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Joined January 2013

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Formerly The Master Mind, I cover mostly AFL and tennis, as well as some NRL and other sports.

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Cheers. While I expect Nadal and Djokovic to again feature at the pointy end I would not be surprised to see a first-time Major finalist here, like we did with Dominic Thiem last year.

Stefanos Tsitsipas in particular has had an impressive 2019 season taking down Federer and Nadal on hard and clay courts respectively, as well as reaching the final in Madrid (where he lost to Djokovic) and the semis in Rome (lost to Nadal). After reaching the semis at the Australian Open I wouldn’t be surprised if he again goes deep at Roland Garros.

As for the women’s, you can’t really pick a winner with any real confidence. Osaka’s form has been down since January, and Pliskova has been exposed as wanting at recent Majors. However, I think the latter is the dark horse, as her form in Rome showed. Halep will be under the most pressure as the defending champion and her form too has suffered in the past twelve months. Thus, I would not be surprised if there is a first-time winner in the women’s draw.

2019 French Open: Mega-preview

Fair to say American tennis (on the men’s front) has suffered since the great Pete Sampras retired in 2002 or 2003.

Andy Roddick was seen as his natural successor and indeed he lived up to expectations when he won the US Open in 2003, but that was as good as it got for him. I always say this – he was probably unfortunate that his career peak came at the same time as that of Federer and (to a lesser extent) Nadal.

Without Federer in his way, Roddick could so easily have won at least two or three Majors. The 2009 Wimbledon final defeat must surely rank as the most devastating defeat of his career for many reasons…. IIRC the American was only broken once in the entire match, at the very death.

On the women’s front Madison Keys is one of my favourite players and I hope she gets another chance to win a Major title. The US Open is her best shot.

R.I.P. American tennis

That would also be a fantastic idea; though as Singapore has the same time zone as Perth, the scheduling would be a massive issue (refer to the Optus Stadium section of the article).

All teams would fly to Singapore on the same day (say Monday or Tuesday), and then fly back to Australia as immediately as possible so as to recover and prepare for their next match.

This would also generate millions of dollars for the Singapore market, too.

Potential future venues for the NRL's Magic Round

I’m not suggesting the AFL should have a bye round should Marvel Stadium host Magic Round; rather they can still have a round of matches in that weekend provided they don’t schedule any matches at the venue.

Example – round 23 of the AFL this year will not have a match at the Docklands venue due to a basketball match.

Potential future venues for the NRL's Magic Round

I went for Marvel over AAMI because it’s closer to the Melbourne CBD plus the fact that it’s now called Marvel Stadium means the kids can enjoy what it has to offer with regards to the Marvel retail store inside the ground, certain movie characters being shown in and outside of the stadium precinct, and the potential entertainment before or in between matches (think the various Marvel movies).

I wouldn’t be against AAMI hosting Magic Round, though; it’s still a good ground to host the concept and it would light up Melbourne Park especially if there are any AFL matches being played nearby so fans can enjoy the best of both codes.

Potential future venues for the NRL's Magic Round

I also think it was that overconfidence which cost them against Fremantle in round five.

These days, you can’t go into a match just expecting to win, like the Cats appeared to do in round four. You have to play for it.

A Giant task awaits at the MCG on Sunday

This has also happened in the AFL in the noughties, when the Western Bulldogs and Melbourne took home games against the Sydney Swans and Brisbane Lions to the SCG and Gabba, respectively, effectively giving those tenant clubs an extra home game.

I think the reason the Sea Eagles want to play the Broncos at Suncorp is to generate money to upgrade the badly outdated Brookvale Oval. That’s my theory, I could be wrong.

Also, I can recall at least 2014 and 2017 when the Dragons played “home” games against the Wests Tigers and Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium, which is used by those two clubs as their home grounds.

If Magic Round is to alternate every year, another venue I could suggest is Marvel Stadium in Melbourne, though this would require the AFL to vacate the ground for one round of matches (as a matter of fact, no matches are scheduled at the venue in round 23 of their season, due to a basketball match). A such round at Adelaide Oval or Perth Stadium would have to be held during one of the AFL’s bye rounds, during which there would be no games in Adelaide or Perth respectively.

2019 NRL Magic Round preview

Yes the Swans do have the youngest squad across the entire league. Last week vs the Giants was their most inexperienced side since Horse took over at the start of the 2011 season.

Is it time for John Longmire to leave the Sydney Swans?

It is true that Michael Voss’ influence in the final five minutes won the Lions the flag, but back then, the judges had to cast their votes before the final siren so that the votes could be compiled in time for the post-match ceremony. It must be noted that at three-quarter-time, the Pies trailed by only four points and were in it for the most part until Jason Akermanis’ late goal sealed the Lions’ second (of three consecutive) flag.

The voting procedure was changed following that year’s Grand Final, and since then there’s been one Norm Smith Medallist that came from the losing side – Chris Judd (West Coast) in 2005.

Lions and Pies set for Easter Thursday Bris Vegas showdown

Correction: “…their three-point loss to the Gold Coast Suns at Metricon Stadium in Round 1…”

It was Round 2, which was what I originally wrote, not Round 1.

All eyes on Gaff in Saturday's spiteful Western Derby

Yeah I heard about James Roberts’ withdrawal this afternoon; tough timing considering I wrote this article yesterday (normally I write my NRL previews on Mondays).

Another tough task awaits the Broncos against the Roosters

SPELLING CORRECTION: “in the lead-up to preliminary final wee”

Should be “preliminary final week”.

Crows soar to AFLW supremacy

I just think the Eagles will be a very angry side this Saturday night. We’ve seen instances like these happen in the past, such as in 2017 when the GWS Giants got thrashed by the Adelaide Crows by 56 points in round one, then beat the Gold Coast Suns by 102 points off a six-day break.

They’ll also want to honour several of their players who will be celebrating milestones – Shannon Hurn (250th game), Chris Masten (200th) and Josh Kennedy (200th game for the Eagles) – with a big win, not to mention the Eagles will also be unfurling their premiership flag too.

2019 AFL season: Round 2 preview

Another loss that also stands out is the 104-point loss to St Kilda that occurred in round two, 2010. Brent Harvey endured the worst match of his career picking up only five possessions (or so). But it’s worth noting that they did hit back with a win over West Coast the following week.

North Melbourne's worst losses under Brad Scott

The reason why Fitzroy went from spooners to premiers in 1916 was because due to World War I, only four teams (Carlton, Collingwood, Fitzroy and Richmond) participated, and all teams were to play finals regardless of where they finished.

Outside of that season, no team in the history of professional Australian rules football has gone from spooners to premiers within 12 months. The closest any team has come to doing this was Essendon in 1907-08 and Collingwood in 1976-77 when they finished last and then finished runners-up. The swiftest rise from spooners to premiers came when Essendon finished last in 1921 and then won back-to-back flags in 1923-24.

2019 AFLW grand final preview

Not only that, the Eagles will also be unfurling their 2018 premiership flag too.

You’ll also remember that Fraser Gehrig, in his 200th AFL game in 2005, ran Leo Barry ragged for the whole match kicking seven goals as St Kilda thrashed Sydney by 43 points.

For Josh Kennedy it’ll be his 200th club game for West Coast (222nd game overall after 22 games with Carlton between 2006-07); Chris Masten also brings up the double-ton (ironically, he was drafted by the Eagles with the pick they received as part of the Judd-Kennedy trade) and Shannon Hurn brings up a quarter of a kilo. Should be a huge night for the club.

Also a shame that the match won’t be on free-to-air in Melbourne given the occasion.

2019 AFL season: Round 2 preview

From what I heard, during the Broncos’ match against the Sea Eagles in round 25 last year they (the players) got told by the trainers not to score anymore at 48-16 because it was believed they would’ve had a better shot at beating the Dragons than the Warriors at Suncorp.

Had they scored another point the two elimination finals would’ve been Broncos vs Warriors and Panthers vs Dragons instead of Panthers vs Warriors and Broncos vs Dragons, and the whole finals series would’ve been totally different.

In the end the Broncos paid the price for underestimating the out-of-form Dragons last September and they won’t want to make the same mistake this Thursday night. Perhaps this could prove a turning point in the head-to-head between the two sides.

Broncos out to avenge last year's finals shocker against Dragons

I just have this feeling that the Lions could be up to something special this year, hence the big call.

Also Josh Kennedy won’t feature for the Eagles; I think they’re keeping him in cotton wool for next week.

2019 AFL season: Round 1 preview

no, the game vs the Warriors is not on FTA. The Bulldogs vs Parramatta match earlier in the day will be the game shown on Channel Nine.

Honestly, it could go either way, but crowd support should get the Tigers home IMO.

2019 NRL season: Round 2 preview

CORRECTION: “In positive news for the club, they’ll get Madeleine Boyd back from a two-match suspension for the clash against her former club.”

It is actually Aasta O’Connor who returns. Plus she never represented the Giants.

2019 AFL Women's season: Round 7 preview

CLARIFICATION: “…their 21-6 defeat being their worst in the season decider.”

Add to that “…in a decade.”

2019 NRL season: Round 1 preview

Cheers.

Personally I’m not a fan of the conference system, which creates the major flaw that certain teams don’t face two clubs during the regular season, though you could end up facing them anyway in the finals (for example, GWS won’t play the Western Bulldogs or Fremantle in the regular season, but if they finished on top of their conference, and the Bulldogs or Freo finished second in their conference, the Giants would host one of them in the preliminary final).

With two new clubs (the Geelong Cats and North Melbourne) entering the league, it creates this vibe of excitement and unpredictability across the season, as those two clubs would be keen to make an impact and, unlike in the men’s league when Gold Coast and GWS entered the league in 2011 and 2012 respectively (both clubs finished last in their inaugural seasons), you wouldn’t want to take them lightly at all.

I’m particularly interested to see how much the Giants can improve in 2019. They’ve gone from a team of misfits in 2017 to one that could seriously challenge for the flag this year. The recruitment of Christina Bernardi, the reigning All-Australian full-forward, to their forward line will make them a team no-one will want to face when they are at their best. Also, as it turns out, they’re the only club this season to play both new clubs (Cats and Roos) as home games.

2019 AFL Women's season: Round 1 preview

When Nine picked up the rights to the tennis twelve months earlier than scheduled last June, what they should have done was recruit their own commentators/experts rather than poach those from Seven (namely Jim Courier, Lleyton Hewitt, Todd Woodbridge, Sam Smith etc.).

I don’t know if Mark Philippoussis ever did any commentary work but he could’ve been a good pick-up for Nine, as would’ve Darren Cahill (I think he has a contract with ESPN, though), Mat Thompson (NRL commentator) and Pat Rafter, among some suggestions.

I also think Nine should seriously consider trying to get the rights to Wimbledon back as early as next year (Seven’s rights to the event expires at the end of this year, I think), and if they do so, they should treat the event better, because the last time Nine televised the event, coverage wouldn’t start until 10:30pm at the earliest, some two hours after live play has started. Seven, on the other hand, started its coverage on 7TWO at 8:30pm.

Final thoughts on the 2019 Australian Open

CORRECTION: “Both registered first-round victories over Ernests Gulbis and Nick Kyrgios, respectively.”

It’s the other way around.

Serena and Bouchard finally set to meet at Australian Open, as Djokovic and Tsonga gear up for 2008 rematch

I’ve been fortunate to see both sportsmen in the flesh in my lifetime. I saw Cahill play twice for the Socceroos (both times last year as Australia was looking to qualify for the World Cup), while I was lucky enough to be at Lowndes’ 600th race (the 2016 Sydney SuperSprint at Eastern Creek) as well as at the recent Sydney SuperNight 300 in August in which he just missed out on a podium finish.

Will be an emotional week for sure.

A huge week awaits Australian sporting fans with two greats to bow out