Lovely! And bravo, both Sonny Bill Williams and Quade Cooper.
Meantime, of course I support Cooper becoming an Australian citizen. He has been formed by this country as a long-time resident, and contributed to it for a couple of decades. But am I the only one troubled by the logjam of paperwork, between him and citizenship, magically clearing pretty much the instant his magic kick went over to beat the Boks?
Citizenship is a serious thing, and for me the case for or against it being granted should have nothing to do with a rotating orb of leather. What if a puff of wind had swung that ball to the left? Suddenly, his case for citizenship is not so strong?
I repeat, I am glad he is getting his citizenship, but the rapidity of this smacked of political opportunism and I wonder how those other many worthies waiting for citizenship feel – many with compelling cases – knowing their lack of ability with the ball in hand or on foot means they will never be picked out and moved forward to the front of the queue?
I think particularly of the #HomeToBilo family, Priya and Nadesalingam Murugappan, the two Tamil refugees who came here separately from war-torn Sri Lanka nigh on a decade ago, seeking asylum. They were granted bridging visas and landed together in the tight-knit community of Biloela in central Queensland, worked hard, paid their taxes, and had two Australian-born daughters, Kopika and Tharunicaa – only to be raided at 5am on the day after their visa expired in early 2018, by Australian Border Force accompanied by police and security guards. They have been in detention since. Theirs has been a long and shocking saga, and it’s true that as far as we know, none of them can kick a football. But those little girls have known no other country than Australia. Are we seriously going to kick them out, when there is a community in Queensland that actively wants to embrace them?
In the euphoria generated by the win over the Boks, Minister Alex Hawke demonstrated that with a flick of his pen he can move Quade Cooper to the front of the queue. Can we not get the same beneficent flick, when the cause is decency and common sense?
Don’t hit the switch
Yes, there has been much commentary over the fact the NRL has moved next Saturday’s final, involving the Melbourne Storm, forward so as not to clash with the AFL grand final and get as many Melbourne viewers as possible – broadly chortling that in a stare-off between the two codes, it was the NRL that blinked first.
But was it really anything more than a commonsense move that should be applauded? In the USA, there is regular consultation between the likes of the NBA and NHL so they, ideally, avoid scheduling finals on the same night, just as the big leagues of soccer in Europe avoid going up against Champions League matches unless it simply can’t be avoided.
The only downside of this late move by the NRL is those who have been suddenly blindsided by the late change. This ad placed in the Toorak Times is apocryphal, but I like it!
“Hi! I’ve got 2 tickets for the final of the Melbourne Storm on 25 September but it now clashes with my wedding at that same afternoon, so I can’t go. If you are interested and want to go instead of me … it’s at Toorak Uniting Church and her name is Jane.”
Returning the love
“What happened to your ‘Gotta Love This City’ items?” a reader asked me this week. It is a good question with a very simple answer. In the Age of the Plague, pretty much all but serious professional sport has been shut down, which means all those lovely things that used to happen in grassroots and kids’ sport have been put on hold. To make up the difference, for the next few weeks I’ll put up a few favourite “Gottas” from the past.
This one was from about 15 years ago.
An under-12 rugby league grand final for the ages was played between the young lads of Mona Vale and Belrose at Curl Curl’s Reub Hudson Oval. The Mona Vale boys gave it their best, but the nippers from Belrose were just that little bit stronger.
No matter, it is a great game, made all the better by the fact that just before full-time, a young bloke from Mona Vale scores a consolation try right in the corner where a fabulous mud puddle lies, covering himself from head to foot in goo. And are you thinking what I’m thinking? You are!
At the final whistle, instead of doing a customary lap of honour, the Belrose boys decide they want to have the same fun as the Mona Vale try-scorer. Almost as one, they run to the same mud puddle and dive in. Then all the Mona Vale boys join them, dragging their coach as they go.
Finally, the piece de resistance.
Stand back everyone – here he comes! For now it is the referee himself, aged 40 or so, racing down the sideline – as all the parents clap and cheer – before taking a flying leap and landing in the middle of the muddy, laughing throng! Now, which boys are Belrose, which ones are from Mona Vale, who are the winners and losers and what was the score of the grand final again? It just doesn’t matter. Kids’ sport, exactly as it should be – and three cheers for the ref.
Sigh. I miss those days.
TFF received a strong response to my rant last week that Afghanistan’s treatment of women since the Taliban took over should be regarded the way South Africa used to treat black Africans – gender apartheid as opposed to race apartheid – and we should begin by imposing sports sanctions. What pleased me most was human rights experts from the UN saying exactly the same thing in a statement on Wednesday. It is worth reading.
“Just as racial apartheid in sports has been banned in international law, the total exclusion of women from athletics must be recognised as entirely beyond the pale, and as a violation in which others must not be complicit. The right to gender equality, and the right to take part in cultural life without discrimination require women’s equal access to participation in sports. This pronouncement that women do not need sports and may not participate in sports suggests a return to the Taliban’s grim history of systematically excluding women from public life and practicing gender apartheid.”
Stop the fight
Could anything possibly be more grotesque than staging a professional boxing match featuring 58-year-old Evander Holyfield, SEVENTEEN years after New York boxing authorities banned him from boxing in their state because of “poor performance and diminished skills”? Maybe only if they staged the fight in Florida, which has no COVID-19 restrictions despite being the most plague-infested state in the union, and had disgraced former president Donald Trump doing the TV commentary …
Oh wait. It was in Florida, and Trump was doing the TV commentary.
Sorry, I am all out. I can think of nothing more grotesque.
What they said
Dylan Alcott at the US Open, after becoming the first man in any form of tennis to earn the calendar year “golden slam” of all four major titles and Paralympic or Olympic gold: “Thanks for making the dreams of a young fat disabled kid with a really bad haircut come true because I can’t believe I just did it! I just can’t believe I just won the golden slam!”
Emma Raducanu on winning the US Open women’s final: “You say, ‘I want to win a grand slam’. But to have the belief I did, and actually executing, winning a grand slam. I can’t believe it.”
Donald Trump ringside for the Evander Holyfield bout: “No, he’s not the same. Right from the beginning he was not the same fighter. He lost a lot. It was not Evander Holyfield.” Do you think this was a great surprise, 17 years after the state of New York banned him from boxing within their confines because he was no longer up to it?
Daniil Medvedev on defeating Novak Djokovic in the US Open men’s final: “First of all, I want to say ‘sorry’ for you fans and Novak, because, I mean, we all know what he was going for today.”
An SMH reader comments after a story on Medvedev’s stunning victory over Djokovic: “Everybody, his name is not Daniel. It’s Daniil. Replace the e with an i. It’s not that hard.”
Stephanie Rice on dealing with life after sport: “For me, transitioning was f—ing hard … and still is at times. After swimming, I felt lost, depressed, irrelevant and as though I had achieved the pinnacle of my life at 24 and everything moving forward would be far less exciting and special.”
Quade Cooper on kicking Australia to victory over South Africa: “I only just had the legs to get it over. I looked at it and had a little chat to myself and said ‘is this your ego saying you want to take the kick? Or [should I consider] what’s going to benefit the team?’ I looked over and had a little chat to Hodgey [Reece Hodge]. He backed me. If your peers are backing you, you’ve got to back yourself.”
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke on Quade Cooper: “Exceptional people must not be prevented from becoming Australians because of the unique demands of the very work they do that makes them exceptional.” (See item above)
Jose Mourinho after a thrilling last-minute win in his 1000th match as a manager, in which he exuberantly celebrated: “During the week I was lying, even to myself, by saying that this was not a special match. I was trying to convince myself of that. It was a special match, with a special number for me; it was my 1000th game on the bench. I wanted to remember it for the rest of my life. I did not want to lose.”
Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Rameez Raja on how Pakistan will get to 110 per cent by hiring Matthew Hayden to be a consultant for the T20 World Cup: “An Australian occupying the dressing room will have a lot of benefits. This Pakistan team can win the World Cup, it just needs an improvement of 10 per cent.”
Peter V’landys on moving the time of the Storm’s match next week so as not to clash with the AFL grand final: “When you act in the best interests of the game, I don’t think there’s any such thing as a backdown. It shows you make decisions for the right reasons and not because of pigheadedness.”
Former Souths junior Jordan Mailata, on playing in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles on a $108 million contract: “It gives me an opportunity to represent my family, my country, my people . . . I’ve been wanting to buy my parents a house so I can finally do that. I think it is a movie – I’m just waiting for someone to say ‘cut’.”
Team of the Week
Emma Raducanu. First qualifier in the open era to win a slam and the youngest women’s slam champion since Maria Sharapova at Wimbledon in 2004. (And I mean this sincerely, let us all hope she deals with the sudden pressure better than Naomi Osaka did, when she was in a similar position three years ago.)
Daniil Medvedev. Just the fifth player to defeat Novak Djokovic in a grand slam final – after Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka. It means Djokovic is stalled on 20 major victories, equal with Nadal and Federer. A certain poetic symmetry, yes, if they all finished equal?
Sam Stosur. Won the US Open doubles title to go with the one she won in 2005, and her singles title in 2011.
Rod Laver and Donald Budge. Still the only men to have won the grand slam – all four majors in one calendar year.
Jordan Mailata. The former South Sydney Rabbitohs junior – 2.03m for 160kg – is now the starting offensive tackle for the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles on a four-year $108 million contract. He’s really starting to hit his stride – and opposing linemen.
Quade Cooper and the Wallabies. Pulled off a stunning victory in the last seconds of the Rugby Championship match against the World Cup winning Springboks.
Daniel Ricciardo. Won the Italian Grand Prix, his first victory since 2018.
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