History Favours Warburton Captaining Lions

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Sam Warburton has drifted from 1-3 to 3-1 in betting on the 2013 British and Irish Lions captain but there are grounds for thinking that the Wales skipper has every right to be odds on to receive one of rugby union’s top honours.

Bookmakers and punters alike considered Warburton as the hot favourite prior to the 2013 Six Nations Championship in which his Wales team got off to a terrible start, losing its opening game versus Ireland in Cardiff and being the flavour of the month in markets on the tournament’s wooden spoon.

But Wales rallied to defeat France in Paris, Italy in Rome, Scotland in Edinburgh and, ultimately, England in Cardiff to win back-to-back titles for the first time since the late 1970s. And according to reports, Warburton’s leadership on and off the field was instrumental in his side’s success.

British and Irish Lions coaching legend Ian McGeechan has come out in support of Warburton, praising him for the manner in which helped Wales turn around its fortunes, even though he did not regain the captaincy after sustaining an injury during its home loss to Ireland. He led by example, irrespective of who was wearing the captain’s armband.

Since World War Two, there have been 17 British and Irish Lions tours of Australia, New Zealand and/or South Africa. In what must be a positive for Warburton, players from the best performing home team in the tour year’s Five Nations Championship or Six Nations Championship have captained the composite side in the southern hemisphere 14 times, with only exceptions being three Irishmen – Karl Mullen (1950), Robin Thompson (1955) and Brian O’Driscoll (2005).

Fourteen out of 17 equates to 82.4 per cent and odds of around 1-5, which goes a long way to explaining why bookmakers installed Warburton at 1-3 last year.

With British and Irish Lions royalty such as McGeechan – he was the touring team’s head coach in 1989, 1993, 1997 and 2009, winning the 1989 series in Australia and the 1997 series in South Africa – going on the record to support Warburton, now is the time to take advantage of the big swing in the betting market on the official captain.

It cannot hurt Warburton’s chance that the 2013 British and Irish Lions coach is Warren Gatland, the Kiwi whose decision it was to make the openside flanker Wales’s second youngest skipper ever at the tender age of 22 years and 242 days.

Turning to the series itself, it remains somewhat surprising that bookmakers are favouring the British and Irish Lions over Australia in the great southern land. The away side is trading at odds of around 8-11, with the inverse available about the home team and the draw at odds of around 28-1.

The British and Irish Lions have won six of their eight series in Australia but most of them took place before Gatland was born 50 years ago. Importantly, the northern hemisphere side lost its only series versus the Wallabies in rugby union’s professional era, going down 1-2 after taking out the first game before losing the next two matches.

Indeed, the record of the British and Irish Lions since rugby union ceased to be an amateur sport is poor. They beat South Africa 2-1 in 1995 but lost 1-2 to Australia in 2001, crashed 0-3 to New Zealand in 2005 and slumped to a 1-2 loss in the republic in 2009 as the Springboks got their revenge.

Quite how the British and Irish Lions, winners of only two of their last nine Test games, are the favourites to win this year’s three-match series in Australia is strange. Even privately, one would be surprised if Gatland thought that his collective of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales players was entitled to be rated as the most likely winner.

The Wallabies are not in one of their golden eras but they were the Rugby World Cup 2011 bronze medallists, bouncing back from a lacklustre loss to Ireland in the pool stage to beat South Africa and Wales in the knockout stage. There was no shame in losing to New Zealand in Auckland as the All Blacks were – and still are – the best side on the planet.

The International Rugby Board’s latest world rankings, up to date as at Monday 25 September 2013, place Australia third on 86.87 points, with England fourth (83.72 points), Wales fifth (83.36 points), Ireland ninth (78.05 points) and Scotland 10th (76.86 points). The rankings may have their faults but they provide an objective assessment of the 100 countries that play international rugby union currently.

So how have usually rational people such bookmakers reached the unanimous conclusion that the British and Irish Lions are the favourites to win in Australia this year?

Well, they have probably made the schoolboy error of looking at the likely British and Irish Lions squad and forgetting that only 15 of them can be on the field at any one time.

Also, they have probably got it into their heads that the travelling hordes of British and Irish Lions supporters will transform Suncorp Stadium, Etihad Stadium and ANZ Stadium into virtual home grounds for the away team. There will be thousands of Lions fans in Australia but the possibility of them outnumbering Wallabies fans in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney is not all that great. The locals will come out in big numbers to support their side, as they always do.

Pre-Season Results Results Mean Diddly in AFL

Brisbane won the pre-season NAB Cup tournament
Despite defeating Carlton by 40 points in the NAB Cup tournament, we won’t be touching them at 100-1. Pre-Season is a bad measurement of a team’s ability

Australians absolutely love the Australian Football League, which is why the world’s top Australian Rules competition had an average attendance of more than 30,000 people last season, a mark for which most sports events would kill.

Most similar to Gaelic football, Australian Rules football is played between teams of 18 players (Gaelic Football is 15-a-side) on a large oval-shaped field, with many sides using modified cricket arenas because of the requirement for grounds much bigger than those on which sports such as football and rugby league take place.

Indigenous Australians say that Australian Rules football grew out of one of their games but what is beyond debate is that one of the current 18 Australian Football League teams, Melbourne, published the first edition of the laws of the game in 1859 and the sport has gone gangbusters since.

The Victorian Football League started in 1897 and Essendon won the first premiership in what was one of only two years in which the title was determined without any form of Grand Final. The Victorian Football League became the Australian Football League in 1990 as the tournament had by that stage become national and not centred upon Melbourne and its environs. Now more than half of the 18 sides are based outside Victoria. New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia each have two teams.

Essendon and Carlton are the most successful sides in Victorian Football League/Australian Football League history. The Bombers and the Blues have won 16 titles apiece. The other teams are the honour roll are, in descending order of success, Collingwood (15 titles), Melbourne (12 titles), Hawthorn (10 titles), Richmond (10 titles), Geelong (nine titles), Fitzroy (eight titles), Sydney/South Melbourne (five titles), North Melbourne (four titles), Brisbane (three titles), West Coast (three titles), Adelaide (two titles), Port Adelaide (one title), St Kilda (one title) and Western Bulldogs (one title). Fremantle, Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney have yet to win a premiership but they are relatively young sides.

The 2013 Australian Football League season will start with Sydney bidding to become the first team since Brisbane 10 years ago to mount an ultimately successful premiership defence. The Swans defied the odds several times during 2012, most notably when shocking Hawthorn in the Grand Final. Sydney won 91-81 and its tireless midfielder, Ryan O’Keefe, picked up the prestigious Norm Smith Medal.

Do Not Buy In To Pre-Season Results

Brisbane won the pre-season NAB Cup tournament, defeating Carlton by 40 points in its championship match at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne. But there is a reason as to why the Lions are trading at odds of around 100-1 to win this year’s Australian Football League Grand Final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Punters are not interested in them.

That is because Australian Football League punters do not rate NAB Cup form highly. Only five times has a side won both competitions in the same season – Essendon (1993, 2000), Hawthorn (1988 and 1991) and Geelong (2009) – in spite of there being a massive cash bonus on offer.

Despite losing four of its five pre-season games, Hawthorn will go into the 2013 Australian Football League campaign as the premiership favourite, with bookmakers quoting the Hawks at odds of around 7-2. Punters are not reading too much into Hawthorn’s NAB Cup results, particularly as it went down by one point in three of its four defeats. The Hawks thrashed North Melbourne 122-41 in their last warm-up match, a sign that Alistair Clarkson’s team are worthy of great respect.

Hawks And Swans Could Meet In Another Decider

Carlton and West Coast have been the major 2013 Australian Football League market movers, with punters expecting big things from Mick Malthouse’s Blues and John Worsfold’s Eagles. But Hawthorn is the favourite for good reason.

On its day, Hawthorn is head and shoulders above the other 17 Australian Football League sides. If the Hawks play to their potential, which they did on a couple of occasions last year, none of their rivals are going to beat them. Hawthorn’s squad is the strongest in the competition and Lance Franklin, known to Australian Rules football fans as Buddy, is unstoppable when he is in the mood. Franklin kicked 13 goals in a 2012 game versus North Melbourne.

Reigning premier Sydney is unfashionable with Australian Football League punters again but it stands out as the team most likely to stop Hawthorn justifying favouritism. The Swans beat the Hawks two times out of three last term, including in the match that mattered most, and they have recruited Kurt Tippett in the interim. Tippett is not one of the most liked Australian Rules football characters but he knows how to boot a goal and he will have served his lengthy suspension by the middle of the 2013 season. The ex-Adelaide forward provides Sydney with another X factor, making John Longmire’s side fairly appealing at odds of around 6-1.

Two-time Winner Represents Brownlow Value

Carlton may not have what it takes to go from Australian Football League pretender to contender in its first season under Malthouse but Chris Judd may make bookmakers pay for listing him at odds of around 20-1 to win the Brownlow Medal. The Blues midfielder is a two-time winner of the prestigious individual award and one knows that he will catch the eye of the voting umpires if his team wins more than their fair share of games under new management.

Essendon Is Not Going To Be The Bomb

Essendon has been the subject of the pre-2013 Australian Football League season headlines but for all the wrong reasons, with the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority investigating the Bombers for various serious offences.

Bookmakers are offering odds of around 8-13 that Essendon does not make the Australian Football League Finals Series for the second year in a row. The Bombers were three wins away from making the cut in 2012, losing their last seven matches to finish in 11th place. Surely the odds are very much against Essendon having a good season in 2013.

From Failing Homework To Losing Third Test

Australia Test match versus India in Mohali

Australia lost its last Test match versus India in Mohali by one wicket in a great contest but one cannot see this week’s Third Test of its 2013 tour being anywhere near as tight given the extraordinary suspension of four Australians.

Vice-captain Shane Watson, fringe batsman Usman Khawaja and a couple of pace men, Mitchell Johnson and James Pattinson, are out of the good books of Australia coach Mickey Arthur and skipper Michael Clarke after failing to take part in a team analysis exercise following their side’s embarrassing, record-breaking innings defeat in last week’s Second Test.

That Clarke has come out and said that the bans are not the consequence of only one incident suggests that Australia’s cricket squad has more significant, deep-rooted issues than the failure of four players to hand in their homework on time. The captain is confident that his personal friendships with Watson, Khawaja, Johnson and Pattinson will endure but that sounds like wishful thinking on the skipper’s behalf.

Legendary former Australia captain Ian Chappell has gone on the record saying that cannot imagine how the suspensions and subsequent media coverage are going to help the touring team as its struggles to match an in-form India side that believes that the Australians cannot play spin bowling.

Chappelli believes that too many people are having a say in the running of Australia’s cricket team, something that he thinks should be the responsibility of the skipper in conjunction with the manager. He understands that team discipline is important to Clarke – the Australia captain has form in this regard having been behind the move to send home Andrew Symonds five years ago – but that this week’s suspensions are too harsh and will do more harm than good.

Some might say that Australia will be better off without at least a couple of its four banned players. Watson is not really worth his place as a middle-order batsman who does not bowl, while Johnson is up and down like a yo-yo. But Khawaja would have come into the side for Phil Hughes and Pattinson has taken twice as many wickets as any other Australia bowler in the first two Tests combined.

No Pattinson means no Australia bowler averaging under 30 on tour will play in Mohali and, of Australia’s batsmen, only Clarke and Moises Henriques are averaging over 30. Before the four-Test series got under way, opinions were divided as to how it would pan out, particularly given India’s home loss to England in 2012. Now most people are on the same page. Thankfully, not everyone is so India is a good bet.

There has been a betting move for India to win the Third Test that starts in Mohali on Thursday but the home team remains odds against in a couple of places. Surely offers better than even money will not last very much longer so step in and get with the Indians before it is too late.

Had it not been for Clarke, India would have defeated Australia even more emphatically than they did in Chennai (eight wickets) and Hyderabad (an innings and 135 runs). The Australian skipper is mentally strong – he responded to the break-up of his high-profile relationship with Lara Bingle by blasting a century – but this week’s events are about more than him. He is going to take to the field of the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium with the weight of a cricket-mad country on his shoulders, with most of his compatriots thinking that he and Arthur have lost the plot.

If Clarke does not fire in Mohali – he is Australia’s one and only top-class player of spin – then the week is going to get worse for him, Arthur and other Cricket Australia officials. The knives are out for them because back-to-back Ashes series are not that far away and Australians are very worried that they will cop back-to-back hidings off England.

England is trading at odds of around 8-15 to win the Ashes series in its backyard, while it is available at odds of around 9-4 to win the Ashes series in England and Australia.

Formula One Season Preview 2013

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With the season about to get under-way we are wary of the bad value in backing the favourites. 7/4 is the best price on the favourite Vettel at the moment and we are a little shy about taking it.

Formula One is the world’s favourite motor sport competition and 2013 will be its 64th edition, with Sebastian Vettel attempting to join Michael Schumacher and Juan Manuel Fangio as the only drivers to win the title four years in a row.

Vettel, who has finished first three times and second once in his four full Formula One campaigns, will start the 2013 season as the hot favourite to take out the star prize. The 25-year-old German is trading at odds of around 7-4 to fend off a field that includes five Formula One champions – Fernando Alonso (2005 and 2006), Kimi Raikkonen (2007), Lewis Hamilton (2008), Jenson Button (2009) and Vettel (2010, 2011 and 2012) – and several talented youngsters.

Formula One officials have settled upon a 19-race calendar for 2013, with the series starting in Australia on 17 March and ending in Brazil on 24 November. In changes from 2012, the German Grand Prix moves to the Nurburgring as per its event-sharing agreement with the Hockenheimring. Also, the Spanish Grand Prix switches to the Circuit de Catalunya as per a similar deal with the Valencia Street Circuit, while the European Grand Prix bites the dust after 22 renewals.

One by-product of the calendar changes is that for the first time in many years no country will stage more than one Formula One race, which is in keeping with series supremo Bernie Ecclestone’s vision to make it truly global.

Vettel Opposable In A Close Competition

To back Vettel or not to back Vettel, that is the question. Formula One punters who have had faith in the German since 2010 have won more money than they have lost and there is little doubt that he is entitled to title favouritism.

According to most Formula One watchers, Red Bull is the king of hiding its true speed during pre-season testing and the consensus is that its 2013 car may be the best one on the grid for the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne. And even if it is not, Red Bull genius Adrian Newey and the development crew that he leads have shown time and time again that they are superb at tweaking their cars during the season itself.

However, odds of around 7-4 (from Intertops) about Vettel joining Schumacher and Fangio in the record books are not exactly generous given that most Formula One analysts are tipping a close championship in 2013, with no fewer than five teams having legitimate claims based on pre-season testing performances.

Alonso’s Car May Not Be The Best

Alonso is, arguably, the most complete Formula One driver on the grid and his Ferrari is both quick and consistent. But the famous marque did not wow any Formula One anoraks during pre-season testing and the 2013 season will probably be a long, hard slog for the Spaniard. The feeling is that Ferrari will not quite be top of the class and Alonso, if he does win his third Formula One title, it will be because he racked up lots of podium finishes and retired rarely.

With Vettel and Alonso accounting for approximately 60 per cent of the 2013 Formula One championship book with most bookmakers, this year’s competition looks like one worth attacking with a speculative outsider at healthy odds.

Look For Value Away From The Favourites

McLaren was the talk of Formula One’s pit lane at the start of the pre-season testing period but that hype has died down somewhat, with eagle-eyed observers reporting that its car still has the inherent understeer that was first sighted this time last year. So, for now at least, Button and his promising teammate, Sergio Perez, are worth swerving.

There is more than a sneaking suspicion that reliability issues may plague Lotus in 2013 just as they did throughout 2012. Lotus completed fewer pre-season testing miles than all their major Formula One rivals except Williams. The noise out of the team is positive but the proof will be in the pudding. A bet on either Lotus driver – Raikkonen or Romain Grosjean – would be a brave one at this stage.

Hamilton Could Do The Unthinkable

A few weeks ago, anyone thinking of backing Hamilton to regain the Formula One crown in his debut season as a Mercedes driver would have been certified insane. Now there is something of a gamble developing on the Briton, with odds of around 10-1 about as big as one can get about him.

Mercedes showed what was, according to Formula One experts, genuine pace in the final pre-season testing sessions, with both Hamilton and Nico Rosberg knocking out quick lap after quick lap. The car looked really good on the track as well.

Not only is Hamilton available at double-figure odds to win his second Formula One title but also he is trading at an attractive 9-4 (Pinnacle) to finish in the top three. One thinks that the Mercedes leader’s podium odds will look very big if the Ferrari of Alonso does not get off to a flying start.

Editor note: After reading this preview you will probably want to look at our F1 betting guide which helps you understand how to apply the information presented above. The guide details how to bet, types of bets, stats and betting sites all from a Formula 1 perspective.

New Zealand Versus England Test Series

University Oval, Dunedin

The first test tales place at University Oval, Dunedin on 6th of March 10:30am. Bookies have England as huge favourites to come away with the three test win and we can’t argue with that!

New Zealand and England will play their 33rd Test series against each other in March 2013, with the teams playing matches in Dunedin, Wellington and Auckland from 6 March.

England has dominated the cricket argument that started in 1930. The English edged New Zealand 1-0 in the inaugural four-Test series between the sides and the Kiwis did not enjoy any of the first 20 series, losing 15 and drawing the other five. New Zealand’s first series victory occurred in 1984 when it defeated England 1-0 over three games but, overall, the Kiwis are a long way behind the English.

England has won 45 and lost only eight of its 94 Test matches versus New Zealand, with the series standings favouring the English 22-3 with seven draws. On Kiwi soil, England leads the Test match ledger 18-4 with 22 draws and boasts a series advantage of 10-1 with half a dozen draws.

This year’s three-Test series in New Zealand will mark the first time that the Kiwis and England have competed for the Astle-Atherton Trophy. Astle scored 4,702 Test runs for New Zealand, including the fastest double century in balls faced when he reached 200 off 153 deliveries against the English in Christchurch 11 years ago. Atherton scored 7,728 runs for England and captained his country on a record 54 occasions.

Everyone Panning the Kiwis

Bookmakers are betting that England will warm up for this year’s back-to-back Ashes series with an away defeat of New Zealand. The English are trading at odds of around 2-7 to get the better of the Kiwis over the three Test matches and the tourists are around 8-15 to win the series opener.

So lowly do bookmakers rate New Zealand that the Kiwis are odds against to win one or more of the games in Dunedin, Wellington or Auckland, while the English are trading at odds between 2-1 and 5-2 to complete a road clean sweep.

And bookmakers are not the only group with a low opinion of New Zealand. According to the latest International Cricket Council Test Ranking, the Kiwis are the eighth strongest of the nine listed team on a rating of 78 points. England is ranked second on a rating 40 points higher and fairly safe in that position with Australia struggling in India.

New Zealand’s low ranking is more than justified. The Kiwis have not won a Test series in the land of the long white cloud against a half-decent side – Bangladesh and Zimbabwe do not count – since beating the West Indies seven years ago. New Zealand has lost its last three home series versus Test-quality teams without winning a game and, furthermore, it has won one, drawn eight and lost eight of its last 17 home matches against middleweights and heavyweights since upsetting England in the First Test of 2008. And four of those draws were in games that bad weather ruined.

New Zealand Conditions Similar to England

Coming off an historic victory in India when conditions were not in England’s favour, one would have to fancy the English to prosper in New Zealand versus mediocre opponents in a cricket-playing environment that is similar to Blighty.

England’s bowlers will relish the seam-friendly conditions in New Zealand and one only has to go back a few months to see how the Kiwis fare against high-quality pace men. New Zealand lost both of its New Year away matches versus South Africa by an innings, getting dismissed for 45 runs in its first dig in the First Test, not scoring more than 275 in any of its four knocks and averaging 163 in the series.

Provided that the land of the long white cloud does not rain on England’s parade – precipitation is a possibility in New Zealand at any time of year – the English should have more than sufficient time to hand out a comprehensive beating.

England to Complete Clean Sweep

The best value ante-post bet in the Test series between New Zealand and England is the English to sweep the home side 3-0, an option that has shortened in recent weeks but still trades at odds of around 5-2. The Kiwis do not have enough class batsmen to keep the likes of England and South Africa at bay over five days and the English are in excellent form.

Another tempting bet is a punt on former New Zealand skipper Ross Taylor to score the most runs for the home team. The Kiwis have only one genuine top-drawer batsmen and Taylor is that willow wielder, averaging 41.80 in his 42 Test matches despite being held back by the mediocrity around him. Taylor is the world’s seventh best batsmen, according to the latest ICC Test Championship Batting Ranking, sandwiched between England captain Alistair Cook and Kevin Pietersen. No other New Zealand squad member is listed in the top 30. Taylor is trading at odds of around 3-1 to be the highest scoring Kiwi when one could argue that he should be much closer to 2-1.

NRL – National Rugby League Betting

Melbourne Storm NRL 2012 WinnersOur pundit reckons it is hard to see past defending champions Melbourne Storm to winning the National Rugby League Grand Final. Lucky for us, there are more things to bet on!

Club rugby league competitions do not come any tougher than the National Rugby League and the 2013 edition promises to be every bit as action packed as its recent predecessors.

Sixteen teams – 15 from Australia and one from New Zealand – will compete over 26 rounds for the right to be one of the eight sides to take part in the National Rugby League Finals Series that will culminate with the 2013 National Rugby League Grand Final at ANZ Stadium on Sunday 6 October.

Australians have played rugby league since 1908 but the National Rugby League as it is known today is less than 20 years old. Brisbane won the first National Rugby League Grand Final in 1998, the first of its three National Rugby League titles. The other eight teams on the National Rugby League honour roll are Melbourne (two titles retained and two titles stripped for rule breaches), Manly-Warringah (two titles), Canterbury-Bankstown (one title), Newcastle (one title), Penrith (one title), St George Illawarra (one title), Sydney (one title) and Wests Tigers (one title), with the National Rugby League salary cap going a long way to ensuring that no one side triumphs year after year.

The 2013 National Rugby League season will get under way on Thursday 7 March with a local derby between Sydney and South Sydney at Allianz Stadium. A few years ago, Rabbitohs owner Russell Crowe commissioned a book – the Book of Feuds – to chronicle the rivalry between his team and the Roosters.

Melbourne Ready to Kick Up a Storm

National Rugby League futures punters are spoilt for choice, with a vast array of betting markets available before Sydney and South Sydney kick off the competition. Also, bookmakers will update many of the futures markets after every round.

In terms of picking the winner of the 2013 National Rugby League Grand Final, it is hard to go past Melbourne, the defending champion that recently added this year’s World Club Challenge trophy to its silverware collection. The Storm have the best spine of the National Rugby League sides, with Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith playing fullback, halfback and hooker respectively. And Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy is the best in the game.

Bellamy has refreshed Melbourne’s squad for 2013, letting go more players than he has recruited but, arguably, improving his team’s roster overall. Brett Finch, Junior Moors and Junior Sa’u are Bellamy specials – value signings who will slot in and do as he tells them. Maybe the Storm have lost a little bit in their forward pack but Bellamy is a master of getting unheralded big blokes to step up a few notches.

Melbourne is a very worthy 2013 National Rugby League Grand Final favourite at odds of around 11-2 because it has the players to get the job done at the business end of the competition when everything is on the line.

Respect Hasler’s Current and Former Sides

Representative call-ups may prevent Melbourne from making the 2013 National Rugby League Finals Series as the first seed, with Slater, Cronk and Smith likely to miss a few matches during the State of Origin period. The sides that appeal as value bets to finish the regular season at the top of the ladder are Canterbury-Bankstown and Manly-Warringah.

Canterbury-Bankstown is likely to get through the lengthy representative season without too many interruptions. A lot will depend upon how the Bulldogs manage the Ben Barba’s tricky situation – they have stood down their free-scoring fullback indefinitely – but one would expect to see them right near the summit after the 26 rounds are over.

Manly-Warringah is the National Rugby League’s forgotten team. Champions two seasons ago and given no chance of retaining their title last term because of a series of injuries to key personnel, the Sea Eagles may be getting a little old in the tooth but they have what it takes to challenge for the star prize for at least one more year.

Bookmakers are offering 2013 National Rugby League minor premiership odds of around 11-2 about Canterbury-Bankstown and 10-1 about Manly-Warringah. The Bulldogs are as short as 7-2 and the Sea Eagles are as low as 13-2. The bookmakers who are trying to duck Des Hasler’s current and former sides are pretty smart. Both of them will be there or thereabouts.

Bulldogs Pivot is Live Dally M Medal Outsider

Betting on the 2013 National Rugby League wooden spoon recipient is too hard – they are at least five strong contenders – but there are excellent opportunities elsewhere, including one at a working man’s price.

The long odds that are worth snapping up are those about Canterbury-Bankstown five-eighth Josh Reynolds winning this season’s Dally M Medal. Reynolds has a fan club among the people who cast Dally M Medal votes, so much that he was joint fifth in last year’s count despite his Bulldogs teammate Barba stealing a lot of votes off him.

Reynolds is as big as 33-1 to succeed Barba as the Dally M Medal winner when, realistically, he should be around the 10-1 mark. If Barba does sit out a large chunk of the 2013 National Rugby League season and Canterbury-Bankstown has another decent campaign then Reynolds, who was level with Melbourne superstar Smith on 20 points last term, could ensure that prize remains within the Bulldogs set-up.

Cooper Cronk is the only one of Melbourne’s big three not to have won a Dally M Medal. Third last year, the Storm halfback is worth a second look at odds of around 9-1.

Sea Eagles to Make the Eight, Broncos to Miss the Eight

Betting on teams to make or miss the National Rugby League Finals Series is a popular pastime and 2013 throws up some interesting bets. Manly-Warringah is trading at odds of around 4-6 to make the top eight for the ninth season in a row, odds that feel a good few rolls over the top. And as far as sides that are more likely to miss the top eight than bookmakers think, Brisbane sticks out at odds of around evens. The Broncos were lucky to finish eighth last term and, if anything, the only way is down for the giants.

Parkinson Favourite Over Kelly

Kelly Slater
For the first time in a very long time, surfing superstar Kelly Slater is not the title favourite going into a World Championship Tour season, the 2013 edition of which will run from March to December with 10 exciting events scheduled.

 

Slater is surfing royalty. The American won his first World Championship Tour crown in 1992 and two years ago took his number of titles to 11. At the grand old age of 41, Slater looks committed to having a real crack at relieving Joel Parkinson of the prize that the Australian won in 2012.

No man comes close to matching Slater in the world surfing title ranks. Slater’s 11 championships is more than double that of Australian legend Mark Richards (five titles) and no other man else has accrued more than three. Slater could give away the professional surfing game – he does not need the money – so it speaks volumes for his competitive nature and great ability that he still wants to mix it with men, some of whom such as John John Florence are half his age.

For the record, there are four World Championship Tour winners in the running for the 2013 title – Australia’s Mick Fanning (2007 and 2009), the United States of America’s CJ Hobgood (2001), Parkinson (2012) and Slater (1992, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2011).

How The Championship Works

The Quiksilver Pro on Australia’s Gold Coast will be the first event of the 2013 World Championship Tour. Following that will be another famous competition in Australia – the Rip Curl Pro – single events in Brazil, Fiji, France, French Polynesia, Indonesia and Portugal and a couple of dates in the United States of America, including the season-ending Billabong Pipeline Masters at Banzai Pipeline in Hawaii.

There are 10 events on the 2013 World Championship Tour but the competition standings will only include the best eight results of each surfer, thereby making it possible for someone to have a couple of nightmares and still win the title. Joel Parkinson won the 2012 World Championship Tour despite winning only the last of the year’s 10 events. Usually champions win at least three calendar events.

Parkinson Heads The Betting

Bookmakers have chalked odds about both not only the 2013 World Championship Tour but also the opening event, the Quiksilver Pro. Somewhat surprisingly, bookmakers have installed Parkinson as the favourite in both markets.

Parkinson is trading at odds of around 7-2 to become the sixth man to win back-to-back world surfing titles, with the other being Richards (1979 to 1982 inclusive), Tom Carroll (1984 and 1985), Tom Curren (1986 and 1987), Slater (1994 to 1998 inclusive, as well as 2005 and 2006) and the late Andy Irons (2002 to 2004 inclusive). Irons died from cardiac arrest in November 2010 at the young age of 32 years.

According to bookmakers, the 2013 Quiksilver Pro is more open than this year’s World Championship Tour race, with Parkinson trading at odds of around 9-2 and about 10 competitors quoted at odds of around 20-1 or less.

Slater is to Surfing What Taylor is to Darts

When one bets on darts, Phil Taylor is one’s first port of call. One asks oneself whether there is a value argument for backing The Power and goes from there. It is a similar story with surfing. One asks oneself whether there is a value argument for backing Slater and does not even think about anything else until coming up with the correct answer.

Even in his early 40s, Slater is the world’s best surfer on his day and, while Parkinson, Fanning and exciting American grommet Florence have legitimate 2013 World Championship Tour prospects, Slater should be the clear favourite.

Odds of around 6-1 about Slater winning his 12th world title are simply too big to pass. Remember, the veteran American was desperately unlucky not to come out on top in 2012 having won three of the 10 events. Overall, Slater has won 10 World Championship Tour events in the last three years, many more than anyone else. And the legend remains as hungry as ever, otherwise he would have called it a day.

Understandably, bookmakers are taking very few chances with Florence but it does not seem on the money that the star of tomorrow is trading at the same odds as the star of today.

Aussies Dominate Quiksilver Pro Honour Roll

Get in the groove! Final Day Highlights of the 2012 Quiksilver Pro Australia Goldcoast

Slater has won three Quiksilver Pro events on Australia’s Gold Coast (2006, 2008 and 2012) but the American is the only non-Australian surfer to win it, with Parkinson (2002 and 2009), Dean Morrison (2003), Michael Lowe (2004), Fanning (2005 and 2007) and Taj Burrow (2010 and 2012) delighting the home crowds at the other renewals.

Burrow has not been out of the top two in any of the last three Quiksilver Pro events in his home country so the West Australian appeals at odds of around 8-1. Alternatively, one could back Parkinson (around 9-2), Fanning (around 6-1) and Burrow (around 8-1) and obtain odds of around 5-4 that one of the heavily fancied home hopes gets the job done.