Origin I: The greatest shame of them all

The seasons change, the catastrophic concussion episodes go on. In the opening minutes of Origin I, the enormous Maroons prop Josh Papalii takes the ball up at full pelt, and as the NSW forward Isaah Yeo tackles him, Yeo’s head takes a huge first impact, before his head swings back and hits ground. Yeo staggers away so badly that teammate Tariq Sims has to steady him. But, get this, according to all the league experts/trainers/independent doctors … this was not a grade-one concussion! (didn’t they say it was grade three, or something?)

Can they tell us, to use my old chestnut, if it wasn’t a grade-one concussion, what was it? Flu?

On the other side, Cameron Munster was appalled, and commendably said so. “It wasn’t rocket science, you could see he wasn’t well,” Munster said. “It makes me sick [to see it] but someone’s got to put their hand up and take responsibility for it, ’cause it’s not on. We’ve been speaking about it for years and years about the welfare of our players and our heads. You want to showcase that in the biggest game of the year.”

Precisely. This really has been going on for years, even as players from previous generations are proven to have suffered serious brain damage. If they had assessed the concussion as being as serious as it looked to my untrained eye, there is no excuse for such appalling negligence from rugby league. They can give us five camera angles on whether a try is scored, but somehow a bloke appears to be clearly concussed and it is missed?

If player welfare is reduced to an afterthought, there can only be one explanation: they just don’t care enough.

Such episodes will end in court with multimillion-dollar pay-outs, and they will be made to care.

Get a load of this!

Warning. I put these coming quotes through my bullshit-ometer and it blew a gasket, even as it warped the head, and blew a piston. It’s best you read it slowly, over several sips of tea, otherwise the same will happen to you.
Take it away Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell on just why you joined the Saudi tour. Lean into the microphone, so we catch every word: “I really feel like golf is a force of good in the world — I just try to be a great role model to kids.” Ah-HA! So that’s why you took millions of pounds from a regime which retains power by beheading people, including gays and dissidents, in public squares, while engaging in systematic torture and murdering uppity journalists. Doya see, you kids? I do hope you can see the example he is setting? Be like Mr McDowell. Take money from anyone no matter if it is soaked in blood and gore. Go on, Graeme.

“We are not politicians . . . We are professional golfers.”

Exactly! Because you have to be politicians to see that the Saudis are a monstrous regime. And murdering and torturing, when you think about it, is really just so political. Nobody else can be expected to see the horror of it all, least of all professional golfers. I mean how would you expect them to know that murdering and torturing is wrong?

“If Saudi Arabia wanted to use the game of golf as a way for them to get to where they want to be and they have the resources to accelerate that experience, I think we are proud to help them on that journey using the game of golf and the abilities that we have to help grow the sport and take them to where they want to be.”

Precisely! PROUD do you hear? What they want to do is hold glittering golf tournaments on pristine courses so that when people think “Saudi Arabia” they don’t think about severed heads of gay people and dissidents rolling around on public squares, they will think about golf – all because of the abilities of Graeme McDowell and his colleagues!

Shark’s sorrow

As to the public face of the Saudi golf venture, Greg Norman, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd sent me a link this week to a fascinating profile written on him in The Washington Post by Kent Babb. I have long noted that what Norman obviously lacked was someone to grab him by both shoulders, look him in the eyes and say “Greg, you must stop being such a dick,” before giving him a hug. This profile confirmed it in a manner that actually made you feel sorry for the golfer, no easy task when he is such a dick.

On falling out with his father, Merv, when Greg was 15 and felt his father wasn’t supporting his golfing dreams. Norman’s account is that he grabbed his father “a cheap bastard,” by the throat, pinned him against the refrigerator, and said: “F— you. I’m going for it’.”

With that relationship severely strained, did he find close friends on the golf tour? Babb makes clear he did not. Why?

“Just because,” Norman says, “I can play the game of golf better than most.”

But surely, other deep bonds with male friends?

“You don’t have it; I never had it. I never had the closeness of a friend, of a really, really true close male friend.”

There was some speculation that buying things might be what he used to replace them. But no . . .

“Even though I had seven Ferraris and whatever it was,” Norman tells the Post. “I really wasn’t a materialistic type of person.”

Could winning golf tournaments give him the warm feeling” Not even . . . “Sometimes I used to think, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to give my dad a big hug?’ Babb quotes Norman telling Sports Illustrated before that Masters of 1996. “God, wouldn’t that be great?”

Still, there really was one fellow who Norman spent a lot of time with, American Olympic skier Andy Mill, who was married to the tennis player, Chris Evert. But that ended, too, when Norman had an affair with Evert, and then married her.

“He was one of my best friends,” Mill told the Post. “You don’t get over those types of things. I cried for three years.”

But look, despite it all, all those jealousies, all those trashed friendships, the “tortured relationship” with his father, at least he had his vaunted friendship with his one-time idol Jack Nicklaus, whom he once described as “a father figure”? Nup. Not even that. That is gone, too, blown apart since the Golden Bear criticised Norman’s involvement with the Saudis, and the whole concept of the “sportswashing” tournament.

“One hundred per cent truth? Jack’s a hypocrite,” Norman told Babb. “When he came out with those comments, I’m thinking: Jack must have a short memory.”

And yet, still there was his father, Merv. Babb paints a moving scene of Norman flying a couple of months ago to see the ailing 94 year-old in Queensland for the first time in four years. They talked every day for two weeks, the best they could. Finally, it was time for Greg Norman to return to America to, among other things, continue to organise the Saudi golf tournament.

“Norman,” the Post recounts, “says Merv tried to raise his arms, to hug his son one last time. But he was too weak. His arms dangled, and Norman’s eyes flooded. He carefully lowered his dad back into the chair. Merv had just waited too long, and now both of them were out of time.”

I know. Such pathos. The profile doesn’t make me like Norman any better, but surely it helps us understand him more. That poor bastard.

But his support of the Saudis is still unforgivable.

What They said

Queensland’s standout star Cameron Munster: “I barely know what I’m doing, let alone the other team knowing what I’m doing. That’s when I play my best footy.”

Greg Norman to The Washington Post: “Everybody says to me: ‘Greg, you’re the punching bag.’ I’ve been a punching bag for 45 years of my life. It doesn’t bother me . . . The players who decide to come on board, God bless them. They’re going to make a lot of money.” (See item.)

Rory McIlroy on not taking the Saudi filthy lucre: “It’s not something that I want to participate in … anything, any decision that you make in your life that’s purely for money usually doesn’t end up going the right way. Obviously money is a deciding factor in a lot of things in this world, but if it’s purely for money … it never seems to go the way you want it to.”

Phil Mickelson signs with the Saudi tour: “I am ready to come back to play the game I love but after 32 years this new path is a fresh start, one that is exciting for me at this stage of my career.” You can’t come back, Mickelson. You’re done.

In this quote from Tim Sheens, I think we can pinpoint why Michael Maguire didn’t work out at the West Tigers: “I think Madge is a very dedicated coach and has a very good attitude to whatever he does. He throws himself into it 100 per cent, but we are not getting results, mate.” How could he? If you want to get anywhere in league, the tradition is, you have to give 110 per cent at a bare minimum.

Sacked Wests Tigers coach Michael Maguire.

Payne Haas: “I just feel like I’m clickbait. You can’t believe everything you read. When it comes from my mouth, that’s when you’ll know it’s true.” Got it? When he says, “I’ve been playing the Broncos off a break, threatening them with leaving, so I can squeeze more money out of those sorry bastards,” you’ll know it’s on the money! Otherwise, stand down.

Waratahs coach Darren Coleman on how he got his start in coaching:“I Steven Bradbury’d my way into it.”

And here is our guest “Gotta Love this City” contribution from Nick Kyrgios: “Man, this new Sydney lifestyle is so good. I swore that I’d never ever move to Sydney. But love makes you do crazy things, I guess.”

Devin Haney on beating George Kambosos jnr: “If the [rematch] fight’s meant to happen, if Allah wants it to happen, I’ll be back.” Allah and God – both boxing fans. I find this a tad unlikely, and think they probably prefer netball, if not people who plant flowers?

Socceroo Ajdin Hrustic on his winner against UAE: “I think if it didn’t hit the UAE player it would’ve still gone in. Luck was on our side but we deserved it, to be honest.“ It might have been God, or Allah?

Graham Arnold on the victory of his Socceroos over UAE to keep their hopes alive in the World Cup: “I saw a good reaction tonight, and that is what I have been driving to the boys ever since I came in the camp about the Aussie DNA and that is fight, scratch, and do whatever you have got to do to win the game. However we win it, who cares? Just win it.”

Golden State Warrior Klay Thompson on how he will fix his shooting woes: “That’s the beauty of playing in today’s age. You can go on YouTube and look up all your great moments.“ Warning. This doesn’t always work. I went, and couldn’t find anything!

Team of the Week

Queensland Origin XIII. Go 1-0 up in the series, in large part due to the extraordinary skills of Cameron Munster.

Minjee Lee. Just the third Australian female golfer to win the US Open.

Socceroos. Beat UAE to advance to play-off against Peru on Tuesday morning for the 31st spot in the World Cup. New Zealand will play Costa Rica 24 hours later for the 32nd and final spot.

Alastair Evans. Next Wednesday morning the young Echucan will be running the equivalent of six marathons in four days – from Melbourne to Echuca – to honour his late mother and raise money to help research to stop the blood cancer multiple myeloma. You can donate at https://tinyurl.com/yc854yte.

Rafael Nadal. Won his 14th French Open title and 22nd major. Claimed back-to-back major titles for the first time since 2010. Oldest French Open men’s singles champion.

Iga Swiatek. Won her past six tournaments, including the French Open, with a 42-3 record this year. And yet, I suspect she could walk down George St and be less recognised than Pam Shriver, yes?

Essendon. 150th anniversary of this Australian sporting institution

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