Australian News

Mount Gambier jockey Geoff O’Loughlin stages surprise comeback at 48

Geoff O’Loughlin weighed 56 kilograms and had just 2 per cent body fat when he “struggled” with his weight not being light enough.

He’s not crazy. He’s a jockey.

Things could have been different had he chosen to take growth hormones and play professional soccer in England as a child. Instead, he kept his height and set his heart on becoming a jockey.

O’Loughlin, based in Mount Gambier in South Australia, rode 431 winners in his 22-year career.

Had he weighed less, he could have recorded more wins — a common story in the industry.

“My weight was just spiralling between race rides because you don’t race consecutive days … it got too hard towards the end,” he said.

A man wearing a black riding helmet and high vis jacket sits on a horse in a stable.
Geoff O’Loughlin says he retired from racing when the sacrifice outweighed the reward.(ABC South East SA: Bec Whetham)

When O’Loughlin retired in 2010, he weighed 56 kilograms. At the time, the top weight allowed in handicap races was 57 kilograms, leaving the Mount Gambier jockey a narrow window within which to compete.

Now a decade later and a couple of kilos lighter, the 48-year-old made his return to competition racing last week at the Penola Racecourse.

No-one was more excited than his wife, trainer Belinda O’Loughlin.

When the two raced together they achieved a success rate of 23 per cent winners and 43 per cent placegetters, one of the best strike rates in country Australia.

“I’ve put a lot of jockeys on since Geoff retired … (but) Geoff… he’s one of the fiercest competitors I’ve ever had,” Belinda said.

A woman stands with a horse smiling, a man in a bright green jockey racing shirt stands next to her.
Geoff O’Loughlin was an apprentice and Belinda a strapper when the couple first met.(ABC South East SA: Bec Whetham)

Boiling baths, long runs, one meal a week

Belinda recalls the decades in their relationship when Geoff would eat just one meal a week.

They would go for dinner with friends before a race and Geoff would ask to be picked up 5 kilometres down the road.

“And he would jog three quarters of the way home wrapped in great big thick jackets,” Belinda said.

The jackets were to help Geoff sweat more weight off before race day. There were lots of ways he did that.

“Public holidays made it hard in the country because the gyms would close so then you’re restricted to having hot baths to lose the weight,” Geoff said.

“I got to the stage where I thought I best … join the real world and get a job.”

A young man in a yellow racing jumper rides a horse around a grass track.
Geoff O’Loughlin on a winner in 1998.(Supplied: Geoff O’Loughlin)

Older, wiser and lighter

Geoff still has a three-days-a-week labouring job while he eases back into racing. He credits his job with helping to get his weight down.

“It’s constant movement, you’re just on the go all day,” Geoff said.

Belinda added: “He’s lost a fair bit of muscle bulk being older (as well) … he’s still able to maintain a reasonable diet.

“Hopefully this time around it will be a lot better for his body, it won’t be as stressful.”

The biggest stress is the nervous energy associated with getting back on the track.

“There was a fair bit of ribbing at first,” Geoff said.

‘I’ll have to prove myself again’

Although Geoff retired as a jockey, he always remained in the industry.

On top of full-time labour work, he has been helping his wife train their horses most mornings.

“There’re days where it’s hailing … and he’s soaked and he has to go in those wet clothes to work and then work an 8-hour day,” Belinda said.

“He’s never not worked for me, he’s been tireless.”

But, while he enjoyed his time “on the other side of the fence”, something was missing.

A large commentary tower stand next to a white set of stands next to a country racecourse.
The stage for Geoff O’Loughlin’s first race since returning from retirement, Penola Racecourse.(ABC South East SA: Bec Whetham)

“There’s no better feeling than going full throttle on a thoroughbred in amongst a field; it’s a thrill that only a jockey’s going to get,” Geoff said.

That said, he is not expecting an easy ride as he returns to the racetrack.

“I’m by no means at my age thinking I’m going to step back in and all of a sudden I’m riding five or six days a week,” he said.

A silhouette of a woman walking a large horse in paddock with a cloudy sunrise behind them.
Belinda O’Loughlin almost gave up training when her favourite jockey, her husband Geoff, decided to retire.(ABC South East SA: Bec Whetham)

‘I missed him so much’

No-one is more excited about Geoff’s return than his wife, because she wants to “be able to share it with him again”.

“I got into training because it’s something Geoff and I did. I’m glad that coming back to race riding he’s got a chance to get those rewards back.

The sun rises over a quiet dirt race track, spreading colours of pastel blue, pink and orange.
Geoff has continued to help train Belinda’s horses most mornings, often before heading off to work.(ABC South East SA: Bec Whetham)

Their relationship aside, Belinda appreciates the determination Geoff brings to the sport.

“If he’s made a mistake, he’ll take that blame upon himself … he’ll own it,” she said.

“I’m definitely looking forward to him coming back and riding for me.”

Back in the saddle

Their horse Runbro may not have been a placegetter at Penola on Tuesday, but the O’Loughlins were not too worried. They have found the winning formula before.

Either way, Geoff is just happy to be back.

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Australian News

Deal to save AAP Newswire in final stages of negotiation

The newswire division of Australian Associated Press is set to continue to operate with new owners.

AAP’s board on Friday confirmed that an agreement was in the final stages of negotiation with a consortium of investors and philanthropists led by Peter Tonagh.

The newswire, slated to close in late June, would now continue operating as AAP and provide breaking news, public interest journalism, sports coverage and news photography.

“I am pleased that, after months of discussions with various parties, it appears we have been able to secure a new home for AAP’s legacy of trusted news,” CEO Bruce Davidson said.

The sale involves only the news division of AAP, including text and photography, which currently provides reporting on general news, courts, politics, finance, racing and sport, plus images and video.

Other parts of the AAP Group will be retained by the current shareholders. This includes Medianet, Mediaverse, AAP Directories, Pagemasters and Racing operations and these businesses will continue to operate as usual.

Mr Tonagh said his consortium is committed to independent journalism.

“We live in a time where trusted, unbiased news is more important than ever. AAP has always delivered on that and we are committed to seeing that continue into the future,” he said in a statement.

“I’m looking forward to working with the AAP team to continue its great work and to find new commercial opportunities to ensure its long-term survival. “On behalf of the consortium that I lead, after consulting with staff, customers and other stakeholders, our consortium will provide more information about our future plan for AAP.” The new-look AAP will employ 85-90 staff, including around 70-75 editorial staff, and management, IT and support personnel.

The consortium will continue the AAP FactCheck service.

The consortium will engage with employees over coming weeks. AAP’s board announced on March 3 the entire operation would close on June 26, citing the financial impact of the increasing availability of free online content. It would have meant the loss of up to 500 jobs.

AAP is currently owned by Nine, News Corp Australia, The West Australian and Australian Community Media.

The newswire opened more than 85 years ago and its potential loss had been widely described as a blow to democracy.

Editor in Chief Tony Gillies described Friday’s news as a triumph for public interest journalism.

“Finally, a good news story for an industry that has been battered,” he said. “In the 95 days since the original March 3 closure announcement our journalists, photographers and editors have endured the anxiety of an uncertain future and the difficulties of the COVID-19 lockdown. And yet, they have been professional without exception, working as hard as ever.

“Their poise and resilience has been inspiring. The consortium is taking on Australia’s best.”

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Australian News

States and territories are moving to their next stages of easing coronavirus restrictions. This is who’s changing what and when

Planning a party this weekend? Think again — if you’re in a state that has restrictions easing on June 1, don’t get too excited too early.

June 1 isn’t until Monday, so people still run the risk of fines or other penalties if they start working to eased restrictions early.

Some states don’t have any changes at all flagged for June 1 though — they’ll have to wait a little longer for their next stage of coronavirus recovery.

So who has rule changes coming up, and what will they be?

Tap your state to find out.


Canberra does have a series of restrictions easing this weekend — starting from 11:59pm on Friday May 29, the ACT will move to Step 2.1 of their recovery plan.

From that time, up to 20 people will be allowed at:

  • Restaurants, cafes and licensed venues
  • Beauty, tanning, waxing and nail salons
  • Spa, massage, tattoo and body-modification parlours
  • Museums, galleries, national institutions and outdoor attractions
  • Caravan parks and campgrounds
  • Weddings, religious ceremonies and places of worship
  • Wellness centres, indoor sporting centres, yoga, pilates, barre and spin facilities, community centres, pools

The four-square-metre rule still applies, and any businesses that are reopening need a COVID Safety plan.

Gyms and health clubs can reopen to up to 20 people at a time, but unsupervised free weight training and use of other gym equipment isn’t allowed, and low-contact indoor and outdoor sport is back on as well.

That includes dance, where one parent per minor is allowed to accompany.

Art gallery staff wearing face masks and gloves tend to a piece of fashion art at the national gallery
Gallery staff at The National Gallery of Australia in Canberra preparing for their Saturday reopening.(AAP: Lukas Coch)

The attendance limit on funerals will also increase to 50 indoors and outdoors.

Orchestras, bands and choirs will be able to have up to 20 people and universities and vocational training providers are allowed to increase face-to-face learning where they can.

Canberra’s Step 2.1 still encourages working from home if it works for employees and employers, with a gradual return to work flagged for consideration around mid-July.

Step 2.2 is scheduled to kick off from June 19, and looks to increase the limit for some businesses to up to 50 people, as well as reopening cinemas, amusement parks and play centres.


Victoria is easing multiple restrictions from 11.59pm on Sunday May 31 — so Victorians will be waking up to a new week and a new month with some new-found freedoms.

Up to 20 people will be allowed to gather at homes, including members of the household.

The 20-person rule also applies to indoor, outdoor or public space gatherings, but people have been urged to be safe and take precautions if they’re going to gather in groups.

A group of people, some wearing face masks, stand in line outside a retail store. they are socially distanced by barriers
Retail stores have been allowed to reopen in most areas.(AAP: Richard Wainwright)

Up to 20 people will be able to get back to group sport — as long as it’s outdoors, everyone stays at least 1.5 metres apart (so no contact sport) and it’s non-competitive (yes — socially distanced golf is back on).

20 is a special number — that’s how many people can also go to the following, all from that date:

Various distancing rules apply though.

Restaurants, cafes and other hospitality businesses can resume dine-in service for up to 20 patrons, subject to physical-distancing rules.

Like the ACT, up to 20 Victorians will be able to gather at a place of worship subject to the four-square-metre rule, 20 people can attend a wedding and up to 50 can attend a funeral (unless it’s at someone’s home — then a maximum of 20 people are allowed, including officiants and staff).

Crowd of people at Burleigh Heads on the Gold Coast, Sunday, May 3, 2020.
Bigger gatherings will be allowed as each state eases coronavirus restrictions — but it depends where you are as to when.(AAP: Darren England)

Victoria is also easing some travel restrictions from that time, including allowing people to stay at holiday homes, private residences or tourist accommodation (as long as there’s no shared communal facilities like kitchens or bathrooms).

People have to continue working from home if they’ve been doing so up until now though.

New South Wales

Residents in New South Wales are also kicking off the new month with some new eased restrictions.

From Monday June 1, up to 20 people will be allowed to attend weddings, 50 can attend funerals and 50 can gather at places of worship, subject to the four-square-metre rule.

Pubs, clubs, cafes and restaurants can have up to 50 customers from June 1 too.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian also announced NSW would be open for regional travel from this date.

Beauty and nail salons, museums, galleries and libraries can also reopen under various distancing rules and COVID-safe guidelines, as can museums, galleries and libraries.

South Australia

South Australia also kicks off step 2 of their roadmap from June 1, and they’re throwing some big numbers around.

Provided the 1.5-metre rule and the four-square-metre rule are in place, up to 80 people will be allowed at:

  • Restaurants, cafes, wineries, pubs, breweries and bars
  • Cinemas, theatres, museums and galleries
  • Gyms

All provided that there’s no more than 20 to a group.

Nail and beauty salons, tattoo and massage parlours will also be allowed to reopen, and if gyms have classes, they must be limited to 10 participants.

Up to 50 people will be allowed at funerals.

Public exercise equipment cordoned off with orange temporary fencing.
Gyms still can’t open at full capacity in most states, but some public exercise equipment is reopening.(ABC News: Brendan Esposito)

From June 1, competitive non-contact outdoor sport, training and competitive non-contact indoor sport and indoor recreation activities will all be allowed.

Allowing competitive contact outdoor sport and training for contact indoor sport is flagged for June 25.

Northern Territory

The top end doesn’t have to wait too much longer for their next phase to come into effect.

From noon on June 5, the Northern Territory will sail into stage 3 of their roadmap to ease restrictions — some of the most relaxed rules in the country.

From that date, all businesses, facilities and services previously restricted can resume, as long as they adhere to key principles.

Territorians will be able to:

  • Go to a bar without consuming food
  • Go to nightclubs, cinemas, theatres, concert or music halls and other approved entertainment venues
  • Take part in licenced gaming activities
  • Go to amusement venues, community centres and play centres

All previously restricted services at places that provide beauty therapy, cosmetic services, tattooing or body art can be accessed again from that time too.

There’s good news for sport lovers too — sports including football, netball, basketball and soccer can be played and officiated again, with supporters, and up to 500 people can go to an arena, stadium or community sport competition if spectators are in an approved seating configuration.

Sporting events with more than 500 people attending need an approved COVID-19 Safety Plan, and major events will be approved on a state-by-state basis.

Western Australia

Western Australia‘s next phase of easing restrictions begins on June 6 — they’re already up to phase 3 of their plan.

The limit on non-work gatherings will be raised to 100 people — or 300 people for venues with divided spaces.

They’re ditching the four-square-metre rule in favour of a two-square-metre rule from that date, and based on that, all of these will be able to reopen or restart:

  • Gyms and fitness classes
  • Full contact sports and training
  • Playgrounds, skate parks and outdoor gym equipment
  • Beauty, nail, tanning and waxing salons, personal-care services, spas and saunas
  • Galleries, museums, theatres, cinemas and concert venues
  • Zoos, amusement parks and arcades

In addition to that exciting news, pubs, restaurants, cafes and bars will be allowed to serve alcohol without food and food courts will reopen for seated service.

Lots of people sit on the grass at Kings Park next to a large row of tall trees.
It’s up to each state and territory how they ease their limits on gatherings.(ABC News: Keane Bourke)

The 100-person rule also applies to weddings and funerals.

Rottnest Island will reopen to the public on that date as well, and regional travel will be permitted throughout Western Australia, including into the Kimberley region (pending Commonwealth approval to remove the Biosecurity Area).

Access into remote Aboriginal communities will remain prohibited though.


Queensland has a little longer to wait — stage 2 of their roadmap is down for June 12.

That takes their gathering limit up to 20 at:

  • Homes
  • Public spaces including lagoons, playgrounds, skate parks and outdoor gyms
  • Restaurants, cafes, pubs, RSL and other clubs, hotels and casinos
  • Cinemas, theatres, auditoriums, arenas, concert venues and stadiums
  • Gyms, health clubs and yoga studios
  • Museums, galleries, libraries and places of worship
  • Outdoor amusement parks, zoos and arcades
  • Open homes and auctions
  • Beauty, nail and tanning salons, tattoo parlours and spas

Up to 20 people can also participate in non-contact indoor and outdoor community sport, with pools and community sports clubs also under the 20-person rule.

The attendance limit on weddings also goes up to 20 from that date, and funerals will be permitted 50 people maximum.

People can travel up to 250km for recreational purposes, with campgrounds, caravan parks and tourism accommodation set to reopen.

The 20-person rule also applies to camping, hiking and recreation in state and national parks.

There are slightly different rules for outback Queensland from that June 12 date.

Recreational travel is allowed within the outback if you live there, and hospitality venues can serve up to 50 people at a time — they might ask you to show proof of residence though, and that doesn’t permit for gaming and bars.

A sign is taped to a playground fence saying the equipment is closed until further notice
Although restrictions are easing, social distancing and hygiene recommendations are still strong around the country.(AAP/Darren England)


Stage 2 of Tasmania‘s roadmap to recovery doesn’t come into effect until June 15.

Much like many of the other states, up to 20 people at a time will be able to gather indoors and outdoors, including at:

  • Restaurants and cafes
  • Cinemas, museums, galleries, theatres and performance venues
  • Religious gatherings and weddings
  • Open homes and auctions
  • Gyms and boot camps
  • Beauty service providers and day spas
  • Playgrounds and park exercise equipment including outdoor community sport
  • Indoor sport, including pools

Up to 50 people will be permitted at funerals.

The 20-person rule also applies to camping, overnight boating and shacks, but border controls are expected to remain in place as part of this stage.

At the moment, the Tasmanian Government’s website says visitors to households will be reviewed as part of stage two — it’s not clear yet what changes could be implemented there, but at the moment, only five visitors are permitted at homes.

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Australian News

COVID-19 coronavirus scare forces UAE Tour cycling event to cancel its final two stages


February 28, 2020 11:15:45

The final two stages of the UAE Tour, which is featuring some of the world’s leading riders, has been cancelled due to two Italian participants testing positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Key points:

  • Riders and team members at the UAE Tour have been tested for coronavirus, and two have tested positive
  • Caleb Ewan was among the Australians competing at the event
  • There are fears a rider who left the event to attend another one in Berlin may have taken the virus with him

The Abu Dhabi Sports Council did not identify anyone but said that all of the race participants, staff and organisers were being screened for the flu-like virus.

“The decision has been taken to ensure protection of all the race’s participants,” the Council said in a statement, adding that “safety comes at the top of all priorities”.

A number of Australians have been competing in the race, including Caleb Ewan.

Several riders had earlier used social media to confirm they were being tested and that the event had been cancelled.

Several teams commented on the premature end of the UCI World Tour race.

“We have taken note of the cancellation of the UAE Tour due to the occurrence of the coronavirus,” the Dutch Jumbo-Visma team said on their Twitter feed.

“We wish all the people involved the very best, awaiting further developments.”

The Italian Vini Zabu-KTM team said on Twitter: “In the hotel the local authorities are testing all the riders and the staff members #Coronavirus.”

Media reports said the official race hotel in Abu Dhabi was sealed off late on Thursday (local time).

A report in Cycling News said riders, staff and journalists were not allowed to leave pending health checks.

The situation could have implications for the world track championships in Berlin. Danish rider Michael Morkov was at the UAE Tour until earlier in the week, and was due to join the Danish team in the German capital ahead of this weekend’s race.

The new coronavirus COVID-19 has infected over 80,000 people and killed nearly 3,000, mostly in China.

Froome was making his comeback from injury at the race.








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