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As we draw ever closer to Grand Final day on October 1, the number of referees for week two drops from four in week one to just two now in the second week of the finals. Unfortunately, it is an early end to season 2006 for Shayne Hayne and Sean Hampstead. Although all is not lost, if you cast your minds back to season 2005, Steve Clark was not around in week two of the Finals but came back in week three for Paul Simpkins who was dropped.
On Friday night at Aussie Stadium, it will be Paul Simpkins who gets first shot at this week?s Finals Series as St George Illawarra take on Manly. Last week it was Paul who controlled the Dragons? 16 point victory over the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night. Although winning the match quite convincingly in the end, it was the Dragons on the wrong end of a 6-2 penalty count.
The Dragons, with five games as Simpkins being the referee in 2006, have had three victories with two losses. Manly with Simpkins in charge have had four matches with an even share of two wins and two losses. The touch judges for this encounter are Russell Turner and Rod Lawrence while in the video referee?s box will be Tim Mander and Chris Ward.
Steve Clark maintains his position in the NRL Finals Series, as he will be in charge of the Knights and Broncos match at Aussie Stadium on Saturday evening. Steve did not officiate in either of these two sides? matches last weekend, as he was at the helm of Melbourne?s home victory, which knocked out last season?s Minor Premiers the Parramatta Eels. On paper, Clark is the number one referee, with two State of Origins and the New Zealand vs. Great Britain Test Match all in 2006. However the gap has closed between himself and fellow referee Paul Simpkins.
The Knights have had Clark just twice this season with victories in round three against the Bulldogs and in round 25 against the Panthers. The Broncos are quite similar to the Knights, as they have had Clark just three times this season, coming away with three victories. The touch judges for this match are Steve Carrall and Steve Chiddy.
Incidentally, last year?s Grand Final touch judge, Matt Cecchin, has missed out on selection this weekend on the line.