A-League 1,000: The Plate Edition

@hamishneal

1,000-ish words, thoughts and musings on round 25 of the A-League which sees Premiers’ Plate winners Sydney FC set to celebrate their triumph on Saturday night in the Harbour City.

 

A-League Rd 24 - Wellington v Newcastle

Adelaide United v Perth Glory, Friday – Beer Sauce Burger Stadium

Aiming for three wins on the spin Adelaide could leapfrog the misfiring Jets and move into eighth with a win here but they would need to snap a poor run against Perth having lost 3-1 and 5-0 this season. The five-goal defeat was only last month and all Perth’s big names scored (Diego Castro, Andy Keogh and Adam Taggart.) However, the latter duo were pretty ineffectual against Sydney FC when beaten 3-0 so Kenny Lowe might have delivered a rocket at training this week.

 

Big game for: Lucian Goian. Welcome to the A-League Lucian. The defender’s debut saw him concede an own goal to send Sydney on their way to victory

 

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Perth limped into the A-League finals last year after they got dispatched by Sydney FC, following last weekend’s effort versus the Sky Blues they will want to ensure similar doesn’t happen for the next few weeks given they haven’t won for six weeks.

 

Newcastle Jets v Western Sydney Wanderers, Saturday – McDonald Jones Stadium

It will be seven straight seasons without the finals for the Jets and with owner Martin Lee set to give coach Mark Jones some money for recruitment the 11 players off-contract have a big next few weeks on their hands. They simply wilted in Wellington and with the Wanderers having netted six goals in the last two games it’s hard to see a home win. Dimas returns for the Wanderers here with Ryan Griffiths replacing the suspended Brendon Santalab in the visiting squad.

 

Big game for: Unbeaten. It won’t quite be a season sweep but the Wanderers can go unbeaten against Newcastle this campaign with a win, or draw, here. After a 2-2 draw at Spotless Stadium earlier this season the Wanderers won 2-0 last time the two sides met.

 

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: It’s perhaps poignant that in the first home game after it was confirmed they won’t be in the finals that the Newcastle Jets asked their fans for help. But in a good way. If you are going to the game in Saturday support the Newcastle branch of food charity Oz Harvest and their non-perishable food can drive. Support it if you can or if you don’t live in Newcastle this may be of use.

 

Sydney FC v Melbourne Sheep Cow Whale Ships, Saturday – Allianz Stadium

Last month in the Victorian capital Bobo scored twice and Brandon O’Neill scored a delightful free kick but Graham Arnold will, no doubt, still be able to use the FFA Cup Final result as motivation here. Two more wins sees the Sky Blues get to a season points total record and with three games to go it would be a better than good chance of happening. They remain without Seb Ryall due to injury in what has been an otherwise smooth few weeks for the Premiers’ Plate winners.

 

Big game for: Statistics. Wins aside the 14 clean sheets for Sydney FC this campaign is very impressive. Can they register their first clean sheet against the visitors this season?

 

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: One person trying to score past Danny Vukovic in this game will be Bruno Fornaroli. The visiting skipper has 17 goals – one behind the Victory’s Besart Berisha in the golden boot stakes.

 

Melbourne Victory v Wellington Phoenix, Sunday – AAMI Park

After getting hammered 6-1 during October in Melbourne the Nix sprung a surprise to win 3-0 in January, a match that saw them vault into the top six. Not much has gone right for Wellington since then so a 5-0 triumph over Newcastle on Sunday was unexpected. Kevin Muscat’s team will be smarting after their defeat to the Roar cost them a chance at the Premiers’ Plate and Wellington may bear the brunt of this.

 

Big game for: The returnees. Up to ten internationals could return for this game.  The Victory’s Jai Ingham debuted for New Zealand on Tuesday against Fiji in a 2-0 win so will naturally score the winner versus the Kiwi outfit here.

 

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: A great final. The Phoenix’s 5-0 triumph wasn’t even the best football game played in Wellington last Sunday. Club World Cup regulars Auckland City will play Team Wellington in the New Zealand domestic final this weekend after the ‘Tee Dubs’ prevailed in an astonishing encounter. Liam Hyslop’s report will give you a flavour for the game. 4-4, 6-6, 3-2 – in sudden death penalties. Plus below is a video highlights package which runs just shy of eight minutes. How good is football?

Brisbane Roar v Central Coast Mariners, Sunday – Suncorp Stadium

Motivation to not finish last, and prepare to kick clear of Newcastle before the F3 Derby, might give Paul Okon’s side a good chance here but they do still have some injury issues with four players missing. Brisbane won 2-1 in Gosford in December having triumphed 1-0 at the same venue in October so John Aloisi’s look set for another one-goal victory right?

 

Big game for: Striker Roy O’Donovan is set to join Newcastle and it has been a while since a key player of either side made the switch so the Irishman’s next few performances will help give him a happy exit or not. Three goals in three games?

 

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: A shot on target. Despite improvement some games this year have been woeful for the Mariners. A case in point was the October match when a Thomas Kristensen goal decided the fixture but the Central Coast couldn’t muster one shot on target in the contest.

 

The betting bit – One serious one not

Adelaide ($2.35) to continue their winning run on Friday night into a comedy ‘Champions’ banner left in the visiting section on Saturday night in Sydney before the visiting light blue supporters arrive.

 

Record: 8/25

Profit: – $80.10 (ten units per investment)

Images via fourfourtwo.com.au and theworldgame.sbs.com.au

Golf Capital – DJ wins again plus the first majors of 2017

@hamishneal

 

A collection of golf news, notes, and thoughts from the week as Dustin Johnson continues to dominate with the first majors of 2017 for the women and men in the coming fortnight.

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Opening drive:

Johnson’s triumph, his third for 2017, came with the world number one seeing off Spaniard Jon Rahm to win the WGC Match Play event in Austin. Johnson was knocked out of the quarter finals in this event last year and since then has been in the form of his life to rise to the top of the men’s tour. Rahm, like Johnson, was unbeaten in pool play going 3-0 before his run to the final, ultimate losing having clawed back a big deficit when down by four with six holes to play.

 

Whilst Rahm’s late rally had Johnson in a spot of bother there were not such problems in California for Mirim Lee. The South Korean went into the final day of the Kia Classic leading by one before signing for a final round 65 to win by six from compatriot So Yeon Ryu and American Austin Ernst. Lee, now a three-time LPGA Tour winner, heads to the ANA Inspiration (the first women’s major of 2017) after the win in Carlsbad with her first win since 2014 on the LPGA Tour.

 

Aside from the Match Play for the men there was a further PGA event with three veterans DA Points (40 years of age), Retief Goosen (48) and Bill Lunde (41) filling three of the top four places in the Puerto Rico Open played in Rio Grande. Bryson DeChambeau, 23, was the odd one out and finished T2 with Goosen and Lunde two strokes behind Points who got home at 20 under largely on the back of his opening round eight under 64. Interestingly Points last PGA Tour win came in 2013 when he won the Houston Open – this weekend’s tour event.

 

Player performance notes:

Players I’m interested in to see how they go with notes that interest me related to capital investment if that’s your thing. This weekend it’s the first women’s major of 2017 – the ANA Inspiration with the tournament played to Rancho Mirage in California.

 

Under 20: Ariya Jutanugarn. Both Jutanugarn and defending champion Lydia Ko enter the tournament the top two players in the world haven’t had a great start to 2017 based on their high standards. However, Jutanugarn with three top three finishes has done better than Ko to date in 2017

 

Under 20: So Yeon Ryu: Second on the weekend Ryu has finished T7 or better in her four starts in 2017 and has moved up to number three in the world rankings.

 

Under 20: Lexi Thompson: With a second in the Bahamas and fourth in Thailand to start the season Thompson has started well but the missed cut in Arizona is a bit of a worry for the 2014 winner of this tournament.

 

20 to 50: Ha-Na Jang: The world number six is the highest ranked player to win on the LPGA this year (having won the Australian Open last month) but so have numbers 7 and 8 – Inbee Park and Amy Yang.

 

20 to 50: Stacy Lewis: The American was T2 a fortnight ago in Arizona and won this event in 2011.

 

100 to 200: Nelly Korda: Having only earnt her tour card in late 2016 Korda came out and finished T5 in her debut in the Bahamas. In her first major as a full-fledged LPGA player she is a chance of doing similar under little pressure compared to the big names.

 

Greens in regulation

With a week to go to the first men’s major of 2017 it’s interesting to note four of the top ten are playing in the Houston Open, won last year by Jim Herman. Jordan Spieth, Henrik Stenson, Adam Scott and Rickie Fowler will feature here before teeing it up at Augusta in the Masters. Stenson finished a shot behind Herman last year and Fowler was T10, a further five strokes back. After a hectic recent schedule (he played 112 holes in the match play event) it wasn’t a surprise Dustin Johnson withdrew from this tournament. Especially when you consider the record of Houston Open winners since the event has been a prelude to the Masters. Houston Open champs have only twice finished in the top 15 of the Masters having played at the Golf Club of Houston immediately before the first men’s major of the year. A sensible option for Johnson when you look at those figures.

 

Tap in

With a busy period coming up I’ve penned some thoughts for the Masters already. I may get a chance to add to these four prior to Augusta next week, or I may not:

 

Under 20: Hideki Matsuyama: Matsuyama, who was T7 last year, has gone off the boil in the last month but it’s  hard to ignore his great run for form from the PGA Championship onwards last year which included five wins and five other top five finishes in eight months.

 

50 to 100: Matthew Fitzpatrick: Playing in his second Masters in 2016 the Sheffield lad shot an equal best of the day (5 under 67) in the fourth round to finish T7 and subsequently won twice in 2016.

 

50 to 100: Alex Noren: An interesting line to Willett’s Masters win last year was the European Masters on 2015. Willett won with Fitzpatrick second hence the Swede’s European Masters victory via a playoff in 2016 should be noted for this event. Since then Noren, 34, has won in England and South Africa.

 

50 to 100: Thomas Pieters: Large crowds of Americans didn’t rattle the Belgian in the Ryder Cup and the loud, but less boisterous gallery at the Masters could swing in behind the long-hitter here. Pieters, ranked 34, did miss the cut in two recent Florida-based events but a T5 in Mexico and T2 in Los Angeles have him in the right nick for the challenge of Augusta.

Image via golf.com

 

Five Metre Gap: NRL Round 4 2017

@hamishneal

Like the way of the five metre gap in defence looking at the points your may have missed from the fourth round of the NRL. The Sydney Roosters and Melbourne Storm stay unbeaten (4-0) with the Dragons plus the Cowboys (3-1) in third and fourth, respectively.

 

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Even though they leapt out to 14-0 lead after 28 minutes against the Melbourne Storm the Wests Tigers were taught a lesson in taking your opportunities before they were ultimately beaten 22-14 on Sunday at Leichhardt Oval. At one stage Melbourne were failing to complete 50% of their sets finishing the half with a try and 9/16 sets complete (56%.) For only one more try the Tigers had completed nine more sets, 18 in total, for the first stanza. Despite the Tigers continuing to complete well (the finished with 82%) in the match it leaves a challenge for interim head coach Andrew Webster. Given they took two penalty goal attempts within eight minutes of each other in the first half (with a Storm try-scorer chance in between) how much trust do they have in their attack at all?

 

Canberra, one of six sides to win only once in their first four games this season, fell by a point in Brisbane on Friday evening 13-12 and one of their big name forwards failed to fire again. Middle forward Shannon Boyd, who played for Australia at the end of last season, made the least metres of any Raiders forward (68) from his seven runs. This was just above his season average of 6.75 runs per game across the first month, and probably not enough for a representative player. Boyd averages 40 minutes per match so he does not have the likelihood to rack up the numbers of some props that might play more, for instance James Tamou and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (both international forwards) have averaged more minutes this season. A month is perhaps a small sample size but Boyd’s New South Wales Origin hopes would hinge on a bigger effort (despite his tackling numbers) in the coming weeks.

 

One middle forward with plenty of impact in round four was Zane Musgrove. The Souths prop playing in a losing side mind you (with the Bunnies beaten 20-6 by the Roosters) in 48 minutes garnered a team best of 160 metres gained. This was all the more important when influential English forward Sam Burgess left the game due to a Head Injury Assessment before he ended up not returning. Musgrove, 21, made a team best 20 runs – eight more than Sam’s younger brother Tom Burgess.

 

First it was catching the ball when playing Dunedin on his debut and this weekend in Sydney Bulldog Brad Abbey continues to have a bit of a torrid time in defence in his opening NRL games, especially after Manly thrashed the Bulldogs 36-0 on Saturday. Standing in as custodian in the absence of Will Hopoate, Abbey was beaten to the ball kicked through by Manly’s Blake Green for the first of two tries to Brian Kelly having earlier mistimed his runs at the back allowing two other Manly tries before he didn’t commit to either Manly player as opposite number Tom Trbojevic broke through the line before feeding Daly Cherry-Evans who kicked through for Trbojevic’s four-pointer just before the break. Abbey, 20, is set for a further tough initiation into the NRL (despite having featured in a win first up) with the Bulldogs playing the Broncos in round five. Trbojevic, only two months older than Abbey, showed the difference in experience in the top grade with the Manly playing having featured over 30 times in first grade already.

 

Kurt Mann’s eight-minute cameo late in the Dragons 26-12 win over the Warriors on the weekend meant every interchange player was used in round four. Three other players; Jackson Hastings (Manly), Joel Edwards (Tigers), and Vincent Leuluai (Storm) were used sparingly for nine, seven and seven minutes respectively with coaches looking to keep a replacement up their sleeve until late in the piece if needed.

 

Image via au.sports.yahoo.com

A-League 1,000: The Gap Edition

@hamishneal

1,000-ish words, thoughts and musings on round 24 of the A-League which starts at Sydney Olympic Park on Friday and finishes up on Sunday night in Perth.

 sydneyfcfourfourtwomarch2017

 

Western Sydney Wanderers v Melbourne Sheep Cow Whale Ship, Friday – Spotless Stadium

The streak is broken, long live the streak! With the Wanderers earning maximum points for the first time at Spotless Stadium last Sunday for the first time Tony Popovic’s side were able to take a rare full week without Asian Champions League commitments to prepare for the trip of the light blues who put four past Newcastle. Beaten 4-1 in the FFA Cup in September and 1-0 last time they met (January) only a Lachlan Scott effort which glanced in off Neil Kilkenny when they two sides met here in November has given the Wanderers any joy against the Victorian outfit this campaign.

 

Big game for: Dean Bouzanis. The visiting keeper is free to play this game after his ban for racially abusing Besart Berisha and probably gets the start after the light blues have shipped eight goals in his absence. But, Thomas Sorenson did get a clean sheet last weekend.

 

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: An end to tribute shirts unless someone is dead. The grey shirts in tribute to Fernando Brandan who picked up a season-ending injury at training recently were a little much. Wade Dekker got a season-ending injury ankle once when John van’t Schip coached the side. I don’t recall anything along this line for the forward then. Dekker was summarily told ‘goodbye’ at the end of his contract. Strange times.

 

Central Coast Mariners v Adelaide United, Saturday – Central Coast Stadium

Despite only nine wins between them in 46 games this season this match-up of the second-last Mariners versus the bottom-placed Adelaide could be the most exciting of the weekend when looking at recent results of the two sides. The Reds were lucky to get all three points on Sunday evening in Adelaide with Brisbane, who play later on Saturday, ruing late calls from the officials but Guillmero Amor’s side face the prospect of a season sweep here. The Mariners have won 2-1 twice this season over Adelaide with victories in South Australia and Canberra. Adelaide’s Jordan O’Doherty scored late but the Mariners won comfortably last month in the ACT.

 

Big game for: It’s another goal-keeper back from suspension. Paul Izzo returns after he saw red in their last home game so will come in for Ivan Necevski.

 

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Marcelo Carrusca’s suspension and Riley McGree’s Socceroos absence is somewhat offset by the return of Isaias but a season sweep beckons for the yellow and navy. Such dominance over even one other A-League side was something unlikely for the Mariners nine months ago.

 

Brisbane Roar v Melbourne Victory, Saturday – Suncorp Stadium

Despite only two spots between them on the table Melbourne (14 wins) have triumphed six more times than their opponent this season and won 3-2 when the duo last met. However back in October to open the season Luke DeVere scored deep into stoppage time late to snatch a dramatic 1-1 draw after Melbourne’s Mitch Austin looked to have the scored the winner in his club debut. After the drama of the Adelaide fixture Brisbane were eventually sanctioned for what happened between the coaching staff with Roar assistant Ross Aloisi facing a ban for the rest of the season.

 

Big game for: With four rounds to go in the regular season Kevin Muscat might not want to be experimenting with his team but that’s what he will need to do with Besart Berisha, Marco Rojas, James Troisi and Jai Ingham missing due to international duty. All bar Ingham, who came on with 13 minutes to go, started in the 4-1 win over Perth.

 

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Brisbane will need to go on the road to win the A-League but a victory here prior to hosting the Mariners could be a good confidence boost before they head to Perth then resume their ACL campaign on April 12 against Kashima.

 

 theobrownmarch2017abcnetau

Wellington Phoenix v Newcastle Jets, Sunday – Westpac Stadium

Wellington sit just a point above Newcastle in seventh with a win needed for either side hoping to still make the top six. On Boxing Day there was a 2-2 draw in Newcastle the last time these sides met after a 2-0 win to Wellington in November when Roy Krishna scored twice. Fijian Krishna will be missing here along with five first team regulars playing for New Zealand (and Alex Rufer) so the home side are under strength but Newcastle have had their own issues with not getting bang for their visa buck. Finals, and contracts, on the line which could mean a dour game. But hopefully it’s exciting like the Boxing Day encounter.

 

Big game for: Rufer’s elevation to the All Whites when a perfectly fit, and playing, Kosta Barbarouses was available was one of the baffling calls from All Whites boss Anthony Hudson but could benefit Nix co-coaches Des Buckingham and Chris Greenacre here.

 

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Jason Hoffman is back from suspension for the Jets and his experience will be important.

 

Perth Glory v Sydney FC, Sunday – nib Stadium

Confirmation and presentation of the Premier’s Plate could be with us on Sunday evening as Graham Arnold’s side suit up for the first time in a fortnight due to the split round. Perth (who also missed last weekend having played in part one of the split round) could move to fourth if the Victory win in Queensland on Saturday night so there is plenty on the line here. In one of the latest signings in an A-League season Romanian Lucian Goian is expected to play right away with the 34-year-old, most recently having played in the Indian Super League for Mumbai City, expected to replace Socceroo Rhys Williams in defence.

 

Big game for:  Sydney’s strong bench has been one of their many advantages this season but will be tested on Sunday. They add former Mariner Tom Heward-Belle to the bench with Andrew Redmayne likely to start in goal for the Sky Blues.

 

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Like Brisbane Perth will face a bit of travel to progress in the A-League finals but they will be finals-ready playing three sides above them in the next month. This should have Kenny Lowe’s team in top shape.

 

The betting bit – One serious one not

We’ve seen some season sweeps in the last few weeks and I like the Mariners ($2.50) to seal another here in beating Adelaide to continue a mini-revival in this part of the column followed up by a cardboard Premiers’ Plate in the visiting Sydney section in Perth on Sunday.

 

Record: 8/24

Profit: – $70.10 (ten units per investment)

 

Images via abc.net.au and fourfourtwo.com.au

 

 

 

Golf Capital – Leishman wins The King’s event, Match Play heads to Austin

@hamishneal

 

A collection of golf news, notes and thoughts from the week with wins to Marc Leishman and Anna Nordqvist and a look to this weekend’s WGC Match Play in Texas.

 

leishmangolfweekmarch2017

 

Opening drive

Australian Leishman broke a five-year drought in the USA when he edged home to win the prestigious (even if some big names were missing this year) Arnold Palmer Invitational whilst Nordqvist won by two strokes in Phoenix.

 

Leishman’s key to victory late in the fourth round was his eagle three on 16 with his final round of 69 enough to see him home over Americans Kevin Kisner and Charley Hoffman (who both shared the lead coming into Sunday at -11) a shot back from Leishman’s final 11 under figure. Given recent health issues with his wife Audrey it was a very well received result.

 

The WGC match-play event in Texas attracts the top players this weekend but there is a further PGA Tour event with the Puerto Rico Open at the (breathe Hamish) Trump International Golf Club Puerto Rico located in Rio Grande.

 
Swede Nordqvists’s 25 under score capped her seventh LPGA tour triumph and meant the 29 year-old has now won every year since 2014. Her two-stroke triumph at the Wildfire Golf Club was set-up by a terrific 11 under 61 in the third round – a course record. This weekend the LPGA heads to California for the Kia Classic in Carlsbad where Kiwi Lydia Ko is the defending champion.

 

Player performance notes

Players I’m interested in to see how they go with notes that interest me related to capital investment if that’s your thing. It’s an early start this weekend with the match play event at the Austin Country Club commencing on Wednesday. Having had a go at the tournament bracket these are my semifinalists.

 

20 to 50: Hideki Matsuyama. Already a winner in 2017 the Japanese player won twice in his group last year here so has scope to progress in this format. He’s got a potential tough run which could include Thomas Pieters and, in the quarter-final, Jordan Spieth.

 

50 to 100: Rafa Cabrera Bello. The Spaniard faces a relatively easy opening round group in terms of players with experience plus he made the semi-finals here last year.

 

50 to 100: Russell Knox. Was left out of the European Ryder Cup side despite been a top PGA Tour player last year. Knox has missed three cuts in his last four tournaments but doesn’t face a strong group.

 

50 to 100: Brooks Koepka. I’m a fan of the American and he did well in the Ryder Cup last year winning a key singles contest when he beat Danny Willett on the Sunday.

 

Greens in Regulation 
This comes with the caveat that athletes who speak their mind are always welcome on these pages but, Rory McIlroy needs to pull his head in. Weeks after playing golf with American King Donald Trump McIlroy derided, rightly so and as this column did, the members of Muirfield who didn’t vote for female membership. However McIlroy said he wouldn’t have a cup of tea with the members. Rory, why have your standards changed so quickly over sexism and inclusive behaviour? We hope you enjoyed #harmonyday.

 

Tap in
Enough about ranting at Rory, let’s finish with a look at the fun of the weekend in Florida – the wildlife. Cody Gribble and Smylie Kaufman had different approaches to one of the local alligators.

 

Five Metre Gap: NRL Round 3 2017

@hamishneal

Like the way of the five metre gap in defence looking at the points your may have missed from the third round of the NRL which saw Melbourne and the Roosters finish the weekend as the only unbeaten sides (3-0) in the competition after wins over Brisbane and Penrith, respectively, and has been followed up by the first coach sacking of the season.

 

rapanaround3march2017ct

 

An injury-ravaged Gold Coast Titans (1-2) produced a great effort to defeat Parramatta 26-14 on Friday night at Robina. They failed to complete only two sets in the second period which was a marked improvement in their effort last weekend in Newcastle (when they had a 64% completion rate) and saw them finish with a completion rate of 81% (29/36.) Not afraid to spread the ball early in their sets once they were down 12-0 the Titans were rewarded for their enterprising play. Only the Dragons, 16-10 winners over defending champions Cronulla, produced a better completion rate 83% (29/35) for a winning side this weekend.

 

Veteran fullback Billy Slater returned as Melbourne (3-0) edged Brisbane 14-12 in the opening game of round three and topped the metres gained in the match for all 34 players in the contest. Despite only playing 52 minutes, Slater ran for 170 metres and was a threat on attack. It wasn’t all perfect as Slater made a few errors and Melbourne were actually held up very well by Brisbane’s strong defence. Craig Bellamy’s side had the bulk of possession with ten more sets (46 compared to 36) than Brisbane with the Broncos only getting their second tackle inside the Storm’s ‘red zone’ with less than ten minutes left in the match so they have plenty to improve despite an unbeaten start to the season.

 

Newcastle (1-2) were well in the game again on the weekend before ultimately falling 24-18 to Souths but coach Nathan Brown will need more impact from his bench after a poor display in the weekend from an attacking point of view. Newcastle’s poor completion rate (62%) didn’t help all of the Knights but two of the bench players, Sam Stone and Jacob Saifiti, each only made one attacking run – very limited contributions from 30 and 20 minute stints, respectively. Stone and Saifiti’s lack of impact was somewhat off-set by that of fellow interchange forward Jack Stockwell who made 100 metres from 10 runs.

 

Canberra (1-2) were one of the four teams to win for this first time this campaign as they romped home 46-6 against the Wests Tigers on Sunday afternoon. Last season Canberra scored an average of just under 29 points per game (688 points in 24 games) during the regular season but 2017 hadn’t started in te same vein with two losses and 16 points scored per game. A large part of their turnaround was the platform laid by their forwards. Kangaroos forward Josh Papalii who averaged only 81 metres across the first two games ramped it up running for 215 metres from 21 runs. Three other players Junior Paulo (100 metres, 10 runs), Iosia Soliola (103 metres, 12 runs), and Clay Priest (137 metres, 16 runs) topped 100 metres. However it should be noted they faced a Tigers side that collectively missed 25 tackles – not the worst on the weekend but a result which saw their coach Jason Taylor relieved of his duties on Monday.

 

Round three saw three interchange players not feature with outside back Kurt Mann (Dragons), middle forward Rory O’Brien (Eels), and utility Erin Clark (Warriors) not playing in their contests. Two of those sides (Eels and the Warriors) lost. Clark played only six minutes in round two when the Warriors were beaten by the Storm but it was the first occasion each of the three sides saw one of the interchange players take no part in the game so far this season.
Images via canberratimes.com.au

 

 

A-League 1,000: The Brothers Edition

@hamishneal

1,000-ish words, thoughts and musings on part two of round 23 of the A-League which starts in Melbourne on Saturday night, heads to Adelaide the next day, then concludes at Sydney Olympic Park on Sunday.

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Melbourne Sheep Cow Whale Ships v Newcastle Jets, Saturday – AAMI Park

These two sides meet in Melbourne for the second time this season with Michael Valkanis’ side looking to bridge the gap to their city rivals who are 12 points clear in second but more realistically looking to edge ahead of Brisbane who are on 33 points as well but with a three-goal worse goal difference (six compared to three.) Between the two games the Victorian outfit and Newcastle have played against each other this season the home side has won each game 2-1 with the light blues victors in November but the Jets prevailed in Coffs Harbour in January. Interestingly Jet Andrew Nabbout and Bruno Fornaroli for the home side have scored the three goals for their teams across the two macthes this season. Can this run continue?

 

Big game for: Tim Cahill. The veteran’s hopes of playing in the coming week for the Socceroos could hinge on his involvement here. Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou has made a point of wanting match-fit players, as well as seeing young players feature more often. Cahill isn’t young but it’s hard to see him featuring much if he isn’t rolled out for at least 30 minutes in this game.

 

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Much has been made of the Socceroos squad with the Australian’s, currently third in their group, facing a crucial two games next week but another Australia squad has also been selected recently. Former Adelaide United coach Josep Gombau has named a development squad to head to Murcia, Spain and Jets defender Nick Cowburn was the only A-League player selected in this group for the eight-day camp. Cowburn, 22, hasn’t appeared for the Jets since round 16 so will probably be glad to have some variety as opposed to training without playing.

 

Adelaide United v Brisbane Roar, Saturday  – Beer Sauce Burger Stadium

Without a win across their last five games (Three in the Asian Champions League, Two in the A-League) Adelaide can actually claim some confidence coming into this fixture. The Reds won their last A-League home game (1-0 over Newcastle) and played well to get a draw on Wednesday night against Korean side Jeju United to get their ACL campaign back on track. However, John Aloisi’s Roar squad beat Guillermo Amor’s side 4-0 last time they met. Prior to that Sergi Guardiola, who has since left South Australia, got a goal 12 minutes from time to secure a point when they two sides played in November.

 

Big game for:  After a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Kashima Antlers in Japan the fourth-placed Roar could be forced into a reshuffle here after skipper Matt McKay left the game in the 76th minute with a back complaint so they will need to shore up the middle of the park in his absence.

 

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: After predicting a possible Boateng brothers style moment in future trans-Tasman fixtures low and behold Dane Ingham was called up for the All Whites who play Fiji twice in the coming Fifa window. Despite his recent attendance at a Young Socceroos camp Ingham, 17, hasn’t been capped at any level for Australia so is eligible to join brother Jai, 23, in Anthony Hudson’s squad.

 

Western Sydney Wanderers v Wellington Phoenix, Sunday – Spotless Stadium

Following their upset win in Seoul the Wanderers return home looking to secure their first victory at the former Sydney Olympics baseball venue which would put them three or six points clear in sixth spot – six if the Jets are beaten on Saturday. Tony Popovic’s team are yet to be beaten by the Nix this season with two wins (one in the FFA Cup) and a draw thus far in 16/17. Wellington will be shorn of several key players next weekend against Newcastle due to the international window so the Kiwi outfit need to get at least a point against a top six rival here.

 

Big game for: Lachlan Scott, who scored twice in the afore-mentioned FFA Cup game, found the net when opening the scoring against FC Seoul so starting Scott with Santalab coming on is a prospect here.

 

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: The corresponding game last season in February saw now Mariner Blake Powell net four times to embarrass a side then near the top of the ladder. The Wanderers eventually made the grand final. Whatever the result something odd is bound to happened here.

 

The betting bit – One serious one not

Adelaide’s mini-season took a new (positive) turn with their effort on Wednesday and I think they can cause Brisbane some headaches and win here ($3.00) into a comedy sets of arrows aimed at the home goal on Sunday night at Sydney Olympic Park.

 

Record: 7/22

Profit: – $90.10 (ten units per investment)

Image via goal.com.au