NEWCASTLE coach Michael Hagan - who will be Wayne Bennett's assistant in this year's State of Origin series - has questioned NSW's decision to select a preliminary squad so far away from the opening game on June 11.
THE preliminary 25-member NSW squad for the rugby league State of Origin series beginning June 11 has been selected. Centre's Mark Gasnier and Matt Gidley have been included after previously being snubbed, along with rookie prop Ryan O'Hara after his stirring performance on Friday night for Country. The squad will be trimmed back to 17 a week before the game with a lot of attention placed on the five-eighth position now that Trent Barrett has been injured and overlooked. Braith Anasta would be the obvious replacement with Craig Wing possibly providing some versatility off the bench in that area.
WHILE this game might have been Newtown's first visit to historic North Sydney Oval in twenty years, all of Sunday's celebrations belonged to the Bears. The Sydney Airport Jets turned in a collective shocker in this Premier League competition match, with North Sydney winning their first game of the season by 28-18.
The Bears thoroughly deserved their victory by out-enthusing Newtown, making fewer errors and by punching holes through some rather brittle Newtown backline defence. The Jets fought back to trail 24-18 late in the second half, but missed opportunities and individual lack of discipline brought them undone.
Best players for the very out of sorts Jets were Billy Najarrin, Tabua Cakacaka (who was placed on report, and is likely to miss next Saturday's game against his former club Canberra), Nathan Marles and Russell Richardson (whose two tries kept Newtown in the game).
The Jim Beam Cup match away to Woy Woy was cancelled due to the waterlogged ground, and will probably be played in late August.
The Sydney Airport Jets are drawn away this coming Saturday (May 24) to the Canberra Raiders at Seiffert Oval, Queanbeyan, while Newtown's Jim Beam Cup team travel to Erina.
ROUND 5 of the New Zealand Bartercard Cup went pretty much as expected barring the crushing loss by North Harbour Tigers to the Canterbury Bulls. The Auckland based teams, aside from the Bulls, handing out large scale wallopings to the provincial sides.
BRADFORD Bulls prepared for their Tetley's Rugby Super League top-of-the-table battle with Leeds on Friday with a 52-6 thumping of Huddersfield Giants at The McAlpine Stadium on Sunday evening.
The Bulls were rampant as they opened up a 28-0 interval lead despite the absence of four key players and the loss of Paul Deacon with an eye injury on the half hour.
MELBOURNE Storm halfback Matt Orford has been cleared of serious damage after partially dislocating his left kneecap in Sunday?s loss to the Brisbane Broncos.
NRL boss David Gallop has thrown his support behind referee's coach Robert Finch and says the standard of officiating is better than ever despite another day of axings and unrest in the refereeing ranks.
BRISBANE'S rugby league ironman Richard Swain is determined to keep his streak of 146 consecutive games alive against the Bulldogs in Sydney on Friday night.
WESTS Tigers forward Willie Manu will miss two National Rugby League matches after pleading guilty to a grade three careless high tackle charge.
KIWIS and Canberra Raiders veteran Ruben Wiki will fight a high tackle charge that could see him miss three weeks of National Rugby League (NRL) action, starting with Friday night's clash with the New Zealand Warriors in Wellington.
THE NZ Warriors are working hard to secure the majority of their player roster for 2004. With just over a month before anti-tampering restrictions come off on June 30, coach Daniel Anderson said the club had already sealed deals with two players.
THE match of the round was an absolute rip snorter with the City boys sneaking home by just one point against a top-notch Country outfit. Whoever said that these town v bush matches were not taken seriously, obviously have no idea. Sure, the concept of NSW hopefuls belting the hell out of each other and then taking on Queensland may seem illogical to some but think about how it toughens the lads up. So good was the match that the star pivot, Trent Barrett was forced off with a buggered ankle and I'm sure he can hardly wait for the surgeon's knife to start its handy work. You gotta laugh. I know a few of my mates from the Cane Toad state can see the funny side.
FORMER Queensland centre Chris Walker will play the rest of the National Rugby League season with the Sydney Roosters after agreeing to terms with the premiers.
ST George Centre Mark Gasnier was this morning picked in in the 25-man NSW Origin squad but had little time to enjoy the news.