FOLLOWING a hearing of the RFL Disciplinary Committee in Leeds on Tuesday, Paul Sculthorpe of St Helens was found guilty of striking in last Friday?s engage Super League fixture against Leeds Rhinos, resulting in a one-game suspension and a ?350 fine.Sculthorpe was charged by the Rugby Football League following an incident involving Ryan Bailey in last week?s win over Leeds.Saints will also be without James Graham after the prop was banned for two games for a similar offence.Graham was summoned to Tuesday?s disciplinary hearing in Leeds after a late challenge on Rhinos? Rob Burrow. He will also sit out next week?s game against Huddersfield.Both players were fined ?350 but Saints have indicated their intention to appeal against the verdicts.Wakefield half-back Sam Obst was also banned for one game and fined ?350 for a dangerous throw in his side?s win at Harlequins. He will miss Saturday?s encounter with Huddersfield.- - - - -Paul Sculthorpe and James Graham of St Helens have both withdrawn their appeals with the RFL against suspensions imposed by the Disciplinary Committee in Leeds on Tuesday night.Sculthorpe was suspended for one game and Graham for two games after being found guilty of striking in last Friday evening?s engage Super League encounter with Leeds Rhinos.Both players were also fined ?350 and lodged appeals over their punishment, but these have now been withdrawn.
CASTLEFORD enjoyed their first taste of success on their return to the engage Super League, overcoming Catalans Dragons 34-28 in a gripping encounter at the Jungle.Having suffered the pain of relegation at the end of the 2004 season, Castleford have found life hard since their return to the top flight, suffering heavy defeats at the hands of both Hull and St Helens.However this win, their first Super League victory since the September 11 2004, offers coach Terry Matterson hope they can avoid the relegation trapdoor this time around, although they will need to learn how to close a game out if they are to achieve that goal.After leading 26-10 at one stage in the second half, the Tigers slipped to being 28-26 behind, before Michael Shenton?s 74th-minute charge to the line finally secured the points.Matterson?s cause was helped considerably by the loss of Stacey Jones, the Catalans? playmaker, to a broken arm in their defeat at Salford last weekend.After looking void of any creativity for almost an hour, the visitors eventually clicked into gear and produced a devastating spell of rugby, reminiscent of their opening weekend win over Wigan.Vital to the Tigers victory were centre Gray Viane and stand-off Ryan McGoldrick.The former has been impeccable since arriving from Widnes and increased his tally of tries this season to six with a hat-trick, whilst the latter produced an all-round performance that justified why Castleford fought so hard to secure his release from Wests Tigers.Having been left out of the side so far this campaign, it was Waine Pryce, one of just three survivors from the class of 2004, who opened the scoring in the third minute with his first touch of the season.His 60-metre burst to the line and Craig Huby?s subsequent goal built the platform for what followed.Catalans fought back with interest but were all too guilty of trying to force an extra pass and they were made to pay on 13 minutes when the impressive Danny Sculthorpe found Viane in space on the left-hand side, the centre making no mistake in finding the line.Having been rejected by St Helens and relegated at Widnes, Viane is now showing his full potential.His try, backed up by a brace after the break, leaves him second on the embryonic try scorers chart.It appeared a walkover might be on the cards when McGoldrick fed Huby to open a 16-0 lead, more so when Mark Hughes was sent to the sin-bin for holding Ben Roarty.Jamil Fakir made light of the full-back?s absence though to barge over from close range and open the visitors? account.Castleford hit back with an effort from Richard Fletcher, again set up by Huby, although Thomas Bosc?s scramble touchdown brought the scores closer together at the interval, Castleford leading 22-10.Viane opened the second period with his second try, grounding Sculthorpe?s deft kick to the corner, although when Chris Beattie plundered a further French response following on from a sin-binning for Pryce, a fightback looked likely.With just 20 minutes remaining, the prospect looked all the more ominous, when Renaud Guigue capitalised on Andy Kain?s failure to deal with Sean Rudder?s high kick to score to the left of the posts.Luarent Frayssinous kept his cool to reduce the arrears to 26-22 with the conversion.The visitors then produced what had previously seemed unthinkable by taking the lead on 63 minutes, when John Wilson collected Hughes? pass to crash over in the corner.Frayssinous then kicked his fourth conversion to draw a chorus of boos from the home crowd as Castleford bordered on throwing away all their early hard work.But the crowd of 5825 need not have worried for too long, as first Shenton collected a pass from Roarty to score in the right hand corner, and then Viane rounded things off with the last touch of the game.Castleford: Platt, Pryce, Viane, Shenton, Dyer, McGoldrick, Kain, Sculthorpe, Henderson, Nutley, Fletcher, Huby, Roarty.Replacements: Mason, Bird, Haughey, Handforth.Catalans Dragons: Hughes, Murphy, Wilson, Guigue, Verges, Rudder, Frayssinous, Beattie, Rinaldi, Fellous, Fakir, Guisset, Hindmarsh.Replacements: Bosc, Chan, Touxagas, Mounis.Castleford (22) 34.Tries: Pryce, Viane 3, Huby, Fletcher, Shenton. Goals: Huby 2, Kain.Catalans Dragons (10) 28.Tries: Fakir, Bosc, Beattie, Guigue, Wilson. Goals: Frayssinous 4.Att: 5,852Referee: S Ganson (St Helens)
KIWI winger Henry Fa?afili scored a hat-trick of tries as Warrington staged a tremendous fightback to claim their first win of the engage Super League season 46-24.The Wolves were staring at a third successive defeat when they conceded two tries in the first 14 minutes and found themselves trailing 24-12 after a spectacular 90-metre try from Great Britain winger Gareth Raynor five minutes before half-time.But the Wolves suddenly found their touch and, inspired by captain Lee Briers, ran in 34 points without reply to condemn Hull to their first defeat of the season, a result that leaves St Helens with the only 100% record after three rounds.Former Hull winger Richie Barnett helped sink his old club as he got among the feast of tries which warmed a 9,539 crowd on a bitterly cold night at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.But Hull coach John Kear must wonder how it all went wrong after his side made a dream start.Beaten in both their opening games, the Wolves? gloom deepened in the early stages when they conceded quickfire tries to Danny Brough and Kirk Yeaman, who went on to add a second before half-time to take his tally to seven in just three matches.Warrington went into the game without four players, including New Zealand Test second rower Logan Swann, who succumbed to a virus sweeping through the club.And the home side were under the weather from the start as Hull quickly became the first team to reach 100 points in Super League XI.Their calamitous start was epitomised by full-back Brent Grose, whose fumble enabled scrum-half Brough to touch down for the first try after only six minutes.The crucial kick had come from loose forward Paul Cooke, who set up Yeaman for the second just three minutes later after former Hull centre Toa Kohe-Love had knocked on in his own half.The quick-thinking Cooke spotted Grose up in the line at the scrum and Yeaman easily won the race to his kick.Brought converted both tries and added a 17th-minute penalty to make it 14-0 but it could have been much worse for Warrington, with Hull winger Motu Tony failing to make anything of a clear overlap and Grose getting a hand to what would have been Brough?s tryscoring pass to Richard Horne.The Wolves made the most of the let-offs, with hooker Jon Clarke beating his opposite number Richard Swain from dummy half to claim a much-needed try midway through the first half.Briers also scored a solo try, jinking his way over from close range, and he kicked both conversions, but by then Yeaman had taken full-back Shaun Briscoe?s pass to score his second try.There looked to be no way back once Raynor diffused Chris Bridge?s ?bomb? and raced 90 metres to score, turning his former team-mate Richie Barnett inside out in the process.But tries either side of half-time from Fa?afili breathed new life into Warrington?s cause.Fa?afili timed his jump perfectly just before the break to gather Briers? high kick and then finished off a sweeping move involving Clarke and Martin Gleeson to add a second seven minutes into the second half.A handling error by Hull?s substitute winger Nathan Blacklock enabled the home side to pile on the pressure and it paid off on 54 minutes when Briers and Clarke combined to get second rower Michael Wainwright over for the try which put his side in front for the first time.Hull visibly crumbled as Barnett finished off a classic cross-field move in decisive fashion and Bridge added try number seven from close range.Briers, who could do no wrong in a one-sided second half, added a drop goal and then intercepted a pass from former Warrington favourite Sid Domic to send Fa?afili over for his hat-trick try.Briers kicked his sixth goal from eight attempts and fittingly completed the scoring with a second drop goal, this time from 40 metres, to cap off a magnificent display.Warrington: Grose, Fa'afili, M. Gleeson, Kohe-Love, Barnett, Briers, Bridge, Leikvoll, Clarke, Wood, Noone, Wainwright, Westwood.Replacements: Sullivan, M. Gleeson, Hilton, Lima.Hull: Briscoe, Tony, Whiting, Yeaman, Raynor, R. Horne, Brough, Thackray, Swain, King, Radford, Domic, Cooke.Replacements: Blacklock, McMenemy, Higgins, Carvell.Warrington: (18) 46.Tries: Clarke, Briers, Fa'afili 3, Wainwright, Barnett, Bridge.Goals: Briers 6.Drop Goals: Briers 2.Hull: (24) 24.Tries: Brough, Yeaman 2, Raynor.Goals: Brough 4.Referee: R Silverwood (Dewsbury)Att: 9,359
HARLEQUINS are still without a win after Fijian winger Semi Tadulala?s hat-trick inspired Wakefield to their first success of the new season following a 26-6 victory.The Wildcats had lost their first two matches to Bradford and Hull, but were always too strong for Quins once Tadulala went over twice in the first 10 minutes.The flying Fijian took just two minutes to open his account.Quins had not even handled the ball when quick Wakefield hands down the left gave Tadulala the simple task of finishing from five yards.Seven minutes later he added his second when he got on the end of David March?s grubber kick to touch down in the same corner.Quins? New Zealand scrum-half Thomas Leuluai should have reduced the arrears in the 15th minute, but he lost possession with the try line beckoning.Wakefield stretched their lead in the 27th minute when Tony Clubb dropped the ball two yards from his own line and Sam Obst gleefully accepted the gift.March slotted over the conversion after missing his first two attempts from the touchline.Quins ? again without influential skipper Mark McLinden ? improved before the break with returning centre Tyrone Smith and Lee Hopkins being held up on the line.The Wildcats lost John Whittle early in the second period after he fell awkwardly under a tackle, but Colum Halpenney sealed the win with the fourth try of the afternoon for the visitors.After another slick passing move, Halpenny was put clear and, despite juggling the ball, he regained his composure to touch down.March missed his third conversion from the touchline, but Ben Jeffries added a close-range penalty to make it 20-0.Tadulala completed his haul six minutes from time after David Solomona offloaded in the tackle before Quins finally got on the scoresheet.Mark Tookey evaded two tackles in the 77th minute and touched down under the posts with Paul Sykes adding the conversion, but it was no more than a consolation.Wakefield had the final say when Jeffries added a last-gasp penalty.Harlequins RL: Lucky Luisi, Clubb, Purdham, Sykes, Bradley-Qalilawa, Gafa, Leuluai, Temata, Weisner, Heckenberg, Haumono, Hopkins, Mbu.Replacements: Williams, Mills, Smith, Tookey.Wakefield: Halpenny, White, Demetriou, Whittle, Tadulala, Obst, Jeffries, Catic, March, MacGillivray, Solomona, Elima, Betham.Replacements: Applegarth, Griffin, Korkidas, SaxtonHarlequins RL: (0) 6Tries:TookeyGoals: SykesWakefield: (14) 26Tries: Tadulala (3), Obst, HalpennyGoals: March, Jeffries (2)Referee: I Smith (Oldham)Att: 3,554
CHAMPIONS Bradford ended Salford?s winning start to the engage Super League season with an emphatic 34-4 victory at Odsal on Friday night.The Bulls ran in six tries but the contest was effectively settled in the first 40 minutes as they opened up a 24-4 half-time lead.Iestyn Harris touched down twice for the dominant Bulls with Brad Meyers, Stuart Fielden, Shontayne Hape and Stanley Gene also crossing. Paul Deacon kicked four goals.Salford had gone into the game with the best defensive record in the competition having conceded just one try in their opening wins over Warrington and Catalans Dragons.Bradford soon set about changing that and opened the Reds up to claim the first score of a chilly evening after just two minutes.Hape knocked back a Iestyn Harris kick and Meyers made easy work of the finish by the posts.Deacon converted and Salford were fortunate to escape further damage as the Bulls scrum-half lost the ball trying to touch down. Ben Harris also seemed set to score when he knocked on under pressure from Karl Fitzpatrick.Another try seemed inevitable and it duly arrived after 16 minutes when Fielden found space on the left and powered his way to the line.It was beginning to look too easy for the Bulls as Deacon broke from halfway to pass inside for half-back partner Iestyn Harris to score the third try.Salford did at least manage to stem the flow as they mounted a rare attack and pulled a try back through David Hodgson after 24 minutes.The Reds opted to run a penalty deep in the Bulls half and were rewarded as the ball was worked wide for Hodgson to sneak over in the corner.Normal service was resumed four minutes before the interval, however, as Chris McKenna found Ben Harris with a clever pass behind his back and the centre sent Iestyn Harris over for his second.The Bulls continued to apply the pressure after the break and, despite a stronger defensive effort from Salford, it only seemed a matter of time before they increased their lead.The fifth try arrived as they attacked down the right and Lesley Vainikolo, on his return to the side from injury, fed Hape in the corner.Salford almost responded immediately as Andy Coley drove to the line but he was stopped short and Junior Langi was held up as he tried to force his way over from dummy half.The game was well beyond the Reds, however, and the second half was a largely scrappy affair. Salford?s frustration began to show and, with Bradford easing up, there were a few niggly incidents and ugly tackles.Yet it was still a satisfactory night for the Bulls and Gene put the seal on their first home win of the season when he broke through for a fine individual try 11 minutes from time.With Deacon off the field, Iestyn Harris completed formalities with the conversion, taking his tally for the night to 10 points.Bradford: Withers, Bai, B. Harris, Hape, Vainikolo, I. Harris, Deacon, Fielden, Henderson, Lynch, McKenna, Meyers, Langley.Replacements: Vagana, Johnson, Gene, Ferres.Salford: Hodgson, Stewart, Littler, Moule, Langi, Dunemann, Fitzpatrick, Coley, Alker, Highton, Brocklehurst, Finnigan, Charles.Replacements: Clough, Haggerty, Rutgerson, Baldwin.Bradford: (24) 34.Tries: Meyers, Fielden, I. Harris 2, Hape, Gene.Goals: Deacon 4, I. Harris.Salford: (4) 4.Tries: Hodgson.Referee: R Laughton (Barnsley)Att: 10,062
ST Helens underlined their status as engage Super League title favourites with a hard-fought 13-4 victory over Leeds to maintain their 100% start to the season.Leeds' teenager Danny Williams enjoyed a fairytale debut by scoring the first try of the match but it was not enough to prevent the Rhinos? first defeat.Saints trailed until second row Lee Gilmour struck in first-half stoppage time while winger Francis Meli scored the only try of the second half.Leeds, 19-16 winners on their last visit to Knowsley Road in October, had the encouragement of an early break by second row Jamie Jones-Buchanan, a late replacement for Great Britain international Gareth Ellis.And they thought they had scored on eight minutes when 19-year-old Williams collected a kick from Kevin Sinfield only for video referee Steve Presley to rule he was in front of the kicker.Both defences were on top but Saints had difficulty coping with Leeds' clever kicking game.Stand-off Danny McGuire, pinpointed by St Helens coach Daniel Anderson as a major threat, knocked on in a great position after Ali Lauitiiti had intercepted a Saints pass.Some delightful passing from Saints' internationals Leon Pryce and Jamie Lyon promised much and the home side had a try disallowed on 17 minutes when winger Ade Gardner was denied by a forward pass.The breakthrough came on 23 minutes when Williams showed great pace to reach full-back Richie Mathers' grubber kick to the line and this time referee Ashley Klein had no reason to refer the decision.Sinfield missed the difficult conversion and the Rhinos went behind just before half time when Gilmour took a short pass from prop Paul Anderson to crash through for a crucial try.Lyon added the simple goal to edge his side 6-4 ahead by the break.It was just as tense in the second half as both sides sought to gain the upper hand and handling errors ruined many a promising move.Both teams had ignored chances to kick penalty goals in the first half but the temptation proved too great for Saints on 50 minutes after Shane Millard was pulled up for interference at the play-the-ball.Captain Paul Sculthorpe asked Lyon to go for the two points and the Australian duly obliged, edging his side into an 8-4 lead.That was just the encouragement St Helens needed as they began to pile on the pressure, which paid off almost immediately.Man of the match Pryce sent out a long pass to the wing where Meli stepped inside Rob Burrow to touch down and extend his side's lead.That was the signal for Sculthorpe to take a breather but vice-captain Sean Long strengthened his side's hold on the game by adding a drop goal to complete the scoring.St Helens: Wellens, Gardner, Lyon, Talau, Meli, Pryce, Long, P. Anderson, Cunningham, Cayless, Gilmour, Sculthorpe, HooperReplacements: Roby, Wilkin, Graham, Fa'asavalu.Leeds: Mathers, Donald, Walker, Senior, Williams, McGuire, Burrow, Bailey, Diskin, Peacock, Lauitiiti, Jones-Buchanan, SinfieldReplacements: Millard, Poching, Feather, Scruton.St Helens: (6) 13.Tries: Gilmour, Meli.Goals: Lyon 2.Drop Goals: Long.Leeds: (4) 4.Tries: Williams.Referee: A Klein (London)Att: 13,433
WIGAN swept away any talk of crisis after two successive defeats by recording a 36-20 victory over Huddersfield at the JJB Stadium that was far more emphatic than the scoreline suggests.Much had been made of the Warriors being a defeat away from their worst start to a season in 21 years, but first-half tries by Chris Ashton, Kevin Brown, Iafeta Paleaaesina, Harrison Hansen and Brett Dallas had all but killed the game by the break.The Giants, who were on the back foot for virtually the entire first half, made a contest of it with a couple of scores either side of the break, but had left themselves with far too much to do to repeat last season?s come from behind win here despite adding another two tries in the last 10 minutes.Wigan had got off to the perfect start by running in three tries inside the opening 10 minutes to greatly ease the pressure on themselves and coach Ian Millward.The first saw young full back Ashton burst through down the right-hand side and outpace the cover to touch down, and the second owed everything to a superb break down the centre of the field by Dennis Moran.As the scrum half drew Huddersfield full back Paul Reilly, the supporting David Vaealiki was held back in play, and the chance looked to have gone.Moran, though, had another trick up his sleeve, and he kicked ahead towards the left-hand corner for Brown to ground the ball over the line.Two minutes later a fine break from Mark Calderwood down the left set up good field position and, following a penalty for holding down in the tackle, Hansen crashed over through some weak tackling for the third try.Danny Tickle kicked all three conversions and the Giants were staring down the barrels of a heavy defeat, having barely had the ball in their hands.The Warriors added their fourth score after just 17 minutes, as Paleaaesina took a short ball from close range and just bulldozed his way through two would-be tacklers.The home side should have extended the lead after 26 minutes when a super passing move involving Brown, Moran and Ashton saw Calderwood fail to take the final ball with the line at his mercy.The Giants had their first real attack with half an hour on the clock but massive defensive hits from Sean O?Loughlin and Vaealiki denied Eorl Crabtree and Paul March respectively, and Wigan broke away to bring up the 30-point mark with just 33 minutes on the clock.Dallas finished off a flowing move in the left-hand corner to present Tickle with his most difficult conversion yet, but the second rower was up to it to maintain his 100% record.Huddersfield hit back on the stroke of half time when, after Brad Drew had been held up just short by Ashton and Brown, Chris Nero took Pat Richards and Calderwood over the line with him to put the visitors on the scoreboard.The Giants then came out first up for the second half and centre James Evans scored their second try just two minutes after the interval to give the visiting support something to cheer at long last.They nearly cut the gap further on 50 minutes after Albert Torrens was put through by Chris Thorman, but the Giants man was bundled into touch by Ashton a yard short.Huddersfield's hopes of an unlikely comeback were hit on the hour, though, when Paul March was sent to the sin bin for holding down in the tackle.And the Warriors took immediate advantage by crossing for their sixth try of the night when Wayne Godwin touched down by the side of the posts, although Torrens and De Vere replied for Huddersfield in the closing stages to give the scoreline a more than flattering look.Wigan: Ashton, Calderwood, Richards, Vaealiki, Dallas, Brown, Moran, Seu Seu, Godwin, Paleaaesina, Hansen, Tickle, O'Loughlin.Replacements: Logan, Hargreaves, Higham, Tomkins.Huddersfield: Reilly, Aspinwall, Evans, Torrens, De Vere, Thorman, Paul, Crabtree, March, McDonald, Smith, Jones, Wild.Replacements: Drew, Nero, Snitch, Jackson.Wigan: (30) 36.Tries: Ashton, Brown, Hansen, Paleaaesina, Dallas, Godwin.Goals: Tickle 6.Huddersfield: (4) 20.Tries: Nero, Evans, Torrens, De Vere.Goals: De Vere, Thorman.Referee: P Bentham (Warrington)Att: 11,623
LIKELY squad: Brent Webb, Manu Vatuvai, Clinton Toopi, Tony Martin, Todd Byrne, Jerome Roparti, Nathan Fien, Steve Price, Lance Hohaia, Richard Villasanti, Ruben Wiki, Warraingi Koopu, Sione FaumuinaInterchange: Sonny Fai, Awen Guttenbeil, Louis Anderson, Michael LuckStrengths:The Warriors have the uncanny knack of developing some of the most ferocious forwards in the game. They have developed the likes of Joe Galuvao and Ali Lauitiiti and there is no doubt they will unearth two or three brand new prospects that we will just be awestruck by.The appointment of Ivan Cleary to the head job at the Warriors will do wonders for them. He is a clever operator and a coach that will get his team into peak physical condition for the battles that lay ahead.The Warriors forward pack is lethal to say the least. Spearheaded by Steve Price and Ruben Wiki, the Warriors pack has the ability to defeat anyone on any given day, if only they applied their natural abilities.Weaknesses:Well, starting the season on -4 points is going to be a huge challenge to overcome. The whole salary cap issues surrounding the Warriors recently will have an enormous affect the player?s morale and the team?s cohesion in training.The inability of these players to remain consistent is quite ridiculous. With the talent at the Warriors, they should have the ability to compete at the highest level; however inconsistency and the inability to close a game when they grab a lead will need to be rectified for the Warriors to improve on last season.The Warriors also are going through a transition period. They lost their inspiration and halfback in Stacey Jones, without buying an adequate replacement. Nathan Fien can only take them so far, and it?s not to a premiership.The Warriors may have a lot of young talent at their disposal but they have a distinct lack of depth with regards to players with NRL experience. This could provide a distinct weakness for them and their progression in the competition this season.The Warriors backline is not one to be feared. The lack of form at club level for Clinton Toopi and the injury-prone Tony Martin do not pose much of a threat to any opposition backline defences. However the departure of Francis Meli and the arrival of exciting talent Manu Vatuvai into the winger?s position will be of great benefit to the Warriors chances.One to Watch:Junior Kiwi and New Zealand Residents representative Sonny Fai is the young player to watch for the Warriors in 2006. Rated by Warriors coach Ivan Cleary as their top junior prospect, the super talented Fai is looking to make his debut in first grade in 2006. He has been touted by many as the Warriors Sonny Bill Williams, something that could be very exciting for NRL to see.Remarkably Sonny Fai is still at the tender age of 17, but stands at 192cm tall and is 105kg. Many would think with his size he?d be slow, but while this young man possesses a massive frame, he is also very quick, with the ability to play centre, which he did on a number of occasions in Bartercard Cup last season. Fai is extremely versatile, being able to play the game-breaking centre, or the powerful ball-playing backrower. This is what sets him apart from other juniors in the Warriors? organisation.Fai?s greatest attributes are his size and skill, but along with that he is very quick and has an incredible football brain. On a number of occasions in Bartercard Cup playing centre, he was able to sniff out game breaking opportunities, such as a crucial intercept, when to press in the defence or which line to run. He looks like he will have a massive future in the NRL and it will be a privilege to watch his progressionGains and Losses:Gains: Michael Luck, Grant Rovelli, George Gatis.Losses: Stacey Jones, Monty Betham, Tevita Latu, Frances Meli, Karl Temata, Iafeta PaleaasinaAssessment:I don?t believe the Warriors have what it takes to make the top 8 this year. Starting on -4 points for this season is a big hurdle to overcome in the early stages of the competition.I also believe their recruitment was lacklustre for the calibre of players that left the club the loss of a New Zealand great will really affect their style of play this year. Stacey was a superb player for New Zealand and was responsible for big wins in big game situations. Something I feel that the Warriors lack this season. My prediction is for the Warriors to finish between 13-15th this season and to recruit heavily for 07?.
LIKELY squad: Luke Patten, Hazem El Masri, Reni Matuia, Willie Tonga, Matt Utai, Daniel Holdsworth, Brent Sherwin, Mark O?Meley, Adam Perry, Roy Asotasi, Andrew Ryan, Willie Mason, Tony GrimaldiInterchange: Chris Armit, Nate Myles, Sonny Bill Williams, Billy NgawiniStrengths:The team still has a solid nucleus. They have a strong backline capable of making big line breaks and scoring tries. I?ve placed Reni Matuia at centres because I believe he has a big future there if he maintains it.The Bulldogs have one of the best forward packs in the competition. They have great mobile forwards capable of ripping a game apart in a heartbeat. This will be where the Bulldogs will have to win their games. If their forwards don?t dominant, the Dogs will struggle.Any team that contains Sonny Bill Williams has to note him as strength. Coming off the bench Sonny will be looking to hopefully play the full season for once. If he does that, then the opposition had better watch out because Sonny has the capability of putting any team to sleep within a short period of time.Malcom Noad?s appointment as CEO of the club was a bit of a hurried process. However, he has handled the job with distinction and he is attempting to create a better culture in his club.Weaknesses:The Bulldogs currently have out of form halves. While at his best he is a brilliant halfback, Brent ?Shifty? Sherwin just didn?t cut the mustard in 2005. His play was lacklustre, his kicking was woeful and he just didn?t dominate oppositions like he used to. He needs to pick up his game dramatically for the Dogs to have a chance. If he can recapture his form of the past, the Dogs really have a chance of getting in the 8. If he doesn?t, then the Dogs will be looking at a mid table finish at best.Sonny Bill Williams is also a weakness to the Bulldogs. While he is one of the most brilliantly gifted individuals in the game, his body is prone to injuries with his style of play. Unfortunately this same style has forced him to another delay to get onto the field with a new injury surfacing. Sonny needs to change his style a little bit this season if he is any chance to lead the Bulldogs, because without him in the team, the Bulldogs seem a different team. The kid just needs a massive change of luck.Braith Anasta?s departure could possibly affect the mental state of the players this season. At crucial times in matches Braith used to take control, and they will really miss that. I believe Daniel Holdsworth is a great player and he is quality, but I don?t believe he will be as vital to the Dogs as Anasta was.One to Watch:Billy Ngawini was signed by the Bulldogs from North Sydney for this season. He was a relative unknown until a star performance in the New Zealand A game in Sydney late last year against a Australian Invitational side containing the likes of Trent Barrett and Scott Prince. Ngawini is expected to feature heavily this season as word spreads of his brilliant speed, strength and ability to put players through a gap. The talented Ngawini was once a product of the Waikato Chiefs in the Super 12, but after a conversation with Gary Freeman, switched codes and now that he has signed with the Dogs he is looking to make his mark on the NRL. He will be vital to the Bulldogs who have really lacked a good hooker at the club for a long time. Ngawini could replace Corey Hughes on the bench and be an impact player for the 2006 season.Gains and Losses:Gains: Daniel Holdsworth, Namila Davui, Jon Green, Chris Tuatara, Nick Kouparitsas, Billy Ngawini, Ben Roberts, Jamie Small.Losses: Braith Anasta, Charlie Tonga, Trevor Thurling, Jamaal Lolesi, Filinga Filiga, Jamie FrizzoAssessment:I believe the Bulldogs have a great team with some of the best forwards going around in the game at the moment, but I don?t believe they have the creative halves to win a competition. I believe on the back of their forwards they have the great ability to win matches, but when it comes down to the business end of the season, it?s your halves that win matches and the Bulldogs just don?t have that attribute yet. I believe the Dogs will finish between 7th and 11th, remaining competitive the whole season. However, they might not have the adequate skill level to win the crucial games that matter the most.
GREAT news for the Wests Tigers overnight, with premiership winning coach Tim Sheens re-signing for three more years. The new contract will see Sheens at the club until the end of 2009.It?s a huge boost for the club, with Sheens attracting plenty of attention from rival clubs following his efforts in steering the joint venture to their maiden premiership.In more good news, it has been revealed that gun five-eighth Benji Marshall has overcome his off-season shoulder operation and will be available for the first round when the Tigers take on the Dragons.However, not all things are rosy for the Tige?s, with rumours suggesting that playmaker and halfback Scott Prince may be making his way to the Gold Coast next season.
KANGAROO centre Matt Cooper has today agreed to terms with the club for two years until the end of the 2008 season.Cooper is the second of the club?s off-contract players to make a formal commitment to the St George Illawarra Dragons for the next few seasons following the announcement of Dean Young (2009) last week.The Shellharbour junior has played 99 first grade games with the Dragons since his NRL debut in Round 1 of the 2000 NRL season and is looking forward to not only his 100 game milestone but many more with the Dragons over the coming years.?The Dragons is a great Club and I am very happy to be staying,? said Cooper.?I am a local junior and have always been given great opportunities here.?We have a great group of players here that I enjoy playing with, a group that I want to continue tobe a part of.?Aside from the football, I like the area and all my family and friends are here?.Cooper, 26, has played four NSW Origin Games and six Tests for his country and is hoping there is more representative football ahead.?I will certainly be hoping to play representative football again this year, but I will be concentrating on the Dragons and my performances each week,? said Cooper. ?Representative honours are a reward for consistently good performances?.Dragons Chief Executive Officer Peter Doust said he was pleased to finalise Cooper?s arrangements with the club.?Matt is a significant contributor to our organisation and key component of our team moving forward,? said Doust.?I am very pleased that he has chosen to stay with our Club and I am sure our fans will be too.?I also need to compliment both Matt and Dean and their management companies on their understanding of what the Dragons stand for,? added Doust.?Both have agreed to stay with our club for less than what they would no doubt have attracted on the open market?.
A Rockhampton Leagues Club Comets White side made up of QLD Cup squad players and QR Development Squad players were too strong for Mackay South?s Sharks A-grade defeating them 34-18 at Browne Park on Saturday, February 12 in round two of the Minniecon & Burke Comets Pre-Season Challenge.
LAST Friday night the Classic Sportswear Redcliffe Dolphins Development squad travelled down to Pizzey Park to take on the Burleigh Bears.
THE QLD Rail Comets Development Squad defeated Souths Sharks Mackay U-19s 40-10 after classy centre Tyron Haynes scored a hatrick of tries at Browne Park, Rockhampton on Saturday, February 12.
THE Toyota North Queensland Cowboys have named an 18-man squad for their trial match against the Sharks at the Mackay Showgrounds on Saturday, February 19.