Cricket starts to peter out and I finally do my AFL preview! There’s just way too many words here! And too many exclamation marks! Too much of everything! Okay, maybe not, but this is long and I try to look at the upcoming Aussie Rules season impartially. Really, there’s not much to waffle on about, it’s been a big weekend (you’ll see why at the end) and I’m feeling a little drained. So enjoy the view.

New Zealand v Australia 1st Test
Australia 5(dec)/459; New Zealand 157; New Zealand 407; Australia 0/106 – Australia won by 10 wickets
            What a woeful display by the Kiwis in the first innings. Their bowling and fielding lacked bite, their batting lacked everything pretty much. Then they were forced to follow on and in the second innings they came out swinging, but their bowlers could not back it up and so it was not even a real competition. Disappointing way to start the test series, especially after the close one dayers. Let’s hope the second test is closer… and based on first innings it will be. But Australia’s continuing winning streak in test matches is truly remarkable.
Sheffield Shield

Victoria v Queensland
Victoria 305; Queensland 257; Victoria 8(dec)/591; Queensland 182 – Victoria won by 457 runs
            After a season that promised so much and brought out some really food cricket, we got this as a final. It started off well enough, but then Victoria let it all hang out in their second innings and Queensland struggled. Remember, Queensland had to win, Victoria only had to force the draw to claim the Sheffield Shield. Bit the way they played you would be forgiven for thinking it was the other way round. Victoria were deserving victors, completely dominating the final, as they had much of the last two thirds of the season. And despite the final, it was a good season. Here’s looking forward to next summer!

Australian Rules Football
AFL Round 1
Richmond 9.10 (64) hammered by Carlton 18.12 (120)
            Well, this was the match the AFL chose to start the 2010 season? What a joke. And I feel this is going to be Richmond’s lot for most of the year as well.
Geelong 19.11 (125) def Essendon 13.16 (94)
            This should have been the opener. What a game. The score line flatters Geelong a little because it was so close for the first three quarters it could literally have gone either way. The teams for a while were scoring in lots of five, and it made the fame intense and interesting. These two teams will be there at year’s end, I am sure.
Melbourne 8.13 (61) comprehensively def by Hawthorn 17.15 (117)
            And, like Richmond, this will be the story of Melbourne’s year as well…
Sydney 13.10 (88) def by St. Kilda 15.6 (96)
            Either Sydney played better than expected or the Saints played worse. This was a lot closer than anyone was giving either team credit for.
Brisbane 16.18 (114) def West Coast 12.10 (82)
            Another good match, showing that both teams are going to be competitive in 2010.
Port Adelaide 13.18 (96) def North Melbourne 12.10 (82)
            While a close game, this was one that many thought Port would lose, despite being at home. And it could have been more but North came back late in the game, yet Port withstood the challenge and came out winners.
Western Bulldogs 13.15 (93) def by Collingwood 19.15 (129)
            First upset of the season, not just because the Bulldogs lost but because they lost so easily.
Fremantle 17.16 9118) really def Adelaide 9.8 (62)
            Tight first quarter, and then Fremantle ran away with it. Adelaide did not score a goal in the last quarter. This is also something of an upset, though at home Fremantle seem to be a different team.
Season Preview
            While this was written before the opening round, I gave amended it considering the most recent results…
Adelaide (“The Crows”): The pre-season saw Adelaide with an injury list longer than some teams had all of last year. Their players are older, and this could mean one of two things – the time is right for them to make a move on the last weeks of the finals, or they will collapse as injuries take their toll. Under coach Neil Craig they have yet to miss out on the finals, but this year it will be a close run thing.
Brisbane (“The Lions”): Brisbane signed Carlton spearhead Brendan Fevola, hoping the bad boy of the AFL will kick a huge amount of goals again and give them the edge they need. But already he has made headlines for the wrong reasons. But he is just one of 5 experienced players they snapped up. This is it, though – if they don’t do it this year, they may well be waiting a while, especially with the draft concessions to be given to their new neighbours in the Gold Coast next year.
Carlton (“The Blues”): They lost Fevola and Stevens (the latter to injury), but still have Chris Judd and a young group working hard. While 2010 will not be their year, they will start to well and truly come of age this year ready for a genuine title assault in 2-4 years.
Collingwood (“The Magpies”): You either hate Collingwood or you loathe them. Old joke. Sorry. But they yet again have what seems to be a favourable home-and-away season. Every year it seems the AFL is desperate to give them the flag. Well, 2010 could be their year as they right in the middle of a strong rebuilding phase. However they seem to once more be succumbing to the ‘collywobbles’ in the finals, so that mental toughness will be their greatest hurdle to overcome. Expect them to be in the thick of it come September.
Essendon (“The Bombers”): Too many experienced players are gone this year, and this team will struggle, not only on the field, but also off with the expectations of the faithful. They should expect a few more years of pain before reaping the rewards of their young players.
Fremantle (“The Dockers”): They start the season with a horrid run of high profile opponents, and their coach is under the pump, but this could be another year Fremantle promise so much and then fail to deliver. Some good signings in the off-season have bolstered their experience, but there is just something about the team that says they will disappoint yet again. It should be noted that Fremantle are the only team in the AFL to not have won the grand final.
Geelong (“The Cats”): Last year’s premiers, 2 premierships in 3 years, 3 straight grand final appearances… it’s hard to look past them with most of their list still on board. Having said that, this could be their last chance for a while if rumours of Gold Coast going after some of their biggest names with their expanded salary cap are true. But they will be right in there again this year, and woe to any team that underestimates them.
Hawthorn (“The Hawks”): Last year they were the first team in a decade to not make the finals the year after winning the flag. That mental issue will be the big determining factor this year – can they pull themselves out of their funk and have another tilt at it? They have a strong list and are coached well, so it’s now down to what happens on the field and in their heads.
Melbourne (“The Demons”): They were the wooden spoon winners last year, and this year… nothing will change. They did okay in some pre-season matches, but were humiliated in the first round. They have some exciting youngsters, sop this may be the last year they are a laughing stock. Expect them to start to rise again in 2011, but not this year.
North Melbourne (“The Kangaroos”): They are North Melbourne again after being just the Northern Kangaroos for a while, which is a good thing. Another team a few years away from a flag. However, they also struggle in many areas of their football department, and those few years could see the end of the club in its current form. This will not be a good year, although they will be competitive.
Port Adelaide (“The Power”): They look vulnerable and old, with off-field troubles besetting them and an uncertain future. And I would have said that they would be in the bottom four until the pore-season and the first round of the regular season. They have the potential to push other teams hard and while they may not make the finals, they will certainly have something to say in shaping them.
Richmond (“The Tigers”): Melbourne kept them off the bottom last year; this year they will again battle with the Demons for that lowest of places. But they lost some experienced players and because they did not finish dead last also did not get priority draft picks, so they are looking not good. They have a coach with a long-term plan, though; let’s just hope the club gives him a chance to carry that plan out.
St Kilda (“The Saints”): They lost last year’s grand final and it looks like that may be playing on them mentally. Another team that will need to get their heads right to repeat last year’s performance. But they have a superb list and a fine coach, so they have the ability to go all the way. But will they?
Sydney (“The Swans”): The advent of the Greater Western Sydney franchise will be the elephant in the room this year, so the Swans will be under even greater pressure to perform in a city that is largely indifferent to the AFL in an attempt to shore up some support. But this could be their undoing. They lost a number of experienced players, gained a few in return and got probably one of the best first round draftees in Lewis Jetta. They could be around the mark, but this is not going to be the season they need. [Disclosure – despite being from Adelaide, this is the team I support. So as to any perceived bias on my behalf… deal with it.]
West Coast Eagles (“The Eagles”): Still suffering from losing some big name players before the 2009 season, their youngsters are coming along very nicely, but aren’t quite there yet. However, if the end of last season is anything to go by, their time is going to be sooner rather than later.
Western Bulldogs (“The Bulldogs”): Used to be Footscray and with the Western Sydney team coming in expect them to either return to that name or merge and go north. Just saying. With the signing of wayward Barry Hall they have the man up forward to give them what they’ve been lacking to make that final jump. But all it will take is one serious brain fade (and he’s had a few of them) and their focal point will be gone and so will their game plan. When he doesn’t get the ball he makes sure others do. So their entire season rests on one man and one man alone. This is not a good thing. They’ve just missed out on the grand final for the past two years; to do so again will be seen as a failure.
My Possible Ladder for 2010:
Premier: Geelong
2 Western Bulldogs
3 St Kilda
4 Collingwood
5 Hawthorn
6 Brisbane
7 Adelaide
8 Sydney
9 Carlton
10 Port Adelaide
11 West Coast
12 Fremantle
13 North Melbourne
14 Essendon
15 Melbourne
16 Richmond
            And, as is usual with these things, any similarities between this and the actual end of year table will be entirely coincidental…
            Enjoy the year!
SANFL – Round 1
            I am biased as this is the football I grew up on, but if they do not lift their game it is going to be relegated to such a lowly status in the whole scheme of things that I might as well cover the amateur leagues in this state. U feel depressed even typing that. So let’s look at round one…
West Adelaide 14.19 (103) humiliated North Adelaide 4.7 (31)
            Ooh, good way to start the season, with a one-sided affair. Mind you, Westies are looking strong this year already.
South Adelaide 10.8 (68) drew with Sturt 10.8 (68)
            A draw in the first match! Wow! This is a good omen for Souths, and maybe not such a good one for Sturt.
Glenelg 17.11 (113) slaughtered Norwood 5.7 (37)
            Glenelg want that flag and they want it bad. This is a good way for them to start to atone for the disappointment that was their ultimately last season.
Central Districts 13.12 (90) def Port Adelaide 11.13 (79)
            I would have thought last year’s premiers would have looked a deal stronger in their first match of the year, but, oh well!
Bye: Woodville-West Torrens
My predictions:
Premier: Glenelg (“The Tigers”)
            They want it badly this year. They have the personnel and the coaches; they can do it.
2nd: Central Districts (“The Bulldogs”)
            They have been at the top for more than a decade; they won’t go all the way down in one year.
3rd: West Adelaide (“The Bloods”)
            This is their year to shine, I think, starting a good series of years that could ultimately get them their flag.
4th: Woodville-West Torrens (“The Eagles”)
            They’ll be around the place, but I don’t expect them to get much higher than this.
5th: Sturt (“The Double Blues”)
            In the finals they’ll be making up numbers. But they’ll have more to do with shaping them than anything else.
6th: South Adelaide (“The Panthers”)
            Off the bottom for the first time in too long. They are on the rise, and in maybe 2012 they’ll get to the finals, so long as their board don’t panic and fire everyone. Again. [Disclaimer again – my team… etc.]
7th: Norwood (“The Redlegs”)
            They are going to struggle for a little while until their team gels.
8th: North Adelaide (“The Roosters”)
            How the mighty have fallen. They need something – anything – but the current board can’t deliver. Actually, what they need is Andrew Jarman back, but he’s gone to Western Australia now so they blew that one.
9th: Port Adelaide (“The Magpies”)
            In what could well be their last season in the SANFL they shall be going out with a whimper…
            And that’s how I see it. Again, me, predictions, reality… anyone’s guess.

Rugby League
NRL – Round 2
St George Illawarra 26 def Canterbury-Bankstown 6
South Sydney 18 just def by Gold Coast 19
            After promising so much off-season, that’s two losses in a row…
Warriors 30 def Cronulla 16
Newcastle 14 def by Melbourne 20
North Queensland 28 def Penrith 20
Parramatta 24 def Manly 20
Sydney Roosters 44 def Wests Tigers 32
            High scoring match. But the main reason was, watching it, it seemed neither team was particularly interested in strong defence. This is not a good way to run a railroad.
Canberra 22 def Brisbane 14
NRL – Round 3
Wests Tigers 23 def Parramatta 12
St George Illawarra 33 hammered North Queensland 8
Penrith 10 def by Melbourne 16
Manly 36 def Newcastle 12
Gold Coast 24 def Canberra 4
Brisbane 16 kicked down by Warriors 48
Canterbury-Bankstown 60 slaughtered Sydney Roosters 14
Cronulla 8 hammered by South Sydney 30
            This is what I expected from Souths… and what a way to go about it!

Rugby Union
Super 14 Round 6
Blues 39 just def Brumbies 34
Bulls 19 just def Hurricanes 18
Crusaders 46 really def Lions 19
Highlanders 16 def by Sharks 30
Force 10 def by Waratahs 14
Stormers 21 def Cheetahs 8
Super 14 Round 7
Highlanders 39 def Lions 29
Brumbies 30 def Chiefs 23
Cheetahs 10 def by Reds 31
Hurricanes 26 def by Sharks 29
Waratahs 39 def Blues 32
Force 15 def by Bulls 28

ANZ Championships
            Regular readers will know of my love for this sport, and I’ve been looking forward to this season, But the games I saw were not the best, with many errors and not the best umpiring. However, let’s see how things improve as teams start to gel after what appears to have been a tumultuous off-season.
            Oh, and I tend to be inconsistent with my naming of the teams, so here in Round One is their full names and which country they are from.
Round 1
Northern Mystics (NZ) 55 def Adelaide Thunderbirds (Aus) 52
            Following the lead of many European soccer teams, the Port Adelaide Football Club in the AFL sponsor the Thunderbirds, which is a good move that benefits both organisations.
Southern Steel (NZ) 46 def West Coast Fever (Aus) 44
Queensland Firebirds (Aus) 47 def by New South Wales Swifts (Aus) 50
Canterbury Tactix (NZ) 54 def Central Pulse (NZ) 48
Melbourne Vixens (Aus) 48 def Waikato Bay Of Plenty Magic (NZ) 40
Round 2
Pulse 50 def by Mystics 61
Thunderbirds 38 def by Swifts 45
Vixens 53 def Firebirds 46
WBOP Magic 47 def Steel 41
Fever 62 soundly def Tactix 44

Asian Champions League

Kawasaki Frontale 4 killed Melbourne Victory 0
            Melbourne looked out of sorts, after losing the grand final earlier in the week. And this loss puts them out of the ACL as well. Not been a good week for the Victorians.
Adelaide United 3 def Sanfrecce Hiroshima 2
            This was a good game. I actually found myself on the edge of my seat watching a soccer match! Why couldn’t Adelaide play like this during the A-League though!?
Grand Final

Melbourne Victory 1 drew with Sydney 1-1
            we go to penalties
Melbourne Victory 2 def by Sydney 4 on penalties (maybe it was 3-4… I’ve seen both scorelines. Like it matters.)
            And this result is one of the things wrong with soccer as a sport, and why it will have trouble catching on in Australia or the USA. A dour game, down to a penalty shoot-out. Standard end to a standard season…


Motor Sport
V-8 Supercars
There was some racing this weekend, but as it was part of the Australian Formula One Grand Prix, it did not count for points. Why? Because these races are restricted by time not by number of laps. They are not a definite. And they are much shorter than normal.
Race 1
1st James Courtney (Falcon FG)
2nd Garth Tander (Commodore VE)
3rd Shane van Gisbergen (Falcon FG)
Race 2
1st Garth Tander (Commodore VE)
2nd Jamie Whincup (Commodore VE)
3rd James Courtney (Falcon FG)
Race 3
1st Garth Tander (Commodore VE)
2nd Shane van Gisbergen (Falcon FG)
3rd Will Davison (Commodore VE)
            Good weekend for Tander, and this should give not only him but also van Gisbergen some confidence going into the next official round at the street circuit in Hamilton, New Zealand in mid-April.

So we’re back and up to date and all is right again. Sort of.
            The man who has been my father figure since my own father died when I was 10 passed away a few days ago. My condolences go to his family. I will miss you and love you, my friend. Vale, Jim Hale.
            That’s this view – Mar 15 through 29.

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