20 things you might’ve missed
In one hell of a second act, Shane Gould re-emerges into the public eye and wins reality-TV competition Survivor. From watching the show, we see that the 61-year-old can still swim, and is supremely canny with the political machinations. Olympic committee boss John Coates was moved to say, rather obtusely: “There’s something special about the Olympic spirit. It can produce the very best in individuals, it can bring nations together and can even sway the Tribal Council.”
Young Liverpool star Trent Alexander-Arnold plays world chess champ Magnus Carlsen, loses in 17 moves. Alexander-Arnold later says football and chess share similarities, which should worry Reds fans.
Newly retired rugby league star Billy Slater moves into a football club front office – only it happens to be the AFL’s St Kilda. Slater’s role is in leadership development, and judging how the Saints have gone in recent years, Billy will be very busy.
The AFL formalises its long-mooted rule changes, including its diabolical-sounding six-six-six set-up, which will keep a half-dozen players in each third of the ground at centre bounces. The more profound visual change is the 18m goal square, double the size of the current one. The AFL justified the changes, noting a trial in the VFL produced a 15 percent scoring increase; stats-inclined observers noted that the sample was a miniscule three matches.
Kurt Fearnley wins The Don. The Paralympic champ becomes the first athlete with a disability to win the award, which recognises the most inspirational sporting feat of the year.
The first father-daughter AFL draft selection is made with Carlton nominating Abbie McKay. She’s the kid of Andrew, a 244-gamer and premiership player for the Blues. Andrew noted to the club website: “You hear of players you played with whose wives are pregnant: when it’s a boy, everyone says ‘fantastic, the next father-son’. If it’s a girl, it’s a ‘congratulations, but they won’t play footy’. Certainly that’s changed now.”
Usain Bolt gets a test notice from ASADA, grumbles that he’s not a professional footballer yet. The sprint god does eventually get a contract offer, then knocks it back. Former Socceroo Sasa Ognenovski puts the most fitting epitaph on the Mariners’ Bolt experience: “In the football world, you’re a nobody.”
The Parramatta Eels say they won’t play in the new Western Sydney Stadium, leading to the absurd prospect of Parra not playing in a building built in, and for, Parramatta. Sanity eventually prevails, as the club finally agrees to a 15-year deal at the 30,000-seater.
Cirque du Soleil is making a show based on the life of Lionel Messi. This is one of those weird things that makes unusual sense, incorporating Messi’s sublime skill into Cirque’s acrobatic artistry. Can’t wait to see the character representing Luis Suarez.
A Queensland government report finds the nation lost $1.06b on sports betting in 2016-17, a 15 percent increase on the previous finding. Sports betting is the big growth category – with all those ads and apps, hard to believe, yeah? But electronic gaming/casino/lotteries still make up the bulk of the gambling take, as Australians lost more than $23.7b.
Boxer Canelo Alvarez signs an 11-fight, US$365m deal with streaming service DAZN. It’s touted as the single richest athlete contract ever, and an indicator of the future; rather than putting the Mexican idol’s fights on pay-perview, where he would be boxing’s biggest draw, he can instead be seen for a $10 monthly subscription.
The Gold Coast Suns are slammed all through the offseason for a departure-wracked list that isn’t considered AFL-standard. Enter doyen Kevin Sheedy: “When you think of the Gold Coast, really they’ve been there for five minutes and they’re ahead of Carlton – and Carlton have been there for 140 years ... I’d be worried about Carlton more than Gold Coast.”
English racing commentator Ma Chapman claims Winx was regarded as average in Britain, having beaten only “fairly moderate” opponents. Chris Waller and the local racing industry fire up. Winx, we’re guessing, did not care because she’s a horse.
Everyone’s favourite high-performance manager, Pat Howard, will quit his cricket post after next year’s Ashes. We’ll watch with interest to see which person from another sport Cricket Australia will bring in to tell our cricketers how they’re doing, and who all the ex-players will bitch about.
The AFL will play Shanghai matches for another three years. That Port Power fan club in China is really coming along. St Kilda will be the other end of the fixture, and no doubt the Chinese will ask why we name sports teams after saints.
The Australian Financial Review’s Young Rich List places 13 sportspersons in the top 100 – only tech and finance do better. But if you want to be fit and rich, pro sport isn’t the place to be – fitspo Instagrammers fare as well, with Kayla Itsines’s near-half-billion fortune crushing any other Aussie athlete. The lesson: kids, if you want to be rich at a young age, forget about school and get really good at sport or social media.
The Aussie timbersports team wins a record fifth world championship. (Why doesn’t Cricket Australia get someone from the Chopperoos for their high-performance role?) Star woodsman – and man with a name made for his game – Laurence O’Toole wins the individual title.
Tour de France unveils its 2019 route in what is being touted as the “highest in history” (it’s probably less ironic in French). The great race will have a record 30 mountain passes and five summit finishes, three above 2000m. In what is seen as a bid to rein in Team Sky’s dominance, the Tour is also pushing for a ban on power meters – organiser Christian Prudhomme said the device “annihilates the glorious uncertainty of sport”. That surely sounds great in French.
Ben Simmons says he wants to play one season in the AFL for Essendon before he’s finished his sporting career. Bombers’ chief executive Xavier Campbell tweets back: “Just let us know.”
The takeaways we’ll always remember from Cricket Australia’s ethics review after the ball-tampering scandal: that the players live in a “gilded bubble” that cuts them off from real life; that the vice-captaincy should no longer be seen as the role of heir apparent; that the Allan Border Medal, self-consciously modelled on footy B&Fs, didn’t sufficiently recognise on-field behaviour. Last, best word goes to former England captain Michael Vaughan, on the Players’ Pact: “Cringeworthy. Smile with us, dream with us. What a load of bullshit.”