In week two of his new regular Saturday column, #HotTaeks, Jack Howes finds rugby is struggling, baseball is lolz and hats are more interesting…

 

It’s been a pretty overwhelmingly dull week of sport if we’re honest. I mean, look, I’m sure there were some belters in the Toowoomba cricket league, but fairly or not, they don’t have quite the cachet of the Serb and Scot grunting at each other for four hours in the Australian Open final.

I am told that the Australian Baseball League had their finals with the Perth Blitz defeating Adelaide Bite 12-5 to claim their second title in a row, and their fourth in the last five years. Now, I know roughly as much about baseball as I do underwater hockey, darts and Mongolian eagle hunting, so I won’t pretend to give you any actual insight into the game. But I believe 12-5 is a pretty decent thrashing. I think it’s probably safe to say that Perth scored more runs and were the better team on the day. Minority sport or not, I really shouldn’t mock. As ridiculous as I (and most of Australia) might find it, baseball is the life and livelihood of many of these players. They should be recognised for their efforts, even if they do play the one sport, outside sumo wrestling, where fatties can still reign supreme.

While we’re on obscure sporting events, you all need to go check out the photos from a festival held in Qinghe County, Xinjiang, a northwestern province of China. At the festival, Chinese Kazakh Golden Eagle hunters competed in eagle hunting type activities, along with other traditional events including horse racing, archery and Bushkashi. The photos are extraordinary. Like something out of Mulan and Lord of the Rings combined – or maybe an HBO series about the Khans or Attila the Hun. Except, you know, it’s actually real and about a billion times cooler.

I’m not 100 percent sure about claiming eagle hunting as a sport, but racing, archery and Bushkashi definitely are, and the photos are cool as shit so it’s good enough for me. Also I want this dude’s hat so badly, you have no idea.

In sports closer to home, the Super Rugby tournament kicked off last night with the Melbourne Rebels taking on the seven-time champion Canterbury Crusaders, and the Western Force playing the defending champion New South Wales Waratahs. The Rebels are in their fourth season in the competition now, and are still yet to win a game overseas. They’ll be looking to break that record against a traditionally slow-starting Crusaders side. The Force defied expectations to almost make the finals last year, but will face a stiff test to start their 2015 campaign against a Waratahs side laden with Test stars. Rugby is struggling in Australia at the moment. A lack of success against traditional rivals New Zealand, coach and player dramas, and a lack of money, turned the show into somewhat of a farce last year. With the Rugby World Cup to be played in England and Wales later this year, the pressure is on for the Super Rugby teams to deliver in the lead-up.

The other World Cup of some note to be played this year is the Cricket World Cup, in Australia and New Zealand, which starts tonight. If you’re confused about cricket, ESPN have come up with an absolute belter of an explanatory video for their American audience. It might not have explained the googly, Chinamen, silly point, cow corner, or the doosra, but it’s got just about everything else covered.

The best story already is that of the Afghan cricket team. I covered some of it yesterday but it’s also been picked up by the New York Times, Global Voices, The Guardian and others. If you’re looking for a team to support, or a second team behind Australia, I can only urge you to get behind them. With Hazara refugees being sent back from our shores to face desperately dangerous futures, it’s a chance to show the Afghan community here and abroad that Australia does care about them.

 

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