Gentlemen, drop your pants. It might just save your life.

July 30, 2013

I’m on a mission for blokes to drop their daks. I want to hear the clang of belt buckles on the floor.

I want to be the Ambassador of Strides Down. Think of me, and you’ll think of trousers sitting around ankles.

Not in front of Woolies, mind you. No bare bums near the checkouts. We don’t want to scare the kiddies. This is for the medical centre only.

Regular readers will know where I’m heading with this. Newcomers, stay with me. I promise there will be no weirdness ahead. Well, no more than usual.

The reason I want men to be in a state of undress, is so they can get their prostate checked. Yes, I’m banging this drum again.

I beat prostate cancer. Most of you know that. I received the news that I was free of this dreaded disease a few weeks back. A blood test that came back clear. I can tell you, they were the sweetest of words.

It makes you hug those you love, and not want to let go. It makes you cry, when you thought you’d fought off the tears. And it makes you want to celebrate. I did that too.

But my surgeon, The Genius, said something else that day. He said I needed to spread the word. Take a stand, and get the message out there.

About an hour before he made me smile, he’d been dealing with a bloke who had nothing to smile about. His cancer was advanced. He’d been late getting checked. His future was grim. He was 47.

You see, this is not an old man’s disease. More and more men in their forties are being diagnosed. Like me. And the bloke who’s thinking of what might have been.

They tell me 40 is the new 30. And that means most men continue to think they’re bullet-proof. Visiting the doctor is a sign of weakness. So they don’t.

The stories don’t help. Everyone has heard jokes about the snap of rubber gloves in the doctor’s surgery. For most red-blooded Aussie men, reason enough to head in the other direction.

That’s what we have to change. Because that simple, painless, sixty second examination, saves lives. And keeps families intact.

I’ve come to realise that the best people to change the thinking around prostate examinations, are women. Wives, girlfriends and partners.

Females are smarter at this stuff than we are. They get that early diagnosis is vital. So girls, I’m enlisting you to help.

Don’t let up on your bloke. If he’s 40 or older, he needs to be checked. Regularly. No excuses accepted. Book the exam yourself if you have to.

Already, I’ve had female colleagues tell me that they’ve done exactly that, as a result of my battle. Mates, too, have been jolted into action. Getting checked, to avoid what I’ve been through.

I’ll remind you on these pages every now and then. Spread the word yourself. Tell your Dad, or your brother, or your favourite uncle.

Let’s get those pants hitting the floor. And when it’s done, tell the doctor that you would usually wait to be taken for dinner and a movie before such activity. He wouldn’t have heard that one before.

Finding the perfect PubTAB. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.

July 27, 2013

On the surface, having a punt in a pub should not pose too many difficulties.

There’s not much to it. Make your selection, fill out a ticket, place you bet, assume the position and get ready to buy the beers.

I should declare here, that I do have some experience in this field. Over many years. If there was a University of Pub Punting, I would at least be a Professor.

There’s nothing better than relaxing with friends in a place that gets it right. And there’s nothing worse than getting stuck in an establishment where the TAB operator doubles as the footpath sweeper.

You’ve all been there. And it’s a proven fact that it’s all but impossible to win in such joints.

One of my pet hates is when there’s no volume on the monitors. The joyful sound of the racecaller is muted. We must rely on the memory of the colours our good thing is wearing. And hope that our ageing eyes will stay in focus.

Some pubs only have one tote machine. Inevitably, it will be manned by a lovely lady, who was around when Phar Lap was a two year old. She will take her time. Especially when you have four blokes standing in front of you with seconds to spare.

I have been in establishments where the genius in charge decides it’s a good idea to have poker machines on the edge of the TAB area. It’s all gambling, after all. Nothing like those reels spinning while you’re trying to hear Greg Miles. If the sound is turned up.

I place bets on my you-beaut phone these days, but there are still times when I want to fill out a ticket. Maybe a sneaky trifecta or a little saver.

So often, I cannot find a sharp pencil. There will be exactly 1000 identical writing sticks, with not a hint of lead. Ink in the pens ran out the day Kingston Town went back to back.

Why is this? Is it a private joke, that publicans talk about at their annual conference?

One final annoyance. And it’s not usually the fault of the pub. Those places where the resident loudmouth takes centre stage.

He has two modes of operation. The first is to talk extremely loudly, while you’re watching a race. The second is to scream as if stabbed, in support of something he’s had one dollar each way on.

If someone would let me run a pub, he would be the first bloke I’d ban. Jack The Ripper could be at work behind the pool table, and he’d be allowed to stay ahead of this goose.

For all my complaining, there are plenty of places that get it right. The little pub down the road from me has a great feel every Saturday arvo. Plenty of room. Plenty of volume. Plenty of pencils.

My favourite surf club on the Gold Coast has the biggest screen you’ll ever see. You can be parking the car and you’ll still see who missed the start. Somehow, a losing afternoon is made a little more bearable with a view of the ocean. Only just, mind you.

Feel free to let your own publican know what you want, and what you don’t like. We suffer enough as punters. Fom my experience, they take such advice in the best possible way. Just don’t expect to hear a race for the next twelve months. And start bringing your own pencil.

The game’s just not the same. Words of footy wisdom from blokes who know.

July 16, 2013

We always end up on the same table when we’re back at home, at our original pub.

No-one organises it. It’s just what we do. Perfectly aligned to the bar and the small screens.

It doesn’t take long for the stirring to begin. It’s a tough school. The wrong shirt or a dodgy haircut is enough for some unified bagging.

The talk turned to footy, as it usually does. Timely, with one of the great Origin games on the way.

There are hundreds of games between us. Lots of blood, sweat and broken bones. With a few cool drinks sprinkled in between.

Half of those at the table turned to coaching after playing days. These blokes know the game. Some have sons still involved.

The races weren’t even done when it became clear this mob was unhappy. Everyone saw a problem with the modern game. A few of the boys have even stopped watching on a Friday night.

We went around the table, and everyone had their say. Voices of real fans. I wish I’d made a recording, and sent it to the NRL.

Weird Harold hates the wrestle. In his day, he was a tough forward, who tackled, and was tackled. Always around the legs, as we were all taught. He can’t stand blokes grappling, and being kept upright, to allow defensive lines to re-group.

We all agreed. The Cannonball tackle, where a third defender comes in and hits a player’s knees while he’s being held by others up top, makes me sick. It goes against everything we were ever taught.

Smithy bought a round, and we went quiet, thinking about why this great game keeps getting tinkered with.

Coffs broke the silence. He thinks they’ve got the defence all wrong. He can’t stand slide defence. When it doesn’t work, wingers keep scoring in the corner, game after game. Boring, he reckons. Get back to defenders attacking attackers. Coaches over-coaching. It’s one of the reasons the game is short of playmakers. He would know. There were few better with the footy in his hands.

They both can’t stand how technology has slowed things down. The mind-numbing delays, when video refs are trying to make a decision.

It makes the game so much slower. Teams are unable to create pressure, while a director is rewinding yet again. And pressure on the footy field can bring the best of teams undone.

Richo hates how they form scrums today. Anyone can stick their head in there. They amble over, with any number on their back. No-one pushes, or attempts to win the ball over. Drives him nuts.

Bez doesn’t say much. Just stands, and nods. We’re assuming he’s not happy either. He would come off the field, covered in dust. Without the energy to say anything. Nothing much has changed there.

I agreed with all their gripes. I think the game is best when there are minimal stoppages, and the skills of the athletes are on show. I want big blokes to get tired, so little blokes can create magic. Fast men being put into holes. That’s what kids will copy in the backyard.

It’s still a wonderful game. We agree on that. Just stop changing the things that make it great. The speed, and the strength, and the skill, and the toughness.

Let’s hope the Origin decider is all of those things, and more. Keep an eye out for Cannonball tackles. Boo if you see one. And for Richo’s sake, let’s hope we don’t have a winger packing into a scrum. It might be the end of him.

The Little Girl with the Big Eyes, who didn’t want to dance.

July 9, 2013

There was something not quite right. A problem on stage, about to unfold before us.

We were watching a bunch of kids, all around four or five, dressed in bright colours and glitter, carrying pom poms.

They were about to perform some sort of very basic routine. Having seen dozens of similar pieces at various dance and cheer competitions, it would usually be my cue to doze off. But not this time.

Most of the girls were smiling and laughing. One was waving madly at grandma. The crowd had a giggle at that.

But further up the line, someone wasn’t smiling. A little girl, with dark straight hair, and large, wide eyes. Terrified eyes.

It’s common to see a little one apprehensive at these events. There are thousands of people watching. It must be daunting at the best of times.

Usually, after a slow start, they get into the spirit of things, and have some fun. Or they burst into tears, and run in the direction of mum.

Very rarely, do they freeze. So completely that all the eyes of the audience have nowhere else to look. That’s what was happening here.

The music started, some bubble gum pop song, and the other girls started doing their thing. Running, and jumping, and pom pom-ming.

But the Little Girl with the Big Eyes was doing nothing. Stuck solid, on the spot, right there on the stage.

At first, we could see the funny side of it. It was kind of cute. A girl all dressed up, with nowhere to go.

As the routine went on, it became harder to smile. The Little Girl with the Big Eyes couldn’t move. Not a muscle. She wasn’t crying. She wasn’t doing anything. Just standing, looking out to the audience. Possibly for someone to save her.

If her dance partners had noticed her plight, they weren’t letting on. They were too busy performing. It was almost as if the Little Girl with the Big Eyes didn’t exist.

Someone bumped into her, as the steps ventured in her direction. Still, not a movement.

Towards the end, the girls had to join hands. But their circle had a broken link. The Little Girl with the Big Eyes couldn’t reach out. So they formed it without her.

By this time, we just wanted it to end. It was painful. Something that should have been fun, had become a torture session. And we were paying spectators.

The music stopped. We cheered, partly for the other kids, but mostly for the Little Girl with the Big Eyes. Please, give us a smile. Show us that everything is ok.

But she didn’t. Couldn’t. It was over, four minutes of hell, and still she couldn’t move. Her tiny friends ran gleefully from the stage. Leaving her alone. On that same spot.

Finally, mercifully, a woman ran on and scooped her up. I swear her arms and legs were stiff. It was like bundling up a little statue.

We exhaled. It was over.

I don’t know where she was from. Or where mum and dad were. I just hope the Little Girl with the Big Eyes was given the biggest ice cream there is that night. And that someone explained to her how dancing should be fun.

I hope she danced in her bedroom that night. Maybe even sang into a hairbrush. And forgot all about that stage. Somehow, I doubt it.

Ho hum. Wake me when the big races are back on.

July 6, 2013

That sigh you hear is from a punter.

As Judy Durham reminded us some time ago, the Carnival is Over.

Group races are a distant memory. We are in what is known as the Quiet Time. That agonising gap between Brisbane’s winter carnival and the Spring.

The carnival here actually stretches a few extra weeks, with great fun at the Ipswich and Caloundra Cups. Not quite Flemington, but right up there in the Good Times Stakes.

Trainers and jockeys book holidays. A week or two in the sun somewhere, away from those chilly pre-dawn mornings. Can’t blame them really.

Don’t be fooled by the sunshine this morning. It’s winter, where the days are short and the tracks are wet. Those who can be bothered to go to the course arrive late and leave early.

It’s not hard to find a table. Service at the bar is a breeze. You might be there on your own.

The beauty of racing most weeks is that there’s a highlight, somewhere in our great damp land. You’ll usually find a Group race or two. Your home town will have a decent program, and then you can unload on the feature.

Have you looked at the form guide today? It’s slim pickings.

The highlight, as far as I can see, is the listed Queensland Cup. Two miles, which is a rarity in Brisbane these days.

Sure, it’s worth a bit of cash, but the field won’t be included in a Calcutta anytime soon. A few might need a lift to complete the final furlong.

Melbourne has a host of Series Finals. I have no idea what that means. Possibly an excuse to use a fancy title, to make it look as though it’s a big day. Trust me, it’s not.

In Sydney, they’ll plough through the mud yet again. The shorter jockeys are being given the option of carrying snorkels.

The pick of the day might be in the Golden West. The listed Belmont Oaks at least looks a bit competitive. And I bet the sun will be shining.

The crazy thing, for all the doom and gloom I’ve documented above, is that we’ll still be in action today. As mediocre as things might be, there has to be a winner in every race.

Back a few of them, and Saturday will rival Flemington in November. That’s the thing with punters. We’re a fickle lot. There’s nothing like a collect or two to brighten up the most depressing day. Today, make that three wins.