This Week’s Sports Highlights #4

A crazy NFL brawl, more international rugby league boilovers, a cricket ball to the face, LaMelo-mania and much more in this week’s edition of The Hit Up.

Indefinite Ban After Wild Helmet Attack

Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett has secured a perpetual place in the NFL’s hall of infamy after a staggering outburst on Thursday Night Football.

The first overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, Garrett took things up a notch after becoming involved in a scuffle with Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph. With the Browns heading towards a 21-7 upset, Garrett pulled off Rudolph’s helmet – then proceeded to smash him on the head with it.

The NFL acted swiftly, banning the 23-year-old for the remainder of the season in an unprecedented punishment. Both teams were also fined almost AUD$350,000 for the incident and resultant all-in brawl.

Garrett later released a statement via the Browns: “Last night, I made a terrible mistake. I lost my cool and what I did was selfish and unacceptable.

“I want to apologise to Mason Rudolph, my teammates, our entire organisation, our fans and to the NFL. I know I have to be accountable for what happened, learn from my mistake and I fully intend to do so.”

 ‘Code War’ Finishes in Contentious Stalemate

The ultra-hyped ‘Code War’ bout between NRL great Paul Gallen and former AFL hard-man Barry Hall ended in a controversial majority draw.

The Friday night showdown at Melbourne’s Margaret Court Arena was a gruelling affair, but the judges could not split the retired footy stars after six absorbing two-minute rounds.

Most observers had Gallen ahead at the end of the fight – and the motor-mouthed Cronulla Sharks legend certainly believed he had done enough to win, declaring “get some judges who can score” in the aftermath of the first blemish in his 10-bout pro career.

But ex-Saints, Swans and Bulldogs firebrand Hall – a highly-rated amateur boxer as a teenager before carving out an AFL path – earned praise for his gutsy performance on professional debut at the age of 42.

Kumuls Crush Lions

Tonga have been the toast of the rugby league world after historic upsets of Great Britain and Australia in recent weeks. But Papua New Guinea produced arguably the most astonishing result of the international schedule by thumping the touring Lions 28-10 in Port Moresby on Saturday night.

After the shock loss to Tonga and a 2-0 series defeat to New Zealand, Great Britain seemed on course to end a forgettable tour on a positive note when they led the Kumuls 10-0. But a dazzling 60-metre solo try to interchange hooker Edwin Ipape after the halftime siren swung the momentum.

The Lions were a shell-shocked rabble throughout the second half, conceding four tries from kicks as Papua New Guinea ran riot. Wayne Bennett’s position as England and Great Britain coach ahead of next year’s Kangaroo Tour to the Old Dart is under immense pressure following a disastrous, winless trip Down Under.

It was a double celebration for rugby league-obsessed Papua New Guinea, with the PNG Orchids women’s team recording their maiden Test win. Five-eighth Shirley Joe’s last-minute try snatched a 20-16 boilover against England.

Flying Start in NBA MVP Race

Previous winners LeBron James, James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo are setting a cracking pace in the race to be crowned the NBA’s 2019-20 season MVP.

The 34-year-old LeBron is in vintage form for the West-leading LA Lakers, putting up 24.3 points, 7.7 rebounds and a league-high 11.1 assists. Houston guard Harden’s crazy numbers have not been affected by the addition of Russell Westbrook to the Rockets’ roster – ‘The Beard’ has topped 40 points in seven of his last 11 games and is averaging 39.5 points on the season, way ahead of the second-placed Antetokounmpo (30.1).

Milwaukee Bucks talisman Antetokounmpo is also ranked second in the NBA for rebounds (14.3). Meanwhile, the blockbusting ‘Greek Freak’ has also started draining threes on the reg in a chilling development for the Bucks’ rivals in the East.

The 20-year-old Luka Doncic remains an MVP dark horse, averaging 28.5 points, 10.7 rebounds and 9.1 assists in a sizzling start to his second NBA campaign. But his chances could largely depend on the fortunes of his Dallas Mavericks, who are 7-5 and on the fringes of the Western Conference title conversation.

Antetokounmpo was a standout recipient last season, while Harden was the 2017-18 MVP. James won the last of his four MVP gongs while still at the Miami Heat in 2012-13.

Blood Brothers: Agar Cops Freak Facial Injury

Western Australia star Ashton Agar appeared certain to grab some revenge on his younger brother, South Australia quick Wes, with a straightforward catch in Sunday’s one-day clash in Adelaide after being bowled out by his sibling earlier in the day. But it all went horribly awry for Aussie international Ashton.

The 26-year-old was left with blood streaming down his face after slipping at mid-on and copping a cricket ball to the face instead of gloving the catch. Fortunately, it was worse than it looked, with Agar cleared of serious damage.

There was extra consolation for Ashton as the Warriors came away with a tight six-run win, despite Redbacks opener Callum Ferguson’s sparkling 127 off 125 balls.

Roar Off the Mark with Stunning Comeback

Brisbane Roar bagged their first A-League win under new manager Robbie Fowler in spectacular style, overturning a two-goal deficit to roll previously unbeaten Melbourne City FC 4-3 at Redcliffe’s Dolphin Oval.

City led 3-1 after prolific former Roar striker Jamie Maclaren completed a hat-trick in the 51st minute. But with Scottish international Roy O’Donovan notching a treble – including the match-winning penalty in the 83rd minute – Brisbane snatched an unlikely victory.

The Roar had transformed into a gritty defensive unit under Liverpool icon Fowler, but they posted just two goals in their first five games of the A-League season before Sunday’s high-scoring thriller.

LaMelo-mania Rolls on Despite Hawks’ Struggles

The Illawarra Hawks are propping up the NBL ladder with a 2-8 record, but their teenage import has ensured they are one of the biggest drawcards in the league. The biggest crowd in NBL history – 17,143-strong, shattering a 23-year-old record – turned out to Qudos Bank Arena to see 18-year-old American LaMelo Ball take on the Sydney Kings.

The potential No.1 NBA Draft pick produced some exquisite touches in the Hawks’ 92-87 loss to the NBL-leading Kings. The offensive wunderkind is averaging 14.7 points, 6.9 rebounds and 6.1 assists, but it’s his maturity and defensive improvement that is drawing praise from those in the know.

Props to the Kings’ management, too: proceeds from the unprecedented ticket sales went to the Salvos’ Bushfire Appeal.

 

Stud of the Week

Stefanos Tsitsipas earned the biggest win of his relatively brief professional career – and a staggering AUD$4 million payday – by taking out the ATP Finals crown in London. The Greek 21-year-old upset Roger Federer in a one-sided semi-final, before coming from a set down to outlast Dominic Thiem 6-7 6-2 7-6 in the final.

Tsitsipas, who only appeared in his first grand slam event in 2017, burst into the consciousness of tennis fans worldwide with his Australian Open semi-final charge in January. The hype waned somewhat after his first-round exits at Wimbledon and the US Open, but this triumph could prove a springboard to releasing the grand slam grip of veteran ‘Big Three’ Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Federer in 2020.

 

Stat of the Week

Former Pacers and Thunder star Paul George missed the first three weeks of the NBA season, but the six-time All-Star has wasted little time making an impact with the LA Clippers. Returning from shoulder surgery with 33 points against the Pelicans, George marked his home debut with a staggering 37-point haul in just 20 minutes on the court as the Clippers routed the Hawks 150-101.

George drained six three-pointers in his home Clippers debut to become the first player in NBA history to score 37 points in less than 21 minutes. The 49-point winning margin was also the biggest ever by the Clippers.

George’s return coincided fortuitously with marquee man Kahwi Leonard sitting out a couple of games with a knee contusion. A Leonard-George combination shapes as a formidable counter to the burgeoning LeBron James-Anthony Davis partnership across town at the Lakers.

This Week in History

The 1994 Kangaroos wrapped up a hard-fought Ashes series triumph over Great Britain with a 23-4 victory in the third Test at Elland Road in Leeds. Great Britain had stunned Australia 8-4 in the opener at Wembley, before the tourists hit back 38-8 at Old Trafford.

The decider was delicately poised at 11-4 in Australia’s favour when man-of-the-match Steve Walters powered over for a try from dummy-half in the 69th minute. Brilliant halfback Ricky Stuart – who displaced great rival Allan Langer for the Test No.7 jersey during the tour – iced the result with a flick pass to send second-rower Dean Pay over under the posts.

Big 5 for the Week Ahead

11am, Thu 21st Nov – 1st Cricket Test: Australia v Pakistan
2pm, Thu 21st Nov – NBA: LA Clippers v Boston Celtics
9.45pm, Sat 23rd Nov – A-League: Perth Glory v Sydney FC
4.30am, Sun 24th Nov – Premier League: Manchester City v Chelsea
12.20pm, Mon 25th Nov – NFL: San Francisco 49ers v Green Bay Packers