The world game’s weird and wonderful players names: Part 2

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Football

February 8,2016

So we have come to the second installment in this series of the World Game’s weird and wonderful player names.

In the first installment, we discovered player names such as Mark de Man, Norman Conquest, Ralf Minge, Wolfgang Wolf and Creedence Clearwater Cuoto.

Without any further ado, here is another batch of imaginative, unique, colourful and extraordinary player names.

29. Phil and James Younghusband
British-Filipino footballers. The Younghusband brothers are approaching 30, still not married and quite frankly are not living up to their name. Both had youth careers at Chelsea, before going on to play for the Philippines at international level.

30. Johan De Kock
Dutch defender who appeared for FC Utrecht for the majority of his career. De Kock’s masculinity towards his opposition did award him 13 caps for the Oranje, which illustrates that he wasn’t a flop.

31. Mansour Boutabout
An Algerian footballer who has played 22 times at international level. At 37, Boutabout is still kicking on with French club side US Colomiers.

32. Dean Windass
English footballer of the 1990s and 2000s. Windass’ teams always had the advantage of running with the wind.

33. Orlando Trustfull
Dutch player who played in midfield and had a 13-year playing career which suggests that people believed in him.

34. Uwe Fuchs
German striker who went to Middlesbrough on the recommendation of former England player Tony Woodcock. In the beginning of his time at Riverside, he made a few errors, and many in the crowd yelled out ‘Uwe Fuchs’. But after that, he became a fan favourite through his goalscoring ability.

35. Hans-Jorg Butt
German goalkeeper. When he was at Portugese side Benfica, he was a temporary understudy to former Portugal number one, Quim.

36. Argelico Fucks
Current Internacional coach in Brazil’s Campeonato Serie A. As a player, he played centre back. With a surname like that, naturally it did cause a headline or two. An example, when he left Brazilian club Palmeiras, he transferred to Portuguse club Benfica. Eurosport.com had the headline “Fucks off to Benfica”.

37. Charlie Oatway
English-born midfielder who appeared during the 1990s and 2000s. On the surface, Oatway’s name may look normal. However, his real name is Anthony Philip David Terry Frank Donald Stanley Gerry Gordon Stephen James Oatway.

So why did Oatway have an unusually long full name? His parents were massive Queens Park Rangers fans, and named him after the entire QPR squad of 1973, the year of Oatway’s birth. When his aunt heard of the proposed name, she replied, “he’d look a right Charlie”. And that’s the origins of Charlie Oatway’s name.

38. Stefan Kuntz
German striker who scored six goals on 25 occasions for Die Nationalmannschaft. Nowadays, Kuntz is the chairman of Kaiserslautern FC. Players that have played for Kaiserslautern under the reign of Kuntz, have included Florian Dick and Danny Fuchs.

39. Wayne Wanklyn
Wanklyn appeared in a few clubs, with Reading the most notable. Wanklyn enjoyed playing on special occasions such as Palm Sunday and evidently showed that he was a master of his own domain and in full control. And he was a good footballer as well.

40. Segar Bastard
England forward who played his one and only cap for his national team in 1880. For the majority of his career, Bastard appeared for Upton Park FC. During that period, many of Bastard’s contemporaries were both a player and a referee, and naturally, Bastard also officiated as a ref. Pretty certain that Segar was a bastard of a referee.

41. Dieter Stinka
German footballer who plied his trade in midfield for clubs like Eintracht Frankfurt. Legend has it that as a person Stinka had very poor hygiene. His teammates thought that Stinka smelt so bad, that when the club went out for a bite to eat, they used to hide tic-tacs in his food.

On another occasion, after a football game, Stinka smelt so bad that when he walked by the bathroom door the toilet flushed itself. But despite his smelly problem, Stinka has a good heart. In his spare time he does charity work for the homeless. However, one day, a homeless person actually gave him a bar of soap.

42. Dominique Dropsy
Recently departed French footballer who appeared on 17 occasions for Les Blues in the late 1970s and early ’80s. And what position did Dropsy play? Goalkeeper, of course.

43. Jazzi Barnum-Bobb
Cardiff City defender who is loaned out to Newport County. So far in his ten appearances for Newport, Barnum-Bobb has provided a bit of razzamatazz and a bit of jazz. He doesn’t miss a beat with his style of defending. He has a sister named Calypso Barnum-Bobb. Obviously a family that loves being in tune.

44. Lars Bender
Bayer Leverkusen defensive midfielder. A robotic-type personality who can be narky towards his teammates, especially if they don’t listen to him. He said this to one of his teammates: “I don’t tell you how to tell me what to do, so don’t tell me how to do what you tell me.”

45. Nortei Nortey
English-born defender of Ghanaian heritage. His name is actually pronounced ‘naughty naughty’. World football’s answer to rugby league’s Fuifui Moimoi.

46. Gareth Jellyman
Welsh defender who became known by a commentator’s quote. In one game, Jelleyman got on the wrong side of the referee. It prompted this call from England’s Sky Sports host Jeff Stelling: “Jelleyman of Mansfield Town has been sent off. Hope he doesn’t throw a wobbly.”

47. Razvan Rat
Romanian left-back who is well known for his ten-year career at Ukrainian club Shakhtar Donetsk. Rat had won six league titles with Shakhtar. Back at home, Rat won two league titles with Rapid Bucuresti.

Other honours include one Romanian Cup, four Ukrainian Cups and one UEFA Cup. He is also the captain of the Romanian national team. Rat is certainly the big cheese of Romanian football.

48. Ben-Hur Moreira Peres
Brazillian footballer who primarily plays centre back and defensive midfield. His career has been one long journeyman chariot ride where he has played for 12 clubs. I don’t think there are too many footballers that have a list of clubs bigger than Ben-Hur Moreira Peres.

49. John Lennon Silva Santos
Brazilian left back with Botafago, who is currently starting over on loan with Brazilian Serie B side Atletico Goianiense, where many Goianiense fans think that he is a bit of a love me do and is portrayed as a beautiful boy.

Lennon Silva Santos has a dream to get back to Botafago in Brazil’s Serie A domestic league. The last thing he wants is for any of his coaches to be playing mind games with him. He just wants to achieve something in career, like playing for Liverpool.

From where he is at the present time, it is a long and winding road to the Brazilian national side, but imagine if he made it. With a name like that there would be helter skelter media coverage.

50.Anil Koc
Represented Belgium in Under-15s and 16s, but he has since made the switch to Turkey and has now represented them in Under-17s and 19s. Some may think that’s a backwards entry move to top international football, considering how well Belgium are faring presently.

He plays for Eredivisie club FC Eindhoven, where so far the club supporters are delighted with the Turkish Under-19 representative.

51. Mahatma Gandhi Hererpio Mattos Pires
Brazilian midfielder who plays for Atletico Goianiense. Pires has only appeared on 11 occasions for the club over the last five years. If he doesn’t get a wriggle on in his career, he won’t be as famous as the leader of the Indian independence movement, but rather he will be just another Mahatma Cote… fade into obscurity.

52. Johnny Moustache
A footballer from Seychelles, who has provided some hairy moments for his team and opposition.

53. Ricky van Wolfswinkel
Netherlands striker who has already played twice for his national team. One of the bad habits of Wolfswinkel is that he always howls in protest whenever someone fouls him.

54. Prince Polley
Ghanaian-born player who played over 300 games with nine different clubs. Didn’t appear in any of the major football clubs, but you kind of hoped that he could afford a little red corvette. If he did purchase a luxury such as that, Polley may party like it’s 1999.

55. Marlon Brandao
Brazilian footballer who played as a forward in the 1980s and early ’90s. Brandao spent a productive three years at Portuguese club Boavista where he scored 27 goals in 95 appearances.

Spanish club Real Valladolid prised him away from Boavista with an offer he couldn’t refuse, but Brandao’s motto in life has always been “never confuse the size of your paycheque with the size of your talent”.

56. Michael Jackson
An English-born defender who played four years at Bury and as a defender and had the mentality of a smooth criminal.

As with many other footballers, it was only human nature that Jackson was eventually going to leave Bury and transfer to another club, like Preston North End.

Jackson was pretty consistent at Preston, although on odd occasions he would have a bad game. His excuse to his coach was “blame it on the boogie”.

After 251 games, Jackson left Preston and went on to other clubs like Tranmere and Blackpool, but Preston North End fans will always remember the time Michael Jackson played for them.

57. Andrey Arshavin
Russian-born striker who is best known for playing with Arsenal in the EPL. Throughout his time there, Arshavin did provide cutting edge in his general play and was razor sharp when he played up front. On his day, Arshavin would crack open the opposition defence with his goals.

58. Igor Shitov
A right back from Belarus. When his side leads 1-0, Shitov is always anxious for his side to eke out a number two.

59. Rod Fanni
French right back who has played five matches for his national team.

60. Mario Turdo
Turdo was a striker for many clubs right throughout his career. The Argentinian-born player wasn’t wasteful with his chances and scored a few goals. But when he wasn’t doing well, his teammates described him as a bit poo.

61. Mario Licka
Czech Republic midfielder who has donned his nation’s colours on three occasions. Though he has played for many clubs, Licka was at his absolute tasty best with his delicious passing when he appeared for French club Brest.

This concludes the two-part series of the world game’s weird and wonderful player names. Although, just likeThe Godfather, there may be a third installment down the track

But until then, have a nice ‘Charlie Oatway’ day.

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The world games weird and wonderful player names: Part 1

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Football

February 4, 2016

Watching football, every now and then you come across a player name that takes your breath away – sometimes you double take, and re-read that player’s name just to be sure you got it right.

After all, football is the global game, and there are some weird and wonderful names out there.

At the last World Cup, Brazil had Hulk and Oscar appearing in the famous Selecao shirt. And they barely scratch the surface.

1. Mark de Man
The Belgian midfielder has played five games for his country.

It’s an appropriate name for a footballer – patrolling in the midfield, he was always a marked man.

2. Danny Invincible
This Australian made his mark playing for British clubs Swindon Town and Kilmarnock. Often you’d barely notice him, like he was missing, but when he made an impact he was invincible.

3. Danger Fourpence
A Zimbabwean football defender who plays for Kiglon Bird FC. Some of his passes have landed on a six-pence, and he has formed a good combination with Limited Chikafa. However, his lack of consistency at times has somewhat shortchanged his team.

4. Leonid Slutsky
Current Russian coach. As a player, he was a goalkeeper, but was forced to retire at 19 after sustaining a knee injury – he fell out of a tree attempting to rescue a neighbour’s cat.

5. David Seaman
Arsenal and England goalkeeper, whom during his career looked like Mr Pringle. Seaman went off early in his movements with regards to a Ronaldinho cross, which led to the defining goal of the 2002 World Cup quarter-final loss to Brazil.

6. Fabian Assmann
The Argentine goalkeeper has given many strikers the bum steer with his great shot-stopping efforts. Now you have to ask yourself, which one would you prefer, Assmann or Seaman?

7. Danny Shittu
The Nigerian centre back played for Queens Park Rangers and 32 games for his country, which suggests that he was far from a crap player.

8. David Goodwillie
The Scottish striker plays for Ross County, on loan from Aberdeen. He hasn’t always been a Goodwillie, having been arrested for assaulting a man at a nightclub.

9. Two-Boys Gladstone Gumede
South African footballer who plays for the mighty Derby City Rovers in America, was the second boy in his family, which prompted his mother to name him Two-Boys.

10. Milan Fukal
Czech Republic defender who nearly played in England, but after receiving Fukal interest from Leeds and Manchester City, he was forced to sign with his home club FK Jablonec.

11. Creedance Clearwater Cuoto ( Paulista)
Brazilian footballer who was named after the American rock band Creedance Clearwater Revival, as his parents were massive fans of the band. Whether he was a fortunate son to be given that name is open to debate.

12.Paul Dickov
Scottish forward who formed a promising penetrative forward partnership with Marcus Bent at Leicester City in the 2003-04 EPL season.

13. Cerezo Fung a Wing
A Dutch defender who specialises in (surprise, surprise) the left wingback position. His ancestors came from China and his real last name is Fung.

Wouldn’t be at all surprising if Fung a Wing didn’t mind Chinese chicken wings.

14. Wolfgang Wolf
A German defender who played for Kaiserslautern and Stuttgarter Kickers. If the A-League was to expand in the future, let’s hope there is a team named Kickers. Or if an A-League club is not viable, kick them out and bring in the Kickers.

Getting back to the player concerned, Wolf also managed a variety of clubs, including VFL Wolfsburg.

15. Roberto Lopez Ufarte
Moroccoan born Spanish player of the 1970s and ’80s. The story doing the rounds is that before games, Ufarte would consume refried beans and onions. And when he was out on the pitch, he would release a smell so deadly it produced tear gas to the opposition players.

16. Kaka
Brazilian midfield magician. In Greek slang, Kaka is translated as human faeces. Imagine if he played in the Greek Super League. He may have copped s**t from the crowd.

17. Bernt Hass
Swiss right back defender who spent the majority of his time playing for Grasshopper Club Zurich. Hypothetically, if he enjoyed a hot curry dish, he would be grasshopping around with a Bernt Hass.

18. Yaya Banana
An appealing Cameroon footballer who plays centre back. When he was young, his mother left him out in the sun too long, hence his footballing ability shining through. Banana, who always likes to hang out in bunches, has the kind of talent you simply can’t buy in a supermarket. Enjoys listening to Split Enz and Bananarama.

19. Lazaros Christodoulopoulos
Greek attacking midfielder who plays for Italian club, Sampdoria. If the A-League wanted to recruit a big name player, then surely Christodoulopoulos would fit the bill.

20. Massimo Maccarone
Italian bald-headed Mark Bresciano look-a-like forward who appears for Empoli. Early in his career, he spent much of his time in the Italian Serie C and Serie B, and tangling on loans with various clubs. However, when Maccarone went to EPL side Middlesbrough, the penne was finally starting to drop on his career and he hasn’t looked over his shoulder since.

21. Christ Bongo
The drums were beating loudly early on his career that Bongo was going to play many games for his country, Congo, but that didn’t eventuate. However at club scene, Bongo was instrumental in saving his German club side Wilhelmshaven from relegation, scoring vital goals. The club supporters thanked Christ for that.

22. Norman Conquest
An English born Australian goalkeeper of the late 1940s and early ’50s. In 1951, Conquest was best known for being the Aussie goalkeeper in a match between Australia and an English FA representative side at the old Sydney Showgrounds, where Australia lost 17-0. Who would’ve thought that the English would do an invasion on Conquest’s career?

22. Mario Eggimann
Swiss defender. Is he the Walrus? Coo coo cachoo.

23. Have-a-Look Dube
Zimbabwian footballer who plays for Njube Sundowns. Just as well his family name didn’t begin with the letter L, then people would really have a look at have a look.

24. Bunny bell
Centre forward for Tranmere Rovers in the 1930s, scoring 102 goals in just 114 appearances. On Boxing Day 1935, he scored nine goals in Tranmere’s 13-4 defeat of Oldham Athletic. It was an English record at the time. Bunny certainly knew how to multiply his goals.

25. Danny Drinkwater
Social media went nuts when the Leicester City midfielder took time out from the game to drink water. Playing football can be thirsty work.

26. Ralf Minge
East German striker of the 1980s who quite often came into the box and scored.

27. Andre Muff
A striker who played twice for Switzerland. There were instances where Muff stuffed up by not snuffing away tuff chances. Muff may have bluffed the gaffer into thinking that he was a capable striker, but in reality, Muff just ran out of puff, and the opposition had the last luff.

28. Max Power
This Wigan Athletic midfielder is so influential, The Simpsons did an episode where Homer changes his name to Max Power so that he could gain positive attention.

Here is an exchange between Max (Homer) and Bart:

Homer: Kids there are three ways to do things: the right way, the wrong way and the Max Power way!
Bart: Isn’t that the wrong way
Homer: Yeah, but faster!

Imagine if the 12th Man Billy Birmingham was a massive football fan and did a few CDs on these names. The mind boggles.

Anyway, the good news – or bad news, whichever way you view it – is there are more to come.

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1975 showdown: Rod Laver versus Jimmy Connors

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Tennis

February 2, 2015

On this day on February 2, 1975, forty years ago, a challenge tennis match was held in Caesars Palace, Las Vegas between legend Rod Laver and young aggressive upstart Jimmy Connors.

Why did this match occur?

The Open era began in 1968. Prior to that, only amateurs were allowed to play in the four main grand slams. But from 1968, amateurs and professionals were allowed compete for the grand slams, hence the term ‘open’.

In 1974, Connors won three grand slams, the Australian Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open, and was the number one player in the world. When he won the US Open, it was alleged that Connors shouted out ‘Get me Laver’.

In the 1970s, Laver, who was well into his thirties, hardly played in any of the major grand slam tournaments because he had contracts with the National Tennis League (NTL) and World Championship Tennis (WCT) tours, where at the time, most of the professional tennis players would converge to.

In 1974, Laver won six of the 13 tournaments he entered in and ended the year as the number four ranked player in the world at the ripe old age of 36.

Connors’ manager Bill Riordan, was a key instigator in making the tennis match between Connors and Laver into a reality. It was promoted as the “Heavyweight Championship of Tennis.”

Prior to the match, both parties negotiated terms. Connors would get $100,000 from the match, while Laver would receive $60,000.

When this match was played, Connors was 22, Laver 36.

When you look at the footage, Laver certainly has cat like reflexes around the net which was remarkable for a 36-year-old. Some of the volleying that Laver displayed in that match was outstanding, especially around the 3:04 mark. In fact so outstanding, commentators described it, saying “boy they are going to turn this town upside down”!

I thought Stefan Edberg, Pete Sampras and Roger Federer were great volleyers around the net, but technically, in my opinion, Laver has them covered.

In the footage, we pick up play in the third set.The footage, I assume only shows the third set and maybe the fourth, but never shows the conclusion of the match.

Laver’s backhand,whether it’s across the court or down the line was so lethal. After a slow start where he lost the first two sets, Laver comes back and makes a fist of it by winning the third set.

Laver certainly gave Connors a competitive match despite the age difference. However, in the end, the younger legs of Connors prevailed with the scoreline of 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 7-5.

For many years, you always hear about Rod Laver and his list of achievements which included eleven grand slam titles. And the only man to have won all four grand slams in the same year, twice.

At the Australian Open, the main court is named after him.

And as a professional, he won eight majors (US Pro, Wembley Pro and French Pro). So in effect, when you add the eleven grand slams, he won 19 major singles titles and 200 career singles titles overall from 1956-1976.

He played in an era where he used wooden racquets, where the sweet spot was small, which meant that he would only attack on the one side, whereas with tennis racquets of today, they could attack on both sides more powerfully, simply because the sweet spot is bigger. Therefore what it means is more baseline rallies and less court coverage.

Laver, who was nicknamed ‘The Rocket’ also didn’t have the benefits of huge support staff, or advanced video and technological analysis in working on their game or looking at their opponents game.

Yet, despite all that, he achieved so much, and it all came down to pure talent.

I never saw Laver play, as his career was before my time. However, after watching his contest with Connors, I have a growing sense appreciation of what Laver was as a tennis player.

For all the Roarers, if you have the spare time, watch the footage of Laver versus Connors. You won’t be dissapointed.

Laver is well and truly an all time great. Perhaps the greatest ever.

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A tribute to Billy Thorpe’s Friday night football intro

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Rugby League

February 28, 2015

On February 28, 2007, Australia lost music legend Billy Thorpe. Yes, it is hard to believe that it has been eight years since his passing.

Thorpe, who was the lead singer of Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs, was best known for hit singles such as ‘Most people I know (think that I’m crazy)’, ‘Poison ivy’, and ‘It’s almost summer’.

For NRL fans, Thorpe was better known for his Friday night football intros back in the mid nineties for Channel Nine.

Thorpe’s rendition of ‘Friday night’s a great night for football’ was magic – it felt like a party was going to commence. After watching the intro, as a fan, you are more than pumped for the game.

In the accompanying clip, it’s great to see old-time players like Cliff Lyons and Kevin Walters (or Kerrod?), while the North Sydney Bears and Illawarra Steelers also feature, providing evidence that they were involved in the comp once a upon a time.

In the late nineties, the Friday night football promo featured a collaboration of Thorpe and Jimmy Barnes. But it didn’t hit the mark the way Thorpe did when solo.

The single ‘Friday night’s a great night for football’ came from the US movie The Last Boy Scout, starring Bruce Willis, in 1991. It was written by Steve Dorff and John Bettis, and performed by Bill Medley in the movie’s opening credits with a game of NFL as the backdrop.

When you compare the two performancess, Thorpe nailed the song and performance. Medley’s version is slower and laid-back, while Thorpe is rockin’ away and does the actual lyrics of the song more justice.

Apart from the Friday football anthem, Thorpe also did a great cover of Judy Garland’s ‘Somewhere over the rainbow’. In his last TV appearance, a couple of months prior to his death, he performed on ‘The Today Show’, singing The Masters Apprentices’ ‘Because I love you’.

It was a spine-tingling, mesmerising performance. Far from been a fading star, Thorpe still had the gift right to the end.

It’s a shame the NRL didn’t use Thorpe in an ad similar to that of Tina Turner. If Thorpe was given a well-known rock anthem, not only would he make it his own, it may have been close to Turner’s ‘Simply the best’.

Instead, the NRL chose Thomas Keneally and his forgettable ‘Blow that whistle ref’.

Thorpe had that rock, working-class appeal, and knew how to engage with the audience. The old-school rocker was perfect for rugby league.

NRL fans will always remember him in that wonderful Friday night football intro. He sang his final note at the age of just 60. Gone too soon.

Thanks for the memories Billy. You will never be forgotten.

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Was Jim Higgs an unsung hero to Shane Warne’s greatness?

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Cricket

January 21, 2015

If you’re under the age of 35, you may not have heard of Jim Higgs, but older Roarers or cricket history buffs will know that Higgs was a very capable leg spinner for Victoria and Australia.

Personally, I started following cricket from the late 1980s, which by then, Higgs’ career was well and truly over.

So without seeing him play, I had to rely on doing some research on the web.

Higgs played for Victoria between 1970-1983. He collected 399 first-class wickets at an average of 29.66 in 122 matches. He played 22 Tests for Australia from 1978-1981, taking 66 Test wickets at a respectable average of 31.16, including two five-wicket hauls.

On ESPNcricinfo, respected cricket journalist Gideon Haigh described Higgs as “Australia’s best legspinner between Richie Benaud and Shane Warne”.

From that summation, it appeared that Higgs was superior in quality compared to Terry Jenner, Kerry O’Keefe, Bob Holland and Trevor Hohns.

Haigh also added “his misfortune was to play at a time when wrist-spin was nearly extinct, thought to be the preserve only of the eccentric and the profligate, and so to find selectors and captains with little empathy with his guiles”.

As such, it probably wasn’t the right era for a leg spinner, hence affecting Higgs’ career. Judging by his statistics, Higgs deserved more of an opportunity in the baggy green.

Higgs made his Test debut for Australia against the West Indies in Port of Spain, Trinidad in 1978 at the height of Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket. As such, the Australian Test side didn’t have the availability of any of the greats involved in what some scribes called ‘the Packer circus’.

Higgs began his Test career with a second-rate Australian side, while the West Indies had their WSC players in their line-up and were at full strength. Predictably, the Windies won the Test by an innings and 106 runs.

However, Higgs wasn’t overawed by the occasion, taking 4/91 off 24.5 overs. In his debut Test series, he took 15 wickets at 25.


Australia versus India, third Test, Sydney 1981 – India second innings

In his overall Test career, Higgs acquitted himself very well against the West Indies, England and New Zealand. The one country that he found great difficulty was India, where he averaged 47.

Higgs played his final Test against India in 1981 at the age of just 30. He ended his first-class career only a couple of years later in 1983. He retired at an age where the best years of a spinner were still yet to come.

A few years after his retirement from cricket, Higgs became national Test selector. But something even more significent was to occur.

Shaun Graf, captain/coach of Victorian club side St Kilda, called Higgs. He was asking for his assistance with a young leg-spinner by the name of Shane Warne. Would Higgs teach him how to bowl the flipper?

In the initial stages, young Warne couldn’t control the delivery, to the point where many went over the back of the net. But later on, as we all know, Warne did master the delivery with devastating effect, in no small part thanks to Higgs.

Another ex-Test leg-spinner who helped in Warne’s development was Terry Jenner. He taught Warne the top-spinner and other variations with leg spin bowling. It would become the start of a long working relationship between Jenner and Warne.

While at the AIS cricket academy, founding head coach Jack Potter helped Warne with new modifications in the art of leg spin.

When Warne was selected for the Test side, the selection panel included Higgs and John Benaud, the younger brother of legendary leg-spinner and commentator Richie. No doubt, both had faith in Warne, especially after Warne’s difficult debut against India where he finished with match figures of 1/150.

A couple of months later, Warne finished the Sheffield Shield season as 12th man for Victoria.

But Higgs and Benaud gave Warne more opportunities to shine at Test level. Eventually, less than a year later, we started to see Warne’s first glimpses of greatness in a Test match against Sri Lanka.

Before the second innings of that Test, Warne had career figures of 1/335.

Chasing a small total of 181, Sri Lanka were cruising at one stage at 2/127. But Greg Matthews and Warne turned the match in Australia’s favour. Matthews picked up four wickets, while Warne took 3-0 in 11 balls to seal victory for Australia by 16 runs.

It would be the start of a long, successful career for Warne, which yielded over 700 Test wickets.

For many years, Jenner was the man who was credited publicly for mentoring Warne’s career, and rightly so. But other men behind the scenes contributed to the makings of the legend. Graf, Potter and Higgs all played a part and all should be recognised for their work.

Why is Jim Higgs the unsung hero to Warne’s greatness? Higgs coached Warne the flipper, which gave Warne so many Test wickets, particularly in the early part of his career.

My assumption of Higgs as a selector is he continually backed Warne’s ability as a leg spinner – something that was missing from the selectors during Higgs’ playing days. A leg-spinning selector knowing what a leg spinner is going through provides a valuable insight and knowledge on any selection panel. In the end, Higgs was justified.

Since Warne retired in 2007, a dozen or so spinners have been selected and tossed out of the Australian side. If those selectors were around during Warne’s early Tests, he may have had a completely different path in cricket history.

Terry Jenner played a huge part in Warne’s success. But in many ways, Higgs deserves to be on the same level as Jenner.

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The Matildas can become world champions

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Football

June 26, 2015

The late Johnny Warren once said, “I’m sick of us saying, ‘When are we going to qualify for the World Cup’? When are we going to win the World Cup?”

This author remembers that line very well when Warren was speaking to Les Murray on SBS in the early 2000s.

It was basically a message saying that all aspects of Australian football, both male and female, need to improve and not just settle for second best just by simply qualifying.

Warren had the belief that one day a football national team could be in a position of winning a football World Cup. Well, the Matildas are only three games away from becoming world champions. Do you share Warren’s belief?

The Australian women have faced three teams ranked in the top 10 in the USA, Sweden and Brazil and still progressed to the quarter-finals, which is an unbelievable effort.

Of course, it’s not the first time the Matildas have given joy to supporters back home. They won the 2010 Asian Cup and were runners-up at last year’s version.

The Matildas have some quality players that the opposition need to be fearful of. The clinical striking and finishing of captain Lisa De Vanna and Kyah Simon. Talented midfielder and 2014 AFC Player of the Year Katrina Gorry. Best young player of the 2011 World Cup, Caitlin Foord, and the industrious holding midfielder Elise Kellond-Knight.

In my opinion, Kellond-Knight has been Australia’s player of the tournament thus far. She not only protects her back four, but blocks passes and then starts the attack with quality distribution.

The female version of Vinnie Grella.

When this author heard a few mainstream news bulletins, it was reported that the Matildas pulled off the upset of the tournament by beating Brazil. However, prior to the World Cup, when you look at the world rankings, Brazil sat in seventh position, while the Matildas were ranked 10th, only three, not thirty spots behind.

So in essence, it shouldn’t be classified as an upset and therefore, the Australian media shouldn’t be selling the Matildas short.

The Australians are one of the best sides in the world. Certainly a far cry from when the Matildas were best known for a controversial nude calendar back in the year 2000.

The calendar caused a stir with some of the players posing completely nude in full frontal glaze. The cover of the nude calendar featured a topless player by the name of Amy Taylor.

ABC sports commentator Karen Tighe described the cover by saying, “She is a beautiful looking girl but there is a fine line between a tasteful representation of the human body and, for me, her’s is a very provocative pose that could have come out of Playboy. It’s a ‘Hi, come and get me’ sort of thing.”

In the 2000 Sydney Olympics, in the women’s football tournament, eight teams competed, with the host nation the Matildas finishing seventh.

While on the field the Matildas have improved greatly over the last 15 years, the same can not be said with regards to women’s football coverage.

Last year, the ABC announced budget and job cuts with the W-League competition among the unfortunate to be cut from the national broadcaster.

In the last couple of weeks, the Australian women have illustrated to the ABC and to everyone across the nation that they are a valued commodity as far as role models to young girls are concerned.

The W-League deseves to be shown by a TV network.

Getting back to the World Cup, which is being held in Canada, Australia face the defending world and asian champions, Japan in the quarter-finals. The winner of that match faces the winner of England versus Canada.

On the other side of the draw, the USA takes on China, while in the other quarter-final, France plays Germany.

At this stage of the tournament, all of the big guns are there and Australia is among them. Australia will not take a backward step as it was evidenced from game one.

In the first match of the tournament, Australia did very well in the first 60 minutes by being on level parity against the second ranked team, the USA. With a bit of luck, Australia may have got something out of that game, but instead USA’s experience got them over the line by winning 3-1.

In the Asian Cup last year, Australia played Japan on two occasions. In the group stage, Australia led 2-0 after 64 minutes before Japan hit back with two late goals to draw the match.

While in the final, Japan accounted for the Matildas 1-0. Just like the USA game at the World Cup, the Matildas could have easily got better results against Japan.

As we are in the knockout stages, the Matildas are outsiders for the title, while nations like Germany, USA and Japan are the favourites. However, anything can happen on the day.

The Matildas are good enough to continue the ride all the way to the final. Again, with a bit of luck, the Matildas can become world champions. You never know.

As Johnny Warren once said, “I told you so”.

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An unnecessary code war over a minute’s silence

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Rugby League

July 10, 2015

The nation was in a state of shock upon hearing news of the death of Adelaide Crows coach Phil Walsh. The horrific crime was brought to bear in a domestic family dispute.

When a homicide involves a high profile individual, particularly in the southern states, it does reinforce the fact that a celebrity who excels in the field of sport is not immune to been victim of domestic violence.

The AFL quiet rightly cancelled the Adelaide versus Geelong game with each team receiving two points. It allowed the Adelaide players some private time to grieve and the AFL also sent a message that football needs to be put into perspective.

The remaining AFL matches went ahead as planned.

On the same day when Walsh was murdered, Collingwood and Hawthorn were due to play. Prior to the match starting there was a minute silence dedicated to the fallen Adelaide coach.

There was hardly any murmur or a squeak from the crowd. It prompted sports journalist Dan Elsom to report about the sombre funeral-type atmosphere at the MCG. However, not all of the article was written with the best of intentions in mind.

Elsom gave praise to the crowd by repeating what Bruce McAvaney said in commentary: “You could hear a pin drop, so respectful.”

But later in the article, Elsom stated this: “The moment was a stark contrast to the performance put in by rugby league crowds a few Wednesdays ago, but the less said about that the better.”

Elsom was referring to the State of Origin crowd at the MCG where a few idiots in a 90,000-plus strong crowdcouldn’t control their behaviour during a minute’s silence tribute to track athlete legend Ron Clarke.

Now, over the years, especially on this site, we have had various code war articles comparing the two major football codes, AFL and NRL.

Comparisons between the two football codes have included crowds, TV ratings, and TV deals. Now, thanks to Elsom, you can add a minute’s silence to that list.

Where do we draw the line here?

When a person passes away from terribly tragic and brutal circumstances, we do need to put trivial matters aside. To use a cricket terminology, we have to let that go to the keeper.

Comparing silent tributes is very disrespectful to the families of Walsh and Clarke.

Was the article written on the basis of a point scoring exercise to make one code (NRL) embarrassed, humiliated and ridiculed? Or was it written to generate page views and hits?

Whatever the motive or agenda, it is disappointing on both counts.

Yet the irony here is that the match Elsom was referring to with regards to crowd behaviour was held in Melbourne, at the MCG, a venue synonymous with AFL.

Whether those fans were from interstate or Victorian born, at the end of the day, they were idiots who should have known better.

Although credit does need to be given to Elsom for mentioning in his article that last Friday night’s NRL match between Penrith and South Sydney did hold a respected minute’s silence to honour Walsh.

This author will further add that every NRL game last weekend observed a minute’s silence and on each occasion it was done diligently with all crowds behaving in the right accordance.

Which is kudos to all NRL fans. Prior to Walsh’s fateful demise, the majority of those crowds would not have heard of the AFL coach. But they did give respect to a life that had been lost and were sending thoughts and prayers to the deceased family.

If anything it has shown that communities from multiple sporting codes can unite, grieve and share upon reflection.

Honouring and paying tribute to a person’s life should be done with respect and dignity. It is not the time and place to compare football codes and hence start a code war, all in the name of page views and hits.

The families of Walsh and Clarke deserve better.

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