OUR club depth will be well and truly tested over the next month. The representative season is upon us and with that comes the added burden of covering those missing on higher duties.
With our current position on the Wizard Cup ladder, we are a good chance of having quite a few representatives in the City side to take on Country in Cloncurry on June 24.
What they make of their opportunity is up to those individuals. Up for grabs is a spot in the Queensland Maroons side to take on NSW in the main curtain-raiser to the third State of Origin in Melbourne on July 5.
I know it's a mid-week match, but if we have any state reps they miss the previous weekend's fixture.
Added to this mix are injuries and the possibility the Broncos may call on us to supply one or two players for their NRL side during the Origin series.
We pride ourselves on our depth and are leading the club championship and some of our lower grades could gain a chance to show their wares.
ROB Campbell set the trend several years ago at Dolphin Oval with international rugby league honours.
Through a grand parent's heritage, big Rob turned out for Russia in World Cup qualifiers.
Now another Emerald Group Dolphin has claimed international honours. Lively winger Adam Fletcher is a current Greece international and is licking his lips at the prospect of a match in Greece at the end of this year as well as the 2008 World Cup. There's also a planned match against Fiji in October.
The Greek side boasts some handy players, including Wests Tigers premiership prop John Skandalis, coach Steve Georgallis and first graders George Gatis, Willie Peters and Michael Kokardis, although the majority of the squad don't play at a high level. Even Roosters superstar Braith Anasta could come into the picture.
"I've played with the Greek national side a few times already," he said. "I qualify because both my grandparents were Greek, which also gives me a European Union passport qualification. It's the same as if I was born in England.
"This is really handy for playing rugby league in England as I would not talking up an import spot, which usually go to NRL players.''
"My ambition this season is to consolidate a spot in the Dolphins' top side and if nothing eventuates from that try to get a start in England and then hopefully work my way into a Super League club."
A newcomer to the club this season, Fletcher, 22, joined from the Magpies component in the premiership Wests Tigers conglomerate.
"I played for the Wests side out of Campbelltown in the NSW Premier League," he said. "As a team we were not too crash hot, but the first grade winning the premiership created a good atmosphere and it was all a good experience and I learned a lot of things."
Originally a Brisbane Norths product, Fletcher joined the Magpies in 2005 as a winger.
"I played my junior football with Brothers Holy Spirit at Bray park and the Pine Rivers Bears before going over to North to play Colts," he said.
"I played fullback in Norths but I have gradually moved to the wing, although I feel comfortable in either spot."
Fletcher turned out for two seasons with Norths' then feeder club Aspley before spending 2001 with the Devils' Colts, enduring a grand final loss to Redcliffe at Dolphin Oval.
"We lost 12-10, or something like that, and were warm favourites as we had a good team," he said.
"It included Bill Slater, Jake Webster, Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk. The second year I spent in Colts and reserve grade.
"I knew Anthony Griffin as he was the Norths Colts coach before he was appointed assistant coach at the Storm and also contacted Mark Murray, who said Redcliffe needed some outside backs.
"I gave James Hinchey a call and it went from there. I live at Bray Park with my parents so it is was easy to move back to Brisbane."
Fletcher had been working with the Skins apparel outfit at Campbell as well as studying to become a personal trainer. That is still an ambition, although for the moment he is helping out at his family's snack bar at Brendale.
"I usually work from seven in the morning to about two, when it slackens off," eh said. "The hours work in really well with football."
Fletcher started this season in Premier League, notching five appearances before dropping back to A grade.
"I need a couple of big games to get back into the Premier league," he said. "There's a good buzz around the club with all three grades doing well."
BRISBANE has been rocked by powerhouse prop Shane Webcke and hooker Casey McGuire withdrawing from Sunday's NRL clash against New Zealand Warriors due to injury. Webcke has succumbed to a back complaint while McGuire has been ruled out with a pectoral injury but are expected to be fit for next weekend.
BRETT Finch will be favoured to retain the NSW State of Origin halfback spot as Craig Gower has ruled himself out of Penrith's NRL clash with Manly on Sunday.
THIS weekend Superleague takes a break for the quarterfinals of the Challenge Cup Competition. There are eight teams left in this knock out comeptition, and the quarterfinal match ups are: Huddersfield v Salford, Hull Kingston Rovers (NL1) v Warrington, Leeds v Harlequins, St Helens v Les Catalans.- - - - -HUDDERSFIELD GIANTS v SALFORD CITY REDSSalford City Reds have not won at Huddersfield Giants since 2001 when they had a 32-24 Super League victory. The only Salford survivors from that match are Stuart Littler (2 tries), Andy Coley (1 try), Malcolm Alker (1 try) and Paul Highton. Since then Salford have lost on all five trips to Huddersfield, including 32-18 a few weeks ago. Alker and Highton also played when Salford won 22-14 at Huddersfield the last time the two teams met in the Challenge Cup, in 1999.Last semi-final appearance:Huddersfield v St. Helens Lost 6-46 At Halliwell Jones Stadium, Warrington ? 2004Salford v Sheffield E. Lost 18-22 At Headingley, Leeds ? 1998Previous RL Challenge Cup meetings:1898-99 (R4) Salford 8 Huddersfield 01899-00 (3) Salford 6 Huddersfield 51901-02 (4) Huddersfield 6 Salford 91914-15 (3) Huddersfield 33 Salford 01956-57 (2) Salford 2 Huddersfield 61958-59 (2) Salford 15 Huddersfield 21960-61 (2) Salford 13 Huddersfield 51969-70 (2) Huddersfield 0 Salford 0Replay Salford 11 Huddersfield 51976-77 (1) Salford 25 Huddersfield 21977-78 (2) Huddersfield 13 Salford 31999 (5) Huddersfield 14 Salford 22- - - - -HULL KINGSTON ROVERS v WARRINGTON WOLVESHull Kingston Rovers are aiming to become only the second English lower division* club to reach the semi-finals of the Powergen Challenge Cup during the Super League era. Widnes are the only club to have done it, losing 24-14 to St. Helens in 1996, the first year of Super League. Before Super League, the last club from outside the top division to reach the semi-finals was Oldham in 1990 when they lost 10-6 to Warrington. Hull K.R. and Warrington have not met since 1993-94 when Rovers were last in the top division. Warrington won away 26-10 to complete a League double. Rovers had a 13-11 home victory the previous season. Their last appearance in the quarter finals was in 1998 when they lost 46-18 at London Broncos.*French club Toulouse reached the semi-final last year and were beaten by Leeds Rhinos.Last semi-final appearance:Hull K.R.v Leeds Drew 24-24 Elland Road, Leeds ? 1986Replay Won 17-0 Elland Road, Leeds ? 1986Warrington v Wigan W. Lost 18-30 At Halton Stadium, Widnes ? 2004Previous RL Challenge Cup meetings:1904-05 (F) Warrington 6 Hull K.R. 0 At Leeds1911-12 (R2) Hull K.R. 3 Warrington 3Replay Warrington 3 Hull K.R. 01912-13 (2) Warrington 13 Hull K.R. 61927-28 (2) Hull K.R. 0 Warrington 51931-32 (1) Warrington 4 Hull K.R. 21948-49 (1)* Warrington 17 Hull K.R. 7Hull K.R. 5 Warrington 281949-50 (1)* Hull K.R. 2 Warrington 12Warrington 24 Hull K.R. 41979-80 (3) Hull K.R. 23 Warrington 111988-89 (3) Hull K.R. 4 Warrington 30* Two legs- - - - -LEEDS RHINOS v HARLEQUINS RLChallenge Cup meetings between these two teams invariably inspire memories of the last final to be played at Wembley in 1999. Then Leeds cantered to a record final victory of 52-16. None of the players is still in either club?s first team squad. Harlequins had a 32-24 ?home? win last season in a match that was played in Perpigan, but their last win at Headingley was 18-6 in 2000. Leeds beat them 32-12 in last year?s quarter-final at Headingley.Last semi-final appearance:Leeds v Toulouse Won 56-18 At Galpharm Stadium, Huddersfield ? 2005Harlequins v Castleford Won 33-27 At Headingley, Leeds ? 1999Previous RL Challenge Cup meetings (Harlequins formerly London Broncos):1998-99 (F) Leeds 52 London B. 16 At Wembley2003 (R5) Leeds 21 London B. 122005 (6) Leeds 32 London B. 12- - - - -ST. HELENS v CATALANS DRAGONSAlthough the clubs have not met in the Challenge Cup before, St. Helens had a 70-6 fourth round win at Union Trezeiste Catalan in 2003. The Saints also had a 34-20 win at Catalans Dragons earlier this season in the engage Super League. They are aiming for a sixth successive semi-final, having won the Cup twice and been beaten finalists once since 2001.Last semi-final appearance:St. Helens v Hull FC Lost 8-34 At Galpharm Stadium, Huddersfield ? 2005Catalans: NoneNo previous RL Challenge Cup meetings
UNLUCKY for some?If you?re like me you?ll be hoping that the number 13 doesn?t translate to bad luck in tipping circles this week. In fact, I?m still searching for my first perfect round this year, but once again we are faced with a fairly difficult task. Round 12 saw some interesting shifts in the NRL landscape, with the Cowboys and Knights falling over, whilst Brisbane and Melbourne surged ahead. And if you ask me, I don?t think we?ve seen the best of the Bulldogs, Sea Eagles or the Dragons which is a scary thought given their current standings.I came away with an untidy 4 from 7 last week to take me to 51 out of a possible 83 (61%) but this still isn?t up to my usual standards. Everyone?s been saying this year is so hard to pick, so tell me punters, is it? Or is it that we are becoming less in-tune with the nuances of our game?Dragons v EelsFriday night commences in cracking fashion, with two clubs that have slowly developed a hatred for one another over the past few decades, taking the field in what?s sure to be a heated contest. Last year they played a couple of the best games of the season, with the first at Parra Stadium resulting in a brawl and the last at Kogarah, the scene of tomorrow night?s showdown, where both teams threw everything they had at one another.With Barrett out, and given the form he was in, the Dragons do lose some strike power. His kicking game and organisational abilities will be missed but let?s not forget the Dragons have won without him on many an occasion. Gasnier gets a premature shift to five-eighth as a result and the jury is still out as to whether he will make it in this position. I actually think he is the key tomorrow night, with Bailey to set a foundation in the forwards.The Eels are coming off a pressure-relieving win against the Roosters and this is one of those situations where form counts for nothing as both teams will lift when they play one another. Parra?s second half last week was dismal, but they did show a few promising signs early in the game. I don?t so much mind the look of their forwards right now and you can always count on Hindmarsh to play his heart out. But I?m going to stick with the Dragons because of the home ground advantage ? the Eels haven?t won at Kogarah since 1997. Storm v RoostersSuper Saturday kicks-off in the twilight of Olympic Park in our southern capital where the Roosters travel to take on the Storm. This is an interesting game for Origin selections and we?ve already been told that our mate Gene Miles will be down there to have a gander at the boys eligible for Queensland.Let?s start with the Roosters ? I shook my head in disbelief when they took the field last week. They had so many changes that it took them the first half to work out what everyone was doing before they could apply themselves in the second half. By that stage it was 22-0 and looking pretty dire. I thought they did well to post 20 points but they could have easily won if they had another five minutes. I see Soward is at fullback again? I?m really unhappy at this. No disrespect to the guy, but he?s got zero penetration from the back and will get run over in defence. Use him in the halves Ricky!As for the Storm, well they have an embarrassment of riches at fullback. The current QLD winger is holding down that position with a former Maroon custodian on the bench. They have attacking ability oozing from the pores of their skin and they will look to capitalise on this. Their forwards might do it a bit tough up against a streetwise Roosters pack but I think they have the goods to win here. Remember, Olympic Park is a small ground and the Storm will take advantage of their larger backs in King, Inglis and Hill close to the line against the Roosters. Melbourne to win.Bulldogs v KnightsBoth of these teams are last start losers, making this the only game where we encounter such a coincidence in round 13. It makes it hard to judge form particularly considering both sides got a fair touch up, the Knights more so than the Bulldogs.Newcastle won?t enjoy travelling down to Homebush and all we keep hearing is how Joey is feeling tired and can?t wait for the bye. I?m pretty sure this is a bad thing for team morale and very few captains out there would make such statements as it leaves you open to an onslaught. But hey, maybe Joey is luring the Bulldogs into a false sense of confidence. Methinks Folkesy will have their minds on the job however.I still don?t like the look of the Knights with Kurt Gidley at fullback and Todd Lowrie at five-eighth. It doesn?t give Johns too many options but their forwards haven?t lost anything and their bench is superior. The Doggies are a proud club and they won?t enjoy being beaten again, but they are fielding a very good line-up, particularly in the forwards. This is where the game will be won and I bet Mason, O?Meley and Asotasi have a few things to straighten out after being dominated last week. We still haven?t seen Sonny Bill hit top flight either.There would be lots of people out there tossing a coin over this one but I?m going to stick with the home side and tip the Bulldogs. It will be a tough game and Newcastle have the bye next week dangling out in front of them like a carrot, so the week off could prove to be extra motivation. Here?s a future prediction though ? if the Knights lose I wouldn?t want to be the Warriors in round 15!Raiders v RabbitohsOur last Saturday game comes to us from the Nation?s Capital where the Bunnies car-pool-it down to the cool surrounding of Canberra. One has to wonder if they?ll be bagging each other out on the way there and whether they?ll split to petrol costs.Last week I said, much to my detriment, that Canberra couldn?t win without Jason Smith and I was firmly placed in the naughty corner for a good few hours. But hey, they were facing off against the Cowboys at Dairy Farmers, so I had my reasons. Judging by the form they displayed up there the Raiders ought to romp it in against Souths in what potentially shapes as another drubbing for the Bunnies. To make matters worse, it will be really cold down there when they get out of the showers.I can?t see any reason to pick the Rabbitohs here and unless the entire 25-man Canberra squad is ruled out just prior to kick-off I won?t be. Even then I bet the Raiders could probably recruit 13 drunks at short notice from the bar who would hold their own. Peachey?s inclusion has to give them a spring in their step and overall they still have a reasonable squad at their disposal, so I?d expect a better performance this week. But can they win? No, I don?t think so. Raiders by a few, and the likely poor standard of the game may force Foxtel to issue a content warning before the game.Warriors v BroncosWe arrive in Auckland next as Sunday kicks-off in grand fashion between the Warriors and the Broncos. This game is the start of a ?Super Sunday? where all three games can be seen back-to-back on Fox and 9. This game promises to be a fairly open and attack-based affair.I actually think the Broncos are in a spot of bother here. Strangely, if there is one pack of forwards who can mix it with the Broncos on their day it is the Warriors. The only problem is it has to be their day. But this week they?re due for a good show and they could come out firing. With Wiki and Price leading the way the home side have a chance to get on top early, and if they do, the Warriors tend to stay in the game and remain focussed.For Brisbane, Civoniceva is going well but Webcke is a little dusty and may take some time to get going. Plus they?re missing Hodges in the centre?s which effectively halves their attacking potential. The bench is the key here with the Broncos possessing a stronger all-round squad and whilst I think New Zealand will give them a run for their money, the Broncos will grind out a victory. They?re not on top for nothing?Panthers v Sea EaglesManly head out west for their Sunday showdown with the Panthers in a game that will include a sub-plot or two for those Perry Mason fans out there.Firstly, like St George last week, I think the bye will have a positive effect on the Sea Eagles. The other big positive is the return of Ben Kennedy who is sure to add plenty of starch to the engine room. Manly field a strong line up with few, if any, weak links in their side. They have pace and strength out wide and will trouble the Panthers if given the opportunity.Penrith are doing things a bit tough at the moment. Gower had surgery 10 days ago and that?s never a good thing. Wait until the teams have been announced an hour prior to kick-off before you bet on this one. Even then, I?d take the Sea Eagles at anything over $2 as I think they are good value there. Penrith played well last week against the Storm but they look vulnerable and there has to be doubts over Gowie?s fitness.Orford?s challenge to his opposite will present the NSW selectors with food for thought as he is probably third in line for the gig. If Finch gets injured and Gower doesn?t look right, Matty could be their best option. I?m tipping the Sea Eagles to break a 12-year hoodoo, having not won at Penrith since round 8 in 1994.Tigers v CowboysThe final chapter in Round 13 is a tantalising prospect with reigning premiers the Wests Tigers taking on their Grand Final opponents the North Queensland Cowboys. There?s bad blood between these two sides stemming from last year and there?s every chance a bit of niggle will be present with the boys from up north taking the chocolates earlier in the season at home.The Cowboys are $2.40 outsiders which is a bit of a surprise but they did lose to the Raiders last week and have been below their best recently. But I certainly don?t think they?re travelling that bad and I?m going to slap a lazy $20 on them as my emotional hedge of the week. Hannay?s return will give them a more secure look in the backline and the forward pack plus bench in looking strong, although I would like to see Rockin? Rod Jensen in the number 17.Despite this, I?m sticking with the bookies favourite for the win. Wests are on the rise and they started to put it together last week against Souths, who may well have played them into form. They should be full of confidence and have the wood on the Cowboys at Telstra, winning two out of two against them there. With most of the team starting to take shape I think the Tigers will have plenty to play for at home in front of what should be a good crowd. I?m still not a fan of Lolesi at lock though.The Sharks have the bye in Round 13 after dispatching the Warriors at home. This was a good victory for them after a poor start to the year, and they now have two weeks to prepare for their trip to FNQ against a Cowboys outfit that will be missing their Origin players. Things are looking up for Cronulla.
THE Georgian National Rugby League side, Tsameti Kartveli, celebrated their country?s Independence Day in style last Saturday as they downed the Netherlands 57-16 in front of 10,935 wildly enthusiastic fans at Vake Stadium , Tblisi. The match, which was broadcast live on Georgian national television, was the second step for each team on the road to the 2008 World Cup in Sydney.
THE Cronulla Sutherland Supporters Club (CSSC) is pleased to announce that it will be launching its website this Sunday.
CANBERRA and Penrith doing themselves proud
BRISBANE Broncos prop Shane Webcke has had to quit training early after suffering back spasms this morning. But the former Test and Origin forward is not considered in any doubt for Sunday's NRL clash with Warriors in Auckland.
SYDNEY Roosters enforcer Adrian Morley is on the brink of walking out on the NRL after receiving only a one-year offer to extend his stay at the Bondi Junction club.
PENRITH halfback Craig Gower will give his surgically-repaired knee its first real test later today when he runs for the first time since last week's Origin-eve mishap. Gower, who was ruled out the day before Origin one following a training injury, is desperate to play in Sunday's clash against the Manly, with the NSW side for Origin two to be selected on Monday.
THE South Sydney Rabbitohs have started the 2006 NRL Season with 11 straight losses and the club with the most Premierships in the history of the game looks odds on to collect their third Wooden Spoon (could be a 4th had it not been for the Bulldogs) since returning to the competition in 2002.
LEEDS have signed New Zealand Test centre Clinton Toopi on a three-year contract from next season.
COURTESY of the Fraser Coast Chronicle
By Richard Harvey