Why the Boomers must beat New Zealand

The Boomers head into their Olympic qualification series against New Zealand this week full of confidence and international talent. Not only is a win important for players to realise their Olympic dreams but for the momentum of the sport in Australia.

To put it simply Australia are waving a ride of basketball success. Seven Australians currently call the NBA home IMG_1906with almost two dozen more plying their trade in the top competitions around Europe. Despite this, basketball has its fundamental flaws in Australia.

Blame the structure of the NBL, blame the decision makers, blame the decision to start a rebel winter league in 2 years time. Whatever you choose you won’t be alone.

The number of kids playing basketball in Australia is on the up. It’s a great place for kids to start their sporting lives (it’s where I started mine), it’s fun, fairly cheap (which is a big plus for parents) and most importantly there are strong pathways in place.

So why should the Boomers be so desperate for a spot in the 2016 Olympic Games? Besides the opportunity to call yourself an Olympian for the rest of your life (which should be motivated enough), the Boomers have the chance to be heroes.

I’m not talking your garden variety sporting hero for one achievement. Assuming they get to Rio (which realistically they have no reason not to when you look at the respective Australia and New Zealand rosters), the Boomers have the kind of depth that will see them threaten for a medal.

I briefly touched on the pathways offered by basketball as a sport and Australia have gone for the greater part of the last decade without the shining lights of many other nations.

Bogut was #1 in the draft, Exum was #5, Dellavedova is a kid from the country who’s playing alongside the greatest player of this generation and the Cam Bairstow’s of the world have shown that drive is just as important as the talent you’ve got.

There’s an idol in there for every young athlete. Without sounding old and grumpy, back in my day we were told to idolise the likes of Shane Warne and Wayne Carey. Two shining examples of what not to do in the spotlight. There isn’t a bad bloke amongst this crop of Boomers.

Success over the next week (and in Rio) might just be the push basketball needs to get back on the map in Australia.

Just like my dreams

Tonight marks the beginning of another Premier League season. The same stories will be played out on the screen, but this year is different.

I remember it like it was yesterday. I was sitting on the lounge room floor of our home in Biloela in Central Queensland, The Australian spread out in front of me. I happened across the Premier League table and asked my dadk7LNwrem (who was on the computer behind me) who I should support, and instead of being given suggestions I was told we supported West Ham United and that was the end of it.

In reality it was just the beginning.

1997 is a long time ago and the experiences West Ham have given me in the same period have shaped me into the person I am today.

This season is different because it’s the last season at Upton Park. Since that fateful night in 1997 finding my way to Upton Park has always been in the top two of my sports bucket list. The reality of it is now it will never happen – I accept that.

The move to the Olympic Stadium could do some wonderful things for the club, or it could backfire and ruin us and a lot of which way that goes depends on this season.

I was against the move from day one because I want to see Upton Park and due to extenuating circumstances it was never a reality. The Olympic Stadium will be a great experience and I know I’ll get there one day.

Stadium issues aside the build up to this season has left me feeling more optimistic than I care to remember. A new manager, an adventure into Europe and players we couldn’t have dreamed of buying five years ago, is this real life?

One thing is for certain – I feel entitled as a West Ham fan and my optimism this year is to thank.

When you think of a club like West Ham you don’t think of raging success. That’s why I feel entitled, because we’re on the move. Have your Liverpool, Man Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal and Man City*. I’m West Ham and like it or hate it we’re the best club in the league.

We’ve got all the things I listed above, we’re the only club to win the World Cup, last time I checked everybody bled claret and blue and we have the loudest fans in the league. Enjoy your trophies, I’ll take being beaten at Wrexham because I’m part of something bigger.

My dreams? A top six finish, a win in the Cup Final, opening the Olympic Stadium against Liverpool and not Yeovil Town

That’s the thing about my dreams…. They fade and die.

 

* – Two of my great mates have been Man City fans since the old Division Two days. I celebrate the success of Manchester City for those two only, and will continue to do so forever.

 

Five experimental rules I want in the AFL 2016 preseason

Preseason is the most interesting time of year in any sport. Some people take it seriously, others think it’s a joke. Most sports love taking the chance to obscure their own rules for entertainments sake.

With the rule twists the AFL have tried over the years (the Supergoal springs to mind) here’s five things I’d like to see the AFL try in the 2016 preseason

Hit the post? Play on – I’ve harped on about this for at least a decade. If the ball hits the post you shouldn’t be rewarded with a score / give away a free kick or a boundary throw in – you should just keep playing. If it goes throughAFL 2013 Rd 16 - West Coast v Fremantle for a behind or a goal the score stands, if it goes out for a stoppage, the stoppage occurs and if it rebounds into the field of play we play on. What’s so wrong with players being alert in every scenario?

Out of bounds? Opponent gets the ball – There aren’t many sports in the world where you can take the ball out of the field of play and not turn it over. All the out of bounds on the full rule does is punish inaccurate kicking. If you want to reduce the length of the game a simple way to do that is to keep the ball in play. Players aren’t going to want to take the ball out if they know they’re going to turn it over.

Shot clock – Not in the here’s 30 seconds after you mark sense. From the time the team come in to possession of the ball (regardless of their position on the field) they have two and a half minutes to take a shot. How often do fans complain about slowing the game to eat up the clock? The easiest way to stop that is to put a cap on the time each team has to do something with the ball.

To mark or not to mark? – If you can take a mark one-handed inside your forward fifty metre arc you’re given a free ten metre advance. What’s more important? possession or field placement? Fans love to question the decision making process of players at any opportunity they get. What will players do when they have the carrot of field possession intertwined with the risk of losing the ball?

Stop the repeat stoppage – If there are three repeat stoppages within a 60 second period  the team in possession of the ball at the last stoppage gives away a free kick. Fans are looking for incentives to rid the game of congestion and if teams are going to give away free kicks for causing stoppages they are going to want to dispose of the ball.

Note: Obviously some of these are never going to happen but it would could completely change the thought process during the game.

Note 2: A big shoutout to the suggestion that an interesting preseason rule would be the “”nobody gives Joel Selwood a free kick”rule.

Four points – Collingwood Magpies

The Seagulls and Magpies were caught in trench warfare for the first three quarters at Burbank Oval on Sunday afternoon. A seven goal final term turned a four point three quarter time lead into a 32 point victory, ensuring they remain top of the Victorian Football League ladder for another week.

1. I see Red, I see Red, I see Red – Sunday was in no uncertain terms the Anthony Anastasio show and what a pleasure it was to watch. The pocket rocket was instrumental in the victory, with five goals, 22 disposals, a tackle, a few assists (including giving away an opportunity to kick what would have been his sixth goal) and the ability to get under the skin of his opponent. The stats are what they are – phenomenal.  The niggle is what impressed me the IMG_1859most. He was able to niggle without doing anything which is going to see him which would put him in danger of missing a game and like most little blokes, his pest status resonated with multiple Magpie players. At one stage in the third quarter he was jammed between two Collingwood players (after kicking a goal), both of whom were trying to gain a reaction, but in typical Red fashion he darted away leaving the Magpies more frustrated.  Having a player like Anastasio who can throw the opponents off task is going to be vital in the lead in to the finals and what looks like it could be a minor premiership deciding clash against Box Hill in the last round of the home and away season.

2. Countering the Magpie strength – Within the first five minutes of the game the Magpies had asserted their dominance in the defensive 50. (At least) Six uncontested marks for the Magpies in first quarter was vital in restricting the Seagulls to a pair of behinds in the first time. This caused the Seagulls to change from the more direct route they had taken to shorter passes and a greater weight of handballs. As they scoreboard showed, the move paid off, with the Seagulls clawing to within two points at the main change.

3. Two hands on the ball – Ball security is always important. In the conditions that were offered on Sunday (sun, overcast, a light breeze, blowing a gale and a touch of rain in the final term) it was a factor that changed the momentum on several occasions. Where the home side, with their knowledge of the conditions focused on locking the ball in and going to the men in space, the visitors played fast and loose, at their peril., most notably the turnover goal from their half forward line in the third quarter.

4. Keeping calm under pressure – Throughout the first three quarters the Magpies held a two goal or more lead on two occasions. In a game where the two teams combined for 14 goals across the first three quarters, it was a lead that could have set the Magpies up for a much needed victory. The ability of the home side to stay cool in the face of game changing pressure was vital, as was their ability to release the pressure valve in the final term.

Minor flaws diminish FFA Cup coverage

The Fox Sports coverage of the FFA Cup is fantastic. Full camera main game coverage, goal updates from other grounds and great studio coverage but they’ve been caught offside with one simple decision.

Broadcasting A-League teams when you don’t need to.

I understand there are going to be days where only A-League teams are playing and for obvious reasons it’s Westfield_FFA_Cup_logounavoidable but when there is an all NPL clash, that’s what I want to see.

Why? Because the FFA Cup is about the experiences for NPL teams they aren’t going to have every week. Balmain won’t get to play the Victory every week, but the Victory are going to be on TV every week. It’s a tough break for Balmain, but South Hobart and Sydney United or Gungahlin United and Sydney United should have been the broadcast game last night.

As a football fan I want to see the little guys getting the exposure. Show me the 2015 South Springvale over the reigning A-League champs – purely because there is a greater entertainment value in games where you have two unknowns than one unknown and one known (Balmain lost 6-0, South Hobart and Sydney United went to penalties and Sydney Olympic needed an 82nd minute winner to see of Gungahlin).

It’s great to see the magazine style show “Field to Dreams”(awful movie ripoff alert) before the pre-game coverage, but do I really need a 15 minute infomercial on the history of an A-League club? No. There is no new information. When the opportunity presents the most important thing is to give consumers information they don’t know, not a story they’ve heard multiple times.

Tonight sees another night of action with Sorrento FC and Sydney FC the main broadcast game, the Northern Territory have their first foray into the Round of 32 when Darwin Olympic face Adelaide United, Rockdale City face Perth SC and the Croydon Kings take on the Queensland Lions to round out the action.

Needless to say – there are games I’d rather be watching.

Four Points – Port Melbourne

The Williamstown Seagulls exacted a small piece of revenge on Port Melbourne after Port scraped past the Seagulls by two points earlier in the season.

1. Beating the old enemy – There’s nothing better than beating your biggest rival. The ten goal margin puts the icing on the cake. The fact that the win (in conjunction with a Box Hill loss, cheers Werribee) puts the Seagulls back on the top of the ladder could be a huge turning point for the season.index

2. Timing is everything – With a ten goal margin of victory Seagulls fans could be forgiven for thinking it was an easy day at the office. Goals in response to Port Melbourne goals, as well as goals either side of the siren were vital in establishing the comfortable scoreline.

3. Winning at North Port – North Port is to the VFL what the MCG is to the AFL. If you can’t when there you aren’t going to win premierships. Walking back into the ground on Saturday I got a chill from the memory of last September. In saying that I think that’s a game confined to the memory banks of the players involved. The comfort shown on Saturday can only mean positive steps come September.

4. Stand and Deliver – If there’s one thing I’d like to see at Burbank Oval it’s having the song played after a win. In saying that the PA system isn’t the greatest, so I can understand the logistics behind it. It was great to hear the song played at North Port (albeit quietly) after the huge win.

The nostalgia of Pedro

It’s been a busy week for Pedro Martinez. Between Cooperstown and having his number retired at Fenway Park he’s had little time to reflect. That same period has served as a great source of reflection for Red Sox fans.

My memories of Pedro aren’t what I wish they were. International broadcasts weren’t great at the beginning of the last decade, so it was a lot of scores in newspapers (not box scores, just the team (home was always in capital letters)CK4Oo8yUsAAg_Rf and how many runs each team scored). For that reason when I think of Pedro I don’t have as long a list as many who saw his every start.

Five K’s in the 1999 ASG, 23-4, Six straight seasons with an ERA under three. The numbers don’t lie – he’s likely to be the best pitcher we ever see in Boston.

Watching the ceremony from Fenway before the Wade Miley breakdown got me thinking about why Red Sox fans are so nostalgic for Pedro.

The most obvious thing is the numbers he’s putting up. At a time when the pitching stock is smaller than it has ever been the thought of reliable pitching is heavenly. I don’t think that’s what’s got most fans lusting after the days of yesteryear however.

When you look at Pedro around the guys he won the title with in 2004 it’s clear that they have something the current crop doesn’t. The bond between Pedro, Tek, Wake, Schill, Nixon and Ortiz that was on display eleven years after the historic victory is something to behold.

That’s what the club is about – Unwavering support.

That same support is currently lacking, not from a fan perspective but from those of the players. When you watch them every night you don’t get the sense they’d dive into a fire to save each other like the boys of 2004.

That’s why this weekend has been such an emotional one for Red Sox fans. The longing for a return to the clubhouse where they’re all in it together.

We’ll never see anyone wearing 45 at Fenway again. We may never see anyone with the talent of 45 pitching at Fenway again. Let’s just hope we see someone with his spirit – and soon.

Cheers Pedro!

Adam Goodes is right

Adam Goodes is a victim of racism. It really is that simple.

People might boo him for other reasons but there are people who are booing him because he’s Aboriginal. You know what that is? Flat out racism. There’s no two ways about it.

I’ve seen it first hand. At the North Melbourne V Sydney clash in the middle of June, I was observing what was going adam_goodes_racially_abused_aboriginal_flag388x365_19nlfr5-19nlfr9on around me at half time when the two men in front of me started discussing Goodes. Before long they began talking about booing him (which they were doing) when one said to the other one “I boo him because he takes being Aboriginal too far”, with the second man wasn’t shy in agreement.

“He takes being Aboriginal too far”.

Let that sink in. Grown men threatened because somebody is proud of who they are.

Australia is a racist country, let’s not pretend that we aren’t. Immigrants have always caused “problems” and it wasn’t until the referendum of 1967 that we recognised Aboriginal people as citizens of this country. If those two things aren’t racist then I have no idea what is.

How does he take it too far? By talking about issues faces his community every day? By questioning why the support isn’t there? By telling us that children from Aboriginal backgrounds are at higher risk of negative life outcomes? Those things are all true.

Is it the fact he referred to Australia Day as “Invasion Day”? Again, if you ask an Aboriginal person (if you can be bothered speaking with one) you’ll find that he isn’t alone in giving it that moniker, because for many Aboriginals that’s what it is – white people celebrating their invasion of Australia.

“Oh but not all Aboriginal / other race players are booed”. Obviously, but that doesn’t mean Goodes is alone. Lin Jong and Majak Daw have both been racially vilified in the past, yet society seems to understand that isn’t okay, but heaven forbid we give the same treatment to an outspoken Aboriginal activist.

People are afraid of what they don’t understand. Those who are carrying out the racist acts are afraid of Adam Goodes because they don’t understand how somebody who they perceive as being a lesser being could be allowed such airtime.

Airtime that we’re happy to give to the likes of Alan Jones who reinforced the misguided perception he does nothing but play the victim card. Or the talk back caller I heard who decided to tell the world they believe that Goodes “abuses his position of power”.  Abuse? No, it’s called making use of a platform you’ve been given and doing it for the greater good.

If you think Goodes does it because he’s trying to advance his own career then you have another thing coming. Goodes fights the fight in spite of the people who can’t handle what he does.

If you’re going to boo Goodes in future I hope you’re prepared to be tarred with the same brush.

 

 

 

 

 

Ranking the AFL theme songs

The AFL theme song is tribalism at it’s finest in Australia. Debate rages between supporter groups as to who has the best song. The solution? Trying to rank them without factoring in how I feel about the team.

1. Richmond Tigers – The clearest winner the Tigers have had since 1980. There’s something special about hearing “Yellow and Black” bellowed out by the Richmond faithful that gives it the top spot.

 

2. North Melbourne Kangaroos – A slight State Of Origin bias here, but having this double as the Big V theme song helps the cause. There’s a jaunty side to “Join in the chorus” that I just can’t help but sing along to.

 

 

3. Brisbane Lions – Taking their tune from the old Fitzroy song (and one of the best national anthems around), the pride of Brisbane town is hard to ignore.

 

 

4. Western Bulldogs – Until a few years ago I didn’t think the Doggies song had a lot going for it. Since moving to within 2 kilometres of Whitten Oval I’ve been sucked into the role the club plays in the mood of the community. First class.

 

 

5. Port Adelaide Power – This is the song that most AFL fans love even though they want to hate it. It’s. So. Damn. Catchy.

 

 

6. Melbourne Demons – The Dees have one of the lesser heard songs over the last decade, so it’s not overly offensive to hear given a lack of chronic overplaying.  Lyrically it strikes what sport is about – the way our heart beats.

 

 

7. Sydney Swans – The old bloke the Swans have in the middle of the circle after a win makes the Swans song so special. Talk about passion. Would have ranked higher if they could get a South Melbourne reference in there.

 

8. Carlton Blues – Solid old-fashioned music. Enough said.

 

 

9. St. Kilda Saints – St. Kilda – A club and a song tainted with frustration and aspirations for their day in the sun.

 

 

10. Geelong Cats – Clever lyrics but more importantly the excellent use of the trumpet gives the Cats an advantage over other clubs.

 

 

11. Essendon Bombers –  Not the best lyrically (I love a pun but there’s only so many times you can fly up) but it’s clear and concise.

 

 

12. Collingwood Magpies – “Side by side” works. Opposition fans can mock it at their peril because it really does define the club. Not sure about Premierships being a cakewalk though….

 

 

13. Adelaide Crows – Slightly outdated with “The pride of South Australia”now that the state has a second team in the competition. Nothing wrong with this song, it just doesn’t have the widespread appeal it once did.

 

 

14. Hawthorn Hawks – Get used to hearing this in September for the majority of this decade. Questionable use of being a happy team (which they are) and more points would be awarded if the club changed their name to the Hawthorn Fighting Hawks… Because that’s just epic.

 

 

15. West Coast Eagles – The shouting at the start doesn’t work. Neither does flying high with such great consistency.

 

 

16. Fremantle Dockers – Heave no. Trying to be new and hip just hasn’t worked.

 

 

17. Gold Coast Suns – You’ve got to feel for the Suns. If it wasn’t for the absurd trumpeting at the start of the song (which they also use after they kick a goal) they’d be further up the ladder.

 

 

18. Greater Western Sydney Giants – The music in the GWS song makes you feel like a 1930’s detective (which is great) but the lyrics are flat out awful.

 

 

Honourable mention – The original Brisbane Bears song. So unique, so 80’s. Cheers Bears.

 

Four points – Frankston Dolphins

The Williamstown Seagulls won their third straight game to return to the top of the Victorian Football League ladder. A 107-point victory over the winless Frankston Dolphins served as a great opportunity for the side to flex their muscle.

1. Dominance amid pressure – It’s tough to imagine a team that racks up 107-point win being dominated but that’s exactly what happened on Saturday. Frankston dominated the second half of the second quarter, and time on IMG_1732in both the third and fourth quarters. Despite their dominance the Dolphins were only able to put five goals on the Seagulls in that period.

What the Seagulls did while under pressure was absorb the Frankston pressure by not allowing them to have a free man. Not only did this limit the Frankston scoring but it also enabled the Seagulls to reduce the amount of time the Dolphins dominated through creating turnovers.

2. Goals, Goals, Goals – 21 goals and seven multiple goalkickers. Conway and Marcon (4), Casley, Anistasio, Masters, Gallucci and Monk (2) showed why the rest of the VFL should be wary of facing the high-flying Seagulls.

Gibbons, Dunell, Meese and Jolley all went goalless. When factoring in the ability they can have in front of goal, one thing is for sure – The Seagulls prolific scoring is going to continue for the remainder of 2015.

3. Exploiting the opposition – With no disrespect to the opponent, the gap between the two sides on Saturday was likely to be the biggest you’ll see in a VFL clash this year. The gulf in ability between the two sides showed from the first bounce, allowing the Seagulls to set the tone for the afternoon in the early stages of the clash.

The Seagulls were faster, more skillful and showed greater composure when pressure was applied. At the end of the day that was the difference between the two teams.

4. Eyes on the scoreboard – As well as hoping for a percentage boosting win (which occurred), there was one eye on the scoreboard at Box Hill. The Hawks (who have a game in hand) were locked in a tight contest with North Ballarat, and a win to the Roosters would shake up the finals picture. Box Hill prevailed with a goal after the siren, but have shown in the process they are not invincible.

With the bye this weekend all eyes will be on the Coburg and Box Hill clash on Saturday afternoon – A win for Box Hill and the minor premiership could come down to the clash between the two sides on the last weekend of the season, while a loss gives the advantage to the Seagulls as they enter the home stretch.