View from Down Under: NRL Back, but Not Without Some Bruises

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The National Rugby League returns from a week’s break this weekend, with plenty of clubs left worse off by injuries to key players during representative round, which included an international match between Australia and New Zealand.

Australian halfback Johnathan Thurston, the man considered to be the world’s best player, will not take the field for the Cowboys against the Bulldogs this Thursday, after tearing the rotator cuff in his shoulder, which will sideline him for six weeks.

Although it has been confirmed that he won’t require surgery, the speculation led many to believe North Queensland’s season was all but over without their leader, which saw their premiership odds shoot out to $23 (+2200) from the $18 (+1700) they were before he went down.

Thurston’s teammates kick off Round 10 with a trip south to face the Bulldogs ($1.58 or -172) in Sydney, which, as you’d expect, is now a contest they’re outsiders for, at $2.40 or +140. The St. George Illawarra Dragons, who play in the match of the round against Cronulla on Friday night, also lost a key player, fullback Josh Dugan, after he fractured his cheekbone.

And then there’s the case of Melbourne Storm’s Jesse Bromwich and Gold Coast Titans’ Kevin Proctor, who are New Zealand teammates and who have both been suspended and are also in trouble with the law after allegedly being busted buying a certain white powder. You can understand why the clubs would prefer to do without the week off!

The AFL heads to China for the first time this weekend, when Gold Coast and Port Adelaide play a premiership match in Shanghai on Sunday.

Much in the mold of the NFL, the AFL harbours international ambitions and while there have been matches in New Zealand before, there has never been a match in Asia.

Some 7000 kilometres away in Perth on Friday night, the first match of the round gets underway when the reigning Premiers – the Western Bulldogs – head west to take on the West Coast Eagles.

The replay of last season’s Elimination Final sees the Dogs as a $2.45 (+145) outsider, which is over the odds for mine, considering they won that final. The hosts – who are coming off a big win in Adelaide last week – are $1.56 (-179).

Sports bettors are hoping for an easier weekend, after the top five teams on the ladder were all beaten last week, the first time that’s happened in the 120-year history of the league. On the track, Saturday sees Group One racing in Adelaide and Brisbane. In Adelaide, Odeon is the $3.40 (+240) favorite to win the South Australian Derby, while Russian Revolution is the popular pick at $3.60 (+260) for the Doomben 10,000 in Brisbane.

Of course, there’ll be plenty of Super Rugby action, with the pick of it coming on Saturday afternoon at AMI Stadium in Christchurch, New Zealand, when the Crusaders host the Hurricanes.

These clubs have lost just one of the combined 18 games they’ve played between them this season. There’s not much between them with the bookies either, with the hosts at $1.81 (-123) and the Hurricanes at $2 (+100).

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