It’s the Festive Season. Good will to all and may your next year be all you wish. Or as the Irish say:  May the road rise gently in front of you and the wind always be at your back!

I’m a great believer in the simple Christian idea of The Spirit Of Christmas  but I fear many who move around our society, see things quite differently.  The current classic example of that would have to be Israel Folau and to understand this man you have to understand where he’s coming from.  Well, first off, he was born here in Australia (in Sydney) to Tongan parents.  So far, so good.

However, if you know anything about folk from Tonga, you might know (generally speaking) they hold their Christian beliefs very much front and centre of their lives and it would be expected that Israel (his name is a bit of a give-way to the thinking of his parents) would have been exposed to this religious fervour from the day he was born.  Still no problems.

The family moved to Brisbane when he was young and he began to play Rugby League.  He was a talent from the getgo, was steered to a feeder club of the Melbourne  Storm  and ended up playing for them.  This was followed by a stint with the Brisbane  Broncos  and then a code switch to play Oz Rules with the Greater Western Sydney  Giants  before signing with the NSW  Waratahs  (Rugby) in 2012.  He quickly gained selection in the Wallabies  and played against the British and Irish  Lions  in 2013.  Still no problems, because a player’s career can be short and if you’re good and this kind of sport is all you know, then go where the money is.

Step sideways for a moment.  Australia is a secular state and I understand that to mean we have no State religion (though it would have to be said, we do lean towards Christian beliefs) and in a recent decision a sizeable majority of us embraced the idea of same sex marriage.  This however, did not go down well with many and not only was Israel one who would have been appalled with our decision, The Mad Monk (former PM Tony Abbott) was also aggrieved.  But what to do?  Well, Tony voiced his opinion whenever and wherever he could snaffle a microphone, but Israel – now a lay preacher in his evangelical Christian church – posted his thoughts on social media in April, 2018.

Izzy’s employer, Rugby Australia, took a very dim view of this (for a number of reasons) and as his contract was being renewed, he was (by all reports) put through the wringer and the facts of a public life would, I’ve no doubt, been clearly explained to him.  It seems adequate assurances were made to RA and a new four-year, $5 million contract was signed.  On 10 April this year however, Izzy posted another item on social media, the manure hit the fan and his contract was torn up.  There’s a good deal more to this story than I’ve summarised here but I’m amazed at how complicated the birth of a baby two millennia ago has become to-day!

On other matters around the sporting fields:  The Galahs  played a Test series against Pakistan and (to use the vernacular)  we handed them their butts on a platter;  The New Zealand  Black Caps  have just arrived in Perth and are scheduled (and for the record, that’s pronounced, shed-u-aled and certainly NOT  sked-u-aled) to play three Tests against us;  in the meantime, the Australian Open Golf tournament is being played in Sydney;  players would be warming up as I cobble together this rant, on the Alan Border Field in Brisbane for the Final of the Women’s Big Bash League between the Brisbane  Heat  and the Adelaide  Strikers;  on 9 December Tiger Woods will lead the US team against an International team (lead by Ernie Els) for The President’s Cup.  This will be played at Royal Melbourne and if I lived there I’d go along and watch but as I don’t, it’s the TV coverage for me;  and finally, as a sporting Nation we do have a history of shooting ourselves in the foot.  This was quite visible recently after the  Wallabies  rather tame exit from the Rugby World Cup.  What was the first thing RA did?  Well, apart from fricasseeing Michael Cheika, we approached Eddie Jones, the former Australian coach and currently quite successful British and Irish  Lions  coach, to see if he’d come back and coach the  Wallabies?  If we want him back why did we let him go, I hear you ask?  Good question and I wish I had any kind of answer for you – good or idiotic!  Then there’s Ange Postecoglou who coached South Melbourne, Brisbane  Roar  and the  Socceroos  but we let him go as well!  Where is he now?  Well, a couple of weeks ago he coached  Yokahama F. Marinos  to the Japanese League Grand Final title over FC Tokyo.  Of course, our greatest foot shot has to be Dawn Fraser.  She’d just won her third 100 metres Olympic Gold in Tokyo and pinched a flag from the Emperor’s garden – as any Sydney girl might.  Swimming Australia punted her but 4 years later (and with not a lot of serious training under her belt) she swam the 100 metres in the Mexico City pool and posted a time that would have won her the gold for a record fourth time!  Sometimes we’re just s-o-o-o-o DUMB!

But, with Christmas comes Family, the Boxing Day Test out of Melbourne, the Sydney-Hobart yacht race and then the New Year’s Test match out of Sydney.


Happy 2020 to you all!

The Hillside Critic

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