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Coach re-signs

NEW DEAL: Pickers coach Ron Griffiths has extended his contract.The Maitland Pickers have announced they have re-signed first grade coach Ron Griffiths for a further two seasons.
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Griffiths, who came to the club this season from the Kurri Kurri Bulldogs where he was reserve grade coach, has guided his team to fourth place on the Newcastle Rugby League competition table after round 15.

The two-time reigning premiers will head into the back end of the campaign with their future sorted coaching wise, with the former East Maitland junior penning a two-year deal with a two-year option.

Griffiths was delighted the Pickers had shown confidence in his ability.

“The club has shown a bit of faith in me I suppose, we’re not high flying by any stretch, but in saying that all five sides we’ve got at the club are in semi-final contention, which is very pleasing,” Griffiths said.

“The job wasn’t just given to me, I went to them with a four-year strategic plan for development and things like that.

“For them to take most of that on board is great.”

The 34-year-old is young for the coaching game and while he admits he is still developing, Griffiths is committed to taking his career further in the future.

“I aspire to coach in the NRL, it’s a goal of mine I’m working towards,” Griffiths said.

“I approached [South Sydney Rabbitohs defensive coach] Wayne Collins at a coaching seminar down in Sydney this year and outlined what I wanted to do.

“I asked him if he would be my coaching mentor and he’s the guy I bounce a lot of things off.”

For Griffiths, developing players away from the game is essential and one of things about coaching he enjoys the most.

“To be able to get the best out of players, developing them both on the field but away from the field as well is a big part of what I do” Griffiths said.

Maitland Pickers president John Thomas, who also announced he would step aside as club president at the club’s AGM in October, said he was proud to have Griffiths on board as the Pickers continue to build for the future.

“We have been extremely impressed with Ron’s commitment and infectious attitude towards realising the club’s core values and long-term objectives,” Thomas said.

“We look forward to providing players of the future a club to be proud of.”

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Machinery arson attack despicable

The wanton arson attack on machinery used in the construction of the Hunter Expressway beggars belief.
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With a damage bill to the excavation equipment

estimated at more than $500,000, this was no minor prank.

While the damage to the equipment will not affect the overall timetable for work on the eastern section of the

project, it is expected to take the Hunter Expressway alliance a few days to find replacement machines.

All too often we criticise governments and the companies they engage to carry out major projects for cost and time over-runs without taking into consideration incidents such as this.

In a similar vein, many people are also critical of the lack of infrastructure, such as the roads, or that there are too few jobs available for workers.

Here, right in our own backyard we have a billion-plus dollar project delivering a world-class road that will benefit drivers not only in NSW but those traversing in the inland route between Queensland and Victoria as well.

And in its making it has benefitted hundreds of workers who have found employment on the project; and those jobs have had a positive flow-on effect throughout the Lower Hunter economy.

Hunter Expressway management and workers are said to be disheartened by the vandalism – so should we all.

But someone must know something about what happened at Buchanan on Sunday night.

Please do the right thing and contact Maitland police or Crime Stoppers.

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Excavators destroyed by suspicious fire.

Excavation equipment worth hundreds of thousands of dollars has been destroyed by arson at Buchanan.About 8.40pm,police and fire fighters were called to the Hunter Expressway construction site in Buchanan, near the intersection of Averys Lane, where two excavators were found to be alight.
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Upon further investigation, police found a third excavator which had been destroyed by fire.

The fires took several hours to extinguish due to diesel fuelling the fires. Other heavy vehicles parked at the construction site had also sustained damage.

The fires were deliberately lit and police from Central Hunter Local Area Command are appealing for anyone that saw anything suspicious in the vicinity of the construction site to come forward.

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Rams left to lament costly lapses

Ben Urquhart in action for the Maitland Rams during yesterday’s 5-2 loss to Norths at home. Lapses in judgment and not meeting the pace set by their opposition cost the Maitland Rams dearly as they went down 5-2 to Norths in Sunday’s encounter at Maitland Hockey Centre.
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Captain Peter Urquhart said the team only had themselves to blame for the loss and wouldn’t be looking to make excuses.

“We were taking too much time to tap the ball and make the pass,” he said.

“We were a yard behind them for half the match.”

Maitland opened the match on a positive note, earning the first short corner, but Norths turned the play straight around and shocked the home side with two quick goals.

The 2-0 deficit made the Rams step up and hold Norths out, but the visitors’ tactic of putting three players on the ball carrier kept Maitland out of the goal box as well.

“But the way they were doing that should have meant there were at least two of our guys free, but they were just standing there and not running into the gaps,” Urquhart said.

Norths scored another three times in the second half before Maitland’s Matthew Brown found the net after drawing

the Norths keeper out of the goal and making a back stick strike.

Urquhart scored his team’s second goal with a low-flying drag flick off a short corner.

The Rams were missing coach Nathan Baker and defender Brett Gallagher, but Urquhart said the side should have been able to cope with that considering the performances of bench players Beau Weatherly and Leah Munro.

“They were in all the right places and strong on the ball,” Urquhart said.

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Kurri’s dog-day afternoon

The Kurri Kurri Bulldogs have an anxious wait to find out the fitness of three star players after they suffered a disappointing 41-4 loss to Cessnock in their Coalfields’ derby on Saturday afternoon.
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The game was transferred to the Cessnock Sportsground on Thursday, after a sewage leak made Kurri’s ground unplayable, and the Goannas making full use of their home ground advantage in going on to claim a season double over their local rivals.

To make matters worse for the Bulldogs, former NRL backrower Reegan Tanner and outstanding five-eighth Mitch Steel succumbed to injury early in the contest, with Kurri already without front-rower and captain Jesse Royal with an ankle problem.

Cessnock had all their representative stars on deck and were dominant from the first whistle, skipping out to an early lead which they extended to 22-0 at

halftime.

The Goannas scored eight tries to one including doubles to NSW Country representative Chris Pyne and centre Alan Lantry, with Terrence Seu Seu, Joel Brown, Dan Metcalfe and Brendan Hlad all crossing for four-pointers.

Former Newcastle Knight Riley Brown also potted a field goal, while winger James Charles was the only point scorer for the Bulldogs with a consolation try.

The 37 point loss sees Kurri slip to fifth on the Newcastle Rugby League table on for and against after Maitland’s win over South Newcastle on Saturday.

The Pickers also have a game in hand.

Kurri will need to bounce back next weekend when they travel to the Tomaree Sporting Complex to take on the last placed Port Stephens Sharks, looking to keep their hopes of a first premiership in 16 years alive.

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Orchard kicks off Maitland Olympic trio’s quest for glory

Three Maitland Sportsperson of the Year winners will be in the mix throughout the 16 days of the London Olympic Games.
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Simon Orchard, Brendan Sexton and Josh Ross are all part of the Australian Olympic team for 2012 and during the past seven years been listed on the same honour roll.

Maitland may have even sent more delegates to a single Olympics but never like this.

Not three previous recipients of the city’s highest individual sporting honour.

Collectively the current crop make quite the trio and during the next two weeks they will help put the country NSW town of Maitland on the map in front of an international audience.

Orchard took out Maitland’s top sporting prize in 2008, shortly after cracking the national hockey team which he is still apart of today.

A year earlier Sexton made the grade for impressive junior results on the world triathlon stage, which he will grace as a senior in a little more than a week’s time.

Sprinter Ross exploded out of the blocks on his way to claiming two Stawell Gift races, multiple national 100 metre crowns and representation at the Athens Olympics, which saw him recognised in 2005 while he was training in the area.

The Maitland region has produced Olympians previously such as two-time gold medallist Matt Ryan, long distance runner Dave Power and cyclist Olivia Gollan while some like Nadine Neumann, have migrated to postcode 2320.

Out of Maitland’s sporting trifecta Orchard stands the best chance of bringing home a medal from London.

The Kookaburras have won each of the major championships – Champions Trophy four times in a row, Commonwealth Games and World Cup and they have contested post Beijing four years ago.

They go in as favourites and Orchard’s clubmates at the Maitland Rams will be keeping a close eye on the former member when he takes to the park for their opener with South Africa at 10.45am (7.15pm AEST).

The Kookaburras then face Spain, Argentina, hosts Great Britain and Pakistan in the preliminary rounds.

The Kookaburras will aim to progress to the medal rounds and emulate the success of Athens in 2004, which was the same year Orchard was completing his HSC at All Saints College, St Mary’s Campus, Maitland.

Also on Olympic debut in London is Brendan Sexton, a boy born and bred in Maitland.

It was his introduction to the sport through Maitland Triathlon Club that started his pathway to national selection, a satisfying goal achieved when qualifying for London on the hotly contested three-man team.

His race, after completing final preparations in France, will be held August 7 at the central London venue of Hyde Park. Both Sexton and Orchard are 26 years old.

Five years older is Ross, who is attending his second Games, this time as a member of the 4x100 metre relay team, after going to Athens in 2004.

Ross, who threatened to walk out of London 2012 because of selection disputes, achieved much of his success on the track while under the guidance of Gillieston Heights-based mentor Tony Fairweather.

n Catch London Eye in the Mercury each day and online during the Games.

n Twitter: @joshuacallinan.

n Radio: Catch Josh live from London on 1233 ABC Newcastle at 7.30am each day throughout the Games.

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Champion trifecta

To have three former winners of the Maitland Sportsperson of the Year award competing at the one Olympics is quite remarkable.
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I mean the odds of taking out that particular gong are slim enough at the best of times considering hot competition across the codes, a population of 60,000 plus and Maitland’s strong sporting pedigree.

Even being nominated can depend on the month of the achievement because of the way the award has been established since 1963.

Beyond that you must not only play an Olympic sport, but you must excel at it enough to warrant selection on the national team at the time in the four-year Games’ cycle.

And for all of this to coincide for more than one Maitland athlete at a single Olympiad almost defies logic.

But nevertheless, here we are in London 2012, with a trio of them about to get their campaign under way at the Games.

Brendan Sexton, Simon Orchard and Josh Ross are those who will not only be representing their country at the Olympics, but our city as well.

Sexton (2007), the triathlete, Orchard (2008), the hockey player, and Ross (2005), the sprinter, received Maitland’s highest sporting honour in the aforementioned years.

Sexton was born and bred in the land of 2320, attending school in East Maitland, swimming at the local pool and eventually graduating to Maitland Triathlon Club at the age of 15.

A decade on from that first triathlon and the 26-year-old finds himself in green and gold at his first Olympics.

It was 2007 that he took out the Maitland Sportsperson of the Year award and it came on the back of a silver medal at the under-23 world championships.

He said then that his aim was London – goal achieved.

Orchard also had an eye on London after his Maitland Sportsperson of the Year triumph in 2008.

The 26-year-old had recently broken into the Kookaburras line up and intended to stay in national colours for as long as possible (he now has more than 100 caps).

His parents live in Bolwarra Heights and the former Maitland Ram attended senior school at St Mary’s.

More importantly, despite being raised up the valley in Muswellbrook, the Olympic debutant regards Maitland as home.

Finally, Ross was one of Maitland’s brightest sporting stars for about five years.

Under the guidance of Gillieston Heights mentor Tony Fairweather, the sprinter moved to the area and achieved great success.

A two-time winner of the Stawell Gift, once from scratch, a national sprint champion on a record six occasions and an Olympic representative from 2004.

This helped him secure the title of Maitland Sportsperson of the Year in 2005 and, despite not residing here now, Ross certainly wrote himself into the city’s history books and will add more to the story when running in the 4x100m relay.

Not a bad effort at all from a country NSW town in the Hunter Valley that not many in the English capital would have heard of before.

Good luck to our Maitland champions in London 2012.

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Classy Pickers send warning to finals rivals

RIGHT ATTITUDE: Dale Clacherty puts down the ball for one of the Maitland Pickers’ six tries in their 32-12 victory against South Newcastle. Ron Griffiths demanded one thing from his team at training last week: an improvement in attitude.
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On Saturday, they delivered.

The Maitland Pickers avenged their loss in round seven with a comfortable 32-12 win over South Newcastle at the Maitland Sportsground.

The reigning premiers showed their class, running in six tries to two to claim the 20 point victory with Griffiths delighted by the commitment shown from his team.

“It was a tough game but we were the better side and we deserved to win,” Griffiths said.

“We wanted to win; I said during the week when we played them down there our attitude wasn’t right last time.

“They had more desire than us, so it was pleasing to turn it around.”

Griffiths said the Pickers weren’t back to their best, but a strong win against the semi-final chasing Lions will have other teams looking over their shoulders.

“There were still some periods there that were a bit scratchy but overall you’d definitely give us pass marks for effort,” he said.

“We spoke through the week about getting the momentum going and knuckling down, from that we got the result we wanted.”

Maitland had been boosted by the return of NSW Country half-back Jade Porter who was again outstanding, providing the Pickers with much needed direction around the park.

“Yeah, it was good to have Jade back obviously,” Griffiths said.

“He’s such a good organiser and the guys grow in confidence by playing with him.

“He’s an experienced player and he’s playing with a lot of confidence at the moment which is great.”

Lock Billy Towers scored a hat-trick of tries and Gavin Quinn was also strong on a positive day for Maitland, the only negative news was that representative forward Marco Delapena has suffered a recurrence of an ankle injury and would be monitored through the week.

Maitland Pickers 32 (Tries - B Towers 3, D Clacherty, D Etrich, G Connolly. Goals - J Porter 3, J Patten) defeated South Newcastle Lions 12 (Tries -M Shipway, M Ireland. Goals - M Ireland, D Queenan)

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Shakespeare? Well, it is . . . but not like you’ve seen it before

MAKE MY DAY: Daniel Stranger and Alex Spinks star in Richard 3, the latest offering from Maitland Reamus Youth Theatre.A young man resembling a young Sid Vicious puckers his cherry-stained lips while a whip-wielding menace prances about in black hot pants and a bowler hat.
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The scene is Sex Pistols meets dominance. Corseted maids are on their knees. Flesh is on show.

This is Shakespeare’s Richard III like you’ve never seen it before.

Adapted and directed by Rod Ansell, the cast and crew from Maitland Reamus Youth Theatre will bring Richard 3 to the stage this week in their latest offering from the Bard.

“This play takes you through a whole lot of changes in government and the horrible bloody mess it creates and sometimes in Australia we don’t really value a peaceful society,” Mr Ansell said.

But don’t be fooled, politics does not equal boredom in this playhouse.

“People tend to think Shakespeare is boring; one thing this play will be is not boring,” Mr Ansell said.

“It’s fast, it’s fun and it’s scary.”

Staring as Richard 3 in the punk-themed play is Alex Spinks.

“Richard III is one of my favourite Shakepeare characters, he has some of the most well-known lines so if you’re going to do Shakespeare he is one of the characters you have to do,” Alex Spinks, 22, said.

“I love punk music and I understand the scene a whole lot more now and it makes it a whole lot easier to kill people and get in the mood.”

Performing alongside Mr Spinks is Heidi Bush as Queen Margaret.

“Richard III is one of those plays you can really get into and the punk theme really seems to suit it because it’s almost violent,” Ms Bush, 25, said.

q Richard 3 opens at the Maitland Repertory Theatre on Friday and closes on Saturday, August 11. Phone 4931 2800 for tickets.

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Train robbers: Secrecy as locomotives taken from Hunter line

The state government has robbed Maitland commuters of two Endeavour diesel trains from the Hunter line for the new Bathurst rail service to Sydney, according to Save Our Rail president Joan Dawson and transport advocate Darrell Harris.
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Ms Dawson said an Endeavour train had been taken from the Hunter line to the Eveleigh Rail Yard in Sydney for maintenance last year, where it was involved in a crash with an empty Millenium train in the rail yard on October 10.

She said the train was never returned to the Hunter line and when a second train went to the

same rail yard for maintenance, it too has not been returned.

Ms Dawson said these trains would operate on the new Bathurst service, scheduled to begin in October.

She accused the government of secrecy over the whereabouts of the Hunter line trains.

“Now the Hunter is down two trains and if anything goes wrong we don’t have a spare and we risk the loss of services,” she said.

Ms Dawson and Mr Harris said they were given the information from a reliable source.

The same source has been in contact with the Mercury and alleged that Maitland MP Robyn Parker was aware of the train transfers.

Ms Dawson, of Dungog, said existing services to the town, as well as to Singleton, Scone and Muswellbrook, would also be in jeopardy if a train broke down.

“We have more need for those trains than Bathurst; we need more trains,” she said.

“It’s smoke and mirrors from the state government saying that the trains are not being taken from the Hunter line,” she said.

RailCorp denied the claims.

A RailCorp spokeswoman said the trains to be used on the Bathurst service were to be taken from Eveleigh Rail Yard in Sydney.

“They are Eveleigh sets [trains] and they have always been at the Eveleigh yard,” the spokeswoman said.

A spokesman for Ms Parker referred the Mercury to RailCorp for comment.

Public transport advocate Darrell Harris said the state government had notified RailCorp to transfer the trains.

“It’s real bad news for the people of the Hunter,” he said.

“In the past four years we’ve had six (2008), seven (2009), eight (2010) and eight (2011) per cent growth and yet we are losing trains.”

Mr Harris said there was a limited number of Endeavour sets in the state and they were used in Maitland, the Southern Highlands and Nowra.

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