Peter FitzSimons: A league of their own – it won’t last

SPEAKING of the NRL and its administration or lack thereof, my pound to your peanut says there will be a change in their scheduling next year. I refer to the A-League grand final being on when the leaguies had just about nothing on against it. In fact, just about nothing the whole weekend! There was the Kiwis Test on Friday night, which is always about as fifth as good as a State of Origin; a ”World Cup” game (no, really) between Samoa and Tonga; and was it the City-Country thing that only drew 4000? The net result, of course, was that the sleeping giant of Australian sport, soccer – now obviously awoken – was given a free kick.

The AFL might feel equally aggrieved with the weekend. While the Wanderers have clearly captured the imagination of western Sydney and seem to have acted as a unifying force on a highly diverse population – even as they went within a whisker of winning the whole competition – the GWS Giants played to a paltry crowd and managed to become the only team to lose to the Melbourne Demons. And rugby in all that? Obviously struggling across the board. Crowds of 11,000 to 16,000 for the Waratahs speaks for itself. But, last weekend, at least a pulse! Queensland and the Brumbies played themselves to a standstill in a game where penalty goals were eschewed in favour of running the ball, and a fantastic game resulted.


Two months ago, as this column noted at the time, NSW Minister for Sport Graham Annesley was called with other sports ministers for an emergency briefing by the ACC on where the investigation into drugs in sport was up to. Coming out of the meeting, he went straight into a live cross with Channel Nine, where there appeared to be an expectation among panellists that he would confirm there was not much to it. But no. When host Karl Stefanovic asked the former league referee his thoughts, the obviously shellshocked Annesley replied: ”[It’s] quite serious … and scary in some ways.” Interviewed a couple of days later on the ABC why the ACC and ASADA had made their announcement seemingly so early, Annesley replied that it was better to go early than, ”have to explain to the coroner why we announced too late”. Tragically, this week, we may have seen something of what Annesley was referring to – the potentially lethal consequences of taking supplements on the banned list.

It is, of course, way too early to determine if – as reported yesterday – there might have been a causal link between the peptides and Cronulla player Jon Mannah in 2011, and the return of the cancer that killed him. In fact, it has not been confirmed that Mannah did receive any of the substances. However, it does highlight the fact that all the concern about such drugs is not simply to do with their effect on sport. The reason a lot of them are on the banned list is because they are dangerous and potentially fatal. If that link is established in this case, it will move the whole terrible saga into an entirely different realm. And there really will be a lot of explaining that needs to be done to the coroner.

Annesley’s words are looking tragically prophetic.


Who knew? After TFF wondered idly last week why the AFL gives out four points for a win and two points for a draw, some readers pointed out that, pretty much across the world, soccer gives out three points for a win and one each only for a draw. Why, I wonder?


Dear TFF

Those bunch of d—heads prancing about a pub betting on the TAB and, of course, winning and ”impressing” the ladies, are in many ways just as annoying as the Tom Waterhouse ads. The TAB ad pretends the beautiful people are smiling indulgently at the d—heads – but that just proves what loveable, and winning, d—heads they are. Just shows you don’t have to do anything meaningful or challenging in life to be both loveable and a winner. Right?


Mike Sandy


A point of order, NZRU chief executive Steve Tew, re your remarks after All Blacks and Hurricanes winger Julian Savea was charged last week with assaulting his partner. ”Without judging the rights or wrongs of this case,” you said, ”we are concerned that this is another incident involving a young player. We need to find out whether we are doing enough to help these young men cope with the pressures of the professional game.”

Can I say a word? That word is: ”Nuh.” Steve, that almost sounds like you’re excusing it. And yes I know that Savea has publicly apologised and begged his partner and her family for forgiveness, but the point remains. Playing a game for a few hundred grand a year, and being internationally famous is not ”pressure”.

Raising a family of five on the basic wage is pressure. And in either case, whatever the situation, real men do NOT hit women. No excuses, no exceptions. And of course it is for the courts to judge his guilt or innocence, beyond reasonable doubt. But the standard of proof required to stand him down from the team is a lot less.

Savea played last weekend, despite the Hurricanes knowing of the incident. He is due to play this weekend. A man who hits a woman sullies the jersey he wears. He should be stood down for a long time, perhaps doing volunteer work in a women’s refuge.What they said

Ray Hadley on NRL chief Dave Smith: “I will tell you what you want to do Dave; pull your head out of your bum and build closer links with the grassroots of the game, the people who will pay your wages for the next two decades.” And welcome to rugby league, by the way.

Former NRL chief David Moffett: “It’s like a coach losing the dressing room. I feel sorry for Dave Smith. He was pitched into a job that his background would indicate he’s not suited for or prepared for. It’s one of the toughest gigs in world sport. It will end in tears.”

Dave Smith on the structural changes he has made to the administrations: “But I feel really pleased that I put my stamp on it. This is me, this is Dave Smith, this is his leadership structure.” Talking about yourself in the third person? Mate, you’re going to fit right in.

Chris Gayle showing how it is done, after his unbeaten 175 runs from 66 balls: “Everything just worked for Chris Gayle today … I’m an entertainer, I try to entertain as much as possible.” Deep sigh. Thousand yard stare into the distance.

James Magnussen in an interview: “The Missile is a more confident and aggressive character than I am. The problem in and before London was my everyday life didn’t diverge from that persona.” Magnussen is my bet to recapture Australia’s affection, and still be selling undies when he is 40.

Richmond coach Damien Hardwick on their poor training last week: “We didn’t train well, but does that get taken into the game? I wouldn’t think so. It happens all the time; sometimes I like to make love to my wife, I don’t always perform at a high standard.” Across Australia, men shifted uncomfortably.

These lines were on the back of a T-shirt of a man struggling along in the London Marathon: “50. Fat. Diabetic. Ahead of you.”

Former Test umpire Dickie Bird, who turned 80 last week: “The characters have gone out of all sports haven’t they? There’s no [Allan] Lambs, [Ian] Bothams or Dennis Lillees any more. We used to have a laugh in Test matches, which they don’t today – they don’t even smile.”

Kiwi rugby commentator, as the Queensland Reds put the Waikato Chiefs to the sword: “Genia, he’s been busier than a fiddler’s elbow tonight.”

George Smith on how much more rugby he has in him: “I don’t want to sound like Johnny Farnham.”

Super Bowl-winning Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo on NFL players coming out. “I think it will happen sooner than you think. We’re in talks with a handful of players who are considering it. There are up to four players being talked to right now, and they’re trying to be organised so they can come out on the same day together. It would make a major splash and take the pressure off one guy.”

Team of the week

Chris Gayle. In a game of bubblegum cricket in the IPL, the West Indian finished 175 not out from 66 balls, including 13×4, 17×6.

Jesse Williams. The Australian looks likely to be drafted to the NFL.

Melbourne Demons. Celebrated their win over Greater Western Sydney as if they won the grand final and to be fair it probably was.

Mike Denness. The only Scottish born captain of an English cricket team passed away last week. Denness once told the story of a letter addressed to him: “Mike Denness, Cricketer”. “If this letter reaches you,” it said, “the Post Office think more of you than I do.”

Central Coast Mariners. Finally savoured a grand final win and showed all knuckle-dragging Neanderthals of the other football codes – oh gawd, we hate you bastards! – just how well attended and enthusiastic a grand final crowd can be. And only 21 people arrested!

Mid North Coast Axemen. Just had their first victory in 13 years in the Country Rugby Championships. They defeated Western Plains 47-24. Let the word go forth from this place and this time: NO ONE beats the Axemen 14 years in a row! And good on yers.

The 18th Australian National Balloon Championships. Drew three times the crowd in Canowindra than rugby league’s City-Country game drew to Coffs Harbour.

RIP Margaret ”Nan” Barnes. (1919-2013). The greatest Cronulla Sharks supporter, ever, passed away last week. Vale.

Brumbies and Reds. Last Saturday night, the two teams played a cracker, spoilt only by the fact that itfinished in a draw.

Nic White. You all know the Beatles lyric: “Her name was Magill, and she called herself Lil, but everyone knew her as Nancy.” The Brumbies halfback looks like a terrier, thinks he’s a cross between an Alsatian and a sheepdog, but everyone can see he’s a great rugby player. And he should be Will Genia’s understudy in the Wallabies.

Jesse Mogg. Should be the Wallabies fullback. One of those blokes who sends a current through the crowd every time he touches the ball.

RIP Barry Taylor. 1935-2013. The well known Australian U/21, Manly and NSW Waratahs coach passed away on Wednesday. On ya, Tizza. You were a one-off.