Sunday 29 May 2016

My Penguinos are back in the #StanleyCup Final! #NHL #Pens

By W D Nicolson - May 29, 2016

It's been a long wait when you've got Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in your team but the Pittsburgh Penguins have returned to the Stanley Cup Finals seven seasons after winning the Stanley Cup in 2009.

Crosby was 21 and Malkin 23 when Pittsburgh beat Detroit in 7 Games and no one doubted the Penguins would be back to contest Lord Stanley's Cup again... it's just they didn't think it'd be 2016 before they did. 

This time around Marc-Andre Fleury (stellar in the regular season) is the backup in goal behind a 22 year old rookie called Matt Murray, and Crosby and Malkin are surrounded by a fast, hard working and tenacious group - headlined by a seasoned Kris Letang on the blue-line and a pure goal-scorer who Toronto didn't want to pay anymore in Phil Kessel. 

For this Pittsburgh fan - currently typing away in a Sydney cafe wearing a late 1990s Penguins jersey (and getting strange looks) - this feels like Christmas. 

I have my favourite teams in many codes but the Penguins are only #2 to one side and they are truly not far off #1. But they are the team that most certainly gives me the most joy as a devotee.

Something about growing up and seeing the likes of Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr and Ron Francis score at will made me an almost instant Pittsburgh fan... and that was playing NHL 96 more than watching them in real life! 

My journey to love the Pens was indeed started by a computer game that may or may not have ruined my high school study habits, but once I saw clips (then games on ESPN in Australia when a friend got PayTV in 1996 and would tape the games for me) - I was hooked on Hockey and the Penguins.

Fast forward a few years, I'm distraught when Mario retires... so I decide that post-High School I might as well live my dream and be in Canada. 

So I did.

What a year 1999 was - I saw Wayne Gretzky retire (not in person but at least I was on the same continent) and pass his torch to Jagr... I saw Junior Ice Hockey at its best in the OHL with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds playing in my town and being able to cover them online (still crucial to where I am today professionally) for a Canadian audience and not have them realise I wasn't brought up on the sport. 

But my Penguins got rolled by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Eastern Conference Semi Finals despite Jagr being amazing... but I stayed the course. 

And almost a decade later (after Mario came back, then Jagr got dealt and Evgeni, Sid and MAF got drafted) - the Pens made it to the Cup Final against Detroit and got beat... but the signs were there.

The next year we did the business (again v Detroit) and I experienced sporting fan nirvana for the first time since 1994 when my Canberra Raiders won the comp in the NRL. 

I had been spoilt - Fleury's sprawling save to deny Nicklas Lidstrom in the final seconds of Game 7 was a rush that just hadn't been rivalled in 15 years and I was also old enough to truly appreciate the buzz. 

You can read and see my reaction to that Game 7 here.

So a long long backstory short - the Penguins will take on the San Jose Sharks from Tuesday (Monday in Pittsburgh) for the right to hoist Lord Stanley's Cup again. 

And I will be finding every which way I can to see as much of it as I can... this time I don't have to rely on a friend taping it and then watching it on a 2-3 day delay... I can simply open my iPhone and watch it live on a superb live streaming service provided by the NHL. It's ridiculously good when I can choose to just watch the goalie cam the whole game on my phone... let alone getting it in near enough HD (something that's beyond major sport digitally in Australia). 

So will the Penguins win the Stanley Cup for the 4th time? 

Let's sit back and enjoy the next two weeks... I sure hope so but as evidenced by the length of time between Cup Final visits for a team with superstars like Crosby and Malkin - nothing is certain in sport. 


Thursday 26 May 2016

#NRL Round 12 Tips | #NRLBroncosTigers #NRLDragonsCowboys

Round 12 NRL Tips
National Rugby League Premiership
By W D Nicolson - May 26, 2016

The NRL Tweet's Tips for Round 12 2016
Broncos over Tigers
Dragons over Cowboys
Raiders over Bulldogs
Eels over Knights

Last Week: 7/8
That's what we're talking about... Penrith blowing it late cost us all a perfect Round. 

Round 12 Tipping Skinny: Only 4 games... but maybe only the Broncos look like a good thing? Could still change my mind on Dragons-Cowboys especially. 

59/88 at 67.0%
Round by Round: 5/8 | 6/8 | 4/8 | 5/8 | 7/8 | 5/8 | 5/8 | 7/8 | 4/8 | 4/8
2015 Tipping: 115/192 at 59.9%
2014 Tipping: 122/192 at 63.5%
2013 Tipping: 121/192 at 63.0%
2012 Tipping: 115.5/192 at 60.2%
2011 Tipping: 115/192 at 59.9%
2010 Tipping: 125/192 at 65.1%

There's my tips - got your own?
Comment below or reply on Twitter.

Saturday 21 May 2016

Our #Origin 1 NSW Team... and the one we think Daley will pick | #NRL

OUR NSW Origin 1 Team
National Rugby League Premiership
By W D Nicolson - May 21, 2016

So we asked the question on Twitter - do you want to read a team that we would pick for State of Origin 1 or the team we think the selectors will pick?

Some gave a clear answer, others clearly just wanted both. So we'll stick with the team we would pick, then go to the team we think Laurie Daley selects on Monday.

In short - our NSW team is picked to score points. Queensland have 20 points in them at least, and picking a team that completely relies on keeping QLD to 12 points or less has zero margin of error. 

You won't agree with every pick - but that's not the point.

We'll do our QLD team tomorrow. 

The NRL Tweet's NSW Origin Team for Game 1 2016

  1. Matt Moylan - His creativity alone gets him here. A must given NSW need to be able to score points.
  2. Josh Dugan - Honestly think this is his best position in Origin... by far. 
  3. Michael Jennings - Isn't going to be beaten out by anyone so he's here. Roberts a way off yet and Croker isn't up to it defensively. 
  4. Josh Morris - Isn't setting the world on fire but he's a far better defender than Dugan here. 
  5. Blake Ferguson - Gets the call ahead of Josh Mansour because he offers more natural strike in attack. 
  6. James Maloney - Just has to be the #6. Josh Reynolds is not the answer and neither is Blake Austin based on what the latter's shown in 2016. 
  7. Mitchell Pearce - I was against him for years and he's here because Aidan Sezer hasn't shown enough (liked his kicking game as the reason to go with him a month or so back) and Adam Reynolds isn't creative enough to pick him ahead of Pearce's support play. Something tells me he's got something left to give at Origin level... but I'm not convinced we'll see him for Game 1. That said - he's my #7 because of his ability and combo with Maloney. 
  8. Aaron Woods - Will be leant on early to lead the charge - not sure how Daley will use him after his first stint though. We'd start him for the first 30 and bring him back just after halftime for Fifita. 
  9. Robbie Farah - No question he's the right #9 - Michael Ennis is playing well yes, but NSW's fortunes changed when Farah came back into the team in 2013... NSW are 5-6 with him in the team since... NSW are 2-6 with Ennis at hooker. He is Daley's most important player without Hayne available. 
  10. Paul Gallen - Days of 80 minutes at Origin level are over for mine but that's not a negative given the quality of props on this bench. Starts and finishes the game - but NSW can live without him through the middle 20 or so and it freshens him up to create more second phase from his offloads. Still the leader on this team.  
  11. Boyd Cordner - Maloney's defensive rock on the left and NSW's best edge runner. More I see the more I like from him at this level.  
  12. Bryce Cartwright - NSW need points - have we mentioned that? Don't roll the dice with him off the bench - roll it from the outset - let's see what he brings to that right edge and him being there instantly makes Josh Morris more dangerous than Beau Scott ever could. 
  13. Greg Bird - Has been playing great footy this year - can play 80 but given the bench may not have to. 
  14. Andrew Fifita - Is going to terrorise QLD's middle when he comes on - straight swap for Woods after 15-20 and plays through to after halftime. Bring him back when the game needs him.
  15. Josh Jackson - Covers the backrow (esp if Cartwright is exposed defensively early) and the centres if needed, may not play big minutes but you don't need him to. 
  16. David Klemmer - May only play two short stints but that's what you want from him - instant impact heading into halftime and halfway through the 2nd Half or last 10 minutes.
  17. James Tamou - Unlucky not to start given his form but I love his punch off the bench as part of this huge 5 prop rotation. Comes on for Gallen. 
Now that's my team... meaning there's no room for Beau Scott, Ryan Hoffman, Trent Merrin, Will Hopoate, Trent Hodkinson or Michael Ennis from the Game 3 team of 2015. 

And... this is the NSW Team I think Laurie Daley will probably pick on Monday:

  1. Matt Moylan
  2. Josh Mansour or Josh Morris
  3. Michael Jennings
  4. Josh Dugan
  5. Blake Ferguson
  6. James Maloney
  7. Adam Reynolds
  8. Aaron Woods
  9. Robbie Farah
  10. James Tamou
  11. Beau Scott
  12. Boyd Cordner
  13. Paul Gallen
  14. Andrew Fifita
  15. Josh Jackson/Tyson Frizell/Bryce Cartwright
  16. David Klemmer
  17. Greg Bird
So it's not drastically different to our team but the one selection we're not convinced we're aligned on is Moylan over Dugan at fullback. And that's the one (along with Farah over Ennis) that in our minds is the most important to get right if NSW are to have any hope in this series. 

There's my team - what's your squad?
Comment below or reply on Twitter.

Subscribe to the NOT The Footy Show Podcast on iTunes and we might do an Origin show this week... might.

Thursday 19 May 2016

#NRL Round 11 Tips | #NRLSouthsDragons #NRLCowboysBroncos

Round 11 NRL Tips
National Rugby League Premiership
By W D Nicolson - May 19, 2016

The NRL Tweet's Tips for Round 11 2016
Souths over Dragons
Cowboys over Broncos
Tigers over Knights
Raiders over Warriors
Sharks over Manly
Panthers over Titans
Bulldogs over Roosters
Storm over Eels

Last Week: 4/8
Let's not talk about it... again.

Round 11 Tipping Skinny: Can't go any worse than we have the past two weeks right? 8/16... and bleeding rankings points.  

52/80 at 65.0%
Round by Round: 5/8 | 6/8 | 4/8 | 5/8 | 7/8 | 5/8 | 5/8 | 7/8 | 4/8 | 4/8
2015 Tipping: 115/192 at 59.9%
2014 Tipping: 122/192 at 63.5%
2013 Tipping: 121/192 at 63.0%
2012 Tipping: 115.5/192 at 60.2%
2011 Tipping: 115/192 at 59.9%
2010 Tipping: 125/192 at 65.1%

There's my tips - got your own?

Comment below or reply on Twitter.

Thursday 12 May 2016

#NRL Round 10 Tips | #NRLDragonsRaiders #NRLEelsSouths

Round 10 NRL Tips
National Rugby League Premiership
By W D Nicolson - May 12, 2016

The NRL Tweet's Tips for Round 10 2016
Raiders over Dragons
Eels over Souths
Panthers over Warriors
Cowboys over Storm
Broncos over Manly
Sharks over Knights
Bulldogs over Tigers
Roosters over Titans

Last Week: 4/8
Let's not talk about it... it was 2 weeks ago so we won't.

Round 10 Tipping Skinny: No time this week to break them down - main worry is if the Eels turn up with their heads screwed on or not! And Roosters don't deserve the benefit of the doubt on the Gold Coast but for some reason I'm giving it to them... 

48/72 at 66.7%
Round by Round: 5/8 | 6/8 | 4/8 | 5/8 | 7/8 | 5/8 | 5/8 | 7/8 | 4/8
2015 Tipping: 115/192 at 59.9%
2014 Tipping: 122/192 at 63.5%
2013 Tipping: 121/192 at 63.0%
2012 Tipping: 115.5/192 at 60.2%
2011 Tipping: 115/192 at 59.9%
2010 Tipping: 125/192 at 65.1%

There's my tips - got your own?

Comment below or reply on Twitter.