This is why I watch

Sport is a beautifully horrible thing. For every winner there is a loser, for every elation there is heartache, for every missed opportunity there is a reward. They might be years apart, but things tend to level out on the playing field.

 If it wasn’t for the horrible losses, I’m not sure that I’d be as invested in sport as I am. Thankfully my selection of sporting teams has always been there to remind me there is more failure than success. As a nation we’re seen as a sporting prowess, which is awful kind according to the people who haven’t walked a mile in our shoes.

An honourable mention to Tony Vidmar who played a huge part in what would be the 6th entry on this list.

An honourable mention to Tony Vidmar who played a huge part in what would be the 6th entry on this list.

According to my research, I’ve spent 10,349 days living and breathing. Sport has been there from the start and one constant has been that heartbreak is just around the corner.  It’s with a heavy heart I write this list, as this morning the Boomers were unfortunate enough to not only add another chapter, but to give the top spot a nudge. This of course, has pushed me towards one question – What are the five biggest heartbreakers I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing thanks to a national sporting team?

1.Australia V Iran (Football), 22nd November 1997 – I hope this remains the worst thing I ever experience from a team in green and gold. A two-goal lead, 20 minutes left and a first World Cup in 24 years. Nothing could possibly go wrong, to the point where my dad told me I could safely go to bed. I woke up the next morning euphoric, we were off to the World Cup – the promised land. I’d heard the stories of heartache that my dad had experienced for 24 years and I was fortunate enough to have avoided them. Dad looked like he’d seen a ghost when he got up, and I simply couldn’t believe it. Eight years more heartache was waiting for me. I hate you Peter Hore .

2.Australia V Spain (Basketball), 22nd August 2016- If someone offered me one bad game from the Boomers and a top four finish two weeks ago, I’d have bitten their arm off. This is unquestionably the best Boomers outfit of my life. Halfway through the second quarter we were gone, but we found something. Baynes and Mills helped us put together a run and we had the lead multiple times in the fourth quarter. The one missing thing was back-to-back buckets when we had the lead. We had no trouble getting stops but we just couldn’t convert. Foul or no foul with five seconds left, watching the ball squirt into the backcourt as time evaporated at a rate of knots left me feeling sick to my stomach.

3. Australia V England (Rugby Union), 22nd November 2003 – I hope somebody decides Australia never again play sport on November the 22nd. If Elton Flatley’s conversion attempt of Lote Tuqiri’s try in the 4th minute comes off the inside of the post, we win. The rest of the game doesn’t change because the ball is kicked off in the same manner and we win 19-17 instead of losing 20-17, thanks to none other than Jonny Wilkinson, who kicked a drop goal in dying stages of extra time. The confidence from the squad and the media had made me believe for the entire week leading into the game that it was a forgone conclusion. I have absolutely no shame in admitting that a few tears escaped as that perfectly executed drop goal sailed right over the black dot.

4. Australia V Italy (Football), 26th June 2006 – The scene of the Tim Cahill show against Japan, a win against Italy would have afforded us the opportunity to play Ukraine, followed by Germany, followed by France. Call me a dreamer, but I thought we could go all the way. With a man advantage, we couldn’t penetrate the Italian back four for all the steins in Munich. A Fabio Grosso dive combined with a poorly timed Lucas Neill lunge and Totti used the last kick of the game to ruin something I thought I’d been through hell to see (see the clubhouse leader on this list and honourable mention Uruguay in November 2001 for further information). There is still nothing better than seeing Italy knocked out of a major tournament.

5. Australia V South Africa (Cricket), 5th & 6th of January 1994 – Chasing 117 at the Sydney Cricket Ground should be an easy task for the likes of Waugh (M), Boon, Border, Taylor and Slater. Especially when facing a bowling attack including a (very young) Allan Donald, De Villiers and Symcox. So how do you go from 2-51 to all out for 111? Losing 5-22 doesn’t help, and nor does having Craig McDermott top scoring with 29*.  At least that collapse was a blip on the radar as we went on to be one of the most successful sides of the next decade.

 

 

I did not enjoying finding or watching any of these videos. Viewer discretion is advised.

I’d love to say that this has been a fun list to write, yet all it has done has made me question why I love sport so much, while clearly reiterating that the reason for the emotional investment is because there is no shortage of positives for each of these experiences. Long live sport and I hope this list never changes.

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Requiem for a Croc

A week and a half ago it was announced that the Townsville Crocodiles would be folding immediately, ending their association with the National Basketball League, which begun in 1993.

The Crocs are the second franchise that Townsville have lost in the last five years. While the short-lived North Queensland Fury were unable to make a dent in the market, the Crocs were a constant through summer, with a Grand Final loss in 2001 the highest honour the club would ever achieve.Heritage-Round-Crocs

It’s hard to see a team you support struggle for success, and it’s worse to see them fold. For me, the Crocs were more than I team I supported, they were my first real sports media experience, with the time I spent with the club during the 2008-2009 season still ranking as one of my favourite experiences.

The Crocs gave me a chance to hone my craft, a seat in the press box and journalistic freedom to write whenever I could find the time to do so. Gameday had its rituals, I was superstitious to the point I might as well have been a member of the starting five. Bus in to the city three hours before tip-off, burger and coke at The Brewery, walk to The Swamp, stopping just before the entrance to stare back across the water and reflect on how lucky I was. A coke and a water in the press box, alternating between the two, frantically scribble notes and pick the brains of the more experienced journos I was around, press conference, walk back into the city, beer at The Brewery, bus home, write copy, job done. It was my favourite day of the week, a day that even now, nearly eight years later, still makes me feel like I am the luckiest person alive.

Townsville will miss the Crocs, they might not realise it yet. There is very little elite sport for Townsville sports fans to attend at that time of year, so it wouldn’t shock me if this is a classic case of not knowing what you have until it’s gone. With the NBL in the shape it is, I doubt there’s going to be a team in Townsville any time soon, and even if there is, they can look like Crocs, play like Crocs and play out of The Swamp, but it isn’t going to be the same.

Since living in Melbourne, I always said I’ll go and see the Crocs when they come to town. I’d had things come up year after year but got their for their first clash against Melbourne United this year, with the benefit of hindsight I would have gone to the second as well, but I’d fallen in to the trap of “There’s always next year”.

The Swamp was a special place to watch a game. Writing this has made me feel like I felt on a November night in 2010, which was also my last night in Townsville.

Sadness isn’t strong enough a word. That night a chapter was closing, four years of my life in Townsville, doing things I love and making memories that will last forever drew to a close, it was fitting that the Crocs were there for me and finished it off with the W.

They may be gone, but my interest in the NBL will live on. I might try to support the Bullets, I never bought into the two clubs being bitter rivals and always wanted them to do well. Try as I might it might not be enough, I might sit down for a Bullets game only to discover that I’m always going to be a Croc, and that my fondness for the NBL will be as a neutral where I can pick and choose who I want to win.

Thanks for the memories, Crocs (and as the Suns on one glorious Wednesday night in November 2008 against the Sydney Spirit).

#WeBleedGreen

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.