Monthly Archives: March 2019

Councillors approve Morpeth high-density

Plans for the housing on the former Morpeth Bowling Club are set to move forward.Picture: Marina NeilTrailer park touted if Morpeth housing blocked
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MAITLAND councillors have sided with a developer and dismissed a council report that warned that development on the former Morpeth Bowling Club site should not proceed.

Developer Brad Everett, a Morpeth Land Company director, told the councillors before they voted that the report “was not balanced” and he was “trying to get the best outcome”.

Hunter developer Hilton Grugeon watched the debate unfold in the public gallery among 50 vocal Morpeth residents.

Councillor Steve Procter rejected the report and called for the site to be added to the Maitland Urban Settlement Strategy, saying some residents did not have a problem with the 22 to 30 high-density houses that had been flagged for the land.

Councillor Arch Humphery immediately backed him. He said residents would have their say later in the process.

Morpeth residents voiced their opposition to the councillors who spoke against the council report.

They clapped and cheered for councillors Loretta Baker and Henry Meskauskas who disagreed with Cr Procter.

Maitland mayor Peter Blackmore threatened to throw the residents out of the chamber if their noise did not cease.

Cr Baker responded to their calls, saying they were “speaking with their bodies and voices” and “the rural curtilage of Morpeth was important to the history of this country”.

Cr Meskauskas questioned why the councillors, who normally agreed with the council staff and praised their advice, were criticising the report.

“Here we are picking it to threads when all the officers’ reports indicated this is not the time,” he said.

The four Labor councillors voted against Cr Procter’s proposal.

Morpeth resident Heather Berry said development on the site would be at odds with the residential facilities beside it and inconsistent with what was happening in the town.

She said the council staff had backed up their recommendation with solid evidence, adding that the development would have hurt the town’s heritage values.

Cr Blackmore and Cr Geoghegan have defended the move.

Cr Geoghegan said the councillors had not been influenced by the developer and were merely “trying to achieve the best outcome”.

He said a hotel or motel on the site would be much worse, and the developer could submit an application for that because it was allowed under current zoning.

The developer told the Newcastle Herald last week that it would create a trailer park on the site if the council did not approve its plans.

Cr Blackmore said including the land in the strategy was the first step and there was a lengthy process before the councillors would consider approving the development.

He said the land would have to be rezoned general residential and a development application for housing would have to be approved before the developer’s plans could come to fruition.

“This project has a long way to go, the developer has to provide a lot more information and it has to be considered alongside other developments that have been put forward across the city,” Cr Blackmore said.

Plans for the housing on the former Morpeth Bowling Club are set to move forward.Picture: Marina Neil

‘It was tough’: Sarah and Maddy endure on the Kokoda Track

WE MADE IT: Sarah Lauff and Maddy Hawthorne after completing the Kokoda Track. Photo: contributed
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WALKING 147 kilometres in any circumstance is a massive effort, but Maddy Hawthorne and Sarah Lauff know what they’ve just achieved is beyond special.

The pair completed the Kokoda Track, a 10-day, 147km journey with an elevation range spanning 1800m.

Both girls said it was tough.

But as members of the 35-strong group who walked the track for the RSL and Services Clubs Association’s annual Kokoda Youth Leadership Challenge, Miss Hawthorne and Miss Lauff know while the trek was as physically demanding as any activity they’ve both endured, the battle is definitely between the ears.

“We all sort of pulled each other along,” Miss Hawthrone said.

“It was tough physically but mental strength was important as well,” Miss Lauff added.

The pair both received a $6000 grant from the Orange Ex-Services Club to take part in the annual youth leadership challenge trek on the unrelenting Papua New Guinea walk.

Miss Hawthorne, 19, said it’s an experience she won’t forget.

TOUGH TRIP: Sarah Lauff and Maddy Hawthorne. Photo: NICK McGRATH 1012nmkokoda1

And for 24-year-old Miss Lauff, she had a piece of family history motivating her to overcome both the track and illness mid-way through the journey.

“For me I was doing it for my grandfather who recently passed away, but he was over there when he was 18 in 1942,” she said.

“That was why I wanted to do it.”

Miss Hawthorne said she’s now developed a greater understanding of the ordeal Australian troops had at Kokoda.

“I did it to learn a little bit about history,” she said.

“I wanted to expand my horizons on what I knew about it and obviously it’s a big physical challenge, it’s something I wanted to sort of one day get the chance to do.

“It’s a good leadership opportunity, and doing it through the Youth Leadership Challenge program was a really good way to do it

“We worked with lots of young people during this amazing experience.”

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High-wire walker Philippe Petit has his sights on another daring Sydney project

Aerialist Philippe Petit with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who plays him, on the set of The Walk. Photo: Takashi Selda Petit crosses between the pylons of the Harbour Bridge: a scene from the Oscar-winning documentary Man on Wire.
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Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Philippe Petit lies down on the wire during his crossing between the Twin Towers in The Walk.

As a Hollywood movie recreates his famous high-wire walk between New York’s Twin Towers in 1974, aerialist Philippe Petit still wants to take on a long-planned project in Sydney.

The French performer and author wants to do an inclined high-wire walk from the Sydney Opera House to the Harbour Bridge’s southern pylon.

“I did 10 trips to Australia considering this project many years ago,” Petit said in charmingly accented English from New York. “It’s an amazing proposal and it could be revived.

“On my side, the whole project ready to go it would would be beautiful to bring a magnificent celebration in Sydney.”

Before his spectacular illegal walk in New York, Petit stopped morning traffic on the Harbour Bridge for more than an hour with a daring high-wire walk between the two northern pylons in 1973. Having smuggled climbing gear into the pylon overnight, he crossed five times before being arrested and fined $200.

Already the subject of the Oscar-winning documentary Man on Wire, his Twin Towers escapade has been dramatised in The Walk, which opens in cinemas this week.

Petit, who is played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the movie, drew up plans for what he calls his Sydney Walk in the 1970s. He consulted engineers and representatives from the Maritime Services Board, the Bridge and Opera House but could not find a financial backer. His interest returned when he visited to launch Man on Wire in 2008.

“It would be great for Australia to do a giant performance in the sky and to be seen by the entire world,” he said. “But I’m not a millionaire artist who can send people ahead and start talking. It’s word of mouth.”

While getting all the required approvals and sponsors could be as daunting as the walk, Petit has performed an estimated 90 high-wire crossings in his career, often in front of vast crowds without a safety line or net.

After an early covert crossing between the towers of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, he has been commissioned to walk across the Seine to the Eiffel Tower, across Broadway in New York and between the Jewish and Arab quarters in Israel.

His most recent walks have been near his New York home – celebrating the 40th anniversary of his Twin Towers walk above a lake, using the same equipment, and at a cathedral where he has been artist in residence.

Petit said his Harbour Bridge walk in 1973 came on a whim.

“I had no money,” he said. “I didn’t speak much English; I didn’t know anybody in Australia.

“I was just finishing a strange one-month tour presenting my street performing, mostly at the festival in Nimbin. So it was something completely improvised but I really loved my adventure in Australia.”

As risky as the walks seem, Petit dislikes being referred to as a daredevil.

“I’m not trying to break records,” he said. “I’m not trying to be the first, the longest or the highest.

“I don’t want to cross and yell ‘I did it’ and try to be rich and famous. All those things that you see when people are not in the art of something.

“To me, it’s really theatre in the sky. People call me a high-wire artist and it’s really the art that I’m interested in.”

Petit is baffled that people take on dangerous challenges now so they can post photos on Facebook or Instagram.

“I’m very ignorant of this 21st century world that we live in,” he said. “I don’t really approach the computer except for finalising a book that I start writing with pen and paper.

“I’m not familiar with all the ‘tweet’ and the Facebook and all those things. I’m ignorant. It’s ridiculous because it’s a tool of our century and I should really get engaged.

“But maybe I don’t believe in the 21st century. I belong more in the 18th century.”

Petit’s special connection with the World Trade Center left him shattered when the towers collapsed in the terrorist attacks in 2001 but he is reluctant to talk about what he felt.

“I cannot really talk about the disappearance of two beautiful pieces of architecture when so many human lives disappeared that day,” he said.

Even as the subject of The Walk, Petit said he was swept up in the drama as he watched it for the first time.

“I was on the edge of my seat and I was really praying for the performer to be able to get to the other side,” he said. “Then I realised, oh, I’m the performer.”

Director Robert Zemeckis originally wanted Petit to narrate the movie and perform the high wire walks and street juggling on screen, with visual effects making him younger.

“After we shot a lot with me on the wire, the movie took a different turn,” he said. “It was wished by the powers that be that there would be a young actor playing me. So from that moment on, I became more of a consultant.”

That role included training Gordon-Levitt to walk on a high-wire.

Having taught himself engineering, Petit does not believe he is risking his life on the high wire.

“When I put that first step on the wire – at the World Trade Center even more so – I always put myself in a state of mind and body that I am not risking my life,” he said. “I’m doing something much more beautiful: I am carrying my life across.

“I carry in my heart the certainty that I will do the last step successfully. I don’t walk with fear. I walk with amazement, I walk with joy.”

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Victim of his own versatility, Sydney FC’s Rhyan Grant ponders unlucky axing

Pragmatic: Defender Rhyan Grant says he’ll do what is best for the team. Photo: Kate GeraghtyFew players in the A-League can rival Sydney FC’s Rhyan Grant for versatility but that probably won’t be enough to save his spot in the starting side for Saturday’s trip to face the Newcastle Jets.
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Grant hardly put a foot wrong as a fill-in left-back in round one, a performance ordinarily good enough to ensure the spot would be his this weekend. But with first-choice Alex Gersbach likely to be fully recovered from international duty, Grant’s hollow reward may be a spot on the bench.

The 24-year-old knows he couldn’t have done much more against Melbourne City – his superb late cross to George Blackwood would have been an assist had the young striker converted – but knows he’ll probably have to make way for the teenage wunderkind.

“Every player wants to play, and whether it’s at right-back or left-back I want to get in there and prove myself to the coach that I can do the job and do it well,” Grant said. “But we all know what a great talent Alex is and he showed that last year. It wasn’t his fault he missed out last week because of Young Socceroos duty and you can’t hold that against him or punish him for that, so we’ll just see what ‘Arnie’ [coach Graham Arnold]  does this week at selection.

“Alex is a good mate and I couldn’t begrudge him coming in. I know it’s a cliche, but it’s true – you’ve got to put the team before yourself. This is the reality of being part of a strong squad.”

Grant has carved a niche for himself as Sydney FC’s Mr Fix-It, having played as an attacking midfielder, holding midfielder, right-back and left-back – even once at centre-half – since arriving at the club in 2008.

A right-sided player by nature, and perhaps now thought of as right-back, Grant doesn’t mind switching over.

“I’ve played there in the past and when I have played there I did well, even though it was a couple of years ago. When I was picked for the A-League All-Stars, I played that whole year [2012-13] at left-back,” he said. “Having a right-footer on the left side changes things up, I suppose, as you can cut in on your right or back yourself on your left – which I admit doesn’t happen too often.

“It’s probably a blessing and curse being able to play in different positions. I’d love to cement myself in one position and be guaranteed every week. But if you can’t, you have to adapt.”

The Sky Blues feel as though they should have beaten City given the way they finished the match but Grant said Arnold had been keeping the mood up at training.

“Obviously we weren’t too pleased with drawing but we knew in the second half we played a lot better and played to the potential we know we’re capable of and that put us in a positive mind-frame,” he said. “‘Arnie’ wasn’t too disappointed, especially with that second half. We can try to build on that and improve but the boys are still feeling positive and everything is looking pretty good this week.”

Although Sydney will arrive at Hunter Stadium as favourites the Jets may not be the pushovers many predicted if their shock 2-1 win over Wellington is anything to go by.

“It’s always a tough trip up to Newcastle and their win over Wellington will mean they’re confident and keen to put on a show in front of their own fans,” Grant said. “We just need to make sure we’re ready and able to match whatever they put up on the night.”

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Boycott now behind them, Matildas add new faces for China trip

Fresh face: Tara Andrews is the only uncapped player named in the Matildas squad for friendly matches against China and England later this month. Photo: Ashley Feder/Getty ImagesHaving pulled out of last month’s tour of the USA due to a dispute over the almost-resolved Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Matildas will return to action for a crucial pair of friendly matches in China later this month.
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Matildas coach Alen Stajcic has turned his attention to the next major challenge – picking a touring squad with qualification for the 2016 Rio Olympics firmly in mind.

Given the withdrawal from the US tour, these games – against China and England – have assumed extra importance in the eyes of the coach.

“Obviously these matches are critical. As it stands at this moment they are our last matches before we go into those Rio qualifiers,” Stajcic said. “With the W-League season there aren’t many opportunities to get internationals in between, so this is our last opportunity to play some proper internationals before those critical qualifiers.

“There is a lot of hard work to be done between now and the qualifiers, and we’ve certainly got a tough task in front of us to qualify.”

Four new faces have come into the squad since the World Cup, where Australia bowed out at the quarter-final stage.

“It’s a good opportunity for players who were in the World Cup squad to keep their spot but there are also some opportunities for some new players who have performed well in the W-League and in camp to try and stake a claim and show if they can play at international level,” Stajcic said. “Amy Harrison was the Young Matildas captain and is a very gifted and creative player so she’ll add a different dimension to us.

“Tara Andrews has been a good goal scorer and someone who can hold the ball up. She had a good season in the American second-tier competition, performed really well at camp and certainly earned the right to be in this squad.

“Georgia Yeoman-Dale was probably the standout at the camp and together with Caitlin Cooper, hopefully these four players can do well in China.”

Like the Olyroos, the Matildas failed to qualify for London 2012 – a significant black mark against a team once considered a genuine medal shot. That blot has increased the pressure ahead of the Rio qualification tournament, to be held in February and March next year in Japan. Only two Asian nations will make it to Brazil.

Meanwhile, ex-Newcastle Jets Head Coach Gary van Egmond – whose daughter Emily van Egmond is one of the team’s star players – has been named Matildas assistant coach. He replaces Ross Aloisi, who has become his brother’s right-hand man at Brisbane Roar.

“There probably aren’t many more experienced and qualified coaches in the country than Gary,” Stajcic said. “Having won an A-League title, been around the Joeys and AIS for a long time and also being a former Socceroo, we’re very fortunate to get a man of his experience and calibre. I know he’s going to add great value to the team and to me as well.”

Matildas squad for China tour [date and time of matches TBC]: Laura Alleway, Tara Andrews, Mackenzie Arnold (gk), Tameka Butt, Steph Catley, Caitlin Cooper, Larissa Crummer, Lisa De Vanna, Caitlin Foord, Katrina Gorry, Amy Harrison, Michelle Heyman, Elise Kellond-Knight, Alanna Kennedy, Samantha Kerr, Clare Polkinghorne, Hayley Raso, Kyah Simon, Emily van Egmond, Lydia Williams (gk), Georgia Yeoman-Dale.

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