It’s been over 25 years since the National Basketball League took center stage in the Australian sporting landscape, but with an amazing season about to reach the playoff stage, interest in the NBL has surged.
Never before in the 38-year history of the league have we seen such a close and hotly contested season. Illustrating this is the fact that with one round remaining, only two wins separate second from second-last on the table.
The Adelaide 36ers, a team that will be playing in the postseason, make a trip to Cairns on Thursday to play the Taipans. They’re at $2.80 (+180) to win the championship with home-court advantage already secured for the semifinals.
Illawarra are $4 (+300) with Melbourne at $5 (+400) and Perth at $6.50 (+550) but that could all change by the end of the weekend with so many different scenarios possible.
From the hardcourt to the turf and the first Group One of the calendar year, the Orr Stakes, will be run in Melbourne on Saturday, where the talent pool is evenly spread. It should be a cracking race too with Malaguerra and Black Heart Bart battling it out for favoritism.
But the real focus is on the racing in Sydney, where Australia’s best horse, Winx, steps out as a short-priced favourite ($1.20/-500) to make it 14 consecutive wins in the Apollo Stakes at Randwick.
The NRL All-Stars match, to be played Friday night, marks the first serious rugby league hit-out of the season.
The Indigenous All-Stars are close to full strength and will go in as a $1.42 (-238) favourite. The World All-Stars, on the other hand, are missing several players, including former San Francisco 49er Jarryd Hayne, and are a $2.90 (+190) outsider.
Round 19 of the A-League begins on Thursday with the all-conquering Sydney FC a $1.45 (-222) favorite to extend their winning run to 19 games when they face the Wellington Phoenix.
The match of the round will take place 48 hours later when fourth-place Melbourne City ($2.60/+160) hosts the third-place Brisbane Roar ($2.50/+150). The crucial contest will be a must-watch affair with both clubs needing a win to keep the pressure on second-place Melbourne Victory.
The AFL Women’s league was a huge success when Round 1 kicked off last weekend with huge crowds, TV audiences and betting interest on all the games.
Round 2 begins on Friday night when two teams who had first-up wins meet in the west of Melbourne, at the Whitten Oval.
To give you an idea of just how popular the new league has been, Collingwood’s match with Melbourne has had to be moved to a bigger venue – Carlton’s Ikon Park, for the second week in a row.
Last week’s inaugural match at the same ground drew a crowd of 25,000 which forced the AFL to shut the gates, leaving thousands outside. The enthusiasm for the new competition has spread to the betting markets with one bookmaker reporting that there was more interest in AFL Women’s matches than two of last week’s A-League matches.