EDITORIAL: Reducing Wallsend’s flood risk

Wallsend during the 2007 Pasha storm.FLASH-FLOODING can kill, as recent events in the Hunter have demonstrated.
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Put enough water into a stream, then prevent it flowing away by introducing some form of blockage, and the water backs up and spreads out, putting lives and property in danger.

In some areas, long intervals between such events mean communities and planning authorities forget, leaving new generations to rediscover the peril next time adverse circumstances conspire.

In other areas, flash-flooding events are frequent enough for the danger to persist in memory, creating deep apprehension when severe storms strike.

Wallsend is the Newcastle suburb most prone to flash-floods, and repeated studies have warned that serious measures need to be taken to reduce the risk as far as possible. Chances are the risk can’t ever be eliminated, given that the Nelson Street shopping strip was built on low-lying ground at a choke-point in the course of Ironbark Creek.

Heavy enough rain in the creek’s catchment can fill Wallsend with water in a surprisingly short time, turning Nelson Street into a raging torrent and sending surges of dirty water through nearby shops and homes.

The 2007 Pasha Bulker storm is the most recent instance of such severe flooding at Wallsend, but it wasn’t the first and it won’t be the last, as Newcastle City Council has acknowledged.

Indeed, given its detailed knowledge of what can go wrong at Wallsend, the council can probably count itself lucky that the most recent storm spent the worst of its fury in other areas.

The council has invested some money to reduce the known risks at Wallsend, buying some properties to convert for floodwater detention and setting up a flood warning system.

But it has been obvious for a long time that some larger works were needed and the council has been repeatedly criticised for not moving quickly enough.

At long last the council is putting some options on display, a move that might mean some real action isn’t far off.

The council’s favoured option is to remove two of the three low road bridges over the creek – those at Tyrrell and Boscawen Streets – to eliminate the risk of debris catching against the bridges and causing sudden damming of floodwater. The plan includes upgrading the Nelson Street bridge to handle more traffic and, presumably, to help ensure the free flow of excess water.

It’s now about eight years since the Pasha Bulker storm, and major floods in Wallsend are considered to be a 10- to 15-year risk. The council needs to finalise an option and make a serious start on the work as soon as possible.

The work will be costly, so efforts to get help from other levels of government should continue. But the urgency of the task means it should begin, even if the council has to go it alone.

Instagram’s @music ‘treasure hunters’ hoping to score growth gold mine

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Instagram is hoping to capitalise on the popularity of musicians to drive further growth across the photo-sharing app.

The company, which social media behemoth Facebook owns, launched its first account dedicated to a single subject on Thursday – @music.

The account will act as a springboard to the company’s blog, where a team of about 12 freelance journalists will profile musicians, instrument makers and others in the recording industry.

“We see ourselves as treasure hunters,” Instagram music editor Alex Suskind told Fairfax Media.

“It’s not just about curating photos, although there is a lot of that.

“It’s also about interviewing these people who are sharing their moments on Instagram and highlighting what they are doing in a visually creative way.”

Music is the most photographed topic on Instagram, accounting for about 25 per cent of the app’s most popular accounts.

For example, 30.8 million of Instagram’s 300 million users follow Beyonce, while Arianna Grande has 30 million and Selena Gomez 28.9 million.

The account will publish six posts a week, grouped into series under various hashtags including #LocallySourced for unsigned artists, #DoubleTrack for artists interest outside music and #15SecondLessons for videos on how to perform anything from riffs to drumbeats.

It will also feature posts on the Instragram blog ranging from 750 to 1000 words. Mr Suskind said the account was not designed to disrupt music magazines such as Rolling Stone.

He said the account was more of a “DVD extras” designed to add value and drive further engagement from Instagram users.

“We’re not looking to disrupt the music journalism industry. Our goal is to share a unique perspective.

“It’s really about driving engagement.”

Its small editorial team will scour millions of accounts to find its profile subjects, which Mr Suskind said would range from signed and unsigned artists, session musicians and instrument makers to the “most passionate fans”.

“That’s going to fun and a challenge and why we are kind of unofficial treasure hunters.”

Australian Recording Industry Association chief executive Dan Rosen said he was yet to see the full details of how Instragram would use the account, but praised the initiative.

“It’s a demonstration of the power music to push the social media conversation,” he said.

“It will be interesting to see what they will do, but certainly we are supportive of any platforms that can spread the word of how great music is and how talented our local musicians are”.

Instagram, which Facebook bought for $US1 billion ($1.25 billion) in 2012, has trebled its users in the past two years, rising from 100 million in February 2013 to 300 million last December.

The launch of @music comes after Facebook posted its slowest growth in quarterly revenue last week, while higher spending on research and development ate into profits.

It attributed the slowdown to a strong US dollar. Sales rose 42 per cent to $US3.54 billion, when they could have risen 49 per cent without the currency effects, Facebook said.

It also warned of heavy investments in 2015 as it steps up efforts to expand a collection of products that include messaging service WhatsApp, Instagram and virtual reality headset maker Oculus Rift.

As a result, Facebook’s operating expenses rose 83 per cent in the first quarter as research and development costs jumped 133 per cent and marketing and sales spending nearly doubled.

But Facebook’s user growth on its main application remains strong. It now has 1.44 billion monthly active users, compared with 1.39 billion in the fourth quarter and analysts’ estimates of 1.43 billion.

with Bloomberg, Reuters

Tocal field days cancelled as risks remain

Tocal from the air during the flooding last week. Pic: Darren PatemanTHE Tocal Field Days have been cancelled on the advice of emergency services.
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The three-day event was scheduled to start on Friday.

Field days chairman and college principal Cameron Archer made the announcement on Wednesday night.

“We regret having to cancel the field days, but it is the only responsible thing to do,” Dr Archer said.

Dr Archer said the key problem – apart from more heavy rain forecast – was a severely damaged concrete bridge at Mindaribba, on Tocal Road, which was the main access road.

“This bridge was damaged by the recent storm event and is unstable,” he said.

“With further rain and heavy traffic there is a possibility that it could fail completely.”

The annual event attracts up to 10,000 visitors a day.

Heavy rain could cause the Paterson River to quickly rise and make Gresford Road to the north and Paterson Road to the east unpassable.

Dr Archer said the event involved 12 months of planning.

“We and many others plan all year for the event. We look forward to it and enjoy all aspects of it,” he said.

“The event has tremendous support from the community and rural industry. This year, all sites were fully booked up and ready to go.

“[The cancellation] is a bit sad but we will get through it.”

Many exhibitors had already set up displays, and were looking forward to the weekend, albeit, a wet one.

Dr Archer said previous field days had been affected by rain, but this time the landscape was already sodden from last week’s storm and subsequent flooding, and the Paterson River remained above normal levels.

“The Tocal Field Days Association and the college work assiduously on safety; we take great care and we take our responsibilities seriously,” Dr Archer said.

“Sometimes hard decisions have to be made in the interests of eliminating risks completely.

“We do not believe we can take the risk of running the event given the advice we have had as well as the access problem which is evident when one assesses the condition of the bridge at Mindaribba.”

Forget My Kitchen Rules, it is actually billionaire Kerry Stokes’ Seven Rules

Seven’s latest restructure opened with a picture from hit My Kitchen Rules. Photo: Supplied
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Seven’s latest restructure opened with a picture from hit My Kitchen Rules. Photo: Supplied

Seven’s latest restructure opened with a picture from hit My Kitchen Rules. Photo: Supplied

You can’t accuse the Kerry Stokes’ Seven camp of not having a sense of humour.

The presentation for the latest restructure of the media group’s debt woes – which it inherited as a result of the previous Stokes-sponsored restructure – opened with a picture from Seven hit My Kitchen Rules.

As if it was not already clear who sets the rules around that joint.

Stokes’ media/mining/oil and gas/investment holding conglomerate, Seven Group, won’t be among the parties tipping up to $600 million cash into Seven West.

But it will maintain its 35 per cent stake by converting preference shares it received in the 2011 transaction that folded the Seven Network and Pacific Magazines into the listed vehicle that housed the West Australian newspaper (WAN).

“Today’s initiatives will resolve a complicated instrument Seven West Media has had in place  with (Seven Group) since 2011,” said Seven West director, David Evans, who heads the thoroughly independent committee assessing the transaction.

The 2011 complications also led to WAN, which is now Seven West, inherit $1.65 billion worth of debt which was tied to the Seven Network business it acquired.

Helping Evans oversee the proposal, at arms-length from the Stokes camp, is James Packer’s lieutenant – former Nine Network svengali, John Alexander.

Stokes’ non-billionaire fellow investors get to show what they think of the latest transaction, which has been deemed “not fair but reasonable” by the independent expert, in June.

Phone in

Catherine Livingstone was definitely wearing her Business Council of Australia hat at the National Press Club Wednesday.

In the audience listening to her president’s speech was BCA CEO, Jennifer Westacott.

Livingstone’s direct report at Telstra, David Thodey, was winding down his final days as the telco boss with a Singapore Sling at the island nation’s Grand Hyatt.

He was the headliner at a sold-out event for the Australian Chamber of Commerce, Singapore .

Back at the press club, fellow BCA board member, Qantas boss Alan Joyce, was also in the audience and in such a relaxed mood he even took questions from the press.

Hockey stick

It is hard to believe barely a year has passed since Joyce was forced to visit Canberra, begging bowl in hand, seeking help for the embattled airline which has since staged a Lazarus-like recovery without any help.

One of the men who turned him down that time, Treasurer Joe Hockey, was spotted taking out his budget frustrations on a little black ball Tuesday evening in Parliament House’s squash court.

Two reporters were “balls deep” in a game when we had to give the court up for Hockey.

It is part of the protocol at the “big house” that MPs and senators have right of way when it comes to the gym and pool and squash area.

Hockey was appreciative and asked the scribes where they were from.

“Fairfax”, was the answer.

“Ah,” said Hockey rolling his eyes.


As if the reputation of our financial planning industry was not low enough.

APN News & Media has added to the wealth industry’s list of crimes and misdemeanours in a reply to an ASX “please explain” notice on Wednesday inquiring why a change of director’s interest notice for Anne Templeman-Jones, was a week late.

“The APN shares were purchased on behalf of Anne Templeman-Jones (“the Director”) in a superannuation fund by a financial adviser. The director had instructed the financial adviser to inform her immediately if an APN share purchase was made,” said the media group’s mea culpa.

“The financial adviser did not follow this instruction and did not inform the director that APN shares had been purchased on her behalf within the required timeframe,” said APN.

At least her outcome was not as bad as former APN executive, Mark Jamieson, who took Westpac to court over the loss-making financial advice he had received from one of its advisers.

Earlier this month, Queensland’s Court of Appeal dismissed the bank’s appeal against the original judgement.

Bank Twitter

ANZ boss, Mike Smith, completed his digital initiation on Wednesday by joining Twitter with the line: Pleased to join Twitter and looking forward to contributing to the conversation.

CBD suspects he will not be offering any robust views about Anzac Day.

His Twitter profile offers us the news that he is an “International banker, Asia-phile, adopted Aussie. Passionate about our customers, diversity champion.”

The only wonder is that it took him this long to join Twitter.

More than a year has passed since he posted an article on Linkedin titled “How I became a social media believer and why banking’s future is digital”.

Total Recall

You can’t accuse data storage provider, Iron Mountain, of wasting time on creative code names when it came to prosecuting its successful $2.5 billion bid for Brambles spin-off, Recall.

Iron Mountain’s code name for the proposed transaction was, drum roll, Project Augusta.

Recall is based down the road in Georgia’s capital, Atlanta.

Got a tip? [email protected]

Timber frames let down roof atKiwi Waffle’n’Cones

Brian McDermott inspects the damage. Picture: Peter StoopZAARA Street, Newcastle, resident Brian McDermott was at home on the Tuesday morning of the Newcastle storm when a neighbour got on the phone to tell him about his roof.
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“You know part of your roof has gone, don’t you?” Mr McDermott recounted on Wednesday.

“Funnily enough, I was thinking it would be all right because we got a new roof three years ago when we moved in.

“Well, the metal sheets were fine, but it was the timber frame holding it all together that gave way.”

Mr McDermott, the publican at Wickham’s Albion Hotel, lives upstairs with his family in a large, free-standing brick terrace in Zaara Street above the Kiwi Waffle’n’Cones ice-cream shop, an East End institution.

The loss of the roof and the subsequent flooding of the upstairs living areas led to huge amounts of water soaking the ice-cream shop ceiling, which then collapsed into the store.

Shop owner Anthony Rogers, who was interstate when the storm hit, said it could take as long as two months to get the shop up and running again.

“I’ve had it 11 years and Richard Laycock had it for 14 before that, so this year is its 25th anniversary,” Mr Rogers said.

Mr McDermott said the night of the storm was a sleepless affair. The roof came off in sections on the Tuesday morning.

One section ended up in the swimming pool of a neighbouring unit block. Another in an adjacent tennis court.

A third section fell on two family cars in the driveway, writing them off, although a third car in the driveway escaped with little damage.

Mr McDermott said that with the roof gone, the horsehair plaster ceiling began to give way, opening up numerous holes to the sky above.

At one stage, water was above the skirting boards in the upstairs rooms, with water pouring down the stairs to a side entrance behind the shop.

Mr McDermott, a lifelong Novocastrian who was a young, 24-year-old Citizens Group councillor on the Newcastle council sacked by the state government in 1984, said there were others who copped it far worse than his family in the storm.

Having bought the terrace three years ago, he was determined to restore it if the structural damage was not too severe.

“The front dates from about 1922 and the rear section is new, and it’s a privilege to sit on the front verandah of a morning and look across at the surfers going into the water at the beach.”

AFL clubs keen to speak to discarded cricketer Alex Keath

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Discarded Victorian cricketer Alex Keath would be a realistic chance to find a new home in the AFL should he decide to return to the sport he quit as a teenager five years ago.

Most AFL clubs have remained in semi-regular contact with Keath since he shunned an offer to be part of Gold Coast’s foundation team to sign with the Bushrangers, a move hailed by Cricket Australia given its long struggle to keep multi-talented teenagers from playing football instead.

“Cricket continues to improve its position as a sport of choice for talented young athletes,” CA chief executive James Sutherland said in April 2010. “Alex has shown himself to be a cricketer of high potential and I wish him every success in his chosen sport.”

At least 14 clubs have been in periodic contact with either Keath or an intermediary across the past five years, with the majority planning to gauge his intentions in the next few weeks. Keath, one of three Victorian players to lose their contracts, is in England playing league cricket during the Australian winter season.

The 196 centimetre Keath would be able to sign easily with the club of his choice given he has not been registered with a football club for more than three years.

He could therefore be signed as a category B rookie outside the draft with clubs able to pay him outside the salary cap until he made the senior team.

While some recruiters believe the 23-year-old has spent too much time away from football to successfully return to AFL, and are concerned by the knee problems he endured early in his time at Victoria, others believe he has enough talent to overcome that.

This year’s draft is considered to be of particularly poor depth, prompting many to look for left-field recruiting options.

It is understood Keath has been consistent in indicating to clubs that he was still passionate about playing cricket and had no plans to give it up to return to football.

Keath, who is also expected to be discarded by Big Bash League team Melbourne Stars, could continue to pursue his cricketing career despite his axing by the Bushrangers. He could stay in Victoria and look to earn a recall playing club cricket for Melbourne, or seek a contract interstate.

Keath was a highly talented key position prospect when he was listed by the Suns as one of the dozen 17-year-olds the fledgling club were able to sign during 2009.

Around the same time, he was captaining the Victorian under-19 cricket side and representing Australia as an all-rounder in the junior World Cup.

In his first season on contract with Victoria, he made 192 not out in his first innings, in the Futures Leagues against Western Australia. In the following month he added to his reputation with an assured 46 against England. Nevertheless, he struggled to break into a Bushrangers line-up that featured all-rounders such as Andrew McDonald, John Hastings and, in the past two seasons, Daniel Christian.

While generally classed as an all-rounder, Keath’s lack of pace – at best he is a medium-pacer – has seen him gradually considered more of a batsman, one who boasts a good technique and is renowned more for his patience than for his hitting.

In his five years with Victoria, he played only six Sheffield Shield and nine Matador Cup matches. In his last Shield match, away to Tasmania in November, he made only 45 and 30 but faced 169 deliveries, the most of any Bushranger in the hefty eight-wicket loss. Both innings exceeded his previous Shield-best score of 18 not out, although his current record of 128 runs at an average of 14.22 is well below what was expected of him and what he expected of himself.

Also off Victoria’s contract list are David Hussey, who has retired from all but Twenty20, and fast-bowlers Louis Cameron and Jake Haberfield. Replacing them are all-rounder Ian Holland, 24, batsman Travis Dean, 23, and 18-year-old wicketkeeper Sam Harper on a rookie deal. Peter Siddle has also returned to the squad, having recently lost his Cricket Australia contract.

With Jesse Hogan  

OPINION: Premier hears from families who depend on Mt Thorley Warkworth

Mark Rodgers is the general manager of Mount Thorley Warkworth
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ON behalf of the 1300 employees and contractors who depend on Mount Thorley Warkworth mine for their jobs, I would like to thank Premier Mike Baird and Minister for Planning Rob Stokes for taking the time to visit us on Tuesday and listen to the concerns people have about their futures.

We’ve been part of the community here for around 30 years.

Decisions on whether we are allowed to continue mining here weigh heavily on the minds of our people and their families.

After five years of uncertainty, it meant a lot for people here at the mine to be able to talk to the Premier and know he understands their situation.

What stood out to me during the Premier’s visit is that our people share the same hopes and concerns as so many across NSW – especially the need for secure employment and certainty for their families.

We have a diverse workforce and the Premier heard from people in many different stages of their lives and careers, who all depend on a future for our mine.

Like a mother who drives heavy machinery and loves being able to live and work locally in the Upper Hunter community, providing a good future for her children.

A young high school graduate told the Premier that the mine is providing her with the chance to get a start in her career by learning a trade, at a time when her friends are struggling to find such opportunities.

Mount Thorley Warkworth mine has strong local support in the Upper Hunter.

This was clearly demonstrated by the close to 2000 individual submissions sent to the Planning Assessment Commission by people supporting the mine, with 85 per cent of these coming from the Hunter region.

Decisions about Mount Thorley Warkworth’s future will affect not only the people who work at the mine, but the communities they are part of.

The Singleton Chamber of Commerce spoke to the Premier on behalf of the hundreds of other Hunter Valley businesses who supply Mount Thorley Warkworth mine and will be impacted by decisions about its future.

I’m pleased the Premier took the time to visit the community of Bulga to understand concerns about its future. Mining at Mount Thorley Warkworth is currently more than 4.5 kilometres from the village and would come to 2.6 kilometres in 2031 under our planning applications, which seek to continue mining on land we own and within existing mining leases.

We are not seeking to relocate the village of Bulga. We want to keep working with community members to ensure the town and its people have a strong future.

The Department of Planning and Environment has also previously noted that, based on environmental studies and government policy, there is no justification for relocating the village.

The Premier will no doubt have read many reports over the past five years about Mount Thorley Warkworth, the most recent being the recommendation from the Planning Assessment Commission that our planning applications can be approved and that the benefits of allowing mining to continue outweigh the impacts.

But no amount of paperwork can express the impact that decisions about the future of this mine will have on the lives of the 1300 people who work here and their families.

We are sincerely grateful for the chance to speak directly to Premier Baird and thank him for listening.

Showing the pain of being confined to special care

James Nutt, 31, in front of his video for the Home to Home Digital Story exhibition. Picture: Darren Pateman James Nutt, 31, in front of his video for the Home to Home Digital Story exhibition. Picture: Darren Pateman
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A PICTURE tells a thousand words. But James Nutt’s story about what it’s like to be a young person confined to a nursing home is as powerful as any image.

Mr Nutt spent seven years in an Upper Hunter nursing home after suffering horrendous injuries when he was bashed following a football grand final at Aberdeen in September 2003.

“In the nursing home, I got to the lowest part of my life, nothing was going right,” the 31-year-old said.

He is among a group of disabled young people who have shared their journeys as part of the Home to Home Digital Story exhibition at Newcastle Museum.

The exhibition gives a rare insight into a section of society that is normally hidden.

About 6000 people in their 20s and 30s are forced to live in aged care homes due to the high level of care they require. The 19 storytellers produced videos to capture their experience of living in a nursing home, being at risk of living in one or being a parent of a young person in a nursing home.

“This was my way of showing how my time in the nursing home was,” Mr Nutt said.

“I made friends with people only to have them pass away, over and over again. I had no rehabilitation and there was nothing there at all for me to do.”

Mr Nutt now lives in a specialised residential self-care complex at Mt Hutton with six other young people who have similar needs to him.

One of those residents is 36-year-old Arron Masters, who suffered brain damage following a motorcycle accident at Broadmeadow in 2005. He was confined to a Mayfield nursing home for four years after 14 months of rehabilitation.

“It’s not somewhere a young person should be,” Mr Masters said.

His life has taken a turn for the better since moving to Mt Hutton.

“I would like to do something more worthwhile. I need to find out what that is. I would like to contribute something valued,” he said.

The exhibition will remain at Newcastle Museum until May 10. It will then be displayed at Canberra and Geelong.

Seven West Media primed to get in the game

Kerry Stokes will retain control through the equity raising. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen / FairfaxStrong support for Seven West Media raising
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If Kerry Stokes wants a seat at the table when the Australian media industry is ultimately freed from rules restricting ownership, he needs capital to get in the game.

Thus the deal Seven Group Holdings and Seven West Media announced on Wednesday is aimed at giving the latter much-needed resources and optionality. How much depends on whether shareholders want to pump more money into traditional media assets whose prospects for growth are not particularly rosy right now.

Depending on how much money Seven West Media raises through the capital restructuring it announced on Wednesday  – from $150 to and $612 million – it would become a more attractive takeover target or at the very least, have enough spare change to buy an asset that is thrown up in future.

There were reports in the media that investment bank UBS had sounded out Telstra as a possible buyer of Seven. For its part, Seven said UBS was operating without a mandate. Maybe. Or maybe it’s a case of plausible deniability.

It can be no co-incidence Seven’s move comes on the heels of arch rival Nine Entertainment’s recently announced sale of its Nine Live division  for $640 million – a move that has left it cashed up and in the game. Even if Nine doesn’t buy anything, it is an attractive target. At the very least it can afford to be more generous with its shareholders – say a buyback or improved dividends.

As with most internal restructurings in the Stokes empire, this one is also fairly complex but its aim is fairly simple and it works for Stokes.

Seven West Media has too much debt and needs to improve the look of its balance sheet – thus it is undertaking an equity issue. Simple enough.

But the deal also involved the Stokes-controlled head company, Seven Group Holdings, converting its preference  shares in Seven West into ordinary shares. This allows Seven Group Holdings to maintain its stake in Seven West without having to put in additional funds.

It won’t need to take up its entitlement in the rights issue in order to retain its 35 per cent stake.

And, depending on how many other non-Stokes-related shareholders take up their offer to invest in the rights issue, Seven Group will  increase its stake either a little or by as much as 10 per cent. Seven Group Holdings won’t, under any circumstances, fall below 35 per cent.

Seven West has an underwriter, UBS, for $150 million worth of stock so at a minimum the Seven West coffers will get a boost of this amount.

If everyone – other than Seven Group – takes up their entitlement there is $612 million up for grabs.

Citi’s Justin Diddams has forecast that after the deal Seven West Media’s net debt will sit at $925 million and 2.3 times EBITDA in current financial year (at underwritten raising $150m) or $470 million and 1.2 times EBITDA (at 100 per cent take up or $615 million raising).

There is a yawning gap between these two scenarios. By Thursday, the market will have a pretty good indication of the appetite for Seven West’s stock because the institutions need to place their orders by Wednesday night.

The offer price of $1.25 per share represents a  discount of 5.6-7.3 per cent to the theoretical ex-rights price (“TERP”) of $1.32-$1.35 depending on the take-up under the pro-rata offer.

This does not represent a particularly large discount and investors could easily baulk at this deal.

This in turn probably explains why UBS is opting to underwrite a relatively small slab of the deal – the amount it feels it can comfortably lay off to sub-underwriters.

Bear in mind that the independent expert assigned to review the deal has deemed it not fair but reasonable, but in the best interests of shareholders.

This is because Seven Group is potentially increasing its holding in Seven West without paying a control premium for any increase in its shareholding. (Seven Group Holdings would counter that it already has control so increasing its stake would not require the payment of a control premium.) Seven Group Holdings is converting its preference shares in Seven West into ordinary shares at $1.28 per share. Non-related minority shareholders need to approve this transaction.

While the equity issue is dilutive and the pricing is not especially generous, the positive element for shareholders is that West’s balance sheet would be strengthened  and its capital structure simplified  by the conversion of Seven Group Holdings’ preference shares to ordinary shares.

According to Seven West chief executive Tim Worner: “The proceeds from the capital raising will strengthen our balance sheet and add financial flexibility to pursue further growth opportunities available to us.”

It certainly makes the game a bit more interesting.

Deal or no deal.

Meanwhile over at Ten, investors had been hoping that the group’s financial results being announced on Thursday would deliver a result to the drawn-out negotiations with would-be suitors.

However, the chat around is that nothing will be announced in this regard.

While it seems that various United States production houses have come and gone with no resolution, the market was pinning its hopes on Foxtel coming up with a price at which it was prepared to spend on taking a 14.9 per cent holding. Follow us on Twitter @BusinessDayLatest media and marketing news and analysis

BusinessDay – businessdaym.au

Newcastle plan to run rivals into the ground

Coach Tony Munro puts the Newcastle pack through its paces. Picture: Marina NeilNEWCASTLE coach Tony Munro has barred his players from kicking the ball at training.
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That edict will change, albeit slightly, at the Country Championship in Bowral this weekend.

“We are going to run it from everywhere, but if we have to kick, we want to make sure we put it into touch,” Munro said.

“We really want to attack the opposition line-out.

“Dylan Heins, Joe Akkersdyk, Shaun Rich and Glenn Stone are natural jumpers. They all very quick off the ground.

“It was one of the features in the trials we played.

“If we are out of our 22, it will be a grubber, otherwise Blake Creighton, Mark Butler and Cal McDonald, with their big boots, will send it downtown.

“When they do put it out, we don’t want it to go out shallow so they get a quick throw in.

“We don’t want to let teams get momentum off kick returns or quick line-outs.

“The idea is to starve the opposition of the ball, don’t give them a chance to come at you and keep the ball in hand as much as possible.”

Traditionally the nature of representative rugby – limited preparation and the coming together of players from different clubs – has stymied attacking game plans.

Not so under Munro.

“We have an attacking structure where we can play off the 10 or the 12,” he said.

“Creighto will take the ball to the line and Mark Butler is the same.

“It also gives us a ball distributor on either side of the breakdown.

“It is a high-tempo game, and the guys are feeling it, but they are really taking to it and enjoying it.

“When we picked the team … we made sure we had combinations in key areas.

“Jay Strachan [halfback] and Blake Creighton [five-eighth] have played a lot together. Cal McDonald [fullback] and Bill Coffey [winger] are teammates at Wanderers and previously played with the halves.

“Eric Vasukicakau [outside centre] and Sirelli Bainivalu [winger] are at Hamilton.

Newcastle, whose six-year reign ended with a 36-14 loss to Central West in the final in Mudgee last season, meet Central Coast on Saturday.

The defending champions take on Illawarra in the other match on Saturday. The two winners meet in the final on Sunday.

“If we get past Central Coast, and we are confident we should, I think Illawarra will be the dark horse,” Munro said. “Central West have lost six or so players from last year.

“Illawarra have a good back row led by Gavin Holder and have a couple of other powerful runners.

“That is why we don’t want to give them a chance to wind up.”

Newcastle had an opposed session against the under-20 representative side on Monday and will finalise preparations with a hit-out against Wanderers on Thursday.

“Against the colts, after about three phases we were catching them short,” Munro said.

“We were stretching them, moving the defence around and creating space out wide.

“It was semi-opposed, and you are not throwing as many into the breakdown.

“It’s not a true indication, but I’d rather see that the space is being found than no space appearing.”

Newcastle: 1 Ben Christensen, 2 Steve Lamont, 3 Colin Hovell, 4 Joe Akkersdyk, 5 Matt Lanzini, 6 Ben Ham, 7 Dylan Heins, 8 Va Talaileva, 9 Jay Strachan, 10 Blake Creighton, 11 Bill Coffey, 12 Mark Butler, 13 Eric Vasukicakau, 14 Sirelli Bainivalu, 15 Cal McDonald, 16 Dan Collins, 17 Andrew Tuala, 18 Mac Rae, 19 Shaun Rich 20 Glenn Stone, 21 Dan Murch, 22 Tapaki Rahui, 23 Ivan Walkling