Newcastle triathlete Aaron Royle is waiting to learn if he has been selected for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

PROVEN PERFORMER: Newcastle triathlete Aaron Royle is waiting to learn if he has been selected for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. Picture: Max Mason-HubersNEWCASTLE’S Aaron Royle is preparing for his first half-ironman event as he waits to learn if he has been chosen in the n triathlon team for next year’s Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
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BIG FINISH: Aaron Royle has four races left in 2017, including a half-ironman.

Unlike for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and Rio Olympics, Royle has been unable to secure automatic qualification.

After a year interrupted by injury and illness, he is now at the mercy of selectors’ discretion but hopesthey will offer him one of the two remaining spots on the n team.

SETBACKS: Injury and illness has interrupted Aaron Royle’s 2017 campaign.

In the meantime, he plans to finish2017 on a positive note by performing well in three lucrative season-ending events, the Nepean, Noosa and Island House (Bahamas) Triathlon, before the Western Sydney Ironman on November 26.

He has won the Nepean three times, Noosa twice and last year finished third at the Island House, collecting the biggest pay cheque ($40,000) of his career.

He said the half-ironman at Penrith would be a step towards a long-time ambition, competing in the gruelling Hawaiian Ironman.

“It’s a 1.9km swim, a 90-km bike ride and you finish with a half-marathon run, so 21.1kms,” he said.

“Which scares the hell out of me, just mentioning how far it actually is. It’s going to be quite painful, but I’ve been wanting to do one for a little while now and it’s just none have ever seemed to fit in with my season.”

A standard Olympic-length triathlon is a 1.5km swim, 40km bike ride and 10 kilometre run. The Hawaiian Ironman comprises a3.86km, 180.25kmride and fullmarathon (42.2km) run.

“The Hawaiian Ironmanhas always been appealing to me,” he said. “There’s options for the longer stuff for me, but I still think I have a few years left in me doing the Olympic version of the sport.

“I still think that Tokyo [2020] is a realistic goal. It’s tough after a year when you don’t go as well as you think you’re capable of.

“You question yourself a little bit, but I still think I have the ability to go to Tokyo and perform better than I did in Rio [when he finished ninth].”

In the lead-up to Glasgow and Rio, Royle automatically qualified almost a year ahead of both events, which allowed him to focus solely on his preparation.

For Gold Coast, he hopes selectors take into account his performances over the past five years, rather than a 2017 campaign hindered by a torn plantar fasciitis and then a bout of gastroenteritis before the last race on the world-series circuit, in Rotterdam.

“It’s in the selectors’ hands, and there are no more races for them to look at for selection,” he said.

“So it’s basically out of my control now. Whatever happens, happens. I can’t do anything about it and I just have to wait and see what they decide.”

The 27-year-old from Maryland has taken this year’s setbacks in his stride.

“If you’re ever going to have a down year, I guess the year after the Olympics is the best time to do it,” he said.


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Muscat attacks tall poppy culture, Victory signs new striker

The speculation surrounding Ange Postecoglou’s Socceroo future has spawned myriad conspiracy theories this week, but Melbourne Victory boss Kevin Muscat believes there may be a simple explanation: ‘s tendency to cut what some people believe to be tall poppies down to size.
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The Melbourne Victory boss fended off questions about whether he was interested in succeeding his former club coach in the national-team job and instead questioned the critical culture of some in the game.

“I’m not going to speak for Ange, I think we’ve probably forgotten that we won the game 2-1,” Muscat said.

“Maybe, if I’ve got anything to say, we’ve got a great deal of enjoyment about trying to knock someone down, and failure, than we do from actually winning.”

The Victory boss, a former Socceroo captain and experienced international, has been touted (along with Sydney coach Graham Arnold) as a possible replacement for Postecoglou.

But he was keeping a straight bat when asked about his ambitions.

“At the moment, there’s no job to put the hat in the ring for,” he said.

“There’s been a lot of hysteria (but) I’ve got a great job here in Melbourne Victory, one I thoroughly enjoy and love.

“We’ve got a couple more games to be successful in and to get to another World Cup and we’re on track to do that.

“I’m on record previously, representing your country was the pinnacle of my career and hopefully one day I do get the opportunity. (But) at this point in time, I’m contracted and very happy.”

Victory announced on Friday that it had signed the prolific NPL striker Kenjok Athiu on a season-long loan deal from his club Heidelberg, the Victorian champions.

The lanky frontman, known as Kenny, is mobile and good on the ground as well as in the air and would certainly offer Victory a point of difference.

The 24-yea-old has scored 57 goals in 92 appearances over three years with the Bergers, having come to as an 11-year-old refugee from Sudan.

“He provides a huge physical presence, but is also really quick across the ground and is good with the ball at his feet – just what you want from a striker.”

“There’s no doubt it’s going to be a big step up for him moving into the professional ranks, but we couldn’t ask for him to have a better mentor than Besart Berisha, who I’m sure will take him under his wing,” Muscat said.


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Why The Everest will turn into one of the world’s biggest races

I’m convinced The Everest will become one of the most significant races on the world racing calendar within a few years.
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It’s hard to describe what it feels like to be riding in the days leading up to a $10 million race, but I think the race will turn into one of the biggest initiatives in n racing since the invention of the TAB.

It goes without saying the prizemoney is astronomical and probably a large part of why the race has created so much interest.

I wouldn’t say I was skeptical about The Everest when the race was first announced, but probably more surprised. I didn’t know how it was going to work and didn’t give it much thought.

But I reckon there’s a few people who thought forking out $1.8 million for a three-year commitment wasn’t a good investment are wishing they did so now.

The real question was whether it was going to be sustainable. Without a doubt you would have to say it will be given the interest in the race so far and we haven’t even run the first edition yet.

It’s so interesting and I’ve loved watching slot-holders jockey for position to secure horses over the last six to eight weeks, just like jockeys who wrangle for rides in the lead-up to big events.

And I can only see international horses being set for the race in the future once they get a better understanding of what it’s about.

I really see a future for the race with so many big players involved as well as the syndicates of owners, such as Redzel and She Will Reign, who have had their horses picked up to run in the race.

Speaking of those two, I see them among the main threats to my mount Clearly Innocent winning The Everest at Randwick on Saturday.

I can’t say I was confident a few weeks ago about getting a ride in the race, but I’ve been getting a good feel for Clearly Innocent who is a horse I’ve ridden in the past and have so much time for.

I was actually offered the ride on Chautauqua a while ago and couldn’t make a firm commitment by the time they wanted one and was in the mix for English when Blake Shinn was suspended before he had his penalty quashed on appeal.

But by that time I was really warming to Clearly Innocent who just needed to run well in the Premiere Stakes to get picked up by Damion Flower.

I really think he’s a genuine winning chance and I’m not just saying that because I’m riding him. I don’t want to say he’s a better ride than English or one or two others, but he really has a bright future.

The dangers? I’ve got them down to three: Chautauqua, Vega Magic and She Will Reign.

Let me say this about Chautauqua, he is clearly the best horse in the race but if the track plays like it has for his last two starts then I don’t think he can win. Conditions are vital for him.

If they are similar to when he ran in The Shorts or the Premiere Stakes when the horses on top of the speed were running blistering times then he’s out of play I reckon. Sectionally its impossible for him to do what he needs to do and I want to see how the track’s playing leading up to The Everest.

Vega Magic and She Will Reign, in my opinion, are the other top picks and I have a healthy respect for Redzel, who I have won on in the past, and English.

What will I do if I manage to win the race? Well, I’ve just signed on as an ambassador for Mercedes Benz Parramatta and I wouldn’t mind seeing the latest wheels they’ve rolled onto their showroom floor.

But I’m just proud to have a ride in the inaugural running of The Everest, which I think will be here for a very, very long time.

Hugh Bowman will write a weekly column for Fairfax Media throughout the spring carnival.

For more information on The Everest go to theRaces成都夜总会招聘.au.


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Muscat weighs up Milligan fatigue as Victory welcome back internationals

Will Melbourne Victory coach Kevin Muscat gamble on the fitness of skipper Mark Milligan or give an A-League debut to Argentinian import Mathias Sanchez when the navy blues host cross-town rivals Melbourne City in the first of this season’s Victorian derbies?
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Muscat was coy about the prospects of his captain starting after Milligan played a gruelling 120 minutes for the national team in that heart-stopping 2-1 win over Syria on Tuesday night. The national team captain also played a stamina-sapping 90 minutes in Malaysia four days earlier in the first of the two World Cup qualifiers.

But he is certain to bring in another Socceroo, forward James Troisi, and the NZ international Kosta Barbarouses.

All three missed last weekend’s round one loss to Sydney as they were away on international duty with and the All Whites.

If Milligan plays, he will be in midfield, Muscat said. If he doesn’t then it is likely Sanchez, who was an injury absentee last week, will be given the chance to start.

“Mathias Sanchez was very close last week and no risks were taken,” Muscat said.

“We have a full complement, the last couple of days we have had everyone back in training. It’s been a nice bright and sharp few days.

“Millsy played the whole game [against Syria] so we will have to integrate him a little bit differently. Jimmy [Troisi] has been really sharp.Kosta got back Sunday morning, so he has had the full week under his belt.

“Mathias has trained the whole week so, of course, it’s a boost … [we are] still assessing the recovery, especially Millsy. He played 90 minutes away in the first game in Malaysia as well. We will sleep on it and assess him again in the morning. If he is fine and is going to start he will play midfield.”

Muscat was excited by the debut of Leroy George, who was clearly not at peak fitness. The Dutchman showed plenty of good signs against Sydney and will be better for the outing.

“We have had to throw him in when he was underdone and for periods in the first half, the glimpses of what we could see, the ability he has and what is to come [was exciting]. We had to look after him at the start of the week, but he has come through without any issues whatsoever.

“There’s good competition for places now, it’s what everyone wants. Competition breeds desperation and performances. If you slip below that you run the risk of not playing. We have got some depth in that area.”

Muscat was not worried about Troisi getting abuse from City fans after he changed his mind at the last second in the off-season and signed for Victory, having indicated he would join City. And the Victory boss expected City’s Socceroo hero Tim Cahill would also cop stick from Victory fans despite his heroics in ‘s colours earlier in the week.

“I would be disappointed if he didn’t cop his fair share of abuse from opposition fans,” he said of Troisi. “Maybe we are not exposed to that sort of stuff regularly in . Timmy is probably expecting it as well.

“As an n, we are grateful he popped up with two goals, but hopefully he has spent all his goals this week.”


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After year learning on the job, Handscomb sets sights on Ashes

Peter Handscomb leans against the brick wall at the side of the tiny grandstand at Hurstville Oval, a well-earned stubby in hand. He’s just peeled off an effortless century in the JLT Cup, picking up where he left off for in the Test arena last summer.
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After a first year abroad with the national side that has taken him to India, Bangladesh and back to India, and in between a stint alongside England captain Joe Root at Yorkshire, he admits it’s good to be home, or close enough to it.

It was up the M5 at the SCG last November where he and Nic Maddinson were told by national selector Mark Waugh they would be making their Test debuts and promptly handed Cricket polo shirts to appear before the television cameras in front of the Ladies Stand. Handscomb had just scored a double century against a full-strength NSW, exquisitely timed in all senses with in meltdown after a disastrous defeat to South Africa in Hobart and searching for reinforcements.

Nine months after the breakout first international summer that followed he is a fixture in Smith’s top five, his emergence well documented. We’ve all heard about his past as a top junior tennis player, his English parents and British passport, and we’ve seen that so-called homespun technique.

Handscomb himself is intent on adding more memorable performances to the profile. There’s been a few already. After he charged through the nervous 90s to his maiden Test hundred against Pakistan at the Gabba we then got to see him dig in courageously in Ranchi, saving a Test in India alongside Shaun Marsh to ensure a live series finale.

Now, further emboldened after spending his travels playing with and against the world’s best, he feels ready for whatever England has in store for him in the Ashes.

“I was lucky enough to play with Root, I played against [Virat]Kohli, I played against [Kane] Williamson, I played with Smith,” Handscomb says.

“There’s the top four batters in the world. You can pick up little things from each of them. If you try and emulate them then you’re on the right path I reckon.

“It’s great to see that those four all bat completely differently, which is a nice feeling because it just means there is no such thing as the ‘right’ technique anymore. It’s the right technique for yourself and as long as you find that and back that then you can go a long way.”

If Smith has done just that with remarkable success, Handscomb is on the way.

He’s well aware, though, that he enters the marquee series against England viewed somewhat differently from the newcomer who was welcomed to a new-look side in Adelaide last year. Averaging almost 100 in your first Test summer will do that. Having introduced himself as the trustworthy buffer between Smith and the middle and lower order, the bar has naturally been set higher.

“I was quite lucky last year … I was coming in off the back of big change in n cricket and it was almost as if even if I did fail it wasn’t going to be that bad. I was going to be given that opportunity,” Handscomb says.

“So mentally that can help your game. This year I’ve got my own expectations in terms of what I want to do and how I want to take the Ashes. But ultimately I can’t think about that too much.”

The newly installed Victoria captain comes off as unaffected by the pace of his rise in the last year. He approaches the game meticulously and with the wisdom of a player older than his 26 years and with more experience than his 10 Tests. Were Smith not only two years older and with the best part of a decade potentially in front of him you would almost say Handscomb has future n captain written all over him. For now and the foreseeable future, though, selectors simply want him to make runs.

“I think I’ve definitely grown again as a player,” he says. “That comes with just playing more cricket with better guys and against better guys.

“I had expectation when I went to Yorkshire as well. You’re the overseas pro so you’ve got to make runs. You put that pressure onto yourself and hopefully grow as a player.

“You get used to really tough swinging and seaming conditions in England and then you get really spinning conditions in India. So to come here, I’ve got my base structure for fast and bouncy wickets. If it starts seaming I’ve now got a plan; if it starts spinning I’ve got another plan.”

A key part of ‘s plans for the Ashes, Handscomb can’t wait for the first Test at the Gabba in the last week of November but is determined not to get too wound up in the hype of it all. For him the build-up began months ago with banter between a couple of looming England opponents. Root and Jonny Bairstow were among his teammates in the County Championship and the odd friendly barb was exchanged.

That was well before Ben Stokes went berserk in a Bristol street, of course. Lately, Ashes talk has become no laughing matter for England. The plan is for it to stay that way.

“I can’t wait for the Ashes,” Handscomb says. “I think it’s going to be awesome fun. I’m just excited for it. I’m not too worried about performances. I think once you start worrying about all that you can get stuck in your head a little bit.

“As long as I can go out there with a clear mind and understand my game plan and all that I’ll just try and enjoy the experience for what it is. It’s Ashes cricket … it’s pretty bloody good.”


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Fun in the sun as Cessnock’s Jungle Juice Cup moves to October

Sparkling day for Jungle Juice Cup | PHOTOS, VIDEO Sophie Stapleford, Bree Egan, Brodie Egan, Rachel Zaichenko, Kirsten Hugo, Elli Hugo and Libby Campbell at the Jungle Juice Cup at Cessnock Racecourse on October 13. Picture: Krystal Sellars
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A group of happy punters, celebrating Rob’s 50th birthday, at the Jungle Juice Cup at Cessnock Racecourse on October 13. Picture: Krystal Sellars

The Jungle Juice Cup at Cessnock Racecourse on October 13. Picture: Krystal Sellars

Hannah Rorke, of Belmont; with Alexander, Elizabeth and Sheldon Lindsay, of Toowoomba, at the Jungle Juice Cup at Cessnock Racecourse on October 13. Picture: Krystal Sellars

The Jungle Juice Cup at Cessnock Racecourse on October 13. Picture: Krystal Sellars

Dakota Wicks, of Seahampton, and Mick Higgins, of Minmi, at the Jungle Juice Cup at Cessnock Racecourse on October 13. Picture: Krystal Sellars

Daniel and Jane McConville, of Maryland, at the Jungle Juice Cup at Cessnock Racecourse on October 13. Picture: Krystal Sellars

Dylan Radford and Olivia Watson, of Cessnock, at the Jungle Juice Cup at Cessnock Racecourse on October 13. Picture: Krystal Sellars

Margaret Wilson and Jennifer Peel, of Cessnock, at the Jungle Juice Cup at Cessnock Racecourse on October 13. Picture: Krystal Sellars

Theresa Wallace, of Shortland; Tanya Milajew, of Maryland; Lynn Graham, of Cameron Park; Kim Gibson, of Cardiff; Lee Whiting, of Holmesville, and Natalie Watts, of Shortland, at the Jungle Juice Cup at Cessnock Racecourse on October 13. Picture: Krystal Sellars

The Jungle Juice Cup at Cessnock Racecourse on October 13. Picture: Krystal Sellars

The Jungle Juice Cup at Cessnock Racecourse on October 13. Picture: Krystal Sellars

Caitlyn Biscoe and Angela Priest, of Newcastle, at the Jungle Juice Cup at Cessnock Racecourse on October 13. Picture: Krystal Sellars

The Jungle Juice Cup at Cessnock Racecourse on October 13. Picture: Krystal Sellars

Steven Abel and Ellen Harley, of Cessnock, at the Jungle Juice Cup at Cessnock Racecourse on October 13. Picture: Krystal Sellars

Natanya Caban, of Bellbird; Zak Caban, of Bathurst, and Kate Jackson, of Abermain, at the Jungle Juice Cup at Cessnock Racecourse on October 13. Picture: Krystal Sellars

Casey Hutchinson, of Fletcher; Gemma Brown, of Gillieston Heights, and Kath Hounslow, of Thornton, at the Jungle Juice Cup at Cessnock Racecourse on October 13. Picture: Krystal Sellars

Joe and Sarah Baldwin at the Jungle Juice Cup at Cessnock Racecourse on October 13. Picture: Krystal Sellars

Whistle Dixie performed at the Jungle Juice Cup at Cessnock Racecourse on October 13. Picture: Krystal Sellars

Whistle Dixie performed at the Jungle Juice Cup at Cessnock Racecourse on October 13. Picture: Krystal Sellars

The Jungle Juice Cup at Cessnock Racecourse on October 13. Picture: Krystal Sellars

The crowd cheers on a race at the Jungle Juice Cup at Cessnock Racecourse on October 13. Picture: Krystal Sellars

Chris O’Brien brings Hammoon Boy back to scale after winning the 2017 Jungle Juice Cup at Cessnock Racecourse on October 13. Picture: Krystal Sellars

Chris O’Brien brings Hammoon Boy back to scale after winning the 2017 Jungle Juice Cup at Cessnock Racecourse on October 13. Picture: Krystal Sellars

Chris O’Brien brings Hammoon Boy back to scale after winning the 2017 Jungle Juice Cup at Cessnock Racecourse on October 13. Picture: Krystal Sellars

Newcastle Jockey Club director Robert Dan, Hammoon Boy’s owner Paul Frampton, winning jockey Chris O’Brien and Cessnock Leagues Club CEO Paul Cousins at the presentation for the Jungle Juice Cup at Cessnock Racecourse on October 13. Picture: Krystal Sellars

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An inconvenient truth: you’re paying less for your mortgage now than a decade ago

Record-low mortgage rates have made it easier to meet the payments on home loans than it has been in decades, despite record-high house prices, new figures show.
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Confounding talk of unaffordability, the Bureau of Statistics calculations show that as recently as 2005-06 it took an average household 19 per cent of its gross income to meet ongoing housing costs. By 2015-16, it had fallen to 16 per cent, the least in records going more than 20 years.

The average mortgaged household now spends less of its income on housing than it does on food, a turnaround from earlier surveys in which it spent more. Housing costs include mortgage payments and water and rate payments.

Adjusted for inflation, the average mortgaged household paid $434 per week in 2015-16, much the same as in 2005-06. But over the same period the average income of mortgaged households climbed from $2272 per week to $2759.

“Mortgage and property values have also increased in the last decade,” said Dean Adams, the Bureau’s director of household characteristics and social reporting. “Ten years ago, the real median dwelling value was $449,000, which climbed to $520,000.”

Mr Adams said the burden imposed on mortgaged households might be even lower than the survey suggested.

“Our survey measures what they chose to pay in mortgage costs, not what they had to pay,” he said. “As rates have come down, some will have spent more than they need to in order to get ahead on their loans.”

Canberra is the easiest city in which to pay off a mortgage, with monthly payments of 15 per cent of income, a near record low. Darwin is the most expensive, with monthly payments of 18 per cent. Sydney and Hobart have monthly payments of 17 per cent, and Melbourne, Brisbane Adelaide and Perth monthly payments of 16 per cent.

Housing costs have deteriorated for renters. The average cost for households renting privately is $350 per week, less than the $452 cost for mortgaged households, but as a record high of 21 per cent as a proportion of income, up from 19 per cent ten years earlier. Renters in public housing pay less again, $167 per week, but the cost also amounts to 21 per cent of household income.

Private renters are worst off in Hobart, paying 22 per cent of household income, and best-off in Darwin, paying 19 per cent. Sydney, Canberra and Adelaide renters pay 21 per cent, and Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth renters 20 per cent

The best-off ns are those who own outright who typically spend just $51 per week on housing; 3 per cent of their incomes.

The proportion of households renting privately has climbed to 25.7 per cent, the highest on record. Twenty years ago it was 19 per cent. The proportion renting public housing has slid from 6 per cent to 3.6 per cent, and the proportion owning or buying homes has slipped from 70.9 to 67.2 per cent.

Among home-owning households the proportion that have paid off their mortgages has fallen dramatically, from 42.8 per cent of all households to 31.4 per cent.

The proportion of older households still paying off mortgages has tripled in the past ten years, climbing from 7 per cent to 21 per cent.

Grattan Institute chief John Daley said the most important finding was that low-income households were increasingly stressed. The poorest were now spending 28 per cent of their income on housing, compared to 23 per cent ten years ago. Most middle earners there had seen little change.

Two out of every nine homeowners owned more than one property, either for use as a second home or for renting out. One in 14 owned more than three.

The number of people per home fell from 2.7 in 1995-96 to 2.5 in 2005-06, but has since climbed back to 2.6.

The number of bedrooms per household climbed from 3 to 3.2. Four out of every five homes have at least one bedroom to spare.


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From George Miller to an Egyptian mummy, Chinan Museum unveils 200 treasures

n Museum Director, Kim McKay, (second from left) with Gabi Hollows, Premier Gladys Berejiklian, George Miller and Ita Buttrose at the opening of the 200 Treasures exhibit at the n Museum in Sydney. 13th October 2017 Photo: Janie Barrett 200 Treasures of the n Museum Exhibition preview to open in October 2017. Included is a cape gifted to Captain James Cook. Seen pictured with it is Logan Metcalfe – Collections Officer Pacific at the museum. Photographed Thursday 29th August 2017. Photograph by James Brickwood. SMH NEWS 170829
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200 Treasures of the n Museum Exhibition preview to open in October 2017. Photographed Thursday 29th August 2017. Photograph by James Brickwood. SMH NEWS 170829

200 Treasures of the n Museum Exhibition preview to open in October 2017. Photographed Thursday 29th August 2017. Photograph by James Brickwood. SMH NEWS 170829

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – SEMPTEMBER 28: Kim McKay Director at the n Museum on SEMPTEMBER 28, 2017 in Sydney, . (Photo by Christopher Pearce/Fairfax Media)

200 Treasures of the n Museum Exhibition preview to open in October 2017. Photographed Thursday 29th August 2017. Photograph by James Brickwood. SMH NEWS 170829

200 Treasures of the n Museum Exhibition preview to open in October 2017. Photographed Thursday 29th August 2017. Photograph by James Brickwood. SMH NEWS 170829

200 Treasures of the n Museum Exhibition preview to open in October 2017. Included is a cape gifted to Captain James Cook. Photographed Thursday 29th August 2017. Photograph by James Brickwood. SMH NEWS 170829

200 Treasures of the n Museum Exhibition preview to open in October 2017. Included is a cape gifted to Captain James Cook. Photographed Thursday 29th August 2017. Photograph by James Brickwood. SMH NEWS 170829

Film director George Miller of Mad Max fame is used to viewing the world through a camera. But as one of the n Museum’s newly chosen 200 treasures – along with ‘s first female prime minister Julia Gillard, a 2800-year-old Egyptian mummy and a Tasmanian tiger pup – his image will shine brightly inside and outside the museum.

Mr Miller is one of 100 people living and dead – including Billy Hughes, Eddie Mabo, Cathy Freeman, Bob Hawke and Sir Donald Bradman – who the museum selected because they had shaped the nation through contributions to history, science and nature or culture.

Attending the launch in the newly restored Westpac Long Gallery, Mr Miller said the honour was surprising, especially as his mother attended the National School – which now forms part of the Museum – as a girl about 90 years ago.

“Today is a big Mum day because it goes back a long way,” said Dr Miller, who also made The Dismissal and Babe.

When the Long Gallery first opened at the n Museum in May 1857, nearly a quarter of Sydney’s 45,000 residents – equivalent to a million people today – visited within a week to see stuffed cabinets stuffed with jaw-dropping curiosities and lit by gas lamps.

On Saturday the refurbished gallery reopens, showcasing 200 of the museum’s 18 million treasures: 100 objects showcased in cabinets with related items that tell a story, and the stories of 100 people considered to be the nation’s brave and the bold. Images of the 200 people and things will be projected nightly in a Vivid-style light show from sunset from October 13 to 22.

Museum director Kim McKay hopes the quirky collection will pique visitors’ thirst for knowledge enough that they will come back again and again, and give the world’s fifth oldest natural science museum and ‘s first museum the stature she believes it deserves.

“We are ranked the 34th largest in the world, which is extraordinary given that it is newer [than most]. We have got this extraordinary collection, which is worth close to $1 billion, and it tells us so much who we are and where we came from,” she said. “We are using [the Long Gallery’s] incredible form and architecture combined with the collection to show people that the n museum sits beside the great museums of the world,” she said.

Chosen by guest curator and historian Peter Emmett, the 100 objects include a Hawaiian ‘ahu’ulaa red and yellow feathered cape which was given to Captain Cook in 1778 or 1779 by chief Kalani’opo’u who was regarded the English by the Hawaiians as a god. With yellow feathers plucked from the neck of tiny birds that had tufts of one or two feathers on each neck, it would have taken years to make. The 140cm wide cape was meant to give the wearer power, and provide spiritual and physical protection. Yet its mythic powers didn’t work for Cook, who died soon after in a fight with locals.

Other treasures from the collection – many which defeat attempts to give them a monetary value – include a Tasmanian Tiger female pup collected and pickled about 70 years before the last animal died in captivity in 1936; Papuan Asaro mud men masks with comic hungry tongues created last year; a family of Aboriginal toy dolls collected in Arnhem Land in 1948 made from shells wrapped in cloth; the paradise parrot, the only mainland bird to become extinct since the arrival of Europeans; and the night parrot, thought to be extinct but recently found to be alive.

“This is an n story,” said Dr Emmett. “Not a narrative of firsts and greats, but a unique and distinctive story of our entanglement with people, places, and animals and things.” Nearly every item was still the subject of current research.

When the original gallery was opened with its glass ceiling, money had run out before a stairway to the upper floor could be built. The $9 million refurbishment, split three ways between Westpac, the NSW government and n Museum’s Foundation, has let new light into the restored and updated gallery.

Ms McKay says museums are the ark of humanity, preserving the past and predicting the future. The top 59 museums, with the n Museum in 34th place, hold 90 per cent of the world’s natural and object specimens.

With her trademark enthusiasm, she showed off a tableau including a kangaroo nearly standing erect, a koala, and a cockatoo with a wing tag used in an ongoing study.

They sit under a large rug made from 75 platypus skins.

It was “quite the thing in the day to have one of those”, said Ms McKay.

“What we are looking at is a tableau about n conservation in the future, and the species that helped us define who we are as a nation. And yet our attitude to them has changed over the years so, and God forbid, there should ever be another Platypus rug in existence.”

Under Premier Mike Baird, the museum was asked to increase visitor numbers by 15 per cent by 2019, a goal that Ms McKay says the museum has exceeded with visitor numbers up 20 per cent. There were 440,000 visitors to the n Museum in 2016-17, 419,902 in 2015/16 and 392,927 in the previous financial year.

She is now lobbying for more funding to allow the museum to host more temporary visiting exhibitions, and didn’t miss a chance to call on the Premier and the Arts Minister at the launch on Friday for more funding to expand the floor space.

“We punch way above our weight in science and reputation, and I would just like to have this museum restored in such a way and funded in such a way that reflects that,” she said.

“Last year we discovered 199 new species in our collection and in the field, and that is over 1 per cent of all the new species found on the planet last year.

Only recently a group of visitors told her they hadn’t been to the museum since they were children. That’s something she wants to change.

But former n Museum director Des Griffin said the impact of repeated budget cuts had taken their toll.

“All the time we are told to do more with less, and the phrase, ‘We all have to feel some of the pain’,” he said.

“After 20 years there has been substantial pain, and what is the gain? If anything, the patient is less well than we started out,” said Mr Griffin.

He said governments needed to realise that museums were, more than anything else, places of ideas.

“There is not enough understanding of the contribution museums have made, or the gains they have made to the understanding of the environment, and what museum people have done with citizen science and expeditions,” he said.

“One of the things that used to gall me was people saying,’Oh museums, they are great halls of dead stuff’.

“That’s bloody rubbish.”

Opens October 14, 2017

n Museum, 1 William Street, Sydney

Free after general admission. Adults $15, kids are free


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Big business of change

It’s been all over the Hunter’s media – on the front page of this newspaper and on our television screens – that the new Anglican Dean of Newcastle wants her church to be a safe place, and that’s a heartwarming sentiment.
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What she means is that she is hoping the Anglican church in the Newcastle region will no longer be the hotbed of paedophilia that was exposed in the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, that Anglican clergy will no longer be free to sexually abuse children, that Anglican leaders will no longer protect the abusers or at the least turn a blind eye to their clergy preying on children.

Dean Katherine Bowyer’s hope is delivered with a smile, of course. As the city’s new Anglican Dean she uses all the right words: courage of the victims, respect, vulnerability, humbling, deeply sorry.

She tells us that the Anglican diocese is committed to changing the cultures that led to the paedophilia, and she and her church seem to expect that we should be thrilled about that.

But how long will it take to change the cultures?

The extraordinary outbreak of memory lapses among Anglican leaders at the royal commission hearings in Newcastle a year ago suggests that the culture of protection is alive and well.

The ugly fact is that the people the Very ReverendDean Bowyer will have to rely on to reassure us that the Anglican culture will change are the very same people who have supported the church and its culture.

Can any Anglican (or Catholic) clergy who enjoyed and helped preserve the culture that sanctioned paedophilia be blameless?

And those who supported the church, the churchgoers who believed that priests were too close to god to be doubted, who therefore helped protect the depravity, who therefore helped put the priests beyond the reach of the families of victims, should be more than a little uncomfortable.

They should have no doubt that the money they put on the plate on Sundays or otherwise contributed to the church rewarded men who preyed on children and the men who protected those who preyed on children.If there is a single reason priests in the Anglican and Catholic dioceses of the Hunter were able to thrive as predators of children, it is the mindless adulation of their devotees.

Can those devotees be blameless? No.Despite the smiling and virtuous reassurance of the Very ReverendDean Bowyer that the church is committed to changing its cultures, that there has been lots of work towards change and that she wants to build on that, why do we give this organisation any amount of time to change its ways?

We don’t give other businesses that prey on children time to change their cultures after their activities – on the dark web, say – have been exposed.

We don’t then have a smiling new director of these purveyors of paedophilia declaring in the media that they’re changing a few things to try to make their business a safe place for children, that, for example, they’re going to move into adult films.

The fact is that the church is a business, one that sells religious services.

Just as some businesses sell their products on the promise of status, as in car manufacturers, or good times, as in cruise ships, the church sells its services on the promise of forgiveness and eternal life.

For the clergy the attraction is a career that can climb the ladder of reverence from the reverend through the very reverend and the right reverend to the most reverend, with benefits that include the adulation of customers, channelling the word of god, being seen as unerringly godly and, until recently, beyond accusation. A free hand, and if things get a little too warm there’s a transfer to another parish.

Like any business, and like the businesses that peddle paedophilia on the web, the church was created for the benefit of those who created it and who manage it, the clergy.

Now the Very Reverend Dean Bowyer assures us that the Anglican diocese based in Newcastle is hoping to remove paedophilia as one of the benefits.Children would be safer sooner if the Anglican and Catholic dioceses in the Hunter closed up shop.


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Abbas’ return to Sydney will be emotional

Ali Abbas has never been afraid to spark a feud, but never before did that lead to complete isolation. At South Korean giants Pohang Steelers last season, he was sidelined completely from the first team and the club.
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A new coach had arrived and wanted to clear out every foreign player on the books but offered minimal severance packages instead of the contractual amount. Most accepted those deals simply to escape. The stubborn Abbas stood firm but soon found himself persona non-grata.

He trained alone, wasn’t allowed near the team and was effectively stranded in South Korea. He turned up to the training ground to find the Steelers went abroad for a training camp in Thailand without telling him, abandoning him at the club’s door step. As he recalls, it was part of their plan to bully him out of the club without paying out the remainder of his contract.

It left him a foreign country where he couldn’t speak the language and nobody by his side. Isolated, Abbas turned to the man who had been by him in his darkest hour of need; Sydney FC’s fitness coach Andrew Clarke. When the Iraqi international faced a potentially career-ending knee injury, Clarke helped rehabilitate him and over the course of that year, the pair formed a very close bond. That continued this year, on the other side of Asia, when Abbas was again in turmoil.

And, it’s relationships like this which make it so difficult for Abbas to face his former club, coaches and teammates. After eventually reaching an agreement with Pohang, the 31-year-old joined Wellington Phoenix and is now set to play against Sydney FC for the first time since his departure. Already, the feelings are stirring about the prospect of walking into the opposite change room at Allianz Stadium.

“I have mixed emotions,” he said. “I was there for four years and it will be good to be back at Allianz but obviously I’ll be playing against Sydney. I’ll have mixed emotions but I have to go there and do my job.”

A player facing a former club is nothing new in the A-League where the salary cap and cautious player recruitment has led to a merry-go-round of transfers. However, for Abbas, Sydney FC represent more than just a former employer. Three years ago, a crunching tackle from then Western Sydney Wanderers midfielder Iacopo La Rocca ruptured Abbas’ anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament. The Iraqi’s season was definitely over, so too his hopes of playing in the Asian Cup and his hopes of ever playing professionally hung by a thread. There were times he wanted to quit, but Sydney FC showed faith in seeing out his recovery. That, Abbas says, will never be forgotten.

“I had a difficult time at Sydney [with injuries] but I had the support from the fans and the club. They’ve done a really good job. I don’t know what it’s going to be like to play there but obviously I have to represent my new club and defend the jersey,” he said.

For months, Clarke would take Abbas to Bondi Beach at 7am to run fitness drills to help the winger regain strength in his knee. Physio Elias Boukarim remained by his side for the 405 days Abbas laboured through an often unclear path back to playing.

Clarke, in particular, remained his confidant through Abbas’ dark spell in South Korea and it’s that bond that will make Sunday’s game at Allianz Stadium an emotional one for the former fan-favourite.

“When I was in [South] Korea, I was actually always in touch with them,” Abbas said. “I’ll never forget what they’ve done for me … I’ll never forget that. I’ve never played against them and for the first time, there will be plenty of emotions. The everyday people who do good things for you, you can never forget that. They’ll always be close to my heart.”


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