Champion at Carisbrook

Jimmy Barnes (later Sir James Barnes, mayor of Dunedin), Betty Cuthbert, Jack Mathieson ...
Jimmy Barnes (later Sir James Barnes, mayor of Dunedin), Betty Cuthbert, Jack Mathieson (Southland), Marlene Mathews and Dr Norrie Jefferson at Carisbrook during the New Zealand junior track and field championships in 1957. Photo: Collection Of Jim Sprague.
The death of Australian Olympic sprinting star Betty Cuthbert sparked an interest for Dunedin reader Jim Sprague.

He has a copy of a photo taken of Cuthbert at Carisbrook in 1957, just a few months after she had won three gold medals at the Melbourne Olympics.

She had come over to Dunedin to have a look at the national junior track and field championships, though it is not clear whether she actually competed in any event.

It is a nice photo, with the Australian Cuthbert pictured beside James Barnes, who would later go on to be mayor of Dunedin.

Times were simpler back then but it begs the question: what are the chances of someone of Cuthbert’s standing these days heading to the New Zealand junior track and field championships?That’s right — no chance. Times have changed. Agents and player managers have got involved and it is all about appearance fees and training loads.

A gloomy sky forecast

One of the biggest changes in sport — well, the biggest change, really — is the invention of pay television.It has made many athletes rich beyond what anyone would have dreamed.

But it is a changing world in pay television.Sky Television faces plenty of challenges with many predicting it has an unclear future.

But is Sky really that bad? Criticising Sky has become a national past time it seems. Sure Sky has its faults but really as a sports fan does it get any better? Is it not world class?

You get wall to wall high quality sport, day in, day out. Everything you could dream of is available.

As for alternatives, be careful what you wish for.

Getting into bed with massive corporates like Amazon is not going to be all sugar and spice.

They will want a return on their investment and will only pay top dollar for those sports that rate.

For those sports outside the mainstream, and in New Zealand that is everything apart from rugby, be warned. It is a dark and dangerous future.

Never again

Otago put on a clinic in dispatching an understrength Hawke’s Bay side last Sunday and Fletcher Smith scored 34 points. He was not far away from reaching the Otago record of 39 points set by Paul Turner against East Coast in 1986.

That got us thinking about how and why did Otago play East Coast in 1986?

Otago won 91-10, scoring 15 tries and Turner converted 14 of them. East Coast was on tour and had played South Canterbury and North Otago and must have decided to add on a game against Otago at the end of the tour.

Looking at the scoreline it must have wished it hadn’t. It was a record score by Otago and is unlikely to be beaten. These days, with tries worth five points, the score would have been 106-12.

Injuries happen

One has to feel sorry for Hawke’s Bay somewhat, as it basically has a whole team out injured.But let’s not wallow in sorrow too much for the Magpies.

For years they have gone on about their much vaunted depth.But depth is only talked about when teams are going well. When they start losing this so-called depth just disappears.

Otago has three key players out in Matt Faddes, Michael Collins and Liam Coltman and has managed to bag a couple of wins.In most team sports in New Zealand, with the expansion of competitions and players moving on quickly, many of them overseas, few teams at the provincial level have much depth.

Great week out

Tournament week is finished for school kids for another year and well done to all who took part. Some did well and others did not have as much success but in 10 years time, the memory of winning will not be at the forefront of minds.Sport is about fun and winning certainly helps that. But it is the camaraderie which is built up over the week and the fun had in the motels, pavilions and fields which will be the most remembered.

Worse than defeat

Kieron Pollard’s no-ball to end a game and deny Evin Lewis the second-fastest twenty20 century of all time sparked plenty of outrage. Aside from the non-sportsmanlike act, you have to wonder why a competitive athlete would even take that route. Surely any player worth their salt would back themselves to be better than their opponent, no matter the sport or situation. Rather than thinking Lewis might have hit a four to get his century, would a competitor’s mindset not be to take the wicket to stop him getting there? He essentially admitted he was not good enough. Is that not worse than the opposition just being better? In this case, not only did he give up, he denied Lewis the opportunity to reach his milestone.

Looking too good?

The past decade has seen sports gear become more and more appearance focused. Gone are the days when a uniform was simply to differentiate you from the other team, or when your accessories were there just to help you play better. Some uniforms are so over-designed nowadays they look ridiculous. Do we really need to change jerseys every year, or have as many variations as some teams do? Is it really that important to buy that new pair of shoes because last year’s ones are no longer cool, even though they are still in good condition? Indeed, who cares how your boots feel for playing in, as long as they are your favourite colour, right? That is not to say there is anything wrong having nice gear or looking good. But it can seem a bit of an overkill sometimes, particularly when appearance becomes more important than functionality.

Mighty ferns

Thumbs up for the Black Ferns and the victory at the World Cup last month.

Three of the members of the team were then good enough to come to Dunedin and show the trophy around at Hancock Park last week.

You couldn’t meet a more down to earth, fun-loving bunch of sportswomen.

One wonders if they did get paid, and moved into a fulltime role whether some of that fun and friendliness would disappear.

Warriors’ woes

Another Warriors season ends and it was the usual tale of hope buried by reality.

Every man and his dog has weighed into the reasons.

The bro culture, not enough Australians, a boring style, the owner, the front office, not fit enough, inexperienced coach, the woeful stadium, the weather, too many injuries.

Rugby league is a simple game and why the Warriors fail is surely simple enough.

They make too many mistakes on the field. They drop the ball, take the wrong option and fall asleep on defence.

Whether those mistakes are related to off-field issues is debatable. The Warriors have not got enough good players and that is why they finished where they did.

Look in the mirror

Everyone likes to have a go at the referee at times but in rugby league across the Tasman it has gone too far.

Every week coaches are having a go at referees for calls.

Have these guys never thought that if they play well enough then the referee, and his competence, will be taken out of the equation?

In a couple of games played by the Highlanders this year the man in the middle made some average calls. But the Highlanders were good enough to play well and win the game. Then no-one made a complaint about the officials.

The only refereeing display that actually impacted on the result of a game that comes to mind was everyone’s friend, Wayne Barnes in Cardiff in 2007 as the All Blacks crashed out against the French.But really if the All Blacks had played better and shown more patience, perhaps they would have won the game.

It all comes around

But sport is all about swings and roundabouts. The French got away with one in 2007 but talk to any Frenchman about the 2011 final and they accuse Craig Joubert of being one-eyed.

Whenever you lose, one looks for scapegoats. That is the way of the world. But the rub of the green will always shift from team to team, from week to week — it is called life.

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