The View From Down here #35

I’ll keep this bit short because, wow!, do I suffer from some verbal diarrhoea this week!

Cricket
International Cricket
Second Test
Australia 209 & 422; South Africa 651 – South Africa won by an innings and 20 runs
            Well, when Australia lose, they really know how to crash and burn, don’t they? I still say Ponting is not up to the captain’s job, and if it wasn’t for Mitchell Johnson, then Australia would have been looking at a different result in the first 2 tests. And his century in the third test saved the side from even greater embarrassment. But there is one thing I think the selectors have got wrong – the choice of spinner. While I congratulate them on their young guys who were selected and hope they stick with them through the lean times, they picked the wrong spinner. McGain was mentally destroyed by the Proteas. And being in his 30s does not make him a youngster in professional sport. Cullen Bailey from south Australia springs to mind as a better, younger option. And that’s something we cannot blame Ponting for.
Domestic Cricket
Sheffield Shield
Final

Victoria 510 & 5 dec/282; Queensland 200 & 1/221 – match drawn
Unfortunately, the weather had the say in the final, and the drawn result means Victoria won the Shield because of a higher placing at the end of the regular season. And it was looking good, too, near the end, with Queensland starting to show lots of fight…
            Oh well, looking forward to next year, if this year’s standard is anything to go by.
ICC Women’s World Cup
This was a strange tournament. The results were really all over the place and no team was really consistent. However, it did do one very important thing – it showed that women’s cricket is as viable as the men’s game. What needs to happen from here is for women’s cricket to get a higher exposure in the world of cricket. This has been said before, but the success of this tournament (despite being played at minor grounds) needs to be worked upon.
            At the next Twenty20 World Cup or major tournament, each game should be preceded by a women’s game of the same two countries. This will increase the exposure the women get and be a nice curtain raiser before the main event, while also giving the punters more for their money instead of a two hour hit-and-giggle game.
            Next, the women’s world cup needs to be held in the same place and at the same time as the men’s, with their grand final being the day before the men’s. This increases ticket sales for those who miss out on the men’s final. It could end up being like a grand slam in tennis. It can only help the women get a greater footing into the world of cricket, while also make the men more responsible for the genuine all-round promotion of the game.
            Results:
Match 17, Super Six
England 8/236; West Indies 90 (38.2 overs) – England won by 146 runs
Match 18, Super Six
India 207 (49.4 overs); New Zealand Women 5/210 (47.4 overs) – New Zealand won by 5 wickets
Match 19, Super Six
England 161 (49.3 overs); Australia 2/163 (33.5 overs) – Australia won by 8 wickets
            But it wasn’t enough, and Australia did not make the final over England…
Match 20, Super Six
West Indies 84 (44.4 overs); India 2/86 (17.5 overs) – India hammered them by 8 wickets
            And they did it with 1983 balls remaining! One-sided does not even begin to describe this one…
Match 21, Super Six
New Zealand 7/373; Pakistan 150 (48.1 overs) – New Zealand emphatically won by 223 runs
5th Place Playoff
Pakistan 131 (46.3 overs); West Indies 7/135 (46.3 overs) – West Indies won by 3 wickets
            After their results beforehand, a good surprise win for the Windies.
3rd Place Playoff
Australia 142 (44.4 overs); India 7/145 (43.5 overs) –  India won by 3 wickets
            A close game, with the weather having some effect, reducing the game to 46 overs a side.
Final
New Zealand 166 (47.2 overs); England 6/167 (46.1 overs) – England won by 4 wickets
            And so England are the Women’s World Cup champions. Congratulations. The tournament was really one where bowlers held sway, but that did not mean the matches were any less exciting or interesting.

Australian Rules Football
A week off, so you would think there is nothing to report…
            You’d be wrong.
            This week the AFL decided not to help Port Adelaide with some financial assistance from its emergency fund. This despite the fact that clubs in more precarious situations have been given money in recent years. Why? Well, the answer is simple – Port Adelaide is not a Victorian club.
            For all its bluster and hollow words, the AFL is still essentially the old Victorian Football League. The bias towards the Victorian clubs (especially Collingwood and their home and away schedule) is staggering. So a Victorian club is in trouble, give them wads of cash; an interstate club is in trouble. Tell them to go fix it.
            This is the main reason why Australian Rules Football is not the national football code they really want it to be. They keep the power and the focus on Victoria, not on Australia. How are they going to get New South Wales and Queensland to respond to them positively when the perception is (quite rightly) that it is all about Victoria, and everything else is just to pour money into Victorian coffers?
            The AFL’s current expansion project sees them trying to go into the Gold Coast in Queensland (which is fair enough, as the Gold Coast seems to be populated on the whole by ex-pat Victorians) and Western Sydney. This last one is staggering. It would be like the NFL in the United States putting their latest franchise in Colombia. No-one there knows about the sport or really cares about it and most of the money in the place comes from illegal activities. But it looks good on paper. And after a few years they’ll be left on their own to sink or swim while ailing clubs in an over-saturated Victorian market are propped up artificially.
            The AFL needs to have a Tasmanian team before a second NSW team. They need to move their headquarters out of Melbourne and rip up the finals contract with the MCG. And they need to have four less teams in Melbourne. Geelong are safe; that’s a separate city. Melbourne should survive because to not have a team called ‘Melbourne’ seems strange. Bendigo and central Victoria should have a team. Western Victoria should have a team. The north-eastern Victorian region should have a team.
            But that destroys the Melbourne stranglehold on the game and the AFL can’t have that. Because Melbourne is all they care about and the rest of the nation and the rest of their competition can sod off.
            They could be the only truly national sport Australia has, and one which Australia has ownership of; instead, through their own pig-ignorance and greed and power-hunger, they are allowing soccer to have that edge. And they only have themselves to blame.

Rugby Union
Super 14 – Round 6
Lions 25 def Brumbies 17
Force 10 lost to Sharks 22
Waratahs 13 lost to Crusaders 17
Chiefs 63 hammered Blues 34
Highlanders 32 beat Cheetahs 8
Hurricanes 14 def by Bulls 19

Rugby League
Silence from the world of rugby as they try to work out how to turn the antics of overpaid alcoholic brain-dead morons into something positive for the game…
Round Two
Cronulla v Newcastle
            This game is yet to happen as I write this. Results later.
Canberra 4 lost badly to Sydney Roosters 28
Manly 24 just edged out by Warriors 26
            Manly lost again? Good.
St George Illawarra 16 def Gold Coast 10
Penrith 26 just edged out by Bulldogs 28
North Queensland 42 def Wests Tigers 14
South Sydney 8 lost to Parramatta 14
            I knew last week was a fluke for Souths…
Brisbane 16 edged past Melbourne 14

V8 Car Racing
In the annual race / waste of petrol between Holden and Ford, the first race of the season was held here in Adelaide this past weekend.
Clipsal 500
Jamie Whincup won both 250 km races, one Saturday, one Sunday, to help Ford start the year on top.
One day I’ll wax lyrical about motor sport… but not today. It was actually a fun weekend…

Soccer
Asian Champion’s League
Hasn’t really generated the same excitement this time around, but maybe that’s because no-one really expects anything of either Australian team this time.
Round two:
Tianjin 2 drew with Central Coast 2
Newcastle 2 def Ulsan 0
            Actually a good game, not like the defensive dull shows that have characterised this competition in the past few years.

Best And Worst of 2008
Now, the reason I have put this off is because I thought there was going to be a staff thing about this topic, but that seems to have fallen by the wayside, so with not much happening this week, I have decided that this would be the perfect time to put forth my ill-conceived views. Now, remember, this is from an Australian point of view. And remember also that I’m a cynic.
            By the way, this was also entered in a competition for Australia’s Inside Sport magazine, and it covers the time from Jan 1 2008 to Dec 31 2008. This means some results (like Adelaide United) are out of date, but it’s last year…
            So here goes:
Australian Sporting Hero of 2008:
This was a tough one. So I had to narrow the field. First, in all conscience, even though our swimmers won a swag of medals and broke records – both in the Olympics and Paralympics – I cannot say that an athlete who indulges in institutionalised cheating deserves this accolade. Cheating? Prove to me those suits (and some people apparently wore more than 1 of them?!) did not aid in buoyancy and so aren’t cheating… Sorry. Went off on a tangent there. And disqualifying the swimmers leaves quite a few to consider. Buddy Franklin? Simon Katich (what a Sheffield Shield season!)? But I’ll stick with the Olympics and nominate Steve Hooker, setting a new Olympic record and winning the gold in pole vault. Awesome effort, brilliant result. And for those with only a nodding acquaintance with track and field, apparently coming out of nowhere as well.
Australian Sporting Villain of 2008:
Going the “Sonny Boy” Williamson route would be too easy, but as Willie Mason pointed out, why should players show loyalty to clubs when clubs do not show the same loyalty to players? The clubs demand great things from their players, but if they have a bad season then they’re out. No second chances there, and definitely no loyalty. So why should a player not go somewhere for the money? It’s the corporatisation of sport and it’s happening everywhere, we just have to deal with it. And maybe the original Rollerball film – where they played for the corporations, not for their countries – is not far off the mark. And I’m not going to lambast Barry Hall for his brain snaps because that punch was a damn fine example of the sort of blow MMA is coming up with all the time. No, I’m going to point the finger at Alan Didak of Collingwood for letting his team-mates down, letting his supporters down and then lying about it. And this sorry saga also leads to a runner-up nomination for Eddie McGuire who was ready to defend Didak until he learnt that Didak had lied to HIM. Nothing else mattered, just that he personally had been lied to. Talk about putting yourself on a higher plateau than your sport.
Foreign Sporting Hero of 2008:
Again, in an Olympic year, so many to choose from. Michael Phelps is disqualified because, as a swimmer, he is automatically a cheat. Soccer players are also disqualified in my mind because any sport where you get rewarded for lying about being struck is not worth consideration in any “good” list. Bolt was close. China’s Zou Kai was close. But not close enough. So let’s look at a runner-up – Brock Lesnar. He did three things – he showed that professional wrestling can turn out legitimate badasses, he made MMA even more exciting, and he won, beating Randy Couture for the world title after less than 5 bouts of his own. But I think Lewis Hamilton should be rewarded with the accolade. Becoming the youngest Formula One champion on the last corner of the last lap of the last race (as nearly every media scribe described it) certainly put himself up there with the very best. Mentally, there can be very few who can beat him; physically he handled what is a surprisingly demanding sport; emotionally, he kept it together when the pressure was on. A true champion in every sense of the word.
Foreign Sporting Villain of 2008:
Again, in a year where so many put their hands up for selection in this category. But one person stands out in my mind from all others: Bernhard Kohl. Tour de France drug cheat. Who was sorry… for being caught. As if cycling needed any more morons like this getting busted. Its legitimacy as a serious sport must be under question… or maybe they could have 2 categories, like body-building used to – clean and assisted. Let the drug cheats race against themselves; let the pure ones race by themselves. Sure, the second group will take a week longer and consist of only 3 competitors, but at least it’d be fair and we’d all know what we were watching and what we were in for.
Best Australian Coach of 2008:
Ooh, this is tricky. What do we mean by best? The national team coaches should automatically be ignored for this because they get the athletes in their care when they are already trained and able. It should go to the people who got them there in the first place. So let’s nominate every single grade coach, school coach, and under-age coach who puts in the hard yards actually teaching the fundamentals and basics of their sports without getting the accolades and praise they deserve. Let those high performance coaches, those national team coaches, those specialist coaches all wallow in their own self-indulgence; true coaching occurs when the kids first get interested in the sports they love. And we should recognise those who foster this enthusiasm and start them on their paths to glory.
Worst Australian Coach of 2008:
Here’s a quirk – I had to look up this person’s name. I am a lover of all things sporting and could name his three predecessors without batting an eyelid, and yet could not think of who this guy was. Why? Well, the national team he’s taken over has suddenly lacked bite, they’ve got a captain who refuses to take responsibility for any of his poor decisions, and they’re struggling to blood young players because the youngsters can’t get into the team for the old guys hanging around, and if they do get in, a ridiculous selection policy sees them removed just as they’re finding their international feet. That gives it away, doesn’t it? Yes, it’s cricket. And, yes, I’m nominating Tim Neilsen. Shouldn’t he be stepping up to the plate about now? Shouldn’t he be grabbing Ponting, dragging him down to the pub and telling him to pull his freakin’ head in and just do the right thing for the team? Shouldn’t he… Couldn’t he…? But maybe we were spoilt by John Buchanan, Geoff Marsh and Bob Simpson. Still, be that as it may, Tim Neilsen – contract extension and all – is in charge of a floundering team, and he does not appear to be doing what is needed to correct it…
Most Over-rated Australian of 2008:
Any Australian who picked up a tennis racquet and stepped onto the court in an international event. No, we never had a chance to win any of these highest level tournaments. Semi-finals was all we could have dreamed of, and in most cases it was just that – a dream. This is one sport that needs an overhaul and needs it soon.
Event of 2008:
In an Olympic year, this would seem a foregone conclusion, but I actually think Superbowl XLII, where the New York Giants beat the team that could not lose, the New England Patriots. Yes, it was all glitz and glam (but the Olympic opening and closing ceremonies were a lot more painful to watch than Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers serving up some of their greatest hits at half time) and it was sport as only Americans can do it – violence punctuated by committee meetings. But with less than 3 minutes to go and trailing by 4 points, New York pulled out the upset win off the arm of Eli Manning. So it was a good game, it was entertaining, it was unexpected… and it was a fun way to spend a Monday.
Non-Event of 2008:
The Rugby League World Cup, hands down. Poor crowds, lopsided results, the two teams in the grand final that everyone expected to get there. The only surprise was who won, and so congratulations to New Zealand, but, meh…
Best Decision of 2008:
Basketball. They have finally decided that internal haemorrhaging is not a good way to run a sport, and have decided to combine the national team, the grade teams, the district teams, the second-tier teams and the elite teams under one umbrella. It has meant a reduction in teams in the NBL, it has meant that Sydney may be without a viable team for a while, but it has also meant some television coverage and some money. Now to draw the crowds back…
Best Team of 2008:
Grand final winners, national teams, the works. So many good teams this year. So very many. But I think Adelaide United should get this accolade. Second in the Asian Club Championship, fifth in the World Clubs Cup, and actually winning some matches. Good result, good returns, and then to come back and within a fortnight after their last international match they are on top of the A-League table. A fine effort from a fine team.
Most Disappointing Team of 2008:
I won’t use the word “worst” because it is rather demeaning, and then I would have to put in my beloved South Adelaide and that would make me sad. But this is a little more catch-all, and allows me to nominate the Australian Cricket team. Tests: 2 wins and a draw against West Indies in the West Indies; 2 losses and 2 draws against India in India; 2 wins against New Zealand at home; 2 losses against South Africa at home. 11 tests, 4 wins, 4 losses, 3 draws in 2008. Where’s the domination of the world? Okay, Gilchrist, Warne and McGrath all retired, but they were young once as well; where are the new up-and-comers, and why are they not being blooded into the system? And then refusing to play in Pakistan, whingeing about how much cricket they play while flying off to India for a rich man’s Twenty20 series… Disappointing… Very Disappointing…

Wow! I’ve exceeded my word count again!

And that’s the view!

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