Road to RemembranceSportsmen play the game

NEW TEST: The AIF Forces cricket team in 1919 included future Test players Bert Oldfield, Jack Gregory, Herbie Collins, Nip Pellew and Johnny Taylor. PHOTO: AWM D00685Today’s sportcoaches risk criticism if they equate sport with sacrifice in war, yet 100 years ago recruiting campaigns actively linked the two in an effort to encourage enlistment.

In 1917 ns were urged to join the Sportsmen’s 1000 and fight on the Western Front with the promise that they would train together, embark together and fight together.

Posters featured Victoria Cross recipient Albert Jacka whose physical prowess and skills as a boxer were said to be central to his celebrated status as a fighting soldier.

They even borrowed the famous words ‘Play up! play up! and play the game!’ from the 1897 English war poem Vitai Lampada by Sir Henry Newbolt, a school friend of British Field Marshal Douglas Haig.

The n War Memorial says the campaign to enlist sportsmen was fuelled by a strong belief that by playing sport young men developed specific skills and qualities that could be used on the battlefield.

Rowers were urged to ‘pull together to victory,’ sailors to ‘weather the storm,’ and golfers to ‘take their caddy and enlist.’

CALL-UP: A recruitment poster featured a likeness of VC winner Albert Jacka. PHOTO: AWM ARTV05616

In fact, from the early months of the First World War, thousands of ns who had excelled across many sports, were potential champions or played club sport joined up.

Five young cricketers who survived the war went on to play a total of 127 Tests from their debuts in 1920-21.

They were 15th Field Ambulance stretcher bearer Bert Oldfield, Field Artillery Lieutenant Jack Gregory, 27th Battalion Captain Nip Pellew, 10th Army Service Corps Lance-Corporal Herbie Collins and 101st Battery gunner Johnny Taylor.

One wonders what Hay-born, Waverley batsman Norman Callaway could have achieved in the game if he was not killed by a shell at Bullecourt in 1917, aged 21.

Months before enlisting in 1916, Callaway played his only first class innings for NSW, scoring an amazing 207 in 214 minutes and winning praise that he was ‘like Trumper.’

Tom ‘Rusty’ Richards, born at Vegetable Creek near Tenterfield, was a 1908 Olympic rugby gold medallist and is the only n to have played for both the Wallabies and British Lions.

The London Times wrote: “If ever the Earth had to select a rugby football team to play Mars, Tom Richards would be the first player chosen.”

Richards joined up in August 1914 and recorded acutely observed entries about the brutality and humanity of the front lines in his leather-bound diary.

About 100 Victorian Football League players died in WWI including Ballarat-born, Geelong Team of the Century halfback Joe Slater at Bullecourt; Launceston and Carlton premiership champion George Challis at Armentieres; and Fitzroy and Victorian captain Jack Cooper at Polygon Wood.

Champion swimmer and 15th Battalion Lieutenant Cecil Healy was among 40 past and future n Olympians to enlist.Healy is the only n Olympic Gold medallist to die in battle – when he was killed by machine gun fire near Peronne in August, 1918.


Road to RemembranceFragile traces of the past

HOME FRONT: An n Comforts Fund photograph of a Miss Coll knitting socks direct from a sheep’s fleece. PHOTO: AWM H02438 Leslie Russell Blake was a talented young surveyor and geologist who had been on Douglas Mawson’s Antarctic expedition before he left Gympie for the Western Front in 1916.

During the Somme offensiveBlake used his skills to great effect, earning the Military Cross for ‘conspicuous and continual gallantry’ in making a detailed survey, under heavy fire, of the n front line from Pozières to Mouquet Farm.

Wounded several times in France, Blake was promoted captain in 1918. Hit by shrapnel at Hargicourt, he died, aged 27, only 39 days before the war ended.

Blake is one of an estimated 2000 n soldiers whose dated signatures, unit numbers and birthplaces, scribbled in lead pencil, cover the tunnel walls of Naours Cave, 20kms from Amiens in northern France.

Soldiers visited the underground city when resting or convalescing before returning to battle.

French archeological researchers are identifying the soldiers and uncovering the stories behind this Great War graffiti in a multi-year project.

Archeologist Gilles Prilaux writes in The Silent Soldiers of Naours that “the fragile traces left by these n soldiers is a poignant testimony because many of them died a few days later in the hell of the trenches of the Somme.

“I imagine these warriors from the other end of the world… in small groups walking silently through the darkness of the underground labyrinth.”

Visitors to Naours Cave in 1916 included Hobart schoolmaster Captain Ivor Margetts, Perth frame maker Sergeant William Police and Lismore-born labourer Private Raymond Dorrough.

Margetts was killed at Pozières while Police and Dorrough, who were both taken prisoner at Bullecourt on April 11, 1917, returned home and lived long lives.

Not far away from Naours Cave is the village of Vignacourt, a staging point, casualty clearing station and recreation area for the troops.

It was here that soldiers visited the photo studio of farmers Louis and Antoinette Thuillier to have postcards made with their images to send home.

The n War Memorial’s exhibition of 74 Thuillier photographs, Remember me: the lost diggers of Vignacourt, will travel to Warwick, Murray Bridge, Bundaberg and Cowra in 2018.

Soldiers of the n Imperial Force (AIF) serving on the Western Front from 1916 to 1918 spent lengthy periods of time in training as well as on recreation, sports competitions, visiting local villages, writing letters to loved ones, and rest in temporary billets.

Away from the frozen battlefields, soldiers welcomed gifts from the n Comforts Fund (ACF) – wool socks, balaclavas and scarves or a hot drink at ACF canteens as they left the lines exhausted.

New socks helped in deterring the menace of trench foot and ACF volunteers hand-knitted 1,354,328 pairs, along with hundreds of thousands of other woollen garments that were sent to n soldiers in Europe.

Historian Peter Burness in ns at the Great War says behind the lines in France “hundreds of men were often accommodated in a village’s barns, stables and lofts.

“Some centres had longed-for warm baths, delousing facilities and laundries …”

Sergeant Ted Rule of the 14th Battalion wrote of the lice that plagued soldiers in the line: “The chats (lice) attacked in massed formation … under the armpits, the crutch, and round the knees and the waistline.”

Soldiers were also entertained by concert troupes, such as the Anzac Coves, which 100 years ago was rehearsing near Ypres for its Christmas pantomime Dick Whittington.

ns were paid more than British soldiers and inevitably many spent some on two-up and other forms of gambling.

On July 22, 1918, at Allonville in France, a crowd estimated by Lieutenant-Colonel Arthur Hyman as 11,000 attended “a real n race meeting … held under the very eyes of the Boche … to give the boys a ‘slap up’ happy day, because for weeks past there had been nothing but strife and strafing.”

Hyman borrowed a huge butcher’s scale to weigh the jockeys and says two officers were killed in the first race but “we were able to keep the fact from the crowd …”

Not all soldiers punted their pay – 20th Battalion Private Leicester Johnson wrote: “Can’t understand why some chaps can be such goats as to waste their hard earned wages in this manner.”

Getting drunk and other undisciplined – even illegal – behaviors also went on behind the lines, where military police were occupied finding men who had gone absent without leave and deserters.

ns, alone among the Great War armies, were fortunate to escape execution as a military punishment for the crime of desertion.

Historian Dr Peter Stanley, in Bad Characters, says about 350 British soldiers faced the firing squad but Section 98 of ’s Defence Act meant that the AIF refused to allow its men to be executed.

However, Stanley says the AIF’s rate of absence and desertion in mid-1917 was four times greater than other divisions of the British Forces.

The Road to Remembrance is published by Fairfax Media in partnership with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.


Saltwater at Fingal Bay opens December 23 2017 at surf club

SALTWATER: Port Stephens Council’s Ian Crawford and Sean Fox, with Saltwater’s Kylie Phillips and David PollardFOOD will hit Fingal Bay surf club again from tomorrow.

New operators David Pollard and Kylie Phillips will open Saltwater Fingal Bay at the iconic surf club on Saturday following a council-run expressions of interest call on behalf of Fingal Bay surf life saving club.

Fairfax Media reported in June last year that a lease dispute had closed the club’s restaurantOcean View after nearly four years.

Port Stephens Council contract and services coordinator Ian Crawford lauded the result.”We’ve searched far and wide for top quality restauranteurs to lease the vacant restaurant atFingalBeach SLSC, and I’m ecstatic to say we found the best people for the job locally,” Mr Crawford said.

“David and Kylie moved to the Tomaree Peninsula in 2011 and were operating the Salamander Tavern Bistro and the Anna Bay Tavern.

“With 44 years of experience in restaurants and hotels between them, including restaurants like Rockpool and Opera Bar, we think that they’ve got the knowledge and the vision to make SaltwaterFingalBay a very special place for locals and visitors.”

Mr Pollard said the restaurant would have a modern n menu geared towards pleasing both locals and visitors.“Most importantly, we’re focused on serving quality fresh food that is affordable and tastes great,” he said.“We’re also excited to offer functions in this beautiful space with panoramic views of the coast.”

Fingal Beach surf club’s director of business services Gary Fleming said the club was “extremely happy” with the end result.“Due diligence has been done and we believe we’ve found an operator that the whole community can get behind,” he said.“We should be creating opportunities, not waiting for them to come to us.”


Santa visits Newcastle Airport

Santa drops in to Newcastle Airport | PHOTOS, POLL Coming to Town: Santa gives a wave from a jet at Newcastle Airport. “It’s not as fast as my sled,” he said. Picture: Marina Neil.

Santa at Newcastle Airport. Picture: Marina Neil.

Santa goes through a security checkpoint at Newcastle Airport. Picture: Marina Neil.

Santa at Newcastle Airport with Virgin pilot David Lontos. Picture: Marina Neil.

Santa takes some time for himself on the runway. Careful there, big fella. Picture: Marina Neil.

Santa at Newcastle Airport. Picture: Marina Neil.

Santa at Newcastle Airport. Picture: Marina Neil.

TweetFacebookTopics: What did you think of the plane?

Santa: It’s good, but not as fast as my sled.

Topics: Do you smoke?

Santa: No way, it’s bad for my elf.

Topics: What do you think of the troublemakers who say you don’t exist?

Santa: That’s fake news.

Topics: How do you deliver presents to all the world’s kids in one night?

Santa: No comment.

A Christmas PoemTopics feels very n at Christmas.

The Minmi Magster.

Bob “Minmi Magster” Skelton does, too. Mind you, we reckon the Magster feels very n most of the time.

He’s Aussie through and through.

The renowned bush poetthought he’d shared this poem with the Hunter’speople.

It’s titled White Christmas in .

‘Tis Christmas time around theworld

And how lucky we are to be

In this great landthey call Down Under

Also known as thelucky country

Golden beaches flankour endless shores

With beautifulheadlands in between

While to thewest the range’s rise

Dressed in eucalypts,talland green.

Cicadas dronefrom their treetop home

Small insectshum and croon

While cheeky kookaburras

Chuckle a happy laughing tune.

The bees are buzzing in the trees

In white blossomfull in bloom

Their hidden hivesin thehollow limbs

WiIl be stacked with sweet honey soon.

Suburban streets are aglow with coloured lights

Nativity scenes are everywhere

‘Tis a time to bewithfamily and friends

The Christmas spiritto enjoy and share.

Inland, the sun beats down on dry parched ground

Where sheep and cattle graze

As thecolour of the ranges

Turn bluethrough thedistant haze.

There may benoscenes of ice or snow

From our coast to thefar outback

Yet thescent and sightof beautiful gumblossomwhite

Surelycompensatesfor that.

Meanwhile, our Southern Crossis gleaming

Over this great land we hold so dear

Now have a safe and peaceful Christmas

And a prosperous, bonzer new year.

Best Christmas PhotoWe’ve seen loads of photos with Santa this Christmas.

Summah and Kaden Mclennan on Stockton beach, high-fiving Santa.

This one, taken by Little Handprints Photography, has to be the best.

It features Beresfield’s Summah and Kaden Mclennan giving Santa a high-five onStockton beach.

[email protected]苏州楼凤.au


‘Tested positive’: Chinan drug suspect in Bali is ‘sorry’

The mother of drug suspect n Isaac Roberts is guided into a car wearing a maroon shawl over her head after visiting her son in the police cell.Picture: Amilia Rosa

Bali: n accountant Isaac Emmanuel Roberts, detained in Bali on drug allegations, is “feeling guilty and sorry to the Indonesian government” according to one of his lawyers.

Roberts, 35, received several visits at the police station where he is being detained on Wednesday, including one from his mother, who was helped into a car with a maroon shawl over her head in an attempt to avoid the media pack.

“He is feeling guilty, he is feeling sorry to the Indonesian government,” lawyer Yoga Cahyadi said. “Careful, she’s elderly,” he remonstrated to the shoving media pack as he guided Roberts’ mother into the car.

Roberts was arrested on December 4 after he was allegedly caught with 19.97 grams of crystal meth, which Indonesians call shabu, and 14 ecstasy tablets at Bali’s international airport.

Under article 113 of Indonesia’s strict drug laws the maximum punishment for importing more than five grams of illegal narcotics into the country is the death penalty.

However the punishment is considerably lighter if the person only intended the drugs for personal use.

Roberts’ legal team has already emphasised that he is a drug user who has a history of depression, past trauma and suicidal tendencies.

Asked about the legal strategy for Roberts given he had said the drugs were for personal use but he was being detained under an importation article, another of his lawyers, Edward Pangkahila, said: “We can’t talk about it now. It’s too early.”

Cahyadi said Roberts, who was hospitalised for a couple of days after his arrest to allow him to detox, was “feeling better”. “He’s cooperative with the process and nothing is problem.”

Roberts is an award-winning accountant who stood for former Treasurer Peter Costello’s blue-ribbon seat of Higgins, in Melbourne, in the 2009 by-election.

His candidate profile said he worked as a Chartered Accountant with a large Melbourne accounting firm and regularly provided advice on tax policy and legislation to large private companies.

“His specific areas of interest include civil liberties and freedom, energy policy and climate change, immigration, LGBT rights, welfare policy and taxation,” his profile at the time said.

But a friend, who met Roberts on the gay party scene in Sydney about four and a half years ago, told Fairfax Media he had grown increasingly concerned as the accountant became increasingly fragile.

“He had a real meth habit, he would have been taking a gram per day,” he said. “He was hyper vulnerable, a real shadow of his former self.

“He’s super sweet, ultra sensitive and very challenged with the life he’s found himself in.”

Roberts’ told the media after a dramatic press conference, in which he and two other alleged drug felons wore balaclavas and were guarded by armed customs officers, that he was “just a f???.g addict”.

He claimed he was invited to Indonesia by someone who was working with the customs officer and “they knew I was going to bring something”.

Customs officer Husni Syaiful denied this.

The deputy director of narcotics at Bali police, Sudjarwoko, said Roberts had not mentioned anything about a set-up during the police investigation.

“A suspect can say anything they want or nothing all together. It’s their right,” he said.

Sudjarwoko said any drugs that passed through an X-ray machine would be detected. “That’s how he was caught.”

Asked if Roberts had separated the drugs into several containers, including a condom box, to avoid detection, Sudjarwoko said it was his intention to hide the drugs to pass through inspection.

The narcotics deputy director said Roberts had used drugs just before he left for Bali and they were still in his system when he arrived.

“His urine tested positive for drugs,” Sudjarwoko said.

He said authorities had initially had to wait for drugs to be out of Roberts’ system before they could proceed with the investigation.

“He was still being observed [on Tuesday], he was scheduled for a check up, he wasn’t sick,” Sudjarwoko said.

“The investigation is done for now, there might be additional interrogations later. He has officially been named a suspect.”


Santa, the man behind the beard

Saint Nicholas, Saint Nick, KrisKringle, Father Christmas, orsimply Santa, this iconic characteris loved by children the world over. Secrecy has alwayssurrounded this international mega-star, so just who is behind the beard? Ruben Lewis, aged eight and a quarter, investigates.With just a few weeksto the busiest night of the year, Santa Claus takes abreak to answer some burning questions. There’s a reason Santa starts in the Pacific – the warm water …

Q: Is it true you only workone night a year?

A: The delivery part ofmy work takes 32 hours, but planning the logistics andoverseeing toy construction takes most of the year.

Q: What’s changing inyour workshop?

A: There is a lot more focus on occupational health and safety in the workplacethese days, We’ve seen a real decline in work-related injuries.

The elves can be a bit sillywith the hammers, if I don’t keep an eye on them.

Q: How many elves do you have working at the shop this Christmas?

A: 19,503 working inthree shifts so construction can continue all around the clock.

Q: What would you like to receive this Christmas?

A: For me, it really is thethought that counts rather than expensive gifts.

Q: Can you pick just one?

A: The Captain Underpants DVD would be super.

Q: Where do you deliverto first?

A: I start in the South Pacific, then New Zealand and . After that, I zoomup to Japan, over to Asia, across to Africa, then onto Western Europe, Canada,the United States, Mexico and Central and South America. I travel around 510,000,000km, so thankfully my reindeer are supersonicand there’s no traffic jams.

Q: What do you do if a house hasn’t got a chimney?

A: I do have a magic key, although Rudolph’s very helpful at opening windows.

Q: How do you decide who is naughty or nice?

A: There are millions of children the world over, so I can’t monitor every child atevery moment. We do spot checks of course, but to get an accurate reading we usea highly convoluted mathematical equation. I won’tbore you with the detail, but it includes monitoring your carers for increases in greyhair. Helping with chores gets factored in, too.

Then I make a list andcheck it twice.

Q: Um, have I madethe cut?

A: Certainly looks very promising Ruben, but in the last few weeks there is stilleverything to play for. Brush your teeth, go to bed on time and be kind to yourbrother and you’ll enjoy a very merry Christmas.

Q: Is it true you knowmy Grandma?

A: Yes.

Thanks Santa, and good luck for your big night.


Catching a break: $750,000 upgrade, new cafe for Dixon Park surf club

Upgrade, new cafe for Dixon Park surf club WELCOME FIX: Dixon Park member Lisa Wright at the club on Thursday. Picture: Marina Neil

THE PLAN: Architect QOH’s vision for the surf club upgrade is designed to improve the area’s social atmosphere.

Lisa Wright, Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter Scot MacDonald and lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes with Dixon Park nippers on Thursday.

TweetFacebookA $750,000 upgrade and new cafe next door will transform Dixon Park surf club.

The state government ($350,000), Newcastle City Council ($250,000) and the surf club ($150,000) will fund new accessible toilets, updated women’s and men’s change rooms, a kitchenette and storage space.

“I’m especially looking forward to the new female change rooms and also the gym being located separately from the men’s toilets,” club member and national beach sprint champion Lisa Wright said at Thursday’s funding announcement.

“And I’m hoping that will help us attract and maintain more female members.”

Architect Tim Blackall said the upgrade had been designed to improve Dixon Park’s social atmosphere.

“The new works will utilise the eastern colonnade and adjacent lawn as club and community space and build on its popularity as a social hub,” Mr Blackall, of QOH Architects, said.

The first floor at the southern end of the building will be developed at a later stage and include a large community room and kitchen.

Meanwhile, the site of an old brick storage building beside the surf clubcar park could house a cafe by next summer, although the council has not decided whether to refurbish or demolish it.

The old storage shed at Dixon Park could be a cafe by next summer.

Lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes said the council would soon call for expressions of interest to run the cafe, which overlooks the beach, a park, playground and dog-walking area.She said the council often fielded unsolicited interest in leasing the storage building as a cafe.

“It’s always been identified as a really good option, particularly as it’s right next to the park area,” she said.

Money from the council’s cafe leases, including at Merewether, Nobbys, Bar Beach and Newcastle ocean baths, is used to maintain Bathers Way and beaches.

The council has attracted some criticism for removing public change rooms atNobbys surf club, but Cr Nelmes said that decision was based on community consultation.

“If genuinely people want us to remove toiletsand put in a change room, we can do that, but it does mean we lose four toilets, and all the feedback was there wasn’t enough toilets,” she said.

“It’s a heritage building, so you can’t add onto it or change it too much.”

She said the next phase of the $1 million upgrade would includechange rooms for people with accessibility issues and parents with young children.


CCTV captured the moments before and after horrific bashing

A Rebels bikie and two of the gang’s “nominees” have joined their local enforcer behind bars accused of the bashing murder of former associate Clint Starkey.

Heavily armed police joined Strike Force Bartondale detectives in a series of Central Coast raids on Thursday before taking the three men – two aged 25 and one aged 29 – into custody.

The trio – one a fully patched Rebel member – were all charged with murder on Thursday night and will face Gosford Local Court on Friday.

A Rebels bikie and two of the gang’s “nominees” have joined their local enforcer behind bars accused of the bashing murder of former associate Clint Starkey. Photo: NSW Police

It followed the arrest of fellow Rebel, Adam David Symons, the sergeant-at-arms of the gang’s Peninsula chapter, on October 30.

It is alleged Mr Starkey, who was once a close associate of the Rebels, had had a falling out with members involving a woman.

Mr Starkey had been picked up by a friend and driven to a service station before midnight before he was bashed and later dumped at Gosford Hospital.

He was flown to Royal North Shore Hospital and died more than two months later after never regaining consciousness.

Closed circuit television footage shows the moments before and after the brutal attack on Mr Starkey.

The footage shows the car carrying Mr Starkey park away from bowsers before three men approach from the shadows and near each side of the vehicle.

The video cuts out before one of the men pulls Mr Starkey from the passenger seat and the attack commences.

Detectives believe Mr Starkey was punched and kicked for almost a minute before he was bundled into a car and dropped off at Gosford Hospital, close to death.

The four murder accused have also joined three other men who have been charged over smaller roles in the attack.

Two men were charged on October 10 with hindering a police investigation.

Detectives believe others were called to help clean the crime scene and further arrests are expected.


It’s a pet’s life: Newcastle’s short-term pet accommodation fully booked over Christmas

LUXURY LIFE: Leesa Bathgate’s Newcastle Cat Stay is a top-of-the-range cat hotel and will house around 25 cats over Christmas. Picture: Marina Neil.n pet owners arespending up to $34.6 million on short-term accommodation for their petsover the Christmas break, research reveals.

According to a survey of over 1100 cat and dog owners conducted by financial comparison company Finder, 43 per cent of pet owners were planning on heading away this Christmas.

Equating to approximately “865,000 cats and dogs”, Finder insurance expert Bessie Hassan said the difficulty in taking pets away made short-term accommodation a popular option.

“The majority of airlines and cruises don’t allow animals, so in many cases it’s easier to send them to a pet resort or a kennel rather than to take them on holidays,” Ms Hassan said.

“However this can be expensive so it’s important to weigh up your options.”

Read more: Don’t forget your pets this summer, NSW vet warns

While pet accommodation has been available for decades, the industry has seen a boom in recent years and many services now prefer to be known as a pet hotelor resort.

Former president of Hunter Animal Rescue Jaimie Abbott, who uses short-term pet accommodation for her two dogs “five or six times a year”, believes pet owner’slove for their animals has driven the growth.

“People treat their pets like their kids these days,” she said. “They go away, they want peace of mind;if their pets have medication they want aprofessional to administer those.“It’s a bit of a burden [leaving them with friends or family].”

Pets on vacation over holiday break | PHOTOS Picture: Marina Neil.

Picture: Marina Neil.

Picture: Marina Neil.

Picture: Marina Neil.

Picture: Marina Neil.

TweetFacebookRead more:What happens when couples with pets break up

Proving just how popular the residences are, Leanne Morris opened Hunter Dog Centre in Gateshead in mid-December and is completely booked out despite minimal advertising before opening.

“It’s no different to everybody else, we’re completely booked out till January,” Mrs Morris said.

“We’re still turning people away, we’ve still got people ringing each day looking for stuff over the Christmas break.

“We’ve got 32 rooms and we only book dogs together if they’re from the same family.

“We’ll have about 45 dogs over Christmas.”

Hunter Dog Centre owner Leanne Morris

A former police dog handler who worked with sniffer dogs during the Sydney Olympics, Mrs Morris shares similar thoughtsregarding pet owners increasing use of the facilities.

“People are becoming more aware about pets needs and we’re probably getting a lot busier as a society,” she said.

“With people working longer hours, they’re wanting their dogs to come and have that human interaction.

“With houses, yards are getting smaller too. It’s definitely a growing industry.”

In a further indication of the country’s love of pets, Animal Medicines claims $4.2 billion was spent onpet food in 2016, up 35% since 2013.

Another $1.09 billion was spent on pet products and accessories.

Read more: Getting pets home for holidays


Sanchez primed for derby dramas, if he gets the chance

Football Federation , the police and the AAMI Park security staff would almost certainly hate it.

Raucous fans singing, chanting and dancing in the aisles, declaring love for their team but excoriating their opponents with the worst insults they can think of.

Supporters with lovingly created banners full of symbolism, style and wit.

And flares going off to provide a smoke-filled background to a pyro party the likes of which is rarely seen in this country.

Cue meltdown in the corridors of power.

But there is one man who wouldn’t be bothered by such a spectacle.

One man for whom such a tableau would provoke sentimental feelings of home.

One man for whom such scenes would provide inspiration to perform at a level beyond anything he has reached in his short time in .

Matias Sanchez, a veteran of numerous Buenos Aires derbies, would not be concerned should a handful of flares be let off or insulting chants be directed at him on Saturday night when Melbourne Victory takes on Melbourne City in the second derby of the season.

Well, he won’t be worried, if he is in the starting line-up.

With the return from injury of Mark Milligan, there is no guarantee Sanchez – who was in the team for Victory’s win over Brisbane last weekend – will retain his place. After all, Milligan is a pillar of the midfield, one of the first names in coach Kevin Muscat’s starting line-up when he’s available.

But Sanchez, who has made four starts for Victory since joining in the off-season (and five more appearances off the bench) is ready if called upon.

“I wish to start but I don’t know. Kevin has to make a decision, I am fit to start,” he said on Thursday.

“We have a lot of players, its a big group, a good group. To win the championship you need a group, not just 11 players. We are a very good group, and when I have my opportunity I demonstrate what I can do.”

And what about those riotous smoke-filled scenes, which are rarely seen in .

In Argentina they give derby games – of which there are many in Buenos Aires – a special edge.

“I played for Racing against Independiente, Temperley against Banfield and Estudiantes against Gimnasia,” Sanchez said.

“It’s an amazing feeling. The fans are very passionate, they always singing, with flags, fire, it’s very crazy, so I wish a lot of this derby.

“It’s not scary. You feel the pressure, but when you go on the pitch you always want to win, so you have to concentrate.

“Here the Victory fans are very exciting, I can feel them. I would prefer this, it’s always important for us as we feel their support.”

Sanchez, who was part of the Estudiantes squad that won the Copa Libertadores, the South American equivalent of the Champions League in 2009, says the standard in is good, but he won’t make comparisons with his native country.

“On the field the football is a little bit different if you compare it with Argentina, it’s different, not good not bad … you always play forward. It’s faster than Argentina, it’s good quality. The MLS [where he spent a year with Columbus Crew] is similar.”