Yes, yes, yes, I know.
Dusting off the old rah-rah speeches from Wallabies' dressing rooms circa 1980s and trying to apply them to super-sophisticated Socceroos in 2017, just before they take on the might of Honduras, is a tad presumptuous. It may well be like using a horse-and-cart, while they have a Maserati, ready to go. But I can't resist ...
Come on, you bastards!
Don't be intimidated by the roar of the locals even now making our dressing-room shudder and shake. USE it! Soak it up!
Their roar is a challenge to us, and we Australians are good at challenges, most particularly when we are PISSED OFF! Think the Rum Rebellion! Think Eureka! Think Gallipoli! Think being the first to stop the Germans and the Japanese in World War II! Think beating the Hondurans, in Honduras, on Saturday 11 November, 2017, a day that will live in history if we pull it off!
We know they think we are unsophisticated hicks, with no real idea how to play soccer. Fine. Let's see how their fancy footwork goes up against Aussie KNUCKLE. (Sorry, sorry, that is too much rugby, I take it back. Wont' work.)
This is dinkum it, you blokes. Win, lose or draw, we have to come off the pitch with nothing left in us, with the tanks completely empty. We are Australians, and we can do this!
Something like that, anyway.
Abbott steals the show
The Cauliflower Club lunch last Friday week? It went brilliantly, thanks for asking, and I'm proud to report raised just under $100K, of which around $70K was for those who have sustained serious injury through sport, and $30K for the Daniel Vickerman Research Scholarship, looking into the causes of depression. With a line-up behind the podium that included Michael Cheika, Tony Abbott, Alan Jones, Lisa Wilkinson and Twiggy Forrest, the throng of 600 affirmed it was our best lunch yet. Speech of the day belonged to former PM and my old rugby coach Tony Abbott, in his witty "Toast to the Backs". After reminiscing on his own rugby days, mostly with Sydney Uni Second Grade, in the front row, he finished thus: "But then, I went to play a different game, I rose through the ranks and eventually became the team captain. Two years ago I was put on the bench, on the sidelines, and I am so keen to get back on the field, that I would even play as a back. So would all you forwards please be upstanding, I give you, the backs!" It brought the house down.
The other 'Gatting ball'
TFF hates giving gratuitous plugs for books by other authors, (sniff) but in this case will make an exception. For I have written many times of the cleverness of the @gradecricketer twitter account, filled with wry observations of the actual experience of being a struggling grade cricketer. Last year, the three blokes behind it, Sam Perry, Dave Edwards and Ian Higgins, put together a book, The Grade Cricketer, filled with pearls like this:
- "Grade cricket is full of f---ing schadenfreude. In fact, the whole game centres on it. I don't think I've ever genuinely celebrated someone's hundred or five-for without considering the flow-on effect on my own position in the team. Even when I'm at the non-striker's end, I'll gently whisper 'that's plumb' to the umpire when my batting partner gets rapped on the pads."
- "Haven't changed my bed sheets in three months but I'll gladly spend 40 mins fighting Friday arvo traffic to go put a tarpaulin over a pitch."
Bingo. It is the nitty-gritty of what it is actually like, as opposed to what it should be like. That book went so well, they have bought out a sequel for this cricket season, The Grade Cricketer: Tea and No Sympathy, filled with longer-form stories. My favourite concerns one of the authors reminiscing about a Fathers v Sons match in the final year of primary school.
"Dad had brought three men - literal men, adults ranging in age from mid-30s to mid-50s - in around the bat, creating Hitchcockian-like suspense, before casually ambling in to produce one of the most stunning deliveries I've ever faced to this day: a devastating off cutter that pitched on a good length and violently jagged back to clip my off bail. This was my equivalent of the Gatting Ball in the 1993 Ashes series, and Dad was Warney, lapping up his victory with oafish glee . . . To make things worse, Dad still brings this story up every Christmas without fail, exaggerating certain details around the delivery and its general unplayability."
You get the drift.
Ray's dog can't drop in
Told yers. The day/night Ashes Test between the the Australian women's team and their English counterparts at North Sydney Oval has been a great success, with strong crowds, wonderful atmosphere and the Goodies on their way to, hopefully, a great win. The only person I could find a little pissed off with proceedings was Ray Martin, who lives in the area and has frequently taken his border collie to matches there, with the full blessing of North Sydney Council. If they poop, and you scoop, the Council is sweet. Not this time, though. Stopped at the gate, on orders of Cricket Australia. I know, I know, not a big problem in the scheme of things. But I take Ray's point. North Sydney Oval is in the vanguard of taking us back to the future, getting back to sport the way it was meant to be - and that includes taking dogs to ramble around on the grassy slopes, just as the kids do !
Thank you, thank you all! As discussed, tomorrow, at about 10.50 am, live on Channel Nine's Sports Sunday program, your humble correspondent is going to go out hard after the National Over/55 indoor rowing record for 500 metres. It currently stands at 1 min 26.5 seconds, and I am going to obliterate it, do you hear me?
What they said
The Honduran nickname for the stadium where the Socceroos take on the locals at 9am AEDT, this morning: "La Tumba de los tecnicos - The Tomb of the coaches." We'll see.
Offsiders columnist Richard Hinds: "The Socceroos' elongated path to World Cup qualification takes them to a country where a constitutional crisis has compounded chronic political instability and an appalling human rights record is obscured by the inhabitants' obsession with sport. But first they must play in Honduras."
Jorge Salomon, President of the Honduras Football Federation: "We're grateful to God to be here..." Good ol' God. Has to be the greatest sports' supporter since time began, yes?
Tim Cahill on travelling to Honduras: "We know the situation and I'm ready to give it a go and that's all that matters. I feel it deserves that because it's probably one of the most important couple of weeks in Australian soccer coming up." Gee, he's going to get a lot of angry letters for calling the code by its slave-name.
Nigel Owens, referee, to Barbarians halfback, in the middle of their match against the All Blacks: "If you're going to cheat, you cheat fair."
Australian cricket player Elyse Villani on playing a day/night Test at North Sydney Oval: "Obviously we haven't experienced [pink-ball cricket] before. At the same time, though, we don't want to get too carried away with the fact that it's a pink ball and a day-night Test and that sort of thing because at the end of the day it's still a cricket ball coming down your way." Indeed. At the end of the day ... and into the night.
Israel Folau's fiancee, Maria Tutaia, a champion netballer for New Zealand, tweets in response to a question on which country her future children with Izzy would represent: "They come out of me, they only wear 1 colour." The three emojis thereafter were all black.
Pat Cash, now coaching an American tennis player in the American Fed Cup teams, talks to the local media: "I've been in the American camp for I don't know how many minutes and am already being treated better than the Australians have treated me." Pat? The Americans don't know you, yet. We do. #JustSayin.
Ward Young from the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses, on a jockey punching a horse. "You don't get to punch a horse and get away with it . . . It looks like you can add punching horses to the list of cruelty in horse racing in addition to jumps racing, whipping horses, two-year-old racing, and sending them to the knackers."
Jockey Michael Walker on 22nd placed Bondi Beach in the Melbourne Cup: "I don't think his mind really wants to be there at the moment." He's right. Even in the stables, BB's always staring out the window, never listens to instructions, and is always distracted. Must do better.
Long-time NFL broadcaster Bob Costas warns that the whole game may soon "collapse like a house of cards" for one simple reason: "This game destroys people's brains." And he's right. A recent study released by Boston University showed that when examining the brains of 111 deceased NFL players, 110 of them showed signs of CTE, which is brain damage to you and me.
Katie Smith, wife of All Blacks fullback Ben Smith, recounts her reaction when, after he had taken a bad concussion in a match, he had come to with no memory that she was heavily pregnant with their second child, and asked what they were going to do with two? "Mate, we haven't got long to figure it all out." She gave birth three weeks later. Mother and baby fine. Dad doing better.
Glenn Maxwell, says he no longer wants to be known as "The Big Show," ahead of the Ashes selection: "I have ability to score quickly at stages but the way I've been playing recently I've been more concentrating on playing good cricket shots and making sure I am there for a longer period of time. Whatever the team's required me to do I'll do it." Too late. It's a great nickname, to be proud of. And much better than "No Show."
Team of the week
Socceroos. Do or die. In a ditch. They're hanging on to their World Cup qualification like cats to a curtain, but must, at least, limit the damage in their away game to Honduras, starting at 9 am, Saturday.
Australian Women's Cricket XI. Are well on their way to winning the Ashes, as they continue playing at North Sydney Oval this weekend.
Ben Simmons. It took the Australian basketballer just nine NBA matches to nail his second triple-header - over 10 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists - wheras, it took Michael Jordan 58 matches, and LeBron James 118 matches. The smart money says he may be the first rookie since Blake Griffin in 2011 to be picked for the All Star game, which boasts the best players in the NBA
Johnny Walker. Was one of three rugby players turning out for Scotland, who were kicked off the plane in Christchurch for being too drunk to make the flight to Cairns for their next match of the Rugby League World Cup, and instead sent home in disgrace.
Wallabies. Take on Wales later today in Cardiff.
Australian Stockmen Rugby Team. Consisting of regional players from all over the country, they won four from five matches on their just completed tour of NZ and Argentina. A wonderful concept that showcases all that is wonderful about grassroots rugby.
Will Miller. The captain of the victorious 2017 Shute Shield team, Norths, was the star turn with Bob Dwyer and Kick Too Farr Jones - at a fund-raising function in the 'Gong, for the Illawarra U /13s Rep' Rugby last Saturday night, so they can tour New Zealand next year. He knocked em dead, and stayed till late, before driving to the family dairy farm in Berry, where he was up at 4 am milk the cows. That's rugby.
Sharan Colliss' (nee Wheelock). For the first time since 1982, not playing in the WA Water Polo A grade women's competition. After making her debut for the Claremont Dolphins as a 14 year old, and prospering from there, a highly decorated domestic and international career comes to an end.
Rekindling. Won the Melbourne Cup.