WE take up the tale in the Year of out Lord 2006, at a time when the King?s colony in the Great Southland has descended upon the fair State of Victoria. Despite supplications to the contrary, General Gallop has determined Ye Olde Docklands to be of a form pleasing to his eye. And so, it was agreed upon, that it should host the third and final State of Origin match for said year.The 78th clash between New South Wales and Queensland is set to take place undercover at Telstra Dome in Melbourne where the Maroons will look to arrest a three-series losing streak that is threatening to debase the very notion of Origin Football?well depending on who you talk to.I suppose if you were going to endanger the existence of this interstate rivalry, then Melbourne would be a fitting place for such an act. But when considering the possible outcomes of this match, I?m not sure there is a more neutral arena for it to be played.Of the four previous Origin matches played in Melbourne, three have been contested at the MCG, with NSW holding the upper hand 2-1. The first ever game south of the Murray was played at Olympic Park back in 1990 and was also won by NSW. But three of the four contests were following games in Sydney, and twice the series was on the line only for NSW to claim victory. This is the first time the decider has been taken out of either of the two native States however.So I think all that points to a wide open game and that is able to be won by either team on their day.The BluesNew South Wales come into this game offering a few changes to the sides that have played in the first two matches.Not since Antony and Cleopatra had we seen such an uneasy, unholy union that was Brett Finch and Braith Anasta. They?ve had their time sheets marked ?Never to be Selected Again? and make way for the future which is Craig Gower and Mark Gasnier, with Matt Cooper slotting into the centres.This will ultimately prove to be the talking point of the match: if NSW win the media will hail the pairing as a success; if they lose it will be a disaster. I think it has the potential to be a great combination if Gower can direct the play and kick well. With a guy of Gasnier?s strikepower running off your shoulder, any half gap can result in mayhem for the opposition. Moreover, if Queensland is expecting this it will bring Brett Hodgson and Ben Hornby into calculations as worthy alternatives.I?m not sure how NSW will introduce Hornby, but I?ve been thinking that perhaps he?ll get a run at first receiver when Danny Buderus comes off with Gower playing acting half. Whatever takes place, NSW will be hoping he can work as well with Gasnier tomorrow night as he does at club level. With Cooper only serving to strengthen the defence of the Blues, the rest of the backline is left unchanged. Which brings us to the forwards ? NSW needs to dominate here if the experiment of Gasnier is to work.Brent Kite, Andrew Ryan and Craig Wing were all given the flick, opening the door for Luke Bailey to start, Luke O?Donnell to be reinstated and Paul Gallen will make his debut from the bench wearing the no.14 jumper, although there are some suggestions that he will start the match or perhaps Mark O?Meley.The MaroonsIn the Queensland camp things haven?t been quite so smooth. Gun centre Justin Hodges was ruled out early in proceedings pushing in-form winger Brent Tate one man in and selectors opting for a bit of a surprise in Rhys Wesser to cover the flank.Wesser played his last match in Game III 2004 and, whilst he has made his mark at fullback, he?ll be up to the task for this one. Queensland opted for Canberra custodian Clinton Schifcofske to fill the boots left behind by the injured Karmichael Hunt (Game II) and the out of sorts Matt Bowen (Game I). This is the first time Queensland has ever used three fullbacks in one series, but injuries have galvanised them in the past and it would be foolish to think this would do anything but in an Origin decider.The big surprise was Josh Hannay?s recall. He hasn?t played since Game III in 2003, and by all reports he?ll be lucky to play in this one. A stomach virus has struck the Cowboy down and Willie Tonga has been brought in as cover. Strangely, his last outing as a cane toad was the same one as Rhys Wesser, and they got belted 36-14 in Sydney.The forwards are much the same with the exception of Lillyman, who makes way for the experience of Tonie Carroll off the bench. I?m not a huge fan of this as I would expect Lillyman to make more impact than Carroll from the bench, but I?d still use Carroll as a starting player.Price, Civoniceva, Webb and the smarts of Smith at hooker will give NSW plenty to think about though.The VerdictFor the first time in a long time I?m really unsure about this game.NSW look the better side on paper but how many times have punters been duped into thinking the Blues are much stronger only to have Queensland relish in the underdog tag and upset them? Too many, that?s how many?Like just about every contest, a good big man will beat a good little man. All the Maroon forwards are strong and mobile with plenty of experience. Meanwhile, NSW have traded in Ryan for Gallen and I?m not sure that?s a good idea.It?s likely to be a bit greasy down there and I think kicking will be very important. When the roof is closed at Telstra Dome the ball travels a little further and this could even things up a little.But it?s a hard game to call. I?m going to choose Queensland by 6 points because their halves have remained the same and whilst they?ve had a few changes elsewhere in the backline, the rest of the team will rally around their men and get the job done.
JULY 1981 was kind to the Redcliffe football club, with three successive wins all but assuring the Dolphins of a top two finish to the season. July also meant the completion of the representative season, and saw explosive young centre Chris Close and club leader Arthur Beetson return to the club fray permanently for the final run-up to the semi-finals. July also saw a major return to form of former international halfback Greg Oliphant, who had only been a fringe first-grader for most of the season.
PREMIER League Dragonsv South Sydney Rabbitohs1:00pm Sunday 9 July - Oki Jubilee Stadium1. Jason NIGHTINGALE, 2. Josh MORRIS, 3. Beau RYAN, 4. Daryl MILLARD, 5. Tom HEWITT, 6. Richard WILLIAMS, 7. Chris SHEPPARD (c), 8. Charlie LEAENO, 9. George NDAIRA, 10. Chris HOUSTON, 11. Corey PAYNE, 12. Lee TE MAARI, 13. James JIMENEZ, 14. Jamie DUNNING, 15. Jess CAINE, 16. Bryson GOODWIN, 17. Reece BLAYNEY, 18. Tom HABERECHT, 19. Lagi SETU, 20. Jamie KEITHCoach: Steven Price Jersey Flegg Dragonsv South Sydney Rabbitohs11:20am Sunday 9 July - Oki Jubilee Stadium1. Travis ROCHE, 2. Rota SETU, 3. Daniel NICASTRI, 4. Junior SEUMANUTAFA, 5. Luke IRWIN, 6. Matt SEAMARK, 7. Blake DUREAU, 8. Dan HUNT, 9. Brad DAVIDSON (c), 10. Luke YOUNG, 11. Matt PRIOR, 12. James GREHAN, 13. James KEELAN, 14. Jason WHITE, 15. Francis LANGIFISI, 16. Jhi TANNER, 17. Ryan MILLARD, 18. Matt MUNDINE, 19. Peter WAKLEYCoach: Corey Pearson
DRAGONS Chasing Seven in Row against Rabbitohs
BRISBANE'S rising New Zealand star Greg Eastwood says he wants to fill the big shoes of good friend Benji Marshall at this year's Tri Nations rugby league series.
1. Toshio Laiseni
2. Darren Albert
3. Nigel Vagana
4. Beau Scott
5. Luke Covell
6. Adam Dykes
7. Brett Kimmorley
8. James Stosic
9. Kevin Kingston
10. Luke Douglas
11. Greg Bird
12. Lance Thompson
13. Paul Gallen
ROOSTERS Shaun Foley, Ryan Cross, Iosia Soliola, Craig wing, Amos Roberts, Braith Anasta, Josh Lewis, Adrian Morley, Brett Finch, David Shillington, Shane Shackleton, Chris Flannery
Interchange: Ashley Harrison, Heath L?Estrange, Mickey Paea, Charles Tonga
WESTS Tigers Coach Tim Sheens has moved Robbie Farah back from half-back to hooker for the vital clash against the Cronulla Sharks at Toyota Park on Sunday, July 9, at 3pm, in round 18 of the Telstra Premiership.
Scott Prince returns to his position of half-back with Daniel Fitzhenry back at five-eighth after overcoming a collarbone injury. Stuart Flanagan makes way at hooker for Farah.
Shannon McDonnell moves to the wing for the return of NSW Origin full-back Brett Hodgson with Taniela Tuiaki going back to Premier League.
Rangi Chase, who made his first grade debut for the Wests Tigers against the Bulldogs, also returns to Premier League.
Sam Harris has been promoted from the Balmain-Ryde Eastwood Tigers Premier League team to first grade on the interchange bench.
1 Brett Hodgson (c)
2 Shane Elford
3 Dean Collis
4 Jamaal Lolesi
5 Shannon McDonnell
6 Daniel Fitzhenry
7 Scott Prince
8 Keith Galloway
9 Robbie Farah
10 John Skandalis
11 Ben Galea
12 Todd Payten
13 Dene Halatau
14 Bronson Harrison
15 Chris Heighington
16 Sam Harris
17 Ryan O'Hara
MELBOURNE Storm coach Craig Bellamy has named his team to play the Broncos at Olympic Park from 7:30pm.
INJURED Test winger Tame Tupou and the suspended Casey McGuire will miss the Ergon Energy Broncos top-of-the-table clash with ladder leaders Melbourne at Olympic Park on Friday night.
HERE is the Panthers side to play the Raiders at Credit Union Australia Stadium Penrith on Saturday night:
PARRAMATTA coach Brian Smith has named his team to play the Newcastle Knights at Parramattas Stadium on Saturday night.
Coach Smiths team is;
THE Real Insurance Rabbitohs are pleased to announce their side to take on the St George Illawarra Dragons in round 18 of the NRL Telstra Premiership this Sunday, 9 July at 3pm at OKI Jubilee Stadium.
COACH Des Hasler has named a 5 man bench to take on the Roosters this Saturday. The Sea Eagles are still without Stephen Bell but see the return of Travis Burns and Kylie Leuluai to the side. Steven Menzies will play if he comes through Wednesday's State Of Origin match ok.
VODAFONE Warriors Jerome Ropati and Louis Anderson will make their 50th first-grade appearances in Sunday?s NRL clash against the fourth-placed Bulldogs at Telstra Stadium.
The two 21-year-olds again line up in a Vodafone Warriors side that?s been all but unchanged since starting a four-match winning streak against the Roosters on June 11.
The only change during that spell has come about through captain Steve Price?s State of Origin commitments but they finish for the season tomorrow night when he and his Queensland team-mates face New South Wales in the series-deciding third match at Melbourne?s Telstra Dome.
In his absence, the Vodafone Warriors picked up maximum points against Wests Tigers, the Roosters and Penrith while Ruben Wiki was stand-in captain.
?There have been a lot of pleasing aspects lately and one of them is the fact we have been able to win each time Steve was out of the side,? said head coach Ivan Cleary.
?That?s a reflection on the contribution every player has made but we?re also really fortunate to have a leader of Ruben?s ability when Steve?s not there.
?Now Steve?s set to return on a permanent basis, which can only help us at a time when we?ve able keep such a settled side together.?
Sunday?s match provides personal milestones for Ropati and Anderson, the former making his debut in 2003 and the latter early in the 2004 season.
?For young players they have done extremely well and they?re certainly showing signs of developing to the next level,? said Cleary.
Anderson has crammed in an extraordinary amount of top-level football for a player who turned 21 only a week ago. Besides eyeing his 50th outing for the Vodafone Warriors he has also played 13 tests for the Kiwis already.
If the clash at Telstra Stadium will have meaning for Ropati and Anderson, it will also be a special occasion for Price who will play in front of a Bulldogs crowd for the first time since leaving his old club after the 2004 season.
In fact, this will be the first time the Vodafone Warriors have played the Bulldogs in Sydney since winning 48-22 in the 2003 finals. That match was the fourth leg of a five-match winning run for the Vodafone Warriors.
After beating the Roosters, Newcastle, South Sydney and Penrith in the last four rounds, the Vodafone Warriors can make it five on end again this weekend but Cleary?s more interested in the quality of the performance than the statistics.
?We won but won ugly against Penrith last weekend,? he said.
?It?s not a case of thinking about five in a row when we take on the Bulldogs. For us it?s all about putting together a much-improved overall performance.