NRL stars who factor with ‘X’ appeal heading into the year’s finals

Roosters – Roger Tuivasa-Sheck: The Roosters’ chances of going back to back could hinge on the success of the two fullback experiment. Trent Robinson has tinkered with the ploy of switching Anthony Minichiello and Tuivasa-Sheck between wing and fullback during matches this season, but it has yet to be proven as a stroke of genius. But with seven games left until the finals, Tuivasa-Sheck is the cog in a well-oiled machine that could take the Roosters to the next level.
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Rabbitohs – Luke Keary: Two years ago an injury to Adam Reynolds in the preliminary final cost South Sydney a grand final berth. Last year a misfiring Reynolds was not able to get his Rabbitohs past the same game, which is why there is so much pressure on Keary to add some spark to what can be a predictable football team. Michael Maguire still has to work out the best way to utilise his halves but there is no doubt Keary is going to play a significant part in South Sydney’s premiership assault.

Panthers – James Segeyaro: The Panthers have built their success this season on the back of hard work and no-nonsense football. They are a team without a superstar and have overachieved to a degree this season. But they now face their biggest test trying to pick up the pace for the finals. Segeyaro is one of the best attacking hookers in the game and if he can add spark from dummy half, the Panthers might just find the balance of composure and flair to upset the competition heavyweights.

Sea Eagles – Glenn Stewart: The return of Glenn Stewart is a big factor in Manly’s title charge, but probably not as big as the Glenn Stewart farewell tour. While Stewart’s return will be a huge boost from a football perspective, do not underestimate his final weeks as a Sea Eagle will have on the likes of his brother Brett, Anthony Watmough, Kieran Foran and company. It is going to be the motivation that could well unite what seems a fractured football team.

Bulldogs – Josh Reynolds: The NSW five-eighth will return from suspension with a lot to make up for to his teammates. He has played just two of the Bulldogs’ past 10 games, but will return with a fire in the belly given his lack of involvement in recent weeks. He would have learnt a lot through his Origin duties, but his aggression and competitiveness is what the Bulldogs have missed most in his absence. The disappointment of the 2012 grand final loss will also drive the Bulldogs No.6.

Storm – Kevin Proctor: Craig Bellamy has helped turn Proctor into one of the most damaging wide-running forwards in the game. While the Storm’s premiership chances rest on the shoulders of Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater, they need one of their big men to have a bumper finals series. Proctor runs a great line and can find his way over the chalk. Come finals time, he will need to show why Canberra were so desperate for his services.

Broncos – Ben Hunt: The Brisbane halfback is arguably the most improved player in the competition. He is the only recognised half in the team and has carried the workload of two playmakers, given the Broncos have had fullbacks playing in the No.6 jersey all year. He might have flown under the radar to start the year, but he will have no such luxury if the Broncos reach the finals. If Brisbane want to send off Anthony Griffin on a positive note, Hunt has to fire.

Cowboys – Jason Taumalolo: If this kid can play to his potential, the Cowboys instantly go from contenders to heavyweights. Unfortunately, we have only seen bits and pieces of his best. The Cowboys will no doubt make a run, but if they are to buck a recent trend and avoid potential finals conspiracies, Taumalolo has to fire. He can break a tackle and get his team on the front foot, which would be a nightmare for opposition teams if Johnathan Thurston is presented with open space.

Warriors – Shaun Johnson: On his day, there are very few players better to watch, but the opposite could be said about his bad days. If he can avoid those bad days, the Warriors will be a genuine premiership threat. Johnson carried the Warriors to the grand final in 2011 in his rookie season and can do it again. Now that he has Sam Tomkins as an ally, anything is possible from the Warriors. He has the brilliance but Johnson needs to play with the brain to compete with the front runners.

Tigers – Mitchell Moses: What an incredible showing from Moses against the Bulldogs last Sunday afternoon. That performance alone is enough to suggest that this kid is a superstar in the making, but does he have the goods to lead an understrength Tigers outfit to the finals? If he can strike up a combination with Luke Brooks and Robbie Farah, Moses could prove a nightmare for opposition teams. If he can handle the knocks coming his way, anything is possible.

Dragons – Josh Dugan: Paul McGregor might have to bite the bullet and move Josh Dugan back to fullback to keep his side’s finals hopes alive. Regardless of where Dugan plays, he is the man most capable of producing brilliance in the Dragons outfit. He is strong, fast and elusive, which is why Benji Marshall and Gareth Widdop must deliver him quality ball. The Dragons must take risks and play freestyle football to make a charge to the finals, which plays into Dugan’s hands.

Eels – Chris Sandow: While Parramatta have to rely heavily on Jarryd Hayne to produce another end-of-season miracle to make the finals, Sandow has to play a huge part in that. He is on big money and has to live with even bigger expectations from a success-starved group of supporters. There are some dark clouds around his long-term future, but if he can lead the Eels to the finals, he might finally get the seal of approval from the Eels faithful.

Titans – Albert Kelly: Having lost five-eighth Aidan Sezer to a season-ending injury, the Titans needed Kelly to fire. But since then they have dropped out of the top eight and Kelly has hardly been sighted. A knee injury has restricted his contribution, but if he can make a quick recovery, he possesses the Midas touch that could kick-start a Titans push to the finals. Without a fit Kelly, the Titans are a shadow of the football team they were at the start of the year.

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OPINION: Scheme helping people with disabilities

The Stockton CentreIT saddened me to read such negative coverage yesterday of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) – one of the greatest social reforms this country has ever seen (“Defiant but losing heart – Disability sector feels abandoned” Herald 24/7).
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We need to remember why both sides of politics heard the community and worked together to deliver the scheme: it is about giving choice and control to people with disabilities.

I have visited the NDIS trial site a number of times and heard clients’ stories that humble me beyond words. Hearing these stories makes me proud to be the Minister for Disability Services. This is why the NSW government is getting on with the job of rolling out the scheme.

We’re improving the lives of people with disabilities.

I don’t want to see these stories get lost in a political battle in the Hunter.

Just last week I met with a woman who now uses her funding how she wants instead of being pigeonholed into what services the government funded. She goes to dancing class, got herself a new set of wheels (chair) and was brought to tears knowing she would be supported like this, with far-reaching freedom, for the rest of her life.

Our agreement with the Commonwealth states that NSW will transfer services to the non-government sector by 2018, in order to provide more choice and control to people with disabilities.

The non-government sector already provides more than 60 per cent of services in NSW.

The quality of care will not decrease. Services in the sector will only increase as the demand for innovative and flexible supports grows as new clients enter the scheme.

Government staff have been extensively briefed on these changes – and most of them support this vital reform.

The small number of people who do not agree with these terms are making a lot of noise and tarnishing the NDIS as a whole, and muffling the stories of the happy 2000-plus clients already in the scheme.

The Stockton redevelopment pre-dates the NDIS by almost 15 years and should not be associated with it, especially when it is being used as a scapegoat to blemish a welcomed, bipartisan supported social reform.

Regardless of the NDIS, large residential centres are being redeveloped and every existing resident, including the high-needs clients, will be catered for.

Group homes, many already operated by NGOs, can provide the same 24-hour specialist care provided by large institutions like Stockton.

The very nature of reform is that it requires change.

We need to look beyond self-interest to make it happen – for the benefit of the most vulnerable in our society: people with disabilities.

John Ajaka is state Minister for Disability Service

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TONY BUTTERFIELD: Wayne Bennett polarises opinion

BOOKENDS: Tony and Isaac Butterfield. Pic: Bonnie CorriganDEBATE has raged across all forms of media since Wayne Bennett announced his intention this week to return to his spiritual Brisbane base to continue his coaching career.
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Some feel he has let the club down by leaving a year before his contract expires. Others say he has no contract and is free to do as he sees fit.

Proof positive that professional rugby league is played as hard off the field as it is on.

Coaching appointments are often the source of great acrimony – particularly when a departing coach may impact on and confuse retention and recruitment for next year and beyond.

The situation Bennett finds himself in is not unique but every time it happens it seems no less polarising.

He has indicated he will see out the season, such was his commitment to his players.

Management have supported that.

His players, for their part, want him to stay and finish the season they started together.

On that basis there should be no issue. Finish the season and we’ll thank you for your contribution and part company. Nothing really to see here.

Or is there?

Apart from the sour taste left in supporters’ mouths as a result of a season from hell, many good judges feel Wayne’s position at the Knights is now untenable.

He should do the right thing and move on and allow a newly appointed coach to pick up the reins, they say.

But who will be that coach? If he is not yet selected, how can Wayne move on? Would it not be poor form if he did leave before a coach was selected?

Such is the media’s interest in Bennett, his every move or statement is scrutinised. I’d venture that one of the reasons Bennett has been elusive when it comes to media comments over the years stems from his days as a policeman. He knows that comments you make can and will be used against you.

And so it’s proven. Take for example his comments made regarding his inability to find a solution to the team’s poor form. These comments are resurrected to make the point that Wayne has somehow lost interest in the fortunes of the Knights.

Muddying the waters further are his previously expressed views around players who had committed to another club mid-season only to find they are relegated to a feeder competition because they are now not part of the plans.

Hypocrisy you say? Probably. All relevant and all good points for the anti-Bennett brigade.

Now, I have known and respected Wayne for over 25 years. He is his own man and marches to the beat of his own drum. His single-mindedness and perceived indifference to the views of others is part of what has made him a success.

It has also at times isolated him and drawn calls of arrogance. Right or wrong, this may be one of those times.

But for what it’s worth, my view would be that if Rick Stone is reappointed to the top job for next year, Wayne should exit, stage left, as soon as practical.

This will allow him to focus on his new challenge and allow Stone to do likewise.

If not Stoney, then Wayne should stay and see through the responsibility entrusted to him with much fanfare and hope three years ago.

But while this is playing out, let’s hope management are taking notes and learning from the disastrous last decade.

This is the real long-term challenge. For over a decade, a couple of parties have had their fingerprints all over fundamental tactical and strategic shortcomings in the Knights development.

Well-intentioned though many have been, those errors of judgment have placed the club in the position it finds itself in. Of that there should be little argument.

Club coaches come and go but the secret to sustainable growth lies in the quality of the people appointed to steer the ship over the long term.

Since the days of the ill-fated decision to give Brian Smith the keys to the bus, we have gone backwards. We have lost the investment of a generation of players, coaches and administrators and it appears we are to now accept we must start again – again.

Whatever you may say about Bennett, he has been nothing if not accountable for the lack of success on the field.

For the future of our club we can only hope that accountability extends to the Knights front office.

■ In late September 1997, the 10-year-old Knights earned themselves a place in the history books.

Many still remember where they were and who they were with when Darren Albert scored that grand final try that sent the Hunter into a frenzy.

One such individual was our eldest son, Isaac. A very clever and engaging four-year-old, Isaac was the envy of every kid in his preschool class when he found himself on the team bus for the ride home from the SFS.

The events of that ride, the singing, the laughter, the crowds to greet us at Wallsend, Jesmond and the ISC, have lived with him since.

This seminal moment for the only kid on the bus sparked a passion for the game that continues to this day.

As he celebrated his 21st birthday last week I thought it timely to tick a box that I have long dreamed about – to play a game with him.

That dream came true against East Maitland last Saturday, when due to injuries and work, the Dudley Magpies were short on players.

“You’re on, Butts.”

He told me after the match that he was worried for my safety as I entered the field of play. The call went up from the opposition: “Here he is”, “give it to the old fossil”.

And give it to me they did.

But with the support of my son and our teammates I pushed through. Something re-emerged from the deep recesses of my comfortable, late-forties mind. Compete or perish. What an amazing, cleansing and confronting experience.

The day was capped by the two Buttsy front-rowers, dismissive of the chance for a two-point penalty goal, charging at the line in the closing stages to score the go-ahead try. My role was minimal in hitting it up from the tap.

I played the ball within inches of the line only to see the young bloke tear onto the ball and score a memorable four-pointer.

The little skirmish that resulted saw father and son in the thick of the pushing and shoving. As they say, you had to be there.

The East Maitland guys were gracious in defeat and offered warm congratulations for our tough win.

Back in the dressing room I joined in on the victory song – something I didn’t get to do in my last game in 2000, and it was satisfying indeed.

As parents, we all want to be involved in the lives of our kids. This was our moment and will be cherished. The only problem though is we have four other sons.

Whether I will be in condition to play with all of them remains to be seen, but hope, if not youth, springs eternal.

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OPINION: Our city’s growth relies on organic urban design

HILLY: Newcastle’s topography is similar to San Francisco’s, where neighbourhoods have slowly evolved.IN Newcastle we are living through a struggle for the right to the city.
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The struggle is about how urban space will be used and who will decide how it is used. It is a struggle over whose rights will be respected and actualised.

One set of protagonists is readily identified: big developers from outside Newcastle; local developers; conservative politicians, local and state; and a broader group of local business people.

This group is for “big development”, large-scale urban development schemes such as the proposed Urban Growth/GPT towers and shopping mall.

The protagonists on the other side include many inner-city residents, organised resident action groups such as NICRA (Newcastle Inner-City Residents’ Alliance), some small business people in the CBD and sympathisers in Newcastle, the Hunter and beyond.

This side of the debate advocates “organic development”, urban renewal that builds on the existing built and natural environments.

There is also a third, much broader, group of Novocastrians who are undecided about or indifferent to the debate between big development and organic development.

These Novocastrians feel an attachment to their city and a desire for it to flourish. But after decades of inaction and broken promises, they are sceptical that anything positive will happen.

The Newcastle CBD has been in decline for half a century. From the 1960s suburban shopping malls drew shoppers away from the once lively Hunter Street shopping strip. More recently, CBD offices have emptied as commercial tenants moved to new buildings in Honeysuckle.

Today, life is returning to the CBD as new cafes and other small enterprises spring up.

The Urban Growth/GPT plan, by imposing tall buildings and a franchise-driven, car-centred shopping mall on these street-level businesses, is likely to suck people off the streets and crush this small business revival.

Currently, big development dominates the community conversation about the future of inner Newcastle.

The Urban Growth/GPT development is presented as essential to Newcastle’s future. Failure to implement it, its proponents claim, will condemn our city to permanent stagnation. Opponents are cast as NIMBYs – holding Newcastle back.

Meanwhile the silent majority remains sceptical and disengaged.

In this environment it is impossible to have a rational, sustained community conversation about the future of our city.

Yet such a discussion is essential if Newcastle is to avoid repeating mistakes made in other cities.

A huge body of evidence shows that quick-fix urban renewal projects do not work.

High-rise housing projects, widespread across the world half a century ago, failed miserably. Neighbourhoods were obliterated, people were housed in alienating tower blocks, crime flourished.

More recent grand projects like Madrid’s Cuatro Torres (Four Towers) have marred Madrid’s gracious streetscape and driven the city into debt.

Fortunately, there is an alternative. San Francisco, Copenhagen and many other cities have adopted a more organic approach to urban design.

San Francisco’s original layout, like Newcastle’s, is a grid of streets laid over a hilly landscape. In both cities, distinctive neighbourhoods of low- and medium-rise buildings evolved over many decades.

New developments in San Francisco accord with this topography and history. The result is a vibrant, creative city, a magnet for new residents and new enterprises, as well as tourists.

The accumulated evidence on good urban design shows that vital cities share common features.

They have densely populated centres. Buildings are low and medium-rise, are of different ages and serve multiple uses: retail, residential, commercial and cultural.

The centre is walkable, and has people on the streets day and night. New developments are small-scale, harmonise with the city’s natural and built environment and are locally planned and built.

The Urban Growth/GPT CBD proposal has none of these features. It has been imposed on Newcastle by the state government, contravening its own 2012 Newcastle Urban Renewal Strategy. It repeats mistakes made in urban renewal projects across the world since 1945.

Hopefully the forthcoming Joint Regional Planning Panel will reject the Urban Growth/GPT plan and call for a revised proposal. Then community, council and business can work together to formulate a plan based on sound urban design principles.

Dr Griff Foley was formerly associate professor of adult education at the University of Technology, Sydney. He is a member of NICRA, which will host a forum on urban renewal at Newcastle City Hall tonight at 7pm.

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Spiranovic battles for A-League fitness

Fitness cloud: Western Sydney’s Matthew Spiranovic. Photo: Brendan EspositoWestern Sydney Wanderers centre-back Matthew Spiranovic, a key man for the Socceroos in the World Cup, is battling to be fit for the start of the new A-League season in October.
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Spiranovic, who cemented himself as one of Ange Postecoglou’s first-choice players in Brazil, will go into hopsital for surgery to an injured ankle on Monday.

The recuperation is expected to last up to 10 weeks, which could put him in doubt for the Wanderers’ first match in early October against Melbourne Victory.

The tall defender, who scored the club’s goal in the grand final loss to Brisbane Roar last May, will definitely miss all of the Wanderers’ pre-season including its crucial Asian Champions League quarter-final clash with defending champions Guangzhou Evergrande. The Wanderers are due to host the Chinese club on August 20 in Sydney, with the return leg taking place a week later in the Chinese city.

Spiranovic signed a new deal to tie him to the Wanderers before the World Cup, and was one of a handful of Australian players who enhanced their status in the tournament, starting all three matches.

Under Tony Popovic’s coaching, the elegant centre-back has developed the steel which many thought was missing from his game earlier in his career.

While the months immediately after the World Cup are usually a circus with players who impressed getting moves to bigger clubs, there has been little action involving the Socceroos.

Only Adam Taggart has so far changed clubs, the young striker leaving the Newcastle Jets to sign a three-year deal at former English Premier League club Fulham, who were relegated to The Championship last season.

Quite how much 20-year-old Taggart, the A-League golden boot winner last season, is likely to play is a moot point, given that Fulham has splashed out big money on former Leeds striker Ross McCormack and also welcomes back Costa Rica captain Bryan Ruiz from a loan spell with PSV Eindhoven.

Ruiz was one of the standout players in the World Cup when he led the Ticos to the last eight and although there have been reports that Italian Serie A club Palermo is interested in acquiring the Central American, he still has a year left on his Fulham contract.

Meanwhile, Melbourne City’s players were due to begin the long journey back to Australia on Thursday night after a morale boosting 5-1 victory over a Bolton Wanderers XI in a pre-season game.

While the Championship club fielded a team that was some way short of its best line up, the result will give City plenty of heart for the FFA Cup campaign and the A-League season that follows.

John van ‘t Schip’s side had previously drawn tour games against League One Oldham and League Two side Bury.

Reports have claimed the club is in negotiations with Slovenian international striker Robert Koren over the international marquee role. Spain great David Villa is due to join on a 10-game guest player stint, while former England star Frank Lampard has also been linked with the club as a potential guest player.

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Who’s who in the Petraeus sex scandal

David Petraeus: Retired four-star Army general who became the director of the CIA in September 2011 after a distinguished military career, including commander of US and international troops in Iraq and, later, Afghanistan. He resigned from his post at the CIA last Friday after admitting to showing “extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair.”
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Paula Broadwell: Author of All In: The Education of General David Petraeus, the recent hagiographic biography about General Petraeus.

Like Petraeus, she graduated from West Point, America’s elite Army college. She met Petraeus in 2006 at Harvard, where she was a graduate student and she decided to write a Ph.D. dissertation on him once he took command in Afghanistan in the summer of 2010. She visited Petraeus in Afghanistan, joined his inner circle and began an affair with him in late 2011, two months after Petraeus was named CIA director by President Obama.

Jill Kelley: A Florida woman who became friendly with Petraeus and his wife, Holly, when the general was head of Central Command in Florida, just prior to his posting in Afghanistan. Kelley volunteers to help injured veterans and their families at the base in Tampa and is also an unofficial social coordinator for senior military leaders. Kelly began receiving harassing anonymous emails in May 2012, accusing her of inappropriate flirting with Petraeus. Kelley reported the emails to the FBI. There is no evidence she had an inappropriate relationship with Petraeus.

Unnamed FBI Agent: A friend of Kelley who referred her anonymous emails to the FBI’s cyber crimes unit for investigation. The FBI traced the emails to Broadwell and during their investigation of her, also turned up the sexually explicit emails between Broadwell and Petraeus. The unnamed FBI agent was removed from the case this summer after his superiors became concerned he was obsessed with the case.

Evidence of his obsession: he sent shirtless photos of himself to Kelley [a married woman] at some point before the investigation began, something the FBI learned only later.

John Allen: Current commander of US and NATO troops in Afghanistan who is under investigation by the Pentagon after the FBI probe into Petraeus uncovered thousands of pages of email transcripts containing “potentially inappropriate” communications between General Allen and Jill Kelley. Allen has close ties to Petraeus, serving as his deputy at Central Command and succeeding him in Afghanistan. The precise nature of the emails between Allen and Kelley and the details of their relationship are unknown at this point.

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