This coming weekend in Australia is a sports fan’s delight, with many, including this writer, spending several hours either at the stadium, the track, or positioned right in the middle of the couch (sofa), with the remote control within centimetres of my right hand.
This weekend sees not one, but two seasons kicking off. The Formula One season begins in Melbourne, while the same city will play host to the first round of our great national game – Australian Rules football. Starting with the F1, and the country will be holding its collective breath on Sunday at 4 p.m. when our own Daniel Ricciardo puts the pedal to the metal for the start of the Australian Grand Prix. He’s currently rated an $11 (+1000) chance with the bookmakers, while Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton is at the top of the market at $2.25 (+125).
While the F1 will be gone after Sunday’s main race, the footy (AFL or Australian Rules football) will be here until the last Saturday in September and has been here since 1897. There are no sports in this country that evoke emotion like Australian Rules football and after a long break and preseason of 173 days, Australia’s game is back.
The season begins on Thursday night when Carlton hosts Richmond but there are several games across the weekend that we are looking forward to.
Perhaps the most intriguing match of all is Saturday’s contest between St Kilda and Melbourne. These clubs have been touted all summer as potential finalists this year and with the Saints (St Kilda) winning only one Premiership in 120 years and the Demons (Melbourne) not winning since 1964, finals are a big thing.
Here’s where it gets even more interesting. Melbourne haven’t beaten St Kilda since 2006. That’s 14 straight games, and to make matters worse, they have only won one of their last 25 at the venue where this match is being played. Amazingly, the bookmakers are still giving them a chance, though: they’re at $2 (+100) with the Saints at $1.85 (-118).
At the same time that the Saints and Dees are going at it, Australia and India will be serving it up to each other with bat and ball at a similarly fierce rate.
Australia managed to get away with a draw in the third Test, when India could not bowl them out for a second time. The series is locked at 1-1 with only one match left to play. India will – as they have done the entire series – head in as solid favorites at $1.80 (-125) with the Aussies at $4 (+300).
As holders of the Border-Gavaskar trophy, Australia only needs a draw to retain the trophy. On the track, we head to Sydney Rosehill Gardens racetrack on Saturday, for two group ones, The BMW and the Vinery Stud Stakes.
The feature meeting in Melbourne will be held on Friday night at Moonee Valley when the highlight of the night is the Group 1 Keogh Homes William Reid Stakes. The favorite in the main race is currently Star Turn at $4.40 (+340).
Round Four of the NRL kicks off on Thursday night in Sydney, when the Sydney Roosters host the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
For the first time since 1973, each club has won at least one game in the opening three rounds. It looks as though we are in for another tight season.
It’s also another tight round in betting, with bookmakers unable to find a favorite in two of the eight games, and the line no higher than seven points in six of the eight games.
While Round 24 of the A-League soccer begins on Friday night, it will be the plight of the national team, the Socceroos, which will take center stage. The Socceroos are at an important stage of World Cup qualifying having slipped to third in their group. They play Iraq in Tehran (that’s not a typo, they are playing in Iran!) on Thursday before hosting the UAE next Tuesday.
A win in both games will get things back on track for Russia 2018, but anything less than the six points will put more pressure on them to qualify.