The Weekly A-Z


Tai Webster didn’t want to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The New Zealand Breakers responded by releasing him from his two-year NBL contract that was only inked in July. While Webster is well within his rights to say no to the jab, the Breakers are equally entitled to say thanks, but no thanks given players and staffers are going to be seriously inhibited from travelling within Australia under the restrictions set to be imposed by State governments. One wonders whether Webster’s stance will change if his earning capacity is limited in the future.


There will be traditionalists who won’t be happy, but change was always coming to the cricket vernacular. And that change was officially rubber-stamped this week when the MCC, the custodians of the game, decided to implement the gender-neutral terms batter and batters rather than batsman and batsmen.


The last Geelong assistant coach, can you please turn out the lights when you leave. Matthew Scarlett, one of the greatest full-backs we have seen play the game and a long-serving Cats assistant, yesterday announced he would be taking some time away from the game. His decision to move from Chris Scott’s staff follows that of Matthew Knights (West Coast) and Corey Enright (St Kilda). With chatter also swirling about Nigel Lappin and his links to new Carlton coach Michael Voss, these are interesting times down the highway.


Or should we say D-Night? The Demons and Doggies will be part of history at Optus Stadium tomorrow evening when they square off for the greatest prize in Australian Rules football. Melbourne haven’t put a foot wrong for some time now and are entitled to believe a first flag since their most recent triumph in 1964 is well and truly attainable. As for Luke Beveridge’s men, it would take a brave person to suggest they cannot continue their momentum and again snare a premiership to back up their 2016 success.


…Moe. As in Anamoe. The striking colt, already a Group 1 winner, returned in style earlier this month when he took out the Run To The Rose (1200m) at Kembla Grange. Given the distance of the lead-up to tomorrow’s Group 1 Golden Rose (1400m) was viewed as being on the short side, it is little wonder why he is the short-priced favourite. Though he likely settles in the second half of the field, regular jockey James McDonald knows exactly what he has under him and you can expect to see the son of Street Boss surging late.


Nobody would have begrudged Marcus Bontempelli had he joined the Western Bulldogs’ Brownlow Medal honour roll. His durability and accomplishments on-field throughout the home-and-away campaign were first class. But he was gunned down in the final round by Port Adelaide midfielder Ollie Wines and there was not one person in the AFL industry unhappy with his triumph on Sunday night. The chunky ball magnet polled in 16 matches and like a swag of on-ballers, accumulated eye-popping possession numbers week after week. Wines’ speech on stage and humility in the wake of the win only added to the occasion.


Some would argue we didn’t need one, but just in case you had forgotten, Verry Elleegant is a very good racehorse. Is she going to be able to take down Zaaki in a Cox Plate next month? Maybe. Maybe not. But let’s just enjoy her most recent victory, last weekend’s George Main Stakes (1600m) at Randwick. She was aided by the unexpected rain that hit Sydney, but when you chalk up a ninth Group 1 victory, you are deserving of every plaudit that comes your way.


We are a fortnight away from returning to Ascot. Every participant in the racing game here in WA cannot wait. Yet it feels we will have an opportunity to enjoy a slice of summer headquarters early at Belmont Park tomorrow. The $125,000 Black Heart Bart Stakes (1200m) is the feature on the card and boasts many runners that will no doubt be running around during the three-week TABtouch Masters in November and December. Laverrod has been prepped up with two trial wins by co-trainers Sean and Jake Casey, while Massimo looked in wonderful order when winning a trial in his first hit-out for new trainers Chris and Michael Gangemi.


The winner of the 2022 Brownlow Medal … Sam Walsh from the Carlton Football Club. Absolutely, much must go right for that to occur, but the brilliant young midfielder served notice that he is going to be at the forefront of the medal discussion for years to come with a breakout count on Sunday evening. Walsh polled 30 votes, the same tally that Carlton greats Greg Williams and Chris Judd achieved when they won the game’s most prestigious individual award in 1994 and 2010 respectively. Despite the Blues’ less than satisfactory campaign, Walsh was adjudged best afield on eight occasions.


We have seen plenty of it over the past fortnight and it was perhaps never more evident than at Randwick this week when nine sets of two-year-old trials were held. The amount of money thrown at two-year-old racing in NSW is unrelenting and provides a great level of interest. For the record, Spieth sired two trial winners, with Maurice, Exceed And Excel, Written Tycoon, Deep Field, Brazen Beau, Merchant Navy and I Am Invincible also tasting success.


It seems only yesterday that Byron Pickett was tearing up Brisbane in the 2004 grand final en route to claiming the Norm Smith Medal. Pickett forged a reputation as a brutally physical defender, but his three goals played a huge role in Port’s historic flag. Tomorrow night at Optus Stadium, Pickett’s nephew Kysaiah “Kozzy” Pickett, will look to continue the family tradition with a starring role forward of the ball. Kozzy has all the tricks and goal sense we have come to expect and appreciate from the Indigenous boys who make the game so much fun to watch and a breakout performance could well be the precursor to All-Australian selection in 12 months’ time.


Ben Melham and Ethan Brown raised more than the odd eyebrow when they appealed their three-month bans for their Mornington Airbnb indiscretions. It seemed odd that they were committed to that path even after the heavy-handed punishment handed out to Jamie Kah, Mark Zahra and Celine Gaudray. But they came to their senses prior to their objections being heard, deciding to abandon their appeals. They might have been late to the party (re: the appeals process, not the Mornington one), but at least they showed some commonsense at the end.


There was plenty of love for big Max Gawn in the wake of his preliminary final heroics against Geelong. It was an individual display that would have netted him three Brownlow Medal votes had it taken place in the home-and-away season and would deliver him the Norm Smith Medal if it was produced on grand final day. Gawn’s standing within the football industry, even here in WA, is at an all-time high and there are a lot of Demons fans and bandwagon jumpers who have their fingers and toes crossed he can again don the Superman cape against the Western Bulldogs.


As a Queensland rugby league icon, it was inevitable Billy Slater would be linked to the Maroons coaching position following Paul Green’s decision to step aside after just one year the helm. The speculation turned into reality this week when Slater, a veteran 31 State of Origin matches, was appointed Queensland coach for the next two years. Game one of the 2022 Origin series already has enormous appeal.


Optus Stadium, you have our attention. You are the jewel in the crown of Australian sport right now and will be looked at, examined, critiqued and ultimately praised for your role in the biggest day on the AFL calendar. There is nothing that comes anywhere near you in terms of sporting stadiums in this country and you will look absolutely stunning on what promises to be a gorgeous Perth spring night. Talk about a man crush.


Are you comfortable predicting a cricket tour of Pakistan taking place in the foreseeable future? It is hard to say yes. New Zealand’s decision to pack up and get out of the country ahead of their one-day international series, citing security concerns, could well be terminal for the game in Pakistan. It prompted England to rule a line through upcoming tours for their men’s and women’s sides and could well force the PCB to fixture matches in the UAE, a predicament that isn’t new to them, yet one that has had an impact on a generation of young cricketers in the country.


Sierra Sue has been in a rich vein of form this campaign for co-trainers Trent Busuttin and Natalie Young. She backed up her Mildura Cup win with a victory in the Group 2 PB Lawrence Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield before having no luck behind Superstorm in the Group 2 Feehan Stakes (1600m) at Moonee Valley. Because of that and the rise to Group 1 grade in last Saturday’s Rupert Clarke Stakes (1400m), she was overlooked by many punters. Was she up to the best of the best? Those who were willing to stick were rejoicing when Daniel Moor guided her to the narrowest of wins over Dice Roll and the desperately unlucky I’m Thunderstruck. She is now well and truly a Group 1 mare!


The unwavering team-first, selfless approach of the Europeans opposed to the individualistic brilliance of the Americans. Oh how I, along with so many other golf lovers, wish the Ryder Cup, which gets underway tonight at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, was in Europe because the time is more user friendly for us to watch on TV here in WA. This event is amped up regardless of the location and there is no love-lost between the players and the home fans and the opposition team. Go Europe.


Craig Williams remains as fastidious as ever. And his hunger to be in the cut and thrust of the Melbourne premiership is insatiable. The veteran hoop, fresh off Group wins in the Bobbie Lewis and How Now Stakes and four winners at Flemington on Wednesday, has a wonderful opportunity to add another Melbourne Cup trophy to the one that takes pride of place in his house following Vow And Declare’s 2019 victory. Williams has secured the ride on Spanish Mission, the $9 second favourite with TABtouch, who is due to arrive in Melbourne on October 9, after completing quarantine in Newmarket. Lightly raced, Spanish Mission has won six of his 18 starts and most recently ran second to the redoubtable Stradivarius in the Group 2 Lonsdale Cup (3270m) at York.


The TABtouch market has a leaning towards South Sydney in tonight’s NRL preliminary final against Manly. The Bunnies are rested after scraping past Penrith in the opening week of the post-season, but will have their necks stretched by the Sea Eagles, who have the ability to score quickly and heavily. Make no mistake, if Manly are to cause an upset it will come on the back of Tom Trbojevic, affectionately known as “Turbo Tommy”. If Trbojevic has space to operate, he will make Souths pay.


You couldn’t have had enough on Nature Strip turning for home in the The Shorts (1100m) at Randwick. Arguably the world’s best sprinter, Nature Strip had found the top and looked to be travelling well within himself at his second run back from a spell. Conversely, first-upper Eduardo was forced to sit outside the Chris Waller-prepared gelding … on a rain-affected track. But Eduardo refused to buckle. Instead, he rose to the challenge and was able to eyeball Nature Strip before pulling away for a victory that sent those invested in the all-in Everest markets into somewhat of a spin. The rematch next month will be a beauty.


It has a good ring to it. Certainly better than Ross The Boss, with Michael Voss yesterday appointed  senior coach of Carlton after many withdrew from the elongated process, including the divisive figure that is Ross Lyon. Voss knows he must do better at delegating and listening than he did in his failed stint at Brisbane. But he will be afforded a quality coaching panel and has the benefit of working at Port Adelaide for several seasons. His playing CV is remarkable. It would be great if his coaching deeds were also high class when we reflect on his second coming in years to come.


If I told you Zaaki was no good thing in tomorrow’s Group 1 Underwood Stakes (1800m) at Sandown? No? Fair call. Barring something miraculous taking place, the latest pin-up boy of Australian racing will rock up for his latest Group 1 assignment, carve out fractions that separates him from some very good gallopers and then make his way back into the mounting yard with a touch of arrogance only the good ones possess. Annabel Neasham’s charge is the real deal and  now in a distance range far more to his liking than the 1400m he was presented with first-up.


We are working with a small sample size, but it is impossible not to be impressed with what Ruthless Tycoon has produced early in his racing career. The three-year-old resumes over 1000m at Belmont Park tomorrow off a scintillating trial win at Lark Hill that has already been franked by Snipillicious. He runs headlong into Spin The Knife, who is no slouch himself, but if Ruthless Tycoon is going to get to the level many anticipate he will, he shapes as the testing material first-up. At his only start as a two-year-old he destroyed his rivals.


Make sure you are watching intently when the Moir Stakes (1000m) comes around tonight. The field of Group 1 sprinters will go like last week’s pay around Moonee Valley, with boom three-year-old colt Profiteer expected to explode from the gates and take up the running. Can he absorb any mid-race pressure and still be strong enough at the end to win a race that will add plenty of zeroes to his value? We’re about to find out.


Zach Merrett gave Essendon fans a reason to smile mid-year when he effectively signed a contract that made him a Bomber for life. Not content with the big-money deal, Merrett finished 2021 particularly strongly. So strongly in fact that he was adjudged the Bombers’ best and fairest for the third time during the week. Merrett was a runaway winner of the Crichton Medal, finishing 81 votes clear of runner-up Darcy Parish. Having already won the award in 2016 and 2019, Merrett is primed to conclude his career as one of Essendon’s most decorated performers.