THEATRE: Survival of the wittiest

GIMME SHELTER: Black comedy Delectable Shelter offers an insightful, humorous and surprisingly musical take on the apocalypse genre.THE end of the world seems an unlikely subject for a comedy.
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But Delectable Shelter, which looks at such a dark future, was a hit with audiences when it premiered at the 2011 Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

The comedy begins with five people – four members of a middle-class family and an engineer – entering an underground shelter to escape a world that’s rapidly becoming uninhabitable due to climate change.

The shelter is sealed once they are inside.

The engineer reveals that they have been chosen to propagate the descendants who will repopulate the world when it returns to an inhabitable state in 350 years.

Delectable Shelter shows their behaviour and that of the generations that follow them, leaving those watching wondering whether anything has really changed.

Writer-director Benedict Hardie said he wanted to write a comedy in which unspoken secrets, prejudices and doubts that exist in the world come very much to life.

“It’s not a conventional show,” he said. “It’s surprising in many respects and it runs through a lot of genres.”

Delectable Shelter opens, for example, with its five performers as a choral group in flowing vestments singing Roxette’s 1980s ballad It Must Have Been Love, adapted by composer Benny Davis (from Axis of Awesome) and musical director Nathan Gilkes as a five-part Bach-like a cappella madrigal.

The performers return as choristers at the end of each three acts in the 90-minute work and perform other ’80s love songs in a similar classical style, offering amusing and pertinent comment on what the audience has just seen.

Delectable Shelter is on a two-month, four-state tour that includes performances at Newcastle’s Civic Theatre on July 19 and 20.

Benedict Hardie said the show was very demanding on its five performers.

They have to move between genres as well as deliver statements as affluent First World citizens that are beyond the bounds of political correctness.

And in the third act, set just before the 350-year period in the underground shelter comes to its end, each cast member plays several roles, as the lookalike progeny of the descendants of the original five residents – whose mannerisms and words may be different but nonetheless have the audience thinking about their forebears.

Two of the cast members of the acclaimed 2011 production, Yesse Spence and Simone Page Jones, are in the touring show, with Brendan Hawke, Jolyon James and Andrew Broadbent, all graduates of the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts.

The shelter is far-removed from a concrete bunker. Its floral-wallpapered walls and a Van Gogh painting justify the delectable in the title. And the elegant clothes worn by the four family members make it clear they’re not leaving their past behind.

But Thor, the engineer assigned to guide them towards the future, lets drop from time to time something that opens their eyes. They may not, for example, be the only survivors of the catastrophe that hit the Earth.

Benedict Hardie has updated the script for the current tour and changed one of the songs to make the tale more relevant and funnier.

Delectable Shelter was produced by Melbourne company The Hayloft Project, with the current tour organised in association with Critical Stages.

Billed for the 2011 Melbourne Comedy Festival as “a black comedy about white terror”, the play was hailed by critics and audience members as certainly being that.

It was acclaimed as being funny, biting and social commentary at its most effective.

WINE: New face at boutique

YOUNG TALENT: Briar Ridge’s new winemaker, Gwyneth Olsen, starts next month.GWYNETH Olsen, who has proved herself a rising star of Australian and New Zealand wine, has been appointed winemaker at Mount View’s Briar Ridge vineyard and winery.
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Briar Ridge is one of the Hunter’s trail-blazing boutique ventures.

It was established by Murray Robson in 1972 as the Squire vineyard, then became the Robson vineyard and in 1989 was renamed Briar Ridge after it was purchased by millionaire geologist and oil exploration company director Dr John Davis.

Gwyn’s Briar Ridge appointment is the latest in a spell of musical chairs within John Davis’s wine empire, which includes the Hunter’s Pepper Tree, Briar Ridge and Tallavera Grove operations and vineyards in Wrattonbully, Orange and Coonawarra.

Gwyn, 30, will move next month to Briar Ridge from her current job as a senior winemaker with McWilliam’s.

Last May ace winemaker and wine judge Jim Chatto ended his seven-year stay as Pepper Tree chief winemaker to accept the post of McWilliam’s chief winemaker in charge of the family-owned company’s Australia-wide portfolio, including the iconic Hunter Mount Pleasant brand.

Jim has been succeeded at Pepper Tree by 32-year-old Scott Comyns, who produced some great wines for the Tempus Two arm of Australian Vintage Ltd and was a finalist in The Wine Society’s 2010 Young Winemaker of the Year Award before taking over as Briar Ridge winemaker last year.

With Scott’s promotion to Pepper Tree chief winemaker, the vacancy created at Briar Ridge will be filled next month by Gwyn, who established her credentials as a top show judge of the future by winning one of Australia’s toughest wine tests conducted by the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI) and the Royal Queensland Food and Wine Show.

Gwyn lives with her husband at Bellbird and last month was declared dux of the elite AWRI Advanced Wine Assessment Course, in which 30 participants had to evaluate a diverse range of more than 320 wines under simulated wine show conditions.

Her Maitland-born husband Kurt is match-day trainer for National Rugby League referees.

Raised in Cairns, Gwyn went to New Zealand in 2001 to do a bachelor of science degree at Otago University and then moved to Adelaide to do a Roseworthy oenology degree course.

After gaining her degree in 2005, she worked on her first post-graduation vintage at Domaine Preignes Le Vieux, in France’s Languedoc region.

This was followed by a six-year stint as assistant winemaker at Villa Maria winery in New Zealand.

Then she moved back across the ditch to join McWilliam’s, where she rose through the ranks to take responsibility for the family-owned company’s Mount Pleasant, lower-alcohol and New Zealand Essenze ranges.

She has worked on four Hunter vintages at Mount Pleasant and has earned praise for her 2011 Mothervine Pinot Noir, 2011 Mount Henry Shiraz-Pinot Noir and 2011 Leontine Chardonnay, named for Maurice O’Shea’s mother, French-born Leontine O’Shea.

Gwyn said she was thrilled to join such an iconic Hunter Valley producer as Briar Ridge.

Briar Ridge director Steve Davis said Gwyn’s appointment would not only be an important asset to Briar Ridge but to the young talent pool of the Hunter Valley winemaking.

Learn about your organic drop

WINES from many of Australia’s best organic and biodynamic producers are being featured in a What’s in your Glass wine fair in Newcastle on Sunday, July 28.

The event will begin with a tasting at the Reserve Wine Bar of wines from more than 20 producers such as Cullen, Castagna, Battle of Bosworth and Rippon.

Other wines will come from the Hunter-based Harkham, Macquariedale, Krinklewood and Tamburlaine brands and from New Zealand and European makers.

The tasting will run from 1pm to 4pm and will be followed by a four-course dinner at 6pm at Bacchus Restaurant, in King Street, Newcastle.

Dinner wines will be matched to a menu created by award-winning chef Tim Montgomery.

The cost of the tasting is $30 per person and the Bacchus dinner is $120 a head.

The cost to attend both events is $135.

Tickets can be bought at hunterwhatsinyourglass.wordpress上海夜生活m/.

Awards for small producers

ENTRIES have opened for the 2013 NSW Small Winemakers’ Show at Forbes from August 26 to 28.

The show, which is in its 22nd year, is open to all NSW and ACT wine producers that crush a maximum of 500 tonnes annually.

It is not open to any winery that is wholly owned or part owned by a large producer.

Entries close on Monday, July 22, and judging begins on August 26 at the Forbes Youth and Community Centre in Battye Street, Forbes.

The judging panel will be chaired by Hunter winemaker Andrew Thomas. Other panel members are: Mike De Iuliis, of De Iuliis Wines; Southern Highlands freelance wine writer and consultant Deb Pearce; Bryan Martin, of Ravensworth Wines, Canberra; Jeff Byrne, of Audrey Wilkinson Wines; Tom Ward, of Swinging Bridge Wines, Cowra; and Jacob Stein, of Stein Wines, Mudgee.

Last year’s show attracted 573 entries from 98 small producers across NSW.

Andrew Thomas said the show gave small producers an excellent opportunity to benchmark their wines against those of other makers.

“The judging is as strict as any other show, so winning a gold medal at the NSW Small Winemakers’ Show will place a wine up there with the very best in the country,” he said.

An exhibitors’ tasting will be held on Friday, August 30, between 4.30pm and 8.30pm at the Forbes Youth and Community Centre.

The tasting will be open to the public from 6.30pm. More information is available at nswwineshow上海夜生活m.au, by emailing [email protected]上海夜生活m.au or by contacting the wine show secretary on 0455 154 434.

Learn to appreciate wine

LEADING winemaker David Lowe this month will launch a series of wine appreciation sessions at his winery in Tinja Lane, Mudgee.

Under the Lowe Wine School banner, the events aim to provide an entertaining, no-nonsense, hands-on approach to learning the basics of making and tasting wine.

The school’s in on Friday, July 19, Friday, August 16, and on each Wednesday of September. The sessions last from 5.30pm to 7pm and the cost is $45 per person.

Bookings are essential and can be made by visiting lowewine上海夜生活m.au/events, emailing [email protected]上海夜生活m.au or by phoning 02 6372 0800.

David Lowe said while the wine schools were a bit of fun, they were a response to a real hunger for knowledge about the Mudgee region and about wine in general.

“We don’t like to take ourselves too seriously,” he said, “but we are serious about increasing the awareness and knowledge of Australian, NSW, Mudgee and Lowe wines.

“We start with a few white wines and work through grape growing, winemaking techniques, how to taste, and what to look for in various varieties. We then move to some of the local red varieties, and of course our zinfandel.”

Cook quinoa like a pro

WITH its nutty taste, quinoa suits both savoury and sweet dishes.
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It can be served as a side dish and used in salads, soups and baked goods.

CREDIT: istockQuinoa in a Glass Canister with Scoop Horizontalistock Photo File #21240428Quinoa, Cereal Plant, Seed, Wood, Copy Space, Healthy Eating, Vegan Food, vegatarian, Color Image, Food, Jar, Kitchen Utensil, Food And Drink, Nutrient, Raw, Scoop, Vegetable generic

Remember to rinse quinoa well before cooking to remove a naturally occurring bitter residue.

The Grains & Legumes Council recommends rinsing the nutty-tasting grain well before cooking to remove the residue of saponins, a naturally occurring plant defence.

The council’s tips for cooking quinoa like a pro:

1. Add one cup of quinoa to three cups of water, bring to the boil then simmer for 12 to 15 minutes. Drain and rinse with lukewarm water.

2. Spread the cooked quinoa out on a tray and dry off in the oven at 160° until light and fluffy, about 10 minutes.

3. For slightly golden quinoa, drizzle with some olive oil before you put it in the oven.

RECIPES

MEGS GARNHAM’S QUINOA MAPLE, PEAR AND BANANA LOAF

Ingredients

1 cups of cooked quinoa (basic quinoa porridge is best)

1 cup hazelnut meal

1 cup gluten-free self-raising flour

cup maple syrup

100ml olive oil

150ml almond milk

3 small bananas sliced

1 small pear diced

Method

❏Line bread tin with baking paper, slice on one of the bananas and place on the bottom. Heat oven to 165°.

❏Blend all dry ingredients, fold through pear and two bananas.

❏Add maple syrup and oil.

❏Gradually add almond milk. Don’t make the mixture too sloppy. You may not need all 150ml, depending on flour mix.

❏Bake at 165° for about 40minutes.

BASIC QUINOA PORRIDGE

Ingredients

2 cups quinoa flakes

2 cups quinoa grain

3 cups coconut milk and cup water

1 tablespoon brown sugar

Method

❏Wash grain cover with four cups of water and cook until just soft.

❏Add coconut milk to flakes stir over heat until it starts to thicken. Add grain and sugar.

❏Stir over heat until desired thickness.

❏Add fruit and yoghurt, yum!

Recipes by Megs Garnham, owner and chef of Newcastle’s Soul Foods. Picture (above) by Simone De Peak.

FRENCH-STYLE LENTIL & QUINOA SALAD

Serves 6 as a side dish

Preparation time: 40minutes

Ingredients

cup McKenzie’s French-style lentils

cup quinoa

1 red apple, quartered, cored and sliced finely

1 Lebanese cucumber, sliced finely lengthwise

3 celery stalks, sliced finely

5 spring onions, sliced finely

Dressing

cup rice wine vinegar

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 tablespoons lime or lemon juice

Method

❏Place lentils and cup of water into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20minutes. Drain and set aside to cool.

❏Meanwhile, add quinoa and 1 cup of water into a small saucepan. Bring to the boil then reduce heat to low. Cover and cook for 10-12 minutes or until stock is absorbed and quinoa is tender. Fluff with a fork and set aside to cool.

❏To prepare dressing, place all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to combine.

❏In a serving bowl, combine cooked and well-drained lentils and quinoa with apple, cucumber, celery and spring onions. Pour over dressing and mix well.

Recipe and image at left courtesy McKenzie’s Foods via glnc上海夜生活.au.

GOOD TASTE: Fresh fix for coffee addicts

ORGANIC: Lilybow Hamilton and Kenn Blackman of Xtraction Espresso. HE may be particular about his coffee, but Kenn Blackman knows a thing or two about the brew.
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Xtraction Espresso has already ranked above most coffee shops in Newcastle’s central business district on Beanhunter – a website where coffee shop-goers can rate their experiences – and it only opened five weeks ago.

It is the only coffee shop in the CBD to use Morgans 100 per cent organic coffee, which has proved to be popular among those who seek a healthier alternative.

Blackman places great emphasis on the three secret ingredients to a successful business: consistency, value and service.

Having worked as a barista for the past seven years, both at his own businesses and for others, Blackman has perfected the art of coffee making.

“I try to make it enjoyable in every cup that I make,” he said.

Blackman has not yet finished renovations on the former Cupcake Espresso space which spills on to the street with a window servery, but he plans to create an inner-city espresso bar vibe.

Below is a selection of food on offer at Xtraction from a changing and developing menu.

Food: Breakfasts from $5 including bacon and egg muffin, cheese and house-made relish; home-style baked beans, smoked bacon eye and poached egg; house-toasted muesli, goji berries and chia seeds; turkish raisin toast. Soup of the day, from $7.50. Toasted turkish panini from $9, with choice of ham, cheese, tomato and mustard; vegetarian; or chicken, feta-filled bell peppers, spinach and aoli.

Sweets and more: From $3.50: Banana bread, pear and raspberry bread, flavoured lamingtons and chocolate brownies.

Drinks: Coffee, from $3; hot chocolate, from $4.50; soft drinks and juices, $3.50.

– Georgia Osland

OFFCUTS: Kids in kitchen

little chef in the kitchen pics for strictly kids – kids cooking articleIT’S school holiday time and with the weather leaning towards the feral, you may be losing your mind having the kidlets cooped up at home.
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If you’ve exhausted the bowling alley, the shopping centre and the cinemas by this stage, maybe it’s time to turn to some gastronomic adventures (and I don’t mean the food poisoning kind).

There are some great places to eat out, a little out of the norm, that children and young adults alike will enjoy.

Anything with a gimmick usually works, so why not try a sushi train where they can pick things from the moving plates? It’s not all smoked eel or salmon sashimi – lots of Japanese have Westernised their fillings, with chicken and avocado commonly used.

A cuisine that isn’t too confronting is Mexican. Some great places that have opened up in the past year provide Mexican flavours without drowning them in greasy cheese. La Casita and Guzman y Gomez, both on Beaumont Street, have fresh, authentic fare that hungry bellies will devour.

The hottest place in town at the moment seems to be Yogurtland in Glendale. If you can tolerate the queues, kids will love choosing their own tub, flavours and toppings. Just make sure their eyes aren’t bigger than their stomachs because you pay by weight.

Once they’ve finished eating, let the kids bang saucepans and throw flour around in someone else’s kitchen.

The Essential Ingredient has great cooking classes for those junior chefs. From “Base to Ace” (learning to make pizza bases and toppings), to custard tart creations and whipping up Asian dishes, you can entertain them, then get them to cook dinner for you. Winning!

GOOD TASTE: Cook without shopping

Hello Fresh Thai beef salad and recipe cardFORGET the chore of trawling supermarket aisles for dinner ingredients. Instead, plan meals with online recipe and grocery delivery service Hello Fresh.
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The service, which launched in Sydney last year and is now also available in Newcastle and the Central Coast, offers weekly deliveries of recipes along with the fresh ingredients needed to make the dish in 30 minutes or less.

All you need in your pantry is staple items like white wine, tomato paste, vegetable oil, olive oil, salt and pepper to cook dishes such as Thai beef salad, prawn saganaki, chicken waldorf salad and lentil and cauliflower dahl.

Hello Fresh is the brainchild of founder, chief executive officer and 2011 MasterChef contestant Tom Rutledge.

“While cooking is fun and relaxing, grocery shopping can often be the opposite,” Rutledge said.

“We wanted to introduce a service that makes cooking a quick, healthy meal with great ingredients much more accessible, whether you’re a busy professional trying to keep in shape, or a mum concerned about your family’s nutrition.

“Hello Fresh makes cooking simple, enjoyable and quick, allowing customers to skip the car parks, carrying and queues by receiving a constantly evolving variety of recipes and fresh seasonal ingredients delivered straight to their door.”

The service offers meal plans for three or five nights of the week, for two, four and six people. The average cost per person, per meal works out at just under $10, including delivery.

The classic box includes at least two meat-based recipes and there is also a vegetarian service. A small classic box (three meals per week) for two people costs $64, for four people $119, and six people $179. A large classic box (five meals per week) for two people costs $99, for four people $189, and six people $279.

The cost for a small vegetarian box for two people is $59, four people $109, six people $159; a large vegetarian box for two people $89, four people $169, and six people $239.

Visit hellofresh上海夜生活m.au for more.

See Free Lunch on opposite page to win a Hello Fresh delivery.

Ex-Morpeth duo reserve spot

RESERVE Wine Bar – which is set to open within weeks in the central business district (on the corner of Hunter and Bolton streets, Newcastle) – has welcomed chef Jose Miguel and front-of-house manager Joshua Anlezark, both formerly of Arnott’s Bakehouse restaurant, Morpeth, to its team.

Look forward to playful and innovative dishes from the talented chef and knowledgeable service from Anlezark.

The bar is set to open within weeks

after having its liquor licence approved last week. Visit facebook上海夜生活m/ReserveWineBar.

Meanwhile, Le Passe Temps (73/75 Hunter Street, Newcastle) opened this week, offering amuse bouche, cheese and charcuterie platters and old-fashioned French classics. The wine list will feature exclusively French and Hunter wines. Visit le-passe-temps上海夜生活m.au.

Rum from around globe

THE Rum Bar at The Honeysuckle Hotel (Lot 31, Wharf C, Honeysuckle Drive, Newcastle) opened last week.

Choose from a selection of 90 rums from around the globe, including cachaca,

which is used to make the famous Brazilian caipirinha.

The Rum Bar is on the hotel’s second level and features live Brazilian and Latin style entertainment. It’s open Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 6pm. Visit facebook上海夜生活m/honeysucklehotel.

Warners Bay earns its Crust

PIZZA lovers rejoice, Crust Gourmet Pizza Bar has opened in Warners Bay.

It can be found at Shop 9, 34 John Street, Warners Bay, and is open Wednesday to Sunday from 11.30am to 2.30pm for lunch, and seven days for dinner from 5pm to 10pm.

For further details, go online to crust上海夜生活m.au.

Child abuse inquiry: Whistleblower’s credibility questioned

The credibility of police whistleblower Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox came under prolonged testing in the NSW inquiry into whether the police covered up child sexual abuse allegations against Catholic priests in the Hunter Valley.
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Counsel assisting the inquiry, Julia Lonergan SC, quizzed Chief Inspector Fox on Tuesday as to why he doubted an “extraordinary” alleged admission by one priest, Father Des Harrigan, that he had owned and subsequently destroyed gay pornography.

The policeman has given evidence that he suspected videos and magazines found in a presbytery at Lochinvar in 2003 had belonged to Father James Fletcher.

Ms Lonergan put it to Chief Inspector Fox that he had no evidence that the material belonged to Fletcher. She also suggested Chief Inspector Fox had not kept an open mind when speaking with Father Harrigan, and as a result did not believe the priest’s admission.

Chief Inspector Fox agreed with both suggestions.

The inquiry has heard that the existence of the pornography came to light while Fletcher was awaiting trial for sexually abusing an altar boy. The priest was subsequently convicted of nine charges and died in jail in 2006.

Chief Inspector Fox agreed that the destruction of the pornography by Father Harrigan was not “important” if it had nothing to do with the investigation of Fletcher.

“I want to suggest to you that you made up the answer [yourself] that the pornography was destroyed because it belonged to Fletcher?” Ms Lonergan said.

The policeman said he was not discounting the possibility that the material belonged to Father Harrigan, “but I still at the same time can’t discount the possibility that the material might have belonged to James Fletcher”.

Chief Inspector Fox’s allegations that the church destroyed evidence relating to sexual abuse allegations are among the inquiry’s terms of reference.

The inquiry continues.

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

The Mercantile put on the block

The oldest Irish pub in the country, The Mercantile at The Rocks in Sydney, is set to be auctioned on Thursday.
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The pub is leased on a long contract from the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority, (SHFA) by a private syndicate, of which the former NSW police minister Paul Whelan, and businessmen Terry O’Neill who is the licensee, and Laurence Coy are all partners.

In 2005 the same investor syndicate raised about $19.5 million when it sold the 40-year leasehold on the Orient pub, just down George Street from The Mercantile.

The sales agent for The Mercantile, the director of hotels at Knight Frank, Mick Wheatley, said recently the pub sector has been one of the busiest in the past year with private investors, syndicates and larger funds all competing for a foothold in the assets.

In the past year as much as $500 million worth of pubs have changed hands as investors such as John Singelton, former Qantas director Geoff Dixon and the Riversdale Group, as well as the Laundy, Short and Bayfield families, among other smaller players, have ear-marked the sector for significant growth.

The assets are attractive for capital and land growth as much as for food and entertainment, with poker machines relegated to a small room.

According to the buyers, gaming is not main the attraction, instead the focus is a good restaurant, lively and well-presented bar, and a place to watch a sporting event.

In late May, Mr Wheatley sold the popular Annandale pub to Oscars Hotels headed by Bill Gravanis, who plans to keep it running as a music venue.

The pending auction of The Mercantile comes hot on the heels of the deal by Peter Walker, as head a local syndicate, who has bought The Fortune of War Hotel, at 143A George Street, from a private investor for $4.3 million. Andrew Jolliffe of Ray White Hotels and Mr Wheatley brokered the sale.

It was another leasehold hotel property in the Rocks controlled by the SHFA until 2028 and consisted of three businesses under the one lease including The Russell boutique hotel and The Russell Wine Bar and The Fortune of War pub.

The entire property has 30 hotel rooms and 15 poker machines.

“The property has not been on the market for 28 years and is a rare investment opportunity within a normally tightly held market in the Rocks,’’ Mr Wheatley said.

‘‘The Mercantile is another asset which hasn’t been on the market for 28 years. It is the country’s oldest running Irish pub and a popular tourist’s drinking spot,” Mr Wheatley.

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

O’Brien needs time and space to sort out issues

Magpie Harry O’Brien Magpie Harry O’Brien
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Harry O’Brien has always invested himself, absolutely, in everything he has done. Before he was a footballer he was willing to pay his own way to Melbourne, train with Collingwood and do his best to win a spot on the rookie list. His persistence helped his club find a premiership player.

As a footballer, O’Brien has worn his heart on his sleeve from day one. He has always had a deep social conscience, and felt compelled to express himself. He has always wanted to go places, see things with his own eyes and bring them to the attention of others. He cares about HIV-infected orphans in Africa because he has met and spent time with them.

At times, he has been portrayed as almost too much of a good guy. As if one day he is doing things he doesn’t have to do, reminding the world that footballers aren’t all bad, and then the next day is just a footballer again. Either way, he has always done much more than merely attach his name to charities and causes. ”The only thing you can accuse Harry of is caring too much about everything that he does,” was how his teammate Dale Thomas saw things last week. ”If that’s the worst trait you’ve got, you’re going all right.”

It is for these reasons that O’Brien deserves what he has now requested: the chance to deal with what sounds like some distressing issues without constant questioning. His absence from Collingwood’s team last week became a story because he is in the best Collingwood team, because it was not fully explained and because he took time off.

It was also reflective of an industry, the media, that has grown, that is competitive, that wants to know more and more, and where an opinion that says ”just wait …” is not really considered an opinion, or enough of one. It happened at a time where social media has given many more people than those in the traditional media a voice, often a harsh one. Ironically, the question most of the speculation seemed to ask, ”He walked out over that?” That has now answered itself.

It was hard to watch O’Brien talk about the things on his mind when he turned up to train again on Tuesday. It’s sad, if inevitable, to think that this time next week everyone will be asking whether he’s going to play football again on the weekend. O’Brien is surrounded by friends and at a club that will be looking after him, and only he can judge what he should and shouldn’t be affected by.

Equally it is up to him to sort things out, because while football clubs aren’t normal places of employment, only he can know whether he can get on with things at Collingwood now or whether he needs to step away for longer.

But he is also a good reminder the footballers we watch, scream at, stick up for and boo for two hours on a weekend are just people, who have things going on in their lives that we often don’t know about.

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

Brad Thorn set to stay at Highlanders

Brad Thorn plans to re-sign with the Highlanders for next year, but he will take a break from rugby for the rest of this season after the team’s final game against the Rebels in Melbourne on Friday night.
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While the franchise is also hoping to bring Tamati Ellison back in 2014.

The 38-year-old Thorn hopes a deal will be finalised with the embattled southern franchise in the ”next few days” that could see him round out his career in Dunedin.

”I’m keen to play some more footy. I feel pretty good, but I just need a break,” he said.

”It would be nice to have a break like everybody else. It would just be nice to feel that excitement and hunger.”

Thorn said he had been wearied by an exhausting programme since before the 2011 World Cup.

”I’ve had a crazy amount of footy, especially in the last two and a half years, and that was backed up by a lot of footy before that too,” he said.

The fatigue was as much mental as physical after playing several campaigns back to back, followed by the angst of a losing Highlanders season.

”If you think about … the Crusaders and no home games, the All Blacks and the World Cup and 24 years since we’d won it. Some guys had three months off while I went straight to Japan, then to Leinster and then back to Japan and then into a tough old season, probably the toughest of my career,” he said.

”You just need a break, it’s that simple.”

Despite the massive workload, Thorn has been one of the Highlanders’ best contributors this season, taking a leadership role within the squad and assuming the captaincy in the absence of Andrew Hore.

Meanwhile, Ellison’s future will depend on a dispensation from the New Zealand Rugby Union, with a decision due in August.

Because he remains contracted to Japanese club Ricoh, Ellison is deemed to be an ”overseas” player as he’s not available for the All Blacks.

Thorn and Fumiaki Tanaka fell into the same category this season, and English loose forward James Haskell was given a dispensation to play for the Highlanders in 2012.

His fate will be decided by the full NZRU board in August.

Highlanders chief executive Roger Clark said the franchise hoped to confirm some key signings on Monday.

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