A MANLY sponsor has withdrawn its backing from the NRL club amid claims that the former Sea Eagles media manager, Peter Peters, appropriated property that had been provided for the players' use. The long-time sponsor, which has pumped in a six-figure sum over almost two decades, is now considering whether to refer the matter to the police. Fearing adverse publicity for its brand and the club, it has asked to remain unnamed. The alleged incident occurred at the start of last season. The sponsor claims it brought the matter to the club's attention but no action was taken. A second attempt was made to raise the issue before Christmas in correspondence with the club, which has been obtained by The Last Word. In an email, the sponsor says, ''… At no stage was my [product] ever delivered or used … for the players' use as per Peter Peters request, contrary to signed legal lease documents … I received no apology for Peter Peters action or lease monies refunded by the Club to me. As stated above, I withdrew my Sponsorship after I ascertained and confirmed that Peter Peters had moved my Co. [product] and gave it to one of his best mates …'' The sponsor went on, ''In short, I personally believe that Peter Peters is not a fit and proper person to be on any Board involving the MWDRLC and representing Members, Sponsors or fans of the Club period.'' The sponsor demanded Peters's immediate sacking. Peters, who was involved in the infamous ''good sort'' gaffe last year, parted ways with the Sea Eagles following their premiership triumph. Asked to comment on the matter, he said: ''It was handled by the [then-]CEO Graham Lowe at the time. It is embarrassing for people to bring it up and very petty. Perhaps the person who brought it up should have a look at themselves.''
A MARRIAGE GONE BAD
WHY did Marcos Baghdatis go completely spare at the Australian Open? There's a theory that the fiery Cypriot, who destroyed four racquets in his loss to Stanislas Wawrinka, was sending a very loud message to his racquet supplier, Tecnifibre. It turns out the French company chose not to renew its contract with Baghdatis, which expired just before the Open, for ''marketing reasons''. With no sponsor, Baghdatis appears to have repainted his Tecnifibre racquets to blot out the sponsor's markings. So were his actions in response to being dumped by Tecnifibre? ''No, no. I saw some comments on the news that he was very upset and very pissed because he has no contract - no, no, no,'' said Tecnifibre's sports marketing manager, Guillaume Ducruet. ''I don't believe in that story. I believe he was just pissed on court and broke four racquets because he was frustrated.'' Ducruet said the footage - which has gone viral on YouTube - has not affected their sales. ''That is not the way to treat a racquet on court. You have to set an example for kids.'' Tecnifibre will not sponsor Baghdatis again. ''Marcos is a good kid … but it is a marriage, sometimes it is for the best and for the worst. The love story has ended,'' Ducruet said.
THE WISDOM OF YOUTH
WHAT has been the turning point in the career of Michael Clarke? The Australian skipper has been in sublime form, which we reckon roughly coincided with some timely advice from Daniel Brew. Brew, you may recall, is the teenage sage who became an overnight celebrity after gatecrashing Clarke's news conference a year ago. Brew won't take all the credit for Clarke's renaissance, but reckons his tips have had some effect. ''I think after a while he did [take it on board] but not straight away,'' Brew said. ''He's still playing the ball away from his body, though. Everything else I said - like keeping his head over the ball and that - he's fixed those things but is playing away from his body a bit. Once he fixes that he should be right.'' Brew, 18, has recently been promoted to Grovedale's second grade side in the Geelong competition. So what advice does he have for Shaun Marsh? While admitting he hasn't seen much of Marsh's recent batting, he offered the following: ''I'd tell him to get into the nets and go back to how he just learnt [the game], moving towards the ball without a bat in his hands. Getting a tennis ball or cricket ball thrown to him and moving his foot there. Then just blocking it and getting his timing right.''
IT'S JUST NOT THE SAME
RICKY PONTING is back in form, the Australians are again dominating the cricket … but there is still something missing from our Indian summer. And we've just worked out what it is - the unmistakable sound of The 12th Man extracting the urine from the Channel Nine commentary team. We asked Billy Birmingham if he would consider again donning the cream, bone, white, off-white, ivory or beige jacket and returning to the microphone. ''A lot of the fodder that I have taken the piss out of over the years has disappeared,'' Birmingham lamented. ''The new guys' voices - your Slats [Michael Slater], your Heals [Ian Healy], your Tubbies [Mark Taylor] and Warney [Shane Warne] when he's on - they all sound the same. There's nothing larger than life in their vocal style, there is no idiosyncrasies to their commentary style. So I doubt very much whether I''d be tempted to come back and do one. But as John Farnham said, 'Ha, never say never'.''
THE LONG GOODBYE
OUR sporting heroes are not the retiring types. Some, like Ricky Ponting, and Lleyton Hewitt have shown there is still fight in the old dog. However, form and fitness concerns continue to linger over Olympic hopefuls Jana Pittman and Ian Thorpe. Who will be the first to pull the pin? We put the question to betting agency Betstar, which framed the following market:
❏ Ian Thorpe $1.80
❏ Jana Pittman $2.50
❏ Ricky Ponting $6.00
❏ Lleyton Hewitt $7.50
''If Thorpe and Pittman fail in London, they surely will retire … hence they are favourites,'' Betstar's Alan Eskander said. ''It's hard to see Lleyton retiring after showing great form against the world No.1. Ponting knocking out 200 sees him a cert for the Windies tour … how long past is anyone's guess.''
Beau Ryan has added underwear model to a CV that includes TV star and Wests Tigers winger. He has signed up as an ambassador for Australian brand Tuffys, alongside Tuffetts spruiker Esther Anderson. ''All the boys are getting jealous and think that I look better with my Tuffys on,'' Ryan said.
IT'S NOT A PICNIC BUT AGE SHALL NOT WEARY HIM
Mike Keenan is on track to become Australia's oldest jockey. Keenan, who turns 69 in July, is chasing a picnic licence with a view to competing in feature races this year. He last rode in 1995 but has been granted a graded track licence by Racing NSW after taking a simulated riding examination this week.
The licence allows the Southern Highlands' resident to ride a certain number of horses at trackwork to improve his fitness. He will then resit the exam in four to six weeks. ''When I get licensed, I don't know whether I'll be the oldest but I'll be knocking on the door,'' Keenan said. ''I feel very fit and well and have a real passion for horses. People laugh at me and say 'You can pass anything but a TAB'.''
We asked Racing NSW officials if Keenan was about to set a record. They could recall only one older rider, Lyle Weaver, who rode in his early 70s.
''The knockers will say 'He's a mad old bastard, what's he out there for?' That I'll have an accident,'' said Keenan, whose first ride was in 1964. ''[But] unless health gets me I'll ride well into my 70s. It sounds like madness to even talk about it, but the oldest jockey to ride a winner was 84, in Ireland. So I've still got a way to go yet.''
YES, MINISTER, MORE SPIN
The NSW Minister for Sport and Recreation, Graham Annesley, was given some golfing tips from former World No. 1 Laura Davies at the launch of the NSW Women's Open at the Oatlands Golf Club during the week. So, what advice did Davies give the former NRL official when they hit the chipping area? ''She told me I needed to impart a bit more spin, which is probably the first time in history a politician has been told he should be using more spin,'' Annesley quipped.