Heads up, this is how the Falcon originated

WHEN former Test captain Ricky Ponting called 'Falcon' as the head of Adam Voges and a cricket ball collided ever so slightly during the Scorchers-Heat Big Bash clash last week, the original insignificance of a now much-celebrated event came flooding back.

Also accentuated was how quickly a nickname, or an innovative piece of Australian slang, can spread across numerous demographics if it strikes a chord with the punters. And the term 'Falcon' has certainly done that.

It is now a common occurrence when the head of a player - usually in the rugby and AFL codes - is inadvertently hit with the ball, that a commentator will holler 'Falcon'.

But a couple of times during the Big Bash this summer the terminology has also crept into the cricket commentary box.

And that is a little odd, because the saying has rugby league roots, a sport with which Tasmanian Ponting and his mainly southern-based colleagues would seemingly have had little association, or interest.

For those unaware of the origins of the 'Falcon', the expression is linked to former Rabbitohs and later Crushers captain, Mario Fenech. Born in Malta, he was nicknamed the Maltese Falcon, presumably a reference to the celebrated 1930s novel and 1940s film of the same name.

The incident from which the saying originated was both unspectacular and involuntary. And had it not been for the cheekiness and persistence of Kevin Walters, original footage of the event back in 1995 may well have been consigned to the floor of the TV editor's suite.

While playing for the Brisbane-based Crushers in their inaugural season, an injured Fenech was gingerly making his way off the field when he walked between dummy half Ray Herring and the intended Crushers kicker.

In what was at worst a clumsy piece of play, the ball hit Fenech on the head and typified a forgettable performance in that match.

At the time I was a member of the Queensland Footy Show panel on Channel Nine, as were Mario and Walters. At the production meeting prior to our show the next week our producer, John Evans, showed us the footage which was to be screened during the night, and that incident was included.

To suggest Fenech blew up deluxe when he saw it would be an understatement. Claiming the footage degraded him, he convinced our producer dump it from the show.

But larrikin Walters later - and privately - cajoled Evans into changing his mind, and the footage was shown that night. Mario was ropeable, fathomed immediately who the perpetrator was and during the ensuing ad break put Kevvie in a headlock, issuing a not-so-subtle threat.

That night, the 'Falcon' was born. And while it may be embarrassing to someone who made more than 250 NRL appearances, at least Mario can hang his hat on a truly national salute to rugby league. After all, even a decorated Australian cricket captain, born in Tasmania and a rugby league nuffie, is aware of his exploits.



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