Monthly Archives: August 2013

Barba Becomes A Bronco

By Brad Eveleigh ( @Brad_Eveleigh )

Screen shot 2013-08-28 at 10.48.32 PM

Dally M Medalist, Ben Barba has officially signed with the Brisbane Broncos after being released by the Canterbury Bulldogs.

The 24-year-old sought an early release from his current contract with the Bulldogs to be closer to his family who are relocating to Brisbane.

With 2 years still remaining on his contract with the Blue and White, Barba was granted the release on compassionate grounds to be with his ex-partner and their two young children.

The Broncos were hoping to secure Barba on a four-year-deal but instead settled on a three-year-deal concluding at the end of the 2016 season.

It’s understood that the Broncos are to pay an undisclosed amount in compensation to the Bulldogs for the contract modifications with his existing contract.

It has been documented that a raise in payments for Barba to join Brisbane is non-existent, cancelling out speculation that the move was in fact financially driven.   

No playing restrictions have been added to the club transfer deal therefore Barba is free to play against his now former club if match fit.

 
pic: Canberra times
Advertisements

Deutsche Bank Championship 2013 Preview

By Michael McGill ( @MickSportsNews )

Screen shot 2013-08-28 at 9.00.53 PM

Week two of the FedEx Cup playoffs sees the Top 100 qualifiers teeing it up in the Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston for a share of US$8 million in prize money.

The Deutsche Bank Championship has been played at TPC Boston since its debut in 2003. It is a Par 71 course measuring 7216 yards. There are 53 sand bunkers and 2 water hazards. The greens are Bentgrass.

Starting on Friday and finishing on Labor Day it is the only PGA Tour event to conclude on a Monday.

The Top 5 in betting are 7/1 Tiger Woods, 12/1 Phil Mickelson, 12/1 Adam Scott, 14/1 Rory McIlroy and 18/1 Justin Rose.

To play well at TPC Boston you need to rank well in a few different categories.

  • Length- If you look at the past winners and runners up of this tournament many of them have been long off the tee. There are several dogleg holes on the course and these can be carried by the big hitters. This will be a distinct advantage.
  • Putting- The greens at TPC Boston are large and many have several tiers so putting could be challenging this week. Many past winners have ranked highly in putting stats on their way to victory.
  • Scrambling & GIR- Past winners have all ranked highly in both of these areas.
  • Par 5’s- If you want to finish high up the leader board you need to take advantage of the three Par 5 holes. Looking at past winners they have all played them well.

Two players come to mind this week.

Phil Mickelson 12/1

Phil has really turned back the clock this season. He is playing out of his skin. Starting the year ranked No.22 in the World he now finds himself No.3 and his rise looks like continuing.

He has only missed three cuts from 18 starts this season. Those 15 made cuts have resulted in 2 wins, 2 seconds and 2 thirds! Those results were 1st Phoenix Open (-28), 1st The Open Championship, 2nd St Jude Classic, 2nd US Open, 3rd WGC Cadillac Championship and 3rd Wells Fargo Championship. Pretty impressive results.

Last week at The Barclays he finished with a round of 65 to be T6th. He finished the week ranked T4th in Greens in Regulation and 6th in Strokes Gained Putting. If he keeps those stats going this week he will go a long way to winning.

This season he is ranked 1st in birdie average, 5th in strokes gained putting and 7th in scoring average. He also won this event in 2007 (-16) and was T10th in 2011 and T4th in 2012.

His current form and closing round of 65 last week have him in great shape. He can go low as scene in the Phoenix Open and has a great record on the course. At 12/1 he is a great bet and can not be overlooked.

Jordon Spieth 45/1

Another player having a huge year is young Jordon. His 20 starts have resulted in half of those being Top 25 finishes! Seven of those ended up being Top 10’s. Then there was his break through win at the John Deere Classic (-19) where he won in a play off beating Zach Johnson and David Hearn.  He also went low in the Puerto Rico Open (-19) when finishing second.

Two weeks ago at the Wyndham Championship he continued his great run where he lost in a play off to another young gun Patrick Reed. Last week it was a T19th at The Barclays. This kid can play. Many pundits are tipping to have a very successful career,

He now finds himself ranked No.33 in the World after starting the year ranked No.810. His stats also fair well for this course with numbers like 14th in driving accuracy, 14th in scoring average, 2nd in all round ranking and 5th in Par 4 birdie or better.

You can expect to see this confident young man up near the leader board again this week and at 45/1 could be a great each way selection.

Good Luck and Good Punting.

The International Rugby Board World Rankings

Screen shot 2013-08-22 at 1.28.20 PM

POSITION LAST WEEK MEMBER UNION RATING POINTS
1 1 New Zealand 91.55
2 2 South Africa 87.03
3 4 ↑ England 85.76
4 3 ↓ Australia 85.41
5 5 France 81.59
6 6 Wales 81.36
7 7 Samoa 80.42
8 8 Ireland 79.58
9 9 Scotland 76.95
10 10 Argentina 76.67
11 11 Tonga 74.77
12 12 Italy 74.17
13 13 Fiji 73.56
14 15 ↑ Canada 72.68
15 14 ↓ Japan 71.98
16 16 Georgia 67.66
17 17 Romainia 66.18
18 18 USA 64.91
19 19 Russia 61.99
20 20 Spain 60.44

The Barclays 2013 Preview

By Michael McGill ( @MickSportsNews )

Screen shot 2013-08-20 at 7.26.56 PM

This is the first event in the play offs for the 2013 FedEx Cup. The tournament is being played at Liberty National Golf Club, Jersey City, New Jersey.

Liberty National is a Par 71 course with many sand bunkers and water hazards. It measures at 7353 yards and has three Par 5’s.

The course hosted this tournament back in 2009 when Heath Slocum won by one shot from Ernie Els, Padraig Harrington, Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker. That year the course had mixed reviews and has since undergone 74 changes to 15 of the 18 holes making it a more playable course.

The signature Par 3, fourteenth hole on the water is still its crown jewel with Executive Director of The Barclays, Peter Mele saying, “You wont find a more spectacular hole anywhere”.

With the Statute of Liberty as a backdrop we can expect to see some great viewing this week.

The two players to follow this week are-

Matt Kuchar 30/1

I was amazed to see the price for Matt this week. 30/1 for a guy ranked 2nd on the FedEx ladder who also has two wins this season is great value. Especially on an eachway basis.

The World No.6 is having a great year. Nineteen cuts made in all nineteen starts with twelve Top 25’s and seven Top 10’s, plus the two wins in the WGC Accenture Match Play and The Memorial Tournament.

Since the Memorial Kuchar has put together some great results, T28th US Open, T15th The Open Championship, T2nd Canadian Open, T27th WGC Bridgestone Invitational and T22nd PGA Championship. That is some pretty consistent golf which includes Top 30 finishes in all 4 Majors this year.

Kuchar’s stats also stand out when assessing his chances this week. 19th in strokes gained putting, 6th in scoring average, 2nd in sand saves, 10th in Par 5 birdie or better average, 8th in scrambling and 1st in 3 putt avoidance. With plenty of bunkers and three Par 5’s on the Liberty National course you should expect to see Matt up there challenging over the weekend.

Charl Schwartzel 50/1

Another golfer who is much better than the odds that are available is Charl Schwartzel. From 15 starts he has produced 10 Top 25’s on tour this season. Pretty good conversion rate in any ones book. Highlights have been T3rd Northern Trust, T9th Honda Classic, 3rd Byron Nelson and T8th Memorial Tournament.

Since the Memorial he has finished 14th US Open, T15th The Open Championship, T28th Canadian Open, T21st WGC Bridgestone and the only blip on the map was the Missed Cut at the PGA Championship.

Expect to see Charl with all guns blazing this week after the short break since the PGA Championship. He is ranked 7th in birdie average, 5th in scoring average and 8th in Par 5 birdie or better average. At 50/1 Schwartzel is a must back at that price.

Good Luck and Good Punting.

 

 

English Premier League Season Preview

By Daniel Cousens ( @DanCuzns )

Screen shot 2013-08-15 at 4.55.52 PM

This Saturday the 2013/14 English Premier League season gets underway after what is always a very short offseason. Seriously, when you think about it, football players don’t get much of a break, especially considering they often have international duty and then a preseason tour or other commitments.

The English lower divisions are already back in action and this weekend they are joined by the top flight, with the season kicking off with Liverpool taking on Stoke City at 9:45pm Saturday night AEST. So in the spirit of the season, I felt it was my duty to prepare you for the upcoming season, although this won’t be a full on club by club guide with details on transfers and predictions for everyone, but rather just an overview of major changes and points of interest.

So for the first time in 27 years, Manchester United will not be managed by Sir Alex Ferguson. He has been replaced by former Everton manager and fellow Scot David Moyes. Now to give credit where it is due, Moyes is a good manager who had some pretty successful years with Everton with limited resources. Overall I think it is a pretty sound hire by United, as Moyes is likely to try and carry on Ferguson’s vision and structure and not completely tear it down and do it his own way the way someone like Jose Mourinho might have.

However, David Moyes is still no Alex Ferguson and I can’t for the life of me think that losing Fergie won’t cost United some points during the season. If Alex Ferguson isn’t worth a few wins a season then no manager is. For that reason alone I think Manchester United will struggle to retain their title. Then on top of that you have the issue of Wayne Rooney potentially leaving or at least wanting to. At this point in time United are quite a top heavy team in that they are quite reliant on their star players more than they used to be. Should Robin van Persie get injured then I think they are in a lot of trouble, which can be said for most teams, but it is something that rarely has been the case for the Red Devils in the past. It would be unlikely they finish outside the top four, but I’m not totally ruling it out depending on what happens with Rooney and if van Persie has a similar season to last year.

Crosstown rivals Manchester City on the other hand are poised to once again challenge for the title. Their squad is fantastic, as it should be with the money they have spent on it, but they too have a new manager in Manuel Pellegrini so it will be interesting to see what impact that has on their season. As always they have brought in some great players to strengthen their squad and of those leaving only Carlos Tevez would probably still be pushing for a first team place. As long as Pellegrini isn’t an abject failure, I can’t see City finishing outside the top 2.

The other team I think will be in the top 2 with Man City is Chelsea. First and foremost they are welcoming back ‘The Special One’ in the aforementioned Jose Mourinho. Mourinho is a writer’s dream for all his antic and quotes, but he is also a fantastic manager. Their squad is solid and I think Mourinho will get the best out of them. It is pretty amazing to think that the three teams I just discussed all have new managers though, isn’t it?

In the next three are North London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham as well as my beloved Liverpool. If I had to pick today which club finishes highest out of those three sides I would say Tottenham, but it is close and anyone’s guess, especially with all three teams still in the transfer market.

Tottenham have a super talented squad and added to it with the signing of Roberto Soldado and Paulinho. I really like their team and as long as they hold on to Gareth Bale they are in for a very competitive season. Unfortunately for Spurs fans, that is a big ‘if’ and I don’t think anyone really knows which white jersey Bale will be pulling on by the end of the season, Tottenham’s or Real Madrid’s.

In a similar boat is Luis Suarez at Liverpool. The Reds are still in their rebuild mode but with a bunch of good young players and some interesting new signings, Brendan Rodgers is finally starting to build a side that can once again compete and push for a top 4 place. Whether it is this year or not remains to be seen and the Suarez situation changes everything if he leaves on the eve of the season. At the time of writing however it appears as though he is going to stay and certainly not be sold to rivals Arsenal.

The fact that Arsenal look unlikely to sign Suarez, as well as missing out on most of their other main targets, leaves them in a tough spot. They have a good team as always but that’s about it. There is a growing group of fans calling for Arsene Wenger’s head and if they fail to bring in any of the gun signings they were after that unrest will grow further. I can’t see them slipping below 6th, but it is also entirely possible they finish 6th if they can’t improve their squad. Then again, they also could finish as high as 3rd if everything comes together.

The new teams in the EPL this year are Cardiff, Hull City and Crystal Palace replacing QPR, Reading and Wigan. Hull have made a number of interesting and solid signings and will hope it will be enough to stay up. It will be tough for them but they are capable. Palace adds yet another London club to the EPL, but I’d be surprised if they can hold their place. They would need Marouane Chamakh to become what Arsenal thought he was when they first bought him, but to be honest I can’t see it. It’s not impossible, but if I had to bet on a team going down it would be Crystal Palace.

Cardiff on the other hand are a fascinating case. For years they were on the cusp of being promoted and becoming the first Welsh team into the EPL, when all of a sudden their nemesis Swansea got promoted and have become a solid EPL team. Now Cardiff join them for the first time in what is sure to be an epic battle for supremacy of Wales. I can’t wait for their derby matches. Cardiff already had a team that I considered Premier League competitive and added a few solid signings, so I can definitely see them being able to stay up, but they need some luck as all promoted teams do. But it would be great if they could stay up a while and we could see a few years of Swansea and Cardiff doing battle in the top flight.

What about the other sides?

Aston Villa I think might struggle mightily this year, which would be a very big name club to be relegated if that were to happen.

Everton start the Roberto Martinez and could really go either way. Fulham have replaced Schwarzer with the very good Maarten Stekelenburg in goals, but need a better season than last year.

Newcastle also need a better year than last year and have signed Loic Remy to try fill the hole created when Demba Ba left for Chelsea.

Their local rival Sunderland just missed out on relegation last year and have overhauled their squad, hoping to survive this year.

Norwich have also made a number of changes, but all they really want at this stage is to solidify their Premier League status.

Southampton haven’t made many waves this off season but like Norwich will be looking to just stay solid in the middle of the pack.

Stoke have ended the Tony Pulis era and replaced him with Mark Hughes. Will they no longer play their much maligned but successful, physical style? If so, will it cost them?

West Brom had a great season last year and have brought in some old veterans to try improve on that. Anelka, Lugano and Gera? That’s a bit of a retirement village, but West Brom look to be doing well.

West Ham also had a decent season last year and just added Stewart Downing to go along with Andy Carroll and Joe Cole as part of the ‘Failed Liverpool Squad’. They could go either way depending on injury as they aren’t deep, but could be dangerous if they can keep their best side on the field.

I’m sure I left out plenty of talking points and you are welcome to comment with what you are looking forward to. Overall though I’m just excited to have the EPL back and look forward to many late nights on the weekend once again, especially if my jinx of watching Liverpool games is over and I am no longer sent to bed by fellow Liverpool fans.

You can read more of Daniel's work at Something Clever

The Ashes: Fourth Test Review

By Justin Davies ( @DragonPunk12 )

Screen shot 2013-08-15 at 4.40.47 PM

It has all just fallen apart.

The Ashes have been lost, congratulations England. Australia stumbled about shuffling the deck chairs but the only constant has been losing thus far (besides Manchester). Once again – there were changes for Australia as Jackson Bird came in for Mitchell Starc with Warner promoted to opening putting Watson in the middle order.

England called right at the toss again and looked to pile on the runs to continue Australia’s misery after failing to wrest the Ashes away from the mother country. It was going well for the home side at 2/149 but enter the Lyon. Nathan Lyon who had been rightly panned for his lack of wickets in this series, delivered – he had picked up Trott beforehand then followed up taking Pietersen, Bell and Bairstow to reduce England to 9/238 at the end of the first day.

Harris quickly took the final wicket and Australia had the whole of the second day to bat. The batsmen (besides Chris Rogers) didn’t get the memo as they reverted to type, losing quick wickets and being 4/76, Stuart Broad taking the majority of the top order and added two lower order ones for a first innings five-for. Day 2 belonged to Chris Rogers though, he stuck through the tough patches showing the form he procured in the County Championship over the last ten years finding an able partner in Shane Watson to guide Australia over 200 and importantly Rogers to his first century for his country.

Rogers battle to get from the 90s to the century was a mirror to his career, as he was being tested and prodded by Swann with men around the bat. He didn’t score for 19 consecutive deliveries before sweeping away his troubles. The tail followed shortly to give Australia a slender 32 run lead that proved the downfall of Joe Root to Ryan Harris. Harris much like the previous two tests was the chief wicket taker taking nine over the course of the test match.

He had a weight before taking the vital wicket though, as Ian Bell continued his stellar form in this Ashes series. In an innings that no other batsmen proved past the half century, Bell underlined the patience and determination that has been the trademark for his career since he evolved from the “Sherminator” nickname bestowed upon him by Shane Warne.  Bell now has three centuries in this series and four in the last five test matches but was aided by some lusty hitting by Tim Bresnan and Graeme Swann to push the target from a chase under 250 to 299. Australia had a day and a half to chase the target but could they maintain the sensible nature needed to get a win on the board.

First innings centurion Chris Rogers and David Warner put Australia on the best path to victory following a stand of 109 before Swann tempted Rogers to nick one to Trott. The stand was something that had been lacking in the previous three test matches – positive intent as Warner was scoring quickly with Rogers anchoring the other end to get Warner to a fifty. Despite the loss of Rogers, Australia continued to inch closer to the total getting to 4/174 over halfway towards the target before enter Stuart Broad.

Broad who has been the pantomime villain for Australian’s after his non walking in the first test showed why he is a devastating bowler on his day. He started with a cracking delivery to dismiss Michael Clarke which set in the rot and the familiar collapse which has plagued the Aussies in the last few years resurfaced. Broad though cranked it up to maximum, touching past 140 kms/ph swinging the ball just destroyed the already low confidence of the batsmen towards a ten wicket haul over the test match. A limp surrender briefly halted by Peter Siddle showing more grunt than most of the top order before the celebrations begun and it ticked over to 3-0 England with one game left to play. Australia out of answers and England loving every minute in their transformation in the 1990s England.

 

pic: the age

Wyndham Championship 2013 Preview

By Michael McGill ( @MickSportsNews )

Screen shot 2013-08-14 at 11.17.19 AM

The PGA Tour heads to Greensboro, North Carolina this week for the Wyndham Championship at the Sedgefield Country Club.

This will be the regular season finale as the players jockey for a position in the top 125 standings to extend their seasons.

Sedgefield Country Club has hosted this event since 2008. It is a Par 70 course measuring at 7177 yards. There are 48 sand bunkers and 13 water hazards that include twelve creeks and one pond.

The course was closed in May last year as the greens were converted from bentgrass to champion bermudagrass.

Teeing it up this week are seven past champions. Defending Champion Sergio Garcia, Webb Simpson, Arjun Atwal, Carl Pettersson, Brandt Snedeker, Davis Love III and K.J Choi.

Joining them will be six winners from this season including Derek Ernst, Sang-Moon Bae, Boo Weekley, Brandt Snedeker, Bill Haas and Jordon Spieth.

The bookies have the Top 5 in betting as: 14/1 Webb Simpson, 14/1 Brandt Snedeker, 16/1 Zach Johnson, 18/1 Sergio Garcia and 20/1 Bill Haas.

The emphasis this week will be on ball placement. If you get the ball in the right place on the fairway it will give you the right angle to the green.

Look for good driving accuracy and GIR stats this week. Sedgefield has played as one of the easiest Par 70 courses on the PGA Tour roster. Which is evident when looking at the winning scores over the past five years. -18, -18, -20, -16 and -21.

It will also pay to be a good putter as the greens are still young and are very undulating. They slope from back to front.

Looking at the field this week two players spring to mind.

Rory Sabbatini 80/1

When it comes to a guy who has six PGA Tour titles to his name and has hit a purple patch of form you can not go past Rory. After starting the season with four missed cuts from six starts Sabbatini has his game back to where we know it should be.

Sabbatini stands out this week due to his last three tournaments. T17th Sanderson Farms Championship, T12th Canadian Open and T7th Reno Tahoe Open has him hitting form at the right time. With a field that is missing the calibre of player we expect to see each week you can expect to see Rory taking advantage of this and showing why he has those six tour victories.

Stats wise he is ranked 25th in greens in regulation, 3rd in birdie average, 12th in Par 3 birdie or better average, 32nd in Par 4 birdie or better average and 17th in GIR percentage from other than fairway.

Rory represents excellent each way value this week. His current form in a low class field makes him stand out.

Hideki Matsuyama 33/1

For anyone who reads my previews you will know my thoughts on Hideki. There is no need to go into his excellent amateur career or his sensational form on the Japan Tour. All those results and stats have been mentioned on several occasions.

Lets look at his PGA Tour form since June. T10th US Open, T6th The Open Championship, T16th Canadian Open, T21st WGC Championship and T19th PGA Championship. Are there any other golfers who spring to mind with that kind of form? If there was, what odds would they be in this tournament? Not 33/1 that is for sure!

Look at the quality of the fields in the above mentioned tournaments and then look at this weeks event. They are chalk and cheese. I am almost considering Hideki to be the one of the best bets of the year! He will win on the PGA Tour sooner rather than later.

Matsuyama is one talented player with a very bright future ahead. This week could be the break through week!

Good luck and good punting.

Last Week

Henrik Stenson and Zach Johnson both gave us good reason to cheer over the four days. Henrik finished 3rd giving us an each way collect while Zach managed a T8th finish.