Wayne Bennett won’t look back in anger at Knights

KNIGHTS coach Wayne Bennett does not feel let down by former owner Nathan Tinkler.
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Bennett announced last week that he would leave the Knights at the end of the season, saying he felt embarrassed and disappointed by the team’s performances on his watch and that it was time to hand the reins to someone else.

The seven-time premiership-winning coach dropped that bombshell four weeks after the NRL took control of the Knights from Tinkler’s Hunter Sports Group company.

Bennett’s four-year contract with the Knights was due to expire at the end of next season but that was nullified by Tinkler’s decision to sever ties, meaning the coach and his support staff were only contracted to the new regime until the end of October.

In an interview with former Knights five-eighth Matthew Johns on Sydney radio station Triple M yesterday, Bennett said he still kept in contact with Tinkler.

Asked if he felt the former billionaire had let him down, Bennett said: “No, I don’t feel let down. I never feel let down by people. I taught myself that a long time ago, Matty.

“It breaks your heart if you start worrying about people letting you down. I’d have been broken-hearted that many times.

“I mean, you get disappointed about things in life, but I don’t ever feel people let me down. Their choice is their decision. It’s what they do, and they let themselves down, mate, not me.”

Bennett declined to go into detail when asked if his chaotic three years at the Knights under Tinkler’s ownership had lived up to his expectations.

“I’m trying to get the season done and maybe one day I’ll write a book about it. Maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll never talk about it. Who knows?”

Bennett told Johns this season with the Knights had been the most difficult of his career.

“I suppose when you put everything together, I’ve had some difficult ones, but when you throw it all in together starting on January 6th when Russell Packer went to jail, I suppose it has been, yeah, on top of everything else that’s happened after that,” he said.

Bennett said he had not visited Packer in jail but had kept in touch with the former Warriors and New Zealand Test prop, whose four-year contract with the Knights was torn up before he played a game for the club.

“No, I haven’t, because he’s been a long way away,” the coach said. “He’s about a six-hour trip away to go and see him, but he keeps in constant contact with me, and I’ve been in contact with him.

“Like Alex [McKinnon], he’s accepted his situation and he’s trying to make the best of it, and he’ll be out in January next year.”

Bennett told Johns he had no regrets about his decision to leave the Knights and hoped the players continued to demonstrate the same commitment and intensity they produced in the second half of their 31-18 victory over Cronulla last Sunday.

“The decision’s made – [I’m] moving on – but I was pleased with their effort,” he said.

“I loved their effort and I really valued what they did. If we can do that for the rest of the year, then I’ll be the happiest guy in the world leaving Newcastle.

“I don’t want to leave Newcastle playing rubbish and playing stuff that embarrasses us at all, and that’s what I’ve been. I’ve been embarrassed, mate. I’ve been embarrassed up there by the way we’ve played and I’ve got to take responsibility for that. I’m the coach.”

Bennett dismissed Johns’s suggestion that he would return to the Broncos, whom he coached to six premierships from as many grand final appearances during his 21-year tenure in Brisbane.

“Go for your life. I’m not going to add to it,” Bennett said.

“You’re like everybody else.

“You’ve got an opinion on it all, so you keep all having an opinion and I’ll just sit back and make my own decision in my own time and I’ll do what I think’s right by me.”

Meanwhile, Bennett has named Adam Cuthbertson on an extended bench for the game against Gold Coast at Hunter Stadium on Sunday.

Cuthbertson’s inclusion is the only change to the team that rallied from an 18-0 deficit to beat the Sharks 31-18 at Remondis Stadium on Sunday.

The Leeds-bound utility forward returned from a knee injury in Newcastle’s 44-10 victory over his former club Manly in the NSW Cup game at Brookvale Oval on Saturday.

New GM found for Armidale council

NEW FACE: Glenn Wilcox will take the helm of Armidale Dumaresq Council in August.
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ARMIDALE Dumaresq Council has closed the book on one of the most tumultuous chapters in its history with the appointment of a new general manager, after the controversial exit of its previous one six months ago.

Yesterday mayor Laurie Bishop announced current Blayney Shire Council general manager Glenn Wilcox would take over the role from August 18, marking “the start of a new beginning for Armidale and the council”.

The council began the search for a new general manager after former GM Shane Burns sensationally left the job, amid allegations of a deteriorating working relationship between he and Cr Bishop.

The issue came to a head when Cr Bishop tabled a mayoral minute on January 21, calling for the early termination of Mr Burns’ contract if mediation failed to resolve the “strained working arrangements” of the council executive.

Mr Burns alleged the move was an attempt to gag him in the wake of code of conduct allegations against the mayor.

On February 17, Mr Burns and the council agreed on terms for the termination of his contract, although the outgoing general manager said at the time he was a reluctant participant in the negotiations and felt he’d been left with no other option.

Yesterday, Cr Bishop agreed it was the end of a tumultuous period, but it had been necessary to secure the future of the council.

“Change is never easy and it sometimes gets people out of their comfort zone, but change was what was needed to move Armidale forward,” he said.

Mr Wilcox was one of two candidates who went through a final interview with councillors last Friday, whittled down from more than 20 who began the process.

He has almost 30 years’ experience in local government, including holding senior positions within Gloucester Shire Council.

Cr Bishop said Mr Wilcox’s appointment showed a commitment by council to secure a strong and experienced leader who could work with the council, staff and the community to deliver a sound economic future for the area.

“My priority has been to bring about change, because it’s imperative that occurs,” he said.

“The local government review panel said we needed to do things differently and that means doing things as a collective regionally, so it’s important we cement relationships with our neighbours and those right across the New England region.”

One of the council’s priorities would be the positioning of the area to take full advantage of the funding opportunity available to regional areas from the part sale of the state’s electricity network.

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Emmaville hospital ditches doctor

ANXIOUS residents of a small New England town have turned out in force to support a local doctor whose future is hanging under a malpractice cloud.
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Emmaville GP John Liu, the only doctor at the local hospital, has been suspended by Hunter New England Health amid accusations of unsafe practices.

More than 100 residents crammed the Emmaville Memorial Hall this week in support of Dr Liu and expressed grave fears for the community’s health without a practising doctor at the local hospital.

Dr Liu is still able to practice at his GP clinic but has been suspended as the visiting medical officer at the hospital.

Hunter New England Health’s (HNEH) Dr Peter Finlayson told residents there had been “a considerable number of concerns” about Dr Liu’s clinical practice and the health service had launched an investigation.

He said “ensuring patient safety” wasparamount.

“There are enough things that the community has not seen that are really concerning,” Dr Finlayson said.

Among other issues raised were suggestions of racism and bullying at the hospital and a number of reports of questionable practices by nursing staff.

“Bullying and racial prejudice is not accepted, full-stop,” Dr Finlayson said.

“We do not tolerate it. It is as simple as that.”

Responding to reports about nurses advising patients to transport themselves to Glen Innes District Hospital, Dr Finlayson admitted there had been incidents of unacceptable practice.

Dr Finlayson said the investigation was in the interests of providing the best possible service and ensuring patient safety, adding that if Dr Liu was found to be innocent, he would be allowed to return “almost immediately”.

Dr Liu could not be reached for comment.

– Glen Innes Examiner

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Sovereigns open netball try-outs

BALLARAT’S new Victorian Netball League team Sovereigns expect to announce try-out dates later this week.
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Sovereigns’ board of management will meet on Thursday for the first time since being admitted to the VNL.

Club administrator Jordan O’Keefe said this was the first opportunity to get all board members together.

He said setting try-out dates would be among the first items of business.

O’Keefe said all other VNL teams had already finalised try-out dates.

Geelong Cougars will be the first, with the first of its sessions on July 28.

VU Western Lightning has the latest completion date of September 21.

O’Keefe said a coaching structure and recruiting strategy would be other agenda items.

Sovereigns have already decided on a director of coaching and a head coach, but are yet to determine exactly how team coaching positions will structured.

O’Keefe said there would also discussion about the possibility of recruiting marquee players to bolster what would be primarily a Ballarat region-based list.

He said the Sovereigns’ successful application for the VNL licence left vacant by the exiting Ballarat Pride had emphasised that a focus would be on fostering home-grown talent.

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Hopkins Falls in a lather as our wettest month continues

THE Hopkins Falls are flowing fiercely after heavy rain in the past few weeks.
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Mountains of foam pile up at the foot of the Hopkins Falls yesterday. 140714AS08 Picture: AARON SAWALL

The attraction has drawn plenty of sightseers keen to witness the mass of water flowing under the bridge and down the river towards the mouth at Warrnambool.

Bureau of Meteorology figures show 54 millimetres of rain so far this month recorded at the Warrnambool airport, with the highest figure of 13mm recorded last Saturday.

July is traditionally the wettest month of the year for the area, with 88mm of rain usually recorded.

June’s rainfall of 114mm was above the average of 77mm.

However, rainfall for the six months to the end of June is on par with average. A total of 327mm has been recorded at the airport, compared to the average of 329mm.

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Little Wings ready to hand over awards baton

RECIPIENT: Kevin Robinson was the recipient of last year’s Westpac Community Leaders Award.THEY’VE flown 39 times to Tamworth and transported 117 locals to and from Westmead Children’s Hospital and now Little Wings is ready to hand over the baton it earned last year at the Westpac Community Leaders Awards.
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Kevin Robinson, the founder of the not-for-profit organisation, was a recipient in the inaugural awards ceremony last year.

Since 2011 the service has provided a free regional flight service to and from the Children’s Hospital at Westmead for kids undergoing treatment for cancer-related illnesses.

The aim is to lessen travel fatigue, the financial burden, emotional strain and the length of time children spend away from their families.

Nominations are open to find the second recipients of the Westpac Community Leaders Award.

Award recipients receive $5000 for their organisation, $5000 worth of Davidson Institute training and enrolment in a social impact training course from Net Balance worth $1595, as well as a thought leadership course prepared specifically for the community leaders awards in conjunction with the Australian Graduate School of Management.

The individual will also receive a $500 MasterCard gift card.

Finalists will be announced in October.

For more information about the 2014 Westpac Community Leaders Awards or to nominate a leader fromyour community, visit www.westpac南京夜网.au/CLA2014

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Issues can be solved if govt has fortitude

THERE are two recent local issues that I believe could be easily corrected if the NSW government possessed the fortitude to stand up for its constituents in rural and regional NSW.
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1) The price of bulk water and the cost to the Peel Valley users.

The NSW government recently announced a one-year trial of a temporary water-trading scheme in the Peel Valley.

This it hopes will place downward pressure on water prices.

I think that if such a policy looks and tastes like a lemon, then it probably is a lemon and will probably just mask the fact that water prices in the Peel Valley will continue to be the most expensive in the state.

The NSW government says it “can’t do a thing” about the exorbitant cost of water to Peel Valley users, particularly after the ACCC’s recent bulk water pricing determination. Who could do something about it then, if the NSW government can’t?

The state governor, the federal government, who?

Under these frustrating circumstances, you’d be forgiven for thinking NSW water resources were already privatised with that argument.

A postage stamp pricing mechanism is the only fair and equitable method of water pricing across our state.

It is the only method that will address this core cost-of-living issue in the Tamworth electorate.

Hiding behind decisions made by IPART and the ACCC is just acop-out.

The NSW government, which is represented in rural areas by a party that says it is for regional NSW, cannot endorse the current policy, which discriminates against the people of the Peel Valley, forcing them to pay more and making our region less viable and less attractive by discouraging business because of the exorbitant cost of water here, compared to the cost of water elsewhere in the state.

2) Gunnedah Shire Council missing out on Resources for Regions funding again.

This policy has been a miserable failure from the start.

The Western Australian branch of The Nationals has a genuine policy of Royalties for Regions which mandates and returns 25 per cent of royalties back to the regions where mining occurs.

Why don’t we have such a policy?

The WA policy does not frustrate local councils with administrative red tape.

If you are in a local government area where mining occurs, you get money to help maintain your local infrastructure or develop new infrastructure to make the mining regions more attractive to the local residents or potential future residents, to future-proof communities when mining companies pack up and leave.

In stark contrast, NSW has an insipid policy which has delivered very little back to the mining regions of our state or concentrates on particular regions, where some state electorates are considered more at risk than others, such as those in the Hunter region.

This policy will ensure that our rural towns become ghost towns when unsustainable mining practices inevitably cease having debauched productive rural farmland.

Sadly, I have become despondent with the NSW government since Barry O’Farrell accepted and forgot about a bottle of fine wine, departed and was replaced with a bloke who history will demonstrate cares more about economic rationalism, big business and his mates in the merchant banking industry than the average punters in NSW.

Hence the pro-privatisation policies we see driving recent state government policy now which will exacerbate the decline of rural NSW.

Sadly for us all, the poor alternative is still the party of Obeid, Tripodi, Roozendaal, MacDonald and Kelly who cared even less for you and I.

Mark Rodda

Tamworth

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Marshall has learned lesson

HE’S a self-ordained “bloody idiot”, a lead-footed MP who has been in furious mea culpa mode since blowing the bag on a Glen Innes roadside last month.
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And at his hearing at Glen Innes Local Court yesterday, it emerged Mr Marshall had more form than Phar Lap when it came to driving offences.

The 29-year-old has clocked up an astonishing 17 speeding tickets in his young life, in addition to his recent mid-range drink-driving charge.

In light of that string of speeding charges, Mr Marshall’s “moment of madness” defence rings a little hollow.

While he has shown admirable contrition in his words since his arrest, his actions behind the wheel over the years undermine his sincerity.

Mr Marshall has been a political wunderkind in his short career, respected by his constituents and widely tipped for a cabinet position in coming years.

With that power comes responsibility and accountability, as his former leader Barry O’Farrell discovered.

Mr Marshall is an effective local member and, as such, should be judged in context.

But as the leader of a region that has all-too-often been touched by the tragedy of road accidents, he must continue to lead by example both in and out of Parliament.

The member for Northern Tablelands is now on notice: his constituents expect better, he himself expects better and this newspaper will hold him to account if he slips up again.

*********

IT WAS A piece of spin that would make Shane Warne proud.

A press release issued this week had Water Minister Kevin Humphries claiming a new trading scheme would drive down water prices for Peel irrigators.

The claim isn’t just insulting, it’s manifestly wrong.

You can’t trade what doesn’t exist and currently our general security irrigators, already being slugged 20 times more for water than some other parts of the Basin, have an allocation of precisely zero per cent.

Rather than throw up a political smokescreen, the minister would do better to focus on fixing the gross price inequity threatening to kill off our irrigation industry.

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Club lends swag of support

STREET SWAG: St Vincent de Paul Society’s Jeanette Elliot and Gambier City Lions Darrol Cameron have joined hands to help homeless people in and around Mount Gambier. Picture: CAITLIN KENNEDYON any given night in Australia, one in 200 people are homeless, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
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Gambier City Lions has extended a helping hand to those in need by donating 20 “street swags” to the St Vincent de Paul Society.

The street swags are Australian-made out of lightweight waterproofed canvas with a foam mattress.

They offer users a degree of comfort, warmth and protection from the weather and can be camouflaged for safety purposes.

Jeanette Elliot from the Mount Gambier St Vinnies charity shop said while not many people slept under the stars in the city, several lived in cars and caravans.

“It will be great to help those in need, I think it is fantastic,” she said.

‘There is such a high demand in Australia for street swags and Mount Gambier residents will benefit from them.”

The swags donated by the Gambier City Lions will be passed on directly to homeless people by the St Vincent de Paul Society.

Impaired drivers, speeders anger police

South-west police nabbed numerous speeders, alcohol and drug-impaired drivers in a weekend crackdown that revealed a disappointing reversal in road safety trends.
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Police conducted more than 3500 preliminary breath tests across the south-west last weekend

Warrnambool police station commander Shane Keogh said a significantly higher number of driving offences were detected during last weekend’s blitz compared to the results of an earlier operation on the July 4-6 weekend.

Senior Sergeant Keogh said five positive readings for drink-driving were detected from the 3500 preliminary breath tests carried out.

He said most of the positive drink-driving readings were not a long way over the allowable alcohol limit.

Eight people were also charged with driving while drug-impaired after 126 tests were done.

The drugs detected were cannanbis and methamphetamine.

Senior Sergeant Keogh said 122 other offences were also detected, including 46 for speeding.

Twenty-two of the speeding offences involved motorists driving at more than 15 kilometres an hour above the 100km/h speed limit, he said.

“Speed and alcohol are the main drivers of our road trauma and this traffic blitz reinforces that we have a way to go,” Senior Sergeant Keogh said.

Police gave prior warning through the media of each of the road blitzes.

Ten drivers were caught not wearing seatbelts.

The blitz also found 15 unregistered vehicles and 14 in an unroadworthy condition.

The weekend’s traffic operation involved the allocation of a total of 197 daily police shifts to road safety duties in the south-west by about 85 officers from throughout the region and state highway patrol.

Another police blitz earlier in the month tested about 1300 drivers but only one driver was nabbed for allegedly drink-driving and two others for being drug impaired, one for taking cannabis and the other for taking methamphetamine.

The low number of offences detected in the July 4-6 blitz raised police hopes that most south-west motorists were taking on board the messages in road safety campaigns.

Senior Sergeant Keogh said while the blitzes might have finished, south-west police would continue to be out in force to reduce the incidence of road trauma by enforcing road laws.

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