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What’s happening in sport with Ash Gray.

BAT AND BALLS
Have you been watching Everyone Loves Justin, or perhaps you haven’t even got to the end of the thrilling prequel Everyone hates Justin? Either way, after copping a barrage of verbal and literary bumpers over the past year or so, Justin Langer, our much-maligned cricket coach, is flavour of the month following Australia’s T20 World Cup heroics in the UAE. The former Mr Grumpy – too intense and emotional – is now, apparently, Mr Jolly – upbeat and inspiring – and that augurs well for the upcoming Ashes series against our mortal enemies, the Poms.

The five-Test series, which may or may not include the hermit kingdom of Perth, promises to be a cracker, with English talisman Ben Stokes, the ginger ninja of world cricket, available to play after spending time in the head bin dealing with mental health and injury issues. He’ll be facing off against the likes of David Warner, who recently showed the whole world he’ll be taking no prisoners when, much to the horror of purists, he clubbed Mohammad Hafeez’s accidental mullygrubber for six in Dubai. “It’s not cricket,” they moaned. “Get stuffed!” Warner’s bat bellowed.

With Warner, Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne the only batting locks for the first Test at the ‘Gabbatoir’ there’s stiff competition to fill the other three top-order spots. But with James Anderson approaching 90 (years, not mph) and Stuart Broad eligible for a pensioner bus pass, whoever fills the breach could be in for a massive run harvest.

The finicky English will also have to deal with cricket-starved Aussie crowds in full beast-mode, who’ll be busting their VB guts to shout, “Have a go, you Pommy b…d!” again.

GOAL DRIVEN
Selection wasn’t something Suriname Vice President Ronnie Brunswijk had to worry about. Being 60, overweight and supremely untalented was no barrier to him representing Inter Moengotapoe in a Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) match against Honduran side CD Olympia. Of course, when you own the club – as Ronnie does – you can do as you damn well please. The No.61 shirt billowing over a belly that could shelter an extended family of his impoverished countrymen, he huffed and puffed around the stadium before being replaced by, you guessed it, his son. Afterwards, he was filmed in the Olympia dressing room handing out banknotes to the opposition – as you do. An investigation into Ronnie’s shenanigans by Central American soccer authorities is ongoing.

Bald as a badger, at least Brunswijk didn’t have a hair out of place, unlike new Perth Glory recruit Daniel Sturridge. The former Liverpool striker was going stir crazy in quarantine as his curly thatch and beard grew long and scraggly. Conscious of his position as the Glory’s marquee signing, he tweeted for barbers to submit their CVs, warning them if they’d never ‘…cut hair like mine, don’t bother, my hairline is important to me.’ Happily shorn and sheared, he’s ready to tear up for the purple-and-orange, but canny A-League defenders will now know that the way to put him off his game is not to get into his head so much as his hair.

Certainly defending champions Melbourne City will be watching Sturridge’s ’do. Along with Sydney FC, they’re favourites to raise the ‘toilet seat’ come finals time next May.

In the Premier League, the surprise packet so far this season has been West Ham United. The east-London club – more famous for producing some of the most frightening soccer hooligans ever to have wielded a rusty screwdriver – has muscled its way into top-four contention with a smart and disciplined style of football that has young captain Declan Rice being touted as the best midfielder in the world.

Though as any typically pessimistic Hammers fan will tell you, their worst is yet to come.

CODE VIOLATIONS
Anyone who says the AFL and NRL seasons ended in September and October respectively just doesn’t get either of these football codes. Both are 24/7, 365-day-ayear soap operas the best TV producers could never conceive of, and the fare lately has been as tasty as ever.

While premiership winner Nathan Cleary was getting into hot water for defending sacked former teammate Tyrone May, who had posted on Instagram regarding a suspension he copped for recording an intimate image without consent, Cleary was wondering when the hell the NRL would return the Clive Churchill medal he won for best on field in the grand final. They’d nicked it from him soon after it was presented, because, wait for it… they engraved it with the wrong venue. Peeved it seems, Cleary went hogwild after the Panthers’ victory over Souths. He and teammate Stephen Crichton were slapped with fines for being disrespectful to the Provan-Summons Trophy – which meant they’d dressed it up in a baby sling and pram after it was damaged. Footballers behaving badly, eh!

The idea Collingwood’s Jordan de Goey has a safe pair of hands was nixed when he was arrested for groping on a New York nightclub dance floor. Those charges were later changed to assault and harassment. It’s a part of a seriously long rap sheet that includes being nabbed for drinking on his P-plates and lying about breaking his hand in a bar fight. After 118 games, the 25-yearold’s career is teetering. New Pies coach Craig McRae may want to make an example of de Goey to show he’s boss and has a zerotolerance approach to off-field malarkey.

OPEN FOR BUSINESS
Of course, tennis players are no strangers to off-court malarkey, although in Nick Kyrgios’ case it usually happens on court – if he can be bothered to try. Don’t expect him to challenge the big three of Novak Djokovic, Raphael Nadal and Roger Federer at the Australian Open – if all three get here – to slug it out for a record 21st major and GOAT status. Instead, save your ‘Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi!’ chants for Ash Barty. At least you know she’s giving it her all and will bleed green-and-gold in her quest for championship glory. And that’s why in this year of living in purgatory, along with her awesome Wimbledon triumph, the Ashmeister is What Tradies Want’s first True Blue Aussie Sports Star Of The Year.

Let the Barty party roll on!

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