January 2, 2015 – 11:45PM
Life and entertainment editor at The Canberra Times
Blonde ambition: Boris Johnson – uber toff, writer, mayor of London – now has his sights set on Parliament and possibly No, 10.
Boris Johnson is apologising for this interview being so late at night. But it’s hardly his fault – he’s in London, taking calls from journalists about his book The Churchill Factor, and it’s about midday over there, which translates to 10.20pm here in Australia. “What’s the weather like? Somebody said it was a bit drizzly in Sydney,” he says. I explain that I’m in Canberra and that it’s a warm summer’s night “Summer! Beautiful! Good!” he says, recalibrating to account for this new information. “I love Canberra, I once spent a night sleeping in a roundabout in Canberra.”
Sorry, Boris, you did what?
“I was driving there and I was about 18 and I got totally lost and I dossed down for the night in a roundabout. Well, I woke up and discovered it was a roundabout,” he explains. He pitched his tent on the roundabout in the middle of the night – an experience that went about as well as you’d expect for a young British kid sleeping in the middle of a Canberra street in the 1980s. “It was terrible. I thought it would be OK, then I got woken up by the traffic and then I looked at my hands, my hands had swollen up like blown-up washing up gloves because I had been so badly bitten.”
Boris Johnson in Melbourne Photo: Joe Armao
The only way this story could be more Canberra would be if a kangaroo had come down Mount Ainslie and boxed him. But no. “All my transactions with kangaroos have been enjoyable.” He’s quite firm on this point.
In the scheme of bizarre things that have happened to Boris Johnson, the roundabout incident’s fairly tame. He’s been stuck on a zipwire for the London Olympics. He’s been a meme. He kissed a baby crocodile named after Prince George. Earlier this month he dissected a cow in Malaysia. He manages to look hilariously awkward and yet chummy in all his photos. There’s the famously floppy straw-coloured hair. And the jobs – editor of The Spectator, mayor of London since 2008, soon to stand for Parliament.
He comes across as an amiable toff, sportingly ready to look silly, full of posh talent. But the amusing anecdotes don’t change the fact that Johnson is a raging Tory pin-up (he once said he cried in the street after learning Margaret Thatcher had been ousted in 1990). There are the quotes about the lower classes – families with lower incomes have children “more likely to become hoodies, NEETs and mug you on the street corner”; and women who go to university (“they’ve got to find men to marry”).
The Churchill Factor.
So who better to write a book about that other Tory pin-up boy, Winston Churchill? Johnson was approached by Churchill’s estate to write The Churchill Factor to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the statesman’s death. “It was a joy to write and I found as I went along so many incredible things about Winston Churchill that are in danger of being forgotten today,” he says. “The point of the book was kind of to explore his character, how he came to be the guy who stood up against the Nazis in 1940, what gave him the psychological strength to make that decision. But also it was a chance to remind people of some of his more extraordinary achievements before 1940: inventing the tank, founding modern Israel, all the stuff, the welfare state, going up in a plane [Churchill was taking flying lessons just 10 years after the Wright brother’s first flight].”
The book isn’t a biography, more a collection of essays examining what Johnson sees as the key aspects of Churchill’s character, life and career. The invention of the tank is one. The concerted charm offensive on Franklin Roosevelt to get America to join the British war effort is another. There’s a chapter on Churchill the visionary of Europe. Another on Churchill the social changemaker, father of the dole. Of course, Johnson declines to draw any links between the man and himself. “I have as much in common with a kalamata olive or a three-toed sloth as I have with Churchill. He’s unique, he’s a one-off fellow, I don’t really feel I can hold a candle to him. I think most modern politicians can’t and that’s a good thing in a way because the times required someone like Churchill and thank goodness our times are rather more peaceful.” And, he says, he does try to deal with Churchill “warts and all and all his catastrophic cock-ups one way or another. I think he did attract… he had huge numbers of enemies but I genuinely think his qualities were outstanding and in the end you’ve got to come down on one side or another. The revisionists, who’ve tried to sully his reputation, attack him for this or that have proved overwhelmingly to be wrong in their facts or missing the point.”
Johnson devotes one chapter to those cock-ups, rating events such as Gallipoli and the disastrous overvaluing of the pound, on a “fiasco factor” of one to 10. On the question of India, for instance, Churchill “doesn’t come out of it at all well”, calling Mahatma Gandhi a semi-naked fakir and holding to the firm belief that the British Raj was a great civilising influence. Johnson is all for the cause of the Commonwealth – in fact, he’s advocating to make it easier for Australians and New Zealanders to migrate to Britain. What would Churchill have made of Britain’s relationship to its former colonies today? “I think Churchill would have been absolutely appalled, the way modern Britain has decided to neglect parts of the Commonwealth,” he says. “I was in Australia not so very long ago and the cultural affinities are so strong and the ties of kinship are so strong and the blood ties are so strong. One of the things I’m campaigning for is greater freedom of movement between Australia and New Zealand and Britain.”
Which is great stuff but the empire was much more than Australia and New Zealand – what about, say, people from the former colonies of India, Pakistan, the West Indies, south-east Asia? This appears to be an issue on which Johnson feels much less strongly. “That is the problem, how would you do it? And indeed people say why not us,” he says, vaguely. “I just think it’s odd that you’d have one rule for 27 European countries and a ban – a very difficult regime for Australians and New Zealanders who fought so heroically.”
You get the sense, reading the book, that writing it was no special hardship for Johnson – a subject he adores, no shortage of research material, his undeniably excellent literary skills at full flourish. He had free rein at Blenheim, the Churchill family palace, cycling down to forgotten cemeteries to visit graves and wandering through the backstairs of the palace to see the tiny room where Churchill was born. Johnson, understandably, devotes a chapter to Churchill the uber-Tory, describing with great vim his halo-like effect on generations of young, ambitious Conservative lads who copy his style, call on him for good luck as one would a favourite saint. And there’s plenty of material for Churchill the lad – his bravery under fire, the derring-do in various wars, his success with the ladies.
Even his writing. “[Churchill] would drink phenomenal quantities of wine – red, white – at dinner and then he would have brandy, whatever, and then he would get up from dinner with a cigar and he would go and and dictate absolutely perfect stuff, peerless prose hour after hour.” An army of secretaries took his dictation at all hours of the night, transcribing the Churchillian prose even while the man himself sat in the bath. “I can’t think of anyone who can do that, I mean, can you do that?” Johnson asks. It would be splendid to try, but the Fairfax accounting system is diabolical enough without trying to explain to some bean counter why there are receipts for hot baths, cigars and a bevy of amanuenses.
Johnson himself has a much more sedate writing style. “I write at my desk, normal methods of composition: pen, paper, and then type,” he says. “I don’t do what he did.” Boris might be the man of the moment but even for him Churchill will be a hard act to follow.
The Churchill Factor, by Boris Johnson. (Hachette. $32.99.)
Source : The Sydney Morning Herald
January 2, 2015 – 10:15PM
Point to make: Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick has impressed with Wellington. Photo: Getty Images
Josep Gombau didn’t show a great deal of respect towards Ernie Merrick as his Adelaide United side starting sliding towards defeat on New Year’s Eve. It wasn’t the first time Gombau has strayed into the opposition zone and it probably won’t be the last. The A-League’s youngest coach is clearly a man in a hurry but he’d be best advised to show a few more manners along the way.
The Spaniard will claim otherwise, and Merrick is too canny to be drawn into a slanging match, but let’s just say the A-League’s elder statesman would have enjoyed putting the young upstart in his place.
Gombau’s victory jig right in front of the bench when the Reds won with the last kick of the game earlier in the season hasn’t been forgotten by the Wellington Phoenix camp. Which is why – and after so many previous travails in Adelaide – this was a win worth savouring.
Don’t say it too loud but as the season heads into the Asian Cup break, the Phoenix are looking like the real deal. For the past 15 years various New Zealand teams have been playing in Australian competitions – both the NSL and A-League – and it’s the first time the Kiwis have looked like genuine contenders. Sooner or later, the respect will have to come.
The second coming of Merrick is what’s changed everything. On so many levels, this is a marriage made in heaven. The only coach to have won two championships has often felt underappreciated, even underrated. Those sentiments are shared by the Phoenix. Every time they jump on a plane they have a point to prove and Merrick identifies with the siege mentality.
Working away from the sort of scrutiny he faced at Melbourne Victory, Merrick gets the time and space to foster the spirit inside the dressing room. The Phoenix aren’t just a good team, they’re a tight one. It’s easy to get the Kiwis fired up about playing against Australians but it takes a bit more intuition to motivate an eclectic bunch of foreigners to rise to each and every occasion.
There is no better example of Merrick’s man-management skills than Kenny Cunningham, who scored his first goal of the season in Adelaide after getting his first start of the season.
It would have been easy for the Costa Rican international to have left the club when countryman Carlos Hernandez departed at the end of last season. It would have been even easier for Cunningham to become a malign influence this season when he found himself so far down the pecking order, often reduced to a handful of minutes off the bench.
Yet Cunningham has been thoroughly professional, and proved more than useful even in his fleeting appearances. Those are the signs that tell you a team can go a long way.
Merrick feels it but is unlikely to shout it from the rooftops. He’s enjoying making the most of the element of surprise.
Truth is, it’s doubtful whether he has ever felt more comfortable in his long coaching career. The 61-year-old Scot sees a lot of himself in the Kiwi mentality. He loves the country as much as the people. Amazingly, he doesn’t even mind the Wellington weather.
There’s still a part of Merrick that’s hurt by the manner of his departure from the Victory. When he left to take over the Hong Kong national team, the feeling was that would be the last the A-League would see of him. But he has returned with a level of experience, knowledge and wisdom unmatched by any other coach in the competition. And it shows.
Wellington may or may not sustain a title challenge. My feeling is they will. But either way Merrick has shown that an old dog can learn new tricks, proving why ageism in coaching in this country is such a folly. There’s a lot to gain from breaking down those barriers and getting due respect from your colleagues is a good place to start.
Source : The Canberra Times
January 2, 2015 – 7:09PM
Calming influence: Shannon Cole is directed by security away from fans after the match against Central Coast Mariners.
Western Sydney Wanderers defender Shannon Cole says he understands why his club’s fans are so upset – and that he actually knew the supporter who appeared to seek a physical altercation after Thursday night’s nil-all draw with Central Coast Mariners at Parramatta Stadium.
The ugly scene unfolded when the Wanderers players went over to applaud their fans following another disappointing result, an outcome that extends their winless A-League run way back to last season’s grand final on May 3.
But as Cole made his way over to the main fan group, the Red and Black Bloc, one boisterous supporter tried to jump the fence to confront the defender, with the man held back by security as Cole too was led away.
“There was just a couple of people questioning the players’ efforts. I just wanted to go over and chat with them – I didn’t want to start an argument or anything. I just wanted to remind them that the boys are putting in day-in, day-out at training and on the field on game day and that we’ll get through this together, as a team and a club,” Cole told Fairfax Media on Friday. “The majority of people were telling us they would stick by us no matter what, that we’re all united, and that’s what we want.
“That’s why I wanted to go and talk to those few who weren’t saying that. But I understand their frustration. It’s not that they shouldn’t be upset, and I told them that we’re as frustrated as you are. The fact they were really targeting the players for a supposed lack of effort – I just didn’t think that was fair.”
Although the Wanderers haven’t been playing badly, they’ve failed to convert the myriad opportunities that have come their way in recent times – domestically at least – and the support of the fans is finally showing signs of cracking, despite winning the Asian Champions League only two months ago.
Before kick-off, the Red and Black Bloc held up a banner that read: “Fight like your fans”, indicating a perceived lack of effort on behalf of the players.
In relation to his exchange with the volatile supporter, Cole said the incident probably looked worse on television than it actually was and that he never felt threatened.
“I want to stress that the overwhelming majority were very supportive of us and they understand that it’s a tough run for the players to go through as well. Most of the people appreciated that,” he said. “It was mostly positive to be honest. Just because a few people were behaving aggressively probably made it look worse than it was.
“That fan [who attempted to jump the fence], he’s fine – I’ve spoken to him before. He was just a bit upset. It definitely wasn’t as though we were going to fight or anything. It was probably because there was security between us and he wanted to get a bit closer and say his piece.”
The Wanderers are hopeful the incident might even be the catalyst to spark a turnaround in form as they seek to make an improbable charge towards the finals.
“As players, we were just gutted to go another week without a win,” Cole said. “After the team went over to the RBB, we actually came away feeling together and positive. We’ve got Melbourne Victory at home on Tuesday – we all know how good they are playing at the moment – and we now need our fans to get behind us if we’re to get the result we all want.”
Source :^The Canberra Times
January 2, 2015 – 7:13PM
Beware the wounded animal: Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold is wary of a Newcastle side humiliated 5-2 by Melbourne City ahead of Saturday’s clash in Wollongong. Photo: James Alcock
Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold has warned his players that the Newcastle Jets, fresh from being humiliated 5-2 by Melbourne City on home soil during the week, will be out for revenge at WIN Stadium on Saturday night.
While the Jets would seem little or no chance of making the finals after winning just one of their opening 13 matches, the manner in which they were destroyed by a Robert Koren-inspired City outfit appeared to signal the mood of a team that had hit rock bottom.
That’s left Arnold more than a little nervous as he prepares to make the trip down the highway for the match in Wollongong.
“The first thing we have to do is look at our own performance and stick to our game plan but, for Newcastle, there’s two ways of reacting after a heavy loss like that,” he said. “One is to come out firing, wanting to prove people wrong, or to be still sulking. But I know [coach] Phil Stubbins, and players like Joel Griffiths, Ben Kantarovski and David Carney, and they’ll be looking for redemption.”
However, the Sky Blues badly need a result themselves, having failed to win in the past month and losing track of the top four. A nil-all draw against Brisbane Roar did little to inspire confidence – although it did at least bring a clean sheet.
“We don’t want to put emphasis on one certain game but this is a game we want to win. It’s a game we’re going out to win. At this moment, we’re still going over the players to see how they pulled up after the Brisbane match,” Arnold said. “There’s no excuses. We have an obligation to our supporters to fight and perform for 90 minutes. It was pretty warm in Brisbane the other night but it was a step forward.”
It’s the first elite competitive league match played in Wollongong since the demise of the Wollongong Wolves, with the final match taking place at WIN Stadium on April 29, 2004. Ironically, the Jets – then just known as Newcastle United – were the opponent that day, as the Wolves farewelled the National Soccer League with a 3-0 win.
While the region has provided ample numbers of A-League players in recent years – most recently giving Sydney FC gun teenage left-back Alex Gersbach – many are viewing this as a dry run as Football Federation Australia contemplates expanding the A-League. A big crowd would give head office plenty to think about by way of an expansion club in the Illawarra.
However, Arnold is confident the crowd will be very much pro-Sydney FC.
“It’s a ground-breaking day, the first A-League game ever in Wollongong, and we’ve got a lot of supporters down in the south,” he said. “Hopefully they turn up in good numbers.”
The Sky Blues’ coach is still reeling from the events of late 2014 when he lost four players to season-ending injuries, leaving him short-staffed over the festive period. However, new signings are imminent, with ex-Fulham midfielder Mickael Tavares said to be the main target.
“We’re a long way down the path with a former international player, who has a good pedigree,” Arnold said. “We’re just waiting for the final tick on that as an injury replacement player. If that happens, we’ll be very happy. He’s a number 6, a defensive midfielder.
“Milos Dimitrijevic and Terry Antonis have done a great job in there but they’re both attack-minded, so I need someone who can come in and add a bit of bite to the midfield, which is what you need in the A-League these days. I’m looking at one foreigner and one local player to bring some extra depth and get back to where we were in pre-season with two players for every position.”
Source : The Canberra Times
January 2, 2015 – 10:00PM
Aziz Behich is back in his home town and feeling good.
The left back traded the freezing weather of Turkey for Melbourne’s scorching heat, but the source of his optimism is a feeling that Australia can go all the way in the Asian Cup, which starts with the Socceroos clash with Kuwait on Friday.
Behich, who has played for both of Melbourne’s A-League teams before a stint at Turkish Super League club Bursaspor, said the players sensed there was nothing stopping them winning the Asian Cup if everything went to plan, but warned that every team in the competition was strong and would prove to be tough opponents.
“Being on home soil, it’s an advantage, as well as having the crowd behind us, I think we’ll use that,” he said.
He had been called up to play for the Socceroos previously, but lost the interest of selectors after moving overseas.
“It feels good to be back, being involved in the national team, playing for your country is a good feeling,” he said
Behich struggled when he first left the then Melbourne Heart (now City) to play for Bursaspor in 2013.
Returning to Australia on a season-long loan, he impressed with the Heart then travelled back to Turkey for another crack at his dream of playing in Europe.
It was an easier move the second time around Behich said, because he went in more familiar with Bursaspor and its culture.
He also got much more attention and, consequently, game time.
“It’s always hard getting transferred mid-season when the team’s doing well, [but] a lot’s changed with the club, a new coach and different views,” he said.
Playing in the A-League in the meantime was the right choice, because it was an opportunity to get a good amount of match time, rather than sitting on the sidelines.
“It’s difficult for a player if you’re not playing,” he said.
“I think it was the right time for me just to get back, to keep my legs ticking over and get some games under my belt.”
Behich is slated to play left back for the Socceroos, but like other players, was adamant no position was safe as the team entered a week of training in preparation for the Kuwait match.
He said the team was very confident about their chances in the tournament opener and wanted not only to win, but to win well.
“Obviously the important thing is to win but we’ve got a style that we want to play as a team,” he said.
The Socceroos trained an hour earlier than usual at the Westpac Centre, Collingwood AFL club’s training ground on Friday, in an attempt to avoid the heat of a scorching Melbourne day.
It was a significant change for Behich, who had left freezing weather in Turkey just days ago.
But long range Bureau of Meteorology forecasts suggest the Socceroos may battle hot weather in the lead up to the big match, predicting a 34 degree day on Wednesday and 33 on Thursday.
Source : The Brisbane Times
Socceroo skipper Mile Jedinak on Friday warned his new teammates: take nothing for granted, don’t get too far ahead of yourself and treat every game as if it is your last.
The Crystal Palace captain, who knows a thing or two about tense, sudden-death soccer and all-or-nothing clashes with plenty on the line, believes Australia can make a big impact at the Asian Cup.
To do so, however, the players have to believe in themselves, their coaches’ system and tackle each game on its merits.
Australia opens the tournament against Kuwait at AAMI Park next Friday evening, a game that, on paper, looks straightforward.
But opening matches in major tournaments, especially involving the host nation, tend to have their own dynamic, and this one will be no different.
The Kuwaitis will be up for it, desperate to bloody the host’s nose, while the Socceroos, anxious to get off to a winning start, will also be heeding coach Ange Postecoglou’s message that he wants his side to succeed by playing the game in the right style.
“Every game is going to be treated like a Cup final, it’s in tournament mode,” said Jedinak.
“Do I believe we will be ready January 9. Absolutely.”
He accepts that the Socceroos, through their host status and because of their footballing achievements, will have a large target painted on their back.
“Teams are going to want to do well against the host nation. Everyone wants to do well against the country where it’s held. We have to expect that, it’s part of the game, you have to expect that in every game. It shouldn’t matter, you need to have that sort of mentality.
“The pass mark for me is to get through the first game. You are getting ahead of yourself by looking too far ahead; I am not one to look way too far. I like to take things day by day and see where you go from there.”
The team, he says, have fully bought into Postecoglou’s philosophy and will work as one in trying to achieve his aims, having honed his game plan in several post-World Cup friendlies. While they might not be perfect yet, they are getting there, the captain says.
“We do everything as a unit, we have definitely shown that we can all defend … I think it’s been instilled in us from a very early time. The longer you spend with each other the more practice you can put into what’s being asked of us.
“We showed that we have got it (in parts). Have we got it for a full 90 minutes; probably up to this point I don’t think so.
“I have seen the progression in the past 12 months, not just with individuals but the collective.”
Jedinak insists that the drama at Selhurst Park, where Neil Warnock was sacked as the Eagles’ boss at Christmas and is due to be replaced by Alan Pardew, will not be a distraction for him.
“I left that behind me once I boarded the flight. I went with everybody at the club’s best wishes. I know the boys will be all right, I will keep in regular contact. The focus is on here.
“This was an important tournament for me, everyone at the club understood that. You have to be 100 per cent committed to that.”
Source : The Canberra Times
January 2, 2015 – 7:51PM
Senior sports reporter with The Age
Mile Jedinak is still coming to terms with the new time zone in which he has landed. Photo: Reuters
When Mile Jedinak took over as Socceroos captain just before the World Cup he cut a slightly hesitant, almost downbeat figure.
No one questioned his credentials as a player – he had, after all, been a virtual ever- present in the national team for several years – but as a frontman he came across as rather diffident, almost shy. Definitely the sort of skipper who would rather his performance do his talking.
By his own admission the 30-year-old is still not the most effusive of characters. His answers tend to be factual rather than expansive, honest and to the point rather than expressive and rambling.
But like his national team coach, Ange Postecoglou, the Crystal Palace skipper has grown into the job.
Where once he seemed slightly embarrassed by the attention, he now looks, if not happy to be in the media spotlight, at least comfortable knowing that he can cope with the glare of the cameras and the questions, some incisive, some, inevitably, inane, most variations on a familiar theme, that he must address.
Being the national team captain is about more than playing on the pitch. Jedinak, a tall, lean figure, in a way embodies that athletic, slim, wiry and tough Australian of yore, the laconic, terse but highly independent and competent character of the Aussie cliche, a man of few words defined by his actions.
But as the demands of the modern media and the modern game have changed the way football is played and reported, so those involved at the sharp end have been forced to adapt, and the former Central Coast Mariners midfielder appears to have picked things up pretty well.
On Friday, just a couple of days after arriving in camp to join his teammates, Jedinak was still coming to terms with the new time zone in which he had landed.
He had only just checked how his Crystal Palace teammates had got on in their EPL game (a scoreless draw away at Aston Villa – the sort of blue-collar encounter that would have suited his purposeful style perfectly) and was awaiting confirmation of the new regime at Selhurst Park, where former Newcastle boss Alan Pardew, himself a hardworking former Palace midfielder, was due to take the hot seat as the replacement for Neil Warnock, sacked just after Christmas. But his demeanour when facing the media reflected that of someone now much more at home in the role of Socceroos skipper.
Jedinak came across as a player who has grown in stature not just because of his performances on the pitch – and there has been great praise for his tireless work and the quality of his efforts as Palace consolidated themselves in the Premiership last season – but because of the way he has taken on the responsibility of leading what is, with a handful of exceptions, a young, inexperienced and enthusiastic Australian squad.
As Palace skipper he is used to navigating in the ferocious British media seas where the sharks of the tabloids swim, so he has come from a tough school. But the impression he gave on Friday is that he is now, in a way, quite enjoying being in the Socceroo spotlight.
“I don’t think you can ever get too comfortable with these cameras and questions, but it’s part and parcel of modern football, you need to get comfortable with it in some way, shape or form. You just have to get on with it. If that’s coming across as more relaxed and more comfortable then I must be doing something right. You do it often enough now being involved in the Premier League,” he said as he ruminated on the nature of this particular aspect of footballing fame.
“It’s a combination of things. When you get to a certain level you have a certain deal of belief in yourself. It just reinforces that even further, gaining the respect of teammates. But it doesn’t take an armband to do that. Anyone who knows me or who has worked with me knows I just go about my day-to-day business as it is and try to treat every day with the same sort of intensity and professionalism as I can, because that’s all I know. That’s what’s got me to this point in my career,” he says.
The pressure will be on him more than the rest of the squad as the Asian Cup kick-off against Kuwait next Friday looms closer.
Australia might have gone to the World Cup as romantic underdogs bearing little expectation. This time they will wear the burden of hope for the nation, and while they are not necessarily favourites they are expected to be among those contesting the prize in the final days of the tournament. The captain believes they can surprise the doomsayers who, with an eye on recent results, predict failure.
“I think 100 per cent we have got the right blend. We know what’s happened in the last year, in all the games it’s all been built up towards this point. It’s great to be amongst it, you can see the buzz around the group, the boys are just looking to get out there and do the job. The preparations have been put into place for a very long time. now we are finally here … we are ready to do the job.
“I think it was great having the World Cup so soon before this tournament … it got a lot of the squad to see what a tournament environment feels like and what we could expect going forward. Everyone will get familiar with it quite quickly.”
Source : The Canberra Times
January 2, 2015 – 11:23PM
Senior sports reporter with The Age
Perth Glory 2 Melbourne Victory 1
Andy Keogh of Perth Glory scores as Adrian Leijer of Melbourne Victory tries to defend in vain during the A-League match in Geelong on Friday. Photo: Getty Images
Just after Melbourne City had ground out a 1-1 draw with pace-setting Perth Glory on Boxing Day, City’s captain Paddy Kisnorbo described the West Australians as similar to a battle hardened side from England’s Championship.
Kisnorbo, a veteran of several seasons in that division with Leicester and Leeds, is a reliable witness. So when he says Glory embody those yeoman virtues of toughness, character, commitment and a readiness to roll their sleeves up and fight for every ball, he should be trusted.
But Kenny Lowe’s team is more than simply a physically intimidating, disciplined and well-organised group who are making the most of their opportunities.
Chris Harold knocks in the second goal for Perth Glory. Photo: Getty Images
They can play a bit too and hit fast and lethally on the counter-attack, taking their chances before shutting the game down – as Melbourne Victory discovered to their cost on a warm night in Geelong, when they became the latest side to fall to Perth’s efficient, effective ensemble, going down by a 2-1 margin.
Perth have had to work hard to convince the doubters that they are the real deal. Season after season (bar one grand final appearance) of serial under-achievement has dented the faith not just of the locals, but the club’s credibility on the eastern seaboard.
But this season, under English coach Lowe, whose sometimes lugubrious expression belies a wisecracking, if occasionally mordant, wit, Glory have become the A-League’s surprise hit story.
Few were tipping them for finals glory at the season launch back in October, and Lowe was happy to talk them down in a Heepish fashion, saying they wanted to win their home games and simply improve on the road and be hard to beat outside Perth.
But a rebirth there has been: with this triumph over their closest pursuers, Glory has now stretched their lead at the top of the table to seven points. They are already assured of playing finals football and must now be confident that they hold a great chance of hosting the grand final in front of their own fans.
Kisnorbo was right. Glory are tough and disciplined. They give away a lot of free kicks, they don’t mind letting the other team have the ball, and they don’t have many shots. The half-time statistics showed that Victory had enjoyed 60 per cent of possession, and had had eight shots to Glory’s two. Yet it was Perth who led by two clear goals.
That they did was a testament to their strengths. In Andy Keogh, the former Republic of Ireland striker, they have a big, strong, mobile target man who can hold the ball up, bring others into the game and also take responsibility for scoring himself.
In Nebojsa Marinkovic they have a talented, technical midfielder from the Balkans, a player who can hit a long or short pass with precision and a dead ball with menace.
The pair combined to set up the first goal on nine minutes. Ruben Zadkovich turned well and made space before finding Marinkovic in the clear.
The Serb pinged a long ball over the top which Victory defender Adrian Leijer made a hash of clearing. Keogh stole in, controlled the ball and had the pace and power to hold off Leijer’s renewed challenge before firing past Nathan Coe.
Seven minutes later Glory had doubled their advantage, and again the out of sync Victory defence made a major contribution.
Marinkovic again played a pass, this time on the ground, which bisected the hosts’ defence: Coe came charging out to clear, made a hash of things and the ball fell nicely to Chris Harold, who stroked into an empty net.
Victory had a handful of chances to reduce the deficit in the opening half, Archie Thompson having the best, but he could only shoot straight at Danny Vukovic.
From that point on Victory huffed and puffed, but Perth erected a purple wall that the hosts could not breach – until referee Shaun Evans awarded them a 56th minute penalty when Scott Jamieson upended Gui Finkler in the penalty area after the Brazilian had been played through by Leigh Broxham.
Besart Berisha beat Vukovic from the spot to put his team back in the game.
Kosta Barbarouses and Berisha then combined, but could not get past Vukovic. At the other end, Coe proved equal to Harold’s shot after defender Nick Ansell lost possession in a dangerous area.
Berisha’s driving run with five minutes left took him past three defenders but his shot flashed wide. That was as close as Victory was to come as Perth began the New Year as they finished the old – as the team to catch.
January 2, 2015 – 6:49PM
Sports reporter at The Canberra Times
Lauren Jackson in action during her last game for the Capitals in Canberra on February 21, 2010. Photo: GARY SCHAFER
Australian basketball superstar Lauren Jackson has opened up about her “absolutely shocking” knee injury in China that has forced her off the court for the past 12 months.
Jackson will play her first game in 1779 days as a member of the Canberra Capitals at the AIS Arena when she suits up for Sunday’s encounter with the Dandenong Rangers.
The four-time Olympian made her long-awaited comeback to the WNBL in the Capitals’ 73-70 win against the Adelaide Lightning on December 19.
Jackson was rested from Friday night’s trip to face the top of the table Townsville Fire, with her knee unable to handle the load of two games in 48 hours.
Townsville won 106-58, making it the second biggest defeat in Capitals history.
Having recovered from the crippling hamstring injury that ruled her out of the entire 2012-13 season with the Capitals, Jackson was recapturing her best form with Heilongjiang Shenda in the Women’s Chinese Basketball Association.
She was averaging 22 points and 9.5 rebounds a game when she felt her knee “crack” in a game at the end of January.
After having two weeks off, Jackson aggravated the injury from a jump ball.
“My knee cracked and I couldn’t run, I knew it was gone,” Jackson said.
“I flew back to Australia straight away, saw the doctor and found out I tore everything in the lateral part of my knee and broke the bone as well.
“The worst thing was they wouldn’t sub me out, I’ve never been in so much pain in my life. It was absolutely shocking.”
Jackson was on track to represent the Opals at this year’s world championships before she re-tore the same knee in May.
She has no regrets, however, about her playing stint in China, knowing it gave her the belief that she was capable of once again being a force on the court.
“It was the season where I came back from my hamstring, I got really fit and I was playing really good basketball,” Jackson said. “By the time my knee finally went, I was back to my old self, confident, doing things I hadn’t done since I was in my 20s.
“It was important for me to have that experience because I know I can still get there. That was a particular nasty injury.
“Whenever I get a twinge on the side of my knee, I am so frightened of doing it again. It’s one of those things I had to get through.”
Jackson registered 13 points on 3-9 shooting in 15 minutes off the bench in her first game since leaving China.
But more importantly, the 33-year-old, once regarded as the best female basketballer on the planet, added an inside presence defensively and provided support to MVP candidate Abby Bishop.
It will be the second game Jackson has played in her $1 million, three-season deal with the Capitals.
She missed her first season because of the hamstring injury.
It will also be her first game in Canberra since February 21, 2010, when the Capitals beat the Fire 70-39 in a semi-final.
That was the Capitals’ most recent championship after Jackson joined mid-season on a $220,000 contract for the final 12 games.
Jackson credits her long-time coach Carrie Graf and veteran point guard Kristen Veal with providing her with plenty of support.
“Graffy and Vealy have been my rocks this year and the Caps have been like family,” Jackson said.
“Everyone has said to keep pushing. To be honest, my motivation hasn’t wavered, it’s probably got stronger this year.
“The more rehab you do and the more work you do in the gym makes you want to be on the court more. Told you’re not ready makes you hungrier.
“I’ve been so fortunate that my teammates have been an unbelievable support. I just hope I can help them win and get through to the play-offs and see where we go from there.”
Jackson is honest enough to know her offensive game is a work in progress.
She’s not at the level yet where she can dominate games, but at 1.98 metres, she is always going to have the presence and experience to trouble teams.
“With Canberra it’s not so much about what I do personally, I want to help the team win,” Jackson said.
“I want to make sure I can help the girls win and help the team get better. “That’s the main thing for me. So long as I can be on the court, be a presence and play some defence.
“I feel that sometimes we struggle defensively, that’s where I want to be able to help out. Abby’s been carrying the load, but it showed in the fourth quarter when she was out, we were able to score, which we haven’t been able to do in a while.”
Jackson has logged plenty of basketball miles on her clock.
She was in the Australian under-20s team when she was 14, and progressed to the Opals two years later. She’s often played back-to-back club competitions whether it be in Asia, the US where she enjoyed huge success with the Seattle Storm in the WNBA, in Europe or in the WNBL with the Capitals.
She’s played in four Olympic Games, carried the Australian team flag in London and has a desire for an international swansong in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
Jackson has one more season left on her deal with the Capitals in 2015-16, and hasn’t closed the door on playing beyond that. What she does know, however, is that the days of pushing her body through continous summers are finished. She has to be smarter with where and when she plays so she can continue to contribute and win more championships before calling time on her illustrious career.
“I still have that desire to be who I want to be,” Jackson said. “I’m really glad I still have that because it’s going to take me a long way in the next couple of years.
“I can’t control what people are going to say or think. It was more frustrating not to play, but at the end of the day, a contract’s a contract.
“People are going to get injured and I’ve had some pretty bad injuries the last two years. It’s more the pressure I put on myself getting back.”
Source : The Canberra Times