AUSTRALIAN captain Darren Lockyer says he can't remember more interest in a rugby league Test than what the Kangaroos are dealing with in the lead-up to Friday night's showdown with New Zealand in Brisbane.
MANLY captain Ben Kennedy has reversed his decision to retire from representative rugby league and has made himself available for Australia for the Anzac Day Test match.
INSPIRATIONAL Manly skipper Ben Kennedy is set to make a decision today on his availability for next month's Anzac Test against New Zealand.
MANUREWA has won the Mad Butcher Fox Memorial for the first time, beating minor premiers Papakura 34-24.
The game represented the first time in the history of the Fox Memorial that either team had played in the final.
It has taken Manurewa over 70 years, since the championships inception in 1931, to win the Auckland club competition.
It was mistake free football and a man of the match performance by second rower and veteran Richard Blackmore that proved the difference.
The Marlins started with an incredibly strong wind at Ericsson Stadium, which they used wisely, outscoring the Sea Eagles three tries to one in the first half.
The first of the Marlins tries came from a clever William Heta grubber in the 8th minute, the lock forwards deft touch proving too good for Papakura throughout the 80 minutes. The try was converted by half Aaron Woodhouse to make it 6-0.
Ten minutes later and Manurewa were at it again, a long kick and good defensive set had the Sea Eagles on the back foot. A solid lead up and clever kick had Jeffrey Matai over for the Marlins second. The try was converted to make it 12-0.
With 20 minutes gone, Papakura were struggling to get out of their half and make any sort of threat on the Marlins line. Matters were made worse when Siunipa Tuifua was sin binned for the Sea Eagles with a quarter left in the half.
Manurewa looked like they?d taken advantage of the one man over lap, but offside calls from a Heta kick had Matai disallowed his second try. It wasn?t until the 31st minute that Papakura threatened Manurewa?s line and centre Airoe Boaza was unlucky not to score after being held up.
A composed set and Manurewa were back on attack deep in the Eagles half. A played at grubber gave the Marlins back to back sets which they made count.
Quick hands were the key in giving Glen Campbell the space to score in the right hand corner, Henry Heta and Richard Blackmore providing the assist for the try.
William Heta took over the goal kicking duties and managed to convert from the sideline, the ball ricocheting in off the left hand upright to give Manurewa an 18 point lead.
Sharp thinking from the kick-off provided Papakura with only their second point scoring opportunity of the half. Winger Tali Tuifua was brilliant, the bulky speedster receiving the ball from a tap penalty and running 20 meters through some soft Manurewa defense to give the Eagles their first try of the day and a six pointer.
The try gave Papakura a confidence boost and some much needed points going to the sheds 18-6 down.
It didn?t take long for the Marlins to find their form in the second spell, Blackmore providing the bust and the offload to fullback Bruce Anderson, who flicked on to Woodhouse who was tackled five meters short.
Blackmore charged into dummy half, where he dived over to score the fourth try of the day, three minutes into the half. The kick was successful by Heta and the difference was 18.
A strong defensive effort and some bone crushing tackles by second rower Jackson Crangle gave Manurewa further territory into the wind. Lock forward Heta, in the mould of a Scott Hill, was at it again, creating space and looping Matai to give Falani Autagavaia a try and another six pointer.
At 30-6 the Marlins were still hammering any Papakura player that moved, still showing desperation in their defense in the 70th minute.
With just over 10 minutes to go, Papakura began to show some urgency and kick into gear. The two weeks off in the finals proving a hindrance to the minor premier?s grand final hopes.
Some continued possession and a bull driving run from Manu Tawhi provided Isaako Hagaitoa with his first try for the afternoon in the left hand corner. Half Jamie Tupaea converted to bring them up to 12 points.
Two minutes later and the Sea Eagles Clayton Rogers busted the line after some clever interplay from stand-off Bishop Phillips and utility Frank Wade. The raging prop taking a wide line to beat the fullback and score to make it 30-18 with the conversion.
Their was a glimmer of hope for Papakura, with luck they were two tries away from taking the game to extra time. It wasn?t out of the question, minute?s later winger Tuifua broke the line only to be brought down in a try saver by Matai.
But with just over five minutes left, some Heta magic left Papakura for dead. The playmaker drew in three tacklers and gave space for stand-off Walter Hati to draw and pass to center Phillip Borrell for a 30 meter run to the try line. Hagaitoa scored a consolation try late in the piece to make it 34-24 and restore some pride in the Sea Eagles performance.
Few errors, control of the football and strong defense gave Manurewa a clear advantage and their first Fox Memorial title in their first attempt.
THE Final of the Mad Butcher Fox Memorial competition has two teams competing that have never made the final of the competition before, making it a very interesting match-up indeed.
SIMPLE errors have cost Mangere East another shot at the Fox Memorial Championship.
The 2004 beaten finalists lost to Manurewa 16-14 in the semi-final at Ericsson Stadium yesterday.
A last minute try by centre Matthew Pert has given Howick a well deserved win in the Sharman Cup final, 20-16, over Bay Roskill.
A complete turnaround is the only way to describe the Manurewa Marlins 52-18 win over the Richmond Rovers. Manurewa showed skill, composure and courage in their drubbing of the Rovers.
AUCKLAND City is a hub of activity this weekend on the footy field with many of the local competitions heading into the semi finals.
FRIDAY 26TH AUGUST
WOMENS ? minor semi-final
Richmond v Papakura Ellerslie Domain 8.00pm
Otahuhu v Te Atatu Ellerslie Domain 6.30pm
WITH the Preliminary finals set to starts next weekend, results in the last round of both the Mad Butcher Fox Memorial competition and the Suburban Newspapers Sharman Cup became crucial for the all important home ground