WHAT a Crock!Well I predicted the New Zealand team would put in a real fight against the Kangaroos last week and I (and many other fans) were proven completely wrong. This of course is a good thing as I have green and gold running through my veins, but I think there was more to it than my mere misjudgement. I?ve been led to believe that the Australian team secretly threw the Tri-Nations final to get like minded fans hopes up of a close contest this year. Of course the Kiwis were in on this too, playing out of their skins last year only to ?allow? the Kangaroos to flog them 50-12 last week.Wait! What am I thinking believing such stupid conspiracy theories. I must be hanging around Michael Crocker too much!Yes Crocker has caused the controversy of the week by reacting to his nine week ban by blaming everyone bar Warnie for the severity of his punishment. He has also done a fair job (alongside Mark Gasnier) of deflecting much needed promotion from the City vs Country clash.There are two things to consider in the Crocker case. Firstly he has put himself in a situation where he committed an illegal act where it was possible he could have seriously hurt another player. Basically you can?t go running onto a freeway and not accept there?s a chance you?ll get hit. Secondly the fact that Shane Rigon was uninjured should be a positive result for Crocker. He can continue his playing career knowing he hasn?t caused serious injury to a fellow player.Crocker?s bleating about his punishment seems to totally overlook these two facts. Sure I?d admit that Crocker?s tackle was definitely an accident, and his punishment is on the harsher side of fair, but whinging won?t do anything about that. Imagine being caught speeding and telling the officer that you didn?t mean to speed and you?d prefer it if you could choose your own punishment. I wouldn?t expect a positive response.But for Crocker to then suggest the whole scenario has been a NSW conspiracy to ensure he doesn?t play in the this year State of Origin series suggests he might be fending off the men in the white coats in the not too distant future. Judiciaries must make decisions based on the well-being of players, and the good of the game. They know being too soft on spear tackles will place Rugby League players in danger. I?m assuming Crocker doesn?t want anyone in the game with a spinal injury, nor would he be satisfied if he or others received ?special treatment? by the judiciary because they were due to play in an upcoming rep series. In his absurd rant this week Crocker laid his cards on the table - he?s willing to blame anyone to mask his disappointment in missing out on this years State of Origin series. It makes you realise how previous offenders such as Luke McDougall and Clint Newton have emerged with dignity by taking responsibility for their actions.While it?s one thing for a hot headed player to carry on about how the world is against him, it?s a genuine concern when his club boss supports his complaints. Brian Waldron should have kept his mouth shut. If he truly believes his club is discriminated against then he is smart enough to know this was not the forum to air his grievances. In fact he has most likely done more damage with his comments than good. Yes in the AFL the Sydney Swans and Brisbane Lions receive salary cap concessions and extra marketing, but they didn?t receive this support through unprofessional comments at press conferences. They have garnered support in what has been a gradual process.The poor choices Waldron and Crocker have made this week have possibly lost more allies then they have gained. I for one support the idea of increased support to teams in non-traditional regions, and have up until this point been impressed with Waldron?s business sense and persistence. However since he has blamed seemingly everyone for the Storm?s shortcomings (being from NSW I assume I?m part of ?the conspiracy?) I can?t help but think that I can find better things to do than worry about the state of the game in Victoria. A real concern south of the border is whether fringe fans, sponsors and political leaders may soon start to feel the same way.
THERE?S an old Meatloaf song that goes something like ?two out of three aint bad?. Well that?s what I was thinking last Saturday night as I dropped the Raiders v Parra clash but managed to keep the points from the other two games intact. I was pretty happy and looking forward to Sunday where I thought 6 from 7 was a real possibility.But oh, how wrong was I? I failed to pick another single winner and limped into work with 2 for the week, tail firmly planted between my legs. 39/63 (62%) is a fairly average score now in comparison to last week and I?ve got some soul searching to do.City v CountryWe start the week with our second representative fixture of the season as the Country boys take on City on their home turf out at Dubbo. With NSW State of Origin positions up for grabs there is sure to be a few players keen to have a good game as we showcase Rugby League in the bush.These ones are always hard to pick and with players such as Fitzgibbon, Hornby, Kite, Thompson, Anasta, Orford and Gower all keen to press their claims, this hit-out could prove to be a great selection trial.Based off the strength of their halves I think the City team will come away with a win and it should provide an interesting insight as to who the NSW halves will be. Personally, I think an Orford/Gower combination would work well, and I?d stay away from Finch or Zoolander as neither is playing the type of footy that warrants a sky blue jersey.Dragons v WarriorsSuper Saturday kicks off in the ?Gong where the Dragons play New Zealand in what?s sure to be a physical encounter.Saints have lost a number of key personnel and as a result have a somewhat young team on the field. With Ryles, Bailey and Sims out of the game through a variety of reasons, the team may be hindered, but the likes of Barrett, Gasnier and Cooper should ask plenty of questions out wide for New Zealand.The Warriors are coming off the bye in round 9 following a loss to the Bulldogs in disappointing circumstances and travel to Wollongong looking for their first win since 1996 at the ground. I just don?t think they?ve got it in them this time around with some of the selections quite strange. Fien, who?s been playing well, finds himself at hooker as Rovelli goes into the halfback role. I?m a fan of the youngster, but I think he?s better off at five-eighth, where Ropati has been named for this match. Toopi has also been dropped to the bench.The Dragons should have too much for the Warriors here and will keep their unbeaten record at WIN Stadium.Storm v CowboysA top of the table clash awaits us after we?ve wiped the saliva from our mouths following the first game of the night. North Queensland set out on the NRL?s second longest road trip and wind up in Melbourne to take on the Storm.Unfortunately, suspension has dulled this one with Crocker?s spear tackle earning him a nice long stint on the sideline with team mate Billy Slater. Other than those two players though, the Storm field a strong line-up and will push the Cowboys at Olympic Park. They have displayed some great skills lately with Hill and Geyer both leading the way.It?s hard to resist the Cowboys here however, as they seemed to barely break into a sweat against the Panthers last week. Whilst they?ve been a bit down on the form they showed at the beginning of the season, North Queensland will have too much for a competitive Storm outfit, with Southern, Webb and Norton all starting for the visitors in what should be an entertaining game.Broncos v Sea EaglesLast year this game was held in very similar circumstances after the Sea Eagles came out and demanded respect as a contender in the comp. Things ended abruptly though, with Brisbane dishing out one of their famous footballing lessons to a team who did their level best to incite a riot. I don?t think the result will be any different to last year, but there are a few concerns in both camps. Brisbane should have beaten Newcastle last week and I bet they know it. Benny would have been into them after the game, telling them it was the one that got away. I was convinced they?d win the match in the dying stages and I think they?re out to make up for the loss this week. Hodges is still playing terrific footy and with Webcke and Civoniceva calling the shots upfront, it?s hard to look past Brisbane. Lockyer also looks more at ease.Manly should be fired up and ready to go this week but they also have the potential scratching of Ben Kennedy from the team. With this in mind I am favouring Brisbane to take care of the visitors with Orford, Kite and Watmough backing up from Friday night.Bulldogs v EelsA good old-fashioned grudge match is the next cab off the rank, as two teams with plenty of history go at it down at League Headquarters.The Doggies won in a canter last week against Easts who started the game on fire only to fizzle out. Despite four important players backing up last week, Canterbury put the Roosters away and only have captain Andrew Ryan involved in the Dubbo stoush this round. There are a couple of unfamiliar names in the Canterbury backline but they?ve been getting away with it here and there lately. The pack is where Canterbury?s strength is though with O?Meley, Mason, Asotasi and workhorse Grimaldi all involved.The Eels are a totally different story as they stagger about trying to recapture the sort of form that saw them win last year?s Minor Premiership. They appear to be battling mental scars as well as physical ones, but have listed a strong line-up for this match. With Morris back I think the Eels will go better but I just can?t see them getting up here even though the only player they have backing up is Dean Widders. If the Eel?s pack fire this week they could trouble the Doggies, but my feeling is that Canterbury will run over the top of Parra.Tigers v KnightsNewcastle jump on the F3 and head off to Campbelltown as the Tigers play host in the West. I?d expect a big crowd down there as it?s not often the Knights travel to these parts. The last time was in 2003 and the Tigers have knocked them off in their last 3 games there.It?s a totally different set of circumstances this week though. Joey is fit and will be looking to dominate this clash. Kurt Gidley will be backing up but for the most part Newcastle take the field with the same team they did last week against the Broncos. This should give them a good base to work with, although they will suffer through Newton?s omission.Tim Sheens has finally conceded to my pleas to move makeshift lock Jamaal Lolesi to the five-eighth?s role after several experimentations in that position. Marshall will come on at some stage to take over but I really think Lolesi was wasted in the forwards. There?s no doubt Wests will make a game of this one as they start to get most of their players back on the field and begin to move up the ladder.But I?m going for the Knights - I backed against them last week and it cost me, so I?ll learn from my mistakes.Raiders v SharksWe travel to the Nation?s capital next as the in-form Sharks test out big game hunters the Canberra Raiders.I was pleasantly surprised by the form of Canberra last week and that?s a major reason as to why I?m tipping them this week. They looked really good against the Eels and although they slowed down a bit in the second half, they have proven to me this season that they are a side which never gives up and can jag a win when hope seems lost.Likewise, the Sharks are playing great footy and deserve plenty of respect. But I?m worried about their penetration now that Dykes is injured. Simmons, Thompson and Gallen are all backing up which will test them for sure. Ironically, people were wondering what would happen to Dykes when Kimmorley came back, so I think we?ve solved that mystery.Despite their recent good form, I?m going to take the Raiders in this one. It?s at home and they have no one in the City v Country, giving them some extra fresh legs. It?s going to be close and while the Sharks can win, I just think the Raiders play to their potential each week and this should get them over the line on Sunday.Panthers v RabbitohsHere it is Souths fans, the day you?ve all been waiting for. I suggest you get on the train out to Penrith and have a look at your team this week as I?m sure this will be their first victory for the season.Penrith have seven players backing up from City v Country and will be a bit tired come Sunday. Besides which, their form of late has been atrocious, slumping to four losses in a row. Gordon on the wing is untested and Aiton on the bench must be there to cover Priddis in case he fails to make it through the game. But I?m not particularly impressed by their line-up.On the other hand I think the Rabbitohs look great this week. MacDougall at fullback will prove enigmatic and their pack looks capable of taking the Panthers forwards apart. Fa?alogo and Galuvao will be explosive with Cusack providing some much needed stability. The Bunnies will take home the chocolates here.The Roosters have the bye this weekend and could probably use a spell to sort out their heads. After a great win in Townsville they capitulated to the Bulldogs after taking a healthy lead early on in proceedings. They have the Rabbitohs next week and there?s sure to be some feeling in that one.
WHEN a Newcastle Knights scout was sent to see Akuila Uate play for Woy Woy on the NSW Central Coast he reported back: "I have just seen the next Lote Tuqiri".Uate, who placed third in the Australian U-16s 100-metres final a few years ago, is now the fastest player at the Knights, and may soon be the fastest player in rugby league.In 2005 he played just eight games, mostly off the bench, in the Knights SG Ball (U-18s) side, and scored only one try, but the tall, athletic winger sufficiently impressed to be named in the Australian Schoolboys side.During the off season he played and trained with the Fiji A side, and was widely tipped to play for Fiji Bati, but had to withdraw due to preseason commitments for the Knights.This year he has played the first eight games with the Knights' undefeated Jersey Flegg (U-20s) side, and is the top try scorer for the team with seven from eight games.Last week he continued his amazing rise by playing Premier League after just 16 games in the Knights juniors, and scored a try on debut. To cap off his week, he has just been named in the NSW U-19s side to play Queensland in the curtain raiser to State of Origin I.Aku Uate has height, natural athleticism and blazing speed as well as an amazing step. If he continues his outstanding progress he should be an established first grader by 2008, and may well be one of the stars of the World Cup playing for FIJI.
GAME Two of the European Nations Qualification Tournament for the 2008 Rugby League World Cup kicks off this Saturday when Serbia plays hosts to Georgia in Belgrade.In what will only be the second encounter between the two nations, Serbia will be looking to improve upon their result from last year which saw them leave Dynamo Stadium in Tiblisi 44 ? 12 runners up. Serbia?s squad is expected to be similar to the team that recently took on the touring English Lionhearts (made up of players from the Rugby League Conference and National League III in the United Kingdom) in April, whilst Georgia, will again be an unknown quantity right up till kick off. The significant preparation Serbia have taken in the lead up to the clash, including hosting the Lionhearts and a number of the top Russian Rugby League clubs will make them difficult opponents for the Georgians, who have not played an international since last years European Nations Cup, however with greater player depth and size, it will be unlikely that the visitors wont leave victorious. Georgia and Serbia join Russia and Holland in the Qualification tournament, in which the two highest placed nations at the end of the round-robin competition will join Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Lebanon in the main European Qualification event to be held later this year.Source: www.arldevelopment.com.au
SOUTHS LOGAN v REDCLIFFEBrandon Park, Saturday May 13, 3.00pm.Referee: Justin DavisTHE STORY: Souths Logan has been left bruised and battered by last week?s 24-all draw with Burleigh. The Magpies have lost ace hooker Cameron Joyce (ankle), while Derek Fletcher and Matt Templeman will undergo fitness tests. Redcliffe is still without dangerous custodian Ryan Cullen.THE STAT:Redcliffe?s lowest score against Souths Logan in its last five games has been 42 points. In comparison the Magpies highest score against the Dolphins over the same period is 16 points.THE STAR: Kaine Manihera makes his Wizard Cup debut on the wing for Redcliffe. The strapping Kiwi was brought to Dolphin Oval at the behest of the Brisbane Broncos, but found himself in a logjam of talent as Redcliffe won its first six games.CHANGES: SOUTHS LOGAN ? In: Damian Willis. Out: Cameron Joyce.REDCLIFFE ? In: Kaine Manihera, Damian Jentz. Out: Darren Glase, Mark Christensen.CHARGES: SOUTHS LOGAN ? Matt Templeman (Grade 1 Dangerous Throw, Early Plea, 0wks + 93pts).Souths Logan Magpies 1. Quentin LAULU-TOGAGAE 2. Tyrone COPPEDGE 3. Michael ANSCHAU 4. Justin HOGGART 5. Derek FLETCHER 6. Brandon COSTIN 7. Josh ESSEX13. Tim CANNARD12. Matt TEMPLEMAN11. Angus MARTIN10. Josh GRIFFITH 9. Chad TRUDGETT 8. Stanley FAUInterchange: 14. Geno COSTIN15. Chris McGURK16. Adrian MALONEY17. Damian WILLISCoach: Mark GLIDDON Redcliffe Dolphins 1. Alwyn SIMPSON 2. Kaine MANIHERA 3. Greg BOURKE 4. Nick EMMETT 5. Rory BROMLEY 6. Chris FOX 7. Marty TURNER13. Gerard PARLE12. Danny BURKE11. Grant FLUGGE10. Pat GARDNER 9. Michael ROBERTS 8. Troy LINDSAY (c)Interchange: 14. Mark SHIPWAY15. Damian JENTZ16. Adam STARR17. Shannon FISHCoach: Anthony GRIFFIN
FIVE Redcliffe Dolphins have named in the South East Division A Grade side winger Kaine Manihera, centre Pat McGill, hooker Scott Gillis, second rower Richie Russell and prop Dominic Fallini. "It's a testament to all the hard work theses guys have done up to this point. it's a good reward" Dolphins CEO James Hinchey said today. "It's great, all these guys are pressing hard for Queensland Cup spots, it's one of the reason the top side is going well is because of the pressure coming from these guys below" Head Coach Anthony Griffin said. The Dolphins also had one player Brent Warr selected in the South East Division under 14 squad as well as eight in the Brisbane under 18 side. Rhys Cooke, Soloman Fonoti, Jeremy Fuller, Liufau Hala, Adam Marr, Jack Reed, Andrew Rickert, Tamo Tikinau and Jack Webb. Colts coach Craig Ingebrigtsen said " It's great for these guys to be recognised for all the good work they have been doing I expect some of these guys to make the step up to Colts by the end of the year".The Dolphins Colts side will be missing three players to the South East under 17 side this week for the clash against Souths who are also heavily effected with under 17 and 19 state trials on this weekend. David Hala, Joel Romelo, Asher Elemani and under 17 player Matt Lennon are the Dolphins selected and the side is coached by the Dolphins Queensland Cup assistant coach Paul White. We wish all the boys the best of luck.
A mixed bag for the Dolphins last weekend at Dolphin Oval with the Colts finishing with a draw, the A grade a solid win while the Wizard Cup side?s winning run was ended by the Clydesdales.
MELBOURNE CEO Brian Waldron has no regrets about his costly outbursts and will schedule a meeting with Channel Nine boss Eddie McGuire in a bid to gain more coverage for his publicity-starved NRL club.The Storm was yesterday fined $15,000 for series of broadsides at the NRL from Waldron, coach Craig Bellamy and forward Michael Crocker over the lengthy suspension handed to the former Test forward.But an unrepentant Waldron denied the spray was a publicity stunt and again took aim at administrators for not doing enough to promote the game in Victoria.
NEWCASTLE captain Andrew Johns has formally requested to step down from representative football in a letter penned to the Australian Rugby League.Johns played his farewell Test in Australia's 50-12 victory against New Zealand last Friday, but needed to put in an official written request in order to stand down from representative duty. In a letter to ARL chief executive Geoff Carr, the 31-year-old says his body is no longer up to the rigours of playing for NSW and Australia.Meanwhile, Country lock Craig Fitzgibbon is desperate to force his way into a NSW Origin jumper with a barnstorming performance against City after revealing this could be his last year of representative football.Fitzgibbon, who is likely to play in the traditional clash on Friday night despite battling an ankle injury, said 2006 could be his last chance to wear the sky blue jersey. The veteran of 15 Tests and eight Origin matches says he'll review whether to continue his representative career at the end of the season.
A New Zealand-Great Britain rugby league match to be played in England in June has been stripped of Test status.The New Zealand Rugby League has downgraded the game after facing what it describes as an "uphill battle" to pick its top players from the NRL. British coach Brian Noble is still expected to field his strongest side for the match, to be played at St Helens on June 27.The nucleus of the New Zealand side will be drawn from British Super League clubs with halfback Stacey Jones expected to return from a broken arm. Parramatta five-eighth Jeremy Smith is one player from the southern hemisphere confirmed to play.
IN the NRL every week there are things that go unnoticed by the mainstream media. Perhaps it is because there are politics involved or perhaps they are simply bad judges. Here are three things that are happening in the NRL right now which have either been glossed over or simply missed or for no apparent reason.
WE?VE got a great mix for this week with plenty of deserving candidates grabbing jerseys. There?s pace, stamina, explosiveness, skill and a few sensible types just for good measure. As always our side is picked on form, so take a butcher?s at the Round 9 League Unlimited Team of the Week.
FOLLOWING a meeting of the RFL Disciplinary Committee in Leeds it was confirmed that Jamie Rooney of Wakefield Trinity Wildcats had been found guilty of striking in the engage Super League fixture against Salford City Reds last Friday.
BRIAN Noble insists he would like to coach England in the 2008 World Cup in Australia.
ANTHONY Griffin returns to Dolphin Oval older and wiser after five years developing his coaching skills in the National Rugby League hothouse.
A former junior development officer with the Dolphins, Griffin coached the Redcliffe Colts in 1997 before leaving to join the Melbourne Storm umbrella.
With the departure of triple premiership coach Neil Wharton in the off-season, Griffin threw his hat in the ring for the top job at Redcliffe.
"When I heard Neil had resigned, I got in contact with the club and it went from there," Griffin said.
"I knew other guys were putting in for the job, but I fronted for the interview and it went from there.
"It was good to get the job as it's just like coming home. It is that really because Dolphin Oval is where my senior coaching career started. It's great to be back."
In the 2005 Queensland Cup season, Griffin faces the tough task of blending new faces with the core of past campaigners.
Gone are Brian Jellick, Andrew Wynyard, Ben Jones, Trent Leis and Gavin Cooper while the recruiting net has been far and wide to join up and coming youngsters from Colts and A grade.
Griffin also has brought three players from Souths Logan, his previous assignment, in hooker Daniel Irvine, centre Nick Emmett and rookie prop Matt Morice.
Irvine turned out in 30 NRL matches for Parramatta while Emmett, a former Dolphins Colt, also played for the Sydney club.
Griffin said Redcliffe football manager James Hinchey had looked after most of the club's recruiting with the end of the 2004 season.
"We started back training on November 1 and we're looking good," Griffin said. "We are still looking for some outside backs. We have some quality in that spot but not the depth."
Griffin joined the Storm in 1998 with three years at its Brisbane offshoot Norths before going to Melbourne in 2001 as head coach Chris Anderson's assistant.
Anderson left the Storm halfway through the season to be replaced by former Dolphins and Sydney City coach Mark Murray.
Griffin finished his commitments down south at the end of 2002 before joining Souths Logan.
He said many faces were familiar at Dolphin Oval with Hinchey a player during previous stint at the club while Michael Roberts, Grant Flugge and Nathan Herbener members of his Colts squad.
Herbener returned to his hometown of Roma after receiving two sternum fractures at Redcliffe, but has made the most of his time away with selection in the Queensland Rangers side over the past two seasons.
Griffin now runs his own insurance and financial planning business, which although keeping him busy, allows him time for his football commitments.
A resident at The Gap, he also has a family now with two daughters and a son.
"We will be training three days a week - Monday, Wednesday and Friday - as well as the players being required to do a weights session on Thursdays," he said.
Griffin believes the Queensland Cup has become stronger over recent seasons.
"The competition has gone ahead in leaps and bounds over the past four to five years," he said.
"I think it's because of the professionalism of the clubs and the quality of their players, as well as players who have come back from the NRL.
"The NSW Premier League might be quicker and the skills better, but it is not played in the same spirit as the intensity is not as high."