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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.
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.
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?
In Australia, September is the end of the football season for both AFL (Australian Rules Football) and the NRL (National Rugby League). The season proper finishes in August and both codes conduct their finals series in September.
The AFL Grand Final is always played on the last Saturday in September and the NRL Grand Final traditionally was played on the last Sunday in September though this changed a few years ago and it is now played on the first Sunday in October but for all essences of this post, September is footy finals time.
This year is different. For the first time in 19 years, one of my 2 teams is not featured in the September action. I am one of the few Aussies that have a love of both codes. For my American readers who don’t know the difference between the two, well I would need to write a book to tell you the differences, but in the interest of saving time either YouTube both games and see for yourself or trust me that both codes are worlds apart. They have nothing in common. Even the footballs used are different.
My team in the AFL is the Brisbane Lions. I have been following them since 1987 when they first entered the competition. They started off slowly; not winning a lot of games but by the mid to late 90’s started to see some early September action. Then in 2001 they made the Grand Final and went on to win it and become the AFL Premiers – which is a very hard thing to achieve. What makes the Brisbane Lions even more awesome is that they threepeated this achievement and also won the 2002 and 2003 premierships, plus they played in the 2004 Grand Final only to lose it to Port Adelaide. So four Grand Finals in row and only the second team in history to do so. The Brisbane Lions were the greatest team in history and certainly of the new millennium.
Then we hit hard times. With an ageing list, we missed the finals from 2005 to 2008 before welcoming September action again in 2009, making it into the second week of the 4 week finals campaign, which most Lions fans were satisfied with after the lean previous 4 years. We started the 2010 season with four straight wins and high expectations only to win another 3 games for the year – in a 22 game season – and miss the finals again.
My team in the NRL is the Brisbane Broncos. I have been following them since 1998 when they first entered the competition. They started off with a bang winning many of their first games before faltering late in the year and just missing the finals in their maiden year. In 1991 they made the finals and went on to the Grand Final and won by beating St George 28-8. They came back to Brisbane to a hero’s welcome and went on to repeat this success the following year also against St George, this time in a close encounter, beating them 14-6.
Since their maiden premiership year in 1991, the Brisbane Broncos have featured in September finals every year, until this year. During this 19 year run they won the premiership 6 times. In addition to 1991 and 1992, they also w0n 1997, 1998, 2000 and 2006 making them the most successful club of the past 20 years.
The Broncos missed out on September action by only one game and all season I was confident of more September action. The Lions missed out by about 5 games and I knew their September dream was over half way through the season.
The finals series this year have been interesting but I have been more of a casual observer with no real preference who wins. I have only watched a couple of games live in both codes and haven’t been concerned about hearing scores before watching replays etc. Without one of my two teams there, I just don’t really have the usual high amount of care factor.
This Saturday, is the 2010 AFL Grand Final and I will be watching this game in 3D at the cinema much like I watched the Rugby League State of Origin game 3 earlier this year. You can read about that here. The AFL Grand Final is a huge event and similar I guess to the Super Bowl in the NFL. It doesn’t matter who plays in it each year, I always watch it. This year, the team most Australian’s love to hate, Collingwood, who have won 14 premierships, the last of which in 1990, will be taking on St Kilda, who has won only one premiership, way back in 1966. I would love to see St Kilda win it with a kick after full time.
Is that a little mean? Probably. Do I care? Not at all.
Also this weekend is the penultimate round of NRL finals series with 4 teams left battling it out to earn a place in the following weeks Grand Final. One of these 4 teams is the Gold Coast Titans who only joined the NRL in 2007 and are the only Queensland team left. I will jump onto their bandwagon and hope that they can not only make the Grand Final but also win it.
But don’t worry. As soon as the 2011 NRL and AFL seasons kick off again, I will be back on board the Broncos and the Lions. After all, I’ve supported them for more than half my life. I’ll stick with them through thick and thin, which I have also been through the years….currently at thick striving to get back to thin!
Enjoy the rest of the September action, especially if your team is still involved.
Who will win the AFL and NRL Grand Finals and how will you be watching the games this year? BBQ? Quietly at home? Cinema like me?