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Tuesday delivered the preliminary squads for the Grand Final, with no selection shocks ... yet.
Utility John Wilson looks to be first in line to cover the possible withdrawal of winger Pat Richards from an unchanged Tigers squad, while the Cowboys named an unchanged 17 from their romp over the Eels. Bolter Shannon McDonnell looks to be just warming the wing during training this week as the ankle injury plaguing Richards improves daily.
The Grand Final Teams are:
1. Brett Hodgson 2. Daniel Fitzhenry 3. Shane Elford 4. Paul Whatuira 5. Pat Richards 6. Benji Marshall 7. Scott Prince 8. Anthony Laffranchi 9. Robert Farah 10. John Skandalis 11. Ben Galea 12. Mark O'Neill 13. Dene Halatau
Interchange 14. Liam Fulton 15. Chris Heighington 16. Bryce Gibbs 17. Todd Payten 18. John Wilson 19. Bronson Harrison (Two to be omitted)
1. Matthew Bowen 2. Ty Williams 3. Josh Hannay 4. Paul Bowman 5. Matt Sing 6. Johnathan Thurston 7. Brett Firman 8. Paul Rauhihi 9. Aaron Payne 10. Shane Tronc 11. Steven Southern 12. Luke O'Donnell 13. Travis Norton
Interchange 14. Rod Jensen 15. David Faiumu 16. Justin Smith 17. Mitchell Sargent
It is expected Jacob Lillyman, Brenton Bowen, David Myles and Matthew Scott will round out the squad should anyone not be fit. Norton is in the most doubt with a back injury, with Lillyman or Scott the most likely options to join the bench should he withdraw. And finally Josh Hannay seems fine after showing no ill effects during the Parramatta game despite his shoulder injury. .....
Referee Tim Mander controls his second straight decider after beating out a late challenge from Steve Clark. Mander had his share of critics over his decision to penalise Trent Barrett for playing on after being tackled midway through the second half last weekend, but the spectacle put on by the Dragons and Tigers Saturday night secured him the Grand Final job. The NRL loves a free flowing Grand Final, and despite Clark rightfully taking his place as the second best referee in the preliminary final, Clark has a reputation suggesting he likes to blow the whistle a little more than Mander. Last weekend this was proven correct as in the Tigers-Dragons game Mander blew 7 penalties (WTG 4-3 STI), while Clark whistled 12 (PAR 4-8 NQL) in the Sunday game. But you look back at Mander and Clark?s last 4 matches the figures suggest the difference is not as large as it appears.
Tim Mander: Rd 26 Cowboys 5-4 Storm = 7 Total QF 4 Sea Eagles 8-5 Eels = 13 Total SF 2 Tigers 6-5 Broncos = 11 Total PF 1 Tigers 4-3 Dragons = 7 Total Total = 38 in his last 4 games at an average of 9 per game
Steve Clark: Rd 25 Knights 8-6 Sharks = 14 Total Rd 26 Sea Eagles 14-6 Raiders = 20 Total QF 2 Broncos 6-3 Storm = 9 Total PF 2 Cowboys 8-4 Eels = 12 Total Total = 45 in his last 4 games at an average of 11 per game
Interestingly in his only representative game this year, Clark called only 7 penalties in Origin II ? NSW 5-2 QLD.
But having said that Mander is the best selection for the job and Clark should be next in line as there is a significant gap in quality to the next group of referees.
The Tigers released their Schedule for Grand Final week.
Sunday 25th September ? Rest Monday 26th September ? 1:30pm Rehab Session Tuesday 27th September ? 9:30am Training at Concord Oval, 2:00pm Open Training Session at Concord Oval for the fans. Wednesday 28th September ? Rest Thursday 29th September ? 6:00am Grand Final Breakfast, 10:30am Closed Training Session at Concord Oval, 8:30pm Captain and TBC Appearance on The Footy Show. Friday 30th September ? Rest Saturday 1st October ? 10:30am Closed Training Session at Telstra Stadium, players go into closed team camp afterwards. Sunday 2nd October ? 7pm 2005 Grand Final.
Stat of the Day
Since 1908 no team that has ?won? the Wooden Spoon in their first season in the premiership have won the title in their first Grand Final appearance.
In 1947 Parramatta won the Spoon in their first season (the first of their eleven all time), and in 1976 the Eels lost St. George in their Grand Final debut 13-10.
In 1967 Cronulla-Sutherland entered the competition and took out the Spoon (first of two all time) but featured in the 1973 Grand Final only 6 years later falling to Manly 10-7.
In 1982 Canberra finished at the back of the pack making cookies with their one and only Spoon, then lost to Manly-Warringah in their first decider in 1987 18-8.
In 1995 North Queensland entered the competition and just held out the Eels for their first Spoon (first of three all time), and now have a chance to buck the trend in the 2005 Grand Final against the Wests Tigers.
Interestingly both Parramatta and Cronulla-Sutherland lost their first two deciders, while Canberra was successful on their second attempt. Can the Cowboys set two new marks in one go?
For the record: Western Suburbs finished 8th of 9 teams in 1908 (and won 4 of the next 5 Wooden Spoons), although they finished runner up in 1918 and 1925 there were no Grand Finals those season, and in their first appearance in the big one they rolled over St. George 27-2 in 1930. Balmain placed 6th in 1908, but made the Grand Final the next season ? losing to South Sydney by forfeit. Their first Wooden Spoon was in 1911, but they piled on the titles from 1915-1920 only falling short in 1918 when Souths interrupted their streak. Although it must be noted that only the 1916 title was won via a Grand Final, the rest were won via the Minor Premiership. Thus their first genuine Grand Final ended in victory with a 5-3 win over Souths in 1916. So technically, the clubs that make up the Wests Tigers have won the premiership in their first Grand Final appearance. Giving the Wests Tigers a chance to join the 1908 Rabbitohs, 1910 Jets, 1916 Tigers, 1922 Bears, 1930 Magpies, 1938 Berries/Bulldogs, 1992 Broncos, 1997 Knights and 1999 Storm as the only clubs to win the premiership in their first ever Grand Final.
?If for whatever reason fans don't have the same interest in going to the grand final, whether their team's been knocked out or their circumstances changed, I'm just pleading with people there are a lot of Wests Tigers fans who would love to be there to witness their team play in their first ever grand final," Tigers CEO Steve Noyce asking (you?d imagine) any disgruntled or generous Dragons or Eels fans to sell their pre-preliminary final purchased Grand Final tickets to the Tigers to distribute back to the thousands of fans dying for a seat.
?We (Balmain) went so close twice but things didn't go our way, but I don't think you can ever treat grand final week like it's another game because it isn't,? former Balmain, Easts, Penrith and Parramatta halfback Gary Freeman doing his bit to dissuade the current Grand Final players from pulling out the granddaddy of all footy clich?s which is usually along the lines of ?we?ll just treat the Grand Final like any other game?.
"I don't get along with the refs too well so hopefully it won't be me." Paul Rauhihi explaining (perhaps tongue in cheek) why he is not keen to take on the captaincy if Travis Norton succumbs to a back injury.
"I suppose it won't be a grand final week (unless) someone's in a hyperbaric chamber.? Tim Sheens alluding to recent Grand Final buildups when Luke Ricketson and Steven Price did their utmost to play in the last two deciders despite serious injury.
?Graham Murray is under contract until the end of next season and we opened talks some time ago about extending that. What we have asked him to do is come back to us with what sort of terms he wants.? Cowboys CEO Dennis Keeffe regarding his coach?s future with the club. You?d have to think if Murray can get the Cowboys over the line Sunday he could name his price and probably get paid even more.
?Now the fun starts," Cowboys football manager and wheeling bin bashing expert Peter Parr on extra attention his players will get in Townsville this week.
?I just told them not to stuff it up like I did 16 years ago,? former Tigers (and Cowboys mind you) fullback Tim Brasher divulges the words of wisdom he imparted to the team at an open training session Tuesday.
Grand Final Trivia Question Two
In 1989 who were the two Balmain players that ?infamously? replaced Steve Roach and Paul Sironen late in the second half of the Grand Final? A. Shaun Edwards B. Kevin Hardwick C. Kerry Helmsley D. Michael Pobjie E. David Brooks F. Russel Gartner
Yesterday?s Answer: B. Glenn Lazarus ? played in 5 straight deciders, 1989-91 with Canberra then 1992-93 with Brisbane. Sterling played in 4 (81-85), Meninga in 3 (89-91), Walters in 2 (92-93 and 97-98) and Fittler in 3 (02-04)