Connect with us


Hot Rod



From racing cars, to restoring vintage speedway cars, to driving trucks carting coal at Rix’s Creek, Allan Bates loves to get behind the wheel.

Allan’s love for racing started at the age of 4 when he went to his first meeting in Muswellbrook to watch the TQ’s and Motorbikes in 1960. A few years later he met John Smith who lived down the road who also shared his passion for race cars. For Allan it was a dream come true when John agreed to let him help work on his cars.

Allan went on to complete a panel beating apprenticeship at John’s smash repairs, Smith’s Smash Repairs, before moving on to driving road trucks transporting coal between Muswellbrook and Port Waratah. For the last 19 years, Allan has been working for a contracting company as truck driver at Rix’s Creek Coal carting coal from the washery to the train loader.

“I just love to drive and I’m lucky to have a job I enjoy where I drive every day. But most of all I loved it when I used to race. The speed, the thrill, and the skill involved, it was heartbreaking when I had to give it up,” Allan said.

Allan’s first race car was a TQ (Formula 500). He raced it all over NSW in the 70’s. In 1977 he had his first race in a Hot Rod at Newcastle Motordrome and In 1983 and 1984 he won two back to back NSW titles and placed 2nd in the Australian titles in 1984.

In 1985 he moved on to Sprintcars. In his first race at Newcastle Motordrome he was titled Rookie of the Year and in 1987 he won the Winfield Sprintcar Masters Feature Race.

In what would turn out to be his last ever race 1992, he blew the engine in his Sprintcar which ended his racing career. This was very disappointing for Allan but maintaining and repairing the cars for such an expensive sport made it no longer possible for him to continue.

“Even though I gave up racing, I never lost my passion so in in 2000 I got into restoring vintage speedway cars and demonstrating them at race meets with the NSW Vintage Modified Association. I also displayed them at car shows around the country and my family got involved. My daughters Tina and Samantha and my wife Marie would come along and drive at some of the meets, so it became a great family affair.”

Since 2001, Allan has restored four vintage speedway cars and has another one in progress. Each car takes about three years from start to finish and he has no plans to stop here. But it’s the hot rods that mean that most to him.

“My two favorite cars over the years are the Green & Blue number 57 Hot Rod’s. I built the Green 57 from scratch back in 1979 before selling it a couple years later so I could purchase the Blue 57 which I won two NSW titles in. I sold it in 1984 when I moved onto Sprintcars.”

In 2001, during his search to find the Blue 57, Allan’s daughter heard that the original frame and body were in a paddock at Glennie’s Creek. Never in a million years did he imagine it was his car but sure enough it turned out to be the Green 57.

Once again, he started to rebuild it completing it in 2003. After years of searching he found the original rolling chassis and body of the Blue 57 in someone’s backyard in Toronto. Again, the rebuild process started and was finally completed in 2009.

“It’s been a long haul working on some of these cars but worth the effort. I’ve still got about ten speedway cars and bikes in various stages of restoration to be completed in the coming years. Right now, I am in the process of restoring the first Sprintcar I drove in 1985. I’ll keep on driving at race meets and restoring cars for as long as I’m able.”


Calling all Bass Fishermen



The Bass season has opened up! With some recent warm weather we are seeing the Bass really fire up with great numbers and some cracking sized fish in both our local creeks and rivers.

A few recent trips throwing a few lures in the river around Morpeth producing the goods with a few solid fish hitting the 50cm. On the other hand, the Dams have been a bit of a hit and miss with the recent fish kills taking its toll on the stocks. Given a bit of time the fishing will improve.


It would be hard to put a finger on the number one target at the moment in around the estuaries but one things for sure the chances to catch a cracking fish probably won’t get any better than over the next month or two.

Around the lake the Jewfish population is going crazy. Fish have been caught using live baits, plastics, and soft vibes around bait schools throughout the lake. Flathead are definitely starting to fire up to soft plastic/vibe offerings. A prawn imitation fished along the edges on a run out tide in all locations especially as the Prawns start to move out of the estuaries over the warmer months is a sure bet. On the Prawn topic, this will be worth a shot in Swansea Channel as of this month around the dark moon. Soaking a few crab traps will also be worth it from now, it definitely pays to put in the effort around the full moons though.


The East Australian Current is starting to kick into gear and this not only means we will see the first run of marlin for the season but it will be game on for those looking for a bit of fun around the FADs as they begin to be deployed off the coast.

The inshore reefs have been keeping things interesting with a few nice Snapper showing up with the deeper reefs being the pick for those bigger fish. Sand Flathead will also be an option as the bigger fish thicken up along the forty to fifty metre line. With some luck these early north east winds back off to allow the warm water to push in as we usually see a run of Hoodlum Kings over the next month or two as the water temp inshore begins to rise especially on the north side of Broughton to Seal Rocks. 

Keep floatin’ – Thrifty’s

Continue Reading


Para Triathlete Turns Life Around



Never give up and never lose sight of your goals – that’s the life motto of Dean McHardie who lost his arm to skin cancer in 2015.

If anyone can prove that anything is possible it’s Coal Services’ Safety & RTW Coordinator, Dean McHardie. Dean lost his arm back in 2015 to a form of skin cancer called Basil Cell Carcinoma and following depression post-surgery has turned his life around both mentally and physically.

Dean has lived and worked around Australia at different mining operations from Groote Eylandt, Olympic Dam, and Peak Gold in Cobar NSW before returning back to NSW joining Fire & Rescue NSW Cobar fire station. Now working for Coal Services based out of Newcastle, Dean is passionate about health and safety as well as sharing from his experiences the effects of skin cancer and life as an amputee.

By sharing his story, Dean hopes to get the message out there to mine workers the importance of getting checked. “It has been an adventure, the day to day things you take for granted I sometimes have to think about the best and easiest way for me to do that, such as opening a jar,” said Dean.

“I have my ups and downs and days I will feel sorry for myself, then I think that there are people in far worse situations then me.”

Suffering depression after becoming an amputee, Dean said everything turned around for him after having a coffee with a station officer from Katoomba fire station who was supporting him and his family. “Tom could see I was struggling, and he got me into running, and from there I wanted to prove to myself and those around me that if you put your mind to anything you can achieve anything,” he said.

And achieve he did. Hours of training and hundreds of kilometres on the legs later, Dean has competed in 50km and 100km trail runs and numerous triathlons; his favourite memory crossing the finish line with his son at Ultra-trail Australia.

Dean has also represented Australia, with his first time competing here in Newcastle at the Oceania para triathlon in 2019. “It was a feeling of pride,” said Dean.

“Standing there with the best para triathletes from Australia and the Oceania region was surreal; I definitely learnt a lot in that first event.”

“I then backed it up 5 days later in Devonport Tasmania for the International Triathlon Union World Cup event with some of the best para triathletes across the world which was truly a humbling experience.”

Dean uses his running and triathlons to prove to himself that he can do it and   hopes that when he’s out there competing it gives those around him a boost and encourages those to dig deep and keep going.

With the support of his wife and family throughout his entire journey, Dean also expressed the importance of reaching out to those closest to you if you’re struggling. “Reach out and speak to your mates, there’s nothing wrong with asking for help, if you need help don’t be afraid to get help,” he said.

“Life is an adventure there is so much to see and experience and remember to get a skin check.”

Continue Reading


Off-road Addiction



If your idea of a dirty weekend includes actual dirt, mud, sand, speed and negating ridiculous obstacles, then a side-by-side (SXS) off-road buggy could be right up your alley!

There’s no better way of getting your fix of off-road action then by strapping yourself and a mate or family member into a machine that is dedicated to being driven through paddocks, up rock ledges or along the gnarliest rutted dirt tracks.

The idea that you can have a vehicle dedicated to doing the rough stuff on the weekend without having to worry about the impact that vehicle damage has on getting to work on the Monday, is something that can have more appeal than taking a 4WD (that may also be your daily driver) off-road for the purpose of pushing the limits of that vehicle.

There are dedicated kids’ side-by-sides and everything in between to suit any skill level from the novice weekend warrior, farmer joe, right through to the seasoned professional racer.

There are sedate, farm-spec models with trays for load-carrying, models built for pure weekend fun, right through to high-powered 1000cc race buggies with long-travel suspension, built to take on the likes of the Finke Desert Race, so there are plenty of options to suit your ability and budget.

Of course, you’re going to need land to drive it! If you don’t own your own property or know someone that does, don’t despair – there are plenty of off-road parks available all over Australia. Not all off-road parks allow the use of side-by-sides due to council restrictions, so it pays to check first.

The two main parks that are easily accessible from the Hunter area are TJ’s 4B Park on the Putty Rd southwest of Singleton, and Bylong Creek 4×4 Park, west of Denman. Both have camping and accommodation facilities and hundreds of acres of bushland and maintained tracks that range from easy to extreme. You’ll generally have to book in for a day trip, weekend or extended stay.

What about road rules I hear you say? Well each park or designated area will come with its own set of rules, but the general rule in a side-by-side is never exceed your ability to get back to where you started from without injuring yourself or someone else.

It’s pretty simple – you should always put safety first, even when you are on private property. Always make sure the buggy is fitted with roll-over protection that is in good condition, wear seatbelts where fitted and helmets to protect your noggin in the event or a roll-over or against stray tree branches and rocks.

If you’re new to the whole world of side-by-sides, we suggest checking out some of the footage from the Finke Desert Race or perhaps getting out to an off-road racing event to check out the action firsthand.

You can check out event details at or It’s a safe bet to give you plenty of inspiration to get in and start ripping it up for yourself – there’s simply no better way to experience a dirty weekend!


Continue Reading