FRESH from his stint as assistant coach to Wayne Bennett in the Tri-Nations series, Melbourne Storm leader Craig Bellamy is now the coach of the Country Representative side.
THE Bulldogs will be looking forward to a bright new era in 2005. As reigning champions they don?t need to change much on the field, but they would like to avoid another year of dramas off it.
WHILST coach Tony Rea rested a number of players ahead of the start of Super League next week, it was the wise heads and goal-kicking ability of their more experienced players that helped them win the inaugural Metro Challenge Shield.
BOTH of the former Celtic Warriors grounds will host Rugby League clubs in the new Total RL.com RLC Premier Wales competition this season writes Ian Golden.
This is after Welsh Champions Bridgend Blue Bulls announced last week that they will play all bar one of their 2005 home matches at the new home of the Welsh Rugby League, Bridgend RFC's Brewery Field. One match, which has yet to be decided, will be played "on the road" at Maesteg RFC.
Blue Bulls' chairman, Simon Green, comments, "It's great that Leighton Samuel has agreed to let us use the ground and its facilities. This is fantastic news for the club and Rugby League in general."
Their first match will be an eagerly awaited home game against Welsh and National Conference Shield holders, Cardiff Demons on Sunday 1 May.
The Demons, under new coach Anthony Loxton, will still be based at Taff's Well RFC. Their first home match is against Torfaen Tigers on Sunday 15 May and already their fans are looking forward to the big kick-off. Season ticket sales are already almost up to last year's figure and that's only after advertising them to the regular Demons mailing list.
Season tickets are released to the general public this Monday priced at only ?10 for the six home games. To apply, please send a cheque or postal order to 25 Heol-y-Felin, Caerphilly, CF83 1AU or payment can be made via Paypal on the internet to [email protected]
Valley Cougars will open their season with an away match at Newport Titans, their first home game at Sardis Road being against Swansea Valley Miners on Sunday 8 May. Although the Cougars have finished bottom of the Welsh Conference for the past two years, coach Mark Rowley has high hopes for the new campaign.
Rowley said, "We're aiming high this year. We were a lot better side in 2004 than we were in our inaugural season and I know we're going to improve again in 2005. Pontypridd RFC have once again agreed to be our hosts, showing their support for both club and international Rugby League in the valleys. As well as hosting us for the season, Wales are playing England at under 16 level at the ground on Good Friday.
"The response from the local players has also been tremendous but we're always looking to expand. Training starts soon so any players, at both senior and under 16 level, who wants to give Rugby League a try, can phone me on 07968 025916."
Apart from the chance to win domestic and national RLC Premier trophies as well as Wales 'A' caps, the 160+ senior rugby league players in Wales have something else to aim for this season - a professional contract.
Wales Rugby League development officer, Wayne Williams, who has already set up office at the Brewery Field in preparation for the potential National League Two side in 2006, comments, "We'll be looking at every player from every team this season in preparation for 2006. Professional contracts could be up for grabs for the best players. Whether they've played the game in the past or not, 2005 could be the chance for any player to shine and make a name for himself."
The Welsh Grand Final will be at Leckwith Stadium on August 14 or 15 with the winners of this match qualifying for the RLC Premier National Semi-Finals against the winners of the South of England region. The Grand Final of the entire RLC Premier season is set for the Brewery Field in Bridgend on August 28, the day after the Powergen Rugby League Challenge Cup Final at the Millennium Stadium - a fantastic closing weekend to what looks like will be another exciting Welsh Rugby League season.
Regular RLC Welsh Premier Season Fixtures:
SOUTHS Juniors Premier League Team commenced their 2005 campaign last Saturday 5th February 2005 where they took on Orange CYMS.
IT'S been one of the most anticipated starts to a season for years as the Bears camp, having been training six days a week since October 2004, begin their playing season against the Newtown Jets in the first leg of the Frank Hyde Shield.
THE 2004 World Club Champions, Bradford Bulls, launched their 2005 season in style when over 1000 enthusiastic supporters packed into the Hilton Hotel in Bradford to see their heroes receive their shirts for Super League X.
WIGAN Warriors v St Helens in the Engage Super League will have a 12.30pm kick off on Good Friday 25th March 2005 at the JJB Stadium.
THE Sea Eagles players today head to training with a new game to test.
THE draw has been released for the 2005 Sports Oxy-shot League Sevens to be held in Wollongong next week.
WE kick-off the 2005 League Unlimited Team Previews with last seasons wooden spooners The South Sydney Rabbitohs.
WITH Wednesday marking the beginning of the Chinese New Year, hopefully the Year of the Rooster will be one to remember come this October.
BRETT Howland is out for eight weeks following an operation for a groin injury.
PARRAMATTA Eels Head Coach Brian Smith has named the team to play the Warriors in a trial match in New Plymouth on Sunday 13 February 2005.
NZ Bartercard Cup players Toshio Laiseni and Rowan Baxter have earned call-ups for the Vodafone Warriors? first 2005 NRL trial against Parramatta on Sunday.