ACT riders put pedal to the medal

Rebecca Wiasak will be a leader for the ACT team at the track nationals in Sydney this week, despite only having been a full-time cyclist for 2 and a half years.Rebecca Wiasak and Alex Bird will spearhead the ACT team at the track nationals in Sydney this week after their medal-winning performances at the World Cup in Mexico, but both admit the nationals are as much of an unknown as the international event.
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Wiasak won bronze in the individual pursuit in Mexico, the 28-year-old’s first major international event, having only taken up competitive cycling 2½ years ago.

But with the depth of Australian cycling, she will enter the nationals with the same goal as she took to Mexico.

”I’m hoping just to make the medals final, which is crazy … it’s just as challenging to make the final in Australia against the current girls as it is to make it to a World Cup final,” Wiasak said. ”All of the girls are trying to get selected for the world championships in Belarus in a couple of weeks and the individual pursuit particularly will be a key event for them getting selected for the team pursuit.

”They’re all going to be gunning for it.”

Wiasak will be hoping for another medal in the team pursuit, too, after winning silver last year. She will team again with Ailie McDonald, the newly crowned national under-23 time trial champion, with teenager Lucy Kirk a new addition to the group.

”Hopefully we can get another medal … that’s definitely a goal of ours but we haven’t actually ridden together yet,” Wiasak said before leaving Adelaide for Sydney.

Bird, the reigning men’s sprint champion, says he’s ”pumped for nationals” but is equally unsure of his prospects.

”It’s a tricky one because I’ve just been training for team sprint,” he said. ”The training overlaps nicely, but I haven’t done anything which gives me an idea of my form.”

Bird clocked the fastest time by an Australian in a first lap of the team sprint on the way to bronze at the World Cup last week, but representing the ACT will call for a change of position at nationals.

Bird will drop into second, with Nathan Hart riding first and Daniel Ellis in the third spot.

”I think we can medal,” Bird said. ”We’re going to get off to a quick start, we’re just worried about the back half of the race potentially.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Ponting bows out as a winner

Ricky Ponting.Ricky Ponting was the main attraction for the Prime Minister’s XI, but cagey West Indian spinner Sunil Narine spoilt the party for the retired great in his international swansong.
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Ponting walked on to Manuka Oval to a standing ovation, only to make the return journey just 15 runs later, much to the disappointment of the strong Canberra crowd.

The former Australian captain had looked capable of feasting on a batsman-friendly pitch until Narine snuck one through his defences as the PM’s XI held on for a 23-run victory.

“Today wasn’t about me, it was about some of the younger guys,” Ponting said.

“I was confident we could win the game and it was good to see most of those younger guys that batted at the top of the order get some runs.”

“Just the experience the younger guys would’ve gained from a game like today would’ve been great for them.”While the PM’s XI largely had its way with the West Indian bowling attack, carving out an imposing 333 from its 50 overs, Ponting’s quick innings was an anomaly.

From the moment Usman Khawaja skied a Kieron Pollard delivery to the heavens, all attention turned to Ponting’s arrival.

The leading run scorer in Australian Test history, who called time on his superb career at the conclusion of the Perth Test against South Africa in December, was surrounded by photographers as he made his way to the wicket.

He appeared in supreme touch early in the innings, carrying on his impressive form from the Big Bash League with the Hobart Hurricanes.

Ponting was prepared to play his way in, not taking any excessive risks and knocking the ball around into the outfield.

That was until he heaved a Dwayne Bravo delivery over the mid-wicket fence with a trademark pull shot, showing a glimpse of the raw power displayed in his match-winning century in the 2003 World Cup final.

Just as he was about to get going, Ponting rocked back to a quicker arm ball from Narine, which zipped along the surface and crashed into the stumps.

A noticeable sigh of disappointment was felt around the ground as Ponting made his exit – to a standing ovation, the second for the day – in honour of his fantastic contribution to Australian cricket.

It was only fitting he shared the crease with Alex Doolan, the fellow Tasmanian he has endorsed to follow in his footsteps into the Australian Test team.

Doolan has been pencilled in as a five-day specialist, but showed he should also be considered in the shorter forms of the game with an eye-catching display.

He was in complete control of the quality bowling attack, accumulating runs with ease and hitting the power button when required.

Only a sensational mid-air catch from Johnson Charles ended his day on 87 from 98 balls.

Another Test contender, Khawaja, pushed his case for a recall to the ODI team with a well-made 69, while unheralded ACT Comets captain Jono Dean made a statement at the top of the order with a dynamic 51 from 40 balls.

However, this was still Ponting’s day.

While it wasn’t the fairytale century fans would have loved to have seen him score, they gave the former Australian skipper the send-off he richly deserved.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Haddin, Gayle share fleeting moment in middle

PM’s XI batsman Brad Haddin leaves the field after getting out for 39.Chris Gayle was a late scratching from the West Indies’ first match of their Australian tour, but still managed to get up close and personal with Brad Haddin in the middle of Manuka Oval.
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What was going to be their first meeting since their memorable on-field and Twitter stoush in the Big Bash League last month didn’t eventuate, with Gayle sitting out most of the game against the Prime Minister’s XI for the inaugural day-night game at Manuka Oval.

A West Indies team spokesman said Gayle had a slight stiffness in his back due to the long flight from the Caribbean.

However, the hard-hitting opening batsman is expected to play in the opening game of the five-match ODI series with Australia in Perth on Friday.

Gayle spent time in the Manuka Oval nets on Monday and Tuesday and managed to get out on the ground while Haddin was at the crease during his entertaining innings of 39 from 28 balls.

Gayle went straight to short cover and caught Haddin’s attention several times, the pair appearing to exchange a friendly few words while Haddin was at the non-striker’s end.

The West Indian opener will play a crucial role if the reigning Twenty20 world champions are to upset an Australian side coming off a 2-2 series draw with Sri Lanka.

Haddin could yet play a part if selectors decide to give Matthew Wade a rest, as they did in the opening two games of the Sri Lanka series.

That would set up a rematch with Gayle for the first time since the Sydney Sixers captain took offence to Gayle wildly celebrating taking his wicket last month.

Gayle, who scored only one half century for the Sydney Thunder, beat his chest and broke into his trademark Gangnam Style dance when he dismissed the veteran wicketkeeper.

Haddin pointed his bat in Gayle’s direction as he left the ground before venting his frustration to Fox Sports.

”He’s been all talk so far this tournament and they haven’t won a game,” Haddin said.

”At least Thunder fans have seen Chris Gayle do something for his money.”

Gayle responded on Twitter, claiming he could bat better than Haddin with his non-preferred right hand.

The 33-year-old, renowned as one of the most destructive batsmen in the world cricket, hinted earlier this month he had a score to settle with Haddin.

”We’ll see him in the future and maybe in international cricket we might meet again,” Gayle said.

”We’ll see what happens then.”

The Canberra crowd arrived hoping to see Gayle deliver another magnificent innings after his amazing knock during his most recent visit to the national capital.

Gayle hammered 146 from just 89 balls, including eight massive sixes, in the corresponding match with the PM’s XI three years ago.

The match had a special feeling for Haddin, the Queanbeyan product who had previously played for the Canberra Comets.

Haddin was due to captain the PM’s XI last year only for the game against Sri Lanka to be washed out without a ball being bowled.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Flashy 50 will make BBL teams take notice

Is it the innings that launches the Big Bash League career Jono Dean so badly wants?
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He got the Prime Minister’s XI off to a flyer, smashing 51 runs off just 40 balls, no doubt catching the eyes of BBL franchises around the country.

Dean could have been forgiven for being nervous as he strode to the middle to open the innings with Usman Khawaja, but he put those nerves to bed almost instantly.

He thrashed the very first ball he faced on the familiar Manuka pitch over cover for four, leaving West Indies captain Darren Sammy in no doubt what his intentions were.

It was just one of a number of aggressive shots that would thrill the Canberra crowd on the way to a scintillating half century.

He also rocked on to the back foot and twice sent the white ball over the rope.

Again it was Sammy who copped it, Dean pulling him over mid wicket for the first six of the game.

The Canberra Comets opener raced to 32 off just 19 balls, a run rate more akin to the Twenty20 form of the game rather than the more pedestrian 50-over version.

Before the match, Dean said he would play his natural game – a clean-hitting approach many Canberra bowlers have come to dread, which also earned him a supplementary contract with the Melbourne Renegades.

He played and missed, and hit the ball just out of fielders’ reaches on occasion, but that’s the type of player he is.

Dean flew into the 40s and the crowd held their breath, but not for long.

This time it was Andre Russell’s turn.

Dean rocked backed and hooked him for six over square leg into the Bradman Stand for six, bringing up his 50 in just 40 balls.

But he went to the well one too many times soon after, attempting a lofted drive off Dwayne Bravo, but sent it too square and down the throat of 12th man Jason Holder at long off.

The innings might have come too late for this summer’s Big Bash League, but it could stand him in good stead for the next.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Windies fail to chase big total

Ricky Ponting missed out on the runs the crowd dearly wanted, but he did end his international captaincy with a win.
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The Prime Minister’s XI enjoyed a 23-run victory over the West Indies at Manuka Oval on Tuesday.

A solid total off 333 posted by the PM’s XI proved to be too much for the Windies, although the visitors always looked a chance of chasing the total down.

Andre Russell smashed 54 off just 24 balls to keep the Windies in the hunt right til the end.

While happy to get the win, Ponting deflected any attention from himself to the young up-and-comers in his victorious team, with James Faulkner named man of the match for some late runs and four wickets.

“I’d forgotten the rules to tell you the truth, I didn’t know what I had to do out there,” he said.

“It’s a long time since I’d done it [captain], but it’s good fun and good to be able to lead a young group of players and see them enjoy themselves and win the game.

“That’s a pretty good West Indian side we beat today as well.”

The PM’s XI got off to a flyer, courtesy of the hard hitting of Canberra star Jono Dean.

Opening the batting, Dean smashed his first delivery over cover for four before ultimately skying one to end his innings on 51 off 40 balls.

Usman Khawaja (69) and Alex Doolan (87) put on a brilliant partnership before, almost on cue, Khawaja hit one straight down the throat of Sunil Narine to bring one of Australia’s greatest ever batsmen to the crease.

The stage was set for a trademark explosive innings from Ponting and he gave a glimpse of it, pulling Bravo over the mid-wicket boundary for six.

But Narine deceived Ponting with a leg cutter, as the former Aussie skipper backed away to force him through cover but was bowled for 15.

The off-spinner then found himself on a hat-trick when he had Handscomb stumped next ball.

It was part of a good spell by Narine (2-32), who has a mixed bag of tricks including everything from an offie to a slider to a leggie.

Doolan’s dismissal was courtesy of a brilliant catch by Johnson Charles, diving full length to his left at square leg. Charles almost produced a replica on the last ball of the PM’s XI innings, but couldn’t quite hold on. That missed chance came after great cameos by Queanbeyan’s Brad Haddin (39) and James Faulkner (44 not out) helped guide the side to 6-333 from their 50 overs.

It proved to be enough, but only just, as Russell produced some lower order hitting.

With Gayle rested as a precaution due to a stiff back, Charles assumed the role of master blaster at the top of the order.

He crunched two sixes off Faulkner and looked dangerous until Khawaja pounced on a bad call by Kieran Powell to run Charles out. Powell (92) then struggled with cramps and retired hurt within sight of his century. It sparked a middle-order collapse, with the West Indies losing 4-50 in the middle overs.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Rinehart buys strategic stake in minnow Lakes Oil

AUSTRALIA’S unconventional oil and gas sector is a good place to invest so long as the location is right, according to one of the top executives at Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting.
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The rare comments from Hancock’s chief development officer, John Klepec, came after one of Ms Rinehart’s private companies made a strategic investment in the sector through a small Melbourne company called Lakes Oil.

The deal saw Timeview Enterprises – a subsidiary of Hancock Prospecting – purchase $4.25 million worth of Lakes Oil convertible notes.

If fully converted into shares, Ms Rinehart would control 18.6 per cent of shares in Lakes Oil, which is seeking to develop unconventional forms of oil and gas in Victoria.

Unconventional forms include shale oil, shale gas, and tight gas and typically require the controversial hydraulic fracturing technique known as ”fracking”.

Ms Rinehart’s investment was made despite Victoria’s moratorium on fracking approvals, which will remain in place until a national framework can be developed later this year.

NSW has previously imposed – then removed – a similar moratorium and Mr Klepec said Victoria’s stance was not enough to deter the Rinehart camp. ”That has to run its course, but across Australia other state governments have done the same thing, which is fair enough. They have to run these things to ground and we think there will be a similar positive outcome,” he said.

Lakes Oil is focusing on the Otway basin and the Gippsland basin – which is close to the traditional Bass Strait oilfields as well as the Latrobe Valley power stations – and Mr Klepec said the Rinehart camp had been impressed with the location of the tenements.

”This particular opportunity came to us late last year and we think it has got particularly good upside. It has a great location, with shale gas there is no point having it if it’s not close to the infrastructure where you can do something with it,” he said. ”For us it is not a massive investment, but it is a large stake and we think it is one of these things that is a long-dated option with huge upside and limited downside.”

Lakes Oil is not Ms Rinehart’s first exposure to unconventional oil and gas, with Mr Klepec saying the Hancock group also held prospective tenements in the Northern Territory. ”They are very early stage but highly prospective, and shale oil in particular is a good commodity to be in,” he said.

But when asked if unconventional oil and gas would ever rival iron ore as the Rinehart camp’s major focus, Mr Klepec said expectations were being kept in check.

”The expectations are not that large – iron ore is a major part of the group’s assets. If it ever eventuates like that everyone would be pretty happy, but no, the bar is set a lot lower than that,” he said.

Lakes Oil has been targeted by environmental campaigners and Friends of the Earth spokesman Cam Walker said the deal with the Rinehart camp ”must concern everyone who is worried about the prospect of an onshore gas industry” in Victoria.

But Lakes Oil chairman Robert Annells said the investment should be seen as a vote of confidence in Victoria’s resources sector.

”It’s a good result for the company and it’s a good result for Victoria too, because the mining boom has missed Victoria a little and there is no reason to believe resources end at state borders,” he said.

The deal will result in Professor Ian Plimer becoming a non-executive director of Lakes Oil.

The Lakes Oil share price rose from 0.4¢ to 0.6¢ on Tuesday.

Hancock Prospecting is a substantial shareholder in Fairfax Media, the owner of this publication.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Costco bulks up to take sales from Coles and Woolies

Costco Wholesale Australia declared a net profit of $9.73 million for the 53 weeks to September last year.THE US discount retailer Costco has underscored its escalating competitive threat to Woolworths and Coles by posting its maiden annual profit in Australia since opening its warehouse stores here four years ago. It has also received a further $50 million from its American parent to bankroll an aggressive push in the region.
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Operating out of three stores last year, in Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra, Costco managed to more than double its revenue to $609.5 million as shoppers warmed to its club membership model and bulk purchases of everything from whitegoods, fish and furniture, to hearing aids and French wine.

And with another three warehouse stores under construction or awaiting planning approval, Costco has sent a clear warning to the supermarket heavyweights, German discounter Aldi and the struggling convenience store sector that it is rushing towards $1 billion in annual sales in Australia as it fashions a new force in retailing.

The threat to the dominance of Woolworths and Coles comes as Aldi, which specialises in a limited range of deeply discounted private label groceries and merchandise, is set to open its 300th store in Australia next month. The German retailer is believed to have captured 5 per cent of the national market share since it arrived in 2001.

Fresh documents lodged with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission reveal that Costco Wholesale Australia reported a net profit of $9.73 million for the 53 weeks to September last year, its first profit in Australia and a turnaround from the $13.2 million loss it racked up in 2011. The period reflects a full year of operation for its three warehouse stores, with Melbourne and Sydney believed to generate the bulk of the nearly $610 million in sales and membership purchases. Melbourne and Sydney have more than 100,000 members each.

Since opening its first warehouse in Melbourne’s Docklands in 2009, Costco has racked up retained losses of just under $38 million, reflecting the start-up costs of building its large-format stores.

The maiden profit in Australia was driven by extra revenue generated from its two new stores and improved productivity. It received a tax credit of $13.4 million.

”I think there is a lot of opportunity for Costco here in Australia and we are thrilled and very satisfied to see that the business is growing,” said the company’s managing director for Australia, Patrick Noone.

Mr Noone said the fresh food category remained popular, as did the bakery, and household goods such as toilet paper and detergents. Hearing aids was a stand-out performer for Costco, while its range of premium wines was also in great demand.

”We sell a lot of beers and spirits, but we do a lot of imported wines from Europe, and that seems to be one of the big growth areas for us. We have a British buying office with Costco and we can piggyback on their buying of European wines.”

Meanwhile, Wesfarmers – the owner of Coles, Bunnings, Target and Kmart – reports its second-quarter sales performance on Wednesday. The market leader Woolworths, which also owns Big W, will unveil its sales numbers on Thursday. Coles is again expected to outgrow its larger rival Woolworths, notching up growth of about 4 per cent against 2.8 per cent for Woolies.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Wanted: powerful vision for derelict White Bay station

New vision … White Bay power station could be opened for public events. Visitors at the White Bay Power station open day in 2011.
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IN GENTRIFIED Sydney, it is barely imaginable: a power station smack-bang in the city, firing coal, raising steam, as men worked in 70-degree heat then trudged home, blackened and sore, the clamour still ringing in their ears.

However, history turned and the White Bay power station fell silent for 30 years, home only to vandals, pigeons and the occasional film crew.

That is set to change. A state government taskforce has recommended the site be opened for public events and other uses ”in the short to medium term”.

It has fuelled debate on how best to awaken the derelict site, Sydney’s longest-serving power station and the only one still containing the machinery of its time.

The chief executive of the developer lobby group Urban Taskforce, Chris Johnson, has a few bold ideas.

”Looking at that site with views out over the water and [so] close to the city … the first use you’d have to think of is residential accommodation,” he said.

”It’s a big, robust building, and I think those buildings were always meant to be cut and quartered and adjusted and rebuilt and pipes put through the middle of it.”

As power stations shifted to the coalfields, most plants in Sydney were demolished or reused. The Star casino was built where the Pyrmont plant once sat; Ultimo’s became the Powerhouse Museum.

But White Bay sat idle and rotting. Heritage restrictions, such as retaining the rusty cladding where possible and a ban on new buildings that block views to the site, could mean ”it will sit unused for another 30 years”, Mr Johnson said.

A former power station worker, Bob Hughes, speaking in an oral history account, recalled ”working at heights, working in dangerous conditions … I’d be doing jobs working next to a boiler where it would be 70 or 75 degrees.”

The City of Sydney’s director of city planning, Graham Jahn, said White Bay and its surrounds were ”the last vestige of maritime and industrial activity for a port city” and any re-use should ”have a public purpose”.

”The majority of the harbour has been gentrified through residential conversions and redevelopment right through the harbour … executive living on the waterfront in every situation isn’t always appropriate,” Mr Jahn said.

The council has suggested film studios or a university campus, and says the huge turbine hall is ripe for conversion into an art gallery or museum.

Submissions to the Glebe Island temporary exhibition centre reveal that the Bays Precinct Taskforce, commissioned by the state government to consider the future of land around Glebe Island and Rozelle, called for the power station site to be opened to the public, at least temporarily. The site is undergoing decontamination and conservation work. The report was handed to the Planning Minister, Brad Hazzard, in the middle of last year.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Street sees double as school year beckons

THE residents of a cul-de-sac in Engadine say locals are afraid to move into their quaint 22-house street in Sydney’s south.
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”They are scared they’ll have twins,” jokes Renae Kidd, the mother of identical eight-year-olds, Zane and Taj.

The street is home to six sets of twins, five of whom are school aged and are returning to school on Wednesday, along with most of the state’s 750,000 public school students.

”Everyone always asks what’s in the water,” said Deb Kimber, who is the mother of seven-year-old girls Diaz and Brinley. ”We make jokes about being close to the reactor.”

Ms Kimber, whose daughters attend Engadine West Public School, said what excited her about the girls going back to school was finding out who their teacher was going to be.

One year she put in a special request because one of her children had a health condition, and there was a particular teacher she knew to be understanding.

And she knows of other parents who have approached the school with concerns.

”I think quite a lot of people write letters,” she said. ”But I think we are pretty lucky at our school.”

For students and parents hoping for their favourite teacher, there is the occasional disappointment.

”There’s always that teacher you really hope that your child gets,” said a spokeswoman for the Federation of Parents and Citizens’ Associations of NSW, Rachael Sowden. ”That’s not to say one teacher is better than another teacher but sometimes a particular type of teacher might work better with a particular type of child.”

If a parent was uncomfortable, she said, it was important they communicated their concerns to the school.

”We say, to both schools and parents, transparency is best.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Algal bloom suspected after marine deaths

Water tests … dead fish in Sir Joseph Banks Park.MASSES of dead fish, including carp, mullet and eels, washed up dead in pools next to Botany Bay on Tuesday, possibly because of a blue-green algal bloom.
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The cause is yet to be determined though, and the recent downpour has not been ruled out as a factor, with millions of litres of rainwater flowing down storm drains towards the ocean.

Ponds in Sir Joseph Banks Park, adjacent to Sydney Airport, were littered with hundreds of dead fish.

”The EPA is investigating this fish kill in conjunction with Botany Bay Council,” a spokeswoman for the NSW Environment Protection Authority said.

”The dead fish have been removed and water and fish samples have been taken by council for further analysis.”

The council said it was made aware of potential algae problems in the wetland system last year, and agreed in November to spend $137,000 cleaning up the waterway.

”[The] council is now undertaking further sampling which will test water up to 1.5 metres deep,” the Botany Bay mayor, Ben Keneally, said. ”This will determine if the cause of the fish kill is blue-green algae as originally thought, or another factor.”

Most mass fish kills take place because of low dissolved oxygen levels in water, which stops fish from breathing properly.

This can be caused by floods of muddy water entering rivers or lakes, or algal blooms that soak up oxygen.

According to the Department of Primary Industries, direct water pollution by chemicals or other substances caused about 8 per cent of reported fish kills in NSW in the past 30 years, but it says that proportion seems to be higher in Sydney.

The number of reported fish kills seems to have risen sharply since 2000. In the past month, large-scale kills have been recorded near Menindee in western NSW and at Jervis Bay.

It is unclear how aquatic life around Sydney will fare after the recent heatwave followed by heavy rain.

A senior environmental assessments engineer with the Department of Primary Industries, Marcel Green, said the city’s fish might even benefit from the rain.

”The nature of fish kills is almost impossible to predict because they occur at all sorts of times and conditions,” Mr Green said. ”It is usually a sudden change in conditions that can bring them on, but in the Sydney region I’m hoping it will bring a lot of fresh water in and flush through the system.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.