Thursday, March 31, 2011

The race for glory

With the English Premier League taking a brief hiatus to accommodate a round of Euro 2012 qualifiers and international friendlies, it’s time to take a look at the run in for the title and to make some predictions about who’ll be crowned English champions come 22nd May 2011.

To date it’s been one of the most fascinating seasons in the (relatively speaking) short history of the Premier League. Some of the more interesting sub-plots from this season include:

• The ‘Big 4’ being downgraded to the ‘Big 3’ – Man United, Arsenal, Chelsea – after Liverpool totally dropped their bundle under the uninspiring but extremely likeable Roy Hodgson. Despite a resurgence led by Anfield legend King Kenny, the Scousers are looking at their worst finish in recent memory, along with a lack of any European football next season. Good times

• Manchester City and Spurs, despite making a lot of noise, are still pretenders to the throne. Far too short on overall squad quality, balance and experience to really challenge for the title. A phenomenal effort by Spurs in the Champions League though. Well done
• Everton and Aston Villa have dropped off the radar completely after promising much in recent seasons
• Manchester United’s struggles away from home, where a hard earned draw or a sneaky late winner against weaker foes is a good result, could be the straw that breaks their proverbial
• Speaking of struggles, Wayne Rooney’s lack of any semblance of form has been a puzzle. Has he peaked already? Amazing to think that the brightest flame in English football may have fizzled out before his mid-20’s. Frightening thought for all in Red Devil land
• Arsenal continues to play the most attractive brand of football, while finding the most amazing ways to drop points. They are the Jean Alesi of football. Supreme talent, a joy to watch, but have an innate gift of ballsing it up at the most amazing times. Keep it coming I say
• The rapid decline of Didier Drogba as a force, coupled with an ageing supporting cast, has seen Chelsea lose their aura of invincibility. In saying that, recently they have become invigorated after an inspired piece of business at the deadline of the transfer window. More on that later
• Injuries, injuries, injuries. Arsenal’s seasons have been derailed by injuries for the past few years, with gun performers like Cesc Fabregas and Robin Van Persie, or as I deem him Denis Bergkamp 2.0, constantly battling for fitness. If they were to ever stay on the field for longer than their visits to the treatment room...look out. In saying that, Man U have had a horror run with injuries, especially at the back end of the year. The team that can get their best players on the field quickest will be in the drivers seat for the title

At present the league table sees Man U five points clear of Arse who have a game in hand. Chelsea sit a further four points back. Even though Man City is only one point adrift of Chelsea, and has the advantage of not being distracted by European football, I’m calling their title challenge over here and now. Fourth will be their best possible finish. Tottenham will chase hard for last vital Champions League position. But their fairytale run in the current ECL has seen them drop too many points, and their squad depth is being severely tested. As much as I’d love for them to leapfrog City, I can’t see it happening. And Livo...well the less I say about them the better, otherwise I could lose a few very good friends.

Barclays Premier League table

1 Man Utd 30 34 63
2 Arsenal 29 30 58
3 Chelsea 29 29 54
4 Man City 30 18 53
5 Tottenham 29 7 49
6 Liverpool 30 5 45

So the three teams in the running are:

1. Manchester United: Far away the weakest United team since the glory days of Eric Djembe Djembe. The keeper is solid, although showing his advanced age. The central defensive paring of Vidic and Ferdinand would be the envy of almost every team in Europe if they were ever fit enough to play together. Jonny Evans has seriously regressed. Wes Brown is Wes Brown. John O’Shea is a toiler. In the midfield the marvel of Ryan Giggs is that he is still playing. Same for Paul Scholes. Michael Carrick offers almost nothing. Anderson, despite the odd flash of potential, has not lived up to expectation. Nani has been carrying the team almost singlehandedly. It’s nice to see Valencia back from injury. At least he can support Nani and offer some creativity and attacking width. Up front Rooney has been a major bust. Berbatov offers genius and shite in equal measure. Thank goodness for the new Ole Gunner, Chicharito, whose poaching abilities have saved our bacon on more than one occasion
2. Arsenal: As mentioned, a joy to watch. Fabregas is a midfielder of the highest class. I rate Robin Van Persie as a complete attacking footballer. Strong, quick, a powerful shot, good in the air. Comfortable with the ball at his feet. If only he wasn’t built of paddle pop sticks. Injury aside their two primary weaknesses are a horrendous goalkeeper, and a prolificacy in front of goal. No team is more wasteful than the Arse
3. Chelsea: They made a massive splash at the transfer deadline. One move cost them about 50 million and delivered an out of form petulant little brat called Fernando Torres. The other bought them Brazilian David Luiz, and a charge at the title. Long shots to win from nine points back, but they are the form team in this title leading pack, and are looking more like the steely Chelsea of old. United and Arse cannot afford any further slip ups lest the Russian Mafia sweep through and repeat their success from last season

Remaining Fixtures

Saturday, 2 April 2011

West Ham v Man Utd, 12:45. RESULT: Man U draw
Stoke v Chelsea, 15:00. RESULT: Chelsea win
Arsenal v Blackburn, 17:30: RESULT: Arsenal win

Man U – 64 Arse – 61 Chelsea – 57

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Chelsea v Wigan, 15:00. RESULT: Chelsea win
Man Utd v Fulham, 15:00. RESULT: Man U win

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Blackpool v Arsenal, 13:30. RESULT: Arsenal draw

Man U – 67 Arse – 62 Chelsea – 60

Saturday, 16 April 2011

West Brom v Chelsea, 15:00. RESULT: Chelsea win

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Arsenal v Liverpool, 16:00. RESULT: Arsenal win

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Newcastle v Man Utd, 19:45. RESULT: Man U win

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Chelsea v Birmingham, 19:45. RESULT: Chelsea draw
Tottenham v Arsenal, 19:45. RESULT: Arsenal loss

Man U – 70 Arse – 65 Chelsea – 64

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Man Utd v Everton, 12:45. RESULT: Man U draw
Chelsea v West Ham, 17:30. RESULT: Chelsea win

Sunday, 24 April 2011
Bolton v Arsenal, 16:00. RESULT: Arsenal win

Man U – 71 Arse – 68 Chelsea – 67

Saturday, 30 April 2011

Chelsea v Tottenham, 17:30. RESULT: Chelsea draw

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Arsenal v Man Utd, 14:05. RESULT: Man U win

Man U – 74 Arse – 68 Chelsea – 68

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Man Utd v Chelsea, 15:00. RESULT: Chelsea win
Stoke v Arsenal, 15:00. RESULT: Arsenal win

Man U – 74 Arse – 71 Chelsea – 71

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Arsenal v Aston Villa, 15:00. RESULT: Arsenal win
Blackburn v Man Utd, 15:00. RESULT. Man U win
Chelsea v Newcastle, 15:00. RESULT: Chelsea win

Man U – 77 Arse – 74 Chelsea – 74

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Everton v Chelsea, 16:00. RESULT: Chelsea win
Fulham v Arsenal, 16:00. RESULT: Arsenal win
Man Utd v Blackpool, 16:00. RESULT: Man U draw

Man U – 78 Arse – 77 Chelsea – 77

Manchester United crowned EPL champions for a record 19th time!!!!



UP: Novak Djokovic
. Still undefeated in 2011. Keep the wins rolling Nole
DOWN: Pakistani cricketers
: When you drop Sachin Tendulkar not once, not twice, not three times but four times in one deserve to lose
UP: Newcastle Knights
: I can’t believe the Tinkler takeover saga took this long, but it’s great to see the Newcastle community accept an offer that even Don Corleone couldn’t refuse
UP & DOWN: David Ferrer
: Recently hit a ball into the crowd to stop a baby from wailing. That’s a thumb down. The thumb up comes from the fact that the baby stopped crying. All parents take note!!!
UP: LA Lakers
: Since the All Star weekend the Lake Show has found their groove. Kobe and Co are rolling onto their fourth consecutive trip to the NBA Finals
UP: My niece SANDA
: Just got an SMS that she scored a new PB for the 50 m freestyle..38.64 secs...LEGEND!!!



Last week I didn’t get a chance to submit my tips. No great loss to the general public. I scored a respectable four from eight. Obviously the Eels tip screwed me. I didn’t expect the Cowboys to roll the Storm and I’m still in shock at how the Sharks smashed Penrith. In the race to see who’s fans will give up the ghost first the Parra faithful are leading Panther fans by an inch.


I’m not going to bother with my justifications...the season has been so hard to predict to date so I’ll save myself further embarrassment. I will go on record as calling the Eels season over already. After watching them fumble and bumble their way to two horrible losses the past couple of weeks I’m resigned to the fact that event a token appearance in the playoffs is beyond this group. Looking at their squad and it’s not a surprise. The team just isn’t that good anymore. I’ll still tip them though!!!

NRL Round 4 Tips

Fri 01 Apr

7:30 pm

Rabbitohs $2.05 vs. Sea Eagles $1.75 TIP: RABBITOHS

Bluetongue Stadium

Fri 01 Apr

8:30 pm

Broncos $1.33 vs. Panthers $3.25 TIP: BRONCOS

Suncorp Stadium

Sat 02 Apr

5:30 pm

Raiders $1.30 vs. Titans $3.50 TIP: RAIDERS

Canberra Stadium

Sat 02 Apr

7:30 pm

Eels $1.68 vs. Cowboys $2.15 TIP: EELS…Shoot me now!!!

Parramatta Stadium

Sun 03 Apr

12:00 pm

Sharks $2.15 vs. NZ Warriors $1.68 TIP: WARRIORS

Owen Delany Park, Taupo

Sun 03 Apr

2:00 pm

Knights $2.50 vs. Steelers $1.53 TIP: STEELERS

Energy Australia Stadium

Sun 03 Apr

3:00 pm

Roosters $1.40 vs. Wests Tigers $3.00 TIP: ROOSTERS

Sydney Football Stadium

Mon 04 Apr

7:00 pm

Storm $1.75 vs. Bulldogs $2.05 TIP: STORM. Nice to finally tip against the Dogs!


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Has Sydney lost its mojo?

Sydney has been the focus of some interesting discussion over the past couple of weeks. A lot of conversation has centred on whether or not Sydney has lost its ‘mojo’, specifically with relation to the arts and nightlife. The increasing cost of living, unreliable and expensive public transport, poor parking options and a faster paced environment are all factors that have been attributed to Sydney’s recent demise and the elevation of our country cousins, particularly Melbourne and Brisbane, into more culturally vibrant cities.

Personally I do think that post Olympics Sydney has lost a little bit of its oomph. We’ve become overly reliant on icons such as the Opera House and Harbour Bridge to continue to set us apart from the rest of the pack, but a lack of intelligent investment, both in infrastructure and culture, has led to a city that is becoming a little bit blasé.

But that’s neither here nor there.

How does this all relate to sports?

If Sydney is losing its cultural mojo, are we losing our sports mojo also?

Part my morning ritual each workday is to listen to the
Big Sports Breakfast on the wireless. This week TK and Slats were interviewing young Rooster Tom Symonds, the hero from their heart stopping win over Souths Sydney in a cracker of a season opener.

During the course of the interview the topic turned to the crowds during the opening round. By all accounts the turnout was fantastic, with the NRL announcing a record combined attendance for an opening round. Well done to all concerned, and a pat on the back to besieged NRL CEO David Gallop.

Then Symonds mentioned the great turnout during the Souths vs. Roosters game and that’s when I hit the brakes.


Two foundation clubs;
Inner city rivals;
The Roosters coming off a Grand Final appearance;
The Rabbitohs debut of Greg Inglis;
Opening game of the season;
Fans salivating for some footy after a summer of discontent watching the Ashes debacle;
A stadium capacity of 80,000;
The most populous city in the country;
And 28,000 turn up!

To quote the Wolf (Pulp Fiction): “Let’s not start sucking each others d#cks just yet!”

How does a crowd of 28,000 at a season opener between two rivals (both with great news stories) constitute a good crowd? Is this all the NRL can muster?

Why is it that the AFL can generate crowds of 50,000 plus for regular season games, and yet the NRL can’t crack the 30,000 mark for a showcase season opener?

I was in Melbourne a couple of weekends ago when the Swans played Geelong (I think it was Geelong) in the NAB Cup. I trawled the streets for an hour before the first bounce looking for a chwarma (as a health dinner option) and I noticed that the bars, cafes and sidewalks were teaming with fans wearing colours from both clubs. All finishing off their last Belgian Beer or Unwooded Chardonnay before heading off to the game. And this was just an insignificant preseason game.

Why is it then that rugby league, the dominant football code on the Eastern seaboard, can’t generate this sort of human traffic?

So I started thinking (I do that sometimes).

Is this a rugby league issue, or is it a Sydney issue? Are small crowds a symptom of Sydney’s high cost of level, poor public transport, lack of parking, and general lack of time?

Maybe Sydney’s lack of mojo extends to sports as well as the arts, fashion and other areas of higher culture.

After generating a lot of noise when the A-League first launched a few years ago, Sydney FC has struggled to consistently draw big crowds. The NSW Waratahs have had similar issues over the past couple of seasons. And the Sydney Kings...let’s not even go there. Obviously it doesn’t help when the product you’re promoting isn’t performing, but even the most poorly performed AFL teams can boast healthy gate receipts.

The NRL obviously has a great product. And judging by television ratings is definitely a sport that continues to grow its viewership. But personally I believe there is a long way to go before the NRL can start to crow about crowd numbers with great confidence.

Wouldn’t it be great to see team colours on the streets every weekend in the lead up to big games? Atmosphere is delivered on the ground, not through the idiot box. I don’t care how high the definition is, or how many dimensions they’re telecasting in.

Maybe it’s the cost, maybe it’s just lack of time.

Or maybe Sydneysiders are just too cool to pop on a beanie and wave a scarf when kicking back at a funky wine bar serving average wine at above average prices before heading off to watch the big game.



UP: Novak Djokovic on extending his unbeaten run to 17 games after dismantling compatriot and Davis Cup hero Viktor Troicki at Indian Wells. Playing the best tennis of his career to date.

UP: Sydney Kings. Props to Moose Robilliard and his charges for not tanking the entire season. After such a disastrous start it would have been easy for them to mail it in for the whole season. Instead they’ve turned it around and become on of the form teams of the competition. Some may say too little too late. But sometimes pride is worth playing for.

DOWN: Ricky Ponting. Punter just doesn’t look like a man who is enjoying his cricket at the moment. His childish and petulant reaction to a fielding mishap with Steve Smith was of a man struggling with form and motivation. Without denigrating his amazing accomplishments in both forms of the game, it might be time to pack it in.



Last week I tipped 4 from 8, which wasn’t such a horrific start. If the Steelers hadn’t been gifted two competition points by the referee and if the Panthers has turned up to play I might have nabbed six. Don’t you just love dealing in hypotheticals?

This week I like:

Friday March 18

Eels vs. Panthers @ the Gates of Heaven aka Parramatta Stadium

TIP: Eels. Scares the hell out of me when my team has to face someone coming off a shellacking...and Penrith where seriously spanked last week. As a fan it’s hard to stomach total lack of effort from your team, especially the first game of the season. Pemrif fans have a right to be furious with their outfit. So expect the Mountain Men to be switched on tonight. Still, with the Eels playing a new brand of no frills football, I see them grinding out another impressive win

Raiders vs. Broncos @ Canberra Stadium
TIP: Raiders. Canberra has a great record at home. Impressive first up win with some key players out injured. Ox coming into the team. Too much for the Baby Broncs to match up against
Saturday March 19

Storm vs. Titans @ AAMI Park
TIP: Storm. It’s a long trip from the Gold Coast to Melbourne. Different time zone, different climate. Heck, it could even be a different country. Storm too strong at their Mexican stronghold

Tigers vs. Warriors @ Leichhardt Oval
TIP: Tigers. They really disappointed me first up against the Dogs. I honestly thought they were specials. I expect them to fire up this week, although this one could go down to the wire

Cowboys vs. Knights @ Dairy Farmers
TIP: Cowboys. Knights were as impressive last week as Penrith were poor, but the Cowboys make a living off winning at home, so expect more of the same. Plus, they’ll be on a massive high after getting a rare win in Brisbane to open the season

Sunday March 20

Rabbitohs vs. Bulldogs @ ANZ Stadium
TIP: Bulldogs. For mine the most impressive performers from last week, considering how many new faces are playing in key positions. The Rabbits showed some good fight to get themselves in a winning position against the Roosters, but their inability to play a consistent brand of footy for 80 minutes is a worry for Russell Crowe and cohorts. Plus they’ve suffered injuries to some key personnel and I don’t think they have the depth to cover well. Editors Note: I hate tipping the Dogs

Roosters vs. Sea Eagles @ SFS
TIP: Roosters. Forwards dominated the early proceedings last week, setting the platform for the backs to open up a big lead. Switched off for twenty minutes and almost lost the game, but showed great courage to get a deserved win. Too much firepower for a Manly outfit lacking form and depth

Monday March 21

Sharks vs. Steelers @ Toyota Stadium

TIP: Steelers. If you can’t get up for a local derby then you shouldn’t be playing the game. But the Sharks would need an absolute miracle to get anything out of this game. Look to the Steelers to aim all their attacking kicks high and at the ref

Monday, March 7, 2011

Like Father, Like Son

I’m a proud Dad. I just signed my eldest boy a junior membership of the Parramatta Eels Footy Club. From the tender age of three I’ve consigned him to a life of disappointment, despair, failure and futility. He’s completely oblivious to what pain lies ahead in the years to come. Ah, the innocence of youth. Despite my melancholy though, watching him bounce around the home proudly holding his 2011 membership card screaming ‘Sparky Junior Eels’ to anyone who’d listen had me bursting at the seams with joy. And isn’t that what sport is really all about? Knowing that you’re destined to lose, and still enjoying the ride!!!

I’m excited that this weekend will mark the official return of the NRL to the front of the back page...even though Todd Carney, Benji Marshall, Nathan Tinkler and Ryan Tandy have been doing a great job of whetting our appetites over the pre-season.

SIDENOTE: I hate how the NRL has turned into a public soap opera with all of the drinking and punching and groping and gambling etc. Most of the sports journos now are just glorified gossip columnists. I will make one statement related to all of the recent off-field drama. If I see John Elias competing in a tipping comp...I’m taking his picks!!!

This season I’ve decided to put my traditionally pathetic tips in the public domain. Maybe putting me up for public ridicule can change my luck somewhat. Not likely I know, but I’ve got to cling onto whatever hope is available.

Before I get to my (admittedly crappy) tips, I just need to vent a little about all the hoopla that was created when the NRL announced Bon Jovi’s ‘This is our house’ as the official song of the 2011 NRL season. Talkback radio was inundated with pensioners, rednecks, surfers, skaters, dole bludgers and the like all complaining that an American band was used to promote an Aussie game. An example from a particularly crusty old lady went something along the lines of:

“How come a game invented in England and played in Australia needs Americans to promote it?”

When asked who she’d like to hear sing the song instead she responded:

“Anyone Australian!”

Right...let’s invite Human Nature or Savage Garden to sing the NRL anthem. Maybe Natalia Imbruglia wants to have a crack. Possibly a Guy Sebastian duet with Anthony Callea? Are the Wiggles in town?

Seriously folks. Bon Jovi are one of the world’s biggest rock bands, can resonate with both an older audience and the younger market, and have a great track record producing catchy hits that go mainstream. Let’s congratulate the NRL on doing something right for a change – heaven knows that screw a lot of things up – and move onto bigger issues.

But I digress. Without further ado, here are my tips for Round One:

Friday, 11th March

Broncos versus Cowboys @ Suncorp Stadium
TIP: Broncos. Coming off Darren Lockyer handing Ivan Henjak his notice, the Broncos will be ready to put on a good show in what is a year long plea for Wayne Bennett to return to his spiritual home.

Roosters versus Rabbitohs @ SFS
TIP: Roosters
. Carney’s sober again, Inglis is still fat. A tight win for the tri-colours.

Saturday, 12th March

Titans versus Steelers @ Skilled Park
TIP: Titans
. Always strong at home. The Illawarra boys still suffering jet lag and hangover after winning the ‘World’ Club Challenge.

Warriors versus Eels @ Eden Park
TIP: Eels
. I can’t tip against my team!!!Which is probably why I’ve never won a tipping comp. Inu and Mateo to showcase why they got shipped across the ditch with some phenomenal skill mixed in with a number of brain explosions and general lack of effort.

Storm versus Sea Eagles @ AAMI Park
TIP: Storm
. I know they’ve got a team of juniors and rookies, but they’re keeping one set of books now, and will be chomping at the bit to cast aside the bitter memory of 2010.

Sunday, 13th March

Raiders versus Sharks @ Canberra Stadium
TIP: Raiders
. Always tough at home...and let’s face it, the Sharks are shite.

Panthers versus Knights @ Centrebet Stadium
TIP: Panthers
. Knights districted by ownership issues. Panthers to take a close one at home.

Monday, 14th March

Bulldogs versus Tigers
: Tigers. I know that the Dogs are everyone’s favourite pick after recruiting so well in the offseason. I just think Benji will kick everyone’s arse in this one.


DOWN: Manchester United
. Followed a tight loss at Chelsea by announcing that Michael Carrick has re-signed for four more years. FOUR MORE YEARS!!! Then they had the gall to get spanked by Liverpool 3-1. I don’t think I’ve experienced a more depressing week as a Man U fan. I can live with the losses...barely. But paying Michael Carrick to stay at the club for another four years?!?! That’s a disaster. He was pitched as an elegant, ball playing central midfielder when he arrived at the club, in the same mould as an Iniesta or Xavi Alonso. Now he’s just a useless turd. Sell off Carrick to a mid table EPL club. He’s English and can kick a ball in a straight line (barely) so you can still whack on a decent price tag. Then buy a central midfielder who can actually dominate a game like a Wesley Sneijder. Scares the living hell out of me that we’re still so reliant on Scholes and Giggs (PBUT).

UP: The Fighting Irish. Although the opening games of the Cricket ‘World’ Cup are decidedly boring, Ireland’s run chase to defeat England was amazing. Every now and again a minnow will beat a giant in cricket by virtue of an extreme batting collapse in the superior team. Rarely does the minnow chase an overwhelming target.

UP: NBA Trade Deadline: The Melodrama is over and Carmelo Anthony is now a New York Knickerbocker. Deron Williams packed his bags for New Jersey. The Thunder scored a big man with championship experience in Kendrick Perkins. The Celts got more flexibility, but lost an important glue guy. The Trail Blazers got a great 3rd/4th banana (Gerald Wallace) for not much at all. Lot’s of activity leading to a lot of intrigue for the remainder of the regular season. I still tip the Lakers to take it out (injury permitting) and Kobe to equal MJ with six rings.

DOWN: The NSW Waratahs: Fancy calling Sonny-Bill Williams the weak link in the lead up to facing him! I’m no SBW fanatic. But the guy is a former league international who boxes for fun. He’s built like Jake the Muss 2.0. In the wonderfully soft world of Union...calling SBW a weak link is tantamount to signing your own death warrant. No wonder they got crushed. And the Rah Rahs are meant to be the smart ones!!!

UP: Jelena Dokic. Great to see the Serb, Aussie, Serb, Aussie, Serb, Aussie get back in the winners circle by winning the Malaysian Open. She’s struggled for form and fitness for years now. Nice to have some reward for all the hard work and persistence. Bravo!