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Wiz-kid Michael Shanks brings fantasy to life with The Wizards of Aus

The geekiest show on Australian television: Michael Shanks as Jack and Mark Bonnano as Skulldrich in The Wizards of Aus. Photo: SBS Wizkid: Michael Shanks writes, directs and stars in The Wizards of Aus. Photo: SBS

It’s safe to say there hasn’t been a geekier show on television this year than The Wizards of Aus. True, we’re barely two weeks in, but it’s doubtful that come December many, if any, contenders will have usurped this three-part VFX-driven sitcom about a wizard called Jack who has renounced his powers to try to live a normal (that is, magic-free) life in suburban Melbourne.

Starring, directed and co-written (with Nicholas Issell) by 24-year-old Michael Shanks, Wizards is full of goblins and flying dragons and battles in castles (the ravers’ fave Kryal Castle, to be exact) and talking sharks and inter-species love affairs between humans and unicorns. It’s the sort of thing that might spring from the mind of a nerdy bloke with a dark sense of humour whose passions include Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and SkyRim if he suddenly found himself with a decent budget and no limitations other than what he could imagine.

And that’s exactly what it is.

“I’m so proud of it; it’s really fun,” says Shanks, who was born in New Zealand (“in the ancient ruined city of Christchurch,” as he puts it) but moved to Newport, in Melbourne’s west, with his family when he was 12.

“A lot of the time I think people in the indie filmmaking world are trying to make content that’s interesting and thought-provoking, but it doesn’t necessarily entertain. I think this does. I think people like me will like it – real nerds, fans of The Young Ones, of The Mighty Boosh, of Rick and Morty, Futurama, Adventure Time.”

Shanks isn’t being idly boastful. He has been making content for the web since he decided, in his last week of VCE, to ditch the books in favour of making a short film for a competition run by a website. He won, and spent the next two years working on his prize – a web series for said site. Millions of views

It was, he says, “pretty terrible”, but he was off and running. Since then, his YouTube channel (TimTimFed) has racked up millions of views, even if the lion’s share – more than 12 million – has been for a single video, his parody trailer for Star Wars: Episode VII, the George Lucas Edition. It’s full of unnecessary VFX shots, in the manner of Lucas’ re-releases of the original trilogy, a joke designed to warm the cockles of every fan boy (and girl)’s heart.

There’s irony in that, though, since special effects is Shanks’ stock-in-trade. “I taught myself when I was still at school by watching how-to videos on the internet,” he says.

These days, there’s very little he can imagine that can’t be built in a computer – though he concedes it does help to operate in the comedy space, where the scrutiny is perhaps a little less exacting than it might be in drama.

Most of the work he’s made before has cost next to nothing, other than his time and bandwidth. Wizards, which was originally conceived as six 12-minute webisodes, cost about $400,000.

“When we were doing stuff for no money we could bring people in to work for no money, but when you’re doing it with award rates, you have to pay people,” he says. “Which is good, but it’s amazing how everything goes up.”

Screen Australia provided the bulk of the funds through its multiplatform investment fund. They’d been watching Shanks’ work on YouTube, saw there was an audience for his stuff, and were blown away by what he was doing in the effects space with next to no money.

“He’s part of this generation of young guys who can do so much of it themselves,” says Screen Australia investment manager Tim Phillips.

SA invited Shanks in to pitch in September 2014, and loved the concept; a little over a year later, the show is done and dusted, a miraculously speedy result for such an effects-heavy program.

“The efficiencies are down to the fact that so much of the production is being done by Michael,” Phillips says. “We’re staggered at the speed at which he’s working, but it’s just one guy.”

Well, two. Shanks says he and his producer, Chris Hocking, have been working 15-hour days for the past year to make Wizards a reality. “His title should be The Guy Who Makes Shit Happen,” he says. “He’s amazing.”

There’s an undercurrent of seriousness to Wizards – it’s an allegory (kind of) about immigration and tolerance, facets that you’d imagine might have been key to its appeal to SBS – but in its gore, absurdity, irreverence and general air of Dungeons and Dragons-ness, it recalls nothing so much as the work of one Peter Jackson.

Surely that’s no accident?

“Is Peter Jackson an influence? Hell yeah,” Shanks says. “I was still in New Zealand when Lord of the Rings was being produced, and every night there was an update on the news.

“He used his parents’ oven to blow up the heads of the aliens in Bad Taste [his first ultra-low-budget film, made on weekends over four years with a cast of mates]. We’ve done it with computers – we’re standing on the shoulders of technological giants – but he’s a complete inspiration.”

What: The Wizards of Aus

When: SBS2, Tuesday, January 19, 8.30pm

Karl Quinn is on Facebook and on twitter @karlkwin

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No summer for Thanasi Kokkinakis, but much more still to come

Thanasi Kokkinakis. Photo: Streeter LeckaWhen Thanasi Kokkinakis spoke recently of the “obstacles” he had to negotiate in his breakthrough top-100 season, he meant the pre-Wimbledon death of his grandmother, an illness that caused him to drop five kilograms in the same difficult grand slam lead-up, and his unwitting and unwelcome role in the Kyrgios-Wawrinka-Vekic sledge controversy in August.

The upsides, though, were also significant, starting with his first win over a top-25 player (Julien Benneteau) to open the year, and then a dramatic five-set upset of world No.11 Ernests Gulbis at the Australian Open, before several strong northern hemisphere qualifying efforts, a last-16 appearance at Indian Wells, and a memorable Davis Cup comeback in his first live rubber, at the expense of Czech Lukas Rosol in Ostrava in March.

Kokkinakis almost halved his ranking to 80th after peaking at 69th in 2015, joining Croatian Borna Coric and South Korean Hyeon Chung as the youngest ATP trio in double-figures. With a new coach, Ben Mathias, having replaced the long-serving Todd Langman, Kokkinakis was due to resume at next week’s Brisbane International with the top 50 in his sights, but will instead sit out the summer and several months beyond after shoulder surgery that has come at a horrible time.

“For now I will focus on doing everything I can to recover and get back on the court as quickly as possible,” he said via social media on Christmas Eve. “I believe I can come back better and stronger.”

However “devastating”, to use his own word, there is clearly still much ahead for a 19-year-old who seems older and more seasoned, his 196-centimetre frame having loomed large on the Australian tennis horizon since he reached two grand slam junior finals, and – with his friend Nick Kyrgios – generated such immense hope that there would be life after Lleyton Hewitt.

Indeed, there was a time when Kokkinakis and Kyrgios were habitually bracketed together as the so-called Special Ks, before Kyrgios’ behaviour was clearly not quite so marvellous at all. Kokkinakis, in contrast, was praised for his mature handling of a difficult situation at the Montreal Masters, but admits there were some minor personal consequences, nevertheless.

“It didn’t really affect my game; it affected me a little bit mentally as far as tired goes, because I didn’t get a lot of sleep those nights because my phone was going crazy and everyone was kind-of wanting to know what went on,” he admits of the “Thanasi banged your girlfriend” incident. “But I put that aside and I actually had a pretty good week the next week in Cincinnati. So it affected me a little bit, but it was all right; it was just a little thing I had to deal with.”

Oddly, though, the outrage did not necessarily serve to publicly distinguish the pair as villain versus victim, as it might have done. Instead, the fact that the opposite was true was confirmed by a follow-up incident involving combustible American Ryan Harrison, who said during a qualifying match in Cincinnati that “Wawrinka should’ve decked Kyrgios, and I should deck that kid”, telling the chair umpire that “you have got to get these kids under control or they’re gonna get hurt”. Kokkinakis’ protest that he had done nothing disrespectful got a little lost amid the threats and noise.

“Sometimes people just read a headline and they don’t read the actual article or what went down, because then I got in a bit of a tussle with Ryan Harrison the next week, who lumped us together,” Kokkinakis recalls. “I think it almost got worse, because from [Montreal] everyone thought ‘oh maybe they are the same’, but I’m my own person, me and Nick get along, I’m still good mates with him, but we’re different people, and we do things pretty differently.

“Nick does some stuff on court, but it’s just the person he is, and we’re just different people, so I’m not going to try and be like him and he’s not going to try and be like me. I mean, they can try and tone him down a little bit, but he is who he is, and I’m my own guy, I’m a bit more relaxed and chilled out, so that’s just the way it is.”

Are they as tight as they were? “Yeah, not a whole lot’s changed.”

Nor, other than a dodgy shoulder, it would seem, has Kokkinakis, who is smart, assured, articulate. Popular among his peers, but an individual. Ambitious, but having remained loyal to Langman, his coach since the age of seven, until it became clear that another voice was needed to take him to the next level. The teenager later posted his thanks on Facebook “for all the unbelievable help and support”, acknowledging that he would not be playing tennis if not for Langman. “After 12 years I thought a change was in order,” he added, flagging continued input from Davis Cup duo Lleyton Hewitt and Jason Stoltenberg.

Langman, while disappointed, accepted the decision with good grace. “Obviously we’re still very, very good friends. We’ve grown up together; it’s been like a brother relationship, so I want nothing but the best for him and I said to him I’m only a phone call away if he ever needs it,” says Langman, who predicts his former pupil will win multiple majors.

“I’ve always thought that, and obviously Davis Cup is a huge part as well. We’ve always talked about winning that, and an Olympic Games gold medal would go down a treat at some point … He’s not perfect but he’s a good kid. He’s working hard and he’ll get what he deserves.”

Fitness-wise, with cramps having been an issue as recently as his US Open retirement against Richard Gasquet, he hired Port Adelaide strength coach and performance nutritionist Andrew Rondinelli, and noted early on the benefits of a more structured and professional approach. Kokkinakis had only a brief post-season break, typically. “I’m not the type of person who can kind of just sit there and wait for time to blow by. If I’m resting I’m in the gym because I’m bored, pretty much.”

Early on, his attitude and ability caught the eye of dual grand champion Andy Murray, who has been a help and mentor ever since. “Out of the big guys, I’d say I’m closest to Murray. He kind of reached out to me first and I was obviously stoked with that,” said Kokkinakis of the world No.2. “He gave me his number and just said ‘anything that you need, with regards to coaches, trainers, anything like that’ he was willing to give advice or help, so he’s been great for me.”

Why Kokkinakis, does he think? “I have no idea?” the South Australian laughs. “We just get along, and I think he just likes my personality. I don’t know. I guess you’ve got to ask him that.”

Another experienced pal is former Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis, the Cypriot with whom Kokkinakis – the son of Greek immigrants – often dines, Mediterranean-style, when on the road. Indeed, Kokkinakis is a popular figure in his parents’ homeland, admitting it was “pretty crazy” during a visit to Athens in September for a Greek TV special that involved an exhibition match against local player Stefan Tsitsipas.

There were no street mobbings in the quiet area near his hotel, but clubbing was something else. “I never knew I had so many cousins,” Kokkinakis laughs. “So many people came up and I’m their third, fourth cousin, and I’m ‘ok, ok, sorry’, but it was pretty fun to see.” He admits he was asked several times about switching nationalities, a prospect the Adelaide-born-and-raised youngster is happy to rule out.

Which will no doubt come as a relief to the local fans who have seen Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic fall foul of various authorities but who, game-wise, remain two of the three brightest prospects in the Australian game. Kokkinakis, the other, is a slightly different breed of player and person, managing his life and career in his own sensible way.

Yet, having been sidelined for a lengthy stint as a junior with stress fractures in his back, this is another unfortunate setback at a very inconvenient time. Another obstacle to add to a lengthening list, in fact. In the season for giving, Australian tennis will be hoping for a successful and robust return. Sponsored: Australian Open tickets available from just $75 at Queen of Tickets

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Memory of mate fuels Price’s Dakar dream

TOBY Price is sure the mate who inspired him to take on the Dakar Rally, the late Kurt Caselli, will be watching over and helping him to the finish line when the 9000-kilometre test of man and machine starts this weekend.

DRIVEN: Toby Price reflecting on last year’s third place at the Dakar Rally. This year he is the only Australian rider in the race. Picture: Simone De Peak

Price will be one of the favourites to take out the motorcycle section of the Dakar after finishing thirdon debut last year and earning a deal with the dominant Red Bull KTM Factory Rally team.

It has been a meteoric rise for the 28-year-old from Aberglasslyn and one he says started with the help of American off-road starCaselli, who died in November 2013 in a crash at theBaja 1000 in Mexico.

“He was a big force in starting to get my name taken international,” Price said.

“He helped me go do the Baja races and pretty much putting my name down to start doing Dakar rallies.

“He’d seen a lot of videos of me racing in the desert. Heknew Ihad the speedand what I was doing in the desert was definitely capable of going in the direction he wanted to go.

“Wewere mates and he was more than happy to help me out, but his credibility in the motorcycling world was bigger than mine and it was amazing to see him throw my name about and help me to get to that same level.”

Seven months before Caselli’s death, Price rode with the American atthe AMA Hare and Hound National Championship in California andcrashed, breaking three vertebrae in his neck. His comeback from the near-crippling accident to the podium at Dakarhas been remarkable and Price said Caselli continues to be a source of inspiration.

”We met at the international six-day enduros and always hung out. We got along really well and had the same personality,” Price said.“He was a renowned desert racer in America and won a lot of championships.He would have been a strong contender in the Dakar for years to come.

Toby Price and Kurt Caselli

“His support was amazing and I’m sure he’s still with me somewhere and keeping an eye over everything and making sure we get to the finish line.”

Also driving Price on is the chance to create history. Last year’s third place was the equal-best effort by an Australian in the Dakar, and now he wants more.

”If winning Dakar happens this time or five, six, 10 years’ time, it’s never certain,but I’ve got my goals set on being the first Australian to win the Dakar Rally,” he said.“I know with my speed, I’m capable of doing that.”

Theprologue will be held January 2(Saturday night AEDT) in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Stage one of 14 in the rally, whichtakesinArgentina and Bolivia, starts thefollowing day,

Restore Australia: the party that would ban Islam

Mike Holt’s Restore Australia is unashamedly anti-Islam. Photo: Phill JacksonA prospective new political party in Australia would make it illegal for people to practise their Muslim faith.

Restore Australia, headed by one-time One Nation candidate Mike Holt, wants to field Senate candidates at the federal election, running on an anti-Islam, protectionist platform.

It is the latest in a string of anti-Islam micro parties to announce its political intentions, following the United Patriots Front and Kim Vuga​, a one-time participant on the SBS program Go Back to Where You Came From who went on to form the political party Love Australia or Leave.

The United Patriots Front has more than 30,000 supporters on Facebook and has lent its support to the failed campaign against the Bendigo mosque. Its leader Blair Cottrell has previously stated that every school in Australia should hang a picture of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler and every student have a copy of his manifesto Mein Kampf.

Despite their similar preoccupations with Islam, Mr Holt said his party bore little similarity to the UPF: “They’re a bunch of right-wing Nazis, to be honest with you,” he said.

Like the ultra-nationalist, far-right Australia First Party, Restore Australia advocates the introduction of “citizen-initiated referendums”, which would allow any Australian to submit legislation to parliament, so long as they had the support of at least one per cent of the population, or about 240,000 people.

But Mr Holt insisted that unlike Australia First, which also campaigns against “Muslim migration”, his group was “middle of the road” and did not identify as left-wing or right-wing.

“We seem to be bedfellows, but we’re not. We’re not racists,” he said.

Mr Holt’s party will campaign on re-introducing tariffs on imports, compulsory military service for able-bodied men and women and combating “the threat within”.

But it will be Restore Australia’s militantly anti-Islam focus that is expected to attract most attention.

“We believe that Islam is not compatible with Australian society, and under our Constitution it is actually illegal for anyone to be a supporter of Islam,” he said.

“They have a choice. They can either leave Islam and become full-on Australian or go to another country where they can practise their Islamic faith. [As Muslims] they can’t be loyal Australians first. They are always loyal to Islam first.”

Should it attract the 500 members required to register a political party, Restore Australia will funnel preferences to other “patriot” groups at the election.

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Chris Gayle: KP a great hitter and entertainer, but no match for me in either

International Cricket Council player rankings? Whatever. Everybody knows when it comes to the best batsmen in the world that right near the top are Chris Gayle and Kevin Pietersen. Come Saturday night, we’ve both got a chance to remind you why.

I first met KP about a decade ago, when one of the English TV channels brought me over for a competition to see which player could hit the biggest sixes.

My first impression was that he looked like a skunk, as it was the time he had that big blonde streak running down the middle of his hair. The other was that the boy could hit. I’m pretty sure he actually won that competition, against me. Beginner’s luck!

Later in 2005 KP and I ended up playing together, in one of those World XI matches that was played under the roof in Melbourne, which has ended up being my home with Melbourne Renegades. We’ve crossed paths a lot since but it’s always been on separate teams, initially when the West Indies were playing England but even other things like the Indian Premier League, the Caribbean Premier League and now the Big Bash League.

I think it’s better we’re opposed to each other. I think it pushes us a bit harder to outdo the other one, which is good news for everyone watching.

I don’t really watch a lot of cricket. Beyond checking out who I’m coming up against, I tend to deliberately keep my distance, because I don’t want to get caught up in it. I like to be entertained, and unfortunately I can’t kick back and watch myself play.

It’s very important to entertain. That’s my objective. It’s really good to be the sort of person that people look up to, as an entertainer. They look for big sixes, they look for runs. T20 is about entertainment, and I think I’m one of the few people who can do that on and off the field.

I haven’t thought deeply about who’d be in the top 10 batsmen I’ve played against, but KP would definitely be in there. He is an entertainer, too. My teams have been on the receiving end of some of his big innings, like when he made a century in the 2007 World Cup and the time he made a double-century in a Test in Leeds.

He’s a class player, one of the best around the world. It makes no difference that he’s no longer representing England. He’s a big wicket. You always want to get him out as early as possible, as he’s definitely the type of character who can win games on his own.

It was a boost to the CPL to have such a big name in our tournament as KP last season, when he came to play for St Lucia.

It’s funny. We don’t know each other well, yet we’re often in communication, if not through Instagram and Twitter then through WhatsApp and BlackBerry Messenger.

Staying at the same hotel, we get the chance to have breakfast together, or even a beer when it’s a bit later in the day, like we did when we posted a pic of it on Instagram a few weeks ago. We might also hit a few clubs as well. Cricket is typically off the agenda. We just sit around and talk crap, basically.

Speaking to KP, the other day, he said his golf was helping him hit sixes, because he plays so much of it and is getting better at just teeing off. It shows that even at 35 you can learn something.

We’re definitely still two of the best players in the world. I’m still actually playing for my country, and should be there for the World Twenty20 if I’m fit. It’s unfortunate for him, but at least he’s going to have the chance to watch me!

KP can play, but when it comes to hitting there’s no contest. KP is not even close to me. We had another six competition last year, before the CPL, and I proved that. But, to be fair, he does have the switch hits.

The MCG boundaries will be a good test, even for me. They’re big! I’ve had to organise a few gym sessions, on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, to make sure I can clear the boundaries come Saturday. Fingers crossed.

I don’t just hit bigger than him. I’m also a better entertainer. Clearly. While for most people in Australia – and for me too – the match will be Stars versus Renegades, for most people overseas it’s purely going to be KP versus Chris Gayle.

For entertaining, of course I’m going to be better than him. Of course I am! I’m the biggest entertainer in the world right now in cricket. No, not just the world, the universe. I’m the #UniverseBoss, not just the #WorldBoss.

Fans want to be entertained, especially when you have the entertainers on separate teams. They pay a lot of money to come and see us, so we want to deliver.

When we, the Renegades, beat KP and his Stars he’ll definitely have to take me out and buy me a few beers. If we lose, I’ll tell him he’s still got to buy me a few beers. That means whatever happens I’m on the winning side.

It’s my first derby, and I’m looking forward to it. It should be a cracker. People will definitely still turn out to watch us, even though we’re not on the international scene at the moment. You don’t pass up an opportunity to see KP playing against Chris Gayle, because we don’t know what will happen in the future.

But we do know what will happen on Saturday night: we’ll both be swinging, and swinging hard. If you’re in the crowd, mind your heads.

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Zane tests youth mentality

YOUNGER CROWD: Clayton Zane, far right, at Jets youth training at Ray Watt Oval on Thursday. Picture: Michael ParrisJETS youth team coach Clayton Zane will put pressure on his players to beat Western Sydney Wanderers in Sydney on Saturday as they chase a spot in the National Youth League final.

The Jets (10 points) are second in Conference B behind Sydney FC (12) with three games to play, and Zane welcomes thegame at Popondetta Park as a chance totest theirmettle.

“If we want to stay in contention to finish top, we have to win this game,” he said.“This week there will be a big emphasis on results,because they have to learn to win, and we have to choose some games where we put the responsibility on the players, because we have to see who can cope with the pressure of dealing with that.”

Zane has been pleasantly surprised by his side’s progress in the national under-21 competition given about half of his squad are 18 or under.

“We’ve probably done a bit better than I expected, just based on the age of the group.The training environment’s been a little bit weakened by what the first team’s needed. They’ve called up some of our older players, and we usually rely on the older players to dictate the level of our sessions.

“Pawiak, Cowburn etcetera have all gone up to train with the first team, so I’ve had to work four or five times a week with a younger group, but they’ve stood up really well.In saying that, we’ve still got a long way to go.”

Zane expects to have at least two senior squad members, striker Andy Brennan and midfielder Josh Barresi, on deck for the game against Wanderers, who are fourth on seven points.

Many of Zane’s squadhave graduated from the Emerging Jets program, and Zane said their exposure toplayers on A-League contractsdemonstrated there was a pathway to the first team.

“Even more so at the moment when the club’s in transition,” Zane said. “There’s spaces available on the [first-team] bench every week, and I’m in regular contact with Scott and JP. They’re aware of who’s doing well down here. They’re aware of the ones we’ve identified as potential A-League players.”

Highway Patrol out in force

RISKY: Police are warning holiday makers to slow down. Picture: Marina NeilTHINK twice before getting behind the wheel today if you’ve been drinking or partying to seein the New Year, police have warned.

While most people were enjoying a day off on Friday, Highway patrol officers were out in force across the Hunter pulling over drivers at three stationary Random Breath Testing sites.

Police are on the lookout for speeding and drunk drivers, and those driving under the influence of drugs.

Across NSW, there have been 12,833 speeding tickets issued during Operation Safe Arrival, up to and including day 14.

There have been 820 PCA charges laid, 1174 major crashes and 15 fatalities on the state’s roads.

With holiday makers back on the roads after New Year’s Eve celebrations, NSW Traffic and Highway Patrol Commander, Assistant Commissioner John Hartley, warned drivers rushing the start to their trip.

“The current Operation Arrive Alive road toll stands at six more than at the same time last year,’’ he said.

“Driving over the signed speed limit is simply foolish – it’s not only your own life you’re putting at risk, but other innocent lives of motorists and road users around you.

“If you are involved in a high-speed crash, you not only risk losing your life, but if you survive, you can end up living with a debilitating life-long injury, that affects not only you, but your loved ones and the community.

“Wherever you travel to, expect to see police on the roads. We will continue to target drivers and riders who insist on breaking the law, and I make no apology for that,” he said.

​As part of Operation Arrive Alive, double demerit points will apply for speeding, mobile phone use, seatbelt and helmet use. Double demerits will apply from 24 December 2015 to January 3 2016 and from 22 January 2016 to 26 January 2016 inclusive.

Indiana Jones 5 is coming says Disney boss, but will Harrison Ford, 73, appear?

Harrison Ford in 2008’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Photo: Paramount Pictures/Lucasfilm Ltd “Han Solo” actor Harrison Ford in Sydney to promote The Force Awakens. Photo: Steven Siewert

Only Harrison Ford for Indiana Jones: SpielbergHarrison Ford on returning as Han Solo

Harrison Ford is certainly having a moment.

His iconic Han Solo character made a triumphant return in Star Wars:The Force Awakens, and now it appears another Indiana Jones film is on its way.

Disney CEO and chairman Robert Iger dropped the bombshell during an interview this week, announcing Indiana Jones 5 was in the making.

“With George Lucas’s Star Wars and Indiana Jones, by the way, which will be coming, we have more great stories,” Iger told Bloomberg.

The famous archaeologist is another creation of Star Wars mastermind George Lucas, and has been played by Ford in all four films.

But does Ford, now aged 73, have another action film left in him?

He last played Jones in 2008 alongside Shia LaBeouf and Cate Blanchett in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

The film, nearly 20 years after Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, received mixed reviews from critics who largely thought the series should be put to bed.

Director Steven Spielberg said he couldn’t imagine anyone other than Ford playing Indy.

“I don’t think anyone could replace Harrison as Indy, I don’t think that’s ever going to happen,” he said in an interview with Screen Daily earlier this month.

“It’s certainly not my intention to ever have another actor step into his shoes in the way there have been many actors that have played Spider-Man or Batman,” Spielberg said. “There is only going to be one actor playing Indiana Jones and that’s Harrison Ford.”

Spielberg also stood strong in the face of criticism following the 2008 instalment, and said his enthusiasm remained.

“So as long as there’s more adventures out there, I’ve got a bullwhip, a fedora, a leather jacket and a man on a horse who knows how to get the job done,” he said.

It is unclear when the film will be released, what the plot will be and if Indiana Jones 5 will serve as a remake or ode to the earlier films like The Force Awakens has been received.

In Australia last month, Ford made no mention of playing Indiana Jones again when he said the only movie he was down to shoot was the next Blade Runner.

“I have one project ahead of me,” he said. “That’s fine. That’s all I need.”

While he was surprised to learn that producer Ridley Scott had talked about shooting the new Blade Runner in Beijing, Ford said he was looking forward to working with Denis Villeneuve, the French-Canadian director of Incendies, Prisoners and Sicario.

“I think it’s a good script and I have a chance to work with Ryan Gosling, who I think is one of our best working actors these days

With Garry Maddox

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Cabinet papers: on water matters

In a decision that had huge ramifications for stopping asylum boats reaching the coast, the Hawke government extended Australia’s territorial waters from three to 12 nautical miles (22.2 kilometres).

The decision was taken in almost blissful ignorance of what lay ahead.

In a joint submission to cabinet, the Foreign Affairs Minister Gareth Evans and Attorney-General Michael Duffy said the decision to go to the 12-mile limit was in keeping with the Law of the Sea Convention which Australia had signed in 1982.

“Although the convention is not yet in force, the right of a state to establish a territorial sea of up to 12 nautical miles is now well established,” they said.

“Some 111 states have now adopted that limit and Australia is one of only 10 countries that continues to claim a three-nautical-mile territorial sea.”

In a confidential briefing to cabinet, the two ministers emphasised the defence and security aspects of extending territorial waters.

Unauthorised aircraft, they said, would not be able to fly so close to the coastline and the “current freedom enjoyed by potential intelligence collectors” would be halted because submarines would not be within “line of sight” of land under a 12-nautical-mile limit.

“In the territorial sea, submarines are required to navigate on the surface and to show their flag,” they said.

The only nod to the asylum boat future came when Senator Evans and Mr Duffy told cabinet that the Australian Customs Service and Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service had a need to be able to exercise the greatest protective power permissible.

“The present three-nautical-mile territorial sea does not provide the scope for the powers which are seen necessary under current conditions to exercise effective customs and quarantine control,” they said.

The change to 12 nautical miles also brought most of the environmentally sensitive Great Barrier Reef under Australian sovereignty.

Cabinet records release

Cabinet records for 1990 and 1991 held by the National Archives of Australia became eligible for access from January 1, 2016. Information about the cabinet records, lists of the documents and copies of key cabinet documents, including selected submissions and decisions, are available on the archives’ website (naa.gov备案老域名). Click on the “Collection” tab, then “Popular research topics”, then “Cabinet”.

Requests for access to records not already released may be made via RecordSearch on the Archives’ website.

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Memories sure to last

IT’S been a year that Newcastle sports lovers would prefer to forget, but sadly, inevitably, the memories are destined tolinger for all thewrong reasons.

Just as 1997, 2001 and 2008 remainasreference points for the defining achievements ofour footballing flagships, so too will 2015 be remembered for decades to come, but with contrasting emotions.

The Knights and Jets had previously both collected wooden spoons in their respective competitions.

But to have two national-league franchisesfinish last in the same year, within six months of each other, is surely unprecedented, not only for Newcastle but any Australian city.

Compare that to Townsville, which boasts a smaller population but is still basking in the euphoria of grand final triumphs by the North Queensland Cowboys and Townsville Fire (captained, incidentally, by Newcastle’s Suzy Batkovic).

During an annus horribilisfor both our teams, the loyalty of their fans has been stretched to the limit.

In 14 games at Hunter Stadiumin 2015, the Jets managed just one win. The Knights won four of 12 games on home turf.

So if you were committed (or masochistic)enough to have attended all 26 of those fixtures, only five times would you have headed home celebrating a victory. All of which seems pretty depressing. Supporters were left prayinglast season was rock bottom and the only way is up.

The Jets, it should be noted, appear to be making progress after the train wreck that was 2014-15.

This time last year, the players were on the verge of a mutiny that they hoped would overthrow then coach Phil Stubbins but instead resulted in wholesale sackings.

After the demise of former owner Nathan Tinkler, it was inevitable that Stubbins would be replaced and there seems far greater synergy between new coach Scott Miller and his troops.

In saying that, Newcastle are winless in their past eight games and have not scored in four outings. But at least they appear organised and unified, which was not the case last season.

UNFLAGGING SUPPORT: Despite the annus horribilis of 2015, both the Newcastle Knights and Jets have stronger fan bases than many clubs. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

Given the quality of the players at his disposal, I would say Miller is getting the absolute best out of them. Most weeks they have been competitive against teams assembled on far larger budgets.

Whether they can make the finals for the first time in six seasons is another matter altogether. But after the dysfunctional mess that was the Tinkler era, there appears a glimmer of hope.

Much will depend on the club’s recruitment and retention over the next couple of months. If Newcastle are any hope of featuring in this season’s play-offs, they will need to bolster their ranks in the January transfer window.

Looking forward, it will be essential that they retain key off-contract players, in particular Ben Kantarovski, Enver Alivodic and Jason Hoffman.

The last thing the club needs is another cleanout and rebuilding phase, which has become almost an annual event.

The bottom line is that, slowly but surely, the Jets are regaining credibility. It won’t happen overnight.

As for the Knights, I still find it hard to comprehend their capitulation last season after winning their first four games.

Their entire campaign was encapsulated in thelast-round loser-takes-all showdown at Penrith, when a win would have allowed Newcastle to avoid the ignominy of the spoon.

Instead they were out-enthused and outplayed 30-12 by an injury-hit Penrith team, leaving Knights Hall of Fame legend and Heraldcolumnist Tony Butterfield querying whether, given the stakes,the second-half performance was the worst in the club’s history.

It was a sad note on which veteran skipper Kurt Gidley ended his Newcastle career. He deserved better, as did former Knights coach Rick Stone, sacked mid-season, and his caretaker replacement, Danny Buderus.

As Buderus said before handing the reins over to incoming Nathan Brown:”It’s a big job at hand. Everyone’s got to help, from top to bottom, in our organisation … we’ve got a long way to get up to those top clubs, and we’ve got to work and fight hard to get up there. You can’t put a year or a tally on when we will, but it’ll turn around. That’s for sure.”

Somehow it is hard to see either the Knights or Jets realising their potential while they remain under the control of their governing bodies.

The priority in 2016 has to be investigating alternativeownership models. A region of this size, incorporating the mining industry and a major port,should be able to financiallysupport and sustain two professional footballing teams.

History would suggest Newcastle and the Hunter Region produces outstanding talent in both codes, from Reg Date, to Craig Johnston, to Clive Churchillto Andrew Johns.

The fans are passionate and parochial. Give them reason to jump on the bandwagon, and Hunter Stadium will regularly be bursting at the seams.The last few years have been frustrating and even demoralising for all involved.

Both clubsare back in a familiar position, as cash-strapped underdogs, largely devoid of superstars,trying to compete with big-city Silvertails.It’s times like these, perhaps more than ever, that they need everyone’s support.