Sep 19

Bravery of Thai cave rescuers honoured

Cave rescuers Craig Challen (L) and Richard Harris (C) say they’re just ordinary blokes.They’re just two ordinary blokes with an unusual hobby who happened to pull off the most daring rescue in living memory, captivating people across the world.

Cave diving mates Richard Harris and Craig Challen, along with seven other Australian heroes, have been honoured for their efforts in rescuing 12 boys and their soccer coach from deep inside a flooded Thai cave.

Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove presented the nine with bravery medals and Australia’s highest civilian honour during a ceremony in Canberra on Tuesday.

After receiving the Star of Courage, Dr Harris and Dr Challen played down their life-saving roles, admitting they were embarrassed and shocked by the global attention.

“We’re two ordinary blokes with an unusual hobby not many people have heard of,” retired vet Dr Challen told reporters at Government House.

The veteran cave divers played a crucial role in the international rescue operation, with Dr Harris’ experience as an anaesthetist critical.

The precious lives of the boys were in their hands.

Dr Harris described meting out sedation to the malnourished, dehydrated youngsters in the back of a cave as the most frightening part of the week but insisted he was never in peril and did not feel courageous.

“We went cave diving for a few days and helped get the kids out,” Dr Harris said.

He assessed the boys’ conditions before giving them the medical all clear to undertake the perilous mission out of the cave and advised authorities on the best way to bring them out.

The pair feared for the boys, with monsoon rain expected to trap them underground for several months.

“I can’t tell you how bleak the outlook was for those kids in there,” Dr Challen said.

“Just overjoyed that it all worked out okay because it could have easily not.”

Sir Peter lauded the courage and selflessness of the nine as he presented them with Order of Australia medals.

“We think you were remarkable, skilful, tireless, compassionate and courageous,” Sir Peter said.

“Your nation is so proud of you. Today, Australia salutes you.”

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told them: “You made us proud – superbly, professionally competent – we could not have better ambassadors showing the best of our Australian values than you.”

Bravery medals were awarded to navy Chief Petty Officer Troy Eather, and Australian Federal Police officers Acting Station Sergeant Robert James, Leading Senior Constable Kelly Boers, Detective Leading Senior Constable Benjamin Cox, First Constable Matthew Fitzgerald, Senior Constable Justin Bateman and Detective Leading Senior Constable Chris Markcrow.

The men were deployed at short notice, spending long days diving kilometres through the caves to move hundreds of air tanks, pumps, pipes and cables as part of the extraordinary rescue effort.

They knowingly put themselves in life-threatening danger, refusing to give up until each trapped boy was gently shepherded to safety and the warm embrace of family.

The prime minister said it was impossible to overstate how dangerous the task was and how many were inspired by the divers.

“Yours was a mission of practical love to save the lives of others, weaker, younger, more vulnerable,” he said.

Australian Associated Press

Sep 19

Royal wedding choir signs record deal

The Kingdom Choir, who performed at the royal wedding, have signed a record deal.The gospel choir that performed at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have signed a record deal.

The Kingdom Choir performed Stand By Me in front of a huge global audience at the royal wedding at Windsor Castle on May 19.

The group have now signed a record deal with Sony Music UK and will release their debut album on November 2.

They will go into the studio later this month and the album will include their arrangement of the song that made them famous, having received more than 10 million views on YouTube since the wedding.

The choir, which has also announced a headline concert at London’s Union Chapel on November 28, was founded in 1994 in London by award-winning conductor Karen Gibson.

Before performing at the royal wedding, the group’s largest audience was just 200 people – but on June 2 their version of the song was at number one on the Billboard gospel charts.

Gibson said: “The Kingdom Choir are absolutely delighted with the journey of the past few months.

“It’s been a roller coaster, but we wouldn’t have it any other way – first, the honour of being able to sing at the royal wedding, and then the thrill of being signed to Sony.

“It’s like an un-dreamt dream – one that you wouldn’t even consider, because you never thought it could happen to you. We’re very grateful and very excited about what’s to come in the next few months too.”

Nicola Tuer, COO of Sony Music UK, added: “We are absolutely thrilled to have signed The Kingdom Choir to Sony.

“Along with the rest of the world, we were stunned by their incredible performance at the royal wedding, so we jumped at the chance to sign them.

“The choir believe in love, music and power and we are excited to capture this on record for their fans across the globe.”

Australian Associated Press

Sep 19

NRLKalyn Ponga throws a scare through the Knights camp but still a likely starter against the Cowboys in Townsville

Knightsofficials are confident a training mishapwon’t prevent boom fullback Kalyn Ponga from making his much anticipated return from injury against his former club North Queensland in Townsville on Friday night.

Due back from a hamstring injury that saw him miss consecutive wins over Parramatta and Gold Coast, Ponga hadcoaching staff and teammates collectively holding their breath on Tuesday after he rolled his ankle during a field session.

Ponga came down awkwardly after leaping high to bring down a Mitchell Pearce bomb during an opposed session and required treatment on the ground.

After a few minutes, he gingerly walked off for further treatment and did not complete the session.

Pongawas later seen walkingaround with his ankle strapped but was not in a moon boot with the injury highly unlikely to keep him out of the Cowboys game.

Immediately after the training session, coach Nathan Brown did not appear overly concerned.

Kalyn Ponga

“His hamstring is fine, but he rolled his ankle a bit so it’s a bit more precautionary. I’mnot sure what the situation is with it,” Brown said.

“He’s running freely. The main thing is his hamstring is good so that’s the pleasing thing. We just have to see how his foot is.

“Hopefully, it’s only a minor thing.”

Later in the day, the Knightsnamed Ponga at fullback but his stand-in over the past fortnight, Nick Meaney, will travel with the squad to Townsville on Wednesday as a precaution.

Young playmaker Jack Cogger will also travel with the squad to Townsville on standby should five-eighth Connor Watson be ruled out.

Watson was also named but is battlinga chronic ankle problem that flared up afterthe Knights win over the Titans last weekend.

It is understood he had a cortisone injection earlier in the week and did not train with the rest of the squad on Tuesday.

“We are not sure with Connor–he’s a bit touch and go at the moment,” Brown said.

“He’s got a bit of a slight issue. Coggs [Cogger] played with Mitchell against the Tigers and did very well and I’ve always wanted to give Coggs another shot with Mitchell if the opportunity came.

“It might come this week or it might not–we’ll know more with Connor tomorrow.”

Knights co-captainPearce admitted there was plenty of initial concern when Ponga did not get straight back up after catching his bomb.

READ MORE: Newcastle Knights“We definitely got a scare so hopefully it’s only just a bit of a sprained ankle and he’ll be right for this week,” hesaid.

Pearce said he is looking forward to the prospect of joining forces on the field with Ponga again.

“I’m really excited. It was awesome fun playing with Kalyn at the start of the year,” he said.

“He’sobviously a brilliant player and makes your job easier as a halfback so I’m really excited for getting back and hopefully, getting some combinations going.

“So hopefully,he plays but if he doesn’t, he’ll be there the week after.”

Pearce said the possibility of losing both Ponga and Watsonwould not change his side’s approach to the game.

“If they don’t play, I’m sure there are other guys that are going to fillthat role and we’ll attack the game the same way as we were going to in the first place,”he said.

In a boost to the Knights, centre Sione Mata’utia is considered a certain starter after missing the win over the Ttians with a fractured eye-socket.

His return has forced a backline reshuffle with right winger Nathan Ross shifting back to left centre at the expense of youngster Cory Denniss, who drops out of the 17.

Despite the Cowboys’ dismal run this season,Brown expects his side to face a major challenge led by the retiring Johnathan Thurston.

Sep 19

Sharon Jenkins of Newcastle wants answers from NSW Ambulance after her husband Tony Jenkins died by suicide in April

NEEDING ANSWERS: Sharon Jenkins stands outside the Hamilton Ambulance station on Tuesday, waiting for answers from NSW Ambulance after her husband, Tony Jenkins, died by suicide in his paramedic’s uniform on April 9. Photo: Simon McCarthySharon Jenkins feels she has been forced to “humiliate herself” to get the answers from NSW Ambulance after her husband died by suicide in his paramedic’s uniform in April.

Tony Jenkins, a Hunter paramedic of 28 years, died hours afteranunscheduled meeting with senior ambulance officerson April 9 about his alleged use of the opioid Fentanyl taken from Hunter ambulance stations.

“Two managers took him into a room for an hour-and-a-half (and) we don’t know what went on,” Mrs Jenkins said. “They dropped him back to his car and he was dead within two hours.”

A toxicology report showed that Mr Jenkins had no Fentanyl in his system when he died.

In June, NSW Ambulance chief Dominic Morgan issued an unprecedented apology to paramedics, admitting the service had failed some employees.

Read more: Cidney Jenkins pens an open letter to NSW Ambulance(May 25, 2018)

Mrs Jenkins finished work on Tuesday and headed straight to the Hamilton Ambulance station.She and her daughter Cidney took framed photographs of Mr Jenkins and stood on the corner outside thestation on Denison Street, calling for a response to her husband’s death from NSW Ambulance.

“I will stay here for quite a while,” she said.

Mrs Jenkins wants to see the notes taken during the meeting and for the two senior ambulance officers who conducted the meetingto be moved to different positions whileWorkCover and NSW Ambulance investigate the events of April 9.

A spokesperson for NSW Ambulancesaid the service hadextended its condolences to the family of Mr Jenkins “and will continue to do everythingto support themduring this difficult time”.

“NSW Ambulance haspromised the familythey will be given thefirstdetailed report into Mr Jenkins death as soon as it’s finalised in the next few weeks,” the spokesperson said.

They said the service hadintroduced a range of new programsto supportstaff, andwill be introducingnew reforms tofurtherimprove health and wellbeing.

Read more: Paramedic’s families united by grief, seeking answers from NSW Ambulance(June 14, 2018)

Mrs Jenkins said she was trying to keep her calls for answers from “getting hysterical”, but said she felt her hand had been forced.

“I feel like they are pushing me to do this,” she said. “And it’s not what I want –it’s what’s right.”

“Tony deserves that. He was a paramedic for 28 years. He was a great guy. He was struggling, I suppose, and he asked for help.”

Lifeline: 13 11 14

Sep 19

AFL premiers Richmond hit 100,000 members

AFL powerhouse Richmond have ticked off another major milestone by passing 100,000 members.After singing onstage with The Killers after the 2017 grand final, announcing Richmond had become the first sporting club in Australia to reach 100,000 members was nothing for Jack Riewoldt.

The star forward delivered news of the historic milestone to the rest of the excited Tigers playing group on Tuesday, with the club confirming their membership is at 100,063.

Richmond smashed their previous record of 75,777 in February, more than a month before round one, following their first premiership in 37 years.

Collingwood set the AFL record in 2014 by reaching 80,793, but the Magpies haven’t released their figure this year and a number isn’t visible on thier website.

The Tigers targeted 90,000 members heading into their flag defence, but shot past that figure in April.

“I am truly blown away by the milestone, to reach 100,000 members is incredible, the Tiger Army continues to amaze us,” Richmond chief executive Brendon Gale said.

“As a club, we will continue to find new ways to engage and invest in our members, because without them, we couldn’t continue to thrive and win both on and off the field.”

Adelaide have the second biggest membership base in the AFL after announcing in April they had 82,699.

Hawthorn passed 80,000 members on Monday for the first time, while Essendon’s tally stands at 78,562.

Richmond’s figure monsters the top clubs in the NRL, with the Brisbane Broncos leading the charge there with 35,527 members followed by South Sydney (29,056).

The A-League’s leading club last season was Melbourne Victory as the champions notched up 26,095 members.

Australian Associated Press

Aug 19

Matt Lauer in stoush over New Zealand land

Disgraced US TV show host Matt Lauer is in dispute over public access to New Zealand land he owns.American news anchor Matt Lauer says he’s being picked on because of “difficult times” he’s been through as he defends himself during a stoush over land he’s bought in New Zealand.

The former Today Show host – who was fired by NBC in November over allegations of sexual misconduct – bought a 6500ha high-country station in New Zealand’s South Island last year.

He passed the Overseas Investment Office’s “good character” test to hold onto the land earlier this year, but has now become embroiled in a long-running dispute over public access to the land.

Although the condition’s of his ownership allow for some public access, the country’s Walking Access Commission and Department of Conservation are now asking to put in an total easement on a 40km road that runs through Lauer’s property and into the pristine Hunter Valley – something he would be legally entitled compensation for.

With headlines across New Zealand saying taxpayers could be forking out money to millionaire Lauer for the access, the former newsman took to state broadcaster Radio New Zealand on Tuesday to defend himself.

Lauer said the government was trying to change the rules on him, that he had complied with nearly all requests for access thus far and that the application for the easement was unprecedented.

“I believe the groups that are behind this are in some ways unfortunately taking advantage of some difficult times I’ve been through over the past six months and I think they see me as an easy mark,” he said.

“I don’t know what the problem [is] they’re trying to solve because we have never denied people access who have gone through the correct procedure and called the station and said they were prepared to be on the road and properly equipped.”

Asked if he would look for compensation, Lauer said he would “explore” the notion, but denied he had already asked for a figure in the millions, as suggested in some reports.

“I have not demanded a cent,” he said.

The Walking Access Commission says access is currently at Lauer’s whim and that without full public access, the conservation park on the other side of the land is “essentially unusable”.

Lauer had been the Today Show’s host for 20 years before his dismissal and was reportedly one of the highest-paid news readers in the world.

In March, 2017 he purchased the Hunter Valley Station in Wanaka, which stretches along Lake Hawea.

The property is estimated to be worth $NZ13 million ($A11.95 million).

The dispute has also become a political football in New Zealand, with the government criticising the previous administration for allowing Lauer to buy the land.

Australian Associated Press

Aug 19

Beale ‘on ice’ ahead of Tahs’ rugby semi

Waratahs halfback Nick Phipps says Kurtley Beale (C) can provide the spark needed to create history.Kurtley Beale can provide the spark needed to create some Super Rugby history in Johannesburg for the NSW Waratahs, halfback Nick Phipps says.

The Waratahs have never won a Super Rugby playoff game in South Africa and will be up against it at the Lions’ Ellis Park Stadium fortress in Saturday night’s semi-final.

The Lions have won their past three encounters, including a 29-0 dust up in Sydney earlier this year.

But Phipps is confident the Waratahs can make club history, having already diced with death in a comeback quarter-final defeat of the Highlanders in Sydney last weekend.

The Waratahs scored 24 straight points to book a semi-final berth, with Beale orchestrating their second half comeback.

“KB’s that man for us, he’s our spark,” Phipps told reporters from the team’s Johannesburg base on Tuesday.

“His ability to turn nothing into something and his control … he wants to be in that leadership role and if he’s playing great footy we’re playing great footy.

“So we’ll put the big boy on ice and make sure he’s ready to go.”

Much has been made of the logistical challenge that faces the Waratahs, who barely had time to celebrate at Allianz Stadium before boarding a flight to South Africa.

But Phipps, another to have stepped up in the absence of talismanic captain Michael Hooper (hamstring), isn’t buying into it.

“It’s no big issue; everyone’s in great spirits and quite antsy (after not training on Tuesday),” he said.

“We like to play quick, unrelenting footy (and that won’t change).”

While Beale’s influence on the game is often obvious, Phipps said the more subtle contributions would be also appreciated.

“Those little moments, there’s so many in a game but they’re unseen,” he said.

“Slowing the play down in the bottom of a ruck or putting a head in a dark spot on the try line … the guys all get recognition for those internally.”

Australian Associated Press

Aug 19

SES crew rescues kitten stuck 10 metres up a tree

SES vertical rescue operators in action rescuing the kitten at Mount Keira on Monday night. Picture: NSW SES Wollongong City UnitAn adventurous kitty has beenrescued after it became stuck about 10 metres up atree inMount Keira.

Wollongong City State Emergency Service (SES)volunteers were called to Medway Drive about 8pm after a resident alertedpolice to the kitten’s predicament.

Menno Schaaf, from theWollongong City SES unit, said Rural Fire Service volunteers were initially dispatched to the scene on Monday night, beforethe SES’s vertical rescue operators werecalled in to complete the job.

“They set up a ladder and stabilised it … climbed the ladder,secured themselves and rescued the cat,” Mr Schaaf said.

The SES crew was able to safely retrieve thekitten, aged about four months, from the conifer. Itwasbrought down to the ground –without having to use any of its nine lives.

However, the animal clearly wasn’t fazed by the actions ofemergency services, with the Wollongong SES unit posting on its Facebook page that the kitten was “quickly taken inside before it made another attempted summit of the tree”.

“From my understanding, it was very keen just to go anywhere,” Mr Schaaf said.

“We didn’t even get a chance to take a photo of the kitten; it was just very quickly stranded away back inside before it could make another attempt at anything.”

The SES volunteers were assisted by members of theIllawarra Police Rescue Squad, which was standard procedure for any vertical rescue in the Wollongong area, he said.

Mr Schaaf said it was “not the usual sort of tree” that came to mind when peopleimagined a cat being stuck upa tree, with conifers rather dense in terms of foliage.

“We’ve rescued people out of gum trees and that kind of thing before and certainly having a straight trunk up makes it easier to climb the tree,” he said.

“We’ve got arborists who are part of the unit as well, who have assisted police with rescues up gum trees and climbing them using those sorts of techniques.

“They’re just not possible on these sorts of trees, so really the only option is that ladder leaning against it and doing it that way.”

MrSchaaf said theadventurous kitty, whosebreed was unknown, had been about 10 metres up the tree and “still has all of its nine lives” followingthe successful rescue.

Illawarra Mercury

Aug 19

Ken LongworthWeek of uni revues

LEGAL LAUGHS: The Law Revue, Clerkships: I Know What You Did Last Summer can be seen at Civic Playhouse.TWO of this year’s student-produced University of Newcastle revues are being staged in Autonomy Week, which celebrates the university getting independent status in 1965 after being a college of other NSW universities for 14 years.

The revues highlight the talents of Newcastle University students in putting together and staging bright shows looking at many issues through comedy, song and dance.

The Uni Revue 2018, Stranger Degrees, which involves students from many faculties, will run for 55 minutes, enabling it to be staged at the large Brennan Room in the Shortland Building on the Callaghan campus during meal breaks at 12pm and 6pm from August 7 to 9. It is a free event.

This year’s Newcastle Law Revue, Clerkships: I Know What You Did Last Summer, can be seen at the CBD’s Civic Playhouse. The two-hour show has performances on August 10 and 11 at 7.30pm. Tickets, $25, student/concession $20, can be bought through Ticketek, 4929 1977.

The title Stranger Degrees refers to students who move around the Callaghan campus when the lights mysteriously go out and, while searching for lights, encounter many very different characters. In one sequence, for example, they meet a dark lord, Hippokrampus, and learn that they have to find three items, “weapons of destiny”, to get them out of the darkness which makes their degrees meaningless.

The revue features 12 actors from diverse faculties, among them science, engineering and creative industries, with a large support team. Director Rob Dilley, a Newcastle lawyer who appeared in revues while a student at the university, said 24 brisk sketches are presented between the opening and closing songs.

One, for example, is set in the headquarters of the Seven Deadly Sins, where the students encounter two of the Sins, Pain and Sloth, who, among other things, refer to Newcastle City Council as a “prestigious organisation for real sins”.

Chris Laidler and Suzy Fuller, the directors of Clerkships: I Know What You Did Last Summer, note that the title is a reference to big law firms recruiting a few clerks for the summer period, with the recipients invariably getting a job after they graduate. And the three students who get that work find themselves facing scary things, such as a beauty pageant and a dating act.

The revue, with 18 performers in 30 sketches, songs, videos and voiceovers, makes tongue-in-cheek references to things affecting students, such as the transfer of the law students to NewSpace leaving them without the delicious and inexpensive pies sold by the Callaghan Bakehouse and their search for a replacement.

There is a tongue-in-cheek royal wedding sketch, based on royal bride Meghan Markle having appeared in Suits, the TV show about lawyers.

COMEDY CLASSESRENOWNED female comedian Mandy Nolan has been teaching comedy in her North Coast home town, Mullumbimby, for 20 years, and continues to get full houses for her workshops, generally limiting the number of participants to 10.

She’s now conducting classes in a few other centres, with two workshops and a comedy showcase set for Newcastle on Saturday and Sunday, August 11 and 12. She previously wowed a Newcastle Civic Theatre audience when she was a member of the Melbourne Comedy Festival Roadshow in 2017.

The first workshop, at the CBD’s Royal Exchange from 9am to 5pm on Saturday, August 11, will be very interactive, with Nolan showing a maximum of 10 participants how to perform their own comedy routines. The participants will return to the Royal Exchange on Sunday, August 12, to show the skills they have learnt in a Comedy Showcase. That performance will start at 7pm and is open to the public. The comedy performance workshop will include a supplied morning tea and lunch. The cost is $230. Audience tickets for the Sunday show are $15, concession/student $10.

Mandy Nolan will also conduct a comedy writing workshop on Sunday, August 12, from 10am to 6pm, at Real Coffee on Darby, 3/269 Darby Street, Cooks Hill. The $195 cost also includes morning tea and lunch. People can participate in the two workshops for a reduced cost of $385. The writing workshop will look at a number of styles, along them satire, dialogue and commentary. Bookings for the three events can be made through trybooking苏州美甲美睫培训学校.

Aug 19

Knights’ Ponga in doubt for Cowboys return

Newcastle star Kalyn Ponga has suffered an injury during training ahead of his return to Townsville.Newcastle star Kalyn Ponga may not make his much-anticipated return to Townsville after picking up an ankle injury during training.

Ponga had been pencilled in to come back from a hamstring injury against his former club North Queensland but failed to finish the field session on Tuesday.

Five-eighth Connor Watson could also be sidelined with his own ankle issue that prevented him from training, however both players will travel with the team on Wednesday.

Ponga has missed the past two Knights games after injuring his hamstring in round 16.

“His hamstring’s fine but he just rolled his ankle a bit. It’s a bit more precautionary or anything,” Knights coach Nathan Brown told reporters on Tuesday.

“I’m not sure what the situation is with it but he’s running freely and his hamstring’s good, which is pleasing. The main thing is his hamstring’s good. We’ll just have to see how his foot is.”

The inclusion of both Ponga and Watson would be a huge boost for a Knights side that has been without their first choice spine since skipper Mitchell Pearce went down in round seven.

And while hooker Slade Griffin is out for the year with a knee injury, Pearce has since returned to lead the Knights to back-to-back wins over the past fortnight.

Centre Sione Mata’utia is also expected to return from an eye injury against the Cowboys.

“It’s good to be bringing some good players back into a team that’s winning a couple of games, if Sione and KP are both able to play this week,” Brown said.

“If Connor can come through and we have those two boys in the team, it’s obviously pleasing to get them all playing together, especially nine, seven, six and one.”

Brown is also confident Ponga would be able to handle the occasion surrounding his return to Townsville given his impressive State of Origin debut this year.

“I would’ve thought he’d do that okay. As long as he keeps his mind focused on the right things. I think going home would be exciting for him,” Brown saiad.

“If you ask KP he’d tell you about the great things he got out of North Queensland and now he’s coming to Newcastle, it’s a new chapter of his career.”

Australian Associated Press