Sydney ruckman Sam Naismith is playing for his finals future this weekend as the Swans look to lock in the remaining piece of their September puzzle.

Kurt Tippett and Callum Sinclair have received favourable reports on their ankle injuries, setting up a three-way battle for the ruck.

Naismith had been the the club’s preferred choice until hurting his hip a month ago but is now the third seed with queries about his form and match fitness.

The beanpole ruckman makes his return to competitive football in the NEAFL preliminary final but will need a strong showing to displace either of the incumbents.

“He trained really well on the weekend, he’ll play,” Swans coach John Longmire said.

“How much of the game I’m not quite sure, but the plan is for him to play this weekend.

“He’s missed some footy so he needs to play. It’s a very simple decision. He wasn’t quite right on the weekend [round 23] if we were to pick him. He didn’t train until later on in the week but he trained really well on Saturday.

“So that gives us an opportunity for him to train fully this week and play this weekend and prepare himself the best he can.”

Tippett and Sinclair will not train on Thursday but are expected to hit the track by the end of the week. Tippett has hurt the same ankle that dogged him earlier in the year.

The Swans played two rucks the last time they faced Essendon and are likely to do so again given the concerns about their big men.

“As we’ve done all year we’ve played who we think gives us the best possible chance to win a game of footy, that will be no different in the first final,” Longmire said.

“We’re hoping to have the three of them available, that’s the main thing. We’ll make a decision based upon the information we get at training and the game on the weekend which way we go.”

The Swans have two players in All-n contention with captain Josh Kennedy and Coleman Medal winner Lance Franklin named in the 40-man squad.

Defender Heath Grundy and midfield duo Dan Hannebery and Luke Parker as well as Dane Rampe, who all started the season slowly due to form or injury, missed out despite strong finishes to the home and away campaign.

“That’s not the major focus at the moment, as you can imagine,” Longmire said.

“The couple of boys in there certainly deserve it, but we’ve also had a few blokes miss a bit of footy this year which might have come into the equation.”

The Swans enter the finals the form team of the competition with 14 wins from their last 16 games but missed out on the double chance after losing their first six games of the year.

“The players are very confident in the way we play and what matters to us in regards to how we win or lose games of football,” Longmire said.

“Everyone really believes in the way we play. You need to be mindful we need to go out and execute, that’s always the hardest part.

“The Bombers, as we know, really pushed us to the last second at the SCG and are a very good football team with players to come in to make them stronger.”

The Swans breathed a sigh of relief after Grundy was given the all clear by the match review panel for an off-the-ball incident with Carlton’s Levi Casboult.

Casboult was floored and appeared dazed by the impact but the MRP deemed Grundy’s actions were not unreasonable in the circumstances.

NDIS recipient Gretta Serov with her mother Fay. Picture: Geoff Jones .HAWKESBURY residentGretta Serov passionately campaigned for the National Disability Insurance Scheme’s inception, but now that it has arrived, she feels betrayed as she feels it has taken away her independence.

Serov, 26, has Severe Athetoid Cerebral Palsy and is confined to a wheelchair. Shecannot speak, and communicates via an iPad.

Despite her challenges, Serov is reasonably independent. She attends University, and wants to do a postgraduate course in journalism and become a human rights advocate.

However, because of her condition, she needs help getting to and from places. Her mother lives in Leura, and her father lives in Bowen Mountain. She attends university and has an active social life.

To get to all these places, Serov needs a taxi capable of fitting her wheelchair, and therein lies her issues with the NDIS.

Under previous schemes, Serov was granted money, which she was able to use in whatever way she thought would make her life better. She chose to use it on taxis to have a social life and try to get a degree.

Under the NDIS, there are strict limits on what money can and cannot be spent on, and it has frustrated Serov to no end.

“Without access to my core funding for independent transport I have been left in the debilitating situation of being totally stripped of my independence,” she said.

A spokesperson from the National Disability Insurance Agency, the government body that runs the NDIS, refused to speak about Serov’s situation, citing privacy concerns.

The spokesperson said anyone unhappy with their NDIS plan could request a review.

“The NDIA encourages anyone unhappy with their NDIS experience to contact us,” the spokesperson said.

“Participants are also encouraged to contact the NDIA to look at the options for flexibility in using their plan.”

Serov said in 2011, she passionately campaigned for the NDIS, and was featured in the Sydney Morning Herald.

The fact the NDIS has in many ways made life tougher for Serov, the exact opposite of its stated aim, has been a slap in the face to the former program champion.

Serov said she had raised her concerns with representatives from the NDIA.

She said recently she had found a case worker at Penrith who took her complaints seriously, however, in the past, she felt as if staff did not understand her disability or condition.

“[When I]have tried to dispute the funding allowances with the NDIA, I have been either dismissed, ignored, expected to jump through hoops by providing layers of documentation that go nowhereand even worse belittled,” she said.

Serov said she had been told by NDIA staff she could simply get a lift with her parents to university and other locations, but said her powerchair did not fit in their cars.

“The only way I am able to get to and from university and retain some form of independence while on campus, is to either have a carer meet and swap cars with my mum at her work or my dad has to miss out on a day of work so he can drive me to and from university,” she said.

The NDIA spokesperson said the agency was reviewing some parts of the NDIS, in an attempt to improve services and outcomes for its clients.

“The NDIA will continue working with people with disability, their families and carers to resolve any issues during this unique period of transition and remains committed to getting the balance right between participant intake, plan quality and the sustainability of the Scheme,” the spokesperson said.

Member for Macquarie Susan Templeman said it was a shame Serov’s situation had ended up like it had.

“Gretta has always been encouraged to be independent and I was disgusted that the NDIS, which is meant to leave people no worse off than they were before, had failed to match her travel needs,” she said.

NDIS recipient Gretta Serov outside Hobartville Public School. Picture: Geoff Jones

Ms Templeman criticised the rollout of the NDIS, which has largely occured under the Coalition.

“There have been a range of problems with the rollout of the NDIS, in particular a clunky IT system and poor quality plans,” she said.

“I think some of this is about the level of training people are given and also that some of the rules are just not clear, and therefore decisions aren’t consistent.

“The IT system has been plagued by difficulties that have resulted in significant problems for people with disability and disability service providers.

“It’s vital that the Turnbull Government gets on with the job of fixing the NDIS IT system and ensuring that there are enough staff and they have access to proper training.

“The NDIS is the biggest social policy reform since the introduction of Medicare – it’s vital that we get it right.”

As for Serov, she told The Gazette she was happy an NDIA staff whom she had recently met was taking her complaints seriously.

However, she said she was ultimately dismayed that a program she passionately campaigned for, had morphed into something which had not improved her life and had robbed her of some of her independence.

Hawkesbury Gazette

There were mansions on big blocks and impressive inner-city houses at auction on Saturday, but the top sale recorded over the weekend was – wait for it – a three-bedroom apartment.

Despite buyers across Sydney having their pick of 675 properties, they erred on the side of caution, with fewer than 70 per cent of properties selling at auction.

But while plenty of homes were passed in, there was strong demand for a rare apartment in the Quay Grand building in Circular Quay, which sold for a whopping $7.11 million.

The three-bedroom, two-bathroom, 242-square-metre property has views over Circular Quay to the Harbour Bridge on one side, and across the Botanic Gardens on the other sale.

Records show the property was advertised for rent in July, for $3500 a week, and July last year for the same amount. It last sold for $3.7 million in October 2012.

Selling agent Etienne West, from Morton Circular Quay, said it was the second-highest sale the building had seen.

He said the undersupply of three-bedroom apartments was a significant factor when it came to the apartment’s popularity, noting there had been just three or four sales in the Quay Grand and Bennelong this year.

There were five registered bidders at the auction, with the winning bidder, a “private lady”, who is expected to move in. Related: Sydney auction clearance rates slumpsRelated: Worst fortnight in 16 months Related: Circular Quay’s new laneway precinct

“It’s a very good size – and freehold building, not a high-rise building. It’s very tightly held.”

The CBD harbourside has seen some impressive sales of late, with the Salteri family revealed as the buyers of the $27 million Opera Quays penthouse, and the penthouse at the Loftus Lane development being snapped up for $17 million in June.

Selling agent Monique Lavers, who is marketing another multimillion-dollar apartment nearby, said the weekend’s result was not unexpected, considering the numbers of owner-occupiers, and particularly downsizers, looking to move into the inner-city harbour area.

“We’re finding that there’s more demand for the higher end apartments – demand for the one-bedroom, investment-sized property has dropped off a bit”, she explained.

“Investors feel like the returns aren’t there for them. But at the higher end, the $3 million-plus mark, they’re owner-occupiers and it’s more of an emotional purchase.”

“It’s becoming the norm – it’s the way our style of living is headed.”

Another apartment with water views making a splash was 6/51-53 The Crescent, Manly, which sold for $2.11 million – $610,000 more than it last sold for, in August 2016, records show.

The cheapest property to sell this weekend was also an apartment – a studio in the popular inner-west suburb of Newtown. It sold prior to auction for $420,000, having last traded for $270,000 in 2011.

NSW prosecutors have dropped the case against a Queanbeyan boy accused of causing the death of his brother during a fight.

The boy, 16, who legally cannot be named, was supposed to face trial on Monday for assault causing death of the 10-year-old.

But instead prosecutors said they had withdrawn the charge.

Why remains unclear; no reasons were given in court.

The offence the boy was charged with was added to the NSW books three years ago to “make our streets safer by introducing new measures to tackle drug-and alcohol-related violence.”

It attracts a 20 year maximum penalty for those convicted.

In the Queanbeyan boy’s case, the charge stemmed from a fight with his little brother at home, at about 2pm on May 23, 2016.

It was alleged in court documents that the boy, then 15, woke to his siblings fighting and his mother having words with them.

It was said the boy grabbed the 10-year-old and punched him.

In the younger boy’s attempts to get away, he hit his head on the corner of a door frame. Prosecutors alleged he was shoved, while the boy’s defence said their client had effectively let go.

The younger boy’s life support was turned off two days later.

What had happened was a “long way” from a “one-punch” assault in Kings Cross, the boy’s solicitor Michael Bartlett said outside court in an interview with The Canberra Times.

Mr Bartlett, who spoke with permission of the boy’s family, said the arrest and charging of the boy was “over the top” from the start.

He described the way his client was questioned by police after his brother’s death as unfair and said it bordered on improper.

Mr Bartlett said his client had gone of his own accord to police to tell them what had happened. He was given telephone advice not to speak to police until a legal representative had arrived.

But, he said, the boy was interviewed shortly after.

Mr Bartlett said the boy was questioned, in the presence of an independent person, for more than four hours, in which he was asked multiple times for his version of events.

There were also questions over whether the fight in fact caused the death, when an autopsy found the younger boy may have had a medical condition relevant to his death, he said.

Mr Bartlett said a public defender had been appointed to the case, and had written submissions to the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions asking the charge be withdrawn.

He had, Mr Bartlett said, detailed concerns about the police interview with the boy and concerns about the cause of death.

It was also the defence view that in this case there was no strike causing the death that the law required, he said.

“He was innocent of this charge,” Mr Bartlett said.

“This is an incident between two brothers, a bit of boyish push and shove.

“That’s what happened and that’s what it led to, tragically.”

Mr Bartlett said the charge had caused the boy and his family a “great deal” of emotional distress, pain and worry.

“He’s got to live with what happened to his brother,” he said.

Mr Bartlett said his client had no criminal record.

The 16-year-old had pleaded not guilty, and was due to face trial on Monday in the NSW District Court in Queanbeyan. But the Crown prosecutor told the court the charge had been withdrawn.

The court heard the boy, who was not present but was legally represented, had been on bail with a curfew since last year.

Judge Chris Hoy confirmed the boy was no longer subject to bail.

A coalition of refugee advocates, unions and charities have joined forces to resist the Turnbull government’s dramatic crackdown on asylum seekers, vowing they won’t be coerced back to Manus Island and Nauru.

National refugee services, St Vincent de Paul and the Salvation Army were among those in an emergency telephone conference on Monday to plan a response, including aid, accommodation and a public campaign.

The sector was left stunned on Sunday after Fairfax Media revealed plans to strip up to 400 asylum seekers in of welfare payments and accommodation, in a bid to force them back to offshore detention.

The government began shifting the asylum seekers on to six-month “final departure bridging E visas” on Monday, cutting income support of about $200 a fortnight and giving people three weeks to find new homes.

In response, the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre launched a donation drive, pledging to house and look after an estimated 200 people living in Melbourne, which it expects to cost up to $1 million over six months.

“We’re drawing on what little savings we have, and we’re going to rely on the public to rally. We’ll just have to find a way to find the money,” chief executive Kon Karapanagiotidis?????? told Fairfax Media.

“We cannot in good faith allow this government to starve families, babies, children. We’re not letting these people be sent back to danger.”

In Sydney, Settlement Services International was working with other local agencies – including the Refugee Advice and Casework Service – to find emergency accommodation.

Meanwhile, the n Council of Trade Unions backed a relaunched campaign by GetUp! to “let them stay” in , declaring it “stands ready to fight”. The ACTU is understood to be considering financial contributions to the campaign.

Corinne Dobson, director of policy and research at St Vincent de Paul, said the charity would do whatever it could to prevent the “untenable situation” of asylum seekers returning to Nauru or Manus Island.

The 400 asylum seekers were brought to from offshore for medical reasons or because they were caring for sick people, but the government has long insisted they must return to the islands or go home now that assistance has been rendered.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton on Monday declared “the con is up”, while Treasurer and former immigration minister Scott Morrison said the asylum seekers had “gamed the system to get to “.

Lawyers have so far stopped the government sending people back by force, earning a stunning outburst from Mr Dutton, who agreed with shock-jock Alan Jones’ description of the lawyers as “un-n”.

That drew fierce opprobrium from the legal fraternity. The NSW Bar Association said the comment was regrettable and “inappropriate”, while Law Council of president Fiona McLeod called it a “truly extraordinary” attack.

“There is nothing more n than ensuring people are subject to the rule of law and have their legal rights protected,” she said.

Asylum seekers interviewed by the Immigration Department on Monday, including the victims of sexual assault, were told they could return to the countries from which they fled. According to advocates, the group includes more than 50 babies born in , and 66 children born in other countries.

Hugh de Kretser, executive director of the Human Rights Law Centre, said it was an “absurd and cruel” crackdown designed to sidestep the government’s undertaking not to deport people while legal proceedings are under way.

Labor and the Greens deplored the move and were exploring options to have it blocked by the Parliament. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said it was “cowardly and cruel to treat these people badly – it is weak”.

Mr Dutton said that would be “glee to the ears of people smugglers, who would be rubbing their hands together”. Allowing the asylum seekers to remain in would enable people smugglers to say “you can go to for medical assistance and then you’ll stay there”, he said.

with Bianca Hall, Richard Baker

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The S&P/ASX 200 index on Monday threatened to break below 5700 points, the lower end of a rough 100-point trading range in which the benchmark measure has been trapped for three months, but ended the session off 33 points, or 0.6 per cent, at 5709.

Weighing heaviest were the major banks, as news of a inquiry by the prudential regulator into CBA’s compliance failures around money laundering heaped further pressure on the country’s largest lender. CBA dropped 1.3 per cent, Westpac 1.8 per cent, ANZ 0.5 per cent and NAB 0.7 per cent.

Qantas, too, dragged on the market as a broker downgraded the stock and the airline announced a management reshuffle. The shares fell 5.7 per cent.

The upward momentum in miners stalled on Monday as some of the heat came out of metals markets and the euphoria of recent bumper profit results faded.

Fortescue ended the day down 1.7 per cent, while Rio Tinto lost 1.2 per cent. Energy names powered higher, however, as oil prices advanced, which helped the sector rise 0.7 per cent – the only corner of the ASX to make gains.

Woodside Petroleum moved up 0.5 per cent and Caltex moved up 1.7 per cent.

LendLease was the biggest name to present earnings on Monday, with earnings season winding down this week. The property group advanced 0.6 per cent. Among the day’s best performers in the top 200 were lesser-known names Reliance Worldwide and Nanosonics, which jumped 8.9 per cent and 2.4 per cent, respectively.

As earnings season winds down, strategists are trying to get a handle on overall performance and in two important ways this has been the best reporting season in years.

First off, share prices are moving higher. This fact should be getting a lot more attention, JP Morgan Aussie equity strategist Jason Steed says.

“The improving momentum of results season is reflected in the fact that 123 stocks in the ASX 200 are up so far in August, which is the highest rate for five years,” Mr Steed writes.

Credit Suisse strategist Hasan Tevfik has identified another under-reported but positive signal to emerge this month: top 200 companies have guided to higher capital expenditure for the year ahead for only the third reporting period since 2012, which coincides with the end of the mining boom. Stock watchQantas

Qantas shares suffered a sharp reversal on Monday, dropping 5.7 per cent to $5.68 after JP Morgan analysts cut the stock to “underperform” from “neutral”. The broker’s analysts said they estimate the airline will need domestic fares to rise 10 per cent in perpetuity to justify the current share price, a prospect they said “seems optimistic to us”. Qantas released its results late last week and “segmentally, Qantas domestic was a highlight,” the analysts wrote. They added “the biggest disappointment for investors was likely the 36.1 per cent decline in earnings from Qantas International”. Qantas has been a standout for investors this year – the stock ended 2016 trading at $3.33, making for a gain of 70 per cent in 2017. MoversHurricane Harvey

Gasoline prices hit two-year highs on Monday as massive floods caused by Hurricane Harvey forced refineries across the US Gulf Coast to shut down. In crude oil markets, Brent futures, the global benchmark, were pushed up by pipeline blockades in Libya, but US crude futures eased. Spot prices for US gasoline futures surged 7 per cent to a peak of $US1.7799 per gallon, the highest level since late July 2015. About 22 per cent, or 379,000 barrels per day (bpd), of Gulf production was idled due to the storm, according to the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement. Euro

The euro extended its gains on Monday to reach a two-and-a-half-year high against the greenback, after the European Central Bank president over the weekend held back from talking down the currency and as markets worried about the impact of Tropical Storm Harvey on the US economy. The euro was 0.1 per cent higher at $1.1929 after rising to $1.1966, its highest since January 2015.The common currency had already surged about 1 per cent on Friday after ECB boss Mario Draghi did not touch upon the euro’s recent strength at the Jackson Hole conference. Wages trough

Consistently weaker-than-expected wage outcomes have been a “key driver” for the Reserve Bank of ‘s “persistent GDP downgrades and rate cut cycle,” UBS economists say. But this phenomenon may be on the wane, as the UBS economists now see” more substantial reasons to finally ‘call the trough’ of wages growth”. They note that wages growth “bounced” to 2.2 per cent over the June quarter, while better business conditions and a tighter labour market should see expansion in average earnings lift from record lows. Most important is the recent mandated increase in minimum wages, they say. Wanda

Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group has said a report claiming its billionaire chairman, Wang Jianlin, was prevented from leaving the country was “groundless” and that it planned to take legal action. Taiwanese news site Bowen Press reported on the weekend that Mr Wang, who was with his family, was stopped from leaving Tianjin airport on Friday and had been detained for a few hours. Wanda, which has spent billions buying entertainment and sports companies in recent years, has become a target in China’s clampdown on capital outflows.

GIG OF THE WEEK: Grinspoon have been tearing up the country on their 20-year Guide To Better Living tour and it’s the Cambridge Hotel’s turn on Thursday.MUSIC5 SawyersFriday, AK Morris. Saturday, DJ Perry Carter. Sunday, The New Cool.

48 Watt Street Sunday, Melody Moko, Fanny Lumsden.

Adamstown Uniting Church Saturday, Centre For Hope benefit ft. One Voice Mob,John Queripel.

Anna Bay TavernSaturday, Zac and Ben.

Hotel CessnockSaturday, Outerphase.

Bar Petite Friday, Dean Kyrwood. Saturday, GW Freebird Duo.

Battlesticks BarThursday,John Larder.Thursday,Nick Connors.Friday,John Larder.Saturday,Audie Franks.

Bay Hotel Saturday, Project X.

Beach Hotel Friday, Battle of the Bands. Saturday, Trataka.Sunday, The V Dubs.

Bellbird HotelSaturday, Todd Schmoo.Sunday, Ashley Knight.

Belmont 16sFriday, Mr James Band, Greg Bryce. Saturday, Loko, Melody Feder. Sunday, The Blue Water Cowboys.

Belmont HotelSaturday, The Way.

Belmore Hotel Saturday, Evergreen.

Beresfield Bowling Club Friday, Sundays Record. Saturday, The Years. Sunday, Red Dirt Country Band.

The Black Malabar Saturday,ClosetoForever.

Blackbutt Hotel Friday, Tom Quigley. Saturday, Hornet.

The BradfordFriday, Latch Duo.Saturday, The Lineburners.

Cambridge Hotel Thursday, Grinspoon, Hockey Dad. Friday, Waax, Fritz, Voodoo Youth, Belle Badi. Saturday, Dave Stuart, Rinse & Wax, Girl Friday, Jake Small, Ben & Tomek.

Cardiff RSL Club Friday, Frick N Orson.

Catho PubSaturday, Lee Rolfe.Sunday, Viagro.

Central Charlestown Leagues Club Friday, Tom Christie. Saturday, Hayden Johns.

Central HotelStroudSaturday, Darren Rolling Keys Band.

Cessnock Leagues Club Saturday, The Levymen.

Charlestown Bowling Club Friday, Deuce. Saturday, Jackson Halliday.

Clarendon Hotel Friday, Joel Oakhill. Saturday, Kim.

Club KotaraSaturday, Viagro.

Club LemonTree Friday, The Remedy. Saturday, Pistol Pete.

Club Maitland City Friday, Kevin O’Hara.

Colliery InnFriday, Arley Black.

Commercial HotelBoolarooFriday, Junior & Luana.

Commercial Hotel MorpethFriday, Sami.Saturday, Reggie Sinclair.

The Commons Friday, Declan Kelly, Gambirra.

Country Club Hotel Shoal Bay Saturday, Phonic.

Criterion Hotel Carrington Saturday, Roxy. Sunday, Mick Jones.

Criterion Hotel WestonSaturday, Ash Mountain.

Customs HouseFriday,Lauren Arms. Saturday, Glen Harrison. Sunday, Arley Black.

Cypress Lakes Friday, Roxy. Saturday, Anyerin.

D’Albora MarinaSunday, Bonny Rai.

Denman HotelSunday, Tim Usher.

Duke Of WellingtonFriday, Bobby C.Saturday, Redline Duo.

East Maitland Bowling Club Friday, All Access 80s. Saturday, Rock Factor. Sunday, Roxy.

East’s Leisure & Golf ClubSaturday, Matt McLaren.

The Edwards Saturday, Foemen.

Exchange Hotel Friday, Evergreen. Saturday, Sundays Record.

Family Hotel MaitlandFriday, Brett O Malley.

Finnegans Saturday, Steve Zappa.

FogHorn Brewhouse Friday, James Osborn. Saturday, Ryan Daley.

Gallipoli Legion ClubThursday,The Rehab Brass Band.

Gateshead TavernFriday, Allstar.

George Tavern Friday, Jordan Fleming. Saturday, Mardmax.

Grain StoreSaturday,BethGleeson.Sunday,JJ King.

Great Northern Hotel Teralba Saturday, Karen O’Shea.

Greenroof Hotel Friday, Chad Shuttleworth.

Greta Workers ClubFriday, Pat Vs Cat.

Gunyah Hotel Saturday,Shooting Molly.Sunday, The Smarts.

​Hamilton Station HotelFriday, Direct Hit! (US), The Decline, Ebolagoldfish,Hack the Mainframe. Saturday,Young Wolf,Endless,Rage,Brainfreeze,Shut Out.

Harrigan’s Pokolbin Friday, Zane Penn. Saturday, 4 Letter Word. Sunday, Troy Kemp.

Hexham Bowling Club Friday, Tim Harding. Saturday, Blue Water Cowboys.

Honeysuckle Hotel Friday, Phonic. Saturday, Rocket, Hummingbirds.Sunday, Karen O’Shea, CrocQ.

Hotel CessnockFriday, Georgina Grimshaw.Saturday, Gunner.

Hotel Delany Friday, Gen-X. Saturday, Big Night Out.

Hotel Jesmond Friday, Ryan Daley.

Jewells Tavern Saturday, 2GoodReasons.

The Junction Hotel Friday, Jordan Fleming. Saturday, Frets With Benefits.

Kent HotelFriday, State FX. Saturday, X&Y. Sunday, Greg Bryce Band.

Lake Macquarie Tavern Friday, Emily Smith.

Lake Macquarie Yacht ClubFriday, Frets With Benefits.Saturday, Sami.Sunday,Samantha Broadbent.

Lakeside Village TavernSaturday, Loose Bazooka.

Lambton Park HotelFriday,Nicko.Saturday,The Illustrators.

Lass O’GowrieThursday,Scumdrops,Ride For Rain,Govv. Friday,Pornskas,Plan C,The Lockhearts.Saturday,Last Exposures,The Fossicks,Rachel Maria Cox.Sunday,E4444e.

Lizotte’sThursday,Avondale School Showcase. Friday,Girls on the Radio. Saturday, Jeff Martin,Matt Boylan Smith. Sunday,Creedence Clearwater Revival Show. Monday,Kotara High School showcase. Tuesday,Cardiff High School HSC showcase.

Lochinvar HotelSunday, Deborah Sinclair.

Lucky Hotel Friday, KR Duo. Saturday, Bandditts.

Maitland Leagues Club Friday,Triple Zero.

Mark HotelFriday, Anyerin. Saturday, The Rumour. Sunday, Shivoo.

Mary Ellen HotelFriday, Tailgate Drive. Saturday, Misbehave. Sunday, Mark Wells.

Maryland Tavern Friday, The Andy Show. Saturday, Frick N Orson.

Mavericks On The Bay Friday, Mike Vee. Saturday, Kaylah Anne. Sunday, Matt McLaren.

Mavericks On Darby Friday, Kaylah Anne. Saturday, Ashley Knight.

Mayfield Ex-Services Friday, Mardmax. Saturday, The Leadbellies.

Mezz Bar at Wallsend DiggersFriday,The Big Bang.Saturday,Viper Creek Band.Sunday,Steve Edmonds Band.

Morriset Country ClubSunday, Darren Rolling Keys.

Muree Golf ClubFriday, Deborah Sinclair.

Murray’s Brewery Sunday, Brien McVernon.

Nag’s Head Hotel Friday, Brien McVernon. Saturday, Mick Jones.

Neath Hotel Saturday, Witchery.

Nelson Bay Bowling ClubFriday, Layth Gunn.

Nelson Bay Diggers Friday, Snape & Son Duo.Saturday, Katie N Feff.

Nelson Bay Golf Club Sunday, Beth Gleeson.

Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club Sunday, Marissa +1.

Northern Star HotelFriday,Rooney West.Saturday,Ethan Latsinos.

Pedens CessnockFriday, Angie.Saturday, Shivoo.

Pelican RSL ClubSaturday, Vortex.

Pippis At The Point Friday,Matt McLaren, Kim & Mik. Saturday, Chad Shuttleworth. Sunday, Ben Travis.

Potters Brewery Friday, Max Jackson.

The PourhouseSaturday, Duncan Woods.

Premier Hotel Saturday, Phonic. Sunday, The Years.

Prince of Wales HotelFriday,Muto.Saturday,Nicko.

Queens Wharf Hotel Friday, Michael Muchow, Paparazzi. Saturday, Matt Semmens, The Remedy. Sunday, Fish Fry, Wharf Life.

Racecourse HotelSaturday, Phil McKnight.

Railway Hotel CessnockFriday, Pete McCredie.

Raymond Terrace Bowling Club Sunday, Kaylah Anne.

Royal Hotel SingletonSunday, Jackson Broadway.

Royal Motor Yacht Club TorontoSunday, Kelly Hope.

Rutherford Hotel Saturday, Matt Scullion.

Seabreeze HotelFriday, Viagro. Saturday, Triple Zero. Sunday, Melody Feder.

Shenanigans at the ImperialFriday,Ethan Latsinos.Saturday,Codi Kaye.Sunday,John Larder.

Shortland Hotel Friday, Mick Jones. Saturday, Russell Snape.

Small BallroomFriday, Hawthorne Heights,River Oaks,Sienna Skies, Mark Rose. Saturday,Troldhaugen.

Soldiers Point Bowling ClubFriday, Mark Lee. Saturday, Dreams Trio.

South Newcastle Leagues Club Saturday, Jim Overend.

Spinning Wheel Hotel Friday, Beau Hatch.

Stag and Hunter Hotel Friday,The Royal Artillery, Fight Ibis. Saturday, Chase The Sun. Sunday,Slide Milligan,Red City,The Pits,Stone Sun,Thomas Macokatic.

Station Hotel Kurri KurriSaturday, Big Pete.

Stockton RSLClub Saturday, Be Bop A Lula.

Sunnyside Tavern Saturday, Bonny Rai.

Swansea RSLClubSaturday, Dr Love.

Tanilba Bay Golf ClubFriday, Kelly Hope.Sunday, Georgina Grimshaw.

Tea Gardens HotelSaturday, Arley Black.

Tilligerry RSLFriday, The Hitpit.Saturday, David McCredie.

Toronto Diggers Saturday, John Noble.

Toronto Workers Saturday, Wicked. Sunday, Max Jackson.

Town Hall Hotel Saturday, Michael Hawke.

Victoria Hotel Hinton Saturday, Mike Vee.

Wangi Wangi RSLClubSunday, Sami Cooke.

Warners At The Bay Friday, Brendan Murphy. Saturday, Zane Penn.

Warners Bay Hotel Thursday, Bow Wow.

Westfield Kotara Saturday,Marissa,BobbyC,HowardShearman. Sunday, Michael Muchow.​

Wests New Lambton Thursday, Angamus. Friday, Tre Soul Trio.Saturday, Cruzers. Tuesday, Angamus.

West Wallsend Workers Club Friday, Karen O’Shea.

Wickham Park HotelFriday,Milestones.Saturday, Plastic Voyage,Lamplighters. Sunday, Mason Rack Band.

Windale Gateshead Bowling Club Friday, Johnny & The Rockets.

Windsor Castle Hotel Saturday, Gareth Hudson.

MOVIES47 Metres Down(M)Two sisters vacationing in Mexico are trapped in a shark cage at the bottom of the ocean. With less than an hour of oxygen left and great white sharks circling nearby, they must fight to survive.

A Dog’s Purpose (PG)A dog looks to discover his purpose in life over the course of several lifetimes and owners. (Lake Cinema)

A Quiet Passion(PG)The story of American poet Emily Dickinson from her early days to her later years as a reclusiveartist. (Regal)

Ali’s Wedding (M)After a reckless lie sets off a catastrophic chain of events, Ali, the son of a Muslim cleric, finds himself caught between his sense of duty to his family and following his heart.

All For One(M)United by their renegade spirit and a determination to win against substantial odds, these riders take on the international circuit.

All Saints (PG) When a group of Burmese refugees join the congregation, the pastor of a failing Anglican church attempts to aid them by planting crops.

Annabelle: Creation(MA)A nun and several girls becomethe target of adollmaker’s possessed creation, Annabelle.

American Made(MA)A pilot lands work for the CIA and as a drug runner in the south during the 1980s.

Cars 3(G)Lightning McQueen sets out to prove to a new generation of racers that he’s still the best race car in the world.

Despicable Me 3(PG) A child star from the 1980s, hatches a scheme for world domination.

Dunkirk(M)Allied soldiers from Belgium, the British Empire, Canada, and France are surrounded by the German army and evacuated during a fierce battle in World War II.

Gifted (M)Frank, a single man raising his child prodigy niece Mary, is drawn into a custody battle with his mother. (Tower)

Girls Trip (MA)When four lifelong friends travel to New Orleans for the annual Essence Festival, sisterhoods are rekindled, wild sides are rediscovered, and there’s enough dancing, drinking, brawling, and romancing to make the big easy blush.

Hampstead(PG) American widow Emily Walters feels like she is drifting aimlessly through life. Then she meets Donald.

Logan Lucky(M)Two brothers attempt to pull off a heist during a NASCAR race in North Carolina.

Madame (M)Adding a little spice to a waning marriage, Anne and Bob, a wealthy and well-connected American couple, move into a manor house in romantic Paris. (Tower)

Maudie (PG)An arthritic Nova Scotia woman works as a housekeeper while she hones her skills as an artist and eventually becomes a beloved figure in the community. (Tower)

The Dark Tower(M) The last Gunslinger battles the Man In Blackto prevent him from toppling the Dark Tower, which holds the universe together.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard(MA)The world’s top bodyguard gets a new client, a hit man who must testify at the International Court of Justice. They must put their differences aside and work together to make it to the trial on time.

Wind River (MA)An FBI agent teams with the town’s veteran game tracker to investigate a murder that occurred on a Native American reservation. (Tower)

THEATRE2017: A Law OddityLaw students find themselves attacked by space aliens, and forced toencounter people including Donald Trump and Bill Shorten, in Newcastle University’sannual law revue. University of Newcastle Law Students Association, at the Civic Playhouse,Newcastle. Friday and Saturday, at 7.30pm.

Inherit the WindA legal battle over teaching Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution raisesquestions on freedom of information; comedy-drama by Jerome Lawrence and Robert EdwinLee, based on a United States trial. Newcastle Theatre Company, at the NTC Theatre,Lambton. Wednesday, Friday, Saturday at 8pm, until September 9; plus 2pmSaturday.

The Crucifer of BloodA woman engages detective Sherlock Holmes to investigate thethreats her father and two others face over a stolen treasure chest in India; comedy-drama byPaul Giovanni. DAPA Theatre, Hamilton. Friday at 7.30pm and Saturday at 2pmand 7.30pm, until September 9.

The Game’s AfootAn actor who has played Sherlock Holmes throughout his career sets upan investigation at a Christmas party after someone tries to kill him; lively comedy-drama byKen Ludwig. Theatre on Brunker, at St Stephen’s Anglican Church Hall, Adamstown. Fridayand Saturday, dinner and show at 7pm, show only at 8pm (final dates).

The Merchant of VeniceA money lender demands a pound of flesh from a borrower if theman can’t repay him, with events making the financial return unlikely; darkly humorousShakespeare comedy. Bell Shakespeare, at the Civic Theatre, Newcastle. Friday, at 11am and7.30pm.

Canberra universities provide students with strong job prospects and better starting salaries, according to new analysis.

The Good Universities Guide ranked the n National University and the University of Canberra slightly above the national average for starting salary and full-time employment.

ANU and University of Canberra graduates earned an average starting salary of $58,800 and $58,000 respectively, above the national average of $56,000. Overall, 70 per cent of graduates found full-time employment within four months of graduation.

Both ACT universities were ranked higher than Group of Eight universities University of Western , University of Melbourne and the University of Adelaide.

The ANU received five stars for student demand, staff qualifications, student-staff ratio and student retention, meaning it ranked among the top 20 per cent.

The university also received five stars across four fields of study for full-time employment, including computing and information systems, medicine, psychology, and science and mathematics.

It had the nation’s highest-qualified academic staff with 95 per cent of employees masters or PhD-qualified.

The University of Canberra was recognised as ranking well in starting salaries, achieving five stars in five fields.

Seven fields of study – communications, computing and information systems, creative arts, health services and support, nursing, psychology and rehabilitation – received five stars on measures ranging from teaching quality to starting salary.

Good Education Group’s data and analytics head Ross White said the ACT had emerged as “a bed of entrepreneurial activity”.

“There has been significant investment in technology for the future of work, which is driving the state’s start-up boom,” he said.

‘I only saw him last night’: Devastated mate recalls final beer with Dean Mercer Friends of former Ironman champion Dean Mercer console each other outside Kurrawa Surf Club on the Gold Coast, Monday. Photo: AAP

Friends of former Ironman champion Dean Mercer console each other outside Kurrawa Surf Club on the Gold Coast on Monday. Photo: AAP

Dean Mercer with Reen in 2001.

Dean Mercer with wife Reen in 2005.

TweetFacebookScroll to the bottom of the story to read tributes to DeanLittle did he know at the time but a chance meeting at Sydney Airport on Sunday afternoon was an opportunity for former Ironman Jonathan Crowe to hug his great mate and sporting rival Dean Mercer and say goodbye.

Crowe was about to fly to Melbourne when he bumped into his lifelong mate who he hadn’t seen for several years.

A man is seen putting a screen up at the location where former Ironman champion Dean Mercer died at Markeri Street, Mermaid Waters on the Gold Coast. Photo: AAP

The two sport stars had gone head-to-head in the surf since they were five-year-old Nippers in different Wollongong surf clubs. On Sunday, they enjoyed a couple of beers and shared many memories.

Read more: Dean Mercer dies in Gold Coast crash

Mercer, Crowe and Darren Mercer competed for national and world championships in a golden era for Illawarra and n surf life saving. It was a time when Wollongong competitors were regularly contending for state, national and world championships – often against each other.

But despite never giving a quarter in competition or training, Crowe described Mercer as having a big heart and a great sense of humour.

At the airport Mercer told Crowe he had been in Thirroul on the weekend for a funeral. They bumped into each other just before 5pm and after their conversation Mercer, his wife Reen and their four boys hopped on a plane to fly back to the Gold Coast.

Dean Mercer with wife Reen in 2005.

At 9.30 on Monday morning Crowe was reflecting on how great it had been to catch-up again when he took a call from Phil Clayton, who also lives on the Gold Coast, telling him the news. Crowe couldn’t believe it. Just the night before he had talked to Mercer about another friend who had died recently and how you never know when your time is up.

“I am absolutely devastated. I only saw him last night. We had a few beers and a laugh. He said he had been in Wollongong for the funeral of his grandmother. And that the whole family were there and they spent the weekend together,” Crowe said.

First Darren Mercer, second Dean Mercer and third Jonathon Crowe at a Nutrigrain Ironman Grand Prix.

The two competed against each other for 25 to 30 years and at the elite level during a golden era of the n Ironman competition in the ’90s.

“We competed against each other since we were about five and six. In the Nippers I competed against Darren and Dean,” Crowe said.

“For a long time when we were in the Nutri-Grain competition we trained together and we were in the same swim squad since were were about eight. Probably for 20 years we trained together in the same swim squad with Rick McKeon and Ron McKeon.

‘’We travelled together and trained together on the skis at North Wollongong, and even on the boards. The surf club community in the Illawarra has always been tight-knit and we all trained together a lot of the time. We were in and out of each other’s pockets for a long time.”

They stayed in contact when Dean moved to Queensland although had not seen each other for a while.

“When he came down for the funeral of Rick McKeon I saw him then. But when I walked into the Qantas Club there he was last night with Reen and the boys.

Dean Mercer with his Olympic statue.

‘’I just bumped into him and thought what are the chances of that. We sat there and had a laugh for about an hour. We had a couple of beers and talked about old times and lots of things including how life changes. Then when I got the news this morning it was devastating. I feel so much for Reen and those four beautiful young boys. I had a good chat to them.”

Crowe then gave Mercer a hug and told him how good it was to see him. He described his friend as an amazing person and a tough competitor who never gave an inch.

“He was tenacious. He was an amazing athlete. He wasn’t the biggest guy in the world but he had the biggest ticker and the most determination. I remember even when we were training he wouldn’t let you get in front. I would try and take the lead to share the load even in races when he and I would be up the front. On the surf skis he would be leading and I would be sitting on his wash and I would put in a bit of an effort to move up in front of him so he could sit on my wash and have a bit of a rest. But he would never let me. He always had to have his nose in front.”

Thiroul ironmen Dean and Darren Mercer.

Crowe said behind the scenes way from the racing Mercer got up to a few humorous things and liked to play practical jokes on people.

“He has a great sense of humour and was always laughing in the showers and change rooms where the banter starts after training and after races,” he said.

“He was always funny. He is someone I have known for a long long time and I am just really really shocked that he is gone now. We were always up against one another. He started a little bit earlier than I. And once I finished uni we were competing professionally against each other for a long time.”

Brother Darren Mercer also lives in Queensland as a coach at Noosa. Crowe recalls how the two brothers always had a good rivalry in the surf. They often finished one and two in races and titles with the results going fairly evenly each way. Other n Ironmen knew they had a good race if they beat one or both of the Mercers.

Brothers Dean and Darren Mercer at Thirroul Beach Surf Club in 2007.

“They pushed each other. Their mum and dad are also amazing. I feel for Maureen and John Mercer, his wife Reen and those four beautiful children. When I was younger I used to stay in Thirroul with his mum and dad. And the years we were doing the Nutri-Grain we were spending six to eight hours a day together six to seven days a week,” Crowe said.

It was a time when Wollongong competitors not only raced together but trained together and often finished on the podium together.

“They (Dean and Darren) were the measure for me because they were from the Illawarra and they were the best,” he said.

“Through them surf clubs in the Illawarra became so strong and we had some many champions come out of the area such as Phil Clayton and Rhys Drury and Lilli Miller and so many others such as Wes Berg. The Mercers really started that in the Illawarra and it continued as a result of them for a long long time. We were very dominant at a national and state level.”

Crowe said all those Illawarra competitors have always been rivals in the water but have a bond and a friendship that would never disappear after spending so much time together.

And Dean Mercer was someone everyone looked up to and saw as a benchmark for the level they would need to achieve if they were going to win state, national and world championships.

He said he had known and competed against him for more than 40 years and will always appreciate the influence Mercer had on his own career.

“For six or seven days a week we were in each others pockets and pushing each other. I appreciate what happened during those years so much. It is tragic that he has gone. I feel so sad for his boys. It is so tragic he has died at 47 years of age and with young children that is even more tragic. He was taken way too soon.”

RIP Stumpy Evan Thomas, Bulli

Rest in peace Dean. Sending our condolences to family and friends. Our prayers are with you at this sad time.Bennie family, Balgownie

A true legend and inspiration to so many gone to soonAnthony Newbery, Bridgeman Downs

Dean was my training partner with Ron McKeon in the late 90’s. He was the inspiration for my swimming career which pushed me onto the international scene and a Commonwealth Games Gold medal. Your lessons in motivation and pure determination shaped me into the international athlete I was and the person I am today. Nearly 6hrs on from learning of his passing; I’m still in shock however so thankful of the friendship and the lessons learnt from one of the greatest athletes of our time.Condolences to your Reen, the boys and your extended family. I’ll miss seeing your friendly face at Aussies next year. Rest in peace. You are a true legend!Jason Cram, Woonona

I remember when Darren and Dean were doing laps at Austi pool while John and the Austinmer Otters were having their winter swims. That would have been 35 years ago I guess. My condolences to the family at this tragic time.Alyn Vincent, Thirroul

Christchurch oh my god so sad Shirlette Williams, Christchurch

I grew up seeing the Mercer boys on the back (and front!) page of the Mercury every weekend in summer. They were part of the Wollongong furniture. I remember when Dean came of age, eclipsing Darren, it was history in the making. Dean was the quintessential local hero and will be always. My condolences to all Dean’s family and friends.Claudia, North Wollongong

To the Mercer Family, Deans wife & boys, thinking of you all at this very sad difficult time, how quickly someone can be taken away from us. Amanda, Corrimal

Rip dean your were a great champion and will be sadly missed my sincere condolences to his family fly high mate xDannielle rath, Port Kembla

You will be missed Dean Thinking of your family gone to soonJudeth and Michael Mcdon, Woonona

My deep condolences to Deans family. We have all lost an Illawarra iconGeorge Pastrovic, Mt Warrigal

The elephant in the room: India’s infamous bureaucracy.I’m starting to suspect the federal government – of whatever colour – has lost its ability to control its own spending.

Even if this is, as yet, only partly true, governments are likely to have unending trouble returning the recurrent budget to balance and keeping it there, let alone getting it into surplus so as to pay down debt.

Those of us who worry about such things have given too little thought to the causes of the Abbott-Turnbull government’s abject failure to achieve its oft-stated goal of repairing the budget solely by cutting government spending.

It’s common to blame this on political failure and obstacles. There’s truth in most of those excuses, but they miss the point. Spending restraint will never be easy politically, governments rarely have the number in the Senate and their opponents will always be opportunistic.

That’s why governments need to be a lot clearer about what they’re seeking to achieve on the spending side, and a lot more strategic in how they try to bring it about.

On ultimate objectives, the goal of literally smaller government – smaller than it is today – is a pipedream. Government spending is almost certain to rise over time – don’t you read Treasury’s intergenerational reports? – meaning taxes will have to rise over time.

But there are obvious limits to voters’ appetite for higher taxes, which is why governments need to be able to control the rate at which their spending is growing, and do it not by cost-shifting to other governments or service recipients – as was the approach in the failed 2014 budget – but by ensuring ever-improving value for money through greater efficiency and effectiveness.

Unless governments lose their obsession with welfare spending (most of which goes to the aged) and come to terms with the other two really big items of government spending, health and education – especially when you consolidate federal and state budgets – they won’t get far with controlling the rate of growth in their spending.

What too few people realise is how much of government spending goes not directly into the pockets of voting punters, but indirectly via businesses big and small: medical specialists, chemists, drug companies, private health funds, private schools, universities fixated by their ranking on global league tables, businesses chasing every subsidy they can get, not to mention international arms suppliers.

The budget, in other words, is positively crawling with vested interests lobbying to protect and increase their cut of taxpayers’ money.

A government that can’t control all this potential business rent-seeking – isn’t perpetually demanding better value for taxpayers; perpetually testing for effectiveness – is unlikely to have much success in limiting the growth in its spending.

Which brings me to my fear that government has already lost that ability.

A wrong turn taken early in the term of the Howard government – when the Finance department moved most responsibility for spending control to individual departments and got rid of most of its own experts on particular spending areas – plus many years of “efficiency dividends” (these days a euphemism for annual redundancy rounds) have hollowed out the public service.

The spending departments have lost much of their ability to advise on policy, while the “co-ordinating departments” – Treasury, Finance and Prime Minister’s – have lost much of their understanding of the specifics of major spending programs.

This matters not just because the departments have become increasingly dependent on outside consultants to tell them how to do their job – and to be the for-profit repositories of what was formerly government expertise – which could easily be more expensive than paying your own people.

The big four chartered accounting firms were paid $1 billion in consulting fees over the past three years, thus introducing a whole new stratum of potential rent-seeking.

More importantly, the longstanding practice of having specialised departments – one each for the farmers, miners, manufacturers, greenies etc – makes them hugely susceptible to being “captured” by the industry they’re supposed to be regulating in the public interest.

The departments soon realise their job is to keep the miners or whoever happy and not making trouble for the government.

The Health department, for instance, would see its primary task as dividing the taxpayers’ lolly between the doctors, the chemists, the drug companies and the health funds in a way that keeps political friction to a minimum.

How much incentive do you reckon this gives the spending departments to limit their spending, root out rent-seeking and lift effectiveness?

That’s why, by denuding the co-ordinating departments of people who know where the bodies are buried in department X, government has lost a key competency: the ability to control the growth in its own spending.

Ross Gittins is the Herald’s economics editor. Twitter: @1RossGittins