The Hunter’s Weekend of Sports – 28 Feb

Tips, Tricks, Picks and Odds.

The end of summer – but the start of the weekend of sports.

As we lament the end of everyone’s favourite season, it’s good to reflect on the past three months of sporting greatness. From cricket to basketball, Australia’s summer sports have given us plenty to cheer for (or against) this time around. And, while I’m sad to see summer go, I’m happy and ready for the winter sports to kick off.

Of course, summer isn’t quite over yet – and this weekend promises to give us some edge-of-seat thrillers in the sporting world. 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 – A-League

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This season’s iteration of the A-League has been relatively mediocre (at best) and, with the football fans in desperate need for something to sink their teeth into, this Sydney Derby can’t come soon enough.  No matter the context, this is always a heated matchup and I can’t wait to see which side wins bragging rights for this go around.

Sydney FC v Western Sydney Wanderers

Sydney FC has the home honours (if you can call Jubilee a home ground), But WSW has ruled the fixture for the past season. They’ve gone three games against FC without loss, but have been defensively left wanting – conceding at least one goal every time in their last 13 games against the side. Sydney FC has been first to score in five of the last six, and have scored 3+ goals in seven of the last eight. Despite losing the last Sydney Derby, FC sits atop the table and look like heavy favourites heading into this game.

I think they’ve got enough to do it against WSW, and this should be a relatively comfortable win for a side that’s only dropped 5 points all season. The Sydney Derby is always a good contest, but I expect Sydney FC to pull through.

The Hunter’s Hot Tip: Sydney FC to Win

SATURDAY – NBL Semi-Finals

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It’s been an epic season of NBL, and with the finals tipping off on Friday, I have to say that these are four of the most evenly matched teams I’ve seen in the NBL postseason. Any team could walk away triumphant, and that certainly rings true for the two meeting up for leg one in Melbourne on Saturday night.

Melbourne United v Sydney Kings

It’s first v fourth on Saturday night, but don’t let a ladder position fool you. The postseason is a clean slate, and United are looking just as promising as the Kings for their matchup this weekend. Melbourne went on a three-game win streak at the end of last season to edge the bullets out of the playoffs and will be looking to capitalise by going all the way. They’ve got playoff experience and pedigree; and with Melo, Long and Goulding all bolstering the lineup, they’re a team that knows how to win.

But speaking of teams that know how to win, it’d be unfair to say that the Kings aren’t heavy favourites here. Through masterful coaching and great play from point (Ware) and centre (Bogut), they’ve found themselves finishing at the top of the table, and as strong favourites to claim it all.

With that being said, I still feel an upset is due on Saturday. Melbourne is a well-rounded team with finals experience and strong fan support. I think they can do it in the big show.

The Hunter’s Hot Tip: United to Win

SUNDAY – T20 Cricket World Cup (Women)

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The most anticipated match of the tournament comes to fruition on Monday, when world number one takes on world number three to compete for ultimate Trans-Tasman cricketing supremacy. This game could well be a preview of the final, so make sure to tune in for what is bound to be one hell of a match.

Australia v New Zealand

Hosting the tournament, Australia got off to a bit of a shaky start, being dominated by India in the opening match. Since then however, they seem to have composed themselves and found their form – triumphing over the other major subcontinental teams in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Mooney’s been transcendent this season, and Healey seems to have found her form against Bangladesh. Schutt’s been stellar on offence, taking 3/21 (4) in the Bangladesh match. The Aussies look to be making a commanding charge for finals, and it’ll be tough for the Kiwi girls to get in their way.

Of course, tough doesn’t mean impossible. And if there’s been one theme in the past few years of cricket – it’s New Zealand doing the improbable. After a convincing 7-wicket-win over Sri Lanka, the Kiwis were unfortunate to lose by just 3 runs to the Indian girls. They should have another win under their belt after playing Bangladesh tomorrow and will be fighting to keep their tournament alive. WBBL MVP Sophie Devine will need to bring her a-game on the day, and in an Australian stadium, the win won’t come easy.

So who’ll cop the win here? Honestly, I think with the home crowd behind them this is Australia’s to lose. They’re looking far too solid, I can see them taking out the whole tournament if they get a win here.

The Hunter’s Hot Tip: Australia to Win

Gamble Responsibly. Hunter and Bligh do not take any responsibility for any losses incurred.

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