What’s in store this year in the NRL?

It’s been a long wait for the new Rugby League season to start, but it’s almost here. Next Thursday night the Rabbitohs will face off against the reigning premiers the Sydney Roosters. A mouth watering clash as both teams will be looking to flex their muscles and get a one-up against arguably their biggest rivals.

So, what can we expect in 2014? Can the Roosters win back-to-back premierships? Can the Eels find some form and get themselves off the bottom of the table? Can NSW finally win an Origin series? Yes, Yes and Yes.

The Roosters are going to be hard to beat this year as they always are. They have massive forwards with the likes of Sonny Bill Williams and Jarrod Waerea-Hargreaves. The current NSW halves pairing in Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney and speed on the flanks with Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Daniel Tupou, they will likely to be in their top tryscorers.

It’s hard to find a weakness, and i think the only thing that could stop them from winning a second premiership in as many years will be injuries to their key playmakers to the likes of Sonny Bill, Pearce and Maloney.

Onto the Parramatta Eels. Now I think they can be a competitive team again this year. They have recruited well in the off-season with Corey Norman, Will Hopoate, Nathan Peats and Justin Hunt being added to their roster.

Parramatta’s big name players have to step-up this year as they have been well below their best the past few seasons.

Jarrod Hayne, Chris Sandow and FuiFui MoiMoi all need to fire-up for the Eels, as they will have to play at their best to climb up their ladder. I believe they can.

Now i’m not saying they can reach the finals this year, but they will definitely give it a shake up.

Ah, Origin. I’m a New South Welshman and I have been living in Queensland for the past 6 years and hasn’t it been fun? Every year when Origin comes around workmates often just yell ‘Queenslander’ to me for the whole series and I always reply the same. “We’ll win it this year”. And i truly believe we can this time.

It’s going to be hard and we will need all the luck to go our way. The Blues will have the strongest side in years and Queensland’s pack is ageing, so now is the time to strike.

While I don’t think Mitchell Pearce should be our No.7, watching Adam Reynolds last year in some important situations, he seemed to let the pressure get to him. Now i hope with another year under his belt, Reynolds can take the spot off Mitchell Pearce but if he doesn’t fire early, I think we may have to put up with Mitchell again.

While all you Queenslanders are probably laughing at me right now, i’m confident the Blues can finally get back on the winners list.

Although with players like Slater, Smith, Cronk and Thurston, it’s not going to be easy.

I predict North Qld to make the Grand Final this year, and if they don’t crumble under the pressure of being on the big stage, they could take it out for the first time in their history.

On the other end of the scale, i think Canberra and Gold Coast are going to have a tough year and may find themselves fighting each other for the wooden spoon.


3rd Test in Cape Town could be classic

On Saturday the 1st of March sees the No.1 ranked test team, South Africa battle against the Australians in the 3rd and final test match in Cape Town.

The game is set up to be a classic, with no-one knowing how the match will be decided and who will win the three match series currently tied at 1-1.

In the first test match Australia ripped South Africa apart in Centurion, winning by 281 runs. For Australia, Mitchell Johnson bagged 12 wickets, Shaun Marsh, David Warner and Steve Smith all made centuries. Alex Doolan fell short of a 100 on debut, being dismissed for 89.

South Africa’s only shining light was AB de Villiers who top scored in both innings with 91 and 48 respectively.

While in the second test match at Port Elizabeth, the South Africans rose back up from the ground and taught them how to play test cricket, winning by 231 runs.

A brilliant late spell from Dale Steyn sealed the win late on the fourth day as rain was threatening to finish the days play.

Australia lost 10 for 90 in the 2nd innings after a solid 126 run opening stand between David Warner and Chris Rogers.

JP Duminy, AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla all hit centuries to give South Africa a commanding lead that the Australians could ultimately not chase down.

There has been a lot of banter between both sides with just recently David Warner from Australia being fined 15% of his match fee for suggesting the South African bowlers had tampered with the ball in order to get more reverse swing late on the fourth day.

There is definitely no love loss between both teams, as we saw in the 1st test when Ryan McLaren wasn’t quick enough get out of the way of a Mitchell Johnson bouncer which ended up hitting him in the ear and drawing blood.

Shane Watson has missed the first two tests with a calf injury but is hopeful of returning for the last match.

With both captains going through form slumps with the bat, the fast bowlers causing havoc for the batsmen, uncertainty about how the pitch will play, makes me salivate just thinking about what will unfold.

A-League needs its own ‘On Demand’ service to fully prosper in Australia

Today I am writing to express my opinion on the state of the A-League’s lack of On Demand availability.

Before the start of the current A-League season, FFA CEO David Gallop stated “Football will become the largest and most popular sport in this country.”

High hopes, coming from a sport that is far behind AFL, NRL and cricket in popularity.

AFL is easily the premier sport in Australia, with teams all around Australia, ordinary mid-year games getting in excess of 50,000 people in the stands and it even has it’s own channel on Foxtel (Fox Footy).

AFL is in the spotlight all year round. The NRL has a massive following in Australia as well, with State of Origin being the biggest draw card of the year.

The A-League is in it’s ninth season and is gaining more popularity as the quality of the games have improved and bigger marquee players join the competition.

The A-League have made a big step into a new market with one free-to-air game being shown on SBS every Friday night.

This is a step in the right direction. Fox Sports definitely have helped the A-League become what it is today and without it, I don’t know if it could have survived.

I am not a Foxtel subscriber as I cannot afford it and wouldn’t I wouldn’t get my money’s worth if I was to sign up.

I had subscribed (but have now cancelled) to Foxtel Play to only watch the A-League on my iPad.

$50 a month is what Foxtel are asking and for me, that is too much to pay when I watch maybe two or three games if that, a week.

It’s not Foxtel’s fault that I can’t watch the A-League. They provide a service and it’s up to me, the user to utilise it.

I would like to see the A-League provide an On-Demand subscription service like the NRL, NFL, NBA and NHL utilise.

I am currently subscribed to NFL Game Pass and I paid around $220 for a full season.

That gives me full access to every game live and on demand and even a condensed version that shows every play.

You can watch on multiple devices and laptops. The NBA and NHL offer similar packages.

Now I know the USA is completely different environment with over 330 million people, so they have a larger audience and can invest a lot more money into this avenue.

The NRL and AFL both had their respective Apps where you would pay $90 for a full season with all games being shown live or on delay.

That is a lot cheaper than Pay TV.

Cricket Australia has even released an App this year where you can watch all games live for $20! Granted, all the cricket is on Channel Nine for free, but a lot of people can’t always get to a TV.

I believe the A-League needs to get into this market if they ever truly want to gain on their competitors.

I know I wouldn’t be the only one who would sign-up in a heartbeat for a subscription for just the A-League, with an option to watch games on demand.

As we all know, the weekends are usually the busiest times in our week and i’d love to be able to go out with friends on Saturday night and wake up on Sunday morning and watch the replay of the Saturday night’s games.

Instead if I have plans when a game is on, too bad. There’s no chance to catch-up.

The A-League is an emerging code in Australia and I believe they need to catch-up with other codes if they ever truly want to get a bigger slice of the pie.