Stroke report in spotlight

A Hunter based stroke expert has labelled a taxpayer-funded report as “not worth the paper it is written on”, due to what he described asflaws in the methodology used to calculate its findings.

Acting director of John Hunter Hospital’s Acute Stroke Service, Conjoint Professor Chris Levi, has slammed a section of the Bureau of Health Information report published last month as “misleading”, after it said the hospital had “higher than expected” mortality rates for ischaemic stroke.

Professor Levi said the report didn’t take into account the severity of stroke, which he said was the dominant factor in determining a patient’s outcome.

“We’re receiving information from the Ministry [of Health] that is not accurate and it’s misleading the public, the media and the Minister [Brad Hazzard],” he said.

“There’s both national and international evidence to indicate it’s not best practice method –it’s really an inferior approach that runs a significant risk of error.

It’s not worth the piece of paper it’s written on, it’s a total waste of time and it’s just not credible.”

He said the report also didn’t take into account the ambulance bypass protocol, which means the region’s severe acute stroke patients go straight to John Hunter Hospital.

Professor Levi’s comments coincide with research published in theMedical Journal of Australia on May 1, which found “the models with the best fit for standardising mortality were those that included adjustment for stroke severity”.

It found hospitalperformance rankings could move dramatically –including from 21stout of 28 hospitals to sixth –when strokeseverity is taken into account.

Professor Levi said he commissioned Monash University researchers last year – in preparation for the release of the BHI report – to analyse the hospital’sstroke mortality rates with the inclusion of stroke severity.

“It demonstrates John Hunter is not an outlier at all, it’s actually an inlier and sits within the acceptable boundaries, in fact it’s pretty close to average.”

The BHI report used as its principal indicator a ratio that adjustedfor patient factors including age, sex and other illnesses.

BHI chief executive Dr Jean-Frederic Levesque said he remained“confident in the findings” and stood by the methodology.

“The BHI has investigated adjusting for stroke severity in 30-day mortality models, however, the analyses done using currently available information did not show a significant impact on results,” he said.

“There’salso mixed evidence about the impact of adjusting for severity. In addition, hospitals may vary in their ability to assess how severe a patient’s stroke is.

“BHI has conducted many analyses to identify if certain hospital results may be influenced by bypass systems and did not find different results.”

Home makeover for terminally ill mum

Home makeover for terminally ill mum AMAZED: Karin Reynolds and daughter Matilda explore Matilda’s made-over room.

GRATEFUL: Karin Reynolds hugs Karen Stackman after seeing the new-look home for the first time.

BEFORE: Ms Reynolds sitting in her home before the renovations. Picture: Simone De Peak

TweetFacebookTerminally ill mum Karin Reynolds sees her newly made over home for the first time @MaitlandMercurypic.twitter南京夜网/YrxH67jvat

— Sage Swinton (@sageswinton) April 30, 2017Karin Reynolds sees her daughter Matilda’s new look room for the first time @MaitlandMercurypic.twitter南京夜网/Z7ekL0EzJq

— Sage Swinton (@sageswinton) April 30, 2017Friends transform homeIt wasan emotional monthfor the Metford community members who spearheaded the renovation of a terminally ill mother’shome.

Fairfax Mediareported in April that Karin Reynolds, who has terminal cancer and lives in public housing with her children, wanted to leave behind a clean, safe home for her family to live in when she passes.

Ms Reynold’s friendsKaren Stackman and Belinda Fitzpatrick began assembling volunteers, donations and lobbying the Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) to get on board.

And they succeeded –the department agreed to provide afull kitchen upgrade, tile repairs in the kitchen and bathroomand other minor repairs.

In addition they provided temporary accommodation for the family while works were carried out.

For more than three weeks a core group of volunteers worked tirelessly with the help of local businesses to transform the run-down property.

“We’ve laid flooring in the girl’s room, had blinds installed in every room, had the floor stripped and sealed…painted every room,” Ms Stackman said.

On Friday it all came together when the Reynolds family returned home.

“It feels magnificent,” Ms Stackman said.“It has been harder than we thought, but we got there.

“We’re very proud.”

Ms Stackman said each of the volunteers had dealt with their own personal and family issues over the past month, compounding the challenge, but there was one thing that kept them slogging through the work.

“The kids and Karin –[the kids]need somewhere to spend their final times with their mum,” Ms Stackman said.

Ms Stackman said the team’s mood was lifted when they heard FACS wasrevamping the kitchen.

“We weren’t expecting that, it was great they jumped on board to help out,” she said.

“Extraordinary. Without their help this wouldn’t have happened.”

Ms Stackman thanked the numerous local businesses and tradespeople who donated equipment, skills and material –from doors to paint –to the project.

Maitland Mercury

Group home care concerns

CLOSING: One of the buildings at the Stockton Centre, a large residential facility for people with disability that the NSW government has committed to closing by 2018.THE state government has ordered a review of clinical care needs at a Stockton disability group home after the death of one resident and the hospitalisation of another.

The Minister for Disability Services, Ray Williams, said he was saddened bythe death at the group home and he offered his condolences to the family.

“My department has notified the NSW Ombudsman of the death and has provided full and unrestricted access to relevant records relating to reviewable deaths to allow him to investigate,” Mr Williams said.

“To address the hospitalisation of another client, my department is also undertaking a review of clinical care needs at that group home.”

As the Newcastle Herald reported last week, the two female residents had recently moved from the Stockton Centre, which the state government is moving to close, to a group home, run at this stage by the government, in suburban Stockton.

Asked about fears about the level of care in the group home,Mr Williams said:“I am advised two of the staff members that work at the group home hold registered nursing qualifications.

“All group home operators are required to comply with the NSW Disability Service Standards and implement a quality management system. I am proud that this government strengthened existing safeguards in 2014 by introducing the Disability Inclusion Act.”

But the NSW opposition and some disability advocates are gravely concerned about the situation at Stockton, with Port Stephens MP Kate Washington sayingthe government had been warned it was risking people’s lives in closing Stockton.

Ms Washington, opposition disability spokesperson Sophie Cotsis and Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp are pushing Mr Williams to take action after giving his office a letter of concern from the Stockton Centre Welfare Association, written by a former chief executive of the centre, Lorraine Yudaeff.

Lettter from Stockton Centre Welfare Association In her March 25 letter,Ms Yudaeff lists nine areas where “reality” falls far short of the government’s “commitment”.

She says having one organisation in charge of general care, another in charge of housing and a third in charge of specialist medical care constitutes “a veritable avalanche of problems”.

Stockton had in-house medical services but Ms Yudaeff said “it appears that already overburdened GPs … are extremely reluctant “to take group home residents as patients, meaningthese extremely vulnerable people” will be dependent on the general hospital system.

How The Herald broke the story: Hunter disability group home death to be investigated Ms Yudaeff questioned the level of care in the group homes, and said the loss of staff from Stockton was causing problems “as predicted”, including significant nurse shortages.

How personal finance is changing in the US

I am writing this in Los Angeles where I’ve been attending the premiere of the film Think and Grow Rich: The Legacy, which explains Napoleon Hill’s famous success principles, and features cameo appearances by people such as me whose lives have been transformed after reading the book Think and Grow Rich.
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The launch of the film was timed to coincide with the 80th anniversary of Hill’s book, which was released in 1937. It has since sold over 100 million copies and is still widely regarded as the best personal success book ever written. Film distribution is currently being negotiated, but I expect it will be available in Australia in the new year.

In Australia, we tend to get the impression that the United States is a dangerous country amid a sea of troubles, but the reality is different: this is the world’s biggest economy and it is booming. The freeways of Los Angeles are busier than ever, the restaurants and shopping malls are packed, and everywhere we went felt extremely safe.

We were surprised by the virtual invisibility of President Donald Trump. Anybody who has arrived at Los Angeles International Airport will remember the huge photo of the President of the day that usually welcomes all arrivals. Currently there is just a huge empty space where the photo normally hangs. Why? Nobody could offer an explanation.

When I tried to discuss politics with friends from both sides of politics nobody really wanted to talk much. The Republicans reckon Trump is doing a reasonable job despite being under constant attack from a hostile media, and the Democrats are taking the “I told you so” line. Most Americans I encountered were far more interested in football and baseball. We were surprised by all the bumper stickers supporting Bernie Sanders for President in 2020.

Two big changes are the growing dominance of cashless transactions and Uber. Apart from needing a few dollars in cash to tip hotel staff, I got by with my 28 Degrees MasterCard, which is still giving the best exchange rates. The Americans will accept a card for any amount – none of those ridiculous minimum amounts that some businesses foist on us in Australia.

Uber cars are everywhere, and the fares are so cheap they have become the most practical form of transport in most cities. But to use Uber you need a mobile phone connected to the internet, which can be a problem for travellers. Luckily, Telstra have come to the party in spades. Their international travel pass costs just $10 a day and includes all phone calls and text messages. Data of 100 megabytes is also included, but if you exceed that amount $10 buys you an additional 500 megabytes, which is good for 30 days. And, on days when you don’t use your phone no fees are charged. Believe me, it’s a comforting feeling to have a fully operational phone 24/7 and to know it’s only costing $10 a day.

Tips are a fact of life in America, where the basic hourly rate is less than $10, and two weeks’ annual holidays are the norm. But as the years pass, the standard tip has gone from 15 per cent to 20 per cent, with some places even adding another 4 per cent for health insurance. It does make dining out expensive, but American portions are so huge a couple can eat reasonably cheaply by ordering courses to share. The restaurants have no problem with this, and you will not go away hungry.

The US dollar strengthened as the days passed, making our spending more expensive, but I took solace in the knowledge that 30 per cent of my superannuation is invested in international managed funds heavily exposed to the US dollar. It was the perfect hedge.

Noel Whittaker is the author of Making Money Made Simple and numerous other books on personal finance. His advice is general in nature and readers should seek their own professional advice before making any financial decisions. Email: [email protected]南京夜网419论坛

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Three budget-friendly ways to revive the look of your kitchen

The kitchen is one of the most used rooms in the home, which means it’s especially prone to wear and tear. And walking into a kitchen that feels grimy, dated or dull can be particularly uninspiring when you want to cook or entertain.
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“[Kitchens] are highly functional spaces that need to work well for all tasks,” says interior stylist Emma Blomfeld. “If your kitchen is badly designed, it will affect the way you use the space and impact you daily.”

But not everyone has the time, money or inclination to devote to a full renovation. So here are three quick and easy ways to spruce up the look of your kitchen without breaking the bank. Re-jig the joinery

Cabinets, drawers and other storage spaces take up so much real estate in the average kitchen that they are some of the first things people consider when itching for a change. Quick cosmetic fixes, such repainting your cabinets, can go a long way toward brightening up the look of a dingy kitchen.

“If the cabinetry is in good condition, spraying it a new, fresh colour will change the look of the room immediately,” says Blomfield.

Even if you are happy with the colour of your cabinets, a new coat of paint can lift the grubby-looking fingerprint stains and scratches that usually come with years of use.

If you are considering a colour change, stick to the basics, says interior designer Therese Carrodus, of Full of Grace Interiors. Related: What a kitchen renovation actually costsRelated: The most common kitchen renovation questionsRelated: Is the kitchen the most important room?

“A simple, sophisticated kitchen will always look lovely in a neutral tone, so making the cabinetry white or light grey will keep things soft and clean.”

Switching out the cabinet handles can also be an easy fix. Carrodus recommends contemporary shapes with tactile finishes that hide finger marks, such as round beaten copper knobs or a slimline pull handle in aged brass.

New paint colours and handles may not be enough to revive cheap or old cabinet door fronts, but that doesn’t mean you have to shell out for new cabinets. Architect and renovator Amelia Lee, of Undercover Architect, suggests replacing only the cupboard fronts and drawers.

“It can be quite cost effective for you to pay a joiner to make up the door fronts and get them pre-drilled with a suitable hinge points based on how your cabinetry is arranged,” Lee says.

If you like the look of your tableware, glasses or small appliances, consider removing your cabinet doors all together. Open shelving can help make a sterile room feel more casual, welcoming and homey.

Before and after of a project by DIY specialist Natasha Dickins of Little Red Industries.Make a splash with a splashback

A splashback’s main purpose is to protect your walls from mess and splatter, but it’s often the unsung hero of the kitchen remodel.

“We kind of underestimate how a new splashback can dramatically change the look and feel of your kitchen,” says Lee.

Splashbacks come in a seemingly endless array of styles, from temporary acrylic wallpaper to elaborate mosaic tile. It’s also relatively affordable and easy to change, so a splashback is one of the best ways to showcase your personal taste.

“Joinery and benchtops can be very permanent choices. But with a splashback, people will often go for something that’s a bit more on trend,” Lee says. “It is something you can have a bit of fun with, or choose something that’s a bit bolder.”

A splashback can also help you connect the kitchen to the overall style of your home, says Carrodus.

“Selecting a marble splashback looks beautiful and will make the kitchen feel instantly more luxe, so it really depends on the look you’re going for,” she says. “I personally love coloured handmade ceramic tiles with texture to add interest to an otherwise crisp-clean looking kitchen.” Upgrade your appliances

It may not be the most exciting or creative way to update a space, but new appliances will add instant appeal to your kitchen, especially if you want to spend time cooking in it.

Lee says renovators on a budget can be drawn to the idea of painting or refurbishing the cabinets, when new appliances would have a bigger impact on their day-to-day experience in the kitchen.

“If you enjoy cooking and you’ve got a crappy oven and cooktop, new appliances will actually change how you feel in the kitchen.” This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Hunter pallet business at mercy of timber shortage

Tough times: Hunter Valley Pallets owners Tina and Simon Henriques with their daughter, and acting general manager, Daniela Matheson. Picture: Jonathan CarrollA shock timber shortage has threatened to ruin afamily business that’s been in the Hunter for two decades.
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Hunter Valley Pallets acting general manager Daniela Matheson said the Cameron Park business’supply of timber plummeted by about 75 per cent overnight last month and hasn’t picked up again.

It’s left the enterprise, which employs 20people andmakes pallets mainly for locally-based manufacturing and mining companies, on the brink of collapse.

“It came out of nowhere –there was no heads-up, nothing,” Ms Matheson said.

“Immediately, we freaked out. Secondly, we had to look around at what we could get on the market.

“Plywood was the one thing we could get plenty of –the cost of plywood pretty well tripled our customers’ current product and there was so much wastage.”

Ms Matheson said the business had the contacts, customers and staff numbersto grow, but the inability to source the basic material to make their product hadcreated uncertainty for their client base.

The business has already lost one of its major contracts, worth $1.2 million, in recent weeks. So Ms Matheson and her parents, business owners Simon and Tina Henriques, held talks on Thursday in an attemptto find a solution before the problem causesirreparable damage.

They met with Vacy hemp farmer Bob Doyle, to discuss the possibility of using his product to make their pallets, as well as Australian Industry Group regional manager Adrian Price and Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon –who is also the federal shadowminister for agriculture, fisheries and forestry.

“In Australiawe are rightfully more aware of the need for sustainable practices, so we’re not harvesting native forests like we used to do and we’re relying more and more heavily on plantation,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.

“Plantation has a very long cycle –between 15 and 30 years –so you need a long-term strategy from the federal government and we just don’t have one. We need to get some security of supply of traditional products but we also need to diversify and I think using hemp is a fantastic idea.”

Rebels coach will play Hodge at No.10 if it benefits Australian rugby

CARDIFF: New Melbourne Rebels coach Dave Wessels says he was suitably impressed by Reece Hodge’s first start at No.10 for the Wallabies and has made it clear he is happy for the youngster to play there next Super Rugby season if it benefits Australian rugby.
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Before last weekend’s match, Hodge had played all 10 Wallabies Tests this year on the wing – half from the bench and half in the starting XV.

Bernard Foley’s late withdrawal due to illness presented Hodge with an opportunity to take on the role of chief playmaker and he did it with absolute aplomb as the Wallabies crushed Japan 63-30.

Although Hodge will move back to the wing this Saturday against Wales, one man who has been watching with interest is Wessels.

The former Western Force coach is putting the pieces of the puzzle together for his back-line next year, a group that contains the likes of Will Genia, Dane Haylett-Petty, Marika Koroibete and Jack Maddocks.

Wessels has been in regular dialogue with Wallabies coach Michael Cheika about what to do with Hodge, a player many believe could one day fill Foley’s shoes.

Rather than adopting a “let’s do things my way” approach, Wessels is more concerned about what is best for Australian rugby when it comes to discussing the number on Hodge’s back.

“It’s about deciding whether playing No.10 is best for Reece, best for us as a team and what is best for Australian rugby,” Wessels told Fairfax Media. “I’m very clear that we feel a responsibility to help the Wallabies achieve some of their goals and we know that if the Wallabies are going well, it has a knock-on effect for everybody in Australian rugby.

“To Cheik’s credit, I don’t think he’s dictating that to anybody. Cheik will probably be open to whatever we want to do but I value his opinion.

“I’ve had a couple of discussions with Reece and he’s really impressed me. He’s got a lot of appealing qualities. He’s got speed and played Test rugby in the outside backs. You’d say he’s got a lot of the things that could make him a really high-quality 10.

“The best thing of all is just how calm he is. It’s a big ask to have your first game in a long game at 10 and then do that at Test level. He just looked really calm and took it all on board.”

Wessels has also heaped praise on another Rebels young gun in Jack Maddocks.

The 20-year-old has been taken on the spring tour as a development player after catching Cheika’s eye in his debut Super Rugby season.

“I look at a guy there who I think could potentially play an important role at a World Cup,” Wessels said. “There’s a huge amount to do there between where he is now and where he is going to end up but I’m looking forward to working with him.”

The return of Force back-rower Ben McCalman and the rise of Matt Philip, who made his Test debut last week, have given Wessels immense satisfaction.

“I said to Cheik before the [Japan] game that I thought Ben was really going to blow it away,” Wessels said. “He came out and he was absolutely steaming. Ben’s a pretty special athlete. He showed what he was capable of.

“And you can’t be more proud of a guy like Matt and what he’s achieved. If I think to a year ago when he arrived in Perth, would he be a Wallaby? To be honest, I didn’t think so. I can tell you over the last couple of months I started to think that he could definitely be a Wallaby.”

On the topic of Adam Coleman potentially moving to Melbourne, as has been widely speculated, Wessels, who mentored the Wallabies second-rower at the Force, confirmed he was still a chance of joining the Rebels next season.

“We’re continuing to talk to him at this stage,” Wessels said. “Everybody in Australian rugby recognises that we’d like to keep Adam. I have a good relationship with Adzy and I enjoy working with him. Ultimately it really is the player’s decision.”

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First-home buyers provide silver lining as investors retreat

Investor mortgage lending has seen its biggest drop in two years, according to September housing finance data, as investors head for the hills following continued pressure from Australia’s regulator and falling house prices in Sydney.

First-home buyers provide the silver lining in the Bureau of Statistics figures, with the group seeing an opportunity amid the shifting market dynamics and generous stamp duty concessions in NSW and Victoria.

Mortgage lending to investors slumped 6.2 per cent in September, compared with the previous month, while lending to owner-occupiers dropped 2.1 per cent, according to Thursday’s ABS release. The monthly total of new mortgage commitments fell to $32.5 billion from $33.7 billion in August.

Not helping investor sentiment is news Sydney house prices have begun falling and Melbourne growth is easing.

But first-home buyers continue to pin their ears back and wade in as the departure of investor interest provides more room to move.

The number of first-home buyer mortgage commitments as a percentage of total owner occupiers edged 0.2 per cent higher to 17.4 per cent in September – a 4.5 year high.

And the first-home buyer segment has been busily sniffing out bargains, the data show, as they aim to remain below stamp duty concession cut-offs.

The average loan size for first-home buyers during the period fell $6200 to $315,200, while the average loan size for all owner-occupied housing commitments rose $2100 to $371,700.

“A window has opened up,” AMP Capital chief economist and head of investment Shane Oliver told Domain.

“NSW and Victoria have both introduced more attractive stamp duty concessions for first-home buyers ??? that’s the big factor. At the same time, there are fewer investors out there, which has made more room for the first-home buyers.”

The increase in first-home buyer activity doesn’t come without a warning, according to Dr Oliver.

“There’s always the danger these first-home buyers are getting in at the top – just when the investors are nicking off. The first-home buyers could come in and end up holding the parcel, so to speak. But if they’re picking up cheaper properties, at the lower end of the market, it probably offsets that risk a little bit.”

The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority’s move to tighten investor and interest-only lending rules in March of this year appear to be biting, colliding with easing property prices to present a double-whammy for multiple-property owners.

“APRA’s macroprudential policy, aimed at investors and interest-only loans in particular, appears to be having the desired effect of taking some investor demand out of the market,” ANZ economist Daniel Gradwell said.

“While household debt is still growing faster than income, developments such as this allow the regulator and RBA to be patient.”

Tuesday’s Reserve Bank meeting saw the board keep the official cash rate on hold at 1.5 per cent for a 14th-straight month, with hopes of a cooling property market pinned to the regulator and eyes on weak consumer sentiment.

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Chronic fatigue syndrome documentary UNREST to screen in NewcastleWATCH THE TRAILER

UNREST: Jennifer Brea directed a Sundance award-winning documentary about her search for answers while battling chronic fatigue syndrome. The film will screen at the University of Newcastle on November 11.WAYNE Andrews says he is alive, but not living, and the harder he pushes himself, the worse the payback.

The 52-year-old Hunter man hasbattledchronic fatigue syndrome since he was 29.

It had “disintegrated” his first marriage, and left him unable to be the parent he wanted to be.

“It is a very isolating illness,” he said.

“I used to be an extremely fit man, I used to surf every week, bush walk, play tennis, and I can’t do anything now that I used to enjoy. It really is as though I’m stuck in solitary confinement now.”

About 104,000people in Australia suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome, a neuroimmune condition marked by symptoms such as “unrelenting exhaustion,” muscle pain, brain function and digestive problems.

Mr Andrews hoped a screening of theSundance award-winning documentary, UNREST, at Newcastle University on Saturday would raise awareness of the debilitating and misunderstood condition.

Local chronic fatigue syndrome researcher, Professor Tim Roberts, will speak about the condition and host a Q&A session at the screening at 5pm on November 11.

The film follows the story of Jennifer Brea, a 28-year-old PhD studentat Harvard who ismonths away from getting married when she gets a mysterious fever that leaves her bedridden, and looking for answers.

Disbelieved by doctors, she turns the camera on herself to find there are millions of people worldwide who are confined to their homes and bedrooms by myalgic encephalomyelitis – commonly known as chronic fatigue syndrome.

“It effects every cell in your entire body,” Mr Andrews said.

“GPs aren’t taught much about this illness, and the really arrogant ones will say this disease doesn’t exist, but that’s because they have no answers.

“When you run out of energy, it’s like your battery has just gone completely flat and you just can’t function.

“There is nothing that I usedto enjoy in my former life that I can do now.”

He would like to see the federal government sink some money into the under-researched illness.

“It’s hard to enjoy yourself when you arealways having to hold back,” he said.

Tomi Juric’s training regime to cope with the Honduras climate

Every day after training during the weeks before he travelled to Honduras, Tomi Juric did something he hated. After every gruelling training session at the foot of the Swiss mountains where the temperature was just a few degrees above freezing, the Socceroos’ striker would sit in a sauna.

For 15 minutes at a time, he would force his body to cope with the hot, humid air while his muscles were on the verge of cramping after tiring sessions with his club, Luzern. As he describes it, stints in the sauna were the best way he could prepare for lasting 90 minutes in the tropical climate of San Pedro Sula.

With Robbie Kruse injured and sent straight to Australia and Tim Cahill still in doubt for the first leg, there’s a strong chance Juric will have to last the entire game in one of the more challenging climates for any footballer, let alone one coming from a late European autumn.

While his teammates were getting changed, Juric stayed in the sauna to help himself adjust as quick as possible for a match that will be played just below 30 degrees and with 82 per cent humidity.

“I’ve been prepping for it as well, doing a lot of heat adjusting in the sauna. It’s just that little bit for that 1 per cent maybe,” he said. “If it helps, it helps, we know it’s going to be humid here. The most important thing is we know what to expect regarding the conditions. We’ll be as prepared as possible for it.”

The 26-year-old wasn’t just content on earning a place in the squad for Honduras, nor a starting position in the first 11, but being able to play at his absolute best in taxing conditions. It’s why he continued to lie in a sauna in Honduras, using the facilities at their training ground at Estadio Morazan.

“I just sit in there after training. I try to get a good 10, 15 minutes in. I’m not a big fan of the sauna, I do it because it will help a little bit and just to get the feel of the heat,” Juric said.

“It’s cold in Switzerland now. If I just came in here it would be a bit of a shock to the system. It’s just to keep it on level terms.”

The heat and humidity may have required major adjustment for Juric but he has no concern for the hostile environment inside the Estadio Olimpico in San Pedro Sula. Honduras’ home fans are some of the most passionate in Latin America and the infamous stadium an intimidating cauldron, and that’s exactly what Juric wants.

“I quite enjoy that, these hostile environments. I like playing in these sort of games,” he said. “I did it with the Wanderers where we travelled to some pretty hostile environments.

“When we played in Guangzhou against Evergrande it was one of the big ones in regards of the occasion and what was on the line for them and their fans. I quite enjoy it. I think that will bring the best out of a lot of us.”

That was the least of Juric’s worries upon landing in Honduras to find out his luggage didn’t arrive, meaning he had to train in his running shoes during his first session with the Socceroos.

It wasn’t until Wednesday when Juric could resume full training with his boots after his bag arrived late on Tuesday night.

“I lost my bag – or they lost my bag. It got in last night which is good. I can join into training today which will be good, I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “Today will be back to normal [my bag arrived] last night, nothing’s missing, so it’s good.”

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Former Rooster Connor Watson has trained with the Newcastle Knights for the first time

HAVING A BALL: New signing Connor Watson shows safe hands on his first day of training with the Newcastle Knights. Picture: Marina NeilDURING his formative years, Connor Watson spent his pocket money buying every Newcastle Knights jersey. Now he is going to be paid handsomely to wear one.

After his first training session with Newcastle, the former Sydney Roosters utility back admitted there was something special about realising a childhood ambition.

“The day I started supporting them was the day of the 2001 grand final, when they won,” he recalled. “We were going down on the train and all my family were going for Parramatta and I said, no …I’m going for the Knights, and theyended up winning.

“So I’ve grown up with all the jerseys and everything, so it’s been really cool.

“I’ve always dreamed, since I was a kid, of playing for the Knights. To get the opportunity will be really awesome.”

The 21-year-old dynamo, who has appeared in 38 top-grade games for the Roosters over the past two seasons and was player of the tournament at the 2017 Auckland Nines, has signed a four-year deal with Newcastle.

“There’s a lot of things make up your decision when you sign for a club,” he said.

“There’s all those external things. But for me, it was about where I would be able to take the next step for my career and play my best footy.”

While a host of other big names rejected offers from the three-time wooden spooners, the Central Coast junior welcomed the challenge of helping the Knights to rebuild.

“I’m really excited, to be honest,” he said. “Obviously the Roosters are a great club, always very successful and you’ve seen in the last couple of weeks, they always sign the best players.

“But I think the Knights are really doing some great things here …Icould have stayed at the Roosters and kept playing off the bench, and not playing so many minutes, but for me the biggest thing was about the opportunity here and that’s why I’ve come here.”

Still recovering from a recent tonsillectomy, Watson is virtually certain to start next season asNewcastle’s five-eighth, leaving Brock Lamb and Trent Hodkinson competing for the No.7 jersey.

“There’s no guarantees in rugby league but I’ve just got to train my best and hopefully that’s where I’m playing in round one,” Watsonsaid.

With fellow ex-Roosters Shaun Kenny-Dowall andAidan Guerra also at Newcastle, Watsonsaid he would welcome another former teammate, Mitchell Pearce, if the disgruntled halfback was to seek a release.

“It’d be good,” he said.

“He’s a world-class player, Pearcey. He’s played 12 years of first grade, nearly 250 games, won a comp, played Origin. He’d be an awesome acquisition.”

THE HERALD’S OPINION: The Store facing the wrecking ball

BY approving its own plan to redevelop The Store site as a bus interchange to service the adjacent Newcastle Interchange, Transport for NSW has kicked off the next stage ofthe city’s public transport overhaul.

Despite Revitalising Newcastle program director Michael Cassel’s assertion that The Store “doesn’t really stand out as a great piece of architecture”, it has been a Hunter Street landmark for generations, and its survival –even as a facade –would have provided a link between the old and new structures.

But as aReview of Environmental Factors for the bus interchange made clear when put on public display in July, practical considerations rendered its retention unfeasible.As well as real concerns about the condition and stability of The Store, the preferred option for buses turning in and out of the interchange involves an upgraded intersection at Denison Street and Hunter Street, with dual turning lanes requiring “partial removal of The Store facade”.

The multi-level car park facing Stewart Avenue will also come down for the interchange, although plans show the clockwisebus loop at the heart of the design turning back before it reaches the concrete car park, leaving that part of the site available for ground-up future development. Also, the bus loop itself is set well to the rear of the site, leaving most of The Store footprint for similarly ground-up redevelopment.

Indeed, the planning documents state that one of the reasons the loop was configured the way it is was to provide “the opportunity to build over the proposal”.

With zoning approval for 90 metres of height –the city’s tallest –the site provides ample opportunity for a residential tower, or towers, of some consequence. Revitalising Newcastle has already taken the site to the market, and an announcement of a successful proponent is expected early next year.

With two large residential blocks north of the interchange –including the Doma Group’s Bishopsgate – now well under way, there certainly seems to be ample demand for west end apartments.

But first of all, The Store site has to work properly as a bus interchange. Even with apartment towers,the state government’s purchase of the site will only be a positive if the bus interchange –replacing the one at Newcastle station – providesthe “improved customer experience” that Transport for NSW is promising.

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Honduran hell? Sounds like a picnic compared to Montevideo

Honduran horror show? Sinister goings-on in San Pedro Sula? Dirty tricks in Central America?

That doesn’t seem to be the way things are in Honduras, where, according to reports from Fairfax correspondent Dominic Bossi, the reception from the locals has been warm and friendly despite the fact that the Socceroos have been locking themselves away in their hotel to the extent that the local press has nicknamed them “hermits”.

There are places, however, where the locals are intent on intimidation, countries where soccer is more than a sport, cities where the game inflames passions.

The World Cup stokes those fires more than anything else – as those Socceroos who were involved in two tumultuous ties with Uruguay in 2001 and 2005 know all too well.

I was one of a handful of journalists who travelled to Montevideo to cover the second leg of the intercontinental play-off in November 2001.

Australia had won the first leg at a packed MCG 1-0 through a Kevin Muscat penalty, but the Uruguayans were exultant on the flight home.

The Australians managed to get seats in business class on the same flight, but several of the Uruguay players were in economy, including a handful sitting next to me. It was obvious they felt they had done the hard part of the job, and would finish the Socceroos off in Montevideo.

The arrivals hall at Carrasco Airport proved just how much thought and planning had gone into unsettling the Australians.

When the players disembarked it was anticipated that there would be delays with the luggage and perhaps at passport control. That’s just how things often happen when such matches of moment are on the line, and not just in Latin America. I have seen awkward situations in the Middle East and Africa too.

What was not anticipated was the “welcoming committee” from the Uruguayans.

A large group of so-called fans turned up to provide a hot reception as the players waited for their luggage.

In reality, as was widely reported, they were thugs and heavies hired by well-heeled locals with financial and business interests in soccer, interests that would have been enhanced had Uruguay qualified for the 2002 World Cup in Korea and Japan.

So desperate were they for Uruguay to make it past Australia that the rent-a-crowd resorted to spitting, shouting and scuffling to plant seeds of doubt in the players’ minds as they arrived defending a slender lead.

Of course the media made much of the story and it quickly escalated, almost becoming a diplomatic incident as the Australian personnel at the embassy in Buenos Aires (a short flight across the River Plate in Argentina) were alerted.

The players were taken aback, and it is impossible to think that they were not somehow affected, although the fact that they were hurried away into virtual incarceration in their hotel, emerging only for training sessions, probably did not help their mental state.

I wrote at the time that they were prisoners in a gilded cage, surrounded by gun-toting guards who afforded round the clock protection.

I, for one, would have felt cooped up and frustrated, as I am sure they did.

Was there any danger? It’s hard to imagine they would have been attacked, but it’s quite possible they would have been subjected to insults had they ventured far out of the hotel.

In contrast to the hostile reception for the Socceroos, I found the Uruguayans to be charming and friendly people, helpful to a fault. I spoke no Spanish, but managed, with the assistance of locals, to take a bus to Punta Del Este on the coast to watch a Uruguay training session with few problems. Still, I wasn’t wearing a Socceroos tracksuit.

The stakes are so high, some fans will do anything for their team – whether that is assembling bands and drumming loudly outside the team hotel late at night to stop them sleeping, or something more disturbing.

There are stories – not from Montevideo, it must be said – where in some places officials arrange for escorts to be sent up to player rooms, uninvited, to see if they can be tempted to tire themselves out the night before the game to give the hosts an advantage.

It’s unlikely that happens nowadays, but the story is told often enough to suggest it happened a few times in the past, at least with other teams.

The Hondurans will have to go some way to create a similarly intimidating atmosphere to that which the Socceroos faced in the Estadio Centenario in 2001.

The game kicked off at 4pm. I got to the old venue – built for the 1930 World Cup, which Uruguay hosted and won – around midday and the place was already filling steadily, most fans wearing the sky blue shirt of Los Celestes.

There were sound systems at either end of the ground, salsa music blaring, and a party atmosphere as the crowd built. By kick-off time the place was a sea of sky blue with any Australian fans in the ground barely visible.

The Uruguayans were, on that occasion, right to be confident. They had left their best striker, Dario Silva, behind in Montevideo to rest rather than expose him to the exertions of an arduous return trip to Melbourne.

He was said to be injured, but that was just a smokescreen. Silva equalised early in the first half to make the score 1-1 on aggregate, and the Socceroos were up against it from that point on.

Eventually their resistance crumbled when Richard Morales scored with 20 minutes to go, adding a third in stoppage time to seal a 3-0 win (a scoreline that did flatter the hosts). Australia had poured forward to get the goal that would have made it 2-2 on aggregate and put the Socceroos through on the away goals rule, leaving themselves vulnerable to a late counter attack.

Four years later Australia, older and wiser, faced the same challenge again.

This time, under Guus Hiddink, the team flew into Buenos Aires and stayed in five-star luxury hotel in the Argentine capital, where they were not under anything like the same scrutiny.

The atmosphere was freer and easier – even if I and a few colleagues found it difficult to get a taxi driver to go out to the San Lorenzo club’s training area unless we paid him to wait for the session to be over. Too dangerous to drive around alone in this area, he tried to explain.

And this time there was the added bonus of Diego Maradona.

At the time the team arrived, the Summit of the Americas (think of it as something akin to an Apec conference) was taking place at Mar Del Plata. George Bush was American president, and he was not the most popular figure given the US’ fractious relationships with countries in South America.

There were street demonstrations, effigies of Bush being burnt, loud, chanting marches and on the platform Maradona, taking centre stage.

Soccer and politics, soccer and business, soccer and life. Everything is closely intertwined when World Cup spots are on the line, and Honduras will be no different.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.