Every single year leading into the tournament regional sporting guru Nick McGrath asks me a simple question – “are you going to get all wrapped up in Astley Cup fever again?”.
Every year I tell Nicko, and myself for that matter, “no, I won’t”.
Every year I do anyway and 2017 wasn’t any different.
I always end up far too invested in the inter-school tournament and how Orange High fares and no matter how hard I tried I well and truly bought into the buzz surrounding the Hornets again this year.
See what I did there? Buzz, Hornets?
Yeah, you get it. Classic.
Anyway, the 2017 edition of the tournament has been and gone – congratulations Bathurst, commiserations Orange and Dubbo – and since it finished Nicko and I have had our thinking caps on.
Could the Astley Cup be bigger and better?
Could it be expanded to an Olympics-style tournament?
Firstly let me clarify the fact there is no change slated for the competition.
Let’s call this a simple brainstorming session.
The competition has been running since 1923 – 94 years – and it’s been as competitive as ever in recent years so the concept is obviously working.
It’s already the three schools’ marquee event each year and there’s tradition in place, which needs to be preserved.
We don’t want to lose that tradition, we just think there’s potential to build on it.
In a big way.
The International Olympic Committee approved a proposal for five new sports to be included into the 2020 Tokyo Games – skateboarding, surfing, karate, sports climbing and baseball/softball.
Could that be used as a model for Astley Cup evolution?
We don’t even know what sports climbing is and there’s not much chance of anyone hanging 10 on Lake Canobolas, so by no means are we suggesting those sports should be included in the inter-school tournament.
But, there’s definitely merit in the idea of expanding the competition and creating what would essentially be a super-duper-mega tournament.
Don’t limit it to the Astley Cup either. Build on the Mulvey Cup too – more on that later.
From all the sports around the world, how do you decide which ones would be considered?
Participation numbers is an obvious place to start.
Looking at the Australian Sports Commission’s (ASC) 2016 AusPlay survey, the competition as it is now is pretty much on the money.
Of the seven sports contested already, six of them – football, netball, tennis, basketball, rugby league and athletics – rank in the top 11 nation-wide, in terms of participation.
The other, hockey, is a massive part of the fabric of sport in this region.
But the talent in the three schools involved certainly isn’t limited to those sports, that’s why we think there’s room for more.
Golf, touch football and swimming are obvious choices to us, they happen to rank second, eighth and ninth, respectively, on that ASC study too.
Another is league tag, which has experienced a massive boom in popularity in recent years.
It’s become a steadfast, and supremely entertaining, fixture in Group 10 and Group 11 and all three schools have some serious tag talent.
Play it right before the rugby league fixture, they go hand-in-hand.
That probably makes more sense than any other sport we’ll suggest.
Since Australia won gold at the Olympics rugby sevens’ popularity seems to have no ceiling, there’d be room for that too.
That’s just a handful, but let’s go a bit left field with it too.
The Orange Eight Days Games has done that, and that competition is thriving.
No wonder, thong tossing’s a part of it.
On that note, we wouldn’t mind seeing a Gladiators-style portion of the Astley Cup.
Yes, the old TV show Gladiators.
The dual, the gauntlet, the pyramid and of course the eliminator...it was one of the greatest sporting events of all-time and it happened every week.
Bring it back, bring back Who Dares Wins too.
The more Mike Whitney, the better.
The Mulvey Cup, to be fair there’s probably more room to expand this one.
It’s been a debating fixture for, well, as long we can remember.
We think there’s room to dedicate it entirely to academics.
Add in mathematics, the sciences, singing, dancing – although it’s definitely a sport it fits in nicely here – drama, music and a spelling bee and you’ve got yourself an absolute extravangaza.
Find a way to make it a 10-event contest, bang, academic decathlon – ala Billy Madison.
Personally if I was still at school I’d demand they include a movie quotes competition or a Simpsons reference contest.
Why not do it anyway, that’d draw a crowd for sure, particularly if there was a section entirely dedicated to Keanu Reeves movies.
“Pop quiz, hotshot. There's a bomb on a bus. Once the bus goes 50 miles an hour, the bomb is armed. If it drops below 50, it blows up. What do you do?”.
Speed, what a great movie.
No matter what happens, there’s little doubt I’ll get all wrapped up in Astley Cup fever again next year anyway.