I want to believe in Harry. It was a pretty standard collection of sportsmen behaving badly stories this morning. My morning media round-up for Crikey had four of them and it should have been five but I forgot one. There were two about a couple of rugby league players, now on charges which involved a girl being hit at a night club, another group including a star now playing rugby union in France denied entry to the same place and then the description of the Sydney Roosters as being a rugby league club “out of control” when it came to the influence of booze on the culture of its players.

The fifth story I meant to include but didn’t was a Sydney Daily Telegraph apologia by Josh Massoud putting forward one Matthew Johns as being a suitable candidate to become coach of the NSW State of Origin rugby league side. Mr Johns, you might remember, was the retired player stood down from the Channel Nine commentary team after ABC Four Corners did its story about members of the Cronulla team for which he played having a gang bang with a now quite distraught woman while in New Zealand.

Mr Massoud, who purports to give expert opinion, wants his readers to “ignore the odour of charcoaled flesh that still accompanies Johns after he was burned at the stake for Cronulla’s 2002 group sex incident — and remember the man we all loved not so long ago.”

Before Channel Nine succumbed to populist bullying and pulled the plug on Johns’ commentary career, he came across as one of the game’s best analysts. But from an Origin perspective, it wasn’t so much Johns’ technical observations that impressed. It was the passion with which he delivered them. Johns devoured a fine game of rugby league, a debate about its most contentious issues, or an interview with one of its brightest stars, with the relish of a footy tragic tucking into a piping hot meat pie on the hill.

Toss is a collection of stories from on field incidents like the one about the Queensland Aussie Rules player being investigated by police for assault after a brutal on-field football incident that left an opponent with a broken jaw, eye socket, cheek bone and nose; a Springbok rugby union international rubbed out for eye gouging and Barry Hall of the Swan’s once again setting a shocking example by going the biff and it was not a sporting morning to get enthused about.

Which was a pity really because last night I had watched an intriguing interview on Fox television with a young Collingwood footballer with a Brazilian mother and an African father named Harry O’Brien who presented quite a different image of a modern football superstar. Harry writes a blog on the Collingwood website where he describes, among other things, how he gets the bus every Wednesday night to his meditation classes. It sure beats getting thrown out of night clubs.

Give thanks to NSW. The Liberal Party should surely be giving thanks to New South Wales for that appears to be the only state where there is a likelihood of putting a further dent in the Labor Party’s national dominance of governments. After the surprise of its narrow win in Western Australia, which ended Labor’s monopoly on state and territory power, and a narrow loss in the Northern Territory, there was much enthusiasm and hope among Liberals that the electoral pendulum really was starting to swing in their direction.

The actual election results since then in Queensland and the ACT and opinion polls elsewhere suggest that this is a rather strange pendulum. While in NSW the Coalition has a handy lead, the Newspoll figures for Victoria out this morning show that the Government of John Brumby is still doing remarkably well. A poll last week in The Advertiser contained no evidence of a swing against Labor in that state either.

It would seem to me, incidentally, to be something of an anomaly that the market has Labor and the Coalition so close together on the national Indicator. If you believed the latest trio of opinion polls you would have Kevin Rudd and his team very much shorter than 62%. It is only the need to tie up the dollars for over a year before there is a result that is stopping me from backing my opinion, but I must say I am tempted.

Rotting capitalist era art. It is a wonderful thing to behold the way respectable institutions cling so tightly to ill gotten gains. The battle by Greece for the relocation of the Elgin marbles from the British Museum in London to Athens has been well and truly in the news of late and overshadowed another wonderful example involving those highly principled people at Yale University.

Through the largesse of a donor, Yale ended up with Vincent Van Gogh’s famous picture “The Night Cafe” after it had spent many years in a gallery of Soviet Russia after being seized come the revolution of 1917 from the collection of one Ivan Morozov (1871-1921), a Russian textile tycoon and discerning collector of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art.

The sale by the Soviet to raise funds was part of a program to rid the country of “art of the rotting capitalist era”. Now a descendant of old Ivan has filed a suit against Yale in an endeavour to get the family treasure back, and the university has filed one of its own to assert its valid title to the picture. The only winners in this dispute are bound to be the lawyers for the respective sides while if Vincent were still alive to observe it all he would surely spend another three nights on the drink at the 24 hour cafe as he did when he produced the work in question.