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Local News - Victoria

Light show’s a no-go in the Boulevard of broken Christmas dreams


Each December for more than 50 years, people have flocked to The Boulevard, in Melbourne’s north-east, to walk or drive past dozens of lit-up houses.

Authorities provide traffic management, public toilets and first aid.

Christmas past: Festive cheer at The Boulevard in Ivanhoe.

Christmas past: Festive cheer at The Boulevard in Ivanhoe.Credit:Wayne Hawkins

The cancellation follows a string of 2020 festive season events being affected by the pandemic. Carols by Candlelight at Sidney Myer Music Bowl will proceed without a live audience, and many suburban and rural Christmas concerts will go online.

However, the City of Melbourne intervened to help save the Myer Melbourne Christmas window.

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A long-time resident of The Boulevard, Jennifer Bell, 71 – whose late father Harry Rizzetti founded the Christmas lights event in the mid-1960s with neighbour George Whitelaw – said while she understood the council was “trying to do the right thing”, she was disappointed.

She and husband Bob recently sold their house and are moving out in February.

“This is our last Christmas here and we were hoping it was going to be a good one, although with corona it was always a bit of a worry,” she said.

“It’s disappointing for everybody. From all over Melbourne, for so many people, part of their Christmas activities is to go past and look at all the homes lit up with the beautiful decorations.”

Mrs Bell said the council had consulted residents, but a letter notifying them of the cancellation “didn’t say anything about not being allowed to put your lights up”.

She said Melburnians who do not live in a specialised Christmas-light streets put up decorations, “so we’re going ahead and doing it”.

Lights at The Boulevard.

Lights at The Boulevard.Credit:Rebecca Hallas

The council statement said: “COVID-19 has affected how we work, live and gather. We have all needed to adapt to various restrictions and altered events, and Boulevard Lights 2020 is no exception.

“We understand that the event is loved by many, however, the safety of our community is our priority.”

Banyule mayor Rick Garotti said he and the other newly elected councillors did not decide on the cancellation. But assessments would have started months ago and council management had “made the right call in terms of what’s a COVID-safe approach”.

Cr Garotti pointed out that crowds would have exceeded the state government ruling on Sunday that only up to 50 people are allowed to gather in public. The Premier may raise that limit in December.

Cr Garotti said The Boulevard’s Christmas lights were “a treasure”. He has been going since he was 10 years old, and last year brought his two-year-old daughter and eight-year-old nephew.

“It’s part of the excitement of Christmas.”

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Impossible Christmas suddenly possible as restrictions ease


“Each of us playing our part to make sure that we protect public health, that we value and protect this precious thing that we have built … It’s incredibly valuable, but it is fragile. And even though these rules are important changes, this virus is not gone.”

Restrictions could ease further before the end of the year, with the Premier flagging ongoing reviews of the state’s coronavirus restrictions, which also include offices returning to 25 per cent capacity, more patrons in cafes and restaurants, universities and TAFE resuming classes and up to 150 people at weddings and funerals.

It’s definitely really exciting not to have to wear a mask. It feels like you are one step closer to freedom.

Zahra Abbass

Some epidemiologists told The Age the state government should consider bringing more people back to offices and increasing gathering size and venue limits ahead of its next review of restrictions on December 6.

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton declared on Sunday he was confident community transmission of coronavirus in the state had now ceased, with no COVID-19 deaths or infections for 23 days.

“That will be an ongoing risk until there is a substantial rollout of vaccines across the world, and that is some months away, at least six months,” Professor Sutton said.

“And we’re not going to get full coverage of vaccinations for all of our international arrivals for an even longer period of time, so we just have to be mindful of these things that we’re going to have in place: distancing, use of masks, hand hygiene, cough etiquette. They are our insurance policy for any incursion that may happen into the future.”

Premier Daniel Andrews thanked Victorians for their efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Premier Daniel Andrews thanked Victorians for their efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19. Credit:Chris Hopkins

The reversal of the state’s fortunes follows a second wave of coronavirus that claimed the lives of almost 800 people, infected more than 20,000 and cost the economy billions of dollars after the virus was transmitted into the community by guards working on the state’s hotel quarantine scheme for international travellers.

Quarantine settings were again the subject of intense national debate on Sunday, with one of the federal government’s top infection control advisers joining growing calls for the federal government to consider a system where quarantine facilities are placed away from heavily populated areas.

Earlier on Sunday, South Australia’s Opposition Leader urged the state government to put an end to its “medi-hotel” program after an outbreak that began at a quarantine hotel forced the state into a strict six-day lockdown.

Under the new changes to restrictions announced in Victoria on Sunday, indoor religious gatherings have been capped at 150, while up to 300 people will be allowed at outdoor religious ceremonies. And 150 guests will be permitted at weddings and funerals, with a maximum density of one person per four square metres.

Workers will be allowed to return to their offices in limited numbers, although public servants will continue working from home to reduce the number of people travelling to the city. Patron limits on hospitality venues will be increased and higher education students and staff can return to campus.

Zahra Abbass, 25, has spent a lot of time wearing a mask throughout the pandemic, due to her work as a receptionist. She said it would be a relief to know she could go outside for a walk and take it off.

“It’s definitely really exciting not to have to wear a mask. It feels like you are one step closer to freedom in a way, even though the pandemic is not going to end any time soon. There is that sense of relief that you are one step closer,” she said.

The state’s powerful business lobby group, the Victorian Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the government’s announcements.

“It’s beginning to feel a lot like Victoria again and what a fantastic announcement for businesses today, and effectively with the announcements today, every business can get on with doing what they love best,” said chief executive Paul Guerra.

“We look forward to [caps on venues] being scrapped, but for now it’s appropriate. While we’ve done a great job at suppressing this virus, we’re seeing in other states how easily it can come back. So, you know, the limit of 150 is more than what everyone thought we were going to get, so fabulous on the government for bringing that forward.”

Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien welcomed the latest easing of restrictions, but said more rules could have been safely rolled back. He queried the government’s “arbitrary” cap on venues and the decision to prevent public servants from returning to the office.

“It’s been such a long road, it’s been a tough winter, it’s been a tough spring,” he said. “Victorians deserve the announcements that were made today.”

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The Islamic Council of Victoria and Anglican Diocese of Melbourne broadly welcomed the changes to religious gatherings and ceremonies, but urged the government to consider scrapping the cap on venues, arguing places of worship were generally big buildings where people wear masks and can social distance.

ICV vice-president Adel Salman said: “We’re happy about the lifting of restrictions, but we see there’s opportunity to improve things. We definitely appreciate that we’re now allowed 150 indoors, and I think that’s great.”

Bishop Paul Barker said: “You can go to a restaurant to eat without a mask, people often talking a bit loudly, droplets going across the tables. In places of worship, we wear masks and we observe social distancing. We still think the government is not treating people with the utmost fairness.”

Some epidemiologists also suggested limits on venues could be reviewed.

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Professor Catherine Bennett said she would like the focus to shift to increasing the number of workers who can return to the office, and she is advocating for the scrapping of venue caps in favour of density limits when the government reviews restrictions on December 6.

“We know with this virus, the cycle is essentially between workplaces and homes … so that’s where most of the spread happens,” Professor Bennett said. “We want to get people back to work. Holding back on further home visits helps contain this idea of potential outbreaks because you’re just breaking some of those cycles where the virus transmits.”

La Trobe University’s Hassan Vally said: “I guess once we have satisfied the epidemiological criteria for elimination of the virus, the next lot of relaxation of restrictions should see us move to what COVID-normal will be until we have the vaccine.

“For example, this would involve moving towards allowing gathering sizes that we are happy balances risks with benefits, and allowing other ‘high-risk’ places like pubs and gyms to operate in a more viable way. I think mask-wearing where social distancing is not able to occur is here to stay for some time.”

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Professor Tony Blakely said the more Victoria reopened its economy and increased social gatherings, “the more we are a tinder box like Western Australia, where if the virus got in, it would just go boom”.

“I doubt we’ll be opening up the MCG – I think 25 per cent is about as much as we’ll get. With restaurants, I suspect the easing – two square metres per person – I think that’s as far as it will go. This is how we’re going to be functioning going forward,” he said.

The Burnet Institute’s Mike Toole said the changes were “sensible”, but he remained “nervous” about increasing the number of visitors allowed in homes to 15, and then 30 from mid-December.

“My principle is gradual, gradual, gradual … I’ve no way of being able to differentiate on the effects 25 per cent of workers returning to the office versus 40 per cent, it’s impossible to model at this stage, but keeping public servants out of the office is a good idea.”

Professor Adrian Esterman, chair of biostatistics at the University of South Australia, said he found it unusual the Premier had decided to relax mask-wearing rules.

“[It] is a bit strange because they are one of the low-hanging fruit that is easy to use and does not cost the economy,” Professor Esterman said.

“They are cheap. I’m not quite sure why they would suggest people don’t wear them at least for another week.”

With Simone Fox Koob

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Australian News

‘One-off’ virus rules for Christmas, New Year’s


The silly season might look more normal than expected, with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian hinting there will be “one-off exemptions” in coronavirus rules for annual events in the lead up to Christmas.

Ms Berejiklian told reporters yesterday that while the next big milestone for her state is reopening its border to Victoria on November 23, but mentioned additional activities could be granted exemption from restrictions in the near future.

Anyone already planning their holiday gatherings should, however, observe the COVID-19 restrictions currently in place, she said.

“We’re always looking at opportunities to make life easier for our citizens, but we need to be mindful that with additional gatherings during the summer period, it is a riskier environment,” she said on Tuesday.

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“We are also looking to provide one-off exemptions for a lot of organisations who might be doing their annual event or some type of commemorative, religious or Christmas event.

Under the virus restrictions currently in place in NSW, up to 20 visitors are permitted to visit another household at any one time, while outdoor gatherings in public are capped at 30 people.

Anything beyond this, Ms Berejiklian said, should be considered as a “bonus”, adding that there were other options available than celebrating in your home.

“If you can afford it please consider supporting your local suburban restaurant … you can have 30 people to a booking,” she said.

“Obviously in your home it’s 20 so for those of us with large extended families, 20 doesn’t cut it. But all of us have to adjust.”

RELATED: New blow for Aussie Christmas flights

Ms Berejiklian also said health authorities are looking into what cultural events can go ahead over the summer, and whether events like Christmas carols and choirs will be allowed.

“We are very closely looking into what we can do over summer in relation to hospitality and the arts community,” she said.

At the end of October, National Cabinet revealed its road map to “COVID normal” by Christmas, with the final stage targeted at removing state border restrictions and free movement between areas with no community transmission.

“It’d be very familiar, I think to many, the reopening plan to get Australia open by Christmas of this year,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said at the time.

“Importantly, this plan not only details the opening of various activities within our economy (but) within our community and society.”



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Human Nature return to Australia to play Christmas show at Kings Park


Mark McGowan get out your pen and paper. Human Nature’s Andrew Tierney has a few special requests for when he quarantines for two weeks in a Perth hotel before the ARIA Hall of Famers play a Christmas concert to around 5000 fans at Kings Park on December 12.

“Just a window that you can open,” he said yesterday from Las Vegas, where the vocal quartet has lived and worked for the past 11 years.

“A personal trainer and a chef. And a keyboard,” Tierney added. “And a time machine so I can fast forward (the 14 days).”

Human Nature will permanently move home to Sydney after the Perth performance. While Phil Burton is already in NSW, the other three members — Tierney, his younger brother Michael and Toby Allen — will fly back to WA via Singapore in mid-November before starting quarantine.

Tierney said the “Naitch” jumped at the chance to play their first show since March 14, when they wrapped a seven-year residency at The Venetian.

But, of course, it wasn’t that simple. The 46-year-old singer revealed that flights out of the US were only confirmed on Monday and any more delays would have meant they had to pass on the concert, which is billed as Christmas in the Park.

The show will feature Human Nature’s hit Motown covers and songs from The Christmas Album, which has climbed back into the ARIA Top 10 every year since being released in 2013, plus latest pop single Nobody Just Like You.

“To come back to Perth, and Kings Park is just this beautiful venue, we’re thrilled that we could do that and make a start to the return of live entertainment in Australia,” Tierney said.

“Christmas is a joyful time but I think this year, more than ever, people are going to want to enjoy it and forget what’s been a fairly dark year. I heard a bit of Sinatra the other day, I can’t wait (for Christmas) this year. We can focus on something else, rather than what’s been such a struggle this year.”

The family-friendly singing sensations are now family men with six kids between them. Tierney said that spending every day for the past seven months with his wife Heather and daughter Violette, who turns four next month, had been the silver lining for a performer used to working five nights a week.

Tierney says this has been their longest break from the stage since they formed as the 4 Trax in Sydney more than 30 years ago.

“It’s been really bizarre, just crazy,” he said of Sin City’s shutdown. “The entertainment capital of the world just came to a complete standstill. The show we’ve been performing for 11 years ended. We’ve been holding our breath, really, trying to survive with our families and plan for what’s been an uncertain time and will be for a long time.

“Coming back to Australia to live permanently was not something we were thinking of as a group.”

Tierney doesn’t think they’re leaving Las Vegas forever. In Australia, acts have to travel long distances between capital city shows, while in the Nevada gambling and entertainment mecca, crowds come to you.

“Vegas has given us this amazing ability to perform as much as we did, and we still had the opportunity to come back and tour in Australia,” he said.

“As performers, it’s allowed us to become better at our craft every night. It’s almost like we’re trained athletes that could keep at our peak because we were doing it so often. There was no down season.”

Tierney points out that Human Nature arrived in Neon Capital during another societal rupture — the Global Financial Crisis.

“We got an opportunity because a lot of the shows moved out and there was an empty theatre in one of the casinos in the middle of the strip,” he explained, “and someone said ‘We’ll take a chance on these Aussies’.”

As Human Nature carved a career in the US, landing their residency at the Venetian in 2013, Las Vegas also became a destination for big-name residencies starring everyone from Britney Spears, Celine Dion and Elton John to Drake, Cardi B and Calvin Harris.

“Vegas has grown so much over the past 10 years,” Tierney reflected. “It’s changed from somewhere entertainers go to die to a place where you’d see J. Lo one week, then Sting and Backstreet Boys the next.

“It’s become this huge mecca of headliners. It’s been fun to be part of that.”

Currently, indoor venues in Nevada can host a maximum audiences of 250 people, socially distanced and 25m from the stage. With those restrictions, the show won’t go on and coming home to Oz seems the logical decision.

Even so, getting Human Nature to Kings Park has been a logistical nightmare for promoter Brad Mellen, who said organising the gig had taken him six months.

“In 30 years in the business, I’ve never experienced a process like it,” he said this week.

Mellen had to gain approvals from the Department of Home Affairs, WA Police and WA’s Chief Health Officer, plus a final sign-off from WA Health on the show and venue. Finding flights to Perth was even more tricky.

“The lengths that everyone has gone to, including and most importantly the act, who are prepared to fly here, quarantine for 14 days to play a show in Kings Park for their fans is enormous,” the promoter said.

“It’s a positive step for everyone here in WA,” Mellen added. “Let’s hope we can do many more.”

Nature is healing, it seems, and Tierney is happy to do “cold turkey” away from his family in a Perth hotel room — even if he does have a few special requests for the Premier.

“Maybe in this article you can say ‘Andrew is hoping the WA Government will really take care of the boys in quarantine’,” he laughed.

“That can be the headline maybe: Human Nature’s Christmas wishes are for a wonderful quarantine and concert at Kings Park.”

Human Nature play Kings Park on December 12, supported by 1927. Tickets go on sale on Monday October 26 from Ticketmaster.



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Arrivals could land in Melbourne by Christmas


International arrivals could land in Melbourne by Christmas, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has revealed.

The Premier has previously said it would “make no sense” to have international flights land in Melbourne until officials knew exactly why hotel quarantine failed the first time.

While maintaining international arrivals could still not come to Melbourne until the Board of Inquiry handed down its final report into the bungled scheme, Mr Andrews was confident a secure hotel quarantine program would be established by the end of the year.

“That is certainly our aim,” he said on Friday.

“We need to see the report and put in place arrangements that everybody can have confidence in and I think National Cabinet later this morning will talk about some of those issues.

“We know there are a significant number of Aussies who are overseas and want to be home by Christmas, and I’d very much like to have them flying direct into Melbourne.”

The hotel quarantine report is due in mid-November, but the inquiry was forced to call for another hearing and trawl through extra documents following conflicting evidence from key witnesses and the resignation of government officials.

But Mr Andrews was confident the final report would not be pushed back.

“I have no sense that that’s going to happen. I have no sense that they are going to take longer. They may. I just don’t think it is appropriate that we have flights landing before we’ve had a report into that very program,” he said.

It comes as more than 150 stranded Australians departed London this week bound for Darwin aboard the first Qantas international flight since June.

Among the 174 passengers to depart on the 787 Dreamliner on Thursday morning were many who had been waiting to leave the UK since the coronavirus pandemic took hold in March.

The flight, approved by the federal government, is the first of eight by Qantas – four from London and four out of India – to fly directly to Darwin before passengers are transferred to the nearby Howard Springs quarantine facility where they will spend 14 days.

Passengers had to pass a COVID-19 test before the flight and paid a flat rate of $2150 per economy class seat, while accommodation at the Howard Springs facility is $2500 per person.



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Local News - Victoria

Christmas shopping opening hours to be ‘staggered’ across stores


Christmas shopping will look different this year when the retail sector reopens, with the Andrews government flagging shopping centre sales could be staggered and spread out across different stores to safely meet demand.

The state government’s draft industry restart guidelines for the retail sector outline steps it will need to take ahead of moving to the third step on the road map, which was pencilled in for November 2, but could be brought forward to this Monday.

A very different picture: Shoppers pictured in Melbourne's CBD during last year's Christmas shopping rush.

A very different picture: Shoppers pictured in Melbourne’s CBD during last year’s Christmas shopping rush.Credit:Luis Enrique Ascui

The draft plan, obtained by The Age, says Melbourne retailers will be required to have a COVID-safe plan that addresses issues including face masks, physical distancing, cleaning, signs, and staff member “bubbles” before they reopen.

The government has proposed imposing extra guidelines on when customers will be allowed to shop in stores, to manage the volume and flow of people.



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Business

Christmas in November as retailers prepare for e-commerce rush


While events such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday have increased the number of Australians shopping online for presents in recent years, physical retailers still capture much of the spending in the weeks leading up to December 25. But not this year, says Mr Kogan.

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“With social distancing and all the precautions, people aren’t going to want to go into a crowded football stadium-like environment at their local shopping centre,” he said.

“So they’re going to be doing more and more purchasing online and Christmas sales are going to be shifting earlier and earlier into the year.”

This will mean October and November will be bigger than ever for retailers selling goods online, especially as lengthy shipping delays stoke fears of goods arriving on time. On Monday, Australia Post warned it this holiday season would be its busiest ever, and told shoppers to plan ahead.

Logistics operators, responsible for the distribution of goods ordered online, are also gearing up for a major pre-Christmas rush. Leigh Williams, managing director of third-party fulfilment company eStore Logistics, said he was forecasting demand to be as much as triple the usual.

“Typically each year we see an uptick of about 80 to 90 per cent leading into Black Friday and the festive period, but due to COVID and consumers shifting online, we’ve already seen that level of increase,” Mr Williams said.

Kogan.com CEO Ruslan Kogan is ready for the 'e-commerce Christmas'.

Kogan.com CEO Ruslan Kogan is ready for the ‘e-commerce Christmas’.

“We’re expecting another 50 to 100 per cent increase on what we’re already seeing for Christmas.”

In September, e-commerce orders grew by 51 per cent in New South Wales and 173 per cent in Victoria, Mr Williams said. Both he and Mr Kogan are expecting November will be a bigger month for sales than December due to this eye-watering increase in online demand.

However, while the online boom will be welcomed by retailers with well-established online presences, those more reliant on physical stores are concerned lockdowns and social distancing measures could diminish their sales.

Mark Rubbo, the managing director of Victorian bookstore chain Readings, usually sees 4000 people flow through his stores a day in the peak Christmas rush. This year, he’s calculated that number could be down to at most 1200 due to social distancing restrictions.

Readings books owner Mark Rubbo says it is imperative for Victorian lockdown measures to be relaxed by the end of October.

Readings books owner Mark Rubbo says it is imperative for Victorian lockdown measures to be relaxed by the end of October.Credit:Eddie Jim

Online will partially make up for the decline, but Mr Rubbo warned the profits were far lower, leaving the bookseller pessimistic about his outlook for the Christmas period. He too is pushing shoppers to start buying in November.

“We’re trying to encourage people to shop early because if we can shift the shopping and spread it out over November and early December, we might be able to get to somewhere similar [to last year],” he said.

However, these plans may be stymied by the continuing lockdown in Victoria, with Mr Rubbo calling on the state government to “be creative” and make sure plans were in place to allow retailers to reopen safely by the end of October.

“If they can’t let retail reopen by the end of October, it’s going to be a total disaster for the economy and for everyone’s wellbeing,” he said.

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New Zealand’s All Blacks to avoid Christmas in quarantine after change to Rugby Championship draw


The All Blacks will not spend Christmas in hotel quarantine after Rugby Australia (RA) and SANZAAR revised the Rugby Championship draw and brought forward the final Australia-New Zealand clash.

The Wallabies and All Blacks were due to meet in the last match of the tournament on December 12.

Under current New Zealand regulations, that would have meant the All Blacks would have to complete two weeks in quarantine that would take in Christmas.

There was talk of a potential boycott by New Zealand players if a solution was not found.

The teams will now square off in the Rugby Championship opener, which doubles as the third Bledisloe Cup Test, on October 31 at Sydney’s Olympic stadium.

The match between Argentina and South Africa, part of a double-header on December 12, has been relocated from the Olympic stadium to Newcastle to close out the seven-week tournament.

The remainder of the draw is otherwise unchanged, with the Wallabies and All Blacks meeting for a fourth time as part of a double-header in Brisbane on November 7.

South Africa’s participation remains to be confirmed, with its government still to approve international travel for the world champions.

A Wallabies player pushes past an All Black preparing to pass the ball.
The Wallabies and All Blacks will now meet in the Rugby Championship opener.(AAP: Dave Hunt)

SANZAAR chief executive Andy Marinos said the opening of a travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand had allowed organisers to make the changes.

He hinted that New Zealand Rugby (NZR) had been forced to foot some of the bill for the rescheduling.

“The opening of the travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand from New Zealand and an agreement by the parties on revised commercial outcomes has enabled the joint venture to consider alternative solutions in addressing our two key objectives of commercial viability and player welfare,” Marinos said.

“This year has been a year of continued adjustment where the SANZAAR partners have had to compromise on a number of levels.”

NZR chief executive Mark Robinson welcomed the decision.

“It is great news that we now have certainty on the draw and we’re really excited about the fantastic rugby to come,” Robinson said.

The Christmas quarantine stoush had kept tensions high between the trans-Tasman neighbours, with NZR claiming it never agreed to a December 12 finish.

NZR was already unhappy that Australia had snatched hosting rights away due to more relaxed COVID-19 restrictions.

It got to the point that RA chairman Hamish McLennan said the relationship between the countries was at its “lowest ebb”.

The teams meet in the opening Bledisloe Cup in Wellington on Sunday, with an Auckland Test a week later.

AAP



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Rugby Championship schedule means New Zealand All Blacks will miss Christmas


New Zealand Rugby has slammed the Rugby Championship scheduling, which means the All Blacks will have to spend Christmas Day in hotel quarantine.

New Zealand Rugby (NZR) said in a statement it had not agreed to the announced schedule of matches, and it had hoped New Zealand’s final game would be played on December 5.

However, the fixtures released today show the final scheduled match will take place in Sydney on December 12.

Due to the New Zealand Government’s requirement all returning travellers must undertake two weeks of quarantine, that means the All Blacks would be in isolation until December 26 at the earliest.

“The wellbeing of our people is an incredibly important factor,” NZR boss Mark Robinson said.

Australian players watch New Zealand perform the Haka ahead of the Wallabies' match with the All Blacks, Eden Park, Auckland
The Wallabies will play the All Blacks on November 7 in Brisbane and December 12 in Sydney.(Reuters: Ross Setford)

“We are committed to playing in the Rugby Championship and we know the scheduling of matches has been a complex and dynamic issue to work through, especially with quarantine protocols.

“We will now work through the issues with Rugby Australia and SANZAAR and believe that there are other solutions within the Rugby Championship window.”

SANZAAR boss Andy Marinos said it had taken “a lot of hard work to get to this point” and that the rescheduling “has not been ideal”.

The tournament, featuring six double-header match days will start with the Springboks opening its title defence against Argentina in Brisbane, followed by the Wallabies taking on the All Blacks on November 7.

Among a number of All Blacks players and near the goalposts, Michael Hooper raises both hands to the sky and smiles.
Michael Hooper will captain the Wallabies at the Rugby Championship.(AAP: Dave Hunt)

After that, the competition shifts to New South Wales, with further matches taking place at Stadium Australia, Parramatta Stadium and in Newcastle.

SANZAAR announced Australia would host the six-week tournament earlier this month after New Zealand could not guarantee players from visiting teams could train together due to quarantine requirements.

Prior to the Rugby Championship, New Zealand will host the Wallabies in two Bledisloe Cup Tests on October 11 and 18.

The New Zealand Government said it would relax its quarantine rules to ensure the Wallabies would be able to prepare properly for the matches.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she had spoken with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and told him her country’s strict biosecurity regulations could be eased to ensure a level playing field.



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Local News - Victoria

Dreaming of a Quinn Christmas


Recently my younger son had an iso-birthday. We arranged a trivia night with his older brother acting as quiz master from a distance of 1600 kilometres. On the appointed day, five households gathered together – Brady-Bunch-style – on my laptop.

Our lockdown household of four was the largest, squeezing together to fit the camera range and enjoying the unfamiliar physical intimacy of it. On the screen in front of us, the usual suspects gathered, greeting each other loudly and jostling with various offspring for couch space.

I was completely unprepared for the catch in my throat at the sight of their faces. These were some of the people I love most in the world. I felt something akin to the dull ache of homesickness, followed immediately by a warm glow that came from seeing them all together, even if in only two dimensions.

Our quiz night degenerated rapidly into mild chaos – as our get-togethers often do – ending in an internet glitch that disconnected the quiz master before he’d asked his first question. A disappointing end to our first attempt at online trivia but, for me, the sight of those faces has brought comfort and a gradual return of optimism.

A reunion may not be possible by Christmas, but we don’t need an excuse to gather together. If lockdown has taught us anything, it’s an appreciation of the privilege of surrounding ourselves with those we love. It may take longer than we planned, but when it happens it will be an occasion worth celebrating.



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