20 hours ago
Anti-grapple crusader Michael Hagan is expecting this week's slanging match with Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy to heat up tonight's NRL blockbuster between Parramatta and the Storm.
The Eels flew into enemy territory yesterday, a day after the Storm called a press conference to accuse critics including Eels coach Hagan of hypocrisy over grappling accusations. The NRL's policing of the controversial tackle, and of its "crusher" variation, will be tested in the Olympic Park cauldron of tonight's match between the front-running Storm and third-placed Eels.
Hagan says his side will be aggressive and the week's controversy will only add to a match which already has plenty at stake.
In tonight's other match, Brisbane host the Bulldogs at Suncorp Stadium.
NRL referees' boss Robert Finch says he is adamant whistleblowers will not buckle under the grapple tackle pressure amid fears players will attempt to exploit the spotlight on the issue.
The controversy surrounding the illegal grapple tackle this week, and its new cousin the `crusher', prompted the NRL to make amendments to the rules to allow judiciary action.
But Finch says referees won't change how they handle grapple tackles this weekend, claiming his men have consistently cracked down on the offence all season.
Meanwhile, Nathan Brown has been guaranteed he will coach St George Illawarra next season after surviving an independent review by the club.
The Dragons commissioned an independent review of Brown and have since given the coach an assurance he will lead the team into next year's season. Brown has survived several calls for his sacking during a tumultuous five-year coaching career, most recently earlier this season when the Dragons lost five of their first six games.
Brown told the Nine Network he was excited he would get the chance to fulfil his contract, which expires at the end of 2008.
Elsewhere, South Sydney forward David Kidwell will have to wait a little longer before knowing if he can make a miraculous comeback to play again in 2007.
Kidwell tore his anterior cruciate knee ligament after falling in his family home in April this year and was expected to miss the entire NRL season following a knee reconstruction.
A golden staph infection also hindered his recovery but the recent improvement in his knee has fuelled hopes he could help the Rabbitohs over the final weeks of the regular season as they attempt to make the semi finals for the first time since 1989.
Kidwell met orthopaedic surgeon Merv Cross and Rabbitohs director of athletic performance Errol Alcott today but was told he would have to wait another couple of weeks before a decision on his return could be made.