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Merrick eyes Latino magic for marquee

SAMBA MAGIC: Ernie Merrick and Brazilian Fred teamed up to win a championship at Melbourne Victory. Picture: Vince CaligiuriERNIE Merrick was responsible for unleashing Johnny Warren Medal-winner Carlos Hernandez and brilliant Brazilian Fred on the A-League and now he hopes to unearth another Latino excitement machine at the Newcastle Jets.
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Merrick has two visa places to fill on the roster. The priority is a creative midfielder and the master mentor is using the same contacts that delivered Hernandez and Fred to Melbourne Victory.

“We have a short list of who we want” Merrick said.“If we don’t get the first one, we will get the second one, if not, the third. The top three that we have selected are all top quality players.”

Asked if the player would fit the marquee category, Merricksaid:“It will be someone of quality who we have to pay a little bit more too and it will be outside the cap.”

Merrick securedHernandez on loan fromCosta Rican club Alajueinse in 2007. The silky-skilled No.10 spent fours seasons at Victory, leading them to a championship in 2008-09 and winning the Johnny Warren Medal a year later.After a season in Indian, Hernandez reunited with Merrick at Wellington for the 2013-14 season.

Fred had one season under Merrick at Victory in 2006-07, and was instrumental in their championship success, highlighted by four assists in the grand final.

Merrick eyes Latino magic for marquee TweetFacebook Samba magic: Carlos Hernandez and FredPicture: Fairfax Photographers“I was luckywith Carlos Hernandez andI thought Fred was an outstanding player,” Merrick said. “I have had some success from South America.We can attract players now that 10 years ago we couldn’t attract. If you look at who we have recruited, we need a bit of icing on the cake, a little bit of silk.Whoever we sign, although they might be an attacking midfielder, they must be a goal scorer. That is what brings the crowd in.”

Merrick has been impressed with the opening 10 days of pre-season.

“The players are ahead of where I thought they would be and that is why we will start playing friendly matches from next week,” he said.

The Jets’first hit out will be against Weston at Bear Park next Tuesday, followed by friendlies againstBroadmeadow Magic (July 19) and Hamilton Olympic (August 2).

“We are looking forward to playing the local teams,” Merrick said.“It is so important to have a look at the quality of players around, meet the fans and link up with the clubs who are doing a great job developing junior players in this region.”

The Jets are set to be withoutLachlan Jackson, Nicholas Cowburn and Devante Clut fortwo of the friendlies after they were named in a 26-man Olyroos squad for the AFC under-23 championships in Myanmarlater thismonth.

The squad goes in to camp on Friday, with a final 23 departing for Myanmar on July 15.

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Hunter “monte” comes of age

FAMILY TIES: “I guess it’s kind of hard to escape your Italian heritage when your name is De Iuliis,” the winemaker says. Picture: Daniel HonanMichael De Iuliis is looking forwardto the day when people cometo his cellar door and ask to taste the De Iuliis Montepulciano.
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De Iuliis is a Hunter Valley winemaker.

Born and raised in Newcastle, he never gave much thought to his Italian heritage, apart from the timeswhen his grandfather would buy all the tomatoes at Newcastle Markets in Sandgate and make passata in his Merewether garage.

“It’s not that I didn’t identify as Italian, it’s just I’ve only ever thought of myself as being an Australian,” De Iuliis says.

“I didn’t go to Italy until I was 22. As you get older though, and especially when you have kids, you do place a bit more emphasis on the importance of family and that Italian heritage we have.”

(Before this story goes any further, it’s pronounced “dee-ool-ee-us”. Some say it’s one of the hardest names to pronounce in Australian wine, but worth asking for, by name, nonetheless…)

“I guess it’s kind of hard to escape your Italian heritage when your name is De Iuliis,” he laughs.

“Especially when it’s front and centre on every bottle of wine we make, and plastered all over our cellar door.”

In the past few years, De Iuliis has been slowly embracing his Italian heritage by applying it to a few wines he makes under the family name; Sangiovese (san-gio-vay-say), a red wine grape variety hailing from Tuscany in Central Italy, which adds a savoury, sour cherry character to his rosé; Fiano (‘fee-ahn-o’), a robust white grape variety from Campania in Southern Italy that’s only recently been planted to Hunter vineyards – 2017 is the first time De Iuliis has experimented with this variety; Nebbiolo (neb-e-ol-oh), synonymous with the enigmatic wines of Barolo from Piedemont; and, Montepulciano (monte-pul-chi-ano), a red grape variety native to Abruzzo, where, Mike’s father, Joss De Iuliis grew up, and is the reason why it was planted at the De Iuliis home block at Lovedale.

“Dad is from Abruzzo,”De Iuliis says.

“His famliy had a small vineyard when he was young, and so it made sense to plant some Montepulciano at Lovedale.

This year is the first time Hunter wine lovers will be able to ask to taste De Iulliis’ Montepulciano. Indeed, it’s the first time the crop has grown so well in the seven years since it was plantedin 2010.

“The first time we made ‘Monte’, I gave a demijohn to Pat (Haddock) at Reserve and he sold it by the glass,”De Iuliis says.

“We only made a small amount in 2015, but it was entered in the experimental class of the Hunter Valley Wine Show, and received high silver. This year we’ve made around 40 cases, which we plan on releasing around the end of the year,”

As one of the Hunter’s ‘next gen’wine growers slowly transforms into one of its older guards, expect to see Michael De Iuliis’ strong Italian roots grow ever deeper into the Hunter Valley dirt.

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Levi insists players to blame for Tigers loss

ON THE CHIN: Hooker Danny Levi (left) insist Knights players must take responsibility for poor performances. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers KNIGHTS hooker Danny Levi has leapt to the defence of besieged mentor Nathan Brown, insisting the coach is not to blame for players making fundamental errors.
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Brown’s 18-month tenure hit rock bottom on Sunday when the Knights surrendered 33-12 toWests Tigers and put a mortgage on a third-straightwooden spoon.

Club chairman Brian McGuigan put the coach and the players on notice on Monday, describing thelossas “unacceptable”, “embarrassing” and “a catastrophe”.

Brown has another year remaining on his contract and although there are no plans to alter that McGuigan said the “community expects better”.

However, Levi said the players rather than the coach should bearthe brunt of the criticism.

“All he is trying to do is make us better,” the 21-year-old said. “He shouldn’t cop any of the blame. Our performance just wasn’t there. He can only do so much. The rest is up to us and we have to do better.”

Levi made 43 tackles, ran 73 metres and was unlucky not to be awarded a try when ruled held up.

“I saw it get down,” he said of the ball. “I appreciate the referee didn’t see it and called no try. You couldn’t see it on the camera. I think if he had called a try it would have been a try. If you are playing good footy, usually the luck goes your way.”

The wholehearted dummy-half also made three uncharacteristic errors with the ball and missed four tackles.

“Browny can’t coach [against] two drop balls and a forward pass,” he said. “We just have to stick to his game plan. When we do we know how well we go. The first half against St George (leading 28-10) we were going so well. When we go off it, things turn bad for us. He has given us the tools and the right direction to go, we just have to be able to put iton the field.”

Brown has made three changes –two forced – for the clash against Canterbury at Belmore Oval on Sunday.

Trent Hodkinson and Jalen Feeney remain in the halves, with Brock Lamb named 18th man.

Dane Gagai, who was their best against the Tigers, is in camp with the Queensland team ahead of the Origin decider and winger Ken Sio has a shoulder problem.

Brendan Elliot has been recalled on one wing and Chanel Mata’utia will start on the other flank in his first NRL game since round one last season.

LukeYates replacesJosh Starling on the bench.

The Dogs will be without NSW Origin trioBrett Morris, Josh Jackson and David Klemmer.Kerrod Holland, Raymond Faitala-Mariner and Sam Kasiano will start. Asipeli Fine and Andy Saunders are fresh faces on the bench.

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Unrest over Catholic Schools Office changes

Bishop Bill Wright.A dispute over planned changes tothe Maitland-Newcastle Catholic Schools Office could beheaded towards the Fair Work Commission.
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A meeting on Tuesday between the Independent Education Union and Maitland-Newcastle Dioceserepresentatives failed to satisfactorily resolveprincipals’ serious concernabout what the restructure would mean for their schools.

The unionwill meet on Wednesday to decide whether to proceed to the Fair Work Commission –with the matter scheduled for July 13.

The Diocese plans to streamline services across the Catholic Schools Office, CatholicCare, St Nicholas Early Education and the Chancery (the bishop’s office).

New “shared service teams” will look after human resources, finance, information and communications technology, property, communications and recordsacross the agencies.

A Diocese spokesperson said the changes would not mean the end of the CSO or the role of Directorof Schools.

But some principals fear the changes will put a strain on their schools reduce their capacity for quality teaching.

Tuesday’s meeting came after Bishop Bill Wright wrote to the union last week to urge against taking the dispute to the commission.

“I believe that there is a strong likelihood that your concerns can be addressed at a local level and believe all of our time is better spent trying to resolve the issues this way,” he wrote.

IEU organiser Therese Fitzgibbontold Fairfax Media that Catholic school staff had many questions that remained unanswered.

“We have serious concerns about job security for the employees at the Catholic Schools Office,” she said.

“We have serious concerns about the impact on school services.

“We have many questions about…how it will impact on students, parents and school fees.”

A Diocese spokespersonsaid the plan aimed to “enhance opportunities for collaboration” and move away from “silos”.

“Each agency will continue to be managed by the relevant Director or Head of Service, and agency specific support services will also remain,” the diocese said.

“For example, our Catholic schools will continue to be managed by the Director of Schools and Teaching and Learning Serviceswill remain a part of the Catholic Schools Office.”

More than 30 principals from across the Diocese met on June 23to discuss concerns about what the changes could mean at a grassroots level.

“This chapter [of the IEU]does not accept that this proposal best meets the needs of our schools, staff or students,” a motion from the meeting stated.

“On the contrary this chapter is of the view that such an amalgamation of services will place a strain on schools and diminish our capacity to provide quality teaching and learning.

“To suggest that an organisation managing a multiplicity of services could continue to provide the tailored support currently received is questionable and of great concern.”

In a letter to staff last month, obtained by Fairfax Media, BishopWright said there was a need for“greater unity” among Diocesan agencies.

It followed meetings between the Diocese’s senior leaders.

“The diocesan leaders at these recent meetings acknowledge and respect the uniqueness and complexity of individual agencies as well as their different funding arrangements and accountabilities, and that each agency has to ensure robust transparency, integrity, and compliance within the law,” Bishop Wright wrote.

“However, we also need, as a diocese, to have a sense of common identity, purpose and direction.”

Bishop Wright declined to comment after Tuesday’s meeting.

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Still searching for light at end of the tunnel

IT was a crowd most NRL clubs could only dream about, almost 20,000 on a gloriously sunny winter afternoon that became just another dark day for the Newcastle Knights.
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How many more dark days are ahead? How many more before the patience of the famously loyal Knights faithful runs out?

After Sunday’s meek capitulation, the possibility of a third consecutive wooden spoon looms ever more likely, and the mood of an increasing number ofTurton Road loyalists appears to have turned.

For some, grim, stoic patience has shifted to something closer to anger, and now anelephantine question looms: how much longer do we have to put up with this?

In the history of Australian rugby league, only four other clubs have collected three or more consecutive wooden spoons.

Three of them–Newtown, University and the Gold Coast Seagulls–have either folded, or no longer competein the sport’s top flight.

In previewing the match billed as the battle to avoid thewooden spoon, Newcastle Herald sports journalist Robert Dillon summed up why this match meant more than just two points.

“It’s this simple–people in Newcastle are sick of losing,” he wrote.

But if there has been some“gallant” losing this season, Sunday was something dire –and the angst of the fan was given voice by none other thanthe club’s chairman, Brian McGuigan, who labelled the latest loss“unacceptable”,“embarrassing”and“a catastrophe”.

The club, he said, could not continue on in its current state.

So what is next?

The light on the hill remains the sale of the Knights, and an end to theinterminable holding pattern that the club seemstobe in.

An eventual sale to the Wests Group seems likely, thoughnothing is being rushed.

That may be frustrating for fans, but in the long run it’s vital. The deal, once it’s done, must be one that lasts, and that means making it palatable to thegroup’s 125,000 registered members.

Stability off-field is essential if the club is to return as a force on field.

And if positives are hard to find, there is at least the knowledge that despite the veiled threats of possible relocations, there were on Sunday another 20,000 reasons why it will never happen.

ISSUE: 38,536

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