One for the history books-why Rugby League need more Rabbitohs

DelDuca

Joseph Del Duca writes passionately about his beloved Rabbitohs. Fate had better bring triumph or…well, you ask him what.

Recently I've been forced to eat my own words but in a very
happy way. In April this year, at the start of the rugby league season, I said:
"I wasn't sure how many more seasons of pain," I could endure as a
Rabbitohs supporter on my biography page. Fast forward to September, and the
mighty Red and Green are just one game away from playing in their first grand
final in 41 years.

Saturday night, against Canterbury-Bankstown is the game in
question. So far an estimated crowd of between 65,000 – 80,000 people are
expected.  This makes it the
biggest game this season. So what is it that makes this game such a sell a huge
event compared to all the others? In my opinion there are two figures that
cause this, 1908 and 1935. 1908 is the year South Sydney Rabbitohs were
founded, and 1935 is the year Canterbury-Bankstown began its side.

Many have tried and failed to tell us that we need to be
passionate about a sporting team. In the dark days of the Super League War we
were given the Hunter Mariners, the South Queensland Crushers and the Adelaide
Rams. The NBL has tried to convince us to follow the Western Sydney Razorbacks
and the A League tries valiantly to convince us that we have an immense rivalry
with people from the Central Coast. In spite of this we still see the NBL sail
to the edge of bankruptcy. The A League continuously struggles to find
relevance, and the NRL consistently fails to achieve impressive crowd figures.
The reason is simple; you can't buy history.

Whilst teams like the Crushers, and the Rams, and the Storm
are made with names and mascots that sound cool and are supposed to excite,
Australians don't buy it. We are a nation that is proud of our history and
strongly believe in our traditions. The Rabbitohs means something to people. It
reminds Australia of a time and a place in our history. There was a time when
first-grade rugby league players were not on big money contracts, and training
full time. They would rather spend Saturday mornings walking through the
neighbourhood, hawking rabbits with the traditional cry of 'Rabbitoh' echoing
through all of Redfern. That name was not derived from focus groups, or to
intimidate. It meant something to the South Sydney area in the early 1900's and
the Australian mentality still warms to this connection today.

Canterbury-Bankstown has a similar connection to its
community. Clubs like these share a long rich history and have grown a massive
support base because of it. Both teams share a common bond in hating the
Roosters. This isn't a rivalry conceived by marketers trying to tell fans how
they should feel about certain teams. Rivalries are things that happen over
time, they are forged by history and cannot be manufactured on whim.

This has been something that the AFL has always done a lot
better than all the other sporting codes in Australia. It doesn't matter if
they are coming first or last. When Collingwood plays Essendon on ANZAC Day at
the MCG, it will be a sell-out crowd. Geelong vs Hawthorn, a sell-out crowd,
and when Richmond plays Carlton you will again witness massive crowds. All of
these clubs are from the Melbourne CBD, which flies in the face of the argument
that we have too many rugby league teams in Sydney. The problem isn't too many
teams in Sydney; the problem is, rugby league’s lack of attention to history
and tradition. If left to flourish the rivalries would still exist. The Western
Suburbs Magpies vs Manly Warringah Sea Eagles clash would have continued as the
fibros vs the silvertails, The North Sydney Bears and their legacy would still
be going strong.

In rugby league land we have reached euphoria because of one
game attracting a crowd over 65,000. So far this season, the AFL has exceeded
this figure 13 times. This is because of their respect of tradition. The clubs
more or less wear the same jerseys, and kept same names for the past 100 years.
Rivalries have been given a chance to grow. The AFL has not needed to fabricate
stories; history has generated them.

The lesson of tradition is something I have always held very
dear. It is something I think about when considering debate about changing the
Australian Flag. Our flag has history; people have fought under it in times of
war, they have achieved great heights while representing us beneath it. You
cannot simply change that and expect people to feel the same way toward the new
version as they do with the old.

This Saturday night we will see history reigning proud in
our coveted sport of rugby league. Two teams will battle to the end. Who you
support doesn’t really matter because you know we are promised a game that will
be impossible to ignore. For the Rabbitohs this could bring them one step
closer to their first premiership in 41 years. Whatever the result, rivalry
will continue to grow and prosper. Fans of both teams will go home some happy,
some sad, but all will be eager for another match. These are moments when history
is made and the next generation of fans become inspired.

 Joseph Del Duca is a Mortgage Broker based in Sydney’s Inner West. He has previously worked as a Media and Communications Advisor to Federal Members of Parliament. Joseph’s two major interests are finance and politics. He enjoys all sports along with any other realm of life where two humans are competing against each other. He has a particular love of rugby league but is not sure how many more seasons of pain he can endure as a Rabbitohs supporter. 

Andy’s 2011 Melbourne Cup Tips

The Emirates Melbourne Cup is being held today at Flemington Race course.

I have a limited knowledge of horse racing and the purpose of this article is primarily fun.

My top picks are Dunaden, Niwot, Americain, Jukebox Jury, Drunken Sailor and Illo.

The best way to implement this strategy is via a ‘box trifecta’ on the top 6 horses (see your local bookie for a description of this bet).

 

Good Luck and gamble responsibly.

 

Follow Andy on twitter

The rotting state of the gentleman’s game

Joshua-Bell The ICC's refusal to accept John Howard's nomination as its Vice President raises questions about the integrity of the Council, writes Joshua Bell.

With great dismay, I have been following the debacle surrounding the International Cricket Council’s rejection of former Prime Minister John Howard’s nomination to be its vice-president (and therefore future president).

These events expose a grim reality that has been kept under the radar for some time and, to paraphrase Marcellus’ famous statement in Hamlet, something is rotten in the world of cricket.

Allow me to start by setting the scene.

The ICC is cricket’s premium body, much like FIFA is for football. It organises major international events such as the World Cup, appoints match officials, and co-ordinates anti-corruption and match-fixing efforts.  It is comprised of 104 members, of which only ten are full Test playing nations. These ten are the governing members of the ICC, who decide who will be the ICC president.

These ten nations are divided into regions. The African region is represented by South Africa and Zimbabwe; the Asian region is comprised of Sri Lanka, Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh; Australia and New Zealand are from the East Asia-Pacific region; and Europe and the Americas are respectively represented by England and the West Indies.

My understanding is that protocol dictates that the presidency of the ICC is shared among these regions in a cyclical fashion.  That is, they take turns to nominate the President.  In 2012, the Presidency of the ICC will belong to East Asia-Pacific. John Howard is the nominated candidate. However, he has been rejected by the Afro-Asia voting bloc, which comfortably dominates the ICC.  As Malcolm Conn from The Australian notes, “cricket’s seven Afro-Asian countries…could not even look Howard in the eye” when they refused to permit him to address the ICC board or allow a formal vote on the issue. They simply stonewalled his nomination. 

The question that needs to be asked is why.

Suspiciously, the ICC refuses to disclose its reasons and it seems that even Howard has been kept in the dark.  Nonetheless, insiders point to his strong anti-Mugabe stance and his lack of experience in cricket administration.

It is not difficult to quash these so-called ‘reasons’. 

Zimbabwe has been instrumental in the Afro-Asia bloc’s opposition to Howard’s candidacy. The source of their opposition is clear: while in office he championed strong sanctions against Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and his cronies.  That is to be expected from Zimbabwe. But since when has taking a strong stand against a dictator who has presided over a murderous regime, rampant political intimidation and rigged elections been a flaw worthy of rejection by cricket’s peak body? One can only be amazed at the hypocrisy of South Africa in supporting this argument, particularly when one remembers that it is led by the African National Congress which 20 years ago relied on economic sanctions in the name of democracy and human rights to help end apartheid. Perhaps solidarity with a fellow African nation, no matter how draconian, is more important than democratic principle?

Furthermore, the rejection of Howard on the basis of being unfamiliar with cricket administration is ludicrous. Howard can point to over eleven years as Prime Minister, having guided a highly prosperous economy, dealt with terrorism, war, the Asian financial crisis, GST, Waterfront and industrial relations reform – to name but a few challenges. No other candidate could come close to those credentials. Running the ICC would be a walk in the park for him. The Afro-Asia bloc also has the nerve to suggest that his political pedigree is an impediment; but, in so doing, they demonstrate their hypocrisy because the current ICC president, Sharad Pawar, is an Indian politician and former Defence Minister. Some even contend that Howard is unqualified because he has not been a cricket player.  I thought he was running for an administrative role, not Cricketer of the Year?

In short, the unofficial ‘reasons’ bandied around do not even require a detailed treatment to expose them as fundamentally flawed. 

Something far more sinister is at play here.

Consider the following facts.

In 2008 former ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed was sacked for attempting to expose dubious financial dealings by the Zimbabwean Cricket Board. The report he produced has never been published.

During the 2007/8 summer, umpire Steve Bucknor was sacked by the ICC at the insistence of the Indians for failing to give Andrew Symonds out caught behind. But when Harbhajan Singh was suspended for racially vilifying Symonds, the Indians threatened to withdraw from the series. And the ICC caved in. The double standards are tangible from space. Can you imagine what would have happened if matters had been reversed?

Furthermore, how is it that Mugabe’s Zimbabwe has been able to retain full voting rights and the millions in dividends that it receives by virtue of being a full member – yet the ICC banned apartheid South Africa?

The answer lies in corruption. Not so much in the sense of embezzlement, but in terms of favouritism, and a distinct lack of transparency, openness and accountability. Ironically, those are supposed to be the ICC’s guiding values.

There does not seem to be any other explanation for the facts mentioned and for the ICC’s recent rejection of Howard.

They know he will not tolerate financial mismanagement. He will keep members accountable. He will bring common sense to the role and not allow cricket to become the bastion of political correctness. In other words, he will restore the game’s reputation as a gentleman’s game. Something that the Afro-Asian dominated ICC has only tarnished through its double standards. Indeed, Conn sums these thoughts up when he writes that “a decent, well-run governing body would enthusiastically endorse its chief executive strictly enforcing propriety and good governance. Not the ICC”.

As if to highlight my point, the Indian Cricket authorities have now branded Howard a racist for rightly refusing to withdraw his candidacy. Of course – where logic fails, the race card comes to the rescue. 

The ICC no longer deserves the credibility it receives from Australia, New Zealand or England’s membership. As far as I am concerned, the Afro-Asia bloc can have their ICC until they are prepared to put aside politics and play fair.

In the meantime, may the game return to its traditional home at the MCC and Lord’s.

Joshua Bell is studying Law and International Studies at the University of Adelaide.

Victoria needs a serious look at Mixed Martial Arts

Clinton-Gale Legalising MMA is a good thing, writes Clinton Gale.

On Sunday February 21st this year Sydney hosted Australia’s first ever visit from American based institution Ultimate Fighting Championship, commonly known as the UFC. Drawing an attendance of 17,831, tickets for the Acer Arena’s show sold out within an hour, making it the second fastest sell out time for a UFC event. The sport known as mixed martial arts (or MMA) is sweeping the world in popularity. UFC President Dana White stated he wishes to bring the event to Australia annually after the highly successful Sydney event, but due to current state regulations Melbourne is unable to host the UFC. 

While the sport of mixed martial arts is permitted within the state, the Victorian Minister for sports James Merlino outlawed the use of cage type apparatus in 2007 for such sporting events. His reason for banning the cage was simply that he felt it didn’t meet community standards. So what is the rationale behind having fights in a cage as opposed to a boxing ring one might ask? Granted, aesthetics play a big part in why organisers would want to use the cage but it’s also for the safety of the fighters. Given the rugby style tackles they perform on each other the boxing ring presents the possibility of falling out or getting tangled in the ropes. In relation to safety it’s also worth noting that MMA fighters suffer less head trauma than boxers.  

To a first time viewer of the sport it may look like a no holds barred, anything goes style of street fight but it actually involves many fighting styles such as boxing, muay thai (kickboxing style from Thailand), wrestling and Brazilian jiu jitsu, just to name a few. And there are over 30 ways for an opponent to commit fouls, for example: strikes to the groin, head kicks to a grounded opponent and heel kicks to the kidney. The referee will also stop the fight if one of the contestants is bleeding excessively. 

Once a more comprehensive analysis is done on the sport rather than reactionary assumptions, it is not unreasonable to ask that the ban on cages be lifted so that Melbourne, Australia’s sporting capital, can host a UFC event in the future. Apart from the obvious economical benefits it would bring to the state it may also (like an invisible hand) guide young males into the gym to learn a martial art which provides them with the physical and mental discipline, which in turn boosts their self esteem and could possibly address the knife carrying epidemic the city is currently facing.  Do a web search and you’ll find many gyms in your area already providing MMA training but in your neighbourhood you’re not seeing people getting choked out or tied up in wrestling holds. I’d say the naysayers are running out of ammunition.

Admittedly this is a violent and often bloody sport which is not to everyone’s taste. But no one is forcing you to watch it just as no one is forcing me to watch Better Homes and Gardens. This is yet another prime example of the Victorian state government’s failure to grasp an issue to its fundamental premise and just spin off some feel good policy for face value instead.

Clinton Gale is a former Liberal Democratic Party candidate and is involved in the Victorian branch of the LDP.