And the winner is ? Rupert Murdoch

THE Grand Final is still two and a half days away, but the winner can already be declared ? Rupert Murdoch and News Limited! Sunday night?s match is a News Limited clash, between the News Limited-owned Melbourne Storm and the News Limited-controlled Brisbane Broncos. (Oh, and the NRL itself is 50 per cent owned by News for good measure). But the ownership issue is where the similarities end. The Broncos have a huge membership and fan base, and are profitable. The Storm has a limited (though growing) base in the AFL heartland, and survives financially thanks to News. The Broncos were a product of the old NSWRL expansion in 1988; the Storm resulted from the settlement of the Super League War a decade later. So News Limited will win either way on Sunday night ? though it has already scored something of a victory with the improved television deal with Nine to start next year. Rupert scoops half the higher NRL profit that should result. Now to the game itself. It is a contest between the stand-out team of the 2006 season (Storm) and the most improved team in the finals series (Broncos). The Storm easily won the minor premiership, while the Broncos, after a poor start in the opening finals week, have been the form team since with a crushing win over the Knights and a very comfortable defeat of the one time premiership favourites, the Bulldogs, a week ago. Since the formation of the NRL in 1998, the Storm have won one premiership (1999) and the Broncos two (1998 and 2000). While the Broncos players have significantly more grand final, and ?big game?, experience, the Storm have the Dally M Player of the Year (Cameron Smith) and the rising star in the game (but not the best ever) Greg Inglis. If the punters have it right, then the Storm will bolt in. The weight of money is very heavily with the Storm this week, but the punters often get it wrong! I slipped down the tipping competition scale this season, so my prediction should be ignored. However, being a punter I always regard ?form? as the number one guide, so I am going for the ?form? team, the Storm. Whatever the result, stay tuned to the post match presentation. John Howard will, as is custom, present the TELSTRA premiership trophy (at TELSTRA Stadium) and he will be joined on the podium by Sol J Trujillo, the CEO who cost more than Steve Austin, the six-million dollar man. The ?atmosphere? at kick off may be very tame when compared to that at the presentation! Enjoy what should be a bottler of a Grand Final!

Game-breakers the key: Bennett

BRISBANE coach Wayne Bennett says game-breakers like the Broncos' Justin Hodges and Melbourne's Greg Inglis will be the key players in Sunday's Grand Final.

Malta side to play Lebanon

MALTA coach Joe Grima has named a 17-man squad to take on Lebanon in the Phoenician Cup at the Western Weekender Stadium at St Marys on October 8.Malta:Steven AzzopardiPeter BonannoRyan BorgBrad ClewsPat GaleaSteve GaleaWillie GrechPaul HarrisJeremy LateoPaul MarzellaJohnny MicallefSimon MicallefBrendan RussellBen Sammut (C)Jarrod SammutDaniel SpiteriDallas WestonThe Phoenician Cup is proudly supported by Fosters Australia.Source:

Superleague Semi Finals Preview

IT?S down to the last four teams standing, and this weekend sees 1 v 2 play for a place in the grand final (loser with a second bite of the cherry) and 4 v 6 play for survival. St Helens, Hull, Bradford, and Warrington ? only three will survive this weekend?s games?Friday ? St Helens v Hull FC, Knowsley Road 8pmCompetition favourites St Helens and second placed Hull face off after a week?s rest with a grand final place up for grabs. Saints finished the season with twenty-four wins with a points difference of 509, showing their dominance throughout the regular season. Hull managed twenty wins including a mid-season winning streak of thirteen matches, with a points difference of 142.St Helens has the form on the board, winning their last three league matches and having taken out this year?s Challenge Cup. However captain Paul Sculthorpe has been ruled out for the rest of the season, which may serve as a reminder to the Saints of their injury-laden early departure from the finals a year ago. Coach Daniel Anderson has been talking his side up, as has fullback Paul Wellens, both claiming this is the best side they have been associated with.Hull meanwhile have lost their last two games, and will be desperate to recapture their mid-season form, which saw them beat St Helens at Knowsley Road in June. Since the mid-season change of coach and the arrival of Peter Sharp it?s been a different Hull side to earlier in the year, albeit one that may have peaked too early and enter the play-offs with a point to prove. Minor injury worries for gareth Carvell and Shayne McMenemy appear to have cleared up.Some match-ups to look out for are up front, with the Saints engine room rotation of Nathan Cayless, Paul Anderson, and Keiron Cunningham with James Graham, Maurie Fa?asavalu and James Roby up against Hull?s front row mainstays of Garreth Carvell, Ewan Dowes, Paul King and Richard Swain. Meanwhile in the halves Hull?s Richard Horne gets a chance to stake a Tri-Nations claim against test incumbent Sean Long. And there?s talent all over the field really, and this should be a great clash.Previous results this season:Round 7: Hull 0 St Helens 46 (KC Stadium)Round 16: St Helens 26 Hull 27 (Knowsley Road)St Helens 18-man squad: Wellens, Gardner, Lyon, Talau, Meli, Pryce, Long, Cunningham, Cayless, Gilmour, Wilkin, Roby, Bennett, Hooper, P. Anderson, V. Anderson, Graham, Fa'asavalu.Hull FC 18-man squad: Briscoe, Carvell, Cooke, Domic, Dowes, G. Horne, R. Horne, Lee, McMenemy, King, Radford, Raynor, Swain, Yeaman, Whiting, Tony, Wheeldon, Washbrook.Referee: A KleinSaturday ? Bradford v Warrington, Grattan Stadium 6pmIt?s a fight for survival between the Bradford Bulls and Warrington Wolves, each knowing that no team has won Superleague from 4th or 6th position before. But a win here will send either team into the final three with a chance at earning a grand final berth. Bradford finished the season six points above Warrington, and despite a mid-season two point penalty for previous salary cap indiscretions, the reigning champions? play-off spot had assured for several weeks prior to the end of the league rounds. This was just as well as Bradford lost two games against lower placed teams in the lead-up to the play-offs, but recovered to beat Huddersfield in the final round and then outclass Salford in last week?s elimination game. Warrington have emerged as a surprise packet at the end of the season, picking up a win against Hull, competing against St Helens, and then reversing their result from a month before by knocking Leeds out of the competition last week with a Lee Briers field goal. Warrington have a good record against the Bulls this season, they are a team that seems to be playing out the 80 minutes and taking nothing for granted, and peaking at the right time of year.There?s one day remaining before the squads are reduced to 18 men, and time will tell whether Wolves fullback Brent Grose has recovered from knee injury in time to take part in this vital clash, and prop Chris Leikvoll is also available for selection. Bradford expect to have loose forward Jamie Langley available after a groin injury, in addition to recent returnee Paul Johnson. Both sides will give their all in this match, as a loss here spells the end of the road. Previous results this season:Round 8: Bradford 18 Warrington 22 (Odsal Stadium)Round 11: Warrington 27 Bradford 4 (Halliwell Jones Stadium)Round 23: Bradford 50 Warrington 22 (Grattan Stadium)Bradford Bulls 20-man squad: Johnson, Burgess, Meyers, Cook, I. Harris, Bai, Pryce, St Hilaire, B. Harris, Langley, Newton, Ferres, Deacon, Vagana, Vainikolo, Hape, McKenna, Withers, Lynch, Henderson.Warrington Wolves 20-man squad: Grose, Fa?afili, Martin Gleeson, Kohe-Love, Reardon, Briers, Sullivan, Leikvoll, Swann, Wainwright, Mark Gleeson, Westwood, Wood, Barnett, Parker, Rauhihi, Pickersgill, Bracek, Riley, Bridge.Referee: R Silverwood

Storm go home, Broncos stay in town

MELBOURNE has gone to extraordinary lengths to maintain its winning routine, flying back home to ahead of Sunday's Grand Final at Telstra Stadium.

Ellis breaks tackling record

NORTH Sydney 2006 Premier League hooker Ben Ellis, has impressed the rugby league community by making a record 1066 tackles for season 2006 despite not playing a full compliment of matches.The massive effort tops the number of tackles made by Canberra's NRL lock Alan Tongue who this year has made 1040 to set the NRL record, overtaking former Melbourne hooker Richard Swain's tackle count of 1004 tackles set in 2001.In what must surely be a new tackling record for rugby league over the home and away season, Ben Ellis has made his tackles in only 22 matches after missing 2 games with suspension. This means his average tackles per match sits at 48.45. While Alan Tongue has made his tackles over 24 matches.While many believe a Premier League record is not up to the standard of the NRL, 2006 Bears coach Josh White believes Ben's efforts prove beyond a doubt his commitment as a player, "He was outstanding, it's an enormous effort. It's not even technique it's his ability to put in again and again. Some players have just got the talent to keep going and Ben Ellis has got it big time!".But the mild mannered family man who last year was voted both Player of the Year and Players' Player for the North Sydney club and in 2006 Best Forward and Supporters' Player of the Year, has shown he is not just a defensive specialist by scoring 10 tries for the season to be the Bears leading try scorer. "When I'm in a position to make a tackle I do it. As the opportunities come my way I do my best. It's my role in the team" Said Ben.PICTURED: New Zealand born Ben Ellis runs up the ball against the Sharks in round 1. Who would have guessed this would be a record breaking year for the hooker. PHOTO: Steve Little.

Jets inspired by Greats

NEWTOWN Jets Draw Inspiration from Greats of the Past for Sunday's Grand FinalThe Newtown Jets take on Parramatta in Sunday?s VB Premier League Grand Final at Telstra Stadium. It might be 23 years since Newtown last played in the NSW Rugby League first grade premiership competition, and 25 years since Newtown played Parramatta in the 1981 first grade grand final, but the Jets are receiving plenty of good wishes from a variety of high-profile identities closely associated with the famous old Foundation Rugby League club.Newtown?s current Official Club Patron and Life Member John Singleton attended the Jets training session at Wentworth Park on Tuesday afternoon and spoke to the players. ?Singo?s? message was simple and straight to the point: ?I?m backing you blokes all the way! Go out and do the jersey proud!?Former Jets and NSW State of Origin front-rower and now the popular mine host at the Hurstville Ritz Hotel, Big Steve Bowden, laid on dinner for the 2006 VB Premier League Grand Finalists at the Ritz on Tuesday night. ?Bowdo? and several of his 1981 Newtown Jets team-mates Ken Wilson, Jim Walters, Ray Blacklock, Les Motto (Head Trainer) and Steve Blyth all spoke to the players and joined them for dinner in the stylishly-appointed Hurstville Ritz Function Room.The legendary Tom Raudonikis, who only recently underwent major bypass surgery, will be with the Newtown Jets team in the dressing rooms at Telstra Stadium prior to Sunday?s Grand Final. Raudonikis of course captained the Jets in the famous 1981 grand final against Parramatta.The Jets have received good luck messages in recent days from the following identities:Charles ?Chicka? Cahill, a member of Newtown?s 1943 first grade premiership winning team and a former President of the Newtown BluebagsLionel Williamson, former Newtown first grade captain and former Australian wingerFrank Hyde and family (Frank played with Newtown from 1934 to 1937)Dick Poole, former Newtown Bluebags captain-coach and former Australian captain-coach in 1957.The club has received a huge number of messages from other Newtown supporters and former players from within Sydney, in NSW, Queensland and overseas (including one email from a supporter in Finland!)

More "best player ever" nonsense

ONE gets the clear impression that the Melbourne Storm?s Greg Inglis is a remarkably level-headed 19-year-old ? and after today?s headlines he will surely need to be.

Carting it up with Stevo

WHO to hate?

Monaghan receives Ken Stephen Award

MANLY'S Michael Monaghan has been honoured with the 2006 Ken Stephen Award for services to Rugby League and to the community.

Overnight wrap: RLPA, Titan, Kiwis

RUGBY League Professionals Association boss Matthew Rodwell says no deal has been done with the NRL to water down the clout of the players' union.

NRL struggles for GF coverage ? in Sydney!

FOR years the Daily Telegraph has been rugby league?s flagship publication ? even in the off-season. But this year the change has been dramatic, and the AFL is the beneficiary.

5 added to NZ'A' Squad

THE New Zealand selectors have added another five players to the Kiwis and New Zealand ?A? train-on squad.Les Catalans Dragons halfback Stacey Jones is the first player from the UK Super League competition to be added to the train-on squad.Jones ? who was made an officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2005 ? was one of the stars of the Kiwis? 2005 Gillette Tri-Nations campaign and has played a huge role in Les Catalans? debut year in the Super League competition.Four Bulldogs players ? Sonny Bill Williams, Roy Asotasi, Matt Utai and Ben Roberts ? have also been added to the squad.The Bulldogs were knocked out of the NRL finals last weekend after being beaten by the Broncos 37-20 in the preliminary final.The Kiwis kick off their Gillette Tri-Nations campaign on October 14 against the Kangaroos at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland.The New Zealand A side will play Australia A the following week on October 21 at Melbourne?s Telstra Dome in the curtain raiser to the Kiwis? second game against their Australian rivals.Train-On Squad additions:Sonny Bill Williams, Roy Asotasi, Matt Utai, Ben Roberts (Bulldogs)Stacey Jones (Les Catalans)

Harris to play for Wales

IESTYN Harris today confirmed his availability for Wales for the World Cup Qualifier against Scotland at the Brewery Field on Sunday 29th October.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.However because of his retirement from the Lions and the adjustment of his holiday dates, he can now play for Wales in their first qualifier for the 2008 World Cup.Wales Rugby League Executive Chairman Mark Rowley said: ?Iestyn confirmed his availability with us today and I?m over the moon with this news. We?ve been working hard to help him adjust his holiday dates so he can play and the fact that he was willing to do that in the first place proves his dedication to his country. We?re all looking forward to seeing him back in a Wales shirt on October 29th in Bridgend.?Source:

Overnight wrap: Sharks, Storm, trophy

NEW Cronulla coach Ricky Stuart says he will meet with Sharks skipper Brett Kimmorley in the coming days to discuss what role the veteran playmaker will have at the club next season.

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