Western Suburbs Rosellas vs. Macquarie Scorpions (TV style) – My call (2017 Newcastle Rugby League Grand Final)

Today, in addition my calls of the matches throughout the 2017 National Rugby League (NRL) Finals Series, I have a special treat for you, particularly if you are a fan of rugby league outside of the more professionalised competitions of the NRL, Intrust Super Premiership (NSW), Intrust Super Cup (QLD), and perhaps even the Ron Massey Cup (NSW), and are a fan of the Newcastle Rugby League competition.

It is the 2017 Newcastle Rugby League Grand Final, which will take place at McDonald Jones Stadium in Newcastle, at the home of the Newcastle Knights, between the Western Suburbs Rosellas, who are looking for their fourth premiership in six years, but their first since 2014, and the Macquarie Scorpions, who are looking for their second premiership, and their first premiership since 1991, when they faced today’s opponents in the grand final of that year, but the Scorpions have made the grand final in the last two years, the only grand finals at McDonald Jones Stadium since 2015, when the Newcastle Rugby League made the decision to move the grand final from the No.1 Sportsground to the more modern venue.

The Rosellas come into the Newcastle Rugby League Grand Final after claiming the minor premiership, and having won 15 of their 17 matches in 2017, including winning a fortnight ago against the Scorpions (35-8) in the semi-final, and only being defeated twice this year, which is the least amount of losses by a team in the Newcastle Rugby League competition since 2010, when the Maitland Pickers only lost two matches (17 wins, and one draw from 20 matches) on route to winning their 11th premiership.

Both of those losses this year for Western Suburbs happened away from home, against the Macquarie Scorpions in Round Four at Peacock Field (18-14), and against Central Newcastle in Round 13 at St John Oval (24-12).

However, at their home ground, Harker Oval, which is only around a kilometre away from McDonald Jones Stadium, they have been undefeated all year long, winning all nine matches at home. In fact, the Rosellas have won their last 14 matches at Harker Oval. However, the 2017 Newcastle Rugby League Grand Final will be their first match at the home of the Newcastle Knights.

The Macquarie Scorpions come into the Newcastle Rugby League Grand Final after finishing second in the regular season, and having won 14 of their 19 matches in 2017, and qualified for the grand final after demolishing Central Newcastle (60-0) at Townson Oval in the preliminary final, a result that has reverberated throughout the entire competition, and something that their opponents, Western Suburbs, would have taken note of in the build-up to the decider.

Throughout 2017, the Scorpions have had a wonderful record at their home ground, Peacock Field, winning eight of their nine home matches. In fact, Macquarie have won 20 of their last 21 matches at Peacock Field, but that hasn’t helped them at McDonald Jones Stadium in the last two years, losing to Lakes United in 2015, and South Newcastle in 2016.

However, the Scorpions will be hoping that it is third-time lucky at McDonald Jones Stadium as they aim to end their 26 year premiership drought.

Looking at matches between the Western Suburbs Rosellas and the Macquarie Scorpions since the start of 2010, the Rosellas have won 13 of their 19 matches against the Scorpions, with the Scorpions winning six. In fact, the Rosellas have 13 of their last 18 matches against the Scorpions, including 10 of their last 14, five of their last eight, three of their last five, and their last two matches.

In finals matches between the two teams since the start of 2010, the Rosellas have won two of their three matches against the Scorpions. However, both of those wins came at Harker Oval, while the Scorpions only victory in those three matches came in the preliminary final held at the neutral venue of St John Oval back in 2015.

In five of the last seven matches between the two teams, the total match points score has been 40 points or more.

However, in six of the last 10 matches between the Western Suburbs Rosellas and the Macquarie Scorpions, including five of their last eight, the margin between the two teams has been 1-12, although in three of their last four matches, it has been a 13+ margin between the two teams.

So, will it be the Mark Taufua-led Rosellas who will win their 23rd Newcastle Rugby League premiership, and their fourth premiership in six years? Or, will it be the Chris Hyde-led Scorpions who will win their first title since 1991?

It will be close match, a titanic contest, and I think contrary to statistics, and public opinion, a low-scoring affair. It may well go to extra-time, we may not know who has won after the siren, regardless of whether it goes to extra-time or not! However, when it is all said and done, I think Macquarie will cause one of the greatest upsets in Newcastle Rugby League history in an all-time classic.

Find out right here, and enjoy my call of the 2017 Newcastle Rugby League Grand Final!

 

Melbourne Storm vs. Brisbane Broncos (TV style) – My call (NRL Finals – Week Three – Preliminary Final)

Earlier tonight, I called the first preliminary final of the 2017 National Rugby League (NRL) Finals Series between the Melbourne Storm and the Brisbane Broncos, which was held at AAMI Park in Melbourne.

The Storm have a fantastic record as we all know against the Broncos, winning 24 of their last 30 matches against the Broncos, including 22 of their last 27, 19 of their last 23, 14 of their last 17, 12 of their last 14, four of their last five, and their last two matches.

However, despite the Storm winning five of their eight matches, which includes five of their last seven, against the Broncos at AAMI Park, the Broncos have won two of their last three matches at AAMI Park, and lost narrowly to the Storm in Melbourne back in Round Three.

So, will the Storm, the best team in attack and defence move through to a second-straight grand final appearance? Or, will the Broncos, the team I tipped at the start of the year, move through to their second grand final in three years?

On what will be a big night in so many ways regardless of the outcome, find out who wins right here, and enjoy my call!

A look at Caulfield and Rosehill Gardens

The great racing action continues this Saturday at both Caulfield and Rosehill Gardens as we head ever closer towards the big races of the spring.

At Caulfield, no Group One races, but we have a couple of Group Three races with a number of good runners, including the return of Gallante, who last started in the Melbourne Cup last year.

While at Rosehill Gardens, the headline act is the Group One Golden Rose, with a number of contenders including Menari, Merchant Navy, Pariah, and Gold Standard just to name a few on what is an action-packed day of racing including two Group Two races, and a Group Three race during the free-to-air televised part of the day.

So, here are my tips for the main free-to-air televised races at Caulfield (Races 4-9), and Rosehill Gardens (Races 4-9). (Please note that my tips will be updated in the lead up to the racing action pending changes to the fields)

CAULFIELD TIPS (Fields)

Race 4: 1:40pm 1100m Fight Cancer Foundation Plate. Set Weights plus Penalties. Three-Years-Old, No sex restriction. No class restriction. Apprentices cannot claim. Track: Main. Track type: Turf. Field limit: 16.

1st 1. Bandipur (12)

2nd 4. I Did It Again (11)

3rd 13. From the Clouds (3)

4th 6. Superhard (1)

Race 5: 2:15pm 1400m Ladbrokes Supports National Jockeys Trust Handicap. Handicap. No age restriction, No sex restriction. No class restriction. Apprentices can claim. Track: Main. Track type: Turf. Field limit: 15.

1st 6. Revolving Door (6)

2nd 4. Here to There (4)

3rd 3. Duke of Brunswick (5)

4th 2. So Si Bon (12)

Race 6: 2:55pm 1200m Skyline Education Foundation Testa Rossa Stakes. Handicap. Listed. No age restriction, No sex restriction. No class restriction. Apprentices cannot claim. Track: Main. Track type: Turf. Field limit: 16.

1st 3. Brave Smash (6)

2nd 11. Bons Away (8)

3rd 6. El Divino (7)

4th 1. Keen Array (1)

Race 7: 3:35pm 2000m Bendigo Bank East Malvern MRC Foundation Cup. Quality. Group 3. No age restriction, No sex restriction. No class restriction. Apprentices cannot claim. Track: Main. Track type: Turf. Field limit: 16.

1st 15. Samovare (7)

2nd 6. Stampede (9)

3rd 10. Abbey Marie (4)

4th 3. Big Duke (10)

Race 8: 4:15pm 1200m Ladbrokes Odds Boost Stakes. Set Weights plus Penalties. Group 3. Four-Years-Old and Upwards, Mares. No class restriction. Apprentices cannot claim. Track: Main. Track type: Turf. Field limit: 16.

1st 6. Ravi (5)

2nd 1. Prompt Response (1)

3rd 5. Fuhryk (6)

4th 7. Missrock (15)

Race 9: 4:55pm 1400m Inglis Supports Riding For The Disabled Association Victoria Plate. Handicap. Four-Years-Old and Upwards, Mares. BenchMark 90. Apprentices can claim. Track: Main. Track type: Turf. Field limit: 15.

1st 11. Petition (1)

2nd 13. Jamaican Rain (3)

3rd 9. Princess of Queens (10)

4th 7. Merriest (5)

 

ROSEHILL GARDENS TIPS (Fields)

Race 4 – 2:00PM RANVET HANDICAP (2000 METRES). BenchMark 82, Handicap, Minimum Weight 53kg, Three-Years-Old and Upwards, Apprentices can claim. Track Type: Turf. Field Limit: 18.

1st 3. Up ‘N’ Rolling (1)

2nd 5. Quick Defence (6)

3rd 4. Imanui (8)

4th 2. Alward (7)

Race 5 – 2:35PM SCHWEPPES SHANNON STAKES (1500 METRES). GROUP 2
Quality, Minimum Weight 53kg, Three-Years-Old and Upwards, Apprentices cannot claim. Track Type: Turf. Field Limit: 18.

1st 5. Washington Heights (8)

2nd 9. Dawn Wall (3)

3rd 11. Imposing Lass (11)

4th 4. Euro Angel (5)

Race 6 – 3:15PM JAMES BOAG’S PREMIUM GLOAMING STAKES (1800 METRES). GROUP 3
Set Weights, Three-Years-Old, Apprentices cannot claim. Track Type: Turf. Field Limit: 14.

1st 5. Sully (6)

2nd 3. Sanctioned (3)

3rd 1. Astoria (2)

4th 8. Thy Kingdom Come (8)

Race 7 – 3:55PM DE BORTOLI WINES GOLDEN ROSE (1400 METRES). GROUP 1
Set Weights, Three-Years-Old, Apprentices cannot claim. Track Type: Turf. Field Limit: 16.

1st 7. Merchant Navy (2)

2nd 2. Menari (11)

3rd 4. Gold Standard (10)

4th 13. Formality (13)

Race 8 – 4:35PM GOLDEN PENDANT (1400 METRES). GROUP 2
Set Weights plus Penalties, Three-Years-Old and Upwards, Fillies and Mares, Apprentices cannot claim. Track Type: Turf. Field Limit: 16.

1st 4. Daysee Doom (12)

2nd 7. Bonny O’Reilly (3)

3rd 5. Danish Twist (10)

4th 1. Dixie Blossoms (8)

Race 9 – 5:15PM TAB.COM.AU HANDICAP (1400 METRES). BenchMark 89, Handicap, Minimum Weight 53kg, Three-Years-Old and Upwards, Apprentices can claim. Track Type: Turf. Field Limit: 16.

1st 7. Wayanka (2)

2nd 5. Zumbelina (1)

3rd 9. Screamarr (4)

4th 4. Sir Plush (11)

2017 MotoGP Aragón GP – Preview

The 14th round of the 2017 MotoGP World Championship takes place this weekend from Motorland Aragón in Alcañiz in Spain, and with five races remaining in the season, the battle for the championship is set to go right to the very end of the season in Valencia in Spain with three riders realistically in the championship hunt.

Marc Márquez leads the world championship on his factory Honda on 199 points after claiming victory in Misano in what was one of the best performances of his career in really wet conditions, overtaking Danilo Petrucci on the first corner of the last lap to grab maximum points after being forced to retire the race before at Silverstone due to a blown engine.

Márquez is equal on points with Andrea Dovizioso (199 points), but ahead of the factory Ducati rider due to having two more second-places. Dovizioso finished a conservative third in wet conditions at Misano, and has been very consistent throughout 2017.

However, you feel that the Italian is very much the underdog in this world championship battle, and that Márquez has, barring the retirement at Silverstone, has all of the moment heading into the last five rounds of the season, and while Márquez and the Repsol Honda Team wouldn’t admit this, I think Dovizioso and his Ducati Team would happily admit this, even though the dream for Dovizioso would be to claim what would be a hugely unlikely first MotoGP World Championship.

The other genuine contender to win the 2017 MotoGP World Championship is factory Yamaha rider Maverick Viñales. Viñales is third in the championship on 183 points, 16 points behind both Márquez and Dovizioso, but he, along with his factory Yamaha team, have struggled to put together a run of strong, consistent results, and you sense that Viñales has been frustrated throughout most of the season of his team’s inability to produce a fast, consistent bike that is strong in all conditions and scenarios, and you now sense that he is frustrated that he is not in a position to challenge Márquez, a rider who he believes he can match on equal machinery.

At the moment, you sense that the best Viñales can hope for in the championship is to finish second behind Márquez, but if Yamaha can improve dramatically, Viñales still has a strong hope of winning his first MotoGP World Championship.

Fourth in the world championship is the injured Valentino Rossi (157 points) on his factory Yamaha, who will attempt to race this weekend at Aragón, having been declared fit by MotoGP Medical Staff for Free Practice One. Yamaha Superbike rider Michael van der Mark will remain on stand-by just in case Rossi can’t continue for the rest of the weekend.

Dani Pedrosa (150 points) is fifth in the championship on his factory Honda, but has seen his championship hopes evaporate for another year after finishing 14th in Misano, struggling for tyre temperatures in wet conditions. Pedrosa and Honda will need to work out ways of helping out Pedrosa so that he can be competitive in all conditions. So far, Honda have most of the time failed miserably over the last 12 years to give Pedrosa the package that he needs to win the MotoGP World Championship. If he had been on a Yamaha during this time, I am sure Pedrosa would have won a premier class title, and if he was on the factory Ducati this year, I am sure Pedrosa would be the favourite to win the world championship.

What a waste of talent!

Below the top five in the 2017 MotoGP World Championship, there is a great battle for sixth in the championship that should go to the very end of the season between Johann Zarco (110 points), Danilo Petrucci (95 points), Cal Crutchlow (92 points), Jorge Lorenzo (90 points), and Jonas Folger (84 points).

However, in terms of who I am going to tip to win the Aragón Grand Prix, Marc Márquez has won here twice in MotoGP, and three times across all classes, and has taken pole position in each of his first four years in MotoGP, and in six of the last seven years across all classes.

Márquez was dominant here last year, and given the form that he is currently in, it is almost impossible to tip against him here!

 

MotoGP Practice on Friday at 9:55am, and 2:05pm local time (5:55pm, and 10:05pm AEST). MotoGP FP3 on Saturday at 9:55am local time (5:55pm AEST), FP4 on Saturday at 1:30pm local time (9:30pm AEST), Q1 and Q2 on Saturday at 2:10pm and 2:35pm local time (10:10pm and 10:35pm AEST). MotoGP Warm Up on Sunday at 9:40am local time (5:40pm AEST), and MotoGP race on Sunday at 2:00pm local time (10:00pm AEST).

 

Parramatta Eels vs. North Queensland Cowboys (TV style) – My call (NRL Finals – Week Two – Semi-Final)

Earlier tonight, I called the second Semi-Final of the 2017 National Rugby League (NRL) Finals between the Parramatta Eels and the North Queensland Cowboys, which was held at ANZ Stadium in Sydney.

The Eels came into this semi-final after a narrow loss last week against the Melbourne Storm (18-16), while the Cowboys came into this semi-final after defeating the defending premiers, the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks in an extra-time thriller (15-14), with Michael Morgan kicking the first field goal of his NRL career to sink the Sharks.

So, would the Eels keep their premiership dream alive? Or, would the Cowboys make their third-straight preliminary final?

Find out right here, and enjoy my call!

Brisbane Broncos vs. Penrith Panthers (TV style) – My call (NRL Finals – Week Two – Semi-Final)

Earlier tonight, I called the first semi-final of the 2017 National Rugby League (NRL) Finals Series between the Brisbane Broncos and the Penrith Panthers, which was held at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane.

The Broncos came into this semi-final after losing narrowly to the Sydney Roosters in last week’s qualifying final (24-22), while the Panthers won last week’s Elimination Final against the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles (22-10).

In recent matches between the two teams, the Panthers have won six of their 10, including five of their last eight, four of their last six, and two of their last three. However, Broncos won their only meeting this year before tonight back in Round 9 (32-18).

So, in their first finals meeting since 2003, would it be the Broncos or the Panthers who would make the preliminary final to face the Melbourne Storm next week?

Find out right here, and enjoy my call!

India vs. Australia – Limited Overs Series Preview

On Sunday, the limited overs series tour of India begins for Australia when they take on the Indian team in Chennai in the first of five one day internationals in a limited over series that also includes three Twenty20 Internationals.

The one day international series starts in Chennai (Sunday September 17), before moving to Kolkata (Thursday September 21), Indore (Sunday September 24), Bangalore (Thursday September 28), and Nagpur (Sunday October 1). After this, the Twenty20 International series begins, starting in Ranchi (Saturday October 7), before moving to Guwahati (Tuesday October 10), and Hyderabad (Friday October 13).

It is set to be an enthralling one day series to start off with between the third-ranked Indian Cricket Team, and the second-ranked Australian Cricket Team, before a captivating Twenty20 series between the fifth and sixth-ranked Twenty20 sides in the world.

It will also be the last time that the current laws in regards to bat sizes will be used, and on pitches that typically suit batsman in limited overs matches, the one day and Twenty20 series should be a guaranteed run feast with scores well in excess of 300 in nearly every innings.

The battle between the two captains in Virat Kohli and Steven Smith is going to be absolutely fascinating, both on and off the field.

Kohli, after the Test series earlier this year in India, said that he no longer considered players within the Australian team as friends after a torrid series in which India managed to win 2-1 after being pushed all the way by Australia, and Kohli didn’t have a good Test series against Australia, scoring just 46 runs in his five innings at an average of 9.20 in the three test matches he played in during that series, missing the final test of the series because of a shoulder injury.

However, in that same series, Smith had a brilliant series, scoring 499 runs in eight innings (one not outs) at an average of 71.28, but despite his magnificent contribution, he couldn’t quite lead his team to what would have been their first series victory in India since 2004.

And although there should be less tension in this limited overs series compared with the Test series, there still will be a lot of heat and pressure on the two teams.

In terms of the players to look out for in what is sure to be a batsman-dominated one day and Twenty20 series, I am looking forward to the battle at the top of the batting order between Rohit Sharma and David Warner.

Rohit Sharma has been in great form in one day international cricket in the 10 matches he has played in 2017, scoring 606 runs in 10 innings (two not outs) at an average of 75.75, and at a strike rate of 91.67, scoring three centuries, and three further score of 50 or more, achieving a top score of 124 not out against Sri Lanka last month in Pallekele in what was a match-winning innings in a low scoring run chase. He will play a big role in determining whether India can dominate over Australia during the one day series.

David Warner has also been in wonderful one day form in the eight matches he has played in 2017, scoring 446 runs in eight innings (one not outs) at an average of 63.71, and at a strike rate of 108.78, scoring two centuries, the highest score being 179 against Pakistan back on Australia Day in Adelaide. He will have a vital role, and could determine won wins the series.

As for who I am tipping for both the one day series and the Twenty20 series, both bowling attacks will have a huge say in who will win, even if they don’t take a bag full of wickets consistently, and with India missing both Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja for the opening three one day matches, and Australia missing Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood from the entire tour, it is set to be a really tough time for the bowlers.

I am predicting Australia to win the one day series by three matches to two, and India to win the Twenty20 series by two matches to one, assuming the weather is fine, but regardless of the result of both series, it is going to be exhilarating!