‘A 36-year-old shouldn’t be favourite for a tournament’

Roger Federer has cheekily played down his chances of winning a record 20th grand slam at this year’s n Open, saying he doesn’t think a 36-year-old should be favourite to win such a tournament.

Speaking two days before he opens his campaign for a sixth n Open title against world No.51 Aljaz Bedene (Slovenia) on Tuesday, Federer said it was only natural for him to be less optimistic late in his career.

“With age, I feel like I play down my chances just because I don’t think a 36-year-old should be a favourite of a tournament. It should not be the case,” Federer said on Sunday.

“That’s why I see things more relaxed, you know, at a later stage of my career.”

Federer won 2017’s dream n Open final against old Spanish nemesis Rafael Nadal after six months out of the game through injury, but he ominously described this year’s preparation into the first grand slam of the year as “perfect”.

“It’s totally different,” he said. “This year I hope to win the first few rounds and get rolling hopefully, whereas last year I was just hoping to win.

“It was more of a ‘let’s see what happens’ kind of tournament, maybe similar to what Novak [Djokovic] or Stan [Wawrinka] or others are going through this year.”

Federer went on to win Wimbledon and three ATP World Tour Masters events in 2017, propelling himself back to the world No.2 ranking after he dropped to No.16 at the end of 2016.

His lean run into his superb 2017 could be why he is playing down his chances of success in 2018. Federer knows that Djokovic (elbow) and Wawrinka (knee), like he himself in 2017, could still be dangerous this time around despite their ailments.

World No.1 and n Open top seed Nadal is also under an injury cloud with a troublesome knee.

Before he played in the Kooyong Classic last week Nadal hadn’t hit a tennis ball in a competitive fixture since he lost to David Goffin at the World Tour Finals in London in November.

“It’s like, let’s just see what happens. I’m not at 100 per cent [Federer thought in 2017], but you never know in a week’s time what’s going to be happening,” Federer said.

“If you’re in the draw, you give yourself a chance. That’s what happened for me last year. All ended up way better than I thought it would.

“It was the tournament of the year for me, no doubt about it.”

Newcastle Beachwatch with Dave Anderson: Saturday, February 24, 2018

BEACH WATCH Beachwatch: Saturday, February 24, 2018 SURF: Taken on Friday, February, 23, 2018. Picture: Dave Anderson.

Photo taken on Monday, February 19. Picture: Dave Anderson.

GIRLS RIP: Photo taken at Merewether on Thursday, February 15. Picture: Dave Anderson.

SURF: Jesse Adam four times winner Open Mens Division Merewether Surfboard Club 2017. Piucture: Davbe Anderson

BEACH: Ollie and Felix with dolphins at Merewether. Picture: Dave Anderson

SURF: The view at Merewether Beach on November 9. Picture: Dave Anderson

SURF: The view at Merewether Beach on November 8. Picture: Dave Anderson

SURF: The view at Newcastle Beach … Picture: Dave Anderson

SURF: Beautiful morning. Picture: Dave Anderson

SURF: Chris Davis at Merewether on October 25. Picture: Dave Anderson

SURF: Nick at Merewether on October 24. Picture: Dave Anderson

SURF: Todd at Merewether on October 24. Picture: Dave Anderson

SURF: Dawn at Merewether on October 23, 2017. Picture: Dave Anderson

SURF: Erosion at Cliff. Picture: Dave Anderson

SURF: Axel-Rose Curotta at the Mattara Classic. Picture: Dave Anderson

SURF: Amelia Bourke at Merewether on October 20. Picture: Dave Anderson

SURF: Amelia Bourke at Merewether on October 20. Picture: Dave Anderson

SURF: Kite-surfers at Nobby’s. Picture: Dave Anderson

SURF: Sunday arvo at Newcastle. Picture: Dave Anderson

SURF: Merewether morning on September 21. Picture: Dave Anderson

SURF: Dixon Park. Picture: Dave Anderson

SURF: Nobbys Spit on September 20. Picture: Dave Anderson

SURF: Stockton on September 20. Picture: Dave Anderson

SURF: Gleaming grom at Merewether on September 19. Picture: Dave Anderson

SURF: Hollow shorey at Pogos on September 19. Picture: Dave Anderson

SURF: Heavy shorebreaker at Nobbys on September 18. Picture: Dave Anderson

SURF: Backpacker surfer at Nobbys. Picture: Dave Anderson

SURF: The spit at Nobbys on September 18. Picture: Dave Anderson

SURF: Morning SUP at Pogos. Picture: Dave Anderson

SURF: Ski Paddle at Dixon. Picture: Dave Anderson

SURF: Nobbys. Picture: Dave Anderson

SURF: Cleaning at Merewether beach. Picture: Dave Anderson

SURF: Ollie at Merewether. Picture: Dave Anderson

SURF: Ollie Ryssenbeek navigates The Ladies on September 12. Picture: Dave Anderson

SURF: Dixon Park on September 12. Picture: Dave Anderson

SURF: Morgan Cibilic at Merewether training for the Junior Worlds on September 11. Picture: Dave Anderson

SURF: Morgan Cibilic at Merewether training for the Junior Worlds on September 11. Picture: Dave Anderson

SURF: Off-reef at Nobbys on September 11. Picture: Dave Anderson

SURF: Paul Snow at Merewether. Picture: Dave Anderson

SURF: Backside glide Merewether. Picture: Dave Anderson

SURF: Dawn sets at Merewether on September 7. Picture: Dave Anderson

SURF: Gulls at Nobbys on September 7. Picture: Dave Anderson

SURF: Twin Peaks at Merewether on September 6. Picture: Dave Anderson

SURF: Nobbys spit on September 5. Picture: Dave Anderson

SURF: Sanding-up at Merwether on September 4. Picture: Dave Anderson

SURF: Super Grom at Merewether on September 3. Picture: Dave Anderson

SURF: Father’s Day at the beach. Picture: Dave Anderson

TweetFacebookHUNTER BOATINGWindsNorth to northeasterly 15 to 25 knots, reaching up to 30 knots offshore during the afternoon and evening.

Seas1.5 to 2 metres, increasing to 2 to 3 metres during the afternoon. 1st Swell: Northeasterly 1 to 1.5 metres. 2nd Swell: Southeasterly around 1 metre.

WeatherPartly cloudy. The chance of a thunderstorm in the afternoon and early evening.


Yesterday: Tenso, 12.18am; FPMC B Luck, 8.12am; SBI Capoeira, 10.35am; UBC Canada, 4.06pm; Wincanton, 4.30pm; Matisse, 8pm.

Today:United Halo, 4am; Century Wave, 5am;Elisabeth Oldendorff, 6.45am; Mariolina De Carlini, 8am; Ocean Prometheus, 8.45am; Oslo Bulk 5, 1.45pm; Golden Ace, 2.15pm; Maersk Marmara, 2.45pm; Ya Tai 2, 5pm; Shoyo, 5.30pm; Hyundai Samcheonpo, 7.30pm; Belle Rose, 8pm; Ivs Sunbird, 10.15pm; Sincere Pisces, 11pm.


Yesterday:Sti Onyx, 3.17am; Azul Integra, 7.58am;Olympic Glory, 12.45pm;Berge Hakodate, 1.52pm; Tenso, 9.45pm.

Today:Castellani,1am; Anangel Vision, 2.03am; Teizan, 3am; Helveita, 6am; Sonja, 9am; Matisse, 11.30am; UBC Canada, 12pm; Pacific Venture, 12.15pm; SBI Capoeira, 12.30pm; FPMC B Luck, 3.30pm; Wincanton, 9.15pm.

AIR QUALITYNewcastle Good Wallsend GoodBeresfieldGoodMuswellbrookGoodSingleton Very Good

‘Is this it?’: Chinan mother feared for her life

An n living in Hawaii has told how her frightened teenage son alerted her that a missile was apparently on its way.

Donna Smallwood, 49, was mistakenly warned of an imminent attack in an alert issued to Hawaii cellphone users about 8.07am local time on Saturday.

“BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” The message also appeared on Hawaii television stations, according to news reports. The alert was officially cancelled about 38 minutes later.

The frightening mistake, which Governor David Ige later attributed to a state employee’s errant push of a button, prompted outrage and calls for an investigation.

Ms Smallwood said she thought “Is this it?” as she sheltered in a closet with her two children. While relieved it turned out to be a false alarm, she was angry about having been put through the fear in the first place.

“I’m so mad,” she said. “The emotional rollercoaster was something no one should have to go through, ever.”

“The things that go through your mind: Is this it?”

Ms Smallwood, a businesswoman and the administrator of the ns in Hawaii Facebook page, was outside her house at Ewa Beach, a Honolulu suburb, when she heard a siren sound from the golf course next door.

Inside, her 13-year-old son, Connor, was walking down the stairs saying, “Mum, I’m scared”.

He was shaking as he showed her a text saying a ballistic missile was heading for Hawaii and to seek emergency shelter.

Ms Smallwood said she was “freaking out on the inside” but trying to keep calm.

“I got my 11-year-old, Pierce, up and he was like, ‘Mum what’s this on my phone?’ ” She called her husband, Nick, who had not been notified. He “bunkered down with the guys in the clubhouse”.

Ms Smallwood and her sons sat in a closet until an n friend, Gina Ornellas, and children Noah, 14, and Sophia, 11, knocked on the door.

Thirty minutes after the initial warning, a friend married to a policeman posted that it was a false alarm.

Ms Smallwood said the ordeal was terrifying.

“Your mind goes 100 miles an hour, trying to problem solve: Is it real, isn’t it real, do we ring people, do we tell people we love them?”

Her curious 11-year-old was looking up statistics online about how many people could die if a missile hit.

Ms Smallwood, who is from Broken Hill, lived on the Gold Coast for 20 years and has lived in Hawaii for 15 years, said some locals had grabbed food from shops without paying. One neighbour shoved their children into a manhole.

She is angry the government didn’t have much of an emergency plan. “It was just a huge mess.”

“You think that you’re protected and that the government here will look after you and have all the right steps set in place, but they obviously didn’t.

“It’s very unnerving and makes me kind of want to go, I want to go home again now. I’ve had enough of this, this isn’t fun any more.”

Danielle Smith was standing on a beach with her husband and two children when a sea of mobile phones buzzed with news of the attack.

“Suddenly about 50 phones went off around me on the beach,” Ms Smith said from Hawaii on Sunday afternoon.

“Everyone’s just looking around me going, ‘What do you do? What do you do?’.”

Ms Smith, who works as a photographer for Fairfax Media in Sydney, had been on holiday for about a week-and-a-half with her husband, Nick Conrick, their eight-year-old son, Nixon, and 13-year-old daughter, Ebony.

The family had driven from their accommodation at Waikiki at 6am to catch a glimpse of the famous swell.

“We were pretty much helpless, standing on the beach just going, ‘What the hell do you do?'” Ms Smith said.

As reality set in, they desperately sought out locals for advice on what to do, but many were just as clueless. Eventually someone herded them into the local school, Sunset Beach Elementary School, where they “bunkered down”, with nothing left to do but wait.

“We were just sitting in there and literally it was just silent, no one was talking,” she said.

“It was just fingers crossed, I guess, just sitting there waiting.”

A spokesman for the military command said the warning message had been sent accidentally.

David Ige, the governor of Hawaii, said in a statement: “The public must have confidence in our emergency alert system. I am working to get to the bottom of this so we can prevent an error of this type in the future.”

Mr Ige told reporters the mistake was the result of human error and someone at the state emergency management agency pushed the “wrong button” during a shift change, CNN reported.

Images and postings on social media showed people flooding area highways, crowding into police stations and seeking shelter in concrete structures including parking garages. One unconfirmed Twitter posting showed a resident lowering children through a manhole in a sidewalk.

The US Federal Communications Commission said it was launching a “full investigation” into the mishap, which sent panic throughout Hawaii.

The incident happened amid high international tensions over North Korea’s development of a ballistic nuclear weapon.

North Korean President Kim Jong-un has threatened to unleash his country’s growing missile weapon capability against US states or the US territory of Guam, prompting President Donald Trump to threaten tough actions against Pyongyang.

As the event unfolded, Mr Trump was wrapping up a round of golf at the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Florida.

He returned to his resort, Mar-a-Lago, where the White House said he was briefed on the situation.

Hawaii, a chain of islands in the Pacific Ocean, has a population of about 1.4 million people, according to the US Census Bureau, and is home to the US Pacific Command, the Navy’s Pacific Fleet and other elements of the American military.

In November, Hawaii said it would resume monthly statewide testing of Cold War-era nuclear attack warning sirens for the first time in at least a quarter of a century, in preparation for a possible missile strike from North Korea, state officials said at the time.

Mr Ige said the false warning was “a mistake made during a standard procedure at the changeover of a shift and an employee pushed the wrong button”.

At a news conference, Mr Ige and Hawaii Emergency Management Agency Administrator Vern Miyagi promised that no single person will be able to cause such an error in the future.

Mr Miyagi said a rule has already been put in place to mandate that two people be present before the button is pushed to alert for a drill or emergency.

He also said a cancellation message template would be created for such an error scenario so a delay like Saturday’s did not happen again.

The false alert prompted US military officials to scan systems that monitor missile launches; they determined almost instantly that there was no threat. But officials described confusion over whether or how the military should correct a state-issued alert.

Hawaii struggled to issue a comprehensive correction. The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency transmitted its first “no missile threat” message within 12 minutes of the mistaken alert, but that revision only went out on the agency’s Twitter account.

It wasn’t until 8.45am that the agency was able to issue a stand-down message across the same cellphone and cable television networks that had spread the initial, erroneous warning.

By that time, officials from Hawaii including Democrat Tulsi Gabbard had taken it upon themselves to distribute stand-down messages on social media.

“What happened today is totally inexcusable,” Senator Brian Schatz, a Democrat, said in a posting on his Twitter account. “The whole state was terrified. There needs to be tough and quick accountability and a fixed process.”

With Reuters, The Washington Post and Miriam Webber

Bushfire forces closure of Newcastle Airport

Masonite Rd Tomago bushfire. Pic shows a water bombing helicopter at work over the fire. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers MMH Bushfire threatening homes, property and livestock between Tomago and Williamtown. Picture shows fire fighters at a property along Cabbage Tree Road, Williamtown.

A large bushfire burning near Newcastle, which forced the city’s airport to close and caused residents to shelter in their homes, was downgraded in severity to “watch and act” on Sunday evening.

Though the fire had begun to subside with crews “slowly gaining the upper hand”, strong southerly winds were expected overnight, pushing the fire north.

On Monday morning the fire was downgraded to ‘advice’ and was being controlled by the Rural Fire Service.

The Bureau of Meteorology had on Sunday issued a severe weather warning for damaging winds to Newcastle, with gusts averaging 60 to 70 km/h, while peak gusts could reach 90 km/h.

Almost 200 firefighters worked to contain the fire “ahead of hot conditions this week”, the NSW Rural Fire Service said on Sunday evening.

The fire, which has burned 1931 hectares of land, was given “emergency” status when it flared up at Tomago on Saturday, then downgraded overnight to “advice” level.

Strong southerly winds on Sunday returned the fire to emergency status, when a spot fire was sparked to the north of the initial blaze. Almost 200 firefighters continue to work on the Masonite Fire burning near Campvale & Williamtown, north of Newcastle. These crews will remain on the fireground overnight as they work to contain the fire ahead of hot conditions this week. #NSWRFS#FRNSW#NPWSpic.twitter苏州美甲/vjzQdjq3MN??? NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) January 14, 2018Emergency Warning: Masonite Rd, Tomago fire. This infrared imagery is looking south east over the Newcastle airport. The video shows the location of spot fires to the north of the airport runway. https://t成都夜场招聘/o5vERBAR4L#NSWRFSpic.twitter苏州美甲/f5Fi4U9DBc??? NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) January 14, 2018Masonite Rd Fire now at Advice. Conditions continue to ease. Firefighters will remain on the fireground overnight as they work to contain the fire. #NSWRFShttps://t成都夜场招聘/l60v534xuGpic.twitter苏州美甲/YH781GGZ41??? NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) January 14, 2018Tomago bushfire smoke chokes Richardson Road as wind starts to pick up. @nbnnewspic.twitter苏州美甲/VfPp0HJvT2??? Meredith Gibbs (@meredith_gibbs) January 14, 2018Gale force winds are expected along parts of the NSW coastal fringe today. A Severe Weather Warning has been issued: https://t成都夜场招聘/MSG9BOrwXQ. Check observations at https://t成都夜场招聘/T7xOVXXHiq. #Sydney#Illawarra#Hunter#MidNorthCoast#NorthernRiverspic.twitter苏州美甲/Dc8xcP6SfM??? Bureau of Meteorology, New South Wales (@BOM_NSW) January 13, 2018It’s windy in Sydney. This just fell down. pic.twitter苏州美甲/8mjLUZHVOx??? David M. Levinson (@trnsprtst) January 14, 2018

This wheel’s on fire – the small measures keeping Sydney’s CBD in deliveries

Courier Paul Tubert at the Goulburn Street Courier Hub. The state government has established a free “courier hub” for courier companies to use. They truck goods into the hub, put them in a cage, and then use bike couriers to get the goods across the city. Thursday 11th January 2018. SMH photo Louie Douvis .Amid Sydney’s latest batch of transport woes it can be easy to overlook that sometimes the best-laid plans work out tolerably well.

When construction started on Sydney’s light rail line two years ago, authorities were keen to foreshadow the worst.

Traffic would be slower; the roads would be a nightmare; it might be best to delay your trip.

The thinking behind the campaign was to try to convince Sydney residents to avoid driving into the city centre whenever they could.

Two years on, the strategy seems a success.

“Traffic in the morning and afternoon peak is actually pretty good here in the city,” said Marg Prendergast, the co-ordinator-general of Transport Co-ordination at Transport for NSW.

“Your busiest time is midday, with all the deliveries.”

Those deliveries, however, remain one of the inner city’s main transport challenges.

Not only has there been an increase in the number of goods being delivered, but the government also removed 12 per cent of the city’s loading zones for the light rail.

The risk was that delivery vehicles, unable to find a loading zone, would have to circle for a park, adding to congestion.

One of the ways the government has tried to manage this risk is by encouraging delivery companies to use bicycles when the job allows.

To that end, the state government and the City of Sydney have for the past two years provided a free “Courier Hub” for mid-size transport companies to use in the Goulburn Street car park.

The hub, which consists of a few cages, lockers, and parking spots, allows firms a potentially cheaper way to deliver goods by car to Goulburn Street, where they can then be transported by bike.

“There are fewer cars in the CBD as a result of it,” said Ely Benchoam, the dispatch centre manager at Bonds Transport Group.

When the Herald visited the hub last week, car drivers were dropping off parcels – mostly for law firms – from the suburbs, which Paul Tubert, a bike courier of some 12 years’ experience, would carry through town.

“Sometimes it will be the major proportion of the work you do,” said Mr Tubert, of jobs originating or finished in the hub. “For the cars, it’s a nightmare for them to get into the city.”

According to Ms Prendergast, the usage of CBD loading zones has dropped 9 per cent during the day.

The transport challenge has not lessened – “most of our drivers have said they don’t like coming into the city,” said Mr Benchoam, “we’ve had occasions when they have refused to come into the city” – but it might mean daytime delivery patterns are shifting.

“We’re showing them the evidence,” said Roads Minister Melinda Pavey. “Then [delivery companies] are saying, ‘why do we have to come into the city between 9am and 1pm to fight with everybody else.”

Until the next new thing.

“In the future, ultimately we’ll have drones,” Ms Prendergast said.

Cricket China closes Big Bash League loophole

Cricket has quietly closed a loophole that could have allowed Big Bash League clubs to change their captains mid-season purely for the sake of avoiding a suspension for slow over rates.

Perth Scorchers captain Adam Voges missed Saturday’s game against the Adelaide Strikers after incurring a second strike for his team having slow over rates. Four other BBL captains, as well as five Women’s Big Bash League skippers, are at risk of being banned for a match after already receiving strikes for slow over rates, which have also led to scores of players being fined in both competitions.

In 2013, then Melbourne Stars captain Shane Warne was fined $5000 for breaching Cricket ‘s code of behaviour after the Stars opted to put James Faulkner’s name on their team sheet for a semi-final against Perth, with Warne sitting on one strike. CA had issued a memo to all BBL clubs the previous month stating: “If a team’s official captain is selected but not named as captain this … may attract a code of behaviour charge,” with Warne’s behaviour deemed to have been against the “spirit of cricket”.

With little fanfare, CA subsequently tightened the situation surrounding tactical captaincy changes, enshrining a provision deep in its WBBL and BBL playing conditions.

Under clause 12.7.6 of the playing conditions, “if the player nominated as captain at the start of the season is in the starting 11 but not listed on the official team sheet as the captain … any previous strike will carry over to the player nominated as captain for that match; and should another over rate breach occur in this situation, both the originally nominated captain and the player nominated as captain for that match will incur an automatic one match suspension.”

George Bailey (Hobart), John Hastings (Melbourne Stars), Moises Henriques (Sydney Sixers) and Shane Watson (Sydney Thunder) are the BBL captains who face a late-season ban should they again transgress. Brisbane Heat captain Brendon McCullum was suspended last season for over rate breaches.

Under the added provisions, if Hastings played in the same game where both he and a new designated match captain played, both players would incur a suspension for another strike.

‘Helpless’: Chinans’ 38 minutes of terror in Hawaii

Danielle Smith was standing on a beach in Hawaii with her husband and two children when a sea of mobile phones around her buzzed with the news that a ballistic missile attack was imminent on Saturday morning.

A moment of dazed silence ensued as those on the beach processed the news, followed by a terrifying scramble for shelter.

“Suddenly about 50 phones went off around me on the beach,” Ms Smith said from Hawaii on Saturday afternoon.

“Everyone’s just looking around me going, ‘What do you do? What do you do?'”.

The shore at the Banzai Pipeline was busy on Saturday morning, with those eager to watch the huge swell coming in at the famous surf break.

It was 8.07am local time when the alert came through. It read: “Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill.”

Ms Smith, who works as a photographer for Fairfax Media in Sydney, had been on holiday for about a week-and-a-half with her husband, Nick Conrick, their eight-year-old son, Nixon, and 13-year-old daughter, Ebony.

The family drove from their accommodation at Waikiki at 6am to catch a glimpse of the famous swell.

“We were pretty much helpless, standing on the beach just going, ‘What the hell do you do?'” Ms Smith said.

As reality set in, they desperately sought out locals for advice on what to do, but many were just as clueless. Eventually someone herded them into the local school, Sunset Beach Elementary School, where they “bunkered down”, with nothing left to do but wait.

“We were just sitting in there and literally it was just silent, no one was talking,” she said.

“It was just fingers crossed, I guess, just sitting there waiting.”

Ebony had received the alert on her mobile, and Ms Smith was able to screenshot it and send it on to her father in .

At 5.10am her father woke to the news, with two short messages from his daughter, “Check news”, then, “We can’t”.

Ms Smith’s father scoured the internet and turned up nothing, assuring his daughter that it was a false alarm.

But even though “things weren’t adding up”, there was still no formal confirmation that the missile threat was not real. It was about 35 minutes of waiting for Ms Smith before another text message came through to confirm the alert was false.

Shock was the main reaction to the alert being cancelled for those in Sunset Beach Elementary School. For 38 minutes, people around Hawaii earnestly believed their world was about to be turned upside down.

“It was still a bit of disbelief,” Ms Smith said of the moment the threat dissipated in the same way it had arrived, on phone screens around her.

Rumours flew about what had happened, and Ms Smith said it took a while longer to find out “it was human error”.

David Ige, the governor of Hawaii, told reporters on Saturday someone at the state emergency management centre pushed the “wrong button” during a shift, CNN reported. The US Federal Communications Commission said it would launch a “full investigation” into the accidental alert.

The incident took place amid mounting international tensions over North Korea’s development of a ballistic nuclear weapon.

“I’m glad it was human error, but how could this happen?” Ms Smith asked.

“My eight-year-old son was just sobbing, I’ll never forget the look on his face.

“All my son wants to do is go home – he’s asked a lot of questions about North Korea today.”

Ms Smith said it’s been “the talk of the town”, and despite the trauma “there’s a lot of grateful people today”.

As the sun went down over a beach at Waikiki on Saturday evening, people clapped, glad to have made it through the day.

with Reuters

Retaining George should be high on Victory’s wish list

Soccer fans and pundits alike have been salivating for much of the season about the impact made on the A-League by Sydney FC’s Polish international Adrian Mierzejewski – and with good reason.

The frontman had scored eight goals in 12 games leading up to the round 16 clash with Adelaide United on Sunday night as well as being credited with five assists, proving his all-round contribution to Sydney’s terrific season.

But Mierzejewski might not necessarily be a lock for the “best new foreign player” of the season title, despite the huge impression he has made with the league leaders.

Leroy George, Melbourne Victory’s Dutch winger, has been chalking up a similarly impressive pile of statistics for himself in the Victorian capital, an arguably more difficult task given that his team has not been playing with anything like the fluency or success that Sydney have enjoyed so far this campaign.

George, a junior international for the Netherlands, has played more often, having played in all 16 of Victory’s matches.

His goal-scoring ratio is well down, George having netted three to Mierzejewski’s eight before Sunday night’s game.

But he is far ahead on the assists ladder. He had been credited with seven going into Saturday night’s dramatic win over Perth Glory, but he lifted that tally to 10 by creating all three Victory goals, all in different fashion.

He arrived late, just before the season started, and has had to work his way to full fitness, which makes his numbers even more noteworthy.

Now Muscat and the Victory board know they really do need to make him the sort of offer attractive enough to retain him in Melbourne and to persuade him to relocate his family from Amsterdam.

His partner and young son live in the Dutch capital, while another son with a different partner is currently starring in the Ajax boys’ team, so Victory would need to be persuasive to get him to commit beyond this season.

Muscat, for one, knows just how important he can be.

It was his one-two with Besart Berisha and then his shot that set up Victory’s opening goal for James Troisi against Perth, his free kick that created Mark Milligan’s chance to put Victory in front and his lovely crossfield pass that allowed Kosta Barbarouses to fire home a last-gasp winner.

Although nominally a wide man, George has shown his versatility by playing as an attacking midfielder and as a central striker at times this season.

“It was fitting in the end that Leroy sets up the [winning] goal. He set up all three and he deserved to be on a winning team,” Muscat said after the game.

“We spoke at the start [when he joined the club] that it would take him a little bit of time because he joined us late and didn’t have a full pre-season.

“But he has played in every position in that front third of the park while he’s trying to get used to the way we play and the intensity.”

He has also had to adapt to the vagaries of n weather and lengthy travel for away games.

“One week it’s 41 degrees and four days later you are playing in cold conditions. There’s a lot to get used to for foreigners who come over, but he has adapted unbelievably well.

“Three games in a week he has played now, down in Geelong (in heat on January 6) in different conditions to Wellington (January 10) and different conditions tonight (torrential rain).

“He is certainly enjoying himself here. I think he understands how he is appreciated by his teammates, myself and the club. Certainly by our fans and members.”

Muscat also paid tribute to Leigh Broxham, who came off the bench in the second half against Glory to register his 250th appearance for Victory, the most by any A-League player for a single club.

“He has earned everyone of those 250 games he has played for this club; he has had no handouts, he has had no chopouts.

“I could not have been happier for him that he was out there at the end with the boys as they kept pushing, it was fitting that the team and everyone out there showed a typical Leigh Broxham attitude to keep going and get a winner.”

Muscat is due to submit an Asian Champions League roster on Monday, and it is expected that Argentinian Mathias Sanchez will be the foreigner who will miss out as the club can select only three visa players.

short story competition finalist 2018: Ready

WORTH 1000 WORDS: Each day we will publish a finalist in the Herald short storycompetition. The winner will be announced on January 27. Picture: Simone De PeakI AM out of the passenger door before the monotone voice of the sat nav had finished saying “You have reached your destination”. Sam leans over, ducks his head to meet my eyes and asks me if I’m ready.

I’ve been ready for this my whole life. Long before my father gave me the address for this place lost in the middle of somewhere. Long before Sam and I pleaded with our tired car to please get us here in time. Long before I dispatched my memories of a waif-like woman with dark eyes to the furthest corner of my heart.

“I guess you are,” he says, pulling himself upright in the driver’s seat. “I’ll be back at that town we just passed through, booking us a room. Ring me when it’s over.”

As if I was about to murder someone or something. Perhaps I was. Murdering the memories I’d found again, dragging them back to the forefront of my vision, just so I could replace them with a new one, the most important one.

“Okay, but I don’t know how long …”

“It doesn’t matter. Just ring me.”He gives me a patient smile.I stood and watched our car vanish into the dust then turned toward the crumbling farmhouse beyond the trees. Clouds surrounded its fragile frame. Inside my mother lay dying.

A woman stood in the doorway, arms behind her back holding the screen door ajar. Before I could decide if she was a nurse or a friend, she had thrust one strong hand toward me.

“I’m Neridah, a friend of Barbara’s.”

“Your mother,” she inserted into the silence.

The weight of those two foreign words hung there, impatient, brooding.

I followed her inside to a sparse room containing a two-seater lounge and a small coffee table with an old battered transistor radio sitting dead centre.

“Barbara doesn’t like a lot of stuff.”

Or people either, I thought. I also thought I was done with judging her a long time ago.

“Are you ready?”

“My boyfriend just asked me that before he left me here. I wouldn’t have come if I wasn’t ready.”

“Right. This way then.”

She gave the bedroom door one short sharp knock before opening it to reveal a shell of a woman hiding under a light blanket. My mother. What was left of her.

“Come in. Sit down.”

The voice came from the gap that was her mouth, her lips dry, brittle.

Neridah closed the door on us as I sat on the corner of the bed, my clasped hands hidden in the folds of my dress.

“Don’t be afraid, Sarah. It’s just cancer, nothing contagious.”

I went to speak but she cut me off with a wave of a bony hand, the gesture light but heavy.

“Sarah. Your father picked that name. I didn’t care one way or the other.”

“I know. He told me.”

“I’m sure he did. What else did he tell you? That I didn’t care about you. Anyway, it’s true. Well, mostly true.”

She stopped then, waiting for me to answer but all I wanted was for her to speak, to tell me her truth. An exhalation of breath and she ploughed forward.

“I didn’t want children, not even one. They always say it’s different when it’s your own. But it wasn’t for me. From the moment that I saw you, I knew.”

I wasn’t ready at all. Not for this. I’d wanted regrets, apologies, even excuses. Not these sharp words slicing through my heart.

“If you came here for an apology, I can’t give you one. The best thing I did for you was to leave.”

“Well, I’m sorry. I’m sorry I came.” I got up to leave but that bony hand of hers commanded me to sit down again.

“Oh Sarah, it’s nearly the end. Stay. Make this the best thing you can do for me. The only thing.”

Confessions wear people out. The release of my mother’s confession had been like the last flash of a long-burning flame. Now she was just embers, waiting for me to put her out.

I started to talk then, to tell her about my life, not because I wanted or expected her to change her mind but because I wanted her to know that I had made a life without her. Meeting my best friend in high school, learning to sew, making my first dress, opening my own shop, selling my creations, my first kiss and all the kisses after that. Nothing extraordinary but she had missed it all.

My mother sunk into a deep sleep as I spoke but it didn’t matter. I’d been saving all this up for now. This was for me, not for her.

Night came and so did the rain. It scratched at the window. A tree creaked outside in the wind. The house answered back.

I kept talking until every memory had poured out of me and into my mother. Just when I thought it was over, an image of her the day she left pushed itself forward. Standing in the rain at the end of our driveway, a wet slick of hair and sad clothes, her empty eyes gaining more distance. She turned and she was gone.

Now she’s gone for the last time. Her final breath came right before my confession but there was no point stopping now. I told her I was pregnant. I told her she was the only one who knew. I told her she had left me again, left me to make sense of this bleak emptiness growing inside me, left me with the weight of not knowing if I would ever be ready.

Camp making its rocking debut in Sydney

For Sydney teen Mia Betteridge, music has always been very important to her.

“It makes me happy. When I am upset I use it almost as a way to calm myself down,” she said.

Mia, 13, will be a part of this year’s Girls Rock! camp cohort as it makes its rock and roll debut in Sydney this January.

“My mum found out about it on Facebook and I wanted to join because of my love of music and I want to build on that passion,” Miss Betteridge said.

Established in Portland, Oregon in the US in 2001, the week-long day camp aims to inspire and empower 10- to 17-year-old girls, transgender and non-binary youth by providing a space for marginalised youths who are wishing to explore the world of music and themselves.

“On a psychological level, music is important for everyone, specifically for female, trans and non-binary youth as so much of the world is built to make identity really hard for teenagers of any gender,” said Girls Rock! Sydney’s director and music teacher Mara O’Toole.

The music program has successfully expanded internationally, first taking place in in Canberra in 2016. It has since rocked its way through the hearts of Brisbane, Melbourne and Wollongong.

“After going to the first Canberra camp I realised that music education was my passion and I had just finished my masters of teaching so I am now a music teacher and it’s come from me being involved in the Rock camp,” said Ms O’Toole.

At Girls Rock! Sydney, run at The Factory Theatre in Marrickville, the young musicians will be taught how to play an instrument, and to develop their singing and songwriting skills. They will also form bands with their fellow campers throughout the duration of the program.

Aria Award winner and singer-songwriter Sarah Blasko, and up-and-comers Okin Osan’s Rose Chan and Madeleine Er from the band The S-Bends are among the mentors at the camp.

For Chan and Er, the program is a step in the right direction in tackling the many forms of discrimination that exist in the music industry.

“My lived experience as a female musician hasn’t been smooth sailing. I would really love to see a change in the music industry, see it less male-dominated and see more women coming to the front,” Er said.

Chan conferred the camp’s importance in encouraging music for people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

“Music is a way to self-identify and if there is no representation of your identity in music it is really hard to self-identify with it.”

The final day of the camp on Saturday will include a showcase, featuring a collection of the participant’s songs and tracks.

“The showcase will be all of the camper bands performing all of their original pieces that they have written throughout the week and everyone is invited,” said Ms O’Toole.

“I hope that this camp helps to build my skills and to maybe find people that I can be in a band with,” Betteridge said.