Monthly Archives: February 2012
With less than two weeks to go until the first kickoff of the 2012 NRL season, many fans are eagerly anticipating not just following their team from week to week, but also punting on the footy and winning a little extra cash on the side. Due to its even nature, the NRL is an unpredictable competition and while this makes picking winners difficult, it also means the opportunity is there for the astute gambler to make some money at good odds.
To (hopefully) assist in that process, I’ve taken a look at the results of the 2011 NRL season from a gambling perspective, to highlight where some value might be found during 2012.
My method has been to examine the different returns that would have been achieved in 2011, from alternatively backing:
- Heavy favourites/outsiders vs Slight favourites/outsiders
- Favourites or outsiders at different times during the season
- Individual teams over the season
Returns by Odds Category
The below table splits the 2011 season into four categories
- Matches between a Heavy Home Team Favourite and Away Underdog
- Matches between a Slight Home Team Favourite and Away Underdog
- Matches between a Slight Away Team Favourite and Home Underdog
- Matches between a Heavy Away Team Favourite and Home Underdog
and presents the results of these matches, and the return on outlay over the season for someone who’d bet on every match in that category.
The lesson here is to avoid the heavy favourites, and back the big outsiders.
In the 22 matches during 2011 in which the Away team was paying 3.80 or higher, the long shot away team underdogs won 7 times. While this may not seem a successful result, because the Away teams were at such long odds, backing all 22 of them (with equal stakes) would have returned a 53% profit. By comparison, backing all the heavy home team favourites would have returned an 18% loss.
Similarly, in the 9 matches where the home team was paying $2.95 or more, the home side underdog won on 4 occasions, yielding a 55% profit, compared to a 28% loss from backing the heavily favoured away sides.
It seems that the chances of a long shot underdog winning the match was underestimated by betting agencies – either that or they were deliberately underpricing the heavy favourites to discourage punters from backing them. The goal of betting agencies is to have an even payout for either result. This way they make their commission regardless of the result and minimise risk. Winding in the prices of heavier favourites can on occasion be a deliberate ploy aimed at achieving this goal, which may explain why the returns from backing the underdogs was so high.
The second conclusion to draw is that in matches when the odds are more even, look towards the home favourites for best value – the return of 15% is clearly superior to that from backing the slight away favourites, or either the slight home or away underdogs.
There is a large opportunity to bet on slight home favourites (ie home favourites paying more than 1.28), with over half the matches in the NRL last year fitting this description. While a 15% return may not seem large on an individual bet basis, it is a considerable achievement over the length of a season, especially in light of the fact that betting agencies frame markets in order to achieve a 5% return, meaning the expected result for the average punter is a 5% loss.
Returns at different stages of the season
It makes sense that the largest opportunities are going to be found early in the season, before betting agencies or punters have had a chance to properly evaluate the teams. This theory is borne out by the 2011 experience.
The first chart shows the returns achieved over the season if you had backed every winner individually each week. Clearly this is not a realistic scenario (and if you achieved this, you’d hardly be concerned with any trends in the amount of cash you were winning), however it does provide a good measure of the ability of the betting agencies to frame their markets accurately. If more favourites win, the ‘Winning Teams % Return’ will naturally be lower, and if heavier favourites win the returns will also be lower.
The decreasing trend indicates that as the season wore on, more favourites and shorter priced favourites were winning, meaning less value available for the punter. This result is expected, and is no doubt due to the betting agencies and fans in general getting a better read on teams ability and form as the season rolls on.
This trend is further illustrated when we examine the returns from backing every favourite vs backing all the underdogs over the season.
The best returns from backing favourites came late in the season, and the best returns on underdogs came in the early rounds.
We have already seen that backing the heavy underdogs yielded the best returns, and now we see that backing underdogs early in the year is recommended. The combination of these findings is also true. The heavy away outsiders won 7 of 22 matches in total, and that record stood at 4 win out of 5 in the first 10 rounds, and then 3 from 17 over the remainder of the season. Likewise the heavy home outsiders won 4 of 9 in total, with the record in the first ten rounds being 2 out of 3, and 2 out of 6 post round 10.
The NRL gambling manifesto based on the 2011 NRL season is essentially
- Back heavy outsiders early in the season
- Back slight home favourites, especially later in the season
Returns by Individual Team
The reliability of the betting performance of each team in 2011 as an indicator of how to invest in 2012 is limited for two obvious reasons:
- The teams themselves have changed and will no doubt perform differently
- The betting agencies views of the teams will have changed
Regardless, there are still some interesting results to highlight in the above table
As seen above, the Wests Tigers had the worst return as favourites of any team in the top 10, the best return of any team as underdogs, and were the team that the betting agencies found most difficult to predict, with a ‘Total Accuracy’ of only 54% (Total Accuracy is defined as the Number of times a team won as favourites, plus the number of times it lost as underdog, divided by the total number of matches played)
The Tigers have been pegged by most agencies as the favourites for the 2012 title, but their recent history has shown them to be unreliable favourites. I’d be cautious in backing the tigers too often when they are favourites to win.
It is no surprise to see that 20%+ returns achieved from backing the Storm, Sea Eagles and Broncos when they were favourites. All three clubs were reliable performers which remained in the top 4 nearly all season.
Two other clubs lower down the ladder were also reliable when favourites. The Cowboys won 9 of the 11 games they were favoured in, while the Knights claimed 7 of 9 when favoured. For both these regional one team town clubs, this reliability was built on a strong home record. All 9 of the matches that the Knights started favourite in were played in Newcastle. Of the 9 matches that the Cowboys started favourite in at Dairy Farmers Stadium, they won 8. Both of these clubs are likely to receive more respect from the betting agencies this season, and should be favoured more often. Getting on them when they’re favourite to win and at home should be a fairly safe bet in 2012 as well.
Overachiever and proud of it
The Storm, Broncos and Sea Eagles were all tipped to finish outside the top 6 by betting agencies at the start of last season. It’s easier said than done, but if you can identify a team which is under rated by the betting agencies at the outset and jump aboard them early, the returns are sure to be healthy.
In Round 2 2011, eventual premiers Manly started 4.00 outsiders against the soon to be also ran Roosters. That sort of value will again be available in early 2012, for those who are perceptive enough to understand the true quality of the teams before the betting agencies and the media catch on.
 The seven upsets – Sea Eagles def Roosters R2, Titans def Raiders R4, Warriors def Storm R7, Raiders def Storm R10, Cowboys def Knights R18, Rabbitohs def Dragons R21, Roosters def Dragons R23
 The four upsets – Sharks def Dragons R2, Rabbitohs def Tigers R10, Raiders def Dragons R20, Roosters def Storm R26
 For the statistically inclined, I calculated that if the betting agency prices were correct, the probability of 11 or more upsets occurring out of those 31 matches is only 6.5%. That is pretty strong evidence to suggest that the agency prices were not correct, and that they’d underestimated the underdog’s chances of victory
In a sport where taking blows to the head is a key element in the job description, it is of little surprise that many of the shed’s bluntest tools are found at the forefront of boxing. But with much of the interest in the sport currently being generated by the stupidity that occurs outside the ring, it is time the heavyweight division started focusing on quality boxing as opposed to the hype fuelled scraps that occur during the press events that surround these match-ups.
For as long as it has existed, the sport of boxing has relied heavily on the hysteria driven build-up to fights to create interest, sell tickets and, during more modern times, generate huge pay-per-view television audiences. The basic idea is that if it is assumed that the fighters do not like each other, then it will make for a more heated contest once they step in the ring.
Muhammad Ali was not only considered the sports best within the confides of the roped- off square, as his well-documented ability for throwing barbed jabs outside the ring was also a crucial component to his allure which propelled him to the pinnacle of the sporting world.
The current crop of heavyweights could learn a great deal from how Ali conducted himself, as he was as masterful at baiting opponents with a unique blend of rhymes and humour as he was at shuffling his quick feet around the ring once the bell sounded. Unfortunately for the boxing fans of today, the classic theatre seen in the lead up to fights during days past has descended into a charade driven by pure thuggery & beefs so transparent they would be better suited to WWF wrestling.
We saw this recently with the man mountain, Clarence Tillman, sucker punching Sonny Bill Williams during the weigh-in the lead up to their bout in Hamilton. It was just about the only shot landed by the massive American as he was knocked out by Williams during the first round the following day.
But after the events of this past weekend, there is little doubt that the undisputed king of heavyweight stupidity is English brawler Dereck Chisora. His bout in Germany against the WBC champ, Vitali Klitschko, had already attracted its fair share of controversy following the idiotic decision of Chisora to slap his opponent across the face during the weigh-in, which was one of the girliest acts seen in boxing for some time.
The thick-as-bricks Chirosa was not done there and he seemed determined to overshadow his rugged loss over 12 rounds with the events that followed it, and he achieved this by instigated a full blown brawl with retired heavyweight, David Haye, during the post-fight press conference.
There was flowing blood, accusations of glassing and as if he was channeling the pure insanity of Mike “I will eat your children” Tyson, Chisora threatened to both shoot and “physically burn” his fellow Brit, Haye.
We were all appreciative that Chisora so explictedly outlined that any burning would, in fact, be “physical”, as we would have been greatly underestimating his toughness had we assumed that his threat to apply extreme heat to the skin of his nemesis was purely metaphorical.
Klitschko, who had won the first fight of the night involving Chisora, was left looking on with a mixture of mild amusement and embarrassment as the two Britons rumbled amongst a sea of video cameras and flashing camera bulbs which were all attempting to document the melee. The altercation was sparked by Haye’s statements from the press gallery where he tried, with a beer in hand, to talk himself into a fight with Vitali. Haye was extremely mouthy despite having retired from the sport last year following the loss to the younger of the Klitschko brothers, Wladimir.
Haye was swiftly put in his place by Vitali’s manager, Bernd Boente, who said “you had an offer, you didn’t accept it, now you are out. You are out. Out, out, out…You cannot talk yourself back into the fight, you have no belts. Chisora showed heart, contrary to you. You showed your toe.” This put down was and was delivered by Boente with the kind of heavily accented English we are used to hearing from Die-hard villains and was in reference to Haye blaming his loss to Klitschko on a broken toe.
But the drama was just beginning. Chisora then put in his two cents calling Haye “an embarrassment” and then demanding that he “tell me to my face” when Haye repeatedly shouted the word “Loser.”
Chisora stormed up to Haye and the two came to blows with a number of heavies gravitating toward the commotion. The threats of violence lingered long after Haye was removed from the scene with Chisora cornering Haye’s manager, who was bleeding from the forehead, and threatening repeatedly to both shoot and burn his boxing rival. Chisora looked every bit the street brawler when he said “Either we do it in the ring, or outside the ring… His entourage ain’t got nothing on my entourage” and was actually stopped by the police at the airport over the threats when he attempted to leave Germany.
The whole incident was a debacle which has become common place in an ailing heavyweight division, which can only be saved if the Klitschko brothers decide to fight one another, a match up that seems unlikely following a promise they made to their mother that they would never fight. But the boxing world is praying they can break their promise and provide what would no doubt be an epic battle, as two brothers have not so clearly dominated an industry since Mario & Luigi took the gaming world by storm.
As for the two press conference scrappers, It will be interesting to see if Haye responds to Chisora’s challenge by coming out of retirement, or indeed if any further blood is spilt on the streets of London. Because as much as this was part of the hype that surrounds boxing, Chisora certainly came across as an aggressive imbecile who has the potential to follow up his threats with actions.
The sporting domain has a tendency to produce the absurd. We rarely question these anomalies, like it’s a perfectly normal thing to play cricket 6 hours a day for 5 days, then decide to shake hands, pull up stumps & call it a draw. Or when in the middle of a session of cross-country skiing, it is a completely natural act to lie down, pull out a rifle and check to make sure that you’re still a crack shot.
But one of the nuances of sport i’m having great difficulty, well, celebrating - is the most Shakespearean conundrum to ever inflict a Premier League footballer; To celebrate or not to celebrate? That is the question they face after scoring against a former club.
The anti-celebration was made famous by the great Denis Law who, after 11 years and 171 goals for his beloved Manchester United, scored a cheeky back heel goal against them after switching to Manchester City in 1974. At the time he scored it, Law believed it to be the goal that assured United’s relegation to the old second division and he walked back to halfway with a look on his face that would have been more appropriate had he just been diagnosed with testicular cancer.
But today’s players are rarely faced with the conflicted emotions that Law dealt with, as the current climate of club merry-go-round has meant that a player’s focus is centered more around the paycheck & their own self interests than their devotion to the badge. Yet many of them still refuse to celebrate goals against former clubs, a phenomena often made even worse by a vomit inducing PR charade in the lead up that promises that on the off chance a player does score, they will most certainly not look happy about it.
Take Robbie Keane for instance. The only surprise with his recent loan move to Aston Villa was that he didn’t describe it a ‘a dream come true’. A term he has seemingly used in one form or another to describe his move to Coventry, Inter, Leeds, Spurs, Liverpool, then back to Spurs, West Ham, then to Celtic & finally over to LA Galaxy. As a young chap growing up in Dublin, Robbie Keane must have had the kind of dreams you get following a three course Peyote dinner in the middle of a Mexican desert.
But as Robbie slotted 2 goals against his very first club Wolverhampton, including the winner which pushed his former club even deeper into the relegation zone, he chose not to celebrate and traded his usual routine of cartwheels & show boating for a largely unconvincing display of excitement suppression as he jogged back to half way.
So it was your boyhood club Robbie, we get that. But what are we meant to think? What a stand up bloke. He must have real character. Sure he stuck that ball into the goal like a prison-fashioned shiv to the guts of the team that taught him precisely how to do so, but at least he looked solemn & regretful when he did it. The crowd at Molineux clearly wasn’t taking the bait as they continued to boo his every touch until the final whistle.
Maybe if Keane wasn’t just a footballing mercenary who goes through clubs like an angry golfer, they’d have given his display of good character a little more credit. But the truth of the matter is that everytime Robbie’s had a sniff of the almighty green throughout his whole career his been off in a flash, no show of loyalty and to put the boot in further he’s usually referred to the whole episode as a dream come true. Give us a break Robbie.
And what of Scott Sinclair’s quality finish against his former club Chelsea a few weeks back? He scored a cracker then immediately held his hand up apologetically as his Swansea teammates mobbed him leaving Sinclair looking like an unwilling participant in a game of stacks on. What was this apology all about? Sinclair played a total of 5 games for the Chelsea first team and failed to score a goal. Maybe that’s what he was apologising for. As a Chelsea player Sinclair was loaned out to a number of other clubs and was passed around like a Manchester United groupie who’d wandered in to one of Anderson & Ronaldo’s infamous parties.
So due to these extensive loan deals, if Sinclair decides he is not going to celebrate goals against former clubs he has to strike Plymouth, QPR, Charlton, Crystal Palace, Birmingham City and Wigan off the celebration list as he played more games for those clubs than he did in the Chelsea blue.
Some players decide to confuse the matter further by politicising the situation. Nicholas Anelka, who’s also had his share of clubs will celebrate goals against Liverpool and Manchester City but will not celebrate goals against Bolton & Arsenal. Likewise Carlos Tevez who takes great delight in knocking one in against United (and i dare say against City when he gets his chance in the future) but does not celebrate goals against West Ham.
Are these statements against the fans? Or against the board members of the club? Are they just ill-advised protests suggesting mistreatment? It’s all a bit convoluted and perhaps quite difficult to regulate as some of these journeyman players probably need a collection of post-it notes on their locker to remind them who they can and can’t raise the arms against if they find the back of the net.
Whilst Tevez certainly knew how to stir up Gary Neville & the Old Trafford crowd with his celebrations in sky blue, there is one goal celebration against a former club that truly stands out in recent times - Adebayor topping his length-of-the-field-ice-cream-sundae-sprint with a extra-large-serving-of-nuts-slide in front of the Arsenal fans who were given their just desserts. It may well go down in football folklore as the biggest and most blatant finger to a former club we’ve ever seen. Whilst he issued an apology after, in the eyes of the neutrals there was little doubt that a celebration like that was good for football, as it was a natural and spontaneous outburst which is everything a goal celebration should be.
With Bobby Zamora facing his old club Fulham this weekend, all will have a watchful eye on how he tackles this Shakespearean dilemma should he find the net. Let’s hope he chooses to play the villain Adebayor style as opposed to the transparent hero act seen from the likes of Robbie Keane. After all, there is nothing we love more than a bit of theatre in football.
Displaying the kind of dramatic timing only the most wily Hollywood veteran could muster, the return of Luis Suarez to the Liverpool starting line-up after an 8-week suspension just had to be against Manchester United, and the man Suarez was suspended for racially abusing.
Even before a ball had been kicked, Suarez and Patrice Evra proved they were happy to add a few more scenes to the blockbuster tale. When the time came to shake hands, with the crowd waiting to see what would transpire, Suarez brazenly passed over Evra’s outstretched mitt.
This induced a strong reaction from the Frenchman, who wasn’t about to let such disrespect from his nemesis pass unchallenged and he grabbed Suarez by the forearm in a confrontational manner.
But with Suarez continuing down the line, Evra was left to throw his arms up in frustration, and received a calming chat from referee Phil Dowd. It was one-nil Suarez and the game had not yet begun.
Rio Ferdinand let his thoughts be known by in turn refusing to shake Suarez’s hand, and the incident, which will no doubt be replayed more often than the goal of the season, set the tone for a fiery Old Trafford encounter.
The match was only moments old when Suarez charged down a through ball only to pull out at the final second, leaving Ferdinand and Evra to collide awkwardly.
It was impossible not to hear the Benny Hill music playing somewhere in the universe as the three antagonists became entangled in a comical fashion.
The first half finished with the frenzy of an erupting volcano due to a very timely tackle by Ferdinand on Suarez. The Uruguayan played a cute one two with Dirk Kuyt who released his striker into open space and Suarez, who was first to the ball, slalomed around the outstretched leg of a comprehensively beaten but hopefully Patrice Evra.
Although he managed to leap the potential roadblock, Suarez was beaten to the ball by a fraction of a second by a briskly moving Ferdinand who bolwed over the protesting striker in his follow through.
The smirk on Rio’s face was pure poetry, as Suarez put his case ostentatiously to the referee, then the linesman, then back to the referee. They were rightfully unmoved but Suarez was an extremely unsatisfied Old Trafford customer and as the whistle blew to end the first half he contemptuously booted the ball toward the United bench.
A swarm of both players and officials surrounded Suarez with Manchester United winger trying to calm his fiery South American counterpart, one would hope using the English language as to not repeat the confusion of different Spanish dialects that was at the crux of the recent racism case.
But if there was heat going into the locker room, things certainly got a little bit frostier after the break. Suarez came out for the second half blowing into his hands and noticeably shivering at halfway, looking even colder than the reception he’d been given by the Old Trafford crowd. Things were soon to get even worse for the men from Anfield.
It wasn’t all handshakes and collisions as there was a football match going on as well, although it somehow played second fiddle to the pantomime that was going on around it. Wayne Rooney put a stop to the charade with two quick strikes and could have easily had a third following a genius dummy by a scheming Paul Scholes.
Kenny Daglish looked to respond by bringing on Craig Bellamy and Andy Carrol, two characters that have been involved in more than their fair share of on and off the field incidents. But the injection of these two into the game proved as ineffective as the Tory government’s policies on job creation.
Carroll especially was impotent as he managed a simple pass out of play, was flagged for offside and then displayed the insolence of a school bully when Dowd whistled a free kick for him clambering over the back of the united defenders. His reaction, which has become a bit of a staple in recent times was a mouthful of aggressive obscenities that did not require a lip reader.
The next time I’m in Liverpool and a 9 year old with a ponytail poliety inquired as to what the f### I’m looking at, I’ll be sure to let Andy know what a positive influence he’s having on the Liverpudlian community.
With United dominating across the park, Suarez was kept relatively quiet in the second half, but every onlooker knew that sooner or later he would bib up again. Michael Carrick received a yellow card for chopping Suarez down from behind, and from the ensuing free kick, the ball wound up at the striker’s feet. After the simplest of finishes and a celebratory kiss to his right wrist, it was game on.
As the injury time clock kicked down, David de Gea’s finger tips managed to secure Man United’s points for the second time in as many games, and ensure they remain firmly in the hunt for the Premier League title.
The last thing Suarez was expecting was for Evra to pass less than half a meter in front of him, skipping merrily and waving his arms in a manner that would have been better suited to a young, pig-tailed girl jumping rope in the schoolyard.
The crowd appreciated the gesture and voiced their support for the Frenchman, but to the disappointment of all, no reaction was induced from Suarez, who continued to the locker room a dejected figure.
Sir Alex Ferguson labelled the antics of Suarez ‘a disgrace’ and suggested that he should never again play for Liverpool. Manchester United will be relieved to have taken the three points, but in a sense this game was an apt reflection of the season, in that it will be remembered as much for incidents off the pitch as for the remarkable contest on it.
Last weekend’s All-Star showpiece gifted us some great footy with a high scoring game played at blistering pace facilitated by two talented teams and a few interesting rule changes. The brainchild of Preston Campbell was acting as a curtain raiser for a 3rd successive season and based on the reaction of the crowd, the players and those of us that were parked on bar stools, it appears it is now very much a part of the footy landscape. To the surprise of many who figured the Indigenous side had a lot more to play for, the victory for the NRL All-Stars has meant they have now taken a 2-1 lead in the head to head ledger, in what many now believe could the early stages of an intense rivalry.
But it is this very rivalry that bothers me.
We live in a society that is built around cultural divides & this game is only enhancing that. Ethnicity is the steering wheel to our daily lives often driving what we eat, where we live, our religion, who we associate with and even what sports we follow. Sure, there are no steadfast rules and the attempt at multiculturalism in Australia has allowed a large amount of flexibility in these areas, but our sense of who we are is often derived from our family which in turn is derived from a cultural background, however exotic it may be.
As it stands, the matchup is a very friendly one, but all it will take is a few lop sided results or a period of dominance for it to start unintentionally providing fodder for anyone who wants to argue sporting prowess along racial lines.
I would hope that the majority of non-Indigenous fans are sensitive enough to the plight of the Aboriginal community to be cheering against them and generally view the game from neutral perspective.
But whilst there was sure to be no shortage of guilt ridden lefties cheering on the Indigenous team, it is no way stretching reality to suggest there is already a section of non-Indigenous Australians who actively supporting the NRL All Stars through their voting, with their hard earned and vocally every time Hindmarsh goes in hard at a fast moving Thaiday.
Just how this is helping to heal these intercultural problems brought about by decades of abuse through predominantly white governments, I don’t know. This game is built around the ‘us against them’ mentality and whilst it is all handshakes and smiles for now, I can only see the all-star pot eventually boiling over.
One need only look at the rivalry in State of Origin that has developed over time and now flourishes into what almost all rugby league supporters feel is the peak of the game. Whilst there is no violence between the two states, the undercurrent of dislike is palpable at that time of year. Cheeky jokes and ribbing of co-workers or interstate family members is only a flakey exterior to something slightly more sinister that lies beneath. The players can barely go one match without resorting to the biff and the rivalry is such that this testosterone fuelled angst is slowly distilled into society’s state divisions.
If a rivalry of similar proportions develops in the All-Star game, then Rugby League will surely be swimming in the murky waters of the Billabong.
Maybe I’ve got this all wrong, and people want to just see a great game of league & celebrate some fantastic Indigenous role models in Australian sport. Much like the NBA All Star game, the result is negligible & folks just want to see many stars of the game playing on the same team. If this is forever to remain the case then let the good time roll. But I have some severe doubts that as the intensity builds, the status quo will remain.
For those of you that cannot foresee any problems with this match up, think about this. If someone suggested an ‘Anglos’ vs ‘the rest’ style of game it would quickly be suggested that they probably know how to fashion a bed sheet into a pointy hood in under 30 second flat.
The pride of the Indigenous players getting out in the communities and pulling on their jerseys for the game are clear for all to see and I am in no way advocating the removal of this important element to the Indigenous community. But surely some more appropriate competition can be found that doesn’t divide Aussie against Aussie using racial stratifications. Can they not play against New Zealand, an British ex-pat side or even a Maori side similar to the NZ Maori Union Team that has been in existence for many years?
Interracial tensions are already in the media’s gaze following the so-called ‘attack’ on the security of the Prime Minister which turned out to be little more than the kind of banging on glass that you see when people are unsure if a restaurant is open. This Invasion Day fiasco was orchestrated by someone close to the PM and with the whole incident being played out in front of a large section of national media, Julia and her dropped slipper became the most talked about foot ware since Cinderella made a hasty exit from the ball. This whole event was a prime example of how the race card can be played in such a way that it creates something that isn’t really there. I know that was clearly not the intention of Preston Campbell when he pushed for this game but unfortunately it has the potential to drive a damaging wedge between the Aboriginal community and society at large.
At the beginning of the Australian summer of 1999, there were pleas from across the nation to allow Ian Healy one last Test series before retiring. As the selectors stood firm, the appeals were reduced to just one last home Test at the Gabba.
It was for a gloveman who had given countless bucketloads of sweat for his country, and who now sported the fingers of an arthritic pensioner due to a career of more than 10 years behind the stumps. The selectors again waved off the request like a stubborn umpire refusing a shout despite the whole team going up as one.
There was national outrage, from the public, players, ex-players, and the great wicketkeeper himself.
All this came about despite the fact that Gilchrist had been one of the top performers on the one-day scene since he moved up the order to open the batting some two years earlier. Heals, on the other hand had not posted a score of over 40 for almost a year, even though he had held his place for tours against Test cricket welterweights like the West Indies, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe.
Gilchrist had recently lead Australia to World Cup glory, and his place in the Test side had been a long time coming. In retrospect, it was far too long, but the name Ian Healy had become synonymous with Australian wicketkeeping. He was a larrikin, revered by team mates, and epitomised the hard-working approach that the Australian public expected from their cricketers.
The selectors’ unpopular decision was immediately vindicated, with Gilchrist having a fantastic debut series and never looking back. He went on to play 96 Tests with a batting average of 47.60, including 17 hundreds, and a record of 416 dismissals.
By comparison to Gilchrist’s fillet mignon, Healy’s offerings look like Coles-brand thousand animal snags, as over 119 Tests he averaged 27.39 with the bat, with only four Test hundreds to supplement his 395 dismissals.
His glovework was never doubted, and is what helped him hold his place in the team during lean spells, but then again Gilchrist was no slouch behind the stumps, took 10 catches in a match early in his Test career, and went onto eclipse Healy’s dismissal record despite playing far fewer Tests.
When reflecting on their career numbers, it would be completely understandable that Gilchrist could feel a little hard done by when comparing his number of Tests played with that of his predecessor, and if justice prevailed the numbers should really have been reversed.
Even though the selectors made what many thought to be a heartless decision by denying Healy one last home Test, the truth is the decision to drop him should have been made much earlier given Gilchrist’s sublime one-day form.
We can always look to the future by learning from the past, and one would hope that today’s selectors do not make the same mistakes.
But it isn’t just his form that is a problem for Australia, as he has taken plenty of criticism regarding reckless shot selection and the constant his belief that he can hit his way out of trouble.
Haddin has only held the gloves for four years at Test level, so removing him should not induce the national backlash that occurred after Healy was directed to the nearest possible exit.
Matthew Wade has burst onto the international scene this summer, already posting match-winning scores in the first Twenty20 then tonight in the opening one-day match. He had previously been given two chances in South Africa in the game’s shortest format, but this time around he has truly grasped his opportunities with three back to back cavalier innings. With a better than healthy first class average a tick over 40, coupled with his young age of 24, Wade has every chance to develop into a prosperous cricketer for Australia in all forms of the game.
Let’s hope that the selectors do not make the same mistakes as those that held the job before them, and delay Wade’s Test cricket debut a moment longer.
At least the selectors have signaled their intent by picking him for the Windies tour, but I for one, would like to see him don the baggy green for the first Test in Barbados. He needs as much Test cricket as possible before the challenging series against South Africa and England come around, and has the potential to be every bit the match winner that Adam Gilchrist was.
As for Bradley Haddin, well, it seems there is always a spot in the commentary box for Aussie larrikins. There is little doubt his future lies there.
There’s nothing like a tax evasion case to force a man to crack out the ridiculous specs. Whether it be an attempt to make himself look more intelligent and therefore more believable or whether he is trying to pass himself off as a forgetful old man, we’re not sure. But either way he just comes off looking a bit silly. Especially given that no one has ever seen him sporting these Buddy Holly specials before, or any glasses for that matter.
Coupled with his ‘I forgot about the 200K stashed under my Dog’s name in an account in Monaco because I was thinking about David Beckham’ excuse, the whole thing has turned into a bit of a circus. I’m thinking about trying that defence next time I have a run in with the law. Sorry officer, just dreaming about old Golden Balls there and wasn’t watching the speedo. Us Spurs fans love ya ‘Arry, but if you get rid of that presposterous eyewear, pay your dues & drop the whole Basil Fawlty routine, it would be greatly appreciated.