TWO-time Surfest winner and 1999 world champion Mark Occhilupo believes Newcastle has what it takes to fill the void in Australian surfing and host a prime-rated event next year.
The 46-year-old, who won Surfest in 1986 and 1998, is preparing to compete in the $155,000 six-star World Qualifying Series event in two weeks.
Although not making a full-scale comeback, the popular goofy-footer is keen to keep his ranking high enough to surf at selected events and scratch a competitive itch.
The Gold Coast surfer is also entering the Margaret River Pro, which is the only prime event held in Australia.
Prime events offer $250,000 in prizemoney and are the step just below the elite World Championship Tour.
The Margaret River Pro will become part of the WCT next year, leaving Australia without a prime contest.
Occhilupo said Surfest, which found the financial backing to secure six-star WQS status for the first time last year, was an ideal event to take Margaret River’s prime place.
‘‘I’m just really stoked it’s back to a six-star event now, and hopefully Newcastle might even be a prime next year,’’ Occhilupo said.
‘‘We need more primes in Australia. We should have the same as the other countries, really. We have a lot of events, but we need more bigger ones to give all the kids who want to qualify something to aspire to.’’
Brazil, mainland America and Hawaii have two prime events, while South Africa has one.
Surfest organiser Warren Smith said his event would need a $130,000 boost in support to reach the next level, but he was sure they would tick all the other boxes.
‘‘I’m confident we’d meet all the KPIs for the criteria to be a prime event but dollars would be the big thing,’’ Smith said.
‘‘It’s not only the jump in prizemoney.
‘‘There’s a domino effect with that.
‘‘Things like your sanction fee and international wages all go up.
‘‘But in terms of location and coverage and all the other aspects that make up a prime event, we have all that.’’
Given Surfest has fought hard to secure and retain six-star status, the jump in backing needed for prime rating appears a bridge too far.
Smith said he was ‘‘looking outside the square’’ with his next three-year plan for Surfest and it would focus on building the festival concept.
Regardless, Smith said the vote of confidence from Occhilupo was a boost.
‘‘It’s unbelievable to have his support and it’s not only Occy, a lot of the surfers are saying we need more big events,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s great to have a surfer of Mark Occhilupo’s calibre speaking positively about our event, and he knows what it takes to host a prime.’’
Meanwhile Merewether’s Jesse Adam recorded the highest score of round two at the four-star men’s Burleigh Pro on Tuesday.
Adam earned a best two-wave score of 16.54 to secure a place in round three, which will feature fellow Merewether riders Jake Sylvester and Ryan Callinan.
Merewether’s Philippa Anderson is in round four of the six-star women’s event.
KING OF WAVES: Surfing royalty Mark Occhilupo at Surfest on Merewether beach in 2010. Occy has been competing at the top level since the 1980s. Picture: Simone De Peak
NEWCASTLE Basketball president Ross Lewis hopes to appoint a new Hunters coach by the end of the week so the association can move on from Darren Nichols’s shock resignation.
After coaching Newcastle’s Waratah Basketball League senior men’s team for the past four years, guiding them to the finals for the past three, Nichols has severed ties after falling out with Newcastle Basketball general manager Ivan Spyrdz.
Assistant coach Larry Davidson and team manager Martin Anderson stepped down from their positions with the team to support Nichols’s stance.
Former Hunter Pirates assistant coach Trevor Gallacher, who was to have been Nichols’s other assistant this season, has been appointed interim head coach.
But Lewis said the association had already sounded out several potential permanent replacements.
‘‘Nicko has resigned as coach and we’re moving on, so we’ve got to find another head coach,’’ Lewis told the Newcastle Herald.
‘‘We’ve built a bridge and we’re getting on with it.
‘‘I tried to talk Nicko into staying on, but he was pretty adamant. It’s one of those things that happens so now we’ve got to move on from that.
‘‘We’re speaking to a couple of people about the head coaching position. A couple of them are considering it now and, hopefully, we’ll have a decision this week. That would be good news.’’
The often strained professional relationship between Nichols and Spyrdz had been common knowledge within the inner circle of Newcastle’s basketball community for the past 18 months.
It came to a head on Friday when Nichols, who did not see eye to eye with Spyrdz over a range of issues including recruitment, funding and costs incurred by players to represent the Hunters, contacted Lewis to tender his resignation.
‘‘I really can’t comment on internal club matters,’’ Lewis said. ‘‘But … there are issues between people – that’s going to happen in any organisation where you’ve got a couple of hundred volunteers. There’s always going to be issues. It would be nice if you could please everybody all the time but you just can’t do it.
‘‘Nicko’s got a lot of supporters but most of them are Hunters players and Hunters people, so I don’t think the support base is going anywhere. These things happen and you’ve just got to move on.’’
Spyrdz said yesterday that he was getting on with his duties as general manager and was looking forward to the Hunters senior and junior teams enjoying successful seasons.
‘‘It’s business as usual. We’ll be announcing our men’s and women’s teams in the very near future, so there’s a lot to look forward to,’’ Spyrdz said.
Davidson wants to air his grievances in an appropriate forum.
‘‘I support Nicko and his actions, and like Newcastle Basketball I’m not at liberty to talk openly about what’s gone on, but I would like the opportunity to address the board with not only my concerns but the concerns of the senior program,’’ Davidson said.
‘‘I will speak to Ross Lewis about that, and I’m sure that they would like to speak to Nicko and myself as well.’’
Gallacher said he would speak to players at training tonight and tomorrow to determine their intentions for this season, and he was confident the Hunters would field a competitive team.
He said he could not commit to the coaching position this season as he was completing his final year of university studies and had other commitments, but he was keen to continue as an assistant with whoever Newcastle Basketball appointed to replace Nichols.
‘‘There is still a lot for the Hunters to be positive about in 2013, and we’re trying to deal with this situation as swiftly and respectfully as possible,’’ Gallacher said.
‘‘Each player has a personal decision to make regarding this season, and we’re trying to work through that with every respect for Newcastle Basketball and for coach Nichols.’’
The circumstances surrounding Nichols’s departure have left long-serving player Adam Melmeth disappointed and wondering whether he wanted to keep playing.
‘‘I’m very frustrated with the whole situation. I don’t agree with the way Nicko has been treated and I believe there has been a lack of support for the coaches and the players and the program,’’ Melmeth said.
GONE: Darren Nichols, left, and Larry Davidson have resigned.
Malcolm Grant, right, with teammate Adris Deleon at training. While Wollongong’s play-off hopes remain on a knife-edge, mid-season recruit Malcolm Grant has already declared his desire to stay with the Hawks beyond this season.
Grant has made a major on-court contribution since arriving in Australia, following a season-ending injury to Hawks guard and close friend Lance Hurdle.
The former University of Miami sharp-shooter scored a game high 21 points in the crucial victory over Adelaide, which has maintained the gap over the Melbourne Tigers.
Facing off against the Tigers in Wollongong on Friday night, Grant said the Hawks wanted the chance to be part of a title-contending force this year and in the future.
Complete coverage of the Wollongong Hawks
‘‘Definitely,’’ Grant said.
‘‘If they will have me and things are going right, I would definitely like to stay out here.
‘‘That’s if it all goes according to plan, it’s one of those things, but the people out here are wonderful and [the Hawks] are so good to me since I’ve been here.
‘‘I would love to stay.’’
With their season on the slide, the Hawks’ crippling injury toll led to their SOS for Grant.
A knee injury forced Glen Saville to retire last week after 19 seasons, while Rhys Martin and Hurdle have both been sidelined until the end of the year.
Larry Davidson, Tim Coenraad and Tyson Demos have been among the other injury concerns.
On the recommendation of Hurdle and former Hawks league MVP Gary Ervin – now with Townsville – Grant filled the yawning gap in Wollongong’s roster.
While Grant and Adris Deleon are in charge of leading a renewed surge to the finals series, it now provides a fascinating sub-plot about who will remain on deck at the end of the season.
The Hawks, like most NBL clubs, have had mixed success attracting talented imports. Ervin was a standout, while Ty McKee proved a hit before his off-court misdemeanours saw him leave the club. But the Hawks struggled with Showron Glover and Ayinde Ubaka last season.
Grant said coach Gordie McLeod had played an important role in preventing the Hawks’ season from falling apart.
‘‘When you have a great coach like we have and I’ve only been here a short period of time, but I know that he’s been very positive,’’ Grant said.
‘‘He’s a leader and if he’s being positive it trickles down through the team, it’s something I admire about him.’’
With eight games remaining, including five at home, Grant is determined to ensure Wollongong makes the final four in March and April.
‘‘I think I’ve adjusted pretty well, I’m still used to the [Hawks] plays, I’m still getting them down pat,’’ he said.
‘‘We have the opportunity to be in the play-offs, we just have to take care of business.’’
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.
COAL shipments from the North West are set to grind to a halt on Friday, costing the mining industry dearly, if train drivers walk off the job as planned.
The region’s biggest coalminer says a proposed rail staff strike planned to start on Friday could cause significant damage.
It will be the second major disruption to Whitehaven Coal’s rail transport link to the port of Newcastle in the past two months.
Whitehaven is responding to threats of industrial action made against its coal hauler, Pacific National, by the Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) after wage negotiations with the company broke down.
The union informed Pacific National, one of the country’s biggest coal haulage operators, of its intention to stage a one-day strike beginning noon Friday.
Late yesterday afternoon, it is understood the union extended the strike from 24 to 48 hours.
One industry expert estimated a 24-hour shutdown could prevent 300,000 tonnes of the state’s coal from reaching port – costing more than $25 million to the economy.
Just weeks before a Christmas shipment of the company’s coal was en route to Newcastle when six fully-laden coal wagons on a Pacific National train derailed at the Coxs Creek bridge crossing near Boggabri on November 28.
The bridge was damaged and required extensive repairs before freight trains returned to service. The cause of the derailment has not yet been disclosed.
The 22-day closure of the north western line caused a backlog of tonnes of coal, from four mines in the region, along with agricultural commodities which are transported out of Narrabri.
While a two day strike is by no means as damaging as the pre-Christmas closure of the rail line, Whitehaven says it has cause for concern.
Whitehaven managing director Tony Haggarty said the proposed action had the potential to cause significant harm and, accordingly, the company had requested the union to withdraw its strike notice.
“Whitehaven has advised the Rail, Tram and Bus Union that it considers the potential impact that this, or future industrial action, may have on its operations is extremely serious,” Mr Haggarty said.
He warned the union that Whitehaven reserved all its rights to make any necessary application to the Fair Work Commission.
Mr Haggarty said it wasn’t appropriate to comment on the negotiations between the RTBU or Pacific National, or on the details of any application it could make to the commission.
Negotiations between the rail operator and union had broken down after a year-long pay dispute over wages.
It is understood the RTBU wanted an increase of about 7 per cent while Pacific National offered 4 per cent, before walking out of negotiations last week.
BRAKE APPLIED: A coal train passes through Branxton on its way to Newcastle. Train drivers have said they will walk off the job.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.
NAMES: ALP powerbroker Eddie Obeid leaves the ICAC after giving evidence. Picture: Dallas KilponenTHREE of Labor’s most senior politicians – federal Environment Minister Tony Burke, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy and NSW Opposition Leader John Robertson – have been dragged into a corruption probe after admitting they accepted lavish ski trips from the ALP powerbroker Eddie Obeid.
In his final few moments in the witness box at the Independent Commission Against Corruption yesterday, Mr Obeid named six senior Labor figures he claimed had accepted thousands of dollars worth of hospitality from his family in a lodge at the Perisher ski resort.
Mr Obeid was being questioned about his generosity to former state mining minister Ian Macdonald, who is accused of providing the Obeid family confidential information about a government coal tender.
Mr Macdonald was given a rent-free holiday at the Obeids’ three-bedroom ski lodge, The Stables at Perisher, which costs more than $7500 a week in peak season.
The Obeids also picked up Mr Macdonald’s meal tab.
Mr Obeid denied providing such hospitality was to create obligations on behalf of other people.
‘‘We’re generous people and we like to share our generosity with our friends,’’ he said.
Mr Obeid added that he thought the federal Workplace Minister, Bill Shorten, had enjoyed a holiday on the slopes with Mr Burke.
Mr Obeid was mistaken. It was not Mr Shorten, who doesn’t ski, it was his colleague Mr Conroy, who said last night: ‘‘I wish to declare one stay for two days at this apartment in either 2005 or 2006’’.
Mr Burke said: ‘‘Given the media interest which has emerged today, I declare two separate stays at this accommodation in the period 2004 to 2006’’.
Both Mr Burke and Mr Conroy said the Obeid family was not present during the stays.
Mr Obeid said the former NSW premier Morris Iemma, the former NSW minister Carl Scully and the former federal minister turned lobbyist Mark Arbib had all stayed at The Stables lodge.
Mr Iemma denied the claim. Mr Scully said he stayed there twice but ‘‘as this was from a fellow parliamentary colleague I did not at the time believe I was required to declare it in the pecuniary interest register’’.
Mr Robertson and Mr Arbib confirmed they had accepted Mr Obeid’s hospitality, but said it was before they entered Parliament.
Mr Robertson said his trip, with his family, occurred in 2007 when he was the head of Unions NSW.
He said no politicians or members of the Obeid family were present.
Mr Obeid’s testimony came as a result of a two-year investigation undertaken by the ICAC into an allegedly corrupt 2008 coal licence tender run by Mr Macdonald that led to windfall gains for the Obeid family of more than $75 million.
During his second day of interrogation by counsel assisting the inquiry, Geoffrey Watson SC, Mr Obeid was grilled about his own pecuniary interest declaration, which made no mention of the millions of dollars flowing from the Obeid family trust, of which he and his wife were the ultimate beneficiaries.
Mr Obeid repeatedly declared he did not know and could not explain the workings of the accounts – including how it was that payments made to his family’s business partners, its staff and even to himself were channelled through his wife’s loan account.
Although he said he had trained and worked as an accountant early in his career, Mr Obeid said: ‘‘I have no knowledge of these accounts.’’
Taking Mr Obeid through page after page of mysterious account entries, counsel assisting the inquiry, Geoffrey Watson SC, remarked: ‘‘It looks shonky, doesn’t it?’’
‘‘I don’t believe my family does anything shonky,’’ Mr Obeid replied, becoming increasingly angry at the questions being asked of him. This was despite the fact he had not declared the $2.3 million he had drawn from his family trust between 2001 and 2011.
Asked how he had managed to ‘‘squirrel away’’ from his MP’s salary (the only income listed in his parliamentary assets register) hundreds of thousands of dollars, as reflected in his family trust loan account, he snapped: ‘‘Don’t squirrel me. I’ve spent more money than you have made in a lifetime.’’
When Commissioner David Ipp asked him where that money had come from, he said he had been very successful in business and had ‘‘more money than you could imagine’’ before he went into Parliament in 1990, after handing control of the family business to his sons.
Corruption watchdog airs family’s dirty laundry
By ANNE DAVIES
FINALLY the Independent Commission Against Corruption has got down to the Obeid’s dirty laundry – literally.
As the corruption watchdog tries to unscramble the accounts of the Obeid empire, what’s emerged is a picture that is both mundane and exotic.
At the heart of it are several trust funds that lend Obeid family members money to support their lifestyles.
Each member appears to have a loan account which they draw upon to pay for luxury cars, houses in Sydney’s prestigious suburbs, credit cards and holidays.
ICAC has now turned its sights on Mr Obeid senior’s financial arrangements and those of his wife Judith, casting real doubt on Mr Obeid’s claims for the last decade that he had no other income other than his parliamentary salary.
Let’s start with the exotic. The commission wanted to know about nearly $30,000 paid to Rydges Port Macquarie in 2007 by the trust from Judith Obeid’s loan account.
‘‘You’re talking nine families and we own one unit and you’re talking rotating each 10 days,’’ Mr Obeid explained.
Then there was the mundane: the Obeid dry cleaning. It is apparently dropped at Hunters Hill newsagent by his wife, who then pays for it via a loan account through the Obeid Family Trust No.1.
Mrs Obeid has racked up $1.7million in loans to the trust even though she has no employment outside the home.
Also under scrutiny was Mr Obeid’s loan account. In 2001 it held $1.6million. But it was drawn down as Mr Obeid bought a unit in Port Macquarie, and drew down funds, often in $10,000 increments.