When jockey Tye Angland suffered a serious spinal injury after a race fall at Sha Tin, one of the first people to drop everything and fly to Hong Kong to be by his side was Tommy Berry.
That was late November. Since then, Angland has flown back to Sydney to learn he faces the “likelihood” of being a quadriplegic, so severe have his injuries proved to be.
Cut to the scene at the SCG on day two of the Test between Australia and India and there, in a private room, Angland sat in a motorised wheelchair, smile on his face and in good spirits alongside a small gathering of friends.
It was Berrys idea to get Angland to the cricket, helping him navigate through the crowd before they took their place in the Noble-Bradman Stand.
There has been much mystery about Anglands condition with everyone in the racing industry respecting the request of his family for privacy.
The Australian Jockeys Association released a statement on their behalf just after Christmas: “As a result of the fall, Tye had a fracture and dislocation of the spine as well as a spinal cord injury. The spine has been stabilised and realigned. Tyes doctors advise the long-term prognosis for injuries of this nature are always hard to diagnose in the early stages. However, there remains a likelihood of Tyes outcome being a quadriplegic.”
The first public sighting of Angland will certainly warm the heart of many within the industry.
Berry politely declined to comment when contacted just as he was boarding a plane to the Gold Coast for the Magic Millions. He has seven rides on Saturday, including outsider Champagne Jet in the $2 million two-year-old classic.
Angland stunned everyone in 2017 when he swooped late on $101 shot Flying Jess to win the $2 million Magic Millions Guineas and he will no doubt be in the minds of many people this weekend.
Jockeys are as hard as flint. They have to be when they are guiding 500 kilograms of horse flesh at top speed around tight racetracks, having eaten very little for the week, carrying the weight of expectation from owners, trainers and especially punters.
The risks are too easily forgotten. Leading jockey Blake Shinn returned to trackwork on Thursday after breaking the C1 and C5 vertebrae in his neck during a fall in a trial in August.
When tragedy strikes, jockeys rally around each other, bound by the life-threatening danger they face every time they saddle up.
Berry understands that as much as anyone after his twin brother, Nathan, died in 2014 from a mystery illness (later diagnosed as an acute form of epilepsy) after collapsing at trackwork in Singapore.
The racing industry rallied around Berry then, just as they are getting around Angland now.
None of the many peers in his corner are surprised about his positive attitude despite finding himself in the toughest of circumstances.
There were other curious sightings at the Test, including the legendary Allan Border at the Trust Suite function on day four.
He was spotted in deep conversation with former teammate and current selector Greg Chappell just after lunch after the Test side's current malaise. Former PM and cricket (and Dragons) tragic John Howard joined them soon after to impart some wisdom.
Border was left on day five to present the Border-Gavaskar Trophy on his own to series-winning Indian captain Virat Kohli because counterpart Sunil Gavaskar was still in India.
Gavaskar blames an “administrative error” for his no-show because he wasn't invited, although weve got it on strong authority he was asked to attend by Cricket Australia officials but felt insulted because he didnt get a call someone further up the chain.
The NRL is awash with talk that deregistered Sharks coach Shane Flanagan is meticulously and confidently preparing his submission to be allowed back into the game — but the chances of it being at his old club appear slim.
Flanagan seems to understand the best he can do is have his suspension reduced, but its understood influential people at the Sharks wont be throwing out the welcome mat for him to return. They are looking to move on and John Morris' appointment as coach pretty much confirms it.
Flanagan and Tigers chief executive Justin Pascoe, who has been deregistered over an undeclared ambassador role for Robbie Farah, have until the end of January to make their submissions for reinstatement.
In very un-rugby league fashion, both men are finding plenty of sympathy from other club bosses who believe the sanctions are way too harsh.
Tapes Scandal revived
News on Monday that Sydney drug baron Victor Spink, 76, had died of a likely drug overdose at a hotel near Sydneys Central Station triggered memories of the infamous 1995 Jockey Tapes Scandal, in which he was known as “Mr C”.
Spink was picked up on Australian Federal Police phone taps talking to leading jockeys Jim Cassidy and Kevin Moses, allegedly trying to fix races.
The story was broken by the Herald the day before the Golden Slipper. Cassidy was dumped off Flying Spur, who then won with Glen Boss in the saddle.
All parties denied fixing races but the jockeys were eventually found guilty of tipping, leading to Cassidy being banned for three years before he his ban was reduced. He returned in 1997 to win the Caulfield and Melbourne cups on Might and Power.
Cassidy discusses the scandal in great detail in his 2016 autobiography Pumper. He writes he first met Spink when Spink approached him at the races in 1993 before getting to know him better through former jockey Shane Dye.
“Can you help me?” Dye asked Cassidy, according to Cassidys book.
“Help you how?” Cassidy replied.
“Ive been doing my arse with this bloke. Ive been tipping to him bad. I cant find him a winner. I owe him money. I have to get square with him and Im having no luck. Can you help me pick a winner for him?”
Dye received no sanction for his dealings with Spink.
The book also includes transcripts of the grilling Cassidy received from former chief steward John Schreck.
Cassidy: “I never seen any of his [Spink's] money.”
Schreck: “None at all?”
Cassidy: “I have never got one cent out of the bloke. All he ever done was either always winning or losing. But all I ever heard about was the losing.”
Schreck: “Never bought you a car or Mrs Cassidy a gold watch?”
Cassidy: “Definitely not … He was more a hassle to me than anything. As it has turned out, he has been an enormous hassle.”
Meanwhile, the ATC has enjoyed a massive spike in new and renewed memberships since it was revealed in the Herald on Tuesday that it was closing its membership.
The brainchild of freshly appointed chief executive Jamie Barkley, the decision to make new applicants go on a waitlist from February 1 — ala the SCG — has seen no less than 300 people signed up in less than a week.
Thats a 400 per cent increase on the same days as last year.
Andrew Webster is Chief Sports Writer of The Sydney Morning Herald.
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