Hubbard ready for another giant effort

Dubbo Rhinos second rower Nick Hubbard could rightly be nicknamed “stork”.
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At six feet six inches tall he is a towering man and, more to the point, his father owns Dubbo Mushrooms, where he now works.

But unlike the yield of his harvest, the 105kg giant won’t be fed any “crap”, as his opposition learned last weekend and CSU will see in round two of the Blowes Menswear Cup at Apex Oval tomorrow.

Hubbard scrummed down in his first grade debut for the Rhinos against Cowra last Saturday and was a standout in driving rain at Recreation Oval despite his team falling to a 10-3 loss.

In his first match in the central west competition, and on his 19th birthday, Hubbard proved damaging with the ball with aggressive running and in defence the sheer size of his frame seemed to frighten his more experienced opponents.

First grade coach Andrew Williams was more than impressed by the debut of his Rhino rookie, who has again been named in first grade this weekend, and holds great hope for Hubbard’s rugby playing future.

“Potentially, Nick is a superstar. He is only young and is still learning the game but if he continues to develop he could be anything,” Williams said.

“He has the right physique and the athleticism to needed and is the sort of player that, once he has developed, Super 12 teams look for.

“He played really well against Cowra on the weekend, he hit the ball up well especially in the second half. He proved that even though he is young, he is very tough.

“But his game hasn’t fully developed so we will nurture him at the club and I think he will only keep getting better.”

Hubbard returned to Dubbo this year after completing Year 12 at Scots College in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, a basketball scholarship luring him to the Bellevue Hill school in 1998.

While concentrating on basketball while boarding, Hubbard still found time to play rugby for Scots in the prestigious Greater Private Schools competition but after coming home to work with the family business now has his sights set firmly on success in the 15-a-side competition.

“I was at school on a basketball scholarship so that was my main sport, but now I’m back in Dubbo rugby has become much more important,” Hubbard said.

“I’ve gotten right into weights, I’m doing them four times each week, and do a lot of fitness work on my own. I’m fitter now than I ever have been and feel stronger too.”

That is outstanding news for the Rhinos and their 2001 Blowes Menswear Cup quest, but something opposition teams mightn’t be as happy to hear.

This article first appeared in Hangzhou Night Net.

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Iguanagate: Della in the freezer

A DEFIANT John Della Bosca insists "I’ve done nothing wrong" in the Iguanas nightclub affair, even after Morris Iemma stood him aside yesterday because the minister failed to tell the Premier he had written an apology that saved him from being sacked.
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Faced with the revelation in the Herald yesterday, Mr Della Bosca admitted he faxed the wording of an apology he wanted from Iguanas Waterfront after its staff had accused him and his wife, the federal Labor MP Belinda Neal, of abusing and threatening them on Friday night last week. It was this apology that the Premier had used to justify not sacking his education minister from cabinet.

Mr Della Bosca was believed to be furious last night because Mr Iemma had assured him earlier in the day that no action would be taken against him. Mr Iemma appeared to have changed his mind after critical media attention.

Despite his suspension, Mr Della Bosca again dismissed the scandal as a "media beat-up".

"I simply say to you I’ve done nothing wrong. I did not swear, I did not behave inappropriately … this has become such a monumental and ludicrous distraction," Mr Della Bosca said in Bathurst, where he had been on ministerial duties. "I have absolutely never lied to anybody about anything in this affair or anything else … and the fact of the matter is these allegations are simply a monumental distraction from the people of NSW having a government they deserve – a government focused on transport, health, infrastructure, energy policy."

The Opposition Leader, Barry O’Farrell, said the Premier was "gutless". "Morris Iemma asked for a full statement from his minister on this affair. The statement did not refer to the fact that John Della Bosca drafted the apology – on that basis alone this bloke should be sacked. Morris Iemma has been as tough as a teddy bear – the minister he’s purported to have disciplined doesn’t even know he’s been stood down."

Mr Iemma denied his minister lied to him but conceded he omitted a vital piece of information.

"Earlier in the week I reported to you that John Della Bosca had provided me with a report of the circumstances of the incident on the weekend and with that was an apology from the club," Mr Iemma said. "There is also a police investigation and I will allow the investigation to take its course … I am standing John aside on this basis and that the faxing and his drafting of the apology was something that was not in that report."

Mr Della Bosca and Ms Neal have denied claims in six statutory declarations by Iguanas staff that they threatened the nightclub’s licence and were rude and abusive. Four friends who dined with Mr Della Bosca and Ms Neal have written statutory declarations supporting them. The conflicting statutory declarations are now the subject of a police investigation.

The incident led to allegations from Labor sources about Ms Neal’s explosive temper, and that she has kept photos and written names of enemies in her freezer.

Mr Iemma said he had been friends with Mr Della Bosca for more than 20 years and he was a "loyal colleague and friend".

"I have observed him at conferences, we have debated at conferences. In all of the forums of the party and community meetings as a minister, as a member of Parliament, I can’t remember him, John Della Bosca, acting in the way that was alleged."

Asked if he trusted Mr Della Bosca, Mr Iemma replied: "Yes, I do … It does not mean he has lied. I stood by him on Tuesday. He is a friend and a valued colleague.

"The [Iguanas] apology still stands. I still have no evidence, no information that brings into question the apology. What I’ve done from the beginning, and whether it has been with John Della Bosca or anybody else, I’ve always been guided by what is right."

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Ipswich Cup ‘ruined’ by rail closure

Saturday’s Ipswich Cup race meeting could be "ruined" by a Queensland Rail decision to close the Ipswich line this weekend for routine track maintenance.
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An irate Ipswich Turf Club general manager Brett Kitching today slammed Queensland Rail, which has refused to back down on plans to carry out maintenance work on the biggest day in Ipswich’s social calendar.

The Ipswich Cup meeting regularly attracts crowds of 20,000 people. However, it’s feared more than 3000 could be sliced from that number on Saturday because of the Ipswich line closure between Corinda and Ipswich.

Train passengers will have to instead catch a bus from Corinda to attend the meeting.

"We don’t need this at this late stage … we’re two days out from race (day) and there is mass confusion about what public transport will and won’t be available," Mr Kitching told brisbanetimes杭州夜网.au.

"The club has worked hard in previous years to get as many people as possible using public transport.

"We have already had people call and say they won’t be coming because of the hassles with public transport."

Robert Dow, from commuter group Rail: Back on Track, said the line closure could ruin the entire event.

"Folks plan for these events for long periods of time and it’s heartbreaking to have it ruined by lack of consideration of transport authorities," Mr Dow said.

A Queensland Rail spokeswoman said it was not possible to delay the maintenance work.

"These projects are planned 12 months in advance, at this stage it is too late to change (those plans)," she said.

Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale said the debacle highlighted long-standing communication problems between the community and transport authorities.

However, he did compliment Queensland Rail for adding an extra 25 express buses to services that will shuttle patrons from Corinda train station to Bundamba.

In contrast, Mr Dow said the extra express buses had come too late.

"There have been previous line closures on the Ipswich line for maintenance (on) weekends which have impacted severely on a number of community events in the last couple of years. People are becoming very sensitive to these impacts," Mr Dow said.

Railway lines were also closed from Corinda to Rosewood during the Ipswich Show. Line closures also caused major disruptions to the Oxley Village Street Fair last year.

"In May 2007, Rail Back on Track suggested to the minister for transport that a community database could be set up where various groups could register their events," Mr Dow said.

"This would help plan track closures that would have less of a negative impact on community events.

"We all appreciate the need for closures to allow track maintenance and upgrades, but surely it can be done in a more empathetic manner with regard to the community."

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Hazelton is here to stay

Hazelton staff in Dubbo received assurances late last week their jobs were safe in the wake of the Ansett takeover.
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Morale among the 23-strong crew slumped in recent months prompting a fly-in from Hazelton’s chief commercial officer Douglas Hendry.

Regional manager Wally Flynn said staff were visibly relieved after meeting with Mr Hendry at Dubbo Airport on Wednesday.

While staff cuts remain off limits the takeover is expected to streamline bookings, introduce new ticketing procedures and lead to “phenomenal cost savings” in fuel, insurance and uniforms.

Hazeltons also plans to announce expansion to a new port in the near future, adding to its 19-strong line-up. Dubbo remains the airline’s second major centre, after Orange, handling 90 flights a week.

“The bottom line is their jobs are safe,” Mr Hendry said immediately after the meeting. “A whole bunch of rumours came out of Dubbo, it seems to be a melting pot.

“Wal phoned me up and said ‘Oh God, you hear what such and such has said?’ There were just too many rumours going around.

“So I said I’d come up and quash them, talk to the staff, talk to our travel agent partners and assure them Hazelton is here to stay.

“And we’re here to stay as is. There’s no intention, there’s no plan or hidden agenda to cut staff.”

Mr Hendry said the economics showed again and again that it was cheaper and more cost effective to retain Hazelton employees.

But he admitted the number of closed-door discussions concerning the takeover had fuelled staff anxiety.

“We have given commitment to the staff that as soon as we know anything the first people to hear about it will be them,” he said.

“If they hear something and it doesn’t come from Wally and it doesn’t come from me – it’s rubbish.

“And if they want at any time to phone me and clarify anything I’ll always be willing to talk with them.”

Mr Flynn said rumours that were rife in the lead-up to the headline-grabbing takeover only intensified in recent weeks.

“The meeting has been great,” he said. “It’s straightened things out – the rumour – that’s all it was. To have Douglas come up and talk to our staff first hand will squash any of that.”

This article first appeared in Hangzhou Night Net.

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Horror box draw for rich final bid

Dawson Park’s new 313 metre track record holder, Early Riser will have to overcome a horror box draw of five and a strong field to win the Sheather’s Carpet Court Maiden this afternoon.
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The Sheather’s $4000 final and a number of other feature races will wind up the $20,000 Anzac Carnival conducted by the Dubbo club.

The son of Golden Currency – Pinky Lee had last Sunday’s big crowd awe-struck as he carved out a new track time of 18.10s, lowering the old mark by six-one-hundredths of a second.

Prepared by the Miller family at Mullion Creek near Orange, Early Riser has drawn badly in five with speed to burn on both sides.

The general opinion among track regulars is that Tricky Enigma in box four has the early speed to lead the field all the way.

The June Shirvington-trained flier posted 18.27s in his heat last Sunday carving out record early splits in defeating early maiden series favourite Raise The Dust.

Hank Vanderburg has Beema Las Vegas well in contention after drawing box two.

Another 18.50s heat winner, Long Journey, is also expected to be well supported.

The Sheather’s Maiden Final today will be supported by the Dawson’s Plaster Works Final (400m) and the Supporters Club Final (516m) which are both worth $3000.

In the Dawson’s final, new 400m track record holder Jack Coady has drawn reasonably well in box three and should take a power of beating.

Last Sunday he broke the magical 23s barrier and stopped the clock at 22.95s.

Perfect Pinky in box four and Courtney’s Pride (two) are both in form and look to be the main dangers.

Rob Sharp’s promising youngster Oympic Hero is likely to start a short-priced favourite in the Supporter’s Club final.

The Dalalla sprinter ran a near record 30.09s in his heat win after being held up slightly in the run to the first corner.

Goober’s Gold from box four, and Pacific Style (eight) present the greatest dangers.

The Dubbo Cup, sponsored by Dubbo Pet and Stock Feeds, will also be decided today over 516m with a top-class field.

Although this race is the ninth on the card it is suggested punters keep some of their money to back Osti’s Gold which, according to Brian Baker, is a special.

The first of 10 races today leaves the boxes at 1pm and owners and trainers are reminded the kennel times are 11.30am until 12.15pm.

This article first appeared in Hangzhou Night Net.

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Step right up: Property hawking hits streets

A New Farm real estate agent is stopping people in the streets in search of potential buyers, in a desperate attempt to curb a slump in Brisbane’s unit and townhouse market.
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"Do you want to buy an apartment?" LJ Hooker principal agent Brett Greensill asked a passerby on Brunswick Street.

"It’s fact, buyers just aren’t as thick on the ground and it’s getting harder and harder to sell," Mr Greensill said.

In sharp contrast to the market high in last year’s first quarter, demand and price growth has slowed, leaving properties stranded on the market for more than three months in inner-city Brisbane suburbs.

Hiking interest rates, volalility in the stock market and trends in overseas’ markets have deterred buyers according to figures released by the Real Estate Institute of Queensland (REIQ).

REIQ figures released today indicated a 1.5 per cent drop in median unit prices between January and March this year.

"We have had an apartment in Newstead Terraces on the market since January and over that time the price as reduced from $500,000 to $485,000 and finally to $450,000," Mr Greensill said.

However REIQ chairman Peter McGrath said current figures reflect historical averages for the year’s first quarter.

"Brisbane is coming down off a high, so to speak … the market is simply returning to normal," Mr McGrath said.

Yet Mr McGrath conceded investor demand has cooled recently as servicing increasing loan repayments becomes more difficult.

"Investors appear to be staying out of the market until rents reach a level where they match the increase in interest rates and they are confident that the market has definitely stabilised," he said.

The trend has been felt hardest within the CBD, where apartments in complexes on Charlotte Street have remained unsold for four months.

"It is taking 30 days longer to sell inner-city apartments because investors are bowing out," LJ Hooker Brisbane Central principal agent Alexandra Rutherford said.

Prices have been scaled back accordingly Ms Rutherford said.

"We have had apartments priced at $480,000 reeduced to $460,000 and some reduced to $420,000."

However, Mr McGrath warned real estate agents against judging the current market against last year’s anomoly.

"I don’t think some agents realised how good it was last year, thinking. it could last forever. Now we are just moving back to a more traditional market," he said.

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Best Gift Would Be Cure For My Boys

Suzanne Clow wants a special gift for her 30th birthday.
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The local mother-of-three, including twin baby boys who have cystic fibrosis, has been told a cure for the condition may be found while the boys are still children.

Now she wants to help researchers any way she can.

Suzanne’s family and friends have been asked not to bring gifts to her birthday party tonight.

Instead she has asked for donations of money to fund research into cystic fibrosis.

Admitting she never used to give much thought to donating towards medical research, Suzanne said her attitude changed late last year when her twin sons Jack and Will, now seven months, were diagnosed with the debilitating condition.

She and husband Bruce were first alerted to a problem when post-natal tests came back abnormal.

They then had to endure the wait while doctors determined just what was wrong.

“It was terrible not knowing,” she said.

She admits to being “devastated” when first told of the condition and initially “mourned” for the healthy children she thought they had.

But six months on and despite difficulties that include the boys needing daily physiotherapy, being more susceptible to colds and flus and needing to travel to Sydney every couple of months, Suzanne is positive about the situation.

“I try not to think about it – it is my job to keep them healthy.”

The 70 guests attending the party tonight have been invited to bring an anonymous donation and at the end of the night a cheque will be written to go towards the research.

“Even if we only raise $200, that’s $200 they previously would not have had,” Suazanne remarked.

She said that work currently being done in the area of gene therapy was returning promising results for cystic fibrosis patients, but each clinical trial costs about $40 million.

“People don’t realise what it costs – you don’t understand until you are involved,” she said.

Suzanne also hopes people will become more aware of the costs involved with finding cures for conditions such as cystic fibrosis.

This article first appeared in Hangzhou Night Net.

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A giant more at ease with itself

THE world’s finest female diver, Gao Min, laughs uproariously and breaks into a conspiratorial grin. She is talking about the pressure Chinese divers and other athletes will feel in less than seven weeks when they compete under the weight of government and national expectations at the Olympics.
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"Everyone tells them ‘don’t be nervous’," she says. "This just won’t happen. We are human beings!"

Gao, China’s "diving queen", won gold medals at the 1988 and 1992 Olympics, and in three world championships, at a time when China’s sporting prowess and ascendancy was far from assured. After exploding onto the international sporting scene as a 16-year-old in 1986, she dominated the sport until her retirement after the 1992 Games in Barcelona. She remains the only female diver to have scored more than 600 points in an international event.

But to the 2000 or so children equipped with pompoms and flags and arranged in colour-coded cheering sections in the remote mining town of Jinchang, she is the smiling lady from Beijing bringing Olympic spirit and glitz to their far-flung corner of China.

Gao, 37, has travelled to Jinchang, in China’s north-western Gansu province, as an Olympic ambassador for the resources giant BHP Billiton. The Anglo-Australian miner, which paid an undisclosed sum to become the official minerals and medals sponsor for the Beijing Olympics, has been holding these events in the home cities of key Chinese customers.

Gao says the pressures Chinese athletes face today, while still formidable, are nothing compared to those of the previous generation.

At the 1988 Games in Seoul China won five gold medals, widely seen as a poor performance after the 15 gold won at the 1984 Los Angeles Games. In her autobiography Gao wrote that the pressure on athletes before the 1992 Games to atone for 1988’s paucity of gold was so great she considered suicide.

One of the most successful graduates of China’s uncompromising state sport system, Gao now preaches what must seem like heresy to old-school sporting officials. Her message to the children of Jinchang is that winning is no longer everything. China is much more confident, less defensive and topping the medals table is no longer so crucial to its self-image.

"I want every kid to understand the Olympic spirit is about participation, sharing and that is more important than a gold medal," she said.

For BHP Billiton’s long-time China president, Clinton Dines, a Queenslander who has lived in China since 1979, sponsoring the Beijing Olympics and Paralympics has been invaluable in improving the company’s image in China. BHP Billiton is sometimes viewed negatively because it is playing the resources boom hard and winning huge iron ore price increases in annual negotiations with the Chinese.

"We behave commercially aggressively [so we must be] an evil, rapacious empire … but even the Chinese media are now realising that we’re not monsters," he said. "If someone is remote then it is easy to vilify them, but the closer you are, the less easy it is to do that."

His comments could equally describe how Beijing hopes the Olympics will show the world that not only has China earned a seat at the top table of world powers, but that its unique model of "socialism with Chinese characteristics" is not to be feared just because it offers an alternative development model to the parliamentary democracy of Western capitalist nations.

The one-smelter town of Jinchang reflects many aspects of modern China. The Jinchuan Group, the world’s fifth largest nickel refiner, is effectively the town. It is one of the new breed of state-owned enterprises controlling critical sectors such as resources, communications and transport that remained after Beijing began culling loss-making state-run companies in the mid-1990s. These increasingly competitive and powerful firms form the bedrock of China’s red-hot economy and Communist Party control of the country.

In line with government policy, which has shifted towards addressing the inequalities and appalling pollution that unchecked development has created, Jinchuan is trying to become more environmentally responsible. In the past five years the company has increased production five-fold while its use of water has decreased slightly. The town has benefited from new parks and other public facilities such as an artificial lake.

An evening stroll around Jinchang, depending on which way the wind is blowing, would have the average Australian gasping at the acrid air, visibly belching from the smokestacks in the middle of town. But locals say that in the 1980s and ’90s, when the town was swiftly transformed from almost nothing to an industrial hub, the pollution was indescribably bad.

Gao, who returned to live in Beijing with her young family in 2005, after a decade coaching in Canada, says many things have changed for the better in China. She recalls training outdoors in winter in pools barely above freezing point, because the country was so poor and its people isolated from the rest of the world.

"That won’t happen now … We see everything now, nothing is strange for us because we have opened up. Before we couldn’t say this or couldn’t say that, right now we can answer any question, we are more ourselves," she said.

When the Herald asked a group of children what the Olympics meant to them, one boy chimed in "faster, higher, stronger", while another said that at first he had merely been excited being here but then after trying some of the Olympic sports began to understand just how hard athletes had to train and the greatness of the Olympic spirit.

In a reflection that perhaps Gao’s message was getting across, several children said it was no big deal if China failed to top the medal tally this year.

"China is strong, we will always have a chance next time."

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Take stand against vandalism

Vandalism of irrigation systems costs Dubbo City Council tens of thousands of dollars a year and there is little authorities can do about it.
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The latest outbreak in the Gordon Estate at the weekend saw two radio telemetry units, valued at $7500 each, snatched from locked cement pillars.

Council’s parks and landcare director Ken Rogers has now called on the community to fight back and report vandals in action.

“With the prevalence of this sort of thing there must be people in the community who see it happening,” Mr Rogers said.

“The community needs to understand this is not my money I’m spending. They should report these incidents because basically it’s their money.”

Council was told on Monday night there was little staff could do about the problem except continue to replace broken and stolen equipment.

Mr Rogers said he would investigate better locks for the pillars housing the telemetry units near the Algona Street park.

The units are part of an intricate irrigation system which calculates when sprinklers should operate and for how long.

But the recent attack is far from an isolated incident and similar devastation has been wreaked at parks in North and South Dubbo.

“This has been happening for a long time and is not restricted to that part of town by any means,” Mr Rogers said. “We spent a small fortune in Barden Park a few years ago when someone kicked the sprinkler heads off.”

That incident saw 220 sprinklers destroyed at a cost of about $80 each.

“We can look at using different sorts of equipment, more robust equipment, but obviously it costs more money,” Mr Rogers said.

This article first appeared in Hangzhou Night Net.

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Lynda the queen of country

Dynamic local singer Lynda Beazely scooped the pool at the Orana Country Music Talent Quest.
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Performing solo and with singing partner Vicki Picton, Lynda took out no less than seven placings on her way to winning the overall junior title of the highly-contested competition at the weekend.

Contestants travelled from as far afield as Miles in Queensland, Canberra and Newcastle to participate in what is rapidly becoming recognised as one of the best talent quests in the State.

“We had so many people compliment us on the quality of the backing band and the excellent venue, “Orana Country Music Association secretary Narelle Gibbs said.

“Having the luxury of Shane Saffy, Chris Johnson, Ken Yeo and Peter Riley as our backing band gives us a real edge that other talent quests don’t have. Having the use of the old RSL cinema was a real bonus too – it is an excellent facility for this type of event.”

A special guest performance was given by Dubbo’s Michelle Little, a previous winner of the talent quest now studying at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.

This article first appeared in Hangzhou Night Net.

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