Saturday, April 28, 2018

APJSC Under 11 Reds: Round 3 vs Coniston Gold

The Albion Park JSC Under 11 Red team faced a tough away game on Saturday against Coniston Gold at McKinnon Oval, but perhaps didn’t expect it to be as ‘tough’ as it turned out to be.

With Ky and Indy absent the team was lucky to have Under 10 players Johnny and Jayden fill in for the day, and their speed and enthusiasm up front kept the pressure on the Coniston team.

The game was hard fought from the outset. The Coniston team were big bodied, and although that could have been intimidating the Red team used their improving skills and speed to keep them on the move. A couple of attacking moves early on found the ball sneak across the face of goals but not over the line. The backline of Belle Kadwell, Brock Young and Josh Peters worked hard in keeping any attacking moves at bay, clearing well to the midfield on a number of occasions. After 15 minutes, Josh dispossessed his taller opponent and passed meticulously to Jack-Ryan Eberwein on the right wing, who moved down his wing, beat two opponents and then crashed the ball to the goal where it forced its way through the keeper’s legs to get the Reds on the scoreboard and a 1-0 lead.

The work rate of the kids was enormous. Belle was unstoppable, chasing down every player who made their way through midfield, worrying the ball off them and then supporting down her flank. Zoe Middleton and Claire Kadwell up front on the left side of the field ran at everything, not giving the Coniston players any time or room to move, consistently frustrating their attempt to get to the other half of the field. Up front Noah Black did well to keep himself clear of defenders, giving his teammates an easy mark to kick to and open up attacking opportunities. He had one shot that just went wide of the right post, and his sharing of the ball was also excellent. This pressure eventually led to the Reds second goal, when a shot almost caused an own goal for Coniston, but Johnny was on the spot to put the ball in the back of the net and take a 2-0 lead.

It was not all one way traffic, and while the defensive line was good there were three or four chances for the Coniston team to open their account, but they were twice denied by good goal line defence from Brock and Josh, and there was also two great saves by Jack Tate, one a fantastic dive to his left that would have made Mark Schwarzer proud. At half time the score remained at 2-0.

There was plenty of enthusiasm from both teams to open the second stanza, with Coniston making three big attacking raids on the goals, but they were repelled by two brilliant saves by Noah who had taken over the custodian’s role, one a pure reflex screamer that must have been frustrating for the home team. The defence held though, and once these attacks had been dispelled the Reds put on another goal for themselves, this time Jayden able to breach the defence to put the Reds up 3-0.

The remainder of the game was somewhat overshadowed by the roughhouse tactics by some of the Coniston team that unfortunately were mostly overlooked by the official. But the Reds team soldiered on bravely and refused to take a backwards step for any of them. Jack Tate was barrelled over unceremoniously after he had made a cracking shot on goal that was only denied a goal by a terrific save by their keeper. Belle Kadwell was monstered in one play where she was elbowed once and knocked down twice illegally, but she kept getting up and took the ball off him three times in the same play. Brilliant stuff, and she refused to leave the field of play. Josh got knocked down and trodden on at least three times for no whistle, while almost every player felt the tough tactics of their opponents. And yet, none of them buckled and they refused to return the tactics. It was great play by all the kids and a credit to their coaches Shane and Andy for the way they held themselves.

The final score of 3-0 was a tremendous effort from the team, and they should be rightly proud of their efforts.

Player of the Day was Zoe Middleton who against didn’t stop for the whole game, and took some punishment herself against the bigger boys that she refused to shy away from, and she showed a lot of bravery in continue to get in their face and take the ball off them even when she was being kicked in the shins and ankles for her trouble. Well done Zoe, you deserved your award today.

Friday, April 27, 2018

W.A.S.P. / ReIdolized (The Soundtrack to The Crimson Idol). 2018. 4/5

I guess there are any number of reasons you can come up with for wanting to re-record an album from your back catalogue, especially one that is as dear to the hearts of fans as The Crimson Idol is. I imagine in this case that the main reason for Blackie revisiting what some believe is his magnum opus is that he wanted to bring it closer to his original concept, to add in the things he left out the first time, and to change some things that he was no longer comfortable with. Whether it is a great or foolish idea will be in the eye of the beholder, if for no other reason that the original album was so popular, did it really require any touching up?

The original 1992 album is one of my favourite albums of all time. There is a real angst and anger delivered throughout the album and storyline, and the musicianship, especially in the drumming of both Frankie Banali and Stet Howland is incomparable and in Bob Kulick’s guitar riffs and licks. Almost every song is a winner in its own way and at that time of my life it spoke to me in a way that the grunge-soaked rock that was proliferating the music world then couldn’t do.
As to this re-recorded version, well… in many instances it doesn’t have the same effect as the original did. Don’t get me wrong, the great songs are still great. The opening from “The Titanic Overture” and “The Invisible Boy” to “Arena of Pleasure” and “Chainsaw Charlie” are still terrific, but they do not have the same anger and defiance and angst in the vocals and the music that the originals did. They aren’t stonewashed as such, but they are less powerful. The current line-up of Blackie, Doug Blair, Mike Duda and Mike Dupke do a good job of recreating each song, trying to get the same nuances and not messing about too much with the song structure, but it isn’t the same. Blackie tries to give us a few harmonies in the vocals which work for the most part. There are six ‘new’ tracks added to the album, which for actually mess up the whole feel of the story and disrupt the continuity of the music. I cannot get used to not flowing straight from “The Gypsy Meets the Boy” into “Doctor Rockter” which has always been a great pick up. Instead, we have the quiet reflective “Michael’s Song” and “Miss You” which was also added on the previous album Golgotha. Then, once we had the power ballads of “The Idol” and “Hold on to My Heart” we would crash into the epic closer “The Great Misconceptions of Me”. Here though we have four further additions. The clear guitar driven “Hey Mama” is followed by “The Lost Boy”, which very much sounds like a post-2001 era W.A.S.P. song, and for me feels out of place because it does come from a different time period of the band. “The Peace” just feels like it’s a repeat of “Hold on to My Heart” (of course with different lyrics telling a different part of the story) and “Show Time” another short addition. All of this for me stops the story and album in its tracks, and takes away some of the enjoyment. For those who are not familiar with the original this shouldn’t be an issue.
There is also the noticeable elimination of language from the album. The changing of words in the middle of “Chainsaw Charlie” makes it a little awkward to listen to on this album. It tends to detract from the power of the middle of the song, where the real charge of the album comes from. There is also the exchange between Jonathon and Alex Rodman pre-“The Idol” which has the harsher words changed for less demonstrative ones. This isn’t a big thing, and was no doubt an obvious move given Blackie’s changing belief system in recent years, but for me it takes away a part of the energy and drama of the album. On the positive side, I can at least allow my ten year old son to listen to this version of the story without fear of him listening to words he probably shouldn’t at his age (but given he is a fan of W.A.S.P. he has heard them all anyway).

Blackie had his reasons for taking on this project again, and for making the changes he did. That’s fine, and if it introduces new kids and new fans to this great album then it is more than worth it. Those that listen to this without the looming large shadow of the original hanging over it will be pleasantly surprised by a wonderful rock opera filled with awesome heavy metal tracks mixed with some slower ballad tracks that for the most part combine together well. Everything sounds great here and is in its right place. The Crimson Idol is still one of my favourite albums ever, and in being seen to judge this somewhat harshly it is only because I have such fondness for the original production.

Rating:  “But the dream became my nightmare, no one could hear me scream”.  4/5

Anderson's Match We Can All Relate To

New Zealand’s Corey Anderson had one of those forgettable days that we have all had on the cricket field on Wednesday, as the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) chased down an unlikely target to defeat the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in a high scoring match in the Indian Premier League (IPL).

Anderson has lived in the shadow of his amazing feat from New Years Day in 2014, when he smashed what was then the fastest ODI century, bringing up his ton off just 36 deliveries against the West Indies. His 2015 World Cup campaign was also successful with both bat and ball as New Zealand charged to the final. His left handed batting has always been on the attacking side, while his left arm bowling can be pushed beyond military medium. As an all-round package he appears a perfect fit for T20 cricket.

His start to the IPL in 2018 had been largely forgettable, having only played in two of the first five matches for RCB, making 0 and 15 with the bat and taking 2/47 and 1/10 with the ball.

Chosen to play against Chennai on Wednesday, he came to the crease with the score at 2/138 in the 14th over, after a wonderful pace setting partnership of 103 off nine overs, ostensibly to swing from the hip and keep the momentum going. Easier said than done some days, and that’s just what Anderson found out. He faced five consecutive dot balls off Dwayne Bravo to hand him a wicket maiden, a rare event in T20 cricket. He chopped two wide balls to point, watched a short slow ball pass by his eyes, charged and missed a wide ball and was completely fooled by a slow full toss that struck him on his back pad, which was met with a raucous appeal from Bravo for LBW.

In the following over from Imran Tahir, Anderson put a miscued slog short of mid-on for a single, followed it with another tentative push to long on for another single before he failed to pick the wrong ‘un which he parried to first slip for a simple catch. An innings that was supposed to be one that continued the RCB momentum ended after eight balls had produced just two unconvincing singles. Not the kind of innings to hang your hat on.

There is no fun being a designated ‘finisher’ with the ball in T20 cricket. The opportunity of being a hero is far outweighed by the chance that you will instead be the one who is blamed for a loss. Virat Kohli made his decision to close out the match bowling Anderson and Mohammed Siraj for three overs each. At that time, CSK required 80 runs from the final 36 deliveries.

What chance does a bowler have? Flat wickets, short boundaries, wides called for anything not bowled almost directly at the batsman. Miscues fall beyond the reach of fieldsmen, edges fly away into gaps to the boundary. The last thing you need is to have a teammate drop a catch off a batsman that is flying. This is what happened to Anderson’s third ball of this spell, when Rayudu’s skied ball was put down by Umesh. Reprieved, Rayudu then gleefully smashed the final two balls of the over for six.

Anderson’s ploy was to bowl his left arm deliveries short of a length across the right handed batsmen wide of the off stump. It meant if they wanted to hit to the leg side they had to take a risk. On the other hand, the shorter off side boundaries were also in play if you could clear the fieldsmen.

16 runs came from Anderson’s over, and 15 came from his next. By this stage Anderson’s tactics were predictable to those watching on TV and to those batting in the middle. With 16 required for victory in the final over, Dwayne Bravo top edged the first wide delivery to the third man boundary, the second over the long off boundary. A single gave MS Dhoni the strike, and he calmly stepped across outside his off stump and put the predictably directed delivery twenty rows back over long on to win the game with two balls in hand.

Anderson finished with 0/58 from 3.4 overs, conceding six sixes and two fours. Watching Anderson forlornly trudge off the ground, with the crowds cheers ringing in his ears, you couldn’t help but sympathise with his position. After all, we have all been in the same position on the cricket field. My father always said “there’s another game next week” as a way of reminding me that the chance for redemption was not far away. For Corey Anderson in this season’s IPL, that may not be the case.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Judas Priest / Firepower. 2018. 4.5/5

In an world where the early leaders of the heavy metal art form are ageing and deteriorating such that not only do band members change but the music itself has evolved outwardly since their earliest incarnation, it makes sense that many people may question the arrival of new music from these bands. What do they have to offer in the current music environment, and how could it possibly be relevant to either long time followers or possible new recruits who may find it is obsolete? These are thoughts that it would not be unfair to have running through your head as you approach the 18th studio album released by metal stalwarts Judas Priest, and yet by the time you have listened to Firepower on a couple of occasions most will appreciate that there is still plenty of firepower left in the old war chest.

When the previous album Redeemer of Souls was released it was a positive feel. I was perhaps relieved rather than completely excited. From the get-go here though I was excited. The first taste of the album dropped a week or so before the album arrived, and it had everything that you could have hoped for in a Judas Priest song. And the when I first got the album, it was… well, not mind blowing as such, but it was somewhat unexpected as to how much I enjoyed it.
The best part for me is that I went in with no expectations, but got plenty in return. You won’t get supersonically fast songs, you won’t get heavier than heavy songs, you won’t get vocals and screams that raise the roof. What you do get are pacey songs with great riffs and solid thumping drum work with those great Halford mid-range vocals throughout. The songs are catchy, and the structure works terrifically. They are not as simplistic as “Breaking the Law” or “Living After Midnight”, and they are not as bombastic as “Painkiller” or “Leather Rebel”.
This album hasn’t left my rotation since its release almost two months ago. It gets me in right from the start with the great riffage of “Firepower”, “Lightning Strike” and “Evil Never Dies”. “Firepower” is a brilliant opening song, clattering along, and followed by “Lightning Strike” with great guitar work from Glen Tipton and Richie Faulkner and dual vocal work from Halford creating another great singalong song. Then we fall back into a more traditional heavy riff, complemented by super drumming from Scott Travis again, that keeps the brilliant vibe of the album going. These three songs make for a superb opening to the album. The rest of the album too is terrific, with songs such as “Rising From Ruins”, “Flame Thrower”, “Traitors Gate” and “Sea of Red” all of different tempo but no less enjoyable than the rest of the album.
Many of the older fans may be looking for the classic Judas Priest on this album, and younger fans may be looking for something completely different. For me I could not have asked for anything more from this album, from this band, at this stage of their career. All of the elements that make Judas Priest such a timeless band are here, even if they may be subtly different. Halford’s vocals continue to amaze, and they sound as powerful as ever. He doesn’t go for the heights anymore, which more than anything else makes it easier to sing along to the songs on this album. Tipton and Faulkner are still magnificent in the art of guitaring, with Faulkner in particular really coming to the fore on this album. Hill’s bass work can still be completely underrated but once again here his playing is compulsory in bringing the low end to the songs. Topping it off is Travis’s drumming which continues to be the benchmark for the band, perfectly timed and adding flourishes when there is a gap to fill.

Many may write this off as too tailored or too predictable or not relevant in the modern age of metal, but I would counter that this is the perfect release for this time. Whether or not it was inspired by the classic Judas Priest albums of the 1980’s, the sound has a tie to that era, but without trying to transplant or copy it. This is a modern album with relevance to the band’s past, and by doing so creates exactly what the fan wants. There can’t be another Defenders of the Faith or Painkiller, but for 2018 this will suffice nicely.

Rating:  “He pulls the strings inside you and plays upon your fears”.  4.5/5

Backyard Cricket Will Be More Relevant Than "The Hundred"

The news of the brave new initiative of the ECB to introduce a fresh approach to cricket with their “The Hundred” domestic competition in the English summer from 2020 has missed the real opportunity to bring in ‘backyard’ rules that would actually draw regular people to the game.

While Director of Cricket Andrew Strauss and current English Test Captain Joe Root have been positive in their belief that this will be a good thing for cricket, many others have suggested that as a marketing ploy it has little to offer.

With the concept still in its infancy, the fact that it has been announced this week seems to indicate that the ECB plans to move forward with the proposal as it tries to offer an eight city-based team competition that will stand apart from the other domestic T20 competitions around the world, such as the Indian Premier League, the Big Bash and the Caribbean Premier League. The announcement has brought a varied and proportional response from cricket lovers around the world.

At the heart of the concept is that both teams would face 100 deliveries, made up of 15 six ball overs, and a final over of ten deliveries. Of course there is no chance this will be a 100-balls-per-side initiative, because the number of wides and no balls that come with the one day game will ensure that number is never achieved. There are also possible rule tweaks that include abandoning LBW dismissals and allowing a change of bowlers in the middle of the final ten ball over.

The ECB chief executive Tom Harrison believes "This is a fresh and exciting idea which will appeal to a younger audience and attractnew fans to the game," while England captain Joe Root has been quoted as saying "It's going to appeal to a completely new audience, and I think that's great,” and that mums and kids would be drawn in by the ‘new’ concept.

If the ECB is serious about creating a new competition format for cricket which would bring in the mums and the kids as well as new people who have not been regular followers of the game, then instead of borrowing heavily from the T20 cricket format that already exists, why wouldn’t they design a game that revolved around the type of cricket that everybody already knows and participates in, such as backyard cricket rules?

Who wouldn’t be excited about seeing domestic cricketers playing a game under rules such as can’t get out first ball, hitting the ball over the fence is six and out, and batsmen can be caught out on the ‘one hand one bounce’ rule? What about bringing in the automatic wicket-keeper? Or put in the garbage bin at silly point, and if you hit it on the full you are out caught? If you want real excitement, let’s play under the ‘hit and run’ rule. How about bowlers who claim they have two balls to go in their over, even though they’ve been bowling for twenty minutes?

These are the kinds of changes to cricket that might draw in the Mums and the kids in a different way from the current cricket formats, not just another shortening of the overs being faced by each side and then a fancy multi-ball over to finish off the innings. Better yet, open up the discussion to the public as to what rules they actually want to see in a new cricket competition, and not just give the game a quick polish and pass it off as ‘new and exciting’.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

APJSC Under 11 Reds: Round 2 vs Albion Park Green

The unseasonable warmth for April persisted through to today's second round of the junior soccer season, and left its mark on the match-up between the Albion Park Under 11 Red tam and their cohorts the Albion Park Green team at the beautiful Terry Reserve for this week's match.

Down a pair of twin velociraptors in Belle and Claire Kadwell for the match the Reds got some top up value from the lending of Lachlan from one of the other Albion Park teams, as well as the addition of Zali Middleton. Both players helped to handle the workload on a warm morning for both teams.

Early on it felt as though the Reds were all still asleep. There was none of the usual energy and drive, and a lot of standing around and not willing to do the hard work to get the ball. Fortunately on a couple of occasions Indy Middleton and Jack-Ryan Eberwein were able to shut down some attacking raids that looked dangerous, and cleared the ball up to the forward line. Ky Van Helden did some good swerving in the mid-field from these deliveries, while Zali continued to be the live wire up front, never stopping and attacking at every opportunity.
The tough beginning was broken wide open by Indy, who stole the ball again and then make a big break himself down the right wing before getting the ball in to Noah Black, who made a great pass to Zali who was unmarked, and she crashed the ball home to open the scoring at 1-0.
Lachlan showed his own skills not long after, beating three opponents down the right before slashing a shot that passed right across the face of goal to just miss scoring. From the restart however Zoe Middleton forced a mistake from the defense before passing the ball to Noah, whose strike was not 100% but managed to go through the legs of the keeper to make the score 2-0

The team had started to get themselves moving now, as Brock Young found space down the left side before passing in to Noah, whose shot was wide of the goals. From the goal kick however Zali blocked the kick perfectly, and on the rebound slotted the ball home for her second goal and a 3-0 lead.
The Green team however was also coming to life, and from a goal kick at their end they managed to get past a slightly lax defensive unit to get the ball to the other end, where they scored a goal past keeper Josh Peters, who did his best to save by was beaten by a great strike, and the score at half time was 3-1 to the Reds.

The second half opened much better for the Reds after Coach Shane Black and CEO Andy Middleton had instructed their young changes on what was required. Ky took a ball early on from halfway, and found his way through the defenders to put the ball in the back of the net and extend the lead to 4-1. The Greens replied with a goal of their own to keep the pressure on. Some great work from Josh in the mid-field and then a perfect pass to Ky's feet up forward brought another goal for Ky and made the scoreline 5-2.
Some indecision in the backs and perhaps some exhaustion setting in (all of the kids were red in the face and puffing hard by this stage) gave the Green team several chances to score. Jack Tate in goals was busy, and made a great fist of his job. he made one excellent save to deny the Greens a goal, and then made a diving full length save against a cracking shot that should rank as save of the season, only to have his opponents sneak the rebound past him to make the score 5-3. With the defensive line too high when a great break was made it left Jack stranded, and despite his best efforts the Greens scored another goal to bring the game back to 5-4 and now it was very tight.

A good play between Josh and Brock saw the ball go out, with Brock making a great throw back to Josh who ran down the right wing almost to the flag, before making a perfect pin-point cross into the centre past three defenders to where he found Noah, who controlled the ball and then placed the ball into the back of the net for a terrific goal that extended the lead back to 6-4. These three combined again not long after, with Noah in the centre making a run before passing perfectly to Brock on the right, who then composed himself with a short run before blasting the ball home for a great individual goal, and the score was a more comfortable 7-4. This didn't stop the Green team, who again forced a goal from nothing at the other end to get the score back to 7-5, but time was against them and that was the final play of the match.

All the kids did well in tough conditions, but Zoe Middleton deserves special mention for her work rate. She didn't always get much of the ball, but she was in position all the time, and ran forward to present herself but got back quickly when the ball changed sides. She worried the ball off her opponents terrifically well.

Player of the Day was awarded to Indy Middleton who again showed great defensive skills (although his eyes wandered to the other match a couple of times) and continues to take his chances to make big runs through the centre and down the wings before getting the ball to his teammates in the scoring positions. Great work Indy.

A short break ensues for the school holidays, but the kids have already shown they should be in for a great season, especially if they keep listening to Shane and Andy's advice.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Selectors Eye World Cup in New Contract List

The probable direction for Australian cricket for the next twelve months, with a home series against India and then leading up to the 2019 World Cup and away Ashes series, appears to have been set by the announcement of the new Cricket Australia contract list, with a couple of winners and some notable losers standing out amongst the names announced yesterday.

The list appears to be heavy on current one day specialists, highlighting not only the emphasis on what will be an important twelve months leading up to the World Cup, but also on the dearth of immediately obvious candidates to take up positions in the Test team over the same period.

Neither Jackson Bird nor Chadd Sayers, who have been the number one support acts behind Starc, Hazlewood and Cummins this past summer in the Test squad, have been offered a contract, which suggests that the selectors have decided that are not the answer should injury knock down one of the ‘Big Three’, and that they will be looking elsewhere in the future.

It’s a huge comedown for both men. Bird has been the faithful 12th man for most of the past two years, only gaining a match on the stark and desolate road at the M.C.G. in December, while Sayers finally got his chance in the baggy green in the final Test in South Africa, but now looks as though he will join fellow Redbacks in Joe Mennie and Callum Ferguson as ‘One Test Wonders’.

The other major casualty of the new list is the casting aside of Adam Zampa, leaving his World Cup chances in great danger. He has been in and out of the ODI team over the past twelve months and while his results haven’t been startling he has shown good aptitude in difficult circumstances. It would appear that the selectors are siding towards the big hitting Ashton Agar and part-time spin options like Travis Head and Glenn Maxwell for their World Cup team, which squeezes Zampa out of the equation.

Coming in to World Cup consideration are the fast bowling Richardson pair of Jhye and Kane, and the economical trickery of Andrew Tye. All three will be looking to book places in the squad behind the ‘Big Three’, with Tye probably the favourite at the moment. Having toured South Africa as a back-up paceman, Jhye may already be considered as the next in line for a Test place as well given the fate of both Bird and Sayers.

There was also recognition for Marcus Stoinis who will be a major factor of that ODI squad and in some people’s eyes will also be looked at for the Test squad.

Tim Paine and Alex Carey are the nominated wicket-keepers at the expense of Matthew Wade, and Paine will no doubt have received a hefty increase given his rise in stature following the departure of Steve Smith and David Warner. Whether he captains the ODI team as well as the Test team, or that duty is given to Aaron Finch is yet to be seen. Also given Carey’s excellent debut in the T20I team in February, he may well retain that role in the future as well.

Shaun Marsh returns to the contract list, which not only suggests he is still well and truly in the Test match frame, but may also make a surprise return to the ODI team as Finch’s opening partner in place of Warner. Marsh has good statistics as an opener in one day cricket, and retaining the left/right combination at the top of the order would be a bonus.

The glaring deficiency in the contract list is for the next line of Test batsmen. It reveals that the selectors have about as much idea as to whom will be in the team as every armchair selector in the country. It should be a signal to every batsman in Australia that big early runs in the Sheffield Shield, much like Cameron Bancroft did last season, could be the springboard to a Test cap.

Those not on the contract list are not finished. All can be added at a later date should their form and selection warrant it. But as an initial look at what the selectors are thinking for the Smith/Warner/Bancroft-less twelve months ahead, it is an interesting landscape ahead for the Australian cricket team.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Blaze Bayley / The Redemption of William Black: Infinite Entanglement Part III. 2018. 3.5/5

This is the second ‘trilogy’ of albums I have finished listening to over the past two weeks. The first was Geoff Tate’s Operation: Mindcrime trilogy story, which for me ended much the way it had started. When it comes to Blaze Bayley’s concluding chapter in his Infinite Entanglement trilogy, entitled The Redemption of William Black: Infinite Entanglement Part III, I have a similar feeling, in that I don’t think any part of the three albums has changed my mind over the whole concept of the story and the albums it entails. Indeed for some time I was concerned that it had in fact fallen backwards.

At my advancing age in listening to music in general and to heavy metal at the forefront of that, I have become less frantic in trying to devour every aspect of an album. In my youthful days in the 1980’s I spent hours poring over record covers and devouring lyrics to ensure I knew every single aspect of a song or an album, and was able to decipher this for anyone that would listen to me. The occasional concept albums that came my way found me even more diligent in this aspect. But old age has found I don’t have the time or devotion to go down that path anymore, and as my collections have moved from vinyl to disc to digital I don’t even have to know what the cover artwork is anymore. This becomes even truer as to the nature of the storyline that Blaze has set out over these three albums. I honestly haven’t taking in the lyrics enough to actually be able to work out what the story is he is telling. All I’m listening to are the songs, and picking up snatches of what is being said, and just wondering if I like it or not. My Past Self would be quite annoyed with my Present Self in this regard, suggesting I needed to take more time to envelope in the story. Past Self had much more time available to him to do such things that Present Self currently doesn’t have. One day I do intend to sit down and discover this storyline, but as yet I have not.

As to the songs themselves, I admit that after the first half a dozen listens to The Redemption of William Black: Infinite Entanglement Part III I felt disappointed. I couldn’t find much here that I truly enjoyed, that was jumping out at me and grabbing me, and at that time I felt this had some major flaws. Just allowing it to play through in the background while I did other stuff it felt like every song was the same, and that there was little to define these songs or this album from a lot of Blaze’s recent stuff. To be honest I was ready to cast it aside, and perhaps come back to it at a later time. Over the next half a dozen listens though I began to find my way into the narrative as such, and found the rhythm of the album, and then it became less of a chore and more of a pleasure to listen to. In the long run, I had to find the Blaze Bayley definition again. He has his own style that has been developed over recent albums where he now has no Blaze Bayley band to collaborate with, and instead he writes through his own thoughts while bouncing them off others he is close to at the time. In many ways it has brought a similarity to his music which can be off putting, especially for those that don’t enjoy his style. And that is the crux of this album. If you like Blaze’s style and substance, you will enjoy this album. If you do not then you won’t find anything here to win you over.

I’m glad that I stuck with this, and gave it time to win me over. It is not his best work, and there are few songs here I would consider putting on a greatest hits playlist of his work. That can be the problem with concept albums, the songs have to fit the story, not just win you over as songs themselves. Compared to other albums I have had on rotation over the past couple of weeks, this sits somewhere in the middle.

Rating:  The conclusion fits mostly with the first two parts.   3.5/5

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

T20 Calling as Cutting Calls it Quits

Ben Cutting’s announcement yesterday of his decision to retire from first class cricket and concentrate his career on the T20 game brought with it the usual concerns from some corners of the cricket world as to where the game was headed in the future, and if this was an indication of what modern cricket will become, with young(ish) men abandoning the ‘real’ cricket in order to play the more lucrative T20 tournaments around the world. There is a legitimate thought process regarding this kind of thing happening, but if you ponder this as an individual case, then surely Cutting has made a fair and rational decision for his own future, which will not impinge upon the future of his state and country.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the long form of the game above all others, and would hate to see it diminished in any way by players choosing to abandon it to feather their nest with quick cash from the T20 format at the expense of a longer career in the first class and international game. In this case, I don’t think either side of the argument would be disappointed.

Cutting has had a reasonably successful career with Queensland. In 51 first class matches he took 170 wickets at 28.41, and averaged 23.65 with the bat while scoring one century and seven fifties. At the height of his powers in 2013 and 2014 he played four ODI’s for Australia and also seven T20 internationals, but was never able to quite hold his place. He was on the verge of a dream Test selection when he was named in the squad to play against New Zealand in 2010/11, but again couldn’t quite crack the final eleven.

Over the past two seasons, Queensland has made a conscious decision to move in a different direction in regards to their pace attack. In 2016/17 Cutting played only three Shield matches and seven Matador Cup matches. Despite reasonable returns, he was unable to get a look in for a match in either competition in 2017/18. Given that Queensland won the Sheffield Shield competition this season without his input in any match, it is fair to assume that he has been surpassed for future selection.

At 31 years of age there is every possibility that if he put a solid pre-season behind him he could again challenge for a place in both Queensland teams next season. In the past, when in order to make money from playing cricket he would have had to have a State contract, this is most likely what he would have done. But it is the modern age, and given his success as a pinch-hitting batsman capable of massive strikes when at the crease, mixed with his straight, full and at times fast bowling, it is easy to see why T20 franchises would be looking to employ him, and for more money than he would be able to earn with a State contract.

This one is a win for one of the good guys. Ben Cutting served his state and country to the best of his ability, and gave Queensland and Australia everything he had on every occasion. Some may look at his career and say he didn’t live up to expectations. Perhaps they need to look at it from another perspective, and see that he was a very good state cricketer was given the chance to represent his country on several occasions, and he didn’t let anyone down. That he can still continue to play a high exposure form of cricket without holding up a state contract for a young and up-and-coming cricketer is perhaps the best scenario for both state and player.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Operation: Mindcrime / A New Reality. 2017. 1.5/5

I did promise I was going to steer clear of listening to future releases from Geoff Tate, a number of times actually. And I then also promised that I would stop reviewing those albums, mainly because it would give them an unfair skew giving that each time I listen to a new release it is poles apart from what I like. But here I am again, being sucked into the vortex, because there is always that chance that what I hear may again please me like Geoff’s original band pleased me back in the day.

The New Reality completes the trilogy concept plan that Geoff promised to deliver on the creation of his new band and name, which will apparently be mothballed once the tour behind this album is completed. Those that have listened to the first two albums – The Key and Resurrection – will therefore know what is coming on this album. I did too, but I still had to complete the journey just so I could say I gave it all a fair shake. So if you have listened to those two albums and you enjoy what has been offered then you can approach this album with open arms. If you found that the first albums were much of a muchness, and more tedious than experimental, then you can also steer clear of this album.
There are the odd moments when the Tate vocals come back into play, such as about halfway through “All For What?” where he sounds as though he means what he is singing and gives it some oomph. But for the majority of the album the songs crawl along in way that sounds like it should be 1970’s progressive rock, but without the rock part involved. The synthesizers dominate, and Tate’s saxophone becomes prominent in a number of songs, while Kelly Gray is back to offer some guitar and more producing of the album.
Yes, I assume there is more of the storyline that has been offered throughout, but as I’m sure I have suggested on reviews for the previous two outings, I just don’t have the inclination to find out exactly what it is about and what is happening. The story doesn’t matter a fig if the music drags you in, which is exactly what happened with the album that carries this project’s name. Unfortunately here, the music and songs do nothing to inspire me to search out what is happening within the lyrical content.

So I have satisfied my curiosity by wallowing through this release, and reached the end of what is the great Geoff Tate Trilogy following his exit from his previous band. Though none of it has tickled my fancy in the slightest, at least it is done. The next question will be, what is the next move by Tate, and will I feel as though I must continue to follow his music on the extraordinarily long off chance that he produces something that will rekindle his lacklustre appeal.

Rating: There's light at the end of the tunnel. 1.5/5

Saturday, April 7, 2018

APJSC Under 11 Reds: Round 1 vs Albion Park Yellow

The brand-new season for the Albion Park Junior Soccer Club began today, with the Under 11 Red team looking forward to a successful season. In retaining all ten players from last season, the kids and their parents all converged on Terry Reserve for their opening match against the Albion Park Yellow team.

It was a fast start from the Reds, with Kyan Van Helden jumping out of the blocks and putting the ball in the back of the net in just the second minute of play. Another volley two minutes later went just wide of the post, but his third strike of the morning brought his second goal in just five minutes, and the Reds led 2-0. A great incisive run down the left by Indy Middleton kept the pressure on their opponents, and not long after there was a great coast-to-coast play, as Brock Young tackled and stripped the ball, passing it to Josh Peters who manoeuvred the ball to Jack Tate and then on to Claire Kadwell who pushed the ball past the keeper, and made it a 3-0 lead.

At this point their Yellow opponents decided that they needed to attack via the long ball to get through the Red line, and they made a couple of good attacking raids. Josh was moved from back to midfield and made his presence felt immediately. He put through a great ball to Jack-Ryan Eberwein who just missed with his shot. Josh then moved past two players and took his shot only to have it well saved, and a minute later he got another shot in traffic, but this time hit the post. His next chance came from a long way out, and his great shot was saved by the keeper at a long stretch, but Jack Tate was on hand to score from the rebound, and the Reds led 4-0.

Indy made another great long run through the middle of the field and got off a great kick at goal, which was well saved. At the back, Belle Kadwell and Brock were fantastic in defence, working well together to strip the ball from their opponents as they worked their way downfield. This led directly to the next goal as Belle’s defence got the ball to sister Claire, whose fabulous pass to Ky allowed him the bury the ball in the back of the net for a 5-0 lead.

Perhaps the midfield got a little lax from here, and they failed to make the running back to help their defence on two occasions, and both were taken advantage of by the Yellow team who scored two goals to get back into the match at 5-2. Just before the break, another great show of passing between Jack Tate to Ky through to Indy, then back to Ky led to Claire bullying the ball past the keeper for the team’s sixth goal, and a 6-2 half time lead.

The start of the second half was highlighted by great defence by the back three of Brock, Josh and Jack-Ryan, and Jack in goals. They turned back four or five attacking raids. This pressure then allowed the front to take advantage, with a pass from Josh to Ky then moved on to Noah Black on the right wing, and his shot rebounded back to Ky who scored the first goal of the second half. Moments later a beautiful and pinpoint throw from Belle found Noah down the wing again, and he wound his way through the defence to score his own goal and take the lead out to 8-2. A defensive lapse allowed the Yellow team to get back to 8-3 before the Reds fought back again, as Belle pushed the ball out to Zoe Middleton who made a great pass to Josh in the middle, who in turn made a great pass to Jack-Ryan. Jack-Ryan may have blazed away himself in previous years, but his skills have developed no end, and he drew two opponents to him before expertly putting the ball at Ky’s feet, and he again beat the keeper to make the score 9-3.

Perhaps the Reds got tired from here (it was 29 degress), or perhaps they got complacent, but the Yellows kept fighting, and kept scoring goals. Two in succession and three of the next four in fact as the Reds changed their formations, and the score was soon 10-6. It could have been worse except for an exceptional piece of defensive work from Jack-Ryan, who saw his keeper drawn forward to try and save the ball, leaving the goals wide open. As the Yellows made their shot on the open goal, Jack-Ryan appeared from nowhere and cleared the ball away, right on the goal line. It was terrific, instinctive play, and for me was the play of the day. Ky’s sixth goal of the day came in the middle of this, after a terrific run and then pass from Josh left Ky with an open goal.

The final goal of the day was all down to Claire who was quite brilliant, making the play up the left side of the field and then making a stunning pass through three opponents to find Josh on his own, who dribbled to the goal and ensured he beat the keeper to score, and leave the game at a final score of 11-6. Josh himself said he felt bad being credited with the gal, because it had all been set up by Claire’s great work.

The Player of the Day was awarded to Jack-Ryan for his excellent efforts and improvement since last season.

Everyone was terrific. Jack Tate had been good in the first half and made two or three terrific saves as goalkeeper in the second half. Brock Young was brilliant in defence, reading the play wonderfully and his positional play as a result stifled the attacking options of the Yellow team. Claire and Belle Kadwell were unstoppable, running like the Energizer Bunny all match. Indy Middleton also made several long attacking runs and showed good control of the ball. Noah Black had several chances up front to get goals and made some good crosses to his teammates. Ky is a goal scoring machine and could have had a few more with a bit of luck. Zoe Middleton fought hard as usual and refused to take a backward step against her opponents and got some good balls into her teammates in the centre of the field. And Josh had some good moments as well, looking to set up his forwards unselfishly and also played a great role in defence. Overall the team played well, though the midfield got tired on occasions and left their defensive unit short staffed in trying to keep at bay the attacking raids of their opponents.

Next week the Reds are at home again against the Albion Park Green team and will be looking build on their solid start to the season.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Positions Vacant: Australia's Test Top Six

Australia’s capitulation with the bat in both innings at Johannesburg has raised the spectre of doom over the coming 12 months, especially in the make-up of the batting for the Test team. With its best performed batsmen on the sideline, and the continuing questions over the viability of those who remain, what options will the selectors look at to boost the top six leading up to next year’s Ashes series in England? 

Matt Renshaw and Joe Burns are the best two credentialed candidates to remain at the top of the order, having led Queensland to their Sheffield Shield triumph from that position. Usman Khawaja remains an enigma, unable to score away from home and yet continues to be prolific on home soil. Both Shaun and Mitch Marsh have reverted to type, following some promising form with a sequence of low scores again, while Peter Handscomb followed his long term 12th Man duties by chopping on twice in his return Test. Given that Tim Paine was the only batsman to average over 40 on the South African trip, it makes for some interesting deliberations on the batting line-up prior to Australia’s next Test match engagements. 

Let’s hope that the selectors will at least ignore the usual calls for the elevation of batsmen to the Test team who have done well in the white ball game. Runs scored on flat decks, on grounds with shrinking boundaries, against bowlers who are not allowed by the rules of the game to bowl down leg side or wide of off stump or too high above the shoulders, are not an indication as to how those batsmen will perform in a Test match atmosphere. Aaron Finch and Marcus Stoinis may have been quite successful in recent times in both ODI’s and T20 cricket with the bat, but you cannot judge that form as a possible selection tool to face Test bowlers on Test wickets under Test match conditions.

The juggling act between experience and youth is another delicate phase the selection panel will need to work through. If changes are to be made, and Paine is to remain as skipper, he will need some support when it comes to seniority in the team. Conceivably the selectors could choose to remain with the top six they put on the paddock in Johannesburg and insist they are the best available for the job. It may pay off, but I’m sure the general feeling is that a new sheet needs to be drawn up. 

Taking the Sheffield Shield averages and aggregates from the just-completed season, there are four candidates who could be considered for an opportunity. Glenn Maxwell (707 runs at 50.50) is the immediate respondent, having flown to South Africa as batting cover for the team. His 278 against New South Wales after missing selection for the 1st Test last summer was a perfect riposte, and his batting appears to have matured in recent times. 
The two senior pros who may come to attention are Victorian Cameron White (574 runs at 52.18) and South Australian Callum Ferguson (780 runs at 48.75). Both scored a century and five half-centuries and have plenty of leadership experience. White only recently forced his way back into the ODI team, though with little success, while Ferguson was one of the many chop-and-change selections of 2016, playing his one and only Test in the previous South Africa debacle in Hobart on their last Australian tour. White is 35 years old, Ferguson is 33. The recent history of success of elder statesmen Chris Rogers and Adam Voges is a pointer that they should both at least be considered in the final make-up of the Test batting line-up, if only as an emergency measure. 
The young buck waiting his chance is still Travis Head (738 runs at 46.12). He has played 34 ODI’s and 10 T20’s for Australia, and proven he can play at that level and also handle the responsibility it requires. At 24 years of age and with this experience behind him, the current impasse could be the perfect time to get him into the Test line-up and start showcasing his wares. 

If nothing else, the loss of three of Australia’s top order has left some holes in the national team that many may not have thought would open up for years. The resulting vacuum should at least give all first class batsmen a hope of perhaps gaining, or regaining, a Test cap in the next few months if they perform well enough.

When Do You Turn Off the Porch Light?

At what stage of the footy season do you, as a supporter, start to panic? When do you get that uncomfortable feeling in the pit of your stomach that your team isn’t up to it? That despite all of the bravado and positive words coming out of the press conferences of your team, you know that for you the long cold winter of disappointment has begun? If like me you are a Collingwood supporter, that tends to happen pretty early on, but in 2018 there are already a number of teams in a lot worse position, and their plans for the season ahead are looking mightily worrisome given we have only just clicked over into April. Perhaps there is still some daylight out there for them, but some supporters are almost at the stage of turning off the porch light and closing the front door on their respective footy seasons. 

Given the even competition that the AFL has again thrust upon us, there is no room for bad losses, even if it is against the better teams. Eighteen months ago the Western Bulldogs were on top of the world, Premiers of the game and with a bright few years ahead of the club. After two games of this season’s competition, their supporters must be wondering what has happened. They capitulated to GWS in round one in Canberra, and last weekend did so again at home against West Coast. They weren’t just losses, they were floggings. This week they come up against an Essendon side that will be hell bent on finding retribution for their own collapse against Fremantle. Recovering from this start will take every ounce of mongrel the Dogs have in them. 
Carlton fought hard against Richmond in round one, but their defeat to Gold Coast in round two leaves them again on the precipice. No one except Magpies and Blues supporters now cares too much about their match this Friday, but with both teams 0-2, the loser will be under enormous scrutiny in the eyes of the media and their fans. 
St Kilda has been mentioned in top eight discussions, but they were abysmal against North on ‘Bad Friday’ and will need to regroup quickly if they are to reignite their season. 
For all these teams, a successful season is quickly sinking into the mire, and only an immediate turnaround can stop that. Sydney may have made the finals last season after a 0-6 start, but none of these sides have the talent that the Sydney team had. 

The two teams that most had pencilled in for finals in the NRL in 2018 were the Eels and the Raiders. The Eels were being spoken of in some circles as premiership material. After four rounds, one wonders now how either team can find a way to win a game. Injuries haven’t helped either club, but poor defence and on field decisions have hurt them more. 
After 20 minutes of their first round match against the Panthers, the Eels led 14-0. They have since conceded 122 points while scoring only 24 in losing all four games. Meanwhile, the Raiders lost their first three matches after leading into the final five minutes in each of them, only to fall at the final hurdle as their opponents came over the top of them. Again it is early in the season, but turning around the defensive woes of both of these clubs to become finals contenders again would be a massive achievement. 
The Bulldogs haven’t been much better. The player and coach reshuffle is no doubt a work in progress, but one wonders if the coach wants the players his club bought. The Broncos and Storm appear vulnerable now that both have lost their halfbacks to other clubs, whereas those clubs seem to be travelling along nicely as a result. 

In some instances it is too early to tell whether or not the dream of a finals place or even a premiership is already in ruins. For those clubs mentioned above however, that nauseous feeling will be evident for their supporters as they head to their games this weekend, knowing that another loss will add further nails to their coffin in 2018.