Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Tipping Finals Round 1

Go on. I'll get over my disillusionment soon.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Tip if You Must

There is something quite spooky about how perfect the set up for this weekend is.

The teams in the top four and the finals are pleasing and strangely symmetrical already. There were really six teams in the competition last year and Melbourne and Adelaide had their turn, about to enjoy the fruits in their run at the ACL. The rump of the competition stayed the same if you equate the Knights and the Phoenix.

Four players at the table, all sure of finals games, but all wanting that premiership and ACL prize which is in their grasp right now. All on 31 points. One round remaining.

One from Queensland. Three from New South Wales. Love those odds.

All playing bottom four teams, none of which, by the way, are pushovers and all with good reasons of their own to upset things. But none of these top four thoroughbreds are playing each other.

So all of the four games are critically important. At the end of the round any of the four could be anywhere in the top four.

So who ordered the bloody games? Can the conspirators own up? They are being played in order, from the goal-difference placement from number four to number one. In fact 1 and 2 are playing 5 and 6 (though not respectively), and 3 and 4 are playing 7 and 8 (also not respectively, giving symmetry even to the fault in symmetry).

So each of the teams in a very appropriate order gets to play their hand. If Newcastle even draws it will be the winning hand on the table, which will have to be equaled or bettered by each of the next contenders. No matter what the 'bid' gets up to, even by Newcastle, each of the next teams will have an opportunity to outbid the last, culminating of course in Queensland's opportunity to defeat Adelaide and take all.

The final two games of the round will be played against the runners-up and winners of last years finals respectively. It will be their final competition games before their ACL campaign.

The first two games will be played against two teams - Phoenix and Perth - who are also on equal points and basically competing to avoid the wooden spoon. Pride is not a trifling matter, and to be fair, neither of these teams have been basket cases. Wellington at the bottom has won 5 - one quarter - of its 20 matches. It's not basket-case material.

Really, it's ridiculous. I didn't write the script but I wish I did.

Go on, tip. I think it's great that God doesn't exist but sometimes wish he'd do a much better job of it. To the infinite ineffable, which quite clearly exists, may all the games enthrall and be sublime.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Diary Note

Well today's the big day, made bigger by the other results of this weekend. Queensland vs Sydney. It means nothing. It means everything. It means nothing. It means everything!!

Regardless of course we have the finalists already. Queensland vs NSW. One vs three is just about the right odds too. It's far too exciting.

Anyway here's my random diary note. I was in the bank on Friday to deposit my pay. Jacob was with me - he's come into work with me a few times on his holidays. I often say stupid things and Jacob is a cynic, so he didn't believe me when I said, "Frank Farina just walked in." He rolled his eyes! I insisted it was true and he just shook his head in disgust. "Look, he's just gone to the back of the queue." He looked and indeed it was true.

We didn't stare, but did our business with the teller, then I walked back along the line and said, "Good luck on Sunday mate."

"Thanks mate."

"Is Lynchie in form?"

"I hope so."

"We need so."

And that was the end of my consultation with the Roar's great coach.

Here's a breakfast coffee cheers to a richly entertaining game tonight, with a Roar win. This one's for Justicia.

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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Ladies and Gentlemen Place Your Tips

Can anyone catch Mike while he's away?

May all the games be fine and beautiful.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Welcome McMaster

Well according to my list The Roar have with Griffin McMaster capped their 46th player. The last new cap was Robbie Kruse against Wellington on October 5th.

I'm disappointed but not terribly disillusioned by the Roar's loss to Melbourne. We were depleted and when Seo went off there was very little of the Roar's success formula left on the field. The front line, and in particular Tahj, was dynamic and created good chances but the defense was amateur. If Ben Griffin is our 'depth' in defense, then we don't have great depth in defense. But anyway well done Melbourne for taking the opportunity with both feet. A deserved win.

Truly though as I last blogged I was mostly worried about, and for, the debut keeper. And Griffin McMaster did fine. No keeper would be too shamed by the two goals that went past him. Once the defense has failed, and especially if an attack has support, the keeper can attempt to position himself but it is in the hands of the gods, and players like Aloisi love that situation.

Meanwhile McMaster wasn't kept too busy, especially in the first half, as Melbourne seemed content to mount attacks on the break, taking advantage of our weakened defense, but he did make a couple of fine saves and although he twice fumbled the ball forward where he probably would have liked to catch it, he recovered each time and made no fumbles where it mattered.

His distribution was adequate. Working very closely with Andy Packer he often gave the quick short ball straight to the latter and let him organise it. But when it came to the distinctive long (two thirds of the field) goal kick, he was up to the task, though not as convincing as Reddy, and not as accurate.

Overall, I'll be much happier when Reddy is back between the posts, but most of my concern is alleviated. He'll be fine against Sydney as long as our defence holds together. I do hope Seo's ok - noone keeps a safer right flank.

McMaster is a Brisbane boy, and 24 years old. Welcome to the Orange lad, and thanks for stepping up when you were needed.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Roarcentric Preview

Good to be the top of the ladder? Ask Melbourne. They know how good it is. The players, the coach and the fans all have a much deeper experience of the joys of being at the top of the table than their Queensland counterparts. It was about this time of last season when the Roar, who had had a disastrous run, went to Melbourne town without our first goalkeeper and made irony of the Victory. Just as a one-off. Just to prove a point, and to own a crucial feather of pride as the season closed around us for others to continue in finals.

This home game against Melbourne is a set-up. Every reasonable script seems to point to a Victory victory. When Queensland went away to Melbourne last year we had Tando Velaphi filling in for Reddy, he was outstanding in debut, and he was clearly one reason for our success. It's hard not to notice at this point that Velaphi was quite pointedly employed over the Roar's number 2, Griffin McMaster.

It's hard not to be worried. Reddy, with his often boisterous communication with our defensive line, has improved greatly and has been a real component of the Roar's success this year. With Tiatto and Moore out at the same time our defense in particular is depleted. It's hard not to wonder if McMaster is being put on because there are no other options, or even just due to the ongoing politics of snubbing him one more time. With the salary cap there can hardly be much investment in the second goalkeeper. Reddy's instruction for him to "keep it simple" does not inspire confidence. I wouldn't have a clue, but it's hard not to be worried.

Central Coast were knocked from their perch the moment they lost their goalkeeper (for two games).

Melbourne, of course, is on a roll, after doing the job for the Roar last week against the Mariners. Jesus the Roar virtually owe them one for that. We're going to need a post-modern script. The Roar are going to have to go out in front of their loyal fans and beat Melbourne just... just because they do.

Because in the end the game has nothing to do with justice or symmetry or dramatic coherence, despite monumental glaring evidence to the contrary, but is just about which team pulls together the better game and scores one more goal than the other. For this one we require a disciplined non-superstitious, secular naturalism. We will win despite the clear message in the stars that we won't.

To be honest I'm not that worried bout the defense or indeed the outfield. We've been without Moore before. Seo, Oggy and Packer are all quality defenders who've played for the team for a long time. Ben Griffin, who played for the suburban club I played for many decades ago as a junior, has also been convincing when he's had a few chances this season. Three goals so far from McCloughan - nothing wrong with him.

Earlier this season the absence of Tiatto has meant the reinclusion of Massimo, who made such an immediate impact alongside Mackay in particular, that Farina has found a way to include them both. But really the midfield is about as strong as ever, and up front we have the dream machine - Reinaldo in the centre with Zullo and Kruse covering the flanks as wide as hell. If the goalie can't get them balls (as Reddy does too much for the purists), Seo, Matty and Murdocca can.

We just can't let them have shots on goal. It's one question mark I'd be quite happy to just not be answered. On the other hand, like Tando on his debut - and indeed Farina has had a high success rate on high-impact debuts - perhaps McMaster will show us how it's done and be key to a stunning victory. Perhaps in the next two home games he will be so successful and enamour himself so much to the home crowd that Farina and Reddy will be up for some tense moments together in relation to the final games of the season. Who knows, and the drama is in not knowing.

Go the Roar. Go the bloody Roar. Go you brilliant, beautiful, loveable bastards. Show this league that you win just because you're better and therefore you do.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Tipping Happy Days (for Roar fans)

The perfect weekend for a humble Roar fan unfolded, as on my birthday the orange clad lads trashed the swampies from the West, and then on New Year's Eve Melbourne stopped Central Coast in their tracks (Thank You Victory!). 'How does it feel to be at the top of the table?' you well may ask. "It feels good," is the joyous if predictable reply.

Happy New Year everyone. May the games this weekend be fun, fair and free of serious injuries.

Neil has already emailed me his tips:

Wellington 1 SydneyFC 2
Newcastle 1 Adelaide 1
Queensland 1 Melbourne 2
Perth 0 Central Coast 2