OPINION: City does not need high-rises

The East End, for which high-rise towers are being proposed. Picture: Peter StoopTHE boom in inner-city residential apartments currently occurring in Newcastle highlights that organic growth is working in our city. It also demonstrates that ‘‘development on steroids’’ based on high-rise tower developments in the city’s heritage Hunter Street Mall precinct is not required.
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How interesting, and potentially encouraging, therefore that the so-called Newcastle East End Project, a massive high-rise development planned by joint developers the GPT Group and the state government agency, UrbanGrowth NSW, is not included in the Revitalising Newcastle community engagement program being conducted by UrbanGrowth. Or is this the quiet before the storm?

The distinctive low-rise form of Newcastle’s old town centre is a critical part of the city’s character. Itis an invaluable historical and heritage asset for the state and Australia. The Newcastle Inner City Residents Alliance (NICRA) supports new development that appropriately respects this legacy, and that is why we oppose high-rise towers in that area. NICRA has not opposed other high-rise developments, such as the 18-storey apartment block being built on the old Jolly Roger site in King Street.

Clearly the inner city is not dead, as some developers and their advocacy bodies would have us believe. The area is home to many residents and more people are moving back into the city centre, where economic expansion is occurring. This aspect is positive, and should be acknowledged and nurtured by governments and planners.

What is appropriate development? NICRA supports development in the heritage Hunter Street Mall area of up to 24 metres (or approximately eight storeys), the height limit recommended in the original Local Environment Plan (LEP 2012) – prior to the 2014 amendments – for which there was broad community and business support.

Planning Minister Rob Stokes recently said he wanted “development outcomes that protect and enhance the heritage character of the city’s historic East End” and he was prepared to look at the matter “with fresh eyes” (Mr Stokes had a meeting with NICRA representatives on July 27, 2015).

That assurance gave NICRA cautious hope that earlier poor planning decisions would be re-examined and might be changed.

The changes to development controls to allow the unnecessary and highly inappropriate developments of the three high-rise towers of the East End Project, proposed by GPT/UrbanGrowth NSW, were approved on July 29, 2014 by former planning minister Pru Goward, who spot rezoned the Hunter Street Mall sites. That decision favoured the above two developers over established practice, community expectations, expert advice and sound planning principles, as well as all other property developers.

In early 2014 the Urban Design Consultative Group (UDCG), Newcastle City Council’s expert planning assessment panel, reported on this development proposal. The expert group unanimously concluded that the high-rise proposal was “highly intrusive and unacceptable”. The expert panel clearly stated their concern about the destruction of Newcastle’s heritage.

NICRA urges the Baird government and UrbanGrowth NSW to retract or ignore Minister Goward’s approval and reinstate the original planning controls signalled in the highly regarded and well-consulted Newcastle Urban Renewal Strategy 2012. It is fundamental that developers, too, have faith in consistent planning regulations and processes.

NICRA was encouraged when Minister Stokes recognised the sound basis of Newcastle Urban Renewal Strategy (NURS) 2012, with its emphasis on protecting the historic East End by maintaining lower building height limits (July 27, 2015). It suggested high-rise development in Newcastle’s West End, where a new city business hub is emerging.

The NURS 2012 planning controls would help protect noteworthy buildings from undergoing inappropriate alterations. Newcastle’s former post office, a magnificent sandstone landmark, isa case in point. Recently, the Hunter Property Council’s Andrew Fletcher endorsed construction of a 15-storey tower over the historic building. The post office needs restoration, not further vandalism.

UrbanGrowth must be up front with the public about whether or not it is still committed to the Newcastle East End Project and high-rise towers overshadowing the Mall and East End. NICRA supports good planning and genuine community consultations, but we are concerned that UrbanGrowth is putting up a false choice: trading off more green space and less development on the rail corridor for high-rise towers.

Newcastle doesn’t need high-rise development in the East End, hidden state government and UrbanGrowth agendas, or false choices that kill its unique vibe, which is fundamental to the current low-rise apartment boom.

Brian Ladd is spokesperson for Newcastle Inner City Residents Alliance (NICRA)

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The Gods of Rugby Heaven: The halfbacks

Great organiser: George Gregan. Photo: Anthony Johnson
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Nick Farr-Jones. Photo: Getty Images

Nick Farr-Jones (Australia). The calm and collected Farr-Jones earned the first of his 63 Wallaby caps on the 1984 tour of Europe but will always be remembered as one of the key men in Australia’s 1991 World Cup breakthrough. Always regarded as a thinking man’s playmaker, Farr-Jones marshalled a back line that included names such as Lynagh, Horan and Campese. An injury in the 1991 semi-final against Ireland looked as if it may have cruelled Wallaby chances but after a miracle escape, Farr-Jones would return to be an instrumental figure and hoist the William Webb Ellis Cup at Twickenham.

George Gregan. Photo: Tim Clayton

George Gregan (Australia). Tough, endlessly competitive and with vocal chords that seemed to be in perpetual motion, Gregan was one of the great halfbacks of his generation and an inspiration to the Wallabies in their 1999 World Cup victory. He played in 20 World Cup matches, starting in 18 of them and finishing with 16 wins and four defeats. Gregan may not have had the silky skills of some of his contemporaries but the Wallabies were rarely out of a contest with Gregan barking orders. He played well above his size in defence and finished his career with an extraordinary 139 caps.

Justin Marshall. Photo: Tim Clayton.

Justin Marshall (New Zealand). Marshall would never taste World Cup success but he would finish his career as the most-capped All Blacks halfback with 81 appearances for his nation. He appeared in 10 World Cup matches across 1999 and 2003. Marshall was a dynamic ball-running No.9, crossing for 24 tries in his career, by the far the most for any All Blacks halfback.

Agustin Pichot. Photo: Getty Images

Agustin Pichot (Argentina). The feisty halfback was one of the faces of Argentinian rugby throughout his 13-year career for Los Pumas, making his first World Cup appearance at just 19 when he was plucked from a club side in Buenos Aires while still an amateur. His 1999 side would reach the quarter-finals before losing to France, although there would be revenge on the horizon. After a disappointing 2003 World Cup, Pichot would lead Argentina to victory over host nation France in a memorable 2007 opener, before beating them again in the third-placed play-off.

Joost van der Westhuizen. Photo: Reuters

Joost van der Westhuizen (South Africa). The record-breaking Springbok strode his lanky frame into history as part of South Africa’s famous 1995 World Cup win. He would captain his side in the global tournament four years later before retiring in 2003 after his third World Cup, finishing with a then-benchmark 89 caps, as well as 38 tries. A fearless attitude in defence added to an elite overall package that is regarded as one of the best the game has seen. In a sad post-script to his career, van der Westhuizen was diagnosed with motor neurone disease and has now been confined to a wheelchair.

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MTV Music Awards 2015: Kanye West steals the VMAs limelight from Miley Cyrus

Kanye West admitted to having smoked marijuana prior to the award ceremony, but was he serious about taking a tilt at the Presidency? Photo: MTV Taylor Swift presented Kanye West with the Video Vanguard award.
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MTV Music Awards 2015 as they happened Full list of winners and nomineesKanye West announces 2020 presidential candidacyBest and worst dressed at the MTV Music Awards 2015 

The hardest-twerking woman in showbusiness flirted with nudity, flagged her support for Donald Trump, flaunted her fluid sexuality, and flogged a brand new album in her final moments on stage, but host Miley Cyrus could do nothing to prevent being upstaged by Kanye West, who used MTV’s Video Music Awards show on Monday to announce he intends to run for President in 2020.

Both West, 38, and Cyrus, 22, have been significant players in recent years in an awards show that has somehow morphed from extended station promo to mainstream pop-cultural event.

West – whose messianic alter-ego is Yeezus – inadvertently aided that transformation when he stormed the stage in 2009 to interrupt Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech for best female video, claiming the award should have gone to Beyonce instead.

In 2013, Cyrus became the focal point of much hand-wringing when the former Disney child star emerged from a giant teddy bear to dance suggestively with Robin Thicke, whose Blurred Lines was criticised in some quarters as a “rape” song.

Last year, when Cyrus won a VMA award for her Wrecking Ball clip, she sent a young homeless man to the stage to accept the award on her behalf.

This year, though, she was front and centre, wearing outlandish and ever-more-skimpy costumes until she finally appeared, apparently naked, behind a curtain backstage, asking “What’s up, my tits are out?”

She danced with drag queens, she appeared in comic sketches with Andy Samberg and Ike Barinholtz (poking fun at her famously lurid Instagram feed) and Snoop Dogg (playing with her fondness for marijuana).

She made jokes about her bisexuality, and she hosed down a spat with Nikki Minaj that might have turned ugly (though it might equally have been an entirely scripted moment).

And then came the key set-piece, when Taylor Swift presented the Video Vanguard award (a kind of lifetime achievement thing) to West.

The moment had been heavily promoted beforehand, and was seen as an opportunity to heal those old wounds.

For a moment, it looked like West – one of the least humble men in entertainment – was going to seize the chance to make things right. Instead, he stole the limelight once again by announcing he would run for President.

Having thanked Swift for being “so gracious”, West admitted he often thought about the day they first met, on the 2009 awards show.

“I think about it a bit when I go to a baseball game and 60,000 people boo me,” he said. “And I think if I had to do it all again what would I have done? … If I’d had a daughter at that time, would I have gone on stage and grabbed the mic off someone else’s?”Imma let you finish, but @taylorswift13 and @kanyewest had the best make up hug ever. #vmaspic.twitter上海夜网m/gXcLtZPm4Y— Teen Vogue (@TeenVogue) August 31, 2015

West then set off on a ramble, apparently heartfelt, that touched on “poor” decisions at the Grammys, his own inarticulacy, and the flawed nature of awards shows in general.

He painted himself as a martyr for the cause of artistic expression – “Sometimes I feel that … I died for artists to be able to have an opinion” – and admitted to wanting “people to like me more”.

He also admitted to having “rolled up a little something, to knock the edge off” before the show.

But having claimed “I’m not no politician, bro” early in his speech, West brought the house down by seemingly entering the run for the White House – albeit at the election after the next one.

Having addressed the apology issue again by saying “If my grandfather was here right now he would not let me back down”, West said he didn’t know what this speech might cost him.

“It don’t matter though ‘cos it ain’t about me. It’s about ideas, bro. New ideas, people with ideas, people who believe in truth.

“And yes, as you probably could have guessed by this moment, I have decided in 2020 to run for President.”

Was he serious, or was he just stoned? It’s impossible to know.

It may seem implausible that a rap star could sit in the Oval Office, or that he might use a music awards show to signal his intention to run. But in a country where Donald Trump can go from junk-bond salesman to TV celebrity to plausible contender for the Presidency, just about anything is possible.

Follow Karl Quinn on twitter: @karlkwin On Facebook: karlquinnjournalist

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Gay couples throw ring into the hat

Gay-themed ad campaign Photo: Beau DonellyA luxury jeweller is the latest company to throw its support behind marriage equality by becoming the first Australian business to use real gay couples in a mainstream advertising campaign.
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The Mondial Jewellery Group has taken out full-page advertisements in glossy magazines that hit shelves from Monday, featuring same-sex couples with the tagline “All Love Is Equal”.

The advertisements, in September’s issue of GQ and next month’s Harper’s Bazaar, promote the jeweller’s new wedding and commitment ring business, Eternal by Mondial.

In one of the ads, Australian Trevor Torrance and his English husband Stuart Baker appear with their three-year-old daughter. Newlyweds Allison Whitlock and Stacey Lee Raddatz, who live in Sydney and married in New York earlier this year, are featured in another.

Mondial joins a long list of Australian companies to publicly back same-sex marriage, with a recent newspaper advertisement listing dozens of corporations that have pledged support for law reform to allow gay unions.

The campaign comes after the Abbott government killed off the prospect of legalising gay marriage in this term and flagged that the question might be put to public vote after the next election.

Nadia Neuman, creative director of the Mondial Jewellery Group, said the timing of the campaign was not politically motivated, but that she hoped it would strike a chord with Australians.

Ms Neuman, who is engaged to her partner Lucy Taylor (the couple’s daughter, Lola, is featured with her biological father in one of the ads), said it would have been hypocritical not to use same-sex couples and to do the “same thing everybody else does by reinforcing the same idea and perception of reality”.

“I have an opportunity to represent something that has meaning to me and can affect the way other people look at the world,” she said.

“It’s my reality. I’m in a same-sex relationship, we have a daughter. It’s the reality of most of my friends, some of my family. I wanted to do something that represents other real, valid, important, necessary, genuine, loving relationships.”

Ms Neuman, who has designed and sold engagement rings and wedding bands for the past 20 years, said it was unjust that gay couples were unable to marry in Australia.

She urged the fashion industry to lead the way in promoting same-sex relationships in the media and said big businesses should embrace gay-themed marketing, as in the US. Recent campaigns by Tiffany & Co, Gap, Hallmark and pharmaceutical giant Tylenol have featured gay couples.

“We don’t see it nearly as often as we should,” Ms Neuman said. “The more we see it and the more we normalise it, that’s what will create a change in people’s attitudes towards same-sex couples.”

Mondial last year launched a unisex “equality ring” and donated all profits from sales in the first 12 months to lobby group Australian Marriage Equality.

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Southern Stars relishing tighter links with their Australian male counterparts

Cardiff: It was a simple gesture, but it was noted by the Southern Stars, the newly crowned women’s Ashes champions.
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Australia’s men’s team had just lost their World Twenty20 final to England in Barbados in 2010. Rather than immediately slink off to commiserate, then captain Michael Clarke led a contingent of players who remained to watch the Stars team play New Zealand in the women’s final. After the women successfully defended their meagre total of 8-106, Clarke and David Warner were among the men’s players to join the celebrations in the dressing rooms afterwards.

Similarly, when Australia’s Ashes squad bunkered in their hotel as rain delayed their tour match in Northampton new captain Steve Smith, Peter Siddle and Pat Cummins were among the players huddled around the TV watching their female counterparts in the concurrent Test in Canterbury.

Since the Stars’ World Twenty20 victory in 2010 the men’s and women’s teams have shared eight Twenty20 double-headers at home and – weather-permitting – are due to so again on Monday.

Alex Blackwell, who was the Stars’ acting captain in the Caribbean and played her record-breaking 200th match in the Test, said the links between their team and the men had strengthened.

“We’ve had some great support from the Australian men’s team. I know Steve and I have had chats over the years and we see each other in the gym at Cricket NSW and we talk a lot of cricket,” the vice-captain said.

“It’s great to know that the guys are following. I know that they’ve watched some of our matches, and for Dave Warner to also say that we’ve set a standard [because] we’ve won three T20 world cups in a row – and I know the guys are desperate to win one of those – that support is amazing for us.”

When Blackwell and Smith shared a media appearance to promote Monday’s Twenty20 double-header Smith made an unprompted tribute to the Stars for beating England away for the first time since 2001 – which, incidentally, is the last time the men triumphed in England.

“We all know how difficult it is to do that, so for them to be able to do that over here it’s an extraordinary achievement – and also to be No.1 in all three forms of the game. That’s what us as a men’s side are striving for and the girls have performed brilliantly over here. It’s really exciting going forward,” he said.

Blackwell said she hoped the Stars’ women’s Ashes victory would be a fillip for the launch of the Women’s Big Bash League this summer.

“We look up to the Australian men’s team . . . they’ve been playing some wonderful cricket. It hasn’t turned out the way they wanted for the Ashes but they’ve played great cricket throughout. [But] we don’t set about comparing ourselves to [the men’s team]. We want to learn how to win games of cricket and we’ve proven that we can win tough games when it counts. To defend 107 in a T20 the other night just shows that,” she said.

“What we’ve seen here in England over this Ashes series [is that] every match has been live on TV and we’ve had sellout crowds for standalone women’s games. I hope to see the women’s Big Bash generate a lot of interest, get the crowds in to watch us, [in] particular with the double-headers that will occur with some televised matches.”

While there was a huge gap in the level of local TV coverage of the women’s Ashes compared to back in Australia for this series – all seven matches were shown in England by Sky Sports, with only the final Twenty20 shown by Channel Nine, on GEM – Cricket Australia executive general manager of operations Mike McKenna said he was optimistic that gap would be narrowed in future.

“We’re encouraged by the fact they [TV broadcasters] are interested in doing it,” McKenna said. “I think the recent women’s [soccer] World Cup has awakened broadcasters that people do watch women’s sport as a spectacle – and I think our women deserve it.

“We’re paying for the women’s Big Bash League to be produced because we want to bring that sport to the audiences and we think over time they’ll grow to like it. If broadcasters at the moment can help us with that, which Channel Ten are doing with the WBBL and Channel Nine [with the Southern Stars], it really helps them, and helps us at the same time.”

Given Blackwell, who turns 32 on Monday, is comfortably the oldest player in the current Stars squad, she said she hoped there could be enough continuity within their squad for them to be able to “dominate world cricket . . . for many years to come”, next of all with a fourth consecutive World Twenty20 title in March next year.

Jesse Hogan is covering the women’s Ashes with the support of Cricket Australia.

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The Gods of Rugby Heaven: The loosehead props

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Os du Randt. Photo: ALLSPORT

Os du Randt (South Africa)

The man known as the Ox is the only non-Australian to win the World Cup twice. He is widely considered to be the greatest loosehead prop of all time with his scrummaging ability, athleticism and effectiveness in open play. Both World Cup victories were at the extremes of his career. Du Randt was 22 when the Springboks stunned the All Blacks in the 1995 final but the 2007 win was an even greater achievement. Forced to retire in 2000 after a serious injury, du Randt eventually recovered and decided to return to rugby three years later. Despite doubts about his durability he was an integral cog in the 2007 victory including a man-of-the-match performance in the semi-final against Argentina, the best scrummaging team at the World Cup.

Jason Leonard. Photo: AP

Jason Leonard (England)

Another early starter. Leonard was 21 when he debuted in 1990, the first of what would become a record 119 caps for both England and the British & Irish Lions. He is still the most capped player in World Cup history with 22 appearances in four tournaments. He was both durable – he once played 40 consecutive Tests in the 1990s – and versatile as proven by his switch from loosehead to tighthead prop later in his career. He was a member of the team that lost the World Cup final to Australia in 1991 but gained revenge against the same opponents 12 years later in the final in Sydney.

Rodrigo Roncero. Photo: Iain McGregor

Rodrigo Roncero (Argentina)

Another member of the Pumas’ fantastic front-row from the 2007 World Cup. Such was his power at the set piece, Roncero was widely considered to be the best prop of the tournament. The doctor from Buenos Aires made his Test debut in 1998 but did not make his first World Cup appearance until 2003. His international rugby ended after the Pumas made their first foray in the Rugby Championship in 2012.

Steve McDowell. Photo: Getty Images

Steve McDowell (New Zealand)

A tough-as-teak prop who also possessed silky ball skills. McDowell was a member of the all-conquering All Blacks team of the late 1980s and formed a formidable front-row partnership with Richard Loe and Sean Fitzpatrick. He made his debut in 1985 and represented New Zealand 46 times before being shown the door in 1992 after a player purge. He was a member of the New Zealand team that won the World Cup final in 1987 against France and lost the semi-final to Australia in 1991.

Tony Woodcock. Photo: Getty Images

Tony Woodcock (New Zealand)

Another member of the great All Blacks side that has denied the Wallabies Bledisloe Cup success since 2002. The 34-year-old has represented New Zealand 115 times and for much of his career he has been considered the best loosehead prop in the world. He was a member of the New Zealand team that suffered a shock loss in the 2007 World Cup quarter-final against France but bounced back to score the All Blacks’ only try in the 2011 final against the same opponents. He played in all five matches for New Zealand this season and is set to play in his third World Cup.

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The Gods of Rugby Heaven: The hookers

All Blacks legend: Sean Fitzpatrick Photo: Craig Golding
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Sean Fitzpatrick. Photo: Getty Images

Sean Fitzpatrick (New Zealand) One of the craftiest hookers to walk the playing field. Fitzpatrick was thrust into the limelight on the eve of the 1987 World Cup when injury ruled out first-choice All Blacks rake and skipper Andy Dalton. Such was Fitzpatrick’s impact he kept Dalton out of the team even when the skipper was declared fit again. He played in three World Cups, skippering the powerful All Blacks side that dominated all comers at the 1995 World Cup until they ran into South Africa in the final. His duels with Wallabies hooker Phil Kearns were legendary.

Phil Kearns (R). Photo: Reuters

Phil Kearns (Australia) The only hooker to win two World Cups. Phil Kearns was plucked out of Randwick reserve grade – where he was the deputy to Eddie Jones – in 1989 to face the All Blacks, ousting long-serving rake Tom Lawton. The selection was a masterstroke as Kearns quickly grew on the international stage forming a formidable front-row unit with Ewen McKenzie and Tony Daly that anchored Australia’s 1991 World Cup win. Kearns featured in the 1995 tournament and although he was in the twilight of his career in 1999, he still played twice in the Wallabies’ successful campaign.

Mario Ledesma. Photo: Simon Alekna

Mario Ledesma (Argentina) The Pumas have always been renowned for their scrummaging and to be Argentina’s most capped hooker says something for Ledesma’s ability. A renowned, consistent performer at the highest level with a prodigious work ethic, Ledesma was the Pumas’ first-choice rake at the past four World Cups. The highlight was his leadership of the Argentina pack at the 2007 World Cup that drove the team to its only semi-final appearance. Ledesma is the scrum coach for the Wallabies at this year’s tournament.

John Smit. Photo: AP

John Smit (South Africa) A leader of men. Much like Graeme Smith in cricket, Smit was appointed South African captain at a young age and held the job for many years. There is a symmetry to the numbers, he represented the Springboks 111 times over 11 years, including a record run of 46 Tests between 2004 and 2007 that was a testament to his durability. He led the Springboks to success at the 2007 World Cup and held the job in 2011 despite the pressure from renowned rake Bismarck du Plessis whose form at times forced Smit to play tighthead prop.

Keven Mealamu. Photo: Steve Christo

Keven Mealamu (New Zealand) For 13 years and 126 matches, Mealamu has lined up in the front-row for the All Blacks. The 2015 tournament is set to be his fourth World Cup appearance that has encompassed 18 matches and only one loss – against Australia in the semi-final in 2003. Mealamu was the starting hooker for the All Blacks when they broke their World Cup drought in 2011. His first Bledisloe Cup series was in 2003 when the All Blacks reclaimed the trophy from the Wallabies and he has featured in all 12 successful cup defences since. He announced his impending international retirement in August.

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The Gods of Rugby Heaven: The second-rowers

Can you match the experts?
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Paul Ackford. Photo: Getty Images

Paul Ackford (England)

A former Metropolitan Police inspector born in Hanover in West Germany, Paul Ackford, now 57, first left his mark as an international player on November 5, 1988 when at age 30, the Harlequins player made his Test debut against the Wallabies.

Ackford played in all three Tests of the 1989 British and Irish Lions tour to Australia that the Lions won. He played for England in the 1991 Five Nations grand slam winning side and retired after that year’s World Cup with 25 caps for England.

He then became, and still is, a rugby columnist for The Sunday Telegraph newspaper in London.

Mark Andrews. Photo: Reuters

Mark Andrews (South Africa)

Mark Andrews made his debut for South Africa not as a Springbok, but as a water polo player selected to represent his country while still a schoolboy. From Elliot in the Eastern Cape, Andrews still excelled at rugby union early and played in Natal’s Currie Cup-winning side in 1995 and 1996.

After his Springbok debut against England in Cape Town in 1994, Andrews, now 43, played 77 Tests and 13 midweek games and scored 12 tries for the Springboks for a total of 60 points. He also played in the 1995 World Cup-winning Springboks side.

John Eales. Photo: Getty Images

John Eales (Australia)

John Eales was blessed with superb skills; so much so, he was nicknamed “Nobody” due to the Australian’s response when asked about his ability that “Nobody’s perfect”. He not only excelled as a second-rower, but as a leader. Eales also captained the Wallabies to their 1999 World Cup win after playing for Australia in their 1991 World Cup win.

Remarkably, he also scored 173 points for Australia, but mainly through kicks – 99 of his points were through penalties and 69 from conversions. He scored only two tries. Now 45, he retired in 2001 with 86 Test caps, and captained Australia for 56 of them.

Martin Johnson. Photo: Getty Images

Martin Johnson (England)

An icon of English sport, let alone rugby, Martin Johnson led England brilliantly to their 2003 World Cup triumph when they beat Australia in the final in Sydney. A no-nonsense leader, Johnson, now 45, was physically imposing and led England to five Six Nations titles – including two grand slams.

Johnson also helped Leicester Tigers to five premiership titles and two Heineken Cups, and captained the British and Irish and Lions for two of his three tours. He retired from Test rugby after the 2003 World Cup with 92 caps – 84 for England and eight with the Lions.

Ian Jones (R). Photo: Reuters

Ian Jones (New Zealand)

In a career that included 79 Tests for the All Blacks, Ian Jones was half of what many rated as the most impressive of second rows with Robin Brooke from 1992 to 1998. Jones may have lacked the size of his peers, but he made up for that with sheer skill.

From Whangarei, Jones, now 48, debuted for the All Blacks at age 23 in 1990 against Scotland in Dunedin, scoring a try as he did in 1996 in his 50th Test versus Scotland. A lineout expert, Jones was one of the first to play 100 games for the All Blacks – he retired with 105 games, including 79 Tests in which nine of his 14 tries were scored.

Victor Matfield. Photo: Fiona Goodall

Victor Matfield (South Africa)

A rugby icon in South Africa, Victor Matfield, now 38, was known for his aerial skills in the lineout – in winning his side’s own ball and disrupting the opposition’s. It was a crucial element that helped the Springboks to win the 2007 World Cup in France in a player-of-the-tournament performance.

However, Matfield’s athleticism – he competed in javelin at school – was evident in all aspects of his game, from set piece to general play. The ex-Springbok captain retired after the 2011 World Cup. But after two years he returned to play for the Bulls in 2014 and Springboks with whom he has earned 122 caps.

Paul O’Connell. Photo: Lawrence Smith

Paul O’Connell (Ireland)

One of rugby’s most credentialled leaders, Paul O’Connell has captained Munster, Ireland and the British and Irish Lions. The Limerick-born second-rower who is now 35 was initially a swimmer and excelled in the sport.

But once he started rugby at 16 he found himself on an upward trajectory through school and under-age categories. With 109 Test caps of which 102 are for Ireland and seven for the Lions, O’Connell will play for the French Top 14 side Toulon after the World Cup in which he will lead Ireland in a possibly fabulous swansong.

Olivier Roumat (L). Photo: Reuters

Olivier Roumat (France)

Versatility was a key to the career of Frenchman Olivier Roumat’s rugby DNA, with him having played at No.8, No.7 and as a second-rower; and not just in France.

Roumat, now 49 and who earned 61 Test caps for France from 1989 to 1996, won two French titles – with Stade Francais in 1997-98 and Biarritz Olympique in 2001-02, and played in South Africa for the Natal Sharks in 1995, winning the Currie Cup. In the World Cup, Roumat played five games in both the 1991 and 1995 tournaments. Roumat also played in six Five Nations tournaments for France, winning in 1993.

Brad Thorn. Photo: Getty Images

Brad Thorn (New Zealand)

The 59-capped All Black was the first player to win a World Cup, Super Rugby and Heineken Cup title. In rugby league, Thorn, now 40, played for the Brisbane Broncos and Queensland in State of Origin.

In union, the Canterbury Crusaders second-rower played in the 2003, 2007 and 2011 World Cups – winning the latter, held in New Zealand. Thorn was also known as one of the most physically intimidating and hard-working players.

Gary Whetton. Photo: Getty Images

Gary Whetton (New Zealand)

Capped 58 times for New Zealand from 1981 to 1991, Auckland stalwart Gary Whetton, who also captained the All Blacks on 15 occasions, made his Test debut at Eden Park against South Africa. That debut was in the deciding of three Tests in which flour bombs were dropped from a plane in protest to South Africa’s apartheid policy. Whetton went on the unofficial 1986 New Zealand Cavaliers tour to South Africa for which he was banned for two games. Now 55, he played in the inaugural World Cup in 1987 that the All Blacks won.

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TOPICS: Ice hockey champions flyhigh with silverware

The Goodall Cup in the best seat on the flight back from Melbourne after Newcastle’s North Stars’ ice hockey triumph. AMAZING, the doors that open when you’re Newcastle’s latest sporting champions (did we just type that?), the North Stars.
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The new champs beat Melbourne in the Australian Ice Hockey League final on Sunday and, amid a likely rush on hockey sticks at Rebel, are soaking up the fame.

They even smuggled their silverware – the impressive Goodall Cup – into the cockpit (pictured) of their flight out of Tullamarine. The pilots asked for a photo, we’re told.

The trophy is one of the oldest in Australian sport, first awarded in 1909, but don’t worry about its post-Mad Monday state. The original is on display in a museum in Toronto, Canada (not Tronna), while the players make do with a replica

Our favourite maggie. Picture by Darren Pateman

SOME things define spring (which starts today!) – the hope of the Knights making the eight, hayfever, and magpies. And here we are again. Two out of three.

About the maggies, Mayfield West-based Nick Kachel of the CSIRO asks why do magpies swoop on humans. ‘‘Is it to defend their young, or their territory? Or are they just bird jerks?’’

In other words, are they Liam Neeson in Taken, Mel Gibson in Braveheart, or Gibson in real life? Scientists agree that Neeson comes into it: magpies attack to defend their families. But that doesn’t explain why they target specific humans. That’s more Mel Gibson.

Whatever it is that riles magpies, some brave scientists in Canberra proved how not to ward off an attack. In 2010, an aggro maggie was nesting above a cycle path near the CSIRO Black Mountain site.

‘‘With all types of magpie-repelling adornments being attached to cycle helmets with varied successes, and [figurative] public service and academia corpses littering the notorious path, our enterprising colleagues decided to add some scientific scrutiny to the debate: how do you deter a mad magpie?’’ says Kachel.

The geeks, after riding back and forth through a storm of beak and claw, found that going helmet-less was a better magpie deterrent than cable ties or fake eyeballs. But good luck making the case for no helmets. Bird and human seem locked in a springtime standoff, forever.

STILL on spring, this sign (pictured) by Cherry Road Nursery at Eleebana said what we were all thinking.

IF anyone deserves a few days off her feet, it’s Brodie Williams, of Belmont, who walked 100kilometres non-stop.

Seventy of them with blisters.

Brodie Williams, of Belmont, during the 100km Oxfam Trailwalker.

Brodie, 21, teamed up with gym-mates Chris Pascoe, Ben Micallef and Gemma Walker to complete the Oxfam Trailwalker trek from the Hawkesbury River to Balgowlah on Sydney’s North Shore in a tick over 27 hours. It sounds pretty hard.

The feet of Brodie Williams, of Belmont, during the 100km Oxfam Trailwalker.

‘‘You’re walking through the night, and you support each other. Otherwise I would have stopped with 5km to go. Everyone gets delusional,’’ says Brodie.

‘‘I had blisters at 30 kilometres, so I was hobbling along.’’

The team raised more than $5000 for Oxfam.

The feet of Brodie Williams, of Belmont, during the 100km Oxfam Trailwalker.

​Email Tim [email protected]上海夜网m.au or tweet @TimConnell or phone 4979 5944

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OPINION: Future of coal burns brighter than ever

THEY say never let the facts get in the way of a good story. In the case of anti-mining advocates, never let the facts get in the way of rusted-on ideology. It’s unfortunate, however, when your views are so utterly contradicted with such immediacy.
Shanghai night field

On the very day Tim Buckley – a long-time anti-mining advocate – declared that we must all face the ‘‘fact’’ that global demand for coal is in decline, new data emerged showing the exact opposite is true.

In the Newcastle Herald on Thursday, Mr Buckley claimed: ‘‘In the energy sector, such a seismic shift is under way. The seaborne thermal coal market is entering a permanent and structural decline.’’ Unfortunately, these sort of myths are repeated as often as possible by those who oppose coal mining, in the hope it will influence others. However, Mr Buckley’s myths are not supported by the facts.

The latest coal export data shows global demand for NSW coal remains strong, with coal export volumes increasing by 3.6per cent over the past financial year. It’s yet another year of coal export growth, and more NSW coal is now being exported than ever before.

NSW coal exports are up 9per cent to Korea and 10 per cent to Taiwan, and are steady to Japan. Demand from India has grown strongly, with our exports rising by 110per cent.

Japan continues to be NSW’s biggest market, comprising 40per cent of total exports, followed by China at 18per cent, Korea 17per cent, and Taiwan 11per cent.

Ideological opponents argue that coal is in decline because of an economic slowdown in China, and coal exports to that nation have recently fallen. It’s true that China is an important market for NSW coal.

However, China’s share of our export market is less than half that of our biggest customer, Japan. And, despite the recent drop in volumes to China, its share of NSW coal exports has grown from just 1per cent to 18per cent from 2008 to 2015.

Mr Buckley also dismisses the demand-driven performance of our largest coal port. Earlier this month, Port Waratah Coal Services announced it had broken the record for coal loaded for export in a single day – 495,000 tonnes.

This reflects the trend in strong demand for NSW coal, which continues to be by far this state’s most valuable export.

Expert international analysis also contradicts assertions made by anti-coal advocates. The International Energy Agency predicts that by 2040, global electricity demand will rise by 50per cent, and that by 2040 coal-fired power will still provide around a quarter of world energy needs.

In the Hunter, 11,000 workers and their families rely on coal mining for their livelihoods. That’s in addition to more than 4200 local businesses and their employees supplying the mining sector. And the economic activity generated by mining underpins the strength of communities right up and down the valley.

NSW coal will continue to play a prominent role in powering an energy-hungry planet for decades to come.

Stephen Galilee is chief executive officer of the NSW Minerals Council

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