Are our sports being run by robocops?
For someone born into a world without credit cards, microwaves and television, transition into the realm of computers and the internet can be difficult.
When I was young the moon might as well have been a balloon as something to walk on.
I still like to go to the airport with a ticket, and to be on first-name terms with my bank manager.
If I want to buy a pair of jeans, I want to try them on rather than risk buying them on the internet.
If you’re old, it’s damn easy to be left groping in the dark, particularly when IT also hit our sports.
Enter the world of the sports scientist.
Be in no doubt, sports scientists are suffocating our sports, particularly football and cricket.
I was at the Eagles last year for a few months, primarily to do a bit of goal-kicking work with Jake Waterman.
On the first morning, forwards’ coach Jaymie Graham told me their sports scientists had decreed young Jake must never be allowed more than 30 shots on goal on any given day.
From that point on I knew that it was almost pointless me being there.
I had thousands of shots on goal during my career, over and above my normal training.
And in a 271-game career, plus 40-odd practice matches, I missed only one game because of a muscle-tear injury.
The Brayshaw brothers – Angus, Andrew and Hamish – put themselves through 100 x 100m sprints, one after the other, on Christmas Day last year.
Which Melbourne, Dockers or West Coast sports scientists were across that?
We’ve had Robocop, the movie; now we have Cricketcop – the sports science cowboys have got their lariats around cricket.
The result is that when the first Test against India began on Thursday our fast bowlers – Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins – were all underdone.
Cricket Australia fell into the trap of resting fast bowlers from Sheffield Shield matches last weekend, when they would have been better off playing competitive cricket.
Since the team came back from its disastrous series against Pakistan, Starc, Hazlewood and Cummins have played some white-ball cricket, which is hardly the preparation for a Test match.
They all should have played in round five of the Shield season.
This still would have enabled them to have a five-day break before the first Test against India, as well as providing necessary practice with the red ball in match conditions.
It was imbecilic to rest them. My mind goes back to great fast bowlers like Dennis Lillee, Jeff Thomson and Lenny Pascoe.
There’s no way any of them would miss a Shield game to rest. All of them would see it as part of their preparation.
Thommo once told me all this sports-science stuff was bullshit.
“We used to bowl in the nets for hours,” he said.
Spinners like Tony Lock, Richie Benaud and Shane Warne also toiled long and hard to perfect their craft.
Lockie said bowlers needed to send down 20 overs three times week at a target without a batsman to get “bowler fit”.
He would have struggled to run one lap around the WACA Ground without stopping, but he could bowl 30 overs unchanged in a match easily – because he was bowling fit.
Benaud also had two two- hour sessions over and above everything else, just to get his accuracy right and his bowling fitness up to standard.
Shane Warne didn’t become the master he was without bowling 25 overs in his spare time on every other afternoon .
Much of Warnie’s tutelage was under the watchful eye of Terry Jenner, but most of that workload was done over and above any other practice he was doing.
Alan Davidson wrote: “I lived near Richie Benaud and every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon we went to the SCG and did two hours of target practice before state training.
“We practised hard, until we could land the ball with the accuracy of shooting a rifle.”
Wasim Akram also spoke about the benefits he got from doing work in the nets over and above his normal training regime.
The microscopic monitoring of our Test cricketers is bad enough, but it would seem the sports science boys have got their claws into junior cricket as well.
Christ Church Grammar allrounder James Pike was due to play for his school against Wesley last weekend.
But because he had been selected in the under-19 WA team to go to the eastern states this week, he was stopped from playing.
I know full well what Christ Church coach Graham Wood would say about all of that!
Junior coaches are now constantly monitoring the number of balls being allowed to be bowled by youngsters. It’s bunk to do that with kids.
More time should be spent on getting actions right, while making certain that anybody with a method that is different (like a young Thommo) is allowed to develop naturally, particularly if he’s quick.
Nothing good will emerge from introducing sports scientists at junior level, and I even wonder if it’s helping at all with the guys at Test level.
Our fast bowlers are still going down like wooden milk bottles at a country fair with one injury or another.
Maybe it’s time we just let them bowl.
Paceman Mitchell Starc in action.