Take three reviews: Relativity, In the Quiet, Six Degrees

Relativity By Antonia Hayes Viking, $32.99. Twelve-year-old Ethan is obsessed with physics, quantum mechanics and black holes. He lives with his mother in Sydney and is becoming increasingly curious about his missing father. When his dad returns home, and the reason he left is revealed, there’s a reaction of sorts, and the family is brought together again. A compelling story of love and science, with characters who will touch you, frustrate you, and make you laugh. You’ll learn more about physics than you did at school, whether you like it or not, and you’ll learn a lot about family and love and forgiveness.
Shanghai night field

In the Quiet By Eliza Henry-Jones Fourth Estate, $29.99. I often wonder what it would be like to step away from your family and to watch them from afar; to notice the details of everyday life and how they go about their day when you aren’t there. Cate does that here. The only trouble is, she’s dead, now keeping watch over her husband and her three young children, as they come to terms with their lives without her. This had the potential to go very bad, but Henry-Jones, in her debut novel, has structured a glorious book that will make you cry, guaranteed. But it’s also uplifting and tender. A surprise find.

Six Degrees By Honey Brown Ventura, $29.95. Can we rename this 50 Shades of the Australian Bush? Brown has written six subtly connected short stories that put sexual attraction in the spotlight, with chapters tantalisingly entitled Threesome, Two Women, Older, Younger, Two Men and First Time. Within that, Brown has managed to write engaging stories, with engaging characters who defy cliche. The female characters, in particular, are strong, sexual women and that makes a change in this genre. Brown takes the concept of rural romance to a new erotic level.

Read More …

Easy Weeknight Meals recipes for those what-to-cook blues

Serves 4-5 Italian beef ragu with parsley pasta
Shanghai night field


2 tbsp olive oil 1 onion, finely diced 1 carrot, peeled and finely diced 2 stalks celery, diced 2  tsp finely chopped rosemary leaves 2 cloves garlic, chopped 600g beef chuck steak, cut into 4cm pieces 2  tbsp tomato paste 1 x 400g can crushed tomatoes 1½ cups beef stock 1-2  tbsp balsamic vinegar


500g fresh pasta (tagliatelle, pappardelle, spaghetti; or 320g-400g dried pasta)knob of butter ¾ cup finely chopped parsley

To serve:

1 head broccoli, cut into florets ½ cup shaved parmesan

Preheat oven to 160C, or you can use a slow cooker. Heat the olive oil in a large ovenproof pan, flameproof casserole dish or Dutch oven on medium heat. Cook onion, carrot, celery, rosemary and garlic for 3–5 minutes, until softened.

Add beef, tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, stock and balsamic vinegar. Bring to a simmer, cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook in oven for about 2 hours or until meat is tender. Alternatively, if you are using a slow cooker, add everything to the slow cooker and cook on high for 4 hours, or on low for 8 hours.

When meat is almost cooked, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Cook pasta for 4-5 minutes or until al dente (just cooked). Scoop out ¼ cup of pasta cooking water before draining pasta. Tip pasta back into pot, along with reserved pasta water, and stir through butter and parsley.

Lightly steam or boil broccoli for a few minutes until bright green and tender. Season beef ragu to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

To serve, spoon some pasta and ragu into bowls and sprinkle shaved parmesan on top. Serve with steamed broccoli on the side. Mushroom, leek and butternut pot pies

Serves 4-5

Pot pies:

1 tbsp olive oil 1 large leek, trimmed and chopped 2 stalks celery, sliced 500g butternut, peeled and cut into 2cm cubes 2 cloves garlic, crushed 2 tbsp chopped thyme leaves 500g mushrooms (a mixture), quartered 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce ½  cup cream 1 sheet puff pastry 1 egg, beaten

Broccoli and beans:

200g green beans 1 head broccoli, cut into small florets balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil, to drizzle

Preheat oven to 200C. Heat olive oil in a large pan on medium heat. Cook leek, celery, butternut, garlic and thyme until butternut is soft and leek is beginning to caramelise, about 8 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook for a further 3–4 minutes, then stir in Worcestershire sauce and cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Tip into a large baking dish, or into 4–5 medium-sized ramekins (about 1½ cups capacity) for individual servings. Cut puff pastry to size to fit your baking dish or ramekins and place pastry on top of vegetables, allowing a little pastry to hang over the edges. Brush with beaten egg and prick a few holes in the top of the pastry with a fork or tip of a knife. Bake for 15–20 minutes or until pastry is puffed and golden.

Bring a medium pot of salted water to the boil. When pie(s) are cooked, add beans and broccoli to boiling water and cook for about 2 minutes until bright green and just tender. Drain and toss with a little balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

To serve: Cut pie into pieces or place each ramekin on a plate. Serve with green beans and broccoli on the side. Thyme-stuffed chicken, butternut and spinach with mushroom sauce

Serves 4-5


4 boneless chicken breasts (skin on) 3 cloves garlic, minced 2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme leaves 30g softened butter

Butternut and spinach:

800-900g butternut (skin on), cut in half lengthways and cut into 1 cm-thick slices 1½ tbsp maple syrup or runny honey 1 tbsp olive oil 4-5 cups baby spinach leaves or chopped spinach

Mushroom sauce:

¼  cup white wine 1 tbsp olive oil 1 onion, diced 250g button mushrooms, stalks removed and quartered 1 tbsp soy sauce ½  cup cream juice of ½  lemon

Preheat oven to 200C. Line an oven tray with baking paper.

Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Mix garlic, thyme and butter together. Divide flavoured butter into four and push under the skin of each chicken breast, distributing the butter evenly by squishing it around with your fingers.

Season chicken breasts with salt. Heat a drizzle of oil in a large pan on medium heat. Add chicken,  skin side down, and cook for 3 minutes or until skin is golden brown. Flip breasts over and transfer to a roasting dish (but don’t wash the pan).

Lay butternut pieces on prepared oven tray and drizzle over maple syrup or honey and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast chicken and butternut in oven for about 25 minutes or until chicken is cooked through (when the juices from the chicken run clear when pierced with a knife) and butternut is soft and slightly caramelised. Remove chicken from oven and leave to rest in roasting dish while you make the sauce.

Place the same pan you cooked the chicken in back on medium heat. Add wine to hot pan and use a wooden spoon to rub the bottom of the pan to release pan brownings into the liquid while the wine bubbles away. Add olive oil and cook onion until soft, 3–4 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook for a further 2–3 minutes. Add soy sauce, cream and lemon juice. Simmer sauce for 2–3 minutes until slightly thickened (it will thicken more as it cools).

Wash spinach and shake off excess water. Scatter spinach on top of butternut and return to oven until spinach has wilted, 2–3 minutes.

To serve: Divide butternut and spinach between plates, top with a chicken breast and spoon over sauce.

Read More …

Women’s Ashes 2015: CA wants to replicate England success in attracting crowds

Sydney Thunder recruit Alex Blackwell in the Thunder strip. Photo: Supplied
Shanghai night field

Sydney Thunder recruit Alex Blackwell in the Thunder strip. Photo: Supplied

Sydney Thunder recruit Alex Blackwell in the Thunder strip. Photo: Supplied

England’s success at attracting healthy crowds to women’s Ashes matches, and bolstering the atmosphere of them by playing at small venues, is strengthening Australia’s aim to do the same next time they host the series.

Crowds in excess of 3000 attended the first two matches of the series, in Taunton and Bristol. Southern Stars veteran Alex Blackwell, who is nearing her 200-match milestone for Australia, said the former was the best crowd atmosphere she had played in front of, while England’s Georgia Elwiss said in Taunton it felt like they had been playing in front of a 20,000-strong crowd.

Expectations were high of a similar result in the third match of the series in Worcester, although adverse weather could thwart the match going ahead.

The last time Australia hosted the women’s Ashes, in 2013-14, the one-dayers were played in front of sparse crowds at the MCG and Blundstone Arena in Hobart, with the three Twenty20s played as part of double-headers before the men’s matches, at Blundstone Arena, the MCG and ANZ Stadium. The Test was played at the WACA Ground in Perth.

Cricket Australia executive general manager for team performance Pat Howard attended the second match at Bristol’s County Ground. He said while CA remained keen to host Twenty20s in conjunction with men’s matches, in the hope crowds will arrive early to watch the women play, he highlighted North Sydney, Hurstville and Canberra as the type of venues which could provide great atmosphere for one-day internationals, especially women’s Ashes matches. Melbourne’s Junction Oval is also likely to be refurbished in time to be in hosting contention for the 2017-18 women’s Ashes series.

“There are a few games coming up where we can do what’s happened here, which is a real compliment to the ECB on what we’ve seen in Taunton and Bristol,” Howard said.

While elite women’s cricket is more widely popular in England than it is in Australia – the Southern Stars’ success at major tournaments has bolstered the latter – Howard said it was “absolutely” possible to attract the kind of crowds England have been attracting in this series.

“For us to be able to get those is going to be a really positive part of how we grow the game,” he said.

Beyond women’s cricket, Howard said CA wanted to get better at hosting elite domestic matches outside of traditional venues, and instead at boutique or regional venues.

“We want to be able to take cricket to other places. The capitals get a lot of international cricket but we can take some domestic cricket – at the appropriate times – to regional places,” he said.

A rough template is likely to see states encouraged to host matches at Test venues before Christmas, the time generally the most crucial for Test selection, and experiment with new venues in the second half of the season. The upcoming season will feature NSW and Western Australia playing a Sheffield Shield match in New Zealand, effectively in lieu of a practice match for Australia before their Test series there.

“The other factor, from a high-performance side, is I want and CA wants the next [in line for international selection to get experience at Test venues]. If you’re going to play Sheffield Shield, and that’s your key to playing for Australia, you need to get used to playing at the MCG, you need to play on the SCG,” he said.

“There’s got to be a balance there, so both of those things [preparing players for Tests and growing the game] are achieved.”

The reporter is covering the women’s Ashes with the support of Cricket Australia

Read More …

Australian racing marvel Star Of Universe set for reluctant retirement

End of the line: Star Of Universe with Sophie Young in the saddle. Photo: Racing NSWAustralia’s oldest racehorse was foaled just as the Olympic Games rolled out of old Sydney town and will only this week run into a retirement best described as reluctant.
Shanghai night field

At least that is if you ask the former mayor of Mudgee. He is the bloke, 71 years of age, who has been campaigning – in both the racing and protesting sense – for more than a decade with Star Of Universe, a marvel of Australian racing.

Keeping the hopes of a dispirited farmer up in the midst of a drought and providing bundles of joy to the family of said ex-councillor Percy Thompson and all of his five children, 22 grandchildren and a couple of great grandchildren to boot.

“They brought in a rule to try to stop [Don] Bradman, they brought in a rule to try to stop Walter Lindrum and now they’ve brought in a rule to stop Star Of Universe,” Thompson jokes of a recent saying told to him by a local broadcaster.

And sadly Star Of Universe, due to turn 15 years old on Saturday, the horses’ birthday, is going to be stopped by the rule book.

Owing to animal welfare concerns in a sport which has also been grappling with the recent cobalt scandal, powerbrokers have introduced a rule next season forcing the mandatory retirement of all racehorses after their 12-year-old season.

There are only a few still going around that fit the bill, but the Gulgong gelding is the most celebrated.

It meant Star Of Universe would run his last race some time last week, but that proved a challenge. He was balloted from Gilgandra last Saturday, then Warren on Monday was called off. It left only a couple of days and meetings where he could possibly run.

He was entered at Tamworth in a 2100-metre race on Friday but was made fourth emergency, Thompson’s back-up of a 1400m at Canberra on Friday shapes as his final appearance at the races, on the final day of the 2014-15 season and the final day he is eligible to compete.

Thompson has trained the horse for all bar his last five starts when Star Of Universe has been under the care of his son and former publican Brett because of a rule prohibiting country race club committee members holding a training licence.

Thompson is also the president of the Gulgong Turf Club – and he can’t find anyone else to do the job.

And he just wants to enjoy Star Of Universe, the horse he thought he would lose as a sick foal, one more time.

“We’ve got to try to give him a run somewhere and I can’t see why if they’re still competitive and sound enough to race [why they can’t keep going?],” said Thompson.

“[Brett’s] going to try him out as a lead horse and he’s a beautiful horse to ride, like a rocking horse. Otherwise we might bring him out here and I’ll look after him, but he likes being in the stable though.”

He has been passed fit to race by veterinarians before each of his starts, now totalling an incredible 195, in latter years. But it hasn’t been enough to allow him to race on.

Star Of Universe has won races all over the bush – from back-to-back Somerton cups at Gunnedah at odds greater than 40-1 each time and the Louth Cup, where most racegoers chopper in to the track – but has been out of the winners’ circle since April last year.

It doesn’t matter to his favourite horseman though, a former jockey and bull rider who once rode a 16-year-old horse to two wins at the one race meeting. Thompson has loved proving people wrong with his old mate who has won more than $160,000 after 21 career wins.

“I told mates of mine I reckoned he would win [last year’s Somerton Cup],” Thompson recalled. “One bloke told another fella and the reply was, ‘he won’t win, he’s nearly as old as Percy’. He left the pub to go to the service station and by the time he got there he was listening on the wireless and he won.”

The last laugh? That went to Star Of Universe’s wily old trainer. “I had $300 each-way on him too,” he said.

He might do it again for old time’s sake.

Read More …

Fatal bomb blast in Portland, NSW: Terrorism dismissed, ‘ill-will’ investigated

The scene of the fatal explosion in Portland, near Lithgow. Photo: Shannon Bellamy Authorities congregate in Portland after a bomb blast killed a man. Photo: Carmel Houlison, Lithgow Mercury
Shanghai night field

Debris is collected after an explosion at Portland. Photo: Lithgow Mercury

A neighbourhood dispute is being investigated by police as a possible trigger behind the bomb blast that killed a greyhound trainer on Friday.

John Burrows, 58, was killed by an explosion after he opened the garage door of his rear shed in Portland, in Central Western NSW.

As the small rural town awoke yesterday to the shock realisation that a man-made explosive device may have been deliberately detonated in their own community, police told residents that there was no suggestion of any “broader connotations” such as terrorism, adding that investigators were treating it as a “local, isolated incident”.

NSW Police set up Strike Force Avail yesterday, comprising officers from the homicide and arson squads and Chifley Local Area Command, to investigate the “suspicious” death.

Chifley Local Area Command crime manager Detective Inspector Luke Rankin confirmed police were aware of a “history of ill will”.

He said: “Any sort of issues that the victim might have been experiencing, in the present or the past, are being explored as we continue our investigations.

“It’s a small community in which everybody knows one another. We’ve received a good flow of information from the community, which we are exploring.”

It was shortly before sunrise on Friday that residents in Portland reported a “very loud explosion”.

Moments later, joggers discovered a badly burnt and injured man lying on the roadway. Mr Burrows had opened his garage door in Wolgan Street, then was hurled off the premises into the adjacent Church Lane. Despite attempts by paramedics to save him, he died at the scene.

Inspector Rankin confirmed that while combing the scene, police discovered the remains of an “improvised explosive device”. The NSW Police Rescue and Bomb Disposal unit were dispatched to the scene; yesterday, a crime scene remained in place.

A nearby resident, June Lane, who went to school with Mr Burrows’ mother, said the blast had sounded like “thunder” but when she peered out of the window, she realised “there was no storm”.

She said she has known Mr Burrows, his wife, Shirley, and their adult children for decades.

“He was so friendly, he was such a lovely fellow, this is the last thing I’d ever think would happen to him,” she said.

[email protected]上海夜网m.au

Read More …

CBA still stalled but soccer union and FFA set for further talks

The players union and soccer’s governing body, the FFA, have still to resolve their impasse over the new CBA nearly a month after the previous agreement expired.
Shanghai night field

The salary cap freeze for the next two years has been the major sticking point, while the players also believe that the FFA is being too restrictive in tying any future increase on the current $2.55 million cap to the increase in the next TV rights deal.

The players want 30 per cent of the revenue of the total game to be funnelled into player wages, while the FFA has offered to lock in a 30 per cent share for the players of any rise in the next TV broadcast deal.

The game’s governing body says it simply cannot afford to be more generous, that clubs are doing it tough, that many players are earning more than they might have expected to and the game as a whole needs to tighten its belt until it can generate higher revenues through a better television rights contract.

In addition, it has offered other discretionary areas within the new agreement where increased wages can be paid, but as they are discretionary, not every club is guaranteed, or has to, pay them – something the union believes could institutionalise the haves and have-nots.

According to the PFA, the players union, locking a salary cap rise to the TV deal is too narrow a focus.

In a position paper earlier this month, Adam Vivian, the union’s chief executive, said: “In essence they are committed only to sharing broadcast revenue and no other revenue stream despite the obvious impact that the players have on this and the role they are willing to play in increasing them. In essence the players are not incentivised to grow the game because they will not share in the wealth that their efforts generate.”

The FFA is reluctant to clinch a long-term deal guaranteeing salary cap rises because it has not signed a new TV agreement. It is unsure of the sponsorship and marketing landscape over the next few years and does not want to commit its clubs, many of which are struggling, to meet cost pressures it cannot service.

Meanwhile, top Australian players are leaving the A-League for better-paying Asian clubs, something the union claims is linked to the stagnation in the salary cap.

Players such as former Melbourne Victory skipper and current Socceroo Mark Milligan quit to go to the Middle East this month, although he, as the club’s marquee player, was not paid under the cap.

Others to have moved in recent times include Socceroo centre-back Matthew Spiranovic (Western Sydney to Hangzhou Greentown in China), Roar’s championship-winning captain Matt Smith (Brisbane to Bangkok Glass), Melbourne Victory’s title-winning defender Adrian Leijer to Chongqing Lifan in China, Nathan Burns from Wellington to FC Tokyo in the J-League, and Mitch Duke from Central Coast to Shimuzu S Pulse in Japan.

Undoubtedly some players do go for extra money, although some will be moving for career reasons, to put themselves in the shop window in better-known competitions such as the J-League. The PFA argues that if the salary cap continues to be frozen this trend may increase.

The union and the FFA do maintain a dialogue, however, and further talks are expected this week.

Read More …

Bishop controversy subsides and nothing has changed

Speaker of the House Bronwyn Bishop has come under fire for abusing taxpayer-funded entitlements.Clayton Long was preparing the business class cabin for take-off when rumour began to spread. Something was wrong; a passenger was causing a stir at the gate.
Shanghai night field

It was the year 2000, or thereabouts. Long was a Qantas flight attendant for 27 years, so it’s not surprising he can’t remember the precise date of this particular Perth to Sydney flight. But he’s adamant he remembers how it unfolded.

“We were told that the plane was going to be delayed,” Long says. “We weren’t told the exact reason at the time. It stretched out a little bit. Then we were told it was Bronwyn Bishop causing the problem.”

The way Long tells it, the delay stretched on for 10 minutes and then 20. Everyone else was on the plane and wanted to know: what the hell was going on?

“It was because she didn’t get the seat that she prefers. She likes the front row of business class,” Long says. “But business class was full with the exception of two seats. She was given the seat with no one next to her but she still wasn’t happy.”

After half an hour or so Bishop was finally coaxed on board, Long says. If she didn’t take her assigned seat the plane would leave without her.

“She made her displeasure very clear when she got on to the aircraft,” Long says.

Long was the senior attendant and his underlings were visibly scared of this formidable woman. He decided he’d give Bishop, then a Howard government minister, the best personal service he could in an effort to smooth things over.

It didn’t go well.

“She wouldn’t take anything. She was like a spoilt child,” he says. “I just thought it was incredible. She’s paid by the Australian taxpayer. To even get into her mind that she’s entitled to a particular seat just floors me.”

Long retired from Qantas a decade ago. While the airline frowns upon staff – current and former – speaking to the media, he says he felt compelled to tell his story when news broke last week of Bishop’s now notorious chopper charter.

Long admits he’s never been a Coalition supporter and Bishop’s spokesman, Damien Jones, denies the story. “We take whatever seats we’re given,” he says.

But if Long’s account is true, it’s yet another illustration – as if we needed one – that Bishop long ago lost touch with the people she is supposed to represent.

Not that it seems to matter. While stories of Bishop’s profligacy have emerged almost every day since the chopper story broke, her position as Speaker now appears safe.

For a moment there – after Treasurer Joe Hockey threw her to the wolves and public anger was at its peak – it seemed as if she might be in trouble. But we should have known better: Bishop’s nothing if not a survivor.

Her public reputation has been shredded but she has something more valuable: the seemingly unshakeable loyalty of Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Unless the Department of Finance decides to refer her expenses back to the Australian Federal Police for a criminal investigation – an extremely unlikely scenario at this point – Abbott will continue to stand by her and she will be in the Speaker’s chair when Parliament resumes in a few weeks.

That will be bad for our already diminished Parliament.

Australians don’t take Bishop seriously and won’t take the Parliament seriously so long as she’s in the chair. Why should they respect an institution run by a woman who so blatantly disrespects them and their money?

More troubling though is the fact that this whole controversy is unlikely to lead to any changes to the clearly broken parliamentary entitlements system.

Abbott and Bill Shorten aren’t proposing to do a thing. Abbott just wants the issue to go away, as it has in the past. Shorten was hoping for a political scalp but doesn’t appear to have any appetite for meaningful change.

Independent senator Nick Xenophon, on the other hand, has proposed sensible changes that would curb some of the excess and reduce the risk of rorts. Abbott and Shorten should give his proposals serious thought.

Under his plan, politicians would be policed by an independent expenses umpire and would have to pay back double the value of incorrectly claimed entitlements. They’d also have to report travel details every 30 days – instead of every six months – and pay at least half the cost of their travel if there is any party political business involved.

Xenophon’s blueprint would also prohibit politicians from travelling business class on short flights.

But never fear Bronwyn, we all know Nick’s plan is doomed without the support of the major parties. So yes, private luxury charter flights may be off the table for a little while at least but business class is OK isn’t it?

As long as you get the seat you want.

Read More …

Australian goalkeeper Mat Ryan has the depth to make the La Liga grade at Valencia

Making it big: Socceroos goalkeeper Mat Ryan. Photo: Brendan Esposito Making it big: Socceroos goalkeeper Mat Ryan. Photo: Brendan Esposito
Shanghai night field

Making it big: Socceroos goalkeeper Mat Ryan. Photo: Brendan Esposito

Making it big: Socceroos goalkeeper Mat Ryan. Photo: Brendan Esposito

Valencia’s Australian recruit Mat Ryan’s first taste of Spanish football was against their national team, the then defending World Cup champions, and it was brutal.

They scored three goals and the Socceroos keeper walked off Brazil’s Arena da Baixada Curitiba feeling raw …  raw in emotions and rookie raw.

The 23-year-old now faces the prospect of matching his reflexes and the skills that have linked him in the past to some of the world’s biggest clubs against the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo  in the week-to-week adrenaline rush of playing for La Liga team Valencia.

“Looking back I can’t help but to feel I was really raw for that level,” said Ryan of the 2014 World Cup campaign that made him a star. “Spain was my third game at that level and obviously it’s been well documented how much of a learning curve that was for me.

“I just remember thinking a thousand things as I walked off after each game in Brazil. I’d wished I’d made this save … we all go through the thought process where we’ll be the hero of the day where we’ll make big saves and produce Tim Cahill moments – you know, stand up and deliver for your country.

“All of us dream of that and walking off the pitch I would feel grateful for the experience to think about the great players I’d been up against – players you grow up watching play in the great leagues – but there was always a lot of feelings.”

Ryan said even though he’d often be wishing that he’d been the hero he appreciated that he was being blooded and as tough as some of the lessons were they toughened him.

“Anyone starting out has to learn, no matter what it is,” he said. “Obviously I was a professional footballer but I had never witnessed anything like that level before – it was an eye-opener and from talking to Timmy and Mile Sterjovski they told me there was no game that tests you like a World Cup match.

“And that taste of it went into my game at Club Brugge in Belgium and in the international friendlies against Belgium and Germany.  I realised I’d learned a lot from it and I improved, I became more consistent and that learning curve helped me get to where I am today. I want to keep going and hopefully the good times keep rolling.”

Ryan has signed a six-year-deal said to be worth $10million to play for Valencia and upon signing his contract he was warned by club officials the fans would want to know everything there was to know about him.

The Australian media’s coverage of his signing with them has been monitored and reported on over there and hours after he signed on the dotted line a Spanish television crew took a shirtless photograph of him to a beach and interrupted women from sunbaking to rate his abdominal muscles. They received a resounding “maravilloso” – as in wonderful.

However, it’s what’s deep within Ryan that will win him hearts in the La Liga. His determination to succeed at all costs is what’s helped him rise through the ranks from Blacktown City to the World Cup as a raw 22-year-old, goalie of the tournament at the Asian Cup earlier this year, voted Belgium’s best shot-stopper two-years running and now a matador between the sticks.

Ryan has long had a single-minded focus to make it and testimony to his stoic nature was when he was a member of the Central Coast A-League championship-winning team he lived in a caravan because he wanted to focus on his football and not be distracted by nice furnishings and luxuries. The last athlete to choose that mode of accommodation for the same reason was Test cricketer Glenn McGrath who, when he moved to Sydney from Narromine 23 years ago, spent his Friday evenings bowling at a single stump in the cricket nets because he was in Sydney for a reason – and it wasn’t to party.

The footballer, who was raised by his single-mother in Sydney’s western suburbs, had long pinpointed Spain as the place where he wanted to play. It was the country of his childhood hero, the Spanish goalkeeper Aker Casillas, who played for Real Madrid.

“The Spanish competition was always one I hoped I could be part of one day,” he said. “As the negotiations continued every point felt good and I took the opportunity to join. Growing up as a kid it was Casillas for me, he was someone I followed closely. He’s just moved to Portugal but to be where he played … and to think about the players I’ll be facing, the teams I’ll be up against …  it’s still pretty surreal to think I’m here.”

While Ryan was enjoying the sea breezes and the 30-degree temperature he couldn’t help but spare a thought for his old Club Brugge and it said a lot about his character and what drives him.

“Club Brugge gave me my opportunity in Europe in a league where big clubs come circling,” he said. “We were fortunate enough to win the Belgium Cup last season and to qualify for the quarter-finals of the Europa League.

“But it doesn’t sit well with me that I wasn’t able to help them win a title, That’s why you play.”

It’s an approach that the Valencia fans will undoubtedly embrace.

Read More …

Australian sevens player says Brumbies’ Henry Speight can help win Olympic gold

Sevens forward Tom Cusack says Henry Speight can help lift Australia from fifth in the world to winning an Olympic gold medal.
Shanghai night field

ACT Brumbies chief executive Michael Jones says they were happy to lose Speight for a possible Super Rugby finals campaign next season to help that bid for gold – a season that will start against the Wellington Hurricanes at Canberra Stadium.

He expects to have the Brumbies list finalised by the end of the week and Fairfax Media believes that will include David Pocock’s re-signing plus the announcement of a replacement for France-bound halfback Nic White.

Canberra’s Cusack has been part of the sevens program for the past three years and said Speight was an exciting signing – even if it meant some of the long-term members of the squad miss out on their Olympic dream.

The fifth-ranked Australians need to win an Oceania Olympic qualifying tournament at the end of the year to earn a spot at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Speight won’t join the squad until after that and will play three tournaments – Sydney, Hong Kong and London – while also playing at least seven Super Rugby games for the Brumbies.

The Fijian flyer grew up playing the sevens and starred for the Brumbies when they won the World Club Sevens in London in 2013.

Cusack said the Speight effect would be twofold – firstly his pace and power will be a crucial cog in their bid for gold, and secondly he will lift the players around him.

He said the increased competition for places would push the entire squad and raise the profile of the sport.

Cusack said Wallabies five-eighth Quade Cooper, who will focus solely on sevens next year, would “slot in nicely” and “the more the merrier” when it came to high-profile signings.

“With the inclusion of Henry, and maybe a few others, we’ll hopefully be able to crack the top three and, come Olympic time, the gold,” Cusack said.

“I think [he can make the difference]. To have him as an individual in the program is amazing, but it what it does to the rest of the players that are already full-time will be another thing.

“We’re only going to get better and better with the inclusion of Henry and others … what he has to offer to the game is going to be beneficial in the long run.”

Speight was contracted to the Brumbies until the end of 2016, when the Australian Rugby Union came knocking to bring him into the sevens program.

Jones said the fact Speight was able to play at least seven Super Rugby games next season was crucial in the hybrid contract going ahead.

He said the Brumbies wouldn’t normally sign a three-year deal, but this was a “win, win, win all round”.

Jones supported Speight’s bid for gold, but he quashed rumours Brumbies playmaker Matt Toomua would also be joining the sevens program next year.

“We’re trying to support the ARU and the Australian sevens win a gold medal,” he said.

“We took the long-game view [of locking Speight in until 2018] and also it provides an opportunity for some of the other guys to get more game time and  … we’ve pretty much locked up the squad for next year, Pocock is the only one we’ve got to finalise.”

Jones said he was excited about next season.

They’ll have eight home games, including an Anzac clash against the Canterbury Crusaders at Canberra Stadium and the new Japan side, but Jones was unsure how many of those will be afternoon games.

The Brumbies will also play the Cape Town Stormers and the Free State Cheetahs on their South Africa tour.

“We’re just liking the draw. Some teams you look at it and go, ‘That’s a tough gig’ – a lot of travelling back-to-back – and we just lucked out this this,” Jones said.

“So I’m expecting next year we’re going to get a tough one.”

Read More …

Vendors almost double their money at Ringwood East auction on Saturday

15 Marwarra Street, RINGWOOD EAST: This simple three-bedroom property rocketed $300,000 past its guide price of mid fives. Photo: Supplied 157 Ramsden Street, Clifton Hill: Facing the park and with work to do making it affordable, this saw a lot of interest. Photo: Supplied
Shanghai night field

4 Orlando Street, Hampton: A lively bankrupt trustee sale saw this Californian bungalow sell for 1.5m. Photo: Supplied

21 Odenwald Road, Eaglemont: The house isn’t really livable but the 724-square-metre section ended up being worth $1.85 million. Photo: Supplied

66 Cooper Street, ESSENDON: This neo-Georgian house sold in after-auction negotiations. Photo: Supplied

15 Marwarra Street, Ringwood East

Sold $828,000 Agent Hocking Stuart Price range $540,000-plus

This humble home sold two years ago in the same condition for $462,000. This time, agents were asking for offers over $540,000, and could not have anticipated the response to this three bedroom, single bathroom home in the Ringwood Secondary College catchment. Buyers were willing to fight hard  to sign on the dotted line. Plonked on a mighty 669 square metre block, with an open fire, two double bedrooms and all the creature comforts, the property was spruiked for its development potential, as much as its investment possibility. The crowd of 100 agreed, coughing up six enthusiastic bidders who drove the price north. Emily Power

157 Ramsden Street, Clifton Hill

Sold $1,185,000 Agent Collins Simms Price range $1million-plus

Families can easily pay $1.8 million for a four-bedroom double-fronted house in Clifton Hill, so this four-bedroom townhouse with a lower price tag had considerable interest. Investors, downsizers and families with older children inspected the park-facing property, and it didn’t take long for auctioneer Stephen Whitelaw to find a $900,000 opener. The bidding see-sawed between two parties until the 1998-built tri-level house with a Blanco-equipped kitchen was put on the market at $1,055,000. A middle-aged couple then stepped up but couldn’t shake off the number 2 bidder, a family with teenagers. They won out at $1,185,000 in front of 40 onlookers. Chris Tolhurst

4 Orlando Street, Hampton

Sold $1,505,000 Agent Hodges Price range $1 million-plus

A dilapidated Californian bungalow featuring the early stages of a budget renovation played host to a lively bankrupt trustee sale. The auction attracted a crowd of about 80 to the street behind the beach front, including numerous neighbours who said they were pleased to see the ramshackle property change hands. The price jumped from an opening bid of $900,000 past its $1.1 million reserve in seconds. The winning bidder, who attempted to throw the crowd off by asking auctioneer Peter Doherty about the property’s “asbestos” before the auction began, told agents he planned to build a new home on the site. Kristen Robb

21 Odenwald Road, Eaglemont

Sold $1.85 million Agent Nelson Alexander Price range $1.15-$1.25 million

No, this house, on 724 square metres, is not really livable. And the recently clear-felled garden has probably seen better days. Still, over 100 people came to see auctioneer Gordon Hope sell the property, and hear his opening vendor bid of $1,010,000. It was a figure under the quoted range, but it skyrocketed quickly and at $1.3 million, reached in four bids, the property was selling. Four groups were in the game, however just as the property was about to be sold for $1.71 million, a woman decided she wanted it. She fought hard and wrestled it off an original bidder for $1.85 million. Jayne D’Arcy

66 Cooper Street, Essendon

Sold $1,625,000 Agent Barry Plant Price range $1.48-$1.58 million

This Neo Georgian-style house is certainly opulent. It has four bedrooms and two bathrooms, a kitchen with a built-in coffee machine and kitchen storage you could live in (almost). Auctioneer Bill Karp made a $1.4 million vendor bid and quickly found the crowd of 50 held four groups who were keen to own it. One would-be buyer protested when Mr Karp wouldn’t take his $5000 rise, but made a few more bids before disappearing. The last one to enter the bidding ended up having the property passed into him at $1.58 million. It sold for $1,625,000 in after-auction negotiations. Jayne D’ArcyDomain Read More …