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THE IMPROVER
Nanjing Night Net

MOONEE VALLEY Race 8

No. 11 LIVIGNO

A few of the main runners in the last race on the program at Moonee Valley today are improving gallopers potentially destined for bigger and better races. Livigno is one, and while Tokugawa and Bombalatomba may have been more flashy, this fellow has plenty of scope in a race like this. He returned some impressive figures first-up at Flemington and should really improve as he tackles stronger opposition. A strong winning chance in an open race.

SUGGESTED BET Livigno each-way.

THE ROUGHIE

MOONEE VALLEY Race 7

No. 11, VALEDICTORIAN

David Hayes is enduring a lean streak in city grade races but Valedictorian may be capable of breaking the run of outs early in the spring, especially at this venue. The horse simply loves racing at Moonee Valley, and if his strong first-up run here behind Tokugawa is anything to go by, he is not far away from another win. The step up to 1500 metres suits, as does an inside barrier, and a claim for gifted apprentice Chad Schofield allows him to take a position near the speed with a weight advantage on his rivals. A legitimate each-way option at double-figure odds.

SUGGESTED BET Valedictorian each-way

FAR AND WIDE

WARWICK FARM Race 5

No. 4, Albrecht

Peter Snowden’s improving colt Albrecht certainly has the talent to win this group 3 contest, but it will come down to his mental state. The colt was most impressive on debut at Canterbury when he sat off the speed on a wet track and ploughed home to victory, but he was very green and wayward next time out at that track when running into third place. Albrecht’s immaturity may hold him back, but winkers will help his focus and could spark a winning run.

SUGGESTED BET Albrecht each-way

FEELING EXOTIC

Warwick Farm quaddie

1, 2, 3, 4, 8 / 2, 4, 12, 13 / 6, 10 / 1, 2, 5

A $24 Flexi Bet will return 20 per cent of the dividend

Moonee Valley quaddie

A $50 bet returns approximately 27 per cent of the dividend

LEG 1 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

LEG 2 1, 2, 3, 10

LEG 3 6, 10, 11

LEG 4 6, 11, 13

Win a share in a racehorse! Competition ends Tuesday. For details visit www.theshark南京夜网.au

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OTI group hopes to drink from spring cups

Manighar has been transformed from a seemingly one-paced stayer into a dazzling weight-for-age performer at middle distances.SIMON O’Donnell, Terry Henderson and the OTI horse-racing syndicate know exactly how Tantalus felt.
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The mythical Greek figure – said to have stolen ambrosia and nectar from the gods – was condemned to thirst for eternity in the underworld, standing in a pool of water beneath a fruit tree whose fruit was always just out of grasp and with the water always receding before he could take a drink.

The OTI group members know just how heartbreaking it is to have had the vessel they cherish most snatched away at the last second: their grey gelding, Bauer, trained by Luca Cumani, was beaten by a whisker by Viewed in the 2008 Melbourne Cup.

Tantalus was never able to seek redemption. O’Donnell and Henderson can – and the pair are hoping it will come this spring. They have one of the strongest hands of any ownership group as they look to harvest the riches on offer in Melbourne over the next 10 weeks.

Already preparing for his next campaign is their import, Manighar, the revelation of the autumn, a galloper Peter Moody transformed from a seemingly one-paced stayer into a dazzling weight-for-age performer at middle distances.

Manighar, when prepared by Luca Cumani at Newmarket, finished close up in the cups, although his autumn performances over distances between 1600 metres and 2000 metres would suggest he is now capable of a Cox Plate.

While Australian punters will look to Moonee Valley and Warwick Farm for clues this weekend, the OTI members will have their eyes firmly fixed on Europe, where several other candidates who could bring them cups glory will be having their final preparatory races in the north and south of England and in France. The quartet concerned are Quest For Peace and Ibicenco, both trained by Cumani, Gatewood, from the John Gosden yard, and the John Hammond-prepared Prairie Star.

Ibicenco has been off the track since the end of May, when he ran second to Ascot Gold Cup runner-up Opinion Poll in a group 3 contest at Sandown. While Cumani is doubtful whether he is forward enough or perhaps sharp enough to match it with likely favourite Saddler’s Rock, O’Donnell is looking forward to a decent showing from the former German-trained galloper in the group 2 Lonsdale Cup over 3300 metres.

”We are looking for a nice run to top him off there before he comes here for the cups. He’s been off the track for a while and has had a nice freshen up,” the broadcaster and former Australian cricketer said.

While the son of Shirocco is a genuine stayer, Quest For Peace looks to be a better cups chance at the moment. The latter holds a Goodwood entry in the 2800-metre listed March Stakes late tonight and this four-year-old son of Galileo could be a big player in the Melbourne spring. He and Ibicenco will likely end up with Moody after their spring campaigns.

The group’s attention will switch to France 24 hours later, to the Grand Prix de Deauville, where Gatewood, a Royal Ascot winner of a 2000-metre handicap earlier this year, is expected to step out in company with Prairie Star.

Gatewood made the step up to group company when he ran third to Quest For Peace in that Goodwood race. Gatewood will be sent to Sydney to be trained by Chris Waller when his spring campaign ends, while Prairie Star will be transferred into the care of Danny O’Brien at Flemington.

Punters should also keep a close eye on the Ebor Handicap over 2800 metres at York. It has been a good guide to the foreign raiders for the cups, with Cumani’s Purple Moon winning it in 2007 before running second to Efficient at Flemington. John Gosden’s Camborne could also be a contender if he can win in the early hours of tomorrow morning.

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Carey sets yardstick for contender

LAST season’s AJC Derby winner Ethiopia is still three weeks away from returning to the track, but his trainer Pat Carey is hopeful of unearthing another group 1 contender by that time.
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Carey today saddles the Starcraft colt Right To Roam to run in the listed $120,000 McKenzie Stakes (1200 metres) at Moonee Valley, where he will not be judged solely on whether he wins or loses.

”He gives me the impression that he might want it a bit further, so if he can be finishing off his race nicely and be on the heels of the placegetters that will give us some confidence to keep on the path to a good race,” Carey said yesterday.

”You have to have a high road and at the same time be realistic, so we’ve got him nominated for the Caulfield Guineas and it’s up to him whether he gets there or whether he falls short. This race will be a good step for him in better class and we’ll see how he goes.”

Right To Roam raced just four times at his opening campaign in the autumn, which ended with a luckless second at Sandown over 1400 metres in April.

His dam My Only Hope won a Blue Diamond Stakes Prelude but Carey said Right To Roam threw more to his stallion – the dual hemisphere group 1 winner Starcraft – in that he is a chestnut who is looking for ground. Despite showing some promise, Right To Roam was marked a $41 chance last night to win the stakes race.

As for Ethiopia, who caused a sensation at Randwick in April when he won the AJC Derby as a maiden in his fourth start, Carey said he was taking a ”careful approach” to the horse’s spring program as he believed he would be at his peak as a stayer in another 12 months.

”We aren’t overloading ourselves with expectation this spring. He wasn’t nominated for the Caulfield Cup but we will put in a nomination for the Melbourne Cup simply to keep options open, but we haven’t got a heavy program outlined for him this preparation,” Carey said.

”At this stage we’ve pencilled in a first-up run in the Dato Tan [Chin Nam Stakes at Moonee Valley on September 15] and we’ll take it from there, but we won’t be rushing into races for the sake of it as we’ve got one eye on the autumn and one eye on next spring.”

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Svelte figures but fit for a fall?

Try some new angles: Take Shape Health and Fitness owner Tracey Wright with gym manager Tori Daile.WITHIN 500 metres of Craig Harper’s bayside house there are, he says, six gyms or personal training studios. Mr Harper, a trainer, who has owned a studio in Brighton for 22 years, says the personal training industry has ”gone through the roof. It’s out of control.”
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Melbourne is in the throes of a fitness craze. Personal trainers are a growth industry and new fitness outlets are opening in empty warehouses and shops all over town.

A Fitness Australia analysis of Australian Bureau of Statistics labour figures shows that the number of registered exercise professionals nationally has leapt by 13,000 in the six years to 2011, to 30,000.

And an industry analysis by market research company IBISWorld found there were 7281 fitness-related businesses in Australia in 2011-12, compared with 5617 in 2002-03. The category includes gyms but also clothing and equipment outlets and for-profit sporting clubs.

The IBISWorld report predicts that increased disposable income, leisure time and health awareness will boost the figure to more than 8600 in 2016-17.

Mr Harper said the industry had been ”on an upward spiral for a long time”, fuelled by consumer demand, but the growth was not sustainable.

It was getting to the point of there being ”too many to survive and thrive”. He thought the big chains with ”less intimacy and less customer service, less connection and less personalised attention” would struggle.

Indeed, in June there was an industry health scare when the giant Fitness First chain was revealed to be heavily in debt and 333 Capital, the advisory arm of insolvency firm KordaMentha, was appointed to sell 24 of its 97 Australian gyms.

Heidelberg trainer Darren McGinty said fitness schools – more than 130, according to Fitness Australia – were ”pumping out” personal trainers from short courses and promoting gyms as a lucrative career. But while the graduates were willing to ”have a crack”, many knew little about running a business.

His own ”f.i.t. (fit in time)” studio has been in Heidelberg’s main street, Burgundy Street, for six years, but two rivals from big chains have opened in the street in the past six months.

Both offer 24-hour opening, fewer staff, lower fees and a shiny image.

”They’re 150 metres apart with exactly the same offering. How can that be sustainable in that area?” asked Mr McGinty, who says he offers a more long-term service of training, nutrition and lifestyle advice. ”It’s like a few years ago, every 40 feet in a shopping strip there was a juice bar … it’s the fad du jour.”

But Tracey Wright, owner of the independent Take Shape Health and Fitness, said there was room for new players.

Her business opened in Alphington on June 1 and already has attracted 150 clients.

It is four doors down from another new gym, the 24-hour Anytime Fitness, and across the road from a Pilates studio.

Ms Wright said while Anytime was more conventional with weights and cardio, hers emphasised group fitness and personal training.

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Kerr’s papers reveal man behind Whitlam sacking

SIR John Kerr identified the former chief justice, Sir Anthony Mason, as the ”third man” who secretly advised and ”fortified” him in the lead-up to the most divisive event in Australian political history, his decision to sack the Whitlam government in 1975.
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The former governor-general’s private records insist Sir Anthony ”played the most significant part in my thinking” and even reassured him that he had made the right call two days before he dismissed the Whitlam government on November 11.

They also assert that Sir Anthony, at the time a High Court judge, was the author of a statement that Kerr ”incorporated in my public statement” justifying his actions.

The record was uncovered by Whitlam biographer Jenny Hocking, whose book Gough Whitlam: His Time will be published next month. Hocking says Kerr’s records suggest that ”Mason was not merely the third man: he was, in many ways, the man”.

Kerr’s records make it clear that he wanted the extent of Sir Anthony’s role to surface after his own death but while Sir Anthony was still alive, with the aim of deflecting his responsibility for the deception and dismissal of Mr Whitlam.

”In the light of the enormous and vicious criticism of myself, I should have dearly liked to have had the public evidence during my lifetime of what Mason had said and done during October-November 1975 … [but] he would be happier … if history never came to know of his role,” he wrote.

”I shall keep the whole matter alive in my mind till the end, and if this document is found among my archives, it will mean that my final decision is that truth must prevail, and, as he played a most significant part in my thinking at that critical time, and as he will be in the shades of history when this is read, his role should be known.”

The account adds weight to the perception of Kerr as a weak man who wanted and needed to feel his actions had the approval of others. Aside from being portrayed as a constant confidant, the record depicts Sir Anthony ”as providing a necessary bridge between Kerr and chief justice Sir Garfield Barwick”, the book asserts.

Sir Anthony’s role in the dismissal has been the subject of speculation for decades, after Kerr noted in his memoir that one person other than Barwick, ”sustained me in my own thinking as to the imperative within which I had to act”.

While columnist Gerard Henderson has reported that Kerr told him he consulted directly with Sir Anthony prior to the dismissal, the detail laid out in Kerr’s private papers on their ”running conversation” staggered Hocking, who researched the biography for the last seven years. ”This was the discovery that I was most excited and, to an extent, shocked by,” she told The Saturday Age. ”I was just astonished by what I read.”

Sir Anthony has consistently refused to be drawn on his role. However, he has written his own detailed account of what took place and has agreed for it to be published exclusively in The Age on Monday.

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Revealed: the third man in the dismissal

The ‘third man’ … former chief justice, Sir Anthony Mason.JOHN KERR identified the former chief justice, Anthony Mason, as the ”third man” who secretly advised and ”fortified” him in the lead-up to the most divisive event in Australian political history – his decision to sack the Whitlam government in 1975.
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The former governor-general’s private records say Sir Anthony ”played the most significant part in my thinking” and reassured him he had made the right call two days before he dismissed the government on November 11. They also assert that Sir Anthony, at the time a High Court judge, was the author of a statement that Kerr incorporated in his public statement justifying his actions.

The record was uncovered by the Whitlam biographer Jenny Hocking, whose book Gough Whitlam: His Time will be published next month. Hocking says Kerr’s records suggest ”Mason was not merely the third man: he was, in many ways, the man”.

Kerr’s records make it clear that he wanted the extent of Sir Anthony’s role to surface after his own death but while Sir Anthony was still alive, to deflect his responsibility for the deception and dismissal of Mr Whitlam.

”In the light of the enormous and vicious criticism of myself, I should have dearly liked to have had the public evidence during my lifetime of what Mason had said and done during October-November 1975 … [but] he would be happier … if history never came to know of his role,” he wrote.

”I shall keep the whole matter alive in my mind till the end, and if this document is found among my archives it will mean that my final decision is that truth must prevail, and, as he played a most significant part in my thinking at that critical time, and as he will be in the shades of history when this is read, his role should be known.”

The account adds weight to the perception of Kerr as a weak man who wanted and needed to feel his actions had the approval of others. Aside from being portrayed as a constant confidant, the record depicts Sir Anthony ”as providing a necessary bridge between Kerr and chief justice Sir Garfield Barwick”, the book asserts.

It also describes how Kerr took ”the extreme step” of raising the possible dismissal of the Whitlam government with Prince Charles in September 1975, when they met in Port Moresby for an event to mark the transition to an

independent Papua New Guinea. ”Neither Kerr nor the palace ever revealed that, weeks before any action in the Senate had been taken [to block supply], the governor-general had already conferred with the palace on the possibility of the future dismissal of the prime minister, securing in advance the response of the palace to it,” Hocking writes.

Sir Anthony’s role in the dismissal has been the subject of speculation for decades, after Kerr noted in his memoir that one person other than Barwick ”sustained me in my own thinking as to the imperative within which I had to act”.

While the Herald columnist Gerard Henderson has reported that Kerr told him he directly consulted Sir Anthony before the dismissal, the detail laid out in Kerr’s private papers on their ”running conversation” staggered Hocking, who researched the biography for seven years.

”This was the discovery that I was most excited and, to an extent, shocked by,” she told the Herald. ”I was just astonished by what I read.”

Sir Anthony has consistently refused to be drawn on his role and, when again pressed by Hocking, refused to be drawn, telling her: ”I owe history nothing.”

However, Sir Anthony has written his account of what took place and has agreed for it to be published exclusively in the Herald on Monday.

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SBW says goodbye to all that, again

Sonny Bill Williams has spent the week stamping out his emotions. He’s become pretty good at farewells over the years as his career has ducked and dived its way through Sydney, France, Christchurch and Hamilton.
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It will be thed same when the All Blacks run on to Eden Park tonight, sing the anthem, do the haka and get on with the business of defending the Bledisloe Cup. But don’t be fooled by Williams’s game face. Inside, he will be a bundle of emotions – just as he was during the Chiefs’ Super Rugby final win over the Sharks, when his true feelings came spilling out after the full-time whistle.

“It’s the same as the Chiefs – I’ve got to put all that stuff to one side, prepare as best I can, do all the homework, get all the plays down pat, do all the homework on Australia and see where we can attack them,” Williams said. “I’ll concentrate on that instead of getting all emotional because that could take away from what I’m doing.”

Read between the lines and you get the feeling the 27-year-old has come to the realisation he’s giving up something he has come to cherish.

“Skip [Richie McCaw] says every time we get in the huddle that there’s a lot of other boys who want to be in it. Sometimes you listen but you don’t really take it in. But that’s kind of hit me in the last couple of weeks that I’m going to be involved. It will really hit when the boys go away overseas to play but who knows what the future holds. Maybe I’ll be putting my hand up to be back in the mix.”

Williams’s All Blacks career will go into hibernation at 19 Tests. He will head to Japan, then back to the league scene in Sydney. Perhaps the greatest advance has been the way he has grasped where his individual talents fit within a team collective.

“It was a little rusty, but in saying that we were able to help set up a couple of tries just through our decoy lines,” he observed of his combination with Ma’a Nonu in Sydney. “He’s a dangerous player, it’s just about finding the space between us, and hopefully we do that this week.”

One person sad to see Williams leave just as he’s settling in is five-eighth Dan Carter. “He’s been huge for us and a strong ball carrier,” he said. ”He’ll be sorely missed. I would have loved him to stay and build a stronger partnership with him.”

Toby Robson

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Tigers romp, Dons out of luck

Trent Cotchin leads jake Melksham to the footy.RICHMOND 5.5 8.11 12.16 13.24 (102) ESSENDON 3.2 4.6 7.9 8.9 (57)GOALS Richmond: Riewoldt 3, McGuane 2, Edwards 2, Deledio, O’Hanlon, Astbury, Martin, Nahas, Grigg. Essendon: Monfries 3, Browne, Jetta, Hurley, O’Brien, Gumbleton. BEST Richmond: Tuck, Deledio, Houli, Cotchin, Martin, Maric, Batchelor. Essendon: Heppell, Crameri, Watson. INJURIES Richmond: White (hamstring). Essendon: Davey (hamstring). UMPIRES Mollison, Nicholls, McInerney. CROWD 47,590 at MCG.
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HERE’S a little story about how luck has been treating Essendon lately. Stewart Crameri grabbed the ball about 60 metres from goal last night, turned, looked, took a few quick, bold steps and swung. About 18 minutes into the game against Richmond the Bombers were trying: running, chasing, winning the ball, holding Trent Cotchin to just two possessions. But as Crameri kicked, Steve Morris lunged, smothering the ball. Within seconds the Tigers had whisked it to the other end, straight into the arms of Jack Riewoldt, 30 metres out. No goal to Essendon, a third  to Richmond, and with it a 16-point lead.

The margin was still two goals at quarter-time and the Bombers were still hanging in there, still winning enough of the ball, still pushing into space, and starting to turn a few half-chances into three-quarter chances, against a team that was blowing a few. But as it turned out that’s all they were doing, holding on.

By half-time, Richmond was leading by 29 points. The Tigers had won 30 more possessions — all of them uncontested — and laid a lot more tackles. They had pumped the ball towards goal over and over, 42 times to the Bombers’ 23 by the time the siren  sounded, on track for the record.

Cotchin, slipping forward, was up to 11 possessions. Jobe Watson, after an 11-possession opening term, had just two. Richmond players were still searching harder for space, taking the ball forward and when they didn’t win the ball  the Bombers gave it back to them more often than not. Their defenders were under enormous pressure given the yellow-and-black avalanche, but on at least seven occasions turned the ball over and watched it get kicked over their heads for goals, caught bewildered and doing things they didn’t need to do.

Courtenay Dempsey’s very good season has become derailed in the past few weeks by his own frustration, an unnecessary behind-the-play headlock on Cotchin, after Cotchin had cleared the ball, giving up another inside-50.

The Tigers were not by any means playing brilliant football. Riewoldt was taking marks and getting shots on goal, but missing more than he was nailing. Their midfielders had worked their way well on top, with Shane Tuck and Brett Deledio prolific, without absolutely driving home their advantage. They forced many mistakes, and benefited from other Essendon errors, but were still able to turn a patchy start into a substantial lead, setting all the initiative. They were playing better, more organised football by the end of the half, making far fewer mistakes. They were running. The only thing they weren’t doing was putting the Bombers away.

A goal to Leroy Jetta at the start of the third quarter provided a little red-and-black flicker. Others, to Angus Monfries and the energetic Alex Browne, got them back to within 20 points, but Richmond didn’t want to let them get closer and was able, each time, to find a goal of  its own and keep the Bombers far enough away.

First came Dustin Martin’s long, emphatic goal. Then it was Riewoldt — having forced Michael Hurley’s move to defence — starting to get his timing right. His third goal — and another on the siren to Robin Nahas, after Riewoldt’s pass — meant things were basically as they were by the end of the third term: the Tigers in control, six goals up, doing what they needed to do.

By the end, the Essendon players were what they have been in the past couple of months. A few tried their hearts out; Watson, as always, was one of them, and Hurley another. A few in horrible form, but trying. A bunch that looks dazed and confused. A bunch that looks frustrated. A larger bunch that looks utterly unable to run or find a teammate by foot.At least one on the bench, injured.

Richmond’s ideal finish would have seen it pile on some more goals, extend the lead and inflict more misery than it already had. That didn’t quite happen, the lead extended through more points than goals in the last term as things petered out until Brett O’Hanlon snapped his first for the night.

But this is a team still learning how much is “enough”, and that’s exactly what  it got.

FIRST BLOOD

Nothing lifts the mood like a debutant booting a goal with his first kick. Nick O’Brien joined that club last night and he had Leroy Jetta to thank for it. A few minutes into the game, Michael Hurley kicked to a dangerous spot and Jetta took a fresh-air swish from the goal square. O’Brien made no such mistake, keeping his cool as Richmond defenders closed in and banging the ball through. He had four kicks in the first term, hit Hurley on the chest with one of them and appeared unfazed by the occasion.

SHORT FUSE

Courtenay Dempsey has displayed a short fuse in recent weeks. Last night, against the Tigers, he was punished again, this time for a crude tackle off the ball on Trent Cotchin during the second term. Dempsey has been something of a barometer for the Bombers – he made an impressive comeback from a knee reconstruction and was flying when the Bombers were hot, but mistakes have crept into his game as the team’s form faded.

COLEMAN RISING

Jack Riewoldt can still win the Coleman Medal and his hopes will rise if Matthew Pavlich’s injuries force him out. Riewoldt kept his hopes of a second Coleman (he won in 2010) alive with three goals to move to 59, one behind Pavlich. – CHLOE SALTAU

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From Broncos to the ballet, Kalin’s in a league of his own

Leap of fate … Kalin Eade, 16, of Gunnedah, is aiming for the Australian Ballet but has been talent spotted by the Brisbane Broncos.KALIN EADE was not particularly popular with the girls when he moved to country NSW as a young boy and swept the floor in the year 3 dancing competitions.
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”I came from the Gold Coast and went in my first eisteddfod when I first got here and I didn’t really know anyone,” Kalin, 16, said. ”Winning most of the sections, the girls got a bit cranky about it. And in year 3 it’s like the world has ended if something bad goes wrong, so I didn’t have many friends after that.”

Nine years later, Kalin is captain of the local under-16s rugby league team, the Gunnedah Bulldogs, a rare NSW veteran of the Broncos training camp and showing enough potential to play one day professionally.

But, not long ago, the year 11 student came to a decision: he wanted to be a ballerino.

”They’re so different – football to dancing. Your body shape’s different and I think it’s to the point where I’ve got to choose either one. It could be life-changing,” he said.

As the only boy in his advanced dancing class in the NSW north-west and twice a choreographer in the New England Dance Festival competition, Kalin still has to contend with the bullies on the football field.

Recently, a group of boys on the other team ripped his head gear off during a game.

”I scored and they’re like … ‘He’s a dancer, he’s a dancer. Smash him,”’ Kalin said.

But the boy from the bush, who hopes to be accepted by the Australian Ballet, is not easily rattled. ”From an early age, he never liked to lose,” his mother, Linda Gallagher, said. ”He was very competitive, but always did his very best, so whatever he competed in, he just did it to the best of his ability. [He’s] always liked music and art and things like that as well as your footy,” she said.

While football runs in Kalin’s blood – his uncle played for Penrith and his father played rugby union – there is no family precedent for dancing or much creativity at all, his mother said.

Said she would prefer he chose a career with a steady income, but he must do what he loves.

”He played his football for mateship, really, and then just became very good at that and represented your school, your region, your state,” she said. ”But his heart’s not in it and he wants to pursue dance.”

Kalin, whose room is filled with football and swimming trophies on a small property outside Gunnedah, where a lamb bleats outside his window, said ballet appeals to his inner perfectionist.

”Ballet’s black and white. You do it right or you do it wrong,” he said. ”With all the other styles, you can interpret it in your own way, but ballet’s like, you’ve just got to be perfect.”

TV deal means the Super League era is finally over – Weekend Sport, Page 6-7

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Outdoor treks no cakewalk for screen-agers

Tiptoe through the treetops … Olivier Kasteven and Angus Simpson do the high ropes course at the Baden-Powell Scout Centre, Pennant Hills.AUSTRALIA risks producing ”a generation of outdoor-illiterate adults” unless children engage with nature as part of their schooling, an outdoor education expert says.
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Associate Professor Tonia Gray, from the school of education at the University of Western Sydney, said that for ”screen-agers tethered to their computers or TV screens”, school-based outdoor education programs might offer their only opportunities for outdoor exploration.

”School-age children today are using social media, computer games and television for their entertainment,” she said. ”What this will create is a generation of outdoor-illiterate adults.

”Outdoor educators are already noticing that Australian children cannot walk confidently and skilfully in outdoor environs. They are unfamiliar with uneven ground, crossing rivers or negotiating steep hilly terrain. They’ve got absolutely no motor co-ordination or skills to deal with it.”

Outdoor education was needed now more than ever, said Scott Polley, a University of South Australia lecturer and representative of Outdoor Education Australia.

”We’ve had a major shift from general outdoor play to indoor activities and this has potential psychological and physical health consequences,” he said.

”Once we would have assumed that all kids would get dirty and play in the creek and enjoy just being outside in the fresh air. In parts of society, we’re now seeing a lot of kids who struggle to walk on a track or see a bug and are quite scared of it. The outdoors is becoming a scarier place for kids … we’re building up these ideas we have to protect ourselves from the outdoors, instead of immersing ourselves.”

Antony Butcher is a co-director of Land’s Edge, which provides outdoor education programs in Sydney, the Illawarra, Kosciuszko National Park and on the south coast for students from years 2 to 12.

”Generally, the opportunity for kids to experience the outdoor environment – and certainly off the sporting field – is diminishing,” he said.

Outdoor education allowed children to explore personal identity, community and the environment, helping them build resilience and encouraging communication, teamwork and problem-solving skills, he said.

Activities such as rafting, camping and bushwalking were ”a big contrast to the structured learning environment of the four walls of the classroom. The key thing is the … interaction with others and the environment that the activities foster”.

The draft ”shape paper” for the national health and physical education curriculum proposes that outdoor education continue as an elective in years 11 and 12.

With the final shape paper for that curriculum released this month, Associate Professor Gray wants the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority to stipulate that students should engage with nature.

But Associate Professor Andrew Brookes, of the school of outdoor and environmental education at La Trobe University, said the curriculum ”has quite reasonable provisions for outdoor education and environmental awareness. Schools run outdoor programs in quite different and diverse ways at the moment and as far as I can see there’s still plenty of room for that in the national curriculum.”

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