Friday 28 October 2011

2011 Melbourne Cup Bluffer's Guide - DUNADEN WINS!

The two horses at the line, Lucas Cranach was 3rd and Americain 4th.
Dunaden (top) wins the 2011 Melbourne Cup by a hair over Red Cadeaux
1st - Dunaden (in a photo finish)
2nd - Red Cadeaux
3rd - Lucas Cranach
4th - Americain

Pre-Race Article - NOW UPDATED with final field on Tuesday November 1.
The Bluffer's Guide to the 2011 Melbourne Cup
By W D Nicolson October 28, 2011

Welcome to the 4th Annual 'Bluffer's Guide to the Melbourne Cup'.

And for the fourth straight year - we guarantee at the very least a placing from our cutting edge predictions.

In 2008 - Bauer was picked to run 2nd and did.
In 2009 - Shocking was picked to run 4th and won.
And last year, in 2010 - Maluckyday was picked to run 2nd and did, So You Think was picked to run 1st and was 3rd, Americain was picked to run 5th and won and Harris Tweed was picked to run 3rd and finished 5th)

So we offer you moderately decent selections, or at the very least; an entertaining read.

Americain won the Cup last year.
Truth be told the latter reasoning is how the 'Bluffer's Guide' came about in 2008 and if you are looking for an insightful form guide to the actual ability of the horses in the Melbourne Cup Field, look elsewhere.

Actually that's a little harsh, given our record (mentioned and linked 2008 2009 2010), but if you're about to spend ridiculous amounts of money on the punt - this is not the guide for you.

Or maybe it is. Because honestly - you're guess is as good as the rest of ours when it comes to Melbourne Cup day.

As we stress here on every year, think long and hard about what you could spend (or save) the excessive money you punt with on Melbourne Cup day - because the odds are never in your favour.

Anyhoo, to the Bluffer's Guide for another year and each horse has its current Sportingbet prices listed  next to the horse's name and then you can read the Scouting Report. Note: the field will be cut down on Saturday October 29 and horse/jockey colours will be added Monday.

Now all horses are listed in barrier order... 1 through 24, actual horse number is next to the name.
(Those horses listed below the field were scouted prior to the final field being culled)
AMERICAIN #15 @ $4.80
Won it last year, storming home. Because there are a thousand horses still eligible for the final field I'm just inserting last year's 'Bluffer's Guide' on Americain... which when you think of the time it took me to write that reasoning, I just could have come up with a new scouting report. So simply put - superb run last year, the trainer's name is outstanding (Alain de Royer Dupre) and the horse can certainly repeat.
This is a horse that knows how to win, all you need to do is give it a bash on the side down the straight and it'll romp home. Ayyyy...
DUNADEN #13 @ $7.50
Is currently second favourite behind AMERICAIN and although it might be a dyslexic take on a Lord of the Rings reference... wait, have to stop myself there, didn't spell dislexic right the first time. Thank you Google Chrome for the auto spell check, and google for telling me the condition may in fact be dyslexic dysgraphia instead. Who knew? Big chance.
You know the tune...
I'm not 100% sure what a harmonium is exactly but if this horse wins the Cup - the owners will be able to buy a one of the gold variety with the winnings.
MANIGHAR #21 @ $41
Got nothing, but in my defence I am 21 horses in and I was bound to hit a roadblock at some stage. (Turns out the horse ran last year - "Sounds like it was named after a character in the Lion King... some sections of the crowd may be roaring for it to get up." - it didn't.)
This is NOKeyser Söze... can't you read?
FOX HUNT #19 @ $31
Something tells me this horse might be better suited to the English Countryside...
Fairly short odds for 'The Nudist'. A quick google search will leave no doubt what this renaissance painter like to paint, or more accurately what he didn't paint. Given the horse races practically nude, it should be in its element.
Could be better in the slop... in fact Kramer may have heard about its chances already... (If you haven't got there yet - More Rain = Mour-rayan)
Looking at the actual form this horse gives you no previous reasons to think it might actually win.
RED CADEAUX #16 @ $31
Means 'Red Gift' apparently... you might like to receive one if you back it at $23.
HAWK ISLAND #18 @ $101
Since when is a horse going to be any good coming from an island populated mostly with hawks?
ILLO #1 @ $15
I like licking Oreos.
There are so many good things to say about this horse.... oh, I'm sorry, I got ____ __ ___ ______.
MODUN #5 @ $21
If Rugby League supercoach Jack Gibson was still with us, he'd wrap up a Modun victory with "Played strong, Modun good." PS. A Jack Gibson book is now available by Andrew Webster, I would like a copy.
AT FIRST SIGHT #10 @ $15
Still haven't seen this horse in the flesh so it is hard to tell you whether I'm impressed or not, if you're at the track I guess you'll have a better chance at being impressed with its chances.
If the sun is out this horse might struggle... it's a bit pasty. Or if you don't like the Cornish pastie reference... this is lovely with a tossed salad on a hot summer's day. (Hello Quiche lovers, no you don't get left out.)
SAPTAPADI #22 @ $101
It's just fun to say, Sap-ta-padi. Try it. Out loud.
SHAMROCKER #24 @ $51
Sounds like it is the next new utensil sensation from the Sham-Wow guy... - Quick Question - do you have one?
Something tells me the owners of this horse enjoyed the American Pie movie series... which in other 'movie news' is coming back for another instalment. And to think they almost finished that series with some class with the wedding one... I said almost.
TULLAMORE #12 @ $21
This horse has an Irish Festival held in its honour in western New South Wales over the Easter Weekend every year... So it might get lucky and snag a place.
NIWOT #9 @ $13
Never invest with other's tips.
OLDER THAN TIME #20 @ $151
Might take a while to finish... weak, apologies.
2011 PREDICTIONS as of November 1...
(I reserve the right to change once the final field is set, will lock in my selections by Tuesday 3pm)
1st - Americain; the champ repeats.
2nd - Tullamore; Go with the Irish.
3rd - Jukebox Jury; the quality of the name says it all.
Others -
4th - Dunaden; unnatural long life = stayer.
5th - Lucas Cranach ('On' The Nudist)
6th - At First Sight (On second thoughts...)
Roughie - Tullamore at $21 or Fox Hunt at $31.

Tuesday 25 October 2011

No Faith in Braith? Daniel Mortimer's arrival may force Braith Anasta to end his Roosters career at lock.

Will Daniel Mortimer's arrival force Braith Anasta to end his career at lock?
By W D Nicolson, October 25, 2011

A few years ago Daniel Mortimer was riding the crest of the rookie wave, as he helped steer the Parramatta Eels to a fairytale appearance in the 2009 Grand Final.

Fast forward to October 2011 and two unfulfilling seasons later (one of which, was spent for the most part, in the NSW Cup), it appears Daniel Mortimer will not carve out the long and storied career many Parramatta fans believed he was destined to achieve and instead heads to the Sydney Roosters for the next two years.

Mortimer at just 22, has accumulated 48 First Grade Games, played in a Grand Final and was rated as a can't miss prospect by the great Andrew Johns when he was still in the junior ranks, but he fell out of favour with new Parramatta coach Stephen Kearney early and despite being on a healthy contract was punted to the NSW Cup after Round 10 loss to the Cowboys.

He never saw the NRL again in 2011.

Mortimer had been courted heavily by the Canterbury club (where his family name was made famous) prior to re-signing with the Eels at the start of 2010 (through the 2013 season), but it was that very contract hampered his attempts to get a deal elsewhere once Kearney deemed him of no use to the top squad. He failed to find a taker before the June 30th deadline (to switch clubs mid-season) and finished the year with the Wentworthville Magpies.

But his NSW Cup purgatory was short-lived, with a move late last week by one Sydney club opening up salary cap room for the seemingly unwanted five-eighth on their roster.

That club was the Sydney Roosters, and that move was the release of veteran prop Jason Ryles (who should have a new club soon, as he still has plenty to offer in the NRL) by 'mutual agreement'.

The move appeared curious given Ryles was the only experienced front rower on the Roosters' roster, but when CEO Steve Noyce offered this reasoning for the transaction, it appeared to be purely a salary clearing move.

"Jason and the club have reached an agreement that he won't be with us next season. A decision has been made, and it has been made by mutual agreement. For whatever reason, he's been given permission to talk to other clubs. I'm sure he will find a suitable club to go to."

Now the 'whatever' reason is much clear, releasing Ryles made room for Daniel Mortimer's contract.

While it is unclear how much of the original deal the Eels will still pay, Mortimer has agreed to a new deal with the Roosters that also goes through 2013.

So we've established that Parramatta didn't want Daniel Mortimer, but the question now becomes - why do the Sydney Roosters feel so differently?

Well a week after talking up the reasons why the Sharks should sign Todd Carney - the Mortimer/Ryles transaction links back to the talented Carney and his impact on the style the Roosters like to play under Coach Brian Smith.

Everyone knows the story surrounding Carney's time at the Roosters - but the fact he is no longer on the roster means that Smith needed to find a new five-eighth to play outside his NSW halfback in Mitchell Pearce.

But wait - you say - isn't skipper Braith Anasta the logical choice to take back his #6 jersey full time now that Carney is Cronulla-bound?

Well that is what Sydney recruitment manager Peter O'Sullivan would have you believe, when he told the SMH that Mortimer would be used in a utility role to enhance the incumbent halves combination of Anasta and Pearce.

Anasta might be wearing #13 again in 2012
But hold the phone Blocker! Anasta was the incumbent #6 before Todd Carney signed with the Roosters for the 2010 season and evidently only held his spot at five-eighth for the first half of the season while Carney re-adjusted to the NRL and more significantly, Anthony Minichiello himself was eased back into top grade action on the wing.

Once Minichiello was back to form, he went to fullback and Carney shifted to five-eighth, which resulted in Smith moving Anasta to the backrow for the second half of the season... and the Roosters would go on a 9-4 tear from that point on (Round 18 onwards) and finish up contesting the 2010 Grand Final.

Smith's preference for a three-pronged playmaking scrum-base proved a master-stroke and although Anasta would start 2011 at five-eighth - the moment Carney was 'fit', Anasta would somewhat reluctantly move back into the pack.

With Carney no longer on the books, Smith seems to have made a calculated gamble that Mortimer (a player who has not reached Carney's class... yet) is the best option available to him to regenerate that trio of playmakers that made the Roosters so potent in the back end of 2010.

Mind you, Mortimer's form was woeful for most of the past two seasons at Parramatta, so he has to prove he has the goods during the pre-season but Smith has witnessed first hand that Anasta's best football has been played on the edges rather than being forced into an organising role.

As a result of Anasta's edge suitability, it would be stunning not to see Daniel Mortimer get first crack at the #6 jumper in the trials alongside Mitchell Pearce. While that may seem harsh on Anasta, what is working against his stay at five-eighth is the fact there is room in the backrow, especially with the departure of Nate Myles to the Gold Coast.

While Mitchell Aubusson is expected back from a shoulder reconstruction and should start, only Aiden Guerra, Brad Takairangi, Tom Symonds and Boyd Cordner loom as Anasta's main competition to join Aubusson in the backrow. And with Ryles also departing, Frank-Paul Nu'uausala (who was used in the backrow in 2011) will move into the front row and join Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Lama Tasi, Mose Masoe and Martin Kennedy in the rotation.

Add all of this up and it points to the eventuality that Braith Anasta is going back to lock*.

Whether he likes it or not.

* If of course, Daniel Mortimer can get himself back to NRL standard.,, which is no sure thing given how far his star status fell in the past 18 months.
]-[ ]-[ ]-[
Follow Rugby League News with Opinion during the off-season via Twitter @NRLTweet

Monday 17 October 2011

Todd Carney a Shark? While Cronulla don't have a choice... Todd's lucky he does.

Does Cronulla need Todd Carney more than he needs the Sharks?
By W D Nicolson, October 17, 2011

When news filtered through today (Monday October 17) that the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks were poised to secure the services of the incredibly talented (yet equally inconsistent off the field) Todd Carney for at least the 2012 NRL season and possibly longer, one quote stood out from club management that left little doubt they were ready to roll the dice with Carney.

"We would handle Todd (Carney) exactly the same as the rest of our roster. We have a good, genuine roster," Cronulla's Chairman Daniel Irvine told the Daily Telegraph.

Ostensibly that was the clearest sign yet that the Sharks don't just want Todd Carney for 2012, they REALLY want him and are prepared to back the 'genuineness' of their current roster to handle the apparent baggage that Carney has carried throughout his rugby league career to date.

Update: Tuesday October 25 - Daily Telegraph reports that a 2 year deal for Carney at the Sharks is done.

Carney had his services thrust on to the open market by his most recent former club, the Sydney Roosters, as the 2011 NRL season wound down and it appeared that the odds of Carney getting a gig in the NRL once again, were slim.

After all, the 25 year old had found his way out of his junior club the Canberra Raiders, with an inordinate number of off-field indiscretions by the end of 2008, only for the Roosters to pounce on his signature at the first available opportunity.

The Roosters endured a year long NRL imposed ban on Carney in 2009 but were rewarded when he then led the Roosters to a Grand Final appearance in 2010, when he said he was off the drink with a Dally M and Player of the Year Award winning season.

But then a relapse in the off-season was followed by a few more during 2011 and the straw that broke the Roosters' back was a late season drinking session shortly after the team agreed to a booze ban in an attempt to end their woeful year on a high note.

While no one has ever doubted his ability (after all he has played for Australia and had he not relapsed, was the firm favourite for a NSW Blues jersey in 2011) - it is that ability alone that has ensured he has received more chances than the average individual.

Further evidence that the Todd Carney story is just another dose of the reality of professional sport - the more valuable the player to the club/team/franchise, the more chances they get to stay with the club/team/franchise. In his autobiography, footballing great Andrew Johns admitted that he himself had received that very same treatment in Newcastle, all because of the ability he had on the field.

And now the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks, who have played in just one Finals Series since 2006 (they finished 3rd and reached the Preliminary Finals in 2008), are so desperate to make another appearance in the games that matter in September, they are doing what the Raiders and then the Roosters believed was the right thing by their club - adding talent despite the risks.

The thing is, Cronulla have no choice in the matter.

As it stands the Sharks are a developing team under second (and a half) year head coach Shane Flanagan, that still looks a quality player or two short of pushing for a playoff spot next season. Despite their current roster featuring a number of talented halves (Wade Graham, Chad Townsend, Jeff Robson and Albert Kelly are currently contracted), none have the truly game-breaking skill of a Todd Carney and there are suggestions (good and bad) that Cronulla's long term future may well be linked to the on-field success of the team. So the pressure is certainly on the team to win.

The facts are: Todd Carney makes the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks a playoff calibre team. Bet it at halfback, five-eighth or fullback - Todd Carney offers the Sharks the points the team and the fans crave.

But the other fact in play is that Todd Carney may not need the Sharks as much as they need him.

The reason once again is the 'talent factor'. Carney has boatloads of it on the field, but a chequered past off it makes most clubs wary of latching their club's fortunes to him. 

But if the NRL decides not to sanction Carney again (it is not unreasonable to suggest his off-field indiscretions in 2011 fail to match those he had with the Raiders -  which led to his first NRL imposed sanction in 2009), then Carney once again gets to choose (within reason) where he plays in 2012. 

And although the Gold Coast Titans had offered a drastically undervalued contract earlier this month to Carney, and the Daily Telegraph also linked him with South Sydney and North Queensland, the boy from Goulburn might actually have even more options than everyone thinks he does. Particularly if he can bottle the success of 2010, by bottling his love of the bottle.

Purely because he is extremely talented on the rugby league field.

Like it or not, that is the reality of Rugby League in Australia. The better you are, the more risks your club takes on you. Anyone who thinks this isn't the case is deluded.

Now it seems the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks are the latest club keen to see if they can harness this kind of talent and ride Todd Carney's brilliance to a season that delivers success... regardless of the risks.

And good luck to the Sharks and Todd Carney. 

IF he chooses to play for them...
]-[ ]-[ ]-[
Follow Rugby League News with Opinion during the off-season via Twitter @NRLTweet

Tuesday 11 October 2011

Setsational...ish. Joy of Sets hits its stride in Episode 4 - TV Show Review

TV Review: The Joy of Sets is better in person... but isn't everything?
By W D Nicolson, October 11, 2011

It has been almost four whole years since 'the best show on radio*' was axed by the forward thinking management at Triple M in Melbourne, and through no clever serendipitous planning at all, tonight the fourth episode of Tony Martin's post-Get This commercial endeavour 'The Joy of Sets' goes to air in need of a spike in the ratings to ensure it doesn't get a 'sexy new time' of 11pm Sundays on Channel Nine's third string digital channel GEM.

The Joy of Sets débuted on Tuesday September 20, sandwiched between Channel Nine's Two and a Half Men series opener and the Charlie Sheen Roast (attracting what were suggested in some circles as 'pretty impressive' ratings (quoting the actual figures makes zero sense, as who in their right mind actually understands how the system really works?) and has since followed with unspectacular numbers for episodes two and three - despite being sandwiched again around one of the only two shows on Channel Nine - Two and a Half Men (the other being the Big Bang Theory).

But don't you dare give up on the show just yet.

Because tonight's Joy of Sets delivers.

Well at least it did when attended the filming of the 'Family' themed episode in early September.

It was the third episode filmed (but is being shown as the fourth on the TV schedule) and hosts Tony Martin and Ed Kavalee were in fine form from the get-go - almost making it through the entire first segment without stuffing up their lines (Martin and Kavalee hold back 'the gold' before filming so their reactions are natural). But that's not why it was good.

Simply put - they are funny.

The comedic interaction between the pair has always been excellent (and as a trio with the late Richard Marsland - their chemistry was pure genius on Get This) and this episode was no exception, something the audience were banking on, as the vast majority made no effort to hide the fact they belonged to the 'Get This fanclub' during the interaction Ed and Tony offered to the audience throughout the taping of the show.

And that may well be the key to the Joy of Sets experience.
The Joy of Sets... set.
As a taping process - this was Get This in the flesh - even with the minutes clicking by through the shoot (which may have stretched well into the second hour), the audience were transfixed on the duo's repartee, despite both being forced to endure numerous 'pick-ups' to close out the show.

Guest host for the evening was Glenn Robbins - who needs no introduction and is by far the best guest the show has had so far - and the effortless way they all interacted is just one reason this episode will leave the previous three well behind in the race for 'best ep of the series*'. But again Robbins may have been funnier 'off-camera/pre-cutting' than he will be in the final show and that seems to be the biggest obstacle the program faces. There is a moment right at the end of the show when Robbins farewells the audience in a way that was born out of pure brilliance and tied into a previous moment in the show - but odds are it won't get off the cutting room floor.

Combine those moments with some astutely edited pieces from the wide world of television and The Joy of Sets is hilarious as a package of live-to-tape entertainment but when it gets cut down to 22 minutes... the first three episodes screened so far suggest that maybe, just maybe, it is not quite the same quality of show that you see in the flesh.

And this is where the show faces a tough sell with those uninitiated in the comedic stylings of Get This, The Late Show, Martin/Molloy etc. There is a subtle genius to this kind of comedy, yet the shows that seemingly dominate the ratings for Channel Nine are generally manufactured laugh track comedy, that in turn falls flat with the aforementioned 'initiated' audience.
See Tonight Tab: Is there anything else is on Channel Nine these days?
So as crazy as it may sound, putting The Joy of Sets right in the middle of a 'Big Bang Theory/Two and a Half Men' quadruple shot may not be the best thing for the ratings... no wait, that's crazy, as if the show was on any other time the 'ratings' system would chew this kind of TV up and spit it out onto the tarmac of rejected pilots quicker than Warwick Capper's management asking for 'the cabbage' when you inquire about their star client's services.

The show IS funny, the only downside is if you didn't get to a taping during the first order of eight shows - it might not be quite as funny as your Get Thissian-friends might be telling you it is.

But reality has a funny way of making anything you were at; seem better than if you weren't actually at it.


Apart from tonight's show that is (providing the edit isn't unkind) - because believe us, we was there and watching Packed to the Rafters get cut to ribbons in a superbly clever and clean way is unmissable.

The Joy of Sets screens at 9pm Tuesday's on Channel Nine - who incidentally haven't exactly hit the right mark in marketing the show... but that's a topic for another day.

Thursday 6 October 2011

Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Hockey Draft Review - My 2011/2012 Sydney Kangaroos Fantasy Hockey
Sydney Kangaroos Draft Review 2011/2012
By W D Nicolson, October 6, 2011
Last year the Sydney Kangaroos joined the 'Puckeyes' Fantasy Hockey League, looking to upstage a bunch of North Americans  at their own game... and finished runner's up.

Not a bad effort for our first season in a league that had been around since 2007 but still disappointing to get so close to a win in our debut season and failing to achieve it.

The draft was kind to us last year and this year we might have an even better squad... well if it isn't 2011 that is. Because one look at the roster suggests the draft might have taken place a decade ago, rather than on Tuesday.

Draft Recap:
The Pittsburgh-bias kicked in early with Evgeni Malkin coming on board with the 4th overall pick, and then - concussion or no concussion - grabbing Sidney Crosby with the 21st overall pick was a no brainer (unless he doesn't play again) and the Penguin trifecta kicked in with goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury becoming a Roo with pick 28.

So right off the bat, you know that it'll be a case of so goes the Penguins - so go the Roos.

Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard was plucked perhaps a little high in the 4th round at pick 45, but Columbus winger Rick Nash is a potential steal at 52nd overall, followed by the legendary Martin Brodeur at pick 69 to complete a outstanding goaltending trio. Last year Jonathan Quick, Marty Turco and Fleury were the Roos' starting three - and even though Quick and Fleury were great, Turco's meltdown to Chicago backup means that having three bonafide starters entering 2011/2012 makes the Roos even better than last year.

The defence was addressed next with new Philadelphia captain Chris Pronger getting a chance to prove he can still play at pick 76 and then Florida bound Brian Campbell being given a green light to go nuts offensively with pick 93. Boston playmaker David Krejci was next at pick 100, with veteran wingers Teemu Selanne (117th overall) and Jaromir Jagr (124th overall) forming a duo that could have gone 1st-2nd overall 10 or 12 years ago.

Buffalo centre Derek Roy is a gamble at 141st overall after missing most of last year with injury, while Chris Kunitz (148th overall) will play with Malkin or Crosby - which means points, and another veteran winger Daniel Alfredsson (165th overall) is being banked on to be solid if not spectacular for a horrible Ottawa team.

The final four picks addressed depth on defence and a wing spot. Matt Carle (172nd overall) generally plays with Pronger on the Philly defence - so his addition makes sense, Patrik Elias might be aging but getting last year's top scorer on the Devils with pick 189 is just good business. With the pickings slim for the final two spots on the roster - defencemen Stephane Robidas (196th overall) and Dan Girardi (213th overall) were taken due to the fact they'll see plenty of ice time with the Stars and Rangers respectively.

Here's a look at the roster in full. Here is the link to the League.
Well it is fair to say the Sydney Kangaroos are not lacking in star power - old or new. 
Malkin is the smart pick for all the major awards. In other words he could end up with the Art Ross (Top Scorer), The Hart (League MVP), Rocket Richard (Most Goals) and the Ted Lindsay Award (Players' MVP) - and he's capable of being that good. And that's not to say Sidney Crosby isn't capable of taking out all those awards either - but his health issues mean Malkin is likely to carry the torch early.
Veterans Selanne, Alfredsson, Pronger, Elias and Jagr have all been superstars at some point in their Fantasy Hockey careers - and if half of them squeeze out those sort of seasons - the Roos will be a force offensively.
The goaltending is just about as good as you could hope for - providing both Howard and Brodeur keep their jobs as undisputed starters. Broduer might be now in the elderly category but he's still a star and Howard should get his share of victories on a Detroit team that still looks pretty good.
Rick Nash is the wildcard up front - he could score 50 goals and if Crosby and Malkin both crack 100 points - matching the scoring out put on the Roos is going to be tough as across the league.
The Defence. Pronger is old and coming off a season ending injury, Campbell might have an horrendous plus/minus in Florida even if he scores 50 points, Carle can't be trusted to get 39 assists again and both Robidas and Girardi aren't guys you bank on 40 points from every season. Plus/Minus will be the key for this group - if they don't hurt the team too much in that category - the Roos will be happy.
Age. Look at the roster - it's ancient! Enough said.
Crosby's head. Will he even play?
Plus the likes of Kunitz, Roy and Krejci are rolls of the dice - could be very good, could be mediocre.
Bottom Line:
Drafting a team like this means the Sydney Kangaroos have just one goal in mind - a championship. And Crosby's health seems destined to be tied directly to the chances of that happening.
Enjoy your NHL this season... go the!