Sydney Kings let game slip to go down 80-77 to Townsville Crocodiles

Just short: Marcus Thornton played well for the Kings but it wasn’t enough for the win. Photo: Ryan Pierse Just short: Marcus Thornton played well for the Kings but it wasn’t enough for the win. Photo: Ryan Pierse
Shanghai night field

Just short: Marcus Thornton played well for the Kings but it wasn’t enough for the win. Photo: Ryan Pierse

Just short: Marcus Thornton played well for the Kings but it wasn’t enough for the win. Photo: Ryan Pierse

Tight affair: Townsville’s Nicholas Kay on the attack with Kings guard Jason Cadee in pursuit. Photo: NBL

Tight affair: Townsville’s Nicholas Kay on the attack with Kings guard Jason Cadee in pursuit. Photo: NBL

Tight affair: Townsville’s Nicholas Kay on the attack with Kings guard Jason Cadee in pursuit. Photo: NBL

Tight affair: Townsville’s Nicholas Kay on the attack with Kings guard Jason Cadee in pursuit. Photo: NBL

The Sydney Kings have clutched defeat from the jaws of victory, going down by three points to the Townsville Crocodiles at the Sydney Entertainment Centre on Thursday night.

The Kings led at every break and were ahead by a point with 22 seconds remaining, but an unfortunate error from Steven Markovic gifted Townsville time and in turn, a game-winning three-pointer from Corey Maynard.

It was a see-sawing final term which saw Jason Cadee step up to nail a three-pointer and equal the scores 69-69 with three minutes remaining.

Dion Prewster was fouled with 34 seconds left on the clock and nailed both free throws to put the Kings ahead by one, but it wasn’t enough as the Crocs notched their first win of the NBL season

The loss means the the Kings continue their unwanted record of failing to win their opening two games of the season since they came back into the competition in 2010.

Kings coach Damian Cotter took a glass half full approach at the post-match press conference. He said the defeat was not a cause for concern.

NormalfalsefalseEN-USJAX-NONE /* Style Definitions */table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:”Table Normal”; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-parent:””; mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0cm; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:Cambria; mso-ascii-font-family:Cambria; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Cambria; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-ansi-language:EN-US;}NormalfalsefalseEN-USJAX-NONE /* Style Definitions */table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:”Table Normal”; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-parent:””; mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0cm; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:Cambria; mso-ascii-font-family:Cambria; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Cambria; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-ansi-language:EN-US;}

Wallabies Adam Ashley-Cooper helps dying friend tick off bucket list item at Rugby World Cup

Bucket list: Adam Ashley Cooper after ‘s win over Wales and with Guy Grinham in the corporate box at Twickenham after the Test.RWC Schedule: When is the Rugby World Cup final?Rugby World Cup interactive: your guide to every teamFull coverage of the 2015 Rugby World Cup
Shanghai night field

You can watch the game from the comfort of the lounge, or even the heaving grandstand at Twickenham, and think you’ve seen it all.

You can witness Adam Ashley-Cooper race out of the line in the 69th minute and shut down Welsh five-eighth Dan Biggar before the ball is spun wide, with a try begging to be scored.

The tackle results in a penalty for the Wallabies, as they cling to the lead with two men in the sin bin, and it is immediately considered the decisive moment of the Wallabies’ World Cup campaign.

You can watch all of this but what you don’t see is the heroics from the veteran outside back before and after the match.

After the full-time whistle, as the crowd filters out of Twickenham, he climbs high into the stands, through the remaining fans dressed in gold, and behind the glass of a corporate suite.

That’s where he finds Guy Grinham, who he played junior rugby with and against on the Central Coast, and later knew as a referee of Shute Shield and match-day official of Super Rugby.

Grinham is on a hospital stretcher and breathing with the assistance with oxygen tubes, but he has an unbreakable smile on his face.

“A year and a half ago he was diagnosed with cancer, and just recently he was given a brief amount of time to live,” Ashley-Cooper explains from London. “Along with the help of his brother and best mate, he put together a bucket list. And on that bucket list was to watch the Wallabies at the World Cup.

“He was on his way over to watch but when he got off the plane he went downhill significantly. The cancer spread into his vertebrae, so he had to get to hospital. The nurses told him to ring his parents about coming over to give them their final goodbyes, because he didn’t have much time left.

“We organised a signed jersey, and I went and saw him in hospital [before the match against Wales]. We talked about playing footy when we were younger, and what the Wallabies were doing, instead of talking about the position he was in.”

Phone calls were made, favours called in, and an ambulance and nurses were arranged so Guy and his family could run a line through the big ticket item on his bucket list.

“He passed away earlier this week,” says Ashley-Cooper. “He was my age – 31. He had a wife and two kids. It’s a sad story. But I’m really happy I got to share a moment with him after the win. It was the least I could do, to go there and represent the group. We were on the bucket list, and that is pretty special.”

As the Wallabies prepared for their quarter-final against Scotland at the same venue on Monday morning, the team gathered around and shared a moments silence in Guy’s honour at a training session.

It was another small but significant moment from the Wallabies that you rarely hear of, let alone see.

Man of many words

Still on the Wallabies, hands up if you thought Michael Cheika could make such a difference less than a year in the job as coach?


A snapshot from one of his mornings this week: he did a press conference in English, then another in French, and then another Italian, and then he walked into a team meeting and peeled off an inspirational line to the troops, presumably in English.

In other Wallabies news, while there’s been much respect shown for Matt Giteau as he approaches his 100th Test his teammates have not missed since they were shown footage of a baby-faced, peroxide-headed Giteau meeting the Queen during a tour in 2002.

His teammates have been comparing him to Justin Timberlake’s “noodle hair”. In other words, when the pop singer had hair like two-minute noodles.

Starting out: Matt Giteau before his Test debut in 2002. Photo: Wallabies

Goodbye, amigo

And speaking of players with funky haircuts, he was the cornerstone of “The Three Amigos” but time has finally caught up with James O’Connor.

In 2013, one senior ARU official told this column: “Kurtley [Beale] gets into trouble because of alcohol. Quade [Cooper] doesn’t know any better. O’Connor was the most cunning. He knew what he was doing. It was never an accident. He always escapes before the heat arrives. He’s usually the architect of the problem. The best result is not having the three in the one team at the one time.”

Cooper and Beale are likely to be on the Wallabies bench against Scotland. Earlier this week, O’Connor was granted a release from his Queensland Reds deal and is now expected to return to French rugby powerhouse Toulon.

“Personal matters” were cited as the reasons, but those who are fully aware of the situation tell us the 25-year-old was left jaded and angry after failing to make the World Cup squad.

His deal with the Reds was heavily based on incentive, and after a lacklustre and injury-plagued year the dollars he was hoping for didn’t materialise.

Cassidy still a power

This column doesn’t subscribe to Melbourne’s theory about being the centre of the sporting universe, but it does know how to run a racing carnival.

Late last week, it launched the Spring Carnival at the MCG with a sprinkling of legendary horses, jockeys and trainers stepping out into the middle of the arena.

That included Might and Power, the hulking ironhorse that won the 1997 Melbourne and Caulfield cups, and then the Cox Plate the following year.

One bloke who couldn’t get close enough to him was Jim Cassidy, the evergreen jockey who rode him in all three.

“Be careful, he doesn’t really like blokes,” advised Might and Power’s strapper as “Pumper” came closer.

Yeah good.

“He just put his head down in my hand,” reports Cassidy. “It nearly brought a tear to my eye. Me old mate and I, in the middle of the MCG. It was gold.”

Cassidy, 52, is keeping everyone guessing about his riding future. He has Chris Waller’s Grand Marshal in the Caulfield Cup this Saturday.

Jimmy Cassidy with Might and Power. Photo: Supplied

Twist over Taupau 

A fortnight ago, Wests Tigers forward Marty Taupau swore black and blue – black and gold, if you will – to this column that he had not asked for a release.

“I am really embarrassed by it,” the Kiwi representative said. “I’ve had to phone all my mates and tell them there is nothing in it.”

Then reports mysteriously emerge this week that he is being pursued by Manly.

It won’t surprise if he’s there in 2017, but the whole thing reeks of the modern-day ploy from player managers and clubs to force a player out of his contract with a year left to run.

Help! Fitz needs cover

We told you last month about the terrible circumstances concerning Maitland Blacks hooker Dominic Punch, who suffered life-threatening injuries when a scrum collapsed in the Newcastle second-grade grand final.

He has dislocated his C5 and C6 spinal vertebrae and the road ahead will be a tough one.

The mighty Blacks are holding a luncheon at their home ground Marcellin Park on Sunday, with cricketing legend Michael Hussey and rugby/Herald legend Peter FitzSimons the guest speakers.

The club is hoping to raise $150,000 for the day, but it’s also looking for big business to help cover the $20,000 needed for a marquee, not least so Fitz doesn’t get sunburnt on the noggin.

Contact Dan Gollan on 0402 119 193 if you can help. The week


“I can really feel your neurons.” – This quote has nothing to do with sport, but I overheard a man say it to a woman in Bondi café on Sunday morning and I thought I should share.


In the 1989 film Back to the Future II, Marty McFly travelled into the future in a DeLorean and discovered the Chicago Cubs had won the 2015 World Series. The perennial battlers took one step closer with a series win over St Louis. The hoverboard must be around the corner.


The tennis diehards tell you that Thanasi Kokkinakis is the anti-Kyrgios. He’s a gentleman of the court, they say. Then he defends Nick Kyrgios’ abuse of officials and racquets and says it doesn’t hurt the game. Awesome.

It’s a big weekend for … England rugby fans as the World Cup on home soil reaches the exciting quarter-final stage of the … Oh, that’s right. #sadface

It’s an even bigger weekend for … the Newcastle Jets, as they return to Hunter Stadium for the first time this A-League since Hurricane Tinkler finally went away. They play Sydney FC on Saturday. Get around them, Novocastrians. Q and A

We speak to leading jockey Blake Shinn ahead of Saturday’s $3 million Caulfield Cup.

You’re on Who Shot Thebarman for Chris Waller. I see you’re spruiking ​”Who Shot Thebarman” hats on social media. Impressive.

Yes, got the hat. I’m getting in the spirit of it with all the owners and the Waller team. It’s good to get behind it as people live the dream, having a runner in the Caulfield and Melbourne cups.

How’s the horse tracking?

He’s going really well. He had a great run in the Turnbull, and now he’s starting to get out to his preferred distance of 2400m. The barrier’s not ideal but he’ll be powering to the line.

How’s your Caulfield Cup form?

I haven’t had many rides. About three or four rides but never gone any better than sixth.

Good times. Earlier this year, you were named the NSW Racing Writers’ Racing Personality of the Year. What does that entail?

The journos must have liked me because I gave my time to the media throughout the season. I like to give them a bit of myself to show another side to a jockey’s life.

Does this Melbourne spring carnival take on special significance with the passing of Bart Cummings? You rode Viewed to victory in the 2008 Melbourne Cup for him.

Without his presence, it will have a sombre feeling. He was a man who didn’t say too much, a man of few words, but he gave you confidence because he let you know he thought you were the man to do the job. For a young kid like me, when I was 21, that was invaluable. I first rode for him when I was 16. I rode a winner for his grandson James last week. That’s life.

Canberra Vikings go into NRC finals with big win over Queensland Country

Canberra Vikings captain Jarrad Butler says the National Rugby Championship ladder leaders are in a “pretty good place” going into their first finals campaign.
Shanghai night field

The Vikings were far too strong for Queensland Country in a 42-8 win on the Sunshine Coast on Thursday.

They were able to rest playmaker Christian Lealiifano and No.8 Ita Vaea and also give invaluable game time to their squad ahead of the finals.

Canberra flyhalf Mitch Third was elusive, fullback Isaac Thompson injected himself into the play all over the park, hooker Robbie Abel continued his brilliant NRC campaign and scrumhalf Brent Hamlin was dangerous around the ruck.

“We were keen to get back into the winning circle, especially going into a final next week. Everyone switched on really well and we’re really excited for next week,” Butler said.

“Coming off the back of last week we were really happy with how we went today and building into next week I think we’re in a pretty good place.”

The Vikings got off to a flyer, scoring three tries in the opening 22 minutes.

Third charged down a kick to open the scoring in the fifth minute, Hamlin darted off the back off a strong Vikings scrum to score and then Thompson made a nice line break down the right before offloading for winger James Dargaville to cross.

Queensland Country managed to work its way back into the game as scrumhalf James Tuttle darted away off the back of their scrum for the home side’s only try.

That 21-8 scoreline was how it remained until the break, but from there it was all Vikings as they took just 15 minutes to run in three tries in the second half.

Prop Les Leuluaialii-Makin scored from short-range and flanker Dan Penca capitalised on the Vikings’ deadly rolling maul on debut, but both were overshadowed by Lausii Taliauli’s effort.

The Vikings winger burst clear from near the middle of the field and arced around the Country defence before diving into the corner to put the ball down with his entire body in the air over the sideline.

Canberra has to wait until Sunday to find out who it will play in next Friday’s semi-final at Viking Park, with four teams a chance to finish third or fourth.

They will likely finish second, with Brisbane City expected to win on Saturday and finish top.

CANBERRA VIKINGS 42 (Mitch Third, Brent Hamlin, James Dargaville, Les Leuluaialii-Makin, Lausii Taliauli, Dan Penca tries; Isaac Thompson 4 cons) bt QUEENSLAND COUNTRY 8 (James Tuttle try; Sam Greene con).

Rumours rife as Rosellas take time with coaching job

DEAN Botham is staying patient as he awaits word on whether he will be retained as Western Suburbs coach for the next Newcastle Rugby League season.
Shanghai night field

The Rosellas are the only club yet to confirm their head coach.

In his first season in charge, Botham coached Wests to a third consecutive minor premiership with 11 wins and three losses.

However, the record was tarnished when Wests lost semi-finals to Lakes United (20-14) and Macquarie (18-12) to be the first minor premiers since 2003 to fail to reach the decider.

Initially it appeared a fait accompli that Botham would remain in charge at Harker Oval, but the issue has dragged on for almost four weeks since preliminary final exit.

“I’m not sweating on the job, I have other offers out there,” Botham said on Thursday.

“I can only tell you what I’ve been told, that is to be patient and we’ll get the job done sooner rather than later.”

The delay in Wests making a decision has kicked the rumour mill into overdrive.

The likes of former NRL halfbacks Scott Dureau and Luke Walsh has been touted as possible captain-coach candidates.

The Wests board of directors attended a conference on the Gold Coast last week, which has prolonged the decision-making process.

Wests president Wayne Hore has previously given his support for Botham and said he hoped the issue was resolved next week.

“I’m anticipating a decision will be made early next week,” Hore said.

“We’re going through a process at the moment and then we’ll know exactly which direction we’re going in before presentation night.

“We’re still with Dean Botham at the moment, but we’re going through the process with him.”

Walsh, 28, is a Rosellas junior and played 120 NRL games for the Knights and Penrith before moving to UK Super League club St Helens last year. The 29-year-old Dureau recently returned to Newcastle after a successful Super League career at the Catalans Dragons where he was twice named in the competition’s Dream Team.

On announcing his departure from Catalans last month, Dureau said he wanted to add to the 42 NRL games that he played at the Knights from 2007 to 2010.

Dureau said on Thursday he had not fielded any offers from Wests.

“I haven’t spoken to anyone or had any contact with the club,” Dureau said. “The first I heard of it was when one of my mates said it to me.”

Hore also denied Walsh was being considered as a captain-coach.

“I’ve heard Luke’s name mentioned only because his brother said he was a bit homesick and he wants to come home,” Hore said. “I said, ‘He’s a Wests junior and he’s always welcome to come and play here if he wants to’, but there was no talk of him being a captain-coach.”

Walsh’s younger brother, Ryan, played five-eighth in Wests’ 19-18 reserve grade grand final loss to Lakes.

Mullen’s wait and see approach to captaincy

Jarrod Mullen with his parents Leann and Steve. Picture: Ryan Osland
Shanghai night field

JARROD Mullen is content to relinquish his primary playmaker role to new Knights signing Trent Hodkinson next season but still believes he can be a leader, and even captain, if required.

Hodkinson, the former Canterbury and incumbent NSW Origin halfback, has signed a three-year deal with Newcastle and will replace Tyrone Roberts as Mullen’s scrum-base partner.

Since the retirement of Immortal Andrew Johns in 2007, Mullen has been Newcastle’s dominant organiser but believes he will benefit from allowing Hodkinson to run the show.

“The answer is I can’t wait,” Mullen told the Newcastle Herald.

“He’s a very, very good solid player. You know what you’re going to get from him.

“The difference between his best game and his worst is not much.

“He’s a very consistent player. He can help steer the ship and hopefully that can free me up to run the ball a bit more and control the outside backs.

“I know I’m at my best when I’m running the ball, so hopefully he can do all the passing and I can do all the running.”

In terms of tactical kicking, Hodkinson’s right foot will complement the left-sided Mullen.

“We can probably share 50 per cent of that, whereas I probably have been doing 80 per cent of the kicking,” Mullen said.

“Hopefully that puts a bit of doubt in the other teams’ minds and we can strike up a good combination.”

After Kurt Gidley’s departure to join Warrington, appointing a new captain will be one of incoming coach Nathan Brown’s main decisions. Mullen skippered Newcastle during their giant-killing run in the 2013 finals while Gidley was injured, and after 197 career games for his home town, he would appear ready for the job on a full-time basis.

But the 28-year-old did not want to pre-empt anything, saying his main focus was recovering from toe surgery that ended his season in round 19.

“Obviously it would be a privilege to captain the club, especially as I’ve played for the Knights my whole career and love the town,” he said.

“But my first priority is to get my toe in order and get back training hard.

“If I’m doing that and putting all the right things on the tray, maybe it will come my way.

“But there’s a lot of other candidates and we’ll wait and see what happens.

“Whether or not I get the captaincy, I’m probably a leader out on the field anyway.

“In my position, I do most of the talking out there and most of the bossing around. I’m always getting into the boys so I’m sort of like another captain anyway.

“It’s always an honour to have the (c) next to your name but we just have to wait and see on that one.”

Mullen said watching his teammates lose five of their last seven games to collect the wooden spoon was “one of the hardest things I’ve gone through”.

“I tried to come back and play, even though I knew I wasn’t 100 per cent,” he said.

“But it is was it is. It was a bit heart-breaking, but there is only one way now, and that’s up.

“We’ve got a great squad for next year, a new coach and a fresh start. I’m sure the boys are keen to rip in and get a bit of pride back in the jersey.”

Refreshed after a three-week trip to Europe to visit former teammates Cory Paterson (Salford), Scott Dureau (Catalans) and Ben Farrar (London Broncos), Mullen said he had resumed light running and weights this week.

“I’ve had my little holiday, so I want to get back into it,” he said.

“I’ll probably just ease my way into it. It’s a pretty big surgery and it’s one I’ll have to keep monitoring.

“I haven’t kicked or passed a footy for a while, so it will be good to get back into a routine, because I enjoy being around the boys and training.”

Seniors’ village planned for former Morpeth bowling club grounds

Morpeth Land Company wants to build a medium density village for the over 55s beside the former Morpeth Bowling Club.AFTER much speculation and tension, developers have unveiled their plans for seniors’ living in the grounds of the old Morpeth Bowling Club.
Shanghai night field

Given a list of six options for the site, the developer, Morpeth Land Company, wants to build a medium density village for the over 55s beside the former club.

The clubhouse is under refurbishment for use as a childcare centre and the land between it and Morpeth Common has been slated for the 22 single-storey villas.

The villas are set back 30 metres off Edward Street with a new road as access.

Proponent Brad Everett broke his silence over the plans on Thursday.

The Morpeth Land Company director said he did not want to prejudice Maitland City Council’s decision to include the land in its settlement strategy.

“There’s a process to be followed,” Mr Everett said.

“If I dump these plans on people too soon, they call me presumptuous.”

The property was bought in August, 2014 and Mr Everett met with the council development control unit soon after.

This pre-application discussion outlined what development would be allowed on the site and included mobile homes.

Mr Everett had plans drawn up for a large gym, but said there had been advice that residential use was a possibility.

A plan had also been drafted to rezone the land for units.

But Morpeth Land Company will retain the recreational zoning now the parcel of land has been included in the Maitland Urban Settlement Strategy.

To gain approval for the seniors’ villas, Mr Everett will instead seek an amendment to the Local Environment Plan.

“Seniors’ housing was a permissible use while the club was licensed,” he said.

“Once the licence was removed, the seniors’ living policy no longer applied, so it’s necessary to seek an amendment to the recreational zone.”

The NSW Department of Planning will assess the validity of plans before Morpeth Land submits a development application.

Mr Everett said detailed plans would be lodged as part of the development application.

Buzz surrounds Ben Simmons

Rising n superstar Ben Simmons is being touted as the next big thing in the US. Picture: Jonathan CarrollBATON ROUGE: The first thing former Hunters junior Ben Simmons did when he arrived for Wednesday’s practice at Louisiana State University was work his way through two rows of NBA scouts at court-side viewing tables, shaking hands with each one.
Shanghai night field

Mostly because of ‘s rising superstar Simmons, the LSU Tigers have had more pre-season hype than since perhaps the early 1990s, when Shaquille O’Neal was the star.

Simmons started playing basketball in Newcastle where his father, Dave, was an import playing for the Falcons, and is now the game’s next big thing.

The 208cm freshman looks perfectly comfortable with that, and coach Johnny Jones wants the whole team to be as well.

“You want to embrace it. It’s exciting,” said Jones, who was an LSU assistant under Dale Brown when O’Neal was there. “You’d much rather be on the side of high expectations and people thinking that you’re going to be very good.”

Simmons attended high school in Florida, is as much at ease handling the ball on a fast break and delivering crisp, accurate passes as he is soaring to the hoop for a one-handed jam.

He will be the marquee attraction this season and scouts believe he has the potential to be the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft.

But 19-year-old Simmons isn’t the only player that NBA personnel from all but two teams came to see.

The squad also features guard Antonio Blakeney, who was named Florida’s top high school player last season – over Simmons. Then there is junior guard Tim Quarterman, whose steady development has made him a bona fide pro prospect as well.

By opening a pair of practices to pro scouts in a “combine” setting, LSU is following the lead of Southeastern Conference powerhouse Kentucky, which began holding similar events for scouts last season.

How well the Tigers compete with the likes of the Wildcats on the court remains to be seen, but Simmons is getting the type of attention normally reserved for LSU’s best football players.

It was during a recent football Saturday on LSU’s campus, in fact, that Simmons found out just how popular he was.

He ventured out to visit some tailgate parties with teammate and roommate, Keith Hornsby, and found himself surrounded pretty quickly.

“It doesn’t help that I’m 6-10, so wherever I go, I’m usually spotted,” Simmons said. “Everybody just surrounds you, saying, ‘What’s up,’ shaking your hand. So it’s kind of overwhelming.

But it doesn’t bother him.

“I’m trying to take it all in,” Simmons said. “Not everyone gets to do this, so I’m just grateful.”

Hornsby said walking around campus with Simmons is like being around a rock star, and he would know. His father, Bruce Hornsby, is a renowned musician who has been successful as a solo artist and has played with the Grateful Dead.

“A lot of females gravitate toward Ben. I’d say he’s a relatively good-looking guy,” Hornsby said. “I thought I was OK, and he steals the show from me.

“It’s really quite astonishing, just watching him roam around and people notice him, and just give him attention, and he’s really good about it, too. He acknowledges everybody and that’s pretty cool,” Hornsby continued. “It’s fun to walk around him, even to walk about 10 feet behind him. Even when people don’t talk to him, they’re whispering to each other [about Simmons].”

LSU women’s basketball coach Nikki Caldwell said Simmons’ popularity among women might even be helping him gain interest from prospective recruits.

“We probably have had more people interested in coming to an unofficial visit, or official visit, because we have a lot of young girls that like Ben, and they know he’s here,” Caldwell said.

LSU plays in a 13,000-seat arena which it rarely fills anymore, with the few exceptions being when Kentucky or another highly ranked team comes in. Attendance has hovered around 5000 in recent seasons, including last year, when the Tigers qualified for the NCAA Tournament and finished 22-11 after losing their first-round game to North Carolina State.

This season, LSU officials say they’re hoping to see attendance rise by around 30 per cent – possibly more if the Tigers win consistently.

“Hopefully everyone comes out,” Simmons said. “I love seeing fans and them wanting us to win and do well. That really drives me.” AP

Panella gets the all clear

Champion driver Lauren Panella should be back in action soon. Picture: Max Mason-HubersDEFENDING NSW champion driver Lauren Panella expects to be back in racing next Friday night at Newcastle after gaining a clearance from doctors on Thursday. Panella has been sidelined since June 13 after being tossed from her sulky in a race at Menangle and having her hand fractured in several places when trod on in the heavy fall.
Shanghai night field

The 22-year-old still cruised to her maiden NSW premiership win but has been itching to return to racing.

Trainer and partner Shane Tritton said on Thursday that Panella hoped to have her licence back by the end of the day and was eyeing a return at Newcastle on October 23.

Tritton said many horses in his team had been held back at the start of this season because owners were waiting for Panella to return to action.

He said two-time Newcastle horse of the year Mach Beauty, which is on the comeback trail from 13 months out with injury, would headline Panella’s book of drives at Menangle on October 24. Tritton has decided against crossing the Tasman with Mach Beauty for the New Zealand Cup and will instead focus on preparations for next month’s Perth Interdominion series.

Mach Beauty has had two runs back for fifth and fourth but has since worked in 1:52.2 around Newcastle.

■ FORMER Dubbo-based trainer-driver Nathan Carroll hopes Tosca Jack can produce another barnstorming finish and book a return to Menangle racing at Newcastle International Paceway on Friday night.

Carroll, 21, broke through for his first winner at Menangle when Tosca Jack came from four back on the pegs to flash home at odds of $22.80 and win by a short half-head on October 6.

The mile run of 1:53.6 gave the now Maitland-based trainer-driver two wins and three placings from eight starts with the seven-year-old gelding and came two weeks after they saluted at Newcastle.

Tosca Jack is one of just three pacers Carroll trains while working full-time at the stables of Ellalong trainer-driver Michael Formosa, where he started two months ago.

After beginning in the sport under his father, Michael Carroll, he came to the Hunter eight months ago and worked at the stables of leading trainer-driver Shane Tritton at Keinbah.

Carroll said the win “got the monkey off my back now” after three previous drives at the Menangle.

He believed Tosca Jack, from gate seven, was a “a good chance” to repeat the effort in a heat of the Menangle Country Series at Newcastle on Friday night in which Tritton has Goodtime Stride, Controversial, Afterburn and Glasscutterspirit.

“His gate speed’s not great but hopefully we can lob in a good early position and go from there,” Carroll said.

“He should be thereabouts. He ran 1:56 at Menangle so if he can do the same here and can win it.”

Carroll was approached a few months ago to take over the training of Tosca Jack, which he drove to victory in the 2013 Narrabri Cup.

Tosca Jack will start in the fourth race, the second of two Menangle Country Series heats, on a 10-event program due to start at 5.33pm.

■ MAITLAND trainer-driver Darren Elder was ecstatic with the run of Shannonsablast in the group 2 Be Good Johnny Sprint (1660 metres) at Albion Park and his draw for Saturday night’s group 1 Gold Coast Cup (2138m).

Shannonsablast sustained a long sprint four and three wide at the start to sit outside the leader before finishing strongly to finish fourth last Saturday night.

Elder then drew gate two for the Gold Coast Cup, which will become one if the emergency comes out, with Shannonsablast, which is taking on some of the nation’s best in an attempt to make the top 30 ranked pacers and gain a start in next month’s Perth Interdominion series.

“The draw is great and we’ll go forward and go as hard as we can for as long as we can, and see what happens,” Elder said.

■ THE Shane Tritton-trained Easy On The Eye, Miss Riviera Belle, Salty Robyn and Suave Stuey Lombo will vie with Sam Dimarco’s Shadow Runner for Newcastle horse of the year honours on Saturday night.

The five pacers have been shortlisted for the award, which recognises the best-performed horse trained in the region.

Michael Formosa’s Interdominion heat winner, Ultimate Art, and Darren Elder’s Shannonsablast are among the pacers ineligible for the honour because they did not meet the criteria of having at least one start at Newcastle during the season.

The Hunter Valley and Newcastle harness racing awards function will be held at Newcastle International Paceway from 6.30pm.

Plans for airport left on runway

WYONG Shire Council’s controversial regional airport plan – and even more controversial $17 million land splurge to build it on – is up in the air after NSW Parliament was told the project had been “cancelled”.
Shanghai night field

The council is refusing to comment after months of speculation that its proposed Bushells Ridge regional airport, with a flight path over Lake Macquarie that had its neighbouring council seeing red, has been shelved.

The Bushells Ridge controversy, along with a secretive $1.3 million upgrade and extension of Warnervale airstrip to 1200 metres in September, were used as examples of “extremely poor governance” in local government, in a speech by Wyong MP David Harris to NSW Parliament on Wednesday.

“The airport has been cancelled because a different airport has been upgraded instead,” Mr Harris said.

“These are the sorts of decisions at which people shake their heads and wonder what the council is doing.”

Wyong Council was forced to acknowledge its public statements about the $17 million industrial land purchased from Terrace Towers for the airport were false, and the land had not been independently valued.

The NSW Valuer-General valued the land at half that amount.

The council is in the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal next week fighting Yarramalong residents Laurie and Jo Eyes over the release of documents relating to the Bushells Ridge airport.

Lake Macquarie MP Greg Piper said Wyong Council’s repeated failure to consult with Lake Macquarie Council about its airport plans, which previously included having part of the airport within Lake Macquarie’s boundary, was outrageous.

“I take my hat off to Laurie Eyes. He has fought the council for the release of the documents so that the public can find out what is going on,” Mr Piper said.

Wyong councillor Bob Graham, who has battled his own council over its use of confidential sessions to deal with controversial issues, said councillors had had no formal word on the fate of the Bushells Ridge airport, but there had been no briefings about it since early this year.

“The Bushells Ridge airport won’t go ahead. Blind Freddy knows that,” Mr Graham said.

“But this council paid $17 million for the land, and the council will never recover the money I can tell you.

“Terrace Towers walked away from that one the very big winner,” Mr Graham said.

Research result raises red flag

ANTIOXIDANT supplements that are supposed to boost health and slow ageing could in fact spur the spread of melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer, researchers said on Wednesday.
Shanghai night field

The findings support recent studies showing that an over-the-counter vitamin and another drug containing antioxidants can cause a jump in the number of tumours and hike their aggressiveness.

In the new study, published in Nature, scientists in the United States demonstrated that human melanoma cells spread in some experiments about two months earlier in mice injected with antioxidant N-acetylcysteine (NAC) than in those that were not.

Antioxidants allow the body to prevent DNA damage from chemicals known as free radicals, which are produced naturally by humans and found in leafy greens, vegetables or fruit.

‘‘Our results suggest that antioxidants promote disease progression, at least in melanoma, by promoting metastasis,’’ the study says.

Metastasis is the spread of cancer from one part of the body to another and leads to death in most people fighting the disease. It appears antioxidants help cancer cells by fighting a type of molecule in the body that can attack or damage the cells as they metastasise, the scientists reported.

The results have not yet been tested on people, but researchers are suggesting that patients with cancer should consider not supplementing their diets with the oxidation-fighting substances. The notion that antioxidants are good for you has gained such force that they have been given to cancer patients in clinical trials, said study co-author Sean Morrison, who heads a research institute at the University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas.

‘‘Some of those trials had to be stopped because the patients getting the antioxidants were dying faster,’’ he said.

In a previous study on mice, Swedish researchers said antioxidants, including vitamin E, caused a three-fold increase in the number of cancer tumours and led the rodents to die twice as fast.

Older studies put forth similar results for breast and prostate cancers. AFP