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The NRL round was a wet and soggy one starting with the opening match in Wellington. The Warriors have a terrible record at the Cake Tin and the hoodoo continues with last year's minor premiers going down to the Raiders - Ruben Wiki having a ripper of a match. If ever there was an example of the gulf that exists between Auckland and Wellington, this is it. Its no wonder that the Kiwis are calling for a second NZ team and asking why the Auckland Warriors changed their name to New Zealand.
The next eye-opener was in Sydney. The Broncos came to town and defended their line well enough to see the pride of Canterbury score zilch in front of their home crowd. If that wasn't enough, the visitors then had the temerity to pile on 24 points. It was the second time this century that the Berries have ended up scoreless and brings back memories of their 91-6 hiding at the hands of St George back in '35. OK, maybe not bad but we'll rub it in anyway.
The next match saw Parra go down yet again, this time to the Melbourne collective. It was a heart-breaking two point loss which saw grown men weep at the result. Mind you, it's tremendous to watch a match decided by a penalty goal right in front. It's an all but forgotten art and one that I thought was dead and buried. But in the space of two short weeks, we've seen this wonderful aspect of the game revived thanks in total to some progressive adjudicating. There's nothing quite as satisfying as watching a referee decide the outcome of a match.
Hats off to Brett Kimmorley who went from the intercept giver to the intercept taker in a very short space of time. Following the send-off of head hunter Paul Gallen, Noddy led his Sharks to victory and outplayed royalty like Andrew Johns. To come from behind with 12 men and roll a 13-man Knights side was no mean feat. Its hard to believe that this is the same Andrew Johns that holds the high office of Australian skipper. Like certain heads of state, Joey has the weight of the world on his shoulders and has some issues to deal with. If still waters run deep then shallow waters cascade out of control. Lets hope the champion halfback sorts out things soon... about a week after Origin III should do it.
The next match belonged to the Cowboys as they hog-tied the Silvertails at Brookvale. It was an upset because of two reasons. Firstly, the Cowboys managed an away win and secondly, people are still showing up to watch the Sea Eagles play.
Meanwhile, the mighty Panthers posted their sixth win on the trot after clobbering Wests Tigers 26-4. In simple terms, the Chocolate Soldiers are unstoppable and have firmed to favouritism to take out the 2003 premiership. Thats what I told my bookie and he agreed with me as he took my wages... sucker. The Panthers have now equalled their club's winning record while the Wests Tigers have lost six in a row and have equalled their loser's record.
The final match of the round belonged to the hallowed turf of the Sydney Cricket Ground. The missus and I baptised our third son at the SCG in 1954 during the Queen's visit and given the flood conditions of last Sunday, I reckon we could have baptised a dozen more of the ankle biters. I only say this because the mud and the slosh of St George v Rabbitohs match brought back fond memories. As the rain came down, so did the reasoning as to why we don't play football at the SCG anymore. But seriously folks, it was a great experience and here's hoping the NRL make it a regular event.
Next week (round 12, 30 May-1 June, 2003): Sharks v Raiders at Toyota Bulldogs v Tigers at the Showground Panthers v Warriors at Penrith Eels v Souths at Parramatta Broncos v Knights at Lang Park* St George v Cowboys at Jubilee Storm v Roosters at Olympic Park *Mondays Expert match of the round
Round 11 results at a glance home team listed first
RAIDERS 18 Tries: Robertson, Monaghan, Wiki Goals: Schifcofske 3/4 defeated WARRIORS 10 Tries: Fa'afili 2 Goals: Webb 1/3 Friday 23 May 2003 Westpac Stadium, Wellington Referee: Shayne Hayne Crowd: 13,130 Leagueunlimited players of the match: 3 - R Wiki (Raiders) 2 - M McLinden (Raiders) 1 - H Fa'afili (Warriors)
BULLDOGS 0 defeated by BRONCOS 24 Tries: Ikin, Lockyer, Berrigan, Tate Goals: De Vere (4/5) Friday 23 May 2003 Telstra Stadium Referee: Sean Hampstead Crowd: 25,673 Leagueunlimited players of the match: 3 - S Berrigan (Broncos) 2 - D Lockyer (Broncos) 1 - W Mason (Bulldogs)
EELS 10 Tries: Graham 2 Goals: Hodgson 1/2 defeated by STORM 12 Tries: Kearney, Tadulala Goals: Orford 2/4 Saturday 24 May 2003 Parramatta Stadium Referee: Stephen Clark Crowd: 8,133 Leagueunlimited players of the match: 3 - M Orford (Storm) 2 - A Graham (Eels) 1 - J Lyon (Eels)
KNIGHTS 24 Tries: Buderus 2, Johns, O'Davis Goals: Johns 4/5 defeated by SHARKS 30 Tries: Rieck, Kimmorley 3, Bickerstaff Goals: Kimmorley 5/6 Saturday 24 May 2003 EnergyAustralia Stadium Referee: Paul Simpkins Crowd: 16,121 Leagueunlimited players of the match: 3 - B Kimmorley (Sharks) 2 - D Buderus (Knights) 1 - D Nutley (Sharks)
SEA EAGLES 20 Tries: McGuinness 2, Walker Goals: Walker 4/5 defeated by COWBOYS 31 Tries: Williams 2, Morrison, Hannay, Myles Goals: Hannay 5/6, Morrison 0/1 Field Goal: Sheppard Saturday 24 May 2003 Brookvale Oval Referee: Tim Mander Crowd: 7,028 Leagueunlimited players of the match: 3 - G Morrison (Cowboys) 2 - M Bowen (Cowboys) 1 - J Hannay (Cowboys)
TIGERS 4 Tries: O'Neill Goals: Covell 0/1 defeated by PANTHERS 26 Tries: Priddis, Howland x2, Gower, Wesser Goals: Campbell 3/5 Sunday 25 May 2003 Campbelltown Stadium Referee: Rod Lawrence Crowd: 4,125 Leagueunlimited players of the match: 3 - P Campbell (Panthers) 2 - J Skandalis (Tigers) 1 - L Priddis (Panthers)
RABBITOHS 16 Tries: Craigie 2, Fletcher Goals: Craigie 2/3 defeated by DRAGONS 18 Tries: Cooper, Roberts, Byrne Goals: Riddell 3/3 Sunday 25 May 2003 Sydney Cricket Ground Referee: Bill Harrigan Crowd: 11,104 Leagueunlimited players of the match: 3 - L Bailey (Dragons) 2 - D Byrne (Dragons) 1 - B Fletcher (Rabbitohs)
League Unlimited's Player of the Year Awards
Tally update: 16 points: D Lockyer (Broncos), C Schicofske (Raiders) 15 points: L Bailey (Dragons) 12 points: A Minichiello (Roosters), S Price (Bulldogs) 11 points: P Campbell (Panthers), 10 points: C Fitzgibbon (Roosters), PJ Marsh (Warriors), M Orford (Storm) 9 points: A Johns (Knights), J Smith (Rabbitohs), R Wesser (Panthers) 8 points: J Ferris (Sea Eagles), M Sing (Cowboys) 7 points: S Berrigan (Broncos), L Hohaia (Warriors), S Kearney (Storm), B Kimmorley (Sharks), B Slater (Storm) 6 points: T Carroll (Broncos), B Drew (Raiders), D Nutley (Sharks), B Sherwin (Bulldogs), B Walker (Sea Eagles), A Watmough (Sea Eagles), C Wing (Roosters) 5 points: D Buderus (Knights), B Fittler (Roosters), C Gower (Panthers), J Morris (Eels), G Morrison (Cowboys), P Stringer (Rabbitohs), G Tallis (Broncos), R Wiki (Raiders), S Woolford (Raiders) 4 points: D Abraham (Knights), M Bowen (Cowboys), K Campion (Cowboys), B Finch (Roosters), B Hodgson (Eels), B Kennedy (Knights), J Lyon (Eels), D Peachey (Sharks), T Puletua (Panthers), M Riddell (Dragons), B Tate (Broncos), S Timmins (Dragons), P Whatuira (Panthers) 3 points: S Bell (Storm), T Byrne (Roosters), H El Masri (Bulldogs), B Firman (Dragons), A Guttenbeil (Warriors), J Hannay (Cowboys), T Hill (Tigers), J Lowe (Cowboys), W Mason (Bulldogs), M McClinden (Raiders), F Meli (Warriors), D Myles (Cowboys), M O'Meley (Bulldogs), C Pearson (Wests Tigers), J Perry (Knights), L Priddis (Panthers), J Seu Seu (Warriors), S Webcke (Broncos), L Withers (Wests Tigers) 2 points: D Byrne (Dragons), D Carlaw (Broncos), J Caine (Wests Tigers), B Fletcher (Rabbitohs), M Gasnier (Dragons), M Gidley (Knights), A Graham (Eels), B Harris (Bulldogs), S Hill (Storm), S Jones (Warriors), R Kearns (Storm), J Lolesi (Raiders), M McLinden (Raiders), N Merritt (Rabbitohs), L McWilliams (Cowboys), C Pearson (Wests Tigers), P Rauhihi (Cowboys), S Rudder (Knights), S Sattler (Panthers), J Skandalis (Tigers), D Senter (Wests Tigers), J Seu Seu (Warriors), L Swann (Warriors), S Tadulala (Storm), L Thompson (Dragons), N Vagana (Bulldogs) 1 point: P Bailey (Sharks), T Barrett (Dragons), S Donald (Sea Eagles), S Dunley (Eels), H Fa'afili (Warriors), B Galea (Wests Tigers), P Gallen (Sharks), R Girdler (Panthers), P Graham (Raiders), J Hodges (Roosters), S Kelly (Broncos), D Kidwell (Storm), F Meli (Warriors), S Menzies (Sea Eagles), R O'Davis (Knights), A Quinn (Knights), L Ricketson (Roosters), R Swain (Broncos), J Thurston (Bulldogs), B Webb (Warriors), D Widders (Eels), M Witt (Eels), A Woolnough (Knights)