Posts tagged ‘Australian’

Remembering The Past

While much media attention has been given to the tributes being paid by the Australian cricketers to the unfortunate premature passing of their team mate Philip Hughes this year, we should not forget that the New Zealanders had a stalwart of the game close to death for whom they were no doubt playing, former captain Martin Crowe.

The World Cup final was expected to be the last game of cricket Crowe will watch. Crowe had written on ESPN Cricinfo website that he was very close to death due to a terminal blood disease.

“My precarious life ahead may not afford me the luxury of many more games to watch and enjoy,” said Crowe.”This is likely to be it. I can happily live with that.”

Crowe, was a wonderfully gifted and elegant batsman who is the second highest Test run-scorer in New Zealand history with 5,444 runs at an average of 45.36. He captained the Kiwis in the 1992 World Cup. Sir Richard Hadlee once said that Crowe was the only man whose wash bag was bigger than his kitbag!

Crowe had worked with some of the Black Caps players contesting the final, including batsmen Ross Taylor and Martin Guptill. It was the form of these two batting lynchpins that boosted Crowe’s spirits in the final days of his battle with illness.

“To see the two sons I never had, Ross Taylor and Marty Guptill, run out in black, in sync with their close comrades, drawing on all their resolve and resilience, will be mesmerically satisfying,” he told Cricinfo.

It is a shame that sport has to have one winner in contests such as we witnessed on Sunday as both Philip Hughes and Martin Crowe deserved to be remembered by their respective teams. Crowe may still be with us for the time being but those who saw him bat will never forget his elegance. May his legacy live on and his suffering be painless.

March 31, 2015 at 11:31 am Leave a comment

Premier League Clubs Looking Local For Success.

Despite football clubs always on the look out for big name signings to not only perform on the pitch but also help sell merchandise off of it, a recent report has shown that home grown talent is in fact proving a very successful and beneficial way to go for many clubs; a fact many fans have been promoting for years.

Manchester United were the first club to show what home-grown talent could achieve, when the likes of Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Nicky Butt and Gary and Philip Neville broke through and lifted the Champions League title.

How times have changed since then, when Manchester United played Tottenham Hotspurs a fortnight ago they had spent GBP149million over the Summer on their squad. Tottenham on the other hand had five players who had come through the juniors sides at White Hart Lane.

As one of those young players said in the national press in England, it is harder for youngsters to break through than in other European nations, where they actively promote local talent.

“There are a lot of talented players who are not given the chance and then they get lost in the system and maybe things don’t work out for them in football.” Ryan Mason was quoted as saying. “The more clubs who give players these chances the better.”

Mason praised coach Mauricio Pochettino for giving youngsters a chance at Southampton, and carrying on that ethos at Tottenham. Mason said that he believed that England had the depth of playing talent, but that many managers opt for foreigners to fill key positions rather than entrust that responsibility to a local player.

Interestingly Paul Scholes, a player who knows the importance of being given a chance when young has backed Mason to break into Roy Hodgson’s England squad sooner rather than later. Mason may not have made the recent squad but his Spurs team mate Harry Kane aged 21 did.

This season Tottenham has given five local players who came through their youth system and who are aged 24 and under regular starts. Arsenal have given 8 players who came through their youth system games, the oldest player being 25 year old Kieran Gibbs, while Ainsley Maitland-Niles is the youngest at 17. QPR has given three local players games, West Ham, Crystal Palace and Chelsea two each.

With a shift to local talent being given a chance one has to question the benefit of young Australian players heading to Premier League clubs and their chances of breaking through. As Massimo Luongo has shown, having come through the Tottenham youth ranks, a move to a lower division side and playing regularly for that side may be the better option in the long term. Luongo showed in the Asian Cup that he can step up and perform at international level and with consistent performances at club level has a number of clubs in higher divisions monitoring his progress. As the old saying goes all that glitters is not gold.

It will be interesting to watch in the coming seasons whether the trend being followed by Arsenal and Tottenham is taken up by other clubs. Is buying big still a guarantee for success?

March 26, 2015 at 9:18 am Leave a comment

No To Big Boy’s Toys. Is There Another Option?

” A big boy needs a big bat” says West Indies opener Chris Gayle in response to the International Cricket Council’s proposed crackdown on the size of bats ahead of the World Cup.

He has received strong support from former Australian fast bowler Brett Lee, “I think that if players like Gayle and Warner are strong enough to lift a bat that heavy at that speed, then good for them, it makes the game a hell of a lot more exciting.” He is quoted as saying.

However not everyone agrees. After all the modern game of cricket, especially in Australia has become a game totally dominated by batsman as the wickets already give the bowlers little help. Many remember how tennis has changed dramatically and become all about power rather than finesse since wooden racquets became a thing of the past. Has the power really made Tennis a better game to watch?

Former Australian Test Captain Ian Chappell is one man who backs the ICC in this move. He has said that the increase in the thickness of the willow put the umpires and bowlers at risk of injuries. Not a reason many expected. Chappell however saved his main criticism of the ICC claiming that they had woken up too late and being behind on so many issues affecting the game, including the size of bats.

“At long last the ICC has decided there’s a problem with the bats. They are being hailed as too good and disturbing the balance between bat and ball. This combined with the fact that the ICC also recently decreed that shorter boundaries are contributing to the problem, is a classic case of being way behind the game.” He said.

One has to agree, and if the ICC does not soon start monitoring the state of the wickets prepared and ensuring that there is something in them for the bowlers we are likely to see the standard of bowling dip even further than it already has at international level in the past ten years. What incentive is there for a bowler to toil so hard when the odds are stacked so heavily against them.

Another change we have discussed on the show on many occasions is that the ICC should take away the restriction on the number of overs bowled. Batsmen do not have to retire at 50, so why should a bowler have to stop after 10 overs. People want to see a battle between bat and ball, and if a team has a bowler like Glenn McGrath who is hard to get away, or a Shane Warne pinning down one end why should they be prevented from using them? If the game is going to become more of an even contest then something has to start going in favour of the bowler.

As for the size of the bat, it has impacted the game. Has it had a positive impact? Some will say yes, as has been shown, but for everyone who says yes, there will be another who says no.

February 10, 2015 at 1:38 am Leave a comment

Sultan of Johor Cup Final Is One to Remember.

Great sporting contests live long in the memory. Great battles where neither side gave an inch, Bjorn Borg v Jimmy Connors at Wimbledon in 1977, Belgium v Russia Mexico 1986, the Ashes Test Headingley 1981, all great contests, all standing out as the years pass by.

Sunday night this writer witnessed another such moment at the Sultan of Johor Cup in Malaysia. The final saw the undefeated Great Britain come up against a fast improving India. India had 12 players in their eighteen man squad who had never been outside of their country. Great Britain had ten players from last year’s competition and the Junior World Cupc squad where they played as England. Great Britain were the second oldest team at the tournament, India the second youngest.

The tournament which is the only FIH sanctioned Under 21 event outside or Confederation competitions and the World Cup gives the players of the future a chance to play in front of big and loud crowds, learn to have to back up in competition with games back to back, and also to play in a major tournament. It is a great learning experience.

With players very much in the development phase often the standard of play can suffer with unforced errors often determining the outcome of matches.

Nothing could have been further from what happened in the final. India and Great Britain put on a performance that belied their years and experience in the game. The quality of the hockey on display was truly world class. The errors made by either side were few and far between as each side refused to give an inch. Each stuck to their game plan to the letter; however one could not help feeling that Great Britain pushing their talented Captain Jonathan Gall forward cost them attacking options, as all tournament he and Brendan Creed had been the supply sources for Britain’s attacks.

India scored from their first penalty corner courtesy of Harmanpreet Singh; his goal putting him level with competition top scorer Luke Taylor (GB). Five minutes later Great Britain won their first penalty corner, the unselfish Taylor worked a variation with Sam French who pulled Great Britain level.

The game looked certain to be heading for a shoot out. India launched one last attack, the ball was driven into the circle, it looked as if naught would come from the pass, but Parvinder Singh stabbed his stick at the ball, forcing the Goalkeeper of the tournament Harry Gibson to react and block. the ball spun up off his pads and India had another penalty corner. Harmanpreet stepped forward and beat Gibson. Great Britain had twenty seconds to fight back for a second time, it was never going to happen.

Britain’s players slumped to their haunches, many in tears. The most consistent well drilled team in the tournament had been outplayed in their final game; a game that was a final game for many at Under 21 level. The manner of their defeat will no doubt have sunk in by now, but hopefully they will look back on the part they played in a truly magnificent game, a game worthy of a showpiece final.

India’s young players, smiles spread across their young faces, danced in celebration, the first team to win the Sultan of Johor Cup for a second time having retained their title in dramatic fashion. It seemed as if many could not comprehend what what they had achieved.

This victory was memorable for so many reasons. The hockey was spellbinding from such young players. The discipline shown by both sets of players was top drawer and it really was a privilege to commentate such a game and not be just a spectator.

Hopefully as this young Indian team fly home today their arrival and victory will not be lost in the news that National coach, Australian Terry Walsh has stepped down. These young men and the manner in which they won this trophy will no doubt have given the success starved Indian Hockey fans reasons for hope. Technically they were excellent, they knew when to run with the ball, and when to stop and slow play down as support arrived. They also followed coach Harendra Singh’s tactics perfectly. It would be unfair to single out individuals as this was a true team effort. From the coaches to every single player, they all had a role and a job to do and everyone of them did it perfectly and supported each other.

This was a very special game that deserves to be ranked up there with the best of sporting contests. Once more congratulations and well done to both finalists.

October 21, 2014 at 7:21 pm Leave a comment

Australian Fightback

When it comes to the world of boxing nothing is harder than fighting away from your home. Often the only way you will gain a decision is if you knock your opponent out.

Sadly in recent weeks three Australian boxers have fought in the United States but have ended being the ones to lose by knockout.

The WBC super middleweight champion, Sakio Bika, has told the media in America that he will be the one to stop the rot. He insists he’ll defeat American, Anthony Dirrell, this Saturday.

Bika and Dirrell will grace the ring for a second time, after fighting to an exciting and competitive draw last December .

“I’m going to change a lot of my style for this fight. I’m going to prove I’m better than Anthony, and this time it’ll be by a clear victory. I’ve worked so hard every day to get to where I am, and now I am a WBC champion. I have no doubt I’ll keep my belt,” Bika is quoted as saying. “Lately, Australian boxers have been defeated, but I’ll end this losing streak on Saturday. I don’t care that the fight is in California. I’ve proved I can win anywhere, and this time will be no exception.”

Another Australian looking to arrest the run of defeats is Kalgoorlie boy Daniel “The Rock” Dawson, who was on the show last night, and who has a WBA light middleweight title eliminator on August 22nd against Austin ‘No Doubt’ Trout.

August 14, 2014 at 4:32 pm Leave a comment

ICC to Review Reviews

It used to be that cricket was a Gentleman’s game. A sport where players did the right thing, and if they didn’t they were a bit of a cad. Even if the likes of the great WG Grace tried to pull the wool over the umpires the umpire still had the last word.

There was very little gentlemanly in the exchange between England’s fast bowler and Indian batsman Ravindra Jadeja

After reviewing the incident The ICC has confirmed that it will not appeal the decision relating to James Anderson after the England paceman’s Trent Bridge controversy with India’s Ravindra Jadeja.

Anderson and Jadeja, batting at the time, had exchanged words as the players left the field during the lunch break. It was then alleged that this exchange of words had escalated into a more serious disagreement, out of the public’s view, when inside the inner sanctum of the pavilion.

Following a hearing the retired Australian judge Gordon Lewis and ICC judicial commissioner he adjudged the pair “not guilty” of breaching the ICC’s code of conduct following a disciplinary hearing in Southampton last Friday.

Indian officials were furious with this outcome and BCCI secretary advised the media that they had written to the ICC stating their displeasure with the decision. He also confirmed that they had highlighted flaws within the hearing process. India having no right to appeal on the decision, only the ICC, who are in fact the prosecutor, being the only ones with that right.

Yesterday the ICC announced that it would not be appealing the decision, one that could have seen Anderson banned for four test matches had he been found guilty. “This outcome is the result of two exhaustive and thorough disciplinary processes and, after considering the written decision, the ICC is satisfied with the manner in which the decisions have been reached,” ICC Chief Executive David Richardson is quoted as saying

He went on to say “It was a complicated and sensitive matter relating to charges brought against two players at different levels of the ICC Code of Conduct. There appears to have been vastly conflicting evidence on both sides, with a total of 13 witnesses who gave testimony. After carefully considering the decision by Gordon Lewis, whose vast experience was invaluable to the process over recent weeks, we believe that no further purpose would be served by prolonging the process through further appeal proceedings.”

Just as when cricket was a game played by gentlemen, and if there was doubt over a decision it always went in favour of the batsman – one that has now been completely eroded thanks to technology – it would appear that a man’s right of appeal has been stripped away as well.

However Richardson did give players who feel aggrieved a window of hope when in true administrative view he stated “As a matter of best practice, the ICC will now review the procedures as set out in the Code and reflect upon the comments made by Gordon Lewis in his decision about how a case of this nature might better be provided for in the future.”

Surely one such way is to give the accused or at least those involved in the incident the right to appeal and not have that fall solely to the powers that be?

 

 

 

August 7, 2014 at 9:56 am Leave a comment

The Politics of Sport or is it the Sport of Politics?

There are many who will say that there is no place in sport for politics. Yet ironically sport has been used frequently by politicians to gain favour. It was a sporting boycott that resulted in South Africa slowly dismantling the apartheid system. Then Nelson Mandela used it to unite a country that had been torn apart by Apartheid. John Howard was a frequent visitor at the Sydney Olympics to try and improve his public persona. He is not alone as both US and Russian presidents love to be seen involving themselves in sporting activities.

The funny thing is nowadays very rarely do countries boycott sporting events as 62 nations did with the 1980 Olympics Games after Russia invaded Afghanistan. In 1984 Russia returned the favour by having 14 countries boycott the Los Angeles Games.

There were calls for a boycott of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa because the then President Thabo Mbeki refused to denounce the intimidation and violence being used by neighbouring country Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe. There were calls to boycott the Beijing Olympic Games due to China’s Human Rights violations and their policy on Tibet. No boycott happened. There are now calls that Russia be stripped of the 2018 FIFA World Cup after the shooting down of the commercial aircraft Malaysia Airlines MH17, and the appalling handling of the incident on the ground. The chances are no boycott will happen as sport is big business today.

Over the years there have been many athletes make political statements. One of the most famous was the gloved salute made by sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Mexico Olympics at the medal ceremony for the 200m. It is often reported as a “black Power salute” but Smith maintains it was a human rights salute.

The two US athletes received their medals wearing no shoes and black socks as a symbol of black poverty. Carlos had his tracksuit unzipped to support blue-collar workers, and wore a necklace of beads which he claimed was “for those individuals who were lynched or killed and no one said a prayer for, that they were hung or tarred.” All three athletes including Australian Peter Norman wore “Olympic Project For Human Rights” badges, Norman claiming it was a stance against Australia’s  all white policy at the time. Carlos and Smith were sent home in disgrace, Norman was never picked to run for Australia again.

At the 2003 Cricket World Cup Zimbabweans Henry Olonga and and Andy Flower announced that they would wear black armbands for the “death of democracy” in their homeland. Olonga was dropped after one game – allegedly due to form – Flower continued to play. Olonga had an arrest warrant put out for him and was charged with treason, a charge that carries the death penalty. Their actions were supported by the world’s media.

Many sportspeople have made other political statements, many have used the Nazi/facist one arm salute, – a gesture given by the whole England football team in 1938 – in modern times most have immediately received suspensions.

England cricketer Moeen Ali has now created a storm by wearing wristbands  that carried the wording “Save Gaza” and “Free Palestine.” Many expected him to be banned for making such a statement in a sporting environment, such as during a test match. However the 27 year old muslim all rounder has simply been told by the International Cricket Board not to wear them again. The word is that the England Cricket Board were prepared to let Ali continue to wear them during the third test in Southampton. However they have had to bow to the ICC who deemed its international sports arena was not the place for the British Muslim to show his solidarity.

So the question is why is it OK for politicians to use sport to gain favour and popularity, or make a global statement, yet the athletes ability to air their own views are not quite so clear. Is it OK for an athlete to use his position in the public eye to make a political statement, to raise awareness on an issue they feel strongly about? Is there a time when this is OK, or is it never OK?

Whenever we turn on football today we will witness players from a Catholic background cross themselves before entering the field of play. It has become accepted. What would people’s reaction be if a muslim player knelt down, bowed and kissed the turf before entering the field of play? Would that be deemed an action likely to incite violence, or is it in fact now a political gesture, thanks to the Americans deciding that in place of Communists the enemy they must defend their citizens from are now muslims?

To be honest it is all a storm in a tea cup. One of Australia’s iconic athletes Cathy Freeman proudly displayed the Aboriginal flag as well as the Australian flag when she was victorious despite being told not to do so. The Aboriginal flag not being deemed a national flag by Athletics governing bodies. Most in Australia understood why she did so and few were offended.

Was this a political statement, or was it just Freeman celebrating her success with the Aboriginal people?

After the Sydney Olympics, Cathy Freeman was used as proof that sport could be used as a means of political expression for oppressed peoples.

Yet according to Colin Tatz, professor at the Australian Institute for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, University of New South Wales, Australia. “No one should think that her performance will lead to 150,000 little aboriginal girls getting up and taking up sport. The area where Cathy Freeman comes from still has no electricity, no sewage system, and suffers from huge health problems. The average lifespan for women is 55 years, for men it is 50. Cathy Freeman did not make a difference.”

People remember the statements made by athletes but do their actions make a difference? In Olonga and Flower’s case despite their gesture Zimbabwe still does not have a democracy. So why all the fuss by those in power?

July 30, 2014 at 9:02 am 1 comment

A Fail For Ten

There are many around the world who will tell you the standard of journalism has dropped in recent years as news outlets look to get news out fast on the internet rather than check facts and research a story. Equally frustrating is the behaviour of some in the media by those in the media.

Those serious journalists who covered the Usain Bolt press conference at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow must have been shaking their heads and cringing at some of the questioning the Jamaican sprinter had to endure. Bolt furrowed his brow and shook his head as he was asked what his opinion was on the situation in Gaza, on the Scottish referendum and which team he supported at the recent FIFA World Cup and which game did he think was the best. He was even asked if he had ever worn a kilt.

Not surprisingly Bolt looked thoroughly annoyed by such questions and having to endure them. He was there as the fastest man on earth, as an athlete to talk about his participation in the Commonwealth Games, and no doubt expected those in the room to respect that fact and ask him questions about the Games and his event the 4 X 100 relay.

From an Australian perspective it was embarrassing to have a representative from Channel Ten – the host broadcaster – Roz Kelly admitted when permitted to ask a question, that she was not actually there to ask a question about Bolt’s upcoming event and then asked if she could have a selfie with the star athlete. The mere fact that Channel Ten actually aired such a question and then the act of Kelly and the egotistical Sam Mac pushing in on the photo was even more embarrassing. Yet Channel Ten instead of clipping all concerned around the ear, happily sent the photo out on Twitter. These supposed journalists are in Glasgow as representatives of Australia and Channel Ten and not there for a good time. They are there to work. The fact that Channel Ten actually thought this was entertaining is even scarier.

There is no doubting that Channel Ten’s Coverage is a massive improvement on Channel Nine’s efforts at the Olympic Games, but why if you have bought the rights to broadcast the Games do you not show them? Last night at around 9pm Western Australia lost coverage and it did not come back until after midnight, while the Grand Prix, Masterchef and some other show were aired. Not great programming and very annoying for those who wanted to watch the Games. You have lost this viewer who has now switched to the BBC online as many others have done judging by social media. Wonder what your sponsors make of that?

 

July 28, 2014 at 9:09 am 1 comment

The Wrong Road to the Top?

A recent casual conversation with an elite Australian athlete can only be classified as “Naive.” The question as I walked way was whether I was the one who was naive, or were they?

The issue that had me questioning was one of “vitamins.” The athlete in question explained how they were given a number of vitamins to be taken every day, to ensure that they stayed at peak levels of fitness. Now we are not saying that there is anything untoward in relation to the vitamins being given to the athlete, and others in the same program, but it did make one wonder what would happen if one athlete refused to take the vitamins. Would they be thrown off of the program?

There is no way that this assistance, to see an athlete reach peak performance, is going to ever be as bad as some of the programs established by the East Germans, but surely athletes should not be put in a position where there is pressure to take such vitamins. Who can forget East German shot putt champion Heidi Krieger, who was so masculinized by the drugs her coaches gave her that she later chose to become a man, undergoing a sex-change operation to become Andreas Krieger. However Kreiger was among thousands of young East German athletes who ended up scarred by an East German government plan to dominate Olympic sports through chemistry. In the investigation into the programs it was revealed that in most cases the athletes were told the pills and shots were vitamins and natural supplements.

This has a very familiar ring to it. Funding for various sports is as we have seen based on success or expected success, that success guarantees jobs.Suddenly the price of an athlete’s or a team’s success has far bigger ramifications.

What is being taken now may well be legal, but what may be the effects later?

In 2005 the New Scientist magazine revealed that professional footballers appeared to be at increased risk of a nerve disorder that causes paralysis and death. It is the same type of motor neurone disease that physicist Steven Hawking has, and is called ALS. A study of 7,000 Italian players showed the condition was five times more common than expected.

The study was carried out by Dr Adriano Chiò and colleagues at the University of Turin who looked back at the medical records of footballers who had played in Italy’s first or second division between 1970 and 2001. Normally the incidence of ALS, would be expected to be that one or fewer of the players had ALS. It was found that five had developed the condition. Apart from the higher incidence rate the players with ALS had developed it at a much earlier age than is typical for the disorder, at around 40 rather than 60 years of age.

At that time the researchers suggested “that the high risk might be linked to sports injuries, performance-enhancing drugs or exposure to environmental toxins such as fertilizers or herbicides used on football fields, as well as genetic factors.” The truth is the doctors do not know why this is the case, as Dr Brian Dickie of the Motor Neurone Disease Association, was quoted at the time as saying “We still don’t know what causes this link, or whether it would be reflected in other groups of footballers and sportspeople.There is some anecdotal evidence of a link between high levels of physical exercise and an increased risk of developing motor neurone disease. However, much more research needs to be carried out before we can draw definite conclusions.”

Some would say though that more caution should be taken by athletes before taking vitamins supplied by team doctors. One former Australian footballer who played in Italy, advised that vitamins were commonplace and brought around the night before a game. He advised that he would place them under his tongue and then spit them out once the doctor had left, as how could he be 100% sure what he was being given?

Today such tools as vitamins are called ergogenic aids and they are a legal way of enhancing performance.

A recent article by the BBC saw Spanish professional cyclist Fran Medina reveal the cocktail of multivitamins taken every morning. These consisted of “folic acid, iron, vitamin C – that helps absorb all the vitamins.” he was quoted as saying. He then said that he also takes B6 and B12 which he believed were good for “Oxidative stress.” This is a theory where the cells in the body are believed to experience molecular damage caused by reactive forms of oxygen, called free radicals; all very scientific!

After two hours of training the same article revealed that Fran then takes L-arginine which is also for oxidative stress. Other supplements on the market that do the same thing are apparently Bovine Colostrum, caffeine, sodium bicarbonate and nicotine. This last one is apparently under surveillance at the moment by the World Anti Doping Agency.

The same article from the BBC quoted Dr Mikel Zabala from the Sports Science Faculty at Granada University in Spain as saying that “while nicotine and caffeine help an athlete to be more alert, other substances are used to build muscle strength.”

The article went on to explain all manner of other supplements that are currently legal for athletes to use, but no one can confirm if there are long term effects to absorbing more than is natural. For example Creatine, plays an important role in the production of energy in the body, but how much is too much? Beetroot juice, helps increase the levels of nitric oxide in the body and could help a swimmer reduce the number of breaths they need in a short distance race. Are there long term side affects to this?

Another new and legal addition to an athlete’s preparation are Oxygen tents. Here athletes can sit inside the tent and simulate an environment of over 13,000 feet. Olympic Gold medallist in the 10,000m and 5000m at the London Olympic Games is believed to have slept in one such tent up until the last day before his race . This is called Hypoxic training -essential in endurance sports – and there is a big push by some nations to see it banned as it is classed as performance enhancing; in Italy it is already banned. Mind you it is not cheap, the cost is estimated to be USD5000. However when you weigh it up against the marketability of international sporting success it is a small price to pay.

Just because something is not illegal does not mean that it is fair, or in fact good for you.

The fact is none of this is new. From 776 BC athletes routinely boosted performance with hallucinogenic mushrooms, plants and mixtures of wine and herbs, and the winner of the 1904 Olympic marathon, 110 years ago, Tommy Hicks was given a cocktail of a one-milligram grain of strychnine and some brandy. The effect was it gave him a temporary boost until another was administered. He won the gold but it damn near killed him when he finished.

I guess people will do whatever it takes to strive for athletic glory, but hopefully some athletes will ask more questions today than they did in days gone by. Certainly no athlete should be forced to take something they do not wish to take, or have their place on an elite program or on a team put in jeopardy by refusing to do so.

As for who is naive? Still trying to work that one out…

 

July 22, 2014 at 9:27 am 1 comment

Postecoglou Shows His Class as a Coach

If you want to annoy an Australian, call him English. Yet the World Cup may be proving that many Australians are in fact taking on a very English trait, that of accepting gallant defeat. The English have made it an art form and now it wold appear that the old adage ‘it matters not who won or lost but how you played the game,’ is being taken up by Australian football fans. Which is strange because Australia is a nation that hates to lose. Even merging on the roads is a competition that each Aussie driver wants to win.

Heading into the current World Cup in Brazil, no one gave Australia a chance. They had struggled through the qualifying games, were thumped by Brazil and France and had sacked their coach. It was by no means the ideal preparation and then they were drawn in a group with the two finalists from the 2010 World Cup, and Chile.

This writer for one thought it was going to be a humiliating tournament for the Socceroos. He has been pleasantly surprised.

Despite what many have said and written Australia did not play well against Chile. They had a period of the game where they did, but at the highest level you cannot make the errors that they did and expect to win. They created openings but the quality of the final ball into the penalty area was simply not good enough for them to seriously hope to win the match after giving away two cheap goals.

The game against the Netherlands last night however was a different proposition. Last night’s game and the second half of the Chile game showed the calibre of Ange Postecoglou as a coach. Last night Postecoglou had his tactics absolutely spot on against the Netherlands and his charges followed those instructions too a tee. They hassled and harried the Dutch. They frustrated them and at times that frustration looked like it was about to boil over, but credit to the referee he kept it under control. The pace and work rate of the players to close down space and limit passing options was like a five-a-side game. So good was it the Dutch resorted to a long ball game and Matthew Spiranovic managed to keep van Persie in check.

Australia went behind and there can be no doubt that Tim Cahill’s wonder volley a minute after conceding would have lifted the spirits of the team and given them a belief; sometimes that is all it takes one moment of sheer magic. This was undoubtedly that, and it will be a goal replayed and remembered for many years to come, and the number of people who claim they were there and saw it live will grow with time. Sadly a subsequent yellow card means it is likely to be Cahill’s last ever World Cup goal, but what a goal!

The Socceroos then took the lead thanks to a penalty, but the team’s naiveté saw them quickly surrender that lead. Not long after they had squandered a great chance to claim it back, they ended up conceding a third and after that there really was only ever going to be one winner. The third it has to be said coming, as good a strike as it was, from poor goalkeeping; Most ‘keepers at this world cup – with maybe the exception of the Russian – would have saved this shot. Mat Ryan at the moment simply does not have enough games at this level under his belt and was slow to get down to Memphis Depay’s shot. In fact he has not looked commanding at any stage, and has gone too ground a little too quickly.

Credit must go to all of the players for the gutsy display they put on, but credit must also go firmly with the Coach. Ange Postecoglou has show the style of football he likes his teams to play and has garnered success with that style with South Melbourne in the old NSL and Brisbane Roar in the Hyundai A League, but at this World Cup he has shown just what an astute coach he is. Some wondered how he would cope with a group of players thrown together, rather than having them day in day out at a club, but he has shown that he has managed to get the players to buy into his tactics and beliefs. There is no doubting he is up to coaching at International level and that this could well be the stepping stone to far greater things.

As well as Australia played against one of the best teams in the World they sadly still lost. They may will be heading home following Chile’s victory over Spain but they gave the Dutch an almighty scare and now many believe they may even upset the defending World Champions Spain who look like matching France in 2002 by being the second defending Champion to head home at the Group stage without winning a game.

Australian fans may well be smiling in defeat, something their English counterparts have done for years, but they will no doubt now be looking at the Asian Cup with a great deal more hope than when the team left for Brazil. If Postecoglou can eliminate some of the simple errors which at this level cost you games, the Soccceroos may well be challenging for the trophy at the start of 2015.

 

June 19, 2014 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

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