Shumpty’s Punt: 27 April 2012

Happy Friday everyone!!! Given that it is Friday this means that before us we have 2 and a half days (if you include Friday night) of wall to wall sport to watch, analyse, tweet about and, for those minded, have a wager on. 6 games of Super 15 Rugby, 5 games of NRL, 8 games of AFL, the cricket from the West Indies, MLB and NHL from the US, ANZ Championship Netball, the EPL from the UK and horseracing from all major centres including Black Caviar going around.  If you can’t find something to watch and a winner out of that lot you are not trying hard enough.

For the sporting bet fans, my best bets for the weekend are:

  • In the AFL, I like Freemantle to beat the Blues with a margin of 1-39 points (pays $2.85).  Ross Lyon has the Dockers playing a grinding defensive brand of football that I expect to stifle the Blues midfield and let’s be honest, if the Blues midfield is not firing they usually struggle.
  • I have not really followed much of the NRL this year, aside from watching the mighty Raiders play, so I am steering clear of any bets on the NRL this week.
  • The Super 15 presents a number of close games and a number of mismatches.  I like the Stormers to put a score on the hapless Force and think the Stormers by 13 points or more is a good bet ($2.75).  Also, I can not believe that the Reds have been posted as $3 outsiders for tonights fixture against the Blues.  Some of my hard earned will be going on the Reds as well!
  • It wouldn’t be a weekend of sport’s betting without having a little wager on something in the EPL.  I think the Swansea v Wolves game presents some easy money and will be taking the $2.30 on offer for the Swansea half time / full time double.

On Saturday, most eyes will be on Black Caviar at Morphettville but I think there is some good value in a few races around the country that some attention should also be given to as follows:

  • Many seem to think the Sydney Cup (SR6) is a race in two between Niwot and Permit but I am steering clear of both in this one and will be going with Older than Time (#9).  Gai Waterhouse is on a roll again this Sydney Carnival and I think this race is made for this horse.  She will be near the front and will be tough for the main chances to run down particularly if the sting is out of the track.
  • In the Queen Elizabeth Stakes that immediately follows (SR7) I am again steering clear of the favourite, More Joyous.  I concerned about whether she will run the trip and that has me leaning towards Manighar.  Americian is also in this race but, converse to the More Joyous concerns, I do not think this race is long enough for him.  Manighar, with Oliver in the saddle out of the Moody yard, will be primed in this one and has been in brilliant form this preparation.

I have avoided Brisbane at this point because the variable weather at the moment looks like giving us a heavy to slow track and I would rather not nail my colours to the mast on that meeting just yet.

Hope you all have a great weekend whatever it is your doing.  I, as you have probably already gleaned, will be in front of the TV watching sport, glorious sport, for much of it.

Good luck and good punting.


For the love of golf: the lament of a hacker

I love playing golf.  Scratch that: I love everything about golf. Getting up early in the morning, walking for many a mile, searching for the ball, putting: all things that often send golfers mental I still love and I really can not explain why.  I was never a golfer as a kid: cricket was more my thing and my Dad has only really come to the game through me.  My first experience of the game came when a mate of mine from school (Neil Leigh: 5ft 5in and built like a brick outhouse) and I started to load the clubs into his old Cortina and head to Karana Downs Golf Club on every other day of school holidays in our final year of school.  It was a great deal they had back then: $10 to play all day with a pie and a drink.

Right from those earliest games, when I was woeful, I was drawn to the game.  Back then (some would say what has changed) I hit a high fade, could not putt, could not chip and was easily frustrated.  Actually, I confess not much as changed but for the fact I rarely hi,t a high fade anymore.  

So what was it back then that hooked me?  I had pause to consider this and my ongoing love affair with the game as I rushed to try and get 9 holes in yesterday afternoon in the fast descending bad weather at Coolum.  Any sane person, having just sat through 8 hours of a work conference would have just wanted to get into his car and go home.  Instead here I was hunched down in my car trying to change into my golf clobber and rushing to get on the course.  

Back to the key question: what hooked me? There are a few options that I often hear when discussing this topic:

  • A round of golf is 4 to 5 hours out in the great outdoors that I would probably otherwise spend indoors watching sport, indeed watching golf.  This answer does not wash for me.  Regular readers of my twitter feed will know how much I love a few hours spent on my couch watching sport so this answer is not the answer. 
  • It is an opportunity to catch up with your mates and have a chat for an extended period.  No, that is not it.  If I wanted to catch up with my mates I would call them or I would catch up with them at the pub.  
  • It is a sport that former sportsmen can play.  If I was given the option and the body would allow me to I would still be playing cricket but I would still be playing golf anyway.  In theory I get this one but in practice I don’t think it washes: plenty of blokes I play golf with have never really played sport.

So, those theories dispelled, I think I have the answer.  Right from my first round of golf there was always that one shot or that one hole, in amongst a score card then littered with scores of 7, 8 and sometimes more, that I hit (or in the case of a hole, that I played) perfectly.  The ball, just for that hole, avoids the water, whizzes off the club and all of a sudden the putt is easy to read and you nail it.  That is the shot or the hole that you talk about with your mates at the 19th hole and it is the hole that you remember the next time you are packing your golf bag for the next round. 

17 years have past since my first round of golf and whilst my score cards are now less littered with triple and quadruple bogeys and a score in the triple figures is a real rarity, I still have rounds where I need that perfect shot or hole to keep me coming back.  One such round was yesterday at Coolum.  After no warm up and the rush to get on I was just woeful.  So woeful that for the first time in a long time I had a 10 on my card after the first hole (lots of water around Coolum I have found).  On my second hold (par 3 11th) I judged that I could hit a soft 8 iron the 129 metres to the front of the green where the hole had been positioned by the greens staff.  In a moment straight out of the movie “Tin Cup” my first shot was as pure an 8 iron I can hit, BUT it was just a little to the right and I put it in the water.  Normally I would have taken a drop but I was incredulous: 8 iron was the right club so I reloaded … three times.  I hit four of the best 8 irons I have hit but my radar was off by a metre at most and each one hit the water.  Needless to say at this point I took the advice of my playing partner and took another double figure score.  

What happened next is what keeps me coming back to the golf course.  After a short walk to the tee of the long par 5 12th amid much swearing from me and good natured ribbing from my playing partner, I stood over the ball with my favourite club (9 degree stiff shafted Callaway Razor driver for the golf junkies) and just swung the club as hard as I could. And that was the moment: the swing was a great swing, the impact of the club on the ball gave off only a minimal “ting” and I knew that the only place it was going was about 260 metres down the middle of the fairway.  Which is where it was heading when I looked up.  From the depths of despair, or better put the watery depths of the par 3 11th, I was on top of the world again having just hit a drive about as well as I can hit it.  

That is what keeps every hacker coming back to the golf course in my view: that one shot or hole in the previous round.  

Of course there is the other side of that perfect shot or perfect hole that truly is the hacker’s lament that I refer to in the title.  It is the moment immediately after the perfect shot or the perfect hole where the hacker says to either himself or everyone around him (quote censored for obvious reasons): “why can’t I do that every time?”.

Which all gets me back to my love of the game: I am never going to be a good player of golf.  Bad knee, bad hip and bad shoulder plus a lack of desire at the age of 34 to pay a coach to tell me everything I do wrong have put paid to notions of my game being anything other than hackery for the rest of my life.  I love the game (having established what hooked me and why I come back every time) because, no matter how badly you play, there is always another round to play, on a new course or an old favourite, which could be that round where it all comes together you repeat that perfect hole for the full 18.  

It may be your next round or it may be your last round, but the hacker will keep coming back with the hope that today is the day all thanks to the mindset that manifests with the hackers lament.

All that being said: anyone for a round this weekend? 



A drive to Coolum and reflections on my hero: gone but not forgotten

I strongly believe that the term “hero” is one that is inappropriately and often overused in today’s society.  Let me be clear: I believe that service men and woman serving in foreign lands are heroes.  I believe that police, ambulance and fire officers who put their lives on the line daily to protect us are heroes.  I believe that a sportsman who had done something particular impressive or the latest singing “sensation” from a reality TV show are not heroes.

You will forgive me then for writing about my hero.  He was not a service man, he was a miner. He was not a sportsman but he did play bowls.  He was however my grandfather and his name was Alan Humphreys.

Now many of you are probably wondering why I am writing about Alan (I confess I never called him by his christian name to his face but I am sure he would not mind me doing it now).  You see, today on my way to Coolum I drove past the Bribie Island turn off.  Every time I drive past it I am always hit by competing emotions to, on the one hand, turn in and, on the other hand, to flee. This is because, of course, that is where Alan lived with my grandmother Elaine until the day he died some 16 years ago.

Driving past that turnoff always brings to the forefront of my mind some of the happiest memories of my childhood:

  • Sitting in Alan’s boat in the middle of Pumistone Passage fishing for whiting for hours and listening to him talk;
  • Waiting for him to come home from bowls to regale Nan and I will stories of matches won and lost;
  • Our nightly battles to see who would answer more questions correctly on Sale of Century;
  • Late night Uno battles in the caravan; and
  • The sound of his voice catching ever so slightly as I told him that I had been accepted into university.

I worshipped the ground he walked on: plain and simple.  Now I pause here to say that I am not in anyway seeking to diminish the role that my father, John, played and continues to play in my life.  He is my best mate and my closest confidant. 

That said, Alan was and still is my hero and I have never gotten over his death.  It is for that reason I have such mixed emotions every time I get to the Bribie Island exit.  I have, at best, returned to the Island no more than 10 times in the last 16 years and that is despite my grandmother continuing to live there after Alan’s death until her pass nearly two years ago.  I have not visited where his ashes are: I can’t.  I can not face fishing (aside from the odd deep sea charter) and everywhere on the island reminds me of times we spent together.

The problem with having a hero that is so close to you is that you want to everything within your power to make him (or her) proud.  If I look deep into myself I have always been scared that I was not making Alan proud.   I hope that I have. I have tried, during this period of rebuilding and reflection in my life, to do what I think he would have advised which is to be true to myself and to live in accordance with a set of values that I am proud of.

That is the very essence of a hero to me: someone who has such a profound impact on ones life that even when they are gone they continue to have a positive impact on your life. Alan, and the way he lived and the lesson’s he taught me, continue to form a significant part of the way I live my life today.

So, at the end of this most personal of blogs (I promise that future writings will not all be so personal), all I want to finish with is what I was say to granddad if I had the chance to talk to him now:

“I hope I have made you proud mate”