Sporting chance at healing

It was fitting that the first anniversary today of the Bali bombing would be presaged by twin high points in Australian sporting history. From the black armbands worn by our Test cricketers playing Zimbabwe in Perth on Friday, to the golden sprigs of wattle sewn into the Wallabies’ jerseys for the Rugby World Cup opener at Homebush Bay, a sports loving nation quietly dedicated its latest triumphs to the 88 Australians and 114 others who were slaughtered by Islamic terrorists on October 12, 2002.

“I hope it is something that will bring some joy to those involved in the Bali tragedy at what must be a difficult time for them,” said Test star Matthew Hayden after scoring a historic 380 runs in Perth.

And when Prime Minister John Howard opened the World Cup at the Olympic stadium a few hours later, he reminded the 1 billion strong global audience that, of the 202 people killed in Bali, 130 came from rugby playing nations, and many were rugby players on end of season trips.

If a nation’s character is forged in adversity, then Bali has done its work, bringing out all that is admirable about Australia in the 12 months since the bombing. Cheap Jerseys free shipping It was there in the courage of survivors who went back into the flames that awful night to save strangers. It has been there in the stoicism of the injured, and the grace of the victims’ families. It has been there in acts of charity for the Balinese, such as the new burns unit at Sanglah Hospital to be opened today. It is there in the valour of our armed forces engaging in the war for peace, and in the mostly measured response by our leaders, from all sides of politics.

And it is there in the straight talk and clear thinking of 22 year old Gold Coast footballer Jake Ryan, who was injured in the Sari Club blast, but has been back to Bali three times since, in defiance of terrorists.

“People who think this crime was caused by anyone other than the terrorists are kidding themselves,” he wrote in The Australian newspaper on Friday.

“People who blame the West and blame Australia and blame John Howard should blame the cowards who actually detonated the bombs, and the bastards who financed them . . .

“If terrorists aren’t stopped, they’ll keep going, from New York to Bali to wherever next.”

Ryan was the first Australian to display his anger in court during the trials of the Bali bombers. “You’re a f king dog, mate, you are going to die, you f k,” he shouted, presciently, at Imam Samudra.

Governor General Michael Jeffery also did some straight talking on terrorism last week, causing a ripple of protest from those who don’t like to face reality, even on this anniversary, even as Time magazine is reporting that this region’s top terrorist, Hambali, has admitted under interrogation that al Qaeda provided the $30,000 funding for the Bali bombing and was so “highly satisfied” with the result it coughed up another $100,000.

“There are no easy answers to the problem of terrorism,” Major General Jeffery told a dinner of the Royal United Services Institute on Thursday, “and we shouldn’t delude ourselves that patient, thoughtful arguments against the futility and destructiveness of violence will eventually win over hardened fanatics. Terrorists must be ruthlessly pursued both domestically and internationally.”

He also stressed the necessity of maintaining strong links with the US, something Labor backbencher Harry Quick might do well to heed. In preparation for the visit this month of US President George Bush, Quick had the bright idea of getting MPs to turn their backs when Bush addresses Parliament.

Opposition Leader Simon Crean sensibly squashed the protest, but the Quick mentality does have adherents. They forget that, while Australia punches above its weight on the battlefield, just as on the sports field, it still needs powerful friends in a potentially unstable region with the world’s largest Islamic state to our north.

Poet Bruce Dawe has seen the light. An avowed critic of the US before Bali, he said on Friday, from his home in Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, that he has gone through a “reassessment” which is the title of a poem in his latest book. “Our nearest neighbour is Indonesia and we’re drawn inevitably into some of their problems and one of their problems is terrorism,” he said. “Whatever criticism we may make of our ‘big brother’, we badly need to keep the American connection because without it we’re really caught with our pants down.”