Joe’s sports diaries – Diary of a bloke who ran a really long way

Melbourne Marathon 42.2km – Sunday 16 October 2016

Keen observers of this site will note that it has been a while since I’ve posted anything here.  I’ve been lucky to write for such sites as The Footy Almanac and Balcony Banter about Footy and Cricket.  I also got a piece published in Inside Football which was a lot of fun.  Hopefully there will be more to come.

I had started putting something together for the Almanac about an event I participated in a couple of weeks ago – the Melbourne Marathon.  But, it turned into more of a stream of consciousness than an article that deserved publishing on a proper writing site, so I thought I’d change tack and put this up here as a bit of a diary piece recording for all time my thoughts about the weekend, a “thank you” or two, as well as a few of the great photos Geri took!

Liar liar, pants on fire…

Of course, some of you will know that this blog shouldn’t exist – because I’ve repeatedly said that I wouldn’t run further, and then gone back on my comments.  Back in 2013 when I first started entering organised running events, Geri (who at that stage was my girlfriend) asked me “Have you ever thought about trying a half marathon” to which I replied words to the effect of “No, I could never do that. I won’t be entering one of those…”.  But… I ran my first half marathon at “Run Melbourne” in 2014.  I ran another half marathon in August 2015 and beat that time.

For amateurs like me, running in events like these are both competitive and non-competitive all at the same time.  You’re not necessarily trying to go faster than the others, the aim is to race against goals you have set for yourself.  That’s one of the things I really like about running – taking the chance to push yourself further to achieve more based on your own standards.  I started running with an aim to complete a 5km event.  Then the next event was slightly longer.  I then tried even longer distances, graduated to a half marathon, and then tried to beat that time.  It didn’t matter that I was nowhere near the front of the field – my only opponent was myself.

With each distance I began to feel fitter and better. The beer gut was slowly reducing (still got some way to go before the keg becomes a 6 pack), and as each distance became easier I wanted to push myself further.  Each time I would have friends and family comment on how well I was going and the buzz I was getting from not only running but the encouragement from others was taking me further.  Friends and work mates challenged me to run a full marathon. Geri (who at this stage was my fiancée) asks “so do you think you’ll do it?” And I said “No, that’s too far for me…

As you can tell from this post, I was wrong about that too!

The theatre of dreams

So how did I end up here?

I’ll be honest with you, the idea of running onto the MCG to complete a marathon was probably the biggest factor in my choosing to enter this event.  As a Victorian kid, I would mostly dream of doing something amazing on the MCG – hitting 100 on Boxing Day or playing for my favourite team, Melbourne.

But now, I’m a 37-year-old office worker who is far better at watching sport than playing it. I thought my sports achievements were done and dusted. The concept that I could ever achieve anything in a running event was even more preposterous. Testing whether I could cover the longest Olympic distance would a far bigger step (both literally and figuratively) than jumping from 5km to 10km. I just wanted to give myself one crack at it to see if I could do it. But, as a safety measure, I also diarised the mid-September cut-off date for dropping back to a shorter distance if my training wasn’t going well!   I ran the half marathon at Run Melbourne again in July, and recorded a personal best, so things were going well.  My mate Lenny said he was considering entering and that gave me further impetus to continue the training (he later had to pull out due to illness).

In late July, I revealed to Geri (now my wife) that I was considering doing the Marathon and she promptly reminded me of my past comments!  But, she was supportive of my efforts, tolerated my long training runs  – I did a few runs around the 20-25km range, and got up to 31km in my longest training run.  She even offered to follow me around the course on her bike on the big day.

I told a couple of people that I was running the marathon, and a few people who follow me on Strava worked it out when they saw me taking longer training runs.  I didn’t actually make it public (well, post it on Instagram) that I was running the marathon until the bib arrived in the mail!

The big day arrives

Well, let’s deal with the night before first.  I was at the NRL Victoria presentation night.  As I was telling people about what I was doing the following day, I was called a mix of words including “mad”, “crazy” and “insane”.  Dallas Johnson, Melbourne Storm legend, 12 time Origin player and one time Australian representative, called me “tough”.  Wow!  I was careful with the drinks, staying on the water to the point where the wait staff got sick of refilling the jug, and having one small wine with dinner and that’s it, before making an exit soon after the last trophy was handed out.

I somehow managed to sleep reasonably well before the alarm went off at 5.30am.  I think that had a lot to do with having a busy night the night before to keep my mind off what was to come the next day.  Like most runners, I had all my gear laid out (including the compression socks I like to wear), I had my TomTom sports watch fully charged, and had all my gels, sports drinks, and warm stuff for after the race ready to go.  Unlike many runners, I didn’t share a photo of it on Instagram the night before – but I did take a keen interest in what everyone was wearing, how many gels they were carrying, and (in some cases) which sporting team they would be representing.  Me, I wore my trusty Melbourne Storm singlet.

On arrival at the MCG I started to get nervous.  We walked down to the oval near the Tennis Centre.  I slapped on some Dencorub and had a quick warm up jog and stretch.

Once I got out to Batman Avenue though I began to feel like a proper competitor.  They played the national anthem –  I think this is the first time I’ve participated in a sporting event which commenced with the national anthem.  Makes you feel pretty special!

The gun went off and I could see the elite runners heading into the distance.  A minute or so passed and then the crowd at our end started to move.  We were off!

A hopefully-not-boring description of four and a half hours of running

One of the things I didn’t want to do was charge off too quickly and burn energy early.  Fortunately there was no danger of that as the big crowd meant I had to keep a steady pace.

The course went up Exhibition St to Flinders St, then turned left into St.Kilda Road.  I was hoping the wind might push as we headed south, and there were a couple of times where you could feel a gust of wind give you a big shove.

I kept an eye out for Geri and I eventually saw her ride past on her bike.  She went a little in front of me and caught this happy snap of me looking steady at around the 5km mark.

 (old mate in the pink was pretty happy to have his photo taken, don’t you think?)

The course then turns into Fitzroy St, and then again turns right to do a lap of Albert park, with an extra bit tacked on where you head down the pit lane of the grand prix track.  You rejoin Fitzroy St and head towards the beach, then turn right to head to Port Melbourne.  Geri captured this shot of me as I turned into Beaconsfield Parade.

Sorry to have to bring this up, but at about 13km, I needed to go to the toilet.  I spent a bit of time wondering whether I could hold on, but when I got uncomfortable heading towards Port Melbourne I started scoping out where the toilets were on the other side of the road. That opportunity was taken at about 19km.  It cost me almost two minutes of time but it would have been much worse if I tried to hold on until the end!

On the run from St.Kilda to Port Melbourne I could see a few of the runners who were ahead of me coming back on the other side of the road.  They all looked fit, calm, and were on pace to beat me by over an hour.  Of course, the elite runners were well past this point and already on their way back from Elwood.  Time wasn’t an issue for me – my aim was to finish, so I kinda enjoyed checking out how they all looked, their running styles, the gels and drinks they were scoffing down.  Maybe I could learn from how the better runners went about it?

On the run from Port Melbourne to St.Kilda I could see slower runners on the other side of the road. They didn’t look like athletes – but their singlets said otherwise – 25 years of running the marathon, or 35 years.  These guys may be a bit older but they were conquering this thing well into their 50s and 60s.  Apparently there was an 80+ year old running this race.  Phenomenal.   They provided a different type of lesson – as long as you’re determined enough then you don’t need to be an elite athlete to run a marathon.  Age is just a number, I guess!

orig-mmck3262

It was just before St.Kilda where we crossed the halfway point.  At 22km I saw Geri who rather kindly yells out “Only 20km to go”.  Hahaha…

We then continued on to Elwood.  Things were feeling good at this point, but I was looking back at people running in the other direction and thinking they weren’t looking as comfortable as they were before.  That was because they were running into the wind!  I had that to look forward to…

They came to see the champ! (instead they saw me?)

I’d run over 2 1/2 hours, so the elite athletes had already finished their race at the MCG.  Yet there were still big crowds lining the streets and cheering for us. Kids were reaching out to give high fives and both spectators and course marshals were handing out lollies.  One gave me a big handful of jellybeans which was great!  I was a bit overwhelmed that all these people were coming out to watch us nobodies traverse the streets of Melbourne.  If they just wanted to see good runners they should have been here over an hour ago – they were all here to watch the amateurs clocking up their own achievements and help them along wherever they could.  That made me feel a bit special.

At about 26km, approaching Elwood, I saw Geri again who took this pic which makes it look as though I’m cruising.  I’ll admit it I was starting to become weary.

At the turn around point at Elwood I was thrilled to see a couple of mates – first Shelley who took this photo as I was reaching out for a low five…

…and then Chloe who took this one.

Chloe says “You’re a Legend Joe” to which the 4hr 20 min pace runner says “Hey, he hasn’t finished yet”.  Look, that’s a fair point, but you could be a bit more encouraging!!

The horror stretch

Then the fun part began.  And by “fun” I mean “exhausting”.  Uphill and into the wind, heading back to St.Kilda and then to the CBD.

The hat was reversed to prevent it blowing off as I ran into the wind!

At 30km I checked my watch and I had been running for 3 hours.  This was good – I was still on a pretty good pace by my standards, but I knew that a new challenge was approaching for me – uncharted waters.  As I turned onto St.Kilda Rd I can recall Geri rode past and said some encouraging words.  I can remember saying “This is further than I’ve ever gone before” – and it was – my longest training run was 31km.  Everything from here onwards was new territory and would be much harder – especially given we were still working our way into the wind.  When I checked my watch again I could see my pace slowing!

I never realised how hilly St.Kilda rd was.  Okay, I admit, it isn’t, but when you’re a bit exhausted, every gentle uphill incline feels like a mountain and every gentle downhill incline feels like you’re tumbling down a hill!

At Sturt St we turned left, to then go around the Arts Centre via City Rd, before joining the Tan running track to head back towards Domain Rd.  there was a nice downhill part where I was able to let gravity to do all the work, but as I turned onto city road (it’s about 35km in at this point) I felt my right hamstring cramp up.

NOT NOW DAMMIT, NOT NOW!!

I stopped briefly and had a stretch.  The cramp went away but now I was worried.  I didn’t have far to go and didn’t want to stop here.  I downed my last energy gel, and started plodding along slowly, heading towards the Tan running track.  Making my way along Birdwood Avenue I started to feel a lot better, and the drink station near Government House had electrolyte drinks available so I downed one of them.

At 38km I could see Geri in the distance, waving a bottle of water and some lollies.  I called out for the water and she, well, walked quickly alongside me as I ‘ran’!  I said to Geri that I was just going to keep trying to put one foot in front of the other until I get to the finish.  She said “It’s all downhill from here”, which was encouraging!

Just to our left at that point was a family giving out Icypoles!  A welcome sugar burst for some, but I declined the offer as I was pretty focused on that finish line.

Heading up St.Kilda Road again, people were dropping like flies and I was determined not to be one of them.  One guy who was threatening to withdraw was being talked to by a friend and as each of us went past we tried to say something encouraging.  I hope he pulled through.  I then passed a couple of people receiving medical attention at 40km.  If felt bad for them – coming so close to the finish before suffering.

Almost there

The course went up to Flinders St again.  Was I struggling?  The gritted teeth in this photo say “yes”.

orig-mmam3032

A few metres further, the professional photographer captured this magnificent shot of me in front of Flinders St Station.

orig-mmal2326

We went down Wellington Parade South and turned onto Brunton Avenue.  There were big crowds cheering and I just couldn’t wait to get to the MCG.  I was starting to tear up a bit, knowing how close I was.

The G.

As I turned into the tunnel and could see the inside of the MCG I let out a bit of a yell. I was about to achieve one of my greatest personal triumphs on the stage that I had watched so often over many years. When inside the stadium I tried to soak up as much as I could, but after 42km of staying strong and pushing myself forward, the emotion got the better of me.

There were fist pumps. There were some tears.

orig-mmcp4418

orig-mmci3672

orig-yyyy9722

And then finally there was this.

orig-mmaw0304

I’d try to describe what this feeling is like but I think the picture describes it better than I ever could.

The statistics:

Official time: 4:29:36.

I was pretty happy with that, although to be fair my aim was mainly to finish and if I somehow beat 4 1/2 hours I’d be thrilled (success by 24 seconds!). Some mates of mine – you know who you are – beat me by almost an hour, and in one case over an hour and a half! Superb efforts gents!

Here’s the map showing how I traversed 42+ kilometres throughout Melbourne only to end up a few hundred metres away from where I started!

marathon

Here’s a link to my Strava page:

https://www.strava.com/activities/745961064/embed/a8983b905e4e2385e3f7a098dd4eb8c3764b7d6b

Keen observers will note that the Strava time is quicker than my official time because it doesn’t count the toilet stop!

Also here’s a link to my Map My Run page.

Thanks to:

Nick, Simon and Fiona at work for the pre-race chats and encouragement during the training weeks.

Chris, Rhett and Chloe for the pre race messages, and Ashley (twitter follower who I’ve never met) for the good luck tweet!

Shelley and Chloe for making the effort to get up on a Sunday to come and watch me run.

Geri for being the roving support crew, chief photographer, supplier of drinks, taxi home. for going into Bunnings to buy me a piece of PVC pipe that I could use as a roller to massage my legs later that day, and for just generally being awesome.

I’m thinking that my way of giving back might be to play the same support role for someone next year, that Geri played for me.  Any friends who are thinking of doing their first marathon and would like a roving support crew on the course, let me know?

What’s next?

I did say that I wanted to do this once, just to say that I had covered the distance.  I can now tick that item off my bucket list!  But Geri’s right – I love doing this and the buzz I get from it will probably bring me back again at some point. I won’t commit to another one, either next year or any other year for that matter, or running in Melbourne again, but I’m already on the lookout for another challenge.  It’s a busy work year next year – so maybe travelling for a half marathon might be a better aim to train for?

Regardless of what I choose I can look back on this with pride.  I can say I completed the Melbourne Marathon, and it made me, a rank amateur sportsperson, feel like a bloody hero. I loved every minute.

 

Advertisements
Posted in Running | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Don’t worry about a thing…

Cricket, 2nd Test, West Indies v Australia, Sabina Park, Kingston, Jamaica, 11-15 June 2015.
  
On the morning of Day 3 of the second test between Australia and the West Indies, we missed an hour of the first session so we could visit (and take a tour of) the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston. The tour was interesting – you learned a lot about what influenced Bob Marley’s music (it’s more than just the herb) and the tour guide actually encouraged the tour group to sing some of his songs, including ‘one love’ and ‘three little birds’ – which features this classic lyric.

“Don’t worry about a thing. You know that every little thing is gonna be alright”

From the perspective of an Australian cricket fan, this couldn’t be more correct. Our trip to Jamaica was a big tick on our ‘bucket list’ – something we’d always wanted to do. The identical t-shirts worn by a number of Australian tour groups at the ground showed us that many other Aussies shared this idea. But early on Day 1, after Warner fell 3rd ball and Marsh soon after, I thought we had travelled around the world to watch our team lose. Then, Clarke spooned a catch back to the bowler Roach and I thought a disaster was on the cards. 

But I shouldn’t have worried. Everything was going to be alright. 

Roach had bowled a no ball. Clarke went on to add another 44 runs. Steve Smith added another hundred to his ever growing list, and Australia went from 3-22 (just before the decision was overturned) to 4-259 by the end of day 1. 

If you were a Windies fan, you had to wonder when anything could possibly go right? Their best bowler, Taylor, had taken 2-0 off 5 overs but was then unexplainably rested until the last over before lunch. The reviews by the Windies failed. On day 2 there was a good shout for LBW but there were no reviews left. And to add to the misery, they dropped multiple catches. In contrast, when the Aussies were in the field, they held nearly all their catches. 

  
Me on Day 4 in the Headley Stand

The mood in the stands was interesting. I’m 36 years old, and there were very few locals around my age at the match. More cynical folks might just say there were very few locals at the match. We spent most of the game in the George Headley Stand (constructed using seats ripped from the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Stadium). Vendors roamed the stands shouting offers of juice, water and (of course) Red Stripe beer. It was a much older crowd, and clearly frustrated by the performance. Heated arguments erupted amongst some locals as they tried to dissect the issues. As the Windies struggled to pass 100 in the second innings, these guys would yell out “WATCH THE BALL!” and “KEEP YOUR HEAD DOWN!”. But, despite their clear frustration with the cricket, they were always lovely and welcoming.

“From Australia mon?”

“Yeah mate, Melbourne.”

“First time to Jamaica?”

“Yes!”

“Ya mon, welcome to Jamaica! Respect!”

*fist bump*

This was a common experience outside of the ground as well. I heartily recommend Jamaica as a tourist destination. In the days after the test we explored even more of the country and had nothing but warm welcomes and great food and drink (although I forgot to move my jar of jerk spices to my checked luggage when we left and it was promptly confiscated for being over 100 grams. Oops!)

  
The ground level view from the KCC Pavilion 

On Day 2, we were invited to sit in the Kingston Cricket Club Pavilion. The accents of the KCC spectators were much more English than Jamaican, and the obvious wealth difference showed when a discussion was held about where they would travel to watch cricket this year – not a discussion about about travelling to another island, but to England, for the Ashes, or Australia for the West Indies tour in December. We enjoyed the ground level first-row seats, the historic paintings and memorabilia in the pavilion, and chatting with other fans about West Indian cricket. They listed names of a formidable West Indian XI of players not out there on Sabina Park. Gayle (obviously), Chanderpaul (controversially omitted), Darren Sammy, Dwayne Bravo, Kieron Pollard, and Sunil Narine were the key members, along with the injured Samuels and Bishoo who had played in the first test.

  
Orville takes us into the KCC bar

We certainly didn’t expect Clarke’s aggressive declaration on day 3, setting the Windies 392 to win, but when Starc had two wickets in the first over to reduce them to 2/1, one of our traveling companions commented on how sad this was to see for the once mighty West Indies, even though we were enjoying the Aussie performance. When I first started following cricket, West Indies v Australia was a five test series and the ultimate challenge. Now, it’s two tests and far from a regular event. I fear not many Aussies will get the chance to make this trip in future, unless it’s to see some T20s. 

As we left the ground each day, we were handed brochures with Chris Gayle’s smiling face, promoting the Jamaica Tallawahs games in the upcoming CPL series. This is the future of West Indies cricket.

Yours in sport,

Joseph

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Cricket World Cup comes back down under – a short preview

Cricket World Cup – 14 February to 29 March 2015

A welcome burst of nostalgia

With this being the first ICC senior men’s event in Australia or New Zealand since 1992, there’s been plenty of flashbacks to the last time everyone was here – the 1992 world cup. South Africa’s return to the international fold, the first time coloured clothing, white balls and lights were used in a world cup, and also the first time I ever went to an international sporting event – England v Zimbabwe at Lavington Sports Club, Albury on March 18, 1992.

1992+Cricket+World+Cup+Australia+New+Zealand+CTsFnS0oHYwl

As a throwback to that era, replicas of the 1992 uniforms have been on sale at Rebel Sport. I scored myself a Zimbabwe top, in honour of their glorious victory on that special day in Lavington, and if they try and sell some cheaply as the tournament comes to a close I may try and pick up one for another nation. At the Boxing Day test, I wore my top on Day 3. Three guys a few rows in front wore Sri Lanka, South Africa, and West Indies versions. They waved and gave me a congratulatory nod when they saw we stand at a drinks break!

The nostalgia even stretches to the Channel 9 advertising for the tournament – Ken Sutcliffe saying “who’ll rule the world” – which was the tagline for the ’92 tournament and even featured in a mediocre just-got-out-of-the-1980s theme song that was released to coincide with the event.

If it wasn’t for the picture of the new post-2006 MCG on the ad, I would have accused channel 9 of recycling their 1992 commercials.

Welcoming back games that matter!

Some people think that ODIs will die soon with the rise of T20, but while ODIs continue to be the most profitable form of international cricket, that’s unlikely. Much like soccer’s friendlies, cricket’s international ODIs have become a bit interminable, as teams tinker with line ups and strategies. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t win the DLF Cup in India, the Carlton Mid Series, or the Haier Cup in the UAE. But now it’s World Cup time, so suddenly the games matter. I’m way more excited about Saturday’s Australia/England match than any other game of cricket I’ve attended in a while, because it means something! Given the test series are usually over by the time it gets to Melbourne, this is a rare treat!

A welcome sight of new colours on the field

I love the world cup because we get to see some of the non-test nations appear. This Fox Sports article shows highlights of some great moments involving the non-test/minor nations causing upsets – and it doesn’t even mention Bangladesh knocking out India in 2007, Zimbabwe beating Australia in 1983, or Kenya making a Semi Final in 2003.

http://www.foxsports.com.au/cricket/icc-world-cup-2015/cricket-world-cup-2015-minnows-presence-is-important-says-greg-chappell/story-e6frf3ju-1227218503403

While the bright orange of the Netherlands is missing, it’s great to see the Scots and the Irish here. The Afghan story to make it here is just phenomenal – have a read of this article for a great summary. I got to see the UAE play in a warm up game against Australia on Wednesday, and while their batting left much to be desired, their bowling attack wasn’t half bad. Here’s hoping one of the non-test nations can somewhow make their way into a quarter final. If they can’t, well, even one win by a non-test nation over a test nation would be a lot of fun.

Games not involving Australia aren’t as meaningless as the TV would have you believe

Not only was Zim v Eng my first time as a spectator at an international game, it’s also the last time I attended a game that didn’t involve Australia. Neutral games have copped a bad rap in Australia recently, being relegated to secondary channels on TV, or not being held at all, with bilateral series being preferred. In this World Cup we will see heaps of high-quality cricket involving other nations. I’m going to South Africa v India and Sri Lanka v Bangladesh, and unlike when they are playing against my home team, I’ll be hoping for De Villiers, Sangakkara and Dhoni to hit plenty of runs.

The fans have certainly supported the neutral games – The India v Pakistan game in Adelaide is, as you would expect, a sellout, and even the first few games in Canberra are going to close to being sold out. It will be great to see packed stadia in Australia and New Zealand when the home teams aren’t involved.

Does the tournament really start before March?

I think the format of the cup needs a bit of tweaking. In particular, there needs to be something done to add more value to the preliminary matches. Every team that makes the quarter finals is at an equal footing. I would have thought the ICC would learn the lesson of the 1996 tournament, when the top 4 teams from Pool A took on the top 4 from Pool B, in exactly the same format as this year’s tournament will be held, and all of the Pool B teams won. It was like the first few weeks of the tournament were entirely unnecessary. While there will be plenty of battles for the right to top the group and get the best seeding, the main thing is for the teams to finish 4th or better out of their pool of 7. Then it’s anyone’s to win on the day.

The other thing that is of concern is that the format appears to be ensuring the eight biggest test match nations will qualify for the quarter finals. From Group A, Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and England. From Group B, South Africa, India, Pakistan and the West Indies. In previous years (1999 and 2003 in particular), only six teams have made it to the second round – and this is a development I’d like to see return to add spice to more of the early matches. If we aren’t having a round robin “Super Six”, why not have a slight variation on the knockout matches – Teams that top the pool can go straight into the Semis, and the next best four can play an eliminator – A2 v B3, B2 v A3. Of course, in an era where TV money is king, the risk that the biggest nations miss out (like in 2007) is probably too big a risk for the ICC to take.

Of course, even the best laid plans fall apart. Which minnow will take the spot of one of the big 8? I’m going to pick Zimbabwe or Ireland to knock off the West Indies.

So who’s going to win?

Of course I want to see Australia win and based on their form coming into this series (particularly their 4-1 series win over South Africa in November) they are deserved favourites. But, in early 2014 around the time that Corey Anderson belted the fastest hundred in ODI history, I put the princely sum of $5 on New Zealand to win the tournament at odds of $13. They are now paying $6 and are third favourites behind Australia and South Africa. I have seen nothing in the following 379 days since I placed that bet which makes me think it was a bad choice. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them holding up the trophy at the MCG on March 29th, and you’ll then see me wishing I’d put more money on them to win.

NZ

Until then, if you’re looking for me, I’m probably at the MCG, or sitting in front of my TV watching Channel 503. Bring it on!

Yours in cricket

Joseph

Posted in Cricket | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A bystander in the codewars

The week in review – 16 to 22 January 2015

You know you’re allowed to like more than one sport, right?

The latest round of “codewars” was started by an article in Saturday’s Sydney Morning Herald suggesting that Cricket administrators should be under pressure due to Soccer’s Asian Cup. This was responded to by a cricket publicist tweeting a series of facts about areas where the Big Bash League cricket is doing extremely well in comparison to the Asian Cup.

If you’re the sort of person that thinks you need to show an unending loyalty to one sport alone, you’re probably reading the wrong blog. I feel like I am somewhat qualified to discuss the battles between different sports – both as an administrator of a Rugby League competition in an AFL dominated landscape, and as a person who attended three soccer matches and three cricket matches in the space of the last fortnight. I admit that in the past I’ve fallen to the level of those rigidly criticising one sport in comparison to another and, like a reformed smoker who can’t stand the smell of a cigarette anymore, I am well and truly over the codewars – particularly after my experiences in the last week. I am going to use a phrase that could be applied to many areas of life that are far more important than sport (I’m looking at YOU, Religion and Politics) but I feel the need to say it again…

Can’t we all just get along?

Standing up for the underdog

After attending two Asian Cup matches last week, my third and final appearance at an Asian Cup game was on Friday at the Palestine v Jordan match. Now, you’re probably wondering what inspired me to come along to this match, right?

Free VVIP tickets!

10854932_10152493366711601_3344227572072364215_o

Huge thanks to my girlfriend’s mate who arranged the tickets for us and four of Geri’s other netball teammates (yes, I was the only bloke in the group – and I’m sure people must have thought I was out of place)! On arrival at the ground we were ushered into an area where we were served drinks and some amazing food. When the game started we wandered out to our seats directly behind the Jordanian players’ bench. We were given a copy of the official team sheets. At half time we got more food and drinks. To suggest that we were spoilt is an understatement.

2015/01/img_0445.jpg

It was a 5-1 win to Jordan so it’s difficult to argue this was one that will be remembered for the ages as a contest. However, I still think there were so many positives about this game and the Asian Cup overall. Like most of the games in this tournament – there were plenty of goals and goal chances – so it was exciting even though Jordan were in control. There was a good crowd too – how does a game between two middle-eastern countries draw a crowd of 12,000 in Melbourne, Australia? There have been some great attendances throughout this tournament and the crowds (particularly the travelling fans and large expatriate communities) should be proud of their efforts.

2015/01/img_0441.jpg

Obviously there are many political views about Palestine (well, I guess there are variations on two fairly strong views, when you think about it) but there was something special about seeing this team give their all out on the field even when they were outclassed. They had a hearty group of loyal fans cheering at the Swan St End, packing out the middle bay. There was a great moment when Palestine scored their first goal – and everyone, including the Jordanian fans, stood and applauded. Obviously they are political allies and had great respect for what they had achieved.

Seeing the fans dancing outside the stadium after the game made me think about how awesome it would have been to get a World Cup here…

As I hit “publish” on this week’s blog, Australia has sealed a Semi Final berth in the Asian Cup by beating China in Brisbane. At times during last night’s match it sounded like a Chinese home game. The tournament has captured minds to the point where a heap of people I follow on Twitter for their views on AFL were asking why the Semi Final wasn’t being played in Melbourne – suddenly people want to go to the game! It’s been a great tournament and I hope the people of Newcastle enjoy next week’s semi final.

We love him cos he’s a Nagpurian

Cricket could be accused of having a codewar within itself, as Tests, ODIs and T20 all fight for prominence. Some T20 players and coaches have lamented the return of ODI cricket in the last couple of weeks, suggesting that there’s no need for it in light of the excellent crowds and ratings at the Big Bash. But each form of cricket draws a different crowd and each needs to be catered for. Sunday’s crowd at the MCG was a boisterous pro-India crowd. As with many recent MCG ODIs, the crowd is more heavily populated by fans of the visitors than the home side. India played a test match at the MCG not that long ago and there wasn’t anywhere near the number of Indian fans as the numbers present on Sunday. ODIs (in addition to being the most profitable form of the game) continue to be the most popular game for fans on the subcontinent – especially when it comes to selling TV rights. The India-South Africa game at the MCG in the World Cup is going to be a must-see if the crowd at Sunday’s game is any indication. There is definitely a place in the calendar for One Day Cricket – and the World Cup will hopefully prove this.

Aside from being one of the colder nights I’ve ever spent at the MCG (The MCC did a roaring trade on hoodies that night!) it was also a very interesting game. Rohit Sharma was a class above. Unlike T20s where there’s no time to rebuild an innings that falters early, Sharma used the “middle overs” well, in partnership with Suresh Raina, to rebuild the innings to a point where he could hit out towards the end and get a total for India to defend. Each of his singles, let alone fours and sixes, were met with rapturous cheers. Aaron Finch played a belter for Australia, and the crowd was shattered when the local boy was unable to register his century, being dismissed for 96. Australia went on to win in a solid performance which bodes well for their World Cup prospects.

An interesting little experiment took place at the end of the match as club cricketers bowled with a bink ball, so that the Channel 9 cameramen could test how their cameras picked up the pink ball. Is a Day/Night test even closer than we think?

A salute to the lady in the back row of N44

Now they say T20 is a young person’s game. As usual, the ground was full of families. Being school holidays, a late night on a Wednesday was not an issue for the youngsters. A crowd of 34,000 on a weeknight must surely be helping the coffers of those responsible for the sport.

As I have an office job and an MCC membership, I often go to midweek T20 matches in the MCC Long Room, as I’m already meeting the higher dress standard in my suit and tie. The other added advantage is that not too many of the older MCC members who usually frequent the Long Room during footy season or test matches tend to come to T20s, so I usually get a good spot to stand with a great view of the game.

Although, at Wednesday’s Stars v Scorchers game, there was one older member in the house who caught our attention…

Early on it was all Perth. Shaun Marsh showed that you don’t need to invent shots or slog to play a good T20 innings. With nothing but well timed and powerful cricket shots he got the Perth Scorchers off to a flying start. When he went out, Klinger took over, and they finished on a very good 2/179. With the Scorchers absolutely dominating, the biggest cheer of the night was for… a seagull!

The early overs of the Stars innings were ordinary. Wright spooned a catch and Pietersen was out next ball. Handscomb was under instant pressure, surviving the hat-trick ball. He and white tried to pull the Stars back into contention. A mate who couldn’t make the game texted me asking “What’s the situation”? I replied “not good”. My girlfriend wondered whether it would be an early night. Another one of our friends noted she’s been to the first Stars game of the season (a loss) and now this one – maybe she was a curse? When more wickets fell – White, then Quiney, then Triffitt, it looked a lost cause. Handscomb was going well at over a run a ball, holding the innings together, but the required run rate was steadily increasing. Someone (I can’t remember who) commented “we need a few sixes in a row to get back into this”.

Enter John Hastings. With 50 still needed off 24 balls, the Duke promptly hits three sixes off the first three balls of the 17th over. The lady at the back row of section N44, in the aisle seat, stands up to cheer. Why is this relevant? Because she looked as though she was at least 80, and nearly dropped her knitting in the excitement!

We hadn’t noticed her until that point, but couldn’t help but be impressed. Out late at the cricket, cheering on a game that’s marketed to kids, pumping her fists with every six, while still working on what appeared to be a child’s dark blue cardigan.

Hastings fell a few balls later, but the equation was now 30 off 18. When McKay was on strike at the end of the 18th over, we hoped he might make contact and get Handscomb back on strike. Nah, not needed, he hit two fours in a row and only 17 was needed off the last two overs. Arafat bowled a great 19th over, including a wicket on the last ball, leaving 12 needed off the last over.

By this stage Handscomb was on 89, and had kept the strike, having stopped running when McKay skied the ball to avoid crossing with him. What happened next was phenomenal – he steps up to the first ball to turn it into a full toss and hit it for six. Then two off the next ball thanks to Boland sacrificing himself to get Handscomb back on strike – and Tye missing the ball and being unable to complete the runout. Then, on 97, Handscomb smashes the next ball for six to bring up the win as well as his century.

Unbelievable stuff.

Three different games, great crowds, great action. Why do we even need to have a discussion about whether one sport is better than another? Soccer and Cricket are both having fantastic summers. I’d prefer to focus on what sport is doing well. Getting women (old and young) and kids playing and watching, breaking down cultural barriers, and (hopefully) making money that will be reinvested back into the game.

What Joseph is looking forward to this week:

A day pass to the Australian Open Tennis on Saturday
Playing golf on Sunday
Watching the Asian Cup and Big Bash semi finals and Big Bash Final on TV
Lawn Bowls at a mate’s engagement party (no, it’s not competitive sport, but it might be after a couple of beers!)

Yours in sport,

Joseph

Posted in Cricket, Soccer | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

FOMO – Sports Style

The week in review – January 9 to 15, 2015.

Lots of soccer, some cricket, and a promise to the readers in this week’s wrap.

Asian Cup – kind of a big deal

Have you ever experienced FOMO? It stands for “Fear of Missing Out“, and describes a form of social anxiety where a person is compulsively concerned that one might miss an opportunity for some form of satisfying event. It’s usually associated with modern technologies such as mobile phones and social networking services – which is why some people feel the need to be constantly online. The reason I purchased tickets for Friday’s opening Asian Cup soccer game (at the de-sponsored “Melbourne Rectangular Stadium“) was somewhat along those lines. It wasn’t because of a deep seated love of our national team or any sense of loyalty – I simply figured that this was a major international event in Australia, and I didn’t want to miss out!

I’m glad I went though – it was a cracking night of entertainment. While the “opening ceremony” was a bit lame, the atmosphere in and around the ground was awesome, and was even better during the game. There was no need for cheer squads, the fans started up chants and songs without the need for prompts (and this was not from the “active support” area either!). On field, the early goal almost silenced the crowd, but then we saw a glimpse of both the old – Socceroos stalwart Tim Cahill – and the new – Massimo Luongo, Mile Jedinak and James Troisi – all register on the scoreboard (and Nathan Burns went bloody close a few times as well!)

But in only a few days I’ve learned that the Asian Cup is about much more than just what the Socceroos are doing. This tournament is about people showing passion for their nation. When watching games on TV, I’ve loved hearing the noise that, for example, the Korean fans made in Canberra, and the Iranians in Melbourne, and thought “Damn, I wish I was there!” Not a “fear” of missing out, but a realisation that I was missing out – sports fan jealousy!

It’s also about Australia welcoming people from a heap of nations that you could argue we haven’t exactly been hospitable towards recently. For a start, I’m only a recent convert to Instagram, and on Friday night I put up this picture:

2015/01/img_0422.jpg

Nothing special, but it got 32 “likes” on the night of the game and I obtained four new followers from Arabian nations – including messages wishing us well for the rest of the tournament. It’s been great to see the different Asian cultures on display up and down the east coast of Australia during the tournament.

Which brings me to my reason for attendance at the next game…

An unusual contest

I’d had a look at the schedule and worked out that I was free on the night of the 14th to go to the North Korea v Saudi Arabia game. I had something of a weird fascination which made me want to go to this one. As my mate Alex said:

“One is a brutally repressive hereditary dictatorship, and the other is North Korea”

I was hoping to see people from two cultures I knew nothing about, apart from their, ahem, interesting political situations, and anything that featured in the movie Team America. The stadium was full of neutral fans but there were big pockets of Saudi and Korean fans at either end. The Korean fans were helped out by a large contingent of Melbourne Victory fans who had adopted North Korea for the night.

Early on, the ball was pinging about all over the place – with heaps of tackling and near goal chances. It was a strange atmosphere as the neutral fans would cheer for whoever had the ball, hoping for goals. The fans of the competing teams really didn’t have much to say until DPR Korea scored and the Korean crowd clapped their approval. When the Saudis equalised, their fans waved their green flags and began chanting loudly in Arabic – this was where the atmosphere really lifted.

The atmosphere wasn’t that great for people who had paid for premium seats on halfway – with the swirling winds the national flags hanging from the rafters needed to be lowered -they had to be evacuated for most of the first half!!

In the second half, the play continued to be free and loose, with Saudi Arabia having plenty of chances – and then took one to lead 2-1. The third and fourth goals were comedies of errors – an attempted clearance by the goalkeeper went straight into the Saudi player, who then had the ball in front of him with no opposition, to safely tap in the goal. The fourth goal looked to be going in until the Korean player blocked it with two hands. Unfortunately, he wasn’t the goalkeeper… he was just another defender… so that was the end of his game, with a deliberate handball red card and penalty. when the penalty was taken, it hit both left and right posts before bouncing out, and then the penalty taker ran through to blast the rebound into the net, while at the same time also landing his foot in the goalkeeper’s nether regions. Ouch.

2015/01/img_0437.jpg

By the end of the game it was somewhat comical as, with the result decided, the chanting Victory fans moved to the corner of the stadium and sang their Melbourne Victory songs with the lyrics changed (e.g. instead of “Melbourne Victory, our boys in blue” they would sing “North Korea, our boys in red”. the actual Korean fans loved it, and the Korean players warming up on the sideline clapped along. At the 80th minute, they parodied the Western Sydney Wanderers “Poznan”. Instead of singing “R.B.B. Ole Ole Ole”, they sang “Kim Jong Un, Ole ole ole”.

So I didn’t really experience much about the two nations or their cultures – but I did have a lot of fun.

If you haven’t had a chance to get along to a game, there’s still three more games, plus a quarter final in Melbourne, and other games in Canberra, Brisbane, Newcastle and Sydney. A friend has got me a ticket to Palestine v Jordan on Friday, 16th and I can’t wait to go. I’m already worried that I’m going to miss out on a cracking match in the quarter final due to other commitments! FOMO again…

Almost run out of the game…

I also went to the Big Bash League Melbourne Derby II on Saturday Night, taking along Renegades fan @simmogoesracing. There are plenty of things that I could write about – Wade’s hitting, Wright’s great catch on the boundary, Maxwell’s return to form. But the finish to the game was just crazy.

3 balls to go, Stars need 3 to win. Keath hits a ball into the legside. A misfield occurs, the Stars boys go for a third run (to win the game) but Keath is run out at the bowlers end.
2 Balls to go, Stars need 1 to win. Triffitt on strike hits the ball straight back to the bowler, who runs out Hastings for a diamond duck.
1 ball to go, Stars need 1 to win. Triffitt hits it to short mid on (Ferguson) and darts off for a run. Ferguson flicks the ball backwards and the stumps light up! The Renegades players celebrate. Simon gets out of his seat and starts chanting “Super over!! Super over!!” Joe recoils in his seat thinking “normally we don’t choke until the Semi Finals”. The umpire calls for the third umpire. The replay reveals that Rimmington broke the stumps before the ball hit them – so Triffitt was not out, and the Stars win!

[Watching the replay of the TV coverage a few days later – Ricky Ponting identified what had happened within seconds. You could see Rimmington was the only one who wasn’t really celebrating]

T20 continues to be great entertainment – and this was no exception!

Some goals for 2015

The weather was predicted to be poor so I didn’t book in to play golf on Sunday, but it turned out to be a beautiful day in the end so I went for a run instead. When our netball team received a win on forfeit on Thursday I went for another run.

Just so that I have that extra motivation to complete some running events, I thought I’d let you know I’m booked in to complete the Run for the Kids on 22 March 2015. I’m also looking forward to doing a half-marathon mid-year – at this stage it will either be in Sydney in May or Gold Coast in July, but I’m yet to work out which one. If you’re also entering running events I’d love to hear from you and become your “friend” on Map my Run or Strava. Nothing beats a little peer pressure to help motivate…

What Joseph is looking forward to this week:

Palestine V Jordan at “Melbourne Rectangular Stadium” on Friday, and much more Asian Cup on TV;
Australia v India One Day International at the MCG on Sunday; and
Stars v Scorchers at the MCG on Wednesday – hopefully sealing a Semi final spot for the Stars.

Oh and if you’re looking for something to watch on TV, a little event called the Australian Open Tennis is about to start…

Yours in Sport

Joseph

Posted in Cricket, Running, Soccer | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

You could call it a comeback…

The week in review – January 1 to 8, 2015.

It’s time for “some more sport” to return – and much like the revival of this blog, you could say that the sporting events I’ve been interested in this week have all involved a comeback of sorts…

Did you play well? Nein…

Capture6th

The 6th hole at Ivanhoe, my home course, is a par 5. I’ve birdied it on multiple occasions. However, when I played on Sunday morning, this is what happened.

1. Well struck drive but blocked right into a tree. It pops out into the rough but with a reasonably clear shot.
2. Hooked shot into the trees.
3. Chip out.
4. Dragged 6 iron well left of the green.
5. Chip catches grass and falls well short of the green.
6. Chip. Total duffed shot.
7. Chip to about 6ft.
8. Putt. Missed.
9. Putt. In the hole.

Yes, that’s nine shots. Nine!! I’m playing off a handicap of 12 at Ivanhoe, so to have a hole like that means I’ve used up one third of my handicap in one hole! Not an ideal result so early in the round…

The return of the Premiers

Thursday night was the first game in a new season of netball for the social mixed team I play for – the Motley Diamonds. Two years ago when I wrote regularly on this blog about every sporting event I watched or played, I lamented losing repeated grand finals in both mixed netball teams I participated in. In 2014, I was part of a premiership for the first time in over five years as the Motley Diamonds won the Albert Park title. Maybe that’s the key to success – don’t write about it?

Anyway, we were back on court on Thursday, and it was fair to say we had to blow out a few cobwebs after some time off, losing a low scoring game. On a personal level, I was ordinary. One of my shots for goal was an “airball”, even though it was a short distance. This made me pretty annoyed when the winning team shook hands after the game saying “good shooting” – were they not watching the game? Oh well, it gives me a low base to start from for the rest of the season – the only way is up!

Finally starring again…

Saturday night was the latest installment of the Big Bash cricket’s Melbourne Derby – Melbourne Renegades v Melbourne Stars at Etihad Stadium. I’ve written before that I’m a Stars fan (and a foundation member as well), and I’ve been just as disappointed as everyone else with their 0-3 start to the season. But, on Saturday, it was like that had all been forgotten as the Stars absolutely thumped the Melbourne Renegades by over 100 runs. This side I was watching on TV was more like the dominant side we watched in the home-and-away rounds last year, as opposed to the first three games which was like the limp side we’d seen in the semi final last year.

I went to the game on Monday night against the Sydney Sixers and that was even more of a treat. Michael Lumb of the Sixers hit 80 to carry his side to 150. After losing Luke Wright early, White and Pietersen went at a steady pace and looked to have the required rate in hand until they, and then Maxwell, all gave away their wickets. It was about this point a couple of my mates left. I turned to my girlfriend and sai “I bet we’ll win now”! James Faulkner and Tom Triffitt then decided to make things exciting by lifting the scoring rate, then they hit 15 off the final over to get a tie, including scampering for two off the final ball. Faulkner returned in the super over to smash 19 – including two sixes – which Sydney didn’t even come close to in their reply. It was one of the most exciting games of cricket I’d been to, rivalling the time VIC played NSW and Hussey and Bravo needed 51 off 18 deliveries and got the runs with 2 balls to spare. I was particularly pleased for Tom Triffitt. Having stuffed up his most recent chance at climbing the rungs of Aussie cricket, hopefully this has been a good audition for him to get another chance at state level.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/4d8/44944983/files/2015/01/img_0392.jpg

Oh Captain, my Captain

I’ve watched lot of test cricket recently, both at the ground and on TV. With four centuries in the series, and winning back the Border-Gavaskar trophy in his first series as captain, you can’t help but be impressed by Steve Smith. Forget the misguided banter about his non-declaration in Melbourne, he’s led this team beautifully in Clarke’s absence.

The lows and highs of summer sport

And while I’m commenting on TV sport, I have to note how awesome summer is for constant sport – either on TV or to attend. So much cricket and soccer, and the Tennis has just started (We watched Federer v Millman on TV last night). It’s brilliant!

An obvious issue with summer sports is that when players are regularly required to play in the heat, they won’t always be at their best. This was evident in recent A-League games.

Just before watching Friday’s Melbourne Victory v Perth Glory A-League game on TV I saw on Twitter that the Victory fans who had made their way down to Geelong for the match were not a happy bunch (The game was being played there while AAMI Park is being used for the Asian Cup). Long lines to get in when the temperature was still 37 degrees, and then a lack of outlets to buy water, let alone a beer, coke or anything else. There is a huge potential market in Geelong and the Bellarine – an area where people love their sport and would love more chances to watch top-level sport in their backyard. Here’s hoping that the Kardinia Park management fix this up next time the Victory head down the highway. As for the game, the Victory threaten to be an amazing team but really weren’t pulling it together on this night. Two defensive lapses were pounced on early by Perth and the Glory won 2-1.

On Tuesday night the Melbourne Victory were clearly still feeling the effects of the heat on Friday when they travelled to West Sydney to play the Wanderers. Towards the end of the match, even before the second (winning) goal was scored, you could see how tired the Victory players were after their second game in five days (Not as tough as what Perth faced, playing their second game in four days in over 40 degree heat, but still difficult!). The fact they held on in a dramatic finish despite WSW sending in shot after shot at the Victory’s goal at the end of the game shows there’s some real grit and toughness amongst the players. It puts them back into third, four points off the lead and only goal difference off second. A welcome comeback after a disappointing Friday.

Finishing strong

They say with golf there’s always something that brings you back next week. Already playing well over my handicap thanks to the disastrous 6th hole described above, I smacked a one-iron down the par 4 17th fairway, pitched to about 50cm, and holed the putt for birdie. I then hit a 7-iron on the par 3 18th onto the top deck of the green about 4m from the pin. While I missed the putt, a one-under finish for the last two holes made me wish this was a 27 hole event as I was finally striking the ball well. I also ended up with “nearest the pin” on the 18th, which meant I walked away with a new golf ball to use next time. It’s not often a bloke who’s had a quadruple bogey is looking forward to the next week. Bring it on!

What Joseph is looking forward to this week

The Asian Cup soccer begins. I’m going to the Australia/Kuwait game but I’m hoping to get along to at least one of the other matches not involving the host nation. North Korea v Saudi Arabia, anyone?

The 2nd Melbourne Derby in the Big Bash. Looking forward to heading to the game with a Renegades supporting mate – bring on the banter and hopefully no rain!

Also heaps of you are running the Two Bays Trail Run – good luck!

Yours in Sport

Joseph

P.S. I’ll be trying to do this once a week for 2015. I hope you’re able to tune in!

Posted in Cricket, Golf, Netball, Soccer | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Channel 10 and the Commonwealth Games – some thoughts

A message to Channel Ten (and any network which gets the rights to a multi-sport event) about their coverage

I’m a sports fan, so as you can probably guess I’ve been watching the Commonwealth Games. Well, I’ve been trying to watch it! It’s been playing on Channel 10, and it’s digital channel, One HD, and while there’s a few things they’ve done well in bringing the games to our TV (and computer) screens, I think there’s some things they could do better. Let’s start with the negatives and progress upwards…

Dislikes:

1. No need for a history of Ian Thorpe

Too soon? Don’t worry, this is not a reference to Thorpey’s Parkinson interview. A Sunday night interview with a sportsperson leading into a major event is entirely appropriate. The interview was a good look back at the great man’s career (and of course the challenges he faced in his personal life).

The wrong time for a Thorpey retrospective is on Saturday night, during the major event, while 6 other sports are going on at the same time. (I only know of 6 because of point 7, below). Ten played a puff piece discussing a series of Thorpey’s (very impressive) achievements instead of showing live sport. The history lesson was entirely unnecessary when there’s so much other stuff going on live. I couldn’t think of a single reason to play that clip – at least the other corny montages they have played have been intended to promote upcoming events.

2. Use of multiple channels needs fine-tuning

On Saturday night, we watched the Australia v England netball game, some cycling, swimming heats, and an early qualifier for the Rugby 7s, all on One HD. It was excellent. At around 8.30pm, Greg Rust, Host, told Victoria, NSW, Tasmania and Queensland viewers that they should turn to Ten to continue watching the coverage. Now, this wasn’t simply a matter of picking up on another station where One HD left off – like Channel 9 do at the cricket or 7 at the tennis when they cross to their news services at 6pm. Instead, Mel McLaughlin and Ian Thorpe were in another studio, and may as well have been on another network, as they then showed replays of all the events we had just seen on One HD. I reckon plenty of viewers would have tuned out and switched to the NRL/AFL footy or the Super Rugby final instead, rather than re-watch what they had just seen.

3. Show us “some more sport”!!

My biggest bugbear is that so frequently channel 10 failed to show any live sport, preferring interviews, replays and montages. On Monday 28 July, the opening hour of the Channel 10 coverage was all replays and interviews. At the commencement of the coverage, while live sport was going on (athletics, bowls, and squash just to name a few) we got to see a replay of Magnussen’s race from 14 hours earlier and a poor interview by Thorpey where “Maggie” (Thorpe’s words, not mine) gave answers that Thorpie simply didn’t listen to, and in the end was so boring that I think Mel McLaughlin (co-host) tried like crazy to rescue it. Ten then topped this with a cross promotion for the Big Bash cricket. I know their cross promotion here was minimal compared to Channel 7 during the Australian Open tennis, but at least Channel 7 only do that during the change of ends. My team that I follow, Melbourne Stars, had just recruited England’s Kevin Pietersen. I should be happy with that, if he’s in form he’s a great recruit, but I know very well that the Decathlon was on, and I would rather watch that! I can hear about cricket anytime between now and when the season starts in five months time! Thank god for point 7 below…

Moral of the story – what’s the point of paying for the rights if you won’t show any of it? In this day and age where our ability to find out sport results is instant thanks to the internet, why can’t TV networks let us see it as it happens – or close enough? On both the times I watched One HD for extended periods, they would focus on a sport (usually netball or swimming) and then during the breaks between quarters or heats they would cut to another venue (eg Athletics) to show replays of what had just happened. We were watching sport the whole time – and it was awesome. If the Ten coverage was anything like the One HD coverage, maybe I wouldn’t have taken the time to write this!

4. Variety is the spice of life

I’d love to see the networks show a bit of variety. I know that the networks pay a lot of money for these events in order to get ratings – so we can’t expect less popular sports to dominate the airtime. But, some coverage of the minor sports would be nice. Try mixing it up a little. I used to despise the fact that all we’d see at the Olympics was gymnastics, and at the Winter Olympics all we’d see is figure skating. Show us some of the other stuff, instead of the other fluff you show! In Ten’s case – there’s been a bit of variety but I’d like to see more of the minor sports. If we have time to show incessant replays and a Kevin Pietersen interview, we have time to show Squash, Lawn Bowls and shooting – and when they do show it, be honest and tell viewers if it’s on delay or not!

5. Where’s the jokes?

One thing missing from this coverage – probably because of the timing of events coming from a European time zone – is that there hasn’t been any comedy. I obviously don’t want this in the place of live sport, but a program along the lines of Santo Sam and Ed’s cup fever, or Roy and HG’s The Dream always seems to add to the coverage. It might work a bit better at Gold Coast 2018 where there might be an opening in the schedule at the completion of play, and also there would be more access to athletes for interviews.

Likes:

6. Female commentators

One thing I’ve noticed coming through strongly at this event is the presence of talented female commentators – something lacking on other networks and in covering other sports. While Roz Kelly didn’t win many friends with her request for a selfie with Usain Bolt, there have been some other shining lights. Take for example Liz Ellis and Sharelle McMahon at the netball. I also thought Liesel Jones showed she knows her sport of swimming very well, and has been great with her analysis, without resorting to over-analysis like Thorpey. Nikki Hudson was great at the hockey too, as was Emma Snowsill calling the Triathlon (I saw her calling the Mixed Teams event and I thought she was great). Of course, Mel McLaughlin has shown she’s an excellent host at the cricket and Sochi earlier this year, and has done well to try and hold things together , even during Thorpey’s “Maggie” interview. I also like the fact that they are not simply relying on women to call women’s events only, with Melinda Gainsford-Taylor providing an educated voice on Men’s athletics (as well as women’s).

7. The “TenPlay” app

By far the best aspect of Channel 10’s coverage has been the brilliant Commonwealth Games features on the TenPlay iPhone/iPad app. I’m an apple user, so I can only speak about my experience, and guess that Android/other users are enjoying their app just as much. You can tune in to any one of six live events streamed directly to your screen, including some of the sports that didn’t get much TV airtime like Lawn Bowls. It also meant you could watch full games of Netball/Hockey without ad breaks. It was very, very close to live on almost all occasions, (a few seconds delay at worst) and a clear cut picture without being blurry or pixelated.

Obviously they need to pay for this somehow, so you have to watch three 30 second ads when you first tune in. While it would be nice if they could reduce some of the advertising – I understand they need to make their money back! What they could do is ensure the ads are different. On most occasions when I tune in, the Optus ad is replayed at least twice! Then again, maybe that’s the idea?

The best part about the Tenplay app is that it makes up for the lack of coverage on the TV. I know that there will always be something to watch!

So that’s my thoughts on the topic. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts – do you like what Ten are doing? Or what Nine/Seven have done in the past at the Olympics? What would you change? I’m sure there’s people out there that must disagree with me because if TV stations are trying to maximize audiences there must be many fans out there who are enjoying the interviews! I guess not everyone is like the people I follow on twitter.

And if anyone from Channel 10 wants to chat, the Gold Coast seems like a nice place to visit, or work, maybe in 2018? 🙂

Yours in sport

Joseph

Posted in Cycling, Ice Hockey, Lawn Bowls, Netball, Rugby Union, Running, Triathlon | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment