Max Castor.ON Sunday it will be seven years since Swedish backpacker Max Castor seemingly vanished into thin air.

He was 20 at the time and travelling around Australia.

After being seen in Warrnambool, there were several unconfirmed sightings along the Great Ocean Road and into the Otways, and his last known contact with his family was on April 21, 2005, when he sent an email.

On the same day his brother in Sweden received a parcel containing Max’s personal belongings, money and a letter.

He was last seen wearing a blue windcheater, white T-shirt, jeans, carrying a light blue backpack and a multi-coloured clutch bag.

Detective Senior Constable Dannielle O’Keefe led the investigation into his disappearance in Warrnambool at the time and said she wished she could report a happy ending.

She said police had asked for DNA from Max’s family but it was a procedural process undertaken in missing person cases to ensure an efficient match.

“At this point in time we’ve exhausted all avenues in terms of leads,” she said.

“I keep in regular contact with Max’s father Rolf and his family. We’d love for information that would lead to something more.

“For the family it’s extremely difficult. They have no control over their environment and are relying on someone to provide information.

“They’re a delightful family and they’re desperate for their son to come home.

“We would love a happy ending but it’s not the case unless there is more information that comes forward.”

For Max’s family life goes on despite a sadness hanging over them.

Next week his father Rolf will undergo heart surgery.

Speaking from Sweden, Rolf said he kept in touch with Max’s friends, who were now starting their own families.

“It’s like a type of sadness that is always there,” he said.

Rolf said there was a strong belief that Max was still alive and living in Australia.

“My hope that is that he has a good life in your country and that maybe when he has his own family he will make new contact with us,” he said.

Mr Castor said Max had nieces and nephews who were asking about him and revealed he had inherited money, which may be of use to him.

He pleaded that if anyone knew where Max was or saw him to ask him to call home.

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Reece MastinTELEVISION talent quest stars will dominate this year’s Fun4Kids Festival line-up.

Buoyed by the enthusiastic response to Australia’s Got Talent winners Justice Crew at the 2011 event, organisers have signed up X Factor winner Reece Mastin, Australian Idol runner-up Jessica Mauboy, Australia’s Got Talent and So You Think You Can Dance contestant Timomatic, and Australia’s Got Talent runner-up Cosentino.

The TV-friendly roster has led organisers to label it “the biggest line-up in the event’s history”.

Festival director Luke Cann said the presence of Justice Crew — a hip-hop dance troupe — at last year’s Fun4Kids expanded the type of acts at the festival beyond the usual children’s entertainment seen there in the past.

“Fun4Kids has always had fantastic entertainment for the younger crowds and this will continue,” Mr Cann said.

“But by adding a new genre of performers to the mix we are catering for a bigger audience and it’s really helping the festival reach new heights.

“This line-up ensures Fun4Kids offers brilliant entertainment for all age groups.”

Reece Mastin won the third season of X Factor as a 17-year-old. His debut single Good Night went to number one in Australia, selling more than a quarter of a million copies.

Jessica Mauboy placed second behind Damien Leith in the 2006 Australian Idol competition. She has since released two studio albums, starred in the film Bran Nue Dae, and had 10 top-20 singles in Australia.

Timomatic — real name Tim Omaji — finished seventh in So You Think You Can Dance Australia in 2009 and third in Australia’s Got Talent in 2011, capitalising on a growing profile by signing a record deal with Sony, supporting Salt-n-Pepa on their Australian tour, and releasing a number-two single Set It Off.

Cosentino finished just ahead of Timomatic in Australia’s Got Talent but has been a hard-working illusionist for many years, regularly touring Australia with his magic show.

Tickets for Fun4Kids go on sale May 1. The festival runs from July 1-8.

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SARAH Bullen’s little finger hasn’t kept her from the big stage.

After being sidelined from the semi-final with a broken finger, the Hampden White player will return to Western Regional State League tonight for the 17 and under decider against Hampden Green.

The 15-year-old caught her finger in an opposition player’s arm in a contest for the ball a couple of weeks ago.

“I broke it and couldn’t play in the semi,” she said.

The North Warrnambool Eagles netballer tested out her injury in last Sunday’s Hampden league pre-season cup and got through unscathed.

It means she will feature in tonight’s 17 and under state league grand final, which is a showdown between the two Hampden sides for the second consecutive year.

“I played in it last year and we lost,” Bullen said.

“This year we’ve really worked well together as a team and everyone’s improved so much compared to the start of the year.

“I think we’re pretty even across the whole court.”

White has only dropped one match, which was a two-goal loss to Hampden Green in round three.

“Then we won every other game and in the semi-final, we won against Green,” she said, referring to the 58-34 victory. “We had a game strategy and we stuck to it. Everybody just played so well together and it was probably our best game of the season.”

While Bullen was one of several Hampden players from both sides who were confined to the sidelines for the semi-final, she is hoping to have an impact in the midcourt tonight.

Coach Kate Kearney has used the Emmanuel College student in both wing attack and wing defence during the pre-season competition, with the latter an unfamiliar role for the teenager.

“The coach has been really good and helped me (learn the position),” Bullen said.

“Because I’m a wing attack, I’ve found it easier because I know where the person wants to go.”

Bullen described state league as an ideal pre-season. “I think it’s a real physical competition too, which has been good,” she said.

“It’s a good lead-up for the normal season.”

Bullen, who lives in Timboon, played one season at Camperdown before crossing to North Warrnambool Eagles.

She said her netball had benefited under the guidance of Eagles junior coaches Jackie Smedts and Dot Jenkins, who is in charge of Hampden Green tonight.

Green is coming off a preliminary final tussle with Warrnambool City, which it edged out by a goal.

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SEVEN footballers appear to be in limbo a week before their opening games of the season as District league clubs appear reluctant to challenge Port Fairy’s tough stance on contracted players.

After Dennington’s failed appeals against clearance denials for Chris Vickey and Rocky Miller, fellow Warrnambool and District Football Netball League clubs Allansford and Merrivale are unlikely to follow a similar path in the pursuit of 2011 Port Fairy players.

That leaves Hampden league representative Sam Dwyer and Scott Kelly (both Merrivale) and Louis Fary and Sam Burchell (both Allansford) in limbo ahead of next week’s first round matches.

Terang Mortlake, which is hoping to secure Seagulls ruckman Robbie Hare, is yet to decide its course of action.

Dwyer is still aiming to play with Merrivale, but he is not confident he will be cleared after Dennington’s unsuccessful appeals.

If he doesn’t get a clearance, he said it was likely that he would have a season off football. “But I haven’t made a definite decision yet,” he said.

Kelly, who wanted to make it clear he had nothing against the Seagulls, said he wanted to play alongside his brother Brad and cousin James, who captains Merrivale.

“I played all my juniors at Merrivale and I just want to come back to play with my brother and my cousin Jimmy,” he said.

“I had five great years at Port Fairy and I have a lot of friends there. I don’t want this to be a ‘me against them’ thing.”

Kelly said he had been in regular contact with Port Fairy and would continue to talk with the Seagulls in the hope he could get to the Tigers this season.

Allansford football manager Glenn Byron said the Cats had ruled out appealing against the clearance knockbacks for Burchell and Fary.

He said the club had met the Seagulls and would continue discussions in the hope of reaching a solution.

“We are fully respectful of their position on the matter,” Byron said.

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Former national player Anna McIlroy with the Warrnambool Youth Girls football team. 120327DW26 Picture: DAMIAN WHITEBRING it on.

That’s how the Warrnambool Youth Girls’ squad is feeling about its debut in the V/Line Cup, which kicks off on Sunday.

Co-coach Ken Radley, who is taking charge of the team with Daryl Mahoney, said the inaugural side could not wait to compete in the cup.

“They’re extremely excited and they’ve been fantastic to coach,” he said.

“They take instructions, they’re willing to listen and they really try and implement what we’re asking them to do.”

The group had a training session and jumper presentation at Reid Oval on Tuesday night, with top south-west female football export Anna McIlroy making a special visit. McIlroy, from Port Fairy, has retired after a decorated career that included representing Victoria five times and playing for Australia in the 2006 women’s international rules series in Ireland.

“The girls were just blown away by her,” Radley said.

“It was good for them to see just how far they can go with their footy, to play at international level.”

The co-coach said that McIlroy, who was itching to train on Tuesday but forgot her boots, spoke to the girls at the jumper presentation.

The side will have its final training session at Reid Oval tonight before its cup campaign starts on Sunday with a match against Geelong Youth Girls in Geelong West.

“They’ve been going for four or five years and obviously they’ve got a bigger catchment area,” Radley said of the first-round opponent.

“But we’ll show a good account of ourselves.

“The girls aren’t daunted about who they’re coming up against. They just think ‘bring it on’.”

Warrnambool Youth Girls have been training twice a week for more than a month, with numerous players travelling from the east of the Hampden region.

“Most of the girls are quite elite athletes already and have a high fitness level, so (training is) just about them getting used to the football and moving it up and down the ground,” Radley said.

He was pleased that the squad started training with a natural team mentality.

“There’s no big egos and everyone is thinking about everyone else,” he said.

“They’re a real team and everyone’s playing for each other, which is really refreshing.”

Radley applauded the south-west for embracing girls’ football.

“There’s been great support from the broader community,” he said.

Following Sunday’s clash with Geelong, Warrnambool will take on either Bendigo or Ballarat on Monday.

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