Butchers primed to spoil Dogs’ day

Thirroul’s Daniel Rauicava, Adam Goode, Joel Johnson, Daniel Perkins, Duncan Reilly and Bryce Forrest have already forgotten the dying seconds loss to Helensburgh last week and are set to tackle Collegians at WIN Stadium this afternoon. Picture: SYLVIA LIBERThirroul have refocused this week, after their gut-wrenching 20-18 loss to Helensburgh last Sunday, for a tilt at Collegians in the Illawarra Coal Cup minor semi-final at WIN Stadium today.

The Butchers led the Burgh for all bar the last five seconds of the qualifying final, only to be sunk when Tigers centre Ben Haran scored the second of his two late tries to leave Thirroul in a sudden-death situation today rather than going on to play Wests in the major semi-final tomorrow.

Though Thirroul’s defence was rock solid across the park, they were exposed in the air because all of the Tigers’ tries came as a result of cross-field bombs or floating chip kicks to the corner, a tactic the Butchers will have to rectify against Collies today.

Collies just scraped into the minor semi-final after holding on for a 14-12 win over Shellharbour in the elimination final last Saturday.

Collies’ talented five-eighth Mitchell Wynn will miss the match because of a quad injury, and winger/fullback Ron Kissell is rated only a slim chance of overcoming a hamstring problem that prevented him from playing last Saturday.

However, the Dogs will be boosted by the return of fullback Henry Raiwalui.

The Butchers will be without second-rowers Jacob Ling, who has been selected in the Illawarra Cutters team to play Manly today, and Duncan Reilly, who has not recovered from a dislocated shoulder. Former Country Firsts representative Joel Ruskin, whose season has been interrupted by injuries, comes back into the side.

Thirroul pipped Collies 30-28 with a conversion after the full-time siren in the last round of the regular season and today’s eliminator is expected to be another close encounter.

“All the blokes were pretty shattered after the [Helensburgh] game. To lose like that was disappointing, but there’s a lot of positives to take out of the game,” Thirroul coach Phil Ostwald said.

“To hold them out across our line … they scored all their four tries from kicks.

“We had to make 100-plus more tackles in the second half than we did in the first half. To take it right to the wire like we did was a very positive outcome really.

“We need to put that aside and concentrate on this week now.”

Ostwald is all too aware that the Butchers have to be switched on for the full 80 minutes against Collies. The same could be said about the Dogs, who let the game out of the bag in the last eight seconds last time they met.

“There’s not much between the teams. Collies had a good end to the year, that’s why they’re there,” Ostwald said.

“They’re playing with a lot of enthusiasm and now they’re going about their business.”

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David Smith’s heart of gold

David Smith.Olympic gold medallist Dave Smith was over the moon when the Australian team touched down at Sydney Airport on Wednesday.

Little did he know that his gold medal would soon have a few red faces for company.

Once all the formalities were over Smith jumped into a car with a friend, eager to get to his home in Warilla after many months overseas.

All was fine until a police officer noticed the vehicle, in which Smith was a passenger, was unregistered.

The registration had expired a week earlier, while Smith was winning his gold medal at the London Olympics as a member of the K4 men’s kayak crew.

When the driver was issued with a $700 infringement notice, gold medallist Smith did what he thought was the decent thing.

Rather than see his friend potentially cop some flak, he took responsibility for the misdemeanour himself when interviewed by the Mercury on Wednesday evening.

All was well until the next morning when Smith’s “admission” sparked a controversy online.

Yesterday, he couldn’t believe what all the fuss was about.

Now, Smith would like to make it clear that he was not the car driver.

So for all those readers hyperventilating over his alleged misdemeanour, it turns out that the Gong’s Olympic hero also deserves a gold medal in the noble and time-honoured tradition of taking the heat for his friend the driver.

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GOOD LIFE: Life matters

Knowing your values assists you in your decision-making regarding career, partners, friends and social activities.

What do you value? Is it love, compassion, loyalty, excitement, money, freedom or stability? There are many values that may resonate for you. If you have never actually sat down and thought about what you value, it’s never too late to start!

Knowing what you value, and how you experience those values, allows for easier decision-making in life. If something goes against your values, don’t choose it. If it is aligned with your values, go in that direction.

Conflict with others often stems from differing values or living by different rules associated to those values. Two people may value love, however person A may prefer to receive love through receiving gifts, while person B may prefer to receive love via physical touch. These are each person’s unique “rules” around what they value.

When you understand your own values, you will in turn understand that others have their own set of values. You will be more accepting, accommodating and forgiving of others as you understand that we are all just journeying on our separate paths, to our separate goals, with our unique and individual luggage.

Your values will most likely change over time as you evolve and grow older. What you once valued as a child or a teenager may not be the same as what you value as an adult or a parent. Changing values is fine. Knowing and understanding your values needs to be consistent.

Knowing what you stand for and what you value makes decision-making easier and allows you to make choices based on certainty of self.

Bobbi Chegwyn is a self-empowerment coach, author and speaker who runs her business Ask Coach Bobbi. Check out www.askcoachbobbi苏州美甲美睫培训

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Campaigner fears cuts to school support staff

Public education advocate Jane Caro (left) and Russell Vale Public School administration officer Margaret Fallo discuss the possible effects of budget reforms on school support staff. Picture: MELANIE RUSSELLSchool support staff jobs could be at risk under NSW government education reforms, public education campaigner Jane Caro said yesterday.

In Wollongong to speak to 500 administration and support staff from Illawarra schools, Ms Caro said reforms to give principals more power over their staffing budgets could result in fewer support workers being employed.

“I think one of the problems with [the reforms] may be that it very much depends on whether [the government is] going to give public schools the budgets they need,” she told a conference at the Novotel Northbeach.

MERCURY SAYS: Parents have reason to be angry

“Or are principals going to have to make decisions between employing an office and support administrator or another teacher?”

The social commentator, who is known for her appearances on ABC TV’s Gruen Transfer and Q&A programs, said office staff, teachers’ aides and maintenance staff were the unsung heroes of public schools working behind the scenes to do photocopying, collect money, run finance systems, and maintain rooms and playgrounds.

“They are incredibly important because without them, teachers would have to do all that work and that would take them away from teaching,” Ms Caro said.

She said many support and administration workers deserved to be paid more because their jobs had changed so much over the years.

“They are often the first people parents have contact with and they often have to turn their hands and do whatever is required,” she said.

“They are the sane centre of the school, quite often, and they are able to concentrate on the whole school, where teachers have to focus on one class or one subject area.”

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Vandals trash Minnamurra mansion

The 2000 square metre mansion was about 70 per cent complete when work was brought to a halt due to financial difficulties. Vandalism inside the mansion at Dunmore. The property was to have included a pool, games room, gymnasium and an eight-car garage, along with opulent tiled walkways. Pictures courtesy JOHN KOSSERIS

This website image shows young skaters taking advantage of the now empty Kosseris mansion.

It was to be a home worthy of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.

But what promised to be the Illawarra’s most opulent property has instead become a post-apocalyptic hangout for teenagers – and a popular illegal skate park to boot.

The palatial residence, part of the Kosseris family’s planned Dunmore Equestrian Centre, now has an internet profile as the “Abandoned Minnamurra Mansion”.

Clips on websites show skaters taking advantage of what would have been opulent tiled walkways, passing by graffiti-covered walls. Facebook sites are sharing directions.

The 2000 square metre mansion, controversially approved by Shellharbour City Council, was about 70 per cent complete when work ground to halt.

Overlooking the Minnamurra River, with views across the Jamberoo Valley, the dream property was to include a pool, games room, gymnasium and an eight-car garage.

Three years ago John Kosseris’s Belmorgan companies were placed in receivership owing tens of millions of dollars, but the Dunmore Equestrian Centre Pty Ltd had other issues.

In 2007 Shellharbour City Council began proceedings in the Land and Environment Court over unauthorised works on the site, including construction of a road through environmentally sensitive wetlands.

Plans to remediate the site were left unresolved when Dunmore Equestrian Centre Pty Ltd, later known as Riverview Developments (Aust) Pty Ltd, was wound up.

Despite the involvement of receivers, Mr Kosseris told the Mercury this week “we still hold possession of the property”.

Mr Kosseris said the family was still hopeful of completing the development.

However, negotiations are continuing with Shellharbour City Council over the environmental court orders.

Mr Kosseris said the family was “very hurt” by the teenagers’ treatment of the property, but said despite the theft of wires and the extensive vandalism, the mansion remained structurally sound.

He warned that visitors to the property were trespassing and would be prosecuted and that police were visiting on a regular basis.

“If parents could tell their kids to stop going there it would be appreciated by us and the neighbours.”

A Shellharbour City Council spokeswoman said the council had been made aware of trespassing on the property in July and had provided this information to relevant authorities.

“The occupation of the site by young adults is a trespassing issue and therefore a matter for the police,” she said.

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Hospital appoints 20 new specialists

Three of Wollongong Hospital’s new specialists (from left) Dr Shivakumar Hampasagar, Dr Rebecca Jack and Dr Fred Nouh are among 20 new visiting medical officers working in the Illawarra. Picture: ANDY ZAKELITalking to a conscious patient during brain surgery has been a career highlight for new Wollongong Hospital visiting medical officer Dr Shivakumar Hampasagar.

Dr Hampasagar is one of 20 new VMOs at the hospital representing the fresh face of medical specialists in the Illawarra.

He was delighted to get a position in the hospital’s anaesthetics department.

“The highlight has been assisting in an awake craniotomy earlier this year, which was the first time it had been done at Wollongong Hospital,” he said.

“We couldn’t put the patient [under full general anaesthetic] because of the location of the brain tumour so we used regional anaesthesia and sedation which enabled her to speak to us throughout the four-and-a-half-hour operation.”

Another of the hospital’s new VMOs, vascular surgeon Dr Rebecca Jack, hopes to put her training in robotic surgery to use at Wollongong in the future.

Dr Jack is one of a small number of female vascular surgeons in NSW and is proud to work in the traditionally male-dominated area.

“I am fortunate that there are now two female surgeons in the vascular unit, including Dr Laurencia Villalba,” she said.

“I spent a year at Wollongong Hospital as part of my training in 2009 and am thrilled to be back working with the head of the unit, Dr David Huber, who has created a progressive unit incorporating state-of-the-art technology.

“I’ve recently done a course in robotic surgery in Prague and am excited about the possibilities.”

Meantime, new orthopaedic surgeon Dr Fred Nouh believes his training in the latest techniques in hip and knee replacements will be of great value to the region’s elderly residents.

Dr Nouh also enjoys the variety of work within his specialisation.

“There’s a mix of patients – from elderly patients who need a hip replacement after falls or due to arthritis, to younger people who’ve suffered sports injuries or been involved in motor vehicle accidents.”

The hospital’s director of clinical services, Dr Raghu Murthy, said getting the right combination of specialist staff was vital, with Wollongong to be a central hub for the region’s health services.

“We’ve clearly undertaken a major capital works program with a focus on surgical services, and it’s important to continue to build our workforce,” he said.

“In any organisation it’s appropriate to have younger, and more experienced staff – getting that balance of people with experience and people with new ideas is vital.

“We go through the process of appointing VMOs every five years and the majority of people are reappointed, but a small number retire and that provides us with the opportunity to review services and make changes and bring in younger people.”

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Damaging winds to hit tonight

Winds of up to 100km/h could hit northern parts of the Illawarra tonight, the Bureau of Meteorology has warned.

In a severe weather warning issued a short time ago, the bureau said the winds are likely to average about 65km/h and continue into Saturday morning.

Gusts of 89km/h were recorded at Albion Park earlier today, while winds peaked at 72km/h at Bellambi.

This afternoon’s warning came a week after similar conditions fanned a fire that tore through more than 1600ha of scrub and bushland at Bulli Tops.

The State Emergency Service has warned residents to secure loose items and move cars and other valuable objects to shelter.

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Cessnock Customer Service Awards a huge success

More than 230 people attended Cessnock Chamber of Commerce Cessnock Customer Service Awards.

The awards were held at Cessnock Supporters Club where the auditorium was presented in magnificent fashion for the annual event.

Cessnock Chamber of Commerce President, Geoff Walker, said the event was all about celebrating success with the focus on top customer service.

About 600 nominations were received for the nine catergories and judges had an enjoyable, but difficult deciding on the winners.

The Business of the Year winner was Vincent Street business The Body Ark while the overall Customer Service was Cessnock businessman Lenny Nicholson who has been in business 30 years.

The Professional Category winner was Anthony Burke and runners up, Paul Smyth and Kathryn Dodd.

Not for Profit Category winner was Lesley Radnidge.

Trade Category winner was Stefan Nemeth and runner up- Tracey Smyth.

In the Apprentice/ Trainee Category the winner was Jodie McDonald.

Hospitality also featured and the winner in this category was Amanda Clarke with runner-up Debbie Swift and Jessie Wyborn.

The Retail Category Winner was Lenny Nicholson and runner up Denise Daley.

The New Media Category award went to Melissa Gibson.

TOP BUSINESS: Joblink Plus Cessnock manager, Rebekah Smith with Roz Williams of The Body Ark and chamber president, Geoff Walker.

SUCCESS: Supporters Club CEO Paul Cousins, Miss Cessnock City, Hayley Doherty, Lenny Nicholson and chamber president, Geoff Walker.

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Mobile phone use drives police to distraction

NSW Police have called for the state government to toughen the penalty for drivers caught repeatedly using their mobile phones, amid disagreement over whether phone use in cars is actually a significant contributor to motor accidents.

Appearing before the Staysafe parliamentary inquiry in to driver and road user distraction, the NSW Police Assistant Commissioner, John Hartley, said the government needed both education and stronger enforcement to reduce the number of people becoming dangerously distracted by hand-held devices.

“From my point of view, a second mobile phone use offence should be a much higher penalty,” he said. “If you’re caught twice, maybe you lose your licence for a period of time.”

Various witnesses appearing before this morning’s committee hearing likened the risk posed by mobile devices to low-range drink driving.

A senior government transport bureaucrat said the government needed to raise awareness of distraction by mobile devices in a similar way as had been done with speeding and other risks in previous decades.

“Our desire is to get this issue of driver distraction, within the community, the same as we had drink driving, speeding and seat-belts into the community’s mind in the ’70s and ’80s and ’90s,” said Tim Reardon, deputy director general, policy and regulation at Transport for NSW.

But during this morning’s hearings, one MP on the committee questioned whether mobile phones and other devices actually posed a serious threat to road safety.

Labor MLC Walt Seccord cited the government’s own statistics that showed mobile phones accounted for only 1 per cent of all crashes blamed on driver distraction. Between July 2010, and December 2011, only 60 out of 4913 “distraction” crashes resulting in injuries or death involved mobile phones. The vast majority, 77 per cent, were distracted or had their vision obscured by something outside the vehicle.

“Isn’t this just revenue raising?” he queried.

The standard penalty for using a hand-held phone while driving is $265 and three demerit points. Almost 46,000 people were charged with this offence in 2011.

But several experts who appeared before the committee said the data about the involvement of mobile phones in crashes was unreliable, because police still usually relied on motorists confessing to being on their phone when they crashed.

“No one admits to using a mobile phone while they’re driving,” Mr Hartley said.

Mobile phone usage was identified as contributing to nine fatal crashes in NSW since 2005, he said.

The inquiry continues.

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Uni forges Wollongong rebirth: Pittsburgh mayor

Former Pittsburgh mayor Tom Murphy helped transform the US city from dying to vibrant. Picture: WOLTER PEETERS The former mayor of Pittsburgh has praised University of Wollongong initiatives to bring the Illawarra’s economy into the 21st century.

Credited with transforming the rusting steel capital of the United States, Tom Murphy stressed that university research was key to the new economy.

‘‘We’ve been there, done that,’’ Mr Murphy said on a recent visit to Sydney.

‘‘It’s the first time I’ve heard of an Australian university that is commercially successful.

‘‘Most people in Sydney have told me that that isn’t the case.’’

His comments come as half a dozen of the region’s entrepreneurs pitched their ideas to a panel of investors at the university’s Innovation Campus this week.

The initiative is part of a series of measures to create a so-called ‘‘ecosystem’’ to encourage technology start-ups based in the Illawarra.

These include:

❏the StartPad, an incubator office space in central Wollongong;

❏a monthly networking club for entrepreneurs with guest speakers;

❏the Pitching Plate;

❏a venture capital fund specifically for the Illawarra; and

❏a planned $20 million office block for start-ups at the Innovation Campus.

Although based on the extraordinary success of Waterloo, a regional town in Canada, the measures are similar to those enacted in Pittsburgh.

‘‘You have a generation who will not make the transition easily,’’ Mr Murphy warned.

‘‘You are going to have people who are going to beat up your politicians to save the mill.

‘‘The harder part is the cultural stuff.’’

If Australia’s other steel city, Newcastle, is anything to go by, saving the mill would be a mistake.

John Tate watched the industry slowly die through the 1980s and then pack up altogether a month after he became Lord Mayor.

‘‘At the time. I thought it was terrible,’’ he said.

‘‘We were losing steel and all the downstream industry. Then very quickly, I realised we were the lucky ones. I realised we had the opportunity of the cleaner air and the better amenity.’’

His Wollongong counterpart, Gordon Bradbery, disputes the contention that steel will cease to be a part of the region’s economy, but he concedes the city is at a historic juncture.

‘‘It’s an incredible honour to be in this role at this time,’’ he said.

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