Category Archives: sport

The Ashes On Ice – Cricket Doesn’t Get Hotter™

So the “leadership group” (I use that term advisedly) of the Australian cricket team has sanctioned premeditated ball-tampering… cheating.

An early prototype of The Ashes On Ice™

Cricket Australia needs an urgent fix. Something to restore the faith of the Australian and global cricket fraternity.

Fear not. I’ve been rummaging around the team kit bag and next to the stained and battered protector, I discovered something that may just save Australian cricket: The Ashes On Ice.

This concept is an absolute jaffa* as Shane Warne says during British TV cricket commentary when he’s pretending to be English. *A jaffa in Australia has a different, orange / chocolatey meaning.

The Ashes On Ice. Just let that sink in.

Imagine the crowd chanting “LILLEE LILLEE” as Dennis Lillee circa 1975 slides to the top of his mark… turns, and comes steaming in from the Nursery End. Gold necklace bouncing…
moustache bristling… ice shredding… that look of unbridled fire towards W.G. Grace who is stoically anticipating a bouncer aimed at his throat. Oh, I didn’t mention the animatronics?

Think about it. Imagine seeing the long-departed Our Don Bradman, Fiery Fred Trueman,
Keith Miller, Richie Benaud and other legends of the game get off the ice and promptly back on it?

I already have boffins working in the shed on the technology where Jeff Thomson would try and knock over Sir Leonard Hutton, Beefy Botham at his prime sledging Victor Trumper who promptly hits him into his own stand at the SCG. Ian Chappell dancing down the pitch to Alec Bedser.
Tony Greig sticking his keys into the ice. The possibilities are endless.

Why ice? Why not.

We can recreate the infamous Bodyline series with those arch-villains Larwood, Jardine and Voce taking on the courageous Aussies.

It doesn’t have to stop at Australia v the old enemy. Imagine the unbeatable West Indies,
with the great Viv Richards just chilling out on the ice. Viv never wore a helmet when he batted,
he wouldn’t need ice skates.

The greats of India, South Africa, Pakistan and New Zealand… all battling it out.
Don’t tell me you wouldn’t want to relive the infamous underarm bowling incident… on ice?
Then there are the streakers…

“Yes, hello… is that Cricket Australia…?”

©Steve Williams 2018

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Rugby League — Greatest Memories of All

Australian rugby league fans have a passion that can’t be dismissed.

It’s a game we played, grew up with, watched on the telly and listened to on the radio.
We still do. It’s our game.

Here are a few random memories from when I was a kid growing up in Sydney.

The greatest team in the history of sport (www.nma.gov.au and Melba Studios)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Getting splinters in your arse from those wooden seats at Cumberland Oval. The exuberant Eels fans that torched it after the 1981 premiership win did us all a favour.

*Running onto the ground as the fulltime siren sounded to try and grab the black and white striped cardboard corner post. I was successful a few times.

*Listening to the great Frank Hyde on 2SM. When people still listened to 2SM.

*The halftime entertainment malfunctions that have plagued Grand Finals — the busted TV allegedly to promote Optus Vision (which was actually quite prophetic), John Williamson serenading an inflatable rubber tree with “Rip Rip Woodchip” after loggers had threatened a blockade of the SCG, the cast of “42nd Street” standing forlornly in the centre of the ground waiting in vain for their music to start, and more recently, Billy Idol’s hovercraft cutting the power, which was a good thing.

*The sensational prizes bestowed on guests of TV’s “Controversy Corner” — including a Pelaco shirt, vouchers for a Viking Sauna and Kevin Junee’s Run For Your Life sports store and the piece of resistance — a bottle of Patra orange juice.

*“The Theme From Shaft” used over the closing credits of Channel Seven’s Sunday night footy coverage with Rex Mossop. Not sure what a “blaxploitation” film had to do with footy, but there’s probably a parallel. “Chips and eggs” was the standard Sunday night fare in the Williams household.

*The Chook Army (diehard supporters of Eastern Suburbs) singing “We hate Ray Price and we hate Ray Price / We hate Ray Price and we hate Ray Price / We hate Ray Price and we hate Ray Price / we are the Ray Price haters”. One actually threw a grapefruit at him while he was in his petrified praying mantis pose — he didn’t budge.

*The “sand boy” running on with a small bucket of sand to for the ball to sit on before conversions and penalty shots at goal.

*Scanlen’s footy cards — that sweet smell of the thin pink strip of bubble gum lingering on the cards… and still lingers with me. Some bastard kid knocking the cards out of another kids’ hands in the school playground yelling “Scramble!!!” which meant a mad free-for-all.

*Having a birthday party with a few mates when I was about ten at Lidcombe Oval for the Chooks v the Magpies, we were sitting behind the try line and were captured in mid-try celebration mode in a photo on the back page of the next day’s Daily Mirror.

*The arse falling out of your meat pie at a brass monkey-inducing Sydney Sports Ground.

*The trainer scurrying on to the field with his “magic sponge” dunked in a bucket of water, mopping up a horrific head gash, then redunking it in the same bucket, primed for the next injury.

*One of my most prized possessions — the autographs of the entire victorious Roosters 1975 side (on an Easts Leagues Club wine list — thanks Uncle Pete).

For all its faults — and there are a few, it’s a bloody good game. It’s our game.

©Steve Williams 2016

*This piece also appeared in The Huffington Post Australia
The Good Old Days When Rugby Was In A League Of Its Own

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Hide-and-seek for Olympics? Coming, ready or not

I am somewhat looking forward to the “medaling”, “podiuming” and gold medal Zika Virus avoiding at the Rio Olympics, however I am far more excited about Tokyo 2020.

A hide-and-seek gold medallist in action

The games of the 32nd Olympiad will not only be a shot in the arm (calm down Lance Armstrong) for the Japanese economy following the Fukushima nuclear f*ck up, but more than that, the Tokyo games look to be a gamechanger if one Professor Yasuo Hazaki has his way.

In case you missed it, the good professor, a graduate of Nippon Sport Science University, has been pushing to introduce competitive hide-and-seek as a demonstration sport at the Tokyo Olympics.

No, he hasn’t been sampling the sake, he is deadly serious. Professor Hazaki established the Japan Hide-and-Seek Promotion Committee back in in 2010 and claims to have over 1,000 members.
This is obviously a guestimate, a lot of members could have been hiding and / or seeking during the headcount.

Apparently baseball, softball, surfing, skateboarding, karate and sports climbing (whatever the hell that is) are being considered for Tokyo, so we need a concerted Olympic effort to get behind the professor and lobby for hide-and-seek, if we can find him.

Maybe he is out playing that interesting variant — “hide-and-seek by yourself” which is also known as hitori kakurenbo though that sounds a little too strange, even for the IOC, and would be awkward to commentate.

The sporting chaps of Monty Python made an official and obviously hilarious bid for hide-and-seek to be included as a Olympic sport over forty years ago, however the IOC aren’t known for their humour.

Hide-and-seek isn’t the most bizarre sport to be played / contested / laughed at in the Olympic Games, far from it — club swinging had a couple of rotations from 1904 — no, nothing to do with leaving your car keys in a bowl, this was artistically waving ten-pin bowling apparatus-like clubs around.

Live pigeon shooting (as you do) was thankfully blasted from the roster after the sole appearance
in 1900, following the invention of clay. Then there was rope climbing — what a thrilling sport for global television — that sadly thudded to the ground in 1932.

My all-time favourite however was “distance plunging” (1904) where you basically jumped in a pool and didn’t move for a minute. Not dissimilar to when you played “floating corpse” as a kid.
You didn’t?

Speaking of which, for reasons best known only to a select few, the Olympics still offer up synchronised swimming, which as we know is basically drowning to music in full makeup.

You shouldn’t laugh — as you know, in a mind-numbingly staggeringly ridiculous decision,
golf and rugby have been added to the program for the upcoming Olympics in Rio, so why not hide-and-seek in 2020?

I say bring it on… coming, ready or not…

©Steve Williams 2016

*This piece also appeared in The Huffington Post Australia:
Hide-And-Seek At The Olympics Could Be Coming, Ready Or Not

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Phil Hughes – Forever 63 n.o.

It has been twelve months since the cricketing world tragically lost Phil Hughes.
Here is my story from last year:

Phil Hughes. What a wonderful story, other than the part after Tuesday afternoon.

image

The young cricket obsessed kid from northern New South Wales, moving down to the big smoke of Sydney to further his dream. And he did just that.

Phil crammed a hell of lot into his almost 26 years, living the dream of Australian kids to one day wear that baggy green cap.

I had that same dream, racing home from school, racing even faster through homework to get out to the backyard for imaginary test matches. “I’ll be Dennis Lillee!” The kids next door alternated between the Chappells. We’d play for a few hours then our mums would call us in for dinner. Stumps.

Great times. Then playing in a junior club team, getting a Stuart Surridge bat from Santa and a Kookaburra ball I would carry everywhere, polishing it to a mirror finish.

I spent many a summer as a kid watching my heroes at the SCG. I imagined walking off the ground, acknowledging the standing ovation from the crowd after a blazing century as the shadows lengthened from the Member’s Stand. Phil Hughes did that for real, five times.

Then life got in the way, for me, but not for Phil Hughes.

I obviously never had the relentless hunger, the burning desire and freakish talent that inhabited Phil Hughes. He made it.

All that work, those endless hours in the nets and countless pitches paid off. He earned the right to wear the baggy green and did it proud. The perfect fit.

This summer of cricket will sadly have a dark shadow, though Phil Hughes will forever be 63 n.o.

Vale.

©Steve Williams 2014

Howzat?! Beach Cricket for the Olympics

It has taken me a few overs to process the fact those great Australians at Cricket Australia are calling for beach cricket to be included as an official sport in the 2024 Olympics.

There have been howls of laughter and protest at this visionary proposal, but I humbly suggest
if golf, rugby, and that bit where leotard-clad gymnasts prance around lobbing a ball and twirling a ribbon on a stick are Olympic sports, then why the hell not?

The Sri Lankan Olympic team is the gold medal favourite

Before the first Olympic beach cricketers proudly stride out onto the sand, there will need to be a lot of meetings in the hallowed chesterfield-stuffed rooms of Lord’s to nut out the details, though a few of the rules of Olympic beach cricket have leaked under the door.

*Holding an alcoholic beverage while batting, bowling or fielding is compulsory.
(Imagine seeing Mitchell Johnson thundering in from the Carpark End nursing a stubbie-holder.)

*Olympic beach cricket must be played with a mangy tennis ball (one that has been half-chewed / slobbered on by a Labrador).

*The stumps will be fashioned from bits of driftwood or random stuff scrounged from the beach
or garbage bins (“garbos” to use the correct beach cricket vernacular).

*In case of bad light and for day / night matches, headlights from player’s cars can be used.

*Tip-and-run is compulsory (this is apparently also known by some ignorant cricket heathens
as “tippety-run”).

*The “You Can’t Get Out First Ball” rule will be in play at all times.

*If any obstacles are blown / deposited on the pitch, i.e. runaway beach umbrellas
or nude sunbathers, they must not be removed. They will add a bit of turn.

*Sledging is compulsory (especially among family members).

*Bonus runs will be awarded for catching a ball in your hat. Even more for catching the ball in your boardshorts. Even more for catching the ball in your budgie smugglers / bikini.

*The “You’re Out If You Slog The Ball Into The Water” rule will be enforced. (I can foresee some pushback on this. Personally I’m not a fan, if you have a player positioned at deep backward point waist deep in ocean, it can lead to Classic Catches that would give Shane Warne apoplexy.

*There will be no umpires. Every decision on the field, even if bleedingly obvious must be met with cries of “That’s bullshit!”, with bonus runs for a tearful tantrum and knocking over the “stumps”.

*When a ball is hit for six, the youngest person on the field must retrieve it, proceeded by “goandgetthatwouldyamateandgimmeanotherbeerfromtheesky.”

*Once a batsman / batswoman? reaches fifty runs, they must start hitting catches (preferably to the dehydrated, sunburnt kiddie who previously retrieved the ball and the drinks).

*The act of “taking your bat and ball and going home” must be met with the response of “Aw, ya wanker!”

I look forward to Cricket Australia vigorously lobbying those IOC types for the inclusion of beach cricket into the Olympics, and eagerly await the bowling of the first dog-slobbered ball in 2024.

©Words and image Steve Williams 2015

*This piece also appeared in The Huffington Post Australia:
Beach Cricket: Howzat For An Olympic Sport?

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Richie Benaud – the Voice of Summer

He is being lauded as the “voice of cricket”.

I would go further — to me, Richie Benaud will always be the voice of summer.

I was too young to witness his considerable feats on the pitch, though I remember my first game of club cricket for the formidable under 11/3 side in 1975 was played at Richie Benaud Oval in North Parramatta.

Snapshots of those summers in Australia include the aroma of zinc cream and coconut oil, trying to eat your Splice ice cream before it melted, the backs of your legs sticking to the bench seats in the HR Holden, and the deafening cacophony of cicadas.

But above and beyond all that was the cricket. Playing in the backyard after school (I was always Viv Richards – yes, unAustralian I know), playing Saturday morning, then “Saturday arvo” club cricket — my SS bat was a prized possession, and of course watching the cricket on the telly and listening to Richie.

When Richie raised the microphone there were none of today’s seemingly endless blokey in-jokes and “banter”. Commentary teams of today could definitely do with his eloquence and grace.

I believe it was what Richie didn’t say in his commentary that had the most impact, those dramatic pauses that landed, followed by an insightful, sometimes gently cutting remark, spinning away with that droll and very dry sense of humour.

Richie Benaud was the absolute master of word economy and unlike most commentators, he knew we were seeing in our lounge rooms what he was seeing down the ground, he didn’t need to be constantly speaking, those periods of silence were not “dead air”.

His knowledge of the game and its spirit was incomparable, effortlessly moving from test matches to day / night games, from the SCG to Lord’s and every ground in-between.

I’m loathe to use the cliché “doyen” but…

Vale Richie Benaud. Thanks for those summers.

Words: ©Steve Williams 2015
image: www.joe-digital.com

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World Cup miracles – Jesus saves but lets one in

Any heretic that scoffs at the premise that football (soccer to Australian and US readers) is a religious experience is a doubting Thomas… or Miguel or Gabriela to give it a slight Brazilian.

A World Cup relic – Maradona’s “Hand of God”

Only an association football apostate would dispute the fact that miracles are being performed
in the World Cup by the wine vat-load.

I’m not talking about how some of the players’ mohawks and afros stay up, or Tim Cahill’s goal — forget Betty tapping him on the shoulder with a sword — just give him that Sydney expressway,
but I digress.

Every single match a player is apparently tragically killed, or at the very least mortally wounded — rolling around on the sprayed-on grass, their face a twisted, grotesque mask of agony, as they desperately clutch a body part that is in danger of falling off at any second.

Then yea, once the ref bloweth thou whistle and thine penalty is awarded, the dead and wounded spring miraculously to their feet, the “injury” fully cured, without even a splash of the holy water from the magic sponge.

Hallelujah! Resurrection! It’s like Easter every ninety minutes, just without the cave and rock bit,
and chocolate bunnies.

Messianic miracles are not only happening ON the pitch.

Nay, a group of wheelchair-bound Brazil supporters were suddenly cured of their afflictions, jumping up in an exalted leap onto their not-so atrophied limbs. They then followed the word of the law-d, taking up their wheelchairs and walking out of the stadium escorted by security guards not swept up in the ecclesiastical euphoria.

Jesus! If I could see just one World Cup game without a player prostrate in penalty prayer,
THAT would be a miracle.

Here endeth the lesson.

©Steve Williams 2014

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Robot Rugby League – No Dramas

Hugh Jackman got me thinking. Well, he is the “thinking man’s sex symbol.”

You won’t find this fullback doing a thing in Schlossy’s shoe

Remember Real SteelHugh’s futuristic movie featuring robot boxing? With the rugby league season about to kick off, I believe Australia’s National Rugby League should run with this concept immediately — simply do away with human players and replace them with robots. Think about it. No more alcohol-fuelled 4am Kings Cross incidents. It really will solve all the off-field dramas,
as there will be no off-field, you just hit the off switch.

How good will it be? No more nightclub groin-groping and flashing, no shady betting scandals,
no delightful alliteration of “I just shat in Schlossy’s shoe”, no mid-season inter-club or other code defections, and an end to on-field proctology examinations, which apparently have even spread to the netball court.

For once, the only rugby league stories on the back and front pages of the newspaper will be solely about what happened on the field — the skill, the drama, the match-winning sideline conversion as the full-time siren sounds, the edge-of-the-seat 90 metre intercept try — with no mention of steroids, peptides, sports scientists, gazelles, or moron players scrawling sexually offensive aliases in a school visitors’ book.

Okay, you may be concerned the play could become a little bit, er, robotic — I am across that — occasionally you could program a bit of rogue robot action, just like when Yul Brynner went all random in that classic film West World. It would be quite easy to ramp up the “bring back the biff” setting for State of Origin, or fire up the “traditional softening up period” program for Grand Finals.

The league and TV bosses would love it, Kings Cross police would love it, and Schlossy’s shoe would forever be empty.

Thanks Hugh.

©Steve Williams 2014

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Cricket memories — as summer as cicadas

Officially, summer starts in Australia on December 1, but to me it’s when the first ball is bowled in the first cricket test.

To mark the occasion, here are some of my random childhood cricket memories.

“Don’t rub ’em, count ’em” — Balls of Steel circa 1980

*Watching two blokes carry a polystyrene esky chock-full of beer bottles (KB?) in front of The Hill at the Sydney Cricket Ground in 1975, when the arse fell out of it. The beer shattered, they were shattered. The crowd roared, the players laughed.

*Foraging in a box of washing powder (OMO?) to discover a cricket card. That smell has stayed with me for forty years.

*The religious experience of buying a brand new Kookaburra cricket ball. Opening the box, unwrapping the paper, gently taking it out. Earnestly polishing (one side) until you could see your beaming face, and never letting it touch the ground.

*My World Series Cricket t-shirt that I wore until it had to retire hurt.

*Tony Greig walking out to bat wearing a motorbike helmet to much laughter. Later sticking his car keys in the pitch while solemnly discussing the mythical “player comfort level” off the high-tech “weather wall”.

*Getting that first “cherry” on your new cricket bat.

*The body-trembling / mind-numbing nervousness of approaching your favourite cricket player on the fence for an autograph, then the exalted glee as you float away gazing at the scrawled signature. I felt exactly the same way meeting Viv Richards when I was 37.

*Missing seeing a test hat-trick. A day at the cricket with dad, who wanted to leave early because the car park “is a shitfight”. We heard the crowd erupt — three times — from said car park.

*The terror of facing a “rep” fast bowler who started his run-up in the next suburb, and was so fast he had to stop and rest before he actually unleashed the red missile.

*Inventing day / night cricket as a kid in 1977: playing backyard cricket until mum called you in for dinner, then resuming after turning on the single Portaflood light, until mum called “stumps”.

*The voice of Alan McGilvray.

*The “Balls of Steel incident” of 1980. Bowling in a school cricket match, the ball slipped out of my hand and hit the batsmen on the full, in the, er, groinal region. He didn’t flinch. I raced down the pitch “Sorry, mate, are you ok? Good thing you’re wearing a protector.” — “I’m not.”

*Getting into fights for supporting the West Indies instead of Australia (I just preferred the way they played the game). Coruba rum is still a beverage of choice.

*The sound of the stitching of that new Kookaburra cricket ball whizzing past your nose as you missed a hoik over cow corner.

*The image of Dennis Lillee flicking sweat off his brow at the top of his run-up, then that bouncing gold chain as he thundered into bowl.

*Walking into bat, being handed a still-warm protector the just-dismissed batsman had just removed. Talk about player comfort levels.

C’mon Aussie, c’mon…

©Steve Williams 2013

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