PIGSKIN PREVIEWS NRL & AFL
TWO WINNING CAPTAINS TALK SHOP
BIG SHOW IN OZ DRINKS WITH
GEORGE GREGAN TRAIN LIKE A
#267 MAR 2014
LUKE HODGE ANTHONY MINICHIELLO
IT’S A RARE TREAT TO GET THE TWO WINNING SKIPPERS TOGETHER TO TALK FOOTY. shop. Hodge and Mini had certainly met each other before, but they’d never really had an opportunity to sit down with each other to talk football (in general) and captaincy (in particular). It was our pleasure to facilitate this pow-wow and listen in as these guys shot the breeze, clowned around for our cameras, then got serious about what it means to be the leading light in a team that has achieved the ultimate in their code. We thank them. And we thank their shared sponsor, Puma, for helping to make it all happen. That said, there was one casualty on the day: the lads enjoyed hamming up some action images for our photographer, Warren Clarke. And seemed to enjoy seeing how close to his ears they could fizz their passes and handballs ... A direct hit to Wazza’s lens, while he was peering into the viewfinder, showed that we Inside Sporters can take the hard knocks too in the pursuit of a story ...
Graem Sims Editor
OPEN & SHUT
10 THINGS WE LEARNED AT THE AUSTRALIAN OPEN ...
The extreme heat policy is a hot mess. This is the Open version of Colonel Sanders’ secret herbs and spices. No one has a clue when or even if play will stop in brain-frying heat. “I know it’s at their discretion,” Roger Federer lobbed coyly. Snoopy hallucinations? Players passing out? Ball kids fainting? Play on!
Stanislas Wawrinka broke the Big Four’s dominance.
Trophy coaches are the new trophy wives. Following the success of Ivandy (Ivan Lendl and Andy Murray), the Open saw the debuts of Beckovic (Boris Becker and Novak Djokovic) and Fedberg (Roger Federer with Stefan Edberg). Bec Hewitt and Brooklyn Decker? So 2008. The optics are all about former idols cheering from the box.
No stopping the Stanimal. Stanislas Wawrinka broke the Big Four’s dominance of the majors – a worthy winner albeit over a wounded Rafa Nadal in the final. The slashing shotmaker turned last year’s epic fail against Novak Djokovic into beyond-dreams success.
Rafael Nadal is God’s way of keeping Roger Federer humble. The 33rd instalment of Fedal was another gruesome mauling of the maestro. Watch Nadal hunt down Federer’s record haul of 17 majors and his cherished GOAT mantle.
Li Na could go down as the game’s biggest gamechanger. The women’s final was not champagne tennis but Open organisers were popping the bubbly after Li Na’s win over Dominika Cibulkova. The Chinese star is the engaging face of the Australian Open as “the Grand Slam of Asia/Pacific”. Li thanked her agent for “making me rich”; she has enriched the game even more.
Australia’s Generation Next has arrived. The emergence of Special Ks Nick Kyrgios, 18, and Thanasi Kokkinakis, 17, will probably do Bernard Tomic a power of good.
Eugenie serves it up for youth. Just when we were wondering when a new teen queen would emerge, 19-year-old Canadian Eugenie Bouchard bolted to the semi-finals with a hard-to-read game and a demeanour so cool it was almost creepy.
Tomas Berdych is the worst-dressed male player. Maybe ever. The strapping Czech likes being the only athlete in Swedish label H&M, as opposed to “the other guys, [who] look like all one team”. In his solid blue stripes, Tomas looked like a Bayern Munich team member who missed the team bus.
Pat Rafter is a bromance hero. The 41year-old Aussie’s doubles lark with Lleyton Hewitt lasted one round but players were putting out the man-love on social media. “Pat Rafter, such a freaking legend!!” tweeted Ivo Karlovic. Federer didn’t miss it either: “Watching doubles on TV, love it #Hewitt #Rafter c’mon.” A dozen years since his retirement, Rafter’s popularity hasn’t diminished.
10 Women’s Oz Open champ and gamechanger Li Na.
Rod Laver is getting a makeover. The stadium that is, not The Rocket. Before the 2014 Open was even underway, plans were announced for $330 million in public funds to refurbish Rod Laver Arena. The Australian Open is getting ever bigger as a major economic player, injecting around $450 million into the local economy. Is that the Australian F1 Grand Prix in the rear-view mirror?
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OMETIMES you have to go that extra mile to produce an Inside Sport story ... But then sometimes you don’t. Sometimes, one of your interview subjects gives up one of their rare days off to jump on an aeroplane for you, fly interstate, then get in a taxi and turn up on time at a photographic studio for three hours. Then turn around and fly back home again when it’s all done. In this case, Hawthorn’s premiership-winning skipper Luke Hodge. Meanwhile, Sydney Roosters premiershipwinning captain Anthony Minichiello no sooner finishes a pre-season training session on the same day than he’s in a car winding his way to meet Hodge and our crew on the same arvo at the same location ... I normally can’t stand that whole magazine feature article tactic of setting a piece around the scene of a “shoot”, as if the mere fact your profile subject allowed you to point a camera at them in controlled circumstances somehow became the most newsworthy aspect of your encounter with them. But we’re making an exception here: it’s a rare treat for us (and you) to get the two reigning, winning skippers of our two leading codes in the same room at the same time, shoot the lights out of them, and then sit them down for an hour to talk
“I am probably the first [to quit], but I’m also probably the first bloke to make his Test debut at 28 and retire at 29. It was short and sweet for a Test career. It’s a hard decision. It took months, but I’m comfortable where I’ve come to and I’m proud of the contribution I’ve made.” – Resigning Wallaby captain Ben Mowen. “Just spun at full speed 320km/h on Bahrain straight cause my tyre blew up without warning. Thanks to that need to get some toilet paper now.” – F1 driver Nico Rosberg spins out on Twitter. “I started skiing because I wanted to just follow my sisters. In my head they looked cool, they looked older than me. I just follow them always and now here I am.” – Moguls skier Justine Dufour-Lapointe, who was selected with sisters Maxime and Chloe for Canada’s Winter Olympic team. TIME OUT “Truthfully, I couldn’t care less about watching the game. That’s pretty much how I feel ... Those games are hard to watch. I don’t really see myself sitting down to enjoy a football game to watch it. Our season’s over.” – New England quarterback Tom Brady, who doesn’t bother watching the Super Bowl. He does have a supermodel wife to spend time with though ...
TENNIS HURTS “I sort of use it sometimes as a weapon. I sort of zone out for a few games, try to use it to my advantage to come back in. It’s helped me in the past a lot, I should say.” – Bernard Tomic, tank strategist.
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“It was very difficult for me to say sorry to the crowd. I don’t think they quite knew what was wrong with me.” – Tomic again, on quitting his match against Spaniard Rafa Nadal. “Unless he’s a really good actor, his leg looked like it was hurting too much. So it appeared like he was hurt and he had a potential three hours ahead of him against Rafa, and probably did the math and figured out that he was in deep trouble ... I can’t see any reason why Bernie wouldn’t want to play that match.” – Former pro Jason Stoltenberg.
“I was starting to hallucinate a bit towards the end of the first set ... I think it’s inhumane.” – Canadian veteran Frank Dancevic, on the hot days early in the Open. “I suffered a lot ... I feel that with the [protective] tape I can lose the racquet when I’m serving. It’s a terrible feeling for a serve, because when you have this feeling you are not able to accelerate at the right moment. I lost a little bit of coordination.” – Aussie Open finalist Rafa Nadal, owner of the world’s most famous blisters. “I think it was not really nice from the crowd, because we all know Rafa is an amazing champion, he’s a great guy, he’s a really good friend and we all know that he always try, he always fight, and that if he’s injured he’s always still trying. It was tough for him because it was real injury.” – Stan Wawrinka, Open champion.
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In Britain, they call this sport Octopush ... West Australian Megan Pardoe and Victorian Amy BarryMacaulay were Octo-pushing when their states met at underwater hockeyâ€™s national championships on the Gold Coast in January.
NRL A particular piece of bad news afflicting rugby league (among others) last season was the soft ness of the television ratings. There were reasons: the weakness of well-followed clubs like Brisbane and Parramatta meant the locked-in schedule served up some unappealing contests. But down they were, almost four percent overall for Nine’s coverage, and it will be something of a talking point as this season progresses. In other news: more and more NRL clubs are phasing out cheerleaders. Instead of cutt ing to the dancing girls for honey shots, cameramen will now have to go looking in the stands ... The home-and-away begins again on a Thursday with South Sydney vs Sydney Roosters (Mar 6), although we likely won’t see a reprise of the weird, disembodied Sonny Bill (left) commentary that Nine employed for his return game to the league. The schedule-makers knew what they had in mind with Canterbury vs Brisbane (Mar 7) at ANZ, allowing everybody to get the Barba-vsBulldogs narrative out of the way early. And as for this mag’s premiership fave, those flinty Sea Eagles, we’ll have a fair idea about them after the opening fortnight: Manly vs Melbourne (Mar 8) at Brookvale, then Manly vs Souths (Mar 14) at Bluetongue. Nine and Fox Sports.
MOTORSPORTS The gentlemen start their engines this month, with a major change finally arriving in Formula One. The long-awaited efficiency overhaul of the cars will have the auto-geeks babbling away in Melbourne at the Australian GP (Mar 13-16), which will also provide a first look at Daniel Ricciardo moving into Mark Webber’s seat at Red Bull. The V8s will also be there, having begun their own season at the Clipsal 500 (Mar 1-2) in Adelaide. Volvo is back on the grid, Will Davison left Ford, Russell Ingall retired and Jamie Whincup (above) remains the one they’re chasing. Twilight racing, trialled last year, returns right off the bat, with the Saturday race to take place in the Adelaide gloaming. Fans of NASCAR’s good ol’ boys can tune into the new season’s start at the Daytona 500 (Feb 23). Ten for F1, Seven for V8, Speed for NASCAR. 26
The knockout stage of the UEFA Champions League has arrived, with some big-brand contests landing in the Round of 16. Man City was erratic in the group stage, but Manuel Pellegrini’s team finally made its long-awaited European advancement. Its reward: Barca, not as formidable as in years past, but still. The high intrigue of the Manchester City vs Barcelona (Feb 18 and Mar 12) ties will likely be the form of Lionel Messi (below), on return from a two-month injury break. Among the other ties, we like Galatasaray vs Chelsea (Feb 26 and Mar 18), not only for the Mourinho-Drogba reunion subplot, but the brio of the Turkish club’s Felipe Melo. Commenting on their upset of Juventus, Melo said: “We turned out to be a bitter caramel and they couldn’t swallow us.” Sport needs more bitter caramel analogies. On ESPN.
Of all the 2014 seasons beginning this month, the world’s top surfing tour holds the greatest claim to new era dawning. Last year saw another exciting campaign, with Mick Fanning (below) holding off Kelly Slater at Pipeline. But there was significant action beyond the beach – the ASP has reorganised itself into a league-style operation with management whose previous background was with the NFL. For the anti-suit surf community, the change is a litt le unnerving, and there’s plenty of speculation about what this bodes for the future of the tour: more city beaches closer to the spectators, and fewer dream breaks? For now, the ten-event world championship schedule has a familiar look, beginning with the Goldie’s Quiksilver Pro (Mar 1-12). The ASP has a bunch of new media arrangements, but Fuel TV remains the place for surf coverage.
BASKETBALL The dominant theme of this US college hoops season has been the conspicuously talented class of first-year players on the fast track to NBA riches. The truly dominant theme of any season, though, is whatever happens during the NCAA Tournament (from Mar 19), the three-week spectacle that has become so good, it renders the rest of the year moot. The freshmen stars will be looking to cap their short collegiate stays by cutt ing down the nets, but experience tends to matter in this single-elimination lotto. The Aussie-heavy teams at New Mexico and Boise State have that experience, and a deep run from either on the 25th anniversary of Seton Hall and Andrew Gaze’s 1989 championship game appearance would make for a nice story. ESPN has all the games, right down to the Final Four in Texas.
What to watch this month
BY JEFF CENTENERA
CYCLING The big European events on the UCI Tour schedule start rolling, beginning, as is custom, with the multi-stagers Paris-Nice (Mar 9-16) and Tirreno-Adriatico (Mar 12-18). Richie Porte’s (above) impressive win in last year’s ParisNice, the first time an Australian has won that race, elevated his status from Team Sky support rider to future general classification contender. Porte returns to “the race to the sun”, and he’ll like the finish – once again, a time trial on the Col d’Eze, which he won last year. Among his challengers there will be Vincenzo Nibali, who is considered to be the main chance to end Sky’s hold on the Tour de France this July. To that end, the Italian is heading to Paris-Nice rather than defend the Tirreno-Adriatico title he won from Chris Froome last year. Eurosport follows the peloton.
The world’s top tennis players get back to their day jobs on tour with the first of the Masters Series 1000 events. They make their venerable stop in the SoCal desert, better known as Indian Wells, for the BNP Paribas Open (Mar 9-17). What is officially known as the Indian Wells Tennis Garden has undergone a major expansion since last year, including new restaurants on site such as super-haute Nobu. Owner Larry Ellison, of America’s Cup fame, bragged that Roger Federer (below) could order sushi during change-of-ends. Top that, Melbourne Park ... On the heels of Indian Wells, the players head to Miami for the Sony Open (from Mar 23). ESPN for season-long coverage of the ATP. The women’s half of the Indian Wells and Miami events will be on Fox Sports.
With Lindsey Vonn out of the Winter Olympics, there was a thought that boyfriend Tiger Woods might not skip the WGCAccenture Match Play (Feb 19-23) after all. This event is strangely anathema to top players (Adam Scott is giving it a miss). Part of it is its Arizona desert location, which can produce colder-than-Sochi conditions. It’s off to Florida soon after, where everyone plays because that’s where all the tour golfers live, for the WGC-Cadillac Championship (Mar 6-9) at the newly rechristened Trump National Doral. Both on Fox Sports. Domestically, the Women’s Australian Open (Feb 13-16) will bring a terrific field to Victoria Golf Club, with Paula Creamer playing the event for the first time. Chances are they’ll have to beat NZ teen Lydia Ko (below), who can now make some money, having turned pro. On ABC.
BOXING/MMA Daniel Geale, last seen losing his middleweight titles in rather curious circumstances to Darren Barker last August, returns to the ring for Daniel Geale vs Grant Wood (Feb 19). As this bout matches sparring partners, and Geale continues to eye a big match-up against Gennady Golovkin, there���s been criticism that this fi ght is filler. But the thing about stepping stones in boxing is they occasionally step on the inattentive fi ghter, something not lost on the diligent Geale. On the other divide of the fi ght game, burgeoning Octagon star Ronda Rousey (above) is back in UFC 170: Rousey vs McCann (Feb 22). Sara McCann is a 2004 Olympic silver medallist in wrestling – it will be interesting to see if the famed Rousey armbar works when they go to the mat. Pay up on Main Event.
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AFL Along its path to quasi-world domination, the AFL has come to the realisation that meaningless preseason games are, well, meaningless. So, vale NAB Cup, welcome NAB Challenge (Feb 12-Mar 1), which is kind of like the National’s “More/Less” ad campaign – fewer preseason matches (18 played over 18-straight days) gives us an extra regular round of the season, which starts earlier. Schedule creep has served up one dilemma for the AFL – it has no access to the MCG until the end of March because of cricket, which means its fortnightlong round one will be devoid of games on its greatest stage. Anyhow, the seal breaks in the Docklands with an intriguing contest, Collingwood vs Fremantle (Mar 14). The question for the Pies is whether their regression of the last two seasons levels off, while it will be interesting to see how the Dockers respond to their grand final loss. The midfield batt le, between the Wood’s starry Dane Swan-and-Scott Pendlebury set against Freo’s pesky Ryan Crowley and Hayden Ballantyne-types is always worthwhile watching. The other game of weekend one we’ve got an eye out for is Gold Coast vs Richmond (Mar 15), with those rising Suns about to unearth another talent in Jack Martin, who is on the Jaeger O’Meara track as Rising Star fave. Seven and Fox Footy.
INSIDE SPORT BR INGS TOGETHER THE TWO PR EMIERSHIP-WINNING CAPTAINS TO DISCUSS LEADERSHIP, HANDLING HEROE S, HOW TO WIN, THE ONE S THAT GOT AWAY … AND THEIR FAVOUR ITE FOOTY BOOTS. By J E F F C E NTE N E R A
HEN YOU’RE THE CAPTAIN, you have to sweat the extra details. It’s not good enough to merely play well – afterwards, there are all the hands to shake and the speeches to give. The title is nice, but it’s not a job for those seeking to avoid unwanted attention. The responsibilities of office have brought together Luke Hodge and Anthony Minichiello, the captains of the reigning premiers in the nation’s two most popular football codes. More accustomed to leading their teams out on the field in front of thousands of people, their duty this day has led them to an unassuming-looking studio space in a light-industrial area of inner Sydney. At the least, mugging and play-acting for the camera is some light relief from the preseason grind: Hodge has escaped the blistering heat that has enveloped Melbourne this week, while Minichiello walks in from his team’s very first day back to work. The gregarious Hodge asks the cheerfully bashful Minichiello about the new baby daughter; both swap stories about off-seasons that have continued to grow ever shorter with the demands of modern football. The General and The Count, as they’re known, are rather fitting sobriquets for a couple of footballers-in-chief. Hodge has been the head Hawk since 2010, assuming a role he’d been marked
Photo s By WA R R E N C L A R K E
out for since he was top pick in the 2001 AFL Draft, then through to winning the Norm Smith Medal in a 2008 grand final victory. One of the game’s foremost controllers of play, Hodge’s leadership qualities were easy to recognise. Minichiello was handed the Roosters’ captaincy at the beginning of last season, a mark of respect for his service and faith with the club. He was the last on-field link to the Brad Fittler-led teams of the early part of the decade, an Origin and international rep whose career was disrupted by a back injury in 2006 that continued to plague him over the next few seasons. Even with his future in Bondi kept on a year-to-year basis, Minichiello endured. The karmic reward in 2013 was rich: he was wearing the number-one jersey for the NRL’s numberone team. It was Inside Sport’s fortune to sit down with the two captains ahead of this coming season, and listen to a couple of professionals talk shop. Our roundtable discussion ranged over a variety of subjects: the mindset of defending the championship, whether the best players make the best captains (or not), how you deal with having a star as bright as Buddy Franklin or Sonny Bill Williams in the side. What it amounted to is a classroom session in football leadership.
Inside Sport: Comparing your careers, you both won premierships as younger players before you became captains. Does the premiership you won as a captain mean more, because of the greater role you’ve taken on? Hodge: I think I was 24 when I won my first one. It was more just exhilaration. You won in front of your family and friends; it was a great feeling. But all you did back then as a younger kid was rock up, train, play the game. There was no thought of anything outside of football at the club. When you become older, in the leadership group or as the captain, you spend 24/7 thinking about tomorrow’s issues that either the club or the coaches are calling out. Or you’ve got team-mates coming up to you about issues that you need to discuss. The amount of time, effort and stress that goes into a season of football – when you win a grand final, it’s a little bit of relief. IS: Mini, it was particularly early in your career when you won your first premiership. Minichiello: Yeah, I was 22. Hodgey hit the nail on the head: at that age you just go to training, go home and relax; play the game, then have some fun on the weekend. It doesn’t really sink in at that age. You think you’re just going to keep playing that way for years and years.
THE SHOW. THE BIGS. THE MAJORS. WHEN THE MLB SEASON BEGINS IN SYDNEY THIS MARCH, THE SPECTACLE WILL AR R IVE LIK E A FASTBALL OVER THE PLATE . BUT IT ’S ALSO A STATEMENT OF BASEBALL’S STORIED PAST, ITS CUR IOUS PR E SENT AND WHER E THE OLD BALLGAME IS HEADED INTO THE FUTUR E .
photo courtesy of FEI.
By J E F F C E NTE N E R A
“To survive in Brooklyn one had to be a dodger of trolleys ... the baseball team became the Dodgers during the 1920s, and the nickname endured after polluting buses had come and the last Brooklyn trolley had been shipped from Vanderbilt Avenue to Karachi.” –Roger Kahn, The Boys of Summer
photo by Getty Images
T’S about the caps, you see. The caps worn fashionably around town, on hipster heads everywhere, nodding to the style of baseball without much thought to the substance. You have those ubiquitous Yankees caps, screaming Gotham urbanity. Increasingly, you’ll find a Red Sox cap, symbolic of a person partial to the grittier, more authentic Boston vibe. That random Mets cap? Probably a misled soul who went on holiday to New York, and somehow found their way to Shea rather than the Bronx. Then there’s the Dodgers cap, less seen but worthy of a place in the fashion. It’s a classic; a shade of azure that evokes a feeling of Los Angeles, yet also reaches the ballclub’s roots in (pre-hipster!) Brooklyn. There is actually a colour called Dodger blue. This is a cap that says: this is a team with a history, that has a place in the culture. “They have an aura; it was a special place to be able to get an opportunity,” says Craig Shipley, the pioneering Australian whose 11-season major league career began in 1986 with Los Angeles. Indeed, the motif of Dodger history is the cultural expansion of baseball, and the rest of the nation with it.
Early 20th Century Brooklyn was a nest of immigrants and first-gen kids, who took to the lovable-loser Dodgers as their common identity. Most famously, it was the place where Jackie Robinson arrived to break down the majors’ de facto segregation against African-American players. As Robinson took to the field every day, a one-man protest more than a decade ahead of the civil rights movement, it became the game’s proudest moment, and remains so. The end of Robinson’s career also marked the end of the Dodgers’ tenure in Brooklyn. In a move akin to taking the Magpies out of Collingwood, team owner Walter O’Malley moved the club to Los Angeles for the 1958 season. The relocation came as a shock to what was a much smaller America – the westernmost team in the majors to that point was in Kansas City, and the cities of the Pacific coast were regarded as distinctly provincial. But the arrival of the Dodgers in LA, as well as the Giants in San Francisco, was confirmation in itself that these were now big-league towns.
Brooklyn never forgave O’Malley. The westward tilt of the country was inexorable, though, and the Dodgers’ years in LA have become as venerable as those in the New York borough. The Dodgers’ first wholly LA star was Sandy Koufax, the legendary left-handed pitcher of the ’60s, icon to Jewish-Americans everywhere, and that rare species of sporting great who left at the peak of his game, retired at 32. The drumbeat continued: the 1980s saw the emergence of a flamboyant Mexican pitcher, Fernando Valenzuela, who established a lasting affinity between the club and its Latin fan base; in the ’90s, Hideo Nomo became the bridge that spanned the previously separate baseball establishments of Japan and the US, a trade relationship that continues to thrive. “The Dodgers are the pioneers of the game worldwide, to a large degree,” says Shipley, recalling the visit of two LA coaches to Sydney in 1978. For a kid whose only exposure to Major League Baseball was watching condensed coverage of the World Series on reel-to-reel footage at the Auburn baseball club, this slight link was enough to fire Shipley’s imagination. “That made an incredible impression, seeing coaches in Dodger uniforms on the field.” Three and a half decades later, there will be a whole lot of Dodger uniforms, along with those of the Arizona Diamondbacks on a field in Sydney. In late March, the teams will open a major league season for the }
From Chavez Ravine to Sydney's Moore Park, Major League Baseball's world-wide journey continues.
B Y T R AV I S C R A N L E Y
THE STUFFING OF LEGENDS WE LIVE IN AN AGE FULL OF HEROES AND CHAMPIONS, BUT THE DAYS OF SPORTING “LEGENDS” HAVE SADLY PASSED US BY.
As you read this, the last great moments of another sporting summer are being framed for the reference book, the memory bank, the YouTube highlight upload. There’ll be room enough for Ashes heroes, Olympic champions, Mick Fanning, tennis aces and other doers of great deeds. Whatever they’ve done, wherever they’ve done it, we’ve been able to see it all, via a TV or a computer screen. Should our free time have expanded like our postChristmas waistline, no moment needs to have been missed. And that’s a pity. At the risk of cricket authorities suing me for copyright, can I propose it’s time to find a small urn, and in it, stuff the ashes of sporting legends? Bung in all of them, from Bradman to Babe Ruth, Phar Lap to Lionel Rose, the remnants of those that are dead, and of the living that long ago left their brilliant youth behind. Because sport, surely, has promoted itself beyond an age when legends could be born and made. For to be a legend is to be a ghost of an idol, one whose wondrous feats survive in whispers and sanctified sepia photographs and scratchy cinematic news reels. It’s hard to do legendary things when there are 39 cameras at the MCG following you to the crease, especially when the slow-motion, high-zoom, close-up camera stylistically catches how your nose hairs flare when you play the hook shot. The price we pay for a world so connected, so readily streamed and broadcast into our homes, is the loss of that rarest ability of a moment or an athlete to pass beyond reckoning into the unreal. Or for their legacy to be so treasured as to not require
IT’S HARD TO APPRECIATE JUST HOW ACCESSIBLE THE WORLD’S STARS HAVE BECOME.
more than a prized glimpse to confirm both their existence and their greatness. Think of Bradman and you likely see in your mind the same cover drive as I do. Phar Lap is the final metres of the 1930 Melbourne Cup. Herb
Elliott, the last few strides as he wins the gold medal at the Rome Olympic Games. Less provides us with so much more. Celebrated broadcaster Bob Costas, the Bruce McAvaney of the United States, recently commented how mass media has even made the greatest of our modern heroes less than legends. “When people say the legendary Michael Jordan, it’s really not accurate,” said Costas. “Everything Michael Jordan did, from North Carolina and then through the NBA, as fantastic as it might’ve been, it’s not legendary because it’s all documented, we saw it all ... Michael Jordan isn’t legendary, for all else he might be.” St George slaying the dragon is legendary; the NRL’s St George-Illawarra Dragons are not. The old Georgie went toe-to-toe with a mythical beast in front of an audience consisting entirely of one damsel in distress (and his horse, for the statisticallyminded). The Dragons lost 17 of the 24 games they played in 2013, yet each game was telecast to the nation and professionally captured on film for posterity. If George hadn’t killed the monster, a DVD marathon of his team’s last season probably would have. This inability of our age to create legends sits astride the something lost/ something gained divide. It’s such an ordinary part of our lives now, it’s hard to appreciate just how accessible the world’s stars have become. And, of course, what a gift it is to the fan, who during a lazy weekend on the couch can travel to Old Trafford, Madison Square Garden, Pipeline, Wimbledon, Flemington, Monaco, Monza ... anywhere glory beckons and a camera crew is in position. It’s also difficult to put the legacy of today’s heroes in context against the idols that we hardly knew but will eternally admire. Can you really believe that Messi and Ronaldo would pale beside Pele and Puskas? Or Federer fail to prove a worthy match for Laver? Legends then, champions now. We watch our modern heroes perform in highdefinition colour, but history ultimately only has a place for those remembered best in song.