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In the absence of a reality TV show in the South African jungle, Michael Clarke makes a stunning return to the public spotlight this weekend when he takes the field for Western Suburbs in club cricket.
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Clarke nervous ahead of his cricket comeback
Former Australia skipper prepares to make return to the pitch for Sydney's Western Suburbs this weekend.
Actually, did he ever leave it?
Thousands of fans are expected to converge on Pratten Park to watch the former Australian captain launch his comeback to the game of bat and ball.
Excuse me if I don't make it. There are more pressing issues at hand, like plaiting my hair.
Only six months ago, Clarke told us it was "the right time" to retire from cricket after Australia handed back the Ashes urn to England.
There's nothing wrong with changing your mind.
But the well-orchestrated public relations operation that has surrounded Clarke's return has been unfurled with military precision.
The story of Clarke's comeback broke in News Corp newspapers on January 30.
He talked about the Western Suburbs match being a possible springboard to future BBL, IPL or Sheffield Shield appearances. And he didn't rule out a bid to represent his country again.
The timing of it was curious.
Behind the scenes, a story was brewing about Clarke's time on the celebrity-stacked Sydney-to-Hobart supermaxi Perpetual Loyal, which was forced to turn around and head back to Sydney with a damaged hull.
The boat is owned by Clarke's celebrity accountant mate Anthony Bell.
Bon voyage: Michael Clarke farewells wife Kyly Clarke ahead of last year's Sydney to Hobart. Rumours soon began circulating concerning Clarke's performance aboard Perpetual Loyal. Photo: Getty Images
Then Puppy's comeback story broke and interest in Perpetual Loyal suddenly slipped away.
"There's BBL next summer, I'd love to be a part of that, IPL, county cricket," Clarke said. "There's possibly even Sheffield Shield cricket for NSW."
Then he added this: "All I know is, I'll never say never to anything. I'll start with Western Suburbs and we will see where it takes me. For now, my focus is definitely the shorter format of the game."
Then Clarke went on the campaign trail like he was Hillary Clinton, discussing his comeback across various media platforms, all the way up until a week ago when he was asked – again – about his future.
Suddenly, he was pouring cold water on all the speculation about what this comeback match might mean.
"A lot of things have been written and said and I take that as a compliment that people still think I can play – BBL, county cricket, for NSW or whatever," he said.
In other words, "I would like to pour cold water on the speculation I started myself three weeks ago".
That, friends, is what you call "gibber".
So busy has Clarke been this week, PR dynamo Sally Burleigh – who has a business partnership with Bell – has been engaged to handle media inquiries. Burleigh did not return calls on Thursday.
To be honest, none of this surprises.
Following his retirement, Clarke stepped away from public life for about a nanosecond – something quite different from previous Australian captains, who usually take some time out.
Many within the cricket fraternity wonder exactly how far Clarke's comeback might extend.
He wasn't a successful Twenty20 player, retiring from the captaincy before he was pushed.
In terms of next summer's BBL, the Thunder and Sixers won't touch him, nor will the Melbourne Stars. As we understand it, NSW's Sheffield Shield side is hardly falling over itself to welcome him back into the fold.
There's a feeling among former and current players that Clarke could only sit on the periphery for so long.
Relevancy to a sportsman is almost as addictive as how many likes they get on a single Instagram post.
Clarke's best mate Shane Warne has never been able to stop staring into the bright lights. Whatever he says on I'm A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here! has now become daily click bait.
Get me out of the South African jungle. In Clarke's case, get me out of a struggling Test side for which I'm making no runs. Just don't get me out of the spotlight, because I've been enjoying it for far too long.
Pocock keeps his head down
Now to the antithesis of Pup and Warnie … David Pocock.
The Wallabies star is seriously considering a sabbatical from the game next year so he can study abroad, despite speculation about him signing lucrative deals to play overseas that will make him "the highest paid rugby player in the world".
UK premiership side Wasps are the latest to reportedly step forward, but those who know Pocock best say money has never been his motivation.
Pocock is a different character. The Wallabies were based in Coogee last winter and he was often spied sitting outside a local cafe in front of a laptop, working away at assessments for a bachelor of ecological agricultural systems degree.
Either way, the ARU seems almost resigned to the fact that their champion flanker will take next year off.
Hughes family to skip match
The family of the late Phillip Hughes will not be in attendance for the Sheffield Shield match between NSW and South Australia being played in his honour in Coffs Harbour from next Thursday.
His father Greg is expected to attend a function on day two.
The match is being played near the late batsman's hometown of Macksville on the NSW north coast just over a year since his tragic death.
The findings of Cricket Australia's review into Hughes' death and how or if such incidents can be avoided is expected to be released in coming weeks.
Push for Pearce return
The push is already on for Mitchell Pearce to return to the NRL in round 12 – although the NRL insists no decision has been made on how long the troubled Roosters star will be sidelined.
Pearce is still in a rehab clinic in Thailand, with contact to the outside world limited, and the last thing on his mind is footy.
There is talk he could be back for the Roosters by mid-season, but the word out of the NRL is that some powerbrokers want him rubbed out for longer.
Expensive tastes: Tim Cahill's wage demands are likely to be way beyond the A-League. Photo: Melissa Adams
FFA quick to target Cahill
Despite reports elsewhere, the FFA pounced on Tim Cahill as soon as it got a whiff of his shock axing from Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua.
Contact was made with his agent about the idea of Cahill returning to Australia to play in the A-League – although it was never going to happen.
Some will argue chairman Steven Lowy and chief executive David Gallop should throw the bank at the Socceroos veteran.
What would it take, though, given Cahill's last deal was reportedly worth $10 million for the season? The A-League has a salary cap per club of $2.5 million.
Never, ever gonna happen. Unless you want to take a pay cut, Timmy?
Hayne a hit with 49ers fans
Your humble correspondent returned this week from a trip to the US-of-freaking-A, including a couple of stints in San Francisco, which hosted Super Bowl 50 earlier this month.
Bar staff – as we all know – are the wisest souls on the planet, and a straw poll of San Fran's finest about Jarryd Hayne was enlightening.
Some had no idea who he was. But most of them were aghast that Hayne had been constantly snubbed last season by sacked 49ers coach Jim Tomsula.
"That rugby player was our best running back for a long time there last season, and they kept overlooking him," said one. "Every Niners fan I know wants him back … Was he a good player in Sydney?"
Yes, he went alright.
"If men mate with men and women mate with women, they are worse than animals." World champion boxer Manny Pacquiao. Woof!
Ronda Rousey's raw interview with Ellen DeGeneres was brave and confronting. "What am I any more if I'm not this?" she asked herself after her shock UFC world title loss to Holly Holm, leading to suicidal thoughts. It was a rare display of vulnerability from one of the world's most recognisable athletes.
Look, call me old fashioned. And who knows where Cupid's dart shall land? But there's one thing you should never, ever do, and that's sleep with your mate and colleague's wife behind his back. And that's what AFL media personality Garry Lyon has done to Billy Brownless. The car crash has played out in slow-mo all week.
It's a big weekend for … the umpires officiating in the second Test between Australia and New Zealand. Heaven forbid if they get a no-ball wrong after the Adam Voges debacle.
It's an even bigger weekend for … the best sprinters in the country – of the horsey variety – when Chautauqua, Terravista, Delectation, Japonisme and Exosphere go to war in the group 1 Lightning Stakes at Flemington on Saturday.