2017 FINA World Swimming Championships – Preview

The world’s best swimmers descend into Budapest for the 2017 FINA World Swimming Championships, which starts on Sunday from the Danube Arena in the Hungarian capital.

For many of the world’ elite, it will be opportunity to either back up, or bounce back from their performances at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro almost a year ago.

For others, like the Australian swimming team, it will be seen as an opportunity to build up their performances in preparation for the 2018 Commonwealth Games, which will be held up on the Gold Coast.

Schedule (All dates and times are Central European Summer Time, which is the local time for Budapest)

23rd July

09:30 – 13:15 

MEN’S 400M FREESTYLE SWIMMING (PRELIMINARY ROUND) 

WOMEN’S 400M FREESTYLE SWIMMING (PRELIMINARY ROUND) 

MEN’S 100M BREASTSTROKE (PRELIMINARY ROUND) 

MEN’S 50M BUTTERFLY (PRELIMINARY ROUND) 

WOMEN’S 100M BUTTERFLY (PRELIMINARY ROUND) 

WOMEN’S 200M INDIVIDUAL MEDLEY (PRELIMINARY ROUND) 

MEN’S 4X100M FREESTYLE RELAY (PRELIMINARY ROUND) 

WOMEN’S 4X100M FREESTYLE RELAY (PRELIMINARY ROUND) 

17:30 – 19:45 

MEN’S 400M FREESTYLE SWIMMING (FINAL) 

WOMEN’S 400M FREESTYLE SWIMMING (FINAL) 

MEN’S 100M BREASTSTROKE (SEMI-FINAL ROUND) 

MEN’S 50M BUTTERFLY (SEMI-FINAL ROUND) 

WOMEN’S 100M BUTTERFLY (SEMI-FINAL ROUND) 

WOMEN’S 200M INDIVIDUAL MEDLEY (SEMI-FINAL ROUND) 

MEN’S 4X100M FREESTYLE RELAY (FINAL) 

WOMEN’S 4X100M FREESTYLE RELAY (FINAL) 

24th July

09:30 – 13:15 

MEN’S 200M FREESTYLE SWIMMING (PRELIMINARY ROUND) 

WOMEN’S 1500M FREESTYLE SWIMMING (PRELIMINARY ROUND) 

MEN’S 100M BACKSTROKE (PRELIMINARY ROUND) 

WOMEN’S 100M BACKSTROKE (PRELIMINARY ROUND) 

WOMEN’S 100M BREASTSTROKE (PRELIMINARY ROUND) 

17:30 – 19:30 

MEN’S 200M FREESTYLE SWIMMING (SEMI-FINAL ROUND) 

MEN’S 100M BACKSTROKE (SEMI-FINAL ROUND) 

WOMEN’S 100M BACKSTROKE (SEMI-FINAL ROUND) 

MEN’S 100M BREASTSTROKE (FINAL) 

WOMEN’S 100M BREASTSTROKE (SEMI-FINAL ROUND) 

MEN’S 50M BUTTERFLY (FINAL) 

WOMEN’S 100M BUTTERFLY (FINAL) 

WOMEN’S 200M INDIVIDUAL MEDLEY (FINAL) 

25th July

09:30 – 13:15 

MEN’S 800M FREESTYLE SWIMMING (PRELIMINARY ROUND) 

WOMEN’S 200M FREESTYLE SWIMMING (PRELIMINARY ROUND) 

MEN’S 50M BREASTSTROKE (PRELIMINARY ROUND) 

MEN’S 200M BUTTERFLY (PRELIMINARY ROUND) 

17:30 – 19:50 

MEN’S 200M FREESTYLE SWIMMING (FINAL) 

WOMEN’S 200M FREESTYLE SWIMMING (SEMI-FINAL ROUND) 

WOMEN’S 1500M FREESTYLE SWIMMING (FINAL) 

MEN’S 100M BACKSTROKE (FINAL) 

WOMEN’S 100M BACKSTROKE (FINAL) 

MEN’S 50M BREASTSTROKE (SEMI-FINAL ROUND) 

WOMEN’S 100M BREASTSTROKE (FINAL) 

MEN’S 200M BUTTERFLY (SEMI-FINAL ROUND) 

26th July

09:30 – 13:15 

MEN’S 100M FREESTYLE SWIMMING (PRELIMINARY ROUND) 

WOMEN’S 50M BACKSTROKE (PRELIMINARY ROUND) 

WOMEN’S 200M BUTTERFLY (PRELIMINARY ROUND) 

MEN’S 200M INDIVIDUAL MEDLEY (PRELIMINARY ROUND) 

MIXED 4X100M MEDLEY RELAY (PRELIMINARY ROUND) 

17:30 – 20:10 

MEN’S 100M FREESTYLE SWIMMING (SEMI-FINAL ROUND) 

MEN’S 800M FREESTYLE SWIMMING (FINAL) 

WOMEN’S 200M FREESTYLE SWIMMING (FINAL) 

WOMEN’S 50M BACKSTROKE (SEMI-FINAL ROUND) 

MEN’S 50M BREASTSTROKE (FINAL) 

MEN’S 200M BUTTERFLY (FINAL) 

WOMEN’S 200M BUTTERFLY (SEMI-FINAL ROUND) 

MEN’S 200M INDIVIDUAL MEDLEY (SEMI-FINAL ROUND) 

MIXED 4X100M MEDLEY RELAY (FINAL)

27th July

09:30 – 13:15 

WOMEN’S 100M FREESTYLE SWIMMING (PRELIMINARY ROUND) 

MEN’S 200M BACKSTROKE (PRELIMINARY ROUND) 

MEN’S 200M BREASTSTROKE (PRELIMINARY ROUND) 

WOMEN’S 200M BREASTSTROKE (PRELIMINARY ROUND) 

WOMEN’S 4X200M FREESTYLE RELAY (PRELIMINARY ROUND)

17:30 – 20:00 

MEN’S 100M FREESTYLE SWIMMING (FINAL) 

WOMEN’S 100M FREESTYLE SWIMMING (SEMI-FINAL ROUND) 

MEN’S 200M BACKSTROKE (SEMI-FINAL ROUND) 

WOMEN’S 50M BACKSTROKE (FINAL) 

MEN’S 200M BREASTSTROKE (SEMI-FINAL ROUND) 

WOMEN’S 200M BREASTSTROKE (SEMI-FINAL ROUND) 

WOMEN’S 200M BUTTERFLY (FINAL) 

MEN’S 200M INDIVIDUAL MEDLEY (FINAL) 

WOMEN’S 4X200M FREESTYLE RELAY (FINAL) 

28th July

09:30 – 13:15 

MEN’S 50M FREESTYLE SWIMMING (PRELIMINARY ROUND) 

WOMEN’S 800M FREESTYLE SWIMMING (PRELIMINARY ROUND) 

WOMEN’S 200M BACKSTROKE (PRELIMINARY ROUND) 

MEN’S 100M BUTTERFLY (PRELIMINARY ROUND) 

WOMEN’S 50M BUTTERFLY (PRELIMINARY ROUND) 

MEN’S 4X200M FREESTYLE RELAY (PRELIMINARY ROUND) 

17:30 – 19:50 

MEN’S 50M FREESTYLE SWIMMING (SEMI-FINAL ROUND) 

WOMEN’S 100M FREESTYLE SWIMMING (FINAL) 

MEN’S 200M BACKSTROKE (FINAL) 

WOMEN’S 200M BACKSTROKE (SEMI-FINAL ROUND) 

MEN’S 200M BREASTSTROKE (FINAL) 

WOMEN’S 200M BREASTSTROKE (FINAL) 

MEN’S 100M BUTTERFLY (SEMI-FINAL ROUND) 

WOMEN’S 50M BUTTERFLY (SEMI-FINAL ROUND) 

MEN’S 4X200M FREESTYLE RELAY (FINAL) 

29th July

09:30 – 13:15 

MEN’S 1500M FREESTYLE SWIMMING (PRELIMINARY ROUND) 

WOMEN’S 50M FREESTYLE SWIMMING (PRELIMINARY ROUND) 

MEN’S 50M BACKSTROKE (PRELIMINARY ROUND) 

WOMEN’S 50M BREASTSTROKE (PRELIMINARY ROUND) 

MIXED 4X100M FREESTYLE RELAY (PRELIMINARY ROUND) 

17:30 – 20:10 

MEN’S 50M FREESTYLE SWIMMING (FINAL)

WOMEN’S 50M FREESTYLE SWIMMING (SEMI-FINAL ROUND) 

WOMEN’S 800M FREESTYLE SWIMMING (FINAL) 

MEN’S 50M BACKSTROKE (SEMI-FINAL ROUND) 

WOMEN’S 200M BACKSTROKE (FINAL) 

WOMEN’S 50M BREASTSTROKE (SEMI-FINAL ROUND) 

MEN’S 100M BUTTERFLY (FINAL) 

WOMEN’S 50M BUTTERFLY (FINAL) 

MIXED 4X100M FREESTYLE RELAY (FINAL) 

30th July

09:30 – 13:15 

MEN’S 400M INDIVIDUAL MEDLEY (PRELIMINARY ROUND) 

WOMEN’S 400M INDIVIDUAL MEDLEY (PRELIMINARY ROUND) 

MEN’S 4X100M MEDLEY RELAY (PRELIMINARY ROUND) 

WOMEN’S 4X100M MEDLEY RELAY (PRELIMINARY ROUND) 

17:30 – 20:10 

MEN’S 1500M FREESTYLE SWIMMING (FINAL) 

WOMEN’S 50M FREESTYLE SWIMMING (FINAL) 

MEN’S 50M BACKSTROKE (FINAL) 

WOMEN’S 50M BREASTSTROKE (FINAL) 

MEN’S 400M INDIVIDUAL MEDLEY (FINAL) 

WOMEN’S 400M INDIVIDUAL MEDLEY (FINAL) 

MEN’S 4X100M MEDLEY RELAY (FINAL) 

WOMEN’S 4X100M MEDLEY RELAY (FINAL) 

 

One of the storylines I am looking forward to seeing is whether Mack Horton can back up the performances he produced in Rio de Janeiro last year.

The 21 year old won gold in the Men’s 400m Freestyle at the Olympic Games last year, which was one of only three gold medals for the Australian swimming team in Rio de Janeiro, and won a bronze medal in the Men’s 800m Freestyle at the 2015 FINA World Swimming Championships in Kazan two years ago.

However, Horton has had to deal with some outside controversy (from some circles) over his stance on the issue of doping, as well as dealing with a health scare, which forced him to have a mole removed from his chest that could have turned cancerous.

Horton will compete individually in the Men’s 200m Freestyle, Men’s 400m Freestyle, Men’s 800m Freestyle, and in the Men’s 1500m Freestyle, events in which he should be a strong medal threat.

Another storyline I am looking forward to follow is whether Cameron McEvoy can bounce back from a disappointing performance in Rio de Janeiro after finishing seventh in the Men’s 100m Freestyle, and missing the final in the Men’s 50m Freestyle, but helping Australia to bronze medals in the Men’s 4x100m Freestyle relay, and the Men’s 4x100m Medley relay.

Out of the times in 2017 to qualify for the world championships, McEvoy is second fastest in the Men’s 100m Freestyle, and fourth fastest in the Men’s 50m Freestyle.

McEvoy will be carrying Australian hopes in the sprint events after the withdrawal of Kyle Chalmers, the gold medalist in the Men’s 100m Freestyle in Rio de Janeiro, after he underwent heart surgery to fix a condition known as supraventricular tachycardia, also known as an abnormally fast heart rhythm.

McEvoy will face fierce competition from British swimmer Duncan Scott, as well as American swimmers Nathan Adrian and Caeleb Dressel as he looks to go one better than the silver medal he achieved in the Men’s 100m Freestyle in Kazan two years ago.

A third storyline to follow is how Bronte Campbell bounces back after a disappointing performance in Rio de Janeiro last year.

Much was expected of her and sister Cate, who will not be competing at the world championships, at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, and despite helping Australia to a gold medal in the Women’s 4x100m Freestyle relay, Bronte Campbell could only finish fourth and seventh in the Women’s 100m Freestyle and the Women’s 50m Freestyle respectively in Rio de Janeiro.

So far in 2017, out of the times to qualify for the world championships, Campbell is top five in the world for both events, and should be a strong medal threat in Budapest.

And the final major storyline that I am going to be following over the course of the world championships in Budapest is whether Katie Ledecky can continue her dominance over world swimming.

The American won four gold medals in Rio de Janeiro, winning the Women’s 200m Freestyle, Women’s 400m Freestyle, Women’s 800m Freestyle, and a part of the United States of America (USA) team that won the Women’s 4x200m Freestyle relay, and won a silver medal in the Women’s 4x100m Freestyle relay for the USA.

She has won more gold medals at Olympic Games and World Championships combined, and holds the world record in the Women’s 400m Freestyle, Women’s 800m Freestyle, and the Women’s 1500m Freestyle.

In my opinion, Ledecky is the best swimmer in the world, male or female, and I am expecting her to produce some sparkling performances in Budapest.

I cannot wait for the 2017 FINA World Swimming Championships, and it would be good to see Australia put in better performances in Budapest, compared to what they produced in the highly-pressurised environment, in so many ways, in Rio de Janeiro.

 

2017 NRL season – The run home

We are heading into the business rounds of the 2017 National Rugby League (NRL) season, and there are a number of teams who are queuing up for a shot at premiership glory.

After making my predictions before the season, and at the halfway mark of the season (Part One, Part Two), it is time to make some more predictions as we head ever closer to the finals as to where your team will finish in 2017.

 

Melbourne Storm (currently first on 30 points, +120 differential)

(My predicted regular season finish: First on 42 points, +164 differential)

(My predicted finals finish: Third)

Remaining matches

Round 20: Canberra Raiders Loss by 6

Round 21: Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles Win by 6

Round 22: North Queensland Cowboys Win by 6

Round 23: Sydney Roosters Win by 2

Round 24: Newcastle Knights Win by 18

Round 25: South Sydney Rabbitohs Win by 12

Round 26: Canberra Raiders Win by 6

My thoughts

The Melbourne Storm continue to amaze in so many ways, and I think from this position, they will win their second-successive minor premiership. The only match out of their last seven regular season matches I predict they will lose will be this week against the inspired and desperate Canberra Raiders, and will march into the finals on the back of six straight wins, which would be their longest winning streak of the season.

In the finals series, the Storm will win their seventh match in a row against the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles in Week One to move straight through to the preliminary finals. However, they will suffer a shock loss at home against the Raiders to crash out of the finals one win short of a second-successive grand final appearance.

 

Sydney Roosters (currently second on 28 points, +53 differential)

(My predicted regular season finish: Third on 38 points, +100 differential)

(My predicted finals finish: Fifth)

Remaining matches

Round 20: Newcastle Knights Win by 12

Round 21: North Queensland Cowboys Win by 8

Round 22: Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles Loss by 2

Round 23: Melbourne Storm Loss by 2

Round 24: Wests Tigers Win by 18

Round 25: Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks Win by 1

Round 26: Gold Coast Titans Win by 12

My thoughts

The Sydney Roosters are a completely different team in 2017 compared to 2016, and while I don’t think they are quite as good as the team that won the premiership in 2013, and the minor premiership in 2013, 2014, and 2015, they should comfortably make the top four, despite a couple of hiccups in Round 22 and 23 against the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles and Melbourne Storm.

However, the Roosters will lose in Week One of the finals against the Brisbane Broncos in an absolute thriller, before being shocked in Week Two against the Canberra Raiders to go out in straight sets.

 

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles (currently third on 26 points, +87 differential)

(My predicted regular season finish: Fourth on 34 points, +98 differential)

(My predicted finals finish: Sixth)

Remaining matches

Round 20: St George Illawarra Dragons Win by 2

Round 21: Melbourne Storm Loss by 6

Round 22: Sydney Roosters Win by 2

Round 23: Wests Tigers Win by 18

Round 24: Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs Loss by 1

Round 25: New Zealand Warriors Loss by 6

Round 26: Penrith Panthers Win by 2

My thoughts

The Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles have proven everyone wrong, including myself, and should comfortably cruise into the finals, and likely finish inside the top four, despite losses against the Melbourne Storm, Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs and the New Zealand Warriors during the final seven rounds.

However, the Sea Eagles fantastic season will come to an end after Week Two of the finals after losing to the Melbourne Storm and the North Queensland Cowboys.

 

Brisbane Broncos (currently fourth on 26 points, +68 differential)

(My predicted regular season finish: Second on 40 points, +142 differential)

(My predicted finals finish: Premiers)

Remaining matches

Round 20: Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs Win by 12

Round 21: Parramatta Eels Win by 6

Round 22: Gold Coast Titans Win by 12

Round 23: Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks Win by 8

Round 24: St George Illawarra Dragons Win by 18

Round 25: Parramatta Eels Win by 12

Round 26: North Queensland Cowboys Win by 6

My thoughts

The Brisbane Broncos have been my pick to win the premiership in 2017, and while I think they will just miss out on the minor premiership, they will finish inside the Top Two after winning their final eight matches of the regular season, which would be their longest winning streak of the season.

In the finals, the Broncos will defeat the Sydney Roosters in a classic to qualify for a preliminary final, where they will defeat their great rivals, the North Queensland Cowboys, to qualify for their second grand final in three years.

They will meet the Canberra Raiders in the grand final, and in a tightly-fought contest, the Broncos will claim their sixth premiership in a unified competition (seventh if you include Super League), which would be their first premiership in 11 years, after completing an 11 match winning streak, and complete the ultimate redemption story after losing the 2015 NRL Grand Final against the Cowboys in extraordinary circumstances.

 

Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks (currently fifth on 26 points, +65 differential)

(My predicted regular season finish: 10th on 28 points, +48 differential)

Remaining matches

Round 20: South Sydney Rabbitohs Win by 2

Round 21: New Zealand Warriors Loss by 2

Round 22: Canberra Raiders Loss by 1

Round 23: Brisbane Broncos Loss by 8

Round 24: North Queensland Cowboys Loss by 6

Round 25: Sydney Roosters Loss by 1

Round 26: Newcastle Knights Loss by 1

My thoughts

The defending premiers currently sit fifth on the competition ladder, and while many people think the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks have a great chance of going back-to-back, I am predicting them to have a great fall, losing their last six matches, which would be their longest losing streak of season, including a two-point loss against the New Zealand Warriors, plus one-point losses against the Canberra Raiders, Sydney Roosters, and the Newcastle Knights to miss the Top Eight on points differential, and become the first defending premiers (excluding salary cap penalties) to miss the finals since the Wests Tigers back in 2006.

 

North Queensland Cowboys (currently sixth on 26 points, +56 differential)

(My predicted regular season finish: Fifth on 34 points, +68 differential)

(My predicted finals finish: Fourth)

Remaining matches

Round 20: New Zealand Warriors Win by 18

Round 21: Sydney Roosters Loss by 8

Round 22: Melbourne Storm Loss by 6

Round 23: Penrith Panthers Win by 2

Round 24: Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks Win by 6

Round 25: Wests Tigers Win by 6

Round 26: Brisbane Broncos Loss by 6

My thoughts

The North Queensland Cowboys, in the absence of co-captains Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott, are proving how strong their club is, and despite some close losses in the final seven rounds against the Sydney Roosters, Melbourne Storm and the Brisbane Broncos, they will comfortably make the finals for the seventh year in a row.

In the finals, the Cowboys will defeat the St George Illawarra Dragons in Week One, before defeating the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles in Week Two to set up another blockbuster against the Brisbane Broncos, where their finals run will come to an end.

 

Parramatta Eels (currently seventh on 24 points, -19 differential)

(My predicted regular season finish: Seventh on 30 points, -15 differential)

(My predicted finals finish: Seventh)

Remaining matches

Round 20: Wests Tigers Win by 12

Round 21: Brisbane Broncos Loss by 6

Round 22: Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs Loss by 2

Round 23: Newcastle Knights Win by 12

Round 24: Gold Coast Titans Win by 2

Round 25: Brisbane Broncos Loss by 12

Round 26: South Sydney Rabbitohs Loss by 2

My thoughts

The Parramatta Eels have comprehensively proven me wrong, and while on paper they look to have one of the easiest runs home, they will only win three of their last seven matches, including their last two to scrape into finals in seventh position, and with a negative points differential.

The Eels will then suffer a Week One exit at the hands of the Canberra Raiders.

 

St George Illawarra Dragons (currently eighth on 22 points, +52 differential)

(My predicted regular season finish: Eighth on 28 points, +55 differential, 112.7 percent)

(My predicted finals finish: Eighth)

Remaining matches

Round 20: Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles Loss by 2

Round 21: Newcastle Knights Loss by 2

Round 22: South Sydney Rabbitohs Win by 2

Round 23: Gold Coast Titans Win by 6

Round 24: Brisbane Broncos Loss by 18

Round 25: Penrith Panthers Loss by 1

Round 26: Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs Win by 18

My thoughts

In recent weeks, the St George Illawarra Dragons have been struggling, winning only one of their last four, including losing their last two matches, and while I think that losing streak will stretch out to four matches, I believe the Dragons will win three out of their last five matches, including their Round 26 encounter against the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs to be tied on the same amount of competition points, as well as on points differential with the Penrith Panthers.

However, the superior defence of the Dragons throughout 2017 will see them qualify for the finals in eighth position on percentage.

Despite making the finals, their stay in September will be short-lived, losing to the North Queensland Cowboys in Week One of the finals.

 

Penrith Panthers (currently ninth on 20 points, +21 differential)

(My predicted regular season finish: Ninth on 28 points, +55 differential, 111.8 percent)

Remaining matches

Round 20: Gold Coast Titans Win by 12

Round 21: Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs Win by 8

Round 22: Wests Tigers Win by 18

Round 23: North Queensland Cowboys Loss by 2

Round 24: Canberra Raiders Loss by 1

Round 25: St George Illawarra Dragons Win by 1

Round 26: Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles Loss by 2

My thoughts

The Penrith Panthers have started to find some momentum in 2017 after a difficult start, winning their last two matches. I think they will win their next three matches to extend their winning streak to five, which would be their longest winning streak of the season.

However, the Panthers will lose three of their last four matches to finish equal with the St George Illawarra Dragons, both on competition points and on points differential, and despite the strong attack of the Panthers, the superior defence of the Dragons will see the Panthers miss out on the finals in heartbreaking circumstances.

 

Canberra Raiders (currently 10th on 18 points, +27 differential)

(My predicted regular season finish: Sixth on 30 points, +59 differential)

(My predicted finals finish: Grand Finalists)

Remaining matches

Round 20: Melbourne Storm Win by 6

Round 21: South Sydney Rabbitohs Win by 12

Round 22: Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks Win by 1

Round 23: New Zealand Warriors Win by 12

Round 24: Penrith Panthers Win by 1

Round 25: Newcastle Knights Win by 6

Round 26: Melbourne Storm Loss by 6

My thoughts

The Canberra Raiders have had difficult year so far in 2017, winning only seven out of their 17 matches, which has surprised most who tipped them to be premiership contenders, including myself. However, their golden point victory in Round 19 against the St George Illawarra Dragons, inspired by their halfback Aidan Sezer not only ended a four match losing streak, I think it will inspire them into a great run of form.

The Raiders will complete a seven match winning streak, which would be their longest of the season, to qualify for the finals in sixth position, with the only match they will lose in the regular season run home being against the Melbourne Storm at AAMI Park.

Once in the finals, the Raiders will win three-straight matches against the Parramatta Eels, Sydney Roosters and Melbourne Storm to qualify for their first grand final since 1994.

However, in a tight contest, the Raiders will fall just short against the Brisbane Broncos in their quest to win their first premiership since 1994.

 

New Zealand Warriors (currently 11th on 18 points, -38 differential)

(My predicted regular season finish: 12th on 22 points, -92 differential)

Remaining matches

Round 20: North Queensland Cowboys Loss by 18

Round 21: Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks Win by 2

Round 22: Newcastle Knights Loss by 6

Round 23: Canberra Raiders Loss by 12

Round 24: South Sydney Rabbitohs Loss by 8

Round 25: Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles Win by 6

Round 26: Wests Tigers Loss by 18

My thoughts

The New Zealand Warriors are the greatest underachievers this competition has ever seen, and with the injury to Shaun Johnson, you can’t see the Warriors shrugging off this tag anytime soon, and will miss the finals for the sixth year in a row.

The Warriors will lose seven out of their last nine matches, including four of their last five to comfortably miss the finals once again.

 

Gold Coast Titans (currently 12th on 18 points, -42 differential)

(My predicted regular season finish: 14th on 20 points, -75 differential)

Remaining matches

Round 20: Penrith Panthers Loss by 12

Round 21: Wests Tigers Win by 12

Round 22: Brisbane Broncos Loss by 12

Round 23: St George Illawarra Dragons Loss by 6

Round 24: Parramatta Eels Loss by 2

Round 25: Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs Loss by 1

Round 26: Sydney Roosters Loss by 12

My thoughts

The Gold Coast Titans, despite their injuries, have put up a respectable record of seven wins from 17 matches, and despite the strong and consistent they have put in, I think they are about to fall away from any realistic contention.

The Titans will lose six of their last seven matches, including their last five, which would be their longest losing streak of the season, to finish 2017 in 14th position.

 

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs (currently 13th on 18 points, -59 differential)

(My predicted regular season finish: 11th on 26 points, -91 differential)

Remaining matches

Round 20: Brisbane Broncos Loss by 12

Round 21: Penrith Panthers Loss by 8

Round 22: Parramatta Eels Win by 2

Round 23: South Sydney Rabbitohs Win by 2

Round 24: Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles Win by 1

Round 25: Gold Coast Titans Win by 1

Round 26: St George Illawarra Dragons Loss by 18

My thoughts

The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs are going to miss the finals, and if they do miss the finals, they will become the first Des Hasler-coached club to miss the finals since 2004.

The Bulldogs will lose their next two matches, before going on a four-match winning streak, which would be their longest winning streak of the season, as their finals hopes hang by a thread.

However, despite this winning run, other results go against them, leaving them with an unrealistic task to make the finals against the St George Illawarra Dragons as their season collapses in a heap.

 

South Sydney Rabbitohs (currently 14th on 16 points, -42 differential)

(My predicted regular season finish: 13th on 20 points, -62 differential)

Remaining matches

Round 20: Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks Loss by 2

Round 21: Canberra Raiders Loss by 12

Round 22: St George Illawarra Dragons Loss by 2

Round 23: Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs Loss by 2

Round 24: New Zealand Warriors Win by 8

Round 25: Melbourne Storm Loss by 12

Round 26: Parramatta Eels Win by 2

My thoughts

The South Sydney Rabbitohs have shown signs of life at some points of the season, but have shown signs of inconsistency, and I think they will fall away during the last seven matches of the season.

In fact, the Rabbitohs will lose their next four to complete a six-match losing streak, which would be their longest of the season, and will lose seven out of their last nine matches to finish in 13th position.

 

Wests Tigers (currently 15th on 12 points, -169 differential)

(My predicted regular season finish: 16th on 14 points, -235 differential)

Remaining matches

Round 20: Parramatta Eels Loss by 12

Round 21: Gold Coast Titans Loss by 12

Round 22: Penrith Panthers Loss by 18

Round 23: Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles Loss by 18

Round 24: Sydney Roosters Loss by 18

Round 25: North Queensland Cowboys Loss by 6

Round 26: New Zealand Warriors Win by 18

My thoughts

I think the Wests Tigers will claim the wooden spoon after a tumultuous year. They will complete a seven-match losing streak in Round 25 against the North Queensland Cowboys, which would be their equal-longest of the year, before winning their last match of 2017 against the New Zealand Warriors.

 

Newcastle Knights (currently 16th on eight points, -180 differential)

(My predicted regular season finish: 15th on 14 points, -219 differential)

Remaining matches

Round 20: Sydney Roosters Loss by 12

Round 21: St George Illawarra Dragons Win by 2

Round 22: New Zealand Warriors Win by 6

Round 23: Parramatta Eels Loss by 12

Round 24: Melbourne Storm Loss by 18

Round 25: Canberra Raiders Loss by 6

Round 26: Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks Win by 1

My thoughts

Many experts have already pencilled in the Newcastle Knights to win the wooden spoon, and many people would agree with them.

However, although I think the Knights will complete an eight-match losing streak against the Sydney Roosters, which would be their longest in 2017, they will win three of their last six matches, including knocking out the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks from finals contention to avoid the wooden spoon on points differential.

 

The 146th Open Championship – Preview

The 146th Open Championship takes place this week, starting on Thursday, from the Royal Birkdale Golf Club in the Merseyside town of Southport in England.

It is the third major championship of 2017, after a well-deserving victory at The Masters for Sergio Garcia after so many years of trying to breakthrough to claim that elusive major, and a shock victory, for some people, for Brooks Koepka at the United States (US) Open.

However, we head into The Open Championship waiting to see if one of the expected heavyweights of world golf can breakthrough to claim their first major of 2017.

I am talking about the likes of Dustin Johnson, who has missed the cut in his last two events, including the US Open, missed The Masters due to an back injury suffered at his Augusta home, but has won three times this year, and is the clear World Number One.

I am also talking about the likes of Hideki Matsuyama, who has risen quietly to second on the world rankings after some consistent performances, including finishing in a tie for second at the US Open, and has won once this year, but hasn’t won a major so far in his career to date.

Jordan Spieth is another heavyweight, a two-time major winner, who hasn’t won a major so far in 2017, but comes into The 146th Open Championship in great form after winning the Travelers Championship in a playoff over Daniel Berger among his two victories this year.

Rory McIlroy is another heavyweight contender, but the four-time major champion has had a shocking year by his standards, missing the cut in three of the last four events he has played, and hasn’t won a tournament this year, his best finish, a second-place finish at the BMW SA Open hosted by City of Ekurhuleni back in January.

Sergio Garcia has also become a heavyweight contender after claiming his first major of his career back in April at The Masters, as well as claiming the Omega Dubai Desert Classic back in February, and has made the cut in his last 18 events, including in the 12 events he has played in 2017.

However, the same cannot be said of Jason Day, who has missed the cut in his last two events, including the US Open, with a best finish of second so far in 2017 at the AT&T Byron Nelson in May, losing in a playoff to Billy Horschel, after dealing with family issues relating to his mother Dening’s lung cancer diagnosis and surgery.

At a venue where at least one Australian has finished inside the Top 10 on seven of the nine times that it has hosted The Open Championship, it would be the perfect place for Day to regain form, and possibly challenge.

Talking about Australian chances, Adam Scott is also a chance of contending, but has had a poor year by his standards, dropping to 15th in the world, and has had only four Top 10 finishes in 2017.

You can also add Marc Leishman to the mix, and is in consistent form at the moment, making the cut in his last six events, including finishing in a tie for fifth at the Quicken Loans National a couple of weeks ago, adding to his win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard back in March.

Other contenders to look out for include defending champion Henrik Stenson, Jon Rahm, Alex Noren, Rickie Fowler, Brooks Koepka, Justin Rose, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Paul Casey, Rafael Cabrera Bello, Matt Kuchar, Francesco Molinari, and Daniel Berger just to name a few.

However, Royal Birkdale has proven in the recent past that it can play tough, with the winner of the last two Open Championships at the venue failing to score under par for the tournament, and while conditions are going to be relatively settled and consistent throughout the championship starting on Thursday, with a little bit of rain on Friday and Saturday, there is a severe weather warning for scattered thunderstorms in the Southport area on Wednesday which could make things challenging.

Looking at some statistics pertaining to Royal Birkdale, only twice, Peter Thomson (1954) and Ian Baker-Finch (1991), has a winner of The Open Championship at Royal Birkdale been a first-time major winner. Thomson is the only two time winner of an Open Championship held at Royal Birkdale.

In addition, out of the eight golfers who have won The Open Championship at Royal Birkdale, four of them have gone onto win at least five majors in their career, while seven of the eight have won more than one major in their careers.

The Par 70 golf course, stretching 7,156 yards will a true test, and the man who wins at Royal Birkdale Golf Club this week will have earned it, and would likely be a multiple major winner by the end of their career.

So, I am going to tip Jordan Spieth to win The 146th Open Championship, with Dustin Johnson, and Jason Day challenging from behind.

South Sydney Rabbitohs vs. North Queensland Cowboys (TV style) – My call (Round 19, 2017)

Yesterday, I commentated (from my home) the Round 19 match between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the North Queensland Cowboys, which was held up at Barlow Park in Cairns on a hot and sunny Sunday afternoon.

The Rabbitohs were desperate for a victory, and realistically needed to win at least six from their final eight matches if they wanted to play in the finals.

For the Cowboys, it was all about proving their premiership credentials without Johnathan Thurston, who had won five of their nine matches without their inspirational skipper in 2017.

Overall, the Cowboys led the head-to-head record between the two teams, winning 16 of their 31 matches against the Rabbitohs, with the Rabbitohs winning 14, with a single draw between the two teams.

However, the North Queensland Cowboys have won seven of their past eight meetings against the South Sydney Rabbitohs, including the only previous meeting at Barlow Park last year.

I hope you enjoy listening to the match and my commentary!

Canberra Raiders vs. St George Illawarra Dragons (TV style) – My call (Round 19, 2017)

Earlier tonight, I called the Round 19 match in the 2017 National Rugby League (NRL) season between the Canberra Raiders and the St George Illawarra Dragons.

It was a crucial match for the Raiders, who sat six points outside of the top eight, who had lost their last four matches, and needing to win at least six of their last eight matches in the regular season to make the finals. In six out of the last 10 years, 28 points has been enough for a team to finish eighth, and play finals footy.

It was a crucial match for the Dragons, who had lost three of their last four, and six of their last nine matches.

However, looking at the match-ups between the two teams, although the Dragons had won their last four matches against the Raiders, they have only won six of their last 23 encounters against the Raiders.

Overall, the Canberra Raiders have won 16 of their 27 matches against the St George Illawarra Dragons, while at GIO Stadium, the Raiders have won 11 of their past 15 matches against the Dragons.

Would the Raiders claim a vital victory, or would the Dragons cruel the finals hopes of the Raiders?

Find out here, and enjoy my sports commentary!

My review of the 2017 State Of Origin series

Queensland have done it again!

The Maroons have won their 11th State Of Origin series in 12 years by defeating New South Wales by 22-6 in front of a record crowd of 52,540 people at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane.

Coming into the series, many people thought the Blues were a massive chance of ending Queensland’s dominant run, and after a 28-4 victory in Game One at Suncorp Stadium, many more people were convinced that New South Wales could claim just their second series victory in 12 years.

And, despite suffering an earth-shattering 18-16 loss in Game Two at ANZ Stadium, and the criticism of the Blues second half performance, many experts still thought New South Wales could still win the series, especially when Johnathan Thurston was ruled out of Game Three for the Maroons after producing one of the most courageous performances of all-time, after severely injuring his shoulder early in the match, but played the entire match without showing too much of the effects of the injury, kicking the winning conversion attempt to see Queensland home.

However, despite the ongoing optimism surrounding the Blues heading into Game Three, they just could not deliver! Why?

To work out why New South Wales have lost their 11th State Of Origin series in 12 years, we need to look at the long-term set-up of both the Maroons and the Blues to establish the differences between the two states.

Back in 2006, the great Mal Meninga became the coach of Queensland, and while most people see the role of a head coach as coaching and managing the playing staff of a sporting team, Meninga saw the role of coaching the Maroons, the team that he once represented on a total of 32 occasions in State Of Origin, as a role much greater than coaching the team itself.

Meninga wanted to create a culture that made whoever was selected not only better players, but better people. He wanted the players to understand the past, understand the history of the team and the state, the history of the people who came before the current group, how they came to being a Queensland player, what they were willing to sacrifice, how desperate the players of the past were to win and give their absolute best for the Maroons to get the players of the modern era to understand that they had a tradition to uphold, and that they couldn’t afford to let their mates, their families and their state down to such a level that it spurred them onto such a level of dominance over New South Wales that is unparalleled in the history of the game that level.

Meninga also controlled the people that he allowed into the team set-up, and he didn’t want anyone who could, and possibly would ruin the set-up of what he created, but also what the state created in the years before today.

Meninga is now doing the same with the Australian rugby league team.

However, New South Wales has not been able to match their fierce rivals as far as this is concerned, and the Blues have copped a lot of criticism as a result.

Andrew Johns, who played 23 times for the Blues, has been by far the most scathing in his critique of the team, and of its culture, explaining on the post-match coverage on Nine’s Wide World Of Sports that the New South Wales team don’t get it, and don’t understand what it takes to win at this level.

The coach of New South Wales, Laurie Daley, has also played 23 times for New South Wales, and has won 13 games as a player, the same as Johns.

So, what can Johns see that Daley can’t to get New South Wales inspired to win?

Vision.

Johns, like Meninga, has a rare gift that not too many people in any walk of life have.

He knows within himself what it takes to achieve success, and he knows what he wants to put in place, and where he wants to place the puzzle pieces, and how he wants everything to be organised, and he wants it organised exactly the way that he likes it.

However, most people, whether that is in sport, the media, or even in another industry struggle to get these kind of people, but the organisations who have embraced these kind of people, and keep asking them to be involved over a long period of time have had a huge amount of success.

Daley is a great role model, and a great contributor to rugby league in New South Wales, he doesn’t have vision in the same way as Johns does. Johns, while he can ruffle a few feathers if you don’t treat him in the right way, he always has everyone’s best interests in his mind.

Johns has the best interests of the Blues in what he is saying and how he is speaking!

Sadly, most people across rugby league in New South Wales across all levels of the game, including the media, simply do not get it!

And, for the entire game of rugby league, that is just sickening!

 

And another thing

I hope you enjoying reading my previews of Game One, Game Two, and Game Three, which were published on The Roar!

 

2017 British Grand Prix Preview

The 10th round of the 2017 Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) Formula One World Championship takes place this weekend at the Silverstone Circuit in Northamptonshire in England.

Sebastian Vettel comes into the British Grand Prix with the championship lead on 171 points, 20 points ahead of championship rival Lewis Hamilton (151 points), after the Ferrari driver finished second at the Austrian Grand Prix last weekend, pushing eventual winner, Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas, all the way.

Hamilton lost ground to Vettel in the championship standings after being forced to take a five-place grid penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change in his Mercedes. Starting from eighth on the grid, Hamilton managed to make up four positions before running out of time to pass Daniel Ricciardo for the final spot on the podium.

The winner of the Austrian Grand Prix, Bottas, is third in the world drivers’ championship on 136 points, 35 points behind Vettel, and in some people’s eyes, is starting to look like a serious championship contender, but if he is not considered by people as a serious championship contender, Bottas is at least stealing critical points away from Vettel on the days that Hamilton is having a struggle.

Ricciardo is fourth in the world championship in his Red Bull on 107 points, 64 points behind Vettel in the world championship after achieving his fifth-consecutive podium at the Austrian Grand Prix after holding off a fast-charging Hamilton, and although he isn’t a serious championship contender in 2017, Ricciardo has been in the right place at the right time to pick up the pieces when more fancied rivals are having a tough day, or weekend, to grab some solid results.

Someone who should be a championship contender is Kimi Räikkönen, but he is struggling in fifth position in the world championship on 83 points after finishing fifth at the Austrian Grand Prix. He is under serious pressure to keep his seat at Ferrari for 2018, and with a number of rising stars putting in some great performances in lesser machinery, his career could be coming to an end at the end of 2017.

Sergio Pérez is sixth in the world championship on 50 points, and has been putting in some solid performances in his Force India, just like his teammate Esteban Ocon, who sits in eighth in the drivers’ championship on 39 points.

However, it is the man who sits in seventh position in the championship that has had all the bad luck that you could imagine! Max Verstappen is having a horror run, with his third retirement in a row, and his fifth retirement of the season, which is precisely his fifth retirement in the last seven races.

Verstappen sits on 45 points in the world championship after finishing just four races out of the opening nine rounds. He has had problems ranging from a brake failure in Bahrain, to damage from a first lap collision with Räikkönen in Spain, to an electrical issue in Canada, to an oil pressure issue in Azerbaijan, to more opening lap collision damage in Austria.

In addition to this, Verstappen had misfire problems with his engine/powerunit in qualifying in China, which contributed to him starting 16th on the grid, which he recovered from spectacularly after a brilliant start, picking up nine places on the opening lap, which was the catalyst to his awesome drive to third, beating his teammate Ricciardo in the process.

So, Verstappen has only had three weekends where qualifying and/or the race hasn’t been interrupted by a serious issue. He needs a result this weekend to keep within touch of the front-runners in this world championship.

In the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes still lead the way on 287 points, 23 points ahead of Ferrari (254 points). Red Bull are third on 152 points, while Force India are fourth on 89 points.

Looking at who will be strong at Silverstone this weekend, the fast-flowing nature of the circuit combined with a couple of long straights, the Wellington and Hangar straights to be precise, should suit the long-wheelbase of the Mercedes, although you would expect Ferrari to be a strong package at Silverstone, and you cannot rule out Red Bull here at a track which has suited them in the past.

However, only four of the current drivers have won the British Grand Prix, and while no one expects the winner of the 2006 and 2011 race, Fernando Alonso, to challenge in his McLaren-Honda, the other three drivers are all in race-winning machinery, and are capable of grabbing the crucial 25 points that are on offer.

Kimi Räikkönen, the 2007 winner looks the least likely given his form, but what is most is most surprising is that Sebastian Vettel has only won the British Grand Prix once, all the way back in 2009, the last race on the old layout in his first year with Red Bull. He will be looking to give Ferrari their first win at Silverstone since 2011.

Lewis Hamilton, on the otherhand, has a wonderful record at the British Grand Prix, winning the race four times, including the last three editions. He will be looking to join Jim Clark and Alain Prost as a five-time winner of the British Grand Prix, as well as become the first driver since Clark to win the British Grand Prix four years in a row.

And, if Hamilton grabs pole position on Saturday for the British Grand Prix, he will move to within one of Michael Schumacher’s record of 68 career pole positions in Formula One.

So my tip this weekend is for a fifth British Grand Prix victory for Lewis Hamilton at Silverstone.

 

The first two practice sessions (90 minutes each) are on Friday at 9am and 1pm local time (6pm and 10pm AEST).

The final practice session (60 minutes) and qualifying is on Saturday at 10am and 1pm local time (7pm and 10pm AEST).

The 52 lap race is on Sunday from 1pm local time (10pm AEST).