GRAND final opponents in three of the eight Queensland Cup seasons thus far, Toowoomba and Redcliffe clash in this Saturday?s match of the round.
BARLA Great Britain Lions coach Mick Turner has named the squad to face the Many Rivers Regional U21 Representative side at Kempsey on Wednesday.
STATE OF ORIGIN
Result: New South Wales 36 d Queensland 14.
Standings: New South Wales win series 2-1.
THE Wigan club can today confirm that Prop Danny Sculthorpe has signed a new three year deal which will keep him at the JJB Stadium until the end of 2007.
Melbourne Storm skipper Stephen Kearney believes the time will be right to join the English Super League when he leaves the NRL for English club Hull at the end of the year.
Kearney has ended ongoing speculation about his future by agreeing to join Hull at season�s end and despite receiving previous offers to leave the NRL, the 32-year-old believes the time to make the move to England is fast approaching.
�I�ve had opportunities in the past to go there (England) and at that time of my career I didn�t think I was quite ready,� Kearney said.
�It has been an interest for some time but as the years in my career have drawn closer to an end I really didn�t think I�d get an opportunity to go to the UK, but as it�s turned out we I so I�m looking forward to it.
�The NRL is the toughest competition for our sport and when presented with the chance to go to the UK in the past I thought I still needed to challenge myself here.
�I think I�ve met those challenges and I feel that this will be a new chapter for my family and for my career.�
After helping the Storm claim the 1999 premiership in his first season with the club, Kearney has gone on to become one of rugby league�s greatest servants with a playing record unparalleled.
Kearney has made over 250 NRL appearances � the record for a New Zealand born player - and shares the record for the most international rugby league games having represented the Kiwis 45 times.
In his second season as Storm skipper Kearney, who will move to Hull with his wife and two young daughters, spent much time deliberating over the decision to leave the Storm at the end of the season.
�Obviously it�s a big career move with respect to taking the family to Britain, so with that in mind a lot of thought has gone into the decision,� said Kearney, who was the youngest ever skipper of his country at age 21.
�We are really looking at it as a new and exciting challenge and for me and my family it�s about making the best career move at this particular time in my career, if we go over there thinking it�s not the right move then it will be tough, but that won�t be the case.�
While a move to the English Super League is imminent, Kearney�s focus is solely on the Storm�s aspirations for the remainder of the 2004 Telstra Premiership season.
�Obviously there will be issues to address with the move to Britain but at the moment I�m totally committed to what I have to do as a leader of this side, he said.
�As always my focus is on making sure this team puts in the performance it is capable of each week and even more so I�m focused on getting right for Saturday night�s match.�
Kearney�s decision to join Hull was enhanced by the prospect of linking up with former Storm teammate and close friend Richard Swain who has been with the English club since the start of the year.
�I keep in contact with Richard quite a bit and he assures me that the club is very similar to us here at the Storm with a hardworking group. That was certainly a considerable factor,� he explained.
According to Kearney, the Storm�s depth is strong enough to cover his loss for the 2005 season and beyond.
�I feel supremely confident that I will be leaving my Storm jumper in very capable hands�the young guys coming through here are exceptional so I�ve no doubt that they�ll take up the jumper accordingly,� Kearney added.
Storm coach Craig Bellamy paid tribute to Kearney�s professionalism and his ability to lead the club despite battling ongoing groin and hamstring injuries recently.
�We wish Steve all the best, he�s been a wonderful player for the club, he�s been a wonderful help to me as a captain and as long as it�s the best decision for him and his family, we�re very happy for him,� Bellamy said.
�Steve manages his injuries probably better than anyone I�ve ever seen before, he puts a lot of time and effort into his preparation and I think he probably could have had another year here but hopefully for his sake he�ll get another two or three in England.
�All good things come to and end but he is still keen to play football and I�m sure he will do a great job over there with Hull - he�ll be welcome back here any time.�
Melbourne chief executive Frank Stanton echoed Bellamy�s admiration, highlighting the Storm skipper�s professionalism on and off the field.
�Steve will be a difficult person to replace because he�s such a role model for other players, his playing record speaks for itself and his standing in the game speaks for itself,� Stanton said.
�I�m quite delighted that he has been able to secure the situation that he has at this stage of his career and I�m sure that down the track he will achieve success in whatever role he chooses as either a coach or, due to his extensive business studies, as an administrator.�
TODAY, the Stop the Rot Team was joined by prominent Tiger fans united in their resolve to Stop the Rot and Save Leichhardt Oval.
PARRAMATTA chief executive Denis Fitzgerald has proposed a one-month "trading window" as a solution to the debate over the controversial June 30 anti-tampering deadline.
SPORTSODDS NRL TEAMS & PREVIEW - ROUND 19
(Teams subject to change)
16 July ? 18 July 2004
(AEST times unless stated otherwise)
Fri 7:30pm: ROOSTERS (1st) V DRAGONS (6th)
Sat 5:30pm: PANTHERS (5th) V RAIDERS (7th)
Sat 7:30pm: COWBOYS (10th) V EELS (11th)
Sat 7:30pm: WESTS TIGERS (12th) V STORM (4th)
Sun 2:00pm (NZ) 12:00pm (AEST): WARRIORS (15th) V RABBITOHS (13th)
Sun 2:30pm: SHARKS (8th) V BULLDOGS (2nd)
Sun 3:00pm: KNIGHTS (9th) V BRONCOS (3rd)
ST.GEORGE-ILLAWARRA CEO Peter Doust has provided Red V members with a brief update on the permanent lighting issue at OKI Jubilee Stadium (14/07/2004). According to Doust, the Dragons made an attempt to secure Federal Government funding for this key improvement in September2003. To date, the Dragons have had little success and it doesn't appearthat there is a clear plan to pursue the funding.Red V members were informed that the club had intended to install the lights themselves in late 2003. However, Kogarah Council reportedly asked the Dragons to delay the installation until after the Council elections in March this year. The Dragons have now delayed the possibility of installing the lights themselves as the St.George Leagues Club wants to gauge the impact of the new poker machine tax on its financial position.On a positive note, Doust mentioned that the Dragons are looking to introduce a "Master Development Plan" that will aim to attract funding for the lights and additional seating from the Federal Government. It's a pity that this plan wasn't designed and implemented following the 2003 season. A plan of this nature would have been timely with the 2004 Federal election.Supporters should be concerned that OKI Jubilee Stadium wasn't guaranteed 50% of home matches beyond 2005. If the joint venture is to continue, it is only equitable that Kogarah gains 50% of home games from 2006. St.George based supporters have been patient throughout the post-2002 period as WIN has automatically been granted a minimum of 7 home matches per year. It would be an unacceptable outcome if Kogarah doesn't gain at least 50% of home games from2006 onwards.It was also hinted that Kogarah might only gain 4 matches next season. It appears that a feature match against Souths at the SCG may be considered and that this match could be deducted fromKogarah's allocation of home games.R2K will actively oppose any scenario that doesn't guarantee OKI Jubilee Stadium a minimum of 50% of home games beyond 2005. R2K opposes any move in 2005 to take another NRL match away from the St.George district. In other news, the joint venture licence with the NRL has been extended until 2011. The Dragons admitted that the licence would revert back to St.George if Illawarra were to exit the joint venture, subject to NRL approval.
SOME of the NRL?s leading players have thrown their support behind the current June 30 anti-tampering deadline ? setting up a battle with club and league officials looking to change the system.
HULL winger Colin Best is to join Australian club St George-Illawarra Dragons for next season.
The 25-year-old, who has scored 51 tries in his two years at Hull, said last week that he was leaving the club.
SACKED New Zealand-born Cronulla rugby league player Jason Williams remains in custody following a brief appearance on assault charges at the Sydney Local District Court in Sydney today.
MITSUBISHI Electric Bulldogs explosive winger Matt Utai has forced his way back into the top grade after a number of outstanding performances for the Bulldogs Premier League team. Utai will come into the side on the wing for this Sunday's match against the Sharks at Toyota Park in place of Ben Harris who is relegated to Premier League.
IN the biggest rugby league fan poll ever conducted by the NRL?s official publication Big League, fans have indicated unprecedented support for the Storm to stay in Melbourne despite calls for the club to relocate as part of a proposed 16th NRL team.
PENRITH will have virtually their full strength side on the field against the Canberra Raiders this Saturday after Queensland forward Ben Ross was tonight cleared of a striking charge by the NRL judiciary.