Monthly Archives: June 2019

David Lowe: The Lowedown

Do I really want to go down this road? In a split round, albeit one filled with controversy, the choices are fairly limited. VAR, you were the star.
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Star failure? Star disappointment? Star headline grabber? Undoubtedly that.

SPOT OF BOTHER: Wanderers striker Oriol Riera scored two goals against the Jets from contentious penalties. Picture: AAP

In a survey of 1001 people on the weekend, only the holidaying Barnaby Joyce enjoyed the amount of headlines the much-maligned system attracted.

Mild-mannered Jets coach Ernie Merricklooked like he was chewing a wasp in the post-match press conference, pointing out a number of concerns about the implementation of the system.

It came as an enormous relief to find that the Head of the A-league, Greg O’Rourke, announced that Ernie’s post-match comments will be reviewed and assessed to see if any further action is required.

Nothing like the threat of a hefty sanction to discourage debate and dissention. Management 101, but who does it help?

Many could argue that Merrick is too close to it all to pass concise judgement so soon after the game. Opinions on certain aspects were debated by well-credentialled “experts”, and astoundingly in my eyes, supported by others.

If I’m being totally honest I could make a case either way for the majority of decisions.

The offside decision given on VAR evidenceagainst the Wanderers for the first “goal”was close enough to have been afforded benefit of the doubt to the attacking-team status. The first penalty against Nikolai Topor-Stanley could have gone either way. Contact was softish, obstruction minimal, but the Wanderers player was never going to retrieve the ball first, as there was a covering defender comfortably ahead of him in the race for the ball. A 50-50, that one.

For me Jason Hoffman’s “header”was never going to stand. Certainly he went for the balland, yes, goalkeepers are a protected species. But on the standards applied for the past decade or two, anyone even touching or brushing a goalkeeper in the act of catching the ball is penalised.

The “Hoff”making an honest attempt, doesn’t get to the ball with his head, and his momentum carries him into the arms of Wanderers keeper Vedran Janjetovic.

Soft,yes. But I was astonished, given modern standards, that it was awarded a goal in the first place.

If those decisions were debatable, the second penalty awarded against the Jets was farcical.

A ricochet from point-blank range from an opponents’ knee onto a hand surely cannot lead to the “punishment”,as the often zany Ned Zelic called it, of a penalty kick.

Am I talking through a one-eyed Newcastle slant? Certainly not. In fact if the penalty hadn’t been given, we wouldn’t have witnessed the magnificent Andrew Nabbout goal, more or less straight from the restart. That’s a touch ironic, no?

Here is further proof of consistency in analysis from a column dated the December 19, after the Jets got a lucky late winner against Adelaide.

After offering congratulations to Merrick and his team, your scribe offered this:“Do I think they were fortunate? Hell yes, but that’s not their problem (not this week anyway). The Jets’ winning goal contained all that is wrong with the VAR system and the refereeing fraternity’s lack of feel for the game.”

Having detailed the tough slog of a game, played in sapping conditions, your scribe described the game-deciding handball decision thus.

“The ball had been struck by Dimi Petratos, blocked by an Adelaide defender and ricocheted at point blank range to hit the upper arm or chest of the defender Petratos had just beaten, as he recovered from a slight stumble.”

And further: “The ball was headed towards the sideline, away from danger, to another Adelaide player actually, when it hit the arm/chest of the player.

“Advantage gained nil. Intent to hand ball nil. Cost to team, between points lost, yellow cards acquired, and effort unrewarded, absolutely significant and understandably frustrating.”

Notice any similarities there, two months down the track?

If it’s not apparent already, we are blind. Games will come down,on occasions, to moments of controversy –decisions that could possibly go either way. I can’t see how we can change that.

All we can hope for is a consistency in application and interpretation from the match referee.

The hand-ball situation is the one that really concerns me, and Merrick’s tongue-in-cheek call that he would consider coaching his players to flick the ball up and hit defenders’ arms was touched on by your columnist almost threemonths ago.

Talking about the number of hand balls being awarded, and the almost mandatory accompanying yellow card (thankfully Peter Green didn’t give NTS his second on Friday), I noted: “Seriously, it is at epidemic levels, and games are going to be affected, and ultimately spoiled, if we don’t realise that there is a massive difference between deliberate hand ball and being struck on the arm at point blank range”.

As Ernie half-jokingly suggested, and yours truly warned in late November:“If the current interpretation continues, a host of skilful players will start practising to flick the ball into dangling arms, instead of dribbling past defenders (yes like they annoyingly aim for opponents’ feet in hockey, to get free hits) and won’t that be fun?”

I don’t think you can let the debate and controversy wear you down to the point, and several well-respected experts may already be there, that every ball that hits a defender’s arm in the 18-yard boxis deemed a penalty, irrespective of intent or not.

My theory that asking referees to judgeor overrule other referees is fraught with dangerremains firm, as does my offer to find experienced ex-players to earn a six-figure salary making the decisive calls up in the VAR bunker!

Commonsense really!

PS. By the way, when all is said and done, an important and well-earned point for the Jets.

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University of Newcastle’s international students embrace fresh start abroad

All smiles: Denis Xavier, Cristina Pascual and Mei Pentecost didn’t expect Callaghan’s bush setting or large footprint. Picture: Simone De PeakMEI Pentecost and Cristina Pascualarrived in with plans of combining their studieswith travelling and meeting new friends, but soon realised they’dhave to adda new item to the top of theirto-do list.
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“I was not expecting it to be as humid as it is here in Newcastle, but we’ve finally bought fans,” Ms Pentecost said.

“The common room in Edwards Hall is the only room with air conditioning so we’ve been spending a lot of time there playing cards and watching movies.”

Ms Pentecost from Arkansas, Ms Pascual from the Canary Islands and Denis Xavier from Kuwait are among the1114 international students from more than 90 countries commencing study at the University of Newcastle this month. They will join 10,196 domestic students.

“This is one of those places I’ve always wanted to come, I think we have a fascination with ,” said Ms Pentecost, 20, who will stay for one semester of her environmental engineering degree.

“I’m hoping Imake new friends and discover myself.

“I did all my schooling in the same small town and wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone.”

Ms Pascual, 20, spent the past year studying for her visual communications degree in Milan but said she wanted to spend 2018 somewhere “more coastal”.

“Newcastleis really safe and clean and people are really open and friendly,” she said.

“I love that everyone wears flip flops or no shoes, it’s so cool and relaxed –I think you live a good life here.”

MrXavier, 24, will stay for 18 months of his masters of engineering management and praised the “much better facilities”.

Orientation week runs to February 23. Semester one starts February 26.

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A-League: Jets still waiting for FFA response to blow up

Jets coach Ernie Merrick
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THREE days after Ernie Merrick lambasted match-day officials as ‘disgraceful’ the Jets coach is still waiting to learn if he will be sanctioned.

Contacted by theNewcastle Heraldon Monday, an FFA official said that Head of A-League Greg O’Rourke was at a meeting of club chief executivesand a decision on what action, if any, against Merrick would be determinedon Tuesday.

Jets chief executive Lawrie McKinna said although theclub hadnot received a formal notice he wasexpecting a“please explain” letter.

Ernie Merrick stands by comments var comments in @NewcastleJetsFC draw with @[email protected]苏州夜总会招聘/N8pvS1L2Uc

— James Gardiner (@JamesGardiner42) February 19, 2018TweetFacebookThe penalty awarded against Topor-Stanley for ‘handball’ was a disgrace. Absolute joke of a decision

— Ned Zelic (@NedZelic) February 16, 2018

Merrick said he had not “heard anything from the FFA”

“No doubt I will receive a letter,” he said. “If this improves the way the game is refereed, I think it will be a good thing.”

Merrick is not the first coach to find fault with the VAR.Paul Okon, John Aloisi,Marco Kurz and Josep Gombau have also expressed dissatisfaction with a number of aspects.

Adelaide United chairman Greg Griffin on Monday wrote to the FFA asking for the VAR to be cancelled after the Reds’controversial2-all draw with the Mariners.

In an explosive email obtained by News Limited Griffin said:“AUFC can only wonder where it would be on the ladder if it had throughout this season not been subjected to poor refereeing performances and inconsistent usage of the VAR technology to address those obvious errors that other clubs have benefited from.”

But unlike hiscontemporariesMerrick remain supportive of the VAR.

“I was one of the onesvery pro getting it through and wanted it to be applied,” he said.“I still think the technology is good and should be utilised and the VAR should be a major part of the game moving forward. But I think it should be applied much better.

“That is the key, the application of the VAR and whether the person handling the video referee is an assistant or the head referee.”

Merrick confirmed that midfielder Ben Kantarovski (hamstring) would not make the trip to Brisbane to tackle the Roar on Saturday and Argentine winger Pato Rodriguez (calf) is also in doubt.

“Ben could play this weekend, but knowing where we are at and going into the finals, I’d rather save him for one more week,” Merrick said.

Meanwhile, little used defender Daniel Alessi has been released by the Jets and will link with NSW Premier League club Manly.

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Short Takes February 20 2018

AFTER every US massacre, politicians inform their voters that “our thoughts and prayers are with you.” Well, it isn’t working. I call upon these Americans to think and pray harder – they need to pray really, really hard if this is how they plan to stop deaths.
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David Rose,HamiltonRON Elphick (Short Takes 17/2),I introduce my same sex spouse as “my partner Bill”but for you I will use the term “husbear”.For us, we have the same surname and have had for nearly 20 years.Maybe we need to meet over a beer so you can see what a real gay couple look like. You may be surprised.

Andrew Whitbread-Brown,Cardiff HeightsCONGRATULATIONS to the Newcastle Knights’ powers thatbe. We have signed this name, that name and everyone else that “deserves a chance”. But what has happened to giving a goto the players that have played week after week,through the good and the bad?They have turned up every time, listening to the fans saying“Maybe next week, maybe next year”. Do they get pushed aside for a big-name player? Hopefullyloyalty to a club will get rewarded, or willthese new signings will move on with the coach when greener grass beckons?

Jenny Henderson, Maryland​WHILE the leader of this country and his deputy are lobbing grenades at each other, do they think the people who are struggling to pay theirgas and electricity bills while trying to raise their families by making ends meet really care who is bonking who? You have been voted in to run this countrybut all you have done is let the people down.

Andy McFadden,Warners BayI HAVE lost count the number of times I caught the 225 bus last year only to be told by driver that the Opal machine was not working. No wonder numbers were down (“Keolis Downer calls time on‘ghost buses’”,Herald19/2).

Jan Clarke,North LambtonI NOW know what the NBN network initials stands for, we thought that it must be better than what we had in the past, but I am convinced that it stands for NOTHIN BUT NOTHIN network.

Gary Graham, Raymond TerraceVirtually all terrorism and violence is perpetrated by right wing thinkers. Now we see conservative National Party member George Christensen posting images glorifying guns and encouraging violence against environmentalists. The man needs to resign.

Mac Maguire, CharlestownGeorge Christensen’s post on social media seemed to support gun violence. Hurtful, untimely, and perhaps dangerous. It is not OK.Couldn’t the LNP find a better candidate?

Susie Johnson, AdamstownTHE POLLSIS private health insurance worth the cost to customers?

Yes 26%, No 74%SHOULD ferries go toCarrington and Wickham?

Yes 92%, No 8%

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Government revealed to have budgeted $53 million for TAFE redundancy or restructuring expenses

Concern: Maxine Sharkey, Prue Car, Luke Foley and Tim Crakanthorp at Hamilton, which has lost 17 staff and cut the boat building and information technology courses.TAFE NSW staff and students are “in limbo” about the future of their jobs and courses, after the government was revealed to have budgeted $53.23 million for redundancy or restructuring expenses this financial year.
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Opposition leader Luke Foley, Shadow Skills Minister Prue Car and Member for Newcastle Tim Crakanthorp gathered at the Hamilton campus to brand the figure –published in NSW Treasury documents–as the government “further decimating” the institute.

“We’ve lost 175,000 students,5700 teachers and support staff [across NSW since 2012] and fees have risen exponentially to the tune of $4000 or $5000, when does this stop?” Ms Car asked.

“Sacking TAFE teachers that teach critical skills in our classrooms is having a real impact on skills shortages right across our economy.

“What hope is there for the next generation of workers in the Hunter and right across this great state if the government is intent on continuously sacking the teachers who teach those skills?”

Mr Foley said the Hunter was in a precarious situation because of its double-digit youth unemployment rate.

“An attack on TAFE through soaring fees and mass sackings of staff does single out the Hunter and does punish the Hunter unfairly because there is an economic challenge here,” he said.

“That challenge can only be addressed by investment in upskilling young people and indeed mature age workers looking to rebuild their skills.”

Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter Scot MacDonald said the government wasreforming TAFE to “boost teaching resources, better meet student needs and remove unnecessary wastage inherited from Labor”.

“More than 400 new additional permanent positions have been created across the state, including 97 senior teaching leadership roles,” he said.

“The Hunter region is seeing enrolment growth in key skill areas with an 18 per cent increase across Certificate III and Certificate IV trade qualifications.”

Deputy secretary of the NSW Teacher’s Federation Maxine Sharkey said campuses were in “continuous flux”.

“TAFE teachers are saying ‘You’ve not only cut us to the bone, you’re now scraping away bone’,” she said.

“If your office still has you in it you know the one next door has no-one in it and you wonder when they’re coming for you.”

Mr Crakanthorp saidAboriginal Learning Circle positions were going “to disappear”.

“I’ve been contacted by local constituents who are very concerned about that,” he said.

Labor has said it will guarantee at least 70 per cent of vocational education and training funding for TAFE, plus set up aPrivate Providers Investigations Unit to target dodgy operators.

Mr Macdonald said TAFE NSW currently receives $1.7 billion –or 77.3 percent –of the$2.2 billion skills budget.

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