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Spirit of Christmas alive in the Valley

Christmas time can be crazy. That mad rush to buy presents, food and drink, generally undertaken in heavy traffic, heat and humidity can fray nerves and shorten tempers.
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It’s no wonder that people claim that the true spirit of Christmas is dying. But to all those in doubt of what Christmas is about, we saylook no further than the Sapphire Coast.Christmas is a time for giving andhere in the Bega Valley, giving is something we do best!

It’s not uncommon for our communities to rally in support of those in need every day of the year, but it has become particularly apparentduring this holiday season.

The third annual BDNChristmas Toy Drive once again left us awestruck at the level of generosity from this community.

Meanwhile, there is noother way to describe theresponse by the community to a call for donations to help those affected by the Merimbula Lake Holiday Park fire than heartwarming.

Thesepeople were made homeless and then within a few days they had more clothes andmore furniture than before the fire. Just incredible.

As Michelle Nitschki said: “These donations have illustrated why I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.”

Christmas is a time to celebrate with family and friends.

It is a time of love and happiness and while not everyone has someone they can be with on this day, no-one has to be alone thanks to the generosity and kindness of a group of locals.

For the fifth year in a row, all Bega Valley residents and visitors are invited to share in a three course meal at the Sapphire Coast Christmas Lunch. The lunch, which is growing every year, has now spilled over two venues, one in Merimbula and one in Eden.

Every single person who attends the lunch, which last year was more than 200, receives a gift, which has kindly been donated by members of the community.

As another year draws to a close and the Bega District News print edition prepares to take a short break (we’re back on Friday, January 6), the whole team here wishes to thank the community.We want to thank you for showing us the true meaning of Christmas and for reminding us that it’s not the landscape that makes the Sapphire Coast so special, it’s the people.

Here’s wishing you and your loved ones the merriest of Christmases and the happiest of new years!

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Push for Murray Basin track change

Maryborough Station.Central Goldfields Shire Council has resolved to advocate for the standard gauge conversion of the Maryborough to Ballarat rail line.
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The upcoming Murray Basin Railway Rail Project will see the section converted from broad gauge to dual gauge to allow both passenger and freight trains to run.

However, council fears the dual gauge connection would have a detrimental impact on passenger services, which would be required to run at slower speeds on the tracks.

“The Central Highlands Regional Growth Plan identified a residential growth corridor along the Ballarat-Maryborough Rail line to Maryborough including Creswick, Clunes and Talbot,” a statement in the agenda read.

“The use of passenger rail is very dependent on regular, convenient and fast services. Increasing the rail speed to 130 kph reduces the time to and from Ballarat.

“Failing to deliver on higher passenger train speeds will be an impediment to regional growth, jobs and improved opportunities for regional communities.

A motion to advocate to Transport Minister Jacinta Allan for a switch to standard gauge was approved at a council agenda on Tuesday night.

Central Goldfields mayor Bob Henderson said the future of passenger services between Ballarat and Maryborough is crucial to growth and tourism along the corridor and said council would push for a meeting with Ms Allan.

“We want standard or broad gauge, but not dual,” Cr Henderson said.

“We want to increase services, not take them away.”

However, it’s understood that a bulk of the V/Line passenger fleet would not be able to run on standard gauge tracks, meaning passenger trains would have to be specially fitted out for the standard gauge tracks at an enormous cost –possibly in the hundreds of millions.

It’s understood the state government is comfortable with the current plan to change the line to dual gauge.

“We’re building a dual guage connection between Ballarat and Marybourough to enable both freight and passenger trains to operate,” Ms Allan said.

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Law returns to city’s old court house

Lawyer line-up: MGR Solicitors trio Jonathan Green, Alecia Roman and Jye Cunneen at the old Wodonga court house their firm now occupies. Picture: JAMES WILTSHIREA FORMER Wodongacourt house is again home to a legal concern,nearly 100 years after the last case was heard at the High Street building.
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The premises, just southofthe Hume Freeway, is housing MGR Solicitors, a Wangaratta firm that is expanding into the Albury-Wodonga legal fraternity.

The appeal of working in an historic building was an attraction for principals Jonathan Green, Alecia Roman and Jye Cunneen.

“For me it’s important that a law firm works from a building that’s got character and that’s part of the local make-up,” Mr Cunneen said.

Next year will mark 140 years since the building opened as a court house after being built for 1325 pounds.

It ceased hearing cases in 1920 and has since been used as a private residenceand for commercial enterprises such as a restaurant and real estate agency.

Since 2014 marketing and advertising business Dutch Media has occupied and owned the building.

It has now moved intoa $500,000 two-storey extension at the rear, leaving the former court house to be leased out.

Mr Green said the interior renovation of the 1877 premises, its location and history had combined to make it the best site to expand into in the Twin Cities.

“It matches our building in Wangaratta, which is a heritage-style building,” Mr Green said.

“We thought it would really work well with what we’ve got and what we want to have.”

MGR Solicitors evolved from McSwineys, one of Wangaratta’s most venerable law firms whose partners once included magistrate Ian Watkins.

In the spotlight: Jonathan Green, Alecia Roman and Jye Cunneen in the renovated interior of Wodonga’s first brick court house which opened in 1877.

Mr Green and Ms Roman became partners in the firm in 2013 and Mr Cunneen joined in September.

The firm specialises in business, commercial and property law and is also involved in estate planning and administration.

Its clients include North East councils.

Mr Green and Mr Cunneen, who live in Albury, will work from the Wodonga office along with three support staff.

Mr Green was raised in Wangaratta, while Mr Cunneen is originally from Myrtleford but completed his education at The Scots School Albury.

Following furnishing, the office will open for business on January 16.

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Fair milk price legislation gathers momentum

If you love fresh milk in your coffee, tea or weetbix share your opinion to help Queensland dairy farmers, with submissions to the Fair Milk Price Logos Bill closing in early January.Lovers of fresh milk are encouraged to support Queensland’s dairy farmers and make a submission to the Katter Party’s fair milk price legislation by next month.
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Driven by Member for Tablelands Shane Knuth, whose electorate covers the Tableland’s dairy industry, the legislation wants to establish the eligibility criteria and legal protection for voluntary ‘fair milk price’ logos to be placed on containers of milk.

The logos are are designed to inform consumers the region where the milk was produced and the dairy farmer who produced the milk received a certain minimum price for the milk.

Queensland Dairy Organisation northern chairman James Geraghty, who farms at Millaa Millaa, said while the logo would not solve the industry’s problems, it was “another tool in the shed”.

“The industry is supportive and was involved with writing the bill,” Mr Geraghty said.

“It’svoluntary and does not involve regulation, and will be consumer driven. It gives consumers a choice.

“When the milk comes in with the mark on it, which means those farmers have been paid a sustainable price, then consumers can approach retailers and ask for milk with that mark.”

Mr Geraghty said the Katter Party, in particular Mr Knuth and his Atherton office, should be congratulated for pushing the bill, and he hoped Queensland’s twopolitical parties wouldn’t let politics get in the way when voting takes place.

The bill also provides for the setting of a minimum price to be paid to dairy farmers in a region for the production of milk to carry a fair milk price logo, calculated using the Queensland Government’s Queensland Dairy Accounting Scheme.

Submissions close on 3 January 2017.

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Jobs slashed at company

Celi Group managing director Ted Celi shows some Bradflo products following the acquisition of the company in 2012.
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A NUMBER of residents have lost their jobs just days out from Christmas.

The Celi Group has sold Bradflo, which comes under its umbrella, resulting in the loss of an undisclosed amount of jobs.

Bradflo is an Australianmanufacturer and distributor of air distribution, air handling and ventilation products, components and accessories.

The Celi Group acquired the company in 2012, but managing director Ted Celi said the decision had been made to sell the company.

It has been picked up by a larger corporation.

Mr Celi said Bradflo had been struggling for some time.

“It is unfortunate that people have lost their jobs, but we didn’t just say ‘bang, you’ve lost your job’ and not help out,” he said.

“We’ve made sure they’ve had something to go to.

“At this stage I think there are only one or two that haven’t found other employment.

“It’s not a decision we made lightly.

“Most of the work Bradflo did was for places like Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and in Tasmania …the freight costs were killing us.”

Mr Celi said as the businesses was based in Leeton it couldn’t cope with next day orders.

“It was just impossible,” he said.

However, in some good news, the Celi Group will be expanding its Malmet operations in Leeton, which will result in the possibility of more employment opportunities.

“We’ll always have a strong presence in Leeton and we’re looking forward to expanding Malmet,” Mr Celi said.Leeton Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Jodie Ryan said it was unfortunate the jobs had to go.

“Any sort of job loss isn’t good,” she said.“In saying that we are continually hearing of other job opportunities that are around.The shire is still strong.

“My work background shows that people are positive and employing people.There’s so many opportunities for apprentices and trainees out there at the moment.”

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Mixed fortunes for Tigers

Callum Mackay. Photo: COURTNEY WARDTHE Christmas break has arrived and all four senior Bomaderry Cricket Club teams are in the top four, while seconds through to fourths have all secured one day finals spots.
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Kinghorn Motors first grade:After day one was rained off at Sanctuary Point Oval, theTigers went down by 39 runs in a one day match. The Tigers did well in restricting Basin to 9/153 thanks to good spells from Stu Jeffrey (3/35) and Jarryd Sue (2/13). However in response, Bomaderry werebowled out for 114. Youngster Callum Mackay (Tiger of the match) was the best of the batsmen with 42*, while Blake Munilla made runs again with 30. The loss made it four in a row and the boys will have to bounce back after the break.

Bomaderry Post Office second grade:Another good win for theTigers, as they secured third spot going into the break. Ben Minnis (4/25) and Justin Ganderton (4/32) combined with the new ball in rocking Basin’s top order and bowling them out for 84. The Tigers got the runs relatively easily as vice-president and veteran Greg Wellington (TOTM) led the way with 39.

Kel Campbell third grade:The Tigers suffered a 49 run defeat to Ex-Servos. Exies batted first in making 198, as the pick of the bowlers was Steve Wallacewith 3/28. A positive to come out of Bomaderry’s response of 149 was the form of Dayne Johnston (TOTM), as he top scored with 38.

Kiteleys Roofing fourth grade:won by forfeit, meaning they received a max points win to secure a one day finals birth.Craig Kuncio was TOTM.

Action returns January 7 and one day semi-finals kick off January 15.

Bomaderry Bowling Club under 11s:made it seven straight wins against Bay and Basin Red in the last game of the year. Losing the toss, the Tigerswere sent in to bat and managed toput a decent score on the board with 17/125 after 25 overs, for a net score of 91. Stars were Jackson Ingram (50), Jeb Brownhill (16) and Elijah Guyatt (14). In reply, the Tigersrestricted Basin to 9/90 for a net total of 72. Lindsay Muller (2/10) was the pick of the bowlers supported byJack Woods with 2/11.

Jaffa Images under 16s: had a bye.

JuniorChirstmas wrap: A great start to the season for the two Tigers junior teams the u16s are currently sitting second on the tail of hot favourites North Nowra-Cambewarra. Some notable performances from the season so far are Ryan Henry with 261 runs including one century and two fiftys and Max Lans with 155 runs including two fiftys. In the bowling Max Whelen is leading the way with eight wickets with for a total of 106 runs, Chantelle Downey has taken six wickets with 89 runs and not far away is Jacob Higgins with four wickets for only 55 runs.

The u11s are currently sitting fourth with the first game back after Christmas against the currently undefeated Batemans Bay. Leading the waywith the bat this season isJackson Ingram, with an amazing 325 runs with a top score of 57, while Elijah Guyatt with 175, Riley Ingram 135 and Jeb Brownhill 137 are contributing greatly to the team’s current position. In the bowling, Elijah Guyat has 10 wickets at an average of 7.4 and is leading the way. Next best is Jackson Ingram with eight wickets at 11.5 and closely followed by Jeb Brownhill who has taken seven wickets at an average of 11.7. Riley Ingram and Hunter Woods have contributed greatly with six wickets each.

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How some Millennials are buying property without family help

Kirti Mahraj, 23 and Adil Mohiuddin, 25 bought a house in Sydney without family money. Photo: Anna KuceraWhenAdil Mohiuddin asked his girlfriend Kirti Mahrajwhat she wanted for her 22nd birthday in early 2015, she casually replied that she wanted a house.
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Most people in their early 20swould smile at the comment and move on, but Sydney-based Mohiuddinmade it his mission to get his girlfriend what she wanted.

By the time October 2016 rolled around,Mohiuddinand Mahraj, now 25 and 23, had become joint owners of a large house in the newly created suburb of Jordan Springs.

The street they live on is yet to appear on Google Maps, so even finding your way to their house is complicated.

But that hasn’t stopped a number of families and young people buying their own plot of land in the suburb.

In fact, Jordan Springs was named as Australia’s best selling residential project in 2014.

Before buying the land,Mohiuddindrove around the suburb and says he fell in love with it.

“It had a nice feel to it. I also liked how it was close to Penrith CBD,” he says.

Buying a home without family money seems like a pipedream for many young people especially in Sydney and Melbourne, and the numbers of first-home buyers have been falling in recent years.

So how do young people likeMohiuddin and Mahraj make thedream a reality?

“I didn’t have plans to own property once I left uni,” Mohiuddin says.

“But after I started doing well at my sales job I thought before I foolishly go waste this money elsewhere I’d better put it to good use.”

Mahraj, who works as a technical officer for a security firm, agrees that it’s best to invest your money wisely. “So many young people waste their money on partying and other things. We live in a society where if you work hard you can get a good job and make good money. The property crisis is just going to get worse, so better get your foot on the ladder now while you’re young.”

Mohiuddin took advice from his father who had worked as a bank tellerfor many years. “I found out from him the kind of loan I could get and the monthly repayments I would have to make. I then started doing research into the kind of areas I could buy a place.”

Research is vital when looking for your first home. Zain Zama, 23, who works for a finance firm and runs theYoung Property Investor websiteon the side, says young people should familiarise themselves with the ins and outs of buying property before they start house hunting in earnest.

“Get to know the free online resources such as Domain and other property websites,” Zama says. “And then get yourself out there, meeting real estate agents, and other property professionals. Go to open homes and see how buying a property works. Go to the bank that you’ve always been banking with, have a conversation with them and ask all the questions that are in your head, no matter how stupid they seem. And then go on to the next bank and the next bank. Understand the process of home ownership. All this information isfree.”

Zamabought his first property when he was 19 years old and working in retail. He lets it as an investment property and rents his home.

Zama believespeople get too hung up on the area in which they want to buy. “If you’re fixated on an area then you need to do whatever you can to buy there. That may involve saving more and increasing your income. But it’s best to not be too romantic about where you can own a home.”

Zama suggests setting your maximum budget (say $700,000) and then searching for property under that amount. “Find out what’s at your price range and then start filtering away to get to the best compromise,” he says.

For Alex Heneberry, 25, on the other hand,being picky about the suburb is important for the resale value of the property.

Heneberry bought his first house in the suburb of Sydney suburb of Colyton at the age of 20.

He was doing an apprenticeship in building when his boss advised him that rather than spend all his money on buying and doing up cars, he buy property instead.

Alex took his boss’s advice. He sold his car and put the money towards the deposit for his first property.

He now owns a property portfolio that has him on track to be semi-retired by the time he’s 30.

Heneberry believes young people have time and the ability to take risks on their side.

“If you don’t have dependents and are living at home it’s easier to take risks,” he says.

Of course that doesn’t make buying property any less intimidating.

“The first property purchase I made was terrifying. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to make the repayments and the property would sink. It’s scary to have a big mortgage in your bank account.

“But somehow you have to find a way to let go of the fear and throw yourself in the deep end. In the end, a lot of my fears were unfounded.”

He advises young people to get over the fear of buying a property.

“Do your research, don’t be afraid to take risks and get the right people on your side.”

All three of these young people have managed to overcome the odds to buy property in a housing market that ranks as one of the most expensive in the world.

It hasn’t been easy, and all three have worked hard to get where they are. But of course owning a property isn’t the end all and be all.

As Zama puts it, “owning a home doesn’t mean you’ve got your life sorted or you’ve made it”.

“It just means you’ve put aside a significant amount of your capital on an idea that you’re hoping will bring you a return on investment.”

The story,How some Millennials are buying property without family help, first appeared on the Sydney Morning Herald.

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Rural Bank launches FMD interest offset option as rates trends up

Rural Bank’s new offset account lets primary producers offset farm management deposit interest earnings against variable rate term loans, just as home loan borrowers can do to help ease mortgage repayment costs.Rural Bank has taken the lead with a new farm management deposit (FMD) option aimed at helping farmers pay down loans faster.
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It’s new FMD offset account, the first of its kind, follows legislative changes to the federal government’s FMD scheme earlier this year which aims to let farmers use interest accumulated in management deposits to help repay borrowings.

The maximum amount able to be salted away in FMDs has also doubled from $400,000 to $800,000.

Rural Bank is getting in early to encourage farmers to use their FMD reserves to help speed up loan repayment options before interest rates inevitably climb.

Although Australian farm lending costs are now at a record lows, or close to them, new year interest rates are tipped to bite, at least a little bit.

Industry analysts expect2017 will see interest rate activity across the board, partly because US government 10-year bond yields are up from all-time lows of 1.3 per cent in July to 2.5pc this week, and are pressuring global deposit and lending rate trends.

The looming Trump presidency in the US has fuelled expectations of a government spending spree with borrowed money, lifting bond yields.

In Australia variable bank loan rates and first home lending costs began climbing last month with the likes of Westpac, St George, Bank of Melbourne, BankSA and Ubank starting with rises of up to 0.6pc.

FMDs already allow farmers to better manage their cashflow fluctuations by setting aside earnings from profitable years in accounts which can be drawn on when needed most.

The funds are not taxed until withdrawn, giving producers potential tax advantages if they useFMD funds (after 12 months) in low income years.

Rural Bank’s new offset account lets primary producers offset FMD interest against an eligible variable rate term loan, just as home loan borrowers can do to help ease mortgage repayment costs.

Chief financial officer, Will Rayner, said the offset account would not require any special notice period if farmers suddenly needed to draw on FMD funds.

Linking the offset account to a customer’s term borrowings would incur one low upfront linkage charge, but no ongoing fees.

Rural Bank chief financial officer, Will Rayner.

“Although the current low interest environment hasn’t necessarily made interest costs a major concern, anecdotally we’ve had a good number queries about the new offset option since we began talking about launching the product,” Mr Rayner said.

As broader offset loans repayment options were common elsewhere in financial sector, he said it was timely to see the option opening up to farmers with FMD funds available.

The offset deal can only be linked with a single loan taken out by the FMD owner or a farming partnership the owner isinvolved in.

FMDs held by family trusts and companies are not permitted to use the offset option.

Mr Rayner said the new account was an example of how Rural Bank, a subsidiary of Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, wantedto provide innovative and supportive financial tools to help farmers better manage income and risk variability.

“Australia has virtually the lowest level of farmer policy assistance in the OECD – just 3pc of our gross farm receipts,” he said.

“That’s well below the EU’s average around 20pc and 10pc in the US and Canada.

“With this context, it’s appropriate for policy makers and industry consider ways to back

innovation and assist farmers to overcome income volatility.

“We see FMD offsets helping provide access to the right financial levers to help producers ride out the bumps from season to season.

“We’re not doing this to generate extra revenue for the bank – this will be interest income from loans we’ll forego as customers use FMD earnings to reduce their debt.”

While debt repayment may not be a priority for every farm business, especially those focusing their funds on expansion initiatives, he said it would be no surprise to see interest rates rising to some degree in the year ahead and prompting farmers to review loan cost options.

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Survey locates rare fish species

EXCITING TIMES: The rare River Blackfish – one of only three populations of this species left – found in a creek at Caramut. Picture: Georgia Mann
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Good numbers of a rare species of River Blackfish have been found on a Caramut property.

The River Blackfish was found as part of Glenelg Hopkins Catchment Management Authority’s Drought Refuge Program.

Senior research scientist from Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research, Tarmo Raadik, said finding good numbers of the rare blackfish on the Mann’s property was good news.

“There are only three populations of this species of River Blackfish left and this area has one of them,” he said.

“The persistence of this blackfish here tells us that this is a long-term drought refuge habitat. This means looking after this area is important for the conservation of the River Blackfish.”

The rare species of River Blackfish were found on the property of Bob and Georgina Mann, who said taking part in the fish survey was a great way to start the holidays for her three children.

“The kids had a ball helping with the survey.It was hilarious fun dealing with the slippery little suckers,” she said.

She said knowing there were rare fish in their creek would feed into management of the property.

“We knew the blackfish were here, but we didn’t really know the significance of them. Now we are thinking about how we can look after the site in an effort to protect the population of this declining fish,” Ms Mann said.

Glenelg Hopkins CMA Waterway Planner Stephen Ryan said managing drought refuge areas was important.

“During dry times these drought refuge areas provide habitat for fish and other aquatic animals while the rest of the creek runs dry.

“It’s a place for fish to live until the drought breaks,” Mr Ryan said.

“If we don’t look after these areas, it could devastate the health of the creek system as a whole.”

While scientists from Arthur Rylah Institute caught, identified and weighed fish,members of the Glenelg Hopkins Ararat Drought Crew repaired fences along the creek on the Mann’s property.

Mr Ryan said repairing fences along the creekwas one way to protect the vital drought refuge area.

The Drought Employment Program is a state government initiative providing employment and training for residents, including farmers and rural workers, affected by drought.

If anyone catches a River Blackfish, they should contact Steven Ryan at Glenelg Hopkins CMA.

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Glen Willow clash to launch Waratahs’ Super Rugby title bid

LOOKING FORWARD TO IT: Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson is looking forward the his side’s trip to Mudgee. Photo: GETTYIF the NSW Waratahs are to challenge for the 2017 Super Rugby title, coach Daryl Gibson says the Tahs’ trip to the central west next year will act asa crucial springboard.
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The 2014Super Rugby champions will take on the ACT Brumbies at Mudgee’s Glen Willow on Saturday, February 4.

A week-long trip tothe region, the star-studded NSW outfit will engage in junior clinics in both Orange and Bathurst before a intensive training camp at Burrendong Dam in the lead-up to the Mudgee trial.

With such a short preparation ahead of the first regular season clash with the Western Force in Sydney on February 25, Gibson believes there’s no better way to bring his side together than a trip to wine country –not that his side will be sampling muchsauv blanc.

“We see the trip to Mudgee as a real pivotal part of the season in terms of the foundations of our team and setting all our goals and values for the year,” Gibson said, entering his second year as coach of the Tahs.

“The best way we’ve found to do that is on a week-long road trip that includes Mudgee and other local communities in the area and the central west.

“It’s a really big part of our pre-season campaign. The great thing is we’ve got a number of players with country origin, so it’s good that we’ve out supporting them and their area.”

NSW Waratahs are deep into their pre-season summer slog, but won’t boast the likes of Wallabies guns Israel Folau and Michael Hooper until after Christmas.

Initially, Gibson remained coy about the chances of one, if notboth playing at Glen Willow come February 4.

But given the ACT Brumbies have already indicated most of their best XV will get a run in the season-opener,Gibson saidhis two highest profile players are in contention to play in Mudgee.

HAPPY CAMPERS: NSW Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson (left) and Israel Folau (right) are confident a strong camp in the central west will propel the two blues into a strong Super Rugby campaign. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

“They’ll definitely be on the trip …we’ll be taking it easy with them, but I know the Brumbies have indicated a lot of their players may start the game,” Gibson said.

“But it’s probably more likely the players that are training with us now, this is a good opportunity for them.

“But certainly a number of our guys that were on the spring tour will play.”

Gibson said his squad could already feel the love from the wider Mudgee community –with a stack of the Tahs’ best, including Wallaby prop Tom Robertson and rising lock Neg Hanigan, both from Dubbo, hailing from the far reaches of the central west region.

“We’ve heard a lot of great things about the town and particularly impressed with how much they’ve gotten behind the game,” he said.

“It’s creating a lot of community interest and we’ve got a lot of good things organised. We’re looking forward to it.

“We’ve heard great things about the facility at Glen Willow, and we’re hoping we can fill it. That’d generate a great atmosphere.

“It’s important we make the most of the Mudgee game.”

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