The Weekly A-Z

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Group 1 glory is up for grabs tonight at Gloucester Park with the running of the Pearl Classic (2130m) and it’s fair to say Aiden De Campo has loaded up the bases. The young Capel-based trainer-driver has a strong hand in the $100,000 feature through his runners The Miki Taker, Floewriter and Rock On Top. All three are firm in the market, which is entirely understandable given their formlines, with Floewriter already boasting a victory at the elite level courtesy of his success in the APG Final in February.


Any fears New South Wales would find themselves trailing 1-0 in the State of Origin arena ahead of a game-two showdown at Suncorp Stadium have been allayed. And I mean allayed. Like really allayed. The Blues turned in one of the more devastating displays of representative football on Wednesday night, thrashing Queensland 50-6 in Townsville. The hosts, playing before a sea of maroon inside Queensland Country Bank Stadium, were powerless to halt the onslaught which will create plenty of self-doubt before the next encounter later this month.


If there has been a year of AFL action impacted by so many injuries, I cannot recall it. The weekly injury lists released by the 18 clubs seems to grow and grow and grow every seven days. Inevitably, it has led to calls for shorter quarters in 2022 to reverse the trend. Before we get there though, let’s allow the players to prepare for next year with a more traditional pre-season and see how they fare. If there is no change, maybe an adjustment that lightens the load on the demands of the players is worth considering.


It is official … Melbourne are up to their eyeballs in the premiership chase. Most felt that was the case ahead of last weekend’s action, but there were a few willing to hit pause on making any bold declarations because, well, this is Melbourne we are talking about. But the Demons absorbed some real punishment in the first half from Brisbane before striking back with interest en route to an 11th win from 12 outings. They have a nastiness about them, boast genuine star factor, are selfless and play a brand of football that will hold up in September. Bundle all that up and it leads to one conclusion … Melbourne are the real deal.


The European Football Championship, better known as the Euros, is here at last. Postponed for 12 months because of the coronavirus, this year’s action will take place in 11 different cities throughout Europe, starting with Italy up against Turkey early tomorrow morning, WA time. Reigning champions Portugal are on the fourth line of betting with TABtouch at $8 — behind France ($5), England ($6.50) and Belgium ($7).


Just a lazy 58th head-to-head encounter. That is what awaits the King of clay, Spain’s Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic when they meet in a semi-final of the French Open tonight, WA time. Nadal, who boasts 13 singles titles at Roland Garros, holds a 7-1 advantage over his Serbian opponent in Paris, but Djokovic is one of only two men to have taken down the redoutable left-hander at the French Open. For the record, Nadal is a $1.36 favourite with TABtouch and $3.10 to win in straight sets.


Could Graceful Girl handle a strongly-run 1400m of the Raconteur Stakes and claim an important black-type victory? Could she indeed. The Grant and Alana Williams-trained filly showcased her undeniable class when she powered past leader Billy Ain’t Silly, whose strong tempo proved too much for every runner but Graceful Girl last Saturday. It was the first Listed win of the well-related Graceful Girl. It won’t be her last.


Feature racing at Belmont continues tomorrow with the Group 3 Hyperion Stakes (1600m). The Velvet King made a brilliant return a fortnight ago to take out the Group 3 Belmont Sprint (1400m) and it is little wonder, with the prospect of a wet track and a beautiful gate to allow him to assume his customary role near the speed, he has been installed favourite. With many of the runners locking horns again, the injection of the talented mare Leading Girl for her first crack at weight-for-age adds to the interest levels.


In not so many words, that is what dual Brownlow medallist Adam Goodes told the league when it offered to induct him into the AFL Hall of Fame. Goodes remains furious at key figures inside AFL House for not doing enough to counter racism and the constant booing he endured towards the end of his career, which came about after he blew the whistle on a teenage girl for calling him an ape during a match in Indigenous Round at the MCG against Collingwood in 2013.


As far as Queensland Racing is concerned, it is the Stradbroke Handicap. The Group 1 feature over 1400m has always been a race of immense importance to Queenslanders and it headlines another terrific day’s action at Eagle Farm tomorrow. Vega One warmed up for the $1.5 million race with a slashing victory in the Kingsford Smith Cup (1300m) and from gate three for Rachel King tomorrow, will get the cover he needs early to allow him to be strong late and continue trainer Tony Gollan’s superb recent run.


Ranveer. The son of Winning Rupert is first-up in race one at Sandown tomorrow and the market hasn’t missed him. That is not a shock. The two-year-old, purchased from the draft of Western Breeders Alliance for $200,000 at last year’s Perth Magic Millions Yearling Sale, ran second behind Profiteer at his only start late last year. They smashed the clock on that occasion and we saw what Profiteer was able to do throughout the autumn. It is worth following Ranveer, regardless of what race he starts in.


Ross Lyon is one of the game’s great self-promoters. His care for others, despite his public comments, is minimal. It is why there was little shock in football circles this week that the man who had his ego dented when shown the door by Fremantle said he was open to phone calls from Collingwood and Carlton. One position is available and the other could very well follow suit unless David Teague’s extracts a digit and gets his players organised behind the ball. Will the Magpies fall for Lyon and hire a coach who openly admits that skill is secondary to effort in his coaching manual? It would be a massive gamble.


You have to feel for basketball fans in Victoria, especially Melbourne. Tonight’s game one of the play-off series between Melbourne United and South East Melbourne Phoenix would have been extremely well attended had it been staged in the Victorian capital. Instead, the hoops fans of the respective sides will have to tune in on TV to watch the action from Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney.

N – NIK’S NO.1

Nikola Jokic has been an NBA star for several seasons. But his star has never shone as brightly as it did this current campaign, illustrated by his unveiling this week as the league’s MVP. The Serbian became the first Denver Nugget to claim the prestigious individual award and the first centre to be voted the league’s No.1 player since Shaquille O’Neal achieved the honour in 2000. With his Nuggets trailing the Phoenix Suns 2-0 in the Western Conference semi-finals, Jokic will be called upon to have a massive impact.


The battles between bitter Scottish rivals Celtic and Rangers next season took on greater interest last night when it was confirmed that former Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou had been appointed to the helm of Celtic. Postecoglou, who most recently plied his trade with great success in the J-League in Japan, had been linked to the position for several weeks. Unsurprisingly, Postecoglou labelled his appointment as one of the “greatest honours in football”.


At various stages in last night’s rollicking Adelaide Oval affair, Port Adelaide looked every bit a competition heavyweight. Connor Rozee’s four-goal burst in the first term was intoxicating, their ability to extend the lead to 21 points in the second quarter impressive and their initial push early in the last stanza seemingly significant. But for prolonged periods, they could not match the efficiency of the Cats and didn’t possess the skill level or decision making of a legitimate flag threat.


Don’t you love the next-in-line lists that are compiled when a coach is sacked or resigns during the course of a season? That is what occurred on cue on Wednesday when Nathan Buckley announced he would be finishing up after the game against Melbourne at the SCG on Monday. The usual suspects immediately started being debated — Michael Voss, Ross Lyon, Sam Mitchell, Alastair Clarkson, Mark Williams and Justin Leppitsch to name a few. The removal of an AFL coach from clubland always has and always will be one of the biggest football stories we digest in a year.


If you thought your weekend just gone was miserable or you were hard done-by, spare a thought for Jon Rahm. The Spanish golfer led the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield by six shots after 54 holes. He was then informed by relevant officials that he had tested positive to COVID-19 and was required to withdraw from the event. Rahm not only was denied a golden opportunity to chalk up a significant US PGA Tour win and earn in excess of $2 million, but now has a compromised build-up to next week’s US Open.


That is exactly what happened to the defending NBA champions, the Los Angeles Lakers, in the opening round of their Western Conference play-off series against Phoenix. The Suns, on the back of a red-hot Devin Booker and the mastery of point guard Chris Paul, torched the wounded Lakers, before establishing a 2-0 lead in their semi-final match-up against the Denver Nuggets. The all-important game three takes place on the Nuggets’ floor tomorrow morning, WA time.


Tom Trbojevic started the year racing a rugby league fan down the famous Manly Corso, an alcohol-fuelled act of madness that came 12 hours before he allegedly tore his hamstring when slipping in the shower at home. He could well finish it as the best rugby league player on the planet. It’s hard to argue he isn’t that already after his sensational season was rubber-stamped with a blistering display in game one of the State of Origin series. The NSW centre crossed three times to continue his rich vein of form that has helped propel Manly into the top eight.


Carlton coach David Teague appeared on AFL360 last Monday week. He was asked whether there was a sense of urgency about his position or the Blues’ on-field prospects. Things move swiftly in the AFL space. The loss to a banged-up West Coast last Sunday at the SCG had the spotlight being shone directly in Teague’s direction. It prompted incoming Carlton president Luke Sayers to bring forward a wide-ranging football department review and led to the axing of Teague assistant John Barker. For the record David, there is most definitely a sense of urgency about your post. If you can’t see that, it’s best you visit OPSM.


And as a result of that, Melbourne Victory finished last in the A-League. The proud club with a history of success was consigned to the cellar after the Newcastle Jets beat Melbourne City 2-1 last night. Victory won just five of their 26 matches for the season, leading to the sacking of Grant Brebner. Incoming coach Tony Popovic has some serious work to do.


The Perth Wildcats have precious little of it following last night’s 74-72 loss to Illawarra in game one of their play-off series. The Wildcats at home have been the most daunting of NBL assignments, but a lack of composure and potency at the offensive end of the floor in the absence of Bryce Cotton has them on the brink of a shock exit. Adjustments need to be made by coach Trevor Gleeson ahead of game two on the Hawks’ floor tomorrow evening.


Australian swimming star Maddie Groves, a dual silver medallist at Rio in 2016, opened up a can of worms this week when she used social media platforms to announce she was withdrawing from this month’s Olympic trials. It wasn’t the stock-standard withdrawal. Conversely, Groves claimed there were “misogynistic perverts in sport and their boot lickers”. Groves’ suggestions that female swimmers were exploited and body shamed were not only explosive, but prompted Swimming Australia boss Kieren Perkins to respond. This is a story that isn’t going away any time soon.


Not yellow and black, but yellow and back. Richmond return to Perth this weekend for a second Optus Stadium assignment in the space of eight days. The Tigers laid down a marker last Saturday night before a massive crowd when they ran over the top of Essendon, a performance that once again had them being spoken about as genuine premiership threats. Any time you get to witness Shai Bolton live, it is an experience to be treasured.


Takes place tomorrow at Eagle Farm in the inaugural running of the Q22, the $1.2 million weight-for-age feature to be run over 2200m. The import couldn’t have been more impressive in taking out the Group 2 Hollindale Stakes (1800m) and Group 1 Doomben Cup (2000m) last month. There have been concerns from trainer Annabel Neasham about the firmness of the Eagle Farm track, but if he replicates the figures he returned last start, it is hard to see how he gets beaten.