Extra time bonus for Buderus

Danny Buderus at Newcastle Knights training at Balance Oval Mayfield on Wednesday this week. Picture Simone De Peak. FORMER Test and Origin teammates Jason Ryles and Danny Buderus admit the threat of football oblivion hangs heavily over them going into the second preliminary semi-final at AAMI Park.
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One of the pair will walk off late tonight with his NRL career over following the sudden-death clash.

Another retiring star whose career dates back to the Super League War, Storm five-eighth Brett Finch has been declared fit but may not play.

“I was training out there today, thinking it could be my last session,” Buderus, 35, told reporters on match eve.

“But I don’t want to think that way. I’m just very happy to be part of September. It’s a bit of a bonus.”

The hands of time are also moving for Knights veterans Willie Mason and Craig Gower. Utility Gower did not make the trip south after having neck surgery only two weeks ago, while Mason will clock up 250 games. Both plan to play on, however.

“You never know now. It’s sudden death. The Knights are a quality team and if we’re not on our game then it could well be our last game,” said Ryles, 34.

“It’s always in the back of your mind.

“I’ve been thinking of it since my early 20s because you never know when it’s going to end. I’ve been lucky to do something I haven’t called a job, personally.

“It’s something I would have done every week, even if I did have a real job.”

Having missed the 2012 grand final through injury, that spectre is every bit as menacing as retirement for Ryles, who played 12 Tests for Australia.

“That’s footy and part of footy is you get injuries and the timing of the injuries is not always ideal,” he said.

Storm head trainer Tony Ayoub said that Finch, who has battled shoulder and sternum injuries for the past fortnight, had done everything asked of him this week and was available for selection.

But England international Widdop, who last week returned from a dislocated hip, is regarded as favourite to take on the Knights.

“They’ve both trained. They’ve both swapped in and trained with the first team,” Ryles said

“Gaz brings the youth and he’s won a premiership last year. Finchy’s got a lot of experience and he adds another dimension to the team.”

Melbourne are shooting for an eighth consecutive win over Newcastle, who have not made it as far as week three of the finals for 12 years. The Storm have lost only nine of 49 games at AAMI Park.

Buderus, however, spoke glowingly about the input of veteran coach Wayne Bennett to the club’s finals campaign.

“Wayne’s been great in September,” Buderus said. “He’s a completely different coach this time of year. He’s been building towards this. For 18 months he’s been in Newcastle now, instilling a bit of faith and routine into this group. He’s getting the fruits of that now.

“He loves the game, loves the challenge and the competition. We’re feeding off that. He’s our leader and he’s Wayne Bennett – he’s won a lot of premierships. He knows what he’s doing.

“Last year wasn’t a good year for us and it got built up that it probably wasn’t going to be a good year and we fell a bit flat.”

Buderus dismissed suggestions of enmity arising from the last clash between the clubs, after which Bennett accused the Storm of deliberately conceding penalties when under pressure.

“They’re just the ultimate competitors and they just play the game at a level we want to get to,” he said. “I think every team aspires to get as competitive as Melbourne.”

Ryles described his opponents as “battle-hardened footballers”.


Barry O’Farrell inspects coal-loader

Barry O’Farrell tours Newcastle Coal Infrastructure Group’s coal terminal on Friday. Picture Peter StoopPREMIER Barry O’Farrell said he was proud of the Hunter coal industry’s achievements after a guided tour of Newcastle’s third and newest coal-loader.
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Mr O’Farrell and his Resources and Energy Minister, Chris Hartcher, were in the Hunter to open the $2.5billion Newcastle Coal Infrastructure Group (NCIG) loader on Kooragang Island.

NCIG chief executive Rob Yeates said a sod-turning ceremony on the 136-hectare site took place less than six years ago.

Since then, the loader had been built in three stages, taking its capacity from 30million tonnes a year to 53milllion tonnes and now to 55million tonnes.

Newcastle’s first two loaders, operated by Port Waratah Coal Services, have a combined capacity of 145million tonnes, giving the port an overall capacity of 211million tonnes a year.

Mr O’Farrell said coal contributed greatly to the state and national economy.

‘‘I say to an industry that exported 143million tonnes through Newcastle last year, keep it up,’’ Mr O’Farrell said.

‘‘‘I want to make the point that at a time when mining in general and coalmining in particular is under the gun, we’ve been exporting coal from this port since 1799.

‘‘I can’t see it stopping in my lifetime, my children’s lifetime or their children’s lifetime. Nor should we want it to stop. It has given us one of the great economic competitive advantages anywhere in the world.’’

Interviewed by Hunter media, Mr O’Farrell acknowledged the environmental costs of mining but said a ‘‘strengthened’’ Environment Protection Authority would help maintain the ‘‘balance’’ between costs and benefits of mining.

‘‘Whether people like the mining industry or not, it supports jobs and pays taxes that help provide the critical services that people enjoy,’’ Mr O’Farrell said.

He said he had faith in the Environment Protection Authority to deal with issues such as the unexpectedly large West Wallsend subsidence and the botched clean-up that followed.

Strong westerly winds buffeted Kooragang yesterday as the premier was shown around by NCIG chairman and former Labor state parliamentarian Michael Egan.

NCIG general manager Paul Beale explained how dust was minimised using computerised water sprays controlled by an ‘‘algorithm’’ that took various factors – including weather conditions and readings from dust monitors – into consideration.


GREG RAY: Rabbit has a man-date

DADDY, what’s a man-date?
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Man-date? I dunno. Where’d you hear that.

On the radio. They said somebody called Mister Rabbit had a great big man-date and he was going to use it on Australia.

Surely they didn’t say that?

They did, they did, I heard them. They said he had this big, big man-date and that everybody should get out of his way and let him do what he had to do. With his man-date.

Oh, OK. I get it. It’s not about a rabbit, it’s about our new government and our new Prime Minister. He’s called Mister Abbott.

That’s what I said Daddy, I said Mister Rabbit. Is he our new government? Is he like our Mister Flopsy with big ears and red eyes? Where did he get his man-date? Why has he got such a big one?

Hang on a minute, slow down. Too many questions all at once. Mister Abbott is nothing like Mister Flopsy because he’s not a rabbit. He got his mandate from the ballot box, on election day. His party got elected to run the country and the result was pretty clear so they say he has a mandate to do what he wants to do.

On the radio they said Mr Rabbit had put all these men in a cabinet with hardly any ladies and they said that was a bit strange. Is that a bit strange, Daddy? What are they going to do in there? Will those ladies be all right in there with all those men? Will he let them out again?

Look, the cabinet isn’t a cupboard. It’s not even a thing, really it’s just a bunch of ministers who get to make the important decisions about the country. And it’s up to the party that wins the election who they put in the cabinet. They are supposed to choose the best people whether they are men or ladies or whatever. Understand?

I wouldn’t like to be in a cabinet with any ministers. Sarah Jane said she went in to a cupboard with her minister but he’s in jail now.

Oh, please, give me strength. They aren’t those kind of ministers.

That’s lucky for those ladies, because Sarah Jane told me that . . .

Stop, that’s enough. I don’t feel like hearing about what happened to Sarah Jane just now.

That’s what the church said when she tried to tell them about it so her Mummy took her to the police station instead.

All right, all right. Enough about that. Haven’t you got some homework or something you should be doing?

No. All finished. Why is Mister Rabbit getting rid of his servants? If I had servants they could feed Mister Flopsy and I could do Facebook.

He hasn’t got servants. This is making me tired. Has Mister Flopsy had his lettuce today?

On the radio they said Mister Rabbit was getting rid of servants in Canberra. He thought they liked labour too much. Isn’t that silly? If I had servants I’d be glad if they liked labour. They could do their labour and I could do Facebook all the time.

It’s not work they’re talking about, OK? It’s another party. The Labor Party. Now the Liberal Party and the National Party are in charge. So they want their own people in the government. It’s not that big a deal. And they’re not servants. They’re public servants, which is different.

You said they are servants. How is it different?

We haven’t got servants in Australia like the old days. Public servants is just a silly name for people who get paid by the government to tell the rest of us what to do.

Do the servants tell you and Mummy what to do, Daddy?

You bet they do. All the time. It’s what we pay them for.

They have a lot of parties in Canberra, don’t they Daddy?

Yep, lots of parties. All the time. It’s a serious party town.

I wish I could go to their parties. Would you and Mummy take me there one day?

How about you become a politician and you can get elected and go there yourself. You can pick whatever party you want to belong to.

Could I do that? Really? Is a girl allowed to have a man-date? Would I have to go in the cabinet? With all those ministers?

Mr Rabbit gets ready for his man-date.


EDITORIAL: Clearing the air on dust

THE latest study of fine particulate air pollution in the Upper Hunter provides valuable information for residents and for the coal industry.
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The long-held perception that coalmining must have been a dominant producer of the most harmful particulates – those of 2.5 microns in diameter or less – appears to have been well and truly scotched.

Wood smoke from domestic heaters has been clearly identified as the largest contributor, during winter months at least.

In warmer months, other pollutants such as power station emissions are dominant.

The study, in which the CSIRO and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation analysed samples collected from Muswellbrook and Singleton during 2012, has revealed wood smoke is responsible for up to 62 per cent of very fine particle pollution in Muswellbrook and 38 per cent in Singleton during winter.

By comparison, industrial activity and vehicle movements contributed 23 per cent in Muswellbrook and 8 per cent in Singleton at the same time of year. Sulphate particles, mainly from power stations, contributed up to 6 per cent in Muswellbrook and 7 per cent in Singleton.

Soil dust, including that liberated into the air by coalmines, contributed 7 per cent and 13 per cent in Muswellbrook and Singleton, respectively.

Some may find the study hard to accept since, on its own reports to the National Pollutant Inventory, the coal industry puts more than 60,000 tonnes of fine dust particles – defined as being 10 microns in diameter (PM10) or smaller – into the Upper Hunter’s air every year.

The most likely explanation is that most of that soil material is larger than the 2.5 micron size (PM2.5) examined in this study.

While it is true that larger particles are more visible, and may well have deleterious effects on public health, international studies are clear that the smaller particles are the most harmful.

This is important information to have in the public sphere. For a start, it removes a cloud of suspicion from the region’s many mines.

It also provides Upper Hunter residents and community leaders with a clear course of action to decisively reduce their exposure to the most harmful form of particulate pollution in their environment.

Reducing reliance on wood-burning heaters, the study suggests, is an obvious step.

The study doesn’t imply that the larger PM10 particles are benign or should be ignored. But it goes a long way to clearing the valley’s mines of blame for the finest and most harmful particulates.


TOPICS: Count on a Taree gal

Premier of NSW Barry O’Farrell tours NCIG Coal terminal at Kooragang Island Newcastle This male kelpie cross cattle dog is up for adoption.
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Kurri Kurri Bulldogs supporters’ sign

PREMIER Barry O’Farrell is a diehard Wests Tigers supporter but his wife Rosemary and oldest son Tom, 19, are passionate Newcastle Knights fans, hoping the Hunter’s finest and fittest can knock off the Melbourne Storm this evening.

At a ceremony at the Newcastle Coal Infrastructure Group’s Kooragang Island coal-loader yesterday, the premier said his wife had “asked me to back the Melbourne Storm, because she thinks I’m pretty good at backing losers”.

“So I’m happy to do whatever it takes to make sure the Knights win the premiership this year,” the premier said.

After a tour of the coal-loader in a bus painted in Knights livery, Barry told a Topics operative that he and son Tom had visited the Knights’ change rooms after last weekend’s win over Canterbury.

He said Rosemary was “a Taree girl”, giving her an added affinity with Danny Buderus and Jarrod Mullen, who both hail from that part of the world.

Topics is also wondering whether Newcastle Liberal MP Tim Owen will receive a visit from the political correctness thought police after his opening remarks at the NCIG function.

Called to the microphone to give a vote of thanks for the premier’s attendance, the former RAAF flyboy began by saying: “I always seem to go last at these things, and I say to people it’s like being Elizabeth Taylor’s seventh husband. You know what to do but you don’t know how you’re going to make it interesting.”

Amid much laughter, he got away with it. Just.

Word according to Ben

THE Real NRL grand final is at Newcastle’s No. 1 Sportsground tomorrow, and what the supporters lack in spelling (see pictured) they make up for in passion.

Topics would like to take a moment to praise the name “Real NRL”. It’s clever, tongue-in-cheek and importantly in this age of Google, avoids confusion with that other NRL.

But do you know the story behind the name? It was coined in 1997 by a 22-year-old Newcastle Herald reporter named Ben Drzyzga. He’s now a senior sports and features sub, and his name is pronounced “Driz-kah”.

“At the time, there was a bit of a kerfuffle,” Drzyzga told Topics.

“The Newcastle Rugby League was blowing up that the newly formed National Rugby League had taken ‘NRL’.”

The solution, like all the best ones, was simple. NRL? This is the Real NRL, he decided. It became part of the Herald’s house style, and has stuck ever since.

For those in the know

“Oh, Topics,” you’re probably saying.

“You forgot all about International Talk Like a Pirate Day.”

That’s where you’re wrong, dear reader.

While your friends were “Yaar”-ing and “Ahoy”-ing on Thursday, we were waiting for International be Talkin’ Like a Pirate Day for Down Undaaaaarrrr. Which is today.

Seriously – all that pirate talk people were doing on Thursday? Illegal. They could’ve been hauled before the courts without a leg to stand on, wooden, legal or otherwise.

According to an organisation called Ye Auld Australian Rum Riddled Rapscallions (YAARRR for short), today’s the day. Savvy?

Celtic dog, perchance?

WHEN was the last time your dog felt special?

This could be just the thing for you and your best friend: the Celtic Dog Dress-up Parade.

The parade is part of today’s Clans on the Coast Celtic Festival at Nelson Bay, and we can say with complete confidence that we’ve never come across anything like it.

The parading pooches, which “must be sociable to other dogs and humans” to enter, will vie for the titles of Best Owner-Dog Lookalike, Cutest and Most Celtic.

We’re not quite sure how a dog can be Celtic, but police should be ready for clashes if a rival parade of Orangemen dogs decides to march as well.

You can find out more about this event at the website clansonthecoast苏州美甲美睫培训.


No jobs in Newcastle for graduate

GRADUATES don’t have it easy in this town. After five years of Sydney-based study I’d love to work in Newcastle, but the fact is Newcastle doesn’t want my qualifications.
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I count more of my high school peers in the “brain drain” than otherwise, their home-grown skills and ambition lost to another city.

With limited opportunities for entry-level graduates, the link road is a one-way street for many young professionals.

Despite having a university that The Times puts among the world’s top 3per cent, we continue to educate another city’s labour force and, by extension, strengthen another city’s competitive advantage.

Talking to graduates and entrepreneurs, you get the sense that too many young Novocastrians see crossing the Hawkesbury as an inevitable rite of passage. There is a tradition of leaving Newcastle, and generally speaking this can be healthy and beneficial.

Smart, vibrant cities, big and small alike, are built on the opportunities they create for sharing cultures and ideas. People aren’t born in New York the New Yorkers tell you.

No matter where you grow up, I believe there is something to be gained from leaving your home town for a few years.

The problem is, for regional cities like Newcastle at least, how many of us come back?

Our city needs to start reaping more of what it sows. We need to stop wasting so much energy on debating aesthetics and start nurturing the next big thing for our bottom line.

Heavy rail to Watt Street or not, young talent is going to keep hitting the Pacific Motorway if they don’t have access to the good-paying, interesting jobs that they’re qualified to do.

Revitalising Newcastle needs to move beyond tidying up empty buildings. It’s time to start a conversation about repurposing the whole interior of the local economy so that our city and our building stock will be attractive to businesses that don’t even exist yet.

After speaking with the owners of Sydney- and Melbourne-based start-up companies last week, I am convinced that Newcastle could thrive as the Start-Up capital.

The conversations go like this: “What sort of support do you get from your local council down there?” Silence, then they laugh.

In more cases than not, start-up companies have picked Melbourne or Sydney for absolutely no reason at all.

Critical mass might be important to the delivery guy, but if you’re inventing the next Seek苏州美甲美睫培训.au or PocketBook app there’s no reason you couldn’t be on Hunter Street paying less rent and talking to Silicon Valley on Skype.

In his book Walkable City, Jeff Speck argues that the days of luring new businesses to town with tax breaks and land deals are over. Instead, cities like Newcastle need to start reorientating economic development around a vibrant downtown core where people want to be.

Twenty-somethings with limited financial commitments and a clear diary don’t want to be in Macquarie Park on a Friday afternoon. Trust me.

Our East End, an entirely walkable, medium-density neighbourhood made up of cafes and restaurants, is ripe for this sort of branding and investment. The social infrastructure that came with Marcus Westbury’s Renew initiative has made the precinct a safe place for creative minds to dip their toes into emerging markets and, if all goes well, set up shop for good.

If we can embrace this culture in our broader framework for economic development, focusing on a “hand-holding” approach to cash-strapped risk-takers for their first five years, Newcastle could become the first Australian city to actively foster start-up companies.

We’re a cool city with a ridiculously fantastic lifestyle.

I want to see a bus stuck in the George Street crawl wrapped up in a picture of Bar Beach that says: “I’m opening my business here. How’s Zetland?”

The first step is to get this idea under one roof, a one-stop-shop for start-ups and also venture capital investment.

Strategic partnerships with the local business community could capture valuable expertise for the benefit of entrepreneurs, reducing barriers to entry by providing discounted access to accountants and consultants.

Our financial institutions, insurance companies and consultancy firms can only benefit from new talent coming into town, and ideally they will be picking up long-term clients.

Once this infrastructure is in place, we need to create serious noise. The whole conversation about Newcastle needs to change. We need to stop playing catch-up and position ourselves as an industry leader again, even if in the beginning we’re not.

Confident people aren’t attracted to insecure cities. It’s time for Newcastle to take stock of its achievements and competitive advantages, settle on what the place looks like, and move forward with a big idea that nobody is going to expect to come out of Steel City.

Call to aid wine bar culture

A SEVENTH-generation Novocastrian, Matthew Endacott was raised in the Maitland area and left the Hunter in 2009 to complete a bachelor of economics at Sydney University.

Recently finishing his honours in English literature, the 22-year-old has been searching for a job in Newcastle for the past few years without success.

Currently employed in tourism and marketing at the Sydney Opera House, he is a supporter of Renew Newcastle’s cause and began a petition to support the opening of small wine bars in the city.

While supportive of the curfew placed on city pubs that led to a decrease in CBD violence, he said the initiative made it impossible for more sophisticated drinking venues to open, which he argues would regenerate the city in a positive way.

He remains hopeful of finding a job in Newcastle in economic development, relating to strengthening communities.

Matthew Endacott would love to work in Newcastle, but says the city doesn’t want his skills. Picture Jonathan Carroll


Hunter youth brain drain: poll

NOVOCASTRIANS, talk up your town and do your bit to entice enterprise to the region.
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That’s the message from key Newcastle business figures in response to the stark warning from Hunter-raised university graduate Matthew Endacott that the region’s youth ‘‘brain drain’’ is continuing unabated due to a lack of business diversification and employment opportunities.

Mr Endacott says that while business accelerator Slingshot and the upcoming design, interactive technology and green tech (DiG) festival are helping cement Newcastle as a ‘‘start-up city’’, a more unified effort is required to spruik its wider potential.

Urging Newcastle City Council to show more leadership and residents to ‘‘create more noise’’, he has also called on businesses to form a ‘‘one-stop-shop’’ offering pro-bono or cheap advice to entrepreneurs considering moving to the region.

‘‘If nothing else it’s a tangible, visible attempt at doing something as opposed to just saying ‘why not come to Newcastle, the rent is cheap’,’’ he said.

‘‘And in a best-case scenario, businesses and jobs would be created, and those companies who give their time will get long-term clients.’’

Mr McCloy, who has met Mr Endacott numerous times, said the graduate exodus could be stemmed by boosting the city’s population with more high-density living, encouraging government departments to relocate their operations to the region and building a new university in the CBD.

He said council was playing a role by pushing through development applications ‘‘quickly and properly’’.

‘‘There is an air of optimism out there, you only have to look at the wine bars and coffee shops popping up, you’d think there would be saturation but they all seem pretty full – vibrancy is returning,’’ he said.

Brendan Brooks, the president of digital industry taskforce Hunter DiGit, supported Mr Endacott’s concerns, saying councils and business chambers must be more pro-active.

‘‘Traditional organisations need to be thinking about the future businesses we need in the city, because while it’s one thing to build another coal-loader, it’s another to attract another Slingshot or to build a tech business park that will inspire kids at school to choose a career path here,’’ he said.

Mr Brooks has better insight than most to the concerns of graduates.

Raised in Kurri Kurri, he worked as a fitter and turner before completing a Bachelor of Arts in Sydney and returning to his home town, where he struggled to land a job.

Eventually finding work through the Business Enterprise Centre, he taught himself to build websites before starting his firm HyperWeb Communications.

Hunter Young Professionals vice-president David Clark, a logistics superintendent at OneSteel Tube Mills in Mayfield, said graduates were finding it harder than ever to find jobs, with business confidence low following the peak of the resources boom.

‘‘I’ve known people are doing unpaid work to get their foot in the door, many sectors are cutting costs to free up cash for future investment – there’s just no fat in business,’’ he said.

DiG festival co-founder Craig Wilson said councils could follow the lead of some of their counterparts in North America who had allowed local entrepreneurs to use their facilities as ‘‘urban laboratories’’ to test new clean tech, sustainability and mobility technologies.

‘‘Councils have a lot of data and infrastructure that they could put in the hands of innovative thinkers to create better solutions,’’ he said.

‘‘They can be trial concepts but whole industries can spin from them.’’

Jenny Roberts, an economist at project management firm ADW Johnson, said anecdotal evidence of the brain drain was supported by 2011 census figures showing that Newcastle performed above the state and national average in retaining 20- to 24-year-olds but dropped right back in the 25-34 age bracket.

Ms Roberts says ways to keep younger working professionals in town included changing the HECS system to offer discounts to those who study and remain in Newcastle and updating planning regulations to speed up large developments.

‘‘If government policy is to grow centres like Newcastle it’s not just about planning structure, it’s about putting their money where their mouth is on where their own people work,’’ she said.

Mrs Roberts said she sent 20 emails to ‘‘big corporate clients’’ after the NSW budget, telling them of the millions earmarked for the Hunter.

‘‘It’s that kind of selling the good news from business to business that helps.’’


Man charged after boy’s pogo stick death

Arrested: Kodi James Maybir at Fairfield police station on Friday afternoon, just before he was taken into custody. Photo: James Brickwood The Address in Oatley where a young boy died after a fall from a Pogo stick in May. Photo: James Alcock
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A man has been charged with 25 child abuse offences following the death of a seven-year-old boy who died after he reportedly fell off a pogo stick in May.

Homicide detectives arrested Kodi James Maybir on Friday, after a three month investigation in to the boy’s suspicious death.

The boy was known to the Department of Family and Community Services and died from unexplained head injuries.

His mother told police she found her son dead in the bedroom of an Oatley unit about 6.30am on Tuesday, May 21. In a statement to police at the time, she allegedly said “the boy fell off a pogo stick and hit his head while playing inside the unit and lost consciousness” the day before.

Mr Maybir, 29, was charged with offences relating to the alleged abuse of the boy.

He was arrested at Fairfield police station and is expected to appear before Parramatta Bail Court on Saturday.

He faces 25 charges, including seven counts of common assault, seven of child abuse and one charge of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

Strike Force Miretta detectives will allege Mr Maybir repeatedly abused the boy, struck him with implements, withheld food and water and made him sit outside in his underwear as punishment.

Police will allege Mr Maybir made several films that show the boy being punched and kicked. Detectives seized a laptop containing several films.

A court will hear Mr Maybir allegedly encouraged the boy’s younger siblings to repeatedly assault him on video.

Some of the abuse allegedly occurred in a music recording studio in the Oately unit.

Mr Maybir works for a music recording company and was often referred to by his stage name which was “Kopri”.

Police have yet to lay any murder charges in relation to the boy’s death.

Former Hurstville police Chief Superintendent Brad Shepherd said at the time ambulance officers found the boy dead in a bedroom at Oatley.

Paramedics were called to the unit just before 6.30am after reports a boy was unconscious and not breathing. Ambulance officers pronounced the boy dead at the scene.

Mr Maybir and the boy’s mother were both questioned by Hurstville police at the time.

It is believed the mother is separated from the boy’s father and she had been living in a caravan park.

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Live coverage: Sea Eagles v Sharks

Sea Eagles v Sharks KICKOFF
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Full, live commentary as the Sea Eagles take on the Sharks in the NRL finals series.

Hello world, welcome to tonight’s elimination final between the Sea Eagles and Sharks. The Sharks are facing their second win-or-go-home match in as many weeks, while Manly have been thrust into this position after losing to the Roosters last weekend. What do we have in store tonight? Another seventh-tackle try? Another 4-0 scoreline? Who knows. One thing I can guarantee is action. And plenty of it.

In team news, both sides will be without key attacking players. Brett Stewart has failed to beat the leg injury that kept him out of the Roosters match, while Todd Carney’s hamstring hasn’t healed. Both players will be missed, but you can’t help but think Cronulla will miss Carney more. He is their main man in attack, providing a point of difference in an otherwise workman like side. Chad Townsend – Carney’s replacement – looks to have a bright future, but he is no Todd Carney at this point in time.

Former Panthers great Mark Geyer seems to have done things the right way.

Pizza, cold beer in the fridge, and a house full of footy fans ready for the battle of the beaches. Bring it on #nrlmancro— Mark Geyer (@markMGgeyer) September 20, 2013

Here they come. The Sharks are coming out first, with their fans in good voice. After Manly took the chance to complain about not be able to play the match at Brookvale, the Sharks seem keen on making tonight seem like their home game. Manly are now coming onto the field.

3rd minute: A good opening set from Cronulla. The opening minutes will set the tone. Both sides are likely to adopt a power game, with the battle in the middle of the field crucial. A Ben Pomeroy fumble have given Manly the first attacking chance.

Manly have kicked off. Cronulla have the ball.

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Western front: premiers faceshowdown in the trenches

1. How will the game be played?
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Those wanting to watch a fast, free-flowing game might have a better chance of finding it on the Iron Chef because this match will be a grim struggle. The Swans of 2013 are no ugly ducklings but any team coached by Ross Lyon will always prefer to engage in hand-to-hand combat rather than a shootout. The Swans have an unshakeable belief in their contested style of football but so, too, do the Dockers so don’t expect either coach to be changing their plan so deep into the season. There will be plenty of ball-ups and tackles, and goals will be at a premium.

2. Why has Sydney coach John Longmire opted for speed?

The Swans know Josh Kennedy, Ryan O’Keefe, Kieren Jack and Jarrad McVeigh can match the Dockers for hardness but it’s the blistering pace of Lewis Jetta, Gary Rohan and Harry Cunningham which provides Longmire with a point of difference. The Dockers are brilliant at closing down space on the opposition but you can’t tackle what you can’t catch. The Swans will look to take every opportunity to feed the ball out to the trio in a bid to exploit the Dockers for pace. One of the three is likely to start in the red vest.

3. What impact will Kurt Tippett’s absence have on the Swans?

The Swans will miss Tippett’s scoring power but the flipside is they are less predictable with him injured. There is likely to be extra pressure on Jesse White to provide a target but he will get assistance from Mike Pyke and Shane Mumford when they are resting from the ruck. The Swans are at their best when midfielders such as McVeigh, Jack, Kennedy, Dan Hannebery, Ben McGlynn and Luke Parker run hard into attack to kick goals. It will test their endurance but it could be a case of no pain, no gain for the Swans.

4. How do Sydney quell Aaron Sandilands’ influence?

At 211cm and 120kg, Sandilands is too tall to reach over and too big to push out of the way but Pyke and Mumford have the athleticism to test him in general play. Mumford’s strength is his ability to follow up his ruck work by throwing his weight around at ground level while Pyke has become an exceptionally strong mark. The Swans’ defence will need to be organised when Sandilands, who is likely to dominate the hitouts, pushes forward in order to avoid one-on-one marking contests.

5. Why can the Swans win?

They have the big-game experience, the hardened bodies to match the Dockers’ combative style and the big ground suits their speed and run. The Swans also relish the challenge of winning in Perth and seem to grow another leg when their credentials are questioned. The Dockers have never made a grand final in their 18-year existence so the weight of history could also hold them down. But there’s a huge factor in the Dockers’ favour – the week off. The Swans’ hard year could tell in the second half.

Prediction: Fremantle by 9 points.

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