November, 2018

Ben Crooks, son of Western Suburbs legend Lee, joins Parramatta Eels

Ben Crooks, the 21-year-old son of  English rugby league and Wests Magpies legend Lee Crooks, has joined Parramatta – but unlike his tough old prop of a father he is a willowy three-quarter who was born to run.
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Crooks, who played for Hull FC in the Super League, arrived in Sydney with only one promise from the Eels: that he would need to work hard and play well to climb through the ranks.

According to Lee Crooks, who coached the Serbian national team during its 2013 World Cup campaign, his son – who stands 191 centimetres tall and weighs 88 kilograms – was braced for the many challenges ahead.

“Ben knows he’ll have to work extremely hard to force his way into the top 17 and he’s well aware he won’t be in the top 17 from the word go,” he said. “He expects no favours.

“He’s very confident that he can come over here and can develop himself and force his way into the side at some stage during the next season, but that’ll be dependent on how well he plays in the pre-season trials and how he performs for the feeder team.”

Lee Crooks, who played for the Magpies in 1985-86 and Balmain in 1987, said his son had the confidence needed to fulfil a long-term dream to play in the NRL.

“Coming over to play in Australia and chance his arm was something Ben has wanted to do,” he said. “He wants to improve as a player and when the opportunity came along he had to take it.

“One of his greatest strengths is he has an eye for an opening. He’s very alert when it comes to scoring tries and he knows how to lead into space but perhaps his biggest asset is his ability to react quickly and to take an opportunity, which he’s done for Hull over the last two years.”

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Bendigo mosque case delayed for months

An artist’s impression of the proposed mosque. Photo: SuppliedA lawyer for Bendigo residents trying to kill a planning permit for the city’s first mosque has claimed adverse media attention played a role in scaring off potential expert witnesses from presenting evidence against the development.
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On what was meant to be the final day of a Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal hearing into objections from a group of about 14 people, lawyer Robert Balzola successfully requested more time to produce expert evidence for the case against the mosque.  The only witness he called during the hearing was his head client, Bendigo woman Julie Hoskin.

The mosque proposal had received Bendigo council planning approval back in June when mysterious black balloons began to appear around the regional city, including at the doors of councillors who had supported the project.

An anonymous email sent to the Bendigo Advertiser had claimed the balloons represented a stand against domestic violence, which it then linked to sharia law and the rise of the Islamic community in the region, The Age reported.

The objectors group, lead by Ms Hoskin, has maintained their concerns are related to planning issues, including noise pollution and traffic congestion that would come from any large development.

However, an initial letter Ms Hoskin sent to the council shortly after the permit was approved had included concerns about the impact of sharia law, the tribunal heard.

Another Bendigo resident’s concerns, also read out during the hearing this week, had included safety fears, because “Islam hates Christians”.

An expert town planner who appeared as a witness for the council on Monday told the hearing the proposed Rowena Street site in East Bendigo was an “ideal” location for a mosque, and that it would act as a buffer between nearby residential zones and heavier industrial zones.

On Wednesday, lawyers for the council and the permit applicant, the Australian Islamic Mission, objected to Mr Balzola’s request for an adjournment, saying his clients already had nearly six months to find expert witnesses and file reports.

Mimi Marcus, representing the Bendigo council, also said the claims that experts had turned the group away due to media reporting on the issue were unsubstantiated.

Ms Marcus said she was aware some witnesses approached by Ms Hoskin had declined for reasons that were not related to media at all.  Mr Balzola said there were other hurdles to obtaining expert witnesses that had been raised by his group, including raising the money to pay for their services.

He said he’d recently secured a planning expert and an engineer who were prepared to give evidence for Ms Hoskin’s group but refused to name them publicly.

VCAT president, justice Greg Garde, allowed the adjournment and scheduled the hearing to continue on  February 23, 2015.

An application to amend eight of the permit conditions made by the Australian Islamic Mission, which was being heard alongside the objections case this week, was also adjourned, despite VCAT hearing the council and AIM had reached an agreement.

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Break-ins prompt police warning

POLICE have issued a warning over the rising rate of break-ins and theft in the lead up to Christmas.
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War medals, electronics, number plates and jewellery were among the items stolen during a string of break-ins across Wagga on Tuesday.

Offenders stole a quantity of jewellery and some war medals from a 78-year-old person when they gained entry into a Darri Street unit in Glenfield Park between 10.20am and 3.30pm.

Police believe they forced open a rear bedroom window and ransacked the main bedroom.

That same day, between 11am and 5pm, unknown persons gained entry into a Mumford Street residence in Ashmont via the front door, where they stole two laptops, Xbox and mobile phone.

Also in Ashmont, offenders attempted to gain entry into a Marshall Street residence between 6am and 7.20am by removing the fly screen and smashing the ground floor side window.

While no entry was obtained, police believe the same culprit may have attempted to steal a motor vehicle from the same location.

A quantity of jewellery was also stolen from a Kildare Street home in Turvey Park between 6.15pm and 8.15pm, while offenders attempted to enter a West Parade unit by kicking in the front door between 11am Monday and 4.30pm Tuesday.

The front and rear number plates were stolen from a white Holden Statesman that was parked outside a Hodson Avenue residence in Turvey Park between 2.45pm on Monday and 6.15pm on Tuesday.

The registration plates are BVA80J.

A 2011 silver Holden Colorado, NSW registration CQS10F, was stolen from an industrial complex on Joffre Street, Junee between 5pm Monday and 7.30am Tuesday.

“In the weeks leading up to Christmas, people really need to be vigilant by looking after their neighbours and increase security measures,” Wagga Crime Manager Detective Inspector Darren Cloake said.

“The impact of all thefts are alarming but (because) Christmas is a time for good will, it can be more heartbreaking for some people.

“People work hard and look forward to Christmas, so to be subjected to that is heartbreaking.”

Inspector Cloake didn’t discount the Glenfield Park and Ashmont offences were related, adding groups of young people were deemed to be a risk.

“We’re only as good as the information the community provides us with,” he said.

“We can certainly guarantee matters will be dealt with confidentiality.

“If it leads to a reduction of offences, it can only do everyone good.”

Inspector Cloake advised people to record serial numbers and property details for insurance and investigation purposes.

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Severe thunderstorm warningLIVE UPDATE

Batten down the hatches. The Bureau of Metereology has issued a severe thunderstorm warning for the Hunter.
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Guess what? Storm begins with S, and today in the Hunter’s Biggest Game of I Spy we’re looking for pictures of things that start with S! Like the Mercury’s Facebook page and leave a comment on our game with your picture. We’ll include it in our online gallery here.

This is the fourth storm warning for the Hunter in as many days.

The stormsare likely to produce large hailstones, heavy rainfall that may lead to flash flooding and damaging winds in the warning area over the next several hours.

The State Emergency Service advises that people should:* Move your car under cover or away from trees.

* Secure or put away loose items around your house, yard and balcony.

* Keep clear of fallen power lines.

* Keep clear of creeks and storm drains.

* Don’t walk, ride your bike or drive through flood water.

* If you are trapped by flash flooding, seek refuge in the highest available place and ring 000 if you need rescue.

* Unplug computers and appliances.

* Avoid using the phone during the storm.

* Stay indoors away from windows, and keep children and pets indoors as well.

* For emergency help in floods and storms, ring the SES (NSW and ACT) on 132 500.

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Agony of ecstasy: bad batch of drugs in Bathurst

DANGER: A bad batch of ecstasy is making the rounds of Bathurst and Oberon.A NUMBER of young people have been hospitalised in Bathurst and Oberon after taking what police believe is a bad batch of ecstasy.
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Police confirmed yesterday that a number of people had been treated after suffering a bad reaction to the illegal drugs.

Authorities were alerted to the situation overnight on Tuesday, with police now tracing the supplier of the drugs after receiving information from a member of the public.

The drug ecstasy made headlines last month after the tragic death of Sydney teenager Georgina Bartter who took one-and-a-half pills of the drug at Sydney’s Harbourlife music festival.

Chifley Local Area Command duty officer Inspector Andrew Spliet said yesterday it was a tragic example of the dangers associated withtaking illicit drugs.

He said the fact young people were recently hospitalised in Bathurst after taking the drugfurther highlighted the risks.

“These drugs have been cut with potentially fatal ingredients,” Inspector Spliet said.

“There is no way around it, taking illegal drugs is dangerous, and your putting you life at risk every single time you do it.”

Inspector Spliet said drugs such as these were made in backyard labs and no one ever knows what goes into each tablet.

“It’s totally unregulated, and made by people who are only motivated by profit,” he said. “They don’t care if someone gets sick or dies, they are only interested in the money they are making.”

While police are already investigating thematter, he said they we’re always keen to have any information about the supply of illegal drugs passed onto them.

“People can contact us at Bathurst Police Station, or call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 if they prefer to remain anonymous,” he said.

And with a bad batch of tablets in circulation, Inspector Spliet warned people to be careful.

“If you’re with a group of people and you see someone adversely affected, look after your friend and call triple-0,” he said.

“No matter what, people’s primary concern should be to look after the welfare of that person.”

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