Penrith's star players leaving in droves

If nothing else, Penrith Panthers coach Ivan Cleary is a man of strong character.

You’d have to be to do what he’s done at Penrith and carry the at-least short-term disapproval.

Michael Gordon gone, Luke Lewis going, Lachlan Coote wanting out and Michael Jennings’ staying-or-going status changing from week to week.

Add Wade Graham pushed out to Cronulla before Cleary arrived.

That’s almost all of Penrith’s on-paper major talent and star drawing power gone, with no comparable names to replace them.

No less a judge than Peter Sterling had Gordon as his NSW Origin State-of-Origin fullback last year before Gordon suffered his season-ending injury.

The luckless Gordon has missed this season, too, so Penrith’s allowing him to go is defensible.

It is problematic whether Gordon can be the player he was after almost two seasons out through injury.

But the others?

Cleary and general manager Phil Gould are staking everything on their almost-literal five-year plan to rebuild from the Centrebet Stadium grass up being successful, and are asking for a lot of faith from Panther fans.

Those fans won’t be assuaged by the Panthers leading the Toyota Cup and the Windsor Wolves the NSW Cup.

It’s a long wait for the next crop of Greg Alexanders, Craig Gowers, Mark Geyers and John Cartwrights to mature, if indeed they are on the horizon.

In the interim, the Panthers will battle to avoid the wooden spoon this season, and will battle to do a whole lot better next season, with no major signings to help.

There was a New Zealand media campaign for Cleary to get the chop from the Warriors early last season.

Cleary stuck by what he thought was right and got the Warriors to the grand final.

Gould-Cleary have a plan almost without equal in the modern NRL and it requires patience and resolve through the continuing bad times, and there is little patience with failure in the modern professional game.

Should Cleary succeed, he’ll be a saviour.

If not, he’s unlikely to get another major coaching job.

He can look on the bright side.

Rabid Eels fans have more than asked for coach Steve Kearney’s head; they’ve called for protests outside Parramatta Leagues Club and of taking up a collection to pay him out.

Well, to rabid fans it might be the greatest game of all, but it’s only a game.

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The Olympic Games has long ceased to be about games.

It’s about gold medals for the best opening and closing ceremonies, so the host can say ‘‘best games ever’’.

The stuff in between is just filler.

London’s medal chances are not reassuring, not when Nick Buckles, the head of the appointed private security firm G4S, admits security has been ‘‘a humiliating shambles’’.

At least there’ll be the entertaining contributions of London mayor Boris Johnson, a polymath and prodigious intellect who hides it all behind a manufactured persona of tousle-haired, dishevelled eccentricity — a rough equivalent to a John Singleton.

Britain knows how to put on a show — look no further than royal pageantry.

If this one turns out a shambles then there is the fond hope the Games might return to what they once were.

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‘‘Aussie, Aussie, Aussie; oi,oi, oi.’’

That ain't Australian, and the Pommy reaction will be interesting if expats and visitors pull that nonsense at the Olympics.

The chant was first heard at the Youth Olympics in Homebush in 1996, when a group of Queensland competitors responded to some good-natured Kiwi jibes with it.

The thought was ‘‘How sad. Is that the best they can do?’’

The great glory of the Australian language had always been the imaginative use of colloquialisms.

They’d taken an English chant ‘‘‘oi, oi, oi’’ - foreign to the Australian ear and traditional speech and heard in Britain years before - and employed a phrase whose whole rhythm and pace was unAustralian.

Then it became a national chant during the Sydney Olympics.

The horror, the horror.

Right then you knew the joint was cattle-trucked.

Hope springs eternal, however.

If the Poms take the piss when hearing the phrase — as they presumably will — then perhaps there’ll be something in the Aussie gene pool that will build on the heritage discarded.

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‘‘I am boxing’s best-kept secret..’’

So said Anthony Mundine after stopping Bronco McKart in seven rounds in Las Vegas.

This was an odd thing to say, when Mundine had previously proclaimed himself the greatest legend in Australian boxing history.

Contradictory, since the exploits of Les Darcy, Jimmy Carruthers, Lionel Rose and Johnny Famechon weren’t entirely a secret to overseas boxing aficionados.

Carruthers, Rose and Famechon won genuine world titles overseas when there weren’t 57 different versions, of course.

Mundine, the self-styled The Man, had previously said the world was aware of The Man’s talents.

Odd that when overseas boxing writers discuss the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, Mundine is never mentioned in any division.

As respected boxing commentator Grantlee Kieza has noted, if Mundine ever had the talent to match Carruthers, Rose, Famechon and others, he has left it a decade too late to find out.

He has instead chosen to be a celebrity and caricature.

Mundine was born a gifted sportsman with wonderful hand-eye co-ordination, and the courage of anyone who steps in a boxing ring is unquestioned.

But despite his gifts, his defects first made Mundine a brilliant footballer without being a good one, before he switched to boxing.

The chief defect is that a delusional Mundine wants to be the centre of the universe when he’s been a 10th-rate version of his hero, Muhammad Ali.

He might have once been the centre in the ring; plenty of experts have acknowledged his talent.

Might have been.

Comments like his post 9-11 rant can’t be seen as offensive; that’s just Mundine’s inane Mundining.

He’s got his celebrity, he’s got his health, he’s made lots of money.

But he’s also got old legs. Boxing history has a message for him, as it has had for countless others.

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