Game VII: The Antipodean Final

THE day of reckoning has arrived for Australia and New Zealand as they prepare to take the field in Elland Road, Leeds, and do battle for the title of Tri-Nations Champions.

Player news ? Dragons, Storm

CASTLEFORD has thrown a rugby league lifeline to axed St George Illawarra forward Willie Manu.The controversial forward will join ex-Cronulla prop Danny Nutley at the recently promoted English Super League club which has officially unveiled new coach, Australian Terry Matterson. Manu, 25, has signed for 2006 after being released from his Dragons contract - which was due to expire next season ? after several off-field incidents this year.Meanwhile, teenage sensation Greg Inglis has extended his contract with Melbourne until the 2009 NRL season in a deal worth in excess of $1 million.The new deal marks one of the most lucrative contracts ever offered to a rookie, with the 18-year-old set to become a millionaire after playing just 13 first grade games for the Storm. The retention of Inglis was a priority for coach Craig Bellamy, who recently compared him to "a young Laurie Daley".

Schifcofske new Canberra Raiders captain

THE Canberra Raiders have appointed star fullback Clinton Schifcofske as captain for their historic 25th season in 2006.Schifcofske was officially named as Raiders skipper following a two-day tactical camp at the Australian Institute of Sport.Schifcofske has played 116 of his career 211 first grade games with the Raiders. The former Queensland State of Origin representative said he?d never been more prepared for the captaincy role.?I?ve played first grade for 10 years and this is obviously something you always aspire to,? Schifcofske said. ?I think I?m ready for it and that?s something which has come with age, maturity and responsibility.?I?m a firm believer that actions speak louder than words, but I heard a good quote the other day. I?m an NFL fan and TV commentators were talking about the great quarterback Dan Marino. They said captaincy, leadership and respect isn?t announced, it?s earned.?Schifcofske paid tribute to his predecessor Simon Woolford, who stepped down as captain last week after five seasons as Raiders skipper. Woolford wants to focus on his personal form in 2006 and is intent on having his best season for the Green Machine.?Simon?s been terrific,? Schifcofske said. ?He?s a real competitor and I know I?ll get plenty of support from him this season. With experienced players like Simon, Jason Croker and Jason Smith, we?ve got a good platform for leadership.?Schifcofske has enjoyed his best form since joining the Raiders in 2001, winning the club?s Player of the Year award in 2001 and 2004.?I thought about whether the captaincy would distract me, but I think the extra responsibility will make me a better player,? Schifcofske said.Raiders coach Matt Elliott said Schifcofske was a natural leader.?The keys are his seniority and the respect he has for his teammates and from his teammates,? Elliott said. ?He has a desire to do the job, to develop the team and the club.?Starting with David Grant in 1982, the Raiders have had a fine tradition of captains. The list of former skippers includes Australian captains Mal Meninga and Laurie Daley.CLINTON SCHIFCOFSKENickname: ChocDOB: 10 November, 1975, in Moranbah, QldPosition: FullbackHeight: 183cm Weight: 91kgJunior Club: MoranbahContract with Raiders: end of 2008Representative: One State of Origin for Queensland in 2002. Australian Prime Ministers XIII in 2005. Previous Clubs: South Queensland Crushers (1996-97); Parramatta Eels (1998-2000)FG Debut: Crushers v Norths, April 21, 1996.Raiders Achievements:Games: 116 (211 career games)Points: 898 points (1454 career points)Raiders Player of the Year: 2001 and 2004Most Points in a Season: 245 points in 2001

Junior Dolphins Chosen

THREE junior Dolphins will reap the first benefits of the recently signed Broncos-Redcliffe partnership agreement.Promising under 17 forward Matt Handcock, Colts outside back Matt Gillett and 2005 under 14As best and fairest Matt Humphreys have been chosen to attend a Broncos elite players training camp this month.Although not contracted to the Broncos, the Redcliffe trio has gained spots at the camp, which features the cream of the broncos' scholarship holders from across Queensland and New South Wales. Redcliffe development officer Grant Cleal said the junior Dolphins chosen by Redcliffe were first and foremost of good character and would represent their club with pride.

Shippy Steers Way Back Home

TO a rugby league player, a decade is a lifetime.Mark Shipway will discover time has not stood still when returns to Dolphin Oval next season.The last time he donned the red and white jersey was in 1996 in a Brisbane grand final against Souths.The teenage centre had already played in that season's Queensland Cup grand final, carrying a dislocated shoulder, before popping it again in the premiership decider.Ten years later he has signed with Redcliffe as a hard-hitting backrower who has been with two NRL clubs and a Super League outfit."I went from Redcliffe to the Cowboys for five years," he said. "Then it was two years with Manly before two seasons with the Salford City Reds."At 29, Shipway believes he still has plenty of football left in him and always intended to come home with his Australian bride Jodie, the daughter of former Redcliffe coach John Barber."I had still been following Redcliffe's progress on the Internet and had a couple of mates from the Cowboys playing with the club," he said."Of course, I had played with James Hinchey and kept in close contact. When it came time to come home to live here, it wasn't a hard decision to sign up."Like all footballers, I've had a few little injury problems but the body still feels good."'Shippy' will find former team-mates scarce at Dolphin Oval, although the indestructible Troy Lindsay shows no signs of weakening."The guys I played with were the likes of Hinchey,Wayne Miller, Crusher Cleal,Ricky Hewinson, Robbo and Danny Nutley," he said."I know Greg Bourke well from my time at the Cowboys but I can't put any faces to the names who will be at the club next season so it's hard to say how we will go, but we will be training hard in the next couple of months so I'm bound to get a good idea of our prospects."I've not seen any games but I know that the Queensland Cup goes from strength to strength especially with the NRL clubs using it as a feeder system." Shipway needs no introduction to coach Anthony Griffin, who was Redcliffe's development officer during his time with the Dolphins.Super League clubs are allowed three overseas players and ironically there was a Redcliffe connection to Shipway's departure from Salford.The Reds swooped on former Dolphin Aaron Moule from the Widnes Vikings, signing the free-scoring centre for two seasons."I enjoyed England and it was all a great experience," he said. 'I got to travel around and have a look at the world, but it's good to be back here in a warmer climate."Shipway also is trying to tie up a new profession after a fulltime playing career.He has applied for a QRL development officer post, saying he had attended numerous schools and camps during his time with the Cowboys and Manly as well as helping coach an under 16 team at Salford. "I've never had to apply for a job as my last job was in the office at the Redcliffe Leagues Club," he said. "It's time to get back to a normal life."

Kiwi squad named for Tri-Series Final

KIWIS coach Brian McClennan expects the Gillette Tri-Nations series grand final against Australia to be an extremely tough contest.

Nutley and Manu to Castleford

CASTLEFORD Tigers have acquired two top class forwards from the NRL in former Warrington star Danny Nutley, from the Cronulla Sharks, and the St George-Illawarra Dragons Tongan international back rower Willie Manu.31-year-old prop forward Nutley - who is a quota player - started his senior career with South Queensland before joining Warrington Wolves in 1998.The prop made 99 appearances for the Wolves, who were very keen to retain him but he opted to return ?home? and join the Sharks where he has spent the past three seasons.At the Sharks Nutley took the Player of the Year award in 2003 and represented Queensland in the State of Origin.25 year-old Manu is a 16 stone six foot second row forward who has made 14 appearances for the St George-Illawarra Dragons this year taking his NRL first grade appearances to 83 since making his debut for the Wests Tigers in 2002.Manu - who is a non-quota player - had two years with Wests and then a season at Souths before his switch to St George for the 2005 season.Although born in Sydney, Manu is qualified to play for Tonga and represented the country firstly in the 2000 World Cup competition. Most recently he played against Samoa last month in the build up to the 2008 World Cup.Castleford CEO Richard Wright said: ?We believe that these are two excellent acquisitions for the Tigers who will add strength and toughness to our pack.?We have had to work very hard to bring the duo to the club, with Terry Matterson playing a big part, as both were first team regulars and under contract.?Danny capped a tremendous season this year with State of Origin selection and Willie is a regular in the Tongan set up, and both just the type of quality players that we have been looking to bring to the club to augment the talent who took us back into Super League. ?We always felt that with patience we could land the right players and now we feel that we are reaping the benefits and building a group of players who will give us a very competitive side in 2006.?On Wednesday Castleford completed the signing of St Helens? Welsh international prop forward Keith Mason.- - - - -Thanks to for this news.

Guy Leech Begins Training With The Bears

SEVEN time winner of the Uncle Toby?s Iron Man Series and multi-champion ironman Guy Leech has introduced the North Sydney Premier League squad to his unique style of water and beach based fitness training, at his OzPaddle headquarters at the Manly Pavilion. Early Sunday mornings most of us are lying in bed enjoying a sleep-in. But not Guy Leech and not the North Sydney Bears. In the first of 4 training sessions Guy has combined kayak work and beach running in a 2 hour session. The players were split into 2 groups, with one kayaking out to about one kilometre, rounding the post and heading back and the other group combining sand running with sit ups and push ups. The session then ended with a combined relay race on Manly beach. But this is only an introduction to more intensive training, ?I want to have the boys for 2 more one hour sessions before a final Iron-Man style event in the New Year. We want to train them in alternate groups of forwards and backs because their abilities vary. It will be more intensive. We will take them further out to the National Park?.Ironman Champ Guy Leech issues directions to the Bears Premier League team on Sunday. Photo: Steve LittleTo see more Photos of the Bears training with Guy go to the photos section of the Bears website more information on Guy Leech?s OzPaddle training programs go to North Sydney Rugby League Football Club can be contacted on 9466 8860, by e-mail [email protected], or check out the website at

Tough Decisions And Top Footy At Bears Junior Trials

SELECTION trials are not always the greatest spectacles due to the fact they are usually held in the off season, not to mention the heat that comes along at this time of year. The quality of the recent trials is testimony to the training program undertaken by the 2 squads over the past 5 weeks. The players were fit, skilled and hungry for their chance to represent the red and black. The result was a clearer indication of the talent on show and some spectacular footy with great tactical kicking, defence and running football. Then comes the difficult task of culling the current training squads down to the final 2006 teams. A task made more difficult for training staff after over seeing the 4 weeks of training. ?This is the most difficult cut because we have spent 4 weeks already with these kids and got to know them really well. I really do wish all of them that missed out well in the future? said SG Ball Manager Darren Allard. As the day finished a warning was issued to the boys ?The training will get harder from here on in boys. You may want to think about that when you make your decision to play? said Harold Matthews coach Kevin Nichols, comments that were echoed in the SG Ball camp. The North Sydney Club would like to sincerely thank all players that have missed out, for the effort they have put in over the past 5 weeks and wish you all good luck in the world of Rugby League. Greg Florimo tries to keep his cool while refereeing at the final Junior Rep trials for 2006. Photo: Steve LittleFor details of the final playing squads and to see more photos from the final junior rep trial day go to the Bears website North Sydney Rugby League Football Club can be contacted on 9466 8860, by e-mail [email protected], or check out the website at

It's snow joke for Aussies

CRAIG Wing is confident he will be fit to play for Australia in Saturday's Gillette Tri-Nations final against New Zealand.

Wigan to start with a French test

WIGAN Warriors will be the first opponents for engage Super League newcomers Les Catalans after the fixtures for the forthcoming season were announced.The Perpignan-based club will kick off their campaign against the Warriors at the Aime Giral Stadium on Saturday, February 11, in a match to be televised live by Sky Sports.Wigan chairman Maurice Lindsay said: "It?s no surprise to me that we are the first club invited to play in France to usher in the historic entry into Super League of Les Catalans Dragons."I am sure it will help them to fill their ground and, of course, it will be a very tough fixture for us."It will still be winter in the south of France so our fans will miss the warm weather, which many other clubs will enjoy throughout the year. It is still a great honour for us and one we are delighted to be part of."Coach Ian Millward said: "We are pleased to be the first club to tackle the Dragons in France. It is a very difficult start for us as they will certainly be fired up for their opening fixture, but it is one we as a club are very much looking forward to."Promoted Castleford Tigers will kick off Super League XI with a home match against Powergen Challenge Cup winners Hull at the Jungle on Friday, February 10, while champions Bradford Bulls will launch the defence of their title against Wakefield Trinity Wildcats at Belle Vue on the Sunday.In other opening fixtures, Harlequins - formerly known as London Broncos - take on St Helens at the re-named Twickenham Stoop on the Saturday and Leeds Rhinos meet Huddersfield Giants at Headingley while Warrington Wolves are at home to Salford City Reds on the Sunday. - - - - -Thanks to for this news.

Castleford boost Superleague squad

PROMOTED club Castleford have completed the signing of St Helens? Welsh international prop forward Keith Mason and moved closer to capturing former Warrington front rower Danny Nutley.The 23-year-old Mason had a year left on his contract at Saints but has agreed a 12-month loan deal with the Tigers, where he will join former Wigan prop Danny Sculthorpe.Mason started his professional career with Wakefield, although he had a brief spell with Castleford?s junior academy, before moving to Australia for a stint with Melbourne Storm, where he played under new Tigers coach Terry Matterson for their feeder club, Brisbane Norths.?We have been looking to bring Keith to the club for some time and we are all very pleased that we have been able to conclude a deal today,? said Castleford chief executive Richard Wright.?Keith is a big strong forward and, along with Danny Sculthorpe gives us two young prop forwards who have a lot of belief in themselves, are ambitious and are very keen to make their mark at the Jungle.?We hope to announce more new signings over the next couple of days and when those deals are completed and announced we think the fans will start to gain confidence in our ability to compete in Super League next season.?One of the imminent signings is thought to be the 31-year-old Nutley, who has been released from the final year of his contract with Cronulla Sharks.Nutley, who played for Warrington before joining Cronulla in 2002, has agreed a two-year contract with the Tigers.?The Sharks have supported me 100% during the four years I?ve been and the club and they are continuing to support me by allowing me a release and the opportunity to accept the Castleford offer. I?m very grateful to the club for that,? Nutley told the Cronulla website, this point in my career, I?m 31 with a family to look after and the Castleford offer is a very attractive one.?Cronulla coach Stuart Raper, formerly in charge of Castleford and Wigan, said: ?I really enjoyed working with Danny. We will definitely miss his toughness and competitiveness.?It was a difficult decision to grant him the release, but life goes on. It is a great opportunity for him over there at Castleford.?- - - - -Thanks to for this report.

Sharks release Nutley, in talks with Thompson

STATE of Origin forward Danny Nutley has been released from the Cronulla Sharks so he can take up a two-year deal to play with English club Castleford.Sharks chief executive Steve Rogers signed the release papers this morning. Rogers now heads off to another meeting where he will try to sign dumped St George Illawarra forward Lance Thompson for next season.Rogers says the decision to release Nutley does not set a precedent. He tried to do the best thing by a loyal player who's been offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to set himself up financially. He says Castleford have offered Nutley a deal the Sharks could not hope to match.

Knights meet with Hagan

NEWCASTLE Knights management has met with coach Michael Hagan amid speculation he is being pursued by Parramatta for the 2007 NRL season.Hagan has been linked to a move to Parramatta with the Eels having declared their intention not to renew Brian Smith's coaching contract beyond the 2006 season. While Knights chairman Mike Tyler says no firm decisions were made as a result of today's discussions, the club is comfortable with Hagan's position.The board plans to review Hagan's position midway through next season and Hagan says his priority is with the team.

News on players, coaches, refs and fans ahead of Saturday?s Final

INJURED Australian utility Craig Wing says he's in no doubt for Saturday's Tri Nations final with New Zealand at Elland Road. Coach Wayne Bennett seemed concerned by Wing's sternum injury which caused him problems late in Australia's 26-14 Test win over Great Britain last weekend.

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