The 2013 saviours of sombre inner-Sydneyites

The City of Sydney. Much like the other filthy and overpopulated municipalities of this earth, it has always had its fair share of the faceless melancholia and alienated futility that any confined human-squash is famous for.

However of late, one locale of ye olde convict hub is bluer than it’s ever been, and to pinpoint the real peak of despair in the state capital, you just have to walk the inner-city projects region around the Surry Hills district, up through the Moore Park precinct and out to the eastern beaches to witness where the faces of the locals really lengthen.

There are many reasons why the natives in these bustling hubs are down on life; the feeling of claustrophobia as they become enclosed inside growing masses of hipster beards, the onset of Scott Cam, the hassle of being forever subject to the questionable business propositions of bum-bagged rodent-featured locals, and the general drop in standards of their beloved café culture where a milk crate now passes as reasonable seating.

However, all of these kicks to the skinny jeans for the well-off dwellers in this CBD-to-ocean belt seem like minor fly bites when compared to the weekly anguish caused by the recent fortunes of their locally-based footy teams, a three-pronged entity which has managed to famously fudge-up 66% of the endless pursuit for professional oval ball glory in the recent past.

The 33% of the trinity made up by the AFL’s Sydney Swans are free to leave this domain of blame, having been reppin’ with valour for their local residents thanks to consistently pissing off Melbournites with a metronomic pattern of success.

Unfortunately, being Onwards to Victory most of the time has barely kept at bay the requirement for Xanax and alcohol that is demanded by being in close proximity to the NRL’s Roosters and Super Rugby’s Waratahs.

Previous seasons for this pair of highly reputed clubs have been badly poisoned with fumbler’s disease, subsequently bringing Monday morning tears with regularity to Moore Park and its surrounds.

New Rooster coach Robinson already has the shits. Good-o.

New Rooster coach Robinson already has the shits. Good-o.

Sydney pleads that the buck stops in 2013, and the top brass at both clubs have charged two men with the enormous task of putting this shameful sobbing to an end by restoring some energy, pride and most pertinently, more wins than the Reds and Rabbitohs.

Can Michael Cheika and Trent Robinson again make associating with your teams in Eastern Sydney cooler than a Darlinghurst-based organic South Cambodian noodle outlet?

Already the praying to the latest en vogue God has begun.

As for the fortunes in the rah-rah, new Waratahs coach Cheika is a fearless head-stepper blind to paycheque sizes whom certainly will not die wondering.

He has won trophies in the hotbed of European rugby (2007/08 Celtic League trophy and the coveted 2009 Heineken Cup with Leinster) and is Galloping Green royalty, having played over 300 games for the famous Randwick club and coached them to Shute Shield glory in 2004.

More importantly, he’s got the mega-scary crazy eyes of a deputy school principal, and when it comes to the art of communication he shoots straighter than John Wilkes Booth regardless of the target, meaning overpaid down-time and wriggle room for the overshadowing reputation is now in the skip bin in Tah-land.

As for new Roosters boss Robinson, there’s no doubt that a punt has been taken on his services, as well as a dollar or two saved on his contract.

This French-speaking local no-name is not awash with gleaming league hardware, however his record as head coach of Super League club Catalans Dragons finished impressively with 35 wins from 59 games and included two playoff campaigns and Coach of the Year honours in 2011.

Cheika's evil-eye just burnt a perfect hole through my cranium.

Cheika’s evil-eye just burnt a perfect hole through my cranium.

He’s a backroom boy from the blue-collar mould, which will grate with the ethics of recent Rooster seasons, and with an influx of quality arsenal in the off-season, he will be given every opportunity to turn the frowns upside down from Bronte to Paddington.

So can both of these men reawaken the slumbering giants they have been handed the keys to?

There are plenty of morose humans in the region where they ply their trade that will be thankful if they do. The taste of coffee, the tolerance of rodents and the strength to endure a never-ending series of The Block depends on it.

God speed to Michael and Trent in their attempt to re-beautify two-thirds of Sydney footy.

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Give nine-fingered Warner the thumbs down

An infected hair follicle on an Australian fast bowler’s upper thigh will result in mass paranoia in the team’s medical ranks these days.

A routine lancing together with a skin care pamphlet from a local dermatologist will be declined in favour of a total overreaction, where the player in question will be slid through MRIs, CATs and X-rays before being placed on ice indefinitely until he can safely put on a pair of pants again without feeling slight discomfort.

Warner may never press a stamp on a letter again.

Warner may never press a stamp on a letter again.

As for the batsmen?

Short of a having a cherried limb dangling from the torso, major brain surgery or just being Shane Watson, you’ll be given nada love from the white coats and told in no uncertain terms to whack a pad on your ailment and take block.

The current case in point is David Warner.

Right now, a joint in the high-traffic part of the opener’s thumb is still badly cracked meaning it’s probably not in the right state to deal with the weight of international-standard red projectiles, be it at the crease or on the bullet corral near point and gully.

However, it seems the cotton wool approach so loved by the Australian hierarchy for bowlers has been canned for Warner in favour of unconvincing choruses of ‘she’ll be right’, and he may be risked to play subject to a late test.

My question is, if the damage is still so raw and extended irreversible mangling is a possibility, why is he even being considered?

The possibility of long-term structural damage to a valuable thumb on the fast hands of our valuable top-order TNT should make this selection unreasonable from the get-go.

What Warner had to say this week, while admirable in its desire to give the proverbial left plum for the colours, was a little concerning to say the least.

”I have a crack in the joint,” he said. ”Where the joint moves, in the corner, I have cracked that part, which in the healing process can be worse if it’s aggravated and if I put cortisone in there.

”They’ve told me if it keeps moving around it won’t heal properly and it can affect me down the track, so I might not have that range of movement in that joint for a long time.”

Now, surprising to most, I’m no quack. But even I reckon that sounds a wee bit alarming. Range of movement? For a long time?

Surely that kind of medical phrasing has to prick a Cricket Australia doctor’s paranoid ears in a similar fashion to fatigue, general soreness or a hamstring strain, all of which have been worthy of cricketing downtime this summer for the bowlers.

You could be forgiven for thinking the Australian ranks are awash with curative prejudice towards those with willow in hand.

What makes the push to play a nine-fingered Warner even more bewildering is the Partridge Family travelling squad that has made the trip. The bus of reinforcements is so large that the selectors wouldn’t even be forced to give Usman Khawaja a start, which we all know they will make any excuse to avoid.

And if it’s the firebrand leftie who is showing the surplus bravado and pushing the selection envelope, then the doctors need to grow a backbone and implement the same “Pete Siddle is talking out of his arse as he’s still delirious from his 125 overs in Adelaide” ruling that was forcefully deployed on those excessively roasted patriots pre-WACA test this summer.

Help me people. Where is the consistency in the application of Australian cricketing medicine?

Voges for the Ashes. Why not?

Let’s just say that Australia’s pimply new-look batting order totally craters in this upcoming series against India.

Let’s imagine the confidence of this adolescent unit is obliterated by subcontinental guile and their bright-eyed bushy tails end up between the legs in the usual stance of those vanquished.

If those in selection power are still offering their usual pint-sized probation period, it will mean more delicate tinkering or belligerent bulldozing of the top six before a squad is picked to enter the Lion’s den of the Ashes series.

Hank the Tank after another whopper.

Hank the Tank after another whopper.

Considering there is frail youth and inexperience dotted throughout the team now that a personnel revolution is in full swing, one would think the first place to turn in a time of baby-faced humiliation and destitution would be to the match-hardened elderly.

So if the wicket landslides and budget totals are to continue surfacing in this series- and lets admit it, there’s a very good chance they will- how about taking a punt for England by calling up Adam Voges to add some Sandgroper cement to the middle order?

His Sheffield Shield numbers are certainly not turning heads on the selection catwalk this season (367 runs at 33.36 with a high score of 94), but it’s the West Australian’s current splendid patch of form and his bucketloads of experience in English conditions with Nottinghamshire that make him an attractive option.

Voges is coming off an outstanding 112 not out for Australia in last weekend’s ODI against the West Indies, plus there’s a 72 in his most recent Shield hit-out along with a 112 and an unbeaten 77 in his last two Ryobi Cup matches.

His County record for Notts is a cracker too, having amassed 2736 runs at an average of 45.60 in his five seasons on the Pom first class circuit.

With Shane Watson almost surely to be elevated to the opener’s position with his repeated public reminders of ‘shotgun’ recently, Voges could be the perfect strengthener to wedge in the middle and help Michael Clarke give the batting guts some settled solidarity.

He can also bring another wise head to the skipper’s round table of generalship, plus his gentle left-armers are also a value-add.

I know this portfolio has the all-too-familiar echoes of a Marcus North project, but really, can Australia afford to deep-end more of the puerile and untried if they limp home from India?

The team could do a lot worse than having ‘Hank’ around the traps.

We know the selectors aren’t comfortable with endemic batting failure, reasonable displays of patience and Ed Cowan.

They also have made it clear that weathered campaigners with cascading runs columns like George Bailey and David Hussey aren’t on their list for such roles.

So could it be Voges that is used as an Ashes band-aid?

You’re not alone, Sonny Bill. I’m worried too.

At his press conference on Tuesday, Sonny Bill Williams made an unusual break with the pre-fight pugilist’s charter by making the rare admission that he is worried.

Thanks to this badly timed confession, I now too am brickin’ it.

It appears that both of us neglected to search deeper than the first two links presented to us by the Google search when we first looked up the back stories of his opponent Francois Botha, and to be honest, why would we?

Can't you just fight a wonky ball of vinyl all the time?

Can’t you just fight a wonky ball of vinyl all the time?

Personally, I just assumed that this bout would play out like one of those usual Mundine/Nasser style transactions where a sparkling local household name raises a thimble’s worth of sweat in beating the freckles off a slack-jawed youngster / famished Boxcar Willie, and judging by Williams admission of concern, so did he.

However, fluffy musings of a jaunty handful of rounds filled with bruise-free twinkle-toeing were put on-hold by Williams and his connections when vision of a butcher-like Botha annihilating vinyl and disturbing building foundations filtered out to the public forum and in to their camp this week.

Put simply, the penny has dropped to Williams and uneducated types like myself that Botha is a downright maniac armed with the hair-trigger bazookas to land something meaningful that could effectively bruise a brother’s bone marrow for the long term.

How else would you categorise someone with an eHarmony bio like this?

A mountainous block of muscle who considers himself somewhat of a connoisseur in the various modules of belting others, possessing solid clock time in kickboxing and sumo wrestling, who thinks that it’s normal to continue entering punching contests well in to his 40s and who also believes that it’s still completely sane at his age to continue putting peroxide in his goatee, which we all know stings like hell.

This Hulk Hogan lookalike breaks faces and mirrors.

This Hulk Hogan lookalike breaks faces and mirrors.

And if that doesn’t have you reaching for a night-light, then also consider that his friends, fans and former victims refer to him as ‘The White Buffalo’, which the last time I checked was a creature best known for its habit of unpredictably impaling or stampeding over the top of humans.

And for God’s sake earthlings and Danny Weidler, why has his rap sheet been kept so shielded from the layman up until now?

Why wasn’t it repeatedly thrust forth in the local periodicals that this powder keg has survived quality time inside the ring with other skull-crushers like Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis, Evander Holyfield and Vladimir Klitschko?

No wonder the brown reggies have roared back in to fashion this week.

Botha’s loose cannon qualities combined with the usual pre-match bubbling about weight lost and motivation gained makes him a sparked-up old bloke with cannonball fists, nothing to lose and a small window of opportunity to panel-beat one of world sport’s prettiest faces.

Now before all of you learned boxing types start goin’ off at this unschooled fool, I acknowledge that Botha’s recent record is fairly forgettable and that he’s only 20 odd years away from officially claiming an age pension. He’s not going to school the Kiwi in the fine arts of pugilism before drugging him with a precision jab at the end of an aerobically-taxing test of gladiatorial fitness.

It just seems that Williams’s teeny-weeny display of concern exposes a late arriving awakening that his opponent is wilder and woollier than expected, and the potential to wear that one precise punch that causes serious issues is closer than ever before.

As for my angst?

Of course, there’s the humanitarian concern. I always pray for my fellow man that he avoids such trauma as the abolition of grey matter and the infliction of gory facial abrasions that have the potential to affect endorsement deals and one’s chances with the ladies.

Plus there’s the possible harm to the continuation of his evolution as a global sporting megastar, which is I suppose is slightly interesting.

But mainly, the major contributor to my unsettled sleeping patterns before Friday’s bout is the fact that I am from the Rooster family, a place that has moved heaven, earth and cap space to accommodate the former All Black for a fleeting 8-month period where one-handed match-winning and unbroken spells of fitness is not wished for, but expected.

So please Sonny Bill, don’t forget you are due at training next week for the first time.

We would appreciate you in one piece.

A guide to the Allan Border Medal. Does anybody have one I can borrow?

This is a call to anybody who possesses one of those old-fashioned pre-smartphone memory banks that extend further than the previous 72 hours.

I need somebody to microchip me with a rapid cram session on what has actually occurred in the last 12 months of Australian cricket so we can competently nut out who will be forced to manufacture some emotion as the winner of this year’s Allan Border Medal on Monday night.

Modern cricket’s sardine scheduling and skinny levels of home grown household names has left me trying to read a scrambled seam, and I need some tutoring on who on the payroll stands out in recent times.

Starc: the bowler who has broken down the least. Instant candidate.

Starc: the bowler who has broken down the least. Instant candidate.

Now before you splurge the memories, and I know this will eliminate a massive wedge from the information pie, you must know that anything about informed player management needs to be omitted. So please, concentrate on intently staring through that choking haze of contention as if looking for a hidden tugboat in a magic eye 3D image.

With AB’s bling of virtue up for grabs, what’s required is the hard data on those unsung backroom blokes who play second fiddle to the overlord physios and witch doctors, and that’s our beloved players.

Getting an indication on the winner of cricket’s Brownlow-wannabe award is becoming increasingly difficult with each passing year. As it still exists in street-cred accumulation stage, you don’t get the sneaky leaks of the AFL equivalent, so unfortunately you have to leave the bookies and unnamed insiders alone and think for yourself.

Wading through the complicated tapestry of the voting window is hardly straightforward.

Thanks to Cricket Australia’s locker room turnstiles spinning like over-throttled ferris wheels due to fluctuating form and enforced leisure time, and with so many different competitions meshing together to form a technicolour cricket reverie, it’s no wonder that Crown Lager sponsors the event inside a casino to provide a distraction for players from recalling tours and decoding the tallying process.

So before those Crownies arrive to surely provide further decision-making haze, let’s try and frame a market from the memories of the last 12 months.

The obvious choice for honours is Michael Clarke, the man with the wide bat for scoring and the broad shoulders for carrying our can. He’s a stellar choice for those plonking down some hard-earned, but one must remember that with the voting period running from 25th February 2012 to 28 January 2013, it means a good third of his record-breaking calendar year efforts will not be included for review, as 594 of his 1544 runs were made in the months of 2012 beforehand.

Many will also mention Michael Hussey, and really, murmurs of vote rigging for some farewell hardware for the revered man would probably be corruption embraced by all. However again, Mr Cricket spent some time out of the office due to family reasons, and in the last 3 weeks of voting, he was back in his Perth digs quietly throwing darts at pictures of John Inverarity while pyjama votes were up for grabs.

Warner may pester his way to the award.

Warner may pester his way to the award.

So perhaps it will come down to those who have simply become part of the dressing room furniture across all fashions of the game?

David Warner has bizarrely morphed in to some kind of Mr Consistency as the everywhere-man across the national spectrum, and is the leading run-scorer for the voting period with 1840 runs, so he will bring the smoky factor to calculations. However, is consistent selection with inconsistent influential knocks going to rack enough votes to get the medal around its neck?

Then there’s beanpole speedster Mitchell Starc who topped the charts for the bowlers across all forms with 51 wickets, so he may have a say in the final wash-up too. In saying this, the fact that only two bowlers have won the award in the past (Glenn McGrath and Brett Lee) shows they are cricket’s version of the unappreciated key position backs, so the young left-armer would probably be wasting a good quill by penning an acceptance speech.

Will the recipient come from one of these semi-convincing standouts or am I missing a special performance from the whirlpool of games that occurred in the relevant period?

I’m looking for some suggestions, as when I reach back in to my bubbling stew of recent Aussie cricket memories, I don’t get much chop.

I see and hear a lot of something that appears like Shane Warne, half of Peter Siddle and probably too much Glenn Maxwell. There’s a smidgeon of Usman Khawaja but only in conspiracy theories, a conga line of seamers wrapped in Elastoplast and a lot of public wailing, mainly about selections, T20 and Madden brother overkill.

Now I know I’m really struggling. I think I just saw Peter Forrest!

Someone with total recall, no rose coloured glasses and some smart money, please lend a hand.

Around which neck shall Captain Grumpy’s medal be hung?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Warming the Pine

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