Is this the golden era of the ‘good egg’ in Australian sport?
Sure, we hear a lot about the bad boys of tennis, the petulance and sledging of our cricketers, and the seemingly endless travesties committed by footballers in Bali.
However, what has become apparent in recent years is that nice guys and gals seem to not be coming last, but are actually the sportspeople who are finding themselves at the top of the pile.
There’s a case to be made that sport’s competitive nature and increasing demands of officials, fans and media can often lead to sports stars who may be shiny when in the spotlight, but offer a darker side when the cameras have stopped rolling.
No names or pack drill on some of the worst offenders, but every sports journalist in the country could tell you a story about the true nature of some of the teams and individuals who are more than a little prickly and difficult to deal with.
Step forward then the real champions, those stars who can win and be bloody nice while doing it.
Ash Barty has to be the standout, proving that you can walk and chew gum at the same time when it comes to performing on and off the court.
The World No.1 has been graceful, open and generous with her time, even after the French Open made her the hottest property in tennis.
Not only that, her honesty around her struggles and vulnerabilities before getting back in the game has been an inspiration to thousands of Australians struggling with depression and anxiety.
Then there’s Formula One joker Daniel Ricciardo, who has proven that his competitive spirit and sense of fun has not been dulled by racing in a less-than-world-beating car.
Granted, the West Australian’s move to Renault ensured him a big payday, but he’s maintained his ‘how good is this?’ enthusiasm to become one of the brightest stars in the toughest motorsport category in the world.
Sporting Spud well recalls the time when Ricciardo – as one of 24 drivers on the F1 grid – took a call on the eve of the Monaco Grand Prix which filled the hole left by a less-than-stellar AFL player throwing a tanty and refusing to participate in a pre-arranged interview.
Did we mention he’s funny?
While he may possibly be a pest to be around in the paddock if you’re a fellow driver, Ricciardo’s antics in the media bullpen and on social media have been a source of constant hilarity for F1 audiences.
And we should not forget Australian cricket captain Tim Paine, who not only retained the Ashes in England, but – as befits a Tasmanian – did so with personable good grace even as the inevitable comparisons with Steve Smith rolled over him.
Paine has done a sterling job in repairing the damage done by the Cape Town ball-tampering scandal. In PR terms it’s a legacy that stacks up well against a succession of Australian cricket captains who were often winners, but rarely grinners.
So, while the nation’s political debate seems to be descending further into the gutter, perhaps we should all take some time being grateful that our winningest athletes are indeed still reaching for the stars.
The good eggs are not just rising on the sporting field, with cricket journalist Jesse Hogan feeling the love this week with the launch of his first book For Cap and Country.
Hogan had started work on the book in 2015, interviewing past and present Australian cricketers on how representing their country had changed their lives.
But in 2016 Hogan was struck by a devastating stroke and has since battled through a long and difficult rehabilitation.
With the help of Andrew Faulkner and Simon Auteri, Hogan yesterday launched For Cap and Country at the MCG, with a big crowd of family, friends and media peers on hand to support him.
Now he’s ticked ‘published author’ off his list, no doubt Jesse will be first in line to write the story of the Melbourne footy club’s next premiership.
Buddy’s back, lighter and leaner
Turning 33 early in the new year, Lance Franklin is now the oldest player on the Sydney Swans list, but AAP has reported the big forward has been one of the first players to return to training – and he’s lighter and leaner.
With the Swans failing to secure a trade for Bomber Joe Daniher, they’ll be hoping Buddy still has the magic to lead the goalkicking and help develop a new crop of forwards.
The star key forward played his 300th game in last season’s final round after being limited to just 10 games in 2019.
But coach John Longmire says Franklin has provided a valuable lesson to the club’s many young players.
“He is a real competitor,” Longmire said on Monday.
He understands his footy as good as anyone. He understands we’ve lost a lot of experience as far as games that walked out the door last year.
“He really enjoys training with the younger players and he saw it as an opportunity to up his program and that’s a really positive message to not only give to himself but also the other players.”
Franklin underwent minor surgery on his ankle and glute in the off-season and will no doubt be eased into training over the summer.
I have a meme …
Your ice hockey team is 6-1 down and your sister/girlfriend wants a selfie … the result? Just 11.8 million views.
Sport thought …
“If they start misfielding, if they start dropping catches and fumbling, you know they’re with the fairies and always looking after themselves. So (if) Pakistan are fielding well, look out Australia.”
– Before the first Test, Shane Warne says Pakistan’s fielding is a barometer of its performance