A – ALL ABOUT BRISBANE
The focus of the sporting world will be on South-East Queensland, in particular Brisbane, in 2032 when it becomes the third Australian city after Melbourne (1956) and Sydney (2000) to host the Olympic Games. Brisbane 2032 as it will become known will take place from July 23 to August 8 in 11 years’ time and be spread throughout Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast, along with venues in Cairns, Toowoomba, Townsville and south of the border in Sydney and Melbourne. But the Queensland capital is going to be front and centre for the big events, especially the Gabba which will undergo a $1 billion redevelopment to become a 50,000 seat stadium that hosts the athletics and the opening and closing ceremonies.
B – BOOM OR BUST
The time for talking is over. The Boomers are entering another Olympic Games seeking to win an elusive medal. We all know the narrative and how much of it surrounds heartbreak over the narrow misses, most recently in Rio when they were demolished by Serbia in the semi-final and then lost the bronze medal match to Spain 89-88. The lead-up has been smooth enough and the roster is deep. They open their campaign on Sunday afternoon against Nigeria, who they destroyed in Las Vegas last week. Go get ’em boys.
C – COMMITTED TO THE CAUSE
Eyebrows would have been raised, but nobody could have taken aim at the Australian cricket side had it opted against touring Bangladesh at the completion of their commitments in the Caribbean. The surge in COVID-19 cases in the South Asian country is clearly a concern, but the players are united in their willingness to suck it up and handle a strict bubble existence to complete five games in a week in Dhaka, starting on August 3. What that looks like now after the scare this morning in Barbados is unknown.
D – DONE AND DUSTED
We have been fortunate for so long to marvel at the feats of Dustin Martin. Aside from his brilliance which has been understandably feted for years, chiefly what he has brought to the table in three special grand final performances that have netted him three Norm Smith Medals, Martin’s durability has been remarkable. Since making his debut in 2010, the tattooed Tiger has played at least 20 matches every year. That streak ended last Friday night when he sustained a serious kidney injury in a collision with Mitch Robinson, ending his season and perhaps Richmond’s premiership push. With 260 games to his credit and having only just turned 30, Martin is poised to crash through the 300-game barrier and beyond.
E – EVANS ABOVE
What on earth was Kane Evans thinking? You have no idea? Good, it’s not just me. Why the New Zealand Warriors prop felt the need to use the C word on his wrist strapping last weekend is a mystery. He was always going to receive a fine from the NRL and probably can consider himself fortunate only to be slapped with a $5000 sanction.
F – FOOT IN MOUTH DISEASE
Former Fremantle superstar Matthew Pavlich is not one to court controversy. Never did in his playing days and has always played it safe in retirement despite his role in the media. But he made himself look like silly this week when he claimed West Coast were manipulating the sub rule over Luke Shuey, who he didn’t believe was injured. Clearly Shuey tweaked a calf against Adelaide and Pav’s attempt to backtrack and deflect was both amusing and flawed. Pav, you are allowed to admit you were wrong.
G – GREEK FREAK
Giannis Antetokounmpo had a decision to make last year. He could have opted for free agency and left the Milwaukee Bucks, who were superb throughout the regular season but fell in the conference semi-finals to Miami. Unlike a string of other players who have left their franchises for greener pastures, he stuck around, signing a max contract and this week had his decision vindicated when the Bucks beat the Phoenix Suns 4-2 in the NBA Finals. And of course it was on the back of the Greek Freak’s amazing game-six display. The two-time league MVP had 50 points, 14 rebounds, two assists and five blocks in a performance will go down in folklore.
H – HOLLER FOR A MARSHALL
If only Rowan Marshall had his time again. The critically important St Kilda big man was forced into quarantine and out of tomorrow’s match against West Coast after it was revealed he visited a Tier 1 exposure site in Melbourne. It is not a hanging offence, but there will be stages against the Eagles when you suspect coach Brett Ratten would love to holler for Marshall to help out Paddy Ryder combat Nic Naitanui.
I – I SEE IT, BUT I DON’T BELIEVE IT
The Olyroos had not been in the Olympic Games since 2008, had to qualify through Asia and were presented with an unforgiving initiation back to the big stage — a first-up assignment against football powerhouse Argentina. No problems. The Aussies stunned the South Americans 2-0 last night in Sapporo, a result that opens up endless possibilities for Graham Arnold’s underdogs. Lachlan Wales and Marco Tilio found the net to deliver Australia a famous victory, one which could be invaluable given they still have to encounter Spain and Egypt in the group stage.
J – JOHN’S JAUNT
With Nick Kay opting to continue his career in Spain, the Perth Wildcats needed a suitable replacement. They settled on a big-boned, blue-collared American by the name of John Mooney, fresh off completing a terrific college career with Notre Dame. It proved to be an inspired choice, with Mooney’s work ethic, professionalism and output at a level which exceeded the Cats’ expectations. So much so that last night Mooney, who is currently preparing to play in the Summer League in the States, was named the Wildcats’ MVP, ahead of Bryce Cotton.
K – KAYLEE’S CALL
Australian swimming sensation Kaylee McKeown dropped a bombshell yesterday when she announced she would not be contesting the 200m individual medley, the event in which she is ranked world No.1, in Tokyo. McKeown cited workload and a congested schedule as reasons for her decision to concentrate on the 100m and 200m backstroke events and the relays in what promises to be a stirring week of action in the pool.
L – LINE AND LENGTH
Last Of The Line isn’t suited by the 1200m of the Bolton Sprint at Belmont tomorrow. Trainer Stephen Miller even remarked this morning that he wasn’t sure who was backing the lightly-raced son of Blackfriars. But it wouldn’t be a shock if Last Of The Line, with regular rider Ryan Hill in the saddle, turned in a performance befitting a horse with genuine upside. In his only two runs at Listed level, he boasts a victory in the Detonator Stakes (1800m) and a sixth in the Bunbury Stakes (1400m) when he was at the end of his preparation. Nerodio has also been well supported for Laqdar Ramoly and Stephanie Bakranich, which is no surprise given the gelding is riding a three-race winning streak and was a dominant winner a fortnight ago in the Listed Beaufine Stakes (1000m).
M – MUNDY’S ARE TO BE LIKED
Bob Geldof, the lead singer of the Boomtown Rats, famously sung “I Don’t Like Mondays”. Just about everyone with a keen following of Australian Rules loves Mundy … David Mundy, that is. The ageless Fremantle Docker with the flowing locks will make his 350th appearance for the port club in Sunday’s clash with Sydney on the Gold Coast. It is a remarkable accomplishment given his midfield commitments and frequent flyer points. Fittingly, he signed a one-year extension this week, keeping the dream alive that perhaps he could yet give the 400-match milestone, achieved recently by Shaun Burgoyne, a nudge.
N – NERVE SETTLER
Nobody was breathing a bigger sigh of relief than Tony Gustavsson after the Matildas opened their Olympic campaign with a 2-1 win over New Zealand on Wednesday night. The Swedish manager had not tasted success in five games in his new role with the Australian women’s side before the brilliance of Sam Kerr guided the Matildas home. Given they are in a brutally difficult group featuring the USA and Sweden, there is no denying the importance of the three points as they chase a first Olympic Games medal.
O – OPEN FOR BUSINESS
In this era of long hitters, gym junkies and equipment tweaks, it was so fulfilling to see American Collin Morikawa claim the Open Championship at Royal St George’s on Monday morning, our time. Morikawa became the first player since the legendary Bobby Jones nearly a century ago to win two majors at eight or fewer starts, illustrating his undeniable skillset. Still only 24, Morikawa displayed nerves of steel on the greens and plotted his way around the course like a wily veteran, not someone making his Open Championship debut.
P – POWERFUL STATEMENT
Travis Boak would have loved to have made his 300th appearance for Port Adelaide on home soil in front of an electric crowd featuring family and friends. But there are a lot of things we would all like to do, only to be stymied by the coronavirus. Even though Marvel Stadium will be empty tonight, it doesn’t diminish the standing of Boak’s achievement. Drafted as a teenager from Victoria, he has resisted overtures to return home and will be the poster boy for Port’s retention policy in years to come. Travis stayed and flourished, so why would you want to leave, will no doubt be the message conveyed to many of the Power’s interstate youngsters, notably Xavier Duursma and Zak Butters, from club officials.
Q – QUEEN HIGH
Team Ariarne Titmus or Team Katie Ledecky. All Australians will be in the corner of Titmus as she attempts to dethrone the Queen of the pool, the all-conquering American with a fistful of OIympic Games gold medals. Titmus’ times in the 200m and 400m freestyle events in the lead-up to Tokyo have not only put Ledecky on notice, but the rest of the world. The Thunder from Down Under is ready to shake things up in the pool. If Titmus reproduces the electric 200m performance she turned in when contesting the Olympic trials, the second fastest in history, it will result in a gold medal.
R – RESILIENCE
The AFL has used the words agile and flexible time and time again over the past 18 months to help guide clubs and players through the upheaval caused by the global pandemic that is currently responsible for more than 13 million Australians being in lockdown. Another term that should be moved to the top of the list is resilience. Without it, it’s hard to flourish. Just ask the Sydney Swans, who along with their opponents GWS last Sunday, were confronted with a curve ball impossible to forecast. They took a while to adjust to the last-minute exclusion of Tier 2 exposure casualties Callum Mills, Harry Cunningham and Colin O’Riordan before overpowering the Giants in a display that even moved hard-nosed coach John Longmire.
S – SHOCKING
Harness racing lovers on both sides of the country were extracting considerable enjoyment out of the Friday night meetings at Gloucester Park over the past month. And who could blame them. Ryan Bell’s stable star Shockwave had returned from an enforced lay-off in career-best form, stringing together three wins that reminded all of us of his rare talent. That is why it was so hard to digest the news this week that the five-year-old had sustained a leg injury that puts his race-track career in doubt. We now cross our toes, fingers and everything else that we see him again in 2022.
T – THROWBACK
It felt like we were in a time warp over the weekend just gone watching the Open Championship at Royal St George’s and the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. With “Freedom Day” on the horizon, massive crowds were on hand, with more than 30,000 watching Collin Morikawa claim the Claret Jug and a staggering 140,000 crammed into Silverstone to witness Lewis Hamilton win his home grand prix for a staggering eighth time. One wonders when life Down Under will revert to something like that.
U – URN YOUR STRIPES
That is what Cricket Australia has effectively said to those willing to play meaningful roles in this year’s Ashes series on home soil. The Sheffield Shield fixtures were released on Wednesday, with six rounds slated to be staged before the opening Test against the old enemy, giving proven performers and Test aspirants a multitude of chances to press their claims. Round six will be played at the same time Australia hosts Afghanistan in a Test match for the first time.
V – VETERANS DAY
Observed annually on November 11 in America, it pays tribute to all who have served in the armed forces with a public holiday. I’m not sure the winner of tomorrow’s Group 3 Bletchingly Stakes (1200m) at Caulfield will prompt the Federal Government to implement a public holiday, but there are several veterans running that will be hoping to have their day in the winter sun. Eight of the 12 runners will soon turn either seven or eight years of age, including Group 1 winner Streets Of Avalon. Last-start winner Red Can Man will fly the WA flag as he builds towards the Group 1 Memsie Stakes (1400m) next month.
W – WITHDRAWAL SYMPTONS
If the 2021 Rugby League World Cup is indeed staged later this year in the UK, it will go ahead without the Kangaroos and New Zealand. The Australian Rugby League Commission and New Zealand Rugby League released a joint statement yesterday afternoon, announcing their decision to withdraw from the October 23 to November 27 event because of “player welfare and safety concerns” surrounding COVID-19. We now wait to see whether the tournament will be postponed until next year, which is what both Australia and New Zealand are advocating.
X – X-FACTOR
The decision by Ben Simmons to withdraw from the Boomers set-up for Tokyo understandably caused a stir. The former No.1 draft pick would have been a key cog in the machine, no doubt. But Australian basketball fans can rest easy even in his absence, with Philadelphia 76ers teammate Matisse Thybulle shaping as a wild-card. A high-quality defender with an ability to wreak havoc in transition, expect to see the Arizona-born, Sydney-raised 24-year-old play a key role as the Boomers chase an Olympic medal.
Y – YOU’VE BEEN WARNED
The NRL is on its last chance. Queensland’s chief health officer Jeannette Young says repeated quarantine breaches by NRL players are not acceptable and should there be another, she will consider booting the large rugby league community out of the State. Given what is occurring in NSW, which is now in the midst of a national emergency, it would almost certainly leave the NRL with no option but to suspend the season.
Z – ZACH’S BACK
Zach LaVine’s Olympic dream looked over when he entered USA Basketball’s health and safety protocols. It was those protocols which led to Bradley Beal being excluded from the American team that travelled to Tokyo. LaVine started in the absence of Beal, but it seemed he would suffer the same fate when isolated from teammates. That was until he was cleared late this week, paving the way for him to join late additions Devin Booker, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday in Japan.