Cycling's Harry Kewell
Born in Sydney's western suburbs. Precociously talented. A hit with the ladies. Gets picked up by big-time pro team. Enjoys early success, but later on, an injury sends them to the sidelines.
In many ways, the careers of English Premier League football star Harry Kewell and Française des Jeux's Bradley McGee have followed similar trajectories. However, in the recent nail-biting World Cup qualifier against Uruguay, Kewell, after 32 minutes on the bench, rose to the challenge of playing for his country, the midfielder/striker for Liverpool instrumental in ensuring Australia's berth in next year's FIFA World Cup in Germany. Many believe this to be a turning point to greater things for Kewell.
If granted permission, Bradley McGee also has the opportunity to play for his country once again at next year's Commonwealth Games, create history, and hopefully, rejuvenate himself. Anthony Tan asks: can he do it?
Flying the sole Australian flag at Française des Jeux is something Bradley McGee hasn't done for three years, but in 2006, that's exactly what he'll be doing.
In the space of a few months, the 29 year-old has seen sprinter Baden Cooke, Cooke's domestique Matt Wilson and talented youngster Mark Renshaw - all riders who McGee brought onto the team - leave for different pastures. "I can't say I'm happy about it, but it's just the way it is," he says to Cyclingnews.
Probably the biggest surprise is seeing 27 year-old Cooke, a former Tour de France green jersey winner, opt for a non-ProTour team after four years with FdJ, he and Wilson signing with Unibet.com (formerly MrBookmaker.com) earlier in October. His last two years have been leaner than the incredible season he enjoyed in 2003, but Cooke still managed 11 victories, as well as winning the points classifications at the Three Days of De Panne and the Tour Méditerranéen in 2004.
"I mean, Cookie, I think it's a good move," answers McGee, dispelling any notion of a fall-out between the two. "He basically lost the respect he deserves at FDJ and a team's picking him up that's backing him one hundred percent. Sure, it's a non-ProTour team at this stage, but everything else suits him to a T; the races the team wants him to achieve results in are Cookie-style races, and again, they've backed him one hundred percent.
"When you've got a sprinter, more than most, they run on confidence. FDJ were basically killing his confidence, not working with him at all - and you can't be asking for results at the same time, not working with him." McGee adds that he spoke with Cooke just a few days before, and could already tell by the sound of his voice that he was "on another level".
"Matt Wilson was basically Cookie's right hand man and domestique, so it was a natural move as well. Mark Renshaw was a different case altogether; he was basically offered a better team at Credit Agricole - FDJ didn't want to match it - so again, you go where the confidence is. It's not only a question of money, the money is a show of confidence, really. And good luck to him; I've supported him fully in the move."
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