WYNNUM?S WEEKEND OF CHAMPIONS
IT is not just the Pakistan cricket team facing problems with performance enhancing drugs. The unwanted spectre of drug abuse has hit rugby league not for the first time this season.The worrying aspect is that the two players concerned are in rugby league?s "feeder" competitions, the breeding ground for the first grade players of the future.Newtown Jim Beam Cup player Matthew Eather and Penrith-St Mary?s Premier League player Greg Brain have been given two-year suspensions after testing positive during the season to performance enhancing drugs.Eather admitted using a human growth hormone.Penrith senior grade player Craig Trindall was handed a 12-week suspended sentence and ordered to undertake 40 hours? community service after testing positive to cannabis. Trindall played a handful of first grade games this season when the regular half Craig Gower was injured.The penalties for the performance enhancing drugs are consistent with the guidelines set out by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (which conducted the tests).Rugby league continues to take a much more lenient approach to drugs such as cannabis ? as opposed to performance enhancing substances ? however there will be concerns that Trindall?s penalty is at the absolute bottom of the scale.The lenient approach to illegal drugs other than performance enhancing substances was surely confirmed when the Cowboys? Mitchell Sargent was allowed to sign a three-year contract with the Newcastle Knights barely three weeks after the Cowboys somewhat courageously tore up his contract.While there can be no complaint with the penalties being handed out for performance enhancing substances by rugby league administrators, the very lenient attitude to other drugs will simply have to be revisited for the good of the game.
OUR second fixture for this year?s Tri-Nations tournament sees the two Antipodeans arrive in our southern capital to recommence battle positions.Last weeks encounter at Mt Smart Stadium got the pulse racing with an enjoyable fight, one massive hit by Kidwell and a bit of general argy-bargy by the Kiwis. Throughout this Australia managed to keep their composure and run out 30-18 victors, a score line that flattered New Zealand a little.Things will be different this time around with all the early post-match banter focussing on Mason?s headaches and nose-bleeds with the Aussie?s complaining of Kidwell?s ?cowardice? in not running straight. It looked pretty straight to me ? I?d hate to see what kind of mess he would have made out of Mason if he came from the side!The eligibility card has been thrown into the mix again with Fien making his debut for the Kiwis from the bench after Mason attacked Webb?s heritage. Apparently Stuart has told Mason to keep quiet during the haka this time around, but surely the slapping of the legs will still be resonating throughout Telstra Dome when the big prop opens the gob to apply a liberal dose of abuse towards the Cowboy-come-Warrior Fien.There is a small shadow over Mason as well, but I can?t see him pulling out of this one otherwise he?ll suffer a serious credibility downgrade. He also needs to get involved early in the game to show he?s not intimidated by Kidwell or the rest of the Kiwi pack who will no doubt niggle him over the course of the match. My tip is that someone other than Kidwell will line Mason up and have a crack, possibly Wiki or Blair. I?ve been having visions of Dowling v Tamati all week and will be foaming at the mouth if another stoush breaks out. It?s great to see a few blokes having a dig again and if we?re all honest with ourselves the fights are often the best part of the game.Next the ref has come under fire and rightly so. He danced around the paddock like a camel on ice skates last week, clearly displaying he was well out of his depth at that level.Moving on, one big positive for the game is the media attention it has been receiving, if not for the quality of the contest but for the controversy. The Melbourne sporting community cap off a remarkable year with this Test match, only the third to have ever been played in Victoria.Previous Test Matches played in Melbourne:Australia v New Zealand at Olympic Park in 1991Australia v Great Brittain at Princes Park in 1992But geez the TV coverage has been despicable. For once Melbourne could have had their cake and eaten it too with enough time to fit an entire hour of Australia?s Funniest Home Video?s before the coverage starts at 7.30 in the northern states. Instead Victorian viewers will be treated to Scooby Doo before having salt rubbed into the wounds with the unsurpassed comedic wit of Bruce Willis in The Whole Nine Yards at 9.30. Considering Channel 9 owns part of the game you would think they might promote it in Australia?s second largest sports market, and with the Caulfield Cup on during the day it would have given fans a perfect way to wind down the evening. But the silver lining for League is that at least they have the opportunity to get out to the match, a rare event in Melbourne indeed.First up, let?s take a butcher?s at the Kiwis?New Zealand: Brent Webb, Shontayne Hape, Iosia Soliola, Steve Matai, Manu Vatuvei, Nigel Vagana, Stacey Jones, Ruben Wiki (c), Jerome Ropati, Roy Asotasi, David Kidwell, Tony Puletua, Simon ManneringInterchange: Nathan Cayless, Adam Blair, David Fa'alogo, Nathan FienHape comes in here for Tupou and Ropati replaces the injured Halatau at hooker with Fien onto the bench. Pritchard has been dropped for Fa?alogo in the only other change. I?m not jumping out of my skin at this whatsoever as I think McClennan has got it wrong with his selections, but I?m happy to be proven wrong.I think they would have been better off pushing Vagana out into the centres and lobbing Soliola onto the wing. That would allow Ropati to play outside Jones and take a bit of pressure off him ? he had a really good finish to the season. This opens up the door for Fien, another late season star for the Warriors, to start at hooker giving New Zealand more options to attack across the ground. I think that?s what they lacked in the first game.I?m surprised Mannering has held his position, particularly with Pritchard being punted. Fa?alogo will provide some impact and I was happy to see Blair go well in Game I. Now for the Aussies?Australia: Karmichael Hunt, Matt King, Mark Gasnier, Justin Hodges, Greg Inglis, Darren Lockyer (c), Johnathan Thurston, Willie Mason, Cameron Smith, Petero Civoniceva, Andrew Ryan, Nathan Hindmarsh, Luke O'DonnellInterchange: Mark O'Meley, Shaun Berrigan, Anthony Tupou, Brent Kite.The injury to Maitua sees Ryan promoted from the bench and into the second row with O?Donnell moving back to lock. Tupou comes in as a reserve as the only other change and makes his debut. I agree with the suggestion of favouritism with his decision here, making Thaiday one of the unluckiest players in the squad. He is on stand-by for Mason, but in the fair dinkum department, he ought to be in a toss-up for a starting position.He had a great semi-finals campaign, culminating in a strong showing in the winning Grand Final team and he gets overlooked for a guy that has played only one game (PM?s XIII v the Kumuls) since 2nd September. It wouldn?t help that Stuart doesn?t get along with Bennett ? Thaiday?s club coach ? and I think such selections brings the position of Australian coach into disrepute.In any case the team is still very strong and Tupou does add mobility and ball-playing to the forward pack, something they?re a bit short of.The decisionLast week the Aussies showed they had plenty of finesse when it comes to the Greatest Game if All and I?d expect more of the same this week. They defended well, made constructive attack and pounced on the loose ball with urgency. I can?t really fault their game too much other than the observation that they didn?t dominate the Kiwis in the forwards ? it was very much two way traffic.Australia?s backrow is by far better than New Zealand?s. I didn?t think Mannering was all that good and neither was Puletua, but both players are still there alongside Kidwell the Destroyer. Up against Ryan, Hindmarsh and O?Donnell they will struggle a bit and this should see the Aussie backs enjoy more of the ball.For New Zealand, I?d like to see them use Webb at fullback a little wiser. He needs to sniff about in the middle of the ruck and try to link up with his forwards and create breaks. Ropati will offer more zip out of acting half than Halatau but I still prefer Fien in that position.This game becomes even more crucial to New Zealand?s chances of defending their 2005 title as they host Great Britain at home twice in the coming weeks. They need to forget about what happened last week and play smarter footy. Given Jones has returned from the U.K. to play he might have been in need a hit-out to get back into rhythm. I hope this is the case because the two opening games last year were great to watch with Jones featuring heavily.The backdrop of Kidwell?s hit last week should energise both forward packs and intensify the aggression in the game. We could be looking at a very fiery clash but it all depends on how far things go. As I said last week, if New Zealand can get under Australia?s skin and upset their game plan, then they may well jag a win. But if they?re going to do things the professional way then Jones, Webb and Fien need to be at their best.I hope it?s a good contest and the standard of footy is better this time around. Both sides probably dusted out a few cobwebs so we should be treated to a better game. When it comes down to it picking a team I?m going to stick with the Aussies. Again I think neither forward pack will dominate the other but the Aussies should win on the fringes of the ruck through their backrow. And when you cast your eye over the Kangaroos backline it simply oozes skill, speed and size.
WARRIORS hooker Nathan Fien will make his Kiwis debut this Saturday.
AUSTRALIAN prop Willie Mason is adamant a few headaches will not stop him from exacting some revenge on the Kiwis in Saturday night's second Tri-Nations match in Melbourne.Mason is still suffering dizzy spells after being on the receiving end of a heavy shoulder charge from New Zealand backrower David Kidwell in the tournament opener last weekend, but is confident of taking part in the Telstra Dome clash.The Australian forward leader is sure to have his injured eye given a thorough working over by the Kiwis after being accused of disrespecting the haka before the Auckland match. MASON says he is ready for whatever the Kiwi pack dishes up at Telstra Dome but denies he will go looking for some payback with Kidwell.After a light day yesterday, the Australians will step up preparations for Saturday night's contest with a training session at Olympic Park later this morning.Over to the New Zealand camp and coach Brian McClennan has called on referee Ashley Klein to give the two sides some space in Saturday night's Tri-Nations clash at Telstra Dome.McClennan claimed the Australian-born English-based referee allowed the Kangaroos too much of a headstart in defence in the opening match in Auckland last week. The Kiwi coach says he will not seek a pre-game meeting with the Super League official, instead hoping Klein will make some alterations of his own after reviewing his performance in the series opener.Meanwhile, Hooker Nathan Fien will make his international rugby league debut for New Zealand on Saturday after earning a call up to the Kiwis bench to play Australia.Coach Brian McClennan has added the Warriors rake to the Kiwi's interchange bench for the second Tri-Nations Test in Melbourne after Dene Halatau was ruled out with a shoulder injury. Jerome Ropati will take Halatau's place at hooker in the starting line-up.
ENGLAND coach Paul Cullen has included four members of Hull FC?s beaten Grand Final team in his 19-man squad for Sunday?s Federation Shield match against France at Headingley.
IRELAND Head Coach Andy Kelly has announced his provisional squad for the forthcoming World Cup fixtures against Russia and Lebannon.
FOR a team that is yet to hold its first training session, let alone play a match, the Gold Coast Titans have managed to achieve extensive publicity with the ?possibility? that Jonah Lomu will join the Titans next year.
JONAH Lomu has told the Gold Coast Titans he's fit and healthy enough to play a National Rugby League game tomorrow. And the Titans say they'd have no hesitation in throwing the former All Blacks star into the fray, despite questions over his health since he had a kidney transplant in 2004.Gold Coast management have offered the 31-year-old Lomu a one-year incentive-based deal but the giant winger hasn't been given a deadline to make a decision. Lomu didn't even have to undergo a scheduled medical for the Titans, who are satisfied with his fitness.He's considering switching codes after failing to secure a New Zealand Super 14 rugby contract for next season.Meanwhile, Manly-bound centre Jamie Lyon has arrived in Sydney hopeful of claiming an Australian cap during the Tri-Nations rugby league tournament.Lyon flew in from England after helping St Helens to victory in the Super League grand final last week. He will join the rest of the Kangaroos squad in Sydney next week and is hoping to be called into the team for Australia's third game of the tournament against Great Britain at Aussie Stadium on November 4.Lyon says he has no regrets about his controversial decision to leave the NRL in 2004. He left Parramatta citing a dislike for city life.
SYDNEY Roosters forward Anthony Tupou has been named to make his Australian Test debut against New Zealand in Saturday night's Tri-Nations rugby league clash in Melbourne.
TOUGH Newtown Jets front-rower Glenn Hall scooped the major awards at the recent Newtown RLFC Presentation Night, held in front of a packed crowd at the Jets Sports Club in Tempe.
AUSTRALIA utility Reni Maitua has been ruled out of the Tri-Nations series with an ankle injury. Scans have revealed a distal syndesmosis injury in the Bulldogs? right ankle, ruling him out of all remaining games in the series against New Zealand and Great Britain.
GAUGING how hard David Kidwell hit Willie Mason on Saturday night is not as simple as observing the shiner that was left behind.
WALES have included four Super League and six Celtic Crusaders players in their initial 21-man squad for the Rugby League World Cup qualifier against Scotland at the Brewery Field on Sunday 29th October.The squad also includes Mark Lennon who plays for Manly Sea Eagles in Australia?s NRL and Phil Joseph from Hull Kingston Rovers who will be playing in Super League next season after helping his side win the National League One Grand Final on October 8th.But the big news for Wales is, as announced two weeks ago, Iestyn Harris will play for his country in rugby league for the first time in almost six years when he runs out at the Brewery Field in just under two weeks time.The Bradford Bulls stand-off last played for Wales in the World Cup semi-final match against Australia in Huddersfield on November 19th 2000. He made his Welsh international debut against Australia on October 30th 1994 and is currently the country?s record points scorer for with 145 in his 17 games.Since then, he has had a spell in union with Cardiff Blues and Wales and on his return to league, has been unable to play for Wales due to his involvement with Great Britain.Warrington?s Lee Briers will captain the side once again following his best season ever for Wolves where he scored nine tries and 105 goals leading them to the second round of the play-offs, and despite being in Australia with the Great Britain Tri-Nations squad. In a special arrangement with the Lions, Briers will fly back to Wales on October 21st before returning down under the day after the match.There is no place in the squad for Crusaders? Paul Morgan meaning that he has now played his last game of rugby league following his retirement announcement last week, but there is a surprise inclusion for Richard Johnson who hasn?t played since breaking his arm in the Crusaders? win over Barrow on July 16th.Three potential debutants have been named ? Geraint Davies and Hywel Davies from Celtic Crusaders and Widnes Vikings? Gary Hulse. Hulse will be extra determined to get into the 17-man matchday squad as, after being selected for Wales last year, missed out on his international debut due to injury.The match is the first in a two-legged encounter for Wales for the winners qualifying for the 13th Rugby League World Cup Finals in Australia in October 2008.Wales Squad 2006Anthony Blackwood - Halifax RLFCLee Briers - Warrington Wolves (capt)Geraint Davies - Celtic CrusadersHywel Davies - Celtic CrusadersGareth Dean - Celtic CrusadersDamien Gibson - Halifax RLFCIestyn Harris - Bradford BullsPaul Highton - Salford City RedsAdam Hughes - Widnes VikingsGary Hulse - Widnes VikingsAled James - Celtic CrusadersJordan James - Widnes VikingsRichard Johnson - Celtic CrusadersPhil Joseph - Hull Kingston RoversMark Lennon - Manly Sea EaglesDavid Mills - Harlequins RLChris Morley - Swinton LionsBryn Powell - Dewsbury RamsGareth Price - Celtic CrusadersRobert Roberts - Leigh CenturionsIan Watson - Widnes VikingsTeam Manager - John DevereuxHead Coach - Martin HallAssistant Coach - Anthony FarrellAssistant Coach - Kevin EllisFitness/Skills - Allan BatemanPhysiotherapist - Ben SearleKit Man - Tony JamesSource: http://www.cymrurl.com
FORMER Warrington Wolves and Wigan Warriors forward Jerome Guisset will captain France in the Federation Shield, which gets under way at Headingley on Sunday.