AUSTRALIAN Sports Party Senator-elect Wayne Dropulich would make a dour opening batsman in anyone’s cricket team, given his monotonous, disciplined ability to play everything with a straight, defensive bat.
The would-be Western Australian politician and American Gridiron player arrived in Canberra for the 44th federal Parliament’s formal opening this week and immediately faced a barrage of intimidating bouncers.
Media reports suggested the 42-year old civil engineer had entered into a formal alliance with eccentric billionaire businessman and new Queensland MP Clive Palmer.
It wasn’t quite the same media frenzy which accompanied media magnate Kerry Packer signing up Tony Greig to World Series Cricket in the late 1970s.
But there was certainly an element of anti-establishment attached to the news of Mr Palmer’s ambitious recruiting, to match his expanding political aspirations.
Both men denied any deal had been done to form a Senate voting block, which would give the two Palmer United Party Senators another recruit to team up with Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party’s Victorian Senator-elect Ricky Muir.
Mr Dropulich expressed surprise at the tone and veracity of media reporting about the alleged deal, which was attributed to the seating arrangements for Mr Palmer’s National Press Club address on Tuesday.
He was placed at the same table as the so-called “preference whisperer” Glenn Druery, who’s regarded as being the brains behind the complex machination of preference deals between minor and micro party candidates, which helped get several candidates elected.
Mr Muir polled less than 0.50 per cent of the Victorian vote to take his place in the Senate while the Sports Party returned about 0.23 percent of the WA vote.
In each case, there’s little doubt Mr Druery’s futuristic mathematical talents provided genuine influence in guiding the would-be Senators into power.
Imagining him “whispering” away behind the scenes coaching a touch-down or two for the Sports Party and other micro and minor candidates, invokes thoughts of the 2011 Hollywood movie Moneyball.
Moneyball tells the story of the Oakland Athletics successful 2002 season winning a record 20 games unbroken, engineered by the innovative methods of general manager Billy Beane.
Beane took a revolutionary approach to player recruiting and list management through empirical analysis of player performance data.
He gathered a team of misfits but proven performers, driven by a tight budget, rather than roping winning players into the club, via multi-million dollar player contract payments.
Despite his appreciation of Druery’s abilities, Mr Dropulich said sitting next to the mathematical wizard at lunch didn’t necessarily equate to a formal alliance with the PUP.
However, he wasn’t upset by the subsequent media explosion which worked like a power play, boosting his micro party’s profile.
The Sports Party scored more free kicks from unpaid advertising than they could have ever imagined last week, given the current mutual fascination and subsequent brinksmanship between Mr Palmer and the national media.
Mr Dropulich and Sports Party president Al Lackovic openly admit they have a narrow policy platform which is working well for them right now.
Their party aims to promote sports as a means to achieve healthier living standards and stronger communities, for all Australians.
They also believe sport can help engage young children in recreational activities that reduce obesity, which they consider a rising epidemic in Australia.
Their policy platform also includes the important role that sport plays in building and sustaining strong, healthy rural and regional communities.
Since the election, Mr Dropulich has spent hundreds of hours in various types of media interviews having his defences tested with any number of curve-balls questions or media shirt-fronts.
But he’s left most of those deliveries well alone or bunted potential controversy away with a dead bat, to avoid errant comment on other mainstream political issues, like the carbon tax, immigration or same sex marriage.
He played on the defensive line early on in his Gridiron career and those negating skills are certainly showing now.
The last time he and Mr Lackovic visited the nation’s capital together was when they organised a team to represent WA at the national gridiron championships in the early 2000s.
That tour remains a career highlight for both men as the WA side overcame years of acrimony in the local league to gel together and win the national title, setting the scene for a far more harmonious but spirited local competition.
But for now, Mr Dropulich’s next tour of Canberra remains in doubt.
He was the beneficiary of a post-election recount which saw him and the Green’s Senator Scott Ludlum officially declared the fifth and sixth winners, at the expense of the PUP and Labor Senators who won those positions in the first ballot.
However, that result is set to become the subject of a High Court challenge triggering another Senate election in WA, after it was revealed 1370 votes went missing from the second count.
Like a true sporting professional, Mr Dropulich says he’s taking things one week at a time now and playing this game by the same rules of the system that every other politician must play under.
“The election was a bit over two months ago now and we’ve been through a roller coaster, in and out a couple of times already and now where we’re just waiting,” he said.
“We understand there’s a process that will continue to happen and there’s nothing we can do about it, so it’s a waiting game.”
No matter how well the journalists delivered their questions about the PUP alliance this week, Mr Dropulich couldn’t be stumped.
“I’m willing to talk to anyone from the Senate or the House of Representatives who wants to have a chat to me and talk about what their values and opinions are,” he said.
“If something comes of that, I don’t know, (but) at this stage it’s way too early to make those kinds of alliances.”
Mr Dropulich said he believes sport is very much like politics - comprising a high degree of strategy and gamesmanship.
“There’s a lot of strategy that goes on here (in Canberra) - probably a lot more than sport,” he said.
It remains to be seen whether the Sports Party’s main players score a home run or touchdown, kick a goal, hit six or they eventually get stumped by technicalities of the electoral system.
But for now, they’re just sitting back and enjoying the strangest ride of the strangest game they’ve ever played.