It was one of the great moments in Australian sport. You see, when Raelene Boyle won gold in her last race, at the Brisbane Commonwealth Games in 1982 – roaring home in the 400 metres – the stadium roared even as the nation came to a standstill. Raelene, a beloved figure, denied gold in the previous two Olympics at the hands of East Germans (say no more), had at least and at last had the perfect finish. And who has been organised to present the medal at such an emotion-charged, proud, national moment? Why, none other than Betty Cuthbert! Betty, a legend of her own time, had three Olympic gold medals to her credit from a quarter-century earlier, before she had contracted multiple sclerosis – which is why she is now, in 1982, mostly wheelchair-bound. But not for this occasion! No, to give Raelene her medal, Betty is determined to do it on her own two feet, and now, painfully, slowly, makes her way forward unaided right to the dais in the centre of the stadium. As the crowd roars even more, she presents the bronze and silver medals, and now reaches up with the gold medal to put it around the neck of the crowd's heroine, while the big screen flashes the very words the announcer is intoning to the stadium, "RAELENE – OUR GOLDEN GIRL".
But now, as Raelene leans further forward, it brings her mouth in proximity to Betty's ear, enabling her to whisper, "Don't believe it. There's only one golden girl. And it's you, Betty Cuthbert".
Betty's knees buckle with emotion. And yet, though hands reach out to support her, she waves them away, stands tall for the national anthem, then makes her way, still upright and unaided, 100 metres or more back into the bowels of the stadium – using all those qualities of pride, resilience and strength that had made her such a champion all those years ago. Just one step inside the tunnel, however, the instant she is out of public view, she collapses into the arms of officials. There is a flood of tears, of pain from the multiple sclerosis and sheer emotion. It takes a while, but after she sobs out the story of what Raelene had said to her on the dais, everyone within earshot was crying too.
Betty Cuthbert died on a Sunday evening in August, still the nation's golden girl. Vale, Betty, and bravo, Raelene.
Life as a professional
Say what you like about Winx trainer Chris Waller, but never say he hides the horse's light under a bushel.
"You can see it in the horse," he said in October, "and the team at home is very happy with the way that her preparation has gone. The beauty of Winx is she makes our job easier. She's an absolute professional. What you see on race day is exactly what you see every day of the week with her and it's an absolute privilege to be a part of her career."
Exactly! An "absolute professional". Some horses? They get carried away. Win a few cups and their discipline turns to mud. They start drinking, smoking, staying out late and chasing tail. But not Winx. She rises early, does her trackwork, rests, goes home to watch videos of past races, studies the form of competitors in her next race, gets a full rubdown, meets with her manager – always refuses advertising contracts as they will distract her – never eats fast-food and as a matter of fact, never eats anything that's not 100 per cent natural. After saying her prayers, she's tucked up in bed early every night and readies herself to go again. Some call that a dull life. Waller and I call it being "professional" – and good luck to her!
The Margaret Court thing? Her comments that she refuses to fly Qantas anymore in protest at the Qantas CEO's advocacy of same-sex marriage? Simply sad. She embarrasses herself. Her remarks are consistent with other homophobic comments she has made over the years – "To legitimise what God calls abominable sexual practices that include sodomy, reveals our ignorance as to the ills that come when society is forced to accept law that violates their very own God-given nature," – and no great surprise.
"I am disappointed that Qantas has become an active promoter for same-sex marriage," Ms Court said in a letter to the editor published in The West Australian last year. "I believe in marriage as a union between a man and a woman as stated in the Bible. Your statement leaves me no option but to use other airlines were possible for my extensive travelling."
Given Virgin Australia also is a promoter of same-sex marriage, that leaves her pretty grounded as far as I can see, which is to the good. (Still, can someone check if Greyhound Buses have a policy on this? I'll bet they are in the 21st century, too, so Ms Court might have to boycott them as well?)
Meantime, though, what I'd love her to explain is how it is, if her God is so firmly against gays, why he made them in the first place? And if you're citing the Bible, can you answer Dom Knight's question and explain why YOU, as a Pastor, get an exemption from 1 Timothy 2: "I do not permit a woman to teach?" Or is it OK to ignore bits that apply to you?
And yes, yes, yes of course it is Ms Court's "right" to express those views. But it is equally our right to blow loud raspberries in her general direction. And one of the twitterati Phil Branagan, made an interesting point: "Using the same logic, Ms Court will surely understand if one was to boycott the stadium named in her honour due to her social intolerance..."
Tennis is an inclusive game, and ever more inclusive in the 21st century. Does Melbourne Park really want to have an arena named after someone who stands so firmly against such inclusiveness, who is becoming a byword for bigot?
And to be clear, the problem is not simply she doesn't support SSM. Plenty of fine Australians don't. It is the consistency of her homophobia over so many years and the fact that the only buttressing of her position is religious mumbo-jumbo. Those who say Ms Court is being "bullied", should talk to the gays about being bullied for centuries, by people spouting precisely the views Ms Court puts out.
Rare moral courage
For the last three years or so, TFF has had the honour of being a "Pro Chancellor," at my alma mater, Sydney Uni – essentially meaning that I am one of three Fellows of the Senate who can stand in for the Chancellor at official ceremonies, when she is otherwise engaged. On a Thursday afternoon in October this gave me the great pleasure of conferring upon Adam Goodes an Honorary Doctorate of "Health Sciences (honoris causa) in recognition of his outstanding contribution to Australian society." In the Great Hall, a graduating class of 100 and a crowd of 600 overall, gave him a standing ovation. He spoke eloquently, and passionately on the theme of fulfilling your potential no matter what obstacles might be put in your way. In my own remarks, I said, and I meant, Australia has boasted many athletes of great physical courage. The list of those with matching moral courage is much slimmer, and however honoured that Goodes was to accept our Honorary Doctorate, we were more honoured still that he accepted it. Bravo, Adam.
What they said
The rising star of Australian tennis Alex de Minaur, leading into the Australian Open. "I want to leave it all out there, compete every point, give myself the best opportunity I can to play well. I think that's the only thing I can ask from myself." He is the goods.
Bernard Tomic, after bombing out in the qualifying rounds, and failing to make the Australian Open for the first time in a decade: "I just count money, that's all I do. I count my millions. You go do what I did [on court]. Bye bye." He is not.
Tonya Harding's mother Ms Lavona Golden calls her daughter a liar: "Tonya herself called us trailer trash. We were never trailer trash. We had a beautiful new trailer. We didn't live in filth or dirt or anything that I would call unusual."
Margaret Court, in May, on the subject of transgender children: "That's all the devil ... but that's what Hitler did and that's what communism did — got the mind of the children. And there's a whole plot in our nation, and in the nations of the world to get the minds of the children."
Billie-Jean King, this week, serves on overhead smash on Ms Court: "I personally don't think she should have her name [on the arena] anymore. If you were talking about indigenous people, Jews or any other people, I can't imagine the public would want someone to have their name on something."
Dana White responds to Meryl Streep after she so wonderfully bagged MMA in her Golden Globes speech: "It's not going to be everybody's thing and the last thing in the world I expect is an uppity, 80-year-old lady to be in our demographic and love mixed martial arts."
Women's AFL star – and there's a phrase never heard before this year – Darcy Vescio, on playing in the limelight: "That was insane. Just the numbers, the crowd, the game ... The roar, we could hardly hear anything out here ... We just want people to come and watch us play and see what we create." If you build it, they will come. And so they did!
Leaked emails show what David Beckham really felt about not getting a knighthood: "They're a bunch of c---- I expected nothing less. Who decides on the honours? It's a disgrace to be honest and if I was American I would of got something like this ten years ago." Could Australia perhaps give him one? Oh, wait!
Jockey Hugh Bowman on Winx: "It's really special. "I'm really lost for words, she's just put it all out there. And the amount of expectation on her, I know she's ready and everything has gone to plan so far." Exactly. She reads the headlines, hears the predictions, and STILL goes on and wins!
Cowboys' captain Gavin Cooper when asked if his runners-up speech was prepared: "I didn't write a speech to lose the game."
Dr Richard Denniss, chief economist, The Australia Institute, in a letter to the SMH on #StadiumSplurge: "The important economics issue is not whether new stadiums might deliver some indirect economic benefits to NSW, the economic question is which projects, of all the projects we could spend $2 billion on, would deliver the most economic benefits to NSW."
Denniss again: "Put simply, if the value to be captured from stadiums was greater than the cost of building them the private sector would be queueing up to fund them. And if the value to be captured by the owners of the stadiums is less than the cost of building them the state government will have less money to spend on schools, roads and hospitals in years to come."
Richmond player Nathan Broad at the grand final parade: "This beats plumbing, that's for sure. It's a crazy lifestyle and obviously this week is just unbelievable. I'm just soaking it up. It beats being on the tools."
Team of the Year
RIP. Len Diett, 1939-2018. The one time centre for the 1959 Wallabies, who then went to play league for Norths, passed away last week. He will be given a send off at 2pm on Saturday at Ballina Seagulls Rugby League Club.
Donald Trump. According to his just released medical records, Donald Trump is 6'3" and 108kg. Twitter pointed out that those measures are remarkably similar to Sonny Bill Williams, who claims to just an inch taller for the same weight. Is it The Donald or The Sonny tellling porky-pies here? Or is it that, like, muscle is three times as heavy as flab?
Alex de Minaur and Ash Barty. The two young'uns of the Australian scene, rising stars both, have been refreshing for their unabashed enthusiasm, derring-do, and behaviour.
Queensland Origin team. Won. Again. As someone noted on Twitter, it is now as predictable as victories by the Harlem Globetrotters. It is what they do.
Brad Fittler. Look, if being coach of the NSW Origin team is not quite a poisoned chalice, it is at least a supremely difficult gig, and in the wake of the Blue's implosion this year under Laurie Daley, Fittler now has the gig.
British and Irish Lions. Held the All Blacks, in New Zealand, to a drawn series – a mighty achievement.
Reserve Bank of Fiji. To commemorate their Olympic victory in the men's sevens they have released a limited edition $7 note.
Venus Williams. Made it into the Wimbledon singles final, at the age of 37! Sadly, she was knocked out in the first round of the Australian Open.
Matt Reid. TFFs' Godson is playing doubles with Nick Kyrgios in the Australian Open, and they are going well!
Correction: An earlier version of this column stated former Collingwood Premiership captain Lou Richards died this week. He in fact died last May.