Posts from the ‘Other Sports’ Category

Storm in a D cup

I’m not sure if it was the slippery conditions, the closeness of the contest or actually seeing the game live, but I actually enjoyed a game of rugby league. Don’t get me wrong, sure I’ve watched plenty of matches on television in the past, and another one live but up until this point haven’t had much desire to attend the unskilled (okay, apologies less skilled) game those north of the border refer to as league.

 
I tend to watch 5-10 games of league during the course of the season; the three State of Origin contests, grand final and the occasional Melbourne storm game. To me watching any more games would be as pointless as a rugby league scrum (see I’m even using the terminology). Through a Facebook competition (Thank you Team Up Victoria – see link at the bottom of the page) I managed to swindle some tickets for the clash against the Penrith Pink Panthers and arrive just before kickoff.

 
The game contained impressive big hits and tackles throughout the match (think when AFL was called VFL and you were actually allowed to tackle), a few superstars of the game (Cam Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk), and even some cheerleaders. The quality of the match wasn’t super impressive, and I think Billy Slater has a poor game by his standards but because of the final result and last minute win for the home team it was thoroughly enjoyable. The rain probably didn’t help the players but you could see both teams should finish in the top half of the table.

 
Penrith seemed unlucky during the contest, and appear to be a team on the rise; although this could just be because I thought they were terrible at the onset. Storm has been one of the better teams of the last few years (extra payments included) but could be in for a tougher season in 2014. Having a limited knowledge of the rules helped me enjoy the game as I failed to become frustrated at poor refereeing decisions; maybe Ben Williams applied this to his performance on Sunday at the Melbourne Heart match.

 
Three observations I did make over the course of the match were
1) It was good to see Vulcan from Gladiators back in the public arena (Jamal Idris)
2) Sisa Waqa is a very good player for the Storm and a crowd favourite, next time I attend a match I promise to call out your name as opposed to “Go number 2”
3) Storm D (defence) is an absurd but fun concept. Sure I don’t think it made too much difference to the end result but it got the crowd involved which was fun.

 

It will never be the most skilled football game, but it provides a night of entertainment and I will be back again for more. One thing is for sure, Melbourne Storm gave me more joy than Melbourne Heart at AAMI Park over the weekend.

 

Follow the Team Up Victoria Facebook page to win some great prizes

https://www.facebook.com/TeamUpVictoria?fref=ts

Advertisements

Actions speak louder than Words

The old, but true saying “Actions speak louder than words”, but never has it been so true at these Olympic Games.  Some say the Australian Olympic team has been a failure during London 2012; others put our decline on the medal tally down to other nations simply improving, and outperforming us on the world stage.

I believe it’s a mixture of both but am regardless of our final medal tally am proud of the vast majority of our Athletes competing.

I thought I would look back at the performances of those athletes who were in the press for all the wrong reasons before the opening ceremony even began.  Three swimmers immediately come to mind, James Magnusson, Kenrick Monk & Nick D’Arcy one track athlete John Steffensen, and Olympic veterans Russell Mark and Natalie Cook.

Not for one moment am I questioning their efforts of the last few years to reach London, but their lead up to the games was hampered in various different ways throughout.

Nick D’Arcy – Swimming bad boy, not only was he found guilty of a caulis assault on fellow swimmer Simon Cowley he declared himself bankrupt to avoid any payment of the $180,000 in civil damages.  D’Arcy was also embroiled in the facebook gun photo scandal with fellow swimmer Kendrick Monk which saw him leave the Olympic village immediately after the completion of his event.

The facebook scandal was blown out of proportion but D’Arcy will never be able to endear himself to the Australian public again.  His results in London were far below par and I doubt we will see him pulling on the Australian swim (white or yellow) cap again.  London Results – 13th in 200m Butterfly

Kenrick Monk – Also caught up in the unfortunate facebook scandal that shouldn’t have been, but has a past history when he made a false report to police after falling off a skateboard to avoid embarrassment.  London Results – 14th in 200m Freestyle, 5th in 4x200m Freestyle relay

James Magnusson – Not a failure by any standards, but his own.  More a victim of circumstance combined with some immaturity shown after his poor relay swim.  Magnusson declared to the world he would go to London, get the gold, and jump on a plane home.  Sounds simple in theory but when you are competing against the world’s best touching home first isn’t as easy as it seems.  Unfairly attacked by some portions of the media after not wanting to comment after his relay team, it was all downhill from there.

I don’t think we paid enough credit to Nathan Adrian who recorded one of the best swims of the meet to beat Magnusson by the barest of margins.  One thing is for sure, this Aussie swimmer will be a little quieter before Rio.  London Results – 11th 50m Freestyle, SILVER 100m Freestyle, 4 x 100m Freestyle relay 4th, 4 x 100m Medley relay BRONZE

John Steffensen – The man with the mouth was embroiled in a racism row before the games with Olympic officials that dated back to 2008.  This issue should have been dealt with at the time or soon after, not 4 years after the event.  Steffensen has always been an outspoken athlete, but usually has the talent to back it up.  Over the last few years Steffensen ability on the track hasn’t matched his ability to get some air time with various issues with athletics Australia.  London Results – 11th 4 x 400m relay

Natalie Cook – Our golden girl from Sydney should have enjoyed her 5th and final Olympic campaign but couldn’t help enter the ‘Who will carry the flag?’ debate.  Her tantrum was nothing short of bizarre, but her back pedal shortly afterwards was as unconvincing as James Brayshaw’s rowing knowledge.  More time spent working on her game instead of practicing carrying the flag would have come in handy as her and beach volleyball partner Tasmin Hinchley failed to win a match and were bundled out in the preliminary rounds.

Sadly now some Australian fans will remember Cook for her flag antics, and not the great legacy she has created for beach volleyball in Australia.  London Results – Lost all three matches, knocked out at first group stage.

Russell Mark – From an athlete with previous games experience I found his room request quite staggering, yes if given the choice most athletes would want to room with their significant other but when it’s the Olympics in London, not a European vacation.  From that moment on Mark’s hopes of producing a medal were shot.  Shooting is extremely tough mentally, and demands the athlete to focus solely on the competition.  London Results – 20th in Men’s double trap qualification.

Whilst we will never be able to tell if their distracted lead ups contributed to their below par performances looking at the bulk of the results indicates to us that they have.  Hopefully for those who pull on the green and gold in either Glasgow or Rio will learn from these experiences and have the knowledge that actions do in fact speak louder than words.

Aus vs USA Different sexes, same result likely

Australia faces world super power the United States in both the men’s and women’s basketball competitions over the next 48 hours.  Both are sudden death but at slightly different stages of the tournament.

The Boomers (Men) will be playing with nothing to lose, facing a hotter favourite than Usain Bolt was in the 100m.  Fresh from Paddy Mills buzzer beater over a higher ranked Russian outfit, the boomers should be up for the challenge early, but will need to rely on some kind of Olympic fantasy to realise a win over the much fancied Team USA.

The Boomers have been far from poor in this Olympics, considering their key man Andrew Bogut is back home still suffering the effects of that painful elbow injury and the national league is less popular than Julia Gillard’s carbon tax.  One would expect a quarter final loss to be admiral at this level to Team USA, a team that boast the likes of Durant, James, Kobe and Anthony but not this team, over the years the Boomers have learnt to become fighters and scrappers, and don’t expect them to leave anything out on the court against any opponent, no matter what their reputation.

To put the match in perspective, we are playing against the second best team ever assembled on an Olympic basketball court (Yes, 1992 Dream team were better).  Our players have come from leagues in various parts of the world (Spain, Australia, USA, Greece, Russia & Serbia) and will be relying on that famous Aussie spirit and grit to even come close to the far superior US team.

The Opals (Women) have a far more realistic shot when they play their semi final against the heavily favoured US team.  A shock loss against France bought this game forward by a couple of days but after a dominant fourth quarter performance over China, the Opals should be ready for the challenge.

Much of our hopes will be pinned on the performances of flag bearer Lauren Jackson and young star Liz Cambage.  Both have been in foul trouble at various stages of the tournament, and the US will be looking to exploit this.  The Opals know they can match the US in different aspects on the court, but their depth is far superior to ours.  We will need to keep out best line up on the court for the majority of the game to match it with the US.  We have beaten them in the past, but not on the Olympic stage.

The pre tournament loss of playmaker Penny Taylor through injury is a significant loss, and one I don’t think we can cover.  The Opals don’t seem to have the same spark as previous years, but I think they can come away from London with a bronze medal.

Both games will be watched with anticipation both here and the United States, but I’m afraid both may have the same result.  The Opals should run with the US for much of the 40 minute contest, while I’m afraid as soon as the US put their game faces on, the Boomers will only see dust in their rear view mirror.

Whilst I’m predicting disappointing results for both Australian teams, it is an opportunity to see our teams matched up with the best in the world, isn’t that what the Olympics are about.

These Girls got game

Their campaign couldn’t have suffered a worse start, playing trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand, the Hockeyroos keeper Toni Cronk watched helplessly as the kiwis managed to snare a goal in the first two minutes of play.

New Zealand went onto win the game by that single goal and it looked like any medal hopes had disappeared before the Olympic tournament was barely underway.

Since then the Australian’s have rarely put a stick wrong, a convincing 3-1 win over the higher ranked Germans put their medal hopes back on track, and was followed by a hard fought 1-0 win against the improving Americans.

The girls looked a little disappointed walking off after their next game only beating the lowly ranked South African team 1-0, despite dominating possession and having more shots at goal.  An early goal by Jade Close was enough although there were some late scares in the camp over the last few minutes of the game.

The Hockeyroos now enter their final match with their Olympic destiny in their own hands, a win against pool favourites and a semi final awaits but a loss will see their hard work go unrewarded for yet another Olympic campaign.  One thing in the team’s advantage is that the game is scheduled as the final pool match, so the Hockeyroos will know exactly what is required to reach the medal round.

For those of you who haven’t caught the girls in action as yet, here is three to watch in what will be an enthralling contest.

Toni CRONK (1) – Australia’s goalkeeper, and the Hockeyroos player of the tournament so far.  She will have her work cut out tonight against the skilful Argentines, but will be up to the task.  Might have been caught off guard in the first match, but since then hasn’t put a foot wrong.

Anna FLANAGAN (9) – Australia’s leading scorer in the tournament with 2 goals always looks dangerous going forward.  Flanagan uses her pace to her advantage, but is also solid in defence.  Keep an eye out for Anna in front of goal, particularly if we find ourselves down in the early stages of the game.

Emily SMITH (26) – A little disappointing so far in London, but will be wanting to shine in Australia’s final pool game.  So often the Hockeyroos best avenue to start an attack Smith relies on her close stick work.  At times a fiery customer and definitely someone the Argentines must look out for.

The Australians must start well, and control the match from the midfield.  At times we have looked slower that our opponents and Argentina won’t be any different.  It’s won’t be easy for the girls, but nothing is at the Olympics.

A win will see the medal campaign continue, but a loss may even see the girls finish as low as fourth.  Expect a cut throat atmosphere with the Hockeyroos leaving nothing on the pitch.

Set your alarm clocks tomorrow morning at the action kicks off at 6:05am (AEST) and support an Australian team with such a rich Olympic tradition.  The game will be shown on Foxtel channel London 2.

Have we failed our athletes, or have they failed us?

 

Every four years the Olympics roll around and as Australians it’s our birth rite to win gold and show the world how good we are, True?

Of course it is, we play our part by grabbing the remote, filling the fridge full of branded products riding on the coat tails of our athletes, and cheering on the couch, as long as we win. That’s how it’s suppose to work. It’s just that someone forgot to tell our Aussie athletes this time around.

It’s bad enough we can recognise them with their yellow swimming caps, but we have to spoils of the pool with other nations such as Lithuania, South Africa & Hungary.

Yes we are a sports obsessed nations, I’m not complaining. Let’s see in winter we have a thriving Australian rules competition in the southern states, and up north we play Rugby (league & union). In summer you can find yourself caught up in the cricket, mainly disguised in the form of the Twenty20 variety. Can someone remind me again where these sports appear in the schedule? Oh that’s right they don’t.

We expect so much from our athletes, but we give them little or no support. When was the last time you watched a sport that has Olympic participation at a state or local level? I’ll put my hand up and say rarely, I went along the cycling World championships in Melbourne last year, but probably wouldn’t think twice to support the sport as a spectator at a local level. I don’t believe I am alone in this way of thinking, plenty of us support our local football teams during the winter months, enjoy a beer over summer watching some cricket but only give the pommel horse, starting blocks and regattas attention every so often.

It’s also easy to forget that population wise we are a very small nation in comparison to the rest of the world. Last count we were sitting around 22 million people, our self proclaimed measuring stick United Kingdom has three times that amount. So what about our talented youngsters out there? Any 16 year old male with athletic ability in Australia seem s to get swallowed up by the powerful AFL. The promise of a sporting career with solid income attached makes the decision very attractive, but then when you think there are over 600 positions available nationwide in comparison to very few places on an Olympic team the option becomes more far more feasible.

Forget the fact you want to represent your country for very little financial reward, Andrew Demitriou and his merry men will throw money at you to play a sport that has no representative opportunities. If you are an avid reader of Melbourne’s Herald-Sun newspaper you would think this was the only sport being played in the world such is the support other sports receive in our nations ‘sporting capital’.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of all the football codes, but over the last few games other nations have caught up to us in the use of technology and sports science, and taken a keen interest in those disciplines that are associated at the Olympic level. After the first week of competition our Australian men have picked up one silver, and a bronze medal and I’m afraid the outlook doesn’t get much brighter.

We need to decide as a nation to either support those sporting organisations competing at the Olympic level, or severely lower our expectations. The rest of the World has not only caught up, but it seems that have left us standing on the blocks.

The Twelve year itch

According to folklore relationships tend to struggle after seven years, but what about host nations at the Olympic Games?

Millions of dollars are poured into sports programs in the build up to hosting the games, athletes are generously funded, state of the art sporting facilities are built and Countries start taking interest in sports they previously have never heard of.

But what happens after the 16 day party, when the world spotlight dims on those ‘former hosts of the games’.  Host Countries tend to dominate medal counts, athlete numbers are bolstered, crowd support is at a premium, and the home team tend to perform out of their skin.

Four years later the funding is still flowing, interest in the various Olympic sports is still high, and those heroes from the previous games are still performing at the peak of their powers.  Eight years later most of those who competed on home soil are mostly retired, those still competing have lost some of their sparkle, and the interest from parties funding athletes dreams has largely dried up.

So where does that bring us? 12 years ago Sydney hosted ‘The Friendly games’, Australia was beamed into lounge rooms around the World, and Freeman, Thorpe, Hackett and O’Neil were household names.

12 years on and it’s fair to say we are struggling, as a nation we maybe expect too much from our athletes at times, but the Australian public have acclimatised to us punching above our weight and matching it with the super powers of the world.

Many of our Sydney heroes have now retired, government funding has been slashed, and youngsters who grew up watching a home Olympics have moved onto different sports.  Those athletes who dominated are now in the twilight of their careers, and making the team is as bigger challenge as winning a shiny medal on home soil.

Don’t believe me about the 12 year itch, look at the numbers (Starting from 1988, due to US/USSR boycotts in 1980 & 1984.)

South Korea

  Gold Silver Bronze
Hosts 12 10 11
12 years on 8 10 10
Difference -4 0 -1

 

Spain

  Gold Silver Bronze
Hosts 13 7 2
12 years on 3 11 5
Difference -10 +4 +3

 

United States

  Gold Silver Bronze
Hosts 44 32 25
12 years on 36 38 36
Difference -8 +6 +9

 

You can see from these tables that although the minor medals increase, the quality of performance drops off significantly.  This doesn’t read well for the Australian team, and watching the first three days of action proves my theory.  Hopefully I’m wrong, but it seems the British will dominate proceedings.  Let’s just hope the 12 year itch is still around in 2024.

Top10Tuesday – Melbourne Sporting Events

With Melbourne hosting yet another International sporting event, the Formula One season opener @thehardsword looks at the cities top 10 sporting attractions.

1.       AFL Grand Final

Possibly the biggest day on the Australian sporting calendar.  The unique Australian rules plays out its grand finale in front of a packed MCG with a capacity of 100,000.  Unfortunately just under half the crowd are real fans, with the bulk of the tickets going to the corporate dollar.  If you can’t get yourself a ticket to this event there will be plenty of pubs or BBQ’s to suffice for a great day.

2.       Essendon v Collingwood ANZAC day clash

Since Sav Rocca slotted a lazy nine goals during the drawn Anzac day game in 1995 the Collingwood/Essendon legend was born.  Two of Victoria’s biggest clubs playing on a day when so many have made the ultimate sacrifice.  At first I was opposed to the ground (especially when I see supporter gear at the dawn service) but now have come around to the idea because it has let a new generation learn about our Anzac day heroics, and the history of war in general.  A must for all football fans, not only to pay our troops, but it is one of few times fans pack out the MCG.

3.       Australian Open – Tennis

My favourite fortnight of Melbourne’s sporting calendar.  The world’s best tennis players arrive at the peak of our summer to entertain us with quality tennis for two weeks.  The city becomes a buzz of international visitors, and for those two weeks Melbourne is the sporting focus of the world.  Even for those who don’t follow the tennis that closely $30 will get you a ground pass, live music and if you’re lucky a couch in the beer garden.

4.       Melbourne Heart v Melbourne Victory (Melbourne Derby)

For most of the year Football/Soccer plays second fiddle to a majority of sports in Australia.  For at least three times during the season all media outlets are focussed of the game that separates the city into Blue & Red.  Those games at AAMI Park are as close as most will get to a big league European atmosphere.  If you even have the slightest interest in the game the Melbourne Derby will heighten your experience.

5.       Melbourne Cup

A race that stops a nation.  Ask some punters out there and they will tell you it’s just a midweek handicap; but most of the Australian population finds themselves betting on the race, and watching their hard earned prosper.  These days it’s not just about the race, but fashion, glamour and a great social day out.  Tickets are now all prepaid, assuring the Melbourne racing club get their piece of the cake.  My only advice is to get their early, and make sure you find a spot near a bar/TAB outlet.

6.       Boxing day Test

A strong tradition that has been around since 1950/51.  Thousands of families make the pilgrimage down Jolimont road to the Melbourne Cricket Ground.  I rate this as one of the more popular sporting/social events Melbourne plays host to, with patrons able to spread Christmas cheer to friends, while watching some absorbing battles in the middle.  Let’s just hope everyone has forgotten about the Ashes disaster that was a few years ago.

7.       F1 Grand Prix – Albert Park

Year after year Bernie ‘little man syndrome’ Ecclestone threatens the existence of Melbourne’s premier motor sport event, then we the tax payer place more money into his Monte Carlo bank account.  All jokes aside, alongside the tennis the event show cases the many things that are great about Melbourne.  Some of the world’s fastest cars cruise around some of Melbourne’s most picturesque locations in and amongst Albert Park to determine who wins the first F1 race of the year.  All sports fans must attend the event at least once in their lifetime to appreciate the sights and sounds, but from then on sit on the couch at home so you can actually follow the ‘made for TV’ sport that it is.

8.       Derby Day

For all serious horse racing fans, Derby day in the best day of racing for the year.  For the less serious punter it signals the start of the free for all that is Four days of social activity of the Flemington week.  For owners/trainers it is the final chance most have to establish their place in Australia’s biggest race, the Melbourne Cup.  Horses such as Phar Lap, Tulloch, Rising Fast & Let’s Elope have all saluted the judge during Flemington’s best race day.

9.       Bell’s Beach Surf Classic

Strictly speaking, not in Melbourne, but held on Victoria’s most iconic beach.  Thousands of beach goers make the trek down the Surfcoast highway to see the world’s best compete for one of the sport’s most iconic trophies.  Traditionally held over the Easter weekend the event has been won by World champions Kelly Slater, Stephanie Gilmore, & Mark Occhilupo.

10.   Moomba Masters – Water Skiing

Growing up as a kid, I remember this to be one of the most iconic sporting events Melbourne hosts annually.  Held on the Yarra River, the city provides an iconic backdrop to the World’s best water skiers.

There were plenty of events I didn’t take into consideration because they are not held annually.  Bledisloe cups, State of Origin clashes, and various World championships could not be taken into account.

Did I miss any of your favourite Melbourne events; Let me know on twitter @thehardsword or on facebook on thehardsword page

http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/TheHardsWord/315871071791395