Talking Sport … with Jim Tait
Successes show investment is paying dividends
What a few days it has been for sport in Shetland, starting with the double win by the senior netball A and B teams in the annual inter-county matches on Saturday.
The following day the county badminton team, probably still rankled after losing the Inkster Cup to Orkney last time round, regained it in style with a comprehensive 11-1 victory over the old enemy.
The start of the week saw arguably the best achievement of all, when the Anderson High School netball girls won the Scottish Schools competition for the second year running.
Individually, there was good news for volleyball player Edward Oldbury when he was selected to compete for the Scottish under-20 side in Cyprus next month.
These successes in indoor pursuits are further examples of the investment made in sports centres over the last few decades paying dividends.
With work now having started on the new arena at Clickimin, the future looks healthy. All that is needed in town now is a couple of artificial football and hockey pitches.
The Scottish rugby team were unfortunately not able to make it three wins out of three in the Six Nations championship, losing to a committed Ireland side in Dublin on Saturday.
Several things went wrong for the Scots, starting with loss of lock Jonny Gray who has been one of the stand-out players in this year’s tournament.
The defensive frailties of Tim Visser on the wing were badly explosed while French referee Pascal Gauzere’s interpretation of the rules regarding back row play saw him largely sympathetic with the home side.
The loss of two players to the sin bin was also something which Scotland simply could not cope with, and Ireland put 19 points on the board when they were a man short.
While Alex Dunbar probably had to walk after his upending of Irish fly half Jonny Sexton, however theatrical the reaction was after the tackle, Gauzere’s decision to yellow-card John Barclay in the first half was somewhat harsh.
But despite losing by only 10 points and scoring three tries, Stuart Hogg’s being the best of the match and possibly the entire championship, in all honesty Scotland were well beaten by the Irish. For a large part of the first half it was almost embarrassing, the superiority the Irish back row in particular enjoyed.
Looking at the campaign as a whole, however, the Scottish performances overall were probably as good as could be expected, especially after the lacklustre start against England at Murrayfield.
The English were worthy champions, although perhaps not as good as many believe, while the Welsh and Irish both proved they are still some distance ahead of the Scots.
The Italians went from promising to truly awful, the narrow defeat to France and the first-half showing against England completely overshadowed by two horrific hammerings at the hands of Wales and Ireland.
Team of the tournament: Stuart Hogg (Scotland); Anthony Watson (England), Robbie Henshaw (Ireland), Jamie Roberts (Wales), George North (Wales); Conor Murray (Ireland), Dan Biggar (Wales); Jack McGrath (Ireland), Guilhem Guirado (France), WP Nel (Scotland); George Kruis (England), Maro Itoje (England); CJ Stander (Ireland), John Hardie (Scotland), Billy Vunipola (England). Reserves: Mike Brown (England), Michele Campagnaro (Italy), Jonny Sexton (Ireland), Dan Cole (England), Dylan Hartley (England), Rob Evans (Wales), Jonny Gray (Scotland), Toby Falatau (Wales).
The sporting community lost another two stalwarts over the past few weeks with the deaths of Allan Johnson and Zena Johnson.
They were not related and took part in very different pursuits but they had one thing in common – both were absolutely dedicated in their own way.
I considered Alan and Zena friends and was delighted when they both agreed to share their experiences a few years ago when compiling the A Sporting Chance features for this paper.
Zena [née Wiseman] grew up in Lerwick and after initially being put off when a fellow school pupil broke two teeth, got seriously involved in hockey.
She played hockey (and netball) for the junior inter-county side on four occasions and then went on to represent Shetland in 11 senior inter-counties against Orkney.
Zena was equally proud many years later when her goalkeeper son John became one of the few people to play football for both Shetland and Orkney.
After her hockey days Zena took up darts and played in well over 20 matches against the Orcadians, captaining the side on several occasions.
One of her last triumphs came two years ago in the Lena Hunter Memorial triples competition, which she won along with Rosaine Sandison and Kay Parry.
Zena was also president of Lerwick Ladies Darts Club for several years.
She told a great story about her courting days with her late husband Hughie, when he asked if they would be seeing each other the following evening.
She said no, that she was playing hockey, and Hughie replied: “Hockey? Whit’s dat?” He’d never even heard of it.
Zena explained and he asked: “Does du mean ta say du wid redder hit a baa aroond Seafield wi a piece o wid as geng oot wi me.” She said she loved her hockey so there was only one answer!
The large crowd at St Columba’s Church in Lerwick for Zena’s funeral was a fitting testament to the respect she was held in.
Alan, who died just a couple of weeks before Zena, was one of Shetland’s top pool and snooker players for many years, racking up well over 20 inter-county appearances against Orkney.
Originally from the West Side, Alan was also a goalkeeper in his youth, playing for Burra, Scalloway and Lerwick Celtic football clubs. He cites the influence of his teacher at Aith school Jim Peterson, who got him interested in the sport. He also played darts for the Shafts and badminton for Aith.
One of Allan’s best achievements in pool was winning the Viking Cup, an open competition played in Inverness. In the final he beat Evan McRae who at that time was captain of the Scottish team.
He was part of a very successful Hustlers team, which won the Shetland championship a number of times, and also represented Shetland in the World and European Championships on various occasions.
Only four months ago Allan won the Tennents Open pool competition in the Scalloway Boating Club, defeating a field of 34 to take the title.
As a pool player Allan was very influenced by the late Harry Isbister, and he compiled an article paying tribute to Harry’s involvement in the sport over the years.
In 1994 Allan won the Shetland snooker championship, and also reached the semi-finals several times.
Allan was still winning titles last October when he lifted the Tennents Open, while fittingly a trophy has been presented in his memory to be competed for this weekend.
Sincere condolences to the families of both Zena and Allan. They will be fondly remembered by the many who played with and against them.
Tennis supremo Novak Djokovic has found himself in hot water for comments regarding the equality of prize money in his sport.
Normally managing to steer clear of controversy, the Serb appeared to agree with disgraced Indian Wells CEO Raymond Moore that women players are “riding on the coat-tails” of the men’s game. They deserve to be paid less than men because the public are not so interested in their matches, Djokovic believes.
Personally I would have no problem with male and female players being paid the same in masters tournaments, where they all play over the best of three sets. However, in grand slams, unless they are prepared to compete over five sets like the men, they should be rewarded accordingly.
What I would like to see brought into tennis, especially the women’s game but increasingly the men too, is a rule whereby players are fined for screaming when playing a shot. The proceeds could go to charity.