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Archive for January, 2019

How drink driving arrest made McGregor a better coach

Monday, 14 January, 2019

Here, in the vacant home dressing-room at WIN Stadium in Wollongong, Paul McGregor falls silent.
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He’d reluctantly agreed to this interview in the first place – talking about himself is not his style – but when you raise his drink-driving charge from this time last year he finds it difficult to talk altogether.

“I’d like to forget about it,” the Dragons coach says with a softened voice, eyes at the ground. “It affected me and when it affects you personally, it takes over your life. It’s not who I am. I made a really poor error of judgement. A glaring error of judgement that I fully take ownership of.”

McGregor had attended an Anzac charity race day on the Saturday afternoon, had a few more drinks at home that night, got up the next morning, worked away on his laptop for an hour and a half, decided he wanted to train, drove the same road to WIN Stadium he’s driven hundreds of times, the same road where he knew the booze bus would be, and even when he saw the police had no fears about being over the limit.

He blew 0.063, was arrested for low-range drink driving, coached his side to victory over the Roosters on Anzac Day the following afternoon, was fined $10,000 by his club, and, in October in Wollongong Local Court, was placed on a bond with no conviction recorded.

The incident is a lesson for those of us who think we’re fine to drive the next day even after a few drinks the evening before. How many times have you done it?

But for our purposes it explains where the season started to unravel for the Red V last year. Mary McGregor going DUI wasn’t the reason the Dragons couldn’t score points, but by his own admission it influenced his coaching.

“I’m a strong character but I go into silence if I am hurting,” McGregor says. “I shut down – because I was hurting a lot. As the boys will tell you, I’m the first to arrive and last to leave. They know how disciplined I am around what I put into the team and the club. If you look at my football team over the last three years, we’re one of the most disciplined in the competition for penalties given away. We drive a tight ship around discipline and I certainly compromised that.”

Last summer, though, the coach got his groove back. In exhausting heat, he stood shoulder to shoulder with his players.

“Not many people know,” says international backrower Tyson Frizell, “but he did most of the conditioning with us in the pre-season. He was mixing it with all of us. I’ve seen coaches in the gym but to hold his own with us boys was good to see.”

Teammate Joel Thompson chimes in: “Mary did it while Tyson was sitting back on holidays. It was my ninth pre-season and it was easily the hardest. You dug deep and really found out what you were about and what you’ve got inside you. Mary jumped in and when they see your coach get in beside you, there’s some added respect.”

One of the players McGregor stood alongside was new hooker Cameron McInnes.

“He’d be talking to me and I couldn’t breathe,” the South Sydney recruit laughs. “But he wanted to help me get through. He’s a real player’s coach.”

When I tell McGregor that last line – “a player’s coach” – his eyes light up like I’ve just told him his off-contract stars Josh Dugan and Gareth Widdop have signed four-year deals to stay.

Because last year, when the Dragons finished three points out of the top eight but were as exciting to watch as a test pattern – he was was anything but “a player’s coach”.

According to almost everyone around the club including himself, McGregor turned himself inside out managing all aspects of the football department. After an off-season review, he went back to doing what he relishes most: coaching.

“I was overseeing everyone’s role and I stepped over the mark to be totally honest. I was across everything and did nothing. I take full responsibility. I’m the head coach. It’s my fault. But I lost the connection with the players. I’m a man’s man. I stopped being that last year.”

Details man: McGregor addresses the player group. Photo: Adam McLean

According to former teammates, McGregor’s gear on away trips would be perfectly laid out in the hotel room and then the dressing room. “He’d have an outfit with matching colours for every day we were away,” reveals former Illawarra and then Dragons teammate Trent Barrett.

I ask McGregor if he’s a “control freak”.

“I can be,” he says. “I can be a perfectionist. I’ve certainly tried to put a handle on that. I just went, ‘Stuff it it all’. I’ve got to go and reconnect with the players. So I went and trained with them in the pre-season.”

He’ll turn 50 at the end of this year but still looks as fit as he did when he played his final match in 2001. He had surgery on a degenerative neck problem two years ago as well as 14 operations throughout his career. Like many old footballers, if he stops training his body seizes up.

“When you’re the coach you can pick and choose what you want to do with the players,” he smiles. “I did most of the running, but none of the contact.”



Any spews?

“A little one. I swallowed one one day. You don’t want to show too much hurt. I can see a player who is struggling and I can run with him and give him encouragement along the way. That’s connecting. It’s not about me doing it, but more about me getting involved and getting to see and feel how much they’re hurting and talking them through it.”

Pedigree: Paul McGregor. Photo: Fairfax Archive

McGregor has changed as a coach this season but Barrett remembers the change in him as a player.

“He had a metamorphosis,” Barrett, now Manly coach, laughs. “He used to be a kid who lived in Dapto who wore a flanno, had long hair and smoked and drank like a fish. Then we had the merger with St George, we had Choc [Anthony Mundine] in the team who was a snappy dresser, and he shaved his head and started dressing in better clothes ??? But he was always an organised player. He always did whatever he put his mind to.”

McGregor describes pressure as a “privilege”. When he was being earmarked as the first coach to be sacked following the Charity Shield loss to Souths, we spoke about the pressure he was under and he didn’t flinch.

The reason is where he came from. He played five seasons of first grade for Dapto before joining the Steelers in 1991. In those days, bush footy was a brutal initiation. It hardened players before they reached the big league.

Now, under-20s players start earning big dollars as teenagers, have their heads filled with misguided encouragement from player managers, and then come into the senior system with a sense of entitlement that baffles the older brigade.

What’s also changed is the player market. The Dragons aren’t in the eye of the current storm but they’re not far from it with Dugan and Widdop undecided about their futures.

Of all the jobs McGregor gave away during the off-season, the most important was recruitment and retention and managing the complicated game of Jenga that has become the salary cap.

That’s now the brief of Ian Millward, who was assistant coach to Graham Murray when McGregor was a player. He is now the director of rugby league pathways at the club.

Despite this, the questions from media about the futures of Dugan and Widdop have not abated.

It reached a flashpoint at media opportunity earlier his week. It had been called to promote the Anzac Day clash. For 11 minutes, McGregor was peppered about his belief that Dugan is best suited to fullback while Millward has openly said he considers him to be a centre and will be paid accordingly if Dugan re-signs.

It’s an easy kill for reporters. On the surface, it looks like a rift between coach and recruitment man.

The confusion has come from the club attaching a value to a position. Millward considers Dugan to be a centre, while McGregor will play him wherever he needs him. Right now, it’s fullback.

But let’s be brutally honest: Dugan won’t care where he plays in the future, as long as he can sign a contract that comes near the dollars the club will pay halfback Ben Hunt when he arrives from the Broncos next year.

“I don’t see him [Dugan] as a centre or fullback but a player,” McGregor says. “If he plays right centre, he’ll play good football. If he plays fullback, he’ll play good football.

“Nobody agrees on everything. I’ve know Ian for a very long time and I trust his judgement. He made a statement about Josh and he was referring to Josh playing right centre for Australia. So the value that he’s put forward is about what a right centre for Australia gets paid. As a coach, I put a value on what he means to our team.”

He’s cast off the role of recruitment manager but that doesn’t mean McGregor doesn’t talk to Millward about recruitment at all.

He also had to recently address the noise surrounding Dugan and Widdop, who is being pursued by the Storm and Wests Tigers although the Dragons remain confident of retaining him.

“I spoke to the leadership group three weeks ago,” McGregor says. “I asked them, ‘I’m your coach now. What support do you need in and around your contracts?’ They all said to stay out of it.”

What about Dugan?

Marquee man: Josh Dugan. Photo: Getty Images

“I’ve talked to him once and it was about if he was playing here, I think he’s a fullback because he’s the best in the club – right now.”

At no stage during our interview does McGregor talk about his own future. He’s off contract this year, too, but he has more pressing issues away from footy.

When he abruptly left this week’s media conference, many assumed he was being a cranky coach who no longer wanted to answer questions about recruitment. In truth, he had somewhere more important to be.

His 79-year-old mum, Jean, had open heart surgery a year ago. Eleven weeks ago, she suffered a stroke.

“Four weeks later, she had another one,” McGregor says. “So she’s being treated treated as a palliative care patient because she’ll never come home. She’s paralysed down one side and hasn’t been out of bed for 11 weeks. My sister and I take my father [Frank] every day in rotation to see her.

“She’s talking and, just like Mum always is, she’s apologising for the state she’s in – for a state she’s got no control over.”

Because he got out of Sydney so late on Wednesday, he didn’t get back to Wollongong in time to see her. He will see her after Tuesday’s Anzac Day match.

“If we get the result,” he says, “you will see a smile on her face. That’s enough for me.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Robert Dillon: Sporting Declaration

Monday, 14 January, 2019

UP WE GO: Brighton and Hove Albion’s Anthony Knockaert celebrates his team’s long-awaited promotion to the Premier League. Picture: Getty ImagesTHE great author and Arsenal fan Nick Hornby summed it up perfectly in his best-selling tomeFever Pitch: “When you support a football team,agonyis the only currency that can purchase real ecstasy.”
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Sporting Declaration would take that logic one step further and suggest that for some football fans, they are never happier than when their team makes them truly miserable.

It’s a cultural oddity I first noticed attending an Arsenal game at Highbury in the Christmas-New Year period of 1993-94.

It was freezing, drizzling with rain, and the Gunners were living up to their nickname of “boring, boring Arsenal”.

Playing against Sheffield Wednesday, or perhaps it was Sheffield United, both teams appeared incapable of scoring a goal.

The two blokes in front of me were analysing the game, and in particular the Arsenal players, withscathing critiques.

“I’ve worked overtime all week to payfor my ticket,’’ said one. “Then I’ve travelled for an hour on the tube to get here. And they dish up this utter shite.”

Deep into injury time, the great Ian Wright popped up with a matchwinner and the two sad sacks in front of me leapt to their feet and punched their air.

“We didn’t deserve that,’’one admitted. “See you next week.”

A few years later, I was at Old Trafford watching Manchester United –the defending two-time Premier League champions –playing in a pre-season friendly against Inter Milan.

The abuse the home-team fans directed at their players was mind-boggling.

Imagine if they were supporting a team of no-hopers, such as, for example, the Newcastle Jets.

The Novocastrian faithful have endured seven consecutive seasons as finals spectators, and another wooden spoon campaign that cost coach Mark Jones his job.

All of which gives them licence to whinge and vent to their heart’s content.

At the other end of the spectrum are Real Madrid, surely one of the top two or three most glamorous clubs in the footballing universe.

During the week they won a European Champions League quarter-final against Bayern Munich in which Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat-trick.

Ronaldo, for those who have no interest in the round-ball code, recently won theBallon d’Or, awarded to the world player of the year.

Along with Lionel Messi, he is perhaps the only current player worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as Pele, Maradona, Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp.

In 260 games for Real, he has scored 279 goals and helped them win every piece of silverware worth collecting.

Yet on Tuesday, Madrid fans whistled him –a sign of disrespect –and apparently it was not a one-off.

It prompted Ronaldo to put his finger to his lips after one of his goals: “I don’t tell them to be quiet, never, I only ask them not to whistle because I always give my best in every game …I don’t know who doubts Cristiano Ronaldo.”

Meanwhile, Arsenal supportersstage protests and chant songs that ridicule manager Arsene Wenger, who has overseen the most successful two decades in the club’s history.

Yet in a week when fans around the world were revelling in their own despaircame a feelgood story that overshadowed decades of doom and gloom.

Brighton-Hove Albion have returned to the Premier League.

Big deal, you might say. Well, it just so happens I have a tenuous emotional attachment.

It was 1994, and my good mate Bradley Bannister and I were in England, playing cricket. Our game was washed out and, looking to fill the void, we drove to Brighton to watch their division-two game against mighty Port Vale.

Brighton were doing it tough that year, and their home ground, Goldstone, was normally closer to empty than full.

But this was the final game of the seasonand Port Vale, chasing a win for promotion, brought thousands of supporters.

The terraces were bursting at the seamsand every Port Vale goal –they scored four or five –was celebrated with a pitch invasion.

It was a great day and remains a special memory.

Ever since, they’ve been my “second” team. I check for Arsenal’s result, then Brighton’s.

There have been some grim timessince. In 1996, they needed to sell their stadium –which is now a shopping centre –to pay off debts, and played for several seasons at Gillingham, 100 kilometres away.

In 1996-97, they needed a miracle goal in the last round to avoid relegation to the abyss known as non-league football.

Gradually they clawed their way back up the ranks, thanks largely to successiveowners who invested in players and a new state-of-the-art stadium, which seats 31,000.

After a couple of heartbreaking near misses in recent seasons, on Tuesday they beat Wigan Athletic 2-1 to secure automatic promotion into next year’s Premier League. The last time they were in the top flight was way back in 1983.

Their fans mustsurely rate as the most long-suffering in all England.

I’d like to think that, deep down inside, as they celebrated, secretly they were enjoying it.

Swans look to Heeney to spark derby revival

Monday, 14 January, 2019

BACK: Isaac Heeney chase down a ball for Sydney in last year’s losing grand final to Western Bulldogs. Picture: Graham DenholmCOACH John Longmire believes Hunter product Isaac Heeney can make an impact for the struggling Swans in his long-awaited AFL return against Greater WesternSydney on Saturday at the SCG.
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Heeney, a former Cardiff Hawk and Maitland schoolboy, has missed the first month of the season because of glandular fever and in his absence, Sydney have slumped to 0-4.

Longmire was excited to welcome back Heeney and Gary Rohan for the clash with GWS.

“They have had a couple of weeks of really strong training now, including a really strong hit-out on the weekend and they pulled up well,” Longmire said.

“They have just been getting better every session so they have done enough work now to warrant selection.

“We think that both of those players have the ability to be able to have an impact this week to help us be as competitive as we can be this week.”

Greater Western Sydney are unlikely to be claiming they are the harbour city’s best AFL team, even if they score their first SCG win over the Swans and deal their rivals a potentially season-smashing loss.

For the first time in 12 Sydney derbies, the Giants will start favourites in Saturday’s game.After Sydney had dominated the early years of their growing rivalry, the pendulum has started to swing westward.

The Giants are 12 points clear of Sydney, who they have convincingly beaten in their past two games and they no longer have a massive disadvantage in experience as in their first few years.

Sydney will field seven first or second-year players at the SCG, while the Giants will have just one.

A Swans loss would send last year’s minor premiers and losing grand finalists tumbling to 0-5 –a mark that invariably spells doom for a team’s finals aspirations.

Giants forward Devon Smith said that prospect wouldn’t be an additional motivating factor for his side.

“They’ve got the credit in the bank and obviously a great contested side,” Smith said.

“Any team with Buddy [Lance Franklin] in it, they are going to be dangerous so I’ve got full respect for them.

“I still think they are the best in the comp at contested footy and we match that tomorrow and we should win.”

One key match-up will be in-form Giants key defender Phil Davis up against Franklin, who needs just three goals to reach the 800 mark.

Despite their season seemingly on the precipice, Sydney remain confident they can regain form.

“We haven’t lost confidence at all in the standard of football that we can play,” Swans vice-captain and midfielder Luke Parker said.

“We’ve been a good team for a number of seasons and you don’t just lose that in a month of football, so I have full faith that we’ve got the right team to be able to bounce back and get our season back on track.”

Sydney also welcome backruckman-forward Kurt Tippett.The Giants also get a significant dose of X-factor and experience back with the return of veteran forward Steve Johnson.

–with AAP

Meet the interchange’s newest neighbourphotos

Monday, 14 January, 2019

Meet the interchange’s newest neighbour | photos TweetFacebook A glance at Wickham’s history, and future.Some of these photos are from Fairfax archives and other have been supplied by the University of Newcastle’s Cultural Collections with the help of the Vera Deacon Regional History Fund. Others are from Newcastle City Council’s draft Wickham Masterplan.For more information visit https://uoncc.wordpress南京夜网/vera-deacon-fund/ and to donate to the fund visit: http://libguides.newcastle.edu419论坛/benefactors/new It’s seven storeys high, worth $22 million and branded‘The Millhorn’.
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And it offersa glimpse ofwhat’s nextforWickham,as the suburb undergoes a seismic shiftfrominner city industrial hubto the next frontier of Newcastle’sapartment boom.

At least six new developmentsare either under construction or in the pipeline for the precinct between the Newcastle transport interchange and Throsby Street.

The latest to be unveiled by Colliers International,The Millhorn, includes 40one- and two-bedroomapartments on Wickham Street.

The bottom floor will be devoted to commercial space and Colliers Director Dane Crawford said he expected it would eventually house“bespoke”retailers.

“I see it as likely to be a…small little cafe or a hole-in-the-wall deli,” he said.

Deposits have now been taken on all of the apartments, which are expected to be completed in late 2018. The homes have been designed by renownedarchitectJohn Streeter.

“It’s already been really well received and we haven’t gone to the public market yet,” Mr Crawford said.“We’ve had a couple of hundred pre-registrations.

“It’s got a couple ofopen communal terraces on level five and that’s been a big drawcard.”

He added that it had been“nice to see” that many of the deposits had been put down by first home buyers.

Across the road from the Millhorn will be the WestEnd, a 122-apartment development. On the next block is Bishopsgate, which will bring 37 new apartments online next year. It’s understoodfurther projects will be announced incoming months.

Hunter director of the Property Council Andrew Fletcher said the high rise waspart of a phenomenon known as “transport orientated development”.

“It’s a bit of a global trend and it’s hitting the Hunter,” he said.“People want to live close to transport links.”

But he didn’t expect itto spell the end of light industry in Wickham.

“There’s no reason light industrial and residential can’t be neighbours. Light industrial means very different things now to what it did 20 and even 10 years ago.”

Jamie’s plan to salvage Australian restaurants still alive

Monday, 14 January, 2019

News: Chef Jamie Oliver visits his Canberra restaurant Jamie’s Italian. 28th of March 2014. Canberra Times photograph by Katherine Griffiths Photo: Katherine GriffithsCelebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s plan to salvage his Australian Jamie’s Italian restaurant chain has narrowly avoided collapse with a court granting administrators and receivers extra time to complete the takeover from failed hospitality company the Keystone Group.
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The buy-back decision by the star chef, who has built an empire from being an apprentice cook in his dad’s pub in Essex, Britain, came after Keystone was put into receivership in June last year owing more than $100 million.

But Oliver’s plans to bring his eponymous restaurants back in-house under his British parent group hit a snag when the sale was not finalised by the April 11 deadline for a creditors’ meeting mandated under the corporations law.

During an urgent hearing the NSW Supreme Court heard that if an extension of time was not granted, the Jamie’s companies – which are insolvent – would proceed into liquidation, with the loss of more than 300 jobs.

Administrator Katherine Barnet told the court both parties agreed to the sale on December 31 but there had been a delay in finalisation for a number of reasons, including the complexity of the transaction and negotiations with the respective landlords at each restaurant.

Justice Fabian Gleeson agreed on Friday to a four-week extension to reconvene the second meeting of creditors for the Jamie’s entities in order to allow the sale to be completed.

Under the terms of the agreement with Jamie’s Italian International Limited – an English company of which Oliver is a director – all employees will be offered the same or similar jobs with the same terms and conditions.

In January receivers Ferrier Hodgson announced 16 of Keystone’s 17 venues had been sold, with the Dixon Group buying Bungalow 8, Cargo Bar, Manly Wine, The Rook, The Winery, Kingsleys Woolloomooloo and Kingsleys Brisbane.

The Gazebo and Sugarmill Hotel were sold via private sales and Chophouse Sydney was sold to the Solotel Group, which is part-owned by celebrity chef Matt Moran.

The Keystone Group was placed in receivership when it failed to renegotiate an $80 million loan with its financiers, the private equity group KKR and Olympus Capital.

Ms Barnet told the court at least 257 proofs of debt have been received by the administrators worth a total $118 million.

Following Keystone’s shock collapse, Oliver said the Australian franchises were some of the best performing Jamie’s Italian restaurants worldwide and Keystone’s woes were not a reflection on the performance of the restaurants.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.