no longer swim at Nobbys Beach. It is not acceptable to change in a smelly toilet cubicle. I must swim now at Dixon Park where there are facilities to shower and change in private. HoweverI note, with dismay, the recently announced planned upgrade to facilities at Dixon Park.

Please return the change rooms to Nobbys Beach.Please do not remove the change rooms at Dixon Park Beach.

Jacqueline Davison, Birmingham GardensWE’RE NEVER OUTGUNNEDI CAN understand Ray Dinneen’s thoughts (Letters 26/12) but I believe we need to give Newcastle more credit for what it offers cruise ship visitors.

As one of many volunteers at Fort Scratchley, we get to talk to a wide range of visitors. Around 400 passengers off the Pacific Jewel visited the fort earlier this month and were impressed by what both the fort and Newcastle in general had to offer.

The most recurrent comment was that they did not realise how lovely the area was, and many believed they would return for a more detailed visit.

The sight of many hundreds of passengers lining the decks and cheering as the fort’s gun fired a farewell salute cannot be experienced anywhere else in Australia, and possibly in the world.

Frank Carter, Fort Scratchley HistoricalSociety presidentHE’S GOOD, BUT NO DONANY comparison between Steve Smith or any batsman of the modern era to Don Bradman can be quickly dispatched to the boundary.Todaywe have drop-in pitches,massive bats, shorter boundaries, extra protective equipment and a team of doctors, physios, mind gurus and enough support crew to win World War III, never minda game of cricket on placid wickets.

If you are a cricket fan, do yourself a favour and visit the Bradman Museum at the Adelaide Oval. Then you may be able to appreciate what Bradman achieved both on and off the field. He and Jack Brabham are the two greatest sportsman that we have had, in my opinion.

Steve Barnett, Fingal BayTIME TO ACT ON RED ZONEWELL it has finally happened (“Going under”, Herald 22/12). Anita Bugges is the first home owner in the red zone at Williamtown to lose her home after years of working hard for herself, her daughter and her grandson. She is now forced to rent and has a huge mortgage.As Ms Bugges says, she is the first but she won’t be the last. This is a disgrace. The Williamtown base knew for some years about the contamination, and it seems every MP and council member has visited the site. Still, nothing is being done.

Meanwhile, people are becoming sick and dying of various cancers. What do people have to do to get theattention of authorities and resolve this problem before it’s too late? These properties and unsaleable, unrentable and unliveable.

Robyn Thomas, Rankin ParkRead More →

CHOPPER BLOCK: The Belmont-based Westpac rescue helicopter could not fly to several emergencies this year because of a unique arrangement with John Hunter Hospital around who accompanies patients during a transfer.THE Hunter Westpac rescue helicopter has been unable to respond to emergencies in its own backyard because of a hospital policy that a union fears is putting lives on the line.
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TheNewcastle Heraldcan reveal on Christmas Eve the Hunter service could not help a surfer who nearly drowned on a beach near Forster,despite being just five minutes from the scene in an empty helicopter.

It took paramedics 45 minutes to get to the remote location by four-wheel drive, but only after a back-up Sydney-based rescue helicopter struck birds and needed to abort.

It is not the first time the multimillion-dollar service has been unable to help despite being minutes away.

The Health Services Union revealed calls for the Belmont-based rescue chopper to assist in two emergencies on Lake Macquarie this year went unanswered as the helicopter was staffed with the wrong crew and fitted with the wrong equipment.

It stems back to a long-standing John Hunter Hospital policy that requires the hospital to keep its own medical team on the chopper for patient transfers between hospitals, leading to a dispute with paramedics.

The disagreement has now reached boiling point, with the HSU urging Hunter MPs to pressure the hospital into backing down.

The union wants the Hunter rescue service to be brought into line with the rest of the state to allow specialised paramedics to perform the patient transfers, known as secondary missions.

Currently, only critical care nurses are allowed to perform patient transfers on the Hunter rescue chopper.Theyare untrained for emergencies, known asprimary missions, which aero-paramedics respond to.

Hospital defends 30-year protocolParamedics had expected Hunter New England Health would change its policy after the Aeromedical Reform Plan was announced in 2013, but nothing eventuated.

The hospital maintains that critical care nurses, with a doctor,are the best medical team to transfer unwell patients in the Hunter.

But the union arguesthepolicy is “putting lives at risk” as it was leaving thechopper unequipped in times of emergency.

Read more: Westpac Rescue Helicopter unveils new base fleet in 2017

Defending the chopper protocol, John Hunter’scritical care servicesmanager Julie Taitsaid nurses were “best-equipped” to manage critically unwell patients in the Hunter, which had “unique” medical demands.

“In our intensive care, with the greatest respect, we don’t put paramedics to work,” Ms Tait said.

“We put our nursing staff who are trained that way.The paramedics are extremely skilled in what they do, but so too are the nurses in their intensive care setting.

“It’s about making sure the right level of nursing skill is there to cater for the patient.”

Ms Taitsaid the Hunter rescue chopper had operated under the same model for more than 30 years.

TO THE RESCUE: The Bankstown-based Toll rescue helicopter winches a man to safety from a capsized boat at Swansea after Westpac rescue couldn’t help.

“In many ways, these are the most unstable patients we have …from our perspective, it’s really an opportunity to make sure the appropriately trained nurses and doctors continue to do the work they’ve been doing,” she said.

Ms Tait added that Sydney-based rescue services were capable of helping.

“Sydney manage it quite well and they will facilitate what we need,” she said.

Survival down to ‘good luck’However, HSU secretary Gerard Hayes said every rescue helicopter in the state –except the Hunter’s –could be diverted mid-mission.

In March, the Bankstown-based Toll helicopter was dispatched to Swansea Heads to winch a man to safety from a capsized boat,despite the Westpac chopper being minutes away at the hospital.

The chopper would have needed to fly back to its Belmont base to swap crew and equipment. A refit can take up to half an hour.

“On this occasion, the victim survived but this was more due to good luck,” Mr Hayes told Hunter MPs, in a letter obtained by theHerald.

The situation repeated on October 7 when a woman was swept out to sea at Boat Harbour. The Westpac chopper was again on a patient transfer.

WARNING: Health Services Union secretary Gerard Hayes puts the survival of some patients down to ‘good luck’.

Mr Hayes said the Hunter retrieval service “denied” the communitytimely care.

“On these secondary helicopter missions, the Westpac rescue helicopter flew without a patient 159 times, yet could not take a critical care doctor to the scene of acar accident, a farming incident or rescue a person drowning,” he said.

“The only system of its kind, the Hunter Retrieval system denies the community access to timely critical care and rescue services, a service that the rest of the state expects.”

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The Tyrrell’s team: Managing director Bruce Tyrrell, chief winemaker Andrew Spinaze and viticulturist Andrew Pengilly Picture: Hannah Rose RobinsonDURING2017 I received about 2000 wines for review and so selecting a year’s Top 10 involves agonisingly difficult choices. My Hunter palate led me to wines from this regionas tops in semillon, shiraz and chardonnay.
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WINE OF THE YEARWine of the year and chardonnay of the year is theTyrrell’s2013 Vat 47 chardonnay, a white of superb balance and elements of nectarine, fig, lemon zest and flint, which sells for $70.It was recently judged one of best wines and the top Hunter in the James Halliday Chardonnay Challenge.

BEST SEMILLONSemillon of the year is theMcWilliam’sMount Pleasant2009 Lovedale semillon, selling for$90. It unfolds an array of grapefruit, lemon zest, flint and toast and honey flavours.

BEST SHIRAZShiraz of the year is theMeerea Park 2007 Alexander Munro shiraz.FromIvanhoe vineyardgrapes, it’s got great balance and intensity.

BEST CABERNET SAUVIGNONMargaret River’sMoss Wood 2014 cabernet sauvignongets the gong as cabernet sauvignon of the year. Selling for $128, it has sumptuous blackcurrant flavour with underlays of mulberry, Turkish delight, chocolate and mint.

BEST SAUVIGNON BLANCThe $27-a-bottleShaw and Smith 2017 Adelaide Hills sauvignon blancis my best of this hugely popular variety. It has zingy gooseberry front-palate flavour, with elements of kiwifruit, green apple and gunmetal.

BEST PINOT NOIRMy best pinot noir is also from the Adelaide Hills winery of cousins Martin Shaw and Michael Hill Smith. The$46Shaw and Smith 2015 pinot noirhas vibrant cherry front-palate flavour and a complex backup of pomegranate, spice and spearmint.

BEST SPARKLINGYou can pay a motza for bubbly, but on quality and affordability my choice is the TasmanianKreglinger 2007 vintage brut.For $38 at Dan Murphy’s, it has tiny, persistent bubbles, oatmeal scents and deliciously crisp strawberry, citrus, mineral and macadamia characters.

BEST RIESLINGFrom former Hunter winemaker Samantha Connew, the$35Stargazer 2017 Tasmania rieslingis my top riesling. It has fresh, crisp ruby grapefruit front-palate flavour, backed by preserved lemon, nashi pear, flint and mineral acid.

BEST ROSETop rosé is the$20HilltopsFreeman 2017 Rondo rosé,madeItalian-origin rondinella varietybyex-Sturt University wine science professorBrian Freeman. It melds strawberry, peaches and cream, apple and mineral characters.

TOP VALUE OF THE YEARMy top-value wine isthe$25De Iuliis 2016 shiraz made by Michael De Iuliis. At the 2017 Hunter Wine Show it won the best young shiraz trophy and has an array of palate-pleasing blackcurrant, Morello cherry, spice and spearmint.

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Mistakes are inevitable in football and Melbourne City captain Michael Jakobsen acknowledges they will always happen.
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What angers him is avoidable blunders; stupid mistakes borne from a lack of concentration or thoughtlessness.

And while he is happy to spend the festive season with Danish family friends who are visiting Australia, the memory of City’s past two matches – defeats to Sydney FC and in the Christmas derby to Melbourne Victory – meant it was not as merry a Christmas as it might have been.

Jakobsen includes himself in the criticism for those losses, with goals that all came from set pieces (one free kick and two penalties), saying that City players have to maintain focus for 90 minutes if they want to avoid making errors that have such a costly effect.

“We need to concentrate more, get back to basics and eliminate the silly errors otherwise we can forget about finishing high up the table,” he said.

City performed well against the Sydney in NSW, having taken a first-half lead only to be undone by two goals just before the interval, one from a free kick, the other from a penalty.

They lost to Victory in similar fashion, going down to a last-gasp spot kick converted by Mark Milligan after goalkeeper Dean Bouzanis upended the Socceroo midfielder. That the free kick – conceded in a dangerous position in the fourth minute of extra time – was given away by City annoyed Jakobsen.

“Mistakes are going to happen. It’s football. But these were silly mistakes. We spoke before the Sydney game and the Victory game about not giving away free kicks around the box and in the penalty area.”

Despite the recent losses, Jakobsen is pleased with the first half of the season under new coach Warren Joyce.

City are third on the ladder – albeit a respectable distance behind leaders Sydney and second-placed Newcastle – and despite the derby defeat remain in front of Victory.

“We are in a pretty good position,” Jakobsen said. “We know what we can do when we get things right. But we need to be more consistent if we are to progress.

“The Sydney game irritated me. It was a tight match and we set a good standard against the champion team and exposed some weaknesses, but then we made those avoidable mistakes.

“Against Victory we started too slowly. All credit to Victory for the way they came out and pressed us from the first whistle. They are hard to shut down when they play at a high pressure like that from the start and they were better in the first half.

“But we changed our game plan in the second and I think we created many chances and neither side would have been upset had that game ended in a draw.”

Western Sydney Wanderers loom as City’s next opponents, and the Josep Gombau-coached side are shaping as the A-League’s crisis team, having suffered heavy losses to Sydney and Newcastle in recent games as the players struggle to adapt to the new style their Spanish coach is seeking to impose.

“We need to get back to doing what we did at the start of the season (when City won their first four games) and we need to take three points in this game<” Jakobsen said.

“Wanderers are having a difficult run so it could all depend on the start. If we can get at them early and get an early lead then their heads might drop a bit . But if they get off to a good start we have to be careful, as they have quality players that can hurt you.”

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Pearce backs himself to lead Knights’ revival FOCUSED: Mitchell Pearce takes the ball to the line at Knights training. The NSW Origin halfback has settled into his new surroundings in Newcastle. Picture: Jonathan Carroll
Nanjing Night Net

TweetFacebookSYDNEY ROOSTERSPearce is proud of the way he and his old club parted ways.

“It all happened pretty quick and obviouslyI didn’t expect it, but the next thing, I’m here in Newcastle.”

Read more: Pearce reveals why he chose the Knights

“I was told what was happening with Cooper [Cronk]. Iwas going overseas and Robbo [Trent Robinson] and Nick [Politis] said that if I didn’t think I could buy in, let’s work it out.

“It just didn’t sit right for me to potentially be playing a utility role. I felt like I had more to offer and, while it was emotional, I knew I had to move on.I felt like I dealt with it really honestly and we dealt with it in a good way.Sometimes you see situations like this get a bit nasty but it was a really smooth transition and a mutual respect for each other.”

THE OPTIONSPearce has always relied heavily on his instincts, and while he went onto the market with an“open mind”the decision in the end wasn’t difficult.

“Cronulla was really attractive, Manly was attractive and I was definitely interested in those clubs andwent into the processwith an open mind.”

“Ina lot of ways, they were the easier choices. But I just saw the opportunity for more growth for me and for me to take more responsibility here in Newcastle and that’s why I’m here.”

Read more: Knights stretch the limits with yoga

THAT MEETINGMuch has been made of Pearce’s meeting with Knights coach Nathan Brown, head of football Darren Mooney and Phil Gardner at Brown’s home a week before confirmation that was joining the club.

Pearce arrived armed with plenty of questions and left genuinely excited.

“I didn’t know what to expect with Newcastle and I said thatto Browny at the meeting.”

“For anyone coming up here after the results of the past couple of years, I think you definitely needed to be asking questions about the roster and the vision.But they were really honest about the direction of the club and I walked away and rang Dad straight away because I was really excited.

“For one,I was excited about how quickly I think the club can develop with the direction of Browny and Moons [Mooney] andtheway they are setting up the recruitment.Just the chance to come up here and be a part of the evolution of the team and bringsome success in such a mad rugby league town -that is what excited me more than the other clubs and that’s why I’m here.”

THE MOVEPearce hasn’t had one negative thought about his decision since moving to Newcastle.

“It all still feels a bit surreal and probably will for a couple of months but I said to a few mates the other day it feels right and I’m big on trusting your instinct. It’s an awesome place to live and play footy. I noticed that straight away.The fansseem like a loyal type of people who really love their footy team. It makes you proud to be a Knight. I know I have only just started but I’m a footy head and I’ve already got that vibe.”

PROSPECTSPearces understands that Knights fans have had to be extremely patient, but he hopes they will give the team time to further develop in 2018.

Read more: Knights’ new $20 million centre of excellence to be built at Broadmeadow

“There are lots of things that have exceeded my expectations during pre-season training about the group and the way we train.”

“I’ve come from a winning culture at the Roosters where we have been pretty successful and the club has high standards. In some areas, we are right up there but there are also parts that need to improve and in a developing squad, that’s no surprise.

“We’ll have ups and downs for parts of the season. It’s going to be small steps but the key is to keep improving and keep setting our standards higher. If we are doing that, I think we will really surprise some teams and pull a few pants down.”

CAPTAINCYGiven Pearce has only been at the club a short time, captaincy is not a priority.

Read more: Mentor Allan Bell says Pearce will shine in Knights colours

“I know my job is to be the best role model and leader I can beand, first and foremost, the best halfback I can be.Leadership is a big reason why I’m here but the club has great guys in those roles.I’m not here to take a tag off anyone and just want to be a part of this leadership group and help us raise the bar.”

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