Saturday, 15 October 2011

Wallabies All Blacks Preview

Hopefully the Aus-NZ semi final is a bit more exciting than the three-point borefests thus far.

The Rugby World Cup is typically just an excuse for Northerm Hemisphere players, fans, referees and commentators to get moist panties over an endless slew of scrum penalties, rolling mauls and drop goals. While this year's tournament has been no different thus far, Sunday's 1v2 Semi Final blockbuster between the trans-Tasman rivals should offer an alternate form of excitement for those who prefer regular showers and refrigerated beer. Allow me to tear apart this matchup like it's one of those annoying air-tight plastic packages surrounding electrical goods...


     The Wallabies have the successful Super 15 and Tri Nations combo of Will Genia and Quade Cooper, and while Cooper had a shocker against the Boks in last week's Did-We-Seriously-Just-Win-That-Game quarter final, I am taking some solace in the hope that he physically can't play that poorly again (don't make me look silly here Quade). He should also lift for his inexplicable argy-bargy rivalry with All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw, despite the fact McCaw is about 20kgs heavier and is one of the most intimidating men on the planet. Cooper's irrational confidence reminds me of that scene in every Vin Diesel movie where a proven murderer is holding a gun at Vin's head and Vin just mumbles in that stunted English "you don't got the guts". That's Quade in the face of McCaw.
     As for the All Blacks, they will line up with Piri Weepu and Aaron Cruden, a bloke so forgettable I just had to look up what Super Rugby team he plays for. While Weepu is a class act who always seems to kill the Wallabies, a firing Genia-Cooper combo is close to unstoppable.
     Edge: Wallabies

     Let's assume Kurtley Beale either won't play, or will be severely hampered by that hamstring injury. This is a massive blow for the Wallabies, as Beale provides that third spark in attack and can also defend at fly half to allow Cooper to hide at the back. I have massive doubts about the presence of Adam Ashley-Cooper and the effeminate James "Brand" O'Connor in the backline, as they have seemingly been involved in every All Blacks thrashing over the past few years, and are about as reliable in big moments as John Terry in a penalty shootout. Pat McCabe is playing with a busted shoulder, and while Digby Ioane is a devastating ballrunner, his impact is nullified somewhat by the more conservative style of tournament rugby.
     Meanwhile, the All Blacks have the flair and creativity of Israel Dagg and Conrad Smith, two great finishers in Richard Kahui and Cory Jane, and Number #1 on the Guys I Would Never, Ever, Ever Want To Try And Tackle List: Ma'a Nonu. While veteran fullback Mills Muliani is injured, Dagg is arguably a better all-round player whereas Beale is far more irreplacable.
     Slight Edge: All Blacks

     Tony Woodcock, Kevin Mealamu and the immortal Brad Thorn are proven Wallaby killers (Woodcock is always worth a sneaky $5 for first try scorer - he has done it three times against the Wallabies), but the Australian combination of Vickerman, Moore and fearless leader Horwill should keep this contest fairly even. That is until we get to any set pieces...
     Edge: Even

     Openside Flanker: McCaw is by far the best rugby player I have ever seen, but is finally showing signs of slowing down and is possibly playing hurt. Meanwhile, David Pocock is carrying the Aussie squad like CT carried (the real) Johnny Bananas in the Cutthroat Gulag. If Pocock asked me to drop everything and run away to Zihuatanejo with him, I would seriously consider burning my thesis and going.
     Blindside Flanker: While I am still waiting for Rocky Elsom to reproduce his 2009 Heineken Cup form with Leinster, he is still a far better player than Kaino.
     Number Eight: Cult hero Radike Samo has a great running and passing game AND used to play for the Brumbies, but Keiran Read is the best Number Eight in the world.
     Slight Edge: Wallabies

     Time for a rant, proudly brought to you by Redfish Marketing Promotional Stressballs: Behind Genia, Cooper and Beale, Scott Higginbotham is the most threatening attacking player in the entire Wallabies Squad. He also happens to be 6'4, 115kgs, can jump in lineouts and ruck effectively. He has won a Super Rugby title and the All Blacks HATE playing against him. In every Test he has played in this year he has made an immediate impact. Yet he is completely left out of the side for Australia's biggest Test Match in eight years?! Why did the ARU give Robbie Deans a contract extension? Does Deans have the same agent as John Lackey? I don't even care who else is on either bench, I just want to repeatedly jam kebab skewers into my eye sockets.
     Edge: All Blacks

(For the record, I would play Berrick Barnes at inside centre for his tactical kicking and field generalship, with the hard tackling Faingaa at #13 and Higginbotham on the bench. But that makes too much sense.)


     The All Blacks have a solid, not spectacular scrum, however watching a Wallabies scrum is like having open heart surgery with Dr. Nick.
     Edge: All Blacks

     The Wallabies lineout was atrocious against the Springboks last week, but fortunately Victor Matfield can't play for the All Blacks as well.
     Edge: Even

     I haven't seen all that much of Cruden, but it can't be too difficult to be better than Jane James O'Connor.
     Presumed Edge: All Blacks


     Australia haven't beaten New Zealand at Eden Park since 1986. I would feel more confident wearing a "Hillary for President" T-shirt in the Deep South than a Wallabies Jersey in Auckland.
     Major Edge: All Blacks

     Australia have won two World Cups, New Zealand have won one. Australia won the last head-to-head against New Zealand, the Semi Final of the 2003 World Cup. New Zealand have been favourite in every single Rugby World Cup and hasn't won one since 1987. In fact, they haven't made the final for 16 years. I don't want to say the C word, but we are all thinking it.
     Major Edge: Wallabies

     Will Beale play? How bad is McCaw's injury? Will Robbie Deans win anything other than the praise of John O'Neil? Can Quade Cooper bounce back from his quarter final Betty Crocker? Will I angrily switch the game off at half time and YouTube Higginbotham highlights? Will O'Connor get some more blonde highlights before the game?
     Edge: TBC

Verdict: I don't want to go on record with any predictions, but I actually think the Wallabies match up better with the All Blacks than the Springboks. Both teams should play a similar style of attractive rugby as opposed to the relentless field position pressure applied by the Boks. Dan Carter is a massive loss for the Kiwis and Cruden hasn't been training with the squad throuhgout both this campaign and the Tri Nations. If Cooper has a blinder and Pocock can control the breakdown against McCaw, the Wallabies win by 1-12. That said, not even the Parramatta Eels drought is as long as the Wallabies' at Eden Park... 


Friday, 2 September 2011

NRL DreamTeam Grand Final Preview

After 25 weeks of late mail sweating, flop cheering, penalty cussing, covert inside information and sudden urges to brutally kneecap certain NRL coaches (watch your back Rick Stone), the 2011 season of NRL DreamTeam concludes this week with two big grand final matchups for the People's fantasy team Gobias Industries. And while it would be nice to secure the Community Shield of DT trophies with victory in one of the leagues, the team owner has placed particular priority on winning the Champions League against arch rivals Bilbul Bandits (coached by my buddy Karl). Allow me to put on a pencil skirt and break down this weeks' key match ups like Dr Melfi breaking down Tony's mother issues...


League Position(s): 3rd, 1st
Overall Position:
17 (of 86,808)
Season Summary: Having set the pace and sufficiently managed trades for the first half of the year, my season was unfortunately derailed by three big gambles that went horribly wrong. In order:
  1. Round 15: Trading in Tyrone Roberts for some bye cover. We all know how that played out.
  2. Round 16: Being convinced by Karl to bring in Kurt Gidley instead of Jarryd Hayne. Gidley was a late scratching (leading to a 1 point eliminator loss), got injured in his next game and spent the rest of the season languishing at fullback.
  3. Round 17: Trading out a goal-kicking-less Daly Cherry Evans for Chad Townsend for no other reason than to free up enough cap space to afford fantasy superstars Ash Harrison and Paul Gallen. Harrison lasted 14 minutes, Daly morphed into some sort of monstrous Andrew Johns/Jonathan Thurston hybrid, and a hobbling Gal became the single most life threatening selection for any DT coach with a heart condition.
A few more unlucky incidents down the stretch to key late season guns (Bailey's flu, Cronk and Halatau's injuries) played right into the hands of those already out of trades and eliminated any chance of winning the FJ Cruiser, but the team was reasonably consistent and out of the top 100 only once since round 3.


League Position(s): 1st, 3rd (Knocked out)
Overall Position: 11
Season Summary: Karl's strategic game can best be described as a combination of 2007 Bill Belichick and Russell Hantz's Heroes vs Villains strategy. While he has been accused on many occasions of copying everyone's trades and was even quoted as saying "I only brought in Fensom because all you other pricks have him", Karl did expertly manage his trades over the bye period and, if not for Halatau's injury and Glenn Stewart's proclivity for throwing haymakers would have found himself firmly entrenched in the top 10. Time will tell if he will stumble at the final hurdle, much like the 07 Pats and Russell.


Thanks to the lack of talent at Parramatta, Jarryd Hayne (BB) notches up 25 kick metre points a game and is responsible for every one of their tries and line breaks. His kick metre stats are helped by the fact he has an ego bigger than Wes from The Challenge, and is intent only on showing everyone how far he can kick a Steeden.
Unfortunately for Gobias Industries, Rick Stone's persistence on playing Ryan Stig at five-eighth - despite the fact he offers nothing to the football side apart from a step which has fooled opposition defence once in 10 weeks - is murdering Kurt Gidley's stats. After posting 46, 64 and 54 in the halves from rounds 13-18, Gidley has averaged just 33 since his move back to fullback.
Edge: Bandits (unless they start docking Hayne points for no-look hospital passes which results in either a teammate getting smashed or the ball going to ground)

Gasnier (BB) against Reed (GI). This will be more of a bloodbath than the entire Gears of War franchise.
Major Edge: Bandits

Since I sold him in round 17, Daly Cherry Evans has morphed into the equivalent of a long kicking, ball playing back rower, averaging a staggering 25 tackles a game. Throw in 20 kick metre points, try assists, line breaks and the odd 90m try, and Daly has officially become the dumped ex girlfriend who rebounds by dropping 20lbs, dying her hair and getting a boob job. On the other hand, Cooper Cronk will probably get 50 ... if he plays 80 minutes ... or at all. I will now gargle drain cleaner.
Slight Edge: Bandits

For the first time in 6 weeks, there isn't any late mail suggesting Paul Gallen is in doubt with his cocktail of calf, ankle and shoulder injuries. The Beast from the South East should be up for a massive game in front of his home crowd in his 200th NRL appearance.
For the Bandits, Glenn Stewart is icing his knuckles (oh wait ... he doesn't need to) this week forcing Karl to either trade or play one of his reserves. (NB: I think its ridiculous that the match review committee charged Blair with an additional count of "striking" for actually being a competent enough fighter to land a punch. Was Stewart not trying to land any of the 25 punches/strikes he threw wildly? Would an incompetent gunman not be charged for spraying bullets at a target but ultimately missing with each shot? This saga has become the latest example of the Tony Soprano Paradox.)
Edge: Gobias Industries (although Karl Belichick will probably just trade in Gal to "cover" me).

Luke Douglas (BB) vs Sam Thaiday (GI). Douglas is a better points-per-minute scorer, but Thaiday will probably play 80 minutes in what could be a tough middle-third battle against Manly. However, Brisbane are basically assured of 3rd spot on the ladder, so Anthony Griffin may opt to rest some of his rep forwards. More concerningly, if these fiery silvertails decide to start another stink, Third Man Sam could be having an early shower. Sam, if you are reading this, the least you could do is put Daly out of the game. Thanks big fella.
Edge: Even

Will I play JT over Mannering/Srama and hope he hits a 60? Will karma be a bitch for Karl? Will Broncos and Storm players get rested? Will Luke Douglas ever get injured? Will Daly man up and actually get involved in a brawl? Has Ryan Stig really been kidnapped for tonight's game? Can Justin Verlander cover the 1.5 run start against the White Sox? When will the NBA lockout end? Do Shane Watson and Michael Clarke know how to convert starts into centuries? Will I punch Karl when I see the shit eating grin on his face?
Edge: TBD


Head to Head
Bilbul Bandits $1.35
Gobias Industries $3.30

Bilbul Bandits (-28.5) $1.90
Gobias Industries (+28.5) $1.90

Happy cricket season!


Friday, 19 August 2011

Chathu's Classroom - Ending the SSD Lockout

Having finally agreed to a new CBA with SneakySportsDrivel, I too have decided to end my lockout, so I'm back baby.

Now in my downtime I've had the chance to watch what was billed as a tight contest between two evenly matched test cricket teams. And while watching Zimbabwe's resounding victory over Bangladesh in Harare  took up most of that time, I've also been able to take a peek at England vs India.
India's largely abysmal performance of late reminded me of my childhood. Let me take you back to U15's and U16's club cricket. At this age the more skilled young cricketers, such as my illustrious blog colleague, had moved on to the glitz, glamour and sex, drugs and rock and roll world of grade cricket, leaving the rest of us (including yours truly) to grind it out on the club scene.
In these final years of junior cricket what I noticed was that a lot more of the kids playing were only there because they were made to. Regardless of how good they may or may not have been, they looked forward to Saturday mornings about as much as anyone looks forward to lining up in front of Ma’a Nonu. What was bleedingly obvious was they just did not want to be there.

India at the moment is one of these kids. While they just want to go and do something cool with their friends, or go play in the IPL, their parents are living vicariously through them and making them turn up every Saturday.

Granted Tendulkar, Dravid and Praveen Kumar have put in. And I’ll excuse Amit Mishra, I mean he’s just not very good. But Laxman decided to stop scoring runs after the two tests it took him to realise the white men he was playing against weren't Australian. Dhoni seems to be carrying out a German Homer Simpson-esque non-violent protest against catching. Anything. Sehwag missed the first two tests, then spent as little time as possible actually on the field in the third.

Now granted injuries haven't helped and they are playing a team at the peak of their powers away from home. And the word 'rest' or 'break' don't seem to be part of the BCCI's scheduling vocabulary. But still, some effort would be nice lads, even if you just pretend you still like playing test cricket.


Sunday, 14 August 2011

20 things I'd rather do than watch Alistair Cook bat

  1. Watch the Wallabies play the All Blacks at Eden Park.
  2. Light myself on fire.
  3. Lose NRL DreamTeam to Karl.
  4. Chug drain cleaner.
  5. Support the Roosters.
  6. Challenge CT to a physical contest.
  7. Slow down Paul Gallen's play-the-ball.
  8. Remove a urinary catheter without an anesthetic.
  9. Watch the Pauly D/Deena kiss on a repeated loop.
  10. Start an argument with CT.
  11. Rip my fingernails out with a pair of pliers.
  12. Try to chat-and-cut in front of Larry David.
  13. Try and actually catch a Jarryd Hayne no-look pass (HA!).
  14. Experience waterboarding.
  15. Watch Jarrod Croker and Taniela Lasalo try and tackle.
  16. Allow Bret Hart lock in the Sharpshooter for 15 minutes.
  17. Listen to Tim Gilbert call the rugby league.
  18. Make CT angry.
  19. Cook crystal meth for Gus Fring.
  20. Study Civil Engineering. Yes, it's THAT bad.

    Sunday, 19 June 2011

    The Nicolas Cage Decision

    Tyrone Roberts was MIA, regardless of what the Late Mail said.

    Having built an impressive body of work in character-driven dramas from 1985-1995, including a Best Actor Oscar for his performance in Leaving Las Vegas, Nicolas Cage seemingly decided to steer away from intense method acting roles, instead growing a series of weird hairdos and churning out a multitude of D-grade action movies like Drive Angry, Season of the Witch, Knowing and Ghost Rider. While Cage is often criticized for not pursuing Academy Awards, he still gets to cash eight-figure cheques and perhaps not devote as much time and effort to each role, and most of his movies are still big box office successes anyway.

    Well like Cage's career, there comes a point in every serious NRL Dreamteamer's season when he/she makes the tough decision to forfeit any challenge to the overall rankings and instead just focus on their head-to-head leagues and the eliminator. Sure, you may not be able to win the car and bragging rights over 83,076 other players, but at least you don't have to pump in as many painstaking hours around the bye weeks and you can still make some easy cash if you placed pre-season wagers with your league mates. Well, for me and my team Gobias Industries, this point was precisely 5:30pm on Saturday, 18th June. For those still in the hunt for the FJ Cruiser, I will try and retroactively chronicle all the significant moments that led to this decision*, in the hope that you can perhaps see the warning signs in the future and not feel a sense of monumental failure like I currently do.

    * I had originally intended to film an hour long interview for ESPN regarding my decision, but it appears I was beaten by a bloke in the States who thought of this ingenious idea 11 months ago. I suppose now Lebron can say he at least won something this year. Too soon, Miami fans?

    Friday, 10th June: Round 13 Lockout
    Despite the early season benchings of Sam Rapira and Shaun Fensom, as well as Simon Mannering and Matt Prior's unexpected shift into the centres, Gobias Industries is sitting pretty in 22nd place overall with $175,000 in the kitty and 15 trades remaining. Just prior to lockout I flirt with the idea of bringing in a basement-cheap Corey Norman for Beau Henry, however I decide to save the trade since Henry will start in round 17 anyway.

    Saturday the 11th June: Titans announce Henry signing
    For the second time in 12 months, Wayne Bennett forces the 2010 Toyota Cup Player of the Year out of his club for the following season, with Beau Henry joining the Gold Coast effective immediately. My master plan of keeping him for round 17 falls apart like Lebron in crunch time, since the Titans have the bye then. If they had announced the signing 18 hours earlier, Gobias Industries would have offered Corey Norman a contract and cleared him to play in round 13.

    Sunday, 12th June: Things start to fall apart
    Norman sends a big eff-you to Gobias Industries management with not only a massive 51 points, but also a victory over my beloved Raiders. Across the ditch, Lewis Brown is outscored by even Krisnan Inu, while James Maloney has forgotten how to tackle AND kick goals.

    Monday, 13th June: Bellamy botches interchange rule
    Jared Waerea-Hargreaves puts a huge shot on Gobias Industries' Adam Woolnough, while Frank-Paul Nu'uausala is placed on report for a proceeding swinging arm. Thinking he had earned a free interchange, Craig Bellamy mistakenly substitutes Woolnough 5-10 minutes earlier than usual. The interchange is eventually stripped from the Storm, and Woolnough doesn't play another minute. At this stage I am beginning to feel cursed like Red Sox fans from 1918-2004.

    Tuesday, 14th June: Post-lockout and round 14 teams announced
    Gobias Industries slips nine places to 31st overall. Tyrone Roberts is named to start at 5/8 for Newcastle, and at $94000 is set to see large price rises - especially if he replicates the 32 that he produced last start against the Warriors (with a now injured Mullen doing all the kicking back then). Of greater concern is Glen Fisiiahi's return for the Warriors, as he will now replace the solid Jack Reed as Lowest Scorer in Case of an Emergency. And with scores of 2 and 6 on his resume, that is a terrifying thought, especially after the Luke MacDougal Emergency Fiascos of 2010 (let's not go there).

    Having a player like Fisiiahi in your squad is like going to a nightclub with an ex who is still keen on you, only she looks like George Rose*. You would much rather try your luck with the elite, attractive women at the club, but if something goes wrong she will jump in and unsuccessfully try to fill the void.

    * I don't have any ex's that look like George Rose.

    Friday, 17th June: Trading Day
    Corey Parker is scratched from the Brisbane-Saints showdown after failing to recover from niggles sustained in Origin II. Since Tyrone Roberts should see about a $40k price rise by round 17, I decide to take a big gamble and trade Henry for him now and hope he outscores Reed and Woolnough (which is likely for a starting half). The late mail provided by the Daily Telegraph, Sportsnewsfirst,, Peter Sterling, Twitter and individual club websites say the Knights' only concerns are with the fitness of James McManus and Dan Tolar. I bring Roberts in as fourth reserve, along with Nathan Smith for Lewis Brown.

    Saturday, 18th June: The Decision
    I tune into Fox Sports 2 to see some bloke called Ryan Stigg confidently striding out onto Ausgrid Stadium as a "late" replacement for Tyrone Roberts. I briefly wonder if it's physically possible to fly to Townsville and kidnap Fisiiahi before his kickoff, but instead just decide to sit through the horrendous Knights-Penrith game, filled with penalties and Nathan Smith errors. Post game, the Stigg reveals he knew he would be playing on Tuesday. Tuesday! Either Rick Stone is as helpful as Johnny Tightlips when asked about team news, or our Late Mail providers are about as competent as these guys.

    Fisiiahi gets torn to shreds by Kalifi Faifai Loa, and is lucky to score 11 points. If they subtracted points for atrocious reads in defense, the Fish would have scored about -25. The Warriors decide to abandon long range kicking in the second half in exchange for low percentage chip-and-chase plays, and Maloney scores just 10 fantasy points. I spend the rest of the night moping around like Tobias when George Michael took his hard-boiled eggs.

    So that's how Corey Parker, Beau Henry, Wayne Bennett, Rick Stone, Tyrone Roberts, Peter Sterling and Glen Fisiiahi all inadvertedly combined to obliterate the countless hours of hard work I have devoted to acheiving Dreamteam glory since early February. Like Nick Cage, I will now spend my time in the D-grade action-adventure world of league play and eliminator showdowns. That's if I don't light myself on fire first...


    Saturday, 18 June 2011

    Chathu's Classroom - The Stanley Cup Finals

    Some thoughts on the Bruins first Stanley Cup in 39 years:

    • Tim Thomas deserved to win the Conn Smyth Trophy and will win the Vezina. He was near impenetrable, letting in only 8 goals in 7 games. Pink Floyd were so impressed with him that when Thomas was 5 they named their 3rd studio album and seminal work progressive rock after him.
    • Roberto Luongo on the other hand was more like a sponge. He could only absord so much, but eventually he leaks.
    • It may not be as good as this, but hearing the packed TD Garden sing Shipping Up to Boston is pretty awesome.
    • I'll be honest, after watching the Canucks leading up to the finals I was worried about the Sedin twins. But not only did the Bruins' 1st line of Seidenburg and Chara shut them down, the Sedins earned themselves the ''sisters'' tag. And there's nothing wrong with identical twin sisters from Sweden.
    • In general the Bruins outhit the Canucks. Someone should tell Vancouncer that you don't win physical battles by giving away embellishment penalites.
    • Brad Marchand went from 20 games with a lone assist and no goals last season to being Boston's most potent attacking weapon against the Canucks, with the highlight no doubt being his shorthanded goal in Game 3.
    • Like most cricket teams around the world, Boston were unimaginative and dull with their powerplay for all of the playoffs. While it was still fairly anaemic in the finals, the Bruins' penalty kill made their special teams look fantastic compared to the Canucks.
    • Kevin Bieksa is a champion. He was the only Canucks defenseman who contributed meaningfully on offense, an aspect in which the Bruins had a clear edge.
    • Zdeno Chara is now my number one favourite Slovakian athlete*.
    • If you're going to a game 7 at the Rogers Arena in Vancouver, take public transport. Don't drive.


    * Editor's note: Personally, I would still pick Daniela Hantuchova at #1 in my Slovak athlete Draft.

    Thursday, 9 June 2011

    Chathu's Classroom - Things I'd rather do

    Things I would rather do than watch Farveez Maharoof bowl:

    • Tackle Akuila Uate. Just ask Benji Marshall.
    • Watch Craig McLachlan perform stand-up.
    • Stand under a window at Lord's.
    • Be an NFL fan in 2011. Oh wait...damnit.
    • Ice-skate near Aaron Rome.
    • Step into the Octagon with Cain Velasquez.
    • Be US Congressman Anthony Weiner right now.
    • Goaltend for the Vancouver Canucks.
    • Defend Dirk Nowitzki.
    • Make out with Snooki.
    • Go on a date with Francesca Schiavone.
    • Watch this season of 'Dancing with the Stars'.
    • Visit Kim Duthie in a hotel room.
    • Go on a bender like Stu in The Hangover II.

      Hashan Tillakaratne should do Sri Lankan fans and the whole cricketing world a favour and blame him for match fixing.

      Or they could just not pick him. Either way works for me.


      (Editors Note: 'Things I'd rather do than watch Alistair Cook and Jonathan Trott score runs' was the second option for the title of this article. The two are mutually inclusive.)