Last year was famously the year of sporting droughts being broken. The Chicago Cubs in baseball, the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA and Leicester City in the English Premier League.
And so the rain poured on all the way to the world’s driest continent, Australia. Our two biggest leagues, the NRL and the AFL, saw sporting fairy tales of considerable magnitude. In the NRL, the Cronulla Sharks, formed in 1967, tasted their first ever Premiership win, while in the AFL, the great blue-collar team, the Western Bulldogs, lived a fairy tale by lifting their first Premiership cup since 1954.
Fast-forward a year, and both teams seem well placed to replicate their drought-breaking success of 2016. Cronulla has surged into second on the NRL ladder, behind the team they beat in the 2016 decider, Melbourne Storm, off the back of a run of six wins in seven matches.
Dare Sharkies fans believe…again? Well, they are well poised to continue their streak this weekend, when they host the North Queensland Cowboys in the opening match of Round 11.
The Sharks are $1.53 (-189) to beat the Cowboys ($2.56/+156), but they are unlikely to go above the Storm, who are even shorter at $1.38 (-263) when they travel to Perth to play South Sydney ($3.10/+210) on Sunday.
The other in-form team is the Brisbane Broncos, who have won five straight matches and are $1.18 (-556) to beat the Wests Tigers ($5/+400).
Meanwhile in the AFL, the Western Bulldogs may be eighth on the ladder after eight rounds, but they are second favorite for the premiership after enduring a difficult draw early in the season.
They front-up for the match of the round away against Geelong on Friday night as $1.84 (-119) favorites, despite not having won at this ground in 14 years. The Cats are $1.97 (-103) having not lost to the Bulldogs in any game in eight years.
But after starting the season 5-0, Geelong has lost to three bottom sides in as many weeks, and their own challenge is starting to crumble.
The other highlight of the AFL round sees St. Kilda, who has emerged as a genuine contender after three consecutive wins, take on last year’s Grand Finalists Sydney on Saturday.
The Saints are $1.70 (-143) with the Swans, who have won the past six matches against St. Kilda by an average of 10 goals, at $2.15 (+115).
It’s that sort of round: Collingwood, Melbourne, St. Kilda and Western Bulldogs all start favorites in their matches despite long losing sequences against their opposition.
One man who knows nothing of losing sequences is Australia’s premier horse trainer Darren Weir.
Weir is to racing what Paul Hogan (remember him?) was to Australian cinema, bringing his laid-back country attitude to dominate a sport usually the domain of royals and sheiks.
He has the favorites in Group 1 races in two states, in Articus in the Doomben Cup in Brisbane and Black Heart Bart in the Goodwood Handicap in Adelaide.
Elsewhere in Australia, it’s a pretty quiet betting weekend. Super Rugby continues, but the Australian teams are so terrible that all but the most rusted-on ‘rugger’ fans have lost interest. We’ll wait for the national team, the Wallabies, to play next month.