NRL TEAMS, FIXTURES & MATCH PREVIEWS - ROUND 22 (Teams subject to change) 6 August ? 8 August 2004 Fri 7:30: DRAGONS v STORM Sat 5:30(AU), 7:30(NZ)*: WARRIORS v BRONCOS Sat 7:30: KNIGHTS v RAIDERS Sat 7:30: PANTHERS v SEA EAGLES Sun 2:30: TIGERS v RABBITOHS Sun 3:00: BULLDOGS v COWBOYS Sun 3:00: ROOSTERS V SHARKS (AEST time except *)


The finals are looming large on the horizon and there are still at least three places up for grabs in the top eight with only three points separating half a dozen teams so whilst being in the top eight this week looks good on the table, it?s where you sit at the conclusion of round 26 that really matters.

Friday 6th August 2004 ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS v MELBOURNE STORM WIN Stadium (7.30pm) Referee: Sean Hampstead Video Referee: Graeme West Touch Judges: Pat Reynolds, Steve Chiddy DRAGONS: Ben Hornby; Nick Youngquest, John Carlaw, Matt Cooper, Reece Simmonds; Trent Barrett (c), Matthew Head; Dean Young, Ben Creagh, Mark Riddell, Jason Ryles, Lincoln Withers, Brent Kite. Res: Michael Henderson, Aaron Wheatley, Ashton Sims, Henry Perenara. STORM: Billy Slater; Matt Geyer, Steve Bell, Ben MacDougall, Matt King; Scott Hill, Matt Orford; Dallas Johnson, Stephen Kearney (c), David Kidwell, Kirk Reynoldson, Cameron Smith, Rodney Howe. Res: Ryan Hoffman, Glen Turner, Cooper Cronk, Kirk Reynoldson. Last clash: Storm 34-6 (Rnd 3, Melbourne) match preview: Melbourne and the Dragons face off on Friday night and this one of the round?s most crucial matches as the Dragons need a win here to keep in touch with the leaders although the top four looks to be out of reach whilst the Storm are hell bent on stopping a slide down the ladder after their loss to the Roosters last weekend. The Storm are without Scott Hill so they must rely heavily on Matt Orford to get the job done and it remains to be seen how the Storm react to the 18 week suspension of Danny Williams. Will that galvanize the Storm or will be a psychological disaster? Whatever the case, the Dragons get my vote for this game. Dragons by 14.

Saturday 7th August 2004 NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS v BRISBANE BRONCOS Ericsson Stadium (5.30pm AEST, 7:30pm NZ) Referee: Tony Archer Video Referee: Phil Cooley Touch Judges: Paul Holland, Ben Cummins WARRIORS: Brent Webb; Tony Martin, Vinnie Anderson, Clinton Toopi, Francis Meli; Jerome Ropati, Stacey Jones; Monty Betham (c), Awen Guttenbeil, Sione Faumuina, Richard Villasanti, Louis Anderson, Iefeta Paleaaesina. Res: Karl Temata, Evarn Tuimavave, Wairangi Koopu, Epalahame Lauaki, Jerry Seuseu (two to be omitted) BRONCOS: Karmichael Hunt; Scott Minto, Brent Tate, Shaun Berrigan, Stuart Kelly; Darren Lockyer, Casey McGuire; Tonie Carroll, Dane Carlaw, Gorden Tallis (c), Petero Civoniceva, Neville Costigan, Shyane Webcke. Res: Darren Mapp, Brad Meyers, Corey Parker, Carl Webb, David Stagg, Paul Green (two to be omitted). Last clash: Broncos 28-20 (Rnd 1, Suncorp) match preview: A year ago, this was one of the most anticipated matches of the season but this year only the die hards from each side will give a continental about the result. The Broncos will need to be on their guard though because if the real Warriors turn up to play, they could well spring an upset and cause the Broncos some pain five weeks out from the finals. With Shane Webcke in doubt, the Broncos need to play a smart game and exploit the Warriors on the fringe of the ruck and keep their big forwards back peddling all day. I think this game will be a lot closer than many think but I still believe the Broncos will get points and keep the pressure on the Roosters and Bulldogs, who continue to battle it out for the minor premiership. Broncos by 8.

NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v CANBERRA RAIDERS EnergyAustralia Stadium (7.30pm) Referee: Steve Lyons Video Referee: Chris Ward Touch Judges: Jason Weinstein, Matt Cecchin KNIGHTS: Robbie O'Davis; Craig Hall, Matt Gidley, George Carmont, Anthony Quinn; Kurt Gidley, Steve Witt; Michael Ennis, Ben Kennedy, Clint Newton, Matt Kennedy Danny Buderus (c) Josh Perry. Res: Andrew Price, Regan Tanner, Adam Woolnough, Blake Mueller. RAIDERS: Clinton Schifcofske; Nathan Smith, Adam Mogg, Joel Monaghan, Michael Robertson; Matthew Gafa, Mark McLinden; Jason Croker, Ian Hindmarsh, Ruben Wiki, Luke Davico, Simon Woolford (c), Ryan O'Hara. Res: Troy Thompson, Michael Weyman, Tyran Smith, Jason Bulgarelli, Josh Miller (one to be omitted). Last clash: Raiders 19-18 (Rnd 7, Canberra) match preview: The Raiders were woeful against Manly and unless they arrest their shocking form this year, the 2004 finals will be a pipe dream and Raiders stalwarts Ruben Wiki and Luke Davico will have no chance at a fairy tale swan song. The Knights fought hard to deny Souths but their form is as erratic as the Raiders so the only reason I am tipping the Knights is because of the Raiders atrocious away record. Knights by 18.

PENRITH PANTHERS v MANLY SEA EAGLES Penrith Stadium (7.30pm) Referee: Jason Robinson Video Referee: Mick Stone Touch Judges: David Abood, Steve Nash PANTHERS: Rhys Wesser; Amos Roberts, Luke Lewis, Paul Whatuira, Luke Rooney; Preston Campbell, Craig Gower (c); Trent Waterhouse, Tony Puletua, Joe Galuvao, Martin Lang, Luke Priddis, Joel Clinton Res: Frank Puletua, Richaed Fa'aoso, Shane Rodney, Danny Galea. SEA EAGLES: Brett Stewart; Scott Donald, Chris Hicks, Albert Torrens, Nick Bradley-Qalilawa; Andrew Walker, Michael Monaghan (c); Steve Menzies, Sam Harris, Anthony Watmough, Jason King, Chad Randall, Daniel Heckenberg. Res: Kylie Leuluai, Luke Williamson, Solomon Haumono, Shayne Dunley. Last clash: Sea Eagles 20-12 (Rnd 13, Brookvale) match preview: Penrith were belted by the Dogs and Manly beat the Raiders. This clash last year was a thriller if memory serves me right and Manly are in this game up to their eyeballs, if they so choose. The Panthers of late resemble nothing of the team that conquered all before them last season and they are long odds of repeating that feat this year. Manly can?t make the finals but can be a fantastic nuisance if Michael Monaghan can get his speedy outside backs into open space. This will be a high scoring affair but because the Panthers are at home, I?ll give them the nod this week. Panthers by 10.

Sunday 8th August 2004 WESTS TIGERS v SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS Leichhardt Oval (2.30pm) Referee: Stephen Clark Video Referee: Sean Hampstead Touch Judges: Glen Jackson, Shayne Hayne WESTS TIGERS: Brett Hodgson; Jason Moodie, Daniel Fitzhenry, Shane Elford, Pat Richards; Michael Buettner, Scott Prince; Scott Sattler, Mark O'Neill, Ben Galea, Anthony Laffranchi, Darren Senter (c), Todd Payten.Res: Dene Halatau, Bryce Gibbs, Bronson Harrison, Robert Mears, Chris Paterson (one to be omitted). RABBITOHS: Garth Wood; Mark Christensen, Shane Rigon, John Sutton, Lee Hookey; Owen Craigie, Joe Williams; Ashley Harrison (c), Mark Minichiello, Bryan Fletcher (c), Luke Stuart, Shane Walker, Scott Geddes. Res: David Fa'alogo, David Thompson, Justin Smith, Willie Manu. Last clash: Rabbitohs 17-16 (Rnd 2 Aussie) match preview: The Tigers host the Rabbitohs at Leichhardt on Sunday afternoon and this is one of the NRL?s traditional clashes and should bring a big crowd for a passionate affair between two long standing rivals. The Tigers have everything to play for but have a lousy record against the Rabittohs, but being at home means they will be twice as hard to beat. Souths are back in last position but are still a very good chance of avoiding the wooden spoon if they can win this one and they most certainly can. Although they are being beaten, they are competitive in every match and their honesty is easy to admire. I just don? know about the Tigers, they beat a pathetic Eels side which is not all that difficult but they made it look very hard. I?m going with the Tigers and I have no reason why. Tigers by 2.

CANTERBURY BULLDOGS v NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS Sydney Showground (3.00pm) Referee: Paul Simpkins Video Referee: Chris Ward Touch Judges: Allen Foster, Russell Turner BULLDOGS: Luke Patten; Hazem El Masri, Willie Tonga, Jamaal Lolesi, Matt Utai; Braith Anasta, Brent Sherwin; Tony Grimaldi, Andrew Ryan, Willie Mason, Mark O'Meley Adam Perry, Steve Price (c). Res: Corey Hughes, Roy Asotasi, Dennis Scott, Sonny Bill Williams. COWBOYS: Matt Bowen; Neil Sweeney, Josh Hannay, Paul Bowman, Ty Williams; David Myles, Nathan Fien; Travis Norton (c), Steve Southern, Luke O'Donnell, Shane Tronc, Aaron Payne, Paul Rauhihi. Res: David Faiumu, Rod Jensen, Leigh McWilliams, Mitchell Sargent. Last clash: Bulldogs 32-18 (Rnd 16 Townsville) match preview: Easily the match of the round between the Cowboys and the Bulldogs. Both team are playing outstanding footy and the Bulldogs would be slightly nervous about facing the Cowboys, who are playing with supreme confidence at present and with their front row the talk of the town, the Bulldogs will need to be switched on for the full eighty minutes to get the cash against the Cowboys. Paul Rauhihi, Travis Norton, Matt Bowen and Josh Hannay are in the best for of their careers whilst the Bulldogs have been the form side in the NRL for the past eight weeks so if the Cowboys win this one, they will make the top eight for the first time but more than that, they will have sounded a warning to opposing sides that they are not there merely to make up the numbers and bow up gracefully, they want to be the upstarts of the NRL and match it with the very best. I think this will be a hell of a game but the Bulldogs look too strong for any team at present, so they get my tip for this game but again, the Cowboys will make a game of this one, and serve notice they are a force to be reckoned with. Bulldogs by 6.

SYDNEY ROOSTERS v CRONULLA SHARKS Aussie Stadium (3.00pm) Referee: Tim Mander Video Referee: Graeme West Touch Judges: Paul Kalina, Steve Carrall ROOSTERS: Anthony Minichiello; Gavin Lester, Ryan Cross, Justin Hodges, Chris Walker; Brad Fittler (c), Brett Finch; Luke Ricketson, Michae Peter Cusack, Craig Wing, Jason Cayless. Res: Michael Crocker, Chad Robinson, Adrian Morley, Anthony Tupou, Stuart Webb, Ned Catic (two to be omitted). SHARKS: David Peachey; Nathan Merritt, Nigel Vagana, Ryan McGoldrick, Matthew Rieck; Greg Bird, Brett Kimmorley (c); Phil Bailey, Paul Gallen, Sam Isemonger, Danny Nutley, Matt Hilder, Jason Stevens. Res: Michael Sullivan, Matt Bickerstaff, Keith Galloway, Dean Bosnich, Jason Kent, David Simmons (two to be omitted). Last clash: Roosters 38-18 (Rnd 10 Toyota) match preview: The Roosters get a chance to all but end the Sharks season on Sunday afternoon but things don?t always go according to plan in the NRL. The Sharks are one team who usually give the Roosters a good run for their money but without Brett Kimmorley, the Sharks hopes of pulling off an unlikely win look remote at best. The Roosters are winning but are not in peak form at present, which would be a worry for Ricky Stuart just weeks out from the finals. However, if any man can motivate a team it?s Stuart. I can?t pin point it but there is something about the Roosters this year that makes them look beatable. They look tired and lethargic at present and I put it down to the high octane style of play they use. Surely, somewhere along the line this continual up tempo style of game is going to catch up with the players regardless of how fit they are? Only time will tell but I still think they will have enough juice in the tank to account for the Sharks. Roosters by 12.

PARRAMATTA EELS have the bye.