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Every instinct as a journalist tells me not to publish this. For two reasons: 1. Because you should never be the story. 2. Because it’s nobody’s business.

But with the encouragement of a couple of friends, I’m going against my better judgement. Because the question was posed as to whether the 16-year-old me would be better off for reading this? The answer is undoubtably ‘yes’.

So it’s with great trepidation and fear that I press “publish post”. But if it helps anyone out there, then it’s worthwhile. And it will be the last time I write about it. Here’s a letter to my parents, penned last month. 

Dear Mum & Dad,

I’m sorry this won’t be a face-to-face conversation, but to tell you the truth I’ve never been more anxious or nervous in my life.

After the reactions in the past months, I wish I’d said this to you 10 years ago, but I’m not sure that would have been wise or even possible really.

I have no idea how you’d react, and if you can, please understand that this is incredibly tough for me, so I felt this was the only way.

So here goes. I am gay.

I’m 32 this month, I’ve pretty much known I’ve been gay for 16 of them and spent a great deal of those years trying to pretend I wasn’t. It’s taken a huge toll.

I’ve been totally frightened to death. I cannot tell you the depths of lows I’ve gone through, and how scared I am I’d lose my friends and/or family, who I love so much.

I’ve been ashamed, confused, you name it. Most of the time I’ve hated the person I am, depressed and horrified that I’ll never be accepted and keep living a lie for my entire life.

But this was life as I knew it. Since my mates have helped me through this during the past few months – life has never been better.

My weight-loss (60kg in 8 months) isn’t because of diabetes – well not really – it’s because for the first time in my life I feel I can be proud of who I am. I can love and be loved in return by my friends and my family.

I’ve been overwhelmed by the love and support from those I’ve chosen to tell. All my friendships are stronger for it and I’ve never felt more respected and respectful of myself.

I’m not sure what you’re feeling right now. I know you’re probably going to be upset… perhaps disappointed. All I ask of you is that you’re not ashamed.

It’s taken me a long time to come to grips with this – it was by no means a choice. But I’ve gone down just about the hardest route possible.

Sports journalism has been an incredibly macho environment.  I mean could you imagine me being gay and a sports reporter in Shepparton? I’d have been run out of town. Or at the very least be ostracised.

But what I know now is that it is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s life. It’s what happens. I didn’t choose it… it is who I am. And some of the greatest, most talented, cleverest, gifted and brilliant people in history have happened to be gay. It does not – and should not – define a person.

It’s affected every area of my life, my confidence, my self-belief, obviously my weight, and I’ve probably kept good friends at arms length because I’m frightened to get too close to people and that it will come up. It’s been incredibly tough.

During this whole process I’ve feared losing every friend I’ve had. Every email sent was terrifying. I didn’t know how any of them would respond.

I feared that none of them would ever talk to me again. But I’ve now got a folder of the most wonderful, kind and supportive notes from my favourite people in the world.

I’ve not had one negative response out of almost 20.

I’ve been so fragile about it and at times – probably from age 21-26 – it would been easier to end it all.

It’s been a long road, but if I’m going to get out of the living hell I have been in, I needed to share this. I haven’t and I’ll never regret it.

So what does this change? Nothing. I am who I have always been. Only I’m happier.

If I’ve been hard to get close to, hard to communicate with, hard to befriend over the years… well this has contributed to it.

I don’t know how this will go down with you. You might hate me. You may disown me. That’s my biggest fear… but keeping it a secret and bottled up inside just wasn’t an option for me anymore. I can’t do it.

I have wasted too much of my life. It’s such a precious commodity and I need to get busy living.

You are my parents, I love you so much, I admire and respect you and that will never change. I am who I am – for better or for worse – because of you.

Take your time to respond. Understand it’s still hard for me to talk about it. But know I have a brilliant and amazing support network that has seen me through this far.

Lots of love,

Rob

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Big business: Connolly the president celebrates the Goulburn Valley’s 1995 interleague title.

Barry Connolly sat reluctantly in the living room of his Shepparton home in the week before this past Christmas.

He wasn’t one to sit down if he didn’t have to. He was too much of a social animal. But his health was waning, his eyesight shot and with one ear on the television, he did his best to keep up with the revolving door of family and friends who popped in for a cuppa.

A visitor, recently returned from the UK, had dropped by to say hello. They talked of times past, inquired of each other’s health and swapped stories of mutual friends.

Before the visitor left Connolly reached into his wallet and drew a crisp $100 note.

“I can’t take that Barry, no way, put it back in your wallet,” the man said.

“Buy a ticket in the lotto this weekend,” Connolly replied. “If you win, you can take me to Wimbledon next year. We’ll sit on centre court, it’s a magical place.”

Connolly was, if nothing else, a dreamer. He was a man who could turn anguish into opportunity and never stopped thinking about possibilities.

He knew even with the $30 million jackpot, he couldn’t fly halfway around the world. Neither his doctor nor his loved ones would let him. But they couldn’t stop him dreaming.

Red Smith, a great American sports writer, once said at the funeral of a sporting friend: “Dying is no big deal. The least of us will manage that. Living is the trick.”

Connolly lived a life to be envied. Surrounded by love, filled with friendship, full of football and lined with success.

He wasn’t a paragon, nor a saint. As a God-fearing man, he would object to that label. It could only be given to his wife of half a century, Monica, who “chased him for years”; he’d tell anyone willing to listen.

The community is worse off for his departure. It’s like the sun has forever gone behind a dark cloud.

For all his success as a businessman, a father and in football, it was his charm, cheekiness and charisma that made him – those traits and his strong sense of justice, compassion and loyalty.

He could make a tramp feel like a prince and a king feel like a beggar. He could lift the helpless onto their feet and convince them the stars were the limit. Equally he could knock the confidence out of anyone who he’d thought had got ahead of themselves.

It was the old boxer in him – the street fighter who wore the underdog tag with pride. It led to some almighty rows but most were eventually patched up. He could be as stubborn as he could be kind, but he would never turn from a friend in their hour of need.

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Bulldog fight: Connolly with Footscray teammate and 1960 Brownlow medallist John Schultz

Listing Connolly’s resume tells only half the tale of his 72 years – more than 50 of them involved in football as a schoolboy star, as a courageous centreman with VFL club Footscray and as a champion of the bush at Benalla, Ardlethan, Shepparton United, Waaia and Nathalia.

More importantly to Connolly, his son Chris would follow in his footsteps as a VFL player and become an AFL coach.. His younger son Shane was a talented basketballer, inherited his dad’s sense of “a fair go” and became a police officer. His daughters, Jenny and Jo, were outstanding servants of football clubs in their own right, as netballers and as unflagging supporters of their husbands – Morrison medalists Peter Foott and Stephen Ash.

They all gave him grandchildren who filled his life with joy.

When he debuted as a 15-year-old in the Ovens and Murray league he was the youngest man to play senior football. Around the same time he helped establish a Benalla junior football competition.

He coached Nathalia and mentored a young Francis Bourke. Bourke developed into a great of the game.

Connolly became, as one scribe put it, the most dynamic president country football had seen when he took charge of Shepparton United. It would become the first club to win every grade on grand final day. Three years later, with the club broke; he’d take the coaching reins himself.

He led the Goulburn Valley Football League as chairman for 16 years, through an age of amateurism to its status as a powerhouse.

These things are well documented; less known are his deeds as a man.

Only those who were on the receiving end will ever know his many acts of generosity – the widows who were given money for bills or overdue rent or the young footballers that were gifted new pairs of boots.

Young men who saw coach Connolly as a father figure would turn to him if their lives had taken a turn for the worse – even those who felt wronged by him in the past. Even 30 years after he coached at under-18 level, ex-players wrote to tell him of his influence on their success in life.

His family joked that their home was a halfway house. Many were brought in for meals, for a bed or just for a cup of tea.

Until the end he had more concern for friends – some who had lost their wives or husbands – than for himself. He’d take them out for lunch, drive them to and from appointments or just check on their welfare. Those who loved him would become frustrated with his disregard for his health, namely diabetes, but they knew this was his style.

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Mr Football: Fresh-faced Connolly with his idol and mentor E.J “Ted” Whitten.

At times Connolly’s network of friends seemed too good to be true. He met Queen Elizabeth, was a sparring partner to Olympic boxer Max Carlos and could count Brownlow medalists John Schultz, Bob Skilton and Kevin Murray and premiership coaches Kevin Sheedy, Tom Hafey and Ron Barassi among his mates.

The most outrageous of his connections was with Hollywood actor Richard Burton, who he once befriended in the lift of a European hotel. Burton, the one-time husband of Elizabeth Taylor, shouted him lunch. He said he felt Burton appreciated the fact he was treated as “just another man on holiday”. It could only happen to Connolly.

“BC” had a common touch, whether it was offering his reserved seat at the footy to a stranger, or inviting a lonely bystander into an official function.

With a ruddy-nosed face full of mischief, only studious onlookers could detect his routine.

He’d grab two cups of tea and the first person he would run into he’d offer it up.

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Legends: Connolly and Tom Carey, two of Shepparton United greatest players and country footballs biggest personalities.

“Here, I got this for you,” he’d say.

To an unsuspecting person it was a random act of kindness.

When he’d come across someone whose name he’d forgotten, he’d grab the closest person nearby and say: “Have you guys met each other?” knowing full well they’d introduce themselves and he’d be reminded of their name.

On the odd occasion he was called on this, he’d laugh it off with an infectious giggle and change the topic. His humour was as legendary as his deeds on the football field.

As coach of Waaia, he inherited a team made mostly of farmers and he grew frustrated with them not training – their excuse was milking duties.

His lateral thinking came to the fore and he called compulsory lunchtime training sessions. Any hurdle could be overcome.

As a real estate agent, he’d show someone through a house and after walking past the bathroom, he’d turn and say: “Did you see the monkey in the window back there?”

The bemused house-hunter would turn around to see their reflection in the mirror. It never grew old.

Perhaps his kind heart stemmed from an accident that nearly took his life in 1965.

Connolly, then a tiler and plasterer by trade, was working in a NSW Riverina tin mine near 10 or so barrels of sulphuric acid when one of them exploded and burnt him extensively.

John Kelly, an Ardlethan teammate and father of Brownlow medalist Paul Kelly, was among those who dragged Connolly to the showers to wash off as much of acid as possible. He spent six weeks recovering in Temora hospital.

It was an act which Connolly – who became lifelong friends with the Kellys – spent the rest of his life passing on to those who needed it most. He did it with humility and dignity.

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Showman: Connolly presented the premiership cup at the 1998 GVL grand final.

His father figure was the legendary EJ “Teddy” Whitten, who “took him under his wing” when he was a youngster at Footscray in the 1950s. The bronze statue of “Mr Football” outside the old Western Oval bears the name of the sponsors who helped contribute to its construction. Only one of Whitten’s former teammates’ names is on the statue. No prizes for guessing.

He continued with his love of travel until late in life and visited the Holy Land and parts of the Middle East including Jerusalem and Mt Sinai. He kept meticulous scrapbooks of his pilgrimages.

Despite his financial security and urging from family and friends to retire, it was not until recent years he did so. His health deteriorated not long after.

Countless more stories can be recalled by the many who have crossed paths with Connolly during their lives – through football, family, community and the church. All will consist of a common theme – the world is a better place for having Barry Connolly.

He leaves an indelible mark, for his is a life to remember.

Originally published in Shepparton News, Saturday, May 7, 2011

After Shepparton United’s come-from-behind win in a 2006 Victorian county football final, Peter Tossol – coach of a rival club Mansfield – made what then seemed a bold judgement.

Tossol, never one for populist hype, was a spectator in the grandstand and quizzed a reporter on what he’d thought of 18-year-old Michael Barlow’s contribution.

“He was good wasn’t he?” the reporter replied. “He’s a good player.”

“He’s not a good player,” Tossol fired back. “He’s a gun.”

This was high praise from a man who knew his stuff. But those comments, had they found their way to print, would have raised an eyebrow or two.

No surprise there. Barlow didn’t boast the 189cm, 92kg frame he does now. He was a lanky, underdeveloped, mopped-haired boy with a running style of a wounded duck.

Michael Barlow on debut

It was another year before the remainder of the Goulburn Valley’s football community could see where Tossol was coming from.

By then Barlow, 19, was an elite midfielder in a strong competition. He finished two votes shy of Mansfield’s Trent Hotton for the league’s Morrison Medal.

Tossol, who played with Melbourne in the 1980s and is one of country football’s sharpest minds, then said Barlow was “one of those very rare players who has the God-given ability to read the play so much better and quicker than anyone else” and labelled him “the best young player I have seen in years”.

If only others then had shared Tossol’s faith in Barlow, the AFL community might not be heralding the 22-year-old’s debut an “overnight sensation”.

In the weeks since his first NAB Cup appearance for Fremantle, a flurry of emails and text messages between his ex-Shepparton United clubmates discussing his progress have held one overwhelming sentiment: “Surely you didn’t doubt him?”

His pre-season form, coupled with Sunday’s 33-possession, two-goal debut against Adelaide, only affirmed what those who had followed his progression knew – the kid has what it takes.

Unlike the impression he gives when gathering the ball, Barlow, a product of that famous football factory Assumption College, Kilmore, did not find the journey to the top as easy.

In his case, the showbiz saying “it takes many years of hard work to be an overnight sensation” rings true.

He was overlooked for TAC Cup club Murray Bushrangers at 16 and 17, during his best-and-fairest-winning season at senior level he was bypassed by Victoria Country selectors, then was ignored after a St Kilda pre-season invitation when coach Ross Lyon reached out to a retired forward Fraser Gehrig.

A rookie list position also went begging.

A move to VFL club Werribee and selection in the VFL team of the year again raised hopes – with the Tigers being North Melbourne’s feeder club.

Again his dreams were dashed.

Barlow, then three years into a four-year degree in town planning at the University of Melbourne, was considering a return to country football on completion of his studies.

It took a second VFL season, another team of the year selection, a club best-and-fairest and a runner-up in the JJ Liston Trophy to get noticed.

Draft day went by and again no luck. Whispers of Essendon came and went. A lesser character might have sulked or thrown in the towel. But Barlow was now aware that football, like life, isn’t always fair.

A month later, just shy of his 22nd birthday, Fremantle threw an unlikely rookie draft lifeline.

“He looked like he’d played 100 games,” one of Barlow’s former coaches said after watching his 27-possession game against Melbourne in the pre-season.

Two equally impressive efforts followed, as did promotion to the senior list.

And that same poise, style, grace, endurance and insatiable appetite for the ball was no doubt what many watching at the weekend saw. Maybe some Melbourne clubs will regret not taking the punt Fremantle did.

Barlow’s experience ought to aid him in his pursuits. A solid family upbringing (he’s the middle of five siblings, two older brothers and a younger brother and sister) will always keep him grounded.

His mother Jenny was herself an elite level netballer in Victoria and the UK. His father, Herb, is a dentist.

The whole family watched from the Subiaco stands on Sunday having travelled from Victoria and South Australia.

The AFL media has gone into overdrive with phrases like “best debut in memory” and “meteoric rise”.

But if anyone had bothered to ask those who’d long believed in Mick Barlow, they wouldn’t be surprised at all.

Published by Fairfax Media, March 29, 2010

Cameron White

THEY say regional Victoria is either in flood or drought – with, naturally, a fire in between.

That’s pretty much life outside Melbourne and those who last on the land learn to deal with it.

Cricket came to Gippsland, a fertile farming and later mining region east of Melbourne, in the 1840s with Angus McMillan and his men.

Although it was doubtful McMillan, a Scot with an upbringing of hardship and deprivation, had the disposition for the sport of gentlemen.

Since then from Nar Nar Goon to Mallacoota, Briagolong to Yarram and everywhere in between, has enjoyed 150 years of amateur – but highly competitive – cricket.

Cameron White, out of Wy Yung, broke the long drought in October 2008 when he became the first Gippsland cricket product to wear a Baggy Green. The floods came next Test when Peter Siddle – White’s younger Victorian team-mate – became the second Gippslander in more than a century to take the field for his country in a Test match.

Both debuted against India in India and both snared Sachin Tendulkar – the man with the most runs in international cricket – with their first wickets.

White and Siddle, from Latrobe Cricket Club in Morwell, had traveled the well-worn path from up the Princes Freeway to Melbourne club cricket then first-class honours for their state.

They weren’t the first Gippslanders to do it, all-rounder Ian Harvey (Wonthaggi), batsman Bob Baldry (Warragul) and bowler Ian Wigglesworth (Bundalaguah) were just some who’d done it before them.

While Siddle has formed an integral part of the Australian attack in the longer form of the game, White has blossomed into a fine leader of men and one of the best middle-order batsmen in one-day and Twenty20 cricket.

Travis Birt

Travis Birt – this week picked in Australia’s Twenty20 squad to play Pakistan – could easily be a forgotten Gippslander. He flew the coop early after Tasmania recognised his talent and lured him to the Apple Isle as a teenager. At 28 he’s taken a little longer to mature, but the punishing left-hand batsman has earned his selection.

In his second summer of first-class cricket, 2005/6, he scored 850 at 50 and earned a place for Australia A. He scored 736 runs for the Tigers in the summer as the state won its first Sheffield Shield title a year later.

He virtually single-handedly delivered a one-day domestic title for Tasmania two summers ago with a brilliant knock chasing the Bushrangers total in a rain-affected match at Bellerive Oval. His innings signaled a return to top form after he’d spent some time back with his club South Hobart/Sandy Bay.

A star against adults in his early teens, he was, along with White and Lake Entrance’s Michael Allen, the dominant schoolboy cricketer of his time in Gippsland.

I know this first hand as I played against them.

From the tiny hamlet of Bundalaguah, near Sale, Birt always seemed destined for greatness.

While he hasn’t earned higher honour so far in his career, Brad Knowles (Morwell Tigers/Yinnar Raiders) is the fourth Gippslander on the first-class scene presently, having started his career with White at Victoria before he was last summer wooed to Western Australia.

Knowles, like Birt, has embraced his new state and while he is the oldest of the four, he has proved he has plenty of top-level cricket in him.

Knowles, Birt, White all played regular representative cricket against each other as teenagers but it was Allen, a year or so older that that trio, who was tipped to beat them all to first-class glory.

He played in Victorian youth teams for four successive years – captaining the under 17 team – and enjoyed success with Northcote and later Carlton in Premier cricket. But despite an outstanding year in 2005/06 where he tied for the Jack Ryder Medal, the other three have surpassed him.

Siddle, the youngest of the lot at 25 and with 17 Test appearances to his name, appears destined for the most fulfilled international career.

But while this time will one day be regarded as the golden era of Gippsland cricket, it is perhaps fitting to mention just why White is known as the first Gippsland cricket product to wear a Baggy Green, and not the first born in Gippsland.

William “Barlow” Carkeek can lay that claim. Born in the gold mining town of Walhalla on October 17, 1878, Carkeek, a blacksmith by trade, was a genuine renaissance man.

William “Barlow” Carkeek

Little is known about his junior cricket, but according to records he grew up in Richmond before becoming a wicketkeeper/batsman for Victoria. Described as “sound, but not brilliant” he toured England with the Australians in 1909 as a back-up keeper behind Sammy Carter.

Tensions between the players and the Board of Control that had simmered since 1909 came to a head in 1911-12 with the ‘Big Six’, Victor Trumper, Clem Hill, Warwick Armstrong, Vernon Ransford, ‘Tibby’ Cotter and ‘Sammy’ Carter declining invitations to tour England in 1912.

Carkeek replaced Carter and played all six Tests – three against England and three against South Africa.

Carkeek was one of three players named in the Tour manager’s report to the Board and the Board appointed a sub-committee to investigate the allegations. Ultimately the sub-committee found that the players had no case to answer and that any misbehaviour was outside the Board’s jurisdiction.

He made a name for himself as an Australian rules footballer for VFL club Essendon and then in the VFA with Richmond.

A relative of “Barlow’s” once told me the story how his great-great uncle was renowned as a hopeless drunk and that his heavy drinking affected his sport and, in the end, his personal life. In fact, many of his 95 first-class matches for the Vics were affected by booze. He’d drink during the game and often go out to bat under the influence.

Carkeek was killed when he was struck by a car in on Nepean Highway in East Brighton or Point Nepean Rd as it was known as in 1937. He died later at the Alfred Hospital in Prahran.

He had been attending a junior cricket match and despite his alcoholism was involved in umpiring junior matches such was his love for the game.

Ian Harvey hailed from Wonthaggi and holds the record for the most one-day internationals for Australia (73) without playing a Test match, so too Shield winning captain and skilful gloveman Darren Berry. But Morris Sievers, born in Powlett River in South Gippsland, can also lay claim to being an early trail-blazer. Like Carkeek he left the country for the city while still at school and played three Test matches for Australia in 1936/37 – England’s return series Down Under after the infamous Bodyline four years earlier.

He died of a heart attack in 1968 at the age of 56 and his Wisden obituary reads:

He played as a fast-medium bowler and useful batsman for Victoria from 1934 to 1941. He took 92 wickets for the State at a cost of 35.81 runs each and hit 1,540 runs, average 28.00. In 1936-37 he played in three Test matches for Australia against G. O [Gubby] Allen’s England side, heading his country’s averages with nine wickets for 17.88 runs apiece. He achieved his best performance in his third Test when, on a glue-pot pitch at Melbourne, he dismissed five batsmen for 21 runs in the first innings. Australia won the game by 365 runs and as they also triumphed in the next two Tests, retained The Ashes after losing the first two fixtures of the series.

A handful of cricketers have gone on from Gippsland to represent their state since and from “Barlow” to Birt, Gippsland’s cricket history is much like life on its land – it’s either a flood or a drought.

Fred Perry

FRED Perry to most of England, or indeed Britain, is a cool, hip and trendy sporting brand. Akin to Ralph Lauren, Lacoste or Diesel, it’s 58 years old, was for a long time not fashionable, but like many cultural icons has found its way back to the fore.

I walk past a Fred Perry store most days. This morning I took special notice of it and wondered what the man the now-Japanese clothing company is named after, would be thinking now.

Perry, as most sports fans would know, is the last Englishman to win a Grand Slam title – 74 long and painful years ago for a nation which can lay claim to be the home of tennis.

A controversial figure in the sport, who once described himself as a “rebel from the wrong side of the tramlines”, Perry won at Wimbledon in 1934, ’35 and ’36. Aside from that he won three US Championships and the French and Australian titles once each, and led Britain to victory in the Davis Cups of 1933, ’34, ’35 and 1936.

He was the last British male tennis superstar, a dominant force long before the open era. He fell out with the sport’s authorities and turned pro – reportedly out of spite – the year after winning the Grand Slam (all four major titles in a year).

It’s hard to know what the media and the British sports-loving public would have made of Perry had he been a player in modern times.

He was a rebellious figure with a playboy lifestyle and had well-publicised romances with starlet Marlene Dietrich and actress Mary Lawson. He promised to marry Lawson but broke off the engagement to marry US film star Helen Vinson. Five years later Perry and Vinson split and the tennis champ married model Sandra Breaux the following year. He’d marry Lorraine Walsh five years later – only to separate soon after – however stayed with his fourth wife Barbara Riese, who he married in 1952, until his death in 1995.

A statue of Perry stands a Wimbledon, which was an honour the club bestowed him on the 50th anniversary of his first title win. It was seen as a peace offering from the club, but the family tension with the authorities still simmered up until recently.

Andy Murray this weekend has the unenviable task of ending Britain’s long stint in the male tennis wilderness. Co-incidentally, his rise to the top 10 in the tennis world wearing Fred Perry shirts is attributed to the iconic brand’s comeback. But the pressure to achieve what Perry did on the court has been immense.

It’s a pressure that no one has ever been able to cope with.

Andy Murray

Tim Henman was of course hailed a national icon for six grand slam semi-final appearances. Murray, at 22, made the semis at Wimbledon last year and in 2008 played Roger Federer – this weekend’s Australian Open final opponent – at the US Open.

Still while Murray is undoubtedly the best British player since Perry, he is Scottish. A fact many English don’t forget. Well, it’s not so much that he’s Scottish, it’s that Murray’s jokes about England in the past haven’t gone down too well. And early on in his career his was seen as a sook, a bad loser and somewhat of a brat.

Those who have watched him closely have seen him mature in the past 18 months and indeed, it’s easy to forget he’s just a young man. Heck, Perry was 24 before he won at Flushing Meadows and didn’t win at Wimbledon until he was 25.

Whether they come from north or south of Hadrian’s Wall or not, Murray and Perry might just be more similar than we think. We didn’t seen how Perry reacted to the press following a loss in the 1930s, and there’s no doubt he would not have been able to escape the media attention had he played in this year. What would the Brits – who pooh-pooh boorish behaviour and perceived arrogance – make of the eight-time Grand Slam winner with his reaction to every up and down in his life, on the off the court, being played and replayed endlessly on Sky TV?

A handful of people around the office – Brits mind you – admitted to me today they’d like to see Federer win, but agreed perhaps Murray has been hard done by the public and “might get a rough deal”.

Still, whether or not Murray wins in Melbourne on Sunday, Perry will remain the last Englishman to have won a grand slam, and just whether those south of Hadrian’s embrace Murray is another matter.

Taylor and Marsh at Trent Bridge

Taylor and Marsh at Trent Bridge

Hi guys. All is good here. Had a great flight out. I need not inform you how fantastic a spare seat it next to me on an airplane is. To tell you the truth I thought all my fricking Christmases had come at once.

In Leeds tonight, just got back from tea in Barnsley (about 30 miles away) with Robin Holmes and his family, for those of you who know him (an old friend from cricket days for those who don’t). Went to see a film in Sheffield afterwards.

Going to the cricket tomorrow at Headingley. It’s the first day of the last county match of the summer – Yorkshire v Hampshire. This ground has long been on my wish list of places to visit. I’ll give you three reasons. In 1930, Don Bradman scored his famous 334 here, in 1977, Geoff Boycott made his hundredth first-class hundred here and in 1981 – Ian Botham led England to the most famous of victories (better known as the £500-1 match).

Then I’ll follow that up with the bus to Manchester for a county game at Old Trafford, then perhaps on to Nottingham for a match at Trent Bridge (where Mark Taylor and Geoff Marsh famously batted for a day and put on 329 for the first wicket!) The reason I really want to go here is not so much the ground, but the pub outside it – the Larwood & Voce (named after the famous opening bowlers in the Bodyline Series of 1932-33)

Had a job interview in Bristol last week, should hear by the end of the week. It seemed positive, we’ll wait and see how things unfold.

Going to Brighton on Friday evening where mates from Traralgon (Billy Mac and Wes) are working to watch the AFL grand final – so excited about the Saints.

I cried when they won last week and I get teary just thinking about it. But I’m optimistic about the game – the best team will win and there’s no excuse. Geelong deserve a second flag to cap an amazing few years, but the Saints have been superb. And Nick Reiwoldt, who I wasn’t always a fan of, has just been getting better. So we shall see.

The Labor Party conference is also in Brighton so I might tell Gordon Brown to go and fry an egg.

From there I’m not sure France, Ireland or Spain – or maybe just a trip down to Devon and Cornwell. All depending on whether I get this job or not. If I don’t then I’ll just keep traveling for the time being – no sweat either way.