THE Sydney Airport Jets ended their 2003 NSW Premier League season with a thrilling 32-28 win over the Newcastle Knights, played at Energy Australia Stadium on Sunday in front of a crowd of more than 15,000.
The Jets were away to a wretched start in this match, trailing by 16-0 after as many minutes, and looking straight down the barrel of an end of season rout. Coach Colin Murphy made some judicious on-field changes, as Newtown fought back through tries to winger Alf Duncan, second rower Tony Phillips and centre John Sinisa to go the break all tied up at 16-all.
The second half was notable for an inspired display by half-back and captain Craig Field, who scored two tries, set up another for Sinisa and led by example right through the pulsating second half. Newtown took the lead at 22-16, then faltered badly during a bad patch as the young Knights stormed back to the front by 28-22. Field's second darting try and his precision pass to the pacy Sinisa put the Jets ahead by 32-28 with barely ten minutes remaining, a lead they grimly defended despite some thoroughly anxious moments amid a barrage of Newcastle penalties.
Field was well supported in the backline by strong running centre Dustin Cooper (on loan from the Melbourne Storm), in-form fullback Andrew Le Breton, Alf Duncan and five-eighth and goal kicker Troy Barnes. Lock and former Junior Kiwi Aaron Trinder gave the standout performance of his three seasons with Newtown, and was instrumental in the Jets' first half fightback as he powered through the Knights' defences. Forwards Tony Phillips, Ben Tickle and Josh Annesley also grafted hard. Fellow packmen Joe Lichaa, Monah Elahmad and Aaron Sweeney deserve special mention for returning early from the injured list to make effective contributions to this win.
Newtown's Jim Beam Cup team also ended their 2003 competition commitments on an upbeat note, in recovering from a 24-8 deficit to snatch a 24-all draw with the Windsor Wolves. This match at Henson Park on Saturday certainly lacked nothing by way of intensity and ferocity. Jets five-eighth Craig West and second rower Mark Fakahua scored two tries each, with ex-Newcastle Knight Ryan Milligan scoring a try and kicking two important goals. Half-back Matt Rose was again in superlative form, as he repeatedly tormented the Windsor defenders. All the Newtown forwards worked hard, with Luke Ellis, Andrew Kaleopa and Lee Trasler prominent.
The Sydney Airport Jets players, staff and officials wish to thank all of their generous sponsors who gave such crucial support right throughout the 2003 season, and of course the many Jets fans who all helped to make home games at Henson Park such a unique community Rugby League experience. We'll see you all again for our 97th season in 2004.
ROUND 26 of the ESL brought up some very close matches. Bradford in a nail biting win over the Rhinos have shown themselves worthy of the top spot.
FRIDAY 12th September 2003
CANBERRA v MELBOURNE at Canberra Stadium at 7.35pm.
THE Mitsubishi Electric Bulldogs team line-up as announced last week from Round 26 has been altered for this weeks? 2nd Qualifying Final, with Glen Hughes coming onto the interchange bench and Tony Grimaldi to play Premier League.
MATTHEW Elliott has named his lineup for this Friday's Qualifying Final at Canberra Stadium. Michael Monaghan has been named in the starting side at five-eighth, while James Evans and Alan Tongue have both been named on a six-man bench to be reduced to four on Friday.
THE Newcastle Knights will welcome back captain Ben Kennedy and outstanding NRL rookie, Craig Hall into their team to tackle premiership favourites, Sydney City Roosters this Saturday night at Aussie Stadium.
COACH of the 2003 Minor Premiers , John Lang will have a smile a mile wide with the news that his barnstorming 2nd rower , Joe Galuvao has completely recovered from his leg injury and is at his enthusiastic best in anticipation of this weekends game against the Brisbane Broncos.
RICKY Stuart has a tough decision to make before the Roosters run out in their finals match against the Newcastle Knights this Saturday night - which player to leave out of the 18 man squad that was named today.
BRISBANE Bronco's pair Petero Civoniceva and Andrew Gee have decided against fighting high tackle charges stemming from last weekend?s loss to the St George/Illawara Dragons.
STORM halfback Matt Orford believes Melbourne?s lack of finals experience won?t be a factor in Friday night?s first semi final against the Raiders at Canberra Stadium.
REGULAR skipper Monty Betham returns to the Warriors' starting line-up for this weekend's finals clash against the Bulldogs in Sydney.
THE Sydney Green Brigade have now booked a charter service to Canberra and there are still 13 seats remaining for the 34 seat coach. The bus will be departing Eddy Avenue, Central Station at approximately 3:00 on Friday afternoon and will return to Sydney at the end of the Raiders game.
HAS this year been the best ever for Rugby League? In my humble opinion, it has far surpassed 1994 and I say this as a die-hard Raiders fan. Sure, we may not win the comp this year but we will take some beating, as will the other seven sides contesting the finals series.
THE New Zealand Warriors have been warned to expect a barrage of abuse when they end a three-year exile and return to the Bulldogs' headquarters for Saturday's National Rugby League (NRL) qualifying final.
MELBOURNE have made a habit of changing their captain mid-season but there was nothing amiss when New Zealand veteran Stephen Kearney failed to represent the club at a meeting of National Rugby League (NRL) play-off participants yesterday.