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Picture Glenda Moore. A 39-year-old mother, she instinctively set out to protect her two small boys as the lights went out when hurricane Sandy struck – and the floods seeped into their Staten Island home.
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Or maybe the 50-something George Dresch, who figured he could sit out the storm with his wife and daughter, at home on the same exposed flank of the island – in New York Harbour and facing the open Atlantic.

Or perhaps their fellow islander, Leonard Montalto, 53, who shooed his daughter to safety as the flood level rose, insisting he must stay back to be sure the basement pump continued to work.

In opting to flee or remain, each wrote a little-people drama which, collectively, are more within human comprehension than is the big-picture destruction of the hurricane’s assault on the north-east corner of the US this week.

Moore’s SUV stalled on a flooded seaside road. Opting to make a run for it, she clutched two-year-old Brandon in one arm; and with the other, she dragged Connor, 4. But she stumbled, losing her grip and both boys disappeared in what, by then, had become a “raging tide”.

The flood dumped her in a flooded marsh, from which she emerged to spend two hours going door to door, pleading with neighbours to help her find the boys – but none would, she told local police.

Dresch and his 13-year-old daughter, Angela, disappeared when a catastrophic wave ripped apart their home in Oakwood. Several kilometres away in Tottenville, but still on the island, Montalto sounded confident as he watched the pump and uttered what would be his last word to his 24-year-old daughter. In a mobile phone conversation, he told her: “The water’s rushing in – it’s a good thing you got out.”

The bodies of the Moore boys were found on Thursday in a swamp. The body of the Dresch girl was found a block away from the splintered wreckage of their home on Tuesday; that of her father was recovered several streets away on Wednesday. A search of Montalto’s flooded basement by police divers failed to turn up his body, but it was recovered after neighbours punched a hole in the wall, which allowed the water to drain away.

These painful stories about the dead are swamped in accounts of the struggle by the living in the days after the hurricane.

New York certainly came to a shrieking halt – its subway system was flooded; all buses were off the roads; the bridges and tunnels that moor Manhattan to the rest of America were closed; power and communications were lost for millions; hospitals were evacuated when back-up power failed; and supermarket shelves were stripped bare. But for all the attention lavished on New York City this week, the real recovery crisis was across the Hudson River where, as late as Thursday, 20,000 people still were stranded in flooded homes and 6000 evacuees hunkered in emergency shelters in major centres such as Hoboken and Jersey City – amid rising fears of a public health crisis.

After making landfall on the New Jersey coast late on Monday, hurricane Sandy ran amok, bringing this prosperous north-east corner of the US to its knees – more than 90 people died, 38 of them in New York, as eight-plus million lost electricity and public transport was strangled in a frenzy of meteorological violence priced at almost $50 billion.

That estimate is huge, but comparatively it represents less than half the cost of the terrorist attacks of September 21, 2001; or Katrina, the hurricane that killed almost 2000 people as it barrelled into New Orleans and the south-east in 2005.

Moody’s Analytics economists attributed about $20 billion of the price tag to business lost by restaurants, casinos and airlines.

The other $30-odd billion would go to repairs on homes and property. Think of it as nature’s economic stimulus, the immediate impact of which was to push up the price of shares in hardware and materials suppliers Home Depot and Lowe’s in Wednesday’s resumption of trading on Wall Street.

Millions of homes in up to a dozen states are still without power and might have to survive another week or more without lifts, lights, heating, mobile phone service, Wi-Fi, refrigeration and hot showers.

In New York, water is in short supply – and being hauled on foot to the old and infirm in city high-rises. Ditto petrol, with long queues forming at service stations, especially in New Jersey. Emergency kitchens were being set up in New York to feed those unable to fend for themselves and sentinel columns of portable toilets adorn the forecourt of some apartment complexes.

By Wednesday, airports had partially reopened. Local public transport in New York in particular, remained affected – prompting authorities to insist on at least three people in cars entering Manhattan.

In a display of the pragmatism for which New Yorkers are renowned, the clientele of Manhattan’s downtown restaurants, still without power and struggling to get supplies, simply moved to unaffected uptown eateries – where ma?tre-d’s report a boom in business.

But if local and federal authorities wanted affirmation that they were seen to be doing the best they could to restore services, then it came late on Thursday when the only bone of contention on the news radar was the wisdom of a decision by organisers of Sunday’s New York City Marathon to go ahead with the event which is expected to draw a field of more than 40,000 and traditionally pulls as many as a million spectators.

Of all the states, New Jersey seemed to suffer most, with its waterside cities and hamlets taking a special hammering.

After losing electricity as Sandy blew through, authorities decided on Thursday that they also must cut the gas supply lines to the barrier islands along the Jersey Shore, because of the risk of fire and explosions in thousands of damaged and destroyed seaside homes.

Atlantic City’s dozen casinos remain closed, pending the restoration of power and potable water supplies. Thousands of utility workers from 12 other states were pouring in to help in the recovery.

Politics is never far from a crisis even when, as happened in the US this week, President Barack Obama and his republican challenger Mitt Romney declared that campaigning for Tuesday’s election had to be put aside. But there were “oohs” among the political chattering classes when the New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie, a staunch Republican who might have been Romney’s vice-presidential running mate, effectively endorsed the Democrat Obama with his effusive praise for the President’s handling of the emergency response to Sandy.

And on Thursday, there were “ahs”, and even gasps when the New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg, a self-described independent and a vocal critic of both Obama and Romney, declared that he must stand with Obama because in the aftermath of the hurricane, the poll needed to be perceived as who was the better candidate to tackle global climate change.

In the wall-to-wall media discourse on what Americans are learning about themselves and their society this week, a standout voice was that of an émigré Russian driver in New York’s Coney Island. On emerging after the storm, he was horrified to find his livelihood – his limousine – in waist-deep water and facing the opposite direction to that in which he had parked it the previous evening. Scoffing at how coddled Americans were, he chortled that growing up in Russia made him ready for anything. Then he marvelled at something very German, which indicated that his horror had been misplaced – turns out his Mercedes-Benz was floating because its door seals were so perfect, not a drop of water had seeped in. Boris was still in business.

But as New York struggles to get back to business, there is less to marvel at. Behind the high-tech dazzle and glitz of Times Square, the city’s infrastructure – physical and ethereal – was revealed as a carelessly fragile construct.

Some elements indeed may be as clever as the Mercedes-Benz door seals, but as the self-styled capital of the world, the Big Apple failed under pressure.

Radley Horton, a climate scientist and an adviser to New York City, discerns a teachable moment. Amid rising sea levels and temperatures and accelerated melting of the Arctic ice, he argues that Sandy’s ferocity has thrust the city’s ability to cope into unprecedented territory.

Ironically, he argued that New York had been preparing for such a storm – “but the impacts were on an extreme scale, and that’s very challenging to prepare for.”

Predicting a time-consuming recovery before there might be any detailed attention to preventive measures, Horton itemises a massive to-do list – pump out subway tunnels before electrical transit equipment can be tested and replaced; fix electrical distribution stations which were inundated; deal with the buildings in which electrical equipment is located in basements; and address the surprising vulnerability of coastal communities to fire.

Did someone say Haiti?

Haiti is not exactly a suburb of New York. But almost twice as many Haitians as New Yorkers died and more than 200,000 of their homes were destroyed or damaged as hurricane Sandy spun her wheels in the Caribbean last week before heading north. The tiny island with a population of just a few more than New York was still reeling from a 2010 earthquake that killed 316,000, injured 300,000 and left one-million-plus homeless.

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Chinese president-in-waiting Xi Jinping meets Sarah Lande’s granddaughter in Iowa.

LATE one afternoon in mid-February, China’s president-in-waiting, Xi Jinping, stood on the front verandah of Sarah Lande’s home on a bluff that rises over the little town of Muscatine, Iowa, and looked out over the broad slow flow of the Mississippi River into Indiana.

Over tea, in the rather grand front room of the Landes’ polished Victorian home, Xi told Sarah Lande he had dreamt of the Mississippi since reading Mark Twain as a child.

Being one of the most powerful men on earth, Xi was not the only guest. Lande remembers Muscatine’s mayor, China’s ambassador to the United States and assorted Chinese ministers. There were also 14 men and women to whom Lande refers as the ”group of friends” who Xi had met when he went to the region in 1985 as part of an agricultural exchange.

When we ?visited earlier this month, Lande showed off the group photo taken on her stairs, and standing by the fireplace where Xi had stood, she explained how he had said: ”For me, you are America.”

It is easy to imagine how the pretty rural prosperity of Muscatine might have impressed a Chinese provincial official less than a decade after the end of the Cultural Revolution. ”We treated him what we like to call ‘Iowa nice’,” Lande explains, referring to a form of hospitality that tends to include warm, plain talk, corn and pork.

Xi might not feel so welcome now, at the end of a long and bitterly fought election campaign in which China has sometimes been used as a cipher for American fears of economic, social and political decline.

In ads and speeches, the Republican candidate Mitt Romney has accused President Barack Obama of being too soft on China, and has vowed to label the Chinese as currency manipulators ”on day one”. The Obama campaign has portrayed Romney as a vulture capitalist who has enriched himself by exporting manufacturing jobs to China.

In one anti-Romney ad, a worker explains how the new owners of his company instructed staff to remove the American flag.

Allegedly non-partisan independent groups have been on the attack too. Ten days ago, a group called Citizens Against Government Waste revived a highly controversial ad set in Beijing in the year 2030, in which a professor is lecturing a class on why great nations fail.?”America tried to spend and tax itself out of a great recession,” the professor explains in subtitled Mandarin. ”Of course, we owned most of their debt. So now they work for us.” The professor titters, the class laughs.

In these dying days of the deadlocked election, both parties have focused on Ohio, where Obama led by just 1.9 points in the Real Clear Politics poll average on Tuesday.

All indications are that yet again this state could decide which party wins the election. There is also evidence that Obama is still enjoying some advantage among the white male demographic as a result of his bailout of the auto industry.

This week Romney’s campaign attacked, releasing an ad claiming that the bailout had led to Chrysler, which had been bought out by Fiat, transferring jobs to China.

The ad is not entirely true, as the plant in China is expanding to increase output to feed demand from the burgeoning Chinese middle class. Jobs are not being transferred from the US to China, they are being created in China. But electoral politics is a killing ground for such nuance, and though the ad has been torn apart by the fact-checkers that have been so much a part of this campaign, the response of Romney’s team has been to ramp up their broadcasting in Ohio. Clearly, strategists believe it is working.

TWO days after the November 6 US election, the Chinese Communist Party will begin its own leadership transition at the Great Hall of the People. The 18th Party Congress, on November 8-14, will be immediately followed by the unveiling of the new general secretary, Xi Jinping, the expected new premier, Li Keqiang and their team, on November 15.?The personalities and positions that are set in Washington and Beijing will shape the world.

The coincidence of a US and China leadership transition is a once-in-40-year event. And it is happening at a historic moment, when China is challenging the US position as the world’s sole superpower.

If Xi can keep the ship on course, the Chinese economy may well overtake the US as the world’s largest economy during his decade-long term. Every country in the region is scrambling to exploit, hedge and otherwise adjust its bearings.

”The weight of the world’s economy is genuinely moving in our direction,” said Prime Minister Julia Gillard this week, unveiling her new white paper on the Asia century. ”When we map the centre of gravity of global consumption, we see it is shifting east by more than 100 miles a year.”

Inevitably, where economic power goes, strategic and military power follows. The global centre of military firepower is shifting towards this region almost as fast as GDP.?Canberra has been at the vanguard of building and reinvigorating a latticework of regional security relationships, anchored in the might of the US. A year ago, Obama chose the Australian Parliament as the venue to announce his foreign policy ”pivot” to Asia.

”The possibility that we could devolve into a much more confrontational relationship is at one of the highest points than at any time since the opening of relations,” says Bates Gill, the newly arrived chief executive of the US Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, who is also an expert on China security issues.

The Obama administration and the Gillard government have been at pains to avoid naming China as the reason. But others are not so reticent.

”Australians view themselves as facing a strategic threat — this time from a China that is growing in every way and very fast, and that shows every sign of wanting to expand territorially as well,” writes Pentagon consultant Ed Luttwak in a new book, The Rise of China vs. the Logic of Strategy.

Dennis Richardson, the outgoing secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told his new cadets earlier this year that the rivalry between the two powers would last longer than the Cold War, and it would not simply ”evolve so you can tie a ribbon on top”, according to a source in the room.?”The dynamics of the US-China relationship will shape your entire careers,” said Richardson, who has recently moved to run the Department of Defence.

The realignment of diplomatic and military power will be more complex and fluid than the Cold War with the Soviets. Growing US-China rivalry is accompanied by growing interdependency.

It is no coincidence that Richardson sent two of his top China hands to key American posts. Graeme Fletcher, the former deputy head of mission at the Australian embassy in Beijing, is now the deputy in Washington.?The international adviser to the former prime minister Kevin Rudd, Scott Dewar, is consul-general in Honolulu, where his job is to work with the US Pacific Command as it sends its six aircraft carrier groups, 180 ships and 1500 aircraft across half of the globe.

In June, in Singapore, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta flagged a ”rebalancing” that would see 60 per cent of US naval assets positioned in the Pacific. And in a fortnight from now, Panetta and the outgoing US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, are scheduled to fly to Perth for the ”Ausmin” strategic dialogue. They are pencilled in to dine with Gillard on November 14, after discussions with Foreign Minister Bob Carr and Defence Minister Stephen Smith.?Gill says both countries will likely be ”quietly exploring” ways to increase intelligence co-operation, upgrade co-operation in operating space-related assets from Australian soil, and also enhance the capacity to maintain and resupply American naval vessels.?It is unlikely that they will use the occasion to act on a suggestion in a recent report to the Pentagon that the local deep-water port, HMAS Stirling, will be expanded to accommodate US aircraft carriers.

The Australian ambassador to Beijing, Frances Adamson, said this week that Smith would not be making any surprise announcements about deepening military ties. His press releases, she said, ”are not necessarily the sorts of things that make you swing into print and write front-page stories”.?Not, at least, on the eve of Xi Jinping’s rise to power.

Until the start of this year, the consensus among political analysts was that China would have a smooth leadership change with any differences safely locked away behind closed doors. This transition, however, is the first in the history of the People’s Republic that has not been orchestrated by the founding fathers of the 1949 revolution.

It is shaping up as an epic contest at a moment of growing social, economic and political tension and uncertainty. And whereas America’s presidential candidates slog it out in public, with clear and independently enforced rules, China’s political adversaries face off inside the same tent and without enforceable ground rules.

The scale of the Chinese political scandals that have leaked out from the black box this year make Romney’s tax problems look trivial.?They include the highest level attempted defection in 40 years; a murder of an English businessman (by the wife of a Politburo member); a top party official covering up his son’s death in an exploding Ferrari (reportedly with two semi-clad women) and foreign media exposes that separately found that the families of two of the top leaders controlled billion-dollar fortunes. And then Xi Jinping failed to emerge in public for a fortnight.

”The poor guy — it’s like Obama four years ago — facing a completely impossible array of challenges,” says Professor Geremie Barme, director of the Australian National University’s Centre for China in the World. ”That’s probably why he took a sickie a few weeks ago,” he said, referring to Xi’s two-week disappearance from the public stage, which remains entirely unexplained.

”It is a state of extreme chaos,” said one Beijing political watcher, LiWeidong. ”There is nobody in absolute control.”

While the American contestants are sometimes reacting crudely to China’s rapidly accumulating power, those in China seem more preoccupied with their own fragility.?Chinese leaders have responded by bolstering their personal and collective defences with the strongest, crudest and most dangerous display of nationalism in decades.

Japan has been the target of shrill propaganda and state-sponsored protests, over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands, but the spectre of America has been hovering in the background.?Chinese politicians and regional security analysts see regional affairs almost entirely through the prism of what they see as the US defending its hegemony against the rising power of China.

That is why many observers see the dispute ”as a time bomb planted by the US” between China and Japan, a retired senior Chinese official told foreign reporters in Hong Kong this week. ”That time bomb is now exploding, or about to explode.”

If China has emerged as a feature in American politics, then the US is China’s obsession, the measure of the country’s achievement and also the imagined ”enemy” by which it?defines itself. ”It has been a constant and strong belief that the US has sinister designs to sabotage the Communist leadership and turn China into its vassal state,” as Wang Jisi, foreign policy adviser to a former Chinese president, explained in a candid report for the Brookings Institution earlier this year.

And while the children of the party elite travel in droves to study in the US, the party itself sees the very existence of the US as a challenge to its monopoly on power. Party leaders seem to have even made a pact with each other – like a gang, or a cult – that they would not succumb to American ideas.

”We have made a solemn declaration,” said China’s low-profile second-ranked leader, Wu Bangguo, last year, ”that we will not employ a system of multiple parties holding office in rotation; diversify our guiding thought; separate executive, legislative and judicial powers; use a bicameral or federal system; or carry out privatisation.”

Later in 2011, Obama responded with his ”pivot” speech in Canberra, which outlined all the things that China’s leaders insist they will resist. ”Certain rights are universal; among them, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, and the freedom of citizens to choose their own leaders,” Obama said. Within months, the first US marines arrived in Darwin.

If the 2008 US election was about hope and change, this year’s ambitions are far more modest. Obama is fighting a rearguard action to protect what change he managed to grind through the recalcitrant Congress he was left with after 2010.

Romney, ignoring his own bold record on health reform as governor of Massachusetts, argues that his business experience qualifies him to cut unemployment, deficit and debt. His broad approach to China seems unlikely to diverge much from Obama’s, despite some occasional rhetorical excursions.

In his book No Apology – effectively a job application published two years ago – he describes how in 2006 the former ambassador to China, Clark Randt jnr, told him that many Chinese believed their nation contained an energy, much as an individual does, and that when that energy is blocked, the nation becomes ill.

”When foreigners cut off Tibet, Hong Kong and Taiwan, the theory holds this weakened China and prevented it from regaining its past greatness,” Romney writes. Mostly, however, Romney is rephrasing the Obama policy.

”It is in our best interests to draw China into the circle of responsible nations and, at the same time, to strengthen our capacity to intervene in Asia, if necessary, to prevent China from imposing its will on independent nations,” he writes.

One of Romney’s advisers is Aaron Friedberg, who served as a national security adviser to then vice-president Dick Cheney between 2003 and 2005.

In September, Friedberg, now a Princeton professor of public and international affairs, wrote in the journal Foreign Affairs that the ”responsible stakeholder” policy of integrating China was not working.

He said China’s at once ”arrogant and insecure” leadership was prompting increased tension in the Pacific and had failed to help America solve its key diplomatic problems, particularly North Korea’s and Iran’s nuclear programs.

Friedberg says China’s leadership is determined to overtake America as the dominant regional power – a situation he says America could not and should not abide.

He suggests America should adopt a policy of standing its ground, continuing its engagement with China while increasing its force in the region, specifically by increasing its military investment and deepening its alliances in the region, and by supporting arms purchases by those allies.

This sounds like Obama’s ”pivot” in the Australian Parliament, which Friedberg dismisses as a largely symbolic transfer of existing forces. It is perhaps a pivot, but with more teeth.

The heavily contested American election may not change the world. By contrast, in the ”selection” in China, where there is only one party, the possibilities seem wide open. Xi’s treatment of the US will, to a large extent, define the China that he rules for the coming decade. The relationship will shape the world.

On the banks of the Mississippi they reckon that Xi is not a man who pits himself against America.

After his recent visit to Muscatine, The New York Times noted dryly that it constituted something of a propaganda coup, a ”tightly choreographed moment” intended to deepen his connection with the American heartland.

Well, perhaps. But Sarah Lande does not doubt Xi’s sincerity. ”When he walked in the door, the smile, the greeting, the handshake, it was so warm,” she said.

”We could see he was so happy to see us. It jumped out of him.”

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Bumboras Bay.Louise Southerden joins the flying visitors writing a new chapter in Norfolk Island’s colourful history.
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Flying in over green hills, listening to Air New Zealand’s Kiwi flight attendants, I can’t help but feel I’m arriving on a small piece of the North Island that has broken off and drifted 1000 kilometres north.

Norfolk Island isn’t part of New Zealand, of course. It’s a self-governing territory of Australia. Officially, that is. In reality, it’s a world unto itself, with its own language (Norf’k, a blend of 18th-century English and Tahitian) and way of life.

People wave at each other, and at tourists. There are no traffic lights, and cows have right of way on the roads. Remember when shops, cafes and museums in Sydney would close on Saturday afternoons? On Norfolk they still do.

“I’m a bit crazy,” says Les Quintal, who looks and sounds like Geoffrey Rush, as he takes us for an introductory drive around the island. “It’s from the inbreeding,” he cackles. Like 40 per cent of Norfolk’s 1800 residents, Quintal is descended from a Bounty mutineer. You can’t go far on Norfolk without bumping into its history.

It’s on the road signs (Pitcairn Place, Fletcher Christian Road, Baunti Centre) and at landmarks (such as Captain Cook lookout, where a stone cairn commemorates Cook naming the island after the Duchess of Norfolk in 1774). It’s all over Kingston, a former penal settlement, where graves of convicts and soldiers, children and murderers lie side by side. Then there’s Cyclorama – a 360-degree mural conceived by Marie Bailey, a descendant of Fletcher Christian – where you can walk right into Norfolk’s past.

Closing the door behind me, I’m suddenly standing on the dock at Portsmouth, listening to gulls and the rain as the Bounty departs for the tropics, then following it to Tahiti where it’s commandeered by Christian and sails on to Pitcairn Island. It’s affecting and helps make sense of the island’s convoluted history.

A country-town vibe, a colourful history – no surprises there. But the winds of change have been blowing across this volcanic isle, particularly since Air New Zealand won an Australian government tender in March to provide five flights a week to the island – two from Sydney, two from Brisbane and one from Auckland.

After decades of seven-night packages, Norfolk is fast becoming a short-break destination for time-poor urbanites. There’s plenty of accommodation – about 1400 visitor beds, most in self-contained cottages or apartments. It helps that the flying time from the east coast of Australia is about two hours and flights to and from Sydney run on Fridays and Mondays.

“It’s a big advantage having a high-profile airline such as Air New Zealand, and its schedule has even allowed us to offer weekend trips to Norfolk Island, which wasn’t possible before,” says the general manager of the Norfolk Island Tourism Bureau, Glen Buffett.

Plans to integrate the island with Australia could allow local tour operators to join the Tourism Australia family, too. In the meantime, Norfolk is updating itself.

There’s still plenty of island charm, from knitwear shops to quilting retreats, but there are now wearable-arts shows, holistic-living festivals, three music festivals (opera in February, country music in May, jazz in December) and an annual golf pro-am.

There are self-guided iPod tours of the island’s national park, secret spots and historical sites, and iPod commentary on a new photography exhibition, The World of Norfolk. Norfolk Island Museum recently launched its new website (norfolkislandmuseum南京夜網.au); and Parks Australia’s new interpretative centre has live feeds from Phillip Island, a seabird sanctuary six kilometres off the south coast.

Norfolk is becoming more active, too – from snorkelling and reef-walking tours, to walking tracks and beach yoga classes. Want to go surfing, kayak around the island, try rock fishing? Ask a local or drop by the tourist information office (which amounts to the same thing); anything’s possible on a small island.

Who knew Norfolk had its own winery? The Two Chimneys boutique vineyard opened its doors in 2006 and offers tastings of its New England wines and is expecting its first harvest next year. It’s just one of the foodie attractions on an island that lives and breathes sustainability and self-sufficiency, by necessity. “By law we can’t import a lot of produce, so most of what you eat here is grown or made here,” Buffett says.

Coffee is grown among the Norfolk pines in Anson Bay; Anson Coffee opened a cafe in July, has a mobile coffee van and runs plantation tours. Next month, local surfer Emily Ryves will open her new venture, Hilli Goat Farm, also at Anson Bay; she plans to sell goat’s cheese at a small cafe on the property.

Norfolk Blue beef cattle homestead and restaurant offers a true “paddock to plate” experience, while Hilli’s (another restaurant) has a new Mastering Tastes tour where guests gather and prepare local produce with its head chef. Then there’s Dino’s, which grows its own herbs and vegetables; its 19th-century Norfolk-pine bungalow wouldn’t look out of place in Newtown, with its eclectic artworks, old photographs and crystal chandeliers.

But the island isn’t too fashionable, not yet, thank goodness. It might want to shake off its quaintness, but it’s the oddities that make it special. Where else can you play golf on a World Heritage site for just $70 a week? The phone book famously lists locals by their nicknames, such as Binky, Crowbar, Lettuce Leaf and Gumboots. God Save the Queen is the island’s anthem and Thanksgiving Day is a public holiday (a legacy of American whalers). On Norfolk Island, it all makes perfect sense.

As the world gets faster and busier, who doesn’t long for a simpler, slower way of life? On this little island you can have it, if only for a long weekend.

FAST FACTS

Getting there Air New Zealand flies to Norfolk Island from Sydney (2hr 30min) on Mondays and Fridays from $572, and from Brisbane (2hr 10min) on Tuesdays and Saturdays from $535 return, including taxes. Fares from Melbourne, including a domestic connection, start at $960. See airnewzealand南京夜網.au.

Staying there Jacaranda Park Cottages has five self-contained, one-bedroom cabins from $255 a night, including car hire, mobile phone use, airport transfers and half-day island tour. See www.jacarandapark.nlk.nf. Islander Lodge’s self-contained apartments have the best views on the island from $225 a night, phone +6723 22114 or email [email protected]

More information See theworldofnorfolk南京夜網.au.

Louise Southerden travelled courtesy of Air New Zealand and Norfolk Island Tourism Bureau.

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TRAINER Anthony Cummings emerged from the illustrious shadow of his father, Bart, to win his first Victoria Derby on Saturday with a little-known stayer that he had bred and owned and was positive was destined for great things.
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A $41 chance, Fiveandahalfstar raced on the speed and after taking control of the race with 400m to go clearly outstayed his rivals to reinforce Cummings’s opinion of the three-year-old.

Cummings said moments after Fiveandahalfstar’s win that as a boy he’d seen his father win six Derbys and ”now I know how good the feeling is”.

Cummings said he’d planned a spring carnival for Fiveandahalfstar but even as late as last weekend he wasn’t sure if Fiveandahalfstar would line up in Saturday’s group 1 staying classic.

”I always knew he had ability and I was convinced he would run the distance … I knew he fitted in to the spring carnival but whether it was next Thursday or in the Derby, I knew he would be extremely hard to beat.

”And really, I’m glad it was today,” Cummings said.

Fiveandahalfstar wasn’t given the tried and true build-up events before the Derby with Cummings preferring to keep his young horse in Sydney before the four days of the Flemington Spring Carnival.

He said he’s always wanted the horses to shuttle between his Melbourne and Sydney stable believing it was important to educate them in both ways of racing.

”I think it’s important that they get the experience of being in both stables so it just rounds them off and is an important feature of their young education.

”[Fiveandahalfstar] is a nice horse and he is obviously an above average stayer, he has got a fairly bold running style, much like his old man, Hotel Grand, who was like that.

”We probably never really saw the best of Hotel Grand but he was a quality racehorse and one of the best I have trained so it’s nice to get one of his sons to come here and do the job.”

Cummings also believed that his final push to start Fiveandahalfstar came after considering the situation surrounding the favourite, It’s A Dundeel. ”I was looking at It’s A Dundeel and thought that he was going to be pretty tough to beat but seeing him beaten at Moonee Valley last Saturday just opened the door.”

Cummings said he bought Hotel Grand’s mother for $33,000 at the Sydney Yearling Sales. She eventually became a broodmare producing Hotel Grand, which was a dual group 1 winner. ”I also bought Fiveandahalfstar’s mother Cryptic Miss at a sale up in Scone and she won a maiden over 2100m and broke down in winning so it’s nice to put all of them together and come up with a winning group one combination,” he said.

The favourite starting at $2.70 was a great disappointment settling 13th in the early stages and under hard riding managed to finish seventh, but many lengths behind the winner.

”He [It’s A Dundeel] tried his guts out. He’s a very tired horse,” jockey James McDonald said. ”I pulled him up and he just stopped and paused. You know he’s a tired three-year-old after all of that. ‘Let’s bring him back in the autumn, he’s going to be a lovely colt in time.”

Fiveandahalfstar was a noted drifter in the market blowing from $25 out to $41 but after a clever ride by jockey Damien Oliver the three-year-old proved the superior stayer. ”We had a chat on Wednesday morning after working him and we came to the conclusion that we should run him (Fiveandahalfstar) because he worked well.

”With the favourite [It’s A Dundeel] getting beaten it was opened up and usually Anthony [Cummings] doesn’t need much talking to run in races but I’m glad I did with this one,” Oliver said.

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THE most deserving generally do not get a look in on Victoria Derby day, the most unforgiving of all on the racing calendar, but that all changed on Saturday when the spring’s luckless runner Alcopop snared his first group 1 win after charging home in the $1 million Mackinnon Stakes.
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Runner-up at the elite level in his past two starts in the Caulfield Stakes and Caulfield Cup, Alcopop notched a first group 1 win for his trainer, Jake Stephens, and put an end to the spring carnival curse that has plagued the horse for the past two seasons.

To assist in his quest for that group 1 win for himself and his brave horse, Stephens made the tough decision to dump regular rider Dom Tourneur and replace him with one of the world’s great big-race riders in Craig Williams. The move paid off.

”What a great ride from Craig,” Stephens said moments after the race. ”When they were coming to the turn and Ocean Park was getting out to the middle of the track, I was saying, ‘Stay on the rails’ and that’s what he did, and he was able to chase down the leader.

”I told Craig before the race that he’s freshened well and had done really well during the week and to go out and just do it.”

Williams pursued inside runs on the horse while Ocean Park went to the middle of the track.

Alcopop lifted over the final 100 metres to run down Glass Harmonium. On the line, Alcopop ($6) had a neck margin over the brave Glass Harmonium with a long neck to Ocean Park, the Cox Plate winner and the Mackinnon’s $1.70 favourite.

Alcopop was the early favourite for the Melbourne Cup two years ago but his campaign finished three days before the Cup after he performed poorly in the Lexus and was spelled. The next 12 months were ruined by knee and leg injuries. Stephens rejuvenated the eight-year-old for a spring campaign and the horse has not let him down.

Stephens is already considering his 2013 options for the veteran. ”We might give him the autumn off again and give him a nice, long build-up to [the spring] next year,” he said.

Rarely does a losing trainer smile as broadly as did Leon Corstens after the Mackinnon. His four-year-old Zabeelionaire beat only three runners home but the manner in which he found the line pleased his trainer.

”Craig [Newitt] hopped off and said that the last 50 to 100 metres was his best, and that’s what you want to see with an eye to Tuesday,” Corstens said. ”He was caught flat-footed when they sprinted – he lacks that killer sprint to win races – and he ground home gradually.

”I’ve always been a bit fearful it might be 12 months too early for him but on that run and with just 52 kilograms in the Cup – a weight he’ll never see again – we’re happy to go to Tuesday knowing he’s had a great prep.”

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BRETT LEE, one of cricket’s all-time fastest bowlers, has offered to help teen sensation Pat Cummins ”clean up” his action to help to prevent the injuries frustrating his burgeoning career.
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Cummins, who at just 18 took seven wickets in his Test debut against South Africa last November, will miss his second consecutive summer of cricket after scans revealed on Friday he had suffered a stress fracture in his back during the Sydney Sixers’ recent T20 Champions League triumph.

It was a devastating blow but Lee, who endured similar injury battles when he was Cummins’s age, said he had the experience to help the 19-year-old from Penrith fulfil his potential.

”I’m not saying in any way, shape or form that Pat needs to change his action,” Lee said. ”But there are some things I reckon I could help him with [such as how] to clean his action up to make it a little bit easier on his back.

”The one thing you don’t want as a fast bowler is hyper-extension and counter-rotation [like] he has [and] as I did when I was at the same age … I had that same set-up where there was a lot of twisting and turning in my action, which is where you get your pace from, but it does come at a cost.”

Lee, who retired from first-class cricket to focus his energies on T20 leagues, said he would love to share the insights the great Dennis Lillee, whose own career was affected by stress fractures, offered him years ago when he observed Lee in the nets and suggested how to relieve the forces placed on his then still-growing frame.

”This is a real blow. He’s a great fellow and I just want to see him out on the field and playing.”

Lee said it was frustrating to think Australia’s X-factor would be sidelined and confined to rehabilitation this summer in a series where ”artillery” would be needed. ”I’m shattered for Pat because someone like him bowling 155km/h to 160km/h at the Gabba would be exciting to see,” he said. ”It would be great to see him match what the South Africans have. It’s disappointing and frustrating to think we haven’t got that now, though it’s not the poor bugger’s fault. I’m 100 per cent confident he’ll be back, but I would’ve loved to have seen him bowl to Jacques Kallis who, in my opinion, is the world’s best cricketer.”

Lee added it was important that Australia tried to match the pace South Africa would unleash in this week’s opening Test at the Gabba by selecting a four-pronged pace attack.”Is it going to be a typical Gabba wicket?” he said. ”What I mean by that is if it’s going to be a traditional early part of the season wicket that we’re used to, that has a bit of grass on it. If it is, I’d certainly put my hand up and say let’s go all out for a pace barrage. That’s what South Africa brings to the table, let’s just go and do it. That’s nothing against [spin bowler Nathan] Lyon, but Michael Clarke can play that spinners option if needed.”

While Lee said Australia’s spearheads, Peter Siddle and James Pattinson, provided pace and aggression, he conceded South Africa’s Dale Steyn gave the tourists an edge. ”He bowls 150km/h out-swingers, next question please,” said Lee when asked why Steyn was regarded the world’s best. ”It is as simple as that. No one likes facing fast bowling and he has the ability to move the ball through the air and off the seam as well. When you bowl fast, the ball generally swings later, if you bowl 130km/h the ball swings from the hand. It’s harder, in my opinion, to play a ball that moves late because you’re committed to your shot, your feet are committed to where they need to be as far as the ball goes.

”So when someone like Steyn can bowl 150km/h and swing the ball away in the conditions at Brisbane, it can be very tough for the batsmen.”

Lee said he approved of Steyn’s admission that fast bowling brought his ”killer” instinct to the surface.

”I like to see bowlers with that intimidation factor.

”If someone is bowling 130km/h, he’s not going to intimidate you from a physical chance of getting hurt … he might knock you over like Glenn McGrath did day in, day out. No one likes facing a Shoaib Akhtar, a Shaun Tait or Dale Steyn.”

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Looking to pick a winner in the Melbourne Cup? Max Hitchins reckons he has a foolproof system. He can even tell you which horse came first, second and third in every Melbourne Cup for the past 100 years. He isn’t much interested in other races.
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There is so much data on the internet, he says, and you just need to do a bit of number crunching. Study the form by all means but it’s important to look at the past. Astrological influences can also play a part and bear in mind that jockey silks in gold and yellow are luckiest.

After a lot of research before Cup Day, he reduces his field to six horses. He says his system has been correct for 22 out of the past 24 years – that’s 91 per cent of the time.

He then selects a winner from the six horses. He claims he has got this right 14 of the past 24 times – that is a rate of 58 per cent. So, conversely, he is wrong 42 per cent of the time. Still, he is selling his selections on the morning of the race in a $9.95 e-book guide.

”I’m a devotee, some would say nutter,” he says.

”The reason I started doing this is that my mother-in-law said she always used to back the winner. I asked how she did it and she said she backed every horse each way. She wasted a lot of money just for the privilege of saying you picked the winner.”

At the time of Tuesday’s race, the moon is in the constellation of Cancer and in close aspect to Mercury, Saturn, and Uranus. Scorpio rules the tenth house, and contains Mercury and Mars. Is that clear?

That’s according to the astronomer Alison Moroney, whose syndicated column of predictions regularly reach more than a million Australians and New Zealanders, she says.

She dismisses detractors of astrology, saying they don’t understand the philosophy behind it.

She will make a prediction freely available on her website and has had good success at predicting usually at least two of the first three horses, she says. ”Sometimes it is difficult to predict the order they come in, which is why I sometimes suggest a quinella bet where the order doesn’t matter.”

John Croucher, a professor of statistics at Macquarie Graduate School of Management is one of the detractors. ”If there was any science in it, then all astrologers would give the same tip,” he says.

He also warns about reading too much into the odds on a horse, saying that is just a reflection of the amount of bets placed by punters and not a measure of performance.

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MICHAEL RODD has been the big group 1 player this spring but by mid-afternoon on Saturday he was starting to wonder whether his carnival was jinxed. Remarkably, he’d ridden placegetters in eight of the 12 group 1 races in Melbourne so far this spring and his last chance yesterday was the $41 chance Appearance in the Myer Classic.
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”I really can’t believe it,” the 30-year-old jockey said after the race. ”To have gone so close on so many good horses and then to win on an outsider …”

After group 1 placings on Jolie Bay (second) in the Coolmore Stud Stakes and then on Super Cool (second) in the Victoria Derby, Rodd was legged aboard Appearance for the Myer by Sydney trainer Guy Walter. She was rated lengths inferior to stablemate Streama, which was sent out the $3 favourite, but by the time the field had turned for home, Rodd began to think a boilover was on the cards. ”I knew they had gone pretty hard up in front and I got my mare to the outside and thought she might be able to get close, but she kept building and building and by the time we’d got to the post, she was the strongest of them all,” he said. ”She really got her momentum up and finished really well.”

Before Saturday, Rodd had ridden in eight of the nine group 1 races in Melbourne this spring for six placings, but he said he did not let that statistic worry him as he prepared for his four group 1 rides.

”You quickly forget about all those things when you go to the gates,” he said. ”I knew I was riding well and had been in the finish of a lot of big races so it was just a matter of time before it went my way … who’d have thought it would be on this mare. But I’ll take it.”

It was his second win in the Myer, having won for Flemington trainer Mark Kavanagh aboard Divine Madonna five years ago. His only unplaced runner in group 1s on the day was the Kavanagh-trained December Draw, which showed none of his usual zip when well beaten in the Mackinnon Stakes.

After riding Appearance in second-last spot, Rodd sent her to the outside in the straight and the mare, which was backed from $41 to $51 late, did the rest as she outgunned another fast finisher, Soft Sand ($10), to win by a long neck with a head to Secret Admirer ($8) in third place.

Walter was as surprised as his rider with how the race panned out. ”I thought Michael rode a fantastic race – it was not the result I expected but all praise for Michael and the way he handled this mare,” he said.

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Finishing burst … Christian Reith drives Nechita to the line at Flemington.PATINACK Farm trainer John Thompson went for the sunglasses as he shifted through the interviews after Nechita won the Coolmore Stud Stakes at Flemington on Saturday.
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”Can I put these [sunglasses] on?” he said before speaking with the on-course broadcaster. ”This [crying] has happened to me before.”

Nechita proved herself the fastest three-year-old in training and gave rider Christian Reith his first group 1 as she drew away to score by three-quarters of a length from Jolie Bay and Shamexpress.

The troubled Patinack operation had clearance sales of racing stock and broodmares on the Gold Coast this week and its head, Nathan Tinkler, said he wanted to get out of racing. ”When they mentioned the boss [Tinkler] I was gone [and starting crying],” Thompson said. ”We have been having a tough time but he loves his racing and deserved that.

”It had been a good spring for him with All Too Hard winning the [Caulfield] Guineas and running second in the Cox Plate but I was just waiting for my turn.

”It is just something you can’t explain to win here on this day and it is one for the whole operation because [Nechita] has been everywhere. She spelled in Queensland and went into work up there, then Sydney and finally got down here and did the job.”

It was a maiden group 1 for Reith, who had a harmless tumble as he pulled up on Real Stolle in the first.

”John wanted me to have a look at the track in the first, but when I came back he said to me that he did not want me to see it that closely,” he said.

Reith handled the pressure of the Coolmore as he waited until the 250-metre mark to ask the Fastnet Rock filly for her winning charge.

”We knew she was going well and I was more nervous because it is the best we have had her,” Reith said. ”I just had to do my job because everyone else had done theirs. Everything went to plan and I just had to bide my time because I know how explosive her turn of foot is when she goes.”

Thompson said she was ”probably the fastest horse I have trained”.

”You need to get it right with horses like her and we have,” he said. ”It is our first real big group 1 and the hard work is starting to pay off. Before this we have had group wins but they have been in Western Australia, Adelaide and Brisbane.”

Jolie Bay, another daughter of Fastnet Rock, had been alongside Nechita at the furlong pole but could not match her acceleration as the fillies quinellaed the group 1.

”She went outstanding and on the line she was getting a bit back from the other filly,” Jolie Bay’s jockey, Michael Rodd, said. ”She is going to be a very good filly over further and I think there is a group 1 in her down the track.”

Co-trainer Michael Hawkes said: ”She has done a mighty job to come from a Hawkesbury class 1 to get to a group 1 and won a group 2 along the way. I can’t wait to get her back in the autumn. She is still six months away and I can’t wait to get her back in the autumn.”

Favourite Snitzerland ran fifth.

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Rivalry … the Heart and Wanderers square up on Friday night.The scenario with the two Melbourne clubs, and until recently the Western Sydney Wanderers, is very interesting from many perspectives. Mainly because it tests people’s true beliefs about football.
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Losing has a funny way of doing that, separating people into distinct camps where everyone has a view one way or the other but, often, short-term results are not a true reflection of the quality of work being done which is the only true barometer or guide to future performance outcomes.

Sport, and football in particular, has a unique way of engaging emotional triggers as well, at which time all objectivity is lost and, additionally, people often feel a need to stand by their position and seek justification, not truth. Human nature being what it is, and all. It would have been difficult to predict the slow start of Melbourne Victory, given a high-quality playing staff and dual title winning coach, Ange Postecoglou.

Amid the uncertainty of some fans and the unavoidable tension that comes with adverse results at a big club, there are also good lessons for young coaches and the game about how to maintain a sense of purpose as well as how the broad understanding has progressed and people are now looking at different things in their football experience.

Many have correctly identified the excellent structural work being done at the Victory in a way that will make it difficult to achieve short-term results, but is more likely to produce positive outcomes by the season’s middle and end, as well as beyond. If I were a Victory fan, I would be delighted by what is under way and the way Postecoglou is changing the face of their football from the inside out, oblivious to the storm that accompanies the impostor of short-term results.

Many do the opposite, forever living game to game and short-changing the players’ development through a lack of tactical progress as well as the game via the spectacle. In fairness to many coaches, of course, blame for this lies squarely at the feet of the club executives and directors, many of whom remain unschooled in the game and, as such, unable to remain steadfast in their convictions and appointments when pressure starts to rise.

Should the reconstruction of the Victory brand and playing style take longer than expected, this may well become a very good test of both a club’s commitment to football strategy under pressure and of the fan base’s understanding of football and willingness to create something powerful in the long term.

For my money, in the Victory’s first game against the Heart which they lost, there were already clear signs of excellent work being done at both ends of the park, with the way Marcos Flores was used and the penetrating runs of Marco Rojas and Archie Thompson.

John Aloisi has different challenges at the Heart. As a first-time coach, he is now learning on the job about how to shield his players from pressure, maintain composure despite results and manage media and fan expectations, all important parts of a professional coach’s role.

While from the inside it must feel as though the world is coming down if results continue on their present trend, from our perspective the issue is simple: Aloisi need only look at his former teammate Tony Popovic and the immense difference just two results can make.

No goals, no wins, pressure building. Two wins in succession, the sun comes out, players start to play more freely without pressure and the world is a different place.

Aloisi has the benefit of an outstanding football director in John Didulica who is as steadfast as they come, as well as a club with a strong culture of the long term. He will be given the proper freedom and environment to develop and ride the peaks and troughs, as every coach must endure. He will overcome them with great success.

All three coaches are high-quality, educated people at three very different stages of their professional journey, and demonstrate in three distinct ways why short-term results should be the last factor to consider in football, not the first.

If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two impostors just the same. A good test for fans, administrators and players, and the very essence of a coach’s lot.

Twitter [email protected]Craig-Foster

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Cup bound: Kelinni earns a start in Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup with a game win in the Lexus Stakes at Flemington on Saturday.LEXUS STAKES
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HE’S gone through the doors of the last chance saloon, but that won’t worry the connections of lightweight Kelinni, who has kept the Cup dream alive for Sydney’s premier trainer Chris Waller by taking out the Lexus Stakes and winning his way into the field for Tuesday’s $6 million spectacular.

The five-year-old, yet another English import bidding for glory in Australia’s greatest race, started at $9.50 and narrowly denied Bart Cummings’ Dare To Dream ($8), with game mare Exceptionally ($10) third. Luca Cumani’s Ibicenco finished fourth in the 2500-metre ”final eliminator” for the big race

The door on Cups glory thus slams on the beaten brigade, most of whom will now back up either in the Queen Elizabeth next Saturday or the Sandown Cup in a fortnight.

Sentimentalists may perhaps mourn the fact that the Cups King’s galloper, partnered by young Kiwi jockey James McDonald, didn’t quite make it.

But the once-a-year punters who latch on to anything prepared by JB Cummings can content themselves that they still have two possibilities on Tuesday – Sanagas and Precedence – while for the lightly raced Dare To Dream, yet another stayer whose origins are English, rich staying targets later in the season and perhaps a Cups tilt next year lie on the horizon.

For Waller and Kelinni’s owners, who include Black Caviar syndicate manager Neil Werrett, the future is now. Or, more precisely, in 48 hours.

Kelinni has made steady improvement since arriving in Australia in the middle of 2011 as one of a tranche of gallopers with stamina that Waller has bought in Britain in recent years.

He showed enough toe to win over 1250 metres at Canterbury last November, and he has come on in leaps and bounds as the distances increased.

He showed plenty of courage on Saturday when Nash Rawiller blended into the race down the straight, hitting the lead inside the last 200 metres to hold off Dare to Dream. The winner was eighth at the 400 metres, the runner-up 11th in a race run at a decent clip thanks to front-running mare Dame Claire, who held on to finish fifth.

Ex-New Zealander Waller has made an enormous mark on Sydney racing in recent years since setting up at Rosehill and is now the premier Sydney trainer. But his record in the Melbourne Cup is poor, his first runner, Warringah, finished last, and his others rarely figuring.

This time it could be different. Kelinni goes into Tuesday’s race without a penalty – handicapper Greg Carpenter opting not to increase his impost of 51 kilograms – and is a fit and in-form galloper who will handle the track, the going and, almost certainly, the rise in distance to 3200 metres.

”It’s a dream come true, it’s just great to be a part of these big days, and the owners have been fortunate to win a few races along the way,” Waller said. ”It’s a dream to have a runner in the race and whatever happens on Tuesday is a bonus.

”He’s been a model of consistency right from his early days and this preparation he has gone to the next level. He has shown today that he is up with the better ones.

”It will be very interesting, they are handicap races and you need to try and get in the most favourable way, and I would say we are the best-suited horse in the race.”

One man who is no stranger to big races is Werrett – Black Caviar’s managing owner – and he is relishing the chance to win Australia’s greatest distance event, having monopolised all its famous short-course races with his wonder mare.

He was asked: ”Was that better than Royal Ascot?”

”No,” he said with a laugh. ”But it might be as good on Tuesday. I think he’s got a bit of a chance now. I backed him at 200-1, so I’m pretty happy.”

But not even having a chance in the Melbourne Cup can come close to matching the thrills Black Caviar has brought Werrett and his friends over the years.

”No, you can’t compare, not really. Black Caviar’s way up there,” he declares as he points high into the air, ”but this is a good second.”

Rawiller can’t make the weight on Tuesday, but he said Kelinni would be a chance.

”He will run the trip on his ear … whether he can do it as fast as any of the others, time will tell,” he said.

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A potential Origin headache … Israel Folau.WHILE the majority of the league world is keen to welcome Israel Folau back to the fold, you could understand if Laurie Daley wasn’t doing cartwheels.
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The NSW coach already faced an enormous task to prevent Queensland from claiming yet another series – and now Folau’s imminent NRL return has just made it tougher. While Brent Tate and Darius Boyd did a sound job on the flanks for the Maroons, the former GWS Giant is likely to slot straight back in to the three-quarter line.

”It’s just another obstacle we will have to face,” Daley said. ”It’s still an exciting challenge. He’s no certain walk-up because Tate and Boyd did such a good job this year, they’ve got a bit of depth. That just makes our task all that more exciting knowing we’ll be taking them on with all of their best players available.”

During his retirement announcement, Folau admitted it was difficult watching the interstate series during his AFL stint. ”When I first left it was hard to watch,” Folau said. ”Obviously before I made a decision to come across those were the type of things I was thinking about. In the end I was still watching the boys and supporting the boys but I had to do what I had to do with … the AFL.”

The NSWRL is already preparing for the 2013 series off the field by setting up True Blues, an old-boy network of NSW players to support the squad. The new entity has trademarked the name and is about to release a logo. The move further distances the organisation from the NSW Origin Legends run by Chris Anderson and Max Krilich following claims the ex-Blues body didn’t supply its financial records for scrutiny. ”We’ve made it clear we have no association with the Legends,” NSWRL chief executive Geoff Carr said. ”We’ve never had any control over where their money goes. We felt we needed an entity inside the league to make a contribution back to grassroots and to Origin. To be fair, we don’t know where the Legends give their money to because they are a separate corporate entity and have their own board.

”The reason we decided to sever ties is we had very little association with what they did and what they are about. There was a perception they were a part of us and we were involved in everything they did, but the reality is we weren’t. The board decided to have [its] own corporate identity and our own association with ex-players, including those who played for NSW pre-Origin.”

The new organisation will hold a series of fund-raisers in regional areas to help revive the game in the country. ”We’ll bring past players and the whole show to town and the profits will stay there,” said corporate events manager Paul Langmack.

”We won’t be making any money out of it but we’ll be improving the brand and helping the grassroots, which has been neglected.”

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Sleight of hand … Benji Marshall keeps his options open against the Warriors at Leichhardt Oval earlier this year.BENJI MARSHALL has told incoming Wests Tigers coach Mick Potter that he wants to reclaim his No.6 jersey next season.
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Marshall met Potter – who will be the Kiwi international’s second club coach, having replaced Tim Sheens – on Monday, and the Tigers playmaker told Fairfax that his new boss asked him during that meeting where he wanted to play next season.

”I told him I’d like to be back at five-eighth,” Marshall said. ”That’s where I want to play. He asked me that, where I wanted to play, what I thought was my best position, and I told him. I was just honest with him. I want to play five-eighth.”

Sheens had tried several times to switch Marshall to halfback and it appeared his latest attempt this year might be long-term. The Kiwis captain had publicly accepted the move and even relished it, but clearly, behind the scenes, Marshall still coveted the No.6 jumper that he had worn through most of his career with the club. His latest comments prove that.

Potter is yet to publicly declare where he wants his key player, but the fact he is willing to ask Marshall suggests that a return to the position is a strong possibility.

The Tigers unearthed Curtis Sironen at five-eighth this year, and bought Sydney Roosters captain Braith Anasta to play in the halves, but both could just as easily be forwards. The question of who might play halfback if it’s not Marshall also seems clearer. Jacob Miller, the Tigers’ premiership-winning Toyota Cup captain, seemed destined to leave the club while Sheens was coach, but now Potter has taken over is set to reject overtures from Hull FC to stay. Marshall rates him as a halfback.

Marshall left his first meeting with Potter impressed, even if he previously did not know what the former Bradford coach looked like until he saw a newspaper picture of him. ”He seems like a hard man,” said Marshall. ”You can tell he’s very disciplined, just the way he was talking. I know how tough the pre-season’s going to be. I think he’ll be good for the place.”

Since Sheens’ sacking, Marshall has been the focus of suggestions that the senior players – notably he and captain Robbie Farah – wield too much power at the Tigers.

Marshall, though, rejected that. ”Most of the people who know me wouldn’t have that perception,” he said. ”Perceptions don’t bother me anyway. I know what I’m about. If I had too much power at the club, Beau Ryan and Chris Heighington wouldn’t have left.”

He said Potter would have no issues with player power. ”He’s the one who lives and dies by what he does,” he said. ”I’m a good listener, a good learner, and whatever he’s got to teach me, I’m looking forward to taking on board.”

Marshall will return to training on Monday after a break following the October Test match, and was excited about starting his first pre-season under Potter. ”It’s a bit of a change for me,” he said. ”I’ve been coached by Tim for so long, and it will feel a bit weird hearing a different voice at training. But I’m looking forward to it. There’s a bit of fresh air around the place.”

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