Chris Rattue: Over the odds even for a betting man

By Chris Rattue

It's self-evident, I suppose, that the current crop of TAB odds-makers gets it right most of the time. Otherwise, you would have to presume that they would no longer be current odds-makers, and would have left that employment to pursue other interests such as joining the losers who gamble from the other side of the counter.

But there are times when you feel obliged to take odds with the odds.

It's a long, long time since I placed a bet on a sports game and it will be a long, long time before I do so again.

Betting has never been a good bet for this punter. My gambling career began on a warm night 30 years ago when, having wandered into Alexandra Park, I placed a hurried bet on a nag which may have been called Crescent Moon.

By the time we got in view of the track, this very same horse appeared to have been hit by a crescent and, while also managing to froth at the mouth, was immediately discernible from its fellow competitors because it was on its back looking at the moon.

I tore up the ticket and hurled it to the ground.

Sports betting wasn't an option in those days, and it still isn't for moi.

For some reason, putting money on matches makes every refereeing decision, missed tackle and dropped pass way too personal.

But odds still play a part in the sporting landscape even if you don't bet, because just about every time a big game comes up, people help set the scene by quoting the odds.

Case in point: The TAB was yesterday listing the Kiwis at $3.70 to win the Tri-Nations league final, with Australia hot, hot favourites at $1.25.

How can this be? What possible form guide could come up with those numbers?

Australia started the Tri-Nations strongly at Mt Smart Stadium, but that Kiwi side was full of blokes who hadn't played for a couple of months, whereas the Kangaroos were stacked with playoff-primed footballers.

Moving on to Melbourne, the Kiwis held sway for much of the match even though Australia won with a stunning late try. Significantly, though, there was a clear indication at the Telstra Dome that the Kiwis are capable of running over the Australian forwards.

Enter Great Britain, and this is where the form needle swings further in the Kiwis' favour.

The Kiwis snuck an average win over the Brits in Christchurch, and an average British performance was then good enough to beat Australia. The Kiwis produced the best form of any team in the tournament to wipe out Great Britain in Wellington, whereas in Brisbane the Australians went in fits and starts against a travel-weary British team who had lost their only half-decent halfback.

Added to this, the Kiwis are the current champions, have a fully fit squad, their key playmaker Stacey Jones is rediscovering top form, and they've been nicely camped in Sydney.

In contrast, the Australians have had little respite in a long season, and they've got a couple of forwards who are struggling.

So what makes Australia such strong favourites? History, history, history followed by a gut instinct influenced by, history, history and more history, you suspect. And Darren Lockyer of course. Fair enough - Australia are a magnificent league nation and Lockyer is a remarkable footballer. But still, those TAB odds have got very little to do with form.

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