Blazers, Polos and Strawberries and Cream

Time to bust out the strawberries and cream with your suave blazer and head to one of the most prestigious sporting events on the calendar, Wimbledon!roger_federer_of_switzerland_arrives_for_his_first_4591499564

The history and class of Wimbledon is second to none and is one event I need to attend before I kick the bucket. The lush green grass, perfectly manicured courts, immaculate garden arrangements and of course the players step-up their fashion game to the point they could all be straight off the catwalk in Milan, hell even Pippa Middleton was there.

The player, who most embodies what Wimbledon is truly about, is Mr Class himself, Roger Federer. It’s all pristine white polos and blazers for Roger. He loves the history, loves the esteem and loves winning (7 freaking times!!!)

Last night (Australian time) saw the first serves being hit, with plenty of no-names playing in matches trying to make a name for themselves. And for one lowly ranked, unheard of Belgian it was a night to remember.

The 135th ranked player in the world, Steve Darcis (who?)  KO’d superstar Rafa Nadal in straight sets.  Rafa, fresh off another French Open win, losing in the first round? Whaaat? It happened, and to some guy I have never heard of. After the match Nadal refused to blame his bung knee, but we all know that he isn’t losing to this chump if he was healthy, which begs the question- Is Rafa done?

Now his power play style would have taken a huge toll on his body over the years, not just his knees, but he is a warrior and he won’t die. I would put good money (haha you know, if I had any money) to make at least the quarters in the US.

Another warrior of the sport, our boy Ley Ley AGAIN went against the odds to beat seeded Stani Wawrinka in 3 sets. While watching the pregame with my housemate last night, he asked who Ley was playing, I said “Wawrinka, he’s top 20 I think, should wipe the floor with Hew”, to which he replied “so Lleyton will win then?”. And whaaadya know, the Aussie dug deep to dismiss the doubters (I know you enjoyed that).

He has faced calls for him to retire for probably 5-6 years now and he loves to stick it right back at us. I say as long as he remains competitive and is enjoying the grind that playing on the tour presents, keep playing! If that’s till next week or till he’s 40, who cares? A lot of people love to hate him, but I think there is not a lot better than watching him knock a seed of their perch with his grizzly, grinding out rallies. Good on ya cobber! (NB- never saying cobber again).

As for the womens side of the draw, I am more interested in the feud between Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams. I have no idea why they don’t like each other, but I am all in on this and would love to see a final showdown between the two, starting with shots fired at each other in the press and ending in both having to be held back from attacking each other by their partners. Oh the drama!

Anyway, my tips for the tournament:

  • Lleyton to make the 3rd round
  • Roger to come out to his quarter final match in a Tux..
  • Andy Murray to win (and subsequently use his prize money to fix his teeth)
  • Two 100-and-thirty-something seeds playing a match that goes for 4 hours and no one caring.
  • Sam Stosur is bomb out… again
  • At least one story about an Aussie getting in a fight with a Brit in the crowd.
  • Pippa Middleton to marry some unknown blogger from Adelaide……
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Angels and Demons- The coaching game

Who would be a coach ey? First to receive criticism after a bad loss and the last to get a pat on the back for a victory, coaches are often under-appreciated and overly analysed to the point where they are in a lose-lose situation.

 
Yesterday the Melbourne Football Club relieved senior coach Mark Neeld of his position after a horror 18 months on the job. In his time Neeld only won 5 of 33 matches as top dog for the Demons. Looking at those stats you could hardly blame the Dees for giving him the flick, but there is plenty of behind the scenes info that needs to be taken into consideration.

 
It doesn’t take a sports scientist or a genius to realise that there is a serious culture within the MFC both on and off the field. Miserable on field results, ever decreasing crowds, an unhealthy balance sheet, senior players/personnel leaving and the passing of a club legend and saviour – all things that could contribute to the clubs performance over the past few years and issues that need addressing, but to blame it all on a rookie coach is too much.

 
Neeld came with little fanfare, but a huge backing from colleagues around the league. Word has it he nearly pinched the Adelaide job until Sando really stood up for the position. At the time he looked like he ticked all the boxes:

• Successful past
• New ideas/game plan
• Solid team around him (Neil Craig)
• Passion and enthusiasm for the job

But slowly and surely the downward spiral of the Demons continued on his watch. Watching his team play was hard on the eye, no passion, no guts, no clear game plan, some shocking displays of skill and record losing margins.
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Hindsight is 20/20, and we can all sit back, have a shot at a coach who tried his best and never fully had the backing of his players and say they should have hired a more experienced coach, but realistically, who was available and willing? Paul Roos was chased pretty hard by all reports but declined, then who?….. Exactly, no one.

 
Neeld’s list management was probably a downfall, turning over so many players it was clear he had a mission and looking back its easy to say that he might have been better served take a slower, more calculated approach but again, that’s hindsight. He had a plan and has the balls to stick to it and you have to commend someone for that.

 
The real harsh words should be kept for the players on the list, who week after week collected their pay but offered little resistance each Saturday. If you are paid to play football, you PLAY FOOTBALL. It shouldn’t matter if your opinion differs from the coach, or what the score is, you earn you keep. Too many of Melbourne’s 22 listed players each game didn’t bring the effort and attitude required to be elite players and an elite team.

 
Now you can say that it’s up to the coach to motivate them, but I am in the other corner, if you can’t motivate yourself after earning $200k+ a year and having the chance to play football for a living, than you’re in the wrong industry.

 
Imagine the task of captaining this squad? You would think that an experienced, strong-minded leader from within the group, right? Wrong, they pick two 21 year olds with not even 50 games experience in the big league. Now, both Jack Trengrove and Jack Grimes are terrific players and future leaders. But the key word is future these are players with talent to burn, great attitudes and skills but to force them into such a negative limelight this early, was in my opinion a mistake. Look at the Crows, when Simon Goodwin retired and the captaincy opened up, there were many calls for young gun Patrick Dangerfield to take the reins, but they took the safer option, allowing Dangerfield to progress naturally. His skills and leadership have blossomed without the added responsibly and daunting task of captaining the side.

 
Speaking as a sportsman at a fairly high level (humble brag at its best) who has been in a similar situation (don’t worry though, the mighty Mavs will be back!), playing in a losing side is tough, very tough, and it takes strong characters, leaders and a huge amount of work to get back on top. Melbourne must put the right people in all positions, both on the field and off the field.

 
The mark of a man is his demeanour when he is on the floor. Neeld was on the floor, bleeding for most of his unsuccessful tenure, but manned up to the media with a smile on his face each and every day, rain hail or shine after 100pt losses or thrilling wins over GWS. Mark Neeld wasn’t the problem with the Melbourne Football Club and anyone saying so it overly naïve and most likely an idiot.

Who wants to be an idiot?

The past week in AFL has been a rollercoaster ride for fans, players, members of the media and even club officials. Nearing the end of Friday nights opening match of the much-celebrated Indigenous Round, celebrating the huge contribution Indigenous players have made to our nations game, Sydney Swans star, Adam Goodes was racially vilified by a young, immature 13-year-old fan.

As the game was a blow out at that stage, I had started watching the latest episode of Parks and Recreation. Checking my twitter feed I saw some unusual tweets talking about the game and namely Goodes and a spectator. My first thought was “you cannot be serious, in this round?” mixed with “kick this idiot out of the stadium and ban them for life”.  Flicking back onto the footy and reading reports on the net, the nation and myself were shocked to find the offender was so young.

My attitude then changed, this girl probably had no idea the ramifications of making such a comment, which therein lays the problem. The girl is a product of an environment created by years of casual/inadvertent racism.

Saturday morning Goodes gave one of the most professional and intelligent press conferences I have seen. He spoke of educating the fan and other young children, he took the blame off her and dug deep to share the pain he felt when he heard the comment.

Just as it seemed the issue was dying down, another video surfaced of a Collingwood fan screaming at the umpires to give various Indigenous Swans players free kicks due to the color of their skin…. Disgraceful, I was so disturbed by viewing the video I took a few minutes to reflect. What exactly run through these people’s minds? Did they think it was clever?  Or even worse, true? How are these attitudes formed?

While a blanket statement that Australia is a racist country is totally inaccurate, (racism happens all over the world regardless of which country you are in), it still happens too often.

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After Friday night’s incident, President of the Collingwood Football Club and media personality Eddie McGuire personally sought out Goodes to apologize and aim to rectify the situation. Even the most loyal haters of Mcguire could see the class shown in the tough and sticky situation that he faced. He attacked the issue head on and should be applauded for how he handled himself and represented his football club.

After the writing the above 68 words, it pains me to say he blew all the work he did Friday night and then some, out of the water with a few STUPID comments on his radio program with Luke Darcy. McGuire suggested Goodes could be used to promote he musical ‘King Kong’. Here is the transcript:

McGuire: “Get Adam Goodes down for it do you reckon?”

Darcy: “No I wouldn’t have thought so, absolutely not.”

McGuire: “You can see them doing that can’t you?”

Darcy: “Who?”

McGuire: “Goodsey.”

Darcy: “What’s that?”

McGuire: “You know with the ape thing, the whole thing, I’m just saying the pumping him up and mucking around and all that sort of stuff.”

Just reading that makes me shake my head. He has since come out and issued an apology.

“I’m happy to stand here in front of everybody, in front of the country, and say we do not stand for racial vilification. I let myself down because I had a slip of the tongue.” He said in a press conference.

Now I do not for one second think that Eddie is a racist and that his slip of the tongue was a dumb mistake.Every human on this earth is entitled to make mistakes, its what helps you grow as a person and helps us grow as a society- As long as you learn from it.

But for a highly educated, media savvy, strong minded man like McGuire to have such a ginormous meltdown, in the one forum he has total control over his words, it unacceptable.

Pies player Harry O’Brien had this to say about his Presidents huge mistake. His comments come from the heart and the head. Something needs to be done.

This casual and accidental racism is prevalent in society and needs to be stamped out through education and enough people having the balls to stand up to someone when they make a flippant remark.

I cringe every time I hear the words “I’m not racist, but……”. For one, it is generally followed up by a ridiculously offensive statement.And two, if you aren’t racist, why must you tell everyone that? Couldn’t you let you actions and attitude do the talking? I often feel like doing this.

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AFL and sport in general, have such a large influence in Australian society, and the recent incidents could possibly help bring light to the issues faced, educate others and take a step in the right direction.

20 years ago, St Kilda star and Indigenous player, Nicky Winmar stood up to the crowd one Saturday after at Victoria Park, striking the now famous pose, pulling up his guernsey and pointing to the color of his skin. The image (Left) is now etched in Australian sporting folklore. In 20 years, we could possibly be saying the same out this iconic Goodes photo too….

Pics-http://zerotheabsolute.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/racism.jpg,  www.heraldsun.com.au