Should Steve Smith Be the Next Australian Captain? TPA Decides

As previously flagged, The Public Apology is running a 4-part series to determine who should succeed Michael Clarke as Australia’s next test captain. In this first instalment, Ben Shine takes a close and at-times absurd look at the short-odds favourite, Steve Smith.

*  *  *  *  *  *

Steve Smith has all the right attributes to captain Australia, but that doesn’t mean he should.

On paper, he looks the perfect fit. Steve is not only very good at cricket, he’s a marketer’s dream: blonde, supremely talented and in possession of the most Anglo name imaginable.

But while someone called “Steve Smith” may provide comfort and familiarity for Australia’s white, suburban fan base, a deeper look reveals at the name some serious red flags.

On first glance, Steve Smith shares his name with the erstwhile Minister for Defence and Western Australian MP – who by all accounts was a competent and decent bloke, but one who was promised and then passed up not once, but twice, for the coveted Foreign Affairs Ministry (in favour of Kevin Rudd and Bob Carr, no less).

There is a lesson to be learned here. Steve Smiths are nice, good at what they do, but ultimately aren’t ruthless enough to land the prize gig. Always the bridesmaid…

By all accounts a lovely guy
By all accounts a lovely guy

But there is more to Steve Smith’s name, and these extra details provide an illuminating insight into the man’s character.

The Public Apology’s Investigations Unit dug a little deeper (checked Wikipedia) and discovered  Steve’s full name is actually Steven Peter Devereux “Steve” Smith.

This is worrying.

Firstly, while the name “Steve Smith” may appear very English and evoke the strong cultural and historical bonds between Australia with the Mother Country, the cricketer’s middle name “Devereux” points to Gaelic bloodlines.

The French are known primarily for their fine food, wine, art and willingness to accept exiled rugby league players – not their cricket. Equally, their reputation for wilfuly surrendering at the slightest provocation is not a characteristic we want to see in our Captain.

The second, and most important thing to note about Steve’s name is that he is in fact, not a Steve, but a Steven. While the presence of the single letter “N” would appear insignificant, I assure you it is not.

Names say a lot about a person’s character, and Steve and Steven represent two very different types of people.

Steve is a breezily cool dude whose effortless success on the pitch is only matched by the runs he notches up on the circuit.

Steve lived by the mantra: A durry a day keeps the doctor away
Macca always played better with a durry

Steve is supremely gifted, but also inherently lazy. He can win you a game, but he can also lose you a game.

In contrast, Stevens*carry a lot of emotional baggage. Typically speaking, a Steven is a bit of a square. He is a mother’s boy whose innate lack of self esteem is expressed in a desperate desire to please others.

Steven wants to be known as Steve, but will never, ever shake his long-form moniker – which is only ever delivered in a condescending manner, like a parent admonishing a naughty child.

Steven faced the dim prospect of yet another grounding
Steven faced the dim prospect of yet another grounding

Needless to say, a Steven should not be captaining Australia.

*  *  *  *  *  *

Australia in the midst of a crisis. Our economy is painfully transitioning from resources to services-led growth, the Government is struggling to pass budgetary measures needed to address rampant national debt and our cricket team just returned from a spanking by Pakistan in Dubai.

We need a strong leader to get us out of our current situation. We need a Captain who is characterized by his toughness, grit and pragmatism, as well as the presence several personality disorders.

Our Captain should be taciturn and prone to bouts of grumpiness, like he is stoically battling a mammoth hangover. Gruff, in desperate need of a bacon and egg roll, yet determined to win the day.

Skip looks sternly towards the dressing room - he had asked for his Berocca fifteen minutes ago.
Skip glared towards the dressing room – he had asked for his Berocca more than fifteen minutes ago.

Steven Smith, for all his admirable qualities, does not fit this description.

Steven is fantastic cricketer, but as his name suggests, he tries a little too hard to be cool. He wears a flat-brim snapback cap, but it falls flat (pardon the pun).

It's cricket, yo.
But it’s cricket, yo.

Steven also can’t sledge properly. Try as he might, but batsmen and teammates alike confuse his insults with good-natured conversation. He, is simply put, too nice.

What Australia needs now is a tough, no-nonsense Captain to steer us through the uncertain and forever-changing landscape of international cricket.

We need a Steve, not a Steven.

By Ben Shine

*Not to be confused with Stephen, as in Stephen Roger Waugh. This name bestows entirely different characteristics.

Touch Footy Stereotypes: Which One Are You?

For those of us who still naively hold on to dreams of getting fit over summer – or simply want something to help us run off the piss consumed on the weekend – organised touch football often seems like the perfect remedy. We dust off the old boots, go for a run or two, and start dreaming of incisive runs and perfectly timed cut-out passes.

Come Christmas, a few sprained ankles and one torn hamstring later, numbers are down, the mate who organised everything has cracked the shits chasing people for money, and interest has generally wained. But for those precious few weeks, or perhaps just half a game, we truly believe we still have what it takes.

Almost as predictable as the impending loss of interest is the general makeup of each team you will face. And yes, even yours, if you are truly honest with yourself and the company you keep.

Delusions of grandeur
Delusions of grandeur

Please see below for the seven types of people that play touch footy, in no particular order:

*  *  *

The Niggler:

The Niggler is probably the worst person who has ever lived. Cut from the same cloth as Michael Ennis or Josh Reynolds, they slow down the play the ball, claim touches when they are nowhere near you, and love knocking the pill out of your hands as they run past.

Nothing short of filthy cheats, they are also quick to blow up should someone employ similar tactics. The first to start a fight, but nowhere to be seen should it actually come to blows. When two nigglers collide it often ends in two other guys having a stink, though they’re not entirely sure why.

In every facet of life The Niggler is a true prick. None of their mates genuinely enjoys their company; in fact, they’re often embarrassed by their actions. The unwritten code of never turning on your teammates saves them, however (which is surprising, considering they are the first to violate it), and that is often why The Niggler will continue to play team sports long into their thirties. They insist on snarky grubber kicks during park footy and are most likely an internet troll who once stole the wallet of a dying crash victim.

Acting tough on the internet, again
Acting tough on the internet, again

 

The Faded Star:

The Faded Star was clearly once a good player, but years of substance abuse and doing not too much has made them quite a bit slower to react. He played a few years of first grade after school, but his white line fever – one that you don’t have to run through a bunch of blokes to get to (although it sometimes happens after) – proved too alluring. Will occasionally do something freakish, which will make it all the more frustrating for teammates who wonder why the Faded Star can’t just go for the odd run over the weekend instead of embarking on a three day bender.

Being naturally athletic, they look fitter than they actually are, which leads to unrealistic expectations of their pace and ability to go all game. They will be blowing after the first defensive set and will need an immediate substitution after scoring a breakaway try – the one good thing they do.

Close friends are often concerned the Faded Star will suffer a heart attack after going harder on the rack than they ever did on the field.

 

The Team Player:

Does all the hard work around the middle and is a genuinely good bloke. Jokes with the ref and the opposition and takes it all in stride. The only player who seems to truly realise that touch is just good for a bit of fitness and a catch up with mates.

Easy to get along with and loyal, happy in their career and relationship, the Team Player is generally destined for a nice life and is intrinsically a very boring person. Hard to dislike. Handy to have around on the paddock and, above all else, in the pub when you’re a few bucks short.

A good bloke. Boring, but good.
A good bloke. Boring, but good.

The Ring-In:

No one wanted to ask the Ring-In to play, but ultimately guilt and a lack of numbers means they get a call up anyway. Always reliable, they turn up every week and prove more of a hindrance then anything else.

Completely incapable of completing a run and dump or even running on to a ball without dropping it, they appear completely ignorant to their own lack of ability and are prone to trying trick passes that inevitably end up in a turnover.

Freakishly uncoordinated, no one is entirely sure how the Ring-In has survived this long. Really, he is a walking affront to Darwinism.

 

The Over-Competitive Jerk:

Bearing many similar traits to The Niggler, The Over-Competitive Jerk uses the touch football field as place to vent his frustrations of faded dreams and the fact he was never quite good enough at anything.

Aching to start a fight or drop a shoulder, they particularly hate Faded Stars and Freaks (see below) for wasting their talent, something they were never blessed with in life. Will always overstate their ability and achievements and most likely be in a passive-aggressive relationship with their partner – who the Faded Star will inevitably sleep with out of sympathy more than anything else.

The Faded Star will definitely sleep with your wife
The Faded Star will definitely sleep with your wife

Constantly argues with the referee and calls plays that are never on. Won’t directly scream at a teammate, but will openly vent their frustration at no one in particular. Also, they are particularly hard on themselves when they make a mistake, due to the fact they deeply loathe themselves for lacking that elusive, highly sought-after X-factor.

 

The Freak:

The Freak varies from The Faded Star in that they’ve still got it. The only thing that actually prevented them from making it in footy was a nihilistic attitude resulting in a lack of commitment and complete disinterest in pursuing it.

Known as much for their low defensive rate as for making something happen out of nothing, The Freak will most likely play mixed touch so they can touch ladies on the bottom. Never to be found in the engine room, their idea of a run and dump is running through a party and taking a surprise shit on the dance floor.

Highly unreliable, The Freak can prove more elusive for their teammates than for the opposition on a Monday night and is often the reason a ring-in must be implemented.

Highly unreliable. Good slower ball tho
Highly unreliable. Good slower ball tho

 

The Douche-Bag:

The Douche-Bag is quite a good player, and boy don’t they know it. Blessed with all of the necessary skills, The Douche-Bag is the epitome of Private School elitism.

Rarely a genuine playmaker, they usually stand one off the play, avoiding the dirty work as it is beneath them. Possessing a safe pair of hands, those very same hands become quite dangerous around your girlfriend after a few beers. Rarely speaks to The Ring-In – as they simply can’t comprehend how someone can be so uncoordinated.

With their smug look and toned calves – made more prominent due to their insistence on wearing Skins – The Douche-Bag is dripping with Gen Y attitude.  A terrible bloke, but in 2014, there’s at least one on every team.

By Alasdair McClintock

The ‘white’ Australian athlete is a dying breed and that’s OK

If you cast your sporting mind* back to the 1980s and ’90s – and I often do – you might recall just how white Australia’s athletes were.

Put bluntly, Australia’s professional sporting constituency was exceptionally Anglo-Saxon. Despite various waves of immigration over the years – the thousands of Chinese that came in search of gold in the 1850s, the displaced European migrants who appeared on our shores in the post-WWII era , the Vietnamese boat people that arrived in the late 1970s, etc – Australia’s elite athletes were yet to carry surnames boasting obscure, foreign-sounding letters like X, Z and Y.

In fact, “we” would often bestow monikers on our overseas-competing athletes, such as “the great white hope,” in order to accentuate their whiteness. Similarly, Aboriginal players – noted for their speed and agility – were often given nicknames (not just from fellow players, but by the media, too) based upon their mercurial style of play, unpredictability and ‘other-ness’ – as opposed to their mental discipline or cognitive skills.

Michael ‘Magic’ O’Loughlin springs to mind.

 

Magical, mercurial…

Anyway, let’s look at a few sporting codes and how they have evolved over the past 20 or so years, in terms of their demographics.

Rugby league in the 1980s and ’90s was a white man’s game. Generally, your forwards were big, burly and mustachioed, with dependable one-syllable names like Len, Sam and Les; your outside backs were lean, wiry and mustachioed, with slightly-less-intimidating-but-still-very-dependable names such as Glen, Garry and Peter. The halves and five-eighths, meanwhile, were diminutive, hovering around the 5’8″, 5’9″ mark and weighing some 70kg ringing wet. Jason Taylor, Geoff Toovey, Allan Langer, etc. Small blokes, often with alarmingly blonde hair.

But fast-forward to today and we can see how immigration and globalisation has changed the (literal) face of rugby league. And it’s only going to continue: well over half of the players in the NRL’s under 20 competition are of Pacific Islander extraction, with some (not this publication) referring to this phenomenon as a brown revolution.

This evolution has occurred at a rapid pace – so rapid as to initially cause lovable rugby league commentator Ray Warren some well-documented pronunciation issues. However, Warren can now effortlessly reel off names like Ava Seumanufagai and Sam Tagataese without blinking an eyelid.

Warren, best heard and not seen

And we, too, have adapted to this “new normal.” After all, as James Cook University’s Peter Horton says:

“Pacific Islanders have become the most prodigious and prevalent ethnic group of rugby sports migrants globally. They’ve become “exquisite ‘products’ and… prime commodities, as they are now a major force in the leading competitions worldwide.”

That’s true. Pacific Islanders dominate New Zealand’s national rugby union competition too. And why wouldn’t they? Their bodies are suited to the rugby codes. Jason Taylor and Allan Langer could not exist in the modern day NRL; not through lack of talent, but more because they would simply get fucking smashed if they took a single hit up.

*  *  *  *  *  *

The Australian cricket team is often criticised for its lack of diversity. Just recently, the test team celebrated the debut of its first Muslim player, Usman Khawaja, while Pakistan-born asylum seeker Fawad Ahmed has played a handful of international T20 fixtures and received a lot of column inches based on his heart-warming story of overcoming adversity.

But these outliers aside, the Australian test team is pretty much as white as it was under Allan Border in the mid-1980s. Cricket is a colonial sport – not necessarily a global sport – in that most of the countries that play cricket do so due to England’s desire, in the words of Marcus Clark, to reinforce a hegemonic cultural order in the face of emancipation of the relative slave populations.

The genius behind Mahatma Cote

So cricket hasn’t reached continental Europe, or the Americas – or Asia, for that matter – and thus we are yet to see Greek, Baltic, Latin or Chinese names (with the exception of some admittedly excellent state players) force their way onto Australia’s professional cricketing scene. The few cricketers with foreign names that do “make it” are from cricketing nations like Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka, with their fathers likely teaching them the fundamentals of the game as juniors growing up in their (middle-class) sub-continental homes.

I’d allege that the non-British migrants who arrived here in the post-war period – and of course, those following that period – did not see cricket as a code overly welcoming to outsiders. Instead, they exposed their sons and daughters to other sports – ones that welcomed all regardless of background.

*  *  *  *  *  *

So cricket is white, primarily. But emerging sports (read: sports that have been popular in Europe for years but are only just catching on in Australia) such as soccer, basketball and tennis, are drawing from the healthy pool of first/second/third-generation European migrants.

Look at the Australian Open right now. Nick Kyrgios, Thanasi Kokkinakkis and Bernard Tomic are the “future” of Australian tennis. There is no-one else on the scene, certainly, there is no conventionally white Australian youngster that looks likely to challenge for a top 10 position over the next few years.

Conventional whiteness personified

You only have to go back to the  late 1980s and 1990s to remember what Australian tennis looked like. It was really, really white: Pat Cash kicked things off in the late ’80s; Mark Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge were unstoppable both as a doubles combination and as an advertisement for male grooming. Pat Rafter was beginning to make a name for himself in the singles, while Lleyton Hewitt, his blonde Aryan appearance the stuff of Hitler’s fondest dreams, was just a few years away.

But now – and not just only on the men’s side – we are seeing a new wave of second generation European migrants dominating Australian tennis. Is it their hard work and determination, perhaps first forged by their ancestors in post-war Europe, that has led to this emergence? So where has the ‘white’ athlete gone – and do we even miss him?

*  *  *  *  *  *

You could argue that given the majority of white Australians draw their racial heritage from Britain, the decline of the white athlete is inevitable. Just look at how terribly England has performed at sport over the past 30 years. Even in cricket, the game they invented as a way of imposing their culture upon the colonies, they have gone to shit (despite a very brief window of success recently). As England declines as a global powerhouse, so do its people.

Shall I be somewhat borderline reverse-racist and proffer that the white athlete has simply evolved to completion, both physically and intellectually? Is he/she now simply resigned to playing a stable, dependable role in their chosen sport, to rely on inherent experience (forged through their ancestors having ‘invented’ the code and perhaps a greater level of coaching as a junior) rather than explosiveness, raw power and X-factor?

Darwin. The guy knew his shit.

As Australia’s globalisation and immigration policies continue on their merry way, despite the best efforts of this fucking guy, we will see more and more brown faces dominating typically Anglo-Saxon sports. And the attributes they bring will no doubt enhance our various codes. It cannot be long before recent waves of African migration result in greater representation in the AFL – indeed, it’s already starting to happen – and our domestic soccer competition.

Today, cricket is the only sport that remains conspicuously white. Nothing against the current crop of players, but here’s hoping that in 20-30 years from now that Australia can tap into its growing pool of migrants – and maybe pluck out a few gems.

Dave Edwards

* SportingMind was a niche blog run by this author circa 2008-09. While exceptionally obscure in content, it received mostly positive feedback and served as something of a prequel to The Public Apology.