There’s nothing in that Michael Clarke story: I’ve heard that one before

Oh cricket. It’s a funny game.

In early 2009, this journalist was told of an incident in the dressing rooms at the SCG after a Test match. According to several sources, Australian opener Simon Katich had grabbed Michael Clarke by the throat following a major misunderstanding about the singing of the team song and Clarke’s desire to be with then-fiancee Lara Bingle.

That story was initially denied, and then confirmed, but then played down. Move on, nothing to see here. In the end, it exposed a major division in the Australian side that has only really been healed in the last year or so.

Fairfax Media this week shone a light on the fact that Clarke is on a collision course with Cricket Australia officials over his selection in the World Cup. We also highlighted the fact that the team is more than settled under Steve Smith.

The aftermath? Not one soul from Cricket Australia or the Clarke camp has denied any of it.

There is much more to this episode, with division between some WAGs (wives and girlfriends) of certain players also affecting team relations. We won’t go into those details at this stage, but it smacks of history repeating, does it not?

Some rate Clarke an “even money” chance of passing a fitness test on February 21 to make the World Cup squad, of which he will be captain. Those closer to him aren’t so sure because the benchmarks already set for those tests mean he must be fitter than he was as a 23-year-old. In other words, Cricket Australia has set him up to fail. Extraordinary.

Until then, will we see images of Clarke batting and running every day as we have all summer, as he wages a very public campaign to play in the World Cup? Probably.

There is no disputing Clarke’s courage, nor his standing as arguably the world’s best batsman when he’s fit. In terms of tactical nous, is there a better captain on the international scene?

No, as always, the issue comes down to a clash of personalities. Some of it is justified, some of it is not. I really don’t know the guy well enough.

There are many stakeholders in the game who just want all the relevant parties, from Clarke to high performance manager Pat Howard, chairman of selectors Rod Marsh and coach Darren Lehmann, to sit down and hug it out.

From there, surely the ideal situation would be for Clarke to give up on the World Cup, really concentrate on rehabbing his hamstrings and lower back, and then make an avalanche of runs as Australia retains the Ashes.

He could finish his career in style, with his standing in the lofty place it deserves to be, and we never have to discuss this ugly mess ever again.

Plane speaking

Jarryd who? Hayne Plane what?

Legendary wide receiver Terrell Owens has no idea who former Parramatta fullback Jarryd Hayne is or about his dream of playing in the NFL, but he says he can make it.

“Who?” asked the charismatic Owens, who was the special guest at an intimate lunch at the SCG on Thursday ahead of next week’s Super Bowl. “What position does he play?”

Told that Hayne wants to make it as a running back or fullback, the former San Francisco superstar said: “Number one, I wish him the best of luck. If he’s a guy with a lot of confidence, if he makes it, he’ll be a trendsetter. Playing football is a physical sport. You look at what rugby does, it’s very tough. The position he’s going for, running back and fullback, that’s one of those positions where you have to be tough, you have to be gritty and hit some guys.”

What about the fact that Hayne has never played the game?

“It’s easy to understand, in terms of the fullback and what they do,” Owens said. “If he can grasp that concept of running your plays, blocking the right people, and really protecting the quarterback, he can make it.”

Owens was made an honorary member of the Sydney Roosters, with a special tri-colours jersey presented to him by retired captain Anthony Minichiello.

Secrets in Seattle

Rumours have run strong all summer about a confrontation between Parramatta teammates Darcy Lussick and Corey Norman on the first night of their study trip of Seattle last year. It allegedly occurred during a night out to celebrate Melbourne Cup day.

Eels coach Brad Arthur “categorically” denied anything untoward happened when contacted. But the speculation has buzzed around the club for months – and now on social media – that something went down.

Whatever it was, it was seemingly inconsequential. More like boys just being boys.

Reach for the Sky

The ugly and drawn-out battle for broadcast rights between TAB Corp – which owns Sky Channel – and TVN is expected to be over by March. That is likely to see TVN dissolved, and one of the hottest topics in racing is where that will leave host Richard Callander.

The big fella has been a harsh critic of Sky Channel’s coverage and presenters for many years. There is much hand-wringing behind the scenes about whether Callander should now get a gig there.

It’s difficult to see TAB Corp wanting him given the animosity he’s directed at Sky. The ATC, who is a part owner of TVN, wants him to have a role. Stay tuned, as they say.

(Disclaimer: this reporter is contracted to TAB Corp’s Sky Sports Radio).

No salary caps here

Club bosses are relatively pleased about Shane Richardson’s elevation to mahogany row at the NRL, because they know he has skin in the game and will actually make a decision. What they are angry about is the amount of cash being splashed around by NRL chief executive Dave Smith on executive appointments.

They are wondering how head of football Todd Greenberg keeps his job, on more than $700,000 a year, now that the former South Sydney boss has come in.

Still on Richardson, he flies out this weekend for a self-funded study trip to the Super Bowl between the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks in Arizona. He’ll then meet with NFL suits in New York.

The height of summer

Finally, a quick recap of the standout moments in sport during the past five weeks since we last met …

The sound of rugby league’s “Phantom Siren” – a close friend of the late Phillip Hughes – reverberating around the SCG on the fourth day of the Sydney Test showed that all is good in the world.

Stop the fight. This is the quote of the year, from Oregon coach Mark Helfrich about quarterback Marcus Mariota, despite the loss to Ohio State in the US college championship: “Around our neck of the woods, it’s like Madonna or Cher. It’s ‘Marcus’. His name is an adjective.”

It’s safe to assume that Robert Allenby hit his head on something during a night out in Hawaii. After that, choose your own adventure. Robert says he wants the truth to come out. If our PGA Tour sources are right, he might not want it to.

A-League farewell still on the cards, but not yet for Cahill

It seems like yesterday that FFA chief executive David Gallop pulled the trigger and fired Holger Osieck after the Socceroos suffered a 6-0 flogging against France in Paris.

That was October 2013. Now the Socceroos and Osieck’s replacement, Ange Postecolgou, are on the verge of claiming the Asian Cup, the biggest piece of international silverware they’ve ever been so close to securing.

Front and centre of the campaign has been Tim Cahill.

After the World Cup in Brazil, there was some nagging doubt about whether he’d play in the tournament. Then he goes and produces a stunning goal from an overhead scissor kick against China, which was equally as spectacular as his screaming left-foot volley against the Netherlands in Brazil.

He has deflected all the praise directed at his 35-year-old bones in the last few weeks, but there’s no disputing his significance to the growth of the game here as much as the Socceroos brand – even those close to him say they’ve no idea if he’ll ever play in the A-League. “Keeps his cards close to his chest on that stuff,” is the universal line whenever you ask the question.

But we can already envision FFA godfather Frank Lowy – who arrived just after kick-off for the semi-final against UAE in Newcastle via helicopter – opening the purse strings to ensure a final fling from Cahill.

The Socceroos camp believe reports on the day of the semi that Cahill was set to leave the New York Red Bulls and transfer to a United Arab Emirates club were solely designed to disrupt the Australians.

It seems more likely that Cahill will soak up some more mega dollars overseas before a farewell tour in the A-League – a fitting end for our greatest Socceroo.

Q & A: Ken Nagas

The 41-year-old Canberra Raiders legend will turn back the clock when he takes the field in the Auckland Nines this weekend.

When I think about your career back in the day, I think of length-of-the-field tries and nobody laying a finger on you. How many can we expect?

Honestly, you won’t get any.

Come on.

It might be hard. I’m not too nervous. I might be on Saturday morning. I feel like I’ve covered enough training over the last four months to get me through enough minutes each half. The idea was flagged after the Nines last year. I made a decision after the season finished. I’m an assistant with the 20s, but I’ve been doing a lot of training on my own. Surprisingly, the knees are OK.

Have you spoken to Brad Fittler at all after he played last year?

I haven’t, but watching him and Beaver [Steve Menzies] play last year gave me some incentive.

Which forward will you be trying to avoid out there?

I’ll be doing as much as I can not to get tackled, or to make a tackle! Freddy scored last year so I have to at least score a try.

Now, I vividly recall your spectacular try in the 1994 grand final from a Paul Osborne round-the-corner pass.

Ozzie reminds me of that every time I speak to him. He still says he should’ve got the Clive Churchill [Medal] that day. My god: that was 20 years ago.

What about the famous try against St George?

What happened was it was around Origin time and I was filling in for Brett Mullins at fullback. They kicked it down to our tryline, someone came through to make a tackle and they ripped the cord on my pants. I ran 10 metres before they started to fall down. I had to hold them up as I ran down field.

What do you do these days?

I’m in the victim’s liaison team with the Australian Federal Police. I see a lot of domestic violence stuff. Some of the stuff we hear and put up with is not nice. But you always want to help someone in that position.


“Get out of the bar.” – So said one elderly female autograph hunter to Robert Allenby as he showed his slightly improved but still bruised face at the TPC Scottsdale tournament. “I wasn’t in a bar,” he shot back.


Twenty20 cricket leaves some of us feeling cheap and used, and not in the good way. But this instalment of the Big Bash has been dynamite, all the way up to the Scorchers winning the title on the last ball of the final, with Sixers’ veteran Brett Lee sitting on a hat-trick on the final ball of his career. Fabulous stuff.


If Australian tennis wasn’t so starved of success in the men’s game, would we be so accepting of the schoolyard antics of Nick Kyrgios at the Australian Open? Bagging linespeople, abusing fans, dropping the F-bomb to worldwide TV audiences? Yes, he’s 19. Yes, he’s a showman. But let’s hope the right people get in his ear soon.

It’s a big weekend for … NRL coaches as they watch their precious playing talent prance about Eden Park in the Auckland Nines, knowing a season-ending injury is just a mistimed sidestep away.

It’s an even bigger weekend for … Rod Laver Arena, the roof of which might just blow right off when Novak Djokovic meets defending champion Stan Wawrinka in the Australian Open semi-final on Friday night. Unless the roof is open, of course. Then it can’t blow off.

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