A — AWAIT THE REPONSE: West Coast, the floor is yours. The embarrassment at the hands of Sydney before a home crowd on Good Friday left everyone with an attachment to the club wondering what on earth was going at Mineral Resources Park. The club has admitted it was unacceptable, even factoring in the issues that have arisen in 2022. There needs to be a response and one should be forthcoming against Port Adelaide at a venue that has been kind to the Eagles. If there is not? Let’s not go there.
B — BRIGHT LIGHTS: Fremantle and Carlton will share them tomorrow night when they lock horns in a genuine round-six blockbuster at Optus Stadium. The Dockers do a marvelous job with their annual Len Hall Tribute Game, with this year’s edition containing even greater interest from a local perspective considering Justin Longmuir’s men have started 4-1. So too have Carlton and the Blues’ faithful will be on hand to urge along their side. Like West Coast, Fremantle are now being confronted with serious COVID-19 challenges. Can they rise above them?
C — CRACKDOWN: First it was Harry McKay. Then this week Tom Hawkins thought it would be okay to add some serious mustard to a slight shove in the back. It might seem frivolous to most, but this is a part of the game the AFL needs to take seriously. And sooner the better. It was astonishing that Hawkins’ acting was not slapped with a sanction. Failure to take a heavy hand to staging on-field only inflames tensions between players and umpires and invariably leads to …
D — DISSENT: Players around the AFL seemed nonplussed during round five. It started when Harris Andrews was penalised 50m for raising his arms on the mark during the win over Collingwood. And it finished when James Sicily admitted he wasn’t exactly certain what constituted a penalty and what he could and couldn’t do within earshot of an umpire. Make no mistake, there is no grey area now. Only black and white. If you are demonstrative, expect a 50m penalty. If you show any form of dissent towards an umpire, expect a 50m penalty. For those expecting a flurry of 50s this round, just take a breath. The players aren’t stupid. They know the difference between right and wrong and will act accordingly for the most part.
E — EXTREMELY EXPENSIVE: If you intend to inquire about sending a mare to Newgate Farm’s Extreme Choice, you might want to check in with your bank manager. It was announced this morning that the in-demand stallion’s 2022 service fee had been set at $275,000. Already boasting two Group 1-winning two-year-olds from limited runners, Extreme Choice is keenly sought after and will be again closely managed to enhance his fertility numbers.
F — FAMILY AFFAIR: Expect a bit of chest puffing when the Cummings family converge for a show-and-tell luncheon. And why not? Anthony, the father of James and Edward, kept the family name up in lights at Randwick last Saturday when quality filly She’s Extreme denied Fireburn in the Group 1 Champagne Stakes (1600m). Later in the day, James had his moment in the sun when veteran Cascadian got up in the Group 1 All Aged Stakes (1400m). James has made a habit of winning Group 1 races in his position as Godolphin’s head Australian trainer, while Edward is no stranger to elite-level success thanks to grand mare Duais, who notched back-to-back Group 1 wins in the Australian Cup (2000m) and Tancred Stakes (2400m) during the autumn.
G — GLORIOUS CAREER: Andy Keogh’s time as a Perth Glory superstar is coming to an end. The Irish-born striker announced this week that he would retire at the end of the current season, bringing the curtain down on an association with the club that cannot be overlooked. But all is not lost. Keogh, who has scored 59 goals in more than 150 appearances, is expected to remain with Glory in a recruiting role. Fingers crossed he can identify a young striker with even half his own talent.
H — HAVE SOME MORE: I’m not exactly sure whether Nash Rawiller has his own seat in the NSW Stewards’ room, but it’s fair to say he is well aware of what an inquiry into careless riding looks like. Fresh off his heavy sanction for overuse of the whip aboard Think It Over in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes, Rawiller found himself in the crosshairs of the stipes for urging Kementari through a needle-eye opening late in last Saturday’s Group 3 Hall Mark Stakes at Randwick. Rawiller made contact with both the fence and Big Parade, who was to his outside. His penalty? A seven-meeting suspension.
I — IN THE MIX: Trainers of runners in tomorrow night’s The Miata (715m) at Cannington were entitled to be up and about yesterday. The scratching of Galaxy winner Mambo Monelli by trainer Steve Withers opened up the Group 3 feature, with Paul Stuart looking to win a race that is extremely dear to his heart with either Zipping Ontario or his sister Zipping Virginia. Even with no Mambo Monelli, the interest levels are high.
J — JERRY JACKS UP: NBA legend and LA Lakers icon Jerry West has got his nose out of joint. So furious is he at his portrayal in the HBO Series “Winning Time … The Rise Of The Lakers Dynasty” that he is seeking a retraction from HBO and a public apology. West was incensed at being depicted as an “out-of-control, intoxicated rage-aholic”. American lawyers seem to be the busiest in the world, so it will be intriguing to see how this plays out when you consider the series has been renewed for a second season already.
K — KEY INGREDIENT: There is movement at the top in English cricket. Joe Root’s resignation as captain didn’t come as a complete shock, nor the elevation of Robert Key to the role of managing director of England men’s cricket. Key replaces Andrew Strauss, who was carrying out the role in an interim capacity after Ashley Giles stepped away following the 4-0 Ashes drubbing over the summer just gone. Key’s main gig will be to identify the best person to coach the men’s side after the sacking of Chris Silverwood.
L — LAW AND ORDER: The fourth-placed Perth Wildcats know exactly what needs to be done. If they look after their own backyard this weekend and beat either the Illawarra Hawks tonight or South East Melbourne Phoenix on Sunday, their unbelievable play-off streak will continue. Doing so without prized recruit Vic Law, who will miss the rest of the season with an ankle injury, won’t be easy. If they cannot do that, they will be hoping the Tasmania JackJumpers lose to Melbourne United in their last regular-season outing tomorrow.
M — MIGHT OF THE MCG: It will be on full display over the weekend as the AFL stages two monstrous home-and-away games at the venue. The Anzac eve clash between Melbourne and Richmond returns to the ground and will draw a massive crowd, as will the traditional Anzac Day blockbuster between Collingwood and Essendon on Monday afternoon. The MCG doesn’t have the bells and whistles of the newer grounds, chiefly Optus Stadium, but it it is a true sporting coliseum that caters for big events like no other ground can here in Australia.
N — NOT FOR SALE: We shouldn’t be surprised there has been international interest in Alaskan God. The Playing God gelding rounded out his three-year-old campaign earlier this month with an emphatic victory in the Group 2 WATC Derby (2400m), his fifth win in a line. It prompted Hong Kong interest, with offers believed to be well in excess of $1 million being tabled. At this stage, Alaskan God is not for sale. But who’s to know what lies ahead should the pencil get sharpened from abroad, especially when the Hong Kong Derby is for four-year-olds.
O — O-KAY: It had been some sort of a saga, but the Kayln Ponga “will-he-stay or will-he-go” discussion has ended. Ponga, the Port Hedland-born rugby league full-back with a rare skillset, declared this week that he would remain with the Newcastle Knights for the next five seasons. Ponga had been courted big time by the Dolphins, but opted to stay in the Hunter on a deal that will deliver him more than $5 million.
P — POLITICS AND SPORT: They shouldn’t collide. We all agree on that. But they have in the past, do so now and will continue to meet in the future. The latest occurrence came this week when it was announced Russian and Belarusian tennis players would not be allowed to compete at Wimbledon in response to the war in Ukraine. That means Russia’s world No.2 Daniil Medvedev and Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka, a world No.4 who made the semifinals of the women’s draw at Wimbledon last year, and many others from their countries, will not be seen on the grass courts of London. A precedent has been set.
Q — QUEASY: It was hard to be anything but watching the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary “Shark”, depicting Greg Norman’s string of meltdowns on Sundays during his illustrious career, highlighted (or lowlight depending on how you view it) by his capitulation in the final round of the 1996 US Masters. Watching Norman watch himself as everything unraveled made for tough viewing. That followed his play-off loss to American Larry Mize in a play-off at Augusta National in 1987. “It was tough, it was really tough,” Norman said of his 1987 defeat. “I went home and I cried on the beach. All these go through your head for months and months.”
R — ROAD TO JERICHO: It takes place again this weekend down in Albany with the running of the $100,000 Road to Jericho WA Qualifier (3100m). A capacity field of 14 is set to face the starter, where the winner will move a step closer to a start in the Jericho Cup (4600m) at Warrnambool in November this year. Savvy Acquisition and Count Zero have won the first two qualifying races, with the action at Albany sure to gain traction in the eastern states.
S — SIGH OF RELIEF: If you felt the slightest of breezes earlier this week, you weren’t alone. We don’t have any proof, but it could well have been the result of besieged Wests Tigers coach Michael Maguire exhaling after his team’s dramatic 21-20 victory over the Parramatta Eels on Easter Monday. Under increasing pressure, Maguire had been left exasperated on more than one occasion this season, but those disappointments were shoved to one side at CommBank Stadium.
T — TAB TOUCH: We don’t the big bags from the big forwards in the AFL that we once did. Therefore, when a spearhead dines out these days, it gets the blood pumping. That was the case at Marvel Stadium on Sunday when Matt Taberner, unfairly maligned in several corners, filled up his boots at the expense of Essendon, booting seven majors. It was an excellent return from the powerful left-footer, who has averaged just over two goals a game the past two seasons and now boasts 11 from three matches in 2022. If Fremantle are to return to the finals, Taberner will have a large role to play.
U — UP FOR GRABS: It was all going swimmingly for the Phoenix Suns. Unsuccessful in last year’s NBA Finals, the Suns started their first-round series of the post-season at home against the New Orleans Pelicans, who went the long way around just to reach the play-offs. The Suns won game one and were expected to follow up 48 hours later. But a hamstring injury to Devin Booker and some Brandon Ingram heroics enabled the Pelicans to square the series ahead of two matches back in the Big Easy. With Booker sidelined indefinitely, the Pelicans will think they can snatch the next two matches on their home floor and be on the brink of a massive upset.
V — VICTORIA, HERE WE COME: Danny Williams and Shelby Sixtysix combined to be one of the great stories during the autumn carnival in Sydney, venturing from their Goulburn base to Sydney to take on some of the best sprinters in the land. Shelby Sixtysix raced in four successive weeks during February and last month, culminating with a Group 1 win in The Galaxy (1100m) at Rosehill. After an unplaced effort in the TJ Smith Stakes (1200m), Williams has elected to target the $250,000 VOBIS Gold Sprint (1200m) at Caulfield, one of the features on a rich day’s racing in Victoria. He might not get the wet ground he loves, but his presence generates considerable interest.
W — WE WILL REMEMBER THEM: On this special weekend, please pay your respects. “They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them.”
X — XTRAVAGANT STUFF: It has been somewhat of a quiet period for Peters Investments in recent months, particularly here in WA. But that could all be about to change if Tuesday morning’s set of trials at Lark Hill are to be taken into account. WA Guineas placegetter Devoted, Uncompromised and Category Three all saluted in style and all are by Newhaven Park stallion Xtravagant, who is no stranger to throwing a good horse.
Y — YOU THE MAN: The very American tag belongs to Jayson Tatum, who has evolved into one of the premier performers in the NBA in his fifth season. And there is no better time to enhance your standing in the league than in the play-offs, which is exactly what Tatum has done. He scored the matchwinner in Boston’s game-one win over Brooklyn and was again brilliant in game two to help the Celtics establish a 2-0 lead. In the times he has been directly opposed to Kevin Durant in the two matches, the Nets star has been restricted to just eight points on 2-of-13 shooting.
Z — ZADKOVICH ZEROES IN: Stand-in Perth Glory coach Ruben Zadkovich left nobody in any doubt about how he felt following the 6-0 drubbing by Western United. It was Glory’s worst loss in six years and had Richard Garcia’s successor hot under the collar when he spoke to the media. “I’m fuming, there will be repercussions,” he said. “Players that don’t want to compete, don’t want to do the basics, will not play for me and will not play for this club.” Perth are not only last on the ladder, but eight points adrift of the second-last side, Brisbane Roar.