The good wife who paid a high price

There was something about Hazel Hawke that made Australians want to reach out and protect her.
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All of us know what it was. Nobody ever dared say it out loud.

Australia’s rock-fan craving for her husband, Bob, transformed the man she knew and maybe collective guilt turned her into our martyr.

Hazel lived the life of an ordinary wife and mother in a postwar Australia when family was the aspiration of all.

But her life turned less ordinary when Bob’s ascension to the heights of public life wreaked devastation on her children, her marriage, her husband and herself.

She kept a low profile for many years but her husband’s personality and achievements ensured she became public property.

The cost was huge: an abortion allowed Bob to fulfil his destiny as a Rhodes Scholar; his drinking and philandering shattered the family; two daughters had drug problems, their son refused to have anything to do with his father for years; she had three facelifts to improve her sense of esteem. And hovering off-stage was the other woman, Blanche d’Alpuget.

Australians knew all this but kept a conspiracy of silence.

Instead, as Hazel, who died this week, stood by her man with pluck and grace, Australians took her to their hearts in a manner never extended to any other prime minister’s wife.

Perhaps it was her vulnerability that made Hazel so beloved.

Sue Pieters-Hawke is adamant that her mother never allowed the bad times to get her down.

”There are plenty of things in public life that you’d prefer never happened,” she says. ”But Mum was never one to dwell on the negatives, she just got on with things.”

Other prime ministers’ wives were not nearly so sympathetic figures in the public mind: Dame Pattie Menzies was born to it; Zara Holt, Sonia McMahon and Margaret Whitlam had lives outside their husbands; Tamie Fraser lacked the common touch, as did Annita Keating; Janette Howard seemed a cipher for her husband’s politics while Therese Rein made millions from the public purse.

In 2003, Hazel revealed she was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease on Australian Story. Her decision focused attention on the disease.

Pieters-Hawke thinks the public’s deep affection and respect for her mother stemmed from the many projects and causes she took up during her years at The Lodge.

Ms Pieters-Hawke says the outpouring of affection for her mother has been lovely.

”I think one of the defining things about mum was that she appealed to our better selves,” she says.

”Mum could help people look up and strive to be something better.”

Born in Perth in 1929, Hazel was one of Edith (nee Clark) and James Masterson’s two daughters. She left school at 15 and worked as a shorthand typist-bookkeeper for 11 years.

Hazel Masterson became engaged to Bob Hawke during his university years. They met as teenagers in Perth’s Congregational Youth Fellowship – she had been aware of him since she was nine, when Bob’s mother had directed a church play.

They were to endure a six-year engagement before he left for Oxford University in December 1953 as Western Australia’s Rhodes Scholar. He graduated with a bachelor of letters – schooled in economics – and returned to Australia in 1956.

In March they married and moved to Canberra, where he began a doctorate at the Australian National University. The first of three children, Susan, was born and the family shifted to Melbourne after Hawke obtained a researcher/advocate post with the ACTU. Another two children, Stephen and Rosslyn, arrived. A fourth, Robert jnr, died shortly after his birth in 1963. A baby had been aborted during the couple’s courtship in 1952 so Bob could go to Oxford.

As Bob climbed the ranks of the ACTU, the family lived in the Melbourne bayside suburb of Sandringham. The home became a focal point after he was elected ACTU president in 1969.

Hazel played the wife and mother in the background while hapless journalists sent to his home of a Sunday afternoon were routinely greeted by a semi-naked (or sometimes naked) Bob, who would dictate comments for the next day’s newspaper while swimming in the pool he boasted was paid for by ”Flinders Street” or ”Spencer Street” (Melbourne’s Herald, now defunct, or The Age respectively).

In 1980 Hawke won preselection for the safe Labor seat of Wills, centred around the northern Melbourne suburb of Coburg. And Hazel suddenly came into her own.

Bob spent much of his time plotting for the leadership and when he finally got it, and then the prime ministership, he had little time for the electorate.

His local numbers man, Coburg mayor Murray Gavin, stepped into his shoes but he lacked the clout and the persona and it fell to Hazel to become the de facto member for Wills.

She assiduously worked the senior citizens and childcare centres and was visible at official openings and her name lives on many plaques scattered around the electorate.

”She had a wonderful common touch. Very simple, just got on with things,” says a former Coburg council worker during the Hawke years. ”It might no longer be fashionable to value a woman who simply personified being a good wife, mother and neighbour but Hazel had them in spades. She was the sort of woman you knew would take your washing off the line.”

Little wonder then that she and Bob drifted apart.

At the dawn of the age of celebrity, Bob was one of the first political leaders to step outside the paradigm. Bob understood that to succeed he had to become public property. During his ACTU days, he assiduously supplemented a public image as the great mediator and conciliator with frequent appearances by his family in magazines and on television. As prime minister, he made cameo appearances on television series and presented the 1984 Gold Logie.

He cried about his daughter Rosslyn’s drug involvement after a 1985 story in The National Times reported that his other daughter, Sue, had a drug conviction that had been overturned on appeal. He cried for the victims of the Tiananmen Square massacre in China in 1989. Earlier that year he was in tears, confessing marital infidelity.

Bob’s celebrity came at a time when society’s leaders started behaving like rock stars.

In 1976 Bob started an affair with d’Alpuget. Two years later, he proposed. The relationship stalled and Bob stayed with Hazel apparently for the good of his prime ministerial aspirations.

”’Divorce could cost Labor 3 per cent,’ he had fretted several times, back when this was an issue for us,” d’Alpuget wrote years later. ”As it turned out, he made the right decision: for himself, for me, for his family, for mine, for his party – and, as became obvious, for the nation.”

The non-couple collaborated on her admiring 1982 biography, Robert J. Hawke, a book that enjoyed the felicitous coincidence of being published as her lover firmed as favourite for prime minister. The pair resumed their relationship in 1988.

In 1994 Bob and Hazel announced their separation. He married d’Alpuget eight months after their divorce.

On Friday, Bob issued a statement in which he remembered his former wife with ”deep affection and gratitude”.

”She was more than a wife and mother – being father as well, during my frequent absences as I pursued an industrial then political career,” he said.

”I think there is general agreement that Hazel did an outstanding job as Australia’s first lady from 1983 to 1991. She was a constant support, particularly through some very difficult times.

”Our three children, Susan, Stephen and Rosslyn, adored their mother as did our six grandchildren and my thoughts are very much with them at this time.”

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Haddin looks at game in a new light

Australian Vice Captain Brad Haddin and his son with the Australian cricket team on their way to Englandfor the Ashes series against England 2013Photography Brendan EspositoSMH,22nd May,2013 Photo: brendan esposito\n Australian Vice Captain Brad Haddin and his son Photo: Brendan Esposito
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BRAD Haddin flies out of Sydney for London this weekend, and he will not be back for a while – not until late August, in fact, when the Test leg of the Ashes tour finally ends.

The greatest adventure for an Australian cricketer, it is a journey that, ordinarily, might have been front and centre in the gloveman’s mind for much of the past 12 months. However, it has not been an ordinary year for Haddin and his family. The corridors of the Children’s Hospital at Westmead became as familiar to the 35-year-old as the SCG training nets over the past 12 months. His daughter Mia’s cancer diagnosis, a blow more painful than any fast bowler could ever deliver, saw to that.

The anxiety and anguish brought on by her illness for a long time cancelled out the anticipation of a cricket tour. However, as the keeper departs, first to lead an Australia A squad in three matches before the main event of the English summer, there is some brightness for the Haddin clan. Two-year-old Mia has finished her treatment and is back in the family’s Sydney home with Haddin, his wife Karina and their two other children, Zac and Hugo. There remain complications with her health and a long way to go in her recovery but the outlook is far more positive.

If it had not been, Haddin makes very clear, he would not be going anywhere, certainly not to the other side of the globe, and might have quit the game altogether.

”If I could only do things half-hearted, I would have walked away from the game a happy man,” he says. ”But circumstances have allowed me to get back and keep challenging myself to be a better cricketer. And here I am.”

If Haddin has learnt anything about his occupation over the past year it is about context. The ferocious competitive streak will doubtless remain, and could be an important asset for a young Australian team searching for an identity, but events have conspired, however cruelly, to drum home the priorities in his life irrevocably.

Cricket is still cricket, and the Ashes are still the Ashes. It is just that the ordeal in his personal life has made him view the sport, and his place in it, entirely differently.

”I’d be lying if I said it didn’t,” he says. ”I think I’m a lot more comfortable now with where cricket is at. Sometimes you can get caught in the bubble and think international cricket is the be-all and end-all. But with what happened at home, it put things in perspective. And I’m very comfortable now with where my game is at and where my cricket is at. I’m lucky that I’ve got a very strong family at home. I’ve got a wife that has done an extraordinary job, who has gone through this journey with me as well. It does put things in perspective.”

His daughter’s health was not the only issue standing between Haddin and playing for his country again. Since he rushed home from the Caribbean in April last year, Matthew Wade had been anointed as his replacement.

Haddin had flown to the West Indies that month after a home series against India in which he scored only 86 runs at an average of less than 30. Question marks had been raised about his glovework, then he lost his place in the one-day team. Wade took his chance, making a hundred in his first Test series, then another last summer against Sri Lanka in Sydney, and Haddin seemed destined to play out his days less glamorously for NSW.

H

e accepted that scenario with utmost diligence. His pair of centuries in the Sheffield Shield, the first of which, at Bankstown Oval last September, was compiled after a night in hospital with Mia, helped him to an average of more than 50 for the season. After Wade struggled in India, Haddin was suddenly handed back the top job, and after Shane Watson stood down was enlisted as vice-captain to boot.

Asked what he thinks selectors want from him in England, Haddin offers ”probably some experience”, ”maybe a bit of normality”, and ”to get back to playing some good, tough, consistent cricket”.

That was anything but the environment he was cast into when he was called up to the forgettable tour of India in March as standby for Wade and replaced the injured Victorian in Mohali. Haddin was in transit as four players, including Watson, were suspended for the third Test there for failing to complete performance feedback, and all hell broke loose back in Australia. Haddin turned up at the team hotel in Chandigarh the next day to learn as well that Watson, whose wife was heavily pregnant, had, as a result, returned home.

”It’s something that you don’t want to walk into in international cricket, especially with the Australian cricket team,” Haddin says. ”I was actually aloof to what was going on. It’s a different Australian cricket team than I was first involved with. There’s a lot of young guys. But we’ve got to throw all that out the window now. We’ve just got to be accountable for coming together as a group. There is no excuses for not presenting ourselves and being ready for a campaign like the Ashes.”

Promoted back into Michael Clarke’s XI and to the deputy leadership in one hit, Haddin says he feels more accountable than before for the how the team is travelling in terms of performance and culture. His presence is certainly a welcome addition to the team’s international playing odometer.

The last time he was the No. 1 choice in Tests, Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey were still in the side. Now Haddin is older than anyone in the Test squad except – by a mere 53 days – recalled batsman Chris Rogers. He is more experienced than anyone in terms of Tests played, aside from Clarke.

In one way Australia need Haddin more than Haddin, seeing the game in the more sober light in which he does, needs them. That, however, would ignore the toil he put himself through in the most trying of situations, reluctantly leaving his daughter’s bedside for training or a match when he could have given it away. How much he wanted this.

”I never doubted that I could get back to this level,” he says. ”It was just whether circumstances allowed me to get back to playing cricket. I knew that it was going to take a lot of hard work to fight my way back to where I am now, but I never doubted that I could get back.

”Things are going in the right direction at home, and now it’s about winning this campaign.”

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Demetriou backs Hird to stay on

AFL boss Andrew Demetriou says James Hird is entitled to remain Essendon coach while the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority’s probe into the club continues.
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Six weeks after saying that standing down was ”an option he [Hird] has to consider”, Demetriou suggested ASADA’s findings would ultimately determine the fate of the club legend.

The day after Ian Robson resigned as Essendon chief executive, Demetriou said he made a clear distinction between a response to the corporate governance review Essendon commissioned Ziggy Switkowski to undertake – the findings of which suggested Robson’s position at the club was untenable – and the doping investigation led by government authorities.

”He, like other people at that club, is entitled to await the outcome of the ASADA investigation,” Demetriou said of Hird, who on Friday said he intended to remain Essendon coach for ”a long time”.

”That is going through its final stages, as I understand it, with the players.

”We’re not that far away from concluding the interviews and on that basis they will then have an opportunity to submit their report.”

Demetriou was challenged in the radio interview on 3AW as to why Hird, who said in February when the Essendon doping probe was launched by ASADA that the buck stopped with him, had not already been judged to have failed in corporate governance like Robson clearly was.

”No, you could argue that the head of the football department is the general manager of football operations who has got a reporting line to the CEO,” Demetriou said.

”The coach is responsible for the onfield playing. He [Hird] said he would accept full responsibility [in February], but we haven’t found out the outcome of the [ASADA] report. We don’t know what substances were taken. We don’t know whether they were, in fact, illegal or legal.

”The outcome of that is entirely lying with ASADA and it’s very dangerous to pre-empt and pre-judge what those reports will show because they are entitled to have those finalised.

”The Switkowski report was about corporate governance and it went to the heart of who was accountable insofar as the corporate governance of that club and that’s why Ian Robson quite rightly accepted responsibility as the CEO.

”But we do need to get the ASADA report finalised and hear what the outcomes are, because at the end of the day I’ve got no doubt that they will uncover the truth and that’s when we’ll hear more.”

Asked about Hird’s comment on Friday that he planned to be Essendon’s coach for a long time, Demetriou said: ”He’s got no reason at this stage not to assume that because he hasn’t seen the outcome of the WADA report, so I think that’s an entirely consistent position to take.”

Meanwhile, the AFL boss expressed a degree of sympathy for Hawthorn star Lance Franklin, who this week apologised for a verbal altercation in a bar that led to a woman describing the forward on Facebook as ”an absolute disgrace of a human”.

”Sometimes there are some things that can be said to people that are very hurtful, and they can hurt them and they can lose their temper. And in the case of Buddy Franklin that’s what I understand happened.

”There were some hurtful things said to him, and I’ve seen it happen with players, particularly when they’re been racially abused.

”He has apologised. He’s admitted the error. I wasn’t there … but from what I understand if what was said to him was true, it’s completely unacceptable what was said to him as well. I don’t think there’s a place for it.”

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Call for Nicholls statue at MCG

AFL community engagement manager Jason Mifsud has called for indigenous footballer and former South Australian governor Sir Douglas Nicholls to be the next athlete honoured with a statue outside the MCG.
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The ground will host the centrepiece of the AFL’s indigenous round, Dreamtime at the ‘G, on Saturday night and Mifsud took the opportunity to push for a bronze sculpture of the former Fitzroy player to join likenesses of Australian sporting legends including Sir Donald Bradman, Leigh Matthews, Betty Cuthbert and Ron Barassi.

”Given there’s no indigenous athletes currently there, I think it’s a discussion that’s worthwhile having,” Mifsud said on Friday.

”I’d argue it’s well past due, not on the basis of them being indigenous, but on the basis of their contribution in any of their chosen sports.

”I think it’s meritorious for that reason first and foremost and if they’re indigenous then that’s just another attribute that they bring to that collection of statues.”

Mifsud agreed that Polly Farmer, Nicky Winmar and Cathy Freeman would also be worthy candidates for the honour, but said Sir Douglas would be his personal choice.

”I think his is a great untold story in this country of an indigenous athlete who has made a really significant contribution to the broader community,” he said.

”He was the only VFL/AFL player who has subsequently gone on to be a governor of a state and knighted by the Queen.”

Statues of AFL Hall of Fame legend John Coleman and Australian cricketer Neil Harvey are the next two to be unveiled before the Boxing Day Test with another, taking the total number to 15, to be announced in coming months.

MCC spokesman Shane Brown would not be drawn on the identity of the next athlete to be honoured.

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Nic Nat tries to change family code

Eagles have landed: Nic Naitanui (centre) and his West Coast teammates have a training run at Greater Western Sydney’s Skoda Stadium in preparation for Saturday’s match. Photo: Wolter PeetersThe 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 family members in western Sydney to the sport.
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Unfortunately for the AFL and its newest team, the Penrith-born Naitanui calls Perth home and has no intention of resettling in his birthplace.

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

But the AFL is not the 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.”

This underscores the difficulty the AFL and the Giants have in drawing new followers 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 understands 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 first 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 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 believes having a club based in the region is 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.”

The Giants, who drew a paltry crowd of 5830 to their last home game at Skoda Stadium, have gone to great lengths to use Naitanui to sell Saturday’s game. Coach Kevin Sheedy penned an open letter to the All-Australian ruckman, and the Giants took the unusual step of placing highlights of him on their website.

Naitanui is happy to play a promotional role but has ruled out leaving the club he supported as a boy to cross to the Giants.

”’Sheeds can do as much as he wants … I’m staying put.”

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It’s more than a theme

Culture: Richmond’s Belinda Duarte with the cheer squad. Photo: Mal FaircloughThemed rounds of AFL football tend to contrive social sentiments and rivalries rather than celebrate them, but this cannot be said of the weekend that celebrates indigenous players and their vast contribution to the game.
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It is true that the now ”traditional” Dreamtime clash between Richmond and Essendon has been gleefully hijacked by politicians when it comes to the MCG pre-game function, but it is also true that the game is a genuine blockbuster boasting an atmosphere unique on the home-and-away calendar.

In a week in which Nathan Lovett-Murray made headlines for all the wrong reasons and Lance Franklin’s social behaviour was targeted again, two unheralded events deserve highlighting for the right reasons.

One was a meeting of the players and coaches at the Port Adelaide Football Club home of Alberton that this columnist was fortunate enough to attend. That club’s Aboriginal employment and engagement manager Paul Vandenbergh was explaining to a fatigued group of footballers the significance of his heritage and the heartbreak of the stolen generations. He kept their attention.

The footballers listened as Chad Wingard and Brendon Ah Chee explained their origin, while Vandenbergh explained the complexities of skin groups and how different again was the background of teenage gun Jake Neade, from Elliott, whose grandmother had been stolen as a young child.

At one point, Port’s football boss, Peter Rohde, interrupted and offered an intriguing insight into how far clubs had come in less than a decade in terms of understanding the indigenous culture. He turned to former Port star Byron Pickett, who had returned to the club for a day, and told him how embarrassed he was to have misjudged him only seven short years ago.

Rohde explained that when Pickett had told the club he had to attend the funeral of a grandparent, the Port football hierarchy on more than one occasion did not believe him because they believed Pickett had already mourned the deaths of his full quota of grandmothers.

The club did not understand that Pickett’s grandmother may have had two sisters and that all three, according to his culture, were grandmothers. Nor did the club understand why indigenous funerals required players to be absent for close to a week.

Pickett, said Rohde, was too shy to explain the different grieving process.

Pickett simply nodded at Rohde’s confession, but it was a poignant exchange.

More significant in terms of the Dreamtime game was the second of two unusual cultural-awareness sessions at Punt Road after Richmond cheer squad members put up their hands to learn what it was the club was trying to achieve.

Delivered by Tigers executive Belinda Duarte, the move has now seen cheer squad president Gerard Egan looking to educate all cheer squad presidents in a bid to eliminate racial abuse from behind the goals.

Tiger supporter Brett Beattie set the ball rolling after last year’s Dreamtime game, approaching Duarte and Richmond chief Brendon Gale.

”I said to them, ‘You guys will come and go, but we supporters will always be here’,” said Beattie, better known to talkback radio listeners as ”Trout” of Woodend.

”We cop such a bad rap as cheer squads, but we really wanted to be educated on racial vilification and what it meant and how we could try to stamp it out, and I wanted my club to be the first to try and learn something now we have this great game against Essendon as well as the indigenous institute. We are never going to solve the problem on our own, but we can make a start.”

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Cry from the heart fuels spirit in Boomerang mob

At four o’clock this afternoon, before playing the curtain-raiser for the Dreamtime at the ‘G game, 50 young indigenous men will perform a war cry.
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The young men are part of the Footy Means Business program which is run jointly by the AFL and mining company Rio Tinto. On Wednesday morning, when I attended the week-long Footy Means Business camp, former St Kilda player Xavier Clarke opened proceedings by asking the young men if they’d brought the suits they’d been issued with as well as their footy boots.

The morning had two aims. The first was teaching the young men the war cry. The second was an ”etiquette boot camp”. Dressed in their suits, the young men were served lunch by waiters while an etiquette consultant with an imperturbable smile told them how to hold their knives and forks, enter a room, button their coats, sell their personal brand, etc.

One of the young men, a West Australian, had never been on a plane before. Another, 24-year-old Juan Darwin, from Maningrida in Arnhem Land, ran the 2010 New York marathon as part of Robert de Castella’s Indigenous Marathon Project. English is not his first language and the biggest city he had seen before New York was Darwin. When we spoke, Juan was anxious to get back to the etiquette session, saying the program was ”very good”.

But before the etiquette session, they were first taught – or drawn into the mystique of – the war cry. ”First,” said their teacher, a Queensland Murri named Mark Yettica Paulson, ”no hoods. By the end of today, the hoods and earphones are off.” His manner was friendly and patient. He told them how the Flying Boomerangs, the AFL’s indigenous under-15 team, went to play a team in Papua New Guinea in 2009, was confronted by a war cry and lost – badly. Feeling they had been intimidated, the Boomerangs decided to get up a war cry of their own.

First, they acquired some dance appropriate to the boomerang from an Aboriginal cultural centre in Cairns. Then they needed words to go with the dance. Four members of the team were fluent in their traditional languages and one of them offered the word ”kurrku”, meaning team or mob. Another, from the Torres Strait, volunteered, ”Ngalpa Ngiya”, meaning ”Who are we?” Then came ”dhu dhu” (strong), ”yindamala” (fast) and ”kulala” (hunting). They had the basis of a chant. Who are we? Boomerang mob. Strong, fast, hunting.

The Boomerangs have since performed their war cry in places like South Africa and Fiji. In 2010, for the first time, they did it at the MCG. Two players who were part of that described the experience. ”I was so pumped I could have pulled down houses,” said one. The other said simply of the war cry: ”Your spirit goes up.”

The Boomerangs then taught the war cry to the Aboriginal All-Stars, who performed it before crushing Richmond by 50 points in Alice Springs early this year. Dual Brownlow medallist Adam Goodes told the Boomerangs: ”This is the first traditional Aboriginal dance I’ve ever done and you fellers taught it to me.”

This week’s camp was held at the Korin Gamadji Institute at Richmond’s headquarters in Punt Road. After being told the story of the war cry, the young men were taken outside, within sight of the MCG, to practise. Yettica Paulson told them what it means to stamp your feet in a traditional dance. ”You’re saying: ‘I’m here to step out, to step up, to make you remember me.”’

He described the boomerangs the young men needed to imagine themselves holding. Not tourist boomerangs – flimsy, pretty things – but ”knock-’em dead” boomerangs, the old sort that broke bones when swung with precision. He got the young men to raise their right fists, as if holding boomerangs, to crouch, ready for movement to either side, to look their opponents in the eye. ”You’re looking for their vulnerability, their weakness,” he said. Being half-hearted about the dance was not an option. ”You’ve got to give that energy, otherwise you’re saying you’re embarrassed. If you make a mistake, don’t get shame. Stay strong for the culture.”

He taught them to advance, finishing the dance by leaping and holding the boomerangs aloft as if to strike. With each attempt, the group became more animated, louder, more lively. You could actually see a team spirit growing before your eyes.

Each team selects its own songman to lead the war cry. For Wednesday’s practice match, the group chose Chris Wailu from Karratha. His mother is from the Torres Strait and he’s been doing island dances for years. He’s danced at weddings and tomb rituals. ”I enjoy using song and dance to share culture,” he said quietly.

What is impressive about Footy Means Business is that, while strengthening the young men in their own culture, the program encourages them to step out into the world. When I left, the group was being addressed by Geelong premiership captain Cameron Ling. He was telling them about his time as an apprentice carpenter.

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Haddin: now, let’s win this

Brad Haddin flies out of Sydney en route to London on Saturday, and he will not be back for a while. Not until late August, in fact, when the Test leg of the Ashes tour finally ends.
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The greatest adventure for an Australian cricketer, it is a journey that, ordinarily, might have been front and centre on the gloveman’s mind for much of the past 12 months.

But it has not been any ordinary year for Haddin and his family. The corridors of the Children’s Hospital at Westmead became as familiar to the 35-year-old as the SCG training nets over the past 12 months. His daughter Mia’s cancer diagnosis, a blow more painful than any fast bowler could ever deliver, saw to that.

The anxiety and anguish brought on by her illness for a long time cancelled out the anticipation of a cricket tour, no matter how iconic. However, as the keeper departs with teammates – first to lead an Australia A squad in three matches prior to the main event – there is some brightness for the Haddin clan. Mia, now two, has finished her treatment for neuroblastoma and is back in the family’s Sydney home with him and his wife, Karina, and their two other children, Zac and Hugo. There remain complications with her health and a long way to go in her recovery, but the outlook is far more positive.

If it had not been, Haddin makes very clear, he would not be going anywhere, certainly not to the other side of the globe, and may have quit the game altogether. ”If I could only do things half-hearted I would have walked away from the game a happy man,” he said. ”But circumstances have allowed me to get back and keep challenging myself to be a better cricketer. And here I am.”

If Haddin has learnt anything about his occupation over the past year it is about context. The ferocious competitive streak will doubtless remain, and could be an important asset for a young Australian team searching for an identity, but events have conspired, however cruelly, to drum home the priorities in his life.

The ordeal in his personal life has made him view the sport, and his place in it, differently.

”I’d be lying if I said it didn’t,” he said. ”I think I’m a lot more comfortable now with where cricket is at. Sometimes you can get caught in the bubble and think international cricket is the be-all and end-all. But with what happened at home it put things in perspective. And I’m very comfortable now with where my game is at and where my cricket is at. I’m lucky that I’ve got a very strong family at home. I’ve got a wife who has done an extraordinary job, who has gone through this journey with me as well. It does put things in perspective.”

His daughter’s health was, of course, not the only issue standing between Haddin and playing for his country ever again. Since he rushed home from the Caribbean in April last year, another Australian wicketkeeper, Matthew Wade, had been anointed as his replacement.

Haddin had flown to the West Indies that month, after all, on the end of a home series against India in which he had scored only 86 runs at an average of less than 30, had question marks raised about his glove work, and then lost his place in the one-day team. Wade took his chance, making a century in his first Test series, then another last summer against Sri Lanka, and Haddin seemed destined to play out his days for NSW.

He accepted that scenario with utmost diligence. His pair of centuries in the Sheffield Shield, the first of which last September was compiled after a night in hospital with Mia, helped him to an average of more than 50 for the season. After Wade struggled in India, he was suddenly handed back the top job and after Shane Watson stood down, enlisted as vice-captain to boot.

In one way, Australia needs Haddin more than Haddin, seeing the game in the more sober light that he does, needs it. That, however, would ignore the toil he put himself through in the most trying of situations, reluctantly leaving his daughter’s side for training or a match when he could have given it away.

”From my point of view, I never doubted that I could get back to this level,” he said. ”It was just whether circumstances allowed me to get back to playing cricket.

”Now I’m back, there are no excuses. Things are going in the right direction at home and now it’s about winning this campaign.”

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

Coalfields residents fight rezoning

TAKING A STAND: Greg Lewis, foreground, and Steve Meadows, centre with placard, join protesters at the proposed site. Picture: Peter StoopA RURAL hamlet in the Coalfields has again seen an uprising against a Hardie Holdings development.
Nanjing Night Net

Residents say the future of the area is at stake, with plans for a 100-lot build at Millfield.

The site was part of Hardie’s proposed 700-lot Sanctuary Villages development, which fell over three years ago amid controversy over developer donations to the NSW Labor Party.

That plan, which involved average lot sizes of 700 to 800 square metres, would have doubled the population of Millfield and Paxton.

Hardie’s latest project proposes rezoning land from a minimum lot size of 40 hectares to 4000 square metres.

A Cessnock City Council report said the 100-lot plan was “a logical connection” of the large-lot residential precincts of Paxton and Millfield.

Greg Lewis, who lives close to Millfield in the Congewai Valley, said there were already 460 available lots zoned for housing in the area.

“There’s no need for this development and no demand for it,” Mr Lewis said.

Hardie development manager Jamie Boswell said there was a market for the land.

Mr Boswell said the company had developed 60 similar lots at Millfield.

“We’ve been doing these acreage developments because most other developers choose to do the 450-square metre small blocks of dirt, which not everyone wants to live on,” Mr Boswell said. “In the last 12 months, we finished building 21 lots and only have four or five lots left to sell.”

A group of residents opposing the development attended a recent council meeting, holding placards calling for no rezoning.

Steve Meadows, speaking for the group, called for the council to delist Millfield as a “proposed growth centre”.

“The village feel will be lost,” Mr Meadows said.

Council staff recommended approval, but councillors deferred the plan to consider residents’ concerns.

Daniher out to impress again

VFL
Nanjing Night Net

Essendon’s much-hyped father-son selection Joe Daniher is showing form that warrants AFL selection, but he may not get an opportunity until the latter part of the season, according to Bombers’ development coach Hayden Skipworth.

Daniher, who has been a dominant figure up forward for the Bombers’ VFL team, with an average of three goals a game, faces a challenge to make his debut because other key forwards Michael Hurley, Stewart Crameri, Paddy Ryder and Scott Gumbleton appear to be ahead of him in the pecking order.

Skipworth said Daniher could easily step up if required.

“His [Daniher’s] form warrants talking about at selection. Whether Hirdy and the other coaches want to go down that path, I’m not sure,” Skipworth said. “But I’d have no problems putting his name up for senior selection … hopefully in the back end of the year, there’s opportunities there for the young forwards,” he said.

Skipworth said Daniher’s sometimes wayward kicking at goal was an area that he was looking to improve.

“It’s one of those things when you’re 201 centimetres and 17 or 18 years of age. We know a lot of the guys don’t kick the ball as well as him, he’s a nice kick. He just needs that time to get a little more consistent with his goalkicking.”

Daniher’s contested marking and defensive pressure in the VFL have been highlights.

“It [the hype] is not getting to him at all. I’ve sort of dealt with him over the last year and a half before he got to the club and Joe’s all about improving his game … He’s got a massive appetite to improve and better himself,” he said.

Bomber defender Tayte Pears is in “unbelievable” form in the VFL, says Skipworth, but can’t break through in the senior team because of the form of defenders Dustin Fletcher, Cale Hooker and Jake Carlisle.

“The last two or three years, he’s had a horrific run with injuries … this pre-season he was on fire, he trained the house down, hardly missed a session, dropped a few kilos which I think helped his injuries as well and he’s been in unbelievable form for us,” Skipworth said.

The Bombers face Collingwood at Victoria Park on Saturday with the Pies set to showcase Brodie Grundy, their first selection in last year’s draft, along with the return of Lachlan Keeffe from injury.

Keeffe has not played since injuring his knee in round nine last year.

■Geelong midfielder Josh Cowan will return from an Achilles injury against the Casey Scorpions at Simonds Stadium on Sunday.

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