The Age from Melbourne, Victoria, Victoria, Australia on April 26, 1998 · Page 47
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The Age from Melbourne, Victoria, Victoria, Australia · Page 47

Melbourne, Victoria, Victoria, Australia
Issue Date:
Sunday, April 26, 1998
Page 47
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AFL nshs ifainis' waftDn far dtoDDairs odd tilhie x' DN ITS stampede to the promised land, the Docklands stadium, the AFL seems to have made a vast assumption on behalf of its fans that watching a game on television is as good, or almost as good, as being there. By staking its future on a stadium that sometimes will be too small to cater for all those fans who want to be there, and perhaps be too expensive for some, the league has created a problem for which a lucrative solution is already at hand. There will be live telecasts of Melbourne games in Melbourne! And from Channel Seven's very own studio at the Docklands.. Obviously, fans are being conditioned for that change by the twilight matches. Those of us who naively believed the 3.40 pm start gave us an extra 90 minutes to digest a pre-match counter lunch have quickly realised it is simply a way to get fans used to staying at home and watching games on the telly. Of course, a twilight game now provides a choice: go to the game or. block your ears and watch it an hour later without knowing the scores. Same as the Friday nighters. But, assuming a well-subscribed club such as Essendon plays seven' home games at the Docklands, occasionally that choice will disappear and television will become not just an alternative, but the only way of seeing a game. Which will trouble those who know that out of all the major football codes, Australian football is easily the worst to watch on television. No, this is not another predictable rant about hysterica) commentators, . biased Interstate boundary riders and stupid player-in-the-crowd Richard Hinds cameos. It is actually an appreciation of how difficult it is to provide a representative telecast of AFL football, how difficult it is for the camera to capture the essence of live football. Simply, the AFL game is a beast too vast to be tamed by the camera. Too much happens in a single instant on a huge arena to be captured by one lens. Take last week's brilliant match between Sydney and West Coast. Every time Paul Kelly, Wayne Schwass or Daryn Cresswell picked up the ball, the inclination was to glance forward at Tony Lockett to see if he was covered or leading into space. At the ground, it is possible. Watching television, it can't be done. Throughout the game, you were eager to Know which opponents, or combination of opponents, were being used by both teams to counter the opposition. At the ground, that is a normal pajt of the viewing habits of the educated fan. Watching television, it is incredibly frustrating to attempt, even with the aid of expert commentators. For most in Melbourne, this was a neutral game. Multiply the frustration caused by these limitations by 50 when your own team is playing. But, beyond not being able to see the whole game, another element goes missing ..between the , camera and the lounge room the game's sfcaTsundayd?m:om aura. Part of that aura is the noise of the crowd and the feeling of interaction with the players. But it is also the heightened awareness of seeing something with the naked eye. At the Chris Grant appeal this week, a video expert gave evidence that the camera "distorted reality". While this did not prove that it changed what you see (not in the appeal board's mind, anyway), the contrast between the long camera shots taken from the grandstand and those taken at ground level demonstrated how the television lens softened the focus and reduced the urgency and speed in proportion to the length of the lens. While other codes suffer the same distortion on television, at least most of the action can be captured by one camera. That helps explain why it is not uncommon for 500,000 to watch a rugby league game in Sydney attended by 6000 people. The AFL obviously hopes to get a similar ratio working in its favor . . . 52,000 at the ground, millions watching at home to increase the worth of television rights. The vast gap between the healthy live attendances and disappointing television ratings for the Sydney Swans, however, should serve as a warning. While the AFL might argue that having people attend games in Sydney will in turn lead to greater television audiences, there is also a case to be made that by giving Melbourne fans the choice of not going, they risk losing them altogether. That would be tragic, because no amount of television dollars is worth risking, the AFL's greatest asset, its fans, w trying to rum thert into, radrtgs po'lntsT 26 DN THE late 1970s, Pot Black was as ABC as Doug Heywood, Dick Mason and Geoff Leek on The Winners on a Saturday night. The jingling theme, the soothing tones of "Whispering" Ted Lowe telling us what a "beautiful pink" that was from Cliff Thorburn, or that our own Eddie Charlton would be looking for some draw on this black to disturb the cluster of reds. Referee Sidney Lee immaculately turned out in his white gloves, re-spotting the colors without fuss as the frames unfolded. Men in waistcoats and bow ties and 70s' mops. Ray Reardon the veteran, Dennis Taylor in his specs, Alex "Hurricane" Higgins in the corner with a whisky and a fag. Sometimes there were too many whiskies and the "Hurricane would unravel, most famously when he thumped a referee and threatened to have Taylor killed by the IRA. Hefty bans ensued, and Higgins has stumbled away from the elite ranks of the game. Given the publicity leading up to the world championships at Sheffield's Crucible Theatre this past week, you'd think he'd been reincarnated. Making his Crucible debut was a 20-year-old with peroxide-blond hair whose rap sheet includes a 12-month ban for swearing at officials (reduced from three years by the Supreme Court after a charge of spitting on an opponent's mother Hann has been viewed as ... a young punk for whom the term "screwball" is not just a clever shot. was thrown out) and a 30-month loss of licence after he was stopped twice in three hours for drink-driving. An elephant stamp and the night off your homework if you recognise the name Quinten Hann, native of Knoxfield, Melbourne, Australia. In a caper that the purists dismiss as more pub game than sport, Hann has been viewed as everything from a breath of fresh air in an increasingly robotic world to a young punk for whom the term screwball" is not just a clever shot. As the veteran writer and commentator Clive Everton concedes: "He's easy to write about, you've got to give him that." One thing that's not in question is his talent. Born in Wagga Wagga (where else?), he was an only child in a single-parent family. When Quinten was nine, his mother, Amanda, bought him a snooker table; and he still practises at mum's place, which is now Legends Cue Centre in Chapel Street, South Yarra. In 1991, aged 13, he announced himself at the junior world masters in Birmingham by becoming the youngest player to make a century break in a televised event in Britain. A year later back in Australia came his most infamous run-in: Hann was apparently so incensed at the , spitting allegation, he told officials APRIL 1998 THE SUNDAY AGE DtodfliroD London Calung PETER HANL0N "to stick your tournament up your arse". Everton recalls the young Hannd having made himselt a thorough pain. A lot of players still think he is a thorough pain." Among them, Welshman Mark Williams, the world No. 4, who would have preferred an easier first round at the Crucible last week than a 10-9 epic clinched on the final pink after Hann had led 55-0 in the deciding frame. So the first Australian to reach the last 32 of the world since Chariton's swansong in 1992 made an early exit, but there was no parting shot for the ref or jug of water tipped over his opponent's head. Hann hasn't mucked up in, well, months. The player puts his reformation down to Brandon Parker, a Mancunian who met mother and son two years ago. Hann has been quoted as saying Parker "realised I was a headcase but decided to manage me anyway". With 700 professionals trying to cut it in ranking events, mainly in the UK and Ireland, and only 96 making the major tour each year, Hann's expected season finish of No. 44 in the world is, says Parker, a huge achievement "for someone out of his culture". He has moved on from the days when he used to read car magazines at the table, and claims he just needed a friend to help him'' along. Parker puts Hann s difficult years down to a combination of not having had a father figure, the fact that he was very good from an early age and as a result had such an abnormal childhood, and the simple truth that "all kids do silly things as adolescents". A penchant for stirring the pot remains, and Hann recently called for "mini-skirted dolly birds" to brighten up snooker matches. There's no denying that, with prize-money on the up (a pool of almost $3.5 million is on offer in Sheffield), the likes of Stephen Hendry, six times world champion at 29, areJ unlikely to be found lappmg the table with their pants around their ankles. Soon, Hann will be making a more profitable exhibition of himself. A Manchester modelling agency is assembling a portfolio for the striking 192-centimetre young man the tabloids love to call the wild colonial boy. Australia has never boasted a snooker world champion Charlton reached the final twice, coming closest in 1975, when he lost 31-30 to Reardon after being six up with nine to play at, of all places, the Nunawading basketball stadium. There are many who hope Hann never gets there either. Hann was said to be devastated by Monday's loss to Williams. So any chance of a word with Melbourne's loudest unsung star? Sorry, mate, said Parker. He s .taken a couple of days off to let bis halrtiown. You know how it is."

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