The View from Down Here #36

Over the next few weeks, a distinct change will come over this as I start to focus considerably more on the Australian Rules side of things (with probably lots of complaints once the Ashes cricket series starts between Australia and England which I predict will be won by the weather) in these reports, and probably the netball as well. Judging by feedback last year, while rugby league has its adherents in other countries, it seems the Australian Rules competitions and some sort of analysis of these games is what is wanted by you, the readers, at this time of the year, so I am more than happy to oblige. Also, based on feedback, I will try to explain some of the rules of the game as the season goes on. I hope this sits well with everyone… and, if not, tell me. I’ll be more than happy to consider your feedback carefully before rejecting it and doing my own thing anyway…

Or I’ll listen to you and give you want you want. Depends on how I’m feeling…

Cricket
International Cricket
The biggest news this week has come in the form of the IPL Twenty20 competition. Due to the Indian general Elections, security forces have said that they would be unable to adequately provide security for everyone who needed it in the wake of Pakistan mess. And so, to their credit, the authorities of both the security forces and Indian cricket have decided to move the competition off-shore, and after proposals from England and South Africa, the Africans won, mainly based on the fact their weather is less likely to be miserable and wet. I won’t be covering the IPL as a bunch of teams made up by corporate entities in light of current world events is too Rollerball to be comfortable for my liking. (Rollerball, by the way – the original film starring James Caan – is my favourite movie of all time… while the remake is probably the worst remake of all time barring Dino de Laurentiis’ 1976 remake of King Kong…)
First Twenty20
Australia 7/166; South Africa 6/168 – South Africa won by 4 wickets (with 4 balls to spare!)
            A good game! Only Hussey and Warner actually bothered to bat for Australia, with the rest of the team getting rubbish to mediocre scores, while many South Africans got a start, but none went on with it. The bowlers really did dominate, which is the first time I’ve seen that in a Twenty20 match.
Second Twenty20
South Africa 5/156; Australia 8/139 – South Africa won by 17 runs
And again Australia’s batting let them down. The one day series starts next weekend, so it will be very interesting to see the results out of that. Australia and South Africa are two of the most evenly matched teams I can remember watching in recent years, making their contests good stoushes on the field. I am looking forward to the next chapter in this rivalry.

Australian Rules Football
The season has started! Woohoo! Along with each match this week, I’ll put my neck on the line and give my predictions for each team. So in 30 weeks I can be abused heartily because it will all be there in print and I can’t deny it!
AFL – Round One
Richmond 9.13 (67) lost to Carlton 23.12 (150)
Carlton made a mockery of Richmond. I thought Carlton were overrated going into this match and that the Ben Cousins effect would drive Richmond on. I was wrong. I think Carlton are a genuine top 8 contender and while I wouldn’t discount Richmond, this match shows they have a long way to go.

Hawthorn 16.7 (103) lost to Geelong 15.21 (111)
The grand final replay was another good stoush between these two sides, with the result reversed from last year. No matter that they lost, Hawthorn are still going to be there come season’s end, and Geelong will make it near the top yet again. Both these teams should figure in the top 4.

Collingwood 13.8 (86) lost to Adelaide 13.12 (90)
I consider this the first upset of the round. Collingwood should not have lost at home, and the Crows should never have won with their young team. But that’s what happened. I don’t expect either team to finish in the top 8.

Brisbane 14.11 (95) def West Coast 13.8 (86)
Michael Voss has started his coaching career with a solid win, and I think we could see the Lions make the top 8, but I would not discount West Coast this year either.

St. Kilda 12.8 (80) def Sydney 9.11 (65)
Not a good game, and neither team will make the top 8 (and I am a Sydney Swans supporter, so this pains me greatly).

Melbourne 10.7 (67) lost to North Melbourne 15.11 (101)
Not a great game, but it was there. North is going to frustrate some teams this year, but I expect little from either, with Melbourne odds-on favourite for the wooden spoon.

Port Adelaide 15.17 (107) def Essendon 9.12 (66)
A strong win for Port, and if they can learn to kick straight will be a real threat this year, but they’ve struggled in that regard for a few seasons now so I don’t see any change happening there. Essendon are ‘rebuilding’… and that means they’ll be having an early shower come season’s end. Port could surprise a few teams this year, but I can’t see them getting past fourth.

Fremantle 13.16 (94) lost convincingly to Western Bulldogs 25.7 (157)
A ten goal loss at home? I honestly thought Freo would be better than that, and have now changed my mind and can see them fighting for last place with Melbourne. Western Bulldogs could do well this year, and could really shape the finals.

So my top eight would be Hawthorn, Geelong, Carlton, Brisbane, West Coast, Port Adelaide, Western Bulldogs and probably Richmond, with the teams to miss out being Adelaide, Essendon, North Melbourne, Collingwood, St Kilda and Sydney, with Fremantle and Melbourne bringing up the rear. And if I had to state a winner this early in the year, I would be looking at a replay of the Geelong/Hawthorn grand final of last year, probably with a different result.

SANFL
You may notice that as well as the so-called national competition (really a glorified Victorian league run by money-hungry Melbourne interests), I will also be including what I consider the best league to watch – my local state league. While a few teams are rather dull to watch, the flooding and defensive tactics of the AFL have yet to drive the boredom level up, and the tackling and man-on-man contests are still allowed to happen instead of it becoming basketball with a funny-shaped ball with all the new rules in the AFL. More exciting, and what football should be… until the AFL demands changes because they really are fascists.

Round One
Norwood 15.12 (102) def Port 10.9(69)
A good opener with a large crowd on hand to watch a good game. Norwood I think will be strong contenders this year, and if Port make the top 5 it will only be to make up the numbers.

South Adelaide 10.8 (68) def West Adelaide 7.16 (58)
Much like the Rabbitohs in the NRL, this will be a good start for South who will then crash and burn… which is a shame as I am a supporter and have been for over thirty years. South will just miss the finals this year while West will be a strong contender for the wooden spoon

Glenelg 12.14 (86) def Sturt 9.6 (60)
I don’t expect either team to make the top 5 this year, but this was a good enough game to make me almost rethink that stance when it comes to Glenelg.

Central Districts 10.14 (74) def Woodville-West Torrens 10.6 (66)
Both these teams will feature in the finals come season’s end, but Centrals are strong contenders for yet another flag.

Bye: North Adelaide
I think North are the dark horse this year, and may well do more than most expect. So in the final five I think will be Centrals, WWT, North, Norwood and either Port or Glenelg; while missing out will be South, West, Sturt and Port or Glenelg.

By the way, some may notice that there are two Port Adelaide teams. The original team (started in 1870 or thereabouts) is the one in the AFL. They moved across with the second South Australian licence. But part of that agreement stated there should still be a Port Adelaide presence in the SANFL, and so a new entity – the Port Adelaide Magpies (official name) was formed to take the place of the Port Adelaide Football Club in the SANFL. A little confusing, and you still get South Aussies claiming the Port on the AFL is the new club. It’s not. The constitution and everything else states that Port Adelaide switched competitions and a new club was left in its place.

Motor Sport
Australian Formula One Grand Prix
The only reason this is here is because it happened in Melbourne, otherwise I really wouldn’t waste time with this expensive waste of petroleum products. However, it was a race full of carnage and destruction, so it wasn’t a total loss.

Australia’s most overrated non-tennis-playing sportsman Mark Webber was the meat in a car sandwich on the first corner, and although he got back into the race his thirteenth placing was about as good as it was going to get.

However, the winner was a little bit of a surprise with the new Brawn team coming trumps with a 1-2 podium finish.

1st: Jenson Button (Brawn)
2nd: Rubens Barrichello (Brawn)

V8 Supercars
Round 2 of the supercars series was coupled with the Formula One, as a warm-up event. There were three races, one on each of Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The Ford v Holden rivalry is all that matters in these races/, and the day they open it up to other manufacturers will be the day the races actually mean something…
Race One
1st – Craig Lowndes (Ford Falcon FG)
2nd – Mark Winterbottom (Ford Falcon FG)
3rd – Will Davison (Holden Commodore VE)
Race Two
1st – Mark Winterbottom (Ford Falcon FG)
2nd – Will Davison (Holden Commodore VE)
3rd – Craig Lowndes (Ford Falcon FG)
Race Three
1st – Craig Lowndes (Ford Falcon FG)
2nd – Mark Winterbottom (Ford Falcon FG)
3rd – Russell Ingall (Holden Commodore VE)

Netball
We are less than a week away from the start of the ANZ championships. Not only will I be giving results, but also attending (I hope!) a couple of the Thunderbirds home games. But here is the reason I am writing this when there are no results: This is showing one HUGE difference between the genders at this level.

Now, I don’t mean the money, although that is an enormous issue; if life was fair netballers would be getting paid what footballers do in Australia. It is the second most popular sport in Australia (only cricket in all its myriad forms beats it) for participation. More girls play netball than do any other physical recreational pursuit. [I know in tennis women get paid, but for a lot less work in general so that’s not fair either.] And I don’t mean the media. Channel 2 (ABC – the government broadcaster) has done a quite good job of presenting netball in recent years, but this year channels 10 and 1 are going to be broadcasting the netball. I believe that means most games will be on free-to-air TV either live or slightly delayed. This is better than any other code, all of which have at least some of the games siphoned off to pay-TV.

No, the difference is in the players themselves.

Have you noticed how many stories have been related here in this column about netballers getting drunk and urinating on inappropriate people or in inappropriate places? What about harassing members of the opposite sex, sometimes physically? How about gambling all their money away and then crying poor? Taking illegal substances? Getting into scrapes with the law and running away? Making idiotic statements to the press about themselves? Anything? No.

These athletes are actually real role models for the youngsters who follow the sport. They do not act like the self-righteous, jumped-up, spoiled rotten little brats most footballers are. They are professional in their attitude and their behaviour and the way they present themselves and represent the sport. Now, if they could only be paid like the professionals they are, then maybe life would become that little bit fairer…

Rugby Union
After such an exciting start, the matches I am watching in recent weeks have left me decidedly underwhelmed. I certainly hope this turns around as I really enjoy a bit of union magic.
Super 14 – Round 7
Blues 22 lost to Waratahs 27
Highlanders 36 hammered Bulls 12
Crusaders 11 just over Stormers 7
This was a dour match…

Reds 26 creamed by Chiefs 50
Queensland just looked like they were out there to make up numbers. A truly awful performance.

Sharks 35 def Brumbies 14
Lions 32 just def by Hurricanes 38

Rugby League
Two bits of league news this week. The first is that after fielding an extra man, the Bulldogs have lost their two points for winning last week. Fair enough, too. These points did not go to their opposition, however, as there was no guarantee they would have won. Also fair enough. Good decision for once.

The second is that the NRL has decided the clubs should be giving out the punishment for off-field indiscretions. I mean, come on, the clubs have shown themselves to be the bastions of decency, haven’t they? They organise these drug- and alcohol- fuelled trips and parties which result in undisciplined, unrealistic, shielded young men getting hammered and doing the wrong things. And, of course, the clubs really don’t care about winning because the discipline of their players and the good of the game is so much more important, right? This is like saying to a class of ten year olds that they can decide what behaviours are good or not and then dish out their own punishments accordingly. Yet another dumb move in a series of them. Is rugby league trying to make Soccer and Australian Rules the only national codes in this land?
Round Two
Cronulla 12 lost to Newcastle 24
Round Three
Wests Tigers 40 hammered Sydney Roosters 24
Gold Coast 20 def Bulldogs 12
Warriors 10 lost to Brisbane 26
Parramatta 18 just over Canberra 16
North Queensland 12 lost to Melbourne 26
It would be foolish to write Melbourne off this year, as some have already done.

South Sydney 22 def Newcastle 12
You know, sometimes I think there are two South Sydneys. One is the inept team that couldn’t defeat the Woolloomoolloo under 16s, and the other is the team that turned up this weekend.

St George Illawarra 10 def Cronulla 6
As dull as a soccer match.

Manly v Penrith
This match is yet to happen, so I’ll update next time…

Soccer
Asian Champion’s League
A brief break for the Australian teams.

A short one after last week. Hope to have y’all join us again next time for another view!

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