THERE ARE dangerous sports and very dangerous sports. LAWRENCE MONEY delves into the world of risk and issues a warning to those tempted to test kitty:
HOW I LAUGHED when my mate Bluey told me that gridiron footy was the toughest sport on earth. “They’re padded up like the Michelin man,” I told him. “Our AFL blokes run twice as fast, jump twice as high and wear nothing but shorts and a guernsey.”
Bluey saw my point. I nailed it down: “Nine per cent of all sports hospitalisations are through footy.” He was impressed.
It led on to a chat about tough sports generally. Boxing, karate, judo, mountain-climbing — how about lacrosse, isn’t that supposed to be unbelievably dangerous?
Indeed, when Bluey and I checked the web we found that, between 1980 and 2009, 23 lacrosse players in the US suffered cardiac arrest on the field after being hit in the chest by the speeding ball. It strikes at 15-thousandth of a second, a speed which disrupts the heart’s rhythm. Four survived, the others died.
“How about bull-fighting,” mused Bluey who recalled the sorry tale of matador Antonio Romero a year ago in Mexico City. “Gored in the bum,” he said. Sure was. A report in the Daily Mail said, “Romero’s sphincter was completely destroyed by the 1,600lb beast’s 11-inch horn.”
Bravely, the de-sphinctered Romero told the media from his hospital bed: “I want to return to the ring” which was an unfortunate choice of words in the circumstances.
That chat about dangerous sports covered the gamut of wild pursuits – Base jumping, parasailing, deep-sea diving. But I have to admit, we never discussed lawn bowls. Frankly, I’d never considered the dangers of the bowls links until this week.
That’s when – on the same morning – two reports came through the radio. “A verbal altercation turned into a fight at a match between Sunshine and Werribee,” said an astonished Neil Mitchell on 3AW. “And a second game was interrupted by violence between Glenroy and West Coburg.”
CEO of Bowls Victoria, Graeme Bridge confirmed the details. “It was very distasteful,” he said. “There was a physical altercation between a father and son and some other players from another team (at Glenroy vs West Coburg), which turned a bit nasty with people trying to break up the fracas, it turned into something bigger and people got physically hurt.”
“One fella got a nasty couple of marks on his face, he’s not walked into an open door here, he’s been on the end of a wild swing and copped one on the nose and just above the eye.”
Lawn bowls? An extreme sport? At first I thought he was pulling our leg. But no. The records show that this is not the first time lawn bowlers have gone berko.
Case 1: In March 2016 tempers flared at a match between Eaglehawk and Bendigo when one player, hooting and hollering in celebration, allegedly bumped into a loser. Words were exchanged, threats made. The same Graeme Bridge said the behaviour did not paint a good picture for the sport. “Usually the biggest thing that might happen at a bowling club might be that somebody didn’t put enough pickle on the ham sandwiches,” he said.
Case 2: In August 2017 in Hampshire, Britain, a bowls final was abandoned after players “squared up” to one another in a row over etiquette. One is alleged to have muttered a remark during his opponent’s shot and a man fell to the floor.
The match, between Boscombe Cliffs, Dorset, and Southsea Waverley, Portsmouth, was called off with Southsea handed the Hampshire County Cup. Said a crestfallen observer: “Maybe the pressure got to everyone. Bowls is meant to be a game for older people just about standing up and breathing. It’s not the kind of game where you would expect people to be raging round acting like thugs.”
Well Bluey and I certainly didn’t. We have now rearranged our list of tough sports to put lawn bowls in our top 10. Tougher than tennis, darts, badminton and cross-country running. Fact is, lawn bowls might even have topped bull-fighting but, as Bluey says, no one’s ever done a sphincter rolling one at the jack. Well, not yet.
Lawrence Money has twice been named Victoria's best newspaper columnist by the Melbourne Press Club. He wrote columns for 37 years on the Melbourne Herald, Sunday Age and daily Age -- and in Royalauto and Your Sport magazines -- before retiring in 2016 after a 50-year career in journalism.
He still treads the speaking circuit, does radio gigs, tweets on @lozzacash and chases a long-gone 13 golf handicap. He clings to the eternal hope that the Melbourne Demons will once again win a flag.