Friday, March 29, 2013

Maddi's Birthday Makes Friday Good

March 29 marks the actual date of Maddi's 7th birthday, though as per usual you could be forgiven for thinking it has already stretched over a week. This year it has also coincided with Good Friday, which meant we were able to have a lunchtime do instead of an evening one.

Helen decided that both sets of grandparents should be invited over to celebrate, and we had a baked lunch, including a leg of pork and a leg of lamb, along with roast potatoes and sweet potato, with other assorted vegies and gravy.

It was a ripper autumn day, warm in the sun as we sat on The Deck, with little breeze to speak of. Terrific. We even managed to finally get around to drinking the bottle of red Joel and Amy had given us at their wedding five and a half years ago. Yeah, it was okay, and the oldies managed to drink it down in record time.

12 year old Cab Sav. Yeah, not a bad drop...

Maddi and her 17th birthday cake in a week

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Helen Has Another Birthday

In amongst the plethora of events occurring here towards the end of March, Helen faces a dilemna most years now. In the past, she had the sole focus of this time of year, at which time she was showered with gifts, and often has a birthday that would last for a month, with numerous gatherings and cakes and the such.
However, now she has a daughter with a birthday just two days after hers, it can sometimes feel as though her own birthday gets lost in the crazyness, and that she doesn't always get what she used to.

Of course, it could be worse. She could be her husband, who has to ENSURE that this doesn't happen, and that Helen gets as much attention as she ever did, along with the added crazyness of Madeleine's birthday festivities.

Anyway... today Helen had a birthday lunch with Jodie, which is good for the both of them.

Then she was able to unwrap her birthday perfume that she purchased on our Sydney weekend away, as well as receiving some flowers from her kids, and a birthday dinner of T-bone steak with chips and salad.

Hopefully, she thought all of that was good enough...

Given that there has been plenty of boirthday cake already, Helen was presented with a Turkish Delight Egg with cupcakes and Twix with candles, rather than a traditional cake. I think she liked it.  :)

Mum with kids and "cake"

"Don't you DARE post that Bill!!!"

Monday, March 25, 2013

Ashes to Ashes - Where to From Here

Cricket of the modern age continues to show that the very best teams can win at home and away, while the middle of the road teams will most likely, under most circumstances, be infinitely superior in their own backyard, but are unable to penetrate when playing away from home.
South Africa battled at every turn in Australia, batted for the last day and half to salvage a draw in Adelaide against the odds before winning in Perth to claim a series victory. They have since wiped the floor with New Zealand and Pakistan at home, and are firmly ensconced as the best Test team in the world.
England had a magnificent series victory in India before Xmas, based on an excellently balanced bowling attack, and the tenaciousness and determination of their batting lineup to show both patience and attack at the correct moments. One can only wonder if they have taken New Zealand a bit easy given recent results on their tour to the shaky isles. While not facing anywhere near the same calamity as Australia did on their tour of India, there is no doubt that the New Zealand tour will be a real wake up for the Poms leading into their next eight months of cricket, the majority of which is in battle to retain the Ashes.
New Zealand showed their own fight. Having been humiliated in the Test series in South Africa, they fought long and hard on their return home to almost snatch an unlikely series victory in the final Test of their series with England.
Australia, though losing to South Africa at home, was able to win three consecutive Tests against Sri Lanka, though the weakened Sri Lankan team did put up a fight to some degree. This series win tended to paint the Australian team in a better light than they perhaps deserved, and one that maybe gave the folly of hope for their tour of India.

Is this a veiled effort on my part to suggest that Australian cricket is not as badly off as a 4-0 whitewash in India would appear to prove? Yes and no. Since Bill Lawry's team won in India in 1969, only one Australian team has won a series in India. One. That was the tour in 2004, with a bowling line up of McGrath, Gillespie, Kasprowicz and Warne provided the impetus, and the batting including Hayden, Langer, Martyn, Lehmann, Katich, Gilchrist and a debuting Michael Clarke - all of whom were magnificent players of spin bowling - tamed the locals on their own pitches. It is a team that Australia may never be able to field again in those conditions. Is it any wonder we were defeated so convincingly on this tour, given the state of the current Test team?
I mentioned in my previous blog post that, in the first two Tests, the differences between the two teams was perhaps in just two partnerships. In some ways, the same could be said for the final two Tests. The 3rd Test was mired in the Homework Affair, which probably cruelled any chance Australia had of getting into the series. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the whole affair are from whatever side you want to take, the point was that it deprived the Australian team of its most effective bowler in James Pattinson, and the chance for Usman Khawaja to come in and make an impact on the series. No matter that Steve Smith made a good impression with the bat, as did Mitch Starc with his 99. The point was that Australia's best team for that moment in time could not be, and was not, chosen, and the loss of that Test with just three overs remaining showed that it could possibly have been a contest with the right team chosen. Further points could be made of the chosen 4th Test team, and the path that Test took. However, the loss of Clarke and Starc for that match left gaping holes that could not be covered, and the whitewash was completed.
Indian cricket would believe that they are on the rise again, just a few months after being beaten by England on their own pitches. They may have some point. Laxman, Dravid and Sehwag have gone, with a lacklustre Tendulkar surely not far behind them. They have found in Vijay, Pujara, Kohli, Rahane and Dhawan a young batting lineup that has shown that it certainly has talent. The test (no pun intended) for this team now is to see if it can perform and compete outside of Indian conditions. Then we will know just how much India has to look forward to in the future.

For Australia, its future in Test cricket now lies in back-to-back Ashes series, something that has been poorly planned by the administrators but must now be attacked with fervour. Will the debacle of India prove to be the start of a "new era", or the capitulation of the unhappily administered remnants of the Argus Report? There was winners and losers both on the Indian tour, and for those that did not tour, and both sides are likely to see the outcome of this.
Usman Khawaja probably thinks that he may as well go and take out New Zealand citizenship, because he was obviously unwanted by the current hierarchy in Australian cricket. He was the only person on tour who failed to crack it for a Test (apart from Jackson Bird, who was sent home with back trouble), he has played only two first class innings in four months, both in the one lead-up game before the 1st Test in India. If nothing else can come of it, his batting reputation has not been tarnished in India, as he was not given the chance to show it.
Steve Smith proved me wrong (not such a tough ask) by playing excellently in his two Tests, averaging 40 and making great use of his feet against the Indians spinners. Though to me his technique looks like it could be torn apart by the English seamers in their conditions, it would be very unfair not to at least give him a crack at the old enemy, given he was the only batsman apart from Clarke who looked at ease against the Indian attack.
The tactics of picking allrounders instead of specialists failed dismally, long before the final Test, when it continued to be used. Australia managed to get away with it in Sydney against a depleted Sri Lankan team, but never looked a chance of doing so against India. Moises Henriques batted superbly on debut, but was unable to capitalise on this in his next two Tests. His bowling was steady but unthreatening on Indian wickets. Glenn Maxwell did nothing to disprove the idea that he is anything but a slogger with the bat, and while he picked up seven wickets with the ball he hasn't shown that he can be a frontline spinner at this point either.
The fast bowlers were completely taken out of the reckoning by the pitches put up, which was not a surprise. At times Pattinson, Siddle and Starc bowled with some venom, but overall they were made to look pedestrian on flat dusty wickets, at times through their own ineffectiveness to bowl line and length, or to reverse swing the ball.

The Test squad for the Ashes will be announced shortly, and faces a number of major problems. The major one is this - there are simply no batsmen in Australia who demand selection in front of those already chosen in the Test team. That is, apart from Victoria's Chris Rogers, who will be 36 years old when the Ashes begins, and five years after his only Test for Australia.
Only eleven batsman averaged over 40 in the Sheffield Shield this season. Of those, Andrew McDonald played two games before losing the season to injury (and given the 'search' for allrounders, he must be kicking himself), Jason Krezja averaged 80 but could only manage four games as a spinner, two were wicket-keepers (Matthew Wade and Brad Haddin), and two were end of season debutants (Daniel Hughes and Jordan Silk). The other were Henriques, Ricky Ponting, Phil Hughes, Alex Doolan and Chris Rogers.

Calling for the reinstatement of Ponting and Hussey is a backwards step that would solve nothing. Ponting was dismantled by the South African attack this summer, and he was smart enough to see that his time had come. Hundreds against Shield attacks doesn't disguise the failing eyes and shallow footwork. Hussey was still in good touch, but his heart is obviously not in the whole '100% required' any more, which would only damage his reputation. his was also a smart exit. Australia needs to make forward steps with the next generation, and though it might be a painful birth, if the right players can be found, nurtured and given as many chances as Shane Watson has had, then maybe we will be in good hands.

The next generation of batsman obviously still need another 12 months, because even though scoring runs on Shield wickets this season was obviously tough, someone needed to put their hand up if they wanted a crack at the Test team. Rob Quiney got two Tests against South Africa, but only averaged 26 in seven Shield games this season.  Alex Doolan averaged 42 in the Shield this season, but his career 1st class average of a tick under 38 with only five centuries is not the figures that should be making selectors excited yet. Joe Burns averaged 32 this season, and though his career average of 41 is lower than what they would like, he is more likely to be spoken of in selection decisions.
Chris Rogers averaged 49.46 in the Sheffield Shield this season, with over 700 runs. He has an excellent record in County cricket over a number of seasons. He has 18,962 First Class runs at an average of 49.90, with 58 centuries and 86 half centuries. Given the problems Australia still has at the top of its order, and his good record in both English and Australian conditions, and the fact that he really is the only batsmen in Australian cricket who is putting his foot forward with consistent runs, surely he deserves a chance again, especially with so few options available. He can't do any less well than anyone else in the current team.

Matthew Wade has had twelve months in the Test team, and although his batting has been handy, his glovework has been poor. And that is being kind to him. How many more chances have to be missed before he is relieved? Nathan Lyon is the one who is suffering the most from this, at a time that he can hardly have that happen. Brad Haddin has been his deputy, and showed in the 3rd Test when he played how much better his glovework is than Wade's. There is little doubt that both of these players will go to England, because the selectors have already deemed that to be the way it is. But anyone who watched the Shield final could not have helped but be impressed with the keeping and batting displays of Queensland's Chris Hartley and Tasmania's Tim Paine. Both can bat, and both have great hands. In my mind, these are the two I would take to England. They are both young and keen, and whoever got the spot in the Test team would not let their country down. Both have captaincy experience as well, which would be a benefit in this team. But - it won't happen.

The bowling looks to be more straight forward, though there will be a lot of hard luck stories. Siddle, Pattinson and Starc (if fit) will tour. Doubts still remain over Siddle's real effectiveness and ability to move the ball off the straight, but he is a workhorse and has never let the team down and will tour. Pattinson returned from injury brilliantly in India, and will no doubt enjoy the seaming conditions of England. Starc will too, if he can ever stop bowling around the wicket. Someone must put a stop to that.
Jackson Bird will hopefully return, as he appears to be a great fit for English conditions. There is little doubt Ryan Harris will be one of the first chosen for the tour, and if he can stay fit he will be a huge handful for the English batsmen.
The final seam bowling place should go to James Faulkner, who had a sterling summer. He took 39 Shield wickets at an average of 20.33, and has shown he can be very handy in seam friendly conditions as well as flat track conditions. He goes as a genuine bowler, who just for interest sake also scored 444 runs at 34.15 in Shield cricket this season. He gets his spot in front of the eternally unlucky Luke Butterworth, who took 45 wickets at 20.80 again this season as well as scoring 320 runs at 26.66. Chadd Sayers 48 wickets for South Australia also had some good judges suggesting he is another one to look at in the future.

Nathan Lyon will hold his place as Australia's spinner, but despite his nine wicket match in the 4th Test in India he still has some work to do to hold his position. Xavier Doherty will not tour, nor will likely be looked at again for Test cricket. Glenn Maxwell is highly regarded by the selectors, almost to the point that one wonders what hold he has over them. No doubt he will be the second spinner chosen for the tour, but he should not be.
There is a lot of talk for the Pakistan asylum seeker Fawad Ahmed. The 31 year old leg-spinner has made an excellent start to his Australian and Victorian career, and many are pushing for his statuts to be fast tracked so that he can make the Ashes tour. Though I enjoy watching him bowl, I don't think he should be taken to England even if he is available. I would much rather see him have a big off-season, and then hopefully be ready to be picked in the Tests in Australia next summer, on our wickets, where he will be much more effective than any in England.
I would take the youngster Ashton Agar as the back-up spinner. He looks to have a good head on his shoulders, appears calm under pressure, bowls a good orthodox spinner as well as a good arm ball, and holds the bat well enough to average almost 30. Given that we won't be playing two spinners in England, his presence will be there for him to learn and pick up everything he can - and play a part if it comes to that.

The team I would take to England (with who I think the slectors will pick in brackets) would be:

Ed Cowan
David Warner
Chris Rogers (Shane Watson)
Phil Hughes
Usman Khawaja
Steve Smith
Michael Clarke (c)

Tim Paine (Matthew Wade)
Chris Hartley (Brad Haddin)

Peter Siddle
James Pattinson
Mitchell Starc
Jackson Bird
Ryan Harris
James Faulkner

Nathan Lyon
Ashton Agar (Glenn Maxwell)

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Maddi's Gymnastics Birthday Party

Today was another busy Saturday, with people moving all over the place. Looks like another busy winter.

Jessie had her first game of the new hockey season this morning, an 8.00am start meaning no Saturday sleep-in for Dad. It was also her first game in the Under 11's which meant her first game on the full field and with full regalia for goalkeepers. Up against the more experienced Gerringong team the Albion Park side fell 7-0, but Jess played in defence in the first half and probably managed to stop at least three goals with her great efforts. In the second half they had her playing in the halves, which she was less familiar with, but it was a good learning experience.

At 1.00pm we were all at Carmel & Co. Gymnastics Centre in Sunset Avenue, Warilla where we were having Madeleine's 7th birthday party. Helen had organised it, and it was all done very well. With every piece of gymnastics equipment imaginable, the two girls/ladies running the show organised a few activities to begin, before allowing 'free time', meaning the 14 kids could run around and use anything they wanted. It was 30+ degrees on the day, and warmer indoors, so they all ran themselves ragged. Helen had over-catered on the party food that came at the very end, but all in all in was a great party. Helen had outdone herself once again, and I think all of the kids had a great time.

The Fairy Castle Cake. Good job Mum!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Death to the Spirit of Cricket on the South Coast

Before the story commences, let us deal with the facts foremost:

Clause 3.4 of the S.C.D.C.A Competition Rules for 2012/13 states;

For the purpose of third and fourth grade semi finals and finals, a player shall be deemed to belong to that grade or team in which he played six of his last eight full competition matches. Where players have played less than eight full competition matches in that season, their eligibility to play in semi finals or finals must first, be confirmed by the Board.

And further;

Games played in the Association’s Competitions, (whether One or Two Day Matches) where competition points are to be allocated shall be deemed to be full competition matches.
A bye, forfeit or complete washout shall count as a qualifying game where the nominated team has been submitted on the match result form as detailed in Clause 6.2. A nominated twelfth man shall not count as a qualifying match under this clause.
For the purposes of this playing condition a ‘full game’ means when a player is listed on the Captain’s declared team sheet for a scheduled one day game or both days of a two day match (including where day one has been washed out and day two is played as a non scheduled one day game).
For Qualification purposes all selected teams will be Final and no changes to be made on My Cricket after match inputting has been made official on My Cricket, were teams have byes or washouts this will also apply, this will be monitored through My Cricket using the applications checklist.
This will also apply to teams having byes or washouts.

Clause 8.2.8 specifically states in regards to the use of an unqualified player;

Where a team plays an ineligible or unqualified player in a Semi Final or Final, the match will be awarded to the opposition.

Kiama 3rd Grade Gold had matches against Gerringong on Saturday February 2nd, 2013, and Albion Park on Saturday February 23rd, 2013 washed out without a ball being bowled.
For both of these matches, the selected team was sent by text message to all players in the days before the match was to commence.

In an oversight, for both of the above matches, the selected team was not inputted onto the MyCricket website.

On Saturday March 16, 2013, the 4th placed Kiama Gold 3rd Grade team defeated the minor premiers, Oak Flats by 110 runs to 96, in their semi-final at Oak Flats' home ground, Shane Lee Field.

Following the completion of this match, an Oak Flats player - not the Oak Flats Executive Committee - contacted an official of the S.C.D.C.A board, and asked for the result of the match to be overturned, as the Kiama team had allegedly fielded an unqualified player, as per Clause 3.4 of the Competition Rules for 2012/13.

Acting on this contact, the S.C.D.C.A overturned the result of the match, and ruled that Oak Flats would progress to the final of the 3rd Grade competition.

Once the dust has settled, it comes to light that, on the statistics available on the My Cricket website, a player that took the field for Kiama Gold in the semi-final had only had 6 matches registered to his name as having played during the season. As ruled in Clause 3.4, if this was the case, the Kiama Cricket Club would have had to ask for permission for that player to be eligible to play in the match. Where the confusion had lain was that, in the two matches that were washed out in February, that player had been named to play. With those matches being allowed to be included in the eligibility f a player for finals cricket, it meant that he had in fact 'played' eight matches during the season, and he was effectively qualified without having to ask for permission to play.
However, with those two teams not having been entered onto the MyCricket website, these two matches were not registered at an official level, which, according to Clause 3.4, was a necessity. As a result, acting on Clause 8.2.8, the match result was reversed.

The Kiama Cricket Club 3rd Grade Gold team has, for the past three years, been the breeding ground for the Kiama Cricket Club. Its charter has been based on older senior players mixing with Under 16 and Under 14 juniors in order to bring these kids into Grade cricket, learn the game under some senior players and yet still be competitive. It requires a large rotating of the player group, in order to give everyone a game. This season alone 22 players had a game in this team - not through necessity, but because of the format of the team. Next season it will hopefully be more, given the number of players graduating into Under 16's in 2013/14.

No one can suggest here that the initial fault of this situation lies anywhere but squarely at the feet of the Kiama Cricket Club. Last season, with the number of washouts that occurred, it was imperative that the teams that were chosen had to be emphasised on the MyCricket website, to ensure that the Club and the District could ascertain who was qualified for which Grade. As it turned out, with four Grades all playing semi-finals it didn't become a huge issue. But the fact that this occurred last season, and was assiduously performed at the time, meant that there is no excuse as to why it could not and should not have been correctly done this season - all the more so because without 1st and 2nd Grades making the finals this season, player eligibility was always a chance of becoming an issue. It was an oversight, and it has proven to be an expensive one.
Given all of these circumstances, even with text messages of chosen teams to use as evidence, no one could convincingly argue that the District should overrule themselves in a normal situation, and allow Kiama to play in the 3rd Grade final. According to all of the regulations as they are written, the District was well within its rights to do what they have done at the appeal against this decision by the Kiama Club.

But that is not the full story, and it is the underhanded, unsportsmanlike and villainous dealings that occurred BEFORE this match was played that need to be examined and aired, and then ruled upon in the same manner as those that have already been presented to you.

Sometime prior to this match commencing on Saturday afternoon, at least one senior and experienced Oak Flats player became aware of the team Kiama had chosen for the semi-final. Whether or not this was from the team being posted on the Kiama Cricket Facebook page at 8.56am on Saturday morning is not clear. From that information, at least one senior and experienced Oak Flats player garnered from what had been entered on the MyCricket website that, according to the figures, one Kiama player in the announced team list had not played enough matches to be considered as eligible to play semi-final cricket. With this in mind, at least one senior and experienced Oak Flats player made a call to at least one senior and long serving member of the Executive of the South Coast District Cricket Association (S.C.D.C.A). In the discussion that followed, the  board member of the S.C.D.C.A was made aware by the Oak Flats player of the apparent discrepancy in the matches played by the Kiama player. The Oak Flats player then allegedly asked the board member of the S.C.D.C.A whether they should inform the Kiama Club of this information. In return, the alleged reply from the board member of the S.C.D.C.A was "it is not up to us to sort these issues out, that is the Club's responsibility".

With this in mind, we now have a situation where at least one senior and experienced Oak Flats player, and at least one experienced and long-serving member of the Executive of the S.C.D.C.A, knew going into the semi-final between Oak Flats and Kiama that, no matter what the result turned out to be on the field, only one team would be able to progress to the final. Given that this is the case, it is almost impossible to believe that the majority of the Oak Flats team did not know about this on the day. Also, at one of the other semi-finals being played on the day, the member of the S.C.D.C.A Executive allegedly freely spoke of this information in front of other people, and was even quite flippant about the fact that the Kiama Club's 3rd Grade side might be playing their hearts out at that moment, but they had already cooked their goose. With this information, it is also difficult to believe that more people on the Executive had not already been told of this situation.

Which do you judge to be the greater of two evils?
Do you judge an experienced and long serving player, who knowingly went into a match with this information? That if they won fair and square, they deserved to be in the final - but if they lost, they could (and would) immediately appeal to the S.C.D.C.A to take the match away from their opponents because they had played an ineligible player? No doubt they would claim that they had informed the ruling body of the information they had discovered, and that their responsibility ended at that point, that it was not up to them to inform a fellow Club that this could happen.
Do you judge an experienced and long serving official of the S.C.D.C.A, who knowingly allowed a Club to choose and play a player who, with the information available to them, was to all intents and purposes ineligible? No doubt they would claim that they had competition rules in place to deal with the information they had discovered, and that their responsibility ended at that point, that it was not up to them to inform a Club under their jurisdiction that this could happen.

Why did no one - whether it be from those that discovered this information from Oak Flats, or from the District once they were informed of this information - attempt to contact the Kiama Cricket Club and question them?
In a best case scenario, the District and the KCC could have agreed, with the help of the text messages of teams, that the player in question was in fact eligible to play. Oak Flats could then have been informed of this decision, and the match could have progressed as it did, with the selected teams, and all ruled upon by the District.
In a worst case scenario, the District could have ruled that, despite the text messages of teams, the rules of the District had not been followed, and that the player was ineligible to play. In this instance, despite the fact there would have been grumblings, Kiama could have chosen a replacement player who WAS eligible, and the match could have been played where the end result would have been completed on the field, and not by disqualification and appeals and with the shattering of dreams of innocent kids who just want to play cricket.

How exactly would previous administrators of the S.C.D.C.A, respected and multi-honoured people like John O'Dwyer, Richard Boxsell and the late Athol Noble, who have dedicated their lives to the administration of the game of cricket on the South Coast, react when told that the current board (or, at least one member of that board) allowed a game to proceed in this fashion when they had information BEFORE IT WAS PLAYED that meant that there was a 50% probability that they would have to reverse the result of the match. That they allowed a game to proceed in the full knowledge that only one team could proceed to the final. That they allowed the game of cricket on the South Coast to be brought into a state of disrepute through their own inability or lack of desire to take a course of action that allowed both teams to play on an equal footing, not one where one of the teams could never advance. Is this how the District likes to run the game on the South Coast?

Some years ago, cricket at all levels brought in a preamble which was titled The Spirit of Cricket. In essence, this was to instil in all players, young and old, a sense of playing hard but fair, and that to treat the Game of Cricket with the respect it deserves.
I do not believe that there is one fair-minded person in the world, who watches or plays the game of cricket, that would agree with what has happened this past weekend in this country 3rd Grade semi-final fixture. Surely, there is not one person who believes that if a person or persons within a ruling body were aware that a team under its jurisdiction was about to play a match with an allegedly unqualified player, which in turn meant that the result of the match would become null and void should this team win the match, that they would allow this match to proceed without informing that team of the situation. Surely, there is not one fair-minded person who believes that if a person or persons from a rival Club is aware that the team they are about to play in a semi-final match is possibly about to use a player who may possibly be ineligible, that they would not share that information with that team prior to the toss being taken.

There has been zero respect shown to the Kiama Cricket Club, and in particular its 3rd Grade Gold cricket team, in this matter. An oversight on a website team list is now said to have cost them their season. Had this all been discovered the following day, when nothing could be done to change it, then this still would have been a terrible miscarriage of justice for this team. However, when it is discovered that this whole bad taste saga could have been avoided before it began, had someone - ANYONE - who knew of this situation before the match commenced come forward and made it be known, then all of this could have been avoided.
How much dignity and respect are you willing to lose in order to win at all costs? Is it worth being branded as poor losers, and have that stigma attached to you for years to come, just to have a chance to win a 3rd Grade premiership in country NSW cricket?
How much dignity and respect are you willing to lose in allowing a Club under your authority to mistakenly play a player who was allegedly ineligible? What kind of authority would ever do that, apart from one who perhaps felt vindictive against that Club, and took pleasure in seeing it have to go through this agony? What other reason would any organisation, with the knowledge they had before the event occurred, allow this game to commence under these circumstances.

At a time when it is increasingly difficult to encourage kids to play cricket when they have so many other pursuits to choose from, and to encourage adults to give up their entire Saturday to coaching and playing cricket, it is incidents like this that cruels that even further. No good at all has come from this incident. Not for the Kiama Cricket Club, who will lose disgruntled players who have sworn never to play a game of cricket under the current District board. Not for the juniors who played in that match, believing that they had made a Grade final on their own merits, but had it ripped away from them. Not for the Oak Flats Cricket Club, whose spirit of fair play has come into serious question. And certainly not for the District body, which must now live with the consequences of all of the actions that have occurred.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Little Runner

Jessica Peters can be a very determined young girl.

Last year at her school cross country, she made the entire distance, but had to walk for long periods of the race, and had some trouble with her asthma. While a bit disappointed in herself, she was more than anything else sure she could do better.

This year, in the lead up, she did plenty of practice with her class during school time, where they would run around the school.

Today was the race, and, above all of the expectations of both Helen and myself, she ran a great race. Helen was there to see her, and said she only had to stop to walk on a couple of occasions, and apart from that she kept plodding along.
So well in fact, that she ended up coming fifth in her age group, and as a result she will be heading off to the District Carnival to compete in a few weeks. She was so proud of herself, and couldn't wait to call me at work this afternoon when she got home to tell me about it.

What a champion! She obviously didn't get this off her father, but the fact that Helen was a good short-course runner when she was at school may perhaps go part way to explaining it.

My cross country career was not as successful, as this little exchange on Facebook shows.

Monday, March 18, 2013

A Sydney Sojourn - Part Three

After a room service breakfast, we took a stroll through the Royal Botanic Gardens before we had to book out of our room and catch our train back to reality. There have been quite a number of changes since Helen ruled the roost back in the 90's between 1994 and 1999. But it is still a lovely, tranquil place to visit and walk around.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Sydney Sojourn - Part Two

We awoke to the sun streaming in through our east facing windows - quite a treat when there is no chance of anyone actually peering in at you at the same time!

We rose and went down to City Extra for breakfast, which was right at Circular Quay. The big breakfast was what took my fancy, and along with coffee was a very enjoyable way to start the day.

From here it was time to go shop browsing. Helen rarely gets the chance to look through clothes shops, and it has been a long time since I have been forced to do so as well, so we spent most of the morning looking through places such as Myer and other places of which I have no recollection in the search for bargains.

Watch out David Lawrence!

It was also St Patrick's Day today, which meant not only a lot of green and crazy people, but a parade along George Street near Town Hall, which created bottlenecks along the sidewalks.

I was able to duck into Utopia to make some quick purchases too, which was good. A Gamma Ray DVD and a couple of CDs meant I was at least able to make some part of this my own.

In the afternoon we took the rivercat up to Parramatta and back, which was terrific. It was great to be able to cruise up the harbour and into the river, and see how quickly it does become just a small mangrove covered stream. Though the breeze had picked up a little, we still had a great afternoon.

After some more champagne in the spa, and another room service dinner (yes, I got exactly the same meal as last night), we made the five minute walk to the Opera House to watch Neil Finn & Paul Kelly in concert together. And it was just fantastic. The songs they played, the way they sang them, the fact that Paul's nephew and Neil's son played in the band, was brilliant. They played for 2 hours and 40 minutes, amazingly long in this day and age. It was just a marvellous experience all round.
The following night they streamed their final gig live on YouTube, which is below. The concert starts at about the 19 or 20 minute mark. It is completely worth watching.

Putting the icing on the cake, as everyone streaked off to get taxi's or cars or trains, we strolled back to the Quay, and took the elevator to our room and our bed. Awesome.

"Whenever I Fall.... At Your Feet..."

Saturday, March 16, 2013

A Sydney Sojourn - Part One

Neither Helen nor I have ever seen Paul Kelly in concert, and though we have seen Neil Finn, we were always keen to see him again. So when, in November, I discovered that they were going to play TOGETHER at the Sydeny Opera House in March 2013, I jumped to get good tickets, and was able to keep it a surprise long enough to give to Helen for Xmas.
Also, as the concert was just a couple of weeks after our 20th wedding anniversary, I decided to make a weekend of it, and booked accomodation near the Opera House for two nights, and organised Mum & Dad to look after the kids.

So, today we drove over to Minnamurra at 10.00am, and after a cup of tea with Mum and farewells to the kids (for pretty much the first time in their lives) we boarded the train for Circular Quay. And what a lovely train ride it was. We both had our headphones in, listening to our own music, and also reading our own book or magazine, or just staring out the window. Quite the change, and very relaxing.

We arrived at Circular Quay just prior to 2.00pm, and booked into our hotel, Pullman Quay Grand, right on Circular Quay and the Royal Botanic Gardens. I had booked aroom on the RBG side of the hotel, and the room and view were both quite stunning. We had a room on the top floor of the visitor accomodation, and the management even sent up a complimentary bottle of champagne for our anniversary. So we sat on the balcony and had a lovely time.

After champagne we had to go out and find sushi for Helen for lunch (not for me, thank you), and having walked around the Quay and the Rocks, and bought a few essentials (more champagne and some chips and chocolate) we returned to our room. Having perused the room service menu, we decided on eating in and a couple of in-house movies.
The movies we watched were "Argo" (which was informative and gripping with some good performances) and "Bachelorette" (which was a female "The Hangover" which was basically tripe).
My dinner was superb. Wagyu rump steak with chips, awesome stuff. Helen also enjoyed her meal, which was of a fabulous standard and reasonable price considering where we were.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Anne's Birthday

No rest for the wicked, as we were up before dawn to make sure we could get a day in to go to Sydney to take Anne for lunch for her upcoming birthday.
Crazy stuff, allowing an alarm to awake you at 6.45am on a Sunday morning, but we needed to keep moving if we were to meet the timeframe of the day.

We arrived at Darling Harbour at 10.30am, and as usual decided to catch the Monorail around to Pitt Street. It wasn't until after we bought our ticket that we discovered what most people seemed to already know - that they are going to tear down the monorail in a couple of months. Ludicrous!! How is one supposed to find their way from an easily found parking station at the Entertainment Centre to the dead centre of Sydney without the Monorail?! Walk? With three kids? Very disappointing, and kids were almost devastated. As such, we had to take a couple of photos with them and the monorail for posterities sake.

We met Anne at the Sky Phoenix chinese restaurant, which was a yum cha restaurant, something that both Anne and Helen looooooooooooooove and that I put up with but would much rather be somewhere else. Winning dishes for me included the BBQ pork, shredded beef (a bit like crunchy witchety grubs, but still ok) the fried noodles and peppered honey pork. Good stuff. Best part of the lunch was that Josh actually ate quite a lot, fried rice and fried noodles and a spring roll and jelly for dessert. Cost as much as about five Macca's runs, but you get that I guess.

So, it was an interesting day. Started at 7.00am, and we got home at 3.30pm, all for an hour's lunch date, all of which with parking, monorail, fuel and lunch cost about $275.00. "Yikes" is what the financial manager of the family said once he had worked it all out.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Brown Paper Bag Party

It has been a long time since my parents had one of their big get togethers. When we were kids, and teens, and even twenties, there were any number of parties during the year that we were all invited to and would attend. Australia Day at the Toms' home was always a highlight, and Anzac Day at our house was also great. With much of the old group beaking up and moving away, or in some cases even passing on, these parties have become a bit of a thing of the past.

However, today, for the first time in a long, long time, Mum & Dad hosted one of their famous "brown paper bag" parties.
Ah, I hear you ask, "What the hell is a brown paper bag party?!"
Well, every couple who come must bring with them a bottle of red wine. There is no specification as to what kind of red wine it is, nor how... good... it has to be. The bottle is wrapped in a brown paper bag so that the label cannot be seen, and each is designated a letter. Then, throughout the day, you have a 'taste' of each of the bottles on offer, and mark them accordingly out of five as to what you think of it. Once the bottles are empty, they are unwrapped for all to see, and their score is averaged out. At the end, you can see exactly which you thought was the best, without being swayed by  a label or price or anything like that. It's a good way to discover new wines by taste only, and a good social event.

The scores mount up

The weather was perfect for the outdoor event, and I caught up with a lot of family friends who I hadn't seen in 10-20 years, so it was a good afternoon.

I managed to try all 12 wines on offer, and found most to be pretty good. (surpise surprise). The winner turned out to be a 2010 Robertson's Well Shiraz. Current price at Dan Murphy's is $13.75 a bottle, so probably worth a couple of investments.

Later in the afternoon Tony and I took the kids over to Minnamurra River for a dip as tghe tide came in. I was amazed that the water was so warm for this time of year, and the kids enjoyed the swim.

To top off the weekend, we came back in time to watch the Eels pulverise the Warriors 40-10 in their first round clash in the NRL. After last season, what an amazing start to the new season. Their real form will be judged by their performance against Canterbury on Thursday night.

Also - here's a photo of Maddie playing around with the sprinkler this morning, just like we used to as kids, well before they brought in all of these nasty water restrictions.