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Nikolai Topor-Stanley says Western Sydney Wanderers won’t get caught in A-League hype

Western Sydney Wanderers skipper Nikolai Topor-Stanley admits he has started contemplating life after the A-League, but says he won’t hang up his boots until he feels he can no longer compete.

The 30-year-old is riding high after going from the doghouse to the penthouse in 12 months, helping guide the Wanderers to a ladder-leading position after a disastrous 2014-15 campaign.

They have a chance to extend their unbeaten streak to 10 games when they play Adelaide United at home on Friday night as they aim to start 2016 with a bang.

But having seen the highs and lows of Australia’s premier competition, Topor-Stanley knows better than to get swept away by the hype of a purple patch of form.

The hard-nosed defender has spent almost a decade in the league and is on the hunt for another premier’s plate and a breakthrough grand final triumph.

Topor-Stanley has one more year to run on his A-League deal with the Wanderers and hopes to finish his career with the club where he was a foundation player in 2012.

“I’d be lying if I said it hadn’t crossed my mind,” Topor-Stanley said when asked if he wanted to end his playing days with the Wanderers.

“I’m only 30 and I feel physically that I’m still quite strong. Then again, you never know what’s around the corner for you in football.

“I don’t like to look too far ahead. I’ve got another year after this season and I’ve always said I’m extremely happy where I am. I believe I’m at one of the biggest clubs in Australia, if not the biggest.

“I’m in a happy place at the moment, who knows what happens in the future. Circumstances change for everyone … you can’t really plan. Football doesn’t last forever. I’m happy with my situation and keep going as long as the boat takes me.”

The Wanderers are holding on to top spot on the ladder after the first half of the A-League season and a remarkable turnaround from their nightmares of last year when they won just four games.

Topor-Stanley said a more travel-friendly schedule had helped the Wanderers find their groove as they try to cement their position on the ladder.

“It’s very early doors at the moment, we can’t afford to rest on our laurels. We have to keep on pushing the limits to stay up there,” Topor-Stanley said.

“We’re under no illusion, we haven’t won anything yet. We’ve got a hell of a long way to go before there’s any celebrating, but we’re still enjoying it and enjoying the football we’re playing.

“The confidence is very high … apart from last year there has always been a high standard at the Wanderers for winning games.

“A lot of things have changed … the scheduling is far easier on us this year. We weren’t too far off [last year], but just enough. In this league, being 5 per cent or 1 per cent off can be the difference.”

Topor-Stanley is juggling his captaincy duties with a part-time sports science degree at university as he casts one eye to the future and his life after his playing days.

That also means soaking up the atmosphere as the Wanderers play through the holiday period, including a Christmas Eve win against Newcastle and a New Year’s Day clash against Adelaide.

The playing commitments have put champagne, ham and turkey on the backburner, but Topor-Stanley says it’s all worth it as the Wanderers chase success.

“The beauty of this league is that anyone can beat anyone … we’ll be in bed after the 9pm fireworks on New Year’s Eve, but that’s OK,” Topor-Stanley said.

“The [unbeaten streak] is just numbers. I don’t like getting carried away with that. We’re only ever a couple of games away from being in bad form. That’s why you have to find the middle ground and stay hungry – keep pushing yourself.”

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Canberra trainer Rado Boljun retires after 36 years in the racing industry

Ancient Song won a group 2 race for Boljun. Photo: Anthony JohnsonWhen Rado Boljun’s back started to go, the then 35-year-old brickie needed to find another job.

Thirty-one years later and the Croatian-born horse trainer has brought down the curtain on his second career after selling his 49-horse stable at Canberra’s Thoroughbred Park.

In that time he accumulated 750 winners, including two seasons of more than 50 winners, and won a group 2 race with Ancient Song.

He rated the daughter of Canny Lad as his best horse, which won him the group 2 Light Fingers Stakes (1200 metres) in 2002.

She also saluted at listed level for him and finished second to the legendary Lonhro in the Missile Stakes.

Boljun then told the owners the Melbourne direction of racing would suit her better and she joined Peter Moody’s stable, where she then won the group 1 Salinger Stakes (1200m).

After Ancient Song, he said Golf Circuit was his next best with the daughter of Groucho winning five times in Sydney and finishing third in the group 3 Tramway Handicap (1400m) in 1997.

“I’ve done enough, I’ve done 36 years, I won 750 winners, I’ve done alright for myself,” Boljun said.

“Winning those big races in Sydney [were my best memories]. I won a group 2, I ran second a couple of times in group 1s.

“I won plenty of races in Sydney, especially with Golf Circuit, Kiss My Fuji and Sober Comet.”

Boljun moved to Australia in 1971 and first got into the racing industry when he was still a brickie.

The 66-year-old started out as a trainer-driver in the trots as a hobby, with some success, before making the move over to thoroughbreds.

After putting the bricks down for the final time, he bought a property near Broulee before moving to Canberra about 13 years ago.

But now he’s not only sold his stables, but all his horses as well and plans to retire at Merimbula.

“I’m a brickie by trade and my back was kind of gone when I was 35 and I said to my family, ‘I have to retire, I have to do something else’,” he said.

“I started with the trots, then I all of a sudden we changed to gallopers. We bought a property in Moruya near Broulee, we bought 40 acres over there and I started training gallopers and I never looked back.”

While Boljun’s racing days are done, Barbara Joseph and Paul Jones have Just A Blur running in the benchmark 78 handicap (1600m) at Randwick on New Year’s Day, while fellow Canberran Nick Olive has Lock The Doors as an emergency in the benchmark 67 handicap (1100m).

Matthew Dale has Bitburg up against Trevor McIlrick’s Miss Liffey in the benchmark 68 handicap (1100m) at Rosehill on Saturday, while Mick Miladinovic’s Burradoo, Norm Gardner’s Nights On Fire and Gratz Vella’s Keep ‘Em Guessin’ jump in the Highway Handicap (1300m).

Dale also had Gocup Belle in the benchmark 69 handicap (1300m).

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Zimbabwe’s Kevin Pietersen? Australian players’ chief suggests cricket transfer system

The head of Australia’s players’ union has made a radical proposal to introduce a transfer system to “better utilise unemployed Test-quality players”, suggesting a star such as unwanted England batsman Kevin Pietersen could be retained on the international scene by playing for a country such as Zimbabwe.

The recommendation is contained among a series of suggestions to enhance the international game in the Australian Cricketers’ Association’s newly released annual report. In his report that opens the document, ACA president Greg Dyer also calls for the establishment of an ICC Test championship to enliven the five-day game and celebrates the removal of ICC chairman Narayanaswami Srinivasan.

However, the most eye-catching of the 10 recommendations is for the introduction of a system whereby the likes of Pietersen, whose cards have been marked for life by England, could resume his international career with another nation.

Dyer, who represents hundreds of leading male and female cricketers via the ACA, argues that the ICC should “create a controlled and targeted international player transfer system, irrespective of passport qualification, aimed at levelling out the playing strength of all Test countries and better utilising otherwise unemployed Test-quality players.

“Say, a maximum of three internationals per team and with a minimum three-year commitment required. (Think Kevin Pietersen playing for Zimbabwe?).”

Such a policy would serve as a dramatic upheaval to ICC player eligibility rules that underpin the international game. Those regulations state that to represent a country a player must either be born in that country, be a national of that country or be a resident in the country. The rules also state that a player must not have represented another nation in the previous four years. Dyer’s idea will be shouted down by many but he has suggested it against the backdrop of an international scene that is increasingly a more uneven playing field.

Under the left-field plan, someone such as Adam Voges could have been headhunted by another nation rather than having to wait  for years for a Test debut.

A  similarity could be drawn with the rules that govern international rugby league, whereby players are able to change allegiances between World Cups every four years – NFL convert Jarryd Hayne, for instance, has represented Fiji and Australia. However, the sticking point is  they must meet eligibility rules based on birth, heritage or residency for whatever country they play.

The proposal effectively throws out the rule book on international sport and there are many unanswered questions. Would players actually want to represent another country, even if they could not get a start for their own? And, to use Voges as an example, would they  then be able to come back when their nation of origin wanted them?  It’s a concept that in all probability won’t result in anything more than water-cooler talk but the fact it has been delivered by the top representative of Australia’s players makes it impossible to ignore.

More likely to see the light of day, although it has disappeared from the ICC’s plans, is the resurrection of the Test championship. Two years ago the ICC announced an inaugural event to be staged in England in 2017 and a second tournament in India in 2021, with the Champions Trophy to be replaced, but it was later scrapped.

Dyer believes every match would be made more relevant by creating a “Test Cricket Championship across two-year cycles, with home-and-away points leading to a four-team finals series”.

He adds: “This is clearly not a new idea, but will require a return to an agreed Future Tours Program involving all countries. It will also require a longer-term approach extending beyond the bilateral agreements that are currently in place …”

Dyer also suggests that more substantial prizemoney should be made available for every Test so that “the majority of all players’ income is delivered by playing this form of the game”. And in a call that will resonate with the West Indies after their all-too-brief lead-in to their series in Australia, he says Test teams should never be allowed “to commence a Test series without at least two serious, true first-class lead-up matches”.

There is also special mention of the departed ICC chairman, who was removed from the post by the Indian board in November. Dyer opens his report by saying: “As I write, I am enjoying a quiet celebration over the removal of N.Srinivasan”, although he concedes that development will probably not lead to cricket’s big-three structure being unwound.

“Realistically, Srinivasan’s ignominious departure is unlikely to undo the impact of the 2014 creation of the India/England/Australia troika, which now dominates the ICC club.”

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Bill Shorten takes break from leave to tweet ‘bring it on’ as union battle looms

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten says he is happy to take on the government over workplace relations. Photo: Alex EllinghausenTurnbull government faces tough negotiations

Labor leader Bill Shorten has responded to Malcolm Turnbull’s vow to fight an election on trade union reform, taking to Twitter to declare, “Bring it on”.

After the release of the trade union royal commission’s final report on Wednesday, Mr Turnbull flagged major reforms to union governance and said he would make it an election issue if the Senate blocked new laws.

On Thursday Mr Shorten, who is on leave and did not front the media on Wednesday, tweeted: “If Mr Turnbull and his Liberals want to fight an election on industrial relations, bring it on. We won on WorkChoices & we’ll win again.”

He followed by adding: “Labor will always fight for workers, decent pay & conditions. Mr Turnbull & his Liberals will fight for big business & to cut penalty rates.”

In a separate statement sent to Fairfax Media, Mr Shorten said he would “welcome any day of the week” Australian voters stacking up his record against Mr Turnbull’s on workplace relations.

Mr Shorten said the government was using the royal commission’s report as “a smokescreen for its full-scale attack on penalty rates”.

He was referring to a Productivity Commission paper released before Christmas that found penalty rates for Sunday work should be dropped to the same rate as Saturday penalties.

Mr Shorten accused the government of having “a desire to destroy the ability of unions to effectively represent workers, making it easier to rip away pay and conditions like penalty rates”.

Mr Turnbull repeatedly called on Mr Shorten to back the government’s reforms to union governance, which will be based heavily on 79 recommendations by royal commissioner Dyson Heydon.

Mr Heydon’s report concluded that the union movement was riddled with “widespread” and “deep-seated” misconduct.

“It would be utterly naive to think that what has been uncovered is anything other than the small tip of an enormous iceberg,” his report states.

Mr Turnbull said Mr Heydon’s report was a “watershed” moment for Labor and for unions, stressing that union members would be the biggest beneficiaries of reform.

The government will also reintroduce legislation to create an independent union watchdog similar to corporate regulator the Australian Securities and Investments Commission and try to re-establish a workplace relations regulator for the building and construction industry.

Labor has its own proposals for union reform, including giving ASIC the power to deal with the most serious transgressions by unions, but the government has rejected these.

On Wednesday Mr Turnbull, when asked how hard he was willing to fight for reforms, said: “We are willing to fight an election on this … If we cannot get the passage of this legislation through the Senate, then in one form or another it will be a major issue at the next election.”

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Danny Vukovic admits he has to get better and Victory defence must tighten up

Melbourne Victory goalkeeper Danny Vukovic doesn’t need to be reminded that he hasn’t quite performed to his usual high standards this season, the level that made him one of Kevin Muscat’s key targets when he opted to leave Perth Glory at the end of last year following the WA club’s salary cap rorting scandal.

Vukovic was a stand out for Glory, having made his name at Central Coast where he began as a youngster in the A-League’s first season.

But for one reason or another – personal inconsistency, difficulties in adjusting to a new set of colleagues, the intensity of playing for the nation’s biggest soccer club or just errors by his defensive partners – Vukovic has not looked as steady this year as he has in the past.

It’s something he admits, and he is big enough to acknowledge that he, along with everyone else at Victory, needs to lift  if they are to get out of the mid-season slump which saw them lose a club record four games on the spin in December before stuttering to a 1-1 draw with Glory on December 27.

“I have been inconsistent, and that’s out of character for me. Whether it’s the move I don’t know. I know I have got a lot better in me, and me at my best can certainly help this team be the best that they can be,” he said on Thursday morning.

” I am a little bit disappointed with how I have been going. Everyone has their ups and downs and I have probably had a few downs. There’s always pressure playing for this club.”

Vukovic’s uncertainty has been symptomatic of Victory ever since it lost skipper Carl Valeri to a long term injury at the end of November. The team hasn’t been as solid in defence, and it has not been as potent in attack as it was in the first part of the season, having scored only twice in the past five games and one of them from the penalty spot.

“We just have little moments of lapses in concentration. There was a moment just before halftime against Glory, from a throw in, Chris Harold had a  one on one opportunity from a simple throw in.

“So (what’s needed is) just a bit more concentration from the 11 on the park.

“We need to keep a clean sheet, we haven’t kept one since the Wellington game, a 3-0 win at Etihad.

“We need to get back to basics, the one on one defending at times can be a bit better. We’ve been a bit unlucky, balls falling to players after they’ve been tackled, but it’ll come, we’re not panicking.”

Muscat said after the Glory draw that he and the players had to have a think about the way everything was being done if they were to lift themselves out of their current malaise.

Vukovic said that the coach might have been disappointed with the last display, but that he was still upbeat about their prospects for an away trip to what has historically been a hoodoo ground, Newcastle. The Jets have not won for weeks, but Victory, whom they beat 1-0 early in the season, is one of the scalps Scott Miller’s side has taken this season.

“Kevin has been very positive. We always train pretty hard , the intensity is always at a premium here. We believe you train the way you play, that’s what we have done.

“We were disappointing against Perth definitely, but we were leading the game 1-0 so we certainly could have held on. But its a good chance on Sunday to start the year off well and get a good result.

“In the five games that we have not won, certainly had things gone differently the results could have been more positive. We are going to remain positive, try to rectify things this Sunday.

Vukovic has had experience of the Asian Champions League with Central Coast, so he is acutely aware of the need to snap the run of poor results and  put some points on the board before Victory’s Asian odyssey begins in February.

For clubs competing in the continental competition as well as vying for A-League honours the fixtures come thick and fast and fatigue becomes a big issue, as the experience of Western Sydney Wanderers showed last season.

“If you look at the history of the teams that played when you are competing in the ACL its always tough backing up domestically,  especially with the travel.

“We definitely want to get as many points on the board prior to going to that tournament, but we back ourselves in every game.”

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Archie Thompson, Jacob Melling could be in for Victory, City

Archie Thompson could be set to make his first start of the A-League season this weekend as Kevin Muscat looks to reboot his ailing team for the away trip to Newcastle on Sunday.

And Jacob Melling looks likely to come back into the Melbourne City starting eleven for the home game against Sydney on Saturday evening for his first start in several weeks.

Paulo Retre, who has been playing at full back and in midfield, is suspended for this game having picked up his fifth yellow card of the season in City’s 3-1 defeat to Brisbane last Sunday.

That was the first match John Van’t Schip’s side had lost in a month following its four wins on the spin, a run that has lifted it into third spot on the ladder.

Victory’s slump has seen them drop to fifth place  and the champions now lie nine points behind league leader Western Sydney Wanderers.

Thompson lined up wide on the left in a training drill on Thursday morning where Fahid Ben Khalfallah took on a central role, with Besart Berisha expected to start as the spearhead as Victory looks to reverse its poor run of results against the Jets in the Hunter Valley.

The last two occasions it has met the Jets Victory has lost 1-0 – at home last season, in what was the biggest upset of the year, and away at the start of this season, when it went down by the same scoreline to David Carney’s screamer.

Victory’s Brazilian midfielder Gui Finkler continued to train alone on Thursday, away from the team, as he battles to recover from what is said to be a minor calf injury. He will not be available for the trip to the Hunter Valley.

If Thompson comes in it is likely to be Jesse Makarounas who misses out, although few would be surprised if the disappointing Ben Khalfallah, who has failed to reach the same heights as he did last season, finally paid the price for his poor form this time round and was dropped to the bench.

City will be looking to bounce back from that reverse in Brisbane when its winning run came to an end.

Retre’s absence is the perfect opportunity to bring Melling back into the fold, the combative youngster adding the grunt and spark that will be needed to compete against Sydney’s midfield.

Northern Ireland international Aaron Hughes travelled to Brisbane but did not play, so he will be hoping to finally get 90 minutes this week if Van’t Schip decides to make a change in the heart of defence where Jack Clisby has done well filling in for the injured Connor Chapman and Hughes himself.

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Former Canberra Capitals boss says LJ ‘worth the punt’ as new era begins

Lauren Jackson has left a legacy in Canberra, says former Canberra Capitals boss Mark Cartwright. Photo: Matt BedfordHarrower backs Jackson to make cut for Rio OlympicsCapitals release Jackson from contract early

The man who helped orchestrate Lauren Jackson’s landmark Canberra Capitals deal says it was “worth the punt” despite injury limiting her court time, and the four-time Olympian should be remembered for her “significant” legacy.

The Capitals and Jackson declined to comment on Fairfax Media’s revelations Jackson had been released from the final months of her five-year, $1 million deal after another injury setback, with an official announcement planned for next week.

Mark Cartwright was at the helm of the Capitals and Basketball ACT when the richest player deal in an Australian women’s domestic sports league was reached.

The deal was made up by third party sponsorship from ActewAGL, TransACT, Basketball Australia and the ACT government to play three seasons from 2012 to 2016.

Jackson only managed six games, all of which were last season, but Cartwright said he’d push all his chips into the middle of the table again.

“At the time Lauren was the preeminent basketball player in the world and when you have an opportunity to help keep Australia’s great female sporting export in town, you do everything you can to make it work,” he said.

“Sport is fickle and there was always the chance of injury, but the Lauren Jackson brand and the fact she can dominate at both ends [of the court] made it too good an opportunity to not pursue.

“It took effort and energy but it was well worth the punt. Unfortunately injuries have not allowed the optimum result to be achieved, but Lauren will still leave a very strong legacy in this town.

“We achieved a first and hopefully made the public and the corporate sector think differently about investment in women’s sport in Australia.

“Her legacy will be significant.”

Jackson’s release gives her the opportunity to focus on regaining her fitness in time for the Olympics in Brazil in August.

It is understood she holds out some hope she may return to the Capitals if she makes a successful Olympic return.

The 34-year-old helped the Capitals to a string of WNBL titles in her heyday, but has been powerless to help the team through the worst season in its proud history. It has not won in 15 games.

The Jackson decision gives the franchise more clarity on how to rebuild as it embarks on an all-encompassing review into its performance.

“We haven’t had a focus on Lauren for quite a while, it’s been such an unknown,” coach Carrie Graf said on Thursday.

“I don’t think that will impact us, the group is soldiering on as we are.

“We know we’re locked down into this group, fingers crossed we don’t have any more major injuries.”

Capitals skipper Carly Wilson said the players have already been given a chance to express their opinion in the early stages of the review.

“We’ve all filled out a survey at this stage, I expect they’ll probably want to ask some questions which will come out of that,” Wilson said.

“I know on mine I said I’m happy to discuss anything they want, because I imagine we’ll have a meeting at some point.

“The players are an important part of this, [but] the players have to take responsibility for what is going on, as well as having our opinions.

“I think the club is doing a good job of that, making sure everyone gets a chance to be heard.”

Recruitment strategy is expected to be a major focus of the review, with Canberra’s depth off the bench exposed badly by opponents this season.

Graf, who has won six championships in 14 seasons at the Capitals, is off contract at the end of this campaign.

So too is Australian Opals youngster Stephanie Talbot, who is certain to attract strong interest from other clubs.

WNBL games record holder Jess Bibby is retiring and Wilson will decide at the end of the season if she plays on.

Former Capitals skipper Narelle Fletcher said the club should look at recruiting two or three high-quality players going forward.

“I don’t think you can put all your eggs in one basket any more,” she said.

“If they can keep a hold of [last season’s WNBL Most Valuable Player Abby Bishop], but they also need a point guard.

“They need more depth in their roster, it goes without saying.”

The Capitals play their next game on the road at Bendigo on Saturday night.

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Office markets see $35 billion in sales in 2015

View of Circular Quay with the Cahill Expressway from a Sydney ferry. The office leasing market in the CBD is delivering good results, particularly for landlords. Photo: Janie BarrettInvestors from all parts of the globe pumped more than $35 billion into the country’s office markets and the coming year is tipped to be just as busy.

Buyers ranged from Asian sovereign funds, private super funds and Australian real estate investment trusts. The one big entrant was the Canadians, which bought up $25 billion worth of Australian assets from ports to office blocks.

According to agents, REIT managers and super funds, the low Australian dollar, higher yielding bricks and mortar and a volatile share market, will again attract the investment cash to property.

Takeover activity among the REITs, such as the proposed deal between DEXUS​ Property and Investa Office, will also trigger some asset sales.

Colliers International managing director John Marasco​ said of the $35 billion in sales, half were domestic purchasers.

He said Australian investors are now increasingly moving offshore, spending about $5 billion overseas in 2015, which is more than double the 2014 level but significantly lower than the almost $28 billion in 2007.

“Next year, we expect that this growth in investment will continue however there will be different types of investors in the market compared to the previous cycle,” Mr Marasco said.

“In 2007, the most dominant purchasers were Australian institutions. In the current cycle, these institutions are increasingly being funded by offshore groups who are looking to partner with them because of their expertise in Australian property.”

He said the dominant groups going offshore will continue to be Australian superannuation funds as they seek to diversify their investment into direct property. Finding the scale necessary in Australia is increasingly difficult and offshore markets provide a significant pool in which to invest.

But while sales were hectic, the underlying office leasing market continued to deliver good results, particularly for landlords.

John Preece, national director, office agency at Knight Frank said 2015 has been extremely positive for the Sydney CBD office market.

This was driven by improving occupier demand and limited supply resulting in a reduction in vacancy to 6.3 per cent. There has also been a convergence of the prime and secondary vacancy rates following a period of outperformance in secondary assets.

“Vacancy rates of less than 8 per cent are typically conducive to effective rental growth, indicating positive times for owners,” Mr Preece said.

“However, for context, the prime grade reduction in vacancy has largely been driven by aggressive incentives of around 30 per cent, whilst secondary incentives have fallen to 20  to 25 per cent in many instances.

“Looking ahead to 2016, I expect vacancy to rise over the next 12  to 18 months, peaking in early 2017.  Our original projections were that the peak vacancy in prime grade assets could reach 10 per cent to 11 per cent, as significant supply is not totally offset by demand and stock withdrawals.”

But the impact of the Sydney Metro compulsory acquisitions will clearly reduce this.

In the CBD, about 150 occupiers across 61,000 square metres of office space will be displaced in the next 18 to 24 months, representing 1.2 per cent of the entire office market.

“This, of course, is an opportunity. With a continued rise in business confidence, I believe that many of the displaced occupiers will take the opportunity to seek better quality accommodation for their next lease cycle,” Mr Preece said.

“For many, this will mean a jump from secondary grade to prime grade premises, and let’s be honest; this is where the demand is needed with the upcoming wave of prime grade supply.  As such, I believe that the peak in prime grade vacancy in early 2017 may be reduced to around 9 per cent to 9.5 per cent.”

As was the case in 2015, the technology sector was one of the busiest tenants across all central business districts. Aside from the Google mandate of about 60,000sqm of space, which is likely to go to White Bay in Sydney’s Bays Precinct, a lot of other groups are in the market looking for CBD digs.

The head of office leasing for NSW at JLL, Daniel Kernaghan, said the leasing recovery in the Sydney CBD has been gathering momentum over the course of 2015.

He said the entry and expansion of tech firms, as well as growth in finance and education institutions has driven strong net absorption, which is currently 120,300sqm for the first three quarters of 2015. “Another trend which emerged this year was tech companies taking up space traditionally leased by law firms and investment banks. We have seen this in particular in office assets at Martin Place,” Mr Kernaghan said.

“This strong take up has resulted in a significant tightening in vacancy, particularly in the A Grade market – 3.8 percentage points over the 12 months to September 2015. This fall in prime vacancy will result in a fall in incentives which have been historically high over the past two years.”

He said this fall will largely be a result of increased competition for a few quality contiguous space options in the Prime Grade space in the Sydney CBD.

“We expect prime incentives to trend downward over short to medium term, which will be a catalyst for strong prime gross effective rental growth during that same period of time,” Mr Kernaghan said.

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NSW spinner Steve O’Keefe poised for home Test debut after years of neglect by selectors

SCG Stephen: Stephen O’Keefe has a good record at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Photo: Morne de KlerkThere is a story about Steve O’Keefe that sums up the years of indifference to him, and can only leave you shaking your head.

It’s said to have occurred during one of the numerous junctures in the recent history of the Australian team when the NSW spinner was the best performed slow bowler at domestic level but couldn’t get even the slightest of look-in for the national side.

According to the tale, someone who had O’Keefe’s interests in mind was discussing his continued exclusion with a leading official. The jist was pretty simple. Why can’t this bloke get a start?

The official replied that as far as he knew, O’Keefe was not out of the frame, supposedly adding, “He’s in the best three right-arm spinners in the country,” he said.


O’Keefe, of course, is actually a left-arm finger spinner and on pure statistics the best one in the land for many a season now.

At 31, he may now finally be about to play his first Test on home soil – he’s only featured in one at all, against Pakistan in the UAE in 2014 – against the West Indies from Sunday.

How many more he might have already played had he not been confusingly snubbed earlier in his career is the issue.

It’s tough to argue against Nathan Lyon having been the No.1 spinner for Australia for the past four years given his emergence from the blue as a genuine world-class player.

But there have been other opportunities, for positions in squads and in teams where Australia has picked two spinners, where he could mount a very sound argument for being wrongly overlooked.

The most mystifying episode, admittedly more glaring in retrospect, is how he could not find his way in front of Xavier Doherty and/or Glenn Maxwell on Australia’s ultimately disastrous tour of India in 2013.

There were others, from Michael Beer at the SCG in 2011 to Ashton Agar in England in 2013, where Australia rolled through a production line of post-Shane Warne spin options that O’Keefe could claim to have been unfairly leapfrogged by.

Over time there have been a range of reasons available on the rumour mill. He just bowls darts, some said. He’s too chippy, was another explanation thrown out there. Yet another was a personality clash with an influential figure in the Australian set-up. The clash was very much true, but it being a reason for him being overlooked was only ever a theory.

Whether his cause was further harmed, too, by his occasional bucking of the old-school maxim that you don’t question selectors is unknown, too.

O’Keefe, though, was never going to be someone who was just going to suck it up quietly and without enquiry.

To see him at a suburban Sheffield Shield ground, a Bankstown Oval or an Allan Border Field where you can hear every word from the fence, gives an indication that he is anything but the silent, outfield type. He’s that guy in every team, shouting encouragement to teammates and clapping enthusiastically before just about every ball.

He once lived in Sydney’s eastern suburbs with Steve Smith, so the Australian captain knows as well as anyone just what kind of character he is.

Which is all, of course, really a side issue when it comes to the Sydney Test.

O’Keefe is in the squad and, according to coach Darren Lehmann likely to be in the XI on Sunday, because of his output with the arm, not the mouth.

He’s not a sharp turner of the ball but his straight approach, attacking the stumps, has now reaped him 191 wickets for NSW at less than 25 in the 10 years since his Shield debut. A career batting average of 28.8 is also not too shabby.

Despite a looming appearance at the SCG, though, he’s not counting his chickens yet.

“It’s so tough to get that second spinning opportunity. It’s been 10 years in Australia since we’ve played two spinners and those two spinners were Warne and MacGill,” O’Keefe told Fairfax Radio on Thursday. “It’s a bit of a feather in my cap that they’re considering two spinners given the depth that we have in quicks, given the wickets around Australia are generally more conducive to playing that extra guy who can bowl 140kmh.

“We’ll wait and see if the selectors go down that path with the two spinners but I’m feeling pretty confident.”

Whatever the case, with his selection against Pakistan, the cancelled tour of Bangladesh and now his presence in Sydney, it seems those picking the Australian teams realise what arm he bowls with and that he does it very well.

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Big Bash League: Bowlers, not big-name batsmen, set to be crucial in Melbourne derby

With players such as Kevin Pietersen and Glenn Maxwell up against Chris Gayle and Aaron Finch, Saturday’s Melbourne Big Bash League derby shapes as a battle of the bat.

But it is the lower-profile battle of the ball that is likely to have a bigger impact on which of the Stars or Renegades get back to parity in their win-loss record or be on the brink of being out of finals contention.

The Renegades batsmen have been so effective across their three matches that one of their specialist batsmen, Tom Cooper, is yet to get a chance in the middle.

“I think our whole batting group is going beautifully at the moment. Tom Cooper has been sitting with the pads on for three games now at No.7 and hasn’t had a hit,” Renegades captain Aaron Finch said.

During the past fortnight the Renegades have failed to defend solid totals at Etihad Stadium: firstly 4-172 against Sydney Sixers then 4-170 against Perth Scorchers. While they bowled poorly against the Sixers, against the Scorchers they were simply outplayed, to the extent the visitors’ openers, Michael Klinger and Shaun Marsh, were able to reach the target on their own “without having to play a shot in anger”, with eight deliveries up their sleeve.

“They weren’t poor, they weren’t off the mark by a hell of a lot very often,” Finch said. “If you’re going to win T20 games and T20 tournaments you have to get wickets, and we didn’t do that.”

The Renegades are badly missing bowlers who can take wickets in the powerplay, to make it harder for opponents to make a steady start knowing they can accelerate later because they have wickets in hand. James Pattinson fulfilled that role for them last season, yet by the time he is available after national duty – if at all – the Renegades may already be out of finals contention.

Nate Rimmington has been their only successful bowler so far. Chris Tremain started well against the Sixers, yet his brief to fill the strike-bowler role left vacant by Pattinson has seen him concede 9.83runs per overs.

In just three matches the Renegades have used a total of five bowlers – Guy Walker, Xavier Doherty, Cameron Stevenson, Cameron Gannon, Nathan Hauritz – to fill their final two spots. Gannon is likely to hold his place against the Stars, while Doherty could return in place of Hauritz, who captain Finch admitted was brought on too late against Perth.

“‘Haury’ just ran into a steam train there,” Finch said, in relation to Hauritz’s 0-29 from the two overs he bowled to Klinger and Marsh.

While both teams have won only one of their three matches neither look totally out of form. Finch said it added to the occasion that both teams equally needed victory at the MCG, in terms our ensuring they qualifying for the semi-finals after their eight-match season.

“Both teams are almost on wood at the moment. In the past, there’s been one or two teams that’ve been not in great form so you might be able to scrape in with four wins, but now with everyone beating each other and the competition being so tight I think you’ll have to win five games. We’re at that stage now where we’re touch and go,” he said.

“For both teams, it is [pivotal]. There’s going to be a huge crowd . . . there’s also a lot of excitement around the derby.”

The Stars will recall Pietersen, who has returned from England, and will hoping bowling all-rounder John Hastings passes a fitness test on his injured shoulder.

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