Did the Frenchman protest? He did not. On his way off the field he went straight to the felled halfback, shook his hand and embraced him – an embrace that was returned in kind.
Sorry. No hard feelings. See you in 10 minutes. Lovely!
How the mighty have fallen
The best thing right now in the world of sport?
With the greatest respect to my Kiwi friends, it starts with the All Blacks losing their first match of the Rugby World Cup, for their second successive defeat. It continues with the fact that the USA are neither baseball nor basketball world champions and Brazil hasn’t even made the final of the men’s soccer World Cup since 2002.
The point is that traditional domination of particular sports by long-time powerhouse countries has come to an end in many sports as other nations have caught up, making the whole of the competition more interesting and the triumph of other countries all the more glorious when they do get atop the podium.
Supercoach and supersleuth
Look, it goes against the grain to plug books that TFF hasn’t written but in the case of Andrew Webster’s bio of Wayne Bennett, The Wolf You Feed, let me make an exception. As sports figures go, Bennett is about as enigmatic as they come, with a persona that is an odd combination of taciturn and tactile, or at least theatrically grumpy and monosyllabic at press conferences, while seeming to generate slavish devotion from players who’ve been under his care.
The mark of the man – and I hear the same about his only rival as successful coach, Craig Bellamy – is that Bennett still cares about his players long after their careers over.
Of all those players, Bennett’s enduring favourite is Allan Langer. Langer told Webster his own emblematic yarn of their relationship. See, back in the day, when Bennett took the Broncos to Auckland for pre-season camp, Bennett finished the final team dinner, by telling his players: “Nobody’s going out on the town.”
Not to worry. Langer chose to over-rule him on the QT.
“Boys,” he tells them, “in 15 minutes, he’ll be going to bed. We’ll meet in the foyer – then let’s go.”
Langer is getting in the last cab when Bennett suddenly appears.
“Just getting some fresh air before going to bed, Coach,” Langer tells him.
“Bennett had suspected all along that the players were up to something. Once a cop, always a cop.
“Have some of the players headed out?” Bennett asked.
“You know what? I think they might have,” Langer said. “Let’s go check their rooms.”
A quick inspection revealed that none of them were in bed. Steve ‘Pearl’ Renouf, one of the game’s leading Indigenous players, had put white pillows under his sheets in the shape of a body.
“Mate, that’s Pearl’s bed,” Langer said. “And I’m pretty sure he’s not white.”
On their return to Brisbane, the players were handed fines except for Langer, who – by the way – was captain. Did Bennett find out he was the ringleader?
“Yes,” Langer smiles. “He always does.”
Change is the goal
Told yers. The impact on the Women’s World Cup was not just confined to soccer. In the home of the victors, Spain, the forced kiss on the podium has wrought nothing less than a women’s uprising. This week when a female TV reporter was groped by a male passerby while going live to air, the host asked the cameras to focus on him, calls were made, and he was arrested not long afterwards.
The report had nothing to do with soccer, but the commentary notes the direct link between the triumph of the Spanish footballers, the outrage against the actions of the soccer boss and the dickhead being led away in cuffs.
After yonks of suffering such toxic behaviour, enough!
And here in Australia. Granted, it is on a much lesser scale – far more evolution, than revolution – and nothing at all to do with sexual assault but RegionIllawarra.com.au carried a fascinating story by journalist Keeli Royle last week which displayed signs of Australian women also saying they had had enough when it came to always playing second fiddle to men on accessing available sporting resources. The issue was an offer alleged to have been made to a local women’s under-16s rugby league comp that they could play their grand final at WIN Stadium at prime-time on the weekend – only for the local league authorities to renege.
Corrimal Cougars co-captain Skye Spencer was not happy.
“They gave us the false hope that, ‘We’re 99 per cent sure you’re going to play at WIN Stadium’ – after we pleaded with emails they said we were going to play there,” Ms Spencer told the website. “And then they just turned around and said, no, sorry …”
You get the drift. Again, it was nothing to do with the Matildas per se, but on the other hand everything to do with them. The game is changing.
What They Said
Wallabies back-rower Tom Hooper on Sunday’s opponents in the Rugby World Cup, Fiji, who lost 32-26 to Wales on Sunday: “They can go the 80. You know, they were always a team that you sort of had to keep two scores on, just in case they pulled something out of their clacker and went the full field.”
Hooper on the Wallabies’ win over Georgia: “It was great. Winner’s piss is better than loser’s piss. I had a beer or two with [roommate] Suli [Vunivalu] on the night. Then we tucked each other into bed and we’re onto the next job. We’re in the honeymoon stage. So everyone’s happy as Larry.”
Eddie Jones after being booed while appearing on the big screen during the Georgia game: “Obviously I’m not popular, mate. At least it’s consistent. You either want to be popular or unpopular, so at least I’m consistently unpopular. I can deal with that.”
On what Eddie liked about Wallaby Ben Donaldson: “That he comes from Randwick, mate. He’s got a head start. I’m trying to pick other Randwick players but I can’t find them at the moment.”
Coco Gauff to her haters after she won the US Open women’s singles final is not just a possible quote of the year, but one truly for the ages: “So honestly, to those who thought they were putting water on my fire, you were really adding gas to it. And now I’m really burning so bright right now.”
Daniil Medvedev had previously noted he needed to play “11 out of 10” to beat defending champion Carlos Alcaraz at the US Open men’s semi-finals, and after victory was asked how he rated his performance: “I played 12 out of 10.”
Alcaraz wasn’t as impressed with his own performance: “After this match, I’m going to change my mind. I’m not mature enough.”
Peter V’landys on the Sharks not having a shiny new stadium courtesy of the NSW taxpayers: “The game is built on suburban rugby league. Our game lives and breathes from the tribalism that exists within our suburban communities. We’re going to continue to prosecute funding for the Sharks with the government.” See you at the parapets, Peter. The days of the NSW government writing blank cheques for rugby league are over, and it’s a good thing. The game has changed.
Socceroos coach Graham Arnold looking ahead to the friendly against England next month: “We’re going to do a stumping as well.”
Collingwood’s Brayden Maynard on his collision with Angus Brayshaw: “After I smothered the ball, I came and I looked down and I thought, ‘Shit, he’s there’. I sort of seized up. Next thing I know he was on the floor and I was just a bit rattled myself.”
Former world No.1 tennis player Simona Halep rubbed out for doping infringements: “I take the rules that govern our sport very seriously and take pride in the fact I have never knowingly or intentionally used any prohibited substance. I refused to accept their decision of a four-year ban.”
Novak Djokovic after winning his 24th grand slam title at the US Open: “To make history [in] this sport is just something truly remarkable and special, obviously, in every possible way, in every possible meaning of the word. It’s hard to describe the words.”
Gauff being presented with her $3 million cheque as they celebrated 50 years of equal prizemoney for men and women at the US Open: “Thank you, Billie [Jean King], for fighting for this.”
Leanne Platten, wife of former Hawthorn champion, John, 60, who displays symptoms of the degenerative brain disease CTE, likely from suffering too many concussions as a player: “My doctor told me I’m living with two Johns now, the old John and the new John. You have to support him through his anger and his memory loss.”
Team of the Week
Coco Gauff. Burst onto the scene in 2019 when, as a qualifier, made the fourth round of Wimbledon. Seems like she’s been around for a while and yet she’s only 19. She was immaculate in the US Open final and conducted herself with class afterwards.
Wallabies. Take on Fiji on Sunday night (1.45am AEST). TFF will be there.
GWS. Take on Port Adelaide on Saturday night at Adelaide Oval. (By the way, is “Giants” the blandest, most Americanised name imaginable for an Australian sports team, or not? Discuss. And propose a better name.)
Newcastle Knights. Recorded their first finals win since 2013.
Aaron Rodgers. The 39-year-old quarterback – the oldest player in the NFL – tore his Achilles tendon in his fourth snap of the new season.
Minjee Lee. The Australian golfer clinched her first LPGA Tour victory in 15 months with a thrilling playoff win at the Queen City Championship in Cincinnati.
Hansi Flick. First German soccer manager ever to get the flick.
Luis Rubiales. Finally fell on his sword.
Australia. Davis Cup team currently playing against Great Britain, France and Switzerland in Manchester, although you’re excused if you had no idea.