Monthly Archives:October 2018

West Indies’ Kieron Pollard celebrates the dismissal of Australia’s Brad Haddin during their Twenty20 international cricket match at the Gabba in Brisbane February 13, 2013. REUTERS/Aman Sharma (AUSTRALIA – Tags: SPORT CRICKET TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)The end of the Australian summer arrived at 10.03pm (11.03pm in the southern states) on a Wednesday night in Brisbane, with fans filing out of a half-empty ground two overs early and a depleted home side losing its fifth-consecutive T20 international.

If this is the brave new world of cricket, none of the kids were able to stay up late enough to see its dawn. Half their luck, perhaps, given the woes of Australia in the shortest form of the game, a run of outs completely at odds to the exuberance of the world champion West Indies, who coasted to a 27-run triumph.

It’s been a lean summer for the tourists but they caught some calypso fire last night, posting 191 for the Australians to chase before starving them in the pursuit with clever captaincy, miserly bowling from Sunil Narine (2-19) and Kieron Pollard (3-30) and a thumping 57 off 37 balls from Johnson Charles to start the ball rolling.

It was the first time the West Indies have beaten Australia in any form of the game on these shores since 1997, when they won a Test in Perth. Paul Reiffel played in that game and umpired this one.

With a host of Australia’s top-liners in India with the Test squad, Nathan Coulter-Nile and Ben Rohrer were given their first caps, while Adam Voges made the cut after overcoming a hamstring scare.

It was a good thing he did. The in-form West Australian smashed 51 off 33 balls in reply to the West Indian total and while he was there with Shaun Marsh (21 off 19), the Australians looked a chance.

But little by little they cracked, then split at the seams. The run outs returned, first Marsh, than Voges, and momentum was sapped. Brad Haddin’s spritely 22 off 11, including two thumping sixes, revived some hope but when he went, the end was inevitable.

The West Indies set up their total with a rollicking finish, taking 48 runs from the final three overs as Clint McKay (0-44), James Faulkner (3-28) and Josh Hazlewood (1-36) were set upon, while Ben Cutting (0-43) and Nathan Coulter-Nile (1-36) failed to curtail the earlier tide.

Faulkner had bowled a treat and had the superb figures of 3-11 before his final over until Darren Sammy hit him for two sixes amid a 17-run final over. One, in the second tier over long on, was one of the biggest seen at the ground in a decade.

A lack of slow bowling would haunt Australia, given the crucial role Narine played for his side in frustrating any attempt to force the pace. With Xavier Doherty and Nathan Lyon in India, it’s possible Cricket Australia simply ran out of phone numbers for available tweakers.

A crowd of just under 20,000 wasn’t a disaster by any means but a half-strength side playing a one-off T20 on a school night was never going to have them hanging from the bleachers.

It was another strong showing from a West Indian side that thrives in the 20-over format, even when Chris Gayle (8) once again struck out. His tour has been horrible but he departs with the last laugh.

Australia, now ranked seventh in the world, must show rapid improvement to be a force at the 2013 World Cup in Bangladesh. With that in mind, exposing BBL products like Coulter-Nile to the top level can only be seen as a positive on an otherwise underwhelming evening for the Australians.

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In the aftermath of the Botha-Williams charade, Australian boxing looks destined to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century by the boom sport of mixed martial arts, writes Phil Lutton.

Before most bouts, boxing referees give fighters the kind of advice shady types around the fringes of the sport tend to take literally: ‘Cover up and protect yourselves at all times.’

There has been no shortage of cover ups in boxing over the years, nor a deficiency of shonky deals, bent fights and broken contracts that have required a good sweeping under the carpet.

As Alex McClintock summed up nicely in this piece for the national broadcaster, boxing’s history of grift and links with organised crime have been well documented.

In the glory days, it almost added to the fascination of the sweet science. Celebs loved (and still relish) going to the fights and rubbing shoulders with undesirables and glorified heavies.

At the very least, the carpark deals and the questionable characters have inspired some of the finest writing about the fight game, if not all of sport.

Now that lustre has all but disappeared, particulary as those who use the sport as a money pit bloody their fingernails scraping the last cent off the bottom of the barrel.

Locally, it’s hopelessly sad for genuine champions like Daniel Geale and Michael Katsidis, who had to retire this week after his rumbles with the very best in the game took too much of a toll on his wellbeing.

It’s easy to hate the pantomime villains but better to direct your angst towards the game, which has done little but sigh heavily as its reputation burrows towards the centre of the planet.

In Queensland especially, where there is no organised commission to oversee the integrity of combat sports, the resistance to reform has been marked. The state has become frontier country in the absence of a Wyatt Earp.

But not for much longer. Boxing, on a whole, has shown no real desire to clean up its act and now faces being dragged towards reform by mixed martial arts, a sport that craves more regulation, not less.

In a short space of time, the UFC, the single body which runs the world’s peak MMA competition, has shown boxing how to take care of business, picking up stadium-loads of fans along the way.

Now the UFC wants to shake up the governance of combat sports in Australia, with a view to helping establish a national body to oversee all disciplines. Boxing will have little choice but to tag along, or continue to flop around in its own mess.

“The UFC is interested in contributing and supporting any moves to bring consistent regulation to our sport. Ever since the current owners of the UFC took over the organisation in 2001, our mantra has been to ‘run to regulation’,” says Tom Wright, the UFC’s director of operations for Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

“We see that as fundamental to the consistent and safe development of our sport.”

It’s ironic that the UFC has become the leading proponent for combat sports reform, given the sport remains branded by many of those in boxing as barbaric, lacking history and finesse.

But the UFC’s fight to be recognised as a real sport, cleanly run, has succeeded beyond its wildest dreams. While boxing remains fragmented by the famed alphabet soup of organisations, the UFC rules the roost with spectacular clarity.

Wright will meet with a variety of state politicians when he visits Australia next week to continue a dialogue towards a recognised national combat authority. Anything at all would be welcome in Queensland in the wake of the Sonny Bill Williams-Frans Botha saga.

“Absolutely, we would be supportive of that kind of development. Currently, the UFC is supporting the efforts of the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF), which is working with countries around the world to establish the kind of regulatory consistency and oversight that is being contemplated for Australia,” Wright says.

“First and foremost, we would be happy to participate in any open dialogue or conferences that may be established regarding the regulation of our sport.”

Boxing reform has been considered in Queensland before but it’s hardly surprising that a large proportion of those within the game don’t want any red tape or unwanted eyeballs on their business.

Those days have gone. The UFC, which can sell out arenas in Australia the way boxing can only dream of these days, has become the major player. Fight fans can only hope the sweet science can join the movement before it’s too late.

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AUSTRALIAN Super Rugby ”B teams” run by the state sides would form the basis of a new domestic competition under a so-called ”third-tier” model favoured by ARU boss Bill Pulver.

The 100 or so players attached to national academies in Brisbane and Sydney would make up the teams to begin with, and an AFL-style draft is under consideration to keep teams on an equal footing.

Pulver said he would take the proposal and two others – a universities-based competition and an expanded club-based tournament – to an ARU board meeting on Monday night for discussion.

He said no decision had been made on which model would be adopted but said using the national academies and basing teams within the existing franchises made sense.

”I must admit I like this option a lot. I think creating a stronger pathway for players to develop into Wallabies will be very, very good for helping Super franchises become more successful in their competition,” Pulver said.

”It would also probably provide the least interference with club rugby and be the most affordable model, and one that might be of major benefit to the Super franchises as well.”

Pulver has been sounding out Super Rugby coaches about the plan but has also met with Rugby Union Players’ Association chief executive Greg Harris about his proposal to base a development competition around universities.

RUPA’s proposal, a national under-23s tournament, seeks to make the most of the playing and training infrastructure and resourcing at universities around the country and would have geographically-based clusters of local clubs affiliate themselves with universities. To date it is the most detailed proposal but would also require the most structural change.

”I am in awe of their vision in putting that plan together,” Pulver said at the Super Rugby launch in Melbourne on Wednesday.

”Some of the issues relating to the university models might cause a little bit of friction with the clubs and also the cost potentially of setting it up and how far down the track we are in terms of negotiating with the universities, but it’s clearly a model that’s absolutely worth consideration.”

Some Sydney club presidents have expressed alarm at RUPA’s proposal, believing it could force them into irrelevance, but at least one first-grade coach in the Sydney competition and three Super Rugby coaches see the merit in partnering with universities.

Pulver is also meeting club presidents but sent a clear signal on Wednesday that he expected all sectors of the rugby community to act in the best interests of the game.

”I would hope the clubs would support it because at some point if you are creating a third-tier competition, players have to be sourced from somewhere,” he said. ”We are operating this country at a disadvantage by not having a third tier, a strong third tier will be a great support to our Super franchises and make them more competitive.”

RUPA’s model and the national academy proposal leave room for a national club championship that would pit against each other the top clubs from Sydney and Brisbane, plus a combined ACT team and a Melbourne team.

”A national club championship is something we want to do anyway at the end of the club season,” Pulver said. ”I love the idea … It would be a terrific thing for the game.”

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ONE of television’s oldest adages warns against working with animals. For the producers and cinematographers of the BBC’s Natural History Unit, who will spend years in remote locations capturing the animal kingdom up close and personal, it’s an occupational hazard that cannot be avoided.

What is more, it’s changing, as humans and animals interact with greater frequency. Some, such as meerkats, have become darlings of the small screen.

But others, such as the noble elephant, have an uneasy relationship with man: revered and hunted in seemingly equal measures.

The BBC’s James Honeyborne, who produced the new series, Africa, is hesitant to declare there is a brewing war between the human and animal kingdoms. But he does concede the relationship is changing, and sometimes not for the better.

”Some animals have actually become more habituated to people, so they’ve become much easier to film,” he says.

”Meerkats, for example, who have been studied in the Kalahari for 20 years, will sit on the cameraman’s head if he sits still long enough because it gives them a vantage point.

”But you cannot avoid the fact that there are now a billion people living in Africa, so there is competition for space and food, the very basic things. And animals like elephants need to range over a very wide area. You can’t keep them hemmed in one park.”

Africa was filmed over four years. It is narrated by the legendary David Attenborough and delivers an unprecedented spectacle. From the first day of

pre-production, Honeyborne says, the brief was to present an Africa that exploded people’s pre-existing notions of a well-studied subject.

”The biggest challenge is that people think they know Africa,” Honeyborne says.

”They have seen a lot of wildlife shows on Africa, so what is there that is new to say? When I first took on the series it was with some trepidation in that respect.”

The search began for content that would meet the show’s resulting benchmark: new species, new behaviour or new location. Initially, Honeyborne says, it was a struggle.

For the first six months many of the stories that came in were too familiar.

”It took a year of research to start breaking new stories and in that time you’re building relationships with scientists and researchers out there on the ground,” he says.

”And over the top of that we were trying to film in a new style and meet the animals at their eye-line, so you’re immersing the viewer in their world.”

But that poses serious risks. The modern tools of the natural history trade are cameras secreted into rocks, or cameramen protected by barriers, or raised platforms.

Getting crews out from the protection of their four-wheel-drive vehicles and into the field, and at eye level, delivers an almost unprecedented level of intimacy. But it also dials up the risk.

The production followed what Honeyborne calls bush etiquette. ”The question is, how do you operate safely on the ground given elephants, rhinos, hippos are there? It’s often the big herbivores which are potentially as threatening as the lions or the leopards.”

Complicating the issue are the changing habits of animals, resulting largely from the impact of human interaction.

”Elephant poaching is on the increase, for example, and that is definitely making some elephants more aggressive because they’re being shot at and injured,” Honeyborne says. ”They’re being hunted.”

One particular case Honeyborne recalls was a cameraman, working on an earlier series, who was filming elephants from a platform at night. ”One of the elephants sensed him, reacted in an annoyed way and tried to shake the tree,” he says. ”Out there, no one is walking around on the ground at night, so the cameraman was alone and he had to sit it out. Four hours, having his tree shaken by this elephant.”

One of most startling notions Africa touches on is the ”unmapped” world, the very jarring idea that in the 21st century there are still parts of the planet that man has neither mapped nor seen.

It hit the headlines most recently when a mapped Pacific Ocean island turned out either to no longer exist or, curiously, to have been incorrectly placed.

In Africa, a rainforest was revealed in northern Mozambique using satellite imagery.

”It’s not necessarily a case of being unmapped but don’t forget nature always fights back,” Honeyborne says.

”So you can have an area which has, at some point in the past, had human population but humans have, for whatever reason, left and now it has been reclaimed by nature.”

In the case of Mount Mabu and its 7000 hectares of virgin rainforest, it was hidden from view largely because of the civil war in Mozambique, which had, for a long time, effectively cut the country off from access by scientists.

”It was completely wild,” Honeyborne says.

”That’s not to say at some point in the distant past there haven’t been people there, but we joined the second scientific expedition and we took the first cameras in there.” Among the discoveries were five new species, including bats, snakes and butterflies.

”The forest was teeming with butterflies and every day they fly out of the canopy into the mountains and display and dance and find a mate. It was something we’d never seen.”

The series approaches the continent by dividing it into zones: Kalahari, Savannah, Congo, Cape and Sahara, and concludes with a single program, in the established style of the BBC’s Natural History Unit, which explores the future.

Honeyborne says he wants the series to give its audience a sense of Africa through the eyes of the animals that live there. ”So that, by the end of the film, you feel you understand what it is about that place that is special and why it is special,” he says. ”And that’s not just an emotional thing, it’s based on a fact that you probably wouldn’t have known before.

”For example, the desertification of the Sahara suddenly happens 6000 years ago and before that it was a grassland. Once you look at the film on northern Africa you can see that the animals there are either refugees of that climate change or pioneers in a new world and it changes how you view everything.”

The biggest challenge for Africa remains human interaction with the wilderness.

The growing population will only amplify that problem, though Honeyborne says there are a number of conservation groups looking into and developing ways to deal with it.

”They are looking at corridors between national parks, migration routes and re-establishing old migration routes that have been cut off,” he says. ”In one case, in Kenya, a migration route was reopened using an underpass to a dual carriageway, so that elephants could use it, and they started using it within a day of it being built.”

Africa’s advantage, he says, is its massive size.

”It’s much, much bigger than people think. The Sahara is the size of the United States. The forests of central Africa are the size of India. You could fit China in there. You could fit South America in there.

”There has to be some hope in that because there is still the space. And isn’t it interesting that Africa is the last continent to retain all of its really big animals and yet it’s the continent we’ve lived on the longest?

”That gives me hope man and the big animals can live alongside each other.”

David Attenborough’s Africa premieres on Saturday at 6.30pm on Channel Ten.

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Top of the Lake, which uses New Zealand’s natural beauty to great effect, deals with people who want to escape their everyday lives.IT MAY be short on hobbits, wizards and orcs, but Jane Campion’s new venture into television promises to be just as powerful an advertisement for New Zealand’s picture-postcard glories as Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Top of the Lake, a six-part detective series that screened as a special event at the Berlin Film Festival, is set against the monumental Southern Alps, glittering lakes and lush grasslands of the bottom end of the Land of the Long White Cloud. Yes, people seem to keep disappearing in mysterious circumstances, but you can’t beat Middle Earth for a spectacular camping spot.

The series is a co-production between UKTV in Australia, the BBC and the Sundance Channel in the US. For Campion, who wrote the series with Gerard Lee and shared direction with Australian director Garth Davis, the fact that it was television made no difference; what attracted her was the long form.

”All the people working on this were filmmakers, so we don’t have an idea of bringing the bar down lower to make television,” says Campion, who was in Berlin to present her work. ”Most features, if they’re lucky, get sold to television anyway, so I have a very pragmatic view of it.”

A detective story is another departure for the director of such films as Portrait of a Lady but, she says, ”you’ve got to have a motor somewhere. The mystery manoeuvres and clues were a struggle for us, but we persisted.”

In other respects, Top of the Lake represents a return to her roots. It is the first piece of work she has made in her native New Zealand since The Piano (1993). Holly Hunter, who won an Oscar for her performance as the mute Ada in that film, plays a pivotal role in this series as an unwilling guru to a group of disaffected women who have decamped to the wilderness.

Hunter says she was particularly struck by the contrast between the North Island where The Piano was filmed and the South. ”The bush is very close in the North Island and has a sense of entanglement,” she says. ”The South Island felt disorienting because the scale is so grand, so out of proportion to humanity – far grander than anything that we are – which can force people to put their problems and conflicts into perspective. It was a very liberating landscape.”

Campion co-wrote the series with Gerard Lee, with whom she wrote her first feature, Sweetie, in 1989. They are both intrigued, they say, by the kind of community that gathers at the end of a road. ”People say, ‘I’ve got to get away from life and calm down’,” says Lee. ”But they’ve gone to a place where other people are fed up with life or can’t handle life, so they really can’t handle each other. It’s a worse situation in a way.”

”But also it’s a really reasonable dream,” Campion says, jumping in. ”Who doesn’t want to get out of their life some time and go somewhere apparently more peaceful, where nature is beautiful? I keep feeling that pull: I want to live in the bush and be a hermit. That’s one of my dreams.” The problem, of course, is that ”wherever you go, the bullshit travels with you, often in a much more compromising way”.

Top of the Lake clearly invites comparisons to the Danish small-screen hit The Killing. Like that series, it features a capable but secretly damaged female detective, played by Mad Men actress Elisabeth Moss. ”Elisabeth asked if she could audition and we went ‘unlikely, you know, but all right, if she wants to’,” says Campion. ”And she just knocked us out with her work. I wish she were here now, because she’s so gracious and adorable and speaks so well about the whole experience.”

Moss’s character Robin is apparently calm in the face of calamity, a surface that is soon ruffled. ”The basic idea is that people are attracted to material in the world and in life where they have issues and often don’t even know why,” Campion explains. ”And they get drawn in before they even know they’re in danger.”

What they wanted to do, says Lee, is use the mystery form to open up other issues rather than deal out cliches about the dangers lurking around every corner. ”A CSI issue would be that there are a lot of rapists out there, so don’t go into the street,” says Lee.

”That’s not a very interesting issue to me, because the number of rapists out there is a very low proportion of the male population. Whereas the search for a meaningful existence or an experience with some subtlety to it, or some transcendent quality, is much more universal. And that’s what we’re trying to get into our story.”

Top of the Lake is on Foxtel’s UK TV from March 24.

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