Inside Joe Gutnick’s byzantine business affairs

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Rabbi Joseph Gutnick in his Melbourne office. Photo is for BRW Rich 200. Photo by Jesse Marlow. Monday 15th April 2013.BRW RICH 200 Photo: Jesse MarlowAnd so for Joseph Gutnick it came to this.

His business life in paperwork stacked in sad, neat Pitcher Partner binders emblazoned with the words: “Bankrupt Estate of Joseph Gutnick.”

There are many of these books in the Federal Court hearing room, all brimming with documents.

They reveal the business affairs of one of ‘s most successful speculative investors and appear at times ad hoc and almost always byzantine.

There are handwritten notes in English and Hebrew underpinning a $25 million loan from Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, paperwork for debts he incurred from doing business with a New York fraudster with no amount or date recorded and trustee documents that are also undated.

The wheelings and dealings between the families companies are sometimes even too hard for Gutnick to explain.

Welcome to Gutnick’s bankruptcy proceedings where this past week lawyers for his trustees in bankruptcy and major creditors to his bankrupt estate have lined up to grill the former Melbourne Football Club president.

“Over the years I’ve just followed the advice of my accountants and my lawyers about how my affairs have been put into place,” he said.

“I have 40 companies; all types of transactions going it. It’s extremely difficult for my wife and for myself to say what was happening with all of those companies.” Long fall

It has been a long fall for the man who once graced the BRW Rich List as one of ‘s richest men. Only two years ago his wealth was estimated at $200 million.

He earned the moniker Diamond Joe through investments in diamond and gold mines in the 1990s and did deals, and sometimes fell out with, other big business identities including corporate buccaneer Larry Adler (father of Rodney) and Andrew Forrest in his Anaconda Nickel days.

His debts stand at a staggering $275 million, of which more than $150 million is allegedly owed to related parties, including his wife, family trusts and family companies. He claims his only assets are $16,087 in cash and a portfolio of worthless shares.

Gutnick found himself in this position after a $103 million deal between his company Legend International and the Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative (IFFCO) soured.

IFFCO and its subsidiary Kisan International sued Gutnick and Legend in the Supreme Court of Victoria in 2015 to enforce a $US40.4 million ($54 million) debt and won.

When IFFCO and its partner moved to bankrupt Gutnick he got in first, declaring himself broke and appointing Gess Rambaldi of Pitcher Partners with debts of $275 million.

Gutnick still disputes the IFFCO debt.

He told court this week: “I don’t believe I was in any financial stress until IFFCO came along with their false claims.” Angry scenes

It was not the only time during a Thursday’s hearing Gutnick bristled during questioning from IFFCO’s lawyer Philip Crutchfield QC.

At times leaning over the witness and pointing, Gutnick’s ire was raised when the validity of some of the debts he had listed on his statement of affairs were challenged by Crutchfield.

It’s a line of questioning that will become increasingly important as trustees pick over his estate. Any composition – an agreement to release Mr Gutnick from bankruptcy – will be voted on by creditors.

But that’s not why Gutnick said he was angry.

“It’s not a Machne Israel falsified document. He’s trying to infer this is not a legitimate document,” Mr Gutnick said, referring to the $13 million debt from the community organisation Machne Israel on his statement of affairs.

“You’re touching on extremely dangerous ground by asking and [questioning] the honourability and the creditability of the Rebbe.

“You are questioning the authenticity of all the secretaries of the Chabad.”

Other deals were also questioned. Making money

Trusts established in the late 1980s after the stock market crash and in the late 1990s to more recent structures set up in the 2000s were challenged by IFFCO’s lawyers as a technique to protect Gutnick and his family’s assets as he rode the waves of the market.

Gutnick told the court: “I made lots of money and lost lots of money in my career.”

There was much querying of dates.

“This declaration of trust was prepared in case those matters went bad for you and you just put the date? Put the date in so those assets were beyond the reach of your creditors?” Crutchfield asked, to which Gutnick replied: “I don’t agree”.

His $33.5 million debt to his wife Stera was also questioned. Mrs Gutnick, who was made a director or became a sole director of several of Mr Gutnick’s companies just ahead of his bankruptcy, also faced questioning.

Earlier in the week she had told the court that the first time she heard about her husband’s debt to her was in 2016.

Again Gutnick’s hairs were raised.

“I’m not going to put my wife into problems. I’m not prepared to contradict what she says,” Gutnick told the court.

At times he refused to answer any more questions about his wife, calling press reports about her $285,000 salary “disgusting” and calling her his “diamond”.

A lot is outsourced in the Gutnick household and Gutnick directs the answers to many questions to his accountants and lawyers.

However, earlier in the examinations, his accountant Peter Stegelman told the court, according to Crutchfield, that he had only followed instructions and Gutnick was aware of the dealings. Memory test

At times Gutnick’s memory of complex deals 30 years ago, 20 years ago and even 10 years ago is hazy – as is common for most people.

But Gutnick is far from a doddering old man with his hands off the wheel. He exudes intelligence.

At one point during his public examination, when the lawyers are struggling with displaying key documents on computer screens and nearly all in court have lost their way through the reams of paperwork, Gutnick interrupts – “it’s (document) 208”.

And another time, as lawyers took him, line by line, through a 2008 loan account that recorded various transfers of funds recorded in toto as $42 million in loans from the family’s Hoydu Family Trust No 1 to Gutnick, he remember details of even some of the smallest transactions.

Whether Gutnick’s transactions and debts are bona fide or not will be a decision for his bankruptcy trustees and the courts to decide.

The man has risen and fallen so many times.

A betting person (including those who invest in speculative mining stocks) couldn’t rule out another comeback.

The examinations continue.

How high is too high for China’s cannabis stocks?

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Elaine Darby Photo: suppliedPerhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that wacky things keep happening in ‘s nascent legal cannabis industry.

Take for example ASX-listed biotech Stemcell United’s share price. Last month it skyrocketed 3800 per cent – from just over 1.3?? to 41?? – in less than two days.

It wasn’t a groundbreaking scientific discovery in the field of medicinal marijuana that turned the Singapore-based biotech from a $5 million company to one with a $145 million market capitalisation virtually overnight. Indeed, the company hasn’t even entered the field.

The astonishing price run was sparked by the appointment of a new a “strategic adviser” to help the company “assess opportunities” in the sector: Nevil Schoenmakers.

This is the excitable global environment for investment in cannabis spurred on by both changes in some American state allowing for recreational consumption and reforms in allowing its use for medicinal purposes.

Suddenly everyone wants a slice of an industry that is already worth billions.

The reaction to Shoenmakers’ appointment is thanks to the n/Dutch dual national’s legendary cannabis breeding reputation – fans lauded him as “The King of Cannabis” and the United States try to extradite him from in the early 1990s. Arrested in Perth, he posted bail and then disappeared.

The founder of ‘s first listed medical cannabis company, Ross Smith, is only a few shades less colourful.

He floated Phytotech (now MMJ Phytotech) on the ASX in January 2015 to a roaring response – climbing from 20?? on issue to 92?? on their second day – only to resign as executive director two weeks later over a threatening social media rant. Smith said his Facebook account had been hacked. Investors attracted

But despite these antics the industry has been too attractive to resist for some investors.

To give a sense of scale consider that medical marijuana sales hit $US4.9 billion ($6.5 billion) in the United States last year and will reach $US7.3 billion in 2020, according to research by marijuana investment group Archview.

The local industry is a fraction of that size but investors have still thrown money at n players since the growing of cannabis for medicinal use and research was legalised in February 2016.

“We get phone calls all the time from people wanting to invest in the industry,” says Merchant Funds managing director Andrew Chapman, whose small-stock fund has about $10 million invested across four local medical cannabis companies.

“The reasons why the shares have done so well over the last six to 12 months is there’s a lot of money chasing the theme, but there’s just not many homes for the money to go into.”

A handful of the n companies seeking to cultivate or manufacture medical marijuana in are listed on the ASX, and nearly all have outperformed the wider market by a considerable margin this year.

Shares of three of the largest cannabis pure plays – AusCann, Zelda Therapeutics and MMJ Phytotech – each grew by more than 150 per cent in the past six months. The All Ordinaries Index on the ASX has lifted 12 per cent. Sales question

The local industry shouldn’t expect runaway sales growth like that seen in the United States, where individual states have legalised use of the drug, says Adam Miller, founder of medical cannabis technology and innovation accelerator BuddingTech.

“America is the Wild, Wild west: there are no standard set of rules that apply,” he says.

“They have a significant medical market but none of the products that are being sold there have gone under any clinical trials, there’s no standardisation.”

Miller says that while it is delivering eye-watering sales figures at the moment, most of the US industry would be shut down overnight if the federal government there put an industry framework in place that abides by the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

on the other hand has gone by the book, he says, which means the market will grow slower but it will be compatible with a global market should it eventuate.

In California marijuana can be prescribed for a variety of conditions, including headaches or anxiety, and bought in a variety of forms. But n doctors can only prescribe the drug in pill or oil form and when there is scientific evidence that a certain product is effective for that condition. It is worth noting also that depending on the use the plants can be bred to virtually remove any intoxicating effects.

State and federal governments and the Therapeutic Goods Administration are still deciding what medical conditions qualify, but medicinal marijuana has been used to treat people who have epilepsy, chronic pain, chemotherapy-induced nausea and HIV/AIDS.

Companies that want to grow, import or manufacture cannabis oils or tablets need to apply for a licence from the Office of Drug Control, which has so far issued four licences for growing, two for research and one for manufacturing. Market potential

Despite these constraints, Miller says there is a significant market waiting to be tapped. A white paper BuddingTech wrote with the University of Sydney found there would be a patient portfolio of about 30,000 ns with epilepsy, HIV and multiple sclerosis that would seek to use the drugs. Those alone would be worth $150 million to $200 million a year.

No producer has brought an n grown or manufactured cannabis product to the market yet, with a Victorian government trial the only cultivation for medicinal purposes currently under way, according to the Department of Health. Patients are instead taking imported products.

Meanwhile hopeful participants like AusCann, one of the largest cannabis companies on the ASX, are still waiting for their licences to be approved.

“Everyone can see the potential but we still have this uncertainty,” says AusCann managing director Elaine Darby.

AusCann has just harvested its first crop from its growing facilities in Chile. The majority will be used in clinical studies which, if successful, will mean AusCann can register those products and sell them there in about 12 months time. Regulatory hurdles

With the opening up of the local market Darby says the company plans to be growing about two hectares of cannabis in by the middle of next year. It will then need to take its produce to trial to prove it is an effective treatment for specific conditions before doctors can prescribe it.

In the meantime AusCann will start importing produce from Canadian company Canopy Growth, which is the largest manufacturer in North America and also AusCann’s largest shareholder, with a 10 per cent stake.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt’s move to relax importation laws in February sent AusCann stocks up 24 per cent.

While jumping through regulatory hoops is slowing the process, Darby says the biggest challenge facing the industry is convincing doctors to prescribe cannabis medication.

Because medical cannabis is not approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, doctors need to become an “authorised prescriber” of cannabis, while also complying with a layer of state-based rules – a process Darby says is onerous.

“The market potential is massive: if you look at chronic pain alone, that’s conservatively a $5 billion market sitting there,” she says.

“But at the end of the day you need to get the doctors to prescribe. If you look at Canada there were only a handful of doctors prescribing, there’s now in excess of 300 prescribing and well in excesss of 100,000 patients and that’s all happened in a couple of years. But if you look at their initial growth, it was very slow.” Manufacturing potential

MGC Pharmaceuticals has also been preparing for legalisation in , and has set up trial operations in Slovenia while tapping expertise from Europe and Israel in anticipation of the local market opening up.

“My view was that this industry was going to happen, it was just a question of if it was going to be one year or 10,” says executive chairman Brett Mitchell.

Earlier in April it successfully started extracting cannabinoid resins from plants at its facilities in Slovenia and is taking part in a clinical study to discover if the drug can reduce the number of seizures experienced by children with epilepsy.

With legalisation, MGC is bringing its expertise in breeding, extraction methods and manufacturing of the end products to , with joint ventures with a major east coast university and a hospital close to being inked.

Mitchell says it will have a set-up in similar to that in Slovenia within a year. But as anything produced will need to go through clinical trials, Mitchell says he can’t make revenue projections.

The uncertainty around when these companies will start generating meaningful revenue from medicinal cannabis has not dampened investors’ enthusiasm. Wariness wise

But Zach Riaz, director at the Banyan Tree Investment Group, recently compiled a report on the state of the local industry and warned that while it will be a significant and profitable industry in years to come, some share price growth of ASX cannabis companies is getting ahead of fundamentals.

“I think investors need to be be a bit wary,” he says.

“These guys are in their early stages ??? there’s a lot of studies and trials that need to be conducted successfully before any of this can be commercialised and sold.”

That expensive process could require capital raising, he says, a further risk to investors, while just one or two unfavourable results in the scientific trial could cause a company’s share price to be “absolutely smashed”.

“What their best chance is, and I’m pretty sure most of these guys are hoping for, is a big pharma company coming in to take them out.”

Chris Macdonald, principal and investment adviser at Morgans Chatswood, notes that most of the stocks have fallen off from highs in March and had arrived at a “happy medium”.”The government awarding licences a couple of months ago is what really set off the current hype, and like all of these bubbles they do run out of steam,” says Macdonald, who has advised companies in the industry.

“People are still paying quite high multiples for these stocks that are pre-revenue, or certainly a number of years away from profitability because they’re happy to bet on the fact that over the next three to five years they could potentially have access to very, very large revenues.” ‘Out of control’

Chapman says Stemcell United’s “out of control” share price fluctuations (it has since returned to 11??) risked damaging the reputation of the whole industry.

“Unfortunately, mum and dad investors get hurt in that,” he says.

“We shouldn’t be seeing that sort of stuff any more and I’m hopeful that we don’t because it takes a bit of that credibility off the actual industry.”

Chapman says his fund was one of the first backers of the industry, investing in Phytotech, the first to list on the ASX.

While Phytotech had a volatile start to life, jumping in value more than fourfold to 92?? in its first two days trading and plunging back to 28?? when its founder Smith quit following the social media scandal, it was now trading at 62??.

“So it wasn’t a flash in the pan,” says Chapman.

“And now as the industry is maturing, and as the investors within the industry are maturing as well and understanding what goes into making a successful medicinal cannabis company, we should see less and less of that sort of behaviour.”

Even Darby, from AusCann, says investors need to take a cautious approach when there was so much “hype” around the industry.

“I don’t know how well thought over or considered it is by investors at the moment,” she says, adding that AusCann has be careful to outline realistic potential growth for the company.

“Unfortunately the nature of this particular industry, just because of what it is, attracts some very interesting individuals. And then you’ve got some on the other side that are just after a buck at the end of the day: they’re going to sprout any kind of idea and let it do a run. There is just an incredible amount of hype, for sure.”

Get rich by focusing on process not outcome

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Every year has two days when we are reminded to reflect on what has passed, and what we can change in the future. They are January 1, the start of a new calendar year, and July 1, the start of a new financial year. Here we are, just two months from the end of the current financial year.

By now, January is probably a dim memory, and all those New Year’s resolutions you made to lose weight and get your finances in order may have gone with it. You’re probably berating yourself with statements like, “I’ve got no willpower” or “this happens every year”.

Take heart – the sad truth is that the human body is not wired for long-term planning. Our ancestors were hunters and gatherers who lived by the rule of fight or flight. Their dominant thoughts were purely about survival.

As a result, we instinctively prefer an action with a fast pay-off, over one with a long-term result. The scientific name for it is hyperbolic discounting – it causes people to make choices that can lead to short-term pleasure, but long-term disaster.

Credit card usage is an obvious example. Who cares about paying interest at 20 per cent on their credit card balance, living beyond their means, or getting into financial strife when they can simply swipe their credit card and get a retail fix on the spot?

Research from Johns Hopkins University reveals that only one in 10 coronary bypass patients make the necessary changes to their lifestyle to prevent further attacks. The remaining nine in 10 still opt for the short-term pleasures of unhealthy food and no exercise.

To make it more difficult, long-term progress by its nature is slow and erratic, and is often discouraging. Imagine you got excited about investing $500 a month into a managed fund that matched the All Ordinaries Index. If the market had a great year and produced 12 per cent compound you would have $6341 at year’s end. The profit would be just $341. However, if the market had a bad year and went backwards by 5 per cent, your portfolio would be worth $5864. The difference is minimal.

This is the point where most people give up, and move onto something else with the lure of a quick high return. However, if you kept investing that $500 a month for 35 years, and the investment averaged 9 per cent a year, the portfolio would grow to $1.4 million.

It works the same when you are paying off a mortgage. If you owed $300,000 on your home at 5.5 per cent with monthly repayments of $1703, over the term of 30 years total interest payable would be $314,000.

Suppose you learned about the effect of compound interest and decided to slash your home loan to 20 years by raising your payments to $2064 a month, which would save over $119,000 in interest. It’s a most exciting prospect, but after five long years at the higher payments, you would still owe $253,000, and may well be starting to feel the result isn’t worth the effort. But hang in there for another 20 years and it would be paid off. In contrast, leaving the payments at $1703 you would still owe $157,000 in 20 years’ time.

This leads us to a fundamental success principle, which is applicable in every aspect of your life – focus on the process and not the outcome. Because success comes slowly, you will almost certainly get discouraged and probably give up if you keep thinking about the outcome. It’s like planting a seedling and then digging it up every year to see if it’s growing. The secret is to get excited about the process, in the knowledge that the right process, if followed through, will almost always lead to the outcome you are looking for.

Noel Whittaker is the author of Making Money Made Simple and numerous other books on personal finance. Email: [email protected]成都夜网.au

Stone on his newest film subject: Putin

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For a filmmaker who has attracted controversy throughout his career, the maverick behind Platoon, Wall Street, Born On The Fourth Of July, Natural Born Killers and Snowden, Oliver Stone is sounding remarkably reasonable.

Asked for his view of the Trump administration, the director of three movies about American presidents – JFK, Nixon and W. – responds diplomatically.

“I’d rather talk a little bit about film first,” Stone says from Los Angeles ahead of his speaking trip to next month. “Then we can segue to that.

“The headlines always peg me as a statesman or a politician or worse and I just like to remind people that I’m a dramatist, too. I tell stories.”

Stone’s towering, often bombastic career in American cinema includes 20 movies and a series of late career documentaries on political subjects. Along with success and failure on an operatic scale, he has won three Oscars with another eight nominations.

But despite fielding arguably more flak than any leading director in Hollywood, the 70-year-old continues to tackle controversial subjects.

While not officially announced, Stone confirms he is making a new film about Russian President Vladimir Putin that will be out soon. It will be a hot ticket given claims about Russian influence on the US presidential election and within the Trump administration.

“It’s not a documentary as much as a question and answer session,” he says. “Mr Putin is one of the most important leaders in the world and in so far as the United States has declared him an enemy – a great enemy – I think it’s very important we hear what he has to say.”

The film will cover Putin’s view of events since he first became president in 2000.

“It opens up a whole viewpoint that we as Americans haven’t heard,” Stone says. “We went to see him four different times over two years.

“I talked to him originally about the Snowden affair, which is in the film. And out of that grew, I think, a trust that he knew that I would not edit it so much.”

How did he find the hardline Russian leader?

“He talks pretty straight,” Stone says. “I think we did him the justice of putting [his comments] into a Western narrative that could explain their viewpoint in the hopes that it will prevent continued misunderstanding and a dangerous situation – on the brink of war.”

While Stone grew up a Republican with a father who was a stockbroker, his view of the world – and his politics – changed while serving in combat during the Vietnam War, winning a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. He reportedly voted for Barack Obama as president in 2008 and 2012 then Green Party candidate Jill Stein last year but strongly refutes claims about Russian influence on the Trump presidency.

“That’s a path that leads nowhere to my mind,” Stone says. “That’s an internal war of politics in the US in which the Democratic party has taken a suicide pact or something to blow him up; in other words, to completely de-legitimise him and in so doing blow up the US essentially.

“What they’re doing is destroying the trust that exists between people and government. It’s a very dangerous position to make accusations you cannot prove.”

One of the subjects that Stone will talk about at Vivid Ideas and Semi Permanent in Sydney next month is the power of film to create change. And despite making many passionate movies about livewire political subjects, he seems pessimistic.

“I’ve done in my own work three Vietnam War films, three presidential type films, one film on Central America, one economics film on Wall Street and so forth,” he says. “And in the matter of war, they’ve had no influence.

“Perhaps some people have recognised the humanity in them in their stance about war and what its meaningless is, especially when it came to Vietnam, but that has not been translated into an argument against Iraq or Libya or Syria or Afghanistan. It’s very frustrating to be a veteran of a war and have America not listening.

“Many people like the films but I don’t know how long they last in the memory. When you’re dealing with the power of the state, which has the propaganda power to repeat and repeat and repeat every day that ‘so-and-so is the enemy and that we’ve got to go to war’, it becomes like a 1984 situation.”

After early success writing Midnight Express and Scarface, Stone has also directed Salvador, The Doors, Any Given Sunday, Alexander, World Trade Centre, the sequel Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps and Savages. He has made documentaries on Cuban leader Fidel Castro (the most recent being Castro in Winter), leftist governments in Latin America (South of the Border), Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez (Mi Amigo Hugo) and American political history (the series The Untold History of the United States).

“I think you get appreciated and remembered – sometimes booed, hated, reviled – but at the end of the day, do they remember?” he says. “I wonder. I think a lot of dramatists wonder.”

Amid escalating nuclear tensions with North Korea, Stone says he is disturbed by where recent US attacks on Syria and Afghanistan might lead.

“I’m 70 years old,” he says. “I’ve been around for the Cuban missile crisis. I’ve seen our forces in action in Vietnam.

“I was around for Mr Reagan’s – people found out later – near-nuclear confrontation in 1983 [when a Soviet early warning system wrongly reported the US had launched intercontinental ballistic missiles]. It came very close to war.

“There have been near accidents all along the way. We felt with the agreements between Gorbachev and Reagan and after the Soviet Union disintegrated that this thing would be over for many of us – a peace dividend that the United States would get off its war footing – but nothing changed.

“The United States is spending on defence and security almost a trillion dollars a year, which is more than all the countries in the world spend on security and the military. It’s inexcusable to people who examine this rationally.”

Stone laments that his latest movie, Snowden, was poorly received in last year. He considers it an important film for attempting to tell the truth about the US intelligence contractor who revealed the extent of covert government surveillance.

And he believes the move towards all-seeing surveillance technology could be a huge mistake.

“I think we’ve had a lot of false information – fake news as they say – used for political ideological purposes,” he says. “In other words, the US has been able, because of this technology, to say without any doubt Russia hacked the election. This is coming from who? From the intelligence agencies that are fighting against Russia with all their hearts and minds.

“They can’t be trusted. This is important to recognise. I think the Snowden movie shows why they cannot be trusted.”

As US federal prosecutors weigh up whether to bring charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Stone remains a fervent supporter of a man he has visited in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

“For 10 years now he’s been a beacon of integrity and honesty,” he says. “He’s been very helpful to understand the world to those who pay attention.

“Unfortunately his reports sometimes get too thick and too difficult to understand but I don’t think the media has done him any favours really by playing along and accusing him of rape and holding him on these bogus charges. This is scary behaviour but it’s also unlawful.”

Assange has been in the embassy since 2012 in order to avoid going to Sweden to face sexual assault allegations.

Stone does not believe claims that individuals one step removed from the Kremlin passed sensitive material to WikiLeaks as part of a Russian plot to influence the presidential election last year.

“I hold Assange in high regard in many issues of state,” he says. “I take very seriously his statement that he received no information from Russia or any state actors.”

Seven years ago, Stone declared he was not optimistic about the US, saying: “The Empire’s in its last days. Babylon will fall.” So how does he feel about the state of his troubled country now?

“If you study my work, you’d understand that I’ve become increasingly alarmed,” Stone says. “As a young man, I was very conservative.

“My father was very much a Republican and I grew up that way. But my life experience has taught me differently. I’ve made films that increasingly reflect that point of view and my fears.

“At the same time, I keep making crime films. I keep making football movies. I mixed it up. I still love movies as movies and I try to make anything I do that has a political bent as exciting as possible.”

Once again, the legendary storyteller is steering a question away from politics.

“Talk about movies,” Stone urges. “Remember I’m a movie director.”

Oliver Stone is speaking at Semi Permanent at CarriageWorks on May 26 and Vivid Ideas at City Recital Hall on May 28.

Imitation not the sincerest form of flattery, say ripped-off designers

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Designers at the forefront of n designIs it OK to buy replica furniture?Designers share the inspiration behind projects

The first thing Kate Stokes knew of her spun aluminium and timber Coco pendant light being copied was back in 2014, when design industry colleagues began calling her about the inferior versions appearing in shops. First there was one, then two, then many more ??? all clearly owing a great deal of design debt to the original Coco.

“It just remains absolutely infuriating,” says Stokes, of Collingwood’s Coco Flip design studio. “It’s pretty tough to see your work copied so blatantly.”

Sarah Gibson of Sydney-based DesignByThem is another designer who was flabbergasted to see her work turn up in unexpected places, when the powder-coated steel TomTom letterbox she designed with Tommy Cehak and Nicholas Karlovasitis appeared on the shelves of a national hardware chain. “It was an inferior copy, but it was recognisably our design. You reach a point where you have to get over the anger and get on with things.”

Stokes and Gibson aren’t the only designers left unflattered by imitation. At Kmart you can buy a version of the festive outdoor Acapulco chair – a snip at $39 when you consider that an original would set you back hundreds. At Target, the Philippe Starck ghost chair – a replica, of course – will cost $59 (you can grab an original for $399 at Space Furniture). And the likes of Matt Blatt, Sokol and Zanui are wonderland repositories of rip-offs – sorry, replicas – of the greatest hits of 20th-century design.

It’s not too hard to join the replica Muuto dots. ns are just crazy about designer fakes. But many of us don’t realise we’re swimming against the tide. Other countries are tightening protection of original designs.

Britain and other parts of Europe have recently introduced steep financial penalties and possible jail time for selling fake designer furniture. But n designers hoping for sweeping reforms, including greater protection of their original designs and a ban on “replica” furniture, have been disappointed by a Productivity Commission report into the nation’s intellectual property regime, released late last year.

The report acknowledges “free riding” and its detrimental effect on innovation, but its recommendations – including some measures to reduce the cost of design protection – don’t go nearly far enough, says Jo-Ann Kellock, chief executive of the n Design Alliance.

“We’re in a position where I can make a chair and someone can see it in the marketplace and send it to China to have it pulled apart and copied ???,” she says. “No one thinks credit needs to be given to a designer – and as a result we’re becoming the world’s dumping ground for dodgy copied product. It’s everywhere, and it’s been normalised here when in places like Denmark you’d be embarrassed to have it in your house ??? these days, you even see it on The Block.”

The ADA doesn’t pull any punches. It believes design theft should be criminalised in , in line with legislation introduced in Europe and Britain.

The situation as it stands is quite the opposite, however. When furniture fakes provide a clear label using the word “replica” and naming the designer, they do not require permission from that designer.

It’s a catch-22 situation for original n designers. The legislation doesn’t adequately cover original design, while the cost of pursuing breaches is prohibitive. As Kellock says, “The copyists have gotten really good. They’ll blatantly copy things that don’t have protection and slightly tweak the ones that do.”

Last month’s National Design Week highlighted the issue with an exhibition called 26 Original Fakes, in which 26 designers reconfigured a replica of an iconic n design – Jasper Morrison’s HAL chair – as a means of questioning the consequences of the replica furniture market in .

As designer Tom Fereday posted about his Shell chair, cast in concrete from the “negative space” of the HAL chair, “Disregarding the manufacturer, the collaboration, and the design development, the replica piece leaves you with nothing but a shadow of the iconic form.”

The design community is unanimous that the word “replica” is itself part of the issue. “It’s confusing,” says Gibson. “It makes consumers think that it’s an authorised reproduction. I think they should be forced to say ‘fake’.”

And as for arguments about bringing design to the masses with “super competitive pricing”, as the Matt Blatt website advertises?

“There’s an argument that the masses are getting a pretty good product for a cheap price,” says Kellock. “But take that argument to its logical conclusion and, really, there will be no original design left to copy.”

Zaha Hadid’s Singapore development ‘D’Leedon’ is in full bloom

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It may not be obvious at first glance, but the seven skyscrapers that make up D’Leedon in Singapore mimic a cluster of flowers. Take a closer look and you’ll see they widen as they ascend and have a unique petal-shaped design.

The towers are designed to appear as if they are growing from a sunken garden. To add to this effect, the lower floors taper inwards until they meet the greenery at the ground floor. This wine glass shape provides extra space for the landscaped gardens, pools and decked areas at the ground floor of this highrise bouquet.

The petal-shaped floor plans sprout from the central stem of each building. Each petal houses one apartment and has been configured to give residents views in three directions.

Designed by the late, great architect Zaha Hadid, D’Leedon are collectively Singapore’s tallest skyscrapers reaching 36-storeys at the peak. D’Leedon’s construction was completed in 2014 – a decade after Hadid became the first woman to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize.

The complex was Hadid’s first foray into highrise residential and marked a deviation from her brand, says Dr Simone Brott, senior lecturer architecture at Queensland University of Technology.

“Unlike her more radical millennial works and the Hadid-Schumacher science-fiction brand, which has in large part defined the global genre we call ‘iconic architecture’, these seven towers evoke a warped 1970s modernism, like looking at the Melbourne commission flats through a warped sheet of glass,” she says.

“At once chaste, and hallucinogenic, this is not the high glam-modernism of say the Seagram building by Mies van der Rohe, but the socialist modernism of Australasian public housing.”

D’Leedon is in stark contrast to Hadid’s futuristic designs in China – the urban precinct at Galaxy Soho and Changsha Meixihu Arts Centre, Brott says.

“D’Leedon unexpectedly alludes to history and duration, to the concept of architectural time – these being the open enemies of the iconic project,” she says.

“This is Hadid’s poem to modern architecture and history, and Hadid’s declaration that the iconic project was always fundamentally about modernity. In this capacity, the project illustrates a way forward, for the iconic to provoke social reflection and thought, like modernism once did, in these barbarous neo-capitalist times.”

Whether it was the flower-like design or the statement on modernity – the architecture world applauded Hadid’s design. In 2016, D’Leedon won the top prize for residential high-rise at the prestigious FIABCI World Prix d’Excellence Award.

The apartment complex occupies a massive 78,043 square metre site that includes themed landscaped areas – rock, forest, water, foothills and meadow – inspired by Singapore’s tropical mountain ranges.

Everything from a bamboo labyrinth to a tennis court can be found on the grounds. There’s also a children’s wet play area, numerous pools, a gym and restaurants. The seven towers are home to 1703 apartments and 12 semi-detached houses.

Hadid had a team of three architects designing D’Leedon with her, including Michele Pasca di Magliano, the man behind the Hadid tower at 582-606 Collins Street.

The planning application for the $300 million tower was lodged with the City of Melbourne just four months before Hadid died of a heart attack in the US.

It won approval, albeit with a reduced height from 185.5 metres to 176 metres, and will become the first Hadid design to grace Melbourne’s skyline.

The 54-storey tower, yet to be named, will house 420 apartments, more than 10,000 square metres of office and retail space, a ground floor art space and a public plaza to Collins Street.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian to Canberra: ‘Step back’ and let NSW get on with it

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NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is calling for more autonomy for high-performing states. Photo: Jessica HromasPremier Gladys Berejiklian is calling on the Commonwealth to “step back” and give high-performing states such as NSW more autonomy, arguing the present system of co-operative federalism has “run its course”.

In a speech to be delivered to the National Press Club in Sydney on Wednesday, Ms Berejiklian will say the unique housing affordability and population pressures facing NSW demand a more flexible approach.

She wants “fewer agreements, fewer points of contact between the two levels of government, less red tape, less prescriptive agreements, less overlap and more trust”, according to notes released by her office.

Ms Berejiklian will argue that because population and economic resilience “differs vastly across our continent” the consensus-driven Council of n Governments (COAG)system often acts as “a handbrake on reform”.

“Perhaps a better approach is a system of earned autonomy,” she will say.

“For the states that take the lead on reform –asset recycling, deregulation, service innovation –the federal government could step back, and allow greater flexibility in how we deliver our responsibilities.

“We should be rewarded, not punished by our state-federal structures”.

During the 2016 state budget, Ms Berejiklian – then treasurer – noted that NSW had the strongest economy in the country, with billions of dollars of surpluses across the budget forward estimates.

Yet she said this success meant NSW was facing a historic collapse in GST payments from the Commonwealth, equating to $10.8 billion in lost revenue by 2019-20.

In her speech, the Premier will again argue for a shift to a per capita model of GST distribution, which would return $13 billion to NSW over four years.

She will welcome the federal government’s decision to refer GST equalisation arrangements to the Productivity Commission because “the current arrangements blunt the incentives for reform”.

A shift to per capita GST funding would still result in over $4 billion handed over to other states over the forward estimates, she will say, but would “tilt the balance towards rewarding good outcomes for reforming states.”

This would “also give us further options to reduce the tax burden on our citizens.”

Ms Berejiklian will argue that federal-state relations are overdue for a “massive overhaul” and that NSW will be putting proposals to the Commonwealth about modernising “this vital relationship”.

“Too often I have witnessed in frustration ministerial council meetings where the ACTwith a population of 400,000 –not much more than the population of Blacktown council in western Sydney –has an equal voice with a state of 7.7 million.

“The people of NSW should not continue to be held hostage to a lowest common denominator approach that privileges the parochial interests of small populations.”

Always a Mentor, still a star

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If Geva Mentor did not teach the young Vixens defenders everything she knows, then Melbourne’s beloved former premiership player happily shared all that she could. There is, therefore, nothing bittersweet for Mentor in seeing the results of of her, well, mentoring, even if the beneficiaries play for the only team above hers on the Super Netball ladder.

“I’m just so happy and thrilled for – particularly – their defensive end, because I feel like I’ve been working on them and sharing my knowledge, and it’s almost a bit of a proud moment for me to see the likes of Emily Mannix and Jo Weston doing well,” says the inaugural Sunshine Coast Lightning captain, who moved north in 2017 after six years with the Vixens.

“But particularly Mannix, because I feel I took her under my wing and she was a little bit of my progeny coming up through. So I’m excited for her that she’s getting the reward on court, and she’s a great girl off the court as well. I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and my decision to come up to the Sunny Coast has not only helped me but it’s given those Vixens girls the chance to show what they’ve got now, and not wait on the sidelines or be in the shadow.”

Mentor, indeed, is enjoying both the Queensland weather and her role in establishing and leading one of the competition’s three new franchises. The Melbourne Storm-owned Lightning is Super Netball’s only regional team, and while home is a much more “intimate” – ie. smaller – stadium than the Vixens boast, it was there that in round two the Victorian visitors suffered their only loss of the season. Top spot on the ladder, four weeks from the finals, is the prize for Saturday night’s return appointment at Margaret Court Arena.

For Mentor, that means coming home, in one sense, for her schoolteacher husband Lachie Crawford has remained in Melbourne for the time being while his 32-year-old wife pursues a two-year contract that the Vixens – with an eye to the future and a bench bursting with ripening young defensive talent – did not match.

“A few things came together in making my final decision – a few things played out in terms of where the Vixens were looking to go in the future, and that’s fair enough, and Simone and I had some great conversations throughout the off-season of where she was looking to go with her club, and where I’m looking to go with my netball,” she says. “And likewise I also was able to have a great conversation with Noeline [Taurua, Lightning coach] and that probably just cemented my decision.”

A one-year deal with the Vixens that would help the transition to the new generation was understandably trumped by the Lightning’s guarantee of two, especially with the England captain eyeing a fourth Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast next April. Mentoring is one thing, but Mentor had grander plans, and although there were tears when the popular veteran told Vixens coach Simone McKinnis that she was departing, there was also much affection and acceptance on both sides.

“The Vixens had every reason to make the sort of decisions they did,” Mentor said. “They wanted to play a lot more girls ??? but I’m definitely not ready to sit on the sidelines completely at the moment, I still want to be able to contribute to the team as much as I can. There will come a time when that will be maybe my role within a team, but I just felt that I wasn’t ready for that yet.”

Plan B is working out rather well, it must be said. The Lightning, built around a formidable Caitlin Bassett-Laura Langman-Mentor spine, share the Vixens’ 7-1-1 record. Meanwhile, energised by her new northern environment, and reaping the benefits of a full pre-season uninterrupted by ailing knees, Mentor’s brilliant clock-rewinding form at goal keeper has her leading the league for deflections (60) and second for intercepts (29).

Saturday’s opponent will be the dynamic Malawian Mwai Kumwenda, part of the league’s highest-scoring shooting circle – although, as a counterpoint, the Mentor-led defence is its most frugal. Less than one per cent separates the teams, with the Giants lurking half-a-game behind, and the fourth-placed Magpies also showing signs that things are starting to come together at last.

Mentor says she is more settled now, and less worried that she will accidentally mistake friends and former teammates Liz Watson and Tegan Philip for current ones than she was in the 58-52 result eight rounds ago. As for the athletic Kumwenda, the 100-plus Test stalwart says she thrives on the challenge of curbing the unorthodox, just as she is relieved to no longer have to contend with the towering, more conventional, Bassett.

The Vixens, Mentor insists, are the benchmark, and while professing to be unsure of the crowd reception, admits it will feel “weird” to be opposing her old team in Melbourne. There is some relief in the fact that the match is scheduled for MCA rather than the more familiar Hisense Arena, scene of the 2014 grand final triumph.

So, having taught the current young pups most of her many tricks, does Mentor have any regrets about potentially giving the game away? “Not at all,” she laughs. “Hopefully one of these days I’ll be able to sit back and watch, but for now I’d like to think that I’ve still maybe got a few up my sleeve. And, if not, it’s just ‘bring it on for a great game’.”

Waterloo public housing tenants, residents face eviction

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SMH. Waterloo. 19th of April 2017. Anna Kovic, lives in the Daniel Solander block of the Waterloo housing commision which the NSW Government is planning to redevelop. The majority of people living there are elderly. Story: Lisa Visentin. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer Photo: Dominic LorrimerSomewhere, amid the life she has been packing into boxes lately, Anna Kovic still has the receipt for her rent from 1971.

$16.90 a fortnight. Cash.

A young, single mother from Croatia, she and her son had just moved into the Solander building, one of the six high-rise apartment blocks that have stood as landmarks of the Waterloo public housing estate for more than four decades.

They were the fifth tenants to move into the building. “It was brand new. Everything was clean, everything beautiful, new,” she remembers.

Now almost 80, Kovic still lives in the same two-bedroom apartment on the fifth floor, and is one of the estate’s last original residents.

“I think no one is 45 years here like I am,” she says, her Croatian accent still prominent after nearly 60 years in Sydney. “I’m the oldest to stay in this building so far. And I want to die in this building.”

In December 2015, uncertainty and disruption arrived in Waterloo. It took the form of a letter from then-minister for social housing Brad Hazzard. The estate would be demolished, he informed them, to make way for a new underground train station.

Across the estate’s sprawling 18 hectares, up to 7000 new homes would be built, including at least 2000 new public housing dwellings. The redevelopment will be structured in stages, and will be built over 15-20 years.

Before the bulldozers arrive, all of the estate’s residents will need to be relocated. A gargantuan task made more complex by the large number of elderly tenants – almost 800 of the 2600 residents are over 70 years old.

The government justifies the redevelopment by saying it will ultimately be for the good of public housing tenants. In time, they will be able to move into a refurbished, more modern estate. But the community is wary of such promises. What good is the prospect of a new home in five years to a 90-year-old?

And amid a vacuum of detail about how this will occur, many are anxious about what the future holds. Some hope the government will change its mind. Kovic has begun to pack.

“It was a Christmas present for us. I nearly fainted, believe me,” Kovic says of the letter. “Since then I am stressed, I am depressed. I am shaking.” A rallying voice

Kovic was among the thousands who gathered on the estate’s lawns in 1977, as Queen Elizabeth formally opened the estate. Back then it was known as the Endeavour Estate – an homage to Captain Cook, one which has long slipped out of usage.

But the reference is maintained in the estate’s six key buildings – Matavai, Turanga, Cook, Banks, Solander, Marton – all named in connection with the explorer and his travels, and the pioneering botanists who accompanied him.

The 30-storey Matavai building, named after Tahiti Harbour where Cook docked the HMAS Endeavour, still bears some of the original kitsch furnishings, such as the thatched “tiki themed” huts and replica Polynesian artefacts in the outdoor dining area.

Today, however, the tribute to British colonisation sits with increasing discomfit against Redfern and Waterloo’s strong Indigenous links. At least one in 10 of the estate’s residents are Indigenous.

The community is a microcosm of the n melting pot. “Russian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Lebanese, Indonesia. We have just about every representative of every creature on Earth,” says Scottish-born Fiona Mangold, an 87-year-old Matavai tenant.

Amid the uncertainty of the coming changes, the community has found a rallying voice. Residents have formed the Waterloo Public Housing Action Group, and every Tuesday tenants from across the estate squeeze into a small community room in the Solander building to run through the issues.

“Now it’s like we’re one community,” says the action group’s chairman Richard Weeks. “Our whole lifestyle, and our very existence, is never going to be same again. So we’re all losing the same thing and this is what has brought us together.” A government-owned gold mine

The estate’s grey concrete buildings remain strikingly incongruous against the relatively flat, terraced terrain of their urban surrounds – monuments to the era’s utilitarian style of housing projects.

To outsiders, the estate’s reputation is one of dilapidation; a run-down housing project awash with crime and drugs. It’s a perception many residents insist is over-egged by the media.

“It’s not true what they say, that it’s not safe here,” says Fanya Tesler, a 97-year-old resident, says. “It’s safe here.”

Another resident, Masalo Laumua, 71, recalls an incident where a man was thrown over the balcony of apartment from several floors above her. When she peered out of her apartment window, she could see his dead body sprawled in the garden below. It was not the first or last time she has called the police.

Yet she breaks down in tears as she talks about the prospect of relocation. “It gives me a lot of grief in my heart,” she says. “I still call this place a home. I’ve made a lot of friends.”

After 45 years in an abusive marriage, Laumua’s modest two-bedroom unit was the first place she had ever called her own, the first home with a door with which she was able to lock out the violence.

“I’m very fearful at the moment because I don’t know where I’m going to end up.”

When Waterloo was chosen as the new metro site, then-premier Mike Baird was swayed by the opportunity to improve the housing conditions of people in the area. Leaks from a cabinet meeting revealed he used his casting vote to pick Waterloo over the University of Sydney for the new station, overriding four of his senior ministers who believed the university had a stronger business case.

This sentiment – better homes for Sydney’s lower-income residents – now runs central to the government’s justification for the redevelopment.

Pru Goward, Minister for Family and Communities Services, the department which will oversee the relocation of residents, said she made “no apologies for redeveloping and renewing our social housing stock”.

However, for at least a decade, governments have eyed off the estate’s hectares of open space. In 2004, leaked confidential government documents revealed a $500 million proposal to demolish the towers and hand the estate to private developers to demographically reshape the area with 20,000 private residents. It never got off the ground.

But by 2015, as land values skyrocketed, Waterloo’s residents – once on the city’s undesirable fringe – were now on a government-owned gold mine.

The redevelopment will rapidly cement the gentrification of Waterloo, which has gradually crept into the area in recent years. Unremarkable terraces in Waterloo now regularly clear the $1 million mark. And by the time the estate’s transformation is complete, as much as 70 per cent of the 7000 new homes built there will be privately owned.

To date, the NSW government has been vague about how the relocation process will work, but says no one will be moved before June next year. It has also guaranteed every tenant will be able to return to Waterloo, and has even said many residents will be able to move directly from their old home into their new one as they are built.

However some residents will be placed in temporary housing in other suburbs while the redevelopment occurs.

Ben Zavesa, 70, who has lived on the estate for almost two decades, says the anxiety is not simply a resistance to change.

“Most of the people I talk with right now, they are concerned about moving somewhere else, even temporarily,” he says. “Some of the people here are over 90 years old. They think, ‘If we start moving somewhere else I don’t know if we’ll stay alive after that’.”

For friends Fanya Tesler and Evgenia Spector, both proud Jewish women from Ukraine, life is governed by years of daily routines – bus timetables, doctors appointments, hospital visits, bingo nights, and weekly visits to a synagogue in Bondi.

There, every Tuesday, the rabbi holds a Russian-language service for 30 or so members of the estate’s Russian-Jewish community.

“For us it is very important,” Tesler says. “At 97, can I move somewhere else? I can’t.”

“We speak about it every day. Every minute. We are very nervous about it,” Spector, 84, says.

But like many residents, their anger at the looming upheaval carries an echo of resignation.

“This is wrong. We have to stop this,” Tesler says.

“We won’t,” says her friend.

Finals could be the swansong for several of the boys in blue

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One thing seems to be a given in n soccer, particularly so if a team wins a grand final.

The chances of the title-winning XI playing together more than a handful of times in the future is almost non-existent.

Salary cap pressures, interest from other clubs, the ambition of players to test themselves in overseas leagues and the fact that rivals often make higher wage-offers to proven champions all come into play and bring about rapid turnover.

Melbourne Victory bucked the trend the last time it won the championship, in 2015, and several of the players who were in that match-day squad are still with the team, or remained for at least a season after.

Mark Milligan, the captain that day, was the only significant departure immediately after the win.

Seven of the team that beat Sydney 3-0 in that championship decider at AAMI Park are likely to figure on Sunday when Victory hosts Brisbane for a place in the 2017 grand final: goalkeeper Lawrence Thomas, defenders Nick Ansell and Danny Georgievski, midfielders Leigh Broxham and Carl Valeri, winger Fahid Ben Khalfallah and striker Besart Berisha are all still around.

Jason Geria, who has become Victory’s first-choice right-back in the two seasons since then, was on the bench that day, as was midfield utility Rashid Mahazi. Both are likely to be involved again on Sunday in some capacity.

But Victory is an exception. Remember when the Newcastle Jets won the title in 2008 only to lose several key players the following year. The Jets have never really recovered, failing to make the finals since 2010.

The same happened last season to Adelaide United, who won the title in glorious style last year only to fall off the pace dramatically this season when many of their star players left: the Reds did not even make the play-offs in 2016-17.

For several players at Victory, Sunday’s game – should they lose to Brisbane – could, or will, be their last match in navy blue.

Ansell, Ben Khalfalla and Mahazi of the class of 2015 are all out of contract, as are Spanish centre-half Alan Baro, who joined at the start of this season on a one-year deal, and James Troisi, the Socceroo attacker who did likewise.

Ansell, who was only 21 when he won the title two years ago, has been in and out of the team in the past few seasons. A serious injury has hampered his development and he has spent this year in a battle alongside James Donachie, signed from Brisbane in the off season, to partner Baro.

Despite the fact that he missed some seven months after the grand final with a foot injury, he signed a contract extension 13 months ago to keep him at AAMI Park until the end of this season. At his age he needs to play regular football, but the question for him is whether he will get it at Victory.

Mahazi is in a similar position. Two years older, he joined Victory during Ange Postecoglou’s period in charge and while he is a familiar face in the match-day squad it is usually as a substitute, where his versatility ensures he is a useful asset to play in midfield or defence if Victory needs to consolidate a lead or shut down a game.

But at the midpoint of his career he, too, would prefer to be playing regularly.

Fahid Ben Khalfallah is definitely coming to the end of his time at Victory. No matter what happens, the French-born-and-raised Tunisian international will not be suiting up in navy next season.

Coach Kevin Muscat left him out of several matches this season and at 34 (he will be 35 when the next A-League season kicks off) he does not figure in Muscat’s plans for the future.

The coach wants wide players with a high workrate who get up and down the flanks, pressing when the opposition has the ball and helping out Victory’s full-backs when the opponents are attacking. Ben Khalfallah’s talents lie in taking defenders on and at his age he lacks the engines required to get up and down the flanks like a younger man.

At his best Ben Khalfallah was excellent. In his first season with Victory he showed the full range of his talents, with a fluid passing game, excellent skill and invention and the ability to score goals which made him an important contributor to Victory’s title-winning team.

He has fallen off those lofty standards in the past couple of years and Sunday, or the grand final, will be his swansong. He is interested in staying in next season so it will be fascinating to see if any other A-League clubs are keen to pick him up on a one-year deal.

Georgievski is another who is on his way out from AAMI Park, the combative full-back already having announced that he has inked a deal to play for the Newcastle Jets next season.

Troisi is still in talks with Victory about a new deal as a marquee player, while Baro’s future remains uncertain.