March 29 will be the most significant day of the year for Australian and world cricket when Steve Smith and David Warner – two of the best batsmen on the planet – return to active duty.
For the “holier than thou”, and the mouth-frothers who wanted both banned for life – and for Cricket Australia CEO Kevin Roberts who wanted to test the water in the shed before giving his OK for them to resume – the Australian cricket team will roll out the red carpet to welcome them back with open arms.
Not only will Smith and Warner shore up a brittle batting order, they will inspire those around them to lift their game as they’ve done throughout their careers.
Everyone knows they did the crime, but by March 29 they would have done the time, all 12 months of it – and that’s that.
Without them the Aussies had none and Buckleys of winning the World Cup, nor the Ashes that immediately follow.
With Smith and Warner back the Aussies can not only win a record sixth World Cup, but an Ashes series in England for the first time since 2001.
It’s timely to remember the lineup on that tour that took out the series 4-1: Michael Slater, Matt Hayden, Ricky Ponting, Mark Waugh, Steve Waugh (c), Damien Martyn, Adam Gilchrist, Shane Warne, Brett Lee, Jason Gillespie, and Glenn McGrath.
Steve Waugh topped the batting averages with 321 runs at 107, twin brother Mark was next with 430 at 86.00, Martyn scored 382 at 76.40, and Gilchrist 340 at 68.
McGrath with 32 wickets at 16.93, and Warne’s 31 at 18.70, totally dominated the attack.
So there’s only 87 more sleeps until Steve Smith and David Warner are back on duty, and grabbing headlines for all the right reasons.
Australian rugby needs a lot more than two world-class cricketers returning, it needs a wipe out.
The entire Rugby Australia board needs to move on, replaced by Nick Farr-Jones in the chair, Simon Poidevin, Mark Ella, David Campese, and Bobby Dwyer, and sevens superstar Charlotte Caslick, with Phil Kearns as CEO.
Rugby men for rugby business.
Winning will provide the corporate image, not making corporate more important than culture as it’s been for years.
Other changes are already in place with coach Michael Cheika answerable directly to Scott Johnson as the new director of rugby, and a selector, with a third selector yet to be named which must be Rod Macqueen.
The three-man panel will ensure Wallabies will not only be well-drilled in rugby basics of pass, catch, support, retaining possession, defending, and kicking with intent, but be in-form, and selected in their rightful positions.
That being the case, the Wallabies will win Pool D of the Rugby World Cup in Japan over Wales, Georgia, Fiji and Uruguay, beat Argentina in the quarters, and Ireland in the semis, and take on the All Blacks in the final.
If the board, and the selectors, have got it right then the Wallabies can win a third RWC.
Graham Arnold has got it right with the Socceroos in his early days as coach-manager, just as he proved with Sydney FC in the A-League.
Where Arnold has it all over previous Socceroos mentors, he wants his players to enjoy representing their country to win by being positive in scoring goals, not hamstrung by a series of negatives to not lose.
And as an added benefit, Arnold freely admits he’s taken a leaf out of Liverpool’s play book as the clear leader in the English Premier League, so overall the Arnold way is producing dividends that makes retaining the coveted Asian Cup a reality.
High on my bucket list is an incident-free 2019 for rugby league boss Todd Greenberg, once the Jarryd Hayne, Dylan Walker, and Jack de Belin court cases are decided.
Greenberg deserves a cleaner path, and with Peter V’Landys, one of the greatest sporting administrators in Australia I’ve ever dealt with and soon to be in the chair of the Australian Rugby League Commission, the code will be in the very best of hands.
Anyone who wants to damage the code in the future had better think twice, or be looking for another job that will pay hundreds of thousands of dollars less per year than a rugby league contract.
And congratulations to the Hopman Cup organisers in Perth for taking the doubt out of servers taking overtime between points.
There’s no greater abuser of the rule than Rafael Nadal, but he’s rarely reprimanded, and never penalised.
Yet the Spaniard deliberately slows down play to his pace, just to keep his opponents waiting. The rule is a maximum 25 seconds, yet Nadal has often gone 40-plus seconds between points while he goes through his intense fidgeting, ball selection, and ball bouncing process.
But the central umpire, the crowd, and the television viewers can all see the stop-watch countdown between points instituted by the Hopman Cup on the scoreboard.
It’s a must for the Australian Open, and for every other Slam.
And seeing the first Slam of the year is in Melbourne this month, it’s the perfect way to kick-start my bucket list with my final request.