They’re young, women flock to them, kids want to be them and they have bank accounts the majority of us can only dream of.
Being an athlete for some, is aspirational as fronting Coldplay or starring in a Twilight movie, but over the years for a few of these local sports stars, sitting right alongside their expensive watches and foreign cars, lies a transparent side effect few talk about.
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David Campese recently gave us a nice insight into what he thinks about the role of women when he publically questioned why a female journalist would be covering a rugby union tour.
What could a “girl” possibly bring to the table in such a role? What would she know about rugby union - a man’s sport?
Surely to say that a woman can accurately grasp the concept of scrums and line-outs is almost as ridiculous as suggesting that women’s rugby is a real sport.
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The $40,000 fine dished out to rugby player Quade Cooper for calling the Wallabies setup “toxic” is a huge penalty. It really is a massive slug for what was essentially a thought crime.
Wayne Carey was never fined $40k for screwing a team-mate’s wife. Rugby league player Nate Myles was never fined $40k for pooing in a hotel corridor (though his club copped a hefty fine), and Simon Katich was never fined $40k for questioning the manner of his dumping from the Test team.
There’s actually a strong similarity between the situations of Katich last year and Cooper in mid 2012. Both were echoing the sentiment of ordinary fans across Australia that the goons running the show were stuffed. In Katich’s case, that meant cricket’s national selection panel. In Cooper’s case, it mostly meant Wallabies coach Robbie Deans.
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Today we learned that All Blacks star Sonny Bill Williams, already infamous for abandoning the Bulldogs and running off to France in 2008, is set to walk out on union and return to the NRL next year.
To be fair, Sonny Bill is hardly sneaking out of the country in the dead of night this time. He deserves credit for at least behaving like a big boy. But the whole situation still reeks of déjà vu.
Williams stands to pocket a tidy $2 million for a single season’s work next year, through a combination of rugby in Japan, boxing in South Africa and league, probably at the Roosters.
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When you buy your ticket to the big game, you get certain privileges which don’t apply in the outside world. You get to leave your pie wrapper and beer cup at your feet. You get to yell insults at the match officials. And you get the right to boo to your heart’s content.
This right is not enshrined in the Australian constitution, nor even on the fine print of your ticket. But it should be, because booing at sport is as natural as cheering, even if it’s your own beloved team.
At the Super Rugby this weekend, a significant contingent of the 14,000 strong Sydney crowd booed the NSW Waratahs against the Western Force. They booed at halftime, then again at fulltime when their team’s slender lead had evaporated and they lost a match everyone expected them to win.
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So let’s get this straight. New Zealand teams can perform a ritualised tribal war dance before sporting contests, complete with throat-slitting gesture. But if the opposition has the temerity to encroach upon them, that’s unacceptable.
Worse than unacceptable. It’s a protocol breach apparently deserving of a $15,000 fine, which is the amount rugby’s governing body the IRB plans on slugging the French.
Prior to Sunday’s Rugby World Cup final, the All Blacks assumed their usual formation for their customary bout of tongue-wagging, eyeball popping and general silliness, culminating in the delightfully family-friendly act of throat-slitting.
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Beleaguered and hopelessly out-of-form Wallabies fly half Quade Cooper is currently suffering a barrage of hate of the sort usually reserved for criminals and lying politicians.
He doesn’t deserve it. He deserves a healthy dose of public scepticism after two truly terrible World Cup performances, but he doesn’t deserve the sort of bile being poured out across the internet today.
Before the Cup, Cooper was widely hailed as Australia’s great hope. Rod Macqueen, who coached the 1999 Wallabies to World Cup glory, said he was the one player with the “X-factor to make the difference”. Fairfax scribe Spiro Zavos called him “the Picasso of the pass”.
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Was a week that started with endless huffing and puffing over the carbon tax ever going to end in anything other than a black out?
The Wallabies didn’t lose their Rugby World Cup semi final against New Zealand last night because Quade Cooper kicked the very first ball of the match over the sideline, and was largely ineffectual thereafter. Though as omens go, that first kick was a doozy.
Neither, as some are suggesting, did they lose because of biased refereeing, or because the result was somehow influenced by telecast sponsor Tom Waterhouse - the son of a bookmaker implicated in Australia’s greatest racing scandal.
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Australians will have more to worry about than the jubilant crowing of four million kiwis if Quade Cooper et al fail to pull their finger out tomorrow night.
For the earth will move not just in Christchurch but throughout the land of the long white cloud if the All Blacks can overcome their choking form and progress to the final. Not for the country cousins a bit of scarf waving and a few Steinies to celebrate: Nope, the entire nation has promised they will literally root for the boys should victory come to pass.
Never mind Costello’s one for mum, one for dad and one for the country, the Kiwis are poised to deliver one for the All Blacks, with 96 per cent of the country saying they plan on having sex if New Zealand wins the Rugby World Cup.
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Prepare for a week of verbal warfare. Here on the civilised side of the ditch, expect perfectly hilarious sheep jokes, gibes about silly accents and clever references to the dole queue at the Bondi Junction branch of Centrelink.
Over in the land of the long white ugg boot, expect endless tedious quips about Quade Cooper, Quade Cooper and Quade Cooper. With a few Quade Cooper jokes thrown in for good measure.
Cooper is the Wallabies fly half who grew up in New Zealand but left when he was a schoolboy because his mother wanted him to play for a team that didn’t choke every World Cup. The Kiwi version of the story is that he left in order to raise the IQ of both countries.
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An NRL superstar is a hero to the town of Whakatane, on the coast of New Zealand’s North Island. His name is Benji Marshall.
Marshall grew up there. Part of his family still lives there. He went to the local school until he was offered a scholarship to play for a rugby league team on the Gold Coast when he was 16.
“He’s a legend mate,” says the events manager for the Whakatane district council, Mike Van Der Boom. Marshall and his team didn’t make it through to this evening’s Grand Final. But with the New Zealand Warriors through to only their second rugby league grand final ever and the country hosting a Rugby World Cup where the All Blacks are strong contenders for the title, football fever is in the air in Whakatane.
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When Australia’s universal good guy Pat Rafter makes Lleyton Hewitt look well-mannered, you know the Australian sporting universe has been turned on its head.
Everything went wrong for Australian sport this weekend. Everything. The NZ Warriors knocked Wests Tigers out of the NRL finals, Ireland beat the Wallabies in the Rugby World Cup, Sri Lanka dominated the cricket, and the Davis Cup turned ugly on court and off.
Sheesh, even the early Melbourne Cup favourite is now a Kiwi horse. But let’s talk about the two that really hurt – the Wallabies and Davis Cup.
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Australia’s national rugby team, the Wallabies, have just just hopped into the side of a very large truck.
The truck was driven by a bunch of Samoans masquerading as professional footballers, and has caused easily the biggest upset in world rugby in a decade.
This sad situation for Australian rugby, just eight weeks out from the World Cup, is made all the more amusing by the above-pictured story on Fox Sports this arvo, in which Wallaby player Nick Phipps was celebrated for his meteoric rise from third grade
The Queensland Reds are into the Super XV Rugby final - the first Australian team to make the final since NSW lost to the Crusaders in 2008.
The Brisbane-based team will now meet the Christchurch-based Canterbury Crusaders, in what will surely be billed as the battle of the two cities which nature attacked, or some such.
Speaking to friends on the weekend, both in person and on social media, a disturbing trend emerged. People who normally support other teams, like the NSW Waratahs and ACT Brumbies, were actually cheering for the Reds. Former Puncher and current news.com.au editor Paul Colgan was just one such turncoat.
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Sport’s weird, we all know that. In sport, men get paid to sit on benches and square enclosures are called rings. That’s just kooky. But something ultra, ultra weird has crept into Australian sport lately. I refer to the gratuitous apology.
On Monday, Western Bulldogs president David Smorgon took the bizarre step of apologising to fans and members for his team’s 123 point weekend shellacking at the hands of the West Coast Eagles – the club’s fourth worst loss in club history.
As extraordinary as this measure appears, it was not unprecedented. Hawthorn boss Jeff Kennett spent half of 2009 season apologising for the defending premiers’ woeful form. If only the nurses and teachers he sacked as premier were afforded such civility. Meanwhile, in Sydney last week, the NSW Waratahs Super 15 rugby team submitted themselves to the mother of all grovelling acts…
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Anyone who thinks multiculturalism is a flawed concept should take a close look at the Australian winter sporting landscape.
When the days shorten - the summer code has just wrapped up with Sydney FC winning the A-League - sports fans speak different languages, congregate in different churches and worship different gods. Even the ball has a different name. Some call it Sherrin. Others, Steeden. To others still, it is Gilbert.
Such sectarianism would mean all out war in most countries. But here, fans co-exist peacefully. We are separate, yet united, by a common religion called football.
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As a rugby union fan this is something I have wanted to say for many years and this experiment in discussing the merits of the code is really an excuse to get it off my chest. I can’t stand rugby league.
It is just a bunch of meatheads running into each other repeatedly for 80 minutes. Most games are low-scoring affairs with extended periods of shuffling the ball up the pitch 30 yards before kicking it to the other team. And then it starts again.
For some reason the TV commentators treat this kind of action as if every bloke running into another bloke is the most exciting thing they have seen since the bike Santa left for them when they were five. They use the vocabulary of five-year-olds too.
Losing is not something we like to talk about much at this time of year.
We’re reminded of the greatest premiership winning teams, the possibility of St. Kilda or Parramatta breaking the drought or Geelong or Melbourne Storm cementing their place as real champion teams.
But given that the team or individual that we follow is more often going to lose the premiership, not win the gold, or fail at the World Cup, our experiences with losing are arguably are more important in defining our support of the team or person than that of winning.
So in the lead up to the two biggest sporting weekends of the year The Punch writers have compiled, in no particular order, the ten teams or people that have let us down or just not performed when it mattered in Australia’s recent sporting history. What are yours?
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Against my better judgment I turned on the rugby union on Saturday night to see the Wallabies vs the All Blacks, traditionally the biggest game on the Australian rah rah calendar.
It was probably at about the time of the fourth penalty for lying on the ball, or wrong side of the ruck or possibly, being rugby, driving the wrong make of luxury 4WD, that the remote finger got awfully itchy.
Soon I was simultaneously keeping up with the cricket, the silly science fiction movie on Channel 10 and Gordon Bray’s running commentary on how that wasn’t really a penalty under law 543, sub section b of the improperly binding to a maul code.
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