Blogger’s note – It’s been too long since we’ve had a voice other than mine protruding from these pages. Enter guest columnist extraordinaire Craig O’Donoghue – footy journalist, footy umpire, Bombers fan, cricket lover, happy bloke, Perth dweller, Victorian.
Enjoy his post, and your forthcoming summer of sport. But of course, don’t forget the AFL!
I spent the weekend in the garden. Yes, I just uttered those words. I had to check because it’s pretty much unheard of.
But some plants which died last summer needed replacing and I had to dig out the weeds which had become infested throughout winter. There was no way I’d do it during the footy season.
Funnily enough, there wasn’t a moment where I felt compelled to check a sporting score. A quick social media check showed me that I wasn’t the only one doing something random.
Just three of my Facebook friends mentioned sporting events that occurred on the weekend. During the AFL season, there’d be three updates from some people during the course of one game!
There was plenty of sport on throughout the weekend. A major golf tournament was on in Perth, the Ryobi Cup cricket, the Champions League T20 matches, A-League soccer, NBL, the Caulfield Cup, V8 Supercars, rugby union and netball.
I’ve had one eye on the Major League Baseball and EPL, while the NBA isn’t far away.
Where’s the passion?!
But the passion and intensity of the footy season is missing. There’s plenty of sport to watch, but there isn’t sport I must watch.
It’s a similar story listening to talk back radio. What do people want to talk about? There’s no clear answer.
Some people are into the horses, others are hanging out for the cricket but it’s not the type of interest which grabs everyone’s imagination.
Meanwhile the AFL has a month long trade period which is keeping their “brand” bubbling along. That’ll be followed by the release of the fixture next week. Gold Coast have already started training. Seriously… on October 22.
You’ll soon see Brendon Goddard running around for the first time in an Essendon jumper at training, Mick Malthouse will be holding court at Carlton and then we’ll have the national draft on November 22. There’ll be issues and controversy and generic interest happening in AFL for a long time yet and people will lap it up.
And that’s the challenge for the other sports. If you didn’t have a bet on the Caulfield Cup, did you care who won? Hell, even if you went, did you watch the race? Plenty don’t.
Are you all in??
Do you have a genuine summer sporting team, or are you a theatre goer who just watches sometimes?
I’m not talking about sport played overseas either. Barracking for Manchester United, the LA Lakers or Green Bay Packers doesn’t count. You can’t wake up tomorrow and decide to attend one of their games.
There’s plenty of local sport going on but how are those codes going to get you to become enthralled by their seasons?
The opportunity is there for a sport to grab people for a summer and not just for a short period. Everyone will watch the spring racing carnival. But they won’t necessarily watch or go to the races in December.
The Australian Tennis Open captivates sports fans for two weeks in January. But hands up who tried to find out the result of Sam Stosur’s match against Caroline Wozniacki in the Kremlin Cup final on Sunday night.
The first cricket test starts on November 9 – three days after the Melbourne Cup. I have a feeling it may arrive before we even realise. On top of that, Year 12 and University students are in the middle of exams. There are lots of distractions.
The second test starts on Thursday November 22. Yes, Thursday. That means days three and four fall on the weekend instead of days two and three. The game could be over half way through Sunday.
The fact it starts on the same day as the AFL draft is a concern. Kids who are yet to play an AFL game are likely to push some of our country’s biggest stars off the back page. It’s not a good look.
The one day games will come and go. Miss one and you know there’ll be more coming up.
The T20 will get people’s hearts racing. You can watch Glenn Maxwell playing. Does anyone know his nickname? No. Neither does the Cricket Australia website. His pocket profile lists his nickname and club as unknown. Make me care!
We’ve got the Big Bash League happening again. The BBL was great last year. It’d be nice if it was shown on free to air TV and if the Australian stars were available for the games all the time. But crowds turn up and love the atmosphere because it’s entertaining and you get a quick result.
There still needs to be some continuity with those teams. Did you barrack for the Sydney Thunder last year and enjoy David Warner belting the ball everywhere? Well, now he’s playing for the Sydney Sixers.
Alessandro Del Piero has created headlines for Sydney FC in the A-League. But I rarely hear people gloating about their A-League teams or talking up an upcoming match. The biggest crowd of the weekend was 19,174. If that happened in the AFL, we’d call it a crisis.
Unfortunately for Australian soccer, the best players will always leave home. My father in law regularly attends Perth Glory matches but he’s far more emotionally invested in Manchester United’s results.
Basketball has the same problem. The Melbourne Tigers posted their biggest crowd in a decade over the weekend – 5256 people. The NBL is an eight team comp and the lack of consistency in clubs over recent years has been a huge problem. Basketball will always compete with the reality that it’s not the NBA too.
But perhaps parochialism is the biggest problem for non-AFL sports. How many basketball or soccer fans barrack for a team in a different state? Everyone barracks for Australia in the cricket. We all barrack for the Aussie playing tennis. It’s not as much fun when there’s no-one to taunt when you win.
Or maybe the AFL is just too clever at making sure it is in the headlines all the time. Maybe they’re just too good at making you care.