It was time to quit the best job I’d ever had: One that had taken me all around the world with flights, hotels and expenses covered. It’d been a lot of fun but when shit got a little heavy I didn’t want to be labelled as a criminal. Even if the accusations were false, being arrested was never one of my goals in life.
Word of Dan’s arrest first filtered into a Melbourne bar one evening as we sat around sinking pints. We laughed it off and had a rowdy night – one of the boys was always getting into trouble. Reality set in the next morning when the news headlines read ‘man in court over courtside gambling scandal at Australian Open’.
A “court-sider” is a person who reports live scores from tennis matches to professional gamblers who then use this information to place bets during play. I’d been court-siding on the world tennis circuit for two years by now and watched as the attitude toward court-siders distorted from ‘flys on the periphery’ to ‘rodents in the crossfire’. The officials initially ignored us, but once exclusive rights for the live scores were purchased for mega-bucks, we became a ‘threat’ and they hired on-court scouts and security to try and force us out of the game (even whispering little white lies to police about the legality of our endeavours).
This lifestyle had afforded me the privilege of constant travel, excitement and adventure in every corner of the globe. Enjoying a beachside New Year’s party in Colombo, Sri Lanka, only to be threatened with imprisonment in an Indian jail cell for court-siding the following week, was pretty standard. I’d ridden a rollercoaster of ups, downs, highs, lows, double faults and aces, wins and losses, hotel upgrades and airline delays, immigration stamps and lifetime bans from more tennis arenas than Jelena Dokic’s dad.
You know those t-shirts that say ‘London, Paris, Rome, Madrid, New York, Tokyo’ etc? That was my schedule! Add a few weeks off for destinations I really wanted to visit like Cabo, Tel Aviv, Cancun, Koh Tao and there’s really no way of describing it without sounding like a supercilious, spoilt brat.
Of course, it was too good to last.
Now Dan was in court and we were all freaking out. Not only was a member of our clique facing legal persecution but this job, our secret industry of milk and honey was about to be ripped from our jet-setting existence.
I’d always told those sneering tennis officials, “if it becomes illegal, I’ll quit”. I had no idea how I’d fit into society after a lifestyle like this but I sure didn’t want to push my luck amid a minefield of untested legal territory. It was a landmark case: A world first. Worst part is, it was all trumped up bullshit with no basis. Of course, the media went into a frenzy. According to The Age, Dan was part of an alleged Eastern European crime syndicate! Ignorance can be amusing but it’s also frustrating and dangerous when legal repercussions are involved.
So I quit.
Right there and then, I told the boys “I’ve traded my last tennis match” and retired from the greatest job I’ll ever have at the tender age of 27.
As we expected, the court dropped all charges against Dan, citing “no reasonable chance of a conviction”. The media called it an “embarrassing backflip” for Victorian police. It gave our valediction some semblance of glory but the nail was already in the coffin. Game over – goodbye golden goose.
Upon returning home I sunk my teeth into a long-time passion project and published a memoir of my time on tour entitled ‘Game, Set, Cash!’ which has recently been published by Black Inc. Books in A
ustralia and online.
These days I attempt to quell my wanderlust with side trips to Japan to ride pow, and Indo to score waves, but nothing quite matches up to the non-stop excitement and adrenaline that came with the court-siding lifestyle. It got me banned for life from Wimbledon but I wouldn’t trade it for the world… After all it gave me the world.
Recently, there have been punters ejected from the cricket for ‘pitch-siding’. Whenever I see the Australian Open starting, I wonder if any court-siders out there will be brave enough to test the Victorian legal system yet again… Not everyone in the stands is updating their Facebook status you know…