LIKELY squad: Wade McKinnon, Luke Burt, Ben Smith, Timana Tahu, Eric Grothe, Marcus Perenara, Tim Smith, Nathan Cayless, Mark Riddell, Paul Stringer, Nathan Hindmarsh, Glenn Morrison, Brett DelaneyInterchange: Fui Fui Moi Moi, Michael Vella, Dean Widders, PJ MarshStrengths:Parramatta?s great strength is depth. They have quality players right through their grades. In Premier League they have Joel Reddy, John Morris, Daniel Wagon and other players of first grade quality in Blake Green, Zab Taia and other quality players who will make the progression to first grade from their junior ranks.Parramatta?s backline is tremendous. The power and absolute force of Ben Smith, Eric Grothe Jr and John Williams combined with the speed and elusiveness of Wade McKinnon and Timana Tahu makes for a salivating backline.Finally the forward pack for Parramatta is set in place. They have a quality back row with a ball-playing lock-forward, something they have lacked since Jim Dymock?s playing days. Brett Delaney is a talented individual with silky skills and a good boot and will develop into one of the premier locks in the game.The Parramatta bench is something that a lot of teams desire. It contains speed, strength and tremendous impact. Moi Moi, who has a huge cult following, does have brute strength and impact to turn a game. Dean Widders had a tremendous season in 2005 while PJ Marsh had a great year in his first back in full flight since a tremendous run of bad luck. This bench has the ability to make a lasting impact on a match and the ability to take a team to a Grand Final.Weaknesses:Will Tim Smith have a case of second-year syndrome? Most of today?s ?great prodigies? come out and play the worst season of their careers after the high of the first. Will Tim Smith join the line? Or will he prove us all wrong and continue his flourishing development?The angst about changing coaches can?t be good for the club. While the certainty is now in place with Michael Hagan definitely coming to the club in 2007, what does it mean for the Eel?s 2006? Does Brian Smith care about this season or does he just think ?Bugger it, I?m not going to be here in 2007?? However, Brian Smith is too much of a professional to let this get to him. He will try his best to win his maiden premiership this year and prove to Parramatta they made the wrong choice, even though it was the right one.One to Watch:Marcus Perenara has the weight of the expectations of a nation on his shoulders. The heir apparent to Stacey Jones in the New Zealand national jersey, Marcus will be looking to gain valuable First Grade experience in 2006 to be picked for the country he loves. Brought to Parramatta last season, he didn?t fail to impress and the young 19 year old Kiwi was a standout for Parramatta?s Premier League and an integral part of their Premier League championship.His performances during last season earned him a spot in the New Zealand squad and a chance to play for New Zealand A against an Australian invitational side. In this match he lined up against Trent Barrett and Scott Prince, two of the best halves in the competition, and Marcus showed his class leading the New Zealand A team to a comfortable victory.That performance has put Marcus on the map now, and with Parramatta?s need for a great five-eighth to partner Tim Smith in the halves, Brian Smith would be crazy not to consider this future star.Gains and Losses:Gains: Nil.Losses: Brett Anderson (Cowboys), Chris Muckert (Toowoomba).Assessment:I tried hard again to find a weakness with Parramatta and the only thing I could think of was psychological. As a team they are brilliant. A great set of young halves, strong and fast backline and a great forward foundation. On top of that they have a great bench and to add a bit of icing to the team they have depth in all grades. If the Eels can get it together and get their heads in the game then there is only one outcome possible and that is top 4.
CELTIC CRUSADERS 78 LONDON SKOLARS 14By Ian Golden at Brewery FieldCeltic Crusaders warmed up for their big Powergen Challenge Cup tie against Lokomotiv Moscow next Sunday by beating National League Two counterparts London Skolars to qualify for the knockout stages of the Northern Rail Cup.In front of a fabulous 1,421 crowd, the Crusaders dominated the game from start to finish and created an early chance but Luke Young?s grubber kick was picked up by Corey Simms.However the Crusaders took the lead on seven minutes when Tony Duggan broke from inside his own half and created a gap for Young who ran the ball in under the sticks. Jace Van Dijk converted.Skolars? Gareth Honor was sinbinned for dissent following the try and Crusaders took advantage of the extra man straight away, Paul Morgan running in a second try on 10 minutes. Van Dijk converted once again.Crusaders added a third on 14 minutes after Damien Quinn broke through the defence and set up Young to score.Crusaders kept up the pace. Van Dijk at dummy half on the fifth tackle, passed to Duggan but his grubber kick went too far for Ryan Barton.Skolars got a try back on 21 minutes after Chris Shears forced his way over the line following a play-the-ball five metres out. Ben Joyce converted.However Crusaders made the score 20-6 on 25 minutes after Carl de Chenu scored in the corner. Tony Duggan ran 40 metres to score under the posts two minutes later, Van Dijk converting to put the score on 26-6.Chris Shears scored another try back for Skolars on 32 minutes, running 40 metres and dodging through the defence to ground.But the Crusaders went into half-time 44-10 up after three quick tries. Welsh international Karl Hocking forced his way over on 32 minutes while Duggan created a try for Van Dijk on 37. Finally, Michael Ryan ran over right on the half-time hooter. Van Dijk converted all three.From kick off in the second half, Bobby Wallis knocked on, creating an early Crusaders chance, and the Welshmen didn?t disappoint as Hocking ran over for his second. Van Dijk converted but the stand-off played just seven more minutes of the games after going off the field holding his ribs following a clash in the tackle.Skolars attempted to fight back but were kept from scoring by the fine performance of the Crusaders? defensive line especially David Simm, Phil Cushion and Dean Fitzgerald.Crusaders scored again on 51 minutes. Young made an excellent kick on the fifth tackle reaching Morgan on the left wing. Running past one defender, he set up fellow former Bridgend Blue Bull Dean Fitzgerald to ground. Young converted.Frank Reid got a try back for Skolars on 52 minutes and almost got another one five minutes later following a mix-up in the Crusaders defence. Mario Du Toit dived for the loose ball but didn?t have the downward pressure to ground.Crusaders made them pay for that mistake, as a well-worked move three minutes later ended with Morgan weaving through the defence to get his second try of the day. Young converted to take the score to 62-14.Duggan ran through the defence five minutes later for his second while Quinn slipped through the tackle to place the ball under the posts for the 13th try of the day. Young converted both to put the score on 74-14.After a lengthy break due to a serious injury to Skolars? Rubert Jonker, Crusaders broke through for another try with Morgan getting a hat-trick of his own. Young?s conversion hit the post to make the final score 78-14.Crusaders? coach John Dixon was over the moon with his team?s performance and is now looking forward to the Lokomotiv Moscow tie next week. ?This was a great warm up for the Russian game,? said Dixon. ?I was exceptionally pleased all aspects of our ball control and the performance in our defensive line. Our aim today was to put on a display that would bring the fans back again next week against Moscow and I think we?ve done that. We?re excited to have the Russians here next week. I don?t know anything about them apart from how well they did in Russia last year so I know they?ll give us a good game.?CRUSADERS 1. Tony Duggan 2. Carl De Chenu 3. Geraint Davies 4. Damien Quinn 5. Paul Morgan 21. Luke Young 7. Jace Van Dijk 8. Ryan Barton 9. Michael Ryan 10. Phil Cushion 11. David Simm 12. Matt Jobson 13. Dean FitzgeraldSubs 14. Carle Ellis 15. Dean Scully 16. Karl Hocking 19. Lenny WoodardTries: Young (7, 14), Duggan (27, 65), Morgan (10, 60, 76), de Chenu (25), Hocking (32, 41), Van Dijk (37), Ryan (40), Fitzgerald (51), Quinn (70)Goals: Van Dijk 7/9, Young 4/5SKOLARS 1. Dean Martin 2. Mario Du Toit 3. Mike Castle 4. Ash Tozer 5. Corey Simms 6. Frank Reid 7. Nathan Meischke 8. Rubert Jonker 9. Gareth Honor 10. Bobby Wallis 11. Dave Ellison 12. Matt Pitman 13. Ben JoyceSubs 14. Chris Shears 15. Josh Garden 16. Richard Coatelan 17. Dave RobersonTries: Shears (21, 32), Reid (52)Goals: Joyce 1/3Sinbinned: Honor (7) ? dissentReferee: Dave Merrick (Castleford)Half-time: 44-10Attendance: 1,421Men of the Match: Crusaders: Tony Duggan. Skolars: Chris ShearsScoring Sequence: 6-0, 12-0, 16-0, 16-6, 20-6, 26-6, 26-10, 32-10, 38-10, 44-10, 50-10, 56-10, 56-14, 62-14, 68-14Gamestar: Tony Duggan marshalled the match from full-back and is a deserved man of the match.Gamebreaker: Crusaders looked the better team from start to finish but three tries in the last ten minutes of the first half made sure that Skolars from start to finish.Weather: Dry ? partly cloudyMatch Rating: 3/5
MICK Dobson has signed for Catalans Dragons from Canberra Raiders as a temporary replacement for Stacey Jones.With scrum-half Jones expected to be sidelined for another four to six weeks after breaking his arm against Salford, Dobson, a former Australian schoolboy international will fill in.Dobson, who will join up with his new team-mates on Monday, should be available to make his first start against Leeds on Saturday, March 11.
SUNDAY 5 March 2006 Waitemata Park, Henderson, Auckland Qualifier 5 Vs 6 ? Samoa Vs TokelauTokelau 34Tries: P. Siaosi,J. Siaosi, J. Mataafa (2), A. Siagigi (2)Goals: A. Faafoi (5)Player Of The Day: Aukuso Faafoi (No.6) Samoa 28Tries: I. Ioapo, F. Tavesi, G. Stowers, U. Saifoloi (2)Goals: T. Mataafa (4)Player Of The Day: Grant Stowers (No.13) Halftime Score: 22 ? 6 To Samoa Qualifier 3 vs Qualifier 4 ? NZ Maori vs Cook IslandsNZ Maori 40Tries: P. Atkins, D. Trott, D. Laulu, J. Limmer (2), M. Wanoa (2)Goals: J. Trott (3), C. Motu (3)Player Of The Day: Steve Skinnon (No.11) Cook Islands 14Tries: J. Burgess, R. Enoka, W. VaeauGoals: S. MataoraPlayer Of The Day: Henry Turua (No.11) Halftime Score: 14 ? 10 To Cook Islands Qualifier 1 vs Qualifier 2 ? Fiji Bati vs TongaTonga 22Tries: W. Wolfgram, K. Fifita, E. Uasi, T. MoaGoals: J. Taufaao (3)Player Of The Day: Willie Wolfgram (No.13) Fiji Bati 4Tries: A. MasikereiPlayer Of The Day: Asaeli Saravaki (No.7) 2006 PACIFIC CUP WINNERS: TONGA PLAYER OF THE TOURNAMENT: Asaeli Saravaki (No.7) ? Fiji Bati
IF you're interested in back issues of the top quality Rugby League magazine 'Thirteen', please check out the site below to make your purchase.http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=8771042215&ssPageName= ADME:L:LCA:UK:11The League Unlimited Team
CRONULLA Sharks player Greg Bird has denied sending any inappropriate text messages to model Lara Bingle.Bingle, the face of an Australian Tourism advertisement campaign, met Bird last January at the funeral of Sharks legend Steve Rogers.The text messages began soon after with Bingle reportedly saying the messages were, "really quite rude."Bird and his girlfriend Stacy Sulway have also confirmed they sent messages to Bingle. But they deny the messages were of a crude nature."I have been friends with Lara since we were little," Ms Sulway told The Daily Telegraph."It wasn't meant to be abusive but I strongly asked her to leave us alone. I think I said I wish I never met you."Bird confirmed he had met Bingle but insists he never had a relationship with her."I didn't send any inappropriate messages from my phone," Bird said."My girlfriend sent a message to Lara asking her to leave us alone. It wasn't even my phone." "I didn't even have a relationship with her. We had exchanged some text messages. "It put a strain on my relationship so we stopped contact. That was over six weeks ago. "I am remorseful if this has caused any stress and feel no ill will towards Lara. Everyone should just move [on]." Sharks club Sharks spokesman Rob Willis has also come out in support of Bird."He says he's done nothing inappropriate. There's been nothing obscene written. There's been no harassment." Willis said.The story was first aired by Radio 2GB reporter Michelle Keighran on Friday. Keighran said that during an interview Bingle had told her that some of the messages were crude.But yesterday Bingle told The Saturday Daily Telegraph that the report had been blown out of proportion and that she had only received 'one' message from Bird."It's just upsetting. It's really blown up I can't believe it. I mean, I only met the guy once. I think it's just because he's some big footy player everyone cares," she said.Bingle's modelling agency was also playing down the controversy.Priscilla Leighton-Clark, owner of Priscilla model management, told The Sydney Morning Herald: "It's nothing - this is all just so unbelievably ridiculous - a storm in tea cup.In reply, Keighran was perplexed by the reports."I can't believe she's denying it now. I spent about 10 minutes on the phone with her and she said there were several messages and they had been crude," she said. It's not the first time Bird has been in the news.In 2004, at 20-years-old, Bird was suspended for 10 matches by the NRL and fined $15,000 by the Sharks after kneeing Souths winger Shane Marteene.A Newcastle junior, Bird represented and captained the junior Australian Kangaroos side.
LIKELY squad: Billy Slater, Matt Geyer, Matt King, Greg Inglis, Jake Webster, Scott Hill, Cooper Cronk, Ben Cross, Cameron Smith, Garret Crossman, Michael Crocker, David Kidwell, Dallas Johnson,Interchange: Ryan Hoffman, Antonio Kaufusi, Brett White, Glen TurnerStrengths:Melbourne?s greatest strength would have to be their backline. They have tremendous players in that backline that can just bust a game wide open. Their speed, agility and all round athleticism can win the Storm matches. But in order to do that, they must have the ability to spread the ball, something that could be a problem for the Storm in 2006.Craig Bellamy is in the top 3 coaches in the NRL. He is a young coach with great ideas. He is considered by many to be the smartest coach in the NRL by far with his training techniques, his tactics and his ability to scout talent. For the past few years with the Storm he?s been ?almost there?. Now that he has lost his key player in the off-season, there is one thing guaranteed, Bellamy will re-invent himself and his team yet again, in order to get the same level of success.Billy Slater and Greg Inglis are two of the most exciting young players in the game and much of the Storm?s success this season will rest on these young men?s shoulders. If these two perform to their great potential, the Storm has many wins in store. If they play below their potential and crumble under the great strain of leading the team?s attack, then Melbourne will be in dire straights.Weaknesses:One vital weakness for Melbourne is their lack of depth in the halves and forwards. In the backs the Storm can call upon Roosters reject Chris Walker or injury ravaged fullback Steve Turner, enough to compensate. However in the halves, the Storm only have a young player in James Ausbusson, hardly enough to suggest enough depth in such a key position. In the forwards, they have lost stalwarts Robbie Kearns, Peter Robinson and Alex Chan, along with a couple of their talented prospects. The young players now brought in need to step up for the Storm to lay a solid platform.The Storm are going through a transition period at the moment. They have lost their main strike player, their halfback and their captain. That is enough to suggest that the Storm will struggle. In Kearn?s absence, the young forwards showed they were not up to task. How will young Cooper Cronk handle the responsibility of starting halfback? He is definitely a talented young man. However, in many people?s minds, this responsibility will be too great this season, but it will bode well for the Storm?s 2007 campaign.Much of the Storm?s attack will rely on Scott Hill and his distribution to his backs. Unfortunately for Melbourne, Scott Hill has a tendency to only play half a season, only re-enforcing the lack of depth in their halves.The Storm?s discipline will be a problem. They have one of the most ill-disciplined forward packs in the competition. Hot-heads like Cross, Crocker and Kidwell will cost the Storm a lot of ball, something that will need to be rectified by Bellamy. While he has the backs to succeed, he has the forwards to halter that progression if the opposition can get under their skin.One to Watch:Cooper Cronk is not a rookie by any means, but while he has already played more than 20 games in the NRL, he is yet to have the pressure of the playmaking role consistently, hence why I picked him as one to watch. The 22 year old, 178cm and 89kg halfback was a regular feature off the bench for Melbourne in 2005, gaining valuable experience and working out combinations with team-mates in preparation for his new role in 2006. This season Cronk will have a world of expectations on his shoulders as it is his duty to give his backs enough ball and set up play for his team. He is a strong player with a good kicking game, but he?ll need to learn quickly about how to handle being the main strike player. I feel he will thrive in this role and will prove that he is a NRL quality halfback. That?s why he?s my one to watch from Melbourne. Gains and Losses:Gains: Michael Crocker, Chris Walker Ben Cross, Garrett Crossman, James Aubusson.Losses: Matt Orford, Steven Bell, Robbie Kearns, Alex Chan, Peter Robinson, Josh Graham, Robert Tanielu.Assessment:Potentially the Storm can go far in the competition. However, I just don?t see it happening. They will show glimpses of brilliance as they usually do during a season, but I fear this transition period will be too hard for even the likes of Craig Bellamy to overcome. I think the Storm will struggle this year, but will come out bigger and better in 07? once the combinations start to form, the forwards start to gel and they get an injury-free season. My prediction is for the Storm to finish in the bottom half of the competition, between 10th and 13th.
LIKELY squad: Karmichal Hunt, Leon Bott, Brent Tate, Justin Hodges, Steve Michaels, Darren Lockyer, Brett Seymour, Shane Webcke, Michael Ennis, Petero Civoniceiva, David Stagg, Brad Thorn, Tonie Carroll,Interchange: Shaun Berrigan, Ben Hannant, Corey Parker, Casey McGuireStrengths:Brisbane has always had the knack of unearthing some brilliant juniors from their large nursery. The depth of talent that they can unleash on the NRL is unbelievable.Darren Lockyer. The world?s second best player outside Andrew Johns. Didn?t have his best end of season ever, but was suffering as a result of injuries.The Brisbane backline is very strong. It possesses speed and skill. With centres Tate and Hodges back to their best and speedsters Bott and Michaels finishing off set plays, the Brisbane backline is one of the most potent in the competition. They even have Shaun Berrigan on the bench for utility value.The addition of Michael Ennis provides them with a great hooker who is an accomplished goal kicker. His rotation with Berrigan will be vital for the Broncos? success this season and there will be great things coming from Ennis and in turn the Broncos as a result.Weaknesses:The overall age of this Broncos? outfit is a concern, particularly in the forwards. Forwards such as Webcke, Civoniceiva, Thorn and TBA are getting on in years and this weakness was exposed during the finals, when on more than one occasion the Broncos looked lacklustre and tired in attack and defence.The stubborn refusal of Bennett to promote players from Toowoomba is also a weakness. He has a pool of talent waiting for their shot in first grade at his disposal to only burn them down. Guys like Nick Kenny who proved his value in the one game he played are craving for shots. Instead he persists in using players like Dane Carlaw who are past their best.One to Watch:The younger brother of Vinnie and Louis Anderson, 21 year old Fraser Anderson, was recruited by the Broncos this year from the New Zealand Warriors development squad. Fraser is described as having ?power, pace and potential?. This explosive winger could be the something the Broncos have lacked since Wendell Sailor and Lote Tuqiri left the team for Rugby Union.Fraser will be looking to stamp himself in the NRL sooner rather than later. He is remarkably large for a winger, weighing at 104 kg, and standing at 190 cm he would be more suited to the back row. But his athleticism proves he is in fact a winger. In recent speed trials he even matched Leon Bott, the quickest in the Brisbane team. One thing for sure, when this massive winger explodes onto the NRL the Broncos could have another Tuqiri in their grasps.Gains and Losses:Gains: Michael Ennis, Ben HannantLosses: Tom Learoyd-Lars, Darren Mapp, Stuart Kelly, Berrick BarnesAssessment:Brisbane has the talent to win the competition. If Darren Lockyer fires, the backline gets good service and the forwards gain momentum, I don?t think there?s a team in the comp they can?t beat. However, the same goes the other direction. Will the Broncos do as they usually do and start well and then fade terribly with their tired legs and tactics? Or will they finally step up closer to finals time and claim yet another NRL premiership. My tip: Top 6 for the Broncos.
PENRITH captain Craig Gower could miss the rest of the State of Origin series after suffering a knee injury during last night?s 9-8 win by New South Wales over Queensland at Telstra Stadium.
STATE of Origin I
THE Raiders have finally put an end to their 6 loss losing streak away from home with a hard fought win at Suncorp Stadium by beating the Broncos 21-14.
THE St George ? Illawarra Dragons have once again notched up fifty points for the second successive week as they cruised to a 52-12 victory over the South Sydney Rabbitohs in front of a big crowd at the Sydney Cricket Ground today.
THE Newcastle Knights have re-ignited their season with a 56-12 thumping of the Manly Sea Eagles at Energy Australia Stadium this afternoon.
THE NNRLB are proud to announce that the international development group "1895 International" are confirmed as "Official Tournament Ball Sponsors" for the 1st Rotterdam International RL Festival to be held in Rotterdam during the first week of August.
YOUNG Dolphins back Joel Barnes has made a vow to himself ... he doesn't want to go back to A grade.
The 20-year-old has fought his way back into Neil Wharton's Premier Grade side and is determined to stay there.
Despite playing 11 top grade fixtures last season, Barnes could not force his way past established centres Brian Jellick and Damien Richters for the start of the 2004 season.
But the wedding of winger Phil Shilvock's sister provided the narrow opening that Barnes needed.
He slotted straight on to Shilvock's wing for the away match against the Toowoomba Clydesdales, performing well enough in the loss to keep his spot when Shilvock returned while youngster Chris Bond dropped back to A grade.
"I didn't go too bad against Toowoomba," Barnes said. "But of course it would have to be the only game the side has lost. It was good to get back up there in Premier Grade. It's a bit higher quality football and I want to make sure I stay there.
"I want to stay in Premier Grade and want to keep improving so OI do stay there. That's my aim for the season."
Barnes could have to bide his time on the left wing as Richters and Jellick are most probably the Queensland Cup's top centre pairing with Jellick a former New Zealand Test player and Richters closing on 100 appearances for the Dolphins and one of its leading points-scorers.
Barnes has a preference for left centre, but he says he does not care where he plays as long as he gets a game.
Now in his third season with the Dolphins, Barnes joined the club from the Nambour Crushers club, where he played under 19s after coming from Maroochydore.
"I'm a Sunshine Coast boy and have lived at Mooloolaba and Buderim all my life," He said. "It was only this year I moved to Redcliffe. I'm living a minute's drive from the club at Scarborough as I decided this season to concentrate on my footy. It certainly has knocked the travelling down."
Barnes came to Redcliffe via a schoolboys carnival at which he attracted the attention of Sydney Roosters recruitment boss Artie Beetson.
"Arthur sent me a letter inviting me to a trial at Dolphin Oval," he said. "I made the grade at the trial and ended up playing Colts with Redcliffe in 2002.
"We lost the grand final to Wests that year in the final year, but turned around last year and won the A grade decider.
"That match was the biggest game of my career and I loved it. It was great."
The 83 kilogram Barnes impressed last season with his elusive breaks from midfield, his pace allowing him to terrorise Wynnum and win the Don McLennan Trophy for best performance in a grand final.
He also cannot speak highly enough of the Dolphins organisation.
"It's the best club I've been at," he said. "They really look after you.
"What I want to do is get more involved in a game, get my hands on the ball more often."
Off the field Barnes has settled into life in property maintenance with local Peter Smink after earlier days as a machine operator with an earthmoving company on the Sunshine Coast.
Nicknamed Barnesy or Jimmy after the Aussie rock legend, he says he knew no one at the club when he joined. But a recent influx of Sunshine Coast talent in Rod West (rejoined), Colt Peter Delaivuna (Maroochydore) and rookie Shane Anderson (Nambour), as well as his team-mates, meant he did not feel pangs for home.
As it is, his parents travel from Buderim every weekend to watch him play, except for the long haul to Townsville for the Young Guns clash.