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Who has won the most Ashes series?

20 Nov


I have had tomorrow’s date circled in my calendar for ages. And that’s because it’s the start of my favourite time of the sporting year – cricket season.

Now normally, I’ll squeeze in quite a few live games, ranging from one sayers to the domestic competition. But tomorrow is going to be extra sweet, as it’s the first Test of the Ashes, a long-standing series played between Australian and the Poms, aka England.

Now I’ll be the first to admit Australia hasn’t performed all that well during the past few years, so I fully expect to cop a sledging from the UK fans, affectionately called the Barmy Army.

But I didn’t want to go unprepared without some vestige of pride in the green and gold. So I decided I would see which nation had won the most Ashes series.

And thank heavens for small mercies – it was us. Just.

To be precise we’ve won them 31 times compared to 30 for the Brits, who I’m sincerely hoping don’t even the score this year.

To quote the classic song, C’mon Aussie c’mon c’mon.

PS: In an interesting footnote, I discovered the origin of the name ‘Ashes’ on the Marylebone Cricket’s Club website…

The term ‘Ashes’ was first used after England lost to Australia – for the first time on home soil – at The Oval on 29th August 1882. A day later, the Sporting Times carried a mock obituary to English cricket which concluded that: “The body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia”. The concept caught the imagination of the sporting public. A few weeks later, an English team, captained by the Hon Ivo Bligh [later Lord Darnley], set off to tour Australia, with Bligh vowing to return with “the ashes”; his Australian counterpart, WL Murdoch, similarly vowed to defend them.

Who was sport’s first streaker?

11 Jun

Pic by Ian Bradshaw

I love going to cricket games, especially at the Gabba in Brisbane, which is home to some of the world’s most impressive beer cup snakes.

Sadly, it’s also home to some of the world’s most humourless security guards, who take great delight in puncturing any errant beach ball that makes its way on to the ground. Honestly, would it kill them just to throw them back into the crowd? With such mean spirit I’d hate to see what they would do to a streaker! And believe it or not it’s a question I’ve actually been pondering today.

It all started over lunch with a fellow cricket tragic, where we re-lived some of our favourite Gabba games, mine being a New Zealand v South Africa one-day international where Chris Cairns went the tonk to claim victory in the last over.

We’ve both seen the greats in action, and some great action, but neither of us could lay claim to spotting a streaker. Which led me to wonder who the first big-name sporting streaker was. And in a piece of history that actually makes me pretty proud of the green and gold, that honour goes to a fellow Aussie.

His name was Michael O’Brien who, on April 20, 1974, decided to make his mark on sporting history by running on to the ground starkers during a union match between England and France at Twickenham.

Being only 25, I’m guessing alcohol and his mates played a big role in giving him the courage to make his leg bye. But one person wasn’t impressed – a policeman called Bruce Perry, who used his helmet to cover O’Brien’s genitals. It was such a seminal moment that helmet even went on display in Twickenham. And Perry shared his story with the Guardian back in 2006. Here’ an excerpt…

“The streaker had been drinking Fosters – it had only just come out here, and clearly he and some of his friends had an enjoyable time before the game drinking it. So he did it for a bet – he had to run across the pitch at half-time and touch the other side to win £10. I caught him just before he got there but when he explained the bet I let him touch the stand before I cautioned him. I was so embarrassed. I told him he didn’t have to say anything and all that but he just shouted at me: “Give us a kiss!” It was a cold day and he didn’t have anything to be proud of, but I didn’t think twice about using my helmet. We took him down to the nick but he was back for the second half.”

Decades later Perry had the chance to fly to Australia for a reunion with O’Brien courtesy of the Ch 7 program Where Are They Now, which finally convinced O’Brien to tell his story. Streakerama holds a transcript of the interview by Mel Doyle and David Koch. Here’s an excerpt..

Mel: Thank you for joining us. So… what were you thinking?
Michael: Obviously not much.
David: So there you are, out in the middle of the field, it’s a test match, rugby, not a stitch on…
Michael: Yes
David: How did you feel going through it all?
Michael: I was blank to it, to be quiet honest. From the minute I sent my clothes to the other side of the ground and I was sitting there stark naked on the opposite side of the ground, everything just went blank. All I was waiting for was the half time whistle so the players would leave the field. And I decided I wanted to run across the half way line. Fortunately where my seat was was near the quarter line. So I had to get over the fence, go along the side of the paddock to the half way line and take off which gave the cops all the time in the world to get ready and wait for me.
Mel: You were a young accountant – a fairly conservative kind of profession if I can say…
David: Come on! No!
Mel:… and your mates put you up to it for a bet.
Michael: It was an Englishman who put me up to it. My Australian mates said to him straight off “Don’t bet with O’Brien because he’ll do it.” He insisted so I said “Well, it’s going to happen.”
Mel: And did you win the cash?
Michael: I won the cash and I was fined the equivalent amount of cash from the Magistrate the following Monday, so all squared.

Like the classic song always said: C’mon Aussie..

Who won Australia’s first Paralympic gold medal?

6 Jun

The Australian athletic team for the London 2012 Paralympics was announced today. And I was thrilled to see it make the news as it’s a sad reality these athletes are often (OK usually) overshadowed by their Olympic counterparts.

For some reason the event just doesn’t attract the same level of support and audience attention as its companion event, even though the dedication and athleticism of its competitors is more than equal.

So with my interest peaked, I decided to find out who won our first Paralympic gold medal. It turns out to have been New South Welshman Ross Sutton, who competed in archery. And in an extra honour, he didn’t just win our first gold, he also won the first gold on offer at the first games, held in Rome in 1960.

Since then we’ve won medals at every games – Winter and Summer – with our best gold-medal performance being Sydney 2000, when our swag totalled 63. History certainly bodes well for this year’s tally.

Read more about our results and Paralympic history here and start to meet the athletes headed to London here.

By the way the team’s uniforms are modelled (from left) by Jack Swift, Kelly Cartwright, Matt Cowdrey, Annabelle Williams, Kurt Fearnley, Jessica Gallagher, Grant Mizens, Kylie Gauci and Melissa Tapper.

Where did the term WAG come from?

10 May

As I’ve mentioned once or twice before, I’m in the middle of launching my own magazine called (insert brazen plug here) Regional Foodie Sunshine Coast.

As part of that I’ve been spending a lot of time in front of the computer, anything up to 21 hours in a row. And since I play TV for background music the way some people play actual music, I’ve been exposed to a LOT of crap TV.

Now, among the ‘gems’ (air quotes intended) I’ve stumbled across is WAG Nation, which seems to involve professional sporting girlfriends doing, well, I’m not quite sure what, other than having staged telephone calls and chats while wearing admittedly gorgeous frocks.

There’s one or two who seem to have real spunk and are down to earth with careers/achievements of their own, but a few seem to exist only as an addition to their partner and the perks such a status enjoys in a country where sportsmen are treated as living gods.

And it left me with one question to ponder. Well two actually.

The first, of course, being why the hell didn’t I turn it off?

The second being exactly where the term WAG – short for wives and girlfriends – originated from.

And it seems we have the British media to thank as the tabloid press originally coined the name to describe the wives and girlfriends of the English soccer team.

Or, as the Urban Dictionary puts it…

“A selection of overpublicised, vacuous anorexics found lurking at football matches, easily distinguished by their orange skin tone and high body plastic index, ostensibly present for the purpose of pleasuring the England football team, but in reality with the intention of being photographed obtaining fashion advice from chief WAG Mrs Beckham in the hope that this will lead to a future appearance on “celebrity love island”.

Wow, such lives of satisfaction. And to think some women concern themselves with doing apparently pointless stuff such as earning their own salary or having their own achievements to celebrate.

Perhaps we all just need to get ourselves to a football ground.

What is an albatross in golf?

9 Apr

There was big news in the golfing world this week when a player called Louis Oosthuizen pulled off something called an albatross in the US Masters.

Now this would have impressed me far more if 1) I knew what it was 2) I knew who he was and 3) I was even remotely interested in golf.

But since this blog project is all about expanding my knowledge base this year I decided to rectify at least the first question.

And the answer is – an albatross is a three under par score on an individual hole, with par being the number of shots a player is expected/allowed to sink the ball in the hole. Other golfing measures include birdie for one under par, eagle for two under par and bogey for one over par.

You can read more about the history and naming of golfing conventions at the USGA Museum, but here’s a starting point from the site’s FAQ

How did the terms birdie and eagle come into golf?
The term birdie originated in the United States in 1899. HB Martin’s Fifty Years of American Golf contains an account of a foursomes match played at the Atlantic City (N.J.) CC. One of the players, Ab Smith relates, “My ball… came to rest within six inches of the cup. I said ’That was a bird of a shot… I suggest that when one of us plays a hole in one under par he receives double compensation.’ The other two agreed and we began right away, just as soon as the next one came, to call it a birdie.” In 19th-century American slang, ’bird’ referred to anyone or anything excellent or wonderful. By analogy with birdie, the term eagle soon thereafter became common to refer to a score one better than a bird. Also by analogy, the term albatross stands for double eagle — an even bigger eagle!

So there you have it, apparently golf is all about the birds. Insert Tiger Woods joke here.

How did The Rock get his nickname?

30 Mar

As I have already complained written about several times this week, I embarked on a massive spring cleaning project at the start of my current holidays.

Part of this involved loading all my CDs on to iTunes. And while I talked the other day about finding enough Kylie Minogue to make me happy, there was one other disc that really caught my eye – and not in a good way. It was called You Can’t See Me and was released by John Cena, a name that will be instantly familiar to rednecks and young boys as he’s a superstar of the wrestling word.

Anyway, while he seems to have a decent voice I can’t say I found much inspiration in tracks such as Don’t F*** With Us, which I imagine is a sensitive exploration of the human psyche. But it did remind me I’d been seeing adverts for a WWE match-up between Cena and The Rock. And naturally, I then wanted to know how The Rock got his nickname.

Truth be told if my real name was Dwayne Johnson and I wanted to build my action man persona, I would probably change it too. But it seems the reason is actually personal. When he first began pro wrestling, the athlete used the name Rocky Maivia to honour his father, Rocky Johnson, and grandfather, Peter Maivia. This was later shortened to The Rock as befits his charisma and ringside popularity, although he now prefers to go by his real name, especially given how hot he is in Hollywood.

And you know what? That’s more than fine by me. I mean would you want to argue with him?

Who are the mascots for the London Olympics?

15 Mar

Stephanie Rice qualified for the London Olympics today. And I think that’s terrific because as many people know, she’s had a rough few months. So it’s great to see the focus back where it belongs – on her swimming.

Anyway, with that story in the headlines, it got me thinking about the Olympics, but for the life of me I couldn’t remember when they were on. So I jumped on to the official Games site and got the answer – July 27-August 14 for the Olympics and August 29-September 9 for the Paralympics.

Then my eyes fell on another section of the site and suddenly I knew what I wanted to learnt today – who are this year’s mascots?

Their names, as it turns out, are Wenlock (Olympics) and Mandeville (Paralympics). And according to their back story, both were created from the last two drops of steel left over from construction of the Olympic stadium.

 See the journey here.

Reading further, I discovered their names reflect the UK”s rich Games history. The London organising committee explains it like this . . .

“Wenlock’s name is inspired by the Shropshire village of Much Wenlock where the ‘Wenlock Games’ were one of the inspirations that led the founder of the modern Olympic movement, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, to create the Olympic Games. Mandeville’s name is inspired by Stoke Mandeville in Buckinghamshire. In the 1940s, Dr Ludwig Guttmann came to Stoke Mandeville Hospital to set up a new spinal unit to help former soldiers suffering from spinal cord injuries. Looking for ways to inspire those in his care, he encouraged them to take up sport, leading to the formation of the Stoke Mandeville Games, widely recognised as a forerunner of the modern Paralympic movement.”   

The mascots also have some clever features to keep an eye out for when the Games roll around. For example they have yellow lights on their heads, which were inspired by London’s famous black taxis. Wenlock also wears friendship bands in the colours of the Olympic rings while Mandeville wears a timing device to track its personal best.  The mascots’ single eye is a camera.

Read more about them here.

In the meantime, let’s end on a fast fact: The first official mascot of the Olympic Games was Waldi in 1972.

Who invented the pogo stick?

20 Feb

Once upon a time I gave my brother-in-law what I thought was the best Christmas present ever.

It was a pogo stick and as soon as I saw it in the window of a toy store I knew I had to buy it. I thought it would get massive kudos as an alternative to socks and jocks. But sadly I was mistaken. And to this day they will still ask me “Why?” As if my answer of “Because” isn’t reason enough.

Anyway, after springing/bouncing down the hallway a few times – and careening into the odd wall – my brother-in-law consigned the pogo stick to history and it was never seen again. But I was reminded of it today when I shared news of another planned purchase – this time a unicycle.

It belongs to a friend who plans to sell it and I intend to make it mine. But again, my family wanted to know “Why?”

To be fair, this question was prefaced by the knowledge I have not been on a bicycle in 10 years. But they’re missing the point entirely. Which is that you don’t own a unicycle to ride it, you own it because it’s cool.

Which brings us back to the pogo stick. Specifically, the question of who invented it. Turns out, as it so often does, that it was an American, by the name of George Hansburg.

While various incarnations of the toy – particularly in wood – had been pottering around previously, it was George who secured the patent for his all-metal version in 1919.

And while they’re a little passé today, in the 1920s particularly, they were much loved, featuring in everything from the Ziegfeld Follies to weddings and world record campaigns. But there was one difficulty with the early designs, the presence of only a single handle. So George solved this problem in 1957 with a patent on a two-handled pogo.

That’s a lot of years to spend thinking about a bouncy stick!

Who was the first champion at the modern Olympic games?

8 Feb

I am a fabulous procrastinator and have made an art form out of putting off until tomorrow what I could or should do today. Which is how I came to be watching a documentary on Nile crocodiles instead of doing research on a laptop.

In my defence, it was an excellent program, which showcased only too well the animals’ ferocious speed and appetite. It was enough to make me very glad I’m human and not a hapless wildebeest lurking by an African waterhole.

It also inspired the topic for today’s blog, since their athletic lunges, snaps, claws and death rolls reminded me the 2012 Olympics are mere months away. And this, in turn, led me to ponder the first Modern Games and the question of who was their first champion.

Turns out it was an American.

His name was James Connolly and he picked up his silver medal (gold medals were not awarded to champions in those days) at the 1896 Summer Olympics in Greece by winning the men’s triple jump event, then known as the hop, skip and jump. It made him the first Olympic champion in 1527 years.

He also came second in the men’s high jump and third in the men’s long jump. Here’s another five facts on him I discovered at resources including his official Olympic biography here

* Born on November 28, 1865, and died on January 20, 1957.
* Was 27 years old and an undergraduate Harvard student at the time of the Games. He requested a leave of absence, which was denied, but was then granted an honourable withdrawal.
* Lost his title to compatriot Meyer Prinstein at the 1900 Paris games but still came second in the men’s triple jump.
* Attended the 1904 event four years later as a journalist.
* Went on to become a novelist.

How do you make mango daiquiri jelly shots?

7 Feb

I don’t know Kylie Banning from a bar of soap. But I suspect she could well be my new BFF. And it’s all because of those three (OK four) little words I’ve been waiting to hear my whole life – “mango daiquiri jelly shots”.

Now, my love affair with the humble shot goes back a very long way, and was crystallised on the night I hired out a hotel suite to host an Oscars viewing party. I made what seemed like about 100 vodka jelly shots and by conservative estimates had at least 91 of them myself.


Ever since then they have been a bit of a party staple, even as my repertoire has expanded to include creamy concoctions that tell of carnal pleasures with cowboys. But they do say variety is the spice of life, and with the Oscars fast approaching, I needed fresh inspiration.

Enter one very smart cookie called Sam, who brought forth her  copy of Kylie’s book “Legless, desserts to get you in the spirit” which, as the name suggests, offers up alcoholic recipes for everything from fondues to pudding.

Again, I must say, they all sound delicious. But in truth I was only interested in one section – the vodka jelly shots. And who would have thought you could be so creative with ingredients such as vanilla and blackberry mousse, honey, vanilla and cinnamon?

I felt duty bound to do some thorough ‘research’. But as predicted there was only one clear winner – and here’s a recipe I’m sure she won’t mind me sharing . . .

Mango Daiquiri Jelly Shots

1 packet mango jelly crystals
300ml boiling water
1 mango, pureed
90ml Bacardi
60ml Cointreau

Dissolve jelly crystals in boiling water. Pour into blender with pureed mango, blend, then add alcohol and blend again. Pour into shot glasses and refrigerate to set, preferably overnight.

You can read more about the book here. But in the meantime, happy shooting!