The NRL has a legally enforceable duty of care to all its employees to provide as safe a work environment as possible. For this season, it would not have been reasonable to insist that includes being jabbed, as vaccines weren’t universally available to citizens in their age group. That will not be the case next season. I don’t see how a responsible footballer employer can allow an unvaccinated player to play – bar medical reasons – when it is so clearly, and so unnecessarily, dangerous to other players and their families.
Cue the numpties: “What do you care, when you are jabbed?” Firstly, the jab doesn’t provide total protection. Secondly, even the jabbed can get COVID-19 and pass it to their families.
Think of it like this. It is not that everyone who takes in cigarette smoke gets cancer, but enough of them do that the government rightly banned smoking in indoor public places. It is not that the unjabbed are going to endanger everyone else, but enough of them will be a danger that the only reasonable thing to do is to say if you are a professional footballer, and you are unjabbed, it is really better you look for a new line of work, and good luck.
Calm your farms, I said! For the bottom line remains: the only way out of this mess to normality is via vaccines, and vaccine passports. No one will HAVE to get vaccines, but without one, it will be dinkum too much trouble to have you in a football team. That is the way it is working in the NFL, and that is the way it will work here.
You need to get your head around it.
You almost heard it here first
No, I don’t predict the Wallabies will beat the All Blacks tonight, and you can’t make me. As the “Kiss of Death”, it is too dangerous. But allow me to say that there was reason for hope from last week’s match. Our blokes were competitive! They had a go! Some standout talents are emerging!
Yes, the All Blacks remain a formidable outfit at the worst of times, let alone at Eden Park, but 20 years in it must be about time the Goodies got up for a great win.
I repeat: I don’t predict it. But if it happens . . . well, you heard it here first!
Apocrypha of the week
I know, I know, I am missing the Olympics, too. But before the whole thing slips into distant memory, here is one more yarn to file away. It was before the heavyweight Greco-Roman wrestling final for the gold medal, with the famous Russian wrestler Igor Medvedev from Moscow, going up against the practically unknown American Hank Ruth from the deep south, of the deep south, ol’ Alabammy!
In the dressing room, just before they go out, the Yank’s coach takes him aside, “Now, Hank, don’t forget all the research we’ve done on this Russian. In 12 years of international competition, he’s never lost a match because of that ‘pretzel’ hold he has. Whatever you do, don’t let him get you in that hold. If he does, you’re finished!”
Hank, a good ol’ boy like they just don’t make any more, nods tightly. He understands.
And then, at 3pm last Saturday, as the main event after the women’s marathon, they get to it. The American and the Russian circle each other several times, looking for an opening. And there it is! Though Medvedev is a big bear of a man, he moves as quickly as a panther and in an instant he has sprung on the American, taken him down and wrapped him up in the dreaded pretzel hold! All in the first 15 seconds!
From the stands, it is clear Hank is so impossibly contorted – with arms and legs everywhere, and all of them at impossible angles to his torso – in the Russian’s deadly grip that the result is obvious. It can only be a matter of seconds before Hank’s shoulders are pinned. A deep sigh of disappointment goes up. Hank’s coach buries his face in his hands, unable to watch the inevitable ending.
Suddenly, Medvedev lets out a blood-curdling scream and Hank Ruth bounces high from the mat like a tightly coiled spring that has been unleashed! A resounding cheer goes up from the crowd and the trainer raises his eyes just in time to see, first, the Russian flop weakly back onto the mat and then Hank weakly collapse on top of him, securing the pin in a few seconds, winning the match and the Olympic gold medal.
The coach is astounded. When he finally gets Hank alone, he asks, “How did you ever get out of that hold? No one has ever done it before!”
Hank, still pale from exhaustion and shaking, rasps out, “Well, I was ready to give up when he got me in that hold, but at the last moment I opened my eyes and saw this pair of balls right in front of my face. I thought I had nothing to lose, so with my last ounce of strength I stretched out my neck and bit those babies just as hard as I could . . . Coach, you’d be amazed how strong you get when you bite your own balls!”
What they said
Ariarne Titmus’ coach Dean Boxall looking back on his Olympics: “It’s funny, the group I coach came away with five golds, but I’m recognised as the person who humped the railing!”
Richmond coach Damien Hardwick on how men settle their differences:“We’re all big boys, I’m sure Jonno Brown’s OK with it. He’ll call me a dickhead the next time he sees me and I’ll probably call him one as well – so we move on pretty quickly.”
Adelaide Crow Rory Sloane on teammate Tex Walker’s racist comments: “If I could put my Miss Universe tiara on, my main message to all of Australia is just celebrate people’s differences. Definitely don’t stand for racism and treat everyone the same, but celebrate people’s differences is the message I’d like to send.” I’d vote for him.
San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich on the departing Patty Mills: “We didn’t know what we were getting, really, when we got him. As a basketball player, he’s gone off the charts with development. But as a human being and as a member of our society and a leader on our team, he’s been fantastic.”
Spanish walker Jesus Angel Garcia has made history, as the first person to compete in an athletics event at eight summer Olympics. What has he learnt? “When I was young, I was too impulsive, and when I had experience, I lacked youth. Eight Games are enough. I just want to enjoy once more the Olympic magic and then retire to a quieter, more relaxed life.”
Anonymous rugby sevens player unhappy with the reporting of his team’s disgrace: “Who cares who f—ing threw up, it’s not World War III?” No, it wasn’t World War III. But it was a turd in a swimming pool on an otherwise sparkling day. Everything was great, and you blokes got on the turps on the way home. Nice work.
Lionel Messi leaving Barcelona: “The truth is I don’t know what to say. After 21 years I am leaving with my three Catalan-Argentine children . . . This is really difficult for me after so many years spent here — my entire life. I’m not ready for this.”
Netball player Gretel Bueta on the chances of netball being included at the 2032 Brisbane Olympics: “People already think we are in the Olympics. So for it to be actually included would be unreal.”
Thomas Bach after the Tokyo Games: “You inspired us with this unifying power of sport. This was even more remarkable given the many challenges you had to face because of the pandemic . . . For the first time since the pandemic began, the entire world came together. Billions of people around the world were united by emotion, sharing moments of joy and inspiration.”
Michael Jordan on Luc Longley: “He matters to me . . . If you asked me to do it all over again, there’s no way I would leave Luc Longley off my team – no way possible, because he mattered. He had an impact on me. He made me better as a player, as a person.”
Laurie Daley on the Raiders committee that passed on taking Craig Bellamy as coach: “If you had a crystal ball and knew how it was going to turn out, you would have obviously jumped at the chance to take a bloke who was going to be one of the great coaches of all time.” Surely this was sports’ answer to the record executive who knocked back Elvis Presley?
Andrew Gaze: “I think of those that have been along for the journey [with the Boomers], that have their DNA on this [bronze win].” A nice way of putting it.
Mark Taylor on the riches Australian cricket once had: “[Justin] Langer, [Matthew] Hayden, [Damien] Martyn, all those guys served huge apprenticeships, averaging mid 40s to 50 in Shield cricket and couldn’t get a game. When they did, not surprisingly, they did very well because they were ready to go.”
Team of the week
Bangladesh. Defeated Australia in a T20 series 4-1. The good thing is, because it’s only T20, it will be forgotten within a week.
Wallabies. Back on the horse against the All Blacks at Eden Park on Saturday. Same bat-time, same bat-station, same bat-place.
Beijing Winter Olympics. Because of the COVID-19 delay, the Beijing Winter Olympics are less than six months away!
Chris Beath. The Australian soccer referee took charge of the gold medal match between Brazil and Spain along with his two Aussie assistants Anton Shchetinin and George Lakrindis.
Will Chambers. It’s one thing to sledge when you’re playing for the best in the business, but when you’re not, it looks foolish.
Lionel Messi. Parachutes from one super team into another, leaving Barcelona to land at Paris Saint-Germain.
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