Bernard Tomic shows signs of form at the Hopman Cup.
Photo: Getty Images
HEROES & GOATS: Australia's tennis enigma finally delivers the goods, while Shane Warne leaves his teammates high and dry...
He can spray the occasional delivery for all we care; if Mitchell Johnson keeps bowling with the same ferocity he showed at the MCG, he should get a crack at England next year. The left-armer displayed precisely the kind of venom missing from Australia's pace attack of late, dismissing six batsmen and retiring two more with broken appendages in 22 fearsome overs. He also put Shane Watson to shame with a superb all-round display, falling eight runs short of his second Test century only because Jackson Bird can't negotiate an in-ducker. Johnson will always have his detractors after a string of inconsistent Ashes performances, but it seems the 31-year-old is enjoying proving the doubters wrong. We don't yet know if Johnson can bowl this well on a consistent basis, but what is undeniably clear is he still one seriously damaging asset when his tail is up.
Clarke continues to give us reasons to include him in this section. He notched up yet another ton (his fifth of 2012) against Sri Lanka in the Boxing Day Test at the MCG as the Aussies crushed their opponents by an innings and 201 runs. The knock took his total runs in 2012 to 1595, surpassing Ricky Ponting's record for the most Test runs in a calendar year by an Australian. The year saw him score four Test double centuries – a feat no other player in history has achieved. He staggeringly averaged 106.33 in 2012 Tests - a Bradman-esque number.
Marco Rojas (Melbourne Victory)
The Victory's pint-sized dynamo underlined his status as the hottest young player in the A-League with two freakishly good goals against the Newcastle Jets on Friday. The first, a 20-metre thunderbolt that whipped inside the right post, put Melbourne up 1-0 at AAMI Park. Then, with scores tied 2-2, Rojas conjured up a bit of magic on the edge of the box, bobbling up a deflection, turning and volleying right over Jets goalkeeper Mark Birighitti for the winner. The 21-year-old has scored nine goals from 12 appearances this season, second in the league behind the Mariners' Daniel McBreen (10). His revelatory form has led to speculation a European club could swoop on Rojas as early as January, though Victory coach Ange Postecoglou is confident he'll retain his young winger's services for another year yet.
Watch Rojas' remarkable second goal on Friday night:
Trailing 1-6 in a tiebreaker is probably as good a time as any to tank, so it was pleasing to see Bernard Tomic do the opposite and take the first set against Tommy Haas in the Hopman Cup. The 20-year-old was again forced to dig deep in the deciding set, which Haas led 5-3, breaking serve and forcing a morale-boosting 7-6 (8-6) 3-6 7-5 win over the German. It's still baby steps for Tomic, but after his first victory over a higher-ranked opponent in 11 months we're hopeful that better is to come from the oft-troubled talent in 2013. At the very least he's talking the right talk, telling reporters after the match: 'It's something I've worked on doing, to always stay in there now and fight for every ball." Much better than, "That's how I play. Do you have a problem with that?" Don't you think?
CA issued Darren Lehmann, current coach of the Brisbane Heat Big Bash League franchise, with a reprimand after he casted doubts over the legitimacy of the bowling action of Marlon Samuels, a West Indian who plays for the Melbourne Renegades. "I just want something done. He couldn't bowl in the IPL last year, yet he can bowl in the BBL," said Lehmann. "If he's deemed legal, I'm totally understanding of that. But from my point of view, from 20 years of cricket, I've got a problem with 120km/h off no steps." Brett Lee was also reported for saying he thought Cricket NSW chief executive David Gilbert deserved the axe rather than coach Anthony Stuart. Two men who were part of a golden era in Australian cricket as players should be allowed the freedom to express themselves without facing petty sanctions.
Marley Williams (Collingwood)
Proving that footballers can't be trusted anywhere at anytime, and also that young men will stomach some astonishingly bad bar scenes, Marley Williams set himself up for a cracker of a second season of senior footy by bashing a man in his home town of Albany, Western Australia. The 19-year-old reportedly broke a 29-year-old's jaw after an argument inside a nightclub, and was subsequently charged with assault occasioning bodily harm. Whether the charge impacts his footy is yet to be seen, but regardless of what the courts decide we're confident Williams is getting the silent treatment from Nathan Buckley right now, which we imagine is absolutely terrifying.
Jeremy Howe (Melbourne Demons)
Howe was thrown out of the MCG while watching day one of the Boxing Day Test between Australia and Sri Lanka. He was seen engaging in a verbal disagreement with fellow spectators after consuming alcohol during the day. The 22-year-old forward was in attendance with Demons James Frawley and Lynden Dunn, along with ex-Dees Jared Rivers (heading to Geelong) and Ricky Petterd (Richmond). The group even added to the fanfare by putting together a snake of beer cups. It's believed Frawley, Dunn, Rivers and Petterd exited the MCG once Howe was kicked out. The Melbourne contingent of the group are likely to face questions from the club next year.
Shane Warne (Melbourne Stars)
To be fair to Warne, it may have been a condition of his agreement to play for the Stars for the 2012-13 Big Bash League season that he be allowed to miss a match to spend Christmas with fiancée Liz Hurley in Britain. But it gave the impression that he put himself above the team when he was absent from their clash against the Adelaide Strikers on Thursday night for that reason. As the captain, it sends a poor message to the rest of the team to pick and choose which matches to play and not play. The Stars enjoyed a victory over the Strikers, despite being without Warne.
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