Newcastle Hunters defeat Norths Bears 78-66

Bennie Murray in action last week. Picture Jonathan Carroll THE Newcastle Hunters continued their mid-season revival with a polished 78-66 victory over Waratah Basketball League heavy hitters Norths Bears at Broadmeadow on Saturday night.
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Improving to a 6-6 win-loss record, it was Newcastle’s second victory over Norths (9-4) in the space of a fortnight and third win from their past four games after the Hunters hammered Illawarra 93-40 seven days earlier.

The Hunters started strongly against the 2012 WBL champions to lead 40-29 at half-time then resisted several Bears rallies during the third and fourth quarters.

‘‘Our team is finally demonstrating their potential, and last night was a wonderfully balanced team effort,’’ Hunters coach Trevor Gallacher said yesterday.

‘‘Norths were playing under-strength, and we are mindful not to get ahead of ourselves. But we are getting better each week and the players are believing in our system, working together and demonstrating great determination and unselfishness.

‘‘Our next challenge is to build consistency, which is developed at practice. We are more hungry than ever.’’

Bennie Murray led the Hunters with 16 points, six rebounds, two assists and one steal but Gallacher said there were substantial efforts across the board, particularly in the paint on defence, where Newcastle had 10 blocked shots.

Big men Jon Howe (13 points, seven rebounds, two blocks) and Steve Davis (nine points, five boards, three blocks) made their presence felt inside and young gun Ryan Beisty was busy at both ends with 11 points, six rebounds, two steals and two blocks.

Newcastle’s women’s team notched its most impressive victory of the season, stopping previously unbeaten Norths 72-62 to make it a winning double for the Hunters.

Ending their own three-game losing streak, the Hunters improved to 4-5 for the season and ended the Bears’ run of 10 straight victories.

Setting a fine example for the men’s team, Newcastle hit the ground running to lead 27-17 at quarter-time then consolidated that effort by holding Norths to just eight second-quarter points for a 41-25 half-time advantage.

Newcastle’s lead blew out to 23 points with less than four minutes remaining in the third term, then Norths rallied with a 22-7 run to trail 62-54 midway through the fourth quarter, but the Hunters held their nerve in the final five minutes.

Veteran floor leader Cheryl Willis tallied 15 points, eight assists and six rebounds in a classic captain’s knock, and was well supported by Susi Walmsley (10 points, five rebounds, three assists, three steals) in her first game since returning home from her college stint in Hawaii.

Sophie White (10 points, five rebounds, two blocked shots) and Charlotte Bull (13 rebounds, six points, four assists, three steals) also made valuable contributions.

Former WBL Most Valuable Player Mitch Rueter (29 points, seven rebounds, five assists) was one of five Maitland players to score in double figures as the Mustangs snapped a four-game losing streak with a comprehensive 84-62 victory over Sydney Comets at Maitland Federation Centre on Saturday night.

The win reversed a 91-80 loss to the Comets at Alexandria two weeks earlier and kept the Mustangs in touch with the top six with a 6-7 record.

Sydney beat the Mustangs 79-53 in the women’s game at Maitland.

Andy Blair hopes Port to Port win leads to Games selection

Andy Blair hopes Port to Port win leads to Games selection RELIEVED: Andy Blair is first across the line at Nobbys Beach in the inaugural Port to Port race. Picture: Ryan Osland
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Port to Port Mountain bike stage race. Day 4. Picture Darren Pateman

Port to Port Mountain bike stage race. Day 4. Picture Darren Pateman

Port to Port Mountain bike stage race. Day 4. Picture Darren Pateman

Port to Port Mountain bike stage race. Day 4. Picture Darren Pateman

Port to Port Mountain bike stage race. Day 4. Picture Darren Pateman

Port to Port Mountain bike stage race. Day 4. Picture Darren Pateman

Port to Port Mountain bike stage race. Day 4. Picture Darren Pateman

Port to Port Mountain bike stage race. Day 4. Picture Darren Pateman

Port to Port Mountain bike stage race. Day 4. Picture Darren Pateman

Port to Port Mountain bike stage race. Day 4. Picture Darren Pateman

Port to Port Mountain bike stage race. Day 4. Picture Darren Pateman

TweetFacebookPort to Port Mountain Bike race gets muddy: Day 2 photos

PORT to Port mountain bike race winner Andy Blair is hopeful he will be celebrating Glasgow Commonwealth Games selection later this week.

Yesterday the 34-year-old from Canberra became the inaugural winner of four-day Port to Port by an overall time of 29 seconds from Bendigo teenager Chris Hamilton.

Blair won the 45-kilometre stage four from Swansea to Nobby’s, which journeyed through Blacksmiths Beach and Glenrock reserve, in a time of one hour, 44 minutes and 48 seconds.

There was a seven-man sprint to the finish line with also included the Hunter’s top cyclist, Wangi Wangi’s Chris Aitken.

Aitken was fourth in stage four and finished fifth overall, 14 minutes behind Blair.

While the Port to Port is not part of the Commonwealth Games selection criteria, Blair said the victory was invaluable practice.

‘‘I don’t know if I’m going to get a call up yet, but this has formed part of my preparation,’’ Blair said.

‘‘It’s really good training, this sort of event, where you’re racing day in day out. It’s really good intensity.’’

Blair’s victory was set up on day one when won the first stage at Nelson Bay by almost three minutes from Hamilton.

On day two Hamilton beat Blair by a second in a sprint to the line.

Blair’s lead was then shaved to just 28 seconds following the third stage where he finished seventh and 2.22 minutes behind Hamilton.

That meant it was vital Blair finished in the lead group on stage four.

‘‘It was a relief,’’ he said yesterday.

‘‘Yesterday really ate up my margin for safety. Any little problem could have been really bad with just a small lead of 28 seconds.’’

Blair’s partner Jenny Fay won all four stages in the women’s to be the overall series champion by almost 40 minutes.

TRICIA HOGBIN: Organic resolve firm

CHOICE BACKED: Recent literature reveals the preference for organic food isn’t misguided. Picture: Tricia HogbinI GROW my own veggies organically and often buy organic food.
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There are many reasons why I favour organic. I prefer my food be free of pesticide residues and I’d rather support small, sustainable farmers than large-scale industrialised agribusinesses. But the main reason I buy organic is that it’s better for the environment.

Or is it? Robert Paarlberg, in his book Food Politics, suggests that my preference for organic food may be misguided.

I read Paarlberg’s 2010 book recently and it had me scrambling to double-check the environmental benefits of organic farming.

For me, it’s important to know the story behind my food. Permaculturalist Nick Ritar suggests that ‘‘every bite of food is a reflection of your ethics’’.

‘‘That doesn’t mean becoming a food snob who is a pain in the arse at every dinner party, but it does mean that when you buy something, you exercise your power by taking the time to understand what you are giving your money to.’’ Organic food is grown without the use of synthetic fertilisers or pesticides. Instead, natural processes are embraced. Soil fertility is maintained using compost, crop rotation and manures. Weeds are controlled using mechanical cultivation, mulch and cover crops. Insect pests are kept at bay using a range of techniques including relying on ‘‘good bugs’’ to eat the ‘‘bad bugs’’.

Whether or not organic farming is better for the environment overall has been hotly debated for years. The focus of the debate has been on whether or not decreased yields from organic farms could have the unfortunate result of increasing the total area of land under agricultural production, resulting in more widespread deforestation and biodiversity loss, and thus undermining the environmental benefits of organic practices.

This argument is increasingly being dismissed as over-simplistic. Yields can be increased through improved farming practice and careful selection of varieties. Yield is also only one of many factors to consider when balancing the benefit of organic farming.

What is clear is that organic farms are better at protecting biodiversity than conventional farms. A recent study by Oxford University found that organic farms support 34per cent more plant, insect and animal species than conventional farms. It also found that the benefit was most pronounced for organic farms in intensively farmed regions and that small farms do a better job of protecting biodiversity. The benefit of organic farming was most pronounced for pollinators such as bees, with organic farms supporting 50per cent more pollinator species.

Pesticide use is having a particularly devastating impact on bees. Recent research from Harvard University has confirmed that pesticides, neonicotionoids in particular, are likely to be responsible for the massive colony collapse disorder happening in honey bees.

The environmental benefits of organic farming extend beyond biodiversity and bees. Conventional farming is dependent upon large amounts of inorganic fertiliser. The manufacture of synthetic fertilisers is energy-intensive, uses large amounts non-renewable natural gas and contributes greatly to greenhouse gas emissions. Synthetic fertilisers also dissolve in water more readily than organic fertilisers and can leach through the soil and pollute groundwater, nearby waterways and ultimately, the ocean.

So after wading through the recent literature, I’m confident that my preference for organic food isn’t misguided. My resolve to support small local sustainable farms is stronger than ever. Introducing organic farms into already intensively farmed landscapes can boost biodiversity, provide a pesticide-free haven for pollinators, and play a major role in halting the loss of biodiversity.

Tricia Hogbin shares tips for living better with less at littleecofootprints南京夜网 and on Instagram (TriciaEco)

Exemplary service calling to other men

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Camp Quality volunteer

FUN TIMES: Naite Skidmore, left, and Jordan Doran with long-term volunteer Denis Young. Picture: Lily Ray

DENIS Young has spent almost half of his 60years volunteering for Camp Quality.

The 60-year-old from Tenambit this month won Camp Quality’s Gillard Volunteer Award for his 24years of service. The award, named after one of Camp Quality’s longest-standing board members, is awarded to one person per state per year who is dedicated to helping children with cancer.

Mr Young was in his mid-30s with a good job, healthy family and comfortable life – in his words, ‘‘just pottering along’’ – when his life changed.

He was visiting a friend’s son who was living with a brain tumour when the child’s Camp Quality companion turned up.

‘‘This young bloke was of exceptional character,’’ said Mr Young.

‘‘I thought, ‘What a wonderful thing to see, a young guy at uni doing stuff like this’.

‘‘He made an impact on me, so I got in touch with the local Camp Quality office in Newcastle and never looked back.’’

Mr Young said the programs Camp Quality provide make a difference.

‘‘I’ve got physical proof that the services and programs provide many benefits for children and their family,’’ he said.

‘‘Going to my first camp, I didn’t know what to expect, but any fears or doubts I may have had just flew out the door when the kids arrived.

‘‘The kids just blew me away when I saw their happy and excited anticipation at arriving at camp.

‘‘It helps them forget the weekly grind of treatment and takes them away from that environment. It also gives mums and dads some relief.

‘‘You see how much fun they have rekindling friendships with kids they haven’t seen for months, or since the last camp, or treatment at the hospital.

‘‘It’s kids networking with other kids who have had similar issues.’’

Mr Young said another great part of the program was working with other volunteers and staff.

‘‘They’re just a really good bunch of people and so supportive of each other,’’ he said.

‘‘They’re good people to be around and they all come with the right motives and focus.’’

He said his family has been behind him 100per cent of the way.

‘‘I hope it’s helped with their development and understanding and how they approach life,’’ he said.

Since retiring four years ago from his job in Commercial Services at the University of Newcastle, Mr Young has been working in the local Camp Quality office at least one day a week on top of his other volunteering commitments.

‘‘Retirement has allowed me to do extra work for the organisation such as administrative tasks, volunteer recruitment and training, among other things,’’ he said.

He encourages more men to take part in the program as camp companions and volunteers.

‘‘It’s a very rewarding experience and after camp you connect with all the new people you’ve met,’’ he said. Volunteer adviser Tegan Davies said Mr Young was ‘‘a true superstar’’, and hoped he would inspire other men in the Hunter to step up and volunteer.

Female volunteers number 67, with males at just 31.

To register as a volunteer visit or phone (free call) 1300662267.

1000 people make whale outline on Shoal Bay beach

1000 people make whale outline on Shoal Bay beach Human Whale on Shoal Bay Beach on June 1. Pictures courtesy of Ray Alley.
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Human Whale on Shoal Bay Beach on June 1. Pictures courtesy of Ray Alley.

Human Whale on Shoal Bay Beach on June 1. Pictures courtesy of Ray Alley.

Human Whale on Shoal Bay Beach on June 1. Pictures courtesy of Ray Alley.

Human Whale on Shoal Bay Beach on June 1. Pictures courtesy of Ray Alley.

Human Whale on Shoal Bay Beach on June 1. Pictures courtesy of Ray Alley.

TweetFacebook Human Whale photo shootHuman Whale on Shoal Bay Beach on June 1. Pictures courtesy of Ray Alley.A HUMAN humpback slowly materialised on Shoal Bay Beach on Sundayas more than a thousand locals and tourists gathered to celebrate the end of whaling in the Southern Ocean.

For the second straight year, the human whale made for a spectacular sight from the skies on a reasonably clear day in Port Stephens.

Human whale co-ordinator Frank Future said an amalgamation of whale watching cruise operators gathered the masses to acknowledge the International Court of Justice’s ruling to ban the Japanese government from whaling in the Antarctic.

Last year, more than 600 people gathered on the beach to form a shape of a Humpback Whale to acknowledge 40 years since whales were last hunted in Australia.

Mr Future, the Imagine Cruises skipper, said the humpback population in waters off the east coast of Australia had boomed ever since, a rare conservation success story and something that should be celebrated.

‘‘We had a great turn-out, considering the forecast was for rain,’’ Mr Future said.

‘‘It’s a celebration of the fact that we still have whales, it’ one of the few success stories we can celebrate.

‘‘When I was a kid you never saw any whales, there was only 1800 humpbacks in waters of the east coast about 19 years ago.

‘‘Now there are nearly 20,000, which is about a 10 per cent annual increase.’’

Mr Future said the ‘‘peak run’’ of migrating whales was approaching, with hundreds expected to be spotted near the coast in the coming weeks.

The human whale was organised by Port Stephens Tourism and whale watching cruises Imagine, Moonshadow and Tamboi Queen.

‘‘We work together to promote whale watching, it’s important to Port Stephens tourism and injects more than $10 million to the port every winter,’’ he said.

Mr Future said there were plans to create a human whale every year in winter as the whale watching season begins.