Joe Burns facing biggest test after call-up to make Australian cricket debut

Joe Burns thought his biggest test over the next few weeks would be the final exam of his economics degree next month.
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Now, with the Queensland batsman contemplating a shock Boxing Day Test debut for Australia, the studying has been put on the backburner for a self-confessed cricket “nuffie” who knows only too well the significance of the occasion.

“It’s a dream come true,” the 25-year-old said on Sunday. “Any Australian player, Australian cricket fan, dreams of playing these sorts of games. It’s something that I’ve always dreamt of in the front yard. I’m a massive Australian cricket fan who just happens to play cricket himself.”

Burns, who is expected to replace injured all-rounder Mitchell Marsh at the MCG, will join his new national teammates in Melbourne on Monday after featuring for Brisbane Heat against Sydney Thunder in the Big Bash League at ANZ Stadium on Sunday night.

It is an unorthodox lead-in to playing in the marquee event of the Australian cricket summer, but only 24 hours before his surprise call-up he was expecting to juggle the BBL with another significant occasion in his diary.

On January 19 Burns is due to sit the last exam of an economics degree he has been studying since 2007 at Brisbane’s University of Technology. The subject is called Contemporary Application of Economic Theory – a fair way from the “homework” Australia’s cricketers were infamously handed in India last year.

Over the next few days, however, his mind will be trained on learning the ropes of the Australian team.

It is yet to be determined where he will slot into the batting order. He has been opening this year for Queensland so his inclusion presents the possibility of out-of-sorts Shane Watson being shifted to the middle order to accommodate the newcomer going into the top three.

In the long tradition of Australian Test bolters, Burns’ elevation surprised him and family so much that he said his father, Reg, didn’t believe him when he picked up the phone while browsing in a Brisbane bookstore to be told the good news by his son. “That was a little disappointing,” he joked on Sunday.

The selection is merited, though, after a start to the season in which the composed right-hander has compiled 439 Sheffield Shield runs at 54.87.

Burns has been on the national radar since an Australia A debut in England two years ago, and his connection to Darren Lehmann, the former Queensland coach, has done him no harm.

“I am certainly looking forward to having Boof as the Australian coach,” he said. “I really enjoyed playing underneath him and if I do play on Boxing Day, it’s going to be with great pride that he’s my first Australian coach and hopefully there is plenty of games to come underneath him.”

Burns gets a start as state teammate Usman Khawaja faces the next nine months on the sideline recovering from a serious knee injury. Khawaja would have been a major contender to replace Marsh at the MCG, but his misfortune is Burns’ gain.

“I certainly do feel for Ussie,” Burns said. “There are plenty of players that dream to be in this situation so you feel for them when other circumstances take that away. All I can do is try and do the best I can and see what comes from that.”

Lehmann referred to Burns on Sunday as a cricket nuffie, and the man almost certain to be Australia’s 441st Test cricketer is not about to disagree.

“I do follow the game closely,” Burns said. “I love the game of cricket and that makes Boxing Day even more special, knowing how  big this day is on the Australian sport calendar.

“The day after Christmas, where you’re sitting on the back deck watching cricket, it’s a special day on the cricket schedule, those are some of my earliest memories. I am a cricket nuffie, yeah.”

Lehmann said he had been anticipating Burns would get a crack at international level since he began coaching him.

“When I saw him play, I thought he could really play at the next level,” Lehmann said. “It’s taken him a while, he’s had some ups and downs like all players do. He’s put his name up at the right time. An opportunity comes up, now he’s got to grab it.”

‘Complete rubbish’: Peter V’landys takes aim at Racing Victoria over unpaid Championships bill claim

Speaking his mind: Racing NSW boss Peter V’landys. Photo: Anthony Johnson Speaking his mind: Racing NSW boss Peter V’landys. Photo: Anthony Johnson
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Speaking his mind: Racing NSW boss Peter V’landys. Photo: Anthony Johnson

Speaking his mind: Racing NSW boss Peter V’landys. Photo: Anthony Johnson

Peter V’landys has described as “complete rubbish” claims Racing NSW is still yet to foot the Werribee quarantine bill from Gordon Lord Byron’s visit for The Championships this year at the same time the international scouting mission for next year’s showpiece heats up.

Fairfax Media understands Racing Victoria is squabbling with its northern counterpart over an alleged outstanding fee, believed to be about $20,000, from Gordon Lord Byron’s two-week quarantine stay at Werribee in March.

Racing NSW is yet to establish a permanent quarantine centre and used Werribee, a hotbed of activity during the Melbourne spring carnival, to help lure this year’s international visitors after covering their travelling expenses to Australia.

But relations between the country’s two premier racing states have soured over Gordon Lord Byron’s visit almost nine months ago, with chief executive V’landys adamant Racing NSW has settled the amount quoted for the Irish star’s visit.

Asked about the claim, V’landys said: “It’s complete rubbish and muck-raking. We were quoted an amount and have paid the amount in total. They’ve asked for more and naturally we’ve asked for more documentation why.

“We have paid the fees that were quoted and there’s some fees that weren’t quoted and we’re in discussions with [them about]. In fact, we actually paid in excess of what we were quoted – but we’re questioning some of the amounts they’ve added onto it.”

It is believed Racing Victoria asked a substantial amount, as high as $80,000 in total, for Gordon Lord Byron’s stay at Werribee. The two states are already heavily invested in the bitter struggle for the vision rights from NSW and Victorian racing that is dividing broadcasters TVN and Sky Channel.

Gordon Lord Byron and Hana’s Goal were the only two international horses to travel to Sydney for the inaugural The Championships in April. Both provided priceless exposure around the world for the Sydney carnival, having returned home with group 1 wins.

Gordon Lord Byron won the George Ryder Stakes before Hana’s Goal ploughed through the wet to claim the All Aged Stakes, becoming the first Japanese horse to win in Sydney.

Racing NSW and the Australian Turf Club have intensified efforts to attract more stars from around the globe for the fast-approaching The Championships in 2015 after the NSW government pledged $10 million in August to guarantee the event’s short-term future.

V’landys said a hit list of “six or seven” horses had been drawn up and every indication was the arrivals would far outstrip the international representation for the inaugural Sydney racing showpiece.

“We’re certainly having discussions with the connections and we’re very, very happy with the response we’re getting from these people,” V’landys said. “We have the chance of getting six or seven international horses.

“We’re talking both Asia and Europe – with two in Europe and quite a few in Asia. We’re overwhelmed with the response we’re getting from them. I’m pretty confident we’ll get a lot more than the two [this year]. We want to limit and we don’t want too many, but the response we’re getting [is incredible].”

Three-time Melbourne Cup runner-up Red Cadeaux has been mentioned as a potential Sydney Cup coup after trainer Ed Dunlop hinted he would be open to an Australian return next year. The 150th running of the Sydney Cup will offer an inflated $1.6 million in prizemoney.

But the Dubai carnival looms as a more logical option for the globetrotter after he arrived back at his Newmarket base in Britain over the weekend. Red Cadeaux ran sixth in the Hong Kong Vase at his last start.

Temporary truce imminent as racing’s warring broadcasters seek to end blackout before Christmas

Looking for action: TVN chief executive Bruce Mann. Photo: Jim Rice Looking for action: TVN chief executive Bruce Mann. Photo: Jim Rice
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Looking for action: TVN chief executive Bruce Mann. Photo: Jim Rice

Looking for action: TVN chief executive Bruce Mann. Photo: Jim Rice

Racing’s warring broadcasters TVN and Sky Channel have shelved designs on a fresh long-term agreement for the sport’s vision rights in NSW and Victoria until the new year after resolving to prioritise a temporary truce and end to the blackout before Christmas.

Fairfax Media has been told the first Saturday of the Sky blackout resulted in a “significant” downturn in turnover on the week’s premier race day given recent trends, but the exact percentage drop remains a secret by Tabcorp, which has Channel Sky as its television arm.

TVN board members met on Sunday and agreed an interim deal to have vision restored in TAB retail outlets and hundreds of pubs and clubs Australia-wide was a matter of urgency as punters suffered.

“We hope to see what we can do,” TVN chief executive Bruce Mann told Fairfax Media on Sunday. “Nobody wants to disenfranchise the public and we’ll see what we can do. The first proposition made certainly wasn’t where we need to be. At the end of the day everyone’s interest is for the best outcome for the punter.”

It is thought the temporary deals will last weeks into 2015, suggesting both parties are far from confident a long-term deal will be reached soon.

Almost 1000 pubs and clubs have been without vision of NSW and Victorian races for four days, but the sharp decline in turnover has been most keenly felt in the TAB’s retail outlets.

TVN rejected Sky’s offer to carry its vision in affected pubs and clubs over the weekend, mainly in regional areas that don’t have access to Fox Sports, which has agreed to show TVN on its platform.

Likewise, Sky scuppered any hopes of TVN adding an extra channel to its Foxtel service to ease the burden of the provincial and bush meetings it must now screen alongside its usual extended coverage of Sydney and Melbourne racing.

The stand-off has prompted questions about the financial viability of TVN, which is reliant on Sky’s funding to acquire vision rights.w

Despite Mann claiming the broadcaster could survive for six to 12 months without Tabcorp funding from Sky, it is believed TVN costs $18 million a year to operate and generates only $4 million in advertising.  “I don’t think the six to 12 months is the real issue,” Mann said. “Our stakeholders are happy to do whatever it takes [to secure long term future].”

Mann strongly denied claims the channel could last no longer than two months, given the amount of debt that will accumulate.

Fairfax Media also understands the racing broadcaster borrowed heavily some years ago to purchase media assets Winning Post and Best Bets and that debt is still on its books.

On Saturday, the four Victorian shareholders of TVN reinforced their resolve to maintain the media and vision rights in Victoria despite heavy lobbying that the rights should be turned over to the state’s governing body. The Sydney-based Australian Turf Club is the other part-owner of TVN.

Victorian Racing Minister Martin Pakula said he was hoping negotiations between both parties would see an outcome.

“I’m advised that negotiations are continuing and that RVL is working with the racing clubs to find a resolution,” he said.

“I’m also advised that the availability of visions in pubs and clubs is likely to improve over the next 48 hours.”

Pakula said he had been in contact with Racing Victoria and Tabcorp and was urging both parties to find temporary relief as soon as possible.

“I’ll be meeting the chairman and CEO of Racing Victoria [on] Monday and have asked them to provide a full status report,” he said.

The festive season is one of the busiest periods for the racing industry, which attempts to cash in on the entertainment dollar.

In NSW alone, metropolitan meetings have been scheduled for Christmas Eve, Boxing Day and December 27 while Randwick will also host a New Year’s Day program.

Six TAB meetings have been scheduled across both states on both Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.

TOPICS: High achiever sinks a low quipping comment

CLEVER KIDS: Merewether High School students Samara Thambar, Bridget Neave-Cowley, Cameron Allen, Rebecca Tyler, Emily Chen, Betrice Walker and Lydia Watson-Moore. Picture: Phil HearneOK. We’ll admit it.
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Our first thought when we saw Phil Hearne’s snap of the Hunter’s top HSC achievers on the Newcastle Herald website last week ran along the lines of, ‘‘whey, ladies’ man!’’

But only for a sec. At centre is Cameron Allan of Merewether High, who scored a cool 99.95for his Tertiary Admissions Rank. Everyone else in shot, keep in mind, also got over 99.

So you can understand why, when a Facebook commenter named Heath quipped beneath the photo, ‘‘Run! They just want your future money!’’, Cameron’s fellow high-achiever Lydia Watson-Moore was compelled to reply.

‘‘Ah yes good one Heath you nailed it, thanks, I have no aspirations with my 99.65 atar other than to pine for a male friend’s future wealth,’’ wrote Lydia.

Which was, as the kids say, a pretty good burn.

POPULAR: Kate Dundas-Sharrad stands proud as Princess Leia. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

KATE Dundas-Sharrad, the shy 12-year-old who dreaded her year six farewell but came as Princess Leia and owned it (Topics, December 20), is seriously impressing people.

Reader Kim McAlister was all praise after Kate reprised her role to visit sick kids at John Hunter Hospital.

‘‘We were in the Starlight room on Thursday and my 4-year-old daughter looked at Princess Leia with utter adoration,’’ reports Kim. ‘‘Up until now she has had a morbid, paralysing fear of dressed up characters and this lovely girl gave her the sweetest smile and made her day. Year 6 can be tough, I hope she always stands tall and stays true to herself.’’

And so say all of us. Speaking of frightening dress-ups, a young Topics was traumatised by the sight of a shopping centre Fat Cat (remember him?) removing his head and going for a smoke on his break. Staying in character is a serious responsibility, people.

COLOUR: A sea of floral tributes has swept across Martin Place, Sydney from outside the cafe where the siege took place. Picture: Louie Douvis

AMIR Rezapourmoghadammiyandabi might have the longest surname known to man.

He’s also an Iranian who lives in Newcastle, and wanted to speak up after the sad events of last week.

‘‘I would like to let you know that in solidarity with all Australians, Saturday afternoon, we as Iranian students of University of Newcastle did pay our respects to the victims of the Sydney siege and their families by travelling to Sydney and laying flowers on the memorial of the victims at Martin Place,’’ Amir tells us.

‘‘On behalf of fellow Iranian students of the UON, we express our sorrow and thoughtfulness of the tragedy. We also express our absolute condemnation of the terrorist attack.’’

All good mate. No-one (with half a brain) blames this on you.

THE build-up to Slide Month, the yet-to-be-confirmed dates in March when not one but two giant waterslides are rolled out to the delight of the (paying) Hunter public, has thrown up a bit of panic.

One of the slide companies that has been in talks with Lake Macquarie council was concerned by our report Newcastle City council is negotiating with another slide operator. What was going on? Had they been given the flick without being told?

Topics gently informed them these are two separate local government areas, both of which are booking slides. Crisis averted.

Tribunal: Obstetrician Dr Richard Reid a world expert, no risk to patients

Dr Richard ReidA FORMER Newcastle University associate professor who was suspended by the NSW Medical Council in July, and reinstated in October, was a ‘‘world expert in his field’’, said an appeal tribunal last week in its published decision.
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Gynaecologist and obstetrician Dr Richard Reid, 72, ‘‘enjoys the glowing support’’ of colleagues, said the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal after rejecting the Medical Council’s claim Dr Reid posed a risk to the public by using a ‘‘novel’’ mesh product to treat women with prolapse problems after childbirth.

Dr Reid’s use of Tissue Fixation System (TFS) genital mesh did not pose ‘‘any risk to the health or safety of any patient whether past or present, or likely to be any such risk to any future patient’’, the tribunal concluded after an appeal hearing on October 28.

One week later, on November 5, TFS mesh was one of the first three mesh products to be deregistered by the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration after its South Australian manufacturer failed to substantiate how the products complied with relevant standards.

The tribunal was told there were 14 complaints against Dr Reid between 2002 and 2014.

In 2011 the Medical Council imposed conditions on Dr Reid after a performance review panel found his professional performance was unsatisfactory. While assessors found he was ‘‘technically very skilful’’, certain aspects of his work procedures were said to be ‘‘experimental’’, the tribunal noted.

The tribunal expressed concern about the lack of information available to it at the October hearing to assess Dr Reid’s treatment of women with prolapse problems, compared with ‘‘the orthodox approach’’.

‘‘There is no information available to us that would allow us to make any informed decision about this controversy, and whether there are sufficient deficiencies in the approach and technique of (Dr Reid) to be able to characterise what he does as creating some relevant concern for the health and safety of his patients,’’ the tribunal said.

It accepted Dr Reid’s evidence that he had been unfairly labelled ‘‘overzealous’’.

The Medical Council had not provided any evidence to challenge the view of a number of doctors that Dr Reid was a world expert in his field, the tribunal said.

In November Dr Reid said he was relieved by the tribunal decision, because ‘‘medicine is my life’’.

A complainant with an outstanding Health Care Complaints Commission matter against Dr Reid criticised the Medical Council’s handling of the tribunal matter, and said it appeared to be ‘‘under-resourced and under-prepared’’.

Waratah shock Hamwicks with Twenty20 run chase

ON THE UP: City’s Ryan van Kemenade batting against University at Learmonth Park on Sunday. Picture: Dean OslandNEWCASTLE district cricket strugglers Waratah-Mayfield will head into the new year with renewed hope after beating Hamilton-Wickham on Sunday in the upset of the season.
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A day after losing outright to Toronto, Waratah (5-159) chased down Hamwicks’ 8-158 with three balls to spare at Passmore Oval to record their second Twenty20 win.

‘‘It really suits our style, I think, more than the longer version of the game,’’ Tahs captain James Rushford said.

‘‘We have a lot of aggressive batters, so it’s working out for us at the moment.’’

Opening batsman Dean Marjoribanks led the way for Waratah with 57. Earlier, Mark Dries (47) and Josh Trappel (41) made runs for Hamwicks.

The win means Waratah will qualify for the T20 finals if they defeat Wests in their final game on January 15.

The University debut of former NSW fast bowler Aaron Bird did not eventuate after he pulled out of the game against Newcastle City at Learmonth Park.

Uni (6-114) still defeated City (113), but it was far from convincing.

‘‘Aaron was playing up until a couple of days ago as he had work commitments and pulled out, which was very unfortunate,’’ Uni skipper Luke Bird said.

‘‘Hopefully we can get him for a game after Christmas.’’

City captain-coach Mitch Claydon made 30, including two massive sixes, one over the clubhouse and another into a nearby tennis court.

In reply, Uni were shaky at 5-69 after 13 overs following a freakish one-handed overhead catch by Bryce Garrett two metres inside the fence.

Garrett then followed the catch with a run out from deep mid on. But wayward bowling at the death and quality hitting by Tim Prescott (36 not out) delivered Uni victory in the 18th over.

At Townson Oval, Merewether (4-185) beat Cardiff-Boolaroo (8-148) thanks to Troy Goodwin’s unbeaten 95 off 54 balls.

Andrew Nicolai (78) pushed Toronto Workers (7-170) into equal fourth spot when he starred in a victory over Belmont (6-126) at Cahill Oval.

Anthony Hobson’s first appearance of the season for Wests (8-114) almost delivered the strugglers a shock win over Charlestown (7-125) at Kahibah Oval.

The former rep all-rounder turned umpire came to the crease in the 14th over when Wests were 6-53.

Hobson (55) belted three sixes and three boundaries to give Wests hope. But that was extinguished when Chris Connors (2-25) bowled Hobson in the 20th over.

Wallsend’s (7-123) slide continued at Wallsend Oval when Stockton-Raymond Terrace (5-126) chased down the target in 13.2 overs, due to power-hitting by Terry Crittenden (49) and Jeff Goninan (41 not out).

Nathan Hudson delivers on promise

Nathan HudsonWHEN Nathan Hudson made his Newcastle district cricket first-grade debut for Toronto Workers in 2009-10, the then 18-year-old arrived on the scene with big expectations.
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Making 292 not out, the highest score in the 125-year history of the association, in a Denis Broad Cup game guaranteed that.

After several seasons at Toronto and then Waratah-Mayfield and back again, the 24-year-old finally has delivered on that promise.

Hudson’s 113 against former club Waratah on Saturday formed the backbone of Toronto’s outright victory at Ron Hill Oval, moving the Lake Macquarie boys to equal fourth going into Christmas.

‘‘Once I got those big scores in the Denis Broad Cup when I came into first grade I copped a bit of stick, so it’s nice to get that 100 off the back,’’ Hudson said.

Hudson started the pre-season with Waratah but shifted back to Toronto on the eve of the first round.

‘‘I did the pre-season training with Waratah, but then my girlfriend got pregnant so we moved back to Morisset so I went back to Toronto,’’ he said.

‘‘Being back it feels like I’m where I need to be.’’

Toronto began day two at 0-52 in reply to Waratah’s 159.

Hudson and opening partner David McCredie (61) delivered first-innings points for the home side with an opening partnership of 171.

NSW Country batsman Greg Hunt (64) then partnered Hudson for another 70 runs to eventually take Toronto to a declaration of 4-249.

Former Waratah skipper Ashley Weekes backed up his 4-29 from the first innings by claiming 4-41 in the second dig to roll the visitors for 123, leaving Toronto 34 runs to chase for the outright win, which they achieved one wicket down.

At Lynn Oval, final pair Sam Jenkinson and Lincoln Melmeth edged past Belmont’s 127 to earn first-innings points for Stockton.

Stockton began the day at 9-121 and moved to 140 before Melmeth fell for 12. Jenkinson finished unbeaten on 54.

Belmont were 5-45 in the second innings before skipper Mark Littlewood (77 not out) guided the side to 9-183.

Hamilton-Wickham crushed Wests at No.1 Sportsground to take outright points.

Hamwicks were out for 191, a lead of 105.

That laid the platform for Matt Webber to stifle Wests with his nagging accuracy.

In a magnificent spell of 5-8, Webber destroyed Wests for 106, leaving Hamwicks just two runs to score for a second outright win.

In the one-day games, Merewether (185) beat Cardiff-Boolaroo at Cardiff Oval after a 50 from Troy Goodwin.

Cardiff’’s batsmen crumbled for 125 under the pressure of Mark Cameron (3-25) and Tim O’Neill (3-15).

Newcastle City (91) again misfired with the bat against Charlestown after being sent in at Kahibah Oval.

A hat-trick to City’s Rhys Gallen (4-16) reduced Charlestown to 3-0 early, but Sri Lankan Roscoe Thattil (39 not out) and Chris Connors (23 not out) steered the home side to victory at 5-93.

University (215) were comfortable winners over Wallsend (120) at Wallsend Oval due to half centuries from Matt Gawthrop (50) and Grant Stewart (56).

Tim Prescott claimed 5-17 for Uni to take his season tally to 32 wickets at 8.28.

One-match ban hangs over Steve Smith for slow over-rate

Steve Smith has a one-Test ban hanging over his head for the next 12 months, potentially affecting Australia’s Ashes defence, after his team was punished for a slow over-rate during the second Test in Brisbane.
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And for the second Test in a row an Indian player was found guilty of inappropriate conduct.

The International Cricket Council fined Smith 60 per cent of his match fee, or $8400, after match referee Jeff Crowe ruled Australia to be three overs short of its target.

Should Australia incur another minor over-rate offence in the next 12 months with Smith in charge he will be rubbed out for a Test. This could have implications for Australia’s campaign in England next year, particularly if Michael Clarke does not recover in time for the Ashes.

Not only would Australia be missing one of their best batsmen, they would also need to install another captain.

This should ensure Australia show more urgency between overs though the docking of 30 per cent — 10 per cent for each over — of each player’s match fee ($4200) will also act as a deterrent.

India was not punished though both sides regularly had drinks run out into the middle between overs.

Smith had been hoping officials would take into consideration the oppressive heat and humidity on day one, though the Australians believed they had been square with the over rate on that day.

That means they may have been punished for their tardiness on day four. They bowled only 23 overs in the first session. Ninety overs is the required number per day.

Coach Darren Lehmann expressed his frustration with slow over-rates after play on the first day though he said guests in corporate boxes and ground officials walking in front of sightscreens were also to blame along with players.

“There’s time-wasting going on everywhere. We’ve got to get better at that as a side,” Lehmann said.

India paceman Ishant Sharma was fined 15 per cent of his match fee for the send-off he gave Smith after claiming his wicket in the first innings.

He is the third Indian to be fined in this series, joining Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli, who, along with David Warner, were punished for indiscretions in Adelaide.

Kohli, however, escaped censure for his provocative celebrations at the fall of Shane Watson’s wicket in Australia’s first innings.

Call-up fans Olympic rugbyflame for Mollie Gray

RIO CHANCE: Mollie Gray is embracing her step up to the national Sevens team. GROWING up Mollie Gray dreamed of representing Australia at the Olympic Games in swimming.
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Four hours a day, six days a week she would follow the pool’s black line, churning out lap after lap.

A member of the Maitland Swimming Club, she also worked with a small squad at Kurri Kurri.

‘‘It is every sporty kids dream to go to the Olympics,’’ Gray said.

‘‘I wanted to be a swimmer and raced competitively until about 17, just before I finished high school.

‘‘I was a 100m freestyle and medley girl.

‘‘My idol was Ian Thorpe. I thought he was pretty cool because he had huge feet.

‘‘In the end it didn’t work out for me. School got in the road and then I joined the Army.’’

But Gray’s Olympic flame is burning brighter than ever.

A rugby oval has replaced the pool as her field of dreams.

Rugby Sevens and the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics is now the focus.

The 25-year-old back-rower is one of three new additions to the 2015 Sevens program – a contracted squad based in Narrabeen and funded by the Australian Rugby Union.

A proud member of the Australian Defence Force, Gray remains employed by the Australian Army but will train and play rugby full-time.

She completed her post at Singleton army base a fortnight ago and has relocated to Dee Why.

The squad, which includes fellow Novocastrian Tanisha Stanton, reassembles after a Christmas break on January 3.

‘‘I am so excited,’’ Gray said.

‘‘I did the induction program with RUPA a couple of weeks ago. We start training on January 3 with testing.’’

Gray’s selection follows a strong performance for the Wallaroos at the World Cup in France earlier this year in which she badly injured her knee.

‘‘I trained with the Sevens squad a couple of times before the World Cup and before we went over I was told I had been shortlisted for a contract,’’ she said. ‘‘When I got back and had the surgery I rang and asked if they were still interested in me.

‘‘The level of rehab I was going to do hinged on whether they wanted me.

‘‘They said they were still looking at me. I got stuck into the rehab. The last 16 weeks has been crazy. I have worked my butt off and am close to full fitness. I just need to play games.’’

The top four IRB ranked countries automatically qualify for the Rio Olympics.

Australia finished second, going down to New Zealand in the final, in the series opener in Dubai earlier this month.

Tournaments in Brazil from February 7, the US (March 14-15), Canada (April 18-19), England (May 15-16) and The Netherlands (May 22-23) await.

‘‘‘I have a lot of work ahead of me but the transition from playing No.8 in 15-a-side to Sevens is not too difficult,’’ Gray said. ‘‘There is a lot more running and conditioning. My training has changed but I still need to be a big forward.

‘‘My size, ball running and strength around the ruck are my main assets.’’

SIDELINES: Old Bull calls full-time at Herald

THEY didn’t come much tougher on the footy field than former Waratah-Mayfield, Canterbury, NSW Country and NSW lock Mike Trypas.
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But ‘‘Tryppa’’ showed his soft side in an emotional farewell with colleagues at the Newcastle Herald on Friday afternoon.

The big man had a steady supply of tissues coming his way as he called full-time on his career in the Herald’s advertising department.

His 40 years on the job made him the paper’s longest-serving current employee.

Tryppa, pictured above with cartoonist Peter Lewis, was a regular visitor to the Herald sport department.

The thoughts and perspectives of the ‘‘Old Bull’’ on rugby league and life in general were always appreciated and will be missed.

All the best for a well earned retirement, Tryppa.

THE hunt is on for the 35 men who represented the Knights in their inaugural year to take centre stage at Newcastle’s 2015 NRL season-opener against the Warriors at Hunter Stadium.

The game was scheduled for a 4.30pm kick-off on Saturday, March 7, when the NRL issued the draw last Monday, allowing Knights and Once-A-Knight Old Boys officials to proceed with plans to host a reunion of the 1988 ‘‘originals’’ for the first game of the new season.

The Old Boys hatched that plan as part of a strategy to help the Knights reconnect with the community.

‘‘It’s worked out well, with the 4.30 Saturday afternoon kick-off, especially being against the Warriors, so that should all fit in nicely for that first home game to drive a bit of emotion,’’ Knights director of football and former coach and captain Michael Hagan said.

Old Boys president John Laut, the 1988 team manager, said Hagan and Knights coach Rick Stone had supported the idea from the outset.

There have also been preliminary discussions about an after-match function for fans to attend, and for some of the Old Boys to join the current squad at training the day before the game.

‘‘At this stage, I couldn’t see any reason now why it won’t go ahead,’’ Laut said.

‘‘I know Rick Stone and Michael Hagan see this as very important and something they want to see happen, so now we’re just endeavouring to pull it all together and we’re trying to get the ball rolling before Christmas.’’

Laut has made contact with some of the club’s New Zealand players from that season, including foundation skipper Sam Stewart, James Goulding, George Mann, Tony Kemp, Charlie McAlister and Tea Ropati.

‘‘With the New Zealand connection we had in that first team, it’s rather fitting that this first game of the season will be against the Warriors,’’ Laut said.

Laut has given hooker Tony Townsend the job of finding former outside back Brian Quinton, who has lost contact with the Old Boys committee.

The Knights used 36 players that season, but prop Adrian Shelford, who played five games that year, died of a heart attack in England in 2003, aged 39.

FORMER Knights fullback Darius Boyd is now an outside chance of making a return to Hunter Stadium with former Newcastle coach Wayne Bennett and the Broncos next season.

When Boyd tore his Achilles tendon at training this month, it was feared he would be sidelined for nine months and miss almost the entire 2015 season, but after surgery last week he now hopes to back in six and play a part in State of Origin.

In an article posted on the Broncos website last week, Boyd said he hoped to be playing again in late May or early June.

The Knights host Brisbane at Hunter Stadium on Monday, May 25, two days before the first game of the Origin series at ANZ Stadium on May 27.

Should he have returned by then and proved his fitness to Maroons coach Mal Meninga, Boyd will miss that game because he and any other Origin players will be stood down.

But if he is only just finding his feet with an eye towards Origin games two and three, that could indeed be a possible comeback match for the enigmatic 27-year-old international.

‘‘I won’t really know for sure until I get up walking and running, but I think six months is realistic,’’ Boyd said in the article. ‘‘I spoke to the anaesthetist before the op and he said the tendon wasn’t too badly torn apart, so that was good to hear.’’

KNIGHTS winger James McManus is settling into fatherhood.

McManus and wife Eshia welcomed their first daughter, Emelyn Aisla, nine weeks ago.

‘‘Like any new parent, you have your good nights and your rough nights, and just when you feel like you’re starting to get yourself together, they go and change it up on you,’’ McManus said.

‘‘But she’s great. I’m a lucky man, so I couldn’t be happier.’’

McManus, whose mother Rosemary and stepfather Rod Mackrill have moved from the Northern Territory to Newcastle to be closer to him and his young family, said he would spend Emelyn’s first Christmas at home.

ROLLER-COASTER is the only way to describe the week of former Jets winger Craig Goodwin.

The one-time KFC employee had to sit out Adelaide’s 1-0 FFA Cup final triumph over Perth Glory on Tuesday, his 23th birthday, because he had played for the Jets in the early rounds.

Recalled to the Adelaide starting side for the battle against the Jets on Friday night, Goodwin bobbed up with an equaliser only for Jeronimo to grab a late winner for his former side.

THE retirement of NBN television sports guru and man with the best moustache in the business Mike Rabbitt took most, including Sidelines, by surprise.

Rabbs has covered, called, promoted or been at every major sporting event from the Hawkesbury to the Tweed in the past 30 years.

It didn’t seem right that he would sign off without a fitting farewell.

The folk at NBN helped Rabbs celebrate his career with a shindig after his final shift this month.

The rest of the Hunter’s sport fans now have an opportunity to do likewise.

The Newcastle Jockey Club will host a ‘‘farewell to Mike Rabbitt’’ at its Australia Day weekend race meeting on January 24.

Rabbs will host a function in the pavilion. The cost is $1350 for a table of 10, which includes food and drinks.

Proceeds go to Rabbs’ favourite charity, the Westpac rescue chopper.

Contact the NJC for details.

NEWCASTLE City have had little to celebrate this summer.

One win in 10 rounds has left the club equal last with Waratah-Mayfield on the Newcastle district cricket first-grade ladder.

But seamer Rhys Gallen gave the City boys a much-needed boost on Saturday when he claimed a hat-trick against Charlestown.

Gallen had Jackson Mace caught behind for a duck and skipper Dane Macourt leg before first ball.

He completed the hat-trick when he bowled Chris Rendina with the first ball of his third over.

The hat-trick left Charlestown 3-0.

They fell to 4-3 when Gallen dismissed Daniel Arms.

But Charlestown (5-93) recovered to win the match by five wickets.

Gallen finished with 4-15 off 10 overs.