A – ABHORRENT
You could have easily rattled off another 50 words to describe the racist comments directed at Fremantle pair Michael Walters and Michael Frederick on social media. That we have to keep calling out such behaviour is incredibly sad. That the football community stood as one to condemn the remarks was incredibly uplifting.
B – BACK TO BAK
The rain came at the right time for Nerodio and trainer Stephanie Bakranich last Saturday afternoon at Belmont. As the reigning Beaufine Stakes champion, Nerodio was always a chance in the Listed feature containing a heap of top-end speed. When the track copped a soaking, smart punters tripped over themselves to get the double figures that were on offer. And they were rewarded, with Nerodio’s powerful finish delivering him and Bakranich consecutive Beaufine victories. Full credit to both horse and trainer.
C – COVID CONCERNS
There is a time and a place. From Brisbane’s viewpoint, the time for their players to contract COVID-19 was over the pre-season. The Lions weren’t that perturbed most of the squad were struck down by the Omicron variant. It must be said, most clubs in the eastern states shared a similar sentiment. But the outbreak which occurred at the Gabba in the lead-up to last weekend was untimely to put it mildly. It left the Lions undermanned against Essendon and one wonders whether that loss and the compromised build-up to round 18 will severely impact the club’s premiership push.
D – DARE TO DREAM
Min Woo Lee could have been excused for doing exactly that as he made his move during round one of the Open Championship. We all know athletes are told to stay in the moment and not project too far forward, but the young West Australian sat atop the leaderboard at four under following his brilliant eagle on the par 5 14th hole. Lee made great par putts on 15 and 16, dropped a stroke on 17 and was unable to birdie the easy 18th. It might not have finished the way he had hoped, but a 69 in the first round at St Andrews is still a terrific result.
E – EXCEPTIONAL EFFORT
Had it not been for the COVID-19 pandemic, Laqdar Ramoly would have returned home to ride in Mauritius early last year. Mauritius’ loss has been WA’s gain. The young gun outrode his claim with victory aboard Frigid last Saturday before taking out the Beaufine Stakes for the second successive year with Nerodio. Not content with his deeds, Ramoly punched home a double at Belmont on Wednesday on Nero King and Lucky Heart.
F – FOOTBALL FESTIVITY
Expect Optus Stadium to be buzzing next week with football action. But it won’t be the AFL. Nor will it be the Wallabies or State of Origin featuring bitter rivals Queensland and NSW. Rather Crystal Palace and Leeds United locking horns next Friday night as part of their pre-season tour to the southern hemisphere before Manchester United and Aston Villa get it on the next day. It promises to be a brilliant 24 hours.
G – GROW UP
There is a fine line between a larrikin and immaturity. Brandon Smith is walking that line. The New Zealand international can consider himself very lucky to have only been suspended for three weeks by the NRL Judiciary for calling referee Adam Gee a “cheating bastard” during last round’s loss to Cronulla. Yes, he apologised to Gee soon after the final siren, but such comments are damaging to the game. It’s not the first time Smith has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. He needs to straighten up.
H – HAMSTRUNG
There are athletes, men and women, around the world who have enjoyed fairytale finishes to their careers. And then there are the others who leave the arena shattered after a result and/or injury which feels like a dagger has been plunged through their heart. It was impossible not to feel upset watching Phil Davis be assisted from Adelaide Oval last weekend. Having missed multiple weeks earlier in the year with a left hamstring injury, the former GWS captain screamed in agony after rupturing a hamstring tendon in his right leg. Davis is under contract for 2023, but a return from two serious injuries inside six months would be a shock.
I – INCHING CLOSER
Despite his protestations that he isn’t consumed by being regarded the GOAT of men’s tennis, Novak Djokovic remains in the conversation … and deservedly so. His four-set win over Nick Kyrgios in the final at Wimbledon last Sunday delivered him a 21st grand slam singles title, one shy of Rafael Nadal’s mark of 22. It was also the Serb’s seventh singles crown on the All-England Lawn Tennis Club courts, again one in arrears of Roger Federer’s record of eight.
J – JERMELL IN JANUARY
We don’t yet know where in the USA the fight between Tim Tszyu and Jermell Charlo will be. Heck, who cares. We have a date and that is all that matters. The venue is secondary. The protagonists will enter the ring on January 29 (Australian time), with the WBA, WBC, WBO and IBF super welterweight belts up for grabs. Charlo is currently the undisputed champion in the division, a title Tszyu believes he will assume in the wake of the bout. It promises to be one of the most eagerly anticipated fights involving an Australian boxer in history.
K – KAZAKHSTAN
The central Asian country was as proud as punch earlier this week as newly minted Wimbeldon singles champion Elena Rybakina returned home following her upset of Ons Jabeur in London. Sadly though, her allegiance to Kazakhstan was brought into question when a key Russian tennis official claimed she was a “product” of their nation. Rybakina was born in Moscow, but has represented Kazakhstan since 2018. She even took the step of producing her passport at a press conference to prove she was indeed Kazakhstani.
L –LAST ROLL OF THE DICE
It comes up tomorrow afternoon for the three-year-olds in the Belmont Classic (2200m). The $125,000 feature is the last opportunity for those running to earn black-type status in their own age group ahead of the new season on August 1. Team Pearce pair Black Fantasy and Outspoken Lad are going to have their share of admirers, while the same applies to the fillies Be Optimistic and Mystery Moment.
M – MAROONS MAKE A STATEMENT
Very few sporting events in Australia have the appeal of a deciding game three in State of Origin. Exhibit A on that front came on Wednesday night when more than 50,000 fans jammed inside Suncorp Stadium to witness one of the greatest rugby league contests in recent history. Queensland were given next to none due to a game-two shellacking from NSW and the loss of Cameron Munster (COVID-19). But they defied public opinion to record an emotional 22-12 victory and give Billy Slater the perfect start to his coaching career at representative level.
N – NOBLE THING TO DO
North Melbourne powerbrokers stressed on numerous occasions David Noble was safe, despite the team’s poor on-field results. But it seemed only a matter of time before Noble received the tap on the shoulder and it came earlier in the week after a conversation with president Sonja Hood. Just five wins from 38 matches and a clear regression from 2021 didn’t leave the second-year mentor with as much bargaining power as he would have liked, leaving North on the lookout for yet another senior coach.
O – OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS
Fremantle will be hoping history repeats itself tomorrow night at Optus Stadium when they host Sydney. The Dockers won the corresponding match against the Swans in dramatic circumstances last season and just need to keep on banking the wins to give themselves the best chance of finishing top two at the completion of the home-and-away campaign. They are currently third, but equal on points with ladder leaders Geelong and second-placed Melbourne. A Dockers win and losses to the Cats and Demons against Carlton and Port Adelaide respectively would see Justin Longmuir’s men on top of the heap with five rounds remaining.
P – PINNACLES BOUND
Often we are wary about winter form when projecting forward, especially with late season two-year-olds. But what we have witnessed at Belmont Park over the past month would suggest we have every right to be excited about the short-term future of Paddy’s Lad, Aztec Ruler and Bustler. The trio have yet to taste defeat and if Aztec Ruler justifies his short quote in the opener tomorrow, he is a horse that is going to be followed very closely when he returns as a spring three-year-old, much like Dan Morton’s Paddy’s Lad and the Neville Parnham-prepared Bustler.
Q – QUESTIONABLE PREPARATION
And Nick Kyrgios have gone hand-in-hand throughout his turbulent professional career. Therefore it was little surprise to see the volatile Canberran, having established an excellent fitness base throughout the grass-court season, make a charge to the Wimbledon final. However, with a pending court case involving allegations of assault on his former girlfriend, one wonders what his build-up to the US Open in New York next month looks like.
R – RILLIE GOOD APPOINTMENT
Better late than never. That applies to new Perth Wildcats coach John Rillie, who this week was handed a three-year contract. Rillie interviewed for the position 12 months ago, but was beaten for the role by Canadian Scott Morrison. After overseeing a season in which the Wildcats’ stunning play-off streak was snapped, Morrison resigned and opened up the door for a raft of applicants. Rillie, who has worked alongside Brian Goorjian in the Boomers program, is expected to arrive in WA later this month.
S – SUNNY SIDE UP
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Only Stuart Dew and his Gold Coast players know if that motto was embraced over the past three weeks. But after losing a heartbreaker to Port Adelaide away from home and then coughing up a handy last-term lead at Metricon Stadium the next week to Collingwood, the round-17 clash with Richmond, also on the Glitter Strip, represented the Suns’ last hurrah. And thanks to Noah Anderson’s heroics post-final siren, Gold Coast are very much in the top-eight mix ahead of Sunday’s match against Essendon at Marvel Stadium.
T – TEMPERATURE OF THE ROOM
Rarely does a contract negotiation between club and player get sorted without a little wrinkle or two along the way. It seems the Lance Franklin situation surrounding his future is another case in point. If reports this week are correct, Franklin is chasing a wage north of $600,000 from Sydney for 2023. That is despite the fact he is coming to the end of his existing $10 million, nine-year deal he signed after winning a second flag with Hawthorn in 2013 and will be 36 before the start of next season. Let’s hope those advising Franklin inform him that he, all things considered, would be best served to remain a Swan.
U – UNWANTED
West Coast fans ventured to Optus Stadium last Sunday believing an upset was possible. They might have still felt that way at half-time when the Eagles trailed Carlton by 10 points. But the second-quarter fightback that enabled them to get as close as they did came following a scoreless first term. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the Eagles dished up another barren last quarter. They have now registered four (YES FOUR) scoreless quarters in Perth in 2022.
V – VACCINE MANDATES
Are so yesterday. That is what the AFL said in a roundabout way yesterday when it ruled that players and staff no longer needed to have been administered two doses of an approved vaccine to be involved in the 2023 AFL season or the upcoming AFLW campaign. It paves the way for Liam Jones and Cam Ellis-Yolmen, the two players who walked away from the AFL because of their reticence to be vaccinated, to be back on a list sooner rather than later.
W – WINDING BACK THE CLOCK
The Tim Sheens-Benji Marshall double act is back in full swing at the Wests Tigers. Sheens was this week appointed to the role of head coach at the Tigers, who he led to the 2005 premiership with playmaker Marshall playing a key role. Sheens will be in the hot seat for the next two years before handing over the reins to Marshall from 2025 for at least three more seasons.
X – XANDER’S HOT STREAK
When you’re hot, you’re hot. A case in point is American golfer Xander Schauffele, who took his talents across the Atlantic Ocean to claim last weekend’s Scottish Open. Schauffele was a one-stroke winner in North Berwick, his fourth victory on the PGA Tour in the past 12 months. His recent hot streak comes after he failed to claim a tournament victory in more than two years prior.
Y – YOUNG TALENT TIME
Any time you card an eight-under 64 on the Old Course at St Andrews, you walk from the 18th green with a smile from ear to ear. It is one hell of an effort at the home of golf. American Cameron Young did that last night, WA time, after a brilliant opening round in the 150th anniversary of the Open Championship. But it could have been so much better. The 25-year-old had an eagle putt on 14 that he didn’t convert and then missed the birdie offering and also wasted another golden birdie opportunity over the concluding stages. Irrespective, it was some start as he looks to better his third-placed finish at the US PGA Championship earlier this year.
Z – ZERO
Sightings of any Great White Shark, aka Greg Norman, at this week’s Open Championship. As a dual winner of the major, Norman was eligible to attend the annual champions dinner … if he was invited by the R&A. But that was not forthcoming given his dominant role with the breakaway LIV Golf International Series, a decision that was endorsed by the likes of Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy.