Wowsers can breathe easy as smok­ing guns en­joy Ashes

The Weekend Australian - - SPORT - WALLY MASON ma­sonw@theaus­ @wal­ma­son

It may be a slightly po­lit­i­cally in­cor­rect view, but there was some­thing en­tirely re­as­sur­ing about the pic­tures of off-duty Aus­tralian crick­eters, some of them a lit­tle un­steady on their feet, in the me­dia this week.

Af­ter a dom­i­nant Ashes sum­mer in which the Poms were dis­patched without mercy, the play­ers let their hair down with a good, old-fash­ioned 10-hour vic­tory cel­e­bra­tion at bar tsar Justin Hemmes’s trendy east­ern Syd­ney wa­ter­ing hole, the Coogee Pavil­ion.

In these days of me­dia man­age­ment, sports science and con­trac­tual obli­ga­tions it is good to see that age-old con­cepts such as a few beers af­ter win­ning a cricket se­ries are alive and well. This is a much more ab­stemious age than the one that saw many crick­eters try and fail to match the num­ber of tin­nies con­sumed by David Boon on the flight to Eng­land — for the record, 52. But the wowsers don’t have com­plete con­trol.

By all re­ports, it was a con­vivial but well-man­nered cel­e­bra­tion. No ex­cesses, no out­rages. No one was hurt, no one was abused. Just a group of blokes who had given it all to claim the Ashes giv­ing them­selves a wellde­served re­ward.

And to those who tut-tut­ted over the pic­ture of Shaun Marsh and Jack­son Bird caught nip­ping out for a smoke … take a chill pill. Al­though their coach Dar­ren Lehmann sneaks the odd dart, no one in the Aus­tralian team is a reg­u­lar smoker. Marsh, in fact, is renowned as one of the fittest play­ers in Aus­tralian cricket.

And again, we are a long way from the era when Doug Walters was a brand am­bas­sador for a cig­a­rette com­pany and fa­mously had shirts made up with two pock­ets to hold two pack­ets of fags — his daily ra­tion.

And then there is Shane Warne, who took money to give up smok­ing and then chased a Kiwi young­ster around a cricket ground af­ter he took a pic­ture of him sneak­ing a fag.

Walters, it has to be said, no longer smokes thanks to a suc­cess­ful en­counter with hyp­nother­apy.

Fin­ger off the pulse

A less com­mend­able Ashes cel­e­bra­tion in­volved the Moomba-like mon­stros­ity that was wheeled on to the SCG at the end of play on Mon­day.

It was not just cul­tural com­men­ta­tors who gagged at the gauche tri­umphal­ism of the back­drop that fea­tured four raised fin­gers, washed in the pat­tern of the Aus­tralian flag and lit up by a fire­works dis­play that looked like the lo­cal high school kids neigh­bour­hood Kiss con­cert. Spinal Tap comes to mind.

Seems the play­ers weren’t too happy ei­ther, with re­ports the team man­ager and me­dia man­ager were seen in heated con­ver­sa­tion with mar­ket­ing types who had come up with the idea. One English re­porter, Charles Sale of the Daily Mail, scut­tled be­neath the stands and found a three-fin­gered ver­sion of the pa­tri­otic palm, which must have been pre­pared in case the Syd­ney Test was a draw. At least mar­ket­ing had all bases cov­ered.

Spon­sors calls stumps

To lose one spon­sor may be re­garded as a mis­for­tune, but to lose sev­eral — as Os­car Wilde was wont to say — looks like care­less­ness.

And Cricket Aus­tralia is be­gin­ning to look ex­tremely care­less af­ter los­ing yet an­other one this week. Nes­tle and CA an­nounced the end is nigh for the re­la­tion­ship that has sup­ported the ju­nior cricket pro­gram Milo Cricket. Milo in­2CRICKET and Milo T20 Blast will con­tinue un­til the end of the sea­son, but it’s not clear who will be feed­ing the men in­side our lit­tle boys — and girls — next year.

Nes­tle’s de­ci­sion comes just a few months af­ter CUB and the Com­mon­wealth Bank failed to re­new long­stand­ing deals with CA, which ex­pired this year, open­ing the way for listed fund man­ager Mag­el­lan. And now there are ru­mours KFC could be think­ing twice about re­new­ing its spon­sor­ship of the Big Bash next sea­son.

Tae think again, Lawrie

Ex­tro­vert Lawrie McKinna, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the New­cas­tle ALeague club, doesn’t mind putting him­self out there in his bid to get fans through the gates for Jets games.

But he took it to a new level be­fore the F3 Derby against Cen­tral Coast Mariners at McDon­ald Jones Sta­dium ear­lier in the week.

A proud Scots­man, McKinna daubed his face in blue and did his best Mel Gib­son Brave­heart im­per­son­ation in a video posted on so­cial me­dia to drum up sup­port. “It’s not Mel Gib­son, it’s Lawrie McKinna here be­fore the F3 Derby,” he said. “Kids get in free, but it isn’t quite free­dom. Jets fans, Mariners fans come along. If you see a guy walk­ing around in a kilt, it will be me ... just don’t try look­ing un­der it.”

It worked, of course, with the Jets draw­ing 13,127 for the game — eas­ily the big­gest crowd of the round — and win­ning the game 2-0. The Mariners, the team McKinna once coached, were sent scur­ry­ing back across Hadrian’s Wall in dis­ar­ray.

The chal­lenge is now out to the other A-League CEOs, with Syd­ney FC’s Danny Townsend sug­gest­ing a CEO pan­tomime.

Jonker, the un­cut gem

AWAAT is no tipster — we leave that sort of thing to turf ed­i­tor Bren­dan Cormick — but we do know a good omen bet when we see one. And you can’t go past Jonker, the $4.60 favourite in Satur­day’s 2YO Magic Mil­lions Clas­sic.

A mod­est amount of re­search reveals that The Jonker is a huge di­a­mond, found at the Elands­fontein mine in South Africa by Jo­hannes Ja­cobus Jonker in 1934. The di­a­mond was 726 carats, which at the time was the fourth-largest un­cut gem ever found. And it last changed hands in 1977 for $2.2 mil­lion — pretty much what it’s worth to win the Magic Mil­lions. It will come as no sur­prise that Doug Crich, the man­ag­ing owner of Jonker, is a jew­eller.

Handy’s foot in mouth

The late Stan Pilecki was such a larger than life char­ac­ter that pretty much any story about him is be­liev­able, al­though his old Queens­land front-row part­ner Chris Handy did ad­mit to tak­ing a few lib­er­ties at his ex­pense.

A Syd­ney jour­nal­ist one day spot­ted that Handy had lost a lit­tle toe and nat­u­rally asked him what had hap­pened. “Stan!” Bud­dha replied. “I was bare­foot in the dress­ing room one day and Stan, big bear that he is, ac­ci­den­tally trod on my foot. He did so much dam­age that they had to am­pu­tate.”

The jour­nal­ist was hor­ri­fied but recog­nised a good yarn when he heard one. “Has any­one ever writ­ten about that?” he asked. “No, I don’t sup­pose they have.”

Sure enough, the news­pa­per the fol­low­ing day car­ried the story about how “friendly fire” from Pilecki had cost Handy his toe.

But 40 years later, Handy was hav­ing an at­tack of con­science. “I ac­tu­ally lost the toe in a child­hood ac­ci­dent. But I just wanted to see how much I could get away with ...”

When the sub­ject was Pilecki, the an­swer was “plenty”.


Cum­mins and Smith

Lawrie McKinna

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