Posts Tagged ‘AFL’

Refs should be thanking the new fall guy in sport

It used to be that the sourest of sportsfolk would predictably turn their heads toward one minority at the end of a close loss. Or an embarrassing loss. Or a loss marred by controversy. Or a completely uncontroversial loss. Any loss, really.

I talk, of course, of the endgame barrages delivered to referees that have become both commonplace and complacently common. Ricky Stuart is one of many who have turned the blaming of referees for his side’s losses into an artform. Sure, it’s not as well expressed as a Tom Wolfe exposé, or as aesthetically dazzling as a Raphael, but it still forms a kind of guttural, mildly amusing art.

For a coach in the NRL, performing in this genre is easy. He simply must express his frustration to his club officials, week after week, at those interminable referees and their attempts to foil his side’s cheating. Then he must convince them that it’s worth 10,000 of their dollars (which surely could be better used in developing grass roots or some other ideal proffered as another of the many reasons his mighty game is losing the battle to AFL, or football, or ping pong) to let Ricky slag the refs after a particularly difficult game. Then Ricky Stuart hands a cheque to the NRL, paid in full by his club’s board, and gets a ‘fairer’ rub of the green for the next couple of games, as refs are scared that ol’ man Stuart is going to run after them with his musket if they don’t penalise the stuffing out of the other team.

But I’ve noticed that there haven’t been nearly as many articles about how clueless the referees are since the darkest day in Australian sport. Ever since ASADA has left their perch high above the Aussie sporting landscape and descended to the level of the daily sporting grind, they have become the new whipping boy for clueless columnists who want to create smoke where there are barely fire hazards, let alone a fire.

Every day we are exposed to one or another personality in the rugby league community break out the tar and brush analogy. Inevitably we then see another tired joke about Australia’s tar shortage. This leads to an article in response to the previous statement about how the investigation has to be over before we can give people the results, something people still don’t seem to get. Then we get a couple of hours of lull while there’s actual football on, then some idiot asks about ASADA again and we’re back to square one. This has been going on for two months now.

I must say it’s a lot more interesting than referee-slagging. The structural form of ASADA-bagging isn’t nearly as well defined and therefore is poorly constructed in comparison to the well-developed genre of bagging match officials. But we’re certainly getting to a point where people are blindly saying the same thing over and over again the public arena, heeding conventions no one knew existed three months ago. No one listens, but no one points out the ridiculousness of it all either.

Phil Gould is flip flopping on whether he likes ASADA more than a freshly caught fish deciding whether his left or right would be the better side to expire on. One day he understands completely that the investigation will take time, and that there is substance to these allegations. The next he’s columnising about how those up in their ivory towers (no doubt just as pompous, arrogant and disrespectful as those darned referees were) are just sticking their noses into the ‘Greatest game of all’ to have their moment in the sun.

ASADA, by giving themselves the exposure they have, have hampered their cause if anything. But consider this: when that announcement was made, with Jason Clare and Kate Lundy and Andrew Demetriou and Benji Barba, and they told everyone they were hot on the heels of a bunch of people who were cheating by using performance-enhancing drugs, do you think that clubs that did have an institutionalised illegal doping program (that is if there were any) would have continued on their merry way? Or do you maybe think that the announcement on that dark, black, opaquely noir day for sport would have prompted clubs to undergo a thorough cleaning out of the draws as well as a disposing of their programs, at least while the investigation is ongoing.

If there were clubs doping, I wager they would have stopped. The cleaning out of the cupboards bit is why the investigation is taking so long. I’m sure everyone involved would have been told to zip it if they were part of a club that had been cheating.

But I will say to those who continue to rant about how unfair all this is: they wouldn’t have announced anything if there was nothing to announce. Cooperation is extremely unlikely. We have a case in point down on the Sutherland Shire, where folks still seem to think it’s ok to turn up to a legally binding meeting in trackies and thongs.

And just as you had to get used to referees making mistakes, you’re just going to have to get used to this ASADA thing.

Dear Sport, sincerely, confused blogger

Dear Sport,

I’ve been watching, reading, listening to and generally just been around you a lot for the past few weeks, and I think it might be time for a break.

Rest assured, it’s not you. It’s me. Well it is you really, but it’s more the effect that your actions have had on me, and so therefore we can sort of pretend that it’s just me being emotional. Right? If not you can go get stuffed.

But before you go all Kanye West on me, I’m actually going to finish what I have to say. Frankly sport, you’re performances recently have been far from the best video, sorry, performances of all time.

I’m confused, Sport. I’m confused both mentally and sexually.

First you tell me that the Melbourne Demons are copping a half a million dollar fine for tanking, but they actually didn’t tank. They just intended to tank, and tanked in a premeditated way, but on the field they actually didn’t tank. That was confusing and just plain linguistically irresponsible Sport. At the time I didn’t know if I could forgive you, but I have and I’ve since moved on.

Then you tell me that the Sharks are in trouble, Sport. You tell me that they’ve contravened some code that no one really seems to know anything about. What’s more, it seems that the people who are supposed to be protected by said code actually don’t care, and just defer to the guy (or girl) with the syringe in some sort of zealous act of faith in club protocol and spirit.

“These people mean me no harm, they’re just doing their best to make sure I’m more hormone than human.” This attitude confuses me, Sport. Why don’t you tell those who play you they’re doing something wrong? Or at least tell the people who have been doing it to come forward and admit they’ve done something wrong. Or maybe those who administered the drugs? Or maybe those who oversaw the systematic cheating of the drug laws to show an ounce of courage and admit they made a mistake?

No? That’s too much to ask for? Well what about the dudes who’ve been on the case of this four two years? Can’t they just come out and tell us whodunnit? No? Even that’s too much to ask for. Well gee, Sport, I thought we were closer than that. I just… don’t really know what to say.

And that wasn’t even the end of it, Sport. Last of all you tell me that cricketers have homework? They actually have to write things down? I don’t know where you come from, Sport, but when I want to get better at something I don’t just sit down and write about it (except for writing, ironically). Surely making them jump through some flaming hoops or running on the heads of man-eating crocodiles would be far more effective for physical specimens like Shane Watson than writing ways that the Aussies can improve in India.

In fact, I actually did Shane Watson’s homework. And James Pattinson’s. I didn’t do Khawaja and Johnson’s homework, I don’t really care for them too much… But here it is! Sorry it’s late:

Score more runs.
Take more wickets.
Field better.

See? All done? Amazing right? Who knew, it just got lost somewhere in the WordPress ether. Can they play in the third Test now, Sport? Pretty please?

Well, if that’s really the attitude you’re going to take, Sport, I don’t really know where this can go.

I just… I just…

What Australian dopers should learn from Lance Armstrong

I noticed in Peter FitzSimons’ column in the Sydney Morning Herald today he refers to Lance Armstrong as “the most infamous drug cheat in international sporting history.”

Now we all know Peter has never really gone soft on Lance, but his unrestrained appraisals of the former cycling champ have most definitely been ratified by the evidence. FitzSimons jocular surprise of the comparison of Lance’s systematic approach to doping his entire US Postal (among others) cycling team to the bombshell that was dropped yesterday about systematic doping, corruption and the potential for match-fixing in Australian sport is also worthy of note, insinuating he suspected a seedy underbelly to the glitz, glamour and nasal accents of Australian sport too.

Whatever we make of his timing and judgement is irrelevant. What is worthy of note is that he picked up on the Justice minister Jason Clare’s comparison to Lance’s doping efforts. The most interesting question that this raises in my eyes, however, is simply “how low does it go?” but rather one of “what can athletes learn from the bad man Lance?”

Appropriate to his crime, Lance is a fallen angel, a veritable Azmodeus in today’s sporting landscape; an example not to follow. But also, in my view, an example to be learned from. For every drug cheat that is caught and sanctioned, lessons must be learned and action must be taken. This applies not only to the people investigating and testing for the crimes (used in a loose sense), but also those loading up their veins, and stomachs, and whatever else, with the gear.

Lance Armstrong could and would have saved himself months of ignominy had he only fronted up, fessed up, told the truth and got that monkey, that cost him so much of his life and so much of what he could have had, off his back. Imagine the weight that would have been lifted off his shoulders when he uttered those words to Oprah. All the years of bickering, fighting, lawsuits and lying to yourself and everyone else, gone. Of course in Lance’s case it was replaced by yet more bickering and yet more lawsuits, but that was for one reason and one reason only:

He didn’t tell us the truth in the first place!

Had he done that, we wouldn’t have had to watch Oprah at all, and we all would have known years ago that Lance was as drugged and dirty as a pillhead sleeping in a Kings Cross dumpster. At least the pillhead, acknowledging he went too far, can go home and have a shower. But when you sleep in a dumpster for too long, the smell doesn’t come off so quickly. You could say the monkey on Lance’s back quickly grew into an Orang-utan, and was the size of a Silverback Gorilla by the time he actually told Oprah what he really did to be the best.

"If you did cheat, the silverback Gorilla will find you. He will hunt you down and kill you," said Sports minister Kate Lundy yesterday. Or something like that

“If you did cheat, the silverback Gorilla will find you. He will hunt you down and kill you,” said Sports minister Kate Lundy yesterday. Or something like that

So what are you getting at, Patrick? What’s with all this bullshit about people taking ecstasy and EPO and performance enhancing drugs (PEDs?) and PIEDS and whatever other acronyms we can think of?

Well, I humbly submit to those who have knowingly, unknowingly, or partially knowingly participated in this nastiness come forward and save yourself the persecution; because the lesson to learn from the biggest story ever about drugs in sport is that the longer you wait, the worse it gets.

You can hold on and not get caught, but look at what happened to those who do come forward.

Tyler Hamilton, who in his peak had more growth hormone pumping around him than a 15 year-old boy sired by Luke Longley and Lauren Jackson, now champions the cause for a cleaner sport of cycling and was a key witness in exposing Armstrong’s cheating. You might even say he was a fallen angel who finally returned back to the right side. People seem to like Tyler, respect his courage and place less weight on his cheating as a result of his confession.

Now whether we should judge Tyler less harshly because he came forward is another thing altogether, but so far that seems to be the trend. The Sports Minister, Kate Lundy, said it yesterday:

“I say to those athletes – ‘Come forward… come clean and be part of the solution, not part of an ongoing problem.’ I would think they should do it as soon as possible… investigations are already under way, so it is possible for people to come forward now.”

Sound advice, I would think.

The minister also mentioned the possibility of reduced sanctions and the potential for leniency for confessors. It’s more than they deserve, but it may prompt people into considering it.

So come forth, those who sought to gain advantage by illicit means. For the good of Australian sport, come forth, and unsully those veins. The law will welcome you with open arms and (possibly) reduce your sentence.

You mightn’t deserve it, but if you do manage to grow some balls back (it might take some time) it’ll save you a whole lot of pain.

Obituary for my favourite coach

When a true great of the game finally leaves, especially when he is pushed, there is bound to be controversy, backlash and puff pieces. In the case of Nathan Hindmarsh there can be comebacks before he has even retired. But it is not this Nathan we discuss today. In fact, we are not discussing a Nathan at all

It is with great sadness that I post this news… Matthew Primus, former coach of the Port Adelaide Power, has fallen victim to his own success and ingenuity.

Fondly known by followers of this blog (including my dog and a mate of mine who lives in a different country), Matthew “Optimus” Primus proved himself to be a trailblazer in not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not eight, but seven ways. All seven of these ways include appointing captains for a fixture. Seven captains, unsurprisingly.

Apparently the decision to boot the “The Transformer” was prompted by their loss to the Greater Western Sydney Giants, the Power board moved quickly to rid themselves of anything to do with the loss. The coach goes, the president goes, half the players will probably go, and the board remains safe. We all know, after all, that it is a board that makes a football club.

It seemed like a hasty move, in light of GWS coach Kevin Sheedy’s comments recently that they are the best AFL side ever to don a pair of short shorts and we-have-massive-ceps singlets, and that their poster boy Israel Folau is the best AFL player ever to pose for the camera.

In reality the move to decomission the leader of the Autobots proves only that the Power board should be unplugged. The lack of leadership for the Power will now come into question, with a distinct lack of candidates to replace the slayer of all them baddie robots.

We all know that Jazz was ripped apart by Megatron in the first movie and that Ironhide and Ratchet just don’t have it in them to lead a team back from the depths of failure. And don’t get me started on Shia Labeouf. The fact that Michael Bay expects me to believe that that puny little human can defeat Starscream single handedly is insulting to sports fans.

This does not beg the question as there is no argument where the question is being begged, but instead poses it: why was he fired? There is little doubt that Primus was the best coach in the AFL. He clearly had the best name, being the most akin to a popular brand of childrens’ toy. What’s more, the audacity he showed to name seven captains for one fixture is the most groundbreaking development in coaching since the clipboard. This decision led to some of the most read pieces of sports journalism in history. Such is the legacy.

The AFL is poorer for not having Primus among its coaching ranks. I’m not saying I ever watched a Port Adelaide game while he was in charge, or ever heard him talk, but I do know he will go down as the greatest, most successful and most handsome man ever to fill out a team sheet or run handpassing drills.

Vale Optimus, you and the potential for jokes about your name will be missed.

Raiders name seventeen captains, ARL Commission praises “innovation”

Following in the footsteps of Port Adelaide coach Matthew Primus, the Canberra Raiders have named seventeen captains for this week’s fixture against the Dragons.

Hoping to further press the Green Machine’s advantage over the Dragons, a team they have defeated in twelve of the last thirteen meetings, coach David Furner said that having seventeen captains would ensure there was stronger leadership across the paddock.

“I think in the past we have been guilty of not having enough leaders in the team. By bestowing the captaincy upon all seventeen, I think that really gives us the best opportunity to showcase our captaincy skills as a unit, and as we all know, too many cooks spoil the broth,” Furner said.

Dragons captain Ben Hornby, visibly scared after hearing the news, said: “If the Raiders think they can intimidate us by selecting their entire team as captain then they are absolutely right.

“Since hearing the news the boys have prepared terribly, and are regretting our choice to play professional football at this point.

“I am curious to see how the toss will work though.”

Furner failed to answer questions about how seventeen men can feasibly toss a coin, which has only fuelled speculation from the game’s top thinkers. So far, the pundits have suggested a ‘best of seventeen’ coin toss, in which every Raiders captain tosses one coin for Ben Hornby to call. It’s sort of like two up, but not really.

In what was a rather confusing press conference, Furner also related his controversial yet canny decision back to the ubiquitous and largely imaginative fight against the marauding hosts of AFL folk from south of the Murray.

“I really feel that this is an area that the AFL has been making significant gains on us for a long time, and just like in Western Sydney, I think it’s time we took the fight to them.”

The coaching masterstroke has been praised universally by AFL coaches and players alike. Trailblazing Port Adelaide coach Matthew ‘Optimus’ Primus admitted that he didn’t know it was possible to pick more than seven captains.

When asked about Furner’s decision, Primus said: “I’m aware that our footy club has long been a leader in this field, and we have been proud of the role our footy club played in that.

“But honestly, I think what Don Fervid has done at the Raiders other-type-of-footy club is revolutionary.

“Sometimes you just have to sit back and realise that sometimes people at other footy clubs  just have better ideas than you, and the only person we can really thank for these ideas is baby Jesus.”

NSW Origin coach Ricky Stuart has reportedly considered following in Furner’s footsteps, conceding that “not having enough captains” has been the largest and possibly the only factor in NSW’s failure to win anything in any form of sport, ever.

When quizzed on whether he would name injured backrower Glenn Stewart as an ‘eighteenth captain’ were he not to take the field on Wednesday, namesake Ricky replied: “Look, captaincy of injured squads is something we’ve been experimenting with. At this stage maintaining that level of leadership off the field while the rest of the squad is actually playing Origin Football seems crucial to our success.”

In other relatively related news, NSW have named Jamie Buhrer, Trent Merrin and Jamie Soward as captains of dumped players from the last few series, and the Maroons have named Chris Sandow, Ashley Graham, Scott Bolton and Sam Kasiano as captains of those who haven’t played Origin Football yet, but may do so in the future.

I’m looking at you, AFL

Has the AFL become less predictable than the NRL? After seeing this week’s results sheets I think  it may be getting closer.

I always looked at the AFL as a bit of a banker when it came to tipping and betting. The NRL, in past years, has been an absolute nightmare to tip. It hasn’t really changed this year either, with the “experts” tipping the “Tigers” as “favourites” for the premiership. I don’t know which fantasy world these “experts” were living in. I know that it’s always difficult to tip the NRL, I understand, but I also know that the answer to the question “When will the Tigers finally bring it all together?” is “never!”

For all those that think I’m going all Matty Johns on you, I also know that the “never” answer also applies to Souths and Parramatta as well. To fans of these teams: don’t beat me up, my opinion only.

But you know how it goes, AFL followers. Things tend to work in dynasties, don’t they? There was a Brisbane Lions dynasty, then a Port Adelaide dynasty of sorts, then a Swans dynasty and then a Geelong and Collingwood dynasty. As a fan of sport who doesn’t follow AFL all that closely, I know that I can usually answer the question of who’s going to win this year’s premiership by watching one episode of that year’s Footy Show and picking up hints as to who the two best teams were. Flame on AFL fans. Flame on.

This year, to me, seems different. Collingwood aren’t the dominant proposition they were for the last two years. Geelong got beaten by North Melbourne, who have promised so much but delivered so little over the past number of years. I am beginning to think we might have some new Grand Final contestants this year.

The NRL often advocates that the salary cap is the best thing ever to happen to rugby league. The argument runs that it evens the playing field and ensures a tight competition every year. Looking at the closeness of NRL fixtures, I would generally agree. The competition has been exciting and the standard of play excellent for the past ten years. It’s obvious, though, that the players are playing for much less than they’re worth, and for that reason I think that the cap is immoral. 

The AFL’s  salary cap hasn’t seemed to have had the same effect, at least to my untrained eye (thanks Jacko). Why has the AFL has not enjoyed the same closeness between all teams? It always seems like there are two or so teams standing high above the others in the quality their play. If, through their salary cap,  draft and whatever other systems, they have managed to provide us fans with a competition as even as the NRL, then it is a triumph both for spectators and capitalists alike.

Then again, we just watched Manly, the reigning premiers in the NRL, get beaten convincingly by the cellar dwelling Titans. In that respect I think the NRL is still the benchmark. I would not put my money on the bottom two teams in the AFL to beat any of the other teams, let alone Geelong. But if you ask me when the reals Eels or Titans are going to show up and win, I think it’s just as likely to be against the Storm or the Broncos as anyone else.

I think, if pushed,  the reason I would give for my general lack of observance of AFL in the past has been the predictability of results. If this new trend keeps up, and the top teams aren’t as untouchable as they have seemed in the past couple of seasons,  I may be forced to change my ways. Then again, if the Blues and Eagles begin a dynasty and I’m forced to watch mid-table clashes to see a close game, I might not bother.

I started by mentioning a banker for the betting-folk, and I’d hate to disappoint the many (read: any) that read along. So here it is: bet against the Suns and GWS. I read a news story last week that due to lack of bets on GWS to beat West Coast, the Eagles were paying a flat dollar. Yep. No more bets please.

Football in Australia: How generous thou art

Does your suburb have a major sporting franchise in every code with an accompanying stadium? Don’t worry, you’ll get your turn.

Sure, it will fold pretty quickly because it never was, and probably never will be financially viable, but the salary cap will ensure that your team at least has a chance of making the finals. That is unless you’re unfortunate enough to get an AFL sponsored team, in which case it will be financially viable, somehow, but will never win a game. Quite a conundrum.

You should also note that this new team, that we have so generously given to you, will represent you, your community, all your interests, and generally is the best thing to ever happen to you. So get on board, pat our ridiculous mascot on the head, sing the terrible team song (here’s a copy of the words), and make sure you buy one of our butt-ugly jerseys. Geez they suck. Do you know why we made them like that? We knew there would be a Telegraph headline talking about how butt-ugly they are, and “any publicity is good publicity.” Do you know why that’s in quotes? Because they taught us that in marketing school, or was it in swimming class? I don’t really remember anymore. It was probably media training…

Objectively though, it’s a terrible jersey.

Oh, and don’t worry that you’re from Mt Druitt and we’ve lumped you in with the rest of “Western Sydney,” wherever that is. At least you have a slightly more defined geographical area than, say, North Queensland or the “Western” Bulldogs et Force.  Western what, Bulldogs? Western what? Also, does anyone remember the North Queensland Fury?

Now time to announce the biggest signing in the club’s short but revered history. Bah bah bah bah! Drum roll please. Look everyone! A coach! A coach that you may or may not have heard of. Yeah, he’s not going to strap on a pair of boots, but holy shit can he coach. Do you KNOW how many premierships this bloke has won? I sure as hell don’t, but it’s probably more than one.

Sarcasm aside for one moment (note the italics), how much of a travesty is it that Gary Ablett. Gary Fucking Ablett, the bloke who could have been the best player ever, is getting schooled every week because he plays in a team who would probably be beaten by most VFL teams? I’m no AFL expert, but I get the feeling that’s a pretty accurate summation of the situation of the Gold Coast and GWS franchises. Hats off to the guy for trying to spread the word, so to speak, but you fancy his highlight reels would be a lot longer, and the fans could derive a whole lot more pleasure from his performances if his team could play anywhere close to the standard of his old teammates. Poor Gary. 

Worry not, fan of sport, because we have chosen a very threatening moniker for our club which will obviously translate into on field success. This was somewhat true for the Gold Coast Titans. Running twelfth in your inaugural season ain’t bad. Not ‘Titanic,’ but not bad. The Suns, on the other hand, named after the very same thing as the Egyptian Gods Ra , weren’t very Ra-like in their first bite at the proverbial apple.

Minus Gary of course. Note that the Egyptian God Ra is often associated with creative power, something Gary has in droves. But if you ain’t got the cattle…

Think about it though. Titans. Force. Fury (or was it Roofy?). Giants. Suns. All very big, powerful names. Now think Rabbitohs, Cats and FC. Well, I know which one makes my penis feel larger.

Anyway, it’s almost time for us to hand back our license, and go to Western Sydney to poach players for the Australian Olympic Ping Pong team. Such is the talent. Such is the talent.

Stand, spray and deliver.

Critiques from the arm chair