The Hunter’s Weekend of Sports – 21 Feb
Tips, Tricks, Picks and Odds.
The Hunter’s Weekend is back – and this is going to be bigger than ever.
After a brief hiatus to travel the world (and all its sporting glory), The Hunter is back in full force and ready for the weekend ahead. It’s been a huge couple of months of sport while I’ve been gone (including some pretty epic NFL and NBA games if I may say so myself), but we’re right back in the thick of it and ready for a massive weekend of sporting action. It’s good to be back in Australia, home of the world’s best sports and fans, but we’ve got great games from around the globe this week – and I’ve really struggled to pick out the biggest three.
But, alas, this is what I must do so, as always in this column, I’ll explore what Australians can look forward to in this weekend of sports – focusing on a different sport for each day – and provide the tips that I feel most confident in based on my research, analysis and expert intuition.
FRIDAY – NBA
Turmoil. If I had to pick one word to describe the two teams facing off on Friday, that word would be turmoil. Internal, hidden turmoil for Philly – just now bubbling over in an outright implosion. External, vocalised turmoil for Brooklyn – with press conferences that could be likened to an explosion. But after the All-Star break, it can feel like a fresh start for some, and it’ll be interesting to see whether these two teams turn a new leaf, or whether they return straight back to their tumultuous ways.
Brooklyn Nets vs Philadelphia 76ers
Brooklyn host Philly in one of the first games back after a wild All-Star break (AG was robbed – change my mind), and I’m really excited to see the direction these two teams go in during this half of the season. Big egos in the locker room have begun to plague the form of both sides, and with both teams in the bottom half of the playoff berths, they’ll be keen to put together a good run of form to solidify their standing heading into the postseason.
Of course, this all depends on the product these teams put out on the court. Philly is capable of being truly special, and Embiid and Simmons when working in synergy on the pick and roll are virtually unstoppable. But whether that relationship can ever recover will come to light in the coming weeks. Likewise, for Brooklyn, the relationship that needs recovery is Kyrie vs everyone else. If he can put his ego to the side, he might notice that he actually has a decent supporting cast and maybe – just maybe – there’ll still be hope for the Nets.
So, where do I think it’ll go on Saturday? Well, Embiid and Simmons both had big weekends, as did Kyrie, so it might come down to bench strength. Here, I think Philly has the upper hand. They’ve got sharpshooters and role players to match Brooklyn and should be able to take it to them away from home.
The Hunter’s Hot Tip: 76ers to Win
SATURDAY – Super Rugby
Despite the best efforts of Rugby Australia’s management and marketing team, the Super Rugby competition has survived another year, and games are happening every weekend (albeit with attendances below 7500 – get your head out of the sand Raelene). This weekend is no exception and, as a fan of the sport, I’m very keen for a trans-Tasman matchup on Saturday, as New Zealand’s best – the Chiefs – take on Australia’s top dogs, the Brumbies.
Canterbury Chiefs vs Canberra Brumbies
The Chiefs remain undefeated through the first three games of the season and are looking like serious contenders for the title once again. Standout performances from Alaimalo and Tupaea have given them an early boost this season, and I’m keen to see how long they can ride the wave.
Now, Aussie teams are historically bad in New Zealand (we’re talking 1-43 bad). But with the form the Brumbies are in, if anyone’s going to break that hoodoo, it’ll be this team. Fainga’a leads the competition with 5 tries, and they were majorly unfortunate to lose to the Highlanders in the 86th minute at GIO Stadium Canberra. Playing in New Zealand is always going to be a challenge, but maybe… just maybe… the Brumbies are up to the task?
Again, this could just be wishful thinking on my behalf. But something’s telling me to tip Canberra here, and I’m willing to go down with my ship.
The Hunter’s Hot Tip: Brumbies to Win
SUNDAY – Rugby League
Every year, the Northern and Southern Hemispheres duke it out for ultimate rugby supremacy. The winner of the NRL takes on the winner of the Super League in a Superbowl of sorts, to determine which league has the best talent and hottest prospects. One would think that, given Australia is the birthplace of the code, the NRL teams would usually dominate. So it’s no surprise that (barring a blip in 2017 when Wigan dominated Scomo’s beloved Sharkies) this has mostly been the case.
World Club Challenge – Sydney Roosters vs St. Helens R.F.C Saints
Of course, every year presents a clean slate, and the Roosters are going to have to bring their A-game if they want to compete with their Liverpudlian counterparts. With the game taking place in Merseyside, the Roosters will have to battle the passionate Northern-English fans along with the harsh conditions to eke out a win. No easy task to say the least.
St. Helens dominated last season, recording the biggest home win (62-16), the biggest attendance (64,102), winning the shield, and dominating the playoffs to take home their seventh title (and the third in the last five years). They also have the added advantage of being in practice, currently three rounds into the season (and sitting atop the table once more). I genuinely don’t know if the Roosters will be able to take it to them.
Now, don’t get me wrong, the Roosters were probably the best league side in the world last season. But having lost Mitchell to the Rabbitohs, and without playing a game for a few months, I don’t think they’ll beat St. Helens. It’ll be a good game, but the home advantage will push the super league side over the line.
The Hunter’s Hot Tip: St. Helens to Win
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