Tah'd with a new brush

Peter Fitzsimons
May 3, 2008

WADDABOUT dem Waratahs? Where has that team been hiding the last five years?! You know, the one that took on the second-placed Sharks last week at the Sydney Football Stadium and whacked 'em, smacked 'em, poked 'em, rolled 'em up and SMOKED 'em? Somehow, in the past few weeks, every player seems to have lifted a gear, is playing with confidence and daring, is backing both himself and the players around him, and all up playing the best rugby any of us can remember from men in sky blue in recent time. We have seen the Promised Land. We believe. And yea, though we will walk in the shadow of the Valley of Death in coming weeks, yet will we fear no evil, for we have the meanest pack in the competition, and suddenly the most dashing backs.

Worthy misdeeds

Bring it in tight. Here's the idea.

Think professional sport and you think a mixture of glamour, glitz, oodles of money sloshing around, with a few Saturday night atrocities here and there, usually resulting in the player paying a fine. As well, when clubs breach salary caps - or, say have an extra man on the field when they shouldn't - they too pay fines. Now think about this city's homeless and underprivileged, the shadowy figures flitting by in the distant darkness as you and I head home to the warmth. Or kids in hospital wards dying of cancer, while organisations devoted to medical research struggle to get the funds they need. Or the many other people in need in our society, for whom only a very little money can go such a long way …

The connection?

There really is very little, apart from regular visits from the sportspeople to the children's wards to hand out teddy bears or the like, as the cameras roll for the photo op, before they all go home again. But why not connect them up more formally? Why not have it that each of the major sports institutes a convention whereby all of their fines go directly to a chosen charity, instead of simply back into the gaping maw of general revenue, never to be seen again? How wonderful if the 25 grand the Swans paid in a fine this week didn't just head off to the AFL, but went to the Salvos or the like! As to player atrocities, how terrific if next time a leaguie heads up to the Cross for a quick gun-fight, or a rah-rah throws a quokka around, or a soccer player hits a referee, or an AFL player decks someone with the sweetest punch you ever saw, there would be some good news to go with it. The whole thing could only help bind clubs and players to their communities, and make them less likely to be accused of being merely voracious businesses without a soul.

What do you say?

Some respect where it's due

And speaking of bad boys, last week TFF asked the rhetorical question as to where was Ben Cousins when the West Coast Eagles needed him? The answer came on the same day from a Fitzphile in Asia, Steve Bell: "I saw him yesterday in Thailand, respectfully attending the Anzac Day dawn service at Hellfire Pass, then again at the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery attending the 11am service. He painted a very respectful figure as he wandered by himself for some time through the graves of many ex-Aussie servicemen who died as POWs."

Frills and skills with pedigree

Up in Brissie rugby circles, the former Wallabies back-rower Chris Roche has always been highly regarded as a coach. He is no-nonsense, intense and gets results. This year the high-powered lawyer took over perennial cellar dwellers, Norths, and after five rounds they are undefeated - after having beaten all of last year's semi-finalists - and are leading the comp. Impressive, too, was his choice of skills coach. Now, this skills coach has about as impressive a rugby pedigree as it is possible to get with a father, son, and brother-in-law who are all famous Wallabies. Oh yes, and a husband that is also a famous Wallaby. She is, of course, Marguerite Howard, daughter of Cyril Towers, wife of Jake Howard, mother of Pat Howard and sister-in-law of Roy Prosser. As well as her rugby coaching, she is a part-time teacher at the Currimundi Special Needs School, and grandmother of four young children all under the age of six. This weekend Norths play GPS, and packing down in the GPS front row will be another of Jake and Marguerite's sons, David.

Footy at its purest

TFF attended last week's Anzac Day game between Collingwood and Essendon at the MCG and have rarely seen something so impressive in the world of sport. As they played the Last Post and the national anthem, the 100,000-strong crowd uttered not a peep, whispered not a murmur. The atmosphere was electric and the general mood in the air one of reverence for the diggers and anticipation of the game to come. Aficionados put that day higher than grand final day, as the G is filled with genuine fans, not just corporate heavies who can afford the price and have the clout to get the coveted tickets. Somewhere, someone has done a superb job organising that landmark day in Australian sport.


Gold Coast Titans. With five wins on the trot, they are starting to look like roughies for the premiership. Meanwhile, Souths have lost seven in a row.

Malcolm Speed. The CEO of the ICC was let go from the remaining eight weeks of his seven-year contract. Speed wanted the people who run cricket in Zimbabwe to be held to account for alleged financial irregularities, while the board of the ICC wanted to let it slide. In cricket these days, when money clashes with principle, it is a fairly safe bet to put your money on money.

Manchester United and Chelsea. The two clubs will play the first all-English Champions League final, in Moscow on May 21.

Adam Scott. After initially blowing a three-shot lead going into the final day of the Byron Nelson Classic in Texas, he came back with a winning 15-metre putt on the first play-off hole. Nailed it!

The Sydney Swans. You may not know that the Just Enough Faith van, which feeds a fair chunk of Sydney's homeless every night, is going through a rocky time of late, but it's great to see the Swans sponsorship of the project remain intact.

Wycliff Palu. His raging bull performance last Saturday night scattered his opponents like nine-pins and delivered the Waratahs two tries.

Ewen McKenzie. How sweet it must be.

Harbhajan Singh. Was rubbed out for 11 IPL matches for slapping Shantha Sreesanth. Why was Sreesanth then crying like a baby? It was not a good look for India's most feared fast bowler. If anyone had slapped Dennis Lillee like that, the great man would have dropped them like a sack of spuds.

Shane Warne. This bastard just won't quit. Somehow, after taking over as captain/coach of a no-name team in the IPL, he has inspired them to the point they might even win the whole wretched thing.

What they said

Sonny Bill Williams takes the yellow jersey in this year's Tour de Cliche on The Footy Show when talking about the upcoming Kiwis-Kangaroos Test: "It's definitely going to be a war out there. I've always said, on our day, we can beat anyone if we click. And with Wayne Bennett and Steve Kearney, we're moving in the right direction and the dust has settled on all that. We just need to get on the same page and I think we can do wonders."

The text message Andrew Symonds received from a mate, after being caned for 30 runs in one over in the Indian Premier League: "Please call Virender Sehwag on 464646." Maria Sharapova, on her claycourt game.

"I used to say I was like a cow on ice, but now I'm like Bambi."

In the wake of the Herald article last month concerning Jack Gibson's best quotes, a reader reckons this one, after Queensland had just thumped NSW, tops them all: "NSW were in this game right up until the national anthem finished."

The following is from The Guvna's match report in the Nambucca Guardian News, after the mighty Bowraville Goannas' win over the Hastings Valley Vikings in the mid-north coast rugby union league: "The Les Craggs Electrical points went to Mick Lewis, Tom Aitken and Max Duncan, with players' player Matt Allom (incidentally Craggsy if you read this, can you send Nongy around to fix my stove, thanks mate)." Oh yes, and Nongy, give Guvna an uppercut from us!

Carlos Augusto Nogueira, a police superintendent in Rio de Janeiro, on the scandal involving football star Ronaldo and three transvestite prostitutes: "He said he just wanted to amuse himself. That's not a crime. Ronaldo said he is not good in the head."

Crusaders and incoming Wallabies coach Robbie Deans on whether he sees NSW young guns Luke Burgess, Rob Horne, Kurtley Beale and Lachie Turner as rookies or fully fledged Super 14 campaigners: "I see them as opponents right now."

Former India coach Greg Chappell on his new language skills: "When you've been abused as many times as I have, mate, you are bound to understand some Hindi and Urdu."

After Celtic goalkeeper Artur Boruc displayed a T-shirt captioned, "God bless the Pope", manager Gordon Strachan defended him: "He's not a bad lad [the Pope], to be fair. If it was 'God bless [convicted child killer] Myra Hindley', I might have a problem."

Shane Warne, while explaining how he has done so well as captain-coach of the Rajasthan Royals in the IPL, also manages to have a go at his erstwhile Australian coach: "We don't use computers. We use our brains. I don't need a computer, or 15 pages of notes or 25 meetings."

Why North Melbourne coach Dean Laidley didn't call a head count in those final seconds against the Swans: "I didn't want to be remembered as the Trevor Chappell of football."

Reg Reagan after being told by the AJC he is not welcome to stand in for John Singleton and make the acceptance speech should Tuesday Joy win the Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick today: "I'm hurt and disgusted. I had the suit dry-cleaned and the speech ready … Now I'll have to watch it at the Collaroy Ex-Servicemen's with Noel Kelly and Chow Hayes."

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