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Large numbers of sharks spotted at Jervis Bay’s Hyams Beach

Sharks at Jervis Bay on New Year’s Eve. Photo: Sylvia Liber Sharks congregate metres from shore at Jervis Bay. Photo: Sylvia Liber

The Bendigo Bank Aerial Patrol spotted the sharks close to shore. Photo: Sylvia Liber

The sharks were believed to be bronze whalers up to three-and-a-half metres long Photo: Sylvia Liber

Surf life saving patrols have been launched for the first time at Jervis Bay on the NSW south coast after a large school of sharks came perilously close to holidaymakers two times in two days.

Hyams Beach was closed on Wednesday and Thursday after 50 sharks were detected in the area, 20 of them close to shore while swimmers and divers were in the water.

On Thursday, a school of 12 sharks were spotted “two or three paces” into the water at the tourist spot, prompting the council to evacuate swimmers, call the Westpac Rescue Helicopter to patrol, and organise lifesavers to patrol for the next two weeks.

On Friday morning, at least one possible shark sighting was reported as more than 400 people flocked to the beach.

A woman preparing to swim with her children spotted a dark shape in the water and “panicked” before returning to her nearby holiday accommodation.

The woman alerted her husband, and reports made their way to a local marine rescue organisation.

Pictures taken from the air on Thursday afternoon showed the sharks close to the shore, where swimmers stood with their towels at the ready.

Harry Mitchell, who has run the shark-watching Bendigo Bank Aerial Patrol for the past 25 years, said he has seen more than 100 sharks close to the shore from Stanwell Park to Jervis Bay in the past three days.

“It’s not unusual to see sharks close to shore at popular beaches at this time of year, however over the past three days we’ve seen in the vicinity of 100 sharks across three local government areas in the Illawarra and Shoalhaven,” Mr Mitchell said.

The sharks at Jervis Bay appeared to be whalers, while Wollongong and Shellharbour saw “predominantly hammerheads”.

A siren was sounded by the aerial patrol’s plane when the whalers came within metres of swimmers at Hyams Beach.

“We’ve seen sharks three to four metres away from people,” Mr Mitchell said. “Whilst they didn’t look threatening, and I stress that, the sharks didn’t look threatening, we have a duty of care and we have to alert the beach-going community that there is a potential threat.

“Some of those sharks yesterday and the day before were quite large, between two and a half and three and a half metres in length. Some of them were in water only a metre deep.”

It’s believed the sharks were brought close to shore by food sources and relatively warm water.

Duncan Leadbitter, a visiting fellow at the Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security who is also a volunteer with the aerial patrol, said such numbers of sharks are “uncommon”.

“Our records had 50 sharks in Jervis Bay alone,” Mr Leadbitter said.

“It seems to be a place where we see a lot of young ones [whalers] at this time of year,” he said, after checking records dating back 15 years.

Despite this, he said the south coast has “absolutely” missed out on funding for beach safety initiatives under the Baird Government’s multimillion dollar shark strategy, which has instead focused on the north coast and metropolitan Sydney.

“From Wollongong south there is six times the number of sharks that you would see in the Sydney region, and the number of fatalities in our patrol area is no different. People would like to see a lot more advisory work here,” he said.

Mr Leadbitter said the patrol believes there are more sharks off southern beaches than they are able to see, and they want $100,000 to deploy “hyper spectral scanner” technology that has been developed in Western Australia.

Steve Jones, the south coast president of Surf Life Saving NSW, said sharks had always been seen off the beach and around the rocks in the area, but the difference this time is the sharks were in greater numbers than normal.

He said swimmers flocked to the small patch of sand in their hundreds while he was at Hyams Beach on Friday morning, seemingly undeterred by the previous beach closures.

“We had two groups of people pull up to us and say ‘do you think there’s going to be any sharks here today’,” Mr Jones said.

They were told the sharks were always there, just further out into the water, and swimmers would be warned if they came close to shore.

“They said ‘OK’ and went down to the beach,” he said.

A boat from Jervis Bay Marine Park was out on Friday morning inspecting the water. The Department of Primary Industries directed inquiries to Surf Life Saving NSW.

Richard Walker, the floor manager of the Hyams Beach Store and Cafe, said patrons had mentioned shark sightings over the past few days.

“It’s not an uncommon thing to see sharks off the beach, they just seem to come to prominence when the tourists come here and they bring the shark planes out,” he said.

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Sun, sea and arrivals to launch 2016

Sun, sea and arrivals to launch 2016 MAKING A SPLASH: Five-year-old Madie Costelloe, of Mayfield, jumps into the arms of her mum Nikki Costelloe at Newcastle Ocean Baths on New Year’s Day.

KEEPING COOL: Shaye Bower, 8, of Edgeworth, at Newcastle Ocean Baths.

THE NIGHT BEFORE: Exercise and excess on the Newcastle foreshore.

EARLY ARRIVAL: Andie Brown was due in late January, but surprised her mum and dad Amy and Paul Brown to be Newcastle’s first baby of 2016. Picture: Jonathan Carroll.

WELL BEHAVED: There were a few signs of the previous night’s revelry at Honeysuckle.

CHILLIN’: Riley Rothwell, of Highfields, Hamish Young, of Bar Beach and Nick Seah, of New Lambton Heights, enjoy some sustenance on New Year’s Day.

HERE COMES FUN: Twelve-year-old Jackson Bunn, of Coal Point, was one of thousands in the Hunter to head to the beach on the first day of 2016. Picture: Marina Neil.

STINGING: Blue bottles were the main annoyance at Bar and Merewether beaches.

TweetFacebook New Year’s Day in NewcastleThe Hunter eased into 2016 by getting outdoors.WHEN Amy Brown arrived ather job ina Gateshead pathology lab on New Year’s Eve, having Newcastle’s first baby of 2016was the last thing on her mind.

But at12.40am on January 1,after being senthomeand callinghusband Paul,MrsBrown gavebirth to adaughter,Andie,at John Hunter Hospital. She was due on January 23.

“Iwent into labour and 40 minutes later she was here,” Mrs Brown said.

“She’s doing great, she’s beautiful.”

The Woodrising mother of a one-year-old, who also hasa 14-year-old stepdaughter, said Andie’s birthday couldcausescheduling clashes in years to come.

“I think it means no one in the family is allowed to have a big night on New Year’s Eve, because they’ll have Andie’s birthday the next night.”

EARLY ARRIVAL: Andie Brown was due in late January, but surprised her mum and dad Amy and Paul Brown to be Newcastle’s first baby of 2016. Picture: Jonathan Carroll.

Most Novocastrians spent their first day of the yearonmore restful pursuits than giving birth.

Word ofsharks offBlacksmiths beachmade its way up the coast by theafternoon, andthere was more aquatic villainyin the blue bottleslitteringBar Beach, Merewether and Redhead.

Catchingwaves on agiant inflatable donut was Jackson Bunn, of Coal Point, up for the day withdad Eddie.

“He’shaving fun,” Mr Bunn snr said, as Jacksonran back into the surf.

Wordlessly demolishing two giant serves ofchips at the batter-smellingBar Beach kiosk were teenage mates Riley Rothwell, Hamish Young and Nick Seah, who’d enjoyedthefireworks at Honeysuckle.

“We’re just gonna hang around today,chill,” Mr Seah, of New Lambton Heights, said.

At Honeysuckle, the only sign of the previous night’s festivities was the oddcanor tangle of confetti.

IGA owner Peppie Winkler was swamped lastNew Year’s Day, but said the rush of customerswas more manageable this time around.

“I think there were more people around this year,” Mr Winkler said.

“They werespaced out, though.”

That seemed an apt description for someof the partygoers stepping out, blinking, on Memorial Drive, still wearing their finalclothesof 2015.

David Williams to Adelaide, Osama Malik to Melbourne City as swap talks continue

Melbourne City are remaining tight-lipped, but talks are underway with Adelaide United over a straight swap that would see Reds centre-back Osama Malik move to Melbourne, with City’s pinch-hitting forward David Williams crossing to Adelaide.

Malik has been a defensive mainstay for United in recent seasons, while Williams has been in and out of John van ‘t Schip’s starting line-up.

City need defensive cover as first-choice centre-half Connor Chapman is out with a long-term medial ligament injury sustained in City’s win over Newcastle in December.

The deal between the two clubs is likely to go ahead sooner rather than later as the FIFA transfer window began on January 1.

City are bidding to get back on to the winners’ list when they take on Sydney FC at AAMI Park on Saturday evening after their four-game winning streak was snapped in Brisbane last week.

City’s progress up the table has coincided with the return from injury of several experienced players who, if not ready for a return to first-team action for 90 minutes, are queuing up for spots on the bench.

They are also putting the pressure on youngsters at training, adding to the intensity of competition for places in City’s starting 11 for Saturday night’s home clash with Sydney FC.

That competition gets more intense this weekend as former Socceroo full-back Michael Zullo, who has barely featured since joining in the off-season, comes back into consideration.

Zullo’s past few years have been plagued by injury but the left-sided full-back or wide midfielder – who spent several years in the Dutch Eredivisie with Utrecht before returning to Australia to reboot his career – is now available for selection.

Van ‘t Schip suggested it wasn’t likely Zullo would be in from the start, but he is happy that the diminutive but quick player is ready to put selection pressure on youngster Ben Garrucio, who has been playing there in recent weeks.

“He is fully recovered, he’s trained now a few weeks with the team, and passed some big tests. He has trained with the group in the past few days. He looks good, now it’s about getting him playing in games. It’s a matter of him waiting his chance.”

Also available are youngster Jacob Melling, who could step back into a midfield slot previously occupied by the suspended Paulo Retre, and veterans Robert Koren and Aaron Hughes, both of whom are now ready for 90 minutes.

Sydney are fourth on the table, behind City only on goal difference.

Graham Arnold’s side will be without injured captain Alex Brosque but van ‘t Schip is expecting a typically bruising encounter with the league’s other “sky blues”.

“Graham Arnold knows how to get his team on to the pitch organised. They are very good in breaking down the opponents’ game, they are compact. They press aggressively, they try not to let the opponent play their game.”

City were out of sorts in the first half against Brisbane, their coach conceded, but pressed hard for an equaliser once Bruno Fornaroli had got them back in the game against the Roar.

They only conceded the third goal in stoppage time when goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen went up to assist the attack at a corner and Henrique broke away to guide the ball into an empty net.

Although it cost his team a goal, van ‘t Schip won’t be telling Sorensen to stick in his goal area again in similar circumstances.

“Losing 2-1 or trying to get to 2-2 … it creates panic, he got his head on the ball, you have to create panic,” van ‘t Schip said with a smile.

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Women’s Big Bash League: South Africans savouring chance to finally face Australians

Amazing opportunity: South African cricketers Mignon du Preez (Melbourne Stars) and Dane van Niekerk (Melbourne Renegades) will play against each other at the MCG on Saturday. Photo: Jason SouthThe creation of the Women’s Big Bash League has funded the recruitment of more overseas players than has been feasible before. For Mignon du Preez and Dane van Niekerk, the opportunity to play in Saturday’s first Melbourne derby is remarkable given South Africa’s scant experience against Australia and Australian players.

Batter du Preez has played for South Africa since 2007 and been captain for almost five years, yet in that time she – and her team – have played two matches against the Southern Stars: once in the 2013 World Twenty20, the other in the 2014 World Cup.

“It used to be top four and bottom four, where the Aussies, New Zealand, England and India was the top four and us, West Indies, Pakistan and Sri Lanka was the bottom four, and we tended to just play amongst each other. The top four just kept getting better,” du Preez, 26, explained.

The International Cricket Council’s creation of a Women’s Championship, which decrees all teams must face each other to determine the overall champion, is great news for South Africa because it will break down that divide, most notably next summer when the Southern Stars host them for a series in Australia.

“We finally get an opportunity to play them, not just in a huge event where sometimes your nerves can get the better of you. It’ll be good to have a competitive series, where I think we can given them a run,” du Preez said.

Given the lack of competition against Australia, du Preez said she, van Niekerk and teammate Marizanne Kapp were thrilled to have been approached to join Melbourne Stars, Melbourne Renegades and Sydney Sixers, respectively, for the inaugural WBBL season.

“It’s nice they’ve asked for the South African girls to be part of it,” she said. “We definitely knew the women’s game in Australia is quite big and that they’re very professional, but I was quite surprised with the significant amount of interest there has been.”

The positive news about TV viewers’ interest in WBBL matches, which was reflected in Channel 10 shifting Saturday afternoon’s match from One to their main channel, has continued with South Africa pay-TV broadcaster SuperSport electing to show the match live, owing to the interest in du Preez, van Niekerk and new Renegades signing Shabnim Ismail, a 27-year-old seamer.

“I’m just super blessed to be here. It’s an amazing experience. We’ve been enjoying it. It will just make us better,” van Niekerk said.

The New Year’s Eve WBBL match at Adelaide Oval, between Adelaide and Perth Scorchers, attracted a crowd of 10,500. Van Niekerk, 22, marvelled at the possibility of a comparable crowd for their match on Saturday, which begins at 1.40pm.

“I think just playing here is amazing, even if there was no-one watching,” the Renegades all-rounder said. “Hopefully they love some Saffers.”

The Stars’ du Preez said she too was chuffed to have an opportunity to play on the MCG.

“My husband actually said: ‘Do you know how many guys play cricket professionally for their whole career, back home in South Africa, but don’t get the opportunity to play [on comparable grounds]?’ Girls cricketers might not be as professional [with earnings], but we’ve got this opportunity to play,” she said.

“Usually when we play in front of big crowds they’re usually against us, so it’ll be good to have some fans around here.”

The Stars have won four of their seven matches, and victory would keep them on track for a semi-final berth. The Renegades have only won one match, but have played just five matches – fewer than half of some of their rivals.

Saturday’s match will be the first the Renegades have played in Melbourne.

STARS (from): Meg Lanning (c), Kelly Applebee, Lily Bardsley, Kristen Beams, Mignon du Preez, Emma Inglis, Hayley Jensen, Emma Kearney, Alana King, Anna Lanning, Katie Mack, Natalie Sciver, Gemma Triscari.

RENEGADES (from): Sarah Elliott (c), Bree Binch, Kris Britt, Cassie Brock, Shabnim Ismail, Kirsty Lamb, Erica Kershaw, Sophie Molineux, Molly Strano, Jenny Taffs, Dane van Niekerk, Georgia Wareham, Danni Wyatt.

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Will one mine become two

OLD MINE, NEW PLANS: Australian Pacific Coal says it is focused on Dartbrook but has not ruled out interest in the adjoining Mount Pleasant project, which is owned by Rio Tinto.

NATHAN Tinkler has responded tospeculation that the plan to purchase the Dartbrook coal mine could be part of a bigger play involving Rio Tinto’s Mount Pleasant’s project.

As the Newcastle Herald has reported, Dartbrook’s owner Anglo American has announced an intention to sell the mine to Australian PacificCoal, a company listed on the Australian Stock Exchange that hasMrTinkler as chief executive andmanaging director with a reported shareholding of 37 per cent.

As part of the sale, Australian Pacific Coal must pay Anglo 25 cents a tonne for any coal that ismoved through Dartbrook but mined elsewhere.

This clause caught the attention of coal industry observers, who pointed out that Dartbrook sits to the immediate north-west ofMount Pleasant, with overlapping borders.

Mount Pleasant is one of the lasttop-quality open-cut sites in the Hunter Region, and a mine has been approved there since 1999.

Rio Tinto owns most of the land within the Mount Pleasant lease, and an updatedconsentwas granted in 2011, allowing it mine 10.5 million tonnes a year from the site until 2020.

Mr Tinkler bought Maules Creek from Rio, which has Mount Pleasant under review.

When the Herald approached Australian Pacific Coal for comment, Mr Tinkler said: “I expect many companies have made offers for Mount Pleasant in the past but the numbers were probably not high enough.

“Hence, we have bought an asset that with further drilling and assessment, we think will be of similar quality with infrastructure already in place.”

A company spokesman went on to saythat speculation in the Hunter Valley may be“running ahead of the realities of the current transaction and [our]position as a small, albeit ambitious, company”.

He said the company was focused on buying Dartbrook.

It hoped to run it was an open-cut mine, providing “significant employment and benefits to the local community”.

“The outside mine royalty clause is standard industry practice and it would be wrong to read too much into its inclusion in the agreement especially given the characteristics of the contracting parties,” the spokesman said.

Rio Tinto declined to comment onquestions about Mount Pleasant, including whether it had entered into any talks involvingMr Tinkler.Australian Pacific Coal’s shares are trading at 2 cents each. Its other major shareholders are Nick Paspaley, of the famous pearling family, and John Robinson Snr, an accountant with “extensive” businessexperience.

NSW’s first baby born in 2016 is Elliot Bevis at RPA

NSW’s first born in 2016, Elliot Bevis, with parents Kathleen and Paul. Photo: Michele Mossop NSW’s first born in 2016, Elliot Bevis, with parents Kathleen and Paul. Photo: MicheleMossop

Baby Elliot Bevis was so late he was the earliest baby born in a NSW public hospital in 2016.

Parents Kathleen and Paul Bevis were expecting their first born 10 days ago, on December 22. But Elliot shirked the “Christmas Miracle” title for something a little more special. Elliot cruised into the new year, born in Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, at 12.27am on January 1.

A relaxed entrance from Elliot still made for an eventful New Year’s Eve for his parents.

“I had a pretty long pre-labour of two-and-a-half days at home,” said Mrs Bevis. “We came into hospital for a check up as his heart rate was dipping. The nurses said we should stay and within eight hours he came.”

Mrs Bevis had been scheduled to be induced on New Year’s Day. “He had got to the point he was so far cooked that it was the end. So luckily he came before then,” she said.

So far Elliot has matched his laidback arrival with a breezy demeanour, handling a morning of media appointments without a tear. “He’s also pretty good at copying his Dad’s facial expressions,” said Mrs Bevis. “They were sticking their tongues out and making silly faces two hours after he was born.”

While his Mr and Mrs Bevis did not expect to be a naming a minor celebrity, they chose the name Elliot for its original appeal.

“We are both school teachers so we spend a lot of our time around kids,” said Mrs Bevis. “Elliot wasn’t a name that we had come across, so we know he won’t be one of many in the class.”

“It’s funky, but he could still be an accountant,” she said.

Elliot will have to get used to sharing the spotlight with a new cousin due before the end of the month.

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Cycling’s year in review: On and off the bike, a season of wheel drama

The Story – Chris Froome scrutiny

British Tour de France champion Chris Froome (Sky) has been the subject of ceaseless innuendo and questioning over the legitimacy of his performances. After the Tour, it led to him releasing comparative physiological data to Esquire magazine for publication.

The data was from 2007, when he rode at the UCI’s World Cycling Centre, and independent tests taken in the GSK Human Performance Lab in London in August.

Froome also released data from two unannounced blood tests for his athlete biological passport – one taken during the Tour on July 13, the day before his stage-10 win to La Pierre Saint-Martin; the other on August 20, the day after his independent tests in London. The move was praised by some, but met with scepticism from others.

The Issue – Rider safety

Cycling is dangerous enough without vehicles heightening the risks. A neutral service car at the Tour of Flanders took out New Zealand’s Jesse Sergent (Trek), while another forced Frenchman Sebastien Chavanel (FDJ) to crash after it collided with his team car.

At the Tour de France, Dane Jacob Fuglsang (Astana) was struck by a motorbike while in the winning break. Then at the Clasica San Sebastian the hopes of Belgian Greg van Avermaet (BMC) were dashed by a motorbike on the last climb.

At the Vuelta a Espana, and in separate incidents, motorbikes sidelined Slovakian Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Portugal’s Sergio Paulinho (Tinkoff-Saxo). Riders didn’t always help their cause though; well, at least those 30 or so who illegally ducked a barrier as a TGV neared with 90 kilometres left in April’s Paris-Roubaix.

The Stars – Peter Sagan and Lizzie Armitstead

The flamboyant Slovakian Peter Sagan claimed overall victory and two stage wins in the Tour of California, then two stages in the Tour de Suisse and the Slovakian road title and in September won the world road race title at Richmond in the US.

His aggressive racing in the Tour de France led to him winning the green points jersey and claim five of his 18 second places for the year.

Meanwhile, Great Britain’s Lizzie Armitstead made the podium 15 times and for nine wins, including the world road title. She also won the World Cup series for a second year in a row (winning three races) and the British road title.

The Controversy – Gerrans v Matthews

The straining of relations between Orica-GreenEDGE teammates Simon Gerrans and Michael Matthews was exposed in the world road race championships when riding for the Australian team.

After Matthews placed second and lamented that he had only three riders from nine helping him, sixth-placed Gerrans said it was agreed before the race that both riders would chance their arm for the win. Rights and wrongs aside, the issue confirmed that while they may be teammates, they are hardly the best of mates.

The Quote 

“I don’t think I deserve to be punched just for doing my job.”

– Australian Richie Porte (then Sky) after placing second on stage 10 of the Tour de France, 167km from Tarbes to La Pierre-Saint Martin in the Pyrenees. He was punched by a spectator with three kilometres left on the 15km climb to the finish.

The Social Media Storm – Lance Armstrong’s Tour de France return

Armstrong bombing the Tour de France as part of a charity ride led and organised by former England footballer Geoff Thomas. Armstrong, who is serving a life ban for doping, joined it to ride over two of Tour de France stage routes 24 hours ahead of the race with them. Armstrong’s participation sparked much debate – most of it in protest, including from Union Cycliste Internationale president Brian Cookson. As with most things Armstrong, social media reaction was huge.

The Ride – Fabio Aru at the Vuelta a Espana

The stage-20 ride in the Vuelta a Espana by Italian Fabio Aru (Astana) to drop and overhaul Dutchman Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) and take the overall lead set him up for overall victory. He didn’t win the stage but his move to gain time smacked of the assuredness he lacked at the Giro d’Italia until responding to a smack down from Spanish winner Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) with back-to-back wins in the mountains on stages 19 and 20 to secure second place overall. Big tilt of the lid to Drew Ginn, for his Australian 24-hour record ride of 836.36km on Melbourne’s Brunswick velodrome in November.

The Race – Ghent-Wevelgem

Many cite the Belgian Ghent-Wevelgem one-day classic on March 31 that was held in brutal conditions – rain and wind that blew many off their bikes and into ditches. It still ended with a gripping battle involving a decisive seven-rider break that saw Italian Luca Paolini (Katusha) win by 11 seconds. That nine months later it is still so fresh in so many minds says something about its impact.

The Flop – Marcel Kittel

The German sprinter began the year at the Tour Down Under as the sprinter to beat, but by the end of the season he had barely raced. His best result was a stage win in the Tour of Poland. The heart of the problem, it was said, was a mystery virus. But when he said he was well and ready for the Tour de France, his Giant-Alpecin team felt otherwise. Next year, Kittel will race with the Belgian Etixx-QuickStep team.

A prediction for 2016 – Chris Froome not to win Tour de France

Colombian Nairo Quintana (Movistar) will show he has learnt from waiting too long to play a winning hand against Chris Froome in the Tour de France and claim his first title. Peter Sagan will win Milan-San Remo for the first time. Thinking of Rio Olympics … for Australia, 11 times world track champion Anna Meares to win gold in the sprint or keirin (or even both) in her fourth Games; as too will Caroline Buchanan in BMX.

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New evidence found in search for John Shaw, missing since Christmas

John Shaw, missing after ute crash on the NSW mid-north coast. Photo: Supplied by NSW PoliceThe search for a man who vanished after crashing his car on Christmas has restarted after clothes were discovered in remote bush land on the mid-north coast of NSW.

There has been no sign of John Shaw, 45, a week after his white Mitsubishi utility was found on its roof early Saturday morning off the Oxley Highway, about 25 kilometres east of Mount Seaview.

Police believe Mr Shaw crashed the ute while driving home from Christmas lunch with family at the Manning River Sailing club in Taree on Christmas Day.

A search for Mr Shaw had been scaled back on Tuesday but on Friday police and SES volunteers began canvassing the area around Gingers Creek and further west toward Walcha.

It followed the discovery of what are believed to be articles of Mr Shaw’s clothing on Thursday afternoon.

Police believe that Mr Shaw may still be in the surrounding area.

“We are still hopeful. There is no indication that he has been met with foul play,” said Inspector Peter Dawson.

Mr Shaw’s family had been conducting their own search of the area in the hope the 45-year-old Australia Post worker would be found.

“We’re exhausted and we’re shattered because all we want is our son,” his mother Joy Shaw said.

Mrs Shaw described the area of her son’s disappearance as “bad country” and feared her son may have been taken from the scene of the car crash.

“We feel that he could have been picked up and taken somewhere by somebody in the car and dropped off somewhere,” she said. “People could have picked him up and dumped him somewhere, we don’t know.”

Mr Shaw is well known on the Mid North Coast for his involvement training young members of the Manning River Sailing Club.

He has worked for Australia Post for the past six years and Mr Shaw’s parents have been dutifully completing his mail run since his disappearance.

His mother described him as a wonderful man, who worked hard and was very well known and liked in the area.

“People have been absolutely wonderful and supportive and we appreciate it so much,” she said.

“We just want our son back.”

Mr Shaw is described as being of Caucasian appearance, about 173 centimetres tall, with a medium/fit build, and black hair.

Police have concerns for his welfare because he requires on-going medication.

A decision on whether to continue the search over the weekend will be made on Friday evening. */]]>

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When Twenty20 arrived as a key part of the Australian cricket season

Brad Hodge during his 56-ball innings of 90 for Victoria against Tasmania in front of a crowd of 43,125 at the MCG in 2010. Photo: Garry Sparke/Cricket VictoriaThe longest-serving current player in domestic cricket, Brad Hodge, spent most of his career bracing for his Sheffield Shield and one-day performances for Victoria to be watched in person by “a man and his dog”. On a good day, that would extend to “a man and his dog – and his cat”.

On New Year’s Eve, however, the domestic match he played in was watched by a sell-out crowd of 46,389 at Adelaide Oval, and had he not joined Adelaide in the Big Bash League, he would be representing Melbourne Stars in the city’s derby involving the Renegades expected to at least half-fill the MCG on Saturday night.

Both are evidence of the rise of Twenty20 in Australia.

If the Stars-Renegades crowd can break 50,000, and maybe even re-take the domestic attendance record from Adelaide Oval, it will delight Cricket Victoria chief executive Tony Dodemaide – but it won’t surprise him.

Dodemaide’s time in England at the helm of Marylebone Cricket Club alerted him to the appetite for the then fledgling Twenty20 format. When he returned to Australia to run the Western Australian Cricket Association he decided to try it here too. The opportunity came in January 2005 when Victoria were due to visit for a one-day game on Friday night and accepted an invitation for a Twenty20 exhibition match two nights beforehand.

Soon after the match began they had to lock the gates, due to a 25,000-strong crowd that crammed the WACA Ground, the first sell-out there for more than two decades.

“It was chaos. But I also thought ‘Wow, this could be big’,” Dodemaide recalled. “I then went back to Cricket Australia and said ‘Guys, we’ve got to get on to this, it’s massive’.”

Cricket Australia took notice. The following summer featured a state-based Twenty20 competition initially limited to seven matches. Within five years the number of matches had almost quadrupled, based on demand.

Five years later, in January 2010, Dodemaide was involved in what became another key milestone in the rise of Twenty20 in Australia.

Victoria had been dominant in the early years of what was then known as the Big Bash, yet the attendances for their home matches were not a major progression on the numbers for one-day matches. Having failed to reach 13,500 at the MCG, that record was more than doubled by attracting 28,052 to a match between the Bushrangers and NSW. The home team’s victory was sealed by the West Indies’ Dwayne Bravo — recruited through CA giving each state funding to sign an overseas player — twice dispatching giant sixes into the MCG stands late in the chase.

Victoria coach Greg Shipperd marvelled afterwards how the atmosphere was so unusually raucous, for a domestic-level match, it “makes our players feel as though they’re an AFL player”.

The Bushrangers’ next home match was a fortnight after. Dodemaide, by that stage having returned home to Melbourne and running Cricket Victoria, was repeatedly — and increasingly — stunned by the size of the crowd coming through the gate for the Friday night match. By the time the match began, the crowd was well in excess of 30,000, already enough to break the record for a domestic crowd in Australia. Once the harried ticket-sellers cleared the backlog and everyone got in, it had soared to 43,125, smashing the previous record of 29,743, for NSW at home to Queensland.

Players, administrators, journalists and even caterers at the MCG were surprised. The crowd was so big, and enthused, they began what could well have been the first Mexican wave at a domestic match.

“I just remember thinking ‘Wow, this is incredible’,” recalled Hodge. “We were all shocked, as were the support staff. Even the caterers were a bit shocked. They were left quite a bit short. It did catch everyone by surprise.”  Hodge blasted 90 from 56 deliveries to lead the Bushrangers to a successful pursuit of Tasmania’s 179.

Dodemaide said attracting a total of 71,177 to two domestic matches, when state associations had been accustomed to token attendances, was “a terrific pointer, and validation, that it’s right to push this to another level”.

“It was certainly a watershed moment,” he said.

In addition to the good-news story it created for state cricket associations and CA, attracting crowds that hitherto could only have been contemplated when Australia was playing, there was a practical benefit. If the growth continued, it was a way to lessen their financial reliance on the proceeds of international matches, both TV rights and gate receipts.

Mike McKenna, the CA executive most closely associated with Twenty20, cites the WA-Victoria and Victoria-Tasmania matches as key milestones in how the BBL has got to where it is now.

The first match left CA “amazed”, but it resolved to put extensive research into the format and its potential. The crowd for VIctoria-Tasmania five years later had vindicated he and his team’s faith in Twenty20.

“I think it confirmed for us it was a product that families would attend,” McKenna said. “It started changing people’s mindsets about what could be achieved, and set a benchmark for us. In turn, we said ‘Don’t be satisfied with crowds that are slightly more than we’ve had before’. We should be aspiring to crowds of 40,000 and 50,000.”

Hodge spent most of his career striving above all else to play Tests for Australia. Nevertheless, he now considers Twenty20 to be “just a product that is better”.

“It’s a past thing, like a cassette tape. It’s run its course,” Hodge said of the old focus on Tests above all else when it came to promoting  cricket.

“I find it hard to say, but you’re buying a good product. It’s fun, the ball flies out of the stadium. I mean, imagine in baseball if you didn’t get homers. It’d be rubbish. It’s action-packed and there’s always an event every single ball. I reckon that’s important, exactly what the modern-day person craves.

“I love playing it, and I know the under-12s I coach for East Sandringham love it – and they’re the target. I think the ‘short buzz’ of T20 also leads to the crowd being hyped for that short period of time, whereas 50-over cricket is spread along  and sometimes drifts off.”

By August 2010, the development of Twenty20 was a key plank in the recommendations made from the in-depth Australian Cricket Conference, because it was a tool to reverse the alarming decline in young boys’ and girls’ interest in cricket compared to other sports. By October, CA had confirmed that for the following summer what was then a state-based Big Bash would transform into a city-based Big Bash League, with two teams in Sydney and Melbourne.

The decree that the new teams shun both the names and colours of the state teams was controversial, especially among administrators in South Australia, but it has proved immensely successful. State associations were eventually persuaded kids had no connection with them and their brands, but were ripe to be attracted to city-based teams.

When CA launched the BBL in late 2011 it had benchmarks and also optimistic targets, in terms of attendances and TV ratings. Mid-way through year five, both have been smashed.

“Even when we set up the original business plan we had a 20-year forecast and we’re two or three years’ ahead of where we’d hoped to get to …  so we’ve come a long way pretty quickly,” McKenna said.

Given Perth’s ability to create demand for tickets for home matches at the WACA Ground rivalling that of the West Coast Eagles playing at Subiaco — the Scorchers have already sold out all four of their pre-finals matches — McKenna is optimistic about the crowd the team could attract when the new 60,000-strong stadium is complete.

Saturday night’s match between the Stars and Renegades will feature up to seven players who played in front of 43,125 six years before: Bravo, David Hussey, Aaron Finch, Cameron White, James Faulkner and Xavier Doherty.

Hodge is one of the cannier identities in Australian cricket and has long been cognisant of the possibilities for Twenty20, having retired from first-class cricket in December 2009, when his Test prospects were all but extinguished, to focus on overseas Twenty20 competitions. But even he underestimated the potential of the BBL.

“I didn’t think domestic cricket would become this big,” Hodge said. “The spectator audience has changed, from the guy that takes Friday afternoon off to go and watch a one-day game to children, women, families all viewing the game – and enjoying it. It’s brilliant.”

Dodemaide argued there was still “plenty of growth” left in Twenty20, even with the surge in interest over the past 11 years.

“The beauty of cricket, in my mind, is that it’s evolved, that it’s always been able to adapt and reinvent itself. I think we’ll look back on this period as being one of the real evolution points,” he said.

Six years ago, it was a shock that the Twenty20 crowd at the MCG got anywhere near 43,125. Come Saturday night, there will be a similar reaction if the crowd figure is similar, but for the opposite reason.

The bar has been raised, and the notion that Twenty20 is a gimmick or even counter-productive to cricket overall has been strongly challenged, if not discredited.

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Osborn hopes for end to Inter City hoodoo

KITCHENER trainer Michael Osborn knows Exterminatewill need plenty of luck to win from the second row against a class field in the group 3 Inter City Pace Final (2422 metres) at Maitland Showground on Saturday night.

KILLER TEAM: Michael Osborn, right, and partner Debbie Latter with Exterminate at their Kitchener property on Friday. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

But the Osborns aredue for some luck in the race.

Exterminatewon heat two on Sunday at Maitlandby12.1 metres in a mile rate of2:04.0, which was the second fastest victory of the five qualifying races.

However, the four-year-old gelding’s status as a C5 class pacer meant he was destined to draw poorly under the conditions of the race. Exterminate, with Morisset’sMark Callaghan in the gig, will begin four wide on the second line with favourites My Chachingchaching and Kept Under Wraps off the front.

Kept Under Wraps was the fastest winner last Sunday, clocking2:03.4for Sydney couple Belinda and Luke McCarthy, who are going for back-to-back titles after All Eyes On Us wonlast year.My Chachingchaching, for Keinbah trainer Shane Tritton, was equally impressive in the heats.Exterminate was $12 with the NSW TAB on Friday, whileKept Under Wraps ($2) andMyChachingchaching ($2.80) topped the market.

Despite Exterminate’s commanding heat win, Osborn said his pacer faced a tough task in the final.

“He’s ate up well since Sunday, he’s pulled up good and looks good,he’s just going to need a lot of luck from there,” Osborn said.

“We need the pace on. If one gets in front and they walk, we’re no hope.”

Luck is something that has evaded the famous Osborn name in the race, which will be run for the 53rdtime. Michael’s late father, legendary trainer-driverDick Osborn, won 17 training and 15 driving premierships in the Hunter but never saluted in the Inter City Pace.

“I had six drives inInterCityPacefinals for four falls,” Dick told the Herald in 2003.

Michael has also lamented his luck in the race, which will this year feature his nephew, Josh Osborn, driving the Rex Spencer-trained Rambo Mick.

“I drove a horse for Noel Mexon called Forest Lobell in’95,” Michael said Friday.

“But the horse who won the first heat, Michael Augustine, the trainer came up and asked me to drive it in the final, but I said I had to drive one for Noel, who I drove for all the time.

“I said if it makes the final, I’ll have to drive for him. Forest Lobell won his heat thenI got knocked down in the first 50 metres in the final [and finished sixth], and Michael Augustine won.

“Dad had no luck in it as well. I sawhim get tipped out three times in the three drives I remember him having in it.My brother-in-law, Graham Jennings, won with General Fox [in 1994], but that’s ouronly win in it.

“Josh has got a drive in it this year, so hopefully one of us can do it.”