IT is an unfortunate situation that the League World Sevens faced last year. The Sydney media in their promotion of the game chose to focus almost entirely on the lack of star power in many of the sevens teams, led by the outspoken Steve Folkes, who named a less than premier league strength side for the competition, while several other sides withheld their stars. By kickoff first day, only Parramatta, Wests and the Warriors had named full strength lineups, while most teams mixed a handful of first graders with their lower grade players. This almost single handedly led to the reduced attendance of the sevens in 2004, with 10,000 less fans walking through the gates this year compared to last.
I am going to jog all your memories back to recall three amazing finals charges that reaped no silverware. All three clubs were written off by the ?experts? but forced the critics to eat humble pie. As a supporter I found all three ?near fairytales? inspiring.
THE North Sydney Club are celebrating their biggest winning margin since leaving the NRL with the Balmain Tigers feeling the full force of a 10 to 2 try win at Bear Park on Friday night (12 Aug).
EASTS TIGERS 54 defeat 20 SOUTHS LOGAN 20
TWEED HEADS 68 defeat CENTRAL 12
ANOTHER great round of league has produced a star-studded line-up for this week. With the Tigers in strong form as well as the Dragons, Eels and Knights there is plenty of competition for places. With Souths, Cronulla and Penrith also picking up valuable victories it makes the Round 24 League Unlimited Team of the Week a very diverse one with plenty of points in them ? 117 in total! There were only two players picked who didn?t cross the stripe of put it between the posts. But I?m sure we can all forgive Luke Bailey and John Skandalis who get through enough work each Sunday to
CRONULLA Sharks coach Stuart Raper has named his team to take on the Knights at EnergyAustralia Stadium on Saturday night.
Coach Rapers team is;
PENRITH Panthers coach John Lang has named his team to take on the Bulldogs at Telstra Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Coach Langs team is;
THE initial offering of tickets to this year's NRL grand final sold out in record time in another indication that interest in rugby league has never been stronger.
VICE-CAPTAIN Monty Betham returns from suspension for Stacey Jones? 238th and last NRL appearance for the Vodafone Warriors when they face Manly in Sydney on Saturday night. A one-match ban kept the 27-year-old Betham out of last Saturday night?s clash with Newcastle, Jones? final outing in front of his hometown fans at Ericsson Stadium.
But Betham, who became a 100-game NRL player in his last appearance, has been named at loose forward for Jones? absolute farewell match for the side he?s been with for 11 seasons.
?It was disappointing for Monty that he couldn?t play alongside his long-time team-mate last week,? said head coach Tony Kemp.
?Along with Awen Guttenbeil, Monty has been around this club for a long time and he was desperate to be involved in Stacey?s last game.?
With Betham back, Louis Anderson has been named to start the Manly match from the interchange bench with Epalahame Lauaki moving out of the squad to travel to Sydney.
Apart from Betham?s inclusion, Kemp has retained the same run-on combination used in last weekend?s disappointing 16-4 loss to the Knights.
At the same time, the chance has been taken to consider the future with exciting Junior Kiwi back rower Sonny Fai included on a six-man bench. Still only 17, the 1.90m-100kg Fai was one of four Vodafone Warriors who attended the NRL?s rookie camp earlier this year.
?This is a chance to give Sonny some exposure to the NRL scene,? said Kemp.
?He?s an outstanding prospect and a match like this, with our finals prospects now gone, gives us an opportunity to introduce him to the first-grade environment.?
Already in the side are two recent graduates from the Vodafone Warriors? elite junior development squad ? centre Simon Mannering and winger Manu Vatuvei. The Manly match will be Mannering?s sixth since his debut against Brisbane in June while Vatuvei will make his 17th appearance, having scored nine tries in 11 games this year.
?When you consider the development we?ve seen this year from Jerome Ropati and Louis Anderson plus Manu and Simon, it?s exciting for next season and beyond,? said Kemp.
Ropati (22 matches) and Anderson (17 matches) have been first-choice players throughout the season, missing from the line-up only through injury.
Meanwhile, second rower Wairangi Koopu is set to finish the season as the only player in the squad to have appeared in all 24 matches. In a year when he has had his best try-scoring return for a season ? eight so far ? Koopu is also the club?s top tackler with 653, ranking him 10th best in the NRL.
Another of the club?s outstanding achievers has been prop Ruben Wiki. Despite missing five matches during the season, he still ranks 18th in the NRL for most hit-ups with 300 and 19th for most metres gained (2590). That?s an average of almost 17 hit-ups and 144 metres a match, ahead of his returns with Canberra last year when he averaged 16 hit-ups and 119 metres a match.
Even in defeat last weekend the Vodafone Warriors provided two of the top five metre gainers for the whole round, Steve Price the best of all with 220 metres and Sione Faumuina with 182 metres. In all, 10 of the 17 players made 100 metres or more.
ELECTRIC Roosters hooker Craig Wing has laughed off suggestions that Brisbane ? coming off three-straight losses ? are in the midst of a post-Origin slide yet again. Roosters coach Ricky Stuart has named an unchanged line-up from last week to tackle the Broncos on Friday night ? knowing anything but a win will ?mathematically? end the club?s finals hopes.
THE NQ Toyota Cowboys Team to play Souths at Gosford has been announced. Toyota Young Guns have a rest week.
FRIDAY 26th August 2005
WESTS Tigers Head Coach, Tim Sheens has announced his squad for the Wests Tigers v Storms Game at Olympic Park, kick off at 5.30pm.
SOUTH Sydney's Luke MacDougall has been suspended for 10 NRL matches after entering an early guilty plea to a grade five dangerous throw charge. MacDougall landed in strife with the judiciary for a lifting tackle on Sydney Roosters fullback Anthony Minichiello on Saturday night.