Sunday, June 27, 2010

It is often said that the greatest commodity one can possess in rugby league is speed. But what about courage? Doesn’t harm, does it. Better still, if one was to unite the two; good things could come of it, surely.
Kevin Locke is one such person that possesses these qualities, of which he displayed at AMI stadium in Christchurch today. Having already scored two tries for his side in the first half against the Sydney Roosters and with the New Zealand Warriors trailing 18-14 with eighty seconds remaining in the match, he toed the ball ahead from halfway and scampered off after it. His speed was there for all to see as he outran his opponents. Not only that, he then displayed tremendous courage to dive on the ball and score the match equalling try. Sounds easy doesn’t it? Not so on this occasion as the ball was right next to the upright. To force the ball, he gave no thought to self preservation as he smashed into the right upright as he scored the sensational 79th minute try.
As he was taken from the field on a stretcher while receiving a rousing reception from 20721 delirious fans, all that was left now was for James Maloney to slot the conversion for a miraculous 20-18 win. Which, he duly did.
How the Warriors managed to conjure up the victory, most would still be trying to ascertain. They were on the back foot for the majority of the eighty minutes and looked to be struggling against a bigger Roosters forward pack. The Roosters were making headway up the middle of the park with relative ease, despite a determined effort from the Warriors, not to mention atrocious conditions that should have made ball handling a nightmare. But they managed it with aplomb.
In fact both sides gave a magnificent display of error free football which was a credit to them. You could even be forgiven for thinking the Roosters didn’t realise that it was wet, as they continually offloaded in the tackle. When they weren’t busy doing that, they would be putting in chip kicks or spreading the ball wide to try and outflank the Warriors defence. Which they managed to do on numerous occasions as the Warriors were playing with a tightly compressed defence.
With undesirable weather conditions, this was always going to be a tight affair. And Locke’s first try, which was dubious at best, was the decider. Having chased a last tackle kick through from Maloney, Locke was deemed to have forced the ball a just inside of the dead ball line. It was a contentious call from the video referee and in the end was the difference. Sydney City could rightly feel aggrieved with the decision.
For the Warriors though, it kept them in the match as the Roosters proceeded to take the lead with two tries, one in the 19th minute to Mitchell Pearce, followed not long after with the second in the 22nd minute to Todd Carney.
With a 12-4 lead and looking the more fluent of the two sides the Warriors had to hang on and hope to stay close enough to use the wind advantage in the second stanza. It was Locke, again, that achieved this when he dived over in the right corner in the 36th minute.
To be only four points down at half-time was a mighty effort, for they had had far less possession than the Roosters. Even with the wind behind them in the second half, things didn’t improve for the Warriors. It was the Roosters that were acquiring the right go forward to enhance their chances, not the Warriors.
And the Roosters capitalised on their territorial advantage with a try to centre Shaun Kenny-Dowell in the 64th minute. With the conversion from Carney, they had procured themselves a ten point lead. Having dominated the game thus far and with the awful conditions it seemed the Roosters were about to head off across the Tasman with two competition points safely tucked away.
Which just goes to show that you should never count your chickens before they hatch. This Manu Vatuvei would surely agree with, as he held designs on getting his team back into the contest. And in the 74th minute the Vatuvei and the Warriors came to life as he barged his way across the chalk to dot down in the left corner. This brought them to within six of the Roosters, so the conversion from the sideline was going to be crucial if the Warriors were going to pull off a win in the remaining three hundred seconds. It was never in doubt though, as Maloney nailed the kick from the sideline. It was a fine goal, that’s to be sure.
All that was left now was for Locke to produce his heroics. He may well have given himself a stay in a hospital ward for a night.
Not that he will be too perturbed as he has also kept the New Zealand Warriors right in the hunt for a top eight spot.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Be careful you All Whites.
If you keep this current run of form up you just may raise the expectations of a nation. As it is, there is already an inexhaustible safari of chest thumping nationalistic pride overwhelming the nation.
First you do what you patently were not meant to do in qualifying for the World Cup. Then when you arrive, you stare madness down and talk yourselves up by claiming you can gain points at a World Cup. The rest of the world sniggered, preferring to think a tad more rationally, believing you were there to make up the numbers.
What’s more, you had three quarters of New Zealand believing all this gibberish of accruing points. Hell, you lot even had the general populous believing you could escape pool play and progress to the second round.
Okay, so you got a draw against Slovakia and gained New Zealand’s first ever point at a world cup. You rejoiced, we rejoiced, even our neighbours across the ditch were giving New Zealand some credit. It was a stupendous effort. As a nation, we were all so proud of you. Our collective bosom was swelling to bursting point. If you didn’t gain another point, no one was going to hang you for it. Sure, we’d all be a bit disappointed. Like you would, I guess. But our heads would stay high with pride; there would be no sagging in morale.
We’re not a Soccer nation, so we would all accept that you would lose the remaining two matches in your pool. But, what’s that we hear you say after drawing with Slovakia, you think you can draw- even win- against Italy. We could all understand this coming from some of the more fanatical fans. After all, you had just given your Country one of its more memorable fist pumping moments. But, surely, it was just a case of a few delusional souls getting carried away?
So some of us thought so, anyway. Until, that is, you turn up on Sunday afternoon and faced off against the reigning champions, the all mighty Azzurri. A cake walk for Italy, surely. A walk in the park, that is, until the eighth minute when Shane Smeltz scored the first goal of the match. It wasn’t meant to happen like that you know. But then, it seems you lot don’t just talk the talk. You walk the walk, as well.
Although it was early on in the game, we were all hoping you could go on with the job and get New Zealand’s first ever win at a world cup. But, deep down no one really thought it was going to happen, did they? It was only a matter of time before Italy would crank up that mighty footballing machine of theirs and knock in a few effortless goals.
It didn’t happen though, well, accept for that one penalty goal they scored. We all claimed they had cheated ( they did), and you felt you should have won. But, let’s be fair, the goal Smeltz scored was from an offside play too. Admittedly you didn’t deliberately cheat, unlike the Italians who admire gravity way too much and give it far more credit than it deserves.
In the end, a 1-1 draw was a fair result. Again you did us, and more importantly, yourselves proud.
Now, I suppose you lot are going to claim you can go out and beat Paraguay on Thursday. Thus, gaining entrance into the second round. Gee, you probably will even claim that you can qualify top of your group which would give you a second round match-up against either Japan or Denmark. Much better than playing Holland, that's for sure.
So go on, say it, you believe that you can do what no one thought you could do: advance to the second round. Because we are all starting to sense something truly special is about to happen.
Qualify top and I bet you will rate yourselves a massive chance in reaching the quarterfinals.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

If you were after a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon, you could have done no better than a trip to Leichardt Oval to join 19428 others in watching the West Tigers and Canberra launch themselves through eighty minutes of pulsating and thoroughly entertaining rugby league.
It may not have been error free football from either side, but, regardless, they both provided a plethora of line breaks, as well a steady supply of big hits.
It was end to end fare from both sides from the beginning, with neither being able to manoeuvre their way to a significant lead. Just as it looked like one side would gain an advantage, the last pass of a movement would go to ground. Not great for the coaches blood pressure, but, still, entertainment plus.
It was a titanic struggle and it wasn’t until the 75th minute that the Tigers were able to gain the ascendency and head off into the sunset with an 18-8 victory. In fact, until then, the only time they looked in control of the match was in the opening fifteen minutes.
It was not a particuly auspicious start for Canberra as they kicked the ball out on the full from the opening whistle. From the ensuing penalty, the Tigers pounced as they put winger Beau Ryan over in the right side corner. With a superb sideline conversion from Benji Marshall, the Tigers had made a splendid start in their mission to secure third spot on the NRL ladder.
Despite not being able to add to their tally over the next fifteen minutes, it looked like they were about to put Canberra to the sword as they totally dominated possession and field position. Having completed thirteen of their first fourteen sets, they were looking formidable. But Canberra hung in and slowly the momentum started to swing Canberra’s way.
Once Canberra did start to get some possession of their own, it didn’t take long for them to use it efficiently. For in the 23rd minute Joel Monaghan went over in their left corner as Canberra sent their attack down the Tigers right side defence. In what was a mighty effort from centre Jarrad Croker, he managed to get a pass away- despite the hostile intentions of three would be tacklers- to an auxiliary unit in the form of Joel Monaghan to score. With the conversion the scores were levelled up and it was game on.
But neither side could get on top of the other because of a constant stream of errors. The Tigers on numerous occasions were able to create space down their opposition’s right side causing significant lesions to the Canberra defence. Somehow, though, each time Canberra was able to plaster over the trouble spots and force the Tigers into a mistake on the last pass.
It wasn’t until the 62nd minute when the scoreboard was again troubled. With the stalemate that was struggling to be broken, it came as no surprise that the next scoring opportunity came from a penalty. And it was Canberra who benefitted with a valuable two points to go 8-6 ahead.
They looked like they were heading for an upset win too, as the Tigers couldn’t find a way through a determined Canberra outfit. Until the 75th minute, that is. Once again it was Beau Ryan, who with little room to move, put in a grubber kick and regathered to score in the right corner. Marshall once again had his kicking boots on to give his side a four point margin.
If Canberra had notions of snatching a last minute win, they were soon dispersed as Daniel Fitzhenry provided the coup de grace for his side as he wended his way from a scrum through a thin line of defence and forged forth with great haste on a sixty metre diagonal dash to touchdown under the crossbar and gain the Tigers a ten point win.
While this wasn’t the perfect display of football from either side, the Tigers have shown that they can win tight matches. In reality they struggled from the 20th through until the 70th minutes. And yet they still found a way to win.
Must be why they are third on the points table.
A house divided against itself cannot stand- Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

After last night’s second State of Origin match, one wonders what a player has to do to get sent off these days.
Having pile driven Darius Boyd into the turf with a spear tackle, New South Wales forward Luke O’Donnell somehow managed to be allowed to stay on the field and complete the match.
Not only did he indulge in a spear tackle, but in the ensuing melee he decided it prudent to headbutt Dave Taylor and then when others were holding Taylor back trying to prevent this particular part of the melee from continuing O’Donnell then decided to partake in the low act of throwing a left hook at Taylor.
Which one would have thought would have been enough to earn his marching orders from referees Tony Archer and Shayne Hayne. Apparently not.
In Rugby League in the last two weeks we have seen that it is now okay to not only throw someone head first into the turf, but, also, to headbutt others to your heart’s content. Oh sure, O’Donnell has been suspended for three weeks for the spear tackle. But, surely there comes the time when an incident on the field is so bad that a player deserves to be sent off. And this was one of the worst tackles of this type that you will see on a football field.
Some will say that O’Donnell did not do it deliberately. But, that is not the point. What is, regardless of whether it was intentional or not, is that one day someone is going to end up paralysed and a quadriplegic because of an act of stupidity of the sort seen last night on O’Donnell’s part.
There comes a time when referees have to have the courage to send players off when an incident is as serious as this was, regardless of what the connotations of their decision are for the outcome of the match. And this most certainly was that time. If the tackle wasn’t (it was) enough to send O’Donnell off, surely with the headbutt also coming into calculations, that would have tipped the referees decision. Amazingly, they decided against this course of action. And unfortunately, one suspects that they did not want to affect such a big occasion by making the game thirteen against twelve.
Despite Jarrod Hayne being let off at the judiciary two weeks ago for a headbutt because he was deemed not to be deliberately intending to injure, anyone who saw O’Donnell headbutt Taylor could see that there was intent there. Which, going on the logic of the judiciary means that O'Donnell should have been charged for the headbutt. And to top it all off he then throws a punch at a player who wasn’t able to defend himself. If all this does not amount to a send off offence, then the world really has gone mad.
What is even worse with this whole situation is that because Hayne was found not guilty of headbutting, O’Donnell has got away with his headbutt and not been charged for it. So now the judiciary have intrinsically stated that it is open season for players in the NRL indulge their inner thug. And you just know that he would not have gone through with the head butt if Hayne had been punished for it.
With players such as O’Donnell, this is only an invitation for them to show how tough they think they are. Perhaps O’Donnell doesn’t realise what true toughness is. It certainly isn’t head butting others, nor is it throwing punches at players unable to defend themselves. Thuggery isn’t toughness; it is simply an opportunity to show everyone how weak you really are.
Queensland showed us all what real toughness is, last night. A team that is confident in their ability to achieve the goals they have set themselves doesn’t have to try and intimidate the opposition with illegal violence. What they will do instead is come out and put some added sting into their defence in a legitimate way. And they showed this in their first two defensive sets last night where they continually had three or four players in the tackle driving the ball carrier back several metres. They didn’t just tackle the ball carrier either; they pummelled them each time. And they kept doing until they had knocked the spirit out of their opposition.
Queensland came out from the kick off and competed at a higher intensity than a normal NRL match and showed us all what being tough is about. New South Wales on the other hand didn’t lift their intensity levels above what they would during a club game. Instead some of them, led by O’Donnell, thought that they could intimidate through the use of violence.
Maybe one day they’ll learn that it just doesn’t work. Because if they don’t, they will lose the next five series, too.
And as long as players of the ilk of O’Donnell insist on resorting to illegal tactics, then the referees should get tough and do the game a favour by sending them off.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Great sporting moments don’t make their presence felt all that often in a small country such as New Zealand.
But last night the All Whites surely gave us one to cherish for many years to come. A one-all draw against Slovakia is not to be scoffed at. That the All Whites got to the world cup finals in the first place was a feat that should not be underestimated. Only thirty-two teams can gain entry into the finals in a sport that is truly global. So, for little old New Zealand to make it to the finals, ranked only eighty-second in the world, was a momentous achievement. Then, to add to that, to march out on to their field of dreams and dare to think they can actually win against (or at least draw) teams that are ranked anywhere up to eighty places higher than them is simply preposterous.
Well, it seems this mob don’t understand the meaning of “it can’t be done”. Oh no, not for them to go to South Africa and just make up the numbers. They’re not content with that. They have to believe that they can somehow gain this country’s first ever world cup point.
Never mind those doubters amongst us that said it can’t be done. What would we know? It turns out not much at all, thankfully. For the All Whites gave a performance that they can be justifiably proud of. Not only that, we should all revel in what is a mighty achievement. Let’s remember that this isn’t our main sport here. Sure, it may have the highest number of participants of children up to the age of sixteen. But, after that, rugby rules in New Zealand. So for New Zealand to be producing these type of performances in a truly global sport is remarkable.
What would have been most pleasing about their performance for their mass of followers, was, despite being on the back foot for the majority of the match, they simply refused to give up. They defended like their lives depended on preventing the opposition from scoring. And with all the attacking opportunities that Slovakia had at their feet, for the All Whites to keep them to one goal was a fabulous effort. Not only that, but they were extremely unlucky to have conceded that goal as replays showed that the goal scorer was offside.
This is a team with true spirit. These are the type of guys that if you were at war, you would want in the trenches next to you, for they stuck together no matter what the adversity facing them was. That they were being comprehensively outplayed (with the exception of the first fifteen minutes) and still managed to find a way to keep the score close enough to attack in the dying seconds was a credit to them and their mental toughness.
One suspects that this team is all the better for Captain Ryan Nelsen’s presence,too. He is their one player of true world class. After all, one doesn’t get to ply their trade in the English premiership without being of a certain quality. With Nelson comes an attitude where playing to make up the numbers is not acceptable. And you can be sure that as the game progressed last night, and it was increasingly looking like Slovakia would rack up a big win, that Nelsen was the adhesive that held the team together.
Not only are the All Whites lucky to have Nelsen in the team, they are even more fortunate to have Ricky Herbert at the helm as coach. He has done a wonderful job with both the All Whites and the Wellington Phoenix. First he got the Phoenix to the penultimate weekend of the A league, now he has managed to make the All Whites competitive on the world stage. If this guy isn’t the best coach of any sport in New Zealand, then Nero didn’t like fire and was the sanest emperor in the history of the Roman Empire.
Having done a splendid job up until now, all Herbert has to do now is find a way for his troops to invade the enemy territories of Italy and Paraguay and come away with at least a win and a draw from those remaining two matches of pool play.
Not hard at all, really. After all, they have already shown that they can beat the odds.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The New Zealand Warriors have gained a valuable two competition points with a 32-24 win against the Newcastle Knights today in Newcastle.
They were extremely lucky though as it took them some sixty minutes to awaken from their slumber.
At eighteen points a piece after sixty minutes, the game could have gone either way. Until then, neither team were able to take control of the game and ram home an advantage.
With a strong wind behind them in the first half, the Warriors did not use it to their advantage. Likewise, in the second half, the Knights were the same. Very rarely did either side kick early in the tackle count to make the most of the strong wind.
It was the Warriors who finally decided to spend their time productively by putting Manu Vatuvei over in the 63rd minute. Five minutes later James Maloney kicked a penalty goal to give his side an eight point lead. Despite Newcastle bouncing back in the 71st minute with a try to Matt Hilder, it was the Warriors who finished the stronger.
It’s just that it took them awhile to play the way they are capable of playing.
Until the 60th minute, the Warriors had played the worst of the two sides, but, due to having more firepower overall, managed to squeeze through with the win. With the bye next weekend, this was effectively a four point game for them.
From the opening whistle they looked rudderless. Within the first three minutes of the game, they had made two horrific errors. First Jerome Ropati knocked the ball back from an awful Issac John pass. Once he had regathered, he was manhandled back into his in-goal area for a goal line drop-out.
Not long after, Lance Hohaia was taken over the sideline on the first tackle. Not surprisingly, the extra possession this handed Newcastle led to them getting Junior Sow across for their first try in the 4th minute.
Even though the Warriors scored the next two tries, this did not stop them from finding inventive ways to invite Newcastle back into the game. There were passes pushed that did not need to be pushed. Not only this, but there was no discernible go forward from the forwards. There was a lot of lateral movement with a flurry of passes, usually to teammates in positions worse than what the passer was. They just looked flat mentally.
Then there was the sight of Maloney kicking the ball dead on the full from the restart after the Knights second try. Sure, it was an almighty gale, but wouldn’t one allow for that? Like putting the ball along the ground most of the way. Including the in goal area, he had a 3000m2 area to land the ball. It’s a big area, so why can't he hit it?
However, somehow they did manage five tries, and with a 100% success rate with the boot for Maloney, it was enough to get them over the line for the win.
That a lot of their play was of a helter-skelter nature will be of concern to coach Ivan Cleary. However, for now, a win is a win.
And they have kept themselves in the hunt for finals football.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

You know, New Zealand and America both have a famous Hillary. It's just that New Zealand's Hillary managed to make it to the top.
And Speaking of Hillary, what the hell was Bill thinking way back in the 90's. The American actor Paul Newman, when asked about his long marriage to Joanne Woodward, once said that there is no need to go out and get a hamburger when he can get steak at home. Now, with Hillary being the totally hot chick that she is, why the hell could Bill have ever wanted to get a hamburger when he has a delicious big juicy steak at home already?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

There’s only one possible explanation for the injury woes of the New Zealand Warriors; they’re cursed.
That curse has struck again today at Mt Smart Stadium as Brent Tate, up against his old mate Wayne Bennett’s St George team, was forced from the field midway through the first half with a season ending injury in the form of a broken jaw. Fate hasn’t treated him well as he was more than likely going to be selected for Queensland in State of Origin two. No mate against mate for him, but before he departed the scene he was responsible for opening up the try scoring gate for the Warriors in their 22-20 loss to the Dragons. A crunching tackle on Ben Creagh, not a moment too late, knocked the ball loose for James Maloney to scoop up and dash thirty metres to score.
It gave his side a 6-0 lead but may yet prove to be Tate’s last act as a Warrior as he has yet to re-sign for 2011.
The rather inclement weather that had forged its way into Auckland should have put paid to any thoughts of expansive football on the part of both sides. However, somebody forgot to tell the players that wet slippery conditions makes percentage play a more effective means of strategy. Which explained the low completion rates during the first half.
Neither side could gain any momentum. This was understandable for the Warriors as they were battling into a strong southerly. Other than their penchant for trying offloads in unsuitable conditions, they showed real determination on defence which would have cheered coach Ivan Cleary after last week’s drubbing at the hands of West Tigers.
On the flipside of the coin, St George surprisingly failed to use the wind to their advantage. Apart from one 40/20 from standoff Jamie Soward, they rarely kicked early in the tackle count to force the Warriors to do even more work off their own goal line. If anything, it was the Warriors who were gaining ground easier.
And with a error from Ben Hornby on his own goal line, it opened up an opportunity for the home side as they were gifted two points as the Dragon’s were penalised in front of their own posts. Which Maloney duly converted.
With an 8-0 lead after twenty nine minutes events were looking highly promising for the locals. The scent of an upset was hanging in the air. Alas, it was not to be, as St George had other notions of what would be a fulfilling result for the match.
The comeback route was first entered in the 39th minute as Soward kicked on the last tackle for winger Jason Nightingale to retrieve the ball on the full and dive over for the touchdown in the right side corner. Amazingly, Soward converted from the sideline in what were atrocious conditions for goal kickers.
At 8-0 ahead coach Cleary clearly would have been fairly pleased with his side’s position, but with only a two point lead going into halftime, he would have been wary of the Dragons despite playing with the wind in the second half.
He would have been right to be wary, too, as St George came out firing in the second stanza. It only took two minutes to for them to gain the lead as Matt Cooper busted through weak defence by Kevin Locke and Lewis Brown to score in the left corner. Again Soward found a way to convert and the dragons had the lead for the first time.
If you don’t reach for the stars you won’t achieve star status. This was not a problem for Warriors captain Simon Mannering in the 48th minute as he climbed high above the overcrowding of players surrounding him to regather an Issac John chip into the St George in goal area and come back down from space to regain the lead for his side 14-12.
It didn’t last long though as Cooper went over for his second try of the day five minutes later. Soward the achieved the rare feat for him of actually missing a conversion.
What he didn’t miss, however, was a chance to stroll through a gaping hole in the Warriors defence in the 58th minute and advance the game in the right direction for St George. With his conversion, the Dragons held an eight point lead which in the conditions proved too hard for the Warriors to close.
It didn’t stop them trying as Kevin Locke, who to this point had had a very quiet day, ran from dummy half and busted through the defence before passing on the inside to Issac John who scooted away to score under the crossbar. It was quite enough though as St George, aided by three penalties over the final ten minutes was able to spend a majority of that time firmly ensconced in the Warriors half.
Despite the loss, the Warriors are still close enough if they are good enough to play finals football this year. Their defence, on the whole, was superb and they played with true grit for the full eighty minutes.
With the return of some their injured stars they could still be a force to be reckoned with.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

We have all heard the rumour that Australians are convicts. Well, now there is possible proof with the appearance of Australian tennis star Samantha Stosur in tonight’s French open final against Italy’s Francesca Schiavone. After all, if Stosur pulls this one off, she will have stolen a title she wasn’t meant to win.
Seeded seventh, she first disposed of comeback queen Justine Henin in the fourth round. The Belgium pocket battleship with the superstar backhand found that one mighty weapon does not beat a player with double the mighty weaponry in Stosur’s scud like serve and a forehand that does its utmost to impersonate a bunker busting bomb. By the middle of the third set,Henin looked like she had not only lost the match, but also any semblance of confidence in her ability to fight back, such was Stosur's formidable display of power hitting.
Next, in the quarter-final she took on the prowess of the fully laden destroyer in the form of world number one Serena Williams. It took her well into the third set to sink the enemy destroyer(with all this talk of ships and sinking the enemy, perhaps Stosur should shift to France. After all, the French do so enjoy blowing boats up), but in the end Stosur was the one who held her nerve and finished the stronger of the two.
Which was somewhat of a surprise when one reminisces on her matchup with Williams at the Australian Open last January. Stosur had looked out of her depth and there was a suspicion that in the big matches she did not have the self belief in her ability to compete with the top players such as the Williams’s sisters and Henin.
But that somehow has all changed in the space of four months. Which, it must be said, is a giant fillip for the Women’s game. With the retirement of the likes of Graf, Davenport, Capriati and Hingis, the depth in the women’s game has been sadly lacking in recent years. Until Stosur lifted her game to another level, you could almost be guaranteed that, depending on the surface, the William’s sisters and Henin would prevail in the slams.
Of the others currently in the top ten, no one gives any confidence that the above mentioned will have their domination of the sport impeded. Danara Safina, who has the talent, can always be counted on to choke when the pressure is ratcheted up. Jelena Janovic and Elena Dementiavia always give the impression that jumping into a raging torrent of molten lava would be the preferred option if given a choice between that and being in the somewhat tense scenery that is a grand slam final.
With these three the best of the rest, realistically Stosur is the most likely to consistently challenge the William’s sisters.
Stosur’s improvement is not just a testament to her shot making. The twenty-six year old has always had the shots to compete with the best. She has now added a much needed veneer to her game in the form of strong mental fortitude. Previously she would win a big match then for no apparent reason succumb easily in the next round. Which, can only come back to a lack of self belief.
Those days, it appears, are behind her though, as she now seems to have added a goodly amount of that much needed mental toughness to her armoury.
Which will have many in the tennis world wondering whether she could now be a potential world number one.
And one can only hope she does, as it is a privilege to watch a player such as Stosur, who has worked her way up the rankings through pure hard work, grab hold of success and make the most of it.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

If there was any doubt as to who is rugby league’s top player, it can only be assumed now that Jonathon Thurston is the king. And certainly one with the Midas touch.
For how else could he get off a charge of detrimental conduct if he wasn’t of royal persuasion? After all the evidence was extremely damning. There it was for all to hear during last weekend’s match between North Queensland and Manly as the television viewer got to hear a foul mouthed tirade from Thurston aimed at referee Jason Robinson.
It was hard to miss, that’s to be sure. Incredibly, Thurston seemed to think that Robinson had wrongly ruled a pass to be forward when replays show clearly that the officials got the call right. Even if they hadn’t, there can be no excusing this kind of behaviour towards match officials.
That Thurston was let off by the judiciary says a lot for the quality of his lawyer and quite possibly just as much about the judiciary themselves. His lawyer argued of all things, that as the NRL had a video of the incident on their website until Wednesday, it therefore could not have been considered a serious offence if the NRL thought it okay to keep it on display. And the judiciary fell for it, which is simply unfathomable.
This argument is the equivalent of an accused bank robber who has left his visage exposed during the act of a robbery being found not guilty because his lawyer argued that it couldn’t possibly be a serious crime due to television networks showing footage of the crime each night for a week after the event. Never mind that there can be no arguing that an offence has been committed.
Sure, Thurston isn’t a criminal and his offence is certainly not on that scale, nor is he a particularly bad person, but the judiciary have now set a precedent by letting him off without penalty. Now they have simply opened the way for any player brought before the judiciary for a similar offence to argue that if it is good enough for Thurston to be allowed to abuse officials in this way, then it surely must be good enough for them too.
And, hey, what are a few F-bombs here and there between friends? Can’t do any harm can it? Well, yes it can. As much as there are many in society that just simply adore the use of the f word, not to mention quite a few others, the issue here is one of respect for match officials. And we are talking of a tirade towards a referee here, not just a random swear word after a player has made a mistake.
If a player of Thurston’s status in the game is seen to be able to get away with this type of tirade towards a referee, then the judiciary are sending a message to young players coming through the grades that this is an acceptable way to treat match officials. And that they too will escape punishment. And if referees are on the receiving end of these types of outbursts at a lower level of the game, then rugby league will soon start to lose good people who are no longer prepared to put up with this type of abuse.
Which in the end will affect the game at the professional level as there will not be the quantity of high quality referees coming through to officiate at the professional level. As it is this year, we have seen some of the younger referees struggle in first grade.
No one would suggest that referees get it right all the time. They are only human, after all, and mistakes are inevitable. With the lack of depth that is clearly missing from refereeing ranks at the top echelon of the game it can only get worse if acts such as Thurston’s are allowed to recur.
But, in this case they did make the correct call. If they had not made the right call? Of course that would not be ideal, but there is still no discernible justification for how Thurston behaved towards Robinson.
And let’s be clear about this: Thurston deserves to be sitting out a couple of matches, and yes, even if that had meant missing State of Origin two.