The weekend musing is back after a bit of a break.
This week Chris looks at the Champion’s League final and Arsenal’s appointment to replace Arsene Wenger.
I did not watch the Champions League final last week, but I did see the highlights and low lights! For the record, Real Madrid won its 13th European Championship establishing the Club as one of the greatest of all time. Winning however, didn’t stop Real’s manager, Zinedine Zidane from leaving for greener pastures.
The Gareth Bale scissor kick was an absolute cracker, but the two howlers from the Liverpool keeper, Loris Karius, were a modern tragedy. No one means to make those sorts of mistakes, but I have not seen anything like that first goal when his throw was intercepted – not even when my boys were playing under age matches, let alone at the pinnacle of world club soccer. I agree with Jurgen Klopp that the second goal he conceded was as a result of the first one. I must say I feel sorry for the keeper as it doesn’t matter how many games he wins and how many trophies he collects, from now on he will always be known for those howlers in the final.
Good to see the new Arsenal manager named last week in Unai Emery. I was not across all the names mentioned as likely candidates for the job but I am sure the former Paris Saint Germain manager was only mentioned very late in the search. His record is good and fingers crossed he invests a bit more time in the transfer market and stiffening up the defence for next year.
Have a great weekend!!
The much anticipated test series in South Africa started overnight and all the Australian batsman bar Cameron Bancroft got a start and did not go on to get a century. I have always said that 350 runs in the first innings of a test match is par and at the time of writing the Aussies need another 125 runs with 5 wickets in hand. Our bowlers can bat a bit so hopefully one of Mitch Marsh or Tim Paine go on to make a ton and this would place Australia in a good position to win the test match. Cameron Bancroft must be one of the luckiest players in world cricket at the moment, he has had nine innings at the top of the order and if you take out his 82 not out in the second innings of the first Ashes test he is averaging less than 13 runs. Peter Hanscombe had three failures at the start of the Ashes with one of those innings being a 32 in difficult conditions in Adelaide and he lost his place in the team with an average of 47. He must wonder why someone who hasn’t proved themselves gets more chances than he got. I certainly do!
Earlier this week Robbie Gray from Port Adelaide chose to challenge a suspension for a head high hit on Jeremy McGovern. The AFL has changed the process this year and Michael Christian is the sole arbiter on penalties so in my opinion the tribunal was never going to overturn the first challenge to one of his decisions. To my mind this was a complete waste of $10,000 by Port Adelaide.
Winx, the biggest name in Australian horse racing, makes her return to the track this weekend and again it is hard to see her getting beaten. The only real chance could be the VRC Derby winner Prized Icon who may have an edge in fitness.
Have a great weekend!!
I read that Football Federation Australia (FFA) Chief Executive, David Gallop said there had been ‘huge’ amounts of interest in the
Socceroos coaching position from local and overseas candidates. One wouldn’t need to be a Rhodes scholar to understand such a level of interest in the position recently left vacant with the resignation of Ange Postecoglou. After all, the hard work has already been done given that the Socceroos have already qualified for the 2018 World Cup.
With at least fourteen candidates on the list of potential coaches, I note there are only two Australians – Graham Arnold and Tony Popovic. Aside from Postecoglou, the Socceroo’s recent past is littered with International coaches such as Guus Hiddink, Pim Verbeek and Holger Osieck. The difference between Postecoglou and the other three is that Postecoglou cared about the future of Australian soccer, the Socceroos and the A League. To the others is was just a job with one simple task – to qualify for the World Cup with no real interest in much else.
Talk has it that Dutchman, Bert Van Marwijk is a short priced favourite for the job. Van Marwijk’s recent claim to fame is coaching Saudi Arabia to qualification for this year’s World Cup. He is back on the shelf after the Saudi Football Federation couldn’t agree with him on the terms of a new contract.
For Australian soccer’s continued growth, the FFA need to appoint a
local person and Graham Arnold would be the perfect choice. He has the qualifications for the job. For a start he has already been in charge of the National squad back in 2006 and 2007. He has gained more experience in the intervening ten years and is currently the coach of the very successful Sydney FC. Postecoglou proved conclusively that Australian coaches are up to the task of coaching at International level so there should be no impediment to appointing Arnold.
However, I have no confidence that the FFA will get this most important of decisions correct. After all this is an organisation that squandered $45.6 million of Federal assistance in an ill fated (some would say impossible) attempt to convince FIFA to award the 2018 or 2022 World Cup to Australia and we all know how that turned out.
The Australian selectors aren’t paying due regard to the long term future of the Australian One Day International team with its choice of Cameron White to replace Chris Lynn in the squad for the coming matches against England. White is 34 and whilst he has had a reasonable start to the Sheffield Shield and Big Bash seasons, one wonders what caused a change of heart by Australian Chairman of Selectors, Trevor Hohns. You may recollect Hohns’ comments twelve months ago after White had criticised the selection of Sam Heazlett in the Australian ODI squad. He said “Cameron has had plenty of opportunities … he has had plenty of opportunities in the past and it’s probably fair to say performed okay without being earth shattering”. Not the most flattering of opinions and a fair put down for a pro sportman.
Whether Hohns believes White’s form has improved to the extent to be now included in the squad or White has served his penance for the criticism of the selectors, those selectors feel White is better than anything Glenn Maxwell can produce at this stage of his career. For whatever reason there appears to be a rift between Maxwell, the selectors and Australian captain Steve Smith. One only needs to look at Smith’s recent comments about Maxwell to gain a hint on where the problem might lie. Smith suggested Maxwell should change his training practices. If the skipper makes those observations it a safe bet it will be a while before Maxwell is considered for further ODI duty.
Maxwell has the flair and more importantly, the ability to play the one day game at the highest level and at 29 represents more of the future for Australian cricket than White does at 34. Whatever the reason for the disconnect between Maxwell and the Australian cricket hierarchy, it is up to the selectors and the skipper to resolve it so that the best possible team can be put together for the 2019 World Cup and in my opinion, Maxwell is in that side!
It is no surprise that English cricket captain, Joe Root was admitted to hospital last night suffering the effects of severe dehydration. Root spent nearly all day on the field yesterday during the fifth test at the SCG. He was so badly affected that he did not resume batting this morning and was replaced at the crease by Moeen Ali. What is surprising was that other English or Australian players didn’t end the day in hospital as well.
Sydney’s weather was described as a ‘scorcher’ yesterday, with the temperature in Penrith at 3.00pm hitting 47.3C degrees – the highest temperature recorded since 1939. The temperature at the SCG was not far behind at 43C but a ‘heat stress tracker’ at the ground showed a reading of 57.6C on the oval.
It is unfathomable to me that Cricket Australia would send the players out to play in such heat and allow them to remain on the field all day. This is an occupational health and safety issue that cannot be ignored. The Australian Open tennis tournament suspends play when the temperature reaches 40C, many enterprise bargaining agreements allow for employees to cease work when the temperature reaches 35C and I am aware of one football league that does not permit training or matches to be played where the temperature exceeds 30C.
The question remains why cricketers are treated differently to workers and other sporting participants? It seems ironic that it is quite permissible for cricketers to leave the field when it rains but don’t have the same latitude when it gets too hot. With the hospitalisation of an elite cricketer, Cricket Australia needs to take action to impose a temperature limit on all matches under its control.
At 25, Bernard Tomic has accomplished much in the tennis world but with Tennis Australia choosing not to offer Tomic a ‘wild card’ entry into the Australian Open field, his tennis career looks like it is on a very slippery, downward slope. Without automatic entry, Tomic has already indicated he had no interest in competing in the qualifying rounds.
Having attained his highest ATP tennis ranking of 17 in January 2016, he managed only eight wins after last year’s Australian Open causing a fall in the world rankings to #140. He has not played competitively since November 2017 and, after withdarwing from this month’s Brisbane International, we may have seen the last of Tomic at an ATP Tour or Grand Slam event.
If that is the case, then he will be like a number of young Australian tennis professionals who streak across the sky only to burn out in the heavy atmosphere that is the pro tennis circuit. Poise, composure, work ethic and tact are all qualities that go into making a good professional in any sporting field. After observing Tomic’s career, it is difficult to say he has any of those traits. One only needs to look at Tomic’s performance in a first round straight sets loss to Mischa Zverev at last year’s Wimbledon tournament and his petulant comments made at the aftermatch press conference to confirm this. It led to him being fined a record USD$15,000.00 by the All England Club for unsportsmanlike conduct after he admitted feigning injury during the match. He also told the press that he had felt a little bit bored and only played for the money.
If we have seen the last of Tomic, then I for one am not sorry to see him go. There have been many moments to celebrate in Australian Tennis over the years, but Bernard’s career is not one of them. The Wimbledon fine may be the low point of his career but there have also been more cringe worthy moments than memorable victories. With the suggestion that he could be one of the mystery contestants in the next ‘Get Me Out of Here, I am a Celebrity’, his career is definitely a ‘sell’ option at the moment.
The International Cricket Council (‘ICC’) has now called the MCG pitch ‘poor’ based on the report by match referee, Ranjan Madugalle. It hasn’t taken the press long to jump all over that with the Age reporting that the MCG pitch produced for the Boxing day Test has become ‘infamous’ because it is the first Australian pitch to be described as poor. If that pitch was poor, then I wonder how pitches prepared on the sub-continent or in England would be described?
One only needs to Google the topic to find descriptions of sub-continent pitches as ‘diabolical’ and ‘a minefield’. One article reported the much vaunted South African Proteas’ batting line-up being skittled for a mere 79 runs with 33 of 40 wickets taken in the match falling to spin. In the 2015 Ashes series, there were complaints that pitches at Trent Bridge and the Oval had been doctored to suit England. In the Trent Bridge Test, Australia made only 60 runs and were all out before lunch on day one.
Certainly the MCC served up nothing as bad as that. The match referee’s rating was driven by his view that the pitch did not allow an even contest between bat and ball. Is that a bad thing? Clearly the ICC thinks so but I think it is much ado about nothing. But the fans didn’t agree as 260,000 spectators watched the Melbourne Test over the full five days.
With the new ICC points system coming in from 1 January 2018, the MCG has dodged being slapped with a three point penalty. Any ground that totals five points over a five year period can be
suspended from being used for ICC matches for one year. Given the past history of Test pitches, it would seem there will be plenty of grounds not seeing Test cricket due to suspension….can the ICC or Cricket Australia afford to suspend a ground that draws a crowd of 260,000? I think not!
What do you think?
The MCG curator must have felt sorry for the English cricket team with the pitch he turned out that was more in keeping with slower English conditions. As I expected, the match ended in a draw with the Aussies retaining a 3-0 lead in this Ashes series.
Since stumps were called yesterday, I have read and listened with interest to the pundits advocating long and loud for a ‘better’ pitch at the MCG. Those making the call include Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland, Cricket Victoria CEO Tony Dodemaide and MCC CEO Stuart Fox. A comment was even provided by the Australian captain Steve Smith. Apparently, the pitch was ‘lifeless’ and needed to provide ‘more variation’. Smith’s observations appear a bit disingenuous given he and his team were batting to save the match and prevent an unlikely England win. I am sure he and the other Australian batsmen were pleased that the ball was bouncing straight and true on day five of the match.
Correct me if I am wrong, but test match cricket has three possible results….a win, loss or draw and, unlike in most other sporting contests, the ‘dead rubber’ matches are still played. While limited over matches have their place in the lexicon of cricket, they should not be used as a yard stick to judge test cricket. They are different games with different expectations. In my opinion, the commentators have been blinded by the hit and giggle of the short form of the game and seem to want all cricket played the same way, finishing with a win or loss.
Having been raised watching five day test matches, I find the battle of wits and skill over the extended period to be a true ‘test’ of ability. It is clearly still a popular form of the game as more than 88,000 flocked to the first day of the MCG test, even though the series had already been decided in Perth the week before. I did read with interest pitch critics saying the pitch was to blame for the fall off in attendance after day one. I think those writers conveniently overlooked the fact that Boxing day was a holiday but many people needed to return to work the next day.
Have a great New Year!
I didn’t see a 3-0 start to this Ashes series on the cards but after watching the first three test matches, it appears Australia’s bowling
is a cut above the English and the Aussie batsmen seem to have been able to make runs at important times in each match. With the Ashes firmly in our grasp, all the carping at the selector’s decisions prior to the first test seem like so much hot air now. Just stuff to fill tabloids and the internet. I think we over analyse things at times.
Before the Perth test I didn’t think Peter Handscomb deserved to get dropped and when Mitch Marsh bowled only nine overs without taking a wicket I thought the selectors had pulled the wrong rein. How wrong was I? Marsh came out and made 181 and his partnership with Steve Smith probably won the test match for Australia. Perplexingly, at the start of the English second innings he only bowled three overs and that was it for him for the match. I thought he was brought in by the selectors to support the bowlers but he only bowled a total of twelve overs across two innings. I am perplexed, but on his batting alone, it is hard to say the selectors got it wrong.
I was a supporter of Tim Paine from the start of the series and now people are starting to sing his praises. As I mentioned at the time he
was always considered to be the heir apparent to Brad Haddin, but finger injuries cruelled his chances and now he is getting his opportunity and taking it with both hands, literally!
The Melbourne test is now a dead rubber, but day one is sold out and last time the English were here it was also a dead rubber with over 90,000 people attending that game. Seemes everyone loves a winner.
Have a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year and we will muse again in the New Year!
I have been a longtime supporter of Ange Postecoglou and was especially pleased when he was appointed as Socceroos coach to replace Holger Osieck. There can be no doubt that Ange has turned the team’s fortunes around as at one stage the Socceroos had slumped to number 100 in the FIFA world rankings but he now has them back at 39 after qualifying for the World Cup. Ange also managed to win an Asian Championship along the way so he is definitely leaving the National team in a lot better shape than when he took over. Given that success I was most disappointed that he decided to pull the pin on his time as the manager of the team. A bit like David Gallup, I am puzzled as to why you would walk away after having scaled the mountain the hard way. It reminds me of David Hall, who was the original trainer of Maykbe Diva. After the first Melbourne Cup win he went overseas to pursue a training career leaving the Diva with Lee Freedman to chalk up two more wins. At least he had the first win! The search is now on for a new manager and I have heard many names mentioned including current Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold, Brisbane Roar coach John Aloisi, former Western Sydney Wanderers coach Tony Popovic, Melbourne Victory’s Kevin Muscat and, in a blast from the past, Aussie Guus Hiddink. I hope the powers that be stick with a well credentialled Aussie coach. Personally I think Arnold has the ability to do the top job. He already knows the difficulties having been the Socceroos coach from 2006-2007 and he has been a success in the national competition with his A League side currently holding all three trophies.
Great to see the Ashes series has started as it is the most anticipated series in world cricket. In the recently completed First Test, the Australians gained the ascendancy after being able to scratch out a slim first innings lead then managed to take some crucial, early second innings wickets. The Aussie speed trio of Hazlewood, Cummins and Starc were wonderful and had the English on the back foot in both innings. Providing the three can stay fit, they will be more than a handful for the English over the final four tests. A special mention to the skipper too. Steve Smith’s innings was the real difference between the sides and the only reason the Aussies had a first innings lead. Without his contribution we would have been facing a sizeable deficit to make up and that would have completely turned the tables. Our top order needs to take a leaf out of Smith’s book and seek to occupy the crease rather than go after quick runs all the time. After all it is a ‘Test’ not a 20/20 game.