Plant future in question: Arrium examines all options

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Steve Hamer of Arrium. IRON and steel company Arrium says it cannot rule out mothballing its Whyalla steelworks in South , putting question marks over its rolling mills in Newcastle.
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The Newcastle mills on the former BHP site receive all of their feedstock by rail from Whyalla.

’s other steelmaker, Bluescope Steel, this month struck a deal with its unions to cut 500 jobs to keep its Port Kembla steelworks opening, preserving 5000 jobs.

In an announcement on October 1, Arrium unveiled plans to cut $100million in costs over two years from Whyalla, on top of existing plans to cut $60million in costs company-wide.

At the time, Arrium boss Steve Hamer said steel industry conditions were the worst he had seen and that the federal government was failing to protect the domestic industry from steel dumped in at below-cost prices.

Mr Hamer said the company had to consider all of its options.

‘‘We need to look at our business model all the time including imports, blast furnace, electric arc furnaces, do we mothball or run our production down, all those sorts of questions,’’ Mr Hamer said.

‘‘That [mothballing Whyalla and importing raw steel] is a live and active question in our business.’’

n Workers Union Newcastle branch secretary Richard Downie said companies sometimes threatened to shut down plants in the heat of negotiations, but the union was keeping a close eye on things, regardless.

In event of a mothballing, the impact on Newcastle would depend on whether Arrium imported finished steel products that were ready to sell or whether it imported billets to be rolled at Newcastle.

An Arrium spokesman acknowledged Mr Hamer’s comments but said the focus was on cost-cutting, not shutting plants.

Botham quits Rosellas race

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WESTERN Suburbs are searching for a new coach after Dean Botham withdrew from the running amid frustration over the drawn-out reappointment process.

Speculation over Botham’s possible replacement has bubbled away since Wests bombed out in the Newcastle Rugby League preliminary final against Macquarie more than five weeks ago.

This is despite the first-year head coach leading the Rosellas to the minor premiership.

Wests president Wayne Hore said repeatedly that he wanted to retain Botham, but the leagues club board was going through “a process”.

The first-grade coaching position is appointed by the Wests Leagues Club board of directors and not the rugby league club’s committee.

Botham told the Wests rugby league club committee on Monday that he was no longer interested in the role.

Botham is expected to become Kurri Kurri coach Phil Williams’ assistant next season.

Asked if he had become frustrated by Wests’ failure to reappoint him promptly, Botham said: “More or less. I’d had a couple of other offers to help out other blokes in town.

“So I’ve sat back a little while and, in the end, it was time to move on.”

Botham first arrived at Harker Oval as former coach Craig Miller’s assistant when the club won three straight premierships from 2012 to 2014.

When Miller moved to Cessnock this season, Botham was promoted into the top job.

The club won 11 of their 14 round games but became the first minor premiers to miss the grand final since 2003.

Most other clubs would have reappointed him immediately, given the team’s performance, but Botham is not bitter.

“I don’t hold anything against them.

“It’s just a football coaching job. It’s time to move on and try something new.”

Wests vice-president Neil Scarr said the club’s committee were disappointed to lose Botham and denied he had been driven out.

“There is no one in mind at this stage,” Scarr said.

“Dean elected to move on, and it was his own call. Contrary to what you might hear, it was Dean’s call.

“He was not forced out in any shape or form.”

Scarr said the board would begin advertising the coaching position soon and was confident strong candidates would be interested.

Asked if dragging out Botham’s reappointment had proven to be a mistake, Scarr said: “I guess he would be disappointed, but I don’t think that was an issue because the board have a lot to deal with it.

“It’s not just the football club; it’s the leagues club as well. There’s a lot of work.

“I’ve spoken to Dean and he just said he decided to move on.”

Hunter pistol shooter aims for Olympic title

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Daniel Repacholi at the Hunter Olympic dinner launch on Wednesday. Picture: Ryan OslandNULKABA shooter Daniel Repacholi has his sights set on the ultimate Olympic farewell, a gold medal at Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
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A veteran of Athens, Beijing and London, the 33-year-old is preparing for his fourth and final appearance at the world’s biggest sporting event.

And this time he will not be content merely to be involved.

“Making the team is not my aim,” Repacholi told the Newcastle Herald.

“I want to go there and win.

“That’s my thought process. A lot of people are happy just to make the team and go to the Olympics, but then they have nothing after that. But, for me, the goal is to come back with a gold medal.”

Repacholi, who moved to the Hunter Valley from Victoria in 2009 after meeting his future wife and finding work as a mining operator with Rio Tinto, competes in the 10-metre and 50-metre air pistol.

His best performance at three Olympics was at London three years ago, when he finished 28th in the 10m and 19th in the 50m.

Two years later, after pondering retirement, he collected a 10m gold at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and bronze in the 50m.

With the experience he has gained from three Olympics and two Commonwealth Games, Repacholi believes he is at the peak of his powers.

“It’s important not to get too overwhelmed by the whole situation,” he said. “The first Olympics I went to, it was a massive thing and you’re really not ready for it. It’s the biggest sporting event in the world, and you know that, but you can’t understand how big it is until you get there.

“But I’ve been continually getting better at each one, so hopefully this time I’ll be ready to win it.”

Repacholi said he felt capable of competing at “six or seven” Olympics but family commitments had become his priority.

“This will be my last,” he said.

“I’ll go to the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in 2018, but I’ll retire after that.

“I want to spend more time with my family. I’ve got two young girls, one is two-and-a-half and the other is three months, so they’ll be at a good age where we can go on holidays together and things like that.

“So they’ll be my focus in future.”

The expense factor was also a consideration.

Repacholi said he tried not to think about how much shooting had cost him over the years, in equipment and days off work, but he had no doubt it would run well into six figures.

“I’m very lucky that I’ve got some generous sponsors behind me,” he said. “I really appreciate their support.”

His qualification hopes for Rio hinge on next month’s Oceania titles and ‘s selection series in February and March.

“At the moment, I’m shooting well,” he said.

“As long as I can keep going with the training I’m doing, I should be fine.”

Jason Doyle’s broken neck: another break won’t slow down speedway star

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Jason Doyle.
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THREE years almost to the day after breaking a vertebra in his neck in a crash, Newcastle speedway star Jason Doyle is counting his lucky stars after walking away again with the same injury.

Doyle returned to Newcastle on Wednesday afternoon after gaining a release from Royal Melbourne Hospital following a horror crash in the Speedway Grand Prix in Melbourne on Saturday night.

The 30-year-old fractured his C7 vertebra and punctured a lung in a heavy fall at the first corner of the four-man final at Etihad Stadium in front of more than 26,000 people.

Results on Wednesday morning from an MRI scan of Doyle’s neck convinced doctors the world No. 5 did not need surgery.

Doyle will stay in a neck brace for at least four weeks and see a specialist in six weeks to assess his recovery.

It is familiar territory for Doyle, who fractured the C6 vertebra in his neck when crashing in the Premier League final of 2012 in England when riding for Somerset Rebels.

However, he said Saturday’s fall, after which he was unconscious for more than five minutes on the track, was worse.

“The last time I broke my neck, I didn’t knock myself out for so long,” Doyle said.

“This one, because I don’t remember it, it really hasn’t sunk in, which is a good thing.

“I don’t want to remember it . . . but it’s definitely the worst crash I’ve had.

“Last time, I crashed then went back to the medical room and started coughing up blood, and that’s the only reason I went to hospital and they found the fracture.”

Doyle was thankful for another lucky escape in a sport which has witnessed n Darcy Ward and Russian Vitaly Belousov suffer serious spinal injuries in recent months.

“We all know injuries are part and parcel of motor sport, and just never know what’s going to happen,” Doyle said.

“I got away with this one but I won’t change my lifestyle, I can tell you that.

“I was saying to my family, it could have been one millimetre to the left or right. You never know when you’re time’s up. But you’ve got to think positive about everything in life, and you wouldn’t change it.”

Despite the scare, Doyle had no plans to slow down his speedway ambitions after the most successful season of his career.

“Not at all, I’m all sweet,” he said. “I’m not going to do the n titles.

“I’m just going to spend a few days here with family in Newcastle then head back to England and sort everything out for next year.”

In his first season on the world grand prix circuit, Doyle finished fifth to seal his place on the series for 2016. He also won his first n title and UK Elite League Riders Championship and rode in the top leagues in Poland, Denmark, Sweden and England.

“It was very strenuous, and a big strain on me and my partner, Emily, who didn’t see me much, but it was the best season I’ve had,” he said.

“Then to finish fifth in the world was something I didn’t think I’d get.

“I just wanted to be top eight to qualify for next year, so everything worked out well.

“It was just a shame there was one big crash at the end of the season, but it hasn’t really spoiled it. I’ve really enjoyed it.”

Doyle’s helmet was “destroyed” in the crash, which he has watched only once on replay.

“I saw a quick one because they wanted to show me in hospital what actually happened and how I broke my neck, but I don’t really want to watch it,” he said. “I can’t remember going out for the race. I can just remember qualifying for the final, coming back into the pit area and then getting ready.

“I don’t remember from then on until my partner Emily was in the ambulance with me. I lost about 20 minutes of my life.”

“I was certainly very lucky, but I think it just proves that paying a lot of money for good protective equipment, it pays off in the long run.”

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