Broadmeadow coach Ruben Zadkovich impressed with young Bears in 2-0 escape

Magic goalscorer James VirgiliMAGIC coach Ruben Zadkovich expects Steve Piggott’s Weston squad to spring a few surprises this year after his side escapedwith a 2-0 win on Saturday night.
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Broadmeadow hosted the Bears at Magic Park in the only Northern NSW National Premier League round two game to survive the wet weekend.

A Shane Paul tap-in in the 53rdminute off a Lawrence Foteff header and James Virgili’s breakaway goal deep in injury time proved the difference against Weston, who had Jordan Jackson sent off for a second yellow card foul with 20 minutes remaining.

The Bears finished with nine men after substitute JacobGolding came off injured in early intime added on.

The result followed a 1-1 draw with two-time defending premiers Edgeworth for Magic and a 2-2 stalemate with newly promoted Lake Macquarie for Weston, who finished last in 2016.

Former Jets captain and Socceroo Zadkovich, who is making his senior coaching debutwith the beaten 2016 grand finalists, was pleased with his side’s attitude but also impressed with the intensity of Weston’s new line-up.

“I think Piggo is doing a really good job with such a young squad,” Zadkovich said.“I was really impressed with their younger boys, Jake Millsteedin midfield, Dane Johnson and a few others. The way he’s got them playing, it was quite impressive.”

He praised the work of the Bears’ frontline without the ball.

“They way they pressed, they didn’t do it against Lakes, but they did it against us really well,” he said.“It suits them and they looked a much better team.”

The win takes Magic to the top of the table, and while their attack needs to improve, Zadkovich was pleased with their work rate and attitude.

“We were hard to beat again, which is what I’m looking for,” he said.“We know teams will come to our ground and lift and I told the boyswe need to lift with them.It was a pretty even match but in the end I think it was more of a mental thing and a bit of quality that got us over the line.”

Piggott was proud of the effort from his side but lamented their missed chances.

“We limited their areas, played 4-4-2, pressed them high and took the game to them,” Piggott said.

“They had to kick a little bit more and we made it uncomfortable at times.We had a plan and we worked to it for 94 minutes. To get beat 2-0 hurts a bit because the second goal came in the 94thminute when we were down to nine men.

“It takes a little bit a gloss off it and 2-0 doesn’t really tell the story. We were stilldown in the corner attacking trying to win andthey go 95 metres to score.

“We were still naive in a few areas and had probablythree quality chances, two shots in the first half over the bar and Jamie Byrnes’ header from two yards out at the keeper’s feet.It was a good header and most days it beats the keeper and it’sone all, but as I said last week, if you can’t execute in front of goals, you can’t win games.”

** All round twoHeraldWomen’s Premier League matches were washed out.

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Sydney Roosters ride their luck to defeat Penrith Panthers in a thriller

NRL Round 3: Panthers v Roosters | Photos Photo: Getty Images.
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TweetFacebookPhotos: Getty Images.Roosters fullback Michael Gordon scored the match-winning trybeforestopping Panther Tyrone Peacheywith a last-ditch tackle to keep his side atop the NRL table with a hard-fought 14-12 away win over Penrith.

Peachey was jinking back inside looking for the tryline after regathering a crossfield kick from Matt Moylanbefore he was pulled down by Gordon in a tackle most of the 11,044 parochial fans thought was high.

But there was no whistle and the Roosters survived, earning a third successive win to start the season in a stop-start gamepunctuatedwith errors and penalties from both teams.

“I didn’t think the tackle was high, I know the crowd was complaining,” ex-Panther Gordon said.

“Either I tackle him there or they score and win the game. [It was]straight across the shoulder, just because he stepped so hard it probably looked dramatic. It was definitely not high.”

Panthers coach Anthony Griffin refused to offer an opinion when asked about the tackle, or the flat pass fromLatrell Mitchell which helped set up Gordon’s match-winning four-pointer in the 72nd minute.

Mitchell passed the ball to his winger Daniel Tupou who managed to get a kick awaydownfieldbefore being bundled into touch. Gordon managed to get to the ball first, and toed it ahead before taking possession and running in to score his second try of the game.

Just moments earlier Gordon was involved in a mix-up with his other winger Shaun Kenny-Dowall that lead to what looked like a Waqa Blake try, before the boys in the Bunker decidedPeacheyhad strayed offside in the build up.

Panthers half Nathan Cleary sent up a towering bomb that led to amiscommunicationbetween Gordon and Kenny-Dowall, allowing a flying Blake to pick up the scraps and score in the corner.

ButPeacheywas adjudged to have been in front of Cleary when he kicked the ball, before straying into the 10m protected zone around the ball catchers.

“That was a pretty big effort from the guys,” Roosters coach Trent Robinson said.

“We can analyse it all we want but you’ve got to win those games if you want to be a good team.

“We were really good the firstcouple of weeks but we didn’t get what wewanted out of our defence. We were defending well but not quite saving the tries, and not quite doing enough.

“That was our focus this week and it proved vital in the end because our attack, we came up with too many errors and allowed field position and possession to the Panthers.

“It wasn’t our best footy. To have them score one try like they did, that’s a real Penrith try. The Moylan freak show there with the way that he plays.”

Penrith’s only try, to go with Cleary’s three penalty goals, was a superbPeacheyfour-pointerin the left corner after Moylan came up with a no-look, cut-out flick pass – an early contender for try assist of the season.

Otherwise the Roosters’ defence held tight, and it had to after the Tricolours came up with 17 errorsin a game where both sides were penalised nine times.

While Cleary’s menacing bombs were causing Gordon plenty of headaches at one end, the Roosters lethal left-hand side attack kept the Panthers on their toes throughout.

All three of their tries came on that side, an area weakened early on when James Fisher-Harris left the game with a fractured eye socket.

“He had a head clash there earlier in the game, as soon as he’s tried to blow his nose it’s just popped out,” Griffin said of the man who replaced the injured Bryce Cartwright.

“It’s not ideal but they’re the cards you’re dealt, I thought we’d done enough all night even though we had to deal with that.

“We made some technical errors there defensively.I just thought we were very unlucky but that’s what happens at this level.We did a really good job to just about hold that game together.

“On the night we got beaten with points on the scoreboard but I thought it was a really good effort, something we’ll be able to build on.”

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Newcastle Art Gallery redevelopment given new hope thanks to Arts Minister Don Harwin

INTERESTED: New NSW Arts Minister Don Harwin. PICTURE: Ben RushtonARTS minister Don Harwin has breathed fresh hope into long-frustrated plans for theredevelopment of the Newcastle Art Gallery, saying he wants to hear more about the council’s ideas for the project.
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Mr Harwin, who was given the portfolioin Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s first cabinet reshuffle, has about $250 million left in cultural infrastructure funding to spend of the $600 million the government promisedfrom the sale of electricity assets before the 2015 election.

So farmost of that money has been spent in Sydney –including$202 million to the Sydney Opera House and $139 million to the Walsh Bay precinct –but Mr Harwin, who has said he will make anannouncement about funding before the June budget, has cited Western Sydney and regional NSW as “high priorities” for future allocations.

Those comments haven’t gone unnoticed in Newcastle, and at last week’s council meeting the Lord Mayor, Nuatali Nelmes, moved a motion to reiterate the council’s commitment to the project and seek a meeting with Mr Harwin to “investigate opportunities for joint support” for the redevelopment.

While not committing to the project, Mr Harwin told the Newcastle Herald he was keen to listen to the council’s ideas.

“I would be interested to hear more on council’s proposal for the gallery’s redevelopment and would welcome the opportunity to discuss what role both the Newcastle City Council and the NSW Government could play in the success of the [Art Gallery],” he said.

The Newcastle Art Gallery.

“My office has reached out to the [council]to discuss this.”

A redeveloped art gallery has been a council policy since at least 2004, with the estimated cost of the project ranging between $21 and $30 million.

The council and federal government previously committed$7 million each to the project, but a combination of the state government’s refusal to come to provide funding andcouncil decisions during former Lord Mayor Jeff McCloy’s tumultuous reign, saw the project fall over in 2013.

Four years later the federal money is gone, but Cr Nelmes believesthat if the state government commits $20 million to the project it could become a reality.

“Given amount of moneyin the government’s cultural infrastructure fund, my hope is that when the new minister sees the gallery proposal he wouldconsider contributingsignificant funding,” she said.

“This redevelopment is not fancy trimmings, it’s work to makesure ourcity’s assetsare maintained properly.

“All we would be asking for is the capital funds to fix the gallery buildingand the storage facilities.”

The art gallery redevelopment became front and centre in the political tussle over control of the council when the independent Mr McCloy took over as mayor in 2012.

The state government under former Barry O’Farrell did not commit funding, and while mayor Mr McCloy controversially suggested the gallery should sell some of its collection –valued at more than $80 million –to fund the redevelopment.

The former lord mayor also led a decision to spend the $7 million the council had set aside to fund it to pay down debt.

That decision meant the former federal government pulled the $7 million it had promised for the project, spending most of it on the Glendale Interchange instead.

But Cr Nelmes said the council still had money to allocate to the project, through the 2012 special rate variation and asset renewal funding.

“The art gallery still has a backlog of asset renewal works in our long term financial plan [and] the state’s component would cover the new capital works,” she said.

Mr Harwin defended the government’s contribution to arts in the Hunter, saying it spent money in the region through theArts and Cultural Development Program, Screen NSW and public library funding.

“Over three years from 2015/16 the NSW Government has committed arts funding at a minimum of over $1.6 million to support a range of programs and projects in the Hunter region, which includes the Newcastle Art Gallery,” he said.

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Friends of slain bikie in hiding

The coffin carrying the body of Kemel Barakat at his funeral at Marrickville Alawi Youth Movement Centre . Pic Nick Moir 16 march 2017 Photo: Nick Moir???
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Kemel Barakat’s new address was supposed to be secret, yet his killers knew where he was.

His apartment block was supposed to be secure, yet they were able to creep into the building and through the front door without needing to force their way in.

Once inside the bedroom of Barakat’s apartment in Sydney’s inner west, they unloaded more than a dozen bullets at close range, killing the Hells Angel bikie as he slept in his boxer shorts.

Even in the bloody world of gangland executions, this killing was brutal.

Unlike the potentially linked assassinations before it, this hit was not carried out in the public arena, on a street, outside a house or in a cafe. It was well-planned. The killers were well-informed. Investigators and some in Barakat’s inner circle suspect it required the help of someone close to him.

The cold-bloodedness of the killing has sent some of Sydney’s most powerful underworld players into hiding

Fairfax Media understands Barakat’s close associates, including Ahmad “Rock” Ahmad, brother of slain crime figure Wally Ahmad, have fled their stomping ground in the south-west suburbs. With their families in tow, the associates, notorious figures in their own right, have taken refuge in apartments in Sydney’s east in the past week, anxious they will be targeted next.

“Now these blokes and their families have to be bunkered down and living in hotel rooms for fear someone is going to pop them,” one source said.

“They are scared,” a police officer put it simply.

Some of the figures now constantly looking over their shoulders braved the potential threats to attend Barakat’s rain-drenched funeral in Marrickville on Thursday. Others skipped it, acknowledging tensions were high.

As is the case after any gangland murder, police are wary of imminent and violent retaliation. They are also concerned that the brutality of Barakat’s death is a sign of worse things to come.

Barakat, also known as “Blackie”, was murdered in his Mortlake apartment after he emerged as a suspect in the shooting of crime figure Hamad Assaad. Like Barakat, Assaad was a suspect in the shooting of notorious standover man Walid “Wally” Ahmad last April.

The recent tit-for-tat shootings appear to have roots in a fierce battle between some of the south-west’s most feared families and their associates.

Barakat, a 29-year-old with a family base in Marrickville, found himself intertwined with the Ahmad network only in the past couple of years. He had a long affiliation with the Hells Angels, as his tattoos showed, but his loyalty to his mate Rock, more than a decade his senior, became of particular interest to police.

Their partnership came at a time when the Ahmad family had been dealt a succession of heavy blows and the pressure to save face was on.

It was April 2016 and Rock’s brother Wally, a charismatic, larger-than-life figure and established career criminal, had just been killed. The 40-year-old was sitting at Havana Cafe in Bankstown Central after a gym session when a man ran towards the heavy set figure and fired multiple rounds. Wally bled out on the tiles of the cafe as his brothers turned up demanding to see their dying sibling.

It was a significant blow to the criminal network. Wally was a widely recognised figure in the area. He demanded rent from dealers plying the Bankstown/Punchbowl drug trade, mediated everything from conflicts over drug rip-offs to business disputes, and stood over honest business people for his own benefit.

After completing a six-year jail term for shooting Mayez Danny at Greenacre in 2002, sources say Wally was trying to re-establish himself in the south-west criminal world. While Wally was predominantly the face of the Ahmad family, Rock was the less exposed yet equally influential sibling in the background.

A few weeks before Wally was killed, his younger and more volatile brother Mahmoud “Brownie” Ahmad travelled to Lebanon. His journey out of the country came after he was allegedly involved in a deadly gunfight between the Ahmad and Elmir families outside Wally’s smash repairs shop in Condell Park.

Over the course of the lengthy confrontation, which spilled out onto Ilma Street, a gun was pulled and 32-year-old Safwan Charbaji – related to the Elmir family by marriage – was shot dead.

A few days later, Brownie left. He was effectively helpless as, from Lebanon, he watched his brother Wally’s murder unfold.

Police speculate that the absence of two brothers and the dwindling strength of the family may have led the Ahmads to soften their historical disdain for outlaw motorcycle clubs.

“After the Wally stuff they started to become quite vulnerable as they are not used to being on that side of the gun,” one source said.

The Hells Angels wanted to set up a chapter in the Punchbowl area but they needed permission to do it. Providing the green light for the Hells Angels in Punchbowl could have given the club access to a drug run and potentially bolstered the strength and support base of the Ahmads and associates.

According to the club’s website, it set up the chapter in 2016. However, police say there has been recent tension and confusion over whether the Ahmads ever gave their permission for the Hells Angels to gain a foothold on their turf or if that agreement folded.

It is an example of how loyalties, governed by family or ethnic lines, chop and change, particularly in the Middle Eastern organised crime sphere.

Former police assistant commissioner Ken McKay, who helped establish the Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad, said allegiances changed depending on where a personal benefit could be found.

“And some of the people that were on the right yesterday are now on the left,” he said.

There was no doubt the absence of some brothers would impact the Ahmad family, McKay said, but they could draw strength from elsewhere.

Parallels have been drawn between the current conflict and the violent feuding between the Lebanese Darwiche and Razzak families in the early 2000s.

Asked what it took to end tit-for-tat shootings such as these, McKay said: “It comes to a stop when they all get locked up or they are all dead.

“It doesn’t end pleasantly.”

After Wally’s death last April, police were braced for what seemed to be inevitable retribution. But none came. While the list of people who wanted Wally out of their lives was long, there were no solid suspects.

It was at this point that crime figure Hamad Assaad got cocky. He had kept quiet about Wally’s death but, comfortable with the belief police had nothing, he started talking.

Underworld sources say the 29-year-old, investigated for shootings, drug rips and extortions, began mouthing off about how he killed the notorious crime figure.

He was socialising with Hells Angels bikies at the time, including rumoured national president Dallas Fitzgerald. He had fallen out with mafia figurePasquale Barbaro, who was shot dead a few weeks later.

In October 2016, as he prepared to take a relative to school, Assaad was shot dead in a well-planned assassination involving four people. His execution was captured on his own CCTV system.

It wasn’t long before Barakat emerged on the radar as a suspect in the shooting. While a friend close to his family conceded he was in the frame, they say if anything, it was more likely he was a driver in one of the getaway cars.

Investigators say Blackie wasn’t known for putting on a show but from that point he was thrust into the police spotlight.

The Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad used powers associated with firearm prohibition orders to search his house regularly and unapologetically without a warrant. He had been in his Mortlake unit for about a month when he was killed but had already started making plans to move.

On the night of March 9, police visited him again, this time for a bail compliance check. Barakat was due to face trial for drug supply in May.

Hours later, at 2.30am, intruders entered the unit, where a woman – now a murder witness – was also staying. The woman, a hairdresser from the south-west, emerged from the apartment that night unscathed while Barakat succumbed to his gunshot wounds.

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Juror discharged in dramatic development in Ron Medich’s murder trial

In a dramatic development in the murder trial of wealthy property developer Ron Medich, a juror has been discharged.
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Crown prosecutor Gina O’Rourke, SC, was about to commence her closing address to the jury, which has heard evidence over the past six weeks.

For legal reasons, it cannot be disclosed why the juror was discharged.

After an hour and half’s delay, the jury returned with the seat of their former jury member left vacant.

“It wont have escaped your attention,” said Justice Geoff Bellew, “that a member of the jury has been discharged.”

The judge warned the remaining jurors that they were not to speculate about the reasons behind the discharge of the juror.

They were also warned that they were not to have any contact with that person until the trial had concluded.

The trial, which started at the end of January, commenced with 15 jurors. After four days, one juror was discharged and now, at the end of the trial, another juror has gone.

It is customary in lengthy trials to start with a larger jury in case of illness or misadventure.

Once the judge has completed his summing up, which is due to happen next week, there will be a ballot to see which of the remaining jurors will make up the final panel of 12.

In her closing address, the prosecutor addressed the issue of the Crown’s key witness Lucky Gattellari having been charged in December with conspiring to extort money from the accused murderer Mr Medich.

She said that, through intermediaries, including the “notorious” Roger Rogerson, he had asked Mr Medich for $10 million before the committal hearing and $15 million before the murder trial.

However, she recounted Gattellari’s evidence that he never intended to change his evidence.

Gattellari has told the jury that he organised the 2009 murder of Michael McGurk at the behest of Mr Medich, who he says paid him $500,000 to kill Mr McGurk and to later intimidate his widow, Kimberley McGurk.

Ms O’Rourke told the jury that, upon Gattellari’s arrest on October 13, 2010, he was told by his lawyers that the cost for his defence and bail would be about $1 million.

She said that his subsequent demands to Mr Medich that he put up the million dollars would be described by the defence as “an extortion”.

However, Ms O’Rourke said it was a “cry for assistance”.

Gattellari was about incur these legal fees when he had agreed to carry out the demands of Mr Medich to murder Mr McGurk and intimidate his wife, Ms O’Rourke said.

The prosecutor said that Mr Medich refused to assist in any way and that, in the days immediately after Gattellari’s arrest, Mr Medich “completely wiped his hands of Gattellari” and that Gattellari now realised he had been “left to face the music alone”.

The jury has heard that the alleged motive for the murder was that Mr McGurk and Mr Medich were embroiled in a number of legal battles, which Mr Medich was losing.

Gattellari told the court that Mr Medich had complained that that Mr McGurk was making him “the laughing stock of the eastern suburbs”.

Mr Medich has pleaded not guilty.

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