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Sign of the times: Sport continues to show the best of us

At the end, they all crowd around to embrace her.

After returning their all inclusive embrace, she opens her palm and touches her chin and pull it away several times: Auslan for “thank you, thank you, thank you”.

Friends, they were right. Once you let women play the game, the whole damn thing changes.

You women make us proud.

Renford’s crossing still an inspiration

Those slowly rotating arms out beyond the breakers last Sunday morning? They belong to Michael “Murph” Renford and he is swimming two icy laps of Maroubra to mark the 50th anniversary of his famous father Des Renford’s legendary first crossing of the English Channel on August 9, 1970. It made Des – who died in 1999 – just the third Australian behind Linda McGill and John Koorey to successfully swim the Channel and the first Australian to swim the Channel from England to France.

Marathon swimmer Des Renford (centre) with coach Tom Caddy (left) and handler Ken Ryder before his English Channel crossing in 1970.

Marathon swimmer Des Renford (centre) with coach Tom Caddy (left) and handler Ken Ryder before his English Channel crossing in 1970.Credit:Robert Pearce

I am reliably informed by Australian sports historian Ian Heads that even on this first go Des was attempting a double crossing and had been in the water for 21 hours when a wave slammed him against the side of his escort boat, dislocating his shoulder. He swam on for another three hours anyway but with the tide turning, weather and seas deteriorating and Des swimming like a one legged dying duck, his support team of Bruce Thistlewaite and Denis Cleary made the heartbreaking decision to pull him out of the water. He had been swimming for 24 hours and was only five miles from getting back to the English coast.

No matter. Des persisted like no-one has ever persisted in the realms of Australian sport. For it is not for nothing that even as Michael Renford is honouring his late father by swimming in the icy conditions, his daughter Lily aged 13 is on the beach penning a letter to her famous grand-dad.

“I never got the honour of meeting you,” she writes once she gets her stroke, “but every day I love you, I miss you, I’m proud of you, I’ll never forget you Grandpa Des. Happy English Channel anniversary grandpa Des. 50 years ago today you stood on Shakespeare Beach in England. I wonder if you knew that you would complete this crossing and go on to do 18 more!!!!”

Unlikely, Lily, but as one who knew your grandfather a little, admired him a lot and interviewed him a couple of times, I can tell you he really was a great fellow, and a huge name in this town. His funeral at St Mary’s Cathedral was standing-room only for good reason. He was a man who made his mark and is still well remembered all these years on.

Changing of the guard

That USA PGA championship won by Collin Morikawa last weekend was not just another tournament. And that is not just because Morikawa looks to be one out of the box, with his 65 and 64 in the final two days “the lowest closing 36-hole score ever at a men’s major.”

Collin Morikawa was almost flawless in the final two rounds of the PGA Championship ... then promptly dropped the lid of the Wanamaker Trophy.

Collin Morikawa was almost flawless in the final two rounds of the PGA Championship … then promptly dropped the lid of the Wanamaker Trophy.Credit:Getty

See, in the world of golf it will likely be the changing of the guard, the tournament where the only known name that featured in the final front-runners was our own Jason Day, while all the rest were what we call in the trade “next-Gen”. As noted by the New York Times, “after Morikawa made two unforgettable shots to emerge from a throng of tenacious contenders on the back nine Sunday, it was tempting to consider the future of the game, all the more so since that throng included Matthew Wolff, a 21-year-old in his first major, and Scottie Scheffler, a 24-year-old, who finished tied for fourth.”

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For yes …

“According to early ratings returns, the tournament drew its biggest TV audience in five years, even as golf was competing with the resumption of U.S. league sports.”

My pound to your peanut says the usual lineup on the winners’ podium on post-Plague golf is going to look a lot different to the one on pre-Plague golf.

No holding back

My esteemed colleague Liz Ellis was particularly strong on Sports Sunday this week on the issue of Richmond Tigers’ Jayden Short and Nick Vlaustin groping Mabior Chol in the dressing room after their win over Brisbane. Though in an absolute minefield, she strode on, quickly and surely.

“You can’t get away from the fact that in this case,” Liz said, “it’s a couple of white men doing something to a black man. So it brings in the racial aspect of things … It seems to me that this is something that the AFL is being asked to address. They’ve had racial issues in the past, they do do reconciliation very well as a sport but these things keep popping up. I looked at this and I thought, ‘This is more than just the indecent assault that was alleged by [journalist] Hugh Riminton. There is a racial element to this’. I don’t know if that has been appropriately addressed.”

Let her critics answer this: would Short and Vlaustin have done that to Jack Riewoldt? Or was the three-game Sudanese-born man a much safer mark?

What they said

Paul McGregor, upon being sacked as coach of St George, after no less than 25 years with the club, as player, employee and coach: “No, I’m alright. I’m good. I’ll go to Bunnings, build a bridge, and get over myself.” Classy!

Ash Barty on her changed perspective from living in the Age of the Plague: “At the end of the day, there are a lot of things in life a lot more important than hitting a tennis ball. I think it’s been a really important time to bring that perspective.”

Ashleigh Barty. Illustration: John Shakespeare

Ashleigh Barty. Illustration: John ShakespeareCredit:

LA Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma who, with 0.4 seconds on the clock and the bases loaded, on the third strike, nailed a three-pointer with nothing but net, over the Denver Nuggets’ 218cm centre Bol Bol to snatch a 124-121 victory with 0.4 seconds remaining: “I think Jesus could be in front of me and I’d probably still shoot.” Jesus doesn’t play basketball. He was Jerusalem fullback, remember?

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English fast bowler Stuart Broad on his father Chris and match referee fining him for swearing at Pakistan’s Yasir Shah after dismissing him in the First Test: “He’s off the Christmas card and present list.” It is believed his father also sent him to his room.

One time Wallaby wunderkind James O’Connor: “I was always chasing pleasure. I had never seen money like it. Then every door started opening for me. I would go to a restaurant and there would be no bill. Your ego kicks in. You think you are untouchable. It became no longer about the rugby, or about the purity of the craft. It becomes about after the game. You play well, so afterwards you will get noticed … what drove me to play football as a young man, to simply be the best, started to dissipate. The lines got skewed.”

Dragons CEO Ryan Webb on coach Paul McGregor leaving: “It depends on how you define success. If you’ve got someone who is emotionally connected to the club, who just puts in ridiculous hours with his work ethic and his passion for the place and you want someone leading your club, I think he ticks all those boxes … In the last four months he’s done a good a job as he could possibly do.” Nevertheless … TAXI!

The Herald‘s Andrew Hornery on the new fragrance launched by Shane Warne – no, really – SW23: “Warnie’s essence ‘transcends, develops and intensifies with mid notes of juniper berry, lavandin, clary sage and wild mint’ before finishing with ‘bold base notes of Indonesian patchouli, birch wood, oak moss and leather accord’. And here I was expecting a concoction smelling of Wild Turkey, decaying hair plugs, ashtrays and a lingering splash of stale Liz Hurley.”

Tiger Woods conceding that Father Time may have caught up with him: “It’s getting tighter and it’s getting harder to win events, but you look at the leaderboard of most major championships, you see the same guys. May not be always the same winners, but you see the same handful of guys are there. They understand how to win major championships, how to win the big events, how to plod their way along, how difficult it is to win these big events.”

Collin Morikawa on winning the PGA Championship: “When I woke up today, I was like, ‘This is meant to be’. This is where I feel very comfortable. This is where I want to be, and I’m not scared from it.”

Snooker player Ronnie O’Sullivan on still doing well despite being 44 years old: “If you look at the younger players coming through, they are not that good really. Most of them would do well as half-decent amateurs, not even amateurs. They are so bad. A lot of them you see now, you look at them and think, ‘I would have to lose an arm and a leg to fall out of the top 50’.”

Former Wallaby coach Michael Cheika: “I believe that the game of rugby in Australia is a diamond that has been left unworn, and that some don’t think sparkles enough to be worn at the big dance.” Me? No clue.

Team of the week

Collin Morikawa. Won the US PGA Championship in just his second major. He’s only 24, but he already looks like The One.

Queensland Rugby League. Three teams currently 13th, 14th and 15th spot in the NRL. What is going on?

Tampa Bay Lightning and Columbus Blue Jackets. The two ice hockey teams combined for a six hour, five-overtime playoff game. Began at 3.09pm and ended at 9.22pm.

Greyhound Rescue. Have signed a long-term lease on a kennel in South West Sydney, owned by the Animal Welfare League, allowing them to rehome hundreds of ex-racing hounds each year who would otherwise not get a second chance. Bravo. You can help them cover the cost of the move by clicking here (you know, because gawds knows the industry itself can’t afford it).

Mark Philippoussis and Michael Bevan. The Australian sports stars unmasked on The Masked Singer, the completely absurd TV show that somehow works.

Twitter: @Peter_Fitz

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