Armed robbery suspects at large

POLICE will continue their search today for two men after an armed aggravated burglary at a Mildura home in broad daylight yesterday.
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On the scene: Police scour a Benetook Avenue property for evidence after two armed robbers fled when the home’s owner caught them in the act. Picture: Carmel Zaccone

Mildura police Acting Inspector Rebecca Olsen said a Mildura woman returned to her Benetook Avenue house about 2.15pm with friends, when she was confronted by two men inside who produced a weapon and threatened her.

Insp Olsen said the woman called out to her friends for assistance, causing the alleged offenders to flee on foot.

“The victim is certainly alarmed and frightened by the experience,” Insp Olsen said.

She said after police investigations, it was found the incident was linked to a second burglary at a neighbouring property where property was stolen.

She said the two men were sighted at nearby Hector Street and last seen in the vicinity of Scott Crescent near the railway line and travelling on foot towards Ambleside Crescent.

Police are appealing for information to the thefts and have released a description of two men they wish to speak to.

Insp Olsen described the two males aged between 17 and 27, of Aboriginal descent, with one wearing a red top and the second man wearing a bluish/greyish hooded jumper.

Anyone with information is urged to phone Mildura Police Station on 5018 5300 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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Seniors: Horsham Saints v Horsham DemonsPhotos and scores

Seniors: Horsham Saints v Horsham Demons | Photos and scores Horsham Saints line up before the game, Horsham Saints v Horsham WFL Grand Final.
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Horsham line up before the game, Horsham Saints v Horsham WFL Grand Final.

Lakin with a bloodied face. Horsham Saints v Horsham WFL Grand Final.

Michael Rowe, Horsham Saints v Horsham WFL Grand Final.

Jake McIntyre under pressure from Mick O’Callaghan, Horsham Saints v Horsham WFL Grand Final.

Garry Hallam tackles Mick O’Callaghan, Horsham Saints v Horsham WFL Grand Final.

Nick Pekin, Horsham Saints v Horsham WFL Grand Final.

Billy Lloyd, Horsham Saints v Horsham WFL Grand Final.

Kyle O’Connor and Harry Young, Horsham Saints v Horsham WFL Grand Final.

Joel Geue tackled by Alex McRae, Horsham Saints v Horsham WFL Grand Final.

Mick O’Callaghan Horsham Saints v Horsham WFL Grand Final.

Beau Nelson spoils Kyle O’Connor, Horsham Saints v Horsham WFL Grand Final.

Gavin Kelm marks in front of Rhona Conboy, Horsham Saints v Horsham WFL Grand Final.

Jacob Cooke-Harrison flies over Ben Lakin and Jordy Schmidt, Horsham Saints v Horsham WFL Grand Final.

Pat Knott tackles Simon Hobbs, Horsham Saints v Horsham WFL Grand Final.

Nathan Kelly tackles Keegan Mellington, Horsham Saints v Horsham WFL Grand Final.

Pat Knott evades Darcy Taylor, Horsham Saints v Horsham WFL Grand Final.

Brendan Bryan, Shayne Breuer and Ben Knott, at 3qt, Horsham Saints v Horsham WFL Grand Final.

Jordyn Burke at 3qt, Horsham Saints v Horsham WFL Grand Final.

Shayne Breuer at 3qt, Horsham Saints v Horsham WFL Grand Final.

Nathan Kelly, Sean Christopher and Simon Hobbs, Horsham defeated Horsham Saints, WFL 2014 Grand Final premiers.

Scott and Baillie Batchelor have won premierships for Horsham. Horsham defeated Horsham Saints, WFL 2014 Grand Final premiers. Scott has won many football premierships.

Mentha and Baillie Batchelor, Horsham defeated Horsham Saints, WFL 2014 Grand Final premiers.

Horsham defeated Horsham Saints, WFL 2014 Grand Final premiers.

Brad Hartigan, Jeremy Hartigan, Jordyn Burke and Laurie Taylor, Horsham defeated Horsham Saints, WFL 2014 Grand Final premiers.

Ben Lakin, best u21 player, Horsham defeated Horsham Saints, WFL 2014 Grand Final premiers.

An emotional Gavin Kelm accepts the Greg Binns Medal for best on the ground from Hugh Delahunty. Horsham defeated Horsham Saints, WFL 2014 Grand Final premiers.

An emotional Gavin Kelm is comforted by his daughter Pippa. Horsham defeated Horsham Saints, WFL 2014 Grand Final premiers.

Michael Rowe with his daughter Evie. Horsham defeated Horsham Saints, WFL 2014 Grand Final premiers.

Ryan Bird with baby Harper and wife Hayley. Horsham defeated Horsham Saints, WFL 2014 Grand Final premiers.

Jordyn Burke celebrates, Horsham defeated Horsham Saints, WFL 2014 Grand Final premiers.

Beau Nelson is congratulated by his sister Alana Nelson. Horsham defeated Horsham Saints, WFL 2014 Grand Final premiers.

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Young star delighted to drop The Voice subterfuge

ROBBIE ANDERSONWHEN Robbie Anderson comes to Newcastle as part of The Voice Kids school holiday spectacular next weekend, he won’t have to make an excuse for where he’s going.
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It will be a welcome change for the 13-year-old, who had to invent elaborate stories for his friends when he auditioned for the The Voice Kids early this year and travelled to Sydney from his native Perth for auditions and eventually to record parts of the show.

“That was the worst part of it all,” Anderson tells Weekender.

“You have to make up something about where you’re going, so I had to say I’m going to Sydney on a holiday the first time, then on the fourth time, they obviously started getting suspicious, so I just kinda winged it really.”

The smoke and mirrors was worth it in the end.

His first appearance on The Voice Kids launched Anderson into the headlines, with his voice, cheeky banter and charisma during the blind auditions impressing far more than Mel B, who offered to mentor him and Delta Goodrem, whom he eventually chose as his mentor.

“I was actually just emailing her last week,” Anderson says from his home in Perth as he got ready to go to school.

“Having Delta as a mentor was honestly unbelievable. She’s such a talent and been across the world for what she does, so to work with her face to face is a dream come true,” he said.

Even after he was eliminated in the sing-off portion of the show, he says he’s kept touch with other contestants.

He looks forward to reuniting with them for the tour, which drops in at the Civic Theatre next Saturday, September 27.

Anderson will host the show alongside special guest Harrison Craig, who won The Voice in 2013, and may sing his signature song, Hey Soul Sister, as well as taking part in group songs.

The two will be joined by 10-year-old Alexa, who won the series, plus Ethan, Maddison, Ruhi, Chris and Bella, for a two-hour spectacular.

“To get back together and tour Australia and sing some songs together, I can’t wait for that,” he says.

And though his schedule has been hectic since he became a household name, Anderson says he loves it. After the tour is over, he’s headed back to school in Perth, but he promises Australia won’t get rid of him that easily.

“I want to be a singer, presenter and an actor. I want to be in the acting business,” he says.

“So I don’t know where I’m going from here, but you’re definitely not going to see the last of me after The Voice.”

PM Tony Abbott farewells RAAF troops at Williamtown

MISSION: Prime Minister Tony Abbott meets Middle East-bound troops at Williamtown yesterday. Picture: Department of DefencePRIME Minister Tony Abbott had a simple message for Williamtown RAAF base troops bound for the Middle East: Australia’s military mission to Iraq is right, just and necessary.

The government has yet to commit to a specific task in Iraq, pending consultation with the Iraq government, the United States and other allies. But Mr Abbott says it is essentially a humanitarian mission to disrupt and degrade the operations of the Islamic State, also known as ISIL, and in so doing protect the people of Iraq and Australia.

“They hate our freedom, our tolerance, our democracy,” he told personnel before they flew from the RAAF base at Williamtown yesterday. “You are there to protect us. You are the long, strong arm of Australia.”

He said any combat operations would be limited to air strikes by Super Hornets, and special forces would provide training and advice to Iraqi and Kurdish forces.

Australian Defence Force chief Mark Binskin endorsed not calling the mission another Iraq “war”.

“War would give them a legitimacy that they don’t deserve,” Air Chief Marshal Binskin said. “I do see this as a counter-terrorist operation.”

He said the Islamic State’s action against minority groups was brutal and “on the edge of genocide”. But while the extremist group was very driven, its tactics were not sophisticated.

“The strategy here is to give . . . the Iraqi forces the wherewithal to do this themselves,” he said.

The first Defence personnel, including commandos and the SAS, left Australia on Tuesday. The rest will join them in the United Arab Emirates in coming days.

The Williamtown RAAF base is offering support through its Surveillance and Response Group, which oversees the Wedgetail aircraft.

Air Commander Chris Westwood said more than 100 defence force personnel had turned out to meet with Mr Abbott and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten yesterday.

“The Wedgetail aircraft is a key strategic and operational component of the Australian commitment to national security.

“Today was a fantastic opportunity for members from Number 2 Squadron and the wider surveillance and response and combat support groups to be able to talk to the Prime Minister about the important work they do on ADF operations,” he said.

The federal Opposition has backed Australia’s involvement in Iraq, which to date has included humanitarian aid drops and four deliveries of weapons to Kurdish forces.

Labor foreign affairs spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek said the Opposition’s support was not a “blank cheque” for the deployment.

She said Mr Abbott should front Parliament in the next fortnight to explain Australia’s role in the international coalition, how success would be measured and when its involvement would be concluded.

“We’ve said if our involvement lasts anything more than a few weeks we should have the Prime Minister update the Parliament,” she said.

Mr Shorten said the humanitarian mission aimed at restoring order in Iraq was important and he did not believe “mission creep” was inevitable.

Riley, Joel & Gene Brown to lift Cessnock in Real NRL grand final

BAND OF BROTHERS:Gene, Joel and Riley Brown at Cessnock Sportsground yesterday. Picture: Marina NeilIN 2004, before his NRL starting debut for the Knights, a 19-year-old Riley Brown described his younger brothers Joel and Gene as “his best mates”.

Fast forward a decade the siblings have the chance on Sunday to achieve a life-long family dream together – a first-grade premiership.

The three Browns will be essential to Cessnock’s chances of upsetting Western Suburbs in the Newcastle Rugby League grand final on Sunday at No.1 Sportsground.

With Riley and Joel linked to rival clubs next season, Sunday appears the only opportunity to achieve that childhood dream forged in their Singleton backyard.

“There’s four years apart between all of us and it was always something I wanted to do,” Riley said last night.

“We used to play in the backyard a lot and we always wanted to play together and this is our opportunity in a grand final as well, so it’s something special.”

Two years ago Riley, 29, and Joel, who turns 26 on Monday, played in the Goannas’ 16-14 grand-final loss to the Rosellas.

Gene, 21, was out recovering from a shoulder reconstruction.

Knowing it is unlikely the three will pull on the same jersey again, Gene is desperate to make Sunday’s grand final count.

“It possibly could be [the last], but you never know,” he said.

“By the looks of it it’ll be the last time we get to play together, so hopefully we can go out with a bang and have something to remember.”

Rugby league runs deep in the Brown gene pool.

Riley played 76 NRL games for the Knights, Sydney Roosters and Gold Coast Titans before joining Cessnock in 2012.

Since being back in the local league, Riley has played for NSW Country and was voted Newcastle Rugby League player of the year last season.

Joel is a former Australian Schoolboy and has been the Newcastle Rebels representative halfback for the past two seasons.

Gene played Harold Matthews and SG Ball with the Knights and Titans and is beginning to carve out a solid reputation coming off the bench in the forwards at Cessnock.

Last Sunday, in Cessnock’s 18-16 preliminary final victory over Souths, the halves combination of Riley and Joel proved the difference.

With the game in the balance after 75 minutes at 16-16, Riley kicked a field goal to break the deadlock, before Joel delivered a second on the siren.

Despite Riley being recognised as one of the competition’s premier footballers, his two-match suspension for abusing a touch judge in round 14 proved the turning point for Joel and the Goannas’ season.

In Riley’s absence Cessnock beat Souths (26-6), drew with Macquarie (28-28) and on his return the undefeated streak grew to seven matches as they qualified for their fifth grand final in seven seasons.

During the streak Joel has produced his best footy.

“The best thing that ever happened to us was Riles getting suspended for those two weeks,” Joel said.

“I had to take on the role of being the playmaker, getting to our points, getting to our kicks and doing stuff like that.

“While it wasn’t a good thing, it was good for me as it forced me to take more responsibility for the team.”

Wests will start hot favourites on Sunday to win their third straight title, but Riley said he was enjoying the pressure-free build-up compared to their failed 2012 decider.

“It doesn’t even feel like a grand final this week because we’ve pretty much been playing grand finals for four weeks,” Riley said.

Peter Mannion a lucky charm for Wests in grand finals

BEST YEAR: Peter Mannion in action for the Rosellas. Picture: Simone De PeakPETER Mannion is Western Suburbs’ Mr Consistency.

In the club’s back-to-back Newcastle Rugby League grand finals he has been the unsung hero, the gritty toiler in a glamour team.

The 29-year-old back-rower has also been a good-luck charm for the Rosellas.

When Mannion is there on grand final day, the boys from Harker Oval win.

That proved the case in 2008, 2012 and last season.

Mannion played in France in 2011 and watched that season’s decider from the sidelines as Maitland defeated Wests in golden point.

A fourth premiership with a victory over Cessnock on Sunday would complete the best year of Mannion’s eight-year stint at the New Lambton club.

He was rewarded with a maiden Newcastle Rebels jersey and then a NSW Country tour to Hawaii.

“It’s came as a big surprise, but I need to give some credit to the other boys as it’s easier to play well when you’ve got the team we’ve got,” Mannion said.

“The body is feeling great and I’m enjoying the football now. The closer you get to retirement the more you enjoy it and you seem to play better.”

Wests coach Craig Miller said Mannion’s representative selection was long overdue.

“I think he’s been a quality player for a hell of a long time, and it’s surprised me it took him this long to get his recognition,” Miller said. “People are starting to realise what he brings to a football team. He has a fantastic motor and his work rate is unbelievable.”

As Wests aim for the first hat-trick of premierships in the competition since Tony Price’s Rosellas side completed the feat in 1997-99, Mannion is also gunning for his own personal three-peat.

In the past two deciders the Young product has scored tries on the grand stage at No.1 Sportsground.

And Mannion’s chances of grabbing another are high.

Cessnock can expect plenty of traffic from the Rosellas’ right edge of Mannion, centre Simon Williams and winger Callan Richardson.

The NSW Country trio form arguably the most lethal combination in the competition.

Of the grand finals, Mannion rates the 16-14 victory over the Goannas in 2012 as his favourite. Cessnock were the minor premiers that season and had lost just three games before the grand final.

“We didn’t go into that game expecting to win and we were up against Cessnock, who were a red-hot team,” Mannion said. “So going there as underdogs and winning was sweet.”

Knights big three Sione Mata’utia, Jake Mamo and Joseph Tapinefit for NYC semi

Sione Mata’utia.KNIGHTS “big three” Sione Mata’utia, Jake Mamo and Joseph Tapine have lifted their teammates’ spirits in the build-up to the National Youth Cup sudden-death semi-final against the Warriors by completing the most important training session of the week.

Coach Mick Crawley said Mata’utia (elbow), Mamo (back) and Tapine (ankle) trained without incident on Wednesday and he expected them to do likewise at their final run today before the minor premiers play the two-time NYC champions at Allianz Stadium tomorrow.

Newcastle’s three NRL-experienced players were hampered by their injuries in a 30-22 loss to St George Illawarra at Allianz Stadium last Saturday.

“Joe, Jake and Sione all trained last night and they all got through the whole session,” Crawley told the Newcastle Herald yesterday.

“Considering Joe’s ankle, we thought we might have to nearly rest him the whole week but he was fine. He trained just with strapping and trained really well, Sione did the whole session and so did Jake, so that was pretty good.

“Jake hasn’t been able to train for a few weeks now so it was good to get him out on the field and he looked a little bit like his old self. He was buzzing around, so that was a good sign.

“Everyone’s healthy so we’ll be one to 17.”

Crawley said the Knights had yesterday off and will have a light run and video session today before heading to Sydney tomorrow to prepare for the 5.15pm kick-off.

The Knights split their two games against the Warriors during the regular season. The Warriors won 34-22 in Auckland on June 1 then the Knights overcame a 16-0 deficit in the August 17 rematch in Newcastle to win 40-34.

As back-to-back NYC premiers in 2010 and 2011, and runners-up to Penrith last year, the Warriors have a proven pedigree in the under 20s competition.

The Warriors needed a late try and sideline conversion to force an 18-18 draw with Penrith in the last round of the season, edging out the Panthers on points difference to sneak into the finals in eighth place, then upset the fifth-placed Roosters 44-30 last Saturday.

Crawley believes that should bring the best out of his team after they struggled to complete their sets and build pressure against St George Illawarra last Saturday.

Only six days earlier, the Knights beat the same team 36-26 at Hunter Stadium to secure the minor premiership and relegate the Dragons from second to fourth.

“I think for us, and it’s been our Achilles heel all year, when we’re playing against teams that everyone expects us to do well against, it’s always a tough old day for us,” he said.

“But when we know it’s going to be a challenge before we get there, and with the Warriors you know it’s going to be a tough day at the office, I don’t need to remind them of that.

“Last week I tried to tell the boys all week about how intense the Dragons were going to be and they just didn’t get it, but I don’t have to say anything this week.

“They know just watching the vision of the Warriors that they’re going to come out flying, so we’re going to have to be on our game.

“Last time they jumped out to 16-0 in a matter of minutes and we had to toil away and we ended up getting back in front by half-time.

“So they know it’s going to be an uphill battle all the way, but I think that’s probably when we’re at our best – when everyone expects the other mob to do well.”

Revisiting 1967 Newcastle Rugby League grand final

GAME TO REMEMBER: Wayne “Bomber” Hore and Jack “Croaker” Gill relive the 1967 grand final at No.1 Sportsground this week.DATELINE: Saturday, August 26, 1967. It is Newcastle Rugby League grand final day.

Unlimited tackles have been surpassed by the new “four-tackle” rule, which many suspect has been introduced to break the St George club’s 11-year stranglehold on the Sydney premiership.

More than 18,000 spectators cram into Newcastle’s No.1 Sportsground.

They will witness an enthralling local decider that ultimately delivers not just an upset result but also hastens a further change to the code’s international rule book.

The protagonists are Western Suburbs and Northern Suburbs, two clubs remarkably dissimilar to the casual observer.

Among the powerful Wests Rosellas line-up is footballing catholic priest Father John Cootes. Within two years he will be chosen in Australia’s Test team while still playing in Newcastle.

Hooker Allan Buman is the incumbent Test rake in an era when the ability to strike cobra-like for the ball in scrums is a premium requirement, though in the future this will become a useless attribute.

Mick Alchin is a volatile winger and will go on to a Sydney playing and coaching career.

Hard men in the pack include Ray “Wagga” Johnson and Dennis Rowston, who years later becomes, like Buman, a prominent hotelier.

Lock forward and captain-coach John Hobby is versatile, a skilled ball distributor.

The backline bristles with representative talent. Police constable and five-eighth Wayne “Bomber” Hore later rises to the rank of detective inspector and in retirement becomes a director of the monolithic Wests Leagues Club in New Lambton.

The Rosellas win both lower-grade grand finals and are warm favourites to triumph in first grade, thus replicating their feat of the previous season when minor and major premiers in all three grades.

Only one thing stands in their way: Norths.

The “Bluebags”, as they are known, have their heartland in the blue-collar suburbs clustered near the Newcastle waterfront. Their “leagues club” is a series of pubs dotted around Wickham, Islington and Carrington.

Northern Suburbs will start underdogs because, at least on paper, the “Blues” may struggle to match the firepower of Western Suburbs.

But read the fine print.

Player-coach Jack “Croaker” Gill is a dockyard worker from Stockton, a canny tactician and deadly goalkicking lock forward, back home after a stint with Parramatta.

Veteran front-rower Billy “Bags” Owens is playing his last game. Don’t underestimate Bags, a rock-hard Carrington man who has played for Australia.

Big prop Dennis Nichols will rise to great heights in the Newcastle trade union sector.

Rookie second-rower Karl Hutchinson is only 20 and destined for a long representative playing and coaching career.

Ironically, “Hutcho” will play his final seasons of district rugby league with today’s enemy.

Slippery five-eighth Les Perry later emulates his captain by making the grade in Sydney football.

Forward Bill Mattingly is so strong he is nicknamed “Horse”, although “Rhino” would perhaps be more apt.

Unheralded young hooker Allan Jones is about to have his finest hour.

Doug Ellis comes up from the lower grades to fullback and has a huge game.

At 3pm the match starts under the iron fist (or whistle) of referee Noel Spohr.

Both teams are wary in the early stages.

After 20 minutes the score is two points apiece when Norths suddenly strike.

From close range Blues halfback Brian Askie scoots through the Wests goal-line defence to score the first try.

Tries are worth three points. Gill misses the conversion and Norths lead 5-2.

The Rosellas immediately hit back. Cootes beats multiple defenders in a 50-metre run and scores wide out. He converts his own try. Wests 7-5.

Another penalty goal suggests the Rosella are gaining the ascendancy, but they must capitalise on the breeze at their backs and need more points before the break.

No points come, but an ominous statistic has arisen.

Although leading 9-5 on the scoreboard, Wests have lost the first-half scrums 7-1 and are also getting caned in the penalty count.

Gill kicks a penalty after the resumption, but Cootes immediately does likewise for an 11-7 lead.

Dangerous attacking raids by both teams are snuffed out by strong defence.

Repeated Wests infringements allow Gill to land two more goals – one is from near halfway – as Norths claw back to 11-all.

Wests miss with two field-goal attempts and are further hampered by handling errors into the wind. Frustration creeps in.

With nine minutes to go, Buman is caught offside and Gill kicks the goal.

Norths have hit the lead 13-11 in a thriller.

Then it happens: Croaker’s master stroke.

From the restart Norths work through their four-tackle set and, on the last tackle, Gill kicks the ball dead on the full.

Under the rules, the defending team must restart play with a drop-kick from their own quarter line, thus surrendering possession.

Wests do so.

Norths take three more tackles and the skipper kicks dead again, depriving the desperate Rosellas of the ball.

Of course, you wouldn’t have done this under the unlimited-tackle rule – you just work the ball relentlessly until you score or turn the ball over. But, on this day, with a handy breeze at his back, Gill intentionally punts the ball out of play an astonishing six times in succession, and his team get it back on each occasion.

His seventh kick misfires and Wests regain the ball with just a minute left on the clock.

Alchin breaks clear and kicks infield, but Cootes fumbles and the last chance is gone.

The siren sounds and Norths are major premiers. The Carro pubs will be full tonight.

The rest is history and rumour.

That’s the reason for this story: The rumours.

This game has passed into footy folklore.

Some accounts suggest famed former Newcastle player Brian Carlson, a mate of Jack Gill, found the rule loophole and passed it on.

Another says a Norths stalwart spotted it while flicking through the new rule book and that Norths kept it up their sleeve until grand final day.

It’s all untrue.

I went to see Jack “Croaker” Gill this week in search of the definitive answer. He clarified things once and for all.

“With about 10 minutes left I put up an attacking high kick which the wind carried over the dead-ball line and out of play,” he said.

“When we got the ball back from the restart it suddenly dawned on me that we could utilise the rule.

“We held only a slender lead. We couldn’t afford to give Wests half a chance.

“We didn’t give them that half chance and we won.”

But Wests pivot “Bomber” Hore sees it differently.

“Referee Spohr penalised us unmercifully,” he recalled.

“We never got into any rhythm, and 47 years later it still hurts.”

Footnote: Before the start of the following season (1968) the relevant rule was changed internationally and thereafter the defending side were given possession and restarted play with a tap kick.

NORTHERN SUBURBS 13 (B Askie try; J Gill 5 goals) WESTERN SUBURBS 11 (J Cootes try; J Cootes 3 goals; J Hobby field goal)

Scrums: North 11-4

Penalties: Norths 14-8

Norths: 1 D Ellis 2 D Newton

3 D McManus 4 R Hunter 5 R Butler

6 L Perry 7 B Askie 8 J Gill

9 W Mattingly 10 K Hutchinson

11 D Nichols 12 A Jones 13 W Owens

Wests: 1 G Spruce 2 M Alchin

3 R Hensby 4 J Cootes 5 P Holmes 6 W Hore 7 Mick Gallagher

8 J Hobby 9 D Rowston

10 R Johnson 11 N Gibson

12 A Buman 13 R Davies

USA cowboy holiday: Bonanza, a sequel

Ride ’em cowboy: Wrangler Rich athis property. Photo: Ben Groundwater Ride ’em cowboy: Wrangler Rich athis property. Photo: Ben Groundwater

Ride ’em cowboy: Wrangler Rich athis property. Photo: Ben Groundwater

Ride ’em cowboy: Wrangler Rich athis property. Photo: Ben Groundwater

For those with dreams of embracing the wild, wild west, this is how you do it, writes Ben Groundwater.

‘Being a cowboy is a hands-on experience,” says Wrangler Rich, pausing to adjust his big hat, tipping it back to face the Nevada sun. “It’s fitting saddles, brushing horses, shovelling poop … that’s what it’s all about.”

If that’s true, then right now I’m a cowboy. I might not have a hat to match Wrangler Rich’s, but I do have a big steel brush in hand, and I’ve been stationed next to my steed, Poncho, and ordered to brush him down. It’s partly getting to know the horse, and partly getting to know being a horseman.

Scrape, scrape. I brush down a fairly nonplussed Poncho for a good 10 minutes before Rich calls me over to the shed and points out a saddle. It’s a huge, heavy leather ensemble, and it’s all I can do to heft it back out to the stable and throw it over Poncho’s back.

I’m taught how to strap it on, cowboy style. I check the fit, then walk over to the fence to grab a bridle.

This is a hands-on experience in true cowboy country. The sky is big and blue here in Carson City, the Nevadan state capital set in a wide valley below the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

Those snow-capped peaks tower above us today as we walk around the R&D Ranch on the outskirts of town.

This is the place Wrangler Rich now calls home. One of the area’s most famous cowboys, Rich was the last remaining employee on the Ponderosa Ranch, a nearby old theme park based on the Bonanza TV show. These days he’s semi-retired and runs horse-riding expeditions and quad-bike adventures from his Carson City domain.

It’s hands-on and it’s real, which presents a slight problem for me. While I’m feeling professional and calm brushing down my steed and fitting the saddle, when it comes to actually riding a horse I’m much more “coward” that “cowboy”.

Regardless, I’ve come this far, and it’s time to mount up and walk out onto that beautiful Nevadan plateau, a valley of sagebrush under a sky criss-crossed with jet-stream scars. As we hit the track, Wrangler Rich pulls his feet out of his stirrups and spins around in his saddle, sitting backwards to face me.

“Now, you don’t want to just do a nose-to-tail walk,” he says. “That’s boring! Today we’re gonna do it all. We’re gonna trot, we’re gonna canter, we’re gonna go through a river … It’s gonna be a great day.”

I’m still a little nervous, but underneath me Poncho strolls nonchalantly along. If I tilt the reins left, he walks left. Right, he turns right. Give them a little tug and he comes to a patient halt. Wrangler Rich just laughs. “Boy that horse is makin’ you look real good Ben!”

For those with dreams of embracing the wild, wild west, this is how you do it. In prime cowboy country, close to the rodeo town of Reno and the old gold-mining hub of Virginia City, Wrangler Rich offers a small slice of Western life.

True to his word, he soon has me encourage Poncho into a trot (uncomfortable), and then a canter (scary), before we approach a steep drop into the river that cuts the valley in two. It’s here that I get to appreciate just how finely trained my steed is, as Poncho allows me to slowly ease him, one short step at a time, down the ravine.

“Now you’re a proper cowboy,” Rich yelps.

But our riding experience today won’t be limited to horses. That afternoon the two of us pile into Rich’s truck and drive – to a soundtrack of Marty Robbins country and western songs – out to the mountain range behind Reno, an area home to herds of wild mustangs that we’re here to view from a couple of quad-bikes, or ATVs (All Terrian Vehicles).

Now this is a beast I know how to handle. Nevada residents love their toys, Rich says, which is why plenty of people come up here to ride ATVs or shoot their guns. The mountains are riven with rough tracks that allow us to explore for many miles in any direction.

And so off we go, the pair of us roaring through the barren, rocky hills on four-wheeled stallions, pausing every now and then as Rich spots herds of mustangs. “Get your camera out!” he yells at one point. “This is National Geographic stuff!”

Whether it’s the well-trained steeds on the ranch or the wild stallions of the Reno hills, the common thread here is Rich’s passion for horses. His eyes gleam as he talks about the mustangs, pointing out the alpha males, explaining the group behaviour, picking herds out from afar.

Rich is a cowboy to his core. And today, if only briefly, so am I.

The writer travelled as a guest of Travel Nevada.



Fiji Airways flies daily from Melbourne and Sydney to Los Angeles, via Nadi. Connections to Reno are available from LA. For bookings and information call 1800 230 150 or see fijiairways南京夜网.


The historic Gold Hill Hotel is about a half-hour drive from R & D Ranch, in Virginia City, and has double rooms from $92. See


Wrangler Rich runs horse-riding and quad-bike adventures from his ranch in Carson City, Nevada. The two-hour “Cowboy 101” horse-riding tour costs $110 a person, while wild mustang tours on an ATV cost $163. See


Reno Rodeo A local favourite, this 10-night event is visited by about 140,000 people every June. Nevada’s finest horsemen come out, and it’s a great place to take in cowboy culture. National Finals Rodeo. The nation’s top 15 horsemen competing in a range of events in Las Vegas. National Cowboy Poetry Gathering Held annually in Elko, Nevada, this celebrates the cowboy trade through poetry, music and stories.



Drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco: Take the long route

Monterey Bay sea otters. Santa Cruz’s Giant Dipper.

Hearst Castle.

California’s scenic coastal route is worth the extra time, writes David Whitley.

Kalyra Winery feels as though it’s on the wrong side of the Pacific. A surfboard decorated with Aboriginal art is proudly mounted on the tasting room wall, which looks suspiciously like an Australian beach shack. Reg Mombassa prints cover the walls, and the pinot bianco made here goes down dangerously easily.

The connection lies with Kalyra’s owners, the Brown brothers, who received their education in South Australia’s Barossa Valley before upping sticks to the Santa Ynez Valley in California’s Santa Barbara region. Kalyra got a boost when Hollywood paid a visit, too, using the winery as a location when filming the box-office hit film Sideways. The movie instantly made the wine region hip.

As first stops go on a drive north from Los Angeles to San Francisco, Santa Barbara is pretty agreeable. The city’s Old Mission church harks back to the Franciscan order that set up shop here in 1786, but the city itself is thoroughly modern and has its share of rollerbladers whizzing past yoga devotees and surfers on the beachfront promenade.

These are among the sights you’ll miss if you drive from LA on State Highway 5 for the six-hour run to San Francisco. California richly rewards those who take the long way, using the Pacific Coast Highway and US Highway 101/State Route 1 with overnight stops en route.

For much of the journey, nature provides the thrills. Birdlife teems on the Sahara-meets-sea Guadelupe Dunes. Pristine forest backs the wild surf along the Big Sur stretch of the coast.

One extraordinary sight, however, is man-made. On the hills above San Simeon lies Hearst Castle, an object lesson in how to build a dream home if you’ve got unlimited money to throw at it. It was the beloved baby of publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst, who spent 28 years adding ever more lavish touches to this pile. On trips to Europe, Hearst saw antiquities he liked and bought them. In the grounds are ancient Egyptian statues, lion fountains from the days of Richard the Lionheart, and wooden choir stalls from mediaeval churches in the Pyrenees. Rubens tapestries hang in a room where Hearst played Monopoly with fellow billionaires. Roman marbles are dotted about, almost as afterthoughts.

David Niven, just one many of Hollywood celebrities invited to stay at the estate, described the vast, temple-like outdoor pool as “an elegant place to drown”.

On a tour of Hearst Castle, the elements that drove the man become apparent, and are as fascinating the property. Hearst expected guests to have his relentless energy, organising day-long programs of activities. He was a Democrat, served two terms on Congress, and ran for the US presidency in 1904. His policy of giving women the vote is widely thought to have been his downfall. Rarely does a tour make you so eager to rush out and buy a biography.

A few miles up the coast from Hearst Castle, near the Piedras Blancas lighthouse, is a beach that you’ll have trouble stretching out a towel on. It’s chock-full of elephant seals, once almost hunted to extinction for their blubber. Visitors use the viewing platform above the beach, watching the wildlife picking fights with one another or nurturing their young. There’s an awful lot of honking going on, too – both in terms of noise and smell.

More sea life is in evidence on the waters of Monterey Bay. It’s a major stop on the whale migration route, and the big beasts are usually fairly easy to spot. But Dorris Welch, on-board marine biologist for Sanctuary Cruises, understands their reticence.

“The whales are shy when orcas are around,” she says. “They feed on the whale calves.”

Orcas may be spotted, too, and may flit around your tour boat – until they spot a harbour seal. What happens next is both a privilege and a horror to watch. The orcas treat the seal like a plaything. They stalk it as a pod, corner it and slowly tear it to pieces. This is nature as directed by Scorsese rather than Disney.

On the way back in, however, there’s a merciful dose of cute to balance out the visceral scenes of aquatic savagery. Sea otters, gorgeous whiskery faces bobbing on the water, form an adorable honour guard for the returning sailors.

For the last leg of the journey to San Francisco, a decision needs to be made. Head inland, and you’re in John Steinbeck country. Many of the Nobel Prize-winning author’s novels, including Of Mice And Men, were set in the agricultural lands around his home town of Salinas. His house and the National Steinbeck Centre are in Salinas itself.

Stay on the the coast road and you will reach Santa Cruz, as close to the archetype of seaside Californian charm as you could wish to find. At the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, a faded hippie, surf-bum culture meets nostalgic family fun at the amusement park, where the Giant Dipper rollercoaster – a fixture since 1924 – takes visitors up high for million-dollar views before plunging.

Taking the time to go the long way between key cities in California has never seemed more right.

The writer travelled at his expense.



Qantas, Virgin Australia and United Airlines operate direct return flights from Sydney or Melbourne to Los Angeles. See qantas南京夜网; virginaustralia南京夜网;united南京夜网


Spanish Garden Inn, Santa Barbara. Rooms from $280, see spanishgardeninn南京夜网. El Colibri, Cambria. Rooms from $145, see elcolibri南京夜网. West Cliff Inn, Santa Cruz. Rooms from $200, see westcliffinn南京夜网


Most rental companies won’t charge one-way fees for pick-ups in Los Angeles and drop-offs in San Francisco (but do check before confirming the booking). San Francisco has excellent public transport, so plan to drop off the car as soon as you can.


visitcalifornia南京夜网; carrentals南京夜网

EDITORIAL: A time for calm and leadership as terrorism threats uncovered

JUST days after security officials raised the national terrorism alert, hundreds of police have swooped in Sydney and Queensland, arresting suspects accused of plotting violence.

It has been alleged that some people associated with Islamic extremist groups were urging others to commit violent acts, including – it is said – the beheading of innocent Australian civilians.

These chilling allegations will find ready enough acceptance, given the bloody recent record of the extremist movement worldwide.

It may take some time before it becomes clear how well-formed this alleged criminal intention was at the time of the arrests.

In the meantime, feelings on all sides have become even more inflamed than they already had been after Australia’s decision to join the coalition of nations involved in military strikes against Islamic extremist fighters in Iraq.

Some Muslim groups have begun organising demonstrations against the arrests, and police are warning that people who take their protests too far and who break the law will be severely dealt with.

Following on the heels of media reports of abuse and threats levelled at members of the Australian armed forces and at members of churches, all the ingredients are present for some nasty confrontations.

Nobody could criticise the police and security authorities for acting quickly and firmly to prevent violent crimes if they had good reason to believe such crimes were being planned.

Some will complain that innocent households may have been targeted along with the potentially guilty, that some innocent people may have been unfairly traumatised and that outrage at the police raids may create new activists and enemies to civil order.

If the case for the arrests was sound, however, limited collateral discomfort will be deemed acceptable, as always when preventing crime is the intention.

If tensions escalate, the heightened polarisation of the community will probably help steel national resolve to back Australia’s military action against extremists in the Middle East.

Sadly, some will regard that as a desirable propaganda goal in itself.

But the tighter the spiral of anger and distrust winds, the harder it is for moderate voices to be heard.

Indeed, such sparks as this event may sometimes start self-perpetuating conflicts like those that plague so many nations but which have been largely absent from Australian society.

This is a moment when good leadership – in government, mosque and church – can and should be called upon to calm fears and tempers on all sides.

It serves none but the narrowest and worst of interests to fan the flames of hatred and anger in times like these.

Newcastle’s Melbourne Cup bid for 2014: Protectionist, Terrubi

BACK FOR MORE: Jamie Lovett, left, and Luke Murrell at Broadmeadow yesterday. Picture: Ryan OslandTHREE years after running third with German stayer Lucas Cranach, Hunter thoroughbred syndicators Jamie Lovett and Luke Murrell are planning another European assault on the Melbourne Cup.

Lovett and Murrell, who are directors of Australian Bloodstock, are hoping to make a two-pronged attack on the $6.2 million, 3200-metre race with rising German star Protectionist and well credentialled French galloper Terrubi, but the latter is in serious doubt.

Australian Bloodstock have secured a major interest in Protectionist, and the horse’s owner, Christoph Berglar, has retained a stake.

Protectionist will remain with his German trainer, Andreas Wohler, for the Melbourne campaign before moving to the stables of premier Newcastle trainer Kris Lees.

Protectionist is a four-year-old entire by Monsun, which sired last year’s Melbourne Cup winner, Fiorente.

A winner of four races from eight starts, Protectionist has never missed a place and won the group 2 Prix Kergorlay over 3000m in Deauville, France, on August 24.

That followed group 2 success in the Hansa-Preis in Hamburg over 2400m in June.

The Prix Kergorlay has become a key form race for the Cup. Americain won the 2010 Kergorlay before going on that year to become the first French winner of the Cup.

Subsequent Melbourne Cup winner Dunaden and runner-up Red Cadeaux also came through the French race.

Terrubi, a four-year-old entire by Dalakhani, will be trained by David Payne.

Terrubi was last in the group 1 Grosser Preis Von Baden in Germany onSeptember 7, his first unplaced run in 10 starts, including three wins.

That failure followed a group2 victory over 2800m in the Prix Nieuil at Longchamp. Second in that race was Brown Panther, which won the Irish St Leger (2800) at its next start and ran eighth in last year’s Melbourne Cup.

Lovett said Terrubi was found to have a back strain after his latest run but is with Protectionist in the Newmarket quarantine and due to leave for Australia on September 27.

‘‘When they jumped he threw his head up, and when they got him back the next day they couldn’t even run their hand along his back,’’ Lovett said ‘‘They will shockwave him and he might be right in two days, or it might take two weeks, and they can’t miss two weeks’ work this time of year.

‘‘Protectionist is spot on and we hope to have two in the race, but Terrubi, we’ll have to see how he travels.

‘‘We haven’t totally discounted him. He’s such a nice horse and we’re not going to risk him if he’s not right.

‘‘We’re just going to have a look at him when he gets to Australia, see how he travels, and if he’s still sore, we’ll pull the pin.’’

The Melbourne Cup setback is nothing new for Lovett and Murrell, who have had two previous runners in the race that stops a nation.

The pair syndicated British stayer Illustrious Blue, which finished ninth in 2010, and Lucas Cranach, which was third behind Dunaden in 2011.

They had high hopes for Lucas Cranach, but an injury on race eve left them wondering what could have been.

‘‘He got a foot abscess and just wasn’t right,’’ Lovett said. ‘‘He was spiked when he twisted a plate in quarantine on the Saturday before the race, and he was never quite right after that, but that’s racing. He was a really good horse.’’

Lovett said the 2014 buys were ‘‘as good a horses as we’ve had since Lucas’’.

AAP reports: Melbourne Cup favourite The Offer will be out to make a spring statement in the Underwood Stakes at Caulfield on Saturday.

The Offer delighted connections when he hit the line strongly for fifth in the Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes first-up, confirming his position at the top of Melbourne and Caulfield Cup markets.

Roger Elliott, trainer Gai Waterhouse’s Melbourne representative, exuded some of the confidence his boss is renowned for by declaring he would not be surprised to see the imported stayer triumph in Saturday’s 1800m group 1 race.

‘‘On his work and the way he has been, I think he is a winning chance, for sure,’’ Elliott said.

The Underwood is short of The Offer’s preferred distance as he has not won over less than 2200m.

It will be an important spring marker as he meets star New Zealand mare Silent Achiever and weight-for-age performers Happy Trails and Foreteller.

Catholic Church names Bishop Anthony Fisher as Cardinal George Pell’s successor

Bishop Anthony Fisher at El Phonecian Restaurant in Parramatta in 2011. Photo: Steven SiewertThe Bishop of Parramatta, Anthony Fisher, has been appointed the ninth Archbishop of Sydney, replacing the controversial Cardinal George Pell.

The Vatican announcement comes several months after Cardinal Pell was appointed to a newly created Secretariat for the Economy in Rome, charged with cleaning up the Vatican’s finances.

Bishop Anthony immediately committed the church to “doing better” in its response to victims of sexual abuse at the hands of priests and brothers.

“Victims of abuse and all young people must come first – no excuses, no cover-ups. The Church must do better in this area and I am committed to playing a leading role in regaining the confidence of the community and of our own members,” he said.

The comments come after Cardinal Pell was widely criticised for his appearance last month at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, where he likened the Catholic Church’s responsibility for child abuse to that of a “trucking company”. If a driver sexually assaulted a passenger they picked up along the way, he said, “I don’t think it appropriate for the leadership of that company be held responsible.”

Bishop Anthony, while praising the “strong foundations” laid by Cardinal Pell, took a more conciliatory tone.

“The Catholic Church in Australia is going through a period of public scrutiny and self-examination. I hope it will emerge from this purified, humbler, more compassionate and spiritually regenerated,” he said.

The Archbishop-elect was born in Crows Nest and attended Catholic schools at Lakemba, Lane Cove, Ryde and Riverview. He studied history and law at the University of Sydney and practised in a city law firm before entering the Dominican Order.

He was ordained a priest in 1991 and completed a doctorate in bioethics at Oxford, before teaching at the Australian Catholic University.

“Growing up in the south-west and then the north of Sydney, working as a bishop in the east and then the west, I feel a deep affinity for every part of this wonderful city and a deep concern for its people,” he said.