Sports

ESPN documentary, why did The Shark re-live his greatest collapse


What a dreadful morning, getting up in the wee hours that Monday, full of expectation that Norman was finally going to claim the Masters, then watching his self-immolation, finding water, missing putts, the colour draining from his face as Faldo could do no wrong.

The producers asked Norman to replay critical shots and putts from the same position where he missed in 1996, and he obliged, landing them where he had wanted, sinking them as required.

“Where was that 20 years ago?” he laughed on one occasion.

In other scenes, he shifted uncomfortably in his chair watching replays of the final-round horror show, muttering how the “golfing gods” hadn’t been kind to him.

Norman also revealed his mind started to unravel when he was in the car park after the third round and bumped into pipe-smoking UK journalist Peter Dobereiner.

“Not even you could f..k this up,” Dobereiner kindly offered.

That was enough to plant the tiniest seed of doubt in Shark’s mind.

Greg Norman during his 1996 meltdown at August National.

Greg Norman during his 1996 meltdown at August National.Credit:Getty

“That was the first I thought, ‘Oh my gosh’,” Norman recalled. “Something got inside me. Why did you say that, Peter? Something got inside of my head.”

What happened to us, Sharkie? We had a good thing going there for a while.

We loved the success. The blond hair. The signature straw hat. The way you clobbered it harder and further than anyone off the tee. The way you attacked the pin not settling for the heart of the green.

We even loved the helicopters, the Ferraris, the excess, because it was the 1980s.

Then you got stuck there, transforming into some sort of Dynasty-like villain. You looked like your own biggest fan, posing with statues of yourself and posting thirst traps on your Instagram account.

Now you’re shamelessly pushing this Super League, which is sport-washing for the Saudi backers of the idea at its worst, and a money grab from yourself at best.

What price your reputation, Sharkie? About $50m.

The ESPN doco is certainly a nice, sometimes painful, reminder of the rollercoaster Norman took us on. It’s also a sad reminder of how an Australian icon became a money-hungry sell-out.

TEAM PONGA NEEDS A NEW LEADER

Six years ago, when Kalyn Ponga met with NRL clubs interested in luring him from North Queensland, the first thing that struck officials was the T-shirt worn by his father, Andre.

“TEAM PONGA” was emblazoned across the front.

Knights coach Adam O’Brien, Kalyn and Andre Ponga at Wednesday’s press conference.

Knights coach Adam O’Brien, Kalyn and Andre Ponga at Wednesday’s press conference.Credit:Getty

Then Andre started talking, assuming the role as the smartest person in the room, and it didn’t take long for wizened chief executives and recruitment officers to run a red line through his son’s name.

They also felt they were being strung along, which they were because nobody was ever getting close to the $3m deal over four years being offered in Newcastle, who were prepared to throw around that sort of money based on potential — he’d played just two NRL matches for the Cowboys — because the club needed a kill.

Since that day, Team Ponga has had the Knights wrapped around its little finger. Ponga is their most dominant figure and, by proxy, so is his father.

It’s a strange and different dynamic for a club that prides itself on its egalitarian, working-class culture in which the highest-paid player is considered as important as the lowest-paid supporter standing in the rain on the hill.

Ponga announced on Wednesday afternoon he had re-signed with the Knights, extending his current deal out until the end of 2027.

It ended one of the most mind-numbing Cirque du Signing performances seen in years, thanks largely to clauses in the final two years of his contract allowing him to speak to other clubs.

Things weren’t helped by a wild News Corp report on Sunday that the Knights had withdrawn the offer.

Andrew Johns was in commentary for Channel Nine when the story broke just before halftime in the Knights’ match against the Dragons.

He raced down to the tunnel and sought out Knights head of football and great mate Danny Buderus, whose jaw hit the ground.

He denied it was the case, which Johns conveyed on-air before the second half resumed.

The Knights — with Buderus across negotiations — agreed to terms with Ponga “weeks ago”.

Exactly why there was a delay in finalising the deal, with an announcement made to end months of speculation, is a matter for the Knights and Team Ponga.

Clearly, Andre has his son’s best interests at heart. But as the Knights’ captain — and their highest-paid player — Ponga should take greater control of his future from now on.

TAKING ON THE NFL?

Manly owner Scott Penn sounded like he was channelling Hollywood actor Sean Penn earlier this week when he told the Herald the NRL could fill 70,000-seat SoFi Stadium with a season opener between the Sea Eagles and South Sydney.

Penn also suggested rugby league could muscle in on the NFL.

“There’s huge interest in NRL over here in the US,” he oozed. “Rugby league continues to grow and expand over here. Anyone I show it to over here they think, ‘Wow, that’s amazing. They don’t wear pads and helmets’. It’s really the last bastion of gladiatorial sports.”

I’ll have what Scott’s having. And I’ll assume he’s never watched UFC.

Scott Penn thinks the NRL can fill SoFi Stadium.

Scott Penn thinks the NRL can fill SoFi Stadium.Credit:Getty

Americans have been curious about the brutality of rugby league for decades, stretching back to when Jack Gibson showed San Francisco 49ers coach Dick Nolan a replay of the brutal 1973 grand final between Cronulla and Manly.

While the NRL floats theories about playing in the US, the NFL is putting boots on the ground in this corner of the world.

This week, it announced that it had employed a full-time general manager to foster the code in Australia and New Zealand.

“Having been a part of the NFL’s development in the UK for the past 10 years, I am excited to be taking on this opportunity to drive further fan growth and football development across these markets,” Charlotte Offord, who will take up the role shortly, said. “Australia and New Zealand are both countries that already have a rich sporting culture, so I am looking forward to bringing sports fans in these territories closer to the game of American football.”

Tyler Wright and Felipe Toledo blitzed it at Bells Beach.

Tyler Wright and Felipe Toledo blitzed it at Bells Beach.

THE QUOTE
Winning Time falsely and cruelly portrays Mr West as an out-of-control, intoxicated rage-aholic that bears no resemblance to the real man.” — Part of the legal letter from lawyers representing Jerry West to HBO. The former LA Lakers player, coach and front-office executive is unhappy with how he’s been depicted in the hugely popular drama series so it’s Suing Time for Winning Time … See what I did there?

THUMBS UP
Australian surfer Tyler Wright shrugged off her years of illness, and constant pain on the final day at Bells Beach, to win the women’s final against Hawaii’s five-time world champ Carissa Moore — having twice lost the final before. Said Wright of the pain she was in: “Essentially my ovaries start to cramp up and everything in me is just pain.”

THUMBS DOWN
It’s only a matter of time before Dragons centre Zac Lomax finds his way into sky blue and green and gold jumpers. The way he slides between defenders, slipping no-look passes to the winger, is Mark Gasnier-esque. But he’s presenting himself as a bit of a knob, as they say, with some of his actions, the latest being his shenanigans involving former teammate Tyson Frizell against the Knights.

It’s a big weekend for … Toby Greene, who makes his first match for the GWS Giants this season after serving a five-match suspension for bumping an umpire last year. Giants meet St Kilda at Manuka Oval on Friday.

It’s an even bigger weekend for … Nick Kyrgios, who was spotted buying a new pair of Nikes for his appearance in the Kings celebrity match at Qudos Bank Arena on Sunday afternoon. Sources report he has Premier Dominic Perrottet firmly in his sights. The match will be held before the Kings meet Brian Goorjian’s Illawarra Hawks.

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