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A – ANTHONY VAN DYCK
Remember the name if you want to be critical of Racing Victoria’s decision to overhaul its approach to Northern Hemisphere horses running in the race that stops the nation. His catastrophic injury in the Melbourne Cup last year is the reason we have reached this point and why future runners will undergo a battery of medical checks before they are allowed to land in Melbourne. The industry could not sit not idle and suffer another horse fatality with so many eyeballs attracted to the first Tuesday in November. The horse’s welfare is paramount. Always has been and always will be.
B – BARRED
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan is not going to be on David Koch’s Christmas card list. The league yesterday declared that Port Adelaide were not permitted to wear their traditional prison bar jumper in next week’s round 8 Showdown against Adelaide, much to the angst of Koch and the Power supporters who quite rightly argue that the strip doesn’t present as a jumper clash. I would have loved to have seen McLachlan and the powerful people inside the four walls at AFL House grant permission and view the Magpies’ response. Not sure saying no helps grow the game as the league says it is committed to.
C – CASHING IN
It was an unorthodox lead-up to a Group 1 tilt, but Peter and Paul Snowden were laughing the loudest at the completion of last Saturday’s Champagne Stakes (1600m) at Randwick. The co-trainers, with an eye on some important juvenile races in Brisbane, sent Capitvant to the paddock after his minor placing behind Anamoe in the Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m). Once they learnt Anamoe would not contest the final leg of the Triple Crown for two-year-olds, Capitvant was picked up and put back into work. The result? A gritty win over Hilal that assures him of a stud career, following in the footsteps of his sire Capitalist, who this week had his service fee raised from $44,000 to $99,000.
D – DIRE STRAITS
North Melbourne will be collecting the wooden spoon in 2021, continuing on from their horror fade-out in the second half of last season which led to the club moving on from Rhyce Shaw and appointing David Noble. To say Noble has his work cut out is a gross understatement. The Kangaroos’ VFL outfit was last night humbled by 107 points by the Casey Demons, highlighting a dearth of quality at Arden Street. Many more years of pain awaits.
E – EASY ON THE EYE
Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith did Australia proud on Anzac Day when they claimed the Zurich Classic in The Big Easy. The only regular-season team event on the PGA Tour and a popular one at that In New Orleans, the Aussie duo, known throughout the week as Team Mullet, beat South African pair Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel on the first play-off hole. In a further boost for Australian golf, both Leishman and Smith flagged their intentions to represent the country at the Tokyo Olympic Games.
F – FAMILIAR FOE
North Melbourne players haven’t had a great deal to be excited about this season. And their woes will be compounded on Sunday when they run headlong into former teammate Ben Brown. Now with Melbourne, Brown was a much-loved player at the Kangaroos, but was moved on at the end of last year by some pretty influential figures at the club. It would be a bitter pill to swallow for North supporters if Brown booted a bag in his Melbourne debut, but there is unlikely to be a great deal of animosity towards him. As a Tasmanian product, he will certainly have some home-town support in Hobart.
G – GIRLPOWER
Will be on display at Morphettville tomorrow with the running of the Group 1 Sangster (1200m) and Group 1 Australasian Oaks (2000m), two features that boast good depth, in particular the Sangster. Adding to the interest levels from a WA perspective, William Pike has been granted an exemption to head interstate and will partner Sisstar for Tony and Calvin McEvoy in the sprint and Flexible for Godolphin’s James Cummings in the Oaks.
H – HIT THE GROUND RUNNING
Northam Race Club’s 2021 season is nearly here. Come Sunday, the Avon will host the first of 21 meetings for the year, headlined by the Group 3 Northam Mazda Stakes (1100m). It has attracted a high-class field, including the grand old campaigner Rock Magic. Six of the 11 runners have contested Group 1 races throughout their career, underlining the depth of the field. It is the perfect launchpad for what should be another successful season up the hill.
I – INVIGORATED
Jacksonville Jaguars fans received a much-needed injection of hope this morning when the franchise selected Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence with the prized first pick in the NFL Draft. Dubbed “Touchdown Jesus”, the long-haired Lawrence is the real deal. He has been groomed from a young age to be a starting signal caller in the NFL and has the tools, along with the poise in the pocket, to have an immediate impact and help lift the Jaguars out of the doldrums. It is a new era for Jacksonsville, who went 1-15 last season. They have appointed former prolific Ohio State mentor Urban Meyer as their coach and now have Lawrence to take them to the promised land.
J – JUMP IN THE QUEUE
Was the advice to those who had futures investments on boom three-year-old Jumpingjackmac after the barrier draw earlier this week. The complexion of the WA Derby (2536m) at Gloucester Park changed dramatically when the Gary Hall-trained Jumpingjackmac came up with barrier four and his main rival Lavra Joe was dealt a cruel hand in 10. Mighty Ronaldo is not to be disregarded after drawing barrier two, but it is difficult to see how Lavra Joe spots Jumpingjackmac, who is expected to find the front in running, several lengths and runs him down.
K – KEEP ON KEEPING ON
Ashleigh Barty sent all of her rivals a message earlier this month with her victory in the Miami Open. It was a success that kept Naomi Osaka at bay and was a timely confidence boost after a quarterfinal exit at the Australian Open. Barty shows no signs of slowing down. She claimed a second title on clay (the other was the French Open) when she rallied from a set down in the final against Aryna Sabalenka in Stuttgart. It was Barty’s 10th successive win over a top-10 player and as such, deserves to be seriously respected in the French Open next month.
L – LACH DOWN
Brisbane coach Chris Fagan will discover just how much intestinal fortitude his players possess as they endeavour to remain in the top-eight conversation without their premier performer, Brownlow medallist Lachie Neale. The ball magnet is expected to miss two months following ankle surgery … and as fate would have it, the Lions will be unable to ease their way into the mid-part of the fixture. They host Port Adelaide at the Gabba tomorrow night and then have to venture west to tackle Neale’s former side, Fremantle, next weekend. His absence, on top of Jarrod Berry (groin) and Darcy Gardiner (concussion) leaves the Lions vulnerable against the Power, who will be without Travis Boak as he battles a quad complaint.
M – MAN DOWN
Perth Wildcats captain Jesse Wagstaff sent a scare through the champions’ camp when he injured a knee at training ahead of tomorrow’s clash with New Zealand in Tasmania. Not only has Wagstaff been a wonderful servant for the Wildcats, he has been incredibly durable. His career, which is fast approaching 400 games in the league, has been one of a very resilient and efficient teammate with a highlight reel of selfless acts.
N – NOT VERY SMART
The Boston Celtics chalked up an important 120-111 win over Eastern Conference rivals Charlotte yesterday, a result that came despite Brad Stevens’ side being without guards Kemba Walker (injured) and Marcus Smart (suspended). Smart was banned for one match for using threatening language towards an official during the previous night’s loss to Oklahoma City. Smart was jawing at the officials during the match and continued after the final buzzer, leaving the league with little option but to suspend him.
O – OUT OF LINE
WA Premier Mark McGowan’s criticism this week of cricketers going to India to play in the IPL was ordinary. Last time I checked, professional cricketers playing cricket is work. Surely they are allowed to go and earn a salary to support themselves and their family, even if it means they are plying their trade in a country where a global pandemic is raging. If they’re not working, they’re not getting paid, unlike the Premier.
P – PERFECT 10
David Mundy simply refuses to read the script. The evergreen midfielder is in the rarest of form, despite his 35 years. At an age when most players are simply hanging on, Mundy is a headline act. His typically silky performance against North Melbourne earned him a maximum 10 votes in the AFL Coaches’ Association award and a four-vote lead over his nearest rival, Melbourne ruckman Max Gawn. His ball use remains elite and his influence profound.
Q – QUESTION TIME
When you get spanked in any sporting contest, eyebrows are raised and questions are posed. Welcome to the world of the West Coast Eagles. Last Saturday’s shellacking at the hands of Geelong upped the stakes for Sunday’s western derby, where Fremantle will give them a serious examination. You can only imagine what the fallout will be if the Eagles fail to handle the Dockers probe.
R – REDDY TO RUMBLE
Tommy Shelby returns to Cannington tomorrow night for an assignment that will require the “peoples’ dog” to be somewhere very close to his best. A million-dollar stake earner, Tommy has the red rug for his showdown with the supremely gifted Sunset Spitfire, who is making his long-awaited return to WA chasing headquarters, and the emerging Projectory, who can’t do anymore than he has of late. It is going to be a terrific race.
S – SHOCKWAVES
The All Blacks are New Zealand’s pride and joy. Which is why it came as a shock yesterday to learn New Zealand’s 26 provincial rugby unions unanimously voted to sell a minority share in the game’s commercial rights. The decision to offload a 12.5 per cent stake to a California-based technology company for $360 million surprised many with a keen interest in the game they play in heaven. But New Zealand Rugby, like so many throughout the world, has been hit hard by COVID and there were real concerns about how it would function in the short to medium term. We now wait to see what the New Zealand Rugby Players’ Association, which has its reservations, decides to do.
T – TALKING TOUGH
Damien Hardwick has wonderful perspective as a senior coach. It is a trait that has shone through since Richmond stormed up the ladder in 2017 to win the first of their three flags in four years. Hardwick’s care for his players and preparedness to support them against criticism has been a constant. It was superb to see him push back strongly against those who have been questioning the form of dual premiership-winning spearhead Tom Lynch this week. Lynch has been a magnificent servant in his time at the club and has many good years ahead of him.
U – UP AND AWAY
Jett Stanley’s career is off the tarmac. The son of former jockey turned trainer Brent Stanley guided Trevello to victory at Ascot on Wednesday for his bosses Grant and Alana Williams in what was only his third race ride. The emotion shown by Grant and Jett underlined what it meant to both. It is still very early days, but we could well be seeing the emergence of a very rare talent.
V – VACCINE VAULT
It made perfect sense this week that Australian athletes and officials heading to Tokyo for the Olympics and Paralympics would be given priority access to COVID-19 vaccines in the lead-up. Only last week Japan was forced to declare a third state of emergency with daily coronavirus infections surpassing 5000. Either the Pfizer or AstraZenaca vaccine will be made available for the athletes and officials, based on their age. The preferred vaccine for Australians under the age of 50 is the Pfizer shot.
W – WHY OH WHY
South Sydney star Latrell Mitchell fronted up to the media earlier this week to reveal that police were involved in helping identify those responsible for racist social media trolling. Mitchell forwarded the abusive comments directed at him to his management, who then went to NSW Police. It is truly astonishing that people still think it is acceptable to racially abuse anyone, either online or in person. A proud young Indigenous man with a huge profile, Mitchell is to be applauded for taking a stand.
X – X-RAYS
There have been a flurry of them in the AFL season this year as the shorter pre-season and games being pushed back to 20 minutes and time on start to take their toll. Coaches have voiced their concerns at how long the games have become, which is entirely understandable. Last Saturday’s match between Carlton and Brisbane extended to 136 minutes. But let’s hope the league just weighs everything up before it makes a snap decision. As a fan, I must admit that 20 minutes and time on is more appealing than the 16 minutes and time on we became accustomed to last year.
Y – YES, YES, YES
Was what many West Coast members were shouting after the WA Government gave approval for Optus Stadium to be at 75 per cent capacity for Sunday’s western derby. Ideally, it would have been bursting at the seams, like it was in round five against Collingwood. But considering nobody was allowed to attend last Saturday’s match between Fremantle and North Melbourne, an attendance in excess of 40,000 is a terrific result. Fingers crossed we are back to pre-lockdown levels really quickly.
Z – ZERO
Intention of leaving Collingwood. That was the message Nathan Buckley got across in no uncertain terms at his weekly press conference. We all know the commentary. Buckley is out of contract. Eddie McGuire, his chief ally for the duration of his time at the club, no longer has any official role with the Magpies. Collingwood are highly unlikely to play finals, only increasing the pressure on Buckley. Every loss is a blow to Buckley’s chances of an extension, but at least the football world knows he is up for the fight. Good on him.