Warrnambool fans on the Wildcatsbandwagon

Perth Wildcats coach Trevor Gleeson (left) welcomes a busload of Warrnambool supporters into the team’s change rooms after their NBL win in Melbourne on Sunday. Picture: SuppliedPERTH Wildcats coach Trevor Gleeson wants to enter the new year on a winning note as the reigning NBL champion strives to book a top-two finish and a home-court advantage come finals.

The third-placed Wildcats play bottom-placed Wollongong Hawks on the second leg of a road trip tonight in a New Year’s Eve showdown, fresh from ending a three-game away losing streak with an overtime win against Melbourne United on Sunday.

A pocket of the almost 7000-strong crowd at Hisense Arena — the biggest the newly-branded United has hosted — was in Gleeson’s camp, cheering the former Warrnambool Mermaids coach on in the down-to-the-wire contest.

A busload of Warrnambool fans made the trek to Melbourne to watch the south-west-bred coach lead his team to its 11th win of the NBL season.

Gleeson brought the contingent into Perth’s change rooms to meet the players after the win.

“It’s something I remember when I was a kid, meeting players after a game, and you like to do these things (now you can), especially for the young kids,” he said.

Gleeson said he was humbled to have strong support from his home town.

“I was really rapt when I was told there was a big bus coming down,” he said.

“I tried to get clappers and sticks for them (to cheer with) but our office had shut down over that period.”

Gleeson said Perth’s win against fourth-placed Melbourne was vital to its top-two chances.

The top two teams earn home-court advantage in best-of-three semi-final series.

The Wildcats sit below New Zealand Breakers and Cairns Taipans but have games in hand.

“It’s a good place to be — the hunter instead of hunted,” he said.

“There is definitely something to play for.

“We have to play all of them in January — Cairns twice, New Zealand over there and Melbourne at home — so the next four weeks will really dictate where we finish up.”

Perth captain Damian Martin will play his 200th NBL game against Wollongong.

Gleeson said the four-time league defensive player of the year was among the Wildcats’ most consistent performers.

“He was crook last game … and to play the game he played is what captains do, they step up in that situation,” he said.

“So it was a fantastic effort for him to give that intensity.”

Martin will notch the milestone with close friend Greg Hire still sidelined with injury.

Hire is on the cusp of a return after missing the past 14 games with a serious calf injury he sustained in the opening round.

“To have one of your better players out and still be where we are (on the ladder) is fantastic,” Gleeson said.

“Adding him back in will be a big bonus for us.”

Gleeson’s basketball commitments extend beyond the NBL season, which wraps up in March.

He will resume his position as Australian Boomers assistant coach — a role which took him to the FIBA world cup in Spain in September, where he worked with NBA-calibre players including Cleveland’s Matthew Dellevadova, San Antonio Spurs’ Aron Baynes and Utah duo Dante Exum and Joe Ingles.

“Oceania qualifiers are in New Zealand and it’s a two-game series to qualify for the Olympics so that’s pretty big,” Gleeson said.

Gleeson said the world cup was an eye-opening experience which he hoped would help in the Wildcats’ quest for back-to-back NBL crowns.

“It was fantastic to experience it and see how good they are and see how the best in the world go about it,” he said.

“I picked up a lot and have brought it back and hopefully it shows out in the second half of the year.”

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Shoppers find top gear on sales day

SOLD: Burnie Autobarn retail assistant Nathan King with a couple of the popular items that raced out the door on Boxing Day. Picture: Stuart Wilson.

BURNIE Autobarn had its biggest Boxing Day sale in 18 years, with cars parked right up to the door to get a post-Christmas bargain.

“Our Boxing Day was unbelievable. The actual front of the door where the road is, it was pretty much blocked off, there were just cars parked everywhere,” Autobarn retail assistant Nathan King said.

Mr King estimated a 150 per cent increase in the numbers of people coming through the door from last Boxing Day, with customers lining up from 8am.

“We extended our opening hours – normally on the public holiday it’s open 10am to 4pm and then on Boxing Day we were open from 8.30am till 7pm,” he said.

Despite its bumper Boxing Day, the record figures will only round up what has been a slow start to the festive season.

“It brought us up to where we need to be. We’ve had one of those years where it’s been good but we’ve been down with the number of people that have come through the doors,” Mr King said.

“It’s helped us a lot because things haven’t been exactly the best over the last couple of years – this year has been a little bit harder.”

Customers throughout the year have been making the most of the front-page specials – but shopping, and spending less.

“One thing we’ve noticed throughout the year is a lot of people have been shopping for the massive specials,” he said.

“We were expecting to have a bit bigger start to December, which we didn’t have.”

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Dairy expansion hopes up

MAJOR dairy expansion at Circular Head is moving closer, with Woolnorth’s owner set to be taken over.

The historic Van Diemens Land Company is expected to be taken over by the newly incorporated Tasmanian Land Company.

TLC is offering cash or TLC scrip for VDL shares.

“If key VDL shareholders accept scrip, it is anticipated TLC will undertake a restructure of VDL to facilitate future capital raising and enable the company to substantially expand its dairying operations in Tasmania,” VDL said.

The New Plymouth District Council, in New Zealand, owns 98.4 per cent of VDL.

VDL said the council had indicated it would accept the offer and take scrip.

That would give a green light for expansion (subject to approvals likely to be opposed by environmentalists).

VDL independent directors have recommended shareholders accept the offer, in the absence of a higher one.

TLC is offering $2 per share.

VDL said that was a 45 per cent premium to net tangible assets of $1.375 per share as at May 31 this year.

If a sale went ahead and expansion followed, it would be good news for Circular Head and the whole of the state, Circular Head Mayor Daryl Quilliam said.

He said it would mean new dairies and jobs.

A recent government funded project to provide power along Harcus River Rd would allow new farms.

Cr Quilliam said there was much land in the area for potential dairy expansion.

Not much was clear as yet about TLC, which has been incorporated in Australia.

There is believed to have been significant Chinese interest in Woolnorth.

Deputy Premier Jeremy Rockliff said: “Investment in Tasmania’s dairy industry is strong and growing and our Agrivision 2050 plan, which is aimed at increasing the value of the state’s agricultural sector to $10 billion a year by 2050, is achievable.”

“Recent developments in the dairy industry demonstrate just how achievable this target is, and that means more jobs in Tasmania.

“The dairy industry currently employs about 2000 Tasmanians in a range of on and off farm jobs; the potential for growth is impressive.”

VDL shareholders have until 5pm on February 5 to accept the offer.

VDL announced a $7.2 million annual profit earlier this year.

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Tips to stay safe during festivities

WATCH out for each other is the message from Mount Isa police this New Year’s Eve. District Officer Acting Superintendent Trevor Kidd said people heading out should stay safe by following simple tips and watching out for their friends.

“It might sound straight forward, but using a bit of commonsense and staying aware of your surroundings can go a long way towards keeping you safe,” he said.

“Unless your new year’s resolution is to spend more time in the watchhouse, walk away from any potentially aggressive situations.

“We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again – one punch can kill.

“If you are planning on having a few drinks, leave the car at home. Use taxis and courtesy buses where available or nominate a designated driver.

“Drink-driving is selfish and reckless. It can cost you your life or the lives of other innocent road users.

“We will be out in force at the New Year’s Eve rodeo event and licensed premises to prevent antisocial behaviour. ‘‘We want everyone to have a happy and safe New Year’s Eve.”

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Queensland young gun Maroske takes out inaugural Stony Point 5000

Cody Maroske powers his way to victory in the Stony Point 5000 at Darlington on Monday. Picture: DANIEL BEARD, SPRINTCARZONETHE bounty from the richest formula 500 race in Victoria is headed to Queensland.

Gold Coast young gun Cody Maroske upstaged a talent-packed field to claim victory in the inaugural Stony Point 5000 at Darlington’s Mid-Western Speedway.

Maroske started 10th but charged through the field to beat Bannockburn’s James Aranyosi and Scotts Creek’s Matt Symons in the $5000-to-win feature.

The result, in front of a bumper crowd on Monday night, lifted him to sixth on the Speedweek standings. He ran 12th on night one at Hamilton.

Aranyosi leads with 309 points after back-to-back podium finishes, from Angelo Karoussis (290) and Andrew Priolo (268). But the night belonged to Maroske.

The 21-year-old, who is into his second season racing formula 500s, ranked the win alongside his 2010 Australian junior sedans title at Latrobe, Tasmania.

“I don’t think they were too impressed I came down and took the bacon (at Darlington),” he said.

“It was good to come all the way down from Queensland and get something for all the work we’ve put in.”

Maroske placed fourth in his two heats but rued a missed opportunity in the second to finish higher after stewards sent him to the rear after a mid-race collision.

The points tally earned him a spot out of position 10 in the A main, with Aranyosi off pole and Western Australian Andrew Priolo beside him.

“I knew we were quick but I wasn’t sure how we’d go. I know James is very, very quick, he’s been on fire. I thought he’d drive away with it,” Maroske said.

But Maroske improved to fifth after two laps and benefited from early-race restarts, which kept the frontrunners within sight.

He had climbed to third by a restart with about 15 laps to go, reeled in Priolo soon after and caught Aranyosi with 10 laps to race.

“This year we’ve been struggling. his is our first feature win. I guess it was a good first feature win,” he said.

Maroske placed fourth in Speedweek last summer but came down “to learn about the car and get a few more laps under the belt”.

He is chasing results in his second campaign but is aware consistency, not aggression, reaps the greater rewards.

“Definitely coming down here this year we had higher expectations of trying to get somewhere closer to the front,” he said.

“It’s all about consistency and keeping yourself level-headed. We can’t go for all the wins all week, we need to be consistent.

“I’m lucky a few cars last night didn’t get any points at all that were in front of me … I should be up to the top 10 at least.”

Speedweek continued with round three at Portland’s Southern 500 Speedway last night, with results unavailable by deadline.

The series heads to Allansford’s Premier Speedway tomorrow night, Simpson Speedway on Saturday and wraps up at Laang Speedway on Sunday.

Among other winners at Darlington Cobden’s Jason Grayland took the honours in the super rods.

In junior sedans Mailors Flat teenager Harry Ross claimed the A grade win while Camperdown’s Ben Micallef won B grade.

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