Education market ready for players to bulk up

EDUCATION is one of Australia’s largest industries, ranking in the top 10 for ”gross value added” in the national accounts, and appears to be one in which we have a competitive advantage. Global demand for education is continuing to grow as the developing world chases the developed world. And demand is likely to remain strong even when economic conditions waiver, as reduced employment prospects or more competitive labour markets can drive interest in reskilling or upskilling.
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Yet this is an industry that is significantly under-represented on the domestic sharemarket.

Navitas has acted as the industry beacon, rising from humble beginnings in Western Australia to operating on the global stage with a market capitalisation of $1.5 billion. That valuation positions it among the top 10 companies globally that are primarily in the education services sector, although there are also largish listed companies such as The Washington Post, which has acquired a number of businesses in Australia that include education among a broader portfolio.

A second listed entity, RedHill Education, tried to bolt together a number of educational businesses in the hope it could replicate the success of Navitas. But it languishes with a market capitalisation of $3.9 million, not far from the $3.2 million it held at June 30, after a disastrous listing in which it fell short of its prospectus revenue forecast for fiscal 2011 by a third and reported operating losses that have only just been stemmed in the September quarter.

RedHill appointed Glenn Elith as CEO in May, with a brief to salvage the business. Elith is a chartered accountant experienced in business turnarounds, including stints with Lion Nathan and George Weston Foods. He was CFO at organic retailer Macro Wholefoods Markets, which was sold to Woolworths in 2009. RedHill recently announced that under Elith it had achieved an EBITDA-positive and cash-flow result in the September quarter.

RedHill operates three Sydney-based colleges: the Academy of Information Technology, Greenwich College and the International School of Colour and Design. It also owns an independent student agency, Go Study Australia. But with the business historically generating about $14 million revenue (the original prospectus forecast $21.4 million in fiscal 2011), the second step for Elith is going to be to find a way to drive shareholder value through consolidation.

While universities dominate the higher education category (and even then there are 135 businesses competing), the broader educational industry is highly fragmented. There are 4910 registered training organisations (RTOs), according to In addition, analyst IBIS World estimates there are more than 11,600 businesses offering language and other educational services (from business colleges to driving schools).

There is a third listed player that has kept a low profile and progressively acted on the consolidation theme, including the purchase of a 10 per cent stake in RedHill.

Academies Australasia Group is a tertiary education business that evolved out of a listed entity with more than 100 years of history. It operates nine colleges in Australia and one in Singapore, offering vocational, English and higher education. Its market capitalisation is $38 million and it is tightly held.

Last month it bought 40 per cent of the College of Sports and Fitness for $300,000 cash and shares, as well as 100 per cent of Melbourne-based language college Discover English for $190,000. It bought 51 per cent of Benchmark College for $5.5 million and paid $1.1 million for 75 per cent of Melbourne-based Academies Australasia Polytechnic, which offers tourism and hospitality qualifications, English courses and delivery of University of Ballarat programs, including MBAs.

Market conditions look ripe for continued consolidation, with weaker competitors placed under considerable pressure. The international market is still recovering from a post-2009 plunge that followed negative publicity regarding student safety in Australia, changes to Australia’s migration policies and shifts in exchange rates.

Industry feedback regarding domestic students is that tight purse strings in government are resulting in a shakeout within the sector. And a move among some states to contestability between private operators and TAFEs offers new opportunities for those operators with scale and efficiency.

Martin Pretty is head of research at Investorfirst Securities.

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Criminal charges loom for HSBC

BRITISH bank HSBC Holdings acknowledged this week that its exposure to an industry-wide money laundering investigation had swelled as it disclosed that it could face criminal charges in the US.
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With its legal liabilities rising, HSBC set aside an additional $US800 million to cover potential fines stemming from the case, bringing its total to $US1.5 billion. The bank, negotiating a settlement with US authorities, is expected to pay the largest fine on record for money laundering and related actions.

The trouble at HSBC comes amid a widespread crackdown by federal and state authorities into the illegal movement of money. Officials are moving to choke off the supply of US dollars to drug cartels and terrorist organisations.

Regulators and prosecutors are looking into whether foreign banks failed to monitor cash transactions at American subsidiaries, allowing drug dealers and terrorists to move tainted money. As well as scrutinising money laundering activities, they are also investigating whether institutions skirted rules by transferring money for nations subject to sanctions.

Over the past few years, the bulk of cases have focused on those sanction violations. The US Treasury Department reached a $US619 million settlement with ING Group in June over such accusations. A couple months later, the British bank Standard Chartered agreed to pay $US340 million to New York’s top banking regulator, which claimed the bank laundered hundreds of billions of dollars for Iran for nearly a decade.

HSBC faces harsher scrutiny. Besides sanction violations, prosecutors are considering criminal charges related to money laundering, according to several law enforcement officials. It would be the first such case stemming from the broad investigation.

”A lot of banks will likely have to respond if US authorities impose criminal sanctions on HSBC,” said Jimmy Gurule, an anti-money laundering expert at the University of Notre Dame. ”It could send shock waves through the financial services industry.”

This year, HSBC was thrust into the spotlight when the US Senate permanent subcommittee on investigations accused the bank of exposing the US ”financial system to money laundering and terrorist financing risks”.

The subcommittee claimed some bank executives were complicit in the activity, ignoring warning signs and allowing illegal behaviour to continue unchecked from 2001 to 2010.

The Senate report found that HSBC’s US operations provided at least $US1 billion in financing to Al Rajhi. Senate investigators said HSBC also failed to effectively monitor the bulk-cash businesses in Mexico. NEW YORK TIMES

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Miners finding Indonesia a tougher ask

A STRING of mid-tier Australian mining companies have run into serious problems with local protests in Indonesia recently, prompting some executives to say the resource-rich nation is losing its lustre.
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As the Australian government’s Asian century white paper urges business to get familiar with Asia, companies are confronting sometimes wild protests and heavy-handed police action, with little hope of relief through the courts.

”The risk profile for Indonesia is starting to look very challenging [compared with other parts of Asia],” according to Jim Kerr, the general manager of goldminer Hillgrove Resources. ”If it was a Melbourne Cup, you’d say Indonesia has drifted to the back of the pack. The odds are looking a little longer.”

In the past 12 months, Arc Exploration, Hillgrove Resources, Sihayo Gold, G-Resources and gas company Triangle Pase have run into serious difficulties with local protests.

Last week, protests erupted against Hong Kong-listed and Australian-run G-Resources, which is attempting to build a ”clean-water pipeline” at its Martabe mine in northern Sumatra. Protests that began over fears of discharging water into the local river turned angry at police action during the protest, and two district offices and a police station were damaged, three government cars burned and a number of people injured.

Local spokesman Adi Sumurung told BusinessDay the company’s chief executive, Peter Albert, was ”good” and had been willing to negotiate, but that they were angry at police, who had forced two youngsters to eat gravel and a young woman to drink water laced with mercury. ”I think this is ridiculous,” Mr Sumurung said.

Arc Exploration also faced trouble last year over the actions of local police, who shot dead two environmental protesters at its Bima project on the island of Sumbawa. The government cancelled the company’s licence as a result.

Sihayo Gold has twice suspended work at its North Sumatra exploration site after attacks by protesters, who set the camp on fire last year. The company blamed illegal ”artisan” miners who face being locked out of goldfields.

Gold explorer Hillgrove Resources likewise suspended drilling for much of 2011 at its Sumba prospect because of environmental protests and what it claims was ”political misinformation” from people outside the community.

And Triangle Pase, a gas producer run by long-time industry figure John Towner, has been the subject of a protest about ownership, alleged problems with waste, and claims that it had not fulfilled its corporate social responsibility obligations.

Both Mr Towner and Mr Kerr suggested the protests were more about money than environmental issues.

”In reality, these people are paid by someone to cause a disturbance,” Mr Towner said. ”I’ve been there longer than most, I’ve seen it all … someone thinks we’re making an absolute fortune and they think they can come in and take it over until it runs out.”

Mr Kerr said some NGOs were legitimate, but others were little more than organisations designed to ”shake down” his operation.

”They’ll put 20 people outside your gate and then someone comes up and says, for a bit of money, these people can go away,” Mr Kerr said.

Indonesia’s post-democracy decentralisation of power has left local administrations with enormous power over mining investment, but ill-equipped to administer complex environmental and mining legislation, he said.

Companies also do not expect the courts, which in Indonesia are often corrupt, to enforce their rights.

But G-Resources chairman Owen Hegarty said despite the trouble his company faced he had significant faith in the government and people of Indonesia. ”These issues are not fatal, they are not deal-breakers. They are issues we need to work with,” he said.

Australian National University economist Hal Hill said mining was a vexed political and legal issue in Indonesia with ”more than a hint of corruption”. But he also sensed mining companies might be in a rush to catch the once-in-a-generation profits on offer. ”I get a sense of nervousness, that they are getting pushy and aggressive. Maybe both sides are going harder,” he said.

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Stosur at home in Paris

The incongruity of Roland Garros for Sam Stosur is that the place where she has produced her most consistent grand slam results has also been the scene of two of her most devastating losses. The claycourt major that, in some ways, made her career, has also made her weep, question, and lament.
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This week, almost 12 months after her painful semi-final loss to Italian Sara Errani, Stosur walked back through the gates to prepare for a 10th appearance at the tournament that hosted her breakthrough semi-final appearance in 2009, and debut grand slam final the next year. Some great memories, certainly, but also, one would think, the ghosts of chances lost.

”I think you’d have to say it’s more of a happy place and a place you’re looking forward to going back to,” Stosur told Fairfax Media before arriving in Paris on Wednesday.

”There’s maybe that missed opportunity or those really disappointing moments, but at the end of the day it’s all good going back there, that’s for sure.

”Three out of the past four years I’ve made semis or better and they’re very good results, but in those results I’ve had probably two of the hardest losses that I can really remember, so, yeah, it is kind of bitter-sweet.

”Of course, getting that far is great, but you always want to keep going and do that little bit better. But I do always enjoy walking into Roland Garros and starting the tournament, and I seem to play well. For sure, there’s also those lingering disappointing moments, but that’s all part of tennis – I just happened to have two of them in the same spot.”

The last, against the crafty but relatively unimposing Errani, came when a third grand slam final beckoned the 2011 US Open champion, and ranks as Stosur’s toughest loss of 2012. Seeded three places lower – ninth – this time, she has also had a compromised preparation, missing five weeks with a calf injury in early March that caused more problems during her aborted return in April.

Only last week, by reaching the quarter-finals in Rome, did the 29-year-old rediscover some of the momentum she had again failed to gather during her wobbly start to the year in Australia, and which had eluded her while feeling her way way in Stuttgart and Madrid. At the Foro Italico, defeats of Sue-Wei Hseih and Shuai Peng and then a first career win over Petra Kvitova preceded a three-set loss to Victoria Azarenka in what was a timely correction.

”Having won those couple of matches in Rome obviously makes you feel better, then beating Petra for the first time, and then [having] a good match against Victoria, I feel like I’m back on track now. Even though the start of the claycourt season wasn’t what I wanted it to be, I feel like now I’ve found some form before the French,” Stosur says.

”Of course it was very important. You don’t like losing consecutive matches, or having not a very good win/loss record for the year at any point, especially at this time of the year where I feel like the surface is [one] that I can do well on. There’s no guarantees of what’s going to happen, but at least I’m back to where I kinda should be.”

And to where Stosur’s powerful, kick-serving, topspin game is so well suited. Her 22-9 return at Roland Garros ranks ahead of Flushing Meadows (17-8), Melbourne Park (15-11) and the challenging grass of Wimbledon (6-10); indeed, the wreckage of another dark Australian summer would suggest that she is one of the many who finds it easier to play away than at home, where the attention and expectation are magnified.

”What’s easier is just that the French is her favourite tournament,” counters Todd Woodbridge, Tennis Australia’s head of tennis. ”It’s the tournament where she’s had the most consistent results and she doesn’t get as nervous there, I feel, because it’s a comfort zone, it’s her domain. It’s the surface that’s the standout for her and it’s the tournament that made her career, the tournament that set up her career.”

More recently, the former world No. 4 has held steady in the lower half of the top 10, despite the interruptions and indifferent results of 2013, but the player whose last title was her first major, at Flushing Meadows almost 21 months ago, will take a rankings hit if she makes an early exit in Paris. Not that she feels any more or less pressure in that regard, insists Stosur, who is 19th in the race to the WTA Championships that measures calendar-year results.

”To be honest, I’m not really one to look at the rankings and think, ‘Oh, geez, I’ve got X amount of points coming off this week, or this week I’ve got none to defend,’ or anything like that,” she says. ”I look at the year more on the whole and just try and do as well as I can every single week, and I know there’s repercussions for not doing that but, honestly, I don’t look at that too much, I don’t study it.”

Nor, she says, did she spend too long wallowing in the aftermath of a home circuit that brought just one win from four matches in her first three tournaments after ankle surgery. ”It’s tough at the time,” she says, ”but you’ve got to be pretty quick at erasing disappointing moments in this game, because you can’t dwell for too long on something that wasn’t good, otherwise you’re never going to get past it, never going to play well.”

In Paris, she will return to a couple of her favourite restaurants, Indian and Italian, but stay in a new hotel after renting apartments privately for the past few years. Her long-time coach, David Taylor, quit the Fed Cup captaincy this year to travel less and devote his weeks on the road solely to Stosur; and the former world No. 1 in doubles will combine with Francesca Schiavone – her conqueror in the 2010 singles final – at both the French and Wimbledon.

The doubles return, which has already spanned five tour events this year, is about gaining some extra match practice, and experiencing more of what only tournament play can provide. Practising is one thing, Stosur says, but the need ”to make a return at 30-30 or on break point, or whatever” can be another. ”I’ve been enjoying playing a little bit more doubles this year. I’m not going to play every single week, but I’m looking forward to it.”

Just as there is still much else ahead for a superfit athlete who, despite a frustratingly stop-start season, is ready to go again and looking to the next fortnight at Roland Garros with quiet optimism. Says Woodbridge: ”She is really keen to get a strong result. Her season has been a bit depleted so far, but I know that with the work that she’s been doing, the door will open again soon.”

Adds Stosur: ”I’m certainly not going there thinking, ‘Oh, geez, I played not a great match in my last one here.’ That’s not going to be my thought at all. It’s a new year, you’ve got to start fresh and everyone starts from scratch again. No doubt I feel like it’s a tournament that I can do well at, as I’ve proven in the past, and I want to try and at least do that again and hopefully even better.”

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Baker’s derby stocks rise

Hugh beauty: Jockey Hugh Bowman will ride Usainity for Kiwi trainer Murray Baker in Saturday’s Grand Prix Stakes. Photo: Jenny EvansNew Zealand trainer Murray Baker admits that the performances of his two three-year-olds in the Grand Prix Stakes at Doomben on Saturday will give him a significant insight into his stable’s prospects of winning two derbies with different horses in the one season.
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Baker said his two hopefuls, Usainity and Ambitious Champion, had settled in well this week in their lead-up to the $150,000 Grand Prix Stakes.

Both horses are being aimed at the Queensland Derby on June 8.

Ironically, both three-year-olds are by Zed, a son of Zabeel who Baker trained. The little-known stallion is becoming a rags-to-riches story in New Zealand breeding.

Zed, a $400,000 yearling, was luckless during his two years of racing and was retired to stud. But interest in the staying stallion declined to such a level that the horse was forced to cover Clydesdale mares instead of thoroughbreds.

”He was only put to a very small stud and I think after a couple of years he wasn’t getting many mares so he went over to serving Clydesdales, but all of a sudden he’s come good and siring winners all over New Zealand,” Baker said.

”I trained the horse myself and had a lot of time for him, but he was badly injured as a yearling and again hurt as a late three-year-old which completely ruined his career and his commercial profile.”

Zed will stand this season for $4500 at a bigger and stronger stud on the North Island.

”He really suits those breeders and farmers who like to get a young horse and give them a year in the paddock so they can mature and grow,” Baker said. ”And he’ll probably be very popular this year after being on a smaller stud where he didn’t get the opportunities.”

Baker has had a successful season, headed by the performances of Australian Derby winner It’s A Dundeel.

”He’s been home in New Zealand for about three weeks and we hope to have him back in Melbourne for a race like the Cox Plate later in this spring,” he said.

Remarkably, Zed could have up to three starters in the Queensland Derby if another Kiwi – Survived – joins Usainity and Ambitious Champion in the group 1 race.

”Usainity was a terrific run here the other day and has really gone on from that run whereas Ambitious Champion scored a fantastic win at Te Rapa back at home the last time he went to the races and he’s jumping pretty much in grade for this.

”Unlike my other three-year-olds he’s a bit green and a bit raw but he’s a real stayer and I like the things he’s doing at such an early stage.

”He’s owned by Hong Kong clients who also own Ambitious Dragon, who is one of the best horses in Hong Kong, and after this bloke finishes in Queensland he’s likely to also head to Hong Kong for the rest of his racing days.”

Ambitious Champion will be ridden by Kiwi hoop Jonathan Riddell, while champion jockey Hugh Bowman will be aboard Usainity.

”It’s a nice place to be in to have two good three-year-olds both looking to run in a Queensland Derby,” Baker said.

”But this year I think you’ll find the standard of three-year-olds that are competing in the derby will be very good so it could be a very tough race to win.”

Clearly the horse to beat for the Baker pair will be the John Singleton-owned filly Dear Demi, who showed that she’s at the peak of her form at the last-start win at Doomben.

Queensland officials are hopeful that rain stays away from the huge Doomben fixture on Saturday.

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Naitanui happy to hit mark as flying billboard for city’s west

The Giants have banked on the marketing appeal of Nic Naitanui to raise interest this week but the West Coast sensation is still trying to convert members of his extended family in western Sydney to the sport.
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Unfortunately for the AFL and their newest team, the Penrith-born Naitanui calls Perth home and has no intention of resettling in his birthplace but he has plenty of relatives who live in the Greater Western Sydney region the Giants want to become their heartland.

”I’ve got a lot of uncles and aunties, a few of my cousins are still out that way,” Naitanui said.

Despite Naitanui’s status as one of the budding superstars of the competition the AFL is not the No.1 sport of choice among his family, who have their roots in Fiji where rugby is the preferred football code.

”So as well as trying to educate the suburbs and the people of the community out there I’m still slowly trying to communicate to my family what’s going on,” said Naitanui, who is a multicultural ambassador for the league. ”They’re slowly grasping the whole concept of AFL. Now that I’m playing they’ve started watching. Coming from a pretty dominant rugby background they tend to watch a lot of that.”

The sporting preferences of Naitanui’s family underscore the difficulty the AFL and the Giants have in drawing new fans to the game while also highlighting the possible impact a big-name signing will have for their cause.

Naitanui said his family rarely watched AFL games unless he was playing, but he understood why.

”If I’m someone who has watched football my whole life it’s pretty hard to switch off that and start watching soccer unless you know people who are playing or have a passion for it,” Naitanui said.

”They’re starting to watch a different variety of games but I’m not sure if it’s their No.1 choice if none of us are playing. That’s what we’re trying to convert them to and instilling in them to watch AFL a lot more often.”

Naitanui has heard stories from Giants players about the difficulties they face at school visits ”because all they want to talk about is either rugby or soccer”.

”I think we’re slowly cutting into that market, it’s a long process,” Naitanui said. ”It’s not only the kids you have to convert but the families as well. GWS are doing a pretty good job over there, I reckon.”

Despite the enormity of the task confronting the Giants, Naitanui believed having a club based in the region was vital. The 23-year-old said he would likely have pursued his other childhood sporting loves, rugby and basketball, had he grown up in western Sydney instead of Perth.

”Unless there was a GWS or another side out there I don’t think I would have been exposed to it as much,” said Naitanui, who grew up on the same street as Carlton’s Chris Yarran and Fremantle’s Michael Walters.

”If you grow up playing the same thing your whole life you want to do it, if I was out in western Sydney it would have been the rugby or basketball. If I grew up now with the Giants team there it caters for me a bit more.” The Giants, who drew a paltry 5830 fans to their last home game at Skoda Stadium, have gone to great lengths to use Naitanui to sell Saturday’s game. Not only did coach Kevin Sheedy pen an open letter to the All Australian ruckman but the Giants took the unusual step of placing highlights of an opposition player on their website. Naitanui is happy to be used as a promotional tool for the game but has ruled out any possibility of leaving the club he supported as a boy to cross to the Giants.

”It’s all about growing the game and getting supporters along,” Naitanui said.

”At the end of the day we want more people playing footy. Sheeds can do as much as he wants, I don’t mind, I’m staying put at home.”

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Hunters take no chances

NEWCASTLE Hunters celebrating their win in the Kibble Mallon cup this month. Picture Jonathan CarrollNEWCASTLE Hunters coach Trevor Gallacher said his players had more than enough to deal with in their ongoing development without allowing complacency to be an issue in their Waratah Basketball League game against winless Sutherland Sharks at Broadmeadow on Sunday.
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After splitting their road double against Parramatta and Manly last weekend to be eighth with a 5-6 win-loss record, the Hunters tip off at 3pm tomorrow. Gallacher said they could not afford to take the Sharks (0-10) lightly.

‘‘The longer they go winless, the more they will play with a nothing-to-lose attitude when they play teams,’’ Gallacher said.

‘‘Our scouting report on Sutherland says that they’re a fast-break team and a perimeter shooting team, so even a team that lives and dies by that quick offence and a perimeter game can come out at any time and have a good one.

‘‘We can’t take anything for granted with a team like that. They’re going to throw everything at us and do their best, and if we turn up expecting a walkover, we might be on the end of one.

‘‘We’re really happy with the progress that we’re making, and the players don’t want to take a big step backwards by having a poor performance against Sutherland. Regardless of the scoreline, we want to play well and we want to keep improving every week.’’

Gallacher has been cleared to coach the Hunters after Basketball NSW rescinded a technical foul he incurred in their 79-72 loss to Manly last Sunday. Had it stood, it would have been his third this season, meaning a mandatory two-week suspension.

‘‘The referees didn’t cost us the game, but there were some game-management issues which were frustrating throughout the game,’’ he said.

‘‘I crossed the line and received a technical foul, which was deserved, but Basketball NSW have responded by suggesting there were other contributing factors and this particular technical foul did not warrant the initiation of a two-week ban.

‘‘I just have to apply more caution towards the officials in future and negotiate in a more reasonable manner.

‘‘It’s part of my responsibility as a coach to learn that lesson and be more flexible to the way the officials are refereeing the game.’’

The Hunters (4-4) will try to avenge their 2012 finals elimination when they host Sutherland (3-4) in the women’s game at 1pm tomorrow.

Coach Paul Lyth said the Hunters would be at full strength, welcoming back Charlotte Bull and Chloe Mullaney after they missed their 61-37 away win against Parramatta last Saturday.

Meanwhile, the Mustangs (1-8) will try to snap a five-game losing streak when they host Bankstown (4-4) at Maitland tonight.

The game will start at 7pm, preceded by the women’s game at 5pm.

Still chasing their first win, Maitland (0-7) will have to be at their best against reigning women’s champs Bankstown.

Final Origin hurdle for Gidley

KNIGHTS skipper Kurt Gidley needs only to emerge unscathed from tomorrow’s clash with the Warriors in Auckland to be named in the NSW squad for the State of Origin series opener.
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Despite speculation Gidley may have been overlooked as NSW’s bench utility for Cronulla’s Luke Lewis, it is understood he was contacted yesterday by Blues coach Laurie Daley to tell him his name would be in the squad announced tomorrow night.

But there were apparently no such calls for Gidley’s teammates Willie Mason and Akuila Uate, who have missed the cut.

Newcastle’s only other representative in Origin I, to be played at ANZ Stadium on June 5, will be Queenslander Darius Boyd, who was reportedly interviewed yesterday by the NRL’s integrity unit as part of the investigation into the Ben Te’o affair.

Boyd and Gidley will both have to stand down from Newcastle’s daunting away game against South Sydney tomorrow week.

The Knights flew across the Tasman yesterday, where they expect to face a Warriors team smarting after a 62-6 hammering from Penrith last week – the heaviest loss in their history.

Under new coach Matthew Elliott, the Warriors have been dismal this season, winning only two of their first 10 games.

But even though fifth-placed Newcastle are coming off a resounding 44-8 win against Canterbury, their record in Auckland should ensure there is no complacency.

Last season’s 24-19 win at Mt Smart was the Knights’ only success there in their past seven visits.

“Our record over there is not that great,” Newcastle playmaker Jarrod Mullen admitted.

“I don’t know the last time we won over there, except for last year.

“We got that hoodoo off our back last year . . . it’s a day game and that definitely helps us.”

In-form impact player Adam Cuthbertson said Newcastle wanted to play at a similarly high level to last weekend, after a season of fluctuating form.

“We need to string a few games together and learn how to do that,” he said.

Cuthbertson said the Warriors were always a handful up front, regardless of their position on the points table.

“They’ve got a really good forward pack,” he said.

“They’re really big and really skilful, so it’s going to be a great challenge for our middle men, just like last week. I dare say they’ll be out to prove something in front of their home fans.

“They’re going to be hurting. They’re going to want to come out firing and turn their season around.”

Warriors centre Ben Henry has been ruled out with a season-ending knee injury. Carlos Tuimavave is expected to replace him in the starting side.

Uate is likely to start on Newcastle’s right edge, replacing the luckless Kevin Naiqama, who scored two tries against the Bulldogs.

The presence of Naiqama, Timana Tahu and Chris Houston in Newcastle’s NSW Cup side puts the onus on their first-grade counterparts to perform.

Kiwi international lock Jeremy Smith will also be eligible to return next week from a six-game suspension, adding to the options at Newcastle coach Wayne Bennett’s disposal.


Dream comes true for Catt with early wake-up call

LEWIE Catt was fast asleep yesterday morning when his phone started buzzing at 4am.
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It was a text message from former Newcastle representative teammate Corey Te Koeti telling him the news he had been dreaming of through 18 months of hard work.

Te Koeti had read on the Newcastle Herald website that Catt was the only Hunter player in the preliminary Combined Country squad to play the British and Irish Lions at Hunter Stadium on June 11.

“I found out at 4am when the article went up online,” Catt said. “I got a lovely message from a mate who was on dogwatch at 4am. I was really excited, jumped up and sent a few messages around. It was great.”

The Wanderers centre was one of 43 NSW and Queensland country origin players named in the initial squad yesterday. The list, which includes 18 Super Rugby players and five former Wallabies, will be cut to 23 on Friday. The team go into camp on June 6.

With many Super Rugby players expected to be ruled unavailable in the lead-up to the game by their franchises or through injury, Catt appears an excellent chance of making the final team.

And the 25-year-old is daring to dream.

“It is the biggest thing every 12 years in country rugby and I’m just thankful it’s at the right time for me,” he said.

“I’ve hit my straps and am producing good footy. I’m fit, I’ve had a good pre-season and rep season with [Newcastle coach] Dan Beckett as well.

“Everything has just fallen into place. There’s been no shortage of hard work put into it, though.”

The Lions game had been a source of motivation through 18 months of toil and focus.

“It has been in the back of my mind since I made Country last year and thought to myself, ‘Hey, I might actually get a shot at this,”‘ he said.

“I have been working towards it and I’ve made a few sacrifices with work, putting hours on hold and my whole social life as well. It’s a bit monotonous just getting up, working, training, sleeping.

“That’s what it’s been like for the past 18 months, but this is what I’ve been training for.”

Catt was one of seven NSW Country players to make the first line-up, which included seven from Queensland Country, seven from Sydney and four from Brisbane club rugby.

He was surprised more Hunter players did not make the cut given Newcastle won their sixth straight NSW Country championship this year.

Among the 18 Super Rugby players are former Wallabies Greg Holmes (13 Tests), Ben Daley (3), Nic Henderson (3), Dan Palmer (1) and Beau Robinson (1), although doubt hangs over their participation.

“We are aware that some of the [Super Rugby] guys may ultimately not be available,” Combined Country coach Cam Blades said.

Tickets to the match are on sale at proticket南京夜网.au.

Full squad in Details, Page 57

Lewie Catt

Blues try to stop Waratah’s Falealii   

WARATAHS halfback Auvasa Falealii has terrorised his Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union opponents since arriving on the scene this season.
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The Kiwi import’s strength, running game and rugby nous helped crush University 68-24 to maintain the Tahs’ flawless start to the season last week.

Today the Tahs face their biggest test to date against the second-placed Wanderers in the top-of-the-table match at No.2 Sportsground.

Wanderers coach Todd Louden said the key to silencing the Tahs No. 9 would be through his forwards.

“If our forwards are good and defending well and controlling possession, then that’s going to limit his opportunity somewhat,” Louden said.

“At the end of the day, if we focus on just one player, we’re going to struggle, because from what I’m led to believe they have threats elsewhere, too.

“Their No. 8 [Pala Palupe] is a good player and Hayden Pedersen is a good player, and they have a fair back three, so it’s the forwards where it’ll be won or lost.

“Wanderers forwards have never been rated, but we’re very workmanlike, and if we’re at our best tomorrow, we’re in with a really good chance.”

Pedersen, in particular, has been unstoppable. In seven games the Waratahs player-coach has scored 16 tries.

An intriguing battle today will be Pedersen lining up against Two Blues outside centre Lewie Catt.

Catt’s confidence will be high after a successful Cockatoos campaign, which led him to being the only Newcastle player named in the Combined Country preliminary squad to face the British and Irish Lions.

“Hayden has a wealth of experience as well,” Louden said. “Lewie is still learning the game in a lot of ways.

“He’s a deep thinker of the game, so I think that match-up will be key.”

Pedersen is also expecting a torrid time against Catt.

“It’ll be a good battle,” Pedersen said. “We’re different players as he’s a big guy, a crash man, and I’m more little and nippy.”

The Tahs have scored on average 50 points per match this season, many coming through their domination in the backline from broken play.

However, Pedersen has not been entirely satisfied with the Waratahs’ forward pack and has sensed weakness.

“We need some improvement in the key areas of our clean-out, and obviously getting stronger around the fringes,” he said.

“They have a quality front row and [are] strong throughout the pack. So I think we’ve been playing well, but we can still improve in that area.”

Auvasa Falealii

GREG RAY: New name for crazy

THE War on Terror has a new dimension: “lone wolf terrorists” on the streets of London. In days gone by a couple of nasties who chopped people up with meat cleavers would have been called criminals or crazy. Criminals were charged, tried and jailed. Crazies were charged, tried, found to be mad and put away somewhere. The judge would recommend more money be spent on mental health facilities and nothing would happen. Again. But when the nasties rave something about Islam, then it’s time for another squillion dollars to be channelled into the War on Terror. Does anybody feel safer?
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League’s tough-guy image took a hammering this week, when a couple of first-grade players accused a girl of assaulting them, forcing them out of a house and locking the door on them. Details of the allegations are unclear and conflicting, but by some accounts the girl bashed a footy player with her eye socket and a shoe, sending him scurrying. It’s a man’s game.

Meanwhile, debate raged among politicians over whether gambling has intruded too far into television broadcasts of league. Speculation is raging over whether the government might move to outlaw some of the more allegedly over-the-top practices of sports bookies. Top sports betting firms have offered short odds on the prospect of legislative action. Care to bet on the outcome?

The Ford Falcon, that icon of middle-of-the-road Aussie motoring, will soon be a thing of the past, thanks to a decision by Ford to stop building cars in Australia. The company said it would shut its manufacturing plants in 2016, putting at least 1200 people out of work.

Holden’s Commodore, meanwhile, is set to soldier on for at least a little longer, even though the only cars most people buy these days are SUVs and 4WDs. You’re not taking the Commodore. Not just yet, anyway.

The Australian government this week announced that the resources boom had officially passed its peak. The timing couldn’t be lousier, with tax receipts down and the manufacturing sector shedding jobs almost as quickly as the mining support sector.

Looks like Australia may be a late arrival at the global economic slumber party.

The Hunter coal industry declared this week that most of the black stuff being shipped out of Newcastle was being sold at a loss.

This was all the fault of: (A) unions and workers getting too much pay, (B) unreasonable environmental rules delaying mine approvals and (C) people taking mining for granted. Expect to see at least two of those problems fixed in the near future.

The leader of the NSW opposition, some bloke called Robbo, showed his credentials by fronting an enviro meeting in the Hunter. Somebody asked him about the future of coal and he said his party was working on a policy to phase it out. Of course he was “set up” by one of those sly geniuses in the green movement. Cough. He really meant that he totally loves all mining, everywhere, all the time. Maybe next time he could say coal is extremely important at present, but because it can’t last forever we need to start thinking beyond it. Would it be legal to say that?

The blazing meteor that was the career of mining dealmaker Nathan Tinkler may, like the boom itself, have passed its zenith, if the BRW rich list is any guide. Tinks, who now lives in Singapore, tumbled out of the top 200, shedding a comet-trail of dollars and leaving many fond memories in his wake.

Wanna buy a house?

The Aussie dollar took a bit of a tumble, again, following some murmurings by that lost soul Ben Bernanke, who runs the United States Federal Reserve. Every time poor Ben suggests that, sooner or later, the money-printing might have to slow down or stop, the markets instantly panic. He’s like Casey Jones, shovelling IOUs into the boiler of the American Express. Except the train isn’t moving. It’s just blowing smoke, steam and sparks into the air to baffle everybody.

I’m definitely baffled.

EDITORIAL: Council’s kitchen rules

SOME people will be eager to paint Newcastle City Council’s push for a bigger role in inspecting home kitchens used to make food for sale as a money-grab.
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That conclusion will come naturally to many, since it is no secret that the council is desperately pressed for funds and keen to increase its income. The sometimes controversial policies of the council in the sphere of parking compliance have helped maintain awareness of that situation.

But it makes little sense to rush to judgment on the home kitchen inspection proposal until all the detail is available.

The council can certainly argue, correctly, that food safety is a vital public health concern. If its inspectors do their work carefully and tactfully, the community may be glad of the extra scrutiny.

There is nothing new about authorities expecting high standards from home kitchens that are used to make food for sale. Many local councils publish detailed information to help people comply with national food safety standards and a quick look at typical council information sheets demonstrates that most of the requirements are simple common sense.

Requirements vary a great deal too, depending on the kinds of foods being prepared. Some products obviously carry a much higher risk than others, and no sensible council inspectors would insist on applying the same standards to a granny who makes toffees for a school fete as they would to a more commercially oriented operation handling meat and other potentially risky perishables.

Indeed, the hypothetical toffee-making granny should not even reach the inspectors’ radars. An annual inspection fee of more than $400 would put an end to her endeavours, to the detriment of her fund-raising beneficiaries.

No doubt some senior council officers would have cast an eye over the financial implications of the new kitchen inspection scheme, presumably concluding that the extra fees – on top of those already levied on home salons and similar businesses – couldn’t hurt the city’s bottom line.

The scrutiny being applied to council finances is apparent in the close interest being paid by lord mayor Jeff McCloy, who yesterday declared himself at least mildly pleased with a modest improvement in performance.

An operating deficit of $30 million is still looming this year, but despite a variety of problems the council is ahead of its estimates for the latest quarter, a rare event not seen since September 2011.

In that context, any new source of cash must be welcome.

Casciaroli returns to Broadmeadow Magic

NCH SPORT. Soccer – Broadmeadow Magic V Jets Youth at Wanderers Oval, Broadmeadow. Pic shows Magic’s Daniel Casciaroli and Jets’ Koh Satake. Sunday 19th May 2013. NCH. Newcastle. PIC by MAX MASON-HUBERS MMHDANIEL Casciaroli knows not to expect a friendly reception when he returns to Darling Street Oval tomorrow in Broadmeadow colours.
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But the 24-year-old, who spent five seasons at Hamilton, wouldn’t miss it for the world.

“I’m not sure what I’m going to receive but I’ve got a lot of good friends there as well, so it shouldn’t be too bad,” Casciaroli said.

“There will probably be a few people who won’t be saying hello.

“But these are the games you want to play. It’s just always a good game, Magic against Olympic. They are the best games of the season.”

Top-of-the-table Magic take on traditional rivals Olympic in the Northern NSW State League match of round eight, and Casciaroli’s clash with his former club will be a highlight.

The defensive midfielder missed two months of Hamilton’s minor premiership-winning campaign last season because of a trip to Italy, then struggled to break back into the starting line-up.

The electrician moved to Magic, where he had one season as a teenager, to play under Robert Virgili and Bobby Naumov and try to fill the sizeable void left by injured club champion John Bennis.

“I’ve had Bobby Naumov and Chilla before as coaches and I just like the way they go about things and the project they had and I wanted to get on board,” he said.

“And the club is obviously second to none in the region with everything they’ve got.

“I’m really enjoying this year. We’ve got a really good team and everyone gets along well.

“And if we keep going like we are going, we will be on top of the table at the end of the year, I’m sure.”

Virgili said Casciaroli had “had stepped up to another level” in filling the big shoes of Bennis over the first four rounds of the season.

A calf injury sidelined Casciaroli for two games but Virgili said the key man was slowly returning to his best.

“In a week or two I think he will back to where he was and that’s important for us,” Virgili said.

“Everything revolves around him, and it’s a role that suits him.

“We need him to run things in midfield, and when he gets over his injury he’ll be stamping his authority there again.”

Magic’s injury problems have shifted to their defence recently and they will be without Luke Virgili, Jon Griffiths and Ben Higgins tomorrow.

While Broadmeadow are fresh from a 2-0 win over the Jets Youth, Hamilton are backing up from a 3-2 loss to Edgeworth in which Matt Swan left the field with a hamstring injury after 20 minutes.

Olympic coach Michael Bolch said Swan was out and Ben Koina would take his place tomorrow.

Bolch said his side needed to improve in all areas and adjust quickly to changes he was trying to make in their playing style.

“We were second to the ball too much last week,” Bolch said. “We did well with the ball when we had it, but we lacked a bit of penetration in the front third.

“We’ve changed things around a little bit and are trying not to play as direct as we have been.

“But we turned over a little bit of ball and we really didn’t have a great deal in that top third. It will take us a couple of weeks to get it right.”