Wallabies lose but win back respect

The Wallabies put up a gallant fight against the All Blacks, restoring some pride after the Bledisloe Cup opener. Photo: AAPYou wonderful Wallabies. You bloody beauties. No, you didn’t beat the All Blacks last Saturday night in Dunedin, but your performance was a triumph regardless. Having been blown away in the first half of the first Test in Sydney just the week before, the fact that you were able to strike back in that exhilarating manner, against the strutting and haughty Blacks in their own heartland, and be leading them with just two minutes to go, was extraordinary. It gives us all hope that you might have at last turned the corner. Congratulations. We all look forward to the third Test!
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Professional coach needed

Dunno about Brad Fittler as Origin coach. What do we actually know about him? Fabulous footballer, great bloke, seems to have done fairly well with the limited coaching opportunities he’s had. What did we know about Laurie Daley before he was appointed? Fabulous footballer, great bloke, seemed to have done fairly well with the limited coaching opportunities he’d had. Would it not make more sense to give the gig to a hard-bitten coaching professional, maybe one with a track-record of both success and intensity – the latter of which might be more manageable for his charges when exposed to it for only a couple of months of the year?

Yes, Des Hasler is a much more obvious choice to me. But whether it’s Fittler, or Hasler, or another, there will be a clean-out of the rest of the coaching and management staff. And so there bloody well should be! For here is my principal question. Who the HELL, was the genius that decided Josh Dugan and Blake Ferguson should room together? Honestly, in the history of sports management, was there ever such a brain-dead decision as that? Let’s room Kieran Foran with Eddie Hayson! Put George Best on a bunk in the wine cellar. Shane Warne in the pantry, right by the store of baked beans.

You just know it is going to end badly and stink up the joint, and so it did with Dugan and Ferguson. The new coach must say to both: “Here’s your hat, what’s your hurry, and please never darken our towels, or puke on our tiles, again. Goodbye.”

From bad to worse

Since TFF’s item a fortnight ago about Marc Reichler-Stillhard, the young lad with Down Syndrome from Yamba who has been happily playing as a 12th man for the Yamba u/14 side, I have been besieged by queries from readers wanting to know how he is getting on. You will recall the yarn about how, wonderfully, all teams in the Clarence Valley comp were happy to bend the rules to allow Marc to run around with Yamba as an extra, until a couple of parents from a rival club complained and North Coast Football upheld the complaint.

Your humble correspondent had a rant along the lines that this was – to use the technical expression – freaking ludicrous. Emblematic of the amount of influence I wield, I can report that the NCF not only didn’t blink, but when the Grafton City Heat team announced they would wear yellow armbands, (Marc’s favourite colour,) as a gesture of support for him, they were advised by NCF that if they did, they would be going against uniform regulations and may face disqualification.

That is, if I might use another technical expression, weird shit, from officials that just don’t get it.

Obviously an issue that goes just beyond Marc, surely we can establish a nationwide protocol whereby, in junior sport, all the major sporting codes are encouraged – most particularly if they want federal funding – to embrace polices of inclusiveness to those with disabilities.

Brissie misses out

Let’s face it. When of the eight finalists in the AFL, two are from Sydney, two are from Adelaide, one from Perth, and with just three from Melbourne, the game truly is national. And the main thing remains: none are from Brissie, which is one in the eye for those uppity Queenslanders!

Haka a big hit

The scene was at the Valley Bowls Club in the Perth suburb of The Vines, last Saturday arvo before the Bledisloe. The crowd, a mix of born locals and expats from all over, are joyous, anticipatory, eager for the match to begin as the two teams file out to the roar of the crowd – both coming through the tv, and from the room. But wait, what’s this? Even as the All Blacks form up for the mighty Haka, so too do five enormous Maori expats form up in front of the crowd, right by the tv. And, sure enough, as the All Blacks do their haka, so, too, do these five Maoris, in perfect unison. The crowd, as they say in the classics, goes off!

Grand tiger tale

With the football finals upon us, it is time to reminisce, about great grand finals past, and how funny I should say that, as this week I was sent Ian Heads’ latest book, The Great Grand Final Heist, which recalls the biggest boilover in Sydney rugby league history – when the Balmain Tigers upset the Rabbitohs in 1969. As Heads recalls, the big SCG crowd heard from the Eastern Command Military Band, enjoyed the marching girls and … umm … that was pretty much it. Ah, but, meanwhile, in the Balmain dressing room, some serious negotiations were taking place between the Tigers’ injured centre, Harold ‘Hal’ Browne, and the club secretary Kevin Humphreys, on a matter that would change rugby league forever!

“When the players were out warming up,” Browne would recall to Heads, “Kevin Humphreys called me over. ‘Hal, I want you to do something,’ he said. He was holding a tiger suit. I had one look and said, ‘No, no, shove it up your arse. I can’t do that.’ Anyhow, he talked me into it. So, I put the bloody thing on and walked out onto the field ahead of the players. They didn’t even know it was me. Out in the middle, [Souths halfback] Bob Grant ran past. Bobby and I had known each for almost our whole lives; we went to kindergarten together at North Annandale School.

“I called out to him, ‘Hey, Bobby, come here!’

“And he said, ‘Who’s in there?’

“‘Bobby,’ I said, ‘it’s me ??? Harold.’

“And he said, ‘Don’t you come near me, Harold, or I’ll upend you!’ Eventually, I headed back inside to the dressing-room. I took off the suit and nobody knew.”

Strange days indeed. Most peculiar, Mama.

Vale Mike Cockerill

TFF was very saddened to hear of the death of my long-time colleague and friend Mike Cockerill, late on Thursday evening. “Cocko,” as we all knew him had a warm heart, a great nose for a story, and was very passionate for the sport that he believed had been too long ignored by the media in – football.

While never being a mere FWT, “Fan With A Typewriter” – he broke big stories, many of them troublesome to the ruling powers of the code at the time – within the realms of Fairfax he was the driving force for the constant coverage that helped wake the sleeping giant from its decades of torpor.

Personally, he was a sardonic presence, engaging company, quick with a quip, a laugh – or a light barb to puncture whatever pomposity your correspondent was guilty of lately.

I cannot quite believe he is gone, and offer my personal condolences to his first wife Deb, his second wife Jo, and his two children, Daisy and Toby. Vale, Cocko. You were a good’un, and will be missed. What they said

Kerry O’Keefe, on a contributing factor to Bangladesh’s stunning victory over the n Test team: “John Howard could have taken wickets on that pitch.”

Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart: “Laurie Daley is one of the greatest legends of Origin football, and being a Blue he should have been treated with a lot more respect than the way it was done. I thought it was disgraceful how it was done. He deserves a lot more respect …” Personally, I am not sure how such a difficult exercise can be done gracefully.

Michael Cheika on a gallant defeat to the All Blacks: “It’s all good. But the gallant loser thing is not on. We should have won that game. We know it. I am not angry. I am just very, very disappointed.”

Josh Dugan on the latest Origin story that he and Blake Ferguson, as room-mates, damaged a hotel room in the lead-up to Origin II: “There is absolutely no truth to it at all and all these allegations have done is smear more mud on myself and Fergo. Fergo and I have been made the scapegoats. That’s becoming pretty obvious.” The goats part, at least, is the most obvious of all.

Johnathan Thurston on the Maroons culture by comparison: “It’s a mutual respect between the coaching staff and the players. That’s the difference in the culture, I believe when the coaching staff give you those days off you do it in the right way and in the right manner. Some of the boys will go play golf, some of the boys go sit at a cafe or whatever. But certainly we’re not on the piss five days out from a game.” Ouch.

NZ netballer Maria Tutaia, fianc??e of Israel Folau: “We both wished each other luck but I just wished him luck, not his team – go the ABs.”

South African Springbok legend, Frik du Preez on his long-time rival on what the late, great Sir Colin Meads was like to face on the field: “Imagine the man you would least like to play against.”

Asked the difference between MMA and boxing, Conor McGregor replied: “The cheque.”

McGregor’s mother Margaret: “I’m just so proud of him I really am. Can’t wait to spend some of his money.”

Maria Sharapova after beating No.2 seed Simona Halep in the first round of the US Open on what she took away from it: “Behind all these Swarovski crystals and little black dresses, this girl has a lot of grit and she’s not going anywhere.”

So ran the headline in Rugby News on Saturday, above a piece on club rugby by Brett Papworth, distributed among the faithful at the Shute Shield Grand Final: “Rugby’s heart beats strong.” And so it does, as the record-breaking crowd would attest to. Brett’s heart, however, not so much. The following evening he was rushed to the hospital for a heart operation. He is now, mercifully, on the mend, after two operations.

Illustration: John Shakespeare

Horse trainer Peter Moody on egalitarian in his entertaining autobiography, A Long Way From Wyandra: “In England there were all these strappers and stablehands calling me ‘guv’nor’ and ‘sir’. Someone asked me if stablehands in did that and I nearly fell over. ‘Call you “sir”?!’ I said. ‘They’d more likely call you a c**t than sir!”

Jason Gillespie recalls his own double ton against Bangladesh: “Michael Clarke was not out at the other end, and was very happy for me. As we walked off (we declared) I decided to give the young Pup a piece of advice after our embrace. ‘Son, that’s how you score a Test double ton.'”

Cronulla five-eighth James Maloney, on the NRL salary cap being so much lower than the players want: “You wonder where the money’s going. There’s no one accountable for the spending. The players are your most important commodity. Without them, there is no game. Everyone who works around it are just accessories.” Team of the week

Bangladesh. Beat in the first Test, despite David Warner tearing off a great ton in the second innings.

Bernard Tomic and Nick Kyrgios. The two most extravagantly gifted players of their generation, both eliminated in the first round of the US Open.

Warringah. First Shute Shield since 2005 in a touchingly emotional victory for the Rats following the passing of Lachlan Ward. The Grand Final itself, at North Sydney Oval, was a triumph of grass-roots rugby.

Daria Gavrilova. The n tennis player won the Connecticut Open.

Hawthorn. I give up – how did they manage to beat the Swans twice and lose to the Suns twice in the same season?

Wallsend South Public School. Won the Paul Kelly Cup girls final after defeating the Holy Family Primary School of Kelso in the final at the SCG.

Clovelly Eagles Junior Rugby Union Club. In the heartland of the Roosters, Rabbitohs and Swans, this tiny club has had four players – Finn Wright, Ben Donaldson, Marco Bell and Will Harrison – selected in the n Schoolboys Rugby Union team to play NZ Schoolboys and Fiji Schoolboys in October.

Nathan Buckley. After inheriting a Collingwood side that won the grand final – and taking them to 4th, 6th, 11th, 12th, 12th, 13th since – has been reappointed for another two years as coach of Collingwood.

Cameron Smith. Equals most NRL games record with his 355th game when the Storm host Canberra Raiders in Melbourne.

RIP Dean Mercer. 1969-2017. The younger of the likeable brothers from the ‘Gong who were dominating the Ironman titles three decades ago, died at Gold Coast University Hospital on Monday morning after being rushed there by ambulance after a seeming heart attack at the wheel of his car. The Herald sends its deepest condolences to his wife Reen, and four young sons.

RIP Mike Cockerill. 20 November 1960 – 31 August 2017. Beloved sports journalist for Fairfax and Fox Sports, passed away on Thursday, after a battle with cancer. (See tribute.)

Twitter: @Peter_Fitz