Archive for December 2018

Rogic ready to jump through Hoops

IN THE space of a month, Tom Rogic could go from lining up against Alessandro Del Piero in the A-League to being in the frame to play Juventus in the Champions League after the Socceroo made his first foray into Europe by accepting a training invitation from Celtic.

Rogic will fly to Spain on Thursday to take part in a five-day training camp with the Scottish giants with a view to move permanently later in the January transfer window.

The 20-year-old is serving a three-match suspension, and has been given the green light by Central Coast Mariners to train with the Glasgow club. The Mariners received the invitation from Celtic on Wednesday morning, and will allow him to train as they prepare for their Champions League knockout fixture against Italian giants Juventus. Rogic will train under Celtic manager Neil Lennon before returning on January 17, two days before his next eligible A-League game against Newcastle Jets.

Central Coast Mariners first received an inquiry from Celtic last week but are yet to receive a firm offer to sign Rogic. The January transfer window will be the last opportunity for Mariners to cash in on the star before he will be able to leave for free at the end of the season.

Mariners director of football, Lawrie McKinna, said the training stint with Celtic was a great opportunity for Rogic to further his development while suspended from A-League games. “This is a great opportunity for Tomas to train with Celtic’s first team squad. Celtic are in their mid-season break and are busy preparing for their Champions League matches against Juventus starting in February, so Tom will undoubtedly learn a lot from the experience,” McKinna said.

Wednesday was the A-League’s busiest day for transfers in several years, even if the transfer window doesn’t officially open until Monday.

Western Sydney formally confirmed that Rocky Visconte had signed with the club until the end of the season after the left-sided midfielder was released by Brisbane Roar on Tuesday.

“I have seen and heard that there is something very special happening out here at Western Sydney, and I am very happy to join the club,” Visconte said. “This club is sitting in the top four so it is obviously doing something very positive, and I want to take the next three months and show what I have got.”

Melbourne Victory released 20-year-old defender Petar Franjic and 18-year-old striker Julius Davies after both struggled to play first-team football this season.

However, Davies didn’t have to wait long to find a home, with the Roar announcing by mid-afternoon the Liberian-born attacker, who previously spent time in Bayern Munich’s youth set-up, had signed a 2½-year deal.

“He’s an exciting young prospect, quick, creative, and I’m sure the Brisbane Roar fans will enjoy seeing him play,” Roar coach Mike Mulvey said. “He’s someone I’m sure the other players will enjoy having around, and one I think that can terrorise the opposition on the pitch.”

Adelaide United bolstered their squad for the future with the signing of South Australian teenagers, Kenyan-born winger Awer Mabil and defender Jordan Elsey.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

Father-to-be Watson adds to selection headaches

SHANE WATSON is expected to put family before country and could miss a Test during the tour of India to fly home for the birth of his first child, creating another dilemma for national selectors.

And Ben Hilfenhaus also appears to be losing his race against the clock to earn selection for the four-Test series.

Watson and his wife Lee Furlong are expecting the arrival of their first child in March, raising the potential for a clash with Australia’s Test schedule in India. The vice-captain, a likely inclusion if fit to tour the subcontinent, may sit out the third or fourth Test, although he could also play both games if his wife gave birth between matches.

Ricky Ponting missed the second Test on a tour of Sri Lanka in 2011 so he could be present for the birth of his and wife Rianna’s second child. Watson’s potential unavailability for parts of the tour is another factor selectors must take into account as they plan for life after Michael Hussey, whose retirement has left a hole in Australia’s batting line-up.

Selectors have been scratching their heads over how to replace the experienced and dependable Hussey and the best spot for Watson in the batting order now he is not bowling. Watson was moved from first drop to No.4 in his two Tests against Sri Lanka as it was felt the position would better accommodate his bowling. But, now that he is taking an indefinite break from bowling, team management is considering restoring Watson as an opener, where he averages nearly 44 from 24 matches, as opposed to Ed Cowan’s 33 from 13 games.

Such a move would break up Cowan’s opening partnership with David Warner, which was last year’s most prolific in world cricket, and possibly endanger the adopted Tasmanian’s position in the XI.

Watson had stated before his move from opener in late 2011 that his preferred position was at the top of the order. Used primarily as a partnership breaker towards the end of Ponting’s reign as captain, Watson was able to stay injury-free for two years after earning an international recall in the 2009 Ashes series. But he has struggled to cope with the extra bowling workload placed on him by Michael Clarke in the past 18 months.

Although chairman of selectors John Inverarity’s panel is now judging Watson as a specialist batsman, the selectors are keen for him to resume bowling.

Watson, who has taken 48 wickets at 28 since his return in 2009, will not bowl in the next two months but the door remains ajar for him to play a role with the ball in the Ashes later this year, although it’s unlikely he will bowl extensively as he has this summer.

The 31-year-old is aiming to return for the ODI series against West Indies, starting February 1, but he could also make a comeback via the Sheffield Shield.

Meanwhile, Hilfenhaus has been withdrawn from the Hobart Hurricanes’ squad as he continues his recovery from a side strain he suffered during the first Test last month. The move has diminished Hilfenhaus’s chances of inclusion in Australia’s touring party for India next month.

The Tasmanian swingman, who has been overtaken by Jackson Bird in the national pecking order, is eyeing a return on January 27 in the Tigers’ one-day game against Queensland in Brisbane. But with Tasmania not due to play their next Shield game until February 6, Hilfenhaus may not get a chance to prove his fitness before the national squad leaves on February 9.

”He probably won’t be fit by then, he won’t have bowled enough,” said Tasmania coach Tim Coyle. ”[They’re] probably targeting the Ashes now, I reckon, for him. There’ll be more injuries and players will break down, he’s just got to get himself right.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

Job vacancies on the slide

AUSTRALIA’S supply of vacant jobs is dwindling, making it harder to find work than it has been in years.

New results from the only comprehensive national survey of vacancies show they have fallen 8 per cent in the past year, undoing most of the gains since the global financial crisis.

Australia had only 166,000 vacant jobs in November, down from 193,000 two years earlier. More than 600,000 Australians were looking for work.

The most dramatic slide has been in public sector vacancies. There were just 12,300 government or semi-government jobs on offer in November, down from 17,500 a year earlier.

In the public service capital of Canberra, the Bureau of Statistics found 800 vacant jobs, the least since the early years of the Howard government in 1998.

Recently elected state governments have also cut public service employment to long-term lows.

There were only 3100 public vacancies in New South Wales – the weakest at that time of year since 1996.

There were 2900 in Victoria, the weakest since 2003, and just 2100 in Queensland, the weakest since 1999.

Queensland has 29 per cent fewer vacancies than it had a year ago and 65 per cent fewer public service vacancies.

The results suggest the public sector will be closed to many of the graduates who traditionally find work at the beginning of each year, forcing them into the private sector or pushing up unemployment.

Private sector vacancies have fallen 9 per cent in the past year. The biggest slides are in tourism, where there are 9100 fewer jobs on offer; transport, where there are 6800 fewer jobs; and mining and manufacturing, each with 2000 fewer vacancies.

There are fewer manufacturing jobs on offer than at any time in the past decade.

The most recent National Australia Bank business confidence survey, released in December, showed confidence at its weakest since 2009. More businesses planned to cut employment than increase it.

Separately released retail figures show weak spending in the lead-up to Christmas. Spending slipped 0.1 per cent in November to a seasonally adjusted $21.5 billion, the Bureau of Statistics said, disappointing economists who had expected a 0.3 per cent increase.

”There is no good news in either the retail spending or the vacancies data,” said BT Financial Group chief economist Chris Caton.

”If the consumer is cheered by the interest rate cuts, she’s still keeping it to herself.”

The dollar slipped more than one-quarter of a cent to US104.9¢ as financial markets’ expectations of a Reserve Bank rate cut in February climbed marginally from 36 per cent to 38 per cent.

The ABS job vacancy survey is regarded as more reliable than the private sector advertisement surveys because it seeks details of all vacancies, whether or not they are advertised. It shows Tasmania is by far the worst state in which to search for a job, with eight unemployed people competing for each vacant position.

The West Australian and Northern Territory labour markets remain Australia’s healthiest, with only 1.5 and 1.3 locals competing for each vacant job.

In Victoria there are 3.9 people competing for each vacant job. In NSW the figure is four and in Queensland it is 4.3.

Australia’s unemployment rate has remained in a narrow band of 5 per cent to 5.4 per cent for two years.

The government is forecasting only a small move beyond that band to 5.5 per cent by June. The figures will be updated next week.


The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

HEARTBREAK: The forgotten cost of bushfires

Dead stock on a property near Jugiong in NSW. Photo: JAY CRONAN James Douglas (front) and his dad, Les, stand in the burnt land of their Big Springs property. Picture: Oscar Colman

Farmers have taken a financial and emotional hit from the bushfires ravaging NSW, with livestock losses potentially into the tens of thousands.

A NSW Department of Primary Industries spokesperson said initial figures pointed to a loss of 10,000 animals, most of which are sheep.

However, it will be some time before the final figures are known and the damage bill is tallied.

Farmer James Douglas suffered significant losses when fire hit his Waverly Run property near Big Springs, south of Wagga Wagga, on Saturday night.

With the help of his wife Jacinda, Mr Douglas filled and hooked a water tanker to his ute and drove towards the fire in a desperate attempt to save the 5000 sheep on the property.

“I went to save a mob of sheep but I had to leave them behind – I couldn’t believe how fast the fire was,” Mr Douglas said.

“The flames were only five metres away from me.”

By Sunday, 1100 sheep, valued at $110,000, were dead. However that number is expected to rise, with many sheep unable to walk because of burns to their feet.

Mr Douglas and his father, Les, have had the heartbreaking task of killing all the injured sheep.

Both described the horror of about 500 of the animals pushed up against each other at a fence, blackened and “barbecued” as they became stuck when the fire closed in.

WIRES volunteer Storm Stanfordsaid high temperatures and humidity led to the death of many animals.

“Yesterday we lost over one thousand flying foxes at a camp at Bomaderry Creek in Nowra,” she said. “Most of the flying foxes were nursing babies and the heat and humidity just proved too much.”

Volunteers were able to rescue some of the baby flying foxes and sent them toSydney for care.

NSW Farmers Association policy director Angus Gidley-Baird said that with fires still burning across the state, the true impact on livestockmay not be known for weeks.

He said that many members are part of their local NSW Rural Fire Service and still hadn’t had a chance to get back to their farms to properly survey the damage.

“The real trauma and stress will hit when farmers get a chance to go back to their properties, count how much livestock and feed they lost, how much fencing they lost and how much crop they need tore-sow” Mr Gidley-Baird said.

He stressed that while the NSW RFS had done a brilliant job battling fires, the damage done would be an issue for farmers for months to come.

“People need to remember that while the fires are only in the media for a couple of days, the heartache and recovery for those affected will be a yearlong process,” Mr Gidley-Baird said.

“That said, most farmers are pretty resilient. They are tough people and they will find a way to get through this.’’

NSW Primary Industries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson, who is the state MP for the fire-ravaged area near Yass, said many sheep were injured in addition to the 10,000 believed killed.

“If you have one injured by fire, they have to be destroyed and that is one of the most heartbreaking things a farmer has to do as part of his job,” she said.

Fires in NSW have consumed 131,000 hectares of land so far.

Fire threatens 25 Lithgow homes

Too close for comfort … a fire is threatening 25 Lithgow homes. A bushfire in Shoalhaven crosses the Princes Highway on Wednesday night.

Two helicopters are water-bombing a blaze that is threatening 25 Lithgow homes.

Local Fire Captain Paul Carter told Fairfax Media they were called at 4.30am on Wednesday about a fire in a valley known as the Vale of Clwyd.

“It was pretty spectacular this morning, the whole mountain was ablaze, ” Mr Carter said. “But we don’t think we have too many problems at this stage.”

The wind was down and not causing any trouble, he said.

Two fire trucks with eight local firefighters – along with a truck of RFS officers – will remain on site as part of their property protection strategy.

Police and RFS officers are investigating several possible ignition points as local speculation mounts that an arsonist was responsible.

Homes along Berry Street are preparing to evacuate but most locals are confident they remain safe.

Jackie Harper, who has lived on Berry Street for 14 years with her sons, has the family’s bags packed and the cat and dog ready.

“We were ordered to leave this morning. At that stage the whole hill was glowing, but we’ve seen four or five fires before and we’ve been fine,” she said.

“We are watching and waiting to see. It doesn’t look too good now, it has not come down the ridge like this before,” she said.

“I just hope there is enough personnel to cover it.”

At midday on Wednesday, the RFS said there were 134 fires burning and 31 were uncontained.

There were 414 fire trucks, 2000 firefighters, any many more on standby, and over 340,000 hectares burnt.

RFS Assistant Commissioner Rob Rogers, after only a “few hours sleep”, told Fairfax Media the massive combined effort will continue at similar levels to Tuesday, when there were “catastrophic” fire conditions in parts of NSW.

A favourable change in the weather has eased conditions, Mr Rogers said.

But now there are “severe” fire danger ratings for areas in the Hunter region all the way to the Queensland border and as west as Moree.

“We now have a lot of new fire threats that have been benign up to now,” he said.

“Their risk goes into Queensland, so there is a whole new part of the state under threat.”

The Rural Fire Service will focus on Deans Gap in the Shoalhaven that on Tuesday jumped the Princess Highway and put Sussex Inlet under threat.

“There is a lot of fire there, it’s the west side of the highway that is the significant problem,” he said.

Before midday, the RFS said cooler conditions have eased fire conditions, but the potential threat to properties remains.

Crews have been deployed along Sussex Inlet Road to protect properties.

Evacuation centres are open in Sussex Inlet at the bowling club and the RSL.

Sussex Inlet Road and the Princes Highway are both open.

Another fire at Harden, 18 kilometres west of Yass, was one of the hardest to hit on Tuesday as record temperatures soared across NSW.

“That fire ran a long way. There are reports it burnt 1000 stock and a building was lost. We have teams today assessing the damage,” Mr Rogers said.

Mr Rogers said it was “disappointing but a good result” in regards to three juveniles charged for starting a fire in Shalvey, in Sydney’s west.

“Arsonists will be caught,” he said.

The Premier Barry O’Farrell and Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons on Wednesday will tour fire affected parts of the state.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

The home stretch

Reaching out: Lleyton Hewitt stretches for a shot at Kooyong on Wednesday.LLEYTON Hewitt will spend the year travelling with his pal Peter Luczak, the promoted hitting partner who will effectively co-coach the dual grand slam champion in tandem with the more stay-at-home veteran Tony Roche. There will be golf (Hewitt off a handicap of seven, Luczak off nine), dinners, practice. It will be comfortable, and fun.

As an end approaches for Hewitt that will arrive sometime in the next few seasons, he is fit and pain-free enough to enjoy his tennis again, and looking optimistically ahead to a season in which the popular Luczak will be his on-the-road partner, as he has often been on the practice court.

”It’s always important to have people around you that you trust and get along well with, and he knows my game and what makes me tick as well,” Hewitt said after his 6-3, 1-6, 7-6 (7-3) defeat of world No. 15 Milos Raonic at Kooyong’s AAMI Classic.

”So I have a lot of confidence in him with that. Plus, he knows my strengths and weaknesses and how to get the best out of me. He’s a very positive guy as well, which is a good thing, so it’s going to be a bit of fun. I’ve always got along extremely well with ‘Looch’, tried to help him out as much as possible when he was playing, and obviously we’re pretty close family friends, too.”

Roche will continue to travel to the Davis Cup ties and grand slam tournaments, and to help Hewitt during the grasscourt season. ”So I get both of them, and they get along extremely well, which is great for me,” he said.

Much has been written about Hewitt’s fused big toe, which has left him with ”a lot of metal plates and screws in there and I can’t move it”, but there is also a load off his mind to be playing without the need for a pain-killing jab before he could even warm-up.

”I don’t know how many injections I had last January; it was just getting out of control. So in terms of mentally, I can just focus on that I need to do and my game, which is a lot. It’s refreshing,” he said.

”There’s no stress or extra pressure about my body at the moment, which just leaves me with a clear mind. It just makes you happier to be out there doing the hard work and not grimacing every time you’ve got to do something.

”I’ve always prided myself on being pretty tough mentally – even when I was 20 and world No. 1, I felt like I won so many matches through mental toughness back then, and doing the right things, and those one-percenters really got me across the line in so many close matches. I don’t think that’s changed that much; I still believe in myself and back myself out there. But I feel like when the going gets tough I’m there, and I enjoy those moments.”

Yet if it is more than a decade since Hewitt won the second of his two singles grand slams, and there will not be another, one of the only other two men not named Federer, Djokovic or Nadal to own a major out of the past 27 – Juan Martin del Potro – can appreciate even more the size of his achievement in claiming the 2009 US Open. Del Potro has since suffered wrist, knee and hip injuries but returned to a world ranking of No. 7, and although he is yet to reach another grand slam final, ”maybe in this tournament or in this year, another name can win,” he said after a 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7-3) victory over Paul-Henri Mathieu in difficult, windy conditions at Kooyong.

”I need many things to be there, but I am working to be a better player day by day,” said del Potro.

”I found the experience against them in the grand slams, I made semi-finals in [the ATP World Tour finals] London. I got the bronze medal in the Olympics and I know it’s very tough to beat them in grand slams.

”But I have confidence in myself to try to do it again in this tournament or the future.”

Earlier, world No. 9 Janko Tipsarevic succumbed to a tendon injury in his right arm that had been bothering him during his run to the title in Chennai last week, and left for hospital for an MRI scan after retiring at 0-1 in the second set against Marcos Baghdatis, having dropped the first 6-1.

From the original field, Juan Monaco (hand) withdrew on Monday and Kei Nishikori (knee) on Tuesday night.

Tennis Australia has secured an extension of its sponsorship deal with Kia Motors, for a reported $50 million over five years. The original contract was for $36 million from 2008.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

Wal King asked to join right royal battle over Indonesian coalminer

In demand: Wal King.FORMER Leighton boss Wal King has found himself at the centre of what is shaping up as a fierce battle to seize control of a listed miner in London, with shareholders set for a showdown next month.

Mr King, who retired from Leighton Holdings two years ago, has been approached to chair listed coalminer Bumi Plc pending the outcome of a proposal to oust the incumbent board and chief executive and buy out a key shareholder.

An extraordinary general meeting has been requisitioned for early February after Bumi Plc’s share price fell 70 per cent last year.

It is believed that financier Nat Rothschild, who co-founded Bumi Plc in 2010 with Indonesia’s high-profile Bakrie family through its shareholding in Bumi Resources, approached Mr King to help spearhead his push to sever Bumi Plc’s relationship with Bumi Resources. Mr Rothschild wants to buy out the Bakrie family’s stake by raising between £200 million ($305 million) and £300 million on the London sharemarket.

It is believed that Mr King’s experience in Asia and contract mining was behind the decision to offer him the role as chairman. He was chief executive of Leighton for 23 years. During his reign he took the construction company from a market capitalisation of $70 million to $10.3 billion by expanding into Asia and creating the biggest contract miner in the world.

Mr King left in January 2010 after a bitter falling out with Leighton’s major shareholder, Hochtief.

Mr Rothschild and Mr King are believed to be acquaintances, along with Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska.

Between now and Bumi Plc’s EGM there is expected to be a dogfight as Mr Rothschild pushes forward his proposal and the Bakrie family puts forward its proposal to buy all of Bumi Plc’s coal assets.

According to the Financial Times, Mr Rothschild has won the support of Schroders and some other key investors to replace the board. He needs 50 per cent to win control of the company, while the Bakrie family is believed to have about 30 per cent support.

Bumi Plc was created in 2010 when Mr Rothschild, who had a cashbox company in London, was approached by the Bakrie family to take a cross-shareholding as part of a plan to give the Indonesian coalmining company access to the British market. Bumi Plc ended up with a 29 per cent stake in Bumi Resources and 85 per cent of Berau, another Indonesian coalminer.

The tie-up was a disaster and the relationship between Mr Rothschild and the Bakries disintegrated. Mr Rothschild, who holds more than 12 per cent of the voting rights in Bumi, resigned from the board late last year.

On Monday he put forward a proposal for a new board with Brock Gill as chief executive, Mr King as chairman and himself as an executive director. He also wants to bring a former British ambassador to Indonesia on to the board.

For the first three quarters of last year Bumi Resources posted a loss of $US633 million and must pay off $US3 billion in debt by 2017.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

Lleyton keen to bring Tomic back to cup

HAD anyone predicted just a couple of years ago that Lleyton Hewitt and Bernard Tomic would become friendly Davis Cup teammates and regular practice partners, they would have been laughed out of Melbourne Park.

But Hewitt plans to speak to Tomic about the Queenslander’s decision to boycott Australia’s second Davis Cup tie this year, and perhaps try to use his new-found influence to prompt a rethink.

Captain Pat Rafter, with Tennis Australia’s backing, suspended Tomic from next month’s opening Asia/Oceania tie against Taiwan for his unprofessionalism and questionable efforts at times last year. In Perth and Sydney in the past week, Tomic has countered by declaring himself unavailable for the second tie, in April. After his opening win at Kooyong’s AAMI Classic on Wednesday, Hewitt admitted he was disappointed to hear it.

”I’d like to have a chat with him obviously at some stage about it more, and just see, because I know Pat, he’s pretty frustrated,” Hewitt said. ”For one, he wants to have the best possible team he can have, and Bernie’s in that, there’s no doubt about it, so it’s a tough one.

”Obviously he had to work on a few things before he got back in the tie, and whether that’s had any influence on him missing the second tie, I don’t know. I personally haven’t spoken to Bernie about it; but I feel like the last year-and-half, two years, I’m probably the closest out of anyone with him, which a lot of people would find amazing after a few years ago.”

So the chat will come, but not immediately. And the next selection call, whenever it is made, will involve Rafter, new Davis Cup coach Josh Eagle, and veteran mentor Tony Roche, said Hewitt, Australia’s most successful cup warrior. Tomic himself has declared he will not be back until the world group play-off round in September.

”I’m not going to talk to him right now about it – it’s not the right time,” said Hewitt, the former world No. 1. ”So it’s disappointing that he’s not playing the first tie, but that’s for other reasons than Bernie missing it himself … So there’s still a bit of time before the second one; we’ll have to wait and see.”

The previous ill-feeling between Hewitt and Tomic can be traced back to a practice incident at Wimbledon in 2009, when the senior player’s invitation to Tomic to hit was rejected, and the then 16-year-old approached Juan Carlos Ferrero instead. ”To say that we were less than impressed would be an understatement,” said Hewitt’s manager, David Drysdale, at the time. Things, clearly, have changed. And, in the interests of Australia’s Davis Cup prospects, something else might soon need to.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

Bank staff funds top super list

RETIREMENT funds for staff at Goldman Sachs and the Commonwealth Bank have topped an official list of the nation’s best-performing super funds, as non-profit and in-house corporate funds maintain their track record of higher returns.

In contrast, funds offered by banks and wealth managers to the general public have underperformed over the past decade, according to a snapshot of the $1.4 trillion sector.

The fund for Goldman employees enjoyed average returns of 9 per cent a year since 2004, more than any other large fund over the past nine years, the financial regulator said on Wednesday.

The second-best performer was the CBA’s staff fund, which returned 7.8 per cent a year. In third place was the fund for Worsley Alumina workers, with annual returns of 7.5 per cent.

The rankings were published by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, which also said super funds had posted average returns of just 0.5 per cent in the year to June 2012, as weak markets hit balances.

In the decade to June, super funds returned an average of 4.4 per cent a year. But there has been a significant gap between different types of funds.

Public sector funds have been the best performers, returning 5.5 per cent, while union-linked industry funds returned 5.1 per cent and in-house corporate funds 4.8 per cent.

Higher-cost retail funds – including those offered by the big banks and AMP – have underperformed with 10-year returns of 3.4 per cent.

The chief executive of the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees, Fiona Reynolds, said the gap between the retail funds and non-profits was ”nothing to be sneezed at”.

”Over a 30 to 40-year working life of superannuation contributions, an

outperformance of 1 or 2 per cent every year can make a very big difference to an individual’s retirement outcome,” said Ms Reynolds, who represents the not-for-profit sector.

APRA’s snapshot of the 200 biggest funds found the best-performing retail fund over nine years was the Tidswell Master Superannuation Plan, in fourth place with annual returns of 7.1 per cent. Perpetual’s WealthFocus Superannuation Fund was the only other retail fund in the top 50 funds over nine years.

Unisuper was the top-performing industry fund, in equal fourth place, while the Australia Post Superannuation Scheme was the best-performing public fund.

Despite posting weaker returns over nine years, retail funds have fared much better over the past five years, occupying the two top spots on the ladder.

Challenger’s Retirement Fund was the top performer over five years, returning 4.7 per cent a year, followed by Newcastle’s Permanent Superannuation Plan.

In the competitive market to manage the public’s retirement savings, APRA’s ranking tables are not without their critics.

The investment research manager at consultancy Chant West, Mano Mohankumar, said they did not take into account the individual products offered by each fund, which often had different goals.

”It’s not comparing like with like, and no one actually invests in the whole of fund,” he said.

Since June last year, super funds have enjoyed a sharp market rally, with analysts estimating the typical fund delivered double-digit returns over the 2012 calendar year, helped by a market surge in the December quarter.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

Dubbo or bust: the final stretch

On my last day of trekking from Sydney to Dubbo, I am now in the rolling slopes of NSW with the country given over to the beautiful kurrajong, Cyprus pines and sturdy box gums.

With a cooling southerly behind me, following an apparent change overnight, I have stepped out of Geurie, population 500, which like all the little places one drives through reveals a whole world of its own to those who decide to linger. At the Mitchell Inn, John Dwyer, 75, said he was the fourth generation of his family to have been there, with the original settler having worked for James Rutherford, a man who had acquired a vast stretch of mid western NSW.

Geurie has had its golden period. A century ago it had 5000 people, five pubs and a department store. There are remnants of fading glory there, including a disused building of the Commercial Bank. In 1915 three men immediately put up their hands when the Cooee-Marches came through and said they would be available for service as soon as the harvest came in.

I am now walking with two school mates from Sydney’s Newington College, one being a lawyer, Peter Moffitt, the other a grazier from Tottenham, Alan McRae.

We’ve arrived at Wongarbon, another shell of a once bigger place.

James Rutherford had an area that included the future Peak Hill and the site of Wongarbon. His property was call “Murrumbidgerie” and the settlement finally came to its present site at Wongarbon, the name coming from a local Aboriginal tribe. In World War I, Wongarbon provided 16 volunteers for the Cooee-Marches and a total of 70 served in WWI including Wilfie MacDonald, who fell at Moquet Farm near Pozieres.

We are now about to head for Dubbo, which effectively dates from 1847 when Jean Emile Serisier and Nicholas Hyeronimus opened the Carriers Arms on the banks of the Macquarie River. A village was proclaimed in 1851, Cobb & Co founded in the late 1860s and in 1871 extended its service from here to Bourke.

The country was beyond the gold deposits but not beyond the bushrangers. Jackie Underwood, a member of the Jimmy Governor gang, was taken to Dubbo to be hanged.

Dubbo took the big cattle herds from Queensland and the numerous crossings of the Macquarie such as Butlers Falls and and Willandra Crossing, now just picnic spots were once important places to get the herds across.

On the road we passed Deep Creek, which brought a comment from Peter Moffitt. I said: “Don’t worry Peter, it’s only when you get to a Snake Gully that you know you’ve reached the back woods but I don’t think there’s any Snake Gully on this road.”

I am going down memory lane, passing the stretches of bush I once wandered, but my blistered right foot tells me that all good things must come to an end.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.