Tuesday, 26 January 2010

2010 Super 14 Tipping and Betting Guide

The glory associated with being the last ever Super 14 champion is a dubious motivation. Already the Super 14 model has been acknowledged as being redundant, as it is being replaced by a Super 15 competition next year that will bear little relationship to this year's Super 14.

Nonetheless, Rugby is Rugby, Foxtel have a schedule to fill and the players have World Cup spots up for grabs. OK, so sure Super 14 form and playing styles bear no relationship to the international game but you've got to play for something beyond money. Hopefully.

So without further ado here is a run down on this year's teams for those of you with either a sporting or financial interest in the results.

CRUSADERS
The perennial favourites and the favourites again (they are perennial after all). Still, it did them few favours last year when a new team and new coach (Todd Blackadder) struggled to make an impact until late in the season. The signs for 2010 aren't promising either as Blackadder in his coach's column has nothing to say.
Odds: $4.25
Value: Attrocious
Cheerleader rating: The Paul Kelly Motor Company Dancers may be able to dance but this has to be the worst name ever for a team of cheerleaders. Do yourself a favour and don't read the profiles though; truly 'get me a bucket' material  **** (out of 5)
Easily Pronounceable player to watch: Ben Franks
Prediction: 5th

BRUMBIES
The Brumbies of old were a great team. Their secret lay in paying a pittance to unknown or discarded players which bred an 'us against them' culture. The current version are potentially a great team too. The best that money can buy. Us is now full of them and many of them are even more Us than Us is. Or something.
Odds: $5.50
Value: Minimal
Cheerleader rating: Brumby Jack (or BJ) is no pom pom girl but he does have a pick up truck and is hung like a horse. **/5
Easily pronounceable player to watch: Ben Hand
Prediction: 5th

BULLS
Were the Bulls being carried by Bryan Habana? That's the biggest question facing South African Rugby after his defection to the Stormers seeking more money, err new challenges.
Odds: $5.50
Value: Unknown
Cheerleader rating: The Bulls Babes set the benchmark when it comes to Cheerleading in Super Rugby. Unfortunately their website leaves a lot to be desired with only one posed team photo. Where are the profiles? ****/5
Easily pronounceable player to watch: Frik Kirsten
Prediction: 5th

HURRICANES
You've got to be worried if your team is advertising for a head coach in 2011 and you haven't even started the 2010 season. The perennial almost team of New Zealand Rugby is set to almost emulate their almost famous forebears for many seasons to come by the looks of it.
Odds: $8.50
Value: None
Cheerleader rating: Full marks to the Hurricanes for having both cheerleaders and Tui Brewery Girls according to their website (combining two of the Rolling Maul's favourite things), though why the Tui Girls section is restricted to 18+ year olds is a mystery. It's also a bit of a concern that two of the girls are guys. *****/5
Easily pronounceable player to watch: Dane Coles
Prediction: 5th

SHARKS
You may have noticed that the Rolling Maul knows almost nothing when it comes to South African Rugby, but is more of a channeler of South African Rugby website facts, fiction and nonsense when required. Indeed if it wasn't for the internet the Rolling Maul would have nothing at all to say about South African Rugby - that may actually be preferable according to some. Speaking of nothing to say, the Shark's website is as dull as a post-match interview, so no great insights to pass on alas.
Odds: $8.50
Value: No idea
Cheerleader rating: Nothing to rate. Website makes no mention even of a mascot. Surely there is a Shark that goes by the name of Sharkie. 0/5
Easily pronounceable player to watch: John Smit
Prediction: 5th

CHIEFS
The Chiefs finally came good in 2009, finishing as the top ranked NZ team and making the final where they promptly got thrashed by the Bulls. The signs aren't good for 2010 though. Their website promotes a cricket match.
Odds: $9.00
Value: Maybe a lazy tenner
Cheerleader rating: Congrats to the Chiefs Cheerleaders for their imaginative name - the Chiefs Cheerleaders. And they aint dumb - Angela Clements in her profile admits that she can't live without food and water. It is a concern though that in an ideal world for Alex Hitghmough Everton FC would win the premiership - what about the Chiefs? ****/5
Easily pronounceable player to watch: Luke Braid
Prediction: 5th

WARATAHS
Taking a leaf out of the Brumbies' book the Waratahs have poached Berrick Barnes from Queensland and Drew Mitchell from Perth. In return Sam Norton-Knight went to Wales, Scott Fava retired, Matt Dunning went the other way to Mitchell, Timana Tahu went to League and Lote Tuquiri went to France. A fair swap.
Odds: $9.00
Value: Not bad
Cheerleader rating: Cheerleaders are not to be seen in Aussie Rugby but at least Tah Man has his own (pretty ordinary) website and it was pretty cool when he dropped in off a Blackhawk in a semi-final a couple of years ago. **/5
Easily pronounceable player to watch: Tom Carter
Prediction: 5th

BLUES
The Blues were once a New Zealand Rugby powerhouse. These days they'd struggle to power a lawn mower. If you believe in omens well according to their website they're already coming last - the teams are ranked in reverse alphabetical order. The Waratahs are first. That is a first.
Odds: $11.00
Value: Ordinary
Cheerleader rating: The closest the Blues get to a cheerleader is a mascot named Bluebeard. That's always the danger when you name your team after a colour - what's your mascot's gimmick? It could be worse though, you could name your team after a flower.
Easily pronounceable player to watch: John Afoa
Prediction: 5th

STORMERS
In protest at the Stormers not having released their team line up yet the Rolling Maul will not be reviewing the Stormers prospects in 2010, suffice to say they don't have cheerleaders.
Odds: $15.00
Value: ?
Cheerleader rating: 0/5
Easily pronounceable player to watch: ?
Prediction: ?

FORCE
Rugby's bad boys have tried hard to refresh their image by moving on the rougher elements of their line up. Fava, Henjak, Giteau and Mitchell have all moved on in the last couple of years. So has AJ Whalley though he wasn't so bad as comic. Andre Pretorious has been recruited to replace Giteau, Matt Dunning has been recruited to replace Whalley on the bench. Swings and roundabouts really - the Force are threatening to become the South Sydney Rabbitohs of Australian Rugby.
Odds: $31.00
Value: If only you could put money on a place
Cheerleader rating: When Sam Harris is the closest thing you have to a lighter side of your website you know you're in trouble. 0/5
Easily pronounceable player to watch: Matt Dunning
Prediction: 5th

HIGHLANDERS
Otago is no place to spend a winter. Or even a summer for that matter as that time of year it's like winter everywhere else. So it's no wonder that the Highlanders always bring up the rear when it comes to NZ Rugby. Dunedin may be the House of Pain but mainly for the locals. Don't expect any difference in 2010.
Odds: $51.00
Value: Worth wasting a buck
Cheerleader rating: Way too cold in Dunedin for girls in skimpy costumes, though the Highlander logo shows a man wearing a skirt (well, a kilt). 0/5
Easily pronounceable player to watch: Tim Boys
Prediction: 5th

REDS
Just when the Reds thought they were putting together a gun team Berrick Barnes defected to the Tahs. Just when Quade Cooper showed on the Wallaby tour he could step into his shoes, his extra-curricular hobby (kleptomania) become an issue. Just when their coaching woes were solved by hiring Ewen McKenzie - well nothing yet but it's all going to end in tears - this is the Reds after all.
Odds: $51.00
Value: Excellent if you're looking for the roughest of roughies.
Cheerleader rating: Cheerleaders are the domain of Rugby League in Australia (alas) and the Reds 'fanzone' is a facebook page. The Rolling Maul refuses to establish a facebook account just so that it can evaluate the rabid parochialism of Queenslanders. 0/5
Easily pronounceable player to watch: Ben Lucas
Prediction: 5th

CHEETAHS / LIONS
May as well lump them together because since both teams were developed they have only ever managed to be the keel of the Super Rugby super yacht, weighing it down and providing ballast. Maybe a better metaphor is the anchor as all they ever achieve is to slow things down to the point of stopping altogether. Nothing will change in 2010 as both teams will indeed be anchored to the bottom of the ladder.
Odds: $101.00
Value: Never ever
Cheerleader ratings: They may not be able to do much on the field but the Cheetah Girls rock off the field. *****/5 Alas the FeLions internet presence consists only of an audition call and some photos, but at least they exist. ***/5
Easily pronounceable cheerleader to watch: Kay (Cheetahs)
Prediction: 5th

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

What Rugby Can Learn from the Lingerie Football League

Just when you thought there could be no more invented 'sports' to sprout forth like a sewerage outfall from the deeper darker recesses of the American mass-marketing mind swamp (basketball springs to mind and its bastard love child slamball - which is basically basketball on trampolines) comes the Lingerie Football League.

Hmmm. Gridiron? Skimpily dressed women? Now there's a natural match.

Now if you thought there'd be nothing that Rugby could learn from the LFL then you'd be almost right. But only almost.

Clearly both Rugby and Gridiron are sports primarily watched by men. All the football codes recognise this and go to great extremes to promote their more watchable (or pretty) players to women primarily with TV adverts, nude calendars, tight shorts and shirts and a strong encouragement of metrosexuality (Matt Giteau's hair, David Beckham's underwear etc). But it's taken Gridiron to throw in the towel and admit what we all know. Men are only interested in two things - other men playing with balls and women doing much the same thing. The LFL combines both of them so kudos to them.

Now this is not to say that a Rugby Lingerie Union should be established or that women who play Rugby currently should do so in their lingerie (though they should be given that option). Simply that the precedent has already been set for women in skimpy outfits to be be combined with Rugby - the Bulls Babes. It is no coincidence that the Bulls are the most successful team in recent Super Rugby history. By ignoring female supporters and concentrating on their core audience - drunk ogling slobbering males - the Bulls are successful, profitable and watchable.

Not one Australian Super 14 team has cheerleaders. It is no coincidence that in recent years they have struggled both on and off the field. Indeed the number of off-field incidences has been on the rise in recent years (Fava, Henjak, Cooper, Dunning, Tuquiri, Fava, Henjak, Cooper, Tuquiri etc) so there is plenty of evidence to suggest that the off-field distractions are trumping the on-field distractions for the simple reason that there aren't any.

Having cheerleaders is more that just an aesthetic choice. They are a welcome distraction to the players, relieving pressure and raising morale. The Bulls have discovered this secret to success and it is high time that the Australian Super 14 teams did likewise.

And for us non-players there is always the Lingerie Football League. So for you with cable on the TV and a basic sports package do yourself a favour and check it out. The novelty lasts for a good 10 minutes.