A League Picks – Round 3

It was all going so well.

Until just before full time in the Mariners v Melbourne Heart game on Saturday evening, I was on a winning run.

Then the rest of the weekend happened.

I won $3.40 from the Adelaide draw, and lost all four other bets, leaving my account at $-14.30 after just 2 weeks. Somebody stop me!

At least this week my bets were close, but close doesn’t win you any money.

So on to this weeks tips

Victory v Brisbane

Image

Who knows what will happen here? These two sides have had Jeckyll and Hyde performances so far this season and when you add in Melbourne losing their coach, this game could go any way. I’m going to have my insurance bet on this game with a dollar on Melbourne to win at home (at $2.60) and a dollar on a draw (at $3.40)

Mariners v Adelaide

Image

United are currently sitting in second position on the ladder, but the reality is that last weeks 2-2 draw should have been a 3-1 loss. On top of that, the Mariners will be smarting that they haven’t won a game yet this season (in fact, none of last season’s top 3 teams have won a game so far this year. Haven’t lost one either though). The Mariners work better out of the spotlight, and the smaller home crowd this week should work to their advantage. I’m going to have a dollar on Central Coast to win 2-1 (at $8.00)

Sydney v Wanderers

Image

The big game of the week will see a sellout crowd watch last rounds whipping boys (who are somehow still in 3rd spot!) go up against the competitions media darlings, and the darlings are well overdue for a win. Currently on a run of 3 competitive matches without a win, the Wanderers will be desperate to take home the full three points from the derby match as questions begin to be asked of their ability to perform under pressure. Sydney supporters will say that the Sky Blues’ home performances have been almost inexplicably good under Frank Farina, but the one team to win at the SFS since he took over is Western Sydney. So in classic gamblers form, I’m having a bit bet on this to try and save myself from circling the drain after round 3. I’m having $5 on the Wanderers to win (at $1.85)

Wellington v Newcastle

Image

As usual, the Phoenix are proving to be the surprise package of this years competition with their gallant performances against both Brisbane and the Wanderers. While Newcastle (along with Perth) took my jibe at the Melbourne derby being the most boring game of all time as a challenge and produced some form of footballing chloroform. I’m going for the full time/half time double for the Phoenix (at $3.00)

Perth v Heart

Image

I think both of these teams are adequately adequate. They are both fairly dull, and I don’t really have much to say about them. Given that of the 10 matches played so far there have been 6 draws, I’m going to have to put my last dollar on a dull Draw in this one (at $3.40)

Ledger currently sitting at -$24.30

Gamble Responsibly

 

Phew, got through the article without a Kalac joke.

A League Picks – Round 2

We’ll start off with a quick assessment of just how far off I was with most of my bets last week. I said Sydney would get thoroughly dominated, so of course, they had a convincing win. I said Santalab would be the first goal scorer for the Wanderers this season, so of course, he didn’t even start the match. I said that the biggest weaknesses of both the Melbourne sides was their defence, so of course they had a 0-0 draw. I said Wellington were awful and Brisbane would dominate both halves. So of course, they needed a late winner to seal the match. But the one ray of light at the end of my abysmal betting weekend was the triumph of Adelaide United with passing slicker than Zeljko Kalac’s hair*

So the bad news is, only one of my bets came through. The good news is, I miscalculated and didn’t spend my full $10, so I have extra money to bet this week!

So with the accidental $9 spend last week and the $2.30 win, the current ledger is sitting at -$6.70. Yay me.

Now, on to this week’s bets.

Adelaide v Victory

Image

These “traditional rivals” couldn’t be coming off more disparate performances. Adelaide looked brilliant, exciting and full of energy while the Victory looked lost, dull and half dead. That said, I definitely don’t expect a blow out here. The Reds are playing at home and I think that might be enough to give them the edge. I’m going to hedge my bets here and have a dollar on the draw (at $3.40) and a dollar on Adelaide to win by 1 goal (at $3.75)

Heart v Mariners

Image

Both teams here opened their accounts with a draw and neither gave too much away about how they would play this season. The Heart played in the most boring game of the round** and the Mariners were cagey, careful not to give too much away against last season’s Grand Final opponents. I like the Mariners here, but my actual $2 bet is going on a draw at half time into a Central Coast win at Full Time (at $4.50)

Roar v Sydney

Image

For the first time in many years, Sydney actually looked like they had a clear game plan other than to hang on for dear life and hope for the best. They only got a marginal pass mark in completing that game plan, but it’s a start. The Roar on the other hand turned their blistering pre-season form into a confused mess that Lindsay Lohan would be proud of. But the lure of historical dominance is very strong here. Sydney haven’t beaten Brisbane in Brisbane since the last time Kevin Rudd actually won an election. No matter the form, the Roar always have the wood on Sydney when they play at Lang Park. On top of that, a Sydney win here would mean that they would start a season with 2 consecutive wins, something they’ve only done once in their history (the year they won the double) so the money here is going to have to be 2 dollars on Brisbane to win by 1 goal (at $3.50) and a one dollar insurance bet on a draw (at $3.85)

Jets v Glory

Image

The Jets would need a colossal turn around in form after being dominated by an average Sydney team last week. Their attack was a shambles and the smart money would say that they are unlikely to fix that in a week. But I don’t have smart money. Also, Perth conceded the most goals of any team last week, so there are a lot of variables. I’m going to put two dollars on a straight Perth win (at $2.75)

WSW v Phoenix

Image

Against the Mariners, Western Sydney looked a little bit like they still hadn’t mentally gotten over the Grand Final loss. With a very similar squad to last season, the mental scars are still there. However, playing against the Phoenix in Australia is a different prospect altogether. In front of the inventors of atmosphere, the RBB, and what really should be a sell-out crowd given the membership numbers, I expect this to be a walk in the park for Western Sydney’s finest. I’m going with two dollars on the Wanderers to win by 2 goals or more (at $2.00)

 

So the ledger heading into the weekend is now at -$17.70. Hopefully I can make up some ground from last week.

Gamble Responsibly

 

 

*I’ve really got to stop targeting Spider. He’s a monster of a human and could eat me for breakfast. Sorry champ 🙂

**And possibly the history of time

A League Picks – Round 1

Image

I want to start this by saying that I’m not much of a gambler.
I don’t play the pokies, I don’t bet on horses unless it’s Melbourne Cup Day and my few forays into sports gambling have been average at best.

That said, I’m starting something here as a bit of an experiment to see how much money I would win* if I had $10 to bet each week on the 5 A-League games.

I can use that money however I see fit, that is it doesn’t have to mean a $2 bet on each game, but I’m using the idea of a minimum bet of $1 and I have to place some sort of bet on every game.

I’ll be using the TAB market at the time that I look it up – which will be as I write it**

The caveat is that if*** my total kitty at the end of a weekend is under $50, I lose and the game finishes.

So getting on with it –

SYDNEY FC v NEWCASTLE JETS

Image

There’s no point messing around here, either the TAB knows something I don’t or they’ve got Zeljko Kalac setting the odds. In spite of encouraging home form last season, Sydney FC have been inconceivably awful during pre-season, and that was before Anthony Crea inflicted the team with an injury list that would make Harry Kewell blush

I’m putting $4 on Newcastle to win (at $3.85) and $1 on the draw (at $3.40) in case an actual confirmed miracle happens and we concede less than 2 goals.

CENTRAL COAST MARINERS v NRMA INSURANCE WESTERN SYDNEY WANDERERS

Image

I truly have no idea what is going to happen here, but I do have a feeling that after embarrassing themselves in the first free to air A-League game of the year, Sydney are going to have some salt rubbed in their wound when former Sydney nobody Brendan Santalab scores, so I’ll put a dollar in him to be first goal scorer (at $8.50)

MELBOURNE VICTORY v MELBOURNE HEART

Image

After a full off season to rub his smarmy faced style all over the Victory players faces, I think they’ll be a decent side this year, but their biggest weakness is still going to be their defence. On top of that, Heart lost their marquee defender and look to be still getting used to each other on the park, which is going to make for at least 4 goals in this game for mine. So I’m going for $1 on the Over 3.5 Goals to be scored in this match (at $2.80)

WELLINGTON PHOENIX v BRISBANE ROAR

Image

The Roar have been on fire this pre-season, scoring goals at will, while Wellington literally signed 4 players just this week. I’m actually not kidding at all. 4 players. This week. I’m going for Brisbane in the Half/Full Time double (at $3.85)

ADELAIDE UNITED v PERTH GLORY

Image

I’ve not seen or heard much at all about Perth this off season, but for the first time in a long time, they appear to be going into a season with a manager that has seen a football before in his life. But on the other hand I’ve heard nothing but positive reviews of Adelaide under their new coach. So my final dollar will go on Adelaide to win (at $2.30)

Which leaves my current ledger at -$10.00

Gamble responsibly.

 

 

 

*That is, how much money I will almost certainly lose

**I know, TAB has terrible odds, IDGAF, it’s what I’m using.

***read; once

The Right Man For The Right Job

ImageWe are all spoiled.

As modern sports fans, we are spoilt for choice. Spoilt for coverage. Spoilt for talent.

We are living in a time where on a Sunday afternoon, I can choose between 17 channels showing different types of sport. Where I can watch “Live European Track and Field”. Where the world’s best sporting talent – of all time I might add – is on display whenever I want it*

Perhaps this is why the modern sports fan demands absolutely everything of their best and brightest players. We want every player to be able to do everything on the field. In fact in some areas our obsession with the complete player comes at the detriment of our ability to see if these players can do what they are meant to do, first and foremost.

Sometimes it is because we want our players to be able to counter specific threats from opposition players, other times it’s because we’ve seen that the world’s best are capable of it, so we want our players to do the same. We’re all guilty of wanting the best for our team, but sometimes we can be over ambitious.

Image

Football (and particularly the A-League) is probably the best example of fans seeing the skill set that the world’s best players have and wanting their own players to have those same abilities.

Supporters want Centre Backs that can pass like Attacking Midfielders. Forwards that can harass and mark opposition players like Defensive Midfielders, and Fullbacks who are both impeccable crossers of the ball that can constantly charge up the lines to create scoring chances inside the opposition’s 18 yard box, as well as tackling dynamo’s that are never out of position.

The first hurdle to overcome here is to remember the level that the A-League is at. If the players were good enough to do most of these things, they wouldn’t be playing here. That’s the reason that your Manchester United supporting mate doesn’t go to the Newcastle Jets games with you on the weekend. The players that play in this league are limited. That’s not to say that they are poor. By no stretch of the imagination is the league’s standard low – and it is improving every year – but these are players that almost by definition are limited, either physically, tactically or skilfully. If they weren’t they wouldn’t continue playing in the A League for long**

But the second hurdle to overcome here is to stop overlooking what the players CAN do in search of what they can’t do.
The thing with players of limited ability that reach this level is that they are good at SOME things. Whatever things they are good at, is pretty much what has determined the position they play in, probably for their whole lives. These players grow up with natural talents in certain areas and they build on them as they grow.
The kids who had a natural ability to find the back of the net are made into strikers. The ones who could mark a man and tackle him were made into defenders. The tall are made into goalkeepers. It really isn’t rocket science. This is simply how it is done and how it has always been done (at least here in Australia, rightly or wrongly).

This isn’t to say that it is not possible for a defender to have a strong passing game, or for a striker to be full of energy and able to cause wayward passing from the opposition centre backs. When you find one that can, it’s great, and you don’t want to lose them (but you will). The problem is when people watch Barcelona and think that every team should play that way*** and in turn start looking for defenders who can pass and strikers who can run after defenders all day, without taking into consideration the abilities that they are meant to have.

Take Sydney FC last season. They started the year with Coach Ian Crook looking to play an attractive brand of football. His recruiting was set to reflect that. He already had ball playing Centre Back Pascal Bosschaart on the books (albeit recovering from injury) who was a converted defensive midfielder. Whatever faults Bosschaart had shown in the previous season were not related to his ball skills. He would occasionally misread plays and/or miss tackles, but his passing was generally superb. Crook then brought in Adam Griffiths, who was also a converted defensive midfielder, again, known more for his passing than his defending – and his defending turned out to be pretty awful.

However when the signing was made it was seen by most as a very astute signing. A ball playing Centre Half is what every team wanted. And to get an Australian one, thus saving a precious foreign spot on the roster, was the icing on the cake. What nobody realised is that a passing defender is only as good as the amount of times he can get the ball off the opposition. If he isn’t very good at that, he better have someone next to him that is.

Image

The best defensive pairing Sydney have ever had (and arguably the league has ever had) consisted of Simon Colosimo and Stephan Keller. Colosimo was a ball playing defender, but also had a great ability to read the game in front of him and make interceptions, which in turn put him in good positions to make the passes he wanted.  Keller on the other hand was a hard-nosed defender who was able to cover for the times that Colosimo misread the opposition’s intentions. They were the perfect pairing, and played more than the sum of their parts. They were the foundation that Sydney won their title on.

Yet throughout the entire season, there was never more than a week that went past without fans and commentators bemoaning Keller’s long passing from the back.

Take another example in Mark Bridge. Sydney FC fans constantly criticised him for being a lazy player (and he is) typified in his inability to shut down opposition defenders. But what always seemed to be ignored was his goal scoring ability. Now, by the end of his stint with the Sky Blues, even that ability had disappeared, and Bridge himself admitted after the fact that he simply wasn’t giving it his all. So of course, Sydney was completely correct in not renewing his contract.

However when he travelled across town to the NRMA Insurance Western Sydney Wanderers and was told to simply focus on his goal scoring (and to actually try), he found his form again. There was a spring in his step, and by the end of the season, he was even chasing down defenders, though not consistently, but it was a start.

Image

A similar thing has been happening at the State of Origin level in Rugby League, with the NSW selections.

This time the selections are being made to counter specific threats on the opposition team.

QLD have had differing variations of probably the best backline ever assembled. They are a menacing side that can strike from anywhere on the field and they pay no mind to who is in front of them, and everyone who has been tasked with defending them in these last 7 years has essentially failed.

There is an obsession in the NSW origin selection room, which appears to be shared by most NSW fans, that for any backline player to play origin, they need to be very big, very strong and very good defenders.

Of course, those are great assets to have and ideally the players selected would tick all of these boxes. But shouldn’t the first priority of a Rugby League backline be to SCORE points? Again, you obviously want to be able to stop them as well, but sometimes the best form of defence is attack.

The example I’ll use is Matt Cooper, who is thought of as a specialist defensive centre. He’s attempted to stop this formidable Queensland backline 9 times since the juggernaut began, and QLD have run over the top of NSW on 7 of those occasions. In those 9 matches he scored just 2 tries.

You obviously can’t blame a single player for the losses (and I’m not), but I’m using him as an example because his selection is indicative of what the NSW selectors have gone for in those matches – particularly in the latter stages of his career. In his last 4 matches for NSW (all losses) QLD averaged 27 points per game.

The point I’m getting at here is that no matter who you put in front of them, Queensland are going to score tries. NSW should be trying to score more rather than try to tackle their way to wins.

Which is why people should not be asking what Nathan Merritt was doing in conceding the two tries he did**** – but perhaps should be asking why Josh Morris only attempted to pass him the ball twice all match (one of which went into touch), when he is one of the most prolific try scorers in the history of the game.

The Queensland backline are no slouches in terms of their defence, but every one of them is picked for their attacking ability first and defending second. As it currently stands, their left side defence has 2 Fullbacks playing at Centre and Wing. The defensive readings there can be shaky at times, but it’s not something that ever really gets exploited because the Maroons are always so busy attacking.

So it’s up to us sports fans to start getting our priorities in order. If we stop demanding everything of everyone, we might just get what we all really want.

Wins.

 

 

 

 

* Not necessarily at the “Live European Track and Field” events

** Let’s be honest here, even most of the players that DO get snapped up by overseas clubs are fairly limited, so a player that ticks all the boxes would be on the first flight to the United Arab Emirates.

*** Which would be just as boring as all teams playing long ball all match in my opinion.

**** I’ll write a defence for Merrit in my next column. It’s the least I owe him after jinxing him with my previous article