Category Archives: Sport

Excerpt from “Ball of Fire” by Fred Trueman ~~300~~

picture-BallOfFire-TruemanI was held responsible and got dropped for the next Test – three short of the 300. They picked Fred Rumsey and John Price for Old Trafford and the Aussies set about them with murderous ease. Bobby Simpson scored 316 at the head of a queue of happy Australian batsmen. As for me, I had a quiet laugh wondering what was going through the minds of the selectors.

They couldn’t blame me that time. But I was furious when a newspaper printed a picture of me, pint in hand, laughing my head off. I don’t suppose the selectors bothered to check, but it had actually been taken three years earlier in Australia. Largely because they had no option, they recalled me to the Oval.

England batted first in that match, and our batsmen failed once again. And when I tried to get amongst the Aussies nothing went right. Two or three catches were put down off me, I was taken off and I thought that I might not make it after all. Just before lunch on the Saturday I saw Ted Dexter standing at the wicket looking a bit vacant, ball in hand. I asked him what he was going to do, and he said he was thinking of putting Peter Parfitt on to bowl. I said, ‘No, you’re not,’ took the ball off him and put myself on. There was time for one over before lunch and with the fifth delivery I knocked back the middle stump of Ian Redpath. With the sixth and last I had Graham McKenzie caught at slip.

Just two balls had brought me out of disgrace. Now they were all clapping and cheering as I went back to the pavilion, on a hat trick for my 300th Test wicket. The news was spread by radio and television (which broke into its scheduled programmes to stay with the match) and the Oval was packed when we came out again. When my turn came I remembered that occasion twelve years previously when I so desperately wanted to take a wicket with my very first ball in Test cricket. The same feeling swept over me, only multiplied ten times.

Neil Hawke, an old pal, faced up to me. Before he did so he said: ‘Well, F.S., I wouldn’t mind being the 300th I suppose.’ I tried like hell to make the fairy story come true, but I hadn’t bowled for forty minutes, which didn’t help. The ball went just wide of his off stump. I’d aimed at off and middle. The suspense went on until we took the new ball when, in my first over, I whipped down an outswinger – my favourite delivery – and Neil edged it into the hands of Colin Cowdrey at slip. Neil was the first to congratulate me. To mark the event I gave him a bottle of champagne and it’s still on his sideboard in Adelaide, untouched.

A lot of people have asked me what went through my mind at that moment and they are always surprised when I tell them: the next wicket. There was another one to get, and I wanted it. I took it in the next over.

1 Comment

Filed under Literature, Non-Fiction, Sport

Excerpt from “Cup Day” by Maurice Cavanough & Meurig Davies ~~Carbine~~

picture-CupDay-CavanoughDaviesIt was a field as strong in class as numbers. Second favourite to Carbine was Vengeance, winner of the 1890 Caulfield Cup. Next in the betting was Melos, who had beaten Carbine at weight-for-age, and who had nine pounds better of the weights under scale conditions. The V.R.C. Derby winner, Admiral, added further class to the field.
The owner of Melos, Mr W. Gannon, started Gatling in the Cup solely to ensure a fast pace. He considered Melos a superior stayer to Carbine and wanted to make sure the top-weight had to carry his burden all the way.
Through one of the lucky breaks that are always possible in racing, Bob Ramage had the mount on Carbine in place of Mick O’Brien, who was a sick man throughout that racing season. Nobody, not even O’Brien himself, could have handled the champion better.
Ramage knew that in such a huge field it would be fatal to let Carbine drop too far out of his ground. Despite the sparkling pace set first by Gatling and then by Whymbrel, Carbine never lost touch with the leaders, and it was Melos who cracked at the back of the course when he was endeavouring to match strides with the champion.
From the home turn, Carbine unleashed a terrific run which took him to the front at the distance. Highborn and Correze endeavoured to make a race of it with the favourite, but Ramage merely waved the whip at Carbine, whose long sweeping stride took him to the line an easy winner by two and a half lengths from Highborn, with Correze a further half-length away third.
Flemington had seen some demonstrative receptions in its time, but never before or since has a Cup crowd gone as wild with joy as it did when it became apparent that Carbine had the Cup won.
‘Old Jack’, as Carbine was known, loved applause (it is related of him that on occasions he refused to leave the saddling-paddock until he felt he had had his mead of applause) and as he walked back to scale with the indifferent hind action that so belied his galloping ability, it seemed as if the great champion felt the tremendous reception was no more than his due.
The time, 3.28¼, was a new record, and stood until 1905 when Blue Spec reduced it to 3.27½, but Blue Spec carried 33 pounds less than Carbine!
If there were any who saw Carbine win his Cup, and still doubted his greatness, the connections of the second horse, Highborn, could have convinced them. Highborn’s stable had tried their horse to be an absolute certainty at the weights, and they backed him to win a fortune at long odds. The following autumn, Highborn, who had carried only 6.8 in Carbine’s Cup, won the Sydney Cup with 9.3. Is any further evidence of Carbine’s greatness necessary?

picture-Carbine

1 Comment

Filed under Literature, Non-Fiction, Sport

Excerpt from “Gentlemen of the Australian Turf” by David Hickie ~~Mulley~~

picture-Mulley_AtholAlmost 25 years after the 1946 Caulfield Cup, Mulley reflected:

I had that anxiety before the first race I rode in in 1940, and before the last in 1969. [Mulley subsequently returned to the saddle again.] Riding Bernborough, the anxiety got worse with every race. The public began to believe that Bernborough could not be beaten, but I knew different. If he’d lost the Newmarket they’d have blamed me. And take the Ahern Handicap (Doomben Ten Thousand) in Brisbane. Bernborough was 70 yards behind the leaders after they’d gone a furlong. He was 23rd at the half-mile and 16th into the straight. The course announcer said he didn’t have a million to one chance to win. But I knew he had to be ridden like that. You had to time his run and let him begin it while he was making his turn. As it happened, he got up. But if he hadn’t it would have seemed to be my fault.

And the worst anxiety I ever had in my life was in the days before the 1946 Caulfield Cup . . . The racing public is fickle. Nobody was to learn that more bitterly than me in the years ahead. The pressure was terrible. I had worked tremendously hard for 12 months. I was only a kid, really, 22 or 23, I was engaged to be married. I had the pressure of riding that year some of the greatest horses ever produced. I had all the publicity of Bernborough. I was worn out and tired . . . I used to go bush occasionally, back of Bourke shooting, or up to the Grafton area where I was born. The pressure would get too great, and I’d just run away from it. By the time Bernborough had won 13 races – he beat Flight for the second time in the Hill Stakes at Rosehill – I’d had enough of riding a champion. Then he won his 14th at Flemington, then his 15th at Caulfield the week before the Cup.

I’ll never forget the fortnight leading up to the Caulfield Cup. First of all I was approached by a leading jockey with the offer of a fortune to pull Bernborough up. No amount was mentioned, because I told him to go to hell. A man called Spencer Shade, who died later, was present at the time. He could prove I had the offer and refused it. Then I was threatened. Men pushed their way through my door and threatened me. They rang up and said there were girls I was playing up with when I was engaged to June [his later wife], which was untrue. They threatened to kill me if Bernborough won the Cup, and wrote threatening letters . . .

If Bernborough could have won the Caulfield Cup, I’d have given everything I had. And the threats I got only made me more determined. I suppose, looking back now, I should have talked at the time. But the first thing you learn in racing is to keep your mouth shut. A jockey who talks doesn’t last long. I was determined to call their bluff and win the Cup if I could. But I knew the Caulfield Cup is the hardest race in the world to win. The pace is on all the way, and you have to remember no horse had ever carried Bernborough’s weight of 10st 10lb [68kg] . . .

But my biggest worry was not the weight (I knew he was a great weight carrier). I knew that bloody near half the field would be “scouting” for Bernborough. It was a very big field. There were a record number of runners I think, that year. Twenty-seven runners, and nearly half of them paid up to scout for Bernborough, to interfere with his run in every way they possibly could. I don’t think that, I know that. I was told by the people who were threatening me. Some bookmakers couldn’t have settled if Bernborough had won, especially some Sydney bookmakers. They backed Bernborough to lay off a week before the race. They wouldn’t have done that unless they knew he was trying for his life.

. . . The anxiety left me that day as soon as I mounted Bernborough. It always left me before the start of a race. It’s a funny thing that – once I got on the horse I was calm and lived for the race. I could always ride “cold” and I reckon it was because I beat the anxiety, I beat the fear, every time.

The start of that Cup was like a nightmare. Bernborough stood quietly at the open barrier (he was always well behaved) but the other horses kept jostling him out of position. He was half side-on when the barrier rose and he got squeezed out to second last before they’d gone a furlong [200m] . . . Going out of the straight we were second last, but on the rails. And he was such a champion, I still thought he could win. But, of course, they were scouting for him! He got knocked about all through. He was pushed and bumped as he raced – and most of it was deliberate. After the turn out of the straight, at the nine furlongs [1800m], I moved Bernborough up on the rails but they squeezed him up and he dropped back again. So I took him out off the rails and he began to make up ground again, but he got knocked over at the seven and was last at the six. He got badly interfered with three or four times. Yet he moved up wide out to be in a winning position at the turn.

He dropped his off-front shoulder, as usual, and began to make his run but he was interfered with very badly in the straight. That is really what spoiled his chance. He was stopped after he started to make his run and he really never got going again . . . If Bernborough had not been interfered with in the straight, he would still have won.

2 Comments

Filed under Literature, Non-Fiction, Sport

Excerpt from “Follow The Roar” by Bob Smiley ~~Watch~~

picture-FollowTheRoar-SmileyStewart Cink lines up an uphill, five-foot putt for par. His opponent, Tiger Woods, is already in the hole with a bogey. Tiger’s 4 up on Stewart, halfway through the 36-hole final of the Accenture Match Play.

But it’s not over. In fact, if Cink makes this, he can stall Tiger’s momentum and cut into the lead, starting the last 18 holes a very catchable 3 down. A big putt, to say the least. He takes a practice stroke with his belly putter, then carefully rests it behind the ball.

I look around to see if everyone else shares my suspense and notice I’m the only person actually watching Stewart Cink. I follow the gallery’s eyes to the far side of the green to see what’s so distracting.

Tiger Woods is putting on his watch.

1 Comment

Filed under Literature, Non-Fiction, Sport

Excerpt from “Sheilas, wogs & poofters” by Johnny Warren ~~Qualification~~

picture-SheilasWogsPoofters-WarrenSheilas, wogs & poofters is really a story of my time in soccer in this country … I hope the title doesn’t offend anyone – it’s not meant to. And if it does offend in 21st century Australia then you can imagine what it was like fifty-odd years ago. ‘Sheilas’, ‘wogs’ and ‘poofters’ were considered the second-class citizens of the day and if you played soccer, you were considered one of them. That’s how soccer was regarded back then and, to some extent, still is today.’

 

 

South Korea had already eliminated Israel and Japan to get to the final qualification stage so we knew they were a team in good form. They were going to be a handful in any circumstances but given our lead-up to the match, they were only going to be tougher. The eventual 0–0 scoreline probably flattered us but was also not really unexpected given our disjointed preparation. Our team lacked its usual aggression and fire. The crowd of thirty-two thousand at the Sydney Sports Ground was no doubt as disappointed as we were and it was a classic case of the Australian team not being able to perform at home in big matches.

The Koreans had decided to man-to-man mark me in that match and I barely touched the ball. My opponent was only a little guy but he didn’t leave me for the entire match. I thought he was even going to follow me into the change rooms at half-time! I absolutely hated being marked that tightly because it always made playing difficult. As a player, it meant you were never in any space and there was always added pressure on your first touch. I took being man-marked as a sign of respect but I never enjoyed it. My own performance and the result meant it wasn’t a match I remember with any fondness but I’m sure the pay dispute had a lot to do with our average performance. It meant that we would have our work cut out for us in Seoul if we wanted to see the fruits of our labour in our qualification quest up until now.

Just how much work we had in front of us became strikingly apparent when we were 2–0 down during the first half of the second leg in Seoul. I was confident the team had regained its focus during the week between the two matches but the South Koreans absolutely massacred us in the opening stages. The home crowd was going berserk and the Korean players were feeding off the excitement. They were probably already planning their World Cup finals campaign after scoring the second goal. Luckily for us Branko Buljevic scored a goal for us almost immediately after South Korea scored their second goal. Needless to say, our goal changed the entire complexion of the match. It suddenly gave us some confidence and took a bit of the heat out of the home crowd.

It was a brilliant feeling when Ray Baartz scored the equaliser in the second half. We had come back from the dead and I don’t think the crowd could quite believe it when we held on to secure a 2–2 draw. Unfortunately, in those days, away goals did not count as double, like they do today. Otherwise, Australia would have qualified on the away-goals rule, which means if scores are level after both games, away goals count as double.

The draw in Seoul meant another match needed to be played at a neutral venue and so the decider was played in Hong Kong. Although it didn’t have the drama of the second-leg rollercoaster ride the team played really well. Our 1–0 victory was secured by a wonderful goal from little midfield dynamo Jimmy Mackay. It was an absolute cracker that flew straight into the top corner of the goal and I’m sure it probably even disturbed a few spiders that had been living there quite peacefully. The goal probably should be more recognised in Australian soccer because it was the one that put the nation into its first and only World Cup.

Amid the jubilation there was a sense of disbelief among the team after the match. After all our struggles it was hard to believe that we had actually made the finals. For me it meant that the ghosts of 1970 had finally been laid to rest and my own personal struggle to recover from my knee injury had not been in vain. We were going to West Germany!

1 Comment

Filed under Literature, Non-Fiction, Sport

Excerpt from “The Night We Beat the Blues” by Hugh Lunn ~~State of Origin~~

picture-StateOfOriginBut, deep in the heart, there has always been the belief that we were better. After every loss the cry always went up: ‘But what if we had Arthur Beetson instead of them? After all, he’s a Queenslander.’ Well, you can’t get much more Queensland than being from Roma. And Beetson had played 11 straight years for Australia, and was captain. And a lot of other names were strung together.
Now that argument had become a reality. Tonight Queensland was to play NSW with the best Queenslanders – including those playing in NSW. There was Beetson, even at 35, welcomed home. Rod Reddy, bought as a 17-year-old schoolboy from Rockhampton – back home. And little Kerry Boustead who, a few years before, came down from Innisfail as an 18 year old and gave the crowd a brief glimmer of hope by proving the fastest and most elusive runner on the ground. But they bought him.
Plus there were six of the best local lads – including 20-year-old Wally Lewis, who had turned from rugby union where he had played in the famous Australian schoolboys tour with the Ella brothers. And a giant 21-year-old centre from Cunnamulla, Chris Close, whose mother would be listening on the radio.
This was it. And the crowd was confident, it was only 6 pm. And there were two hours to go until the start, but already the ground was filling fast. There was no doubt this would be a sellout.
But there was not the same confidence in the League board room, where Senator McAuliffe was welcoming 10 people to a pre-match dinner. A judge, a bureaucrat, a lawyer, a newspaper editor, some businessmen. An array of crystal wine and port glasses before each of us, original paintings on the wall.
Senator McAuliffe, a ruddy-faced, big-nosed raconteur with an infectious laugh, told the story behind the match. In the early ‘70s he had formed a ‘ways and means committee’ to try to stop NSW buying Queensland players. Then a ‘protection and procurement committee’ to pay them money to stay – $150,000 in all. It worked for a while but collapsed when, in 1978, 14 of Queensland’s best players moved to Sydney. ‘Now there are about 25 Queenslanders playing regular first grade for Sydney clubs – that’s nearly two teams. If we hadn’t spent $150,000 it would have been like an army retreating to NSW.
Last year he reached the conclusion that, although Queensland could perform well, the result could be confidently forecast. ‘This meant the series had a short lifespan. It was even cooling the intense patriotism of Queenslanders. There was an atmosphere of defeatism.’
The 60-year-old ALP Senator said that if this were allowed to continue in any walk of life – ‘One side crushed by the other side’ – there would be no interest, no vitality. ‘It’s the same in Parliament, you must have a virile Opposition.’
McAuliffe also noted that, while league is still by far the major football code in Queensland and NSW it is under intense challenge from other codes. ‘If we are going to remain on top, we must have matches with appeal and evenness.’
Luckily he was able to convince NSW officials of this – so they would release their players for the game. ‘Otherwise NSW will end up having to play themselves,’ was the way he put it to them.
Still, there were problems.
Outside on the footpath Channel 9 was doing a news report live: ‘This is the match they have talked about for years. This will end decades of speculation on who has the best team.’ But would highly-paid NSW professionals who had been living in NSW for 15 years, like Beetson, bother trying in a match for their former state? Even for a bit of extra dough? It would be a fiasco if they didn’t.
It was decided that the winners should get – for the first time in Australian sport – a percentage of the gross gate – 10 percent. With other sponsorships plus a match fee of $200 the winning team would get up to $1400 a man.
A magnanimous man, the Senator looked worried in between jokes, for which he invariably splayed out the palms of his hands close to the front of his chest. Would they all try? Really hard? Would the ground be full with the TV replay so soon afterwards? Surely NSW would still win. Beetson was now old.
Six of the team were inexperienced locals. He kept adjusting his suit vest with his left hand as he sprayed the port around. ‘It’s cold outside, drink up.’
And, too awful to contemplate, where would McAuliffe turn to next if Queensland was again beaten?
The Senator was doing what we all often do – saying what we ourselves want to hear. His silver glasses and hair contrasting with his ruddy complexion, he pondered: ‘Champions are like good horses. They will rise to the occasion. Once they get out on the track and the saddle is put on the adrenalin will flow. Beetson and Reddy are two immortals who haven’t played for Queensland yet. They are two old warriors who have heard the bugle call. Patriotism is a great thing, you know. Deep down the real ambition of all football players is to play for their city, their state and their country. And if somewhere along the line you are waylaid because of money – which is understandable in working-class sport – the older you get the more you regret you didn’t play. When the kids say: “Dad, why didn’t you play for Queensland?” it doesn’t impress them much if you start talking about deals and offers.’
As we filed out into our grandstand seats it was a sight to see the ground completely full once again. There was a roar as out of the night sky trailing maroon smoke came two parachutists who landed on the field. Then the Blues appeared to 30,000 boos – and Arthur Beetson’s first appearance in maroon is merely a befuddled memory of noise and emotion. Though I do remember the band struck up Life is Great in the Sunshine State. And the crowd deliberately sang Waltzing Matilda during the rendition of Advance Australia Fair – which shows how wrong polls can be.
An English referee had to be flown out for the match because NSW demanded a neutral referee. ‘I told them I thought all referees were supposed to be neutral,’ Ron McAuliffe said, using his wickeder-than-wicked grin.
A penalty to NSW brought a farmyard chant of ‘Bullshit, bullshit’ from the outer, and as Arthur Beetson joined the biggest brawl yet seen on the Lang Park oval, they chanted, ‘Artie, Artie, Artie, Artie.’
If ever there was any doubt that the prodigal sons had returned that brawl ended it. One NSW player had a present Queenslander sitting on his shoulders while a past one clobbered him from in front. On TV they call such happenings ‘a confrontation in back play’ … ‘several incidents in the play-the-ball’ … ‘a swinging arm’ or ‘a facial massage’.
But this was an all-in brawl broken into three separate groups of punch-throwers – with only NSW centre Steve Rogers trying to break it up.
Amazingly, Parramatta player fought Parramatta player and St George fought St George – and Beetson so dominated play that a Sydney visitor remarked that Parramatta would now demand that he play in a maroon jersey.
Boustead had never run so hard for Easts in Sydney – and toward the end the ecstatic Queensland crowd began to chant ‘Easy, easy’ as they led 20 points to 10.
McAuliffe was now waxing lyrical to the man next to him, appropriately the Minister for Defence, Jim Killen: ‘The old chaps, they hear the bugle call, they react. History is full of it. This is great theatre, great theatre. Beetson and Reddy are like a couple of old opera stars, they must perform.’
‘It must be something to be a Queenslander.’
And the front page headlines of the next day’s afternoon Telegraph – which devoted five pages including the cartoon to the match – summed up the feeling, in more ways than one: ‘THE NIGHT WE BEAT THE BLUES’.

The Weekend Australian, 12-13 July 1980

*Extract from The Best Ever Australian Sports Writing (A 200 Year Collection) edited by David Headon

Hugh Lunn remembers an interstate match from 1957 . . .

2 Comments

Filed under Literature, Non-Fiction, Sport

Excerpt from “Seeing Red” by Graham Poll ~~Three Yellows~~

picture-SeeingRed-PollMy so-called three-card trick began in the sixty-first minute. Croatia’s Simunic body-checked Australia’s Harry Kewell, and I showed Simunic a yellow card. My system has always been to identify teams in my notebook by their colours and not the team name. It is a system which I had found prevents confusion, believe it or not. So in Stuttgart I put ‘Red/White’ for Croatia at the top of my left hand column and listed the numbers of the players underneath. In the right hand column, I put ‘Yellow’ for Australia and listed their numbers. So when I cautioned Simunic that first time, I correctly put a ‘C’ for caution against Red/White number 3 in the left hand column and noted the time – ‘16/2’ (which meant sixteen minutes of the second half).

The match continued. After seventy-eight minutes Liverpool’s Kewell became an immortal hero in Australia with an outstanding equalizer. He chested down a pass, turned and scored with a right-footed volley. That guaranteed that the last moments of the match would be extremely tense for everybody as Croatia charged after a winning goal, Australia desperately defied them, supporters from both sides went through every possible emotion and I raised my own tempo to keep control.

Croatia’s Dario Simic, whom I had cautioned in the first half, earned a second booking after eighty-five minutes and I sent him off. Brett Emerton, of Australia, collected cautions in the eighty-first and eighty-seventh minutes. I sent him off as well.

Then, in stoppage time, I cautioned Simunic again – but I didn’t realize it was ‘again’. He fouled Australia sub Joshua Kennedy and I showed him the yellow card – but, this time, as I now realize, I recorded it wrongly. I put the ‘C’ beside the Yellow 3, in line with the Red/White 3, which already had a ‘C’ against it. I didn’t note a time or offence. Although I have replayed the incident a thousand times in my head, I don’t really know why I did what I did. I cannot fully understand why I got it wrong and why I failed to send off Simunic. Aussie Joe certainly speaks with a broad Australian accent. Maybe, just maybe, that is where the confusion set in.

Simunic began having a go at me. ‘You’re unbelievable,’ he said. I told him, ‘Any more of that and you’ll be off …’ As he ran away he said, ‘That IS unbelievable.’ We all know now what he meant.

The match ended and the Aussies celebrated. I had given a total of eight cautions, two of which had led to sendings off. It had been mayhem, but it was not over. Simunic deliberately approached me and gave me another piece of his mind. Croatia had been knocked out by the country of his birth and he was massively disappointed. He vented his anger at me. I showed him the yellow card and then the red.

Then we all trooped off. As we did so, there was a man from the Croatian FA shaking his head, but his team had gone out, so I thought he was reacting to that. Australia had twice battled back from a goal down. They were on their way through to the next stage of the World Cup. Although I didn’t know it, I was on my way home.

1 Comment

Filed under Literature, Non-Fiction, Sport