Wowsers can breathe easy as smoking guns enjoy Ashes
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