The Weekly A-Z


The AFL has Kevin Sheedy to thank for making this most sacred of days one of the great events on the Australian sporting calendar. In saying that, the clubs haven’t always got it right when it comes to their jumpers. There was the  terrible clash between Essendon and Collingwood’s strip just last year. We will learn more about those two clubs’ jumpers this week, but if there is a better guernsey than the one Hawthorn have designed for Anzac Day this year, I’ll be surprised.  Maintaining the traditional brown and gold pattern with a silhouette of a soldier on top of the middle stripe, the jumper is just stunning.


If we are to believe Gary Portelli, his brilliant filly Fireburn will leave her rivals with exactly that after tomorrow’s Champagne Stakes (1600m) at Randwick. Already boasting five wins from six starts, including the Group 1 Golden Slipper and Group 1 Sires’ Produce Stakes, the daughter of Rebel Dane is on the cusp of something extremely special. Not since Burst (1992) has a filly been able to take out the Triple Crown. She is a great story and Portelli’s been only too willing to share it. Let’s hope there is another chapter added tomorrow afternoon.


That is what fans of Adelaide’s AFW side were doing following their hard-fought grand final win over Melbourne last weekend. The Crows became the first team in the women’s competition to claim a third premiership, disposing of the Demons by 13 points. Adelaide’s victory followed their 2017 and 2019 triumphs and enabled them to ease the hurt of losing last year’s decider to Brisbane. They remain the benchmark in the women’s game. 


It has been a long time since the Dockers started a year as promisingly as what we are witnessing now. Indeed, this is their best start since they went on a nine-game tear to open 2015 under Ross Lyon. It is why they should be thinking of cashing in big time and taking down Essendon at Marvel Stadium tomorrow to improve to 4-1 and show they have no intention of leaving the top eight. It would provide the Freo faithful with enormous pride if their side was comfortably ensconced inside the top eight ahead of the traditional Len Hall Tribute Game back here at Optus Stadium. 


The sooner the Marjorie Charleson Classic (1200m) becomes a black-type race, the better. Every one of the seven runners in today’s $100,000 feature at Ascot has either won or placed at Group or Listed level. Eligible for only fillies and mares, the field contains Flirtini, Amasenus, This’ll Testya, Miss Frost, Searchin’ Roc’s, Buzzoom and Pat’s Got Sass. It is a proper race. Would have more trainers and owners targeted the race had it been, at worst, Listed level? Without a shadow of a doubt. 


You would have liked to have been as confident of winning Lotto as Frank Vogel being given his marching orders after the LA Lakers were eliminated from the play-off race ahead of the post-season getting under way. At a team with high expectations and featuring LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony, success was expected. Once it didn’t come … TROUBLE!


The reign of Gillon McLachlan is coming to an end. One of the more popular chief executives the VFL-AFL has seen, McLachlan was emotional as he sat alongside AFL Commission chairman Richard Goyder earlier this week and announced he would be stepping down at the end of the 2022 season. But don’t expect McLachlan to rest up and see out his tenure over many a long lunch. A new broadcast rights deal and a 19th team, almost certainly from Tasmania, are two issues that could shape his legacy.


As we mentioned last week, the school of thought around the WATC Derby centered on being either team Trix Of The Trade or team Alaskan God. If you were the latter, you were entitled to be on very good terms with yourself as Chris Parnham produced a peach and the three-year-old roared into action in the straight to demolish his rivals and claim the Group 2 classic. It was Alaskan’s God’s fifth win in a line for the campaign and caused everyone in WA to think what could be in store later in the year in a couple of pretty significant cups over there in Melbourne. 


When Deane Lester sings your praises … as he did recently when nominating Damien Oliver as the best jockey he had seen … you know you’re achievements are of the highest standard. Not that we needed any prompting, but Oliver’s 127th Group 1 win last weekend put to bed any discussion on who was Australia’s greatest jockey. It moved the Melbourne-based Sandgroper past George Moore into uncharted territory and with the hunger Oliver has been showing, there are most definitely more elite-level victories in store.


Will be some of the world’s best golfers in 2028 and 2040. It might seem a long way away, but the decision by the PGA Tour to lock in Melbourne as the host city for the biennial match play event featuring the USA v an International side minus European representation is a huge boost for the game Down Under. Royal Melbourne has hosted the Presidents Cup on three occasions, including 1998 — the only time the Internationals have taken down the right of the Americans.


Talk about a right royal result in last Saturday’s Group 1 Sydney Cup (3200m) at Randwick. Knights Order proved the superior stayer in testing ground, backing up his narrow second in the Chairman’s Quality (2600m) to win by two lengths. Fittingly, the imported stayer was ridden by Rachel King for the training partnership of Adrian Bott and Gai Waterhouse, commonly referred to as the Queen of Australian racing.


Australian golf is mourning the loss of Jack Newton, who passed away overnight at the age of 72. The winner of the Australian Open in 1979, Newton was successful in the USA and Europe, finishing runner-up in the US Masters and also The Open. His life changed forever when he walked into a plane’s spinning propeller in the early 1980s, an accident that claimed his right arm and eye. He is survived by his wife Jackie, daughter Kristie, who herself was a very talented golfer, and son Clint, now the CEO of the NRL Players’ Association.


Sometimes as punters we overlook the obvious. Why that is the case, nobody knows. It just happens. Enter Scottie Scheffler. Despite winning two of his four lead-up events to the US Masters and sitting on top of the heap as the world’s best golfer as a result, there were plenty willing to dismiss his chances of donning the green jacket. Scheffler thumbed his nose at those who dismissed him, producing a high-quality first two rounds before holding his nerve admirably over the weekend. He is a deserving champion and right now at the peak of his powers.


West Coast fans were entitled to think the worst was behind them. A win last weekend over Collingwood in the face of ridiculous adversity gave hope to their fans who feared the 2022 campaign would be a wipeout. The glow was short-lived. It was revealed on Monday that Nic Naitanui would be missing for an extended period with a medial ligament injury, a setback that was compounded by Jeremy McGovern being unavailable for tonight’s showdown due to him entering the league’s health and safety protocols. A 1-4 start would leave the Eagles with a massive mountain to climb.


Tofane will bid farewell to the racetrack at Randwick tomorrow when she chases one last Group1 triumph in the All-Aged Stakes (1400m). The daughter of Ocean Park has been an absolute ripper, yet manages to fly under the radar. She was a Group 1 winner just three starts ago, boasts four victories at the elite level throughout her career and was a winner of this race back in 2020 for trainer Mike Moroney and Opie Bosson, narrowly edging out Pierata. 


If you needed one last piece of proof to illustrate the power Pat Cummins and senior players in the Australian cricket team wielded, it came this week with the appointment of Andrew McDonald as coach of the national team for the next four years. Cummins wanted Justin Langer out and was afforded his wish. He then wanted McDonald as coach and that was rubber stamped quickly, even though Cricket Australia said it was going to undergo a rigorous search for Langer’s successor. 


It comes from former NFL MVP Cam Newton, who is currently a free agent. “Now a woman for me is handling your own but knowing how to cater to a man’s needs. Right? And I think a lot of times when you get that aesthetic of like, I’m a boss b…., I’m this, I’m that. No, baby. You can’t cook, you don’t know when to be quiet, you don’t know how to allow a man to lead.” What’s that saying? Only in America? Yep, that is it.


Heritier Lumumba took to Twitter this week to announce he, along with Andrew Krakouer and Leon Davis, would cease to have any contact with Collingwood after what the trio felt was a lack of progress towards addressing racial incidents in years gone by. It came out of the blue and leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of many, especially considering Lumumba played a key role in the club’s 2010 premiership.


If Kyrie Irving remains healthy and in a good headspace, it would take an extremely bold person to declare the Brooklyn Nets aren’t capable of winning the Eastern Conference. The Nets advanced to the post-season with their 115-108 play-in win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday morning, WA time. Irving had 34 points on 80 per cent shooting from the field and 10 assists, working brilliantly with Kevin Durant to propel the Nets into a best-of-seven series with the Boston Celtics. 


Nash Rawiller’s ride to lift Think It Over to victory in last Saturday’s $4 million Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) at Randwick was one of courage and brilliance. It was also flawed. The NSW Racing stewards slapped Rawiller with a two-week suspension and $40,000 fine for a severe whip breach. Whilst the suspension remained at an appeal yesterday, the financial sanction was cut to $30,000. The hefty penalty was a clear message to Rawiller … think long and hard before transgressing again.


Opinions are varied regarding who will cash in on on the absence of Amelia’s Jewel and capture the Group 3 Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m) at Ascot tomorrow. A field of 10 will face the starter and as of today, six of them are inside $10. Often the Karrakatta Plate form is the best form and if that holds true, then Ash Maley’s bargain buy, Penny On The Queen, will be prominent. The Rommel filly boasts back-to-back thirds behind Amelia’s Jewel in the Group 3 Gimcrack Stakes (1100m) and Karrakatta, where she was doing her best work over the concluding stages.


Ricky Stuart can go postal. We have seen that on numerous occasions in his time as an NRL coach let fly. He was measured yet still furious last night after his Canberra Raiders lost 18-12 at home to North Queensland. Stuart was incredulous at how the Raiders could hold a 12-0 lead at half-time and not trouble the scorers. It was the seventh double-digit lead the Cowboys have coughed up since the start of 2020 — more than any other side in the competition. 


To those officials at both RWWA and Perth Racing who showed the courage to be different back in 2017 by staging a thoroughbred meeting at Ascot, our eternal thanks. The progressive ploy ruffled a few feathers, but you only have to look at what is taking place around the country today to acknowledge it paved the way for others to follow. Ascot and Kalgoorlie thoroughbred action will be backed up by a huge meeting at Sale, a card at Canberra and a meeting down in Launceston. And then there is the harness meeting at Gloucester Park and greyhound action at Mandurah, which are complemented by other racing of similar codes interstate.


On a weekend when several proven performers will show their wares on the racetrack, it would be easy to gloss over the action at Pakenham last night. But that would be doing a mighty disservice to Illation, a well-related colt having only his second start. Sent out an odds-on favourite, Illation stormed to a four-and-a-half length win that opens up endless possibilities. As a full brother to Group 1 winner Inference, his progress will be closely monitored.


He is the man that stands between Errol Spence Jr enhancing his legacy in Sunday morning’s bout in Texas. Spence is 27-0 and one of the great pound-for-pound fighters on the planet. Three of the four belts in the welterweight division will be unified, with Spence holding the IBF and WBC crowns and Ugas the WBA title following his win over the legendary Manny Pacquiao. If the fight goes the way we expect, it could pave the way for Spence and Terence Crawford, who holds the WBO belt, to get in the ring for a massive bout.


The sight of Zion Williamson dunking in spectacular fashion ahead of the New Orleans Pelicans’ “play-in” win over the San Antonio Spurs had fans thinking what was possible. It’s entirely understandable. The acquisition of CJ McCollum mid-season has helped the Pelicans into a one-off clash with the LA Clippers tomorrow for the right to be part of the post-season proper. And the run has been achieved without Williamson, who missed all of the regular season with a foot injury. Things are all of a sudden looking bright down in the “Big Easy”.