‘A new challenge’: Whateley leaves ABC Grandstand after 13 years

Updated January 01, 2018 21:57:48

Respected sports broadcaster Gerard Whateley has announced he is leaving ABC Grandstand to take up a role at Melbourne-based radio station SEN.

Whateley has been the ABC’s chief commentator for 13 years, where he covered AFL, cricket, horse racing and Olympic and Commonwealth games, as well as hosting flagship general sports program Offsiders.

The 43-year-old has twice won the prestigious Alf Brown trophy for his overall contribution at the Australian Football Media Awards.

“Gerard joined the ABC in September 2004 and has established a reputation as one of Australia’s leading sports broadcasters and commentators across a range of sporting codes and events,” said ABC director radio Michael Mason in a statement.

“As a member of the Offsiders team since it commenced in 2006, Gerard has consistently delivered the highest standards of news and analysis to ABC audiences.

“The ABC congratulates him on his contribution and wishes him the very best for his future endeavours.”

Whateley said in a statement he thought he would complete the current Ashes series at the SCG Test but, “circumstances have changed and that won’t be the case”.

“It has been an honour and a privilege to be part of Grandstand Sport, Offsiders and the broader ABC,” Whateley said.

“I have never taken a day for granted and leave satisfied we have achieved much together.

“From the broadcasts of Black Caviar’s triumph at Royal Ascot to Kyle Chambers’s stunning gold medal in the pool at Rio and returning Grandstand Test cricket to India, I hope I have contributed to the rich archive of Australian sport and done justice to the events I have had the good fortune to call.”

Whateley will head the football and racing coverage at SEN, as well as hosting his own daily sport program. He will also continue his role as host of the Fox Sports program AFL 360.

Topics: radio-broadcasting, broadcasting, radio, arts-and-entertainment, media, sport, melbourne-3000, vic, australia

First posted January 01, 2018 21:43:41

The fear that fuels extreme sport stars to cheat death

Updated November 11, 2017 09:45:39

Jumping from a 40-metre cliff, hoping your parachute will open; paddling out into huge seas and bracing as a three-storey wave crashes on your head.

Solo kayaking 23,000 kilometres past pirates and crocodiles from Germany to Australia; pulling up your body weight by one finger on a sheer rock face in Canada.

How can people do these things? And how can they overcome what would be paralysing fear for most of us, to seemingly cheat death?

Some say what they do is highly calculated to minimise risk and not an extreme sport, while others freely admit they are chasing that crazy adrenalin buzz, head down and charging.

Jaymz Hardwick — leaping off cliffs

Jaymz Hardwick has seen friends die BASE jumping, but said it was a misunderstood sport and not as risky as it seemed.

“It is dangerous, but it’s not extremely dangerous. It’s more a sport of the unknown,” he said.

He rated wingsuit BASE jumping, where people jump off mountains in a bat-like suit and fly down at incredible speeds, as the most dangerous sport in the world.

While he does draw the line at that, he has jumped from a cliff barely 40 metres high, which many people regard as well below the safe limit.

Hardwick has done hundreds of BASE jumps and now focuses on the more technical challenges of the sport.

“It’s a numbers game, that is you don’t know when your time’s up,” he said.

Hardwick said he could bring himself to do such low jumps by calculating the risk to the finest degree.

He and his friends visited the site several times, measured the height and put in safety measures, including a rope system to ensure his parachute opened 1.5 metres after he started falling.

Fear was a big factor he used to his advantage.

“To us, fear is something that keeps you safe more than anything,” he said.

“It allows you to check your pilot chute, check your pins, make sure that all your equipment is in check. Because in our sport equipment doesn’t generally fail, it is human error. So that fear helps you double check, triple check.”

He has had some close calls, like the time he jumped from Western Australia’s 1099-metre-high Bluff Knoll, and a miscalculation saw him land in the trees. Luckily he wasn’t seriously hurt.

The zenith of his career was when he was invited to a competition in Greece, jumping from huge, beautiful white cliffs overlooking the sea down to a landing spot on a small beach with a rusty shipwreck.

He plans to stop BASE jumping the moment his girlfriend becomes pregnant.

“I’d rather retire from this sport than unfortunately die from it,” he mused.

Felicity Palmateer — riding massive waves

When Felicity Palmateer recently came off a 10-metre wave during a competition off the Hawaiian island of Maui, about 400 tonnes of water came pounding down on her.

And she enjoyed it — sort of.

“It’s the strangest thing. There was nothing, no feeling going through me. I don’t know how to describe it,” the 25-year-old professional surfer said.

“It was like, I’m in the situation, there’s nothing I can do, so let’s just embrace it.

“I just really like the reward, you know — that feeling of adrenalin after catching an amazing wave or getting a big barrel.

“Even, as weird as it sounds, even wiping out, that adrenalin feeling after that, I kind of chase that feeling and it’s inside you, you know, I kind of want to chase it. In those experiences is when you grow.”

She does it because she has the drive that makes her want to take the drop on a lurching, heaving, beast of a wave. Not many do.

Palmateer puts it down to her father, who pushed her into bigger waves and told her to have no fear.

“I think if you have no fear, there’s definitely something wrong with you,” she laughed.

“I think anyone who says they’re not scared when they’re paddling out in 30-foot surf is lying.

“There’s always going to be some little element of fear.”

She has trained herself to be mentally comfortable in those extremely uncomfortable places, working on breathing exercises to give her more confidence in big surf.

And she has developed a mantra to calm her mind as huge slabs of ocean swell materialise on the horizon and threaten to push her deep under the water.

She thinks of a moment in her life when she felt really comfortable and happy.

“I literally shut my eyes in the surf and I just repeat that mantra, go over it again and try and get myself back to that. [To] have that same feeling again so my brain starts to make those same chemicals that it was when I was felling really happy and relaxed, and try and do that when I’m surfing 30-foot waves,” she said.

Logan Barber — scaling rock faces

Logan Barber recently joined a short list of some of the world’s best climbers when he became only the 12th person to climb Cobra Crack, a thin fissure up a vertical granite monolith in Squamish, Canada.

He has also travelled to remote locations in China, where he hung upside down from the Honeycomb Dome roof, the hardest traditional route in China, with stunning views of the wilderness behind him.

He is a traditional climber, which means he puts all his clamps and other gear into the rock as he goes, and removes it afterwards, without relying on any pre-existing bolts.

Barber has a calmness about him which makes you think he would barely break a sweat in the most terrifying climbing situations.

After years of experience, he said he felt no fear on the rock face.

“I wouldn’t say adrenalin. When I’m climbing I don’t really get scared or that buzz any more,” he said.

“Generally, I’m pretty calculated, and I’m very focused on performing a routine.”

“Once you’re off the ground, you’re in this vertical world and you’re not really thinking about hitting the ground.

“You don’t even know the ground is even there. You’re just learning to fall. And when you fall, you’ve generally got a rope to catch you, whether it’s after a metre or you might fall 15 metres.

“But, you know, the rope’s there and you’ve calculated how you’re going to land and you’re ready to land.”

He is completely focused on each new climb, but things can still go wrong.

He recalled one climb with a friend where after a couple of days they realised they were out of their depth and had run out of food, and had no choice but to keep going.

“You go a few days without food and you’re just climbing a wall and you have to get to the top,” Barber said.

“You basically get a bit lower on energy but you’re still making sure you make the right decisions. You just keep doing what you know how to do, so eventually you know you’ll get to the top. It’s just a matter of how long.”

“Things got a bit dire, but we kept going and we made it.”

He felt he was at greater risk driving his car down the freeway and said it was rare to be in an uncontrolled situation climbing.

Sandy Robson — endurance paddling

Sandy Robson has always enjoyed endurance sports, including solo kayaking 23,000 kilometres from Germany to Australia.

It meant three years of paddling through Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean, the Middle East, Asia and through Papua New Guinea to Australian territory on Saibai Island in the Torres Strait.

The 49-year-old prepared by rehearsing everything that could go wrong.

“You really need to creatively visualise the worst-case scenarios that you might face and think about how you’re going to respond so that you have an action, and if you don’t have one you need to go out and practice until you’ve got it,” she said.

That extended to her psychological approach to her fear of crocodiles.

She had previously been attacked by a crocodile during a trip to Cape York, and was told she needed to change her mindset to deal with the risk.

“So really rather than paddling along thinking that I’m prey and being fearful, [I learnt] to project my intention, which was to paddle to Australia and achieve this great goal,” she said.

And that worked to an extent.

When she encountered crocs in PNG, adrenalin kicked in to get her through.

“Adrenalin is essential for you to be able to think and respond and act quickly and make decisions, but once it gets over a certain point, that’s when it gets debilitating and I’ve experienced both of those in my time paddling,” Robson said.

“Certainly when I was in the water and I had a crocodile chasing after my kayak, I was definitely at the peak there of, ‘please don’t get me, please don’t get me.’

“You know, I don’t think I was particularly efficient, but I got out of there fast.”

Topics: sport, extreme-sports, lifestyle-and-leisure, wa, perth-6000

First posted November 11, 2017 09:33:20

Australian Jon Muir honoured with Lifetime of Adventure award

Posted November 01, 2017 06:30:50

Wollongong-born adventurer Jon Muir has climbed Mount Everest, kayaked oceans, trekked the North Pole and walked across Australia unassisted.

He holds numerous world records for his extreme adventures, and today he has been recognised with a Lifetime of Adventure award by the Australian Geographic Society — its highest accolade.

Jon Muir’s achievements:

  • First unassisted ascent of Mount Everest
  • 6,000km ocean traverse by sea kayak
  • First solo traverse on foot of Australia’s largest salt lakes
  • First unassisted solo traverse across Australia from Port Augusta to Burketown.
  • Unassisted 1,700km trek from Spencer Gulf in SA to the centre of Australia
  • Starred in 2004 documentary Alone Across Australia
  • 1989 Order of Australia for services to mountaineering

The Lifetime of Adventure award recognises not only Australians who have excelled in their chosen field, but have given back to the nation by inspiring other Australians.

“More of my expeditions have not reached their objectives than have, but I don’t feel like they’re failures,” he said.

“Get out and have a go at things because that’s where the interest in life lies, in extending yourself.

“It’s okay if you can’t do it, but the important thing is to put your boots on and get out there. Otherwise you start wearing a groove that becomes a rut.”

It is a message that will inspire anyone, regardless of what they do in life.

For Mr Muir, it has always been about pushing his body to its limits.

Everest “a boring mountain”

Jon Muir got a taste for adventure while sailing with his neighbour on Lake Illawarra, but it was after seeing a documentary on Mount Everest at 14 years of age that he decided he would become a professional rock climber.

He started climbing the many cliff faces of the Illawarra’s iconic escarpment, left school at 16 and started conquering the mountains of New Zealand.

In 1988 he became the first person to climb Mount Everest without a Sherpa, then worked as a guide on the world’s highest mountain.

After his time working there he became disillusioned with Everest and set his sights elsewhere.

“I made the mistake of returning to Everest in the 90s as a commercial guide and the nature of the mountain, and who came to climb it, had changed,” he said.

“I got to know the Sherpas much better through that process. They’re treated as second rate citizens by those employing them.

“It’s a total horror show and I vowed never to go near such a place again.”

He also described Everest as a “boring” and “overrated” mountain that holds little interest for the world’s most hardcore mountaineers.

For Mr Muir, a real challenge was walking north across Australia from Port Augusta in South Australia to Burketown in the Gulf of Carpentaria.

Surviving solo in Australian deserts

After completing numerous gruelling hikes, Mr Muir was looking for something to take him to his limit.

“Mountaineering had not done that and I still had a huge amount of energy left. I’d seen other people reach their limits and I wanted to get there,” he said.

“I took the challenge to walk across Australia unsupported and not following tracks, not being resupplied or having beasts carry my supplies.

“There I found my greatest challenges, the challenges out there are massive.

“The country is largely flat, but when you’re carrying your stuff it is far from it. You’re up and down all the time.”

He said even the maps indicating the location of waterholes would often lead to nothing.

Everything hinges on water out there — how much to carry and where it is going to come from next.

Adventuring a mental game

There is a lot made of the physical condition needed to conquer extreme climbs or incredibly long walks, but Mr Muir has seen fit men fail consistently where women or older men succeed.

“People get obsessed with the physicality, but I believe the mental approach is the most important in life, in general — whatever endeavour you choose to undertake,” he said.

“If you get your mental approach right, the body will follow.”

That is especially evident when you are in the Australian outback with no one around, dwindling food and water and the sun boring down on you.

“When you’re on the brink of survival, nothing is monotonous,” he said.

“When you could die any day from a mistake you make, you have to stay on top of your mind.”

Topics: sport, extreme-sports, wollongong-2500

Ticket scalping software to be banned in NSW

By Lily Mayers

Posted October 08, 2017 10:38:47

Software that automatically bulk buys online tickets as soon as they go on sale will be illegal when legislation from the New South Wales Government is introduced.

A reform to the state’s Fair Trading Act will outlaw the software that circumvents ticketing website protections, the Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation, Matt Kean said.

“What we’re seeing is ticket bot technology being used to sweep up tickets and deprive genuine fans of getting access to the concerts and sporting events that they want to see,” he said.

The live entertainment tickets that are bought by the software are then resold at marked-up rates.

The Minister said the Australian-first legislation would stop this from happening.

“It’s time that genuine fans got a fair go and were able to access tickets at a reasonable price,” Minister Kean said

“I’m sick and tired of consumers being ripped off by shonky operators trying to make a quick buck at the expense of genuine fans.”

The Minister would not confirm if a mark-up cap would be applied to resold tickets.

Some Australian states have already introduced legislation to limit the amount that tickets can be resold for.

The legislation will be introduced this week.

Topics: software, events, sport, consumer-protection, sydney-2000

Four decades of Bathurst captured through a photographer’s lens

Updated October 07, 2017 10:45:28

It’s the high risks and stakes involved in racing that inspires Zenio Lapka to photograph the action of Australian motorsports.

“It’s a sport where people put their life on the line,” Lapka said.

“The element of danger, the colour, the spectacle and the competition — the racing, I love the racing.”

For 40 years the photographer from Blayney, New South Wales has dedicated a career to capturing images of the fast-paced world beyond the crash barriers and the famous faces behind the wheels.

A keen motorsport fanatic in his youth, it was in the late 1970s that Lapka started attending races with his camera in hand to record the events.

His passion soon developed into a profession that saw his pictures regularly published in the nation’s newspapers and prominent racing magazines.

Now a veteran of the industry, these days he concentrates his efforts on more artistic projects that aren’t as taxing on his health.

“The body is starting to breakdown and my reaction times aren’t as fast as they used to be, [especially] for getting out of the way if anything should go pear-shaped,” Lapka said.

“Believe me, when things go pear-shaped it happens very, very quickly.”

Lapka is no stranger to the dangers on the trackside.

In 1985, while photographing a race at Amaroo Park, he was struck by a loose wheel flung from a damaged car.

“I was on crutches for two months then a walking stick for a further three months,” he recalled.

Lapka returned to work with a permanent injury to his leg, but as a photographer it was the damage to his camera equipment that added to the pain.

“I trashed a brand new 300mm lens, how tragic is that?”

For Lapka, there was one event during his career that clearly stood out from the others.

It was the highly emotive Bathurst 1000 held in October 2006 — a month after racing legend Peter Brock was killed during a rally crash in Western Australia.

“It was a very memorable race because at the beginning, during the one-minute silence, you could hear a pin drop and you didn’t expect that,” he said.

He recalled the days when riots involving motorcycle race spectators broke out at the campgrounds of Mount Panorama.

“It was uncivilised at times,” he said of that era.

Then there was the time when Australian rock outfit Cold Chisel performed a show at the summit.

“About an hour into concert, all the outlaw bikies turned up, pulled down the fence and just walked through.

“The security guards just turned their backs and went, ‘oh well, nothing we can do’.

“Now it’s a bit more controlled and a little more family orientated.”

Throughout the decades Lapka has embraced the evolution to digital photography and did not miss the days of having to shoot the event on negative film.

“I had to come here and process [films] in the men’s toilet, hang it up on the back of the door and say to the guy coming in, ‘look, don’t touch the negatives, they’re still wet’,” Lapka said.

After decades of making the annual trek up and down Mount Panorama, this year’s Bathurst 1000 is the first time Lapka has decided to sit aside from photographing the main race event.

Now 60 years old, he said great stamina was needed for the repeated 6-kilometre hike around the track to the best vantage points.

“The body just can’t take a weekend of punishment,” he said.

“It gives you a thorough workout.”

Zenio Lapka’s latest exhibition of motorsports photography, Beyond Sharp, is on show at the Blayney Tourism Information Centre.

Topics: motor-sports, photography, media, history, sport, bathurst-2795, annangrove-2156

First posted October 07, 2017 10:35:52

How a school of fish helped Aussie netballers win gold

Posted October 05, 2017 07:00:00

It was the kind of grudge match that’s usually settled by the slimmest of margins.

But at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, the netball gold medal match was a blowout.

Australia beat arch rivals New Zealand by 18 goals. It was the Diamonds’ first Commonwealth gold in 12 years, and they took it 58-40.

“They just knew where we were going to pass the ball,” Silver Ferns goal shooter Maria Tutaia said afterwards.

And according to Mitch Mooney, the Aussies’ senior performance analyst: “In some strange way, we kind of did.”

Dr Mooney’s bizarre plan, based on the mathematics of fish movement, had paid off.

A medal drought leads to lateral thinking

The previous gold medal match, four years earlier in Delhi, left an indelible impression on the Aussie team.

It was the longest netball game in history, stretching into sudden-death, double-extra-time until the Kiwis sank the winning goal after 85 minutes.

“The pain of defeat is sometimes too much,” head coach Lisa Alexander said. “It took a long time to get over that.”

So as the 2014 games approached, Alexander and her team searched for inspiration — for anything that could give them an edge. As part of the rebuilding process, they welcomed a new performance analyst to the coaching staff: Dr Mooney.

As an Aussie Rules guy who did his doctorate with the University of Ballarat and Essendon Football Club, Dr Mooney landed in the Diamonds camp like a fish out of water.

“He didn’t know netball,” Alexander explained. “So he had to fight through a little bit of ego from some of our coaches.”

What’s more, Dr Mooney wasn’t prepared to be just another performance analyst, shooting video and collecting data. He wanted to find a different way to think — and was looking for inspiration from outside sports science.

That came in the form of a 1994 speech by “systems thinker” Russ Ackoff. The talk centres on the idea that a system is greater than the sum of its parts.

Professor Ackoff explained the idea using the metaphor of a car: “The essential property of an automobile is that it can carry you from one place to another. No part of an automobile can do that. The wheel can’t, the axle can’t, the seat can’t, the motor can’t — the motor can’t even carry itself from one place to another. But the automobile can.”

If this holds true for a car, thought Dr Mooney, then could it work for a netball team?

Enter the fish tank

The idea that set Dr Mooney’s imagination alight is, in fact, the cornerstone of a relatively new scientific discipline.

The same idea excites Ash Ward, head of the University of Sydney’s Animal Behaviour Lab, who works in a humming, humid room lined with tanks full of exotic fish.

“Although we’re studying fish, what we’re hoping to do is find out more about the collective behaviour of other animals,” he said.

“It often comes as a really big surprise to people that the collective behaviour of fish is very similar to the behaviour of humans.”

This science is driven by the same principle as Professor Ackoff’s automobile: the whole — the flock, or the swarm, or the shoal — is greater than the sum of its parts.

“These animals look as though they’re all of one mind,” Professor Ward said. “They look as though they’re all connected by some kind of collective consciousness.”

For a long time, that was scientists’ best guess at what was going on: shoaling or flocking animals were, at some level, sharing a brain.

But with the rise of computing power, scientists started to model and simulate the behaviour of large groups — with astonishing results.

Given a simple set of rules — don’t move too close or too far from your neighbours, and when you’re at the right distance, copy what they’re doing — dots on a screen can produce bafflingly complex group behaviours.

Of course, dots in a computer simulation are a long way from living, breathing animals. Were these simple rules also what fish and birds use in their flocks and shoals?

“That’s where we came in,” Professor Ward said. “We started to physically test these ideas. What we found was that actually the computer guys have done an extremely good job.”

Professor Ward and his team found that in a school of fish all the individual animals are just minding their personal space, watching a few nearby fish to make sure they don’t get too close or too far away from each other.

Yet when you zoom out, the sum of all those simple decisions is a majestic, seething shoal, spiralling through the ocean, seemingly of a single mind.

As far as we know, the individuals in the group aren’t even aware of the breathtaking patterns they’re producing.

Birds don’t think about flocking, fish don’t think about shoaling; these patterns emerge spontaneously from aggregated, simple interactions.

Fighting the forest, not the trees

These same phenomena are at play right across the animal kingdom, and humans are no exception.

“I’m not saying that we’re sheep or that we’re fish, but the similarities are incredible,” Professor Ward said.

“That gives me the encouragement that we can start with some experiments on fish, but we can generate ideas that we can then test in other species and potentially have real world outcomes.”

This sort of thing was music to Dr Mooney’s ears.

And in the lead-up to the 2014 Commonwealth Games, he had his eye on one gold-plated “real world outcome” in particular.

“If we looked at a team, like New Zealand, as a biologist does — like a school of fish, as opposed to individuals — maybe that can give us some sort of advantage on the court,” he said.

Instead of devising tactics to win the one-on-one, player-on-player match-ups, Dr Mooney started looking for a way to tackle the opposition as a whole, unified flock.

It was an unusual pitch. But luckily for Dr Mooney, the Diamond’s head coach used to be a high school science and maths teacher.

“I was a real sports jock at school,” Alexander said. “But I also did science and physics, and maths, and I guess that connection between sport and academic work just came naturally to me.”

So she set aside six months for Dr Mooney to develop the idea.

To begin with, Dr Mooney adopted a similar method to animal researchers: watching hours of videotape.

Both Dr Mooney and Professor Ward use software to search footage for reliable cues that indicate a pattern is emerging. While Professor Ward looked for cues in the behaviour of individual fish which might predict a pattern at the shoal level, Dr Mooney looked for things individual players do that might predict a pattern of play at the team level.

“You can’t independently evaluate a player without understanding what that player’s role is in the team,” he said.

For Dr Mooney, the holy grail of performance analysis was understanding what your opposition intend to do before they do it. And if you can identify what a team is about to do, you can intervene.

Knowing the next move they don’t know they’ll make

Dr Mooney won’t go into the specifics of what he uncovered.

“Then we’d be giving away our competitive advantage, wouldn’t we?”

But loosely speaking, he found three specific on-court scenarios that the Australian team could use to predict what the New Zealanders were going to do next.

It was as if he had a copy of the Silver Ferns playbook — but in fact, it was even better than that.

This wasn’t just a series of moves or a set of tactics to exploit.

Dr Mooney’s analyses uncovered an intuitive, collective style of play; just like the swirls of a shoal of fish, these patterns weren’t decisions that the players were making.

It was instinct, hard-wired into the whole team over decades.

Dr Mooney was surprised and delighted. And he discovered it wasn’t just New Zealand that displayed these team-level, instinctive behaviours. Every nation he analysed — New Zealand, England, Jamaica and, yes, Australia — had its own quantifiable patterns.

“All four countries have their own culturally significant way of playing. It’s almost like a different species,” he said.

When Dr Mooney dug even deeper into his trove of footage, he found these nation-specific instincts weren’t unique to the national, elite teams; the patterns were apparent all the way down to the junior level.

“It’s the way New Zealand thinks that netball ought to be played,” he said.

“The same goes with Australia. Australia believes that netball ought to be played in a certain way, so does England, so does Jamaica, so does every other country. And they play it accordingly.

“What we’re trying to do is uncover the rules associated with those ways of playing.”

Not your average team briefing

Dr Mooney’s next challenge was presenting his findings to the Diamonds.

It wasn’t a typical performance analysis session. Instead of starting with stats or player-on-player analyses, Dr Mooney dimmed the lights and pressed play.

A giant spiral of schooling fish appeared.

“When he put it on the screen, everyone was like, ‘What the heck?'” shooter Tegan Philip said.

“We just couldn’t believe he’d come up with this idea that a school of fish can relate to our netball team.”

“I’m an animal lover,” defender Sharni Layton said. “So I was like, ‘Yes! David Attenborough! This is what I’m about.'”

“We all thought he was a bit crazy,” shooter Caitlin Thwaites said. “But there was method to his madness.”

Once Dr Mooney had explained the idea of collective behaviour, thanks to the school of fish on film, it was down to business.

There was intel to deliver, tactics to be developed, and training to be done. Dr Mooney’s three scenarios, and their implications, had to be worked through.

Both he and Alexander were determined to empower the athletes, not lecture them.

“They’re experts, they know how the game works,” he said.

“They also know how to create these opportunities for themselves. We felt that it would be best if we let them do that, and use the coaches as the check and balance points of those ideas.”

When the Commonwealth Games finally arrived and the Diamonds fought their way to the final, everything was in place.

Their opposition, as expected, was the New Zealand Silver Ferns.

‘I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a last quarter like that’

The arch rivals, as ever, went goal for goal. When half-time arrived, Australia had edged to a 28-24 lead, but the Aussies’ secret weapon didn’t seem to be making much of a difference.

It wasn’t until the third quarter that the plan began to pay dividends.

“Watching the game from up in the stands, you could see the strategy actually playing out,” Dr Mooney said.

“But you could also see that we were starting to figure out little tweaks to the tactics. We started to really break the game open and get a lot of turnover ball, which was fantastic.”

Thwaites remembers finally starting to feel one step ahead after half-time.

“A lot of what we were trying to do was predict the opposition’s movements, rather than being really reactive to what they were doing,” she said.

“To have studied that particular group as a collective, we were able to predict where our intercepts were, and know where we could break through.”

As Australia’s lead stretched to 10 goals, the coaching staff dared to dream.

“I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a last quarter like that,” Alexander said.

“I remember Steve Hawkins, our physio at the time, leaned across to me and he put his hand on my knee, and he said, ‘Lisa, I think you can just enjoy it now.'”

After all their years of one-goal victories and extra time deadlock, the Diamonds’ 18-goal win was a shock and a triumph.

Of course, it wasn’t entirely because of the fish. New Zealand had a tough tournament, with a lot of injuries, and the Aussies were in particularly good form.

But at an elite level of the game, where so little splits teams, it doesn’t take much to make all the difference.

Hearing the players talk about the school of fish, and what the story has come to mean for them, it becomes obvious how important this idea is to Australian netball.

“As we have new players join the group, we start talking to them about collective behaviour first, because that was the building block for us,” shooter Caitlin Bassett said.

Wing attack Madi Robinson, meanwhile, is confident that this different perspective provides an edge.

“I think it’s all about those little winning one-per-centers, that each team does to be successful,” she said.

“It’s cool to look back and go, ‘Oh yeah, I remember when we won a gold medal. I was talking about schools of fish. How weird!'”


  • Reporting: Joel Werner and Jonathan Webb
  • Images: Teresa Tan

Topics: mathematics, strategy, animal-behaviour, netball, sport, australia, new-zealand

This is what was happening in the world last time Richmond won a premiership

Updated October 01, 2017 11:47:23

The last time the Richmond Tigers won a premiership was 37 years ago on September 27, 1980.

Let’s take a look back at what was happening in the world as they celebrated their win against Collingwood.

The number one song was Upside Down by Diana Ross

Yep. In September 1980 we were upside down, turning round and giving love instinctively.

The hit song was number one on the Billboard charts at the time and had been since September 6.

It was later knocked off the top spot by Queen’s Another One Bites the Dust in early October.

The radio was also playing:

  • Rock With You by Michael Jackson
  • Crazy Little Thing Called Love by Queen
  • Another Brick In The Wall by Pink Floyd
  • Call Me by Blondie
  • Funkytown by Lipps, Inc
  • Magic by Olivia Newton-John

Luke had just found out Vader was his father

It seems like a long time ago — in a galaxy far, far away — but it was in May 1980 that Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back premiered in cinemas.

It was a smash hit (obviously) and earned more than $500 million in box office sales worldwide.

And everyone was also talking about:

  • The Shining, starring Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall
  • Fame, starring Irene Cara, Paul McCrane and Laura Dean
  • Xanadu, starring Olivia Newton-John
  • Caddyshack, starring Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield and Bill Murray

Malcolm was Prime Minister

No, not Malcolm Turnbull, Malcolm FRASER.

Mr Fraser had been the prime minister since replacing Gough Whitlam after his dismissal in 1975.

In September of 1980 he was gearing up for the federal election against Labor’s Bill Hayden.

Spoiler alert: Mr Fraser won that election and governed until 1983 when he was defeated by Bob Hawke.

Baby Azaria had been missing for a month

Nine-week-old Azaria Chamberlain disappeared from her family’s tent at a campsite at Uluru (Ayers Rock) on August 17, 1980.

Lindy and Michael Chamberlain claimed a dingo had taken her, and a week later the jumpsuit she had been wearing was found nearby.

Two years later, Lindy was wrongly convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.

PAC-MAN was everyone’s favourite game

Wakka, wakka, wakka!

It was in May 1980 that Namco released the first PAC-MAN game in Japan, introducing us all to those pesky ghosts Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde.

The game hit the US later in October and sold more than 100,000 units in its first year.

John Lennon died just over two months later

John Lennon was shot and killed outside his apartment in New York on December 8, 1980, just over two months after the AFL grand final.

His killer was Beatles fan Mark Chapman, who had asked him for an autograph only hours beforehand.

Two days after the AFL grand final, Lennon did an interview with Newsweek in which he talked about losing ties with Paul McCartney, his relationship with Yoko Ono and falling in love with music again.

Topics: sport, australian-football-league, arts-and-entertainment, community-and-society, history, australia, richmond-3121, vic

First posted October 01, 2017 11:43:11