$72,000 worth of missing invoices in confidential audit of Awabakal finances by PKF

PUZZLED: Former Awabakal board members Debbie Dates and Richard Green say they had not been made aware of any missing invoices and all transactions were “accountable for”. INVOICES fortransactions worth more than $70,000 have vanished, according to an audit of financial statements for theAwabakal Local AboriginalLand Council.

The confidential audit by PKF –seen by theNewcastle Herald–also raisesconcerns about “inconclusive audit evidence” and “material inconsistencies” in the land council’s finances that “remained unresolved”.

As a result, the accounting firmwas unable to fulfillits obligation to form an opinion on the land council’s finances.

It has also referred the financial statements to the Independent Commission against Corruption (ICAC).

The audit was for the 2015/16 financial year, a period before Terry Lawler was installed as administrator and Rob Russell was appointed the land council’s chief executive.

The state government placed the land council into administration last October, after an investigation found it was responsible for”substantial breaches” of the Land Rights Act.

When contacted, Mr Russell strongly objected to the publication of the contents of the audit, saying it was a matter for Awabakal members only. He refused to offer any further comment.

As part of the audit, invoices worth $73,255 were selected for review, but according to PKF, were unable to be provided.

“Therefore, we were unable to obtain sufficient appropriate audit evidence to support the validity of these transactions,” the report stated.

“Furthermore, there may be other payments that were not selected for testing where supporting evidence may not be found.”

The audit is understood to have been presented to a meeting of Awabakal members but former chair of the board, Debbie Dates, and deputy chair, Richard Green, both said they had not been informed of any missing invoices.

“Everything is accountable for, all the invoices are in the office,” Ms Dates said. “If they’re standing up and saying this and that, show us the proof.”

It’s understood a meeting of Awabakal members had to be abandoned last month, after it descended into chaos.

“I got up asking a question and the meeting was shut down,” Ms Dates said.

“ICAC was on the agenda and the post office. We were asking questions and it was shut down. If anyone is going to ICAC, why don’t they tell them?”

When contacted by theHerald, Mr Green said it was the first he had heard of the missing invoices.

“They’ve spent $300,000 of Aboriginal land council money doing the investigation [into the land council] and nothing has come out of it,” he said.

“The state land councils and the ministers, they have sent a lot of these investigators into these land councils. Instead of helping them, they do investigations into them so they can make money out of the Aboriginal people and take their funding. It’s been happening for 40 years.”

The document shows the land council made a loss of $930,474 in 2015/16, coming off the back of a $1.5m profit in the financial year prior.

The bumper result in 2014/15 was largely due to successful land claims, valued at $1.28 million, and profit on the sale of property, plant and equipment.

The land council paid $137,539 for repairs and maintenance in 2015/16, more than double what it had paid the year beforehand ($61,639). The land council’s cash reserves at the bank fell from just over $1 million to $461,921.

The audit indicated there were still 218 undecided land claims across the city. “If granted, this will significantly increase Awabakal LALC net worth,” it said.

However Lands Minister Paul Toole would not confirm the status of land claims known to have been lodged at King Edward Park, the entrance to Newcastle Harbour and James Fletcher Park.

“A comprehensive and exhaustive investigation on every claim is required. These claims that you asked about are progressing and are at various stages of investigation,” a spokesperson for Mr Toole said.

A number of Awabakal properties –including the former post office and land at Warners Bay and Waratah’s Braye Park – have become embroiled in lawsuits launched against the land council by developers. Court orders exist preventing the sale of the land.

Cameron Handicap: Got Unders delivers fairytale win for rookie Newcastle trainervideo, photos

Rookie Newcastle trainer Jay Hopkins made a direct hit with his second shot when veteran Got Unders claimed a breakthrough group race victory in the Cameron Handicap (1500m) on Friday.

PLEASANT SURPRISE: Newcastle owner-trainer Jay Hopkins, right, receives the Cameron Handicap silverware from NJC director Mike Hadaway after Got Unders’ victory on Friday. Pictures: Jonathan Carroll

Got Unders was a surprise second to Happy Clapper in the group 3 Newcastle Newmarket in March this year for Hopkins, who has only six horses in work and has been training for abouta year.

Despite a poor last-start performancewhen 13th at Rosehill on Saturday, the eight-year-old geldingwas entered for the group 3 $150,000 Cameron in what Hopkins said was “a throw at the stumps” on his home track.

Given a saloon passage by jockey Tim Clark into the race behind the Kris Lees-trained topweightSound Proposition, the $26 chance wore downthe New Zealand group 1 winnerto get the nodon the post.

It was Hopkins’ first group race win, at his second attempt, and the $84,000 prize was easily his biggest so far.

The Jay Hopkins-trained Got Unders causes an upset in the G3 Cameron Handicap at #Newcastle, nosing pout Sound Proposition. pic.twitter成都夜网/qGXoCHYztg

— Sky Racing (@SkyRacingAU) September 15, 2017What a thrill for local trainer Jay Hopkins, winning the G3 Cameron Handicap with Got Unders. Congratulations! 👏 pic.twitter成都夜网/2gOJUod8N6

— Sky Racing (@SkyRacingAU) September 15, 2017

“I was probably going out to the bush somewhere.”

Hopkins’ family made the trip from Coffs Harbour to watch their horse run in the Newmarket but were not at the track on Friday.

“A few of them are sick. Mum and Dad have the flu, so thatshould cheer them up,” he said.

“I said,‘It will do something today because there’s no one here’.

“They are all in it.They’d had a few horsesbefore but they were all no good until this one.”

The seventh win in 52 starts took Got Unders’ prizemoney past $400,000.

Lees was pleased with the effort of Sound Proposition, which started as the $3.70 second favourite and workedfour wide early to sit outside pacesetter Special Missile ($2.70).

Carrying 59 kilograms, Sound Proposition gave away 5kg to Got Unders and the difference told at the finish.

Lees said the Epsom Handicap remained a possibility for Sound Proposition, which finished almost five lengths clear of next best, Godolphin’s Spectroscope.

The John Thompson-trained favourite Special Missile, which was on a five-race winning streak into its first black-type assignment, faded to finish fourth.

“Special Missile has had enough, he’s had a long prep and he’s done very well,” Thompson said.

Butts: Mums the word, NRL

Butts: Mums the word, NRL LOOK WHO’S WATCHING: Sharks fans before their NRL semi-final against the North Queensland Cowboys at Sydney’s Allianz Stadium on Sunday. Picture: AAP

TweetFacebookLast week’s semis were all worthy of the final stages of a long season.

Key match-ups, last-ditch finishes and enough controversy to hopefully excite crowds for the two sudden-death elimination matches this weekend.

On the point of crowds, I imagine the game’s senior management would be scratching their heads wondering where all the fans have gone.Against the 235,000 supportersour AFL counterparts attracted, week one of the NRL finals drew a combined 76,000.

One might have expected more from supporters of the fiveSydneyclubs involved,particularly when the Roosters game was effectivelya home semiand the three others were playing sudden death.

All in alla massive fail that seems to support the view that there are too many teams in Sydney.

Personally, I don’t need big crowds to enjoy footy, but it does add to the overall experience enjoyed and perception of costumer value.

Digging a little deeper, one metric of strategic performance akin to a canary in a coal mine is the number of mums on seats. This is where AFL dominates. But why “mums”?

Without wishing to appear outdated, in many households mum is the gatekeeper to dad’s dollars and the kids’ loyalty and affection.

This divine power extends to whether little Bobby plays junior league, AFL or soccer, and, in so doing, setting he or she on a path of lifetime interest and, perhaps, investment in that sport. Whether that’s Foxtel subscription, the latest jersey or tickets and a pie at the finals, future purchase decisions are influenced by this primary producer.

In these circumstances she, or he, is the key to the requisite mass appeal that drives broadcast revenue and, therein, the professional game’s very survival.

So come on, Mr Greenberg.Mums aren’t feeling the love with our game, and it’s hurting.The game is in decline on your watch and it’s time to lead, follow or get out of the way.


Performance of week one of the semis, for mine, was shared between the greatest rugby league player to lace on a boot, Cameron Smith, and beleaguered young Panther Bryce Cartwright.

Smith’s long-term leadership and phenomenal resilience of body and mind markhim as an all-time great. Off the field he is a committed family man and exemplar role model, standing tall at the Players Association Ball on Tuesday night as its president, leading from the front. A constitution that belies his accountant’s frame, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s playing in 2020 with 400 games under his belt.

The second performance was all class. I know the Cartwright family well, having been a school buddy and teammate of Manly assistant coach John Cartwright.

So I’ve followed the ups and downs of his nephew, Bryce. A prodigious talent, he has all the skills. The archetypal modern player, coming straight from school into the big time, he’s determined to be a one-club player at the club his father and uncle played forand his grandfather, Merv, established in 1967.

But he has come back to earth with a thud in recent times as he develops into a responsible young man.

While still on that journey, you had to be impressed with his performance under pressure last week. Off the bench he scored just before half-time. On cue, as the game went down to the wire, he set up the go-ahead try with a deft kick before icing the win with another solo effort at the death.

If the Panthers are to prevail against the Broncos and their 50,000 bellowing supporters tonight, it will have a lot to do Cartwright and his equally gifted offsiderNathan Cleary. C’mon, Panthers.

With regards to the Parra-Cowboys elimination semi-final, I can’t see the Sydney boys getting beat. Courageous though they may be, I think the Queenslanders are running on tired legs and will be outgunned. Good effort, though, Greeny.


Big or small, when solid foundations are laid in any organisationand guiding principles are maintained the future can be assured.

In the case of the Knights, those guiding principles were laid down in 1987 by a coaching staff whodreamed of a “bonfire that would never go out”. They recruited players whowere tough andcould tackle and embedded philosophies so refined and dogmatic that any financial or talent disadvantage would be negated in time.

The man tasked with devising and implementing such a long-term road map, and ensuring it stayed on course, needed to be more committed than the players and smarter than the opposition. He needed to know how young men ticked and how the game should be played, based on developing trends and fundamentals. Then he had to execute.

In short, we needed a Jack Gibson or a Ron Massey.

In my humble opinion, we did better. In Allan Bell, we gained a rugby league analyst par excellence,adeep and innovative thinker able to break down complex physical and mental processes into their constituent parts and apply training discipline that’smethodical and long-term.

Personally, I owe Allan a lot. But I’m not alone. Like Andrew and Matthew Johns, we have the good lord, our mums and dads and, to a large extent, Allan Bell to thank for much of what we achieved on the sports field. Indeed, an entire generation of Newcastle league players and coaches were, and continue to be, influenced by his techniques, his philosophies and even the designations given to myriad moves and plays.

In short, Big Alhas given much to the Knights and indirectly his adopted community. Which was why it was fitting if a little belated that he receive appropriate recognition at last week’s awards night. Disappointingly tacked on at the end of proceedings and not afforded the opportunity to respond, much less be presented on stage, he was laterhanded a life-member badge.Not that a lapel pin was needed to mark the level of esteem in which he is held in the league community, but a nice gesture all the same. Well done, big fella. Well deserved. Thanks for everything.

Sporting Declaration: Getting back in the race and why coaches need to set a better example

CROWD FAVOURITE: Jockey Hugh Bowman celebrates Winx’s Queen Elizabeth Stakes win at Randwick this year. Picture: Bradleyphotos成都夜网.auRACING has won, but it wasn’t an easy run.

With overdue holidays coming at the end of a big week of Newcastle spring carnival news, racing has dominated my thoughts in the search for a Sporting Declarationbefore the return next week of your regular columnist, Robert Dillon.

The same columnist who wrote in2006 when discussingthe merits of racing as a sport that: “Uneducated types argue that if it was not for punting, there would be little or no interest in racing.But this viewpoint is invariably shared by people oblivious to the aesthetic beauty of horses running around in circles, ridden bymidgets thrashing them withwhips.”

Now, this came at the height of some great sports department banter. Racing lovers versus the rest of us. It was all good fun.

We would gang up on the hopelessly outnumbered Kevin Cranson and Greg French and chip away.

In those days, the Herald had a dedicated thoroughbred racing writer, the great Geoff “Woolley” Wilson, who worked from his home on the Central Coast.It was before my time, but apparently it was decided that situation was best for everyonegivenWoolley’s legendary ‘group 1’blow-ups.

Woolley knew his stuff and he had time and space to give racing a great run, but he wasn’t in the office to help even out the debate. To be fair, there wouldn’t have been one, such was the fear of Woolley’s wrath.

We lost the passionate racing man in February 2014 after a long battle with illness, which hadgradually restricted his work.

Along came redundancies and changes, and Woolley was never replaced.

I’d taken over the harness racinground from another stalwart, John Gilmour, midway through 2012 when he retired, so I was the logical choiceto take on the thoroughbreds as well.

I was reluctant, mainly because I already had a long list of other rounds on my plate, but also becauseI’d been stung by racing, or I should say, gambling.

Dad was a mad punter and had lost it all by the time I was 10, even after winning a share of a first-division Lotto dividend a few years earlier.

Punting was ingrained in the family. Livingwith Dad and his parents after that, I helped Pop with his SP bookmaking calculations, converting the odds in fractions he’d always used into decimals,on Sundays.

He worked for someone else in those days as more of a hobby but he was one of four SPs working within a couple of kilometres of each other in Telarah when Dad was growing up.

When Dad was a kid, he and Pop used to work pubs across the road from each other, taking bets and meeting regularly in the middle to check their progress.

The Old Man was hooked, and unfortunately restraint was not his strong suit.

Wary of following the same form line, I steered away from the round, but with no one filling the void and others spreading the load, I gradually took on more and more racing.

It’s been a good ride so far, even though I’m still very much finding my feet.

Covering racing has been a refreshing change from experiences dealing with increasingly over-managed and protected figures in other professional sports.

Trainers, jockeys, owners and administrators are accessible, easy to workwith and keen to promote their industry.

There’s some great characters and stories to be found as well, and I’m proud to say, I’ve hardly had a bet.

Who knows, I might even win over Dillo. I know he’s become a fan of the mighty mare Winx, whichhas helped push racing into the mainstream and draw bigger crowds with her amazing 19-race winning streak.

I’m long-odds though.

** The news cyclone that was the 10-year ban of Maitland colts rugby union player Mark Meafua for hitting a referee has subsided, but recent events in another code have brought it into focus, for me at least.

Meafua’s suspension and video of the incident went viral and sparked fierce social media debate about what was an appropriate punishment.

Many called for a life ban, and strong arguments weremounted for it.

Ten years, though, for a promising 18-year-old playereffectively ends any dreams he had of playing professionally.

It seems, to me, afair and measured punishment for aterrible offence, especially when you factor inthe shame and abuse he has received from footage of the incident going international and the assault charges he faces in court next month.

Opinions will vary, but the suspension matches that handed to 18-year-old Swansea soccer player Zach Fleming in 2015 for headbutting a referee. Video and news of his offence, though, was not spread worldwide.

This week, referee abuse was in the news again as NRL coaches Shane Flanagan and Trent Barrett copped hefty fines for post-match sprays about officials.

Of course, the offences are far less serious andthey were in a different code to Meafua’s, but they were on a much bigger stage.

If high-profile coaches and role models cannot accept the referees’ decision, and the fact it won’t always go their way, after a match, how can we expect youngplayers at grassroots level to learn to do it in the heat of battle on the field?

Obviouslystriking a referee is at the other end of the scale, but examples set and reinforced in the public arena must play a major role in shaping how young players deal with frustrations and approach officials.

And while theMeafua incident was a step backwards in this respect, there was a positivethat day. Maitland and Wanderers players showed immediate concern for young referee Niklas Gaaland their shock and disgust at the act was plain to see. Gaal received a standing ovation when he decided to finish the game. Fair play to them.

Newcastle rugby: Coach hopes video session has Wanderers primed for preliminary final battle with Southern Beaches

BIG OUT: The Two Blues will miss the power and pace of winger Bill Coffey in the preliminary final against Southern Beaches. Picture: Stewart Hazell. WANDERERS coach Viv Paasi hopes the penny has dropped–the Two Blues’premiership hopes could hinge on it.

Paasi put his players through avideo session on Monday in preparation for the preliminary final against Southern Beaches at No.2 Sportsground on Saturday.

It wasn’t a simplya case of highlighting the things the Two Blues did well in the 59-5 win over Maitland in the minor semi-final.Paasi also looked at the last-ditch 20-19 loss to Southern Beaches in the qualifying semi-final the week before.

“We cut up a video anddid a comparison between the Beaches game and the Maitland game,” Paasi said

“There were a couple of identical situationsin both games and we looked at the two options we took. It showed the boys; this is what we do well, this is how we do it and why we do it. Against Beaches we didn’t play our way. We kicked a lot without anyreal purpose andgot a bit lost.Our set piece went quite well against them but in general play, at times wedidn’t take the right option.That was the message on the Monday heading into Maitland –make sure we play our way and stick to the game plan.”

Paasi has been forced to make one change from the Maitland rout. Powerhouse winger Bill Coffey, whoscored two trademark tries against the Blacks, is in Fiji at a wedding and has been replaced by George Ashworth.

“We have known since March that Billy would be unavailable this weekend,” Paasi said.“Georgehas played a lot of first grade this year and has been great for us. He gives you those second and third efforts in attack and defence, and he reads the game really well.”

Southern Beaches, after leading 10-3 at half-time into the wind, were over-run 27-10 by Hamilton in the major semi-final. They played the final 10 minutes with 14 men afterVilai Kelemete was sent off for a dangerous tackle. The replacement lock was found guilty at the judiciary on Wednesday but escaped suspension.

Fly-halfMichael Delore remains out with a knee injury.

“We will go with Pete Madden again,” coach Johan Lourens said.“Peteis a great young man and has good calmness to him. It works well. He had big shoes to fill but I was very happy with him last week.”

Southern Beaches, like they did against Wanderers,struggled at the set piece against the Hawks.

“We pride ourselves on our scrummaging and have put a hell of a lot of work into it this week,” Lourens said.

“Saturday will come down to one thing; which 15 players want it more.We have to be better. That is the most important message we keep saying– we have to be better.”

The Boring Old Farts Touring Association had some good times

Old Fogeys: Back row: Gordon Goffett, Brian Dennis, Michael Hill. Front row: Bill Wendtman, Mark “Tubby” Taylor, Tony Davis, Russell Wendtman. These blokes met the Aussie cricket captain as members of the Boring Old Farts Touring Association. Everyone needs a group of mates, a club to join orsome kind offraternity.

Charlestown’sTonyDavis saysit’s important for such groups or clubs to have agood name.

“We had a group of ‘mature’ blokes who knocked about together,” Tony said.

“We were all 50-plus,with families. There were basically fourof us, with a couple of others on occasion.”

They had some great weekends, getting away from it all.

Sometimes they’d headto the bush, stayingovernight in a country pub.

They’d alltraveltogetherin the same car.

It wasdecided that thegroup needed a name, but it wasn’t easy coming up with somethingsuitable.

Then one day, a group member namedBillwas asked by his son:”Are you going away with the boring old fartsagain, Dad?”

The naming conundrum was solved. From that day forth, the group was to be known as theBoring Old Farts Touring Association or “the BOFTAs”.

Before long, there wereT-shirts, jackets and caps, emblazoned with the BOFTAlogo.

“We went to the bush, the football, the cricket and had some great times.

“Between the fourof us and our tworeserves,we had a few connections.”

Two of the old farts were cricketers. As such, they met some interesting types from the cricketing fraternity.

“We tried to go to at least one test match a year, see the first ball bowled and stay a few days –preferably the entire test.”

Theysaw tests in Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne and Brisbane.

“In Adelaide, we arranged to meet up with Ian Chappell in a fish and chip cafe, where many cricketers met. He had dinner with us, introduced us toTonyGreig and bought us a drink back at his hotel later in the night,” Tony Davis said.

“During that test we also met brothers Greg and Trevor. They were really good blokes.”

On one particularvisitto Brisbane, a meeting was arranged with former n captainMark “Tubby” Taylor after the day’s play.

“Of all the sporting people we managed to meet, he was one of the most impressive,” Tony said.

They asked for a photo with him.

Tubby replied in the affirmative, with one condition.

“Don’t tell people that you played in my team. You’re tooold!”

Point was, though, they were all old together. They had a fraternity.

Send stories of being part of a team, group or fraternity to [email protected]成都夜网.au.

How to Live LongerThe ironic thing about the Boring Old Farts Touring Association is that they were actually warding off ageing, simply by being part of a social group.

The Blue Zones project, which studies people who live to 100 or more, says one of the nine keys to longevity is being part of a social group.

The Okinawans in Japan, who are among the longest lived people on the planet, have a tradition of forming a social group called a “moai”.

The other eight keys to living a long life are: exercise naturally;have a purpose;downshift your life to create less stress;eat until you’re 80 per cent full;slant yourdiet towards plants;drink one to two glasses of wine a day;belong to a faith-based community;put family first.

Now you know how to be an old fart for much longer.

[email protected]成都夜网.au

Hunter Coast Premier Hockey League: Norths and Gosford face off in third straight grand final

BATTLE: Norths skipper Theo Gruschka and Gosford midfielder Ben Ferguson at Newcastle International Hockey Centre. Picture: Jonathan CarrollThey mighthave different reasons but both Theo Gruschka and Ben Ferguson desperately want the same prize this weekend –the Hunter Coast Premier Hockey League cup.

Norths skipper Gruschka, 33, has heldthe silverwareso many times all the grand finalsbegin to blur into one, but there’s a chance for the boys in blue to defend their crown and again stamp the club’s dominance in this competition.

At the other end of his career Gosford midfielder Ferguson, 22, is chasing his maiden major premiership and after missing out 12 months agothe undefeated Central Coast crew want to cap off an almost faultless campaign in style.

Sunday at Newcastle International Hockey Centre will mark the third time in as many seasons these sides have met in the decider.

The ledger is all square at one apiece.- Norths up 3-2 in the most recent edition and Gosford’s inaugural prize in 2015following a 2-1 victory.

This splits the difference.

“In terms of the last few grand finals being against Gosford we’re one apiece so this is an opportunity to take some bragging rights and go ahead,”Gruschka said.

“We’d absolutely like to take this trophy home and keep it inNewcastle hands.”

Ferguson wasn’t part of Gosford’s breakthrough success having joined the club from Tigers afterwards and seeing his chance slip away last September still “stings”, especially to opponents and Sydney-based housemates Nick Hill and Jesse Moss.

“I saw two of my best mateshold the trophy up in front of me last year so it would be good to get one back,” Ferguson said.

“There’s plenty of Norths cups in the cupboard so it would be good to get a Gosford one in there as well.”

Ferguson said therewould be a certain sense “relief” for Gosford to win having gone through the season without a singleloss.

Gruschka said there was “pressure” on both sides simply because it was such a “big stage”.

Norths are hoping defender Ben Howey (hamstring) comes back into the starting XIwhile midfielder Connor Eyres gotthrough the weekend’s preliminary final win over Souths unscathed.

Gosford are largelyunchanged but goalkeeper and NSW squad member Nick Holman has been named and trained this week in a bid to return from a hamstring injury suffered six weeks ago.

The rival squadshave meton four occasions in 2017 with a 1-all draw the only time Gosford didn’t win.

Play starts at 2:30pm.

GOSFORD: 1 Nick Holman 2 Brett Giffin 3 Robbie McGuire 4 Geoff McGuire 5 Hugh Wickert 6 Rhiley Carr 7 Lain Carr 8 Lloyd Radcliffe 9 Adam Bosley 10 Lee McCormack 11 Stuart Fletcher 12 Liam Alexander (c) 13 Ben Ferguson 14 Jake Wigham 15 Craig Campbell 16 Michael Taylor

NORTHS: 1 Shaun O’Brien 2 Shaun Frazer 3 Brad Binns 4 Connor Eyres 5 Nick Hill 6 Jordan Dennis 7 Ben Howey 8 Andrew Oliver 9 Theo Gruschka (c) 10 Jordan Willott 11 Jesse Moss 12 Oliver Flack 13 James Piper 14 Ky Willott 15 Dane Pettitt 16 Rory Walker 17 Eamon Smith


Premier League: Gosford v Norths (2:30pm)

Second Grade: Norths v Souths (12:30pm)

Third Grade: Port Stephens v University (11am)

Fourth Grade: Souths v Wests (9:30am)

Fifth Grade: Tigers v Wests (11am)

Sixth Grade: Tigers v Maitland (9:30am)

Seventh Grade: Maitland v Wests (12:30pm)

Cameron Handicap: Blake Spriggs eyeing home feature double

Blake Spriggs. Picture: bradleyphotos成都夜网.auEIGHT years after his only Newcastle group race ride, Blake Spriggs is eyeing off what would be a unique double on his home track’s biggest day.

Sprigg will ride the John Thompson-trained Maurus in the group 3 Cameron Handicap (1500m) on Friday. Herode Geigeron, which finished last, for Broadmeadow trainer Steve Hodge in the 2009 edition and he was thrilled to get another chance.

“For someone growing up in Newcastle, I always watched it, the Newmarket, Cameron and the Cupwere the big three and this is the type of race I’d really love to win,” Spriggs said.“I’d be pretty excited if I did.”

Spriggs will also be cheering on partner Rachel King, who will ridethe Kris Lees-trained Wahng Wah in the Newcastle Cup.

“Partners winning the Cup and the Cameron, that would be a first,” he said.

Maurus, a six-year-old, was $12 for the Cameron with TAB Fixed Odds on Thursday but Spriggs, the stable rider for Waratah Thoroughbreds,believed the 2016 Ipswich Cup winner was a better chance.

“The wayhe’s working, we’ve realistically got himpencilled in for races like the Cox Plate and the Turnbull, provided he gets to that level,” he said.“But we have that opinion of him, that he could get into group 1 level, probably more so in a handicap weight race.He’d want to be running a very good race tomorrow, which we expect he will be, to justify running in those sorts of races.”

Godolphin’s Spectroscope ($3.20) was battling for Cameronfavouritismon Thursday with Thompson’s other runner, Special Missile ($3). Lees’ topweight, Sound Proposition, was $4.20.

Spriggs had plenty of respect for Special Missile and Sound Proposition but was happy to be on Maurus.

“Special Missile is stepping up to group company for the first time, he has the ability to do it, but he’s still doing it a bit wrong,” he said.“He’s looking around a bit when he hits the front, he’s still got a bit to learn, whereas mine knows he’s a racehorse and he’s very forward.”

Lees saidSpectroscope was the one to beat and thetopweight of 59kg for Sound Proposition, 3kg more than next heaviest Maurus, was a concern.

“He’s weighted right up to his best but he can carry weight, that’s one thing,” Lees said.“I think he will still race well. It’s just whether the weight gets him.”

Whispered Secret ($13) will carry Newcastle hopes in the Spring Stakes (1600m) if Lees opts for the race instead of Randwick on Saturday.

“If she can recapture her autumn form, she’ll be competitive,” he said. “She gives me the impression she’s going to run every bit of a mile and further.It’s just whether it’s this preparation.”

In the Tibbie Stakes (1400m), Lees has $2.50 favourite Invincible Gem, Zestful and potentiallydual acceptor Skylight Glow and emergency Princess Posh.

“Invincible Gem is in well under the conditions of the race so she’s probably the pick of my chances, but the rest will all run well,” he said.“If she wins or runs well, she’ll go onto the Epsom.”

Wollongong Anglican church leader’s public lecture on ‘no’ case

Public lecture: St Michael’s Anglican leader Reverend Sandy Grant said he hoped to give a “thoughtful expression of the ‘no’ case”. Picture: Adam McLean.St Michael’s church leaderSandy Grant has expressed fears about what could happenif same-sex marriage is legalised at a public lecture attended by about 100 people.

As postal surveysarrived in letterboxes, Rev Grant said he was “not about directing people how to vote from the pulpit”, but wanted to offer “robust reasons for no”, and “thoughtful and non-hateful reasons that cause concern about same-sex marriage”.

Early in the hour-long sermon, which included a reading of Christian marriage vows, hedismissed the idea that talking about children was “a distractionand irrelevance”.

He acknowledged the“yes” argument had labelled the “no” focus on children a “red herring”. Equality advocates have highlightedthat heterosexual couples may be married without children, and noted it is already legal for same-sex couples to have children without being married.

Rev Grant suggested United Nations covenantson civil and political rights and the rights children were implicitlyin favour of “traditional” marriage.

“The right of men and women of marriageable age to marry and to found a family shall be recognised,” he quoted from the covenant.

He said he believed that “thenatural assumption is that this article about marriageconcerns the union of a man and a women who are raising children of their sexual union together.”

Addressing the “yes” call for equality, Rev Grant saidchildren deserved“an equal chance to have a relationship with their own mother and father”.

He also argued same-sex couples were treated “almost indistinguishably” from opposite-sex relationships under the law except the “name of marriage”.

“The equality being demanded goes beyond any requirement for legal protections of same-sex couples, and shifts the whole debate to something else: a state endorsed validation of the relationship,” he said.

At the end of his lecture, Mr Grant spoke of a “slippery slope” that could occur when same-sex marriage is legalised. For instance, he believed removing the need for people of the opposite sex to marry could lead to polygamy or under-age marriage.

“Some Muslims are already pushing this…the legalisation of marriage in n to allow polygamy,” he said.

“This shows the sheer inadequacy of the love is love slogan. Do you think a 30-year-old man should be able to marry a 12-year-old girl if they both consent and say they love each other?”

He also raised fears about freedom of speech and religion, saying Christians could face discriminationif marriage laws are changed.

He said, for example, overseas bakers and priests had been subject to legal action for refusing to work with gay couples.

“To force a Christian, or Muslim for that matter, to celebrate gay marriage by their artistry, their preaching, it’s like forcing a Jewish printer to print flyers for a lecture series denying the holocaust. Or trying to force a gay baker to bake a cake for Fred Nile in his anti-mardi gras campaign.

“Even if you might be willing to accept a change to recognise a same-sex union as a marriageunder the secular law in , if you have any concern for freedom of speech and freedom of religion, then you should be very careful before voting yes.”

Illawarra Mercury

Newcastle Cup 2017: Darren Weir hoping Pacodali can go the distance

MIDAS TOUCH: Darren Weir gets one hand on the Newcastle Cup on Thursday at the Broadmeadow track. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

All-conquering Victorian trainer Darren Weir had an affinity with Newcastle long before he first stepped foot in the city on Thursday.

And on Friday, Weir hopes to grab a piece of the region, the group 3 Newcastle Cup (2300m), all for himself with his first runner at the Broadmeadow track.

The Weir-trained Pacodaliwill be among the favourites for the$175,000 Cup, the feature race of the Newcastle Jockey Club’s spring carnival.

The five-year-old was the $2.60 favourite with TAB Fixed Odds on Thursday, just ahead of the Chris Waller-trained Sayed ($2.80), but Weir was cautious ahead of hisIrish-bredgelding’s first interstate run.

“He’s in the right form, but you’ve got to travel, and go the other way. There’s lots of variables,” Weir said.

“But the form at home is terrific and the owner was quite keen to have a go at a group race,which is understandable.

“It looked a nice race for him and if he could win a group 3, it would be a pretty good result for a horse like that.”

Pacodali, with four wins from his past five starts,travelled to the Waratah Thoroughbreds stables in Moss Vale on Wednesday night and will finish his journey to Newcastle on Friday morning.

Weir came up early on Thursday to speak at the annual Beauford Club luncheon at Newcastle Racecourse, after which he donated his appearance fee to the Mark Hughes Foundation.

Newcastle is one of only a few places left for the Ballarat trainerto conquer.

Weir had a winner in every state last season on his way to a n record-smashing 449 victories,prizemoney of more than $24.6 million and31 group races victories.

That amazing success has come partly from the support of Hunter-based syndicators Luke Murrell and Jamie Lovett of n Bloodstock, who rose to fame with the 2014 Melbourne Cup win of Protectionist.

Weir and premier Newcastle trainer Kris Lees take care of n Bloodstock’s horses. While Pacodali is owned by Seamus Mcpeake, n Bloodstock have Lees-trained long-shot Doukhan in the Newcastle Cup on Friday.

“They’ve been terrific for our stable, but not only our stable, but for racing in general,” Weir said of n Bloodstock.

“They have heaps of horses with Kris and heaps everywhere.I can’t thank them enough and I’m sure Kris feels the same.

“If I can’t win [the Newcastle Cup], I hope they do.”

n Bloodstock have Red Cardinal and the Weir-trained Admire Deus and Big Duke set for this year’s Melbourne Cup. Red Cardinal will join Weir’s stables after the Cup.