New pitch not up to scratch

SURFACE TENSION: A player kicks up sand on Tuesday night.JOHN van’t Schip’s side had no trouble carving up the Jets defence on the Hunter Stadium pitch, but the Melbourne City coach was far from impressed with the surface after their 5-2 win.

Van’t Schip rated the ground a four out of 10 after his class line-up’s five-star performance in round 13 on Tuesday night, which came just two weeks out from the stadium hosting the first of four Asian Cup games in Newcastle.

Defending champions Japan play Palestine on Monday, January 12, at Hunter Stadium.

The venue will also host Oman against Kuwait on January 17, a semi-final on January 27 and the third-place playoff on January 30.

On Tuesday, players kicked up sand regularly throughout the game, just seven weeks after a new $1.3million pitch was laid in preparation for the Asian Cup.

That work, funded by the Asian Cup and the state government, came after the surface came in for heavy and consistent criticism.

Despite City’s dominant attacking display on the new pitch, van’t Schip said it was not up to standard.

‘‘Well, I think that the pitch, looking at it, they say it is a new pitch, it’s in a very bad condition,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s poor. It’s not to a level that a club like Newcastle deserves, and the A-League deserves. That’s the only thing I can say.

‘‘If you look at the pitch at AAMI Park and compare it to here, and you have to give it a rating. I think AAMI Park is a 10 and this a new pitch, it’s a four.

‘‘We have to deal with it. I don’t know why it happened, but it’s not a good pitch.’’

Jets coach Phil Stubbins would not give his view on the surface, saying: ‘‘I don’t think I need to speak about the pitch. I think everyone else can make their own judgments on that.’’

The Herald has been told 50 tonnes of top-dressing sand was laid on Hunter Stadium before Newcastle’s 2-1 win over Adelaide on December 19 and another 33 tonnes was spread early last week to ensure the pitch is in prime condition for the Asian Cup.

Toronto skipper draws inspiration from departed Dad

Darren CooneyFOR Toronto skipper Darren Cooney and his amateur crew of neighbours and friends, just getting to the start line with Inner Circle was an achievement.

Making it to Constitution Dock on Tuesday morning and narrowly missing a divisional win in the Sydney to Hobart was something else.

Inner Circle, from the Royal Motor Yacht Club Toronto, finished second behind fellow Hunter yacht She’s The Culprit in the Corinthian division, introduced this year for purely amateur crews.

The 27-year-old Farr designed 40-foot yacht was due to finish on Monday night before being one of seven boats called to search for a light plane which went down in waters near the Tasman Peninsula.

The crew on board Mistraal witnessed the single-engine Cessna carrying a pilot and one passenger ditch into waters about 6.20pm before making a mayday call and rushing to where they saw the plane’s tail disappear beneath the waves. The aircraft is believed to have been capturing footage of the racing yachts.

Cooney and his crew spent more than two hours searching before carrying on to Hobart and arriving just after 3am.

Their arrival time was adjusted to 1am, giving them 76th on line honours but 23rd on overall handicap from the 103yachts which finished. On top of their second place in Corinthian, they placed sixth in IRC division four and fifth in ORCi division four.

A relieved Cooney was not allowed to comment on the search but it was clear the 45-year-old was pleased to be in a position to be part of the effort after a long journey to the Sydney start line.

‘‘We started this in September last year after the boat had sat on a mooring since the 2008 Hobart,’’ Cooney said.

‘‘We couldn’t even get a pass for insurance, it was in that bad a shape. Then we decided to clean it up and came up with the harebrain idea to take it to Hobart.’’

Cooney combined with Chris Davidson, Michael Hayward, Chris Greenhaugh, Nigel Wilson and his daughters Emma and Chloe Wilson, as well as Mick McDonald and his son Stuart, to make the race a reality.

Owner and skipper, Cooney was inspired to embark on a seventh Hobart after his father, Robert, died in June last year.

‘‘The boat just sat out the front of dad’s place on a mooring and before he passed away he made the comment that you shouldn’t have such a great old ocean racing boat just sitting there rotting away,’’ Cooney said.

‘‘After he passed away, I thought, why don’t we get it up and going again.’’

After ‘‘astronomical’’ man hours to make the yacht sea-worthy again, Cooney was ecstatic with how it, and his crew, performed.

‘‘With the extent of work we had to do on the boat, we were happy to make the start line and meet all the sea-wise regulations,’’ he said.

‘‘The effort of the whole crew to fix the boat up, they gave 100per cent and sacrificed a lot of time with their family.

‘‘Then the first night it was pretty rough, not extreme, but 35knots on the nose, and the boat didn’t fall apart.

‘‘Then we believed we could get to the finish line.

‘‘Then we started to rack up … points before obviously we went to assist with the search effort.

‘‘We were in the placings and actually winning the Corinthian,’’ Cooney said.

‘‘But we went from hoping we could get to the start line to believing we could actually win something. We did so well.’’

She’s The Culprit, sailing out of the Newcastle and Lake Macquarie clubs, was the most successful of the Hunter contingent.

It finished 59th over the line but won the PHS, Corinthian and PHS division two handicap divisions.

Fellow Toronto yacht Let’s Go finished 75th, just over a minute ahead of Inner Circle, but 68th on handicap.

The other Hunter boats in the fleet, Frantic (19th on line honours), Dare Devil (37th) and Anger Management (40th), finished on Monday.

Concerns still held over Mount Clear, Mount Helen development

THE City of Ballarat is reviewing a plan which proposed to build 500 dwellings between Mount Clear and Mount Helen.

The move follows public protests from residents about the development.

The Draft Greenhill Road Development Feasibility Study outlines the council’s vision for the future of the land between Mount Helen and Mount Clear, east of Geelong Road.

The land is zoned “farming” but the report deemed the area fragmented and no longer viable for agricultural use.

Instead, it proposed to rezone the land for urbanised residential development.

Earlier this year, The Courier reported that Mount Helen and Buninyong residents feared the development would destroy the region’s natural appeal.

Late last month, a public consultation meeting was held on the matter between residents and council planning officers.

It was decided that the council would modify the plan to accommodate residents’ concerns.

Linda Zibel, a Mount Helen resident who is leading a campaign against the development, said she still had concerns about the impact any large-scale residential development in the region would have on the already congested Geelong Road.

Ms Zibel also called on the council to undertake an environmental assessment of the land which will be impacted.

“No one has done any environmental assessment yet for the people of Mount Helen the environment including landscape quality, native habitat and wildlife values is seamlessly interwoven with our way of life and neighbourhood character,” Ms Zibel said.

Ms Zibel said residents also wanted to see “revised, researched and on-ground re-evaluation of the situation,” now that the initial stage of fixing Geelong Road was complete.

The Courier contacted the council but was told it would be unable to respond to the inquiry until next year. It is expected the revised plan will be unveiled at the beginning of 2015.

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Senator Lambie sees case for reinvention

‘BE THE BEST’: Burnie RSL needs to reach out to the public and ‘be the best in town’ says Senator Lambie. Picture: Stuart Wilson.

MOVING into a new building would be the best thing the Burnie RSL could do, independent Senator and veterans’ advocate Jacqui Lambie said.

“They’ve got to reinvent themselves,” the former soldier said yesterday.

Describing the current premises as “dark and dingy”, Senator Lambie said the RSL needed to move into the centre of town and compete with other venues.

“If you want your business to thrive, you’ve got to be the best in town,” she said.

“They’re not reaching out enough to the public to get them to come in.”

She said “little RSLs” around the country were struggling financially, and needed to promote themselves as venues for families and even as nightclubs.

She said that was why RSLs were so successful in Sydney and Queensland, although she claimed many “RSLs” were not actually owned by the RSL any more, but just “carrying the badge”.

She also suggested there was a generational struggle within the RSL, with her generation against the older members.

“We need younger leadership in the RSL.”

She said Vietnam veterans were often outdoing RSLs in terms of advocacy and stressed the importance of getting younger veterans involved.

Senator Lambie said the Devonport and Ulverstone RSLs had been successful in bringing in the community, but that had not worked so well in Burnie.

The Coast’s RSLs should bring in a Mates4Mates program, she said.

Mates4Mates supports wounded, injured and ill defence force personnel and former defence personnel.

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Australia play it safe, Test ends in a draw

As it happened: Third Test, day fiveBaum: Limp declaration and what may have beenTonk: Pietersen goes in to bat for Shane WatsonKnox: Declaration raises questions about nature of the gameIndian captain Dhoni retires from Test cricket

Australia was worried into a cautious declaration because of India’s batting firepower and a flat MCG pitch, with captain Steve Smith admitting that snuffing out all hope for the tourists was more important than winning the Boxing Day Test.

The first draw in a Melbourne Test since 1997 delivered the Border-Gavaskar Trophy back into Australian possession but there were muted celebrations at the MCG when Smith and MS Dhoni agreed to call off the match with four overs left and India six wickets down.

Smith felt there was no prospect of a result at this point, and defended the decision to bat on until lunch by saying that he wanted to remove all possibility of an Indian win, which would have kept the series alive.

The declaration left Australia’s bowlers 70 overs to take ten wickets and set India 384 to win, well beyond the highest successful runchase in MCG history.

“I don’t think there was a win still there to be honest, all our bowlers were pretty cooked and it was time to finish, there wasn’t much breaking up in the wicket, there wasn’t much going on. I think that was it,” Smith said of the early finish.

He admitted the country’s attacking mantra was secondary to the desire to win back the trophy, which was lost during the hellish tour of India in 2013. He also suggested India’s defensive tactics when Shaun Marsh and Ryan Harris were batting on Tuesday morning influenced the decision.

“We do say we always play to win but it was one of those circumstances. India had an opportunity to take the new ball  and they didn’t do that,” Smith said. “We thought, you know what? We will give you a few less overs to get these runs. I thought they might have come out a bit harder and gone after us at the start and we might have got a few wickets there and we have got through their tail pretty quickly recently but it didn’t turn out that way. We still got a series win which was important to us.”

Marsh was run out on 99 after he was told a declaration was imminent. Smith was conscious of India’s bold bid to win the first Test in Adelaide, when the tourists fell 48 runs short.

“Yeah a little bit, and I think the wicket out here was much better than Adelaide. At least Adelaide broke up and spun a lot for Nathan, which created opportunities there. We certainly didn’t have that out here. It was a very good wicket to bat on and we didn’t want to give them an opportunity.”

Dhoni said the declaration was Australia’s territory but that he was ready to play out the day. “I was ready to play. I’d played 14, 15 overs, another four overs, maybe they were too tired to bowl four overs. That’s a very Aussie answer I’ve given,” he said.

“I changed my mind a couple of times, I wasn’t quite sure when to pull out, but as I said, I didn’t really want to give India a crack with the batters they had in the shed and how good that wicket was.”

India stumbled to 3-19 in the 9th over, but Virat Kohli again led the resistance with 54 to add to his brilliant 169 in the first innings.

Ryan Harris was named man of the match for his 74 in the first innings and six wickets for the Test.

The Australians, who will take a two-nil lead to the SCG, had their chances. They dropped three catches during India’s first innings and on Tuesday the dangerous Ajinkya Rahane was dropped on 22 and Ravi Ashwin on 1. Kohli was almost run out for four, prompting another verbal stoush with Brad Haddin.

“I reckon a win went begging when we dropped a couple of catches a few days ago,” Smith said. “Our fielding was below par for us in this Test match which was disappointing, we certainly let a few opportunities slip which never helps.”

Harris also defended the late declaration.

“We wanted to win the series, that was the thing when we started out the day. The question is going to be, did we bat too long? No we didn’t. We wanted to win the series and we didn’t want to give India a sniff. They only had to draw the series to retain the trophy, we have to win it and we’ve won it now,” he said.

“We always play to win but they chase big totals which we saw in Adelaide. A draw is a draw, but we win the series.”

Injured skipper Michael Clarke, who famously declared behind to conjure a victory against the West Indies in Barbados in 2012, discussed Smith’s options on Channel Nine before play.

“I would like to think Steve is certainly still thinking about winning the game,” Clarke said.

“Obviously Australia is up in the series but I think our attitude in my whole career has always been about how we can win the Test match so I’d like to think the boys are up there talking about that. Then I think Steve will work out what he feels is the right amount of time to bowl India out.”

Former Australian captain Mark Taylor said Smith would be wary of letting India back into the series.

“He’s way in front in the game and two-nil up in the series, so he doesn’t want to throw away a game with one [Test] to come but he will be thinking about winning for sure,” Taylor said. “He gets himself into a a position where they are way in front and say, you come and get them… If you want to keep this series alive, you chase them.”

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