A – AU REVOIR
Naomi Osaka wasn’t expected to spend a whole fortnight at Roland Garros. Her clay-court record over the years in the French capital has been ordinary to be fair. But she did leave considerably earlier than anticipated … by her own doing. The Japanese star created a firestorm when she declared before the French Open that she wouldn’t be fulfilling her media commitments. That went down like a lead balloon and soon after winning her opening-round match, was warned she faced more than a financial sanction if she continued to refrain from talking. Osaka subsequently withdrew, citing concerns about her mental health. No one wins from this situation and how it plays out in future events regarding Osaka will be fascinating.
B – BEST OF THE BEST
Chelsea can lay claim to that title after they prevailed in the all-England Champions League final in Portugal last weekend. The Blues overcame Manchester City 1-0 thanks to a Kai Havertz goal just before half-time to be crowned the champions of European football. The effort of German Thomas Tuchel to turn Chelsea into an undeniable force since replacing Frank Lampard at the end of January speaks volumes of his managerial capabilities.
C – CON MAN
Devon Conway was counting his blessings into the lead-up to the opening Test against England at Lord’s. And the New Zealander didn’t waste the wonderful opportunity, scoring a majestic 200 to become just the sixth batsman to hit a Test century on debut at the home of cricket. Conway’s telling contribution enabled the Kiwis to compile a competitive 378 and hold the advantage in the contest by stumps on day two.
D – DREAM BIG
There isn’t much that catches the AFL by surprise. But those at league headquarters were taken aback at the zest by the WA public to attend the Dreamtime match between Essendon and Richmond at Optus Stadium. Tickets for the iconic contest were sold out in 17 hours, with a crowd in excess of 55,000 expected to attend. Importantly also, the Long Walk featuring former Essendon champions Michael Long and Gavin Wanganeen, was given the go-ahead to take place in the hours leading up to bouncedown after some high-level negotiations on Tuesday.
E – END OF THE LINE
Perth Glory got there on Wednesday night when they succumbed 2-1 to the Brisbane Roar. Glory, who did a good job to escape New Zealand with a point last weekend, needed to get over the top of the Roar on the road to stay in the finals conversation. Richard Garcia’s first season at the helm will conclude with an away game against Newcastle tomorrow.
F – FREO’S FINALS FLING
Granted, it seems a stretch. But if you crunch the numbers and dissect the fixture, it isn’t entirely impossible for Fremantle to play finals football in 2021. It will be though if they are unable to upset the Western Bulldogs at Optus Stadium on Sunday. A defeat would leave them 5-7 and facing mounting odds to be up and about in September. The availability of Matt Taberner helps, as does the comforts of home. In saying that, the Bulldogs have assembled a 9-2 record, beating up on sides outside the top eight as Fremantle currently are.
G – GOOD GRACE
Grace And Harmony started this preparation a maiden. She could finish it tomorrow as a Group 1 winner. The Chris Waller-trained filly was disadvantaged in the Group 2 The Roses last start at Doomben when she drew a wide barrier. Despite having to settle rearward as a result, Grace And Harmony made good ground in the straight to finish sixth, beaten less than four lengths, behind stablemate Only Words. A more favourable gate this time around could just be enough to ensure the daughter of Sebring wins at the elite level in just her seventh career start.
H – HOODOO GURUS
West Coast will be looking to become exactly that against Carlton on Sunday when they venture to the SCG, the unique venue they haven’t won at since 1999. Yes, that’s right … 1999! Failure to do so will not only torpedo their top-four aspirations, but leave the finals prospects of Adam Simpson’s side hanging on a knife edge entering the last 10 rounds of the season. Given the omissions at the selection table, it would be an upset of immense proportions if the Eagles triumph.
I – IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Whether trainer Peter Moody, jockey Brian Higgins or the connections like it or not, there is no getting away from the fact that Invincible Caviar will be one of the most scrutinised horses running around Australia tomorrow. The daughter of champion stallion I Am Invincible out of the unbeaten mare Black Caviar has shown enough ability to warrant stepping out at Flemington, just like Mum did way back in 2009 when ridden by a young Jarrad Noske. It would be a terrific story if she saluted on debut.
J – JUST DESSERTS
Is there anything better in sport than seeing a cheat get what he or she deserves? No there is not and I am in complete agreeance with you. That is why it was terrific to see Churchill Downs this week suspend serial cheat Bob Baffert for two years after Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit failed a drug test. A second sample, requested by Baffert, also proved faulty. Baffert will now not be eligible to have a runner in the Kentucky Derby until 2024 at the earliest. There is an aroma around Baffert and it isn’t pleasant.
K – KING OF BELMONT
A shout out to trainer Darren McAuliffe and Mitchell Pateman for combining to claim the $200,000 Iron Jack Belmont Sprint (1400m) last weekend with The Velvet King. McAuliffe’s decision to trial the tough-as-teak gelding a third time and bypass the Roma Cup proved a masterstroke. Suited by the soft track, The Velvet King was given a peach by Pateman, gunning down the leader Dance Music and pulling away from Valour Road in the final 200m to win comfortably. So much so that Pateman was able to channel his inner Glen Boss and produce a salute for the ages.
L – LAYING DOWN A MARKER
The Socceroos had not been in action for more than 570 days leading into the away assignment against Kuwait in the Middle East overnight. It would have been understandable had they shown signs of rust. They did not. A goal to Matthew Leckie inside the first 60 seconds set up a comprehensive 3-0 victory in stifling heat that gave the Socceroos a five-point lead at the head of Group B in the World Cup qualifying race.
M – MATURITY BEYOND HER YEARS
Young Australian basketballer Shyla Heal had every right to have a sook up. It’s not often that a top-10 draft pick in any sport is cut just six weeks into their professional career. The teenager was told of her WNBA fate by the Chicago Sky as she was preparing to board a plane with her teammates. Heal was traded to the Dallas Wings, who wasted little time waiving her, leaving her on the lookout for a new club. But the daughter of Aussie legend Shane Heal took to twitter and said while she was disappointed, it was the best thing for her in the long run and had provided her with enormous motivation. With an attitude like that, it is only a matter of time before the Americans get an appreciation of her undeniable skillset.
N – NO BULL
There has certainly been no Chicago Bull in the numbers the past two Friday nights. In fairness however, the diminutive superstar hasn’t been afforded many favours in the run after drawing sticky. Barring something unforeseen, there will be no excuses tonight. Bully has come up with barrier one in the free for fall, race five on the card, and as a result, is the raging $1.20 favourite. Fingers crossed we see the old Bully tonight.
O – OPEN ARMS
It remains to be seen whether Tayla Harris finds herself on an AFLW list for the upcoming season. The high-profile multi-sports star will not be returning to Carlton, where she finished outside the top 15 in the club champion count. We know her reported asking price of $150,000 was over the top also. It was interesting to learn this week that Daisy Pearce has been in constant contact with Harris in a mentoring role. Pearce intends to play one more year with Melbourne. Could she be joined by Harris?
P – PRETTY IN PINK
The Perth Wildcats have become accustomed to winning over the decades, both during the regular season and play-offs. Tonight at RAC Arena they will be hoping that trend continues in the fourth annual Pink Game, where a smorgasbord of pink merchandise will be on sale, with proceeds going to Breast Cancer Care WA. The Wildcats have won the three previous Pink Games and a victory over Melbourne United tonight would be the perfect tune-up for the post-season, starting next week.
Q – QUARANTINE
Digesting a global pandemic that continues to wreak havoc has become a way of life. But the directive this week that Collingwood players and staff members needed to be under a lockdown from 5pm on Wednesday ahead of tomorrow’s Adelaide Oval clash with the Crows seemed a bridge too far. How an elite sporting program is able to function anywhere near its optimum under those conditions is anyone’s guess. And given Collingwood were travelling from Melbourne, the Crows don’t emerge unscathed either. Adelaide players will be required to adhere to a strict 48-hour quarantine period after the match to please government officials, which closed the border to Victoria earlier in the week.
R – RETIRED HURT
Ashleigh Barty arrived in Paris with question marks over her fitness after withdrawing from last month’s quarter-final clash with Coco Gauff in Rome. That was because of an arm injury, which didn’t appear any issue in her first-round match at Roland Garros. Rather it was the heavy strapping high up on her left leg. Barty was sporting that strapping again in round two, but it proved futile. Barty was trailing Magda Linette 1-6 2-2 when she called it quits, leaving her racing the clock to be fit for Wimbledon later this month.
S – STROLL IN THE PARK
The odds of an Australian stoush in the NBA Finals trimmed up yesterday when Ben Simmons’ Philadelphia 76ers and Joe Ingles’ Utah Jazz advanced to the next round of the play-offs. The Sixers cruised past Washington 4-1 and the Jazz overcame a slip-up in game one against Memphis to also progress by the same scoreline. There are a few boxes that need to be ticked, but it wouldn’t be a shock if the Sixers were to fly the flag for the Eastern Conference against the Western Conference’s Jazz next month.
T – TOWNSVILLE’S TIME
Depending on which side of the Tweed you live, the historic State of Origin clash between Queensland and NSW on Wednesday night is going to thrill you or leave you bitterly disappointed. The biggest rivalry in Australian sport takes centre stage again, this time in north Queensland as opposed to the MCG because of the COVID-19 outbreak down south. The build-up will be immense and the atmosphere for the 80 minutes of game one intense. For those not fortunate enough to be on hand at Queensland Country Bank Stadium in Townsville, the coverage will provide some of the best reality TV you can experience.
U – UGLY
I am positive there are a host of other words that could best describe the situation going on at Collingwood. But we’ll keep it simple and go down the ugly line — both on and off the field. The Magpies’ display for three quarters against Geelong was as dreary as a Melbourne winter and the instability at board level this week only reinforced the opinion that this is a club in all sorts of turmoil. Oh, if you weren’t aware, Nathan Buckley’s contractual status remains as clear as mud. Going swimmingly the Magpies.
V – VEGA MAGIC
Was on display at Eagle Farm last Saturday, claiming the Group 1 Kingsford Smith Cup (1300m). Not the WA veteran, rather Tony Gollan’s vastly improved sprinter Vega One. It was a magical training performance by Gollan and another 11 out of 10 ride by Jamie Kah, who navigated heavy traffic to win by a half-length in a display that is becoming all too familiar. Just for good measure, Gollan also prepared the runner-up Jonker.
W – WALKING WOUNDED
When you have a daughter yet to turn two who is striding out more freely than you, the alarm bells are ringing. Loudly. So it was for Perth Wildcats superstar Bryce Cotton, who yesterday ruled himself out for the remainder of the NBL season as he recovers from surgery to address a hematoma in his left thigh. His absence is a cruel blow for Perth’s title prospects, with the scales now tilted heavily in favour of Melbourne United.
X – XAVIER’S CHANCE
Xavier O’Neill has made steady progress at West Coast since being selected in the second round of the 2018 national draft. He was last night named in the starting line-up for the clash with Sydney after a raft of changes were made at selection. With the Eagles battling an extensive injury list, O’Neill has a wonderful opportunity to solidify his spot in the side. The 20-year-old hasn’t played since the mauling from Geelong, yet in his four appearances this year, has averaged 13.5 possessions and 1.5 clearances.
Y – YOU WILL GET ON THE SAME PAGE
New Racing Australia chairman John Messara has one hell of a job in front of him. He needs to use his experience and considerable clout to get Racing NSW and Racing Victoria officials on the same page for the sake of Australian racing. The two jurisdictions loathe each other at present and have shown no inclination to read from the same psalm sheet. For the sake of Australian racing, Messara needs to weave his magic. I’m backing him in.
Z – ZORKO’S REVIVAL
It’s fair to say we have seen Dayne Zorko’s best football. Now 32 and a veteran of 196 games, the Brisbane Lions skipper has battled a grumbly Achilles and the run of the mill football sore spots that come with constant exposure to the elite level. But in the past three weeks, Zorko has well and truly wound back the clock, amassing 97 possessions and kicking four goals, while winning 19 clearances. With Lachie Neale set to return, Zorko’s ball-winning ability and goal sense becomes even harder to counter.