Australia v West Indies: Josh Hazlewood’s terrific first year in Tests a long time in the making

In the eyes of the ICC’s pundits Josh Hazlewood is an emerging player – the best of the past year, according to the annual awards announced this week.
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But inside Cricket NSW and Cricket Australia he has been subject to huge raps for close to a decade, that he would be the next big thing in fast-bowling in Australia – and he is now justifying that reputation.

While peers Mitch Starc, James Pattinson and Pat Cummins were ushered into Test cricket ahead of schedule Hazlewood, who made his international debut more than a year ahead of all of them, had to wait four and a half years between getting his one-day cap and his baggy green last summer.

In the tall fast-bowler’s first year he has taken 60 wickets at an average of 22.65. Only India spinner R. Ashwin (69 at 20.35) has taken more in Tests in the same period.

Arguably the finest aspect of that debut year has come in his past two Tests, in the absence of both pacemen who were above him in the pecking order in the winter Ashes series: Mitch Johnson and Mitch Starc.

Since Starc was injured in Adelaide, during the first innings against New Zealand, the right-armer has taken 15 wickets at an average of 6.87, while only conceding 1.79 runs per over.

“When you say it like that I’m pretty happy,” he said on Thursday, after Australia’s main training session before the Boxing Day Test. “I don’t look back too often – you’re always looking forward to the next game and preparing for that – but I’m pretty happy with the past 12 months. There’s been a few ups and downs but more ups than actual downs, so I’m pretty happy with how I’ve gone.”

Hazlewood, 24, is quietly spoken by nature, but nevertheless said he had thrived on the requirement to step up when Starc limped out of the Adelaide Test, and with it the home summer, due to injury.

“Seeing Mitch go down has probably put a bit more responsibility on the other quicks. I definitely felt that in the second innings in Adelaide,” he said

“I guess you do get the ball in your hand a little but more, being the leading bowler. I seem to thrive on that extra responsibility I think. ‘Smithy’ [captain Steve Smith] turns to me when we need a wicket and need to break a partnership. I’m enjoying it at the moment.”

Starc and Pattinson both debuted at the start of the 2011-12 home summer. Left-armer Starc had played only 14 shield matches, and had a bowling average of 33.22, while Pattinson had played half that and had an average of 30.43. Pat Cummins had debuted in thr preceding Test, in South Africa, with only three shield matches behind him, with an average of 46.33.

Hazlewood had had comparable injury problems to Starc and Pattinson, yet it did not get the same attention because he had yet to play a Test. By the time he finally debuted in the second Test of last summer he had a solid grounding of 24 matches over five years, in which he took 79 wickets at 27.33. He reckoned that had been a good grounding for him, and had aided his generally positive start to his Test career.

“I think I just played a little bit more Shield cricket – not as much as I would’ve liked, with injuries and things like that,” he said.

“I watched Mitch Starc and get given that Test match, as Jimmy (Pattinson) as well, quite early on. They probably weren’t quite ready, but I think that extra couple of years in shield cricket got me ready for Test cricket. I probably knew my body a little bit better injury-wise, and what I could bowl with. I think that played a little part in that.”

Hazlewood said in the past two Tests he had been more comfortable that at any stage of his career. In those Tests he has regained the consistency, of line and length, that briefly deserted him in England and saw him miss the last Test.

That consistency has allowed Hazlewood to take over Starc’s role as the key wicket-taker without sacrificing his economy.

While Hazlewood’s ability to play every Test has been in doubt since Brisbane, due to concerns about his workload, he is increasingly confidently about achieving that.

“We’re always monitoring [the workloads of] everyone, quicks in particular, but with the Test going only three days in Hobart it helped us to have that extra-long break and get some strength back in and recovery as well,” he said.

“All the quicks are good to go.

“I’m feeling good. These two Tests are back-to-back, but we’ll play it by ear and see how I go after this Test.”

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That sinking feeling: saved by his scooter

NARROW ESCAPE: A sinkhole opened up beneath Alwyne Watkins, 90, as he rode through his local Wallsend Park. Picture: Simone De Peak.ALWYNE Watkins escaped with his life by the widthofhis mobility scooter yesterday whenthe Wallsend park he’s spent a lifetime inthreatened toswallowhim up.
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“The ground opened up and swallowed me and I was underground,” Mr Watkins, 90, said.

“All I knew was thatI was driving, and the next moment my head was level with the ground.”

Mr Watkins wasridingona path along the fencelineofGeorge Farley Oval at 3.30pmWednesdaywhen asinkholewitnesses describeas six metres deep and four metres wideopened up beneath his wheels.

The scooter lurched nosefirst intothemanhole-sized crater,tipped sideways and pinned Mr Watkins tothe rim. A pair of prescription glasses and sunglasses tumbled into the dark.Mr Watkins hit his head on the ground andsuffered a chipped elbow and acracked rib.

Two men playingsoccerranover and freed Mr Watkins, with only hisscooter’srear wheelswedgingit to the rim. Police and paramedics attendedand Mr Watkins was taken toJohn Hunter Hospital overnight.

“I call [the two rescuers]heroes, and I want to thank them,” he said.

“Everyone was frightened to go near the hole because when they got close to the edge it kept caving in around me.”

Mine Subsidence Board workerscordoned off the crater andspent the night andtoday pumpingthe hole with concrete. Comment is being sought from the Mine Subsidence Board.

The park holdshistory for Mr Watkins, whopassesthroughat leasttwice a day. He played football there as a young man.Fifteen months ago, on nearlythe samespot asthe sinkhole, he was accosted by a muggerwho received “a broken nose” for his trouble. One of the trees holda plaque toMr Watkins’ late wife Norma, and he leaves flowers every morning.

Alwyne Watkins recounts narrowly missing falling into a sink hole at Wallsend while riding his mobility scooter. pic.twitter苏州美甲美睫培训学校/jRuRVs7KWh

— Simone De Peak (@simonedepeak) December 24, 2015

Ken Lewington, one of twoneighbours whosecured a rope tothescooter and pulled it free, said sinkholes weren’t unexpected in the historically undermined suburb, but still concerning.

“We’re in a mine subsidence area, so I suppose you have to expect it at some point,” Mr Lewington said.

“But it’s a highusage park. Alot of kids go along that pathto use the skate park.”

Neighbours sayat least twoother sinkholes haveopenednearbyin recentyears. In June,a five-metre sinkhole formed in a North Lambton backyard.

Mr Watkins said he was satisfied with an undertakingfrom the Mine Subsidence Board to replace his scooter, which still runs but has a bent chassis and veers to the right.

Life-sized nativity scene at Gundaroo

The nativity scene at the Gundaroo Community church. Photo: Andrew Meares The life-sized figures are made from bent steel reinforcement rods by sculptor and local sheep farmer Greg Hill. Photo: Andrew Meares
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Like the wise men, Canberrans are following the proverbial star out to a life-sized nativity scene at the Gundaroo community church.

The tiny village, about 37 kilometres north of Canberra, has worked for around a year to create the ethereal Christmas display.

Gundaroo resident Roger Meischke said it began as an idea by local artist Cheryl Leach and evolved from there.

“It led to this evolving scene over several weeks. The figures all started from different directions and mysteriously moved at night. It’s one of those things that seems on the edge of impossibility.”

Gundaroo sheep farmer Greg Hill crafted the life-sized figures out of 20-millimetre reinforced steel rod in his shearing shed.

“He spray-painted the edges in white paint so it pops out like a cartoon when you put a torch on it,” Dr Meischke said.

The steel figures were then garbed in clothing sourced from the op-shop.

The flocculent sheep get their fleece from old woollen car seats cut to purpose.

The scene’s crowning glory is the star placed on the church’s spire, which shines a light which can be scene from every vantage point up to 15 kilometres away, Dr Meischke said.

“It looks like a story book but it’s real. When the wind blows at night all of the gear moves in different ways, almost like it’s alive. It’s quite breathtaking.”

Droves of Canberrans have driven out to witness the nativity scene for themselves.

“One lady drove out again with her camera [after visiting one night] but thought it was gone because it was in a new location,” he said.

“Lots of people drive out to see it and almost all stand, look and ponder. It’s not the gaudy display of flickering lights. It’s quite spiritual.”

In true country form, there’s no set date for the display to be packed away.

But should you venture out there and find it gone, there may be hope for a repeat of the scene next year.

“It might be back next year. No one’s decided what to do with it yet, we’re all possessed by it,” Dr Meischke said.

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Anger over ‘absurd’ plan for council boundary to split Majors Creek

Majors Creek resident Gordon Waters will end up having his properties in two different local government areas if a proposed council boundary change goes ahead in NSW. Photo: Jay CronanCouncil mergers: Baird government reveals which Sydney councils will changeSydney’s ‘new era’: councils forced to mergeQueanbeyan City Council to merge with a partitioned Palerang under Fit for the Future reforms
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The tiny rural town of Majors Creek would be split between two councils under the NSW’s proposed local government overhaul, a plan residents have labelled “absurd” and devoid of common sense.

The NSW government has drawn a proposed council boundary right through the town, splitting its roughly 220 inhabitants between Queanbeyan and Goulburn Mulwaree councils.

Locals fear they could become subject to a different set of rates, waste, and roads maintenance regimes depending on which side of the town they lived on.

The Palerang council, responsible for Majors Creek, held an extraordinary meeting on Tuesday to discuss the Baird government’s plans.

One councillor Garth Morrison described the council merger process as “shambolic”.

“These boundaries stink of the minister, in his best overhand crayon grip, messily drawing lines on a map,” Cr Morrison said.

The NSW government has not yet made any final decision on the permanent boundaries, and an extensive public consultation process is still to be held.

The current proposal would abolish Palerang Council, with the new council boundary slicing through a main road in the centre of town and loosely following the Shoalhaven River, splitting properties which straddle the waterway.

Gordon Waters, an eight-year local, said residents have been left bewildered and concerned about what such a split could mean for the town.

Mr Waters owns two properties in Majors Creek. Under the current plan, one of those would come under the purview of the Queanbeyan City Council, while the other, just down the road, would be governed by Goulburn-Mulwaree.

“The general feeling is that it’s just ludicrous what they’re proposing,” Mr Waters said.

“Are they going to send two garbage trucks out on the same day or different days, one from Queanbeyan, and then the other from Goulburn? Are they going to send two sets of road crews to grade the road?”

“We just can’t fathom how this would even be allowed to proceed. Surely there’s got to be some common sense prevail.”

Palerang Council mayor Pete Harrison, who criticised the government for a lack of consultation over the mergers, said the plan was a “dead cat” purely designed to provoke debate about where any shifted boundary should lie.

“It was never intended to be real, it’s something that was tossed in to be tossed out,” he said.

“It’s just absolutely crazy to the extent I can’t believe that boundary would ever exist.”

“Part of the justification for these mergers is to simplify and cut duplication, but then you put the boundary slap down the middle of a town which can only exacerbate differences and duplication.”

Local government expert Dr Bligh Grant, a Senior Lecturer with UTS’s Centre of Excellence for Local Government, said the boundary line issue would be dealt with in the upcoming public consultation process.

Dr Grant said there was still a long way to go before the council reforms and mergers were finalised.

“The key thing about these reforms at this stage is that, despite the fact that it feels like they’ve been going on for some time, really the end game has only just begun,” Dr Grant said.

“The boundaries commission lists no less than 10 more procedures that have to be gone through, including a significant round of public consultations, before the new councils are brought into being.”

Bill Waterhouse has lived in Majors Creek since 2002 and said it made more sense for the entire rural village to be aligned with Goulburn-Mulwaree Council.

“Whatever happens, Majors Creek and Araluen have got to be kept closely associated with Braidwood and villages because that’s its heartland,” he said.

The proposed boundary would also mean Unity Mining’s controversial planned project to process ore near the town would be split between three different council areas.

“The thing that really struck me is that the gold mine would create its fill in Queanbeyan [council area], it would pour into the creek in Goulburn and flow down to Eurobodalla.”

NSW Local Government Minister Paul Toole said detailed merger proposals were still being finalised and members of the public would have an opportunity to comment on an initial report to the Boundaries Commission through public hearings.

A delegate would report on the proposals before a final report was considered by the commission, and then the Minister for a final decision.

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