Tonga to face Cumbria

THE touring Tongan team will face Cumbria in a representative fixture at Derwent Park, Workington on Wednesday, October 25 (Kick off 7.30pm).It is the latest fixture for the revived Cumbrian county team that has previously played against New Zealand ?A?, Anzac Rugby League and Ireland. Cumbria is a county in the very North West of England with a rich history and participation in rugby league.Tonga will be in the country as they are participating in the Federation Shield tournament against England, France and Samoa. The Federation Shield is international Rugby League?s newest competition.Simon Malcolm, the RFL?s Director of Marketing, said: ?Cumbria is one of the key areas in Rugby League?s heartlands and the Cumbrians have a fierce pride in their county team.?Tonga should provide Cumbria with serious opposition as they will have just played in the Oceania Group of the World Cup Qualifying Competition and the opening round of the Federation Shield.?This is a wonderful opportunity for Cumbrian fans to see a top-class international team as well as players who ply their trade in Australia?s prestigious National Rugby League.?The Cumbrian team will be coached by Barrow Raiders? Head Coach Paul Crarey, who takes over the role from Warrington?s Gary Chambers.The Cumbria County squad for the game is:- Liam Harrison, Liam Finch, Brett McDermott, Mike Whitehead (All Barrow Raiders), Ade Gardner (St Helens), Matt Gardner (Huddersfield Giants), Gary Broadbent, Craig Calvert, Derrie Eilbeck, Carl Rudd, Scott McAvoy, Howard Hill, Marc Jackson, Carl Sice (all Whitehaven), Dean Burgess, Sean Lunt, Dean Vaughan, Jamie Beaumont (all Workington Town).Source: www.therfl.co.uk

Superleague Grand Final Preview

SECOND row Graeme Horne is Hull's only injury concern ahead of Saturday's Super League Grand Final against St Helens at Old Trafford.Horne, 21, hurt his ankle during his side's win over Bradford in last Friday's final eliminator.Older brother Richard Horne has shaken off an Achilles strain and will start.St Helens are set to field the team that beat Hull 12-8 in the qualifying semi-final, with captain Paul Sculthorpe their sole injury absentee.International duo Vinnie Anderson and Nick Fozzard, who were also left out of their victorious Challenge Cup final team, are expected to miss out again.Coach Daniel Anderson's only dilemma appears to be whether to start with Lee Gilmour or Mike Bennett in the second row.Anderson said: "Everyone is fit and there are no issues. There are no prizes for guessing what our 17 run-on will be."It's still a tough choice and there is still disappointment in the squad."Anderson added that his treble-chasing team are raring to go after sitting out two of the last three weekends."They're finely-tuned athletes who enjoy confrontation - that's our sport - so when there is no confrontation, they do get wound up," he said."But it's been a very long year. We haven't had any real time off. The two weeks we've had off in the play-off series have been a blessing for us because it's our 35th game this week."Hull coach Peter Sharp said: "We've a few bumps and bruises but we should be OK."Graeme Horne has a little bit of an ankle injury but we think he should be OK."Richard Horne had a bit of a sharp pain in his Achilles and he had to come off and it was a bit worrying for a while, but he seems to be fine."Utility back Richard Whiting, who was on the bench for Hull's qualifying semi-final defeat at St Helens, is the likely replacement if Horne fails to recover.Saturday's game is expected to be a 73,000 sell-out, with Old Trafford's increased capacity already ensuring a record attendance for a Grand Final. For St Helens Vinnie Anderson and Ian Hardman have been left out of the final 18-man squad, while for Hull youngsters Matty Dale and Tommy Lee are the players that drop out for the season's final game.St Helens v Hull - Super League Grand FinalSaturday, 14 October 2006Old Trafford, ManchesterKick-off: 1800 BSTSt Helens 18-man squad: Wellens, Gardner, Lyon, Talau, Meli, Pryce, Long, Fozzard, Cunningham, Cayless, Gilmour, Wilkin, Roby, Bennett, Hooper, P. Anderson, Graham, Fa'asavalu.Hull FC 18-man squad: Briscoe, Carvell, Chester, Cooke, Domic, Dowes, G. Horne, R. Horne, King, McMenemy, Radford, Raynor, Swain, Tony, Washbrook, Wheeldon, Whiting, Yeaman.Referee: Karl KirkpatrickSource: bbc.co.uk

Dragons axe Jersey Flegg

THE St George Illawarra Dragons have unveiled plans to scrap their third grade Jersey Flegg side from the NSWRL competition.The move is reportedly in anticipation of the introduction of an elite national under-20s competition in 2008. The Dragons have an agreement with Illawarra-based Shellharbour Marlins with the Jim Beam Cup side now set to be the club's 'third tier' team. The Dragons will field a second grade premier league team in 2007 comprising of juniors and some senior players.Reports indicate that the arrangement may be extended should the premier league competition be axed."In 2008 we contemplate that there will be a national youth competition and an NRL competition so we're preparing for that in 2007," Dragons Chief Executive Peter Doust is reported as saying in the Sydney Morning Herald."The reason we are having a premier league team [instead of Jersey Flegg] is that we still have some players that are on contract that would be over age but the majority of our side will be under 20s, which is what we had this year anyway."We prefer that structure because we think it prepares them for first grade more readily than playing in a Jersey Flegg competition and in fact a number of our players that played first grade this year and a lot of our premier league players could have played Jersey Flegg."A national youth competition was first discussed over a year ago with Parramatta chief executive Denis Fitzgerald being chairman of a committee to investigate various competition models.The proposal would see all NRL teams with an under-20s side that would play as a curtain raiser to the first grade (NRL) fixture each week. The plan extends to scrapping the premier league fixture with a NSW league similar to the Queensland Cup."I think there needs to be a restructure of NSW competitions as well, which I think will be contemplated on the back of this national youth competition being introduced," Doust added.

Kiwis Go Back To Their Roots

THE Kiwis have had an in-depth lesson about the importance and history of the haka.

Evermore Headline Pre-Match Entertainment

KIWI league fans are in for a huge night of entertainment on Saturday at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland.

Gorrell to join Dragons in Perpignan

THE St George Illawarra Dragons today extended best wishes to Aaron Gorrell with his decision to take-up a contract for three years with the Catalan Dragons in the English Super League.Gorrell will join Clint Greenshields at the Catalans Dragons under the guidance of his former Dragons Coach Mick Potter in their French base at Perpignan.?We don?t like to see local juniors move on from the Club however, the opportunity is very positive for Aaron in many respects and we wish him well,? said Dragons Chief Executive Officer Peter Doust.?Aaron has been a great contributor to our Club both on and off the field over a number of years and we are very thankful and grateful for his efforts.?He progressed very well under Mick Potter here in Premier League and we are sure he will do the same again in France,? added Doust.

Game I Preview: New Zealand v Australia

THE first Tri-Nations game for the 2006 season gets underway this Saturday night at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland, where the New Zealand Kiwis play host to the Australian Kangaroos in a highly anticipated clash that will surely have the locals drooling over the prospect of a boilover right about now.This is the fourth official Tri-Nations tournament, with the inaugural competition in 1999 being claimed by the Aussies, although it only consisted of three games and a final. Australia also won the 2004 series but the Kiwis are the current holders of the title, taking out the 2005 tournament with a convincing 24-0 victory over Australia at Elland Road, Leeds.Overall the two nations have played 95 times, Australia has won 66, New Zealand 27 and there have been 2 draws. The tournament proper returns to the southern hemisphere for the first time since the 1999 series, with the past 2 series kicking-off in the south pacific before heading to the north of England to be played out.New Zealand do have a bit of a knack at winning on home soil and the opening contests present yet another opportunity for them to get one up on the Aussies. Whilst they have won a few in Auckland over the past few years, the general trend has been for a close game. Plus, with the replay set for a Kiwi-sympathetic crowd in Melbourne, the Aussies might not have it all their own way.Let?s take a look at some recent games in the Land of the Long White Cloud:Game II 2005: Australia 28 def New Zealand 26 (Mt Smart, Auckland)Game I 2004: New Zealand 16 drew with Australia 16 (North Harbour, Auckland)Centenary Test 2003: New Zealand 30 def Australia 16 (North Harbour, Auckland)International 2002: Australia 32 def New Zealand 24 (WestpacTrust, Wellington)International 2001: Australia 28 def New Zealand 10 (WestpacTrust, Wellington)Tri-Nations Final 1999: Australia 22 def New Zealand 20 (Mt Smart, Auckland)Game I 1999: New Zealand 24 def Australia 22 (Mt Smart, Auckland)The most recent contest between the two Nations resulted in a 50-12 thumping of the Kiwis by Australia, but since then there has been many changes to both sides. The other relevant statistics prior to that are the 2005 New Zealand victory (38-28 in Sydney) and five years earlier when the Kiwi?s capitulated 52-0, also in Sydney.You probably can?t read too much into the two thrashings as the Kiwis have traditionally struggled in the ANZAC Tests which are usually played on Aussie turf and geared towards the home team. And the recent Australian victory in New Zealand was coming off their shock loss in Sydney, a game that ultimately kept the 2005 series alive.Looking at the two teams there are some interesting changes, notably the retirement of Andrew Johns and Ben Kennedy for Australia and the return of Stacey Jones for the Kiwis.Firstly, the Aussies?Australian Team: Karmichael Hunt, Matt King, Mark Gasnier, Justin Hodges, Greg Inglis, Darren Lockyer (c), Johnathan Thurston, Willie Mason, Cameron Smith, Petero Civoniceva, Luke O'Donnell, Nathan Hindmarsh, Reni MaituaInterchange: Mark O'Meley, Shaun Berrigan, Andrew Ryan, Brent KiteInglis, Hodges, Smith, Maitua and Kite are all making their debuts for the Aussies, with Hunt likely to be feeling as though he is too, after getting poleaxed by Pritchard back in May and spending the night in hospital.Tahu has succumbed to injury throughout the year, as has Cooper giving Inglis and Hodges their opportunities. Thurston moves from the bench into the halfback?s role, with Maitua replacing Kennedy at the base of the scrum. Buderus will sit the tournament out with the imminent birth of his first child, allowing Dally M Player of the Year Smith to debut at hooker.The bench has changed around a bit with O?Meley the only survivor from the ANZAC clash. Menzies has since retired and Simpson has decided to sit this one out. It?s a bit of a worry here I think with Berrigan, Ryan and Kite unlikely to provide much impact.Now for the Kiwis?New Zealand Team: Brent Webb, Tame Tupou, Iosia Soliola, Steve Matai, Manu Vatuvei, Nigel Vagana, Stacey Jones, Ruben Wiki (c), Dene Halatau, Roy Asotasi, David Kidwell, Tony Puletua, Simon ManneringInterchange: Jerome Ropati, Nathan Cayless, Adam Blair, Frank PritchardThere?s been some significant changes here, firstly in the backline with Webb, Tupou and Vagana the only remaining players to have taken part in the ANZAC Test. Matai, who was named in the original 19-man squad for the ANZAC Test gets his chance in the centres after a very impressive semi-finals campaign for Manly. Likewise Soliola, one of the few Roosters players who can hold his head high this season, gets his first shot for his country.Vagana is again at five-eighth, a ploy that has had mixed success, with Jones returning from the south of France to provide to team with direction. In the forwards, Asotasi takes the spot of Jason Cayless with Wiki again captaining the side ? his 52nd appearance - and Halatau replaces Faiumu as rake in an interesting selection. The backrow has lost some steam however, with incumbent Kidwell now being partnered by Tony Puletua and Mannering (also his first cap). Anderson and SBW are no longer there leaving some aggression behind.The bench is interesting though with two debutants (Ropati and Blair) and only Pritchard remaining from earlier in the year. Nathan Cayless should provide a steady hand with Blair and Pritchard offering plenty of impact. Ropati is a lively one as well and had an exuberant finish to the season for the Warriors.The DecisionInitially I favour Australia as they are fielding a very strong backline but you should never write the Kiwis off when they?re playing at home. Recent victories in Sydney and last year?s Tri-Nations final will give them plenty of self belief, and given the result earlier in the year, there is probably less expectation on the shoulders of New Zealand to defend their crown than there is for Australia reclaiming it.The area New Zealand should be looking to exploit is the forwards. Wiki and Asotasi are fantastic props who are the equal of Mason and Civoniceva. Smith is a much better hooker than Halatau though, who I already have questions marks over after a stunted season where he only played 14 games. Perhaps McClennan is looking to use him as an extra forward, a ploy that could help them gain field advantage but could hinder direction out of dummy half.New Zealand does have an experience edge, with 100 more Test caps in their side than Australia. And when they take the field on Saturday night, the Kangaroos will have blooded 11 debutants in the Test arena this year. That?s significant, but when you look at the five guys making their debut (Hodges, Inglis, Smith, Maitua and Kite) they are by no means rookies in the game.Weather permitting, I think the Aussies will win. If the forwards cancel one another out I think the Aussie backs will overpower their counterparts. Providing Gasnier is injury free, he and Hodges should make a mean pairing with Inglis and King no slouches either. It will be interesting to see how Matai and Soliola go as if they do get some room to move they can be destructive players. Vatuvei and Tupou are enormous fellas as well, ensuring a physical contest in the backs.A Kiwi victory with throw the entire tournament open and if they can win the contest in the middle of the park and frustrate the Aussies, they may well do so. But I?m going to stick with Australia as it is simply one of the best backlines we?ve ever seen them field.A further factor will be the motivation behind Ricky Stuart to win this tournament. Following on from his dumping at the Roosters, the Australian coach will be very keen to finish the year on a high note.

Anti-siphoning laws in action, the CH9 way

THE utter futility of the anti-siphoning laws will be on full view on Saturday night when Channel Nine begins its telecast of the tri-nations match between the Kangaroos and the Kiwis at 6.30pm ? at about the exact time the game being played in Auckland will end.And it is worth comparing Nine?s attitude with that of Seven. When the Wallabies play the All Blacks in New Zealand, Seven shows the game live, and adjusts its evening news timing to do so.But not Channel Nine, which has a long history of taking rugby league fans for granted, as well as the game?s administrators who have an equally long history of doing absolutely nothing to prevent Nine doing so!But maybe fans in Sydney and Brisbane should be thankful for small mercies. In Melbourne, the game ? which will feature at least two Storm players making their test debut (Greg Inglis and Cameron Smith) ? will be shown at 11.45pm on Saturday night.Just two weeks ago, we were told by a Nine executive that Eddie McGuire was the new saint of rugby league in Melbourne. The halo has not just slipped ? it has evaporated.And what pressing television commitment ? other than the nightly news ? has pushed the test telecast back by an hour and a half? While the game is actually being played, Nine will be showing Australia?s Funniest Home Videos. Pathetic!But don?t blame Nine entirely. The Federal Government has done absolutely nothing to make the anti-siphoning laws effective, and the Australian Rugby League has again proven itself to be the most impotent sporting body in the land.This is what the ARL Chairman, Colin Love, had to say last night:"Naturally we would prefer the game to be shown live but you have to be realistic. Nine has its news at 6pm and they can?t run the risk of interfering with that."In Crikey?s letters a couple of days ago, Ten?s business manager of network sport, Gerard Patane, wrote about how all three commercial networks are behind a campaign to protect the anti-siphoning rules, savemysport, preaching concern for fans of major sporting events.But Nine has shown us the reality. The rules should be simple ? if the free-to-air channels won?t show events on the anti-siphoning list live, pay television should be allowed to.And Foxtel ? which won?t be able to show the game until 10pm ? would grab the chance to do so.

Amended Great Britain squad

BRADFORD Bulls' Paul Johnson has withdrawn from the Great Britain squad for the 2006 Gillette Tri-Nations Tournament due to injury.Huddersfield Giants Stephen Wild and Bradford Bulls Andy Lynch are also out of the stand-by squad, with Salford City Reds' Andy Coley, Warrington Wolves? Ben Westwood and Hull FC?s Paul King respectively brought in to replace them.Meanwhile, now that both engage Super League Grand Finalists are known, the Great Britain Team Management has confirmed the travel schedule for all members of the squad.Great Britain will play a warm-up fixture against a Newcastle XIII on Friday 20th October 2006 prior to participating in the 2006 Gillette Tri-Nations.Great Britain squad: Aspinwall (Huddersfield Giants), Burrow (Leeds Rhinos), Carney (Newcastle Knights), Carvell (Hull FC), Coley (Salford City Reds), Ellis (Leeds Rhinos), Fielden (Wigan Warriors), Gilmour (St Helens), Gleeson (Warrington Wolves), Graham (St Helens), Hock (Wigan Warriors), Horne (Hull FC), Pryce (St Helens), Long (St Helens), McGuire (Leeds Rhinos), Morley (Sydney Roosters), Newton (Bradford Bulls), O'Loughlin (Wigan Warriors), Peacock (Leeds Rhinos) (capt) Raynor (Hull FC), Roby (St Helens), Senior (Leeds Rhinos), Wellens (St Helens), Wilkin (St Helens), Yeaman (Hull FC).Stand-by squad: Briers (Warrington Wolves), Cooke (Hull FC), Higham (Wigan Warriors), Hodgson (Salford City Reds), King (Hull FC), Radford (Hull FC), Reardon (Warrington Wolves), Westwood (Warrington Wolves), Wood (Warrington Wolves).The following players will travel to Sydney on Tuesday 10th October 2006:Aspinwall, Briers, Burrow, Coley, Ellis, Fielden, Gleeson, Higham, Hock, Hodgson, McGuire, Newton, O'Loughlin, Peacock, Reardon, Senior, Westwood, Wood.Team Manager Abi Ekoku plus Assitant Coaches Jon Sharp and Dave Lyon will travel with this party together with other members of the team support staff. They will also be joined by Brian Carney (Newcastle Knights, AUS) and Adrian Morley (Sydney Roosters, AUS). Both of these players are currently based in Australia.Following this Saturday?s engage Super League Grand Final, the players below will travel to Sydney on Tuesday 17th October 2006:Carvell, Gilmour, Graham, Horne, Long, Pryce, Raynor, Roby, Wellens, Wilkin, Yeaman.Head Coach Brian Noble and Team Doctor Professor Chris Brookes will travel with this party. Source: www.rlif.org

St Albans head to Estonia

NEXT Saturday, 14th October - while Great Britain gears up for the engage Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford and the Gillette Tri-Nations begins in Auckland - a party from LHF Healthplan National League 3 side St Albans Centurions will travel to Estonia to help continue the spread of the code there.

Norway gets first taste of junior league

HANNESTAD primary school in Sarpsborg, south east Norway has staged the first junior rugby league tournament in the country, with eight teams taking part in a day-long extravaganza.The initiative was organised by Australian-born teacher Justin Ryan who has been coaching between 70 and 80 youngsters in the sport since last February. ?I started off by showing rugby league videos to the pupils every week, during their break? he said.?From February until April, the children were taught the rules and laws of the game. In April, the snow melted, and the children no longer wished to watch the sport they wanted to play it.??Thanks to the RFL and Oztag, I have received a lot of equipment, such as rugby balls, law books and tag belts which has enabled me to continue teaching these children the basics.?By the end of September, his pupils ? based an hour?s drive from Oslo - were thirsting for competitive action and Ryan organised an eight team event, which culminated in the winning side claiming a thrilling 24-20 victory with ten seconds of the ?Grand Final? remaining.?At the end, all players received their diploma? Ryan continued. ?Also, the winning team received a copy of a Super League game on dvd featuring Leeds and Hull from Headingley, which was played in 2005. They loved it!??The tournament, which featured boys and girls, was a great success and the kids want to have another one really soon.? Source: www.rlef.eu.com

Fiji A 34 Greece 12

WESTS Tigers prop-forward John Skandalis played his last game in Australia when he skippered the Greeks but his experience wasn't enough as Fiji A finished strongly to win 34-12 at Oki Jubilee Oval.Greece led 6-4 at the interval thanks to a 39th minute try from York Antoniou after the Fijians opened the scoring with a 23rd minute try to full-back Marika Koroivue.With a strong wind behind them, the Fijians dominated the second half, scoring four tries in 11 minutes to lead 24-6 after 55 minutes.Max Bainivalu was first to score just four minutes into the second stanza when he collected a bomb that was dropped by Peter Vardis.Alipate Vereti was next to score after a break from Kinikini Nacinieli and the latter added one himself soon after. Wes Naiqama, from the Sydney Bulls, raced over for the other four-pointer.The Greeks stopped the flow with a try to Paul Salamakis in the 62nd minute but Fiji A finished the game with tries to Esala Vute and Naiqama.A number of the Greek players will be heading over to Greece to link up with domestic players for their October 28 clash with Serbia in Athens.Fiji A 34 (Wes Naiqama 2, Marika Koroivue, Max Bainivalu, Alipate Vereti, Kinikini Nacinieli, Esala Vute tries; Koroivue 3 goals) d.Greece 12 (York Antoniou, Paul Salamakis tries; Stuart Philpott 2 goals) at Oki Jubilee Oval. Referee: Ben Everill. Crowd: 1103.Source: www.rlef.eu.com

Ten facts about the Grand Final

HULL FC take on St Helens at Old Trafford in Saturday's engage Super League Grand Final with a number of records set to be made or broken.

St Helens Grand Final Squad

SEAN Long believes St Helens can achieve greatness if they win Saturday?s engage Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford to complete a clean sweep of trophies.

Titans training at Runaway Bay Sports Centre

RUNAWAY Bay Sports Super Centre Home of the Jetstar Gold Coast TitansThe Jetstar Gold Coast Titans will call the Runaway Bay Sports Super Centre home when pre-season training gets underway next month.For Coach John Cartwright having his exciting squad training from a World Class facility like the Runaway Bay Sports Super Centre is a major coup. ?The entire coaching team has been really impressed with the centre and with the level of professionalism we?ve been shown by Nick Pye and his team. Training from a venue like the Runaway Bay Sports Super Centre, along side some of the Worlds leading athletes will certainly have a very positive influence on our NRL squad.??The Gym fit out is almost complete and I know strength and conditioning Coach Billy Johnstone is looking forward to getting his hands on the keys and the players as we start preparations for season 2007. There will certainly be some hard work done at the Sports Super Centre. Cartwright said.Jetstar Titans Managing Director Michael Searle is also impressed with the team?s new training base, saying ?The Runaway Bay Sports Super Centre is a superb facility that all of the Gold Coast can be proud of. It?s a place that will allow the entire squad to focus on their training in comfort, in privacy and in a professional, Olympic style venue.?Runaway Bay Sports Super Centre Managing Director Nick Pye is looking forward to welcoming the Jetstar Titans when training commences. "This joint agreement has been in the planning stages for over a year. It is a major step for the Titans as well as the Centre. It will give the Titans arguably the best facilities available anywhere in Australia.??Not only this but it will be the first training base, which will allow supporters to join and train in the same facility and we are delighted to be working with the Jetstar Titans to make this their official Training base."?The Runaway Bay Sports Super Centre is arguably the foremost private sporting facility in the world. Comprising Accommodation, Stadium, Running Track, Aquatic centre, Sports Medicine Clinic and Gymnasium. It remains committed to the encouragement of recreation and sport at all levels.Blade - The Jetstar Titans MascotIn other news, ?Blade? The official mascot of the Jetstar Gold Coast Titans will make his first public appearance at the Runaway Bay Sports Super Centre on Thursday morning, October 12.An imposing figure, the creation of Blade has taken more than a year with designers determined to break the mould and create a mascot Jetstar Titans fans and the NRL will be proud of.Jetstar Titans fans of all ages will be impressed and mesmerised by Blade who is a rather friendly fellow, despite his imposing shape and size.Blade Profile Year of Birth: 2005Place of Birth: Gold Coast Position: PropSkills, Attributes: Stamina, strength, a deft ?round the corner pass? a devastating shoulder charge.All time favourite players: Scott Prince, Luke Bailey, and Preston Campbell Favourite hang out: Carrara Stadium, Runaway Bay Sports Super Centre Favourite food: Chocolate coated soft-shell crabs and chilli sorbet2007 Predictions: Jetstar Gold Coast Titans to give the Premiership a real shake.

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