Australia waits for the call from Uncle Sam

Saturday, 13. July 2019

GIVEN how little governments like to leave to chance, it was unlikely to have beena coincidence that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull used Anzac Day to raise the possibility that Australia would accede to any US requests for more troops as part of a “long-term commitment” to the war on terror.

For if there is ever a time of the year that the Australian public feels patriotic about the military, it’s this week, when everyone from the PM down to the pet-shop galah –to pinch Paul Keating’s memorable description –is talking about how much the Anzac spirit means to ordinary Australians, and how the modern Australian soldier is the living embodiment of the diggers of past years.

And they are: there is no denying that. But as soldiers know, the decision to go to war in the first place is usually made by politicians and generals far from the front lines. Our leaders may not want to admit it, but having come this far with America in its military response to 9/11, there is little practical chance that we will do anything but support the US regardless of whether we have questions about the way our most powerful ally is prosecuting its war.

There will be a debate along the way –and there should be –but Australia is so enmeshed with the US (and not only through communications bases such as Pine Gap) that we are probably not in a reasonable position to turn down any requests that may come from US Defence Secretary James Mattis.

Especially, as Vice-President Mike Pence reminded us this week, after the Manus Island refugee deal that President Donald Trump agreed to on his arrival in office. The two issues –Manus Island and troop deployments –may never be officially mentioned in the same sentence, but if the Manus agreement results in most of its residents being given new homes abroad, then the Turnbull government’s gratitude will be palpable and heart-felt.

For the residents of the Hunter Region, the potential for further troop deployments has real meaning, thanks to the presence of the Singleton Military Area and RAAF Base Williamtown.Significant numbers of Hunter personnel have served in hostile theatres over the various phases of this war on terrorism, and the longer the battles continue, the greater this region’s contribution will be.

All we can do is hope that those who volunteer for duty come back in one piece, physically and mentally.

ISSUE: 38,477.

Awesome foursome win Jillaroos’ call-up

Saturday, 13. July 2019

FOUR members of the inaugural Newcastle Knights women’s team have been named in the preliminary Jillaroos squad for their Test against the Kiwi Ferns in Canberra on May 5.

The 25-player squad includes Novocastrians Bec Young – a World Cup champion, State of Origin winnerandIndigenous All Stars skipper –and Caitlin Moran, Port Macquarie’sSimoneSmith andCentral Coast-based IsabelleKelly.

All helped the Knights beat Cronulla Sharks earlier this month in an historic exhibition match.

The Aussie squad will be reduced after on Sunday after a training camp this week on the Gold Coast.

The Test will be played as the curtain-raider to the trans-Tasman clash between the Kangaroos and Kiwis.

TEST HOPEFULS: Bec Young, Caitlin Morgan, and Simone Smith are all in the preliminary Jillaroos squad.

* NEWCASTLE’S under-16s play Canberra Raiders on Saturday for a berth in the 2017 Harold Matthews grand final. If the Knights, who were undefeated minor premiers, advance, they will face the winner of Parramatta andManly.

The preliminary final is at Kogarah at 1pm.

* NEWCASTLE’Sreserve-grade side will be hoping to end a two-game losing streak when they meet Wests Tigers at Leichhardt Oval on Saturday.

Their team will include former NSW Origin halfback Trent Hodkinson, playing his first game since being dropped from the NRL squad last week.

Hodkinson will partner five-eighth Will Pearsall and will also skipper the team.

* THE Knights’ under-20s will be fighting to stay in touch with the top eight when they play Gold Coast on Saturday.

After a54-12 thrashing by the Cowboys last week, Newcastle are equal seventh but ninth on for-and-against stats.

The Junction’s railway history

Saturday, 13. July 2019

Route: John Shoebridge shows where Watkins Street coal rail tracks once crossed over Glebe Rd at The Junction. Picture: Mike ScanlonHUNDREDS of motorists drive daily through The Junction, near Merewether, but few would realise its secret history. Once best known for its rail tracks, not roads, it was where the coal lines of four main mines on the Burwood Estate (modern Merewether) converged.But that was at around its peak of activity, some 130 years ago, in 1887.

And from the early 1900s, The Junction was even often referred to by another name. It was popularly called Howley’s Junction, or Howley’s (rail) Siding in Watkins Street, after well-known mine owner Thomas Howley.

Howley operated the now closed Glenrock Colliery and revived the beach railway, but he was a latecomer really to the local coal industry. He died in 1942 and within two years, his colliery, railway and rail sidings at today’s Junction were all closed.

Coal rail network: This map shows the various railway lines around Merewether in 1887 which all converged on The Junction.

Perhaps another reason he’s remembered today is because of his large (now demolished) corrugated iron shed that stood roughly where the back gate of The Junction School now is in Watkins Street, Merewether.This tin shed (later a horse stable) could accommodate two aged locos. As well, the remains of Howley’s original, legendary ‘Coffee Pot’ loco – with its vertical boiler – lay behind the engine shed becoming a well-known sight for residents from 1925 to 1949.

But how did this now largely unknown railway saga begin?To learn more, let’s journey with respected Hunter coal historian and former mining engineer John Shoebridge, of Lake Macquarie.Shoebridge revealed the complicated saga of a vital 1854 coal railway here as guest speaker at Bob Cook’s Heritage Hunter event last weekend at The Junction.

His talk, titled Secrets of the Junction, outlined pioneering businessman Dr James Mitchell eventually acquiring 1834 acres of land south of Newcastle, including land belonging to A.W. Scott in 1849.Mitchell named it the ‘Burwood Estate’ after his wife’s family home in England.

“Was a dowry involved? It seems so,” Shoebridge said. Mitchell’s wife was a daughter of the landowning Scott family.

“Dr Mitchell once owned all the land from Glebe Road, then known as Lake Macquarie Road as was Darby Street, south to the shore of Glenrock Lagoon,” Shoebridge said.

“The other (northern) side of Glebe Road was all owned by the Australian Agricultural Company right up to Newcastle waterfront.

“The Newcastle Copper Company, founded by Mitchell, then opened a small coal mine behind the present Merewether Baths dressing sheds,” Shoebridge said.

“Mitchell decided to build a tramway from his mine and beachside railway towards The Junction via Watkins Street. He realised the AA Company’s embargo on other companies carrying coal across its land north to the port couldn’t last. It didn’t, but a special government act had to be passed to allow it to be built in 1854.”

Before that railway finally came to link The Junction directly to Newcastle Harbour, coal was carried in horse-drawn drays along Lake Macquarie Road to the harbour.

Shoebridge said besides Dr Mitchell’s 1852 beach mine, his Burwood Estate leased a coal mine site to allow Mr Donaldson’s 1848 wooden rail tram road to go down today’s Mitchell Street.

“Donaldson’s mine was behind The Ridge, Dr Mitchell’s family house and much later a maternity home,” Shoebridge said.

Then there was J&A Brown’s 1853 mine at the end of present day Merewether Street and the Victoria Tunnel (from 1853) owned by Joshua Llewellyn Morgan. This coal tram road went down Glebe Road to the west. The mine was in the Glebe Valley, below present City Road.

“And at The Junction, all the coal rail lines converged. It was so busy there was once a signal box on the northern side of Glebe Road. There was also a passenger platform, plus a loco water tank and about 12 area potteries connected by rail,” he said.

“Mitchell sold them coal to operate, but he gave them the local clay for free. At that time there were even rail excursions out to Glenrock,” Shoebridge said.

But who would ever now imagine, there was once a large lagoon at The Junction with a windmill pumping water into a big storage tank for use by steam engines?

Shoebridge said the lagoon (later filled in for future homes) stretched from about Watkins Street about half way down Bar Beach Avenue to where a stormwater drain now exists under the road.

Mitchell died in 1869 and his son-in-law E.C. Merewether continued the Burwood Estate business.

And why was Patrick Street, which crosses Watkins Street, so named?

“Patrick was a steam engine driver on the Burwood Estate when the line went along Watkins Street from Merewether beach to the port,” he said

The intersection of Patrick and Watkins streets was also once the site of the Burwood Estate office. From this cottage, estate rents were collected and Merewether land was later also sold.

Shoebridge also said a rail route bridge across the Parkway Ave drain was once called ‘Chinaman’s’ because Chinese market gardens were once there.

And now, there’s even pseudo parallel rail lines in the footpath outside the Arrivederci Restaurant across the road from the Eastpoint centre at the heart of The Junction.

This widened footpath incorporating the fake rail track (pictured) indicates the old route of the Watkins Street coal railway across Glebe Road long before Eastpoint was built.

“The coal railway went across Glebe Road here and north on a narrow strip of land between the old Hunter Theatre and a service station which had both existed there,” he said.

Shoebridge said there were eight different rail eras from 1852 locally, including even BHP and the Howley coal interests towards the end.

“Initially there were four rail lines into The Junction. In the last years, there were only two lines,” he said.

The last coal train ran through The Junction in August 1954 because the Joint Coal Board had closed the last four small pits in the Glebe Valley. Four years earlier, railway land along Watkins Street was donated to Newcastle council.

In 1956, the Merewether Estate relinquished its rail rights and most of the track was lifted. Two years later, the AA Company even sold the Burwood Tramroad right-of-way over its land to Newcastle council.Finally in 2006, family descendant John Merewether donated Merewether Estate railway land along Merewether beach to Newcastle City Council.

“Mr Merewether had come to me. We did our own research, finding out that he still did own the beach land,” a surprised Shoebridge said.“I told him jokingly that if we put up a toll gate to the beach he’d make a killing financially, but all he wanted was that no one ever built on the land.”

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Ross keen for big City shot

Saturday, 13. July 2019

NEWCASTLE winger Nathan Ross is desperate to take his final chance to become just the fourth Newcastle Knightto who have played for City Origin.

READY: Nathan Ross has made City selection, signified with the initials ‘CC’ written on his wrist, a goal in 2017.

And a source has told the Herald,the 28-year-old is in the mix to make the team for the May 7 match at Mudgee.

Canterbury have told the NRL their players will not be available for the game, which has been declared the last in the concept.

Ross, though, was determined to feature for City. Tony Butterfield, Jamie Ainscough and Adam Cuthbertsonare those who havegained City selection while playing for Newcastle.

“For me it would be a massive honour to be able to represent this club and represent City in the final showdown,” Ross said ahead of Newcastle’s away clash with Gold Coast on Saturday.

“From the beginning of pre-season it’s been one of my goals. My first goal was to play in the round one team, and I’ve accomplished that, and now it’s to play for City.

“I know back in the day it was more seen as a trial for Origin, but to play representative football at any chance, it should be a goal of everyplayer in the competition.

“I’ve just got to keep my work-rate up and finish off those tries and hopefully have another good showing this weekend, and I might get a call from Freddy [City coach Brad Fittler].”

Ross, who played juniors withBurleigh BearsandCoogee Randwick Wombats,has scored six tries in seven games this season to push his claims for a first representative appearance.

Helping his cause is the absence of incumbent City wingers Aaron Gray (Rabbitohs) and Josh Mansour (Panthers) because of injury.

While Canterbury have shunned the fixture in the interest of their players’ welfare, Ross said gaining selection would be a boost for him and his club.

“Apart from Dane [Gagai], we haven’t had too many players in the representative footballof late and it’s something I’d like to do,” he said.

“I think if you get picked in these representative teams, it shows that you are putting your team first. It shows you are playing good football week in, week out.It shows you are doing a good job for your club.”

Ross’ last chance to impress selectors will be against the only team Newcastle have beaten this year.

However, he was not expecting an easy time against the Titans, who upset Cronulla on Saturday night 16-12 and went down 24-22 to Brisbane a week earlier.

“The only thing I can take away from the round two win is how much respect I actually have for the Gold Coast Titans,” Ross said.

“They’ve been ravaged with injuries this year and they’ve got players like Jarrod Wallace and Anthony Don who keep leading them forward. Ryan James, their captain, has been phenomenal, so I think they are a team of unsung heroes.”

Robert Dillon: Seven Days in League

Saturday, 13. July 2019

THURSDAYIF Nathan Brown ever grows tired of coaching the NRL cellar dwellers, he shouldn’t have any problem launching a new career as a restaurant critic.

BON APPETIT: Nathan Brown has a lot on his plate, trying to coach the Knights and sign players for next season.

Seems like Browny has dined atjust about every eatery in town entertaining potential recruits. Last night it was Shaun Kenny-Dowall in The Junction.

Hopefully these blokes are splitting the bill. I mean, the Knights are $1 million or more under the salary cap, but I’d hate to think they get bustedfor athird-party sponsorship rort (ie offering prospective signings free feeds).

I’m guessing Browny must be getting a bit sickof the sneaky iPhone photos that keeppopping up in the next day’s paper. Perhaps the answer is to play host at home.

As our archive picture reveals, he’s no Nigella Lawson in the kitchen, but he’s no mug.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Nathan Brown and Shaun Kenny-Dowall dine out in The Junction last week.

Meanwhile, on a slow news day, reports surface that star Tigers Aaron Woods and James Tedesco have signed with the Bulldogs and Chooks respectively.

Just when you’d think that makes them $1.05 favourites to collect the Dally M award for most dysfunctional club, it is revealed the Knights have arrived in Townsville minus skipper Trent Hodkinson, who has been punted. This is shaping as a deadset photo finish.

FRIDAYTHE weekly diatribe arrives from the Maitland Maniac, labelling the Newcastle media “dopey c—s” for not reportingthe Knights “are not fit and mentally tough enough to compete in the NRL”.

He then adds: “Nathan Brown has coached the Knights for 31 games for two wins, 28 losses and a draw. Winning percentage: 15.5. What a Joke! Much like you, Robert Dillon!”

I might be a dopey c— and I might be a joke, and maths was never my strongest suit. But at least I know how to work out a percentage, unlike the Maitland Maniac. (Two divided by 31, times 100, equals 6.45 per cent.)

Meanwhile, the Knights erroneously announce Sione Mata’utia will become the youngest skipper in the club’s history against the Cows tomorrow night.

They have apparently forgotten Jarrod Mullen was nine months younger than Sione is when he captained the Knights in round 11, 2007.

Mind you, Mullo would probably prefer to forget that too, given Newcastle copped a club-record 71-6 hammering from the Broncos.

SATURDAYBUNNIES prop George Burgess is in strife again after impersonating a sledgehammer squashing a grape with a shoulder charge last night on Broncos dynamo Anthony Milford.

Given his loading for previous offences, big George is looking at a lengthy stint on the sidelines.

It gets Seven Days to thinking. George’s identical twin brother Tom surely doesn’t have a track record as bad as his sibling’s.

Maybe they need to change jumpers before they run out, thenany mayhem George commits will go on Tom’s rap sheet and be viewed more leniently by the judiciary.

Meanwhile, up in Townsville, the Knights get dusted 24-12 but the Novocastrian faithful are celebrating nonetheless.

Two of the Cows’ tries are scored by future Newcastle Hall of Famer Kalyn Ponga.

It’s great to see the 19-year-old carving it up in the NRL, but I’m a bit worriedthat each try he scores for the Cows might be one less thathe scores for Newcastle.

Someone needs to tell him to start saving them for next year.

SUNDAYTIGERS skipper Aaron Woods emulates our Kalyn by helping towel up his future club, as the Tigers down the Doggies 18-12.

Canterbury look home and hosed until Tigers halfback Luke Brooks –the last 25 per cent remaining of the not-so-big four –produces a miracle play to create a try for winger Kevin Naqaima.

Replays of the match-winning “meaty” show Brooks wrong-footing Dogs five-eighth Josh Reynolds, who in trademark fashion then sticks out his leg. It’s a reflex action, but Reynolds –for some reason nicknamed “Grub” –is a serial offender.

Honestly, he’s been responsible for more bad trips than the Beatles in their Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds days.

All the talk at the post-match press conference is about Tigers fans booing big Woodsy.

I guess they need someone to boo, now that Jason Taylor is no longer coaching them.

MONDAYTIGERS chairwoman Marina Go and chief executive Justin Pascoe issue a statement, asking fans to stopbooing their own players.

It’s a fair point.

Back in the day, the time-honouredtheory was that fans pay their money at the gate and are entitled to voice their opinions.

But these are more enlightened times, and I fear it is inevitable that one day soon a player will sue spectators for bullying and harassment.

TUESDAYCOACH Brown politely shuts down questions about (former?) captain Hodkinson at his weekly press conference.

“Can we move on to the next topic please?” he asks.

Fair enough, but what is the next topic?

Maybe: “Does the prospect of a third consecutivewooden spooncause you insomnia?” Or: “Why do rivalplayerskeep giving Newcastle the Basil Brush?” Or: “What hope are you of re-signing Dane Gagai?” Or even: “What’s your favourite restaurant in town?”

It’s all a bit awkward for everyone, but hopefully Browny and Hodko are still on good terms.

If not, maybe it’s time for them to sit down and break bread. Browny’s shout.

WEDNESDAYTHE Tigers confirm the signing of Warriors prop Ben Matulino.

Matulino recently visited Newcastle for talks with Knights officials, who insist they did not make him a formal offer but are not denying they may have taken him out for a feed and picked up the tab.