Souths duo show the way forward on Australia's problematic past

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This was published 10 months ago


Souths duo show the way forward on Australia's problematic past

Bravo Cody Walker and Damien Cook. The Indigenous South Sydney star told TFF's colleague Andrew Webster this week about the conversations he had shared with the Rabbitohs hooker, helping both to a deeper understanding of Australia's shocking history when it comes to the First Peoples.

"He'll come up and ask questions about certain things relating to our culture," Walker said. "He asks some great questions and we talk. He learns from it. I'm still learning, too."

South Sydney five-eighth Cody Walker with his sons Kian and Kade.

South Sydney five-eighth Cody Walker with his sons Kian and Kade. Credit: Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

And there's much to discuss. "Our school curriculum doesn't teach it the way that it was; the harsh reality of what it is," Walker told Webster. "The dark history of our country was horrific. You see a lot of people saying, 'Get over it'. But the history of what my father and others before him went through didn't just have an effect on him and his childhood, but on the way he parented.

"If people can understand what happened, then they can have a greater sense of empathy instead of just saying, 'Get over it, it happened years ago, we're not part of that'. We're not asking for that. Just understand that there's a loss of identity, of cultural practices, the languages that we've lost … All that's been lost to us."

Bravo, also to Daly Cherry-Evans and Joel Thompson. The Sea Eagles captain and his Indigenous teammate talked to TFF's erstwhile colleague Jamie Pandaram for a similar piece in The Daily Telegraph. Cherry-Evans said he now gets, more than ever, the sensitivities of such things as "taking a knee", the problems with the national anthem and Australia Day, and the need for reconciliation.

"I think a lot of people don't know and don't want to know," Cherry-Evans told Pandaram. "They're scared to educate themselves and scared to hear about what really has happened and how Indigenous people feel ... I feel like the first step is getting out of your comfort zone and asking questions."

Thompson told him how, up until the late 1960s, First Nations people "weren't allowed to vote, were classed as animals pretty much."

Cherry-Evans' eyes were opened, and he is happy to speak up about it.

"I'm not preaching from a highly educated place," he said. "I'm still learning a lot, I just know if there's a role to play for an athlete like myself, I'm happy to step in and say 'let's become one big happy country. Let's acknowledge our past'."


Yup, we need some major league truth-telling and players like these, having conversations and talking about it openly, do a lot to move us forward. As it happens, the Manly pair are on significant ground when it comes to atrocities and reconciliation. Just around from Manly ferry wharf is where governor Arthur Phillip's men violently captured three members of the Cammeraygal people, shortly after arriving in Sydney Harbour in 1788. They were all so strong and athletic, Phillip thought them "manly," hence the origins of the suburb's name.

The shocking experience of Adam Goodes shows how far we’ve got to go, but these players speaking up really does move us forward.

Still, the locals felt grim enough about it that when Phillip next came to Manly Cove, he took a spear through the shoulder for his trouble. A more vicious man might have called for violent retributions but, recognising the Cammeraygal grievance as reasonable, and the need for peace, Philip resisted the urgings of his officers and instead tried to calm things by offering gifts and even dancing together. All of which was good news. The bad news was the devastating smallpox that soon took hold of the local tribe because of the white invasion.

It's time we talked about what happened, do some truth-telling, and start to sort from there. The shocking experience of Adam Goodes shows how far we've got to go, but these players speaking up really does move us forward. Bravo.

No compromise on Gould

Sorry, what, Peter V'landys?

Phil Gould to work for your NRL, while also commentating and writing for this paper?


That's an easy one. No. Of course Gould has a brilliant football brain, both ears to the ground, both hands on several tillers at once, with each foot in many camps – you get the drift in mixed metaphor heaven – but how much can a koala bear? It was one thing for Gould to do his commentary while running Penrith. That was a slightly problematic polyvalence. But to be on the teat of the NRL, while also doing everything else? Did I mention NO, already?

In any case, asked about the obvious conflict of interest, V'landys gave the answer that killed the idea stone dead.

"If he was to look at the refereeing situation or the Bunker," the NRL supremo said, "then yes there may be a conflict because he comments on that, and the conflict is actually to our benefit because he may not be as critical."

Precisely. That would be called cash for comment, as pioneered by Alan Jones, and it did not end well. Gould does what he does in the media very well, and it sometimes includes bitter criticism of the NRL. Long may it last. Holding those positions while taking an NRL pay cheque would compromise his journalistic gigs.

Any questions?

Good. Next!

More Haden memories

Such is the way of these things. When a sporting great dies, and the news flies around the world, those who played with and against him or her, pause and conjure up their immediate memories of him or her – and so often it has nothing to do with their sport.

Up Cairns way, the great Wallaby second-rower Garrick Fay, now in his early 70s, pauses after he puts the phone down from Kenny Wright, as the years fall away. He and Andy Haden were young back then – in the early 70s – and the world was their oyster. He and Haden had been selected for a World XV to play on an Irish centenary tour for a month, and had the time of their lives.

All Blacks great Andy Haden.

All Blacks great Andy Haden.Credit:Archive

Up the back of the bus, he and Haden playing a long-running backgammon tournament, the winner got the other's leather coat. One throw to go. Fay to definitely lose unless he can throw a double one. He blows on the dice, rattles them for luck. And now he blows again, as the entire team gathers close. He throws. SNAKES-EYES! Double-one! The bus of international rugby legends – Gareth Edwards, Jacques Fouroux, Andy Irvine et al – explodes with joy. Fay goes on to win.

Haden, laughing as joyously as all the rest, hands over his coat – and brought it up for the next 50 years whenever they met or talked, which was often. Yes, they had many battles against each other, but they were brothers. And now Andy is gone. All so long ago, in a land far away. But gee they were great days, you know? And Andy was a great rugby man.

Fay's knees hurt.

Numbers up for NFL

Frankly, I don't think the NFL gets it. While here in Australia all the professional teams are operating in what is ideally a strict bubble that goes no wider than their teams and their families – and so far there have been no disasters – the NFL intends to come back with some rules of its own. While the object lesson of what can go wrong was highlighted this week by the Major League Baseball team the Miami Marlins having 17 – count em, SEVENTEEN – players test positive, despite having had 130 pages of corona-safe protocols to follow, the NFL released its own strictures.


Now listen up you behemoths. When you party, you can be with no more than 15 people at a time. Got it? Fifteen. Partying on with 16 randoms would be positively dangerous, but 15 should be fine. Righto, as you were. This, friends, in Trump's America, where as medical anthropologist and historian Martha Lincoln recently noticed of the explosion in the plague numbers, "National hubris and belief in American exceptionalism have served us badly. We were not prepared to see the risk of failure."

To me it looks like the NFL has got a particularly bad dose of that hubris and belief in its own exceptionalism, and I am not the only one who thinks disaster beckons.

"This is just the beginning," Dr Scott Braunstein, the veteran medico for the Los Angeles Rams told the New York Times. "If they go on without mandating masks and the testing protocol does not change dramatically, this is going to spread like wildfire through the teams."

What they said

GWS player Tim Taranto on what his fine mother thinks of his many tattoos: "She cried when I got the first one, but now she's just given up on me, I think." Tim! How many times does she have to ask you? Stop bloody drawing on yourself!

Tennis player Borna Coric gives an overhead smash to Nick Kyrgios: "I agree it is not good, [Alexander] Zverev did a bad thing, but I don't see a need to criticise fellow players in such a way. I wouldn't do it, but again — it's Kyrgios." I think it was his finest hour.

ARLC chairman Peter V'landys.

ARLC chairman Peter V'landys.Credit:Getty

Peter V'landys on letting Sonny Bill Williams back into the NRL: "My whole philosophy on this is Sonny Bill Williams is a human headline and he's got an aura and a presence. That attracts new fans to the game."

Russian gymnast Svetlana Khorkina dishes it out to the courageous Australian gymnasts who have spoken out about the bullying culture in their sport: "If you're so smart, go to the Australian federation and put things in order there. Was it a famous gymnast who wrote this? Or an ordinary one who wanted to become famous?"

Australian English Channel swimmer Chloe McCardel on swimming it during quarantine: "I wish the English Channel was in Australia. The last 11 years in my life would have been really much easier."

Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley after a bad loss to the Eagles: "We didn't get a lot right after quarter-time. I commented in the box, we played our Washington Generals role really well to West Coast's Globetrotters."

San Francisco Giant Sam Coonrod on not kneeling with all his teammates: "I just can't get on board with a couple things I've read about Black Lives Matter, how they lean towards Marxism. And . . . they said some negative things about the nuclear family. I just can't get on board with that." Sam? #FFS, try watching something other than Fox News.

After 41 appearances, Birmingham City sold Jude Bellingham to Borussia Dortmund and then wanted to retire his number 22: "In such a remarkably short space of time Jude has become an iconic figure at the Blues, showing what can be achieved through talent, hard work and dedication. His caring, humble and engaging off-the-field demeanour has also made him such an impressive role model." Bellingham is 17, and made his debut at the age of 16 years and 38 days.

Donald Trump, back-tracking from his false claim that the Yankees had asked him to throw the opening pitch of the season: "Because of my strong focus on the China Virus, including scheduled meetings on Vaccines, our economy and much else, I won't be able to be in New York to throw out the opening pitch for the @Yankees on August 15." Playing golf every third day, however, no problem.

Eric Sugarman, the Minnesota Vikings head trainer and infection control officer, on testing to coronavirus: "As I sit here in quarantine, it is clear this virus does not discriminate. It should continue to be taken seriously."

Team of the Week

The NRL. The weird thing is that despite the games being generally very good, their ratings are down by about a quarter since the competition resumed – making ever more absurd their claims earlier in the season of having a 300 million global audience.

Alex Johnston. Wasn't wanted by Souths a few weeks back, only to score three great tries for them on Thursday evening against a valiant St George Illawarra side.

Sonny Bill Williams. How far he has come from the days when he did a runner on the Canterbury Bulldogs in the middle of the season, and the very same commentators who said he should be banned for life are the ones who say all rules should be torn up just to get him back in the NRL. You know who you are – at least shift uncomfortably a little.

Sydney FC. Secured the Premiers' Plate, whatever that is. (Incommmming!)

Aston Villa. Avoided relegation – just. Watford and Bournemouth join Norwich in going down in the English Premier League.


RIP John Wulff. One of the original 11 Australian transplant cricketers who played the Great Britain Transplant Cricket Club at Adelaide in September 2004 in the first Transplant Test. He set records back then and continued to excel representing the Australian Transplant CC in tours of England in 2006 and 2011 died this week, aged 52.

RIP Tuivaiese 'Tui' Malifa. 1958-2020. The much-loved member of the Manly club after joining from Hornsby Rugby in 1982, who went on amass 248 grade games for the team, including 57 in first grade, passed away this week. The Herald sends its deepest condolences to his wife Sandy and daughter Jayde.

RIP Andy Haden. 1950-2020. The great All Black second-rower passed away on Wednesday morning, at home with family, after an intense fight with cancer. He was a great player, and very likeable bloke who embodied the spirit of the game.

Twitter: @Peter_Fitz

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