FEW clubs can look back on a split second and lament what might have been had fate not cruelled them, like the Newcastle Knights.
SEASON 2004 may appear to have been another failure for the Cronulla Sharks, but on the bright side at least Sharks players and fans started to enjoy their footy again.
SYDNEY Airport Jets front-rower James Stosic has won the club's most prestigious award, the VB Premier League best and fairest award for 2004. Stosic joined the Newtown club this year following seasons in the New Zealand Bartercard Cup competition and with the Canberra Raiders and Queensland Cup club Redcliffe. He set the highest standards with his tireless on-field workrate, his application to fitness, training and personal professionalism, and has deservedly earned himself a full-time NRL contract with the Cronulla Sharks for 2005.
The Sydney Airport Jets 2004 Presentation Night was staged last Friday night at Steve Bowden's palatial Hurstville Ritz Hotel. Bowden, a former Newtown first grade front-rower and NSW representative, is a generous club sponsor and he and his staff spared no effort in making the Presentation Night a total success, both in the quality of the venue and the excellence and abundance of the catering.
The other Sydney Airport Jets award winners were as follows -
THE Rhinos booked their place in the Tetley?s Super League Grand Final with a dominant performance against Wigan, winning 40-12 at Headingley thanks in part to Marcus Bai?s hat trick.
NORTH Queensland Cowboys fullback Matt Bowen is on the brink of being selected for his first test debut.
MATT Orford capped off a stellar season tonight by claiming the Storm?s coveted Player of the Year Award at the 7th annual Melbourne Storm Presentation Ball in front of over 600 guests at Melbourne?s Crown Entertainment Complex.
WESTS Tigers will play three trial matches in the build-up to the 2005 National Rugby League kick-off in March.
ST George Illawarra halfback Mathew Head has won the prestigious 2004 Integral Energy Dragons Medal at a formal presentation at the WIN Entertainment Centre, Wollongong, tonight.
FUTURE Welsh stars of Rugby's Super League may be on show this Sunday when Wales take on Ireland in their European Nations Cup opener at Aberavon RFC (kick-off 2.30pm) writes Ian Golden.
This is because Wales will have its own professional Rugby League side by 2006 and will compete in Rugby League's National League Two.
The team will be known as the "Welsh Warriors" and will play their home matches at Bridgend RFC's Brewery Field, which was the site of a professional Bridgend Rugby League Club in the early 1950s.
But Chris O'Callaghan, who has recently resigned from Aberavon Rugby Union Club to set up this new Welsh initiative explains that the Warriors may start playing as early as next year. He comments, "The financial backing is there and we are ready to go in 2006 when National League Two expands. However one of the current NL2 clubs, Chorley Lynx, are in some financial trouble and should they not be able to continue as a club in 2005, we may be ready to step in."
Welsh Development Officer, Wayne Williams, adds, "For the very first time, we have a solid infrastructure to support a professional side. We have seven established amateur clubs who are winning trophies on a regular basis, a successful Welsh amateur side who have won the Home Nations title three years in a row, two university sides, a national students side who won this year's Student Home Nations as well as over 40 schools sides. All these teams will support and provide players to the Warriors and with the quality of talent that I and thousands of others have seen this year, I see no reason why this new side can't compete in Super League within a few years."
With the Warriors starting off in National League Two, it will only take two promotion seasons for the likes of Wigan, St Helens, Bradford and Leeds to be visiting South Wales on a regular basis but for now, Welsh sports fans can see Super League talent as well as the best of South Wales' young rising stars at Aberavon on Sunday. The Welsh Rugby League have named a squad of 23 for the matches against Ireland and Scotland, which contains a healthy mixture of youth and experience that will hopefully lead the Dragons into the final in Warrington on Sunday 7 November.
The team will be captained by Castleford's Damien Gibson while other Super League players in the squad are Hefin O'Hare, Adam Hughes, Bryn Powell and Steve Thomas, who is the grandson of the legendary JBG 'Bryn' Thomas former principal of sports writer for the Western Mail newspaper.
The squad also contains six players who are currently playing or have played for Welsh Rugby League clubs. Former Cardiff Demons players, Aled James and John Breakingbury will both be challenging for a starting role with Torfaen Tigers' Damien Hudd, Bridgend Blue Bulls' Kevin Ellis, Nathan Strong and Lenny Woodard and Aberavon Fighting Irish's Neil Davies and Mark Burke all in the 23.
O'Callaghan is especially delighted to see 19-year old Burke making a big impact so quickly commenting, "Mark is an outstanding talent and this was recognised by former Great Britain coach David Waite two years ago whilst playing for the Wales schools against England. Since then he has won Man of the Match Awards for Wales under 19s, for West Wales in the Origin Match and for the Wales A v England in their Home Nations Championship win at Coventry on September 12th. It's players like him that are the future of Welsh Rugby League."
Law student Burke is relinquishing his studies for one year to play on trial with Perpignan in the French Rugby League, prior to returning to England for trials with both Leeds Rhinos and St Helens in the new year.
Sunday's match will be preceded by a Welsh Presidents XIII v Combined Services XIII (kick-off 12.30pm). Expected to playing are 17-year olds Gareth Owen, Daniel Phillips and 16-year old Lee Williams. All three Aberavon Fighting Irish players have been on trial with St Helens this year with Gareth already contracted to the Saints Junior Academy Squad for 2005.
Wales (from): Damien Gibson (Castleford Tigers), Hefin O?Hare (Huddersfield Giants), Kris Tassell (Unattached), Adam Hughes (Widnes Vikings), Bryn Powell (Salford City Reds), Mark Lennon (Manly Warringah Sea Eagles), Ian Watson (Oldham), Damien Hudd (Torfaen Tigers), Dave Clarke (Barrow Raiders), Anthony Farrell (Halifax), Gareth Dean (Workington), Jordan James (Sheffield Eagles), Barry Pugh (Barrow Raiders), Aled James (Sheffield Eagles), Steve Thomas (London Broncos), Nathan Strong (Bridgend Blue Bulls), Tom Brown (Coventry RFC), Lewis Taylor (Leeds Rhinos), Neil Davies (Aberavon Fighting Irish), Kevin Ellis (Bridgend Blue Bulls), Mark Burke (Aberavon Fighting Irish), John Breakingbury (Sheffield Eagles), Lenny Woodard (Bridgend Blue Bulls).
CAN'T make the Pacific Cup in Auckland? Well why not come along to the Oceanic Pacifica Rugby League Tournament? What is this you ask?
ENGLISHMAN Russell Smith was agreed upon as the referee for the Kiwis-Kangaroos match at North Harbour Stadium on Saturday despite Australia's refusal to accept him in the past.
FOUR Australian players are set to make their debuts for their country in the opening Tri Nations rugby league Test against New Zealand in Auckland on Saturday.
THE Kangaroos have laid down the challenge a week out from their clash with the Kiwis.
THE Dolphins A grade side this weekend faces a backs to the wall assignment when they take on their bogey side Easts at Langlands Park. And Coach Bertie Campbell wouldn?t have it any way. He will have his fired up and ready to play. But emotion won?t last long and Campbell will have devised a game plan that will take his A grade side to their third successive grand final if they ececute it correctly. As they say you only have to beat a team once in a season and that?s when it matters and for the Dolphins that's this weekend.
Much will depend on the Redcliffe pack who were written off by everbody at the start of the finals series but stood up to be counted against Norths a fortnight ago in the knockout semi final at Bishop Park. Mark Brown and Russell McDonald will get the side going forward and back the back row of Smith O?Grady and Burley will feed of that go forward. Classy five-eighth Scott Kelly will lead them around them the park.
The bench is where the game could be won and lost and the Dolphins will lose nothing when their starting players come off for a spell Ron Poll in only his second or third game this season will get in the middle and do the hard yards while the creative Sam Fillery may well hold the key with his clever kicking and passing game. Charles Vis after a stint on the sideline with a hamstring problem will be looking to make every post a winner before heading off to join the Cowboys and I expect Charles to get plenty of match time and to have a big influence on the outcome of the game. Daniel Jones born with red and white blood flowing through veins will be looking for a big game after missing last years grand final win with injury.
Eighteen year old half back Wayne Bond will again be a target for the Easts side but will not worry the talented youngster. I feel if the Redcliffe pack can hold the Easts pack they have the backline that can win them the game. They have speed to burn with Joel Barnes, Liam Georgetown out wide and Maddison Murphy and Lyndon Nagas can find a try out of nothing and with the inspirational Chris Bond at fullback I think the Dolphins can win the game and upset more fancied Tigers.
The full side is
1. Chris Bond
2. Lyndon Nagas
3. Maddison Murphy
4. Joel Barnes
5. Liam Georgetown
6. Scott Kelly
7. Wayne Bond
8. Russell McDonald
9. Nathan Black
10. Mark Brown
11. Duane O?Grady
12. Quin Smith
13. Joe Burley ?
14. Sam Fillery
15. Ron Poll
16. Charles Vis
17. Daniel Jones
Coach Robert Campbell