From the Blog
Thank God for Mitchell Starc!
Date: August 06, 2016 / Posted by control
Australia is on the brink of a humiliating defeat at Galle. If the weather does not intervene the second Test will be over inside three days. After being humbled for 106 in the first innings – its lowest total against Sri Lanka – Australia was set 413 to win. It will start day three at 3-25. On the back of the capitulation in the series opener at Pallekele, Australia will concede the series with a match to play. The world number one ranked side will leave the island with its tail between its legs. Amongst the havoc, however, has been one bright light – in fact, more of a beacon shining in the gloom. Mitchell Starc has shown all and sundry that he is the real deal and the man whom the Australian attack will be built around in coming years. He was good at Pallekele with 2-51 and 4-84. At Galle, he was brilliant – on a pitch that has traditionally had spinners salivating. A first innings haul of 5-44 was followed by a career best 6-50. His match figures of 11-94 the best by an Australian bowler against Sri Lanka. Those figures are also the best by an Australian quick in Asia since Geoff Dymock’s 12 wickets against India at Kanpur in 1979 Given Starc’s performance it is hard to believe that his team was set over 400 runs to win. Australian fans have been waiting for Starc to transfer his white ball form to the longer game. Over the past 20 months he has transformed himself from an intermittent Test cricketer into arguably his side’s most valuable player. In December 2014, Starc was dropped from the team after a lacklustre performance in the opening Test of the summer at the Gabba against India. His axing came in the wake of comments made in commentary by Shane Warne. Never one to mince his words, Warne said Starc looked “a bit soft” and appeared to be “nonchalant” in the way he went about his work. What followed was a war of words with both Starc and his coach, Darren Lehmann responding to Warne’s accusations. Remarkably, when Starc was sent packing after that Gabba Test it marked the 11th time he had been dropped in a career that had realised just 14 matches. For Starc, Australian Test representation was a revolving door. He was never given more than three consecutive Tests to prove himself. Since his recall – at Sydney against India in January 2015 – only injury has seen him omitted. In that period, he has played 13 Tests for 63 wickets at the stellar average of 21.9. His strike rate has been a staggering 38.2. Always recognised as a handful in the limited overs arena, he seemed incapable early in his Test career of transferring the incisive swing that was the hallmark of his white ball bowling into Test ranks. That all seemed to change after he was awarded the man-of-the-series award at the World Cup in March last year. He was the cornerstone of Australia’s attack as it surged to a fifth World Cup title, capturing 22 wickets at 10.2. A lethal combination of pace and swing wreaked havoc throughout the tournament. His exocet-like yorkers regularly shattered the stumps. In the West Indies in June last year he started to convert that form to the red ball. He relished the reasonably barren pitches where he was able to make the most of reverse swing, picking up ten wickets at 16.0 in the two Tests. He continued to hone his long form cricket during last winter’s Ashes and started last summer with 13 wickets at 23.2 in the three Tests against the Black Caps. Injury ruled him out of the three-Test series against the West Indies after suffering a stress fracture in his foot during the historic Adelaide day-night Test against the Kiwis. He was still sidelined when Australia played its two Tests in New Zealand, only returning to the international arena in May in the Caribbean for the one-day tri-series against the Windies and South Africa. In Sri Lanka, Starc hit the ground running. In both Tests he has shown the ability to claim valuable top-order wickets with the new ball and later exploit the conditions with reverse swing. One of the keys to his success in Sri Lanka has been the full length he has bowled with the associated swing undoing many of his opponents. Like many high class left-arm pace bowlers he operates very effectively from around the wicket with his late in-tailing swing to the right handers causing significant problems. Starc is now the undisputed leader of Steve Smith’s Test attack. He has been ably supported during this series by a miserly Josh Hazlewood, with the lanky New South Welshman claiming seven wickets at 20.6. But, it is Starc who has been the class act in an otherwise lacklustre squad. Once this series is consigned to history Australia will focus on the summer ahead. It looms as a testing time for Australia with twin three-match series against South Africa and a resurgent Pakistan. All Australian fans will be hoping that Mitchell Starc’s star continues to rise in the months ahead. First published on The Roar - theroar.com.au - on 6 August 2016, soliciting 36 commentsRead More →
Galle will determine Australia’s cricket credibility
Date: August 04, 2016 / Posted by control
Australia is the world number one ranked Test team but it looked anything but that at Pallekele. After dismissing Sri Lanka for 117 in the first innings and then building an 86-run lead it still managed to lose the opening Test by 106 runs. In the process, Steve Smith’s men handed the hosts just their second Test victory against Australia in 27 matches. The next five days at Galle will be a test of not only Australia’s cricketing skills but its reputation and standing. Ahead of this series most picked Australia to win. Some went so far as predicting that the home side would get walloped. When all said and done, Australia’s only Test loss was in Kandy in 1999 where its stocks were dented mid-match when Steve Waugh and Jason Gillespie collided in the outfield. Since then, Australia had always had Sri Lanka’s measure. The likes of Sangakarra, Jayawardene, Muralitharan, Vaas and co were unable to beat Australia Indeed, in Sri Lanka in March 2004, Australia won 3-nil. This time around those big names were long gone. The team the home side rolled out for the opening Test, on paper at least, would hardly have struck terror into the Aussie line-up. Five of the Sri Lankan XI had played less that ten Tests while only two – skipper Angelo Matthews and left-arm spinner, Rangana Herath – had played more than 30. Perhaps however, many were lulled into a false sense of security. Yes, Australia has had a good record in Sri Lanka but only two of the XI who took to the field at Pallakele had played a Test in the country before – Nathan Lyon and Usman Khawaja. In three Tests, Lyon had taken 10 wickets at 29.5 and in two Tests, Khawaja had scored 60 runs at 30.0. For Khawaja, those two Tests five years ago were his only ones in the sub-continent while Lyon has played three Tests in India for ten wickets at 37.3. Six of the first Test side – Joe Burns, Mitch Marsh, Adam Voges, Peter Nevill, Steve O’Keefe and Josh Hazelwood – were playing their first Test on the sub-continent. The remaining three players’ sub-continent experience had come in India – David Warner’s four Tests producing 195 runs at 24.4; Smith’s two Tests producing 161 runs at 40.0; and Mitchell Starc’s two Tests resulted in two wickets at 100.0. In essence, the Australians had either no experience in the sub-continent, and with the exception of Lyon, somewhere between modest and very poor results. At Pallekele the tourists were largely found out. Herath, at 38, added nine wickets to his pre-series tally of 304 with a combination of patience and guile. In the first innings, Smith decided to target him, and in his attempt to lay down the law, threw his wicket away when he ran past a ball and got stumped - it may go down in history as the worst shot he plays in his Test career. Nevill also tried to go big in the first innings off Herath only to mishit the ball to mid-on. Coming off limited preparation, Warner made scores of nought and one to lower his average in five Tests on the sub-continent to 19.6. Left-arm Chinaman, Lakshan Sandakan, bamboozled the Australians on his debut with match figures of 7-107. The batsmen regularly had trouble picking his deliveries with some lucky to last as long as they did. If anything, the Pallekele pitch should have been the one that best suited the tourists. The surface in Galle is likely to be their least preferred. Reports are that it was dry a couple of days ago and there is every chance that it will take significant turn early on. Historically the Galle strip has been a haven for spinners. To date, 61.8 per cent of wickets to fall in Tests at the ground have gone the way of the spinners. Of all the venues around the world to have hosted over ten Tests, only the Chowdhury Stadium in Chittagong has produced a higher percentage of wickets taken by spin bowlers. In 15 Tests at Galle, Muralitharan captured 111 wickets at 18.5, while Herath, who made his Test debut at the ground against Australia in 1999, has captured 78 wickets in 14 Tests at 24.3 against a career average of 29.6. Performances such as those have gone a long way to making Galle the only venue in Sri Lanka where the home team has a better than 50 per cent winning record. With O’Keefe having succumbed to a hamstring strain, Australia’s support act to Lyon will be the uncapped Victorian left-arm orthodox, Jon Holland. Once again Lyon will be under pressure to get the job done in favourable conditions, especially late in the match. Australia can expect to see a lot of Herath, Sandakan and off-spinner Dilruwan Perera, who captured just the one wicket at Pallekele. Their collective technique and application will need to far exceed what was displayed up in the mountains. In the first Test, the visitors saw way too much of 21-year-old, Kusal Mendis. In just his seventh Test, he peeled off a majestic 176 – remarkably just his second first-class century. His shot selection, footwork and patience was hopefully educational for the Australian batsmen. If the necessary lessons have not been learned from the opening Test Australia will lose the series, and with it, the number one ranking. Sri Lanka’s grounds have historically been Elysian fields for Australian cricket, however that was courtesy of players who have long since left the arena. As for the current Australian team, its credibility is at stake over the next five days. First published on The Roar - theroar.com.au - on 4 August 2016, soliciting 25 commentsRead More →
Will Richmond improve under Damien Hardiwck?
Date: August 02, 2016 / Posted by control
Richmond was a rabble on Sunday. Yes, it was playing the now second-placed GWS but that is hardly an excuse for the inept performance that it put up. An eight goal to nil opening quarter helped lead to a final score of 3.5.23 – the club’s lowest since 1958. Sadly, for the members and supporters it was the nadir in a year that has given them little. Prior to the start of the season, there were many who had Richmond in their top eight – albeit in the bottom half of it. For the Tigers, this season has been a major step backwards after three straight finals appearances. The club placed fifth, eighth and fifth at the end of the past three home-and-away seasons, albeit being eliminated in the first week of the finals each time. It was hoped that 2016 would produce the club’s first finals win since 2001. With four rounds remaining, the club finds itself in 13th position with just seven wins from 18 starts. The last month of the season will bring games against Collingwood, Western Bulldogs, St Kilda and Sydney. Safe to say the Tigers are going to fall way short of their 15 wins from last year. So, what is the future? Just prior to the season the club re-signed Damien Hardwick for a further two years, predicated no doubt on the fifth-place finish last year. CEO Brendan Gale declared Hardwick’s position safe for 2017 in the wake of Sunday’s debacle. Yesterday, skipper Trent Cotchin threw his weight behind the coach too. But is keeping Hardwick the way forward? Of the top-48 longest serving coaches in the competition’s history, Hardwick – who comes in at number 41 with 153 games under his belt – is the only one to have never won a final. It is interesting to compare Hardwick’s reign with that of Brad Scott, who also started coaching in senior ranks in 2010. In 2009, the Kangaroos finished 13th while the Tigers were 15th. North since then has also had three finals campaigns however they have produced a win-loss of 4-3 and two preliminary finals. Both Hardwick and Scott have had seven drafts to build a playing group that could seriously challenge a grand final berth. Clearly, one man and one club, has done better than the other. Cotchin said yesterday that, “The reality is we need to do better as a playing group. We’re doing everything we can”. That did it appear evident on Sunday at Manuka Oval. It can be argued that Hardwick has maintained the faith in too many of his charges. Perhaps there needed to be a ruthlessness at the trade table in recent times. Come the post-season Hardwick and his list management team needs to do some serious work. The club would be well served in not ruling out anyone as a potential trade if it can go some way to turning the on-field fortunes around. The Tigers need to trade its way to some productive draft picks. It would be fascinating to be a fly in the wall of the Richmond boardroom. Surely, given the way the season has unfolded – and the fact that the club’s injury toll has not been excessive – there must be second thoughts about Hardwick’s two-year contract extension. The club has four weeks left in season 2016. It cannot redeem itself. What it can do however is implode. Another one or two insipid performances like Sunday’s and surely the coach’s position has to come under scrutiny, contract or not. Too many times this season Hardwick has spoken about a lack of endeavour and intensity from his team. It is up to the coach to drive that work ethic. There is always the question of who will do a better job? Recent history would indicate that there are always men worth taking a punt on. Not that long ago, Adam Simpson and Luke Beveridge were identified by their current clubs as worth a go – they have both proven to be sound choices. Likewise, Brendan Bolton in his maiden year at the Blues has shown he is taking the club in the right direction. Whilst Cotchin described Hardwick yesterday as a “fantastic person”, sentimentality cannot be the driving force behind maintaining the status quo. Richmond has gone backwards this season at an alarming rate. The sad thing for the fans is that it has done so on the back of mediocre performances in recent years. Damien Hardwick and his lieutenants have had seven years to try and get it right. Collectively, they have failed. The club has to now seriously consider whether he is the right man to start the rebuilding process again. History would indicate it is highly questionable. First published on The Roar - theroar.com.au - on 2 August 2016, soliciting 17 commentsRead More →
The IOC has proved itself to be a joke
Date: July 25, 2016 / Posted by control
The IOC is guilty of gross double standards and underlined its gutless and rudderless self. It has decided against imposing a blanket ban on Russia with respect to Rio 2016. The rationale behind the decision lacks coherence. It says that it has to be mindful of clean athletes within the Russian team and not to penalise them for no wrongdoing. That appears to be a clause that the IOC falls back on when it suits it. There is no consistency at all about this current decision. From 1964 to 1988 – a period spanning seven Summer Olympic Games – the IOC banned all South African athletes from the Games. Why? Hundreds of athletes over that period were denied their sporting dream because of no fault of their own. They were penalised because of the decisions made by their own government. There is no doubting that Apartheid was a despicable policy and it had no place in this world. But surely, what Russia has done to the integrity of sport deserves a similar blanket ban. When all said and done, the IOC is a sporting organisation, although the likes of its late President Juan Antonio Samaranch decreed that he should be referred to as His Excellency, see themselves as something far broader. Nonetheless, sport is the IOC’s primary bailiwick. And with respect to its core business it has let the sporting world down. Russia has bleated that what was uncovered by the McLaren report was not a state-sponsored doping regime. Really? So the FSB agents – the successor of the KGB – who were responsible for the swapping of tainted urine samples were merely operating off their own bat? Wow, is that a pig that just flew by! Even the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev has weighed into the debate, saying it would be grossly unfair to ban the Russian team as not all its athletes are doping. That is likely true. However, when you methodically destroy samples – as many as 8000 according to the McLaren document – it is hard to determine who the clean ones are. After an embarrassing performance at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, Russia was determined that it would not suffer a similar fate when it hosted the Games at Sochi in 2014. Through a concerted effort it cheated its way to the top of the medal tally. Additionally, it has been found that nearly 30 sports in total had doping cover-ups. Yet the IOC has refused to ban Russia as a whole. Instead it has abrogated its responsibility and passed the final decision on the participation of Russian athletes to the individual sporting federations. They now have less than a fortnight to decide their stance. The IAAF has already acted having banned every Russian track and field athlete, a decision that has been upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, highest court in International sport, In handpassing the decision to the IFs, the IOC has stated that “Federations should not consider the absence of a past positive test as evidence of a clean record and there should be no presumption of innocence”. In other words, feel free to ban athletes even though we won’t, whether they have tested positive or not. Bizarrely, the IOC has also stated that any Russian who has served a doping ban cannot be considered for selection. How the hell did they come at that decision? The United States have selected sprinters Tyson Gay and Justin Gatlin who have both served doping suspensions. Where is the consistency in that decision and the rationale behind it? Then, to top it all off, one of the prime whistle-blowers who helped uncover the Russian doping apparatus, 800m runner Yulia Stepanova has been told that she cannot compete as a neutral athlete. It also said it did not permit the entry of neutrals. Really? Why the hell then did the IOC allow independent athletes to compete at the 1992 and 2000 Olympics. At Barcelona, as a result of the civil war in the former Yugoslavia, athletes from Yugoslavia and Macedonia were allowed to compete as Independent Olympic Athletes. At Sydney, the IOC trumpeted its decision to allow four East Timorese athletes to compete as Individual Olympic Athletes during the nation’s transition to independence. But, in the case of a whistle-blower who helped blow the lid on a massive doping program within her own country she has been cast aside by the IOC. Well not entirely. In the ultimate insult, the IOC has invited Stepanova and her husband to attend the Rio Games. I kid you not. She is barred from competing yet the IOC has invited her to sit in the stands and watch athletes from her country compete in other sports who have most likely taken drugs. From what the IOC has said in the past 24 hours it would appear that had it uncovered the East German state-sanctioned doping regime prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall it would not have banned the country as a whole. It was learned post-1989 that as many as 10,000 East German athletes were doped. The IOC would know doubt have said “yes there were 10,000 athletes in the wrong with the state overseeing the program, but what about those who didn’t dope?” At which point does the IOC decide that a nation has sullied the integrity of sport to such an extent that it should be banned. Clearly, simply when its human rights are called into question. Oh hang on, didn’t China host the 2008 Olympics? First published on The Roar - theroar.com.au - on 25 July 2016, soliciting 60 commentsRead More →
Is Rio 2016 about to descend into farce?
Date: July 22, 2016 / Posted by control
BREAKING NEWS: There will be myriad drug cheats competing at Rio 2016. Medals will be hung around the necks of doped athletes. Some will be found out, others will not. Some will retain those medals for all time. Others will be exposed in the ensuing years as having collected ill-gotten gains like Russian race walker Sergey Kirdyapkin who was forced to surrender his gold medal to Australia’s Jared Tallent nearly four years after he cheated at London 2012. There is no guarantee that Australia’s 400-plus athletes heading to Brazil will all be squeaky clean. Indeed, this week the Australian Olympic Committee trimmed its team by one with the removal of wrestler, Vinod Kumar who has recently returned a positive drug test. Since drug testing was introduced at Mexico City in 1968 the Games have been tainted by doping. The biggest scandal however was laid bare many years after the event and sadly it resulted in no penalties. It was not until after the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 that the true extent of East Germany’s state-sanctioned and financed doping regime became known. It was discovered that the East German sports system took doping to a whole new level. Investigations post-1989 have spawned many books and documentaries outlining the lengths the country went to in its quest to triumph at various Olympics and world championships through the Cold War era. The Olympic records of that period are forever warped with clean athletes robbed of their moment in the sun. Australia’s Raelene Boyle is a case in point. She won silver medals behind East German Renate Stecher in the 100m and 200m at Munich in 1972. Documentation uncovered later revealed that Stecher chose to scale down her drug use post-Munich in order to reduce the risk of birth abnormalities when she started a family. However, when you peruse any Olympic records today Stecher is still accorded the honour of being triple Olympic champion. Boyle, meanwhile, has to content herself with the fact that she was robbed. There is still a more worrying aftermath of the East German era and that involves sprinter Marita Koch whose 1985 world record in the 400m – set at a World Cup meet in Canberra – still stands as the official benchmark for the women’s one lap event. That it does is a disgrace as there exists documented evidence that Koch was a drug cheat. Thirty-one years hence her ‘synthetic’ world record remains the target of all those who run the event. That day in Canberra she also anchored the East German 4 x 100m relay team that set a world record that lasted 27 years through until the London Olympics. The East German doping system was overseen by the Stasi, the country’s secret police. Their files, liberated for the world to see post-1989, indicated that as many as 10,000 athletes were chemically enhanced. Many of them, in their early to mid-teens, were both doped and duped as they were fed the line that what they were being given were vitamin pills. In recent years, successful class actions have been brought against the German government by female athletes who delivered children with birth deformities as a result of the drugs they were given. While many of them were merely pawns used ruthlessly by the communist regime, many others like Koch, did so knowing full well they were cheating. And now, here we are in 2016, and world sport is facing a similar situation. The issue of doping surrounding Russian sport has been bubbling along for a few years but this week the lid was blown off. A report penned by Canadian law professor Richard McLaren, concluded that “Russia's Ministry of Sport directed, controlled and oversaw the manipulation of athlete's analytical results or sample swapping, with the active participation and assistance of the FSB [Russia’s federal security service], and both Moscow and Sochi Laboratories." The report identified that over 8000 samples had been destroyed from athletes across two dozen sports. It was the kind of stuff that corrupted international sport during the East German period. McLaren says given that he had 57 days to compile the report it may only be the tip of the iceberg. Upon the report’s release, IOC President Thomas Bach labelled its findings, “shocking and unprecedented”. No Thomas, it is not unprecedented. It happened similarly decades ago and clean athletes were cheated out of medals. The same will happen again if Russia is allowed to take part in Rio 2016. The IOC is currently assessing its legal options before making an announcement on Russia’s Olympic future later in the week. The time has come to take tough action. If the IOC baulks at blacklisting Russia, the Rio Games will descend into farce with every Russian medal a dagger in the heart of international sport and those who wish to see and believe in clean competition. There is no way that Russia’s appalling doping record should be rewarded with Olympic participation. First published on The Roar - theroar.com.au - on 21 July 2016, soliciting 31 commentsRead More →
Ricky Ponting is spot on regarding smaller bats
Date: July 08, 2016 / Posted by control
Former Australian skipper Ricky Ponting is correct in wanting restrictions placed on cricket bats. No sport has been immune to an arms race when it comes to both the changes to, and adoption of, new technology. However, the changes in cricket have been entirely one-sided and slanted completely towards batsmen. Other sports have dovetailed into advances in technology but in almost all cases they have not been too the detriment of certain participants within the sport. Golf, for example, has undergone equipment changes like few other sports in the past few decades. Today’s drivers with their graphite shafts and mostly hollow titanium or composite maxi-heads are a quantum leap when compared with the old steel shafted woods of 40 years ago. Likewise, modern-day milled faces on wedges create vastly more backspin than their predecessors. These enhancements, and others, have had a dramatic impact on the sport but in the process no one was penalised, save those who did not upgrade their equipment. The technological advances were there for everyone’s benefit, just as it has been in a sport like tennis. Alas, in cricket that has not been the case. The batsmen’s armoury has changed incredibly in recent times while the poor old bowler is left to combat it with the same familiar old 156g (5.5 ounce) cricket ball – the only change has been the move beyond the traditional red colour. While the bowlers have had to develop things like reverse swing to try and outwit the batsman the willow wielders have seen constant changes to their weapon of choice. While the MCC has steadfastly guarded the sanctity of the ball it has shown no such restraint with respect to the bat. The modern blades dwarf their predecessors as they have morphed into bazookas. David Warner’s bat – aptly marketed under the name ‘Kaboom’ – looks like a log compared to the bats of 20 years ago. While the linear dimensions have not changed – under Appendix E of the Laws of Cricket, a bat can be no longer than 38 inches (965mm) in length and 4.25 inches (108mm) in width – there is no restriction on weight or thickness, and therein lies the problem. In February last year, the ICC said it had concerns about the impact the change in bat sizes was having on the game. ICC chief executive Dave Richardson conceded that modern bats had “shifted the balance” towards batsmen, a fact that Ponting has reiterated this week. A report commissioned by the MCC found that while the length and width had remained constant, the thickness of the blade and the associated sweet spot had grown significantly over the past 20 years. The report identified that the thickness of bats had increased by 22mm over the last 100 years and the area of the ‘sweet spot’ had blown out by about 250 percent while the edges of some of the modern-day bats had increased by a whopping 300 per cent. All this has resulted in infinitely more power to the point that mishits that would have seen players caught 25 years ago are now sailing into the stands for six. Allied to the advantages gained by these new bats, batsmen have also been aided by the significant reduction in the size of grounds with some being roped off up to 15m short of the perimeter fence which used to form the boundary. Bowlers have also been limited to the number of short, intimidatory deliveries they can send down each over. In limited overs matches pitches are also frequently deadened to maximise the runs which is seen by administrators as the major selling point in enticing crowds and TV viewers. Scoring rates have risen as a result at a rapid rate to the point that Indian Rohit Sharma’s world record ODI score of 264 would have been seen as a large team total going back 20-odd years. Major League Baseball decided to standardise the bat by codifying it as having to be one piece of solid wood not more than 2.61 inches at the thickest part and not more than 42 inches in length. For a period, metal bats were in use but the authorities decided to outlaw them at professional level as a result of safety concerns for the pitcher who stand at best 18.5m away. The velocity that a ball came off a metal bat was deemed to be too dangerous for the pitcher. In recent times, we have seen cricket umpires adopt helmets and armguards as a way of protection against balls flying off the modern bat. Cricket at its best is a relatively even contest between bat and ball. Presently the authorities have allowed through either inaction or deliberate decisions to too often remove that balance. It is high time that the sport’s governors did something about it , and as Ponting asserts, the dimensions of the bat is a fine place to start. Fist published on The Roar - theroar.com.au - on 7 July 2016, soliciting 39 commentsRead More →
Melbourne is rightly the sports capital of the world
Date: July 01, 2016 / Posted by control
In the words of Kevin Costner, “If you build it, they will come”. In the case of Melbourne nothing could be more accurate. Last weekend I took my ten-year-old sports mad son to the Victorian capital. It was a first for both us – he had never been there before and neither had I in a non-working capacity. For over two decades I travelled regularly from Perth to Melbourne as a broadcaster and commentator. Last weekend I went simply as a punter. And it was in that capacity that I really came to understand just how well Melbourne caters for the sports fan. For a city that has not staged an Olympic Games in recent times its facilities and the grouping of them is something that exceeds almost all other cities around the world. The main sports precinct, and its proximity to the CBD, provides the city with a cluster of venues that are the envy of every other city. Whilst Sydney, post the 2000 Games, has the legacy of Homebush it is totally disconnected from the heart of the city. One of the great selling points of Melbourne’s major sports venues is the proximity to the city, and by extension, all the benefits that provides by way of ancillary entertainment and facilities. Nowadays, for many attending a sporting event is more of a full-day experience. The trend is for patrons to often bookend the main event by calling into restaurants, cafes and bars. Melbourne, in that regard, provides the perfect experience. The walkway from the MCG into the Southbank entertainment precinct – built in 2006 for the Melbourne Commonwealth Games – allows ready access to and from the ground and provides the ability to move tens of thousands of people in a smooth and timely manner. It also deposits fans at Flinders Street Station for ease of egress from the city. Likewise, Etihad Stadium provides easy pedestrian access to the heart of the CBD. As for the venues themselves it is hard to fault them. Few stadia in the world can match the MCG as a sporting amphitheatre. Thanks to constant, high-cost upgrades it has kept up with the times with respect to what the 21st century fan wants. In its shadows is Melbourne Park, which once again, is being continually upgraded through a multi-year $700m investment. Most years the world’s tennis elite list the Australian Open as their preferred major tournament when it comes to amenities, transport and accessibility. Within the complex is three indoor arenas headlined by the 15,000-seat Rod Laver Arena which doubles as a concert and major event venue for other indoor sports. Hisense Arena can be easily converted into a world-class velodrome as it was for the 2006 Commonwealth Games. In the same precinct is AAMI Park, a purpose-built 30,000-seat rectangular sports stadium which hosts both domestic and international events. Having so many first-class venues clustered in one area less than a kilometre from the CBD is unlike any other city. On top of all that there is the Formula I street circuit and the Spring Racing Carnival which is held across three top-flight venues. The thing about Melbourne, and what sets it apart from not only other Australian capitals but also myriad other international cities, is the fact that it has had for many decades a coherent and well thought out facilities development and upgrade program. Currently, there is debate over two separate plans to further enhance the major sporting amenities within the city. Collingwood FC president Eddie McGuire has publicly floated a $1bn plan that involves demolishing Etihad Stadium and building a new 60,000-seat, retractable-roofed stadium alongside the MCG. The AFL meanwhile has proffered its own plan for a $300m revamp of Etihad Stadium which would include open-air bars, restaurants and parkland around the ground. If neither of these proposals get up, you can be rest assured that one will emerge that will be accepted and implemented. In Perth, a 60,000-seat stadium is currently under construction and from March 2018 will be the home ground for the Eagles and the Dockers as well as selected international cricket fixtures and the BBL and other sports events on a needs basis. The new Perth Stadium is long overdue with areas of Subiaco Oval affected by concrete cancer while some of the seating comprises the old wooden bench style that went out of vogue at most venues decades ago. For over 25 years, successive governments and sporting bodies have tried to reach agreement on the future stadia requirements for the city while over that period band-aid measures have been undertaken at both Subiaco Oval and the WACA Ground. The result has been a sub-standard experience for the city’s sports fans. While the likes of Perth have trod water and argued back and forth about what is required, Melbourne has continued to push forward systematically and created world-class facilities. Forward thinking, effective planning and the ability to bring competing groups together has helped maintain Melbourne’s status as a city which sees sport at its core. Globally, few can match what Melbourne has achieved. The venues are up there with the best in the world and that is evidenced by the throngs that turn out every week to utilise them. If any city deserved to host a future Olympics it is Melbourne. The bulk of the infrastructure is already there including most of the transport requirements. That can be said about few cities in the world. By head of population it is questionable as to whether any other city has the multi-sport passion that Melbourne has. In terms of facilities, events and bums on seats Melbourne is, in essence, the sporting capital of the world. Nobody does it better and it is doubtful Melbourne will take its eye off the ball anytime soon, making the fans the big winners. First published on The Roar - theroar.com.au - on 30 June 2016, soliciting 71 commentsRead More →
The AFL has dropped the ball
Date: June 24, 2016 / Posted by control
It has been an interesting week for North Melbourne – the coach fined, the club fined and the president hit with a wet lettuce. Brad Scott’s ill-conceived attack on the umpires last Friday resulted in the coach being fined $30,000. The club was hit with an additional $50,000 penalty as a result of his indiscretion. While, for his part in the verbal attack on Triple M of The Age’s football journalist, Caroline Wilson, Kangaroos president James Brayshaw received nothing more than being admonished in a media conference held by AFL CEO, Gillon McLachlan. The chief provocateur in the Wilson affair, Collingwood president, Eddie McGuire and former St Kilda captain and current All-Australian selector, Danny Frawley, also felt the ‘wrath’ of the AFL in the same media conference. The contrasting responses by the AFL to both incidents is incongruous especially given the timing of other events. The AFL, along with several other peak sporting bodies around the country, have all sung from the same hymn book in recent years by unifying behind the fight to reduce domestic violence, and in particular, bullying and violence that is directed towards women. Just days before the comments directed at Wilson were aired McLachlan stood beside his counterparts from the NRL, Netball Australia and the ARU to publicly acknowledge their collective support of ‘Our Watch’. One of the underpinning aims of the program is ‘respect on and off the field’. There was no respect shown to Wilson by Messrs McGuire, Brayshaw and Frawley. The AFL landscape is changing. In recent years the faces on both the Commission and club boards has changed with an increasing number of females being represented. Sam Mostyn and Major-General Simone Wilkie are two of the nine AFL Commissioners. The Richmond Football Club has a female president in Peggy O’Neal. Interestingly, the Tigers players have taken a stance by refusing to make themselves available for interview during Triple M’s broadcast of their game at the MCG against Brisbane this Saturday. The club is yet to confirm whether the ban will be extended beyond this weekend. Hats off to the Richmond players for taking the stance they have. Sadly, the AFL has not deemed it necessary to take such meaningful action itself. Yes, match day officials no matter the sporting code, must be respected. Just last weekend we saw the disgusting occurrence of a parent, who was doubling up as a trainer at a junior rugby league match in Sydney, knocking out a 16-year-old referee after his son had been sin-binned. Protecting umpires and referees from verbal and physical abuse is paramount if we wish to have sport continue as it simply cannot if people fail to take up those roles. Scott deserved his whack from the AFL, as evidenced by his club’s rapid public back pedal when it realised his comments were lacking in substance. Likewise, the AFL should have taken against the Triple M trio. At the very least the AFL should have revoked the trio’s media accreditations for a period, thus preventing them from being public voices of the game. On top of the AFL’s inaction, Triple M has done nothing either except to say that the trio has been spoken to with respect to their on-air comments. So, in the end, the three amigos have received no penalty whatsoever. The AFL had an opportunity to put its actions where its mouth is with respect to the issue of respect to women and it has chosen to do nothing. In essence, they dropped the ball … big time. First published on The Roar - theroar.com.au - on 23 June 2016, soliciting 145 commentsRead More →
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