Thursday, 28 April 2011

Chathu's Classroom - The NFL Draft

Despite the fact that NFL players and owners continue to squabble over money like Paul McCartney and Heather Mills, the 2011 Draft will still take place on Friday (Australian time) for teams to recruit America's most eligible young players. Note: I have no idea what the term 'lockout' actually means - the only thing I know about NFL management is that Ari Gold was looking into creating the LA Gold, but eventually got thwarted by that old bloke from Dallas in his fancy new stadium (one of the more horrendous acting performances on that show, which is a noteworthy achievement given Adrien Grenier and Kevin Connolly are the two stars).

Since arguably no Colombo born, Dapto & Wollongong raised, 21 year old medical student knows more about the NFL than Chathu, who better to provide top ten predictions than Tom Brady's #1 fan?

  1. Carolina: Cam Newton. The Panthers need a QB and some pulling power for crowds. Newton is a big boom-or-bust prospect but they need to take a chance in a tough division.
  2. Denver: Marcell Dareus. The Broncos were 31st in run defense last year, so Dareus will help there. As the others have fallen away, the Crimson Tide DE has risen to the top of the '11 class.
  3. Buffalo: Von Miller. While they need many things, a QB isn't one of them, so they'll go defense at 3. While their run defense is an issue, Miller will help in a division with Brady and Sanchez.
  4. Cincinatti: Blaine Gabbert. Carson Palmer looks to be on his way out and they've got no obvious replacement.
  5. Arizona: Robert Quinn. The offense stunk last year. The defense stunk last year. The fact that talent in this draft is front 7 determines this pick. Quinn runs Miller close as best pass rush option this year
  6. Cleveland: A.J Green. McCoy needs a target and Green is the best there is.
  7. San Fransisco: Patrick Peterson. A good run defense last year, the pass defense needs improvement. Great value for a #7 pick.
  8. Tennessee: Nick Fairley. The Titans will address QB in free agency whenever that may be. Despite his issues, Fairley has talent.
  9. Dallas: Nate Solder. The Cowboys can't afford for Romo to go down again - Solder is the best offensive lineman in the draft.
  10. Washington: Justin Houston. Gives Orakpo a partner in crime - no QB worth it here.
My great hope is that the Patriots will move up, but they won’t. My ideal picks will be Ryan Kerrigan DE (Purdue) at No. 17 and Anthony Costanzo/Danny Watkins at No. 28 depending on who’s available. 33 will be at a premium, we will get some value out of that for sure.


Saturday, 23 April 2011

NBA First Round Predictions

Having spent the past couple of blogs whinging more than Ricky Stuart in a post match press conference, this article will instead focus on one of the most exciting NBA seasons since Michael Jordan retired. Unfortunately it seems a majority of Australian public's knowledge of basketball is limited to:
  • The only sport that tall people can play apparently. Number of times I have heard the words 'wow you are really tall do you play basketball?', 10242. And counting.
  • The bald guy on that E! show married to the ugly Kardashian sister plays it.
With that in mind, the following NBA predictions will be made by comparing the remaining playoff teams to current Australian sporting sides.


San Antonio Spurs (#1) vs Memphis Grizzlies (#8)

Current Series Score: 1-1
Australian Spurs: NSW Waratahs - always over-hyped by local media, find ways to win ugly in the regular season, unlikely to threaten in the playoffs.
Australian Grizzlies: A hybrid team featuring the likes of Michael Ennis, Kevin Muscat, Campbell Brown, Paul Gallen and Andrew Symonds - a sizeable, tough side that loves a sledge and has the irrational confidence to knock anyone off on a given day.
Player to watch: Zach Randolph (Grizzlies) - a 6'9, 260lb cross between Barry Hall, Todd Carney, Ben Cousins and that Kiwi bloke from Souths who decked Jason Taylor during Mad Monday celebrations. Who doesn't love watching a loose cannon?
Prediction: Memphis to cause a huge upset in 7 games, Sportsbet to pay out $8 for a certain punter.

Los Angeles Lakers (#2) vs New Orleans Hornets (#7)

Current Series Score: 2-1
Australian Lakers: The Victorian Bushrangers - probably the best team in the competition provided all players are available for selection, however there are some doubts that aging legs will spell an end to their recent dominance.
Australian Hornets: The Parramatta Eels - a one man team, only the Hornets' man Chris Paul is much tougher, more consistent, less selfish and tries about fifteen times harder than Jarryd Hayne. Probably would fight with his fists, too.
Player to watch: Paul (Hornets), the Jonathan Thurston of the NBA. Destroyed the Lakers in game 1 with 33 points, seven rebounds and 14 assists, all on one leg.
Prediction: Lakers to be too strong across the court and win in 6.

Dallas Mavericks (#3) vs Portland Trail Blazers (#6)

Current Series Score: 2-1
Australian Mavericks: Hawthorn Hawks - generally considered the underachievers of the league. Have been eliminated in the first round in three of the past four years.
Australian Trail Blazers: Brisbane Broncos - quality roster on paper, plenty of size and strength in defense, and play at home in-front of the most raucous crowd in the comp.
Player to watch: Dirk Nowitzki (Mavericks) - runs a little like Forrest Gump with leg braces, but is the league's best clutch scorer, and is arguably more valuable to the Mavs than any other player in any team.
Prediction: Portland in 7 - Dirk may be the best player on the court, but Portland probably have the next best four and will be too hard to beat at home.

Oklahoma City Thunder (#4) vs Denver Nuggets (#5)

Current Series Score: 2-0
Australian Thunder: Queensland Reds - Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have the flair and ability to score plenty of points like Quade Cooper and Will Genia, while Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins provide toughness and defense that is crucial to winning big games. (On a related note, how good has the Reds' defense and scrum been this year!? Not since the Eales era has an an Australian scrum dominated those from South Africa and New Zealand.)
Australian Nuggets: Couldn't think of one, but the Nuggets are most like the prison basketball team from The Longest Yard. They are the most tattooed team in the league, and their high tempo game could easily translate to a dusty outdoor court with chains for nets, hard fouls and onlooking inmates wagering cigarettes and vigorously chest thumping after every alley-oop.
Player to watch: Durant (Thunder), whose orangutan like arms propelled him to the NBA scoring title for the second consecutive year.
Prediction: OKC to win in 6 and go one step further to the Conference title and my 10 to 1 payout.


Chicago Bulls (#1) vs Indiana Pacers (#8)

Current Series Score: 3-0
Australian Bulls: Collingwood - great mix of youth and experience, best defensive record in the competition and have the attacking players to post huge scores.
Australian Pacers: Newcastle Knights - one of those teams that drifts in and out of the playoffs, and is unlikely to progress any further than the first round.
Player to watch: Derrick Rose (Bulls) - the raging MVP favourite, and hopefully won't get screwed out of that title by moronic voters like Dane Swan was at last years Brownlow. Is averaging 33-6-5 in these playoffs.

Miami Heat (#2) vs Philadelphia 76ers (#7)

Current Series Score: 3-0
Australian Heat: Melbourne Storm, only if Cam Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater were forced to play with over-hyped park footballers and washed up veterans. Like the Storm with the salary cap scandal, the Heat are universally despised after The Decision, and rely way too much on Lebron, Dwyane Wade and to a lesser extent, Chris Bosh. Received a lucky draw for the playoffs by drawing the 76ers instead of the Knicks, who match up with the Heat much better on paper.
Australian 76ers: Doesn't matter. Anthony Watts has a better chance becoming the next ambassador for Women in League than the 76ers have of progressing.
Player to watch: Wade (Heat) - arguably a better crunch time scorer than Lebron, and also he can do this.
Prediction: Miami to be far too strong in 4.

Boston Celtics (#3) vs New York Knicks (#6)

Current Series Score: 3-0
Australian Celtics: After the Perkins trade, more of a poor man's St George Illawarra Dragons - foundation built on tough defense, but often has trouble scoring points. Watching Rondo and the post Perkins Celtics is like watching Entourage without Turtle - he may only be the fifth best guy in the show, but he gives the group an identity and without him, Vince would be devastated and sulk around like when Mandy Moore dumped him in Season 2.
Australian Knicks: Wests Tigers - entertaining at times, led by two quality attacking players (Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire), but offer little in defense and are lacking depth in the roster.
Player to watch: Carmelo Anthony (Knicks) - a one man show in Game 2 with a mammoth 42-17-6.
Prediction: Celtics in 5, Kevin Garnett (the Nathan Hindmarsh of basketball) to be too strong defensively for Amar'e to be effective. Huge round two match up between the Heat and the Celtics, with the result riding on the fitness of injured Celtic Shaquille O'Neal.

Orlando Magic (#4) vs Atlanta Falcons (#5)

Current Series Score: 1-2
Australian Magic: Fremantle Dockers - consistent team with a good mix of youth and experience, but rely too heavily on their big man (Aaron Sandilands for Freo, Dwight Howard for Orlando).
Australian Falcons: Sydney FC - pay an unworthy 'franchise player' (Joe Johnson) way too much money, but have a decent all round squad that is capable of upsets.
Player to watch: Howard (Magic) - the most dominant player in the NBA when he feels like it (which isn't always the case). Averaged a ridiculous 40-19 in the first two games, and the hopes of the Magic rests on his obscenely broad shoulders.
Prediction: Orlando to scrape home in 7, only to be smoked by the rampaging Bulls in Round 2.

Stick with these tips and you will be abseiling from your wallet in no time.


Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Chathu's Classroom - Going off Early

The first blog contribution from Sri Lankan fashion icon (and the DeVito to my Schwarzenegger) Chathu has finally arrived. After a particularly tough day in a three piece suit in the Royal Randwick slop, Chathu had the following thoughts about Saturday's showcase race, the Doncaster Mile:

Going off Early 

Going off early never works.
Trying to get off the line too early at traffic lights to get ahead of the car next to you inevitably ends in you misjudging the lights, accelerating for no reason and stopping abruptly. In short, you look like a dick.
Going off early at the start of the 100m sprint can cost you a medal, and you feel like a dick. However back in the Matt Shirvington days your dicky-ness would pale into insignificance compared to what Shirvo would proudly display in his tight running attire.
Going off early at a concert - disaster. You know the guy, the one who only semi knows the band and jumps in early with every lyric. He looks like a dick.
I hear its not too popular in the bedroom either.
And going off too early in a wet Doncaster Mile on a handicapped More Joyous just did not work Nash Rawiller.
Now I, after my sizeable wager on aforementioned horse, look like ... (you guessed it) a dick.


Monday, 11 April 2011

The Good, the Bad and the Canberra Raiders

"There's no use in denying it: this has been a bad week. I've started drinking my own urine."
--Patrick Bateman

Ok, so that was just an excuse to quote one of my favourite books of all time but honestly, I haven't felt this down since I watched Season 2 of Skins in one sitting. Having spent most of the week trying to absorb insufferable uni tripe, I had high hopes for the packed sports weekend. Unfortunately:
  • The Raiders continue to play with about as much discipline as Ron Artest, Schalk Burger and Happy Gilmore combined, slumping to their fourth consecutive loss to the lowly ranked Panthers. Matt Orford is shortening in the race with Jarryd Hayne for the 'Worst Season by a Former Dally M Winner' award, while I find myself constantly glancing at a Road to Wrestlemania type clock counting down the seconds til Terry Campese's return (at the time of print it stood at around 4,814,748s. And counting). I do feel a bit sorry for Ox - it's not his fault the club brought in a 5'9 half with no running game and a 25m kicking range to replace a 6'1, 101kg five eighth who can dropkick 65m, punt 70m and barnstorm through defensive lines by himself. Its like trying to plug Standley Chasm with some Selleys No More Gaps. Speaking of plugs, I will accept cash donations in exchange for a bit of product placement - I will be waiting eagerly by the phone Selleys.
  • In the Malaysian GP, Mark Webber's car suffered a KERS failure on the formation lap, so not only could he not use the additional 80HP all race, but he also had to carry around 30-40kgs of dead weight that did not provide any assistance or entertainment the entire race. Mark must now know how Indiana Jones felt in the Temple of Doom (note: I am NOT referring here to Short Round - one of the more underrated sidekicks of all time). Despite dropping seven places at the start and performing an additional pit stop than the other front runners, Webber produced a great drive to finish 4th.
  • While Webber was rallying, everything was falling into place for Boy Wonder Vettel. First Webber's KERS was 'accidentally' broken by a Red Bull mechanic (I may be paraphrasing a bit here), then Heidfeld held up Hamilton, then Petrov held up Hamilton, then Hamilton had a poor pit stop, then Hamilton held up Button, then Alonso hit Hamilton - all allowing Vettel to cruise to victory. It would be great for racing fans that, instead of seeing battles for 3rd and 4th place we see drivers jockeying for the lead. Conspiracy theorists will also point to the fact that Vettel's KERS worked fine at the start of the race... The movable rear wing seems to be helping the cars reduce drag down the pit straight, leading to much more exciting racing and plenty of overtaking opportunities. Maybe even Vettel will be able to pass this year without hitting someone if need be. Great qualifier and frontrunner - not so great a racer.
  • I officially handed in my resignation to NRL Tipping (a little like this) when I realised I almost broke four knuckles and my replacement phone in a fit of rage after Manly's buzzer beater against Cronulla. I don't ever want a reason to care about a Manly-Cronulla game that much again. That said, Anthony Tupou's brain fade to go for an intercept when 13-12 up on Manly's likely final play ranks up there on the Dumb Decisions Scale with JT giving Russell his Immunity Idol in Survivor: Heroes vs Villains and Matt Dunning's late field goal when the Tahs needed a try to advance.
  • Uate, my $13.20 pick in the Inglis Stakes got beaten on the line by a nose after setting the pace.
  • Tottenham got embarrassed by Real Madrid at the Bernabeu to all but end their Champions League hopes. Peter Crouch suffered an identity crisis and not only thought they were playing at Fenway Park, but also forgot he is an uncoordinated, 6'7 lanky striker and got booked twice in the first 15 minutes to earn himself an early shower. Hopefully Harry will offload him to his 11th club in 11 seasons. Why on earth was he lunging twice in opposition territory in the first 15 minutes of the away leg of a vital tie?!?!?! Give yourself an uppercut with your Inspector Gadget like arms.
  • The Celtics received a good old fashioned schoolyard beat-down by the Bulls who officially clinched the #1 seed in the East. The only thing missing from the win was Carlos Boozer giving Big Baby Davis a severe pink belly, Keith Bogans noogie-ing Ray Allen's polished melon and Rajon Rondo leaving the United Centre in tears after Derrick Rose dacked him in front of the world. That last one actually happened (metaphorically at least).
  • Jason Day and Adam Scott fell just short of claiming the Masters, which was won by a South African bloke I have never heard of. Overnight leader Rory McIlroy suffered a Greg Norman type day down the stretch to card an 80. CBS also won the award for 'Theme Song for a Sporting Event Most Likely to Put Early Morning International Viewers back to Sleep' .
  • Neshen cost me a fortune by winning our weekly Buck Hunter contest not once, but twice. Reports of a huge betting plunge on Nesh at $4.50 in the rural town of Griffith are being investigated by police.

I suppose it wasn't all bad. On the bright side:
  • Gobias Industries (my NRL DreamTeam) are pulling away from Karl's Bilbul Bandits after he decided on a Kendrick Perkins type trade leaving him with interchange prop Tariq Sims scoring a paltry 9 points for the side. Cam Smith continues to produce bumper DreamTeam scores, amassing a whopping 76 points despite being substituted for the last 8 minutes (Parramatta played so poorly that Bellamy could afford to rest his guns). On that note, Melbourne look to have the same hunger this year as Clubber Lang in the first 30 min of Rocky 3 - still paying $8 for the title...
  • The Oklahoma City Thunder continue to gain momentum heading into the playoffs, taking the Northwest Division (earning me $360 in the process after winning in Denver at 1-10) and smoking the Lakers down the stretch today 120-106 at the Staples Centre. With LA and Dallas stumbling heading into the playoffs, it seems absolutely absurd that OKC are still at $11 to win the Western Conference. Speaking of absurd, Miami are still $2.62 favourites to win in the East, despite having only three guys, no rebounders, a rubbish bench and no big men. I also use the term 'three guys' very loosely; if the Miami season was The Hangover, LeBron and Wade would be Phil and Alan (providing 95% of the value and entertainment) and Bosh would be Doug (gets top billing with the other guys, quality at times, incapable of carrying the film alone, goes missing for extended stretches and his buddies are always trying to find him). After Thursday's game in Chicago, the Bulls look specials for the Eastern Conference at $2.85.
  • The Brumbies broke their five game losing streak by sneaking home against fellow cellar dwellers The Hurricanes, the Reds are on top of the Super 15 after a tough win in Cape Town, and the Swans screamed home like Black Caviar down the stretch to record a win against arch rivals West Coast.
  • Shane Watson belted a few sixes as Australia beat Bangladesh in a couple pointless One Day International I'd wager 85% of people either didn't even know took place or didn't care. We just lost the Ashes and the World Cup in the space of three months but jeez we looked good against the #9 ranked ODI side... 

  That brings an end to this cathartic diatribe. Check back next week for possibly a Doncaster Day retro diary (including a Patrick Bateman like analysis of Chathu's wardrobe) and maybe even an NBA playoffs preview.


Monday, 4 April 2011

Pilot - Michael Clarke's Popularity, Golden Slipper and more...

        With cricket season being washed away with Sydney’s March downpour, I have been alarmed at the amount of concerned comments from People more or less saying ‘What on earth will we do during winter without your insightful and entertaining commentaries during the season?’ (I swear I didn’t just make that up). More importantly, what will I do with the void that has now been pried open on Saturdays and is threatening to be filled by 4th Year Civil Engineering? 
  1. Grow a beard, wallow in my own self-pity and have the same ‘we need to go back’ attitude that Jack had once he left the island on Lost. Since my pathetic excuse for facial hair (sparse, sporadic growth with reddish tints throughout – think the young, nerdy guy in every Survivor season who makes it about 25-30 days) is disrespectful to the likes of Brian Wilson, Brett Keisel, Dan Vettori et al, I won’t even attempt it.
  2. Sit at the computer all day researching fracture processes of steel fibre reinforced concrete, finite element analysis, elastic theory, transport systems and the latest work of Charlie Sheen’s girlfriend and her colleagues. Sadly, I only made one of those up. Maybe…
  3. Sit in front of the television and grow increasingly frustrated as my hard earned gallops away with every dodgy tip I receive from ‘experts’ and ‘insiders’ at Sydney’s Autumn Racing Carnival.
  4. Satisfy the People’s demands as well as my own creative urges by keeping a semi-regular blog about anything sport, fantasy NRL, gambling, entertainment and offseason progress of the Carlo Waratahs Cricket Club (the Harlem Globetrotters of Park Cricket).
Since the ship has well and truly sailed on any potential ‘The Decision’ gags and you have spent approximately the past 74 seconds reading the twaddle above, it’s pretty clear I have decided to write a blog. Besides, it allows me to sit at a computer, browse the net, watch sport and still gamble/complain about my losses all in one go. Everyone wins. Here’s what has been happening the past couple of weeks:

Michael Clarke was appointed Test & ODI Captain of the Australian Cricket Team, a position considered the second biggest in the country behind Prime Minister – and the citizens of Australia stood up as one and toasted their new leader.

(Erm…not exactly)

The fact is, despite impressive statistics (almost 5000 Test runs at 46.5, over 6000 ODI runs at 44, 2 Allan Border Medals and probably the best fielder on the team) Pup remains about as popular as an STI. A Daily Telegraph poll in January revealed only 15% of punters wanted him in the job – and these are people in his home state! He’s like that guy in high school who tags along with all the cool kids, somehow gets an invite to all the parties but everyone else is muttering ‘I don’t know what it is about him, but I just don’t like that guy’. Let’s try and break it down by comparing Pup with the past four beloved skippers in the areas that resonate with the Australian People: Legacy, toughness, clutchness (it’s a word), memorable performance and off field persona.

Mark Taylor (Captain 94-99)
Regarded by Shane Warne as the best captain he played under, won home and away Test series against every nation (including winning in 95 in the West Indies for the first time in 22 years), 1999 Australian of the Year, and as Wisden put it “Border stopped Australia losing. Taylor made them into winners”.
Toughness: Opened the batting for 10 years against the likes of Curtley Ambrose, Courtney Walsh, Malcolm Marshall, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Shoaib Akhtar and Allan Donald to name a few. Also this was back in the days where Test wickets weren’t as friendly and docile as Kenneth from 30 Rock.
Clutchness: No Australian Captain in the past 25 years had been under more pressure to retain his spot than Taylor prior to the 97 Ashes Tour of England. He had not passed 50 in his past 21 Test innings, and after contributing just 7 in Australia’s first innings capitulation of 118 on a seaming Edgbaston track in the first Test, a second innings failure would surely spell the end of his career. In typical Tubby fashion, he scratched around early but went on to score 129 to show everyone he wasn’t finished yet. While I would have loved for Tubby to deliver a big up-yours to the media (much like when Bernard Hopkins stared down every member of the ringside media after his upset win over Kelly Pavlik), he was too humble and instead focused on retaining the Ashes 3-1. (It should also be noted that during this period Taylor fronted the media alone, without management – unlike Clarke, who palmed off press conferences until the Boxing Day Test this season).
Clutchness Scale: In the last four minutes of Game 7 for the NBA Championship, Tubby would look awful with ball in hand but somehow get to the line and drain all his free throws.
Memorable Performance: Batted two whole days in 50 degree Rawalpindi heat to amass 334 (equaling the Don’s Australian Record), then unselfishly declared overnight with the record in sight to allow Shane Warne to spin Australia to victory. He obliged.
Off Field Persona: Respected member of Channel Nine’s Commentary Team, star of tasteful Fujitsu commercials, and now famous for blowing his O-ring during Peter Siddle’s hat trick.

Steve Waugh (Captain 99-04)
Continued Australia’s dominance post Taylor, including winning a record 16 consecutive Test matches, broke the record for most wins as captain as well as winning the 1999 World Cup against all odds (after a slow start Australia had to play seven sudden death matches to win the Cup). One of the great sledgers of all time.
Toughness: A burnt steak would cower in the presence of Tugga. Never had the most elegant technique, but made up for it through sheer guts and a will to stay at the crease. On a green Trinidad pitch in the ’95 series, Waugh famously confronted the 90s most fearsome fast bowler, 6 ft 7 Curtley Ambrose during a gritty 63* out of just 128. The following test, Tugga defied the menacing Windies attack for 9 hours with a career best, series winning 200. He wore so many 150km/hr thunderbolts to the body that Paul Reiffel later wrote “when he came back to the dressing room at the end of day two, we could see the spots and bruises on his body”. The man was hard as nails and the poster boy for Australian grit.
Had ice water for blood, and always preferred to come in at 3-50 than 3-350. The most memorable clutch performance came at the 99 World Cup, in the final Super Six game against South Africa. With Australia needing a win to progress to the semis, things weren’t looking good at 3-48 chasing the rather imposing SA total of 271. Enter the Australian skipper, who proceeded to hammer the SA attack to all parts of the ground for an unbeaten 120* – including the now famous ‘you just dropped the World Cup’ sledge to poor Herschelle Gibbs, who had decided to celebrate like Peter Griffin scoring a touchdown without having first caught the ball. Another measure of Waugh’s clutchness – his highest scores in Test and ODI cricket came in the grandest stages respectively during his career.
Clutchness Scale:
Would be able to take on The Undertaker at Wrestlemania, and win.
Memorable Performance:
With the axe hanging over his head during the 2003 Sydney Ashes Test, Waugh brought up his 10,000th Test run (3rd person to do so) and hit the last ball of the day to the fence to bring up his century and walked off the SCG to a standing ovation.
Off Field Persona:
Won Australian Father of the Year in 2005, appears in awesome Johnnie Walker ads that show highlights of his career, released one of the longest autobiographies ever, worked as an advisor to the 08 Olympics Team, and is desperately required as Head Coach of the Australian Cricket Team.

(Note: this is the first of what will be about 145670 demands for Waugh to replace Nielson as National Coach – I even tried asking the great man himself in the Members Stand at the SCG this year, although after about 8 beers in the sun I don’t think I came across as eloquent as I can be.)

Ricky Ponting (Captain 04-11)
Legacy: Second best Australian Batsman of all time, most statistically successful (say that 5 times fast) captain of all time – 2 World Cups, 2 Champions Trophies and one of the most popular cricketers Australia has produced (what fan wouldn’t like a guy nicknamed Punter?).
Toughness: Got into a street fight outside the Bourbon in Kings Cross in 99, and proudly displayed his black eye at the media conference. Can anyone imagine Michael Clarke in a street fight? He would be the guy that hangs around the outskirts trying to look menacing until the Peacekeeper (there is always one of these guys in every group) steps in to hold him back, at which time Clarke would start kicking and screaming insults like Ronnie and Sammi during Season 3 of Jersey Shore.
Clutchness: Scored 140* in the winning 03 World Cup Final – is there a better crunch time situation than that?
Clutchness Scale: Needing 2000 points to win a 3 trek safari on Big Buck Hunter, Ponting would be able to take out all 3 bucks, 5 critters the trophy kill (even if it was the Black Panther) and any hidden bonus on the site. Then he would Double Perfect the final Bonus Round just for good measure.
Memorable Performance: Hard to pick just one , but his 156 on day 5 at Old Trafford to save the third Ashes Test (2005) against one of the best fast bowling quartet’s ranks as one of the greatest captains knocks I have seen.
Off Field Persona: Loves a gamble on the greyhounds, has a 2 handicap at golf (once beat Aaron Baddeley in match play), appears in a little too many ads on TV but we can forgive him because hey, his nickname is Punter!

Michael Clarke (Captain 11-)
Captained one Test. Australia lost by an innings and 83 runs. Extremely good batsman when Australia is coasting, not so good under pressure.
Toughness: I am drawing a blank here…
Clutchness: When Pup walks to the crease does anyone think “It’s ok. Clarke’s coming in we will be alright” like we all thought when Waugh and Ponting strode to the wicket? More importantly, I can’t think of a single example where I can safely say “Thank god for Michael Clarke, if it wasn’t for him we would have got smashed”. And before anyone brings up Sydney 08 v India, let me quickly quash that:
  1. His performance came with the ball, not the bat. That’s like if Season 3 of Eastbound and Down became an Emmy winning gritty drama centering around Kenny and April’s tumultuous relationship while trying to raise a child and still juggle Kenny’s spiraling drug habit. Danny McBride gets paid to make people laugh. Michael Clarke gets paid to score runs (he doesn’t even bowl anymore).
  2. Andrew Symonds won that game for Australia on day 1 with his career best 162* when Australia had their backs against the wall at 6-134. Incidentally, Clarke had the impressive returns of 1 and 0 in that Test Match. A few months later and Clarke had orchestrated Roy’s dismissal from the Australian team.
In fact, one of the main reasons Australian cricket fans dislike Clarke so much is because of knack of performing when Australia really needs him. Here are a couple of Clarke’s recent acts of anticlutchness (and I didn’t just make that word up).
  1. Day 4, Adelaide 2010. Australia has been bent over for 4 days by England, and is desperately batting for a draw with rain forecast for the following day. Leading Australia’s staunch resistance is Clarke, who is looking comfortable on 80. With one over left in the day, England skipper Andrew Strauss tosses the ball to Kevin Pietersen (with a whopping 4 test wickets to his name), probably because he is sick of hearing the Aussie contingent chant ‘KPs a wanker’ while fielding on the fence. Two balls later, and Clarke has somehow gotten himself out and subjected Australian viewers to more footage of KP fist pumping than Vinny at Seaside nightclubs. What was worse, instead of fronting the press or better still, going to his hotel room and performing self-mutilation all night (like this) he immediately goes on Twitter and APOLOGISES for not walking. Michael, Australians don’t give a shit if you walk or not (in fact you would probably be more popular if you stay put – can you imagine Tugga walking? That would be as shocking as finding out Mr Blonde owned a beloved cat called Chloe) but they do care whenever we fold to England.
  2. World Cup v Pakistan 2011. Australia are 3-90 and in the process of rebuilding with Clarke and Cam White at the crease. Clarke then proceeds to run White out, then a few overs later plays a shot that was less graceful than Jason Stevens on Dancing with the Stars to get himself out. Australia gets rolled and loses at the World Cup for the first time in 12 years.
Clutchness Scale: John Terry in the 2008 Champions League Final penalty shootout.
Memorable Performance: Scored a brilliant 151 on debut in India which basically earmarked him as Australia’s Next Captain from that point on.
Off Field Persona: Where do I start: Broke up with long term girlfriend for Lara Bingle (known only for a tourism catchphrase and breaking up Brendan Fevola’s marriage), angered team members by allegedly wanting to sing the victory song quickly so he could make a dinner date, appears in ludicrous Bonds ads where he plays tennis with a cricket bat and catches the ball in his crotch, flew home during a tour of NZ to break up with Bingle after buying her a 200k Aston Martin, sports a very un-Australian diamond studded ear-ring  and probably likes FTV and orders vodka martinis instead of beer.

And that’s another problem with Clarke – he doesn’t identify with the common Australian. Punters can relate to the tough, uncompromising, Australian manner of cricket that Waugh, Taylor and Ponting played and are worried about the reins being handed over to the product of a well-oiled PR machine they couldn’t imagine sharing a beer (or vodka) with. That guy in high school who no-one really liked but was allowed to tag along with the cool kids has now become the alpha dog of the coolest group in Australia…

In other news,

  • Golden Slipper Day was harder to pick than a broken nose, with 6/9 trifectas paying more than $1000 (No I did not benefit from any of them). Ironically one of the easier races for punters was the Slipper itself, which is usually like watching a game of under 7s mixed soccer – no concept of strategy, at least eight players all madly chasing the ball, one or two get distracted by the crowd and slow down to show off and there is usually a couple of kids with advanced libido’s hungrily eyeing off the young fillies (with names like ‘Smart Missile’ and ‘Fast and Sexy’, no wonder the gun colt and fancied filly were controversially scratched from the race...)
  • The Canberra Raiders managed to grind out a tough 79min win over the Titans 22-16 despite an injury to Josh Dugan and the Titans putting on early points after Coach Furner inexplicably benched their two best defenders (Fensom & Buttriss). Unfortunately, I had just started my victory dance (a little like this) when I forgot ‘marquee’ signing Matt Orford has hoofs for hands – why else would they call him ‘The Ox’? It’s excruciating to talk about, but Ox fumbled the scrum feed with 20s to go, Titans scored after the buzzer to force the game into golden point (22-22), Blake Ferguson dropped the kick off the first set and Bird nailed the field goal for the Titans to somehow win 23-22. So to sum up my NRL Super Saturday: My team (Canberra Raiders) snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, my most hated team (Parramatta Eels) snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, and one of my star fantasy players (Fensom) produced a rubbish score due to reduced minutes. Now if you’ll excuse me while I go and see what drain cleaner tastes like.
  • The Brumbies continue to get beaten, and Tottenham will struggle to make the top 4 this year after continuing to drop points to relegation threatened teams. Where is that Drano…?
  • The Boston Celtics looked to be finally getting over the Perkins trade in toppling the Spurs away (with Rondo no longer acting like a grieving Jason Segal in Forgetting Sarah Marshall) but lost to Atlanta the next day to concede the #2 seed in the East. The Lakers still look like the team to beat post All-Star break after dismantling the Mavs, and my 10 day, $571.51 gambling streak was broken when Portland squandered a two point final quarter lead to New Orleans.
  • Sebastien Vettel took a comfortable victory at Australian Grand Prix, and poor Mark Webber would have felt like Salieri to Vettel’s Mozart after struggling for pace and grip on race day. And of course a disappointing Webber weekend would not be complete without Brian Taylor (former Richmond full forward and self-proclaimed F1 expert) continuing his personal attack on the F1 ace on The Back Page. Incidentally, I have never seen BT on The Back Page following a Webber victory – after all, he has six more wins than any other Australian not named Jack Brabham or Alan Jones.
Tip of the Week: Oklahoma City Thunder to win the NBA Western Conference ($10). Despite going down to the Clippers Sunday, they are pretty much guaranteed at least a 4 seed in the West, have the league’s best scorer (Durant), a prolific scoring point guard (Westbrook) and two tough guys suited to playoff basketball (Ibaka and Perkins). Worth a sneaky 20 bucks – $10 odds are way too high for such a solid team.

Finally, after Dave pulled off a shocking upset in the weekly Buck Hunter tournament, the market for this week looks like this:
  • Karl - $1.45 (Class runner of the field. Will be looking to bounce back after a disappointing Kudu safari) 
  • AB - $3.00 (The Cal Naughton Jr. to Karl’s Ricky Bobby. Loves a second place finish)
  • Dave - $2.50 (Will be out to prove last week was not a fluke)
  • Nesh - $4.50 (Solid Nico Rosberg-type points accumulator but perhaps not ready to make the leap yet)

Stay tuned for the results...