TOPICS: KNIGHTS RULE MEDIA SCRUMS

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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.”

F1 IN SCHOOLS BATTLE OF CAR DESIGN

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HUNTER students battled it out yesterday to see who could design and build the best race car.

The F1 in Schools competition, held at Newcastle Panthers, challenged students to use computer programs and machine tools to create a miniature vehicle.

More than 15 schools took part in the Hunter finals, run by Regional Development Australia.

Year 8 students Connor Minchinton and Jarod O’Neill, of the Meteor Racing Team from Mount View High, scored high in the speed tests but lost out in the agility test.

‘‘It was a really good experience,’’ Connor said. ‘‘First we did a few sketches of our design, then we drew it up on the computer and then milled the car and painted it.

‘‘I’m really interested in the computer side of it, modifying the designs on the software.’’

Regional Development Australia Hunter program manager Ashley Cox said the competition was a chance for students to get a taste of manufacturing techniques.

‘‘Students who engage in the F1 in Schools program are more likely to choose maths and science careers, which is ultimately good for the region,’’ he said.

‘‘As careers become more focussed on technology our region will require a workforce with these skills and the competition is all about giving students experiences that will influence their career decisions for the future.’’

Team Super Sonic Speed, from left to right, Liam Ralston, 15, Joshua Beverley, 16, Daniel Bradley, 16. Students from 15 teams took part in the regional finals of F1 in Schools competition, which requires them to make their own unique race car using state of the art design and computer controlled machining technologies. Picture Jonathan Carroll

Students from 15 teams took part in the regional finals of F1 in Schools competition, which requires them to make their own unique race car using state of the art design and computer controlled machining technologies. Team Meteor Racing, Jarod O’Neill, 14, left, Connor Minchinton, 13, right, both from Mount View High. Picture Jonathan Carroll

Students from 15 teams took part in the regional finals of F1 in Schools competition, which requires them to make their own unique race car using state of the art design and computer controlled machining technologies. Team Meteor Racing, Jarod O’Neill, 14, left, Connor Minchinton, 13, right, both from Mount View High. Picture Jonathan Carroll

Students from 15 teams took part in the regional finals of F1 in Schools competition, which requires them to make their own unique race car using state of the art design and computer controlled machining technologies. Team Swift Ignition, from left to right, Abby Keppie-Watson, 15, Shani Searl, 15, Miriam Eveleens, 15, Kayla Crow, 14, Caitlin McMahon, 15. Picture Jonathan Carroll

SLIPPER GETS HIS HEAD AROUND TAKING ON BOKS AT MAUL GAME

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Up-and-coming Wallabies prop James Slipper is not shying away from the physical firestorm coming his way, promising to ”set a match” under Springboks enforcers Bismarck du Plessis and Coenie Oosthuizen on Saturday night.

The Springboks will be boosted by the return of 50-Test cap hooker du Plessis to the starting line-up this weekend but are not short of abrasive young characters in the pipeline, with 24-year-old prop Oosthuizen the latest formidable forward to walk off the highveld and into a green jersey.

Slipper, who has usurped veteran Benn Robinson at loose-head for the Rugby Championship, said he would relish the encounter with the notoriously fiery du Plessis.

”I’ll be trying to set a match under them, I enjoy that part of the game. Don’t get me wrong, they’re pretty good at what they do so you’ve got to be prepared to cop a few and I guess wear what you throw,” he said.

”He’s a very aggressive player and he’s always been very uncompromising, up in your face. A lot of Africans are, so some people shy away from it but as a forward pack you can’t. I think you’ve got to get in there and get in their face a bit. You’re not going out there doing anything illegal, it’s just not stepping back.”

The Wallabies pack has come under fire after a patchy start to the Test season this year.

After a disastrous finish to the British and Irish Lions series and a tough adjustment to new scrum engagement laws, Slipper is keen to restore the side’s reputation. ”Our squad is capable of being very physical. It’s not only about being physical in a way that the crowd can see, it’s about making your one-on-one tackles and not putting up with anything,” he said.

”Putting your head where you don’t want to put it, especially in the mauls. They’re a very formidable side with mauling and at the end of the day you’ve got to put your head on the inside, not the outside – that’s the easy option. That’s where you might cop a few things but that’s what has to be done.”

The Wallabies are preparing for the Springboks’ typical reliance on set-piece play and the driving maul but are also appreciating coach Heyneke Meyer’s emphasis on rounding out pressure with attack.

”They’re a very traditional team with the up-and-unders. They clear their 22 pretty efficiently and they tend to do it all the time,” Slipper said.

”But in saying that, they [put 70 points on] Argentina and there was a bit of running in that … I think it depends on how the game is going. If they have the momentum I’m sure they’ll throw it around, but if they’re under the pump I’m positive they’ll kick it and play that field position.”

Both teams name their starting line-ups on Wednesday, with the Springboks poised to name Zane Kirchner at fullback, moving Willie le Roux to the wing and squeezing out Bjorn Basson.

The Wallabies will name Quade Cooper at five-eighth, replacing Matt Toomua, while a back three shake-up is also expected after fullback Jesse Mogg was given two chances to make his mark against the All Blacks.

James O’Connor and Israel Folau are both possible options at fullback, with Joe Tomane or Nick Cummins probable wing replacements if coach Ewen McKenzie decides to move Mogg aside.

The Wallabies are confident that they are getting closer to the perfect balance of running rugby and playing for field position but will need to clean up their basic skills, which were found wanting in first two fixtures of the Rugby Championship.

”That’s the key to winning games, finding that balance,” O’Connor said. ”You want to play as much running rugby as you can but at certain times, when there’s too much line speed or pressure, you’ve got to be able to read the moment and clear the ball.

”I think we’re finding the balance better … but there’s definitely room for improvement.”

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COALITION MAY STRIKE ON DRUGS POLICY

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he AFL’s illicit drugs policy could be under threat, with expectations the Coalition will revive its bitter campaign against the contentious three-strikes component if it wins Saturday’s federal election.

The last time the Coalition was in power, in 2007, the AFL and the AFL Players Association successfully resisted government-led demands that its policy be dramatically stiffened, to punish and disclose the name of players who had failed drug tests earlier and ban them for at least eight years, and possibly for life, for a third breach.

The campaign was led by Howard government ministers George Brandis and Christopher Pyne, on the basis it undermined their anti-drug campaigns. They argued it was ”namby-pamby” and ”probably a soft-on-drugs approach”.

”A three-strike policy is not a zero tolerance policy,” said Brandis, the then sports minister. ”It is not … the toughest possible stance against drugs, it does not go far enough.”

The Coalition went to the 2007 election promising a year-round, $21million illicit-drug testing regime for Australian sports, with Brandis foreshadowing ”remorseless pressure on any national sporting organisation which stands apart from the consensus”. It did not get the opportunity to implement its agenda, but is strongly favoured to be back in power by next week.

The AFL and AFLPA would not be drawn on their expectations of the implications of a change of government, although it is believed players privately fear renewed pressure to significantly change the testing regimen they volunteered for.

Greens sports spokesman Richard Di Natale, a former GP and public-health specialist who has been a fervent defender of the policy, predicted Coalition members, if in government, would ”do whatever they can to basically dismantle what’s a very good public-health response”.

”I’ve got no doubt that the Coalition, and particular members of the Coalition such as George Brandis, would like to see what is a sensible public-health approach to the problem of illicit-drug use in the AFL turned into a huge political football,” he said.

”They’ll try and score a few cheap points, and as a result we’ll continue to see young men make mistakes and not get the support they need from the medical community,” Di Natale said.

The most recent AFL results, released in May, revealed the percentage of failed illicit-drug tests had tripled in 2012, with the overall figure of 26 failed tests equalling the number for the three preceding years. The AFL and AFLPA insisted that was because they had targeted their testing to specific players and periods (such as the day after a match) and conducted more hair testing.

The sports portfolio previously held by Brandis is now occupied by the Nationals’ Luke Hartsuyker. On Tuesday he commended the AFL for strengthening its illicit-drug policy but did not rule out seeking additional amendments.

”The Coalition has always supported taking a tough stance on illicit drugs in sport,” Hartsuyker said in a statement. ”I note the AFL has enhanced its out-of-season drug-testing regime and, if I am the sport minister in a new Coalition Government, I will work with the AFL to reduce illicit-drug use within the code.”

A recent Senate inquiry into sports science, devised by Di Natale in a bid to regulate supplements given to athletes, featured persistent questions by the Coalition relating instead to illicit drugs.

Di Natale said AFL players had made a ”huge concession” in agreeing to be tested for illicit drugs out of competition, and believed the Coalition members “don’t acknowledge . . . the AFL is doing something that other codes don’t do” with its out-of-competition testing. He urged the Coalition to clarify its stance on the AFL policy before Saturday’s election.

“I’d like the Coalition to make a very clear statement that they’re going to continue to endorse what is a public-health approach to the issue, to make it very clear where they stand on the issue, and that the AFL will continue to have its support in pursuing something that puts the welfare of the players as its central focus,” he said.

BARBA STILL IN FAVOUR AT BULLDOGS

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Ben Barba wasn’t named to return against his future club this Thursday night, but Canterbury have not put a red pen through his name for this season.

Fairfax Media has been told only injury will prevent him from playing again this year, despite the ongoing controversy over his move to Brisbane.

Barba hasn’t played since suffering an ankle injury in the opening minutes of the round 20 clash against Parramatta at ANZ Stadium at the end of July.

It was believed he would be a chance of returning in round 26, in time to face the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium before he heads north to join the club, however, Canterbury coach Des Hasler has not named the fullback in his side for the final round of the regular season.

Barba is back training with the side and, while he is a slim chance of returning in time to take on the Broncos, he could be back in the side for the finals.

Meanwhile, Manly coach Geoff Toovey has rested fullback Brett Stewart for their final-round clash against Penrith on Sunday.

An ongoing hamstring injury, compounded by a hip injury suffered in the win against Melbourne last Saturday night, will put the former Blues No.1 out of action until the first week of the finals.

Canberra have reshuffled their side for Sunday night’s game against the Sharks, with Mitch Cornish to make his debut at halfback and Anthony Milford moving back to the fullback role.

Matt Scott will miss the Cowboys’ must-win game against the Tigers with a broken finger.

Nate Myles has been named for the Titans despite suffering an ankle injury last Sunday, however Jamal Idris is at least a week away if the Titans reach the finals.

Meanwhile, South Sydney have shot down any interest in recruiting Blake Ferguson, despite the wayward Raiders player being spotted at the club’s Redfern training venue on Tuesday.

The Raiders have all but issued an ultimatum to Ferguson, that he show up for Friday’s board meeting or be sacked. Asked if the Rabbitohs were interested in Ferguson, Souths chief executive Shane Richardson said: ”No, none whatsoever, can I be more specific or explicit than that.

”There’s no interest at all in any way shape or form.

”Why he was driving past with Grayson Goodwin I have no idea … there’s never been any conversation here. His name hasn’t been brought up once by anyone in our recruitment. It is a dead, final no.”

HEAT ON GREENBERG

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essure: Todd Greenberg (right) is in the spotlight. Photo: Wolter PeetersBen Barba’s partner Ainslie Currie has not yet been contacted by the leading barrister heading up the inquiry into Canterbury’s handling of domestic assault allegations against the star fullback, in an indication the investigation’s main focus is the game’s integrity rather than the incident itself.

With former Bulldogs chief executive Todd Greenberg now employed as one of the NRL’s leading officials, Tony Bannon, SC, has been engaged at a cost of about $8000 a day to investigate whether the allegations were covered up at the time he was in charge of the Bulldogs.

By appointing Bannon, the NRL has shown how seriously it is treating the matter, which is widely considered to be the biggest test of the game’s integrity since the formation of the ARL Commission 18 months ago.

Greenberg, Canterbury chairman Ray Dib and coach Des Hasler are expected to be interviewed, possibly on Wednesday, with Fairfax Media told the investigation will take days rather than weeks.

Currie’s lawyer Campbell MacCallum said his client, who has maintained she has never been the victim of domestic abuse, had not been contacted for an interview. ”No approach has been made to myself from Tony Bannon about Ms Currie speaking to the investigation committee,” MacCallum said.

Greenberg is continuing in his role with the NRL while the inquiry takes place and he is due to front a press conference on Wednesday to announce details of the pre-season Nines tournament in Auckland in February.

”Until the matter is resolved I will not be making any comment,” Greenberg said on Tuesday.

Greenberg is understood to be confident he and the Bulldogs will be cleared of wrongdoing as they urged Currie to go to the police if she had been assaulted, but her concern was for Barba.

However, his new role has placed the NRL under enormous pressure to ensure the integrity of the game is protected.

”If they are serious about protecting the integrity of the game then no one is above reproach,” one official said.

While some at the Bulldogs have privately questioned why the club is in the spotlight, the overwhelming view in the game is Greenberg’s standing as one of the NRL’s top three officials has been compromised if the allegations are proven.

”How can he impose fines and sanctions on clubs if he has been involved in covering this up?” one club boss said. Fairfax Media was�0�2told Greenberg will have a case to answer if he was aware, or should have been aware, of a possible incident of domestic violence and did not report it to the police or NRL.

Greenberg and Dib met NRL chief executive Dave Smith the day after Currie approached the club on February 24 to advise him Barba was being stood down for personal issues, but they did not mention any allegations of domestic abuse.

NRL officials said they became aware of the allegations only after the publication of a photo last Sunday showing Currie with a bloodied lip.

However, the existence of the photo has been rumoured for some time and Greenberg is believed to have been told about it but had not seen it.

It has been suggested Greenberg could have informed Smith about the allegations when he accepted the job with the NRL in June but Fairfax Media was told the club felt he had handled the situation appropriately.

With Currie denying she had been assaulted, it is understood Greenberg felt that was the end of the matter. Fairfax Media was also told there were concerns within the Bulldogs that if they had advised the NRL of any concerns the allegations would have leaked out and found their way into the media.

The club was also worried about Barba’s welfare. Barba was booked into a north shore clinic for 17 days before being released after doctors advised that spending any longer there would not help him. However, Fairfax Media was told that if the club was worried about Barba’s mental state and held any suspicion that Currie had been assaulted, they should have also been concerned it could happen again.

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APRA HANDBALLS PRIVACY CONCERN

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The financial regulator has brushed aside recommendations from a federal agency that it remind banks of their privacy obligations when lenders are sending customers’ personal data overseas.

In a guidance note this week, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority urged companies to take a ”cautious and measured” approach to managing data when offshoring.

But it did not follow a recommendation from the Australian Privacy Commissioner, Timothy Pilgrim, to draw banks’ attention to their obligations under the Privacy Act.

After a wave of offshoring in financial services, privacy has emerged as a key flashpoint, causing some state government agencies to restrict what information can be stored overseas.

In a submission to APRA, Mr Pilgrim recommended the regulator refer to the National Privacy Principles – federal rules that restrict how big businesses handle personal information.

The principles require companies to follow domestic rules when they transfer data overseas, and serious breaches can result in multimillion-dollar fines.

But APRA’s guidance note to banks – which is intended to identify potential problem areas – did not mention either ”privacy” nor ”personal information.” Instead, it focused on potential risks to the financial system from data management.

”APRA expects a regulated entity to apply a cautious and measured approach when considering retaining data outside the jurisdiction it pertains to,” its guidance said.

”It is important that a regulated entity is fully aware of the risks involved and makes a conscious and informed decision as to whether the additional risks are within its risk appetite.”

Customer privacy is a growing concern of unions and some government departments as companies including ANZ, QBE and Westpac send thousands of back-office jobs overseas.

For instance, Victoria’s WorkSafe agency does not allow insurance providers to store data relating to employers or injured workers outside Australia.

Finance is the most complained about sector, according to the 2011-12 Australian Information Commissioner annual report, and Commonwealth Bank, ANZ and Westpac were among the 10 most complained about organisations.

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HOUSING LIFTS BUT ECONOMY SUBDUED

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ustralia’s economy is continuing to grow, albeit at a slow pace, just days out from the federal election.

But economists warn that the much-needed rebalancing of economic activity away from the mining sector towards non-mining parts of the economy remains ”just a forecast”, with few signs of life outside the housing sector.

The Reserve Bank of Australia kept the official interest rate at 2.5 per cent on Tuesday, the lowest since the 1950s, admitting that the economy had been growing ”a bit below trend” for the past 12 months.

Economic activity was likely to remain subdued in the near-term, despite a 15 per cent fall in the value of Australia’s dollar since early April.

”[But] it is possible that the exchange rate will depreciate further over time, which would help to foster a rebalancing of growth in the economy,” RBA governor Glenn Stevens said.

It came on the same day as the Bureau of Statistics released figures showing retail sales grew just 0.1 per cent in July, seasonally adjusted, after sales in our big department stores fell nearly 8 per cent.

This followed months of flat or negative sales growth, and meant annual growth in July was just 1.9 per cent – well below the inflation rate of 2.4 per cent. Economists said this showed the much-touted rebalancing of the economy was still a long way off.

”The retail numbers weren’t particularly impressive, and in terms of the rebalancing of the economy that we’ve been expecting we’re really only seeing it in the housing market, it hasn’t broadened beyond housing,” HSBC Australia chief economist Paul Bloxham said. ”We’re still expecting it to come, but that broader rebalancing is still a forecast, rather than a reality.”

The continuing weakness in retail sales has added to the case that the RBA might have to cut rates again this year, National Australia Bank economist Spiros Papadopoulos said. ”Rising unemployment in an economy growing below 3 per cent will continue to weigh on consumers’ minds and it will be some time before we see retail spending and consumption growing strongly again,” Mr Papadopoulos said.

New data showed the current account deficit, which shows the extent to which we call on the savings of foreigners to fund the part of our nation’s investment spending that we’re unable to fund from our own saving, increased in the three months to June by $610 million, or 7 per cent, to $9.35 billion.

But economists said the number was better than it looked, because the current account is broadly improving.

”We’re seeing a narrowing in the current account in a trend sense,” Mr Bloxham said. ”And I’d expect that trend to continue. We’re going to get support from exports of commodities and a slowdown in imports because the mining investment boom is peaking, so that combination should see an improvement in our trade position over time,” he said.

Gross domestic product data will be released on Wednesday for the three months to June. Economists are broadly expecting annual growth for the economy to be around 2.5 per cent.

”Our expectation for Wednesday’s second-quarter GDP is a rise of 0.6 per cent, giving an unchanged annual rate of 2.5 per cent, barring revisions,” Commonwealth Bank economist Michael Workman said.

GIPPSLAND COLLAPSE HITS COMMUNITY

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ommunity leaders in the Victorian town of Bairnsdale have expressed doubt about the region’s financial future after rural lender Gippsland Secured Investments was placed into receivership, leaving $143 million in local savings at risk.

The collapse of the non-bank lender, which froze investor funds last month, comes as a fresh blow to Victorian investors after the collapse of non-bank lender Banksia Securities last year.

The folding of GSI follows a drawn-out battle in the Federal Court to try to save the company by a group of local investors who had pledged $2.2 million to a rescue package. The bailout proposal was thrown out on Monday.

Gippsland cattle farmer Lea Worseldine said she had a ”substantial” amount of money tied up in GSI which she was anxious about losing. She started farming with her husband Barry through a loan from Banksia Securities 33 years ago and had lost a small amount when it collapsed.

”The repercussions for the township are going to be horrendous. If we get 85�0�4 back [on the dollar], I guess that’s better than nothing. We could use the money though,” she said.

On Tuesday, trustee the Trust Company appointed Ernst & Young partners Adam Nikitins and Simon Cathro as receivers of the company.

David Grbin, an executive at the Trust Company, said a cursory examination of the company’s books revealed mismanagement before its collapse.

”The evidence to date points to management shortcomings that led to a deficiency of tangible assets to meet GSI’s obligations to note holders,” he said.

He said the decision to appoint receivers came after an ”exhaustive examination” of other options.

East Gippsland mayor Dick Ellis said the council had enlisted several non-government groups including Anglicare and the Salvation Army to make assistance packages available to members of the community who were severely affected by the collapse.

The decision by Justice Kathleen Farrell in the NSW Federal Court on Monday ends a lengthy application by a rescue group to try to pull GSI from the brink of insolvency by recapitalising and avoiding receivership.

Justice Farrell said it was with ”great regret” that she rejected the rescue group’s proposal, which involved funding from a consortium of local business figures, including former ANZ director John Dahlsen.

Mr Dahlsen said on Tuesday that the collapse of GSI would have a dramatic effect on the region’s economy.

”We’re going to lose a company that’s been bankrolling a number of local investments and local projects in the area that the big banks wouldn’t touch,” he said.

NATHAN TINKLER’S SHRINKING EMPIRE

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Nathan Tinkler’s once billion-dollar mining empire continues to disappear. His former backer, Raymond Zage, is already aggressively seeking to recover what he can from the husk and now another of Tinkler’s former partners is following suit.

A Hong Kong-based trustee company has put a receiver into Tinkler’s base metals operations, Aston Metals – the largest remaining mining asset in Tinkler’s private group.

According to Tinkler, Aston Metals has been a ”dormant, speculative investment near Mount Isa by the Tinkler Group and other shareholders”. (This is a project that at one time Tinkler thought could be worth $75 million, according to media reports.)

”Our main joint-venture partner, Orchard Capital Partners in Hong Kong, is experiencing financial difficulties in one of its funds and as a result took the unexpected decision to place Aston Metals into receivership.”

But there seems to be some dispute over which party is under most intense financial pressure.

Late on Tuesday Orchard Capital hit back at Tinkler saying in a statement: ”Aston Metals and�0�2Mr Tinkler have received a number of notices over the previous 30 days requesting payment of the debt as per the rights of the secured creditor. This would not be a surprise for Aston Metals or Mr Tinkler.”

It appears Orchard Partners is not part of Farallon, nor is the trustee company, Madison Pacific Trust, which is representing it.

It previously has been reported that Farallon was a lender to Aston Metals. This was not denied.

This fresh bout of Tinkler attention comes amid recent suggestions that he was thinking of a corporate comeback, or at least coming out of his self-imposed exile in Singapore. The chatter that Tinkler could re-emerge on the Australian corporate stage is certainly being hosed down by his media adviser.

Conventional wisdom in the business community says Tinkler is financially washed up. But in a March liquidator’s examination Tinkler told the court the Tinkler Group Family Trust had assets worth up to $1.4 billion.

Farallon seized control in June of Tinkler’s primary asset, a 19 per cent stake in Whitehaven Coal – cystallising a loss on a $US634 million loan to the Newcastle entrepreneur.

It’s now about picking over the scraps of Tinkler’s remaining assets, the value of which is debatable but could potentially be as much as $50 million – that’s considered a glass-half-full valuation.

John Park and Quentin Olde of FTI Consulting were appointed receivers and managers to the Aston Metals Group on Tuesday, a situation that Tinkler’s Australian spokesman was not aware of.

The receivers were appointed by Madison Pacific Trust in its capacity as Security Trustee over all the secured property of Aston Metals Ltd, a fully owned subsidiary of Aston Copper Pty Ltd and its subsidiary Aston Metals (Qld) Ltd.

Aston Metals is a base metals explorer with tenement holdings in the Mount Isa region of north-west Queensland. Aston Metals has five projects: at Walford Creek, Constance Range, Isa North, Isa West and Isa South.

Isa North, Isa West and Constance Range are joint ventures with listed mining hopeful Summit Resources. In Summit’s most recent quarterly report it said the Isa North tenement soil surveys produced only ”a low-level copper anomaly”.

Isa South is a joint venture between Aston Metals, an unlisted company, Redmetals, and Xstrata but it had not yet been the subject of any exploration.

The highest value Aston Metals’ projects seems to be Walford Creek, which underwent successful drilling campaigns a few years ago but is still considered to be fairly low grade and the subject of development opposition from the indigenous community.

That the lender has taken security over Aston Metals is evidence that there is some value in the asset. The receiver will now start the process of looking for a buyer.

Tinkler’s ability to stay just out of reach of personal creditors attempting to bankrupt him has become almost as legendary as his ascendancy to billionaire status by the age of 35.