Bloody hell. Talk about the times they are a’changing!
Can we compare and contrast Federation Square in Melbourne at 2am on Thursday morning with Perth’s Optus Stadium at noon of the same day?
Who would have thought, even 20 years ago, that the former would be chokka-blok at that time of night with people cheering, crying, stomping, completely absorbed by every spine-tingling minute as Australia held on against all odds in a fabulous World Cup match against the Danes while ... for a Test cricket match against the Windies, the stadium is a fifth full, if that, just 10,000 people, and even those who are there don’t seem to care any more than we do about Australia smashing all before them.
Honestly, only a short time ago, wouldn’t this have been the most unheard of thing anyone had ever heard of? And yes, I guess it would be more significant if there was any probability that the success of the Socceroos was going to re-invigorate the A-League, but it already feels like a week never seen before in Australian sport. And of course we can’t beat Argentina, but ...
But if we did, I think we can all agree that it would surpass the finest moment so far of Australian sport, which was winning the America’s Cup?
And speaking of the extraordinary scenes out of Federation Square this week.
Why, Premier Dominic Perrottet was asked on Thursday, didn’t Sydney have its own live site to watch the World Cup, the way the Melburnians did for the first three pool games?
“I don’t know,” he replied frankly.
Look, he could have said, “Because, as everyone knows, they just put something in the water down Victoria way, which makes them go so ga-ga for all forms of sport, they’ll turn up en masse in the middle of the night to watch a match even when every reasonable expectation is that our blokes were going to get a belting ... and we Sydney-siders are just not like that.”
But, no worries.
“We’re going to have a great live site,” the premier insisted, referring to Tumbalong Park at Darling Harbour. (Look it up. It’s pretty much the one bit of green space in that part of town.)
“It’s going to be the best in the country because this is the best city in the world, so it’s going to be awesome.”
Maybe. But, seriously, why Tumbalong Park?
Why not put the big screen in front of the Opera House steps? The Opera House is, after all, pretty much the most spectacular urban environment in the world, easy to get to, and how extraordinary would it be punters to be there, of all places, at the dawn of a new day and, perhaps, the dawn of a new era? Instead of a catch-as-catch-can scramble – Tumbalong Park will do! – it could be the beginning of a great tradition. Sydney could turn out in force to watch the Wallabies put the Irish to the sword in the World Cup Final next year.
(Oh come on. Believe!)
Meantime, I loved this, by one of the Herald readers of the story announcing that Australia had made it through to the Round of 16, by beating the Danes.
Danish ace Christian Eriksen.Credit:AP
“Ahem . . .” the clever reader commented, “Where’s the photo of Princess Mary, doing a fist pump behind the living room couch!!!!!?”
Very good question!
Will a word picture do?
I fancy the Tasmanian-born Princess Mary somewhere in a fine drawing room of Amalienborg Palace, surrounded by the Danish Royal Family, and various courtiers in the familiar manner – bar the fact that the usual pack of corgis underfoot, in this case, are a couple of Great Danes.
The match goes on, the Danish-born get progressively longer faces as the unthinkable starts to take place before their eyes – their team, ranked tenth in the world, is about to go down to a makeshift team of misfits filled with players more anonymous to the Danes than a wrong number. Surely, their star player, Christian Eriksen – worth more on the player market than the entire Australian team put together - will score? But . . . no.
Our Mary, just manages to hold it together – trying to look as grim as them – right up to the end when she must momentarily excuse herself. Two minutes later, from somewhere in the bowels of the palace, a strange cry drifts back to the drawing room.
“Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!”
Oi! Oi! Oi!
Thanasi Kokkinakis in the Davis Cup final.Credit:AP
Not that you’d know it, but Australia made the finals of the Davis Cup last weekend. That used to be a very big deal. Not this time, though.
Under the new format – which ditched no less than 100 years of tradition – the final eight teams gather in the one spot at the one time, and compete over five days. This time it was in Spain, which meant that instead of the Australia v Canada final being played in front of a parochial crowd, it was played mostly in front of Spaniards who didn’t care either way.
Also gone are best of five sets and the reverse singles - now it’s best of three sets and and the best of three rubbers. So, instead of the whole thing building over a weekend as it used to, it was all over in three hours. I accept that the old Davis Cup format needed overhauling, but surely we can say that this isn’t it?
Socceroos coach Graham Arnold on his pre-match address before the match against Denmark: “I said to the boys, ‘Let’s put a smile on the nation’s face’. . . When the Socceroos play at World Cups, AFL fans, rugby league fans, cricket fans, they all become football fans.”
Arnold after defeating Denmark: “Maybe we’re talking about a new golden generation now, because we’ve been listening and hearing about the golden generation of 2006, who got four points and now we’ve got six.”
Mathew Leckie after the match, in which he scored the winning goal against Denmark: “I’m proud, exhausted, everything really. It’s hard to describe the emotions right now. We always knew we could do it as a group. We had our doubters but our spirit, our belief, our work ethic and how close we are as a group shows on the pitch.”
Socceroo Mitchell Duke on his goal celebration against Tunisia: “I spoke to my son when I got selected for the World Cup. You have to have that belief you can score [and] I told my son I would share that moment with him. [The celebration] was a little ‘J’ for the first letter of his name. I haven’t seen it yet but apparently he did it back to me in the stadium. It is a moment I will hold very dear for the rest of my life.”
Arnold to YOU MONGREL critics after the Tunisia win vindicated him: “They’ve never coached. I haven’t seen who was critical. Some of them have never even been to a World Cup. I don’t listen to them. They have no effect on my life.”
Argentina’s Angel Di Maria on the part he played in a Messi goal: “I threw him a turd, but he always finds solutions to everything. What matters is that the ball got to him.”
Argentina winger Angel Di Maria.Credit:AP
Canada coach John Herdman to his players ahead of their match against Croatia: “I told them they belong here. And we’re going to go and ‘eff’ Croatia”
Croatia player, Andrej Kramaric after they won 4-1: “I’d like to thank the Canada manager for motivation. In the end, Croatia showed who ‘effed’ who.”
Victorian-raised Socceroo Aziz Behich on seeing footage of the extraordinary celebrations in Federation Square: “That’s my city, I’m from Melbourne. This is what this game does. We want it give back to our nation. Obviously, there have been a few World Cups where we haven’t met our expectations. After we saw that footage, after the last game, we said we need to create that again. That is what pushes us even more.”
Pat Cummins: “There are no cowards in the Australian cricket team, not ever. I thank Justin for clarifying his remarks afterwards ... He had a think about it and clarified it, so I thank him for that. But we’re really proud of the last 12 months, how we’ve fronted up, the way we’ve played, the way we’ve conducted ourselves. Players can certainly hold their heads high.”
Steve Waugh chimes in on why the fans don’t connect with the Australian team: “There’s a lot of cricket, it’s hard to follow as a spectator, it’s very hard to keep up with it. The three one-dayers against England seemed pretty insignificant, really. I mean, what were they playing for? There wasn’t big crowds, I think the public has almost overdosed on cricket.”
Tiger Woods lays it on the line, of the first precondition for peace talks between the PGA and LIV: “I think Greg [Norman] has to go, first of all. Then we can talk, we can all talk freely.”
Buffalo Bills’ quarterback Josh Allen, after a massive snowstorm in Buffalo, meant having to play the Detroit Lions in Detroit, on successive Sundays: “It was very deja vu-ish.”
Socceroos. After a relatively ordinary match against France – you heard me – they have been superb since, beating Tunisia and Denmark, to make their way into the Round of 16. They will play Argentina at 6am Sunday (AEDT).
Mitchell Duke and Matthew Leckie. Scored fabulous goals for the Socceroos to get over Tunisia and Denmark respectively, and make them part of Australian sporting folklore for decades to come.
Wallabies. With 22 minutes left against Wales, they were down by 21 points but fought back to win. Won two games by a total of six points and lost three games by a total of five points which means they won the tour by a point.
Canada. Davis Cup Champions for the first time.
Melbourne. AFLW champions when beat Brisbane 19-15.
Adelaide Strikers. WBBL Champions when beat the Sixers in the final.
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