Wake up to yourselves, NSW: Jeff Kennett

Former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett has poked his nose into Sydney’s great stadium debate, claiming NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian is merely mopping up the mess left behind by Bob Carr in the 1990s.

Kennett was in office from 1992 to 1999 and in that time invested hundreds of millions of dollars into Melbourne’s sporting facilities.

On his watch, Melbourne became the envy of the sporting world. Etihad Stadium was built, Albert Park revitalised for the Australian Formula One grand prix, and Melbourne Park’s tennis facilities beefed up to ensure the Australian Open was never played anywhere else.

He understood what many in NSW can’t wrap their heads around as they continue to moan about Berejiklian’s $2.3 billion knockdown and rebuild of Allianz and ANZ stadiums: that major sporting events pay for themselves many times over because of what they bring to the local economy.

“When we started this process of attracting major events in the 1990s, your premier at the time said, ‘No, this is inappropriate, NSW is not going to chase these sorts of events’,” Kennett said. “That was Bob Carr. They lost 10 to 15 years before they started to realise the importance of major events.

“Major events add confidence to the community. When we started this in 1992, our state was rundown. We quickly rebuilt the confidence of Victorians in their own state. There is none of that in NSW. You lost 15 years because the government at the time thought it was ‘inappropriate’.

“What Gladys is doing now is belated recognition that if NSW is going to be part of this not just national but international world of events, they’re going to have to upgrade their facilities. It costs money. I understand the premier is coming under a fair bit of flak but no state is just about education, it’s not just about health. You judge a state on its complexity and totality: sport is very much part of that.”

In this space last week, your humble columnist argued that people underestimate how important sport is to this city and state. They’d prefer we spent the money on baby incubators and the like. (With that in mind … behold! The Baby Incubator Stadium! Problem solved).

Over the past 15 years, whenever Melbourne has hosted a State of Origin match, I’ll attend the obligatory media conference involving NSW and Queensland captains and coaches as well as the Victorian sports minister and/or major events minister.

When the speaking is done, I’ll chat to said ministers and they will tell you exactly why they want NSW and Queensland belting each other before 91,000 people at the MCG.

“Because one match fills our hotel rooms and bars and restaurants in the middle of winter,” is the usual reply.

You can roll out academics and economists and reports and say these stadiums are a waste of money. I’ll defer to the city that for decades has smashed the rest of the country when it comes to sport and culture and the man who first got the ball rolling.

“How do you measure a state’s confidence?” Kennett asked. “You can add up the cost of stadiums and how much they are to build. But you cannot put a figure on the economic add-ons that come when you have a rolling program of major sporting and cultural events that mean hotels have high occupancy levels all the time, restaurants and bars are thriving, people using taxis and spending money … the expenditure shouldn’t be judged in the years in which it is spent. The return is over decades.”

But is that going to cover the $2.3 billion, Mr Kennett? What about the baby incubators?

“It shouldn’t just be judged on financial benefits. It’s got to be based on reputation. If you’re going to have people wanting to go to an event, they want good quality facilities: good food, good toilets, good viewing lines. They want comfort.

“NSW has never been pro sport as much as Melbourne and it’s partly because you haven’t had the facilities. You have the SCG and that’s about it. If you want to be serious you have to want to compete. What then is left for NSW, apart from the drudgery of going to work? There’s got to be more to life. Major events, cultural and sport, give people the opportunity to go to a different place.”

It is simplistic and duplicitous to claim “these stadiums only service a handful of NRL clubs, let them pay for them”. What elitist bullshit. And they do. They pay a hirer’s fee, like everyone else.

Truth is, these stadiums serve many sports, and many events, many headline artists, and if they are not upgraded Sydney soon won’t be seeing any of it.

Kennett’s comments about Carr remind us of the story that often gets a run in rugby league circles about the night the former premier attended a State of Origin match – and read a book.

“I’ve used that story so many times,” Kennett said. “I like Bob but he was from a different planet. The ET of Australian politics.”

Warne’s page-flipper

Channel Nine’s Mark Nicholas is ghost-writing the autobiography of his commentary box buddy Shane Warne ??? and former Prime Minister Bob Hawke has agreed to write the foreword.

Warne and Nicholas popped up in the Trust Suite early on day two of the fifth Ashes Test at the SCG last Friday. They were there to corner Hawke, who was sitting out on the balcony with his former federal sports minister, John Brown. Hawke agreed to their request to write the introduction to a book that’s expected to come out in September.

Warne’s management has been spruiking the biography for about a year, asking for telephone-number figures in terms of an advance.

We’ve got no doubt that Nicholas will do an outstanding job. His 2016 memoir, A Beautiful Game, was well crafted and worth reading.

Our concern is just how many more beans Warne has to spill. There have been 14 Warne biographies over the years, including two written by himself.

Sales records are tricky to pin down but the word from industry heavyweights is that anything written about the legendary leg-spinner has hardly flown off the shelves. People just don’t believe they are getting the full story.

This time, Warne’s keen to set the record straight about the Shane Warne Foundation, which he shut down early last year amid claims of mismanagement. Consumer Affairs Victoria cleared Warne of any wrongdoing following a 14-month investigation.

He’s also promised to open up about his personal relationships with former wife Simone and ex-fiance Elizabeth Hurley.

Let’s hope it doesn’t get too catty. As he was leaving the suite, he bumped into trustee and media executive John Hartigan.

Two years ago, Warne was furious about a column written by Hartigan’s late wife, Daily Telegraph columnist Rebecca Wilson.

“To say that the cricket community sees the relationship between Warne and [Michael] Clarke as an unhealthy alliance is an understatement of monumental proportions,” Wilson wrote. “Warne has become an embarrassment every time he utters Clarke’s name.”

Warne wanted Hartigan to gag Wilson and also threatened to go public about her personal life. Hartigan put Warne back in his box, telling him “to take a look in the mirror”.

“You don’t come out of it looking too good,” Warne spat at Hartigan when he saw him, before storming off in a huff. Meow.

Jarryd Hayne arrives to front reporters at Eels training last week. Photo: Wolter Peeters

Costly defence

Jarryd Hayne is adamant he will fight the rape allegations levelled at him in a civil lawsuit lodged just before Christmas in the US ??? but it is going to cost him a truckload if it heads to court.

Hayne has engaged high-profile trial lawyer Mark Baute, who successfully defended NBA star Derrick Rose, who had to answer rape claims in a federal civil case in 2016.

We’re told by sources in the US that Baute charges $US15,000 a day ($19,000). No, that’s not a typo.

Hayne has “vehemently” denied claims by a 25-year-old woman known only as “Ms V” that he raped her in December 2015 when Hayne was playing for the San Francisco 49ers.

Q & A: Carlos Brathwaite

We speak to the Sixers’ recruit ahead of their Big Bash local derby against the Thunder at the SCG on Saturday.

You played with the Thunder last season. Any fiery text messages from your former teammates since you signed with the Sixers?

Not much. I saw a few of the boys in a bar in Coogee but that’s about it. It will be good to see the guys’ faces when the time comes.

Any dabbing if you take a couple of wickets?

I’m not sure. I have to take a couple of wickets first. I haven’t used it since the last Big Bash. Maybe the dab. Maybe something new.

Fun fact: did you know that the dab is illegal in Saudi Arabia?

I did. My fiancee sent me an article about footballers being banned from doing it. Thankfully, we don’t play there.

You’re a Manchester United fan … [Laughs] Yes.

What do you think of City’s dominance of the EPL season?

I don’t think we played as well as we could. A few times in the season we’ve let ourselves down. Ashley Young’s three-match ban didn’t help. Sometimes, you have to put your hand up and say well done to the opposition. City have done a fantastic job. Hopefully, they lose a lot of games in a row.

Usain Bolt says he wants to play for Manchester United. You?

Me? Maybe in a charity game, I’d put my hand up. I’m a poor man’s Paul Pogba. I’d like to strut my stuff at Old Trafford one day, make some tackles … I’m not sure how talented Usain is but I’m sure if he wants to go after it, he’ll make a good fist of it. I’m sure he thinks he’s good enough.


“When I’m scoring runs, I’m elegant. When I’m not, I’m lazy. I can’t seem to win when things aren’t going well.” ??? Usman Khawaja takes a swipe at his critics after scoring 171 against England. Look, it’s very simple, Usman. Want better stories? Less criticism? Keep scoring runs.


Um, did you see the end of that national college football championship between Alabama and Georgia? Relief quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was hauled off the bench at half-time and then threw a 41-yard touchdown in overtime to clinch the match 26-23. He thanked God afterwards. You would, too.


The sudden death of former Raider Kato Ottio from severe heatstroke while training at home in Papua New Guinea prompted an outpouring of grief across the footy community. This quote: “My first goal is to buy my mum a house. I’m a village boy. My dad died when I was 14 and I want to make the most of every opportunity.”


Bernard Tomic, who will battle it out in qualifying matches in a desperate bid to play at the Australian Open. “I’ve never needed the help of Tennis Australia,” Tomic says. Except for that time when he and his father were demanding more money from them.


The army of racegoers and horsie owners who will venture to the Gold Coast this weekend for the Magic Millions extravaganza. “We’re selling dreams!” Gerry Harvey declared. Alas, some of us can barely cover the cab fare back to the hotel.

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