Nanjing Night Net

TOPICS spoke to some footballers and they gave proper answers. True story.

Half a dozen Newcastle Knights will complete a Hunter TAFE media course today after six weeks of study, and we caught up with three of them to ask what they’d learnt.

Joel Howlett performing the Indian rope trick with a tree kangaroo.

SURREAL: Pink crosses in the ‘pristine’ Sugarloaf State Conservation Area,

POLISHED: After completing a spot of Hunter TAFE media course training, Newcastle Knights players Tyrone Roberts, Alex McKinnon and Dane Gagai can also pass questions. Picture: Anita Jones

“How to structure a sentence so you don’t sound like an idiot,” offered utility forward Alex McKinnon.

He’s been trying to start his interviews strongly. Sounds like it’s working.

Halfback Tyrone Roberts said he’d improved at “getting a key point across, and not talking too much”.

Perhaps the greatest strides have been taken by centre Dane Gagai. When Topics asked which questions the players hate answering from reporters, he gave it some thought.

“If something happens with another player off the field, I don’t like being asked my opinion,” Gagai told Topics.

“Like, ‘do you think he should be given five weeks?’ I don’t think it’s my place to answer that.”

If Topics was a sports scribe, we’d prefer that kind of honesty to some of the sulking that goes on at press conferences. In unrelated news, Darius Boyd didn’t do the course.

By all accounts, Gagai is a vastly more polished media performer these days. A channel Nine commentator reportedly asked the Knights: “What have you done with Dane Gagai?”

The TAFE hopes to roll out the course to businesses that are keen to improve their media skills.

X marks the spot

“SURREAL” is a hackneyed word but if we could dust it off and use it once, it would be for this photo snapped by National Parks Association Hunter president Ian Donovan.

It’s of the grout glacier in the Sugarloaf State Conservation Area, crisscrossed with what look like surveyor marks. Keep in mind, that place is meant to be pristine.

Ropy old trick

GONE are the days when magicians were middle-aged men between jobs.

Now magic is in talent shows, Hollywood fare like Now You See Me and those Dynamo TV specials. Which are awesome. That guy walks on rivers.

So it’s a good time to be Joel Howlett, the Charlestown former boy magician who’s now a 20-something magician.

He reckons he’s just performed a world-first: the old Indian rope trick, with bonus tree kangaroo.

“The trick is performed by Indian street magicians, who throw a rope into the air and make it rigid,” Howlett explained to Topics.

“Then a small Indian boy climbs the rope.”

Howlett didn’t have a small Indian boy, so he enlisted the help of a Lumholtz tree kangaroo. On a visit to a wildlife rescue centre in North Queensland, he found the tree-loving marsupial was ideal for the trick.

Topics tried to suss out how he did it, to no avail. We can reveal that the rope wasn’t hooked on a tree.

Flat as a late beer

IT’s not just Topics who finds the match day ambience around Hunter Stadium a bit flat (Topics, September 3).

Reader Yvonne Smith has fond memories of the now-defunct Dungeon Bar, which was in the bowels of the old western grandstand.

“It stayed open after the game and we would have a couple of coldies, let the traffic get away and discuss the game,” says Yvonne.

“We really miss those times and feel very let down when we walk out of the ground to go home for a drink.”


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