Friday, June 27, 2008

Thank Heaven for Little Girls

Today’s just confirms what everyone outside Manly is thinking.

Jamie Lyon is an overrated oaf.

I said it last year before he got towelled up by Greg Inglis and now he’s gone and done it again.

He’s publicly declared he has no desire to play for NSW this season, after snubbing them earlier for origin II as well.

Craig Bellamy, the Newcastle Knights and the Brisbane Broncos have all called for him to be stood down due to the clause in player contracts that if they reject representative selection that they should be similarly unavailable for their clubs.

Is he scared of losing?

Probably, he snubbed selection in Origin II and NSW were belted.

His opposite man ran all over Mark Gasnier in that match and would have been set to do so again down in Sydney.
Maybe he’s afraid of Greg Inglis?

Or, maybe he is just confirming that he is THE MOST OVERRATED PLAYER IN THE GAME, playing for the most overrated club in the history of the game.

When Manly’s CEO was asked if Lyon should be stood down for moral reasons, his response was “I suggest Steve (Knights CEO Steve Burraston) check his facts. I can’t see any reference to morals.”

I’m sure you don’t Mr. Mayer, and I’ll bet in all your time at the club (and probably in your extensive administrative career) you haven’t encountered them anywhere else either.

You see, that’s why Manly are so hated.

Never in his thinking did it occur to Greg Mayer that when a player is asked if he is available for representative duty (regardless of whether he was actually picked) and says no, then he logically should be unavailable for club duty too.

Sure, to the letter of the law, he wasn’t actually picked, but then why bother picking him if two selectors and the coach phone the guy and he says no?

Seems futile, doesn’t it?

I would be entirely surprised if the Manly camp even entered into a moral discussion as to whether this was the right course of action to take.

It certainly doesn’t seem so from the mouth of their spokesman.

I can guarantee for a fact (Thanks HG Nelson) that almost all of the other NRL clubs would have stood their player down immediately.

In fact I’m of the opinion that he’s at Manly only because no other clubs would want him.

Speculation continues that he will be targeted by UK super league again next year in a four year $1.6m; Manly may also benefit to the tune of a $1m transfer fee to release the ‘five-eighth’.

As far as I’m concerned (and let me tell you, I’ve replaced the following phrase about nine times so that it can be published) he can make like a shepherd and get the flock out of here.

I hope they take the CEO too.

And that’s how I’m seeing it.


Origin II, 2008 - The Rant

As I floated home from Suncorp Stadium in a wave of Euphoria, I made a promise to issue a written apology to Darius Boyd, the two-try hero in Queensland's record-equalling 30-blot drubbing of the Blues in Wednesday night's second origin encounter.

During the week I had intimated to all those who would listen and many who wouldn't that Boyd wasn't in the class of player required for origin football. Sure, he is a solid club player and a more than adequate try scorer but not in the top two or three outside backs in the game, particularly as he would be assigned the Fubster (or the shimmy shimmy whoosh man – Mark Gasnier) who terrorised the left defence in Origin I.

But handle it he did in fine fashion, scoring two tries, albeit on the back of some outstanding work from Greg Inglis, showing a clean pair of heels to score a double on debut.

This punter, one of only 52,000 rugby league experts to attend what many have described as the most knowledgeable and intellectual gathering of minds ever assembled in any sporting stadium anywhere in the world (cop that Willie Mason) had adjudicated that the selection of Harrison and Boyd at the expense of Hodges (suspension) and PJ Marsh was still no recipe for success.

Game one was a selection debacle – Karmichael Hunt (as much as my respect has grown for him enormously this season) is no playmaker and Queensland looked lost for options in attack. And no Scott Prince.

What does the man have to do?

Prince was underrated in game II, with many criticising his usually pinpoint kicking game. I thought Prince was an excellent foil for Thurston and indeed took the pressure off both playmakers having multiple options on either side of the ruck.

For the first time in what seemed like years fans were treated to two playmakers in unison, attacking interchangeably, at first or second receiver, or one on the left, one of the right, alternating scheming runs to the line with good support angles and, most importantly, proper depth in attack.

It was rugby league in the days of yore, and it was brilliant to watch.

Mal Meninga must take credit for one of the best tactical performances I have seen by any coach. The backline for Queensland got it just about spot on on every occasion, with great combinations and sublime skills and execution. Sure, a few kicks didn't quite find the mark, but if they did the score would have been a lot worse for the sky blue boys.

Given a few years in partnership and Thurston and Prince might even be in the same heady echelon of greatness as Langer and Lewis, Daley and Stuart, Fittler and Johns.

Queensland's defensive tactics were even better.

Credit must go to the forwards who were a different unit to the one dominated in game I.

Price and Civoniceva were evergreen up front and showed that experience (and a big ticker) counts in important matches. Thaiday and Hannant were also good performers off the bench, with Thaiday's work rate out of his own end particularly impressive.

But I have special mention for Michael Crocker. Queensland will sorely miss this man when he joins the exodus to the UK next season. His hard running and outstanding defence were a real highlight, exemplified by his 80m support effort in the dying stages. Perhaps if he hadn't tackled and run himself to a standstill in the first 75 minutes he would have been able to bend down and reel in the final pass having made a tackle during the play, and run 80m in support, extending the Queensland lead into a record margin.

Harrison and Johnson tackled themselves to a similar standstill, and Tate racked up an almost unbelievable 35 tackles out in the centres protecting Thurston and Prince.

Queensland were smart too, and extremely well disciplined and organised. Nowhere more so was this evident than in the defensive tactics in protecting Scott Prince and Jonathon Thurston. Each were assigned a minder or two in defence and began each set of six either defending on the wing or one in.

As the set progressed each playmaker moved slowly towards the centre of the ruck as NSW moved their attack wider, a clear display of the nous Meninga has extracted from himself and his staff.

Also worthy of mention was the defence of Karmichael Hunt – outstanding in game I, he continued in game II, making devastating tackles in a roving role, moving from fullback to the outside backs, and enjoying a stint at lock during the second half.

He didn't look out of place either.

Despite an odd looking line-up the Queensland side looked better balanced, more aggressive and more hungry than NSW.

So where to for the blues?

Well, I have been saying it for some time - I don't rate Greg Bird as a five-eighth, in a similar way that I don't rate Hunt as a five-eighth. Sure, he is dominant in rep fixtures when the side is dominant in the forwards and the side has such momentum that he can function as a devastating ball runner with the ability to offload the football, while providing plenty of starch in defence. Actually that's the definition of what a lock forward should do.

Having said that – you don't win three consecutive man-of-the-match awards for your state and country being a complete muppet – the man clearly has talent. The reason Bird has been so dominant in recent rep fixtures is that his forwards have been so dominant that the side needs only the dummy-half and halfback as creative options – without them in game II he was found lacking in creativity.

The worst flaw though was the kicking options – when your forward pack is eating up the yards field position comes easy and there isn't any pressure on the kicker, as Thurston and Smith found to their detriment in game I.

Bird's almost non-existent kicking game highlighted NSW lack of options in game II when searching for much needed field position; Peter Wallace was hounded all night by the best charge-down merchant in the game in Steven Price as NSW were starved of genuine long or short kicking options.

As a Queenslander I am much more concerned when he and Paul Gallen form part of what continues to be a devastating back row.

Surely Braith Anasta can shake off his tag as the game's most overrated player (a mantle now firmly cemented by Manly's Jamie Lyon) and grasp a firm hold on the six jumper for the next few years with a solid return

While Peter Wallace struggles to recover from his ruptured lefty, Kurt Gidley, Jarrod Mullen, Brett Finch and Mitchell Pearce all come into contention for the other halves spot. Don't rule out Todd Carney though; as this goes to press he is running a swathe of destruction through the hapless Bulldogs – his turn may have arrived.

In the engine room up front though, they need to consider taking more than one specialist front rower into the game; Jason Ryles, Luke Bailey and Brent Kite should come into consideration.

On the plus side though I thought that Brett Stewart slightly outpointed Billy Slater at fullback, mainly because so much was asked of him in the last line of defence that he had to be right on his game all night.

Queensland showed that genuine creativity and multiple options can be devastating – lets hope they keep the same side for game III.

With Lockyer all but ruling himself out origin III one thing is for certain – he will become miraculously available sometime in the next 72 hours and be rushed into the squad.

Which means someone will miss out.

Cue Scott Prince.

What does the man have to do?

I for one hope that Prince is in...

Long Live the Prince!

Bring on the decider!

That's how I'm seeing it,

Friday, May 23, 2008

Twenty Miles of Hope, Six Miles of Truth

Okay, so maybe the title is a little facetious, but last week I completed my first ever marathon, and I can tell you it is the absolute truth. The marathon distance is just over 26 miles / 42 kilometres, based on some Greco-Persian war two and a half thousand years ago. In layman's terms: a bloody long way (think of the town you live in and where you could get to in 42 kilometres of road).

In what was more of a drunken dare gone terribly wrong, I found myself at the starting line amidst a good few thousand competitors in the Belfast City Marathon (unfortunately one of the more difficult ones due to a massive hill smack in the middle of the course) last Monday morning (on the May Day holiday). I'd actually done some proper training for it (three months, which is woefully inadequate for this sort of event), so there was a decent chance I'd survive and maybe even get through the race within the time limit. I wasn't interested in racing anyone really, I just wanted to make it to the end of an entire marathon, one of life's big achievements. As anyone who's done something like this before knows, competing against yourself is the purist form of competition.

Moving through the seventeen mile mark, I was unbelievably feeling good (experiencing what actual runners refer to as the "runners high"). Unfortunately I went hurtling into "the wall" at about the nineteen mile mark. It wasn't that the pain got particularly worse (though that was still definitely a factor), but it was more like someone showed up, handed me a fridge and said "mate could you just carry this to the finish line for me?".

The last three or four miles (still carrying my invisible fridge) were seriously hard work. My knees were badly hurt at this point, hips and ankles were killing me and my feet were floating around on a sea of blisters (when I took off my shoes after the race my feet took on a disturbing similarity to bubble wrap). I swore during those last thirty or forty minutes that I'd never do this again and would NEVER accept that "it wasn't that bad". The crowd lining the route were very generous with their encouragement, which helped a lot, plus the idea of raising more money for my charity (the Red Cross), indiscriminant sprays of my knees with painkiller and my utter refusal to stop moving (call it stubbornness, ticker, maybe that Australian "don't know when you're beat" attitude, or plain and simple stupidity) got me to the finish.

Phew, so I made it in the end! One of the volunteers handed me the finishers medal, which I just stared at for ages. I'll probably frame it one day... when I eventually take it off. That night was spent numbing my body from the inside out (via enormous quantities of Harp lager and Irish whiskey), which gave me a headache in the morning to take my mind off the leg pain.

It took me a couple of days before I could get up off the couch without a major ordeal, and about a week before I stopped limping. The good news is that I managed to raise about 400 pounds for charity, which was a big bonus. I even did a little light training today and am feeling good. In hindsight I guess it wasn't that bad...

That's how I'm seeing it


Thursday, March 6, 2008

What's in a (Nick)Name?

The current nickname problem in the Australian cricket side as some of the old school starts to call it quits is one that can quickly get away from you. In five years time we could be looking at a team full of "Robbo's", "Mitch's" and "Clarkie's", and suddenly we've got a crisis on our hands. I don't think it's any coincidence that the brightest period of Australian cricket (and as seriously dominant display in a genuinely international sport as ever there was) coincided with the highest level of nickname originality and imagination ever (Tugga, Junior, The Sheik of Tweak and one of my favourites Savlon just to name a few).

I'm happy with Buck (Mike Rogers) and The Trap (Phil Jacques), they're definitely working for me and are showing some positive signs for the future. Mitch is just not cutting it, although Notch might be a suitable interim nickname while we debate the pros and cons of Bonk vs Jenny vs Stumpy. This brings us to Stuart Clark and the genius that is the "Wendy Jr" nickname, which feets him like a glove, or indeed like Warnie's protection of choice as he takes yet another supermodel's temperature with his all-beef thermometer.

You can't deny the proportional relationship between awesome nicknames and awesome sporting performances (just think Master Blaster, the Human Highlight Reel, Voss the Boss or King Wally, even The Don). Strength coaches, conditioning coaches, fielding coaches and sports psychologists are all well and good, but where the real success and longevity lies is in nickname coaches. It's time our cricket team got a jump start in this department, keeping us a step ahead of the opposition – and I know just the two bloggers to do it!

That’s how I’m seeing it,
Al “Doctor Colossus” McCabe.

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Friday, January 11, 2008

The Spirit of the Game?

If you live in a serious cricket playing country you'd have to be living under a rock not to hear about the furore surrounding the second test between Australia and India (Jan 2-6). The test itself was one of the best matches in a long, long time, going down to the wire with the Aussies taking three wickets to win it in what would have been the second last over of the contest. Not to mention the fact that this win equals the all time record for consecutive test victories at sixteen.

Unfortunately a couple of incidents during the match (and several after), greatly overshadowed what should have been a showpiece for the game. Allegations of racial abuse (from an Indian player, directed at an Australian) and "cheating" umpires have been levelled, and shamefully India has seen fit to attempt to hold the cricket world to ransom by threatening to cancel the tour if the suspension for racial abuse of their "golden boy" Harbhajan Singh isn't overturned (and probably want him nominated him for a Nobel Peace Prize...).

A lot of abuse is now being thrown at the Australian cricket team for being too aggressively competitive (although while playing entirely within the rules of the game, throwing everything at your opposition is surely what's expected of an elite professional sports team!?), allegations of claiming catches that weren't caught, and of falsifying the racial abuse claim. I can't help but think that if the Indian tail didn't crumble in the dying minutes, and they'd managed a draw, Steve Bucknor wouldn't have been dropped as an umpire and the whinging and threats would be a lot quieter.

Then all of a sudden the halo over Harbajan's head ("he'd never do anything like this") slipped when the news broke that Harbhajan has a history of racial abuse. This prompted the MAIT blog author Mickos into action - please excuse the sarcasm:

To summarise the Indian team’s complaints and to borrow a well worn summary device:

  1. Harbhajan didn’t say anything to Symonds: Actually this would be the second time that Symonds has received this abuse, the first time he let it slide. Odd actions from Symonds,
    supposedly a racially motivated player playing against the spirit of the game.

    One player here is racially abusive, the other is not.

  2. Match referee Mike Procter refused to take the Indian’s word against Australia’s: One only has to recall the supposed absence of racially motivated chanting in India during the last one-day series that was strenuously denied by the BCCI as having never taken place; that is, until there was photographic evidence proving otherwise. Australia were
    obviously making that up then and they are still just as insane now.

    One side is in denial here, the other is not.

  3. Australia don’t walk: Neither do India. Neither does any other test playing, second tier, provincial, state, county, first grade, second grade, or under 12 primary school third eleven anywhere in the world. Nor does it happen in many other sports. Would Thorpie have stopped racing because he thought he got slightly too good a start? Would Joey Johns hand the ball over to the opposition five metres out from his own line because he spotted a small knock on by the front rower playing him the ball? I could go on here, actually I will do; did Fabio Grosso admit that he took a filthy, under-handed, cheating dive to put Australia out of the 2006 soccer World Cup?

    Did Sourav Ganguly or Ishant Sharma walk in the last test match? I think not. No-one has walked in 50 years in Test cricket except for Gilchirst. And he’s one of the Australians who’s allegedly most culpable for not playing in the spirit of the game. No, the Aussies don’t walk en masse, but at least they leave when they are given out, and as a community are not taking to burning effigies in the street if a decision in a game doesn't go the way they want.

    One side respects the decision of the officials here, the other does not.

  4. Australia claim catches that weren’t taken and unduly influence the umpire: Refer to the pre-test agreement on catches, ie. if the fielder claims the catch it's out. Both replays proved that Clarke and Ponting took fair catches. Fact. As for the influencing of the umpire, one of the catches in contention here was given not out. Not a single complaint was made by an Australian against the decision.

    One side appeals excessively, the other does not.

  5. The umpires are cheating whiteys (or darkies, or something): Yes India got the raw end of a very large pineapple in the second test. So did Kumar Sangakarra in the Sri Lankan tour, as did Sachin Tendulkar in the last tour, Brian Lara before him and Michael Vaughan probably did too somewhere in between. We remember these decisions because they went against the opposition’s gun bat (well, except for Vaughan...). That’s why we remember them, because it affected the opposition’s chance to mount a contest because their side seriously lacked depth. Australia have obviously gotten a few raw ones too, Kasprowicz in the ashes comes to mind (again because it was a big one), and it wasn’t so long ago that two neutral umpires were brought into the game to curb poor home town decisions – where were the majority of those again? At the end of the day, you get just as many pineapples as you do supermodels. Just ask Warney.

    One side is having a big whinge, the other is not.

  6. Australia sledge the opposition: True, and we have been for years. Nothing new there. What is new is the increase in the amount of off-field verbal coming out of the Indian team of late (instigated by their good selves I might add) and nothing is being said about their spirit of cricket pledge. Actually they don’t have one. For what it’s worth I think their "I’m not taking this sh*t lying down" attitude is great – its almost Australian and can you guess who gave it to them? That’s right – an Australian, one G. Chappell. All great but you can’t have it both ways boys. Either put up or shut up. As Will Smith would say – don’t start notin’, won’t be notin’ aaeeiit?
  7. Both sides are guilty as sin, thus ruining my cunning summary device.

Finally, a mea culpa for the Aussies. They may play tough cricket but need to behave better under the pump. Having been on the received end of a few hidings in my career its no fun, even if you are winning. I’m not surprised Ponting gets the shits, as well he might if things are going badly. Unfortunately with a higher standard of play comes a higher moral obligation to the game as well it seems – gone are the days where "Captain Grumpy" becomes a cult hero in Australia. Remember the last time you had a shitty day at the office – was Australia calling for your sacking and did your coworkers threaten to go home for the rest of the week? I sure hope not. Now, Ponting is crucified by his press and effigies of him (and the umpires too) are burned across India. Don’t get me started on the racial and personal vilification there, not to mention a complete lack of respect for officialdom.

One must also feel sorry for Anil Kumble as he has not yet managed to impart his own disctinctive tough but fair style of play on some of his team mates. Most of them have got it spot on and are to be commended; more power to them if they stand up to be counted on the field and put on some competitive performances.

Both sides need to settle this the old fashioned way – get together at the end of the day’s play for a beer. There’s too little of that these days and is the leading contributor to the us-and-them mentality so clear in evidence here.

At the end of the day if India want to go home – let them. They were down 2-nil anyway. Bring on the Kiwis and the Sarfies – or dare I say it, Australia A.

That's how I'm seeing it,
Mickos (and Al).

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Wednesday, January 2, 2008

What Makes a Good Team?

Apologies in advance for attempting to introduce an intellectual discussion into a sports blog, but bear in mind, we were very drunk at the time this originally happened.

Mickos (my MAIT partner in crime), myself, and five other dwarves (long story) were on a plane to Wales to watch the Wallabies play the Welsh in a rugby test match. It was in celebration of the birthdays for myself and my brother in law, which happen to fall on the same day. We'd arrived at the airport a couple of hours early and needless to say, we all made a bee-line to the bar. About twelve rounds later we managed to get ourselves on the plane and were on our way.

Mickos and I were easing into a couple of in-flight refreshments and, as we tend to do this many beers in, started an intellectual (in most cases, this term fits rather loosely) discussion on some aspect of sport. On this occassion the topic was "what makes a 'good' team?", and my explanation ended up coming out pretty well so I thought I'd share it here.

The angle I was coming from actually started because I was reading a book on Zen Buddhism (longer story), called "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance". Anyway, we started out by thinking about it as the qualities of the team itself (leadership, quick thinking, mental toughness etc.), but it quickly became apparent that the "goodness" of a team can't be measured objectively like this. The reason is that a team that displays these desirable qualities on one level (for example, the champions of the local state or province), when compared to a team chosen for a higher level (say, for the national side), they're not that "good" anymore. Is it then a matter of perception? Well not really, because there are some teams that are generally accepted as good (certain Australian cricket teams, USA basketball teams, New Zealand rugby teams etc. are accepted by everyone as being "good").

Well where the hell did that leave us (and flight attendant can we have two more beers over here)? "Goodness" then is neither a direct quality of the team, nor directly attributable to perception. One drunken epiphany later and I (a little too loudly) came up with my own explanation: goodness isn't subjective or objective, but is found in the relationship between the two - it actually lies at the dimensionless point at which subject and object meet!

There you have it then, the "goodness" of a team is actually an event rather than a characteristic. It's the event at which the subject becomes fully aware of the object. I'm going to have to give this a little more thought, but it seems to work reasonably well and lines up with some other aspects of philosophy. Anyway, if you've read this far and have any thoughts of your own let me know.

I'll stop channeling Lao Tzu (for now) and get back to watching some more sport and swilling some local lager.

That's how I'm seeing it.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Think Before You Open Your Mouth

So it's finally happened...

Anthony Mundine's big mouth has finally jeopardized and perhaps even ended his career. Ironically though, not in the way we all thought.

In a bizarre move, this humble punter understands that "The Man" used "The Mouth" to clean a contact lens he had been wearing following a result of minor eye surgery the previous week.

As a result, Mundine was left with a serious eye infection that was feared could have cost him both his career and possibly the use of his eye. It is understood that most of the immediate danger has passed, however doctors will be keeping a close eye on the situation over the coming weeks, as it were.

Even Mundine, not often short of the dirty words, must surely have known that the tongue isn't the most hygienic of cleaning products.

Surely this is a poke in the eye for the beacon of common sense that is the Mundine persona; for most punters, the thought of cleaning a contact with the tongue surely rates just below not washing the hands afterwards, or going knuckle deep into the Lionel Rose (nose) looking for a mid-morning snack.

Admittedly, this boxing fan had begun to develop some begrudging respect for "The Man", as he has managed to keep the lip to a minimum since beating the Green Machine. It was a refreshing change that has possibly endeared him to many fans across the nation. Sadly, this latest incident has highlighted one salient fact many doubters have clung to throughout the hype; Mundine should perhaps engage his mind a touch more before opening his mouth.

I'm sure many boxing fans will be wondering just how he's going to be able to come back from this one. Let's hope he makes a speedy recovery and get back where he belongs, as the sporting geniuses Roy and HG would put it, in the squared circle.
All the best choc, hope you get well soon.

That's How I'm Seeing It,

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