Pssst all summer

Graham Couch. Photo: Sandy Scheltema”Car looks like a hot rod! It’s got swag. Pum-ped!” – Australian for-mula one driver DANIEL RICCIARDO likes the look of his new Red Bull ride.
Nanjing Night Net

Paul Daffey looks back at some of the moments that shaped Australian sport.

What Forty years since Graham Crouch ran in the 1500 metres final at the 1974 Commonwealth Games.

When and where February 2, 1974, in Christchurch, New Zealand.

The legacy His name was etched into legend as part of a historic race.

These days the Commonwealth Games are considered a bit of a picnic by international standards. But not so long ago a Commonwealth Games event was likely to feature several of the best competitors in the world.

The 1500 metres at the 1974 Commonwealth Games was a case in point: it featured Olympic medallists as well as European and African champions, not to mention two runners from New Zealand, which was then one of the leading middle-distance nations in the world.

The three Australians were Graham Crouch, David Fitzsimons and Randall Markey. Crouch, an accountant from Ballarat, was the top-ranked among the Australians. He was to play a large part in what is widely regarded as the greatest 1500 metres race in the history of the event.

In 1968, Crouch was a 20-year-old runner with the Ballarat East High School Athletics Club when the powerful Box Hill club recruited him to run in Melbourne. Crouch continued to live in Ballarat, where he worked at the family business, a Four Square grocery store in Pleasant Street. He ran around Lake Wendouree and up Mount Buninyong. He ran in the Nerrina and Creswick state forests, but it was the advice from renowned Box Hill coach Allan Barlow that made the big difference. In late 1968, Crouch made his inter-club debut with Box Hill in B-grade. At the end of the season he was national mile champion.

Crouch made his international debut at the Pacific Conference Games in Japan in late 1969. He ran only reasonably, but it was his experience of running alongside Olympic stars Ralph Doubell and Ron Clarke that filled him with belief. Crouch ran in the Australian titles early in 1972 confident that he could earn a ticket to the Munich Olympics. He narrowly lost the 1500 metres to South Australian Chris Fisher. Although he had run a qualifying time during the season, he was left out of the Olympic team.

Late in the 1973 northern season, Crouch had just finished running in the Pacific Conference Games in Canada when a highly anticipated mile event was held in Stockholm. The race featured Ben Jipcho from Kenya and Filbert Bayi, a member of the Tanzanian air force, whose boldness created a magnificent frisson wherever he ran. He was a front-runner who dared his rivals to catch him. In those days, the first 800 metres of mile events were generally run in two minutes. In Stockholm, Bayi ran the first 800 metres in one minute, 52 seconds, which put a break of almost half the straight on those who ran through in two minutes. Jipcho overhauled him to score a famous victory.

When Crouch learnt of the 800-metre split his path was clear. He had to train for the next six months with the purpose of being able to stick with Bayi early in the race. “The whole concept of how a race was run was changed,” he said. “I had to be able to run 1.52 for 800 and keep going.” His increased training intensity included more trips from Ballarat to Melbourne to do track sessions with Box Hill teammates.

During the lead-up to the event, Crouch believed he could win a medal. Given the quality of the field it was a belief that suggested a deep well of confidence. When asked to describe the source of that confidence, Crouch thought for several seconds before suggesting it might be because he’s small. (He’s 168 centimetres.) “Maybe it taught me to battle … I don’t know,” he said. “I’ve always been one to have a go.”

The field included Bayi, Jipcho, fellow Kenyan Mike Boit, England’s Brendan Foster and New Zealand pair John Walker and Rod Dixon, who between them had won several Olympic and Commonwealth medals, some from earlier events in Christchurch. Crouch was the Australian champion. “I knew it was going to be hot. And I wanted to beat them,” he said.

Bayi went out as expected. He was five metres ahead after 200 metres and 10 metres ahead after the first lap. A man not much taller than Crouch, he ran with a low knee lift. The Kenyans seemed extravagant by comparison. Bayi went through the 800 in 1:51.8, right on his expected split, and was 15 metres ahead. Crouch was not on his heels, but his training had enabled him to be with the chasing pack. It was panning out as he expected.

Bayi took several looks over his shoulder as he approached the straight for the bell lap. He was still five metres ahead. The chasing pack was jostling for position. Dixon emerged to lead the chase, ahead of Walker and the Kenyans. Crouch, at shoulder height to some of the runners, was on their heels. The BBC commentator described him as “the little Australian”.

The chasing pack sprinted down the back straight before Walker led the charge from 200 metres. Crouch was set to make his move on the medal positions when Boit hit the wall at the 150-metre mark. “All of a sudden he died,” Crouch said. He dropped back on to Crouch, forcing him to lose a few steps in momentum.

In the home straight, Walker closed within a metre of Bayi but with 50 metres to go the Tanzanian fought back. To the astonishment of onlookers, he moved clear of Walker before breasting the finishing tape a couple of metres ahead. Walker, who until these Games was largely unknown, finished second, with Jipcho fighting on for third. Dixon, after a look over his shoulder, held on for fourth, while Crouch came in fifth.

The times were extraordinary. Bayi, with 3:32.16, had broken American Jim Ryun’s world record by almost a second. Walker had also broken the world record. Crouch, with 3:34.42, had broken the Australian record that Herb Elliott had set at the 1960 Olympics in Rome. In all five runners broke their country’s national records. Crouch, in finishing fifth, had run the seventh-fastest time in history. “I was satisfied with my time,” he said. “But I didn’t run to finish fifth.” He later struggled to watch the medal presentation, believing he should have been up there.

Crouch went on to make the final at the 1976 Olympics and still maintains a close interest in athletics. He’s on the board at Athletics International, a body that brings former Australian athletes together and sponsors current ones. He spends summers in Australia, doing contract accounting work, and spends a few months of the northern summer in Europe. Throughout Europe he’s asked about his experience in the 1500 metres in Christchurch. “You can go to a lot of places in the world that aren’t Commonwealth countries – and they know about Christchurch,” he said.

Numbers up

6329 credentialled members of the media at the Super Bowl this year, each one uncovering truth and telling a different part of the story, said NYU journalism lecturer Jay Rosen on his @jayrosen-nyu twitter account this week.

3.5 million ticket requests from 199 countries in the World Cup’s second sale phase. Said FIFA’s man in charge Thierry Weil: “With a little more than three million tickets available at the 12 stadiums, the requests are at least 10 times more than the inventory we have available.”

What they should do …

… is have sporting administrators take a leaf out of much maligned public transport authorities and ensure Senior Card holders get through the gates at the lowest price. Why not offer an admission discount commensurate with pensioners and the disabled? Racing, pacing, chasing, footy, hit and giggle codes, bikes and cars could benefit with increased crowd numbers from Baby Boomers who often baulk at steep admission prices. Given this small incentive this demographic with time on their hands could ensure return business to boot. Win, win. – RICHARD WORLAND. Manifold Heights

Email your contribution to: [email protected]南京夜网.au or twitter: @sundayagesport

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

David Hussey’s future lies in Twenty20 cricket

David Hussey does not want to join the ranks of freelance Twenty20 players, but concedes he may have no other option as part of Victoria’s squad transition.
Nanjing Night Net

The veteran is about to take part in his most significant match of the past year, when Melbourne Stars host Hobart Hurricanes in a Big Bash League semi-final on Tuesday night – and he hopes another on Friday night, in the final.

But looming large is the Indian Premier League auction to be held on February 12.

Hussey’s six years in the IPL have been remarkably settled, spending the first three years with Kolkata and the past three with Punjab. For this season, he was one of many international players to be released, putting him back into the auction.

The right-hander has had a prosperous career – on and off the pitch – in Twenty20. Even in this season’s BBL he has averaged a lofty 62.50 at better than a run a ball, although that is largely because his Melbourne Stars top-order teammates have been performing so well his only substantial innings was his unbeaten 50 in the second-round win against the Sydney Sixers.

Beyond that, from his new position at No.5, he has never faced more than 18 deliveries, but has boasted such a high average because he has been dismissed only twice in his six innings.

The reason this year’s IPL is so significant for Hussey, 36, is because it could end up as his primary wage if he is among contract casualties at the end of the season for Victoria, last on the Sheffield Shield ladder.

Given Hussey’s robust record, his base price of 3 million rupees ($54,600) seems extremely good value, even for IPL teams that may not guarantee him consistent selection as one of their four international players.

As soon as Hussey was dropped by the Bushrangers’ shield team in November, the obviously conclusion was for him to follow former state teammates Brad Hodge and Dirk Nannes in prioritising freelance Twenty20 opportunities.

But given Hussey has held on to his dream of playing Tests for Australia until only recently, his determination to still keep playing in whites is understandable , despite confirmation that when Victoria has a full-strength shield team he will be on the outskirts of it.

”I still enjoy playing. I love batting, I’m still very, very competitive … it’s probably just a different phase of my cricket. I still want to contribute to the team and still want to win,” he said.

”Everyone has setbacks in life. Mine was a big dream, to play Test cricket for Australia, but I know now it’s not going to happen. But I’ve got other things to worry about in my life now: a wife to look after, and the kids as well.

”Maybe I have to reassess my goals and focus on the Twenty20 side, but at the moment I still want to contribute to Victoria.”

Hussey said that while the Stars’ hopes of winning the BBL and qualifying for the Champions League were in the balance, the IPL auction would not be a distraction for him, especially as the Stars were beaten in their past two semi-finals.

One key on-field change for Hussey since he was dropped was that it eased the apprehension he had felt since the winter when he suspected ”something was happening” about his place in the state’s pecking order.

”Probably more relaxed … I know that I’m in and out of the team now – that’s my role,” he said.

Off-field, he has sought advice about life after cricket, and also placed a greater focus on completing the final three units of a degree in sports science and sports management.

”I’m in the 16th year of a four-year course,” he joked. ”For me, life after cricket is nerve-racking, but it’s an exciting time as well.”

Besides Victoria, the IPL and BBL, his main goal is to play in the Caribbean Premier League, a West Indies Twenty20 competition that began last August. England, where he has spent most of the past decade, is a less-attractive option because Twenty20 matches will be played every Friday night over three months rather than in isolation like most other competitions.

Hussey is resigned to rivals targeting his perceived weakness for short-pitched fast-bowling – not that he is at all perturbed by that prospect.

”I like asking former teammates’ and [current] rivals’ plans for me,” he said. ”It’s pretty much ‘start with some bumpers, mix up his feet early and then just don’t bowl spin to him’. It is comical, but it’s something you try to prepare [for] the best you possibly can.

”I actually saw a pitch map of where I’ve scored my runs in the Big Bash and one-day cricket, and surprisingly – or maybe not surprisingly – I’m striking at about 240 for the short ball, so hopefully they continue bowling short to me.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Ron Walker confident of Albert Park grand prix until 2020

Australian Grand Prix chief Ron Walker is confident Melbourne will retain its place on the formula one calendar until the end of the decade, despite admitting there are ”sticking points” in renewal negotiations.
Nanjing Night Net

As race organisers prepare for Monday’s official launch of next month’s F1 season-opener at Albert Park, the second-last of the current five-year contract, talks are continuing to finalise an agreement for 2016-20.

Walker, the chairman of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation, said he was optimistic the race would be renewed by the Victorian government beyond next year.

”I’m as confident of it as I can be,” he said. ”Negotiations are continuing in a favourable direction, so we’ll just see what happens.”

There will be no announcement by Premier Denis Napthine at Monday’s gala launch of the March 13-16 event about the future of the race beyond next year. The lakeside launch at the Albert Park street circuit will feature announcements of the AGP’s title sponsor and the event’s celebrity ambassador.

Although Walker expected the Australian GP’s future would be decided before this year’s event, he confirmed the new deal was not ready to be submitted to the government for approval.

”The lawyers are still talking about some minor points,” he said. ”It’s a work in progress. It’s just taken longer than we thought. I hope the impasse will be resolved soon. Hopefully, it will be concluded before this year’s race.”

Chief among the hurdles is the government’s insistence that the annual sanction fee for the race, which will reportedly reach almost $36 million this year, be significantly reduced.

As well as slashing the operating costs of the event, which reduced the public subsidy to $50.7 million last year from a high of $56.7 million in 2012, the government wants any new contract to represent ”better value”.

Walker and the government are relying on the fact that F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has reduced fees in the renewals of other races that have been under financial pressure.

Walker maintained the obstacles to a new agreement would be ironed out in the ongoing discussions between legal representatives of the AGPC and Formula One Management. ”We think there’ll be a meeting of the ways soon,” he said. ”There are just a few sticking points to be resolved, then it goes to the government. The [AGPC] board will make a recommendation to the government, which will weigh up the figures.

”We won’t take it to the government until we’re ready. There’s no rush as far as we’re concerned.”

He dismissed the disputed terms as ”nothing serious”, characterising them as ”just normal practice” in high-stakes negotiations.

Despite his insistence that finalisation of a renewal agreement won’t be hurried, Walker said he still hoped to secure a renewal ”sometime before this year’s race”.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley pleased his squad didn’t travel to a high-altitude training camp this pre-season

Deep heat: Nathan Buckley will consider a “heat camp” in the Middle East in the next few years. Photo: Ken IrwinCollingwood coach Nathan Buckley has questioned the merits of expensive high-altitude camps, declaring the Magpies have almost completed a comprehensive pre-season program on home soil.
Nanjing Night Net

The Magpies this campaign opted not to head to the US, where they regularly ventured under former coach Mick Malthouse, former head of sports science David Buttifant and in the first years of Buckley’s tenure.

While admitting high altitude delivered a ”two or three per cent” increase in pure fitness, Buckley said remaining at Olympic Park and the Westpac Centre had delivered a rounded routine that had included fitness, game-plan development and leadership testing.

”We have had a really consistent training block, especially pre-Christmas,” Buckley said on Saturday. ”The fact is, inside the Westpac Centre, we finalised the upgrade probably halfway through last year; we got the hydro pools. So this is the first pre-season we have had with all our facilities available.

”Clearly, we wanted to focus on other elements as well. We identified that we needed to develop leadership and we wanted to get consistency of environment as much as anything.

”The fact that we didn’t have to jump on a kite and waste a day and a half to get to the States, then a day and a half coming back, three or four days off to recover – we just got some really consistent training. It felt like we had been able to get more volume and more consistency as a result.”

After an intra-club clash at the club’s family day on Saturday, Buckley said the Magpies were thinking about sending their players to a ”heat camp”. Port Adelaide fitness boss Darren Burgess has espoused the benefits of training in the searing heat of the Middle East.

”We really don’t care what anyone else is doing. We are keenly aware that we can develop our players and our list and the way that we play our football in many different ways,” Buckley said.

”Finding 2 or 3 per cent at altitude … is unquestioned in a fitness sense. Technically, we are trying to increase haemoglobin at altitude. You get the benefits of that when you come back. It helps you train harder for the next week, which makes you a bit fitter, and then it’s a ripple effect – that’s really what the altitude theory is.

”We believe we have been able to tip in really good volume here. We have not discounted the possibility of going to altitude, we are looking for a heat camp at some stage in the next couple of years.”

As the equalisation debate intensifies in the AFL, that the Magpies opted not to head abroad should mean clubs with less resources do not feel as if they need to stretch an already tight budget to match the overseas training programs of their cashed-up brethren.

While the re-signings of Dane Swan and Heritier Lumumba gave the Magpies reason to cheer on Saturday, young defender Adam Oxley was carried off the field on a stretcher during the intra-club match with a suspected leg fracture. Oxley, who played two matches last season, was taken to hospital for scans.

In a match where the Magpies played eight periods of nine minutes, recruit Jesse White was strong up forward, while the ball-carrying Clinton Young, having endured a wretched first season at Collingwood because of injury, was impressive.

”We are obviously looking at him [to play] through the wing and half-back and he can even play as a high forward at times. He has great running power, great penetration on that left foot,” Buckley said.

Adding that Lumumba, formerly known as Harry O’Brien, would be used in defence, on a wing and in the midfield this season, Buckley said he was happy with how the Magpies’ defensive objectives were progressing.

”We wanted to see some elements of our defence that we have been working on and we did see that,” he said. ”We are just starting to see it all come together from potentially putting pressure on the ball but also supporting the defence down the field a little bit. Getting that balance right is important for us.

”I thought our back-half ball movement last year was a highlight – we are continuing to do that. We just have to find that connection inside 50 a little bit more.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Major challenge as South Africa looks to relive glory days

Illustration: michaelmucci南京夜网The last time South Africa won a series against Australia on home soil, Bill Lawry was the visiting skipper, primary school kids were still working on their decimal currency conversions and humankind’s representative had just landed on the moon.
Nanjing Night Net

That 4-0 hammering in the opening months of 1970 came immediately after Australia’s arduous five-Test series in India, the players were sick and tired and South Africa had some fresh geniuses in Barry Richards and Graeme Pollock.

After 10 weeks in India, Australia then played four Tests in South Africa through to mid-March.

There were no business-class flights and no WAGS paid to visit. In fact, there was very little salary. If modern millionaire players complain about bulging schedules, they should have a chat to some of the guys from that sojourn.

There has never been much between the two teams since the new era of the republic. In 1994, Allan Border’s men drew the series 1-1. The third Test at Kingsmead completed the career of Australia’s most resilient captain.

It is not completely edifying to label two Test matches in a row a series, but that was all that could be managed three years ago. The spoils were shared with two very different results, although Australia’s two-wicket win to level the series could have easily gone the home team’s way but for half-centuries to Brad Haddin and Usman Khawaja and Mitchell Johnson’s rapid 40 in pursuit of 300 on a cracking fifth-day pitch.

Neither side would have been completely happy with its performances, although the Australian comeback at Johannesburg after the Cape Town debacle was admirable. The South Africans acutely felt the sting of that loss as they thought the series was all but won going into the last day. The local media had talked up the fact that they could have the first series win in the new era and South Africa had only won 12 times against Australia since the Boer War.

History will again be challenged over the next five weeks.

Australia has made changes to the touring party due to injury, but at least these alterations have come early enough to allow Moises Henriques and Phil Hughes to get their heads around Test cricket again. The loss, once again to injury, of Shaun Marsh looks inconsequential. His selection was as mysterious as the fallacious reasoning of chairman of selectors John Inverarity – ”he was in a good head space”.

It would be much better if he was in a deep, dark, diabolical head space if it meant he could make more first-class runs and average better than 30-odd. I always thought runs were the currency that bought selection rather than amateur psychoanalysis.

Hughes has been minting runs this Sheffield Shield season despite the misleading veneer of his idiosyncratic technique and unpublished head space. He is the direct replacement for Marsh.

Henriques goes in for the all-rounder James Faulkner, yet they are not peas from the same pod. The leftie Faulkner is more a bowler who bats, and Henriques a genuine top-six batsmen who bowls usefully.

Will Henriques find himself pressing for Shane Watson’s role? Watson is under pressure after a modest Ashes and is even-money to pull any one of a dozen muscles.

Henriques’ disciplined batting in the Indian debacle and good form in shield cricket has seen him recognised. Alex Doolan usually bats high in the order so maybe a trip down to six in a direct swap with his Tasmanian captain, the dropped George Bailey, is unlikely.

Michael Clarke has an opportunity to slip Watto down to six, giving him more R&R after an innings in the field rather than getting him padded up and potentially back at the crease and stressing the body.

So Doolan at three, Watson at six and Henriques breathing down his neck. There is an opportunity for sea change after the eclectic top-order batting performances of the home summer.

Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel aren’t going to bowl as poorly as the English bowlers did. Haddin is due to fail and it would be nice if he could do so with 400 or more on the board.

The immediate challenge is for batsmen to move out of the mode of playing a shot at anything within swinging range and damning the consequences into red-ball discipline and patience mode. That is not as simple as hitting the reset button. The bowlers need to have enough miles in their legs to get through five days rather than 1½ hours.

As is the way in contemporary schedules, there is time for only one tour match before the Test. Bowlers may get the quantity of overs without necessarily achieving quality, but batsmen who get an unplayable one early or a poor decision will be severely underdone.

It will be two months since the last Sheffield Shield match and five weeks since the end of the Sydney Test. The modern player has to adapt or be rotated, something Ryan Harris, Mitchell Johnson and Peter Siddle have grown unaccustomed to.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.