In hindsight, do we think it might have been wiser to acknowledge that Kaepernick had a point.
An offer too good to be true
John McEnroe? I can’t get that bastard off the blower!
Well, not actually. But given that we crossed to him live last week on Channel Nine’s Sports Sunday, I did take the opportunity of asking him the obvious: what’s doing with Nick Kyrgios, just how good is he, and would you like to help him.
It was no surprise that McEnroe waxed lyrical on his talents saying that he was just behind the top three of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, and that “he should have won some majors already if he had been able to keep his mind on the job. As we all know, people around sports and athletes, it’s not just about how much talent you have, it’s about how much fortitude you have mentally and what type of fitness you put yourself in mentally as well as physically and how deep you’re willing to go. How far you are willing to go to get the win? He’s not been able to do that. I don’t know if he will ever be able to do it. I hope he does because I happen to like him and it would be great for the game if he did.”
What was a surprise was how enthusiastically he answered my question as to whether he’d be available to coach Kyrgios.
“Of course I’d be tempted,” he said. “He’d be like a no-brainer, if it worked it would be incredible. We’d probably be at each other’s throats within minutes, but it would certainly be tempting . . . I’m not the only guy who’s willing and able to do the job.”
But . . ?
“He just doesn’t seem ready to have a coach. First of all, he’s got to be ready to want to do it.”
Go on, Nick. Give it a go. McEnroe speaks your language – erratic, tempestuous, tennis genius with explosive temper – fluently. He mastered his flaws to become one of the most admired players in the history of the game, and is also a fine man. What’s to be lost by taking him on for a month or two to see how you’d go.
Thank you, meantime, John McEnroe for the offer. A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.
The final straw
Damn right I am critical of the NRL trying now – after getting two state-of-the-art whizz-bang stadiums on the public teat – to sting the NSW taxpayer to pay for another four boutique Sydney suburban stadiums, at up to $200 million for each.
It comes about after the NSW government finally came to its senses this week and – precisely as TFF has advocated for some time – shelved plans to spend $800m turning the Olympic stadium from an oval into a rectangle.
This saw the NRL’s absurd sense of extreme entitlement kick into gear and threaten to take the grand final elsewhere if taxpayers didn’t hand over more moolah, so they could have state-of-the-art suburban grounds too.
As I noted in my column on Thursday if the NRL follows through on their threat to take the grand final elsewhere, so be it. Even if Sydney is without a league grand final in October it seems likely that we will somehow struggle on regardless.
The bad with the good
The aforementioned column saw the usual accusations that your humble correspondent does nothing all day every day bar attack the NRL, driven by wild jealousy of the game’s success compared to rugby’s current woes.
Such accusations are wrong – it really doesn’t take long at all firing at such easy and obvious targets as they stand close with, amazingly, barely a burst of buckshot already fired upon them. (I mean, my friends, get a grip. Noting that it might be a bit much for a non-tax paying business to be asking for ANOTHER billion bucks in tax-payer funds to get state-of-the-art infrastructure for their business, is somehow meant to be controversial, unfair and uncalled for? Hilarious!)
But, credit where it is due. The NRL really did do something good last week by unveiling the new “six-again” rule, which sees the attacking team immediately get six more tackles awarded instead of the previous rule which saw the game stopped for a penalty first.
The result is that the game is so much less staccato than it was and in good burst can even be a stormy symphony. There is more fatigue, therefore more breaks and more tries. Bravo. And rugby needs to learn from it.
Of the many things that have ailed the 15-man game in Australia in the last two decades, among the foremost is that it has mass-morphed into a collision game rather than one of evasion. Back in the day the most exciting thing it had to offer was the likes of David Campese, stepping left, stepping right and bursting THROUGH.
For the most part such derring-do has been replaced by wave after wave of behemoths taking the ball forward by a few centimetres at a time, and laying the ball back before someone makes a mistake whereupon there is a series of collapsed scrums and it starts again.
So let rugby look to league, and embrace the central value of encouraging evasion not collision: embracing speed, not endless interruptions; bring back exhaustion so as to maximise space in which backs can unveil artistry.
The most bleeding obvious thing is to take down the value of penalty goals from three points to one point, but there are plenty more. Send them in, and we can have a look next week.
It’s official, Damo has not lost his marbles
As you will recall, TFF has for many years broken many exclusives on the Australian National Marbles Championship held every year at Brunswick Heads on the long weekend. I own that tournament, and every year other journos eat my dust.
You will recall last year’s big reveal was how local social worker Damian Farrell – sort of Steven Bradbury meets Roger Federer, with a lot of Merv Hughes thrown in, particularly around the middle – gave it his all. Desperately disappointed to have finished runner-up in 2018, last year the local social worker who learnt his marbles on the mean streets of Lindfield and Chatswood back in the 1960s carby-loaded for an entire 12 MONTHS before the big day, and blew the opposition away through all of the early rounds.
It is true that Mrs Tori, a 30-year-old local mother of several fine children – who had never played marbles before – gave him a bit of trouble in the final, and was the crowd favourite to judge by both of their loud cheers. But did our man blink? He did not! He finally blew Mrs Tori away too, to fulfil his destiny to become the Australian marbles champion!
Which brings me to the bad news and the good news. The bad news is that this year’s tournament has been cancelled because of The Plague. The good news is that makes Damian still the defending champion – the first carry-over champion in the history of the tournament. Mrs Tori’s plans to overthrow him are thwarted, as Damo goes back-to-back. And of course he gave me his views exclusively.
“Yep! That’s right! for a second year I will taint the back streets of South Golden Beach, wearing my prized Tombola marble necklace, gallivanting with a slight sideways head bobble, lower jaw protruding, parading along the potholed patches we call streets, my scurvy shaped arms swaying confidently around a rotund yet rigid upper torso. Sometimes I even adjust my gait to be in time with the spoonerism chants from my neighbours along the lines of ‘You Warcissistic Nanker’ or their other favourite, ‘You Nelusional Dobody’.
Don’t listen to them champ. We want a three-peat!
What They Said
Storm CEO Dave Donaghy before their game against the Raiders: “It’s a really good chance for the Storm to exhibit rugby league in Melbourne and hopefully a lot of the Melbournites will have a look, if they haven’t had a look before, and I’m sure they’ll like what they see.” On the other hand, given that the Raiders won 22-6, perhaps not so much.
Winless Dragons Paul McGregor coach as the pressure mounts: “I’m three games into a two-year contract. I have good staff, I’ve made a lot of changes and have good people around me. I have a football team I believe in. We just need to go out and play well.” Tick. Tick. Tick. TOCK.
Former NRL player Brett Horsnell won’t proceed with legal action: “I didn’t want to do legal action in the first place, I just wanted some assistance because now I’m stuck on disability . . . I’m not a person who is greedy or wants money, it’s nothing like that. I just wanted help from the NRL, some support.”
Australian soccer player Kerem Bulut, still serving a ban for testing positive for cocaine, on living with bad decisions: “My biggest enemy and my biggest problem is myself. I look at myself in the mirror and think that’s my biggest enemy sometimes. Me and myself have become good friends now; I am not my enemy any more.”
Brad Fittler on drugs in NRL: “I’ve been told from people at clubs that sometimes these things [drug education and awareness] are just done to tick off a box . . . Footballers, unless you’re smacking them over the head with it every couple of weeks, they just don’t get it through their thick skulls – and I’m one of them.”
Fittler on drugs education for footballers: “Using someone like Bronson is a great way to put them back through the system and go: ‘here’s what can actually happen to your life’.”
Eleven-year-old skateboarder Sky Brown, who is hoping to become Britain’s youngest Olympian next year, has fractured her skull and broken bones in her left hand after falling from a ramp: “I don’t usually post [videos of]my falls or talk about them . . . but this was my worst fall. I just want everyone to know that it’s OK, don’t worry, I’m OK. I’m going to push boundaries for girls with my skating and surfing. I’m going for gold in 2021 and nothing will stop me.”
Lance Franklin: “Justice for all. What’s happening in the US is happening on our own soil and all around the world. Thoughts and prayers are with George Floyd’s family and all affected by this tragedy and the tragedies before his murder.”
Paul Gallen on the Broncos’ 59-point “pantsing”: “They have no resolve. It’s one error and they almost give up. They had nothing tonight. Nothing at all.” Ouch.
Headline in The Australian, when Terry Lamb was in deep do-do for breaking the Bulldogs biosphere: “Lamb in the dog house.”
Vic Alhadeff, CEO of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies on the way Matthew Johns not only apologised but also demonstrated that he truly got it – why using a mock-up of Hitler in an NRL crowd was the wrong thing: “Full credit to Matty for how he handled it. He demonstrated courage and decency for immediately owning and acknowledging that it was hurtful and a poor error of judgment and shouldn’t have happened. I commend him for that.”
Michael Jordan on what’s been happening in the States: “I see and feel everyone’s pain, outrage and frustration. I stand with those who are calling out the ingrained racism and violence toward people of colour in our country. We have had enough.”
Team of the Week
Dennis Cometti. The great commentator was this week admitted to the AFL Hall of Fame, for being the constant purveyor of such pearls as: “It’s like finding fault with Miss Venezuela.” “Alan Didak was Stevie J before Stevie J was Stevie J.” “Metropolis, kicking to the city end.” “The guns of Paparone need a bit of work.”
Brisbane Broncos. Biggest. Ever. Loss. At the hands of the Roosters they were beaten like a convict caught with the governor’s wife – 59-0, and they were bloody luck to get to nil.
Bradman Best. The Knights player is still wearing the yellow jersey for best name of any current Australian sportsman/woman. It is not as wonderfully mellifluous as “Petero Civoniceva”, but is still near the top of the class.
St George. Their season has barely begun, and it seems almost over. Should they lose to the Bulldogs, you will see billowing plumes of smoke from over Kogarah way.
Bob Hammond. Australian Rules legend passed away.
Peter FitzSimons is a journalist and columnist with The Sydney Morning Herald.