Some mid-week reflection   3 Apr 2012

Martin Hearnden

With the conclusion of the cricket season and the disappointment that was summer also drawing to a close, it is time for thoughts to turn to the various winter codes that have been trying desperately to grab our attention since February. But more on that in a moment time to dwell on the cricket for one last time and the play offs for Basketball and Football (soccer if you must) that commenced last weekend.

Two steps forward and 2 back for the Blackcaps we reckon. The results against South Africa were disappointing in all forms of the game, the loss against all odds in the T20 decider in Auckland clearly dented morale and it was downhill from there. There was the possibility of a famous win in Dunedin until rain ruined the last day and Williamson was the hero of the hour on the last day at the Basin. But this is clutching at straws just a little. SA were clearly the better side.

The tour of the West Indies will probably provide a better gauge of just where we are at, the sides look pretty evenly matched. The Windies are undergoing a bit of a revival at the moment and have taken games off Australia in the 50 and 20 over games. The wickets will be slow and low and yet again our top order batting will be under the spotlight. Post some decent totals and our solid bowling attack will have something to work with.

The NBL Basketball league and the A-League football comps are of course summer events in Australia, so they do not have to compete with the various other football codes. The Breakers are defending their NBL crown after finishing top of the regular season round robin. Unfortunately they took a beating in their first game against the Townsville Crocs and need to return the favour in Townsville on Thursday night or their season is over. Life without Kirk Penny is proving to be problematic. Fingers crossed for a result in Australia with the decider back in Auckland, shades of last year.

The Phoenix have loitered around the top 4 all season and went into their elimination match against Sydney FC in good heart. After a dour first half the game sprang into life with the Nix 2-0 up and cruising. Sydney had other ideas and in no time it was back to 2-2 and nerves were jangling. Cue the player of the season, Paul Ifill, who promptedly raced into the Sydney box to win a clear penalty, which he calmly converted, 3-2 and game over. The yellow army were ecstatic but a daunting trip to Perth awaits this weekend, fingers crossed again.

The Highlanders and the Chiefs continue to make the running in the NZ conference of the S15. They both took care of Australian opposition in emphatic style on the weekend but in both cases, the hard stuff really is to come. The Crusaders are slowly creaking into life and we believe they still represent NZ's best chance of ultimate glory. This comp really is a marathon, with the final in early August. More to come on this but expect a quite different All Black side in a couple of months. This is maybe a year of "transition".

Finally, from the League desk, the Warriors are making their patented slow start to the season. A disappointing loss to the Roosters last Saturday night left their faithful fans scathing their heads, things will improve. Our tip? keep your eye on the Melbourne Storm.

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