Birmingham: For days, the last thing Greg and Donna Lobban wanted to talk about was the fact they were husband and wife.
On Friday night, after a dramatic mixed doubles squash match in which they were pitted against each other, they had no choice.
Australia’s Donna Lobban and her cousin Cameron Tilley.Credit:Getty
When Greg, representing Scotland, accidentally whacked Donna, representing Australia, in the second set a nervous hush fell over the crowd.
“You’re in trouble,” joked Cameron Tilley, Donna’s doubles partner who also happens to be her cousin.
Everybody laughed and it took the sting out a tense match for about a nanosecond before the Australians eventually triumphed 9-11, 11-8, 11-8 to live to fight another day.
When it was all said and done, Greg wrapped his arms around Donna in the middle of court one. “Go and win it now,” he whispered to her.
Greg Lobban playing for Scotland in Birmingham.Credit:Getty
It was the conclusion of what was the first professional squash match between husband and wife, a strange quirk of the draw that attracted a capacity crowd on court one, including Australian team chef de mission Petria Thomas.
And while Greg’s partner, Lisa Aitken, was cranky about the line of questioning after the match – “They’re husband and wife, ask about the squash!” she fumed – Donna was more than happy to talk about what had just transpired.
“At the end of a match like that, when it’s that close, you feel like, ‘Yeeeeeaaah!’ ” Donna said. “But my heart just sunk. I’m happy we won but gutted we’re the ones who put them out of the tournament. It doesn’t feel good. I hope it never happens again.”
Squash at this pace isn’t for the faint-hearted. Certainly not for the claustrophobic. As London broadsheet The Times headlined a story after a particularly fiery match at Glasgow in 2014: “Fear and Loathing in Glass Cages.”
This match was tinged with controversy, just as Donna’s women’s double fixture with Rachael Grinham had been earlier in the day when they lost on the final point of the third set when the referee didn’t award a controversial let call.
On that occasion, Grinham threw her racquet into the glass background and stormed off devastated.
Against her husband, she got the rub of the green in the final points of the third set.
Doubles squash is a funny beast. It’s only played every four years at Commonwealth Games with the court widened and the tin at the front lowered.
Players clamour all over each other and the interpretation of what constitutes a “let” (when the point is replayed) and a “stroke” (when a point is awarded) after a player gets in the way of the ball they’ve just struck is confusing.
“They do give some shocking decisions,” Donna said. “But I’ve had just as many go against me. I don’t think the last no-let they got was a no-let, but Rachael and I lost 11-10 on a no-let that should never have been a no-let this morning. We are briefed on what it should be, but it’s a mixed bag. The best we could do is play the ball as much as we could, so we couldn’t let the refs a chance to get involved.”
Either way, it doesn’t matter now. Donna didn’t just win the match but also a bet: Greg must cook dinner for the couple for the next month.
“I don’t know if I want him to make dinner,” she said with a laugh. “I should’ve bet that if I win he has to shave off his mullet and moustache. That would’ve felt good. I might have to put up with him being in a terrible mood for a while.
“To be fair to him, after I had a tough loss this morning, he was still there for me. He’s still the main person that’s there for me, and I’m there for him. We’re not signing the divorce papers after today. We’re still all right.”
Wet and wild
You’ve heard of Bondi Rescue, but what about Canal Rescue?
Thankfully for the good people of Birmingham, and the legions of sports fans who have converged on this city in recent days, there are water rescue types to save anyone who happens to fall in the 35 miles or so of canals in this fair city.
None of the canals have fences to stop people staggering into the water.
Just by chance, your humble correspondent happened to be drinking a shandy at a pub along one of the canals on Friday afternoon when we spotted the “water rescue” boat flying past.
We shouted at them to come back and tell us how many people they must pull out of the water.
New Zealand beach volleyball players try to fish their ball out of a Birmingham canal during a photoshoot.Credit:AP
“About one or two every Saturday night,” one canal lifesaver told us. “More since the Games started because a lot of people seem to have alcohol in their system.”
Straight Outta Brumpton is determined to not become a statistic on this assignment. That said, we have three days to go.
It’s just not cricket
There’s a lot of debate about which sports should be included in the program at the 2026 Commonwealth Games when they are held in regional Victoria.
There are serious discussions under way about a men’s competition in the Twenty20 cricket, after women’s teams were included at this Games.
Australia’s cricketers celebrate during their win over Pakistan at Edgbaston this week.Credit:Getty
Personally, I think we have enough cricket played throughout the year. It shouldn’t be included at all. But we have some alternative suggestions: snooker, darts, poker, poker machines, five-leg multies, greyhound racing, caber toss, Scotch egg eating, bagging our sports editor.
“Um, yeah. I don’t know what to say. I’m really … yeah.” – England’s 17-year-old Andrea Spendolini-Sirieix’s giggling reaction after winning gold in the women’s diving 10m platform when asked by the BBC how she felt.
George Miller – the 75-year-old Scottish para lawn bowler, not the Academy Award-winning director of Mad Max – became the oldest Commonwealth Games gold medallist in history when he claimed the mixed pairs B2/B3 title.
Andrew Parsons, the president International Paralympic Committee, has categorically ruled out any notion of the Para program being merged with the program at the 2024 Paris Olympics. Boo! The integration of the two has been a real winner here in Brum.
Get all the latest news from the Birmingham Commonwealth Games here. We’ll be live blogging the action from 4pm-10am daily.
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