Australia’s Fed Cup team aiming to end final drought

Fed Cup is like Davis Cup’s little sister, the sibling that struggles to be noticed, the one that suffers a minor identity crisis beyond its dedicated inner circle. It has shortened its name – in 1995, from Federation Cup – to reboot its image, and tried various formats over its 51-year life. This is semi-final weekend, in Brisbane and Ostrava, but a more significant event for immediate members of the tennis family than those beyond.

For Australia, regardless, it is been a long time coming. Fully 21 years, in fact, since a team that included Nicole Provis and Liz Smylie contested the 1993 final against Spain, and we must rewind to Evonne Goolagong Cawley’s day, 1974, for the most recent of our seven titles. This year, from the 95 countries entered, only Australia, Germany, Czech Republic and Italy remain.

Locally, there is little tennis of note between Januarys, and, despite the awkward timing, a healthy attendance is expected for the Easter hardcourt tie on Pat Rafter Arena. A host line-up headed by former US Open champion Sam Stosur, in-form Casey Dellacqua and teen star Ash Barty will meet a near-full-strength German squad led by world No. 7 Angelique Kerber, with only Wimbledon finalist Sabine Lisicki remaining in the northern hemisphere for the switch to red clay.

”It’s great that tennis is again in the minds of the public, because a lot of people think the Australian Open finishes and tennis goes quiet for the rest of the calendar year,” says Australian captain Alicia Molik, noting the timely boost for the women’s game, in particular.

”I’m proud to be Australian to know we always have an exceptionally strong team represent our nation. I know Davis Cup, maybe the last 10 or 15 years has had some great results, but I feel like the women have really been leading the charge the last few years, particularly with rankings [and] tournament wins, and I’m really proud to be a part of the competition.”

On paper, the Germans are favoured to advance in this one, with Kerber clearly the highest-ranked, and the comeback from multiple injuries of former top-tenner Andrea Petkovic boosted by a recent title win in Charleston. Yet although Stosur has not passed the third round of a WTA tournament since January, world No. 53 Dellacqua reached the last 16 at the Australian Open and the quarters as a qualifier at Indian Wells, and has already logged three top 20 wins in 2014.

”I’ve had a lot of tennis, and I’ve beaten some really good players along the way throughout the year, so I feel really good,” said Dellacqua, who will play Kerber in an all-lefty second singles rubber, following Stosur v Petkovic, and was also named to partner Barty against Julia Goerges and Anna-Lena Groenefeld in Sunday’s doubles. ”Obviously I’m going to have some tough opponents, and obviously opponents that are ranked a lot higher than me, so it will be tough, but I’ve got to back myself and believe that I can do it.”

Stosur, meanwhile, maintains she has not become dispirited by her modest recent results, and nor does the player unsurpassed for Australian Fed Cup singles wins expect the magnitude of the 40-year drought to prove burdensome. ”Obviously, we know that it’s there and we would definitely love to be in a final, but I don’t necessarily think there’s any more pressure on us because of that fact.”

Petkovic spoke of Germany’s comparable 19-year gap between semis, and 22 since its last title, and of ”really trying to write a piece of history for our country. I know Australia is trying to do the same thing and I think it’s going to be a great head-to-head.” The odds should be even, said Petkovic, with any numerical superiority balanced by the home court, and crowd, and long journey to get here. ”Ranking-wise, on the paper, we are the better team, but in Fed Cup anything can happen, and I think just anyone who followed Davis Cup the past weekend saw that really Davis Cup and Fed Cup are competitions [with] their own rules, and ranking doesn’t matter at all.”

Molik is adamant her team can cause an upset, just as the 2012 version did on clay in Stuttgart in what was the 12th and most recent instalment of a rivalry that Australia leads 8-4. The captain is hoping the Germans remember Stosur’s dominance of the last one, vividly, and will remind Dellacqua – from whom a singles point could prove crucial – of her impressive winning record in a season in which she is at No. 26 overall. ”We’ve got the team to win,” says Molik. ”No doubt about that.”

Which, if it eventuates, would mean a November home final against the Czechs, or an away fixture against defending champion Italy, and Australia’s Fed Cup team would have achieved for the first time in four decades what the Davis Cup lads last managed in 2003. From a local perspective, a big moment for a little sister who could do with a little more attention. All things being, well, relative.

Bomber midfielders happy to have Ryder back

Easter Feaster: David Zaharakis is looking forward to Paddy Ryder feeding him the ball again Photo: Pat ScalaPaddy Ryder’s return to the Essendon side is being warmly welcomed by his teammates. The athletic ruckman has been sidelined for two weeks with an ankle injury, and midfielder David Zaharakis indicated that Ryder’s absence has been evident around the stoppages.

“The midfielders are happy that Paddy Ryder is back in the side. We can start winning some hit-outs which is great. He’s obviously a big asset for us,” Zaharakis said on Friday.

“It enables the midfield to be proactive around stoppages and win some of our own ball off our own ruckman, so that’s great for us.

“You can dictate more to the opposition, whereas last week we were trying to read off [Aaron] Sandilands the whole time.”

Zaharakis was confident that the Bombers would not suffer when they take on St Kilda on Saturday night at Etihad Stadium despite coming off just a six-day break following their game in Perth last Sunday, which resulted in a 53-point loss to Fremantle.

“The boys recovered pretty well. We do have a six-day break, which is short but training on Wednesday was great. It was probably the best it’s been for two or three weeks,” Zaharakis said.

The 2011 best and fairest winner downplayed any lingering effects of the oppressive heat which confronted them in the Dockers defeat, or the flu which had swept through the club.

“Yeah, it was pretty unusual – 33 degrees in Perth – even for Perth is hot,” Zaharakis said.

“I came down with a flu and a cold. There was a few of us who copped the flu and cold which was a nasty thing.

“The boys recovered pretty well. The boys are over all their sickness.”

Zaharakis weighed into the debate on Good Friday football, voicing his support for the concept and Essendon’s involvement in a potential game.

“I reckon it would be great,” he said.

“In the future, it would be awesome to play on Good Friday. It’s a special day and to be able to play in front of a big crowd … and to add another one to the calendar would be awesome for a player.”

‘Garcia Marquez changed the way I wrote’

Nobel Laureate Garcia Marquez dies

The influence of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the great Colombian novelist and Nobel laureate who died on Thursday, on Australian writing is something that should not be underestimated.

Garcia Marquez is best known for novels such as One Hundred Years of Solitude, Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Love in the Time of Cholera, No One Writes to the Colonel and Autumn of the Pat-riarch. And he is most closely identified with the technique known as “magical realism”.

Tasmanian writer Richard Flanagan, author most recently of The Narrow Road to the Deep North, said it was hard to conceive of Australian literature as it is now without Garcia Marquez’s books.

“You couldn’t have had Peter Carey’s great works, you couldn’t have had Cloudstreet, you couldn’t have had a lot of other people. It’s hard to imagine any of those books were possible without the revolution that Marquez ushered in for the novel.”

Flanagan said what Garcia Marquez and other Latin American writers were grappling with in their writing was how to reconcile the great European and North American traditions of the novel with worlds that had a fundamentally different experience and make an art that didn’t seek to ape that of Europea and North America. “For me he was a liberation because in his Macondo (the setting of One Hundred Years) I saw my Tasmania.”

It’s a view with which Carey concurs: “Garcia Marquez changed the way I wrote. He opened a door that I had just been hammering on. He wrote about his place in a way that was new and fresh and completely different. I was struggling to do the same thing about my own country and he was completely inspirational.”

Speaking from his home in New York, Carey, whose new novel, Amnesia, will be published in October, said he misunderstood a lot of what Garcia Marquez did, thinking often that he was inventing things that were actually firmly grounded in his life.

“But like many other people misunderstanding him and reading and being thrilled by – he changed how we wrote. The truly great writers feed and change the people who come after them and they are kept alive by the love of succeeding generations of writers who are really nurtured by them.”

According to Flanagan, Garcia Marquez had reunited the great radical art of the novel with a popular audience. “He understood magical realism as a true realism. He understood that conventional realism was insufficient to describe the dreams and nightmares and the ways people actually experienced life and the utterly extraordinary world of every day of Latin America.”

Because Garcia Marquez was grounded in the idea of journalism – he worked as one for several years in Colombia and in Europe – he always said he invented nothing. According to Flanagan, the Anglo world’s misreading of magical realism led to “a very maudlin and sentimental idea of the invention of the fabulous. It led to an enormous amount of bad writing and bad books.”

Last year’s Miles Franklin winner, Michelle de Kretser, said she preferred the Colombian’s earlier books. “Things like No One Writes to the Colonel is absolutely wonderful. What I liked about them partly was that they opened a whole world to me.”

But she agreed that while magical realism became something of a fad – “I didn’t like it in the work of people like Isabel Allende” – what Garcia Marquez did was extraordinary. “I always thought it was closely connected to a child’s point of view. So in the way a child sees fantasy and reality as one and the same. And also the tendency to hyperbole and exaggeration, which is very typical of the way a child sees the world.”

Flanagan said magical realism had been a response to social realism, which Garcia Marquez and other Latin American writers, who were ideologically of the left, felt had crippled them artistically but also politically.

“Unless you could acknowledge the fullness of human experience you couldn’t actually achieve a true liberating and revolutionary politics. So the politics demanded a different art and the different art demanded a different politics.”

At its base magical realism was a respect for their own experience and that idea didn’t exist in either social realism or in the work of people who tried to ape the European or North American novel.

“We were no different in Australia,” Flanagan said. “We were obsessed with writing books that were death masks of fashions and ideas and experiences elsewhere. What you got from Garcia Marquez and the Latin Americans was that you had to go into your experience on its own terms.”

Paralympian gold medallist Evan O’Hanlon takes on able-bodied athletes at Stawell Gift

Paralympic star Evan O’Hanlon is set to take on able-bodied athletes for the first time at the Stawell Gift.Paralympic running superstar Evan O’Hanlon is set to take on able-bodied athletes for the first time at the Stawell Gift before challenging the best sprinters in the country at next year’s national championships.

After accomplishing everything his T38 discipline has to offer, the Canberra-based triple world champion and world record holder will take on all-comers at the 133rd running of the Gift over the Easter weekend in country Victoria.

O’Hanlon will have a 5.75m handicap for the 120m distance based on his personal best and world record time of 10.79 seconds.

It’s a time that would have been fast enough to book him a place in the finals of the men’s 100m at this year’s national championships.

The 25-year-old wants to build the profile of his sport and pave the way for disabled athletes to receive the same recognition as their able-bodied counterparts.

“I’m looking at this season as preparation for next year so I can qualify for able-bodied nationals and race against the big boys,” O’Hanlon said.

“At the nationals next year I really want to make it out of the heats, I don’t want to just qualify and run the heats and get run out.

”If I’m there, there’s other guys that will be able to do it in the future.”

O’Hanlon hasn’t raced since collecting a clean sweep of victories in the 100m, 200m and 400m at last year’s IPC world championships in July.

It was a competition he was barely fit to attend after contracting viral meningitis four weeks before it began.

O’Hanlon – who has cerebral palsy due to a prenatal stroke – spent three days in the emergency ward and was bed-ridden for another two weeks.

“My immune system was coping with it really well, then I ran a 400m race and it took it out of me and I ended up in hospital,” O’Hanlon said.

”I had really bad headaches and if I moved I threw up.

“I decided to go to world champs the day of or the day before we flew out.

“If anyone can deal with some swelling of the brain, it’s someone who is already missing part of it.”

O’Hanlon ran at the Stawell Gift in a disabled race in 2007 before the event was removed from the schedule the following year.

He says he is seeking to continually challenge and push himself after he struggled for motivation after dominating at the 2008 Paralympic Games.

”I had three and a half years where I didn’t compete very well because I was a bit lost – I was 20 years old and I had done everything I could in my sport,” O’Hanlon said.

”It took a couple of new challenges and ran in everything I could at the (2011) world championships, which allowed me to be re-focused leading into the London Paralympics in 2012.

“I’m going into Stawell with an open mind and I want to learn to race next to these guys.”

O’Hanlon is one of several Canberra-based athletes contesting the Stawell Gift.

The fastest woman in Australian history, Melissa Breen, will have a 10m handicap against the men, while Brendan Matthews (6.25m), Luke Storta (7.75m) and Jesse Matthews (9m) are also in contention.

Revived interest in holiday homes

Canberra is blessed by its diverse surrounds. Framed by mountains to the south and west, it’s just a short trip to the snow. The summer draws Canberrans in their thousands to sunny destinations along the coastline. And those after a taste of rural life are just a short drive away to the delights of the countryside. It’s no wonder so many ACT residents are investing in holiday properties.

According to experts, now is the right time to invest. Australian Property Monitors’ senior economist, Andrew Wilson, said holiday properties were usually the last to recover from an economic downturn because they were a prestige investment.

“Prestige property sales have been a bit flat in the market and are behind in terms of growth,” Dr Wilson said.

“The positive is those in the market will certainly find good value opportunities because prices have been quite weak in the holiday home market.”

The best place to buy will very much depend on your interests and what you hope to get out of your holiday home. As the ski season approaches, Snowy Mountains real estate agents receive a lot of inquiries for properties in Thredbo, Lake Crackenback and Jindabyne.

“Out of all the sales that we do, close to 20 per cent of our market comes out of Canberra,” Forbes Styne Real Estate principal Michelle Stynes said.

You may not be able to get in before the ski season starts though, as sales usually require a 10 to 12-week transaction period. But summer in the Snowies offers a beautiful cool climate, breathtaking scenery and a hive of activity including water sports, fly fishing and mountain biking.

“The summer doesn’t get enough attention,” Ms Stynes said. “Summer here is just as dynamic as winter, there’s lots to do.”

Ms Stynes said many buyers used their properties as a summer retreat and rented it out during the more profitable winter months. Properties netted an annual average of 3 to 4 per cent on rent returns.

For those who favour surf over slopes, the NSW coastline is sprinkled with an assortment of seaside havens, from bustling summer getaways to serene hidden gems. LJ Hooker Batemans Bay principal Michael Skuse said the holiday buyer market had started to pick up since Christmas.

“Interest rates are low. The market has seen an increase in turnover, but not an increase in price,” he said. “The locals in the know think it’s time to buy, that’s for sure. Holiday properties struggled during the GFC but holiday homes are back in vogue.”

Elders Merimbula principal Nicole Cooper said the majority of her inquiries came from Canberra buyers attracted to the region’s forests, beaches and climate. She said now was an ideal time to buy in the area as real estate agents were starting to see a change in the market.

“We’re finding that we’re at the tipping point in the market at the moment,” Ms Cooper said. “Previously we’ve had more properties than buyers and the buyers have had the upper hand, now we’ve got more buyers than properties so the prices are starting to rise.”

This trend is not just limited to the coast. The Southern Highlands, a picturesque holiday destination characterised by its distinct seasons, vineyards and award-winning restaurants, could soon see a shift in the market, according to Belle Property Bowral principal Di Dixon. “There’s a shortage of stock under $1 million,” she said. “Now is a very good time to buy because if stock continues to be short it will turn around into a sellers’ market.”Quirkly retreat perfect place to de-stress

When Brendan and Jo Jackson need a break from the stresses of the city they escape to the Retreat on Matthew, their three-bedroom holiday home in Batehaven.

“When you stay in Canberra, it’s hard to forget about work, but once we cross the Clyde Mountain, it’s a whole different atmosphere. It’s relaxing,” Mr Jackson said.

The couple bought their holiday home in 2010 and they picked the Batemans Bay location for its proximity to Canberra.

“The house that we picked was because it’s so quirky,” Mr Jackson said.

“It’s very small from the front, it looks like a hut, but as you go in it gets bigger and bigger.”

The Jacksons’ beagle, Zoe, accompanies the couple on their coast trips. The home is fully fenced and pet-friendly, a feature that makes it popular with holidaymakers.

“We normally get people with dogs; there’s not that many pet-friendly places down there,” Mr Jackson said.

The Jacksons usually rent the property out during the peak season and visit more often in winter when they can they enjoy the home’s wood fireplace.

Mr Jackson advises those in the market for a holiday home to look for locations close to services. Their home is just moments from the Batehaven shops and Corrigans Beach.

Bookings for the Retreat on Matthew can be made through Eurobodalla Tourism at eurobodalla爱杭州同城论坛 Bodalla Place, MerimbulaFor sale: $975,000

Life doesn’t get much better than waking up to the beautiful views of Merimbula Lake and the sounds of cascading waterfalls in your backyard.

Located in the picturesque coastal town of Merimbula, this stunning waterfront residence, on three levels, isn’t just a fabulous family holiday house or a dream sea-change home, but also a potential investment opportunity for the astute buyer.

The ground floor with separate entry is currently being used by the owner as a studio and art gallery, but could be easily converted into guest accommodation, more living areas or rental accommodation.

The second level has four bedrooms and three living areas with lake views. The light-filled kitchen opens onto an expansive outdoor entertaining area with magnificent lake views, perfect for entertaining guests.

The owners of this property are spoilt for choice with entertaining options, as there are three more outdoor entertaining areas, two decks and a paved terrace that flows into the backyard.

The master bedroom occupies the entire top floor and resembles a luxury hotel room, with a huge walk-in wardrobe, en suite, sitting room and uninterrupted lake views.

Walking out to the backyard, you would be forgiven for thinking you were in a tropical resort, with tranquil lush gardens, waterfalls, ponds and the lake at your doorstep.

There’s plenty of room for cars and boats, with a double garage and a carport.

With the home located on the Merimbula Lake boardwalk, it’s a scenic 15-minute walk into town to enjoy Merimbula’s cafes, restaurants and shops.

7 Bodalla Place, Merimbula, is for sale for $975,000, through Sails Real Estate agent Kim Poso, 0418 699 591, and Elders Merimbula agent James Cravana, 0428 248 008. More photos: Domain爱杭州同城论坛

Capital Gains

Class from the past

An executive residence with an impressive street presence in Gleneagles has hit the market as owners decide to opt for a smaller home.

The stunning property at 1 Lempriere Crescent in Kambah has been the home of Edward Richardson and family for almost two decades.

Not content to build just a normal house, Mr Richardson and his father set about building a house of dreams after buying a block of land in the suburb.

He said the first designs of the home had been so different to what was the typical house at the time in the suburb that they had had to scale them down and not build the indoor water features.

But what remains is still impressive to this day.

”There’s nothing like it – it was very cutting-edge at the time and still stands out,” Mr Richardson said.

The four-bedroom house, which sits on an almost 1180 square metre block, has high-quality finishes throughout with high ceilings, detailed cornice work and quality joinery. It has spacious formal rooms, a flexible floor plan and a high-quality kitchen with blue pearl marble benchtops.

There is a solar-heated pool, an outdoor shower, an al fresco terrace and a separate study.

The home has in-slab heating throughout, ducted vacuum, an electronic irrigation system, a fully functional dark room, an eight camera CCTV system, tinted external glass and extensive mature gardens.

Mr Richardson said he would certainly miss the serenity of the home and the fantastic location, just a short walk to the golf course.

”It will be sad to leave there because we haven’t found anything that’s close to it,” he said.

”I think the home speaks for itself.”

He said the time had come to live in a smaller home as the house was a little too large for just two adults.

1 Lempriere Crescent, Kambah, is available by negotiation through Berkely Residential agent Simon Richards.

Price guide is $1.2 million.Resort home sells

A stunning resort-style home in the Hall village sold under the hammer for $1.425 million last Saturday.

The home, at 8 Alexandra Street, was designed for families who love to entertain, with a bar, a tennis court and an indoor solar-heated swimming pool and spa.

LJ Hooker Tuggeranong agent Dan Cooper said there had been five registered bidders for the home and three had subsequently placed bids on the property.

Bidding started at $1 million and rose quickly to the sale price in front of a crowd of about 100.

There were 80 groups through during the auction campaign, and the home sold to a family with a business. Cooper said it was the highest sale price for a residential block in the Hall village.

A home on acreage at 149 Wallaroo Road just outside the village sold earlier in the year for $2.725 million.

9 Wallaroo Road just outside the village sold earlier in the year for $2.725 million.

Indicators remain subdued for Canberra housing market

The number of first-home buyers in the Canberra market has collapsed to a near-record lo. Photo: Nicki DaveyLatest data indicates the short-term prospects for the Canberra housing market remain mixed at best.

The ABS reports that the monthly number of owner-occupied home loans approved for the purchase of properties fell by 15.2 per cent over February to just 395. This was the lowest monthly number reported since December 2012 and is a poor result despite historically low interest rates and sharply improved affordability that has activated all other capital city housing markets.

A closer look at the ABS data reveals that the number of first-home buyers in the Canberra market has collapsed to a near-record low. Just 73 loans were approved for first-home buyers over February, the lowest monthly number recorded since June 2004.

The proportion of first-home buyers in the market unsurprisingly also remains at a near-historical low, accounting for just 6.5 per cent of home loans for purchases – well below the average of 14.3 per cent.

Changes to the local treatment of the first-home buyers’ grant last year, which precluded from eligibility the purchase of established properties after August, predictably caused a rush of activity and a drawing forward of demand from this group.

But the low activity from first-home buyers shows no signs of reversing, despite generous incentives for new home purchases, the lowest interest rates on record and almost no growth in house prices over the past four years in Canberra.

Investor activity in Canberra picked up over February, with the ABS reporting a rise of 42.3 per cent in the value of home loans to this group over the month.

Happy Easter to all my readers!

Dr Andrew Wilson is senior economist for Australian Property Monitors.

Twitter: @DocAndrewWilson

Phone your auction results to 1800 817 616

Kushi life appeals

A central location, modern design and competitive pricing are attracting buyers to Kushi, the first residential development in the new Molonglo Valley suburb of Coombs. Young buyers in particular are snapping up properties in the complex.

Developed by Pod Property Group, Kushi will consist of 80 apartments and townhouses. Thirty-six have been sold since its release in December. According to Pod Property agent James Smith about 75 per cent of these properties have been bought by first-home buyers.

One of those first-home buyers, Nathan Wagner, bought a three-bedroom townhouse with his fiance, Talia, for $439,950. Mr Wagner said they were impressed with the price and what Kushi had to offer.

”There wasn’t much affordable housing in Canberra,” Mr Wagner said. ”We’re getting married and we want to start a family. We had a look at Kushi and it looked awesome. It’s a really good location and it was a really good deal. It was too good to pass up.”

A variety of home designs are available and include one or two-bedroom apartments and two or three-bedroom townhouses. The one-bedroom apartments come with a large study and the two-bedroom townhouses have two living areas and en suite bathrooms.

All homes include airconditioning, landscaping and stylish kitchens fitted with quality Smeg appliances. Most have lock-up garaging, while the rest offer basement parking.

The townhouses feature plenty of outdoor living space and include two balconies, a courtyard and a terrace. The apartments have a balcony or courtyard. In addition to these private outdoor living spaces, there is a communal open space located at the centre of the development.

Architect Hugh Gordon said this central space, comprising a barbecue area, swimming pool and gym, was one of the standout features of Kushi. ”I think the variety of housing types in a single development and a large communal open space is quite unusual for a development like this,” Mr Gordon said.

Just 10 kilometres from the city, the Molonglo Valley district will eventually be home to several new suburbs.

Pod Property managing director Paul O’Donnell said all blocks at Coombs sold out very quickly.

”Coombs is the second suburb in the Molonglo Valley, it’s where the community hub will be set. All of it is within walking distance from Kushi,” Mr O’Donnell said.

Local amenity will include shops, ovals and parkland, and a primary school is to be built across the road.

Construction at Kushi will begin in July this year with completion expected mid-2015.

There are 44 apartments remaining at Kushi at Coombs. One-bedroom apartments are 52 to 60 square metres ($299,950 to $374,950), two-bedroom apartments are 56 to 72 square metres ($359,950 to $459,950), two-bedroom townhouses are 86 to 87 square metres ($419,950 to $459,950) and three-bedroom townhouses are 85 to 87 square metres (from $424,950). The display home, at John Gorton Drive, Coombs, will be open this Saturday and Sunday between 12.30pm and 2pm. Phone Marcus Allesch on 0424 409 873 or see kushiatcoombs爱杭州同城论坛

Coast and Country

11 Evans Close, Kalaru $400,000+ 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 2 car spacesBuilt 1999Land 1.01 hectaresInspection Saturday 11am-11.30amAgent Guy Higgins, 0427 944 435 and Mick Tarlinton, 0427 941 701, Tathra Beach Real EstateLast traded 2004Auction Saturday, May 17, at 11am on site

It’s not every day that a charming mud brick home comes on to the market, but here it is on offer in the village of Kalaru.

Nestled in secluded bushland, this home exudes warmth with its timber interior and cosy living spaces.

The open-plan living area opens out to an expansive covered patio backing into bushland. The two large bedrooms upstairs have stunning cathedral ceilings and magnificent bushland views.

This property has all the privacy and serenity of a bushland retreat with the convenience of being only minutes away from the beachside township of Tathra.

90 Mount Minderoo Lane, Mittagong $995,000+ 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 2 car spacesBuilt 2010Land 2 hectaresInspect Saturday, 12.15pm-12.45pmAgent Eloise Haydon, McGrath Bowral, 0408 465 585Last traded First time on the marketAuction Saturday, May 3, at 3pm

“Minderoo” is a wonderfully designed and maintained residence that has sophisticated elegance in a cool-climate wine growing region.

The home is among exclusive rural holdings and has breathtaking 180-degree mountain and park views. The master-built country retreat offers spacious open-plan living and dining, sitting room and music/TV room, a French-style kitchen with European appliances, and an elegant bay-fronted breakfast area overlooking the herb garden.

The home also has a wraparound verandah and a summer house, and is 15 minutes’ drive to Berrima.

This perfect lifestyle escape goes under the hammer next month.

15 Ranelagh Road, Burradoo $1.795 million 5 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 3 car spacesBuilt 1999Land 3547 sq mInspection By appointmentAgent Ian Rayner, Ian Rayner Real Estate, 0418 480 651Last traded 2005

Visiting this Georgian-styled home, you would be forgiven for thinking you were driving into a country estate in England.

Extensively renovated in 2003, this charming residence has everything luxury living has to offer, with five large bedrooms, formal and informal living areas and a large, quaint kitchen.

A spacious games room with open fireplace is the perfect room for a cosy night in.

Landscaped gardens not only provide a beautiful sanctuary for the owners but also offer privacy when entertaining family and friends.

Even the car accommodation is charming, with two barn-style carports and a garage.

2152 George Bass Drive, Tomakin $1.575 million 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, 2 car spaceBuilt 2007Land 5.1 hectaresInspection By appointmentAgent Michael Skuse, LJ Hooker Batemans Bay, 0411 029 300Last traded First time on market

This home is not only magnificent in size but also in features and location, and has the best of country living in a coastal town.

Located on five hectares of pristine riverfront land, with nine paddocks and eight stables, this four-bedroom home has a large kitchen that overlooks the family and meals area, and opens up to the outdoor entertaining area where your friends and family will enjoy the heated pool and spa.

Step outside the front door and enjoy fishing, water-skiing and kayaking in the Tamago River or drive to the nearby beaches of Tomakin.

“He might take the crown”: Ablett snr

Illustration: Jim PavlidisFidgeting with his tie, Gary Ablett remembered his beginnings in life and football in Drouin: the cold, the rabbit pies, the borrowed gear. One early day, he said, he had to wear a pair of boots at least four sizes too big for him. They looked and felt like flippers. “All the kids were laughing at me,” said Ablett. The match began, and within six minutes he had kicked four goals – from the centre. A crooked grin played across Ablett’s face as he paused, then added: “The kids stopped laughing.”

Eighty-odd pre-match lunchers at lowly amateur club St Mary’s Salesian laughed heartily to hear it. Ablett was there at the invitation of Norbert Graetzer, a past president of St Mary’s, also a former Hawthorn trainer. With Ablett was his sister, Fay, and her husband, Michael Tuck, the most illustrious in-laws in footy history. They had come in part to promote Smouldering Stump, an organisation aiding families and children suffering post-traumatic stress as a result of the Black Saturday bushfires five years ago. Their cause was a coup for St Mary’s.

Ablett had donned his tie in the car park, with the whistles and shouts of the reserves game carrying to him over the fence. It was an endearing touch. Everyone else was in club polos or weekend casuals, but it was as if Ablett felt he owed the club and the occasion at least this much respect.

He and the Tucks came without pretensions, other than their exploits. If they were not so instantly recognisable, you might have thought they did regular business at the local hardware shop, Ablett at the counter, Tuck as a customer. Together, they formed a premium package, but wrapped in plain, brown paper. When the raffle tickets were passed around at lunch, Tuck followed protocol to the letter: he grumbled good-naturedly, then bought 10.

But when this package was opened, of course, the room fell under a spell. The guests shut up. The dishes stopped clinking. The senior players, half-changed, clustered in the doorway. Ablett and Tuck trawled over their careers – one dazzling like no other, one lasting like no other – culminating in the wonder that was the 1989 grand final between their clubs.

At last, they arrived at the subject of Gary jnr, son of one, nephew of the other. At his journey’s beginning, young Gary said he would be happy to be half as good as his old man. Even as awards and accolades accumulated, junior always has deferred to senior, agreeing with a popular view that he was the best player the game has seen. But what of senior’s perspective? “I wouldn’t like to play on Gary,” he said. “The way he’s going, I think he might take the crown.” History might remember this moment as the St Mary’s Coronation.

Footy thrives on two sorts of bloodlines, family and club. Both were pulsing on this day. Reunited with Ablett and Tuck at lunch was Leon Rice, another Drouin original and Hawthorn premiership teammate of Tuck’s, now with the calcified bearing of an old footballer, but giving to the game still as a St Mary’s committeeman.

Al Martello missed lunch because he had stepped in at short notice to coach the St Mary’s under-22 team on the other side of town. Martello rose from St Mary’s juniors to play in Hawthorn premierships alongside Tuck and Rice, and at the end of his career to play one day for Richmond against Ablett in Ablett’s one year at Hawthorn. Martello has been back at St Mary’s these many years, a perennial at training and matches, performing whichever unglamorous task the club needs.

Ablett, incidentally, said he regretted that Hawthorn had not worked out for him. This was not a repudiation of Geelong, a club and town he said had suited him temperamentally. It was an honest reflection on the sort of decisions made at forks in the road that punctuate most people’s lives; it is just that Ablett’s have been more public than most. We fans have the luxury to think only of how different the legend of the 1989 grand final might have been if Ablett had not left Hawthorn, and to be grateful again for the way it did play out.

Though booked only for lunch, Ablett and the Tucks were still in the clubrooms at half-time in the seniors, yarning away. Ablett seemed wholly at ease among this salt of the football earth. A reserves player who had kicked 11 goals ended up with the souvenir of a lifetime: a happy snap, him holding up 10 fingers, Ablett one.

Ablett was at his most poignant when dwelling on a topic recently elevated by Nick Riewoldt and Wayne Carey: the challenges of life after football and the sense many players have of losing their bearings. “All they know is football, and it’s gone,” he said. “They don’t know who they are any more. They lose their identity.”

Rejoined the ever-dry Tuck, as only a brother-in-law could: “I’ve got my identity. I had to show it to the police last night.”

Fay Tuck laughed as if she had never heard it before.