Forget the warts and watch the sports

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MELBOURNE may be far from perfect but it deserves its title as the world’s most liveable city. And it’s all down to sport, writes GEOFF POULTER:

TO THOSE cynics mocking Melbourne being crowned world’s most liveable city for the seventh year running, take a pause. Remember we are the SPORTING capital of the planet. In capitals! And that transcends everything.

Melbourne - The sporting Capital.
Melbourne – The sporting Capital. Pic: DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

Have the knockers forgotten the AFL Grand Final spectacular, Boxing Day Tests, Spring racing carnival, Australian Open tennis world spotlight? Ignore all these and more at your own peril. Always look on the bright side of life.

Okay, so we do have our share of traffic gridlocks, home invasions, car-jacking, soft sentencing. About 150,000 immigrants a year for which we hadn’t originally planned; no airport rail link, public transport and housing issues, unpredictable greenie-like councils, homeless, pokies et al. A few problems, acknowledged.

But the world judges obviously considered such redeeming factors as theatre, eateries, schools, hospitals, cleanliness, climate, shopping, clean air outdoor fun. AND SPORT!

And there’s no volcanoes, earthquakes, ‘’black death” plagues, ghettoes, slums, polluted food and waters, riots, border clashes etc about which to worry.

In any case, it is all relative. Might just be the best of a bad lot. It seems my original home town Hobart (population 220,000) wasn’t eligible. Would have romped in. “The neatest town that the sun shines on,” pined Mark Twain. David Hookes might have called it Slowbart but it had none of Smellbourne’s negatives. Touche!

It’s bottle half-full stuff. Keep hammering the sport bit and, hopefully, the rest will go away.

Close your eyes and recall D K Lillee pounding in from the members’ end on Boxing Day. Devouring those mouth-watering turkey breast sandwiches in the MCC Long Room while discussing the opening session with luminaries from the press box including K. R. Miller.

As Winx prepares for three Cox Plates in a row, remember Kingston Town’s similar feat; the rattling successes of Dulcify and Better Loosen Up. And Redcraze’s remarkable second in the 1956 Melbourne Cup. No 1 saddlecloth, wide all the way with an enormous weight to fall short by a lip.

Then there was the mystique of green grass Kooyong before the shift to Flinders Park. Rod Laver still outstanding even at the end. Lew Hoad and Ken Rosewall as whiz kids in the 50s. More recently magician Roger Federer.

Then we come to the piece de resistance, Aussie Rules. It mightn’t be quite what is used to be for some grumpy old fogies like me. But it keeps one talking about it day and night.

I remember in the 70s when Arden Street was rocking. Chockers. Fans hanging off the rafters. Wadey booting six in a quarter. Slamming Sam crashing through. K Greig weaving his magic; Blighty soaring; Schimma and Denchy inspiring.

Fast forward to the future. As a North supporter, I don’t quite understand the current plan – get rid of your best older players and drop from eight to last (18th). But the blokes in charge are so well paid and experienced, how could you question their judgment? There must be a method in their madness.

And, for neutral fans, Danger, Buddy, Dusty and others are proudly bearing the standard. Crowds, TV ratings and sponsorships are up. So, while all that is occurring the rest of the game’s problems are treated as incidental.

Sport is king in Melbourne. Now THAT is why it’s the most liveable city on the globe.

Oh, and not to mention the Grand Prix! (Interjector: So you acknowledge the Grand Prix?). As Benny Hill would reply: “I said not to mention the Grand Prix!”


Author: Geoff Poulter

GEOFF POULTER, 69, has spent 51 years in sports media. He was the last Melbourne Herald chief football writer. CV: Sports oracle, author, historian, impersonator, raconteur, poet, quiz whiz, philosopher, song-writer, intellectual scholar – and still employable!



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