Brian Edwards Media

Australians: Bad Losers; Worse Winners

AP, Getty Images

AP, Getty Images

It would be tempting to attribute the character of the professional Australian sportsman and sportswoman to that of their nation’s first arrivals. But that would be racist, another area in which we cannot compete with our trans-Tasman neighbours.

The Australians see themselves as a sporting nation. And in one sense they are. The Aussies are very good at sport; they win a lot of games. But in the other sense of the word “sporting” – characterised as sportsmanlike conduct, fair-minded, generous – they are considerably less adept. In that sense, whether in cricket, netball or rugby, they are an unsporting people. It is perhaps the one area in which we have nothing in common.

The difference between the two nations can be seen exemplified in two photographs in this morning’s Herald. In one the gracious Grant Elliott is seen helping a distraught and weeping South African player to his feet after his country lost the semi-final against the Black Caps. In the other, three Australian players – Brad Haddin, James Faulkner and Pat Cummins – are seen sneering and laughing at Elliott, as he walks away after scoring a brilliant 83 in last night’s World Cup Final. And that was merely the culmination of the sledging to which they had subjected Elliott throughout his innings.

These are not sportsmen. They are thugs. The word comes from the Hindi “thag”, meaning a “thief” or “rogue” and specifically a member of a confederacy of professional assassins who travelled in gangs throughout India for several hundred years. Of course that is not what we mean by the word now and I would certainly not want to suggest that this sneering trio deserve such a comparison. They don’t. Today the word suggests something along the lines of an uncivilised, offensive, ignorant, aggressive, nasty and thoroughly unpleasant individual. So that will do quite nicely to describe these three Australian “sportsmen”.

As I said, “It would be tempting…”


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  1. 1

    When all is said and done, isn’t their something disturbingly fascist about Australian culture as a whole? The obsession with the little Aussie battler who is always white, the winning at any cost attitude, the systemic racism and so forth. Isn’t this just another natural excrescence of that – yet more pus from the boil. I don’t think it is at all racist to observe to poisonousness of the culture (though I forebear to go as far as to make perhaps justifiable analogies with a certain European state circa 1933)

    • theres certainly something often unexplored about how Australian cultured developed up until the 70s, there were very few non white immigration routes and actually I read an article a few years ago by Mike Atherton on this very thing…

    • They won the World Cup and NZ came second because of a ruthless winning attitude. NZ’S Adam Parore and Sean Fitzpatrick gave players flak when they played too. I thought the ‘Winging’ title belonged to the ‘Poms’? Seems like the Kiwis are threatening to take it off them.

      • I think the word is “whinging”

      • It IS possible to be ‘ruthless’ in pursuit of the win without being unsportsmanlike. This applies to all codes and all players. Pointing this out isn’t a whinge, sunshine.

  2. Spot on, as usual, Brian! But, whether India produced the original thugs or not, modern Indian cricketers and their cricket-loving fans are a total contrast to their Aussie counterparts.

    They are delightful, beautiful people who are equally good winners and losers. I’d have been over the moon if India had beaten Australia and we had met them, instead, in the final.

    It would have been a glorious, happy, spectacle and I, for one, would barely have shed a tear if we’d lost. Either way (and sorry for the cliches), both cricket and sportsmanship would have been the winners.

  3. 3

    While the Australian cricket team may be noted for constantly nagging at opposition players it shouldn’t be forgotten that players from the NZ team were actually fined for poor behaviour in the last World Cup.

    • I agree. It shouldn’t be forgotten. But I would argue it was uncharacteristic of New Zealand sport and we have moved on. That does not appear to be the case with our neighbours.

    • 3.2


      Who is casting the first stone??

  4. Spot on, as usual, Brian! But, whether India produced the original thugs or not, modern Indian cricketers and their cricket-loving fans are a total contrast to their Aussie counterparts.

    They are delightful, beautiful people who are equally good winners and losers. I’d have been over the moon if India had beaten Australia and we had met them, instead, in the final.

    It would have been a glorious, happy, spectacle and I, for one, would barely have shed a tear if we’d lost. Either way (and sorry for the cliches), both cricket and sportsmanship would have been the winners.

    • Indians always good sports? I beg to differ. That Indian bowler who had the superb spell against Australia gave a more colourful send off to a number of cricketers than the boorish Brad Haddin. I agree the Australians could improve their manners, but they are not alone in that department. Everyone just loves to criticise the Australian team and conveniently ignore everyone else’s indiscretions.

  5. “In that sense, whether in cricket, netball or rugby, they are an unsporting people. It is perhaps the one area in which we have nothing in common.”

    Umm, we have a few skeletons in our cupboard when it comes to rugby – Richard Loe re-arranging Paul Carozza’s face, and going back even further, Colin Meads yanking the great Wallaby half back Ken Catchpole out of a ruck in such a way that he ripped his groin muscles and ended his career on the spot.

    Plus while they do the “Irish Catholic braggart” thing really well, the All Blacks have a history of the “dour Scots Presbyterian unsmiling giants” routine down to a ‘t’, win or lose. But as you say, that would only apply if I tempted to be racist.

    Plus Australians such as Mark Ella, John Eales, David Campese and Timmy Horan were about the finest gentlemen you would ever hope to meet on a rugby field. But then maybe that is because they weren’t from the riff-raff who play rugby league or the Aussie national sport, cricket (always a game with a larakin element over there). But I’d only opine that if I was tempted to be classist…

    • irish catholic braggart ?? what does that mean ?

      • Was self-explanatory English.

        In the absence of extensive material wealth compared to the neighbouring English, Irish Catholic culture enhanced non-material things such as song, and dance, story-telling and blarney. Which, along with rich cultural spice that it adds, can sometimes include big-noting and talking your self up before a contest. Which New Zealand sports people hardly EVER do. Even the All Blacks. Instead, like dour Scots Presbyterians we think boasting is a sin that will be punished, and we let our performance do the talking.

        Live in Australia, especially Melbourne and Sydney, where the Irish Catholic heritage is much more distinct and proportionally greater than New Zealand, and you’ll know what I mean. Same thing can be found in Boston and Chicago, or wherever there is a significant Irish Diaspora.

        • thanks it was a serious question …as an irish catholic non braggart …so to speak !

          • Never doubted your modesty, Sean.

            Brian Edwards’ post confims a funny trait about world cup sporting events, be they in rugby, cricket, football/soccer, whatever. They are the only time that racial/ethnic/social cliches are dusted off and presented as legitimate critique, e.g.,

            The Germans are efficient

            The English are bumblers

            The French have flair/elan/joire de vivre

            The South Africans are aggressive

            The Kiwis are modest battlers

        • As a descendant of ‘dour Scots Presbyterians’, I take issue with the ‘dour’ – there is a difference between humility and dourness, just as there is a difference between graciousness in victory and bragging. Both situations are about integrity and ‘character’ as it used to be used. Baden-Powell in his use of ‘character’ would not recognise the pumped-up, jumped-up ‘leaders’ who now thrive on shouting their accomplishments, real or perceived, to the world.

          (And that dour qualifier is vastly over-stated to my mind, having rubbed shoulders with many joyous and hilarious Scots – and Presbyterians.)

        • New Zealanders hardly EVER talk themselves up and big note before a contest? Oh please! Listen to sports commentators, talk back radio, armchair experts, read the sports pages and tell me it doesn’t happen. All that talk about “punching above our weight.”

          • No, I’m talking about the sports people themselves – which is what the post is about.

            Richie McCaw?

            Brendan McCallum?

            Irene van Dyk?

            About the only one I can think of who did was Nick Willis before the 2012 Olympics…and even he admitted afterwards he got it wrong.


              it’s the false modesty of the narcissist, again, Kimbra, I think I explained this to you a wee while back.

              Richie McCaw, so humble and understated, so a typical Kiwi he must be.

              Brendan McCallum, so modest, and a good sport too, so another typical Kiwi. (except for that time when he run out Murali. Oh, and he stood up against corruption, snitching on Cairns TWO years after the fact. He can be our Kiwi of the year!)

              IVD, humble and modest, such a typical Kiwi.

              Of course, the point is that these qualities are not typical of the Kiwi. Your average Kiwi is loud, rude, and opinionated, as can be experienced by tuning into radiosport. But Kiwis live vicariously through the achievements of sports stars. Their (the sports stars) modesty becomes OUR modesty. This is why we demand it from our sports stars. It affirms our (false) modesty, a symptom of our narcissistic nation.


          The Reverend (but unordained) Norman McLeod, a brimstonic Presbyterian Minister for Waipu in the mid-1800’s has no doubt been looking down with renowned unsmiling approval for a long time on this robust tradition of discouraging the sinfulness of boasting, amongst sportsmen and all others. Perhaps the Highland Games survive despite him only because of a suitably grim demeanour maintained by the participants.
          And be assured that he will be keeping a close and jaundiced eye from above, on the return of a particular political sheep to his northern flock.

      • For example, “the Aussie battler” myth that you interacted with from Andrew Paul Wood is drawn straight from the goldfields of 1850s Victoria, where new immigrants, particularly refugees/immigrants from the Irish Potato famine were agitating for “a fair go”.

    • Your examples do us no credit, but I like to think we’ve moved on. The Aussies appear to be tracking backwards in terms of sportsmanship.

      • Maybe.

        As good a sporting record as they have, I’m still not sure Tana Umaga, Keven Mealamu and Graham Henry ever “owned” what happened to Brian O’Driscoll in 2005. He could have ended up in a wheel chair.

        And after my crack at the Irish earlier, never let it be forgotten that by the length of the straight the Irish, both players but especially their supporters are the most sporting in international rugby. They deserved better than how that tawdry incident was mis-managed after the on-field incident. “We’ve moved on” according to Graham Henry. Pfft.

  6. Yeah they’re punks and thugs and cretins.

    But people on this side of the ditch moaning about it infantilises the Black Caps.

    Leave trash where it belongs, in the gutters. Win the game and it doesn’t matter how shitty sports the other team are.

    • Can’t really follow the “infantilising” bit. And winning the game is a good response to this sort of thuggery, but it doesn’t excuse it.

  7. He scored 83 which was the highest individual score of the final so well done to Grant Elliot. I am an Aussie but I see the conceit and arrogance amongst the Aussie cricketers. No need for that kind of sledging behaviour, let the batsman walk off with dignity regardless of his score. Commiserations to NZ players.

  8. The behaviour is there because it is allowed to be there.The umpires and rule makers must take some responsibility for this part of the game.

    • Yes, that’s so. In football the referee has the discretion of imposing a yellow card for ‘unsportsmanlike behaviour’ for similar actions. If acting with integrity is not enough on its own (and Brad Haddin’s post-match comments tend to indicate that it’s not), then the ICC should be imposing civil and sportsmanlike conduct by regulation. It still allows hard and fair play, and condemns anything but that.

    • Perhaps the stump microphones should be left turned on to capture all ‘comments’ uttered. It would certainly pick up any sledging, particularly by the wicket keepers and other fielders to the batsmen, departing or otherwise. Apparently they are turned off straight after the ball has been hit by the batsmen and/or gathered by the wicket keeper. Just maybe the protagonists would keep their thoughts to themselves if they knew any utterances were being broadcast to the viewers – it would save us plebs from trying to lip read.

  9. It’s a game, for Heaven’s sake. Does any of it really matter? I just ignore it all in the hope that it’ll go away. It’s not easy, mind, when both the TV1 and TV3 news last night gave it 10 minutes, first spot, ahead of a bye-election which could have serious effects on the way this country is governed
    Most of us need to get our priorities right.

    • Quite right John. Ever noticed how so many impassioned sports fanatics seem to be such idiots?

      • 9.1.1

        Thanks, I thought I was in a minority of one.


          NZ’s first appearance in a world cup final is a bit more than “just a game”, and that by-election won’t have much impact other than to clip the govt round the ear and put another couple of molars in Winston’s 5 megawatt smile.

          My mate Pete said it years ago, the Australians are surprisingly good losers but can be terrible winners. Philip Hughes’ death was an opportunity for a sea change in on-field behaviour, and I think the Black Caps took that on board. The Australians, having publicly grieved in a manner that seemed at least to me a little over the top, seem to have moved on already, and Haddin will be remembered as an oaf for his behaviour.


            I think your comment proves my point.
            Most of us need to get our priorities right.


              Appeared to me your point was the Northland By-election was more significant than the BC’s opportunity to win the CWC final, which is a fairly ascetic position in my view.


                If you define “ascetic” as not making an arse of myself before a game and a drunken arse after it, not holding a never-ending analysis of the win/loss nor worshipping/deriding the players then you are probably right.
                There is more to the enjoyment of life than that. This afternoon I shall visit my favourite watering hole and, over a craft beer, discuss life, the universe and everything with a like-minded friend. You can keep your games.


                  Clement Atlee, the father of the British Welfare State said that he read the front page of the newspaper to get an insight into human failure…and the back pages to understand human triumph.

                  But presumably he had his priorities wrong as well…


                  Simply arguing for balance, John. You can’t be an ascetic, I don’t believe they drink. Enjoy your afternoon and your beer.

            • I paid as much attention to the by-election as I did to the game…and more to more pressing family things this weekend. Enjoying sport is no more or less laudable than enjoying politics, John. It’s about balance, interest and damned good fun – wherever you find them.

    • I’ll add my support so the minority can climb by another ‘1’ ! lol

      • 9.2.1

        Are we part of a silent majority?
        Speak up?

        • No, you are just a Puritan kill-joy with a distorted perspective, angry at life and the world because it doesn’t revolve around you and your allegedly important “priorities”.

          Don’t like the answer? Don’t ask the question.


            My goodness! Something or someone has tweaked your chain or did you get out of bed the wrong side?
            Still, your comment gave me a laugh.
            By the way, I enjoyed the aforementioned puritanical beer and chat at my favourite watering hole yesterday.


              Sport should only be seen as an entertainment and not be taken so seriously. Some of us know that one horse can run faster than another and don’t wish to see it proven time and time again. I’ll just stick with the beer to justify being a typical Kiwi. lol



              There is hope for you yet, and my estimation of you has improved ten fold.

              Now as Nell implied, kindly give the rest of us the benefit of the doubt that we can walk and chew gum when it comes to prioritising the important things in life…and the occasionally necessary and amusing distractions.

  10. Have you ever thought that the respective behavioural — sportsman/unsportsman — conduct, might be the crucial point of difference between NZ and Australia cricket?

    The Aussies ask for no quarter and neither to they give any. They play to win. No point being Mr. Nice Guy if you’re always coming second.

    True sporting achievements are predicated on winning; it’s not about being “nice” and sportsman-like. We aspire — and are inspired — by the former, not the latter.

    Last night’s endeavours by the Black Caps were pretty miserable, bordering on ignoble.

    • You see “playing to win” and “being a nice guy” as somehow incompatible. Similarly you don’t think we can be inspired by sportsmanlike behaviour. That strikes me as extraordinary cynicism. Finally, “ignoble” seems to me to have no relevant application to a “miserable” performance, though I agree that that is what it was.

      • The collective “miserable” performances with the exception of Elliott and the maddeningly plodding Taylor — who was batting like he was trying to save a Test match on the last session of play on the 5th day — aggregates to something approaching “ignoble”. I mean, the last 7 wickets produced an abject 35 runs or so. Hardly an act of valour or guttsing it out before 92,000 spectators, who paid good money to see the match effectively over after one-innings. And here we are, lauding our returning players as if they were conquerors. It’s no wonder we, as a nation, are so easily accepting of defeat when we equate being runners-up to an actual win, ergo AC Team NZ on their return home.

  11. Brad Haddin may be one of the World Champs for the next four years but he will be a dickhead for life.

  12. 12

    The only Black Cap who really made me proud last weekend was Jesse Ryder.

  13. They’re a weird mob, as Nino Culotta/John O’Grady once wrote.

  14. We lost – get over it.

    • As my old mum said to her sister when the All Blacks lost a match:- “But someones got to lose!” So true. And the world moves on.

    • 14.2

      No. “We” didn’t lose. A cricket team consisting of New Zealand players lost.

      • 14.2.1

        Sorry. Replied to wrong comment.

      • Umm. Wasn’t the opposition to the 1981 Springbok tour primarily because a group of people, many not directly involved with rugby, decided that they were part of the collective “WE” that should not be associating with apartheid?

        Just saying…

    • 14.3

      No. “We” didn’t lose. A cricket team consisting of New Zealand players lost.

  15. You’ve surprise me BE. You really have. I’d really not expected to see such an over emotional and abusive rant from you. I guess even a wise old head can be swayed by popular media.

    You make the beginners mistake of generalising. And, in your anger, you have allowed inaccuracies to slip by. For example, I do not believe Pat Cummins, who would have been on as substitute fielder, can be seen sneering or laughing at Elliot, at least not in the picture you have furnished. While the “but that would be racist” routine should be well beneath you, BE.

    There is no doubt Haddin’s conduct was unacceptable, but I have to say I do believe he has a point. I too was becoming a little uncomfortable with this sickly sweet sugary treacle routine the blackcaps have been putting on lately. This running half way across the field to shake a departing opponents hand in the middle of the game has elements of ‘show’ to it.

    I can well remember a game against the then very lowly ranked Bangladesh team, or the “Bangles” as they are affectionately known. Then captain Dan Vettori was bowling to one of the Bangles batters. Like most of his team, the Bangles player was not a big man. Vettori towered over him, as he did the other Bangles players. A number of times Vettori would use this size imbalance in an intimidatory fashion.

    Anyway, the Bangles batter attempted some sort of extravagant reverse sweep, or something of that nature, and was bowled. The keeper, McCullum, then did something very similar to what Haddin did in this game, worse in fact. He cackled right in the face of the batter, literally inches away. Obviously McCullum has moved on since then. It just seems to me that this super nice guy routine the blackcaps have adopted is a little over the top, put on almost. The media have sure lapped it up though!

    • Gosh Dean, your capacity to be condescending and superior never ceases to amaze me. But, to be fair, you are at least consistent. Cheers. Brian

  16. I don’t know much about cricket, but I do know creeps when I see them.
    Unfortunately, sport today seems more and more full of creeps.

  17. 17

    Obviously Haddin is a prat. Either he will grow up or reap what he sows in his life after cricket without our help.

  18. Haddin certainly is a prat. The ultimate condemnation of Australian sledging at cricket – and they do far more of it than any other team – is the repudiation of it by former Australian cricket greats like Neil Harvey and Alan Davidson. Their teams won matches without resorting to such tactics. The Aussie columnist Peter has in his humorous way commented on the recent infantile dribble falling from the mouths of Haddin and Warne.

    Sledging in earnest started in the Ian Chappell days. Australian teams are good enough to win without resorting to it, and they have no excuses whatever to justify it.

    The irritable disappointment of some NZ fans at the result in the final is simply a failure to recognise that New Zealand exceeded expectations by getting that far – with a mixture of pluck, skill and luck. Winning the last game was one challenge too many. NZ’s only remote chance of winning would have been in a scenario where Australia and South Africa met in a semi-final, making NZ’s task a little easier, especially if the opponent were South Africa.

  19. *Peter Fitzsimons*

  20. Lack of sportsmanship is merely a reflection on modern living; lack of courtesy and politeness, boorishness. One does not have to walk around a NZ city for long to find plenty of Brad Haddins. I suspect a lot of them are in cafes frequented by BE talking in loud voices to enable the entire suburb to hear their opinions. That is just an urban form of sledging!

  21. A bit late, but even some Aussies are uncomfortable:

    Enjoyed the debate here, good fun!

    Even the sledging bits.