Well, we have a rugby league trifecta going on this week. The Panthers playing the Rabbitohs, the Storm against the Raiders and ... Cessnock taking on South-Newcastle in the Newcastle Rugby League grand final.
Not many would have seen this particular clash coming. Wyong had been undefeated all season before losing to Souths in the finals, and Western Suburbs - the Rosellas - have been in every grand final for the last four or five years before going down this time to the Goannas.
And, in what must be considered the local equivalent to the AFL grand final being played in Brisbane, the match will be held at Maitland Sportsground!
As difficult (and seemingly sacrilegious) as it will be for me to support Cessnock at Maitland Sportsground, the one thing harder would be to go for Souths. So ... I can barely type it ... but Go the Goannas! (Please God, forgive me - because Panno probably won't ...)
The game is on Sunday, so get down there, support local league and enjoy our wonderful facility.
To the NRL. I really like the way the Rabbitohs are going, but at the same time you can see the reason why it's so difficult for these teams coming from the bottom half of the finals draw. They are starting to look a little jaded.
Penrith, having won, I think, 16 straight, are odds on favourites.
The only thing is that a lot of their success is on the back of Cleary. In some ways the match is about the mysterious world of rolls: about whether Souths can continue this recent one of theirs, and whether Cleary can keep performing at such a high level. It's hard to bet against the Panthers, but I will say that Souths, on current form, are, at the very least, capable of beating them.
The Storm play at a different level when it's crunch time. They're rested. I back them to beat Canberra and they're still my favourite to win the competition.
Regardless, you can be confident of one thing - that none of these games are going to be won with a scoreline of 6-4 or something. The new six again rule really has seen a blow-out in the scores, which is probably part of what the powers-that-be were aiming at.
But a perhaps unforeseen consequence, and what may well be a problem, has been that, rather than reducing potential referee influence due to less penalties for ruck infringements, the six again rule has given referees more power. The six agains are waved on entirely at referee discretion. There's no stopping of play, no room for argument and no real scrutiny. Could be trouble.
No small feat
The big story, locally, is with golfer Bowen Small. Sixteen-year-old Small fair leapt out of the barrier in the first round of the Maitland club championship last weekend, taking the lead with a course-record-setting six under par round of 65.
With the various changes to the course through the years new records are set in accordance with the newer layouts. In setting the record Bowen Small joins some pretty prestigious company, including the great Billy Dunk. Dunk held the record for many, many years having fired a scorching 61 in the 1960 NSW PGA in a field that included Gary Player.
It was a different course then though, with the now hardest hole on the course - the par 4 second - being, in those days a par 5. Dunk scored a miraculous legendary albatross 2 on it in his low round, which led to the hole being named for him.
What is notable about Bowen Small's course record is that it was achieved on the course at its most modern, set up at its hardest and under championship conditions. Bowen is the younger brother of Clayton Small, who is no stranger to sub-par golf himself, having played off the incredible handicap of +8.
Clayton is trailing Bowen after the first round. "Can you catch him?" I asked. 'I'll catch him in the first nine holes," he answered, to which Bowen added, "There's competition between me and him."
I mention to Bowen the story of Jack Nicklaus, when asked how he performs under pressure, replying, "To be in contention in the final nine holes of a major tournament? That's what I live for."
For Bowen it's, "hole by hole, shot by shot. If there's a bad shot, forget it, good shot, forget it, just play your best game".
He's no stranger to high level competition, racking up plenty of experience playing pennants in Sydney. The long-term goal is to turn pro, hopefully on the American PGA. But for now he has three rounds to play against an extremely competitive field containing a brother who is a previous winner (at 16).
There'll be two rounds played this weekend before the final round on the following weekend.
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