SUNDAY SPECIALS | Two tight tussles for NRL Sunday - Melbourne Storm and Canberra Raiders flexing th...
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The good news continued for the New Zealand Warriors yesterday with utility player Sione Faumuina agreeing to stay through to the 2007 rugby league season.
The announcement follows the recent signings of Canberra Raider and Kiwi international Ruben Wiki, while Bulldogs captain and Queensland prop Steve Price also jumped across the Tasman on a three-year-deal.
The crop of signings caps a successful week for the Warriors in player recruitment and retention.
The two clubs that have lost most in the player trade, Canberra and the Bulldogs, have been the loudest in condemnation of the mid-season anti-tampering deadline that produces switches like that of Wiki and Price to the Warriors
National Rugby League chief executive David Gallop has agreement from the Rugby League Players' Association (RLPA) to discuss the issue of shifting the anti-tampering deadline to early October, following the grand final.
It will be on the agenda of the league's annual conference in December.
However, there are concerns an October deadline would produce a lolly scramble, where scoring a player like Price would be more a lottery than a staged strategic move, as the Warriors made it.
Pre-season training starts just weeks after the grand final. An October transfer deadline could compress the player trade to a couple of frenetic weeks where the best would be able to auction themselves over the odds, the rest would get less.
It is the RLPA and players who have opposed a shift to the end of the season.
Their argument is that the June 30 deadline gives time to carefully consider career moves and that an October deadline would stifle careers.
The Sydney Morning Herald polled all clubs on the issue and found two supporting the June 30 date, the majority receptive to Gallop's proposal.
But St George Illawarra's Peter Doust commented: "I wouldn't like to see the (seven) teams excluded from the finals sitting on their hands and not going anywhere near players until the grand final was over. It's ridiculous to think they would do that, so all it would encourage is further skulduggery and tampering anyway."
The Warriors are ambivalent, having scored successfully in the market as is but agreeing the mid-season trade is a distraction for all.
The immediate flipside to the boost provided the Warriors by the securing of a decent squad for the future is that this weekend's opponents, South Sydney, will come to Ericsson Stadium buoyed by a 30-6 victory over reigning premiers Penrith.
That result last Sunday was no fluke, the Rabbitohs playing mistake-free football in the wet.
They put 28 points on the Broncos in Brisbane the week before but conceded 48, but have recent wins over Manly, 34-30, and the Storm, 28-26, to prove their worth.
Warriors coach Tony Kemp rated Sunday's game "more or less our grand final." A win over Souths used to be a given. Now it's vital if they want to get themselves out of wooden spoon position because only the Sea Eagles and Rabbitohs are contesting that title right now.
Kemp has a further boost to his side with the return of Francis Meli from suspension, the wing keen to make his mark after five weeks' watching.
Henry Fa'afili comes back from Bartercard Cup after a strong game as Counties-Manukau beat Glenora and Jerome Ropati shifts in to five-eighth with Lance Hohaia moving to the bench.
Captain Monty Betham is suffering with the knee tear sustained against the Sharks but will be given until game-day before a decision is made on the composition of the bench.
The Rabbitohs have no injury worries and have some hope lock Shane Rigon might be available late after several weeks out with a knee problem.