My Top 5 Moments as a Sporting Spectator

5 October, 2007

My trip to Sydney last weekend to watch the mighty Melbourne Storm win the NRL premiership rates as one of my all-time favourite moments as a sporting spectator. And believe me, I’ve spectated plenty of sport in my time.

Here, in no particular order, are my greatest 5 moments:

(Criteria = events must have been seen live in person)

#1 – 2001 Bledisloe Cup – Australia v New Zealand at Dunedin

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‘You put your left foot in, you put your left foot out…’

What a trip. What a match. What memories.

My two brothers and three of my best buddies made the trip over to NZ for the 2001 Bledisloe Cup. We were joined on our pilgrimage by our unfortunate Kiwi mates ‘Aussie’ Mal and Vic. The Aussies triumphed 23-15 and paraded the silverware in front of us after the match.

Our trip took in Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin and Queenstown and featured celebrities Jeff Thompson, David Boon, Mark Ella and Richard Hadlee’s niece.

If I had to pick one highlight, it would be Vic coming a cropper on the luge at Queenstown.

#2 – 1993 AFL Grand Final – Essendon v Carlton

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Col, Barnes-man, Santa and I saw virtually every game of the 1993 season. The Bombers came from nowhere in 1992 to pinch a premiership with a team of talented kids in 1993.

We met at Col’s for an early morning BBQ, knocked back a few 10am beers to help settle the nerves, then headed into the ‘G for the match and a few more nerve-settling ales.

Longy was brilliant, so was Wanganeen. Pre-match singer of the national anthem, Maroochy Bamba, was not so great, but memorable nonetheless. The Bombers skipped away to an early 7 goal lead and managed to keep more or less that margin for the whole game. We had a few nervous beers as the game ebbed and flowed.

Highlights of the day: sledging a 10 year old Carlton supporter with blue hair on the train, and watching Silvagni claim ‘I touched it!’. For some reason it was a very early night for your correspondent…

#3 – 2003 Rugby World Cup – Semi Final and Final

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Oh, the agony and the ecstasy of the 2003 World Cup.

First, the Wallabies beat the highly fancied All Blacks in the semi final thanks to a brilliant Mortlock intercept and length of the field try (and a not so brilliant Carlos Spencer cut-out pass). Wakes and I sat on opposite sides of the ground. We had promised not to sledge about the result during the game. Texting doesn’t count as sledging, does it?

Highlight: Gregan’s “Four more years boys. Four … more … years”

Then the agony. A packed Telstra Stadium in front of a heaving crowd. The English supporters were fantastic, before, during and after the game and created a fantastic atmosphere. The game itself was one of the all time classics, going down to extra time after the brave Wallabies refused to give in and kept clawing themselves back into the game.

Then, Wilkinson calmly stepped up and slotted the winning goal. Pandemonium in the crowd for the Poms and desolation for us Aussies.

Still, I’m sure everyone who was lucky enough to be there that night will think of the game as one of the great all-time experiences.

#4 – 22 July, 2002 – Chicago Cubs vs Philadelphia Phillies

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The cubbies won an otherwise forgettable game 7-6.

The game is memorable not only for my first and only visit to the fabulous Wrigley Field, but more importantly for my feat in catching a foul ball, one grab, with my bare hands. I had been telling the guys who took me that I had a history of crowd catches, (ask Mark Greatbatch and Shane Woewodin) but it seemed unlikely a ball would come my way, sitting as we were some 70 yards from the batter on the foul ball side of first base.

Suddenly the batter got a piece of the action. The crowd roared, the ball soared, went foul, and would you believe it, landed smack bang in the middle of my hands. I was an instant celebrity, however this being the land of instant celebrities, I was soon forgotten by the crowd. Still, I got to keep the ball, which I have to this day.

#5 – 2007 Melbourne Storm NRL Grand Final and after party

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The Melbourne Storm were the top team during the regular season in 2006 and 2007.

They dropped the Grand Final in 2006 but there was no way the boys were going to let it slip through their fingers in 2007.

Although outnumbered by the home town Manly fans, the Storm supporters turned out in force, and were rewarded with 80 minutes of uncompromising, passionate, brilliant rugby league. Coach Craig Bellamy’s philosophy is for each player to play his role to the best of his ability, and this is certainly what they delivered.

The celebrations after the game were memorable, the players taking an eternity to complete their lap of honour.

Hundreds of supporters crammed into the Novotel after-party – and party they did, especially when the players arrived with the premiership trophy later in the night.

#6 – Honourable mentions

I couldn’t work out my greatest cricket memory:

  • Lillee knocking over Viv Richards on the last ball of the day
  • Lillee and Thommo in full flight vs the old enemy 1974-75
  • Steve Waugh’s farewell Melbourne test
  • Steve Waugh double ton in Wellington
  • Surely something with Warney in it?
  • Garry Sobers 254 vs Australia
  • Centenary Test?

Or what about Makybe Diva’s third Melbourne Cup?

Or watching England play soccer at Wembley Stadium?

And countless Bomber memories…

Over to you guys, let me have your lists and share your favourite memories with the world.

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All Australian vs Brownlow

27 September, 2007

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Congratulations to Jimmy Bartel on his Brownlow Medal win. He’s a great player and seems like a pretty likeable bloke as well.

There has been plenty of press this week on whether the Brownlow has turned into a de facto midfielders award.

Ben Doolan* over at Bombertalk went to the trouble of cross-referencing this year’s All Australian team with the number of Brownlow votes they received.

B: Scarlett (3 votes), Glass (2 votes), Milburn (0 votes)
HB: McLeod (15 votes), Egan (1 vote), C.Brown (2 votes)
C: K. Cornes (13 votes), Bartel (29 votes), C. Cornes (12 votes)
HF: S. Johnson (10 votes), J. Brown (17 votes), B. Harvey (22 votes)
F: B Johnson (14 votes), Pavlich (15 votes), Mooney (1 votes)

R: Cox (3 votes), Kerr (22 votes), Ablett (20 votes)

Bench: Corey (12 votes), Fletcher (2 votes), Lade (8 votes), Ling (1 vote)

High pollers who missed AA – Dane Swan 20 votes, Simon Black 22 votes, Sam Mitchell 21 votes, Adam Goodes 20 votes

McLeod is pretty much a midfielder anyway; apart from him the backline (including Fletcher on the bench) hardly troubled the scorers. Same for Big Cox in the ruck.

As per my All Australian post last week, my biggest gripe was with Mooney and S Johnson getting into the side. How good does Mooney’s 1 vote look against the other AA forwards, and against other mobile big men who missed out Goodes 20 votes, Reiwoldt 14 votes, and Lucas 11 votes?

I gave Mooney my sharpest scrutiny last week (usually reserved for following David Hille around and pointing out his general crappiness), and I just can’t see how anyone rates him. Apart from a small golden patch, Johnson wasn’t much better.

Anyway, good luck to the Cats this week – I would hate to have to watch Tredrea and the Cornes boys spanking on after the match.

* Not the Ben Doolan but named in his honour.


AFL All Australian Team Awards

18 September, 2007

All Australian Team 2007

I was fortunate enough to snaffle an invitation to the AFL All Australian Team awards night last night. Sort of like the Brownlow Medal night without the glamour and glitz. (Apart from Ling and Whitnall, both looking like Men’s Health cover models as usual)
The highlight of the night for me was shaking Jonathon Brown’s hand:

“Good Luck, Jono”

“Thanks Mate”

I also had a quick chat with my former under 9s team mate, and likely 2007 premiership coach Bomber Thompson. I was busting to ask him whether the rumours about him coming back to Bomberland next year are true, but something told me he wouldn’t tell me even if they were. Plus I was worried he might have said to himself earlier in the night “If one more bloke asks me what I’m doing next year, I’ll smash him!” The other thing I didn’t ask Bomber about was the time he hit me in the head with a bouncer in under 14s cricket. I still have the lump. (Next to the one Dave Cate gave me many years later.)

I wasn’t that impressed with the All Australian team, mainly the fact that Geelong had 9 of the 22 players in the side. The Bombers lost one game in 2001 and only had four AAs that year. Go figure. Maybe Billy Brownless picked the side. Fair dinkum, only a Geelong supporter could have Mooney in the team in front of Buddy Franklin, Reiwoldt or Richo. And Steve Johnson? Missed 6 games, goes missing for quarters at a time. Give me a break. Still, the pressure will be on the Cats now, imagine having almost half of the best players in the league and not winning the flag. Especially if Collingwood (0 AAs) beat them this Friday. Now that would make me laugh.

Some more observations:

  • Big Cox is definitely a big unit
  • Whitnall is even frecklier in real life than on TV
  • The bright TV lights bounced off Ling’s red face and lit him up like a beetroot. He looked like one of the leads from Beauty and the Beast. You guess which one.
  • I am a coward. I finally had my chance to give Chad Cornes a spray at close quarters but he was bigger than I thought, so I walked on by. Very similar to the famous Tony Modra walk-on-by incident of 1993.
  • Ditto Campbell Brown, except he is a short-arse and I have no excuse for my silence, apart from the fact that Mad Mal Brown is his dad.
  • Clinton Grybas has a massive bald spot and is definitely working on a subtle comb-over.
  • By the end of the night, I’d had enough of the crap selections. Here is a video of me showing my displeasure at the team

Enjoy.


Farewell and thanks for the memories

26 August, 2007

HirdSheeds

Two people who will always have a special place in my memories.

Thanks Jimmy and Sheeds.


Flying High with The Hawks

8 July, 2007

Thanks to Malcolm for another guest post. I can’t believe he’s using the opportunity to promote the opposition.

Last night I had the pleasure of an “exclusive intimate” dinner with the captain and coach of the Hawthorn Football Club. I was concerned about this as I can’t string a sentence together when it comes to talking AFL. The predictable subjects were discussed e.g. habits of certain footballers when staying away from home, illicit drugs and the “line in the sand game”. But without wishing to annoy you, my reporting skills cannot now be demonstrated as it was made clear “what’s said in the room, stays in the room.”

I can tell you that

  • Alastair Clarkson and Richie Vandenberg are very upbeat about the club’s prospects, as you’d expect sitting as team number two on the ladder
  • All they talked about the whole night long was football (is that surprising?)
  • They’re both perfectly amiable, especially since they both remembered my name by the end of the night

After a decade in Melbourne without a footy team I’m now Set to Soar with the Hawks!

weepoo

Editor’s note – Hawthorn are famous for their wee and pooh colours.


Been in a Good Paddock

13 June, 2007

I only caught the end of the annual EJ Whitten Legends Game on TV tonight, but I did note several players have been in a very good paddock since retiring:

Derek Kickett – though he was in a good paddock even when he was playing in the big time

Scott Cummings – doesn’t just take the cake, he takes the whole bakery

Darren Bewick – adding a new, weighty dimension to FURC’dom (Pascoe Vale wicketkeeper style)

Mick Martyn – doing a Col Gray impersonation?

Leon Cameron – allergic to bee stings perhaps? (Three Amigos style)

Nathan Burke – his jib hat must have had a slimming effect in his playing days

Todd Russell – has been carbo loading in case he gets trapped in a mine again!

I’ll post a few photos when they surface on the net. Let me know if you spotted any other interesting sights during the match.

PS – TD could still get a game – with Richmond.

EDIT – Here he is, the one and only DK. Tell me he hasn’t had the odd beer post-retirement.

Kickett


AFL Books Not Likely to Sell

31 May, 2007

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On those rare occasions that the Essendon FC loses, I head straight to the Bombertalk forum to commiserate with fellow supporters about the game. The site used to be hosted on the official EFC site but for a variety of reasons it was closed down last year, and is now administered by a dedicated group of volunteers. I enjoy the site much more now that club-imposed rules (eg don’t bag players!) are not zealously enforced. In general the community is quick to jump to the defence of any players unfairly slagged off. (Kepler Bradley vs Collingwood did not have too many defenders…)

A lot of the threads are pretty club specific, but there are a few more general ones that may be of interest to all AFL fans.

One of my favourites is this post, which has now spilled onto its 12th page. It contains many humourous anti-suggestions for AFL Books that are unlikely to find much of a market.

For example How to Reed and Right by The Collingwood Football Club.

You may also wish to check out this thread, which talks about some of the fun I had at the Richmond President’s Dinner last week.