“This whole thing about Saudi Arabia and Khashoggi and human rights, talk about it, (mighty big of you, Tex,) but also talk about the good the country is doing to change its culture”.
Has Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud been put on public trial? Do you think that might be a good start to changing Saudi Arabia’s culture?
“There are a lot of countries in this world that have a cross to bear too.”
Lately, Greg Norman, you are ours. We don’t mind so much you are embarrassing yourself in front of the world. You’ve been doing that for at least two decades. We mind you embarrassing us Australians. Your support of that murderer and his execrable regime is an appalling disgrace. And so are you.
Cups runneth over
Let’s hear it for Rugby Australia! Two years ago it was – to use the technical expression – on the bones of its arse. With bugger-all money in the bank, an open civil war on its hands, and Israel Folau running amok and scaring off sponsors, total collapse was an actual possibility.
On Thursday evening came the news: the game in this country has come back so far from the brink that World Rugby has just awarded it the men’s World Cup in 2027 and the women’s World Cup in 2029!
(A moment just to explain the Rugby World Cup to league aficionados. It’s a little like the Rugby League World Cup, ’cept ours is genuine, with real teams, actual crowds from all over the actual world and an actual viewing audience bigger than the rerun of MAFS from 2019.)
The news will continue the renaissance of Australian rugby as interest, sponsorship and media attention all lift. It does not follow automatically from this that the performance on the field will also lift, but it is likely.
The firm rule of former IOC President Juan-Antonio Samaranch as the key arbiter of whether or not an Olympics was a success was for the home nation to perform well, and the same applies to rugby.
It will be in the interests of all for the Wallabies to do well, and the prospect of playing in a World Cup final in front of a home crowd is likely to keep most of our best and brightest on board instead of going after perhaps bigger bucks in Japan and Europe. It might even be time to have a look at some of the very best of the league talent and offer them the chance for global, not provincial, stardom. So play well, you leaguies, We’re watching. And just might give you a call!
Ruckin’ in the free world
As good as the news is for Australian rugby, however, the allied news that the USA gets the 2031 and 2033 men’s and women’s World Cups is even more significant to the game as a whole.
Whatever the travails of rugby in Australia, the game has been exploding in popularity globally and the fact that the US will host those tournaments will only see that process continue.
The most remarkable thing? Rugby USA was itself right on the edge of bankruptcy as recently as 2020, and so this is their comeback too.
How did they turn things around so quickly? In large part it was due to the deep pockets and deeper passion of former Australian Schoolboy rugby player and founder of the F45 fitness franchise, Adam Gilchrist, who took over as chair of Rugby USA two years ago and has sunk millions of dollars of his own money in since.
Gilchrist is a tad reclusive, but former Wallaby hooker Adam Freier, who works with him on his American rugby interests, tells me: “Gilchrist had a vision to win the bid for the World Cup in 2031 and pitched the idea to USA rugby and key stakeholders four years ago. He assembled a team and the group proceeded to move heaven and earth to bring this idea to realisation. When I joined Gilchrist as his CEO of Rugby he had three key pillars to make rugby successful in the US: Host a World Cup, Rugbytainment (entertain like a NBA game) and grow high school grassroots participation. In my opinion USA Rugby is the sleeping giant of world rugby and I am proud to be supporting Gilchrist with his planning to have the USA team win in 2031.”
Bravo. A great week for rugby in an era where they have been a tad thin on the ground.
The comments from footballer and boxer Paul Gallen this week about issues he might face from repeated concussions simply took my breath away.
“I don’t want to get five years down the track,” he told The Herald’s Adrian Proszenko“and all of a sudden I’m ‘dudududududududu’, stuttering and umming and ahhing. I still want everything intact, to be able to talk clearly and know what I’m talking about basically.”
Paul? As you and I have discussed many times, the effects of repeated concussions doesn’t happen “all of a sudden”. It happens gradually and inexorably and is all too frequently devastating with the weight borne too often by the athlete’s family. But go on.
“I’m not going to ruin my life or control what I do at this point in time. I’ll continue to do what I do, but I don’t want to push the envelope either.”
You don’t want to “push the envelope”?
You are 40 years old, played nigh on 350 matches for the Sharks, and have been getting hit in the head ever since for pay. And you don’t want to “push the envelope”? What do you think pushing the envelope actually looks like?
I repeat: Stop this. It is madness.
What They Said
Liz Cambagereportedly, to Nigerian opponents in the lead-up to the last Olympics: “Go back to your third world country.”
Cambage: “The truth will always come to light, and it ain’t even dawn yet.” I am never sure if phrases like that are metaphors, similes or maybe even allegories? Whatever it is, it’s wonderfully evocative with one problem. It was a devastating allegation, which seems to have been roundly affirmed.
Nick Kyrgiosranked 78th in the world, when asked who he felt was the best player in the world heading into Wimbledon: “I mean, on the grass, I’d say me.”
Rugby Australia Chair Hamish McLennan on the great news: “This is a historic day for rugby in Australia. We’re beyond thrilled to be welcoming not one, but two Rugby World Cups to our shores.”
Greg Norman on the Saudi Arabian murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi: “Look, we’ve all made mistakes and you just want to learn from those mistakes and how you can correct them going forward.” You cannot make this up!
Australia’s greatest female golfer Karrie Webb AO, in reply, on Twitter. “The little girl in me just died well and truly! Has anyone’s childhood hero disappointed them as much as l am now?”
TFF’s friend Andrew Denton in reply to Greg Norman: “Is it possible, on Australia Day, to announce the REVOKING of certain citizenships because they’ve brought the name ‘Australia’ into disrepute?” I think worth looking at, yes?
Christine BrennanUSA TODAY: “A long time ago, Greg Norman was a very good golfer with a flashy nickname who was best known for losing major tournaments in the worst way possible. Today, he is something else entirely: the despicable epitome of unabashed greed, a man apparently with neither soul nor conscience who just uttered one of the most reprehensible sentences ever heard in the world of sports.”
Golf writer Eamon Lynch: “Just when you thought Greg Norman’s shilling for murderers couldn’t get any more contemptible.”
Chris Gayle can’t open his mouth without talking about Chris Gayle: “The Universe Boss Chris Gayle is a big name. That’s what sells.” Oh to buy his shares at my prices, and sell them at his.
Paul Gallen: “You don’t grow old between fights, you do between rounds. I’m not going to make any decisions now [about my future]. I just felt in between those rounds I couldn’t go like I normally go. I’ve had a great time involved in the sport . . . we’ll see what happens next.” I’ve tried to tell you what happens next, Paul. You didn’t want to listen. Can you put Mrs Gallen on, please?
NFL player Coby Bryant on the pressure of being named after Kobe Bryant: “Not really pressure, more of a privilege, honestly. It just means I have to work twice as hard to live up to that name and set a name for myself as well too and, most importantly, represent him as well as I can.”
Sydney King Dejan Vasiljevic on dealing with trolls: “Just a bunch of keyboard warriors. They can be tough behind a screen. I ain’t too worried about it. I just won a championship for my city. We haven’t done it for 17 years. After all the stuff they said, they can just watch me walk away with the trophy.”
Ian Healy on the Heat not renewing Chris Lynn’s contract. “We thank Heat members, fans, corporate partners and sponsors for their wholehearted support of ‘Lynny’ and recognising his great performances over the past 11 seasons.” Seriously. Lynny is the best they can do?
Carlos Alcaraz following in Rafael Nadal’s mouth-steps by biting on the trophy: “I didn’t want to bite the trophy, but the photographers told me to bite it [like Nadal]. It was a thing of the photographers and I, although I didn’t want to, listened to them.”
Team of the Week
Australia. Will host the 2027 Rugby World Cup and the 2029 Women’s World Cup.
Sam Kerr. Is she the highest-flying Australian athlete in the world right now? I think so. Helped Chelsea to another Super League title, in the FA Cup final on Saturday night and just named the FWA Women’s Footballer of the Year
The Sydney Kings. Won their first NBL Championship in 17 years.
Dahnon Ward, Salim Naser and Riley Dumsday. Australia’s teenage wheelchair tennis team clinched their second World Team Cup junior title.
Melbourne City. Claimed their second consecutive A-League Premiership.
Tom Brady. Has just signed on for a ten year, US$375 million contract to be the lead analyst at Fox Sports when he retires.
Leon Cameron. Announced his departure as GWS coach. Did an admirable job in the time he was there, this year notwithstanding.