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.)

      Tuesday, 7 June 2011

      Cricket Australia's 25 man 2011-12 contract list announced

      Simon Katich is not the only one scratching his head.

      Assessing CA's annual contract list is like trawling through the line-up of acts at an upcoming music festival. Each list invariably contains the following ingredients:

      Major Headliners: These guys are hugely popular, have obtained a large following over a number of years and command the largest pay packets - so they had better sell tickets and perform on the biggest stage. Typical major headliners are Ricky Ponting, Michael Hussey, Shane Watson, Metallica, Van Halen, U2 and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

      Over-rated Minor Headliners: Generally these guys had an immediate impact on the industry and became "it" guys, but as their fame and popularity grew exponentially they became over-commercialised to the point where their original fans struggle to relate to them any more. Now they get paid too much, are seen and heard in every commercial, and end up robbing deserved performers of time on the main stage. Michael Clarke, Mitchell Johnson, Kings of Leon and 30 Seconds to Mars are all examples of these guys.

      Exciting Underground Performers: Promising prospects who have been hugely impressive during smaller gigs, and are surrounded by alot of buzz but have not yet gone "mainsteam". Pat Cummins, John Hastings, Ryan Harris, Stone Sour, Billy Talent and A Day to Remember are all Underground guys.

      Recurring Acts: These guys perform at the same level every year, and will continue to be awarded the gig unless poor form or injury/illness strikes. Most of the names on each list fall under the Recurring Acts category, such as Brad Haddin, Peter Siddle, Cameron White, Birds of Tokyo and Grinspoon.

      Unfortunately, each list is always missing two or three performers you wish the governing body had signed, especially when the Chairman of selectors of that governing body is a full-time lawyer who "couldn't select a Sutherland 1st grade side" (Source: Sutherland 3rd grade captain at the time) in the 1980s. To continue the music analogy, these guys are proven big stage performers, have just released a great new album and have gone on a critically acclaimed world tour, but for whatever reason the organisers feel like it is just not "the right time". Here are the top three snubs (in my opinion) of this year's contract list, in reverse order:

      3. Ed Cowan
      Scored a tough, gritty 133 in the Sheffield Shield final against a fired up Cummins and metronomic Trent Copeland. Is made of the right stuff for Test cricket: patience, good temperament, toughness and most importantly given the recent Ashes series, an ability to leave the ball outside off stump (I still can't get the nicking montages out of my head from last summer). Especially given how ordinary Phil Hughes was against England (avg 16), Cowan seems like the logical man for the job.

      2. Trent Copeland
      Am I missing something here? This guy is 6'5, swings the ball both ways with McGrath-like accuracy, has the engine to bowl all day (he trundled in for a whopping 56.2 overs in the Shield final!), has taken an astonishing 80 Shield wickets in just 15 matches AND comes from New South Wales! Usually that last factor alone is enough to get you an Australian gig. Given Mitchell Johnson's propensity to bowl at least one horrible ball every over, Australia needs an accurate presence at the other end to create pressure. There is no way Brett Lee would have been as effective as he was in the early 2000s without McGrath and Warne at the other end to tie the opposition batsmen down. At just 25 years of age as well, it just seems unfathomable that Copeland has not been considered.

      1. Simon Katich
      After being dropped following a reasonably poor 2005 Ashes series (he averaged 27.55, which incidentally is higher than Clarke's 21.44 and Ponting's 16.14 from last summer's series), Katich re-earned his position in the side the old-fashioned way; by sheer weight of runs. He set a Sheffield Shield record for most runs in a single season with a whopping 1506 at a Bradman-esque average of 94.12. Okay, so he was "only" facing domestic bowlers, but are there any other batsmen in the country capable of producing those numbers?

      Since getting the opportunity to open the batting for Australia during the 2008 tour of the West Indies, Katich has been Australia's most consistent batsmen, averaging 50.94 and scoring Test centuries in the Caribbean, India, South Africa, New Zealand, England and Australia. In addition, he added the toughness and leadership to the side that once had Steve Waugh proclaiming him to be a future Australian captain. In the three Ashes tests that Katich was injured for, Australia averaged a pathetic 249, including being embarrassed on Boxing Day for 98 all out on a greenish wicket similar to the Gabba in 2008 where Katich defiantly carried his bat for 131* against New Zealand.

      At today's press conference, Andrew Hilditch said the reason for Katich's axing was to "start blooding our next opening partnership in preparation for the Ashes two years from now". Presumably this means sticking with the same Watson-Hughes partnership that yielded a disgraceful run-out in Melbourne and an average opening partnership of just 33.67. Hilditch implying that Katich at 35, is too old is also curious given he selected Hussey (36) and Ponting (36) in precisely the same squad. Also, if Hilditch's law firm offices picked up Fox Sports he would have noticed that the likes of Sachin Tendulkar (38), Rahul Dravid (36) and Jacques Kallis (35) all averaged well over 40 in 2010 - in fact Tendulkar scored more Test runs than anyone in 2010, amassing 1562 runs at 78.10.

      Of course the conspiracy theory doing the rounds on Twitter is that the frosty relationship between Katich and new captain Clarke was a contributor to the axing. There was the infamous "Song-gate" incident in 2009, where Katich allegedly grabbed Clarke by the throat following Australia's thrilling win over South Africa because Clarke wanted to sing the team song early to spend time with his girlfriend Lara Bingle. There were also persistent rumours that the older members of the team didn't respect Clarke as a captain. If these whispers were somehow true, surely that is just another reason to vote Lara off Dancing with the Stars. 

      (Note: I'm not sure if she is even still on that show - I refused to watch it after learning that Bingle, Nathan AND Haley Bracken, Steve Bracks' son and that busty wife of some AFL identity were this season's "stars".)

      The Australian cricket team have a couple of huge tours in the next 12 months, and only time will tell how each guy will perform. However, based on the current line-up, it unfortunately looks like it could be more like Stewie at Woodstock than Hendrix.


      Tuesday, 24 May 2011

      State of Origin Game 1 Preview

      Will Lockyer lift the shield in his final year?
      After a truly horrible split-round of rugby league, where the only highlights were a Canberra victory and Shaun Fensom captaining my DreamTeam with a whopping 178 points, thankfully State of Origin I is on Wednesday to remind league lovers that not all NRL players have the same sporting skill-sets as our former Prime Minister. With two ferociously competitive former Canberra legends at the helm of each team in front of a full house in Brisbane, it promises to be a cracker.

      Having spent last Friday night honouring Frank Sobotka's famous ''shot and a beer, Dolores'' drinks order, Chathu will describe the Blues' chances using an epitaph from one of the greatest drama series of all time, The Wire. And since I was born in Meninga territory and raised by a maroon-blooded father, I will try and provide a few unbiased arguments about how this great QLD team can go 1-0 up.

      Chathu's NSW Preview

      “If animal trapped, call 410-844-6286”
         - Baltimore, traditional

      Much like the way this epitaph symbolises most of the characters on The Wire appearing hopelessly trapped in the political and criminal Baltimore environment, for the last few years the Blues have been taking on a seemingly hopeless task of beating Thurston, Lockyer, Smith and Slater. Crime is still high in Baltimore and the Blues haven’t looked like winning a series for five years, and over most of that time I think I had more confidence in surviving in a Louisiana swamp than in a Blues victory.

      So while you may think it is probably best just to watch the 2005 State of Origin DVD that you picked up at a $5 JB Hi-Fi bin instead of watching the actual coverage, I think there are a few reasons for a touch more optimism this year:
      • While this may be the wrong time to continue with an incumbent halfback who seems to get picked a lot more on his defense rather than his relative lack of ball playing skills and 5 straight club losses leading up to Game 1, continuity is something that QLD have thrived on, and there seems to be a bit more of that creeping into the Blues selection policy. 
      • We’ve got the better back row, hard not to as there were multiple combinations the selectors could have gone for and still got it right thanks to the depth at this position. 
      • Willie Tonga has had his troubles in defense for the Cowboys inside a young winger and Dane Nielsen is a rookie, so playmakers like Uate and Gasnier will have something to target as long as the halves can get them the ball at the right time and place.
      • There are about a thousand Dragons in this team. So if it comes down to a game where penalty goals are only allowed NSW will win. But in all seriousness the Dragons are handy so their combinations can’t be a bad thing. 
      • Picking the right props helps. Snowden is a monster and King is a fantastic player and has been for some time. Can’t see why coming off the bench for most of the year makes Trent Merrin a better selection than fantasy monster Aidan Tolman, but hey baby steps right?
      However after all this the point is QLD has much more talent at fullback, five-eighth, halfback and hooker.  So while my jersey and heart say Blues, that pesky brain of mine is unfortunately saying QLD.

      And remember Blues fans, we only need to win one game to make Coach Stuart happy (I mean c’mon, really Ricky???)

      AB's QLD Preview

      While Chathu inadvertently chose an epitaph from an episode where a popular recurring character was brutally executed for hanging around the game a little too long, based on the past five years a more appropriate quote from The Wire would be:

      "You come at the king, you best not miss"
                - Omar Little

      It is fitting that this famous quote from one of the greatest television characters of all time perfectly captures the career of one of rugby league's greats, Darren Lockyer. In the past 20 years there has not been a greater crunch time performer than the retiring skipper, having scored or set-up match-winning tries an absurd amount of times. Whether it be a last minute try against the Poms to clinch game 1 of the absorbing 2003 Test Series, or snatching loose passes from Brett Hodgson and Jarryd Hayne to steal Origin games during this five-peat, there is no more bankable winner winner in rugby league today. For the past 15 years, NSW have been coming at the King 2.0 and have missed more often than Shaq at the free throw line.

      On paper it is true that Queensland have the more impressive side, with 10 Australian representatives from this months Test match taking the field on Wednesday. So much has already been said about this current team, so instead I will try and quell some of these myths Chathu has been reporting:

      NSW ''Continuity''
      While NSW have persisted with 10 players who were trounced by QLD last year, they have failed to include Jarryd Hayne, by far and away their best player in the past two series. While he may be my least favourite sporting athlete of all time (and this is definitely not an understatement), as a QLD fan I would much rather see him drifting around looking disinterested at Parramatta Stadium than Suncorp Stadium.

      Mitchell Pearce's form brings me to my second theory following last week's popular Tony Soprano Paradox: The Jeremy Piven Effect. While Entourage is awesome because of the mateship, sledging, celebrity cameos and copious amounts of female nudity, the show is essentially carried by Piven's brilliant performance as neurotic agent Ari Gold, so much so that the other actors look good and are even given the odd Emmy or Golden Globe nomination. However, when you go and see a movie starring only Adrien Grenier or Kevin Connolly (think Harvard Man or Rocky V), you realise ''wow, that guy really sucks''. That is the Jeremy Piven Effect - his great performance made everyone believe the other guys were good. Famous sporting examples of the Jeremy Piven Effect in action:
      • Pearce, who in 2010 was billed as one of the premier halfbacks in the NRL during Todd Carney's stellar Dally M season. However in 2011, with Carney on the sidelines, Pearce led his team to 5 straight losses.
      • Daniel Mortimer, who earned a $350,000+ contract following his breakout year in 2009 alongside the freakish late-season performance of Hayne. Fast forward two years, Hayne is about as consistent as the Kurinji flower blossoms, and Mortimer was dropped after being revealed as one of the most uncreative pivots in the NRL.
      • Ricky Ponting, whose legacy as the most successful captain ever has been tarnished in the dark days since Warne and McGrath retired.
      • Fernando Torres, who left Steven Gerrard at Liverpool for a record £50m fee and couldn't score for Chelsea.
      Anyway, back to Origin...

      NSW Back Row is "Better"
      Here is a fairly interesting stat:
      • Combined Origin series wins for Myles, Harrison & Thaiday = 15
      • Combined Origin series wins for Gallen, Bird & Scott = 0
      While I agree NSW have selected a very strong back row, the QLD boys know how to get it done at this level.

      QLD Centres
      Are people forgetting that Willie Tonga has played 5 of the last 6 Origin games? He is hardly a ''second string'' centre as some members of the press are billing him. He destroyed Matt Cooper last year - the same Matt Cooper the NSW media is begging to return to rep footy.
      The Verdict
      Despite the above factors, I expect the Blues to be much more competitive than the past few years, particularly given Sticky isn't restricted by club coaching duties. I expect Queensland to win by 1-12 ($3.05), but the match will be close enough that NSW will likely cover the +5.5 start.

      Saturday, 21 May 2011

      Chathu's Classroom - Buffalo Bills and the Dark Arts

      Recently I've been watching America's Game, a fantastic series by NFL Films that looks at every Superbowl winning team. If you happen to watch the episodes 1990 through 1993 you'll notice the same team is at the big dance every year, and loses. Every year. This team is the Buffalo Bills.

      On each occasion the Bills were stronger than their opponents and got so very close but never far enough.
      Of course this article will not qualify as drivel without a trashy pop culture metaphor - so in this case the Bills struggles for world domination echo those of the dark wizard Lord Voldemort.

      In Superbowl XXV the all powerful Bills led by Jim Kelly got within 1 point of Bill Parcells' Giants, only for their fate to be put in the hands of kicker Scott Norwood who promptly missed. Voldemort's attempts at leaving his plans in the feeble Professor Quirell's hands were not particularly successful either.

      In Superbowl XXVII the Bills couldn't stop turning the ball over to the Cowboys, getting Troy Aikman far too involved and in the end they never stood a chance. And lets be honest, once Fawkes got involved in the Chamber of Secrets, there was no way Tom Riddle was ever knocking off Harry.

      Finally in Superbowl XXVIII,  it looked like the Bills agony would end as they led by seven at halftime.
      But a crucial Thurman Thomas fumble for a touchdown return turned the game and Dallas went home with the bacon once again. Everyone remembers that moment in the Goblet of Fire; with Cedric dead, Harry mano e mano with the resurrected Voldemort surrounded by Death Eaters, where you thought 'well I won't have to save up for a fifth book'.

      You thought after all that effort, Lord V is finally gonna get his man. But a crunching tackle from the twin wand cores caused a Voldemort fumble and a Harry Potter recovery and return to Hogwarts for a TD. From all these comparisons it is fairly certain that The Dark Lord is a season ticket holder at the Rogers centre.

      So just a warning for Bills fans out there: You should probably steer clear of the the last Harry Potter movie (regardless of Emma
      Watson), because the way it ends for Voldemort doesn't exactly bode well for his favourite NFL team. 


      Saturday, 14 May 2011

      The Tony Soprano Paradox

      Five years after he left our screens, Tony's presence is still being felt in the world of sports.
      Forget salary caps, concussion rules, lockouts, PEDs and heavy workloads during rep footy season - the single greatest factor influencing your team's results every weekend is the Tony Soprano Paradox. 
      Doesn't it seem astonishing that after countless acts of murder, assault, extortion, torture, illegal gambling, drug trafficking and money laundering, the only thing the feds ever arrested Tony for was giving his ailing mother a stolen airline ticket? For whatever reason, the authorities just couldn't punish him for anything. Well, the same applies to sports; some teams can proverbially 'get away with murder'.

      For a team or individual to benefit from the Tony Soprano Paradox, they must exhibit the following characteristics:
      1. They must be unanimously loathed by everyone other than their own fans. Was there a single Sopranos character who at one point during the seven years didn't hate Tony's guts? Even his own mother and uncle conspired to have him clipped!
      2. They must possess a great amount of money and power, obtained through slightly shady means. While sports team officials may not carry money-filled duffel bags and collect payments like this, whether we like it or not the mere thought of a powerful and cashed-up team is intimidating.
      3. They must be inexplicably popular with attractive women. There is no way the balding, 300lb, two-chinned Tony is landing Irina, Gloria, Valentina and Christopher's stunning Vegas mistress without some supernatural forces at play.
      With these elements in mind, let's look at a detailed case study of the Tony Soprano Paradox influencing one of the most popular sporting leagues in the world:

      Case Study - Chelsea F.C
      If we examine Chelsea's last two English Premier League games, it appears Carlo Ancelotti's men have been even luckier than a peyote-fueled Tony at the roulette table. At White Hart Lane three weeks ago, both goals Chelsea "scored" were riddled with controversy; the first is likely to challenge Frank Lampard's disallowed goal against Germany at the 2010 World Cup as Exhibit A in the argument for goal line technology reviews. Forty four minutes later, Salomon Kalou kicked the winner from a position so offside that it could have been flagged by Stevey Wonder. Wearing a blindfold. In a blizzard. At Old Trafford a week later, referee Howard Webb refused to send-off an already warned Branislav Ivanovic after at least two clear-cut professional fouls, and must have been preening in his Escalade with a cuban cigar while Lampard handled Antonio Valencia's cross in the penalty box. Are these examples just innocent evidence of Chelsea experiencing a very, very fortunate run at the roulette table, or is the spirit of Tony Soprano living on in West London? Let's look at the criteria:

      Criteria #1: Stamford Bridge is a fortress for away teams thanks to Chelsea's passionate fans, but to others there is arguably no sports team in the world with more philanderers, divers and generally unlikeable characters. Think John Terry, Ashley Cole, Lampard, Didier Drogba, John Obi Mikel, Nicolas Anelka, Fernando Torres and Ivanovic; in other words, Russell Hantz is more popular with a Survivor jury than this lot is with the general public.

      (We're one from one, let's move on to Criteria 2)

      Criteria #2: Owned by the entertaining Russian oil tycoon Roman Abramovich, who has been allegedly involved in various wrongdoings such as blackmail and loan-fraud.

      (I'd rather throw a drink at Ron Artest than get on Abramovich's bad side. Two from two.)

      Criteria #3: Some examples of female Chelsea fans include Sienna Miller, Tara Reid, Danni Minogue, Geri Halliwell and, once-upon-a-time the lovely Cheryl Cole.

      As long as we're talking Tara Reid circa 1999, thats a perfect three from three! So rest easy, EPL fans - once the Tony Soprano Paradox takes effect, you are essentially like one of the women the big guy sets his eye on... powerless.

      Other Examples of the Tony Soprano Paradox
      Here are a few more cases of the Tony Soprano Paradox around the world:
      • The 2010-11 Miami Heat: Hated after The Decision (in which Lebron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh may have illegally conspired to play on the same team way back in 2008) and Welcome Party, yet somehow were awarded 38 free throws to Boston's 20 in Game 5. In fact, Wade and Bosh alone shot more free throws than Boston's entire team!
      • The Sydney Roosters: Silver-tails of the NRL, and never get punished for their numerous off-field indiscretions in recent times like other clubs are. Why was Todd Carney de-registered by the NRL when he was playing for Canberra, yet on his fourth 'last warning' at the Roosters, the NRL did nothing?
      • The Indian Cricket Team: Have all the power and influence in world cricket, and as the farcical 2008 tour of Australia showed, rival cricket boards will weaken at the knees like a Rolling Stones groupie to comply with their every demand.
      • The St George Illawarra Dragons: Is there a more powerful figure in rugby league at the moment than Wayne Bennett?
      • FC Barcelona: Jose Mourinho even perfectly described the Tony Soprano Paradox in his now infamous post Champions League press-conference.
      So next time you want to bag the referees/umpires over a poor performance against your team, check to see if the opposition display the three characteristics of the Tony Soprano Paradox. Then all you can do is just sit back like Bobby Bacala and think 'Quasimodo predicted all of this'.


      Tuesday, 10 May 2011

      Chathu's Classroom - Darren Sammy Syndrome

      Has your team contracted it?
      Darren Sammy Syndrome (DSS) is a relatively new condition where an international one day cricket team’s captain is inexplicably a very very average all rounder.

      It is associated with teams that are just rubbish at one day cricket. A dysfunctional cricket board can be present but not essential.

      The aforementioned captain can do little-to-nothing with the ball other than bowl straight regardless of the fact he is tall. His batting consists of a quickfire 20 or 30 odd every 20 games. Tactically he is as unimaginative as his bowling.

      Treatment is simple surgical removal of the offending player. Prognosis is good if treatment is early. Failure to identify the disease early may lead deterioration of the team’s results and, in the worst case scenario, consistently being beaten by Pakistan.

      On the 5th of May 2011, the English one day cricket team was diagnosed with Darren Sammy Syndrome. 


      Tuesday, 3 May 2011

      The Top 10 Most Frustrating Facebook Friends

      Facebook is like professional wrestling - everyone seems to construct an overly dramatized and theatrical persona to try and make things more entertaining, impress the opposite sex and create a spectacle. My sister, for example, will very rarely utter swear words in everyday life, but get her in the Facebook ring and she becomes a brash, trash-talking John Cena type. While some Facebook characters are awesome like Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock, most of them are like this new breed of douchey white guys, who offer little entertainment and instead just infuriate every member of the audience.

      With that in mind, here's one man's list of the "Most Frustrating Facebook Friends":

      10. The person who feels it necessary to ‘like’ every new page created
      While some mildly entertaining pages are created during a significant world event (Exhibit A: the Royal Wedding), few things are more annoying than finding out that John Smith likes “that one person that you can talk to for hours without getting bored”. I am not making this stuff up.

      9. The customized check-in
      Being a proud 6610i user, I don’t really understand the concept of ‘checking in’, but I’m guessing it is used to:
      a) Make people jealous that you are at an awesome location (e.g. Overseas, Casino, Sports, Concerts etc)
      b) Notify stalkers and axe murders of your exact position
      c) Annoy everyone by clogging their news feed with garbage like “M2 traffic jam”,
      “most boring lecture ever” or “Johns living room”

      8. The person who provides constant word count updates on the essay they are working on
      Do they want help? Encouragement? A warm beverage? I’ll never know…

      7. The girls who post photos of themselves in front of the mirror with the camera visible
      You know the photos; two or three girls often in a hotel or nightclub bathroom somewhere, performing a series of pouts, Blue Steels, tongue-pokes and borderline lesbian activities – all somehow choreographed while holding the camera. This despite the fact you can see that the camera is technologically advanced enough to have a self-timer.

      (Note: Absolutely inexcusable for a guy to do this – but we will get to that)

      6. The seedy guy who tries to flirt by commenting on girls’ photos
      Often the creepy admirer of #7, this guy has the remarkable ability to make everyone else feel like they have just got off a Gravitron after three Pluto Pups and six flat beers fresh in their guts. Generally looks like a cross between Michael Cera and The Situation, this guy’s modus operandi involves initiating some excruciating dialogue with some smooth compliments like ‘stunning photo babe’ or ‘dammn girl!’.

      5. The person who, after casual conversation at a bar or club will ask for your full name so they can add you as a friend immediately on their iPhone
      More popular with females, but bonus points here if a guy commits this felony (it is actually one of Karl’s signature moves – a little like Benji’s goose step or Edge’s spear).
      There is a tinge of jealousy about this selection for a couple of reasons:
      • I am neither handsome nor charismatic enough to have women begging for my surname on a regular basis, and
      • My Nokia 6610i can’t pick up Internet, let alone perform complex social networking functions.

      4. The guy who delivers the same birthday message to everyone
      “Happy Birthday! Have a good one!”

      If anyone tries to tell me they have never received these sincere, heartfelt wishes I will personally enforce the Dolores Umbridge ‘I must not tell lies’ detention treatment. Getting this birthday message is like getting a compliment from a stripper – you feel special for a very brief instant then realize she says the same thing to every other bloke in the club, and instead you just feel a deep sense of shame.

      3. The well-built guy who posts a series of shirtless photos of himself flexing
      OK, so the guy has worked hard to develop his 24 inch pythons, but there is no need to turn everybody’s newsfeed into an online Tower 200 advertisement – it makes most guys uncomfortable, and it’s very unlikely that girls are throwing their cyber panties at him.

      If there is anyone worse than the Shirtless Flexing Guy, it’s his complimentary buddy who posts comments like "looking huge bro" or any overused Anchorman reference to "the gun show".

      2. The Humblebragger
      Harris Wittels describes a Humblebrag as "a specific type of bragging which masks the brag in a faux-humble guise. The false humility allows the offender to boast their 'achievements' without any sense of shame or guilt." Here are some common examples:
      • "Well, looks as though my body can't handle yesterday's 120kg bench press sesh #sniff #sosore"
      • "Some guy just asked for my number and I was like 'dude, I haven't even got makeup on today'. Awkward."
      • "It just doesn't seem fair to run up a $4000 bar tab at Ivy when there are so many starving and dehydrated people in the world."   

      1. The guy who uses Facebook as an outlet to update the world on every single aspect and nuance in his life
      Usually a very close relative of the Check-In Guy and the Essay Update Guy, Mark Zuckerberg should just use his slick programming skills to publicly humiliate these guys like he did to Rooney Mara at the start of The Social Network. Popular posts include:
      • Letting others know his whereabouts, e.g. “is back in Sydney! WOOO!”
      • Keeping people posted on his stage of intoxication, e.g. “6 jager bombs down and its not 10pm yet!!”
      • Informing everyone about his dietary/sleep habits, e.g. “late night snack with coffee…YUM” and “argh can’t sleep”
      • Fishing for concerned comments after posting deep, emotional feelings, such as “wish for once I could find the right girl…sigh”
      • Performing the local weatherman duties, e.g. “so cold outside!”
      • Updating everyone with their state of health, e.g. “just had an epic gym sesh…so tired!”
      I could go on and on, but I worry I might turn into this guy soon, so I think it’s time to call it a day.