2014 NRL season, round 22
The top two sides on the NRL ladder meet at the SCG in a Friday night blockbuster as South Sydney Rabbitohs play host to Manly Sea Eagles. The scheduling of this encounter is perfect timing with both sides on a winning run and playing some of their best football of the season.
In the eyes of many this game is shaping as a potential grand final dress rehearsal. It is exactly the fixture the NRL needs after recent headlines highlighting low attendances at games in Sydney. Hopefully the switch of venue to the SCG will allow for a good crowd to hang around in the city after work.
South Sydney are building into good form after an inconsistent first half of the season. They are still as solid as ever through the middle, but there are signs that they are able to add a bit of flair to go with it. Alex Johnston has been a star in 2014, evidenced by his hat trick in Cairns against the Knights. Johnston’s seamless progression into first grade has kept record try scorer Nathan Merritt out of the side for most of the year.
Michael Maguire’s men will aim to show that they are the real deal as a premiership contender, and dismiss Wayne Bennett’s comments that they are too predictable. It is a pretty bizarre comment when the side you are coaching has just let in 50 points against a supposedly predictable outfit. The Rabbitohs will also want to fire a warning shot at the Sea Eagles to show that they have stepped up a notch from the side that collapsed in last year’s preliminary final.
Manly just keep ticking along, and have now won seven of their last eight games. As we discussed last week the issues they may be having off the pitch are having no impact whatsoever on their performances.
If the rumours of key men departing at seasons end are true then 2014 could be Manly’s last shot at another premiership for a while. The core of the current squad has played together for a long time, and these established combinations are proving key to their current dominance in the NRL.
The Sea Eagles are clearly the benchmark side in 2014, and they deserve their lead at the top of the ladder. It is hard to not see them making it all the way to the decider again this year, but it is equally hard to pick a most likely opponent from the rest of the pack. A win for Souths on Friday night will see them stake a major claim to that status, while also making the run to the Minor Premiership a lot more uncomfortable than Manly would have liked.
Friday 8th August, Sydney Cricket Ground 19:45
2014 AFL season, round 15
Match preview coming soon
2014 AFL season, round 13
Match preview coming soon
The AFL’s Indigenous Round kicks off with a Thursday night blockbuster between Sydney Swans and Geelong at the SCG. To mark the occasion the Swans will run out in a special one off jersey designed by Adam Goodes’ mother.
Tonight is set to be the first time that Lance Franklin and Kurt Tippett play together at the SCG. Franklin has come to life in recent weeks after a slow start in Sydney. His form has mirrored that of his team, who have moved up the ladder with five straight wins. The Swans are still missing Mike Pyke through injury, although Ben McGlynn is back in the squad after illness.
Defenders Tom Lonergan and Corey Enright are both out for Geelong. Lonergan would have been tasked with marking Franklin – a job he had done well in the past – but has failed to recover in time from a concussion last weekend. The Cats do welcome back Steve Johnson from suspension, and Billie Smedts is in the squad for the first time since breaking a leg in a pre-season trial.
Geelong are going well in second place on the ladder, and have an excellent record at the SCG. A big night is in prospect and a large crowd is expected, with only gold level seating remaining available.
Thursday 29th May, Sydney Cricket Ground Moore Park 19:10
Sydney Swans v Geelong Cats
Sydney Sixers will be looking to follow up on two impressive away wins as they return to the SCG on Friday night to host Perth Scorchers. The sides currently sit equal second on the Big Bash ladder, and both look destined to appear in the finals this campaign.
The Sixers welcome back their Ashes heroes Steve Smith and Nathan Lyon from international duty, along with Englishman Chris Tremlett who is now available for the rest of the tournament. Lyon in particular will want to impress for the Sixers as he looks to get back into the Australian side in the shorter formats.
Perth somehow defended a modest total in Hobart to steal a victory over the Hurricanes in their last game, thanks in no small part to Nathan Coulter-Nile producing incredible bowling figures at the death. He is not available for this game as he is now on international duty, along with fast bowler Shaun Marsh.
Friday night at the SCG has been nominated as a ‘Girls Night Out’, with ladies encouraged to dress up for the occasion to be in with a chance of winning $40,000 worth of Westfield Bondi Junction gift cards. Look out for pamper stations, photo booths and other activities around the SCG precinct.
Friday 10th January, Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) Moore Park 19:40
Sydney Sixers v Perth Scorchers