Regular season play has finished up in the Eastern Conference and playoffs are coming up, while the Western Conference still has some regular games to play. All this to say that the season is winding down, but rest assured, there is still lots of excitement on the horizon. As we head into the last month of the season, we are thinking things. Ten things to be exact. Here goes...
1. I think that it is safe to say that the first-ever NRL All-Star weekend was a success. Not only were fans treated to an exciting, high intensity game filled with amazing plays and out of this world goals (16 of them to be exact), but the athletes have set the stage for seasons to come. With what we saw a few weekends ago, the stage is set for the 2014 All-Star Weekend. Mark your calendars folks, March 8th, 2014 in Boisbriand, Québec. (The event will take place in conjunction with the 50th Anniversary celebrations...and this one will be webcast!). If you haven’t had a chance to check out some pictures from the game, click here.
2. I think that since we are on the topic of the All-Star game we cannot ignore the stellar performance of Julie Primard. She is on the score sheet five times with three goals and two assists. I also think that one cannot ignore the performances from three other players who were at the top of the All-Star game points race. Chantal St-Laurent (Cyclones de Quebec), Cortney Keeble (Lac St. Louis Adrenaline) and Alexandra Lacharite (Le Royale de Bourassa) all represented with four points each. Currently ranked 12th, 43rd and 70th respectively in overall league scoring, the All-Star game was their time to shine.
3. I think that a shoutout to NRL Chairman Maurice Jean (@MauriceJean1) on Twitter is in order. Over the past few months he has been engaging his Twitter followers with fun a quirky NRL history trivia. Be sure to give him a follow and join in on the fun.
4. The race for the League’s Top Scorer is on the home stretch. Who will be number one? Julie Blanchette, has wrapped up her season with 135 points which translates to 4.82 points per games. Not far behind her are Jacqueline Gaudet (4.25 points/game), Emily Bakker (4.43 points/game) who have both wrapped up their seasons as well. The only players who have a shot at surpassing Blanchette might be Salla Kyhala and Jenn Wakefield. They need 18 points and 23 points respectiveley to average out to 4.84 points/game this season and have three games to do it. Can last year’s scoring champion come out on top once again? Only time will tell.
5. I think the NRL’s Elite 8 ranking is confusing. I also think I am not alone in this. In consulting with the powers behind the ranking, here is the explanation I got: ‘The NRL Elite 8 is directly inspired from Boyd's ISR (Iterative Strength Ranking). ISRAEL takes its name from the iterative process used to generate a self-consistent set of rankings. Boyd's algorithm ensures that the results of all games played to date are interlinked by the fact that your ranking depends on your opponent's ranking as well as whether you won or lost, and your opponent's ranking depends on how well they did against their opponents, and how good those opponents are, etc, etc.’ Does it make more sense now? If not, here is the Coles Notes version: The NRL Elite 8 is a ranking system that is based on the strength of each team at the time of the game. I hope this helps you all out.
6. I think that the League is going to have a fun time trying to figure out what to do with the stats from the first few years of the League’s existence. The conversation has already begun on Twitter, so it is just a matter of time before this becomes the ‘hot topic’. How do you think the League should deal with the fact that the data (standings, players stats, etc) for the seasons prior to the 2007-08 season has not been archived?
7. I think that amount of times I calculated the different scenarios with regards to playoff standings in the Eastern Conference this weekend has to be in the hundreds. I also think I am not alone in this. How many times did you think something along the lines of ‘If Lac St. Louis wins this game, then...’. But alas, no more calculations needed, here are the playoff match-ups (best of 3 series): Montreal will host Bourassa, Cambridge will host Rive Sud, Gloucester will host Québec City and Ottawa will host Richmond Hill. The battle for an NRL championship appearance goes down March 2nd and 3rd. The schedule will be posted online as soon as it is finalized.
8. I think that something should be said about the Gloucester Devils performance this season. Going from a 6th place regular season finish last year (and a playoff elimination) to finishing 3rd place this year and hosting a playoff series. Although they are on the rise, they will face Québec City, a team they have gone 1-1 with so far this season. Dave Mainwood and his team have their work cut out for them, but regardless of the outcome they have had a noteworthy season.
9. I think that the Atlantic Attack’s bye to the NRL Championship could have an impact on their performance. They played their last game on February 17th. The team is young and boasts little NRL Championship experience. They cannot count on fellow NRL teams for exhibition play in the mean time - the closest team to them is Québec City, and that’s quite a drive. They have had a solid season thus far, but 42 days off without competition is something one cannot turn a blind eye to.
10. I think these are my non-NRL thoughts:
a. I think the 2013 Tim Hortons Canadian Ringette Championships in Fredericton are going to be exciting. With this being the second year of featuring the open concept format at the U16 and U19 level and the NRL action beginning from day 1, there will be no shortage of action-packed games for us to enjoy!
b. I think that Amazing Race Canada would be even more amazing if Alayne (NRL Media and PR consultant) was part of the adventure. The audition deadline is tomorrow and her team has been busy trying to get lots of support. So, if you are on Facebook, like her team page, follow them on Twitter or check out their audition video on YouTube. If I know Alayne, she will be dropping ringette references every chance she gets.
c. I think congratulations are in order for a number of NRL athletes. The Team Canada 2013 squad was announced early last week following the selection camp held in Ottawa. Congratulations to the 27 athletes selected and hats off to all who participated in the camp. The level of play, talent and dedication we saw over the course of the camp was outstanding to say the least. You are all role models for the young athletes playing this sport. Click here to see team list.