Brumbies players fight for futures despite uncertainty

Brumbies training 14th March 2017. Josh Mann-Rea. Photo by Karleen Minney. Photo: Karleen MinneyACT Brumbies duo Ben Hyne and Josh Mann-Rea say being stuck in contract limbo will not distract from a mission against the NSW Waratahs, despite officials delaying decisions on Super Rugby’s future.

The ARU organised a phone hook-up with Australia’s five franchises on Tuesday to debrief the clubs on plans to reinvigorate the competition.

The ARU remains tight-lipped about whether one Australian franchise will be cut or if there are plans to rejig the confusing 18-team, four conference system.

It is believed the meeting didn’t solve any issues and uncertainty off the field will continue for the coming weeks as SANZAAR and the ARU weigh up their options.

On the field the the Brumbies play against the Waratahs in their only derby between teams this season and it should be hyped as a desperation game.

Instead, players are caught in the middle of the off-field drama after the ARU asked Australian teams to postpone contract talks with any non-Wallabies players until a Super Rugby decision is made.


???It leaves players like Hyne and Mann-Rea in the anxious position of playing for their futures without knowing if there will be a etam in Canberra next year.

Hyne is keen to continue his career rise after playing two games for the Brumbies while hooker Mann-Rea, 36, will keep playing for as his body allows him to.

However, neither have been able to gauge their contract prospects and it is not known when they will have a clear picture for 2018.

If one Australian team – either the Brumbies, Melbourne Rebels or Western Force – it will leave more than 30 players searching for new homes.

“It’s a decision that I can’t do anything about, nor can anyone else in the playing group or the coaches,” Hyne said.

“It’s up to SANZAAR and how they handle the situation. In terms of coming off contract, you get on the field each week trying to impress and improve to get re-signed.

“That’s what I’ve been trying to do for the Brumbies or if it goes south, strong performances on the field will go in your favour.

“Even the boys that are contracted might have to go elsewhere, it’s not just guys who are trying to come on to the scene. It’s no good.”

Mann-Rea made his Super Rugby debut as a 31-year-old and has established himself as the Brumbies’ first-choice rake after the departure of Stephen Moore.

Mann-Rea, who drives more than hour just to get to Brumbies training every day, joked his country lifestyle in Harden helped him avoid all of the talk about Super Rugby’s future.

“We can’t help that decision so we’re just focusing on playing good footy and trying to win the conference this year,” Mann-Rea said.

“It’s a hard one, it’s something SANZAAR and World Rugby are trying to figure out a way to make it work.

“I think {Super Rugby] is pretty good. It’s a tough comp and I think the five teams work in Australia.

But Mann-Rea conceded the players wanted more Australian derbies. The Brumbies play the Waratahs and the Force just once each this year.

“Local derbies are always good, I think they’re good for Australian rugby,” Mann-Rea said.

“I’m a big one for Aussie derbies. It gets a bit of pride back in the state so I’d like a few more if it’s possible.”

The Brumbies can continue negotiations with their Wallabies stars, including Tevita Kuridrani, in the hope of re-signing them for next year.

The Brumbies will also push ahead with their coaching recruitment plans as they brace for the departure of Stephen Larkham at the end of the year.

Former Melbourne Rebels coach Damien Hill started his new job on Monday as general manager of professional rugby and pathways and will take charge of the Brumbies’ recruitment and retention.

Waratahs captain and former Brumby Michael Hooper jumped to the defence of the Canberra side’s future on Tuesday as he prepares to play his 100th Super Rugby game.

“From being a part of the [Brumbies], it has a rich history and people are very passionate about our capital territory having a team,” Hooper said.

“So I’m not sure what going to happen but the Brumbies is a strong club and one that you would like to see continue in the comp.

“I think Australia can have five teams in the competition. We want guys having as much chance to wear a Wallabies jersey as possible so I’m all in favour of having five teams.”


Saturday: NSW Waratahs v ACT Brumbies at Allianz Stadium, 7.45pm.

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Wagga economy on the brink of a perfect storm

The overwhelming majority of Wagga’s most successful business people are convinced the stars are aligning for the local economy.

Seventy-four per cent of the city’s largest employers believed the city’s economic outlook was “good” or “excellent”.

Soaring business confidence, record agriculture profits and vital infrastructure construction mean Wagga’s economy is on the brink of a perfect storm.

At the same time as close to three in four local business people believe the local economy is taking off, another key indicator of Wagga’s prosperity – the agriculture industry – is staring down record profits.

Riverina’s large-scale crop farmers are gearing up for one of their best seasons in two decades, thanks to an exceptional spring, a bumper grain harvest and soaring livestock prices.

Beef prices have nearly doubled in real terms in the past three years to values not seen since before the 1970s cattle market crash and sheepmeat demand is surging.

The average broadacre farm is tipped to reap a cash income of $216,000 this financial year, according to the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES).

Only 4.5 per cent of Wagga’s 30,589 labour force is unemployed as of January, which is the second lowest unemployment rate outside Sydney bested only by the Hunter Valley.

Committee 4 Wagga’s (C4W) survey of its members, who are collectively responsible for more than 4,500 local jobs, emphasised the importance of the looming levee bank upgrade and council’s ability to attract a commercial partner to build the Riverina Intermodal Freight and Logistics (RIFL) hub.

Heightening the levee bank was ranked the city’s most important project because the current one-in-sixty-year protection limits property developer’s access to finance and jacks up insurance premiums for homes and businesses.

Insurance premiums for the 10,020 properties in the central precinct have gone up between 300 and 400 per cent since the city was evacuated in 2012, from an average of $1000 to $5000.

The looming upgrade will protect Central Wagga against a one-in-100-year flood event – or a 11.3 metre high river – and protect North Wagga against a one-in-20-year flood – or a 10-metre high river.

Construction of the heightened levee bank is set to start within months, although the project has been mired by wildly different quotes – millions of dollars apart – from the state government and a council-commissioned quantity surveyor.

“Retailers, residential developments and industrial developments in east Wagga – where it’s prone to flooding – are all effected by the high flood risk rating,” C4W CEO Chris Fitzpatrick said.

The city’s freight and logistics assets have been flagged as a key lure to attract metropolitan businesses pushed out of Sydney by urban sprawl and skyrocketing land prices.

New roads at Bomen will spark new industrial development, but a rail hub is tipped to triple investment.

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Barlow says Dockers’ delisting ‘rips your heart out’

A rejuvenated Michael Barlow has spoken candidly of his hurt at the way his Fremantle career finished, saying it “rips your heart out a bit” to be told he was no longer required by the Dockers after seven seasons.

The 29-year-old midfielder, picked up by Gold Coast as a delisted free agent last October, has been a pre-season star for the Suns, averaging more than 26 disposals a game, and will be a key to a recast midfield this season.

Barlow has a point to prove to his old club after being delisted by the Dockers at the end of last season, despite finishing eighth in the best and fairest after a serious shoulder injury restricted him to only 13 games.

“I’m really disappointed with the way it ended,” Barlow said. “That there wasn’t a little bit of a tree branch extended to say, ‘We might want to keep you on.’

“It’s looking a guy you really respect [Fremantle coach Ross Lyon] in the eye, and they say you’re no longer required. It’s a bit of a check to the ego when you get delisted.”

Barlow was dropped to the WAFL for two games early last season, but produced some of his best football after being recalled in run-with roles on the likes of David Zaharakis, Daniel Rich and Steele Sidebottom, also picking up 43 possessions in Fremantle’s win over Port Adelaide.

But Barlow had the AC joint in his left shoulder shattered in a collision with Geelong’s Lincoln McCarthy in round 17, and missed the rest of the season. It was then he was told that, with the Dockers going younger, he would be one of the first casualties.

After a nervous wait during the trade period, during which he rang Gold Coast coach Rodney Eade and asked to be given an opportunity, the Suns picked him up as a delisted free agent.

Barlow is still puzzled by the abrupt change of heart from his old club. “It was a really tough couple of weeks that trade period, essentially because I had this injury with some potential to go the other way and not allow me to keep going,” he said. “There was the timing of that, then a bit of bitterness that I was 28 and essentially kicked out the door for being too old. And it rips your heart out a bit, because you know what you have to offer.

“I had probably one of the best patches of my career for six or seven weeks, and a pretty significant injury which stopped it. That might have played a part, but at the end of the day you can’t dwell too much on what’s happened.

“They [Fremantle] have got a four-year plan, and Ross has got a little bit of security in his contract …

“[Moving] was the best thing that could have happened for me. I was really keen to move on regardless. But it’s made me a better person being at that club for a long time.”

Barlow believed he was playing football with more freedom at his new home.

“I think there’s a little bit more flexibility in the game plan here,” he said. “I just feel like the attacking side of the game here is really encouraged, and I reckon ‘Rocket’ has got that 100 per cent right, when you look at the list and see who we’ve got at our disposal, we’ve got some of the best athletes and natural players in the competition, so you want to harness that.”

The midfield veteran said the idea of being part of a club looking to make a name for itself from the ground up was exciting.

“We want to really rip the roof off this joint here, and I reckon we have the potential to in a short time. It will work here, and I want to be part of it,” he said. “If I can assist that push for this club to become a powerhouse, that would be pretty fulfilling.”

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City of Melbourne councillor loses seat in unprecedented decision

The Age, News, 24/08/2016, photo by Justin McManus. Team running in the Melbourne Mayoral Election. L-R Richard Foster, Nic Frances and Brooke Wandin.A Melbourne councillor has lost his position – and lord mayor Robert Doyle handed a powerful voting majority – in an unprecedented decision by the state’s administrative tribunal.

Michael Caiafa, a trader at the Queen Victoria Market, has been declared a “victim of circumstance” after a voting recount and subsequent decision by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

The recount was set in motion after it was discovered that the woman elected as Melbourne’s first Indigenous councillor, Brooke Wandin, was ineligible to stand because she did not live in the municipality.

Mr Caiafa and Ms Wandin will be replaced by former Brotherhood of St Laurence executive director Nic Frances Gilley and Susan Riley.

Mr Gilley stood on Ms Wandin’s “An Indigenous Voice on Council” ticket, but only received 14 direct votes.

Ms Riley, a former deputy mayor and publishing entrepreneur, stood on Cr Doyle’s ticket but only received 48 direct votes.

Mr Caiafa received 332 direct votes.

Ms Riley’s election delivers the Doyle team a 6-5 majority on the council.

The loss of Mr Caiafa from the council is a blow to a grassroots campaign against the council’s controversial development of the Queen Victoria Market.

Mr Caiafa ran on the ticket of former politician Phil Cleary, who is lobbying against the $250 million revamp. The group received more than 5600 votes.

Ms Wandin’s “An Indigenous Voice on Council” ticket received just 1628 votes.

In handing down his decision, Justice Greg Garde sympathised with Mr Caiafa, who has been serving as a councillor since last October’s local election.

“His conduct has been exemplary,” he wrote.

“He has done all that an elected councillor can do since he was declared elected. His position is affected by the actions of another candidate over whom he had no control, and for whom he has no responsibility.”

A lawyer for Mr Caiafa argued to the tribunal that is was unfair to retain votes for the “An Indigenous Voice on Council” because in order for the group to exist it needed two members.

The exclusion of Ms Wandin left it with one.

Mr Caiafa is seeking legal advice about whether he should appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. He argued the decision did not reflect the will of the voters.

However the tribunal ruled that it was important that the will of those who voted for the Indigenous Voice Group also be respected.

As a result, the group’s remaining member, Mr Frances Gilley, has been elected. He received just 14 direct votes.

Mr Gilley said his original intention was not to get elected himself, but to help Ms Wandin achieve enough votes to become the first Wurundjeri woman on council.

He said would seek to reform eligibility criteria for Aboriginal people.

“I can use this term to look at how all Indigenous people across the state could have the right to stand on their land for council,” he said.

A City of Melbourne spokesman said “we have been informed of Justice Garde’s decision and are currently considering its implications”.

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