All guns blazing as the Bushrangers go to war 

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HOT ON THE heels of cricket’s great pay dispute comes another political battle, this time at State level — and it’s going to be a close-run thing, says chief writer RON REED:

THE WEEK THAT WAS: You could almost hear the immortal words of Bill Lawry echoing around the Jolimont headquarters of Cricket Victoria during the week: “It’s all happening here…” Former Test batsman Rob Quiney turned 35 last Sunday and promptly retired from first-class cricket a day or so later, a decision not entirely of his own making because he was no longer on the list of contracted players that was also announced during the week. CV also promoted its best young player Peter Handscomb to the captaincy in place of Matthew Wade, who has returned to his home state, Tasmania. With a few other comings and goings on the contract list – notably, rookie deals for the sons of Cricket Australia boss James Sutherland and former international and State captain Simon O’Donnell – it has been a busy few days for the Bushrangers and those who oversee their performances.

But it hasn’t all happened yet. Far from it. CV’s annual meeting is on Monday, where a ticket of six will try to overthrow the incumbent board. This is the first time in Victorian cricket history that such a full-on coup – as distinct from individual challenges – has been attempted. It will be the climax of months of unrest and bitter debate between the central administration and stakeholders on several levels, with one major shift in the power structure already guaranteed with chief executive and former Test player Tony Dodemaide having said he will step down at the end of the coming season. This in-fighting has had remarkably little coverage in the mainstream media given what a big sport cricket is – if something similar was happening at an AFL club, let alone the League itself, it would be constantly on the back pages, and probably the front pages. Also, given Victoria has won the last three Sheffield Shields and done its bit in contributing to the national teams, a casual observer would conclude that things are going swimmingly. Not so.

A range of financial and philosophical issues have led to threats of a no-confidence motion, with a ticket of six reformists now attempting to overthrow the board led by chairman Russell Thomas. The challengers include two former State players, Geoff Richardson and Phil Hyde, as well as former Prahran president David Jones, Essendon president Simon Tobin, former WACA delegate Peter Williams and former Melbourne Cricket Club committee member Jane Nathan. They need to get more than half the 25 votes, of which the 18 Premier clubs have one each, the Sub-District Association two, women’s cricket three and metropolitan and country cricket one each.

The vote is believed to be desperately close. Sportshounds cricket expert Ian Callen, who takes a close interest in grass roots affairs, believes half the Premier clubs, the subbies and the bushies are backing the challengers, which would mean only one more vote is required for the coup to succeed. Four clubs oppose it, five are uncertain, ditto for the park clubs and the women, Callen says. So, the women could well decide the issue.

Callen, a former star player at state level and an experienced club coach, is a loud voice for change himself and says there is an “overwhelming majority” among ordinary stakeholders – players, volunteers and so on – who agree that the health of the game in Victoria is at stake. Stand by to find out if he, and the so-called New Six, are right – and if so, what that means for a State that has historically prided itself on leading the way in Australian cricket.

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QUINEY has not departed entirely – he will have another season with the Stars in the Big Bash – but a round of applause is appropriate. He wasn’t the greatest batsman of his era, far from it, averaging a relatively modest 36.84 from 96 first-class matches, but he went about it with a certain free-wheeling aggression that made him good to watch. He was – sorry, is – a popular character, who contributed to something of a golden era for the Bushrangers, for whom he played in 252 matches in all formats. He participated in five Sheffield Shield wins. He won the Bill Lawry medal for Victorian Shield player of the year twice, the Dean Jones medal for one-day player of the year once, and Cricket Australia’s domestic player of the year once. He managed two Test caps against South Africa in late 2012 but was quickly discarded after making only nine runs in three innings – but his overall record does not suggest that he was lucky to have been given those chances. Hopefully, there are still a couple of decent T20 hit-outs left in the kitbag.

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WHEN a couple of retired Magpie premiership players, Alan Didak and Ben Johnson, rocked up for lunch with the Vingt Cinq Club – a collection of ageing identities from various sports – they weren’t expecting to be seated with one of Collingwood’s all-time greats. But one-time cult figure, captain of the 1958 premiership team, three-time Copeland Trophy winner, Team of the Century member and coach for two years in 75-76, Murray Weideman, was attending his first club lunch of the year and was more than happy to reminisce about the old days. Back then, the Magpies’ biggest rivalry was probably with Melbourne, who they famously upset in 1958, but The Weed was keen to see the round 23 match between the clubs for a different reason – his grandson Sam is now a Demon, albeit with just a handful of games since being drafted two years ago. Sadly, for Granddad, Sam didn’t make the team this week. Sam’s father Mark’s career with the Magpies was limited to 28 games so Murray is in no danger of surrendering the family bragging rights just yet. He doesn’t see a lot of footy these days, telling Sportshounds that he is no fan of the umpiring or some of the tactics.

Alan Didak and Ben Johnson meet Magpie legend Murray Weideman
Alan Didak and Ben Johnson meet Magpie legend Murray Weideman

 

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ONE OF Australia’s most impressive – and most unsung – athletes is at it again. John van Wisse, 44, left this week to have another crack at the London to Paris triathlon, which is possibly the most gruelling physical challenge available to fitness freaks. It involves running 140km from Marble Arch to Dover, swimming the English Channel (at least 34km) and cycling 289km from Calais to the Arc de Triomphe. In 2014 van Wisse did it in 61 hours and 27 minutes, clipping a staggering 12 hours and 12 minutes off the record. The State Government shouted him and his mates a drink at Parliament House – a function shared with world champion boxer Sam Soliman – but there wasn’t much else in the way of publicity or reward. Last year, a Frenchman, Cyril Blanchard, lowered the benchmark to 59 hours and 56 minutes – so van Wisse is taking up the challenge again. Only 24 athletes have ever completed it and the last one who tried – Englishman Douglas Waymark, a 44-year-old adventurer who had climbed Mt Everest and Mt Kilimanjaro – got into difficulty halfway through the Channel swim and died in hospital. That was only a couple of weeks ago and it has not deterred van Wisse, who makes his living as a swimming coach.

FOOTBALLER OF THE WEEK

Melbourne’s JESSE HOGAN puts a year from hell – testicular cancer, the death of his father to cancer and a broken collar-bone – to kick six goals in a match-winning performance against Brisbane.

BIG WINNER

She is apparently getting so bored with beating up on them that wonder mare WINX has now decided to give starts.

BIG LOSER

The Australian Olympic Committee’s already battered reputation took another decent hit from a report into its culture by the Sydney organisation The Ethics Centre. The report found it operated in a climate of fear, favouritism and open hostility.

QUOTE UNQUOTE

“Get out of the way, mate. You’ve been in every photo of the premiership and actually didn’t play in it. Let the players take the credit who actually won the thing.” Mr Controversial himself, SAM NEWMAN, tips cold water on the retirement of the AFL’s most popular player, Bob Murphy.

“What Sam said was really hurtful and distasteful.” Commentator and former champion TIM WATSON speaks for everyone else.

“Why should I resign? I’m the president not the senior leader that is being criticised. There has been no treatment of staff by me that has been objectionable.” Olympic boss JOHN COATES distances himself from heavy criticism levelled at the organisation by a report into its dysfunctional culture.

“If I thought sacking Nathan Buckley tomorrow would get us an extra kick he’d be gone in a heartbeat.” Collingwood president EDDIE McGUIRE insists it’s all about the club, not his friendship with the under-pressure coach.

“I think Luke Hodge should be regarded as the most influential player of the Hawks’ golden era under Alistair Clarkson, ahead of Buddy Franklin and Sam Mitchell.” High praise indeed for the retiring Hawk, from a well-qualified expert, WAYNE CAREY.

“Grab that slack little bastard by the back of the neck, kick him up the arse and get him into gear.” BRYSON HODGE, Luke’s Dad, wasn’t looking for his son to be mollycoddled when Dermott Brereton asked how the boy was enjoying life at Hawthorn.

“Are you f****** serious? You are an insensitive f*****.” Former Collingwood footballer HERITIER LUMUMBA reveals that he didn’t exactly admire coach Nathan Buckley, among other club identities.

“He wouldn’t be the first bloke to think that.” BUCKLEY responds, adding more seriously: “It’s a bit sad in many ways that ‘H’ feels that way about his experiences in the game. I’d echo the sentiments of the club and hope that he’s doing well and that he can still see the positives of his experiences as an AFL footballer.”

“My heart was missing a few beats up the straight. The opposition are not slow coaches so to do what she did was phenomenal.” Owner PETER TIGHE was as amazed as everyone else by wonder mare Winx’s 18th straight win after missing the start by four lengths.

“He would be in his own world and we’d often hear him throwing up in the change rooms before a game.” Team-mate LEIGH MONTAGNA reveals that retiring superstar Nick Riewoldt did it tough before every game.

“Then he … uses the club as a toy. I don’t cop the sorry. I don’t forgive him for one minute. I’m glad he’s in good health but that period will be littered as a disgrace.” Former St Kilda captain DANNY FRAWLEY is not happy about former president Rod Butters’s confession that he was high on alcohol and cocaine when he was making crucial decisions at the club.

“I don’t have to look far to get that answer – it’s my brothers. I got to look up to Troy and Adam and then I got to watch Scott. They were the ones who were always in front of me. I probably had the most talent of them all but they were the ones pushing me to get better.” Geelong captain JOEL SELWOOD, asked who inspired him, gives his family the credit – up to a point.

“This West Indies lot are the worst Test team I have seen in more than 50 years of watching, playing and commentating. They can’t bat and can’t bowl. It is a cricketing tragedy.” Former England captain, the trenchant GEOFFREY BOYCOTT, doesn’t forget to tell us what he really thinks about the once-fearsome Windies.

“It was totally embarrassing. Pathetic. What concerns me is that I do not think these players know what West Indies cricket means to West Indians and followers of the global game.” More of the same from one of their own, CURTLY AMBROSE.

“Thanks Mum for travelling with me and doing my washing.” With the money he earns you’d think tennis star NICK KYRGIOS could afford hotel laundry service – but then Mum, like all mums, is happy to help.

“Nick Kyrgios is the most talented player out there that’s 22. He has the game to be the best player in the world. But that requires a change mentally. I believe it can be done. I hope it does.” Mum’s not Nick’s only fan – JOHN McENROE holds high hopes for him too despite leaving him off the world team for the upcoming Rod Laver Cup.

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Author: Ron Reed

RON REED has spent more than 50 years as a sportswriter or sports editor, mainly at The Herald and Herald Sun. He has covered just about every sport at local, national and international level, including multiple assignments at the Olympic and Commonwealth games, cricket tours, the Tour de France, America’s Cup yachting, tennis and golf majors and world title fights.

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