There are all kinds of champions, writes Greg Cary.
Extroverts, introverts, those whose talent shines for all to see and others whose greatness is less obvious. There is room for them all.
At a time when sports heads are spinning for all kinds of reasons, NSW is still trying to sort out what happened in Origin 3. A little like Custer arriving at the Little Big Horn they were overconfident and made a poor job of analysing their enemy. The result was somewhat the same, too.
It’s no coincidence that this near perfect performance came on the back of the return of Cooper Cronk. What he brings to the team can’t be measured in statistics but rather on how all the others around him play. He gives structure to the backs (which gives them freedom) and hunts the forwards around like the best of farm dogs. He barks, JT and GI bite.
Seeking to make sense of things, Blues coach Laurie Daley said “that’s not who we are”. But in sport, it’s rarely wise to argue against the scoreboard. For now, that’s exactly who they are. And, more importantly, it’s who we are.
As a grateful Suncorp crowd said farewell to Justin Hodges, Lleyton Hewitt’s final performance at Wimbledon reflected all the qualities that have made him such an admired champion. That he wasn’t always universally respected only underlines the achievements of a wonderful career.
When he burst onto the scene in 1998 at age 17, winning the Adelaide International after beating Andre Agassi in the semis, it was clear that a player of extraordinary promise had emerged. It was also obvious that he was a work in progress.
The competitive spirit burned brightly for 17 years at the elite level – an incredible accomplishment. As was the way he matured over the journey. The unharnessed aggression of the early days gave way to a spirited and talented player who, as he says with justifiable pride, fought for every single point. Always.
Along the way he won Wimbledon, the US Open and the regard of fans and fellow players around the world. In Davis Cup nobody has ever fought harder for their country.
It is a lesson that, hopefully, Nick Kyrgios will quickly learn. Nick is a prodigious talent but his behaviour is making critics of friends. His rationalisation is that “the game needs characters”.
True enough but, more importantly, what players need is character.
He is young and the emotions are swirling in ways he can’t yet quite define let alone control. But he will grow up and, to be fair, he didn’t “tank” at Wimbledon. He sulked for two points and then fought bravely to the end. The time will come when he can sort the wheat from the chaff.
Character? Lleyton Hewitt had it in abundance. As does Jordan Spieth. His win in the US Open was a combination of perseverance and immense talent. As Jack Nicklaus once pointed out: sometimes winning can be a matter of just hanging around. While others were losing their heads and Jason Day’s was spinning with vertigo, Jordan kept his focused on the job at hand.
No easy task.
On golf, I notice John Derr died a few weeks before the US Open. Mr Derr had covered golf for more than 50 years. He once famously asked Albert Einstein if he ever played golf, to which the genius responded: “I tried once. Too complicated.”
It’s hard to know what both would’ve made of the trials and tribulations of the world’s best at Chambers Bay. Opinion was divided – some thinking it was an appropriately tough test whilst others (including me) thought the course unfair for players and spectators alike.
Jason Day fell over, picked himself up and challenged to the end proving once again that victory isn’t always confined to the winner – sometimes simply finishing is triumph enough.