Optus boss speed dials success

It was hardly the first day Kelly Bayer Rosmarin had imagined when she agreed to take on one of the biggest jobs in Australia, the chief executive position at telecom carrier Optus.

The 44-year-old former Commonwealth Bank executive had spent a year in a fast tracked apprenticeship, working under former chief Allen Lew and learning about the telecommunications industry – which she had not worked in before she joined.

But after her elevation to CEO was confirmed, months of mapping out the first day in the role last April were thrown out the window as the COVID-19 pandemic spread rapidly across Australia. Meet and greets and visits to Optus stores across Sydney turned into a crisis meeting from a spare room in her home in Vaucluse in Sydney’s east.

Optus CEO Kelly Bayer Rosmarin had a very different first day in the top job to what she had planned.Credit:Dominic Lorrimer

“We had such a good plan. You could have made a documentary,” she says. “I ended up spending my first day – because it happened to work out on the rotation – at home. When I woke up in the morning my kids had written me a nice card that they posted on the door of the spare room that I was going to use. They tried to make it at least feel like it was something special.”

It was a taste of what was to come for Bayer Rosmarin, who joined Optus as deputy chief executive in 2019 a year after her resignation from CBA. As she prepared to take the top job, circumstances were quickly changing, so much so that Bayer Rosmarin kept singing the Cold Chisel song Khe Sanh to her predecessor Lew as he prepared to leave for Sydney for Singapore. Lew was worried he wouldn’t make it back to his home country in time before the borders were shut.

Bayer Rosmarin has always enjoyed a challenge but in steering Optus she faces an exceptionally difficult task. The highly regarded executive is a newcomer to an industry that has struggled with profitability as value drifts to internet giants such as Amazon, Netflix and Facebook. Optus is now battling not just its perennial foe Telstra but also a reinvigorated TPG Telecom, which merged with Vodafone Australia last year to create a formidable third player in the market.

But Bayer Rosmarin hasn’t wasted time in stamping her mark at the Singtel owned carrier. She is about to complete a key $250 million acquisition of low cost mobile carrier Amaysim – a deal that won a tick of approval from shareholders on Thursday. She aggressively freezed Optus’ prices on mobile plans to help customers during the pandemic and is also preparing to sell the telco’s tower infrastructure later this year.

Bayer Rosmarin’s move to Optus surprised many in both the banking and telco industries. But long-serving former Optus boss and current chairman Paul O’Sullivan says she was the right choice for the role.

“Optus is a challenger brand as we have to compete with a company more than twice our size,” Optus chairman Paul O’Sullivan tells The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. “Kelly really stood out as the next leader for Optus: she has a great business brain and also a strong track record leveraging digital technology to innovate and disrupt traditional markets. That’s a rare but powerful combination.”

“It was clear she would be the right leader to take Optus to the next level.”

Kelly Bayer Rosmarin was highly respected by her former CEO Ian Narev.

Kelly Bayer Rosmarin was highly respected by her former CEO Ian Narev.Credit:Daniel Munoz

Rapid rise to the top

The daughter of an engineer and draughtswoman, Bayer Rosmarin was born and raised in Johannesburg with her two brothers.

Bayer Rosmarin completed two degrees – one in industrial engineering at Stanford University in California – before beginning her career in Silicon Valley where she worked at a start-up. She joined Commonwealth Bank in 2004 after a stint at Boston Consulting Group, and held several roles before she was elevated to lead the institutional banking division and markets in her mid-thirties.

She was widely considered as one of former Commbank CEO Ian Narev’s rising stars. And when Narev left in the wake of the damaging revelations of the banking royal commission, she was also considered a possible successor.

“I immediately saw her as exceptionally smart, brave and focused on the best interests of the business rather than her own ambitions,” Narev, now chief operating officer of online recruitment platform Seek says. “This combination gave her rare leadership potential. When Ian Saines, who was highly regarded, let me know of his intention to step down as head of the institutional division in 2013, I ran a global search for his successor, which included an evaluation of Kelly as an internal candidate.

“There were more qualified ‘ready now’ candidates, but none with Kelly’s potential. At the time, aside from being very young for such a broad role, she became I think the only woman leading the institutional business of a top 20 global bank.”

Bayer Rosmarin’s ascent at CBA raised eyebrows among some peers and subordinates. But Narev sought out Bayer Rosmarin because of her ability to disrupt and transform legacy businesses. He says she has a “unique intellectual capability”.

“Kelly is a disruptive thinker,” Narev says. “I recall well her first proposal to me regarding ‘Albert’, which at the time was among the leading POS [point of sale] terminals in the world. The idea of a bank making its own hardware would have been crazy to many, but she took it on, delivered it and as usual deflected most of the credit to her team.

“CBA’s innovation lab was a passion of hers. And I recall walking around the lab with Kelly and Gladys Berejiklian, who was then Transport Minister, hearing Kelly talk about how CBA would support the NSW government’s initiatives in contactless cards.”

“Whereas historically institutional client events were heavily skewed towards sports personalities and sports events, Kelly changed the paradigm and organised a series of client events with Garry Kasparov, which were extremely effective.“

Few dispute the idea that Bayer Rosmarin is a passionate executive. An indication of this was her frequent use of exclamation marks during emails to staff at Commbank.

Career change

Bayer Rosmarin was passed over for the CEO role at CommBank by Matt Comyn. She left CBA in March 2018 shortly after that decision was made, and resurfaced at Optus in the newly formed deputy CEO position about a year later.

It was an open secret in the telco industry that she was being groomed to take over from Lew, who led Optus for five years and spearheaded its push into online streaming of sport.

For Bayer Rosmarin, joining Optus provided the chance to work in a sector that she considered non-substitutable and one that she believed lacked new ideas and profitability.

“Despite [the telco industry] being so fundamental and despite it being something that people actually love and use every day – it’s a sector that globally is struggling for profitability,” she says.

“I started looking at different examples of different telcos all around the world and speaking to consultants in the industry. And there was no example that they could provide of a telco who was doing it differently and doing it well and bucking the trend. I looked at it and said ‘here’s a great space where no one’s really cracked the answer to how we breathe life and profitability back into it.’”

Bayer Rosmarin's talent was recognised early by ex-CBA boss Ian Narev.

Bayer Rosmarin’s talent was recognised early by ex-CBA boss Ian Narev.Credit:Brendon Thorne

Bayer Rosmarin also has a strong passion for sport and her competitive nature is replicated in the workplace. She told The Weekend Australian last August she was sure the telco could unseat Telstra as the number one player in the mobile market.

Industry challenge

Since the COVID-19 crisis meeting in April a lot has changed in the telco world.

Optus’ half year results revealed a nine per cent drop in revenue to $4 billion, while earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation were down 30 per cent to $997 million.

“We’ve done a lot of stuff but it will never be fast enough for me – I want to get to be the most loved everyday brand”

Kelly Bayer Rosmarin

At the telco’s fourth quarter results in May, Bayer Rosmarin blamed negative consumer sentiment and freight delivery provider Toll Group’s cyber security woes on an 84 per cent slide in net profit for the quarter year on year.

Other strategic changes such as a decision to freeze prices on mobile phone plans also impacted income, but she says the pandemic had very little impact on long-term strategy.

One of Bayer Rosmarin's first achievements in her tenure is the acquisition of mobile virtual network operator Amaysim.

One of Bayer Rosmarin’s first achievements in her tenure is the acquisition of mobile virtual network operator Amaysim.Credit:Wolter Peeters

“While it was challenging and unexpected, there are also some things that made it a very smooth and better transition. I’m very calm in a crisis – I’m used to dealing with all sorts of ups and downs. We worked on the purpose of the company, the vision – all those things were already done and ready to go. I think there’s a lot to be said for companies having these organised orderly CEO successions.

“Donate your data, the family plans, the launching our own second brand, doing the [Amaysim] acquisition, these were all things that were part of the strategy,” she says. But some plans, such as a bid for the broadcast rights to the rugby union, did not go ahead. Other strategic changes including a shift to a “team of experts” model in call centres were accelerated.

The Amaysim deal will give Optus a further 1.1 million mobile customers and a stronger foothold in the budget end of the market. Under Bayer Rosmarin, Optus has also announced the launch of digital-only brand Gomo.

“We’ve done a lot of stuff but it will never be fast enough for me – I want to get to be the most loved everyday brand,” she says. “The teams will tell you what I’ll say to them is ‘we’re not going fast enough and consistently enough’ even though what we are delivering is great. We are getting through a lot but there’s just so much more we can do.”

Despite the initiatives, Optus has been criticised for dragging down mobile prices across the market. Veteran Telstra shareholder Anton Tagliaferro blamed poor mobile margins across the sector on Optus in December, a claim which the telco disputed.

This year, Bayer Rosmarin will turn her focus on opportunities with superfast 5G technology.

“This shift to 5G is an opportunity to re-establish connectivity in a new way that resonates with consumers, small businesses and large enterprises,” she says. “A lot of the thinking that we’ve been doing is heading in that direction.

Any changes Bayer Rosmarin plans won’t be without internal headwinds. It is widely known in the industry that it can be challenging to implement changes at Optus without the approval of parent company, Singtel.


“I do think that the telco industry structures may have been developed in a time when it was all about landline voice calls. But I’m not sure that all the policy settings are right and all the right players are in the right sort of dialogue and that we’re working together enough as an industry to make sure that we have a strong fundamental industry structure that will unlock better success for every player in that industry.

“That’s a fundamental question in the national interest that needs to be addressed. And so I’m trying to initiate that dialogue. It’s hard to do as the new kid on the block.”

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Australian Open boss Craig Tiley says no player has an active COVID-19 infection

There are no active coronavirus cases among tennis players in hotel quarantine ahead of the Australian Open, according to tournament director Craig Tiley.

Yesterday, the Department of Health and Human Services said two people who had tested positive had been reclassified as cases of viral shedding.

Mr Tiley said 3,200 tests were conducted on people who flew into Melbourne to be involved in the Australian Open in some capacity, and six of those people were considered active cases.

“We’re in our sixth day and so far our numbers have been extremely low and if they are active cases they go straight to the medi-hotel,” he said.

Paramedics this morning responded to a medical emergency at the View Hotel, where many tennis players have been quarantined.

Ambulance Victoria said one person was taken to hospital in a stable condition, but did not reveal whether the person was connected to the tennis.


Tennis Australia has devoted considerable time to dealing with a vocal minority of players who have continued to complain about conditions in hotel quarantine.

Spanish player Roberto Bautista Agut issued an apology after he likened conditions in quarantine to being in jail, in a video he said was released without his consent.

In the video, Bautista Agut was critical of the Victorian Government, saying the quarantine arrangements were “a complete disaster”.

He later issued a statement saying it was a private conversation taken out of context and released to the media without his knowledge.


Russian player Yulia Putintseva drew criticism yesterday for an Instagram post in which she was seen holding a protest sign in her hotel room.

Putintseva later continued to complain about cleanliness standards, posting videos of mice in her hotel room.


Mr Tiley said Tennis Australia had to remind players that their complaints may not be well received in Melbourne.

“We’re doing the best we can to ask the players to be respectful of the Victorian community, who’ve been through a really tough time over four months of a lockdown, and paid significant prices in loss of life and also in jobs,” he said.

“It’s just one of those environments that we have to every single day talk to the players and ask them to respect that position.

“I believe the majority of them are, it’s just a select few that are not there yet.”

British player Johanna Konta spoke up during a conference call with hundreds of players earlier this week, urging them to be mindful of local sentiment and keep their complaints private.

She told Channel Nine that emotions were running high during the first few days of quarantine, and players were simply anxious about how they would perform after two weeks in a hotel room.

“A big part of that frustration for these players will be how well will they be able to perform and I think that just comes along with being a professional athlete and sometimes rationale doesn’t come into it,” she said.

“The reason we are here is to put on a show for the people of Australia, the people of Melbourne, and also the world stage.”

Tennis Australia is yet to reveal whether allowances will be made in its schedule for the 72 players in hard quarantine, but Mr Tiley hinted that could be a possibility.

“I think how we can adjust is what happens in the lead-in events, how many lead-in events we have and when we start and what the schedule is for those players who need more time,” he said.

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'My boss made me come to work and I caught Covid'

Despite the risks, people say they are being asked to work on site when they could do it from home.

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Infrastructure boss holds senior racing club board position, as it embarks on major development | The Canberra Times

news, act-politics, Major Projects Canberra, Canberra Racing Club, thoroughbred park, Gungahlin light rail, Duncan Edghill

The head of the ACT’s infrastructure department holds a senior committee position at Canberra Racing Club, which is embarking on a major residential and commercial development at Thoroughbred Park. Major Projects Canberra and the racing club say Duncan Edghill has made all of the necessary conflicts of interest disclosures and is not involved in any dealings between the government agency and private organisation. But the presence of Mr Edghill, who is charged with overseeing light rail’s expansion and the Canberra hospital upgrade, on the racing club’s board does raise questions, particularly given the club’s planned transformation of its Flemington Road racecourse precinct. The Canberra Times last month reported the club’s masterplan flagged up to 3200 homes on the site, as well as commercial space and possibly a hotel and aged-care complex. The racecourse would be retained. The 12-to-15-year project could inject up to $1 billion into the Canberra economy and support more than 2000 jobs, according to an internal government brief. The club has been keen to leverage its proximity to the Gungahlin light rail line to spur a redevelopment of Thoroughbred Park, which chief executive Andrew Clark said was key to the organisation and sport’s long-term future. Mr Edghill was one of the key people in charge of delivering the first stage of light rail in his previous role as Transport Canberra boss. The racing club’s records show Mr Edghill was first appointed to the committee on June 30, 2019 – about two months after light rail took its first passengers. He was elected treasurer of the racing club last year. Mr Edghill moved from Transport Canberra to head up the newly created major projects agency in July 2019, initially on an interim basis and then full-time. As chief projects officer, he is charge of the procurement and delivery of the ACT government’s infrastructure program, an agenda headlined by light rail’s second stage to Woden and the $500 million Canberra Hospital expansion. The infrastructure agency would not be responsible for assessing or approving the racing club’s masterplan or any development applications related to the Thoroughbred Park precinct revamp. Those decisions would fall to the ACT’s independent planning and land authority. The racing club plans to start community consultation on the proposal in February. It hopes to gain government approval within three years. In statements to The Canberra Times, Major Projects Canberra and Canberra Racing Club indicated Mr Edghill’s involvement with the two organisations was above board. A racing club spokeswoman said Mr Edghill, who fills the treasurer’s position on a volunteer basis, had made all of the necessary conflicts of interests to both parties and abided by confidentiality obligations. Mr Edghill hadn’t provided the club with any information which wasn’t already publicly available, the spokeswoman said. She said Mr Edghill did not represent the club in talks with the ACT government and had on a number of occasions stepped out of board meetings when discussions turned to the relationship between the two. However, she confirmed he had been involved in committee discussions about the proposed Thoroughbred Park redevelopment when there was “no conflict”, such as on matters related to club members and trainers. “Mr Edghill’s role within the ACT government does not involve any matters relating to the Canberra Racing Club, and Mr Edghill always acts with professionalism and integrity in disclosing any potential conflicts and adhering to his confidentiality obligation,” she said. “The Canberra Racing Club does not have access to information from Mr Edghill which is not already in the public domain, but values the leadership, project management and financial experience Mr Edghill brings to the committee – and by extension to the Canberra community – on a voluntary basis from his years in the private and public sectors.” A Major Projects Canberra spokeswoman confirmed Mr Edghill had made a conflict of interest disclosure to the head of the ACT public service, and did not represent the racing club in any meetings or correspondence with territory officials. ANU emeritus professor John Wanna, who is an expert in public administration, said it was reasonable, and not uncommon, for senior public servants to sit on boards of non-government organisations. What was important was how they managed potential conflicts of interest, he said. “On all of these kinds of matters there could be perceptions of too much insider knowledge,” he said. “But from my experience, they often take great steps to ensure that everything is above board.” A spokesman for Chief Minister Andrew Barr said Mr Edghill had met the requirements on senior public servants to disclose private interests.



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Twitter boss backs Donald Trump ban but warns of ‘dangerous’ precedent

Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey says banning President Donald Trump from the social media platform after last week’s violence at the US Capitol was the “right decision,” but it sets a dangerous precedent.

San Francisco-based Twitter last week removed Mr Trump’s account, which had 88 million followers, citing the risk of further violence following the storming of the Capitol by supporters of the president.

While Mr Dorsey backed the decision on Twitter on Thursday, he said having to ban an account had “real and significant ramifications”.

“Having to take these actions fragment the public conversation,” Mr Dorsey said on Twitter. “They divide us. They limit the potential for clarification, redemption, and learning. And sets a precedent I feel is dangerous: the power an individual or corporation has over a part of the global public conversation.”

The ban drew criticism from some Republicans who said it quelled the president’s right to free speech. German Chancellor Angela Merkel also warned through a spokesman that legislators, not private companies, should decide on potential curbs to free expression.

In his Twitter thread, Mr Dorsey said while he took no pride in the ban, “offline harm as a result of online speech is demonstrably real, and what drives our policy and enforcement above all”.

Even so, he added, “While there are clear and obvious exceptions, I feel a ban is a failure of ours ultimately to promote healthy conversation.”

Twitter has introduced a series of measures in the past year such as labels, warnings and distribution restrictions to reduce the need for decisions about removing content entirely from the service.

Mr Dorsey has said he believes those measures can promote more fruitful, or “healthy”, conversations online and lessen the impact of bad behaviour.

The Twitter CEO said bans by social media companies on Mr Trump after last week’s violence were emboldened by each other’s actions even though they were not co-ordinated. But in the long term, the precedent set “will be destructive to the noble purpose and ideals of the open internet”.

Supporters of Mr Trump who has repeatedly made baseless claims challenging Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in the November election, stormed the US Capitol on Wednesday, trying to halt the certification by Congress of Mr Biden’s Electoral College win.

On Wednesday, Mr Trump became the first president in US history to be impeached twice.

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F1 news 2021, Renault, Cyril Abiteboul, Daniel Ricciardo, exit, new boss, Alpine, Formula One

Frenchman Cyril Abiteboul is leaving Renault, where he was Formula One team principal, the company announced on Monday in a press release.

Laurent Rossi, director of strategy and business development for Renault, will take over the motor sports unit which will be rebranded Alpine.

The Formula One team, which is based in Enstone in England, will replace its predominantly yellow livery with the red, white and blue of the French flag.

That leaves the responsibility for running the F1 team open and its executive director, the Franco-Polish Marcin Budkowski, could take over the reins.

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French boss believes 6 Nations will happen

French rugby federation president Bernard Laporte remains optimistic that the Six Nations will go ahead as scheduled despite the COVID-19 crisis.

“It’s a puzzle, but I think we shouldn’t be alarmed about the Six Nations tournament,” Laporte told French radio RMC on Sunday.

“The tournament will be played with a health protocol decided by the government.

“Everything went well in the autumn (for the Autumn Nations Cup), it will be the same for the upcoming Six Nations tournament, I’m not that worried.”

On Saturday, the French sports ministry recommended that European rugby union games against British clubs be postponed amid the COVID-19 crisis in a blow to the Champions and Challenge Cups.

A number of nations have recently closed their borders to Britain and South Africa after fast-spreading variants of the novel coronavirus were identified in those two countries.

Laporte confirmed that meetings would take place early next week to discuss the Six Nations, which is due to start on February 6.

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WiseTech boss buckles up for the new normal

“I think corporate travel will be a very different thing in the future, I think people will think twice about going overseas for at least a few years, and people will realise that they’ve been able to have their enjoyment in their homes.”

This is reflected in the continuing demand for goods like home gym equipment and the fact that WiseTech, a $9 billion company, is seeing sustained trade growth for its major freight forwarding customers like DHL and Aramex.

According to WiseTech, which offers logistics companies a cloud-based platform to manage all of their operations, shipment volumes for the December quarter are tracking above last year’s highs.

“Everybody across the physical goods supply chain is seeing it’s a goods-led economic recovery … people have decided that various social activities are no longer viable,” White says.

The rising trade volumes have been a factor in helping WiseTech sign up six new global customers in 2020. In a normal year the company would sign two and White says the sales outlook for the new year is also encouraging. However, he adds that it will be a while before the financial benefits of the new customer wins flow into WiseTech’s books.

“That’s a long term play, those things won’t hit the revenue line particularly this year, they will start to come on next year and the year after,” he says.


Playing a long game has been a defining feature of White’s leadership at WiseTech, which started life in 1994 but waited until 2016 to land on the ASX. It’s approach to growth, through buying a host of global peers, has drawn criticism from some quarters.

WiseTech was hammered in 2019 over its acquisition spree in a short seller report by Beijing-based J Capital that sent WiseTech’s share price plunging. It has since sporadically come under fire from short sellers but analysts are broadly willing to give WiseTech a chance to deliver on its promises.

Citi’s Siraj Ahmed says the company is “transitioning from being acquisition driven to being organic driven, which we see as a positive.”

He also points to the stronger than expected recovery in shipping volumes, and customer rollouts as the big drivers , which have led to Citi upgrading its price target on WiseTech by 25 per cent to $27.70. However, Citi has maintained its Sell recommendation given the share price has stayed above $30 and lingering concerns about WiseTech’s ability to digest more than $400 million worth of acquisitions.

“With the stock trading at 20x FY21e revenue, we think that the market could be underestimating the risk that the conversion and integration of WiseTech’s acquisitions into the core Cargowise platform could take longer than expected and not deliver expected returns,” says Ahmed.

A shipment of Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccines is unloaded from a DHL Worldwide Express cargo plane at Athens International airport, in Athens, Greece.Credit: Yorgos Karahalis/Bloomberg

But the integration of acquisitions isn’t the only thing on WiseTech’s agenda, with a new product, Cargowise Neo, shaping up to play an important role for the company in the new year.

It is a web portal that will extend Wisetech’s footprint in the logistics market, connecting it with companies like Kogan, Bunnings or Woolworths that may deal with freight forwarders but might also do the logistics work themselves. It is a segment of the market that’s not covered by WiseTech’s flagship product Cargowise One.

“We want to make sure that our existing customer base is enhanced by giving our new customers and our existing customers a connected platform that works for both of them,” says White.

In Citi’s words, Neo should help WiseTech’s edge closer to fulfilling its vision of being the operating system for the logistics ecosystem represents “a step change in revenue potential for WiseTech and represents a key upside risk to our medium-term growth forecasts.”

Meanwhile, COVID is far from the only structural issue on White’s radar, as trade tensions between China and number of western countries continue to cast a shadow over the global economy.

White says China’s importance to global trade is likely to remain undiminished despite political sabre-rattling. According to White, removing China as the centre of the world’s manufacturing supply chains will take years, given its role as the top producer of goods and services for as many as 120 countries.

“It’s got very strong manufacturing capabilities, a well-educated workforce, available labour, and very strong logistics chains that lead into the inner parts of the country.

“So you can get things from the manufacturing (bases) all across the country to the major ports and airports and that is continuing to flow,” he says.

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Newport boss warns Brighton over “awful” FA Cup pitch 24 hours after rugby match

Newport boss Mike Flynn has warned Premier League Brighton to prepare for an “awful” pitch tonight.

The County chief even revealed he has banned his League Two players from back-passes as it is so uneven.

Newport’s Rodney Parade ground hosted a rugby match on Saturday night when Dragons lost to Ospreys in a Guinness PRO14 Welsh derby clash.

It was just over 24 hours before Newport’s televised FA Cup third round tie with Graham Potter’s Seagulls.

The hosts have got a heated dome on the pitch to protect it from the frost but Flynn still admits the visitors will be in for a rude awakening.

Flynn,40, said: “It will be bobbly especially because of the game on Saturday.

Brighton’s Ben White thrived on loan at Newport in the past and returns today

“It could be awful – it depends how cut up the pitch gets.

“But the groundstaff have worked exceptionally hard and will try and have it flat.

“But any back-pass to the goalkeeper – keep it out of the width of our goal.

“Brighton’s pitch is not bad so I hope this is an eye-opener to them.

“I hope they walk through the gates of Rodney Parade and think they can’t wait to get out.

“We have to use things to our advantage.”

Newport are riding high in second in League Two after a very promising start to the season.

They also boast an impressive pedigree in the FA Cup after previously knocking out Leicester and Middlesbrough in 2019 and Leeds in 2018 at home before losing away at Spurs in a replay.

Newport nearly knocked out Spurs under Mauricio Pochettino previously

Flynn, in charge since 2017, admits the financial boost from those heroics has helped keep the Welsh club alive.

“I think we would be struggling to still be here if it wasn’t for the FA Cup,” he said.

“It has kept the club going, it is as simple as that.

“We were heavily in debt, close to £700,000, and it wasn’t until the following season when we have played Tottenham and Leeds that we were able to clear those debts.

“Since then we have been able to put money in the bank and build on it.

“It is something I will always be proud of.

“The FA Cup has been our saving grace and is part of the reason why it is the best competition in the world.

“I loved watching it growing up and will continue watching until the day I pop my clogs.”

Sunday’s game sees the return of Brighton’s highly-rated star Ben White,23, who caught the eye on loan at County in 2017/18 when he played 51 games.

Flynn said: “He is the best loan the club have ever had.

“He will go on to play for England.

“He is an exceptional lad and I look forward to seeing him if he comes down.

“When you have a young professional with the attitude and ability he has, then sky is the limit.”

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Unbeaten Zac De Boss has plenty of blue sky ahead

Thornton keeps the ride on Saturday, having scored on Zac De Boss in that benchmark 64 handicap, a considerable step-up on his effort first time out of landing, a maiden at Warrnambool eight days before Christmas when Thornton was again in the saddle.

Zahra says that running “Zac” in the 1400-metre Mumm Royale on Saturday is all part of the learning process with a horse that didn’t see a racetrack until three weeks ago.

“Obviously the question mark is backing the horse up, it’s never been done with him. But he seemed nice and bright throughout the week. He had just a little blow-out yesterday and he just seems nice and bright today and we are happy to head to Flemington,” Zahra said on Friday.

If he delivers then, lofty targets could await.

“Depending on his performance on Saturday it will show whether it warrants giving him a freshen up and a late crack at the Guineas and all those sort of races heading into that. But we won’t get ahead of ourselves,” he said.


Still, Zahra believes the signs are all good. “He’s a progressive horse. He’s still doing a lot wrong and he’s got a great attitude to racing.”

The Ellerton-Zahra team traditionally do well in the summer and are adept at placing their horses in off-season races in which they can be more than competitive.

The duo are sharing fifth position on the metropolitan trainers’ premiership with 18 winners and 29 minor placegetters from 110 starters. Their win strike rate is 16.4 per cent, and their win and place percentage is over 42, making their runners worthwhile considerations for all exotic punters.

In addition to Zac De Boss, the pair, who are cousins, have six other runners, several of whom are last-start winners.

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