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NRL puts competition expansion on agenda

NRL puts competition expansion on agenda

NRL boss Todd Greenberg says the organisation will consider expansion plans over the next 12 months.The NRL has taken up the fight to the A-League, putting expansion firmly on the agenda.
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On the same day Football Federation announced plans to add two side in 2020-21, NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg said he expected to know by this time next year whether it was viable to add two franchises to the 16-team competition.

The NRL will undertake an analysis of whether such a move is feasible and to consider questions including whether the standard of the competition would be watered down, the impact on participation, financial costs and the will of broadcasters Fox Sports and Channel Nine.

"What we'll do is spend 12 months putting a lot of analysis together to consider whether we make a recommendation to the commission about what the future footprint looks like beyond the next broadcast cycle," Greenberg said.

"There's some very big questions for us to answer."

Greenberg said any possible expansion would not happen before the expiry of the current broadcast deal which runs until 2022.

"To be fair and honest it's going to take that long to even consider a future footprint - where you would invest and how you would do it?"

A second Brisbane side and Perth are widely considered the front-runners to receive franchises should the NRL expand while Queensland's western corridor, central Queensland and New Zealand's capital Wellington have also been touted as options.

During his first press conference in the job, ARLC chairman Peter Beattie famously said the game must "expand or die" however his rhetoric has since softened.

Another option is for sides to be relocated should they fall into financial hardship with the NRL stating they would not be bailing out any clubs which come begging with cap in hand.

The NRL has had to come to the rescue of the Wests Tigers, Gold Coast and St George Illawarra in recent years.

Greenberg said following the new club funding agreement - which gives each franchise 130 per cent of the value of the salary cap each year - they don't have the money to prop up failing sides.

"It's up to clubs to run their businesses effectively and sustainably and if not there will be consequences," Greenberg said.

"Those consequences used to be us coming in and helping them, that won't be the case in the next period."



Lockheed Martin announce partnership with Newcastle education institutions

Lockheed Martin announce partnership with Newcastle education institutions

TRY IN THE SKY: San Clemente High School student Kasey Cole tries out a F-35 flight simulator at the Lockheed Martin Technology Expo. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers A partnership between Newcastle education institutions and Lockheed Martin, the company delivering ’s new F-35 fighter jets, will see students undertake trainingspecifically suited to a futurecareer inthe company.
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The project involving Lockheed Martin, the University of Newcastle, TAFE NSW and Regional Development Hunter (RDA Hunter)was announced during a careers expo for high school studentsat Williamtown’s Fighter World on Thursday.

“Lockheed Martin’s future workforce requirements are a little bit niche compared to other defenceindustry players,” Rick Evans, RDA Hunter workforce manager said.

“So we’ve done partnerships with a vocational training institution and a university. It’s utilising existing courses and enhancing them.”

DREAMS: Lavendel Seguin, a Year 9 students at San Clemente High School, with an F-35 flight simulator in the background. She hopes to become a pilot. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

Mr Evans said the TAFE NSW partnership“STEMstart”wouldtrain16 studentseach year for three years in “ICT and cyber security”,from nextApril.

“It’s an 18 month training program with as much integration with Lockheed Martin and other related companiesuntil the end of the project, coming out with a Diploma of Information and CommunicationTechnology,” hesaid.

Jobs are not guaranteed at the end of the program but the intakeof students wasbased on the company’s“projected needs”, anRDA Hunter spokespersonsaid.

Details of the university program “Altitude Accord”would be released next yearbutit would include a“number” of scholarships, Mr Evans said.

Vince Di Pietro,Lockheed Martin ’s chief executive,said it was in the company’s best interest to “raise the technology base in this region”.

Visit Regional Development Hunter for more information.

Related stories:

The moment the first F-35A jets touched down at Williamtown | Photos, videoHunter students top state in three Higher School Certificate subjects

SA budget in black despite falling revenue

SA budget in black despite falling revenue

SA Treasurer Rob Lucas has announced lower surpluses for the state budget in his mid-year review.Falling tax revenues will hit the South n budget over the coming years but the state's finances will stay in the black, Treasurer Rob Lucas has revealed.
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The government's mid-year budget review says tax revenues will be down by $79 million over the forward estimates, mostly from a slump in the housing market.

But the government says it is still on track to deliver a $40.1 million surplus in 2018/19, down from the $48 million forecast when the budget was delivered in September.

Surpluses over the coming years will also be lower than originally projected and are now expected to come in at $95 million in 2019/20, $96 million in 2020/21 and $189 million in 2021/2022.

"We're quite intent on delivering modest budget surpluses," Mr Lucas told reporters on Thursday.

"All we're seeking to do is to spend no more than we earn."

The budget review has forecast slightly lower economic growth in 2018/19, reflecting the impact of the drought.

But growth is expected to be correspondingly higher the following year.

And while property taxes will be down, treasury has tipped payroll taxes to be higher, and the government will get an extra $41 million in 2021/22 in GST returns.

It's also saved $37 million after a decision not to go ahead with the controversial right-hand-turn for the North Terrace tramline, funds it will reallocate in the 2019/20 budget.

Extra spending in the budget review includes $48 million for government schools from 2020/21, under the agreement with the federal government, $34 million over four years to meet the cost of children in state care and $102 million over two years for the plan to fix the problems within the public hospital and health network.

Despite the lower budget surplus, Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas said the government should scraps its cuts to government services and programs, given the result of the mid-year review.

"The Liberal government has no excuses for keeping their cruel cuts, closures and privatisations," Mr Malinauskas said.



Macarthur SWS stirring up Sydney rivals

Macarthur SWS stirring up Sydney rivals

Former Socceroos captain Mile Jedinak is expected to be a marquee target for Macarthur SWS.Macarthur South West Sydney haven't started their A-League life yet but they have already sparked rivalry within n football's biggest market.
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The unsuccessful Sydney candidate Southern Expansion expressed disappointment that Football Federation (FFA) voted against its own metrics and data by going with the Macarthur bid.

Macarthur SWS director Gino Barra said his club would have been ready to enter the A-League next season along with Western Melbourne, the other successful bidder, but they were happy to start in 2020-21.

Barra said his club would be massive on-field competitors with Western Sydney, but great mates off the field.

"That's the only real growth corridor within Sydney and it will continue to be that so I expect the western Sydney derby to be the biggest derby in town,' Barra said.

Sydney FC midfielder Brandon O'Neill doubted the status of the Sky Blues derbies with the Wanderers would be threatened by the emergence of another Western Sydney club.

"No matter what Sydney team came into it they would have a lot to uphold in terms of the matches being played, the intensity of the game, the atmosphere of the crowd," O'Neill said from ANZ Stadium, where Sydney and the Wanderers play on Saturday.

"We had a round one game here (in 2016), 61,880 people and it was incredible, so I think our derby will still be the main one."

Barra said a community forum would help determine the names and colours of his club and he hoped to announce the results within the next couple of weeks.

He confirmed former Socceroos captain and western Sydney product Mile Jedinak would be a potential target.

"Mile and me go back along way, so the chances of him coming back are strengthened by this (successful) bid," said Macarthur SWS director Sam Krslovic.

Krslovic was a former president of Sydney United, the NSL club Jedinak captained.

Barra said the club would look locally for their their inaugural coach.

'We'll be looking to appoint sooner rather than later as the coach needs to drive the recruitment and be the face of the club,'" Barra said.

Wanderers' players weren't concerned about having a nearby rival.

"It's going to create some divide between the two teams and fans, but that's football," Wanderers' midfielder Keanu Baccus said.

They weren't worried about possibly losing supporters to a neighbouring club.

"We've got a very passionate supporting base already, they've been very loyal to us and as long as we keep doing the right thing, doing well then, I think we'll have all the fans there," Wanderers' Jordan O'Doherty said.

Southern Expansion had $20 million cash up-front deposited in an n bank account for the licence fee and committed $3 million for marquee players.

"Unfortunately, it will now take at least a decade of projected growth elsewhere in Sydney to even come close to what Southern had put on the table," Expansion chief executive Chris Gardiner said.

"If FFA wanted immediate success for A-League expansion, it's surprising that they've voted against Southern Expansion.



Vic bus driver injured six, court told

Vic bus driver injured six, court told

Jack Aston has been convicted of injuring six people when driving his bus into a Melbourne overpass.A bus driver showed "flagrant inattention" when he negligently drove a bus into the Montague Street bridge, seriously injuring six of his passengers, a Melbourne court has heard.
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Jack Aston, 55, appeared in the County Court on Thursday for a plea hearing after being found guilty by a jury of negligently causing serious injury to six passengers when he drove into the bridge in 2016.

The court was told the Ballarat resident and Gold Bus driver was confused, new to the job and on a new route when he crashed into the "unexpectedly low bridge".

But Judge Bill Stuart said drivers must be alert to the "vagaries and the ever-changing risks" in the course of everyday driving.

"Possibly the most damning evidence against him was the observation of one of the witnesses ... of the imminent collision," he said.

"She saw it, he didn't and I don't get that.

"He had 14 passengers on board and of whom six were seriously injured. They were literally, in so far as he was the driver, in his care."

Judge Stuart said it was an unusual case in that Aston wasn't speeding, alcohol affected or distracted by his phone, but he had formed an almost "tunnel vision focus" and a "criminal lack of attention".

Defence barrister Richard Edney argued the bridge, built in the 19th century, was an ongoing problem for VicRoads and Melbourne drivers.

Character witness, Gold Bus company director Donald McKenzie, told the court Aston was a "good man" and should have been given better warning about the route and the bridge.

The hearing continues.



PM Morrison’s pitch to religious voters

PM Morrison’s pitch to religious voters

If voters are still listening to Scott Morrison he had a lot to tell them this week.If voters are still listening to Scott Morrison he had a bunch to tell them.
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In five days the prime minister rolled out billions of dollars in health spending, the site of a new space agency, and a deal with the states to work closely on migration.

Morrison was at the unveiling of plans for a major steel plant expansion, which could become the biggest steel plant in the world.

And on Thursday he announced a new anti-corruption body and a new religious discrimination act.

We're in cricket season and Morrison is getting runs on the board.

The "announceables" are a mix of the prime minister's own agenda and leftovers from Malcolm Turnbull's reign.

One of those leftovers is the new religious discrimination laws, which stem from Philip Ruddock's religious freedom report.

It sat with the government for seven months before Morrison's announcement on Thursday.

"For those who think that ns of religious faith don't feel that the walls have been closing in on them for a while, they're clearly not talking to many people in religious communities," Morrison told reporters.

The religious freedom review was a ticking time bomb for Turnbull, who was never passionate about it - being a conservative pay-off following the same-sex marriage vote.

But Morrison sees something else.

A church-going Christian, Morrison pitched to the 70 per cent of ns who identify with a faith.

"If you look at some of our largest, our most long established, as well as some of our most recent arrivals to , the proportion of those in those communities expressing an identification with a religious belief is far higher," he said.

That includes 95 per cent of Indian-born ns, Greek ns, and Filipino ns, and more than 90 per cent of Italian and Lebanese ns.

The Liberal party has long had problems getting a strong Middle Eastern and Asian-n vote.

But Eastern Europeans have been shown in political research to be more comfortable voting conservative.

Where Turnbull saw problems with the religious freedom review, Morrison sees an opportunity to win over voters who care about their faith and don't want to be told they can't practice it.

But he seemed less convinced about the other major policy he announced on Thursday - the Commonwealth Integrity Commission.

Turnbull pushed ahead with work on it while he was prime minister, even as many in his party room argued against it.

A couple of weeks ago Morrison described it as "fringe issue", and yet there he was announcing it after 11 months of work.

"We haven't kicked up a lot of dust about this because we've just been working on it," he said.

He had some choice words for the NSW version, ICAC, which has been attacked as a "kangaroo court" or a "star chamber" running show trials where guilt was already presumed.

Morrison's version of an anti-corruption body can't initiate its own investigations, and can only hold public hearings in certain circumstances.

But the prime minister could see an opportunity in this too.

Public support for a national anti-corruption watchdog is above 80 per cent. It's highest among Liberal voters, according to a recent Essential poll.

When the history of the Morrison government is written, Thursday's announcements might be two of the prime minister's most significant achievements.

Because as it stands, 'The Morrison Months' will not be a long read.

Labor is heading into its national conference solidly ahead in the polls, and Bill Shorten is looking to avoid factional brawls ahead of the May election.

Morrison has been pushing Shorten hard on border protection, but Labor sources suggest there might not even be much of a fight on it at the conference.

Shorten is promising bigger personal tax cuts, more spending on education, and he wants to make it easier for first home buyers to get into the market.

Morrison can count on the government's strong economic record, and on Monday will likely unveil the first budget surplus in 12 years.

But while the polls suggest voters have stopped listening, Morrison's wheels will keep spinning until he gets some traction in the electorate.



Roar ready for Victory A-League challenge

Roar ready for Victory A-League challenge

John Aloisi says his struggling A-League side Brisbane Roar can hit back against Melbourne Victory.Facing an in-form Melbourne Victory is exactly the kind of challenge Brisbane coach John Aloisi believes his out-of-sorts A-League team needs.
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The Roar have slumped to second-last on the competition ladder after last weekend's disappointing 2-0 loss to Newcastle and have just one win from seven matches this season.

In contrast, the Victory have stormed to second on the ladder on the back of five consecutive wins with Japanese star Keisuke Honda and Swedish striker Ola Toivenen fitting in seamlessly at the defending A-League champions.

While it may have all the hallmarks of a mismatch, Aloisi says his team is excited to prove the doubters wrong at Suncorp Stadium.

"We know we've got a side that can beat Victory and that's what we'll try and do," the ex-Socceroo said.

"It's actually come at a good time because of our loss last week and we're looking forward to playing against Victory. We know they're a good side. We know they've won five in a row but that makes it that extra bit special."

The Roar will be boosted by the return of Stefan Mauk after the attacking midfielder missed the Jets defeat due to suspension.

Leading scorer Adam Taggart is also likely to start after having to come off the bench in Newcastle due to a groin strain.

Aloisi remains hopeful if the pair can spend time together on the pitch, they will blossom into a crucial partnership for the club.

"Stef Mauk, we bought him for a reason, because he does link up well with midfield into the front third," he said.

"You saw that when did play with Adam Taggart, they've got a great understanding.

"We can't go get a Honda but we can go and get a young talented n and hopefully help them develop into big stars and that's what we're trying to do."

The Victory head north with imports Georg Niedermeier (ankle) and Raul Baena (hamstring), who have both been ruled out through injury.

Carl Valeri will continue to fill in for Baena while Nick Ansell is expected to slot into the backline in place of Niedermeier.

KEY MATCH FACTS

* Despite failing to score a first-half goal in each of their past four games against the Victory at Suncorp Stadium, the Roar have won two and drawn one of those matches.

* Brisbane are undefeated in their past five matches at home, including their only win so far this season against Melbourne City.

* Victory's 16 goals in seven matches is the highest in the league with Keisuke Honda (four goals, three assists) involved in as many goals alone as the Roar have so far managed in total this season.



Billings backs Saints recruit Hannebery

Billings backs Saints recruit Hannebery

Jack Billings was the No.3 draft pick by St Kilda and has played 85 AFL games for 64 goals.St Kilda's Jack Billings believes Dan Hannebery is going to be a huge addition to the AFL club, both on and off the field, describing him as a "bull at a gate".
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Hannebery joined the struggling Saints with a question mark over his body but Billings says the veteran midfielder appears in great shape.

A three-time All n, Hannebery has dealt with groin and calf injuries which has seen his form dip in recent seasons.

"Out on the track he's been pretty sharp and he looks good to me," Billings said.

"The medical staff are being really diligent with his program to have him primed for March-April."

Billings said Hannebery's experience and leadership was already being felt around the club, desperate to improve on their disappointing 16th-place finish this year.

"He's a bull at a gate, which is great to have around the club," Billings said.

"He's come from a successful program and has won a flag so he knows what it takes.

"There will be a lot of talk around his performance on field but I think the biggest impact he will have next year will be stuff that you can't really see, it will be on the guys around him."

Billings said he was looking for more consistency in his own game after a slow start to 2018 saw him dropped to the VFL for a week.

He said he hoped to spend more time in the midfield.

"I think I can really help through the midfield but I'm going to have to work really hard over the summer and show Richo and the coaches that I need to spend more time there," the 23-year-old said.

"But I definitely still like the combination of playing midfield and forward and I think that's one of my strengths."

Billings is out contract at the end of 2019 but said he wasn't in any rush to get a new deal done.

"Obviously I love the club and I'm going to give it my best," he said.

"I'm looking forward to next year, so hopefully when the time comes I'll work things out."



‘Deceptive’ NSW killer jailed for 24 years

‘Deceptive’ NSW killer jailed for 24 years

John Gasovski was shot once in the head in Illawarra bushland in mid-2014.A "master deceiver" who shot a man dead in NSW's Illawarra region to cover up his lies about a nonexistent cannabis haul has been jailed for at least 24 years.
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Truck driver Glen Roland Dunstall, 50, was found guilty by a jury in October of the execution-style murder of 48-year-old John Gasovski, who was shot above his ear at close range in Budderoo National Park in mid-2014.

In the NSW Supreme Court on Thursday, Justice Richard Button jailed Dunstall for 32 years with a non-parole period of 24 years, saying the killer was "partly motivated by fear of retribution".

"The offender believed that he had, through that act of the utmost heartless brutality, solved the financial problem that he himself had created," the judge said.

"He was content to leave the body of the deceased where he had fallen to decompose, just like the body of a dead animal."

Mr Gasovski's body was found by a park ranger at Jamberoo three days after his wife reported him missing.

He came to know Dunstall through criminal associates but was "on the edge" of that world, Justice Button said.

A high-level drug dealer paid Dunstall $45,000 in "green-keeping" fees - in the hope of making a profit through onselling - after the then-45-year-old said he could get a large amount of cannabis from a Canberra warehouse.

The drugs didn't exist, but Dunstall provided misleading photos to suggest otherwise.

"Pressure began to build on the offender to make good on his claim that he could facilitate the supply ... for which the purchase price was proposed to be $300,000," the judge said.

At the time, Mr Gasovski "foresaw a very difficult financial future" for his family after a failed investment and became a "gopher" for a cafe owner associated with the dealer.

It was arranged Dunstall would travel from Wagga Wagga to meet Mr Gasovski at Sutton Forest petrol station, then the pair would get the drugs from Canberra and Mr Gasovski would pass them on.

While the victim believed the arrangement was genuine, Dunstall had armed himself with a gun, the judge said.

He convinced Mr Gasovski the plan had changed and to drive to Jamberoo instead.

Once they arrived, Dunstall "somehow inveigled" the victim to walk into the bush where he was shot.

"The men were together for a good half hour, during which, unbeknown to the deceased, the offender maintained the firm intention that his companion would shortly be callously murdered," Justice Button said.

The judge said Dunstall had decided to falsely claim the cannabis had been supplied to Mr Gasovski and, once he was missing, further say he had "either made off with the cannabis himself or been robbed by a third party".

He labelled Dunstall a decades-long "practised, chronic, recidivist" and "master deceiver" convicted of offences in NSW, Victoria and the ACT.

Dunstall's sentence was backdated meaning he'll be eligible for parole in May 2039.



Demetriou reunited with Bennett at Souths

Demetriou reunited with Bennett at Souths

NRL coaching assistant Jason Demetriou will reunite with Wayne Bennett at South Sydney.A week after being dumped by Brisbane, ex-Broncos assistant Jason Demetriou has reunited with Wayne Bennett as part of South Sydney's new-look support staff for 2019.
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Demetriou has signed a three-year deal to again be Bennett's right-hand man, joining Willie Peters who has been promoted from development coach to Rabbitohs assistant.

The NRL club's former strength and conditioning boss Jarrod Wade is now South Sydney's head of performance under Bennett.

Demetriou's NRL career appeared in limbo when he was dumped last week by Brisbane the day former Rabbitohs mentor Anthony Seibold took over the Broncos reins.

Groomed by Bennett to replace the master coach at Red Hill, Demetriou was one of the high-profile victims of a month-long coach swap saga that embroiled South Sydney and Brisbane.

There was no room for Demetriou after Bennett was sacked by voice message and replaced by Seibold, who brought with him assistants Peter Gentle and Ben Cross, plus high performance manager Paul Devlin.

However, Bennett has welcomed Demetriou to Redfern as the replacement for Rabbitohs assistant David Furner who is now head coach of UK Super League heavyweights Leeds.

"We conducted an extensive search and interview process for our assistant coach role and Jason was the best candidate," Rabbitohs football manager Shane Richardson said.

"Jason is highly regarded as a coach in rugby league circles and comes highly recommended from coaching counterparts as well as many of the players he coached at Brisbane, North Queensland and St George Illawarra."

"We're delighted to have Jason, Willie and Jarrod on board, and we know they will give their all in support of Wayne and the team."

The future of Bennett's remaining former Broncos staff members - high-performance boss Jeremy Hickmans, analyst Scott Barker and sports scientist Tannath Scott - is unclear.