The Weekly A-Z


It’s that time of the year when our gaze is directed towards the UK for a jam-packed northern summer of sport and racing. And next week all eyes of thoroughbred lovers will be locked on Royal Ascot for a week-long festival of high-quality gallops action. Nature Strip will look to continue Australia’s wonderful association with the King’s Stand Stakes (1000m) on Tuesday evening before Home Affairs and Artorious square off, again for Down Under interests, in the Golden Jubilee Stakes (1200m).


Billy Slater was born to thrive in the pressure-cooker environment of State of Origin football. His record for the Maroons as a player in an era of Queensland dominance is the stuff of legend. Slater might just be about to embark on a special career as a mentor if his foray into the coaching ranks is any guide. Slater engineered an upset 16-10 win over NSW before 80,000 hostile fans on Wednesday night, placing the Maroons within touching distance of another series success. If Queensland can again defy their outsiders tag and take down the Blues here in Perth on June 26, Slater will be able to do whatever he wants in his home State (if he doesn’t already).


The saying normally comes after the line “form is temporary”. The Boston Celtics knew that was the case after game one of their NBA Finals showdown with Golden State. Jayson Tatum, fresh off an MVP performance in the Eastern Conference Finals win over Miami, had a poor night in the opener opposed to the Warriors. Fortunately, Boston got the W in Oakland and are now in possession of a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven match-up thanks to Tatum’s 54 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists in the past two games. He is elite with a capital E. Game four is in Boston tomorrow morning, WA time.


Bailey Smith is a ripper and the Western Bulldogs can consider themselves very fortunate to have the man affectionately known as “Baz” on their books. But the young superstar hurt his team when putting his own interests ahead of the Bulldogs last Friday night, headbutting Geelong veteran Zach Tuohy. It was the worst look we have seen in the AFL all season and Smith was lucky to have only been slapped with a two-match suspension.


Are guaranteed to be on Perth Racing later this year with a revamped festival of racing featuring four $1.5 million features. The Placid Ark Stakes will kickstart what promises to be an outstanding period of galloping here in Perth, followed by the Railway Stakes, Winterbottom Stakes, Kingston Town Classic and the AJ Scahill on successive Saturdays. It is reasonable to expect strong interstate representation, which in turn should lead to an increased level of interest and strong turnover.


The hype surrounding Fremantle’s prospects in 2022 subdued noticeably after their back-to-back defeats to Gold Coast and Collingwood in rounds nine and 10. It was like the gloss had been washed away by the wet weather they experienced in both matches. But it is gathering momentum once more after the twin wins over Melbourne (away) and Brisbane (home). When you factor in the Dockers have taken down sides positioned first, second, fourth and seventh on the ladder already this season, it is little wonder that the success-starved Freo faithful are believing something special might be in the offing in 2022.


Before Thursday night, there were 12 teams vying for eight spots in the finals. If we were to drill down a little bit deeper, it appeared there were five sides jostling for the eighth position — Richmond, Collingwood, the Western Bulldogs, Gold Coast and Port Adelaide. The Power lost no admirers when coming up short to the Tigers at the MCG, but the cold, hard truth is they lost the match. Now they have lost touch with their top-eight rivals. Putting it simply, they are gone.


If God Has Chosen hasn’t gone backwards since the Group 3 Belmont Sprint last Saturday week, his rivals might need some divine intervention to stop him recording back-to-back weight-for-age victories. God Has Chosen produced a paralysing burst to win over the 1400m at his most recent outing and from barrier six tomorrow, Clint Johnston-Porter is going to be in a more forward position turning for home. And from a more prominent spot, expect his superior turn of foot to prove the difference. A progressive horse destined for higher honours.


Jack Ginninvan is a polarising figure. I think we can all agree on that. But it’s time opinions and emotions are put to one side … if the flamboyant young Collingwood forward is taken high in a contest, he should be treated the same as any other footballer in the competition. The umpiring department at the AFL might say that is the case already. Watching last Sunday’s clash with Hawthorn, many would argue it wasn’t. Australian Rules football, like life, isn’t a popularity contest. The umpires should understand that better than most.


Brandon O’Neill’s days as Perth Glory captain are over. Having completed one season of a three-year deal with Glory, O’Neill sought and was today granted a release by the club, which admitted it was disappointed to be losing a player of his calibre. It is understood the 28-year-old, who cited family reasons for his release, could be headed to the Newcastle Jets.


The Los Angles Ram have been splashing the cash. That is putting it mildly. The Super Bowl champs this week handed superstar wide receiver Cooper Kupp a three-year contract of which $105 million of it is guaranteed. Kupp, who was adjudged the MVP in this year’s Super Bowl, put pen to paper after defensive lineman Aaron Donald committed to a fresh three-year deal that is also in the eight-figure region, while quarterback Matthew Stafford will need three trucks to transport his season wage to the local bank. The Rams are all-in on trying to replicate their Super Bowl heroics.


Hands up if you had West Coast missing finals? Ok, fair enough. Clearly, there were a few of you believing that Adam Simpson’s side would again be spectators during September. However, keep your hand up if you felt the Eagles would fall off a cliff so dramatically this season. It has been a spectacular fall from grace by West Coast, who enjoy some much-needed respite this weekend having gone 1-11 in the first 12 rounds. The Eagles missed the post-season in 2021 with a 10-12 win-loss record and you have to go back to Simpson’s first year at the helm in 2014 when they went 11-11 to a campaign littered with so many defeats.


Steven May and alcohol aren’t always compatible. Most in the football industry have known that for some time. May’s mouth hits overdrive when he’s had a few and that was the case over the weekend, resulting in the publicised altercation with Jake Melksham that has put the reigning premiers very much on the watchlist. This is a club that had been lauded for its culture and selfless attitude. May’s lack of discipline has now jeopardised their hold on premiership favouritism.


First it was Dustin Johnson. Now it is Phil Mickelson, who has committed to the Saudi-backed rebel golf tour, causing enormous upheaval to those State-side in America. Mickelson, who is believed to be pocketing $270 million for his defection, is one of the more popular players in the USA and no doubt helped blaze a path that has been followed by fellow American major winners Patrick Reed and Bryson DeChambeau. The golfing landscape has changed big time.


Minjee Lee and outrageous talent have gone hand in hand for over a decade. Destined for greatness from the moment she picked up a club, the West Aussie this week moved closer to the summit in women’s golf when she claimed the US Open at Pine Needles, Carolina. Lee’s heroics followed her maiden major win in the Evian Masters last year and ensured she joined fellow Australian greats Jan Stephenson and Karrie Webb on the US Women’s Open honour roll. Now the shackles are well and truly off, it wouldn’t be a shock if Lee started racking up major victories in years to come.


The AFL has often denied a story or issue oxygen in the hope it just goes away quietly. Sadly, that seemed to the case again this week when the league reportedly told senior umpires to go a bit easier on players who questioned a decision by putting their arms out in exasperation. If that was the case, all well and good. But how about telling the clubs, players and, most importantly, the fans that a softening of the dissent rule was being implemented? The game doesn’t flourish without fans. AFL House conveniently forgot that this week.


Justin Longmuir gets the honours this week for his pragmatic response to Michael Frederick’s one-match suspension for drinking in the wake of last Sunday’s stirring win over Brisbane. “I said to the players yesterday, it might hurt our chances of winning this weekend by not having Freddy out there, but walking past these things will stop us winning in the future. We need to step on it.”


We shouldn’t be surprised that Rafael Nadal claimed a 14th French Open crown with his straight-sets demolition of Casper Ruud on Monday morning, WA time. The evergreen Spaniard has long bossed his rivals on the red clay of Paris. But to think he was again indestructible at Roland Garros this year, despite a foot injury that required regular injections to dull the discomfort, was simply amazing. Nadal is now very much in the box seat to be regarded as the GOAT considering he has won two more slams than Novak Djokovic.


Whilst we are chatting all things tennis, it would be remiss of us not to give Polish young gun Iga Swiatek a shoutout. Swiatek backed up her 2020 French Open triumph with another victory over the weekend, disposing of Coco Gauff 6-1 6-3 and record a 35th successive win. Her streak equals Venus Williams’ mark, allowing the pair to share the WTA record for the 21st century.


It is what Steve Smith is walking as we inch closer towards the T20 World Cup on home soil later in the year. Smith’s numbers in the shortest format of the international game are modest since COVID hit just over two years ago. Conversely, WA’s Josh Inglis has showcased his undeniable skillset when afforded an opportunity, averaging more than Smith and scoring at a far superior clip. Smith’s cause for retention wasn’t helped by his dismissal for five in Australia’s three-wicket win over Sri Lanka on Wednesday.


The entrée to the George Kambosos v Devin Haney bout last weekend at Marvel Stadium was delicious. There were the usual barbs and some late drama surrounding Kambosos regarding whether he could make the weight in time. Unfortunately, the main course wasn’t all that palatable. And that’s not just because Haney emerged victorious to leave Australia with the Sydneysider’s three belts. The fight lacked the spark we had been anticipating and it was evident from early on that Kambosos was floundering. Kambosos is entitled to a rematch, but questions abound whether the public will pay big bucks to watch it.


The behaviour of Boston Celtics fans was called out by many after game three, with both Klay Thompson and Warriors coach Steve Kerr sarcastically labelling it “classy”. The constant use of obscenities directed towards Draymond Green from the home fans yesterday morning were perhaps not entirely unexpected, but caused more than a ripple, with Green’s wife taking to social media to air her grievances. Will we see more of the same tomorrow in game four?


There is a way. It is how the saying goes and it was the case at Eagle Farm last Saturday afternoon when William Pike and Gypsy Goddess combined to claim the Group 1 Queensland Oaks (2200m). Despite coming up with the widest gate in the $700,000 feature, Pike showed his customary patience early before putting her into the race approaching the corner. The Tarzino filly then lengthened stride and pulled clear of a brave Barb Raider to finally land the elite-level victory that had eluded her. It was also Pike’s first Group 1 success since shifting interstate. Fingers crossed he can double up this weekend with Sheeza Belter in the JJ Atkins (1600m).


Bob Peters knows flat out how to breed a high-quality thoroughbred. Has done for longer than many of us have been alive. Therefore, it shouldn’t be a shock that his faith in Newhaven Park stallion Xtravagant is being rewarded. His three-year-old son Devoted has always looked well above average and last Saturday took out a high-class Listed Raconteur Stakes (1400m) at Belmont. His return clash with the likes of Rokanori and Searchin’ Roc’s in the Belmont Guineas next Saturday promises to be enthralling, and that is before the injection of Otheroneson into the Listed feature.


For those wondering what the next step regarding a 19th AFL side in Tasmania was, you now have your answer. AFL supremo Gillon McLachlan made it abundantly clear yesterday when he said a regular presence in the Apple Isle would only occur if a state-of-the-art stadium was erected. The presidents of the existing clubs will vote on the 19th license later this year, but McLachlan said the point would be moot if Tasmania could not guarantee a new stadium. Tasmania know exactly where they stand. It’s now their move.


Graham Arnold’s hold on the Socceroos coaching position was tenuous at best earlier this year when the road to Qatar was not achieved directly courtesy of a 2-0 defeat to Japan in Sydney. But Arnold was remarkably bullish midweek in the lead-up to the Asian play-off against the UAE in Doha, his confidence justified given his men went out and notched a 2-1 victory. Standing between them and another World Cup finals appearance later this year are 22nd-ranked Peru, who they meet early next week. The conversation around Arnold’s future would look completely different if the Socceroos were to qualify.