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Gayle tips special Knight

SPECIAL BOND: Gayle Masterson gives Knight Sprite a hug at their Hexham home this week. Masterson hopes Knight Sprite can give her a maiden group race win as a trainer on Friday night. Picture: Marina NeilGAYLE Masterson knew before she was supposed to that Knight Sprite was something special.

Gayle Masterson

Now the hobby trainer from Hexham is hoping the black dog can go from special talent to a group-winning performer in the Gosford Cup on Friday night.

Knight Sprite was a $3.50 chancein the group 2 feature with the NSW TAB on Thursday after a scorching 29.40-second win in his heat on Sunday night. Richmond Vale trainer Jason Mackay’s Smart Missile was a $2.90 chance from box two.While premier Hunter Valley trainerMackay is no stranger to group success, Masterson, 64, is enjoying a dream run with Knight Sprite.

A three-year-old in February, Knight Sprite has 20 wins and 14 placings in 44 starts for Masterson, who knew nothing of the sport before meetingWayne Masterson and marrying into a greyhound racing family35 years ago.Now a trainer for 20 years, Gayle had success with Shotgun Kid locally a decade ago but nothing like the ride she is on with Knight Sprite. And it was a run she saw coming early.

“I was telling everyone from the time we brought him home, when he was about three months old, I said hewas really special,” Masterson said.“Everyone said, ‘you can’t tell yet’, but I said, ‘you wait and see’.

“I had bred a couple of litters and I was going country with them, which I enjoy very much, but it certainly makes you appreciate when you get a good dog like him.”

Knight Sprite’s success has included an impressive record at Gosford, where he won his four of five starts.

“He loves Gosford.First start therehe was second, and his second start he ran 29.46 and his next two he ran 29.51, so he’s always been around that mark, so it was no surprise,” Masterson said of the heat run.

She said thedraw in seven for the finalwas a bonus for Knight Sprite, who has won four of six starts from the box.

“He comes good out of any box, but I think in the field that he’s in, I’d like him out wide because he can do his own thing out there.”

She said Knight Spritewas coming back from a toe injury and underdonewhen fourthin the group 3 Christmas Giftthis month but“hopefully it’s his turn” at the elite level on Friday night.

Tinkler’s Dartbrook mine plan predictable and alarming, says former coal executive

Alarmed: Former Australian Coal Association chairman Ian Dunlop says Nathan Tinkler’s plan to run an open cut coal mine at Dartbrook is “a microcosm of a much, much bigger problem” in a world just starting to tackle climate change.NATHAN Tinkler’s planfor open cut coal mining at Dartbrook fulfils an analyst’s prediction about major companies offloading rehabilitation liabilities to smaller, riskier buyers, and is “a microcosm of a much, much bigger problem”, a former international coal, oil and gas executive has warned.

“This is not just a small issue, it’s a very big issue,” former Shell executive and Australian Coal Association chairman Ian Dunlop said after Mr Tinkler’s Australian Pacific Coal advised the Australian Stock Exchange it planned to buy the mothballed Dartbrook underground mine from Anglo American and apply for an open cut mine.

Mr Dunlop, now a climate change campaigner who was involved in planning for Dartbrook while an energy industry executive in the 1980s and 1990s, said the controversial sale was a sign of things to come unless governments acted.

Plummeting coal share prices, stagnant coal prices and growing global acknowledgement of the need to tackle climate change meant that “major companies are now trying to sell off coal assets left right and centre”, and the prospects for local and globalcommunities were alarming.

“The Tinklers of this world will keep on having a go tomake a quick buck, and the community will pay the price,” Mr Dunlop said.

“To have any hope of meeting climate change targets, Australia should not only stop approving greenfield mines, but the mines that are shut down, like Dartbrook, should stay shut.

“People like Tinkler will try to get an asset at a low enough price and make a bit of money in the short term, but things like mine rehabilitation are not going to get a look in.”

Mr Tinkler’s announcement of his plans for Dartbrook in a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange on Tuesday raised serious concerns about liabilities, after the statement noted a sale would release Anglo American from any future liabilities for the mine.

These include rehabilitation of the existing underground mine, which was mothballed in 2006 after three deaths over 12 years, and problems with gas, groundwater and spontaneous combustion caused “unanticipated operational difficulties at the mine”, according to a Department of Planning assessment report in 2009.

Existing infrastructure potentially affected by any mine rehabilitation work includes the four kilometre long Hunter Tunnel which runs beneath the Hunter River.

Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis analyst Tim Buckley expressed concern that only $7.7 million of “financial assurances” appeared to have been set aside for rehabilitation of the underground mine, but there was no mention of rehabilitation in Mr Tinkler’s statement to the stock exchange.

The statement instead emphasised that Australian Pacific Coal’s purchase of Dartbrook included “significant land ownership comprising the majority of the open cut potential”.

The 3400 hectares in Upper Hunter Shire covered “the majority of the potential open cut mining area”, leaving the question of the future of the underground operations an open one, Mr Buckley said.

He has repeatedly warned of the risks posed by large companies selling mines in the Hunter region to smaller operators as a method of offloading rehabilitation liabilities in the multi millions of dollars.

“The sale of closed mining sites by global mining majors to private firms of unknown but limited financial capacity is the standard way to dodge the rehabilitation liability,” Mr Buckley wrote in a report for the institute in September.

“The July 2015 ‘sale’ of the closed Wilkie Creek coal mining site in Queensland for a reported US$10-20 by Peabody to the private Exergen frees Peabody of an associated US$55 million liability relating to rehabilitation costs and take or pay infrastructure obligations.”

Mr Tinkler did not respond toHerald questions about Dartbrook and mine rehabilitation liabilities.

Anglo American did not respond to a Herald request for a mine closure plan showing the extent of underground mine rehabilitation obligations at Dartbrook.

Short story: What Ishmael Wants

Worth 1000 words: Summer Herald will each day publish an entry in our short story competition. The winner will be announced on January 30. Picture: Simone De Peak.

ISHMAELhad always been fortunate. He had grown up on the wealthy eastern suburbs of Sydney. As an only child of a single parent he was spoilt and had his gluttony rewarded.

After finishing his law degree he married his college sweetheart, Amber.

The two soon moved into a small suburban home. But their marriage lasted little more than four years, ending when Amber suddenly abandoned their home and her married life. There were no children to consider and Ishmael seemed to move into his new status as a bachelor with remarkable speed.

Ishmael had never wanted the married life. It wasn’t exciting enough, nor did he long for a garden or picket fence. He had married Amber for one purpose, she was his and he wanted to keep it that way.

But now as a newly minted single man he was free from prying eyes, free to fully embrace his more unusual tastes. With the spectre of 30 looming, and with his growing contempt of his legal career,his hunger had never been stronger.

Amber wouldn’t be his one and only dirty little secret that he kept for the rest of his days. She would merely be number one.

His emptiness could not be satiated, though it could be filled, if only for a short period. If he would just feed his deepest desires. Desires that he thought that he had abandoned or forgotten years ago.

Every morning since Amber, he would awake consumed by thoughts of unbridled joy and ecstasy of a solace and of a release that he had thought unattainable.

Amber could now bear witness to his transformation. She could remain under the floor boards.

At first he had wanted to move her, but no one had questioned his story that she had simply abandoned the marriage. She could stay with him and soon with the others.

Ishmael had been freed from the husk that he once was and the life that he never wanted. His slanted shoulders and glazed-over eyes replaced by a new-found vitality. Born of excitement and enjoyment. His new life awaited and there were so many that he wanted to introduce himself to.

A simple glance a look of shared interest would be enough to allow him the freedom to feed his needs. The paved, bustling sidewalks afforded him the perfect opportunity to become one with the faceless masses. Though he would forever be alone. A lone hunter stalking.

Blonde hair and blue eyes were burned into his mind. Amber hadhad these attributes and he wanted to find them again. And again. He needed to replicate the emotions that he felt when he took her life. When he looked into her eyes and saw the fear and shock cloud over.

The disappearance of his unhappy wife had gone unheeded. She had simply needed to escape a life that she no longer wanted.

If more women were to disappear, the bodies would mount,and he really wanted them too.

But what could be worse than a budding killer being caught before he had the ability to experiment and grow. The chance to build a name for himself.If he was caught he wanted it to be years down the track when he had the notoriety, the fame.

Maybe he could manage a career where he remained unchecked and unchallenged and would become an urban legend, a bogeyman.

The answer to so many unanswered questions. Amber would stay with him always, but the others … he had to dispose of them. Cutting, burning, dissolving. He enjoyed the notion of the visceral sensation that these options afforded yet none offered a signature flair. Something that was his and his alone.

He was a wolf among the sheep. He was fast, he was lethal he could feel his physical power.

Every day since Amber’s death he felt more and more powerful.

His lungs were full of fire and he wanted others to burn.

They were weak and inferior, spending their lives in service. They didn’t have the strength to do the hard thing. The brutal, cruel, unimaginable thing. Those who didn’t have the strength –the will to survive – were little more than sheep that he would lead to the slaughter.

What did it matter if one or two or three more women disappeared?

They were nothing. He was giving them the opportunity to be part of something bigger to be part of him, to be part of his legend.

He had wanted this for so long and now with Amber, his loving wife he had taken his first step into this new world.

The rush of euphoria was intoxicating. He wanted more and more. He would pile the bodies high, feeding his needs with every new victim.

Picking and choosing who he wanted from the masses allowing his need for power and blood to fuel every facet of his life. Giving over to his base instincts and allowing them to take hold.

Stewart plays it smart

RISING FAST: University’s Grant Stewart will make his Australian Country Championships debut next week. Picture: Josh CallinanTHERE are plenty of new things in Grant Stewart’s life.

The newbat he bought at Christmas,the newcap he earned for NSW Country selection, andthe new ball he may take at next week’s Australian Country Championships in Mount Gambier.

It is all part of a new experience for the Lorn21-year-old, who will leave the family turf farm on Friday to debut at the national titles in South Australia starting Monday.

The tournament spans eight days, encompassing five back-to-back matches separated by one rest day, and the University all-rounder said he was looking forward to the test.

“I’ve never done anything like this before, so I’m not really sure what to expect,” Stewart said.

“The closest thing would probably be junior carnivals over four days, but it will be a good challenge.”

Stewart will be one of the front-line bowlers in the squad, either opening or first change, and will bat aboutseven or eight after proving himself with a match-saving half-century for Newcastle in last month’s NSW Country Championship decider at No.1 Sportsground.

A maiden ton in Newcastle district firstgrade last start and a hat-trick earlierthis season also signal good form, but he knows he will have to step up again at the next level.

“I think I need to be a lot more consistent with the ball and be a lot more patient when I bat,” Stewart said.

“You are going to face a lot more good balls and you need to stick to your plans when bowling, not try to get a wicket every ball.”

Stewart’s rise,from Maitland first grade to NSW Country XI intwo years,hit home recently at a training camp in Sydney.

“We had been having a hit in the nets, and then we got taken out onto the Sydney Cricket Ground,” he said.“That’s where they presented us with our baggy blue caps, so it was a great experience.”

Stewart will be the first player from Maitland to represent NSW Country since Michael Eccleston almost two decades ago.Others from the town to reach that stage include Tony Fort, Paul Dyson and Geoff Cooke.

Short story: Out of the Silence

Worth 1000 words: Summer Herald will each day publish an entry in our short story competition. The winner will be announced on January 30. Picture: Simone DePeak

SO incredibly quiet, his own footsteps clunking on the granite to break the silence. No echo as he walks, no doubt years of industrial grime coating the once sparkling surface. Why is it so quiet he wonders? Where is the background noise? Birds? Traffic? Voices? Just the sound of his own footsteps.

His footsteps and his heart pounding in his chest – his head – both? He isn’t sure. He stops still and waits in trepidation. He listens to his breath as he inhales. The short sharp whoosh of the exhale. His mouth feels dry, his tongue grabbing at gum in passing. It tastes stale. The first wave of nausea passes through him leaving his face flushed before the colour washes away to grey. The second wave washes through with such force that his stomach muscles clench tight up towards his spine, forcing his head to bow. He tries to hold back the vile liquid climbing upwards, searching for its escape route. As the acidic fluid hits the point of no return, he openly retches, spitting the excess moisture to the ground. Bile and stale spit tempt his body to void again, his head barely strong enough to evade a second onslaught.

Sitting down on the cold yet strangely comforting ground, he pulls his fabric backpack closer to his leg. Close so he can feel the light pressure against his thigh. Shrill ringing inside his head alerting him of what? What warning does he need now? High pitch and continuous. Deafening. Reaching for his water bottle, his hand shakes as he urgently negotiates the lid. He turns his hands in unison, the technique implanted inside his brain no doubt from childhood, yet incredibly awkward in his desperation. The feel of cool water splashed haphazardly across his arm brings immediate yet temporary relief. His palms feel sweaty. His hand still shaking he focuses on his breathing. Inhale, hold, exhale. Still no sound around him as he lets his body slouch, his head finding purchase against a hard grainy surface.

Now, through the silence he looks around– slowly – carefully. He sees nothing but his ears scan for something – anything. Confusion, disbelief, fear, and what? Nothing, yet everything all scrambling through his head as he sits motionless on the ground. So many questions, yet no answers. Not yet anyway. Just silence. Not comforting or peaceful. Eerie silence and bewilderment.

Loud chirping from somewhere nearby breaks through the calm. One lone bird brave enough to raise its voice. It chirps again, this time repeatedly through the still air. Maybe its calling its mate he ponders, still terrified to move. He can see his leg flinching beneath the loose fabric covering. An insane feeling of relief flooding in as he watches the spasm. No watch to tick over and mark the time. Time that is lingering, obscenely flaunting its ability to warp, yet still holding its intense accuracy. Through the silence, more deafening than the shrill ringing inside his head, his ears reach hard to grasp the sound. Faint, yet comforting. A familiar sound, still distant but increasing its intensity. Sirens. More than one? He isn’t sure, but it’s definitely sirens. Not daring to move, he sits and waits. No other sound but wailing beacons approaching urgently.

The immediate siren stops while more continue their cacophony in the background. Voices yelling nearby, though the words sound jumbled as his head attempts to decipher their origin. He remains motionless, his muscles beckoning him to release them, his fear ordering their containment. Just a little bit longer he tells himself. He finds himself idiotically counting inside his head, somehow drowning the din. One. Two. Three. Still nothing. Memories invite themselves in as he counts. Sitting in the back seat of the car with his brother. Counting because they were bored. Counting because it might get them there quicker. Just counting. Four. Five. Sitting in the corner of the kitchen, his mother counting because he hit his little brother. Not daring to move while she was still counting. Six. Seven.

“Don’t move!”

Loud. Aggressive. The voice rolls over his body, lifting him up high before dumping him down deep into darkness. Black. Dark. Cold. Nothing.

His head hurts though the pain seems irrelevant as he lays flat, sweat beading across his lip and brow. A man’s voice, calm and somehow soothing, beckoning him to move. Willing his eyes to focus, his head to process, he can no longer control the urge to project the lingering bile from his mouth. He lets his body retch, convulsing forward with each expulsion. He can hear the uniformed man’s voice somewhere in the background, but he can’t bring it closer. So much noise. Sirens. Voices. Trafficnearby. The hand reaching to him misses as he gags wearily at the ground. The second attempt successful, the weary and terrified man is gently supported as he is escorted to a stretcher. Laying on the soft clean surface he feels immediate comfort and warmth. He wants to return to the memories of times past. He wants to sleep – to forget. To forget what his head screams! Sally!

“Sally! Where’s Sally?”the lone man yells.

The memories, the emotions – love, hurt, anger and despair cascade like a waterfall. He remembers – remembers he was supposed to meet Sally. Processing profusely like a virus his brain lurches to grasp beyond the darkness to remember. He remembers the deafening sound of the shot as it ricocheted past him. Waiting, expecting pain to tear through his body. Then nothing. Just silence.

Caresses along his hand bring him back. The touch is familiar and tender. The salty tears taste like nectar as they find his parched lips. Sally gently kisses his mouth, her eyes searching for damage. Her fingers interlock with his,as he apologises. Not once, but many times over.