Enjoy the discourse, enjoy the long weekend, and let us know what you think!
Sporting Highs, Lows and Controversies
With a weekend packed full of football, union and league we are in for another spectacular sporting weekend however before I comment on the upcoming games I shall reflect on the week that was.
Some big news of little importance until January is that both Isner and Wickmayer will return to defend their Auckland tennis titles on their way to the Aussie Open in February. It’s good for the tournament to have such high calibre athletes returning each year proving that it is a worthy tournament.
Other exciting news is Landis will inject some interest into the Tour of Southland and Tour de France stage winner Jorge Sandoval is tipped to becoming to the Wellington Cycle Classic race. Our cyclists prove they can compete on the world stage and with the competition now coming down-under to compete our boys and girls are only going to get stronger and stronger – bring on London 2012.
After an away win against Sydney the Burger King Breakers backed it up at home last night with a nail-biting 96-94 over the defending champs Perth Wildcats. They clawed their way back from 13 points down to close the wildcats out with some fantastic defence. And while Boucher may have been one of our key defensive weapons just don’t count on him at the line (he has the worst record in the ANBL). Braswell and Vukona provided the back bone to the team. Penney may be chasing his dream in the states but our boys are proving they can do it without him. [And HB Proud enjoyed the Facebook updates on the score]
From the 5-aside men’s court sport to the 7-aside women’s court sport after winning a gold medal in Delhi Barrett-Chase is off to Rarotonga to wed Turbo’s midfielder Leota and while she does this Maree Bowden is set to captain the FastNet Ferns in their world title defence next month. FastNet for those unfamiliar with the Netball code is the sports version of cricket's 20-20.
Talking of cricket I’m not sure there is too much else to say other than what’s already been covered in the media this week. Our boys were dismal at best and change is a must. There have been reports that although good with the ball in the one match he did play Tuffey will out for the test tour of India with a possible recall for the one-dayers and instead NZ A players Martin and Arnel will step up alongside the returning Mills and McKay. My personal opinion is even with the injection of these players it won’t make a difference until the management of the team is changed for pity sake take the pressure of Vettori and let him go back to pure and simply being a great player who captains a good side. Today’s inquiry should yield some interesting results and I wait with anticipation to what these will be.
Football was in the headlines this week but unfortunately for all the wrong reasons. Oceania FIFA boss has been caught trying to vote-sell and as of yesterday morning has been suspended until an official decision is made in Zurich next month. Other saddening news was the All Whites slipping ever so marginally in world rankings to 51 after some disappointing results in the “friendlys” but who would have guessed Russia is ranked 10th!
Talking of Football the Nix may now have the record for the longest run of not losing at home however their 2-all draw with Heart was a disappointing result and the need to fire if they want to finish their season on a high. Australian import Jade North was shocked to be benched at the half however the defensive-3 line up was clearly not working as it was expected to and unfortunately for him he was the weak link on the night. He may be an Aussie international but he needs to learn that doesn’t automatically making him a starting player immune to benching – performance is key.
But unfortunately for the boys things don’t get any easier this weekend. Not only are they away, they are away to table toppers Adelaide so sorry to all you diehard fans but my money is on Adelaide for the victory in this match.
Melbourne Heart FC takes on Gold Coast United it the game I’m most looking forward to watching. Heart have started their time in the A-league of well and seem to be improving week after week possibly because they pinched Aloisi from my Sydney boys. Gold Coast is again having another consistent season producing some outstanding results so I’m backing the coast boys to take home a victory but only by 1.
Brisbane Roar FC versus Melbourne Victory FC should be a good game with high intensity. Both teams playing well this season and trying out different combinations illustrating the depth within their teams. I’m not a Melbourne fan even when they are winning so I’m placing my best with the boys from Brisbane to win but at least 2.
Perth Glory FC versus Sydney FC is a no brainer. Sydney is having a dismal season and the glory is highlighting the sporting strength that Perth seems to have discovered over the last 5 years. Backing the boys from the West for another win.
Newcastle Jets FC plays North Queensland Fury in what should be an easy win for the Newcastle lads.
While Football is gaining sporting ground across the ditch league is undoubtedly much bigger and there is great anticipation ahead of the start of the Four Nations in Wellington. Australia have suffered a blow with Hayne ruled out through a hamstring injury but have named former Kangaroo Tuquiri as his replacement even so they should win their warm up match over PNG quite comfortably.
The Kiwis kick off their Four Nations against England on Saturday in Wellington and after their convincing win last weekend they boys have a fantastic chance. Fein is again likely so start at dummy over Luke allowing Luke to act as an impact player off the interchange and Eastwood is back from Leeds to show us what he can do in the forwards after most Kiwi fans will be use to his appearances in the backline for the Broncos. This game could well be a practice of the final of the tournament but I expect our boys to nudge out the poms by around 12 points.
But to us fully fledged Kiwis nothing sets our hearts a flutter more than a good game of union. I’ll start with the ITM Cup before discussing the All Black Selections. But as a side note Sosene Anesi Atieli Pakalani off set to play for the Waratahs in next year’s Super 15 – Well done boys.
This week’s round kicks off with Northland vs. BOP in what should be a high intensity high physicality game. Northland suffered a defeat to Tasman last week while BOP put another puncture in Southland’s stellar season. Both teams have had good seasons and played good rugby but I think the Steamers have it over the boys form the north and will win by a healthy seven points or more. [Northland upset the applecart, and sent David Holwell to the beer tent in style!]
Waikato Canterbury is next on the cards and after a dominating performance over Counties to retain the shield and Crockett set to lead the team they should have it easily over a Waikato team that was extremely lucky to walk away with a win over Manawatu last weekend.
North Harbour Taranaki should produce another great game. Both suffered defeats last week and will be out to rectify that however Taranaki have been the more consistent team of the season so I’ll give the victory to them by 12 or under.
Otago Manawatu is essentially the wooden spoon match. Otago has failed to fire this year and Manawatu has well, been Manawatu, inconsistent lack lustre and underperforming. However Manawatu have managed some close games this season and are on the improve so Turbos have my backing this weekend.
Southland v Wellington is my match of the weekend. Southland is having a stellar season but it has been halted the last couple of weeks and I think the loss of the shield has rattled them. On the other hand Wellington started slowly but is steam rolling their way to the semis with a trouncing of Taranaki last weekend. It will be a hard fought match with most played in the forwards as Wellington is without Gear and Southland without Robinson. With the form they are in I don’t think I can go past backing Wellington for this game.
Auckland and Tasman both secured victories last weekend but Tasman has been far too inconsistent for me to even give them a chance this weekend. Auckland should win and do so comfortably.
And finally to round out the weekend Counties Manukau take on my boys Hawke's Bay. The mighty magpies again proved their strength at home and are blazing their way to top seven contentions. With Zac returning from sevens’ duties we will again have the pace out wide. Counties may be having a good season for them but Magpies 100% for the win. And Hika you little beauty – keeping the Hawke’s Bay name alive and proud in the ABs.
Piri is a definite blow to the team and it’s sad on a personal note to see my mate Israel Dagg unable to tour due to injury but I’m happy to see that Hosea Gear has finally been given the nod to join the team. Braid will provide depth to the squad but Richie won’t hand him that jersey easily. 7 is Richie’s number and he is the best in the world for that position at the moment so sorry Braid I think you’ll be warming the bench for most of the tour.
Unsurprisingly SBW is in. I know he was bought out here specifically to make the team and play at the World Cup next year however I personally don’t see the hype around him. He has barely played any rugby on our soil and what he has, has been far from impressive. I think if we are going to bring players like this in to the team we need to open to door to allowing offshore players to play for the Abs as well. I thought the idea was to support those supporting the game at home so why not leave SBW out and give some of our local talent a chance.
But I think the biggest and dumbest surprise of them all is centred on first five. Dan Carter is the best in the world without a question but with doubt over him returning in Hong Kong and with a chance of re-injury while on tour the selectors have picked the worst replacement ever Donald. Donald himself is only just returning from injury and is far from his best, which is dismal at the best of times. Donald was dropped because of his performances and goal kicking abilities in the past and nothing has changed. No Carter, No Weepu an off key Donald and I pose the question whose going to kick for us?
I think they made the right decision in dropping Cruden, his inexperience was highlighted against the Wallabies in the last match he played. He needs to spend time developing his strategically kicking game before he will be recalled. I would have liked to see a call up for Robinson who has been in form all season but he is also injured. So why not cover our asses and take a 3rd number 10 in the shape of consistent, hard working Colin Slade.
The Irish released their team yesterday and will again be a hard side to beat but with a World Cup coming up its time for our boys to lay the foundations to 2011 victory. Grand Slam 2010 would cement them well.
So we have had a week filled with sporting highs, lows and controversy but with that all behind us the weekend should produce some stunning results. So settle for some spectacular sporting scenes!
Great stuff HB_Proud; if you can write essays like that in your finals, you'll fly through!