NRL Trials 25-26 February 2006Sat 25 Feb: Raiders 82 - Jim Beam Cup Teams 6Sat 25 Feb: Cowboys 42 - Rabbitohs 0Sat 25 Feb: Storm 58 - Broncos 10Sat 25 Feb: Panthers 26 - Eels 24Sat 25 Feb: Manly 42 - Wests Tigers 18Sat 25 Feb: Knights 22 - Sharks 4Sat 25 Feb: Warriors 24 - Bulldogs 20Sun 26 Feb: Roosters 16 - Dragons 12For a more extensive list of NRL and QRL trials - click here.
THE Sydney Roosters have defeated the St George Illawarra Dragons 16-12 at WIN Stadium this evening in the Dragons second and final pre-season match.Both teams scored three tries with goal kicking being the difference in the wet and slippery conditions. A crowd of 6722 braved the weather and saw a number of players participate with both Nathan Brown and Ricky Stuart using over 20 players throughout the game in an attempt to finalise combinations before the NRL season begins. Representative stars Trent Barrett, Jason Ryles and Braith Anasta were missing from the clash with all expected to the play in the opening round of the Telstra Premiership in less than two weeks.The Dragons started the game well with fullback Clint Greenshields crossing the line in just the third minute after receiving an inside pass from Mark Gasnier. Wes Naiqama was unsuccessful with the conversion.The Roosters then dominated possession for the remainder of the first half scoring the next 16 points to head into the break with the 12 point lead.Centre Ryan Cross scored the opening two tries for the Roosters in the 7th and 35th minutes. Cross finding holes in the Dragons defence on both occasions and taking defenders with him over the line. Craig Fitzgibbon converted the opening try and Amos Roberts was unsuccessful with the conversion after the second.In the final minute before half time Roosters replacement Jamie Soward found himself on the end of a Brett Finch kick to score in the left hand corner with Roberts successful on this occasion making the score 16-4 at half time.While the Roosters were kept scoreless in the second half, Wes Naiqama scored twice for the Dragons with both he and Aaron Gorrell unsuccessful in their conversion attempts.Naiqama?s first try in the 53rd minute was a reward for his defensive efforts in keeping the Roosters trapped inside their own goal line as he crossed the line on the Dragons? second play after the Dragons received the line drop-out.Mark Gasnier broke through the Roosters line on half way and ran through the centre of the field, delivering a pass to the flying Naiqama who scored his second try in the 72nd minute.Coach Brown indicated that he was pleased with the improvement in his side from last weekend, but indicated that there was still work to be done.?There were some good signs out there for us, especially in the first 20 minutes,? said Brown. ?We came through the game injury free and have a good indicating of where we are at and know what needs to be done in readiness for the season.?We lost a bit of direction when we changed some personnel around and we still need to work on our ball control but these are things that we can fix,? added Brown.Stand in skipper Ben Hornby agreed there was room for improvement in the Dragons.?The conditions were not great out there, especially for the halves,? said Hornby. ?But we did some good things and know there is a way to go to where we want to be at?.The Dragons play the Tigers in the opening round of the Telstra Premiership on Friday, March 10.ROOSTERS 16 Tries: Ryan Cross 2, Jamie Soward; Goals Craig Fitzgibbon, Amos Roberts. DRAGONS 12 Tries: Clint Greenshields, Wes Naiqama 2.PREMIER LEAGUEDRAGONS 18 Tries Brett Morris, Beau Ryan 2, Goals Reece Blayney 3 defeated NEWTOWN JETS 12 Tries: Pierce Sapsford, Lelea Paea, Nigel PlumJERSEY FLEGGDRAGONS 30 Tries: Matt Seamark, Dan Hunt, James Keelan, James Grehan, Lewis McPhail; Goals Nathan Wynn 3, Blake Dureau 2. ROOSTERS 28 Tries: Shaun Foley, Sam McCartney, Mitchell Pearce 2, Mitch Aubusson; Goals: Shaun Foley, Jeremy Gordon
TWEED defeat Burleigh in Gold Coast clashIn a fiery encounter, Tweed Heads have defeated the Burleigh Bears 16-10 in a Queensland Cup trial at Carrara Stadium on Saturday.Tweed Heads five-eighth Brad Davis led his team well. Burleigh were let down by a handling errors and a low completion rate.Tweed Heads Seagulls 16 (Nat Barnes 2, Scott Gray tries. Brad Davis 2 goals)defeatedBurleigh Bears 10 (Trent Leis, Jamie Russo tries. Phil Ramage goal)(5:30pm) Carrara Stadium , Gold Coast.Young Guns overcome determined CometsThe North Queensland Young Guns have defeated a gallant Central Comets 20-14 in a Queensland Cup trial in Mackay on Saturday.Following tries to centre Odell Manuel, forward Jade Wogand and winger Jim McConachy, the Comets led their more fancied rivals by 14-4 at half time.Last year's wooden spooners, the Comets looked a chance of causing a pre-season upset. But poor handling let them down in the second half.With a number NRL first graders in their side, the 2005 Queensland Cup champions came back to score 16 unanswered points, the winning try being scored by centre Charles Vis late in the match.NQ Young Guns 20 (Charles Vis, Rod Jensen, Jamie Frizzo, Steve Southern tries. Scott Smith, Mark Henry goals)defeatedCentral Comets 14 (Odell Manuel, Jade Wogand, Jim McConachy tries. Scott Porter goal).(5:00pm) Mackay Junior Rugby League Grounds.Devils thrash Clydesdales in ToowoombaIn sign of things to come, Norths Devils have defeated the Toowoomba Clydesdales 58-10 in a Queensland Cup trial at the Clive Berghofer Stadium on Saturday.The match was a curtain raiser to a Broncos v Storm NRL trial and by coincidence, the Broncos suffered the same scoreline defeat later that night.The understrenghthed Clydesdales were totally outclassed by Norths.Norths second rower Sam Tagataese dominated proceedings with three tries. A Wellington (NZ) junior, Tagataese developed impressively in Queensland before joining the Melbourne Storm feeder club.(5:30pm) Clive Berghofer Stadium.Phillips bags a double as Wynnum down Dolphins in trialWynuum-Manly Seagulls have defeated the Recliffe Dolphins 20-10 in a Queensland Cup trial match at Kougari Oval on Saturday.Wynnum fullback Simon Phillips scored two tries to take the game away from Redcliffe.Wynnnum captain Jimmy Ahmat was rested to allow him more time to recover from an ankle injury. Team mates Royce Simms and John Bruce also sat out the match.Redcliffe forward Troy Lindsay reportedly left the field with a medial ligament strain. Wynnum-Manly Seagulls 20 (Simon Phillips 2, Shaun Daylight, Luke Dalziel-Don tries. Jimmy O'Brien 2 goals)defeatedRedcliffe Dolphins 10 (Pat Gardner, Alwyn Simpson tries. Greg Bourke goal)(7:00pm) Kougari Oval.Easts experience too good for Ipswich Easts Tigers have defeated Ipswich Jets 34-8 in a Queensland Cup trial match at Langlands Park on Saturday.A more experienced outfit, the Easts side were able to run away with the match after leading by just two points at half time. A number of handling errors from Ipswich saw Easts cross for three tries in eight minutes after the break.Easts Tigers 34 (Chris Parker, Ben Smith, Luke Branighan, Brett McPherson, David Wood, Steve Goodhew; Luke Branighan 5 goals)defeatedIpswich Jets 8(7:30pm) Langlands Park.For a more extensive list of NRL and QRL trials - click here.
CASTLEFORD and Catalans Dragons have announced their 20-man squads for Sunday's clash in round three of the engage Super League.Castleford v Catalans Dragons, Sunday February 26, kick-off 15.30Castleford 20-man: Platt, Pryce, Shenton, Dyer, Blanch, Handforth, Kain, Sculthorpe, Henderson, Nutley, Mason, Haughey, Roarty, Bird, Huby, Fletcher, A. Smith, Viane, Fa?aoso, McGoldrick.Catalans Dragons 20-man: Guigue, Murphy, Wilson, Hughes, Verges, Frayssinous, Beattie, Berthezene, Guisset, Hindmarsh, Mounis, Bosc, Rudder, Zitter, Chan, Fellous, Touxagas, Fakir, Casty, Rinaldi.Ref: S GansonThanks to www.superleague.co.uk
WARRINGTON?S pack is bolstered by the return of Australian Chris Leikvoll and the long-serving Mark Hilton but new signings Paul Rauhihi and Rob Parker are still on the sidelines and young second rower Andy Bracek drops out because of illness.Hull have skipper and hooker Richard Swain back from injury but prop Ewan Dowes is still out with hamstring trouble and Liam Higgins is set to continue to deputise.Warrington v Hull, Halliwell Jones Stadium, Saturday February 25, kick-off 6pmWarrington 18-man: Grose, Fa?afili, Martin Gleeson, Kohe-Love, Briers, Sullivan, Leikvoll, Clarke, Hilton, Swann, Wainwright, Noone, Mark Gleeson, Westwood, Wood, Lima, Barnett, Bridge.Hull 18-man: Blacklock, Briscoe, Brough, Carvell, Cooke, Domic, Higgins, R. Horne, King, Lupton, McMenemy, Radford, Raynor, Swain, Thackray, Tony, Whiting, Yeaman.Ref R Silverwood Thanks to www.superleague.co.uk
HARLEQUINS welcome back centre Tyrone Smith, who missed last week?s draw at Bradford through injury, but they are still without last year?s top tryscorer Luke Dorn and skipper Mark McLinden, who have both failed to recover from hamstring injuries. Teenager Tony Clubb is poised to make his home debut.Wakefield give a debut to loan signing Tommy Saxton at centre but they have lost second rower Jamie Field with an ankle injury and young forward Mark Applegarth is in coach Tony Smith?s 18-man squad.Harlequins RL v Wakefield, The Twickenham Stoop Saturday February 25, kick-off 3pmHarlequins RL 18-man: Bradley-Qalilawa, Gafa, Haumono, Heckenberg, Hopkins, Leuluai, Lolohea, Lucky Luisi, Mbu, Mills, Purdham, Smith, Sykes, Temata, Tookey, Weisner, Williams, Clubb.Wakefield 18-man: Halpenny, Demetriou, Whittle, Tadulala, Jeffries, Obst , Griffin, March, Korkidas, Solomona, Betham, White, MacGillivray, Elima, Henderson, Applegarth, Catic, Saxton.Ref I Smith Thanks to www.superleague.co.uk
LIKELY squad: Clinton Schifcofske, Marshall Chalk, Craig Frawley, Jermaine Ale, Phil Graham, Jason Smith, Todd Carney, Michael Weyman, Simon Woolford, Troy Thompson, Alan Tongue, Josh Miller, Jason Croker, Interchange: Dane Tilse, Tom Learoyd-Lars, Andrew Lomu, Lincoln WithersStrengths:Despite Canberra not having the best team in the competition on paper they still have quality players in key positions. Schifcofske, Smith, Woolford and rising star Todd Carney all provide a solid nucleus for the Raiders to work with and if they can work with the speed in the backline it could push the Raiders.They have a young forward pack. Michael Weyman is one of the better junior props going around and while being injury-plagued, has the talent to do anything. Dane Tilse has taken Canberra?s lifeline and the once Australian Schoolboy will be looking to put his name in the press for positive reasons. New recruit Learoyd-Lars comes to the club with huge raps and hopefully will realise his unlimited potential.Canberra possesses a speedy backline which could turn it on against any backline in the competition. Former Roosters junior Jermaine Ale debuted this year for the Green Machine however was dropped soon after. Hopefully this season he gets his chance. Chalk and Graham on the wings top off the backline as both are genuine speedsters. Weaknesses:Relying on Jason Smith. He is as vital to Canberra as Johns is to Newcastle. Without him Canberra can go nowhere. Todd Carney is potentially a great organiser, but so far in his short career he has not shown these skills. If Smith was to suffer an injury, it would put immense pressure on the young man.The Raiders? defence in the backline is looking shaky. Craig Frawley and Jermaine Ale aren?t noted defenders while Chalk and Graham aren?t big on tackling either. Luckily they have one of the better defensive fullbacks in the game. However, he?s probably going to have to work overtime this season. Matthew Elliot?s coaching strategy is also a weakness. His inability to pick the correct players and promote younger players with promise really hinders the club?s development. It took only till the end of last season for Carney to have a permanent place in the team. He was ready in 2004, but Elliot?s refusal to play him put Carney back 2 years in his progression. Hopefully he doesn?t do the same with promising youngsters Willie Raston, Alan Rothery and also William Zillman.The Raiders also have a lack of depth in their playing ranks. A lot of that is due to players not getting the opportunity to play first grade and being stuck in premier league. The Raiders, however, were forced to blood a lot of players in 2005 and only a handful seemed up to the task. One to Watch:Queensland under 19?s representative William Zillman is one to watch out for in the Raiders? ranks this season. The 20-year-old starred in Premier League in 2005 both through scoring tries and goal kicking at a high percentage. His efforts were rewarded with a Queensland birth, where the super talented five-eighth was up against team-mate Todd Carney, selected for NSW. Zillman was a shining light in the match. His pairing with Rugby Union convert Berrick Barnes was the great feature of the game. Something that will go a long way for Zillman?s progression in first grade is his versatility. Whether he is playing halfback, five-eighth, centre or fullback, he has the ability to star and the switch will not hinder his impact on the game. While Zillman may have to wait in line for injuries to occur to the Raiders? ranks, when he gets his opportunity he will succeed and prove to us all what a quality player he is. Gains and Losses:Gains: Tom Learoyd-Lars, Trevor Thurling, Dane Tilse.Losses: Matt Adamson, Ian Hindmarsh, Michael Robertson, Ben Cross, Ryan O'Hara, Michael Howell, Damon Alley-Tovio.Assessment:I don?t believe the Raiders have what it takes to challenge for the title this season. I believe, however, if Jason Smith remains fit and healthy, then they may be able to sneak into the 8. However, one injury to Jason Smith and it will be spoon territory for the Green Machine. Their young forwards need to step up and set a platform and their young backs need to remain fit and use their agility and speed if they are to have any success in 2006.My tip ? Between 8th-15th ? I think 13th
SALFORD will put their 100% record on the line against Bradford at Odsal, where they have never won in Super League and have suffered some embarrassing defeats.The Reds successfully followed up their shock opening win at Warrington with an emphatic defeat of newcomers Catalans Dragons, but coach Karl Harrison admits a tussle with the defending champions will provide a more accurate gauge of their form.?It?s certainly a different challenge for us,? he said. ?They are a quality team, the world club champions, so it?s big test for us. Bradford at Bradford is always difficult."We started the season really well and we?re looking to build on that. Bradford had a hit and miss start and they?ll be wanting to rectify the wrongs from last week.?It?s a real big challenge and this will tell us where we are at at the moment.?The Bulls have three points from their opening two games but struggled to beat Wakefield and needed a late penalty to snatch a draw with Harlequins.Coach Brian Noble knows his side need to improve but is expecting a difficult test from the side with the best defensive record from the opening two rounds.?They are the form team of the competition,? he said. ?I think defensively they are very strong and well structured. They have some good go-forward in them as well.?They have not had the best record here in the Super League era and I am sure they will be looking to put that right tomorrow.?Their position in the table shows how solid they have been this year and the fact they have only conceded six points is testament to their commitment to each other in defence.?It will be a very difficult game for us and the conditions, if they stay wet, won?t help us at all.?Bradford are boosted by the return of winger Lesley Vainikolo, who has a remarkable scoring record of 112 tries in just 106 games.The versatile Karl Pryce is likely to drop to the bench, with young forward Matt Cook dropping out of the squad.Salford are without the suspended John Wilshere, so David Hodgson is set to revert to full-back with Anthony Stewart regaining his place on the wing, and back-row forward Chris Charles is recalled for his first match of the season in place of the injured Ian Sibbit (groin).Bradford Bulls v Salford City Reds, Odsal, Friday February 24 2006Bradford 18-man: Hape, Deacon, Vagana, Fielden, B. Harris, I. Harris, Johnson, Lynch, Bai, Gene, Pryce, Ferres, Vainikolo, Henderson, Langley, McKenna, Withers, Meyers.Salford 18-man: Fitzpatrick, Hodgson, Moule, Stewart, Dunemann, Coley, Alker, Rutgerson, Finnigan, Sibbit, Highton, Langi, Haggerty, Littler, Clough, Baldwin, Brocklehurst, Jonkers.Referee: R Laughton
WIGAN are hoping to avoid their worst start to a season for 21 years after being beaten in the closing stages of both their opening games against the Catalans and Leeds and are looking to get off the mark against Huddersfield at the JJB Stadium.Coach Ian Millward was delighted with his side?s battling performance against the Rhinos and is refusing to press the panic button.?If we keep improving at that rate, we will win more than we lose,? said Millward. ?The camp is very buoyant.?There are 28 rounds in Super League and there are still 26 great performances left in Wigan.?Huddersfield did the double over the Warriors in 2005 and it was their 26-24 win at the JJB Stadium - their first away victory over Wigan for 48 years - which cost Denis Betts his job as coach, paving the way for Millward to take over.?Huddersfield have been a bit of a bogey team for Wigan over the years,? admitted Millward.?Their form is very impressive. They had a good win against Warrington and they suffered a close loss to Leeds. They?ve recruited very well and have a lot of attacking flair.?Friday?s match marks the return to the JJB Stadium of Wigan-born pair Stephen Wild and Martin Aspinwall, who joined Huddersfield in the close season and scored their first tries for their new club last Sunday.?Making a first return to a former club can always be an emotional moment,? admitted Aspinwall.?But Wildy and me have already done that in the pre-season game earlier in the month and, as a result, it won?t seem quite so bad on Friday. Our sole focus will be on the game rather than the occasion.?Millward has named an unchanged 18, with stand-off Danny Orr hoping for a recall after being surprisingly dropped against Leeds last Friday.Huddersfield are hoping influential Australian hooker Brad Drew will shake off a leg injury sustained in Sunday?s win over Warrington to enable him to maintain his ever-present record for the club. Paul March will step into his shoes if he fails to make it.Wigan Warriors v Huddersfield Giants, JJB Stadium, Friday February 24 2006Wigan 18-man: Ashton, Calderwood, Vaealiki, Richards, Dallas, Orr, Moran, Logan, Higham, Hargreaves, Tickle, Hansen, O?Loughlin, Paleaaesina, Seu Seu, Godwin, Brown, Tomkins.Huddersfield 18-man: Reilly, Aspinwall, Evans, De Vere, Donlan, Thorman, Paul, Crabtree, Drew, Nero, Snitch, Wild, Jones, Jackson, March, Smith, McDonald, Torrens.Referee: P Bentham
AT least one of Super League?s four 100% records will go on Friday night when St Helens, the title favourites, take on beaten Grand Finalists Leeds at Knowsley Road.Both sides have made impressive starts to the season and it would surprise no one if the Roses showdown is repeated in October?s Grand Final.Saints coach Daniel Anderson would like nothing better than to do battle at Old Trafford with his old Parramatta colleague Tony Smith, the Leeds boss, but insists it is too early to make judgements.?It may pan out that way - I hope so anyway - but it?s too early to tell,? he said.?Hull are going all right too, they are scoring 40 points a game and not letting many in.?Even the teams that are losing don?t seem to be playing that bad either.?Anderson began his reign at Saints with a 38-24 win over the Rhinos last May, and they went on to pip their rivals to top spot, but Leeds gained their revenge when it mattered most, in the final eliminator.Smith, who will give a debut to teenage winger Danny Williams, is hoping for a repeat of that 19-16 victory as they look to build on their opening successes.?The challenge of going to Knowsley Road is always one we look forward to and seems to bring the best out in us,? he said.?We know Saints are a very dangerous side. They have quality players across the field, having recruited well and getting players of the quality of Sean Long and Paul Sculthorpe back to full fitness.?St Helens are without prop Nick Fozzard but Paul Anderson has recovered from injury to take his place and second rower Jon Wilkin is also back in the squad after sitting out last week?s win over Castleford.St Helens v Leeds Rhinos, Knowsley Road, Friday February 24 2006St Helens 18-man: P. Anderson, V. Anderson, Cayless, Cunningham, Fa?asavalu, Gardner, Gilmour, Graham, Hooper, Long, Lyon, Meli, Pryce, Roby, Sculthorpe, Talau, Wellens, Wilkin.Leeds 18-man: Mathers, Donald, Walker, Senior, McGuire, Burrow, Bailey, Diskin, Peacock, Lauitiiti, Ellis, Sinfield, Millard, Poching, Jones-Buchanan, Feather, Scruton, Williams.Referee: A Klein
SUPER League newcomers Catalans Dragons have appointed Australian Mick Potter, a former assistant at Bradford Bulls, as their new head coach.Potter, who cut his coaching teeth as right-hand man to fellow countryman Matthew Elliott at Odsal in the early years of Super League from 1996-99, succeeds Englishman Steve Deakin, who was sacked just before Christmas.Potter has spent the last four years as coach of St George Illawarra?s Premier League team, whom he took to two Grand Finals.Dragons chief executive Grant Mayer said: ?This is a great day for the club. To sign someone with as much experience as a player and a coach as Mick Potter is a great testament to the project we have here.?David Waite, Matt Adamson and Paul Donkin have done a fantastic job here with the team since Christmas, however we are now really looking forward to the next stage and that means having a single dedicated head coach.?Potter was recommended for the post by former Great Britain coach David Waite, now director of football at the Catalans.He played under Waite as captain and full-back for St George and also played for Canterbury Bankstown and Perth Reds.After leaving Bradford in 1999, Potter took charge of the New South Wales Under-17s, guiding them to consecutive wins over Queensland.Potter is now making arrangements for the move from Australia to France and is expected to be in Perpignan for the Dragons? third home match against Leeds on March 11.
THIS Saturday (February 25th) the Newtown Jets line up at home for another trial match in what will be a real ?no prisoners taken? inner-city local derby at Henson Park.5.00pm - Newtown v South Sydney (Premier League and Jim Beam Cup combination trial match)3.30pm - Roosters v Rabbitohs (SG Ball junior representative trial match)2.00pm - Roosters v Rabbitohs (Harold Matthews junior representative trial match)Full canteen service available.After the match on Saturday we ask all Newtown supporters and friends to patronise your own licensed club - the Jets Sports Club, Holbeach Avenue, Tempe. The newly-refurbished bistro is open for business again and renowned chef Daniel is turning out some superb cuisine.On Sunday (26th February) the Newtown Jets VB Premier League squad plays St.George-Illawarra at WIN Stadium, Wollongong at 3.00pm. This match is the main curtain-raiser to the Roosters-Dragons NRL trial at 5.00pm. There still are tickets available for the 2006 Newtown RLFC season launch, in what will be a terrific prelude to one of the most exciting seasons in this club?s 98-year history. Why not get a group of friends together and take a table for this function? The details for the 2006 Newtown RLFC official season launch are -Date and time: Wednesday, 8th March 2006, 7.00pm for 7.30pmPlace: Petersham RSL Club AuditoriumPrice: $125.00 per head. Call Jenny right now on 1300 36 36 90 to reserve your places.Once again an impressive array of guest speakers has been arranged.Guest speakers include the inspirational Matt Laffan and League legend Ron Coote. Compere: Graeme Hughes from 2SM?s Talkin? Sport program. (Photo caption:This North Sydney player is in trouble during the recent trial match against Newtown at Henson Park.Photo supplied by Hugh Martel.)
JERSEY Flegg Coach Steve Carter has another tough day at the office this weekend after a strong showing by the new players being trialed against Parramatta on Saturday. ?They did what I asked of them ? they came out with more aggression,? said Steve. During the week Greg Florimo also lectured the team on how he played the game to the hilt. Further cuts are to be made after the final trial against the Bulldogs next week.Final squads in Harold Matthews and S G Ball are being decided this weekend after trials against Mt Annan at Kirkham Oval, Camden. In weather that alternated between blinding sun and approaching thunder strikes the Matts played Mt Annans' under 18s side while the Ball performed well against an open age reserve side.S G Ball half Liam Foran has come through uninjured in his trial appearance with the Melbourne Storm side. Liam was quoted as saying he ?enjoyed the match and found it a great experience?.While not the flashiest game of footy the Bears claim for the Leagues Club Challenge Cup after the Tweed won the last 5 times was emotionally significant enough for Coach Josh White to recall his Bears Jersey Flegg win in 2004 at Belmore oval against the Dogs in the second last round. Grown men shed a tear or two as the players and crew realised the win placed them in the first finals appearance of a North Sydney side since 1998.PHOTO: Victory! The Men behind the scenes: Paul Collins, Trent Rosa, Josh White and Greg Florimo with the Leagues Club Challenge Cup.
ROUND Three gets underway on Friday night with three matches that could all easily go either way.Wigan are at home against Huddersfield, hoping to play out 80 minutes this time and get their first win of the season following losses to Catalans and Leeds. However Huddersfield are more than capable of holding their own, having also lost to Leeds but getting a win against Warrington at home last start.In the televised game, St Helens look to measure their early season form against a competitive side when hosting Leeds. Both teams are undefeated so far this season and this is shaping up as an excellent match between two teams that should be near the top all season.There are also two undefeated teams in the last of Friday night?s match-ups, when Bradford host this season?s surprise packet Salford. Bradford struggled at home to get the draw against Harlequins last week, while Salford haven?t put a foot wrong in registering comfortable wins against Warrington and Catalans. Moving to Saturday afternoon, that draw against Bradford should leave Harlequins confident of a good showing at home against winless Wakefield, hoping to keep the crowd numbers ticking through their new shared ground at Twickenham Stoop. While in the televised match that evening, Warrington attempt to get their season started against an undefeated Hull side that aren?t afraid to rack up the points against inferior opposition.There is only one game on Sunday afternoon, when Castleford probably have their best chance at a win so far against the travelling Catalans, who will be without their injured captain Stacey Jones.
LIKELY squad: Milton Thaiday, Brian Carney, Kurt Gidley, Matt Gidley, Brad Tighe, Jarrod Mullen, Andrew Johns, Craig Smith, Danny Buderus, Josh Perry, Steve Simpson, Clint Newton, Daniel Abraham.Interchange: Luke Davico, Adam Woolnough, Reegan Tanner, Kirk Reynoldson.Strengths:Andrew Johns. I don?t believe any more explanation is required after mentioning the name of one of this era?s greatest players. If Johns remains fit, and that is a big IF for Andrew, then there is no telling what the Knights are capable of.I believe if Michael Hagan went with the starting line up above he?d have great success. Jarrod Mullen is one of the best prospects to come through Newcastle and he needs to play an entire season under Johns to make him reach that extra level. He is a talented young man with a huge future and the move to centres for Kurt Gidley will do him and Newcastle the most amount of good.The Knights last season went through a tough time, but in doing so blooded a lot of young players. Hence one of their strengths this season will be their depth, with players like Dustin Cooper and David Seage not getting a run.The Knights have a solid 1,6,7,9 combination. They have two of the worlds best at 7 and 9, and two young exciting players at 1 and 6 who showed their potential last season. With these players on the field at the conclusion of last season, it was showed that they can compete at the top level and they will be needed so much this season.The recruitment of Brian Carney, rated by good judges to be the best winger in the world, is a critical one for the Knights. While injury prone, he has the ability to finish off a try from anywhere on the field and his ability will be shown once he has Andrew Johns feeding him the ball. Weaknesses:The Knights don?t have a great coach in the engine room. While Michael Hagan may have been a QLD coach, I don?t believe he is the best tactician in the NRL and his gameplans are rather easy to figure out. His lack of creativity does not bode well for Newcastle this season and may cost them a premiership.The Knights? injury problems are a concern. Hopefully with the recruitment of medical staff, in 2006 we may finally see an injury free Knights. The key players of Johns, Carney, Buderus and Simpson cannot be injured for great portions of the season, otherwise the Knights will struggle. One to Watch:When you ask Newcastle supporters who they feel one of the best prospects is, there is one name that keeps cropping up. That is 19 year old Kade Snowden. A rangy backrower weighing in at 106kg, he is a second rower the Knights supporters feel can finally fill the gap left by Ben Kennedy?s departure. All through the grades Snowden has been impressive, only a couple of years ago winning Newcastle the SG Ball competition and touring with Australian Schoolboys. He is highly respected in the Newcastle camp and widely regarded as a second rower with a lot of ability and potential to lead the Knights into the future. His best attributes are his never-say-die attitude, his ball skills and his strong defence, including a shoulder charge that would make Sonny Bill Williams proud. While he got a taste of First Grade last season when the Knights injury crisis was at its worse, he?ll be looking for another opportunity this season to show what he?s got. Gains and Losses:Gains: Brian Carney, Luke Davico, Luke Hession, Chris BaileyLosses: Mark Hughes, Dane Tilse, Craig Hall, Andrew Price, Blake MuellerAssessment:I tried hard to find weaknesses in the line up of Newcastle. People can doubt the players? ages, their skill level, etc, but when I look at Newcastle?s team I see balance. I see a well-balanced forward pack capable of matching it with anyone in the NRL. I see a well-balanced backline, one that may not be the most creative, but can finish off a try. I see a well-balanced halves combination with the mix of greatness and potential and I see a well- balanced bench. However, while I see balance, I don?t see the ability to win the competition. I believe the Knights will make the 8 and I believe they will be well inside it. However, should the Knights suffer an injury to Andrew Johns, balance becomes no commodity any team wants. Every team needs a strike man. Unfortunately for Newcastle, they only have one that has the ability to win them a premiership. My prediction is Johns to play two-thirds of the season and guide Newcastle to between fifth and ninth.