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Emerald City has lost it's soul, not just it's sparkle.

9933 Views 155 Replies 47 Participants Last post by  crazyknightsfan

Richard Ackland
June 12, 2009

Sydney is not a lovely place in winter. The CBD is a biting wind tunnel, Frank Sartor's granite footpaths are stained with the grease from spilled milkshakes, the sun is thin, the faces chapped and there's a pervading pong of rotten cooking oil and urine.

You've more chance of being crippled for life by a wild-eyed skateboarder than you have of finding a delicious and inexpensive meal after 2.30 in the afternoon. In fact, you can walk the entire length of the city from Central to Circular Quay on some thoroughfares and find nothing other than 1950-style cafes doing ham and cheese on toast.

Forget all the "Emerald City" nonsense, to borrow a line from someone I can't remember; Sydney makes Dallas look like Paris.

Here's another line, from the late great French cultural figure and politician, Andre Malraux. In Paris, he said, the city controls the developers. The developers do not control the city. Naturally he said it in French, so it sounded so much better.

Sydney's what you get when the developers run the place. Badly designed, cheaply finished buildings. You can count on the fingers of one, maybe one-and-a-half, hands buildings constructed in the CBD in the last 50 years where aesthetics were given at least an even break with the money. The big institutions, particularly the banks and Telstra, have given us some shockers.

Still, we're used to shockers: the Cahill Expressway and the monorail have helped deaden our response to whatever fresh hell is around the corner. My personal favourites are the overhead footways criss-crossing the city, like vast vacuum tubes sucking consumers from one shopping extravaganza to another. If ever there was a determined piece of civic uglification it is the overhead pedestrian tunnel - the brute force of commerce crushing charm.

The old Carlton brewery site on Broadway, if work ever recommences, will be massively overdeveloped - as will the Barangaroo project. Opportunity after opportunity is missed - Darling Harbour has the unmistakable aura of a tourist clip joint and that other great promise, Pyrmont, is filled with apartments designed for dwarfs.

Every time an area requiring sensitive management comes on the horizon a special planning committee filled with party hacks, mates, real estaters and "planners" gets to work to eviscerate the promise of something uplifting.

Of course, there's the dazzle of the harbour and one or two incredible structures. You can get the odd good Thai dinner in the suburbs and there's the odd terrific new development (witness the new community centre in Crown Street, Surry Hills).

But what's happened to the soul of Sydney? The fact that the place is crawling with merchant bankers doesn't do much for a soul, but the real drag on the spirit has to be sheeted home to the politicians, who at best are ordinary and at worse dubious.

And that's what the city has become - ordinary and dubious.

There's no leader whoever spruiks the spirited talk of the greatness of city life and urban design. You have to go back 30 or more years to the days of the Department of Urban and Regional Development and Tom Uren to recall any government that had a passing thought about urbanity.

It was never on Howard's radar; however, the Ruddites have just established something called the Major Cities Unit, which exists in the Office of the Infrastructure Co-ordinator, the outfit charged with "prioritising billions of dollars in infrastructure investment".

But, when you look at the visionless political oiks of NSW, night after night on the box, you just know we haven't got a hope. It makes you want to see again that little jumping jack Leo Port, the former lord mayor of Sydney, who at least had some energy and always seemed to be rolling out plans and poring over models for improvements and beautification.

Today there's political paralysis. A few years ago the Government had an opportunity to tear down the Cahill Expressway, but was frozen by the thought that there'd be a backlash from the whingers in the bush if a red cent was spent doing something half-decent for Sydney.

Still, the great beer-barn developments in places such as Kings Cross get waved through the development machine, including the Land and Environment Court, while the small bars are stymied in red tape. Try and get a civilised drink out of sight of a poker machine, just keep trying.

John O'Neill, the chairman of Events NSW, had a piece on these pages on Monday. My pulse quickened as he wrote that the Business Council and a whole pile of other worthies think it's about time something was done about the city and the state. "Something radical, a bit out of left field," he teased. This exciting bit of boldness turned out to be "Brand Sydney", yet another marketing exercise, or putting lipstick on the pig. Apparently "Vivid Sydney", a winter wonderland cultural event, is part of the brand. All I noticed was that the Opera House was lit up.

Yet, Sydney always manages to trick its way into getting listed as an incredibly desirable place to live. It's equal eighth on The Economist's latest "liveability ranking". Last year in something called the annual Anholt City Brands Index it came first. Don't believe it.

On second thoughts that's a measure of branding. O'Neill's people are doing well. Shame about our heart and soul.
He's right about pretty much everything except the Cahill. The "bush whingers" are right in that it would be a waste of money for negligible benefit, but with regards to the odious relationship between politics and real estate in this city, he's right on the money.
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It's really sad. I agree with him. Sydney has overwhelmingly disappointed me since the Olympics... Only now am I seeing others with shared opinions come out and say so.
It's a shame, really.

I mean, I don't think there's any place in Sydney where you can go clubbing and feel safe. I always feel uncomfortable in Kings Cross, for instance. Which is why I go local...

Which is crap too.
are u unusually paranoid?

i've never felt unsafe when clubbing
are u unusually paranoid?

i've never felt unsafe when clubbing
The contents of my wallet frequently feel unsafe when on a night out in Sydney.....stupid Argyle......:cheers::cheers::cheers:
Richard Ackland is a literary moron, why the SMH bothers with him is beyond belief. Even TT or ACA can come up with better stuff. This guy is sleazier than an Oxford Street toilet at 2am.


Richard Ackland Columns
Friday June 12, 2009
Emerald city has lost its soul, not just its sparkle

Sydney is not a lovely place in winter. The CBD is a biting wind tunnel, Frank Sartor's granite footpaths are stained with the grease from spilled milkshakes, the sun is thin, the faces chapped and there's a pervading pong of rotten cooking oil and urine.
Friday June 05, 2009
Why copyright law may be going to the dogs

Last Easter, an old friend took me to the dogs at Wentworth Park. The former secretary of the NSW Treasury, Percy Allan, is chairman of Greyhound Racing NSW, the statutory agency that manages and funds the racing of greyhounds at various tracks around the state.
Friday May 22, 2009
Bikie laws sideline the rule of law

Other places in other times know only too well how bad laws can quietly creep upon the citizenry, pile up one by one and then destroy the very fabric they sought to protect. If there is any smouldering doubt that the Rees Government's anti-bikie gang law is a bad piece of work, the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions, Nicholas Cowdery, QC, has extinguished it.
Friday May 15, 2009
Sometimes the media have to be judge and jury

All but a hermit would know of the absolute cracker of a Four Corners story on Monday night, called Code Of Silence. The intriguing thing is, I hear people insist the code of silence should have extended to Four Corners.
Friday May 08, 2009
Media Watch mission is to look beyond inky trees

I don't know whether you caught the 20-year Media Watch retrospective on ABC TV last night. The best thing about it was the editing - the product of the inspirational razor-blade wielder John Pleffer.
Friday May 01, 2009
When reptiles of the media don cloak of freedom

Tonight a swarm of journalists descends on Cockle Bay in "cocktail" rig for a huge Press Freedom dinner. Normally journalists tend not to give each other the time of day, let alone sit down to dinner together, but tonight the cause is worthy. The funds will go to provide "emergency assistance" for journalists in the Asia-Pacific region.
Friday April 24, 2009
Rolah McCabe strikes back from the grave

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Friday April 17, 2009
Frangipani curtain hides evil deeds

The British system of justice is one of the greatest achievements of human ingenuity - or so those who slave in the system like to keep telling themselves.
Friday April 10, 2009
Libelled with love: the fight continues

What sort of reputation does your religion have? It's Easter, so it's an appropriate moment to ask - assuming you've got a religion.
Friday April 03, 2009
Triumphs and disgraces of law and order

David Levine is nearly 65. He served on the NSW District Court and the Supreme Court for 18 years, mostly as a common law trial judge. Before that he was at the bar for 20 years where, among other things, he acted for this newspaper in defamation cases.
Friday March 27, 2009
Rees goes gangbusters with draconian response

'Red Hot" Nathan Rees is onto those bikies. Something's going to be done as a result of the slaughter at the airport on Sunday. "I was sickened by this brazen attack. Violence of this nature in front of families and children is nothing short of disgusting," a sickened and disgusted Premier told the media.
Friday March 20, 2009
Einfeld drove his fate and reputation over a cliff

Shortly after 10 o'clock this morning Marcus Einfeld should know his punishment for two criminal offences: perjury and perverting the course of justice.
Friday March 13, 2009
Human rights dialogue develops a stutter

The former High Court judge Michael McHugh supports the idea of Australia having a human rights act.
Friday March 06, 2009
Public bays for blood but the story is a fraught one

There is outrage over the sentencing of a man for sexually assaulting a girl. But sentencing is an area fraught with difficulty and imperfection, writes Richard Ackland.
Friday February 27, 2009
Kessing's case highlights the media's ethics

The parliamentary report on Commonwealth whistleblowing came down on Wednesday and was greeted with quiet murmurs from the media.
Friday February 20, 2009
National security means thumbs-up for torture

Every so often a lost soul can unwittingly set off a chain of events that alter a slice of the world. So it is with Binyam Mohamed, an Ethopian-born British resident whose actual residence for the past 4 and a half years has been Guantanamo Bay, writes Richard Ackland.
Friday February 13, 2009
Dodgy loans, unjust contracts and the public interest

We wake up this morning and all the stimulus is gone - thanks to Senator Nick Xenophon. The Government's $42 billion "nation-building and job plan" has stalled, writes Richard Ackland.
Friday February 06, 2009
How the fat cats made the quick lawyers jump

Should lawyers take some of the responsibility for the credit crisis and unravelling economic landscape, asks Richard Ackland.
Friday January 30, 2009
How lawyers helped create Guantanamo

What works better in the war on terrorism? Trials that are rigged to produce verdicts of guilt for bogus charges based on coerced testimony - or a system of due process that respects the rights of the accused, asks Richard Ackland.
Friday January 23, 2009
War crimes: talk but not much action

Since July 1, 2002, the International Criminal Court in The Hague has been responsible for prosecuting war crimes, writes Richard Ackland.
Friday December 26, 2008
Lapsed judgment: thieves among Their Honours

Judges, supposedly, are a cut above politicians. Judicial duties require learning, wisdom, fairness, balance and restraint. Almost the exact opposite to what we expect from pollies, writes Richard Ackland.
Friday December 19, 2008
Law, theatre and shrewd judgment

On her 50th birthday Virginia Bell, the most recent appointment to the High Court of Australia, was carried aloft on a sedan chair by four Nubian slaves, writes Richard Ackland.
Friday December 12, 2008
Kirby really is a radical: he made court courteous

From now till his departure from the High Court, six weeks earlier than his constitutional senility dictates, there is going to be a raft of encomiums, tributes and sprays offered to Justice Michael Kirby, writes Richard Ackland.
Friday December 05, 2008
Charter foes tilting at scary straw monsters

Human rights are about to have a great big birthday party next Wednesday. It's the 60th anniversary of the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights, writes Richard Ackland.
Friday November 28, 2008
The smug satisfaction of those who would save us from queue jumpers

During The Howard Years on ABC1 Monday nights, those "mean and tricky" faces (Shane Stone's words) from the former world march back into our living rooms. And it's enjoyable to have them back, so we can see the marvellous displays of tribal treachery and knifing, writes Richard Ackland.
Friday November 21, 2008
The answer's Semple - cull federal magistrates

It's a reflex condition of the human spirit that once a person is elevated to rung No.1 on the greasy ladder of life, immediately rung No.2 is the place they really want to be, writes Richard Ackland.
Friday November 14, 2008
A little of what you fancy may not be what you want

Thump. Down plops another report from Australia's Right to Know, a coalition of media companies and organ-isations (including Fairfax Media) lobbying under the acronym ARK, writes Richard Ackland.
Friday November 07, 2008
The legal minefield awaiting Team Obama

It's "just a piece of paper" is the way George Bush famously described the US constitution. Bush has scant respect for the piece of paper and surrounded himself with lawyers who systematically worked out ways to shred it, writes Richard Ackland.
Friday October 24, 2008
Media are tough on crime and rough on justice

On June 16 the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research issued a report that showed there was no link between the shortage of heroin and the rise in the use of amphetamines, writes Richard Ackland.
Friday October 17, 2008
A little closer to Einfeld truth? You be the judge

The Marcus Einfeld case speeds on, with bits of it falling off on to the roadway as it zooms into the blue beyond, writes Richard Ackland.
Friday October 10, 2008
When the law provides no justice, call a reporter

Every blue moon a journalist does some real good in the world. My pin-up girl right now is Colleen Egan, a Perth journalist for the local organ The Sunday Times, writes Richard Ackland.
Friday October 03, 2008
Buckley's chance of buffing Ruddock legacy

Have you noticed that in his quiet, dogged way Philip Ruddock has embarked on a mission to reshape his legacy?, writes Richard Ackland.
Friday September 19, 2008
Chameleon Turnbull: one minute jovial, the next lethal

Who wrote this memorable ditty: "Fifty-four cents for peas and beans. And only a dollar for best whipping cream. Where do ya get it?", writes Richard Ackland.
Friday September 12, 2008
Pubs and clubs have lost the battle, but not the war

Frankly, I miss the enchanting John Thorpe, former head hotelier of NSW. "We aren't barbarians but we don't want to sit in a hole and drink chardonnay and read a book," the chief beer puller said just over a year ago, writes Richard Ackland.
Friday August 29, 2008
Torture enthusiasts are in the line of British fire

Remember that clutch of outspoken and confident lawyers who in last year's torture debates bravely came out for the freedom?
Friday August 08, 2008
Jury lost is a system found wanting, again

One can only admire the restraint exercised by Jason Morrison, a 2GB radio announcer who is filling in on the airwaves for the absent and terribly missed Alan Jones. Morrison is the man whose unfortunate fate it was to trigger the discharge of the jury in the Gordon Wood murder trial, writes Richard Ackland.
Thursday July 31, 2008
The rise of a judicial orchid

Who is this Justice French and where the hell does he come from? Which is another way of asking how come a Federal Court judge from the boondocks of Western Australia caught the eye of the selectors in Canberra, asks Richard Ackland.
Friday July 25, 2008
Here comes the judge - but which one will it be?

Walk three steps down the Boulevard of Broken Dreams (aka Phillip Street) and your ear will be bent with 10 different speculations about the next chief justice of the High Court, writes Richard Ackland.
Friday July 18, 2008
Meanwhile, down south one slips past the keeper

On the very day this week that the full Federal Court was ever so gently reading up our rights by doing away with the World Youth Day regulation that clumsily sought to protect "pilgrims" from annoyance, a different bench of the court in Melbourne was reading down our rights, with much more serious and fundamental implications, writes Richard Ackland.
Friday July 11, 2008
Quick runaround in legal circles to stay on the spot

What must life be like for poor Morris Iemma? Does he want to stay put in bed in the morning for fear of some fresh horror unfolding?, writes Richard Ackland.
Friday July 04, 2008
Charge like a wounded bull, sting like a bee

In ancient Hindu mythology there existed an infinite number of universes, each one having its own set of gods, rules and ideals, writes Richard Ackland.
Friday June 27, 2008
High Court ponders World Youth Day largesse

Five days before the last federal election John Howard dipped with desperation into his grab bag of tricks and came up with $22 million of Commonwealth money for World Youth Day - the Catholic Church's proselytising and marketing extravaganza to be held in this city next month, writes Richard Ackland.
Friday June 13, 2008
Sudoku squares off with dozing

As things stand it has been judicially decided that it is perfectly permissible for judges to nod off during trials, but if juries do not pay attention proceedings are aborted, regardless of the enormous waste of money and time, writes Richard Ackland.
Friday June 06, 2008
New act, but characters past haunt the scene

So many dark shadows flittering across what's left of the mind that it is enough to feel quite spooked, writes Richard Ackland.
Friday May 30, 2008
Cosy alternative to cold lattes and raisin toast

The small cafes and nosheries along Macquarie Street increasingly find themselves home to the lonely and dispossessed. The hunched figures lingering over cold lattes are likely to be barristers plying their trade, without chambers, writes Richard Ackland.
Friday May 23, 2008
Guantanamo defenders should hang their heads

I wonder if, in the time-out room of their souls, the former government's doughty little foot soldiers of freedom feel the odd shiver of embarrassment or shame, writes Richard Ackland.
Friday May 16, 2008
When the sleep fairy goes to court

While some toss and turn and can't get a wink of sleep in the still dark of night, others can fall into the arms of Morpheus during the most momentous of occasions, like criminal trials, writes Richard Ackland.
Friday May 09, 2008
Horror stories unfairly bedevil charter of rights

In recent weeks the charter of rights "debate" has been heading largely in one direction - against. The antagonists have had longer at the megaphone than usual. Cardinal George Pell is out on the barricades, and unsurprisingly he thinks a charter of rights is a bad thing, along with stem-cell research, contraception and abortion, writes Richard Ackland.
M Warne ridicules Buchanan's Ashes switch
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I disagree with him on a lot of what he says.

His use of alliteration and olfactory imagery in the opening paragraph reek of HSC-esque creative writing, and frankly I don't think the CBD either smells or thats its awesome granite footpaths are "greasy."

I'm in the city every day and I'm yet to see a 1950s style cafe; and while I concede that there's certainly a lack of quality cheap food available, hes way off the mark

He is right about the Cahill expressway though; the monorail? i dont see why its so bad

The overhead walkways are bliss compared to the mayhem of narrow CBD footpaths below

The CUB site's design looks awesome, and is partly designed by norman foster, one of the worlds greatest architects. likewise, i love the concept for barangaroo. We're talking about a big city here, I don't see how you can have over-development.

But otherwise, I'm mostly with him. The CBD is soulless, and homogeneous in urban design from CQ to central. Retail and food outlets are scattered randomly, with random colleges, organisations, churches and offices in between, lacking any sense of organisation.

And he's right about the bars too. I miss being in Europe and feeling the communal atmosphere of small bars with really weird people and random drinks to try.

I also think we need some more mega shops where you can actually play with products (like apples store at the moment) - its interactivity which will drive people to be in the city, even if they're not buying anything
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I still think Sydney is a great and beautiful city. The great thing about it, unlike in other Aussie cities, is that the centre is not the only hub of the city. You get life riddled all around the city, but you also get diversity in the forms of architecture and nature as well depending on where you go. These pessimistic gloomy "Sydney is ugly/bland/boring/soulless" annoying articles have been around for years and years and years and they just annoy me now. It's as if the consensus now is that you're supposed to dislike Sydney and if you don't, you're blinded, etc.

Things won't be changing until we get a new government, so I guess I have to put up with all these annoying articles. No city is perfect and each city has problems, but I think Sydney's problems aren't that big when compared to some other places. We deserved that spot on the Livability Cities list in my opinion. It didn't "trick" its way onto the list. Maybe it actually is a nice city? ;)
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I'm in the city every day and I'm yet to see a 1950s style cafe; and while I concede that there's certainly a lack of quality cheap food available, hes way off the mark
I think he's correct if you consider streets like Elizabeth St - I know of a greasy milk-bar between Martin Place and Chifley Plaza, but there's nowhere else except Starbucks cnr Park st.
Plus, on weekends there's virtually nothing open past Pitt St Mall CBD-wide
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A few points were alright but the majority was garbage! The CUB site being massive overdevelopment - WTF!?!?! It sits right next to Australias biggest rail and bus interchange and the the designs look spectacular on paper. If anything, being that close to the CBD and PT it should have been even bigger. Where do I find those 50's style cafes? I love them! And I love the monorail !
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Where do I find those 50's style cafes?
I think this douchebag has had too many meals at CityExtra, lol
I think this douchebag has had too many meals at CityExtra, lol
I don't even think he made it to CityExtra - even that is better than 1950's diners, being licensed and open late!
I'll be the judge in a months time ;)
Oxford street eateries awaiten you Dilaz.

You'll be in your element. (of course im not referring to food at all).

If that reviewer caught a train he'd have more fuel to add to the fire because you can get a good whiff of fumes in the older trains on any given day on Metrorail.
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well i'll be damned if Sydney was just the city...

his criticism of Darling Harbour is ridiculous when you consider that the world's most popular cities, most notably Paris, have a district purely dedicated to keeping a facade that the world expects. French rap didn't start in the mean streets of the Champs-Elysses, or on the Champs de Mars
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I read an editorial in the Daily Terrorgraph earlier today:,22049,25660969-5001031,00.html

Sat-nav for the soul of Sydney

IT shouldn't be necessary to publish a guide telling people where they live, but have you wandered around Newtown lately? Some of those bunnies don't even know what country they're in.

A few of them need help narrowing it down to a particular solar system.

So, as a service to location-puzzled readers, here are your infallible Top 25 Signs That You Live in Sydney:

1. The shower in your newly-rented inner-city house has lights . . . in the floor.

2. It has two showers and two sets of taps.

3. Before, during and after State of Origin, a colleague stops speaking to her mother - because her mother was born in Queensland.

4. You can expertly imitate a New Zealand accent, despite never visiting New Zealand.

5. The monthly rent at your pervo shower house is 13 times the price of your first car.

6. A side-effect of pregnancy is the rapid relocation from inner-city to more affordable outer western suburbs.

7. The only non-Anglo words you can pronounce perfectly are either food terms or the names of rugby league players.

8. The city's primary sport features more often on newspaper front pages than back pages.

9. Someone shoots you five times . . . and you're still alive and talking to the cops. By contrast, a similar number of shots fired in Melbourne guarantee that you won't be talking to anyone.

10. Old guys interviewing politicians and playing country music are "shock jocks".

11. A friend spots a TV celebrity with whom he is infatuated to the point of speechlessness. So you walk over and ask the celeb to hug the guy. Which he does, immediately, without question.

12. The diminutive form of "football" is "footie" rather than "footy".

13. You meet someone with whom you've argued online to the point of psychotic threats. And you end up drinking together until 3am.

14.The concept of a restaurant where volume levels are low enough to allow conversation is completely alien to you.

15. Fewer than half the people you meet were born in Sydney.

16. Your sonic palate is able to distinguish gunfire from firecrackers or a backfiring car.

17. A Kings Cross club guard applauds when you park your 3.97m car in a 3.98m space.

18. You know at least one couple who have broken up over a property sale.

19. Drink invitations stress the venue will allow smoking. Otherwise, nobody will come.

20. You discuss a sex harassment case where a female politician is alleged to have drunkenly demanded sex from a male staffer. "We've all done that," female colleague says.

21. Jump in a cab and say, "Take me over the Bridge." Driver says: "Which bridge?"

22. A friend from interstate is concerned his girlfriend's clothes are too revealing. The next day he phones to say that everyone ignored her and instead were looking at him.

23. You make a mobile phone call riding in a cab, and the driver turns down the radio.

24. A neighbour drops by to give you a list of all the phone numbers of people in your new street, so you can call in case there's trouble.

25. You survive a cruise during which your vessel is attacked by Somali pirates. On your return to work, your colleagues wear eye-patches and hand hooks.
Agree or disagree?
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Its all down to the aim, have a sure target and a willing to succeed and all will fall into place.
Melbourne did it and so can Sydney....;)
There's such an air of arrogance about that article; with the implication that the author knows everything about Sydney.

Too much emphasis on rugby league; most people don't care about the sport in the slightest. And I've never heard of "footie" being used.

Whats with the smoking thing? Sydney has one of the lowest rates in the country.

"The bridge" clearly means the Harbour Bridge.

"Shock jocks" only applies to people like Stan Zemanik and Alan Jones

Does the author even live in Sydney?
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Looks like a joke to me rather than a serious attack.. which every city has once in a while.

Melbourne has a habit of using old trams and rebranding them as tourist attractions as they pass a certain age.. :p
^^ Yeah aussieboy, don't take it so seriously. It's not really that funny anyway

aussieboy said:
most people don't care about the sport in the slightest
That's a good thing :yes:

aussieboy said:
Whats with the smoking thing? Sydney has one of the lowest rates in the country.
Depends if you're inviting westies or not ;)
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