Monthly Archives: August 2019

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Cheap ‘n’ cheerful start to Big Bash

Jolly good fun: Santa entertains at a Big Bash League match. Photo: Robert Prezioso/Getty ImagesHeading into the new season of cricket’s bite-size format, the Twenty20 Big Bash League, jibes about its validity came as often as English wickets have tumbled in the Test arena.

Just what to make of the plethora of Twenty20 competitions around the cricketing world still remains unclear. It’s a professional business but how serious is it really? Green Guide writer Gordon Farrer made his feelings clear when he bemoaned: ”It’s just not cricket”.

Regardless of opinions of that kind, it was up to new BBL broadcaster Channel Ten to follow Fox Sports’ good work of recent seasons and provide some, er, meat on the KFC-sponsored Big Bash bone, and validate why it has opted to shell out $100 million, including contra, over five years.

”It is a legitimate form of cricket,” Adam Gilchrist, the cricketing great turned commentator, insisted on the opening night in a message for those doubters.

To that end, Ten’s coverage so far has been a mix of in-depth analysis, solid ball-by-ball play and, unfortunately, the gimmicky. Having a so-called celebrity perched on a stage in the stands, waiting fruitlessly to catch a ball that has gone for six in the hope of securing a jackpot for a viewer at home, just cheapens things.

In the commentary booth, Gilchrist and former Australian captain Ricky Ponting have warmed to their duties. Their in-depth dissection of players and captaincy tactics, and the digital images Ten has used to highlight such areas as a batsman’s hitting zones, have been excellent and add to the vibrancy that underscores the Twenty20 format.

Fabled West Indian master blaster Viv Richards, who enjoys a good laugh, has also been refreshing. He sits well alongside the no-nonsense Mark Waugh and Damien Fleming, the latter combining analysis and humour, who have crossed from Fox Sports.

Ten has also been smart in ensuring its coverage has a news bent. The day England’s Graeme Swann unexpectedly retired, host Mel McLaughlin opened by seeking Ponting’s immediate reaction.

There was later an interview with Australia’s man-of-the-moment, Mitchell Johnson.

This crossover to the Test action, even though the Ashes series is broadcast by rival Channel Nine, makes sense, and can only be a good thing for a sport that no longer can take for granted its place on the summer sporting landscape.

Where Ten, ultimately, will be judged is in the ratings. More than 1.16 million capital city and regional viewers tuned in to the opening match between the Stars and Renegades. More than 1.13 million took in the Sydney derby the following night, again more than the doubling the expectations of Cricket Australia and Ten.

Heading into the January holiday period, Ten and CA rightly believe ratings – and attendances – will only improve.

But it’s still hard to know what to make of this manufactured tournament, one that cannot yet secure the elite subcontinent players it needs to really tap into the lucrative Asian market.

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Brave new dawn for female sleuths

Repressed trauma: Elisabeth Moss faces demons in Top of the Lake.Easily the most fascinating collection of protagonists on television in 2013 were female law enforcement officers.

From the bustling Texas border with Mexico to the pristine wilderness of New Zealand, these women redefined what it was to symbolically wear a badge. They fought their quarries, their colleagues, and often themselves. In the retirement home for old TV cops, Andy Sipowicz and Taggart must be exchanging confused glances.

The lineage of contemporary characters such as Elisabeth Moss’ Detective Robin Griffin in Jane Campion’s Top of the Lake, Diane Kruger’s Detective Sonya Cross in The Bridge, and Gillian Anderson’s Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson in The Fall can be traced squarely back to Detective Chief Inspector Jane Tennison, Helen Mirren’s formidable London police officer in Lynda La Plante’s Prime Suspect.

Across seven series, beginning with Prime Suspect in 1991 and ending with Tennison’s retirement in 2006’s Prime Suspect: The Final Act, the character had to break down barriers that began with her own mocking, plotting male colleagues.

As Tennison earned their respect on screen, other writers found the confidence to bring forth their own female-oriented storylines.

Kyra Sedgwick’s Deputy Chief Brenda Lee Johnson in The Closer was one example, lifting in part her no-nonsense attitude and determination from the example set by Jane Tennison. But what’s become noticeable in recent years is how the recent generation go to extremes, both within their own lives and their careers, in ways that Tennison, who struggled with alcohol, would never have allowed herself to even contemplate.

At the end of the first season of Homeland, Claire Danes’ obsessive CIA agent Carrie Mathison undergoes electroconvulsive therapy, and that image of her body convulsing as a plastic separator in her mouth prevents her from communicating is perhaps the show’s defining moment. Here is a woman whose dedication to her job leads to her agreeing, out of both regret and self-loathing, to the inducement of seizures, to the complete disruption of her own brain.

If all the revered male characters of television drama, such as Breaking Bad’s Walter White and Mad Men’s Don Draper, are anti-heroes who put others before themselves to satisfy their needs, then television’s true heroes are the underrated women who are drawn to notions of sacrifice. They’re willing to give up everything they’ve gained, and that is as deep a dramatic wellspring as the one the bad boys’ club has.

There is a risk, however, that their flaws become how they’re defined. Much was made in The Bridge, an American remake of the Swedish-Danish series that highlighted the distinction between those two Scandinavian nations, about the almost cruel commitment to professionalism of Kruger’s Sonya Cross, the El Paso police detective who refuses to even let an ambulance with a heart attack victim inside pass through her crime scene.

Although it was never stated in an episode, Kruger, the writers and the show’s viewers all believed that the character had Asperger syndrome. The show, which returns for a second season later this year despite not distinguishing itself ratings-wise in 2013, found grim reality in qualities that in certain ways are joyfully duplicated by Benedict Cumberbatch’s master detective on Sherlock. One man’s eccentricity is another woman’s struggle.

One of the fascinating elements of these female characters was how they combined a professional outlook with personal pleasure. The Fall, which was a hit for the BBC and recently screened here on Foxtel’s UKTV, followed Anderson’s Stella Gibson through an assignment pursuing a serial killer in Belfast. When she asks a local detective to her hotel room one night, she controls his hands, laying him down in scenes that were interspersed with the murderer ritualistically arranging a victim’s corpse.

Anderson, who has added layers of nuance to her technique since The X-Files era, was a typically driven outsider, but Top of the Lake turned on the repressed trauma of Elisabeth Moss’ Australian police detective, heading up an investigation in the New Zealand hometown where her high school formal ended in a gang rape. Misogyny was a violent reality in fictional Laketop, and Moss was outstanding as a character buffeted by memories.

These are the women who fought for the law, but no one won.

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Opitz loss offset by Murphy’s return

Shane Opitz has left the Canberra Cavalry. Photo: Melissa AdamsIt has taken a season-ending shoulder to finally split up dynamic duo Shane Opitz and Jon Berti.

And while Opitz’s return home for treatment is a blow to the Canberra Cavalry ahead of its four-game series against the Adelaide Bite at Narrabundah Ballpark, starting on Thursday, the reigning Australian Baseball League champion will be bolstered by the return of catcher Jack Murphy from a Christmas break.

The Cavalry bullpen has expanded further with Baltimore Orioles prospect Matt Wilson joining it, following Gold Coast product Aaron Thompson’s addition to the starting rotation last weekend.

Opitz and Berti are both prospects in the Toronto Blue Jays’ system and have been playing in the same team since 2011.

They’ve become good mates during that time and even field next to each other at shortstop and second base.

But Opitz has been struggling with what’s believed to be a rotator cuff problem since the Heat series in Perth nearly three weeks ago.

Cavalry coach Michael Collins has been using him as the designated hitter, hoping the shoulder would improve.

Collins said the batting order would just shift up, with Murphy slotting in to the four-hole behind Casey Frawley and Jeremy Barnes, with Berti leading off.

”[Opitz’s] arm got to a point where it just wasn’t feeling right, so Toronto decided to bring him back home,” Collins said.

”He left yesterday, which is a bit of a blow, but he’s got to do what he’s got to do for his career.

”They want to check it out and hopefully it’s nothing serious.”

Collins said Murphy’s return would be a huge boost, especially his leadership.

Murphy missed the trip to Adelaide as he returned home for Christmas.

He gets back to Canberra on Thursday morning, but he’s already reassured Collins he can slot straight back in.

”I had a couple of text messages with him yesterday about when he was coming in and I said if you need to get some rest before coming out to the ballpark do that, and he said, ‘No, I’ll be ready’,” Collins said.

”He’s a team leader. He comes to play every day and other people feed off that.”

CANBERRA v ADELAIDE: At Narrabundah Ballpark – Thursday 7pm, Friday 7pm, Saturday 7pm, Sunday 1pm.

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Nisbet looks on the bright side

Canberra jockey Kayla Nisbet has broken her wrist but is staying positive for a bright 2014 campaign. Photo: Karleen MinneyIt finished like ’13 was an unlucky number for Kayla Nisbet, but the up-and-coming Canberra jockey says the past year has set her up to kick on this term.

Nisbet went from bad luck to worse towards the end of last year.

She was suspended for careless riding at the start of October, missed a month of riding with a broken foot in November, then broke her wrist in a trackwork fall soon after her return.

But Nisbet, who hopes to be out of plaster by the end of January, is looking on the bright side.

She joined the David Hayes stable on a three-month loan, which went so well the Melbourne Cup-winning trainer took her on as an apprentice full-time.

Nisbet also got her first taste of the Melbourne spring carnival and rode Sanosuke at Flemington on Victoria Oaks day – one of the biggest programs of the racing year.

”It didn’t end so well, but overall I’ve been really happy with the year,” she said.

”David’s given me a great go and I’ve had quite a lot of winners.

”He gave me a ride over the spring carnival, which was really exciting, so overall it was a really good year.

”I know that when I come back David will give me a good go again and keep putting me on horses.

”I’m pretty confident I can still ride a fair few winners and come back with a good kick.”

In between her suspension and injuries, Nisbet also missed a chance to ride a winner at Caulfield.

Returning from her broken foot, she was set to ride the highly fancied Lord Of The Sky, but missed it after being stuck in traffic on the way to the course.

Lord Of The Sky went on to win easily.

”It was not a very good end to my year actually, it was pretty disappointing,” Nisbet said.

”I had my three hard-luck stories in a row – it was my foot, missing my good ride and now my wrist.

”Hopefully my hard-luck story is out of the way and I can come back and get on a roll.

”That’s the only way to look at it – that it’s bad luck.

”Obviously it’s a dangerous job and you expect to have falls and to break bones in this industry.

”Unfortunately mine happened very close to one another.”

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Canberra families on Sochi alert after bombs

Torah Bright portrait. Photograph supplied by Quiksilver. SHD Travel snow expo special report 2011.two_big_v2_simplelayer.jpg Photo: [email protected]苏州美甲美睫培训学校.auFamilies of local athletes with Winter Olympics medal hopes admit they are concerned by terrorist bombings in Russia, but the mother of defending gold medallist Torah Bright insists the snowboard champion is committed to competing at next month’s Games in Sochi.

Back-to-back blasts in the Russian city of Volgograd have killed at least 31 people, causing anxiety among families of Australia’s winter Olympians.

Bright, from Cooma, is one of the most recognisable faces on the Australian team after winning gold in the half-pipe at Vancouver in 2010.

But the 27-year-old admitted earlier this week she would have to consider her place if threats continued.

”If the political position gets any worse, I sure as hell won’t be risking my safety just for an Olympic Games,” Bright said from her base in Salt Lake City.

”As far as I know, I think it would be OK but I guess we’ll see when the time comes.

”I’m not too worried but if it comes down to countries saying ‘go at your own risk’ I would make a decision that would keep me safe.”

Bright’s mother Marion said suggestions her daughter could boycott the Games were premature and she was merely monitoring the situation.

Torah’s brother and coach Ben also planned to be in Sochi. Her sister Rowena competed at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City, just months after the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

”[Torah] said if these threats were to continue she would have to look carefully at what was going on, because life and limb is not worth sport,” Marion Bright said.

”Yes, it’s a worry, and I think a lot of the athletes and families are worried about the threats that have been made.

”You just don’t dwell on it … she’s quite capable of making her own decisions.”

Bright’s parents won’t attend the Games but said it had nothing to do with safety concerns.

The Australian Olympic Committee issued a statement expressing its confidence ”everything will be done to ensure the security of the athletes and all of the participants of the Olympic Games”.

The mother of Canberra’s other medal prospect, aerial skier Laura Peel, said the situation in Russia was of ”huge concern”.

Teresa Harrington planned to leave Canberra for the US on Friday to follow the final month of her daughter’s build-up to the Games, but she would also be monitoring the situation in Sochi.

She planned to attend the Olympics, along with Peel’s father Bill Peel and her elder brother Stephen.

She said there had not yet been any direct warnings to the families of athletes, but she had faith in the judgment of the Olympic Winter Institute of Australia.

”I’ve been reading it the past couple of days and, yes, it’s a huge concern,” Harrington said.

”I’ll go unless there’s some really major reason to prevent me going. I will be monitoring it and I’ll talk to [Laura] at the time.

”I’m sure the Winter Institute will be monitoring it and they won’t want to put our athletes in danger, I’m quite sure.”

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