From the back patio – Dave’s Australia Day sporting honours

With the cricket being rained out in Sydney, I took the opportunity to head out the back on a warm and rainless Adelaide day with a glass of Barossa shiraz and think about the 10 (mostly) sporting things I am thankful for on this 26 January.

1. Steve Smith
Requires no explanation. Although, he must be going through a box a game with the amount of time he has been spending in the middle.

2. Cadel Evans
Had his last pro-tour outing at the Tour Down Under this week. A remarkable career that redefined what we expect from Australian road cyclists. Finished on the podium here too. A champion who showed us grit and vulnerability in equal measure. He also showed us that a dignified introvert can become a national sporting treasure.

The finest moments in his career being Stages 19 and 20 of the 2011 Tour de France. He led the peloton across a couple of mountain passes to run down the other contenders and then blitzed Andy Schleck in the time trial to take the yellow jersey.

The closest I managed to get to Cadel this week was a cardboard cutout of him at the BMC tent in the Tour Village and the bouncy castle near the finish line at Stage 1, so thanks from a distance Cadel!

3. Nick Kyrgios (and Thanasi Kokkinakis)
After years in the post-“good Hewitt” male tennis wilderness we finally have some men that look capable of making the top 10. Sure Kyrgios may be the anti-Cadel, but he has a thirst for the big points and big moments to rival Nadal, without the need to compulsively pick his pants out of his crevice.

4. A country where it is acceptable to question authority
So many of our near and not so near neighbours are here for the Asian Cup. Quite a few are keen on limiting their residents’ freedom of expression. It’s pretty good to live in a country where we are free to question the meaning of our national day. We are also free to question the wisdom of giving an anachronistic title to an anachronistic foreigner on said national day.

We can also question the competence of cricket administrators that strip the most vibrant and loyal cricket community of their traditional game to give it to a wet and sparsely populated SCG, on our national day. Sure it’s a bit rough to blame Cricket Australia for the weather in Sydney, but they deserve it.

5. T20 cricket
‘Is it cricket?’ has been the question this summer. Of course it bloody well is! As much of the origins of cricket are unknown, we do know the first game was not a five day test between teams of eleven players. The rules have always evolved to meet the needs of the players and spectators. To suggest that test cricket is the true and natural form of the game is akin to the Amish notion that the 19th century was the point in time that God ordained farming technology advances should cease.

T20 cricket has reinvigorated domestic cricket in Australia. There were 53,000 people at Adelaide Oval on the weekend for Pete’s sake. If not for the world cup in Australia this year you would say it has killed off one day cricket good and proper. Kids love it and T20 Blast is superior to the versions of kanga cricket my generation was forced to tolerate before they allowed us to start flinging synthetic balls down concrete pitches.

The crowd it brings to games is significantly more diverse than test cricket. It is part of the game and it is good for it, even if it tends towards the bubble gum. As much as bowlers may whinge about it, it is bowling and fielding tactics and innovations which decide a T20 game. Just ask the Scorchers.

6. Tim Cahill’s head
With his second masterful finish against China the other night, Tim Cahill’s head is now equal 8th (with all of David Zdrilic) on the list of Socceroo goal scorers (noting that 8 of Zdrilic’s 20 came in the 31-0 result against American Samoa).

7. The rest of Tim Cahill
The rest of our Tim, including the wonderful bicycle kick against China (clearly a salute to Cadel Evans) sits in 9th on the all time Socceroo list. If you must insist on putting him back together again, Cahill is now six goals ahead of the rest of the list which is bloated by Oceania confederation matches. He is, simply, Australian soccer’s Heather McKay. Port Adelaide will be claiming him as one of theirs any day now.

8. Dustin Fletcher
With the retirement of my birthday buddy, Brett Lee, one game away, Fletcher will be the only professional Australian footy or cricket player my equal or elder. Almost time to start burdening my kids with my own unfulfilled ambitions.

9. Adelaide Oval
Since its redevelopment into a large, coherent, modern stadium the Adelaide Oval has been the radiant star of Australian sport. I would happily go and watch tiddly winks there, such is the noise and vibrancy of a half decent crowd. The Crows had the largest average home crowds in the AFL in 2014 (Collingwho?). Port Adelaide has gone from seat-covering tarps at Footy Park to full houses at Adelaide Oval (noted, Ken Hinkley has had a bit to do with that). Adelaide United has drawn 33,000 against Melbourne Victory and the Strikers have had consistently huge crowds, culminating in almost 53,000 on the weekend.

Not to forget that glorious day in September when almost 39,000 saw Norwood beat Port Adelaide by 4 points in the SANFL Grand Final. The roar when the final siren went was quite the thing (although I’m still trying to work out how to make it a ringtone on my iPhone 4).

Sadly, providing consistently large crowds was all the excuse sporting authorities needed to start taking Adelaide sporting fans for granted. The AFL draw for both SA teams is noticeably worse in 2015 and we lost Australia Day cricket this year. Of course, it will be our fault when we stop turning up. At least it helps us workout the chips on our shoulders.

10. Dave Warner, Virat Kohli, Shane Watson, Kevin Pietersen, Lance Armstrong, Ian Cohen, Maria Sharapova, Hayden Ballantyne, Eddie McGuire
Every drama needs a good villain. Happy Invasion Day!

About Dave Brown

Upholding the honour of the colony. "Play up Norwoods!"

Comments

  1. Wonderful Dave. I might have had Cadel at #1, but that’s only because he is my #1 Australian sporting achievement of my lifetime. Nudge Timmy (head and body) up a few.
    But I love the generousity with which you recognise Nick, the PM and T20. He may be a fool, but he’s our fool.

  2. Ian Cohen? The anti-nuke protester who caught the bow wave off a U.S. battleship on a surfboard?

  3. Thanks Dave. Some good thoughts there. Firstly, what was the Barossa Shiraz?

    I reckon Brad Hogg might have been around longer than you. His comeback has been excellent. Watch for the PM to attempt to make Prince Philip an honorary 12th man during the World Cup.

  4. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Great list Dave,
    Every drama does indeed need a good villain and the theatre of sport is bringing them out out the moment. Woke up to “Nick Kyrgios carrying the hopes of a nation” hyperbole this morning. He’s actually carrying the hopes of three nations and a family that likes to pop its head into just about every media bite. I hope the lad has a good shrink.
    Tim Cahill: The most significant player in Australian soccer history?

  5. Dave, bravo. Your thoughts on T20 mirror mine. T20 is everything that 50 over hoped it could be, but failed miserably in trying. I’ll watch the coming world cup, but after that, I’d like see the back of 50 over cricket. And for those who say T20 is just hit and giggle, I point you towards the wonderful game in Perth 2 nights ago. The crowd were clapping dot balls by Hogg and co as the pressure mounted on the Stars. T20 took its first step to having soul that night. Anyway, well said Dave, and gee I love that line about the Amish.

  6. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    4) – yep and double yep

    6), 7) Tim Cahill is reaping the rewards from the Nyskohus years.

  7. G’day Dave,

    Your list is so wonderful, especially Cadal Evans. He has achieved so much in cycling. I am happy to see him winning the Tour de France in 2011.

    To be honest, I was shocked to hear about Nick Kyrgios’ angry reactions in the court. I’m afraid that I haven’t seen whole situations, but am wondering what made him so angry. I hope his good performances erase his negative reputations.

    I admire Dustin Fletcher for playing footy at 39. He can still keep up with paces. Even I am a Sainter, your honouring him is good to see.

    Cheers

    Yoshi

  8. Dave Brown says

    Thanks for the comments folks.

    PB, I should have left the list unnumbered, it is in no particular order.

    Not this year, Gus. Was thinking more creepy ‘twirl’ man.

    Mickey, was a 2010 Fox Gordon Hannah’s Swing – would love to say that’s my usual tipple but we decided to open a good bottle to celebrate surviving school holidays. Yep, you are right about Hoggy. While batsmen remain incapable of reading him out of the hand, there’s no reason why he can’t continue playing, too.

    LB – at least he’ll be able to afford the best. It’s hard to make a case for anyone other than Cahill now. As an occasional wearer of the crazy gloves, I reckon Schwarzer has claims for those two penalty saves against Uruguay alone.

    Fair point T-Bone. I have a feeling the BBL is sitting more comfortably in the single franchise towns, choosing a team being less artificial.

    Swish, my iPad is not letting me see your comment. Did you say something rude about Steve Jobs?

    Thanks Yoshi, I didn’t actually see the racquet smashing moment so can’t comment (I won’t criticise either given I once demolished a racquet on a net post). By the way, loved seeing you using ‘bloke’ the other day – we’ll make an Aussie of you yet… or maybe just give you a knighthood.

  9. G’day Dave,

    Thanks for your love with using bloke. I am trying to adopt Australian and New Zealand stuffs including the English language. Using that word was adopted when I read Billy’s Dictionary for Blokes written by Billy Brownless.

    I like reading Almanac articles and am happy to be a part of the Almanac family!

    Cheers

    Yoshi

  10. Luke Reynolds says

    Tim Cahill, superstar. Really looking forward to getting to the Adelaide Oval one day. Looks amazing on TV. The Twenty20 format had already reinvigorated domestic cricket in Australia while it was a State based competition, and I think it still would have been massive on free to air TV had it remained State based. Your comment about it doing better in places with single franchise teams is spot on. But anything that attracts families, women and kids in the large numbers it has can only be good for the great game. Great list Dave, and whether or not it was numbered, fantastic to see Steve Smith mentioned first.

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