The Gladiators contains a few clues to the magic of it all.
A Gordon For Me became an anthem sung in a packed dressing room after every game. It led into an orchestrated sing-song, in which players of both teams would crowd into the Gordon room and let rip. Some surprisingly good singers would stand on the bench above the crowd, beer in hand, and lead the tumult. It was uniquely Gordon, and it engendered a spirit that was as powerful a part of their winning ethos as anything else the coach or the players did …”
Ah sing it, Arthur, one more time for the road, and tell the rest of us more of what was great about Gordon rugby at the time, the stuff that rugby has to relearn to grow strong again in these troubled times.
“The Saturday night ritual was always the same. We would rotate the houses at which the parties were held, and all the kids would be bundled up and bedded down on the floor, behind the piano, in any nook and cranny we could find a spot. It was generally chaotic. But these were gatherings built around the people.
“There was no pretension, no fancy entertainments or exotic food. Just good people, lots of beer, lots of laughs, and in the final analysis, lots of love. The friendships built there have never faded.”
Though Summons’ father, born and bred in the Western Suburbs where rugby league was king, had been dead set against his son joining the Rah-rahs, when his son told him he was switching to league because he wanted to buy a house, the old man was horrified.
“You can’t leave those Gordon blokes,” he said.
I know. You are right. He went on to make great friends in league too. But he was ours before he was yours, and he remained one of ours!
Stand by, sports fans, for this Sunday’s The Match: Champions for Charity golf matchup in Florida between Tiger Woods and former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning, up against Phil Mickelson and the even-more accomplished quarterback Tom Brady. The idea is to give sport-starved America the big hit of sport it wants, to raise funds for those affected by the coronavirus.
Couldn’t we do the same here, bearing in mind golf is among the most socially distant of all sports? Could we get Adam Scott to go up against Jason Day, each backed by our own answer to Brady and Manning?
When I put the question on Twitter, the answers came thick and fast, including one tweep who quoted the likely apocryphal line from Michael Schumacher, “No, I don’t play golf as I still have sex”.
That aside, the two most prominent female names mentioned in honourable dispatches were Alyssa Healy and Ash Barty, and with them in mixed doubles golf it would be a great spectacle.
Most sporting nominees, however, were male.
In rugby league, they talk about Braith Anasta being outstanding at golf, as is Johnathan Thurston while Kalyn Ponga is so good he actually won the New Zealand Junior Championships as a teenager before switching to Aussie rules. I am also informed the great Rampaging Roy Slaven recently shot an “incredible 26 in the final round of his 17th consecutive Lithgow Open victory, which is still talked about west of the Great Divide.”
Rugby Union has George Gregan as its best golfer with an honourable mention to Matt Burke. In tennis, Todd Woodbridge and Pat Rafter have podium finishes but the gold medallist is Scott Draper, who played professional golf for three years and won the NSW Open with a 20 under.
In AFL? Brendon Goddard and Oscar McDonald are outstanding and I think I read somewhere that old mate Sam Newman is rather keen on the game.
It is, not surprisingly, Test cricket’s batsmen – trained to hit small balls with big sticks over long distances – who boast the most outstanding golfers of the other sports.
David Warner and Greg Blewett are both said to be wicked with a wood and capable of making your putter flutter on the greens, both narrowly shading Steve Waugh.
But the best of the lot is Ricky Ponting, who is such a good player Adam Gilchrist once said he missed his true calling. Gilchrist was backed up by the professional golfer Jordan Spieth, who saw Ponting close up at a Pro-Am and said: “Boy, he has a really solid game. He can bomb it … You can tell he’s a scratch player just by when he sets up and hits one shot.”
The Australian PGA Champion Daniel Popovic agrees, once recounting how Ponting had shot a 65 when they played together in the NZ Open’s pro-am teams format in Queenstown, while he’d only managed a 71.
“He’s as good as a lot of pros,” Popovic said flatly.
So Ponting can be paired with Adam Scott. And for Jason Day? He can have a miked-up Shane Warne. The Sheik of Tweak doesn’t make the cut for his skill but for his compelling TV presence.
Love him or hate him, we’d tune in. And we’d only have to tell him that if he doesn’t say yes, Steve Waugh is next on our list – and he’d fly to us on an eagle straight down the first fairway.
You know the Primary Club yes? It’s the cricketing charity that puts in $10 every time an Australian cricketer gets a golden duck, which it gives to charity. (Those charities were never riding higher than in the days of Glenn McGrath.)
Anyhoo, in these trying times the charity is doing its best to keep the flag flying, and so with the assistance of a mob called VOCUS, it has put together a virtual event on Thursday at 8pm on the Zoom platform, accessible here under the name An Evening with Jim Maxwell, Matt de Groot, and Cricket Greats. Similar events will follow in coming months and, on June 23, it will feature Mark Taylor and Greg Chappell.
Harrigan’s laboured point
Seriously, Bill Harrigan? You’re an esteemed member of the rugby league refereeing community, yet what is your contribution when the current generation of officials are fighting for their professional lives, standing up for their rights as workers, upon being told their workforce is to be cut in half with no further discussion?
You say you’ll dust off the whistle and ref if they won’t. Bill? Some may call that scab labour and is, on your part, a total betrayal of them and their legitimate attempts to secure their professional livelihood.
What They Said
Peter V’landys on the one-referee proposal: “Look, the objective is to have a free-flowing game of rugby league that is not all about defence. We are in the entertainment business and the very loud message I got from the broadcasters is that we are not as entertaining as we once were.”
The boss of the NRL referees union, Silvio Del Vecchio, on the way the NRL unveiled the one-ref plan to match officials. “The whole thing was ‘slam, bam, no thank you ma’am’. It’s offensive. Peter V’landys was being so dictatorial. It’s offensive.”
John Doyle (Rampaging Roy) on his relationship with Greig Pickhaver (HG Nelson) on the ABC’s mighty Australian Story: “We’ve probably dined together, our families, maybe 10 times in 35 years. And I think it’s a protective thing that we don’t want to sully or somehow disturb whatever the rainbow connection is that makes this thing work. We’ve never discussed it, but I think that’s probably at the back of his mind as it is the back of mine.”
Lance Armstrong in a new ESPN documentary: “With regards to how I carried myself as the leader of a sport, leader of a cause and leader of all these communities, it’s inexcusable. Totally inappropriate behaviour, totally took advantage of my stature. For that I’m deeply sorry. I wish I could change that and could have been a better man.”
Lest you think, however, that Armstrong is now Mr Nice Guy, he went on to unburden himself of his view on the former teammate who blew the whistle on him: “Hey, it could be worse. I could be Floyd Landis. Waking up a piece of shit every day. I don’t think it, I know it.” Charmed, he’s sure.
Steve Waugh on more Shane Warne sniping: “People keep saying it’s a feud. But to me, a feud’s between two people. I’ve never bought into it, so it’s just one person. His comments are a reflection of himself, nothing to do with me. That’s all I’d say.”
Paul Gallen, on 2GB, throws out some burley to see if he gets any nips: “You’d like to think we could help the [Warriors] out as much as possible. I tell you what, we’ve got until June 30 and I heard Billy Slater say he’d come back and play, Sam Thaiday today said he’d come back and play. I reckon between the three of us you’d get 10 or 15 games out, so why not, give me a call.”
The great Jeff Thomson, interviewed on the Betoota Advocate podcast, argues his game should not be a danger to shipping when it comes to coronavirus: “The only time these guys are near anybody is when they give high fives and all this, and a hug and all that sort shit. I never bothered with any of that. I didn’t even bother to walk up the other end.”
Roosters chairman Nick Politis unhappy with NRL draw: “It’s not a draw – it’s a TV schedule. A draw is when you’ve got fairness. I’ve told [Roosters CEO] Joe Kelly we’re banned from using the word draw. I’ve been bringing this up at the chairmen’s meeting for the last couple of years now. What’s next? We’ve had the rule changes, the referees, next thing they’ll tell us we can only take the field with 12 players.”
FC Seoul on the kerfuffle caused by their use of sex dolls to fill out otherwise empty stands: “We are sincerely sorry for causing deep concern to fans. We have confirmed from the very beginning that they had no connection to sex toys.” Oh do calm down. Never a better opportunity for the commentators to cry out, in Korean, “And the fans are going wild!”
Michael Jordan’s sledge to Reggie Miller, as revealed in The Last Dance: “Don’t ever talk trash to Black Jesus.”
Team of the Week
FC Seoul. Used sex dolls to fill the stands during their game.
Cody Walker. Author of this week’s reported NRL atrocity.
Illawarra Hawks. NBL team put into administration for the second time in five years.
Greg Inglis. Announces a comeback next year to the British Super League club of Warrington.
RIP Arthur Summons. League legend passed away last Saturday evening, aged 84. Also played 10 Tests for the Wallabies.
Peter FitzSimons is a journalist and columnist with The Sydney Morning Herald.