There ain’t nothing like a sporting Dame

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And, to their credit, when Dai and Sir Clive were introduced, Dai cheerfully spent five minutes in animated rugby conversation with ‘Clive’ in which the latter’s knighthood wasn’t mentioned by either man.

Funny things are honours. To my mind too many of them go to people who don’t deserve them; who buy them; or are awarded them by governments who think they’ll prove extra popular if they give them to personalities who are the flavour of that particular month, usually just before a general election.

In terms of sport, only in recent years have we had the likes of Dame Kelly Holmes ‘promoted from the ranks’ immediately after her gold-winning Olympic success while 50 years ago it would have been unthinkable that she would have been given such an honour, because she’s a young athlete and until recent times only rarely were athletes considered of sufficient stature to be awarded honours by the Queen.

Okay, I’m cynical about the honours system; although not so cynical that I don’t recognise that the likes of Paul Patterson, John Grady and Dave Thompson both singly and collectively deserve the awards that they have received for services to Channel Island sport.

Yet it seems a shame that sporting Islanders only rarely receive a knighthood or its equivalent while too often you have to be on a zimmer frame before you’re honoured for success you achieved almost a lifetime ago.

All of which reminds me of a comment made by my cousin’s husband who (even more cynical than me) pointed out that knighthoods are no protection against illness or death and that their only use seems to be to get you a better table when you phone a restaurant for lunch or dinner.

Before moving away from Clive Woodward (or ‘Sir Clive’, as I called him); I was fascinated by his take on his role within sport.

Winning the World Cup, he said, wasn’t anywhere near as satisfying as the experience of getting there.

He looks at (most) tabloid media with disdain, recognizing its hysterical and hypercritical attack on celebrities one moment before completely and unashamedly reversing the trend when its fellow countrymen do something outstandingly good the next.

Woodward was pilloried by the press when he went to work at Southampton, but in the ‘real’ world, the world he lives in, he said: ‘Harry Rednapp, George Burley and I remain the best of friends,’ although he added that having moved away from rugby he was quite surprised at how the media treated his relationship with the club and the managers on his year-long ‘sabbatical’ as a back-room boy, as he described it, when he was there. He coped with it by ignoring it. So did Rednapp and Burley.

As a former teacher, Woodward said that the skills he learnt in the classroom are transferable to any sport . . . although it was interesting what he said about the difference between the on-the-field attitudes of footballers compared to rugby players.

‘In rugby you’ll be belted senseless on the field and then, after the game, you’ll be expected to shake hands with the guys who tried to knock you senseless and share a drink with them in the bar,’ he said.

‘But like every footballer (at 15 he played left midfield at school) if someone taps your ankle, I’ve known what it’s like to run after them, wanting immediate revenge. There’s a different psychology in the two sports. You simply can’t compare one with the other.’

Twenty20 vision not needed to realise sport’s value

IN less than a fortnight the Indian Premier League were expected to be playing their Twenty20 matches on home pitches.

‘Were’ – the past tense – means that it will now be hosted in South Africa because the hosts cannot be guaranteed a trouble-free competition in India at a time of a general election, and because there are some crazy people in this world who’d rather throw a hand-grenade than a cricket ball.

India’s loss is South Africa’s gain in which the actual cricket played is, to the moneyman, almost incidental.

For the competition, featuring 59 games, will earn the host nation ‘at least’ £70m; £1.75 billion will be paid for the TV rights and – my own favourite statistic – 40,000 bed/hotel occupancies will be needed over that two-week period.

Jersey ought to listen to statistics such as these and to take note when Sir Clive (who is heavily involved in the 2012 Olympics) says that Jersey is an ideal venue/training ground for other countries competing in London.

So, Tourism/Senators/Deputies. Did any of your agencies meet with Clive Woodward to discuss Jersey’s potential involvement for 2012, on the basis that our hoteliers would dearly like to have a few dedicated athletes sleeping in Island beds and eating Island food?

International stars owe huge debt to junior coaches

ENGLAND netball player Serena Guthrie was deservedly crowned the 2009 Sports Person of the Year by the Island’s Sports Council at the Hotel Ambassadeur recently.

Now vice-captain of the England Under-21 squad, she was recently promoted to the seniors and, having seen her on TV on more than one occasion, she is an outstanding talent.

However, where does that talent come from? Interestingly, Sir Clive Woodward said that even the most naturally gifted players (including my own favourite, Jason Robinson) can always learn from their coaches.

So perhaps Serena can become even better. But my point is that, in another county, without the coaching skills of the likes of Linda Andrews when Serena was still a kid, she’d now be in a 9 to 5 Monday job playing occasional netball Mondays and weekends only. Being part of the England set-up would only be a dream to her.

In any sport, forget about the Sir Alex Fergusons and Sir Clive Woodwards of the world. They can only coach what comes to them, when they’re given players who are already men.


Instead, the best coaches are those who get such players to such a standard in the first place. And those coaches, usually forgotten along the way, work with promising kids who eventually with the right kind of coaching become superstars. May Serena enjoy a long and prosperous career with England.

And may she never forget her roots and the debt she owes to all of those Island coaches along the way who helped turn potential into the finished article.

Hogan could be a hero for cricketers

CONGRATULATIONS to the Jersey Cricket Board for appointing former Australian under-19 captain Craig Hogan as coach to the Island’s cricketers for eight months a year for the next two summers.

I would like to say that he has a tough act to follow, replacing former JCB appointment and world renowned South Africal cricketer Peter Kirsten but, in truth, it shouldn’t be as hard an act to follow as others might think.

For much as I liked Peter, his interests lay primarily in the Island 1st XI whereas one of the first comments 48-year-old Hogan made was: ‘I’m told there is a lot of passion for cricket in Jersey and with the fantastic junior programme I’m confident I can help the standard of cricket improve.’

He added: ‘I’m told the U19 group is talented and I believe those players are at the right age now to start pushing for places in the senior side . . .’

In other words, with three youth tournaments to look forward to in 2009 and possibly three senior and three youth tournaments in 2010, Craig is stressing the importance of his role as a coach not just for the senior side, but for the juniors as well.

That is what Ben Harvey, at the Rugby Club, is also doing, and without labouring the point . . . of course it’s more prestigious and more newsworthy to ‘coach’ established players.

But surely it’s harder but more rewarding to nurture raw talent beneath senior level, and then to watch it develop before, hopefully, it comes to fruition, often with someone else applying the finishing touch once that talent is identified at a much later date.

Champion of sport who will be missed

JUST three days ago I was accused of writing not a Friday comment piece, but a Friday ‘rugby comment piece’. For those who’ve read this column over the years, they’ll know that this isn’t the truth.

I watch, and follow, as many sports as I can and this week alone I’ve seen netball, boxing, volleyball, football, athletics, swimming, rugby and 15 minutes of snooker.

I remain to be convinced that pool and darts are ‘total’ sports, but the Eusebini brothers have promised to prove to me that the latter is very much a sport rather than a game . . . and who am I to argue against two of our most consistently successful competitors in darts, at the highest level, over the years?

And, over those years, I’ve met all kinds of people whose lives have revolved around the sports they love.

Even as I write this, the curmudgeonly Sid Guy comes to mind. In an age of computer technology and before that, typewriters, in his day he was as methodical as he was always punctilious in everything he wrote. Change a word of his copy and he’d notice it, and phone you up the very next day.

Sid is no longer with us, although his memory lives on in the sports he loved. In terms of snooker and billiards, Dave Joyce, who was instrumental in bringing the England Open Billiards Series to Jersey in recent years has also passed on at the comparatively youthful age of 56.

Dave Joyce loved his sport and will be missed, within his sport and within the Island. I met him and liked him. And I send my sincere condolences to his wife Barbara and daughters Amanda and Andrea. May his memory, for many a long year, live on.

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