Bombala one step closer to Grand Final!

PLAYING at home in the elimination final against the Milton Platypus, the Bombala Bluetongues played a great first 20 minutes, with the forwards having solid set plays and then going in pods for the next phase.
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The backs then got forward moving ball and were able to convert sustained pressure to a couple of tries.

The next quarter, the boys went to sleep and allowed the opposition to get some easy yards by turning the ball back inside rather than trying to spin it wide and try and run around the defence.

They were rewarded with three tries, and a good yell from some seasoned players about setting posts at rucks and mauls showed some great tackles being made, and another try for the Blues just on halftime saw it tied up at 17 all.

Travelling with only 15 players and gaining a few injuries, Milton called for decontested scrums, but with a few reserves loaded from the bench the Bluetongues ramped the tempo up.

This saw some fantastic rugby played and fullback Ben Mooney grab a hat-trick of tries. Thornie bagged a double and single tries went to Ray “Jobsy” Kading, Chris “Stan” Anderson and Hugh Platts.

Final whistle saw Bombala 48, Milton still 17.

No points awarded in the finals week, but Jackson Standen had a fantastic 80 minutes with some brilliant conversions from the sideline, but couldn’t get them right in front!

We are worried for Girvo who received an injury late in the game, but might see him back in the grand final against Broulee.

Also in Bombala on Saturday, Bateman’s Bay Boars played very poorly against a well drilled Broulee Dolphins, and they were not troubled by the red and black team running out easy winners 45-5.

This sees the Bluetongues travel down to take on the Boars at Bateman’s Bay this weekend at 3pm to see who goes onto the 2012 Grand Final.

A huge thank you has to go to all our helpers on the gate and working away in the canteen all day to make much needed money to get the team onto the paddock year after year.

Half back, Ben Mooney scored a hat trick of tries against Milton.

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Young vows to push through the pain

Veteran Dean Young will retire from the Dragons at the end of the season. Retiring Dragons veteran Dean Young has vowed to push through the pain barrier for his two remaining NRL games and see out retirement on his own terms.
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Young will start at lock for tomorrow’s clash against New Zealand – his last at WIN Stadium – and is confident he can recover in time for the round 26 finale against Parramatta the following week.

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The 28-year-old, who has been forced into early retirement because of a chronic knee injury, is eager to finish a stellar 207-game club career with two strong performances.

‘‘I had my knee drained on Sunday and it’s been pretty sore, but I’ll do my best to play and see how we go after that,’’ Young said.

Young was forced to sit out Monday night’s 32-22 loss to North Queensland, but the omission should allow him enough recovery for the run home.

Clashes against lowly Warriors and Parramatta are expected to fetch near-capacity crowds to farewell Young and teammate Ben Hornby, who called time on his career on Tuesday.

The Dragons were quietly buzzing yesterday over news the Parramatta clash had been moved to ANZ Stadium at Homebush.

‘‘The decision was out of our hands, being Parramatta’s home game, but the outcome is great for everyone involved,’’ Dragons chief executive Peter Doust said.

‘‘It now provides a lot more Dragons fans the opportunity to witness both Ben and Dean lead the club out one final time.

‘‘I am sure that Ben and Dean, as well as Luke [Burt] and Nathan [Hindmarsh], appreciate the gesture as all four men have been great ambassadors for the game.’’

Young was hopeful of a capacity crowd for his Wollongong send-off tomorrow afternoon – the same ground he debuted on back in 2003.

‘‘I think it would be nice to send us out with a big crowd,’’ Young said of the WIN Stadium farewell.

‘‘We’re both Wollongong boys and have grown up here. It’s our favourite ground and we love playing there.

‘‘It would be great to run out if it was full – that would be wonderful – even though the semis are out of reach.

‘‘I think the fans would have liked us to be in the finals, but you can’t fault the effort the team has put in this year. It’s just been our execution and a couple of other things that have let us down.’’

The two remaining games will take on extra significance for the rest of the Dragons’ players jostling for positions in next year’s side.

The club has refused to speculate on coach Steve Price’s captaincy options until Hornby sees out the season, and Young was indifferent when quizzed this week.

‘‘I’m sure that’s for the club to decide,’’ he said.

‘‘The coaching staff will look at that and make the right decision in due time. It’s all sort of happened and we thought Benny was playing on.

‘‘The staff and the senior players will get together and do a whole review of the season of what went right and what went wrong. I’m sure that will be in the discussions.’’

Tickets to the round 26 Dragons-Parramatta finale will go on sale from midday today.

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New Hawk feels at home

New Hawks signing Auryn MacMillan at training. Picture: DAVE TEASEA few friendly comments from strangers was all it took for new Wollongong Hawks signing Auryn MacMillan to feel like he had come to the right place.
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MacMillan officially joined the Hawks on a one-year deal yesterday, becoming the 10th player on the roster for the 2012-13 NBL season.

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The former Kilsyth junior’s signing came a day after Wollongong acquired American guard Lance Hurdle.

A 204-centimetre forward, MacMillan couldn’t wait to make his debut in Hawks colours in tonight’s pre-season trial against the Sydney Kings at Gosford.

‘‘I’m really looking forward to it,’’ he said.

‘‘It’ll be good to actually get and have a run against another NBL team. It’ll be a whole other step to play against an NBL squad.’’

MacMillan has been playing with the Kilsyth Cobras in the South East Australian Basketball League and is still in the process of moving to the Gong.

Venturing into town for a meal on Wednesday night, he was struck by how many curious well-wishers he met.

‘‘I went and got some dinner in a Hawks jersey and everyone’s pretty interested, even just people in the street,’’ the 25-year-old said.

‘‘I had several people talking to me already and it’s a real positive thing.

‘‘I really, really like the club. The whole community-ownership concept and the level of involvement the club has in the community … it’s fantastic.

‘‘The vibe I get from the club is great. The team, the coaching staff, everyone in the office. It’s a really close-knit family club.’’

MacMillan has had previous try-outs with Melbourne and Adelaide and is ecstatic to finally break into the NBL.

‘‘I guess I’ve kind of been on the brink for a little bit and it’s good to finally take that next step,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s certainly something I’ve aspired to be a part of. It’s the highest level in Australia and probably one of the better leagues in the world. To get that opportunity is fantastic.’’

The Hawks have 10 players under contract for next season and are very close to completing the roster with an American point guard. Hurdle is due to arrive in Australia on Sunday.

Meanwhile, forward Dave Gruber strained his lower back during Wednesday’s training session and won’t play in tonight’s clash with the Kings.

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Class sizes at risk of rising: teachers

NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli said classes sizes will remain at existing levels.A breakdown in negotiations between the NSW government and the teachers union has ended a staffing agreement that regulates class sizes and teacher numbers.
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Teachers today warned there was nothing stopping the Education Minister, Adrian Piccoli, from increasing class sizes on a whim.

However, Mr Piccoli said he was committed to maintaining existing class sizes as policy.

The director-general of the Education Department, Michele Bruniges, told teachers they had until 5.30pm yesterday to sign a new staffing agreement, with the current one due to expire within weeks.

The president of the NSW Teachers Federation, Maurie Mulheron, said he was not in a position to sign the agreement at such short notice without consulting his executive members.

One sticking point in the negotiations was the government’s refusal to guarantee the number of senior teaching positions.

Mr Mulheron said the staffing agreement would also have formalised class sizes, but these were now at the discretion of the minister.

“There is no way of regulating class sizes and the number of teachers we have,” he said. “These will all be determined unilaterally by the minister.”

Recent research has suggested a tenuous link between educational outcomes and class sizes, despite a long-held belief that smaller class sizes improve student results.

In a letter to staff, Dr Bruniges said four months of negotiations with the teachers federation over new staffing arrangements arising from the Local Schools, Local Decisions reforms had failed.

“Unfortunately these negotiations have not resulted in an agreement and as such the department will implement the new staffing procedures from Day 1, Term 4, 2012 by way of policy,” she said.

“A key element of the Local Schools, Local Decisions reforms is putting an end to the centrally determined one-size fits all staffing model.

“The minister and I have been very clear that the Local Schools, Local Decisions staffing reforms will maintain a statewide staffing system, which has greater opportunities for teachers to be selected at the local level to better meet student needs; maintain the department’s class size policies, and provide greater flexibility for schools to determine the mix of permanent and temporary staff to meet student needs and workforce planning requirements.”

Dr Bruniges said the department considered issues raised by the federation in negotiations, and where consistent with government policy they were included in a draft staffing agreement.

“The department has confirmed that the new Resource Allocation Model will fund schools to maintain their current staffing entitlements if they wish, including the notional executive and specialist teaching positions, assuming student enrolments do not change,” she said.

“The department also confirmed that in determining the number of deputy principals, assistant principals, head teachers and specialist teaching positions schools must meet Board of Studies curriculum requirements and school operational needs.”

Dr Bruniges said the staffing agreement offered to the federation maintained class sizes and incentive teacher transfers would remain.

“Once incentive transfers and Aboriginal employment applicants are placed, schools will be able to fill at least every second vacancy by local choice,” she said.

The Greens MP John Kaye said the real intent of school devolution had “now been exposed”.

“Classroom sizes and important administrative positions in schools have now been completely deregulated,” he said.

“Adrian Piccoli is about to destroy two decades of progress towards better education by making schools entirely cost driven without regards to the consequences for students.”

Mr Piccoli said class sizes would not increase, but be maintained at existing levels.

He said teachers still had the option of signing the agreement to make it legally binding.

“If it’s not an industrial agreement, it’s policy,” Mr Piccoli said.

“The federation can lock this in, making it legally enforceable until 2016 [if they sign the agreement]. The principals wanted the flexibility to determine their mix of staff and we’ve given that to them.

“This is the last thing the teachers federation wants and we are not going to give it to them.”

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Temperature soars in the Illawarra

A woman enjoys an early morning swim at Austinmer last summer. The temperature reached 28 degrees in the Illawarra today, given residents a taste of the summer to come. Picture: KIRK GILMOURTwenty nine degrees.
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No, you didn’t misread that: that was the maximum temperature in Sydney city today, the third warmest August day on record, meterologists say.

At 1pm it was 29 degrees across most of the city, Bureau of Meteorology spokesman David Barlow said.

The temperature at Sydney Airport reached 30 degrees at the same time.

Meantime, in the Illawarra, the temperature reached 28 degrees at Albion Park and 26 degrees at Kiama.

Mr Barlow said it was the third warmest August day on record, with days in 1995 and 1954 peaking at over 30 degrees.

But he said it was unlikely to reach the 1995 August record of 31 degrees.

“It is above average for August. It is late August, but 18 degrees is the average for Sydney and even in September the average is 20.

“We do get some mid to low 20s most years but then above 25 is unusual for August.”

At 12.45pm the temperature hit 29.4 degrees at Sydney Airport, 28.5 at Observatory Hill and 28.3 at Sydney Olympic Park, the bureau’s website said.

Bondi lifeguard Dean Gladstone said the beach was quiet this morning, but afternoon crowds were expected.

“With the warmer weather [earlier in the year] over the last few years we find people do come down when it hits.”

Mr Barlow said the warm weather was being caused by northerly winds.

“They’re warm and gusty northerly winds and that’s bringing down a lot of warm air from the north of Australia.

“[But] a cold front is moving across the state today.

“It’s due to reach Sydney later in the day and it will be windy when it does arrive, but basically once that passes over, you’ll get back towards average from tomorrow.”

The front, expected to hit Sydney this evening, may cause thunderstorms, and the bureau issued a coastal waters wind warning, predicting swell up to three metres.

A maximum of 20 degrees is predicted every day until Monday, before rising to the mid-20s later next week.

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Politicians split over mining boom

Resources Minister Martin Ferguson. The Gillard government is split on whether Australia’s mining boom is over in the wake of the shelving of BHP Billiton’s $30 billion expansion of the Olympic Dam mine.
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Resources Minister Martin Ferguson this morning said Australia’s mining history had been the envy of the world.

‘‘You’ve got to understand, the resources boom is over,’’ Mr Ferguson told ABC radio.

‘‘We’ve done well – $270 billion in investment, the envy of the world. It has got tougher in the last six to 12 months.’’

But Finance Minister and South Australian senator Penny Wong disagreed with her colleague’s assessment.

‘‘No, I think the mining boom has got a long way to run,’’ she said.

The federal government put aside its differences on the mining boom’s expiration date, however, to criticise Opposition Leader Tony Abbott for running a ‘‘dishonest’’ fear campaign and linking BHP Billiton’s decision to delay the expansion of the Olympic Dam mine in South Australia to the mining and carbon taxes.

BHP had been consistently warning the two taxes were making Australia a less competitive place to invest, Mr Abbott said.

However, BHP chief executive Marius Kloppers made no mention of either tax in his lengthy explanation for stepping away from the expansion project.

Senator Wong said Mr Abbott was asking Australians to believe what he said was true even though BHP had cited other reasons for its decision, including subdued commodity prices and higher capital costs.

‘‘This is one of the most dishonest, self-interested fear campaigns that we have seen in Australian politics,’’ Senator Wong said.

Mr Kloppers said the company was not going ahead with the massive open-cut pit partly because of the Fukushima nuclear plant meltdown in Japan, which had led to a global fall in demand for uranium.

Senator Wong was more upbeat than Coalition frontbencher Christopher Pyne – who called the decision ‘‘catastrophic’’ for the economy – but conceded it had been ‘‘deeply disappointing’’.

‘‘Every South Australian knows that Olympic Dam is an incredibly important project for the state,’’ she said.

She welcomed BHP Billiton’s indication of its intention to extend the Olympic Dam project in due course.

‘‘The Gillard government intends to work closely with the South Australian government and BHP Billiton with the aim of seeing Olympic Dam reach its full potential as soon as it is commercially viable.’’

Nationals Senate leader Barnaby Joyce said it was ‘‘ridiculous’’ and a ‘‘nonsense’’ to suggest the carbon and mining taxes played no part in BHP’s deliberations.

‘‘The question today is how could you possibly argue that a new tax that will be paid by the company is not an issue in the decision they make?’’ Senator Joyce said.

‘‘Do we think for one second that this [the carbon and mining taxes] wasn’t an issue that was discussed around board tables at BHP and every other resource company in the world?

‘‘Expenses such as these become part and parcel of the decisions you make.’’

Cabinet Minister Stephen Conroy was in the ‘‘no’’ camp when asked if the boom was busted, declaring the mining boom was not over.

‘‘I think the investment pipeline is extraordinary,’’ Senator Conroy said.

He said Mr Abbott’s claim that BHP’s decision not to expand the Olympic Dam was due to the Mining Tax was ‘‘sheer stupidity.’’

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Man freed from wreckage in Fairy Meadow crash

Crash on Pioneer Rd, Fairy Meadow.A man trapped in his vehicle after a crash at Fairy Meadow this morning has been arilifted to a Sydney hospital.
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Two children have been transported to Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney by helicopter.

Ambulance paramedics and police arrived at the scene of the collision on Pioneer Rd near Thomas Dalton Park about 11.15am.

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And the gold for whingeing goes to …

Sally PearsonThe Olympics weren’t half over before the hand-wringing began.
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We weren’t winning enough medals, whined so many people. Enough gold medals that is, because it seems that as a nation, we’ve decided winning silver and bronze is beneath us. Seems strange that we can devalue the majority of the Olympic medals on offer, but we have.

If I was an athlete I’d be stoked to win a bronze medal. Come on, it’s not like the little ribbon you won at the school athletics carnival – it’s a bloody Olympic medal. How on Earth can you think someone winning an Olympic medal – of any colour – hasn’t performed well enough?

Maybe it was because the Games start with the swimming events and that’s a sport we’re supposed to excel at. A sport that we’ve long ago assumed to be one we’re born for, where we arrogantly assume that we’re the best – and always will be.

So let’s just conveniently ignore the fact that the US has won substantially more Olympic swimming medals than us – 520 to to our 342. And the fact that they have way more swimming gold medals than us too – 214 to 58.

Forget all that – swimming is our sport and we’re meant to win every event all the time.

When reality set in and we didn’t get all the gold on offer in the pool it was an outrage, with calls for an investigation into why our swimmers had let the country down.

It was simply unfathomable to many that we actually weren’t winning. It was like we were a nation of poor sports. Instead of moaning when an athlete won a silver or even a bronze instead of gold for Australia, we should have been gracious enough to admit the swimmers beating ours were simply better.

Isn’t that what good sports do? Act graciously in defeat? I know they certainly don’t moan about how they should have won, in the process implying that the other swimmers’ victories were aberrations.

People also seemed to turn on the athletes themselves. Having so willingly built them up and put so much pressure on them, these people then complained when the athletes failed to fulfil these unrealistic expectations.

It felt as though many Australians took our athletes’ inability to live up to our expectations (note, not the athlete’s own expectations, but ours) quite personally. It was as though they’d somehow let us down on a deeply personal level.

Never mind that the 2012 gold medal tally is actually a better than average performance for Australia. Taking into account all modern summer Olympics, our gold medal haul average is five.

The better than average medal hauls at the last three Olympics have set people up with the expectation our deserved place is on the top spot of the podium in almost every event.

I’d half expect members of the public to downgrade the efforts of our athletes who won any medal that wasn’t gold. But I was surprised that it was also the attitude of Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates who said Australia had set an objective of finishing fifth in both gold medals and on the overall medal tally. An objective the team obviously fell well short of.

‘‘My only disappointment here was of the 35 medals – one the swimmers didn’t do better and just get us a few more than 35,’’ Coates said.

‘‘The other disappointment was we didn’t nail those gold medals, it was the silvers that dominated our tally.’’

Wow, who’d have thought the head of the AOC would downgrade the value of an Olympic medal?

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Reprieve for ‘Simon the Likeable’

There has been quite an outpouring of support since the Mercury first published the story of postman Simon McGovern who was facing disciplinary action from his bosses at Australia Post.
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It was all because the friendly postie, nicknamed ‘‘Simon the Likeable’’, earned the ire of his bosses for being too friendly and taking too long on his daily run.

Simon, it seems, went above and beyond the call of duty by hand-delivering things like condolence cards and stopping for a chat with some of his customers.

Instead it landed him in hot water and sparked a big campaign from the people around Austinmer and Coledale in Wollongong’s northern suburbs who didn’t take too kindly to the threat that they might lose their beloved postie.

The Mercury was inundated with calls, letters, SMS messages and heavy traffic on our website from readers demanding to know if it was bureaucracy gone mad.

Now it seems all has been forgiven and Simon will be allowed to keep his run.

That’s what you call a victory for people power.

And another thing …

The perennial argument about funding for schools is again on the boil as the federal government prepares its response to the Gonski report.

Regardless of what the government says or does, it is vital our elected representatives understand that all Australian children are equal and all deserve an equal opportunity when it comes to education.

That hasn’t always been the case and the Gonski review is an opportunity to get the system right.

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The Titanscan do it,says coach

Wests Titans coach Kay Buckley is confident her side can avoid relegation in its sudden death playoff against the Corrimal Cadets this Saturday.
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Titans and Cadets join minor premiers Dapto Reunited and second-placed Land Team as the four remaining sides in the Illawarra Premier League finals.

The third and fourth-placed teams, which were separated by a mere point after 14 regular rounds, will face off for the second time in seven days on Saturday.

Last Saturday, Wests received a monumental confidence boost after coming away with a 13-point win over the Cadets.

It was a reassuring performance for Buckley heading into this weekend’s re-match.

‘‘We’re feeling good with the way we’ve performed in the past few weeks,’’ Buckley said.

‘‘We started really well against Corrimal, but we probably need to be more consistent at the back end of games, so that’s something we’ll be looking to improve on this weekend.

‘‘It’s just as long as we stay true to our game plan and we appreciate what each of us bring into the game.’’

The winner of the Titans-Cadets game will play the loser of Dapto Reunited and Land Team in the top-tier semi. The winner of the latter game will receive an automatic grand-final berth.

Dapto was gifted a week off last Saturday after Berkeley Mixtures forfeited their final-round match, and Land Team managed a timely 64-39 win over Corrimal BaiMed.

Buckley was adamant that Dapto, the defending premiers, still carried the heavyweights status.

‘‘I think they’re still the team to beat because they’ve got talent across the seven,’’ Buckley said.

‘‘They’ve also got Michelle Reagan back in their squad now, so that’s another big boost for them.’’

Last weekend, Corrimal SMJ Haulage beat Seaview Preschool 68-38.

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