THE FITZ FILES

<i>Illustration: John Shakespeare</i>

Illustration: John Shakespeare

THE Wallabies' performance against France last Saturday? I agree: desperately disappointing, nowhere more so than in the backs where they seemed entirely clueless as to how to move the ball to a point where they might be able to penetrate. But can we get a grip, as to the overwhelming blackness that seems to have descended on Australian rugby? Only last month this team was good enough, despite their crushing injury toll, to deny the world champion All Blacks a victory for the first time in 17 matches. As to the France match, there is no more mercurial side in world rugby than Les Bleus, and it was the Wallabies' misfortune to meet them on a day when the mercury was high as never before. In short, have faith! (But if they lose to England tonight, call for the doctor.)

 

ARTS ATTACK

Bravo, David Williamson, for this week stating the bleeding obvious. ''The overall cost of our Olympic gold medals was in excess of $17 million per medal but that was thought to be not nearly enough investment by many who oversee our elite sports institutions,'' said Williamson, delivering the 2012 National Tertiary Education Union lecture in Fremantle. ''Why as a society we think it's legitimate to spend huge amounts on our sportsmen and women, but seemingly don't think the relative pittance we spend on developing a potential Cate Blanchett or Geoffrey Rush is as justifiable, has to say something about our national and political priorities.'' The funding of elite sport in this country has long been ludicrous, and the mystery is how the government can allow it to go on. Chunks of it should be redirected to both the arts, as Williamson suggests, and to grassroots sport.

 

WORLDS APART

TFF has said for a long time that AFL is the best run sport in Australia, and here is more proof. As you know, "Australia Network" is the chief form of the Australian government's engagement with South-East Asia and Pacific region, drawing program content from the ABC and all other free-to-air networks. This has meant that for years viewers have been able to see a wide array of games from all football codes, Friday to Monday. And yet, TFF's man in India, Colin Yarham, reports, because soccer, rugby union and rugby league negotiated new broadcasting arrangements with the outcome that a fee was demanded of Australia Network for their vision, it has left open slather for AFL. "The consequence," Colin reports, "is that young people from all over the Pacific [who had normally watched and played rugby, or to a lesser extent soccer] can now watch at least five games of AFL each weekend and enjoy the scintillating running game of the 'Cats' or the 'Swans' and the vigour of the 'Dockers' or Collingwood with impunity. Very soon AFL coaches and mentors have arrived and the game is said to be building up apace throughout. The AFL is even organising an early season match in India. AFL appears organised but it would seem that promotion means little to the other Boards - rather shortsighted but typical."

 

PULL THE WHIP

The reason I don't get the whole Damien Oliver thing is not just because I don't get horseracing. It is that I don't understand the industry's reaction to serious allegations of corruption. Oliver, as you know, was charged with betting on another horse in a race in which he was competing. This week he was charged by Racing Victoria stewards, and they will decide his guilt or innocence. Nevertheless, despite those allegations hanging over him, he was still OK to compete in the Melbourne Cup! And, more staggering, the smart money says that even if he is found guilty he will only be suspended from racing for - wait for it - eight months to a year! What am I missing? In what other sport could a competitor accused of betting on an opponent to win, not only take his place in that sport's premier event, but only be suspended for a year if proven? If Roger Federer were proved to have bet on Rafael Nadal to win Wimbledon, would he ever be allowed to play again?

 

CAULI POWER

Thank you, thank you all! Premier Barry O'Farrell launched the Cauliflower Club with great aplomb on Monday before 450 people at the Sheraton On the Park, while the man who stole the show behind the microphone was our patron, Sir Nicholas Shehadie. As you know, the club is at http://cauliflowerclub.com/

And thank you!

 

NICE TOUCH

One last thing, re the Australian Transplant Cricket team that I mentioned last week. I like this. I am told that at the end of each match, they huddle on the ground and give thanks to the 22 players on their team - the 11 who took the field for their second innings in life, and for the other 11 who made it possible through a transplant of organ donation and the gift of life. Lovely.

 

WHAT THEY SAID

Ricky Stuart fears losing Israel Folau: ''It'd be disappointing for him to go to another code. I've just been working hard, as the club has, with the league to have him play here but we seem to be just punching our heads against a brick wall.'' Might be a league thing?

Michael Clarke in two separate post-match television interviews about his team's very good performance in the first Test against South Africa. "After day one I thought we come back really well …" and "The way we come out and played today …" Come, come. Surprising.

Channel Nine's Michael Slater commenting on a superb Michael Hussey cover drive: "And that's his autograph shot!" Perhaps he meant signature shot?

World Anti-Doping Agency president John Fahey: "Do I feel we're winning the fight? The answer is no … Are we cleaner? Look, this is a fight sadly that will never be won."

"We've just got to go back to the drawing board and lick our wounds." Berrick Barnes, after the French mauling of the Wallabies in Paris. Again, Barnes made a huge difference once he came on.

Dragons prop Josh Miller, who has retired after tests revealed he had issues from too many concussions: "On short-term memory, yeah, I struggled a bit. I'd trace out two pictures and then, a few minutes later, be asked to draw one again. Or we'd pair 10 words and, after going through them, the doc would start over; saying one and waiting for me to say the other."

@concussionblog, a Twitter account that monitors head injuries in the NFL: "Unofficially we have counted 12 concussions thus far this week."

Ryan Tandy: "If I was an NRL CEO, I probably wouldn't sign Ryan Tandy. Even if I win my appeal, the public will always be like, 'Yeah he won, but he's still a match-fixer.'" Well …

Wallabies winger Digby Ioane: "Going from league to union is pretty hard, while it's pretty easy the other way around. I find league's not skilful, you've just got 13 guys, and you have to run against them. Union is different, there's more to it."

Jacqueline Freney has been crowned Australia's Paralympian of the year after winning eight gold medals at the London Games: "I've had a few opportunities to get my name out there but still no sponsors on the cards. But I don't do it for the sponsorship - I do it for the passion of my sport. I hope somebody gets on board and sponsors me. I think I'd be a great asset to the company."

Former Socceroos goalkeeper Zeljko Kalac has gone to the wall over a $500,000 gambling splurge on horse races and soccer matches, prompting a law firm to write to one creditor: "The bottom line is that, barring a miracle, you are not likely to receive any monies at all from this debtor. After three years he will be discharged from bankruptcy and all debts will have been wiped."

 

TEAM OF THE WEEK 

Ian Crook. Quit as the seventh coach of Sydney FC in eight years. NEXT!

Kaya Bremner and Cameron Durrant. Opened the batting for Concord Briars under-16 Gold v Epping YMCA, and put together an unbroken partnership of 210 runs, in the process each scored their maiden century. The boys' great-grandfathers were brothers in the tiny farming hamlet of Womboota in the southern Riverina.

Dan Moore. The 22-year-old from Orange has qualified for the "World's Toughest Mudder" in New Jersey later this month.

Wallabies. Apart from the Test match, probably had a great time in Paris.

Scott Jeffery. Cycled from London to Australia, to raise money for the Prostate Cancer Foundation. There will be a fund-raiser for him at Mona Vale Bowling Club on December 9. Keeponpushing.me for details

Michael Clarke. His double century this week took him to 1041 runs at an average of 116 in 2012 with more yet to come. The season to end reason.

JP Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge. Paralympians Kurt Fearnley, Richard Colman, Richard Nicholson, Jake Lappin and Nathan Arkley joined 7000 others in the five-kilometre race at Centennial Park during the week.

Rory McIlroy. Became the second golfer to win the money title both sides of the Atlantic in the same season.

Young Socceroos. Qualified for next year's under-20 World Cup in Turkey.

The Baguars. The group of outraged fans of the Jacksonville Jaguars gridiron team are so embarrassed by their NFL team's poor form that they have started turning up to games wearing brown paper bags over their heads.

Kurt Hanson. The brother of Olympic champion Brooke this week won the world surf swim championships for the 30- to 34-year category in Adelaide.

 

Email - fitzsimons@smh.com.au