Piping hot

KELLY SLATER won the Pipeline Masters yesterday as fears mount that the global economic crisis could threaten the world tour.
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The peerless Slater consolidated his ninth world title in emphatic style by claiming the last event of the year in the most famous waves of all. He has gone the full circle. As a teenager Slater was regarded as a precocious talent unable to overcome his fear of big waves. His home break at Cocoa Beach in Florida was less than formidable and his first trip to the North Shore of Hawaii terrified him.

Then he caught one bomb in Hawaii in his mid-teens that left him sitting in the water screaming "I can do this!" and the rest is his march into history.

Slater will begin his title defence at the Quiksilver Pro on the Gold Coast from February 28 but there are concerns on tour about future sponsorships of events by Quiksilver and Billabong because of their plummeting share prices.

They picked up the bill for six of this year’s 11 events at the most prestigious locations: Snapper Rocks on the Gold Coast, Teahupoo in Tahiti, Jeffreys Bay in South Africa, Hossegor in France, Mundaka in Spain and Pipeline. But Billabong shares recently plummeted 18 per cent to $8.20 in their biggest fall since being listed eight years ago and have since dropped again.

Quiksilver’s shares had fallen below $US1 and it reacted by axing its sponsorship of two lower-level events in Australia. Quiksilver Inc has its international base in California and has been in steady decline on the New York Stock Exchange since September.

The two dumped Quiksilver events were state junior championships. Quiksilver’s female surfwear firm, Roxy, has pulled out of its backing of a World Qualifying Series contest in Victoria.

The fear is that the cost-cutting could extend to world tour events, throwing the 11-event schedule into chaos. It would be the last resort for both Billabong and Quiksilver to lessen their presence on the world tour but the bottom line will always be a determining factor. Few other surf companies could afford to stage the multimillion-dollar events.

Australia’s former world champion Mark Richards is among those who believe surfing should entice major corporations such as Nike in an effort to boost prizemoney. Slater’s cheque for winning his 40th tour final yesterday was the same as he received 18 years ago in California for his first triumph: $US30,000. On today’s conversion rates, that’s $45,000.

Slater’s dream season finished with his sixth triumph of the year and first Pipe Masters since 1999.

"It’s inexplicable," he said. "I’m just stoked. I wasn’t even worried about surfing the event, so to surf it and win and get that board [a Gerry Lopez-designed surfboard trophy] – I’ll cherish that. My season is all about nines. Winning this event nine years later, I needed a ninth in the ninth event of the year to win my ninth world title – it’s crazy."

Slater beat American Chris Ward by 14 points to 7.23 in the decider. Australia’s Joel Parkinson, one of the superstars to be denied a world title by Slater’s dominance, claimed the Triple Crown for his consistent performances at Haleiwa (fifth), Sunset Beach (fifth) and Pipeline, where he finished ninth and became only the second surfer behind Slater to post a perfect 20 heat score.

The final 2008 rankings spat out by the ASP’s computer yesterday had a top 10 of Slater, Bede Durbidge (Aust), Taj Burrow (Aust), Parkinson (Aust), CJ Hobgood (US), Adrian Buchan (Aust), Adriano de Souza (Bra), Mick Fanning (Aust), Bobby Martinez (US), Jeremy Flores (France). Gilmore and Beachley waiting for waves to pick up

HONOLUA BAY, Hawaii: Small half-metre waves forced event organisers to call another lay day at the Billabong Pro Maui women’s tournament.

Newly crowned world champion Stephanie Gilmore blitzed the field with a near-perfect 9.75 on Wednesday to secure her place in the quarter-finals. Layne Beachley, in her final tournament as a full-time pro, is also through to the quarters and leads Gilmore in the race to secure the Triple Crown title.

Beachley has drawn South African Rosanne Hodge in the quarter-finals, while Gilmore will face fellow Australian Rebecca Woods.

Event organisers will reconvene this morning (AEDT) to assess conditions.

Dartnall’s right as rain

FOR a young man who’s never been in a golfing media centre in his life, 24-year-old Stephen Dartnall is taking it all in his stride. So, too, on the course where in the 2008 Australian Open championship at Royal Sydney he has shown rare poise to leave the big names in his wake.
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And "wake" was the operative word at RS yesterday as rain tumbled down until finally the well-drained course could take no more. Play was suspended about 3pm because of flooded greens and then finally abandoned for the day at 4.45pm. With 78 players still on the course, three of them who have completed just one hole, play will resume at 6.30am today. It is hoped to start the third round by 11.45am after the cut is made.

That cut seem likely to be at one over par, which will cut a swath through some of the big names. Defending champion Craig Parry, Stuart Appleby, the resurgent Peter Senior, Nathan Green and Stephen Leaney are all two over while John Daly is five over.

By the time play was abandoned, Dartnall was back in his rented digs, warm and dry, reflecting on what has been already – with his rounds of 65-68 for an 11-under-par 36-hole total – and what lies ahead at the weekend. He’s prepared for this moment since he was a kid, and now it is upon him.

The young West Australian has a two-shot lead from Tasmanian Mathew Goggin, runner-up to Geoff Ogilvy in the Australian PGA at Coolum last Sunday, with Sydney’s Ewan Porter a further stroke back. And the calls started coming through to his mobile again just like the night before after introducing himself to Australian professional golf during the afternoon.

Former tour player Lyndsay Stephen, in his commentator’s role with tournament telecaster Channel Seven, was basking in the reflected glory as his coach of about six years.

"He had a slow start to his career, working on his swing, technique and set-up, and he is just starting to get an insight into what the pressure of golf is all about," he said. "He’s started to really blossom. He has a fantastic attitude and controls his emotions really well."

Through 36 holes, Dartnall has accumulated one eagle, 12 birdies, and just three bogeys. He had missed just five greens in regulation in two days. Throw in his pre-qualifying 10-under 62 at New Brighton on Monday and he is 21-under par for three rounds of golf. Even Tiger Woods would think that acceptable.

Can he prevent the demons of the mind, given his lofty position? "You have to put it all in perspective and think you are just out here like you trained to do," he said. "That’s what I’m trying to do."

For a three-week period in 2006, Dartnall was ranked No.1 amateur in the world by the Royal & Ancient. Golf Australia recognised his talent by arranging a practice round with Geoff Ogilvy and Adam Scott leading into the open at RS two years ago. And then Dartnall made the cut in the tournament proper.

Of what lies ahead, he said: "I feel I have been playing well, but I suppose the good thing is that I have not got everything out of the two rounds. There is still room for improvement."

Goggin reckons there is, too, saying: "It was a bit of a struggle. I didn’t hit the ball well, I didn’t feel very comfortable. I feel fortunate to have eked out a 70 the way I played and [that] I’m not too far behind going into the weekend."

But, no way was he going to the practice range yesterday afternoon to sort out his problems. And not because of Huey’s eventual success in drowning the course.

"You get a good feel [on the range] and then you go to dinner," he said. "What’s the point of that? Golfers are the only competitive sportsmen who practise after competition. I think we have it the wrong way round. Come earlier the next day and get a good feel and walk to the first tee.

"Three or four years ago, I wouldn’t have shot 70. No way. I probably would have been frustrated and made a few bogeys and fallen back on the leaderboard," he added, referring to his vastly improved temperament.

Porter was the exact opposite to Goggin. On his own admission, he came to RS after a horrible year on the Nationwide Tour. He won the co-sanctioned Moonah Classic in Melbourne in early March and then played a further 22 events for earnings of just over $US10,000 ($15,090).

"I’ve been playing dreadfully," Porter said. "To be honest, my thoughts for this week were just to play four rounds."

His support team of locals from Cronulla, including former Test opener Phil Jaques, has picked up his spirits. "But I can’t wait for this tournament to end so I can have a month’s holiday. I don’t know where I’ll go but I’m looking forward to putting the clubs in the garage, locking them up and throwing away the key for a month."

He might feel a little differently come tomorrow afternoon if he stands on the podium.

Takeover and Ryan lift again

GLOBAL champion Takeover Target farewelled Perth racing when marching off with yesterday’s AJ Scahill Stakes at Ascot.
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The Joe Janiak-trained freak might be heading back to the east coast but yesterday’s Christmas Cup winner at Rosehill, Ready To Lift, is heading west for the Perth Cup on New Year’s Eve.

"Why not? – it is a $400,000 group 2 race," Ready To Lift’s trainer, Gerald Ryan, said. "A five-year-old mare in form, flying, why not have a crack?"

Ready To Lift flew past Christmas Cup favourite Rainbow Style to score impressively over the 2400 metres.

"I’ve been itching since she was a three-year-old to run her at a mile-and-a-half and this was the first chance," Ryan said.

For winning jockey Glyn Schofield, New Year celebrations might have to be reworked.

"I hope they give her a penalty, I can ride 53kg," Schofield said.

"I’ll have to reassess my schedule. She showed she can stay today, there is plenty of upside."

Takeover Target added yesterday’s group 3 race to the Winterbottom Stakes he won at Ascot a fortnight ago. The sprinter might well be the most-travelled thoroughbred of all time. His latest unbeaten trip to WA is yet another marathon feat by this amazing nine-year-old.

The gelding has made three successful trips to the UK, where Janiak and Jay Ford combined on their first outing to claim the King’s Stand Stakes at the Royal Ascot meeting.

A third in the Golden Jubilee four days later ensured Takeover Target was acclaimed as a winner of the Global Sprint Challenge.

The honour was sealed when Takeover Target claimed a group 1 sprint in Japan.

Before heading back to Royal Ascot this year, Takeover Target stopped off in Singapore in May and defied all-comers to claim another group 1.

In the UK, Takeover Target suffered leg problems again, but Janiak patched up his remarkable galloper up and it was off to WA, where the winning has continued.

The wrap

John Daly riles for the camera … IPL cradle-snatchers offer six-figure lollipops to Baby Blues … Rudd kicks $45.6 million into World Cup bid, sends sympathy card to NBL … Proteas waiting for insult to be added to injury … Ben Cousins to go from white stripes to Tiger stripes … Manny Pacquiao dishes out a golden hiding to Oscar the Slouch. Revelations A police interrogation is a scary experience, even for one of the toughest men in the NRL. In his new biography Be Your Best , Steve Price reveals the aggressive tactics used by officers in interviews during the sexual assault allegations against Bulldogs players in 2004. Walking into the station, Price recalls: "There were cells all along the wall full of people that had been locked up for whatever reason and they were going off their nut calling me names."
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And then came the questioning. "The interview room itself was a tiny little box with myself, the lawyer and three police officers crammed in there … the three officers had an obvious game plan to extract information. There were times when I would answer a question and they would say: ‘That’s not what your mate said.’ They were trying to scare me … they took a DNA swab from my mouth and the whole time they were hammering me with questions. It was just like you see in a movie – one playing good cop and the other playing bad cop – the only difference being that this was for real. I don’t ever want to experience something like that again. It scared the life out of me – and I was innocent! The officers would watch your body language so that if you answered a question a certain way they would say: ‘Why did you just move your hand when you said that?’ You constantly felt that you were doing something wrong …"

Price does not detail what happened in the swimming pool of the Coffs Harbour hotel – he was in his room at the time.

Having investigated the story at the time and afterwards, it’s my understanding that the woman who made the accusation was willingly having intercourse with up to six players in the pool but suddenly panicked and began screaming. The players backed away as the woman began claiming they had been raping her, and they all stared at each other in confusion. What ensued was the most infamous investigation in Australian sport, and resulted in the Bulldogs players being cleared of any crime. Get me my cab money Zucc’s sure-fire winner in the last: Punters, we missed out on seven in a row when Zucc’s tip finished second last week after a rough start – those clever enough to put an each-way bet still got their dough back. This one will return us to the winners’ circle. Bawdy’s Lament (box three) hasn’t raced since July but is in a strong kennel and gets his chance to open his city account in the final event at Wentworth Park tonight. Premonition Socceroos skipper Lucas Neill will be traded during next month’s transfer window. Neill earns £70,000 ($157,462) a week and the Hammers have made him an extension offer of "only" £30,000 ($67,483) a week, according to The Times . West Ham are struggling financially and will be keen to recoup money from a Neill deal, given his contract expires in six months and he becomes a free agent. If there is any justice in the world Carsten Charles Sabathia missed out on a gold medal in Sydney but he’s struck gold in the Major League. The man known as CC is tipped to become the richest pitcher in history when he signs a deal worth $US161 million ($243 million) over seven years to join the New York Yankees. Sabathia was selected in the initial 28-man United States squad for the 2000 Olympics and played in one pre-Olympic tournament game in Sydney, but was not on the official 24-man, gold medal-winning roster. Brother, can you spare a sledge? Michael Phelps, who stepped back into the pool last week for the first time since capturing eight gold medals in Beijing – establishing himself as the greatest Olympian of all time – tells The Guardian about his motivational tools. "In my locker for a while before Beijing I had a photo of Ian Crocker [the last swimmer to defeat Phelps]. And then I stuck up an article where Ian Thorpe said eight golds were impossible. I saw that every morning before training and that made me work harder." It’s not porn but you’ll like it Become an instant magician. Go to YouTube and search "Best card trick in the world", be amazed, and then see how it’s done by searching "Best card trick in the world – Revealed". If you’re not watching sport you should be listening to … Nashville . Solomon Burke. Big man, big voice and big album. Burke, with some help from Emmylou Harris, Patty Griffin and Patty Loveless, wraps his molasses-dripping voice around a disc of country-themed tunes. The preacher will convert you from the pulpit of soul with That’s How I Got To Memphis , Honey Where’s The Money Gone? , Does My Ring Burn Your Finger and We’re Gonna Hold On .

– Ears McEvoy Useless trivia A snail can sleep for three months.

Djite sacrifices the good life to thrive in Turkey

Six months after quitting the A-League for Turkey, Socceroo Bruce Djite is still not sure what’s surprised him most about playing football overseas.
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Sure, there’s added professionalism, the five-star training facilities at his club Genclerbirligi (pronounced Gench-Lair-Beer-Ligi) that include the pick of several pitches, a sauna, steam room and swimming pool.

Off the pitch, there’s the Muslim call to prayer five times a day and Ankara traffic where drivers think nothing of brazenly reversing down a four-lane freeway if they miss their exit.

If pushed, the former Adelaide United striker nominates a unique pre-season ritual as the greatest divide between football in Australia and Turkey. Djite had been warned what to expect by fellow Socceroo Mile Sterjovski, a former Genclerbirligi player, but was still unprepared for the reality.

"Mile said to wait until they bring out the goat," Djite said. "I thought he was joking. Then, the day of the first game of the season, we’d just eaten lunch, got told to go to the training fields. It was time. They were going to sacrifice a goat."

In many European countries, preseason prep is crowned by visiting a local church but, in Turkey, things go up a few gears. Djite confessed he baulked – along with several other foreign players – at the slaughter of a goat but the ceremony went ahead as it does every season.

The gods must have been unimpressed. Genclerbirligi’s season began poorly. A coach was sacked but a few other adjustments were made.

"It obviously didn’t work out how they planned it so about six weeks later they sacrificed two more goats," Djite explained. "It’s interesting in Turkey. I’m learning a lot."

Djite (pronounced Jee-tay) has quickly climbed the ladder of Australian football. In many ways, he should be the poster boy for local development. The 21-year-old played junior football in Sydney’s northern suburbs and attended the NSW Institute of Sport. He made the Australian Institute of Sport and was signed by Adelaide United in 2006, voted the A-League’s Young Player of the Year the following season.

He was a mainstay in qualification matches for the 2008 Olympic team before being bizarrely overlooked for the eventual goal-shy squad that travelled to China.

Djite may not have fitted into coach Graham Arnold’s Olyroos plans but Socceroos boss Pim Verbeek spotted enough potential to see him as a possible heir to Mark Viduka’s up-front role.

Earlier this year came the inevitable move to Europe that any ambitious young Australian player covets, a talent drain that will likely never be plugged. Djite claims he ticked all boxes before leaving home.

"I went the way that FFA would want you to do it but everyone has to pick their right time," he said. "There’s no right or wrong way but if I stayed in the A-League for another season, what if I had a bad year? Or what if I had a really bad injury? You have to take your chances when they come."

Djite joined a club that had previous form with Australians. Josip Skoko is still spoken of in glowing terms three years after leaving while Sterjovski and Nick Carle had short spells with the club last year. Fringe Socceroo James Troisi joined Djite in August.

Elsewhere in Turkey, Harry Kewell is reborn at Galatasaray – "Harry is loved in Istanbul," said Djite – while Michael Petkovic at Sivasspor has acquired legendary status for scoring a goal – as a goalkeeper.

According to Djite, there’s added pressure on foreigners to prove they bring something to a team that a local can’t, plus extra off-field attention that doesn’t exist in Australia.

"In Turkey, you get so scrutinised for going out at night. It’s a more quiet lifestyle and good for a young player who just wants to concentrate on football," he said. "The speed of the game and the intensity of the training was the hardest thing for me.

"I’ve picked up a bit of Turkish and everyone says that I’m learning quickly," he said, adding that his fluent French helped build rapport with teammates from Africa.

"There are no black people in Turkey. If you’re dark, you are [automatically considered] a footballer. I say I’m a student at university half the time."

Djite made his debut for the Socceroos this year in a friendly against Singapore. He has a background unique even among the multicultural heritage of many teammates and was eligible to be selected for four national teams. He was born in the United States to academic parents from the Ivory Coast and Togo, his family moving to Australia when he was three.

"I never wanted to play for any other country but Australia," Djite said. "I learned my football in Australia. I’m Australian."

His father is a professor at the University of Western Sydney. Was there pressure to follow a different career path?

"You have no idea," he laughed. "But I wanted to be a footballer since I was seven. I went to the Ivory Coast when I was six and went to a school there for a couple of months and everything there was football. I came back home to Australia and joined a local club. By the time I was 10 or 11, I was only concentrating on football."

The culture of control

Your flight has been cancelled due to circumstances beyond our control … This store will be closed until further notice due to circumstances beyond our control … Unemployment is rising due to circumstances beyond our control …
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Question: Which circumstances are not beyond our control? Isn’t it the very nature of circumstances – favourable or unfavourable – to be beyond our control? Aren’t circumstances things that shape us, things we react to, rather than things we create?

Courtesy of the global financial crisis (I’m not yet on friendly enough terms with it to use the chirpy GFC), we’re once again being reminded of just how many things are beyond our control: the greed of others; the slackening demand for our resources; the fragility of underregulated capitalism.

This is hardly news. Wasn’t the threat of international terrorism beyond our control? And climate change? (Well … we shall have to wait and see.) But you don’t have to think on so grand a scale: nothing in human history encourages the idea that the important things in our lives – especially our relationships – are ever under control or that "getting my life under control" has ever been a realistic goal.

The yearning for control has become a kind of modern madness. Stressed and destabilised by the rate of change, we have been looking in the wrong place for a solution to our anxieties and insecurities.

It’s true that the rate of change has been accelerating at an uncomfortable pace. We’ve reinvented the institution of marriage, transformed the nature of family life (25 per cent of Australian families are now single-parent families, for instance), sent the birthrate tumbling to an all-time low, shrunk our households, felt the rumble of economic restructure, widened the gulf between advantage and disadvantage, rewritten our labour market statistics (especially those involving female participation and part-time work), been swept up in an communication technology revolution that has changed the way we live and work, re-examined the very meaning of "Australian" … all in the space of less than 30 years.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that so many people feel as if they’re trapped on a runaway train, or that our consumption of antidepressants has tripled in the past decade, or that about 25 per cent of young Australians are suffering serious psychological distress, or that the incidence of binge drinking and serious assault has increased markedly over this period. What humans deeply crave, after all, is stability and predictability; we love ritual and repetition. So why wouldn’t we have some difficulty with threats to our sense of security or identity?

Some of us responded to heightened anxiety with positive action: we can’t clean up the world, but let’s clean up the bush, paint the school, join a choir, buy a hybrid car. Others gave in to a kind of acquiescence in the face of things that might once have scandalised them: state-sponsored torture and child abuse carried on in our name in the infamous Baxter detention centre; the AWB kickbacks; the erosion of civil liberties through anti-terrorism legislation.

Many of us responded by retreating into our shells. We disengaged. We turned away from a big picture that was too dark and daunting and focused instead on the miniatures of our personal and domestic lives. We became obsessed about body shape, teeth, wrinkles. We went in for Botox, tattoos and body-piercing. We threw ourselves into home renovations. We racked up record levels of debt to finance a mad materialist binge, using self-indulgence as a form of insulation from our anxieties. We hunted for schools that would "control" our children were willing to pay big money to send them there.

Our social attitudes toughened. We welcomed legislation that we thought might "get things back under control". We urged judges to be tougher on criminals, and governments to introduce more mandatory sentencing. We became less compassionate, less tolerant, more prejudiced. Some of us adopted a dogmatic, hard-line fundamentalism, in religion, economics, environmentalism or medicine and psychology. We welcomed the sense of control that certainty brings, no matter how delusional.

Whether it was self-indulgence, fundamentalism or regulationism, the underlying motivation was the same: it was all about control. It was as if we were saying: "I can’t control the big picture, so I’ll focus on the things I can control."

Yet these are self-defeating strategies if they are based on the premise that life – whether on a large or small scale – is controllable. Sure, we can "control" the colour of our bathroom tiles, but if we think this means we are taking control of our lives, we are caught in a dangerous spiral of escapism.

Our obsession with control has another, more subtle face. In response to a growing sense of chaos and uncertainty, some of us are seeking refuge in the embrace of those twin seducers, "excellence" and "happiness" – magic code-words (like the word "control" itself) favoured by the growing membership of the cult of perfectionism.

This cult fosters an idea that’s bound to make us restless: however beautiful something is, or however happy we are, however affluent, however contented, there’s some even more wonderful possibility that we can only imagine (though Hollywood or a glossy magazine might grant us a glimpse of it).

When we’re in serious control mode, we’re tempted to strive even harder for the perfections that seem to be eluding us. We’re drawn to the idea that the ultimate form of control would be to achieve some gold standard of excellence in everything we do – from romance to sport.

What parent, in this current climate, would dare send their child to a school that wasn’t a centre of excellence for something? What organisation – from an international mining company to your local gym – would not claim to pursue excellence? (I idly wonder if I’ll ever come across a centre for mediocrity.)

From time to time, we hear alarming tales of religious cults that seduce people away from their partners and families. Yet how many relationships have foundered because one partner was seduced by the mad cult of perfectionism?

Perfectionism both feeds and feeds off the culture of control. Why can’t I have the perfect marriage? And if it has to end, why can’t I have the perfect divorce? (Imagine the pressure on the kids, in both cases.)

Why can’t my child have the perfect teacher at the perfect school? Why don’t we plan the perfect holiday? Where can I get a perfect latte? We’ve already been introduced to the notion of "the perfect storm" … perhaps we’re now in the privileged position of being witnesses to a perfect economic meltdown.

Those involved in the so-called "helping professions", along with the authors of all those self-help tomes, are at risk of encouraging this utopian madness. "I wish I could get my life under control" might be a popular cry, but it’s a symptom of a misunderstanding of what life is about. How easily we forget that life is for living, not for controlling.

Human relationships are inherently messy because they are driven more by emotional than rational factors – and thank goodness for that. (Marry a computer if you want the other kind of relationship.) Because relationships are unpredictable and ultimately impossible to control, so are families, communities and organisations.

Why did we ever think that such a relentless period of social dislocation and economic upheaval would not take its toll? Have we been putting too much emphasis on positive outcomes and not enough on the process of living well? Thinking positively is all very well – better than thinking negatively, no doubt. But thinking realistically has even more to commend it: to be realistic is to acknowledge that the richness of life lies in its contrasts, its light and shade, and in our capacity to experience and deal with the full spectrum of human emotions and responses.

The current preoccupation with happiness places more emphasis on pleasure than on the ancient ideas from which it sprang: virtuous living with a rich sense of purpose and full engagement with the world. In its modern, rather vacuous meaning, happiness only seems to make sense by contrast with sadness. That’s why you so often hear parents remark that all they want for their children is that they be happy. (Is that all you want for them, I want to ask. Do you really want them to be emotionally disadvantaged and deprived?)

In the next breath, of course, those same parents will assert that "we grow through pain". Yet they’ll go to extreme lengths to minimise their child’s risk of pain (let alone pain itself) and when pain comes in the form of loss or disappointment, they’ll be far more intent on "moving on" than "growing through it".

It’s the same with failure – another reliable sign that life is not under control. We know failure is a more effective teacher than success when it comes to learning what it means to be human, so why don’t we value failure more highly when it happens? Why do we interpret failure as a sign of inadequacy when it’s such a crucial part of the process of growing up?

Winners might be grinners, but losers are learners. Don’t we owe it to our children – and to each other – to avoid making false promises about what life has on offer? Shouldn’t we be more open about what’s involved in a healthy, balanced life?

Optimism is a great trait to possess, but only if it can be kept in its place when the circumstances call for a different perspective, a different expectation. (Ask a dying person how they feel about visitors trying to sound upbeat.) In many ways, optimism is as unrealistic – and as prejudicial to a balanced assessment of our situation – as pessimism. But we continue to dwell on the positive as though "a positive outcome" will be the sign that we have life under control.

The current obsession with control looks to me like a symptom of a deep unease in our society. The yearning for control is a cry for help. The most useful response to that cry is not to say, "Here’s how to get your life under control" but to explain that the deepest sense of wellbeing springs not from mastery of our circumstances – let alone mastery of others – but from mastery of ourselves.

Some of us need guidance about how to manage our anger in the face of frustration, or to subdue our violence in the face of provocation, or to resolve our bitterness in the face of disappointment.

What we don’t need – and shouldn’t expect – is a magic wand that will remove frustration, provocation or disappointment from our lives.

We need to shift our focus from control to participation and engagement; from resistance to adaptation; from an unhealthy utopianism to a more realistic acceptance of life’s disorderliness, its irrationalities, its unpredictability, its disenchantments, as well as its joys, its gratifications and even its occasional small triumphs.

This is not to suggest for one moment that we should settle for lives of misery, frustration and disappointment, or that we shouldn’t encourage our children to fulfill their potential (as long as we’re realistic about what that potential is). But it is to suggest that adapting to our circumstances – accepting that things are the way they are – is a good starting point for working out how to respond to them.

I suspect the culture of control has contributed to the distress of many people by promoting a utopian view of relationships, achievements, outcomes, and even of possessions. Might it not be time to lower our expectations of how we should feel, what we can have, and what we can control?

This is an edited version of the Australian Psychological Society’s Annual Oration. Hugh Mackay is a fellow of the APS.

Aloisi gets second chance but Mariners have the last laugh

JOHN ALOISI is familiar with nailing a penalty under pressure. He found the back of the net with his most famous shot to take the Socceroos into the World Cup finals and nothing will ever top that for raw emotion, but there was more high drama last night when – shock, horror – he missed a penalty only to be allowed to take it again by referee Peter Green.
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Aloisi was given his second chance because the Mariners’ Pedj Bojic was ruled to have overstepped the mark while Aloisi was shooting. Aloisi made no mistake with his second attempt against his old club and the Sky Blues were on their way to salvaging a draw – until another penalty was awarded to the Mariners just before fulltime and Mile Jedinak got them home in a genuine thriller.

Grinning, Aloisi said: "I saw Pedj next to me – that’s why I hit it badly."

Not grinning, he added: "I’m disappointed we didn’t get the result. The second half we got into the game but it wasn’t enough. I cop a bit of stick up here but I cop that wherever I go. I just try to do the best for my club. It didn’t mean much to score the penalty because we didn’t get out of the game."

Mariners coach Lawrie McKinna said the re-take should not have happened. "Watching the replay I don’t know who encroached," he said. "Obviously it was Pedj but if we were always playing by the rules then every penalty would be re-taken."

Aloisi was awarded his penalty after Mariners goalkeeper Danny Vukovic hammered him with a bone-rattling shoulder charge.

The Mariners stole the win when Sydney FC’s Iain Fyfe felled Dylan McAllister for Jedinak to score at the death. Sydney FC had been denied yet another penalty when Shannon Cole was ruled offside after Green had already pointed at the spot only to see a linesman with his flag up.

The last four games between these two teams had produced 25 goals, so unless our calculator was broken we were in for a rollicking show featuring one net-finder roughly every 15 minutes. The best little boutique stadium around was full enough for the next chapter of one of the great A-League derbies with one requirement placed on Sydney FC – try not to choke.

The Sky Blues bombed a 3-0 lead the last time they played the Mariners and their nemesis on that occasion, Matt Simon, was back.

It was another nerve-jangler even without the bombardment of goals. Green’s re-ordering of Aloisi’s penalty had a crowd of 11,000-plus spectators baying for his blood until Jedinak controlled his nerves to give the Mariners a stirring triumph.

Sydney FC mentor John Kosmina claimed his team deserved a draw and should have received the second penalty.

"We battled away and had a legitimate penalty disallowed," he said. "That’s the second time this year a late penalty has killed us off. The Mariners are a good side and deserve some credit. We battled away. You’ve got to show character and we did that."

McKinna would have felt cheated by any result other than a win.

"I thought we deserved it," he said. "We definitely deserved it. We wouldn’t have felt good coming away with a draw."

Sydney FC’s 19-year-old Brendan Gan was having his first run-on start after his matchwinner in the ambush of the Jets last weekend. Captain Steve Corica was on the bench.

Kosmina was full of praise for Gan even if the youngster helped give the Mariners their first goal to Dylan McAllister with a failed clearance at the beginning of an all-guns-blazing showdown.

Meanwhile, the path to the A-League play-offs became rockier for Wellington Phoenix and Perth Glory after their 1-1 draw last night.

Two teams struggling to break into the top four did themselves no favours in a match that only burst into life over the closing stages.

A goal to Perth striker Eugene Dadi in the 76th minute was cancelled out by midfielder Tim Brown with seven minutes remaining. The hosts came close to generating a winner several times, most notably when a Leo Bertos thunderbolt was parried onto the crossbar by Perth goalkeeper Tando Velaphi.

The Phoenix had the better of the match and may live to regret not snaring more than one point with just six rounds remaining.

Dadi’s goal was his eighth of the season, leaving goalkeeper Glen Moss with no chance when he side-volleyed home a bouncing ball, unmarked from a few metres out.

Meanwhile, it is a big weekend for the Queensland teams. Yesterday in the W-League, Queensland Roar claimed the inaugural premiership with two matches to spare after beating the Victory 3-1 in Melbourne.

No mercy will be shown to ladder laggers Newcastle this evening as the Roar attempt to rebuild Suncorp Stadium as an A-League fortress.

Playing the percentages

A few days ago, one of Australia’s leading climate-change scientists got a dramatic first-hand lesson. Buffeted by wind, Dr John Hunter found himself scrambling with villagers on Takuu atoll off the Papua New Guinea coast as they hauled their belongings from flooded huts to higher ground and huge waves surged over the beach.
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Hunter had landed on the atoll three weeks earlier to study the impact of rising sea levels on small island communities. But a massive storm whipping up waves along PNG’s north coast was swamping his host village and its 500 inhabitants. Storms are a fact of life on Takuu but Hunter is studying the increased frequency of high seas and floods threatening to inundate these tiny island communities as a result of climate change.

"When you get sea level rise in this present century we’re going to see more of these extreme events," Hunter told the Herald over a shaky mobile phone as he surveyed the destruction on Takuu. "The same thing is going to happen in Australia and around the world. But these islands are particularly vulnerable. The highest point is something like only a metre above the highest tides."

Hunter’s expertise on rising sea levels is renowned. This week the Rudd Government appointed him and two fellow scientists from the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Co-operative Research Centre to run national workshops next year on the impact of sea level rise on Australia’s coastal cities and towns. Government planners, engineers and business executives are urged to attend.

Since the Rudd Government came to office a year ago, it has readily accepted the scientific advice that Australia needs to plan now to adapt to climate change. Penny Wong, the Climate Change Minister, proudly insists her Government "recognises the science", compared with what she says is the climate change scepticism among Opposition MPs.

So far, however, Wong and the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, have been less willing to embrace the scientific advice on the most vexed climate change dilemma: how much should Australia cut its own greenhouse gas emissions over the next 12 years as part of a global effort to avoid catastrophic climate change?

On Monday, after Wong returns from the current round of UN climate negotiations in Poland, she will make her long-awaited announcement on Australia’s 2020 target to cut greenhouse gas emissions. With it, she will also outline details of a new carbon trading scheme, or carbon pollution reduction scheme, to encourage that effort.

The bitterly disputed 2020 target is now widely reported to be emissions cuts of 5 per cent to 15 per cent below 1990 levels, far less than the range for which most climate scientists pleaded.

For Australia’s environment movement and scientific community, Monday’s announcement will be the defining moment for the Rudd Government’s climate change policy. And some scientists are already voicing their deep concerns about the expected target range.

"This is not good news," said Matthew England, a University of NSW professor. "It’s essential that we go for at least 25 per cent cuts by 2020 to minimise the rise of dangerous climate change." Science, England said, pushed these targets for at least five years, felt it got nowhere under 11 years of John Howard and sensed deja vu in "getting somewhere but not where we need to be".

David Karoly, who worked with the UN’s peak scientific body on climate change, is equally worried and more convinced than ever that "we need the largest global emissions reductions possible". That meant 25 per cent to 40 per cent reductions in the developed world. "So 25 per cent reduction is the minimum Australia should be doing."

But after months of intense lobbying over both the 2020 target and the carbon pollution reduction scheme, Monday’s outcome is

unlikely to satisfy any of the vocal protagonists on either side of this epic political battle. Environment leaders lobbied Labor ministers and backbenchers on the scientific arguments.

But most cabinet members have been heavily influenced by the lobbying of key industry and resources executives and union leaders arguing that deep emissions cuts will cost jobs and profits as the global financial crisis continues to bite.

Just this week, the head of the Australian Industry Group, Heather Ridout, called for a slow start to cutting greenhouse gases. "Five per cent to 15 per cent cuts are very big figures," she told the Herald , arguing they would be a tough ask for businesses in crisis. Peter Coates, head of the coal giant Xstrata, described this target range as "extremely difficult" for the resources industry in a week when Rio Tinto announced 14,000 global job cuts.

From Poland, Wong insisted the Government "will seek to strike the right balance".

The Opposition is voicing the arguments of many in the resources industry that any early start to emissions cuts will leave Australian companies exposed until a global climate agreement is in place. The leader, Malcolm Turnbull, is saying he will not support the Government’s date for the introduction of the carbon trading scheme by 2010.

In this stand-off, the Greens see opportunity to reassert influence over the climate change debate knowing the Government is likely to need their support in the Senate. Without commitment until legislation is on the table, the Greens senator Christine Milne said: "We think that scientifically, economically and diplomatically it is stupid for Australia to adopt a low target."

The Greens are banking on a public backlash against the Government’s 2020 target at home and abroad. "It’s a question of what the community will do if hopes are dashed," said Milne, who is promising long Senate hearings that will give voice to the Government’s climate critics.

Monday will reveal whether Wong and Rudd have crafted a 2020 target and scheme that will win over enough middle ground support. "It’s a defining moment for the Rudd Government," says the Climate Institute’s John Connor, who has lobbied key ministers to keep alive the 25 per cent target.

"It’s been made emphatically clear in Poland, at the UN talks, if you don’t turn up with 25 per cent in your backpack, don’t bother coming. That’s the sit-down price."

The global climate negotiations loom large over Monday’s announcement for Wong and Rudd. A year ago, at the first round of UN talks in Bali, Rudd stood before the world’s environment ministers and labelled climate change "the defining issue of our generation". His new Labor Government signed on to negotiate a global pact that involved developed countries agreeing to consider binding emissions cuts in the 25 to 40 per cent range. Meanwhile, developing countries including the big polluters, China, India and Brazil, would agree to slow or cut emissions through verifiable but non-binding programs, buttressed by financial and technical help from the First World.

The Bali plan’s scientific premise was that rises in world temperatures be kept within 2 degrees, by keeping greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere within 450 parts per million, as advised by the UN’s peak scientific body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

This week’s meeting in Poznan, Poland, was meant to advance the plan. Instead, it stalled because key developed countries baulked at deep 2020 cuts without tougher commitments from China, India and the US. Despite promises, Wong refused to reveal Australia’s 2020 target at Poznan, doing nothing to abate speculation that the target would be well below earlier expectations.

She refused to be drawn on whether the Government would keep cuts of 25 per cent on the table in the event of a successful, ambitious global agreement. She also refused to articulate the scientific advice on what emissions cuts are required to keep the rise in global temperature below 2 degrees.

Wong’s silence is instructive. When Ross Garnaut, the Government’s climate change adviser, brought down his report in September, he advised that a global agreement that kept the temperature from rising 2 degrees was unlikely to succeed at the final round of UN talks in Copenhagen next year. He argued that pursuing this agreement risked collapsing the UN talks.

Instead, Garnaut argued that a less ambitious global agreement was "vastly superior" to no agreement and should be pursued. Under this less ambitious agreement, greenhouse gas emissions would be allowed to rise to 550 ppm. But according to Garnaut’s own report, temperatures were likely to rise more than 3 degrees – enough, he acknowledges, to kill off a third of Australia’s fauna species, and to destroy the Great Barrier Reef and much of the Murray-Darling Basin.

Garnaut argued forcefully that once a "more realistic" 550 ppm agreement was in place, the world had a chance to strive for a tougher agreement to lower greenhouse gases, ultimately achieving a safer temperature.

Garnaut’s argument was rejected by Australia’s climate scientists as too risky but it was developed in close consultation with Wong’s key climate negotiators, Jan Adams and Howard Bamsey. This suggested to some in the environment movement it is now Australia’s negotiating strategy for the UN climate talks. The 550 ppm strategy also allows Australia to set a 2020 target of 10 per cent, rather than 25 per cent, while putting more pressure on China, India, Brazil and other developing countries.

Selling this strategy was a public relations nightmare for Garnaut who, in the eyes of some in the environment movement, went from "hero to zero" on the release of his report. On Monday, Wong will strive to avoid a similar dilemma. She will announce billions of dollars in free permits for the biggest greenhouse polluting industries such as aluminium and steel to protect them from foreign competition. She will also promise millions more to assist coal-fired power stations and coal miners to adjust to the new scheme.

The Government judges this massive assistance is vital to protect Australian industry. But selling this to the public without the hope of an ambitious global climate agreement in Copenhagen that can avoid dangerous climate change will test her political skills – and Rudd’s.

Aussie Andy on the rise and true blue to his roots again

IT WASN’T so long ago that Australia’s most promising tennis product wasn’t playing for Australia.
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When Andrew Thomas burst onto the scene as a fresh-faced 12-year-old, Ian Barclay – the man who guided Pat Cash to Wimbledon glory – described him as the best junior he had seen.

It seemed only a matter of time before the right-handed slugger was following in the footsteps of patriotic Aussies Pat Rafter and Lleyton Hewitt on the path to grand slam glory.

Enter Marcos Baghdatis.

Baghdatis stole our hearts in his incredible run to the Australian Open final in 2006. Then he nearly stole our best young junior when he returned to our shores the following year. On the lookout for a hot prospect to partner him in the Davis Cup, the Cypriot stumbled across a brash baseliner with all the tools. Turns out that kid was eligible to play for Cyprus, as his mother was born there.

Money was offered, promises made. Thomas ditched Australia. Called Cyprus home.

Tennis Australia was not amused. Money and time were spent developing Thomas into a gun player and just as TA was about to reap the rewards he was packing his bags. The man who broke the story, respected tennis journalist Craig Gabriel, said at the time: “This smacks so much of the Jelena Dokic case …”

Just like Dokic, the prodigal son returned. So why did Thomas, now 18 and shifting into the senior ranks, decide to come back?

“Obviously I was a proud Aussie and I’d do anything to play for Australia. At that time I felt it was the right choice. Obviously now I’m happy where I am. The worst-case scenario was I’d go to Cyprus but obviously I was happy representing and playing for Australia.”

A star as a junior, having won the Orange Bowl in America and the Japan Open juniors, he is now ready to make his mark on the professional circuit in 2009.

While he had hoped to take part in the Australian Open wildcard play-offs, his name was not on the list of invitees released yesterday. Yet his youthful optimism remains intact.

“My main goal is obviously to win an Australian Open. Every practice session, that’s my eventual goal.”

Reckless, passionate and full of talent

SOME might have called it reckless but Steven Smith unwittingly followed Steve Waugh’s lead by deciding to throw everything into following his dream to make it in cricket.
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After Waugh left Year 12 he attended his induction day at teachers college and not long into listening to the speech about the career that awaited him and the others in the auditorium, the future Australian cricket skipper picked himself out of his chair, walked out of the hall, returned home and boldly declared he’d become a full-time cricketer.

It caused a bit of a kerfuffle in the Waugh household – very few of the nation’s leading cricketers even had contracts back in 1986.

An impressive member of Dominic Thornely’s "Baby Blues", Smith felt the same calling while doing bar work. In between pouring beers and listening to grog-fuelled conversations, fulfilling his childhood dream to represent Australia made better sense.

"I didn’t like it much," the 19-year-old said. "I just wanted to play cricket at the highest level."

He could afford to be confident about his decision to focus on sport. He’d spent one-on-one time in the nets with Shane Warne to develop his leg spin, England wanted him to declare his allegiance to them by talking about a possible Test cap and he was also setting new run-scoring records for Sutherland’s first-grade team.

His decision to sacrifice a minimal wage was rewarded quickly with state selection last summer and, as someone who realises opportunity rarely knocks, he hasn’t missed a beat whether it be Sheffield Shield, one-dayers or Twenty20.

"We call Steve ‘reckless’ … it’s a running joke in the team … because he throws himself 100 per cent into everything," Thornely said. "After he took a wicket in our game against New Zealand a tailender came out. I asked Steve if he was going to set him up with a big turning leg break but he said flipper straight away. He bowled the flipper and came within an inch of getting the wicket … he found the batsman’s inside edge and it went for a single. Reckless."

Yet Thornely hastened to add that few young cricketers possess the same cricket smarts. It also doesn’t surprise him the teenager orders men around as skipper of Sutherland.

"It’s an honour for him to be skipper of a first-grade team at such a young age but it’s easy to understand why he’s been given the position," Thornely said. "He’s unorthodox, shows confidence in his own ability and he has a good cricket brain.

"Out of the younger guys, he talks about the game a lot more. He’ll tell me his ideas out on the field and he comes up with a good option, the commonsense option. But what I also like is he has an aggressive, attacking approach to it."

The next challenge for the unorthodox batsman and emerging leg spinner will be to try to help guide NSW to a desperately needed Ford Ranger Cup victory over South Australia at the SCG on Tuesday.

"When I look back a few years ago, I didn’t think I’d be where I am now," Smith said. "It is an honour, a great privilege. But I’m not getting ahead of myself either. I realise consistency is important … I need to be consistent … and persistence is important as well."

Australian and English authorities had both charted Smith’s rise and rise. In 2006 the English invited him to pledge his allegiance to them. While he’d become the first Sutherland player to score 1000 first-grade runs before his 18th birthday, it was his leg spin that caught their attention.

He became England’s most-wanted Aussie after taking a Warne-like 6-14 for Surrey Second XI against Kent. However, the promise of the cap bearing the three lions of England was no match for his childhood ambition.

"I qualified for England through my mother," he said. "But ever since my father stuck a cricket bat in my hand when I was four, my dream was to wear that baggy green cap. I learnt a lot about cricket by playing in England in 2006 but to return and get picked for NSW was terrific.

"Some people said England would be an easier way to play Test cricket … but that was not my dream. The dream was to play for Australia."

His manager, Warren Craig – who looked after Glenn McGrath and oversees the career of Phil Jaques – described Smith as a young man "with a level head and willingness to learn".

All well and good. However, that little reckless streak could give him a winning edge.