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Fitz Files: Rebels and Force have dug themselves in but there's an obvious solution

by April 21, 2017 General

OK, in the face of the impasse – the ARU wants to cull a Super Rugby Franchise, and both the Rebels and Force have dug themselves in, with weaponry, water, and enough food to last for three years – what about the obvious?

What about a merger, creating that most quintessentially Australian thing of all things … the Rebel Force!

Seriously, and with thanks to reader Leo Christie who suggested it to me, doesn’t that sound great? Think Eureka, with a bunch of blokes saying “we are jack of this, so you bastards can come and get us if you want, but we are gunna fight to the last man!”

Think Kokoda with, in the first instance, just 400 soldiers of the 39th Battalion’s C Company marching north up the Track, while 13,000 trained Japanese soldiers headed south. The subsequent clash was one for the ages!

Think the America’s Cup Campaign, of 1982, with a rebel force of Australians setting and succeeding, in wresting ye auld mug from the hands of the Americans, who had held it since the days when the Mayflower won the first race across the Atlantic.

Doesn’t the “Rebel Force,” just sound right, strong, and intimidating? Wouldn’t splitting their home games guarantee their turnstiles to whirl, as each one became an event? Wouldn’t they be united from the start, by their common ethos that, our job, as the Rebel Force, is to stick it right up the Establishment, represented by the Reds, the Tahs and the Brumbies?

Dontcha reckon it could work?

Midweek cameo: Andrew Mehrtens.

Midweek cameo: Andrew Mehrtens. Photo: Dallas Kilponen

I’ll just leave this here

Listen, I am sure this might be guilty of a dozen “isms,” – quite possibly including “misogynism,” – and for the record, I THOROUGHLY disapprove, honest I do. But anyway …

On Wednesday evening, the long-time All Black five-eighth through most of the ’90s, Andrew Mehrtens, now a Sydney resident, was discussing on one of those Fox Sports rugby roundup shows, the most important rugby news of the week.

“I had to go with Wyatt Crockett,” Mehrts began, as footage rolled of the Canterbury and All Blacks prop stepping forward after a Crusaders match to receive an award.

“What an amazing achievement,” he continued, “to be outright the most capped Super Rugby player. As is fine Crusaders tradition, you mark the occasion by being given a sword.”

Again the footage rolls, of another iconic All Black presenting a large ceremonial Crusaders sword, in a glass case, as we go back to Mehrtens, who provides the commentary.

“He’s getting given a sword there, by Reuben Thorne, which puts him in the same company as my sister, who is married to Reuben … so, wonderful effort that …”

Refreshing attitude: Luke Brooks.

Refreshing attitude: Luke Brooks. Photo: Supplied

Bravo, Luke Brooks

How very refreshing were those comments from Luke Brooks, the star Tigers halfback, during the week, on how awkward he found it to suddenly find himself a public figure.

“When I was younger and opened the paper and saw myself in it I would find it weird,” he said. “Or if I was at home watching TV and they start talking about me – whether it’s good or bad – I still find it awkward to listen to, especially when I’m with other people.”

Bravo. The alternative, Luke, is to be like so many sportspeople who suddenly hear their name often spoken of in the public domain, and soooo love it, they start speaking about themselves in the third person, just before they disappear so far up their own arses the tops of their heads are soon tickling their own tonsils.

Riddle me this

Which brings us, of course, to Joseph Heller, and Josh Reynolds.

Heller, as you know, is the great American novelist, while Reynolds, also affectionately known as “Grub,” is about a third of the Canterbury Bulldogs, and a half when James Graham is not playing.

Heller’s most famous novel is Catch-22, built on this famous passage:

“You mean there’s a catch?”

“Sure there’s a catch,” Doc Daneeka replied. “Catch-22. Anyone who wants to get out of combat duty isn’t really crazy’.”

There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions …

Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.

And so did Josh Reynolds, I am sure, when he read it, for he made an interesting reference to the concept this week, while noting that if Tigers captain Aaron Woods came to Canterbury, it might displace Bulldogs captain, James Graham, who plays in the same position.

“Jimmy is our leader, but who wouldn’t want Woodsy in their team? It’s a bit of a Catch-22. You definitely wouldn’t say no to having him here but you definitely don’t want to lose our leader as a result.”

Is this correct use of the term Catch-22?

My brother Jim, who is good at these things, says “Reynolds is definitely not invoking the original meaning of the term. In this case a choice is possible, while Yossarian was excluded from making the choice. This situation is close to Hobson’s Choice because there are two bad alternatives – not getting Woods or losing the captain but don’t think it is that either because there are also good things which flow whereas Hobson’s is looking for ‘least worst’.” Bloody hell. You decide. This makes my head hurt. If you need me, I will be in my trailer.

Bulldog spirit: Josh Reynolds.

Bulldog spirit: Josh Reynolds. Photo: Getty Images

Blending into one

Dear TFF,

Round 8 to be played at following venues:

GIO STADIUM, ANZ STADIUM, ANZ STADIUM again, 1300SMILES STADIUM, ANOTHER ANZ STADIUM, ALLIANZ STADIUM, AAMI PARK. Can someone give me a lift because I have no idea where these places are!

Peter Sweeney.

Me, neither. But I think Allianz might be the Sydney Football Stadium, if that helps?

The stick men are coming

Here at TFF we have always had a sneaking affection for once great and popular sports that have lost their way – which is becoming ever more fortunate under the circumstances, but I digress. The point is that while billiards used to be a headline act in Australia, most particularly in the early part of last century, where our own Walter Lindrum was spoken of with much the same awe as Donald Bradman, these days it attracts barely a murmur.

But – medic, get me a MEDIC – there is a pulse! This very weekend, as it happens, the Sydney Open Billiards Championships takes place at the mighty Hornsby RSL, boasting the World No.1 player, Peter Gilchrist of Singapore, among 48 contenders from five nations. The best local hope is the world number 6 player, Matthew Bolton of WA, who, I am reliably informed – as the Australian champion 15 times over – is our most accomplished player since Lindrum himself.

Gilchrist himself is a prodigy and holds the highest break since WWII under the current rules of the game, a massive 1346 that sat his opponent in his chair for around 80 minutes. Oh yeah? Well, Bolton has not lost a competitive billiards match to anyone in Australia since 2003 … except Gilchrist. Good luck, Matt.

Remember, if you can’t beat him, take a piece of him home with you to show your mother. And, whatever else, make sure you beat Wayne “The Butcher” Carey, the seven-times New Zealand Champion. Our nation needs to register at least one win over the Kiwis this year, in something.

What They Said

New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who turned 65 last week, on his profession: “It beats working.”

Paul Gallen on Jack Bird leaving to go to the Broncos: “To be honest I don’t think it hurts too much at all … You see superstars come along in this game and they’re always replaced.”

Mick Bird on the critics of his son Jack‘s move from Cronulla: “Just a gutless mob of people. They’ve really shocked me what they say about people. They’re supposed to be your fans. Just gutless people. I hate reading that stuff but sometimes you can’t help but read it. If everyone is replaceable, then just replace him with someone and get on with life.”

South African Rugby CEO Jurie Roux: “The ultimate competition probably was Super 12 and to be honest we should have probably never moved from it …”

Glenn Maxwell to a journalist asking him a question about his struggles to face spin: “That’s a shocking question. Do you understand in the last three games I’ve hit leg spinners for six repeatedly? S— question.” I think he sounds sincere, if way precious.

What a performance: Matthew Rizzo (yellow) won The Stawell Athletic Club.

What a performance: Matthew Rizzo (yellow) won The Stawell Athletic Club. Photo: Pat Scala

Matthew Rizzo on winning the Stawell Gift: “I’ve been at Bunnings since I was 15. It’s a key element to my training, pushing trolleys. Coming into Stawell I dropped down to one shift a week from doing two or three to rest the legs.”

Sonny Bill Williams on covering up the Bank of New Zealand logos, among others: “I was not making a stance to be a troublemaker or attention-seeker – anyone who knows me knows that’s not part of my make up. It’s not the person I am or want to be, but I will stand up for my views every day of the week.” Yup. But if you so strongly believe that the whole idea of banking is sooo bad, you refuse to promote it, wouldn’t it help to point out WHY it is bad beyond mere (sniff) “faith”?

John Coates on using the C-word – rhymes with … oh, forget it – to John Wylie: “I am who I am … I had found out John Wylie was seeking support to oust me from my role. My emotions were high. I was justifiably angry. I am sure that’s not the first he has heard that word in a business context.”

Former AFL and Melbourne Rebels chief executive Ross Oakley on the Rebels: “If you haven’t got a team in this market you won’t have a successful competition in Australia.”

Sharks coach Shane Flanagan, just after his Cronulla team flogged Phil Gould‘s Panthers by nigh on 30 points: “I am filthy with Gus saying we won a soft competition. You could find 100 takes from Gus during the year about how tough this competition is. When the Panthers were playing the Bulldogs at the SFS he was saying ‘what a great competition’ and ‘it’s the hardest competition in the world’. All of a sudden the Panthers get rissoled and it’s the weakest comp in the world. I thought it was poor form.”

English rugby league player Luke Robinson on getting concussion so badly he’d forgotten his wife had given birth three days earlier: “It was only when I got home and my wife was there with our first born, Leo, that it all came flooding back that I had a kid. In another game, I got a hit to the head. Five or six hours later I got home, I felt fine. But I rang for a taxi to go to my friend’s birthday and I couldn’t remember where I lived. I had to go to my study and get a bank statement out, and it was only then that I remembered.” Mate? STOP. Retire. If not for you, then do it for your missus and kids.

Charles Barkley commentating on TV, took a dim view at the vision of Boston Celtics star Isaiah Thomas crying on court during the warm-ups, for their match in the NBA finals. “Not a good look.” Thomas’ sister had been killed the day before in a car accident. He still went on to drain 33 points.

Team of the Week

James Tedesco and Aaron Woods. Gorn. It means that the Tigers “Big Four” is now just “The One,” Luke Brooks.

Tahlia Tupaea. Young Australian basketballer taken by the Minnesota Lynx in the 2017 WNBA Draft.

George Smith. Not only scored a try in his 150th Super Rugby game, but it occurred in that rarest of all things, a big win for the Reds.

Richmond. The Tigers are flying high, with four wins out of four so far.

Swans. Struggling badly, with no wins to show for four outings. They play the Greater Western Sydney Giants on Saturday.

Austin Waugh. The son of Steve is currently playing for the Australia U19 side and looks to be a chip off the old bat.

Cristiano Ronaldo. Led Real Madrid to the Champions League semi-final and scored his 100th goal in Europe.

Evergreen: Real Madrid Galactico Cristiano Ronaldo.

Evergreen: Real Madrid Galactico Cristiano Ronaldo. Photo: Getty Images

The ACU Cronulla Sharks and Uni NSW Wests Magpies. The two teams staged a battle for the ages on Easter Monday for the Under 14 Water Polo National championship, with Cronulla just pipping them at the post for a 7-6 win. The spirit in which the game was played is a credit to the boys and their clubs.

Betty Cuthbert. Australia’s one-time “Golden Girl,” still the only person – male or female – to have won Olympic gold medals on the track over 100m, 200m, 400m and in the sprint relay, turned 79 on Thursday. She now lives in an aged care facility in Western Australia and, though she struggles with multiple sclerosis, is comforted by her religion and a tight circle of friends.

Twitter: @Peter_Fitz