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Author Archive for Russell Jackson

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Cricket historian, writer, surgeon, spy: the mad world of Major Rowland Bowen

Once renowned, now forgotten, Major Rowland Bowen was an anarchistic self-amputee who ruffled establishment feathers and re-wrote cricket history

One September afternoon in 1968, Rowland Bowen, a renowned cricket historian and establishment-baiting controversialist, walked into the bathroom of his house in Willingdon Road, Eastbourne, set out a hacksaw, a hammer and a chisel, and sat down in the bathtub. Following instructions gleaned from years of obsessive amateur study, he then set about methodically amputating his own right leg.

Why he did it, nobody was quite sure. Bowen was many remarkable things but he was definitely not a doctor. Neither was there anything wrong with his leg. Years earlier Bowen had lost a finger too. He explained that one away to his remaining friends as an accident; he’d just been careless while chopping up food for the giant hounds that surrounded him as he sat at his typewriter. The term Apotemnophilia – a neurological disorder characterised by an intense and long-standing desire for amputation of a specific limb – was not commonly encountered until a decade later.

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Greg Combet hits back at Cricket Australia chairman’s ‘absurd’ claims

Players’ union adviser says David Peever’s reaction to the pay dispute is counterproductive amid heightening tensions between CA and the ACA

Former federal Labor minister Greg Combet has returned serve on Cricket Australia chairman David Peever, claiming the former Rio Tinto managing director’s reaction to the cricket pay dispute is astonishing and absurd, and that a newspaper column written by Peever on Thursday served only to deepen the divide between players and administrators at a time when CA should be looking to build trust.

“David Peever’s assertion that I am using my advisory role to the cricket players to re-prosecute some decades old industrial relations grudge is absurd,” Combet told Guardian Australia. “My advice has been solely directed to the achievement of the players’ goals – a fair share for all male and female players in the revenue they create, and to look after grassroots cricket.”

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Jeff Horn: from underdog to millionaire poster boy for sport in need of a wholesome hero | Russell Jackson

The humble Australian’s life was transformed overnight, even though the classic warning signs of an upset against Manny Pacquiao were there from the start

Jeff Horn woke on Monday unable to see a thing from his swollen, bruised right eye, but having vanquished Manny Pacquiao in one of Australian sport’s greatest underdog victories, boxing’s unlikeliest world champion will now watch his life’s fortunes transform dramatically. The former Brisbane schoolteacher, who had only twice boxed for prize purses of five-figure proportions, is now the millionaire poster boy for a sport craving a wholesome hero.

Horn has quickly and predictably been dubbed the Australian Rocky. Though his actual nickname, The Hornet, alludes glancingly to the world of superhero fiction, his famous victory in front of an Australian record boxing crowd at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday surprised even his most ardent admirers – the people who knew of the thousands of hours of punishing training sessions, and the years of relentless physical and financial toil required just to get Horn into the ring for his one big shot.

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Biggest hit worn in Bachar Houli episode has been to credibility of AFL | Russell Jackson

The league has effectively labelled their own tribunal a kangaroo court and exposed flaws they themselves engineered into the rules

Regardless of the outcome of Thursday night’s appeal hearing regarding Bachar Houli’s two-week suspension, the AFL has made a mockery of its own judicial process with an unprecedented vote of no confidence against its own tribunal. In scenes that bring to mind the pantomime of WCW wrestling, tribunal members themselves must wonder whether their positions even remain tenable.

This situation, and many more like it, are sadly inevitable when every tier of the game’s administration is more intent on reacting to murmurs of discontent and reasserting their own inflated sense of importance than they are establishing the clear and irrefutable regulatory processes required to run a billion-dollar sporting organisation.

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The loss of Martin Flanagan’s AFL column is a blow to footy’s soul | Russell Jackson

The Age journalist is moving on. What a sad time for the culture of the game, and the health and diversity of its coverage, as he disappears from regular view

The Queen’s birthday long weekend has never traditionally been the time for sporting epiphanies, but on Monday I couldn’t help remarking upon the neat dovetailing of two significant events. The first actually came in the lead-up, when it became apparent The Age’s much-loved football writer Martin Flanagan had written his final column, the second when Melbourne’s Jack Watts, so often maligned by the haughty and uncaring, gathered a pass, strolled imperiously through the 50-metre arc and stroked through the game-clinching goal against Collingwood.

It was a moment tailor-made for Flanagan. For decades he’s been the champion of the misunderstood, and the heart, soul and conscience of a football media whose descent into self-important bombast manages to tailspin further every season. What a sad time for the culture of the game, and the health and diversity of its coverage, that such a warm and inquisitive friend is disappearing from regular view. As I reached the midway point of his final missive on my smartphone, a video advertisement for Hungry Jacks invaded the entire screen. At moments like these we must look inward too.

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The loss of Martin Flanagan’s AFL column is a blow to footy’s soul | Russell Jackson

The Age journalist is moving on. What a sad time for the culture of the game, and the health and diversity of its coverage, as he disappears from regular view

The Queen’s birthday long weekend has never traditionally been the time for sporting epiphanies, but on Monday I couldn’t help remarking upon the neat dovetailing of two significant events. The first actually came in the lead-up, when it became apparent The Age’s much-loved football writer Martin Flanagan had written his final column, the second when Melbourne’s Jack Watts, so often maligned by the haughty and uncaring, gathered a pass, strolled imperiously through the 50-metre arc and stroked through the game-clinching goal against Collingwood.

It was a moment tailor-made for Flanagan. For decades he’s been the champion of the misunderstood, and the heart, soul and conscience of a football media whose descent into self-important bombast manages to tailspin further every season. What a sad time for the culture of the game, and the health and diversity of its coverage, that such a warm and inquisitive friend is disappearing from regular view. As I reached the midway point of his final missive on my smartphone, a video advertisement for Hungry Jacks invaded the entire screen. At moments like these we must look inward too.

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Margaret Court: astounding champion who found God and lost the respect of a nation

Australia’s greatest tennis player has provoked fury with her homophobic statements, but even in her triumphant playing days her unparalleled achievements failed to win the hearts of the public

Margaret Court was the most glittering example of Australia’s domination of world tennis in the 1960s and 70s – a prolonged period of supremacy in which a murderer’s row of superstar players with iconic, instructive nicknames like Rocket, Muscles and Newk took all before them.

It was a time when Australia’s sun-blessed climate, abundance of tennis facilities and lack of the stifling class systems that held the sport back in other countries, seemed destined to ensure world-beating talent would flourish forever. Even then, in the fattest of times, it was beyond comprehension that the country would ever produce a female champion to rival Court. She was a living legend among mere champions.

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The Joy of Six: after the gold rush (when great AFL teams go bad)

Hawthorn and Sydney are both facing the end of an era with their early-season struggles, but plenty of other great football sides have bottomed out

Those pondering the bleakness of Hawthorn’s current plight would do well to remember their other post-golden-era tumble, when the glory-filled Jeans era of the 1980s gave way to the lost years and near-merger of the mid-1990s. Pride comes not only before a fall, but also the recruitment of Simon Crawshay.

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Carlton stalwart Kade Simpson remains the AFL’s anonymous champion | Russell Jackson

Once a twig-thin rookie who couldn’t get a kick, Kade Simpson is now a Carlton champion and the acme of consistency in lean times

On Saturday afternoon at the MCG, round six of the AFL season presents us with something quintessentially “Carlton.” Playing at home, against winless interstate opponents who are currently rooted to the bottom of the league ladder, the Blues have nevertheless been installed by the bookies as $6.25 underdogs. Only Carlton.

Their opponents, once-mighty Sydney, are struggling badly but you’d still fancy them to win. Yet the only real certainty of the encounter is this: Blues half-back flanker Kade Simpson will gather somewhere between 20 and 35 possessions, and he will hit the target with most of them. He’ll also reel in between seven and 10 marks; for at least one of those Simpson will sprint recklessly into oncoming traffic, and for another he’ll probably climb onto the back of an opponent or thrillingly intercept an errant forward entry.

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Essendon defeat Collingwood in Anzac Day AFL – as it happened

  • Essendon defeat Collingwood by 18 points in Anzac Day blockbuster
  • Joe Daniher takes out Anzac Day medal for commanding display

9.01am BST

And there are no surprises here as the big forward steps up to receive his medal, paying tribute to Collingwood for their determined effort. “To our boys, a really proud effort,” he says, “and hopefully a big stepping stone going forward.”

Daniher had 16 possessions, eight marks, 3.4 in front of goal and did plenty of valuable work through the middle when he was dragged into the ruck. Zach Merrett was also yuuuge with 33 possessions, and Jobe Watson (28), Dyson Heppell (26) and Darcy Parish (25) all had special moments. Orazio Fantasia’s four goals and three for Josh Green also proved decisive.

8.57am BST

Collingwood 11.16 (82) defeated by Essendon 15.10 (100)

And that is all she wrote! The Bombers win it by three goals and deserve their victory. They were the better side for much of the day, and in Joe Daniher and Orazio Fantasia, had the two standout forwards. “They’re a good side,” says Jobe Watson, being interviewed by his father Tim. “Sometimes you’ve just gotta grind it out and will yourself to win the game.”

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On Anzac Day, the AFL should pause and reflect that sport is not war | Russell Jackson

Anzac Day has a different meaning to each and every Australian, but football should acknowledge that sport and war are not analogous endeavours

Every year the AFL’s “traditional” Anzac Day game between Collingwood and Essendon throws up at least one new and mildly unpleasant variation to its ongoing body of work commercialising war. And yes, “throws up” is a deliberate choice of phrasing in this instance.

In 2017, to reserve a seat at a football game positioned as an afternoon of commemoration and reverence, fans will have their wallets gouged by ticket price increases of up to 80%; honour our fallen heroes by paying $72 to sit in the nosebleeds, and don’t forget the exorbitant booking fee to print your own ticket. It’s what the diggers would have wanted.

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Perhaps it’s time to stop interrogating Gary Ablett’s dignified brilliance | Russell Jackson

Gary Ablett was pilloried before playing a starring role in Gold Coast’s win over Hawthorn, but the AFL great is now well beyond having to prove himself

At the start of the 2017 AFL season Gary Ablett’s CV contained items including but not limited to the following: 288 league games; 7,221 of the most beguiling disposals in the game’s history; 378 goals of varying complexity and historical importance; two life-affirming, drought-breaking premiership medals; two of the most convincing and deserved Brownlow medals; five league AFLPA MVP awards from his peers; five club best and fairest awards; eight All-Australian jumpers. And just for the sake of something exotic: three leading goal-kicker awards.

All of this Ablett achieved without a single noteworthy behavioural indiscretion or scandal at either of his two clubs. He did it as the embodiment of work ethic, dignity, humility and dedication, while stretching the parameters and possibilities of his sport.

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‘No club should go under’: the battle to save the Frankston Dolphins

Born in 1877 but thrown out of their league by AFL Victoria at the end of 2016, the crisis-stricken Frankston Dolphins hope to become a football miracle

Hardy Melbourne football fans arriving at Frankston Dolphins VFL games from the bayside end of Frankston Park are confronted by a set of towering, ornamental gates, which sit between two imposing stonework pillars. In their first life, these unusual decorative flourishes stood at the front the Old Melbourne Gaol. Now, owing to the various crises of the football club to whom they belong, they’re the only prison gates in Melbourne not greeting regular arrivals.

The 2017 VFL season – which kicks off on Saturday with a clash between Gary Ayres’ Port Melbourne and the Carlton-affiliated Northern Blues – will for the first time since 1966 not feature a side from Frankston. Last year the competition battlers’ licence was revoked by AFL Victoria as debts of a reported $1.5m threatened to sink the club without trace.

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‘No club should go under’: the battle to save the Frankston Dolphins

Born in 1877 but thrown out of their league by AFL Victoria at the end of 2016, the crisis-stricken Frankston Dolphins hope to become a football miracle

Hardy Melbourne football fans arriving at Frankston Dolphins VFL games from the bayside end of Frankston Park are confronted by a set of towering, ornamental gates, which sit between two imposing stonework pillars. In their first life, these unusual decorative flourishes stood at the front the Old Melbourne Gaol. Now, owing to the various crises of the football club to whom they belong, they’re the only prison gates in Melbourne not greeting regular arrivals.

The 2017 VFL season – which kicks off on Saturday with a clash between Gary Ayres’ Port Melbourne and the Carlton-affiliated Northern Blues – will for the first time since 1966 not feature a side from Frankston. Last year the competition battlers’ licence was revoked by AFL Victoria as debts of a reported $1.5m threatened to sink the club without trace.

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Confusion over AFL rules a byproduct of policy on the run | Russell Jackson

The past decade of AFL football has seen an increase in league rule changes, which are often reactive and not in the interests of the game’s aesthetic

It’s probably best to start this missive with a promise: what follows is not another self-indulgent paean to the glory of 1990s football, or some wistful plea for the return of torpedoes, $1.50 meat pies and Jason Dunstall kicking the ton every year. But … even discounting the breathless outrage surrounding Callum Mills’ rushed behind for Sydney last weekend, the rules of AFL football are now a topic so maddening that one could be excused for seeking solace in the nostalgic comforts of Allen Jakovich’s AFL Tables page.

Let’s get the Mills one out of the way first. You wouldn’t know it from the league’s flip-flopping approach to the issue over the past decade, but a deliberate rushed behind really is a black and white scenario: either you’ve deliberately rushed a behind or you haven’t. Pressure, as St Kilda coach Alan Richardson suggested this week, should not come into it. Because what is pressure, exactly? How can a sprinting, breathless, neck-craning, perhaps out-of-position umpire really tell what is going through the mind of a defender as he rushes a behind in real time?

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India v Australia: fourth Test, day four – live!

6.21am BST

23rd over: India 102-2 (Rahul 48, Rahane 37) – India require four runs to win

Steve Smith decides against a comedy bowling change and continues with Lyon, so we’ll probably see a bit of nudging and nurdling until India reach their target. Lyon has an enthusiastic LBW shout against Rahane but Marais Erasmus turns it down and the ball tumbles away for four leg byes beyond a diving David Warner. As Lyon bowls his final delivery of the over India need four, but Rahane doesn’t chance his arm, so Rahul will have a chance to reach that sixth 50 of the tour.

6.17am BST

22nd over: India 95-2 (Rahul 46, Rahane 36) – India require 11 runs to win

One last roll of the dice for Steve O’Keefe, who has been a mostly solid and occasionally spectacular contributor for Australia on this tour. Rahane gives him slightly more deferential treatment than that meted out to Pat Cummins, but when the Indian skipper gets one down the leg side he feathers a glance down to the fence at fine leg. It’s all over bar the shouting in Dharamsala.

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India v Australia: fourth Test, day three – live!

4.39am BST

The local sights

I’m a hack with a camera, but this gives you a small taste of Dharamshala – the extraordinary town which will decide the series. #AUSvIND pic.twitter.com/5JosUpy1PU

4.37am BST

Preamble

Hello all and welcome to day three of the fourth Test in Dharamsala, which promises to be a match-turning one. If so, it could prove series-deciding. As you well know, THIS. IS. IT. The decider. “This is a huuuuge day,” says Allan Border on the TV now. He’s said that every day of the series, to be honest, but he hasn’t been wrong by doing so. Each of these four Tests has been played at fever pitch. The pressure has been relentless, each twist and turn a doozy. Australia are now in with a shot of pulling off a remarkable Border-Gavaskar Trophy win. Nobody expected them to get close in this series. I certainly didn’t. I thought it would be a 4-0 sweep for the home side. So stick around, but also…don’t listen to me.

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India v Australia: third Test, day five – live!

4.43am GMT

20th over: Australia 40-2 (Renshaw 12, Smith 11)

Renshaw continues to battle with Jadeja’s devilish wares, shuffling across to cover his off stump and then lunging forward outside the line to counter the spinner. It’s another maiden, and Renshaw continues to look like a sitting duck. Kohli has three men in close, but I’d honestly be tempted to bring in one or two more and go for the kill.

4.40am GMT

19th over: Australia 40-2 (Renshaw 12, Smith 11)

In fact Yadav gets another go, and Smith runs him down towards third man by twirling the face of his bat open and picking up two. Yadav has three slips; first, second and fourth, and keeps hanging it outside off stump, but the approach has changed a little. In a reverse tactic to that employed for Renshaw, Kohli has stacked the off side field and dared Smith to blaze away. He won’t. He’d rather bat without pads than lose out to Kohli in this game.

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India v Australia: third Test, day five – live!

4.43am GMT

20th over: Australia 40-2 (Renshaw 12, Smith 11)

Renshaw continues to battle with Jadeja’s devilish wares, shuffling across to cover his off stump and then lunging forward outside the line to counter the spinner. It’s another maiden, and Renshaw continues to look like a sitting duck. Kohli has three men in close, but I’d honestly be tempted to bring in one or two more and go for the kill.

4.40am GMT

19th over: Australia 40-2 (Renshaw 12, Smith 11)

In fact Yadav gets another go, and Smith runs him down towards third man by twirling the face of his bat open and picking up two. Yadav has three slips; first, second and fourth, and keeps hanging it outside off stump, but the approach has changed a little. In a reverse tactic to that employed for Renshaw, Kohli has stacked the off side field and dared Smith to blaze away. He won’t. He’d rather bat without pads than lose out to Kohli in this game.

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India v Australia: third Test, day three – live!

3.58am GMT

We’re a few minutes from play now. “60-40 to Australia,” says Ravi Shastri of the match status, though his segment was recorded for the purposes of Australian TV viewers and might not have mirrored exactly what he said on the Indian feed. He reckons Australia need quick wickets today. I reckon most of us would love to have his job.

3.52am GMT

Meanwhile, at Allan Border Field…

Queensland recovered from here, relatively speaking. They’re just been bowled out for 61, falling to an innings loss in Chris Hartley’s final game for the Bulls. Somewhat fittingly, the champion keeper (unluckiest man not to play for Australia in the last 15 years? Probably) top-scored with 18. Tailender Cameron Gannon was the only other Queenslander to reach double figures and James Pattinson ended up with 5-7 from six overs. Remarkable.

To recap so far today….#QLDvVIC pic.twitter.com/ILJfKzCqAm

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