Archive for: ‘October 2019’

For William McInnes, quality leisure time is one big game

09/10/2019 Posted by admin

There’s a park not far from where I live which once would have been called a caravan park, but these days announces itself as a Leisure Park. It has a mini tennis court, pool and an amenities block.
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I know this because there’s a sign boldly announcing such splendours awaiting prospective guests inside its gates. I look at the sign occasionally when afternoon traffic thickens like cooling gravy and coagulates. I saw, the other day, it was no longer a Leisure Park but had morphed into a “Quality Leisure Park”.

The word “Quality” had a newer look. The rest of the sign was unchanged, presumably like the park itself, so it was a little perplexing why it had become a “Quality Leisure Park”.

Staring at the sign from my car I thought about the idea of leisure. It wasn’t a word much used when I was a kid, save by a grumpy maths teacher who’d employ it after ordering some task be carried out.

If a little slow going about your business he began with a bellow and built to scream, “McInnes, solve the next step of the problem on the board.” There was a pause while I tried to collect some random mathematical tit-bit from my brain which he’d invariably end with the roar, “Well Then, At Your Leisure!!!!!!!!” It was as if leisure was an indulgence, some unfortunate character failing that represented a selfish procrastination.

The maths teacher was fond of using Oxford dictionary definitions to describe his students, “The Oxford Dictionary defines an ignoramus as an ignorant or stupid person. So it’s nice to know you are in the good book.”

So I, just for him, checked the good book: it defines leisure as “time when one is not working or occupied, free time”.

Taking the point leisure is your own particular time away from work, it would follow leisure would be kept aside for pursuits which result in pleasure.

This is where things can get odd. A boy I knew at school had a father who seemed constantly on the verge of explosion. He was one of the most nervously intense and cantankerous grown-ups I think I ever met, more volatile even than the bellowing maths teacher. Volcanic even when indulging in his passion for gem setting in a strange secretive little room he’d built beneath his back stairs.

It must have felt like a sweat box in Redcliffe’s subtropical summer. “No noise,” he would say. “I want my quiet time to enjoy myself.” Then would come muffled frustrated groans when the precision of gem setting got too much for him, and we’d quietly peek through a little window and see, bent over a gem setting plate, a creature bathed in a bright light. The magnifiers on his eyes made him look like a strange insect.

If he stuffed something up, he’d ball his fists then silently scream. A Munch gem-setting Scream. Made you wonder how much enjoyment he derived from his leisure away from his occupation as, of all things, a flight traffic controller.

Surely your leisure should be a refuge from work?

My family’s male grown-up, my father, chose a more basic form of leisure which could sometimes be quite profound. The snooze. He had an ability to sleep anywhere when he wanted to get away from it all. It was nothing to come home and see him prone on the tray of one of his trucks or stretched out in state on a trestle table in the back yard. Dressed in stubbies and striped T-shirt, you’d go about your business until he woke, clapped his hands and say, “Lovely”.

I asked him if he dreamed when he snoozed. “If I do, it’s my business.”

I asked my mother where he’d found the gift of dropping off whenever and wherever he wanted. “Well, I suppose if you’ve fought in a war you find ways to sleep in almost any place.”

My father adored snoozing: “A chance to start the day again and the only coot who never got any benefit from a nap was Hamlet – too much per-chancing to dream. Stupid bugger.”

Today leisure can sometimes have a more regimented and organised feel. Almost purposeful.

As a kid, if you weren’t at school or in a part-time job you just generally mucked about and the same seemed to go for adults – the gem-setting silent Munch scream and my snoozing dad.

But on a Saturday morning not long ago, I walked along one of the beaches in the town where I grew up and was quite interested in what went on.

In my youth, you’d see the odd swimmer returning from the water or people fishing at the water’s edge.

On that Saturday I saw squads of people being barked at and drilled by personal trainers. A yoga class stood in their active wear, arms by their sides, breathing deep, contemplating their lesson, all wearing sunglasses as the sun shone bright and hot, reflecting off the sea. It reminded me of old films of atomic tests, where a group of people stand with goggles protecting their eyes from the exploding bomb. Regimented leisure.

The traffic moved in front of the Quality Leisure Park sign, I crept forward a few spaces almost as if a dice had been rolled and I was a part of some big board game.

And I thought of a preferred middle-aged leisure activity – the dinner party. It’s an odd sort of expression. It’s a social occasion that joins a long list of such events: lunch, brunch, barbecue, breakfast, a cocktail party, a pub crawl even. But you seldom meld them together. As in a dinner party. A dinner seems a bit formal and has an air of solemnity involved in the chewing of food. A party on the other hand denotes a bit of fun. A dinner party is also something you engage in as you get on, something a bit more reflective and sedate.

At university I didn’t do dinner parties. The circle I moved in engaged in Bin Parties. Preparations were extensive and nothing was left to chance. A large plastic rubbish pin, usually green with a black lid, was purchased from a hardware store and placed in the backyard. Guests would pour into the bin whatever it was they’d brought to drink, creating a haphazard punch.

The Bin Party’s appeal was best summed up by a large man who was a very good rower. He’d placed a six pack of Brisbane Bitter in the bin just after some bottles of Blackberry Nip had been poured in by a pair of nurses. “This will be the only time Brisbane Bitter will be drinkable, Will. A miracle. Cheers.”

None of that behaviour at a dinner party, just good company, good food and good wine. Sort of. One dinner in particular had a caveat attached – a theme. Besides good company, good wine and good food guests all brought a board game from their youth.

A few people brought Monopoly, Chess and Scrabble but some surprise efforts got used as the night wore on. A retired police officer brought a Hide and Seek where the object was to find other players hiding in a variety of icons of some make-believe suburb – dog kennel, a barrel, bins, stumps, post boxes and a pile of bricks. “He couldn’t leave his police career at home, always on the trail of somebody,” said the former policeman’s partner. “They always hide in the barrel you know,” said the ex-walloper.

There was Twister, a plastic sheet marked with different coloured dots and a wheel you would flick to indicate the coloured dots the players would have to put various parts of their bodies on. A doctor brought, of all things, Operation; an electrician a box of pick up sticks; a couple of teachers had Mousetrap.

I brought a game I had never played in my life but that had been in almost every house and home I have lived in. Squatter. It was described as the “Australian” board game, about making agricultural millions on the sheep’s back. The host, an engineer, chortled in delight. “Squatter!” He held it up and some other guests groaned. “Have you ever played this game? Has anyone here played this game?” It turned out none of us had but we all knew the cover very well. “Well,” said the host, “let’s keep it that way.”

I asked what had inspired the theme. “Thought it might be fun.” He was right. It stopped being a dinner party when we played Twister. “This,” said one of the teachers, trying to put her leg around the head of the lawyer to place her foot on a green dot, “isn’t advisable after having three children.”

It turned out to be a cracking night. Although whether the dusty morning after was caused by the wine or Twister I’m not sure. But sitting in my car, slowly rolling along past the Leisure Park’s sign, it struck me the board game dinner party really was what I would now call Quality Leisure.

William McInnes is an actor and an author; his latest novel is Full Bore.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Tennis superstars Nick Kyrgios and Eugenie Bouchard confide in each other over haters

09/10/2019 Posted by admin

Double trouble: Nick Kyrgios and Eugenie Bouchard play mixed doubles at last year’s US Open. Photo: Mike Frey/Tennis Photo NetworkTennis glamour duo Nick Kyrgios and Eugenie Bouchard – arguably the most scrutinised players on tour – have confided in each other over the difficulty of having to deal with some of the hatred directed towards them.
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The pair sent tongues wagging when they stepped out on court together in New York for mixed doubles at the 2015 US Open – a match made in Nike heaven that was likened more to an episode of The Bachelor than a grand slam hit-out.

Since the 2014 Australian Open, the pair were lumped with the burden of expectation that they would become the faces of the sport over the next decade.

But, for contrasting reasons, the Australian wild child and the talented Canadian have polarised opinion despite their enormous potential both on and off the court. Kyrgios, for his “don’t care” attitude, Bouchard, simply for her attitude.

Unfortunately for the hottest young players on tour, that means they have had to become accustomed to dealing with the hate.

They have, however, managed to find solace in confiding in each other.

“Yeah, we have spoken about it a little bit,” Bouchard told Fairfax Media. “We just came to the conclusion that haters are going to hate and we weren’t going to listen to them. It’s really important to not listen to those people and just keep doing you. Why would you not do something because of somebody else’s opinion of you. Do you know what I mean?

“If you think about it, it’s actually crazy. Why should I allow somebody else to dictate my life? That’s Nick’s attitude as well and I think that’s really cool. I respect that.”

Despite Kyrgios’ uncanny ability to find a headline and with Bouchard drawing criticism for her knack of finding a magazine cover, the pair remain two of the most marketable tennis players on tour.

Regardless of the criticism, Kyrgios remains a popular figure. His quarter-final against Andy Murray at the 2015 Australian Open peaked at 3.5 million viewers – higher than the peak for the Novak Djokovic-Murray final a few days later.

While his match with Bouchard at Flushing Meadows sent social media into overdrive with all sorts of rumours given their flirtatious behaviour on court, Kyrgios is now in a relationship with Australian tennis player Ajla Tomljanovic.

But the 22-year-old Canadian admits she has fond memories of linking up with Kyrgios, who she expects to have a huge year coming back from suspension.

“That was awesome for me,” Bouchard said of the mixed doubles match with Kyrgios. “That was a great experience. I think Nick is super talented and I think he’s going to have a huge year. I think you’ll find he exceeds people’s expectations this year.”

Bouchard, who earlier in the week admitted she had received death threats from obsessed fans, doesn’t regret the path she has taken as a professional tennis player.

She said she would continue to pursue her off-court opportunities, regardless of the criticism.

“You have to make the most of your life,” Bouchard said. “I don’t want to be the type to sit back and not do things and in 10 years look back and regret it. If my career were to end tomorrow it would have all been worth it.

“Obviously I want my career to go another 10 years and I want to achieve my ultimate dreams and goals, but my life is so unique compared to any other normal kid my age. Even if I never win another match on tour it’s still worth it because it’s an unbelievable experience.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

New head-high tackle laws changing Super Rugby preparation: Waratahs

09/10/2019 Posted by admin

Gone: Richard Barrington assists Geoff Parling after a high tackle that saw Barrington given the first red card under the new laws. Photo: Christopher LeeStrict new laws to rid rugby of head-high tackles are already changing Super Rugby.
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Just ask the Waratahs, who are tweaking their pre-season plans around what they predict will be the new reality of professional rugby: operating with 14 or 13 players on the field at some point during each game.

NSW defence coach Nathan Grey believes there is little else to conclude after reading the new laws, which take a zero-tolerance approach to contact with the neck and head, and observing them in action in Europe.

“In terms of management from a coach’s perspective, you’ve got to prepare a bit more for having 14 guys on the field because it’s going to happen,” Grey said.

“They’ve said those accidental things that happen you’re going to get carded for, so you need to prepare that way to have 14 or 13 guys on the field a little bit more. You’ve got to make sure you’re ready for that.”

Grey, a former Waratahs and Wallabies centre, supports the reforms and vouched on Thursday for the work and planning behind their implementation.

“The golden question is the consistency around how they deliver on that,” he said.

“It’s going to be hard, but I think the reasonings around why they’ve done it and why it’s in place is the right reason. They’re trying to do the right things by the players, which is great, and the referees and the administration side of things, they’ve done a really thorough process and they’re delivering it in a way that makes us confident as coaches to say ‘OK, that’s what they’ve said they’re going to be looking at, and what the expectation is around that’.

“There’s going to be some feeling out during the trials and into the first couple of rounds of Super [Rugby], but the consistency is the biggest thing and that’s all you hope for.”

The new laws, which mandate a yellow card for reckless contact with the head, come into effect at the Sydney Sevens in three weeks’ time. They will also be implemented during Super Rugby trial matches, which start in the first week of February, before the season proper starts on February 23.

They have been received controversially in Europe after taking effect on January 3 in the English Premiership and Pro12, with a raft of high-profile commentators and former players questioning their wisdom and, more pointedly, their implementation by referees.

Players making accidental contact with the head will be penalised, while anything deemed “reckless” will attract a yellow card – mandating 10 minutes in the sin bin – or a red card, meaning an early shower for the offending player.

Players will be punished even if the tackle starts below the shoulder and slips upwards, or if the ball carrier slips into the tackle.

Grey said the Waratahs were looking carefully at their technique, particularly at the ruck and breakdown.

“You never coach to target the head anyway, so from that perspective it’s not a massive change,” he said. “It’s more having that awareness, particularly around your clean-out, that if you’re engaging the upper half of the body you have to make sure that you go nowhere near the head. That’s pretty easy for the players, in terms of just drilling that.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Australian Open 2017: The ‘Sir’ title ‘feels a bit strange to me’, says Andy Murray

09/10/2019 Posted by admin

Andy Murray at the opening of Under Armour at Chadstone Shopping Centre on Thursday. Photo: Joe ArmaoHe’s in Melbourne for the first time as the world No.1, many believe it’s his best chance to finally win the Australian Open and, unless you slept through the news over the New Year period, you’ll know he’s now known as Sir Andy Murray.
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The 29-year-old is in career best form after an outstanding 2016 that included claiming the top ranking, an Olympic gold medal in Rio, a second Wimbledon title and appearances in two other grand slam finals – the Australian and French Open finals.

When he broke through in 2013 to become the first Brit to win Wimbledon since 1936, it was enough to add an OBE to his name. Another title at the All-England club last year has resulted in higher honours.

But the title doesn’t sit that comfortably him, mainly because of his young age, and he’s happy for people to still call him Andy. It has emerged that Australian host broadcaster Channel Seven has asked its commentators to refer to him as Sir Andy Murray.

“I was asked and I said, ‘No, I’m fine with Andy’. Andy’s fine,” Murray told Fairfax Media.

“And then on all the draw sheets and everything, and on the scoreboard, I was more than happy with it being Andy.

“The honour is great. Just having the ‘Sir’ in front of the name just feels a bit strange to me, mainly just because of my age. I feel too young for a name like that, I guess.”

Murray is again one of the main drawcards at the Australian Open, a tournament he’s finished runner-up five times since 2010, and the newly knighted star will join the likes of Sir Elton John and Sir Mick Jagger to headline the Rod Laver Arena stage.

But he’s having none of it. “I’m still hanging around the same people, the same friends, the same family. All my friends in the locker room have been laughing and joking about it.”

Murray’s 0-5 record in finals at Melbourne Park is the elephant in the room. It’s tough bringing up the subject, especially as he’s regularly fallen victim to long-time rival and six-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic.

“Here I’ve never beaten him and I’ve lost to him four or maybe five times. I can’t remember, but I’ve lost to him a bunch here. A couple of them were pretty tough matches. A couple of them were very easy for him, so I need to try and turn that around here. There’s a good chance that if I want to win the event I’d have to play against him,” Murray said.

“Hopefully, I can get by him this year but he’s definitely my biggest rival and someone that I’ve competed against for 18 years now.”

His second half of 2016 has instilled him with confidence, accumulating 28 consecutive ATP Tour wins which Djokovic ended in last week’s Qatar Open final.

“I got a good break at the end of last year. I needed it. And then trained, really really hard in the off-season with my team to make some improvements to things.

“Each year when I come I do think I’ve got a chance of winning. It’s just never happened for me here. Hopefully this year will be different.

“I do think the last few months of last year can help me, can give me a bunch of confidence. Other players look at that as well and see that you’re playing well and feel mentally and physically strong and in a good place.”

Andy Murray was making a special appearance at Chadstone Shopping Centre to open the Under Armour Brand House and unveil the new Threadborne performance apparel range 

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

India v Australia series: Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Marsh firming for Test tour of India

09/10/2019 Posted by admin

Bowling brief: Mitchell Marsh. Photo: Paul KaneSelectors are strongly considering taking all-rounders Glenn Maxwell and Mitchell Marsh to India as part of a radical plan to increase their batting depth for the mighty challenge on the subcontinent.
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Just months after their Test prospects were hit for six, the pair are now firming as key additions to what would be one of the more unusual looking sides Australia have fielded in the five-day arena.

Trevor Hohns’ panel is in the process of finalising their squad for the four-Test series and are prepared to look outside the square for solutions to end Australia’s woes on the subcontinent.

And it would not get much more left-field than playing Maxwell and Marsh at numbers seven and eight as part of a lengthened batting line-up that would also provide extra options with the ball.

Their selection would raise eyebrows given the pair’s travails this summer but both have the weapons Australia need for success against the world No.1 – and are much stronger bowlers than incumbent all-rounder Hilton Cartwright.

While Maxwell’s skills as a hard-hitting batsman and capable spin bowler have long been thought of as vital in India, for Marsh it’s his credentials with the ball which could fast-track his Test recall five games after he was axed.

With an average of 23, Marsh’s batting was not deemed up to the standard for a top-six batsman however his bowling is much more highly rated.

Marsh’s ability to break the 140 km/h mark has him high up in calculations for selectors, who are hunting for a third quick who can bowl at high speed to support front men Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood.

So desperate are selectors for a quick who is fast through the air, it’s understood the line has not been put through Pat Cummins for the tour despite the paceman’s desire to take a more gradual return to Test cricket after his lengthy battles with injury.

Marsh would bat in the lower order with the hope the reduced responsibility would give him the freedom to play his preferred aggressive game.

While Maxwell’s batting is considered his stronger suit, his off-spin has put him in the frame – possibly even at the expense of Nathan Lyon. Lyon is the superior bowler but his poor form on the subcontinent will be weighing heavily on selectors.

By picking Maxwell, they would have an explosive hitter in the middle and lower order who can turn the game in a session.

Steve O’Keefe, whose ability to keep the run rate down is highly valued, would then play as the No.1 spinner. The weakness in the plan is the poor form of wicketkeeper Matthew Wade though there is a chance Australia could be fielding a team where the No.10 has a first-class average in the 20s.

The over reliance on bit part players was viewed as a weakness in England’s failure in India, where they were trounced 4-0 despite three first innings scores of 400 or more. Coach and selector Darren Lehmann said things would have been different had England scored 500-plus.

“You need to make big, big scores and put pressure on India that way,” Lehmann said.

“I thought they played reasonably well with the bat so the challenge for our batting group is going big, much like we’ve done in the last two Test matches.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.