Ok so I know you’ve read so many opinions on what people think of the Budget, so I’m going to try and keep this as short as possible, but here’s what I think having read the documents on Budget 2014.

What I like:

  • While I don’t like the fact that uni students will pay more for some university degrees and Fee-HELP debt repayments kick in sooner (as someone who is currently paying the government extra for accidentally not paying my Fee-HELP debt when I reached the minimum level, believe me when I say I know how much this sucks), the fact that it’s being done to enable Fee-HELP assistance to be offered to those at TAFE’s and learning colleges is a good thing. Those studying Diplomas and apprenticeships need the same help that those at uni get to complete their qualifications and because diplomas and apprenticeships take less time to complete in a lot of cases, this will hopefully, with skilled pathways created, lead to more people working and growth in the economy, which is the fastest way to smash the deficit we have.

  • Infrastructure for roads is important and it is great to see this happening. We need to fix many road projects, especially in Sydney and to see this occurring is not only good for our sanity, it’s also good for ensuring more construction jobs, more engineering jobs and long term, hopefully more businesses moving out to Western Sydney which will lead to more opportunities for those in the West and other outer lying areas across Australia, which I am all for.

  • Axing of funds from the ABC and SBS. Now before you all jump at me and say I’m just another right winged person who couldn’t care less about the ABC, let me say that nearly 50 per cent of what I watch and listen to is on the ABC including Spicks and Specks, The Checkout, ABC Grandstand, ABC News Radio, WNBL and ABC Shute Shield coverage. The thing is though that firstly, a large amount of the cuts is the Australia Network which to be honest, few Australians watched in this country and was just a giant promo tool for us to show off to Asia- which means it was a waste of money because like us when it comes to watching an entire Asian channel, it is of little interest what is happening in another country if it doesn’t affect those in it, so I can assure you, few in Asia really worried about our little TV network. Secondly, the ABC has become far too agenda based for it’s own good. It’s the national broadcaster- not the broadcaster for the Greens or Labor or the Liberals. It should be impartial and show all views, yet recently, it’s been all about left wing ideals. Quite frankly in my opinion, we don’t pay taxes to have two SBS channels- one is enough and it does a fine job. ABC should realise that it can’t waste taxpayers dollars to broadcast it’s own opinion and ideals. Want to do that- become a commercial network. As for the SBS- large amounts of what is shown is trash (yep I’m talking about those B-grade movies that really should be on pay per view) and maybe a cut in budget might ensure more airtime for the quality stuff they have to encourage higher advertiser dollars. Now is the time for the ABC and SBS to become smarter with the way they broadcast, like most TV Networks do.

  • Fuel Excise increase. While it may seem unfair to tax motorists more, the truth is, the excise will see a 1-2c increase in the price of fuel and will save a fair amount of money to be used to fund infrastructure. If we get better roads and transport due to a small increase in fuel, I’m all for it. 

What I’m drawn on:

  • I’m a bit each way when it comes to things like pension and Newstart changes. While they may seems harsh, the pension changes are over the next 20 years so they won’t hurt as much and as for Newstart not being paid first six months for those under 25 and work for the dole called for those under 30 after six months on Newstart, I’m actually supportive of this. I am on Newstart at the moment but I waited five and a half months before doing it as I wanted to try and get work first and only went on it as I was running out of cash to survive. The whole earn or learn idea is a valid one, as I think it’s important to keep up-skilling yourself when you are young and the idea of working for your money is important as it gives value to what you earn so I’m for that for the long-term unemployed, not to mention businesses getting discounts to hire those unemployed for over 12 months on Newstart. What I am worried about with all this though is that it isn’t taking into account low income families or the psychological needs of those who may become depressed due to not finding work and not having any income to survive. We need to look at ways to means test Newstart so that if it is shown a family and support a person under 25 for six months, then the rule applies but if they can’t, some leniency is given.

What I don’t like:

  • Disadvantaging the least fortunate. Whether we are talking about no saving low income earners from paying the medicare doctor fee of $7, the massive cuts to indigenous services, the money being taken from hospitals (even if the states wasted it when given it) or increases in the PBS. We should always provide support to those who need it, when they need it- we are humans and humanity comes first above all else. While I don’t disagree with making those who can afford it pay to see a doctor- I don’t want us to end up like the US, where there’s a system of health for the well off, but next to none for those who most need it. As for the other cuts, It just doesn’t seem right to be punishing those who can least afford it or are in most need of the support just because they’re the least likely to be able to complain about it or the most likely to be forgotten when the months have passed. 

Overall:

We are a country that has a huge deficit and needed to do something to stop it growing. While this budget does hurt, I truly believe it will also do the job of stopping the bleeding and for that, it has to be ticked off as an accomplishment. Whether it is the right way to go about things is debatable. Personally, I would have taxed high income earners more and not gone after the lower income earners as they don’t deserve anymore hurt. The truth is though, this is a budget that while it might hurt the Government today, if the deficit reduces- come 2016, it won’t hurt as much and will, like previously with the Howard-Costello partnership, be a shining light for another term in office for Abbott-Hockey inc.

Well it seems I’m not the only one who wants to promote the great work that the Wanderers are doing to build Western Sydney, they do too! Read this awesome article on how community engagement is more than just token visits and media ops, but it’s about making a real difference.

A great article by Richard Hinds in Daily Telegraph on the way to the Western Sydney Wanderers is more than just the A-League. Love how much a part of the club the W-League team is and well done to the club on how, as I said yesterday they are for the community first.

A couple of weeks ago, I was out and about with some friends of mine who it’s fair to say aren’t sports fans in the slightest. We were going out for dinner when we passed by the seas of people going to Western Sydney Wanderers game and all of a sudden, these friends started talking about the passion the fans had and the way it was so cool that everyone was supporting the club.

Then they said two things that made me sit back. Firstly, they said that they thought Shinji Ono was a fine player and secondly, that while they had no interest in sports in most cases, they’d love to go to a Wanderers game just to experience the atmosphere and see what it’s all about.

WOW I thought. These friends of mine have no interest when I talk about NRL but bring up the Western Sydney Wanderers and they know players, have an idea about the club and actually have interest. Then I started to think about why this is the case?

Fast forward to today, the day before the grand final and another appearance from my Western Sydney Wanderers- a stellar feat given that this is two in a row and the team is still in the Asian Champions League (the only team in Australia left). The thing is though, while I’m excited for the fact we have done this and that there is a chance to win the big one, the champions plate- there’s something else that’s getting me even more excited, something that means just as much to me and I am sure to the club as any championship would.

To understand this, I need to give a short back story to another of my teams I support- the mighty FC Barcelona.

Now, as those who support FC Barcelona know, the teams motto is that it is ”more than a club”. It is emblazoned on the sleeve of the jersey, written under the logo as the motto and holds prominent pride and place wherever you look around Barcelona where the team is promoted.

But what exactly does that mean? Does it mean that the team is about the fans too? Does it reference the fact that this team wants to be known for more than just it’s football? Is it talking about business developments and merchandising? 

The answer encompasses all these questions. As they say on the website- this message is not just about the team- it is about the culture. The slogan ”more than a club” refers to the deep rooted support of the Catalan history and culture- the fact that this club, no matter what- is for the community first and will fight for the community not only in initiatives, but in its beliefs and attitudes- even if, like in the 1918, it sees the club shut down temporarily by the government.

I love this belief and while it was a reason of convenience that I chose to support FC Barcelona, it is this message that has made me a true fan and has kept me loyal to the club and will for many years to come.

Going back to the Wanderers and when I compare them to FC Barcelona, I see some very strong comparisons. Maybe not so much in the football side of things- but definitely in the attitude to be more than just a football team.

When I read articles about the Wanderers, see kids who adore the team even though they have no other interest in any other sport, hear of stories of people who met a player at a shopping centre who even though they weren’t at an official event still took the time to chat, I see this attitude that, for the Wanderers, they are not just about football- they are about the community first.

It is an attitude that exudes in the love the team has for it’s mighty supporter base the Red and Black Bloc. It comes through in the fact that the team doesn’t just have one or two players doing a community visit or signing session each week, but on a Thursday night will split the team into three and have one lot in Parramatta, one in Campbelltown and one in Penrith to ensure the community gets to meet their stars. It began from the moment that Lyall Gorman and his management team decided to ask the people of Western Sydney to name their team, their colours and their logo.

There’s been some moments this year of tension between the supporters group of the Wanderers and head office. There’s been bad scenes splashed across the media of fan behaviour, accusations of racial taunts by players and plenty of other reasons that have been published (many times incorrectly) that would normally see parents stopping their families attending games or non-diehard fans leaving to ensure that they don’t get tarnished with the brush of supporting a bunch of hooligans (believe me I know about this happening, I also support the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs!)

The thing is though, the crowds keep growing and the fans keep coming- to the point now where if you are from the West of Sydney, you are almost expected to know and support the club by those around you. Yes the team is successful on the field at the moment, but I reckon even if there was a tough year ahead, there’d still be the waves of people walking to Parramatta Stadium, people clambering to get to Blacktown for training sessions and businesses across the West of Sydney would keep hanging their Red and Black streamers.

In my opinion the Western Sydney Wanderers are more than just a football club based in Sydney’s West. They are now a part of Western Sydney culture and it’s community. The people of Western Sydney have become more united because of the Wanderers FC and the club has instilled belief in the hard working efforts of those in the West and given them new spirit to fight day in day out in their businesses, their schools and anything else they do. The rest of the world is finally starting to see the pride that those from Western Sydney have and given a chance, which has now come, the capability this area has to make a massive difference.

I hope that in 100 years time, long after I’m gone, the Wanderers will still be around, but more importantly, that they will still be giving that little extra kick to the heartbeat of Western Sydney. Inspiring the community through their dedication, hardwork and pride for the region. 

But for now, while I really would love to see the Wanderers win on Sunday, I write this today knowing that no matter what happens, they are winners already- because Western Sydney Wanderers FC is more than just a football club, it’s a family, and after two years, being able to say that, is a victory that anyone would be proud of, and I know every person in Western Sydney is proud of today.

We haven’t even seen a ball kicked off yet and already, the ARU’s latest venture, the National Rugby Championship has hit a major snag.

As this article - http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/sport/rugby/blowup-looming-between-national-rugby-championship-teams-greater-sydney-rams-and-sydney-stars-over-waratahs-israel-folau-and-kurtley-beale/story-fni2fxyf-1226864775556 - clearly states, the Greater Sydney Rams and Sydney Stars are at loggerheads over where star player Israel Folau should stamp his name, even though due to Wallabies commitments he’s unlikely to play a game and this is only for marketing purposes.

The Rams are saying Israel should be theirs, a local junior of the area should represent his area at a higher level with pride and honour. The Sydney Stars are saying he’s their player, chose to play for their feeder club, Sydney University and therefore due to the effort they put into him, they deserve him to stay at the new club and continue to keep the clubs fans and sponsors happy.

Both of these, are very valid arguements and to be honest, both have a case in point. The issue I have however, is a comment made late on in this article, by Sydney University President David Mortimer, where it says:

Asked if he saw promotional value in Folau promoting rugby in western Sydney, Mortimer said: “Is it a promotion game, or is it a competition? We are also in the business of promoting our side, so to have players re-possessed would have a very sour taste.

Now the article goes onto talk about how University has put time, effort and supported their players through medical costs and education, which I do agree is a very valid argument as to why they should stay with the club.

The problem is though, the National Rugby Championship was designed by the ARU to create a product that will compete with the likes of the NRL and AFL in the latter half of the season. To do this, it needs to cater for all audiences and attract fans for its spectacle and close competition.

Unforutnately, the program which feeds this new comp in NSW aka. Shute Shield is from the totally opposite spectrum. It’s a comp where, to be honest, history rules. Where it’s all about the club and therefore, the richer clubs, like Sydney University and to a lesser extent Eastern Suburbs and Randwick, have been able to buy the players they want, ahead of teams which lesser money, who however with these players, could create a much more even competition.

If we were to agree with Sydney Uni that all it’s players should be playing for the Stars, based on this weeks NSW Waratahs squad alone, they’d have 9 Super Rugby players to represent their team. NSW Country would have 8 (from 2 clubs), The Rams would be next with 5 (from 5 clubs) & Northern Rays would have 3.

This looks a little bit uneven, but then when you factor in the Stars other feeder club is Balmain, the club that once upon a time guest signed Matt Giteau to a contract as opposed to NSW Country fielding blokes from the bush (nothing wrong with that by the way, I like the idea), the thoughts of an even competition start falling by the wayside.

Now as a Rams fan, but also as a Shute Shield follower, I get both sides of the argument and to be honest, I’m not that fussed where Israel goes for marketing purposes- however I would say it would help the game in Western Sydney more if he was a Ram along with Beale.

My wider concern here is why the ARU allowed Sydney Uni and Balmain to become a team together in the first place. I know that it means more cash but if the aim of the game is to create a national competition that’s actually a competition, wouldn’t it have been smarter to do what the original ARC did in 2007 and make Sydney Uni and Southern Districts become a team, or better yet, make another team out in western NSW and have Sydney Uni affiliated to it?

Having a super team in a comp that’s designed to create competition is going to cause problems not only in NSW, where this arguement is already brewing, but in the areas where this competition has actually got a chance of getting some ground on rugby league and AFL, in the form of WA, ACT and VIC.

While fans will be parochial to start off with, if any team in the NRC is allowed to become a super power just because they are better funded than the rest, then this will become a turn off for fans before the season is out.

If you look at other national competitions, like the Big Bash, one of the great successes about it is that most teams have a chance of winning every game. If we were to go with the rule of talent playing where it’s raised, this wouldn’t happen as the two Sydney teams would get back a load of players who regularly play nationally and would dominate. The fact it’s an open pool based on a cap means that the game is fair, even and entertainment levels remain high.

If the ARU wants to succeed with the NRC, this same thought process has to be taken on. Create a cap for all teams, make every marquee player open on the market to the Super Rugby state they play for and then put the rest in a pool for all teams to compete for.

I know its not going to be good news to the likes of Mr Mortimer or the Sydney Uni fanbase, but it will be good news for the future of rugby in Australia and frankly, isn’t that what this competition is really all about?

So it’s official. Andrew Fifita has announced he is headed to the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs on a 4 year deal rumoured to be worth over 800k a season. As a Bulldogs fan, I’m very happy with this and can’t wait to have one of the most damaging props around join our world class forward line.

Now while this story has attracted headlines for many reasons- the amount of money being offered to a forward, the amount of years given… the main thing it’s attracted attention for is the fact that Andrew decided to join another club, despite stating his preference to stay at his current club, the Cronulla Sutherland Sharks, for just over a reported $50,000 a year more than they were willing to offer him.

So the question everyone is asking is this, why does $50,000 mean so much to a player over loyalty to a club that plucked him from no where a few years ago and turned him into a superstar of the NRL. Surely they could’ve gotten a third-party agreement to fix that up and kept him. 

The real answer is that in the Fifita case, that $50,000 a year extra in doesn’t actually matter. The Sharks could’ve offered him another $100k & he would probably have still gone west.

Ok, perhaps $200k more might be important in some cases, but this time, it’s about something more than that- something that can be answered by the man himself in his comments as to why he’s leaving the Sharks.

He says.. “I shed some tears and like I told them I didn’t want to leave but I am looking forward to the future. I wasn’t the smartest kid in school and if it can help me get a start in life and get a roof over my family’s head I am more than happy to help them out.” (Source- Channel 7 6pm News, 11 March 2013).

This quote says it all. Andrew wanted more than just cash- he wanted something that Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs notes as the most important thing a person needs after food, sleep and breathing, something that the Cronulla side were never going to be able to give him in their current state, something that the Bulldogs could give him in bucketloads…

Andrew wanted security.

He wanted security to know that he and his family would be assured a place in the club he was at. Security that he’d be paid the amount he needed to support his young family and set up a future, security that he’d have a chance to play the best football possible over the next few years and have the best chance of getting to the highest levels as a rugby league player.

This unfortunately is something that Cronulla as a club just can’t offer at the moment.

I admire the Sharks- the way they fight against adversity, keep coming back from the brink and have now managed to not only pay off a huge debt but secure themselves financially with the massive re-development of the surrounding land around Shark Park.

The thing is though, the Cronulla Sutherland Sharks are going through a lot at the moment. They have a coach who is suspended and reportedly threatening to take legal action in the high court, they have been warned by the NRL that any further issues relating to the ASADA case could see them miss the finals series, they have ASADA yet to decide the future of much of the roster and the staff with breach notices and possibly even more fines and sanctions to come and for all the courage and fight, they are a club that look anything but stable for the next few years.

Funny thing is though, if we were in 2008- I’d be saying the same thing about my beloved Bulldogs. We were a club who were riddle with rumours and scandals and who had to beg a charity to support us as we couldn’t get a major sponsor. Six years on however, the club has completely turned things around- to the point where it is once again one of the most successful clubs in the NRL financially, has one of the best coaches in the business at the helm, has a strong playing roster, is renowned for being a family club and has sponsorship support to the hilt. There’s stability in the place and more importantly- any player who arrives there knows they will be looked after.

This is the reason why for Andrew, it was a simple choice- a hard, painful, but simple choice. He couldn’t risk staying at a club where if the fines became too much he might have to be let go to keep the club afloat, not when there was a club who could offer him just as much and also ensure he’d be on their roster for the duration of his contract at the agreed value he asked for.

That’s the thing about us human beings- give us enough to make us feel secure and we will go towards that option every day of the week- it’s how we’re designed and in the majority of us, it’s not going to change anytime soon.

So before you go and get annoyed at Andrew for not being loyal, put yourself in his shoes, see whether you could risk the opportunity he’s taken- you’ll soon clearly see that this is not about being a traitor, about being disloyal and it’s all about being secure, being safe and feeling at peace to do the best in the chance a person has been given.

At the end of the day, isn’t that what we all want in life?

* the following piece is the opinion of the author and is in no way reflective of the views, thoughts and words of Andrew Fifita, the Cronulla Sutherland Sharks RLFC or Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs RLFC

There are times when you hate being wrong.. then there’s times when it’s actually a good thing- this is definitely a case of the latter.

When my fav NBA team, the Orlando Magic announced that it was embarking on a plan of five year success, I was skeptical that it would work. Even as a fan who would always go for the Magic since 1994- this was an idea that while it was great in theory, would prove harder to achieve in practice than finding half a needle in a haystack. 

It wasn’t so much that I didn’t believe in Jacque Vaughan as a coach, or our players- it was more the fact that given the loss of success we’d had with just one star player leaving, even if it was Dwight ‘Superman’ Howard, when a large percentage of the well known side was traded, well- I felt it was more like a 10 year plan of pain. That was further compounded when in return for depth in likes of Reddick, we were to receive a bunch of future draft picks. Personally, I felt we needed players, not draft picks- no use winning later if you can’t keep people interested now.

The good news is- I’m not an NBA coach, because if I was, I wouldn’t be able to smile the way I am at the moment. Sure it’s been a tough year for the Magic- we are last in the conference, we have been on long losing streaks and for an outsider, there is plenty of room to say that my early predictions were right on the money.

The thing is though, there’s something about this team that gives me hope. This is not just a bunch of superstars who have come to save the day and then run off when the money gets better- this is a team who take pride in the chances they get to follow in the footsteps of Shaq, Hardaway, McGrady & Superman, pride in the town they play in and most importantly, are determined to stick it out for the long haul.

Astute draft picks have ensured that the Magic will not only be a team to succeed in 2016, but one to succeed in 17,18 and 2019 hopefully too. The likes of Victor Oladipo have shone in a side that has no real big name, while players like Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic are growing in confidence. 

Most importantly though, this is a team that is driven to succeed. A lot of the losses this year have been either from slow starts or from lack of experience in closing out games- all of which comes with time and opportunity. Recent buzzer beater wins against big sides, Oklahoma City & Indiana are only going to help the confidence grow and a 5 game winning streak at home is a sign that surprisingly given that this was a 3 year plan- things are already starting to turn the corner.

The lesson to learn from all of this is that sometimes you’ve got to be willing to cut the losses and start from scratch. It takes humility to do and yes you will cop a lot of flack for it, but if, like Jacque and Rob, you are willing to take that and fight for your dream, then you too will be able to come out a winner, in due time.

In addition to this, if you do this, you’ll ensure you have your entire team on board the vision you create, as everyone knows what to expect when they arrive and no one has an excess baggage. This will ensure results come faster, opportunities are plentiful and minds are set on the result, not individual accolades.

That’s certainly the case with the Orlando Magic, a team that a town can be proud of, the NBA is starting to talk about again and I for one, am glad to be a supporter of, no matter how many more losses we have to endure before another championship.

The Australian One Day Cricket Team… In pursuit of perfection

I know that title is a big statement, considering we’ve had eras of teams that included great like Hayden, Gilchrist, Ponting, Bevan, McGrath & Warne.

The thing is though while the side of 10-13 years ago was great and did pioneer a lot of what modern cricket is today, this squad IMO is more evolutionary.

The reason I say this is that we’re finally seeing the real fruits of T20 cricket in this current Australian squad and we are seeing a whole new game and style of play.

This current Aussie line up has such great balance. From the power hitting of Warner, Watson & Finch, the tactical grafting of Clarke, Marsh, the smarts of Bailey, Maxwell, Haddin & as the video above shows, Faulkner, to the bowling prowess of Johnson, Pattinson, McKay, Coulter Nile. Every element of a good cricket team is covered.

On Sunday we saw how incredible power could dominate a side. Last night we saw glimpses of that, but we also saw how smarts and finesse still hold court with some innovative stroke play from Maxwell and the super cool innings of Faulkner. He was able to keep a level head with a climbing run rate and play every ball on merit, knowing he had enough to hit the bad ones out of the park. McKay, unlike many tail enders of the past, managed to stay with him too, never at all looking like he might lose his wicket.

Despite the power hitters who are seen as the key falling cheaply, the rest of the team was able to stay calm and even when some craziness lost wickets at opportune times, keep the run rate ticking and get home.

This IMO is largely due to the T20 format. For all the talk in it’s inception about how it would be all about power and bowlers being treated like dishrags, as the game has grown, it’s brought with it, not surprisingly, new ways of thinking and playing.

For those players who don’t have a natural power game, they’ve learnt to be smarter and get twos where one might have once been, been learning shots of innovation like ramps and reverse sweeps and using pace of the ball to gain power. Bowlers also have variations and are made to bat in their innings, which even if it’s hit out time, gains vital experience in the middle. It’s led to 200 plus totals off 20 overs and smarter, more confident players.

Take all of this into the one day arena and you see that no longer is 250 enough over 50 overs. Sides as the years go on will find even 300 won’t be enough as teams are use to chasing 1/3-1/2 of that in 20 overs. I won’t be surprised if in ten years time the average one day score is 370.

I also expect to see sides where every single player has a batting average of at least 20 and can bowl something. In a game like 20/20 where every wicket is vital, it has become almost necessary to find several all rounders to give you options and this will only grow as the game does. The flow on effects to 50 over cricket will mean players who can do it all when needed and much more even competition.

The early stages of this can be seen in this Aussie side. They’ve turned one day cricket on its head by going out early to blast runs knowing if early wickets fall, that’s ok as the team will support with traditional grafters in the middle and more power hitters at the end.

In the years to come I expect this will become the global norm and with more youngsters growing up like this, I know we’ll be in for some very entertaining cricket in the years ahead and as a cricket fanatic, I couldn’t be happier.