Sunday, 18 October 2009

Soccer, Hall of Fame, Racing and League Inconsistency

If you follow the news even sparingly, you would have been hard pushed to have avoided the debate the last 8 days focused on Frank Farina and the Brisbane Roar Football (soccer) franchise. Farina has been the Coach of the Brisbane Roar for the last three years.

On Saturday 10 October at approximately 9.30 am, Frank Farina allegedly recorded a blood alcohol reading of 0.09 at a random breath testing road block while driving to a Roar training session. It is the second time Farina has been caught driving with a blood alcohol level in excess of the 0.05 limit.

The Brisbane Roar management immediately stood him aside from his coaching duties and the subsequent speculation about his future with the Roar proceeded to dominate sports news, talk back radio and general news until a decision was announced that he would not continue with the Club in any capacity on the basis he had brought the game and club into disrepute and had failed in his capacity as a role model. Then the media discussion really went through the roof.

Frank Farina broke the law, allegedly. Remember, he has not yet been found guilty.

Driving with a blood alcohol level above the legal limit is a serious offence. People die as a result of drink driving and all too often, innocent people die. Drinking and driving should not be tolerated. There is no less danger to the offender or the community whether a 0.09 recording is at 9.30 am or 9.30 pm. Frank Farina has however paid a high price for his alleged mistake and perhaps a price that is out of synergy with others in the sporting world.

Take the case of high profile jockey, Chris Munce who was jailed for 18 months in March 2007 having been found guilty in Hongkong of involvement in a tipping scandal.
He served his time in jail in Hongkong and later Sydney and was released in late October 2008. Within hours of being released from jail, Chris Munce was at Randwick racetrack conducting a press conference and making himself available for photo opportunities all with the full blessing and cooperation of the Australian Jockey Club. He was welcome to return to racing and did return as soon as he was fit to do so.

He was found guilty of the crime and did the time, but surely his situation was far worse than Frank Farina’s. Munce however received an enthusiastic second chance – and quite rightly too.

Let’s look at another case.

In August this year, the ceremony inducting the latest inductees into Australia’s Sporting Hall of Fame took place.

All inductees had recorded outstanding achievements in their chosen sport. One however had also been found guilty and fined for receiving money from an illegal Indian based bookmaking ring.

The same person had also been banned from his chosen sport for 12 months after testing positive to taking a banned substance.

Any one of these offences would be considered to have brought his sport into a level of disrepute far more seriously than Frank Farina’s currently alleged drink driving offence. However, put these two offences together and surely induction into the Hall of Fame to some extent legitimises what he has done.

The sportsperson I refer to is one of our greatest sporting icons and a role model with a much higher profile than Farina. I refer of course to Shane Warne.

And I won’t go into the detail of high profile sports stars and front men for Channel Nine Rugby league broadcasts Andrew Johns and Wendell Sailor. Johns has admitted being a long term user of illegal substances including cocaine. Sailor was caught in a post game blood test for having cocaine in his system and was suspended for two years by the Australian Rugby Union. Cocaine is an illegal substance, not in sport but in the community at large yet no charges have been brought down and they both continue to be role models for their sports. In fact, they both have become educators of young people about the idiocy of using drugs.

Surely Frank Farina could use his profile to educate young people about the dangers of excessive drinking and driving while under the influence of alcohol. Surely his profile could be maintained by way of a second chance with the Roar and used publicly to help people, and particularly young people. I am sure many 18 year olds would pay more attention to the warnings of Frank Farina about alcohol abuse than to the ranting of our Political leaders, just as Sailors words hold greater resonance than teachers and parents with young people.

What Frank Farina is alleged to have done is wrong. But let’s use his profile for good and let’s have some consistency across our sporting codes in the treatment and recognition of our so called sporting heroes.

Sunday, 11 October 2009


It is nearly eight weeks since I did my impersonation of a pinball by bouncing between two cars and busting up a bunch of bones and puncturing a lung.

I first rode again after four weeks but it was more of a token gesture ride and perhaps a need to get back on the bike sooner rather than later in case I decided not to get back on the bike at all.

My riding efforts have largely been restricted to the 1.2 kilometre cycling circuit in northern Brisbane suburb of Nundah coupled with a few ventures out to Nudgee beach and the path to Boondall entertainment centre. The Doctor has forbidden me to ride on the road, not that I have been particularly keen to ride on roads anyway.

Given my bike was damaged and any repairs were waiting on an insurance assessment and claim payment, I spent most of the following 4 weeks riding the old Steel frame, super heavy, 7 speed down tube shifter bike circa 1985. It was perfect for what I was doing. It also perhaps kept my ambitions under control.

As my lung recovered, so did my aerobic fitness and I discovered that I have really lost little if any fitness, at least on the flat anyway. It may be different when the road turns upward.

Last Thursday I decided to meet the participants in Brisbane’s famous Thursday morning friendship ride for post ride coffee at the Garage. I should add, that occasionally, but only very occasionally, the friendship ride becomes the 'F You' ride.

I parked over near Garage and rode across the Goodwill Bridge and out the Coronation Drive bike path before continuing to the University of Queensland via the domiciled bike route. After a few loops of the University, I headed back the way I had come.

On reaching Southbank I had one of those “lets get it out of the way now” moments. I rode along the path to the big wheel, turned left and left again on to Grey street and along the bike lane where I was hit by the car.

I was nervous and uncomfortable and my heart rate jumped 20 beats for no physical reason. There was a car parked precisely where the car that ‘doored’ me was parked and as I was approaching it, another car came along the road to my right.

I successfully negotiated the piece of road where the crash occurred and while I doubt I will ever ride that road without thinking about the accident, I have now got it at least a little bit out of my system. It had to be done.

As for my future cycling plans, I just don’t know. I expect I will return to the routine I used to have but I do need the Doctors clearance first. I also think it will be a gradual thing.

It is a pity the club is in a racing halt at the moment as we pass from the winter to the summer season because although the accident was not race related, I feel I need to get used to riding in a race situation as soon as possible. I could race at another venue I guess but feel waiting for a Hamilton event at either Nundah or Lakeside would be the better option.

I expect to be given the all clear tomorrow by my Doctor including a return to full time work and I also expect I will only have a few more weeks of Physiotherapy to endure.

Next will then have a professional bike fit and measure up before I set about choosing my new bike. This will be fun.

I have experienced unbelievable support from cyclists – some who I know well, many who I know in passing and many more I have never met before via whose support has come via Road Grime.

All the support and best wishes have been much appreciated.

See you soon - on the bike.

Taking a Look at Life

There are key events that take place in the course of a person’s life that can result in them taking a step back and having a look at their goals and aspirations and just what is important to them.

The first such event in someones life may well be the beginning of the transition period from secondary school to work or tertiary studies. This is then followed by many things including marriage, children, divorce, and illness, loss of loved ones, successes and disappointments and situations that may challenge your own mortality.

I guess I have had the benefit of two events in the last 18 months that have prompted me to have a look at just what it is I want to do, how I want to do it and what is important.

The first event was of course open heart surgery which occurred on the 3rd March last year.

Looking back, this was to some extent an almost surreal experience. It was also one of those times in life when you are excused for being totally selfish and self absorbed. Internally, you become totally and utterly focused on yourself and your own preparation for surgery and then recovery and rehabilitation after surgery. And what’s more, virtually everyone in your family and friends circle is totally supportive of your selfishness.

Thanks to a fabulous and talented medical team before during and after surgery and an obsessive desire to do what needed to be done, I recovered quickly and completely. Perhaps a degree of determination assisted also.

However, I almost felt obliged to re-asses my life, what was important and what I wanted from it.

In very many ways my life is blessed. I have two wonderful sons and have good relationships with both of them. We enjoy each others’ company and communicate easily, happily and consistently. All of which is often rare between a Father and sons aged 17 and 19.

In 2008 I had a good job working with a good group of people and was reasonably well paid.

I have a small but close circle of friends who I value greatly and I laugh and smile for the greater percentage of each and every day.

But I felt obliged to review things and this is about all I came up with:-
• I would limit my alcohol intake
• I would not drink soft drink again
• I would only eat what was good for me
• I would adopt a weekly exercise regime that is not negotiable
• I enjoy corporate life
• Having deliberately withdrawn from Executive life, I would now seek to
return to an Executive Management role
• Business and work would not dominate my life
• There is little to be gained from being impatient, so don’t be
• Re-establish relationships and friendships that have deteriorated due to
laziness of petty issues.

I have to say, this is not a very impressive list. There is nothing very substantial or philosophical here at all.

However, at no time before, during or after the heart surgery and rehabilitation process did I really consider I was in danger of doing anything other than surviving and fully recoverinbg from surgery. I never really felt as if my mortality was threatened. It was a process I was undertaking and in my mind a positive outcome was assured.

Nothing was really going to change in my world and life pretty much went on as normal. I have however implemented and maintained all the items listed above.

The second significant event occurred on 19th August, 2009 when I bounced off one car, into the path of another while riding my bike in a bike lane in Grey Street at Brisbane’s Southbank precinct.

I cannot recall too many details of the actual event. I was the victim of a senseless act of stupidity by a lady possessing insufficient care and intelligence to be allowed out in public.

The outcome however is that I suffered 6 breaks across 4 ribs, a broken scapular (shoulder blade), a punctured lung, a deep wound to my left chest and I endured a day in emergency and several days (and nights) in hospital. I faced the prospect of losing movement in my right arm however this now appears unlikely.

I was not really aware of the role the second vehicle at the time however I need to clarify right now, the second vehicle was not in any at fault or doing the wrong thing.

To put it bluntly, I know understand I was very, very close to suffering injuries that may well have seen me dead or severely disabled. The front wheel of the second car ran over the top of my helmet. If it had been different by no more than 2 centimetres, instead of popping my head out from under the wheel, my head would have been crushed.

It is only from talking after the event to the people riding with me that I fully understood just how close I was to something far more serious happening.

Unlike the heart surgery, I do see this event as being a brush with mortality and as well as resulting in me having a sense of discomfort, I am certainly motivated to examine my world and what is important.

So what is important in my world (outside of my family) and what needs examining? What do I do or involve myself in that is un-necessary, negative or non-positive? What do I spend time and energy on that is basically not important or is petty and/or irrelevant?

I returned to work a few weeks ago (be it part time) and interestingly, a colleague told me she half expected I would come back and announce I had looked at my life, where it was at and where it is going and was severing ties with financial services and was off to pursue my radio dreams. At the time, I avoided answering her directly.

However, I enjoy my job and more importantly, enjoy the people I work with and in particular those I work most closely with. They are intelligent and entertaining. Patsy is a fine wine, fine food loving, travel addicted socialist with an extraordinary work ethic. Henry is a highly entertaining raconteur capable of finding the negative in most things (be it in a fun way) who misses nothing and has an incredible client care and service quality and family commitment.

Why would I want to change that?

I don’t get paid a huge salary but I am reasonably remunerated so there is nothing to complain about really and there are enough challenges to keep things interesting.

My recreational activities are satisfying however I will travel more once secondary school commitments are cleared at the end of the year.

So what if anything needs changing or review? What do I do that is essentially senseless, wasteful of emotion or makes no positive contribution to my world?

And one thing sticks out more than anything.

A constant thought since the crash is what new bike I will buy. There is a strong image factor associated with bikes. European is the best for credibility and “oh, arh” value while American/Canadian are perhaps the best product but lack Euro credibility. I was leaning towards European for no reason other than image.

Many years ago I abandoned the option of having a company car. Since then, I have bought European cars. I have recently been looking for a new car (and procrastinating about a purchase). I have been looking at BMW, Mercedes, Audi, Volkswagen, SAAB and Peugeot. But I know that Holden Calais is built and engineered as well as any BMW, is better suited to Australian conditions and costs less to buy and maintain.

I also know what I need and what makes sense but until now, have not really considered such options due to the image they portray. I may even keep what I have even though I have had it for five years.

There are sporting events I would like to attend but don’t. I generally refuse to go unless I am invited to a corporate box. The outer terraces are not good for the image.

My “life” review post major traumatic event is to stop making decisions based on image.

I will buy the car that makes sense and suits me best and if that is a Holden or a Mitsubishi, so be it.

I will buy the bike that makes sense irrespective of its “show” value.

I spend far too much time and effort on the image I portray or try to portray. I have no idea if it is a successful portrayal.
It simply does not make sense, causes anguish and is perhaps even a touch dishonest

And as well as cars and bikes, I will apply this to all aspects of life.

I might even give camping a go - in a tent.