It is that very finality which gives the final minute of every contest such oomph.
This is it! Now or never! Can they/he/she do it?
This is “Shakespeare on steroids,” and we all know we are at the final scene.
Any move to counter that, to say it may not be over, even when the fat lady sings – because she might do an encore 30 years from now – weakens the fabric of the whole thing. It’s a feel-good thing by the World Boxing Council to do this, but it is a dangerous precedent. Having changed this result 30 years later, how many other results in the notoriously corrupt sport are now up for discussion?
What of people who won and lost fortunes on those very results? In sports like boxing where the results depend on such subjective things as the views of the judges, how can you definitively turn a result over, short of proof of corruption?
Yes, if Raelene Boyle could definitively prove that the East German athletes who beat her out of a gold medal at Munich were actually on the juice at the time, it is fair she be awarded gold now. But short of that kind of thing, sport simply has to live with the results forever more – the good, the bad, and the ugly. You can whinge, wince and whine for 30 years if necessary, but you can’t win.
Aussie sporting characters thin on the ground
Let’s face it.
For most of us, the sporting times are just a teensy-weensy bit dull right now, yes?
Or do we …
Having run a piece that referenced Merv Hughes during the week, I’ve been thinking about it.
Who is the Merv Hughes or Dougie Walters of the modern era, the universally beloved Australian player, loved for reasons far beyond their sporting abilities?
We have admirable figures in cricket and no doubt it – led, for my money, by Australian captain Pat Cummins – but the sport seem to be running low on characters, the colourful folk that give sport so much of its joy?
Ditto, rugby league, I think, which usually does the best line of all in seriously colourful characters. Who is the Willie Mason, the Benny Elias, the “Dallas” Donnelly, the Tommy Raudonikis that league boasts right now? Who, when they’re being interviewed, does everyone lean forward to – to hear what they’ve got to say?
In the Wallabies they seem by and large fine men. But am I alone in thinking we don’t really we feel like we know them the way we used to?
In soccer, there is the wonderful Grey Wiggle, who we also don’t really know, but just love the look of. But it’s a bit thin, thereafter, yes?
I guess they’re all still there and the plaint that “there are no characters in Australian sport anymore” was first uttered in the 1890s, and has been echoed ever since, but, honestly, does it not feel a bit like that right now?
Honestly, I said!
All Black’s legacy lives on
There was a lovely story this week, about how Allan Alaalatoa, who will be captaining the Wallabies tonight against Italy, got his first name.
“I remember asking my dad about it,” Alaalatoa told the Herald’s Tom Decent. “He told me that when Allan Border was captain of the Australian cricket team, he inspired him when he was playing for Manly and in rugby. He was a huge fan of the Australian cricket team and loved Allan Border and the way he led the national team. That was why he named me after him.”
Funny he should say that.
For on Tuesday I noted on his clipped security pass the first two names of a lovely security bloke of Fijian origin, who was allowing me access into a large building.
“‘Jock Hobbs’,” I said. “How did you get those as your first two names?”
“Because,” he replied cheerily, “I was born on the day Fiji played the All Blacks in Suva, 27 October 1984. My father said ‘I will name him after the winning captain’. The All Blacks captain that day was Jock Hobbs.”
The late Jock Hobbs was a dear friend of mine and I couldn’t resist texting his widow, Nicky, and his brother-in-law, Robbie Deans, with the story, and a photo of the friendly security guard. Both were thrilled, and touched.
Maradona’s gift from God
You will recall that story of a fortnight ago, about how the Tunisian referee who presided over the England vs Argentina 1986 World Cup quarter-final which saw Diego Maradona’s infamous “Hand of God” goal was auctioning the ball, complete with his fingerprints, for a lazy $5 million or so.
This week, that ref, Ali Bin Nasser, expanded on how he is selling the ball for the benefit of his family.
“The money is going to honour my career, and with that money I’m going make sure my family is set and I’m going do a lot of charity with it. That is a gift to me from God after many, many years as a referee.”
I am sure you see the neat symmetry, yes?
He moves in mysterious ways!
Wallabies prediction on the money (almost)
I tried to tell you, but you wouldn’t listen.
I tried to tell you that the Wallabies would be competitive against the French, that after so much ill-luck we were due a change of fortune – even for a one point win – that even though the France are the incumbent champions of the Six Nations, playing at home, and have won no fewer than their last 10 Tests straight, our blokes would be in it!
“As to the one point margin,” I wrote, “that too has to be a better-than-usual chance given that the last five Tests between Australia and France have been decided by three points or less.”
Oh how you sneered. Dear me, how you jeered.
And what did we get?
A one-point margin!
The only thing I got wrong was the victor. It was France instead of us, winning by 30-29 – after the French winger Damian Penaud went over in the corner at Stade de France with less than four minutes left on the clock.
Bugger. Bugger. Bugger.
That now makes what would have been two historic victories this year – against the All Blacks in Melbourne, and against the French in Paris – snatched away in the last minutes. Our blokes show such promise.
We just need to lobby for the rules to be changed so that the final whistle blows at 76 minutes, not 80.
What They Said
Ash Barty looking back on her decision to retire: “I miss competing and challenging myself against the best in the world [but] I don’t miss a lot that comes with it.”
Ben Simmons on not going to the Tokyo Olympics: “I was in the middle of the shit. Of course I wanted to go out there and play with Dante Exum and Joe Ingles and Patty Mills – those are my guys. But there’s only so much to say: I was in a bad place, and I didn’t play. Do I want to play for Australia? One hundred per cent. Will I one day? One hundred per cent.”
WBC President Mauricio Sulaimán rewriting history and handing Jeff Fenech the win for his 1991 WBC super-featherweight title fight against Azumah Nelson: “All the ring officials from all over the world score the bout in favour of Jeff Fenech. The WBC board of governors approve the motion to crown Jeff Fenech to become a four-time world champion. It is our great pleasure to crown and award the WBC Feather and Super Featherweight Championship to Jeff, the Thunder from Down Under, Fenech.”
Sepp Blatter on it being a mistake to give Qatar the World Cup: “The choice of Qatar was a mistake . . . It’s too small a country. Football and the World Cup are too big for that. I can only repeat: the award to Qatar was a mistake, and I was responsible for that as president at the time.” No shit, Sherlock.
Shane Watson on Australia’s lacklustre performance in the T20 World Cup: “It was very, very disappointing to watch the brand of cricket that the Aussies played during this tournament.”
Michael Clarke: “I think Australians in general, on the biggest stage under the most amount of pressure, always put in on the line and have a crack. We’re not scared to lose. Yet we picked an aggressive 11 in this World Cup squad yet played so defensively. Very un-Australian.”
Wayne Bennett on how the Dolphins will do in their first season: “I’m not allowed to bet on rugby league, but if I was I wouldn’t be betting on the Dolphins winning the wooden spoon.” Hardly sounds much of a rallying cry?
Australian NBA player Josh Giddey on life in the NBA: “Sometimes I wish I was just a regular kid and could go out and do normal things, but unfortunately, life changed a bit since I was 16-17, [but] I wouldn’t change anything for the world; this is my dream. So, I’m happy with everything and how stuff is going.”
Brooklyn Nets, suspending Kyrie Irving: “[His] failure to disavow antisemitism when given a clear opportunity to do so is deeply disturbing, is against the values of our organisation, and constitutes conduct detrimental to the team. Accordingly, we are of the view that he is currently unfit to be associated with the Brooklyn Nets.”
Graham Arnold on his ups and downs as Socceroos coach: “The greatest lesson I’ve probably had in coaching was the failure of 2007. I tried to be an actor, and be Guus Hiddink, because that’s how I saw what he achieved with those boys. And that wasn’t Graham Arnold. That wasn’t the person that I am.”
Glenn Maxwell on Australia not making the finals in the T20 World Cup: “Cricket never stops so you don’t get time to dwell. Maybe when you retire you think back to it would have been nice to win that but it doesn’t mean anything. I wish we had of won but we didn’t.”
Wasim Akram on how people remember him: “People may talk about Wasim Akram, one of the best left-armers, Pakistan and Lancashire etc, and that’s how I’m generally seen by you guys in the UK. But in Pakistan the rumours persist – ‘he’s a match-fixer’ – and that hurts a lot.”
England coach Eddie Jones after his team lost to Argentina at Twickenham: “It’s not good enough – we realise it’s not good enough.”
Team of the Week
Argentina. Coached by Michael Cheika, they beat the Eddie Jones coached England at Twickenham. Since Cheika took over as Argentina’s coach a year ago, his side has beaten the All Blacks and Australia as well.
Netherlands. Knocked South Africa out of the T20 World Cup.
Australia. Won the Hong Kong sevens for the first time since 1988.
Philadelphia Eagles. Started the season 8-0 with one of our blokes, Jordan Mailata, at offensive tackle.
Wallabies. After losing by a point to France, they take on Italy in Florence tonight.
Chelsea Clinton. Ran the New York Marathon, finishing in a time of 4:20:34.
Holger Rune. The Danish teenager beat Novak Djokovic in the Paris Masters final and is now the 10th-ranked men’s player in the world.
New Zealand, England. Contesting the Women’s World Cup Rugby Final today.
The Manly-Warringah women’s touch teams. Won the Vawdon Cup to be Sydney champions, in Premier League Division 1 and Division 2. Beat Bulldogs, Easts and Ryde.
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