Family’s plea to find missing Garywho vanished from Sydney’s east

Gary Moana Payne had been staying with his aunt in Sydney’s eastern suburbs when he walked out of the front door one day with a mystery man.
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That was 13 years ago. The New Zealand man has not been seen or heard from since that day.

After years of not knowing what happened to their loved one, Mr Payne’s family are hoping a member of the public can shed some light on what happened after he left his aunt’s house in Matraville in January 2001.

Mr Payne was 37 when he disappeared and, if he is still alive, would have turned 50 this year.

“Mr Payne’s family in his native New Zealand are at a loss to explain his disappearance,” said Detective Inspector Stacey Maloney, crime manager at the Eastern Beaches Local Area Command.

“It has been over 13 years and that is a long time to worry about a loved one. They just want to know where he is.”

Police have not been able to identify the man who was with Mr Payne when he left his aunt’s home, or whether that man can provide any clues about Mr Payne’s disappearance.

One report made to Crime Stoppers suggested that Mr Payne may have been living in Perth in Western Australia.

But Detective Inspector Maloney said that line of inquiry had been ”exhausted.”

“Inquiries with other agencies have yielded no information as to Mr Payne’s whereabouts or his activities,” Detective Inspector Maloney said.

Mr Payne is described as being of Pacific Islander/Maori appearance, about 181 centimetres tall with a large build, short dark brown hair and brown eyes.

Police have urged anyone with information about Mr Payne’s disappearance to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or use the Crime Stoppers online reporting page.

Alicia Molik confident ahead of Fed Cup tie

Australian captain Alicia Molik believes she has the team to reach the nation’s first Fed Cup decider since Liz Smylie, Wendy Turnbull and Anne Minter lost the 1984 decider to Czechoslovakia, with Sam Stosur to lead off the semi-final against Germany in Brisbane on Saturday.
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Stosur will attempt a reprise of her 2012 defeat of German No.2 Andrea Petkovic in the 2012 qualifying tie on clay in Stuttgart when the hardcourt fixture begins on Pat Rafter Arena. Casey Dellaqua will then play world No.7 Angelique Kerber in the second match, with the reverse singles, and doubles scheduled for Sunday.

“I think we can win,” said Molik, who predictably nominated three-time grand slam finalists Dellaqua and Ash Barty as her combination to play Julia Goerges and Anna-Lena Groenefeld in the fifth rubber.

“As per the last time Australia played Germany, it will be very clear in the Germans’ minds that Sam had the edge, so I think as an opponent it’s always difficult going into a match knowing that you lost the last encounter, so I’m hoping that they remember those matches very clearly.

“And if you look at matches won over the last four or five months, I think Casey would almost be leading the charge out of both teams with the amount of matches that she’s been able to put together, both through qualifying, main draw, and she had a big summer, played a lot of challengers, a lot of matches, so you can’t buy that time on the match court and that’s something that I’ll make sure that I remind Casey of tomorrow.

“But we’ve got the team to win. No doubt about that.”

Stosur, ranked 19th after a lean start to the season, said the Australians did not feel burdened by the weight of history, despite having not won the female equivalent of the higher-profile Davis Cup since Evonne Goolagong Cawley inspired a 2-1 defeat of the US in 1974.

“I don’t think that’s going to be a crucial factor that’s going to make us any more nervous or feel more pressure,” said Stosur, the former US Open champion. “Obviously we would love to break that drought, but we’re going to go out there and play just as we would if we were in the final last year. So it’s not going to, I don’t think, determine how good or bad we do, but of course we would like to get through to that final.”

Vixens trying to get on right track at home

By discussing it, coach Simone McKinnis does not want to overstate its significance, but here are the facts: four of the Melbourne Vixens’ five wins this season have come on the road, and both their losses have been at home. A: Why? B: What needs to be done?
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Last year, when a similar pattern was emerging, there was talk of spending the pre-game night together in a Melbourne hotel, to simulate the team bonding that happens routinely when the Vixens travel. This week, the subject was discussed after the last leg of a timely treble of away victories, and before Saturday’s meeting with the defending champion Adelaide Thunderbirds. At Hisense Arena. Home.

Part of captain Bianca Chatfield’s theory is that road trips give semi-professional netballers – the majority of whom combine their sport with a day job – the chance to channel their full-time inner athlete. There are no meals to prepare, bosses to placate, or obligations to juggle, which leaves the focus purely on preparation and performance. At home, real life distractions can sometimes intrude.

“Yes, it is a bit like that,” agreed McKinnis. “And we spoke the other night about the fact that when we do get together on Saturday just to be really mindful right from the word go about being together and working together like we would be if we were somewhere else. It’s hard, it’s tricky, actually. I’ve sort of been thinking about it a bit this week.

“It’s difficult to put the finger on [the reason], But, also, we don’t want to make a big deal, an issue, out of it. Everybody’s mindful that the preparation and everything has to be spot on this week, like every week … So, yeah, a big game for us this Saturday.”

And a big week for the five Vixens selected in the preliminary Commonwealth games squad for Glasgow, including seven-gamer Liz Watson, while former Diamonds’ vice-captain Cath Cox played an exceptional second half in Sunday’s late charge past the NSW Swifts that returned the Vixens to the top of the ladder. The Thunderbirds, in contrast, have logged three consecutive losses for the first time in their ANZ Championship history, while losing wing attack Leigh Waddington to a season-ending knee injury and failing to quite cover the off-season departure of key defender Sharni Layton.

Midcourter Emily Beaton has been sidelined throughout with a foot injury, and veteran Wendy Jacobsen was drafted from the Victorian Netball League for the upset loss to the West Coast Fever in the T-birds’ last start. McKinnis is unsure whether Beaton will return in this, round eight, and also whether Adelaide coach Jane Woodlands-Thompson will opt for Kate Shimmin or Sam Poolman at goal keeper.

What she knows, however, is that, regardless of recent results, the team that beat the Vixens twice in 2014 – including by 10 goals in last year’s major semi-final – will provide formidable opposition. “It’s always just really tough,” McKinnis said. “They’ve had the bye and it would be hurting them that they’ve had those three losses. You know they’re always going to be really well-prepared, and we really do need to put out the quality of netball that we have in the last couple of weeks, and even more so.”

The past three have steadied the Vixens’ season after successive stumbles against the Firebirds and Magic, but the eye-catcher was last week’s stirring 56-50 overhaul of the Swifts after trailing at every change, and by nine during the third quarter. “I was super-pleased about that win in terms of what we learnt about ourselves as a team and what we’re capable of.” McKinnis said. “To be put in a really challenging position – anybody watching would have said ‘we’re gone’, and we could easily have been gone – and pull back from that and to do it so well, and to then pull away with the game, it says a lot about the guts and determination and just the team spirit, and that’s why I really enjoyed that win.

“It was back towards what we are capable of and what we should be putting out there … I mean, Swifts were playing really good netball, yet we were still able to just keep going at our job. There was nothing magical about what we did, it was just plugging away at our game and we got ourselves back into it.”

Gene increases meat-eaters’ cancer risk

Gene factor: Study finds gene increases risk of developing bowel cancer from eating processed meats. Photo: SuppliedOne in three people carry a gene that significantly raises the risk of developing bowel cancer from eating processed meat, new research shows.
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While it was already known that eating processed meat increased a person’s risk of developing bowel cancer, the study, published in the journal PLOS Genetics on Friday, found that for people who carry a common genetic variant, eating processed meat carries an even higher risk than for those who do not carry the gene.

Bowel cancer is the second most common cancer in both men and women in Australia. One in 10 Australian men and one in 15 Australian women will be diagnosed with bowel cancer by the time they reach 85. Almost 4000 Australians died of bowel cancer in 2011.

One of the researchers, Li Hsu, of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Centre in Seattle, said the discovery provided “an important new insight into disease development”.

Another of the researchers, Jane Figueiredo from the University of Southern California, said the discovery could lead to more targeted cancer prevention strategies.

“Diet is a modifiable risk factor for colourectal cancer,” Dr Figueiredo said. “Our study is the first to understand whether some individuals are at higher or lower risk based on their genomic profile.”

About 30 genetic variants that make a person more susceptible to bowel cancer have been pinpointed throughout the genome. The study, which involved more than 18,000 patients from Australia, the US, Canada and Europe, is the first large-scale, genome-wide analysis of genetic variants and dietary patterns. Researchers searched 2.7 million genetic variants to identify those linked with the consumption of meat, fibre and fruit and vegetables.

Exactly how specific foods affect the activities of genes has not been established.

The researchers said a “plausible though speculative” explanation for its findings was that processed meat triggered an inflammatory or immunological response.

Wikipedia hits help track flu spread

Researchers saw a correlation between traffic to flu-related pages on Wikipedia and subsequent reports of illness by the Centres for Disease Control. Photo: David J. McIver, John S. BrownsteinThe number of hits recorded on Wikipedia articles could track the spread of flu and other illnesses faster than existing systems, research says.
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Researchers in the United States have developed a highly accurate computer model for estimating levels of flu-like illness in the American population by analysing internet traffic on flu-related Wikipedia articles.

The research, published in PLOS Computational Biology on Friday, found the Wikipedia-based model estimated flu levels up to two weeks sooner than data from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention became available. The Wikipedia-based model was also more accurate at estimating the timing of peak flu activity than Google Flu Trends, a service developed by the internet search giant that draws on Google search queries.

Google Flu Trends has been found to be susceptible to error at times when there is heavy media coverage of the flu, such as during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic and during the unusually severe 2012-13 northern-hemisphere flu season.

But the researchers found their Wikipedia-based model performed well even during these times. Over 294 weeks of data, the average difference between the estimate from the Wikipedia-based model and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention data was just 0.27 per cent.

Currently the United States monitors flu cases by collecting data from almost 3000 healthcare providers, but this comes with a lag of up to two weeks, hampering efforts to distribute vaccines, staff and other healthcare resources to where they are most needed.

The researchers, David McIver and John Brownstein of Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, said they hoped their Wikipedia-based model could help overcome this problem.

“Each influenza season provides new challenges and uncertainties to both the public as well as the public health community,” the researchers said. “We’re hoping that with this new method of influenza monitoring, we can harness publicly available data to help people get accurate, near-real time information about the level of disease burden in the population.”

The researchers acknowledged a limitation of their model was that it was unable to identify whether article visitors were located in the United States or in other English speaking countries such as Australia, because Wikipedia did not make this information readily available.

Between 250,000 and 500,000 people die worldwide each year from the flu.

The researchers said a similar method could be used to monitor other health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes or sexually transmitted infections.

Robert de Castella urges funding makeover after Melissa Breen suffers second snub

Melissa Breen, the fastest woman in Australian history, received just $4000 in Athletics Australia’s latest round of funding. Photo: Katherine GriffithsFormer world champion marathon runner Robert de Castella has urged Athletics Australia to increase the amount it invests in developing athletes after sprinter Melissa Breen missed out on substantial funding.
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Breen, the fastest woman in Australian history, received just $4000 – a third of the funding she was expected to receive – when AA released additions to its National Athlete Support Structure on Thursday.

AA wants to see Breen become more consistent on the international stage and threaten her own national record time of 11.11 seconds at a major competition such as the Commonwealth Games or world championships.

After Breen had received less than expected from AA, wealthy businesswoman Susan Alberti came to her aid for the second time in a matter of months – writing a cheque for $5000 after previously donating $12,000.

De Castella said that AA should reconsider its funding model to reward those athletes who need assistance the most while those already at the top have incomes from other sources.

”I don’t think four grand is enough to support these young, developing athletes,” De Castella said.

”A lot of the top athletes are on shoe contracts and getting funding from other sources, but it’s the ones who are in the category that Mel is at the moment who need the support to help them to get up to that next level.

“I’d really hope Athletics Australia are watching her closely and she demonstrates a bit more consistency and they will quickly recognise her and support her because we need some more good female sprinters.”

Breen is on the third-tier of funding of the national athlete support scheme at Commonwealth Games level, two ranks below the world class and international levels.

That is despite Breen having met the required time for the international standard of 11.21 seconds.

Paralympic Games gold medallist and world champion Evan O’Hanlon described the entire funding model as ”a token gesture to all of their athletes”.

“Everybody deserves more money across the board,” O’Hanlon said.

“You’ve got athletes like Mel who are running Australian records and are getting thrown a little side piece of meat.

”It’s not good for the broader image of the sport and not good for the athletes who are on the edge because they don’t feel like that they’re valued.”

Player power worries Capital Football

Capital Football boss Heather Reid has described the sacking of Matildas coach Hesterine de Reus as ”quite distressing” in a blow to increasing the amount of women coaches and officials in the game.
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De Reus was removed from her position on Thursday after 15 months in charge as a result of Football Federation Australia holding a review into several complaints made by national team players.

Interim coach Alen Stajic will be one of the favourites to take on the gig full-time, along with former Australian women’s coach Tom Sermanni, while experienced American April Heinrichs and Canberra United championship winner Jitka Klimkova are among those in contention if the FFA prefers a woman.

Reid – the only woman chief executive of a state or territory association in Australia – said getting rid of de Reus set a bad example for trying to get more women in the game.

“That’s what is quite distressing for me personally,” Reid said.

”Here we are trying to do our bit to increase the appointment of female coaches who are qualified and based on merit, and yet female players have largely brought undone the career and reputation of a highly competent and professional coach in Hesterine de Reus.

”Women coaching in Australia have been wary for some time and many former players have been overlooked when blokes have been put in for those jobs.”

De Reus was appointed to the role despite Matildas players sending a letter to the FFA before her appointment preferring to have a male coach.

Czech international Klimkova was considered to be the next-best option behind de Reus at that time after guiding Canberra to the 2011-12 W-League title.

Klimkova’s contract as coach of the New Zealand women’s under-17 team expires in September.

Canberra has had two women coaches in the past three seasons – Klimkova and Dutchwoman Elisabeth Migchelsen.

Reid said the key was ensuring the correct support and management structures were in place to deal with any issues immediately.

“If there were complaints about any of our coaches, whether it was Lis or Jitka or previously Ray [Junna], I would expect those complaints be dealt with in a fair and honest manner,” Reid said.

“We would sit down and discuss with the players and the staff and try and mediate our way through this, and I’m not sure this process has been put in place by the FFA.

”We’ve had issues with some of the support coaches, and we’ve dealt with those issues as well as possible.”

Gallen could be back to tackle SBW

Back for the Sharks … Paul Gallen may play against the Roosters on Saturday.Cronulla captain Paul Gallen could make a shock early return against the Sydney Roosters on Saturday.
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In a development sure to be welcomed by NSW coach Laurie Daley, Gallen could be back from an ankle injury two weeks earlier than originally planned. The Blues skipper was scheduled to return for the round nine clash against Parramatta but is hopeful of taking on the premiers at Remondis Stadium.

The inspirational backrower trained with the team on Good Friday and will be assessed by the medical staff prior to kick off. Should he pull up without any discomfort, he will be cleared to partake in a salivating personal duel with Roosters star Sonny Bill Williams.

“He’s a quick healer and it’s going to be hard to hold him back,” an insider said. “It all depends on how he pulls up tomorrow.

“He’ll be the man making the final call and you know Gal will be doing everything possible to get back.”

Gallen suffered the injury in the opening loss to the Gold Coast and the Sharks have struggled in his absence. The Shire club is in last position on the ladder, having won only one of their opening six matches. An early return will also be welcomed by the Blues, who have been decimated by injuries to key players. Hooker and vice captain Robbie Farah is in doubt for Origin I due to an elbow problem, while another NSW certainty, Shark Luke Lewis, is also sidelined.

The Sharks were hoping to welcome back another key forward, Anthony Tupou, from the casualty ward. However, he had a setback at training during the week and is more likely to return the following week against Penrith. Winger Beau Ryan is also likely to be available for selection against the Panthers.

There could be other changes to the Sharks line up, with Michael Lichaa tipped to replace hooker Isaac De Gois on the bench. It was thought Lichaa may not play for the club again after pledging his allegiance to the Bulldogs from next year. Lichaa made his NRL debut earlier this year but was banished to the NSW Cup for an apparent lack of loyalty.

A cloud remains over the long-term future of Test prop Andrew Fifita but the Sharks are hopeful he could re-sign in coming weeks.

The Roosters are also desperate to for a win to kickstart their premiership defence, notching just one more win than the Sharks to sit outside the top eight.

Royal visit: Royal Easter Show – day 3

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge wowed the crowds at Sydney’s Royal Easter Show on Good Friday. Pic: Wolter Peeters/Fairfax Media The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge wowed the crowds at Sydney’s Royal Easter Show on Good Friday. Pic: Wolter Peeters/Fairfax Media
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The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge wowed the crowds at Sydney’s Royal Easter Show on Good Friday. Pic: Wolter Peeters/Fairfax Media

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge wowed the crowds at Sydney’s Royal Easter Show on Good Friday. Pic: Wolter Peeters/Fairfax Media

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge wowed the crowds at Sydney’s Royal Easter Show on Good Friday. Pic: Wolter Peeters/Fairfax Media

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge wowed the crowds at Sydney’s Royal Easter Show on Good Friday. Pic: Wolter Peeters/Fairfax Media

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge wowed the crowds at Sydney’s Royal Easter Show on Good Friday. Pic: Wolter Peeters/Fairfax Media

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge wowed the crowds at Sydney’s Royal Easter Show on Good Friday. Pic: Wolter Peeters/Fairfax Media

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge wowed the crowds at Sydney’s Royal Easter Show on Good Friday. Pic: Wolter Peeters/Fairfax Media

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge wowed the crowds at Sydney’s Royal Easter Show on Good Friday. Pic: Wolter Peeters/Fairfax Media

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge wowed the crowds at Sydney’s Royal Easter Show on Good Friday. Pic: Wolter Peeters/Fairfax Media

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge wowed the crowds at Sydney’s Royal Easter Show on Good Friday. Pic: Wolter Peeters/Fairfax Media

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge wowed the crowds at Sydney’s Royal Easter Show on Good Friday. Pic: Wolter Peeters/Fairfax Media

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge wowed the crowds at Sydney’s Royal Easter Show on Good Friday. Pic: Wolter Peeters/Fairfax Media

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge wowed the crowds at Sydney’s Royal Easter Show on Good Friday. Pic: Wolter Peeters/Fairfax Media

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge wowed the crowds at Sydney’s Royal Easter Show on Good Friday. Pic: Wolter Peeters/Fairfax Media

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge wowed the crowds at Sydney’s Royal Easter Show on Good Friday. Pic: Wolter Peeters/Fairfax Media

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge wowed the crowds at Sydney’s Royal Easter Show on Good Friday. Pic: Wolter Peeters/Fairfax Media

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge wowed the crowds at Sydney’s Royal Easter Show on Good Friday. Pic: Wolter Peeters/Fairfax Media

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge wowed the crowds at Sydney’s Royal Easter Show on Good Friday. Pic: Wolter Peeters/Fairfax Media

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge wowed the crowds at Sydney’s Royal Easter Show on Good Friday. Pic: Wolter Peeters/Fairfax Media

Vet hospital plans for old Morpeth post office

VENERATED: Morpeth Post Office, built in 1880.THE historic Morpeth Post Office will be used as a veterinary hospital if Maitland councillors vote in favour of the proposal at a council meeting next week.
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A development application has been submitted that proposes to make small alterations to the inside of the existing building and erect signage outside it.

Williams River Veterinary would occupy the building and have one vet and two staff members at the clinic.

The zoning does not allow a veterinary business to operate, but council can approve the proposal if the owners meet specific criteria.

The building is listed as a heritage item under the Local Environment Plan and is within the Morpeth Heritage Conservation Area.

The ground floor would be used for consultations, surgery and animal hospitalisation, while upstairs would be used for storage, and the former mail room would be used to store animal drugs.

Two residents objected to the proposal with concerns about noise, traffic, parking and disabled access.

Tony and Lisa Amity said their bedroom was about 40metres away from the room where animals would be kept overnight.

They were concerned ‘‘barking or distressed animals’’ could disrupt their sleep during the night and affect their health and wellbeing.

Council officers concluded in their report that the issues were not significant enough to refuse the application, and have recommended that it be approved.

The business would operate between 8am and 6pm Monday to Friday and 8am to 2pm on Saturday, and five car spaces would be included at the rear.

The post office was built in 1880 and was operational from 1881 to 2010.

Pensioner ire over Cardiff train station parking

A 70-YEAR-OLD woman says Cardiff railway station needs a multi-level car park, after she received a $101 parking fine on a recent visit.
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Barbara and Warren Loades, of Belmont North, caught the train to meet friends in Sydney.

‘‘Thank God they put the elevator at the station – they want you to go there, but where the bloody hell do you park?’’ Mrs Loades said.

They parked on a grass verge in the station car park.

‘‘It was at the end of a row of parked cars,’’ she said.

‘‘There weren’t any no-parking signs there and the space looked well used.’’

Mrs Loades had initially looked elsewhere for a parking space, but the only spots were a distance away in steep areas.

Mrs Loades said the fine wasn’t cheap.

‘‘We are pensioners,’’ she said.

Four other cars parked on the verge were fined that day, she said.

‘‘What a nice little earner for Lake Macquarie council.

‘‘I would like to make other train travellers aware of this revenue-raising,’’ she said, adding she hoped ‘‘the council will be putting all this revenue into more parking’’.

A council statement said ‘‘all revenue collected from parking fines goes into council’s general revenue stream’’.

It said vehicles must be parked in marked bays.

‘‘That area around Cardiff station car park is renowned for illegal parking, which causes significant concern for local residents and other car park users.

‘‘Regular patrols are carried out in the car park and surrounding streets.’’

The Newcastle Herald reported last month that the council had agreed to sell the car park to the state government for $1.

Mrs Loades said the site should have a multi-level car park, but Charlestown MP Andrew Cornwell said he opposed such a plan.

Mr Cornwell said an extra 30 spaces would be reopened in the station’s upper car park, which was closed with the station’s recent $14million upgrade.

‘‘Employees used to take up a lot of those spots, whereas they will now be opened to customers,’’ Mr Cornwell said.

Almost 300,000 commuters a year use Cardiff railway station.

TICKET WOES: Warren and Barbara Loades received a $101 parking ticket after parking on a grass verge at Cardiff railway station. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

CRAMMED: Cars parked on the grass verge at Cardiff station, where Barbara Loades parked and received a $101 fine

Josh Osborn eyes premiership race

Josh Osborn with Cobla Stuie at Newcastle Paceway last year. Picture Jonathan CarrollWESTON driver Josh Osborn hopes to steal a break on Lauren Panella in the Newcastle premiership race tonight after edging ahead with a double on Thursday.
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Osborn, who won the drivers’ title in 2010 after three junior crowns, will drive two of his own pacers, Broken Spoke and The Prestige, tonight on the 10-race card. The final three races are non-TAB.

The grandson of late harness racing legend Dick Osborn starts the meeting with a two-win advantage over Panella, who is serving 18-day and eight-week suspensions which started after the Interdominion grand final on March 2.

Osborn hopes to build on his Newcastle premiership lead tonight and over the next few weeks before Panella, the No.1 driver for leading trainer Shane Tritton, returns.

Amazingly, Panella still leads the metropolitan drivers’ title with 27 winners, eight clear of her nearest rival, despite not competing for six weeks.

She is fourth on the state standings with 85.

‘‘I think that puts me two in front of Lauren and she’s got a month left, so hopefully I can get a few up on her before she gets back,’’ he said.

‘‘She will no doubt get plenty of winners when she gets back so I’ve got to try and get a head start.’’

Osborn was level with Panella at Newcastle before Thursday when Set In Stone, trained by Osborn’s second cousin Cameron Davies, won a heat of the Menangle Country Series (1609m) as the $2.30 favourite, earning a place in the April 27 decider. It beat home Martin Howell’s long shot, Holly’s Fantasy.

The Rex Spencer-trained Always Smart ($7.70) won race two (2030m).

Osborn was second in the other country series heat with Clayton Harmey’s Black Belt.

Mickey McRooney won the heat with Michael Formosa in the sulky. Formosa also won with Ultimate Art at the meeting.

‘‘Set In Stone’s going good and he’s always shown plenty of ability,’’ Osborn said.

‘‘With Always Smart, I’m dating [Spencer’s daughter] Laura at the moment, so it was good to get a winner for them.’’

The victories moved Osborn to 55 wins for the season across the state and 31 at Newcastle.

Broken Spoke, which is in race three (2030m), is a last-start winner at Newcastle and appears Osborn’s best hope tonight. The Prestige races in the fourth.

SPORTING DECLARATION:Jets in a holding pattern

ONCE again it has been a case of so near yet so far for the Jets.
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For the fourth consecutive season, the A-League finals will kick off with the Jets as spectators, and Sporting Declaration is struggling to comprehend how this has happened.

Where did it all go wrong?

This columnist might not be much of a judge, but in terms of both their personnel and several of their results, I reckon this was Newcastle’s best chance to achieve something since their 2007-08 premiership season.

Instead they have again finished with the also-rans and, all things considered, Newcastle’s long-suffering fans are entitled to regard the end result as their most disappointing season since the A-League kicked off nine years ago – even more anti-climactic than when the Jets collected the 2008-09 wooden spoon.

Let’s reflect on the past four campaigns, for starters.

In 2010-11, when Nathan Tinkler stepped in a month into the season to take over the club after former owner Con Constantine experienced financial difficulties, Newcastle briefly hit a patch of form, only to fade when Francis Jeffers returned to England after his guest stint and injuries to senior players started to take a toll.

The next season was a write-off before a ball was kicked when the Jets signed a marquee player, Jason Culina, who was unable to play because of a chronic knee injury, prompting Tinkler to sack the former Socceroo’s father, coach Branko Culina, less than two weeks before the opening match.

Last season was always likely to be a rebuilding phase, given that Branko’s replacement, Gary van Egmond, had overseen a cleanout of established players, most of whom he replaced with little-known rookies.

But 12 months on, with a full season under their belt, those tyros appeared ready to put their stamp on the A-League.

Throw in the experience of Emile Heskey, Michael Bridges and former Dutch World Cup defender Kew Jaliens, supplemented by the late additions of Joel Griffiths, David Carney and Nick Ward, and surely there was enough quality to claim a top-six position.

To complement the veterans, Newcastle’s roster included some of Australia’s brightest young talents, Adam Taggart, Mark Birighitti and Josh Brillante, plus a host of proven performers such as Ruben Zadkovich, Ben Kantarovski and Zenon Caravella.

At times, Newcastle looked as good as, or better than, any team in the competition.

Brisbane were the runaway minor premiers, yet the Jets beat them in all three encounters, and deservedly so.

Newcastle also had strong away wins against Western Sydney Wanderers, Melbourne Victory and Adelaide.

Yet their confidence crumbled during a mid-season slump that cost van Egmond his job, and in the countdown to the finals they were left to rue two costly results.

First, they led last-placed Perth 1-0 at nib Stadium with less than 10 minutes to go and lost 2-1. The following week, they were 2-1 up at home to Melbourne Victory and conceded a penalty in the dying minutes.

Those two games amounted to five points down the drain. Had they shown more killer instinct and hung on for two wins, they might have finished fourth on the ladder and earned a home game in week one of the finals.

Frustrating as this season might have been, the Jets improved on last year. They collected five more competition points (36 to 31), and improved both their attacking (34 to 30 goals) and defensive (34 to 45 goals) statistics.

They were 15 goals better this season than last, or more than half a goal per game.

All of which makes missing the play-offs all the more puzzling.

The bottom line is the Jets were not consistently good enough.

And the worry for supporters is the uncertainty surrounding their club, on and off the field.

Will next season be a step backwards?

From a playing point of view, Heskey appears certain to return to England, and Bridges has retired.

Griffiths and Carney are off contract.

Taggart, the A-League’s Golden Boot winner, has expressed a desire to head overseas, and who could blame him?

Birighitti and Brillante could well follow.

The coaching position remains up for grabs. Clayton Zane acquitted himself well in an interim capacity, but there has been no confirmation that he will retain the top job.

And then, of course, there is the ownership situation.

There has been speculation Tinkler is looking to off-load the Jets, and if that was his intention, it would hardly be a surprise.

When he assumed control of the club in October 2010, the self-made tycoon admitted he was no student of the round-ball code.

Since then he has invested millions in the club and does not have a single play-off appearance to show for it.

The reported price tags for the Melbourne Heart and Western Sydney franchises will surely have attracted Tinkler’s attention.

If there was a buyer willing to pay a fair price for the Jets, does anyone doubt he would take the money and run?