India’s Zaheer Khan bats against Australia during the cricket test match in Adelaide, Australia, January 28, 2012. (AP Photo/David Mariuz)
NATIONAL: PHIL MUNDINE* presents his monthly round-up of the winners and losers in sport.
Cricket Australia has successfully navigated through the turmoil of rearranging our Test team, after the retirement of most of the veterans in seasons leading up to this series against India.
India, despite having a batting lineup that resembles a list of cricket’s all-time greats, just could not get going and failed again and again to curb a series whitewash.
Australia is rated, or was rated, number four in the world, and yet made the Indian team look rather pedestrian and lethargic.
The high expectations of seeing numerous centuries being scored by the mighty top four or five of the India openers led to a very profitable gate both in the grounds and through the radio and television broadcasts.
But if it wasn’t for the Aussie players, old and new, standing up to be counted the whole summer would have been a backward step for cricket.
That’s especially for Australia when they are restructuring the representative squads.
With the emergence of a domestic 20/20 competition, a whole new generation of players have been introduced to the Australian public and despite a slow start in the first weeks the competition has begun to draw reasonably large crowds as far as Australia can provide.
In the subcontinent, where the 20/20 game really took off, the crowds are not only fanatical, but of course have a much larger population to draw from.
This has the added effect of creating a good atmosphere for broadcasting. Playing to a small quiet audience can and indeed does take the thrill out of any sporting event.
I could be negative and pick the national squads performance to pieces but there has been more good than bad to even great occasions this summer and after growing a bit bored with the past behaviour of some prima donnas posing as our national heroes I found a new spark of interest warming the cockles of my heart.
Indigenous All Stars vs NRL All Stars
This month we were entertained by the Indigenous All Stars verse the NRL All Stars on the Gold Coast and also the inaugural Aboriginal Rugby League Knockout champion match between the Queensland winners and the NSW Champions.
I saw the Mindaribba team win the Bathurst final and I cannot see them being beaten in a one off square up. Not by them Queenslanders again, God forbid.
And I was right. They beat Queensland’s Southern Dingos 40-18. A NSW side with Aboriginals in it! What next?
I didn’t make the All Stars game so I was green with envy for all those lucky fans who have the rare privilege of seeing the cream of the NRL All Stars, both Indigenous and non Indigenous, all playing in the same team on the same night.
As usual I made a promise to myself to get a ticket early and get to the game and as usual there I was in the office making plans to watch the game on the telly.
Impressing the yanks
Speaking of fair dinkum Aussie sports champions, congratulations must go to young Torres Strait Islander Jesse Williams on playing in the American College football final.
He has the Americans grasping for superlatives in their eagerness to describe the Aussie kid from down under.
Also it must be said there was another Aussie in the opposing team – Brad Wing – a young kicker from Victoria who dumbfounded his coaches and their supporters by actually tackling an opposing player during a match and had the nerve to back it up by scoring a touchdown.
That’s one kicker who will be talked about for years to come.
Back to Australia
I must pass on my condolences to those Western Suburbs Magpie rugby league supporters out there.
It grieves me to know that for all the support for rugby league that you gave over the years you may as well have been spitting into the wind.
There is an air about the game that smacks of “not your game, it’s our game”. We could sit down for hours and chat about the direction the NRL’s heading.
I attend the annual Aboriginal knockout each year and the league does not appear to offer nothing more than permission for the occasional grade players to play.
I believe that without the Aboriginal support and participation the game would die in its present format.
The AFL has already made inroads into NRL territory and have the drive, patience and foresight to become a major part of the NSW sporting calendar.
The Swans laid the foundation and the path for the Suns and the Giants has been well and truly beaten. I am very impressed with their programs for involvement of Aboriginal kids and it has an air of true commitment about it.
Remembering the great Artie
We had the misfortune of losing a great sportsman and community worker in big Artie Beetson in the last couple of months.
I, like many others, grew up with the mighty legend of half a game Artie. He was so unfit that when selected to play against England the Australian coach sent him out with the instruction to go flat out till half time when he would be replaced.
Well Artie did just that and by half time the game was all over bar the shouting with Artie flogging the living daylights out of the Poms and I think setting up a couple of tries.
One resulted from a kick through for Johnny King to score. Very un-forward like in those days.
Big Artie went on to even bigger things and became a legend of Australian and International sport, even challenging for the title of being the best rugby league player of them all.
Some of his fans will say he was (and is) and like all sports debates this could take all night.
One thing’s for sure, it was Artie’s participation in the State of Origin that set the foundation for what it is today.
An annual sports spectacle that is looked forward to by rugby league supporters the world over. Thank you Artie.
Aboriginal not Indigenous.
• Phil Mundine is a Bundjalung, an avid sportswatcher, and a legend of the NSW land rights system.