When the world lost Muhammad Ali, not only did we lose a great boxer, activist, and inspirational human being – we also lost the greatest shit-talker who ever lived.
When Ali said he was fast, he wasn’t just talking about his footwork. He had a tremendous ability to dismantle his opponents before they even stepped foot inside the ring. Because Ali had mastered an art form which only the truly brave – or truly foolish – choose to dabble in:
The Art of Sledging
Ali proved that, when performed correctly, the sledge can be a useful tool in defeating the opposition. However, it also puts a large target on the back of whoever decides to open their mouth first.
We were all reminded of Ali’s incredible wit when – following his death – social media was inundated with quotes from the man himself. Which included this absolute pearler to arch-rival, George Foreman:
“I’ve seen George Foreman shadow boxing and the shadow won.”
But while Ali is clearly the undisputed champion when it comes to talking smack, you’ve probably seen enough of his quotes floating around before.
Instead, to commemorate the life of the great man and his way with words, we’ve decided to see how our own sportsman fare when it comes to linguistic swordplay.
The 6 Most Memorable (And Red-Hot) Sledges in Australian Sporting History
6. Glenn McGrath to Michael Atherton (Cricket)
We have to kick things off with a sledge from one of the best who has ever engaged in the art of verbal exchange on the sporting field: the great Glenn McGrath.
England captain Michael Atherton will never forgive himself after falling for this classic from the former Australian bowler.
McGrath: “Athers, it would help if you got rid of the shit at the end of your bat.”[Atherton looks at the bottom of his bat.]
McGrath: “No, no, the other end.”
It was a sledge that would go on to be recreated in numerous backyard cricket matches all over Australia.
5. Eddo Brandes to Glenn McGrath (Cricket)
While Glenn McGrath liked to dish it out, he was also on the receiving end of one the finest calls ever made in professional sport.
McGrath once said to player Eddo Brandes, “Oi Brandes, why are you so fat?”
To which the Zimbabwean replied, “Because every time I sleep with your wife, she gives me a biscuit.”
A prime example of sledging gone wrong.
4. The Queensland Maroons to Paul Gallen (NRL)
The best sledge to come out of the NRL is perhaps far too fitting. New South Wales great and renowned scholar, Paul Gallen, said before a State of Origin match that he hated Queensland “times a thousand.”
The Maroons’ response? “Well, we hate New South Wales times infinity, no returns.”
3. Casey Stoner to Valentino Rossi (MotoGP)
“Obviously your ambition outweighs your talent.”
This is what Casey Stoner said to Valentino Rossi after the Italian slammed into him at the Spanish Moto Grand Prix.
Whilst admittedly a tremendous call under normal circumstances, the remark would probably have been more effective if used on somebody that isn’t considered the greatest rider of all time…
2. Michael Voss to Brett Voss (AFL)
One of our favourite sledges of all time occurred when Brisbane Lions triple premiership captain, Michael Voss, first played on his younger brother, Brett – who had just left the Lions for St Kilda that off-season.
Brett was lining up for a shot on goal 20 metres out straight in front when Michael walked up behind him and said, “My dad fucked your mum.”
Brett then proceeded to kick the ball out on the full.
1. Ian Botham to Rod Marsh (Cricket)
Unfortunately, it’s an Aussie on the receiving end of the best sledge – and best comeback – on the list. Upon walking out to bat, Englishman Ian Botham was cheekily asked by Australian wicketkeeper Rod Marsh, “How’s your wife and my kids?”
Not missing a beat, Botham retorted:
“The wife’s fine, but the kids are retarded.”
Unsurprisingly, three of our favourite sledges have come from cricketers. The sport has historically been a rich area when it comes to sledging – perhaps due to the fact that most of the time players stand around doing sweet fuck all. McGrath was arguably the best of the lot and, over a long career, has given us a number of gems that were very difficult to choose from.
While McGrath got rather creative with some of his insults, sometimes the best way to get into a person’s head can be as simple as saying hello. Case in point, Freddie Flintoff during the 2005 Ashes series.
Whilst technically not a sledge, this story definitely deserves an honourable mention.
Flintoff recounts the legendary tale – which took place during the fifth Test at The Oval – in his book Second Innings: My Sporting Life. Australia was down 2-1 and England only required a draw to win the series.
“The whole country was at fever pitch. Though we made 373 in the first innings (I got 72), by the third evening we were in a bit of trouble. They were 2-277 and we were facing the prospect of a major first-innings deficit.”
“That evening we’d arranged to have dinner at The Ivy … I’d bowled plenty of overs that day, so the red wine went down particularly well.”
“The next morning I was struggling a touch — a bit sore from the bowling, a little dusty from the red wine. But I had this thing in my head that I wanted the Aussies to see me everywhere, to keep bumping into me.”
“So I got into the ground uncharacteristically on day four — I was first there — just to be around.”
“You can smoke at the back of The Oval dressing rooms, so I had a fag right outside the Aussie rooms, welcoming them into the ground, almost one by one. I didn’t really know any of them, but I did it anyway.”
Later that morning Flintoff said that he enjoyed a “second fag” in front of the Australian dressing rooms while yelling out greetings to our boys as they warmed up.
“They were looking at me as if I was a bit odd, to be honest.”
Flintoff went on to take five wickets in that innings as England held on for a draw to win what is considered one of the greatest Ashes Series ever.
Sadly, Australian sport may have seen its best sledging days behind it, with far too many people’s feelings getting in the way of a good sledge nowadays. Our over-sensitivity was on full display when Queensland State of Origin player Sam Thaiday was asked to apologise after comparing their win over New South Wales “… like losing your virginity.”
“It wasn’t nice, but we got the job done.”
Hopefully, as a nation, we collectively try to take it on the chin a bit more often so that we may continue our proud history of talking the talk, and walking the walk.
Although Nick Kyrgios certainly isn’t helping the cause with his “My mate fucked your girlfriend” quip to Stan Wawrinka…
Now, read everything you need to know about the 2021 AFL Grand Final ahead of this weekend’s big clash in Perth.