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Thursday September 2nd 2004

AFL - Port's Finals Hopes

The Power will be looking to change its abysmal finals fortunes when it plays Geelong in Adelaide on Sunday. Port Adelaide hasn't had much luck when it comes to finals time, losing its first home final every year for the past three years. This time, however, Port Adelaide say things will be different when it takes on Geelong. The Cats have been impressive all season although have a poor interstate record but will have James Bartel back after a two match suspension. The winner of the Geelong-Power match goes through to the preliminary final while the loser plays the winner of the Sydney-West Coast clash.

The other qualifying final puts defending premiers Brisbane against St Kilda. The Lions will go into the match as favourites after thrashing the Saints a fortnight ago but will be without Alastair Lynch. The Saints also have injury worries with Aaron Hamill and Leigh Montagna ruled out of the match but Robert Harvey and Heath Black return to after a rest week. The winner of Friday's clash has a week off while the loser takes on the winner of the Melbourne-Essendon battle.

Rugby League - Bulldogs, Roosters Fight for Minor Premiership

The minor premiership is up for the grabs as the NRL's home and away season winds up. The Roosters and the Bulldogs are both in with a chance of claiming top spot on the ladder after the 26 rounds of the regular season. If both teams win this weekend, the minor premiership will go to the Roosters on points difference. They take on Parramatta - a team out of finals contention. The Bulldogs will also meet a side that won't feature in the finals, traveling to New Zealand to play the Warriors. The home team is welcoming back a number of players from injury for its final match of the year and needs a win to avoid the wooden spoon.

St George Illawarra, Melbourne and Penrith have no hope of winning the minor premiership but all three will be hoping to sneak into the top four. The Panthers hold down the spot at the moment but will have to beat Brisbane to keep it. The Storm will need a win over Manly while the Dragons will be sweating on results as they have the bye.

In other matches Newcastle meets the Wests Tigers, the Cowboys play Cronulla and Canberra hosts South Sydney.

Tennis - Hewitt At Home in New York

Australian Lleyton Hewitt has shown he is a real chance of winning this year's US Open. Hewitt has opened his campaign at Flushing Meadows in style with a straight sets win over South African Wayne Ferreira. The fourth seed says he is playing as well as ever and will take on Moroccan Hicham Arazi next.

There have been no real upsets in the men's draw so far with the top ten seeds all advancing to the second round. That's where world number one Roger Federer will play unseeded Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis while local favourite and number two seed Andy Roddick takes on Rafael Nadal from Spain.

Samantha Stosur and Nicole Pratt are the only two Australians left in the women's draw and will play Russians Nadia Petrova and Svetlana Kuznetsova respectively in the second round.

World number one Justine Henin-Hardenne will take on Tzipora Obziler from Israel in the second round; second seed Frenchwoman Amelie Mauresmo is already through to the third round where she will meet Maria Vento-Kabchi from Venezuela and Serena Williams in her very different tennis outfits plays France's Tatiana Golvin in round two.

Cricket - India's Poor Form

The Australian cricket team will be keeping an eye on the one-day series between India and England. The ICC Champions Trophy starts in England next week but the Indians have arrived early to get in some match practice against the hosts. The first one day international between the two sides has been an uneven affair with home side England thrashing India by seven wickets courtesy of some handy bowling from Steve Harmison and debutante Alex Wharf. The win will be a massive confidence booster for England as the side's one-day form of late has been poor. India will be hoping for a better performance in the second match on Friday at The Oval but will again be without master batsman Sachin Tendulkar who is still recovering from injury ahead of the Champions Trophy. England will play Zimbabwe in the opening match of the Champions Trophy at Edgebaston while India's first game will be against Kenya at Rosebowl.

Monday September 6th 2004

AFL - Saints, Geelong Looking to Bounce Back

Two teams are out and only six remain in the hunt for the AFL Premiership. Brisbane and Port Adelaide have next weekend off while St Kilda battles Sydney and Geelong tackles Essendon in finals games at the MCG on Friday and Saturday. The Saints go into their match after being completely out-classed by the defending premiers but team officials have sworn they can bounce back. Aaron Hamill is hoping to play against Sydney after missing the Lions game with a knee injury.

The Swans could not be in a more different mindset having thrashed the West Coast Eagles last weekend. They will have all players on deck for next Friday's game.

Meantime Geelong has both injury and suspension worries ahead of its semi final against the Bombers. At least one player, Kent Kingsley, will face the Tribunal this week after being charged with striking while there are reports Gary Ablett Junior has suffered an ankle injury in the big loss to the Power.

Essendon is through to the semis after beating Melbourne and will probably have Dean Rioli back for the Cats game while Adam McPhee could also return.

Rugby League - Roosters & Bulldogs Set to Dominate NRL Finals

The Roosters and the Bulldogs go into the NRL finals series as the raging favourites to contest this year's decider. The Roosters and the Bulldogs go into the playoffs having finished in first and second place on the ladder, remaining the form teams of the competition. The Roosters will start their finals campaign against the Raiders who have snuck into the eight. Canberra won't be expected to trouble the 2002 champions especially as Ruben Wiki has been all but ruled out of the match after suffering a serious ankle injury.

Canterbury meets the Cowboys on Saturday in North Queensland's first game beyond the regular season. The Bulldogs have no injury concerns while the Cowboys will also be at full strength. Brisbane will welcome back the likes of Darren Lockyer, Shaun Berrigan and Tonie Carroll when the Broncos play Melbourne at home but Brad Meyers and Carl Webb will struggle to be fit after both suffered injuries in the round 26 loss to Penrith.

The Panthers are also likely to be without key personnel in their final against the Dragons as Rhys Wesser and Joe Galuvao are both in doubt for the Friday night match.

Tennis - Top Seeds Shine

The Williams sisters will play in two of the biggest matches in the women's draw over the coming days at the US Open. Serena Williams will take on compatriot Jennifer Capriati in the quarter finals while Venus Williams has also set up an all-American match against Lindsay Davenport in the fourth round. All four players are in amazing form as is world number one Justine Henin-Hardenne. The Belgian is also through to the fourth round and will next meet Russian 14th seed Nadia Petrova.

Defending men's champion Andy Roddick has easily advanced to the round of 16 where he will play 18th seed Tommy Robredo. Fellow American Andre Agassi has also quietly moved through and will be expected to go further as he meets unseeded Armenian Sargis Sargsian in the fourth round. Men's world number one Roger Federer will take on Andrei Pavel and even though the Romanian is the tournament's 16th seed, he isn't expected to trouble Federer who has had little trouble getting this far.

Formula One - Schumacher OK for Monza

Ferrari's Michael Schumacher will contest the Italian Grand Prix despite being involved in a high speed crash. Schumacher has escaped injury after the accident in a testing session at Monza but his car hasn't been so lucky suffering serious damage. The crash has been blamed on a problem with a rear tyre and may have rattled the nerves of Schumacher ahead of Sunday's Grand Prix at Monza. Schumacher, however, goes into the race with no pressure having already won the drivers' title two weeks ago in Belgium although a win in his team's home country will surely be a goal for the German.

Australian driver Mark Webber finished seventh in his Jaguar at Monza last year and will be hoping for another good showing especially on the back of a disappointing performance in Belgium. Webber had an accident very early in the race after starting from seventh on the grid and, as a result, failed to finish. After Italy there are only three races left on the calendar: China, Japan and the season ending Brazilian Grand Prix at Sao Paulo.

Thursday September 9th 2004

Rugby League - Defending Premiers Open Finals Series

The NRL finals series kicks off on Friday night with the Panthers at home to the Dragons. Penrith comes into the game after a confidence-boosting win over Brisbane while St George Illawarra is arguably fresher after having the bye last weekend. The Panthers will be without Tony Puletua but Joe Galuvao and Rhys Wesser have both been named in the team despite suffering injuries in last weekend's game. The Dragons have dominated the Panthers this season, winning both of their encounters comfortably.

Brisbane likewise has an enviable record against the Storm who they play in their final on Saturday. The two teams have clashed 12 times and Brisbane has won seven of those games including the only time they played in this year's regular season. The Broncos have a few injury concerns but will benefit from the return of the likes of Darren Lockyer and Shaun Berrigan.

The Bulldogs could be challenged by finals debutants the Cowboys in Saturday's other final while the Raiders won't be expected to trouble the Roosters on Sunday especially with captain Simon Woolford missing through suspension and veteran Ruben Wiki out with an ankle injury.

AFL - Sydney Tipped to Swan over Saints

Two teams will have their premiership dream shattered this weekend. Sydney and St Kilda will contest this weekend's first semi final on Friday night at the MCG. The winner goes through to the preliminary final against Port Adelaide while the loser goes home empty-handed. The Swans will be without Nick Davis who has sustained a foot injury while the Saints will also be missing a key member of their team with Aaron Hamill yet to recover from a knee problem. Sydney will have something of a psychological edge over the Saints as the Swans ended their opponent's lengthy winning streak in round 11. St Kilda also has a poor record at the MCG.

Meantime the Tribunal hasn't been kind to Geelong this week. Kent Kingsley will miss Saturday's semi against Essendon after receiving a one match suspension for striking. Gary Ablett and Brenton Sanderson remain in doubt for the match because of injury. Adam McPhee, who has been battling a hamstring injury, is now a good chance of playing for the Bombers but Dean Rioli is out. The winner of the match will play Brisbane next week.

Tennis - Red-Hot Hewitt

Australian Lleyton Hewitt is continuing to impress at the US Open. Hewitt has won through to a quarter final match against comeback kid Tommy Haas without dropping a set. The 23 year old has now won 14 matches in a row, reaching the quarters in New York for the fifth successive year. Haas is unseeded at the tournament after missing the entire 2003 season with a serious shoulder injury. Should Hewitt beat the big serving German, he will probably face defending men's champion Andy Roddick in the semi finals. The American number two seed has also had a solid tournament so far and plays Swede Joachim Johansson in the quarter finals.

The women's draw has lost a number of big names in recent days such as Serena and Venus Williams, Amelie Mauresmo and most surprisingly world number one Justine Henin-Hardenne. Still in contention, however, are Jennifer Capriati who is seeded sixth and Russian Elena Dementieva. They will play each other for a spot in the women's final at Flushing Meadows, having advanced following tough three set wins over more fancied opponents.

Cricket - Australia Seeking First Champions Trophy

Australia is the favourite to win the ICC Champions Trophy starting in England on Friday. The Champions Trophy is the one piece of silverware the Australian one-day cricket team has never won. That's likely to change in a fortnight's time with the Aussies favourites to win the tournament.

England plays Zimbabwe on the opening day on September 10 at Edgbaston while the teams joining Australia in Pool A, New Zealand and the United States of America, also face off on the first day. Australia will play its first match on September 13 against the Americans at Rosebowl. The fast bowling combinations is expected to prove the biggest selection headache for captain Ricky Ponting but he is expected to go with Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie and Michael Kasprowicz.

Bangladesh, South Africa and the West Indies make up Pool B; India, Kenya and Pakistan are in Pool C while England, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe are the teams in Pool D. South Africa, India and England are expected to be Australia's biggest threats.

Thursday, September 16th 2004

AFL - Injury Problems for Brisbane

Brisbane is expected to wait until the last moment before confirming its side to take on Geelong on Saturday. Brisbane's Clark Keating, Alastair Lynch and Nigel Lappin are all in doubt for the preliminary final against the Cats at the MCG. The trio has trained lightly during the week and Lions officials are expected to give all three players until just before Saturday's game to prove their fitness. In some good news for the defending premiers Michael Voss and Justin Leppitsch are both certain to play against Geelong who will welcome Kent Kingsley back from suspension. In a bold move Cats coach Mark Thompson is also entertaining the thought of putting Cameron Mooney up against Brisbane's Jonathan Brown.

Meantime Port Adelaide and St Kilda will battle for a grand final spot on Friday night at a packed AAMI Stadium. The Power is at full strength while the Saints are still sweating on the fitness of Aaron Hamill who has yet to fully recover from a knee injury. Port Adelaide goes into the match with a significant home ground advantage - the minor premiers have won their last 11 games at AAMI Stadium.

Rugby League - Cowboys Riding High The Cowboys are looking to continue the fairytale when they take on the Broncos at home. Before this year North Queensland had never made it past the regular season. Now the Cowboys have found themselves still alive in the second week of the finals series. Saturday's semi against Brisbane will be played at Dairy Farmers Stadium in Townsville but despite the Cowboys having the home ground advantage the Broncos will go into the match as favourites due to experience and the fact they've never lost to North Queensland. Brisbane, however, continues to have injury concerns with Shane Webcke and Tonie Carroll still struggling to be fit but they are expected to play.

The other elimination final will be contested on Sunday at Aussie Stadium between the Bulldogs and the Storm. Canterbury will have captain Steve Price on deck for the match after being cleared of striking at the NRL judiciary although Braith Anasta remains in doubt with a sternum injury. Melbourne will have all players available and will be looking for some sort of revenge against the Bulldogs who bundled them out of the finals last year.

Football - Spurs Challenging Chelsea

Tottenham has a tough job ahead if it wants to make up for last weekend's disappointing result in the Premiership. Spurs were expected to beat Norwich last weekend but only managed a nil-all draw. This weekend they take on Chelsea away after the Blues' confidence boosting Champions League win over Paris St Germain. Chelsea sits in second spot on the ladder while Tottenham is in sixth position. Injuries to several players will also affect Spurs.

The other big game this weekend sees Manchester United at home to Liverpool. The Red Devils have had an unimpressive start to the Premier League and are in unfamiliar territory on the bottom half of the ladder.

Liverpool is faring better in eighth spot and will go into the game after a good win in their first Champions League match against Monaco. In comparison, Man U was lucky to escape with a draw against Lyon. In other games this weekend Arsenal meets Bolton, Birmingham hosts Charlton, Blackburn takes on Portsmouth, Crystal Palace plays Manchester City, Norwich is up against Aston Villa, West Brom tackles Fulham, Southampton plays Newcastle and Everton is at home to Middlesbrough.

Cricket - Champions Trophy Hopes On the Line for Australia

Australia takes on New Zealand in a must-win match at the ICC Champions Trophy tournament. The Aussies and Kiwis have both easily beaten the USA and on Thursday will play each other for a spot in the semi finals of the Champions Trophy. There is no second chance for the loser of the match to be played at The Oval. Australia has yet to finalise its team for the game but Brett Lee is expected to be overlooked in favour of Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie and Michael Kasprowicz.

The semi final contenders from the other pools will also be decided over the coming days. England will play Sri Lanka to determine who advances from Pool D on Friday, the winner of the South Africa-West Indies match on Saturday goes through as does the winner of the Pool C match between Pakistan and India on Sunday. The semi finals will be played next Tuesday and Wednesday.


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