Francis Leach takes a look at what was great about the weekend’s sport, what wasn’t and what could be.
The Matildas pack out Penrith
Last September, the Matildas enjoyed a watershed moment when they played to full stadiums in Sydney and Newcastle in big wins against Brazil.
The lasting impact of that huge show of support was evident at Panthers Stadium again on Saturday as the stands were once again full for the national women’s football team as they took on Chile.
There’s been a long-standing trope peddled by the cavemen gatekeepers in charge of sports administration and broadcasting that people don’t want to watch women’s sport.
That argument has about as much credibility as Scott Morrison’s Darryl Kerrigan schtick. The Matildas are in action again in Newcastle on Tuesday night. Expect another huge turnout.
We won’t watch women’s sport? Tell ’em they’re dreamin’.
All hail the Demon
Do Australian tennis fans finally have a male player they can watch without wanting to simultaneously fling their remote control at their TV in disgust?
After being equally enthralled and infuriated by the talent and the tantrums of Nick Kyrgios and insulted by the indifference and insolence of Bernard Tomic, along comes Alex De Minaur.
De Minaur’s remarkable 2018 saw him take his ranking from 208 to 31 in the world. His outstanding season has seen him named ATP World Tour Newcomer of the year.
— ATP World Tour (@ATPWorldTour) November 10, 2018
Just as importantly, De Minaur doesn’t instinctively make your inner Homer Simpson want to throttle him every time he opens his mouth.
And the kid can play. He’s a baseline beast, has a massive work ethic and the bigger the opponent the better he is.
De Minaur will be the top-ranked Australian male in Melbourne for the Australian Open in January.
Foxes walk as one
After the helicopter crash that killed Leicester City owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and four others following the Foxes home game against West Ham a few weeks back, we’ve watched as a city has struggled to come to terms with its loss.
Vichai had become the patriarch of Leicester, a city that was transformed by the football club’s remarkable 2015-16 Premier League triumph.
On Saturday before their home game against Burnley, the Leicester players led thousands of fans on a walk from the centre of the city to the stadium for their first home game since the tragedy.
The game finished in a scoreless draw, but the heartleft scenes inside the stadium as a community came together to remember, express gratitude and grieve were deeply moving.
Football clubs may be owned by the super rich but the game itself still very much lives in the hearts of the people who love it.
The Matildas’ rude shock
It was all set up for a perfect homecoming for Alen Stajcic’s team. World Cup qualification was in the bag, another huge crowd, a nation of football fans watching on as his team tuned up for a tilt at the title next year.
Somehow the Chileans didn’t get the memo.
The Matildas’ 3-2 loss to Chile on Saturday was a sharp reminder to the Australians that talking a good game and executing it are very different things.
The Aussies were guilty of a number of shocking defensive errors and a lack of cohesion and purpose.
In short, the Matildas got ahead of themselves. On the big stage, this gifted team poured forward in numbers hoping for an individual moment in the spotlight and left the back door wide open.
No wants to watch a band with six lead singers. Stajcic better re-tune his group quickly before Tuesday’s game in Newcastle.
Oh dear. Where do you start?
Well at least they’re breaking records. The Wallabies’ 9-6 loss to Wales in Cardiff on Sunday morning (AEDST) was their first to the men in red for 10 years.
In a game without tries, captain Michael Hooper’s decision to not take the three points on offer from penalties and kick for the sticks – not once but twice – sums up just how ragged this team is right now.
The list of errors is endless – Kicking dead when in possession, lying over the ball and conceding penalties at crucial moments, and crooked throws to the lineout as the clock ticks down.
The Wallabies must feel they are Australian sport’s favourite pinata right now, but they keep giving us a big stick to beat them with.
Commemorating significant military occasions has become a staple of sport around the world. When done thoughtfully, these moments are among the finest our major sporting codes experience.
Lately though, there’s a tendency for “themed rounds”, which are as much about commerce as they are about commemoration.
Over the weekend the A-League held a pre-game remembrance ritual before its five games across the weekend. Whilst the intention was no doubt sincere, the repetition smacked of over-reach.
Armistice Day falls on November 11 each year as a recognition of an historic moment and a chance to reflect on the enormous loss, the waste and futility of World War I.
Maybe the A-League should realise that commemorating that moment, at that time, on that day is actually essential to poignancy of the occasion and bench the added pageantry.