THE FITZ FILES
Illustration: John Shakespeare
THE Ricky Stuart thing? Look, you can't blame him for going. If you were standing in the smoking ruins of the once great clubhouse you had been presiding over, and a car pulled up, offering you a gig at another clubhouse down the way, on a reputed million-dollar-a-year contract over three years, wouldn't you get in? Most particularly if the new clubhouse was in your home town, a club where you remained a living legend, and a place where your and your wife's extended family could provide support for your beloved autistic child? I would. (Come to think of it, I sort of did - back when Sydney Uni was being dumped to second division in 1982, and Alan Jones asked me to join his rising Manly team. One word, Alan: ''TAXXXI!'') None of that is the problem. The problem is after excoriating Israel Folau early in the year for reneging on what Stuart said was a handshake deal to walk out on his commitment to the deal, and then sacking 10 first-graders mid-season as part of the rebuilding process, and then guiding the side to a series of shattering losses and the wooden spoon, appropriate form would have been to look a tad sheepish about going. And he didn't. Just defiant. Look, the very foundation stone of league is ''taking the money and running'', and Stuart has done that better than most, on and off the field. But if he doesn't find success at Canberra, and quickly, it might soon be final drinks at the Last Chance Saloon.
Which brings us, first, to Doug Walters' comment about Australian spinner Fawad Ahmed declining to have a VB logo on his one-day uniform. ''I think,'' Doug said, ''if he doesn't want to wear the team gear, he should not be part of the team. Maybe if he doesn't want to be paid that's OK.'' I strongly disagree with the first assertion, but am with him on the second. The problem we've all had in recent years is that all too frequently, national teams look like they are representing corporations, rather than Australia, and it would be outright wrong for the commercial needs of those corporations to outweigh the whole spirit of representing your country in the first place. Sacking Ahmed because he was not wearing a logo would be a statement that the corporation comes first, which is unacceptable. Against that, it probably does makes sense that if you decline to wear the logo of the sponsors, you should also forgo that proportion of your paypacket that comes from their sponsorship?
And then there is my old friend Campo. For no sooner had Walters made his views known than David Campese tweeted: ''Doug Walters tells Pakistan-born Fawad Ahmed: if you don't like the VB uniform, don't play for Australia. Well said Doug. Tell him to go home.'' The saddest thing, as I have pointed out to Campo, is that when his own fine father emigrated here from Italy in the 1950s, that was exactly the type of racism he faced. And look at the contribution the Campese family has subsequently made to Australian sport. Ditto John Eales. His mother was interned during WWII, because of her Italian background. Forty years later, John was leading the Wallabies out, as our best and brightest, up against the Italian rugby team. To Campo's credit, he has issued a very strong apology, and has totally climbed down from his position.
In the beginning, there was ''Kick-Too'' Farr-Jones, a nickname started off by erstwhile colleague John Huxley, and it was good, and it was great. And then there was Martin ''Chariots'' Offiah, and it was even better, for from the moment someone called the rugby league player that, it was obvious that no one could ever call him anything else again. More recently there has been ''Waltzing'' Matt Hilder, which was perhaps the best of all, at least in Australian terms when it came to wordplay. But we are not alone. A story in The Guardian this week has it that the Congolese-born, Dutch-nationalised soccer player Kiki Musampa still goes by the nickname of ''Chris,'' geddit? GEDDIT? Chris Musampa! Gold, gold, GOLD! This, in my view, is even better than the English soccer player Fitz Hall, now known as ''One Size''. And finally, there is former Everton legend Neil Pointon, who became known as ''Dissa'' as in Dissa Pointon. Got any better? Send them in.
GLORY FOR TAS
Bravo to The Armidale School's 1st XV which last week won the inaugural GPS third-grade premiership with a convincing win in Sydney over Newington, delivering TAS its first GPS rugby premiership since joining the association in 1897. The GPS thirds competition comprised the firsts teams from TAS, Sydney Grammar and Sydney High School, with the thirds teams from the remaining GPS schools: King's, Scots, Newington College, St Joseph's College Hunters Hill, St Ignatius College Riverview and Shore School. It was perhaps the most competitive of the three GPS grades. TAS has also been very proactive in instituting a concussion program, whereby all students are base-line tested, allowing better assessment of how affected they might be from hard hits.
As if you didn't know, wheelchair rugby, aka murderball, will this week be on display at St Mary's Cathedral Square, as the Wheelchair Rugby Tri-Nations, between Australia, NZ and USA - the only teams to have ever won gold at the Paralympic Games - roars into life from September 18-20. Tickets to the series are $15 and available through Ticketmaster. Google: Be the Influence Wheelchair Rugby.
WHAT THEY SAID
ABC commentator David Morrow on Ricky's Stuart's sudden defection from Parramatta to Canberra on Wednesday: "He'll be jumping from the fire into the frying pan."
American heavyweight boxer Chris Arreola after defeating opponent Seth Mitchell. "I want to thank myself for working hard. I'm the one who put the work in, not God." Love it!
On ABC's Australian Story, Greg Norman 'fesses up on just how badly his loss at the 1996 Masters hurt: "I disappeared down to the beach after the US Masters and lay on the beach and cried, because I felt like I'd completely screwed up winning a tournament that I wanted to win."
Michael Lynagh on British SKY TV, after the Wallaby loss to the Boks last Saturday night: "You see James O'Connor walking around and laughing with the South Africans etc. It's fine to be a good sportsman and shake hands and say 'well done', but its got to hurt inside. And I don't think these Australians … I don't think it hurts enough …"
Wallaby coach Ewen McKenzie after the loss to South Africa: "The simple errors are not acceptable … Maybe we have to dumb it down, make things simpler." I'd be more inclined to ROUGH IT UP. Nothing against the rules, just a change in spirit.
Irish referee George Clancy to the Australian team during the Springboks game: "Who's your captain, again?" It was Will Genia and, surprisingly, he was dropped to the bench within days.
Ricky Stuart after the final game of the Eels' horrible season: "I haven't spoke to Canberra, it's a simple as that. It's not on my mind. What more can I say? I am contracted to Parramatta. I haven't spoken to anyone about going anywhere else." Four days later, he was gone to Canberra.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter on why, two years after Qatar's winning bid for the 2022 World Cup, he is pushing for it to be held in winter. "I came to the conclusion that playing in the heat of Qatar's summer was simply not a responsible thing to do." Thanks, SCOOP!
A grinning Gary Ella in response to a question from the publican of the Lord Nelson Hotel, if he was free this weekend to pull on a jumper for the Wallabies: "I think they will need all three of us."
Former league player Kevin Hastings, in Rugby League Week, on his problems with depression, after a career of many concussions. "I was going to check out. I could see no other way out to my problems and my mind was made up … I am convinced [the head knocks] did the damage to me, brought on my depression." Lifeline 13 11 14
New Wallabies halfback Nic White on the style of new Wallabies captain Ben Mowen and how he will want the team to "do the shitters" in the Test against Argentina. ''The shitters' are the jobs no one wants to do, but are required to win games. He sets high standards, and if you don't meet them he gets pretty angry. He'll want the blokes to do the shitters. He says what he's going to do, then does it and expects everyone to follow."
TEAM OF THE WEEK
Ben Mowen. Cut from the NSW Waratahs at the end of the 2011 season, as it was clear to management he was not going to make it, he is now the Brumbies and Wallabies captain.
Eastwood and Terrigal Trojans. Both clubs have all grade teams in the grand finals this Saturday.
Socceroos. Beaten by Brazil 6-0. Bloody hell. Is their coach up to it?
Springboks. Their win in Brisbane more than doubled the margin of their previous Australian best and also gave them their first win on the east coast in 14 matches since the code went professional in 1996. It was South Africa's first win in Brisbane in 42 years.
The Hills Lions. The Aussie Rules side won the first premiership in their 14-year history last Saturday, defeating the Campbelltown Swans in the grand final.
Tokyo. Will host 2020 Olympics, 56 years after first hosting them. Personally, I am surprised Qatar didn't get them.
Sydney Roosters. Minor premiers.
Rafael Nadal. The likeable Spaniard has now won 13 majors, second only to Pete Sampras and Roger Federer.
Paul Roos. Coach of the Demons for the next two years.
Junee Rams. After folding in 1994, the Riverina Rah-Rahs to beat them all came back just this year, and last week won their comp, beating the Hay Cutters 18-10. Bravo, particularly, to "BlackJack" Booligul who returned after suffering a broken leg six weeks ago to play the final 30 minutes of the final at halfback.
Doug Allen. Great rugby, great sportsman, great community man and an all-round top bloke passed away, a fortnight ago, aged 67. Among his numerous achievements, he created Lane Cove Rugby Legends and served as president of the NSW Picnic Race Club Association. Vale.
Sir Arthur George. Former head of Australia Soccer Federation passed away last week aged 98. Well done, oh good faithful servant of the game.