Monthly Archives: January 2019

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New Year’s Eve extravaganza in Sydney was a head trip for artist Reg Mombassa

A tired but relieved Reg Mombassa has admitted letting millions of people around the world peer ”inside” his head as part of Sydney’s New Year’s Eve extravaganza was a somewhat nervy experience.

The short fireworks show, between the main fireworks at 9pm and midnight, was based on Mombassa’s work Cranium Universe and depicted the inner workings of the artist’s brain as a group of planets and stars.

”It’s about the idea that every human perceives the world and the universe at large in their own head, really,” he says. ”It’s an illusion in some respects although I do believe that reality exists.”

The centrepiece of Mombassa’s contribution to the night was the unveiling of a single blinking eye on the Harbour Bridge gazing down on the 1.5 million revellers.

”Eyes are interesting,” he said. ”Everyone is fascinated by eyes. The first thing you look at in a face is the eye. Also with the harbour setting, the eye is like a watery harbour in the landscape of the face as well as being the window to the soul – and the soul is theoretically a fairly deep piece of work.”

Mombassa’s characteristic absurdist artwork was seen all around the city on hundreds of 4.5-metre banners as well as on the sides of buses and on thousands of posters before the event.

”I really appreciated being asked to do it,” he said. ”There are hundreds of artists who would have liked to have a crack at it. I really appreciated having a wider audience for my stuff.”

Mombassa, who was involved in the 2000 Olympic closing ceremony, said New Year’s Eve 2013 was a career highlight, but he was not expecting a repeat performance for 2014. ”I think it’s a one-shot job, really. I probably could do it again but I’m not sure I’d want to. Someone else should do it; you shouldn’t hog something like that.”

Art critic John McDonald is not entirely convinced about the artistic merit of Sydney’s New Year’s Eve spectacle – despite the input this year from Mombassa.

”He’s a recognised artist and a very versatile figure,” he said. ”Whether that gives the whole spectacle more integrity, I think that’s really in the eye of the beholder. I don’t think you can analyse fireworks very deeply.”

McDonald was surprised at Mombassa’s role, describing him as an ”intimate artist”. ”He does very lyrical and quirky things, but usually it’s on a pretty small scale. It was kind of strange to see him dragged up into the spotlight.” He also said the pressure to keep making the fireworks bigger and better would only become more intense each year.

Former Sydney Festival director Leo Schofield agreed. ”You’ve always got to do something as good as your last,” he said. ”There’s always this urge to do something novel and new, and a public expectation that should be such.”

Schofield was not present at Tuesday night’s celebrations but had a more liberal approach to the artistic merits of the display.

”I think they are a great celebratory and ceremonial thing,” he said. ”Once upon a time, they were works of art. Great historical celebrations have always been marked by fireworks.”

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TonyAbbott meets Ashes cricketers

Welcome: Margie and Tony Abbott say hello to Australia captain Michael Clarke. Photo: Anthony Johnson After 41 days of hostilities, sledging on and off the pitch and a war of attrition, the Australian and English cricket teams look to have settled their differences – for the time being.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott welcomed the touring party and victorious Australian squad to his temporary residence at Kirribilli and made his best effort at breaking the ice following England’s tumultuous summer.

”Under a gorgeous Australian sky, beside the sparkling waters of Sydney Harbour, I think we can safely say we’ve got the English cricket team exactly where we want them,” Mr Abbott joked.

Cricketers always say they like to leave the unpleasant stuff on the field and share a beer after the game. This was not quite the case on Wednesday. Stuart Broad had a cup of tea, Joe Root a lemon, lime and bitters, and Mitchell Johnson, the most menacing of them all, just a sparkling mineral water.

Children descended on to Mr Abbott’s adopted backyard, overlooking the harbour, and played with their joyful fathers. For players and their families, it was a lovely way to forget about leather and willow for a few hours.

The whitewash Australia will be looking to inflict on their colonial birthparents is not dissimilar to the drubbing Mr Abbott gave Kevin Rudd in September.

Oh, how times can change. At a time when Mr Rudd was thrashed into retirement, just like Graeme Swann at the WACA Ground, both England and Mr Abbott were at the height of their power. Well-drilled, thorough and ostensibly unflappable. It seemed unfathomable a few months ago that Mr Abbott could be down in the polls. It seemed absolutely unthinkable that Cook, Root, Pietersen and Bell would not score a hundred Down Under. As they say, cricket can be a funny game, and by the state of our man in charge, politics too.

For Mr Abbott, his first 105 days in power have been as slow as the English cricket team’s run rate this summer. With the new year upon us, he too will be aiming for more victories in the new year.

His message to Cook that the English need not worry about the past is reminiscent of his own political mantra for the new year. Mr Abbott and Cook need to be prepared for the future more than anyone. The PM’s Medicare dilemmas and abolition of the carbon tax combined with Cook’s wearing top order pose some difficult problems for two successful and proven leaders gripped in the midst of their toughest hour.

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Wellington seal comeback win

Wanderers to be sold as Primo boss achieves coveted goal

Barely three weeks ago, Wellington Phoenix weren’t just winless but hopeless. Winning at Parramatta Stadium would have seemed a fanciful prospect.

Indeed, when the Phoenix trailed 1-0 after Mark Bridge’s flick, you could have picked up triple-figure odds on the visitors scoring three times in the next 20 minutes.

Now the Phoenix, instead of being doomed to a wooden-spoon battle with Melbourne Heart, are equal on points with seventh-placed Adelaide. Finals are back on their agenda.

This was a victory engineered in the dugout as much as on the pitch. Ernie Merrick, once derided for his blunt tactics at Melbourne Victory, had to work out a way to turn the match in his favour once they fell behind on the hour mark.

The introduction of Tyler Boyd – a 19-year-old forward without an A-League goal to his name – was a cunning masterstroke.

Boyd scored one, set up another and combined with Stein Huysegems to shred the seemingly impenetrable Wanderers rearguard.

It was the first time an away team has  scored three goals at Parramatta Stadium, and the first time the Wanderers have been beaten on home soil all season.

They’ve now taken five points from the Wanderers in three games. That’s not to be sniffed at – nor is the fact that of the six goals scored by away teams at the venue in this campaign, the Kiwis have bagged four of them.

Some will be tempted to point the finger at Wanderers coach Tony Popovic for aggressively rotating his squad again. He made no fewer  than six changes to the starting team that drew 1-1 at Melbourne Victory.

There’s merit to that point but the real truth is  once they went ahead, they relaxed. All three goals came down the right-hand side as sloppy organisation opened holes.

While the sides were poles apart  going into the match – second-top versus  second-bottom – there didn’t appear much of a class gulf early.  However, the Wanderers did squander a couple of good early chances as Bridge headed over and Aaron Mooy’s volley troubled Glen Moss but neither troubled the scorer.

The Wanderers looked at their best down the right, where the hard work of Jerome Polenz and Youssouf Hersi was rewarded by Shinjo Ono’s vision, continually exploiting Kenny Cunningham’s inferior work rate. At times, left-back Manny Muscat was having to mind two or more of them without support.

Ono very nearly scored on the brink of half-time when his well-timed header appeared goal-bound, only to strike the underside of the crossbar.

Luck aside, Wellington’s work through the middle was keeping them in the contest. Spaniard Albert Riera brought a rhythmic motion to holding midfield while Jason Hicks showed glimpses as a No.10 before being changed for Matthew Ridenton at half-time.

He was beaten to the bench by Louis Fenton, who dislocated his shoulder in what could be the third bad injury in a week for the Phoenix. In the 1-0 win over Melbourne Heart, Paul Ifill snapped his Achilles  and Carlos Hernandez suffered a fractured wrist.

The bad news was made even worse as the Wanderers broke through to score the first of the evening. A delightful three-way move involving Hersi, Ono and Bridge ended with the latter being put through on goal.

Moss raced out to Bridge but the former Sydney forward was able to tap the ball over the keeper with the edge of his toe.

Merrick’s answer to falling behind was to turn to young Boyd in a decision that changed the match.

Most of the 14,151 fans were  stunned as Huysegems wriggled his way to the byline before poking across goal to Boyd, who was in the right place to prod home.

But the Phoenix weren’t done yet, nor was their big Belgian. Sensing the game was up for grabs, he outmuscled Mooy and  went one on one against Nikolai Topor-Stanley. Huysegems had feigned one way and then the other before placing a superb shot into the far corner.

By now the hosts were reeling and had  lost their shape. The Phoenix had the audacity to chase a third, and who else but Boyd and Huysegems combined to put an exclamation mark on the biggest upset of the season.

WELLINGTON PHOENIX 3 (Tyler Boyd 68m, Stein Huysegems 78m, 83m) bt WESTERN SYDNEY WANDERERS 1 (Mark Bridge 62m) at Pirtek Stadium. Crowd: 14,151. Referee: Lucien Laverdue.

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Chris Waller’s Permit steals Travolta’s big moment at Randwick

Outside chance: Blake Shinn rode Permit (No.2) to victory in the Tatersalls Club Cup. He was later suspended. Photo: Anthony JohnsonChris Waller’s Sydney staying arsenal again left a sour taste in the mouth of the Gai Waterhouse camp after Permit gunned down tearaway leader Travolta in the Tattersalls Club Cup on Wednesday.

Six days after I’m Imposing fought back to beat Travolta in the group 3 Summer Cup on Boxing Day, this time it was Permit’s turn to steal a stakes success from Tulloch Lodge in the listed feature at Randwick.

It was the seven-year-old’s second straight black-type success, capping a remarkable return to form after winning the Christmas Cup on the Kensington track last month. Permit was a one-time Sydney Cup favourite, but badly lost his form last season before Waller weaved his magic again.

Waller will toy with starting Permit, which was forced to do the donkey work lugging the field up behind Travolta, in the Australia Day Cup over the same course and distance.

”We won’t be setting him for The BMW or anything like that during the carnival, we’ll just take one race at a time,” Waller said. ”[I’ll] try to talk the handicapper into not giving him too much weight. He has done his job, but what do you do? Do you wait and he might come back and find it tough? Or there’s the Australia Day Cup over 2400 metres, where we might have a few going for that.”

Joe Pride’s Destiny’s Kiss was favourite at $2.10 in the Tattersalls Club Cup, but couldn’t reel in the leading pair after having every chance from near the back of the field. Despite stumbling out of the gates, Adam Hyeronimus whisked Travolta to the lead and he opened up a big mid-race break while Permit led the chasing brigade.

But Hyeronimus was again left with that sinking feeling after Permit collared Waterhouse’s runner in the shadow of the winning post. It was Waller’s second straight win in the headline act on New Year’s Day after Moriarty won the corresponding race last year.

”He just keeps rolling and doesn’t give in,” Waller said of Permit. ”It was a classic English staying race and I guess you can say he just outstayed them. You could say he had a pacemaker out in front which kept giving him something to chase. It didn’t fall off at the 400-metre mark and it kept him honest all the way to the line.

”He’s just a perfect gentleman [at home]. We don’t have a stable pony – we’re one of the few stables that don’t – but he might be putting his hand up one day.”

Added jockey Blake Shinn: ”You’ve just got to take your hat off to Chris. [Permit] has got that spark back in him. A couple of preparations ago he took all before him in the staying ranks and he might win a really good race this autumn over a staying distance. We found a great rhythm and when it got into a dogfight he was there for me.”

Hyeronimus lamented Travolta’s slow start and the big weight of 59 kilograms as the five-year-old fell a short neck shy of his second listed win of the summer.

”He’s not jumping really clean, which probably isn’t helping,” he said. ”He’s giving me a bit to do to get to the front. He rolled along nice and picked up well at the 600 [metres]. He’s getting found out a little bit with the weight, and the blinkers can probably come off now over the 2400 [metres].”

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Federer eases into quarter-finals

Roger Federer is enjoying life in the fast lane in Brisbane as he laps up the type of speedy playing surface he has been advocating for years.

But how well it prepares him for the more-sluggish Australian Open venues remains to be seen, although the world number six said he always preferred to go from fast to slow, rather than be ambushed with a lightning surface at the start of a major tournament.

The top seed began his summer with a crisp 6-4 6-2 victory over Finnish journeyman Jarkko Nieminen on Pat Rafter Arena on Wednesday night and was quick to praise the slick courts, which amplify his natural attacking game and ability to end points as early as possible.

It was more than enough to keep good friend and tour veteran Nieminen reaching, with Federer warming into the contest on the back of nine aces and pinpoint power from the baseline.

The Swiss great has long been an outspoken supporter of faster playing surfaces in an era where many of the hard courts have been tamed, greatly aiding the defence of some of Federer’s greatest rivals.

Federer remains a fundamentally aggressive player and while slower courts make for longer rallies – pleasing fans and organisers – he’s come to believe the balance of power has been shifted too far in favour of noted scramblers like Novak Djokovic, who return the previously unreturnable.

“It’s an easy fix. Just make quicker courts, then it’s hard to defend,” Federer said after a loss to Djokovic in the ATP finals in London two years ago. “Attacking style is more important. It’s only on this type of slow courts that you can defend the way we are all doing right now.”

Brisbane seems to get his tick of approval, with Federer just one of the players noting the relative increase in pace on the plexicushion courts that have been baking in the Queensland heatwave.

Melbourne Park is played on the same surface but it tends to be notably slower. Federer won three of his four Australian Open titles on the faster Rebound Ace surface before it was controversially reolaced in 2008.

“It depends how Melbourne is going to be playing but I prefer to go from fast to slower because then you usually return better,” Federer said on Wednesday night.

“I like it a bit faster, to be honest.  It’s just nice when the slider drags a bit or the slice stays a bit lower and guys don’t just eat it up, even though it’s a decent slice. So I think it’s a good thing that it’s a bit faster here.”

The pace of the surface will certainly play into Federer’s hands in Brisbane, where he is the top seed and hot favourite to collect the title in his maiden appearance.

At 32 and coming off his first season since 2002 where he didn’t add to his exorbitant tally of 17 Grand Slams, Federer is seeking every advantage he can get as he tries to stay in touch with the new group of faces now dominating the mens game.

Quicker surfaces would help, as may new coach Stefan Edberg, the Swedish serve-and-volley ace who will join his coaching staff in Mebourne after spending time in Federer’s camp in Dubai.

After a six-week break – a long one for Federer – the early signs were promising. He was pleased with his matter-of-fact disposal of Nieminen, a win that sets up a quarter-final with Australian Marinko Matosevic, who defeated American Sam Querrey earlier in the day.

The key facets of his game, the serve, the forehand, the net play, appear to be in good working order as he takes another step towards the opening Slam of the year.

“Tonight you come out of it and think, ‘Okay, I’ve been serving okay, my forehand is going well, my movement is okay, I’m seeing the ball okay, I’m getting used to the conditions’,” Federer said.

“I expect myself to play a bit better in the next match, even though today was already very good for a first match in so many weeks, to be honest, and against Nieminen who can play very good tennis.”

In the other result late on Wednesday night, women’s second seed and world number two Victoria Azarenka had an easy time of things against Australia’s Casey Dellacqua, advancing after a 6-3 6-1 victory.

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