The Steve Rixon Ashes Diary 2013 – Foreword

Steve-Rixon

Steve Waugh wrote many Ashes Diaries, Steve Rixon has written none… until now

FOREWORD

A lot of people ask me, “Who is Steve Rixon?” and “Why do you bother talking to him on a semi regular basis?”

First and foremost Steve Rixon is a crusty old blighter with a magnificent half handlebar moustache and slicked back hair who loves a punt. Secondly he played a handful of Tests for Australia a long time ago as a wicket keeper and is the Australian cricket team’s current fielding coach and spin coach. Wether this appointment was for spin bowling coach or talking spin coach remains unclear. I thought this video might clarify the situation but alas Rixon cleverly neither confirms nor denies if he is the coach of talking spin or bowling spin.

See, I’m none the wiser as to Rixon’s role. Some highlights include insightful chats to Lyon in the nets

Rixon: “Pretty good barometer. Pup.”

Lyon: “Yeah”

Rixon: “Maintain some dot balls to him you’re doing well.”

Rixon: “He desperately want‘s to come down so… [Rixon walks away for no apparent reason] …so if you can keep him stuck on the crease [inaudible]

The term “Awareness” gets a fair run:

“Awareness of fields” [all on the fence]

“Awareness of the opposition” [India]

Rixon has been the source of one of the great additions to the Australian sporting vernacular in recent times, “informed player management” according to himself. He has also been responsible for teaching Matthew Wade how to catch – judge for yourself how successful Rixon has been in that pursuit.

Why do I talk to him? Primarily because I think he is lonely and desperately needs someone to bet on the cricket for him but also because he freely gives away inside information from the Australian dressing room including the Clarke v Hussey fight.

Note: Rather than actually putting pen to paper or tapping away at a keyboard Rixon has decided to deliver his diary via a weekly phone call/Skype/Google hangout. Also he may or may not be aware that this diary is occurring and may or may not sanction it’s reproduction in print.

Anyway enough of preamble, let me pick up the phone so we can hear from the man himself.

Yours in cricket,

Steve Rixon’s scribe and bet placer.

Hipster football, work life balance and an AFL fixture solution with two byes- Footy news week 11

Last Tuesday the Socceroos qualified for the World Cup in fairly dramatic fashion by needing to win their last match (well actually a draw would have done due to later results but that’s bye the bye) Peter Allen’s song about Rio got a fair work out as the Socceroos jumped up and down on a stage (why do soccer players celebrate like that?) but this time there was no partying with Qantas sponsored John Travolta like in 2005 when the Socceroos defeated Urauguay

There’s more midweek football than you can poke a boot at again this week with Rebels v Lions on Tuesday, State of Origin II on Wednesday and West Coast v Essendon on Thursday.

The highlight:

Who knew that hipsters liked football? The annual Community Cup between the PBS/RRR Megahertz (two of Melbourne’s alternative/hipster radio stations – don’t ask me what it is I don’t listen to it) and The Rockdogs (musicians) was held at Elsternwick Park on Sunday. It raises money for the charity Reclink Australia.

Fans were encouraged to ride their fixies to the event or catch public transport – some caught the bus and enjoyed coffee from a jam jar, screwing on the lid between sips (See photo montage.) There was a massive crowd in attendance with the “official attendance at an estimated 10,000” and almost as many flannelette shirts plus more ironic facial hair than you could point a pair of skinny leg jeans at. This was the biggest crowd in the events 20 year history and raised over $100,000 – a fine effort and on such a sunny day that those who forgot to take their ray bands were cursing.

Clockwise from top left: The Community Cup, Tony Wilson prepares for the Megahertz, a typical crowd member with beard and beer, the crowd, Beasts of Bourbon with a footy, travel coffee on the bus, and a guy at home with his jam jar who thought the game would be televised on Channel 31.
Clockwise from top left: The Community Cup, Tony Wilson prepares for the Megahertz, a typical crowd member with beard and beer, the crowd, Beasts of Bourbon with a footy, travel coffee on the bus, and a guy at home with his jam jar who thought the game would be televised on Channel 31.

Only one question remains: Why is this event not in the PBS, RRR and live music heartland north of the river? Let the Hipster Nations of Carlton, Fitzroy, Collingwood, Brunswick and Northcote unite and make this happen!

The lowlight:

The NRL had a trifecta of misdemeanours of late: North Queensland’s James Tamou was caught driving unlicensed at nearly 4 times the legal blood alcohol limit; Canberra’s Blake Ferguson was charged with indecent assulat; South Sydney’s George Burgess was charged with wilful damage after allegedly throwing a street sign through a car window in Cairns. In the AFL  Stephen Milne was recharged with rape and in Rugby Union, Wallabies player Digby Ioane had a warrant issued for his arrest after he failed to show in court for a hearing about an assault charge.

Not good behavior.

The unbelievable:

The Age must be reading my blog. First Rohan Conolly wrote an article bagging Mick Malthouse for deflecting by treating questions from journalists, himself and Anthony Hudson, with disdain but happily answering questions from a former player, Dermott Brereton. Then this headline from Matthew Lloyd.

Thanks Lloydy (Note: gratuitous use of nickname to suggest I know Matthew Lloyd personally)
Thanks Lloydy (Note: gratuitous use of nickname to suggest I know Matthew Lloyd personally)

I, still, prefer Robbo. From, the Herald Sun. With his short sentences. Of, a few words. And, his liberal, use, of commas.

Melbourne FC and the Australian Cricket team.

There have been strong parallels between these two organisations for a while. Melbourne dubiously recruited bit part players from other clubs: David Rodan, Shannon Byrnes, Tom Gillies and Cam Pederson whilst Australia muddled it’s way through an ‘informed player management ‘ rotation policy of team selection and handed Test debuts to bits and pieces allrounders Steve Smith, Moises Henriques and Glen Maxwell. Both organisations definitely lack on field leadership with Melbourne explaining it recruited the aforementioned players from successful clubs to provide leadership in how to be successful. Cricket Australia had Shane Watson resign the vice captaincy then dropped keeper Matthew Wade to reinstate Brad Haddin to the team to take on the vice captaincy. Melbourne has had issues getting its high priced recruit on the park – Mitch Clark – and Cricket Australia has had similar ongoing injury issues with its poster boy Shane Watson. Both organisations often resemble a rudderless ship on the high seas and appear to have a clue about how to become successful again except to sack their coach. Melbourne parted company with coach Mark Neeld on June 17 and just 7 days later Cricket Australia sacked coach Mickey Arthur. Melbourne’s list manager, Tim Harrington, was shown the door during the week which must put Cricket Australia chief selector John Inverarity on shaky ground I would think. Melbourne’s CEO Cameron Schwab was axed earlier this year – over to you Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland.

The boring:

David Parkin recently said AFL footballers were “the most unbalanced people in Australian society” Andrew Demetriou has been talking a lot about players  work-life balance and how two byes per season is essential for work life balance.

Some players demonstrate a work-life balance and they get questioned about it. David Hille raised eyebrows by heading off to France in May for a couple of weeks and Jimmy Bartel went to the US for the NBA finals over the bye week. It didn’t seem to hurt Bartel – he had a season high 31 possessions on the weekend.

The final word on balance in AFL player’s lives goes to Campbell Brown, who I have new found respect for:

”I reckon you can be unbalanced if you choose to be unbalanced”

“But AFL players now feel more like they live an unbalanced life, not because of work but because they can’t just go out and have a beer without it being frowned upon. Some aren’t leading any form of social life.”

Brown confessed he had been concerned, by the lack of interest of some younger teammates in developing richer lives outside footy.

”I say, ‘What are you doing outside of footy – studying?’ and they say, ‘Nah, I just want to concentrate on my footy for the first two years’. Seriously, of course you’re going to be unbalanced.

”Especially in your first two years when you’re probably not going to be playing too much senior footy. That’s when you should be studying. I’d make it compulsory … if they tell you they’re too busy they’re talking shit. I’ve been bored this week and I’ve done my headspace stuff [working for the national youth mental health organisation], I’ve trained, and I’ve read the form guide. If you’re proactive in that department you will be well balanced.”

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/afl/afl-news/life-balance-crucial-brown-20130614-2o9us.html#ixzz2XEUjyMAm

A real bug bear of players seems to be pre-season training. They don’t want to be fitted with GPS monitors during their annual leave and they want to train just 3 days a week:  Monday, Wednesday, Friday during the preseason. Next they will want to just train Tuesday & Thursdays from 5pm during the season! Talk about retro thinking, that will never catch on!

My opinion is this: Rather than extending and mandating a minimum time off from football the AFL should set a maximum number of hours or days a player can spend training at their club. AFL is not played internationally; it’s not as if the fitness levels ofAFL players here are getting ahead of or behind other AFL players in other countries. So, as per Campbell Brown’s suggestion, why not mandate that the players can only train for 2 days a week and have to be in study, educational training or working the other 3 days. Yeah fitness levels might drop a bit but wouldn’t that reduce those damn pesky rotations pleasing Demetriou & KB?

Pre-season could also be mandated to not start before December 1, January 5 for 5 year veterans. The pre-season competition wouldn’t start before March 1 and would consist of 2 practice matches.

All these reductions in player commitments would naturally lead me to conclude that it would be fair and reasonable for players to take a wage reduction. I can’t see any players putting their hand up for that!

Foot in mouth of the week:

When speaking, you can be forgiven for starting to talk before engaging your brain, however when you are commissioning a giant painted logo there really is time to think things through before acting on them. Not so much putting your foot in your mouth as putting something somewhere else.

Ah the Wallabies!
Ah the Wallabies!

VFL Watch

Footballers of all levels, AFL, VFL and local leagues donned orange shoelaces on June 15 as part of the Step Back. THINK campaign to reduce street violence. The worthiness of this campaign was highlighted by a court case that concluded the following week. Casey Scorpions player Kyle Matthews suffered a brain injury and fractured skull after being punched outside the Geebung Polo Club in March 2010. The case provides interesting reading of the heady mix of alcohol, violence and young men and can be read here.

Frankston recorded its biggest win in 5 years when they defeated Sandringham on Sunday by 96 points. An 8 goal opening term to Frankston set the tone for the day and the highlight was a hangar taken by Frankston’s Ziggy Alwin which can be watched here.

What they should do

AFL players want two byes and everyone hates these bye weeks with 3 rounds of 6 games. The answer is simple – accommodate both. Play 22 games in 24 rounds (which really happened this year with Round 1 being a split round)and  make it so no round would have less than 8 games. Yep make a standard round have 8 games (two teams have a bye) – there would be 18 rounds of 8 games plus 6 rounds of 9 games.That makes the 198 of the home and away season. The 9 game rounds could be played on weekends that have an extra timeslot for example – Round 1, Easter, Anzac day, Queen’s birthday or really whenever the AFL wants them. Pundits go on about the drawbacks and benefits of coming off a bye to play the following week – so the two teams who had the bye will play each other the next week. Let me explain using Anzac day as an example. If Anzac day was to fall on a Wednesday in Round 5 then Essendon and Collingwood would have the bye the in Round 4. Both teams would have a 9-10 day break leading into the Anzac Day game and another 9-10 day break before their next game in Round 6. Using this system Wednesday night or Thursday night could become a regular AFL timeslot.

The Quote

“Well, I haven’t played at the elite level. Neither did Mike Sheahan, his predecessor Alf Brown, nor the vast majority of today’s AFL media. But, as discounted as that makes this opinion to the likes of Malthouse and other contemporary former playing types, here’s a short and pithy summary of their view, and one in keeping with Friday night’s tone. It’s bullshit.”

Rohan Connolly calling bullshit on Mick Malthouse. I think. That’s a very long sentence.

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/afl/afl-news/need-to-pull-on-a-boot-pull-the-other-one-20130618-2ofhy.html#ixzz2XGenQUiS

Bring ‘Em Back XI

Australia has bombed spectacularly from the Champions Trophy with Shane Watson and Phil Hughes looking in horrid form with the willow and Australia A made heavy weather against Ireland [but more about that in the soon to be released chronicles: The Steve Rixon Tour Diary] The darkest of days was almost realised when Steve Smith made a century for the A team and it looked like he might be seconded into the Ashes squad for Dave Warner. Thankfully for everyone’s sanity this didn’t happen, however the call has been made in recent weeks to bring back the retired Simon Katich and/or Ricky Ponting to strengthen the brittle Aussie batting. Both are in England and making runs (Ponting 295 runs at an average of 98 for Surrey, Katich 582 runs at an average of 59 for Lancashire) if they are wanted or needed.
Thankfully the Cricket Australia website has a weekly update called ‘A County Practice’ featuring Matron Sloan, Fatso, Bob and Cookie…. no, I mean a list of who is nearby and could be brought into the Aussie Test team – I present the Bring Em Back XI
1. Phil Jaques (Yorkshire) [Born: Wollongong] Banished from the Australian Test team after taking the catch that gave Beau Casson his first test wicket. No not really he hurt his back and took the best part of two years to recover and then his form deserted him completely. Jaques retired from Australian first class cricket 18 or so months ago but is still playing for Yorkshire (as a local due to his British passport) where this season he has opened the innings and averaged a Shane Watson-esque 24 with a top score of 57 (very SR Watson). Phil, at a youngish 34 years old, is the closest thing Australian cricket has to Jaques Kallis – obviously in name only. Bring him back!

2. Sam Robson (Middlesex) [Born: Sydney] Robson sort of made headlines a few weeks ago when he put on a big opening partnership with Chris Rogers in a game for Middlesex. He played U19 for Australia U19 has since decided to use his mum’s English heritage and via residency will qualify to play for England in 2014. The 23 year old Robson has made 757 runs at an average of 68  with a top score of 214* so far this English summer suggesting we should bring him back to his right country before it’s too late!

Sam Robson: Bring him back to Australia
Sam Robson: Bring him back to Australia
3. Rob Quiney (Essex) [Born: Melbourne] Test discard Quiney was having a bit of a shocker with Essex before he popped his shoulder fielding and brought his stint at the county to a premature end and headed back to Australia for rehab. So he will have to be replaced with Michael Klinger (Gloucestershire) who, despite being stripped of the South Australian state captaincy by Darren Berry (interesting), has been made captain of Gloucestershire. Like Quiney, Klinger has been a prolific run scorer at Shield level for the past 3 or so seasons without getting any recognition with higher honours. And as far as I am aware he doesn’t have a black mark next to his name – ie he wasn’t part of the 3 slobs: Warner, Finch and Cosgrove who were kicked out of the Cricket Australia Centre of Excellence for having untidy rooms and instigating a food fight in the AIS dining hall. Rob Quiney can’t be brought back due to injury so Michael Klinger, bring him in!
4.  Marcus North (Glamorgan) [Born: Pakenham] Not retired just never going to be selected for Australia again. Had his papers stamped “Do Not Select” and fair enough as it was either single figures or triple figures from North. He either made you wanted to give him the single finger (frequently) or a round of applause (not as often). Anyhoo North has settled in to life in Wales (that’s where Glamorgan is) pretty well making the Swalec Stadium in Cardiff his own. It’s not surprising really it’s the venue where North made his last test century in the 2009 Ashes. North has even taken on the captaincy of the one day side despite stepping down from the WA captaincy. I guess it’s easier to be captain when you don’t have the Marsh brothers in your team. North is averaging a Watson like 24 with a top score of 68 in this county campaign so lets bring him back – he’s a Victorian!
5. Murray Goodwin (Glamorgan) – Born in Zimbabwe but raised in Perth and played first class debut for Western Australia. At a sprightly 40 years old Goodwin makes Ponting and Katich look like puppies.He last played for Zimbabwe in 2000 (19 Tests with a batting average of 42) so he should be right to switch allegiances and no doubt the Australian government can whip through another passport fast track bill (ala Fawad Ahmed) if required. Goodwin got close to playing for Australia back in his days at WA playing for my favourite Australian team: the ACB Chairman’s XI and the rebranded Cricket Australia Chairman’s XI. I suspect he would have got to see Manuka Oval in the nations capital on both occasions – what a treat.
North and Goodwin are batting 4 and 5 for Glamorgan bookended by Jim Allenby [born: Perth] at 3 (knocked up 600 runs at 67 too) and Stewart Walters [born: Mornington] at 6. Does no one in Wales play cricket? That’s a four man Aussie middle order plus former WA quick Michael Hogan and the head of elite performance (whatever that means – is there also a head of so-so mediocre performance?) is former Victoria and NSW top order grinder Matthew Mott. I guess it’s the Welsh equivalent to stacking an English team full of Saffers.
6. Brendan Nash (Kent) – Born in Western Australia to a Jamaican dad. After a middling Shield career with Queensland, Nash decided to try his luck playing in Jamiaca with the hope of playing international cricket with the Windies. It worked but after 21 tests and some one dayers and despite being appointed Test vice-captain in 2010, Nash fell out of favour with the West Indies and disappeared off the cricketing landscape. He was plucked out of club cricket in Melbourne (not premier cricket or sub-district but club cricket) to be Kent’s overseas signing last year. Four years is the mandatory wait period to change international cricket teams so we might just have to wait for the 2015 Ashes tour for Nash. But there would be no such issue for batsmen Tom Cooper (Netherlands) [Born: Wollongong] as there is no waiting period for playing for an ICC Associate member country (ie Netherlands) then playing for a ICC full member country (ie Australia) as Dirk Nannes demonstrated in 2009 by representing Netherlands then making his Australian debut in the same year. “Coops” has been a model of underachievement in his career for South Australia & Netherlands (they play in the English 40 over competition) so far but that doesn’t seem to deter the current selectors so he could be in with a shot.
Cool mon, I'm Jamaican: Brendan Nash
Cool mon, I’m Jamaican: Brendan Nash
N.B. As far as I know Brendan Nash is the only top 6 batsmen ever to deliver 10 overs of left arm medium pace bowling in an ODI.[It was against  the Black Caps in NZ here] If you know of any other genuine batsmen who has bowled even 2 overs of left arm mediums in an ODI I would be keen to know. There are plenty of batsmen who bowl a little bit of right arm pace, right arm spin, even left arm spin but precious few who bowl left arm medium.
7. Cameron White (Northants – T20 only) [Born: Wonthaggi] White has signed for Northants for the English T20 in June- July so will be on hand when the whips are cracking. He played his 4 Tests for Australia as the team’s number one spinner in India in 2008 but he would be this teams second spinner behind Marcus North. White’s fall from grace has been swift and spectacular dropping out of the Australian One Day squad and losing the T20 captaincy to George ‘Stroller’ Bailey.Cameron White – bring him back! Said no-one. Ever.
Talking of The Governor of Van Diemen’s Land, the Honorable George Bailey his career was on a nice trajectory: first a T20 debut as Australian captain, now Australian One Day captain and it looked like a Test spot for an experienced non opener might be up for grabs. But all his good work was undone when he decided to stroll a single and was run out in the must win Champions Trophy tie against Sri Lanka. Micheal Clarke was seen with his head in his hands after the run out and as punishment ordered ‘Stoller’ Bailey to walk at that same pace back to Australia. Bailey is not likely to be home in time for the next Ashes – continental drift is expected to outpace him.
George Bailey at the Oval
Every day I’m strolling: George Bailey at the Oval
8. Luke Ronchi (New Zealand) [Born: New Zealnd] NZ born but grew up in and played for Western Australia. Ronchi (pronounced ron-key) should have experienced an Ashes tour before, but, after playing limited overs cricket for Australia in 2008 , he had a complete and utter loss of form was not picked as back up keeper on the 2009 Ashes tour. He is a gloveman so why not through him in to the mix – it would fit in with the revolving door selection policy Australia seem to have with keepers at the moment. Has had a glorious start to his Black Caps career in England making 47 runs in 6 innings at an average of 7.83 at the top of the order and earnt himself the nickname ‘Wonky Ronchi.’ And a great rhyming slang is born: “I crashed my car into a power pole and now the front wheel is a bit Luke Ronchi (wonky)”
Front wheel looks a bit Luke Ronchi oris it a metaphor for his Black Caps career
Front wheel looks a bit Luke Ronchi
9. Trent Johnson (Ireland)  [Born: Wollongong]  Played for NSW alongside Tubby Taylor and fellow Wollongong boy Brett Lee (What is it with Wollongong? You could practically field an Australian XI from Wollongong) A medium fast rather than fast medium bowler, DT Johnson has been a mainstay of the Irish cricketing surge since the 2007 World Cup where he unleashed the chicken dance wicket celebration. At 39 years old and bald he looks the part of an angry fast bowler and took 4 wickets for not much against Australia A last week. Ireland is an associate member so he can play for Australia any time – bring him back (at least to Wollongong)!
Did someone say chicken dance?
Did someone say chicken dance?
10. Trent Copeland (Northants)  [Born: Sydney] Copeland has been unsighted in Australian colours since a very productive debut Test series against Sri Lanka in September 2011. Bowls line and length, is always economical and can bowl long spells – exactly what the Aussie team needs! He had been in England on a short stint with Northamptonshire, where he took 36 wickets at an average of 16, but has recently returned to Australia. Bring him back to England!
11. Steve Magoffin (Sussex) [Born: Queensland] The former Western Australian and Queensland quick has thrown in his lot with Sussex and has managed 39 wickets at 17 this season. After taking 12-31 he was asked if he would play for Australia in the Ashes. “I don’t even play Shield cricket in Australia any more so I’m not sure if I would qualify for Australia but, if the phone rings, I will answer it and I will probably be available. If it was to happen it would be amazing.” Yes it would be amazing and I’d suggest about as likely as Australia winning the Ashes 5-0.
12th man. Shaun Tait (Essex) [Born: Radelaide] Bring him back! Why is no-one saying this about Shaun Tait? Made his Test debut in the 2005 Ashes and played his third and final test against India in 2008 at the WACA and was so traumatised by the occasion that he promptly took an indefinite break from all forms of cricket. I have no idea where he managed to squeeze in his second test in between these two as I have no recolection of him donning the baggy greeen at any other time. Tait has been on a slow drip of retirements first quitting test cricket and first class cricket, then one day cricket and is now a gun for hire on the T20 circuit. Will be playing for Essex in the County T20  in June – July so will be around if needed. I also recently saw a photo of him bowling at training – Unbelievable!? Believe it!
Shaun Tait bowls to Kevon Cooper during an IPL  practice session.
Shaun Tait bowls to Kevon Cooper during an IPL practice session.
Coach: Jason Gillespie (Yorkshire) [Born: Radeliade] Gillespie knows a thing or two about winning Ashes series in England (1997, 2001) but he’s experience of losing in 2005 will probably be more pertinent. Ouch.
Fielding Coach: David Boon. Why the hell not! Could also show Dave Warner how to hold it together after consuming a breweries worth of beer.
Fortunately a repeat of the recent India tour won’t occur as Steve Smith, Moises Henriques and Glen Maxwell have been packed off on an Australia A tour of South Africa during the Ashes. Steve Smith was even named skipper! Seems a little excessive – was George Bailey not available? Oh yeah…

Seagulls, bad body language and Eddie is tired – footy news week 10

Midweek football is somewhat of a rarity in Australian codes but what a magnificent collection there has been over the past two weeks. Last week there was Monday night AFL , the Socceroos World Cup qualifier against Japan on Tuesday night followed by Sate of Origin 1 and the first match of the British & Irish Lions Rugby Tour on Wednesday night. This week delivered another World Cup qualifier this time against Jordan, the third tour match of the British & Irish Lions and a rip-snorter Foxtel Cup match to boot. Mid week festival of the boot indeed, even the staid and stoic bastian of non-innovation, the Victorian Amateur Football Association got into the action hosting two midweek night games at their Elsternwick Park headquarters after some of the weekends matches were ‘rained off’. Hard to imagine how a game could be called off due to weather given no hurricanes rip through Melbourne and it doesn’t snow. Time to toughen up, Ammos.

 

The highlight.

A goal square from 1896 – note it’s a square
A goal square from 1896 – note it’s a square

Not only is this geometrically pleasing – a return to the proper definition of a “square” rather than the current configuration which is technically a rectangle – but it would also put an end to the need for rule changes regarding kick ins. First there was the kick to yourself kick in (which I’ve always thought was too much like the rugby league “tap and go” for AFL) then there was the bag of balls behind the goals and no waiting for the goal umpire to wave his flag/the cheer squad to chuck the ball back before kicking in and this season umpires only give the players 6 seconds to kick in before calling play on. With the 1896 goal square none of these rules would be needed just launch a kick in from anywhere in the square – simple.

 

The lowlight

Goal umpiring. Who would have thought something seemingly relatively straight forward could become so complicated. The goal review system looks like a crock and the big question is why has John Inverarity or one of his similarly geriatrically aged buddies been employed to be the eye in the sky. Every time I here those fateful words “Footage inconclusive, umpires call” I think why are the AFL employing a great gandad to do this job? And seemingly the same great grandad at every game? Don’t they know any game starting later than 4pm will finish after their usual time to be tucked under the doonah. Don’t they know people can’t operate properly when they are tired? Just ask Eddie McGuire the sort of blunders you make when you are ‘tired’. Next time a goal umpire makes a mistake I’d like them to hold a press conference to tell everyone that the reason they blundered was they were ‘tired.’ Everything can just be explained away by a lack of sleep. Bad umpiring, bad goal review systems, bad kicking for goal (looking at you Travis Cloke), bad last quarters every week (North Melbourne are really tired), bad coaching (Brad Scott is pretty tired, Mark Neeld is an insomniac!) and racist slurs – its a cover all excuse.

I was surprised to read that the AFL Operations Manager, Mark Evans, is sounding out using Hawk Eye technology for goal line decisions. Hmmm I believe I suggested that in footy news week 06.

An even lower lowlight is the continued presence of Eddie McGuire on football coverage after the incident caused by him being ‘tired’ [Do you get the feeling I think this is one of the shittest and weakest excuses of all time?]. In 2012 Justin Sherman of the Western Bulldogs racially abused a Gold Coast Suns player and received a 4 week suspension from the AFL (although he was allowed to play VFL which was odd) However Eddie McGuire has not been punished at all. He is still fulfilling his role as a pre-match host on Fox Footy and calling AFL games. Why hasn’t he been suspended from AFL duties for 4 weeks like Justin Sherman? Why does this double standard exist?

The whole Eddie McGuire-Adam Goodes issue seems to have slipped form the headlines without a satisfactory resolution or outcome to me. The people calling for life bans and club memberships to be revoked if a member of the crowd racially abused a player have lost their voice now that person in the wrong has a profile. Surely the same standards and punishments should apply to AFL club presidents. What has happened to Eddie McGuire? As far as I can see he has got off scot free. He offered to symbolically step down from being Collingwood president for a week (highlighting even further how much he doesn’t get it) and saw the aftermath of the incident as an opportunity for him to be a leader against racism (too late, and he still doesn’t get it) and come up with the lame excuse of he was ‘tired’ The person who has also shown a distinct lack of leadership on this issue is Andrew Demetriou. His lack of action regarding Eddie McGuire on this matter has given tacit approval to this kind of behaviour. Unacceptable Demetriou.

For the final word on the Eddie McGuire fiasco I take from Fairfax journo Sam De Brito: “Racism? We don’t get it, because there are no consequences for being an ignorant, smug arsehole in this country.”

 

The unbelievable

That collarless skivvy that Mick Malthouse was wearing last Friday night. It looked like a cross between the long sleeve Carlton jumper Bryce Squibbs was wearing with such aplomb on the evening and a set of Skins. It was weird. Obviously it was still restricting blood flow to his head on Tuesday when he was at his deflecting best making a story out of Chris “Ya YA” Yarran [he has a Greek grandmother] and his petulant display as starting sub on Friday night.

“As Chris knows, and has apologised for his behaviour, there are 18 (substitute) players every week. As I said to the group here, if the AFL get their way, there will be 38 every week – there will be two and two,”

“I think some players would prefer to play in the reserves than be a sub.”

“I don’t get the sub stuff, I think it’s nonsense but it’s a rule. So, you abide by the rules.”

Ah Mick so close, but remember 18 +18 = 36. There is nothing Malthouse likes more than ranting about one of his pet topics – his hatred of potential restrictions to the interchange bench – this is a play straight out of the Mick Malthouse “How To Deflect Attention After A Loss” handbook. Don’t worry Mick your secret is safe with me.

 

The boring

Fixturing – Say goodbye to the bye. Everyone hates split rounds and byes – boring. With 16 teams we had 7 games one weekend and 1 the next , 2 and then 6, 4 and 4, maybe even 5 and 3 (I can’t remember) and now with 18 teams and 3 weeks of 6 teams having byes we have 6,6,6. Yes it’s the Devil’s number and it confirms to me that byes are evil – every fantasy football nerd hates them. There is no need to ruin 3 weekends of football – just ruin one. The AFL should take a weekend off after 12 rounds and let the Under 18 national championships take centre stage along with the State leagues and even local footy. Foxtel could even have a round of the Foxtel cup if it would help get more teams to field full strength sides. With a whole weekend spare it could even mean state of origin could make a comeback…..

Talking of state of origin anyone notice the NSW team were sponsored by VB and like all true blue New South Welshman they cracked an ice cold Victoria Bitter after the game in the ‘sheds’. Good to see there is still room for punch-ons and post match piss ups in professional sport.

State of Confusion: Victoria Bitter on a New South Wales jumper
State of Confusion: Victoria Bitter on a New South Wales jumper

 

What they should do

Those damn seagulls at the MCG just can’t be stopped. First a couple of wedge tailed eagles with handlers were hired to hangout on the roof of the stands but that idea was binned (not sure why), now it is 9 strategic wires strung between the stands to disrupt the seagulls flight patterns. Well that didn’t work judging by the number of gulls making the hallowed turf home over the weekend. What the MCC should do is revert to plan C: The shotgun. Any farmer will tell you the best way to deal with a bird problem is with a gun. Now don’t get all precious saying that you can’t shoot seagulls because they are native birds we club penguins don’t we….. sorry I mean we shoot kangaroos to cull numbers due to over populating and roos are native animals. I can’t see there being any danger of the seagull population going into rapid decline – have you been to a tip lately? Anyway the plan to rid the MCG of seagulls is a simple one. Before night games at the MCG (according to Richo the seagulls only land on the hallowed turf after sunset) the Southern stand and associated entrance gates will be off limits to all patrons until 15 minutes before the bounce. In between the player warm ups, (you know how the players come out have a bit of a warm up then disappear into the rooms only to reappear 10 minutes later to warm up again) well during this interval a select group of crack marksman (Russel Marks, Michael Diamond)/farmers will take to the field on the members stand wing and aiming toward the southern stand shoot as many seagulls as possible. What cracking pre match entertainment! And what better way to get kids into shooting. “Daddy, Daddy as I can no longer have a kick of the footy on the MCG after the game, I want to shoot seagulls on the ground before the game!” Shooting is an Olympic sport remember and we’re going to need all the help we can get in Rio 2016.

If this plan doesn’t get the OH&S stamp of approval, and I fail to see why it wouldn’t – the shotguns would be aimed toward the empty southern stand and Laurie Levee would be allowed to roam around the G picking up the dead seagulls, I have one remaining trick up my sleeve. Plan D: The gas gun. Fruit growers will be familiar with this piece of equipment. It wouldn’t look out of place as a homemade mortar launcher on the streets of Syria… I mean Shepparton and sounds like a shotgun going off at regularly timed intervals. It is used primarily to scare birds away from fruit trees or scare the shit out of anyone if you fire it in the boot of your car. The only problem is the birds get accustomed to hearing the sound of the gas gun and not… well how can I put it…. dying, so become less scared of it over time. The remedy is to occasionally get out there and shoot a few birds with a real shotgun – maybe during a Foxtel Cup game when you can guarantee not only the southern stand but pretty much every stand will be empty.

If nothing else a volley of shotguns ringing around the MCG should wake up the ‘tired’ old bloke manning the goal review booth.

Plan D: The Gas Gun Bird Scarer.
Plan D: The Gas Gun Bird Scarer.

 

Foot in mouth of the week

A new segment looking at who has opened their mouth only to insert their size 10 boot – they must have been ‘tired’.

1. Jeff Kennett

The former premier opened up by saying he would run to be chairman of the Melbourne board. Probably a good idea actually – he couldn’t do much worse than the current administration. He then followed up by saying that the expansion in to Greater Western Sydney for the AFL could be “what Gallipoli was to Australian forces in the First World War”

2. Kevin Sheedy

Immediately after Jeff Kennett compared GWS to Gallipoli Kevin Sheedy tweeted this: “How do you compare a game of Footy to people dying in war? Senseless and absurd analogy.” Pot meet kettle, Kevin. I’m pretty sure you pedaled this sort of analogy for 12 years to promote the Anzac Day clash between Essendon and Collingwood.

3. Holger Osic

Not enough o’s in smooth to describe this move. After beating Jordan in a cut throat World Cup qualifier, Osic decided to have a bit of pre-post match press conference banter with the waiting press. He rattled off a Latin phrase and then decided to give the English translation: “It means women should shut up in public. I say it to my wife at home.” Perhaps more of a misogynist than Tony Abbott?

 

Kurt Tippett countdown

Even less days to go until Tippet pulls on a footy boot in anger than last time I mentioned this. Foxtel are doing a documentary on Kurt Tippet (Why? Run out of riveting Foxtel Cup matches to show between Zillmere Eagles and Belconnen??) Anyway they are and the promos for it include a very stern and serious looking Tippett telling the camera that the hardest part of his week is watching the Swans play. Talk about first world problems! The most difficult thing in Kurt Tippett’s life at the moment is watching a game of football from the comfort of the stands! Wow and I thought it was dealing with the bags of cash in brown paper bags that the Adelaide Crows were paying him under the table. I was wrong.

Kurt Tippet sitting around waiting reminds me of those Christian Charity Fund TV ads from the late 90’s. “As we gripe about he cost of prescriptions, ‘I can’t believe it cost that much!’, Kurt Tippet waits…” But thankfully only for 10 more days.

Another hard day in the life of Kurt Tippett
Another hard day in the life of Kurt Tippett

 

VFL watch

Port Melbourne are flying high on top of the ladder in the VFL and had their first fixture of the Foxtel Cup during the week. The MCG played host to the quarter final of Port Melbourne v West Adelaide. Well actually it was more like a mix of the seniors and reserves that played as Port had 11 changes from the previous week and West Adelaide 10. I’m not sure why teams aren’t taking this competition seriously – it’s an 80 minute game of football on a Tuesday night and they don’t play the weekend preceding the game. Why bother competing if your not going to put out full strength sides? This I believe will kill the Foxtel Cup. Expect more format changes next year and until Foxtel’s contract expires and the competition dies.

 

The quote

“There is a chance of the side being changed considerably.”

Mick Malthouse again. Chris Yarran’s apology for bad body language clearly wasn’t enough as he was omitted from the Carlton side this week. He gets to play against Frankston at Preston this week instead. Last time I recall a player being dropped for bad body language Richo had a week in the VFL after ranting at his teammates for not being able to deliver lace out passes when he was on the lead.

The Champions Trophy

It’s had more format changes than the NAB cup (and almost as many name changes), is about as relevant and held in approximately the same regard by fans, players and teams alike. It is, however, a television rights cash cow for the ICC. It is the Mini World Cup/ICC Knockout Tournament/ Champions Trophy But expect few tears to be shed by ICC officials during this final instalment of the Champions Trophy – it has been supplanted by another cash cow – biennial World T20’s.

It seems odd that this will be the last Champions Trophy as looking at the future tours program there is another World Cup in 2019 in England so another Champions Trophy installment in 2017 would seem logical. No it’s been replaced by a Test play-off in 2017. Can’t wait for that to not happen and be changed to a host of meaningless 7 game bilateral one day series, some triangular one day tournaments or perhaps even an extended Champions League T20 – that really brings in the fans.

 

The history

The rich tapestry of  the Champions Trophy’s/ICC Knockout Tournaments stretches way back to all of 15 years ago in 1998  with the first installment being a week long knock out tournament in Bangladesh. South Africa managed not to choke and won its only global tournament to date. Kenya hosted in 200o with the highlights being former Canberra Comet Mark Higgs making his debut for Australia and the Black Caps winning their first international event. Ever. Who can forget Sri Lanka in the rainy season as host in 2002. Remember that rained out final – what drama! Both the final and the reserve day were washed out and India and Sri Lanka were named co-champions – Remember that one? England 2004 was an abomination of stupidity as highlighted here and included minnow teams getting their pants pulled down and then pulled back up over their heads in a massive wedgie. Witness USA v Australia. India 2006 is when Australia started getting serious about the Champions Trophy (ie they won it for the first time) and South Africa 2009 is remembered for the great form and unfortunately knee injury to Cal Ferguson and these magnificent white jackets.

The Champions Trophy 2009 and the marvelous jackets that would have made Richie Benaud proud
Storm the commentary box: The Champions Trophy 2009 and the marvelous jackets that would have made Richie Benaud proud

 

The format

This one is probably one of the better formats even if it is a bit light on for teams: 8 teams in 2 groups of 4, 3 group stage games for each team with the top two from each group through to knockout semi’s and then the final. And all done in dusted in  just a touch over 2 weeks – pithy and purposeful(perhaps).Seeing as there are 10 test playing nations and 16 countries with ODI status I would have thought at least 12 of them could get a gig in a Champions trophy. If the ICC could see their way clear to have 3 groups of 4 teams and play 2 games of cricket on the same day (heresy for TV rights I assume) save for India games being standalone (gold dust for TV rights I’m guessing) then the tournament could still run in the same timeframe. It’s not like England are short on cricket grounds wanting to host international cricket. How does the ICC expect countries like Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Ireland, Afganistan etc to improve if they don’t play in these sort of events against the ‘big boys’?

Whatever it’s merit’s the Champions Trophy kicks of this year’s Ashes tour. Australia is in a group with England, New Zealand and Sri Lanka and appropriately their first game is against England. The other group contains India, Pakistan, West Indies and South Africa.

 

 

The schedule

Saturday June 8 , England v Australia, Edgbaston, 19:30

Wednesday June 12, Australia v New Zealand,  Edgbaston, 19:30

Monday June 17, Australia v Sri Lanka, The Oval, 22:00

 

Semi finals: Wednesday June 19 & Thursday June 20,The Oval & Cardiff

The final:  Sunday June 23,Edgbaston

 

 

Warm up games.

Why wouldn’t you have warm up matches for a tournament no one cares about. Don’t say that to Pakistan fans, the national team have been touring Scotland and Ireland for the past 3 weeks. Pakistan are giving this tournament ‘due diligence’ (pity their fast bowlers weren’t so diligent with the landing position of their front foot a couple of years ago) which must be the first time they have ever prepared for a tournament without a crisis. Expect them to implode shortly. Anyway as if to highlight Ireland deserving a slot in the tournament the first ODI between Pakistan and Ireland was a tie.

 

A fan at the Ireland v Pakistan ODI - or is that Shahid Afridi?? As the original caption said... "some [fans] more enthusiastically dressed than others!"
A fan at the Ireland v Pakistan ODI – or is that Shahid Afridi?
As the original caption said… “some [fans] more enthusiastically dressed than others!”
South Africa went on a home coming tour of sorts playing aginast the Netherlands in Rotterdam, where they played against a host of their countrymen (good preparation for playing against England I guess) and an Australian –Tom Cooper,. AB de Villiers played international cricket AGAINST a childhood friend for the second time in 6 months  – first it was a test against Kiwi/SA Neil Wagner (who was in the same school First XI as ABdV) and now Dutch/SA Stephen Myburgh.(who AB has known since he was 9)

Australia had been keeping a low profile and progressing smoothly until they played a match and it all started to go wrong. First Shane Watson made a commanding 135 opening against the West Indies – no doubt strengthening in his mind that he should open the batting in the Ashes. To me Watto is the new Bevo, a limited overs specialist. Fortunately the Australian test batting order was a little stronger in Bevo’s day and he only managed 18 tests – Watto has played 40. In the second game Austrlaia capitualated like a bunch of hacks to be humbled for 65 losing by 240 odd runs to India.( must have been a dodgy deck) Yep it was a return to the limpwristed batting efforts which blighted the bilateral ODI series against Sri Lanka in January. Once this Australian batting order puts it’s mind to collapsing there is no stopping it, not even Bevo could help this bunch.

NZ and England took a unique approach to the warm up games by playing a bilateral 3 game series. England has been horrid but equally New Zealand has been magnificent lead by Marty Two Toes Guptil with back to back tons including 189 in their most recent game. Wow.

The other sides have pretty much pleased themselves with a couple of games of 15 a side.

 

The tip

For their dedication to having a two country 6 game warm up tour, my tip is Pakistan. They have form in tournaments in England – winning the 2009 World T20 – and imagine how excited that fan will be.