The View From Down Here #57

Big week in Australian sport… but we’ll get to that in just a bit.

            Meanwhile, can I just say that TNA is the most frustrating wrestling show on TV. They have the talent to potentially be putting on the best televised wrestling product we could be seeing… and instead we get Foley vs Nash for a meaningless title? I mean, WWE’s soap opera tendencies suck right off the bat, but at least they have a few matches each week that show real athleticism and let the work in the ring do a lot of the talking without too many convoluted plot-lines. (Note, I said a few, not all. But TNA seems to give us none). TNA had the possibility of the best women’s wrestling on TV and the possibility of some of the most exciting matches with the X-Division. Both have been watered down to a shell of their former selves. They coulda been something; they coulda been a contender. Now the indy wrestling in Adelaide (all 3 promotions – SPW, NWAPro and RCW) craps on them all the time. Give me the money and I’ll get the 3 Adelaide promotions together and give the world a product that will match WWE. But TNA… second, aiming for third, and proud of it. I just wish we got ROH in Australia…
            Oh yeah… Australia lost the Ashes and the Bledisloe Cup…

English Tour
England 1st innings 332; Australia 1st innings 160; England 2nd innings 9(dec)/373; Australia 2nd innings 348
            England won by 197 runs
            Yes, Australia have lost the Ashes. And Ricky Ponting becomes the first captain in more than 110 years to lose the Ashes twice. And he has now seen Australia drop to number four from number one in the world test rankings. Look, I’m not the greatest Ponting fan, and this test was another example of how badly he manages a team without renowned superstars. But the fault clearly does not lie just with Ponting. (And before I go on, let me say Ponting should not be captain, but he should be in the team as he is a form batsman and is solid in the middle/upper order.)
            First, the selectors did not choose the best team. They chose out of politics and out of stupidity. None of the selectors really watched the players who were fighting for a spot carefully. They stuck with players they should not have and dumped players that were going to be match winners. Stuart Clarke springs to mind here; why he did not play tests 2,3 and 5 is beyond everyone.
            Second, the Australians (all of them, players, leadership, selectors) underestimated England. They did some minor homework, took the words of one ex-Australian player as gospel… and paid for their arrogance. And when Flintoff announced he was retiring, and then missed the fourth test (which England lost) Australia should have been ready for the emotion to sweep over them.
            Finally, the Australians were not focused. They were too worried about Andrew Symonds or their model girlfriends or the latest Twenty20 matches to give them an obscene payday instead of concentrating on the games that mattered – the Ashes. If they want to play cricket for the money, fine. Good on them, I say. Go for it. But if that is the case and you push your body to an insane limit, then do not expect to be selected for the Australian team when there are plenty of hungry youngsters back home who would jump at the chance to don the baggy green.
            So what from here? A long hard slog, that’s what. New captain (swap Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting, that’d be my suggestion for the time being). New selectors top to bottom, and pick ones who actually watch cricket so they can see the Australians in action. One in each state (or maybe one covering two states each), one in England covering the county season and one in charge who watches everything he possibly can. Player contracts that prescribe how much extraneous cricket they can play if they want to be considered for Australia. Sure, a few will go the money route, but if that’s all they’re after, then let them. Finally, employ Jenner or Warne to actually work with young spinners to develop some-one in this country who can turn the ball. Get Ian and Greg Chappell to work with leadership about what it means to be captain in good times and bad. Get Allan Border and David Boon to work with the batsmen in shot selection. And get them to play Sheffield Shield or county cricket where they can work out the nuances of the longer form of the game.
            But the short forms are where the money and TV audiences are. Who cares about tradition and what makes our game different and unique? Money is all that matters in this world nowadays. Look at swimming. I think cricket – real cricket – is dying; I just don’t think anybody’s willing to admit it at the moment. And I think by the time my son is a teenager he won’t believe that test matches ever actually existed. One-day cricket will be the ‘long form’, and the 5-day version will be played by 60 year old die-hards on ovals that they hire for three weekends from the local council…

Australian Rules Football
AFL Round Twenty-One
After this weekend there is but one round left before the finals. Let’s see how the top eight are shaping up in the results, shall we?
Western Bulldogs 16.14 (110) def Geelong 4.12 (96)
            Another loss to Geelong, and they are looking shaky. But the Western Bulldogs have all but secured a top-four finish and so get the double chance. Geelong are looking like they are struggling now, and the Geelong-St Kilda grand final that everyone was touting a month ago could very well not occur.
Carlton 24.9 (153) hammered Melbourne 15.6 (96)
            Carlton are gearing up nicely for the finals, getting their eye in, but not really over-hyping themselves. However, they were facing Melbourne who are last and like it.
Adelaide 18.14 (122) slaughtered West Coast 7.6 (48)
            Adelaide have all but secured a finals berth, but will not crack the top four after other results this weekend. I think they are making up numbers, but they do have a real opportunity to shape the finals, and could actually get through to the second week of them come September.
Brisbane 16.11 (107) def Port Adelaide 14.8 (92)
            Port! Wha’ happened? Up by 47 points, beaten by 15 in the end! The term choking has been used… and it is apt. Of course, they will say mathematically (and depending on other results) they could still make the finals, but they do not deserve to be there. This was an embarrassment. However, full marks to Brisbane for never giving up and pulling out a great victory, all but securing their spot in the top eight.
Richmond 14.9 (93) def by Hawthorn 20.15 (135)
            Hawthorn’s run is too little, too late. While mathematically they could also reach the finals, they also do not deserve it, and they would only be making up numbers.
St. Kilda 8.11 (59) def by North Melbourne 10.4 (64)
            Yes, St Kilda, the unstoppable force of the competition this year, has been beaten for the second week in a row by a team not in the top 8. Cracks are showing in their previous impenetrable armour, and this year’s final series has suddenly been thrown into chaos. This could be really good!
Collingwood 13.19 (97) def Sydney 8.8 (56)
            Collingwood have a form grip on third spot, and they could very well be the dark horse of the flag now. They have gone from strength to strength on the back of a ridiculously favourable draw; the AFL wants them to win a flag because of their membership numbers in the crowded Melbourne market and are doing everything in their power to ensure this happens. The AFL bows and scrapes to Collingwood and gives them everything while denying most other clubs anything. But Collingwood are also playing well; I just don’t think they would be where they are without help from the bosses.
Fremantle 21.15 (141) def Essendon 13.9 (87)
            Fremantle should have been playing like this all year and they would not be the side everyone says has the potential but nothing else. This is what we knew they could do… why don’t they do it all the time? And it’s not just this year; it’s every year. Their fans must be so damn frustrated about now. But they aren’t Collingwood, so the AFL won’t help them in any way, shape or form.
SANFL Round Twenty-One
Norwood 8.10 (58) def by North Adelaide 18.12 (120)
            North have done just enough now to scrape into the top five and after this impressive result, which has ended Norwood’s slim hopes of making it, are showing that they may yet influence just who the premier might be. It won’t be North, by the way, but they will have some say I think…
Central Districts 23.11 (149) hammered South Adelaide 11.4 (70)
            For Centrals, a good hit-out leading up to September where they will surely be in the thick of the finals action. For South… there’s always next year… But we supporters say that every year and we’re getting sick of it! Do something down there! South had Jack Cahill, arguably one of the best coaches in South Australia, at their disposal, and forced him out because they wouldn’t give him what he wanted! Just do it before supporters like me go off and follow our amateur league teams! (Which for me is Athelstone… even though my family played for Ethelton and Port Districts for generations…)
Sturt 7.4 (46) def by Glenelg 9.16 (70)
            Not a good showing from Sturt against the current form team of the competition. They are going to have to do much better than this if they even hope to match it come finals time. Glenelg on the other hand looked impressive, if not as dominant as they would have liked.
Woodville-West Torrens 15.17 (107) def West Adelaide 10.11 (71)
            And West’s finals hopes are now gone while the Eagles’ grip on fourth is strengthened, and they have better form going into the finals than third-placed Sturt.
Bye: Port Adelaide

A-League – Round Three
Adelaide United 0 def by Gold Coast United 2
            Bit of an upset this early in the season.
Central Coast Mariners 0 drew with Sydney 0
            Dull. Next…
North Queensland 0 def by Melbourne 1
            Dull. Next…
Brisbane 1 drew with Wellington 1
Perth Glory 2 def Newcastle Jets 0

Rugby League
NRL Round 24
Wests Tigers 18 def by Parramatta 26
            With both teams aiming for a finals berth this game was almost do or die, and Parramatta came out on top in the end.
St George Illawarra 2 def by Brisbane 12
            Top of the table St George defeated again? Yet, despite this, Brisbane may still miss the finals.
Newcastle 32 def North Queensland 26
            Newcastle did their finals hopes no end of good while North Queensland probably just lost their spot.
Penrith 40 hammered South Sydney 10
            See above for the same thing here. Except that Souths have played really well in spurts this year, but it is performances like this which have had their supporters pulling their hair out.
Gold Coast 20 def Cronulla 10
            Gold Coast have secured a top 3 spot; Cronulla won’t be seeing finals action this year.
Warriors 34 def Canberra 20
            This match did not matter except for pride.
Melbourne 16 def by Manly 20
            Both teams are fighting for fourth spot and this was a tight contest. But Manly just edged them out in the end. Good game to boot.
Bulldogs 28 def Sydney Roosters 4
            At least this game went as everyone thought it would…

Rugby Union
Tri-Nations / Bledisloe Cup
New Zealand 19 def Australia 18
For the seventh time in a row New Zealand have retained the Cup, and Australia are now dead in the water in the Tri-Nations series. Mind you, it was a great game, and Australia only lost it to a penalty goal moments before the end. This was one of the best games I have seen this year, and you would be doing yourself a favour if you can manage to catch a replay of it somewhere.

Queensland 300
(The race is actually named after some dot-com, but I’m not about to give them the publicity because the name of the race sounds stupid…)
Race 15
1st TeamVodafone, Jamie Whincup (Ford Falcon FG)
2nd Jim Beam Racing, James Courtney (Ford Falcon FG)
3rd Ford Performance Racing, Mark Winterbottom (Ford Falcon FG)
4th Jim Beam Racing, Steven Johnson (Ford Falcon FG)
5th Wilson Security Racing, Fabian Coulthard (Ford Falcon FG)
            And Ford dominate another race completely
Race 16
1st Toll Holden Racing Team, Will Davison (Holden Commodore VE)
2nd TeamVodafone, Craig Lowndes (Ford Falcon FG)
3rd Supercheap Auto Racing, Russell Ingall (Holden Commodore VE)
4th Ford Performance Racing, Mark Winterbottom (Ford Falcon FG)
5th Team Autobarn, Paul Dumbrell (Holden Commodore VE)
            Only Winterbottom featured in both races. But why Holden only turned it on in the second race of the weekend is anybody’s guess.

Sporting Morons
You knew this wasn’t going to be vacant again…
William Taiwhanga (rugby league, Adelaide): Allegedly threatened to shoot some-one he had been jailed for stabbing previously. His coach described him as polite and well-mannered.
Tally: 45

And that’s the view…

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