WIGAN Warriors will be the first opponents for engage Super League newcomers Les Catalans after the fixtures for the forthcoming season were announced.The Perpignan-based club will kick off their campaign against the Warriors at the Aime Giral Stadium on Saturday, February 11, in a match to be televised live by Sky Sports.Wigan chairman Maurice Lindsay said: "It?s no surprise to me that we are the first club invited to play in France to usher in the historic entry into Super League of Les Catalans Dragons."I am sure it will help them to fill their ground and, of course, it will be a very tough fixture for us."It will still be winter in the south of France so our fans will miss the warm weather, which many other clubs will enjoy throughout the year. It is still a great honour for us and one we are delighted to be part of."Coach Ian Millward said: "We are pleased to be the first club to tackle the Dragons in France. It is a very difficult start for us as they will certainly be fired up for their opening fixture, but it is one we as a club are very much looking forward to."Promoted Castleford Tigers will kick off Super League XI with a home match against Powergen Challenge Cup winners Hull at the Jungle on Friday, February 10, while champions Bradford Bulls will launch the defence of their title against Wakefield Trinity Wildcats at Belle Vue on the Sunday.In other opening fixtures, Harlequins - formerly known as London Broncos - take on St Helens at the re-named Twickenham Stoop on the Saturday and Leeds Rhinos meet Huddersfield Giants at Headingley while Warrington Wolves are at home to Salford City Reds on the Sunday. - - - - -Thanks to www.superleague.co.uk for this news.
PROMOTED club Castleford have completed the signing of St Helens? Welsh international prop forward Keith Mason and moved closer to capturing former Warrington front rower Danny Nutley.The 23-year-old Mason had a year left on his contract at Saints but has agreed a 12-month loan deal with the Tigers, where he will join former Wigan prop Danny Sculthorpe.Mason started his professional career with Wakefield, although he had a brief spell with Castleford?s junior academy, before moving to Australia for a stint with Melbourne Storm, where he played under new Tigers coach Terry Matterson for their feeder club, Brisbane Norths.?We have been looking to bring Keith to the club for some time and we are all very pleased that we have been able to conclude a deal today,? said Castleford chief executive Richard Wright.?Keith is a big strong forward and, along with Danny Sculthorpe gives us two young prop forwards who have a lot of belief in themselves, are ambitious and are very keen to make their mark at the Jungle.?We hope to announce more new signings over the next couple of days and when those deals are completed and announced we think the fans will start to gain confidence in our ability to compete in Super League next season.?One of the imminent signings is thought to be the 31-year-old Nutley, who has been released from the final year of his contract with Cronulla Sharks.Nutley, who played for Warrington before joining Cronulla in 2002, has agreed a two-year contract with the Tigers.?The Sharks have supported me 100% during the four years I?ve been and the club and they are continuing to support me by allowing me a release and the opportunity to accept the Castleford offer. I?m very grateful to the club for that,? Nutley told the Cronulla website, www.sharks.com.au.?At this point in my career, I?m 31 with a family to look after and the Castleford offer is a very attractive one.?Cronulla coach Stuart Raper, formerly in charge of Castleford and Wigan, said: ?I really enjoyed working with Danny. We will definitely miss his toughness and competitiveness.?It was a difficult decision to grant him the release, but life goes on. It is a great opportunity for him over there at Castleford.?- - - - -Thanks to www.superleague.co.uk for this report.
STATE of Origin forward Danny Nutley has been released from the Cronulla Sharks so he can take up a two-year deal to play with English club Castleford.Sharks chief executive Steve Rogers signed the release papers this morning. Rogers now heads off to another meeting where he will try to sign dumped St George Illawarra forward Lance Thompson for next season.Rogers says the decision to release Nutley does not set a precedent. He tried to do the best thing by a loyal player who's been offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to set himself up financially. He says Castleford have offered Nutley a deal the Sharks could not hope to match.
NEWCASTLE Knights management has met with coach Michael Hagan amid speculation he is being pursued by Parramatta for the 2007 NRL season.Hagan has been linked to a move to Parramatta with the Eels having declared their intention not to renew Brian Smith's coaching contract beyond the 2006 season. While Knights chairman Mike Tyler says no firm decisions were made as a result of today's discussions, the club is comfortable with Hagan's position.The board plans to review Hagan's position midway through next season and Hagan says his priority is with the team.
INJURED Australian utility Craig Wing says he's in no doubt for Saturday's Tri Nations final with New Zealand at Elland Road. Coach Wayne Bennett seemed concerned by Wing's sternum injury which caused him problems late in Australia's 26-14 Test win over Great Britain last weekend.
SALFORD have been given the green light to press ahead with plans to build a new 20,000-seater stadium just off the M62 motorway.Salford City Council has approved the Reds' ambitious proposals for the ?32million stadium, along with a hotel, shopping and leisure facilities, on a 30-hectare brown-field site near junction 11 of the M62.Salford have played at their present ground, The Willows, for the last 100 years.- - - - -Thanks to www.superleague.co.uk for this news.
NEW Zealand have confirmed that Stacey Jones will play for them in Saturday's Gillette Tri-Nations Series final at Elland Road.
ST Helens have announced a profit of ?140,000 for the 2004 season, compared to a loss of ?380,000 in the previous 12 months.Chairman Eamonn McManus said: ?The financial results are exceedingly pleasing and reflect three years of very hard work by management to reach financial stability.?The situation continues to improve and now places us in a strong and healthy position to continue our success on the field as well as to enable us to advance further negotiations relating to a new stadium.?Meanwhile, Saints have agreed to play a pre-season friendly against National League Two club London Skolars at Leinster?s Donnybrook ground in Dublin on Sunday, January 22.- - - - -Thanks to www.superleague.co.uk for this news.
AUSTRALIAN utility player Craig Wing is battling to overcome a sternum injury but has been named in coach Wayne Bennett?s squad for Saturday?s Gillette Tri-Nations Series final against New Zealand at Elland Road.
STATISTICS in the National Rugby League show that the average career span for a player is only 53 games, little more than two seasons. These are pretty concerning figures in a professional sport where the time constraints of playing and training leave many players having to rely solely on their match payments as financial income.Up until the last few years, there had been little or no education on the erratic nature of the financial rewards, nor the need to have a backup career or education for life post-football. However, now the League has been building programs and increasing their involvement in player welfare and education. NRL game liaison manager, Michael Buettner, said the League had implemented part-time education and welfare officers at club level along with a committee with representatives ranging from the NRL, the Players Association, Club representatives and academics from Sydney University. This is bringing to fruition programs designed to educate players on behavior, both on and off the field.?Obviously through media reports there has been a focus on the issues relating to alcohol and attitudes towards women amongst NRL players which have been addressed with all players participating in workshops relating to these issues,? Buettner said.Many clubs have also taken it upon themselves to offer guidance for a life after sport, under the direction from the NRL. This is designed to encourage players to take part in educational programs through work experience or traineeships.The NRL is now looking at better ways to improve the amount of education younger players receive from not only the current courses offered but also through existing players getting involved in workshops with younger players. ?The NRL was able to conduct workshops to the majority of the clubs under 20?s Jersey Flegg teams this year and also the Australian Schoolboys team and will continue this in 2006 with plans to extend this to under 18?s and under 16's level,? said Buettner.A preliminary Rookie camp made up of a spread of talented youngsters from each club debuted this year. At the camp, the junior players were pioneered on the ins-and-outs of the game. The first camp was considered a huge success and plans are already in the pipeline for a follow-up in 2006. As well as facilitating programs at an introductory level, the NRL are also strong supporters of the ?Men of League? organisation. The idea for the ?Men Of League? grew over three years ago out of concerns legendary back-rower Ron Coote held for former players who were doing it tough. Approximately 2,300 ex-players and officials now form the ?Men of League?, making it a successful support network for those in need.Rugby League has taken a giant step forward in guiding its players to acknowledge a career in life after football. Unfortunately, like many sporting careers, League is not a lengthy one. The approximate two seasons that an average players? career will span, based on the salary cap of $3.3 million, will only earn him an average of $65,000 a year. This is based on the assumption that the top 25 will be paid equally from the cap. In reality, however these figures are not the case. Just look at St George-Illawarra back-rower, Lance Thompson who last year took a significant pay cut so other star players at the club could be resigned.As Buettner says, life after football is a consideration all players have to take into account.?Therefore the average NRL player will not find the game financially rewarding and in fact will require him to focus a lot more on what he is doing post football,? he said.
NEW Zealand coach Brian McClennan claims his Kiwis are underdogs to end Australia's three decades of dominance in Saturday night's Tri Nations rugby league final at Elland Road.
SYDNEY Roosters fullback Anthony Minichiello has been crowned the best player in the world ahead of Saturday's Tri National final against New Zealand in Leeds.Minichiello joined a list of elite players overnight who have won the prestigious World Golden Boot award. He was presented with the coveted award by former rugby league legend Arthur Beetson at a black tie dinner at the Elland Road Stadium where Australia will defend its Tri-Nations title on Saturday night (Sunday morning AEDT).Minichiello edged out Great Britain prop Stuart Fielden and Kiwi skipper Ruben Wiki for the honour - organised by Rugby League World Magazine and voted on by rugby league writers from around the world.He is the first fullback since Balmain's Garry Jack in 1987 to carry off the biggest individual prize in world rugby league.
RUGBY League?s International Federation on Monday confirmed next year?s Gillette Tri-Nations Series will be held in the southern hemisphere.
NEWCASTLE coach Michael Hagan will discuss his future with the club over the next 48 hours with rumours linking him to Parramatta in 2007.According to Channel Nine, Eels chief executive Denis Fitzgerald is hunting Hagan to take over the coaching position in 2007 after announcing Brian Smith will not have his contract renewed next year.Hagan has one year remaining on his contract at the Knights. He endured a horror 2004 season when the club won its first wooden spoon and he led Queensland's State of Origin team to a 2-1 series defeat.
THE cold snap in England's north is causing problems for the touring Kangaroos who have again been forced to delay training to allow the ground to thaw out.