The Magpies’ win sets up a grand final against the Lake Cathie Raiders this Saturday.
The Tigers’ playmaker injured himself in the warm up forcing a reshuffle in the backline but more importantly Comboyne lost a vital cog in their attacking armoury.
The Lower Macleay Magpies took full advantage of a disjointed Tigers attack but not before the Tigers took a 6-0 lead on 20 minutes through a Thomas Latimore try and Shawn Madeley conversion.
The Magpies hit back when halfback Sam Drew found Luke Dufty with a great inside pass before the centre dived over the tryline. Despite missing the conversion, the Magpies were down 6-4 but looking the more composed side.
Comboyne did themselves no favours with too many errors early in the tackle count and poor sixth tackle options.
Magpies hooker Zac McKiernan exploited a yawning gap in the Tigers defence to grab the lead for his side and when Dufty converted from in front the Magpies went to the break 10-6 leaders.
Lower Macleay posted two tries in the opening 11 minutes of the second half through a great solo effort from five-eighth Joel McCafferty and centre Tom Stevenson to stretch their lead to 18-6 after Dufty booted one of the conversion attempts.
An angled run from Comboyne’s Thomas Latimore caught the Magpies defence flat-footed close to the line to bring his side back into the contest. The Tigers forward improved his position to give goalkicker Madeley and easier conversion. That left the score at 18-12 and the Tigers were, somehow, back into the contest.
But the comeback was short-lived. The Magpies peppered the Comboyne defence with a couple of stirring runs before Dufty wrongfooted a couple of Tigers defenders to score under the posts. The centre landed the conversion to stretch the Magpies’ lead to 24-12.
With the clock winding down, Paio scored off the back of a strong charge from Bevan Castles and with the conversion attempt waved away, the Magpies were 24-16 winners and through to Saturday’s grand final.
The Magpies were best served by McCafferty and McKiernan while the Tigers’ best included winger Lee O’Brien, lock Ben Wadwell and Blake Reis.
Tigers down: Sam Hensley and Luke Dufty … battle it out in the Hastings League finals last Saturday.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.
On the beat: The police band entertains a crowd at Box Hill. The Victoria Police band continues to wow audiences. Picture: Darrian Traynor
They’re police, but their mission is music and making people feel good, writes Loretta Hall.
It can be a glamorous life fronting a showband, but this is not one of those days.
The band’s equipment truck, emptied of trunks of brass instruments and sound gear, doubles as a hasty change room for Elise Beattie as she transforms from “worker ant” roadie to lead singer in a shopping mall in Melbourne’s east.
Long loose hair is secured in a no-nonsense plait, and casual clothing discarded for navy trousers, sensible flat black shoes and a crisp light-blue shirt with an epaulette and stripe on each shoulder.
Only the showbiz shades remain from her civilian guise as Beattie prepares to front the Victoria Police Showband with co-senior constable Daina Jowsey under the midday sun for the mostly unsuspecting shoppers and commuters.
Music director (and prominent Melbourne musician) Daryl McKenzie is absent, so Beattie and Jowsey consult over a whiteboard song list and a takeaway coffee while fellow band members set up 500 leads and an array of instruments for the gig.
They choose songs from hundreds of the band’s own arrangements, mixing swing with jazz, classical, musical theatre, rock and pop. Beattie is down for Adele’s Rolling in the Deep, Jowsey is opening with Dancing in the Street.
Some of the tracks they performed for the Showband’s Divas CD, sales of which aid the police force’s Blue Ribbon Foundation community program.
There are a few curious glances from passers-by as Beattie sets up the microphones. But once she re-emerges from the back of the truck an audience begins to gather and several shoppers question the diminutive but authoritative figure at the microphone stand.
“As soon as you are in uniform there’s a certain level of interest; people come up and ask what you are doing,” Beattie says. “We explain to them that what we are doing is a full-time job.”
When the police band originated 120 years ago it was formed by those on the beat who volunteered to play an instrument part-time. It became a full-time occupation in 1980s, when professional musicians were sworn in as police members
The Showband plays across Melbourne and regional Victoria in the community and schools and the public can check the police website for the showband’s calendar for a performance in their neighbourhood.
More glitzy gigs include charity nights, when Beattie frocks up out of uniform to perform at venues that have included Crown’s Palladium room, Hamer Hall and Melbourne’s World Congress Centre.
Beattie, 46, has been on patrol with the showband around Victoria for the past 11 years and previously sang with the Victoria Police’s rock band, Code One, for six years. Her role in the police force was recognised with a national award for “rockin’ it” in January.
She wears the stripe of a senior constable, “and we have full police powers of arrest”, but, as with the rest of the 24 showband members, isn’t operational as a police officer.
Band leader Sergeant Pat Hudson, who has in the past been in the back-row line-up on trombone, watches from beyond the police-taped stage edge as the party gets started.
Music spills into the mall and an audience builds. Most of the smoking section – a half-brick wall outside the supermarket – is full. Hudson says that at the height of the set about 200 people are toe-tapping to the tunes.
The youth that the showband is reaching out to largely respond to the offer of musical friendship, with most unplugging at least one earphone to catch a Lady Gaga or Beyoncé song.
An older fan, Robert Fraser, 59, dances through all three sets, oblivious to the fact he is mostly dancing solo on the pavement. A middle-aged woman kicks off her heels, dumps her handbag under the watchful gaze of the band’s brass section and joins him for a track. Towards the end of the last set a trio of teens lose their inhibitions and let their lanky limbs loose.
Collectively, the three bands perform about 500 gigs annually, and Hudson says these reach about 650,000 Victorians a year. In times of hardship and disaster, the Showband is dispatched to communities where an uplifting tune can bring some cheer or relief in tough times.
“When there were floods in country Victoria a year ago we had a week tour in those regions, and we based ourselves in Horsham. We were bussed out to country towns I had never heard of where all 50 people in the town came to see us. When we do a show for them it’s the only thing that has made them smile in a long time.”
Beattie says the performances are not all about the music, as she spends a lot of time talking to locals.
In addition to Cats, Beattie took lead roles in her school’s Gilbert and Sullivan productions before studying voice at Melba Conservatorium and primary teaching in music at Victoria College. She gained professional experience with Dame Joan Sutherland in Othello for the Australian Opera (now Opera Australia) and with the Wiggles in front of a crowd of 80,000.
“I still have singing lessons because it is important that our music is as high a standard as it can be,” Beattie says. “Being with the band involves a regimented lifestyle, especially for the singers to stay fit and healthy. In a 10-day fortnight we get four days off, and those 10 days can be at any time.
“We spend many hours travelling … being on tour with the band on the bus is like being in a sitcom. There are some incredibly funny personalities.”
HUME Council has sought to allay Aitken College fears over a Growth Areas Authority (GAA) plan to build a public road that would intersect the school in Greenvale.
The school site, which faces Mickleham Road, is included in the GAA Greenvale Central Precinct Structure Plan (PSP), which was released this month.
Council’s city sustainability director, Kelvin Walsh, said last week: “It is council’s understanding the Minister for Planning [Matthew Guy] has directed that the GAA not propose a road extending through the school site – and there is currently no proposal to construct a road through the school”.
He said the decision for a road connection was at the discretion of the school.
His comments followed on college principal Josie Crisara urging parents to voice their concerns at the road plan.
Ms Crisara said the plan showed a road connection along the southern boundary of the school, running up to the northern boundary.
She said the road would pose a safety risk to students and impact on the school’s sustainability projects, including its wetlands.
She urged parents to fill out a submission objecting to the proposal, to be sent to the GAA.
“There have been suggestions that a public road could be built to cut through the school or provide an alternative access other than using Mickleham Road,” Ms Crisara said.
“Both of these propositions are unacceptable to the college. A road access point to the south or north of the college would only create more congestion and would be a costly exercise in the order of millions of dollars, which the college would most likely need to fund.”
The school site has also been labelled a ‘future urban area’ by the GAA.
Ms Crisara said this was unacceptable. The school, which opened in 1999, has 1260 students from prep to year 12.
Janelle Judge, whose son is in year8 at the college, said she would be putting in a submission to the GAA.
”It’s a prep-to-year 12 school so I was concerned about the students crossing that potential road,” she said.
“The safety of the children would be at risk.”
GAA chief executive Peter Seamer said there were no immediate plans to build a road through the school, but he added that it was a possibility.
“While the PSP shows a potential future connection, as requested by Hume City Council, the PSP is neutral on whether there should be a road connection through that site and quite certainly it does not require this [connection],” he said.
But the council said the concept of a road connection arose from recommendations of the GAA’s own traffic report.
Late last week, Mr Guy’s spokesman said: “The minister has no intention of directing the location of local roads; this is a matter that should be sensibly sorted out between the GAA and the Hume Council.”
New season: Upwey-Tecoma will be out to defend its 2011 premiership this Saturday. Picture: Wayne HawkinsYARRA Valley Mountain District Football League opens its football and netball seasons this Saturday.
Emerald will go in division 1 after winning the division 2 premiership in both football and netball.
Will they win only a handful of games, or will they creep into the top five? That question will only be answered in the season.
Wandin has recruited well with 33 new names arriving at the club. Belgrave and Emerald have also played a part in the recruiting game, gaining 24 and 22 new players respectively.
A few big names have left their respective clubs with Mt Evelyn losing stars Mark Martin, James Charge and Michael Smith to the Eastern Football League.
The likes of Dean Cleven (Monbulk), Wade Lees (Mount Evelyn) and Patrick Rosier (Olinda Ferny Creek) have all assumed prominent roles with Casey Scorpions.
With Damian Monkhorst stepping down as coach at Woori Yallock, Danny Ryan has taken his place for the 2012 season and there is no doubt he has big shoes to fill.
Belgrave’s new coach Ben Collins, from the Gippsland League, has already stamped his mark at the club, which is expected to be a strong force this season.
Mt Evelyn has recruited a few players, including Russell Cowan, who has won two league best and fairests for both Yarra Glen and Powelltown. Mt Evelyn has also picked up Regan Davis from the VAFA and Michael Paolini from the EFL.
Josh Wilson joins his brother at Powelltown, and Monbulk boys Jarrett Anderson and Dylan Werts return to their home club.
Belgrave looks to have recruited well, as have Kinglake, Yea and Alexandra. Upwey Tecoma looks to be an ominous force once again and their new coach Greg Spence will be keen to repeat last season’s success.
Netball has been growing at a phenomenal rate and this season brings the introduction of four grades for the first time. Not only have netball numbers grown, the skill level has also improved greatly.
The teams to beat in division 1 netball appear to be Wandin, Mount Evelyn and Upwey Tecoma.
Warburton Millgrove may also be ready to step up, and it will be interesting to see how Emerald will hold up after winning last season’s netball grand final in division 2.
Division 2 netball appears to be a fairly even contest, with no team really standing out.
New Demon: Former AFL and VFL star Brett Johnson will coach Montrose this season. Picture: Lucy Di PaoloWHAT DO YOU THINK? SCROLL TO BELOW THIS STORY TO POST A COMMENT.
The Eastern Football League division 2 season starts this Saturday. Roy Ward takes a look at what promises to be a tightly contested season.
Coach: Neil Winterton
Ins: Neil Winterton (Mulgrave), Aaron Walton (Norwood), Jayden Murphy (Eastern Lions), Dave Burmeister (travel).
Outs: Bernie Dinneen (East Ringwood), Steve Newman (Mooroolbark), Adrian Gawne (Upper Ferntree Gully).
Chances: Former VFL and Mulgrave star Winterton will slip right into Dinneen’s shoes as playing coach, but the real question for the Waters will be whether their mid-level players are good enough to win matches. Walton, Murphy and Burmeister should all play key roles. It’s time for the Waters players to stand up to the rigours and challenges of senior football, and 2012 needs to be their year.
Chances: Johnson joins a Montrose side that sits on the cusp of promotion to division 1 after its loss to Lilydale last year. The former AFL and VFL midfielder should add plenty of quality on the field and a practised, professional approach to the coaching staff, so expect big things from the Demons. The same younger stars who stepped up in the finals last year will need to stand up for the whole of 2012. The loss of Petifer’s quality and creativity in attack will hurt.
Coach: Paul Mynott
Ins: Michael Bussey (TAC Cup), James Powell (Scoresby), Jake Ryall (Scoresby), Rudi Falovic (break).
Outs: Cody Morris (travel), Kris Barlow (Vermont), Darren Jeffries (Gippsland).
Chances: The Hawks are quietly confident they can go a step further in 2012 after a heartbreaking finals exit last season. The loss of Morris and Jeffries removes quality from the side but Bussey, Powell and Falovic, a towering ruckman, fill some significant holes in the line-up. The young Hawks are a year older, a year wiser and should be in contention right up until the end of the season, although whether this is their year is still to be seen.
Coach: Brett Fisher
Ins: Steve Newman (Bayswater), James Charge, Mark Martin and Michael Smith (all Mt Evelyn),
Outs: Darren Spence (YVMDFL).
Chances: The Mustangs had a horror start to 2011 and never recovered, but with a long off-season behind them expect to be a more dangerous side in 2012. Charge, Martin and Smith all starred in the Yarra Valley. Expect them to be equally effective in the EFL while Kire Talevski and Cameron Linford should again be leaders. Whether the Mustangs make finals will depend on their consistency.
Coach: Ryan James
Ins: Craig Skicko (SFL), Andrew Perrin (Omeo),
Outs: Neil Winterton (Bayswater), Luke Ablett (VAFA), Mitch Collins (YVMDFL), Cohen Howell (Noble Park).
Chances: The Lions have lost some high-profile players and have turned their focus to their home-grown players. The drop from division 1 hurt the club but the lessons have been absorbed so expect a fitter and faster Lions. James is a club stalwart and provides great enthusiasm. Whether they are a finals side or simply a tough competitor is for debate, but don’t underestimate the Lions.
Upper Ferntree Gully
Coach: Andy Hayman
Ins: Adrian Gawne (Bayswater), Haytham Elnakadi (Mulgrave),
Outs: David Eddy (VFL).
Chances: The Uppers will be looking to continue the gains made under Hayman in 2011. Gawne and Elnakadi should improve the side while a number of younger Uppers should establish themselves in the seniors. Whether the Uppers are good enough to challenge the best in the division remains to be seen, but they will certainly give it their best.
Coach: Scott Hunter
Ins: Mitch Hayes (TAC Cup), Travis Allen (VAFA).
Chances: The Blues shape as a much tougher proposition with a healthier list, and the inclusion of Hayes and Allen should boost the midfield. Hunter believes his side was unlucky with injuries last year so a full side could press the best sides. An in-form Blues would make life hard for any opposition.
Doncaster, Doncaster East and Donvale also play in this division.
Flying Falcons: Knox Falcons are ready for a big year with midfielders like George Stuckey in good form. Picture: Sam StiglecWHAT DO YOU THINK? SCROLL TO BELOW THIS STORY TO POST A COMMENT.
The Eastern Football League division 1 season kicks off on April 21. Roy Ward runs the rule over the competition.
Coach: Brett Chandler
Ins: Andrew Hughes (injury).
Outs: Jarrod Wright (Balwyn).
Chances: The Blues have turned their efforts within during the off-season with a major focus on preparing their younger players for senior football. Chandler believes a lighter Damien Cupido will again be a match-winner while the return of Hughes and emergence of several other Blues will make the side better. But their best endeavours could still see them short of the finals.
Coach: Bernie Dinneen
Ins: Bernie Dinneen (Bayswater), Joel Perry (Echuca), Aaron Fiora (WBFL), David Bell and Cam Purdy (both VFL).
Outs: Andrew McGuiness (travel), Anthony Van Rooyen (SFL), Dylan Werts (YVMDFL).
Chances: Dinneen has the Roos firing on cylinders leading into 2012. After a winning start to 2011 the Roos fell back to the field but an inclusion of star recruits Perry, Bell and Purdy as well as former AFL player Fiora shape the Roos as a significant challenger to Noble Park’s crown. How quickly the Roos mesh together will decide how quickly they join the top echelon of the EFL.
Coach: Kevin Tibaldi
Ins: Scott Day (Euroa), Patrick Jones (Gippsland), Justin Gould (East Gippsland).
Outs: Leigh Williams (AFL), Michael Costello (Heathmont).
Chances: At their best the Norsemen were a dangerous side last season but lacked enough wins to make a serious impact. They will miss Williams whose goal kicking was vital but the return of Day from Euroa will add to their midfield while the club’s younger, emerging players will need to take on more responsibility if the club is to rise into premiership contention.
Coach: Jon Knight
Ins:: Jacob Castricum (VFL), Myles Krakouer (West Adelaide), Tom Chisholm (Old Hailybury), Brendan Makea (travel).
Outs: Todd Daniher (Vermont), Jye Sigersma (Upper Ferntree Gully).
Chances: The Falcons want to progress deeper into the finals in 2012. After snaring a surprise berth in the finals last season, Knight wants his side to take the next step into the top three. Castricum made a few cameos with the Falcons last season and will add class while Krakouer and Chisholm shape as match-winners. The Falcons will have to work but they could well move into the top level this season.
Coach: Simon Rourke
Ins: Steve Wright (Emerald), Jarrad Barden (Mt. Evelyn), Robbie Allen (Woori Yallock).
Outs: Andrew Bawden (retired), Josh Barrett (North Ringwood), Marcus Baxter (Chirnside Park), Matt Lawrence (Coldstream).
Chances: Lilydale returns to division 1 with high hopes after a memorable division 2 premiership season. But they return to find the top division just as competitive as when they were relegated. The Falcons’ much-vaunted midfield will again need to fire and the club must take every win it can to avoid getting stuck in the relegation battle late in the season.
Coach: Ben Delarue
Ins: Steve Dinnell and Nick King (both VFL).
Outs: Dylan Troutman (VFL).
Chances: The Bulldogs will be back on Cheong Reserve this season and look forward to a more stable year after having to fight in plenty of matches last year. Dinnell and King will add plenty to the side while Troutman will be missed but could make a few appearances if not winning selection in the VFL. With a fully fit midfield the Bulldogs will challenge plenty of sides but once again consistency and fitness will determine the club’s finals hopes.
Coach: Mick Fogarty
Ins: Andrew McConnell (VFL), Cohen Howell (Mulgrave), Luke McLean (SANFL), Steve Tolongs (Myrtleford).
Outs: Peter O’Brien (retired), Kyle Martin (VFL), Lachie Delahunty (VFL), Beau Dowler (VFL), Jackson Sketcher (VFL).
Chances: The outs look ominous for Noble Park but the two-time premiers have made some wise signings while also retaining proven stars such as Craig Anderson, Stewart Kemperman and Ziggy Alwan. McLean and McConnell come with good reputations, so expect Fogarty’s Bulls to be the EFL benchmark once again.
Coach: Scott Whyte.
Ins: Jared Goldsack (Pakenham), Jayden Hoegal (VFL).
Outs: Steve Pimm (AFNL), Anthony Vanin (ROC).
Chances: Although two-time grand final coach Dale Bower has left the Magpies, the side remains full of talent with 18 players from their grand final side returning along with key signings Goldsack and Hoegal. New coach Whyte has his side focused and ready for the season ahead. Whether they remain as strong as improved sides like Vermont, East Ringwood and Knox will be a question answered in the opening rounds.
Balwyn, East Burwood and Vermont also play in this division.
Helping hand: Russell Moore helps the elderly in Knox, including Valerie Winslade and Mario Mealing, by taking them to medical appointments. Picture: Ted KloszynskiWHEN Russell Moore found himself unemployed in his mid-50s, he decided not to waste away the days doing nothing.
Instead, he kept busy by driving elderly Knox residents to social events and hospital appointments across the region as a volunteer for not-for-profit organisation Bridges.
Mr Moore used his own car before it “got a bit long in the tooth”, and he became a Bridges bus driver.
Bridges has recently widened the eligibility requirements to use its transport service and now urgently needs more volunteer bus drivers.
Previously, only pensioners who were permanently unable to drive could use the service, but now pensioners who require transport on a temporary basis or who only drive in their local area can also use it.
Bridges spokeswoman Alex Coubek said the significant change would assist more pensioners to attend medical appointments and reduce the risk of isolation.
Mr Moore said he took a 94-year-old woman to the Rowville Community Centre every Friday to play bingo. “It gives them a bit of enjoyment. They’re not just sitting there watching television – they’re getting out of the house.”
He has been volunteering with the organisation for almost five years and puts on the Bridges bus driver hat every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
While the pensioners are enjoying themselves at their various social activities, Mr Moore either has a coffee with them or does some shopping.
“It’s good just to give something back to the community. They’re nice people and most of them are still very sharp,” he said.
But there’s also a benefit for Mr Moore in the long term. “I’ll probably end up on the bus myself one day. Hopefully, they’ll give me a free ride when I’m not able to drive.”
Anyone wanting to volunteer can call Bridges on 9729 9499.
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MAROONDAH Council has not given up hope on being nominated as the preferred location for a new youth mental health service, despite rumours Knox has already won the honour.
The municipalities have been battling to get the headspace youth mental health hub in their area, since the organisation last year announced its intention to open an outer east site.
Media reports have indicated a consortium of community health services has recommended the Knox Ozone site in Wantirna South over Maroondah’s offer in Ringwood. Official representatives have not confirmed this, and the final decision lies with headspace and the federal government.
Knox mayor Adam Gill said he knew one thing was certain – and that was the preferred location for the outer east hub was Knox Ozone.
He said there was already a mental health service in Maroondah, but not in Knox. Ringwood police, Maroondah mayor Rob Steane and Deakin MP Mike Symon met at the proposed Ringwood site at 120 Maroondah Highway last week to discuss their bid for the centre.
Cr Steane said Ringwood was the major transport hub connecting bus and train services in the outer east, Lilydale and Healesville. Mr Symon said he fully supported Maroondah Council’s bid to have the headspace site in Maroondah.
“It is laughable to suggest that that a young person without a car who is living in Mt Evelyn or Healesville could practically ever access a service based in Knox.”
But Youth Advocacy Group president Anthony Osborne said a survey of 120 young people showed 83 percent preferred Knox.
“Many of the respondents outlined that they felt unsafe at Ringwood station. Residents from Yarra Ranges also outlined that despite catching the Ringwood line for many years they still didn’t feel safe.”
A headspace spokeswoman said the organisation was unable to comment on the proceedings as it was confidential. A decision was expected by the end of the month.
Book lovers: Knox mayor Adam Gill, Joseph Cullen, the Ministerial Advisory Council on Public Libraries deputy chairwoman Joanna Duncan, MAC chairman David Morris and John Mortimore discuss the future of libraries in Knox. Picture: Wayne HawkinsWHAT DO YOU THINK? SCROLL TO BELOW THIS STORY TO POST A COMMENT.
KNOX libraries of the future could feature cafes and colourful areas for children if the council’s dreams can be realised.
The ambitious plans, tabled at last month’s Knox Council meeting, might not be looked at for some years.
Eastern Regional Libraries chief executive officer Joseph Cullen said the roll-out of the plans would be a “question of priorities, funding and timing”.
ERL commissioned an architect to design appropriate physical facilities at each Knox branch, and the cost of each development could range from between $700,000 and $2 million.
The plans for Knox library, which is within Knox shopping centre, included new wet areas for activities and new furniture.
However, the lease for the site expires in 2017 and the plans would be reconsidered once there was more certainty for the branch.
Mr Cullen said the development of the children’s areas were necessary because the libraries needed something to attract young people.
The most costly proposed upgrade would be at Boronia library, which in June last year was estimated at $1.8 million.
The plan included turning the loading dock into office accommodation, expanding the multipurpose room and building a cafe. A cafe was also suggested for Ferntree Gully library.
“Cafes at libraries are something that are happening internationally. It makes it a destination and people stay a bit longer,” Mr Cullen said.
Last week, the bipartisan Ministerial Advisory Council on Public Libraries visited Knox library to consult with ERL staff and the council.
The advisory council is undertaking a review titled ‘Tomorrow’s Library’ which looks into the current and future roles of public libraries.
Although funding won’t officially be discussed until stage two of the review, it was still a topic many were keen to discuss at the meeting.
“Funding for libraries is an issue,” Cr John Mortimore said. “Libraries deserve a better share.”
Mr Cullen said the state government needed to look at its level of funding to public libraries, because the ratio of council to state funding had been decreasing since the 1970s.
To have your say on ERL’s future plans, go to tomorrowslibrary南京夜网.au.
Pigeon fancier John Blackney has missed the thrill of racing his birds. Picture: Lucy Di Paolo About 150 of Felice Esposito’s pigeons have been wiped out by paramyxovirus. Picture: Marco De Luca
Pigeon fanciers have been in lockdown since hundreds of their birds were infected with a deadly virus last year. As a statewide ban on races and shows lifted last week, some owners say they are still struggling to recover. Cameron Lucadou-Wells reports.
THE natural highs of pigeon racing are “better than sex”, says racing pigeon owner John Blackney. When the first of his racing pigeons returns from King Island or another race point 1000 kilometres from his Springvale home, he says he feels his heart flutter with excitement.
“It’s the biggest thrill you can get — you sit in the backyard. You’re waiting, you’re waiting and then you see a pigeon arrive in the sky. For seven seconds, your heart flutters. When that first flier hits your loft . . .’’
The thrill makes the many hours of training and caring for his 25 birds worth it, Blackney says. Some owners pay up to $10,000 for a bird, imported from Europe or the US — “it’s a drug that sucks you in’’.
The speed and stamina of the birds, as well as their uncanny homing instincts, are phenomenal. With a tail wind, they can fly up to 10 hours at 100km/h in race conditions.
But over the past seven months Blackney, like hundreds of other pigeon racers in Victoria, is missing the thrill of the comp. Pigeon racing, like pigeon shows and sales, has been on hold due to a statewide outbreak of pigeon paramyxovirus that has killed pet and wild pigeons across the state.
At least 76 lofts have been infected and 80 contaminated feral pigeons have been found in greater Melbourne.
Last September, the Department of Primary Industries slapped a ban on pigeon activities. It lifted the ban on March 25, months before trials of a vaccine against the virus are expected to be completed.
For some hapless pigeon breeders, up to 100 per cent of their flock have been wiped out.
Many of the birds die within three days of contracting the virus. Others are reduced to ‘headwobblers’ and have to be hand-fed because they can’t hold up their heads. If they recover, it may take up to 12 months of intensive treatment and hand-rearing by their owners.
World champion show pigeon breeder Felice Esposito of Sunshine had half of his 300 pigeons — and all but one young pair of his best, selectively bred English longface tumblers — wiped out by the virus.
It has taken vigilance and a cocktail of medications to save the rest of his birds. At worst, he was losing seven pigeons a day and nursing up to 30 at a time.
“They’re some of the world’s best pigeons. I’ve spent a lot of money on them. It feels like 20 years has gone down the drain.’’
Esposito can only guess how his flock caught the virus, despite never being let out to fly. “Hopefully, the one pair of my best birds can reproduce their bloodline.’’
Blackney, who is also president of Dandenong Racing Pigeon Society, says two of his club’s 25 members have lost birds to the disease. His club and other pigeon clubs have been told they can resume racing and shows if they ensure all competing birds are vaccinated.
Racers have been allowed to ‘range’ or fly around an owner’s loft in the meantime but the usual training — including ‘tossing’ out a bird kilometres from home — has ceased.
“We’ve been like a mother waiting for the past 10 months,’’ Blackney says. “It’s pretty boring.’’
There’s speculation but no proof that the virus may have landed on Victoria’s shores through a smuggled bird. The virus, prevalent worldwide for more than 20 years, had been managed with a paramyxovirus vaccine.
The vaccine has backing from the state’s Department of Primary Industries but it hasn’t been approved by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service and the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority.
So the department has recommended a four-week course of a vaccine used for treating Newcastle disease in poultry. The cost of a 1000-bird dose is about $200.
Inoculation is the way of the future, Blackney says. “The virus is going to be here for the rest of our days. Everyone is going to have to inoculate.’’
There is hope that shows and races in Victoria could resume if enough pigeons are vaccinated before the end of the racing season in July.
Pigeon clubs have funded a trial of the Newcastle disease vaccine as their members rush to inoculate their birds.
But vaccinations didn’t seem high on the agenda among buyers and sellers at MSK auction house in Dandenong last Tuesday.
The auction was abuzz, with more than 50 show and racing pigeons on offer as the house resumed its pigeon sales for the first time since the lifting of the ban.
One breeder and seller, ‘Billy’ of Frankston, said he hadn’t vaccinated his 20-odd show pigeons for sale — “vaccination doesn’t help. There’s nothing you can do about the virus’’.
He knew of five owners whose birds had been killed by the virus. “They got medicine injections for the birds but it doesn’t help. The pigeons just lose their interest to live.’’
One buyer who parcelled up about a dozen racing pigeons into cardboard boxes said she knew nothing about the virus.
National champion show pigeon breeder ‘Jeff’, who breeds English longface tumblers and show-pen homers at his Frankston lofts, described the market sellers who didn’t vaccinate as “clowns”.
“They will kill their own backyard-flyer tribe out. They’ve got nothing to protect their birds.’’
Jeff, a member of Dandenong Fancy Pigeon Society, has been luckier than some — his birds have been spared the virus. But the breeder culled 100 of his birds a month ago because he couldn’t sell them or even give them away under the statewide ban. Now, with his birds vaccinated and ban lifted, he can at least shift his surplus birds.
The outbreak put a halt to pigeon shows nationwide. Show organisers have opted to shut down national shows of up to 4000 entries rather than simply ban Victorian pigeons.
Jeff says he is “finished for two or three years’’ as a national show pigeon competitor. “I won’t be able to take my birds interstate until a national vaccination program happens. I will be locked down and won’t be able to move my birds.
“If there isn’t a national agreement among states to vaccinate, a lot of people will leave the industry.’’
Bird veterinarian Colin Walker says there is no need for national vaccinations, since the disease hasn’t yet escaped state borders. “Even if a bird is vaccinated, it could still carry the disease and potentially carry it out of the state. The DPI is simply trying to stop the spread of the disease.’’
Department of Primary Industries chief veterinary officer Andrew Cameron said the disease was established, endemic and continuing to spread among feral pigeons in greater Melbourne.
He said the Newcastle vaccine should ensure a return to “degree of normalcy’’ for pigeon flyers and breeders.
“We’ve evaluated that it is likely to work.
“People would be foolhardy not to vaccinate their birds because the virus won’t go away.’’
He said rather than compel sellers at markets to vaccinate, it should be a case of ‘buyer beware’.
“I’d say it’s up to the buyer — they should not buy a bird unless the seller can prove they’ve vaccinated the birds.
“If they’re buying birds that aren’t vaccinated, they should keep them isolated before they’re introduced to their other birds.’’
Spin away: Marion Wheatland braved the cold, spinning woollen balaclavas outside Mawson’s Hut in Antarctica. Picture: Sam StiglecANTARCTICA remains a freezing, barren continent rarely visited, but Boronia’s Marion Wheatland is one of the few who have ventured to the cold south.
She sought to pay tribute to Australian explorer Sir Douglas Mawson, and set off to Antarctica on the 100th anniversary of his 1911 expedition.
Late last year, she took her prized possession, a wool spinning wheel, and began to make replica balaclavas of what Mawson and his team of 18 men wore, in the same icy terrain they once explored.
Ms Wheatland spoke about her trip to an eager group of locals at The Basin Community House, detailing her adventures.
She said she felt inspired to go to Antarctica after her father, a former history teacher at Boronia High School, died five years ago.
“My father gave me a love of history. I wanted to do something that he would approve of, to honour him.”
Ms Wheatland, a Canadian now living in what she calls her “adopted country” of Australia” has a natural love of the cold – “I have ice in my blood from Canada”.
Training for the trip included taking her spinning wheel to the top of Victoria’s Mt Hotham, and spinning woollen balaclavas that she now sells to fund the Mawson’s Huts Foundation, which each year sends a team of restorers, carpenters and other maintenance workers to preserve the huts.
“The Mawson’s Huts are archaeological sites, so their preservation is very important,” Ms Wheatland said.
She has been guest speaking for the past 12 months, and donates any money from this to the foundation, as well as money raised from the sale of the balaclavas.
She has donated more than $2000 to the foundation, which she handed over in a ceremony attended by Governor-General Quentin Bryce last December.
Musical holidays: Jon Madin will bring his quirky instruments to the Knox Community Arts Centre these school holidays.CELLOS that echo, bicycles that play music and a 1.8-metre-long xylophone lookalike are all part of Jon Madin’s musical workshop next Tuesday.
The school holiday program will be held at Knox Community Arts Centre and participants don’t need to have any musical talent.
“It’s about having fun. A lot of people think that when you play music it’s about getting it right,” Madin says. “But there’s no getting it wrong in this class.”
The musical guru will bring along some of his echo cellos, marimbas and other unusual instruments. Children will play the marimbas in groups of three and the musical notes are written on the keys. There will be popular songs like We Will Rock You and Macarena to play, plus some of his quirky, original tunes.
Many children, and even adults, who come along to the workshop fall in love with music, Madin says. “They’re often inspired to take up a musical instrument after the class because they have so much fun.”
If you’re intrigued by what it’s all about, type Madin’s name into YouTube and take a look at his videos.
During the school holidays, KCAC is also hosting a workshop called Go Loopy at which children can create their own digital music.
Digital Learning Hub manager Peter Wakefield says children will enter the “travelling lab” and choose their own style, like hip-hop or classical, then select, layer and manipulate loops at different speeds to create a song.
Adults are also encouraged to join in. Wakefield says he often sees families working together to make the big musical decisions.
The marimba workshop is at KCAC next Tuesday, with hour-long sessions at 9.30am, 11am and 1pm. The Go Loopy workshop is at KCAC on Thursday, April 12 with the same session times available. Details: knox.vic.gov.au/theatretix.
KNOX Raiders men conjured another memorable comeback in a win over rivals Kilsyth Cobras at Knox Stadium in the SEABL men’s competition on Saturday night
The Cobras held a 34-19 quarter-time lead over the Raiders and maintained a double-figure advantage at half-time before the Raiders stormed back in the second half, taking a late lead behind the play of CJ Massingale (27 points, seven rebounds, five assists) and John Phillip (21 points, 10 rebounds).
The Raiders tied the game at 62-62 at three-quarter-time before taking their first lead with Lester Strong basket early in the final term.
From that point, the game see-sawed before a running-jump shot from Massingale with 50 seconds to go gave the Raiders the lead for good.
The Cobras did get one final chance to put the game into overtime as Garfield Blair (18 points) had a three-point shot that missed, followed up Tim Lang (22 points, 10 rebounds), whose desperate three-pointer was also wide.
Phillip said the Raiders had stuck to the task in the second half following a half-time “rev up” from coach Graham Longstaff. “We are a veteran team and we know what each player can do, especially in late game situations,” he said.
The win was even more impressive for the Raiders as star guard Mick Hill was held out of the match due to a calf injury.
Hill warmed up but was deemed not fit enough to play as emerging guard Justin Aver (13 points, five rebounds) took his place in the starting line-up and made several key plays. One was an offensive rebound in the final minutes that all but killed off the Cobras’ comeback hopes.
“Justin was amazing out there,” Phillip said. “He took some big rebounds. We don’t see that too much at training so he must have brought it out special for this game. He stepped up and took his opportunity.”
Cobras guard Zach Malvik (13 points) said his side was disappointed to drop the match after such a good start.
“We went away from what we were doing in the first quarter,” he said. “We are disappointed but we will look to the next few games to get some more wins.”
The Raiders women also beat their Cobras counterparts 69-54 in the SEABL competition on Saturday night.
Raiders star Odette Andrew continued her great start to the season with a game-high 16 points. The Cobras were led by Hayley Moffatt (14 points) and Chantella Perera (12points).
The Raiders also won the Cystic Fibrosis Cup, an annual trophy played between the two clubs.