It happened again this week. Something occurred in the world of sport that can trace its origins all the way back to an Australian initiative.
I refer, of course, to the climactic moments of the Presidents Cup golf on Sunday. American Steve Stricker and South African Ernie Els, are on the 18th tee at Muirfield Village in Ohio, when . . . when . . . when suddenly there is a commotion, and a nude woman runs right in front of them, yelling, “Streaking for Stricker!” “Baba-booey!” “Team America!” “USA, USA!” and whatever else came to mind.
Why, exactly, did she do that?
“I wanted to add a little excitement to golf,” the young woman, Kimberley Webster, later tried to explain, “because everyone seemed kind of depressed and like they weren't having fun because of the weather. I hadn't been to a lot of sporting events . . . I just thought it would be interesting to try something like this.” (Settle, you Queenslanders, settle. We know you think there are no events that can't be improved by a naked woman running around, but that is not what we are discussing on this occasion!)
Ms Webster went on: “The top streakers of all time were all men, so I decided I wanted to change that . . . It was golf — it's quiet and boring — and it was to make the top streakers of all time as a woman.”
Now as true streaking aficionados will know, the all-time top streaking spot in fact is held by a woman, and it occurred during half-time of a 1982 rugby Test between Australia and England at Twickenham. English captain Bill Beaumont was just trying to rouse his troops with his full repertoire of motivational phrases – most of which began with 'F' – when his stunned halfback, Steve Smith interrupted to say, “Don't look now, Skip, but there's a bird running about with your bum on her chest.”
And so there was! Erica Roe, “the busty bookseller from Petersfield,” as the tabloids called her became an instant media sensation, and people still laugh about it. (Much more than they did this year, when Wati Holmwood streaked in the third State of Origin match. Somehow that streak didn't have the same . . . shall we say . . . allure?)
But I digress. For far more interesting is the fact the modern phenomenon of streaking in sports event, really does have Australian origins. And who else would have started it, but a representative of that infamously wild profession of accounting!
See, back on 20 April 1974, also at Twickenham, England was playing France in a Test, when an accountant from Victoria with quite a few beers on board, 25 year-old Michael O'Brien, suddenly had an idea. Why not, at half-time, shed his clothes, jump the fence, and run like a mad thing on to the pitch, and touch the far fence? His mate bet him 10 pounds he wouldn't do it. O'Brien bet he would.
Naked as the day he was born, O'Brien jumped from the barrier and was on his way into the pages of history. Of course, the English bobbies, as they have always been want to do, gave chase, and he was eventually brought down by a superb tackle near that far fence, by Police Constable Bruce Perry – “Allo, allo, allo, what 'ave we got here?” O'Brien explained the bet, and at least the kindly constable allowed him to touch the fence, before famously taking off his helmet to cover our man's genitals and escorting him down to the station.
As he was led from the field, half the crowd cheered, half the crowd jeered, as he was deposited in that halfway house that lies between the Hall of Fame and the Hall of Shame, and it has been much that way for streakers ever since. (But at least he was back in time for the end of the second half!)
As to O'Brien, he soon returned to Melbourne where he played 207 games from 1978 for the famed Melbourne Rugby Club, and was still an active member of that club as recently as 2009. Over that time he became a very successful stock-broker, and is by all reports a very fine fellow.
Will he return my call, though? Not yet. Where are you, Mr O'Brien? A nation turns it lonely eyes from you.