September, 2018

Cricket’s new test – the boom from the bottom up

Edinburgh Cricket Club juniors Isabel Smith, Ted Smith and Freddie Cole for a photo at Brunswick Street Oval in Melbourne. Photo: Wayne TaylorFour years ago Edinburgh Cricket club in Fitzroy had 17 senior and junior teams, this year they have 27. They have always had a senior women’s team but for the first time this season they have a girls team in the juniors and expect to have the numbers to field a second one after Christmas.
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Last season Elsternwick Cricket Club scratched together three under-12s teams – this year they comfortably have five and almost have enough for a sixth. Brighton is in a similar position.

At Gisborne Cricket Club they can’t find enough ovals for teams to play on and nets to train in.

The Sanctuary Lakes Cricket Club formed in 2012 with two under-11 cubs teams (the modified rules competition for rookies). The club now has 100 junior players, 14 seniors, 90 kids in Milo and another 60 in T20Blast.

They have nine T20 teams making them the biggest Twenty 20 club in Melbourne’s west.

Twenty20 cricket might have killed West Indies cricket – or expedited its demise – and made for a flat summer of Test cricket, but the short game has not killed cricket.

While cricket is suffering at the top level it is booming at the bottom. This is a bottom-up resurgence.

Across Victoria the number of kids registered in MiloT20 Blast is up 73 per cent. In part, this is because it is a new event and the increase comes off a lower base than the more entrenched Milo cricket (the Auskick of cricket) but Milo cricket to is up 13 per cent too.

It is not just an urban quirk, the West Gippsland Cricket Association will also field a third more junior teams this year than last.

The success of the Australian women’s team is also having a big impact. Ellyse Perry might be as important to the resurgence of cricket as David Warner.

“We were a bit surprised when Isabel said she wanted to play but we thought it was good,” says Andy Vance of her 10-year-old daughter Isabel’s decision to join Edinburgh CC.

“She didn’t see it as a boys’ sport, she just saw it as sport, which I thought was interesting.

“That is how they approach it at the club too, which is good.”

The Eastern Cricket Association has formed the Anna Lanning Shield female competition (a bit weird, having a shield named after a 21-year-old current player) but it now has 15 teams up from five in its inaugural season last year.

Female participation across the state is up 9 per cent, and as a consequence the Victorian government has committed $10 million to help upgrade sports pavilions to make them more female friendly.

Isabel’s younger brother, Ted, was drawn to the game through Milo cricket and enjoying Twenty20 and test cricket. His teammate, Freddie Cole, is also just seven but he dons the big pads, sloppy helmet and gloves and has a hit. He is also reading Kaboom Kid, co-authored by David Warner.

Brad Shadbolt, vice-president at Edinburgh CC and a former district player, said the club had for a long time under-resourced Milo cricket.

“Since we have put time and effort into it, the growth in numbers has been staggering,” he said.

“The interest among girls is a big reason for the increase in numbers too. We added a junior girls team this year and with social media and word of mouth more girls have come down ,so we expect after Christmas to have a second junior female team.

“Hopefully next year we will have three or four junior female teams,” Shadbolt said.

Better-managed clubs, investment in Milo cricket and the growth in females playing have all been significant, says Cricket Victoria chief executive Tony Dodemaide.

To illustrate a point about Twenty20, he says avid readers do not start out by reading novels, an appropriate analogy for those who consider Twenty20 cricket cartoonish cricket, but he makes a valid point.

The introduction of rookies or cubs competitions as a bridge between plastic ball cricket and proper cricket has been an important change.

In these introductory competitions they use all the regular protective gear and a hard ball but they shorten the pitch if necessary, every player bowls for a couple of overs and batting in pairs batsmen face a few overs and don’t go out – the other side just gets five runs for a wicket. Scores are normally not kept (even if every kid remembers how many runs they made and wickets they took).

Andrew Headberry at Gisborne says while they are a growth area, like Sanctuary Lakes, the increase in numbers far exceeds just population growth.

“Our biggest growth has been in our juniors. It’s been big for five years but over the last two years it’s been massive. It’s reached the point we can’t find enough grounds to play on and nets to train in – but it’s a good problem to have,” he said.

At Sanctuary Lakes, according to Paul Pritchard, they have also been mindful of tailoring the culture of the game and not just the rules to the community

“The Point Cook area has a strong migrant population from east and south-east Asia, with people from India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan joining the club.

“We are influenced by the Muslim culture of some of our players and we understand we have to cater to all of our players, so where in the past you might throw some sausages on the barbie now we are also providing halal meat and chicken.

“It’s just common sense.”

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The moment that changed terror suspect Sulayman Khalid

Imprisoned: Sulayman Khalid, charged with further terrorism offences. Photo: YouTube
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Two charged after counter-terrorism raids

15-year-old terrorism suspect denied bail

The family of a western Sydney man allegedly at the centre of a disrupted terror plot have given an insight into the moment he allegedly turned his back on dreams of becoming a policeman and became disaffected.

Sulayman Khalid, 21, has been in SuperMax prison since his Regents Park home was raided in December, 2014, and several pages of handwritten notes were seized, allegedly containing loose, partially-formed plans to attack an Australian Federal Police building in Sydney.

On Thursday, after 12 months of physical and electronic surveillance and analysis of the notes, police charged Khalid and four others, including a 15-year-old boy, with further terrorism offences relating to the alleged plot.

Khalid’s older sister has set up a Facebook fan page to write post protesting her brother’s innocence, questioning his harsh treatment in SuperMax while awaiting trial, and detailing his upbringing.

She says her younger brother, born in Australia to Iraqi and Italian parents, wanted to be a policeman or a chef until the moment his passport was confiscated in 2013, when he was 18.

In a public post, she said Khalid left to study under a sheikh in Egypt when he was 17 but had to return to Australia temporarily because he fell ill. On his return, ASIO cancelled his passport and provided no explanation or avenue for appeal, thereby “crushing his dream” to return to Egypt.

“He didn’t want to be a cop anymore nor a chef, he just wanted to speak up against injustice [and] move towards media and communications,” she posted. ​

“This is how you isolate and make a young man who had just turned 18 feel confused, hurt, secluded and threatened. Just a letter with minimal information and no regard for his feelings, aims, hopes and dreams.”

The sister said, from that point on, her brother was frustrated and felt he was continuously being “ignored and watched”.

Khalid was outspoken about his passport cancellation, speaking to Fairfax Media and appearing on SBS’s Insight, where he walked off set after being grilled on extremism.

He would also preach in the main streets and parks of Greenacre and had set up his own YouTube channel for sermons.

His sister said he was a peaceful and misunderstood man, whose imprisonment in SuperMax would make the situation only worse.

“His wisdom is yet to grow … if they just let him out and give him a chance, if they sit with him and discuss his hurt [and] anguish and give him a chance to be understood they would all realise he is no terrorist. He just needed someone to approach him, put him in the picture, not strip his passport from him.”

Khalid has passed his family two hand-written notes from custody, one saying “I am INNOCENT!!!” and another with a hand pointing to God, covered in writings relating to “tawheed” – the Islamic concept of oneness of God.

The family have also been selling T-shirts with the slogan “suspicion is not good enough” for $25 to help fund his “expenses in prison”.

On the Facebook page, his sister has asked for friends and supporters to write to him and visit him in prison.

Police will allege Khalid and four others charged on Thursday were part of a close-knit cell planning to attack government buildings, specifically the AFP.

Khalid’s legal team have previously argued he didn’t author the notes, which his sister claims were verses from the Koran and “tawheed papers”.

On Thursday, police told a court that fingerprints were lifted from the documents, connecting a 15-year-old Georges Hall boy, who was 14 at the time, to their creation.

He was denied bail in Parramatta Children’s Court on Friday, with a magistrate saying there was evidence he was inspired by Islamic State ideology.

The boy’s phone allegedly contained pictures of a beheading, IS propaganda, photos of himself holding a rifle and a text message saying he wanted to get to “paradise” through “banana” – believed to be a code word for guns.

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The statements murdered grandmother Helen Dawson Key’s family will never get to read

Helen Dawson Key, 75, was shot at her front door in Paris Place just before 6pm on Wednesday 19 November. Her body was located the following morning. Photos: NSW Police Photo: Daniel AdamsIf the family members of Helen Dawson Key had their chance, they would have faced her killer and told of their pain.
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It was a moment some of the 75-year-old grandmother’s relatives had prepared for, taking notes to form parts of their victim impact statements.

But Rodney Boatswain, the 63-year-old man accused of shooting dead Ms Dawson Key in her home over a bitter will dispute, died last week before reaching his trial.

“I thought that after he died I would stop thinking about what I wanted to say to him,” Ms Dawson Kay’s daughter, Kathy, said.

“But every night lying in bed still, as I have done for the past 10 months, I think of what I want to say and ask him.”

Boatswain was already diagnosed with terminal liver cancer by the time police came knocking on his door in February.

He was charged with murdering Ms Dawson Key as she made dinner in her Toongabbie home on November, 19, 2014. Her three beloved dogs were with her lifeless body when a friend came looking for her the next day.

At the time of Boatswain’s arrest, a bizarre question had already surfaced on a Magic Eight Ball website.

Did Rodney Boatswain kill Helen Dawson Keys?

Police say they investigated the strange post but it did not “yield any significant evidentiary leads”.

Detectives alleged Boatswain, a frail and ill man, killed Ms Dawson Key because he believed she convinced his mother to change her will unfavourably to him.

Ms Dawson Key was close friend’s with Boatswain’s mother, Reita. The pair often attended barbecues with Ms Dawson Key’s close knit family.

Mr Boatswain admitted in a police interview that he held a grudge against Ms Dawson key but denied killing her.

However, Ms Dawson Key’s family will never get to see the case against him played out through the justice system. Boatswain died with family by his side last Friday in hospital.

He died hours before he was due to be arraigned for Ms Dawson Key’s murder in the NSW Supreme Court.

“He will never have to face the courts, he will never have to face us,” Kathy said.

“We will never be able to say to him all the things we have been asking for the last year. We may never find out my mother’s last moments.”

The family are approaching Christmas with sadness. It is usually a joyous affair where more than 50 relatives come together and “Aunt Helen” gets to see her precious relatives.

In the absence of a court to read them in now, Ms Dawson Key’s family have shared parts of their victim impact statements with Fairfax Media.

Her niece, Jenny Hitchcock, was dismayed by the fact Boatswain was able to spend his final moments with his family.

“We didn’t get to have these moments of last goodbyes to a very special member of our family,” Ms Hitchcock wrote.

“To say we are so very sad is an understatement.

“Another Christmas approaching us where we won’t have Aunty Helen at our Christmas lunch and dinner table.

“Then her 77th birthday in January nearing another milestone that we won’t get to celebrate with her.”

She said no justice had been served on Boatswain but thanked the homicide detectives and DPP who had worked tirelessly on the case.

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Screen grabs: Amy Schumer is gloriously shocking and Sean Penn’s still got it

Mostly Sex Stuff: Amy Schumer. Sean Penn in The Gunman.
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Old film, new release: Bartleby.

DVD: Avanti!

GAMES

HITS AND MISSES All platforms Time, now, to take stock. What was great … and what flopped? First, the hits… 1. Fallout 4 (post-apocalyptic with a sense of humour). An obvious one, but somehow even better for all the pre-release hype since it actually delivered. 2. Until Dawn (twist on teen horror genre). A compelling attempt at an “interactive movie”, where you spend more time directing outcomes than “playing” in a traditional way.   3. Grand Theft Auto 5 (crime spree in fictional Los Angeles). An amazing, sprawling, detailed city that invites you to kill innocents … or go mountain biking instead.  4. Agar.Io (blobs eat other blobs, get bigger). The mobile addictive hit of the year. Try it for free. 5. Fantasy Life (free-roam community). A highlight in a thin year for Nintendo’s 3DS, it had echoes of Animal Crossing but brought some original flavour too.And three that disappointed… 1. Battlefield: Hardline (cops-and-robbers variant of long-running series). They took our favourite open-world army game and made it into a poor parody of Grand Theft Auto. Boo. 2. Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley (farming simulator). Nintendo made farming too realistic for its latest 3DS installment in the series: all busywork and no fun. 3. Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 (shooter). Like an over-sequeled action movie: lots of explosions, noise and woeful acting. Yawn. AH

DVD

BARTLEBY  Wellspring, unrated

Herman Melville’s brief but endlessly suggestive 1856 masterpiece Bartleby, the Scrivener concerns a Wall Street clerk who suddenly stops working, meeting all requests with the polite but firm statement, “I would prefer not to”. It’s a role that seems tailor-made for an eccentric like Crispin Glover, and as the star of Jonathan Parker’s updated 2001 adaptation he doesn’t disappoint: he’s a pale, intent, disturbingly comic presence, frozen like a waxwork in his undertaker’s suit, or squirming in panic as if fearing the loss of some private treasure. Parker retains much of Melville’s dialogue while relocating the action to a modern open-plan office, filmed in the kooky expressionist style of Tim Burton or David Lynch: the cartoonish colour scheme makes jarring use of lime green and burnt orange, while everyday objects such as a photocopier or a ceiling vent take on uncanny menace in close-up. Like the original story, the film can be understood as both a surreal allegory and a literal account of the soul-destroying nature of office work – a theme that has lost none of its relevance since Melville’s day. JW

FREE-TO-AIR

AMY SCHUMER: MOSTLY SEX STUFF December 13, ABC1, 9.30pm

If you’re not familiar with US comedian Amy Schumer (who has had a meteoric rise to fame in just the past few years), this stand-up special, filmed in front of a live audience in San Francisco in 2012, is a great primer: you’ll either love her or you’ll be appalled. She opens with the announcement that she “finally slept with my high-school crush! But now he expects me to go to his graduation. Like I know where I’m going to be in three years …”. Before apologising for a “kid-f—ing” joke and moving on to another gag that opens with the line, “So my mom’s a c—. No, hear me out!” If that’s not your thing you definitely won’t enjoy the rest of her routine which, as the title promises, is mostly about sex, ranging from jokes about Asian chicks and their vaginas, pubic hair maintenance, “slutty”  friends, knowing her body type (“sturdy”) and going to a yoga class just after taking the morning-after pill. It’s lewd, edgy and out there – everything that makes Schumer one of the best female comedians today. KN

DVD

THE GUNMAN Universal Sony, R

Sean Penn has still got it. At 54, he can still play the action man and be completely convincing. Based on the French novel The Prone Gunman, the film plot has Penn acting as an undercover hitman in the Congo, working for a third party contracted to multinational mining companies which did not want the government to nationalise their assets. Penn kills the country’s interior secretary and flees undetected. He also leaves behind his lover, a doctor, Annie (Jasmine Trinca), without explanation. Seven years later he comes looking for answers. He’s made his way back to the Congo, but somebody wants him dead. Again, he flees, seeking answers from his original security contractor in London. That leads him to Barcelona, where his former contract mate, Javier Bardem, is now married to Penn’s former lover. Guns, chases, threats, sex, it’s all there, pushing the plot to its predictable conclusion. Warning: the body count is high. JK

DVD

AVANTI!  MGM, M

An oblique response to changing times, Billy Wilder’s sweet-and-sour 1972 romantic comedy is crammed with topical allusions despite centring on two extremely unhip characters: Wendell Armbruster jnr (Jack Lemmon), a prudish American businessman who comes to Italy to claim the body of his father, and Pamela Piggott (Juliet Mills), a British shop assistant with an apparent eating disorder whose mother died in the same accident. Shot on location around the Gulf of Naples, the film has a leisurely, scenic quality unusual for Wilder, yet the script is one of his most densely woven, paradoxically intertwining idealism and cynicism, romance and bureaucracy, sex and death. Though the jokes about Italian inefficiency and corruption are gentle for the most part, there are multiple snakes in this Eden, including a blackmailer (Gianfranco Barra) with Mafia connections and a taxi driver who gives a fascist salute. American boorishness is mocked more relentlessly, especially when Armbruster’s State Department pal J.J. Blodgett (Edward Andrews) comes on the scene – leading to a prescient exchange about the Middle East, as well as some not-so-subliminal reminders of the Vietnam War. JW

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Star Wars by the numbers: Why Disney has scored the deal of the century

Tomorrow the world: The Force Awakens is destined to set a swag of new records. Photo: Disney/Lucasfilm Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) in Star Wars: The Force Awakens Photo: Lucasfilm Ltd
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More on Star Wars: The Force AwakensMovie session timesFull movies coverage

When Disney bought Lucasfilm for $US4.1 billion in October 2012, it got the deal of the century.

To the outside world it didn’t seem such a bargain at the time – there hadn’t been a new Star Wars film in seven years and the saga was apparently over – but George Lucas was already developing a new sequel trilogy when Disney came knocking.

JJ Abrams’ The Force Awakens, which opens on Wednesday, may or may not bear much resemblance to the story Lucas had in mind, but it is just the first flowering of what promises to be an enormously bountiful crop for the House of the Mouse in years to come.

Disney’s plans for the series include not just the new trilogy – episodes VII, VIII and IX, to be released in 2015, 2017 and 2019 – but three other spin-off movies, to be released in 2016, 2018 and 2020 (the year the studio regains full rights to all but the first film, which is set to remain with Fox forever).

There are also major theme-park attractions planned, plus computer games, television series, books, comics, and – the jewel in the crown – official licensed merchandise.

To get a sense of how valuable merchandise might be, consider this: The six movies so far released have taken about $US4.4 billion ($6.1 billion) globally at the cinema. But, according to Chris Taylor, author of How Star Wars Conquered the Universe, about $US32 billion ($44.34 billion) worth of Star Wars merchandise has so far been sold.

In August, Macquarie Securities analyst Tim Nollen​ predicted merchandise linked to The Force Awakens could top sales of $5 billion in the first year alone. About $500 million of that will go to Disney in license fees.

Disney has put a “productive lifespan” of 40 years on the franchise. By the time it has eked the last dollar out of it, Star Wars will be almost 80 – older even than Harrison Ford, the 73-year-old returning as Han Solo after 30 years away from the series.

The Force Awakens is almost guaranteed to set records in Australia. The widest release to date here is Avengers: Age of Ultron, which opened earlier this year on 754 screens. Disney won’t say exactly how many screens Star Wars: The Force Awakens will open on, but industry sources suggest it is likely to be more than 900 – almost one in two of the country’s 2080 screens.

It will set a record for pre-sales, too: again, Disney is coy, but estimates have the figure north of $10 million.

The Force Awakens will almost certainly set a new record for opening weekend box office, too. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 holds that record, with $18.36 million in July 2011. (Incidentally, that’s almost as much as Star Wars made in its entire first run, which lasted more than a year as those limited prints slowly made their way around the country.)

When Disney bought Lucasfilm, it wasn’t simply buying a catalogue of movies. It was buying the rights to 17,000 characters, many of them so amenable to being moulded in plastic and sold to young children that the merchandise industry has a word for them: “toyetic”.

Disney was also buying the rights to an Expanded Universe that includes, writes Chris Taylor, “some 260 novels, dozens of short stories, 180 video games, more than 120 comic books”.

That universe will soon expand a little further, with at least two Star Wars Lands planned, at Disney’s theme parks in Anaheim California and Orlando Florida. Each promises to be a 14-acre “immersive environment” based on the worlds conjured in the new films. Visitors will meet bizarre creatures as they explore a hitherto unknown planet, do battle with Stormtroopers and “fly” the Millennium Falcon.

It is likely to be at least five years before those theme parks open. Until then, fans will have to keep dreaming, while Disney keeps counting the cash.

Karl Quinn is on Facebook and on twitter @karlkwin

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