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With the NRL?s new rules about First Grade referees being able to do lower grade Grand Finals, the referees for this weekend are Paul Simpkins, Shayne Hayne, and veteran Steve Lyons.
After spending many years thinking he wouldn?t achieve this goal, Paul Simpkins has been appointed to the NRL Grand Final in 2006. After Bill Harrigan retired at the end of the 2003 season, the number one position was up for grabs however it was Tim Mander who took the two deciders after Paul made costly errors in the previous matches before the Grand Final. Paul, however, has not done that this year. Last weekend he had a flawless performance with the only controversy coming from the video referees box. Steve Carrall and Rod Lawrence are on the line with Chris Ward and Bill Harrigan in the box.
Shayne Hayne, who has had an outstanding year in 2006, has been named to do the Premier League between Parramatta and Newtown. Parramatta had a tight win over Manly last weekend while Newtown came from behind to beat the Dragons. Shayne refereed the NRL fixture in week one of the finals between the Bulldogs and Raiders but since then has done the Tigers v Manly and Dragons v Jets Premier League semi finals. The touch judges are Russell Turner and Steve Chiddy with Rickey McFarlane and Luke Potter in the in-goal.
Despite not being from the NRL squad but the Premier squad in 2006, Steve Lyons has been appointed to do the Knights and Panthers Jersey Flegg Grand Final next Sunday afternoon. Last Sunday Newcastle beat the Dragons by a point and Penrith were too strong for the Bulldogs. Although doing the Premier League fixtures between the Dragons and Tigers in week one, Manly and Balmain-Ryde in week two and Parramatta v Manly in week three, Steve has been given the Flegg Grand Final behind Hayne. His touch judges are Jason Weinstein and Darren Lang with Andrew Zapantis and David Munro in the in-goal.
Across to the players?and the Brisbane Broncos have named an unchanged side from the team that came from behind to beat the Bulldogs 37-20 last Friday night. The last time the Broncos played the Storm was in round 23, when the Storm came from 10-nil down to win 18-12 in one of Brisbane?s better performances of the season. Tame Tupou has been named as an 18th man just in case Karmichael Hunt succumbs to a niggling hamstring injury.
Jeremy Smith has replaced Queenslander Michael Crocker on the Melbourne Storm bench for Sunday night?s Grand Final. Crocker injured his knee against the Dragons last Saturday night, and will sit out of his first grand final since making one in 2004 with the Sydney Roosters. These two sides also met in round 18 on a wet Friday night at Olympic Park when the Storm got the biscuits 10-4. Jake Webster, Garrett Crossman and Jamie Feeney have also been named on an extended bench pending any injuries in the lead up to the match.