Our latest winners and losers from the wide world of sport.
WINNERS/LOSERS – World Rugby
There are lots of warm fuzzies to be had around World Rugby’s seismic (as one writer put it) rule change allowing players to make one switch of countries.
The change came out of the blue, and has rightly been applauded.
It means a host of players should be able to follow the likes of Malakai Fekitoa, the ex-All Black who will now turn out for Tonga.
Hopefully, it will help breathe new life into test rugby.
In recent days, Fekitoa has revealed that current All Blacks are among those who have supported the change, adding to the good vibes.
But I’ve got one major criticism of this World Rugby move — the three year stand down period is way too long.
This still smacks of the colonial power holding sway over the disadvantaged Pacific Island nations, throwing out some crumbs of comfort rather than giving them every chance to make a big splash on the international stage.
The Big Guns have all the advantages in luring players away from Pacific Island countries in the first place.
Many of the selections are simply part of fishing expeditions, in which players are effectively trialed by teams like the All Blacks to see if they are World Cup material.
Once discarded, those players will still face three years in the wilderness, which in turn means countries like Tonga and Samoa can’t build teams around those leading lights as they prepare for the big tournaments.
Why leave top players, who could make a big difference and enhance the test scene, out in the cold for so long?
The heavyweights of world rugby find it easy to pluck those players away from the smaller nations in the first place, using their financial strength and the greater playing opportunities.
If WR rugby has now established that this imbalance of power needs sorting out, Tonga and co. should simply be able to pluck those players straight back.
If a stand down period is needed for whatever reasons, surely one year is enough. Actually, I can’t see why there needs to be a stand down period at all.
LOSERS – Ashes ads
Love the Ashes, hate those advertisements on the field.
There is nothing tackier or more distracting in sport than adverts (often virtual ones) encroaching on the playing area.
Ads for Qantas and Dettol were placed ridiculously close to the pitch during the latest cricket battle between Australia and England.
No doubt the corporate mob celebrated wildly at this publicity coup. But it led me to turning the match off.
LOSERS – FIFA
Football is in a great place, so don’t tamper with it.
Longtime Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is the FIFA bigwig leading a campaign to have the World Cup played every two years instead of four.
“Don’t be afraid,” reckoned Wenger, the head of global football development.
Be afraid, I say.
The World Cup’s status will be ruined by playing it so regularly. Doubling the tournaments would cause all sorts of scheduling and conflict problems.
Wenger said opposition to his idea is an “emotional response”
It’s a very odd argument because yes, sport is all about emotion.
Wenger’s revolution is just about the stupidest football idea I’ve ever heard of, although that honour belongs to the English Premier League for once considering playing an extra round of matches in foreign countries.
Sad to say, this idea was resurrected in 2021 according to a report in The Athletic.
WINNERS – English Premier League
Speaking of the EPL… the glamour English football competition is dishing up some fantastic stuff, led by teams like Liverpool and Arsenal’s new young gunners. The football is so fast and flowing.
WINNER – Ollie Robinson
England seam bowler Ollie Robinson shocked everyone by bowling a little spell of spin in the Ashes series. Even Shane Warne was impressed.
Robinson won’t match the most versatile bowler in history – Garry Sobers.
The West Indian legend – cricket’s finest all-rounder alongside South African Jacques Kallis – not only bowled pace and spin, but was both a finger and wrist spinner.
WINNER – Joseph Parker
Kevin Barry’s contribution to Joseph Parker’s heavyweight boxing career should never be forgotten. But Parker just had to move on from Barry’s omnipresent training style.
Parker’s win over Dereck Chisora suggests Andy Lee was a good choice as his new trainer.
But Chisora has lost a lot of fights. There’s a long way to go before anyone can suggest Parker’s career has been resurrected.
WINNERS – Comeback Queens
Parker has made it a decent year for Kiwi comebacks. Rower Emma Twigg led the charge, overcoming the heartbreak of two Olympic fourths and a couple of retirements to claim a gold medal in Tokyo. And golfer Lydia Ko is well and truly on the comeback trail. At least Parker looks to have found a way to right his wobbly ship.
LOSERS – Jubilee Park
There is no sadder sight than a dilapidated sports ground.
Jubilee Park in Whangarei was never exactly a Mecca for rugby league. But it was the game’s home in that league outpost.
I visited my old stomping ground last week and the park made for a highly visible and tragic sight, completely wrecked and overgrown with weeds.
Come on Whangarei – at least give the place a decent burial and gain some civic pride in the process.
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