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 training.gov.au. 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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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.”

Lions fire up for Rosella reunion

Livestream: Watch the game on Sunday from 3pm here
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SOUTH Newcastle have made no secret of the fact they are striving to match the professionalism of local rivals Western Suburbs.

VERSATILE: Todd Hurrell fires out a pass against Kurri Kurri. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

Lions coach Adam Bettridge lured Greg Hurrell from the Rosellas this season as his assistant and signed his son Todd Hurrell, Ryan Pywell and Ryan Lippiatt.

The Merewether club, who have been perennial under-achievers since their last premiership in 1989, have adopted post-match ice baths and Monday recovery sessions.

Todd Hurrell’s arrival is a coup. Over the previous four years the lock, back-rower or five-eighth had become one of Wests’ most reliable and versatile players.

Bettridge wanted Hurrell, who is only 24 but has played in two grand finals and won a premiership, for his experience and leadership.

He, Pywell and Lippiatt will return to Harker Oval tomorrow with their new club to face the Rosellas in round seven of Newcastle Rugby League.

“There’s obviously lots of good mates there and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” Hurrell said of playing Wests.

“It’s pretty true what Barney [Wests coach Craig Miller] said last year: you have mates for life once you win a grand final.”

While Hurrell’s father’s move to Townson Oval convinced him to follow, a chance to play his preferred position of lock to improve his representative credentials was also a major consideration.

“Obviously the rep side has already been picked for this year, but it’s something I definitely want to do at some stage,” he said. “It’s something I haven’t ticked off yet.”

For Pywell and Lippiatt the move was about first-grade opportunities. Both have taken it wholeheartedly.

Pywell is arguably the form winger of the competition with seven tries.

“They’re both going great guns,” Todd Hurrell said.

“It’s always like that at Wests, with players held back in reserve grade who are first-graders at any other club.

“They made the bold move to come across and they’re doing well from it.

“They’re excited to play against their old club, but they’re pretty calm at the same time.”

Meanwhile, the other blockbuster clash of the weekend is today, when Macquarie host Kurri Kurri at Peacock Field.

The Scorpions are the only undefeated club in the competition, while the Bulldogs are barking loudly after consecutive victories over Souths and Wests.

Ex-Knights back-rower Daniel Abraham has been ruled out for a month with a dislocated shoulder for Kurri, and captain-coach George Ndaira has put his faith in teenager Hayden Smith as the replacement.

The under-20s recruit from Queensland was drafted to the Bulldogs through the Knights’ player placement program.

“He hasn’t gotten a game in the 20s yet and he rang me during the trials and I met up with him and he’s been training with us,” Ndaira said.

“He’s a good young kid and he’s still got another year in the 20s at the Knights, and I dare say he’ll be playing a fair bit of footy.

“Every week he’s definitely improving and listening, and having guys like Daniel Abraham and Reegan Tanner is definitely helping him out.”

Long wait for Blues success has made fans more passionate: Carr

NSW rugby league boss Geoff Carr has described Queensland’s seven-year dominance over the Blues as the best thing to have happened to State of Origin.
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While he’s hell-bent on ending the Maroons’ long-standing stranglehold on the Origin series this year, Carr believes NSW’s long wait for success has galvanised the state and evoked a passion among supporters that was once only synonymous with Queenslanders.

”There was always an expectation from NSW supporters that they were going to win,” Carr said. ”The level of engagement in Queensland was always far far higher because there was always that thought that the team really needed them to get behind them to help win. I think with every series that goes by and we get beat, there’s more and more desire from the NSW people to turn it around. That passion has really grown into a groundswell of support for the team. The passion has always been there to an extent but not to the level it is now.”

The last time NSW won a series was back in 2005, and the television audience for the final game of that series was 1.86 million.

For last year’s Origin decider, that figure more than doubled with 4.06 million viewers tuning in to watch Cooper Cronk kick the Maroons to their seventh straight series win. In 2005, when NSW had won their third consecutive series, the total number of viewers for the series was 5.35 million. Last year the series figures broke an Origin record with a combined audience of 11.9 million.

”After winning three series in a row, we won game one of the 2006 series and everyone said Origin was dead and people began to ask where does Origin go from here because NSW will just dominate,” Carr said.

”Then they win game two and we go to game three in Melbourne where Darren Lockyer picks up a loose pass and they win by two points on the bell. That started their dominance but it was at a time where all the so-called experts were predicting the death of Origin because of the NSW dominance.”

The record crowd for game one in Sydney when there are two NSW home games in a series, is 68,000.

That is set to be eclipsed this year with a capacity crowd expected for the opening game of the series at ANZ Stadium on June 5.

More than 71,000 tickets have already been sold for Laurie Daley’s first game in charge of the Blues, while as of Tuesday 52,000 tickets had been snapped up for what could potentially be the deciding game of the series on July 17.

”An Origin game at Suncorp Stadium has for some time been talked about as the premier sporting event to attend because of the passion of the Queensland supporters and the atmosphere they create,” Carr said. ”You probably find the last two games in Sydney with the big number of supporters, the atmosphere in Sydney is right up there. Ten years ago it was good but the Sydney Origin was never talked about in the same language as Queensland, but now it is.

”Look at the Blatchy’s Blues, who started off as a few blokes with wigs. Now we’re in the vicinity of 15,000 people prepared to turn up with blue wigs and blue t-shirts, so you see there’s a real commitment to the team now.”

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The softer side of hard marker Cleary

”If you do a good job for him, he’ll respect you forever”: Penrith’s taciturn coach Ivan Cleary lets his guard down at a club fan day. Photo: Janie BarrettHis team had just won 62-6. Most coaches – even Wayne Bennett – could afford a smile at such a moment. But not Ivan Cleary.
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He still walked into the post-game press conference like he had just spent the previous couple of hours waiting for a bus. There’s no shortage of complex and intriguing characters among the NRL coaching ranks, and Cleary is at the top of that list.

Des Hasler juggles a part-time stand-up comedy routine in between managing his football team, while Michael Maguire is on standby for Australia’s Ashes campaign given his prowess playing a straight bat to anything with a hint of swing. Speaking of the Australian cricket team, Cleary also gets his players to do homework.

After every game his players fill out a feedback form assessing their performance, which he returns the next day with his own thoughts on how they played. Lewis Brown, nicknamed ”Sharky” because his nose resembles a Shark fin, left the Warriors to reunite with Cleary at Penrith this season.

Brown described his coach as ”low maintenance”, but insists the guarded person you see on camera isn’t the man behind closed doors. ”When I first came into first grade I scored a try against the Panthers out at Penrith and we were winning 32-6 with about 15 minutes to go,” Brown said. ”I celebrated by doing a shark fin with my hands. They ended up getting it back to golden point and I had to come off with cramp, and it stayed a draw. Ivan wasn’t very happy so when I handed in my feedback sheet on Monday, he gave it back the next day and at the bottom it said, ‘Instead of choreographing post-try celebrations, how about you learn to push through fatigue?’.

”I showed the boys and they were all cracking up. It’s something I still talk to him about now. It just shows how much he doesn’t like people with a big ego. I was only a young kid then and I haven’t done a post-try celebration since.”

So how can a coach lead a team of relative unknowns to an upset win against the reigning premiers, then six days later put 62 points on a side that less than two years ago played in a grand final?

He copped abuse from his own fans for allowing the club’s three best players – Luke Lewis, Michael Jennings and Michael Gordon – to leave, yet he still has a group of players willing to bleed for him. Even Penrith captain Kevin Kingston, who has been shown the door by the club for next season, commended his coach for the actions he’s taken to move the club in the right direction.

”That’s what he’s paid to do: make the hard decisions,” Kingston said. ”He’s copped that criticism but he’s got thick skin and he has his narrow focus on what he thinks is going to work here and it’s working.

”The thing with Ivan is that if you do a good job for him, he’ll respect you forever. Which is why Lewis Brown is here and Elijah Taylor is coming next year. He’s very approachable and everyone wants to play for him. I can’t speak highly enough of him. The culture he’s created here has given everyone confidence and taught everyone to be independent at the same time.”

While Craig Bellamy and Maguire are famous for their half-time pep talks, Cleary chooses to take the opposite approach when dealing with his players.

”He’s not one to blow you up, but he’ll give you the silent treatment, and I believe that’s the worst kind of treatment of all of them,” Brown said. ”But he’s very approachable.

”A lot of players in the NRL think they can’t approach their coach, but for me he’s a mate and someone I get along well with.

”Most of all he’s honest. We probably didn’t realise how much we’d lost at the Warriors until last year. ”He’s the best coach I’ve ever had. It just shows the type of bloke he is. He signed for another club and could’ve packed up shop but he took us to a grand final in 2011.”

Twitter – @MichaelChammas

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

5.5bn litres of water wasted by leaky pipes 

MISMANAGED: Labor water spokesman Walt Secord.
Nanjing Night Net

ABOUT 5.5 billion litres of the region’s water – the equivalent of more than 30,000 rainwater tanks – will be lost this year through leaky pipes and water mains, Hunter Water has forecast, with urgent leaks taking four hours to fix.

The worst offender is expected to be the Chichester pipeline, which a crew is assigned to inspect daily for leaks that typically take 9.7 hours to fix after being reported.

It takes an average 4.3 hours to fix urgent leaks or water main breaks across its nearly 5000-kilometre network, Hunter Water says.

That has sparked calls from Labor for more staff to respond to leaks. Thirteen staff work overnight, compared to 109 in the daily response crew.

Parliament was told that Hunter Water expected to lose 5510 mega-litres of water or 5.5 billion litres this year.

Under Office of Water guidelines, that would equate to about 30,000 standard rainwater tanks.

The 2013 forecast is down from 5820 megalitres of water lost in 2012 and 6058 megalitres in 2011.

Labor water spokesman Walt Secord said the figures were “extraordinary”.

It follows documents uncovered by Labor that revealed Hunter Water had written to pensioners about overdue water bills.

“At a time when Hunter Water is pursuing pensioners who have fallen behind on their bills, it is shocking to receive data showing that billions of litres of water are being wasted,” Mr Secord said.

“In opposition, [Premier] Barry O’Farrell promised to help with cost of living but, in government, we see waste and mismanagement mounting.”

A Hunter Water spokesman said leaks were assigned on a priority basis depending on their severity and impact.

Hunter Water was in the middle of an eight-year, $1 billion construction program which was “greatly decreasing the amount of water lost annually to leaks”, he said.

“Hunter Water has a long-term strategy to replace the 80-kilometre Chichester Trunk Gravity Main and has already replaced several key sections.”

The pipeline was especially susceptible because it was above ground, he said.

Storm take tentative first steps towards keeping Smith south

Melbourne Storm have kicked off negotiations with Australian captain Cameron Smith and hope to have him tied to the club for the rest of his career by the start of next season.
Nanjing Night Net

The NRL champions’ new owners were asked about the retention of Smith at their introductory media conference on Tuesday, with CEO Mark Evans saying he would leave the issue to the football department.

Football manager Frank Ponissi said the process had begun.

But Smith has admitted a return to Queensland at the end of next season is a tempting proposition.

”We have had some preliminary talks with Cameron so yes, it’s a process that has started,” Ponissi said.

”So far, it’s been very, very informal but without a shadow of a doubt, we want to retain him.

”Hopefully we will have it done before we start next season so it’s not hanging over our heads.”

Ponissi agreed a decision before the 2014 premiership kicks off was only desirable if Smith agreed to stay. Otherwise, they’d keep talking.

Speaking before the World Club Challenge in February, Smith said: ”When I first started playing, I thought if I ever had the chance to play first grade, I want to be a one-club player. But things change.

”I’ve got a family now with three kids where we’re living away from the rest of our family, which is up in Queensland, and sometimes it’s hard. Footy’s been great, the club’s been great, we love Melbourne. But sometimes it’s difficult when you have to travel. It’s hard for the wife to look after three kids. These are issues you face in life.”

The Storm arrived in Sydney for Saturday’s clash with the Roosters, who are on a five-match winning steak, on a slightly delayed mid-afternoon flight.

After his clash with North Queensland prop James Tamou last Saturday, Rooster Luke O’Donnell is expected to again try to match the aggression of suspended Rooster Jared Waerea Hargreaves.

”Everybody gets excited about playing against their former club but Luke’s an aggressive player and we won’t expect anything less from him on Saturday night,” Storm coach Craig Bellamy said. ”He’s a highly decorated player, he’s played for his country and State of Origin.”

Rooster Anthony Minichiello said on Friday: ”Over the last couple of weeks we’ve got confidence out of those tough slog games where neither team has played their best.”

The media conference was interrupted by a spontaneous rendition of Happy Birthday. Minichiello turned 32 on Friday.

Sydney Roosters have conceded just 16 points in their past five games at Allianz Stadium and last week conceded a try by means other than a kick for the first time in more than a month.

Meanwhile, South Sydney winger Nathan Merritt’s push for a belated NSW jumper has received support from Bulldogs champion Hazem El Masri, AAP reports. El Masri became the Blues’ oldest debutant in 2007 when, at 31, he scored a try and kicked three goals in an 18-4 victory.

Merritt has been overlooked often for centres being played out of position, but El Masri said. ”It’s good to get a specialist winger to play there. I think he’d do a wonderful job. He can sniff a try out of nowhere.”

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This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.