THE VIEW FROM DOWN HERE #92 – The Storm Continues!

The story that has overwhelmed all other Australian sport just keeps getting bigger and bigger.
            In case you are unaware, Melbourne Storm have been caught doing naughty things (and with any luck there’ll be a link here to the last View to tell you all about it). But as this is so damn huge over here… Well, the latest claims are that some of the players (at least four found in a secret dossier… and, no, I am not making this shit up) must have known they were being paid under the table. $700,000 worth of illegal payments this season! Bow, look, I know players don’t go around asking how much their team-mates get paid and then adding it all up and working out something’s wrong. For a start, it involved maths and we’re talking rugby players, so it’s a concept that was lost somewhere between “sexual abuse charges” and “getting pissed in public” in the brains of most league players (cheap shot, but they deserve it). But surely when they were given a house for 10 cents and a brand new car surely something in those Neanderthal brains must have clicked and told them this was not the way things work any more. It is not the 1950s; it is also not the US College sport scene. It is a multinational big business that happens to involve sport. And while every other club CEO has said their clubs are clean, rumours abound of other “inconsistencies”. And the AFL is not immune either, with rumours for the past few years of a certain Melbourne club with a large membership base having “friends and supporters” helping out with some payments. The third party payment system in the AFL is so dodgy that any number of clubs could fall.
            But who cares, so long as they win, right?
            Try telling that to the Melbourne fans who have just seen their wins – their last 2 premierships and everything this season – taken away from them.
            All clubs should be afraid, be very afraid.

On a slightly different note, this weekend in Australia marks ANZAC Day, April 25. It means a long weekend here and there’s also a major AFL game on the day (more on that later). But I thought I’d just say a little bit about the ANZAC Day itself.
            To be technical, it is a national day of remembrance to honour those men in the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZACs) who fought at Gallipoli, a beach in Turkey where, during World War I, the British under Winston Churchill (head of the army in some capacity, not yet PM) decided to kill thousands of ANZACS because they could. Okay, that last bit’s not quite true… but it certainly seems that way – the British sacrificed young Australians in a worthless invasion for nothing and continued to do so even after it was pointed out to them that what they were doing was futile. However, April 25 has now become – not only in Australia and New Zealand but in many places throughout the South Pacific – a day to commemorate all who served in all wars and conflicts, from the Boer War through two World Wars, Korea, Vietnam and so on to more recent wars like Iraq, East Timor and Afghanistan.
            It is our Veteran’s Day, and the families march with the Veterans and it is a day of true national pride (and also not a little anti-imperialism… both English and US). And so we celebrate it with a holiday where everything’s shut until midday, gambling is legally allowed in all pubs and the streets (for one day only) and drunk guys watch over-hyped sporting fixtures…
            Ahh, Australia.
            And speaking of over-hyped sporting fixtures:

Australian Rules Football
AFL Round 5
            Well, thanks a bunch, teams! While the past few rounds have made things look a wee bit awkward for those of us who make predictions, this round has well and truly shown that we know nothing about football. The results were all over the shop. And my tipping this weekend sits at 3! 3 right from 8! That’s crap!
Western Bulldogs 18.13 (121) def Adelaide 10.12 (72)
            Now while the result may not have come as shock, the margin sure did and the fact that Adelaide – who many had figuring in the finals – now stand at 0-5 win-loss. What happened? People are blaming the conservativeness of the coach, the injury list (which is awesome, I must say) and the aging players. But you know what I think? I think that because they are held in such huge esteem by their fans, the media and themselves this year they actually believed their own hype and played like they deserved to win. Well, they didn’t and when faced with a team like the Bulldogs who have that never-say-die, fight for everything attitude they are shown to be wanting. And they were humiliated.
Sydney 17.13 (115) hammered West Coast 9.9 (63)
            Again, a result that was not a surprise, but a margin that was because West Coast have been playing so well over the past few weeks. But Sydney have surprised many so far this year, and they have to keep on doing well or else the new side set to start whenever it’s set to start will take supporters from Sydney. Not gain new supporters, and I think the AFL is deluding itself if it thinks new supporters are going to flock to the new club, What it will do is stretch the few AFL supporters in Sydney even thinner, but I don’t run a big business as badly as Andrew Demetriou so what do I know?
Melbourne 15.13 (103) def Brisbane 7.11 (53)
            Hang on… what? Brisbane, who have been playing so well of late, defeated by a team nearly every pundit had fighting it out for the wooden spoon this season? What is going on?! Melbourne played well, so different from the team that was embarrassed by Hawthorn in round 1 and Brisbane… didn’t. Wow. I mean, wow.
Port Adelaide 7.12 (54) def St Kilda 6.8 (44)
            This is the same Port Adelaide that was slaughtered by Geelong last week by almost 100 points? And this is the same St Kilda who many had winning the flag in 2010? Ugly match in mediocre weather, but the fact is Port won, the Saints lost and the world is not right.
Collingwood 18.12 (120) def Essendon 8.7 (55)
            This is the annual ANZAC Day blockbuster. Every year on April 25 these two teams play each other. This year the crowd was 90,000 and it would have been a million dollar gate. And, better still, no other team is allowed a look in. Why? Who knows, but part of it is the fact that the AFL is sucking the dick of Collingwood so hard that by now it must be as long and thin as a straw. They have the most favourable draw in the competition, barely travelling interstate, playing most of their games at the MCG, they get the big games with the big gates, they are not forced to have an away jumper. I reckon if they could, the AFL hierarchy would just give them the premiership, but I think even the fans may disagree with that. The match? Who cares – it had Collingwood in it.
Hawthorn 10.10 (70) def by North Melbourne 12.10(82)
            The Kangaroos won again? Against Hawthorn in Tasmania, the Hawks’ home away from home? Wow… and I mean wow. Again. And again, not a great match by any stretch of the imagination, but this was truly an upset.
Fremantle 15.22 (112) def Richmond 11.7 (73)
            Oh well, at least we can trust Richmond to lose spectacularly. And Fremantle’s impressive start to 2010 continues despite some shocking accuracy in front of goal. And Richmond did this badly after getting back most of their internally suspended players. At least them finishing last or near last looks a safe bet.
Carlton 15.14 (104) def Geelong 9.14 (68)
            Last year’s dominant premiers losing two already this season? And this one to Carlton? Another huge upset as the Blues look to gave some confidence growing while the Cats are struggling mentally with no longer having the aura of invincibility on the paddock. Carlton, like so many others mentioned in this report, are surprising everyone with their game play.
SANFL Round 5
North Adelaide 11.12 (78) def by Glenelg 12.9 (81)
            Poor kicking cost North Adelaide, and poor playing almost cost Glenelg. Back and forth all day, and North could have won it, but behind after behind in the last quarter cost them. This is not the North of the start of the year, and Glenelg were supposed to be better than this. Another match that went against expectations.
Central Districts 8.8 (56) def by Sturt 19.9 (123)
            And speaking of upsets… Centrals, THE team of the twenty-first century, defeated this much by Sturt who most expect to make the finals, but not feature prominently? Sturt looked great as they took on Centrals at home and outclassed them. Of course, this is one result and it’s too early to say anything about either team, but Centrals were not convincing today at all.
Norwood 17.7 (109) def Port Adelaide 11.8 (74)
            And Port Adelaide’s slide downwards in what could well be their final season continues unabated with yet another loss. Norwood’s first win for the year gives the Magpies bottom spot on the ladder all to themselves.
South Adelaide 18.10 (118) def Woodville-West Torrens 15.6 (96)
            The Eagles’ stay at the top was short-lived as the Panthers stunned yet again and upset them. Trailing by 18 points at the final break, a magnificent 9-goal final term saw the Panthers win comfortably. And it was a good game to boot.
Bye: West Adelaide

Rugby League
NRL – Round 7
Canterbury-Bankstown 36 def Brisbane 18
            The difference between the two teams was Jamal Idris. Brisbane are now at 2-5 and their season looks over. They were tipped by many to feature in the finals, but this has been a horror start for their year.
North Queensland 18 def by Parramatta 24
            Unforced errors cost the Cowboys, despite the return of their captain from injury weeks before anyone thought he would be back.
Penrith 26 def Wests Tigers 18
            The Panthers took the lead early, and the Tigers just could not catch up. Penrith now share top spot on the ladder with 5-2.
Cronulla 26 def Newcastle 6
            Cronulla were looking the wooden spoon in the face until the whole Melbourne thing saved their bacon. And how do they react? By winning! Gotta love the way sportsmen think…
Canberra 24 def by South Sydney 26
            18 points down at half time, South comes back and wins by 2. This is almost a different team this year. Last year they would have folded like a house of cards; this year they fight and win. Not only that, but this is the second time Canberra have had a strong first half lead only to lose the match. Finishing may be a problem for the Raiders this year.
St George Illawarra 28 def Sydney Roosters 6
            Not a pretty match, but the Dragons looked comfortable out there accounting for the Roosters in a match that was billed as being so much more than it eventually turned out to be.
Melbourne 40 def Warriors 6
            What better way to state your intentions than by humiliating your opponent. They got no premiership points for the win, but Melbourne went out there and played like a team possessed in winning and winning easily. And 23,000 people still turned up in Melbourne for the game, in a strong show of support and a positive sign for the NRL.
Manly 22 just def by Gold Coast 24
            Manly lost it. They really did look better than the Titans all game and yet somehow conspired to lose it. Sire, Gold Coast tried hard all night, but they were outplayed… and yet won. Ain’t sport wonderful?

Rugby Union
Super 14 Round 11
Chiefs 25 drew with Cheetahs 25
            Damn fine match, one well worth catching if you can get hold of a replay.
Reds 16 def Stormers 13
Force 24 def Crusaders 16
Highlanders 31 def by Hurricanes 33
Waratahs 19 def Brumbies 12
Bulls 51 embarrassed Lions 11
Sharks 23 def Blues 10

ANZ Championships
Round 6
Mystics 59 def Tactix 50
Firebirds 62 def Vixens 41
            That’s the way to snap a winning streak! The Vixens have looked to continue where they left off last year until this game. They looked out of sorts and Queensland took advantage.
Pulse 40 def by Steel 64
            Steel were in front all night and won comfortably.
Fever 37 hammered by Thunderbirds 57
            Adelaide led all night, extending their lead at every change. Some were concerned they may have allowed the Vixens losing to affect them, making them lazy (don’t know how they came to that conclusion, but there’s journalists for ya!) but they were focused and got a well-deserved victory.
Bye: Swifts, Magic

Alright, that’s it for ANZAC Day. Now, one person has said I should leave the column as is – if it ain’t broke don’t fix it essentially – but one response? I’m sure there’s more than one reader out there… or else I’d be gone from here so fast it’d make my head spin.

Anyway, that’s this view – Apr 19 through 26.

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