Australian TV to league rescue

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 October, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 24 October, 1994, 12:00am

YOU have to give it to those Australians. They're great sports. A week ago there was no sign of any television outlet in Hong Kong carrying the Ashes rugby league Tests live.

Then over the hill like the seventh cavalry came Australia Television, available on satellite here, with a package of live coverage for all three matches - expected to be another series win by the Kangaroos.

The first match was on Saturday night at Wembley in London, and the remaining two will be at Old Trafford and Elland Road on Saturday, November 5, and Sunday, November 20, respectively.

That's what you call saving the day. This unofficial world championship means a lot to expats - Aussies and Brits (or northern ones anyway) alike.

But the Aussies among us must have had mixed feelings on Saturday night when instead of celebrating the anticipated drubbing of the Lions they had to swallow their pride as the underdog Brits won the first tight encounter 8-4 to give Ellery Hanley a happy baptism as coach.

The Aussies were, by general consensus, strong pre-match favourites, especially after their demolition of England's supreme club side Wigan two weeks back. But the tourists couldn't make superior possession tell against a home side reduced to 12 men.

Don't despair Australia TV. I'm sure it's just a ploy by Mal Meninga's men to make the next two Tests a bit more interesting. IT'S ironic, but timely, that when North American baseball went out on strike and sabotaged the World Series for the first time since 1904, PBS television in the US was about to screen an epic documentary series on the history of the sport. Shown in nine parts (like nine innings, geddit?) the show, entitled simply Baseball is 181/2 hours long and is directed by celebrated documentarist Ken Burns.

Unfortunately, we probably won't get to see it here in the near future. But by all accounts, one of the best episodes is the one dealing with race, the Negro Leagues and integration.

By coincidence last Monday cable channel ESPN International screened a very interesting baseball documentary, unconnected with Baseball, called A League Second to None - in the programme slot left vacant by the called-off World Series.

The show was fascinating, comprising mostly talking heads of people - both black and white - who'd lived and played through the period of transition. Of course there was testimony to Jackie Robinson, who in 1947 became the first black man to play in the Major Leagues.

Interestingly, though, several of Robinson's contemporaries pointed out that he wasn't the best black player of his generation, but he was the one with the best character for dealing with the torrents of abuse and vitriol that inevitably greeted his appearance.

And even more curiously, several of the black players claimed the breakthrough saddened them because it was the death knell for the Negro Leagues.

If the Baseball series is anything as good as this, let's hope a Hong Kong channel picks it up. WELL, what a goal it was. I didn't see Manchester United's Champions' League match with Barcelona on the night it happened so I missed the live thrill of that ingenious flick by Lee Sharpe. But luckily ESPN International repeated the highlights from all the Champions' League matches several times later in the week. Is Sharpe the new Ryan Giggs? If so, that raises an interesting question. Sharpe was hailed as the new George Best before injury and a form slump. Then Giggs was hailed as the new George Best, but now he's in the doldrums. So the question is? If Sharpe is the new Giggs, who will be the new Lee Sharpe? George Best, maybe? Only a few petty gripes about this show, mainly centring on commentary lapses. First of all, George Weah of Paris St Germain, was referred to as Libyan instead of Liberian. Then Anderlecht's Josip Weber scored a cracker against Hajduk Split yet no mention was made of his being a Croatian-born naturalised Belgian scoring against the champions of his home country and his former club. Oh, and then there was Jose Maria Bakero's goal against Manchester United at which the commentary said 'Peter Schmeichel couldn't get a hand to that'.

Yet the big Dane clearly made strong contact with the ball, although he couldn't stop it. ACE service. Top marks to TVB Pearl for their live action coverage of the Marlboro Championships from Victoria Park over the weekend, comprising the semi-finals and final.