MOST sports fans know the clich? of the brilliant rookie who is unable to repeat the heroics of his debut season in his sophomore year. This supposed second year syndrome is just as prevalent in rugby league as anywhere else, with Tasesa Lavea a recent rookie of the year winner who all but disappeared off the rugby league radar before returning to New Zealand to trial for the Auckland NPC team in that other rugby code.
THE Sydney Airport Jets' dramatic 26-20 win over the Penrith-St.Marys Cougars confirmed the truth of the old saying that there are lies, damned lies and statistics. Newtown had trailed 20-4 at halftime in this NSW Premier League match at the Western Weekender Stadium, and looked to be gone for all money - and yet the match stats sheets show that the Jets actually missed more tackles, completed fewer sets and made more errors in the second half, during which they staged such a stunning comeback to upset the fourth placed Cougars!
Newtown might have had limited attacking opportunities in the second half, but they turned every chance into a try. Likewise, while some tackles were missed in this half, all the critical ones that really needed to be made were made to keep the Cougars scoreless. And what amazing defensive performances there were - who could forget teenage front-rower Aaron Sweeney, making his Premier League debut, desperately sprinting across in cover to mow down noted Cougars speedster Brett Howland, or lion-hearted second-rower Billy Najarrin breaking from a scrum and crash-tackling a flying opposition centre who was in open space?
The Jets steadily pegged back the 20-4 half-time deficit, and found themselves 26-20 to the better with fifteen minutes remaining. In what was a truly gripping finish, Newtown unrelentingly defended this lead as the Cougars blew chances through frantic catch-up football. Captain Craig Field played a major role in the second half fightback, laying on the final passes for tries to Troy Barnes and Andrew Le Breton. Alf Duncan loped away for a first half intercept try, and made two long breaks in the second half that led to tries, as well collecting a second for himself. Young backs Ryan Milligan and John Sinisa did everything asked of them, while Sweeney's debut performance was a revelation. Forwards Tabua Cakacaka, Campbell McNiven, Aaron Trinder, Bill Najarrin and Ben Tickle ripped right into the Cougars, while hookers Luke Sant and Luke Ellis worked overtime in defence.
Newtown's Jim Beam Cup team turned in a horror first half in their match against Erina at Henson Park, trailing 32-4 at the break. No doubt they missed the services of those players promoted into the Premier League squad and who played so well against the Cougars. The young Jets fought back in the second half, eventually going down to the Eagles by 42-24.
The Sydney Airport Jets return to Henson Park this Saturday (August 16), when they meet Parramatta in the Premier League at 3pm. The Jim Beamers travel to McCredie Park to take on Guildford also on Saturday, with this match getting underway at 6pm.
WITH the play-off teams decided understandably some of the top teams slackened the ropes a little in Round 15 of New Zealand's Bartercard Cup competition. The top three teams now sit equal on 24 points apiece.
THE Dragons welcome the return of Origin rep Shaun Timmins for their round 23 Telstra Premiership clash with the Sharks at Toyota Park this Saturday.
SYDNEY Roosters prop Todd Payten will find himself in the unique situation of being paid by three National Rugby League clubs when he plays for Wests Tigers from next year. The Tigers have announced Payten has agreed to terms with the joint venture club for the next two years.
MELBOURNE Storm will welcome back Test lock Scott Hill for this Sunday?s clash with Parramatta but not in his customary role of five-eighth.
FRIDAY 15th August 2003
NEWCASTLE v NZ WARRIORS at EnergyAustralia Stadium at 7.35pm.
FORMER Kiwis captain Nathan Cayless hopes to receive a medical clearance this week to enable him to rejoin his Parramatta team in the National Rugby League.
MELBOURNE Storm five-eighth Scott Hill may make a return for this sunday's clash against Parramatta. He was last night waiting for a final medical clearance but there are fair indications that he has finally overcome the shoulder injury that he has had problems with for most of this season.
CANBERRA will make a decision Tuesday morning on whether to contest a high tackle charge levelled against captain Simon Woolford that could see him miss three National Rugby League matches.
THE National Rugby League has confirmed today's High Court decision will have no effect on the make-up of the 15-team premiership.
ANDREW Hart returns from a one-match suspension for South Sydney's National Rugby League city derby with the Roosters at Aussie Stadium on Sunday.
THE Brisbane Broncos have agreed to terms with versatile New Zealand Warriors back Motu Tony for next season.
CANBERRA captain Simon Woolford and his South Sydney counterpart Bryan Fletcher have been suspended for two matches by the National Rugby League judiciary.