Gee, pretty hard for our sports stars to get away with anything these days, isn’t it?
Hawthorne captain Sam Mitchell, a little “jab in the arm” gesture to an Essendon opponent, and it’s front and back page news in Melbourne for what – three days?
Then Nick Kyrgios, muttering about “scum” at Wimbledon, and it’s picked up by a court side microphone at Wimbledon. Crikey, he was just talking to himself. There’s nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.
I was reminded exactly how much things had changed this week when I attended a small lunch with a few State of Origin types, courtesy of XXXX.
Technically I’m not meant to be telling you this because the “cone of silence” was in play. But it’s all good – I’ve cleared it with the relevant authorities. Besides, anyone who remembers Maxwell Smart, would remember the cone of silence didn’t really work that well.
Trevor Gillmeister – “the Axe” – was holding court, telling the group about the time he was running off the field at half time at some hillbilly suburban ground in Sydney. A “fan” with more toes than teeth pelted him with a beer can. Not an aluminium can but one of those heavy steel jobs. Got him right in the scone and opened him up. Gilly caught sight of the culprit out of the corner of his eye. He back-pedalled out of the tunnel, and veered up to his left. “Oi you!” The bloke looked up, just in time to see Gilly’s right first a centimetre from his face. GA-VOOMPA. Knocked him out cold, removing his last three teeth in the process. I’m guessing that was the last time that bloke threw a beer can at a football match.
Love listening to Gilly. Genuine old school. As tough as old boots. In his playing days, he only used to make four or five tackles a game. Not because he was lazy – just because when he was defending on the left side, the opposition would go to the right. And vice versa. I suppose he was called “the Axe” for a reason.
One of the small gathering asked Gilly about his current role in the Queensland Origin team.
“Actually – that’s a good question,” Cooper Cronk chipped in. “What do you do, Gilly?”
“Anything I have to,” was the Axe’s response.
How’s that for a great answer? Gilly in one sense does nothing. In another sense, he does everything. He’s just one of those blokes you have around. Alf – Allan Langer – he’s another one. They’re the “cultural custodians” of the team – the “been there, done that, knows what works” sort of guys. Coach Mal Meninga relies on them to keep an eye on things, chip in where they can. Do a bit of this, a bit of that. Smart bloke Mal. Smart enough to know what he doesn’t know.
One thing the big fella knows for sure – the culture of any team is important. Vitally important. You can have all the talent in the world but if the “vibe” is not right, you’re going nowhere fast.
Gilly, Alf, Steve “Boxhead” Walters, his brother Kevvie – they create the vibe. The vibe that is part and parcel of Queensland State of Origin folklore.
New South Wales have tried to replicate the model, by factoring in their “old guard” but they’ve never really got it right. I don’t know whether that says more about “us” or “them” – but let’s hope it remains a mystery for a few years yet.
If by chance the Blues do win the series next week, it’s probably worth watching the reaction of the players.
Another of the Queensland players pointed it out – the inherent difference between the two teams. I’d never really noticed it before, but I reckon he’s onto something.
Love to be able to tell you what he said – but that one stays under the cone of silence.
Third Half Athlete of the Month: Let’s hear it for the girls, each and every one of the 24 who featured in some way in that epic National Netball final between the Firebirds and the Swifts. How good was it? What a finish. The Firebirds proved you don’t have to be in front too many times in the match – just the 10 seconds at the end will do. Great spectacle, great spirit, great “sportswomanship”. And at the risk of sounding 80, how good was it to see a whole bunch of elite athletes not covered in Tatts? (#oldandgrumpy #notlikeinmyday). The beauty about Netball is it’s not a male sport played by women. It’s a women’s spot, with an integrity all of its own. It’s the sleeping giant of Australian sport.
Honorable mention: Billy Slater – you may have seen this on Facebook – it’s been shared by about a gabillion people – 100,000 plus likes. A retired footy player pointed it out to me, almost demanded I include it, so proud was he of Slater and his former code. I won’t go into the details (scroll down to June 12) – but a simple interaction with Joel, a brave young fan with cystic fibrosis. With his response, Billy rallied an entire community. A lot of substance to the Queensland fullback. Never heard a bad word about him (except from one of his Origin teammates, who was whinging about how much Slater talks on the field. “He’s a machine – just does not shut up,” he said. “I don’ even understand how he’s got the energy to talk. I’m flat out breathing.”) Other than that … good bloke, Billy Slater.
Golden Lance for Brand Erosion: If you took any notice of the pious ramblings of some of our media experts, Karmichael Hunt would be a lay down mazaire. How dare he tell the truth and admit what he’s done! Revealing the names of the other participants while under oath – how un-Awstraylian is that? Ya don’t dob in ya mates! He’s be better off perjuring himself. How self-centred is this bloke?
Do these people have any ideas of the powers of the Crime and Corruption Commission? Do they know how the system works? Star chambers and the like? I know next to nothing, but I’m guessing if Hunt was charged, he would have been compelled to talk. And that’s enough to tell me that they’d have him over a barrel. Additionally, there’s no way he’d know what they know, so he’d need to be pretty careful lying.
I’m not for a second defending Karmichael’s involvement in the sleazy Gold Coast drug scene – dumb stuff in the extreme for a bloke in his position, with all his privileges. But the horrid oversimplification of his actions since the charges were laid (and dealt with) has been disturbing. Hunt chose to put his hand up and get on with his life. That others have chosen to defend their actions and draw the matter out is their choice. OK – that’s that one out of the road – happy for you to disagree! Elsewhere, others are still agitating for the public beheading of Daly Cherry Evans – on account of his protracted “Yes – no – wait – maybe – sorry – I’m not sorry – I’m taking the money” contract debacle. Granted – not a good look for anyone involved, but again we carve up a bloke for being honest. “The money is too good to refuse, I’ve decided to stay where I am”. What do we want him to say? “I’ve decided the surf is better at Manly.” I say good luck to him, if that’s what he wants to do. Haven’t we got a lot of opinions about other people’s business in this day and age.
Rather circuitously we get to the Golden Lance, which we’ll award to the Parramatta Eels, or more specifically, some of the wood ducks involved in the shambolic administration of what was once a great club. Private agendas, self interest, egos, sheer ineptitude – they’ve got it all. The Eels board makes the Federal Labor Party look tightly knit. It’s a circus. The great irony? The one thing that bonds these people is their passion for the Eels. They want to see the club do well. Human beings are complicated, aren’t they?
On notice: Nick Kyrgios. We get that you’re only 20 and still have a lot to learn. We get that you’re carrying the burden of expectation, the pressure that comes with being “the next big thing”. But threatening to stop playing? On account of a line call against you. Really? Nick, we really want to like you. And admire you. Honestly we do. You’re a freakish talent. So how about you shut up and play.
Thought of the month: Who’s responsible for the vibe in your business? And what sort of vibe are they creating?