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Crackling and Spanks: Finals fever, Kyrgios, and a Bolt from the blue

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3rd September, 2018
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Community service veteran Roy ‘Crackling’ Pork and the doyen of gurus Wayne ‘Spanks’ Spankle get to grips with the week’s most get-to-grippable issues of the sporting week.

CRACKLING: Weird week, Spanks. No AFL on the weekend, I would’ve been at a complete loss if it weren’t for all the other sport that was on as well as my private life and so forth.

SPANKS: It was hard to bear, Cracks, but on the upside I reckon it was the best Carlton’s played all year.

CRACKLING: I’ll drink to that, Spanks!

Silent interlude.

SPANKS: Anyway, wasn’t it Shakespeare who wrote, “A weekend without footy is like a woman without an oven?”

CRACKLING: Beautiful words, Spanks, and apt as ever. But now the finals loom, and we’ve got plenty to look forward to.

SPANKS: Can anyone beat Richmond?

CRACKLING: Depends, Spanks. At football?

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SPANKS: At football, yes.

CRACKLING: No.

SPANKS: You have to admit that the Tigers have a big advantage in that the granny is played at the MCG.

CRACKLING: Should it be moved, Spanks? Some say it should go to other cities sometimes, but Gillon McLachlan says it’ll be a cold day in hell before any of his relatives pay award wages for household help.

SPANKS: And you see his point. Grand finals and the MCG go together like a horse and carriage, like chocolate and bananas, like a dodgy anterior cruciate ligament and the shifting turf of Etihad Stadium. I can’t imagine it being anywhere else. What would a grand final look like in Adelaide?

CRACKLING: A bloody shambles, that’s what. Look how Adelaide balls up its Fringe Festival each year.

SPANKS: Well…exactly. But the AFL isn’t the only competition staging some exciting finals this week. The NRL top eight was settled on the weekend, and how thrilling it was. Could you have imagined at the start of the season that Penrith and Brisbane would finish equal on points and for-and-against?

CRACKLING: I never saw it coming at all, Spanks. And it just goes to show, this is the kind of competition where any team can score as many points and concede as many points as any other team, and it really makes the action come alive.

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SPANKS: Personally I’m tipping the Roosters. They’re well-deserved minor premiers. Their backs are firing, their forwards are belting the opposition, and their salary cap management is outstanding. Nothing to worry about there!

CRACKLING: Can’t believe the Storm let top spot slip, though. It just goes to show that despite everyone going on about the Storm, there are some real cracks there, for an opponent who knows their weaknesses.

Cameron Smith

The NRL season is long and particularly gruelling for the likes of Cam Smith. (AAP Image/Craig Golding)

SPANKS: You’re right there, Crackles: now that the rest of the comp knows that the way to beat the Storm is to make sure they have seven first-choice players out of the team, they’ll all be trying it. But full credit to the Panthers, they toughed it out in the face of a big penalty count.

CRACKLING: Penalties have been a major problem for the Pannies, but I’m glad to hear they’ve got a plan to address the problem in the finals: they’re going to assume that the referees will just stop penalising them.

SPANKS: And that, right there, is why Phil Gould felt he had to get rid of Griffin for Ciraldo. Ciraldo’s ability to strategise like that is too good to waste.

CRACKLING: Speaking of too good to waste, a US Open umpire thought Nick Kyrgios’s talent fit that bill. He got down and begged Nick to try harder. Is that fair play?

SPANKS: Well it would never have happened in my day. Back then chair umpires tended to err on the side of abuse. I remember the 1963 Wimbledon quarter-final, when the umpire climbed down three times to tell Ken Rosewall his kids weren’t really his.

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Rosewall took it in his stride: kids back then were raised to expect it. You started getting sworn at by officials in under-11s.

CRACKLING: I’m annoyed because it feels like if Mark Philippoussis had had umpires helping him out he could have won fifty majors.

Sometimes all a man needs is a bit of encouragement. Look at Mal Meninga: became a champion in rugby league with the guidance of his mentor Barry Gomersall. Once the Grasshopper was gone, where did Mal’s political career go? Right down the Eddie Money.

SPANKS: Kyrgios made it through to the next round and got walloped by Roger Federer, who is proving that turning fifty doesn’t mean the end.

CRACKLING: He’s an inspiration to every bloke who ever feared that getting older would mean his impossibly elegant groundstrokes and peerless touch at the net days were over. We can all win grand slams, Spanks, if we apply ourselves.

Roger Federer in action at the US Open

Roger Federer of Switzerland (Photo by TPN/Getty Images)

SPANKS: I’ll apply myself, all right – to another pot!

CRACKLING: Ha, now there’s a challenge you’re always up for!

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SPANKS: Reckon my elbow’s in as good a shape as Roger’s after all the workouts I’ve given it.

CRACKLING: Speaking of using alcohol to dull the pain of existence, looking forward to the Wallabies’ game this weekend?

SPANKS: Absolutely. As an Aussie rugby fan, you do want a bit of variety. It’s nice to see the team getting beaten by men in green shirts instead of black ones for a change.

CRACKLING: Maybe you should try soccer instead. Usain Bolt made quite a splash in his debut for Central Coast.

Usain Bolt of the Mariners leaves the field following his Central Coast Mariners debut.

Usain Bolt is fit, but is he football match fit? (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)

SPANKS: Amazing how far the game’s come in this country, Crackling. I’m old enough to remember when Australian soccer didn’t have history’s greatest 100-metre sprinter playing in its premier competition, but now…wowee!

CRACKLING: At moments like these, I think of Johnny Warren. He’ll be smiling down from Soccer Heaven, while George Best gives him a shiatsu massage.

Johnny always said to me, “Crackling, one day football – he used to call it football and I never had the heart to correct him – one day football in this country will be big enough and mature enough to sign up retirees from other sports for publicity purposes. I only hope I live to see it.” He didn’t, but it makes me happy to see his dream come true.

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SPANKS: To Usain!

CRACKLING: To Usain, Spanks.