Thursday, July 4, 2013

The half year mega blog

There’s been much turmoil and upheaval in Australia’s leadership ranks. It started a few years ago when performances started to dip, leading to distress amongst the Aussie public. A review of the current structure was detailed, a few people were knifed in the back and a new leader was anointed.

Much was promised.

Sadly the new leadership brought different rhetoric but the same, if not worse, levels of underperformance. Community confidence continued to wane, and some very public displays of ill discipline didn’t help matters. It all came to a head recently when the incumbent was sacked and an old favourite drafted in to right a sinking ship. All this occurred in the face of the most testing of times for Australia.

Welcome to the Australian cricket team folks!!!

There are some positives on the eve of the Ashes for all Aussie fans. Whilst David Warner’s physical approach to the opposition has seen him relegated to an interchange position for NSW in the State of Origin decider, the Aussies do have a savior ready to step up to the mark.
Introducing Israel Folau!

Immediately after mesmerizing the British and Irish Lions in his international debut, Folau received a text from new head coach Darren Lehman to see if he’d be available for the Ashes, slotting in at first drop. Folau responded he’d be happy to help, only after joining Orica-Green Edge at the Tour de France. Unfortunately Le Tour conflicted with Wimbledon, where the Aussie punter was forced to sit through another Sam Stosur meltdown and Bernie Tomic promising much but delivering little. I’m sure Izzy could have made the quarters at least.

Sadly it’s not been such smooth sailing for Mark Webber, who recently announced his retirement from Formula One to race Porsche's at Le Mans. Obviously Mark feels he can handle a German car much better than he can handle a smiling, blonde Kraut in a one piece jump suit. Needless to say everyone in F1 is struggling to keep a grip on things, with more things blown at Silverstone than the shower block in a maximum security prison.

The Socceroos certainly didn’t blow anything as they qualified for their third World Cup in succession. They did make hard work of the final qualifying match, until Israel Folau Josh Kennedy scored a late winner. It’s going to be party time in Brazil next year!

It was party time in Rio at the recent Confederations Cup, where the host nation dismantled Spain three zip in the final. The Maracana exploded in unbridled joy as goals from Neymar and Fred inflicted Spain’s worst defeat in 18 years. La Roja hasn’t looked that toothless since the Spanish Armada crashed against British shores.

To be fair to the Spanish footballers they would have been exhausted by the final. A World Cup title sandwiched between two successful European Cup campaigns…just thinking about it makes me tired. And with Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes out of the picture following Operacion Puerto there was nothing available to offer that additional pick me up.

It wasn’t just Iniesta, Pique, Xavi and co. that hit the wall. After securing his eighth French Open title Nadal met his match at the first round of Wimbledon. Maybe grass is the only ‘supplement’ that doesn’t sit well with Spanish athletes.

LeBron James didn’t need any supplements in leading the Miami Heat to back-to-back NBA championships. He just needed a little faith and some divine intervention. And so it was to be. Jesus Shuttlesworth (aka Ray Allen) knocked down a buzzer beating three to keep the Heat alive in Game 6 before finally conquering the resilient San Antonio Spurs in one of the best finals in recent memory.  

James copped a lot of flak from all pundits following his decision to join forces with Wade and Bosh and take his talents to South Beach. After seeing LeBron lead the Heat in points, assists and rebounds, and perform as their primary defensive stopper, its Wade and Bosh who should bear the brunt of vitriol. Miami doesn’t have a ‘Big Three’. They have LeBron James. He has carried this franchise over the mountain-top, not once but twice.

Nice segue to what will be the highlight of the 2013 sporting calendar – Stage 18 of the Tour de France (Thursday, 18th July). This is the 100th Tour, and to celebrate this milestone the organizers have developed the most challenging course to date. Lots of mountain stages, including the dreaded Mont Ventoux. But the real headline is L'Alpe d'Huez. A 172.5 km stage that includes a 13.8 km climb at an average 7.9 per cent, with 21 hairpin bends…which will be climbed twice!!! Pack an esky full of EPO and get onboard because climbing L'Alpe d'Huez twice has never been tried in the 99 previous Tours. This stage has the capacity to kill many a riders hopes, dreams and testicles.

Dropping out of contention has been a regular theme at the Parramatta Eels in recent seasons. Horrible recruitment, poor form, back luck with injuries and some unusual coaching choices have conspired to leave the once mighty (really???) Eels reeling year after year. This season Ricky Stuart took a proactive approach to right the ship, going Rains of Castamere on half the squad. Like Sir Walder Frey at the Red Wedding, Stuart broke bread with his players before unleashing an ambush that left many a career assassinated.

Across the equator another coach was busy rejuvenating a once proud club. Brendan Rogers had mixed success leading Liverpool FC through another mediocre season, but there were some positives to draw on, especially the form of Brazilian Philippe Coutinho. However the big question remained ‘whose name was in the preseason envelope? Sadly it was never revealed, but in an exclusive interview Luis Suarez claimed he was extremely disappointed to have not been named. He really sunk his teeth into this season, and certainly bit off more than he could chew being Liverpool’s primary goal scorer and creator. Hopefully he can get that bitter taste out of his mouth before pre-season!

He’s not the only one with a bitter taste in his mouth. Croatian sports fans were thwarted at the European Water Polo Championships, with Jug Dubrovnik suffering in the final at the hands of Crvena Zvezda. Zvezda was crowned the new king of Europe (it’s been a long while since I’ve been able to say that) after winning a thrilling battle in front of 4000 fans. The crowd created an atmosphere never before experienced at water polo. It was a fitting end to a fantastic season.