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Ground closed: the all too familiar call

FRUSTRATED:Griffins president Shaun Yates whose club has been denied access to King Edward Park for a month. Sports clubs are calling for Maitland City Council to reinstate powers rescinded in 2007 regarding the state of play on sodden ovals.
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The recent closure of grounds – that many deem unnecessary – has created a backlog of games affecting players across numerous codes.

The council was forced to defend its blanket ban approach this week as clubs became increasingly angry.

“The ground closure procedure is currently under review and, should it result in any amendments, any changes will be communicated to the affected sporting bodies,” community and recreation services manager Lynn Morton said.

“Council officers are always prepared to meet with sporting bodies to discuss their views on opportunities for improved service delivery.”

Maitland Magpies and Thornton Redbacks, members of the North Coast Football League, have lost multiple games to ground closures.

Maitland Pickers have lost two games; the second of which was a catch up scheduled for June 9 and enforced despite a day of drying conditions.

In AFL, Maitland junior Saints have lost half their training sessions to ground closures.

But junior rugby league has been one of the sports hardest hit.

Maitland and District School Boys Rugby League president Dave Watson said clubs should have their powers restored and enable them to override council when conditions improve quickly.

“We want to send a message to council that the community should be running this,” he said.

“We just want it put back the way it was prior to 2007.”

Up until that point council would determine closure before the weekend, but if clubs felt the grounds had dried sufficiently to allow play, presidents and secretaries had the power to overturn the council ruling.

More than 2500 players are registered in the junior league competition making the sport one of the hardest hit by the cancellations. Parents, who invest hundreds of dollars in registration and kit, travel from as far as Dungog for training to find grounds closed at the last minute.

Ms Morton said council staff were simply following guidelines.

“Council’s technical staff assess each of the sports grounds on the Friday morning using a risk assessment matrix with a decision made by mid Friday afternoon as to which grounds are fit for play,” she said.

“This in turn is communicated to the sporting bodies so that they have sufficient time to advise their club members.”

Thornton-Beresfield juniors president Peter Martin said the closure affected the bottom line of the cash-strapped clubs, run by volunteers, dependent on canteen sales.

“We have to pre-order all supplies for the canteen; you don’t just call up Friday night and because the ground closures aren’t decided until 3pm, it’s just impossible,” he said.

The Griffins, one of the largest junior clubs in Maitland, have been denied access to King Edward Park for a month.

Club officials hope to squeeze in two days of play this weekend but clouds on the horizon have the council ready to shut them down.

Meanwhile it’s been game on at Kurri Kurri and Cessnock where grounds have received as much rain, if not more.

Griffins president Shaun Yates said the clubs could be trusted to make the call on play.

“It should come down to the president and the secretary to look at the ground and make the call,” he said.

The closures have disappointed the Griffins’ 340 registered juniors eager to engage in some healthy competition and activity.

“On Monday both grounds [Shamrock and King Edward Park] were closed again,” he said. “It’s only grass, it will grow back.”

Sitting on the sidelines has been a disappointment for the juniors, who idolise their National Rugby League stars.

“Kurri and Cessnock are training and we’re not, so we’re at a disadvantage,” he said.

“We’ve got nine representatives who can’t train and have barely played.”

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Always easy to shoot the messenger


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SO The Northern Daily Leader has “obvious leanings towards Mr Windsor”, comments Nationals Senator John Williams (July 26).

Furthermore, the editorial dares to ask questions about “the work of The Nationals in New England”.

I thought the job of journalists is to ask pertinent questions and alert the readers to diverse opinions.

But then again, those who feel aggrieved, or perhaps bear an agenda, always find it easy to shoot the messenger.

I Goor

Woolbrook



Tony Windsor. Photo: Fairfax

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Big test for new Blacks duo

Two players will make their first grade debuts for the Maitland Blacks in their crunch game against Lake Macquarie at Marcellin Park on Saturday.
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Second rower Pat Farrell and winger Chris Logan were named in the first XV and come into the side following two losses in as many encounters for the Blacks.

“Both the boys were pretty excited on Tuesday night at training when we told them,” Blacks coach Geoff Golledge said.

“Irish [Farrell] gives us a bit of the enthusiasm we have been missing while Chris [Logan] has been playing pretty well in seconds and gives us a bit of pace out wide.”

Last week the Blacks went down 45-14 to competition front runners Hamilton and seven days earlier it was 35-26 at the hands of second-placed Southern Beaches after leading by seven points at half-time.

As a result the Blacks (28 points) slip to fifth position on the Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union competition ladder, just one place and one point ahead of a much improved Lake Macquarie outfit.

The Roos have bounced back in 2012 after failing to register a victory last season and recorded an 86-12 annihilation of University a week ago.

Off-season recruitment has served the Boolaroo-based boys well and they will look to break into the top five at the Blacks expense by using the round 12 fixture as a springboard.

“They have a lot of experience in their team, from Sydney and New Zealand rugby, and they have been going along quite well,” Golledge said.

“They are eyeing off a spot in the top five and they will will look to blow us away at home this weekend.

“From our perspective last week was a setback but moving forward I am confident we can get the job done.”

Kick off is 3pm.

In conjunction with Saturday’s game at Marcellin Park the Blacks will hold ladies day with $20 covering entry, nibbles and drinks.

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Ahhh, the call of the hot chip

I’ve been grappling with a powerful calling dear reader, with a summons that hoots at me from all across the town – yes, the entreaty of the hot chip, in the winter, it does speak clearly to me.
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And I’ve sometimes wondered about the idea of a favourite food, or even a last meal – you know, the death-row scenario: where down the darkened corridor walk the priest and grim warden-come-waiter with the cloche covered plate.

Then out from under that shining prison finery comes, not a twice-cooked [and most unfortunate] Canadian duck, but instead, a parcel of steaming hot chips and vinegar!

And I reckon that’d do me, reckon that would make me feel OK about the looming leap into abyss – reckon I could yell ‘“Geronimo” with vinegar on my lips and a memory in my heart – yep, that’ll do...

And my choice is not based entirely on the taste of those fine bounteous things: all crisp and golden, hot and lovely, but their other features too.

Their traditional encasement is important: swaddled in newspaper, like tiny newborns, kept cosy against the cold – until a hole is torn in the end before a searching hand is plunged into that dark, hot portal – and there, on the High Street, walking home with a friend, you savour the taste together, savour the town and your friendship with a chip.

And chips are communal meals too. They’re often the first and last meals in our homes – too exhausted from packing and cleaning, we sit on bare floors and at newly-placed tables together, we open the papery capsule and graze, we commune and remember, we lick our fingers and plan a new life.

And it’s not too long a bow to draw when I say that the potato itself, that honourable, earthy vegetable, is the reason I’m here at all. When my Irish ancestors, years ago, on lush, green fields like ours, where deprived their staple, when they suffered their famine – well, they left those shores and they came south, to here.

And here I am – here we are, delivered to now by the potato...

And I have always loved those things – seen them being picked from the rich soil by bent backs out on Flat Road, saw them traded down at Caines’ in Steam Street, saw them stacked in the kitchen in their heavy hessian bags, saw mum cut them up rough and fry them – smelt them there on the enamel plate for my tea – and I can see and smell them still.

I remember them resting, steaming, on the end of pin-ball machines at the town hall and Calooda Cafe – two bob’s worth and maybe a scallop as well – and greasy flippers and laughing and kids and noise – and all that.

I remember them at night when dad came home from the Royal or Exchange, a parcel there for us to share – sauce and buttered bread – and us all there together in that house, under that sky, all those years ago...

And they’ll do me for a last meal, they’ll do me...

So it goes. Goodnight.

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Greens weigh in to kerbside collection issue

LET’S GET MOVING: The Greens are calling for action on kerbside collection.The introduction of the carbon tax and an estimated $2 million bill to Maitland ratepayers has prompted a call from Greens candidate Samy Korbi for the council to do more.
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“Council is dragging its feet in terms of reducing its carbon emissions,” the east ward candidate said.

“They’re whinging about the $2m bill when they should be reducing the amount of waste to landfill which generates methane.”

But Maitland City Council development and environment manager David Simm defended council’s work so far.

“We’re already investigating longer term waste systems, which will include green waste and organics collection and processing that will reduce our carbon emissions from landfill,” he said.

“Gas capture will help in reducing emissions and we are expecting the first stage installation of an extraction system to commence in the next three months.”

Mr Korbi echoed calls by west ward councillor Henry Meskauskas for a kerbside bulky goods collection service that could lead to better recycling and prevent waste winding up in landfill.

“Rates, roads and rubbish is what council is about and if they can’t handle that we’re in trouble,” Mr Korbi said.

“Unless they handle the waste properly, it is going to pile up somewhere.”

Mr Simm said a bulky goods collection service would not help divert waste from landfill.

“A system like this may encourage more waste to be collected and therefore put into landfill,” he said.

Jenny Rooke, a Tenambit resident and Greens member, said a kerbside collection wouldn’t hurt.

“A kerbside collection would certainly be welcomed,” she said.

“I feel short-changed compared to other councils that can provide it.”

Mr Korbi said the extent of illegal dumping was no surprise.

“People are going to find alternatives when faced with a $59 tip fee,” he said.

“In Metford people put stuff out the front of their homes in ignorance or perhaps vein hope it will be collected by council.”

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SES: New plan needed

SES crews play a major role in flood evacuations.A dramatic increase in the number of residents in central Maitland would require a revised flood evacuation plan, Maitland SES local controller Bruce Varley said.
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Mr Varley said it took more than 200 SES volunteers, police and firefighters to doorknock 800 homes in central Maitland, south Maitland and Lorn during the 2007 flood, a massive task.

He said another 1300 homes near the CBD would call for a new plan.

Mr Varley said a major flood – such as in 2007 when Hunter River predictions at the Belmore gauge reached 11.4 metres – required areas around the city to be evacuated.

“It’s a huge task to undertake and it takes a fair amount of time to do it,” he said. “We doorknocked about 800 dwellings in 2007 in two to three hours and any change to the population would require changes to the flood plan.

“If more people have to be evacuated we have to start earlier.”

Mr Varley said people living in flood areas must understand the risk and have a plan to stay safe. “They need to know what risk is posed to them at various river heights and what their response to those situations need to be,” he said.

Maitland City Council planning, environment and lifestyle executive manager Bernie Mortomore acknowledged the land proposed for up to 1300 affordable homes near Athel D’Ombrain Drive had been flooded in 1955 and said the council was working through these issues.

“The zoning has been changed to allow for residential development and we are still addressing the flooding issues and how to get people out if there is a flooding emergency,” he said.

“We need to work through an evacuation procedure and address the building issues.

“Details are being worked out and we need to do that quickly because there are deadlines within this funding arrangement.”

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Caught hiding in the cupboard

HIDING: The long-arm of the law opened the cupboard and found Joshua William Drage hiding.A Telarah man was found hiding in a bedroom cupboard when police executed a warrant for his arrest on Monday.
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Joshua William Drage appeared in custody after failing to attend court on June 25 charged with failing to comply, resisting an officer and offensive language.

In his absence Drage, 29, had been fined $100 for failing to comply and $100 for offensive language that he used outside Maitland Probation and Parole on April 13.

Some of the charges had not been dealt with in court on June 25 but were heard at Maitland Local Court yesterday.

The court heard a plain clothes detective had attempted to get past Drage who had blocked the entrance to Probation and Parole.

The detective identified himself and asked Drage, who smelled strongly of wine and was holding a Coke bottle containing wine, to move on.

Other police arrived and Drage was given several warnings to move on but said: “You f——— c—— can’t make me do anything. You c—— wanna bash me, well you can f—- off all of youse. I’m not f——— going anywhere until you c—— f—- off.”

He was arrested and spat and swore as he was escorted to Maitland police station.

Three hours after his release, about 8.45pm, police found Drage drunk and yelling outside the police station. He was granted bail at 6pm that day with strict conditions not to drink alcohol.

When police asked him where he had been drinking Drage said: “Wherever I like you c—— can’t tell me what to do.”

Police used capsicum spray to subdue Drage and he was arrested for breaching bail.

Warrants for remaining charges of resisting police were issued when Drage did not appear in court on June 25. A week later police found him hiding in a cupboard at his mother’s Capper Street home.

In court yesterday Drage pleaded guilty to the remaining charges but was refused bail. The matter was adjourned to Monday.

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Thou shalt not . . . cover up

Former Maitland school principal Mike Stanwell. Mike Stanwell has spent almost 30 years doggedly fighting to expose the tragedy of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church in the Maitland-Newcastle diocese.
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Largely, his efforts have fallen on deaf ears. But with calls for a national royal commission into abuse of children in the care of the Catholic Church, the former Maitland school principal has once again decided to take a stand.

“The Catholic Church is never going to be credible in Australia until there is an open, transparent look at what has gone on,” Mr Stanwell said.

“And there needs to be a royal commission to make people come out, tell the truth and take a stance.”

The Australian Lawyers Alliance has called for a royal commission following an ABC Four Corners report on the issue.

The alliance states that too many lives have been lost or irreparably damaged by paedophile Catholic priests and the church has been more concerned about protecting its own.

To that, Mr Stanwell – a self-described casualty of the abuse – agrees with all his heart.

In 1986, aged 30, Mr Stanwell took on the role of principal at St Joseph’s Primary School, Merriwa.

Denis McAlinden – later found to be a notorious paedophile – was the parish priest.

During this time Mr Stanwell witnessed McAlinden touching a little girl in church while she was sitting on his knee.

Mr Stanwell took his concerns to Bishop Leo Clarke, despite warnings from friends he could lose his job.

“We used to have morning assemblies and I told them [the children] that they weren’t to go to down to the church and they weren’t to approach Father McAlinden in the playground,” Mr Stanwell said.

When Mr Stanwell heard of another incident of abuse by McAlinden, he further pursued his concerns.

“I knew I was on the right track to start with so I went straight back down to see the bishop.”

Mr Stanwell said other principals across the diocese urged him to push

for the issue to be aired in State Parliament.

“I wasn’t sure what to do, so I went and spoke to the [the church] and I told [them] what had happened.”

Mr Stanwell said he was told it was better “not to bring scandal on the church”.

“[The church] was aware of McAlinden’s instances in the past which, I suppose, was surprising to me and if they weren’t going to do something about it then I was really getting a bit worried about it at this stage,” he said. “Because I had been and spoken to the church, I left it at that.

“If [it] had been suggested to me that I could have taken it to the police, I would have. I thought I was going about it the right way.”

Eventually McAlinden was moved from Merriwa to another parish in Newcastle, but he was not defrocked until 1995.

During this time he continued to work throughout the diocese and in parishes in Western Australia and Papua New Guinea.

He was charged with offences in WA but was too ill to be extradited to NSW. He died in 2005.

Mr Stanwell also moved on from Merriwa, but his battle with the Catholic Church was to worsen.

“And it was then I realised that while there was paedophilia in the church, the church would cover it up,” he said.

Mr Stanwell’s experiences culminated in him preparing a 200-page document, with the help of a canon lawyer, and sending it to the Vatican.

“It went to Rome and they said it was outside the statute of limitations so they didn’t even read it,” Mr Stanwell said.

In the years that followed, Mr Stanwell made attempts on his own life, has spent time in mental health units and sought the help of counsellors and psychiatrists. Not only did he lose his career, he also lost his marriage.

And while he remains a practising Catholic, he believes the church cannot move forward or regain its credibility until the abuse of power is exposed.

“We know what’s gone on and I hope that somewhere down the line the church will say it has done wrong and will apologise for that and make sure it never happens again,” Mr Stanwell said.

“The only way this will happen is with a royal commission, otherwise the church will just keep on telling lies.

“I believe in people and the good things that they do and that there are good priests and they’ve got great

ability to heal people’s spirit and touch people’s spirit in time of great need.”

Bishop Leo Clarke died in 2006.

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Nearly Dun

LONG FUTURE: Cameron Archer on Dunmore Bridge, which is getting a multi-million dollar upgrade. A multi-million dollar project to upgrade one of the state’s most historic bridges is on track to be completed and opened to traffic in late October.
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The NSW government is funding the upgrade to the structural capacity of Dunmore Bridge to reduce further maintenance costs.

Work on the bridge is progressing well with prefabrication of two of the three timber trusses almost complete. It is expected all three will be finished by the end of the month.

More than $3 million has been allocated for the work, which started last year.

Built in 1899, Dunmore Bridge is an example of an Allan Truss road bridge and is one of only three remaining in the state.

“These bridges are really important because of their influence on the landscape and how we see the river within the landscape. They are also a link between the horse and buddy days and modern transport,” historian and principal of Tocal Agricultural College Cameron Archer said.

“This bridge was built before the motor car was even invented, so it’s a credit to those who designed the bridge and it’s also a credit that Roads and Maritime Services saw fit to conserve and rebuild it and make it last another 100 years.”

Dunmore Bridge will be closed in September and reopened to traffic in late October.

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Beautiful Girls enter a new era

BEAUTIFUL BEGINNINGS: Mat. McHugh, centre, is leaving behind his stage name The Beautiful Girls and stepping into the spotlight to perform under his own name.Mat. McHugh is answering, once and for all, a question that has followed him for a decade.
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Who are The Beautiful Girls?

The announcement of a “farewell tour” on the trio’s 10th anniversary has left many fans assuming the folk-rock group are disappearing into the sunset.

But The Beautiful Girls has always been a stage name for McHugh – and he’s not going anywhere.

“People think the band is splitting up, but for me I don’t think it can split up,” McHugh says.

“The Beautiful Girls has always been a name that I have put my music out under.

“Even from the start, I had the name written on demos and then roped in a couple of mates to flesh out the sound.

“Without ruining any mystique, [The Beautiful Girls] has always been a singer-songwriter project from the get-go – but just called The Beautiful Girls.

“John Butler and these guys go out under their own names, but [the solo songwriting process] is exactly the same.”

Article continues after video for the classic track from The Beautiful Girls, Periscopes.



Since emerging from the roots music scene in Sydney in 2001, McHugh’s trio have toured the world extensively.

They have released three EPs and four full-length records, the most recent being 2010’s Spooks.

As an outlet for McHugh’s music the band have evolved with every record to include elements of surf folk, dub rock and reggae.

But in 2009, the musician released a debut record under his own name called Seperatista, and earlier this year put out a second solo album called Love Come Save Me.

Releasing music as Mat. McHugh is a clear step into the spotlight.

“I felt the time was right for me to start using my own name,” McHugh says.

“For me, that’s what [the farwell tour] is, rather than ‘splitting up’.

“Splitting up suggests animosity – I’m not sick of the guys [bassist Paulie B and drummer Bruce Braybrooke].

“I love them to death and we’ll probably continue together in some way, shape or form.

“It’s more about taking ownership of my songs and my music under my own name.”

McHugh’s decision to shed his moniker begs the question – why didn’t he record under his own name from the outset?

“That is the $64,000 question, isn’t it?” McHugh chuckles.

“The truth of it is, when I grew up I was a surfer so my peers listened to punk rock bands, noisy electric guitar bands and grunge.

“On the side I played acoustic guitar my whole life.

“The group that I grew up around – my peers that played music – nobody would even consider [releasing] their music under their own name.

“Even if they wrote it themselves – it was just not the thing you do.

“Everyone would consider you a wanker.

“I also felt that [the moniker] was a protective mechanism.

“If people thought it sucked, it would be once-removed from me.

“I guess I didn’t feel confident enough.”

The trio’s upcoming tour is called An Evening With The Beautiful Girls and is divided in half.

The first is a stripped-back acoustic performance which will be followed by an electric set.

McHugh says he still “loves” his Beautiful Girls material and intends to continue to perform those songs.

“I don’t think a lot of these songs will ever stop getting played, because I still like them – I consider them all fair game,” McHugh says.

The Beautiful Girls have maintained a strong fanbase since they rode surf folk’s wave of mainstream popularity.

At the turn of the century Jack Johnson became a household name and Ben Harper struck a chord with a new generation of fans.

In Australia the same listeners embraced the gentle musings of Xavier Rudd, John Butler and The Beautiful Girls.

The pigeon-hole of comparisons to other artists, Johnson in particular, did not sit comfortably with McHugh.

The Beautiful Girls very quickly shifted musical direction.

The single I Thought About You from the 2007 record Ziggurats, with its electric riff, was a clear statement of intention.

But McHugh’s recent music is a return to the early sound of The Beautiful Girls.

He is writing acoustic songs that are straight to the point.

“I’m always interested in doing different things,” McHugh explains.

“My primary [reason] for releasing music as my own name has been to strip my music back to its essence.

“What suits me the best is playing simple acoustic music that is based around the melodies and the lyrics and a certain feeling.

“A lot of the decisions I made in The Beautiful Girls were somewhat reactionary, because we’d get lumped in with Jack Johnson so I’d try to do the opposite.

“But I’ve come to the point where I don’t care – if someone wants to compare me to Jack Johnson or Ben Harper that’s fine.

“You’re always going to get comparisons, but I’m just trying to express myself honestly in the most appropriate way.

“I’ll be interested in doing other projects, that might be like a heavier dub record, but I’ll just put it out under a different name, rather than calling it The Beautiful Girls.”

McHugh admits that changes in the direction of The Beautiful Girls have confused their fans, particularly in Japan.

Brazil has “bay far” been their biggest overseas fanbase, their music connecting with the surf culture there, but McHugh says the folkier material always had the most success.

“I feel like I was pushing my luck a lot of the time,” McHugh says of direction changes.

“Some of [The Beautiful Girls’ music] should have come out under a different name.

“It’s been a strange series of mini-cycles where we put out a record that was so different to the one before it.

“It took a year-and-a-half of touring for people to get used to it.

“By the time they were used to [our sound], I’d change it again.

“So we were always playing catch-up.

“It was interesting and fulfilling creatively, but I got to the end of that cycle and think [acoustic music] is what I’m most comfortable at.

“I really enjoy just sitting around playing the acoustic guitar and singing some mellow songs.

“I’m a mellow guy – that’s the truth of it.”

No matter what name he has released music under, McHugh has remained an independent artist.

It has always been his intention to remain independent and allow his popularity to grow organically through word of mouth.

“That’s the manifesto I still operate under,” McHugh says.

The worldwide popularity of his music can be attributed, in part, to his work ethic.

“I never had this plan to be a musician for my, in quotation marks, ‘career’ so as soon as my foot was in the door I thought ‘whatever I can do to not blow this, I’m going to do it’.

“We’d go out on the road and while everybody else was out partying and picking up girls, I was back at the hotel writing songs for the next record.

“I come from humble beginnings, so I didn’t want to blow the opportunity.”

# The Beautiful Girls are playing The Bar On The Hill, University of Newcastle, on Thursday, September 13.

The Mercury has two double passes to give away.

For your chance to win simply fill out the coupon in Thursday's Mercury and return it to the Mercury’s office by noon next Wednesday.

Follow Nick Milligan on Twitter: @NickMilligan_

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