Sunday, October 15, 2017

Sporting shorts: October 15

So, I didn't know what to do with this post after the Football (read NRL or AFL) seasons have finished.  But last week was a pretty big week, with the start of the Baseball Playoffs and a big week in World Cup Qualifiers.

The AFL and NRL will stay in the news with the International Rules Series and World Cup coming up.

Baseball:
So it looked like quite an even post season with quite a number of teams with rosters capable of winning the World Series, and it was hard to pick of favourite. The Wild Card games were won by the Yankees and Arizona Diamondbacks. The Divisional Series were won by the Houston Astros, New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs. With the league playoffs being between the Yankees and Astros; and the Dodgers and Cubs. I'm picking Houston and Los Angeles to meet in the World Series, but anything can, and usually does happen.

World Cup Qualifiers
In the Asian playoff, Australia survived a tense 2-1 win on Tuesday and 3-2 aggregate win to advance to the Intercontinental Playoff, where they will meet Honduras.

The surprise of Wednesday morning was that Panama would qualify for their first World Cup, and the USA being eliminated by a 1-2 loss to Trinidad and Tobago.

In Europe, Iceland qualified for their first World Cup, and surprisingly the Netherlands missed out. Iceland are Quarter finalists from the last European Championships so perhaps we shouldn't be surprised.

The South American Qualifiers were equally tense with Peru advancing to the playoff against New Zealand. Have to say I'll be surprised if NZ make it, but anything can happen.

So now the qualified teams are:

Africa: Egypt, Nigeria, three more will qualify. Most groups are quite tight, but I favour Tunisia, Cote D'Iviore (Ivory Coast) and Senegal.
Asia: Iran, Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia
Europe: Belgium, France, England, Germany, Spain, Iceland, Serbia, Poland, Portugal, Russia (Hosts)
North, Central America and the Caribbean: Mexico, Costa Rica and Panama
South America:  Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, and Uruguay.

Playoffs: 
The below teams have qualified for the playoffs

  • Australia who play Honduras (they play on Nov 10 and Nov 15)
  • New Zealand who play Peru (they play on Nov 11 and Nov 16)
  • In Europe, four will qualify from Denmark, Greece, Republic of Ireland, Italy, Croatia, Northern Ireland, Sweden and Switzerland. The match ups, and dates, are decided on Oct 17.
My final thought is that I love the 32 team World Cup, and am not really a fan of expanding it. If that's the decision that's made so be it, we'll see how it ends up. 

Saturday, October 07, 2017

What I've been in to - August / September

It's a little late, but I thought I'd take the t I me to write about what I've been doing recently.

Reading
It's been a quiet month for reading. I have read a little more of Timothy Keller´s book on prayer, but not much else. So far I have found it a really interesting and helpful read. But more on that when I've finished.

Music
I've been listening to quite a bit over the past few months. I'm addicted to Nichole Nordeman´s Every Mile Mattered. Just a beautiful collection of songs about when life heads south or you are not in the season you want to be. The album has a great cover of U2's Beautiful Day.

Speaking of U2, the other album I've been listening to now is December´s 33, which I reviewed earlier. It's a great selection of U2 covers reimagined with love and care.

To top it off I've been listening to U2´s new song You're the Best Thing About Me. I really love it, and can't wait for the album whenever it comes.

The other album which came out is Pearl Jam´s recording from their Wrigley Field shows. Just a great band, and the recording is awesome.

Watching
I haven't been watching much. Well mostly sport, American sport that is.  I found their commentary so superior to what we cope with. I enjoy having women commentate. The biggest thing was it seemed the goal wasn't entertainment, rather describing the game, and talking about the sport.

Sporting shorts - October 1 #Finals four.

So with that the football season is over.

AFL

  • While the Crows were the best team all year. Richmond were better on the day and deserved Premiers. Their first since 1980.
NRL
  • Congrats to Melbourne, deserved Premiers. I have to say that Bellemy deserves great credit for continuing to find great players. 
  • The Rugby League World Cup starts this month, so there's more Rugby League before the seasons over. I expect the Australian teams to dominate the men's and women's tournaments.
Other
  • One thing I have appreciated in the coverage of the Baseball I've been watching was the place of women in calling the game. In Australia we have women providing comments or as hosts. I think we could do better. There are women who could be part of the commentary team and call the game. The game would be better for it. 
Hard to know what to do with this series now the football season is over. While I do love cricket, it's just not the same. I will try to get into the A-League this year. I expect Sydney has to be a good chance to go back to back.

The other big story is Australia´s World Cup qualification. Australia are playing Syria. The tie is level at 1-1. I expect Australia to win, but it would be an awesome story if Syria was able to win the tie. 

Monday, September 25, 2017

Sports Shorts - September 24 - Finals #3

AFL

  • So we've got a Crows-Tigers final.  For me the two best teams this year have made it. I'm leaning towards Adelaide as they are the more balanced team, but I feel if Richmond get a good start (and Adelaide start slowly), it could be a different story. 
  • If the Cotchin incident had happened in the Home&Away season, I feel he would have got at least a fine. That said, I'm glad he's playing in the Grand Final. 
  • On the Brownlow. I want the journo's to ask the 'WAGs' more than just what they're wearing. I think Dustin Martin will win, and poll more votes than Dangerfield. 
NRL
  • It's the Cowboys and Storm. The Storm are raging favourites, being the best team all year.  But you do have to admire the Cowboys, knocking out the Sharks, Eels and Roosters just to make the Grand Final (and doing it all without Thurston). I think they'll be saying a big thank you to the Bulldogs, who's last round win against the Dragons got them into the eight. 
  • I think the Storm will win, but won't mind of the Cowboys win, They'll be the first, first grade premiers who have won a grand final after finishing eight. 
Other
  • The Matildas had another win against Brazil.There is just something awesome about how they approach the game, and the joy they play with. They're certainly my favourite Australian sports team at the moment. 

Monday, September 18, 2017

Sporting shorts - 17 September - Finals #2

AFL

  • Tough end to the season. I thought Geelong were more of a chance than most people. But I feel the Sydney didn't really offer a shot. I guess after playing over month of elimination finals the players were heading for an off night. 
  • GWS were ruthless in dispatching West Coast. Hard to tell whether the result was more about West Coast running out of puff or GWS. 
  • Was disappointing to see the number at the GWS-West Coast game - a touch over 14,000 in a 21,000 seat stadium. 
  • Was sad both games were over by half time, hoping next weekend's games are closer. 
  • Our Preliminary Finals are Adelaide v Geelong and Richmond v GWS.  We'll know the effect of the pre-final bye this weekend.  
  • Both games are fairly even, but I'm hoping for a Adelaide v Richmond final. But I'd be equally happy if Geelong wins (just as long as Adelaide or Geelong win the Grand Final). 
NRL
  • Well, for this neutral, there's nobody left to support. If I have to pick anyone to cheer for it will be the Cowboys. 
  • Brisbane played well, especially seeing they suffered a few injuries, 
  • I can't help but feel Parramatta felt the effects of their close loss to Melbourne. 
  • Our Preliminary Finals are Melbourne v Brisbane and Sydney v North Queensland. I suspect we'll see a Storm - Roosters Grand Final, but we'll see. 
Rugby
  • Convincing win by the All Blacks against the Springboks this weekend. The 57-0 win was a record margin for a test between the two nations. 
  • The Wallabies won the first test in this Championship with a 45-20 win against Argentina in Canberra. 
  • I'm getting hungrier for a test between England and New Zealand. England are the best placed challenger to New Zealand at the moment. It's a shame we have to wait so long to see them play. 
Other
  • The other highlight from the weekend, was the 15,000 strong crowd who watched the Matilda's 2-1 win over Brazil. The crowd was larger than the Giants - West Coast crowd, Very impressive. The two teams play another game in front of a sell-out crowd in Newcastle on Wednesday.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

December - 33

One of the albums I've been excited about hearing all year, finally arrived in my email box yesterday.  It's due for release on September 30. I gave it the old school treatment, while I don't yet have a CD book to finger through. I put earphones on, turned off the lights and let the music speak to me.

The album in question is December's '33'.  The album is a collection of U2 songs. They're more than covers,  they've been given a breath of freshnes.  I just love Ails voice, she brings the earnestness and passion you know from Bono. There's a refreshing thing about hearing these songs, sung by a female vocalist and stripped back a little.

The album doesn't contain the band's biggest hits, but rather a collection of deeper cuts from their catalogue, including God Part II (R&H), Surrender (War),  and a couple of my favourites Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses (Achtung Baby) and Bad (The Unforgettable Fire).  Along with those there's the beautiful Promenade, the powerful Surrender, and the fan favourite Where the Streets Have No Name. The album also includes A Sort of Homecoming, Invisible, I Fall Down and Ultra Violet (Light My Way).


It's a collection made by a group of people who clearly both know and love the band with songs from throughout the bands history. I'm excited to hear their own new music shortly, and hopefully a volume 2 of U2 covers down the track. The album is out on September 30 and you can order it from here.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Sporting shorts - September 10 (Finals 1)

NRL

  • The talk of the weekend for me is the coaches criticism of the referees. I think we have to be harsh on coaches public criticism of the referee.  No, the referee didn't cost you to the game. I certainly think that we need be mindful of the impact criticism from coaches influences players in junior sport.  We need referees, It's a tough gig. Read this piece here from Richard Hinds, makes some great points. I'm glad both coaches have been fined. 
  • On an old hobby horse, but a couple of decisions made me think we should just remove technology from the game, a decision gets sent to the bunker, who then rule "Referees Call". A Goal-line review in the AFL is declared Umpire's Call. Let's keep the theatre of sport and let the on field referees make the call. Yep, I'm sure they'll get some wrong, but I can live with that. Just like I have to live with it when my team gives up a 16 point lead.
  • On the field wins to Melbourne (in a tough one against Parramatta), Sydney City, Penrith and North Queensland.  Next week sees Brisbane host Penrith, and Parramatta host North Queensland). I'm expecting Brisbane and Parramatta to win those games. Though my heart would love to see Penrith win (sorry Andrew). 
AFL
  • The buzz is about the Richmond Tigers, who won the first final in ages, and qualified for the Preliminary Final. It does seem they gained an advantage with the game being at the MCG. I know its an economic decision, but I'd love to see Geelong play their finals in Geelong. Yep even their final against Sydney next week. They earned a home field advantage, but I don't think they got it.
  • The Port Adelaide - West Coast final was something else, extra time, then a goal after the siren to steal the game.  Who knows what West Coast can do, now they've won a final.  I'll be cheering for them against GWS. 
  • The two games next weekend, Geelong - Sydney and GWS - West Coast.  I'd put the chances of a Sydney - GWS Grand Final at about 20%, but we'll see. 
  • Next week, I'm expecting GWS to win and hoping Sydney wins. 
  • I was one of the 46,000 people at the Swans-Bombers. A record crowd at the ground (in it's current configuration). Was a great atmosphere, though I did hope for a closer game. About quarter time I noticed everyone standing at taking pictures of the crowd. When I looked closer, it was because our Prime Minister - Malcolm Turnbull was there.
Football
  • New Zealand have qualified for the Intercontinental play-off, where they will play the fifth ranked South American team, currently Argentina (eek). 
  • Australia also qualified for the playoff in Asia, where they will play Syria. If they win that game they will play the fourth ranked team from the North America and Caribbean, currently USA - but I expect that will change - and either Honduras or Panama will await. 
  • The qualified countries now number eight. Hosts Russia, Brazil, Mexico, Belgium, Iran, South Korea, Japan and Saudi Arabia. 
  • I'm looking forward for the start of the Champions League this week. Hoping the tournament throws up a few surprises and we have a new winner. 
Cricket
  • Australia won the second test, and drew the series with Bangladesh. Lyon was super impressive with the ball, and Warner with the bat.
  • The other notable fact is James Anderson taking his 500th Test Wicket. He had a shaky start to his career, but has improved out of sight. Read this piece here

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Sporting shorts - September 3

AFL

  • This week is the bye, so on field action was limited to Women's State of Origin football, with the Allies and Victoria battling it out. The game itself wasn't really a contest - Victoria winning the game by 97 points - and Daisy Pearce best on ground. 
  • In the Men's competition, the biggest news was Dustin Martin re-signing with Richmond. Have to say I'm pleased by that.  
  • Looking forward to next week, not with any degree of confidence I'm picking: Adelaide, Richmond, Sydney and Port Adelaide to win.
NRL
  • North Queensland survive, and claim eight spot, mainly due to St George's loss to the Bulldogs. 
  • The first round of the finals sees: Melbourne play Parramatta, the Roosters tackle Brisbane.  Manly and Penrith resume hostilities after playing this week, and Cronulla play North Queensland. If there's any upsets among those, I suspect it will be Parramatta beating Melbourne. Parramatta at the moment are seeming to play better against the teams above them.
  • So, I'm picking Melbourne, Sydney City, Penrith and Cronulla to win next weekend. 
  • The Warriors abysmal season finished with their ninth straight loss - 16-28 against the Tigers. Honestly, the less said about their season the better. 
Cricket
  • The main news this week was the West Indies beating England; and Australia losing to Bangladesh. 
  • I'm not seeing Australia's loss as an upset, the Tigers are on the way up, beating both England and Sri Lanka in the past twelve months. Australia didn't really do the preparation and paid the penalty. These results are both great for Test Cricket. 
Football
  • World Cup qualifiers have recommenced, with four nations in addition to the hosts Russia now qualified (Iran, Japan, Mexico and Brazil)
  • The All Whites beat the Solomon Islands 6-1 in the first leg of their final.  The winner has the task of playing the fifth ranked South American team, currently Argentina, but it could also be Chile, Peru or Ecuador
  • Australia's path is slightly more complicated after their 0-2 loss to Japan. Australia needs to beat Thailand and hope that either Japan beats Saudi Arabia or they beat Thailand by a greater margin than Saudi Arabia beat Japan. Australia will otherwise finish third and then need to qualify by beating the other third ranked Asian team (currently Syria, but it could be Uzbekistan) then beating the fourth ranked team from the North America and Caribbean confederation (currently Honduras, but there's an outside chance it could be the USA). 
  • In terms of Europe and Africa, it is still to early in the qualifiers to determine the group winners. 
US Open
  • At the middle weekend of the tournament, the Mens draws looks a little top heavy with Federer and Nadal in the top half of the draw, and its really anyone's guess who the other two semi-finalists are.  The Women's Draw is quite open. I don't know enough to pick a winner, though I'd love to see Venus Williams win the tournament.
  • I'm not really sure how I feel about Sharapova being in the tournament.  Yes she has had a positive doping violation, and was granted a wild-card, but do we, if we do, move on? 
Other
  • Have to admit, I'm looking forward to the start of the NFL Season, which begins Friday morning with the reigning champions (New England Patriots) taking on the Kansas City Chiefs.