Four Nations final: New Zealand vs. Australia, Westpac Trust Stadium, Wellington, Saturday 8:00pm (AEDT)
After Dean Ritchie’s (unwitty and inadequate) ‘KangaBlues’ article, Australia were embarrassed 30-12 by the Kiwis at Suncorp Stadium on the opening weekend of the Four Nations. The actual Kangaroos have scraped their way into the final following two subsequent must-win encounters.
This year’s Four Nations has well and truly resurrected international rugby league. Prior to the last few seasons, we’ve been subjected to massive scorelines with no competitive edge. Even Australia’s 44-18 drumming of Samoa last weekend had a different feel about it compared to the typical Test whitewash.
Besides the fact that league is my sport of choice, I’m dying to see the enthralling combat between the two sets of halves.
At halfback you have two guys that couldn’t be more opposite: Cooper Cronk and Shaun Johnson. Don’t take this the wrong way, but Cronk wasn’t gifted with as much ‘natural talent‘ as the likes of Shaun Johnson or Johnathan Thurston; he vigorously worked to get to where he is today. Now before people get ahead of themselves, just to clear the air, in no way am I saying Johnson doesn’t work his butt off. Cronk’s play is exceptionally structured and meticulous; he relies on that to win – this is a result of numerous hours practising. On the other hand you’ve got Johnson, who thrives in wide spaces and broken play with his off-the-cuff brilliance.
Opposing each other at five-eighth are Manly teammates Daly Cherry-Evans and Kieran Foran. It doesn’t matter what form these two are in, what time of the year it is, or what they had for dinner last night – their relentless worth ethic and competitive nature make it a must-see duel.
I’m super excited to see this match unfold – definitely my pick for game of the weekend.
New Zealand are currently paying $2.08 for the win, with Australia as favourite at $1.77 – if you enjoy a bit of punting, take Australia to win by 1-12 points at $2.95.
Los Angeles Clippers vs. Phoenix Suns, Staples Centre LA, Sunday 2:30pm (AEDT)
One of our NBA writers predicted that the Clippers would win the west in his recent playoff forecast – and as much as I agreed with him at the time, their ninth place 4-3 is anything but impressive.
They host a 5-3 Phoenix outfit, who have surprised NBA enthusiasts for a second consecutive season.
I could tell you how getting a win over a divisional rival is brutally important in a packed out Western Conference, or how Blake Griffin will be zoned after being recently charged with misdemeanour battery for allegedly slapping someone in Las Vegas.
These elements are significant, but honestly, when Gerald Green, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan are on the same court, it’s not something you should not miss – they know how to get to the rim and finish with authority.
Gerald Green against the Lakers earlier this month:
Gerald Green’s INSANE windmill dunk:
Rudy Gobert has been seeing a shrink for his recurring DeAndre Jordan nightmare:
Oh, and don’t forget the one and only rim junkie – Blake Griffin:
Australia vs. South Africa, 2nd One-day International, WACA Ground, Perth, Sunday, 2:20pm (AEDT)
I’ll be flicking back between to this and the Clippers vs. Suns game.
The looming World Cup on home soil – beginning in February 2015 – has reinvigorated the ODI format, with each game a potential dress-rehearsal for the Australian team and myriad contenders vying for a place in the first-choice XI.
George Bailey and Nathan Coulter-Nile put their hands up for a permanent spot in the line-up with 70 runs and four wickets respectively in Australia’s impressive 32-run victory over South Africa in the opening match of the one-day series in Perth last night.
A recurrence of Michael Clarke’s hamstring injury will give other members of the side a chance, both as replacements in the batting line-up and in a leadership sense. Meanwhile, Darren Lehmann and the Australian brains trust will be looking for the likes of injury-prone star Shane Watson to join other high-profile match-winners David Warner and Mitchell Johnson as consistent blue-chip performers.
The five-match series is an important one for the Proteas, too, with Australia’s bitter rivals considered one of the World Cup favourites as well. South Africa’s core of experienced greats have been joined by some exciting young talent, and the Proteas will be equally desperate to settle on a rock-solid XI.
Matches between these sides always entail a bit of extra spice, and the World Cup factor will ensure the entire series is fought on a knife’s edge – don’t miss the second ODI in Perth tomorrow afternoon.