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A quick guide to the weekend in sport:

Whether you see it live or from the comfort of home, there's no shortage of sport on this weekend!
By Bonita Mersiades
Date: March 23 2012
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Fashion on the Field at Rosehill

This weekend sees AFL kick off its season; NRL is into its 4th round; there’s Super Rugby; the Autumn racing carnival; and the final round of the NBL and the A-League that will determine who’s in the finals and in what order.

So where to start?

Perhaps the most intriguing battleground will be in western Sydney – not so much for what happens on the field between the Sydney Swans and the AFL’s newest team the Greater Western Sydney (GWS) Giants, but how Sydney reacts to its first genuine Aussie Rules derby. The AFL has spent a lot of money expanding their “national footprint” and GWS Giants is probably the biggest throw of the dice for the AFL since South Melbourne metamorphosed into the Sydney Swans 30 years ago.  It may not make much news outside of New South Wales, but western Sydney has traditionally been seen as the stronghold of the NRL and the grassroots heartland of football (soccer), so the AFL’s might, power and resources have certainly had an impact on the sporting landscape as it has planned for this night for many years. 

The NRL has its western Sydney derby tonight when Parramatta Eels meet Penrith, St George meets the silvertail Manly on Saturday; but the match of the round is probably Melbourne Storm v Sydney Roosters on Sunday.

In Super Rugby, Melbourne Rebels meet Western Force at AAMI Stadium tonight; the NSW Waratahs take on the Sharks (from Durban in South Africa) at Sydney Football Stadium on Saturday; and the mighty Canberra Brumbies meet the Highlanders (from Otago across the ditch) at Canberra Stadium on Sunday.

If you’re into racing, the Sydney Autumn Carnival begins at Rosehill Gardens.  As well as two big races – the Ranvet Stakes and the Coolmore Classic – there’s Fashion on the Field which is set to be popular as always.  Four prizes are on offer for the best-dressed princesses.

For basketball fans, there are three matches on tonight in Cairns, Melbourne and Townsville; the Sydney Kings meet traditional rivals, the Wollongong Hawks at the Entertainment Centre on Saturday night; and Wollongong and the Gold Coast Blaze host matches on Sunday. With the two weeks of Finals coming up from next weekend, frontrunners New Zealand Breakers and Perth Wildcats will be the teams to watch.

The A-League is also intriguing.  Perth Glory want to maintain their current 3rd place to give themselves the best chance of making the 2013 Asian Champions League, but they are meeting a confident Melbourne Victory which last week finally lived up to their pre-season expectations with an emphatic win over Wellington.  The match on Sunday between Wellington Phoenix and Central Coast Mariners may not only determine who finishes 3rd but, importantly, have a bearing on who wins the championship this season. Anything less than a win will not give the modest-but mighty-Mariners certainty because later in the afternoon, their nemesis, Brisbane Roar meets the very embattled and almost-axed Gold Coast in what is effectively a derby game. Both Central Coast and Brisbane are backing up from mid-week games in this year’s Asian Champions League.  The other match of interest is between Sydney FC and Newcastle Jets who are even on points: a draw is good enough for Newcastle Jets to make it through to the Finals, but Sydney will want to give their departing coach and home fans something to sing about after a season which has failed to reach any great heights.

If all of that isn’t enough sport for you in one weekend, then check out Australia and the West Indies who meet in one day internationals tonight and Sunday night in tiny but exotic St Lucia in the Caribbean.

As well as finals in the NBL and A-League, next week sees the AFL season get underway in earnest as well as the 2012 national Netball championship.

And if you feel like being a couch potato – or seeing it live for yourself – what are the picks of the week?

  • Friday:  Melbourne Rebels v Western Force 
  • Saturday:  Sydney Racing Carnival followed by GWS Giants v Sydney Swans
  • Sunday:  the A-League triple header:  Wellington Phoenix v Central Coast Mariners, Sydney FC v Newcastle Jets, Gold Coast v Brisbane Roar

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