Brisbane Broncos vs. St George Illawarra Dragons (TV style) – My call (Round 24, 2017)

Earlier tonight, I commentated the Round 24 match in the National Rugby League (NRL) between the Brisbane Broncos and the St George Illawarra Dragons, which was held at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane.

The Broncos come into this match having won 13 of their last 15 matches against the Dragons, and have won their last nine matches against their opposition at Suncorp Stadium.

The Dragons are under pressure heading into this critical match, ninth on the competition ladder, and having lost six of their last nine matches, including four of their last six, and two of their last three, they likely need to win two of their last three matches in their run home, which includes the Broncos (A), Panthers (A), and the Bulldogs (H).

So will the Dragons get the win they need, or will the Broncos march one step closer towards securing a top two finish?

Find out here, and enjoy my sports commentary!

My thoughts on Jarryd Hayne, Neil Henry, and the Gold Coast Titans

The Gold Coast Titans are struggling off the field, with the NRL now owning the besieged rugby league club, and have been struggling consistently on the field since their inception to the National Rugby League (NRL) back in 2007, having reached the finals in only three out of their 11 years in the competition, including this year.

To put this into perspective, out of the eight clubs that have been introduced into the competition since 1988, and are still in the competition (Brisbane Broncos, Newcastle Knights, New Zealand Warriors, North Queensland Cowboys, Melbourne Storm, St George Illawarra Dragons, Wests Tigers, and the Gold Coast Titans), only the Cowboys and the Tigers boast worse records than the Titans in terms of making the finals (twice) during their first 11 years in the competition, but both of those two teams had made a grand final in that time, and in the case of the Tigers, won a premiership within that time.

The closest comparison to the Titans as far as this stat is concerned is the only other current team in the NRL that has not won a premiership, which is the Warriors, who made the finals in three of their first 11 years in the competition. However, unlike the Titans, the Warriors were able to make one grand final back in 2002, and won the minor premiership in the same season after the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs were stripped of 37 competition points due to massive salary cap breaches.

Excluding the Titans, all the other seven clubs introduced into the competition since 1988, and are still in the competition, have either won at least one premiership (Broncos, Knights, Storm, and Tigers), or have made a grand final (Warriors, Cowboys, and Dragons) in their first 11 years in the competition.

The best result the Titans have achieved is a preliminary final back in 2010, but have finished inside the top four twice at the end of a regular season (2009, and 2010).

However, the major problem that the Gold Coast Titans have right now surrounds star player Jarryd Hayne, and head coach Neil Henry.

Hayne has been criticised by many people, mostly those that are outside of the club, for his supposed lack of work ethic, professionalism, and dedication to the task at hand.

Henry, although praised from outside the club for his approach to coaching, has been criticised by members the playing group for his super hard-lined stance to training, but most importantly, for his failure to handle the naturally precocious, but insecure man that is Hayne.

While there is no doubt a number of players have dropped their own bundle since Hayne joined the club, expecting him to take them to the land of glory without them having to do all the hard work expected of them, and while those players should be found out, and have their controlling colours at the club significantly lowered, it is the debate over whether Hayne has to leave or Henry needs to be sacked that is engulfing the club, and engulfing the game.

Looking at the career of Jarryd Hayne, he has achieved everything that you could achieve, without winning a premiership, representing Australia on 11 occasions, and Fiji on four. Hayne helped Fiji to the 2008 Rugby League World Cup semi-finals, and Australia to win the 2013 Rugby League World Cup.

He has also represented New South Wales on 23 occasions, including helping the Blues to a State Of Origin series victory in 2014.

However, it is his club record that most point to describe their gripe about the gifted enigma they see in Jarryd Hayne.

Hayne has played 197 first grade games in NRL, scoring 111 tries, with an average of 13.52 tries per 24 matches, and if you take away the six matches he played at the end of 2016 after joining the Titans mid-season, Hayne has scored 111 tries in 191 NRL matches, an average of 13.94 tries per 24 matches.

However, Hayne has scored 10 tries or more in five of his 11 seasons as an NRL player, including scoring 14 tries or more in three of his 11 seasons as an NRL player, which were incidentally the seasons where his team, in each of those instances the Parramatta Eels, won at least 10 matches in a season.

However, when you look deeper into the statistics of Jarryd Hayne, you will find it very hard to fault his commitment and dedication to the game of rugby league.

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The mind blowing try-scoring stats of Jarryd Hayne (per 24 NRL matches)

As you can see in the image above, Hayne has scored 10 tries or more in seven of the eight complete 24 match blocks in his NRL career, a remarkable statistic!

However, what is even more remarkable is that his try-scoring statistic in the fourth block of 24 games, his weakest block in terms of try-scoring in his NRL career, where he only scored six tries, was back when the Parramatta Eels made the 2009 NRL Grand Final!

The first 13 matches of that fourth block were the last 13 matches Hayne played in 2009, where he scored five tries, and the only match he missed during that time was Round 18 against the Gold Coast Titans, when he was unavailable due to State Of Origin commitments.

In those 13 matches that Hayne played at the back-end of the 2009 season, the Eels won 10 of those 13 matches, and no one was complaining about his lack of try-scoring productivity back then, back when he was supposedly at his very best.

And while some people will break down my statistics and say that Hayne was selfish in a number of those 24 match blocks, and not allowing his teammates some time to shine, but in four of the seven blocks where he has scored 10 or more tries, his team has won 10 or more matches.

Looking at these stats, you cannot say that Jarryd Hayne was a selfish player, or a player that destroyed a team culture, or a player that was a coach-killer. In fact, the stats prove that Hayne is one of the most consistent and best players in the NRL today, but hasn’t had the players around him to take his team to glory.

He is also a player who wants to improve his skills, as shown in his move to the National Football League (NFL) to play with the San Francisco 49ers.

The stats don’t lie!

As don’t the stats of Titans coach Neil Henry, who has only coached a team to a finals appearance on five occasions in 10 full seasons as an NRL coach (11 seasons if you count the first four matches he coached the Gold Coast Titans at the end of 2014), and the teams that he has coached have finished in the bottom four positions on the competition ladder on four occasions (five occasions if you count the first four matches he coached the Gold Coast Titans at the end of 2014).

Henry has only won 108 of the 247 matches in his NRL coaching career, with a 43.7 winning percentage. However, he has won only 28 of the 75 matches he has coached at the Titans, with only a 37.3 winning percentage.

And, considering that when a Neil Henry-coached team has made the NRL Finals that none of them have made it through to a preliminary final, you would have to say that the evidence is strong that he is not a coach capable of coaching a winning premiership club.

He has shown previously that he has struggled to manage big name players, such as Johnathan Thurston, and has struggled to adapt his coaching methods to suit players of all different shapes, sizes, and abilities.

People like this will always fail in the end, and while someone like Jarryd Hayne might get the sack in another industry, the person who deserves to be sacked is actually Neil Henry, and that is the way it should be!

As for a replacement for Neil Henry as the coach of the Gold Coast Titans, many people are mentioning the name of Garth Brennan to become their new coach, and I think he deserves to be their new coach.

Back in 2010/2011 when I was in Year 11/12 at Francis Greenway High School, my Society and Culture teacher mentioned his name as a future NRL coach, and Brennan has done a long apprenticeship in the lower ranks, and with a lack of other suitable candidates around, he is the man most fit for the job of handling Jarryd Hayne and the Gold Coast Titans.

 

 

Analysing the career of Usain Bolt

The career of the great Usain Bolt has come to an end after pulling up with cramp in the Men’s 4×100 metres relay at the 2017 International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championships, meaning that Jamaica failed to finish the event, an event which Jamaica has won at the previous four world championships (2009, 2011, 2013, and 2015)

However, in a career in which Bolt has won eight Olympic gold medals, 11 world championship gold medals, a total of 14 world championship medals overall, as well as breaking the Men’s 100 metres world record three times, and the Men’s 200 metres world record two times.

Personal bests of 9.58 seconds over the 100 metres, and 19.19 seconds over the 200 metres, both world records set at the Olympiastadion at the 2009 IAAF World Championships in Berlin, records that will likely stand the test of time.

So, what made Bolt such a great sprinter and a giant of world athletics?

First of all, he was a natural talent from an early age, and became the first junior athlete (under the age of 20) to go under the 20 second barrier in the 200 metres, setting a time of 19.93 seconds, which is still the world junior record, at the 2004 CARIFTA Games in Hamilton in Bermuda back when he was just 17 years old.

However, despite his obvious ability, Bolt’s body let him down, missing the 2004 World Junior Championships due to a hamstring injury, and while Jamaica showed faith in him, selecting him in their team for the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Bolt was unable to deliver to his best, failing to get past the opening round of the Men’s 200 metres after being troubled by a leg injury.

And, despite changing coach to his long term mentor in Glen Mills, who fostered a more professional approach to training, preparation, and performance, injuries still continued to affect Bolt, finishing eighth in the final of the Men’s 200 metres at the 2005 IAAF World Championships in Helsinki after pulling a muscle with about 50 metres to go in the race, and missed the 2006 Commonwealth Games, which were held in Melbourne, due to more hamstring problems.

This delayed a greater focus towards the 400 metres, something which Bolt wasn’t keen on, wanting to focus more on sprinting.

However, in 2007, the hard work and dedication of Bolt and his coach Mills started to show fruit, finishing second behind Tyson Gay in the Men’s 200 metres at the 2007 IAAF World Championships, and helping Jamaica finish second in the Men’s 4×100 metres relay.

Late in 2007, Bolt started to run the 100 metres, and by the end of May in 2008, he had the Men’s 100 metres world record, running a time 9.72 seconds in New York City in just his fifth 100 metres race at the senior level.

He then went onto break the 100 metres world record a further two times (Beijing 2008, Berlin 2009), and the 200 metres world record twice (Beijing 2008, Berlin 2009) as he took the world by storm, and the sport of athletics to a whole new level.

During his peak years in the sport, from 2008 to 2016, Usain Bolt won nearly every world championship and Olympic Games event over 100 and 200 metres, and helped Jamaica win every Men’s 4×100 metres relay, and excluding Nesta Carter testing positive to a banned stimulant, meaning that Jamaica were stripped of the title they won in Beijing in 2008, the only time during this period that Bolt didn’t win gold at a major championship (Olympic Games, or World Championships) was in the Men’s 100 metres at the 2011 IAAF World Championships in Daegu, when he was disqualified for a false start.

Although he had some great starts, especially in his world record performances, slow starts in the career of the great Jamaican were common, and made him more vulnerable over the 100 metres than the 200 metres. Over the 200 metres, Bolt’s big, strong, and powerful frame, combined with his development over those formative years leading up to 2008, has helped him run the bend at the start of a 200 metres race, thus his weakness at the starts wasn’t really exposed in the 200 metres.

Contrary to popular opinion, the 200 metres was always Bolt’s preferred event, the event that he felt most comfortable at, and the one he felt he would have the most success at as his slow starts had less of an impact on the result due to having to run the bend at the start of the race, and at the peak of his powers, no one had a chance against him over 200 metres.

The 100 metres was a different story though, because it was run on a straight, giving a sizeable advantage to the shorter, smaller, lower to the ground athletes in regards to the start, meaning Bolt was often trailing his rivals in the first 50 metres of a race. However, in the back-end of 100 metres, the fitness and strength of focussing on the 200 metres really helped him mow down his rivals to often beat them by a larger margin than is sometimes hard to comprehend, masking the issues he has had in terms of the starts.

However, Bolt has felt the pressure of wanting to get a great start, and lead from start to finish, especially when he felt he wasn’t in his best form as seen in Daegu in 2011, and competing against an in-form upstart in fellow Jamaican Yohan Blake.

So, how many times has Usain Bolt false-started?

Twice!

Yes, only twice, but he has only been disqualified once for a false-start, as I mentioned before!

The other time he false-started was back at the 2009 IAAF World Championships in Berlin in the semi-finals of the Men’s 100 metres, but was given a second chance because of the rules of the time from between 2003 and 2009, where in the instance of the first false start, the whole field would be warned, and only disqualifications would happen in further instances of false starts within the same race or heat.

Incidentally, British athlete Tyrone Edgar was disqualified in that same semi-final after he caused a second false start.

However, in 2017, Bolt could no longer hide his slow starts, he decided not to run in the Men’s 200 metres at the IAAF World Championships, which meant his fitness, strength and conditioning wasn’t up to his previous standard, which may have caused the cramping issue in the Men’s 4×100 metres relay final, and subsequently meant that the edge, those extra two tenths of a second, that he had previously was no longer there.

He was back with the field, and unsurprisingly, he was beaten!

In hindsight, Bolt should have decided to run the Men’s 200 metres, instead of the Men’s 100 metres, if he was going to compete in just one individual event, but the desire to train and do the hard work to compete in the 200 metres wasn’t there anymore.

He just wanted to entertain for one last time, and although it didn’t work out this time, he has left a catalogue of memories, and an indelible legacy that will last forever.

Thank You Usain! Thank You for all the wonderful memories that you have given many people from all over the world, either at the venues you have competed at, or watching your races on their televisions! We wish you all the best in the next chapter of your life!

Melbourne Storm vs. Sydney Roosters (TV style) – My call (Round 23, 2017)

Last night, I commentated the top of the table clash from Round 23 of the 2017 National Rugby League (NRL) season between the Melbourne Storm and the Sydney Roosters.

The Storm were looking to all but claim their second-straight minor premiership, and had won four of their last six matches against the Roosters.

However, the Roosters won the last time the two teams played, back in Round 16 at the Adelaide Oval, where a Mitchell Pearce field goal sunk the Storm in golden point extra time.

So, who would win this crucial clash?

Find out right here, and I hope you enjoy my commentary!

Brisbane Broncos vs. Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks (TV style) – My call (Round 23, 2017)

Last night, I commentated the blockbuster Round 23 match in the National Rugby League (NRL) between the Brisbane Broncos and the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks, which was held at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane.

Both sides were looking to try and keep their chances of finishing inside the top two alive, and have two home finals during the final series in September.

Heading into this match, the Sharks had won four of their last six matches against the Broncos, including their last three matches at Suncorp Stadium.

However, could the Sharks keep this good recent record going in Paul Gallen’s 300th first grade game? Or, could the Broncos give Wayne Bennett a victory in his 600th NRL match as coach of the Broncos?

Find out right here, and I hope you enjoy my call!

MotoGP Austria GP – Preview

The 11th round of the 2017 MotoGP World Championship takes place this weekend from the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg in Austria, a week after the Czech Republic Grand Prix that amazed in so many ways.

Marc Márquez leads the world championship on 154 points after taking his second-successive victory of the season at the Brno Circuit after him and his team made some very smart calls in regards to their race strategy.

Starting in very intermediate conditions, bordering on dry conditions, Márquez and his Repsol Honda Team decided to start on the soft wet rear tyre, a tyre which in the eyes of many would degrade quicker than the medium wet rear tyre in those conditions. However, when Márquez realised that this wasn’t working, as he was falling back down the field, he pitted at the end of Lap Two to change bikes for one with dry tyres (medium front, medium rear), and it worked!

Most of the field were slow to realise that the track conditions had changed, and were made to look like fools by the fast-thinking Márquez, and his team, cruising in the end to a 12.438 second victory over his teammate Dani Pedrosa, who now sits fifth in the championship on 123 points, 31 points behind Márquez.

Second in the championship is the man who finished third in the Czech Republic, Maverick Viñales. The factory Yamaha rider was lucky not to lose more points against his main championship rival after pitting two laps later than Márquez. Viñales is now on 140 points, 14 points behind his fellow Spaniard.

Andrea Dovizioso is third in the world championship for Ducati on 133 points, 21 points behind the championship leader after finishing in sixth in the Czech Republic.

Dovizioso pitted three laps later than Márquez, and one lap later than teammate Jorge Lorenzo, who got caught out by his team not being ready for him to pit, meaning that he finished 15th in the race, and leaves Lorenzo down in 10th position in the championship on 66 points in what has been his worst season to date.

Valentino Rossi is fourth in world championship on his factory Yamaha on 132 points, 22 points behind Márquez after finishing fourth at the Brno Circuit, pitting three laps later than the race winner and championship leader.

Johann Zarco is sixth in the championship on his Yamaha on 88 points, 11 points ahead of his teammate Jonas Folger (77 points), who is ahead of both Danilo Petrucci and Cal Crutchlow, who are both on 75 points each.

Looking ahead to the Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring, it looks to be a circuit on paper that suits the Ducati down to a tee. They were dominant last year at the Red Bull Ring, picking up a one-two finish with Andrea Iannone finishing ahead of Andrea Dovizioso at one of the most power sensitive circuits on the calendar, rewarding the straight-line speed and engine power of the Ducati.

The Red Bull Ring is also a circuit that also rewards a well-handling bike, with the Yamaha’s of Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi finishing under four seconds behind the race winner, despite the supposed lack of power and straight-line speed from the Yamaha and their engine.

Also, despite their bad performance last year at the Red Bull Ring, you cannot rule out the two factory Honda’s having a big say in who is going to win the Austrian Grand Prix.

The maximum temperatures for the weekend in Spielberg are set to be ranging between 19 and 22 degrees Celsius, and that will certainly suit the factory Yamaha’s of Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi over the factory Honda’s of Marc Márquez and Dani Pedrosa if previous history is anything to go by in 2017.

However, as far as the track characteristics are concerned, all signs point to a Ducati win, and I believe Jorge Lorenzo will get his first victory for the Italian manufacturer in a one-two finish ahead of Andrea Dovizioso.

 

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).

99th PGA Championship – Preview

The fourth and final major of the year, the 2017 PGA Championship takes place this week from the Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte in North Carolina, and it will be the first time that the club will be holding a major championship.

However, it has been a regular destination on the PGA Tour, having hosted the Wells Fargo Championship, which has been known as the Quail Hollow Championship (2009-2010) and the Wachovia Championship (2003-2008), since 2003, with the exception of this year to focus on getting the club and the course ready to host its first major championship, which should provide a challenging test for the best professional golfers in the world.

Looking at the history of the 14 times that the Quail Hollow Club has hosted the Wells Fargo Championship, the worst winning score has been eight under par back in 2013, and only twice has the score of the winner been worse than 10 under par. However, the Quail Hollow Club is a tough place to play if you are not from the United States, with the Wells Fargo Championship only being won three times from a player not from the United States, Rory McIlroy (2010 and 2015), and Vijay Singh (2005).

And while Singh, the winner of the PGA Championship in 1998 and 2004, is now well past his best, McIlroy, the winner of the PGA Championship in 2012 and 2014, is getting back to his best after a tough start to 2017.

A tie for fourth at The 146th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale Golf Club, and a tie for fifth last week at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club has given McIlroy, the world number four, a huge confidence boost, and given his record at the Quail Hollow Club in his career, he has to be one of the ones to beat.

However, given the lack of success international golfers (those from outside the United States) have had at the Quail Hollow Club, we need to consider golfers from the United States, and those who are in great form as contenders to win the 2017 PGA Championship.

The two golfers who I believe are in the best form heading into the 99th PGA Championship are Hideki Matsuyama and Jordan Spieth.

Matsuyama, the world number three, comes into the final major of the year off the back of a wonderful win at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational, including shooting an equal-course record of 61 to win by five strokes at the Firestone Country Club. Matsuyama has also had a consistent year in the majors, finishing in ties for 11th, second, and 14th at The Masters, the U.S. Open, and at The Open Championship respectively as he aims to become the first Japanese golfer to win a major.

Spieth, the world number two, comes into the PGA Championship having won two of his last three events, including winning The 146th Open Championship, and he finished in a tie for 13th last week at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational, and is primed to become the youngest man to claim the career grand slam, surpassing Tiger Woods, if he wins at the Quail Hollow Club this week.

Other players who cannot be ruled out of contending this week include Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Jon Rahm, Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Alex Noren, and Rickie Fowler.

Johnson, the world number one, has won three times this year, but has only finished in the top 10 once in his last seven events, and has had an awful year at the majors, missing The Masters due to injury, missing the cut at the U.S. Open, and finishing in a tie for 54th at The Open Championship. As strange as it sounds, a win here for Johnson would be a major turn-up for the books.

Garcia, the world number five, has made the cut in his last 20 events, but has finished in the top 10 only once in his last seven events since winning The Masters back in April. It would be a big surprise if Garcia claimed the second major crown of his career here.

Rahm, the world number six, has had a good year, winning twice, but it seems judging by his form in his career to date that he only strikes when he is feeling good, so he might be a dark horse here.

Day, the world number seven, has had a shocking year so far, with only two top 10 finishes from 14 events in 2017, and dealing with a myriad of personal and family issues. Probably unlikely to challenge here.

Stenson, the world number eight, has had a slightly better year than Day, with five top 10 finishes from 15 events, but a win here would be unexpected.

Noren, the world number nine, is in similar form to Stenson in 2017. Five top 10 finishes, including a victory at the BMW PGA Championship back in May, but is in inconsistent form, with two top 10 finishes in his last six events, but includes a tie for sixth at The Open Championship. May surprise a few here, but I wouldn’t tip him for the victory.

Fowler, the world number 10, is in some strong form, having finished inside the top 10 in five of his last seven events, and you sense that this is the time for Fowler to break-through and win his first major.

However, despite Rory McIlroy’s record at the Quail Hollow Club, and Jordan Spieth chasing his own piece of history, I am going to tip Hideki Matsuyama to continue his run of great form, and claim his first major championship.