Saturday 26 November 2011

Arise King Arthur. Why Australia's new cricket coach has a daunting task ahead. | 2011/2012 Australian Summer of Cricket

King Arthur's Court beings to take shape.
By W D Nicolson November 26, 2011

He is South African but he is also the right man for the job.

So say Cricket Australia.

And with the Australian Summer of Cricket for 2011/2012 about to begin, Australia's new Cricket Coach Mickey Arthur has a lot to accomplish before the first ball is bowled.

Not least to begin convincing some Australians that having a South African in charge of the national team is a good idea.
King Arthur now reigns over Australian Cricket....
A national team currently ranked 4th in Test Cricket, 1st in One Day Internationals and 5th in T20 entering the Australian summer.

It will be Arthur's job to improve at least two of those three rankings, and it will not be easy.

Australia have just returned from Arthur's home country (where he was South Africa's coach from 2005-2010) splitting a painfully short Test Series 1-1, winning the One Day Series 2-1 and taking a game each of the utterly superfluous T20 double.

There's no denying that those results are solid against one of the powers of world cricket, but when a teenager by the name of Patrick Cummins hit the winning runs in the 2nd Test in Johannesburg on November 21st, Australia still didn't have a full time head coach and the biggest story seemed to be whether or not Ricky Ponting's 62 in the 2nd Innings was enough to hold his spot for the 1st Test with New Zealand at the Gabba on December 1st.

Then in stunning news just days after Arthur's appointment, comes the realisation that Ponting's form is no longer the lead story concerning the Australian Cricket Team (well apart from any article written by News Limited's Malcolm 'What has Ricky Ponting done for me lately?' Conn in the last month - Click here for just one example of his anti-Pontiff rhetoric). Instead Cricket Australia revealed that Shane Watson (hamstring), Ryan Harris (pelvis), Shaun Marsh (back), Mitchell Johnson (foot) and Cummins (heel) are all OUT of the race to play in the 1st Test v New Zealand and Arthur's first test in charge would feature many new faces.

While Harris and Marsh did not play in the last test in Johannesburg, they did play in the opening test in Cape Town so adding up those withdrawals, it appears just EIGHT players from the 13 that featured in the Test Series against South Africa will be available for the Gabba!

That's an astounding statistic.

But it also provides Arthur and the new National Selection Panel (headed by John Inverarity and featuring Arthur, captain Michael Clarke and NSP members Rod Marsh and Andy Bichel) a chance to make some educated changes to the lineup, even if they may not be in the positions they thought they might have to address just a week ago.

This article explores the options available to the Arthur and the NSP and also the 1st Test Squad.

See Arthur's first press conference as Australia's Cricket Coach here.

Below the 1st Test Squad is a comprehensive look at 33 players we believe could be in the mix for a Test Match berth this summer.

Here is the 1st Test Squad v New Zealand and following that list are all the options before Arthur as he shapes the future of Camelot... errr Australian Cricket.
1st Test Squad Summary:
The batting lineup will be Phillip Hughes, David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke (c), Michael Hussey and Brad Haddin.
The bowling will feature Peter Siddle, Nathan Lyon and two of James Pattinson, Ben Cutting or Mitchell Starc.
Trent Copeland tragically misses out... doing the job he was asked to do in Sri Lanka has somehow backfired in a big way.

What do you think of the 1st Test Team v New Zealand?


Vodafone Test Series 2011-12 Add To Calendar
Upcoming MatchesTicketsBroadcastersLive Score
01-05 December 2011 - 1st Test
Australia v New Zealand
Gabba 11:00AM AEDT
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09-13 December 2011 - 2nd Test
Australia v New Zealand
Bellerive Oval 10:30AM AEDT
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26-30 December 2011 - 1st Test
Australia v India
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03-07 January 2012 - 2nd Test
Australia v India
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13-17 January 2012 - 3rd Test
Australia v India
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24-28 January 2012 - 4th Test
Australia v India
Adelaide Oval 11:00AM AEDT
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Saturday 19 November 2011

Darren Lockyer's Last Stand... 2011 Four Nations Final will be his final game of Rugby League.

It all ends for Darren Lockyer.
By W D Nicolson, November 19, 2011

Sunday Afternoon, June 25th, 1995.

My first memory of Darren Lockyer just happens to coincide with the then 18 year old's First Grade début for the Brisbane Broncos in the ARL.

I was listening to the radio as a teenager myself that Sunday afternoon (when 2UE's coverage was actually all about Rugby League) and can remember hearing the score updates from Parramatta Stadium which proclaimed that the Parramatta Eels were taking it to the Brisbane Broncos at halftime.

While I believe the Sydney Bulldogs v Newcastle Knights game was being called from Newcastle on 2UE, the score update from Parramatta Stadium had the Broncos TRAILING the Eels 14-6 at halftime.

This was astounding in the context of the competition at that time.

The Parramatta club that had been woeful in the recent seasons since Peter Sterling had retired and had a 3-9 record coming in (placing 17th in a 20 team ARL) to face the 9-3 Broncos (who had won the title in 1992 and 1993 and made the second week of the Finals in 1994) in Round 13.

Then Wayne Bennett inserted #35 Darren Lockyer into the fray and the score updates were insane for the rest of that afternoon.

Brisbane ended up winning the game 60-14 and Lockyer was sensational on début. He had a hand in a bunch of tries and became the lead question to my friends at high school the very next day.

"Did any of you go see this Darren Lockyer kid play yesterday?"

While none of us had been lucky enough to be at Parramatta Stadium that Sunday in late June, we got plenty of chances to watch the great man in action from that day forth.

And we've enjoyed every minute of it.

(Australia defeated England convincingly 30-8 in the 2011 Four Nations Final and Darren Lockyer scored the last try of the game... pity about the conversion)

Sunday 6 November 2011

2012 NRL Season Draw Analysis - Good and Terrible.

Analysing the 2012 NRL Premiership Draw.
By W D Nicolson, November 6, 2011

At the curious time of 7pm this past Saturday, the National Rugby League released the full Regular Season Draw for 2012 to the masses.

Well at least those sitting at their computers on a Saturday night in early November that is.

Your correspondent was actually at a wedding when the full draw was released, so here we are on a much more convenient Sunday afternoon, dissecting it.

Here is the FULL pdf version of the 2012 NRL Premiership Draw.

What are your thoughts on the 2012 Draw - please comment below or post on Facebook.

News had leaked that the season would open on a Thursday Night (March 1) with the Newcastle Knights hosting the St.George-Illawarra Dragons, the South Sydney Rabbitohs would host the Sydney Roosters at ANZ Stadium in a night game and the Grand Final Replay featuring the defending premiers Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles and the home town Warriors would be played at Eden Park in Auckland most likely on the Sunday.

Beyond that it was guess work. See our suggested Round 1 Draw here posted a week out from the official release.

Well guess no more, as the NRL has released the full 26 Round schedule.

To be played March 1-5 (Thu-Fri-Sat-Sun-Mon)
KNIGHTS v DRAGONS @ AusGrid Stadium
EELS v BRONCOS @ Parramatta Stadium
RAIDERS v STORM @ Canberra Stadium
TIGERS v SHARKS @ Leichhardt Oval or Campbelltown Stadium
COWBOYS v TITANS @ Dairy Farmers Stadium
PANTHERS v BULLDOGS @ Centrebet Stadium

Breaking that down - there are four games in Sydney and one each in Auckland, Newcastle, Townsville and Canberra. The only game that is absolutely confirmed for an actual day is the Knights v Dragons on Thursday, March 1st. One suggestion (since taken down by the Eden Park website) also indicates that the Warriors v Sea Eagles game will be played at 2pm NZ time on Sunday March 4th. That equates to 12pm Sydney time and thus is likely to be on Fox Sports.

With Channel Nine still controlling the TV rights - they will have Picks One, Two and Four for their Free-to-Air games again in 2012 (normally two on Friday Night and one on Sunday Afternoon) - and Fox is left with Picks Three and Five-through-Eight (Click here for an excellent piece by Roy Masters in the SMH that breaks down the way this system can be manipulated by Fox Sports) we can therefore assume that Fox Sports has picked the Warriors-Sea Eagles game at pick three, with Channel Nine taking the Knights-Dragons at pick one (for Thursday Night) and picks two and four for Sunday Afternoon and Friday Night respectively.

There are probably two scenarious as to how these final two FTA games could be scheduled.
  • One option sees Parramatta hosting Brisbane at Parramatta Stadium on Friday Night and the Panthers taking on the Bulldogs at Centrebet Stadium on Sunday Afternoon.
  • The other option sees the Rabbitohs host the Roosters at ANZ Stadium on the Friday Night and the Eels play the Broncos at Parramatta Stadium on Sunday.
It is hard to see any of the other games - Tigers v Sharks, Raiders v Storm or the all Queensland derby Cowboys v Titans being played in any of these prime spots. In all likelihood the Cowboys and Titans will play on a Saturday Night at Dairy Farmers Stadium, while the Tigers v Sharks looks set to be the first Monday Night Football of the season with Todd Carney's return (again) for Cronulla being the headline act for the pay tv network. The game left over - Raiders v Storm is a leading candidate to be the 2pm Sunday game from Canberra (a timeslot Fox Sports has basically made into a Canberra home game in recent years).

So that's Round 1, 2012. The Knights v Dragons is a big game even without the 'Wayne Bennett coaching against his former team first up' factor and the Thursday Night kick-off is a intriguing touch.

What about the rest of the season you say?

CLICK A TEAM LOGO for that team's full schedule for 2012.

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Well here are a few points of analysis - positive and negative - from a first good look at the full schedule on November 6th.