Why we love the Shawshank Redemption

Tim Robbins, left, and Morgan Freeman play prisoners in The Shawshank Redemption. Tim Robbins, left, and Morgan Freeman play prisoners in The Shawshank Redemption.

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Who would have thought the most beloved film of the past 20 years would be the story of a man “who crawled through a river of shit and came out clean on the other side”? That’s a quote from Morgan Freeman’s character, Ellis “Red” Redding, in The Shawshank Redemption, speaking of Andy Dufresne, played by Tim Robbins. The film was written and directed by Frank Darabont from Stephen King’s 1982 novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption.

(Warning: spoilers ahead.)

The film premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in September 1994 and opened soon after, earning a modest  $US28 million, which deepens the mystery. How did a film that nobody saw when it opened get to No 1 on IMDb’s list of the top 250 films? The answer, in no order of importance, might be Ted Turner, home video and God.

Turner needed product for his movie channel so he bought the company that produced The Shawshank Redemption, Castle Rock Entertainment, for its library. The movie then had a second life on cable TV, in high rotation. The video release extended a growing legion of American fans. By 1999, it was already recognised as a phenomenon. In effect, it became a hit through the back door, just like Andy Dufresne’s escape through the sewer pipe of the Shawshank correctional facility.

These are technical explanations of how people came to see it. They do not explain its popularity. Many films have flopped at the box office and become classics later. The process is like geology – one of Andy Dufresne’s hobbies. “Geology is the study of pressure and time,” says Red, contemplating Andy’s methodical efforts to dig a hole in his prison wall over 19 years. But time will not make a bad movie great: there has to be some greatness in the first place. That’s what interests me about Shawshank.

Can we identify the elements that took the film to No 1  on IMDb? Certainly not, but here goes.

First the obvious ones: the movie is about hope, and people can always use that. The story has a long arc, another big attraction. It goes from very low to very high, like a 19th century French or Russian novel. Andy is sexually assaulted on many occasions by the so-called “bull queer” group of inmates; he is frequently hospitalised and sent to solitary confinement; but he turns misfortune into gain. He becomes a winner, again. Before his conviction for the murder of his wife and her lover, he was a successful banker. He uses those skills to ingratiate himself with the prison warden, played by Bob Gunton, and the staff. He does their taxes, provides financial advice, makes the warden rich. He makes himself indispensable, in fact. Andy’s rise is like the Great American Dream of financial success – but within prison walls.

Like a lot of Stephen King’s stories, and unlike a lot of movies, we’re not sure where he’s taking us. The themes develop slowly. The Green Mile, another prison story by King that was adapted by Frank Darabont, does the same thing over a longer running time. Shawshank, at 142 minutes, never feels long because the script is built on “discipline and the Bible”. The discipline is in the story’s hardened steel structure: not a moment wasted. Religion provides the meaning. The warden gives each new man a Bible. “Put your trust in the Lord. Your ass belongs to me.”

Religious symbolism is built into the very walls of the prison. King says he chooses to believe in God, but this story tells us he dislikes some of God’s representatives on earth. The prison is a microcosm of the world, with its own supreme being. Warden Norton (Gunton) is even more vicious than the “bull queers”. He spouts from the Good Book as he conspires to stop Andy’s release. If Dufresne is a Christ figure, persecuted for 19 years, Norton is his Pontius Pilate. The escape through the sewer is Andy’s resurrection, followed by a cleansing baptism in the river and the rain, when he emerges from the pipe. The warden rushes to Andy’s cell, thinking he is dead. Instead, the cell is empty, like Christ’s tomb. There is only the hole, where the “stone” used to be.

Is the religion part of its popularity? Undoubtedly, but spirituality might be a better word, given that the film is so firmly anti-religion. The Jesus story form remains one of the most powerful in movies. Spartacus is a Jesus film, complete with crucifixions. E.T. is a Jesus film, complete with resurrection; Superman is one big Jesus fantasy in tights. In Shawshank, Red and his cohort are the disciples, left behind to talk about the things Andy taught them – the importance of books, the beauty of Mozart, the power of hope.

Like Star Wars, Shawshank repackaged its religion in a new(ish) form for a new generation – and they’re the ones voting for it on IMDb. It condemns the fake man of God and offers a new one, who doesn’t die. He escapes to Mexico – the place where Americans fantasise about being free of their own society’s constraints. The redemption of the title is Red’s, not Andy’s. Red learns to hope, and to speak the truth to the parole board. Great escape movies are always popular. Steve McQueen made a specialty of them. This one offers earthly salvation as the ultimate form of escape, and maybe that is what audiences love. No waiting required. On twitter: @ptbyrnes



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Raelene Castle is the new face of rugby league

Bulldogs CEO Raelene Castle and NRL CEO David Smith at the NRL Grand Final lunch on Thursday. Photo: Brendan Esposito Bulldogs CEO Raelene Castle and NRL CEO David Smith at the NRL Grand Final lunch on Thursday. Photo: Brendan Esposito

Bulldogs CEO Raelene Castle and NRL CEO David Smith at the NRL Grand Final lunch on Thursday. Photo: Brendan Esposito

To the Canterbury players, she is known as “Aunty” but in the corporate world Bulldogs chief executive Raelene Castle is considered the new face of rugby league.

Castle, who is set to become the first female boss of a premiership-winning team if Canterbury triumph in Sunday’s grand final, has been opening doors the game has rarely had access to since her appointment 15 months ago, and she regularly speaks at business conferences, such as one recently hosted by the Turnaround Management Association at which Malcolm Turnbull was among the other guest speakers.

She is also seen as a pioneer for women from all walks of life and was last week named equal 42nd with Richmond AFL club president Peggy O’Neal on a list of the country’s 50 most influential females announced at the Australian Women’s Weekly’s “Women of the Future” luncheon.

“Someone sits around a room and makes those lists up, but I think the key message is that if you didn’t have a female chief executive you wouldn’t be any chance of getting on the list, so you are already communicating with a group of people that you weren’t communicating with before,” Castle said.

While Castle readily admits there is a certain fascination about a woman being in charge of a club whose reputation is still being rebuilt after the scandals of a decade ago, the former Netball New Zealand chief executive still has to convince people she is the real deal once given an opportunity to speak to them.

“I have had a couple of instances where people have gone, that is that club that was in trouble with things before, but I think that there is no doubt having a female CEO no matter which way you cut it instantly changes that perception,” she said.

“That is good as a first step but you still have to deliver the commercial benefits that they are looking for, so it doesn’t matter if you are male or female, it is absolutely about capability because tokenism is the worst thing in the world and in my view it makes the glass ceiling even higher.”

Lazard Australia managing director Lachlan Edwards, who said he was “not a great follower of rugby league” said Castle was the first speaker involved in the game to have addressed the TMA and says she is changing the perceptions of some in the top end of town.

“If you look at the difference between Sydney and Melbourne, you have the boards of AFL clubs with the captains of industry. You get [state] premiers and chief executives and chairman on various boards, and it is a matter of pride,” Edwards said. “In NSW, we have never really had that and I think there is an element of her bringing that to a different audience.”

Castle said she had spoken about how leadership did not come from having a title but had to be earned through respect and trust.

She told anecdotes about spending 10 days driving a minibus and being the gear steward for the Silver Ferns when she first joined Netball New Zealand, and about how the Polynesian players had made her feel welcome when she was appointed to the Bulldogs job.

“They just said from the first day, we will look after you ‘Aunty’. That is what they call me,” Castle said. “I don’t know if it makes me feel 100 or flattered but they really reached out from the group immediately.”

Having developed an understanding of high performance as well as the business side of operations at Netball New Zealand, Castle said she felt “just as comfortable sitting on a crate on the gym floor having a beer as presenting at the Turnaround Management Association conference”.

However, the Wagga-born Castle was taken aback by the reaction of fans and particularly women to her since she became Canterbury chief executive.

“The number of young women, in their teens or early 20s, who stop me in the street and say ‘I think what you are doing is amazing, I hope that one day I get the opportunity to do what you are doing’, that is massively empowering,” she said.

With Marina Go recently appointed as Wests Tigers chairwoman and several other clubs having female directors, Castle said more opportunities would open for the NRL and the game had to capitalise on them.

“The advantage rugby league has got is that 80 per cent of companies need middle Australia to be successful, so be it insurances, be it cars or telephones whiteware, housing, that is us. We have the ear of middle Australia in NSW and Queensland and that is an incredibly important market,” she said.

“We have to get better at telling our story, we have to make sure we are having discussions at the top end of town and we are credible and professional in the way we present ourselves at sponsorship proposals with facts and figures and broadcast numbers and media hits and social media – all of those things that the top end of town marketing directors are looking for to say ‘you know what, I think those guys can open some doors’.”

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Weapon, Dons reach settlement

Dean Robinson. Wealthy man: Dean ‘The Weapon’ Robinson has settled his dispute with Essendon. Photo: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Wealthy man: Dean ‘The Weapon’ Robinson has settled his dispute with Essendon. Photo: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Wealthy man: Dean ‘The Weapon’ Robinson has settled his dispute with Essendon. Photo: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Former Essendon fitness chief Dean Robinson has clinched a settlement with the Bombers.

There had been speculation Essendon had offered Robinson $800,000 to settle his year-long case but it’s understood the final figure is closer to $1 million.

Robinson’s lawyer Grant Walker, of Madgwicks Lawyers, simply said: “The matter is resolved.”

Robinson, dubbed “The Weapon”, had initially sought $2 million, including damages, for allegedly being the “scapegoat” of the club’s 2012 supplements program. He was stood down on February 5 last year when the Bombers self-reported to the AFL and the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority.

The Bombers have been keen to settle in recent days, particularly since AFL chairman Mike Fitzpatrick urged Bombers chairman Paul Little to end the bitter stand-off.

The breakthrough came just as Robinson still had the option of issuing an amended statement of claim in the Supreme Court on Friday, having been ordered to do so at a directions hearing last week. What loomed as a potentially explosive trial had been set down for November 10.

Robinson has argued that he was the only club employee not given the chance to explain himself last year.

A former fitness coach at Geelong and the Gold Coast Suns, Robinson, who has been working as a senior physiotherapist in Geelong since leaving the Bombers, had issued 17 subpoenas in August.

AFL chief Gillon McLachlan, his predecessor Andrew Demetriou, James Hird’s wife Tania, former Essendon chief Ian Robson, former club chairman David Evans, current chairman Paul Little and former club media advisor Liz Lukin were among those subpoenaed.

With regards to Lukin, Robinson’s legal team had wanted any documents, notes or text messages about a meeting in March 2013 when Lukin allegedly suggested to Essendon officials, including Evans and Robson, a strategy to blame “rogue operators” for the club’s supplements scandal.

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Draft combine harvester: tall forwards

Medium defendersRuckmenTall defendersMedium midfieldersMedium forwardsTall forwardsSmall forwards, defenders, midfielders


Jack Cripps  (East Fremantle)

Born 20.1.1996, 196cm, 86kg

AFL biography: Versatile tall forward that is a neat and reliable penetrating set shot for goal. Shows the consistent ability to mark strongly on the lead, taking the ball at its highest point and is at his best when coming up at the kicker. Averaged 9.5 disposals, 3.3 marks and one goal during his four games for Western Australia in the NAB AFL Under-18 Championships.

Raff Guadagnino, WAFL: “Jack is a loveable country boy who’s quite raw and has been getting by on his athletic ability to date. Everyone loves him. He’s able to play at both ends of the ground, at the moment he’s best suited either at half forward or deep forward.”

Tyler Keitel (East Perth)

Born 7.2.1996, 194cm, 86kg

AFL biography: Tall forward who provided a strong marking target up forward and has good speed to get space off his opponent. Averaged 6.2 marks and 15.8 disposals as Western Australia’s most dangerous forward during the NAB AFL Under-18 Championships. Can also transition into defence when called upon with great effect making him an extremely versatile footballer.

Raff Guadagnino, WAFL: “Tyler is probably the most professional player in our group. He leaves no stone unturned and he really plans everything out and make sure his training, his recovery, all the little things are done well. He’s been seen as a tall forward but he could easily be manufactured into one of those players who plays well at both ends. He’s a really nice kid who just wants to play well and has a great mindset.”

Mitchell McGovern  (Claremont)

Born 11.10.1994, 191cm, 84kg

AFL biography: Strong marking tall forward who positions his body very well in the contest. Possesses excellent foot skills on either side of the body. His vertical leap is a real asset, particularly on the lead, making it difficult for opposition defenders to spoil. Has averaged 10.7 disposals and 4.3 marks in his seven games of league football for Claremont this season.

Raff Guadagnino, WAFL: “Mitch is a mature-ager who came from the country. He wasn’t ready at 18 but he’s been very consistent over the last couple of years, he has a great vertical leap and has really matured.”

Abaina Davis    (UNSW-Easts)      

Born 27.1.1996, 193cm, 86kg

AFL biography: Mobile, strong and powerful tall forward with strong hands overhead. Averaged 13.3 disposals and five marks in the NAB AFL Under-18 Championships. Showed good mobility and is very creative inside 50. Hard to stop once he gets front position and is a reliable set shot for goal. Averaged 13.3 disposals and five marks during the NAB AFL Under-18 Championships.  Swans Academy player.

Jason Saddington, NSW/ACT Rams: “Abe is extremely competitive. He’s a key position forward or back and he has a really good engine for his size, he’ll run the 3km in 10.30, so once he becomes a bit more explosive he’ll be able to play more midfield roles. He’s got good hands and he’s a good reader of the footy, he rolls off his player at the right time to intercept the footy and he’s usually one step ahead of everyone.”

Jeremy Finlayson (Hills Eagles)  

Born 9.2.1996, 195cm, 84kg

AFL biography: Athletic and beautifully balanced tall forward who possesses a penetrating left foot. Can play as a deep leading forward who is difficult to stop and also shows excellent mobility playing further up the ground.  Marks strongly on the lead. Averaged 12 disposals and 3.7 marks during the NAB AFL Under-18 Championships.  GWS Giants Academy player.

Jason Saddington, NSW/ACT Rams: “Jeremy is a very athletic, very dynamic player. He’s versatile in that he can play forward, back, wing, even pinch hit in the ruck. We did that with him a a bit this year. He’s an elite left foot kick, with very good hands. His next stage of development is finding the work rate or work ethic he needs to get through to the next level, but he’s maturing in that way already.”

Nicholas Coughlan (Murray Bushrangers)

Born 12.9.1996, 193cm, 84kg

AFL biography: Tall forward with good athletic ability and strong overhead. Agile and presents well on the lead. A reliable set shot for goal as well as an excellent field kick on his preferred right foot. Averaged 10 disposals (four contested possessions) and a goal in three matches during the NAB AFL Under-18 Championships.

Lee Fraser, Murray Bushrangers: “Nick struggled with injury in 2013 and early this year but he came back and played some really good footy as a deep forward. He’s a smart player and had a hand in about 4-5 wins for us just by doing the right things at the right times. He’s a good size and a ripper kid, a natural leader.”

Dougal Howard  (Murray Bushrangers)

Born 25.3.1996, 195cm, 88kg

AFL biography: Tall developing forward that provides an excellent target inside 50.  His overhead marking is a strength and once he takes front position it’s difficult for defenders to spoil.  Possesses an excellent vertical leap while also showing elite leg speed for a player of his size (2.92secs 20m Sprint).  Played senior footy with the Wagga Tigers in 2013. Averaged four marks and one goal per game during the NAB AFL Under-18 Championships.  GWS Giants Academy player.

Lee Fraser, Murray Bushrangers: “Raw, raw, raw. This is his first time in a program and he’s 196cm, sub three seconds for the 20 metre sprint, a Wagga boy who has come to Albury for his first full year in the environment. He didn’t start with us until February either, so his scope is enormous. Lock him away for two years and you could have a really good, athletic key back or forward who can pinch hit in the ruck.”

Brett Eddy  (South Adelaide)

Born 26.8.1989, 194cm, 89kg

AFL biography: Strong and powerful Tall Forward with an excellent set of hands.  Shows the ability to not only mark on the lead but also to use his body to great effect in a one on one contest.  His set shot goal kicking is a real feature of his game, rarely missing an opportunity to convert.  Has kicked 54 goals in his 15 matches for South Adelaide at senior level this season.

Brenton Phillips, SANFL: “I haven’t seen a lot of Brett. My information is he’s a power athlete, who kicks the ball really well as a mid-sized forward.”

Matthew Hammelmann  (Morningside)

Born 8.3.1996, 197cm, 88kg

AFL biography: Tall Forward with strong hands in front, on the lead and overhead. Has good pace off the mark to get separation on his opponent. Can also play in defence. Showed promise in the NAB AFL Under-18 Championships, averaging 10.3 disposals, 7.3 marks and 2.3 goals in his three matches. Brisbane Lions Academy player.

Adrian Fletcher, AFL Queensland: “Matty keeps building his game. He’s a mobile forward who can get up on a wing, he has that ability to come at the kicker when they need him, then he can slide to the goal square and take marks down there. He’s got to keep improving his contested stuff but that will get better as he gets stronger and builds more upper body strength. He’s very mobile and really just that modern, hard-running forwrad who can help you coming out of defence.”

Matthew Uebergang  (Ipswich)

Born 6.1.1995, 193cm, 87kg

AFL biography: Tall forward with good speed off the mark and strong hands on the lead. A very good reader of the play who shows good composure with the ball in hand. Possesses excellent athletic traits and competitive instincts.  Has also played in defence to good effect.  Averaged 11.7 disposals and 5.5 marks during this year’s NAB AFL Under-18 Championships.  Brisbane Lions Academy player.

Adrian Fletcher, AFL Queensland: “He’s super quick, 2.9 seconds over 20 metres so he can get off his direct opponent really quickly and easily. He has elite hands, he hits the footy hard and he’s a beautiful kick. I’m really excited about Uebergang, I think he’ll become a really good AFL footballer because he keeps his feet, he’s goot at ground level and he can take a contested mark. He’s the first one to training, every session, he ties that in with his apprenticeship work and he’s just made for an AFL system.”

Tom Lamb  (Dandenong Stingrays)

Born 19.10.1996, 193cm, 84kg

AFL biography: Tall forward/midfielder with elite endurance, rare goal sense and footy nous. His versatility makes him a very difficult match-up for opposition teams.  Strong overhead, he averaged 14.8 disposals with 50 percent contested in five matches during the NAB AFL Under-18 Championships. Member of the NAB AFL Academy. Father Wayne played with Melbourne and Fitzroy. Grandson of St Kilda premiership player Ian Cooper.

Mark Wheeler, Dandenong Stingrays: “Tom can run like Nick Riewoldt and he’s the sort of player who can either win you a game on his own or lose you won. Consistency is the big thing with him but he puts a lot of pressure on himself. I think his best position is as a half back flanker, but he can obviously run through the midfield and go forward and take a big mark. Even if there are two people on him he’ll find a way to sit on someone’s head. Athletically he’s just excellent – he wants to run under 10 minutes for the 3km time trial and he’s already done a 9.57 and a 15 beep, so he might bounce back up the order if he can do that and blow everyone away. I like him because he can play everywhere and because he’s he the sort of person who just wants to please everyone. Once he gets into an AFL system, I think he’ll settle down and become a pretty special player.”

Patrick McCartin  (Geelong Falcons)

Born 19.10.1996, 193cm, 84kg

AFL biography: Tall forward who times his leads well and is a one grab player and strong overhead mark. Imposes himself on games and is dangerous around goals with accurate snaps or with his sound technique for set shots. Averaged four marks and 2.3 goals in the NAB AFL Under-18 Championships.

Michael Turner, Geelong Falcons: “Paddy is the best key forward going around, in muy opinion. He’s played well this year even with a few injuries, he had a quad that held him back for a few weeks. He’s a Jarryd Roughead type, he’s not super tall but he takes marks, he loves to push guys out of the way and he’ll play next year, I’ve got no doubt. There’s massive improvement still in him and he’s a nice, extroverted kid, but in a good way. He doesn’t grate, he’s just happy. If the No. 1 tag comes along I think he’ll deal with it really well.”

Darcy Moore   (Oakleigh Chargers)

Born 25.1.1996, 199cm, 93kg

AFL biography: Tall forward or defender with excellent closing speed and natural leap. Strong overhead mark and smart around goals, kicking four goals vs Western Australia at Simonds Stadium in Round 5. Averaged 9.2 disposals and three marks in roles both forward and back during the NAB AFL Under-18 Championships. Son of Dual Brownlow Medallist Peter Moore.

Mark Smart, Oakleigh Chargers: “Darcy’s been an outstanding captain and leader of our club this year and was a real key contributor to our culture and the bond the group built. I think it’s so true that good players play well in big games and his last two finals in ideal conditions were very, very good. He’s an excellent contested mark, he can get onto the ball when it hits the ground and kick a big goal when required. At his size, some of the things he can do are quick freakish and I think his ability to play equally well at both ends of the ground makes him an even more attractive prospect. He missed a lot of footy before this year due to injury, so even to string games together this year was a big achievement, let alone play as well as he has played. The thing I like about Darcy is that when someone needs to stand up in big moments and big games, he’s the one that wants that responsibility on him. I can’t believe he’s only 18, at times, and the other thing to point out is that he’s handled all the attention that’s come his way really well. It hasn’t affected him at all and to be honest I can’t speak more highly of him. I think he could end up being a once in a generation type player.”

Brenton Payne  (Western Jets)

Born 3.9.1996, 193cm, 76cm

AFL biography: Leading goal-kicker at the Jets.  Attends St Patrick’s in Ballarat and is also a very talented cricketer.  Applies very good defensive pressure for a key forward.  Shows good top end speed allowing him to create separation from his opponent.  Averaged 9.2 disposals and 2.4 marks for Vic Metro during this year’s NAB AFL Under-18 Championships.  Endurance is a real strength for a player of his size.  Grandson of Essendon forward Charlie Payne.

Shane Sexton, Western Jets: “Clubs are looking for big, strong key defenders so we played him back in a couple of games and he acquitted himself really well. He’s reasonably quick for his size, he can cover the ground pretty well and he’s a good size. He has decent family heritage, being the grandson of Charlie Payne and we expect him to become a pretty good player. He’s in the development category and he’s going to take a bit of time, but he could end up a good one.”

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Bulldog Josh Morris happy with his knee recovery

Recovering: Josh Morris is running more freely. Photo: Anthony Johnson Recovering: Josh Morris is running more freely. Photo: Anthony Johnson

Recovering: Josh Morris is running more freely. Photo: Anthony Johnson

Recovering: Josh Morris is running more freely. Photo: Anthony Johnson

The vision of Josh Morris looking like he could barely run remains fresh in most people’s minds.

Morris didn’t reach close to top speed when he made a line break against the Tigers in round 24. While the injury hasn’t been allowed to have the necessary rest it needs to heal, the Origin centre doesn’t feel as restricted as he did less than two months ago.

“It feels good,” Morris said. “A month ago it wasn’t feeling the best. I’ve had plenty of physio and recovery. I feel really confident in it and really happy with how it is going into Sunday.

“[Being unable to run] was more so the strapping. The week after we tried a different way and it seemed to work. I’ve been getting physio on it pretty much every day. It feels good. I’m really confident.

“The strapping has been the main difference. When I did have it fully strapped I couldn’t straighten out my leg or get that full movement. I’m feeling more free in the way I run. It’s been the biggest difference.”

Morris ruptured his posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during Origin one before tearing the scar tissue in his knee. Origin and injuries saw Morris miss nine club games for the Bulldogs. The injury is expected to make him unavailable for Australia’s Four-Nations squad.

“I thought it would be a week injury but it turned out to be a four- or five-week injury,” Morris said of his second strain. “It’s more about managing it now more than anything else.

“I don’t need surgery. I just need a bit of rest which will be deserved come Monday. It’ll be nice.”

Morris will mark Test hopeful Dylan Walker in Sunday’s grand final. Having watched twin brother Brett win a title for the Dragons in 2010, before being part of the Bulldogs premiership loss two years later, Morris said he doesn’t want to let this opportunity slip.

“I didn’t know if I would ever make it back into a grand final after 2012,” Morris said. “People had written us off six weeks ago saying we are no chance. But we’re here now so we have to make the most of the opportunity.”

While the larger rugby league community may have brushed aside Canterbury’s premiership credentials as they slid down the ladder, Morris said his team’s belief never waned. The Bulldogs headed into the finals series winning two of their final eight games including a 21-14 loss to South Sydney in round 24.

“We know the side we’ve got that when we show up we can beat any side on any day,” Morris said. “We were probably guilty of looking too far ahead and getting into the finals.

“We got a little bit complacent there and slid down the ladder and put ourselves in a position where we had to win every game. It’s worked out for the better.”

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Abby Bishop craves return to Australian Opals, but not at expense of baby Zala

Abby Bishop with her niece Zala. Photo: Katherine Griffiths Abby Bishop with her niece Zala. Photo: Katherine Griffiths

Abby Bishop with her niece Zala. Photo: Katherine Griffiths

Abby Bishop with her niece Zala. Photo: Katherine Griffiths

Her Canberra Capitals childcare package has her primed for a career-best WNBL season, but Abby Bishop has hinted that her desire to return to the Australian Opals hinges on whether Basketball Australia tweaks its parental policy.

Bishop has cared for her one-year-old niece Zala since she was two days old for personal reasons. But she quit the Opals world championship campaign currently under way in Turkey after Basketball Australia introduced a policy that meant she would have to fund childcare, the costs of flights and accommodation for a nanny.

The 25-year-old admitted on Monday she “wishes she was there” instead of watching the Opals’ world championship campaign from the couch, especially given they’re undefeated before Friday night’s quarter-final with Canada.

“It does depend on her [Zala], but a lot more depends on some things from the other end,” Bishop said.

“We’ll wait and see. I’ll do what I can for the Caps and then work on the Basketball Australia stuff when the time comes.

“Sitting there watching them at home I wish I was there, but obviously things didn’t work out.

“It’s great to see the girls do so well and I hope to be back and part of the Opals program next year, [but] obviously it depends on a lot of things.

“It is tough, but I made a decision to stay home because I wanted to do the best thing for Zala.

“I’m not dwelling on anything, I’m sitting on the couch watching all the games and hopefully I’ll be a part of it in the future.”

While her international career is on hold, the Capitals are set to benefit the most.

Bishop has completed the entire pre-season before the October 17 season opener at Melbourne Boomers, which is critical given injured fellow Lauren Jackson will miss the first few games.

She scored 24 points in Canberra’s 67-55 pre-season win over Sydney on Saturday, and said the childcare package has significantly improved her preparation.

“It’s huge, really big. It’s made a big difference in what I’ve been able to do training-wise, and hopefully that will show on the court,” she said.

“She’s now at that age where she’s running away and I try not to bring her to training too much. Having childcare in the contract has helped a lot.”

Capitals coach Carrie Graf backed Bishop to have a long international career, but said the lay-off has her ready to guide the side back to the play-offs.

“Abby’s an Australian Olympic player, an Opal, and will be for a long time,” Graf said.

“It was unfortunate it didn’t work out for her for the worlds this year, but from a Capitals standpoint, having her in our lead-up is critical.

“She’s managing being a single parent exceptionally well, and setting herself up to have one of the biggest years of her career to date.”

Graf was Opals coach when they were upset by Czech Republic in the 2010 world championship quarter-finals, Australia going home without a medal at a major event for the first time since the 1992 Olympics.

“There’ll be a burn for the Opals [who played in 2010], that fresh memory of what can happen in quarter-finals which makes tournament play so exciting,” Graf said.

“Underdogs have a great chance in quarter-finals. It’s the biggest pressure game for highly-ranked teams.

“Regardless of whether you’ve been part of a winning one [Opals team] or once which took a hard knock, you still want to see them do well.”

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$300 million boom times

MILDURA is enjoying a tourismbonanza, with the value of the local industry surpassing $300 million for the first time.

Data for the year ending June 30, 2014, reveals the annual economic value of tourism to the region has reached an all-time high after more than 750,000 visitors flocked to Mildura in that period.

Mildura Tourism had tracked that value as steadily climbing through the $260-$280 million range in recent years, but the latest figures indicate it is now at least $307 million.

“Considering the mixed year that our local tourism industry has faced, these are very strong results,” Mildura Tourism chief executive Rod Trowbridge said.

The 753,000 domestic, international and day-trip visitors to Mildura in the 12 months to June marked an eight per cent growth on the previous year.

Visitors spent 2 million nights in the Mildura-Wentworth region (up 6 per cent) with the largest gain coming from international visitor overnight stays, up 21 per cent to 564,000 nights.

Despite this growth, Mr Trowbridge said the number of domestic and international visitors had dropped slightly, which indicated people were staying in the region for longer.

“There will always be dips in visitor numbers, however, the value of tourism to region continues to grow and an overall increase in visitor nights is good for yield,” he said.

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Girl Guides delighted with surprise visit.

PICTURED – Manager of Coles Parkes, Mr Darren Nurcombe and Guide Leader Melissa Rath (right), with the happy Guides. From left to right are Hope Leech, Meghan (a visitor), Kayley Phipps, Keely Simes, Bonnie Hession, Amelia Green, Maddison Purcell, Ellie (visitor), Chyanne Lynch-Whitton (back), Tiana Boswell, Hannah Strom, Rubi-Lou Parker, Elisha Littlewood (partly obscured, back), Destiny Hession, Lukota Lynch-Whitton; front, Rachel Thorncroft and Kayla Elsley. As part of the Coles Junior Landcare initiative, Mr Nurcombe presented the Guides with a large box of fruit, along with some seed packs and a gift voucher to use towards improving the garden at the hall.

“Coles is a strong supporter of local organisations,” Mr Nurcombe said.

“We’ve given over $2,500 in gift cards, and we are always willing to help with any fundraising that organisations approach us about.”

The Guides certainly appreciated the fruit, which they enjoyed as their supper that night, and are looking forward to commencing on their garden in the very near future.

Due to the generosity of companies such as Coles, community groups and organisations benefit in many ways, with the Girl Guides being no exception.

They are eagerly awaiting their very first crop of strawberries grown by their own hands.

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Meanwhile, the Support Group for the Parkes Girl Guides will be holding a sausage sizzle in the alcove outside Coles tomorrow between 10am and 2pm, as one of their major fundraising ventures.

As well as the sizzle there will be Girl Guide biscuits, and many other items for purchase, such as live Christmas cards (you will need to come along and see what they mean by that).

“Please support us in our fundraising drives so that we can give the Guides and their Leaders the much needed finances required,” a spokesperson said.

Information on how to become a member of the Support Group will also be available.

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Bunbury rallies around shark attack victim Sean Pollard

Bunbury rallies around shark attack victim Sean Pollard 23-year-old Bunbury man Sean Pollard has been flown to hospital in Perth after being attacked by a shark in Esperance on Thursday.

23-year-old Bunbury man Sean Pollard has been flown to hospital in Perth after being attacked by a shark in Esperance on Thursday.

23-year-old Bunbury man Sean Pollard has been flown to hospital in Perth after being attacked by a shark in Esperance on Thursday.

23-year-old Bunbury man Sean Pollard has been flown to hospital in Perth after being attacked by a shark in Esperance on Thursday.

23-year-old Bunbury man Sean Pollard has been flown to hospital in Perth after being attacked by a shark in Esperance on Thursday.

23-year-old Bunbury man Sean Pollard has been flown to hospital in Perth after being attacked by a shark in Esperance on Thursday.

23-year-old Bunbury man Sean Pollard has been flown to hospital in Perth after being attacked by a shark in Esperance on Thursday.

23-year-old Bunbury man Sean Pollard has been flown to hospital in Perth after being attacked by a shark in Esperance on Thursday.

TweetFacebook”Absolutely gutted for ya Polly. Thinking of you and your family and wishing you a speedy recovery. Everyone loves you mate! Xx.”

Brooke Tyrrell.Beaches at Wylie Bay, near Esperance, have been closedand the Department of Fisheries captured and destroyed the shark believed to be the one involved in the attack.

Esperance Shire President Malcolm Heasman said it was recommendedthat locals and touristsstay out of the water until the situation is resolved.

“An incident of this nature is dreadful for those involved and wesend our prayers and best wishes to the young man and his immediate family. I understandthat staying out of the water may be an inconvenience for some however it has beenrecommended that we should resist the urge for the next few days for our own safety,” he said.

Messages of support from players at the football club and former Bunbury Senior High School students flooded Mr Pollard’s facebook page.

“All the best wishes mate, I have full respect for you and I’m wishing you the best recovery!!!” Matt Greco wrote.

“Praying and hoping for speedy recovery Pollard!! Thinking of ya mate and here for ya champ!” Sean Barret wrote.

“Absolutely gutted for ya Polly. Thinking of you and your family and wishing you a speedy recovery. Everyone loves you mate! Xx,” Brooke Tyrrell wrote.

“Thoughts are with you mate. Get better man,” South Bunbury Football Club league vice-captain Chris Andrew wrote.

The South Bunbury reserves side are set to take on Carey Park Football Club in the South West Football Leaguegrand final on Sunday.

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School viability

SO SCHOOL viability is again under the microscope and parents are the last to know.

Lots of questions to be asked about these “audits” – when are they to be done, who has input and what action will be taken based on the audit results?

Comments from economist Saul Eslake regarding schools and school communities are not helpful … when was the last time he spent any time in a small rural community caring for young children and educating them?

I note with interest the schools in the North with fewer than 150 students and ask MLC Tony Mulder if his plan was put into action, is it a viable suggestion that the whole of the Meander Valley area is serviced by only two primary schools?

I have no doubt that the Meander Valley Council would take issue with this, as will many families and communities.

I vividly recall the many, many times that the then opposition education spokesman Michael Ferguson assured us unreservedly that there would be no forced school closures under a Liberal government.

I hope they remember their assurances to schools and communities.

— ANGELA CRESSWELL, Bishopsbourne.

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