Take the gamble – not all punting’s bad

My frustration has got the better of me – I can’t take it any longer.

The time has come to defend my favourite sport and the people who love it and work in it.

After watching and reading the media coverage over the last two months, I fear for both it and the ignorant views of many that tarnish it.

My sport is horse racing.

I am not a trainer and I am certainly not small enough to be a jockey, so I will have to make the admission now. I am a punter.

My father’s family are harness racing people and I was introduced to punting by my father at an early age.

My grandfather trained horses, as do many other relatives, and from before I can remember I used to travel all over NSW and Victoria to go to the trots and follow whichever family horse was on the go.

And before I lay all of the blame on the media, I must admit that it seems to be a fairly large portion of the population that I am at odds with.

My frustration really increased in March with another of my interests – rugby league.

Channel 9 got a new bookmaking sponsor.

Tom Waterhouse got the viewing public in an uproar by combining quoting his prices with comment.

Now, I must admit I have found the barrage of his advertising painful.

But I never expected the controversy it would stir up. Peter FitzSimons from the Sydney Morning Herald led the charge.

Peter objects to his children being constantly reminded of the odds during sporting events. He fears that it glamorises gambling and will lead to more children growing up to become punters.

In fact, it is more than fear. Peter says of kids being exposed to odds that “the outcome is equally devastating – a time-bomb that will go off when they have more than their lunch money to lose”.

Now Peter has every right to protect his kids from whatever evil he sees but a devastating time-bomb waiting to go off – oh please.

He goes on to breathlessly say “the point is that because of this exposure, gambling chat in the playground is now endemic, and many young Australians think that gambling is glamorous instead of the brain-dead loser pursuit it actually is.”

Thank you, Peter. I must be a brain-dead loser.

Obviously my mother and father should have been reported to DOCS for exposing me to gambling at an early age.

Of course, the dull reality is that most punting winners are simply smart and hard-workers. Not all bookmakers are Mercedes-driving winning crooks. Some of them lose.

Most of them win because they approach the game with more professionalism than the average punter.

Most punters lose because they don’t do the work.

Some punters win – mostly because they approach it with the same professionalism as the bookies.

And Peter, don’t worry about your kids too much.

I am sure with the brains bred into them on their mother’s side, they will lead quality lives and won’t give away their money.

One of them might even turn out to be a clever punter – and it could have been thanks to Tom.

– Courtney Rees is a journalist with The Daily Advertiser and a punting tragic.

Article published in The Area News.


Exo-bores start season 2012

The 2012 tennis season is off with a bang with tournaments (real and fake) popping up all over the globe. After the “off-season” both tours are qucikly winding into gear with the Australian Open under two weeks away now.

This is generally a time where exhibition ‘tournaments’ are most prevalent but due to their pointless existence I don’t give much credence to their results. With the exception of the Hopman Cup, which I enjoy watching, I would much prefer all players actually playing in real tournaments where the results actually count.

So quickly on the exhibition ‘tournament’ played in Abu Dhabi which featured a stellar line up of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, David Ferrer, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gael Monfils. Clearly having a six man tournament doesn’t work very well with Nadal and Federer receiving first round byes. Ferrer defeated Tsonga 2-6 7-6(5) 6-2 to set up a clash with compatriot Nadal and Djokovic defeated Monfils 6-2 4-6 6-2.

Nadal, with a sore shoulder, then come out and got whacked by Ferrer 6-3 6-2 whilst Djokovic felled Federer easing through their first meeting since the US Open semi classic with a 6-2 6-1 victory over the world number three.

Djokovic then defeated Ferrer in the final 6-1 6-2 and Nadal defeated Federer in the battle for third place 6-1 7-5.

The biggest story to come out of this is Nadal’s injury with the world number two saying he needs to rest his injured wing after the Australian Open and that fact that Djokovic has started the year off well and is a deserved favourite for the Australian Open.

One more ‘exo’ . The Hopman Cup, the only mixed team tennis event played and it starting means the Aussie tennis summer has started.

The Czech Republic are the top seeds represented by world number two Petra Kvitova and world number seven Tomas Berdych and lead Group A. Joining the Czechs in Group A is defending champions and fourth seeds the USA with Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Mardy Fish, Denmark with world number one Caroline Wozniacki and Frederick Nielson, ranked 236 and Bulgaria represented by Tsvetana Pironkova and Grigor Dmitrov.

France with Marion Bartoli and Richard Gasquet are seeded second leading Group B with third seeds Spain with Anabel Medina Garrigues and Fernando Verdasco. Australia represented by Jarmilla Gajdosova and Lleyton Hewitt and China with Li Na and Wu Di.

So far the Hopman Cup has thrown up few surprises. Li Na who has struggled since claiming the French Open defeated Bartoli 2-6 6-2 6-4 before Gasquet easily defeated world number 421 Wu Di 6-1 6-3 before the French team rain away with the decisive mixed doubles 6-1 6-1.

The Australian team almost upset the fourth seeded Spaniards having match points in the mixed doubles after a win to Gajdosova (6-3 3-6 6-3) and Verdasco (6-3 3-6 7-5) but the home team went down in a match tiebreak.

The Czech Republic started their campaign against Bulgaria and came away 2-1 victory with both Kvitova and Berdych winning before the Bulgarians won the mixed in a match tiebreak before Denmark upset reigning champs the US. Caroline Wozniacki defeated Mattek-Sands then Nielson pushed Fish to three sets in their match up. The smiley Danish pair then won the doubles in straight sets to clinch the tie and Wozniacki even managed to put two aces past Mardy Fish.

Spain asserted their place at the top of Group B after a 2-1 win over the Chinese. Li Na again won her singles match but Verdasco was too strong for Wu Di before the Spaniards dominated the doubles for a 6-0 6-2 win.


Reporting Refugees

Refugees and asylum seekers have a very prominent part of the Australian media landscape. As a part of my final semester of my Sports Media degree at the University of Canberra I was tasked with producing long form journalism based on refugees in the local area.

Refugees, particularly those who come by boat, have become a very politicised issue. The ‘Children Overboard’ really brought asylum seekers to the fore and was used as a political pawn by the Howard Government. It has been argued by Dunn, Klocker and Salabay (2007)  that the current public perception of asylum seekers and refugees can be linked to the Howard Government’s handling of ‘boat people’ problems including the ‘Children Overload’ incident. This view was also reinforced by Klocker and Dunn (2003),

“The unrelentingly negative way in which the federal government portrayed asylum seekers. While the government’s negative tenor was constant during the study period, the specific terms of reference altered, from ‘threat’ through ‘other’, to ‘illegality’ and to ‘burden’. The negative construction of asylum seekers was clearly mutable. Analysis of newspaper reporting during the same period indicates that the media largely adopted the negativity and specific references of the government”. 

We were tasked at trying to see past the current pattern of the media and to find the real personal stories away from the politics and front pages like this one.

Front page of The Daily Telegraph July 6 2011

This was an essential element of the assessment trying to “humanise” asylum seekers something according to Leach and Mansouri (2003) is something is that not often represented by the media.

“The deliberate manipulation of language to exclude asylum seekers from any category of people with whom one might feel human solidarity demonstrates the power of language to demonise and dehumanise the most vulnerable of human beings: those in desperate need of protection and care.”

Byrnne O’Brien even suggested that the Australian public cared more about the safety of cows than they did about aslyum seekers and refugees.

Leach and Mansouri also highlights the role that the government has had on asylum seekers and refugees and the adverse affect that has on the media’s representation of asylum seeker issues.

“As the Federal Government has debated its various critics over the issues of refugee and mandatory detention policies, one set of voices has rarely been heard. The effective silencing of refugees and asylum seekers in this country has been one of the more disturbing aspects of the debate as a whole.”

However it is not all bad as emphasised by McKay, Thomas and Blood (2011). “On one hand, asylum seekers are portrayed as in genuine need of protection, fleeing their country because of a well-founded fear of persecution.” This is highlighted by this Four Corners report

McKay et. al continues, “On the other, they are portrayed as exploiting asylum policies for their own economic and personal gain” as seen by Today Tonight, which was criticised by Media Watch. 


Prior to undertaking his assessment I had little contact with asylum seekers/refugees. I am from a small country town, which does not attract many/any refugees and if I did meet any “are you a refugee?” is not something that I would ask anyway. I have had a fair bit of contact with migrants, generally of Italian or Indian descent who are the largest migrant groups in my area, but this not the same experience.

I am very fortunate to have been born into a secure Australian environment, one where I have never have to consider what it was like to live in fear in the place I call home. Travelling throughout the world has opened by eyes to the suffering of others and whilst none of the places I have been to have been overly dangerous I feel sorry for those less fortunate than me. It is this feeling that I continue to have when thinking about asylum seekers and refugees.

As a sports media student my main interest is sport. Politics does not peak my interest very often so I don’t place a lot of emphasis the policies pertaining to asylum seekers/refugees, especially as they do not impact on me in any way. However I do have a few thoughts. I don’t understand why asylum seekers/refugees, especially those arriving by boat, have such a prominent place in policy and the media. I feel sorry that people feel the need to get on a leaky boat from Indonesia to come here but I don’t understand why they feel the need to come on a boat in the first place, where a plane is a much more viable and safer option.


My reporting refugees experience was different to most of the rest of the classmates. My partner, John Forrester, and I had a very frustrating experience. Very early in the semester we thought we had a story about the experiences of a refugee from Afghanistan, unfortunately she pulled out, not wanting to relive her terrible experiences escaping from the Taliban. Then we were given a story idea about the community resettlement of asylum seekers instead of detention. This story has become more prominent in the media since we started to look at us but we had an awful time trying to gain sources. We were told from one of the partners of reporting refugees which organisations were involved in Canberra but they all categorically denied they were involved, refused to be any help and if they did offer any help they would each send us back to the other in what really became a “circle of fail”. One media representative even abused John and told him that we had no right to call ourselves journalists six months short of that valuable piece of paper. After that stonewalling we moved onto another new project.

With the deadline fast approaching we moved to our third assessment idea – producing a panel discussion based on refugees. We then went on a sometimes arduous search for three refugee experts, preferably in Canberra, that could all talk well, with different backgrounds and strengths, that where available to speak at the same time (which we had not confirmed at the time). After one initial success we then had to play the waiting game trying to confirm two more people for the panel. After a fair few emails and phonecalls our number one “get” withdrew but we still managed to overcome that and assembled a great panel that offered information and opinion beyond my expectations.

The organisation and more importantly, the recording of the panel discussion really opened my eyes to a different perspective of asylum seekers. One that is not reported on very often. Although listening to this was influential  I don’t think it has changed my perspective too significantly and my beliefs, as highlighted earlier, that I held before coming into the project remain quite constant.

I really don’t know how much of this semester’s work will affect my career. Sport and travel are my two passions and this assessment has little relevance to either of those. The panel discussion improved my organisational skills and it also helped my communication skills with potential and then confirmed sources. It was difficult at times trying to juggle the needs and expectations of six people so that the panel discussion could all come together. I also learnt to be a better member of a team, striving to find the balance between delegating jobs and handling tasks yourself, something which is becoming increasingly rare in journalism.

The last semester work was one of the most different topics that I have studied. It is something that I would not normally have looked at but it has enhanced by journalistic skills as I prepare to enter the work force. Refugees evoke a lot of passion and debate throughout the Australian society and I enjoyed the oppurtunity to learn more about them and produce something that the public can learn from


Dunn, K, Klocker N and Salabay T, 2007, ‘Contemporary racism and Islamaphobia in Australia’, Ethnicities, Vol. 7 No. 4, pp. 564-590, accessed 27th November 2011 from Sage Journals Online

Klocker, N and Dunn K, 2003, ‘Who’s driving the asylum debate? Newspaper and Government representations of asylum seekers’, Media International Australia incorporating Culture and Policy, No. 109, pp 71-92, accessed 27th November 2011 from Sage Journals Online

Leach, M and Mansouri F, 2003, ”Strange Words’ Refugees perspectives on government and media stereotyping’, Overland, No. 172, pp 19-26

McKay F, Thomas S and Blood W, 2011, ”Any one of these boat people could be a terrorist for all we know!’ Media representations and public perspections of ‘boat people’ arrivals in Australia’, Journalism, Vol. 12, No. 5, pp. 607-626, accessed 27th November 2011 from Sage Journals Online

O’Brien B, 2011, “When weighing up asylum systems, Australia is found wanting“, The Drum, accessed 27th November 2011, http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/3620264.html


Federer and Nadal win and set up another clash in London

The opening day of the ATP World Tour Finals started with both the highly fancied players, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer picking up wins.

But things where far from simple for last year’s finalists both being pushed to three sets.

Up first was defending champion Federer facing world number six Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. The pair had already met six times this season with the world number four winning four of those matches including their last meeting a week ago in the Paris final.

This match proved tougher but Federer came away with a three set victory 6-2 2-6 6-4 breaking Tsonga leading 5-4 to take the match.

Rafael Nadal, who has not played in over a month started his tournament against world number eight Mardy Fish. In an up and down match for both players Nadal finally prevailed 6-2 3-6 7-6(3) in just under three hours. The pair traded breaks in the third set before Nadal sealed the victory in the tiebreaker.

The pair will now face each other in the round robin stage in what will be the 26th meeting between the great foes. Nadal clearly leads their head to head record 17-8 but on hard courts they have both won four matches each and Nadal has never defeated Federer at a season ending event losing to the world number four three times including in last year’s final. Nadal has won all three of their matches this season including the French Open final and on the hard court of Miami.

Tsonga will face Fish with the Frenchman winning their only previous meeting this year at the US Open.


Federer looking to end a disappointing season with a bang

Roger Federer is through to his tenth straight appearance at the World Tour Finals and is searching for a record sixth victory.

It has far from been a vintage year for the Swiss superstar. He has dropped to number four, an eight year low and he has only made one grand slam final.

The year started well. He collected the Doha title after defeating Nikolay Davydenko in straight sets. He then made the semi finals of the Australian Open losing to eventual champion Novak Djokovic.

Djokovic also trumped Federer in the finals in Dubai and the semis of Indian Wells, taking Federer’s number two ranking.

Federer then reached the semi finals of Miami but went down to Rafael Nadal. Moving to the European clay courts Federer went down to Jurgen Melzer in the quarters of in Monte Carlo and in the semi finals of Madrid to Rafael Nadal.

Moving to Rome Federer could not make it past the third round falling to Gilles Simon. Federer turned this result around in Paris. Federer became the first man to defeat Novak Djokovic after downing the Serb in the semi finals of the French Open. However Federer could not repeat the performance against Nadal in the final going down in four sets.

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Ferrer finalises place amongst top 8 for London Showdown

David Ferrer is the second Spaniard to qualify for the World Tour Finals and the world number five is making his third appearance in the season ending event.

He made the final in 2007, losing to Roger Federer but lost all of his three round robin clashes last year.

Ferrer started the year off well winning the Auckland event defeating David Nalbandian in the final before reaching the semis of the Australian Open. He defeated compatriot Rafael Nadal in the quarts before falling to Andy Murray in the semis.

He then fell first round at Rotterdam to Jarkko Nieminen before defending his Acapulco title defeating Nicolas Almagro in the final.

The Spanish number two then fell in his match at Indian Wells to Ivo Karlovic before reaching the quarters at Miami to fellow tour finalist Mardy Fish.

The move to the European clay courts saw more success for the Spaniard. He was runner up in Monte Carlo and Barcelona to Rafael Nadal before losing to Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals of Madrid. He was also a quarter finalist in Nice losing to Alexandr Dolgopolov.

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Late charge sees Tsonga qualify for London

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will make his second appearance in the ATP Tour Finals in London this week after ensuring his qualification in Paris-Bercy.

Tsonga has not made the season ending event since his breakthrough year in 2008.

Starting to year at number 13, and at one stage was out to as many as 22, the French number one has moved up to an equal career high of number six after his final appearance in Paris.

Tsonga started the season with a semi final appearance in Doha falling to Roger Federer and fell in the third round of the Australian Open to Alexandr Dolgopolov.

The Frenchman bounced back from his early loss in Melbourne going down to Robin Soderling in the final of Rotterdam before reaching the quarters of Marseille.

From that point Tsonga struggled until he hit the British grass.

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Consistent year for Berdych earns his place in London

Tomas Berdych is through to his second consecutive ATP World Tour Finals after sealing his place amongst the world’s top eight last week in Paris.

The Czech world number seven started the year off well making the quarter finals or better of his first five matches. He reached the semis of his first tournament of the year in Chennai falling to Stanislas Wawrinka and then fell in straight sets in the quarters of the Australian Open to eventual champion Novak Djokovic.

He then made the quarters in Rotterdam, before defaulting to Jo-Wilfred Tsonga, and then losing to Marin Cilic in the Marseille quarters. He lost to Novak Djokovic in the semis in Dubai retiring down in the third set.

Wawrinka gained his second victory over the Czech number one in the fourth round in Indian Wells before taking a set off Rafael Nadal before going down to the then number one in Miami.

After a solid opening start to the season Berdych continued his form into the European clay court season but unlike earlier in the season the world number seven was losing to much lower ranked opponents.

First at Monte Carlo where he was defeated by Ivan Ljubicic in the third round in Monte Carlo. He then followed that loss with defeat against world number 36 Thomasz Bellucci in the quarters of Madrid. The big Czech also fell at the quarter finals in Rome, losing in three sets to Richard Gasquet.

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2011: Groundbreaking year for Mardy Fish

Mardy Fish has made vast improvements in his game, particularly with his fitness, and all the hrd work has paid off. Fish is now entering the ATP World Tour Finals and will face Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Jo-Wilfred Tsonga in Group B.

2011 was seen the 29-year-old American rise through the rankings to earn his place amongst the world top 8. Starting the year ranked number 17 the year started slowly losing in the second round in both of his Australian events. He lost in the second round in Brisbane to Radek Stepanek and could not get past Tommy Robredo at the Australian Open. He did however come from two sets to love down to Victor Hanescu in the first round in Melbourne.

Back at home in the US Fish had a much better time at it. He made the semi finals of Memphis, losing in three sets to Milos Raonic and backed up that performance with another semi finals appearance in Delray Beach where Juan Martin del Potro proved too strong.

Raonic defeated Fish for the second time in a month when the two meet in the second round of Indian Wells before making the semi finals in Miami. Fish lost to Novak Djokovic in the semis after defeating then world number six David Ferrer in the quarters.

His Miami result saw him replace former housemate Andy Roddick as the number one ranked American. Typical with most Americans Fish struggled on the European clay losing to compatriot John Isner in the first round in Madrid and to Marin Cilic in the third round in Rome.

Gilles Simon proved too strong on the clay at Roland Garros with Fish going down to the Frenchman in the third round but it was still enough for the American to enter the top 10 for the first time. However Fish responded at Wimbledon losing to then world number one Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals having defeated Tomas Berdych in the fourth round.

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Tsonga and Federer set up battle for Paris-Bercy title

Roger Federer will face Jo-Wilfred Tsonga in the final of Paris-Bercy in what must be a dream match-up for tournament organisers.

Federer is through to his first Paris final, which now means the world number four has made it to the final in all of the 1000 Masters events. The semi final victory against Tomas Berdych is the 801st win of his career, making him only the seventh man to record over 800 wins. Though he is a long way of Jimmy Connors record of 1,242 wins.

Federer eased past Berdych, who was coming off strong wins against Janko Tipsarevic and Andy Murray, 6-4 6-3 to set up the clash with the Frenchman who is searching for his second title in the French capital.

Tsonga saved three match points against surprise semi finalist John Isner to return to the final of the title he won in 2008 to scrape through 3-6 7-6(1) 7-6(3). Continue reading