The Hunter’s Weekend of Sports – 23 Aug
Tips, Tricks, Picks, and Odds.
If there was ever a time to be a fan of sports – this is it.
As spring approaches, leagues around the world are in different stages of maturity. Over the next few weeks we’ll see the wrapping up of regular season MLB, NRL and AFL. We’ll see the start of the NFL, Bundesliga and La Liga. And we’ll see leagues like the EPL really getting into the swing of things. It’s an exciting time for neutrals and avid fans alike, and I’m keen to see how it goes.
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 – The Ashes
The third test got the ball rolling last night, in what was a mixed day for Australian cricket. Warner finally regained his form, reaching his first 50 for the tournament on a patchy wicket at Headingly. The future looks bright, with Smith’s replacement and Brissie local Marnus Labuschagne putting on another solid display with the bat to ensure the Aussies weren’t completely embarrassed.
The absolute standout performer of the day, however, was England’s Jofra Archer. He had another absolute spell with the ball, taking 6 Australian wickets for 45 runs. He’s really shaping up to be the next big thing in English pace and is having a series to remember so far.
The day ended with the Aussies all out for 179, a poor total, but one that’s defendable if the Australian attack can start out on the right foot.
Day 2 starts tonight, with Burns and Roy opening for the English. Burns has been pretty great with the bat this series, but Roy has given away some of the easiest wickets in Ashes history, scoring a grand total of 2 runs across both innings last test. If the Australians can take out Roy early, and then focus their efforts on the likes of Burns and Stokes, they might just be in with a fighting chance for this test.
With the odds stacked against them, the Australian bowling line-up needs to pull off something special here. Lyon, Hazelwood, and Cummins headline the taskforce, and might just have the prowess to create some magic.
With that being said, I can’t in my right mind tip the Australians to win this test. Without Smith, their batting is weak, and England has upgraded their bowling power tenfold by calling up Archer. I think the English should win this test with ease and are honestly looking like they might just claim the urn too.
The Hunter’s Hot Tip: England to Win
SATURDAY – EPL
The English Premier League is now well and truly underway, and it’s shaping up to be one hell of a season. Several teams have emerged as contenders in the first few games, and it’ll be interesting to see who can keep their form running as the season progresses.
Two teams who’ve both shown they’ve got what it takes to win it all are facing off this Saturday, in a game that could change the season’s fortunes for either side.
Liverpool v Arsenal
Arsenal comes into this match looking the best they have in years. Two very solid wins against Newcastle and Burnley have them sitting at the top of the table, somewhere a club like Arsenal should never stray far from.
Right there with them is Liverpool, who’ve also had a couple of very dependable displays to kick their season off. Add to that their recent silverware in the UEFA SuperCup, and Liverpool are shaping up to have a season as good as the last.
Both of these teams will be desperate to claim the three points in this fixture. If this season is anything like the last, losing a single game can be the difference between the trophy and the runners-up medal. So to win here could be huge.
Liverpool’s steadfast defence (helmed by Van Dijk) will look to neutralise Arsenal’s deadly attack of Lacazette and Aubameyang and vice versa, so this could be a battle that’s won in the midfield. For that reason, I have to side with Liverpool. Wijnaldum and Ox are both reliable midfielders, and definitely better than their Arsenal counterparts.
This should be a hard-fought battle, but in the end, I see Liverpool emerging triumphant on their way to another stellar season.
The Hunter’s Hot Tip: Liverpool to Win
SUNDAY – AFL
As finals draw ever nearer, teams will be given one last chance to fight it out for a better ladder position come Sunday, as we witness the last round of the AFL’s regular-season games. There are plenty of spots yet to be decided – at both ends of the ladder – so this round could prove to be the most crucial for many of the teams involved (Except the Gold Coast, their season ended a month ago).
Richmond Tigers v Brisbane Lions
Two teams with so much left to play for are Brisbane and Richmond. The Lions and Tigers (and bears, oh my?!).
The Lions, by some unforeseen miracle, have been one the best teams in the comp. this year, notching up win after win, and earning a spot at the top of the ladder coming into this final round. A win here will be enough to secure them the title of premiers and give them the biggest advantage heading into finals footy. As all of Queensland eagerly jumps on the bandwagon (who else are they meant to support? The Broncos?), the Lions hope to finish in the top spot for the first time since the Akermanis glory days, and I can honestly see them pulling it off.
Standing in their way are the ever-present Tigers. Even when they have a bad season they seem to easily make the finals, and this season hasn’t been their best by a long shot. They’ve still managed to land themselves in a tied second place coming into this game and could take the number 1 spot with a convincing win over their Brisbane competitors. They’re in a great run of form, having won 8 on the trot (compared to Brisbane’s 9), and are virtually unbeatable at the G.
Even though my head’s telling me to pick Richmond, my heart says to go for the Lions. There’s something special happening in Brisbane right now, and I hope it continues through the finals. There’s an atmosphere of positivity at the club for the first time in a very, very, long time – and I can’t help but think they might just pull this off.
The Hunter’s Hot Tip: Brisbane to Win