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On The Road: Dharamsala

This is the ‘director’s cut’ of the final episode of On The Road during the Australia tour of India. I hope you enjoy watching it as much as we did filming it. Huge thanks to Arya Yuyutsu, Jarrod Kimber, Karthik Krishnaswamy and Dobell The Dog for being part of a great adventure.

I need to confess. You see, I’ve been carrying this secret around for quite a few years and it’s time I spilled the beans.

I, Melinda Farrell, threw the Rugby League World Cup into a rubbish skip. Literally. A massive, industrial, orange skip.

Then I picked it up and shoved it on top of a huge pile of garbage, before artfully draping piles of goodness-knows-what all over it. By the time I’d finished with that trophy it had all sorts of dirt and grime smeared over it.

But… that’s starting at the wrong end of the story.

It was summer in the north of England and I was working on the Sky Sports rugby league production team. The job required so much driving around the north that, years later, I’m still stretching out my hamstrings. If you parachuted me blindfolded into Yorkshire or Lancashire I could immediately lead you to the nearest rugby league ground (via the cafe with the best bacon butties of course).

During those frequent trips I’d often find myself in the same car as Mike Stephenson, the English commentator best known as Stevo to Super League viewers. Stevo has such a passion for the history of the game it led him to open a museum in Huddersfield’s George Hotel, the birthplace of rugby league. Unfortunately the Hotel, a victim of tough economic times, recently closed its doors, leaving the collection homeless for the time being.

But history is as much in the telling as the seeing, and it was on those journeys across the Yorkshire moors with Stevo that I learned to appreciate the rich and fascinating heritage of rugby league. How the George Hotel meeting came about. Or the importance of monumental figures like Jim Sullivan, Billy Boston and Brian Bevan.

Then there were the World Cup stories. In 1972, the last time Great Britain won the title, it was Stevo who levelled the scores with a classic hooker’s try. The match finished a 10 all draw but, in an age before extra time and golden point, a count back system was in place and Great Britain was declared the winner. Can you imagine the controversy?

It was a groundbreaking moment as captain Clive Sullivan lifted the trophy. Sullivan was a Welsh flyer who also happened to be black, and in 1972 it was virtually unheard of to see a black man leading a British national team. His legacy lives on in many ways and when fans flock to Hull to watch England take on Fiji, they’ll drive into the city on Clive Sullivan Way.

But the cup hoisted by the captain that day isn’t the trophy awaiting the winner of this year’s tournament, nor is the trophy I treated so disrespectfully decades later.

International Rugby league is littered with fascinating stories and figures that go far beyond Dally Messenger. The man acknowledged as the father of the World Cup isn’t an Australian, an Englishman or even a Kiwi.

Paul Barriere was a French resistance fighter during World War II who subsequently became the president of the French Federation Francaise de Rugby a XIII. A passionate advocate of rugby league in a country where the sport was banned by the Nazi puppet government, Barriere spearheaded the push for the first tournament, held in France, in 1954 and commissioned the creation of a magnificent trophy costing eight million francs.

Most sports fans have heard how the round ball world cup trophy was lost and then found by a dog, named Pickles.

But few people realize rugby league has it’s own tale of a mystery disappearance and an incredible discovery.

The trophy commissioned by Barriere was the prize at the first five World Cups including the 1968 tournament, when Johnny Raper captained Australia to victory over France at the Sydney Cricket Ground. When the Australians returned to England to defend their title in 1970, they put the silverware on display in the foyer of their Bradford hotel. Six days before the final an enterprising thief somehow managed to pocket the 61 centremetre tall trophy and spirit it away to a still-unknown hideout, putting paid to the rumour that all Yorkshiremen have short pockets.

For two decades the trophy remained in hiding and was presumed forever lost while a series of replacements, rather plain in comparison to the original, were used.

Enter a man called Stephen Uttley and his dog, whose name seems to have disappeared from the annals of rugby league history, a terrible shame. Uttley was taking his pooch for a walk past a rubbish tip at Dowley Gap, in the small Yorkshire town of Bingley, when the puppy sleuth uncovered a shiny lump of metal in a litter-filled ditch, perhaps confusing it with a rather large water dish.

Uttley took the trophy home where his kids promptly claimed it as a toy bin. But, realizing the magnificent craftsmanship might make it a bit too important for storing lego and cabbage patch kids, Uttley called local rugby clubs and notified the police. When the local Telegraph and Argos newspaper printed a photo of the trophy, rugby league historian Trevor Delaney recognised it as Barriere’s long lost masterpiece and the cup was promptly returned to the Rugby Football League, where it was restored to it’s former glory and once more became the official silverware, lifted by the Kangaroos in 2000 and the Kiwis in 2008.

And my confession? When I discovered the World Cup was due to be cleaned that summer I figured it was a good time to tell its story. So, with a camera crew in tow, I took it back to the Dowley Gap tip and spent a morning filming the beautiful trophy surrounded by trash overlooking the Yorkshire countryside, while Delaney filled me in on its history. I may have neglected to inform the RFL of the exact circumstances of the shoot, but in the afternoon it was on its way to London for a professional polish so I hoped it could keep one more little secret.

All too often critics diminish and even dismiss the Rugby League World Cup, despite its rich history. And while the international game has genuine issues to address, the sport has come so far since British captain Dave Valentine lifted the trophy for the first time. A new chapter of the game’s history is about to be written as New Zealand attempts to retain the title against challenges from the classy Australians, the formidable English pack, the improving Tongans, Samoans, Fijians, and the less predictable other nations.

And when the winning captain raises the trophy to the Old Trafford crowd’s roar of approval on November 30, we should all raise a glass to those who paved the way for today’s champions. For the likes of Clive Sullivan, who defied tradition, or Stevo and Trevor Delaney, who ensure the stories never die. For Stephen Uttley, a fan who refused a financial reward for returning the trophy, instead choosing to accept a few tickets. For his dog, still unnamed, but not forgotten.

And, above all, for Paul Barriere.

The Frenchman who put rugby league firmly on the international stage.

The Other Ashes

Tally Ho!

Well the past few weeks have made a blur look like slow motion, to say the least. After a whirlwind, during which I wasn’t quite sure what was happening, I suddenly found myself in the lovely Buckinghamshire village of Stokenchurch, covering the Women’s Ashes.

(In case you’re wondering what that’s about – here’s a preview I prepared earlier… http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2013-08-11/southern-stars-set-for-battle-in-new-ashes-series/4878554?section=sport )

It’s funny how things just happen. I was planning on heading to the UK this month for a few things, and after a series of possibly-maybe-probably work scenarios I ended up writing some stories for the Sydney Morning Herald and I’m providing daily match coverage for ABC Grandstand.

In fact… here’s a summary of the first four days of the test, which ended in a draw – unfortunately!

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-08-12/women27s-ashes3a-sarah-elliott-australia27s-southern-stars/4879742/?site=sport&section=cricket

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-08-14/womens-ashes-test-headed-for-a-draw/4885336

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-08-15/test-stand-off-leaves-women27s-ashes-series-up-for-grabs/4888652/?site=sport&section=cricket

The strange thing is that I didn’t quite know how this was going to pan out, or how much work I was going to have to do. The plan was that I would just be available to provide “stuff” to the ABC, starting with a daily match report. The wonderful thing is that there was actually a lot of interest in the test (no doubt magnified by the spectacular collapse of the Australian men’s team in Durham) and so I ended up fielding many calls from national radio, as well as metros around Australia.

The Wormsley experience was the shiz. Very posh shiz. When there’s a Veuve Cliquot tent you know you’re somewhere special. Normally at sporting events the press are lucky to get a few manky party pies and sausage rolls, maybe some sangas, and heaven forbid if there’s an ice cream.

Amid the rolling green hills of Wormsley, our view of the test was occasionally interrupted by Jamie Oliver catering. Damn those scotch eggs. And berries with ice cream. Don’t even talk about the Bakewell tart. Did I say diet? Never has a press area been sated with such glee. My one regret is that professional conscience prevented me from smashing at least one glass of champers. I just inhaled.

One end of the ground was called the Dibley End, because the Vicar of Dibley was filmed just a few fields away. The scoreboard had a thatched roof. There was a red telephone box. Dammit it was just all so Enid Blyton, I expected the Famous Five to show up with tonnes of tomatoes and lashings of ginger beer at any moment.

Unfortunately the food had a bit more life than the pitch, which sucked the chance of a result dry. Interestingly enough, it was the Aussies in the tent convinced there could be a result up until the last session. Optimistic or just super-competitive, we just couldn’t accept any international team wouldn’t go in for the kill if there were half a chance.

This gig has confirmed to me how enjoyable radio is as a medium. I’m so used to television but there’s a freedom in radio and a great joy in being able to set a scene with the spoken word. Anyway, I like it.

One of the nice things about this tour is seeing the Aussie girls’ families and partners. They are such a lovely bunch of people. I only know a few of them but I feel like we’re part of a club. There was also a great sense of camaraderie in the press tent. People were sharing transcripts, stats and jokes. It was really like hanging out with a terrific bunch of mates for a few days.

Perhaps one of the things that unite us is that we are free of cricket snobbery. I had very little to do with the women’s game until six months ago, when I suddenly found myself reporting and commentating on the Rose Bowl series. I’m actually really open minded about sport. I don’t care whether I’m doing stories on the high profile stars, the new kids on the block, or the grass roots. If it’s a good story then I’m always captivated. So I’m always bemused when people say “Oh do you actually like women’s cricket?” My response is generally… that’s it’s just cricket. If it’s a good game then I enjoy watching it. If it’s a rubbish game… then I enjoy it as much as a rubbish game involving men.

So I’m afraid I’m no champion of the female version. I just enjoy it on its merits, the same as any sport. Having said that, I have to say that the Southern Stars are a particularly likable bunch – some genuinely nice people with talent to burn.

So the test is done and dusted and there are six matches to go. I’m going to be there for each of them and only the last two are being broadcast live. I’ve been overwhelmed by the interest in my live tweeting of the test and I’ll be doing the same for the other games. Hopefully the interest will eventually translate into broadcast deals, but until then I’ll do my best to let everyone know what’s happening!

PS. Here’s another story I did on Holly Ferling – you’ll hear more about her soon.

http://www.smh.com.au/sport/cricket/big-learning-curve-for-teenage-pace-ace-20130809-2rn75.html?skin=text-only

Are you sick of watching and reading stories of NRL players behaving badly? Tired of the indiscretions of a few tarnishing the reputations of many?

I am.

Unfortunately a by-product of how the media works is that negative stories generate bigger headlines than the positive ones. In fact, positive yarns are usually referred to as ‘soft’ or ‘fluff’ pieces, and they often drift to the bottom of the pile when it comes to sharing space with the sexier ‘hard’ stories.

I love telling these stories. There’s an untapped mine of what can happen behind the scenes in a year of the NRL. 18 months ago I stumbled across a unique story involving a number of footballers. I’d really like to tell you about it. Even better… I’d like to show you.

But more on that later.

Joe Galavao has recently retired from NRL after an astonishing 16 seasons playing rugby league at the elite level. But what many fans don’t realize is that the Manly forward has exceptional musical talent, along with the overwhelming desire to help young people.

So when Joe was watching a television talent contest a couple of years ago he had an epiphany. He realized there was so much untapped musical potential in Sydney’s greater west that never saw the light of day. A phone call to his pal Frank Puletua (who was working at the Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre) followed and Mindfield was born.

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Other musically talented NRL players were roped in: Dene Halatau, Sam Perrett, Junior Tia Kalifi, Junior Moors and Kevin Gordon put their hands up. Eric Grothe Jnr couldn’t wait to be involved. All that was required was some talented young musicians.

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They came in their droves to audition at the CPAC – think the voice meets NRL. The players helped with the judging and interviewed the contestants who nervously took to the stage hoping to make it through to the final.

In the end eight acts were chosen to take a year-long journey that would climax at the 2012 NRL Grand Final, where they would perform a song, written by Joe, in front of tens of thousands of fans as part of the pre-match entertainment.

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The players were a huge part of the Mindfield journey – collaborating with the performers to write and record an album of original tracks. The Juniors rapped, Sam and Dene sang, Kevin turned producer, and Joey did just about everything, while Frank oversaw the whole project with the help of CPAC and the NRL.

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This all took place during a season in which Sam switched from the Roosters to the Bulldogs, Dene was having the season of his life until injury cost him a grand final appearance, while Joey came within one game of a grand final in what would be the final full year of his professional career. Kevin and Junior TK struggled to make their way back from injuries, and Junior Moors strived to make the West Tigers NRL side, only to get to the NSW Cup Grand Final with Balmain.

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At the start of Grand Final Week, the Juniors performed tracks they wrote at the One Community Awards at Town Hall. Junior TK performed The Streets, a heartfelt and moving song he wrote about the challenges of growing up and living in western Sydney, which brought the house down. Junior M had never rapped in front of anyone before he walked on stage to perform The Greatest Game – a cracking track about rugby league. The NRL was so impressed they asked Junior M to perform the track on Grand Final day, after finishing playing his own final!

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Meanwhile Joey had somehow managed to compose a song that showcased the individual styles of all 11 performers – an incredibly challenging task. With the help of Eric, a funky track emerged with rockers, rappers, and soul singers merging to sing I Ain’t Going Back, an inspiring theme to the entire Mindfield experience.

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The amazing thing? This whole journey has been filmed, from the first audition through to the backstage scenes during the Grand Final week. The challenges faced, the hurdles overcome and the friendships formed along the way. From the advice of singer Paulini, who took part in the initial judging, to the unexpected encounters with Good Charlotte boys Joel and Benji in the corridors of ANZ Stadium. You may have seen some of the Mindfield performers singing live during the finals series, or at the Grand Final Breakfast, without realise they’d been slaving away with a bunch of players for months in the studio!

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It’s a rare thing to be able to film a long-term project such as this and it is also expensive. I’ve worked unpaid, as has my colleague Joanna Lester. We were lucky enough to be able to seconder cameraman Aaron Horton thanks to CPAC and, in part, the NRL.

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But we can’t show you this amazing story because we simply can’t go any further – we can’t finance the post-production of this documentary. So this is where I’m turning to you folks out there in cyberspace. We’re looking for a commercial sponsor to complete a documentary that celebrates music and sport in a unique way.

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We’re currently working on securing a broadcast partner and with sponsorship we can move very quickly into the post-production phase. We’re determined to get this over the line, because every time we watch the footage we’re excited about this story all over again. We want you to meet the characters because we think you’ll love them as much as we do!

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So if you’re tired of seeing the same old “bad boy” headlines and you’d like to help us showcase some of the good guys in the NRL, or if you love watching new musical talent uncovered, check out the video below and drop us a line at jammingproductions@gmail.com. You can also help by spreading the word through Facebook, twitter, or word of mouth.

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Thanks so much for taking the time to read this!

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What makes us cheer for one team and loathe another? Family tradition? A favourite player? Where we live? Where we grew up?

For a little girl growing up on an orchard just outside Orange, in the Central West of New South Wales, rugby league was all about Sunday afternoons at Wade Park watching the mighty Orange CYMS. Teams like Parramatta and Balmain were from another world, confined to the television, unreachable.

Two of my big brothers pulled on the CYMS green and gold, much to the delight of my grandfather Jim. One of my favourite photos is of my mud-covered brother Terry after a victorious Group 10 grand final, flanked by my beaming mother on one side and Grandpa on the other, a proud twinkle in his eye as he raises a fist in the air in a celebratory salute.

I may now live in Sydney, but with that background, it doesn’t take a genius to work out which side I’ll be cheering for in the Country v City clash. I care about the game in it’s own right and how it connects the elite level of the sport to the bush. Like a lot of country kids, I didn’t see an NRL match live until I moved to the city. Just think about that for a moment. Especially if you’ve always had a Parramatta Stadium, or a Kogorah, or a Lang Park within an hour’s travel. No local fan days, or school clinics, or signing sessions at a shopping centre. The greatest players of the game live within the confines of a two-dimensional rectangular box in the corner of the living room. A bit like movie stars, chart-toppers, and other famous and nebulous people who have nothing to do with our day-to-day existence.

The pre-season community carnival goes some way towards rectifying this, along with pre-season trials, although those matches often don’t feature the visiting clubs’ biggest name players. Suggestions of NRL clubs taking fixtures to regional areas seem to be just talk for now. In the meantime the best young players from country areas are lost to their hometown clubs, signing with agents at a young age, and chasing the NRL dream in the big smoke. Most won’t make it, but few ever return to bush footy, perhaps embarrassed and disillusioned, and are lost to the game forever. This trend is bleeding the country talent pool dry at a time when clubs struggle to survive from year to year.

So yeah. This game means something to me because I can imagine what it might mean to fans, young and old, who’ve seen an NRL player in the flesh for the first time this week in Coffs Harbour, and who will watch them lock horns under an open sky. Do you think they’ll be fussed about who’s leading the race for NSW jerseys? Bugger that. I reckon they’ll just be hoping the boys from the bush can get one over the city slickers. It’s just a shame they won’t see some players who, perhaps, would be there but for club self-interest.

Hang on. There are a couple of other matches this weekend right? Are they State of Origin trials too? Surely if we keep going down the road towards an Origin All Stars shootout, that’s exactly what we should make the Anzac Test. Hey – apparently there’s a World Cup on later this year! After the final, why don’t we let Cameron Smith and Paul Gallen take turns picking their favourite players from the tournament and colour them maroon and blue. We can just change the eligibility rules. After all no one really cares about something so trivial as representing their country. Not compared to the old mate against mate mantra.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Origin and despite the results of the past seven years I’m happy to ride that wave each time it comes around. But rugby league itself means more to me. And unless the game is content to be a big deal in two states of Australia and nowhere else it has to pay more attention to the international game, particularly as other sports encroach on the traditional league heartlands.

Internationals sustain rugby union and ensure the global dominance of soccer. The ARU must wonder where all the die-hard rugger fans come from to snap up tickets for the upcoming Lions tour at a frenetic rate. Imagine what the AFL would do if they had an international competition to market.

Recently a NSW fan told me he hates Queensland more than he hates New Zealand, so he can’t get as excited about test matches. That’s where Origin has really screwed up the proper order of things. The highest honour for any player should be to represent his or her country on the world stage and that should be reflected by the support of the average fan.

That’s how it used to be for me, anyway. Before I became a turncoat. As soon as I had a degree and enough money for a flight, I headed off to England and found myself becoming intimately acquainted with the motorways as part of the Super League production team at Sky Sports.  After working on so many matches, and getting to know people involved at every level of the game, something strange happened. When a touring Australian team arrived I found myself cheering against them. Passionately.

The British players had become real people to me, the fans amazed me with their love for a game that struggles to crack the soccer-obsessed national media, and I realized that victory against the Kangaroos would mean so much more in the UK than it ever would in Australia. Unpatriotic, I know, but I discovered the game has great traditions and stories in countries like France and Wales. Rugby league history and pride isn’t just confined to the exploits of Dally Messenger and an argument over which came first – Newtown or Glebe.

In the 2008 World Cup my transformation to traitor was complete. I found myself doing the unthinkable. Cheering for the Kiwis against Australia for the same reasons.  (I should perhaps point out this doesn’t occur in any other sport, especially cricket) The dismissive and seemingly arrogant nature of popular Australian comment (a waste of time, let’s just carve Australia’s name on the trophy – but can we get another interview with that Wayne Kerr bloke in the Irish team? What a hoot!) infuriated me enough to cross the ditch, spiritually anyway.

It will be the same in this Anzac Test. With an injury-ravaged squad, and an unimpressive record in this one-off match, the Kiwis may be up against it but I’m in their corner.  They are the world champions after all – Australia can’t excuse apathy by claiming to have the best rugby league team on the planet. I dream of a time when a strong international competition, supported by the mainstream media, means I can once more oi oi oi along with the best of them.

One huge victory for the international game is the staging of the Tonga v Samoa match in Penrith. Rugby League takes so much from the Pacific Island nations. It’s way past time it started giving something back. It’s been so heartening to see more high profile footballers electing to play for countries like Fiji and Samoa in a World Cup year. Hopefully we will see a time where meaningful international fixtures are both visually and financially as rewarding as Origin. I’m struggling to pick a team to cheer on for this one – I’m just happy they’re playing.

So there you go. I’m an Australian living in the city of Sydney, but the only teams I won’t be cheering for are Australia and City. Oh – but I will be behind the mighty Orange CYMS. They do wear green and gold.

Does that count?

Sometimes the best stories aren’t about the biggest names. For me, anyway.

I can find just as much satisfaction in finding a cracking little story about a traditional country competition as I can when interviewing a high profile international star. Sometimes more. There is often a purity, innocence, and sheer joy in grass roots and community stories and I love trying to convey those qualities in a creative way.

So it was with a great deal of excitement that I threw my clothes in a suitcase (I am the worst of the last-minute packers) and headed up to Alice Springs for my second Imparja Cup, the annual Australian Indigenous cricket carnival. Last year I was only there for four days, shooting enough material for a couple of stories to run on Fox Sports News, but this year I stayed for eight.

In a way I was operating as a kind of stringer – talking to newsrooms around Australia and seeing if they’d be interested in stories on teams or players from their areas. Then it was a frantic rush around with Chris – an Alice Springs cameraman whose local knowledge, dry humour, and patience were invaluable – to film as many stories as we could fit into a daily half hour feed. I have to say we couldn’t have managed it without the help of Cricket Australia’s Sebastian Kipman, who took every problem we tossed at him in his stride, and Laura Macintosh, who spent much of the week trying to master a tricky piece of equipment known as the reflector (or ‘fleccy’, for those in the biz).

And there were great stories everywhere you turned. Like the Maranoa Murries from Queensland. Two years ago they won their division in the Cup but last summer the dreadful floods that devastated the region prevented them from defending their title. There are only four men in the side who play cricket regularly, but this tournament is a highlight of their year. “We always said it’d take a natural disaster to stop us coming,” one of them told me. “And it did.”

But not this year. The Murries piled into a mini-bus and drove 2700km across the Queensland and Northern Territory outback to compete last week. They made it to the final but went down to the Darwin side, before trekking the 2700km home. Bloody good effort that.

Then there are the Tiwi Islanders. I first met them last year, when they brought a team to the Imparja Cup for the first time. With the help of their coach – Sport and Recreation Officer and cricket nut Mick Rees – player numbers have tripled in 12 months and a local competition established.

“This year is the first year we’ve actually had a representative side picked from a structured competition,” Rees explained. “So we had our first Tiwi Islands Cricket Association season in 2012, which was highly successful. We had three clubs, one from each community. We played on a plastic flexi pitch we got from Melbourne and we just rolled that out on the oval and it was very entertaining, very enjoyable, and the guys absolutely loved it.”

The most striking aspect of the Tiwi Islands cricket team is their art. The players wear colourful shirts designed by artists back home and before each game they carefully plant two painted stumps by the boundary. One represents the women and girls of their community, while the other represents the men and boys – they can’t be physically present, so the stumps become the supporting onlookers. Three bats are lined up, covered in spectacular black, ochre and white depictions of a turtle, a bush fowl, and a lizard, symbols of the three major communities on Bathurst and Melville Islands. Wherever possible the batsmen take the blade from their own dreaming out in the middle.

“It creates cultural awareness, it’s significantly important for our side because it represents who we are, said Rees. “The bats are the players’ dreaming, it’s their family, it’s their culture. The stumps are our communities – they represent that we are from the islands, this is us.”

The Tiwi Islanders were one side to feature in a feature story I wrote for the Sydney Morning Herald while I was in Alice. TV and print are such different beasts and keeping my head around so many different stories, not to mention the mediums, was a challenge. It meant I had to interview some people twice, to keep the content totally separate, and have a clear idea in my head of the different way all the stories would be constructed.

http://www.smh.com.au/sport/cricket/hunt-for-aboriginal-talent-starts-at-the-top-end-20130222-2ewxa.html?skin=text-only

http://www.smh.com.au/sport/cricket/cup-overflowing-with-promise-20130222-2ewx8.html?skin=text-only

Traeger Park, Alice Springs

Traeger Park, Alice Springs

Greg Chappell watches two state teams compete.

Greg Chappell watches two state teams compete.

The beautiful Tiwi Island bats

The beautiful Tiwi Island bats

Chris and I had to cut the stories in our heads as we shot, as there was no time to edit before feeding. We had to work out what would be relevant to viewers in Albany, Tasmania, Canberra and Parkes. And then there were the mechanics of the feed itself, which sometimes took half the morning to set up.

All of which meant I had to keep walking past the hotel pool, instead of diving into it for a relaxing kick back. The worst was the night I sat up working till 3am while some funsters held the best damn pool party of all time. At least, that’s how it sounded to me. I can’t stand missing out on fun.

One thing I didn’t miss out on was a long chat with Greg Chappell. The National Talent Manager was there to see how some of the players in the high performance pathways were progressing. It was fascinating to hear Chappell talk about the development of young indigenous cricketers. In fact, I loved just listening to all of his insights. Like this, for example:

“Learning to deal with failure is an important part of being successful in cricket. Donald Bradman batted 80 times in test cricket and only made 29 hundreds, so effectively he’s failed 51 times. If he’s failed that many times in his career you can imagine what the rest of us have done. It’s a game that requires patience, it requires a lot of diligence, it requires courage, it requires intelligence, all of those things and I think once people get to see below the surface of the game they do really love it, so we’ve got to get more of them attracted to it from all backgrounds.”

But possibly my favourite oratory came from a bloke called Digger, who also featured in the Herald article. One of the players in the original Imparja Cup 20 years ago, Digger’s enthusiastic innings was the moment I really felt the spirit of this tournament, when I really understood that cricket is about community. So I wrote about it.

When Digger showed up on the final day I showed him the paper. His face lit up with a grin Imagethat showed through his bushy beard and he asked me if he could take the paper over to his mates, who were all watching from a temporary stand. We walked over, arm in arm, and with all the theatrical aplomb of a Shakespearean actor, Digger opened the paper and read the article aloud. There were hand gestures, dramatic pauses, and the appreciative audience laughed and cheered throughout. It was a wonderful moment, and despite the fact that the Herald costs $7.20 in Alice Springs, I couldn’t really take the paper back.

I arrived back in Sydney exhausted (could be that last night of letting the hair down and sampling the Alice night life until the wee small hours played a part) but also invigorated.

Hopefully I’ll be back there next year.

Feast or famine…

Ah the joys of being freelance…

It’s either feast or famine when it comes to work. Months during which a day off is a vaguely remembered treat followed by months when you’re mother sends you job advertisements for media officers at local councils.

Many wouldn’t be able to cope with such an insecure and uncertain existence. I guess I’m used to living on the edge, so to speak. The good times have mostly outweighed the bad and, if nothing else, the unpredictability of such a life can open the door to unusual experiences.

At the moment I’m smack bang in the middle of an enjoyable meal that has followed a period of paleo diet restrictions.

The opportunity arose to put together some feature stories on the Southern Stars. That’s the Australian women’s cricket team by the way. If you don’t know who they are that’s probably because… well… they’re women. And, when it comes to media coverage, women’s sport still ranks somewhere below cheese making in the minds of some chiefs in the sports media.

The bonus for me is that, as a result, the Southern Stars squad is full of interesting and often-untold stories (if you’d like to check them out I’ll add the links once I’ve figured out how!). It’s rare anyone is given the freedom to look beyond the “Ooh that Ellyse Perry plays two sports!” angle.

The hardest part of getting through the past month was the lack of time. From the moment the project was approved I had two and a half weeks to plan, schedule and shoot nine feature stories in three states, before the players left for the ICC Women’s World Cup in India. Oh and they were also playing in WNCL semis, finals, a domestic T20 Final and three T20 matches against NZ. And training. And most of them didn’t know their schedules.

Somewhere in the middle of that I was asked to commentate on the T20 internationals and co-host the red carpet at the AB Medal for Cricket Australia’s live stream. Natch.

So… it’s been a little hectic. And by a little I mean I lost 3kg – who needs that paleo plan?!

I’ve had just enough time this week to attend the new NRL referees’ boss Daniel Anderson’s presentation of the new rules and interpretations (yes I know I’m a nerd), prep for an edit of a feature for The Golf Show on Fox Sports, and do 564 loads of washing. That last bit may be a slight exaggeration.

Tomorrow I’m off to Alice Springs for a week to cover the Imparja Cup – the national indigenous cricket tournament. I should probably pack, but hey – I like living on the edge.

I’m not really sure how this blog will evolve – it may follow the pattern of my work life: either there’s a lot happening or not much at all! This is just an introduction more than anything. But hopefully there’ll be one or two people out there who’ll find my ramblings and reminiscing vaguely interesting.

Even if it’s just my mum. It may distract her from looking up job ads.