Red faced after a big game blunder. Luke’s close call. Bradman’s duck. And Salmon’s no-try.

June 30, 2012

Luke Nolen can rest easy. He’s in good company.

Black Caviar’s jockey admits his ride last weekend wasn’t up there with his best. Actually, he described it as one of his worst.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t race one at Bendigo. He was centre stage at Royal Ascot, with the eyes of the world on him. Everyone got to have a say. Even the Queen.

The popular hoop put his hand up straight away. He knew. The good ones always do.

The result of his big blue? Victory. And a million dollar pay-day. The great sprinter, injured and out of sorts, remained unbeaten. Just. As Moody reminded us all, a nose is enough.

The beauty of sport is that it’s not an exact science. It’s unpredictable. Anything can happen. Even to the best of us.

It might make Luke feel better to know that I, too, have had moments to forget in the heat of battle. Several, in fact. And I was nowhere near as prompt to admit the error of my ways.

Several centuries ago, I was playing rugby league in my usual dashing style. Early in the day, it should be said. With nimble footwork and blinding pace, I took off, leaving a trail of defenders in my wake. That’s how I remember it anyway.

The cover defence pushed me out wide, but they were too late. With the breeze blowing through my long blonde locks, all that was left was to put the ball down. Which I did.

It would have been a triumph, except for one tiny error of judgement. I had dived over in the corner, a full ten metres short of the tryline. Somehow, I had mixed up my lines.

It was difficult to tell where the laughter was loudest. From the opposing players, who by now were having difficulty standing up, or from the handful of spectators on the hill, who had obviously never seen such stupidity in public.

From memory, I blamed the local groundsman for his shoddy line marking. And I threw in the glare of the sun, just in case. They all kept laughing.

There was also an embarrassing display on the cricket pitch some years earlier. It’s still spoken about in hushed, giggling tones.

I was a schoolboy bowler; reasonably quick, without the ability to swing the ball one inch.

I had modelled myself on the great Dennis Lillee. Which meant that I ran in as fast as I could, and tried to take the batsman’s head off. With little success.

Still, I shared the opening spell for a while. But there was trouble ahead.

When Lillee’s mate Thommo came along, everything changed. I watched him in awe. A low slung action, that either skittled wickets or broke toes. I had found a new role model. And I decided to copy him.

For the next week, I spent every afternoon honing Thommo’s way. To my amazement, I was knocking over the steel bin across the road every second delivery. And with more pace than I’d even been able to muster.

Come game day, I decided to surprise my team-mates with this new bowling action. And surprise I did.

The first clue that something was different was my shortened run-up. I no longer needed to push off the fence. It was all about the sling.

My first ball missed the pitch. And the keeper. But gee, it was quick. All the way to the boundary. Untouched by bat.

Our coach, a legend of country cricket, was standing at square leg. He had guided the early careers of thousands of young players. It was fair to say he wasn’t prepared for what was unfolding in front of him.

Delivery two was taken by our gully fieldsman. Boy, it was quick. I realised that my radar was a touch out.

Balls 3 and 4 followed similar paths. That being nowhere near the actual wicket we were playing on. Laughter was now ringing around the ground. Except from the coach. He was speechless.

I finished one of the quickest overs ever to be bowled at that ground, with the batsman unable to get anywhere near the ball. To say it was inaccurate is like declaring that Pavarotti was a decent pub singer. It was awful.

I didn’t get another over that day. In fact, it was the beginning of the end of my career as a bowler.

It should be pointed out that Luke and I aren’t alone in this caper of getting it slightly wrong on the big day. It happened to a pretty decent cricketer going back a bit. You may have heard of him. Bloke by the name of Don Bradman.

In his final test, he needed just 4 runs at The Oval to finish with an average of 100. For the greatest of all time, it was a certainty.

Except it didn’t work out that way. The Don was bowled second ball by a Pommy pie-chucker you’ve never heard of. Proving yet again that there are no certainties in sport.

I didn’t get to hear Sir Don’s interview after that game. He may have done it a week later. But I know one thing. He wouldn’t have handled it any better than Luke Nolen did last weekend.

That’s the thing about making a blue in the spotlight. Admit you stuffed up, and we’ll all move on. Except when those field markings are covered up. Bloody groundsman.

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The new way to impress girls and become a star. Be a goose on YouTube.

June 26, 2012

Not that long ago, you needed special talents to be a showbiz celebrity.

Elvis. Sinatra. The Beatles. Madonna.

Youngsters didn’t get a look in. Unless you were Shirley Temple or Rin Tin Tin.

How times have changed. In our instant world of social media, nobodies have the chance to become somebodies. The era of the self-made celebrity.

Give an outrageous interview at a crime scene, and they’ll write a song about you. Shine in a bikini while hooking a sporting hero, and you’ll wind up with your own tv reality show.

Then there are those who don’t need any of that. Just a computer, and a smart-arse attitude.

A little while back, the girls introduced me to the latest YouTube sensation. Young blokes from Melbourne called The Janoskians. Odds are you’ve never heard of them. But they’re making a generation of kids laugh.

You won’t have seen them on tv. No songs on the radio. They don’t need to. Because they’ve created a juvenile empire online. A YouTube channel has more than 100-thousand subscribers. Their crazy antics have attracted 20-million hits. Yep, 20-million.

Kids can access their stuff at the kitchen table. On the bus. By the pool.  At any time of the day or night.

They take the piss out of anything, and everything. They are stars for a generation of youngsters. Even though the rest of us wouldn’t know them from Adam.

They find humour in train carriages, by embarrassing unwary passengers. In lifts, performing makeshift collapses in front of shocked strangers. They’ll pinch some poor shopper’s hot chips in the local food court. Side-splitting stuff. Caught on camera.

It’s designed to shock the oldies. Make us shake our heads at the children of today. Which makes them heroes in the eyes of kids everywhere.

They’re the ultimate in cool. Even though they don’t actually do anything on stage or screen.

I saw their popularity first hand on the weekend. A special appearance, at one of Brisbane’s biggest shopping centres.

The girls pleaded with me to take them. The ultimate in autographs. It will be no surprise to learn that I had no idea what I was getting into.

We arrived an hour before the meet and greet began. To find a thousand fans jammed into the carpark.

My girls and a friend joined the giant queue, while issuing strict instructions that I should disappear. Nothing cool about having Dad in the line with you.

I moved to a spot they couldn’t see me, and got chatting with a security guard. He looked stressed. Protecting Obama at a dockside pub would have been an easier task than trying to contain this lot.

He told me that the first girls arrived at 2.30. In the morning. Without parents.

When the five lads eventually showed their pretty faces, the collective scream was ear-splitting. The organiser gave fans their instructions. Videos were fine, but no photos. Step up, get your autographs, and move on.

That’s right. There would be no singing, or dancing, or joke-telling. Just five kids sitting at a table, armed with thick black pens. Enjoy your thirty seconds.

My guess is that the final crowd totalled around 1500. Not one of them complained. They stood, and shuffled forward. And screamed, if one of the young stars happened to throw a look their way.

I saw young girls crying as they left the stage. Actual sobbing. Clutching a poster with child-like scribble.

After exactly three and a half hours, The Teenager and Daughter Two had their autographs. And videos. Within minutes, they were on Facebook, telling friends about their intimate brush with some real-life celebrities.

So did every other girl there. An therein lies the secret of The Janoskians. Every online post is a plug. Every shared video makes them a little more popular. Next time they visit, the crowd will be twice the size.

It turns out that these young clowns are actually smarter than we think. Just don’t let the fans know. It’s so much easier to be cool when you’re playing the fool.


It’s Black Caviar night. Memories of the big events that made us get out of bed.

June 23, 2012

There’s something special about watching big sporting events in the middle of the night.

Ashes tests. Kangaroo tours. World title fights. Wimbledon finals. And great racing. All celebrated under the moonlight.

In the old days, we’d stay up for the duration. Fuelled by cool drinks, as operating hours were extended by kindly club managers. Now, it’s an alarm clock, slippers and strong tea.

Tonight, anyone who’s ever won a quid at a racecourse will be glued to the box. And plenty of others who’ve never opened a formguide. Midnight ratings will go through the roof.

Yet another chapter in the Black Caviar story. This time she’ll be winning on the other side of the world. In front of Poms in top hats.

We all feel as if we’re on this amazing ride with her. Have done since that first victory. Even from afar, we’ll cheer like lunatics.

The difference this time, is that most of us will be waving the imaginary whip while wearing flannelette pyjamas. And we’ll be back to bed as soon as Peter Moody collects the cup.

Years ago, Dad would wake me, so we could watch the Kangaroos taking on England in the Old Dart. We’d huddle around the black and white tv. I’d have a Milo, while he sipped on a sneaky ale.

They were brutal encounters. When the Poms could actually play. We’d have the lights out and the volume low, so Mum wouldn’t wake up.

One of my great late night memories is the Second Test at Old Trafford in 1990. Ricky Stuart’s longest run, that led to Mal Meninga’s greatest try. In the final seconds of the game.

Future Origin coach to Future Origin coach. When Big Mal planted the ball down and broke their hearts, lounge rooms all over the land erupted. It was one of the game’s great moments.

I recall the night it was standing-room only at the local leagues club, when Jeff Fenech fought for his world title against that punishing little Thai bloke.

They recorded record bar sales that night, as we went with the pair of them round for round.

It was well into the morning when Jeff proclaimed his love for us all, and we made our way home on unsteady pins.

Another night to remember was Pat Cash’s Wimbledon triumph in 1987. Although if truth be told, those memories are a little blurred.

We’d descended on a friend’s house, after a particularly boisterous Sunday night. Someone decided we should have one for the road. Maybe two.

We stumbled upon coverage of The Man in the Headband doing his thing. Pat’s heroics kept us up way longer than was medically sound. But it did provide an excuse for snoozing at work the next day.

It will be a much more sedate affair tonight. The girls will be sound asleep, so I’ll watch the Mighty Mare alone. With a nice cuppa. And  a biscuit.

But don’t be fooled. The cheering will be just as loud as anyone in a pub or racecourse bar. Getting up at midnight lets you do that. Go the Mighty Mare.


Parents who cheer the cheerleaders. How we’re all caught up in the sport of the future.

June 19, 2012

It takes a special woman to get away with wearing a huge pink hair bow.

If the lady in question is, shall we say, of an age, then it’s an even greater challenge.

Our compere at the World Cup Cheer tournament cared nought about such observations.

She was the happiest hostess I’ve seen in many a day. Or, more to the point, heard.

No-one else got near that microphone. Mother Pink Bow was everything cheerleading is. Loud, colourful, and vibrant.

Her helpers had them too. More pink bows than Mardi Gras.

Until recently, I didn’t even know cheerleading was a sport. Sure, I’d seen colourful routines at half time in the footy. But this is something else.

My first taste of the cheer world came through Hollywood. If you’re the mum or dad of a dancing teenage girl, you’ve seen one of the ‘Bring it On’ movies.

The franchise has spawned flick after flick. I think they’re up to number nine. And I’ve sat through every single one. Several times over.

For those who prefer Clint Eastwood on the big screen, let me explain. The films are about high school cheerleaders. Usually from a disadvantaged school, on the wrong side of town.

After some early cat fighting, they unite as one, and do incredible cheer routines, to overwhelm the rich kids with two left feet.

They’ve been going forever. The next installment will be based in a nursing home. A bunch of purple rinsers will throw away zimmer frames and do a routine in the common room, infuriating the old blokes who won’t be able to see the soapies on tv. ‘Bring it On – But Not Until After My Afternoon Nap.’

Anyway, I digress. It IS indeed a sport. One of the fastest growing in the land. And The Teenager loves it.

She’s been training like a demon. Some of the sessions go three hours. Our little girl has never been fitter.

The routines are part dance, part gymnastics, part pep-rally. Incredibly fast, choreographed to the second, set to a mash-up of modern music. Which is sometimes drowned out by the screaming crowd.

There are 30 members in her team. One of the bigger groups. Uniforms are bright, to match the spirits of those taking part. Smiles are compulsory.

In this section, there were more than 60 different teams competing. Even accounting for my bad maths, that’s over 15-hundred girls in action.

Some run, some jump, and others are thrown into the air. They’re caught, most of the time. It’s dangerous, high-flying stuff. Even more so, when you consider some of those doing the flying were watching the Wiggles just a few years ago.

As an old footy-head, I’ve been yearning for the girls to be in a team sport. You can’t beat the spirit and bond that comes from accomplishing a goal with a bunch of mates.

One team even had a mascot. A dad, of course. Bouncing around in a hot, sweaty outfit, complete with giant head. The things we do.

The auditorium was packed. There must have been 2-thousand people there. More than some Sydney NRL games. And here they were, these high-kicking kids, showing nerves of steel.

As I watched the routines roll across the afternoon, interrupted only by Mother Pink Bow telling parents not to take photos (for the safety of the kids – how sad), I was also struck by how confident these kids were.

I’m tipping school bullies would be giving this lot a big miss. And that’s a wonderful thing. Skyrocketing self-esteem, from hard work and loud music.

There’s room for everyone, too. Girls large and small. Heavy and tiny. And a couple of lucky blokes, who get to do the lifting.

It’s not often you find a new sport. Now that I have, I’m hooked. Just like The Teenager. You’ll find us at the next competition. I wonder if they have those pink bows for dads?


Coloured suits and sneaky visitors. Unlocking the secrets of Ipswich Cup Day.

June 16, 2012

How do you beat Stradbroke Day? Bumper crowd, perfect weather and a hat full of winners.

Yet here we are,  just seven days later, getting ready for one of Queensland’s biggest funfests.

Ipswich Cup is like nothing else. I have no idea where they put all the people. And no-one goes without a cool drink. Or seven.

It also features Australia’s highest percentage of racegoers wearing brightly coloured suits, super hero costumes, and animal prints. Don’t ask me why. Must be an Ipswich thing.

As challenging as it is to keep up with these fashion leaders, there’s a more daunting task at hand. Backing a winner.

Ipswich poses some major hurdles. To be brutally honest, I rarely find success there.

It’s such a tricky track. Tight and turning, with a short straight. Just 300 metres.

You have to be up on the pace. Hard luck stories are common. Mostly mine.

If your jockey is down on confidence, or experiencing a run of outs, tear up your ticket now. Everything has to go right to be saluting here.

Cup Day throws up even greater problems. Big fields for most races. And those sneaky visitors.

It’s a bit like going to Sandown after Melbourne Cup week. You have to work out which horses have been set for the day.

Plenty of visiting trainers hang around after the Stradbroke, to make the trip west. Some have red-hot chances. Others are just delaying a return to the southern chill.

They have runners across the day today. And a few in the Cup.

Gai has Kinnersley, coming off a trial win and some solid form at Rosehill. Michael Moroney is back with Shenzhou Steeds. Believe me, he doesn’t travel for the frequent flyer points. There’s even a runner from Tamworth.

They’ll need to be good to catch one from across the ditch. Ginga Dude has been unlucky all carnival. Solid efforts behind Stradbroke Day stars Lights of Heaven and Solzhenitsyn.

The Kiwi has matched strides with some of the best in the land for a few seasons now. The question is, can he carry the hefty weight, and handle the track?

I reckon he ran. We might finally jag a winner.

Don’t be too concerned if you miss out. Today is all about fun. Especially if you’re in a lime green suit. Some things never go out of fashion.


Why kids know everything and parents know nothing. Lessons on how to let them find their way.

June 12, 2012

It’s hard for a child to accept that parents may have actually achieved something in a former life.

There is no possible way any of us could have had ability of any sort, way back then.

It’s all so different now. And we don’t get it.

As much as they love us, they refuse to believe that we could run, and dance, and kick goals.

They want proof. Unless it’s on YouTube, it doesn’t matter. Grainy old photos just add to the notion that such events were held in prehistoric times, and therefore don’t count.

Daughter Two has been preparing for her annual Sports Carnival. Not training, mind you. Preparing. As in clothes, and hair decorations, and streamers.

It must be said, she will look the part. In the best tradition of the world’s greatest athletes, she’s been visualising this day for months now. If the paparazzi attended primary school events, she would be on the front page.

As House Captain, it’s a big deal. She has a steely determination to dominate. The school oval will be a sea of Firetail Red. It’s her hope that the others will be left sulking in a far corner.

She’s also keen on winning her pet events. Attending to her social media rounds after school makes it impossible to do any extra practice, however she remains confident.

We were discussing how she should approach the sprints, and the relay, as we do at this time each year. I suggested a strategy that I thought might be helpful in bringing down her arch-rival. At which point, I received ‘the look’.

Most parents will understand. This is when we are made to realise just how little we know about the world.

“Dad”, she said. “It’s simple. You just run as fast as you can, try not to fall over, and see what happens. I don’t need a plan. Anyway, it’s DIFFERENT these days.”

Of course it is. When I was running they used sundials for stopwatches and hessian sacks for singlets.

I reminded her of the 800 metres, held last week. She performed magnificently, finishing second, thereby qualifying for the district competition. Even though her game plan was to sprint as hard as she could, stop mid-race in case she had to vomit, and run again.

Daughter Two defended this approach, declaring that the winner had done exactly the same thing. She just didn’t stop as long.

I then made the mistake of recalling, modestly of course, my own school athletic career. There are state medals hidden in a box somewhere.

I would have continued, had there not been an outburst of laughter from all those at the table. They have seen me struggle to run to a ringing phone. Who needs tips from him?

Probably just as well that the conversation ceased. I know what the next question would have been. “Did you run at the Olympics?” There is no middle ground with this lot. You’re either the very best, or an also-ran.

Like football. If I dare suggest that I played at a ground we see on tv, I know what’s coming. “Did you play State of Origin?” No, the selectors were happy with the other 30,000 players in front of me.

Mention that you trod the boards in the same thigh-slapping musical we’re watching, and it’s “Were you in a movie?” Sadly, no again. Funniest Home Videos doesn’t count.

It stretches to homework too. It was suggested that The Teenager should run her French assignment past me. Her reply was by way of a polite giggle. “Do you really think Dad will understand what I’m saying? It’s in French!” Touche.

I know it’s a phase. In and around the teenage years. When they were small, we were their heroes. And when they get older, hopefully, they’ll believe the clippings.

Might be best that I keep quiet for a bit. It’s all about love and support. And there’s oodles of that. In the meantime, if they find themselves in need of late-night karaoke hints, I’m their man.


My Stradbroke punting disaster. Breaking the golden rule in picking our big winner.

June 9, 2012

It was a modern-day racing tragedy.

Two men, who should have backed a big winner, but didn’t. And took turns at kicking themselves.

We were only ever going to back one horse on Stradbroke Day last year. For months, we’d spruiked Sincero. Told our mates, and colleagues, and long-suffering families.

We giggled to each other about how clever we were. About the odds we’d pinch early. How we’d be ordering the specials at Chinese that night.

You see, we had secret info. My Great Mate was on the inside. He knows Sincero’s regular jockey, Chris O’Brien. They’re good buddies. The hoop rides for him down south.

The camp was supremely confident in the weeks before. This would be a raid that the Queenslanders wouldn’t see coming. Except we knew.

Then, two things occurred. Two shattering, confidence-sapping events.

Sincero flopped in his lead up run to the big race. Thrashed. The bookies wound his price out. We got nervous.

Then there was a change of jockey. O’Brien was no chance of making the weight. Our man was no longer in the saddle. Replaced for the grand final.

What happened next still haunts me. Some blamed it on our big Friday night. Too many brain cells lost.

Others thought we were just plain dills. Unable to follow a punting plan through. Not worthy of winning.

Hard to argue with any of that. Because on that Saturday, we stood in the Eagle Farm stand, and changed our minds. Just like that. Put our cash on something else. I can’t even remember what it was.

You know the rest. The black colours swept to the front. Two hearts sank. We both knew .. three hundred metres out. Home in a canter.

Those around us expressed shock at the ease of the win. “Who would have backed that?”, they asked. If only they knew.

It pains me to admit that I have form for going off the Stradbroke winner. In 2004, I had walked onto the track ready to launch into Bob Thompson’s colt, Thorn Park.

Similar circumstances. Declared it weeks before. Tipped it to all and sundry. And then, minutes out, changed my mind.

I can still see where I was standing. A tote line, in a fancy corporate tent. With too much time to think.

I had just been given a tip. For a donkey that would jump from a barrier so wide it was positioned in Racecourse Road.

I looked at the blinking odds on the TV above me, and got greedy. A juicy price, for a galloper being tipped by a judge way smarter than me.

And so I changed my mind. Just like that. You know the rest. The yellow colours swept to the front. Daylight second. For a punter, there’s no lower feeling.

I forgot that bitter lesson last year. Never again.

So, here it is. The golden rule for backing the Stradbroke winner. Stay solid. Stick with what you’ve liked for weeks. Don’t be swayed by others.

So what have I liked for weeks? The Snowden flying machine, Mental. An absolute special. Except for one tiny detail. It hasn’t made the field.

Instead, it will win a race earlier in the day at ridiculous odds. And leave me guessing again in the big one.

There’s no hope for me today, but it’s not too late for you. Back your own judgement. And if you a spot a bloke in a tote line, staring blankly at the TV above, throw him a tip. I need all the help I can get.