Time to kick-off the usual Tuesday dribble with a bit of a celebration, because this upcoming French Open marks 50 years since Rod Laver completed the second leg of the 1969 Grand Slam, when he beat Ken Rosewall in straight sets in a rematch of the 1968 Final, to win part two of the historic 1969 Grand Slam!
It remains the last time an Australian man has won the title at Roland Garros, and the last time an Australian man made the final.
Of course, the last Australian to win a singles title in Paris was Margaret Court in the 1973 Women’s Final, and Sam Stosur also made the 2010 Final.
Tennis- The French Open begins on Sunday
Roland Garros has snuck up on us again for another year, probably because it’s the Major tournament that Australians pay the least attention to.
Which is strange, because the time difference really works for me.
And now it’s time for a history lesson- The reason the French named the place after Roland Garros- A rugby fan, pioneering aviator, fighter pilot and national hero who was killed during World War I- Goes back to when the French Tennis Federation needed to build a stadium to host France’s Davis Cup defence in 1928.
As part of the negotiation for the land to build the stadium, the FTF were required to name the venue after a World War I hero.
Emile Lesieur, president of the nearby Stade Francais and an old friend of Garros, suggested his name, and thus, a long dead, rugby loving Frenchman became a legendary name in world tennis.
Qualifying began yesterday, and as it stands right now, 7 Australian men are guaranteed entry into the main draw; Alex De Minaur, Nick Kyrgios, John Millman, Matt Ebden, Jordan Thompson, Bernard Tomic, and Alexei Popyrin received a wildcard.
And 6 women are in the singles draw: Ash Barty, Ajla Tomljanovic, Daria Gavrilova, Astra Sharma, Sam Stosur, and the Australian wildcard is the Queen of the Desert, Priscilla Hon.
As always, any Australian getting past the 1st Round of a clay court tournament will be cause for a national celebration.
AFL & NRL Indigenous Round
The great celebration of the involvement of the First Peoples in our major sporting codes.
The AFL celebrates the Sir Doug Nicholls Round, named after Sir Doug, who played for Fitzroy in the 1930s, represented Victoria, later became Governor of South Australia, was the first Indigenous person to be knighted, and remains the only VFL/AFL player to be knighted.
Being a Sandgroper, I’m a huge fan of the Indigenous Round, because the history of WA Footy is filled with Indigenous champions, two of whom (Polly Farmer & Barry Cable) are recognised as Legends of the game.
And then there’s the likes of Maurice Rioli, Bill Dempsey, Stephen Michael, Jimmy & Phil Krakoeur, Phil Narkle, Michael Mitchell, Nicky Winmar, Peter & Phil Matera, Chris Lewis, plus in the past 20 years we’ve seen Leon Davis, Chance Bateman, Ashley Sampi, Buddy Franklin, Paddy Ryder, Daniel Wells, Liam Ryan, and Stephen & Brad Hill.
Speaking of Michael Mitchell- Here’s his 1990 Goal of the Year.
And I’d be remiss to not mention how the NRL have had the Indigenous All-Stars since 2010, and then you think of just some of the great Indigenous players that have graced the 13-man game.
The Immortal Artie Beetson, Eric Simms, Steve Ella, Cliffy Lyons, Dale Shearer, Steve Renouf, Gorden Tallis, Wendell Sailor, Preston Campbell, Timana Tahu, Nathan Merritt, Rhys Wesser, Sam Thaiday, Matty Bowen, plus even with Jonathan Thurston and GI calling it a day, the league still has the likes of Latrell Mitchell, Alex Johnston, Cody Walker, Dane Gagai & Adam Reynolds going around.
Speaking of Gordy, here’s that tackle on Brett Hodgson.
During the previews this week, it’d be remiss of me not to get photos of all the jerseys/jumpers in!
Not even one week after Dane Rampe was punished for telling an umpire he “Talked like a girl”, Carlton’s Dale Thomas topped that, and called boundary umpire Michael Barlow (Not that Michael Barlow) the above phrase, and will appear before the Tribunal tonight.
Abusing an umpire has always gone down well with the league honchos- Most players and coaches cop decent fines (Which will probably happen to Daisy), and in rare cases, like Diesel Williams abusing Darren Goldspink in 1995, they get suspended.
And back on the subject of Gorden Tallis, I’d say Queenslanders may remember the Bull giving Bill Harrigan the exact same compliment during Origin I in 2000, after Harrigan missed two obvious knock-ons against New South Wales, which led to a Blues try with 10 minutes to go, tying the scores at 16-all.
It led to an exchange in which the irate ‘Raging Bull’ called Bill an ‘effing cheat’, that Steve Clarke would be refereeing Game 2 in his place, and that Bill didn’t have the balls to send him off.
Bill sent him off.
The Blues won 20-16.
It also reminds me of when the AFL cracked down on jumper punches in 2017, and then not even a fortnight later, Tom Hawkins jumper punched Adelaide’s Matt Crouch, and was promptly suspended for it.
AFL Round 9 Rising Star
For bringing the mullet and the mo combination back to the fold, the Western Bulldogs’ Bailey Smith has been recognised as the Round 9 Rising Star!
And he also ‘play footy good’.
Wallabies great George Smith calls it a day
A late entrant, but Australian flanker George Smith, who is probably the last active player to play in that truly great Wallabies era of 1999-2002, finally called time on his career at the age of 38, following his stint in the UK with Bristol.
Smith debuted for the Brumbies in 2000, earned his first Wallabies cap in the same year, and played in that historic win against the British & Irish Lions in 2001, the Tri-Nations win that same year, and in all, played 111 tests for the Green & Gold, the second most for a Wallabies forward, just behind Nathan Sharpe’s 116.
He was apart of the Brumbies’ titles in 2001 & 2004, won the John Eales Medal twice- the inaugural award in 2002, and again in 2008, and managed to be named the player of the season in Super Rugby three years running (2006-08) and Premiership Rugby in England (2016).
Remember when he had those massive dreadlocks?
For some indication on how good Smithy was, Irish champ Jamie Heaslip and All Blacks legend Richie McCaw both agreed he was the toughest player to play against, because of how physical, intelligent and skillful he was.
An absolute beast at the breakdown- Thanks George.
LASTLY- R.I.P NIKI LAUDA
If it weren’t for surviving that afternoon at the Nurburgring in 1976, and if it weren’t for winning the F1 Drivers’ Championship three times, Niki would still be remembered for this Peanuts cartoon.
And right on the eve of the Monaco Grand Prix too.