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Simpson comes of age with Lions leadership

Simpson comes of age with Lions leadership TIME: Carrington’s Brendon Simpson celebrates with South Newcastle fans after last season’s grand final win at McDonald Jones Stadium. The 25-year-old prop is now co-captain of the Lions. Picture: Jonathan Carroll
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TweetFacebook Brendon SimpsonPictures from Newcastle Herald archivesGrand final. Premiership. Celebrations.

It’s seems like a blur for Brendon Simpson andalmost 10months on the South Newcastle prop finds himself in a much different space.

Nowadays at Townson Oval, despite being just 25 years of age,he is one of the elder statesman along with fellow Lions co-captain Luke Higgins.

A major shift from having the likes of 2016 playmaker Willie Heta and former captain-coach Todd Hurrell steering the ship.

“It’s been a big difference,” Simpson said.

“I’ve gonefrom being one of the younger players last year, to all of a sudden me and Higgo being more seniorplayers.It’s taken a bit of adjusting, but I’ve loved it.”

Like the mine mechanic’swork on the field it has been challenge accepted.

The no-nonsense front-rower and hooker Higgins were named skippers this season by new coach Ben Cross, who could see their “leadership qualities”.

But for Simpson, calling the shots and running the boys out each weekend hasbeena new experience.

“It wasmassive,” he said.

“I’dnevercaptained a first grade team, but I thinkthis was thefirst team Higgo hadn’tcaptained. He’s been aleader his whole life.

“I’ve loved Souths since I’ve been there, so to be given that ‘C’was a big deal for me.”

Simpson was born and bred in Mudgee, moving to Newcastle eight years ago for the Knights under 20s.

The Rebels representative then joined Macquarie for three seasons before starting with Souths in 2015.

September’s decider and drought-breaking title was the pinnacle of his time in the Newcastle Rugby League first grade competition.

“Southshadn’t won one in 27 years, which is longer than I’ve been alive,” he said.

“It was definitely the highlight of my football career and it will be prettyhard to top. Idon’t think anything can really beat that.”

Souths tacklegrand final opponentsMacquarie at Peacock Field on Sunday. It will be the first time they have met since. The clubsfollow it up with a second encounter the following weekend at Merewether.

“We have Macquarietwo weeks in a row and it isa grand final replay, but I don’t think we’ll treat it that way,” Simpson said.

“They are pretty high up and I see them as a benchmark. It’s not so much about last year, it’s about how they’re going this year.”

Souths, sitting fifth with two games in hand, and Macquarie, now outright second, will field less than half of last year’s grand final squads.

The Lions welcome back centre Lewis Schneider from an elbow injury. Ben Roose and Tim Christie are still in the process of returning.

Macquarie coach Adam Bettridge said Randall Briggs will play in the halves.

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Well-oiled production

LOOKING GOOD: The touring production of Grease is being staged by Brisbane musical theatre company Harvest Rain.ACTRESS Meghan O’Shea was delighted when she learned that she was playing the leading role of high school girl Sandy opposite Drew Weston as heartthrob Danny in a touring production of the musical Grease.
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They have known each other for 10 years, meeting when they enrolled in the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) three-year bachelor of arts musical theatre course in 2007. And since graduation they have worked together in national tours of musicals Oklahoma and The Rocky Horror Show.

One of the challenges of the current production of Grease, staged by Brisbane musical theatre company Harvest Rain, is that the professional performers have to work with 800 local young people aged 10 to 21 in the cities where the show is staged.

As Grease is set in a high school and shows the romantic hopes and manoeuvres of senior students, the use of a large backing ensemble of young singers and dancers is appropriate, with some girls becoming members of the Pink Ladies clique and boys joining the T-Birds.

This is the second year that Harvest Rain has toured a musical with the ensembles drawn from local schools, and the rehearsals and shows being in school holidays. As happened with last year’s Hairspray, the Newcastle shows follow those in Brisbane, with Grease being staged at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre from July 14 to 16. And as Grease is predominantly set among students at a high school, Harvest Rain has included almost 300 more young people than appeared in the first show.

Grease was written in 1972 as an amusing satirical look at low-cost 1950s films set in high schools. When the musical was filmed in 1978, with Olivia Newton-John as Sandy, extra songs were written for her, and the stage version has been adapted to include them. Meghan O’Shea said that while adult audience members were nostalgic about the rock and other numbers, younger members could connect with the characters and incidents.

Sandy and Danny meet at a resort during school holidays and are attracted to each other. But when Danny returns to school and finds that Sandy is a fellow student, things become complicated.

The Grease songs include Summer Nights, You’re the One That I Want and Greased Lightnin’. Among the other professional cast members are Cessnock Golden Guitar-winning singer Travis Collins, Jemma Rix, Lauren McKenna, Barry Conrad, Ruby Clark, Stacey de Waard, and Emily Monsma. Grease is at Newcastle Entertainment Centre on Friday, July 14, at 7.30pm, Saturday, July 15, at 2pm and 7.30pm, and Sunday, July 16, at 1pm. Tickets: $74.65 to $136.40.

Bookings: 4921 2121.

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Entertainment centre, hotel in Broadmeadow precinct plan

NEW PLAN: NSW Minister for Sport, Stuart Ayres, left, with Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter, Scot MacDonald. Mr Ayres announced a blueprint for the Hunter Sports and Entertainment Precinct at Hunter Stadium on Wednesday. PICTURE: Marina NeilTHE Berejiklian government has flagged a major overhaul of the Broadmeadow sport and entertainment precinct, unveiling plans to open upthe site for private development and redevelopthe city’s outdated entertainment centre.
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On Wednesday Sports Minister Stuart Ayres released thelong-awaited draft concept plan for the63-hectare site at Broadmeadow.

While it includes no funding commitments, the government has confirmed itplans torelocatethe Newcastle harness racing track–tipped to make way for a $20 million rugby league centre of excellence – as well as opening the door for theconstruction of a new hotel, entertainment centre and “consolidated sports facility” that could include a new aquatic centre or multi-level car park on the site.

The document, which Mr Ayres said would kick-start a three-month community consultation period, comes amid speculation that the state government has agreed to help jointly fund a$20 million rugby league centre of excellence at the site of the Newcastle International Paceway.

Mr Ayres wouldn’t confirm that on Wednesday, but said the proposal was “being considered by the government as we speak”.

The new concept plan lays out a number of potential development options which Mr Ayres said were “the start of the conversation” about the precinct’s future.

“We’ve got a canvas that has part of the painting on it but it’s by no means finished,” he said.

Part of that painting is a clear invitation for private developers to be involved in the redevelopment of the site, which is made up of state-owned land.

The 15-page plan includes a section on “commercial opportunities”, and suggests the possibility of a “small commercial development” on the corner of Lamton and Bavin Roads, “medium-rise residential” development on land at the edge of the precinct and “a tourist and business hotel” likely on the corner of Griffiths and Turton Road.

Mr Ayres also hinted that any redevelopment of the entertainment centre could be led by the private sector, and said developers needed“clear rules of play” about where they could invest.

“We don’t want to preempt or force one hand on top of the other, we don’t want to say that this has to be public and this has to be private, so it’s very important wehave a transparentconversationnow and work through a fairly diligent budget process,” he said.

None of the possible developments in the concept plan are costed, because,Mr Ayres said, it would “preempt” the views of the community.

He said developing an over-arching plan for what the community wanted would allow the government to “establish abusiness case for eachpublic sector investment required [and] secondly it allows us to talk to peoplewho might want to bring private sector development into the site”.

He also said the government wanted to hear the community’s view on the possibility of residential development on parts of the site.

“If residential [development] is part of that solution that the public and council is keen to pursue then that’s what we want to hear,” he said.

Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp said he was pleased the government had released a “co-ordinated plan”.

“With [the] government spending billions on stadiums in Sydney, it is critical that Newcastle does not miss out,” he said.

Less clear is what the government intends to do with the Newcastle Showgrounds.

The concept plan states that the Showgrounds are “underutilised”, and says the Show could be incorporated into the redeveloped precinct “just as Sydney Olympic Park was designed to be transformed into the destination of the Royal Easter Show every year”.

It states that the Newcastle Farmers Market could also be relocated “around the proposed event plaza just north of McDonald Jones Stadium.

The government has identified Broadmeadow as one of the region’s “strategic centres”, and Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter Scot MacDonald said the plan would “transform the area into a vibrant sporting and entertainment hub for Newcastle”

“These upgrades will also expand Newcastle’s growing events market, helping to boost national and international visitor numbers, creating new jobs and economic opportunities in the process,” he said.

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Kerrod Holland’s long road to NRL success

NEW HOME: Bulldogs winger Kerrod Holland, centre, celebrates after scoring a try against the North Queensland Cowboys in round 10 at ANZ Stadium. Picture: Getty ImagesJUST like former Knights teammate Nathan Ross, Bulldogs winger Kerrod Holland knows the enjoyment that comes with beating the odds to carve out an NRL career from bush football.
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Holland will come up against Ross and his boyhood team, the Knights, for the first time when Newcastle travel to Belmore Sports Ground on Sunday.

Ross and Holland, who played NSW Cup in the Knights’ premiership-winning 2015 campaign, rose to attention in Newcastle Rugby League and not through an NRL junior system. And both have recently extended their NRL contracts until at least the end of 2020.

Kerrod Holland’s long road to NRL success TweetFacebook Kerrod HollandGetty Images and Fairfax Media photosRoss, 28, played with Lakes and Kurri before getting his shot, while Holland, 24, turned his back on the Knights juniors to complete his electrical apprenticeship. He started senior football with his home club, Singleton, before joining Cessnock and catching the eye of then-NSW Cup coach Matt Lantry.

Holland worked almost seven years as an electrician while chasing his NRL dream, and the goal-kicking winger wouldn’t have had it any other way.

“It was a bit different and it was good for me, going from working and playing football, and playing against men for such a long time, it’s helped me a lot transitioning into the NRL,” Holland said. “Back playing at Cessnock, and against guys like Nathan Ross –and we all know his story.Just the journey that you can take to get there, and if you are persistent and you work hard, you can accomplish these things.

“If you don’t take the natural route, whenyou take the longer route, to get to where you want, I think it makes it more enjoyable and you get more satisfaction out of it because you know what’s on the other side of football and the hardships to get there.”

Despite the new deal, Holland has had hardships this year. He dislocated his shoulder and tore ligaments in round two and missed five games. He was then droppedbefore returning to the starting side for last week’s 21-14 loss to the Warriors.

Holland scored a try in what coach Des Hasler said was one of his best performances. He now wants to strengthen his position in the side on Sunday against the club he supported most of his life.

“I was injured earlier this year when we played up there, and I was just a week off returning,” Holland said of playing the Knights.

“It would have been nice to play in my home town.Last year I didn’t get a crack either, so this will be my first time against the blue and white …sorry, the blue and red,” he laughed.

“I’ve been really looking forward to it.Obviously I know a lot of blokes who are playing there. It’s my home town and the team I supported for my whole life really, up until the last couple of years.”

Holland said he “was the only Knights supporter at home growing up” but now the whole family cheers for the Bulldogs.

“My Dad was a Broncos supporter and he converted my brother but not me,” he said.

“I have the family come down and support me at games when they can.

“Even when we play the Broncos, my Dad and brother’s favourite team, they come down and support me and the Dogs.”

Holland said he had some interestfrom other clubs, not including the Knights, when negotiating a new contract this year but he was keen to repay the Bulldogs’faith.

He had no regrets about leaving Newcastle for Canterbury.

“The Dogs offered me fulltime and the Knights weren’t, so it was a no-brainer,” he said.

“The Dogs gave me every chance to play first grade, whereas looking back, I probably would have had an opportunity with Newcastle with all the injuries and things they’ve had the past two seasons.

“But the Dogs gave me the best opportunity so I decided to come down and get out of my comfort zone and really concentrate on playing first grade football.”

He admitted, though, it had taken some time to adjust tobig city life.

“The traffic is something you have to get used to,” he laughed.

“Just the hustle and bustle of Sydney is different for a small town country boy who’s used to knowingeveryone.

“It’s not too bad,although it was a reality check from wide open spaces and big houses to living in a little two-bedroom apartment.

“I live over in Caringbah with my partner, Emily, and there’s probably five or six of us here from the Dogs living near the beach, and it sort of reminds me of Newcastle a lot. Nice beaches and nice cafes.”

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North Korea crisis: US and South Korea fire missiles

Beijing:US President Donald Trump and his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in ordered a large live-fire missile exercise on Wednesday to send a warning to North Korea, responding to Kim Jong-un’s regime reachinga milestone by firing its first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
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The ballistic and surface to surface missile exercise came hours after China and Russia had urged the US and South Korea to stop massive military exercises on the Korean Peninsula.

“The deep strike precision capability enables the (South Korean)-US alliance to engage the full array of time critical targets under all weather conditions,” the US Army said in a statement, adding that the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) and the Republic of Korea’sHyunmooMissile II were utilised.

The joint exercise was directly in response to “North Korea’s destabilising and unlawful actions,” US Pacific Command said. The missiles used could be deployed rapidly and provide “deep strike precision capability”.

Related: Latest North Korea test puts Darwin in reach

Mr Moon’s office said North Korea’s “serious provocation” required a reaction that was more than just words.

US Secretary of State RexTillersonsaid the North Korean test was an”escalation” and vowed the US would take “stronger measures”,whichwouldbe taken to a closed door meeting of the United NationsSecurityCouncilon Wednesday.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in. Picture: Chung Sung-Jun/ Getty Images

He said any country hosting North Korean workers, or givingeconomicormilitary aid to North Korea, was aiding and abetting a dangerousregime.

“The United States strongly condemns North Korea’s launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile. … All nations should publicly demonstrate to North Korea that there are consequences to their pursuit of nuclear weapons.”

He said the US “will never accept a nuclear-armed North Korea”.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier met in Moscow and said they would become a “ballast stone for world peace and stability” and would take a combined approach to North Korea. They called for a return to negotiations with North Korea, and for North Korea to freeze its nuclear and missile activity.

But the Chinese and Russian proposal also called for the United States to halt frequent military exercises with South Korea on the Korean Peninsula, arguing the current tensions could lead to catastrophic developments.

The united Sino-Russian stance came as relations between China and the US have deteriorated in the past week, and may flag difficulty in reaching UN Security Council consensus on how to respond to the North Korean ICBM test.

The US and South Korea have repeatedly called for China to put more pressure on North Korea, and the US has previously said it would impose unilateral sanctions if China was unwilling to act.

China has halted coal imports from North Korea, but the US is believed to want China to cut its oil pipeline to also cut its oil pipeline to North Korea.

Last week the US imposed sanctions on two Chinese companies it said was dealing with North Korea. The Union of Concerned Scientists’ David Wright said it could take North Korea another year to develop a warhead for an ICBM but the regime appeared to be “well on the way”.

The Age

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The Aussie app developer who gambled his company and won

Cuda shut down his successful digital agency and risked it all on creating an App. Photo: SuppliedIt’s easy to get the impression that the world of digital media and app development is a goldmine of unfathomable wealth and opportunity.
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Every month, millionaires, and sometimes billionaires, are ordained into the order of digital magnates who made their fortune developing a killer app or digital service; one the world never knew it needed, but can now no longer live without.

But while there is no single secret to success that applies to every digital business, there are success stories. For James Cuda, founder and CEO of Savage Interactive (Si), along with his wife, Alanna – developers of iPad painting app,Procreate– his company has grown dramatically by focussing on a few simple core values.

The poster for Netflix’s Stranger Things was designed using Procreate. Photo: Facebook

Integrity and internalisation”One of our biggest values is honesty,” said Mr Cuda. “I know that sounds obvious; but honesty, not just in what we’re making, but also in who we are.”

“One of the other values is: if we do what we really love and believe in, the money is going to come. I really think that’s been the core of our rise against all odds. We don’t have any funding, no investment –everything is organic, from the App Store.”

“We have a very, very strong focus, which is actually contrary to watching the market. What we really do is internalise as much as we can about the product and focus on the customer. I think that’s been one of the biggest shielding things for us.”

Opportunity strikesRight time, right place – it’s a common metaphor for pure ol’ luck. But in the realms of business, where luck will only get you so far, preparation will take you further.

At the time that Apple launched the iPad, in April, 2010, Cuda and his team were running successful digital media agency, Savage Media. This new device took their breath away.

“From a background in the arts, being a believer in the arts – you see the iPad and think, ‘That’s going to be the next big thing that kids grow up with’,” said Mr Cuda.

Sensing this was a device on which they could make their mark, despite being risky as hell, proved an opportunity to good to pass up.

“We really wanted to do something we believed in and really wanted to do,” said Mr Cuda. “So, we did something crazy; we shut down the company and four of us went on to start Savage Interactive.”

James and Alanna Cuda took a risk on a new product. Photo: Facebook

The lure of the CaribbeanDespite the offer of dump trucks full of cash, the ever-present lure of Silicon Valley and the chance to mingle with the captains of digital industry is a carrot Cuda has so far ignored. So, why would he stay in Tasmania when he could be driving across the Golden Gate bridge in a shiny Lamborghini to grab a coffee in Sausalito every morning before work?

“We’ve had some offers to move out here [Silicon Valley], but, for me, the long game is too important,” said Mr Cuda. “I believe in Tasmania; when I first moved there, it was vibrant with arts. You’d walk into artist studios in Salamanca Place and it was beautiful. It’s a very creative place; a very special place.”

“In software, more often than not, you hear about how so-and-so sold out and he’s now sailing on the Caribbean, but I’m looking for something much, much bigger. I’m making a concerted effort to internalise people, either to come to Tassie or find them in Tassie, because that’s a bit of honesty there.”

Who could blame the man, really. With international icons such as MONA, the annual Dark Mofo festival and a vibrant arts community, Savage is just one of many creative companies that have flourished in Tasmania’s truly inspiring creative scene.

Keys to the kingdomThrow a stone in Silicon Valley and chances are you’ll strike a company that began life as a passion project in a garage somewhere in the world. For those looking to make their mark in digital and move to ‘the valley’, Cuda has some sage advice.

“In the first year or so, it’s going to be really bloody hard,” said Mr Cuda. “Really, really bloody hard. Like, REALLY hard. You might have to put your house on the line, you know. Nobody’s going to be there to help you, so you just have to push through that. Even when you have success, it’s going to get bad again, so you have to have that tenacity to push through.”

“The second thing is, from my point of view: do it for the love of it. When you really love the product, when you really believe in the product, you’ll kind of figure everything else out. But if you go into it looking for an angle, you’ll get eaten in this market.”

For a digital project that started out in his bedroom, in Old Beach, Hobart, Procreate has now become a digital creative wonder that has captured the attention of creatives the world over –all thanks to unstoppable amounts of passion, tenacity and honesty.

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Leaders bow out in blaze of glory

Maitland councillors are basking in the gloryof their extendedterm in office with some glowing achievements documented in council’s end of term report including more than $100million in capital works and the approval of 3500 development applications.
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The report was presented to a recent meeting and outlined the many highlights during the incumbent council’s almost five-year reign.

Impressive city’s gains were made despite councillors thrown into limbo with the State’sthreat of council amalgamations.

Impressive achievements were made in events, infrastructure, community programs, population growth, capital works, affordable housing, tourism and environmental projects.

The End of Term Report is formally presented to the outgoing council and is a precursor for the review of the plan Maitland +10 by the incoming council.

The report touched on the number of people moving to the city,and said theconvenience of the city’s location coupled with a wide range of housing choices, from heritage to modern designs in new and growing suburbs were part of the appeal.

The city’s population (77,305) is growing at about two per cent each year.

A total of 600 people chose to become Australian citizens through ceremonies in Maitland Park.

“Our built heritage is what attracts many newcomers to the city.

“The blend of old and new is much valued by the people who call Maitland home,” the report said.

A series of successful flagship events saw more than 300,000 people visit the city.

This was reflected in the growth in visitor numbers to Maitland Regional Art Gallery which totalled more than 880,000 since it reopened in 2009.

In terms of economic growth tourism brought more than $25million to the local economy in one year alone, the report said.

The number of businesses in the area experienced a nine per cent increase between 2014 and 2016 taking the total number of businesses to 5145.

Council delivered more than $100million in capital works during the current term. It alsoapproved about3500 development applications andabout $1billion indevelopments.

TELL US WHAT YOU THINK:TheMercurywelcomes your letters. Please email your thoughts [email protected]南京夜网.auor join our online Facebook community atfacebook南京夜网/maitlandmercuryThis story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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The Maitland family named best Celtic band

String Loaded: Jenny, Ray, Livvy and Gabi Blissett. Picture: Simone De PeakMusic must be in their blood. Sitting with mum Jenny Blissett and her teenage daughters Gabi and Livvy in theAshtonfield kitchen drinking tea and biscuits on a winter’s afternoon, the conversation never veers from music over 90 minutes.
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All three are engaged in the chat, frequently echoing one another’s comments, or finishing a sentence. The only person missing is dad, Ray, who’s been caught up with work at the Greenhills law office where he’s employed. But don’t worry, he’s part of all the stories they tell about their music adventure which started long ago.

In early June their family band, String Loaded, a bonafide Celtic fiddle band (the girls play fiddles, mum plays an Irish drum –bodhran, dad plays guitar) played a three-hour set at the Blue Water Country Music Festival in Port Stephens. They had been preparing a special list for several weeks, a mixture of their traditional Celtic music and some bluegrass classics. The grand finale featured Gabi and Livvy as duelling fiddles in a scorching version of The Devil Went Down to Georgia.

It went down a treat in front of a crowd of about 300. And they weren’t even the headliner –Beccy Cole was the main attraction.

The show was indicative not only of the preparation the Blissetts put into a show, but the fun they have performing.

“We take people on a journey,” Jenny Blissett says. “Scotland, Ireland, the Shetland Islands, Scandanavia . . . and we do bluegrass as well.”

Ray and Jenny met in Tamworth, where they both attendedMcCarthy Catholic College. They began dating in Year 12 and then attended the University of New England together, playing in various cover bands to earn money along the way. Jenny studied science, Ray studied music (piano), returning to university later to get a law degree.

“My grandmother was very Scottish,” Jenny says. “I’d grown up with all this bagpipe music and Scottish music she made us listen to. Ray’s grandfather was Irish, and he played and sang Irish tunes all the way through Ray’s childhood.”

When the couple moved to Newcastle in 1997 and then began to raise a family, it was inevitable their offspringwould play music.

“They’ve been playing since they were four and three,” Jenny says of Gabi and Livvy. “They were going to play an instrumentno matter what.”

The were introduced to learning through the Suzuki method on classical violin. And have virtually lived a dual musical identity –classical violinist through learning and school, and Celtic fiddler player through tradition and performance –ever since.

They are leading classical musicians at Hunter Valley Grammar School, where they both attend on scholarship.

The day starts at 6.30am every day in the Blissett home where the girlsspend an hour practising violin. They play so much they have sporting-type injuries. Gabi had six weeks off playing last year when she developed RSI in her right arm (her bow arm).

“It was so hard, I couldn’t touch the violin,” she says. “I had a cortisone injection, acupuncture . . . it’s full-on, especially how I play. We really get into it.”

While the family band, String Loaded, plays only for entertainment value, the girls are equally respected on that stage for their fiddle talent.

Six years ago the Blissetts were busking at the Newcastle City Farmers Markets. And then people began asking them to play at birthday parties and weddings. And then they encouraged to play at the Tamworth Country Music Festival, and the Bundanoon Highland Gathering and . . . and . . .

This year the girls played at the opening ceremony of the Woodford Folk Festival, a world-class event on a dedicated property 70 kilometres north-west of Brisbane. They played on stage in front of a crowd of more than 120,000; and then every night as part of music virtuoso Andrew Clermont’s Supper Club band.

“It was a like a sanctuary,” Gabi says. “It was amazing. We got to meet and see all these musicians. There were heaps of stages. We saw real folk music guys, Klezmer guys. All these people who had enthusiasm for different styles of music.”

“It was total isolation,” Livvy says. “On the bus on the way to the show, someone said turn off the news.”

The Blissetts commitment to music, and making music for fun and entertainment, has been bred into their children. At their young age, they already have so many vividmusical memories.

The first time they attended the Australian Celtic Festival in Glen Innes, they decided to playIrish Washerwoman, a traditional jig that gradually gets faster and faster then suddenly ends. Scottish fiddle legend and teacher Colin Macleod was in the crowd, and he started crying.

“That’s when we thought, ‘this is so amazing’,” Jenny says. “He was so enthusiastic the girls should keep doing this.

“Older people are worried the music is going to die out because there are not enough young people doing it.”

In January 2013 Ray and Jenny took the girls to Scotland for the first time. They stayed on the Orkney Islands, off the north-east coast of Scotland in the North Sea, where the girls attended a fiddle school run by the Wrigley Sisters.

“For a whole week, we stayed and listened, as they talked about the fairies, the superstitionsand the stories around how they use the music,” Jenny says. “You know, music they played in their kitchens, they played in their loungerooms, they had dances all the time, that’s how the community would come together. And the fiddle was the instrument.

“So they taughtus tunes, but mostly they talked.”

Part of the show you get when String Loaded perform is that Jenny introduces almost every song with a story about its history and what was going on at the time the tune was created. One such story comes with the song,King George IV,about King George IV’s trip to Scotland in the early 1800s. The kilt had been banned in Scotland by the English after the Battle of Culloden in 1745, but the partying King George IV held a ball and encouraged the kilt to be worn, bringing it back into favour.

“And that’s the sort of thing we do, we tell stories and make it come alive,” Jenny says.

At the Bundanoon Highland Gathering in the Southern Highlands the band was approached by Jimmy Barnes, a proud Scotsman if ever there was one. He asked them to play at his daughter Elly-May’s wedding, and so they did in August last year.

They’ve been regulars at the Tamworth Country Music Festival for years, working their way up after five years of popular busking to a regular shopping centre gig. Next year’s Tamworth schedule is already planned: mornings playing as String Loaded, afternoons as part of fiddle virtuoso Pixie Jenkins band, and evenings with Andrew Clermont’s band.

The hard work and dedication has paid off. The girls have been able to put money in the bank, and the band has won accolades, notably taking home four awards at the Australian Celtic Music Awards in May, winningBest Celtic Instrumental for Morrison’s Jig, Celtic Album of the Year for Beggars & Butterflies, Celtic Group of the Year and the main prize, Celtic Artist of the Year.

Yet, the girls maintain a healthy perspective about the music and success.

“We have a classical world and a folk music world,” says Livvy, who also gets credit for naming the family band.

“Music will be part of our lives, but not as a career,” Gabi says.

“We’ve seen the music industry, and it’s so hard. We’ve seen these amazing musicians, who are just incredible. Because of technology and the internet, the whole industryhas gone downhill. It just gets really hard as an adult. We’re academic, we’re both interested in science . . .We havelots of options.”

The public playing experience has given the girls a maturity beyond their years. They are used to talking to adults –about music, history, the emotions of music. They’ve already played as equal with some of the most talented people in the country.

And they respect the music they play, and where it came from.

“I’d really miss it if we didn’t play Celtic, becausethe Celtic world has really affected how Iplay classical,” Gabi says.“I can perform, Iknow how to settle my nerves.

“I have a different mindset to all the other kids who do classical because Ithink ‘this is fun, I’ve got to make it as entertaining as possible’. I’d really miss Celtic if Ijust had classical. It makes everything fun.”

(String Loaded play the Maitland Tattoo on July 29 at Maitland Town Hall.)

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Spider-Man and Iron Man come to the rescue at Hamilton newsagencyPHOTOS, VIDEO, POLL

Spider-Man and Iron Man come to the rescue at Hamilton newsagency | PHOTOS, VIDEO, POLL Spider-Man and Iron Man raised money at the Beaumont Street newsagency.
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Spider-Man and Iron Man at Heroes and More Wallsend.

Suit Up: Fans get in costume for the premiere of Spider-Man: Homecoming in Seoul.

Director Jon Watts, Jacob Batalon and Tom Holland attend the Spider-Man: Homecoming premiere in Seoul.

Spider-Man star Tom Holland.

TweetFacebook“Wealmost raisedback what was stolen,” Simon said.

Simon said a Newcastle business “could help out and maybe contribute a donation and have these two superheroes drop by their business during the week for some super pics for a great cause”.

Running a superhero business seems to have given Simon the superhero spirit. As Spider-Man himself once said: “With great power comes great responsibility”.

Spidy Gets EmotionalThe actor who plays Spider-Man, Tom Holland,tracked initialreactions to the film on social media, getting emotional at the positive feedback.

Tom Holland.

“I have been on Twitter and it’s been blowing my mind. I woke up this morning and nearly cried. I genuinely nearly had tears falling down my face,” he said.

The Dark SideTopics published a picture on Saturday of a Darth Vader mask attached to a Central Coast Council truck.

Darth Vader doesn’t actually have yellow eyes. Topics has that on good authority.

We were a bit confused with the yellow eyes, though.Shouldn’t Vader have red eyes, we wondered.

Glen Fredericks, owner of Empire Coffee Co at Honeysuckle and a Star Wars devotee, was at the ready with the answer.

“The lenses of his helmet are tinted black.”

Glen then proceeded to give us a “few random Darth Vader bits of trivia”.

Here they are:James Earl Jones and David Prowse, who play the voice and body of Darth Vader respectively, have never met;When Vader crushes the neck of Captain Antilles, the actual sound you hear is of walnut shells being crushed; Whileit seems like Vader isthe movie’s antagonist, he only has a screen time of 12 minutes.

This is why we like Glen. He understands Topics. We’reall about random bits of trivia.

Fluoride in the WaterConspiracy theories have been floating around for years about fluoride in our water supply.

NSW Shadow Health Minister Walt Secord has sent out a press release that shoots down the claims.

Walt said a federal report into water fluoridation had totally rejected“the lies spread by the anti-fluoride activists in regional NSW”.

Topics isn’t sure whether there areanti-fluoride activists in the Hunter, but Walt called outthose on the North Coast and in Bega down south.

He said thereportfound that water fluoridation at current Australian levels reduces the occurrence and severity of tooth decay and wasnot associated with cognitive dysfunction, lowered IQ, cancer, hip fracture and Down syndrome.

It also found “no reliable evidence of an association between water fluoridation at current Australian levels and chronic kidney disease, kidney stones, heart disease and high blood pressure, low birth weight, mortality, certain muscle and skeletal effects andthyroid function”.

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Here’s hoping fare’s fair in future

GET ON BOARD: A revamped privatised public transport system promises to move Newcastle into a bright new future.SIMON WALKER: That’s Life archive
Nanjing Night Net

The privatisation of Newcastle buses and ferries kicked in last Friday night.

French company Keolis Downer now runs the show under the business name “Sacré Bleu”, I mean Newcastle Transport.

The same company will also operate the light rail once it’s up and rolling.

Privatisation has been cautiouslywelcomed by the NSW Rail, Tram and Bus Union, which applauds the offer of ongoing employment to members for the next five years on the same terms and conditions.

And fair enough. But as a commuter I wonder where all this change is heading?

“Revenue” springs to mind as Newcastle Transport announced the introduction offare compliance officers.

Bus drivers will tell you it’s been a problem since Opal cards were introduced,and that Keolis hasn’t taken on running the busesout of the goodness of its heart.

A period of re-education is coming, starting with “you’re supposed to pay”.

Upheaval may be another outcome.

A free bus trip along Hunter Street on any particular day is already pretty stimulating.

Abolishing that, as is mooted, willsurely add to the colour and movement.

Having to pay on light rail will send a further shiver up the hip pocket nerve, even if you have money.

Particularly if you’ve had to pay for the bus ride to the new Wickham transport interchange.

It’s a little unclear at the moment, but will commuters coming into town be expectedto get off the bus at the interchange and pay again for the light rail up town?

It already costs you $4.50 one-way to come in from, say,Belmont, but at least it gets you all the way.

Times $4.50 by two for the return trip ($9) and then that by five for the working week ($45) and you start to look for reasons why you wouldn’t take the car.

Apart from saving the planet, the most pertinent is the cost of parking, which continues to rise along with apartments aroundHoneysuckle.

The current minimum sling is around $8 a day, but with the squeeze on space inevitable, that cost is sure to climb.

Parking in nearby suburban streets, where meters don’t exist, yet, and walking to work, has been a natural reaction.

But it’s only a matter of time before those streets are saturated too and economics point you back to public transport.

What then from our privatised masters as we hit the price tipping point?

Profit and cop it? Or mass transit with public amenity?

“A more reliable and efficient public transport system will create a network that is attractive to new users,”Keolis CEO Campbell Mason said last December when the light rail changes were announced.

“We have been working closely with the Newcastle community for some time, and we will continue to do so as we design a network that locals want.”

Most locals won’t want a network that makes it more economic to use a car.

If the goal is to get more people on public transport my hope is they settle on an “all you can eat”-type fare.

Say, $30 week for as many bus and light rail trips as you like to anywhere on the system.

It’s hardly standing room only on the buses, and jacking prices up won’t fix that.

If they go for volume and affordability over squeezing us dry, users will pay.

It might even reassure the public that change has been for their benefit all along.

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