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?.
WITH the 2006 NRL season kicking off on March 10th, LeagueUnlimited.com would like to take this opportunity to invite you to join our 2006 NRL tipping competition, proudly sponsored by Bounce Telecoms (a telecomunications company).The prizes for the winners are:Sony Playstation Portable (PSP) with a game of your choiceApple IPod (2GB)ROWA 68 cm flat screen tvThe first-placed winner of the tipping comp gets first choice.The second place-getter has second choice.And third place gets the remaining prize.There will be additional spot prizes given out during the year so sign up today and join in the fun.The value of the prizes is well over $2,000CLICK HERE TO JOIN THE LEAGUEUNLIMITED.COM TIPPING COMPIf you have any questions regarding the competition or the prizes, please e-mail [email protected] and we will have an answer for you within 24 hours.RegardsThe Leagueunlimited team
THE Emerald Group Dolphins crossed the bay for trials in three grades against traditional rivals Wynnum Manly Seagulls.The Dolphins colts got off to good start and led for the majority of the game. Up by 16 points with just 10 minutes to go they got run down to lose 30-24. Wynnum Manly finsihed the game on fire while the young Dolphins ball control and poor discipline let them down badly.The Dolphins were good defensively in the first half especially with the possession rate weighted heavily against them. But while their defence was good the completions and ball control was poor. Coach Craig Ingebrigtsen said ?It?s something we?ll be working on in the next few week, we only completed one set of six properly in the second half?.Best for the Dolphins were Tim Benson, Tom Donnelly and Joel RomeloWynnum 30 (R.Congoo 2, J.Mclean, A Mansey tries L.Menhinnitt 4, R.Cronin goals)Redcliffe 24 (J.Romelo 2, D.Porteous, M.Gillett, T.Donnelly tries T.Benson 2 goals)In the A grade game the Dolphins went down 28-18. The Seagulls always looked in control of this encounter. Coach Grant Cleal didn't dwell on the result in the sheds at fulltime he highlighted the positives he got from the game. "Everybody who saw the game knows what we did wrong and we'll work on that, they don't need to be told they all realise we play our first comp game in a few weeks time and we have to get it right."Best for the Dolphins was Alwyn Simpson who looked dangerous everytime he got the ball and was strong in defence.Wynnum 28 (Steve Irwin 2, Caleb McEniery 1, Rodney Barba 1 tries Bart Masters 4 goals)Redcliffe 18 (Mitchell Simpson, Adam Luchetti, Mick Pares, Luke Boldery tries Alwyn Simpson 1 goal)The Queensland Wizard Cup didn't rise to any great heights as a spectical. It didn't start well for the Dolphins losing Rory Bromley injured at the last training session on friday and inspirational prop Troy Lindsay after just 10 minutes of play. The Dolphins had to do a mountain of defence in the first half and were their own worst enemies continually turning the ball over and being heavily penalised. Coach Anthony Griffin was happy with the defensive effort in the first half and said to the team they had done well to keep Wynnum Manly to 14 points. ?Our execution was pretty poor tonight and we?ll be working on it in the coming weeks? Griffin said after the game. ?But there were positives to be taken out of tonight? he added.?I haven?t got anybody pegged for a spot anywhere just yet, the trial and training form will determine the first competition side? Griffin told his players.On the injury front the Dolphins expect Troy Lindsay to be out for 4-6 weeks with a knee ligament strain, while Grant Flugge also will have an appointment with the doctor during the week to have his injured knee checked out.Best for the Dolphins were Pat Gardner who continually punched holes in the Wynnum defence with some strong charges; Adam Starr was good both in attack and defence, while Mark Shipway?s bruising defence lifted his team mates. Danny Burke also had a strong game. The backs didn?t get many opportunities and when they did they tended to turnover possession trying to do too much. The Dolphins had many chances to win the game but a combination of Wynnums strong defence and poor ball control meant it wasn't going to be the Dolphins night.Wynnum 20 (Simon Phillips 2, Shaun Daylight, Luke Dalzeil Don tries 2 goals)Redcliffe 10 (Pat Gardner, Alwyn Simpson tries Greg Bourke 1 goal)
THE New Zealand Warriors have been penalised four NRL competition points as the drama of the salary cap breach reached a conclusion today.The Warriors were accused of going over the NRL salary cap by as much as $1 million in the 2004 and 2005 seasons. In particular, the signings of Steve Price from the Bulldogs and Ruben Wiki from the Raiders coming under scrutiny during the investigation.The Warriors put their case forward to the NRL this afternoon. But they were docked four points and issued with a fine of $430,000. The Warriors have also had their salary cap spending capacity for 2007 reduced.NRL chief executive David Gallop [pictured] says the League are determined to make a stand against any club found to be rorting the salary cap.The Warriors will now begin the 2006 NRL season on minus four points. Its understood this is the first time a team has been stripped of points prior to the season kicking off.The NRL was made aware of the possible breach late last season when former Warriors' chief executive Mick Watson and his administration were set to be replaced. In a press statement, the NRL says the punishment was mitigated to some extent by the transparent actions of the current Warriors' administration, which did not take part in any of the issues under investigation, and cooperated fully with the NRL. In addition, the Warriors will have five days in which to make formal submissions in regard to the proposed penalty.In 2002, Gallop was in charge of the NRL when the Canterbury Bulldogs were stripped of 37 competition points and fined $500,000 for exceeding the cap over several seasons.
ST Helens 13 Leeds 4 Tries: Gilmore, Meli Williams Goals: Lyon 2 Field Goal Long Att: 13,433 In a titanic struggle at Knowsley Road, the Saints kept up their 100% record by narrowly inflicting a first defeat on the Leeds Rhinos. Young teenager Danny Williams -on his first team debut - opened the scoring by pouncing on a Richard Mathers grubber kick. Minutes earlier he was denied a try by the Video referee for being just offside, after chasing Kevin Sinfield Kick. With seconds, remaining of the first half St Helens took the lead when Lee Gilmore latched on to a Paul Anderson short Pass. St Helens were soon in to their stride as they battered a resolute Leeds defence. They increased their lead when Jamie Lyon added a penalty goal from underneath the posts. The Rhinos were finding it hard to get out of their own half as Saints went in for the kill. Eventually after a superb long-pass by, ex Bulls star Leon Price Francis Meli crashed in at the corner. Leeds tried to get back on terms but they ran out of steam and time. A late Sean Long drop-goal clinched the points for the Saints to maintain their great start to the season. Bradford Bulls 34 Salford City Reds 4 Tries: Hape, Fielden, Gene, Hodgson Meyers, I Harris 2 Goals: Deacon 4, I Harris 1 Att: 10,062 Engage Super League champions Bradford Bulls brought Salford back down to earth with a convincing victory at Odsal Stadium. The game as a contest was over by half time as the Bulls raced into a 24-4 lead with Iestyn Harris touching down twice Brad Meyers and Stuart Fielden adding further tries with Paul Deacon kicking four goals. The only reply for the Reds was a sole David Hodgson try. In the second half the Bulls continued to apply pressure to the Salford line but after some resolute defending Shontayne Hape scored the Bulls fifth try and 10 minutes from time Stanley Gene wrapped up the scoring to give the champions their first home win of the season. Wigan Warriors 36 Huddersfield Giants 20 Tries: Ashton, Hansen, Brown, Nero, Evans, DeVere, Dallas, Paleaaesina.Godwin Torrens Goals: Tickle 6 Thorman, DeVere Att: 11,623 There was a huge sigh of relief at the JJB Stadium as the Warriors? recorded their first Victory of the season. The game was all but over as Wigan raced into a 30-4 lead at the break with tries by Chris Ashton, Kevin Brown, Iafeta Paleaaesina, Harrison Hansen and Brett Dallas all converted by Danny Tickle. A late first half try by Chris Nero got the Giants on the scoreboard. After the break, the Giants further reduced the lead when James Evans went in to give the visiting fans some hope. Huddersfield?s hopes of an unlikely fight back were dashed on 60 minutes, after Paul March was put in the sin bin for holding down. The Warriors then took the advantage by a Wayne Godwin Try. In the last tem minutes, the Giants scored two tries through Torrens and De Vere to give the scoreline a more flattering look. Harlequins RL 6 Wakefield Trinity Wildcats 26 Tries: Tookey Obst, Halpenny, Tadulala 3 Goals: Sykes March, Jeffries 2 Att: 3,554 Harlequins are still looking for their first win of the Super League after going down to an inspired Wakefield Wildcats at the Twickenham Stoop. Wakefield owed a lot to hat-trick hero Semi Tadulala- who opened his account in the first few minutes of the game. The flying Fijian scored his second try seven minutes later and on 27 minutes, Sam Obst punished an error by young Quin Tony Clubb to give the Wildcats a 14-0 Halftime Lead. With the further absent of influential skipper Mark McLinden; Quins came close to scoring but some good defence by Wakefield and some poor handling left the hosts with nothing to show. Trinity sealed the game when Colum Halpenny touchdown to give his team a 20-0 lead. Six minutes from time, Tadulala completed his hat-trick. Harlequins finally got on the scoreboard when Mark Tookey crashed over under the posts to score a consolation try. However, the Wildcats had the last laugh through a Ben Jeffries penalty goal to complete a well-deserved victory. Warrington Wolves 46 Hull FC 24 Tries: Bridge, Wainwright, Yeaman 2,Raynor, Brough Briers, Clark, Fa?afili 3, Barnett Goals: Briers 6 Brough 4 Drop Goals: Briers 2 Att: 9,359 In an extraordinary game at the Halliwell Jones Stadium, Warrington Wolves produced an unbelievable second half comeback to dent Hull FC unbeaten record. 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. The second half fight back was led by inspirational captain Lee Briers who galvanised his team, which led to them scoring 34 unanswered points. Kiwi winger Henry Fa?afili completed a hat-trick and ex Hull player Richie Barnett got on the score sheet as he squeezed in at the corner. Hull completely fell apart as the Wolves turned up the heat and in the final seconds of the game Lee Briers completed the scoring with a towering drop goal, which finally gave Warrington a most unlikely win to record their first victory of the season. Castleford Tigers 34 Catalans Dragons 28 Tries: Fletcher, Pryce, Huby Guigue, Wilson, Bosc, Viane 3, Shenton Beattie, Fakir Barnett Goals: Kain, Huby 2 Frayssinous 4 Att: 5,852 Castleford Tigers claimed their first win since returning to Super League by overcoming Catalans Dragons at the Jungle. The Tigers raced into a 16-0 lead with tries by Wayne Price, Gray Viane and Craig Huby as the Dragons will still feeling the effects of been without injured skipper Stacey Jones. Catalans managed to get themselves back in to the game with tries from Jamil Fakir and Thomas Bosc, but a Try by Richard Fletcher put Cas back in to the driving seat at halftime. After the break the Tigers increased their lead when Viane scored his second try in the corner, however Wayne Price was sin-binned, which resulted in tries from Chris Beattie and Renaud Guigue to pull the Dragons to within 4 points of the Tigers. With 17 minutes left on the Clock an unlikely Catalans victory was on the Cards when, former West Tiger John Wilson crashed in to the corner to put the French Side in front for the first time. The lead was short lived as the Tigers stormed back to claim victory with late tries from Shenton and Viane who rounded things off by completing his hat-trick much to the delight of the home fans.
LIKELY squad: Todd Polglase, Luke MacDougall, Buddy Gordon, Adam MacDougall, Shannon Hegarty, John Sutton, Ben Walker, Peter Cusack, Stuart Webb, Scott Geedes, Joe Galuvao, Luke Stuart, Ben RogersInterchange: Jaimain Lowe, David Fa?alogo, Manese Manukafua, Beau ChampionStrengths:The greatest strength for the Rabbitohs this season is depth. While it may not be ?quality? depth, they do have depth in numbers with players who have the ability to make the grade. Guys like Nathan Merritt, Todd Polglase, Paul Mellor, Ben Walker and Trent Young have all proven they are up to the task in first grade. This will prove a great advantage for the Rabbitohs push for a season revival.John Sutton is one of the best young talents in the game at the moment and a lot of South?s success will be put on this young man?s shoulders. Will he be able to withstand the pressure and lead his team to victory? Only time will tell.South Sydney?s junior development is really shining through now. Young players like Champion, Gordon, Sutton, Fa?alogo and Manukafua are all starting to come on in leaps and bounds and it should be exciting to see the new breed flow into first grade like promising players Ricardo Young, Troy Boston and Shannon McPherson.South?s bench is one of the most underrated in the competition. It contains a lot of impact and with Joe Galuvao mentoring the likes of Fa?alogo and Manukafua, it will only bode well for the South Sydney confidence. This bench will make or break the Rabbitohs? season. They have the starting 13 to mix it up with any team in the competition, but their bench needs to stand up and be counted.Weaknesses:The turmoil surrounding the acquisition of the South Sydney club has to be affecting the psychology of the players. The players would have to feel like they are concentrating too much on the acquisition and not enough on football.The Bunnies still lack one really great prop to complete their team along with a great centre. While Jaimain Lowe has potential and Adam MacDougall is a stalwart, they are not massive game breakers. The Bunnies have Michael Greenfield in reserve grade who in time will be that game breaker or Ricardo Young, but this is an issue they?ll have to address to be premiership contenders. Ben Walker is at halfback in this team because of the way he finished off last season and he has earned the right to retain his spot. While there has been speculation Joe Williams will get first crack due to his much improved attitude at training, Ben Walker does deserve the first chance to lead this team. Unfortunately, Joe Williams has an Owen Craigie style history in that he is a great talent but we rarely see it on the field. If he can get his act together, he can be the great playmaker the Bunnies need to win matches. If he doesn?t, then that?s something the Bunnies will struggle with, because Ben Walker isn?t a premiership winning halfback. One to Watch:South Sydney flyer Troy Boston is my player to watch from the Bunnies. The 19 year old, 180cm and 87kg winger was regarded as one of the most talented and naturally gifted players in the junior ranks for some time until injury hindered his progression to the top grade. Prior to last season he was tipped to be the first of the young brigade to make the progression to First Grade. Unfortunately, two season-ending injuries in a row has made him one of the last should he make his debut this season.Troy is held in high esteem within the rugby league community as one of the better young wingers in the ranks and definitely South Sydney rate him very highly. He is finally tipped to make his debut this year despite South?s buying depth in bulk. He will more than likely start the year in Premier League and will be made to earn his stripes by South?s coach Shaun McRae. There is no doubt that Troy will be a star of the future and a representative player once he gets a cemented place in the South Sydney line up. He is certainly a bright spark in what is a promising future for both himself and the club in general. Gains and Losses:Gains: Joe Galuvao, Jaiman Lowe, Stuart Webb, Nathan Merritt, Ben Rogers, Paul Mellor, Balin Cupples, Jack Rampling. Losses: Ashley Harrison, Scott Logan, Bryan Fletcher, Glen Hall, Garth Wood, Lee Hookey.Assessment:I am going to go out on a limb here that could get cut off at any second. I believe the Bunnies will push the 8 and may get even deeper than that. I seriously think that the Bunnies have a solid foundation in place this season, something they have lacked for a long time. They have a solid backline with a couple of solid game breakers. Good solid halves with a decent forward pack to get on top of a match with. Also if they reach their potential, they?ll have a bench with amazing impact. I believe the Bunnies can finish between 6th ? 11th this season?.no better and no worse than that.
SUNDAY 26 February 2006 Waitemata Park, Henderson, AucklandFiji Bati vs Cook Islands Fiji Bati 40M. Koronui, S. Tora, S. Koronamara, A. Tani, A. Saravaki, V. Baleilomaloma, C. Clarke : TriesA. Tani (6) : GoalsPlayer Of The Day: Asaeli Saravaki (No.7)Cook Islands 18J. Burgess, W. Vaeau, R. Enoka, T. Taia : TriesW. Vaeau (1) : GoalsPlayer Of The Day: Jack Burgess (No.1)Halftime Score: 24 ? 6 To Fiji BatiNZ Maori vs TongaTonga 42K. Uasi, M. Richter (2), T. Moa (5) : TriesJ. Taufa?ao (5) : GoalsPlayer Of The Day: Aloisio Malangi (No.10)NZ Maori 14M. Wanoa, J. Limmer, D. Were : TriesJ. Trott (1) : GoalsPlayer Of The Day: Damon Trott (No.10) Halftime Score: 12 ? 6 To Tonga
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.