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Five big weekend predictions

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1. Fremantle pip West Coast in WA derby

The Eagles are the hot tip to take out the flag in 2013 but with almost half a midfield on the sidelines we think they're in for a rough start to the year. The likes of Nic Naitanui, Daniel Kerr, Matt Rosa and Sharrod Wellingham won't be fronting up in Western Derby XXXVII, giving Fremantle a clear edge in the centre. Aaron Sandilands is Fremantle's only out of significance, but Jon Griffin has proven himself capable of taking over the No.1 ruck role when needed and should hold his own against Dean Cox. West Coast do boast a stronger forward line but given Ross Lyon's penchant for strangling sides into submission, plus Fremantle's expected midfield dominance, the likes of Josh Kennedy, Mark LeCras and Jack Darling are going to find themselves starved of opportunities to score. - AJ

2. The 'Tahs put a shock through the Blues

Last season, supporters were justified in feeling blind rage towards the hopeless Waratahs. In 2012 they showed no heart, courage or ambition and, as Tom Carter has pointed out this week, they didn’t even bother making an effort under Michael Foley. This year, instead of anger, one feels pity for NSW. They are, at least, trying hard. It is just their stupidity and a lack of understanding with each other that is letting them down. It doesn't help that six changes were made for the forgettable performance against the Cheetahs, with Berrick Barnes' dislocated thumb ensuring more disruption for the weekend's home outing against the Blues. But everything must come good at some point, and the season remains salvageable. Second in the New Zealand Conference, the Blues enjoyed a bye while the Waratahs were losing to the Cheetahs, and all in all look a good bet to win soundly on Saturday, even if their confidence may have been dented by their 28-21 home loss to the Bulls two weeks ago. In hope more than expectation, let's go with the Waratahs by eight. - BS

3. Raiders' victory puts more pressure on Price

The Raiders and Dragons have started the 2013 season in similarly lacklustre fashion, losing their opening two games by convincing margins. Canberra has also been distracted by off-field matters. However, we think the 36-0 drubbing at the hands of the Gold Coast will be just the wake-up call the Raiders needed, and with the tough decisions on their wayward stars made and out of the way, their focus will be back on football this week. The Dragons, on the other hand, are having serious trouble crossing the stripe. They piled attacking raid after attacking raid on the Broncos last week and only produced the one four-pointer. The Raiders' problems look like they're attitude-related and can be easily fixed, whereas the Dragons just don't have the strike power to score enough points. Canberra to win Sunday night's home clash against St George Illawarra – a victory that'll take pressure off coach David Furner and put it squarely on his opposite number, Steve Price. - DR

4. Alonso gets Ferrari on the board in Malaysia

Three things became clear after the Australian Grand Prix last weekend. One, Kimi Raikkonen still has ice in his veins. Two, Mark Webber will never win at Albert Park. And three, Ferrari are leagues ahead of where they were this time last year. It appears the Italian team is ready to mount its most serious challenge yet to Sebastian Vettel's throne, and Fernando Alonso finally has a car to match his considerable talents as a racer. We think it's a safe bet the Spaniard will walk away with his second-straight (and fourth overall) Malaysian GP title on Sunday. Red Bull and McLaren are lacking race pace right now, and Lotus will be slowed down by the increased pit-stop demands of the Kuala Lumpur track. Now is the time for Alonso to put daylight between himself and Vettel before Red Bull sort out their car. - AJ

5. Chastened Watson hits top form

After flying home to witness the birth of his baby boy Will, or spitting the dummy after being left out of the third Test (depending on how you read the situation), Shane Watson returns to New Delhi for the fourth and final Test with more scrutiny on his performance than at any other time in his career. Normally Watson is not one of those players who responds well to pressure (his two centuries and countless dismissals in the 90s attest to this fact), but last week's homework-gate scandal was exactly the wake-up call he needed if he is going to get his career back on track. Not only will he put in his best performance with the bat this series, but he might also be encouraged to have a crack with the ball and snare a couple of crucial wickets if (or more likely when) Australia's bowlers begin to struggle. - BH

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The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of SportsFan.


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