(Update: Kyrgios didn’t win the US Open, but his form is good right now, and he is worth getting behind for the Australian Open!)
Six again… again
You can imagine the scene. On the Sunday evening immediately after the NRL grand final, Ben McCarthy with his two sons and nephew – rabid Raiders fans all – leave the Olympic stadium at Homebush, retrieve their car, and start driving back to the McCarthy home at Lane Cove. Bitterly disappointed at the result but still very proud of the way the Raiders played, they are talking with great animation about the match, the key refereeing decisions and the prospects for next year, when just on the approaches to Ryde Bridge they see it up ahead: blue flashing lights.
Police breathalyser. Pull over, driver. Still, no worries. Much as he might feel like one, McCarthy hasn’t been drinking at the game and pulls over with full confidence. The constable comes over, wordlessly eyes the car occupants in all their Raiders gear, and sternly proffers the breathalyser saying, “Good evening, Sir. Count to six, please … “
“1 … 2 … 3 … 4 … 5 … 6,” McCarthy obliges.
The cop glances at it and says, “Can you go to six again?”
A bit odd, ‘cos Mr McCarthy knows the reading must be 0.00, but still he starts again. “1 … 2 … 3 … “
“Don’t worry,” the cop interrupts, before pausing to deliver the punchline: “I changed my mind!”
He bursts into laughter, as do all the cops around him, as does everyone in the car. Got him, yes! Plumb in front! And you know it, and I know it, so say it after me: Gotta love this city.
The contrast was extraordinary. In early June the packed premiere at the State Theatre of The Final Quarter – the documentary which chronicled the sheer unadulterated ugliness of Adam Goodes being booed by successive crowds of AFL fans for the final years of his glorious career – the audience gave the whole thing a standing ovation for this amazing piece of work, for Goodes, for the extraordinary strength and dignity he displayed throughout.
Just four days later at the World Cup, India was playing Australia at the Oval when our own Steve Smith walked out, his first time facing Indian fans since serving his one-year suspension for his role in the infamous “#Sandpapergate”. Mass booing broke out from the Indian fans as Smith blinked in the face of it.
But now look what happens. In response, the Indian captain Virat Kohli – one of the few in the world able to argue the toss with Smith as to world’s best batsman – runs over to the thickest masse of booers and gestured for them to stop and, instead, to clap Smith. Well, they at least stopped booing. Kohli ran back, shook the grateful Smith’s hand, and that was that.
“It’s not good to see someone down like that,” Kohli said afterwards. “I just felt for him, and told him sorry on behalf of the crowd. Just because there are so many Indian fans here I don’t want them to set a bad example.”
Bravo. I wonder, in the face of it, how many Aussie Rules players who saw the Goodes doco wish they had done what Kohli had done and called on their own fans to pull their heads in? Even the day before Kohli’s great act of sportsmanship, Goodes’ former team-mate Brandon Jack had written for the Herald after seeing The Final Quarter: “I was angry with myself for not recognising racism enough … I wish I had done more. I heard the booing. We all did. It was relentless and it was sickening. It was so persistent that it was clearly motivated by something other than what was happening on the field.”
Jack himself has nothing to apologise for and, as I mentioned last week, the Swans club across the board – players, fans, administrators – were magnificent from first to last in the way they supported Goodes.
But the lesson is also clear. Should a situation like that which happened to Goodes occur again, not only does the AFL need to move much more quickly, but it behooves the club captains to rise above it all, and insist their fans pull their bloody heads in. Yup, in the face of appalling booing like that, run over to their own crowd and ask them to stop. And if they still won’t, the next step would be to gather your fellow players and reach an accord: “When our own fans boo in this appalling manner, everyone hands on heads. It will be controversial, but I tell you what, they will bloody well stop. And we will be on the right side of history.”
In the meantime, bravo Virat Kohli. You’ve shown the way forward.
A reader divulges: “In 1982 I was the national president of a sport and we were competing at the Commonwealth Games in Brisbane. On one day it was my duty to accompany the Duke of Edinburgh to our competition events. In one event, it got down to the final between two individuals, one an Australian and the other a Pom. It was late the day and I had become pretty relaxed in our conversations and I said, “Well, I guess this is between your man and mine”. He didn’t look at me, but he said, “They’re all mine!”
What they said
John McEnroe on the Kyrgios serve: “He has actually got one of the best serves I’ve ever seen. Top 10, ever. He has got pop. He can do anything with it. He uses spin effectively. He keeps you off balance. He will hit occasionally – just go super big on that second serve.”
If this is not on Steve Smith’s voicemail, as one of the twitterati claims, it should have been, particularly during the Ashes: “You have reached the voicemail of Steve Smith. I’m not out.”
Edit to referee Ben Cummins’ Wikipedia page following the NRL grand final where he made a crucial “six again” error, that helped the Roosters win: “He also won the Clive Churchill medal for 2019 while playing for the Sydney Roosters.”
Raiders coach Ricky Stuart took the high road: “The first thing I did when I walked onto the field I went to the four officials and congratulated them. No one goes out there to make a mistake. They’ve got tough jobs. We could have won it and we didn’t.” Bravo.
As well as playing a cracker game for the Blues in Origin III, the winger Josh Addo-Carr also managed to snatch the yellow jersey for TFF’s quote of the year: “We were talking to the boys behind the try line, saying ‘believe, believe, believe’. When you believe that’s the kind of thing that happens. It’s crazy man. I can’t believe it.”
Wimbledon Board director Bill Babcock in a letter confirming to Bernard Tomic his prizemoney from losing in the first round is forfeit: “A review of your historical record of misconduct at grand slams, never mind elsewhere, provides little justification for an adjustment. In your case, Bernard, I am sure you would agree there is no historical evidence to give comfort to the theory that you can reform your behaviour.” Ouch.
Tim Paine on being the Test captain: “Even now when I am just at home doing regular things with the kids I think to myself, ‘Wow I am Australian Test captain’ ,and I have a laugh to myself and say, ‘Can you believe this?’ Or I can be watching the news or listening to the radio and someone will say ‘Australian captain Tim Paine …’ and I will just break out in a smile. I love it, and still can’t believe it.”
VRC Chair Amanda Elliott on Racing NSW CEO Peter V’landys lifting the prizemoney of NSW racing and threatening Victorian dominance: “I think it’s just a silly little man making silly decisions. I mean we all understand how important prizemoney is, don’t get me wrong. But at the end of the day, racing is about so much more than prizemoney.” Gambling money? I am clueless what else it is about?
James Faulkner posts on Instagram in early May: “Birthday dinner with the boyfriend (best mate!!!) … and my mother … #togetherfor5years.” There was hell to pay.
Michael Chang on the 30th anniversary of his French Open victory: “It was almost like God was saying: ‘You can quit now [but] if you quit now, every time you’re in the situation, you’re going to quit again.’ It wasn’t really so much [about] going out there and trying to win the match but going out there and trying to finish the match, if I possibly could. Lo and behold, God gave me the match.” They don’t call it the God Delusion for nothing.
Tiger Woods, when asked after his Masters triumph, “Do you feel like you’re back – that physically and mentally, you have everything it takes to win at this level?” “Yes, I do. Because I just did it.”
Team of the year
Craig Foster. Led the Australian football community’s effort to save Hakeem al-Araibi.
Sydney FC. Won the W-League grand final. Can’t beat those Sydney women!
Ash Barty. The first Australian since Margaret Court in 1973 to win a Roland Garros singles title, and just under $4 million in the process. Now ranked No.1 in the world. RAH! Not just a great player but a terrific person.
Sam Kerr. Became the first Australian soccer player in history – male or female– to score a hat-trick or better in a World Cup. In her case, four goals against Jamaica.
Ben Stokes. When you talk about redemption stories, his tops the lot. From English bad boy to saviour of the nation in less than two years.
The Boomers. Broke the 78-game winning streak of Team USA that dated back to 2006.
Caleb Ewan. The Australian cyclist won three stages of the Tour de France including the final sprint on the Champs Elysees and finished second to Peter Sagan for the green jersey.
Sally Pearson. The great one retired after a golden career. You did us proud, Sally.
RIP Graham ‘Polly’ Farmer. One of the Australian Football’s finest passed away aged 84. True legend of all Australian sport.
RIP Danny Frawley. The former St Kilda player and Richmond coach passed away. Frawley had been open about suffering from depression.
RIP Chester Williams. World Cup-winning Springbok passed away at the age of 49, from a heart attack – the fourth member of the iconic 1995 team to have died early following Joost van der Westhuizen, James Small and Ruben Kruger. On the opposing side in the final, they have lost one, the great Jonah Lomu.
RIP Jeff Sayle. The one-time Wallaby flanker who became the heart and soul of Randwick as player, coach, president and patron. Vale, Sayley.
Peter FitzSimons is a journalist and columnist with The Sydney Morning Herald.