BasketballSuzy Batkovic stars as Townsville win the first game of the WNBL grand final series.

CLASS ABOVE: Townsville Fire skipper Suzy Batkovic puts her team on the attack in Saturday’s win against Melbourne Boomers. Pictures: AAPSUZY Batkovic is one game from the fifth Women’s National Baketball League title of her career after Townsville’s 69-64 win against Melbourne Boomers in the grand final series opener.

FOCUSED: Suzy Batkovic takes a shot from the free-throw line.

The Fire now travel to Melbourne and will try to wrap up the series on Thursday and make the third and final game redundant.

Batkovic, the three-time Olympian from Newcastle,became the first Townsville player to surpass 3000 points as she finished her 150th game for the club with 16 points along with 15 rebounds.

“I’m really proud of my girls at the defensive end,” Batkovic said in aFox Sports interview.

BATTLE: Suzy Batkovic attracts the attention of Liz Cambage.

“There was a time that we couldn’t convert, but we did such a solid job on defence and that kept us in the game when things were tough.”

If Townsville win the grand final, Batkovic will match her former Opals teammate, Lauren Jackson, as a five-time title winner. Long-serving Canberra capitals skipper Nat Hurst holds the record with six titles.

Townsville coach Claudia Brassard credited her team’s defensive play and experience as the keys to the Fire’s game-one victory, which puts them in the box seat to notcha third championship in the space offour seasons.

“It’s nice to get that out of the way and while it wasn’t pretty, it’s still a win and we are one up,” Brassard said.

“Offensively, we probably got bogged down quite a bit but Melbourne were the best defensive team in the competition and they showed that here.”

The Fire matched Melbourne’s intensity on defence and while towering centre Liz Cambage (26 points, 13 rebounds, four blocks) proved too tough to stop, they restricted the visitors to 13 per cent shooting (3-of-23) from three-point range.

“Our threes didn’t drop, we just had a miserable percentage tonight,” Melbourne coach Guy Molloy admitted after the loss.

“We make two or three more of those shots and turn it into a mediocre percentage, the game could have been ours.

“We needed to knock down our shots and we just didn’t tonight.”

The big-game experience of Batkovic, along with guard Kelly Wilson and centre Cayla George, proved invaluable for the Fire as they held off a fourth-quarter charge from the visitors.

“They have all been there before, they know what finals are like and I think down the stretch we are going to rely on them,” Brassard said.

“We have a lot of experience and we can draw on a few of those players to come out and get it done for us, which is nice.”

Needing a win to keep their title hopes alive, Cambage expects her side to turn around their shooting woes in game two on Thursday night as they attempt to set up a deciding game three back in Townsville on Sunday.

“We’ve got a pretty young team, we’ve got a lot of girls playing in their first grand final,” Cambage said.

“Hopefully they got a lot of their nerves out tonight and they’ll be pumped to go and hit those shots on our home court.”

Mystic river: Along the mighty Murray River

Our little boat noses a path through the rushes in the brown creek, the quiet engine competing with a flock of egrets. Disturbed, they eye us warily from their perch on a half-submerged river red gum.

At the tiller is John: long of beard, sharp of eye. He manages The Frames, a luxury couples-only retreat in the South n village of Paringa, which recently won gold as the country’s best self-contained accommodation at the n Tourism Awards. Overhanging the banks of the Murray, The Frames is five minutes’ drive from the gracious Riverland town of Renmark, and its day cruise through the creeks is for the lucky few.

Earlier that morning, my Instagram feed showed a friend’s boat cruising down the bayous of Mississippi, spotting alligators.”‘Amazing!” said followers. “I’ve done that!” In comparison, my little pootle through the backwaters of ‘s own mighty Murray definitely deserves the name Backwater Secrets.

Why don’t we rave about our own quiet waters? Perhaps we should adopt a French word, instead of “back creeks”, to describe this labyrinth of creeks, lagoons and inlets that cobweb the strong, flowing River Murray, here at the corner of three states.

“There are a lot of creeks hidden away, you wouldn’t even see them or know where to go unless you’re out exploring,” John says.

He’s been cruising the hidden waterways of the Murray since he was a boy, happily skipping school to head upriver in an Aussie version of Huckleberry Finn. He reckons there’s about 200 kilometres of these arms and creeks, many unnamed and most relatively unexplored.

As he chats, two glossy, sleek emus step in for a closer look at us before striding back into the bush. Dubbed “the emu whisperer” by guests, John’s been known to coax the tall, inquisitive birds even closer. A glittering rainbow bee-eater hunts at the water’s edge and the call of a whistling kite, hunting from up high, echoes about us.

It’s the signal for morning tea and John pulls the boat onto a convenient bend in Kylie Creek – named for the Murray’s first female paddleboat captain – where he sets up a little coffee station. Captain Willow, the retreat’s golden retriever mascot, guards the boat with one eye on the South n classic, a creamy bee-sting cake from the local bakery, and the homemade chocolate slice fresh from the oven of The Frames’ owner, Cathy Edmonds, which we eat while perched on a fallen tree.

“Some of these trees are thousands of years old,” John says. “A lot of people don’t know what the Murray’s about – it’s not just an irrigation system, not just water. It’s a lifestyle, it’s history.”

Watching us from the banks are straight big red kangaroos, while hunched grey wallabies and fat-bottomed euros peer warily from screens of long grass. There’s beauty in the striations of a tree’s bark, in the Aboriginal canoe trees that are still marked by the boats cut from their trunks a hundred years ago, and in the soft blending of the wallaby’s dove-grey coat, which lets it melt into the silvery bushland.

A goanna sunbakes on the river bank, fat-bellied and lethargic. By the time we’ve pulled up the tinny and leapt out, he’s halfway up a eucalyptus tree. The land has been good: he’s a healthy couple of metres long, his smooth scales shimmering in the sunlight.

On another riverbank that faces vivid red cliffs, chairs, tablecloths, a barbecue and three courses with local wine are produced from somewhere inside our little boat. During our long lunch, just one other craft passes, and we all wave congenially to each other. Otherwise, a sleepy warmth hovers over the river: word has it its signature pelicans are up at the flooded Lake Eyre, and the Riverland’s avid water-skiers have already had their early-morning thrill before heading into work.

“There’s not a day you don’t love it,” John says, and everyone nods benevolently.

These back creeks aren’t a completely hidden secret: just the weekend before, a rush of supercharged petrolheads cut through the reeds as the Red Bull Dinghy Derby came to town, and summer weekends see the river and its tributaries full of mad skiers, yabby chasers and paddlers, with the Murray’s signature houseboats swishing sedately through them all, like matrons on a mission.

Later, on the 90-minute drive back to the closest airport, Mildura, everyone in the car is quiet with their own thoughts, a whirligig spinning alongside our car, picking up the red dust. It’s still nearly 400-kilometres to the nearest state capital, Adelaide, but already it feels like civilisation is closing in.

“Why isn’t the Murray promoted as an icon, like Uluru or the Great Barrier Reef?” asks Cathy’s husband Rick. A Riverland farmer and entrepreneur, born and bred, he’s genuinely bewildered.

With its rare birds, abundant wildlife, ancient forests and dramatic red cliffs, I can’t give him a single good reason why not. TRIP NOTESMORE


southaustralia苏州美甲 FLY

Renmark is a three-hour drive from Adelaide. The closest airport is Mildura, 90 minutes away. The Frames does airport transfers. STAY

Stays at The Frames cost from $850 a night, two nights in a private river-facing retreat with pool. Includes breakfast and local fruit and wine. Phone 0418 862 260. See luxuryaccommodationsouthaustralia苏州美甲.au

Belinda Jackson travelled as a guest of The Frames Luxury Accommodation.FIVE OTHER ??? WAYS TO EXPLORE THE MURRAY

1. Nearby Gluepot Reserve is one of ‘s premium birdwatching sanctuaries with more than 800 species present. Phone 1800 247 3464, see bellbirdtours苏州美甲

2. Captain Cook Cruises will run two seven-night Renmark cruises on the Murray River in 2017 aboard the paddlewheeler PS Murray Princess, travelling 420 kilometres down the Murray River, from from $2238 a person, twin share. Phone 1300 729 938, see murrayprincess苏州美甲.au

3. Take a kayak up the river on a two-hour, family-friendly guided sunset tour at Paringa, costs $65 adult/$40 child (4-16). They also hire dinghys and run night kayak tours on full moons. Phone 0475 754 222, see canoetheriverland苏州美甲

4. Wander through the wetlands and red-gum forests, then sleep on riverboats each night on a three-night walk through private lands on the Murray. Phone 0418 808 475, see murrayriverwalk苏州美甲.au

5. Toast the scenery from the deck at the 100-year-old woolshed that is now Wilkadene Micro-Brewery: try their Judas the Dark ale with locally grown and roasted wattleseed. See woolshedbrewery苏州美甲.au

Newcastle District Cricket Association: Wallsend remain in semi-final race after 112-run win against Cityphotos

Wallsend post vital victory over City DUCK: Wests batsman Cooper Leenox (left), at the non-striker’s end, narrowly avoids a ball hit by teammate Ben Evans at Kahibah Oval on Saturday. Charlestown’s Parth Shah is the bowler. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

SLIDE: Charlestown’s Aaron Payne in the field. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

OUT: Parth Shah catches Ben Evans off his own bowling. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Aaron Payne

TweetFacebook NDCA first grade – Charlestown v WestsPictures by Jonathan CarrollWallsend have boosted theirsemi-final chancesandjoined a logjam of teams in and around the top four after Saturday’s comprehensive 112-run win over third-placed Newcastle City.

With four two-day matches remaining in the regular season the Tigers jump into sixth spot on the competition ladder and are now in the midst of five sides separated by six points.

Wallsend (40), whosuffered back-to-back losses before the Christmas break,have Charlestown (43) and title holders Hamilton-Wickham (42) just above them in the first grade standings whileBelmont (38) and University (37) sitjust below them.

The Tigers meetboth University and Belmont in the last two rounds in what could become virtual play-offs in their bid for a shot at premiership glory.

This potential scenario, coupled with thecongested leaderboard, made Wallsend’s victory against Cityeven more important at No.1 Sportsground on day two of the round 10 encounter.

The early wickets of City pair Sam O’Sullivan and Nicholas Tantos for ducks set the tone beforea crucial spell from Tigers skipper Nathan Price, who was recently named captain of the NSW Indigenous squad for next month’s national championships in the Northern Territory.

Price (3-30) took 3-11 when he dismissed Kai Appleby (25), Ahmed Badat (26) and Jonty Major (6) in quick succession to reduce the hosts to 6-87.

Newcastle representative all-rounder Dylan Hunter followed soon after and City, after resuming at 1-31, were all out for 123.

Wallsend, who made 235 last weekend, enforced the follow on and City finished at 3-55 when stumps were called.

Elsewhere,Charlestown (6-143) staved off an outright attempt by second-placed Wests (217), who already had first-innings points and eventually an 85-run lead, courtesy of an unbeaten half-century by skipper Steve Mace at Kahibah Oval.

Matt Webber’s 5-56 ensured Uni(209) fell 58 runs short against Hamwicks,frontrunners Merewether (9dec241) had a comfortable victory after starting the day at 1-61 and 108 behind Waratah-Mayfield, Toronto got the job done by 50 over Belmont (125) but weren’t able to muster a second-innings resultwhile Stockton-Raymond Terrace held on by 28 to denywinless Cardiff-Boolaroo (160).

LADDER: Merewether 66, Wests 53, City 48, Charlestown 43, Hamwicks 42, Wallsend 40, Belmont 38, University 37, Toronto 27, Waratah 21, Stockton 20, Cardiff 10.

Enjoy your weekend with a little help from the Herald

SATURDAYLake Mac Festival of Surfing Saturday and Sunday, Redhead Beach.Longboard, short board and stand-up paddleboard competitions;markets and beach activities.

The Levee One Day Sale 9am, The Levee Central Maitland. Offers and discounts from more than 50 stores.

Bandapalooza 3pm, Lass O’Gowrie Hotel. Nine bands playing; visual artists. Entry $5.

A-League 5.35pm, Newcastle Jets v Wellington Phoenix at McDonald Jones Stadium, Broadmeadow.

Swinging Safari–Special Q&A Screening 6pm to 9pm, Reading Cinemas Charlestown. With director Stephan Elliott.

National Music Academy Open Day 10am to 5pm, 461A King Street, Newcastle. Free trial lessons.

Computer Pals For Seniors 9am to 4pm,Stockland Green Hills Shopping Centre, East Maitland.Pop-up desk offering information and help with all devices.

Waterworld Central Doyalson Saturday and Sunday, 10am to 4pm, Doyalson Wyee RSL Club.

Hunter Valley Aviation Open Day 9am to 5pm, 455 Wine Country Drive, Cessnock.

Free Face Painting 10am onwards, The Secret Garden, Charlestown Square.

Outdoor Cinema 6pm, Hungerford Hill Wines, Pokolbin. Movie: The Mummy.

Super Street Garage Sale 8am, 65 East Street, Warners Bay.Multiple households are having a jumbo garage sale at the one location.

DSA January Surf Day 8am onwards, Caves Beach.Any person with a disability is welcome; cost is $10 (volunteers and carers exempt).

Thrashville 11am onwards, Belford. Music festival.

Christmas Lights SpectacularSaturday and Sunday, Hunter Valley Gardens, 5.30pm to 10pm.

Nelson Bay Golf Club Wedding Expo 10am to 2pm, 57 Dowling Street, Nelson Bay. trade stands, live entertainment, sparkling on arrival, canapes, ceremony site tours. Entry is free.

SUNDAYNewcastle Holiday & Cruise Expo10am to 3pm, NEX, Wests City, Newcastle.Exclusive savings on flights, tours, cruises and packages, free theatre presentations and a virtual reality lounge.

Outdoor Cinema 6pm,Hungerford Hill Wines, Pokolbin. Movie: Wonder Woman.

Timbernook Launch Day 2pm, Yamuloong, 71 Prospect Road, Garden Suburb.Timbernook Newcastle is an n first.Spend time outdoors and learn more about the Timberbook children’s programs. Bookings are essential.

Locals Night 6.30pm, The Verandah Restaurant, Pokolbin. Pre-dinner drinks and canapes followed by a five-course Italian-inspired tapas dinner. Cost $50 per person, bookings essential by phoning4998 7231.

Bridal Expo 10am, McDonald Jones Stadium, Broadmeadow.

The Wellbeing and Psychic Fair 10am to 4pm, Swansea RSL Club.

Mister P’s Burger Bar Closing Down Party Noon to 3pm, 215-217 Pacific Highway, Charlestown.

Crop til You Stop 10am to 10pm, The Scrapbooker’s Confetti Box, 100 Pacific Highway, Swansea.Bring along your craft and create in a fun environment.

SAVE THE DATEMy Kids Market NSW is coming to Newcastle Basketball Stadium at Broadmeadow on February 25, 9am to noon. Everything families need can be bought and sold including babies’and children’s clothing, shoes, toys, books, prams, bikes, cots, highchairs, rockers and other nursery items. Stall bookings are now open online, for details visit mykidsmarketnsw苏州美甲.au.

MARKETSFarmers & Artisan Market @ Lake Mac East Saturday, 8am to 1pm, Quinn Park, Swansea.

Newcastle Racecourse Market Sunday, 9am to 2pm, Darling Street, Broadmeadow.

Newcastle City Farmers Market Sunday, 7am to 1pm, Newcastle Showground, Broadmeadow.

Adamstown Lions Markets Sunday, 7am to 12.30pm, corner Brunker and Glebe roads, Adamstown.

ARTSLake Macquarie City Art GalleryBoard; Lake Macquarie: Living Cultures (surf lifesaving); At The Beach. Until February 4.

Finite GalleryCaves BeachSchool holiday workshops, go tofinitegallery苏州美甲/category/newsfor details.

Cooks Hill GalleriesThe Summer Collection, online exhibition. Until February 4.

The Lock UpFinal Remembering, by Lottie Consalvo. In the Halls of My Youth, by James Drinkwater. Ends Sunday.

Newcastle MuseumDinosaur Revolution, until January 28.

Maitland Regional Art GalleryArt Maker, Patron, Lover, by Gary Grealy. Until March 18.David Archer: Archer’s Arcadia. Until February 4. Passchendale –A Ridge Too Far, Photography in Battle; Taking a closer look, by Bruce Roxburgh. Until January 28. Lionel’s Place. Until April 8.

Newcastle Art GalleryPainting Memory: From The Collection. Until January 28. Everything Changes: Tim Maguire 2002-2017. Until February 18.Free tours, Saturdays and Sundays, 11am, until February 18.

Gallery 139The Doggie Show. Until February 4.

Timeless Textiles Urban Narrative, by Eszter Bornemisza. Until February 10.

Cessnock Regional Art Gallery Local HSC 2017. Until February 11.

Port Stephens Community Arts CentreSun, Surf and Sand. Until February 20.

THEATREDead Centre and Sea WallThis double bill by Tom Holloway andSimon Stephens looks at factors that alter the relationship between acouple, with the woman moving from England to in theDeadCentre to try to escape her past, and the man looking in Sea Wall atissues in a coastal region that affected them. Stooged Theatre, at theCatapult Dance Studios, Newcastle West. Saturday at7.30pm and Sunday at 6pm.

For the Love of Mrs Brown WidowMrs Brown uses internet socialmedia to try to get a romantic partner for Valentine’s Day, and herfamily use diverse means to win relationships; amusing live versionof the TV series with writer-actor Brendan O’Carroll as MrsBrown. Newcastle Entertainment Centre, Broadmeadow. Saturday, at 2pm and 7.30pm.

Honk JrLively musical adaptation of fairy tale The Ugly Duckling,with a young cast playing the farmyard animals with very differentviews of a very unusual baby bird. Maitland Musical Society. JamesTheatre, Dungog: Saturday, at 7.30pm, Sunday, at 2pm.

I Ought to Be in PicturesNeil Simon comedy about a 19-year-oldgirl who treks from New York to Hollywood to try to make thescreen-writing father who deserted the family 16 years earlier accepther acting ability. Newcastle Theatre Company, at the NTC Theatre,Lambton. Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 2pm.

MUSIC5 Sawyers Saturday, Alessandro. Sunday, Marissa +1.

Anna Bay TavernSaturday, Smoke N Mirrors.Sunday, Romney Watts.

Hotel CessnockSaturday, Kim.

Bar Petite Saturday, CrocQ.

Battlesticks Bar Saturday,Dean Kyrwood.Sunday,James Naldo.

Bay HotelSaturday, Gen-X.

Beach HotelSaturday, Club Esky. Sunday, Free Willy & The Grace Brothers.

Bellbird HotelSaturday, Troy Kemp.

Belmont 16sSaturday, Hayden Johns, Love That Hat. Sunday, Bloom.

Belmore HotelSaturday, Sundays Record.

Beresfield Bowling ClubSaturday, Snape Trilogy.

Blackbutt HotelSaturday, Angel Gear.

The BradfordSaturday, Pat Vs Cat.

Cambridge HotelSunday, Jacob, Shrimp, Fungus, Milky Thred, India (all ages show). The Waxfinz, Wavevom,The Med Heads,The Womb Lordz.

Cardiff RSL ClubSaturday, Siren.

Catho PubSaturday,James Naldo.Sunday, Loose Bazooka.

Central Charlestown Leagues ClubSaturday, Pete Gelzinnis.

Cessnock Leagues ClubSaturday, Blue Water Cowboys.

​Club LemonTreeSaturday, Viper Creek Band, Anthony Lee.

Club RedheadSaturday, Busta Thong.

Commercial Hotel MorpethSaturday, Cotton Sax and Strings.

Country Club Hotel Shoal BaySaturday, The Radiators.

Criterion Hotel CarringtonSaturday, Big Pete. Sunday, Kim.

Criterion Hotel WestonSaturday, Early Daze.

Crown & Anchor HotelSaturday, Adrianna Mac. Sunday, Anyerin.

Customs House Saturday, Anyerin. Sunday, Sunset Club.

Cypress LakesSaturday, Tim Harding.

DashvilleSaturday, Thrashville ft. Frenzal Rhomb, King Parrot, Batpiss, Frankenbok, Gay Paris, The n Beef Week, Paper Thin, Rort Menace and more.

Duke Of WellingtonSaturday, Jungle Kings Duo.

East Cessnock Bowling ClubSaturday, Paul Watters.

East Maitland Bowling ClubSaturday, X & Y Band. Sunday, Boney Rivers.

Easts Leisure & Golf ClubSaturday, Bonny Rai.

Edgeworth Bowling ClubSunday, Troy Kemp.

Edgeworth TavernSaturday, Romney Watts.

Fingal Bay Sports ClubSunday, Pistol Pete.

FinnegansSaturday, Lady Lauryn & Lionette.

Gateshead TavernSunday, Paparazzi.

Grand Junction HotelSunday, Teej and Fiends.

Gunyah HotelSaturday, Overload.​

Harrigan’s PokolbinSaturday, John Larder, Purple Rain. Sunday, Link Phelps.

Honeysuckle HotelSaturday, Mark Wells. Sunday, Matt McLaren, Holly Mae.

Hotel DelanySaturday, Loose Bazooka.

Imperial Hotel SingletonSaturday, Four To The Floor.

Jewells TavernSaturday, Shadowboxer –The Angels show. Sunday, Mick Jones.

Kent HotelSaturday, Code Red.

Lake Macquarie Yacht ClubSunday, Andrew G.

Lakeside Village TavernSaturday, Viagro.

Lass O’GowrieSaturday, Thunder Fox, Arcades and Lions, Catnip, Julia Why?, Diplazar, The Buoys, Rum Jungle, Zampa, Polo Prince. Sunday,Lonesome & Ernest, Plan C,p…t.ENE,Billy Kaye, First Bird.

Lizotte’sSaturday,Soul Sacrifice – Celebrating Carlos Santana.

Lucky HotelSaturday, Bandditts. Sunday, Adrianna Mac.

Mark HotelSaturday, Chad Shuttleworth. Sunday, Loko.

Mary Ellen HotelSaturday, Tre Soul. Sunday, Dean Kyrwood.

Maryland Tavern Saturday, Paparazzi.

Mavericks On The BaySaturday, Arley Black. Sunday, Zane Penn.

Mavericks On DarbySaturday, Mick Jones. Sunday, Bonny Rai.

Mayfield Ex-ServicesSaturday, Smokin Rosie.

Metropolitan Hotel MaitlandSaturday, The Perpetrators.

Mezz Bar at Wallsend DiggersSaturday,Cruzers, DJ Searly.

Morisset Country ClubSunday, Duncan Woods.

Murray’s BrewerySaturday, Amy Fredes. Sunday, Pete Gelzinnis.

Nag’s Head HotelSaturday, Pap & That.

Neath HotelSaturday, 2GoodReasons.

Nelson Bay DiggersSaturday, Loko. Sunday, Tim Harding.

Nelson Bay Golf ClubSaturday, Emily Smith.

Newcastle Cruising Yacht ClubSunday, Hummingbirds.

Northern Star Hotel Saturday,Jack Derwin.

Pedens CessnockSaturday, Crawfish Stew Band.

Pelican RSL ClubSaturday, Full Throttle. Sunday, John Larder.

Pippis At The PointSaturday, Dos Eager. Sunday, Max Jackson.

Potters BrewerySaturday, Matt McLaren.

Premier HotelSaturday, Evergreen. Sunday, Love That Hat.

Prince of Wales HotelSaturday, The Rattle.

Queens Wharf HotelSaturday, Jerome, Good Company.

Royal Federal HotelBranxtonSaturday, The V Dubs.

Royal Hotel SingletonSunday, 2 To The Floor.

Royal Motor Yacht Club TorontoSunday, Murray Byfield.

Rutherford HotelSaturday, Zane Penn.

Seabreeze Hotel Sunday, Lennie Live.

Shenanigans at the ImperialSaturday, Iguana. Sunday, Howard Shearman.

Shortland HotelSaturday, Brendan Murphy.

Soldiers Point Bowling ClubSaturday, Rave On.

South Newcastle Leagues ClubSaturday, Boney Rivers.

Stag and Hunter HotelSaturday, The Amanda Emblem Experiment, Jessie Redwood.

Stockton Bowling ClubSaturday, DJ Symon. Sunday, Kevin O’Hara.

Swansea HotelSaturday, The Bad And The Ugly.

Swansea RSLClubSaturday, Smokin’ Mirrors.

Swansea Workers ClubSaturday, Solid Gold Dance Party.

Tea Gardens Country ClubSaturday,Katie N Feff.

Tea Gardens HotelSaturday, Kevin O’Hara. Sunday, Tyler John.

Tilligerry RSLSaturday, Andrew G.

Toronto DiggersSaturday, John Noble.

Toronto HotelSunday, Arley Black.

Toronto WorkersSaturday, Mardmax. Sunday, Todd Schmoo.

Victoria Hotel HintonSaturday, Jon Matthews. Sunday, Roxy.

Wangi HotelSunday, Jamie Martens.

Warners At The BaySaturday, Wicked.

Westfield KotaraSaturday, Holly Mae.

Wests CardiffSaturday, Hummingbirds.

Wests New LambtonSaturday, Deuce. Saturday, Ben Portsmouth –The King is Back. Tuesday, Angamus.

Wickham Park HotelSaturday,Sunhill Drive,Band Of Burbs.Sunday,Ron Knight & The Daze Band.

MOVIESAll The Money In The World(R)The story of the kidnapping of 16-year-oldJohn Paul Getty IIIand the desperate attempt by his devoted mother to convince his billionaire grandfatherJean Paul Gettyto pay the ransom.

Breathe(M)The inspiring true love story of Robin and Diana Cavendish, an adventurous couple who refuse to give up in the face of a devastating disease. Their heartwarming celebration of human possibility marks the directorial debut of Andy Serkis. (Lake Cinema)

Coco(PG)Despite his family’s baffling generations-old ban on music, Miguel dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz.

Darkest Hour(PG)Within days of becoming prime minister, Winston Churchill must face his most turbulent and defining trial: exploring a negotiated peace treaty with Nazi Germany, or standing firm to fight for the ideals, liberty and freedom of a nation.

Ferdinand(G)After Ferdinand, a bull with a big heart, is mistaken for a dangerous beast, he is captured and torn from his home.

Hampstead(PG)An American widow finds unexpected love with a man living wild on Hampstead Heath when they take on the developers who want to destroy his home. (Lake Cinema)

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle(PG)Four high school kids discover an old video game console and are drawn into the game’s jungle setting, literally becoming the adult avatars they chose.

Mary and the Witch’s Flower(PG)One day, when Mary follows an odd cat into the woods, she stumbles upon a strange flower that she has never seen before. Suddenly, the luminescent power inside the flower brings a broomstick lying nearby to life, which then whisks her above the clouds and off to a strange andsecret place.

Maze Runner: The Death Cure(M)Young hero, Thomas, embarks on a mission to find a cure to a deadly disease known as the “Flare”.

Paddington 2(G) Now happily settled with the Brown family, Paddington picks up a series of odd jobs to buy the perfect present for his Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday, only for the gift to be stolen.

Pitch Perfect 3(M)Following their win at the world championship, the now separated Bellas reunite for one last singing competition at an overseas USO tour, but face a group who uses both instruments and voices.

Stars Wars Episode VIII:The Last Jedi(M)Rey develops her newly discovered abilities with the guidance of Luke Skywalker, who is unsettled by the strength of her powers.

Swinging Safari(M)A teenager comes of age in a small n town during the 1970s when a 200-tonne blue whale gets washed up on a local beach.

The Commuter(M)A businessman is caught up in a criminal conspiracy during his daily commute home.

The Greatest Showman(PG)The story of P.T Barnum, a visionary who rose from nothing to create a mesmerising spectacle that became a worldwide sensation.

The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature(PG)Following the events of the first film, Surly and his friends must stop Oakton City’s mayor from destroying their home to make way for a dysfunctional amusement park.

The Post(M)A thrilling drama about the unlikely partnership between The Washington Post’s Katharine Graham, the first female publisher of a major American newspaper, and editor Ben Bradlee, as they race to catch up with The New York Times to expose a massive cover-up of government secrets that spanned three decades and four US presidents.

New bus timetable facing first test under private operator Keolis Downer

OPTIMISTIC: Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter Scot MacDonald testing out the new service. IT’S been confirmed there is scope for a review of the city’s new bus timetable, but commuters have been urged to go in with an open mind, as the first shake-upin a decade took effect on Sunday.

Keolis Downer –the city’s new private transport operator – also used the occasion to launch a trial of its“on-demand” service at Lake Macquarie, the equivalent of Uber for buses.

While the first real test will come on Monday with the rush of morning commuters, the timetable has already meta hostile reception from passengersno longer serviced by a direct route.

Responding to the backlash on Sunday,the state government and Keolis Downer said there was potential for the new timetable to be reviewed, but reiterated itwould see an overall increase of 1200 services.

Thegreatest benefit is expected to be the introduction of services every 15 minutes on four“main trunk routes”.

“That’s where the highest demand for services are, so that’s where we’ve added the extra services,” parliamentary secretary for the Hunter Scot MacDonald said.

He admitted that Novocastrians could be “a little bit wary” about change, butwas optimistic people would come around to the new timetable. He emphasized it was based on Opal card data.

“We’ve had low patronage on public transport –less than four per cent –so business as usual couldn’t go on.

“If we need to make changes, obviously we’ll be talking to people like Keolis, but I think we’ve got to give it a go,” Mr MacDonaldsaid.

Sunday saw Mr MacDonald and Keolis Downer’s Hunter general manager Mark Dunlop ride the first “on-demand” bus from Warners Bay to Charlestown.

Customers can order a bus to pick them up and take them anywherewithin the boundaries of Dudley, Mount Hutton, Charlestown and Warners Bay.

Buses can be ordered by phone or smartphoneapp, with a fixed $3 adultfare and$1.50 concession.

Mr Dunlop said the “sophisticated” technology had already been tested overseasand he was confident it would minimise travel times.

“The app [is] dynamically altering the route to come up with the optimal path for the bus to go and all of this is done in real time,” he said.

He said the entire service would be reviewed on an ongoing basis, but the launch of the timetable was “exciting”.

“There’s an enormous amount of work that’s gone into it,” Mr Dunlopsaid.