Welcome to our four-part Year in Review series for 2023. In part one, we check the rearview mirror and go back to the start of the year to remember what made headlines in the first three months. FAREWELL TO JUSTYCE The heartbreaking fallout continued from the shocking Christmas Eve fatality that claimed the life of aspiring basketballer Justyce Potaka-Kumeroa. Tributes poured in from family and friends, Justyce’s mother shared her grief and the community came out in force to farewell the teenager lost far too soon at a place he loved and excelled at — Geraldton’s basketball stadium. TROUBLE WITH QANTAS The start of the year began with bad news for the travelling public. Qantas announced it was continuing its limited Geraldton-Perth weekday schedule until October. Overall 2023 was a year to forget for the travelling kangaroo. RECORD HARVEST The start of the year heralded the end of a wildly successful harvest for Geraldton and the Mid West, with records smashed. In January, CBH Group surpassed four million tonnes of grain received at the Geraldton Port Zone for the first time. The total received ended up being 4.317Mt, easily surpassing the previous record of 3.8Mt. CRUISE EMERGENCY There were two medical emergencies off the coast of Geraldton involving cruise ships in the space of three months. The first, in January, saw the RAC rescue helicopter come to the aid to airlift a woman off the AIDAmar cruise ship, 140km off the coast of Geraldton. The second medical evacuation was in April. Both incidents fuelled calls for a rescue helicopter to be based in the Mid West, a campaign that is still being fought. SPUDSHED ON HORIZON In January, potato king Tony Galati lifted the lid to reveal Geraldton would most likely be the next regional WA destination to have a Spudshed. The following month, Spudshed was touted as the star tenant for a proposed new homemakers centre at the site of the Old Ridge Cafe in Woorree. A development application was submitted later in the year and we’re all still keeping our eyes peeled! PREDATOR JAILED It was a story the Geraldton Guardian broke in late-2022 that sent shivers down the spines of parents everywhere. Victorian man James Robert Sbresni had flouted COVID border rules to sneak into WA in June 2021 to repeatedly rape a 14-year-old girl at multiple Geraldton locations over two days, including the abandoned Batavia Motor Inne, after grooming her online. He was found guilty at trial in late 2022. In January this year, Sbresni was jailed for five-and-a-half years for his despicable crimes. COMMUNITY CABINET It was to be then-Premier Mark McGowan’s last official visit to Geraldton. In February, three months before his shock resignation, Mr McGowan and his entire team came to Geraldton to hold a Community Cabinet for the first time in the Mid West town after six years in power. Among his duties while he was here was to open the new basketball courts at Activewest Stadium. Mr McGowan’s political acumen was obvious, but his free-throw ability left much to be desired. SHOPLIFTING CRACKDOWN SHOCKING CLAIMS Allegations emerged in February that seemed hard to comprehend. A Geraldton couple, Monique Ellen Burton and Shaun Bradley Balaam, were charged with interfering with a corpse after police allegedly found the body of their dead baby in the backyard freezer. It was alleged the pregnancy had been kept secret and the baby had been born dead at home. Detectives were alerted when Ms Burton went to hospital. Ms Burton has also been charged with multiple fraud offences for allegedly receiving donations after lying to people that she had a terminal medical condition. Both cases are still before the courts. BOY FIGHTS FOR LIFE He came to be known as Geraldton’s miracle boy. But in March, the community was praying three-year-old Brenten Comeagain would survive a horror incident that saw him struck by a car and dragged while he was sitting on a verge in a Karloo street. The little boy spent the rest of the year defying the odds and making a remarkable recovery. The man accused over the alleged hit-and-run was charged in September. JUDD-ERNAUT BEGINS Geraldton’s Judd McVee had an AFL debut season to be proud of — impressive, solid, reliable, underrated, smooth under pressure. McVee debuted for the Demons in round one, 2023 and played every game for the rest of the season in defence, earning an AFL Rising Star nomination in round 18. He extended his contract by two years with Melbourne, played in two finals and shared the club’s best young player award with fellow West Aussie Jacob Van Rooyen. Geraldton can’t wait to see where McVee’s career goes to from here. NOT SO INVISIBLE In March it was revealed that Geraldton born and bred author Holden Sheppard’s award-winning debut novel Invisible Boys was being developed into a 10-episode series for streaming service Stan to be filmed in Geraldton. Not bad for a boy who grew up in Spalding. We can’t wait for production to start. Do they need any extras? E-SCOOTER CRASH A 25-year-old man in March was the latest person to be seriously injured in an e-scooter crash. The man was on a Beam hire scooter when he collided with a Suzuki Baleno hatchback at the Lester Avenue and Fitzgerald Street roundabout. He was not wearing a helmet and sustained head injuries, requiring him to be flown by RFDS to hospital in Perth. The incident came only days after one of WA’s top trauma surgeons described the “enormous exponential increase” of serious e-scooter-related injuries as a “new disease”. NOT AGAIN Two men were charged over an alleged sex attack on a 12-year-old girl at the Batavia Motor Inne. The allegations were horrific — the girl had reportedly been supplied with alcohol, lured to the derelict site and sexually assaulted. News of this case prompted calls for the site to be made fully secure and the gate locked. Around the same time, the owners released their concept vision for the site, with plans to turn it into an office and retail hub.