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Ball Don't Lie Blog - 23/08/19
Headingley always loomed as an acid test for Australia and in turn, the potential greatness of this Ashes series.
After all, fail and best of luck trying to stop a momentum-hogging English side from closing the series out at home over the final two instalments.
Having barely made it out alive under the cover of darkness from Lord’s, Australia only had three days to come to terms with the nightmare that was English debutant Jofra Archer and the related absence of Steve Smith.
Little did the tourists know that England would win the toss and send them in to bat in conditions that screamed trouble and strife.
The opening salvo from Archer and Stuart Broad was akin to an older brother coming off a short run with a half taped tennis ball in the backyard.
All you could do was laugh, which is exactly what Warner did ironically each time Broad angled a ball dangerously in only for it to change its mind and beat the bat going the other way.
Australia’s first innings total of 179 doesn’t appear to be worth much, but in the circumstances it might prove priceless.
Not least because it may well represent David Warner’s desperately needed turning point and confirmation that Australia has found something dependable in Marnus Labuschagne.
There is also the cavalry of a James Pattinson-infused bowling line-up to come galloping over the hill.
Of course, most would agree England is firmly in the box seat. Particularly when you consider an improving weather forecast for Leeds, which will likely rob the Australians of the type of movement gifted by the cricket gods to Archer and co.
And yet, we find ourselves with exactly the sort of equation that can lift a promising cricket series into dreamland.
Basketball Without Borders
Ignore the result - an ultimately comfortable 16 point win to a third string Team USA over a Ben Simmons-less Boomers - and the Marvel Stadium viewing issues - unless you paid an exorbitant sum to sit in a plastic chair and not really be able to make out a game between a third string Team USA over a Ben Simmons-less Boomers – because last night's exhibition match in Melbourne represented so much more.
At its core, this was a glorious demonstration of cross-promotion.
For a night, world basketball’s behemoth, USA basketball shined its bright light on little brother Australia and little brother reflected it right back.
USA basketball and the NBA have a vested interest in spreading a basketball gospel which has them as lord saviour, and Australian basketball is only too happy to leverage it for its own ends.
And the American influence doesn’t end there. The NBL took the opportunity in the lead-up to the big game to show off its shiny new toys in highly touted young imports RJ Hampton and LaMelo Ball.
And so Australian basketball’s perfect storm thunders on - it even rained in Headingley to ensure more eyeballs on Marvel! - one headline to the next.
Not always good news - think Ben Simmons controversial home stay - but news all the same for a resurgent local sport that craves it.
The dark lord of the AFL, Ross Lyon has been vanquished...and yet we all know that he’s not dead.
So does Lyon. Although he was prepared to park his customary menacing coolness and do his best humbled, knockabout – read smiling crocodile – Ross Lyon thing at his final presser for the benefit of his potential suitors.
Lyon’s Fremantle demise has emboldened his critics. The usual references to a lack of premierships and an ugly style of football have abounded.
But, love him or loathe him, he took two largely flawed clubs to the brink of the promised land and would be every chance of going a step further if an unfulfilled talent like the Giants were to come calling.
Ross is still the boss, a king without a crown.
Six years in and three to go, no flags to show, a bottom four finish for a rebuilding Swans team, still almost $4m to reportedly be paid out, and the Buddy Franklin deal looks a steal.
To say Buddy has been worth the price of admission is to limit his value to mere entertainment, but it has been so much more profound than that.
Perhaps the best illustration of Buddy’s all-round worth to the Swans was the 2014 grand final.
Buddy endured any want-a-way's worst nightmare in the form of a massacre at the hands of his old mates the Hawks.
And yet arguably the lowest point in his career doubled as one of the most transformative. The bravery of his performance that day - in spite of the brutal man marking of opponent Brian Lake and the meek surrender of many in red and white - banished any perceptions of a good times guy.
Buddy's ankle injury in the grand final versus the Bulldogs two years later arguably robbed the Swans of a redemptive premiership.
Somewhat ironically, it also provided Bulldog, Tom Boyd with vindication for his monster deal.
Perhaps the best measure of Buddy’s value to the Swans is that he doesn’t need it.
Gilly Season Redux
In last week’s blog, I called out AFL CEO Gill McLachlan going public with his wish for soon to be FREE AGENT Stephen Coniglio to remain at GWS as yet another example of bumbling AFL HQ making a meal of the easiest sports administration job in the country given the relative health of the game.
Then this week the AFL brains trust decided to go one better and allow Collingwood player, Jaidyn Stephenson to return early from his betting-related suspension to play in the VFL this weekend on the basis that it falls after the Pies’ game against the Bombers tonight.
Never mind that this is technically absurd, it also shows complete tone deafness given pre-existing reservations as to the fact that Stephenson's suspension ended neatly on the eve of the finals and now the AFL is allowing for an extra warm-up game.
If only this could be used to cancel out a future indignant Collingwood-related rant from Eddie McGuire...
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