Another Year – Thoughts, wishes and bits of bikes

The emphasis tends to focus on retrospection come December with the furtive peep into the New Year and what it might hold.  With the guff that has come out of Princes Park this week, I’m thinking more of the same when it comes to my enjoyment of football. Is it just me or does Brendan Bolton seems just far too happy.

Which leads me to. The Essendon drug farce was winding towards its long overdue conclusion and then Worksafe throws a hand grenade fining the club for unsafe work practices and the WADA’s Queen’s Counsel raises serious concerns that none of the players thought it pertinent to mention the systematic injections when the shite hit the radiator fan in 2012 – how much are the briefs making out of this debacle. It only casts further clouds over who did or didn’t know whatever ever it was that we have been rabbiting on about for three years. If the mess goes into 2016, Caro will surely get her wish of bringing of Essendon to its knees. Please, if there really is a Santa, make it go away.

The year sports wise has been both predictable in its outcomes and equally surprising in a way only sport can be. Only the most rusted of true believers thought their footy team could win the flag. Hawthorn supporters knew otherwise and were justified in their faith. That the premiers managed to get two picks on the first round of the draft defies imagination. Should we be surprised in this most compromised of football leagues? That Richmond went out in straight sets again was a lay down however the rise of the Weagles, Crows, Doggies and Saints came out of left field, just as Port’s demise was so unexpected after their 2014 season. The Roos played in the penultimate week of the season for the third year in a row and the rest were building, demolishing or stagnating. The Blues took disappointment to a new low, none worse than the clash, or lack there of, with the Hawks. The club chose to remind those silly enough to be there that Carlton had a decent team in ’95. Thanks for the kick in the collective nuts Sticks.

Footy lost an array of players, some of them with fanfare, some just fading into the sunset. Juddy sadly did not go out on his own terms but thankfully he did not have to play out his final season in such an appalling football side. Stevie J got a tap on the shoulder and quickly signed up with the Gnats attempting to eke out one last Stevie J moment. I hope it’s at Manuka. Adam Goodes’ departure was awful on many levels. Like him or loathe him as footballer, Goodes’ contribution to the game and indigenous footballers/people was outstanding and should have been loudly applauded. Not vilified for throwing an imaginary spear into the ignorant minds of the community. Brian Lake goes out as a three times premiership player. An unlikely scenario four years ago after falling out with the Dogs. The Hawks mainly kept their list in an attempt to grab the cup once more. Time, or a spate of injuries, will tell if it went to the well once too often. Beau Waters nearly had the dream ending to a very good career. Many others will return to country footy or into forced retirement after being delisted in the heartless game of list management.

Sadly, Phil Walsh’s death brought perspective to life inside and outside of football. Football is not immune from mental illness and Walsh’s loss was a terrible reminder of its reach. Buddy’s late season leave of absence showed that even the superstars are susceptible. The AFL, with all its resources and rhetoric, seem clueless on both issues. Who would have guessed that cashed up young blokes with lots of spare time to punt and recreate might be a problem. Clearly not the AFL commission and its teams of bureaucrats. This has been on the radar for years. In 2015 it landed.

Michelle Payne was the racing story of the year, if not one of biggest in all of Australian sport. With so many female hoops saddling it up, why should it come as such a big deal. Teagan Harrison and Clare Lindop have been riding winners week in, week out, along with a growing number of exciting female apprentices who now ride the metro and country tracks. Well, firstly not too many of them get a chance to be on a horse in such a big race, not least one that can win. However, as Ms Payne clearly pointed out, racing has been a bloke’s game since we first started trying to beat the bookies hundreds of years ago and they can “get stuffed”.  Gai probably broke the ceiling but it has taken Michelle’s win in the Cup to really give women jockeys the recognition they richly deserve (note: four of yesterday’s nine winners were shared between three women jockeys). Twenty years ago, Michelle would have been lucky to get a ride on Cup day. If she had won the race, Michelle would have been given a small replica trophy and packed off back to the locker rooms where jockeys, particularly female ones, were seen but not heard. There would have been VRC members and old school trainers choking on their drinks when they started allowing jockeys, particularly female ones, to get on the microphone. And then have the temerity to call them out for the old farts they are.

Australian cricket was a mix of ODI triumph and red ball mediocrity. The dismal Ashes performance exposed many flaws with both technique and structure and resulted in a change of guard.  Unfortunately not among selectors. Clarke and Haddin called it quits and Rogers decided that spending his remaining days toiling away on English pitches was not a sound retirement plan. CA replaces him with a 35 year old. In came Nevill who has done a pretty good job with bat and gloves and Kid Captain took up his pre-ordained role as a risk averse skipper. Starc took Warnie’s advice and turned into an aggressive boof head, which seems to be the want of fast bowlers in this country. The Moustached Assassin called in quits after Perth in what was surely a protest to curators for producing roads. CA replaces him with a bloke who hasn’t played a first class game since March. The WACA was indeed a bouncy, fast track with the emphasis on WAS. It is now as intimidating as my right medium slow dollops. I used to hit the wicket hard mind you but was shackled by a slow arm action.

Warnie has taken his new found status as spokesperson for all things cricket to new heights. While some of his observations have plenty of merit and show that he may have made a great captain, most demonstrate why that honor was rightfully withheld. The day/night test was a success, albeit a short one with things done and dusted in three days. I think you could argue that its success was a combination of novelty, lights and a ball that actually did something on a pitch that had some grass on it. Warnie’s proclamation, along with the many other band wagoners, that for test cricket to survive, all test matches must now follow suit.

Rubbish. Warnie’s brain has now completely evolved into a twitter account with 140 character sound bites. Competitive cricket will save the test format. Conversely, the upcoming Windies tour will destroy any upside from the Adelaide test. Unless of course they move the Hobart test to Bangalore so that some decent West Indian players might grace us with their presence. Still, there will be plenty eating left over ham on Boxing Day, although CA will be praying Smith wins the toss.

The oracle who is Sheeds is still around to advance our great game with his vision and innovation. The idea of having a farmer’s game at the MCG, as opposed to where said farmers reside, is a ripper. The twilight Grand Final, while again good for TV and those who have easy access to the MCG, doesn’t do much to the punters who have to travel and stay in the money gouge which is the Grand Final weekend. It will further alienate a group of supporters that Melbourne and the AFL takes for granted. The fans who come to the footy and races for their yearly pilgrimage, spending a lot of money in the process.

Assuming the twilight time slot finished around 9pm, interstate and country people – remember the farmers Sheeds – are then expected to either stay the night, get late flights – if airlines schedule them – arriving wherever they live in the wee hours of Sunday morning or driving/busing back home arriving at who knows what hour. Your VIP status is richly deserved Kevin. However, please remember there are many who are not afforded similar privileges. I think in the Year of the Fan, we shouldn’t be talking about a change that rubs more mud in their faces.

A final revelation for the year was my decision to move radio station up the dial to SEN. I have been listening to the different daytime shows while driving around town for the past six months. The weekly wrap on Saturday is good fun as well. While still full of much over analysis and light weight commentary, the discovery of the radio personas of Tim Watson, Andy Maher, Daniel Harford – the Friday show is great radio – and even the Ox and Marko – if only to hear Andy from Pakenham call in – has been good listening. The contribution of Andrew Gaze is no better than the rubbish he dishes up on the tele with Dunstall and Frawley. Kevin Bartlett has his moments although those with Patrick Smith and the other bitter scribes are generally poor ones. Apparently there are some reshuffles in new year so I’m keen to see what direction this goes. Still, whatever changes will still be better that what we get on the other commercial channels.

Other highlights in no particular order

Jason Day – Great stuff/good person

Jordon Speith – 21 apparently. Can play and I like his style and attitude to the game.

World Cups in cricket and union.

The Netball league –  what a grand final

Women’s Rep Teams – Soccer, cricket, netball.

Holly Holm – Beat the greatest sportsperson in the world. What’s her name again?

Ang/Socceroos/Asian Cup – you don’t need a Dutchman to win games of soccer.

Matt Millar- Australasian golfer of the year and a Belco boy.

Local Footy

James Hird’s resignation – After two years of throwing the club under a bus

The NRL Grand Final – People might turn up if more games were played like this

Frank Lowy’s fall – best dive in the history of soccer

Peter Senior – Amazing effort

Phil Spencer – He might be a fat bloke but he’s the best sporting fat bloke in the world. Sorry Dane

Mick Fanning – belted a shark

Other low lights in no particular order

Sports administration –  FIFA/ICBC/IOC – Enough said

Jones, Wilson, FFA, boycotting fans – Grow up all of you

Sports commentators – please shut up, we have pictures

The War Room – Mr Squiggle on roids

Football game day experience – the game is the entertainment, not the ground announcer

Better TV Contracts – do not guarantee a better product

Robot sportsmen and women – It’s a bloody game you self important treasures

Two Tennis player whose names start with B and N. Wait until I get to the Open you pair

Boorish cricketers – fatherhood and the vice captaincy has not matured Dave. Is it a small person thing?

Brian Taylor – A perennial entry

My lack of course time and the impending demise of the long putter in amateur golf.

Peter Senior – Bad look for Australia’s golf future

IOC/FINA – Stop kidding yourself you are serious about drug cheats

Adams Goodes – “I’m not racist but” – insert ridiculous excuse for booing.

The tracks during the Spring Carnival – if the course supers were in corperate business they would now be in court.

The Shark – Silly Mick Fanning for surfing where bitey things thrive and Greg Norman’s ridiculous appraisal on his contribution to life and the universe in general.

Sport is a wonderful distraction from the day to day challenges. For many, those challenges always seem harder at this time of year. I was lucky to attend a small fund raiser this week for the Smith Family that was put on by CGU Insurance in Canberra and across their other offices. Around forty people with varying levels of mechanical competence assembled twenty kids bikes which the Smith Family will pass on to deserving youngsters. It was a great occasion as we struggled to work out which way handle bars should face and where to place the bells and reflectors. The recent opening of IKEA has obviously enhanced some people’s Allan key skills. For me, things seemed so much easier when I rode a Malvern Star with a three speed Sturmey Archer gear change.

Faces were a mixture of initial frustration and beaded sweat and eventual elation as the project was eventually completed. Celebratory sausages and drinks capped off an excellent afternoon that also contributed another $4K, along with the glistening new bikes. It’s the type of thing we don’t do as often as we should. If it results in twenty kids getting some happiness come Christmas morning, it is certainly something worthwhile and take a small piece of of time. May “time poor” go the way of Chardonnay. A fleeting excuse for complacency and easy choices.

So as our house brightens the evening sky with more lights than Times Square, I would like to wish the Almanac community the very best for the remainder of the year and good luck to whoever you follow next year. I advise it not be Carlton. Be happy and safe.




About Tony Robb

A life long Blues supporter of 49 years who has seen some light at the end of the tunnel that isn't Mick Malthouse driving a train.


  1. bob.speechley says

    Thank you for a great review of 2015 Tony. I’m afraid that the ESSASADAWADASAGA has some hurdles to confront and issues that the AFL itself will surely need to seriously address will arise. Your concluding note on the assembly of the bicycles for youngsters in need was touching and apt.

    Have a Gigantic 2016.

  2. Great Summation TR. Don’t feel too miserable about the Blues. At least Carlton fans could face the Football World at the book launch. Not like the lone Essendon Supporter who snuck off as soon as the comedians started looking around for audience participation.

    Have a great break and swim between the flags.

  3. Love your wit and perspective TR. But will get on my particular hobby horse, and just take issue with your and most public discourse about the Walsh tragedy. Australia does not have a particularly large mental illness problem. or homelessness problem. Australia (like much of the western world) does have a large and growing ADDICTION problem (ice, alcohol, gambling and the gateway drugs like atomized social media). Mental illness did not kill Phil Walsh – drug induced psychosis probably did.
    Mental illness is a convenient fiction we all use (families, lawyers, media and confused commentators). because it seems safer and kinder than acknowledging our lemming-like habits. Victimology trumps responsibility. It makes pharmaceutical companies rich and powerful.
    As for Buddy who knows? I respect his wish for privacy, but it also makes mental illness seem like a random sword descending. Existential doubt, early trauma or celebrity excess can all contribute to eventual crippling depression – but I’d put that more under personal growth than random illness.
    I’ll get off my hobby horse now and smell the fresh cut grass.
    Onya for the bikes. Great stuff.

  4. G’day Tony,

    I often listen to the Run Home on SEN from Kyoto, Japan. I wish I could be famous like Andy from Pakenham. I often hear his name, but what does he talk about? I need to pay more attention on the Pakenham guy! Even I like the radio show, my best host for SEN is Mark Finey. I like his opinions of footy and segments on Wednesday night (sorry I can’t remember the name but it is where Steven Milne – by the way not former St Kilda player!! – is on).

    In this year, I am sick and tired of hearing Essendon saga all over and Adam Goodes’ issues. Media stuffed up for both issues. By the way, can I suggest you that Wilsons instead of Wilson for Other low lights in no particular order because of Caroline Wilson for too many negative footy articles everybody hates and Rebecca Wilson for her bad driving records and controversial football (soccer) article. Even I like the Run Home program, I would switch off the radio (actually my iPhone) when Rebecca Wilson is on.

    Then if we see more women footy clubs, it would be awesome. I hope the mighty Saints will have a women club like the Bulldogs and Demons in the near future. For a while, I would say “Go the Doggies” for ladies team.

    As a passionate St Kilda supporter, I hope our young blokes will be more competitive in 2016 and the club will play better footy like or more than did the Western Bulldogs this year. I hope bright future for us, St Kilda footy club and fans is on the way. More goals will be scored for the mighty Saints in 2016!

    It’s a great and interesting read mate. I hope your Blues move on well from the big name coach (Mick Malthouse). Have you read the Age article about comparing between Carlton and Essendon?



  5. Thank Bob
    May 16′ be an Essendon free zone on many levels
    Wrap. The Hun published Carlton best 22 this morning. It made for somber reading. The absence of the Wrap next year is a loss but hopefully you have got the a bit of the Johnny Farhnam’s and embark of a farewell tour that is still going 10 years later. At least some cameos
    PB I’ll accept your comment regrading Phil Walsh and metal health. In my day to day role working with people with varied psychological states, I can see where you are coming from in regard to mental health being a convenient out, particularly after criminal acts. However, awareness through Beyond Blue etc has possibly provided people with the courage to seek help. Generally, people cope with life’s machinations until something tips them. That said a little less narcissism and a lot more community awareness might go some way towards a reality check might help. But when your role models are Kardashians, what hope do you have.
    Yoshi, Thanks for your great contribution this year. The Saints had a good year and still have some way to go but they are going forward which is good for the true supporters. One of the reason you first started writing on the Almanac was to improve your English skills. As some one who has occasionally edited your contributions and read your article, I would like to congratulate you on how far you, like the Saints, have come. I would say you have kicked more goals the the Saints this year, so thank you for being part of the Almanac.

  6. TR,
    That’s a beauty. Very well played.

    The double entry of Peter Senior.
    “Mick Fanning – belted a shark”

    Love it.

  7. Superb work TR on that was the year that was 2015.

    Yep, hard to beat Mick Fanning belting a shark.

    Meanwhile Nick Kyrgios jumped several.

  8. “The War Room – Mr Squiggle on ‘Roids” Likely to be the best thing I’ll read all week. Outstanding turn of phrase from you TR. I love it. The obvious difference too being that Mr Squiggle was much more watchable and disseminated actual information by a factor of 10 when compared to TWR.

    A great summation of a pretty ordinary sporting year for mine (with the exception of the NY Mets making the baseball World Series). Well played sir!

  9. Thanks Chaps, Enjoy what is left of the year and may your sports teams grow wings. At least with Mr Squiggle, a picture eventuates. Ive looked at King’y doodles standing on my head and it’s still worse than a two year old dinner plate. Perhaps David needs to be holding Ms Pat’s hand

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