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Cavalry look to $500,000 bonanza

Cavalry general manager Thom Carter. Photo: Melissa AdamsThe Canberra Cavalry could become the richest club in the Australian Baseball League if they can win the Asia Series in Taiwan to claim the $500,000 prizemoney.
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Cavalry general manager Thom Carter said they would be massive underdogs, up against Japan champions Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles and Taiwan runners-up EDA Rhinos for a spot in the finals, but they were flying out on Tuesday with the goal of being the first ABL team to win the tournament.

Highlighting the task they face, the Golden Eagles have several former Major League baseballers on their roster, including multiple Golden Glove winner Andruw Jones. Winning one of their games would be a massive achievement, let alone winning the series.

Carter said it would be an ”organisation-changing” windfall if they did, and the club would sit down with the ABL to work out how best to use the money, with junior development high on the list.

Major League Baseball is a major backer of both the Cavalry and the ABL, but it wants the league to be financially independent by 2015.

If the Cavalry wins the Asia Series, they’ll be even further ahead of their ABL rivals. ”Over the last four years we’ve been taking good steps to become financially solvent,” Carter said. ”This clearly would put us over the top and give us a good financial boost as we look to continue to not only grow the Canberra Cavalry brand, but grow the game of baseball in the region.

”It would really help us go a long way in some of the programs we’re looking to roll out.

”It’s an organisation-changing amount of money.”

The Cavalry will create history if they can beat either the Golden Eagles or the Rhinos and become the first ABL team to win a game in the Asia Series.

Perth Heat were crowned champions in the first two ABL seasons, but failed to win a game in the Asian competition.

Carter was unsure of the strength of the Taiwan league, which is called the Chinese Professional Baseball League, but felt the Cavs’ best chance came against the Rhinos.

There’s no doubting the standard in Japan, but Jones was the best centre-field in the MLB for a decade, he played in five All Star games, and won the Hank Aaron Award, Babe Ruth Home Run Award and Major League player of the year, all in 2005.

The Golden Eagles also boast Kenny Ray and Casey McGehee as former Major Leaguers on their roster.

”There is a beauty in one-game series; usually in a five- or seven-game series, the best team wins – I’m not saying we’re not the best team, I’m saying this rugby-type of atmosphere where it’s winner of one game advances is not something we’re used to in baseball,” Carter said.

”But it really gives an underdog like us an opportunity to steal a few games.”

The Cavalry play the Rhinos on Saturday at 3pm and then the Golden Eagles on Sunday at 4pm.

If they win one game they’ll likely progress to the finals, which start on Monday.

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Typhoon: Illawarra relatives wait, hope, pray

Mila Rawnsley and daughter Suzie Rawnsley are relieved to know their family members are safe. Picture: GREG TOTMAN Utter devastation: Illawarra grandmother Mila Rawnsley and her daughter Suzie Rawnsley have received confirmation that family members in the city of Tacloban have survived typhoon Haiyan, amid reports of death and destruction. But the two women continue to worry. Picture: GREG TOTMAN
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Utter devastation: Illawarra grandmother Mila Rawnsley and her daughter Suzie Rawnsley have received confirmation that family members in the city of Tacloban have survived typhoon Haiyan, amid reports of death and destruction. But the two women continue to worry. Picture: GREG TOTMAN

The first Mila Rawnsley knew of the tragedy that had befallen her home city in the Philippines was a message posted on Facebook by her nephew.

It said simply: “Pray for Tacloban.”

The Illawarra grandmother has done little else since typhoon Haiyan smashed into the city of 220,000, where up to 10,000 people are believed to have died.

After a tense wait, she could finally communicate with her elderly sisters and other relatives who live in the city.

With the help of her daughter Suzie Rawnsley, the grandmother learnt via a single social-media message that her family had survived.

However, in the same message she learnt they had no food or water and their homes had been destroyed.

She also learnt citizens of the city had begun to turn on each other as basic necessities became more scarce.

“My aunties are in their eighties so they are trying to get to the airport, but they can’t walk because people are attacking them,” Suzie Rawnsley said.

“People are attacking them for their food because it’s just a case of survival.

“I’ve only seen one message from family in Tacloban city, other than that I’m speaking to my family in Manila.”

The goal is to get those family members in Tacloban to Manila, but military aircraft are reportedly struggling with numbers.

Only 110 people can board each flight.

Media reports emerging from the city have painted a picture of utter devastation, with few buildings surviving the winds of up to 378km/h.

Beaches on the ordinarily beautiful coastline are reported to be littered with bodies since the typhoon made landfall on Friday.

As well as worrying about her family, Mila is unsure whether a family house has survived the carnage.

To take her mind off the disaster, Mila has been helping out her daughter with the grandchildren.

She also continues to pray.

“I have been praying to help the people there,” she said.

Filipino community rallies to offer help

THE Illawarra Filipino community has gone into overdrive, organising donations to reach the typhoon-ravaged cities and towns as soon as possible.

Multiple Filipino organisations have united, each looking into their financial books to see how much can be spared to send back home.

They have also been working on behalf of concerned members in an attempt to put them in touch with family and friends in devastated areas.

Marlene Harkness, from the Filipino Needy Children’s Fund Inc, said she had been ‘‘worried sick’’ until learning her family had survived.

‘‘I’ve spoken to my mum this morning finally,’’ Ms Harkness said at a Filipino community group meeting yesterday.

‘‘She said ‘We are all OK’ so thank God for that. But they need food they need water, they need their necessities.’’

She said due to the devastation, getting goods to the worst hit areas was difficult, however air drops had begun.

Filipino groups in the Illawarra that are undertaking fund-raising activities include Filipino Needy Children’s Fund Inc, the Australian Philippine Association, the Illawarra Filipino and Multicultural Group, Club Filipino Illawarra as well as Triple R Asian Grocery in Wollongong.

Donations can also be made to the Australian Red Cross, CARE Australia and UNICEF.

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THE LOWEDOWN: Roar come calling at a good time

I start my column today fighting desperately with the ‘‘I won’t affliction’’ that so often highlights a character flaw. Certainly I get results against ‘‘do the dishes’’, ‘‘make my bed’’ and the other easybeats like ‘‘pay my credit card on time’’, but geez I struggle with the big guns like ‘‘have another piece of cake’’ and ‘‘bet in every race’’.
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Today I’m determined not to use the cliche ‘‘a week’s a long time in football’’ and, given the events of the last 168 hours, it’s not going to be an easy assignment.

This time last week, Sydney FC coach Frank Farina was under enormous pressure, Jets coach Gary van Egmond was searching for his first win of the season, and Mark Schwarzer was the Socceroos goalkeeper.

Seven sleeps later, and Sydney are suddenly a team completely together, united for the cause, playing for the boss.

The frustration of opportunities lost in consecutive games for the Jets became building blocks for a good performance and three points in Adelaide.

Adelaide’s switch to a possession-based game promised much in the early rounds but is a loss or two away from inviting serious inspection.

If Melbourne Victory lose to the Wanderers at Parramatta on Saturday night, you can be sure many will be questioning their plight post Ange, and Kevin Muscat will suddenly have the spotlight shining on his rookie coaching status.

Point being, as I’ve opined on many occasions, things are seldom as bad as they seem, or are made out to be, and on the flipside, one good result does not translate to a permanent solution being found.

What has been resoundingly emphasised is that results dictate everything – from harmony to confidence, from scrutiny to perception, from employment to ‘‘looking at other opportunities’’, from criticism to praise. And just as quickly, one or two results can change everything again.

There was a lot to like about the Jets’ victory in Adelaide on Saturday, not the least of which was hearing their coach Gary van Egmond state at the end of the match, ‘‘today we controlled the game without the ball’’. Surely many saw some irony in that?

In truth, they did exactly that, and given Adelaide’s structured, methodical build-up, and van Egmond’s devotion to analysis of just such details, I suspected they might come up with the right answers.

For the second time in a week, I allowed a host of external factors and other statistics and opinions to cloud my judgment, and Fiorente and the Jets both delivered without my cash as extra handicap.

To be fair, the Jets have been building to this victory and have looked a better side since the introduction of Andrew Hoole as an attacking focal point on the right flank, and since van Egmond introduced Ben Kantarovski to anchor the midfield and allow Ruben Zadkovich and Josh Brillante to operate further up the pitch.

In essence, van Egmond has added an extra midfield player at the expense of an attacking type of player in the No.10 role. The Jets are pressing and winning the ball selectively and effectively and disrupting the opposition.

Many will see the irony in the Jets winning their first game of the season when having less than 40per cent of the ball, given the mantra of controlling games through possession. But it didn’t surprise your columnist.

As noted before on these pages, the Jets set up perfectly as a counter-attacking force. They have high pace in their front three players, power out of midfield in Zadkovich and Brillante, and fullbacks in Neville and Galloway who would run all day on a bowl of rice.

What they did exceptionally well on Saturday was force Adelaide to one side of the pitch, lock them in and dispossess or force an errant pass. The only time Adelaide threatened was when they were chasing the game, played the ball forward earlier, ad-libbed a little, and asked questions of individual Newcastle defenders, rather than the structure of the whole unit.

It will be interesting to see if Brisbane Roar coach Mike Mulvey is thinking along similar lines given Newcastle’s performances in their past two matches.

The Roar have looked like the benchmark in the competition in the early rounds, although van Egmond will no doubt remember the problems Melbourne Heart caused Brisbane in the first 45 minutes at Suncorp Stadium a fortnight ago by unexpectedly pressing them high with consistency and aggression. (Heart did eventually succumb 3-0.)

In the last two visits to Hunter Stadium, Brisbane have stuck resolutely to their play on the ground and to feet principles, and on both occasions the Jets played with a high defensive line and with forwards dropping off, effectively clogging the game in midfield.

If Brisbane, like Adelaide, stick rigidly on Sunday to what they always do, there is every chance the Jets will have the answers tactically and can hurt them in transition.

I think it’s a really good time for the Jets to be playing the Roar. Confidence is on the rise, Besart Berisha has been on the injured list, and Matt McKay is in camp with the Socceroos.

Van Egmond’s only problems may be in areas of team selection, with Emile Heskey playing his first minutes of the season on Saturday and Adam Taggart notching his first goal of the season against Adelaide.

That will be an interesting call on a night that promises plenty of intrigue, and perhaps some answers, on how well the Jets are really going.

And speaking of going, in a very different sense, Mark Schwarzer has called time on two decades of sterling service to the national team.

His reasons will be debated and second-guessed, but not in this column.

He leaves the national team set-up in the way he conducted himself while part of it: with honesty, dignity and a great sense of pride.

He leaves while still the best goalkeeper we have, in my humble opinion, on his terms, and while still a most valuable player, and who can argue with that?

Well, I can have a little gripe, because he was the last link for we old codgers from the halcyon days at Marconi in the late 80s and 90s to the current national team.

One last time for my son Alex: ‘‘Used to bend them past Schwarzy for fun at training mate!’’

Seriously, what a joy to have watched someone develop from the gangly kid with huge potential to the wonderful professional and national team hero he became.

Last word to one of his great rivals and contemporaries Mark Bosnich, who I once asked in an interview: ‘‘Who was Australia’s best ever goalkeeper, leaving humility to one side?’’

Bozza thought for a moment, and told the audience that consistency and longevity made Schwarzer the No.1, adding that to be still playing in the EPL at 40 was an amazing effort.

(Bozza did say to me privately that what he wanted to say was that Schwarzer was Australia’s best, but he was the best keeper in the world at one stage. Then he brought out that laugh!)

But his admiration for Schwarzer was absolutely genuine and warranted.

Top bloke, great pro and a fantastic goalkeeper for Australia. Thanks a million, big man.

RESULTS: Jets Adam Taggart celebrates a goal against the Mariners. Picture: Getty Images

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Goannas hoping to confirm Seu Seu position

CESSNOCK Goannas hope to resolve any issues with incoming coach Terrence Seu Seu and confirm his position for 2014 by Friday after a ‘‘productive’’ meeting with the hooker on Sunday night.
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The former Knights, Cronulla and Manly rake was to take on the coaching vacancy left by the departure of Todd Edwards while continuing as a player. However, the Samoan international was reportedly close to walking away from the coaching job before pre-season training had even started.

Goannas secretary David Cleaves said the club was working with Seu Seu and hoped to still have him as coach.

‘‘We had a meeting and we are negotiating at the moment and we’ll have it all sorted, at the latest, by Friday,’’ Cleaves said.

‘‘It was a very productive meeting. We had a few members of the committee there and Terrence and we had a good all-round yarn.

‘‘We’re trying to resolve this and I’m pretty sure it will be by Friday.’’

Cleaves said Seu Seu ‘‘still wants to play footy’’ but there were issues around coaching he and the club needed to address.

He said Seu Seu wanted to get everything out in the open before pre-season training started.

The Herald has been told the Cessnock committee was meeting last night, possibly to talk with a replacement coach.

A meeting with the players is also set down for Friday.

The Goannas were shock losers to Kurri Kurri 23-16 in the elimination final this season. It came after three grand final losses in the previous four years.

Edwards was in charge for all three grand final campaigns but has stepped aside to coach the Knights SG Ball (under-18) side next season alongside former Maitland premiership-winner Trevor Ott.


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Palupe ready to lift squad

PREMIERSHIP-winning Waratahs captain Pala Palupe is one of five Anderson Medal winners named in a Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union train-on squad that boasts internationals, former Super Rugby players and NSW country representatives.
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Coach Dan Beckett yesterday named an extended group for an assault on an unprecedented seventh-straight Caldwell Cup, the symbol of NSW Country rugby supremacy.

‘‘It’s a big squad and we took our time naming it because we wanted a group that can take Newcastle rugby to a new level,’’ Beckett said.

‘‘The program is not only about the country championships.

‘‘We will play some quality Sydney opposition in the lead-up and the performance against them will be just as important.’’

Palupe is joined by nine members of the Tahs outfit that beat Hamilton 17-15 in the grand final in September, including player-coach and former Canterbury Crusader Hayden Pedersen, Belgium international prop Alain Miriallakis and former Samoan fly-half Carl Manu.

‘‘The premiers always bring confidence and energy from a grand final win,’’ Beckett said.

‘‘We welcome that. They certainly unveiled a lot of talent in 2013.

‘‘Hayden Pedersen is keen to work with his players. The experience he and a number of others have will rub off on the younger players.

‘‘It is a good mix.’’

Dan Kevill, who won the Anderson Medal in 2009, returns to the representative scene after a long absence.

Gareth Ernst (2012), Mark Wade (2011) and Va Talaileva (2010, 2007) complete the best and fairest award winners.

Country reps Dylan Evans, Ben Harriss, Talaileva, Brendan Holliday and Luke Sherwood are going again.

There is also a host of exciting new talent headed by Matt Ireland, Tapaki Rahui, Blair Rush and Nathan Brennan.

Each of the 10 clubs are represented. Hamilton have the largest representation with 11.

Newcastle beat Illawarra 28-18 in the final in Tamworth last year and will again be short-priced favourites to continue their reign in Mudgee on March 28-29.

‘‘We learnt a lesson last year,’’ Beckett said.

‘‘No one was out to play rugby, they were just out there to try and stop us.

‘‘This year the mindset will be that the rugby is more important than anything else.

‘‘We are going to do everything we can to perform in a way that no one has seen.

‘‘We have depth and talent right across the board.

‘‘The next few months is about the group realising their responsibility and having the courage to try and do things different. A rugby revolution.

‘‘We will have a get together before Christmas and rip in from the start of January.’’

SELECTION: Waratahs No.8 Pala Palupe in action during this year’s NHRU grand final.

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Flanagan gets sponsor’s invite to Masters

BELMONT’S Nick Flanagan will be one of seven Hunter golfers in the field at the Australian Masters starting at Royal Melbourne on Thursday after being granted a sponsor’s invitation.
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Flanagan took to Twitter on Sunday night to notify the world of his inclusion, after finishing in a tie for 14th with a three-under 281 (75, 68, 67, 71) at the Australian PGA at Royal Pines.

‘‘Thank you @PGAofAustralia for a great week. Awesome event and truly appreciate the support every year!,’’ Flanagan tweeted.

‘‘And thank you @AussieMasters for the late invite to next week’s event. Royal Melbourne! Yewwwww.’’

Flanagan will join fellow Newcastle and Hunter professionals Nathan Green (Toronto), James Nitties (Charlestown), Aaron Townsend (Charlestown), Leigh McKechnie (Waratah and Newcastle), Brendan Smith (Belmont) and Ed Stedman (The Vintage) at Royal Melbourne.

Another Masters starter will be American Casey Wittenberg, the former Walker Cup representative whom Flanagan defeated to win the US Amateur Championship 10 years ago.

■ Muswellbrook master blaster Kurt Barnes is on track to retain his card on the Japan Tour, climbing to 63rd on the money list after tying for 18th with a two-under 282 (67, 71, 70, 74) at the Heiwa PGM Championship at Miho Golf Club in Kasumigaura at the weekend.

Barnes, who tied for third with a six-under 207 (72, 66, 69) at the Bridgestone Open a fortnight ago, needs to finish inside the top 70 to sidestep qualifying school.

■ Ageless former Manly, NSW and Australian forward Steve ‘‘Beaver’’ Menzies and Catalan Dragons teammate Scott Dureau were among the celebrity players at the Cure For Life day at Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley last Friday.

Organiser Kane Bradley said about $18,000 was raised, and it would be shared between the Cure For Life and Mark Hughes Foundation charities.

‘‘It was a great day and we’re already looking at a similar event next year,’’ Bradley said.

Menzies, who turns 40 next month, has finally retired but is contemplating having another season with the Sea Eagles next year – if they are interested in having him.

One of his Australian Test jerseys, which he signed, went for $750 at the memorabilia auction.

He and Dureau took their turn behind the microphone answering questions and telling stories, as did guest of honour Mark Hughes and former Knights teammate Danny Buderus.

Current Knights players Jeremy Smith, Robbie Rochow, Alex McKinnon and Chris Houston played a round then hung around to speak to guests during lunch.

Bradley said the winning team had 17 under off the stick for a nett score of 46.5.

The Cure For Life charity was established to find a cure for brain cancer. Hughes had a malignant brain tumour removed three months ago and is undergoing radiotherapy.

■ Denman’s Cameron Norman won the Paterson Open at his first attempt on Saturday, shooting a seven-over 71 around the par-64 nine-hole course.

Mark Jackson, from Paterson, won the A-grade nett with 58 after a 74 off the stick.

Paterson committee member Brent Eslick was a popular winner of the B-grade nett trophy with 88 off the stick for a nett 60.

■ Hunter River District Golf Association are still taking entries for the Ambrose Fours tournament at Muswellbrook on Sunday.

HRDGA honorary secretary Zig Grzanka said nominations for the final event on the calendar for 2013 were due to close yesterday but he would accept late entries this week on 49345311 while he waits for clubs to submit their forms.

■ The week-long Myall Summer Classic is in full swing at Hawks Nest despite heavy rain on Sunday’s opening day.

A total of 230 starters began yesterday’s opening round and the second round will be played today.

Nick Flanagan

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Ashes 2013: Matthew Prior set back by calf injury before first Test

Matthew Prior has been ruled out of England’s final tour game before the Ashes, casting further doubt on his chances of lining up next week for the first Test.
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The England wicketkeeper and vice-captain has been diagnosed with a ”low-grade tear” of his left calf and is racing the clock to be fit to take the gloves at the Gabba.

His injury has paved the way for Jonny Bairstow to make his return to the England side for the tour game against a Cricket Australia invitational XI, though the 24-year-old, who was exposed by Australia during this year’s Ashes series, has big shoes to fill.

Prior, who is third on his country’s all-time dismissals list and averages 42 from 72 Tests, is much admired by England’s brains trust for his leadership and dependability as much for his ability behind the stumps and with the bat.

”He’s been a massive part of our success. He’s vice-captain of our team, he’s an important bloke in the dressing room – the way he talks to the guys – not just the stuff he does on the field,” said batsman Ian Bell. ”If he’s fit, he plays, there’s no doubt.”

Prior hurt his calf during the tour game against Australia A last week in Hobart and will spend the next nine days receiving treatment. The visitors are confident the veteran gloveman will be able to play.

”There’s still a bit of time. Matt’s got himself in fantastic condition for this tour and he’ll be very good with his rehab, so we have very faith that he’ll be fully fit for Brisbane, but it gives someone an opportunity in this game,” Bell said.

That someone is Bairstow, who played as a specialist batsman in the first four Tests of the Ashes before being dumped. Bairstow passed 50 just once from seven innings at a modest average of 29 and is yet to play a game this tour.

There are question marks over Bairstow’s ability at international level; former England captain Michael Vaughan, writing for London’s Daily Telegraph, says he should not even be on the tour.

”He has a serious technical issue with his batting that he needs to iron out away from the glare of an Ashes series,” Vaughan wrote in September. ”His backlift is too inconsistent … He is still a young kid with plenty of talent but he has to solve that problem if he is to have a sustained international career.”

Bell hinted Andy Flower had all but settled England’s top six but Bairstow could help his chances of a call-up later in the Ashes with a strong showing this week. ”I don’t know if he can force his way into that just yet, but if he got 100 in this game it’s a great place to be if anyone does lose form,” Bell said.

England are expecting Kevin Pietersen to play on Wednesday. Pietersen has been battling a knee injury that required a cortisone injection on Sunday.

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Transurban bids for Sydney tunnel

Pre-emptive strike: Transurban intends to buy Sydney’s Cross City Tunnel. Photo: Jim RiceTransurban is hopeful of buying Sydney’s failed Cross City Tunnel within the coming months for a total outlay of about $500 million, in a deal that will cement its position as the city’s toll-road king.
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Australia’s largest toll-road operator has also declared interest in buying Queensland Motorways, which operates five tollways in Brisbane, should its owner decide to push ahead with a sale.

Transurban made a pre-emptive strike on Monday in its attempt to buy the Cross City Tunnel by purchasing debt in the asset for $475 million from its sole senior secured creditor, Royal Bank of Scotland.

Built for about $1 billion, Cross City Tunnel has attracted only a fraction of the predicted traffic.

Transurban had previously made clear its interest in buying the 2.1-kilometre tunnel, which would fit well with its other toll-roads in Sydney such as the M2, M5, M7, the Eastern Distributor and the Lane Cove Tunnel.

The Cross City Tunnel, which was placed in receivership in September for the second time in eight years, runs under Sydney’s central business district and is linked to the Eastern Distributor.

Transurban boss Scott Charlton said the company hoped to buy the tunnel for $500 million, including stamp duty. This is a price we think represents value for the Transurban shareholders,” he said.

He emphasised the synergies Transurban could realise by operating both the Eastern Distributor and the Cross City Tunnel, as well as the other roads in its Sydney network.

Even if a higher bid emerges, he said Transurban would still make a material profit on the purchase of the tunnel’s debt. He expects the purchase of the debt to be completed by December, and is hopeful for receivers to finish the sale of the tunnel by February or March.

Transurban expects the tunnel to generate ”very moderate growth” over the long term, and would continue to toll motorists.

Analysts said it was unlikely a higher bid would emerge.

Macquarie Equities analyst Ian Myles said Transurban was buying the tunnel for a ”great price” by removing the likelihood of competitive tension emerging from other bidders. But he said the tunnel was ”not a must-have in their portfolio”, and agreed that growth in traffic would be modest.

”The east doesn’t go west. Until you get those in the eastern suburbs to go to more than the fish markets, the tunnel’s growth has got some constraints,” he said.

Transurban will make a further payment to Royal Bank of Scotland of up to $27.5 million over four years in the event that the tunnel’s traffic is better than its own best assumptions.

The deal has not altered Transurban’s guidance for this financial year of 34¢ a share.

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Orica profit of $602 million pleases investors

Diversified chemicals company Orica expects to lift its profit for the current financial year, despite subdued market conditions and weakness in its underground tunnelling and drilling division.
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Orica reported a net profit of $602 million for the year to September – up 49 per cent from a year earlier when it had a $247 million write-down against its Minova business.

But excluding last year’s write-down, its profit was down 7.5 per cent year on year.

The profit numbers were well received by the market, with investors pushing shares up $2.27, or 11.6 per cent, to close at $21.81.

Orica supplies chemicals and explosives used in engineering, construction and oil and gas projects around the world. Its mining services division has been impacted by slowing global demand, as well as a push away from coal towards gas in the US market.

Orica said subdued conditions remained in explosives, excluding key mining markets such as the Pilbara in Western Australia and Africa, where growth was expected to continue.

The company declared a fully franked final dividend of 55¢ a share, up 2¢ on the same time last year.

Chief executive Ian Smith described 2013 as a below-average year and he expected a higher net profit in the current year.

He warned volatile market conditions could continue.

Orica’s full-year sales revenue was $6.9 billion, up 3 per cent from 2012. Its earnings before interest and tax was 4 per cent lower at $985 million.

Orica has been responsible for several chemical leaks from its plants in Botany and Kooragang Island in NSW. Last month, it was accused of trying to keep secret a report into whether mercury was leaking from its former chloralkali plant, which operated in Botany for almost 60 years.

Chief financial officer Craig Elkington did not comment on the claims but said it was working with officials from the NSW Environment Protection Authority and had improved its community engagement at both sites.

Orica also announced on Monday it had entered a three-year agreement with Esso Australia and BHP Billiton to purchase natural gas from Longford from 2017.

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Packer’s Barangaroo casino gets nod

CASINO.971105.VC.MEL.AFR.picture by Valeriu Campan.Melbourne Crown Casino***FDCTRANSFER***The NSW government late on Monday gave the green light to James Packer’s plan for a second Sydney casino at Barangaroo.
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NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell has announced cabinet approval for a VIP-only casino as part of Mr Packer’s $1.5 billion resort at the harbourside development site.

Legislation to allow a second Sydney casino licence will be introduced to Parliament this week.

Mr O’Farrell said approvals were still needed from gambling authorities and the planning department.

The Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority would need to approve Mr Packer’s company Crown as a suitable casino operator and plans for the six-star hotel resort would need planning department approval.

”We support this proposal because of its economic benefits for NSW,” Mr O’Farrell said.

The gaming facility will be allowed to operate at the Barangaroo site from November 2019.

The agreement for the casino includes no low-limit bets on table games, no pokies and VIP gaming only.

The government said licence fees and gaming taxes would reap a guaranteed minimum of $1 billion over the first 15 years of the casino.

Mr O’Farrell defended the step that puts Sydney on the path to becoming the only Australian capital with two casinos. ”This is about high-worth individuals engaging in gaming,” he said. ”It’s estimated – and on the basis on Crown’s Victorian experience – that 5 per cent of local gamers would use this facility, but these are people who would gamble between $300,000 and 400,000 a year – clearly beyond the means of most people.”

The decision marks a setback for Crown’s competitor, Echo Entertainment, owner of the Star casino at Pyrmont. Echo has an exclusive casino licence in NSW until November 2019, and had argued the NSW government should approve a $1.1 billion expansion proposal, including an extension of exclusivity until 2034 in return for a payment of $250 million.

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