Clyde Campbell points finger at Fiat Chrysler’s top executives

The plane at the centre of the court battle between Clyde Campbell and Fiat Chrysler Australia, with photographer Andrew Vukosav standing in front. Photo: Supplied The 40-foot Chris Craft yacht owned by My Alfa Romeo.

If former Fiat Chrysler Australia boss Clyde Campbell goes down over allegations he misused tens of millions dollars of company money, he might just threaten to take the entire Australian operation of the global automaker and several executives with him.

Mr Campbell on Wednesday opened the door for a tax investigation of Fiat Chrysler for engaging in transfer pricing, after lodging his defence in the Federal Court. Mr Campbell claims the company’s profits were adjusted for transfer pricing.

Transfer pricing occurs when a multi-national car maker moves profits between countries by changing the prices of vehicles and parts, and is a breach of strict taxation laws in Australia.

As part of his 48-page statement of defence, Mr Campbell alleges the company only made $30 million Australian profit in his final year in charge, despite notching an astonishing $1.66 billion of sales and revenue in this country.

According to the document, that net profit was calculated “after tax and transfer pricing adjustments”.

Ominously for FCA, Mr Campbell’s lawyers state “Further particulars of [net profit] after  [transfer pricing adjustments] will be provided after discovery.”

The allegation could pique the interest of the Australian Tax Office, although Fairfax Media believes FCA has been reviewed in recent years and is considered a “low risk” of tax avoidance by the ATO.

In 2009 the ATO employed 60 dedicated investigators to examine transfer pricing in Australia.

In 2010 Toyota Australia was hit with a $247 million tax bill over the practice, which forced the company into the red for the year.

“They are the two words no car company in Australia wants to see written anywhere,” said one industry executive. “It would seem the allegation of transfer pricing is the one bullet Campbell has against his old employer.”

In May, Fairfax media revealed that Mr Campbell was accused of misappropriating and misusing more than $30 million of company money to fund an extravagant lifestyle for his family and business associates. In court documents. FCA alleged that Mr Campbell authorised the purchase of Chrysler vehicles in Britain  for the exclusive use of Shane Warne, Elizabeth Hurley, and Harry and Sheree Kewell. They were described as “brand ambassadors” despite Fiat Chrysler having no brand ambassador program there.

Company money was used, directly or indirectly, to pay for a $400,000 yacht, a plane, trips to New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro, a golf and spa holiday in New Zealand, luxury villas at Crown Casino, Victorian Racing Club memberships worth $244,800, and more than $380,000 in gift vouchers. The detail  is laid out in court documents reviewed by Fairfax Media.

Mr Campbell claims the lavish spending under his leadership had the verbal approval of his superiors, and says he acted on the implicit instructions of global Fiat Chrysler Automobiles boss Sergio Marchione, global Chrysler boss Mike Manley and former Asia Pacific boss John Kett. He also says spending was approved by a number of other past FCA executives.

Mr Campbell claims he was told by senior international Fiat Chrysler executives that his job was to boost sales to 20,000 a year within three years and they “didn’t care how he did it”.

In his statement of defence, Mr Campbell alleges he did not breach the company’s integrity code, which was ” vague, uncertain and unenforceable”.

One of the deals called into question is the use of millions of dollars of company money to help buy dealerships for Mr Campbell’s friends, former Daimler-Chrysler executives Ernst Lieb and David Piva.

Mr Campbell claims he authorised that expenditure on the instructions of Mr Manley, who “implied by a direction to increase FCA’s dealerships to 100 by June 2012”  that such deals were needed.

According to Mr Campbell, at a management meeting in Hangzhou in 2012, Mr Manley told him  FCA needed to match the sales volume of Kia and Volkswagen in Australia.

Mr Campbell claims he replied that Kia and Volkswagen had more dealerships and FCA was trying to expand its dealership network.

According to the court documents, Mr Manley replied with words to the effect: “I’m sick of this excuse. Get 100 dealerships by June next year or you’re out of a job. I don’t care how you do it, I don’t care how much it costs, just get it done. All your marketing is being wasted if you do not have a dealer network to deliver on it”.

Mr Campbell’s statement of defence contains many claims of such conversations, but is almost bereft of supporting documentary evidence, such as emails or written instructions, from his superiors.

Last week Fairfax Media revealed that Mr Kett, the man who appointed Clyde Campbell as the boss of Fiat Chrysler Australia, had suddenly resigned from the Italo-American car maker.

Tony Abbott channels Labor leaders past to back China trade deal

Tony Abbott has moved onto an aggressive footing in recent days in defence of the China-Australia FTA. Photo: Alex EllinghausenTony Abbott will hit back at opposition doubts over his government’s free trade agreement with China claiming it is consistent with the best traditions of previous Labor prime ministers Gough Whitlam, Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, and that it cannot be undone anyway because “a deal is a deal”.

In a major speech to Chinese business leaders in Sydney on Thursday, Mr Abbott will lay out the advantages to Australia of the wide-ranging deal, which has attracted criticism from Labor and the unions for containing what they say are inadequate requirements on Chinese ventures to employ Australians, and to maintain high safety standards through the use of qualified staff such as electricians.

“The FTA with China will change Australia for the better, it will change China for the better, and it will change our region for the better,” Mr Abbott’s speech notes say.

“It will secure the future employment of generations of Australians.”

Branding a televised union campaign by the militant Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union  “xenophobic”, Mr Abbott plans to use the speech to appeal to Labor’s reform tradition championed by Messrs Whitlam, Hawke, and Keating, and supported by economic rationalists of more recent years such as Rudd-Gillard ministers Simon Crean and Martin Ferguson.

“This is too important to our country, to our businesses and our children, to be sacrificed at the altar of xenophobic short-term politics,” he will say.

“The Coalition won’t be part of that – and I hope our opponents will end their flirtation with the ideas and fears of the past.

“As the former trade minister Simon Crean put it: World trade is a multiplier of economic growth. If people are looking for job opportunities and advanced incomes, the path to that is in opening up trade.”

Mr Abbott and his Trade Minister Andrew Robb have moved onto an aggressive footing in recent days in defence of the China-Australia FTA after Labor’s National Conference resolved to put pressure on the government to renegotiate aspects of the agreement in order to beef up the protection of Australian jobs.

Labor has also pledged to use a planned two-year review to seek to renegotiate labour aspects of the free trade agreement , prompting Chinese officials to flag they would use that as an opportunity to reopen other aspects as well.

Casting it as a new form of sovereign risk, Mr Abbott will tell Labor that the time for such things has passed and that for a subsequent government to seek to go back would be seen as dishonourable.

“My hope is that they will listen to the sane economic voice of people like Simon Crean and Martin Ferguson,” he will state.

“Either way, this government is locked in with our FTA with China, after 10 years of talks, we successfully concluded the negotiations.

“A deal is a deal – to amend one part, is to reopen it all – and we won’t do that because it would put Australian businesses, Australian exports and Australian jobs at risk.”

The trade focus comes as anxiety levels rise over another deal in the final stages of negotiation, the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

That 12-country deal is being conducted with inordinate secrecy, adding to fears of higher pharmaceutical costs due to patent agreements and to the inclusion of potentially costly investor-state dispute settlement provisions that allow off-shore companies to sue governments for loss of profits due to domestic policy.

Labor remains highly sceptical of ISDS provisions and has flagged an effort to negotiate their removal if elected – including within the free trade agreement with China.

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Australian director Sue Brooks ‘gobsmacked’ as Looking for Grace selected for Venice Film Festival competition

Heading for Venice .. Richard Roxburgh, Radha Mitchell and Odessa Young in Looking For Grace.image1.JPG Toni Collette in Japanese Story.

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Australian filmmaker Sue Brooks says she is “gobsmacked”.

Her drama Looking For Grace, shot in the Western Australian wheat belt, has been selected for a world premiere in the prestigious competition at Venice Film Festival.

“It’s exciting,” she says. “That was just beyond our dreams.”

Looking For Grace, which stars Radha Mitchell, Richard Roxburgh, veteran Terry Norris and rising teenage star Odessa Young, centres on a couple searching for their missing daughter and her friend who have run away to see their favourite band.

“It tells the story from different people’s points of view – the mother, the father and a retired detective,” Brooks says.

Developed under the not-quite-so-poetic title Driving Back From Dubbo, the film was reluctantly withdrawn from a hometown debut at Melbourne International Film Festival when it was selected for Venice.

Best known for Japanese Story and Subdivision, Brooks is the first Australian female director with a film in the Venice competition since Clara Law’s The Goddess Of 1967 in 2000.

She says that launching the film at the festival is both “fantastic and scary”.

The film, described as a drama with wry comic touches, will be released in cinemas on Australia Day 2016.

Palace Films’ General Manager Nicolas Whatson​ said Japanese Story was one of the company’s most beloved and successful Australian releases so backing Brooks’ new film was “an immediate yes”.

“Looking for Grace might be a story of an ‘ordinary’ family but it bears Sue’s characteristic humour and pathos, and once again she takes her characters – and the audience – down unpredictable pathways,” he says.

Other Australian directors to have competition films at the festival include John Curran with Tracks two years ago, preceded by John Hillcoat​ with The Road, Rolf de Heer​ with The Tracker and Jane Campion with Holy Smoke.

Looking for Grace will join three other Australian films that were announced as festival selections last week:

Director Michael Rowe, who won the Caméra d’Or at Cannes with Leap Year five years ago, has the Canadian-Australian co-production Early Winter screening. It is described as a story about “a man in quiet crisis, working long hours at a rest home to support his family, which he feels may be on the edge of collapse”.

Bentley Dean and Martin Butler’s Tanna, shot with a Vanuatu tribe, will screen in Venice Critics’ Week.

Simon Stone’s The Daughter, which also stars Odessa Young alongside Ewen Leslie, Geoffrey Rush, Miranda Otto and Paul Schneider​, will screen on the closing night of Venice Days.

Macquarie v Cessnock: Jared Edwards cited for sickening Teason Fa’avae-Eli tackle

Edwards cited for sickening tackle | Videohttps://nnimgt-a.akamaihd杭州夜网/transform/v1/crop/frm/storypad-D8vFkr4DfTRK2kpdPpAQJC/cb928310-4d40-4c04-907e-bc9f23c04437.jpg/r4_0_1199_675_w1200_h678_fmax.jpgVIDEO: CESSNOCK centre Jared Edwards has been cited by the Newcastle Rugby League match review committee after an horrific tackle left Macquarie counterpart Teason Fa’avae-Eli with a torn medial, local-news, Teason Fa’avae-Eli, cessnock, jared edwards, newcastle rugby league, macquarie v cessnock2015-07-29T22:00:00+10:00https://players.brightcove杭州夜网/3879528182001/default_default/index.html?videoId=4383495423001https://players.brightcove杭州夜网/3879528182001/default_default/index.html?videoId=4383495423001CESSNOCK centre Jared Edwards has been cited by the Newcastle Rugby League match review committee after an horrific tackle left Macquarie counterpart Teason Fa’avae-Eli with a torn medial ligament.

Fa’avae-Eli will miss the rest of the season and the self-employed carpenter is facing more than two months off work due to the injury, which occurred in the 72nd minute of the Macquarie’s 36-16 win over Cessnock on Saturday at Peacock Field.

Footage from BarTV shows Edwards grabbing Fa’avae-Eli’s right leg in a three-man tackle and driving his shoulder into the knee.

‘‘I was on the ground and he’s just grabbed my leg and straightened it out and gone straight into my knee,’’ Fa’avae-Eli said. ‘‘It popped straight away.’’

The incident was not penalised but a match official watched a replay on BarTV’s production monitor after the game, and Edwards was charged on Monday with contrary conduct.

‘‘The match review committee has seen it as a serious enough offence to send it straight to the judiciary,’’ Newcastle Rugby League CEO Matt Harris said.

Jared Edwards has been cited for this incident, inset, that left Teason Fa’avae-Eli injured.

Edwards will front the judiciary next Wednesday.

Cessnock secretary David Cleaves said the club’s executive would review the incident and decide whether to plead guilty or fight the charge.

Fa’avae-Eli and Edwards were teammates last season at South Newcastle.

That battle between the opposing centres on Saturday was convincingly won by Fa’avae-Eli, who scored a try and was voted players’ player.

‘‘We were at each other all game, as footy players do, to get get them off their game,’’ Fa’avae-Eli said.

‘‘He’s just taken it to the next level.

‘‘He couldn’t handle that we were winning and it’s his old team.

‘‘Throughout the whole game he was saying he’s going to get me.

‘‘He did end up getting me at the end, but in an illegal way.’’

Fa’avae-Eli was Macquarie’s major off-season signing and factored heavily in coach Barrie Moore’s plans for the run into the semi-finals.

Moore was reluctant to comment on the incident but said: ‘‘I feel sorry for Teason because he’s gone for an extended period. He’s played all year and with the semis looming he won’t be involved.’’

Cessnock coach Craig Miller was frank in his assessment of the tackle.

‘‘It doesn’t look great,’’ Miller said.

Teason Fa’avae-Eli in action before the incident. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

‘‘I’m not going to walk away from the fact that it was an unsavoury incident.’’

The Newcastle Rugby League changed their rules this season to allow the match review committee to cite from video footage if an incident was missed by on-field officials.

In the past opposing clubs have had to report incidents, which has led to allegations of ‘‘tit-for-tat’’ citings.

Hugh Bowman keeps calm and wins Sydney jockeys title

Sydney’s premier jockey Hugh Bowman served as a stress-relief consultant before securing the jockey title by producing Sebring Sun at the right time to break his maiden at Canterbury on Wednesday.

The Sebring two-year-old had been talked about as a Golden Slipper contender earlier in the season and trainer Gary Portelli was very keen for him to open his winning account as a two-year-old before the end of the season.

“He beat an open-class horse in a gallop on Saturday, so I thought he would just win,” Portelli said. “When Hughie came out to the mounting yard I was as nervous as I would be before a group race.

“He just told me to calm down – everything would be all right. That’s why he is the champion jockey because he is calm and gets the job done.”

Bowman finished the season with 96 wins after riding another winning double also scoring on Raido to make it 11 wins in the final two weeks of the season. He also was the leading group 1 jockey in Australia with nine victories for the season.

Portelli has higher expectations for Sebring Sun, including perhaps a Golden Rose, but he will keep him to restricted company for now.

“He is still learning and I want to take him slowly,” Portelli said. “He has always had nice potential but hasn’t quite lived up to it because his head has been getting in the way.

“He is still a colt and if he can develop and there might be a stud somewhere for him  if can win a couple of races.”

James McDonald’s defence of his title finished after the first race on the Canterbury when he was stood down by the club doctor because of the effects of flu.

He finished the season with 91-1/2 wins, a mark Blake Shinn joined him on after steering I’ll Take The Jag to a debut win. That win also secured the NSW Jockeys title for Shinn.

Although he did not have a winner at the final meeting of the season Chris Waller won his fifth consecutive metropolitan trainers’ premiership with 143-1/2 ½ wins, while Winona Costin was the champion apprentice recording 41 wins.

Mum accused of murder is ill, lawyer says

Mum accused of murder is ill, lawyer says Members of the local African community show their support. Picture: Darren Pateman

Members of the local African community show their support. Picture: Darren Pateman

Members of the local African community show their support. Picture: Darren Pateman

Members of the local African community show their support. Picture: Darren Pateman

Members of the local African community show their support. Picture: Darren Pateman

Members of the local African community show their support. Picture: Darren Pateman

Zemarai Khatiz legal counsel for the Wallsend mother. Picture: Darren Pateman

TweetFacebookA WALLSEND mother accused of murdering her six-week-old baby is suffering from a severe psychological condition, her solicitor told Newcastle Local Court on Wednesday.

The Senegalese woman, 26, who cannot be identified, kept her head down and listened quietly to a Pulaar interpreter while she appeared by audio visual link from Silverwater Women’s Correctional Centre.

Dozens of members of the Hunter’s African community filled the court for her appearance, but the feed had to be disconnected after the woman began feeling ill and nearly fainted.

The woman’s solicitor, Zemarai Khatiz, said about 40 family, friends and members of the community had come to court to support the woman because they were concerned for her wellbeing. He said the woman, who doesn’t speak any English, had hardly spoken or left her cell since being taken to the remand centre.

She is accused of cutting her six-week-old daughter’s throat at her home in Curry Street at Wallsend on Friday morning.

Mr Khatiz applied for a suppression order on the woman’s name because of fears for her safety in custody.

‘‘Considering the nature of the charge, the circumstances of the charge, my client’s life may be in danger in custody,’’ Mr Khatiz said.

But Magistrate Robert Stone refused the application, making an order for protective custody instead.

The Newcastle Herald has declined to publish the woman’s name to protect the identify of her children.

Outside of court, Mr Khatiz said his client had the support of the community.

‘‘She is suffering from severe psychological conditions and it is clear that she is suffering from mental illnesses,’’ he said.

‘‘Everyone was here, her husband, her friends, everyone is supporting her, everyone knows she was going through a very difficult time, everyone is aware of her mental and psychological conditions.

‘‘I would ask the community to take that into account. There is more to this story than what is contained in the fact sheet.’’

The woman did not apply for bail and it was formally refused.

The matter was adjourned until September for the woman to undergo a psychiatric assessment.

New insights after a day fighting over cobalt

In a move that was hardly surprising at Wednesday’s show-cause hearings into why the four trainers with elevated cobalt readings should retain their licences, the lawyer for Danny O’Brien and Mark Kavanagh, Damian Sheales, labelled vet Tom Brennan a liar and effectively alleged Brennan was responsible for the cobalt positives in those two stables. It was hardly news after Brennan recanted previous evidence and last week said he sold both Kavanagh and O’Brien “vitamin bottles” for thousands of dollars. Given this change of evidence, it was simply a matter of which bus Brennan would be thrown under.

While this may not be surprising, it is certainly an interesting change in the direction of these cases, as both Kavanagh and O’Brien are clearly aiming to make Brennan fully responsible for their woes.

This could end up as a heavyweight battle between these parties, with each side claiming the other knew what was going on. It’s hard to believe Brennan will accept full liability because if Kavanagh and O’Brien are disqualified for long periods, the possible lawsuits resulting would spell financial ruin for the beleaguered vet.

Industry observers have said it will be hard to lay all the blame on Brennan, as in the past in racing the ultimate responsibility lies with the trainer to present his horse to the races drug-free. There is also the other matter that allegedly both Kavanagh and O’Brien paid Brennan $3000 for “vitamin bottles” normally costing about $15.

In other parts of the hearing, leading trainer Peter Moody, through his lawyer, stated he had more than 300 swabs tested annually and the cobalt elevation in Lidari must be an unexplained aberration, perhaps divine intervention.

In the most expected move of all,  Lee and Shannon Hope indicated they would challenge the science of cobalt. Robert Stitt QC outlined the Hopes’ claim that urine was the wrong test for cobalt and blood was a better test. This will be an interesting argument. In every other part of the world, urine is accepted as the best test sample.

However, in the US, because its racing allows the use of other drugs, urine could not be used and a blood test for cobalt needed to be developed. Some believe the blood test is difficult and unreliable.

At the hearings on Wednesday there was a sustained attempt to discredit the opinions of two of Racing Victoria’s experts, Dr Brian Stewart and Professor Brynn Hibbert. Hibbert has been involved in establishing Australia’s cobalt threshold. He has calculated the odds of a normal horse exceeding the threshold could be  2.25trillion, so an attempt to discredit his finding is not surprising.

Sheales took direct aim at RV’s head vet Stewart and tried to blame him for the cobalt fiasco, saying cobalt wasn’t bad, there was no proof of performance enhancement, nor toxic side effects. However RV integrity stewards and Dr Stewart have a vital role representing everyone in racing and this includes the other 900 odd trainers and thousands of horses who do not have a Cobalt positive.

No one admitted or accepted responsibility for the Cobalt positives. While it is likely the stewards will allow these trainers to continue because of the number of staff they employ, there was no satisfactory explanation of the nine positives.

Griffin McMaster stood down for Goodes should be ‘deported’ rant

The offending tweet, which has since been deleted.FORMER Brisbane Roar goalkeeper Griffin McMaster was a spectator for Heidelberg United at Magic Park after the Victorian club stood him down for ‘‘offensive tweets’’ about indigenous Sydney Swans AFL star Adam Goodes.

Heidelberg arrived at Newcastle Airport on Tuesday night about 9.30pm, just before McMaster tweeted: ‘‘Adam Goodes calls Australia Day invasion day. Deport him. If you don’t like it leave.’’

The tweet, which was later deleted, sparked a wave of criticism. McMaster, 32, defended the statement, saying on Twitter that it was not racist, but he labelled Goodes ‘‘unaustralian’’. He tweeted later on Wednesday afternoon: ‘‘If anyone is offended. My apologies.’’

Griffin McMaster apologised for any offence his tweets may have caused. Picture: Getty Images

Just before 6pm on Wednesday, Heidelberg issued a statement saying McMaster had been stood down from the FFA Cup match.

‘‘The club has been made aware of comments on Twitter made by their goalkeeper Griffin McMaster and has made a decision to omit him from participating in tonight’s FFA Cup match,’’ it read. ‘‘The club will investigate this matter and take appropriate action in due course.’’

The governing body quickly supported the move.

‘‘Football Federation Australia applauds Heidelberg United Football Club for standing goalkeeper Griffin McMaster down from tonight’s Westfield FFA Cup match following a series of offensive tweets this afternoon,’’ an FFA statement read. ‘‘FFA condemns the content of the tweets sent from Griffin McMaster’s personal Twitter account and will continue to liaise with the club in relation to the matter.’’

The Swans announced on Wednesday that Goodes was taking a break from AFL because of the booing he receives from spectators.

Newcastle Knights dropped ball with sacking

Axed: Rick Stone, inset, Matt Gidley at the Knights press conference on the day the news broke. Picture: Darren Pateman, Simone De PeakBETWEEN THE LINES

THERE is no easy way to sack a coach, but the Knights dropped the ball when they sent Rick Stone packing on Monday.

While players were at Newcastle beach that morning for their recovery session, Knights directors were engaged in a telephone hook-up during which they decided Stone’s position had become untenable and they instructed chief executive Matt Gidley to show him the door.

Consistently sub-standard performances during the team’s run of 12 losses from the past 14 games, culminating in their humiliating 52-6 hammering from Souths last Saturday night, had convinced the board that players were no longer responding to Stone’s methods.

Gidley knew the board meeting had been called and that Stone was on shaky ground, and told the soon-to-be former coach as much early on Monday morning when they spoke in the club’s Mayfield headquarters.

Covering all contingencies, Gidley had also sounded out friend and fellow Knights Hall of Famer Danny Buderus the night before to ask if he would step in and fill the breach for the rest of the season if the board decided to sack Stone, which they did.

By the time Gidley emerged from the meeting to tell Stone around 1pm, and to plan the next step with Knights media manager Tara White, the news had already broken on social media.

Players had already been dismissed for the day, so some found out via social media before they received a club-issued text message sent by Knights operations manager Warren Smiles.

Details of that message were leaked, presumably by a player, to a journalist on Wednesday.

With the benefit of hindsight, the Knights could have conducted the recovery session at Mayfield on Monday, kept the players together, and told them of Stone’s demise in person.

That would have also given Stone a chance to say goodbye to them face to face.

After 10 years of loyal service, during which he did everything asked of him when pushed sideways to make way for Wayne Bennett, Stone deserved that.

■ It has been a big week for Knights five-eighth Carlos Tuimavave.

The Knights announced on Saturday that they had granted the former New Zealand Warrior a release from the final year of his two-year contract so that he could take up a three-year deal with English Super League club Hull starting next season.

The following day, the 23-year-old playmaker kicked the winning field goal to cap a miraculous 35-34 NSW Cup victory over Canterbury at Belmore Sportsground.

The Knights had trailed 34-12 midway through the second half, during which both teams were reduced to 11 players.

Tuimavave, who has played four NRL games this season but is yet to taste success in Newcastle colours, was then recalled to the top squad on Tuesday to play five-eighth against the Dragons at Jubilee Oval on Sunday.

Caretaker coach Danny Buderus named Tuimavave alongside Tyrone Roberts in the halves, pushed captain Kurt Gidley back to fullback and moved Jake Mamo to the wing.

■ Knights centre Dane Gagai is comfortable with his decision to re-sign with the Knights, despite the team’s poor results this season.

Gagai, who made a spectacular Origin debut this year, turned down offers from several NRL rivals to sign a new two-year deal with the Knights in April.

‘‘That’s why I re-signed here – the young boys we’ve got in the team,’’ Gagai said. ‘‘Jake Mamo had an unbelievable game for us against the Rabbits, the Mata’utia boys are still young, I’m only 24 myself, and we’ve got Joey Tapine who can come up and play.’’

Gagai was in doubt in the lead-up to the game against Souths due to an irregular heartbeat but was given the all-clear by his cardiologist last Thursday.

Chasing Rabbits for most of the night put his heart under more strain than he would have preferred, but Gagai said he felt no ill effects and would look out for warning signs in future.

‘‘It’s not uncommon for athletes to get it, there’s no cure for it, and they said it will probably come on again but it just depends how aggressive it comes back,’’ he said.

‘‘It was obviously a bit of a frightening thing and he said it will come back again, but if I don’t get the dizzy spells or anything like that, you can play through it fine.’’

Crystal ball guess for semi-final match ups

Lakes and Wests are battling for the Newcastle Rugby League minor premiership. Picture: Ryan OslandTHE battle for Newcastle Rugby League semi-final positions is wide open.

With various top-five matches scheduled in the final three rounds, there are myriad possibilities.


16 points (+65): Central (a), Cessnock (h), Souths (a)

Lakes have eyes on their first minor premiership since 2007. But their run home against three desperate opponents will not be easy. The Seagulls lost to both Cessnock and Souths in the first round.

First place could be decided on for and against, but Seagulls coach Dean Noonan said his squad could ill afford to focus on strengthening their points differential.

‘‘If you approach your preparation in footy on bigger-picture thoughts, then you’re going to get your pants pulled down,’’ Noonan said.


16 points (+46): Macquarie (h), Maitland (h), Central (a)

The match against cellar-dwellers Maitland at Harker Oval could be vital to Wests’ minor premiership hopes.

The three-time defending premiers could rack up a large winning margin to rein in Lakes.

However, Macquarie are arguably the in-form team of the competition over the past two rounds and could potentially derail the Rosellas, who have lost some of their previous aura.


13 points (+31): Souths (h), Lakes (a), Kurri (h)

Losses to Central and Macquarie have damaged Cessnock. Their minor premiership hopes are dead and they could yet finish fifth with difficult games against Souths and Lakes.

‘‘The top three is still achievable with two of our last three games at home,’’ Goannas coach Craig Miller said. ‘‘We’ve got to hold on to the battle as best we can.’’


12 points (+66): Wests (a), Souths (h), Maitland (a)

The Scorpions are finally building at the right moment.

After three dominant wins, Macquarie are arguably the form team of the competition, and the next two rounds will determine their title credentials.

‘‘The one good thing is Cessnock and Souths play each other next week, so if we get two points, we’ll leapfrog one of them,’’ Macquarie coach Barrie Moore said.


12 points (-26): Cessnock (a), Macquarie (a), Lakes (h)

Souths assistant coach Greg Hurrell said attitude was an issue last Sunday when they were whipped by Central.

That attitude needs to adjust swiftly as the Lions have the most challenging run home of the top five, but they could still finish third if they win their remaining matches.

A potential two-week suspension for playmaker Scott Briggs (high tackle) is a concern.


8 points (-42): Lakes (h), Kurri (a), Wests (h)

Mathematically the Butcher Boys remain a top-five chance if they win their remaining matches. Probably a bridge too far, but they will provide nuisance value.