The AFL preliminary finals took centre stage on Friday night, with the Adelaide Crows showing the Geelong Cats no mercy.
Playing before a record crowd for an AFL fixture at Adelaide Oval, almost 54,000 fans, the Crows confirmed they are the grand-final favourites with a dominant 61-point victory.
The Crows are into their first premiership decider since 1998.
Coach Don Pike says the battle now is ensuring the build-up to the showdown with the Richmond Tigers is as smooth as possible.
“It’s not a normal game. It’s the reality, this is the last game of the year, this is where you’re playing for the premiership. It’s a different week, and we’ll go through some of the logistics of the week and what it looks like with our players early on, and then we’ll concentrate on what we need to do, which is play a game of footy and win a game of footy.”
The Greater Western Sydney Giants battled hard on Saturday night against Richmond, but the Tigers, roared on by most of the 94,000 fans at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, won easily.
The Tigers outscored the Giants 10 goals to four in the second half to seal a 36-point triumph.
But despite the emphatic result, Richmond coach Damien Hardwick says his side goes into Saturday afternoon’s grand final, its first in 35 years, well aware it faces an uphill task.
“You know, there’s no doubt, next week we go in as underdogs. That’s the harsh reality of it. They’re a fantastic side, they’ve put everyone to the sword, but we give ourselves a chance. If we play our best, we’re capable of beating anyone.”
In the National Rugby League the minor premiers, the Melbourne Storm, have reached the Grand Final.
Scrum half Cooper Cronk played his last home game as the Storm beat the Brisbane Broncos.
But while Cronk stole most of the pre-game headlines in the build-up, coach Craig Bellamy singled out fullback Billy Slater for special mention after the 30-nil thrashing.
Slater spent 18 months out of action and was almost forced to retire after undergoing two shoulder operations.
Bellamy says the grand final is a great reward for his legendary fullback.
“That’s a great story, you know, like, he’s worked so hard to get back to where he is. People outside just don’t know how hard he’s worked and how hard he continues to work to actually play each weekend.”
On Saturday night, the North Queensland Cowboys joined the Storm in Sunday’s season finale with a 29-16 win against the Sydney Roosters.
Few had given the Cowboys much hope after star player Johnathan Thurston was injured early in the season.
But the Cowboys have continued to defy expectations, and coach Paul Green says the only thing his side is concerned about is what it can control.
“I’ve said all along through the finals series the only thing that matters is what we believe. And the belief that’s between the four walls back at training is genuine.”
In football’s English Premier League, there were good wins for leaders Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham this weekend.
North of the border, Socceroos striker Tomi Rogic scored Celtic’s opening goal against the Rangers in the Glasgow derby.
It led to a 2-nil win for Celtic, and Socceroos teammate Tim Cahill says Rogic’s form is good news for Australia ahead of next month’s World Cup qualifiers against Syria.
“I think it’s great for us to have players like Tomi scoring. Lex (Mathew Leckie) is on fire* as well. The boys are playing exceptionally well, and I think, going into such a big moment for our national teams, it’s important we can have all the boys in top form so we can do well against Syria.”
In cycling, Dutch rider Chantal Blaak won the women’s road World Championship in Bergen, Norway.
Australia’s Katrin Garfoot added a silver medal to her individual time-trial bronze.
In the men’s road race, Australia’s Michael Matthews won bronze, behind Slovakia’s Peter Sagan and home favourite Alexander Kristoff.
And, finally, Australia has lost its one-day cricket series against India after the home side took an unassailable three-nil lead in the five-match tournament.
It is Australia’s 11th straight defeat in overseas one-day internationals.