The Blues’ Beauden Barrett training solo during Level 3 lockdown. He will take on his former Hurricanes team on June 14 in the Super Rugby Aotearoa tournament. PHOTOS/GETTY IMAGES

TAB installs Crusaders favourites for tourney
Times-Age sportswriter CHRIS COGDALE can’t wait for real sport to kick-off

Had enough of the reruns of the 1983-84 World Series of Cricket, or the 1997 All Blacks’ tour of the UK?

Don’t panic. In just over a week professional sport, not quite as we know it, will be back on your big screen with the restart of the NRL season, and it can’t come quick enough.

Sure, Germany’s Bundesliga kicked off last weekend, but hands up the very few people who closely follow that football league here.

Even the NRL is a little questionable, although most of us will have a passing interest in the Warriors or have been following another team for years.

Hats off to Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and the boys, because I believe they’re on a hiding to nothing, potentially having to be away from family for up to six months.

The NRL may appear to have gone out of their way to accommodate the Warriors, but the reality is the Kiwi team are probably more of a hindrance than a help and are there purely to make up the numbers.

Disallowing loan players to assist filling the void of injured players, possibly best encapsulates the NRL’s attitude, which is pretty much the same as other Aussie sports leagues towards Kiwi teams – “Stuff them”.

The TAB odds of $76 best sum up the chances of the Warriors making an impact – zilch, zero!

Then after we’ve witnessed the Warriors struggle to a 0-4 record for the season [remember they’d already suffered two losses] it will be time for some real tough provincial Kiwi sport with the resumption of the ANZ Netball League and Super Rugby Aotearoa.

The Pulse [yellow] and Tactix playing an ANZ premiership match on March 15. They face arduous travel schedules once the competition resumes on June 19.

A revised 10-week netball premiership season will resume on Friday, June 19. All games will be held at the Auckland Netball Centre so that Netball NZ can meet the Ministry of Health guidelines for a consistent and
controlled venue.

That will be convenient for the three teams who can drive to the venue – the Northern Mystics, Northern Stars, and Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic.

On the other hand, it is a massive disadvantage for the Central Pulse, and even more so for the Mainland Tactix and the Southern Steel, who will face arduous weekly travel schedules.

Surely, a series of double-header weekends spread evenly throughout the country would’ve been a more appropriate and fairer solution.

Even though there will be no crowds, home advantage is still home advantage. At least netball will have final playoffs, which is more than Super Rugby Aotearoa will dish up.

The 10-week programme will kick off on Saturday, June 13, when the Highlanders host the Chiefs, followed with a Sunday afternoon game between the Blues and the Hurricanes.

The marketers got that one right, with Canes legend Beauden Barrett fronting for the Blues for the first time, against his old outfit. It just won’t seem right seeing him in blue.

The planners were also spot-on with scheduling, with two games each weekend, one to be played at 5.05pm Saturday and the other at 3.05pm Sunday – just perfect for a lazy wintry day on the couch.

But have NZ Rugby missed a trick by not scheduling a final?

Potentially the championship could be decided before the last round, possibly even two or three weeks earlier, therefore, quelling public interest.

If there was a final, most teams, if not all, could still be in the hunt for the decider going into the last round.

So why not have a final at a neutral venue [remember there will be no crowd] on a Sunday afternoon? A ratings winner!!

As for the competition winners, the Pulse look good to go back to back in the ANZ Netball Premiership, with plenty of finals experience and better depth than other squads.

In Super Rugby Aotearoa, the Crusaders are favoured by the TAB, at odds of $2, to triumph, followed by the Chiefs, Blues, and Hurricanes in single figure odds, and the Highlanders rank outsiders.

Do I think a team will go unbeaten? No, it will be brutal, with passion and pride on the line, and no strolls in the park against mediocre foreign teams.

Bring it on!