NAB Cup Continues

Last Friday my arduous and demanding work-life took me to the Barwon Heads Golf Club about half an hour from Kardinia Park, home of the Geelong Football Club, where the 2011 Premiership sits comfortably in a glass cabinet. I was playing in the Women’s Cancer Foundation fund-raiser with a team of Footy Almanac writers.

Involved in a shot-gun start and an Ambrose competition, we were to begin our round as the second group from the seventh tee. As we arrived all conversation ceased, not because the first group was about to hit off, but because on the tee were reigning Norm Smith Medallist Jimmy Bartel, Tom Hawkins, Blake Caracella, and Stephen Wells (who has been a key figure in putting together the list at Geelong).

All A-Graders, they hit the ball like the single-figure handicappers they are; with the languid swings of fine athletes. Tom Hawkins, who is enormous, launched his first drive which had a ridiculous hang-time, and they were away. They had 58 off the stick, but finished only second.

The Cats begin the defence of their premiership in a month’s time. They are pretty-well equal second favourites  with Hawthorn , while the Pies  reman favourites. Hawthorn’s first two regular-season matches are against Collingwood and Geelong. If they win those two they’ll be the rightful favourite. Coming off their disappointing preliminary final loss last year against the Pies, they will be fierce, in that Hawthorn way.

In the mean-time, Geelong  begins its long defence in the NAB Cup on Friday night in a group which includes St Kilda  and Sydney . The Saints have most to play for. Scott Watters will be keen to show he has them close to firing, if not firing. No doubt some players will be given new roles. That will have the track-watchers reaching for the notepad. The Cats will be a little underdone I suspect and may not represent great value.

In the other groups, struggling Port Adelaide  meet cross-town rivals the Crows  and Carlton , the favourites of the three. Port needs members, and credibility. Carlton needs to experiment with some of their talls. The Crows, whom tipsters rated highly this time last year, could do anything. Hard to pick, this one.

All eyes will be on Queensland on Saturday night where the two local sides battle it out in the humidity with Melbourne. Punters will be looking for signs of improvement from the uber-talented Gold Coast Suns  boys as a pointer to the possibility of having a few sneaky dollars on them to make the real-season Top 8 . Brisbane  is shorter than Melbourne  to win the NAB Cup which may be giving too much importance to the local team. I still reckon the Dees are worth a ticket.

It’s hard to work it out in these early days – any day really – but you might just lob on some value.