China backflip fails to lift ASX

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News that China would indefinitely delay laws that make it difficult for n exporters to sell to Chinese consumers online put a fire under ‘s major export stocks on Tuesday, providing the market with some spots of strong growth on a day dominated by blue-chip losses.
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In choppy trade, the market twice almost touched Monday’s close but couldn’t quite match it. The benchmark ASX200 index shed 4 points to 5774.6, while the broader All Ordinaries was flat at 5819.5.

Late on Friday, the Chinese Commerce Ministry announced it would return to classifying goods purchased online in China as “personal” packages, meaning they are no longer required to adhere to local registration and labelling laws. The backflip comes after the tough new laws were announced in April last year.

The laws have been a major lag on the share prices of n exporters, which popped higher on the good news. Blackmores surged 13.1 per cent higher, Bellamy’s added 15.7 per cent while A2 Milk rose 4.5 per cent.

Some of the price rises could partly be seen as a correction, said Argonaut’s executive director of corporate stockbroking James McGlew. “On Blackmores and A2, I think both of them were well and truly, from a technical perspective, oversold if you believe the basic fabric of the companies is in place” he said

While the market edged lower, this was driven by general defensiveness, rather than any particularly bad news, Mr McGlew added.

“The defensive parts of the market have gotten a fair bit of attention.”

TPG jumped 5.4 per cent on a strong earnings upgrade. SEEK also had a good day, after announcing it was upping its stake in education provider OES on Monday. It closed up 4.1 per cent. Spotless surged 49 per cent after Downer EDI confirmed a takeover offer.

Retailers Premier Investments, owner of Smiggle, and Kathmandu Holdings also released interim profits, earning them only marginal share price bumps.

On the negative side of the market, financials, telecommunications and the materials sector were the major drags. Iron ore futures fell 4.9 per cent, driving a materials sector sell-off that was the largest drag on the ASX 200. Fortescue Metals shed 1.2 per cent. Rio Tinto had the biggest negative impact on the index, falling 1.3 per cent, while BHP shed 1 per cent. South32 also fell, down 2.2 per cent.

Aurizon fell 0.8 per cent after being cut to a ‘sell’ by UBS. APN News and Media was upgraded to a ‘buy’ by Canaccord, and rose 0.8 per cent. In other broker news, Ramsay Healthcare was raised to ‘outperform’ by Credit Suisse, and ended the day 2.4 per cent higher – the second biggest net gain on the index.

The banks were mixed: Westpac fell 0.7 per cent, while NAB shed 0.1. ANZ added 0.5 per cent, and CBA was flat.

Stock watch: Blackmores

Shares in supplements company Blackmores soared 13.1 per cent to $113.69 on Tuesday, after China surprisingly backflipped on laws introduced last year intended to crack down on cross-border e-commerce. The tough new restrictions would have delayed the flow of n vitamins, milk, powder and cosmetics to China. While many companies stand to benefit from the reduced hinderance on trade, Blackmores was a major gainer. It comes after a tumultuous time in China for the company – earlier this week, it was fined $65,000 by authorities in China for misleading advertising, prompting it to toughen up its own internal procedures. Half of the analysts who cover Blackmores rate it a ‘hold’, with the rest evenly split between ‘buys’ and ‘sells’.

RBA minutes

The Reserve Bank highlighted threats in the property market and an acceleration of domestic household debt even as it lent credence to the global reflation story. “Data continued to suggest that there had been a build-up of risks associated with the housing market,” it said in minutes of this month’s meeting, where it held interest rates at a record-low 1.5 per cent. Growth in household debt had been faster than that in household income.” The RBA’s warning comes as house prices more than doubled in Sydney since 2009.

Spotless takeover

Shares in Spotless surged 49 per cent on Tuesday to $1.08, closing slightly below the $1.15 offered by Downer EDI in a $1.2 billion takeover formally announced Tuesday. Downer’s shares are in a trading halt as it raises equity. Analysts have raised questions over whether Downer had any concerns over the financial strength of Spotless, given the services group delivered poor first-half results and revealed $423 million in writedowns. Downer EDI chief executive Grant Fenn said Downer had “looked carefully” over the Spotless’ public financial statements and was “very confident we can run this business well”.

Trade wars

There is a 50 per cent chance Donald Trump could start a trade war with China, raising investment risks across emerging markets this year, according to global investment house Loomis Sayles. The threat of a trade spat between the world’s two biggest economies is “quite real” as the US president pledges to protect American industry, said Lynda Schweitzer, portfolio manager at the investment firm that oversees $US240 billion. While a clash isn’t a certainty, the chance has “got to be 50-50,” prompting the company to stay lukewarm toward emerging market debt investments, she said.


Shares in Apple surged to an all-time high of $US141.50 on Wall Street’s Monday session, before closing slightly lower. The iPhone-maker’s stock could rise another 10 per cent in six months, Barron’s wrote in an article posted Saturday, due to its growing service division and the hype around a new iPhone model. “As high-margin services grow, Apple could earn a higher valuation. And shares could hit $155,” Barron’s wrote. Apple now has a market cap of $US740.6 billion. It’s risen more than 22 per cent so far this year.

Take it or leave it: Clock ticking as Wests Tigers look to set deadline

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D-Day is looming at the Wests Tigers with the club considering imposing a signing deadline on the big four.
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At a board meeting inside Wests-Ashfield Leagues Club on Monday night, Tigers’ hierarchy discussed giving an ultimatum to James Tedesco, Aaron Woods, Mitchell Moses and Luke Brooks: Either sign for us, or we’ll sign others.

It’s a decision that will set the club and its superstar quartet on a collision course and force the four into a decision in the coming weeks.

It’s remained under wraps but Wests Tigers management had actually put offers on the table to keep them at the club before the start of the season. The players didn’t budge then and it’s unlikely they will budge now.

The players want to know who will be coaching the Tigers in 2018 and beyond before putting pen to paper. Problem is, the club expects the process to appoint a new coach to take more than two months, and aren’t willing to wait that long to establish their roster for next season.

Negotiations are ongoing with the big four, but if they stall any longer – the ultimatum is forthcoming.

Anthony Milford, Josh Reynolds, Jack Bird, Chad Townsend, Kieran Foran, Shaun Johnson and Gareth Widdop headline the list of off-contract playmakers, which is why the Tigers want to know if Brooks and Moses want to remain at the club.

The Tigers are also fed up over a perception they are being held to ransom by their manager, Isaac Moses, and will attempt to shift the balance of power with a take it or leave it ultimatum.

The club’s football committee gathered on Tuesday to begin the hunt for a new coach. Ivan Cleary is expected to be atop that list. The club will consider all applications and are expected to go to the board with at least three recommendations.

At this stage there are no plans to fast-track the coaching appointment process, however that could change if there is an immediate interest of expression from Cleary that is rubber-stamped by the board.

Todd Payten, who coached many of the players in the Tigers’ junior system, has the support of the playing group. However his departure from the club has left a sour taste in the mouth of those who matter, and given he was overlooked as Mick Potter’s successor, he is unlikely to be thrown into the hot seat this time around. He is also managed by Moses.

The players don’t want a say on who the club should appoint, but you can be guaranteed they want to know who it is before committing.

For established stars like Woods and Tedesco, time won’t alter their value. But Brooks and Moses have raised some alarm bells at Tiger town with disappointing performances over the past fortnight.

The club still believe they are the right halves to lead the club into the future, but there are plenty of reservations over offloading big money to players who haven’t found consistency at the top level.

However at Monday’s press conference, chief executive Justin Pascoe and Marina Go announced their intention to move quickly on the retention of their high-profile players by highlighting their belief the players would sign before the announcement of the coach.

This goes against what their skipper said on NRL 360 the week before when he admitted he wanted to know who would be coaching the club before committing.

Woods was locked in a debate with the coach in the tunnel at GIO Stadium after the 40-point loss to the Raiders on Sunday, trying to work a way out of the hole the team had dug itself in.

He didn’t call for the coach’s head. The faces on the players after the shellacking at the hands of the Raiders did that. In fact, Woods publicly backed the coach and admitted it was time the club’s young players began living up to the hype in an interview with Fairfax Media on the eve of Taylor’s sacking.

“Everyone says we have really good young blokes, but we need to start living up to that hype mate,” Woods said on Sunday night.

“It doesn’t matter who our coach is. The boys love JT, so we have to go out there and play our footy. He’s not the one going out there and playing. We deserve all the crap we’ve been getting because it’s simply not good enough. We haven’t been getting beat by two or four points, we’re getting flogged by 30 or 40. It’s not good enough.

“And we’ve scored one try in two weeks – that was from an intercept not a set play. We’ve lost our mojo in our attack because I think we’re trying to score off every play. We need to play a bit more direct and straighter. Our halves have to learn how to control the game. It’s not just our halves – it’s the nine and the one too. We have to learn how to control a game and that’s why we’re a bit immature as a squad.”

Those aren’t the words of a man looking to leave. They are the words of a frustrated captain who has the Leichhardt postcode tattooed on his body. Tedesco, Moses and Brooks look up to their skipper. His movements are pivotal to their future. His movements are even more pivotal to the future of the Wests Tigers.

Reality check

It’s easy to get caught up in the drama of rugby league and sometimes forget just how insignificant it really is.

The Wests Tigers were given a dose of reality last week when some sad news surrounding the health of Elijah Taylor’s daughter came to light.

Taylor is one of the NRL’s genuine good guys, but his world was turned upside down when his baby girl was admitted into intensive care last week fighting for her life.

The players’ hearts went out to their teammate, who withdrew from the match against the Raiders to be with his family.

“There are bigger things in the world than football,” Aaron Woods said. “And we just want him to look after his little one because it’s really sad at the moment what he’s going through.”

Our thoughts are with the Taylor family.

The gangland trial that delayed Murder Uncovered’s Carl Williams report

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Channel Seven delayed broadcasting a program about Carl and Roberta Williams after a Supreme Court judge asked the network to wait, over concerns the story might influence jurors in an underworld murder trial.
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Justice Stephen Kaye last month asked Channel Seven not to broadcast Murder Uncovered in Victoria, out of concern the program might prejudice jurors involved in the murder trial for the man charged with murdering Graham “The Munster” Kinniburgh.

Justice Kaye told a lawyer for the network last month he was concerned that if Seven televised the program on its intended date – February 22 – it could have prejudiced the trial for Stephen Asling, the man charged with murdering Kinniburgh, and possibly led to the jury being discharged. The trial began in mid-February.

Asling was on Saturday found guilty of murdering Kinniburgh in 2003.

In discussions on February 17, Channel Seven’s lawyer told Justice Kaye a script for Murder Uncovered did not mention Kinniburgh, Asling or any of the key witnesses whose names were suppressed during the trial.

But Justice Kaye asked the network not to broadcast the program until after the trial, out of caution. Prosecutors and Asling’s defence team also wanted the network to wait.

Channel Seven later informed the court it would not televise the program in Victoria until after Asling’s case was resolved.

The guilty verdict against Asling means Seven will now broadcast Murder Uncovered as a “special report” next Monday night.

The program, the court heard, focuses on the relationship between Carl and Roberta Williams and mentions Carl Williams’ hatred of the Moran family.

Asling’s trial was told Williams wanted Kinniburgh dead because he was an associate of the Morans.

Justice Kaye said he preferred not to impose an injunction on Seven, and instead hoped the network would cooperate.

In 2008, Justice Betty King banned Channel Nine from screening the entire first Underbelly series in Victoria to ensure a fair trial for a man who was later convicted of murdering Lewis Moran.

Letter that sparked a civil war in the Olympic movement

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The ancient Greeks called the Olympics “the truce of the gods”.
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Any possible peace pact between the rival contestants for the position of the n Olympic Committee’s presidency – incumbent John Coates and challenger Danni Roche – dissolved in a glance.

Roche wrote to Coates on Sunday, saying: “I would be delighted to work with you on a transition plan. To this end I would welcome the opportunity to discuss with you an honorary president role, similar to New Zealand’s, for you to continue to have a role domestically with the AOC as well as internationally.”

It was an offer Coates had to refuse.

His position as International Olympic Committee vice president exists only because he is AOC president, one of 15 National Olympic Committee presidents around the world whose membership of the IOC depends on their national position.

Sure, Coates could accept the position as AOC honorary president and be allocated a privileged seat at Olympic functions within , but he could not fulfil the role stated by Roche in the closing remarks of her letter: “I am certain you will continue to promote the Olympic movement on the global stage, something that all ns can be proud of.”

The reality is that if Coates is sacked as AOC president, he would be required to immediately surrender his role as chairman of the co-ordination committee of the Tokyo Olympics to be held in just over three years time.

He would also be forced to resign his committee roles on the IOC’s legal affairs and broadcast committees.

If Coates is characterised by his opponents as a domestic dictator who spends most of his time overseas, he heads the most democratic organisation in n sport.

If all eligible AOC members cast their votes for either Coates or Roche at the AGM on May 6, there will be 94 voting slips in the ballot box.

Under AOC rules, all sports are equal.

The 33 summer Olympic sports receive two votes each, as do the seven Winter Olympics sports, meaning 80 of the 94 votes are cast by sports.

The AOC executive members and Athletes Commission members receive a vote each but, contrary to reports, AOC life members cannot vote, although they may attend the AGM.

Roche, a gold medal-winning hockey player, has the support of swimming and other big, funded team sports, such as basketball, while Coates can count on the votes of the seven Winter Olympics sports.

While Roche says in her letter to Coates that extending his tenure to 30 years is, “from a governance perspective too long, regardless of the skill and leadership of the individual”, perhaps the canny 66-year-old has been looking at the future for some time.

Swimming lost its lustre at the past two Olympics, partly because other nations caught up, while n figure skating is now cutting an elegant edge on the rest of the world.

Last Saturday, ‘s figure skating pair of Harley Windsor and Katia Alexandrovskaya were crowned world junior champions in Taipei.

It is ‘s best-ever international performance in figure skating in over 70 years but importantly points to a more inclusive world.

Harley is a 20-year-old Indigenous athlete from western Sydney and Katia is a 17-year-old from Moscow who has applied for n citizenship and therefore qualify to represent at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.

The athletes were teamed together by an agreement between the n and Russian skating coaches one year ago, owing to the mutual lack of suitable partners in each country because of their height differences.

April 6 is the closing day for nominations to the AOC, including executive positions and the vice presidency.

Coates has confided to close friends that he will retire after the Tokyo Olympics but has not hinted at a successor.

His AOC media director, Mike Tancred, has ignited a long dormant election campaign, aware of the multiple earlier approaches to significant Melbourne-based identities, such as former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett, to oppose Coates.

Roche is very organised, having set up a website and phoned many voting members, as well as alerting journalists.

She has strong financial support and the backing of her fellow board members of the n Sports Commission, the federal government’s funding and policy arm.

Google called in to scrub politicians’ numbers from the internet

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Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton checks his phone during Question Time at Parliament House in Canberra on Tuesday 3 May 2016. Photo: Alex EllinghausenInternet behemoth Google has been called in to scrub federal politicians’ private mobile numbers from the internet after a bumbling government department published them on its website.
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The Department of Parliamentary Services took down the offending pages from the Parliament House website on Monday after being alerted by Fairfax Media to the privacy and security breach.

But the department quickly found the numbers were still accessible through a backdoor known as Google cache, so it scrambled to enlist the US-based company’s help to purge the information.

“Following representations by the Department of Parliamentary Services to Google, Google has now deleted cached documents from their network,” a departmental spokeswoman confirmed on Tuesday.

“The department has publicly acknowledged and promptly responded to the issue when it was identified and is working with our stakeholders towards rectifying the problem and ensuring it does not happen again.”

Parliamentarians are angry over the breach, with a number complaining to Speaker Tony Smith and Senate President Stephen Parry, who as presiding officers jointly oversee the department.

A number have also sought advice from the department about whether they should change their phone numbers.

Nearly all federal politicians – from cabinet ministers down – had their numbers exposed in the bungle, which the department has blamed on a contractor called TELCO Management.

The numbers were contained in PDF documents that report what politicians are charging taxpayers for their phones.

While in previous years the numbers were taken out of the documents altogether, this time it appears the font was merely turned white – meaning they could still be accessed using copy and paste.

The numbers – for all MPs who served between January and June last year, before the July election – were easily and publicly accessible on the website for more than three months.

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ReviewGallery of Rogues

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Gallery of RoguesCircus Avalon, Birdwood Park, Newcastle WestSaturday and Sunday at 11am, 3pm, 6pm​DIRECTOR Elsa Chan and the production team have engagingly built a storyline around amazing theatre acts, with the competitors vying to be chosen as the latest entrant in the title institution. The performers are dressed in garb that suggests, among others, gangsters from the 1920s, elegant wicked women, and a smooth matador, with one in colourful trousers adorned with comic strip characters. The “rogues” names are likewise amusing, including the Cracked Twister, Lady Venom and Baron Von Boom.
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A would-be villain, young boy Ned (Ned Keogh), watches attentively as the ringmaster and head villain (Lachlan Dickson) takes the competitors through their paces, with both also getting the chance to show what they can do. And the skills are incredible, involving the use of large rings and hoops, spinning diabolos, line-attached pois, climbing straps and tissus, balancing and sliding on tables, doing contortions and juggling clubs. Performers Kara Bissett, Mia Connell, Serena Pestery, Jordan Turley, Ian Churton, Juliet Creanor, Jess Peters, Killian Deneker, Bridgette May, Simon Tarrant, Samantha Crispin, Ella Gordon, Chris O’Donnell, and Sarah Windley keep even the youngest watchers spellbound.

Jordan Turley has watchers open-mouthed as he does amazing juggling, initially with three strings-attached sets of diabolos and later with balls, handling up to five of the latter at a time. And he joins Chris O’Donnell and Lachlan Dickson in juggling and throwing clubs to each other, using just their shoulders to do the feat at one point. Bridgette May sits hands-free high above the ring on two material tissus she has joined together. Simon Tarrant swings up to 21 hoops at a time as he moves around the arena. Killian Deneker performs gymnastics using a ring that it is initially high above the floor and then is lowered onto it, and Samantha Crispin and Ella Gordon share a ring as they perform. Kara Bissett and Juliet Creanor use a table for amazing balances and that table later sees agile sliding by seven of the ensemble members. And the incredible finale has eight of the “rogues” throwing clubs in an amusing combat.

NSW man cleared of assault because he might have been sleepwalking

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Jacob Holland once woke his mother in the middle of the night insisting his brother was stuck inside a sandwich bag in a wardrobe.
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Mr Holland experienced these night terrors and sleepwalking episodes throughout his life, sometimes taking tins of food from the pantry to his bed, and once wandering out of his house.

On the night of November 9, 2014, Mr Holland was naked when he went into a neighbour’s house in Coffs Harbour, put on a young girl’s blue cardigan in the laundry, crawled on the floor, and assaulted a woman in her bedroom while yelling “arrghh”.

He said he was dreaming about being in the mythical world of the computer game Skyrim when the woman’s husband restrained him, only realising he was in trouble when he was taken to the police station and locked in a cell.

NSW District Court judge Phillip Mahony last week found the 21-year-old not guilty of aggravated assault occasioning actual bodily harm after a judge alone trial, finding prosecutors had not excluded the reasonable possibility he was sleepwalking, making his actions involuntary.

The court heard Mr Holland and his older brother drank beers and played Xbox games until about 10pm, before he went to bed naked.

About an hour after the older brother left the house, police called him and he found Mr Holland naked and hysterical in a cell, claiming police had told him he’d killed or hurt a child.

Alan Holland told court: “Jacob does these weird sleep things. He goes into a weird state and does crazy things and doesn’t remember.”

An officer who arrested Mr Holland at the house said he appeared drunk, but agreed the symptoms of “sleep drunkeness” – a sleepy confusion sleepwalkers suffer marked by disorientation, balance problems, slurred speech and mumbling – was similar to intoxication.

The Crown’s expert Professor David Greenberg said Mr Holland’s actions were more likely the result of intoxication, in part because sleepwalkers tend to do “repetitive and purposeless” things.

Professor Greenberg noted that Mr Holland, who had been treated for behavioural disorders as a child, had never been diagnosed with sleepwalking by a sleep physician or neurologist.

The medical expert called by Mr Holland’s defence found that a low level of blood alcohol concentration would not account for his actions, but could have made the sleepwalking worse.

Both experts found Mr Holland did not suffer from a mental illness.

Judge Mahony found there was no motive for Mr Holland to target the woman, whom he’d never met, and noted there were known examples of people driving or using machinery while sleepwalking.

“I am therefore of the opinion that the Crown case has not satisfied, beyond reasonable doubt, the onus on it to disprove the reasonable possibility that the accused was sleepwalking at the time of the offending conduct.

“Therefore his conduct was not voluntary at the time of that offending.”

Newcastle Supercars track builders ready to rollphotos, video

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START LINE: Josh Ryan, right, in Newcastle on Tuesday with Supercars boss James Warburton and drivers James Courtney and Scott McLaughlin. Work is due to start on May 1 to transform parts of Newcastle East into a Supercars track, including resurfacing all 2.6km of the circuit.
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Senior project manager Josh Ryan, of track engineers iEDM, said on Tuesday that construction crews would work on various parts of the circuitsimultaneously.

The project would include fresh tarmac on the entire track, reshaping corners, new footpaths, anew road through Nobbys reserve and replacing permanent speed humps with temporary ones.

Supercars track builders ready to roll | photos, videos Scott McLaughlin and James Courtney

STREET PLAN: An artist’s impression based on a Supercars preliminary design for the track.

James Courtney and Scott McLaughlin

James Courtney and Scott McLaughlin

James Courtney and Nuatali Nelmes

Scott McLaughlin and James Courtney

Scott McLaughlin and James Courtney

TweetFacebook Supercars visit to Newcastle, March 21Photos: Marina Neil“Given the condensed time frames for delivery, the packages will be constructed concurrently in all four zones as per our mapping,” Mr Ryan said.“We are aiming, with the caveat of approvals from state government, to start construction on the first of May, through, tentatively, to the end of September.

“That’s just the civil construction. Then overlay of the event will start around early to mid October, take us through six to seven weeks to the event.”

Mr Ryan said the engineers would work hard to maintain vehicle access for as much of the construction period as possible.

Newcastle City Council is working on partof the race route at the southern end of Shortland Esplanade,but a spokesman said this was related to replacing a retaining wall for the Bathers Way project.

Some residents are concerned the circuit will look like a motor racing track 365 days a year, detracting from Newcastle East’s heritage character.But Mr Ryansaid the circuit would effectively disappear after each race weekend.

Temporary structures for the November 24 to 26 race would include two pedestrian bridges spanning the track, one at the corner of Wharf Road and Watt Street and another probably at Hunter Street to maximise pedestrian traffic past CBD shops, cafes and bars.

Mr Ryan said Supercars simulations had confirmed the drivers would reach 240km/h down Wharf Road before sweeping left into Watt Street around a slightly reshaped corner. The trackwould not require chicanes to slow down the cars.

Mr Ryan, who is living in Newcastle this year with his family while the track is built, said about 300 contractors would work on the five-month track construction.He said the project would leave the city with better roads and footpaths.

Supercars executives will be back in Newcastle next week to talk to residents, and chief executive James Warburton said tickets would go on sale to Novocastrians at the end of April.

Organisers have secured Delta Goodrem to perform on the Friday night of the race weekend and are still chasing a “major” act for the following night.

Ronaldo or Messi? For Baro, it’s a no-brainer.

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Strikers may well be the most talented individuals on a A-League team, which is why Melbourne Victory’s Spanish centre back Alan Baro is diplomatic when asked who is the toughest opponent he has faced in his first season in .
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“The strikers are always the best players in the team, and in the A-League all the strikers are good players,” he says with a smile. ” I always have to concentrate fully.”

But Baro is far too polite to say that any challenge he might meet in pales into insignificance compared to the biggest test he has faced in a career which started 12 years ago with a small team, Peralada, when he was a teenager in his native Catalonia.

Baro eventually worked his way though the grades in Spain, playing in the Spanish second and third division – and that’s where he came up against opponents who would give any defender nightmares, the mighty Real Madrid.

Baro faced the European champions – complete with Cristiano Ronaldo spearheading its galaxy of stars – four times in the Copa Del Rey, the Spanish knockout Cup competition where the ties are played over two legs.

It was both exhilarating and frightening at the same time, says Victory’s Iberian import.

“I played twice against Real Madrid, when I was in the third division in the Copa Del Ray [with Alicante], and the second time was against Ronaldo, and Gonzalo Higuain [the Argentinian and currently Juventus striker] with Ponferradina.”

So what must it be like stepping out on to the pitch at the Bernabeu knowing you are facing Ronaldo and his mates.

“At first you are thinking a lot about them. You know you are playing against maybe the biggest player in the world. But when you are on the pitch you try to do things well, and you see them like another player.

“We drew the first one at home [1-1] and then lost 2-1 in the Bernabeu [when he played for Alicante] the second time we lost home and away, 2-0 at home and in Madrid 4-1.”

So given that Baro is a proud Catalonian and lifelong Barca fan but has also faced Ronaldo on the field, which would he pick first – Ronaldo or Lionel Messi – if he was given the choice.

“Messi,” he says without hesitation. “The main reason is I am a Barcelona supporter but I think Messi has something special, he is different in respect of other players. For me it’s beautiful to see him play.”

Baro’s has been the story of the journeyman who has battled his way up the grades and made the most of his talent with hard work and application.

He wasn’t plucked from obscurity to train at Barca’s famous La Masia academy, from which so many talents have emerged. His progress has come in roundabout fashion.

“I started in small teams, and step by step I went to the higher levels, then I have the chance to play in the third division like a professional, then I went to the second division.

“I played one game in the first division, but I never had the chance to play in a very big team in my young days.”

When an agent who had brought other Spanish players to offered him the chance to move to the A-League he was quickly on the phone to a former teammate Isaias, who was part of Adelaide United’s title-winning team last season.

“I played two seasons with him as a teammate in Ponferradina. I also knew Alberto Aguilar from Western Sydney.

“Isaias told me very good things about the A-League. Both Isaias and Aguilar were very happy about their moves. I looked up about Melbourne Victory on the internet and was happy to come.”

Baro moved with his wife and two young children, son Biel and daughter Arlette, and the family have settled comfortably into Melbourne life.

His contract is up in May and, he says, he hasn’t really discussed extending his stay because he wants to focus on finishing the regular season strongly then making a mark in the finals.

The competition in the A-League is tough, as tough as the second league in Spain,” he says.

“I think there are very good teams. I think it’s like the second division in Spain, there are a lot of similar things. It’s hard and the levels between the teams are quite equal.

“At the end football is the same game in every country. There are good players in second division in Spain and in the A-League in .

“There are different teams in every league but at the end it’s always football.”