The good old ODI. I've said it before, but it warrants repeating: dumping the ODI in favour of T20 - mooted by idiots like me - is stupid. ODIs, even if the Aussies treat them as practice matches, are relaxing and entertaining Sunday afternoon fare.
"Fruit for the sightscreen"
The good old ODI. I've said it before, but it warrants repeating: dumping the ODI in favour of T20 - mooted by idiots like me - is stupid. ODIs, even if the Aussies treat them as practice matches, are relaxing and entertaining Sunday afternoon fare.
Forget Australia's pathetic cricket in the first two Tests, the subsequent selectors' scythe and any prospects for the Third Test, the following article is 100% rolled-gold LOOK OVER THERE! I love it. Ben Horne, you win this week's internet:
South Africa captain Faf du Plessis hit with fine but free to face Aussies in Adelaide
The smug South African captain
smashed with a fine
Du Plessis... with his reputation now in tatters
the sooky Proteas
South Africa are filthy with the result
Du Plessis was already a self-confessed ball tamperer
ICC bizarrely treated lollygate as a first offence
damning television footage
tried to turn the hearing into a forensic case and force the ICC to prove that the practice actually made a tangible difference to the ball swinging
ICC skewered du Plessis based on his flagrant abuse of the spirit of cricket
umpires had no hesitation in branding du Plessis guilty
du Plessis looked ashen faced
South Africa’s arrogant and self-righteous attitude
The Proteas argument was not that du Plessis was innocent but that everybody else does it, so why should they be targeted?
“you see it daily with those type of incidences taking place on the field.”
South Africa’s only argument appears to be that everybody else in world cricket uses the tactics employed by du Plessis
Soups mentions our ugly record failing to defend big scores.
Eight of the top ten chases have been scored against Australia. Unsurprisingly, seven of those eight were overseas where other nations traditionally play their cricket on three-quarter snooker tables, compared with Australian matches played on proper fields. And yet, Australia continues to win the World Cup, four out of the last five. The poor crowds at Australian F50 matches may suggest that many Aussies are jack of the Aussies continuing to treat ODIs as trial matches. But personally, I like our summer triangulars, and if Nine's rating hold up little will change each January.
Rod Marsh has given up on Australia playing spin on the subcontinent. In other words, he's belatedly come to the same conclusion we came to at least 5 years ago. But while we are boneheads on a blog with rock all influence, Marsh is an Aussie cricket grandee and instead of an exasperated "What more can we do" should have the odd idea. If I could offer Rod a word in his shell-like, I would suggest we win the toss and bat first.
Interesting that Australia have been filth on the under-continent, but haven't lost a Test in Sri Lanka since 1999.
Wise words from aging newspaperman Maxwell Scott to senator Ransom Stoddart in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. The advice came galloping to mind when I read that Rod Marsh denied his role in a famous sledge; you know, one of those sledges on high rotation whenever a current sledge prompts yet another go-around of "10/20/30/etc. Greatest All-Time Favourite Famous Sledges":
"It makes my blood boil every time I am quoted as having delivered one of the best ever cricket sledges. Supposedly I said to Ian Botham on his arrival at the crease during a Test match 'how's your wife and my kids?' He also supposedly replied 'the wife's fine but the kids are retarded'. I can promise you I would never ever make a comment like that to a fellow cricketer. I have too much respect."
Don't know how I missed this article from September last year. Thankfully Peter Lalor, who also missed it, exhumed it this morning on Facebook.
Celebrating all things Mankad:
“If they don’t want us to Mankad, why is it in the rules then? We saw in the under-19 World Cup that West Indies Mankaded, and went on to win the cup. It is not us who are in breach of the spirit. It is the batsmen who is violating the spirit by stealing yards even before the bowler has bowled. It is almost cheating. We are completely for Mankading. The spirit of cricket doesn’t come into picture because it is well within rules. In fact, it is the batsmen who is cheating by gaining advantage.”
I've also resented the treatment of the great Muttiah Muralitharan. Even after his action was cleared by scientific measurement, there were still plenty of people who knew better. They knew nothing of the science of the thing, of course, but what did that matter? They felt in their water that there was something amiss. And they actually thought that was good enough, and frequently wrote as much, generally in the Australian press.
Is it legal for journalists to tell barefaced lies to bolster their articles (and keep up their grudges)?
Jones is a director of the company that makes Gayle’s bats and told his colleagues they needed to demonstrate concern for the injured girl. “It doesn’t look good for us,” he said.
First he obfuscates on bat power, then can't shut up about bat power, then we find out he's a director of a bat company. Feel free to jump to confusions and insinuations.
Last time Australia played an ODI in New Zealand (the World Cup match at Eden Park) everyone thought road and runs, then the ball started moving. Given recent matches, though, and the hefty scores made by Australia, India, New Zealand and Pakistan you'd have to think juicy runs will be on the menu.
“Do I regret calling Murali, no,” he told The Weekend Australian. “I regret what happened to me, but I don’t regret calling him.”
“Why not (call him) for chucking, it’s one part of 42 laws. What if I don’t like the lbw, do I not apply that? The one thing that did piss me off though was that every umpire in the world, certainly in Australia, thought that he chucked, but it was only Darrell (Hair) and me that had the guts to do it — or the integrity.”
“Now the ICC has started clamping down on chucking, why? Murali’s not playing any more — that’s why.”
“They needed Murali to play for Sri Lanka because he was what kept them competitive. Now that he’s gone and Chaminda Vaas is gone — he was a great bowler — they’re a rabble again.”
Forthright as usual, but this will attract more flak:
“South Africa and Zimbabwe are so racist they’ll only vote for the black countries, the West Indies are probably the most racist side in the world, so they’ll always vote with the black countries unless it’s a tour of England or Australia where they make their money and that leaves Australia, England and New Zealand.”
Way back in the original Summer of Kidding Ourselves 2009/10 (incidentally, the same summer Melbourne were kidding themselves recruiting Scully, Trengove, Gysberts and Tapscott) Australia smashed an underdone Windies at the Gabba, held on for a draw against an improved Windies at the SACA, and scrambled a squeaker at the WACA when dodgy DRSing closed out the Test. This was hailed as a fine result which would set us up for the 2010/11 Ashes.
This summer Australia smashed an underdone Windies at Blundrive, ground out a win against an improved Windies on the MCG, and now face the Windies on the SCG. This has been hailed as a result to set Australia up for the 2016/17 summer, while Melbourne has been hailed as a positive result for the Windies' future prospects. I can't remember if the 2009/10 Windies were similarly hailed, but if you look at the 2009 Windies line-up you'll see a fair bit of change and since they'd made such a good fist of fighting out the 2nd and 3rd Tests you'd assume there was plenty of "foundation to build on" and "future looks good" and "back in town". It remains to be seen whether the Windies are on the up, but we can only hope. (Especially in the face of last night's BBL monster match, and what T20 means for the future of Tests.)
Talk of dropping the Windies from the Test roster or reducing their tours to novelty status is, of course, utter rubbish. Someone has to be bad, and just because the Windies were great once, but are not now, is no reason to give them the bum's rush. It's just that a little middle ground would be nice. And they may yet be smashed in Sydney.
Meanwhile, Australia still have a rancid batting line-up in unfamiliar conditions, a fragile fast bowling attack, and a startling inability to live up to their reputation for great catching. At least Steve O'Keefe has a start, which will please all those who keep complaining there are never enough New South Welshman in the Test side.
Dean Jones on why teams lose Tests away from home:
The major mitigating factors to teams failing overseas are the doctoring of home pitches, a lack of talent, lack of preparation and the ICC purge of spinners with questionable actions.
The words "non" and "sequitur" scamper to mind. Love to see the numbers on questionable actions and wins away from home. And anyway, cheating is now a legitimate tactic for winning away from home? But Deano's a fan of chucking. He's also a fan of India, whose tyres he rarely misses a chance to suck up... I mean, pump up:
I hear many critics in Australia say a Test pitch should not turn on day one as they have been in India recently. Why shouldn't it turn on day one? Why should a Test pitch only show swing on the opening day? Any quality Test cricketer worth their salt should be able to adapt on all surfaces in any part of the world. Cricketers seem to just specialise in their home conditions and I don't get it.
Speaking of specialising in home conditions:
Many fans and past greats think pitches are favouring home teams too much. And many shrewd judges are saying maybe it is time to get rid of the toss. They believe the touring team should have first rights to the pitch, which they believe will stop these doctored home pitches. Everyone said you always bat first in India and you will win. Well, the statistics don't say that at all.
Who is this "everyone" who said you bat first in India? And what about these statistics? They may well say that the team batting first in India wins less than the team batting second, but in every other country the team batting first wins more often than it loses, or it is 50-50, so batting first is, numerically at least, an advantage over batting second. And what about India? Out of 26 home Tests they have won 7 batting first and won 14 batting second, which means regardless of whether they bat first or second, they have won 21 home Tests out of 26 for a winning percentage of 81. Away from home India has played 36 Tests and won 8 for a winning percentage of 22. It would appear something is going right for India in India. May I suggest preparing low and slow pitches helps both India's batting and bowling?
They still play Tests at the WACA? I trust the nets are up to keep the savages off the oval. (Or to keep the commentators from raving on about the pace of the WACA pitch.)
Bill Collins of film fame once said that you must keep watching films to keep in practice. The same applies to blogging: you've got to keep up the momentum. I've lost momentum.
95% of the way through a post on Stokes, Starc, Smith and obstruction, absolute grist for the AGB mill, it suddenly occurred to me that I couldn't be bothered. Couldn't even be bothered doing a post about David Gyngell and 4 days Tests. Jimmy Anderson saying the Poms fixed the pitches. The cancelled Bangladesh tour. Warner on McCullum and sledging. Yawn.
So. Many. Layers.
~~ Ricky Ponting
Yes. That Ricky Ponting. The Ricky Ponting who won the toss and wrongly bowled at Edgbaston in 2005, costing Australia the Ashes for the first time since 1989, and never again winning the toss and bowling. He was completely spooked by his Birmingham blunder. Yet now he implies he would have bowled at Edgbaston last month.
Nottingham is the "lace" capital of England, hence Paper Lace. Not sure if Nottingham is also the "paper" capital. Or if Nottingham is the "paper and lace" capital. Or even if Nottingham is the "paper lace" capital, as opposed to lace made from linen or silk or whatever.
Anyhoo, enough tat - Boom! Tish! - England has all the momentum.
Given Brad Haddin's "unexpected" dropped catch off Joe Root and that "Hadds usually takes more than he drops" and that Josh Hazlewood doesn't think Australia is "used to dropping catches at the moment," how about we keep track of Australia's dropped chances in this Ashes:
14.5 Starc to Root, no run, dropped, and it's all happening here. Very full outside off, and Root jams his bat down on it, and the bat hits the ground and the ball kisses his outside edge. Haddin throws himself to his right and it clangs off his glove.
63.1 Johnson to Cook, no run, short ball, Cook puts it away on the pul- not, he's been dropped by Smith at backward square leg! Think it went straight into his gut and out again, must go down as a bit of a sitter, though Cook struck it firmly. Smith was sprawling on his backside as the ball ran away between his legs.
20.2 Johnson to Bell, 1 run, edged and dropped! But whose catch was it? Nevill half-committed, Voges at first slip reached it with one uncertain hand, and couldn't cling on....
6.6 Starc to Bell, 1 run, edged and dropped by Clarke at slip! Bell was trying to run it off the face, the ball went low to Clarke's right at second slip but it hit the fingers and went straight to earth. Not quite Warne off Pietersen but should have been taken.
19.2 Starc to Cook, FOUR, edged between second and third slip. Back of a length and curling away outside off with extra bounce, Smith dives to his right from third slip, gets a hand to it but can't cling on. It looked like it was Clarke's take at second slip. That will go down as a drop.
71.1 Johnson to Wood, FOUR, edged, but wide of second slip! Over the wicket, full outside off, Wood reaches out for a drive and the thick edge evades a diving Smith. (It was actually dropped.)
Stuart Broad tries to psych out Steve Smith (or psych in himself):
“He’s obviously had a fantastic 18 months since he’s changed his technique a bit. I’ve got a few ideas to run past a few players that seem to think it might be a good option. I won’t share them with you yet. But I think it’s an advantage for us with him coming in at No3 with the Dukes ball in England. I think if he comes in at five like Joe Root does for us there’s not many weaknesses there."
“But with the ball moving around in England we know how hard it is to bat in that top three. I’m certainly not doubting the quality of him as a player, he’s a wonderful player and I enjoy watching him play when I’m not bowling at him."
“But you have to have a very tight technique to bat in the top three against the Dukes ball in England and it’s up to us as an opening attack to get an early wicket and get him in early against the new ball because he’s not had amazing success in England. When he played in the 2013 series he got a hundred at the Oval on a flat wicket. We’ll be looking to try and test his technique with a Dukes ball early.”
There is a bit of a difference between saying you have a plan and actually having a plan. There is more to getting Steve Smith out than merely saying "Dukes, Dukes, Dukes". That said, Test cricket is all about working out a batsman's weaknesses, so it will be fascinating to see whether Smith can prosper at three, against a different ball and in different conditions to those he has recently encountered.
Early in 2005 Canterbury lost its most iconic feature - after 200 years the famous lime tree, situated just inside the boundary, was blown down during winter storms. It was the end of an era, but not of a tradition, as Kent had planned ahead and had been growing a replacement. Just ahead of the 2005 season, the new tree was replanted by Chris Cowdrey. The St Lawrence Ground was built around the tree in 1847 and is quintessentially English with space for spectators to watch from their deckchairs or cars. Kent's long history of producing England wicketkeepers is remembered with the Leslie Ames Stand, prior to 1973 it was known as the Iron Stand. In 1999 St Lawrence - "The Spitfire Ground" to its many friends - was picked to play for England against Kenya in the World Cup, taking 2 wickets, making 15 runs and dropping a catch.
In the 25th over of the chase, MS Dhoni came into contact with the bowler Mustafizur Rahman while running between the wickets. It was not the first time in the game that the Bangladesh debutant had got in the way of an Indian batsman. Rohit had to run around the bowler as well earlier in the innings. Dhoni, however, held his line and thudded his left arm into Mustafizur who then had to leave the field for a bit. In this case, the bigger person did not fall harder.
Personally, I reckon Mister Fizzer was pulling a fast one by getting in Dhoni's way; Fizzer takes a quick glance at MS then continues into the batsman's path.
On the flap side. Imagine the rumpus had an Aussie barged in to Fizzer like Dhoni barged into Fizzer. Cry havoc and let slip the Wild Dogs.
For the record, Brendon Julian married money, he was not born with a silver spoonerism in his mouth:
“And the cheque and the trophy for the Sir Wank Forrell Trophy has been retained by Australia.”
Australia's recent record overseas, excluding South Africa where the conditions are similar to home, has been astonishingly bad. The bowlers have not looked like taking 20 wickets and the batsmen have not looked like batting for 20 overs.
Now that Australia has two spinners, Lippy the Lyon and Forward Ahmed, who are probably better than the Windies' spinners, it's hard to know whether the Windies' groundsmen will take the sauce out of the pitches.
In familiar conditions with the ball coming on to the bat Australia would be strong favourites, away from home, not so much.
Australia should win, with extra emphasis on should.
You've got your regulation no ball, your faux ball (intentionally overstep to bowl an extended over), your Mo ball (intentionally overstep to spot fix), your Deano ball (run the batsman out as he is walking back to the pavilion because he isn't aware he's been "dismissed" off a no ball), your d'oh ball (accidentally overstep and take a "wicket"), and now your Bryn ball (accidentally overstep and take a wicket handled ball):
"I had hit the same bowler [who appealed] for six off my second ball and was taking him apart. They probably wanted to see the back of me. I have been told that it is a first and it is cricketing history, which would give the impression it was down to bad luck, but it wasn't, it was down to bad sportsmanship."
Mind you, "the fielding team were perfectly justified in appealing" is code for "not in the spirit of cricket", but without actually seeing the dismissal it's hard to judge. Unlike Steve Waugh, Cullinan, Gooch and Armanath, Bryn didn't have to worry about protecting his stumps, so superficially it appears the fielding team was coming the c***.
I guess when you are six foot twenty you don't very often get told to fvck off, especially when you are the one with the missile, so when someone does eventually tell you to fvck off you are likely to go off instead:
The famously media-shy paceman reveals it was fellow quick Kenny Benjamin who sparked the battle by telling Ambrose that Waugh had “cursed” at him.
“When I finish my stare at a batsman I turn round pretty quickly and therefore I didn’t hear him.”
Imagine what Big Curt would have done if Waugh had really given it to him. Then again, a few contemptuous and dismissive words are always more likely to get under the skin.
There's no "t" in Richie.
Hats off, Doyen.
Whenever you hear a commentator over the next few days saying he was inspired by Richie, keep it in mind that he is talking rubbish since it is extremely unlikely the commentator is erudite, well spoken and economical with his descriptions.
My favourite Richie: "Probably reminding them he's missed a few earlier in the series."
Six Age cricket writers, Greg Baum, Malcolm Knox, Chris Barrett, Jesse Hogan, Andrew Wu and Dean Jones, picked their First XII from the World Cup. Several players featured highly with Mitchell Starc, AB de Villiers, Kumar Sangakkara, Steve Smith, Trent Boult and Martin Guptill being unanimous choices, while the likes of Shikhar Dhawan, Brendon McCullum and Glenn Maxwell received multiple nominations.
Guess who picked the following team:
People aren't criticising the Aussies for getting on the fuel during post match celebrations - even though I personally reckon Aussies should drink less - they are criticising Warnie for relentlessly shoving booze down the viewers' throats as if he was shilling the sponsor's product, or he was trying to get himself invited to the party, or simply that he is a dummy with nothing better to ask:
Do gooders get stuffed. Straya is the best place in the world, not politically correct, keep it real. Aussies celebrate properly ! #thirsty— Shane Warne (@ShaneWarne) March 29, 2015
(I wrote a shorter version of the following for Footy Town - buy it - but since it contains one paragraph on cricket, and because of popular demand by one person, I will post it here.)
Last year troogling (Googling the truth) footy facts I stumbled across an article in the West Australian:
“The playing future of Wickham Wolves in the North Pilbara Football League is under a cloud amid a continuing trend of the club forfeiting games.”
Sounds dramatic, but football clubs all over this wide brown sunburnt country are struggling for numbers.
My eyes then lobbed on the adjacent photo:
“Picture: Jeff Farmer and Ashley Sampi have both played for the Wolves this year.”
A pair of authentic football guns playing together in the one country side. Melbourne’s Wizard Farmer, one of the top AFL small forwards of recent years (let’s just forget he ever made a monumental career blunder by moving to Fremantle – yes, I barrack for Melbourne), and the wayward Ashley Sampi, who took mark of the year (coincidentally against Melbourne) in 2004.
The Wickham Wolves were my first senior football club.
Through the 1950s, 60s and into the 70s my father had been an engineer in Melbourne but in 1973 decided to take up a post with Cliff Robe River Iron Associates, which had a head office in Perth and operations about 1600 kilometres up north in the Pilbara. The mine was based around Pannawonica while the shipping facilities were at Cape Lambert near Wickham, where the family was to relocate.
Since my brother and I were unable to commute to Brighton Grammar from north-west Australia – the Concorde had been banned down under and was unable to drop us at Moorabbin airport – and since BGS did not have a boarding school, we were sentenced to Melbourne Grammar where, as nine and eleven year olds respectively, we began our stretches at Grimwade House in Caulfield.
In a clear indication as to my potential toughness as a footballer, the Sunday night dad dropped us off at school to leave for WA I ran down Balaclava Road blubbing after his car.
Henceforth we flew up to Wickham for school holidays: Ansett to Perth and MacRobertson Miller Airways (MMA – “Mickey Mouse Airways”) to Karratha.
Tragically, mum died in early 1975 – funny the things you remember: Billy Swan’s “I Can Help” was No.1 in the Aussie charts – so it was up to dad to look after my brother and me, and since there was not much to do in Wickham dad used to take us to local footy on Sundays.
These trips were no casual saunter through Yarra Park to the MCG; nor were they a mere full kit expedition to VFL Park Waverley. It was 50.3 kilometres to Karratha, 71.3 to Dampier, 203 to South Hedland, 216 to Port Hedland (thank you, Google Maps) and about 400 to both Goldsworthy and Shay Gap (no thank you, Google Maps).
The very first Wickham Wolves match we ever saw was the 1976 grand final. The Wolves, spurred on by man-of-the-match Gary McPhail, stormed home to beat the Karratha Kats at Windy Ridge in Dampier to lift the premiership cup.
That was to be the Wolves sole flag. The following year the West Pilbara Football League, comprising teams from Karratha, Dampier and Wickham merged with the De Grey Football League, comprising teams from Port Hedland, Goldsworthy and Shay Gap to form the North Pilbara Football League. The increased depth in the competition meant the smaller Wickham was unable to repeat the success of 1976. The NPFL has since been dominated by teams from Karratha and Port Hedland, with only Goldsworthy (1977) and Dampier Sharks (1983, 1984, 2005 and 2008) winning flags.
I played my first game for the Wolves in the 1978 May school holidays when, as a skinny and scared 16 year old, I pulled on the yellow & black against Dampier in Dampier. I did not charge out that day confident I was about to rip the game apart. Squeaky me, fresh up from Melbourne Grammar, white skinned and hoping no one would notice me, up against wizened, hairy old miners who would most probably rip my head off.
As it turned out I went alright. Four goals out of the forward pocket, various other touches and I escaped unscathed, primarily because I only ever made a fleeting acquaintance with what is now called “impacting the contest”.
Not that the footy is what I remember most from that, ahem, auspicious occasion.
Windy Ridge runs parallel with the top of a “T” formed by Central Avenue as the vertical and The Esplanade as the horizontal. Day-dreaming and gazing around the ground I spotted a car tearing down Central set to swing onto The Esplanade. Clearly this lunatic was not going to make the turn. The intersection is about four metres above the ground and if this bloke over-shot he would land on the playing surface. What’s more, he would land on me. Miraculously, he smacked into one of the few road signs in the Pilbara and ricocheted in the direction he intended prior to his aggravated detour. Two spectators ran to a car and sped after the bloke. Later I found out they had collared him and dragged him to the police station. I also found out he had been handed over with bonus cuts and bruises which he had sustained as he “fell out of the car”. Pretty odd, I thought, but it was not until several years later that I was subsequently man of the world enough to realise what was meant by “fell out of the car”. Quite obviously he had a tall car.
The following year I again played for the Wolves in the May holidays. We faced Karratha Kats at Wickham and I did rock all. The only vaguely interesting memory from that day was a Kats player yelling “Sausage!” when the Kats kicked yet another goal on the way to thumping us. Unfamiliar with rhyming slang I had no idea why he was keen on smallgoods, but when I looked at him quizzically he must have thought I was issuing a tacit challenge so he gave me a “look” and I quickly scampered away.
1980 was my first year full time in the Pilbara. Leaving MGS (MCEGS as it was before it lost its religion) at the end of 1979 with a less-than stellar HSC result, sick of school and keen to stay up north, the only option open to me was an electrical apprenticeship at “Uncle Cliffs” as we called CRRIA. The idea of working at a mining company instead of going back to study in Melbourne was further sweetened by the prospect of owning a car, motor bike, boat, elaborate stereo system and various other trinkets; especially compared to my studious but shabby schoolmates struggling on op-shop clothes and Pablo coffee.
My first footy as a full-time Pilbara resident was a lightning carnival at Wickham Oval or Ralph Geronzi Park, as it is now known. Wickham was then a company town and Cliffs’ “town crew” looked after all the parks. Wickham Oval was a well maintained field with a concrete cricket pitch in the middle which was covered by a pile of sand in footy season – no drop-in pitches, it wasn’t that well maintained. Located at the edge of town it sat between neat rows of company housing, the primary school, a storm water drain and a several billion clumps of Spinifex. Naturally, the Pilbara being borderline desert, it rained.
Chris Peskett was Wickham’s club secretary and had, according to those in the know, pulled off a slick manoeuvre by having the Wolves play the first two games of the season at Shay Gap and Goldsworthy. Why Chris had been so clever became apparent to me on the rickety bus home at midnight after the Shay Gap match: get the two long road trips out of the way at the start of the season.
For Shay Gap & Goldsworthy you caught a bus at seven on Sunday morning and got home after midnight on Sunday night. The trip home was especially arduous. Sore from the game, gassed on cans of Emu Export Lager, eyes opened by the hard core veterans gambling hundreds of dollars on Manila, and bemused as staunch supporter Leigh Varis, who had started life in Kalgoorlie as Harry Varis, proudly displayed her two newly acquired assets. The last I heard Leigh was back in Kalgoorlie running a brothel and the Kalgoorlie-Boulder council. (Jokes in a self-addressed email to the publisher.)
And what was a road trip to the De Grey without a return stop at the Whim Creek Hotel, about half way between Hedland and Wickham? Perfect during a long bus trip – a chance to relieve ourselves, stretch our legs, and wash down the Emu cans with half a dozen swift middies of Swan Lager in the bar.
Nor was driving to Hedland and back much of an option. Dad had seemed to do it on the bit. But leave immediately after the game and you drove straight into the setting sun for two hours; even with a pair of the finest Le Spec sunnies it was hard work. Leave after sundown and you had to worry about road roos and falling asleep at the wheel.
1980 was Shay Gap’s last season in the competition as the footy club disbanded for want of numbers. Bit of a pity, since the Gap was a beautiful town nestled among the mesas several hundred kilometres north-east of Port Hedland.
Our coach that year was Dave Pearce, the manager of the local supermarket. For some reason I never found out, he disappeared after about six matches and club legend Bevan Parkes coached out the year. I did not mourn Dave’s departure since he had labelled me “Trigger”. Was he fond of alliteration? Did he think I had a short temper? Maybe it was a reference to 1930s and 40s Hollywood horses? Who knew? Anyway, good riddance to bad nick-namers.
(Bevan also coached out the next year when Gary van Mil pulled the pin with several games to go, and may have even done the same in 1982 when Russell Pickett was coach.)
Also disappearing that year was the Wickham jumper, which was the same as the WA jumper – black sash on yellow back ground. Someone had blundered washing the jumpers causing the yellow to shrink, but not the black. This left a tight jumper adorned with a saggy black sash. After the season we did not just change to repaired jumpers, we changed the colours to a white WFC monogram on a navy blue jumper much like Carlton’s jumper.
While the VFL and WAFL grand finals were duds in 1980, the North Pilbara grand final was a ripsnorter, with South Hedland’s Terry Tolchard kicking a bomb on the siren to pip the heavily favoured Karratha Kats.
South Fremantle beat Swan Districts in the 1980 WAFL grand final. Collingwood fans can legitimately, and regularly do, boast the Pies won the inaugural AFL premiership in 1990. Bulldogs fans can just as legitimately brag to have won the inaugural WAFL premiership, since prior to 1980 the WAFL was the WANFL. Not that Collingwood fans fondly recall the 1980 VFL grand final since the Pies were smashed by Richmond.
I don’t recall the 1980 VFL grand final being on television in Wickham. We only had ABC TV, so perhaps Seven and the ABC had failed to reach an agreement in the same way Nine had refused permission for the ABC to televise international cricket to “black spots” in the 1979/80 and 1980/81summers.
The VFL was on ABC radio, or “6WF and regionals” as it was called. Due to the two hour time delay VFL games started at midday and finished about 2:30, which took a little getting used to. I was in Perth for the 2003 AFL grand final and was still thrown by the early start time.
ABC radio also carried the horse racing – from everywhere. Our precious two and a half hours of VFL were pock-marked by “racing this time!” at Randwick, Flemington, Doomben, Belmont, Ascot, Upper Dapto South, etc.
If the racing cuts were aggravating, they were nothing compared to the WAFL cuts as the ABC threw from the VFL to the WAFL Match of the Day regardless of the state of the VFL match. In 2011 ABC television in Melbourne was castigated for cutting from the dying stages a Port Melbourne Williamstown thriller to Trekking in Austria. At least 6WF and regionals never blamed its "automated programming systems" even though it needed a few excuses as it repeatedly cut out the end of tight VFL matches. “Ohh, by the way, Melbourne beat Footscray with the last kick of the day.”
Not that I disliked the WAFL match of the day and fondly remember the work of George Grljusich, Wally Foreman, Keith Slater, Dennis Cometti - “In goes Michalczyk, in goes Boucher, oooooo, out goes Michalczyk” – and even back then Ken Casellas was still reading the statistics.
Incidentally, after North Pilbara won a Country Week cricket grand final in 1984, Ken Casellas wrote a scathing article in the West Australian about how Newman had dudded Bunbury out of the grand final berth. I am glad they did, since I made a 100 in the final.
The ABC match also took a different approach to half time. Rather than Megawalls, boundary riders, interviews, and all modern garnish ABC showed “Greatest Fights of the Century”. Not footy fights, boxing fights. Tunney vs. Dempsey, Carpentier vs. Battling Siki, Tunney vs. Gibbons, even Johnson v. Burns from 1908 in Sydney, and many other famous bouts. I was never much of a fight fan, but this seemed an ideal way to fill half time.
1981 and the fate that befell Shay Gap also befell Goldsworthy. With the mine closing down and the town disappearing, the football club left the competition.
That last year at Goldsworthy I took a mark about forty metres from goal almost straight in front. Lining up with slow and deliberate precision, well okay, casually smashing it on my boot, my kick drifted right and bounced smack, bang on top of the knob on the right-hand goal post. The man on the mark turned to me with a grin and said “Bet you can’t do that again.” Five minutes later I took another mark in an almost identical position and went through the same assiduous routine. This time my kick drifted left and bounced smack, bang on top of the knob on the left-hand goal post. The man on the mark turned and sagely advised “Told you so.”
Karratha Cardinals (now Falcons) joined the league in 1981. Coached by the combative Danny Malone the Cardies became a contender. Combative probably undersells Danny’s belligerent nature. Mind you, while Danny was a bit of a hard case, football in the Pilbara was a remarkably civil affair. There was no “Mullewa flu” which was a disease virulent in the Great Northern Football League, whose symptoms were a fake cough combined with a sudden withdrawal from your team on the Saturday before a trip to play Mullewa in Mullewa on Sunday.
Burrup joined the competition in 1982, but only lasted the one season, getting belted every week. In round two we played them at their new ground and were leading by twenty-plus goals with our trainer running around the boundary shouting that we should let them score or else we would not have a percentage. It had escaped her that Finucane Island had scored against us the previous week and we would also have plenty of chances to “allow” other teams to score against us in subsequent weeks.
Finucane Island, at the foot of iron ore stock piles, was in and out of the competition over several seasons without ever really threatening to take the competition by storm.
Port Hedland Panthers won the flag that year, but had spent big on luring players to the club and promptly went bust and disbanded.
It was also in 1982 that the Wolves unveiled the greatest football club song in the history of football club songs. The Teddy Bears Picnic became the Wickham Wolves Picnic.
If you go out on the field today,
you better go in disguise
If you go out on the field today,
you’re in for a big surprise
For every Wolf that ever there was,
will gather round for certain because,
Today’s the day the Wickham Wolves have a victory
Victory time for Wickham Wolves
The mighty Wickham Wolves are having a bloody good win today
See us, watch us drink our booze
We love to sing and dance after the match.
Dreadful, I know, but dreadful in a good way. Well alright then, dreadful in a bad way. A local folk band recorded it to be played over the PA before Wolves’ home games, only for us to cringe with embarrassment and hide in the toilets.
1983 and 1984 Wickham was strong, but came up against a powerhouse Dampier Sharks, who had recruited heavily from Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, most notably Brendan Bell, who went on to play for West Perth and from West Perth the Sharks picked up the Buffalo, Lindsay McGuinness. The Wolves beat the Sharks early in 1983, but after that did not come close with the Sharks ultimately smashing the Wolves in the 1984 grand final, also at Windy Ridge. No cut and bruised drivers this time, but I still have McGuiness’s No.4 jumper. Wonder if he still has my No.32.
Confession: in 1983 I won the Armstrong Jones award for “spirit, endeavour and clubmanship” which means, yes, I have won a “best clubman” award.
The bulk of Wickham’s key players left after the 1984 season and the Wolves slid down the ladder. The timing was all wrong. In 1985 the Wolves picked up several more talented recruits, most notably Steve Lally who would go on to play for Perth in the WAFL and Centrals in the SANFL. If the Wolves had kept the full list together for 1985, we would have been a great chance for a flag. Alas.
I also left at the end of 1984 and had to kiss goodbye to all those Monday sickies.
On the Wednesday after the grand final I got a call from dad. “Tony, Hayden Bunton wants to talk to you.” My response was terse. It was not as if I had played a blinder in the grand final. Not unless you consider kicking out and spoiling to be particularly noteworthy – and hello to you, Josh Gibson. But dad was not having a lend of me. I rang back and as I was about to go on annual leave in Melbourne, organised to meet “Bunts” and Trevor “Nizzy” Nisbett at Perth airport where they signed me up for Subiaco. Turns out they had been at the NPFL grand final and liked the cut of my jib. Not for long. My jib was not well cut for the WAFL, so after a tortuous pre-season, a hamstring injury in the second practice match against East Fremantle, a badly rolled ankle at training about two months later, and a frustrating time impressing no one, not to mention a woefully inadequate attitude – “too country” Bunts called me – I concluded a glorious career as a WAFL nobody.
1986 was more successful. Living in Perth I travelled down to Narrogin each weekend to play for Towns with some relocated mates from the Wolves. Coached by WA footy and cricket luminary John McGuire we won the premiership against perennial grand finalist Williams, Towns’ first Upper Great Southern flag for over 20 years.
One of the benefits of becoming an electrician was that I could get a job at pretty much any mining operation around WA. One of the drawbacks was that I was expected to work.
The following year I was at Brigades in Geraldton and although we missed the grand final, I represented the Great Northern Football League when we were the first team in several centuries (approximately) to beat the South West Football League in the Westfarmers Country Championships.
1988 I was in the Goldfields playing for Mines Rovers. Due to a late arrival courtesy of a less-than gruelling six month pre-season on holiday in the UK and US, and also due to two hamstring injuries I only played about half the games. The omens were less than propitious when, after playing a blinder in my first game for the Diorites (great nickname - it’s the rock you get gold out of), the president pulled me aside and worriedly asked “just warming up?” He’s thinking it can get better; I’m thinking it can’t get any better. But he was right to be worried. We finished top of the ladder, but lost the grand final to Kalgoorlie who finished fourth, and I played a shocker.
That was my last taste of country football. I returned to Melbourne and college, which I had managed to put off for nine years, to see out my footy career with Old Melburnians and Tooronga-Malvern (The Biners won the 1990 premiership).
Despite a career, for want of a better word, as an itinerant footballer (“journeymen” had not yet entered the vernacular), who enjoyed premiership success at two clubs, league representation, championship laurels with road-trips that were a cross between the mayhem of a Hunter S. Thompson assignment and the pranking of National Lampoon’s OC & Stiggs, goal-kicking awards, best & fairests and the chance to travel around WA, it is my time at the Wickham Wolves which most resonates. None of my footy memories compare to the lift I get recalling my days playing for the Wolves. I still have the friends I made back then (even if I don’t see them too often) and I still think of Wickham most days – even if I don’t want to go back there. Well, maybe for a look.
Whoever said “once you get the red dust of the Pilbara in you, you cannot get it out” was spot on.
Don't jump to any confusion:
With due reportof word uttering yesterday in bw the matchwhile mentioning with Tks toNicholas, not anyother slangword to make any confusion.— Shahid Afridi (@SAfridiOfficial) March 16, 2015
Afridi actually said "Mark Nicholas," but it sounded like "Ma nigga" because he was chewing on a cricket ball.