1. GOOSE COOKED
The most interesting careers are often not the most celebrated. Matt ‘Goose’ Maguire was a mainstay during St Kilda’s first stab at glory this millennium, a key backman in the Grant Thomas teams of the early noughties. He ended his career a fill-in for the struggling Lions, far from the footy spotlight, sidelined by concussion. Matt played early and often as a young man, firmly entrenched in a strong line-up, before being famously marooned on 99 games by a broken leg, then foot fractures. After struggling to break into the grand final-bound Saint team of 2009, he ventured north to Brisbane, where he eventually added another 71 games in six seasons. He went from a defensive wunderkind, feted as an All-Australian, battling Jonathan Brown in his prime, to a veteran selflessly assisting kids in the Brisbane twos. He finished his career with six one-year contracts, saying he was happy to move on to the next phase of his life with a “big smile on his face” because he had “so many great memories and good friendships”. If I was a coach, he is the sort of retired player I would like to address my players to, not a club champion who had won everything. Footy isn’t all about flags.
I came across the Caribbean Premier League T20 tournament by accident when surfing Foxtel and I was both entertained and dismayed. It was a great spectacle, mostly because the dancing crowd was so engaged and joyous. More sobering was the sight of familiar faces from West Indies teams playing with far more passion for their local outfits than for the ‘national’ team. Beneath the Malcolm Marshall Stand, Kieron Pollard was a rage of passion as he took wickets and catches and captained the Barbados Tridents. The pain upon dismissal was palpable for Jamaica Tallawahs (looks like an alligator) Andre Russell and Jerome Taylor. And why shouldn’t they care more playing for their local teams? The West Indies is a multi-national cricket team representing a conglomeration of 15 countries and dependencies. Getting enough talented players from those disparate sources to play competitive Test cricket together, without bags of cash on offer, subject to administrative strife, has proved beyond all of the greats of the Windies golden era. These days, who can blame a West Indian cricketer for seeking better pay in T20 than playing for a fractured national team over five, less lucrative days? The doomsayers have long predicted that if the ‘big’ cricket nations continue to marginalise those on the fringes, T20 will erode Test cricket. Is the gaudy, well patronised CPL a glimpse of the future in everywhere but Australia and England?
I wrote a book about Australian Ice Hockey (yes, it exists, and it is great, or at least I thought so, because I went to the trouble of writing a book about it) and when I started taking a closer interest in the big-time of the sport, the NHL, I was a little surprised to find that most writing about the game was stats and … yawn (beg pardon) … draft and trade predictions and gossip. Little culture, few of the stories behind the names being hawked about as trade bait or future saviours or number providers. For me, it amounted to reading the business pages, not sport. Well, the NHL is redressing this imbalance with a brilliant series, Slapshot Diaries, partially curated, believe it or not, by an Aussie, Townsville-raised Sasky Stewart. On the eve of the NHL’s much analysed, much-hyped draft, the site recounts the story of farmboy Darrel Knibbs, last selected in the 1969 entry draft. The yarn, told in his own words, is shocking, and its honesty about the brutality of the era is breathtaking and refreshing. You don’t need to know anything about the sport to enjoy the candour and insights as Darrel lurches from Montreal to Muskegon to Austria playing the game he loved as a kid.
4. DON’T GAMBLE (but if you do, consider this)
If the Suns get G. Ablett back, along with a few other big names, they could be a tough opponent for Carlton. They were playing much more competitively before the break, pushing Freo all the way, and the Blues left a lot on the field in their breakthrough victory over Port last week. Wait until the team line-up is confirmed and if they still get two goals in, give it some thought.