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Doping and Organised Crime

A couple of weeks ago I watched with interest the Lance Armstrong interview with Oprah.  I honestly never expected to see Armstrong admit to cheating in his sport of cycling.  For so long I believed that people were gunning for him due to the tall poppy syndrome.  Surely, someone who won seven consecutive Tour de France’s had to be juiced up, they were saying. No one could possibly achieve that feat without some assistance, they said.

I for one believed him and then felt like a schmuck when I heard him confess. I knew that doping in cycling was rife but I hoped that the best of the best, who had such stellar careers and did so much good in the community, were above that.  That these people won because they had a drive and determination and a skill that made them the best.

I now can’t look at the sport of cycling or its participants without thinking cheats and that their sport is tarnished, perhaps forever.

I remember thinking that I am glad that cycling, which is to me, just a sport which is a passing interest, and I felt sorry for all of the fans whose sport was now ruined and in tatters.

I was glad I wasn’t that guy.

Until yesterday.

Yesterday the same brush that has tarnished the sport of cycling was also used to brand, well most Australian sports, into the category of drug cheats.

In a historic press conference, the heads of the major sports in Australia, including AFL, NRL, FAA, and CA, with politicians and investigators from the Australian Crime Commission lifted the lid, no blew the lid on illegal doping in most Australian sports with a link to organised crime.

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I was shocked that it was so widespread and while no names were named it was pretty obvious that this story is only going to get bigger and a witch hunt will begin.

So now what?

As a major consumer of sport, particularly AFL, NRL and Cricket, I want names named! I want to know who are the players and coaches and sports scientists and clubs that are illegally trying to get an advantage.

I want to know who the clean players are so that when I watch the footy this winter, I’m not wondering if that goal by a superstar forward was not assisted by illegal doping. That, that freak try that no one in their right mind should have been able to score, was not assisted by illegal doping.  That, that outfield catch which was no one’s business to take, was not assisted by illegal doping.

Because until names are named, that is exactly what I will be thinking.

It’s a very sad time for Australian sport and the authorities must get to the bottom of it and quickly.

So what do you think. Is all Aussie sport tarnished?  Will you be watching and wondering who is a cheat and who isn’t?

It’s time to roar again….

It’s been a long, hard summer.

We’ve had to endure 5 cricket test matches, countless ODI’s and T20’s against the Pom’s.

We’ve had trade week and draft week and a game in China.  We’ve had the NAB Cup and a couple of new sides show us that an 18 team comp in 2012 will be ok.

We’ve had off field issues galore as well.  They don’t need to be brought up here.  You know what they are and who was involved.  Let’s leave that behind.

No, today this post is about Season 2011, when the mighty Brisbane Lions will roar again.

This time last week I was very disillusioned with my club over the Fevola issue. This was days after a very ordinary performance against Essendon and St Kilda in the NAB Cup.  Ok so a lot of teams field the kids in these games and with Black, Brown, Power, Drummond, Charman all missing I didn’t expect to win but I always expect a competitive team who wear the Lions jersey.  They got flogged and while there were glimpses of what could be, there simply wasn’t the skills needed at this level.

Then something awesome happened. I stumbled upon this video released by the Brisbane Lions in preparation for the new season ahead.

WOW!  It blew me away. The headlines were exactly what I would have expected from the horror year that was 2010.  We were a shambles and despite a solid 4 from 4 start we went on to win only three more games for the year.

Many Lions fans were discontent and frustrated by our footy club.

We do have short memories.  In 1998, the Brisbane Lions were a laughing stock.  Expected to be ultra competitive with the merging of the the Bears and Fitzroy Lions the team didn’t gel and they fell apart.  Enter master coach Leigh Matthews and like the video says, the rest is history.

If we were a rabble in 1998 and we were definitely a rabble in 2010. Then we can definitely be a force in 2011.  I don’t expect a premiership this year or even next year.  I do expect a competitive footy team who will wear the maroon jersey with pride.

I hear you say that it is a totally different team from 1998.  There is no Voss (as a player), no Aker or Scott twins.  No McRae or White or Mal Michael.  No Martin Pike and no Shaun Hart and there is certainly no Bradshaw and Lynch.  This is true.  This core group that helped us win 3 premierships in a row.  It was a special group but in 1998 we just didn’t know how good they would become.

In 2011 we have arguably the best player in the game in Jonathan Brown. We have a midfield that still has a Brownlow medallist in Simon Black.  Luke Power is still playing great footy and with a midfield comprising Rich and Adcock we have the ability to get the ball into the forward 50 to players liked Todd Banfield who can kick goals.

Our defence is pretty good too being led by super boot Josh Drummond who will be ably assisted by Ash McGrath, Daniel Merrett, Brent Staker and Joel Patfull.

Our ruck stocks look good too with Matthew Leuenberger and Mitch Clark with potentially Jamie Charman contributing as well.

We have the playing stock.  It’s up to Vossy and the coaching panel to deliver a game plan and instill belief in the boys.

Just remember we are the MIGHTY BRISBANE LIONS.  We never give up.  We have pride and power and the will to win. While there is a breath in our bodies, we will continue to fight for each win.  While we are still over that white line and the clock is still ticking, we will strive for what is ours.  While the crowd continues to cheer we will continue to fight for that crowd.  We are the MIGHTY BRISBANE LIONS.

It’s time to ROAR again.

I BELIEVE!

Do you?

Please rate this post out of 5 stars and leave a comment if you feel compelled. Thanks for reading!

State of Origin in 3D

On Wednesday night, 681,000 people tuned in from within Queensland to watch the mighty XXXX Maroons win an unprecedented 5th straight series win and the first 3-0 clean sweep since 1995.  In addition to these 681,000 people, there was another couple of thousand watching this sporting spectacle in 3D at a number of cinemas around the state.

I was one of them.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure that 3D TV’s would be anything but a gimmick.  I had recently seen a number of movies in 3D at the cinema including Toy Story 1 and 2 and Shrek 4.  Great movies but not really 3D worthy.  The old 3D movies of yesteryear when you would duck when something came at you from the screen are no more so what could 3D sport possibly add?

I went to State of Origin 2 at Suncorp Stadium and outside the stadium, I think it was Sony who had set up a 3D booth allowing people to watch some 3D action on the televisions wearing the special powered 3D goggles.  So I decided to sit down and watch a few minutes and what I saw delivered a massive WOW factor.  It was a game of American Football being shown and I was blown away.  Wow indeed.  What a difference.  I felt like I was there, in row B watching the touchdown in real time.  It was amazing.

So when I found out that my local Event Cinema at Chermside was showing State of Origin 3 live and in 3D in the VMax theatre I organised for a couple of mates and I to watch the game there.  The tickets were $20 each plus $1 for the glasses.  A little bit more than a movie showing in the same cinema but a lot more expensive than the $0 it would cost to watch the game at home on free to air television, albeit on a 2D screen.  But I have a 50” Panasonic HD Plasma with surround sound so I still get a great view and when watching it on HD the image quality is fantastic.

But for 20 bucks I wasn’t sure what to expect but I knew it would be totally different to watching it from home, so for me, it was money well spent….at this stage.  I was curious as to whether or not the people in the crowd would sit quietly or would they cheer and holler and yell abuse at the referee’s just like they would if they were really there at the game or in the comfort of their own home.  Would they stand for and sing the national anthem? These answers would be forthcoming in a few short minutes.  For my American readers, this might seem a bit strange to you as from my understanding, when in the cinemas in America there is plenty of cheering and clapping etc just in normal movies and singing and dancing in musicals.  In Australia we are quiet relaxed and sit quietly throughout the movie with only laughter at the funny bits and the continual rustle of paper bags and munching on potato chips and popcorn and the slurping of drinks.

So I met my mates there and we had a feed before going in.  Hotdogs of course, what else do you eat at the footy!  Actually I lie.  I had a kebab but I imagined it was a hotdog!

The first thing which was different about this night was the 2 Bronco’s cheerleaders who greeted us in the theatre.  That’s a first for me.  Having two scantily dressed absolute stunners with pom poms standing in the near dark welcoming you is a plus for me.

We took our seats which were unfortunately about 6 rows from the front and to the left.  It was essentially booked out by the time I bought the tickets so bad luck there.  When at the cinema to watch movies I generally sit in the back row or as close to the back row as possible. So comfy seats but not in the best location.

We were there ready for the pre match intro’s from the Channel 9 commentary team and while not broadcast in 3D we had to wear the 3D glasses to watch it.  Then the teams came running out onto the field.  Queensland ran out first led by our legendary captain, Darren Lockyer.  The 3D camera was placed at the end of an honour guard of little kids with their little hands outstretched in eager anticipation of touching their hero’s hands as they ran onto the field.  Uh oh, someone forgot to tell Lockyer who quickly turned left out of the tunnel and not through the awaiting sets of hands.  Those poor little kids.  In Lockyer’s defence they were all wearing blue and Lockyer probably thought they were there for the New South Wales team.   The rest of the Queensland team quickly followed Lockyers direction and also missed the honour guard except for Jonathan Thurston who went through with arms outstretched and made the kids day.

Then the NSW side came out and did run through the honour guard and at this point, with the camera now back at ground level we were nearly knocked out by a few flying knees thanks to the 3D angle.  Sweet!

The ground announcer then asks for everyone to stand for the Australian National Anthem.  No one in front of me stood up and I had quick look backwards and only 1 guy in the whole cinema was standing.  I felt embarrassed for him but then felt embarrassed for myself for not also standing but by this stage the anthem had begun so I decided to keep my seat.  However, I did sing along as I always do.

At the conclusion of the anthem the ground announcer then asked for a minutes silence in honour of the 3 Aussie diggers killed in Afghanistan a couple of weeks earlier.  Again nobody stood in the cinema but the moments silence was honoured.

So with the festivities over it’s time for kick off!  Uh oh, we have a problem.  Something has happened to the vision and the cinema quickly tries to rectify the error obviously caused when someone has turned on the kettle to make the coffee!  Unbelievable!  30 minutes of prematch with no real dramas and then right on kick off the screen goes black!  The crowd lets out a sigh as the first tackle in State of Origin is generally a big one and is well anticipated.  We missed it.

Then when the screen did return we were in like a 5th dimension.  It was difficult to watch.  Not 2D and not 3D but something all together different. After a few minutes of uncomfortable watching someone called out from within the crowd ‘turn your glasses upside down’.  So we did and everything came back into focus.  So for the first half we all looked like idiots wearing our 3D glasses upside down!  But at least the images were correct again.  This problem was rectified at half time and we were able to look (semi) normal again.

One thing which was weird about this broadcast was that all of the camera angles I was use to when watching rugby league were different.  Sometimes a ball kicked from the 30 looked like it was kicked from half way and when the ball was kicked it looked like it went a lot further than normal.  The lines across the field indicating different 10 metre zones looked longer than 10 metres as well.  So it took some time getting use to the new angles and distances.

The second half was an epic game of rugby league with the lead changing a couple of times.  The atmosphere in the cinema was electric and high 5’s aplenty were being thrown around when Queensland finally killed off NSW in the dying minutes.

The images on the cinema screen were different to what I saw on the Sony 3D TV a few weeks earlier. They weren’t as crisp or as 3D as I expected so don’t make a decision to buy a 3D TV based on what you see at the cinema.

So was it worth it?  Absolutely.  Despite a couple of technical hiccups, it was a fun night but next time I will get my usual seat at the back and centred.

I wonder if the AFL grand final will be broadcast at the cinema.  I might just be back there on the last day Saturday in September.

This is the video I took of my mates and I singing the national anthem at State of Origin 2 at Suncorp Stadium.  I guess it is a bit different to singing it in a cinema.  The bloke is Lloyd and the chick is Amina!  Great people both.

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Who will win the 2010 Toyota AFL Premiership?

The Weekend Ritual

9am Friday morning. The last day of the working week. It’s a great day because in just 8 short hours the weekend begins. 5pm Friday afternoon and it is time to close down the computer, pack up your lunch box and thermos and struggle your way home along with the thousands of others clogging the major arteries heading off to suburbia, all in a desperate attempt to start their weekends too. It’s a battle to get home first and while I won’t go into that battle today, I do want to talk about what the weekend holds for most average males, of which I am certain, I fall into that category.

So what does the average mid 30’s Australian male look most forward to each weekend? Well for me it is the footy. I am a very lucky guy where I have an equal love of both the National Rugby League (NRL) and the Australian Football League (AFL) so I have two games each weekend to look forward to. For my overseas friends who are reading this and are not familiar with our codes of football, they are two totally different versions of football. Both are played with oval balls and both are very physical with plenty of tackling and collisions. It is very different to soccer and gridiron but I guess the best way for you to see what I mean is to jump onto YouTube for examples. Anyway, I digress. Today’s blog is not about educating you about different versions of Australian football codes but to discuss the weekend and why it is important to me!

So as I said the weekend commences Fridays as soon as my garage door opens and I turn off the engine. My kids come running into the garage to greet me and within minutes I have my favourite beverage, being Pepsi Max (I am a non drinker) and plenty of hugs and kisses. I am all set for a weekend of spending time with my kids and football watching.

I mentioned that I have an equal love of both NRL and AFL. In the NRL I love the Brisbane Broncos and in the AFL it is the Brisbane Lions. Both teams have been very successful in their respective codes. The Broncos normally play on a Friday night at 7.30pm and the Lions normally play on a Saturday night at 7pm. I can’t remember the last time I missed a game. I don’t watch the games live. Thanks to technology like Foxtel IQ and Tivo I can record the games and start watching it about 30 minutes after telecast time so I can fast forward through the ads and the drivel on the half time stats. I’ve been watching the frigging game so I know what is going on.

So recording the games can sometimes be frought with danger especially if I am not home to set the show to be recorded. Like tonight. Instead, I called home as I was delayed at the gym and I asked my wife to set the IQ to record Friday nights Broncos vs Cowboys game. This request has been made several times and normally it is all good and I am happy in the knowledge that even though I am not home, the game is being recorded. Occasionally, maybe once every 2 or 3 years there is a stuff up of monumental proportions. Like tonight. I ease my way home from the gym. First problem. The kids are no where to be found. No probs it is late and they are asleep. So I grab a Pepsi Max and settle into the recliner with the Foxtel remote at hand and I turn on the 50” Panasonic Plasma Viera Full HD (bought for the footy and movies). I go to start watching the game and there is no game recording!!!!! My weekend is ruined before it even really began.

Sure the game is being replayed at the ungodly hour of 1am but that means I can’t do my other ritual of Facebook and Twitter in fear that I will know the result. I don’t care whether we win or lose I don’t want to know the score. It ruins the enjoyment of the game for me. So with no footy and no social networking my weekend is off to a bad start.

So I ask my wife why she didn’t tape it (and yes I did ask, I am not a yeller). She said she forgot. “How can you forget”? I ask, “You put down the phone, you go to the TV you find the game via the EPG and you press RECORD. You then go back to doing what you ever you were doing, safe in the knowledge that you have satisfied your husband’s requirements”. What is so friggin hard about that? So she begins to give me her reasons why she forgot, but by this stage it really doesn’t matter as it won’t turn back time (unless we can get Cher to suddenly arrive and start singing, or my red Mazda 6 parked just a few minutes earlier in the garage turns into a DeLorean) and the opportunity to watch the game and commence my perfect weekend which I worked very hard all week to enjoy, is now gone.

So by not doing a very simple task that would have taken a matter of a few seconds to complete I am now writing this blog instead of watching the Broncos buck the Cowboys in the 2nd last game of the regular season.

By following the 6 P’s (Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance), I should be setting the recording myself way in advance because I can’t expect anyone bar me to understand the importance of my weekend ritual. Without a good weekend, I will struggle to have a good working week as I am grumpy and edgy waiting impatiently for the next weekend.

The weekend can be saved however by watching the Lions qualify for a home final on Saturday night by beating the Swans in Sydney, and yes, I have set the IQ to record just in case. Lesson learnt.