Parasite attacks Morisset kangaroos: poll  

MORE than 150 kangaroos are believed to have died in less than a month after an outbreak of a parasitic infection led to the discovery of up to 10 carcasses a day in the grounds of Morisset Hospital.
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Alarmed wildlife rescue carers called in the authorities after finding too many of the dead animals to dispose of, prompting a joint investigation involving the RSPCA, Department of Primary Industries, Taronga Zoo experts, the Office of Environment of Heritage and others.

Kangaroos at Morisset. Pic: Dean Osland.

Native Animal Trust Fund president Audrey Koosmen said dead kangaroos were first reported to the organisation, which has cared for the animals at the site for some years, about three weeks ago.

Initially she thought it was the work of more “ratbags” who had run over or attacked the animals in the past.

But with large adult eastern grey kangaroos dying quickly, and more carcasses being discovered, the organisation realised “there’s something really wrong with these animals”.

“There’s a lot of little orphans left too,” she said.

“We had to bring the department in and say ‘we can’t cope with this any more’, when we had to dispose of [the carcasses].”

Initial findings show “no evidence of malicious poisoning” and that the kangaroos have been infected with a blood-borne parasite called Babesia, although the species has yet to be identified.

In livestock, it is referred to as “tick fever”, capable of swiftly killing large cattle and requiring quarantines for large outbreaks.

Samples of the kangaroos have been sent to Taronga Zoo this week for autopsy.

A Department of Primary Industries spokeswoman said other samples had been sent to its Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute.

“Babesia macropus has previously been found to infect kangaroos in Australia,” she said.

“This species is not known to have the potential to spread to humans.”

Hunter New England Health reminded staff and clients of the psychiatric hospital not to touch the animals.

Ground staff have also been asked to wear masks and protective equipment when disposing of the roos.

But animal rescuers are angry large numbers of tourists have ignored signs and fed the kangaroos bread, drawing large numbers of both humans and animals to what has become an unofficial visitor attraction.

“I have never seen so many animals in the one spot. I think they’re over-grazed, they may have contaminated their own area,” Ms Koosmen said.

“Now when you drive in the gates – honest to God, when I got down there, there was probably 150 of them waiting at the gate for the [tourist] buses.”

Ms Koosmen was stunned to witness foreign tourists recently pull a joey from its mother’s pouch for a photo.

“Then one of them was trying to cuddle this big buck who’s about six foot tall. I said ‘leave him alone, he’s a father, he’ll bite you, he’ll kick you’,” she said.

Hunter New England Health population health service director Dr David Durrheim said the number of people visiting the grounds was a concern, “and we request that tour operators and other visitor information websites remove any reference to the facility as a tourist attraction”.

Bland joins Dull and Boring

A COMBINATION of Dull, Boring and Bland is the cause of plenty of excitement with three ordinary-named locales coming together to form the League of Extraordinary communities.
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Last Tuesday, a quirky new tourism partnership was recognised by Bland Shire Council in which it will pair with US Pacific-northwest community Boring and the small village of Dull in the Scottish Highlands in an effort to boost visitors to the region.

Despite opposition, Bland Shire Council mayor Neil Pokoney welcomed the new links saying the partnership was “comedic and fun”, with him hoping the league will give the shire more notoriety to international tourists.

“A few people were worried it was disrespectful to the Bland Shire name,” Councillor Pokoney said, adding he had spoke on US radio as part of the partnership.

“But it’s meant to be light-hearted and a promotional tool for the entire shire, which has plenty to offer for travellers who might want to visit.”

Bland Shire has a population of 6000 people.

Boring has a population of 8000 while Dull is the smallest of the three, with about 80 residents.

Last September, a council employee read about the existing Dull and Boring partnership and thought it could be useful for Bland Shire to become a part of it.

“Boring was driving the initial partnership with Dull it is the biggest of us all,” Cr Pokoney said.

The partnership has already been reported on by the ABC, BBC and in UK, US and Canadian newspapers.

Bland Shire council deputy mayor Liz McGlynn said any publicity was good publicity for the shire and its towns.

“I hope it gets people talking and coming to the region,” Councillor McGlynn said.

Bland Shire has joined forces with Dull and Boring.

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Zohab Zee Khan’s performance poetry a slam dunk for reaching high school students

“It doesn’t feel like too long ago that I was one of them, you know”: Zohab Zee Khan.Zohab Zee Khan has little in common with the dead white male poets students commonly meet at high school.
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Dressed in high-top sneakers and a flat-brimmed baseball cap, he delivers his lines with the rhythm and physicality of a rapper.

As a 26-year-old living in the Illawarra, the world he rhymes about is familiar to the students at Dapto High School. ”It doesn’t feel like too long ago that I was one of them, you know,” said Khan, a state poetry slam champion.

The ease with which the artist connects with the teenagers is what drives the Red Room Company’s education program.

”Where normally it’s poetry on the page, this becomes poetry in the air,” said Tamryn Bennett, the not-for-profit organisation’s education manager. ”And they’re themes that these students are encountering themselves.”

The workshop explored the genre of guerilla poetry, writing and performing poetry in unconventional ways.

Students scrawled their verses across windows, which did not look out of place in the creatively-minded school, which has deliberately coated its walls in murals, paintings and graffiti art.

”We have an inexcusable number of blank walls but we’re doing everything we can to make this place beautiful and interesting,” principal Andrew FitzSimons said. ”Engaged students learn better, they attend more regularly and they take more responsibility.”

Maddison Raisin, who says she has created poetry in private from a young age, wrote about ”a stray cat being tossed from home to home and how it feels”.

Phoebe Parkin was ”utterly blown away” by the energy Khan put into his performance. ”It’s not just words on a piece of paper,” the 17-year-old said. ”Older teachers have the knowledge that younger people don’t have but they don’t have the way to engage them. They can teach you about poetry but he shows you what poetry is.”

For Khan, too, poetry has been a form of therapy at times.

”It has got me through plenty of times of jubilation and plenty of times of sadness,” he said. ”If I can give them the skills to write and express themselves, I think that’s a job well done.”

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McAleese Group may park Cootes trucking brand

McAleese Group, owner of the Cootes fleet, is planning to restructure its fuel distribution business. Photo: Michael Clayton-JonesThe Cootes trucking brand may be scrapped by the McAleese Group almost 50 years after it was founded, as the group tries to restore its reputation following last year’s fatal fuel tanker crash in Sydney.
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McAleese, which bought Cootes from private equity group CHAMP in 2012, is considering renaming its fuel distribution business McAleese Oil & Gas as part of a restructure. It expects to make a decision on the brand name by the end of March.

McAleese executive chairman Mark Rowsthorn said it was reassessing the branding of Cootes’ fuel tankers and the age of its fleet and customer service as it tried to retain key clients such as Caltex.

Caltex has been developing its own fuel transportation business, revealing on Monday it had bought the fuel division of privately held transport group Scott’s for $95 million. The purchase includes 28 service stations and 18 fuel depots, mostly in regional Victoria, South Australia and NSW.

Mr Rowsthorn expressed surprise at the acquisition, telling analysts he had only learnt of Caltex’s purchase on Monday morning, and had not discussed it with Caltex.

”At first glance, I don’t think it’s an issue with our contract, but clearly it’s too early to tell,” he said.

Along with Origin Energy, Caltex is one of Cootes’ most important remaining fuel customers after the company lost a national transport contract with Shell last month to rival Toll Holdings.

Cootes has also lost BP’s NSW fuel distribution contract, which is being retendered nationally.

Toll said last week it was hopeful of winning the national BP contract.

Analysts said while Cootes’ Caltex contract was for distribution in metropolitan areas, not regional areas, the Scott’s purchase could make it more difficult for McAleese to renew the contract when it expires in March 2015.

”We believe this presents a risk for Cootes,” Deutsche Bank analyst Cameron McDonald said.

Caltex Australia chief executive Julian Segal said the group would consider renewing Cootes’ contract. ”If Cootes would be in a position to reassure us of the reliability and safety of the trucks then they would be considered,” he said.

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Fairfax Media boss Greg Hywood rejects reports on Domain IPO

Master of his Domain: Fairfax Media chief executive Greg Hywood. Photo: Rob HomerFairfax Media chief executive Greg Hywood has strongly rejected a report saying that the company’s real estate classified business Domain is being primed for sale.
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Shares in Fairfax rose to a 27-month high on Monday after The Australian reported that Domain was ”considering joining a heady rush for floats with a $500 million listing of Domain on the local stockmarket in early 2015”.

But Mr Hywood said in an email that Fairfax had ”no plans” to float Domain, echoing comments at the company’s half-year results that he was not going to talk about an initial public offering for the business.

”We appointed Antony Catalano as CEO because we wanted to accelerate the growth of Domain. The business is gaining a strong competitive foothold,” Mr Hywood said.

Eyebrows were raised when Fairfax Media, owner of The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, in 2013 put Domain in a separate business unit. Domain reported a 33 per cent rise in online revenue, and 50 per cent growth in digital earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation in the six months to December 31.

Macquarie valued Domain at $974.1 million, the bulk of which comes from its digital operations.

Fairfax’s dating site RSVP was valued at $72 million. Its broadcasting arm – including Melbourne’s 3AW and 2UE in Sydney – was valued by Macquarie at $145.5 million.

In a recent note to clients, Macquarie Equities described Domain as the ”standout asset” of Fairfax and said that ”management sees upside opportunity in real estate”.

”Importantly, the Domain business is now well past a critical inflection point, with print contributing only [about] 25 per cent to group revenues and EBITDA, leaving the digital properties to drive the segment trajectory from here,” the broker said.

Both Domain and dominant rival realestate南京夜网.au, majority-owned by News Corp, are focused on selling premium advertising slots to real estate agents, rather than relying on subscriptions.

Credit Suisse said a Domain IPO ”would be a significant share price catalyst” but it did not factor this in to its 91¢ share-price target. Fairfax shares closed 2.8 per cent higher at 92.5¢ on Monday, taking its year-to-date rise to 44.5 per cent.

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Caltex Australia boss confident of burning off any newcomers

The refining industry is in upheaval.Caltex Australia chief executive Julian Segal has dismissed concerns that tough new rivals in fuels retailing will eat into the company’s market share and margins, despite pointing to a likely step-up in competition in specific areas.
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After reporting a 27.5 per cent drop in benchmark full-year profit to $332 million, in line with guidance, Mr Segal retained Caltex’s forecast for 5 per cent annual growth in earnings before interest and tax for the marketing business. Marketing EBIT in 2013 rose 4 per cent to a record $764 million, a stark contrast to the $171 million deficit for the refining business, which is being restructured to stem losses.

Australia’s refining and marketing industry is in upheaval, with refinery closures, divestments and new international traders entering the market.

Last Friday, Shell announced the sale of its Geelong refinery and Australian petrol station business to crude oil trading giant Vitol for $2.9 billion, while Trafigura’s Puma Energy operation has made several acquisitions of fuel retailers in the past 12 months.

”We are a force of stability in this market,” Mr Segal said. ”It is about reliability of supply and also product quality.”

He said Caltex’s timely investments in infrastructure and the supply chain, in converting its Sydney refinery to an import terminal and sourcing more fuel from Singapore stood it in good stead in the new, tougher environment.

”What it takes to be successful in this industry, it’s about competitive supply,” he said. “The likes of the new players coming into the market are all about big volumes, one product kind-of shipments.”

UBS analyst Nik Burns said Caltex had a good record in growth in pre-tax earnings in marketing, getting close to its 5 per cent growth target even last year when it suffered an interruption to premium petrol supply in Sydney and a rapid weakening in the Australian dollar.

”They have delivered to date, so the market has been willing to give them the benefit of the doubt,” Mr Burns said.

Caltex’s first-half net operating profit was just higher than the mid-point of December guidance of $320 million-$340 million.

Bottom-line net income, which includes the impact of changing oil prices on the value of crude stockpiles, surged more than ninefold to $530 million from $57 million the previous year, when Caltex took $309 million of charges connected with the conversion of its Kurnell refinery in Sydney to an import terminal.

Caltex shares rose 2.2 per cent to $20.94, their highest close for almost eight months.

Caltex declared a final dividend of 17¢ a share. The full-year payout of 34¢ a share is down from 40¢ for 2012 as Caltex has cut the payout ratio while it is converting the Kurnell refinery, which is due to be finished in the December quarter.

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BlueScope fights back as sales in some key markets rebound

BlueScope shares have closed up 7.3 per cent at $6.30 – their highest level since mid-2011. Photo: Louie DouvisShares in BlueScope surged on the emerging turnaround at the steel maker due to firmer domestic demand, along with buoyancy in North America and selected Asian countries.
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Its shares closed up 7.3 per cent at $6.30 – their highest level since mid-2011. Even with the improvement, the group was guarded in its forecast, pointing out the underlying net profit in the second half would be ”similar to” the first half.

The December-half net profit reached $3.7 million, a reversal from the loss of $23.8 million a year earlier. The underlying net profit stood at $49.1 million, up from the loss of $1.6 million a year earlier.

Higher volumes and improved margins underpinned the turnaround, it said, although planned blast furnace shutdowns would weigh on earnings.

”We’re certainly on the road to recovery,” BlueScope chief executive Paul O’Malley told analysts on Monday, pointing to a rise in domestic volumes and continued strength in the US.

China remains an area of caution, however, as growth slows. ”China is clearly going to be challenging over the next few years,” he said. ”China market activity has dropped pretty dramatically.

”We are seeing negative growth at the moment, as it moves from high growth to productivity [led] growth”, going on to point to a ”slowdown in building activity in China”.

Domestically, BlueScope said there had been a rebound in the residential construction sector, most notably in NSW and south-east Queensland, with industrial demand ”pretty flat”.

”We are actually seeing an improvement in domestic demand” for the first time in four years, Mr O’Malley said.

BlueScope said it supplied about 70,000 tonnes of steel annually to the Australian auto industry, which is at risk with the shutdown of the domestic industry.

Activity in North America and New Zealand remained strong, with BlueScope boosting output from its Taharoa iron sands unit, where it enjoys robust margins.

The Australian operations continue to drag on the group’s performance, with the domestic coated and industrial products division posting a net loss of $900,000, reversing the small $2.4 million profit recorded a year earlier. However, at the underlying level it posted a net profit of $26.9 million, rebounding from the year earlier loss of $10.6 million.

Similarly, the building products and steel distribution arm remained unprofitable, with a December-half net loss of $10.9 million, little changed from the $10.5 million loss a year earlier, while at the underlying level, it was also in the red with a net loss of $10.9 million, up from a loss of $7.1 million a year earlier.

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Search for tangible benefits of G20 ‘talkfest’

Worthy aspiration: JPMorgan’s Stephen Walters.Have political leaders ever run a campaign calling for slower economic growth? That’s one question that sprang to mind at Sydney’s G20 summit last weekend as journalists repeatedly asked finance ministers and central bankers about ”soft targets”, ”hard targets” and ”tangible targets”.
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The focus on growth targets was, of course, a key part of the recently installed federal government’s push to nail down the economic leaders to what Treasurer Joe Hockey hopes would be a concrete agenda.

After the lack of any progress at the annual forum in St Petersburg last year, and with the final communique running to almost 30 pages, there was a general desire to bring the gathering back to its roots of focusing on economic co-operation and goals.

Yet, after what was seen as a win for the Treasurer in including a specific target in the (thankfully, only two-page-long) communique, was anything truly achieved at what has been described as just another international talkfest?

First, economists are quick to point out that having a target, in itself, is a win for Australia’s presidency of the G20 this year. Past summits have been a lot more vague and, as such, a specific figure is a ”worthy aspiration” for a group of nations that control more than 80 per cent of the world’s economy, JPMorgan’s chief economist for Australia Stephen Walters said.

But questions remain about how much action will result from a non-binding agreement, and how any progress will be measured.

”You mean they really weren’t trying before?” quips National Australia Bank chief economist Alan Oster.

”I haven’t changed my growth forecasts. It’s easy to say, ‘Let’s grow faster’, but the question is how. That’s the problem I have with it and that was what I was expecting all the way along.”

For Mr Walters, it is a question of how any such growth could and would be measured, and whether, come November, the participating countries would even remember they had signed up to the voluntary target.

”What would growth have been without the agreement?” Mr Walters asked. ”Measuring is going to be extremely hard and domestic politics will always kick in.”

The communique touched on structural reform, such as through lifting employment and participation, and enhancing trade and promoting competition. But again, these are standard goals to which any politician aspiring for higher office would subscribe.

Even less tangible was the communique’s two paragraphs on how monetary policy would be ”carefully calibrated and clearly communicated” – a nod to emerging nations’ gripes that the wind-back of developed countries’ stimulus programs (read United States) was causing economic and market volatility.

As analysts readily point out, central banks’ mandates are domestically focused, and their governors would be remiss to place the concerns of other countries above their own.

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Boart Longyear: Dig deep or pass the hat again

Illustration: John Spooner.The reason Boart Longyear’s share price did not get hammered far harder than it did on Monday comes down to the extreme cyclicality of the mining services sector.
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This stock is as hairy-chested a punt on an uptick in the mining exploration cycle as any. And that uptick had better come quickly.

Two years ago, Boart was tracking $US356 million in earnings (EBITDA) and a share price above $3. In the latest half, EBITDA came in at a measly $US27 million and the company is being rapidly subsumed by the interest payments on its debt.

Unlike Forge, for instance, Boart has a high-tech products division that manufactures rig equipment. That could be sold. And it is the biggest owner and hire group of drill rigs in the world by a long shot.

Still, it faces an uphill battle to survive with its equity intact. The release of Boart’s 2013 earnings on Monday paints a sombre picture.

Earnings as measured in EBITDA have all but evaporated. In the final three months of the half it managed only $US8 million.

To be fair to Boart, the December and January months are the seasonally low months. With its drill rig capacity utilisation running at historic lows, however, the outlook for the present six months is difficult. It is fair to expect that with such low capacity utilisation pricing pressure on any new contract, wins will continue to be intense.

Just last October in its management update after its emergency debt refinancing, the commitment was to achieve a target net debt level of less than one times its cyclical low in its EBITDA. The prospect of achieving this is slim given it would require net debt to be slashed by $US500 million.

A few basics: Boart is carrying about $US600 million in gross debt, its annualised EBITDA run-rate, applying the most recent half year, is $US54 million.

The group has annualised cash interest commitments of $US52 million and its normalised capex requirements – just to maintain the drill rig fleet alone – run between $US50 million and $US75 million, according to an October 2013 refinancing presentation.

It is now flagging a 2014 maintenance capex spend of just $US25 million. Management is keen to provide comfort to bond investors, that they will receive their coupon payments, though questions may be raised by the group’s competitors about drill rig fleet quality if maintenance capex is cut to the bone.

Its main rival, Canadian-based Major Drilling, although facing the same sector headwinds, is net cash and doesn’t have pesky bond-holder coupon payments to worry about.

Boart’s net debt has not blown out in the past six months as Boart has undergone an aggressive working capital release.

But the problem is that working capital can be released only once and it appears that management has already taken the low hanging fruit, having reached its goal of reducing inventory levels down to $US300 million, with December inventory standing at $US299 million.

Cost reductions are offset by pricing declines in the high single digits and continued pricing pressure seems highly likely with utilisation rates so low.

Current drill rig capacity utilisation is running at roughly 30 per cent (it was 45 per cent in the June quarter) and as pricing pressure is only really starting to bite now Boart is in a fight for its life. It has announced yet another deal on its key senior bank debt covenants – the third such renegotiation in the space of six months.

Bear in mind, this is a company that in 2009 trebled its shares on issue via a deeply discounted jumbo recapitalisation. At the time of the last recap, Boart’s shares were trading at 44¢ with the new issue priced at 27¢ ($4.40 and $2.70 in present-day terms given a 10-for-one share consolidation in May 2010).

So Boart has form when it comes to putting the hat around. It was only in October last year that the board said there was no current intention to raise fresh equity to address the highly geared capital structure.

It was effectively rolling the dice, punting on the prospect of a turnaround in market sentiment.

Now all options are on the table – including asset sales and equity raisings – in order to reduce leverage to a more sustainable level through the cycle.

This may be a bitter pill to swallow for existing shareholders, but what are the alternatives?

Will institutional investors be prepared to tip in again given past raisings, present fundamentals and the uncertainty of a near-term upswing in the cycle?

And is there enough free cash flow to service interest payments if things don’t pick up? The holders of that $US600 million in debt might be looking for a pre-emptive exit.

Management flagged on Monday’s conference call that it would not be until late March when a clearer picture emerged of how utilisation was shaping up for 2014. Having rolled the dice and taken the company to the brink, the board has some tough decisions to make come April.

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RIP Geoff Wilson, a true racing man

Geoffrey Alan “Woolley” Wilson grew up in Gosford close enough to the race track to hear the PA system, and it was like a siren call that lured him into a life of racing.
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He was born on April 1, 1957, but he was nobody’s fool.

He never strayed too far from the Central Coast, and lived there with his late mum June and his dear dad Al all his life.

He started his journalism career at the Gosford Examiner before joining the Newcastle bureau of News Limited in 1980, then moving on to the Daily Mirror in Sydney.

His racing colleagues at the Mirror gave him his nickname, ironically taken from the champion greyhound Woolley Wilson.

He came to the Newcastle Herald by chance in 1996 on a casual placement, and we instantly loved this bloke whose passion for racing shone through in his vibrant writing.

Woolley had a line to the biggest names in racing, but he loved equally to tell the stories of the battling trainers, the jockey struggling with his weight, the coat-tuggers, and the small-time owners who had the luck to get themselves a handy horse.

It didn’t matter whether it was a Broadmeadow maiden, a Golden Slipper, or Choisir winning at Royal Ascot, Woolley gave them the same treatment.

One of the first racing stories he wrote for the Herald was on a bush trainer who had picked up a lame horse that had been written off as a racing proposition.

The trainer turned the horse out in a steep paddock with a stream that ran along the bottom, and he put the horse’s feed bin at the top of the hill. The horse would make the trips up and down the slope between food and drink and slowly, over many months, walked its way back to fitness and back into the winner’s stall.

Woolley had a million stories, many of them concerning his own bad luck on the punt.

Once, long before the days of pub TABs, he had given a winning daily double ticket to a mate to collect for him when he went to put a bet on. Sadly, the poor chap collapsed and died en route with Woolley’s ticket in his top pocket. His widow remarked later how unusual it was for him to take a daily double, but it had paid for the funeral.

“Just another way to do your dough,” Woolley would say.

(Woolley once wrote a column for the Herald on the perils of punting. We illustrated it with a cartoon of him placing a bet on horse called “Sure Thing”, which was the even-money favourite. As Woolley walks away, the bookie winds Sure Thing out to 100-1.)

There were the good luck stories, too.

For a time, Woolley would host a lunch on the day before the Melbourne Cup for Newcastle punters on the annual Kerry Phillips Great Events tour.

On one of those occasions, Woolley got the champion jockey Darren Beadman to come along as a guest speaker.

Afterwards Beadman, who had returned from his famous sabbatical from racing as a lay preacher, signed autographs and added “John 3:16”.

This is, of course, one of the most famous verses in the Bible: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him” etc etc.

But some took the numbers to be a tip and the next day backed number 16 in race three, which was a moderately performed conveyance named Sophie Princess paying $34. It won, of course.

“The Lord works in mysterious ways,” Woolley chuckled.

Some of Woolley’s best stories were not for publication.

“It’s only a rort if you’re not in on it,” he would say.

Early in his career as a racing writer he visited the home of a country trainer who had enjoyed his share of success.

On the walls were photographs of Slipper winners and Derby winners, but pride of place was taken by an ornate oil painting of a horse Woolley had not heard of and whose record, listed on the frame, showed only two wins from 50-odd starts.

“Why is this bloke so special,” Woolley asked. “He only won two races.”

“We only tried twice,” replied the trainer with a twinkle in his eye.

Woolley believed that the secret to punting was to watch races.

“Seeing is believing,” he said. “Watch races – anywhere, any time, and look for winners.”

He used that philosophy when he declared Green Moon to Herald readers before the 2012 Melbourne Cup. The year before the horse had won the Newcastle Cup in outstanding fashion.

Strangely, a seemingly disappointing seventh in the Cox Plate leading up to the Cup only reinforced Woolley’s opinion that Green Moon was unbeatable. He won and paid $22.

He was all about confidence, was Woolley.

“Old racing proverb: Money lost, nothing lost; confidence lost, everything lost,” he once told this $5 each-way punter during a lean spell.

His favourite horse was Kingston Town.

“He won from 1200 metres to 3200, he won 30 of 41 starts, three Cox Plates in a row, 14 group 1s,” he would recite.

“When he was racing of a Saturday, you couldn’t sleep the night before, because you knew something special was going to happen.

“Don’t talk to me about Black Caviar.”

Woolley was in his twenties when he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

He tried to manage the insidious disease as best as he could but, as the long-suffering staff at the Gosford renal unit will attest, he was never the best patient.

Those nurses and his fellow patients became like a second family to Woolley, and he always shouted everyone coffees if he’d had a win on the weekend.

His problems became almost insurmountable when he suffered a fall in 2011 that left him in a wheelchair.

But he battled on, and was able to work from home with the aid of Sky Channel and his constantly ringing phone.

Against all odds, we got him online, and he joked that “www” stood for “World Wide Woolley”.

And he was forever grateful to the racing community for the way they kept him in the loop.

Long calls with Woolley were a staple of the working day, always full of laughs, gossip and tips – his voice full of life but often masking the pain he was in.

His love for his craft kept him going when most would have called it a day.

“I’ve got one for you,” he would say when he had a good yarn, and then he would bash it out and email it up.

And bash it out he would. He was never the greatest typist, and he had glasses like the bottoms of Coke bottles.

I can recall a rookie sub-editor at the Herald throwing his hands up in dismay when he tried to unscramble Woolley’s copy.

“It’s like cracking a code,” one of the old hacks advised. “You just have to work out which keys he had his fingers on when he started typing.”

As good a bloke as Woolley was, he had a fierce temper and his blow-ups were legendary.

When Woolley felt that things weren’t right, he let you know.

He graded his blow-ups according to racing terminology, and you didn’t want to be on the end of a group 1 spray from Woolley.

Usually though, they blew over as quick as they blew up.

The best I saw was in Melbourne after Derby Day in the late ’90s.

Newcastle trainer Paul Perry had won a race with horse called Bezeal Bay.

Woolley had declared it, and a crew of us from Newcastle had backed it and cheered it all the way down the long Flemington straight.

Afterwards, Woolley took us to a Chinese restaurant he had discovered. But the service was painfully slow, and as the mob got hungrier the tension mounted in Woolley until … what transpired does not bear repeating in a family paper.

As we were marched out of the restaurant I said to the bride: “One day you’ll look back on this and laugh.”

“No I won’t,” she replied, and she never has. But I have – many, many times – and I am now as I write this. It was just before Christmas when Woolley finally became too ill to work.

He was admitted to Gosford Hospital where, on top of everything else, he couldn’t watch the races.

But things took a turn for the better last week when he moved in to a nursing home.

On Sunday, he got Sky Channel hooked up, and his great friend Frances O’Shea reported that he was in fine spirits.

“He was even talking about writing some stories,” Frances said.

On Sunday night, though, Woolley took a turn for the worse.

He died peacefully on Monday afternoon, a racing man to the end.

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New Blue up and running

ADELAIDE 0.1.2 0.4.3 0.8.5 1.13.12 (99)CARLTON 0.2.4 0.5.5 0.8.6 0.9.7 (61)Nine pointers: Adelaide: P Dangerfield. Goals: Adelaide: McKernan 3, Jenkins 2, Otten, Rutten, Petrenko, Podsiadly, Porplyzia, Dangerfield, Douglas, Sloane. Carlton:Ellard 3, Everitt, Curnow, Garlett, Casboult, Menzel, Scotland. Best: Adelaide: Douglas, Thompson, Jaensch, Dangerfield, McKernan, Sloane. Carlton: Murphy, Gibbs, Simpson, Thomas, Buckley, Everitt. Injuries: Adelaide: J Podsiadly (bruised hip). Carlton: B Gibbs (general soreness) C Yarran (general soreness).Umpires: Chris Kamolins, Scott McPhee, Brendan Hosking. Venue: Etihad Stadium.
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Just as his team will play better games, Dale Thomas will play better games for his new club Carlton.

But the very fact Thomas was playing senior football again was reason enough for Carlton fans to walk away content with what they saw in an otherwise underwhelming match against Adelaide at Etihad Stadium on Monday night.

Certainly the match will have left only the Crows pleased with what they saw from their team as opposed to the efforts of individuals, but with a match in February that is almost beside the point.

Thomas did more than he might have hoped to be able to do in his first outing for Carlton. He got a handsome amount of the ball and ran searchingly. Predictably he tired and was heavily rotated, but he worked into the game impressively.

He played from a half-forward flank which, of course, meant that he also got the ball across half-back and ran deep with it as a link player. What he gave Carlton was a lift in quality of the delivery of the ball inside 50.

The former Collingwood star did not take a turn through the centre of the ground, but that was not surprising for a player playing his first even semi-serious game since re-injuring his ankle in round 20 of the VFL last year. His last AFL game was in round seven last year – the last of just five games for the season.

As critical as the form of the high-profile free agent was the form of another recruit, Andrejs Everitt. The rangy half-forward gave the Carlton forward line that extra player who was difficult to match up on, someone who is tall and marks well but is still nimble and quick at ground level.

Carlton’s first-round pick, Patrick Cripps, is a powerful, ready-to-play midfielder who showed he will give the Blues what they want from him as an inside midfielder.

Dylan Buckley had an impressive night with run and dash linking play through the middle of the ground and a keenness to take the game on and break lines.

Sam Rowe was sampled as a key defender after playing as a forward and part-time ruckman last season.

Matthew Kreuzer, recovered from the foot complaint that cost him his semi-final place last season and affected his early pre-season, looked better as the game wore on. He began playing out of the goal square, but looked better when he moved into the ruck.

James Podsiadly, at his new club, kicked the first goal for the Crows, while Eddie Betts will wait to play his first game against his old club.

The Crows slipped the chain in the last quarter when Paddy Dangerfield moved into the middle to instant effect. He booted a super goal and another six-pointer as the Crows monstered Carlton in the middle of the ground, dominating the clearances. They completely overran the Blues in the last term.

Carlton was without Chris Judd – his Achilles will keep him out until round three – and Andrew Carrazzo, who has injured a calf and will miss the first two rounds of the season. Lachie Henderson will play soon after minor thigh surgery and should yet be fit for round one, while Andrew Walker, Robert Warnock and Zach Tuohy were all rested.

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

Brumbies to go on attack against Western Force

Injured Brumbies No.8 Fotu Auelua is still two months away from playing. Photo: Jeffrey ChanInjured No.8 Fotu Auelua says the ACT Brumbies have the players and ability for a more attacking game plan and they won’t ”shy away” from that against the Western Force in Perth on Saturday, despite their ”messy” loss to Queensland Reds.
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And he said fullback Jesse Mogg’s relaxed character would help him move on from his costly fumble and ”rewrite his mistakes” this weekend.

Auelua is still two months away from returning after damaging his medial ligament in a pre-season trial, but the specialist was happy with his progress on Monday.

The powerful ball-runner has been doing conditioning work in the pool, as well as restricted weights, but he won’t be out of his knee brace for another 4-5 weeks.

He told Fairfax Media earlier this year that he’d struggled with post-surgery depression after having a shoulder reconstruction last year. But he is in a much better state of mind at the moment.

Auelua said having fellow injured Brumby Christian Lealiifano (ankle) had helped him deal with the mental blow of missing the first half of the 2014 Super Rugby season.

Plus Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie had said he was still in his plans for the mid-season Tests against France despite the injury.

”I kind of had my down days with the shoulder and obviously the day I did my knee I was pretty shattered, you kind of beat yourself up a little bit, but coming back from that is not that far away and you just need to focus on getting back on the field,” Auelua said.

He said it was frustrating watching Saturday night’s 27-17 loss to the Reds from the grandstand, where the Brumbies were their ”own worst enemies”.

And he said the loss, plus the Force ”smacking them round the park” in Perth last season, would have the Brumbies ”pretty angry” when they run out at nib Stadium.

Auelua felt the experience of players like David Pocock, who will play his former club in a Brumbies jersey for the first time, Matt Toomua and Henry Speight would be crucial in lifting the province. And he said the team backed captain Ben Mowen’s decisions when it came to opting to either take the penalty shot or kick for a lineout in the corner.

”We back our ability to score tries and our attacking game,” he said.

”We don’t want to be a team that will shy away from scoring tries, we want to score tries every game and last weekend didn’t showcase any of our attacking ability.

”We’ve got the players and the ability to play that style of rugby.”

Mogg produced a mixed bag against the Reds – scoring a try, getting held up across the line and fumbling a kick that led Queensland to put the game beyond reach in the dying minutes.

But Auelua backed Mogg to ”let it slide”. It was the 24-year-old’s first Super Rugby game since having a shoulder reconstruction last year after making his Wallabies debut.

”Jesse is one of the key players in the team,” Auelua said.

”He had some great moments and some not-so-great moments – those kind of moments either make or break you, but the good thing about Jesse is he’s got that relaxed atmosphere about him where he can let it slide.

”This weekend he’ll want to rewrite the mistakes he did … and he’s only going to get better.

”That’s the dangerous thing, we haven’t got the best out of him yet.”

■ SATURDAYWestern Force v ACT Brumbies at nib Stadium, Perth, 10pm.

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

Amelia Ross and Nicola Owen on board with new direction

NEW TALENT: Nicola Owen and Amelia Ross will compete at the state age surf lifesaving titles this weekend. Picture: Peter Stoop NCH SPORT – Nicola Owen and Amelia Ross will compete in the NSW Surf Life Saving Age Ttles at Ocean Beach this weekend – shows them with their boards on Merewether Beach — 24th Feb 2014 photo by Peter Stoop
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NCH SPORT – Nicola Owen and Amelia Ross will compete in the NSW Surf Life Saving Age Ttles at Ocean Beach this weekend – shows them with their boards on Merewether Beach — 24th Feb 2014 photo by Peter Stoop

MEREWETHER duo Amelia Ross and Nicola Owen are hoping hard work and some tips from top board paddling coach Ross Blatchford can help them snare a medal for their club.

Their club is competing at the NSW Surf Life Saving State Age Championship this weekend.

Amelia and Nicola represent the Merewether club’s work to develop junior talent and match them with traditionally strong Hunter clubs such as Swansea-Belmont and Redhead.

The under-13 pair were part of the Hunter team at the NSW interbranch titles.

It was a rare double selection in an age group for Merewether.

The club’s junior activities co-ordinator, Mark Owen, said the achievement came from greater development.

The biggest change has been luring Blatchford to guide the likes of Amelia and Nicola, who will attempt to medal in the under 13s board relay at Ocean Beach on the weekend.

“We’ve got a coach now teaching board skills a couple of times a week and we’ve tried to lift the profile of a competition squad,” Owen said. “It’s a slow process. It takes a couple of years to get there but we’ve certainly made some big gains.

“We’re trying to expand on that for next year, with coaching for some swimming and beach running.”

Amelia and Nicola were fourth in the under 13 girls board rescue at the NSW interbranch titles.

Amelia was also fourth in the individual surf race and fifth in the ironperson.

She warmed up for the state titles at the Hunter Branch Championship at Caves Beach two weeks ago when she won the ironperson and board race and finished second in the swim.

Nicola was second in the board and third in the swim while the pair finished second in the board rescue and were part of runner-up efforts in the board relay and beach relay.

The girls are part of a strong Hunter assault on the state age titles, which start on Friday.

Redhead’s Bailey Proud and Catherine Hill Bay’s Lachlan Stanford starred in the under 14 boys section at the Hunter titles; they won three gold medals each.

Fingal Bay’s Maya Stewart claimed the sprint double in the under 14 girls.

Zach Morris (Swansea-Belmont), Kyle Lehmann (Catherine Hill Bay) and Heath Hall-Muir (Cooks Hill) will lead the Hunter charge in the under 12 boys after gold medals at Caves Beach.

Bella Williams (Cooks Hill) claimed four victories in the surf at Hunter in the under 11 girls division while the Cooks Hill trio of Saxon Coates, Fletcher Myers and Tom Sargeant dominated the boys section.

Grace Hewitt (Fingal Beach) and Erin Petitt (Swansea-Belmont) were standouts in the under 10 girls.

Blake Gribble, Blake Cook and Mitch and Jake Morris from Swansea-Belmont took all before them in the under 9 boys while Newcastle’s Jade Archer won four gold medals.