Super Rugby: Round 16 Predictions

Round 16 of Super Rugby approaches with the first game due to start in 35 minutes. Here is my preview of all of the action first published on . Should be another great round and in particular the last match of the round featuring the Cheetahs v the Bulls will be an absolute pearler!


The other AFL story this week: the new Queensland powerhouse?

The biggest story in AFL this week has revolved around the vilification of one of the marquee players of the game. I do not want to get into that: enough has been written and said and whilst I am very concerned at the way it has been handled by the AFL there is another story about AFL that I want to comment on. I will quote the CEO of the AFL:

“By the end of the year, that [Queensland’s] will the second highest participation rate in Australia, higher than WA or South Australia”.

That is right folks: AFL is apparently a big business in Queensland and that is even when compared to rugby league. These statistics don’t lie: rugby league reports that in 2012 it had 170,027 active participants whilst the AFL reports that it had 155,000 such participants. Additionally, AFL is working off the back of growth in participation numbers of 9% per annum. That, in anyone’s language, is exceptionally good growth.

I should be very clear here: I am more a fan of cricket and rugby union rather than rugby league or AFL. What I find interesting about those numbers is the significant shift in the demographic of the players of sport in Queensland. Times certainly have changed from when I was a kid running around sports fields playing sport. Some 25 years ago I did not know that one could play AFL in Queensland and I would be astonished if any young bloke growing up in my generation thought any different. AFL was not the played sport back then: you played rugby league in the winter or cricket in the summer and that was pretty much it.

So why am I writing about this? Two reasons:

1. I do not believe the AFL and Brisbane Lions in particular have received enough kudos for the work they have done to develop the game in this state; and
2. It has to be stated that rugby league has done an equally poor job.

Upon the Lions winning their brace of three premierships they have leveraged off their massive up lift in membership and attendances at games to educate the people of Queensland about the game. The last of those victories was a decade ago and yet the fans continue to flock to the Gabba in droves to watch their team. What I think the Lions and the AFL have done particularly well is that they have won over the parents of sports playing kids.

Obviously one of the ways in which they have done this is that they have publicised the game of AFL as an essentially non-contact alternative to rugby league for children. Also, it is obvious when one goes to the games (I have attended recently at the Gabba as well on the Gold Coast) that attendance at the games is certainly kid friendly. Every game I have been too I have been impressed with number of children in attendance and engaged in the game.

The rugby league authorities have not done enough, conversely, in my view to make attendance at games kid friendly. This is an entirely personal view based solely on my attendances at games. The test that I have applied in coming to this conclusion is whether I would be happy to take my nephews or kids of my mates to a game and, indeed, have I actually done so? This year I have taken my nephews / kids of my mates to AFL and rugby union games but I have always been hesitant about taking them to a rugby league game. The vibe is just different: I cannot explain it. I guess I am going to be less likely to take young kids to a sporting contest that I myself in the past have felt personally threatened for my safety being in the crowd and that has only ever happened at rugby league games.

I am not at all here casting negative aspersions on rugby league fans: I am not. What I am saying is that if there is one area in which the NRL and the other rugby league authorities including the clubs have let themselves down it is in making the game family friendly. Of course parents, particularly mothers, are going to prefer their children to play a game that they feel comfortable taking them to watch.

The other area in which I think the NRL has let itself down is in its traditional heartland. Whilst kids are still playing rugby league in, for example, Ipswich and Toowoomba, it is entirely obvious that the AFL is making inroads in both places given, for example, the involvement of a number of junior teams from the Ipswich area in the greater Brisbane junior AFL competitions. A NRL team in either centre or even in Central Queensland would go a long way to pause those inroads being made by the AFL.

The rugby league authorities need to lift their game in Queensland: there is no escaping that. Equally, I for one am pleased that kids these days have a freedom of choice when it comes to sports they play. The fact that those kids have that choice is all to the credit of the AFL. I am waiting with baited breath for a similar report to come out next year on 2013 participation numbers in sport. I am fairly certain that the AFL will have pushed passed the rugby league to be the most popular oval ball sport in Queensland. Who ever thought they would see that day? I, for one, certainly did not!

Sportspeople and Citizenship: does bowling a wrong ‘un make you worthy of the fast track?

In 2009 the then Minister for Immigration pushed through various amendments to the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 (the Act) in the obliquely named Australian Citizenship Amendments (Citizen Test Review and Other Measures) Act 2009. Those other measures including the introduction into the Act of new sections that prescribed when and how a person will satisfy the “special residence requirement”. The new prescriptive section states (as is relevant for the purposes of this blog):

For the purposes of [the Act] a person satisfies the special residence requirement if the applicant is seeking to engage in an activity specified in [a Regulation], the applicant’s engagement in that activity would be of benefit to Australia, the applicant needs to be an Australian citizen in order to engage in that activity and in order for the applicant to engage in that activity, there is insufficient time for the applicant to satisfy the general residence requirement.

There are, of course, other moderately minor hurdles (pun intended) for an applicant under this section but in essence the amendment to the Act allowed a person undertaking a specified activity for the benefit of Australia to have their citizenship this country fast tracked.

What are the prescribed activities? Also in 2009, Minister Evans pronounced a legislative instrument that made these activities “specified” for the purposes of the provision above:

1. Employment in a position which requires a high-level security clearance in a Department, an Executive Agency, or a Statutory Agency of the Commonwealth.

2. Participation in an Australian team in the following competitions: the Olympic Winter Games, the Paralympic Winter Games, the Olympic Summer Games, the Paralympic Summer Games, the Davis Cup Competition and the Fed Cup Competition.

Yes folks: being a sportsperson gets you to the head of the queue in this country. Since the introduction of the measure noted above the Australian Olympic Committee has assisted 15 athletes gain citizenship on the fast track with three competing at the Winter Olympics. In speed skater Tatiana Borodulina’s case she was so thankful at her opportunity to become an Australian citizen and represent us at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games that almost immediately after said games she renounced her citizenship and returned to Russia.

Why is this an issue now? Afterall the amending legislation went through some 4 years ago. Well things probably would have stayed as they are in Canberra but for a young man called Fawad Ahmed and his special skill of bowling leg breaks and wrong ‘uns. You see Australia is playing in the Ashes this year and is, by some accounts, desperately short on spin bowlers to face England this coming August. The problem is that Mr Ahmed has not yet met the general residence requirements under Australian law to become a citizen and does not play in a sport that qualifies under the Minister Evans’ pronouncement outlined above.

So today, the current Minister for Immigration Brendan O’Connor will be introducing to parliament an amendment to the legislative list of approved sporting contests to include the Ashes so that Mr Ahmed can possibly play.

Setting aside whether or not Mr Ahmed ought be picked on the merits it astonishes me that Australia and Australians seem to rank ability with a tennis racket, a speed skate or a cricket ball as above all of those others who are striving to become citizens and are equally as qualified save that their qualification is with a scalpel or a pen or a lathe.

Take the case of two immigrants from Pakistan who arrived in Australia on the same date: one plays cricket and the other is a nobel prize winning pharmacist working on a revolutionary drug to cure cancer. Under Australian law, as likely to be amended today, the cricketer becomes a citizen first.

Forgive me but I just can not believe for a second that the outcome of that, albeit ridiculously hypothetical example, is right. In fact I would go so far as to say that the totality of of sections 22A – 22C introduced to the Act in 2009 as about to be amended are nothing short of an embarrassment to this country. Bowling a good wrong ‘un does in Australian make you more worthy of citizenship here it seems and I for one am ashamed.

Violence against women and Sports “Stars”: trial by media or special treatment?

I have watched with a rising level of dismay the coverage of the current allegations made against a footballer from the South Sydney Rabbitohs Rugby League club, Ben Te’o. The incident in question happened some 5 weeks ago and was the subject of a police complaint that was, apparently, investigated to a conclusion that no charges would be laid. Then Channel 9 broke the “exclusive” last week via an interview with the victim of the alleged assault. This lead to a media frenzy that included the revelation about the conduct of the investigation the first time around. Today, amongst another media circus, the victim has made a statement to the police and then been dealt with for outstanding warrants and the alleged attacker has refused to be questioned by the media at a press conference for the Queensland State of Origin team. I know this because my twitter feed has been filled with seemingly minute by minute updates of the statement, the appearance before court and the failure to be questioned.

Let me be clear: domestic violence and violence against women in any form is abhorrent. There is never and nor should there ever be an excuse for such violence. Those making statements about the character of the victim need to shut up and let due process take its course.

What I am massively concerned about in this case and that which has led me to write this blog is the manner with which this particular alleged case of violence against a woman has been dealt with by the media. That is what I want to focus on today.

First some statistics; the ABS Personal Safety Survey 2005, which defined violence as any incident involving the occurrence, attempt or threat of either physical or sexual assault, found:
•since the age of 15, two percent of women (160 000) and one per cent of men (68 100) had experienced violence from a current partner
•since the age of 15, some 15 per cent of women (1 135 500) and five per cent of men (367 300) had experienced violence from a former partner
•Seven per cent of men (485 400) and three per cent of women (242 000) were physically assaulted in the 12 months prior to the survey
•of those women who were physically assaulted in the 12 months prior to the survey, 31 per cent (73 800) were physically assaulted by a current and/or previous partner compared with four per cent (21 200) of men
•almost two thirds of men who were physically assaulted in the 12 months prior to the survey (66 per cent or 319 100) nominated a stranger as the perpetrator, compared with 22 per cent of women (52 900)
•in the 12 months prior to the survey, 1.3 per cent of women (101 600) and 0.6 per cent of men (42 300) were sexually assaulted and
•of those who were sexually assaulted in the 12 months prior to the survey, 21 per cent of women (21 500) reported that the perpetrator was a previous partner; eight per cent (7 800) reported that the perpetrator was a current partner. No males reported sexual assault by a current or previous partner.

Later ABS surveys have found similar results. Further the Australian component of the IVAWS in 2002–03 employed a broader definition of violence, measuring physical violence (including threats), sexual violence (including unwanted sexual touching) and psychological violence (including controlling behaviours such, as put downs and keeping track of whereabouts). The survey found:
•34 per cent of women who had a current or former intimate partner (including boyfriends) experienced at least one form of violence from a partner during their lifetime (since the age of 16).
•31 per cent of women who had a current or former intimate partner experienced physical violence and an estimated 12 per cent suffered sexual violence from a partner during their lifetime.
•Of the women who had a current or former intimate partner, six per cent reported that their partner had forced them to have sexual intercourse at some stage during their lifetime; this is the most common form of sexual violence perpetrated by intimate partners. A further three per cent of these women reported that their partners had attempted to force them to have sexual intercourse and four per cent experienced unwanted sexual touching.
•Of the women who were in a current relationship (spouse, de facto partner, or boyfriend), ten per cent reported that they had experienced violence from their current partner over their lifetime, and three per cent over the past 12 months. Physical violence was more commonly reported (nine per cent, lifetime) than sexual violence (one per cent, lifetime).
•Almost four in ten women (between 37 and 40 per cent) who were in a current relationship reported experiencing at least one type of controlling behaviour over their lifetime; six per cent experienced controlling behaviour in the past 12 months.
•Women experienced higher levels of violence from a previous partner than a current partner. Of women who have had a past relationship, 36 per cent reported experiencing violence from a previous partner over their lifetime, compared with ten per cent for a current partner.
•Previous partners were also reported as perpetrating more severe violence than current male partners. For example, less than one per cent of women in a current relationship reported that their current partner had used or threatened to use a knife or gun on them. However, six per cent of women who had a former relationship reported that their previous partner had used or threatened to use one of these weapons on them.

(All of the foregoing has been reproduced from a Background Note published by the Australian Federal Department of parliamentary Services entitled “Domestic violence in Australia—an overview of the issues” authored by Liesl Mitchell).

You are probably asking what the relevance of this data is to the current situation involving Ben Te’o? Well the answer is simple: how many of the other victims / perpetrators of domestic violence captured in the statistics above faced a lead story on every news service in Australia (well Queensland and New South Wales) and then had the giving of their statement become an event live tweeted?

Herein lies my major objection to the way this matter has been dealt with by the media: for every domestic violence incident reported as an exclusive on Channel 9 there are a plethora of such cases that never reach the media let alone the lead story. Why? Because those cases do not involve a sports “star” of any note. To me this creates a whole poultice of issues including but not limited to the complete lack of due process that now could possibly follow if Mr Te’o is charged and the matter proceeds through the courts. How is Te’o supposed to defend himself and, indeed, find a jury that has not pre-judged the case? More to the point, we now have a victim who also has become a cause celebre and has faced the ire of fans and friends of Te’o which one could only expect would be enhanced if charges are actually laid. The media have much to answer for the way they have conducted themselves here.

However, for all of the foregoing, the biggest problem that I have with the reporting of this particular case of domestic violence is the, to my way thinking, monumental lack of respect the television networks, in particular Channel 9, et al have shown to the victims of domestic violence who do not make accusations against sport stars but against individuals from every other walk of life. Where are the lead stories about the plight of those victims? Where are the exclusive interviews? Where is the financial support of the victim? As noted above, violence against women is simply abhorrent. The abhorrence of that conduct has only been exacerbated in the last fortnight by a media that seems to only care about the victims of such violence if their alleged attacker runs around a sports field for a living. Shame on the television networks and media pundits who have created this situation and shame on our society that is so craving of news about “celebrities” that cases such as this are front page news.

I hope for a day when violence against women is not an issue in our society. I am sickened that I believe that that day will never come. I also hope for a day when all victims of such violence are treated fairly and with dignity not because their alleged attacker is a sports star but simply because they are a victim. Given the current state of the media, I have a similar fear that that day will also never be seen in our liftime.

For the love of writing: why blog? Or ought the question be for whom?

I have been seeking some feedback on this blog and some other writing I have been doing recently with a view to improving not only what I write but also the level of readership what I am writing ends up with. I will confess to some frustration that I spend an awfully long time writing a blog for only 50 or so readers to view it.

One question that came up via email from one of the people that I have sought feedback from was this:

Who do you blog for?

In reply to that question I posed a fairly verbose and self indulgent response about writing for the readers. That lead to the retort from my feedback provider that he could tell when I was writing for a particular audience and not for myself or in a topic that I am invested in because the quality of my writing dropped.

This raises a valid issue in my mind: is blogging about one’s audience or oneself? If one is blogging for oneself then do the audience numbers really matter?

The more I have thought about this issue, the more I have come to the realisation that I actually do blog for myself. I feel better when I write and I feel even better when I am writing about something I believe in or am invested in.

Normally at this point I would asking you as readers for forgiveness for writing a such a self indulgent post. To do so would be against the central theme of this post: I am going to write for me from here on in and focus on topics that I am interested in. Readership may drop but finally I think I can say I am not bothered by that.

I think this slight change in mental approach to this blog will help with the regularity of posts and quality of writing. I know I am going to enjoy writing this blog more now that my mindset is to write whatever I want about whatever I want.

Just because I have said that I am not writing for an audience any more does not mean I am not interested in your views about what I write: indeed I hope this slight change in approach will lead to more interaction on this blog or via twitter or via email.

Weight loss challenge? What weight loss challenge?

Hi all,

A personal note here: it struck me during an email discussion with one of the readers of this blog that it is highly like that if you follow this blog alone and not my twitter, tumblr or google + feeds that you may not be aware of my other blog so I thought, in an act of shameless self promotion, I would write about it here.

Since 1 January I have been working towards loosing 28.3 kilograms and, as the name of my blog would suggest, the goal of reaching 100kgs (for the American followers out there that converts to roughly 60 pounds lost and a target of 220 pounds).

Here is the most recent update on the blog from my weigh in this morning: Day 148: Weigh in #operation100 | Operation 100

I would be delighted if you could jump over and have a look.