Thursday, March 25, 2010

New-fangled Blues tame young Tigers

A fresh Carlton side kicked off their 2010 campaign with an emphatic victory over Richmond by 56 points in the AFL’s season opener at the MCG on a steamy Melbourne night earlier this evening.

Despite the absence of gun full-forward Brendan Fevola, the Blues were able to find other avenues towards goal as they finished with 18.12 (120) to Richmond’s 9.10 (64) in front of a crowd of 72,010.

Five goals to five individual goal kickers in the opening 13 minutes of the game clearly signalled the Blues’ intentions to prove their critics wrong. By the end of the night, forwards Setanta O’Hailpan, Eddie Betts, Chris Yarran and Jarrad Waite had combined for 11 goals between them and proved that this new-look forward line can kick winning scores without Fevola.

Carlton’s more experienced midfield had a field day, even with their regular captain Chris Judd on the sidelines due to suspension. They simply denied Richmond of the ball in the first quarter and by the time the Tigers started to find the ball, the game had already been won. The Blues dominated the final possession count gathering 114 more than the helpless Tigers and were more effective and mature when they had possession.

Stand-in skipper Andrew Carrazzo (40 possessions) was clearly best afield in his 100th game while Heath Scotland (32), Kade Simpson (28) and new recruit Brock McLean (26) also found plenty of the football. Betts (19 possessions and three goals) and Waite (17 possessions, 10 marks and two goals) presented tirelessly throughout the night and gave their midfield a forward target every time the Blues surged forward.

Richmond started poorly as they struggled to get their hands on the football during the opening minutes of the game. But even when they began to increase their possession count, the young Tigers started to turn ball over at crucial stages. The Tigers wasted numerous opportunities in front of goal and will have to work harder on their kicking efficiency.

However there were moments during the game when Richmond did look threatening. They came back twice from large deficits to go into the quarter time and half time breaks with some sort of momentum. But the Blues’ class, quality skills and mature heads proved to be the difference as they kicked seven goals to two in the second half to blow the Tigers away.

Brett Deledio (21 possessions), Trent Cotchin (19) and Daniel Jackson (23) tried hard for their team all night. Daniel Connors impressed in his new role across the half back line to finish the night with 24 possessions. Dustin Martin- the third pick in last year’s national draft- seemed settled on the big stage and impressed to finish with 18 possessions.

The Tigers’ loss somewhat soured what was a fitting farewell to a former champion of the club. Before the game, the now retired Matthew Richardson walked a lap of honour around the MCG in front of his adoring fans. He was overwhelmed as Tigers supporters gave him a standing ovation to say thanks for 17 wonderful years of faithful service to the Richmond Football Club.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Bright Shining Star!

Sensational effort by Torah Bright to win Australia's first gold medal at the Vancouver Winter Olympics today in the Women's Halfpipe Snowboard event.
After crashing on her first run, The Australian Glamour girl ran first in her second and final run and defied the odds to post a brilliant score of 45.0. And what made the victory even more sweeter was that she defeated two Americans, Hannah Teter and Kelly Clark.
It's hard to fathom how good Bright is at her sport. Her record over the last three years is incredible, highlighted by victories in the X-Games Championships last year and the Winter Championships the year before.
However, Bright's run to the the Olympics was far from smooth sailing. She had two heavy crashes before the Games which resulted in two concussions. To add even more pressure, the 23-year-old was asked to be Australia's flag bearer during the Opening Ceremony.
But Bright thrives on pressure. And against quality opposition today, she came out on top in the best possible fashion.
Her gold medal means that she is only the fourth Australian in history to win a gold medal at a Winter Olympics. A phenomenal achievement.
Bright's class on and off her snowboard proves that she is a quality role model for any up-and-coming athlete.
Congratulations Torah! You've made a nation proud.
P.S. Marry me?

Monday, February 15, 2010

It's All Happening For Bill

One of the most influential figures in Australian cricket was given the highest honour possible on the sport's night of nights.

Bill Lawry, a champion on the field and a character off it, was finally inducted into the Australian cricket hall of fame at the Allan Border Medal earlier tonight. And that massive nose he somehow carries around with him every second of the day was up and about as usual when he accepted the prestigious award.

Former Australian captain, and longtime friend, Ian Chappell, introduced Lawry before he accepted his award. He emphasised that sometimes Lawry's achievements on the field seem to go unnoticed. Chappell made mention of his formidable defence and how he was "one of the most difficult batsmen to dismiss" throughout his playing career.

Lawry epitomised the role of the opening batsmen. He played 67 test matches over a careespanning a decade. The left-handed batsmen scored 5234 runs at an average of 47.15 which included 13 centuries, with a highest score of 210 against the West Indies in Bridgetown. That is an amazing record for a batsmen who played during the 1960's.

He was a phenomenal captain as well. He used to say that if opposition captain's made it tough for him to score when he batted, he had every right to return the favour. He was tenacious as a captain, but his reign came to an abrupt end when the public found out about his sacking before he did.

It was interesting to hear about the non-appearance of Lawry's wife during his acceptance speech. Around the time when Lawry played for his country, the wife's and girlfriends were treated appallingly by the Australian Cricket Board. Ever since then, Lawry's wife has refused to support Australian cricket and attend such functions.

But most of us would probably know Bill for his outstanding commentary for Channel 9. He has this ability to bring an awe of excitement to the broadcast and always provides entertainment when he has the microphone. Lawry's commentary when Shane Watson scored his maiden test century at the MCG late last year showed that he can not only entertain an audience, but he can also make intelligent calls and give great insight into the game he loves so much.

Lawry's induction into the Australian cricket hall of fame was truly deserved and a long time in the making. Well done Bill, may there be many more wonderful years of commentary to come.

BTW, great effort by Shane Watson to take out the 2009/10 Allan Border Medal. An emotional Watson thanked selectors, teammates and phyiso staff for their patience with him. He has worked so hard to get to where he is today and all that has finally payed off. Watson will only get better with experience, so expect bigger things from the blonde bombshell.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Bilodeau Sends Nation Into Party Mode

Congratulations to Canada who have won their first ever Winter Olympic Gold Medal on home soil through Alexandre Bilodeau.

With a whole nation seemingly on his back, Bilodeau was able to produce a near flawless run in the final of the men's moguls to win gold from Australia's Dale-Begg Smith and America's Byron Taylor.

It is hard to fathom how much of a relief this victory is to the Canadian people. After failing to win a gold medal at the 1988 Games in Calgary, the nation can finally breathe easy.

It was gripping television. Begg-Smith was fourth last to compete and took the lead with an amazing run that scored 26.58. But Bilodeau pulled out a stunning run to score 26.75, just two runs after Begg-Smith.

As the final results were announced, Bilodeau jumped out of his seat in pure joy. But it was hard not to notice the devastation on the face of Begg-Smith.

After winning gold in Turino just four years earlier, the Canadian turned Australian had thought he'd done enough to become the first Australian to win back-to-back gold medals after his run. Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be and as he accepted his flowers at the venue, it was evident that Begg-Smith went to Vancouver to win gold only and that silver wasn't good enough.

I am absolutely fascinated by the Winter Games at the moment. My respect for these athletes continues to rise.

From an Australian perspective, our two best chances of a gold medal lie with Torah Bright (snowboard) and Lydia Lassila (aerial skiing).

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Why Stokesy?

Mathew Stokes had it all going for him. But he's blown it. Big time.

A relatively consistent small forward in one of the most dominant teams in AFL history, Stokes was charged today for allegedly trafficking and possessing cocaine, along with three other Geelong men.

The charges have rocked the Geelong Football Club, who in turn sacked him immediately with full support from the AFL. According to a code under the World Anti- Doping Agency, the consequences for Stokes' offence are severe with the minimum punishment being four years away from the sport with a life ban a definite possibility.
League operations manager Adrian Anderson said last night that under the World Anti-Doping Agency code a sportsperson found guilty of trafficking could receive a life ban.

Stokes' indiscretion is the latest of many controversial incidents involving Aboriginal players off the field. St.Kilda recruit Andrew Lovett has been indefinitely suspended by the football club for allegedly raping a woman back in October. Troy Taylor will face a Northern Territory court after the Richmond recruit allegedly assaulted three men on New Year's Eve.

The behaviour of Aboriginal players off the field is now a very serious issue for the AFL. The culture that they are brought up in is not ideal and something needs to be done about it if players are going to be able to cope with the publicity that comes with being a professional player.

Stokes was such a charismatic man amongst his teammates. He was very close with Cameron Mooney and was one of Mark Thompson's favourite players. His story is one of hardship, after being overlooked in the draft for three years running, even though he was a highly talented junior player. Stokes was finally drafted by the cats and debuted in 2006 and was part of the illustrious 2007 premiership team.

He had his down times however, especially against Hawthorn in the 2008 Grand Final when his opponent, Luke Hodge, dominated on the biggest stage and winning the Norm Smith Medal for best afield in the process. And of course he was the unlucky player to miss last year's Grand Final victory over St.Kilda after pulling himself out the week before due to injury, therefore making it difficult for him to break back into the side.
But Stokes was vital to the balance of the side. Stats don't lie, and his contribution of 108 goals from 71 matches is invaluable. His three goals in the opening quarter of the 2007 preliminary final against Collingwood was magical and inspiring for his teammates. And his five goals against Fremantle at Subiaco in 2007 proved that the man had talent around goals. Also, his clutch goal against St.Kilda in round 14 of 2009- which many considered to be the game of the year- also proved that he was a talented player.

However, this is his darkest day by far. And a dark day for AFL. Something needs to be done to help protect Aboriginal players from being exposed to his culture.

It must stop.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Get Real Afridi

What the heck was Shahid Afridi thinking?

That is the question on every cricket analyst and fan's lips at the moment. And it's likely that Afridi is asking himself the same question.

Against the Australian's on Sunday night, Afridi was caught by television camera's biting the ball during Pakistan's two wicket loss. To sum it up in two words, he cheated.

Why? Who knows. No one knows the answer. Not even Afridi can explain himself.

But what is even more perplexing is that Afridi, who was stand in captain for Mohammad Yousuf for that match, has foolishly come out and said that everyone tampers with the ball in world cricket.

What a farfetched thing to say. He's basically accusing every international cricketer that they are cheats. Did he have a few too many the night before? Does he think everyone watching, listening and reading is dumb?

The sad thing is that Afridi is a genuinely nice guy according to teammates and opponents. Unfortunately, his outrageous actions, and now comments, have certainly tarnished his reputation.

As punishment for biting the ball, he has been suspended for the next two international matches he is scheduled to play, which includes Friday's Twenty20 match against Australia. That's a real shame for followers of the game because in full flight Afridi is one of the most exciting players to watch with bat, ball and in the field.

I hope he learns from his inexcusable actions because his behaviour is simply unacceptable.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Simply The Best

Champion WWE Wrestler, Triple H, says that he is 'that damn good'. And even though Roger Federer does his best to keep as humble as possible, he has every right to echo those words. Because he is that damn good.

Federer broke the hearts of Andy Murray and an entire nation by defeating the Brit in a tough straight sets match in the final of the 2010 Australian Open. The match was touted as a classic-to-be before it even began, and even though it failed to go to a fourth or fifth set, the quality of tennis was enthralling from both players.

In the end, Federer's ability to win a crucial point almost at will was the decisive factor in the end. During a marathon tiebreak in the third set, Murray had numerous set points. However, Federer was able to switch to a higher gear and deny the big Scotsman any momentum whatsoever. Some big first serves as well as those trademark forehand strokes were both used during that tiebreak game as Federer disallowed Murray any glimmer of hope to extend the match.

The win takes Federer's Grand Slam total to 16, an incredible record. And what is even more scary is that he still believes he can improve. In the last week, Federer has played some of the best tennis of his career, especially against Lleyton Hewitt and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, a statement he admitted himself.
Murray will be devastated with his performance in the final, but really should hold his head high after such a wonderful tournament. His win against Rafael Nadal, even though the Spaniard was injured, was precise and very convincing. Murray is gradually climbing the ranks and,as Federer said, he is way too good not to win a Grand Slam.

BTW, Australia wrapped up the five match ODI series with a win against an ordinary Pakistan side to make the series a whitewash (5-0). For Australia, they will be stoked with the form of their backup fast bowlers with Clinton McKay and Man-of-the-Series Ryan Harris claiming 27 wickets between them during the season. They will play a Twenty20 on Friday night, followed by five ODI's against the West Indies.