Time’s up

Tennis has lost a couple of great names from tennis in the last couple of weeks, with Serena Williams and Roger Federer announcing their retirement.

In the way of our times, reflecting their stature in the game, both became known by their Christian names. All of us were comfortable talking of them by their first names, confident that we wouldn’t be misunderstood.

Williams retired after her loss in the US Open. For the last few years, she’s been attempting to win one more grand slam title to make her level with Margaret Court as the most successful grand slam winner. She was older, though, she had fitness issues, and it was never to be.

In the wake of her retirement, there was all the usual hyperbole. Many said she was the GOAT. Others claimed she changed the game. I’m reluctant to say too much about her – I wasn’t a fan. Much of the commentary was over the top, but that, too, is the way of our times. It also attests to the force of recency and perhaps sentiment. When the dust settles, we might see a truer evaluation of her legacy.

For mine, Graf has been the best women’s tennis player I’ve seen. She played in an era of greater competition and was a complete player, whereas Williams overpowered her rivals.

I feel differently about Roger. Putting aside his sublime skills as a tennis player, what he possessed in spades is the quality that Williams lacked: grace.

Roger will be remembered as a wonderful player who competed in an era of greats. He took to the court and played with artistry and a casual flair. Many will say he is the GOAT among male players, and I think he has a better claim to it. I’m inclined to think he might be the best player I’ve seen, but even so, his great rivals also have a decent claim to it. That attests to the quality of the modern game in men’s tennis and elevates Roger’s stature.

He was always a joy to watch on the court and a gentleman off it. He played with such effortless grace, but it was his grace off the court that endeared him to millions. He was a humble winner and a generous loser. He is a reasonable, decent human being, kind of heart and with a quirky sense of humour – at least, that’s how he seems from the outside.

I’ll miss him. I always wanted him to win.

I love September

I love September. Spring has come and the days are brighter and warmer, and the long, cold winter finally comes to an end. It’s the transition from one phase to another, and by the end of the month the barbecues are getting their first go at it for the season. And, if you’re an AFL fan, the finals are here. There’s a vibe in the air. An expectancy. Excitement. This is it, what it’s all about.

It’s the first week of AFL finals and what an absolute fucking cracker it’s been! I can’t recall a better set of finals games on the same weekend. In one game, the lead changed 20 odd times before the winning goal was kicked with about a minute to go. In another, a team came from 7 goals down to win. The least of the games was close and tight and full of pressure, and the best, yesterday, was a brutal, see-sawing match at the MCG before a raucous crowd of 93,000.

My relationship with footy has been more ambivalent this season. There have been some great games and it’s been a good season, but the performance of my team, combined with disaffection with the declining standard of umpiring, has seen me tune off more than ever before.

I used to be a footy junkie. I’d watch just about every game available on TV, and for many years I’d attend over a dozen games a season. My health has impacted on that, but I only attended three matches this year (ironically, all victories). On TV, I might start watching a match, but will often be off it by half time doing or watching something else. My interest couldn’t be sustained if my team wasn’t in it – and, sadly, often then also.

This weekend has been entirely different. I’ve watched every game and been thrilled and enthralled. It’s like returning to church and rediscovering the beauty of devotion.

I know everyone says this about their favourite sport, but I have very little doubt that nothing matches the sheer spectacle and excitement of a good game of Aussie Rules. There’s tremendous skill and unparalleled athleticism, big hits that verge on the brutal, and high performance under conditions of extreme pressure. And it has fantastic romance. It’s the greatest game in the world.

I’ll be watching for the remainder of the finals series, likely on the edge of my seat. For the record, I think the Grand Final will be the Sydney Swans versus either Geelong or Melbourne (a preliminary final worthy of a grand final if Melbourne makes it that far).

I’m unwilling to pick a winner. The Swans should make it because they have home finals, and there’s no team as disciplined or hard at it and which makes such good decisions under pressure. But then Geelong have been the best team all year, and Melbourne is the reigning premier whose best is superior to every other team. And, it’s possible, that some other team might sneak through. It’s finals footy – anything’s possible.

As for my mob – I hope they’re watching and it burns deep that they’re not a part of it. It starts with desire. Be there, do it. Next year.

A line in the sand

If you’re an Aussie bloke, there’s an excellent chance you love your sport. Grow up in a town like Melbourne, and odds on, you’re into footy specifically. This is a footy town, an AFL town, and as much as I love other things – music, books, movies, travel, food, etc. – I’m as caught up as any Aussie bloke generally in sport, and as many Melburnian when it comes to footy.

It gets you early. From when you’re a tyke, you have your team, and no matter the travails they go through, the ups and downs, the infuriating lows, the exhilarating highs, you’re stuck with them for life if you’re a true supporter. They belong to you, and you belong to them.

My team is Essendon. I follow them because my dad did. He followed them because he grew up in Strathmore, not far from the Essendon home ground at Windy Hill. The rest of the family barracked for Carlton, a fate worse than death in my book. Just imagine!

Not that I’m in a position to be cocky, unfortunately. I’ve been lucky enough to witness a lot of success. I’ve been in the crowd three times when we won the premiership and once when we lost. In those days, Essendon was brilliant and brutal on the field – admired, feared, often hated, which is just the way you like it as a supporter. More than once, I was called an ‘arrogant Essendon supporter’ and took no offence at all at the description. Yeah, suck on it; I would think and occasionally say aloud.

Off the field, we were powerful, ruthless and progressive. We were one of the big clubs in the league, wealthy and historically successful (much like Carlton, I hate to say – which is one reason we hate each other so much. Alphas, going head to head). We had that swagger, but we were also leaders in embracing indigenous culture and event footy. Great team that we had for many years, we also had an iconic coach.

It all started going sour around 15-odd years ago. We’d won the flag in 2000 in what is probably the most single-season dominant team in the game’s history. By the mid-2000’s we were treading water.

We’ve been mediocre ever since, and the only time we weren’t was amid the catastrophic supplements saga. I think it ruined the club on and off-field and severely impacted the psyche of Essendon supporters. Like many, I think we were scapegoated, and the charges against us unsubstantiated. Like many, I remain bitter and angry over it.

We’re a big club, so we survived it, but much of the soul went out of the place. I think a part of the problem is that after initially resisting, the club gave way to the AFL and afterwards looked to brush it all under the carpet. It left a lot of unresolved tensions that affect us to this day. We toned down our voice looking to appease rather than stand up for our values. It’s an attitude that has infected the club psyche. Commercially we go gangbusters, but our core business is winning footy matches, and that’s been fucking awful.

In the last few days, the pattern of mediocrity and poor decision-making has been challenged. It’s been clumsy and ugly to observe from a distance, but probably necessary. Had the board made the right call earlier when it was obvious to everyone else, the shitshow currently in progress would not have been necessary. But, as an Essendon supporter, let me say that I’d rather this shitshow than no shitshow.

As it stands, the board chairman has resigned/deposed. The new chairman has made bracing comments about a ‘line in the stand’ – a phrase resonant with supporters (and obviously said for that reason). He’s called for an external review, which is what should have happened months ago, and rumours aswirl about us going after the best coach in the land.

It’s not pretty. I don’t think the club has handled it particularly well, but I also wonder how much is just media speculation. The current coach, a lovely guy, has been treated pretty poorly by events. He appears to be a dead man standing, though he continues to turn up at the club leading into our final game of the season.

By coincidence, I was out at the club facilities – the Hangar – last week. I’m a 50-year member (I signed up young), and among other perks, I was given a tour of the training facilities, which are the best in the league. I saw the premiership cups arrayed and flags on display and immersed myself in the history presented, as did the other fans with me. Come what may, I’m devoted.

As a long-time member, I miss the uncompromising attitude towards victory that was our birthright. Instead, we’ve become wishy-washy, which is just about the worse thing you can be. Nice and inoffensive. Fuckity fuck that.

We’re in the running, supposedly, to get the best coach of the last 20 years and one of the greatest of all time. He’s a cunt, and he’s always hated us, but he’s a successful cunt. Right now, we have an unsuccessful nice guy. Which do you prefer?

Great coaches are hard to come by. Even good coaches are rare. To my mind, the greats have an authority that compels success. It’s a mix of confidence, intelligence, and, above all, self-belief. They have a vision and are unafraid to pursue it, and their belief inspires others to follow and believe also. It’s that total buy-in and uncompromising standards that drive success.

We’ve lacked that. It’s a ruthless edge that for many years was our brand, but not for a long time. I want that again. I want to believe.

I’m sorry for our present coach. I think he’s been treated shabbily. We need to be better, which means a clean-out of the administration also, starting with the CEO. We need to become a football club again, first and foremost, with team success the number one KPI.

Watch this space. We’ll have a better idea in the next few days. It could be worse, of course. I might follow St Kilda. But it can be a lot better, too, and that’s what I’m counting on, one way or another.

The fall and rise

There was a moment the other week when I left the offsite meeting in the city that I was mighty tempted to find a good wine bar and sit there amongst my peers and indulge in something that, once so familiar, had become foreign to me. I imagined sitting at the bar and chatting to the bartender, as I have so often.

Most particularly, I imagined myself in conversation with an attractive stranger there for the same reason as I. I was ready, I thought, to re-enter the fray. The thought gave me delight. I remembered the feeling so well. There was pleasure in it and mystery, and half of it was that the outcome was unknown. I’d always been good at that. It was not always easy and sometimes challenging, but I was independent, confident and articulate, and this was life. Most of all, I craved the sense of vigour going down that path and the spice of flirtation, not knowing where it would lead.

I didn’t. I caught the train home. The day will come, however, when I will brave recent setbacks and put myself out there again.

I mention it now because it felt new. Like the first signs of regrowth. By the next day, I was feeling much more cynical, dismayed by the banality of the meeting I attended and feeling a general sense of alienation.

The day after that, though, a Saturday, it all changed again. For the first time in over a year, I went to the footy. I went to the MCG with a friend who barracked for the opposing side. We sat in the MCC members in the pale sunshine, a wicked chill in the air. I hardly expected my team to win, but they did, coming from behind in stirring fashion as the crowd roared.

I had forgotten that feeling. To be part of a crowd is to feel part of a living organism. It heaves and sighs. It roars and groans. Listen to it with your eyes closed, and you can follow the match by the rise and fall of human noise and the shouted comments from the crowd. I had been there hundreds of times before and felt a thrill to be back. I was alive to it.

We had a beer at halftime and another in the Percy Beames bar after the game. It was a happy, rambunctious crowd. About me, the crowd wore their team colours, mostly scarves, most in the red and black of my team, and a few in the red and white of the other.

I felt a part of a community again. For much of the past year, I have been alone, and more so once Rigby had gone. I was unwell and generally incapable, battling on looking towards a time when I would be well enough to be a part of society again.

Cancer is isolating, as much mentally as physically. There’s a sense of incapacity that is psychological. The disease, and the treatment for it, has left you weak and scarred. You have lost something and know it. It looms so immensely in your mind that everything else seems secondary. You have to get through it, have to survive.

There’s the perpetual regimen of specialists and treatment and medication – and pain, too. It’s a totally foreign way of living that you resign yourself to. Your friends are good, but you feel they look at you differently, and you feel in yourself something different. Cancer is scary to everyone, to those who have it and to those who don’t.

The trick is to get through it. Not everyone does, but I expect I will. That time is getting closer, and hence I raise my eyes to look further ahead and imagine a life beyond this.

I felt that on Saturday. I wasn’t alone. Here, in the crowd, a crowd of people who felt and thought as I did, there was a sense of brotherhood. I spoke to a couple in passing, enthused by our joint victory. I handed another his beer and talked to a girl waiting for her friends. In that living, heaving, boisterous crowd, I remembered what it was like to be part of a community.


I can’t believe that I’m here again about to write about the death of another Aussie cricketing icon. This time it’s Andrew Symonds, dead at 46 after a car accident.

He follows on from Dean Jones a couple of years ago, and Rod Marsh and Shane Warne within days of each other earlier this year. Every one of these players had notable careers on field, and were larger than life off it. They were big characters with a great presence. Each of them are sadly missed.

Andrew Symonds, or ‘Roy’ as he was known, is quite possibly the best fielder I’ve ever seen. It’s between him, Ponting and Viv Richards.

Symonds was a big man with amazing agility and athleticism. As an infielder he had an amazing reach and a great knack of hitting the stumps to run batters out. In the outfield he was quick with a great set of hands and a bullet arm.

That’s his great claim to fame, but he was a more than handy batsman who was devastating on his day and one of the biggest hitters you could hope to see. He was at his best in the limited overs fixtures which suited his all-round skills – he was also a very clever bowler. At his best, an absolute match winner. He played in Australia’s World Cup victories in 2003 and 2007.

Many commentators and just about all his teammates have said what a great bloke and team man he was. I think most of us in the outer could sense that. With his dreadlocks and zinc cream and the big smile he was a favourite of many. He was one of those guys you barrack for. You wanted him to do well.

In recent years, he’s become a commentator, notable for his dry wit and insight. He was such an Aussie – laid back, a straight shooter with a laconic sense of humour, and living the great dream of the outdoors. He was his own man, a gifted life that ended tragically and prematurely.

So sad that we’ve lost so many great names lately. It seems hardly conceivable, and you have to wonder why. I guess it’s just bad times – three of them died well before their turn.

2022 AFL season preview

The men’s AFL footy season starts tomorrow night, and I’ve been looking forward to it. So are others, and I’ve been reminded I’ve yet to post my annual pre-season preview. So, here goes.

Firstly, here’s my predicted ladder as at the end of the home and away season:

Brisbane Lions
Port Adelaide
Western Bulldogs

St Kilda
North Melbourne

It can change an awful lot as the finals start and teams hit form and injuries cut. I will say that the Demons remain my favourite to go back-to-back premiership winners, as they must be.

I’m not going to say much about Melbourne otherwise. They hit a rich vein of form last year and I think the victory will galvanise them to a more consistent performance. They have a good list and confidence counts for a lot.

I have Brisbane coming second because I think they were stiff last year and they have a decent home ground advantage.

Port Adelaide are flat-track bullies. Unless they can overcome their yips, this is as good as it gets. Another strong home advantage and clean, front running form should see them high on the ladder. But I think they need another decent tall forward and to overcome their baggage if they want to go further.

It’s with some trepidation have Richmond coming fourth. They missed out altogether last year, but won the three premierships before that. It wouldn’t surprise me to see them miss again but, though theyreaging, they still have the cattle.

I’ve got last year’s runners-up coming next. Despite finishing second, I never really rated Footscray that highly. They got on a streak in the finals, aided by a bit of luck, but had been a good ordinary side to that point. Great midfield, but too weak at either end otherwise I think.

Geelong. Another team I could see falling out of the eight. Very professional, but very old, too. Nup.

I’ve got my team next. They surprised last year and have some great young talent and a deep midfield. They could miss the eight also, but I also think they’re capable of topping the ladder. They’re an exciting, mercurial team on the cusp. Hard to eat come 2024.

Carlton. What can I say, except I despise them? Okay, other than that, they’ve got the talent, but they’ve underperformed for years. It gets in your DNA. I’ve got them in the right, but if they fail again no-one will be surprised.

Last year the Swans played finals, to the surprise of most. They’re a good young team with a stellar coach. They’ll go close again this year, but reckon they just miss out. This will be a consolidation year for them. They’ll be up next year (not dissimilar toEssendon).

I’ve got GWS missing out because they have the cutting-edge, though they did well last year. Freo are developing, have recruited well, and have a fine coach, but are not there yet.

St Kilda are one of those frustrating teams who show a bit, then fall in a hole. Haven’t the depth or class. Speaking of holes, Collingwood fell into a deep one last year and lost their long-term coach in the process. I think they’ll have their moments this year, but will be inconsistent. They’ve lost good players in trading fiasco, but have picked upon of the best recruits in the draft last year.

The Gold Coast Suns have the talent, it’s the belief they’ve lacked. I think they’ll have some exciting wins, but still some way off it. The Eagles are almost the opposite of the GCS in mentality, being regular finalists. Not this year. They’ve had a miserable off-season and are crippled by injury, and are getting old. They might get a few wins at home, but that’ll be it.

I like Adelaide. They’ve got good young players and play a good style. And I think Nicks is a good coach for them. Too young still though, too inconsistent, but can see them riding up the ladder next year perhaps.

Second last I have North Melbourne, last year’s wooden spooners. I think they’re promising but undeveloped yet. They’ve recruited we’ll, including potentially the best player in last year’s draft, and are coached we’ll in all the important fundamentals. Might cause a few upsets.

Then there’s Hawthorn, who I’ve marked down to win this year’s wooden spoon. One may accuse me of bias as I dislike Hawthorn also, and this is a big comedown for the team that dominated through the middle of the last decade.

The big story for them is that they won’t be coached by the man rated as the best coach of the modern era: Alastair Clarkson. They lose about 3-4 goals a game just with him departing. Even in their decline they regularly over-performed because of Clarkson. Not this time.

In his place the Hawthorn have appointed club champion Sam Mitchell. He’s touted as having one of the best footy rains going around, but he’s also an out and out cunt. I don’t care how smart he is, the modern football player doesn’t respond to cold, sociopathic personalities like him. I think he’ll be a dud.

The turmoil at the end of last year won’t have helped either, and an aging list.

That’s my say. Let’s see how much I get right.

Legends gone

A couple of days ago came the news that legendary Australian wicketkeeper had passed away, failing to recover from a heart attack a couple of days before. It was sad news. He was 74.

For Australians of my age, he was the national wicketkeeper we grew up with in the seventies and eighties. He was an iconic character, tough as teak and larger than life. He was a big-hitting batsman and great – sometimes spectacular – behind the stumps. To look at he epitomised the term ‘burly’, stocky and powerful, and with one of those big moustaches so many Australian cricketers carried in the era. His was second only to Lillee’s in repute.

Of course, that was the great cricketing partnership time. Caught Marsh, bowled Lillee became almost a slogan, and no bowler-wicketkeeper combo has effected more dismissals in history.

I was there at the MCG when he scored a century against England in the centenary test. I can recall him hitting 26 off a Lance Cairns over in an ODI. He was a true legend, a really good bloke, and a great storyteller. He’s another of my youth gone, reminding me that I too, am getting older.

Marsh seemed indestructible, his death hit hard, but it wasn’t a great shock. I never expected the death of another cricketing legend just a couple of days later. That was truly shocking.

I woke up to the news this morning. I saw on my phone that tributes were rolling in for Shane Warne. What’s he done now? I wondered.

He had died on holiday in Thailand. He was 52.

Warne had led such a lifestyle that a premature death was always possible, yet he was such an immense character, on the field and off it, that it seemed hardly possible. Everyone knew him, many had an opinion of him, whether they liked cricket or not. I read in shock, and tears came to my eyes from the sheer immensity of it.

The term GOAT is much used and abused these days, but Shane is indisputably that. He may be the greatest cricketer of all time. He’s certainly the greatest leg-spinner of all time, and possibly best bowler full stop. Yet none of that does him justice.

He was a generation after Marsh, but another we all watched as his career took off. His story is amazing. Most of us watching him were enchanted and often amazed by his feats. We were so happy he was an Aussie! To the rest of the world he inspired awe and fear.

He took over 700 test wickets, so many of them dramatic and memorable. So many times worked batsmen over psychologically, bowling spin with the attitude of a quickie. He was a match-winner and match-turner. Never beaten, he would transform matches with his guile, talent and sheer determination. As every champion is, he was a winner.

He’s famous for the ‘ball of the century’, which is very Hollywood and entirely him. Of my memories, I’ll never forget how he bowled Australia to victory against England in Adelaide when we looked done. And likewise, the 1999 World Cup when he turned the semi-final against South Africa. And when he took his 700th wicket at the MCG.

Reciting his cricketing career hardly does him justice. He was an individual who transcended his sport. There has been no bigger character in international cricket. I can’t think of bigger character in Australian sport.

Controversial, opinionated, incorrigible, he was the ordinary bloke elevated to international stardom. There was something very Australian about him, the irreverent larrikin who lived life to the full. He loved his fast-food, his smokes, the footy – the Sainters, partying hard, and women. It got him in trouble plenty of times, but it made us feel we all knew him.

For all of his antics, he was a cricketing genius. Great as a cricketer, he was also very good as a commentator. His insights when on his game were always fascinating. It’s only weeks ago I listened to him.

He was a generous, big-hearted character, which didn’t stop him from being very annoying sometimes. I grew weary of some of his recent antics in the commentary box. He was prone to petty vendetta he wouldn’t let up about, and going off on trivial, self-indulgent tangents in commentary. Yet, that was part and parcel of his childlike charm. He let it all hang out. There were no filters. He embraced everything.

It seems hardly possible. No matter your opinion of him, the world is a lesser place with Warnie gone. To think we’ll never see or hear from the maestro again – how can such a man be silenced? How can such a great personality be muted?

I’ll remember him every year – he died on my birthday.

It’s been an awful week for Australian cricket.

A feel-good story

I remember a game I attended at Windy Hill in 1985 or 1986 when Essendon already had a hundred-point lead at halftime against North Melbourne. Such utter dominance is rare in any sport, but it happens (Essendon vs GCS, Geelong vs Richmond & Melbourne). Last night I reckon I witnessed the biggest capitulation of all time, in the AFL grand final of all games.

Halfway through the third quarter, the Bulldogs led Melbourne by 19 points and looked the more likely winner. About 45 minutes later, the final siren rang, signalling a thumping premiership win by the Demons to the tune of 74 points.

Once headed, the Bulldogs didn’t give a yelp. Melbourne scored 16 out of 17 goals from the midpoint of the third quarter, outscoring Footscray by 93 points. Melbourne was phenomenally good, but the Bulldogs seemed to give up. Pathetic.

Like much of Australia, I was hoping for a Dees win and expected it too. They’ve been the best team all year and play a brand of footy that’s tough and exciting. They blitzed the final series, and you’d have to think they’ll be a contender for years to come. They’re a young team.

Up until Melbourne took control, it had been a fierce and entertaining contest. The Dees jumped out, the Bulldogs reeled them in, then took the lead. Footscray was playing the more composed footy at that stage, and their champion, the Bont, was BOG.

At half time I commented to a friend that Melbourne had erred by not matching up on the Bont when he went forward and that Caleb Daniel had been allowed to do what he wanted. In the second half, Caleb went from 26 possessions and one of the best-on to an ineffective, occasionally poor player. And the Bont was swamped by his opponents, none more so than Petracca.

When I did my footy preview in the pre-season, I tipped the Bulldogs would play finals, and Melbourne was my dark horse. I’m happy for them to justify that belief. They’re well-coached and have a plethora of young, powerful, and very talented footballers. And, in Max Gawn, they have the best leader – as well as ruckman – in the comp.

I stayed up until 11.30 to watch the celebrations. That’s a recent world record for me. Not every grand final ends this way, but this time it was a feel-good story.

Next year, though, can’t wait to see it back at the G and on a Saturday afternoon. This season felt much less mickey mouse than last, but it’s not completely right until things are back to normal. Perth did a great job, but it’s not the same.

I have one, last parochial gripe. For the biggest match of the year, Channel 7 lockout other competitors, and we’re stuck with a telecast in SD, the same tired hacks as commentators, and, outside a few moments here and there, very little imagination or insight in the presentation.

What a great games!

Seems like I’m hearing a lot of people saying how good the Tokyo Olympics were. There are a few saying the best for many years. There’s a sense of wonder that comes with that. Going into the games you had to wonder if it was sensible to go ahead with Covid still ravaging Japan. Expectations beyond that were pretty dim.

Yet, here we are, glowing in the aftermath of an inspiring, friendly Olympics. For me, it’s the most I’ve enjoyed it since Sydney or Athens. It’s hard to credit given there were no crowds, but the competition was great and the vibe pulsed with something more human than more recent Olympics. This was the Olympics we needed, but we didn’t know it until it happened.

I’ll go away with some absolutely fantastic memories. The coverage is pretty partisan wherever you go, so most of my memories are related to my own country, Australia, though not all.

I’ve already written about Jess Fox and how inspiring she was. But then the 10,000-metre performance by Australian, Patrick Tiernan, roused the whole nation. He didn’t win. In fact, he finished down the rankings in the end after running a fine race. But that’s the thing. With only a few hundred metres to go, he collapsed on the track. He got up and went again, and collapsed again. Runners passed him as he got to his feet once more and slowly made his way to the finish line.

For me, that’s much more inspiring than any world record. The guts and determination he showed seemed to me what the Olympic spirit is all about: to strive to do your best.

On the women’s side, it was great to see Sifan Hassan, the Dutch runner, win a couple of gold medals and a bronze. In one heat she tripped and fell, then got up a long way behind to charge after the pack and beat them.

Then there was the staggering 400-metre hurdles race won by the Norwegian smashing his own world record.

Then there was the decathlon and a great moment. Ash Moloney was in the bronze medal position as long as he ran a good 1500 metres, one of his lesser events. To the rescue came his teammate, Cedric Dubler, who could be seen exhorting Moloney on. It worked. Moloney got his second win and won his bronze. A long way behind, the man who sacrificed himself for Moloney, could be seen with his arms raised in triumph knowing that Ash had made it. It was a beautiful, selfless act. Doing a Dubler, they’re calling it. As for Ash, we’re going to hearing a lot more about him.

Then there were the Boomers. This is just a lovely, epic tale a long time in the making. Finally, after many attempts and much sweat and toil by generations of Australian basketballers, we finally got the medal we’ve long deserved.

I don’t know if there’s a more admired Australian than Patty Mills. Nor a better Australian. He led the way, scoring 42 points in the game against Slovenia to take us to victory. The outpouring of emotion afterwards was unprecedented. To see so many great names in tears afterwards was enough to melt the hardest heart. I love these guys. They’re of great character and determination. They’ve created a culture I think, unparalleled, and very Australian.

I like us winning gold medals, but what I like more is being proud of the people who represent us. Skill, speed, endurance, and so on, are fine attributes, but finer still are good sportsmanship, spirit, teamwork, determination and selfless sacrifice. These are the gold medal values we should never forget.

Planning for Paris

Surprising how much I’m enjoying the Olympics this time around. They’re the most unusual and unlikely Olympics ever held, but I think that actually adds to the appeal.

Like so many, I was sceptical that they should even go ahead, but it feels now from my perspective that it’s exactly what the world needs.

There are no crowds of any note and most of the coverage is commentated by remote hosts in the studio. It’s very much in tune with the times. But what is different is that for once we have a global event that the whole world can engage with.

These last 18 months have been like no other. Everything has become smaller and local. Few of us are travelling anywhere – including interstate – and that means that the global events that periodically tie us together have either been absent, or much reduced. Even movies, the theatre, etc, have been heavily affected. We’re living through a strange time. Life redacted.

But then the Olympics come along, against all odds. And, against all odds, they somehow capture the imagination. The competition has been splendid, and that’s much of the reason, but I think as a collective this is what we have yearned for – a stage in which we are all represented, as once we took for granted.

One of my revised ambitions is to live in Paris for 6 months in a few years time. When I thought I might die all I wanted to do was live – and live in the true sense of the word. I love Paris. I love European culture. Go out on a limb, I told myself. Aim to live there, if only for a while.

The next Olympics are in Paris in three years. Now, isn’t that convenient? It seems to me the great opportunity – or excuse – to combine a visit to the Olympic games with a residence in Paris.

That’s my goal.