Manager gets jail time over NRMA fraud

THE former manager of NRMA’s Salamander Bay branch has been jailed for a maximum of 16 months after she admitted tostealing nearly $50,000 to fund her poker machine addiction.
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Maree Ann Preece, 48, of Corlette, appeared in Raymond Terrace Local Court on Friday where she wassentenced to a non-parole period of 10 months and ordered to repay $49,305.05 to the franchisee of the BagnallBeach Road branch.

Preece began working as the manager at the NRMA’s Salamander Bay branch in early 2016 and was tasked with depositing takings atthe nearby National Australia Bank each day, according to a statement of police facts.

But on January 30 this year, Preece went off sick.

On February 22, an NRMA Hunter Valley representative called the franchisee to report a discrepancy in the banking for his branch.

A subsequent audit revealed that between January 4 and January 25none of the cash deposits had been taken to the bank and a total of $49,305.05 was outstanding.

The franchisee then completed a physical audit of the records at the Salamander Bay branch and found there were 16 banking deposit slips missing.

When spoken to by police, Preece admitted she had stolen money for about 10 months and used it to gamble on poker machines.

She said sheused the takings from subsequent days to pay back earlier thefts in a bid to balance the books but went off sick when the thefts became too large to cover up.

Preece pleaded guilty in April to a charge ofstealing property as a clerk or servant greater than $15,000and the matter was adjourned so she could undergo an assessment for an intensive corrections order, a form of custodial sentence served in the community.

But Magistrate Caleb Franklin had warned Preece their was no guarantee she would avoid a full-time jail sentence.

And on Friday, Mr Franklin ordered she serve at least 10 months in jail for the large-scale and long-running fraud.

Preece will not be eligible for parole until April 15 next year.

First-of-its kind UOW centre to shed light on our history

TEAM: The CABAH team includes Thomas Sutikna, Tim Cohen, Richard (Bert) Roberts, Zenobia Jacobs and Nathan Jankowski. Picture: Paul JonesOn Thursday an international research team headquartered at the University of Wollongong (UOW) beginsa seven-year, $45.7 million quest to shed light on Australia’s iconic biodiversity and Indigenous heritage.
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That’s when Federal Minister for Education and Training, Senator Simon Birmingham, officially launches the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage (CABAH) at Parliament House.

CABAH will be led by Distinguished Professor Richard (Bert) Roberts, an ARC Laureate Fellow and Director of UOW’s Centre for Archaeological Science.

Professor Roberts said the first continental-scale project of its kind in the world will pioneer a new understanding of the natural and human history of Australia, Papua New Guinea and eastern Indonesia from 130,000 years ago until European arrival.

That’s why CABAH has enlisted ‘’world-leading’’ researchers from science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines (spanning the natural sciences) together with scholars from the humanities and social sciences, such as archaeology and Indigenous studies.

‘’One of the reasons we’ve got the Indonesians in there is because for most of that last 130,000 years we’ve actually been joined by dry land to Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. You could just walk to East Indonesia,’’ Prof Roberts said.

‘’Really the whole continent of Australia was about 50 per cent larger than it is now.They are all part of that big geographical area…the same fauna and the same kind of flaura.’’

TEAM LEADER: Distinguished Professor Richard (Bert) Roberts, an ARC Laureate Fellow and Director of UOW’s Centre for Archaeological Science will lead CABAH.

While gaining greater knowledge of Australia’s history is important in its own right, CABAH is as much about the future as it is about the past.

Prof Roberts said abetter understanding of the effects of previous periods of climate change on the distribution of Australia’s natural resources will help the nation adapt more successfully to future environmental challenges.

‘’Australia boasts an array of fauna and flora that exists nowhere else on Earth,’’ he said.

‘’It has some of the world’s most ancient landscapes and deeply weathered and depleted soils, and is home to Indigenous peoples whose genetic and cultural history extends back many tens of millennia.

‘’But we still do not have answers to some of the most fundamental questions about this continent or its people, such as the timing and routes of their dispersal around the continent, the timing and extent of major changes in climate and fire regimes, or how landscapes, plants and animals responded to the altered conditions.’’

The centre is based at UOW but researchers from James Cook University, the University of New South Wales, the Australian National University, the University of Adelaide, Flinders University of South Australia, Monash University and the University of Tasmania are also involved in the project.

Distinguished Professor Richard (Bert) RobertsThis story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

City to host urban ideas conference

OPEN TO IDEAS: Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes, Revitalising Newcastle director Michael Cassel and UrbanGrowth’s Nicole Campbell. Picture: Max Mason-HubersNEWCASTLE’S transformation and its “smart city” credentials will be in the spotlight later this year when it hosts an urban ideas and innovation conference.
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The annual Next City Vanguard conference, to be held in Newcastle from November 6 to 10, will feature 50 of the “brightest and best” young urban thinkers from the Americas, New Zealand and Australia.

Newcastle is the first city outside the United States to host the event, following on from Washington, Philadelphia, St Louis and Cleveland.

A host committee includingUrbanGrowth NSW, Newcastle council, the University of Newcastle, the Hunter Development Corporation and Transport for NSW has designed the conference.

A spokesman for UrbanGrowth, which led the Newcastle bid, said the committee’s representatives were sharing the “financial and in-kind” contributions for the conference but declined to put a dollar figure on its cost.

Novocastrians are encouraged to apply to be among the 50 participants, 25 of who will be from Australia and New Zealand.

OPEN TO IDEAS: Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes, Revitalising Newcastle director Michael Cassel and UrbanGrowth’s Nicole Campbell. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

UrbanGrowth’s actingchief executive Barry Mann said he hoped Newcastle would learn from the experiences of other cities.

“This Vanguard Australia conference is a celebration of Newcastle’s unique identity, dynamic change, innovation, heritage, culture and of course the Newcastle community,” he said.

Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said the conference offered Newcastle the opportunity to“to showcase our city as an emerging tech innovation centre in the health, education, aerospace, defence and reneweable energy sectors”.

University of Newcastle was delighted to be a partner in the conference, vice-chancellor Caroline McMillen said.

“Universities are ideally positioned to play a critical role in the economic and social transformation of their cities and regions and we look forward to contributing to this exciting opportunity to shape the future of Newcastle,” she said.

Revitalising Newcastle program director and Hunter Development Corporation CEO Michael Cassel said the city was in the midst of a great transformation.

“The Revitalising Newcastle program is ushering in a new era of economic growth and prosperity for the Newcastle city centre,” he said.

Next City president Tom Dallessio said the conference was thrilled to be coming to Newcastle.

“This historic, regenerating city has so much to teach us about building the cities of the future. We look forward to bringing 50 of the best and brightest urban leaders from around the world together in Newcastle to share ideas for strengthening legacy cities across the globe,” he said.

Bikie not guilty of baseball bat attack

Newcastle courthouse. A HIGH-RANKING Finks bikie has been found not guilty of attacking rival outlaw motorcycle gang members with a baseball bat during a wild brawl at a Wallsend service station.
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Adam Luke Gould, 32, was acquitted of affray, using an offensive weapon with intent to commit an indictable offence and having custody of an implement in a public place in Newcastle Local Court on Tuesday after Magistrate Les Brennan found he could not be certain the person he saw on CCTV footage wielding a baseball bat was the heavily tattooed Mr Gould.

The brawl between the Finks and Nomads erupted about 8.10pm on December 9 last year when the gangs coincidentally arrived at service stations across the road from one another.

CCTV footage played during the hearing showed one of the Finks leading a group across the road towards the Nomads, while another member of the Finksremoves a baseball bat from the backseat of his car and puts it down his pants.

Then CCTV footage from the service station on the eastbound lanes of Thomas Street showed the Finks bikie wrestling with a Nomads bikie over the baseball bat.

The Finks bikie gains control and two Nomads back away, one of them arming himself with asqueegee mop.

Then the Finkswings the bat and hits the Nomad in the left side of the head, causing a cut to his head.

When spoken to by police, the Nomad, 26, said: “I fell over and hit my head.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Nomad did not cooperate with the police investigation.

In fact, none of the witnesses agreed to give evidence, leaving the prosecution to rely on only the CCTV footage of the brawl to prove their case.

Nonetheless, they said the Finks member who crossed the road first, wrestled with the Nomad and swung the bat was Mr Gould, submitting he was identifiable by the numerous tattoos on his face.

But Mr Brennan wasn’t so sure.

“I have seen the accused before, probably in court, I don’t know,” Mr Brennan said.

“Other than that I don’t know him.

“What he has done to his face is fairly unforgettable, with tattoos.

“He is not alone in having done that to himself.

“The person I saw on the screen appeared to have some markings on his face and head.

“On my part I couldn’t say it was the accused.”

After the decision, Mr Gould’s solicitor,Zemarai Khatiz, applied for professional costs, claiming the police had failed to investigate the matter properly.

“The case against the defendant was doomed to fail, due to the lack of evidence and lack of investigation,” Mr Khatiz said.

“There was no way that the prosecution was going to get a conviction on that CCTV by itself.”

Mr Brennan agreed, awarding $5720 in costs to Mr Gould.

Mr Gould had spent some time in custody before he was granted bail.

He was charged in January, around the time a Hunter anti-bikie squad began to crackdown on the region’s outlaw motorcycle gangs.

Since then there have been a number of tit-for-tat attacks between the two gangs, drive-by shootings, numerous police raids and arrests.

A number of Nomads bikies remain before the courts in relation to a weekend of violence in March, which culminated in the gang’s clubhouse at Islington being hit with a hail of gunfire.

Riding into the future on two wheels

In the 1970s, Bob Hudson wrote a hitsong about how ‘All the young men of Newcastle drive down Hunter Street’. A generation on, the lyrics to The Newcastle Songmayhave to be changed to accommodate bicycles.
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“I think conditions are making us a cycling city,” says Bernard Hockings, the owner of Metro Cycles. “There’s a transition from the citybeing car-centric to one where many have lost their car parking, and people realise the only way they canget around is by bike.”

A national cycling participation survey just released indicates a decline in pedalling amongNSW residentssince the last study two years ago. However, in regional NSW, the participation rate is higher than the national average, with 16.3% of respondents sayingthey had cycled in the past week.

While the survey doesn’t talk specifically about Newcastle, Mr Hockings believes there has been “exponential growth” in cycling in the CBD and inner city suburbs, while other areas that are suitable for bicycles are languishing. The main reason, he says, is infrastructure.

“If people can get to a cycleway, they will ride,” says Mr Hockings, who sells about 12 bicycles a week. His customers have included “politicians from every party”.

Yet Peter Lee, the president of Newcastle Cycleways Movement, says there needsto be greater political willto encourage people to ride.

“Instead of treatingcycling as playing in a park on council paths, they [governments] should be funding cycling infrastructure as transport infrastructure,” Mr Lee says. “They are not seeing the broad community-wide benefits of active transport.”

Newcastle City Council has a cycling strategy plan to encourage residents to pedalmore often. A spokesman says there are about90 kilometres ofshared off-road pathways in the council’sarea.On an average weekday, almost 40 per cent of trips in Newcastle are less than 2 kilometres.

PEDAL POWER: Bicycle shop owner Bernard Hockings is putting two wheels under more people, often so they can get around the city. Picture: Simone De Peak

Dave Bedwell, ofStockton, is about to buya new bicycle, for recreation andto movearound the city.“It’s just not necessary to get your car out and drive 150 metres to the shop,” Mr Bedwell says.“This is the way of the future.”

Hunter’s budget snub

THE Berejikliangovernment is basking in the glow of $12 billion worth of budget surpluses, but the Hunter has been left in the shade.
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Treasurer Dominic Perrottet handed down his first state budget on Tuesday, unveiling a $4.5 billion surplus driven by stamp duties from the state’s property market and income from asset sales.

The government says it’s using that income to fund some $72 billion in infrastructure across the state in the next four years, includingprojects like a $720 million to upgrade Prince of Wales Hospital at Randwick.

SLIM PICKINGS: NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet handed down a budget with few new announcements for the Hunter … it has been slammed by the region’s Labor MPs.

“We don’t run surpluses for the sake of it,”Mr Perrottet said. “We run surpluses to make NSW the best place to live, work and to raise a family.”

But despite coalroyaltiesdominated by Hunter contributions increasing by $839million across the forward estimates on last year’s budget predictions, the Hunter has mostly missed out on the cash splash.

The most significant new fundingmeasure was $1.7 millionto a business case for all stages of the Lake MacquarieInterchange –a commitment thatindependent Lake Macquarie MP Greg Piper said was welcome but “didn’t go far enough”.

“Treasurer Dominic Perrottet today delivered a responsible Budget overall, but his assurances that it will ‘turbo charge the regions’will understandably be doubted by many in the Hunter,” Mr Piper said.

The government also committed$3.7 million on planning for the Rankin Park to Jesmond section of the Newcastle inner-city bypass, while the largest individual spend in the region wasthe 2.7 kilometre Newcastle light rail projectwhich received $206 million, though this was funding previously announced.

In health, the drip-feed to the new Lower Hunter hospital in Maitland continued, with $5 million contributed to the $450 million project before an expected completion date of 2024.

Maitland MP Jenny Aitchison described that as “a drop in a bucket”, and proof the government had no plans to begin construction on the hospital before 2018.

But Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter Scot MacDonald said planning work needed to be done before construction could begin.

“All these projects … the significant construction money will flow eventually over the next two years,” he said.

INSULT: Port Stephens MP says the Hunter has missed out at the expense of Sydney.

Shadow Minister for the Hunter Kate Washington though slammed the government for selling off Hunter assets and said the budget was an “insult” to the region.

NOT ENOUGH: Lake Macquarie MP Greg Piper said funding for the interchange project didn’t go far enough.

“We are all bearing the burden of the sales but seeing no return,” the Port Stephens MP said.

“The needs in our community are not being met. It’s all going to Sydney.”

Mr MacDonald said Hunter residents should be pleased that they’re part of “the leading state”.

“The rest of the states [are] struggling with their finance and debt levels. It’s not very sexy, but it really constrains you in the years ahead,” he said.

But despite the rosy economic picture painted bya $4.5 billion surplus andnegative net debt, Mr Perrottet acknowledged there’s difficult days ahead for the government.

The budget papers indicate a “challenging” revenue outlook, thanks to declining receipts from the Commonwealth in the form of asset recycling funds, and falling GST receipts.

Budget surplusesare forecast to reach continue across the forward estimates, but will drop to$2.7 billion in 2017-18, $2.1 billion in 2018-19 and $1.5 billion in 2019-20.

That’s in part because NSW’s share of GST is set to fall to 25.5 per cent – or by $13.1 billion – by 2020-21.

But the government is also predicting that stamp duties will “moderate” over the forward estimates, while debt will increase from where it currently sits – at negative $7.8 billion – to $18.6 billion by 2021as the government borrows to fund its infrastructure program.

Mr Perrottet says the government iskeeping expenditure growth below its long-term revenue, at least partially through $23 billion worth of cost cuts.

The government will increase thebudget cuts imposed on government departments from 1.5 per cent to 2 per cent for three years from 2018-19, and will also keepthe 2.5 per cent cap on public servant wage increases and procurement savings.

The government anticipates savings of $23 billion over four years between 2017-18 and 2020-21.

With growth at above-trend across the forward estimates, Mr Perrottet said it was the regions outside of Sydney that were the “unsung success” of the strong budget position.

And according to the budget papers the Hunter has been at the heart of that growth.

Employment in regional NSW has grown 4.9 per cent since April 2015, and the greater Hunter – including Newcastle and Lake Macquarie – has led the way, growing by 11.2 per cent or 32,000 people employed in the same period.

.

Merely amazing zoo job not so simple | Photos

Merely amazing zoo job not so simple | Photos The lion enclosure opens at Hunter valley Zoo. PHOTOS: Stuart Scott
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The lion enclosure opens at Hunter valley Zoo. PHOTOS: Stuart Scott

The lion enclosure opens at Hunter valley Zoo. PHOTOS: Stuart Scott

The lion enclosure opens at Hunter valley Zoo. PHOTOS: Stuart Scott

The lion enclosure opens at Hunter valley Zoo. PHOTOS: Stuart Scott

The lion enclosure opens at Hunter valley Zoo. PHOTOS: Stuart Scott

The lion enclosure opens at Hunter valley Zoo. PHOTOS: Stuart Scott

The lion enclosure opens at Hunter valley Zoo. PHOTOS: Stuart Scott

The lion enclosure opens at Hunter valley Zoo. PHOTOS: Stuart Scott

The lion enclosure opens at Hunter valley Zoo. PHOTOS: Stuart Scott

The lion enclosure opens at Hunter valley Zoo. PHOTOS: Stuart Scott

The lion enclosure opens at Hunter valley Zoo. PHOTOS: Stuart Scott

The lion enclosure opens at Hunter valley Zoo. PHOTOS: Stuart Scott

The lion enclosure opens at Hunter valley Zoo. PHOTOS: Stuart Scott

The lion enclosure opens at Hunter valley Zoo. PHOTOS: Stuart Scott

The lion enclosure opens at Hunter valley Zoo. PHOTOS: Stuart Scott

The lion enclosure opens at Hunter valley Zoo. PHOTOS: Stuart Scott

The lion enclosure opens at Hunter valley Zoo. PHOTOS: Stuart Scott

The lion enclosure opens at Hunter valley Zoo. PHOTOS: Stuart Scott

The lion enclosure opens at Hunter valley Zoo. PHOTOS: Stuart Scott

TweetFacebookMORE ABOUT THE ZOOBaby boom at Hunter Valley ZooHunter Valley Zoo celebrates 10th birthdayAin’t no party like a meerkat party #huntervalleyzoopic.twitter南京夜网/ydLTTR6N2V

— MaitlandMercury (@MaitlandMercury) August 11, 2016The lions settling in to their new home at Hunter Valley Zoo pic.twitter南京夜网/qpRl0VDnqR

— MaitlandMercury (@MaitlandMercury) December 17, 2015This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Interchange funding not enough, says MP

ROCKY ROAD: The state government has sought to end a disagreement over funding for the Lake Macquarie Transport Interchange by promising money in the budget for a business case for the project.THE state government will complete its own business case for the long-awaited Lake Macquarieinterchangeafter rejecting the council’s request for $13 million for the next stage of the project.
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In Tuesday’s budget,nearly $2 million was pledged to “prepare a strategic business case” for the Glendale interchange,“including cost of rail bridge, station and bus interchange”.

By announcing the funding, the government has attempted to calm the waters between the council and Transport for NSW over the cost of the project.

The council had been asking the state and federal governments to each contribute $13million for the next stage, which includes the Pennant Street Bridge, the missinglink between the Glendale retail precinct and Cardiff industrial estate.

The council says a future railway station and bus interchange at Glendale would drive housing developments in the area.

The project has the support of allHunter councils as well asthe region’s MPs.

However, the government disputed Lake council’s costings for the restof the project, and feared a cost blow-out.

Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter Scot MacDonald said he hoped the $1.7 million business case would put a stop to the“finger-pointing” and“negative cycle” between various parties.

“Lake Macquarie had done their own [costings] but it just wasn’t supported by the department of transport,” Mr MacDonald said. “It’s not a lot of money, but it does mean Transport and Lake Macquarie council are working very closely now.”

Independent Lake Macquarie MP Greg Piper welcomed the funding but said it didn’t go far enough.

“If the government was serious about driving the economy in the Lower Hunter we would have seen significant capital works funding for projects such as the planned Lake Macquarie Transport Interchange and Pennant Street Bridge,” he said.

Lake Macquarie mayor Kay Fraser saidthe business case was an“essential step” in receiving more funding.

“This infrastructure project has the potential to establish Glendale as a new employment super-hub and regional transport interchange, and aligns with afuture expansion of the light rail network beyond the Newcastle CBD to Glendale,” she said.

Meanwhile, Charlestown MP Jodie Harrison said she was “deeply concerned”about a lack of funding forupgrades of Hillsborough Road, which had been campaigned for after the death of teenager Jade Frith.

However, Mr MacDonald said Roads and Maritime Services had confirmed to him that it wascommitted to a new intersection with traffic signals on Hillsborough Road.

NSW budget 2017: $1.7 million to end interchange stand-off

An artist’s impression of the Pennant Street Bridge.THE state government has pledged nearly $2 millionto prepare a business case for the remaining stages of the Lake Macquarie Transport Interchange.
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The project has been lauded by all 13 Hunter councils, and has the support of the region’s Labor MPs.

But funding for the remaining stages of the project has been non-existent, with the Turnbull Government snubbing the interchange in the May budget.

Lake Macquarie council had been asking both the state and federal governments to contribute $13 million each for construction of the next stage, which includes the Pennant Street Bridge.

However, Transport for NSW disputed the council’s costings, and is fearful of a cost blowout if it commits major funding to the project based on the council’s estimates.

On Tuesday, the Berejiklian Government attempted to end the stand-off between the two parties by announcing $1.7 million to “prepare a strategic business case” for the transport interchange“including cost of rail bridge, station and bus interchange”.

Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter Scot MacDonald said the funding showed the government was prudent with how it spent money.

He said the government did not want the “hangover” that went with other projects that had blown out.

“Lake Macquarie had done their own [costings] but it just wasn’t supported by the department of transport,” Mr MacDonald said.

“It’s not a not of money but it does mean Transport and Lake Macquarie council are working very closely now.”

Lake Macquarie mayor Kay Fraser said Tuesday’s funding was an “essential step” in the council continuing to press its case for future funds.

“The business case is an essential step in bidding for government funds to undertake the remaining stages of the LMTI. It will also ensure that the priorities outlined in Hunter Regional Plan 2036 are realised for both Lake Macquarie City and the wider Hunter Region,” Lake Macquarie mayor Kay Fraser said in a statement.

“The benefits of this project are solid – it has the potential to create affordable housing for 2740 dwellings and 3,800 new jobs in this emerging strategic centre.

“This infrastructure project has the potential to establish Glendale as a new employment super-hub and regional transport interchange, and aligns with afuture expansion of the light rail network beyond the Newcastle CBD to Glendale.”

MORE INFORMATIONWhat’s in it for the Hunter?Stamp duty revenue, privatisations push to $12b surplusGovernment pledges $5 million for Maitland HospitalHunter misses out on big infrastructure spend

Phoenix regain Willard after false start

Luke Willard, left, in action for Lambton Jaffas.Valentine will bring in former Lambton JaffaLuke Willard as a replacement for Zac Sneddon in next week’s window for roster changes.
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Willard switched to Valentine in pre-season before taking a break from the game due to work commitments. Valentine coach Darren Sills has coaxed him back and the addition will soften the blow of losingSneddon, who joins Santa Barbara City College in the US next month.

** Caretaker Adamstown coach Nick Webb wants tomake the most of his chance at Rosebud but he could still join Maitland next season.

Webb was in talks with theMagpies before Adamstown asked him to take over from Peter McGuinness three weeks ago.

THIS WEEK: Thursday (8pm): Lakes v Jets Yth. Saturday: Valentine v Jaffas, C’town v Jets Yth. Sunday: Hamilton v Maitland, Lakes v Magic, Weston v Adamstown.

“Everything is up in the air at the moment,” the former Magic lower-grade coach said after Sunday’s 3-0 loss to Edgeworth. “I was speaking to Maitland pretty much the whole year about next year, then this opportunity came up.

“I’m just going to see out the next three to four weeks, or how long Adamstown want to make a decision, then after that I can see where I might end up.Every opportunity is a good opportunity and I’ve just got to rally the lads and see if we can turn it around.”

Webb is tipped to be part of Michael Bolch’s new coaching unit at Maitland next season but he is “happy to jump on board and help rebuild” Adamstown if the club gives him the job beyond this year.

** Cooks Hill’s grip on top spot in Northern League One loosened in a 1-1 draw with Wallsend on Saturday.

Belswans beat Cessnock, and West Wallsend defeated Kahibah, both 2-1, in the other matches.

Isaac Reeves scored an 89th-minute equaliser for seventh-placed Wallsend. Nick Russell scored for Cooks Hill, who are two points ahead of Belswans atop the league.

** Coach Anthony Richards said referee Glen Peterkin made the right decision in calling first gradeagainst Charlestown off at a water-logged Macquarie Field on Sunday, even though it left Lake Macquarie facing four games in nine days.

The Roosters host the Jets Youth on Thursday night, Magic on Sunday, Charlestown the following Wednesday night and are away to Jaffas the next Saturday.

“It’s not ideal but the boys are buzzing and ready to go,” Richards said.

Richards, meanwhile, said he had held positive talks with Lake Macquarie officials about staying on next year but he was yet to commit.