Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Eaglehawk 86-08 Half Back Line

In the second installment of the Eaglehawk 86-08 side, MC Gregor talks us through the Half Back Line - one of the greatest groupings of players to have played the game, the West Coast Eagles half back line of the 1990's.

Half Back Flank - John Worsfold
Centre Half Back - Glen Jakovich
Half Back Flank - Guy McKenna

Individually, these men will go down as greats in the AFL. All AFL and WCE life-members. All cornerstones of the West Coast premiership sides in the 1990s. All hard men, who never gave an inch in crucial contest after crucial contest. Individually, they were superstars.

Glen Jakovich was rated by Mike Sheehan (the thinking woman's accountant) as the number one player in the AFL before being cruelly struck down by a knee injury in Subiaco's cruciate corner. A teenage prodigy as a South Freo full-forward, Jakovich and his magnificent mullet became a prominent feature in the West Coast backline while still a boy. His battles with Wayne Carey were legendary in the first half of the 1990s, and it is important to remember that Jacko won the majority of the battles convincingly. A reliable mark, smart (if somewhat awkward) kick, and always willing to put his body on the line, Jacko was an inspiration to a generation of WA kids. His only real weakness was when he replaced his mullet with a Dolf Lundgren-style haircut in the late 1990s. Terrible decision - worse than Dougie Hawkins playing for Fitzroy.

John Worsfold was hated by most AFL supporters. And for that, I will always love him. He was hard. He was tough. But, ultimately, he was fair. Unlike Ablett, there were no loose elbows. Unlike Dermie, he didn't bother with show-time. He simply smashed his tightly congested body into opponent after opponent at often terrifying speeds. He won games with his bumps (his hit on Gavin Wright quietened the Victorian Park mob, and led to a blistering period where Eagle's players prospered while Collingwood players tried to avoid being killed). His hits on Tony Modra and Dermie still makes many a grown West Aussie look wistfully into the distance and sigh, a small tear collecting in the corner of their eyes. And the way he terrified Ablett in the 1992 GF saw off any prospect for a repeat of 1989. Oh, and he actually was a pretty damn good footballer - and a true leader.

Guy McKenna, by contrast, kept a lower profile, but was just as good. 'Bluey' was struck down with gingervitis as a youth, but he overcome his debilitating inability to thrive in the sun, to become the first 'AFL quarterback'. Time and time again, he would set up plays along the half-back line. Always feeding Heady, Mainwaring, Kemp, Matera, Turley, Evans or any of the other Eagle runners. Yet, he wasn't simply a space player. He'd hit packs hard, make desperate spoils and would be, in contrast to a number of modern day backmen, accountable. Oh, and he was a nice guy. Or at least nice to a young lad with heady dreams, whom he met in the Red Rock hotel in 1997.

However, the individual stories do not equal the greater whole which was this trio. Together they changed football. Yeah right, I hear you laugh. Well, it might be best to remember that it was the Eagles in the early 90s who reinvented running football out of the backline. McKenna would spot up our mid-field, Jacko would run through opposition lines, and Woosha would just create space by being a homicidal freak. They knew instinctively where each other was, and they always helped to create space for each other. It was them who established the Eagles tradition of betting they could keep opponents below 12 goals in a game (which they did with scary regularity). It was also them who decided to not allow the Dockers any respite until the shadows of the new millenium.

History also has a habit of ignoring AFL half-backs. Not in this case. All three have gone on to display their footballs smarts. Woosha as a premiership coach. Bluey as the Gold Coast's coach and Collingwood assistant coach, and Jacko as the single worst football commentator west of Eucla (Steve Quartermain remains, of course, in a league of his own) - it takes talent to be that bad.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Kudos Kumar

And just a quick word on Sangakkara. Magnificent.

Faced with the horrors of what he saw, he still took the time to emphasise that he regretted the attacks but not the tour. There are bound to be a number of hot-headed reactions to the attacks, but in the end we should all take a deep breath and stand back.

The Balls just hopes the Sri Lankan side were afforded the best security that was available.

Let's be serious for a moment

International cricket is, ultimately, a limited affair. There are really only a handful of countries in the world who view it as a dominant sport. Pakistan is one of these. It is therefore essential that the international cricket community do everything it can to be ensure that cricket doesnt merely survive in Pakistan, but that it remains a source of hope, inspiration and happiness.

So what to make of the tragic events of 3 March?

Well, let's look firstly to a possible silver lining - Pakistan will now surely be more willing to play cricket in neutral venues and, thus, play more cricket full-stop. Of course, this is more of a silver foil lining, because the Pakistani people won't be given the opportunity to watch their players live. But it is something, and 150 million people can't fit into a stadium anyway (a glib comment, but true nonetheless).

This puts a bit of pressure on the international cricketing community. Venues, such as in the UAE would seem logical, but so would venues in England (which has a high expat population). Perhaps Australia, NZ, Bangladesh and others could also offer their services. But this is not enough. You would hope that with these offers of venues, would also come the offer of revenues raised.

Pakistan could and should be offered the gate profits from all such ventures. Now is the time for international cricketing communities to stand up and offer Pakistani cricket kind words, good pitches and some dosh.

But that is also not enough.

Why not capitalise on international good will and also go that step further. Young Pakistani cricketers should also be given the opportunities to develop overseas. Why not offer several scholarships to the Australian and English cricket academies. But better yet, why not offer a Pakistani A side a place in one of the premier domestic competitions in the world - perhaps even, dare we say it, the Sheffield Shield. This would only need to occur for a season or two, but I think it would not help serve Pakistani cricket...but perhaps also Australian cricket and its fans.
For example, why not base the team out of Canberra (who are pushing for a test in the next few years). They'll have a decent fan base, and the success of Pakistani cricketers playing in Australia recently has shown how readily Australians welcome international cricketers.

These suggestions are, I'm sure, going to be joined by a wide number of others, but The Balls just hopes that words are finally met with action. Cricket simply cannot afford to lose a pillar of international cricket.

p.s. The Balls has decided to not refer to India providing any support. This would be wonderful (and possibly a political masterstroke), but their is no real money in it for Indian cricket, so there is no chance it will go ahead.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Go North - life is peaceful there

And yet, while the bitter taste of Philthy stays in the mouth, it has been partially washed away by the emergence of Marcus North.

On a juiced up Wanderers pitch, with his side in trouble, and having had to endure the diabolical demise of a fellow debutant, Marcus strode out (yes, STRODE) to meet what awaited him. And Marcus liked what he saw.

So now the Aussies are in a strong position on a deck which looks like it has a few tricks in it yet.

And so, once again, we are left to wonder...how would McGain have gone?

Philthy Phil's Philthy Debut

Do we really need to go there? All the build up, all the anticipation, all the family members that he had head over to Jo'berg to watch him. And he does that.

Now, I've played some fairly low level cricket in my time, and even I've never seen such an ugly, ridiculous, disgusting shot on the 4th ball of an innings (granted, i've never watched myself bat, but that's beside the point).

Hayden, Langer, Boon, Marsh, Taylor, hell even Wayne Phillips will be wondering why they ever gave the game away.

Philthy - you stink.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Don't do it David. Think of the children!

It appears the selectors are about to repeat their mistake of India - Boonie (blessings upon him) has suggested that pace and not spin is the best option for Australia in the First Test.

Is the pitch a juicy belter?


South Africa has no spinner and feature world class quicks, so would be nuts to go in with a spinning deck. But, so what??

Australia needs to bowl the Sethers out twice. TWICE!. That will require, for the slower amongst us (big ups to Chappers) twenty wickets. Twenty.

Let me throw some names at you. Halfahouse (Duplex), Bollinger (Passion Pop), Siddle (Sores) and Mitchell (WA's most beautiful).

Johnson could bowl his ring off and there is every prospect they would still struggle to get twenty wickets. This isn't being mean - this is a cold hard assessment of a bunch of inexperienced test bowlers. Give them twelve months more, and I'll probably be wrong. But not tomorrow.*

So again we are left at the mercy of some floundering selectors. Will they choose McGain or will they not love Australia.

* The Balls has absolutely no idea what this would mean for the selection of North and/or McDonald. Logic would suggest if its a seamers deck you'd also want a bit more batting support. But logic is a two-faced whore, and would also suggest McDonald could be very effective. Logic is the kind of bastard who doesn't buy a round at the pub.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Eaglehawk 86-08 Backline

The last line of defence and the first line of attack. The blokes that have had, over our football watching lives, the unenviable task of taking on players of the calibre of Lockett, Ablett, Modra, Lloyd, Salmon, Longmire, Lynch, Fevola and Gehrig to name a few. They've also had to take on the small forwards, the resting midfielders and still provide drive from the backline as their team took possession.

Considering all of this, choosing the backline was almost a no brainer.

A full back that could match it with anyone on a lead and in the air, but who could also more than hold his own in the body on body battles of strength. A back pocket that would niggle the small forward or resting rover, beat them with his strength and speed and, when his team was in possession of the ball, would break away to deliver the ball with pin point accuracy to his midfielders. The other back pocket was a man mountain. A man mountain that was aggressive, quick and one of the more skillful players going around. Able to beat most players in a foot race and in a battle of strength, this player was also able to provide silver service to his team mates when delivering the ball.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you The Balls' Eaglehawk 86-08 Backline from the Hawthorn Football Club:

Back Pocket: Andy Collins
Full Back: Chris Langford
Back Pocket: Gary Ayres