And so now we know. That whole Channel Nine lineup for the summer of cricket barely outlasted Richie Benaud by a couple of years.
The hirings of the last fortnight or so have confirmed that very few of the Nine crew will survive to make it over to the new broadcasters, Channel Seven and Foxtel, and the new "faces" of cricket will be led by Ricky Ponting on Channel Seven and the redoubtable Adam Gilchrist on Fox.
So be it. It was, no doubt, time for a change and cricket will likely benefit from it, just as Channel Nine – for whom I work on Sunday mornings – will benefit from not losing a reported million dollars a day for every day of a Test match broadcast.
Before they all retreat to their corners, however, they surely need to have one last long lunch, where, one more time for the road, they gather, "dressed in the cream, the bone, the white, the off-white, the ivory and the beige jackets," and talk of the good old days. Two spare seats can be left for Richie and Tony Greig, an extra spot made for Billy Birmingham to float their voices over the table, toasts made to the dearly departed, including Kerry Packer, who got them all started, and so off into the night, and good night.
I put the admittedly fairly obvious idea to Mark Taylor last Sunday, and he liked it!
Knocked heads prevail
There is bad news and there is good news.
The bad news is that despite the huge leaps forward made by the NRL in getting their concussion protocols in order, we still have situations like the one concerning the hit on the 18 year-old Broncos sensation Payne Haas last Thursday night. Taking an inadvertent shoulder by Bulldog David Klemmer, Haas went down like a sack of spuds and was clearly very badly concussed. But, no worries, coach Wayne Bennett has picked him to be on the roster tonight against Manly!
The good news? The culture of rugby league is changing with league greats and commentators calling the Broncos out for picking him again so soon.
"Im astonished by that," Mark Geyer said on MMM. "He didn't cop a glancing blow, he copped a shoulder of a 120kg monster in Klemmer … it was all legitimate, but he didnt just walk off the field, he fell. The sudden knock to the head made him go limp straight away. Im astounded an 18-year-old [is allowed to play] … in a day and age of win at all costs, that is just so yesterday its not funny. Our knowledge of head knocks over the last decade has been profound. We now know how bad brain injuries are to rugby league players. Your brain is still growing at 18. This kid is not 19 until December, like come on, hes played two NRL games, hes not that desperate to play this weekend against Manly. The NRL should intervene. Watching the vision again this morning I cant believe he is playing. I really cant."
Get it? This is a hard man of yesterday, not saying "It was better in my day, 'cos we were tough." This is a hard man who took far more than his fair share of knocks, saying "The current generation needs to be looked after. STOP this!"
Bravo, Mark Geyer.
What's in a name?
This week were talking eponymous athletes manqué, those sportspeople whose name just misses out on describing what they do or who they play for. Last week, see, AFL player Matt Eagles made his debut not for the West Coast Eagles, but for the Brisbane Lions. Rather than missing it by "that much", as the far from eponymous Maxwell Smart would say, Eagles missed it by the width of a continent. Similarly, Paul Roos played for the Lions and Swans, but never got close to playing for North Melbourne, just as Dane Swan played for the Magpies not Sydney and Luke Power for the Lions and Giants, and never Port Adelaide. When it comes to actually eponymous athletes the only one that pops up on first glance is Stephen Ireland who played football for Ireland. Who am I missing?
Meanwhile, still on names, can I get any argument, anywhere, that the AFL footballer Nic Natanui has the most felicitous name in the history of Australian sport, with the only person able to argue the toss being the leaguie Petero Civoniceva? On the odd occasions I feel at all down – say when I am contemplating Super Rugby these days – I say either name several times over and immediately feel a bit brighter!
Hell of a controversy
You reckon you groaned when you saw Israel Folaus latest posting about Jesus Christ is coming again and how we all have to get in shape? The one consistent with the previous post that gays will go to hell, if they dont repent? How do you think I felt? Because of course I am sick to death of it, too, and there are a dozens of things Id rather write about. But it is important to respond. Encouragingly, I reckon I was batting about 80 per cent support for the column I wrote on Thursday, but there was indeed, the inevitable protests, none more emblematic than this, from one of the twitterati: "Every man is entitled to speak his mind. Leave the man alone."
I stand by my answer: "And every troubled teen, struggling with the sexuality they were born with, has the right to hear that those in the public square saying they will be going to 'HELL, are responded to by other voices saying that is 'NONSENSE and there is no issue, they are fine.
Another of the twitterati, Multifarious Weka, was singularly eloquent in his response to the line that "Every man is entitled to speak his mind. Leave the man alone." Tell them what you said, Weka: "Correct on the first point, which means you are incorrect on the second. If every man is entitled to speak his mind, then there is no entitlement to be left alone having done so, as everyone else is also entitled to speak their minds in response."
Got him, cold!
What they said
Jason Day after winning his second tournament of the year: "I know the feeling, and what it felt like, to be No.1, and I know what I had to do to get there. This is a good kick in the right direction."
Former Aussie sevens and Brumbies coach Andy Friend saying he has lost interest in the Super Rugby comp: "It's not about the people that sit up the top and play Super Rugby and coach Super Rugby. It's about the grassroots and about building the pyramid from the base."
Johnathan Thurston on losing the 2005 grand final to the Tigers: "It will [haunt me] for the rest of my life. That grand final was not great for us."
Cyclist Simon Yates comparing himself to Chris Froome: "Hes won the Tour de France four times and Ive won f–k all."
Braith Anasta on the refereeing in the Dragons-Storm game: "Its a diabolical call, its one of the worst calls Ive ever seen in a game, its shocking."
Supersprint winner Scott McLaughlin: "Im stoked! Couldnt believe it. These guys gave me an unbelievable car and the strategy was absolutely on-point. We made it difficult for ourselves, but — what does Daniel Ricciardo say? — Holy Testicle Tuesday, weve done it!"
Journalist Maria Konnikova onwinningmore than $200,000 playing poker since she began writing a book about the game: "Im certainly far from the first writer to play poker. But as far as I know, I am the first to go from not knowing the number of cards in a deck to winning a major title within one year."
Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett on reliance of gambling to fund teams: "The worry I have with sports betting is that it is indoctrinating a whole generation of young people that their future, their happiness, is associated with gambling . . . When we have sports betting up there being thrust down the throats [of young people] on a daily basis – whether it be on television, on radio etcetera – you are indoctrinating them into a lifestyle aspiration, which I think is very dangerous."
World snooker champion Mark Williams: "Its an unbelievable story really. Two months ago I was thinking about chucking it in and here I am now, bollock naked, doing an interview having just won the 2018 world championship, beating John Higgins 18-16. Wheres it come from?"
Kane Cornes: "I remember playing on Nat Fyfe one day at Adelaide Oval and I remember thinking there is nothing I can do to stop this guy. It finished my career. The power of the modern midfielder meant guys that weighed 79 kilograms like me didnt really have a place. He was at one stage looking at me and laughing. He actually said to me, 'what are you going to do, you old skinny man?"
Former Wallaby winger Clyde Rathbone on Israel Folaus latest post: "It has become painfully clear that Australia's best rugby player is a religious lunatic bent on self-immolation. As the ARU thumb through their 'Inclusion' Policy' they would do well to heed [human rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali]'s insight that 'Tolerance of intolerance is cowardice."
International Gay Rugby Chair Andrew Purchase released a statement on Folau on Friday: "IGR condemns Israels remarks, and supports similar responses by IGR member clubs in Australia and around the world. Israel has the right to express his religious views, but hes crossing a line by expressing harmful and implicitly hateful material."
Shaquille O'Neal to Charles Barkley, who suggested in a broadcast that ONeal had been carried by having great players on his team. ONeal replied, by pointing to his championship ring: "Ive got three finals MVPs, google me Chuck. Google me. You see that? Google me."
Greg Inglis on the eve of the NRLs Indigenous Round, how often he embraces Indigenous culture: "Every time I wake up. Every time I go to bed, I embrace it because that's who I am."
Team of the week
Jason Day. Perhaps the most easily likeable figure in Australian sport, won his second tournament of the year last weekend.
Melbourne Victory. Started very slow but came home strong to win the A-League comp for this season.
St George Illawarra. If they handed out premierships in May, the Dragons would win in a canter.
Andrés Iniesta. Spanish champion may come to the A-League.
Manly Sea Eagles. Have lost the last five matches straight, and now play the Broncos in Brissie. It is starting to look like the longest of seasons.
Nathan Walker. The Australian helped the Washington Capitals finally beat the Penguins in the NHL, a very big deal in that part of the world.
Sir Alex Ferguson. The football coaching great had a brain haemorrhage last Saturday, occasioning emergency surgery, but he is at least now out of intensive care.
Ben Simmons. Yes, his 76ers have been knocked out by the Celtics, but what an extraordinary debut season for him!
Peter FitzSimons is a Herald journalist, columnist and author, based in Sydney. He is also a former Wallabies player.
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