LIKELY squad: Matt Bowen, Ty Williams, Josh Hannay, Paul Bowman, Matt Sing, Johnathan Thurston, Brett Firman, Carl Webb, Aaron Payne, Shane Tronc, Steve Southern, Luke O?Donnell, Travis NortonInterchange: Rod Jenson, Mitchell Sargeant, Justin Smith, David FaiumuStrengths:North Queensland?s line up remains pretty much unchanged for the 2006 season which means that the combinations that are currently in place will only improve as the players understanding of each other?s games improve. This will mean the Cowboys will be a better team in 2006.The Cowboys first ever Grand Final appearance will be a great boost for their club, their community and the players coming into the 2006 season. They now have the confidence and the belief that they can match it with any team at the highest level and put to bed critics who stated their finals run in 2004 was a fluke.Johnathan Thurston?s Dally M medal and an entire off-season for Brett Firman will only help the Cowboy?s halves combination become even stronger. Thurston?s ability to scoot through holes has made him one of the premier halves in the competition and hopefully he will continue his brilliant run of form in 2006.The Cowboys? forward pack is still as strong and aggressive as last season with the ability to dominate packs and move forward. The backline is also electrifying as well, with stable and sure centres and a brilliant back 3.Weaknesses:Losing Paul Rauhihi will definitely hurt the Cowboys. While he wasn?t a tremendous impact player last year, he was an influential figure to have in the team and did get away a lot of offloads. His presence on the field will be sorely missed by the entire team.The lack of size on the bench should be a concern for Graham Murray. Aside from Mitchell Sargeant, the Cowboys don?t have another big man on the bench with Justin Smith, David Faiumu and Rod Jenson not big enough to play prop, meaning one of Southern or O?Donnell will need to fill in at prop to give the two starters a rest. It will be a problem for Murray to organise this.Graham Murray being in charge of the NSW side will be a disruption for the Cowboys outfit. The travel associated and the lack of mentorship during the Origin period will put a dent in the Cowboys run in the middle of the season. Hopefully the caretaker coach can make sure the Cowboys don?t fall off the rails.One to Watch:Emerging Cowboys Prop Matthew Scott has been chosen as the Cowboys young gun for the 2006 season. A player who is held in high regard by Graham Murray at the Cowboys, he will be looking to become a regular feature in the Cowboys squad for 2006 with the departure of stalwart Paul Rauhihi to England.The 185cm, 104kg Scott made three appearances for the Cowboys in 2005 improving with each game he played. The Cowboys prop was vital in winning the North Queensland Young Guns the Qld Cup premiership last season and will be looking to impress Graham Murray in the trials in 2006 to make sure he will feature in the 2006 premiership push for the Cowboys. Gains and Losses:Gains: Ray Cashmere, Brett Anderson, Robert Tanielu, Leigh Coghill, Russell Aitken, Jamie Frizzo, Scott Smith, Mark Henry.Losses: Paul Rauhihi, David Myles, Leigh McWilliams, Jaiman Lowe, Michael Luck.Assessment:The Cowboys will finish from 5th to 8th this season as I believe they will do what the Broncos usually do - start strong, and then during Origin time will fall away suddenly and then come home with a wet sail.The lack of actual size on the bench will also mean they may not push for the premiership like they did last season. They will need to have another big man on the bench to ensure they push for the Grand Final.
SEASON 2006 arrives with a bang this Friday night as the competition favourites, the St George Illawarra Dragons take on last years premiers, the Wests Tigers. In a blockbuster match the Dragons will be trying to end the early season form hoodoo that has haunted them for many years. Without a win in the pre-season for either team, this match promises to see both teams rise to the occasion in an attempt to lay claim to some early season dominance. Once again Crown Casino welcomes MBDS back for season 2006 for our Channel Nine screenings, which we thank them for. In 2005 the staff at Crown and SteakOut in particular were very accommodating, with our own roped off area and live screenings from Channel Nine in Sydney. This weeks details areWHERE: SteakOut Sports Bar, Level 1 Crown CasinoWHEN: Friday 10th March, 8:30WHAT: DRAGONS V TIGERSSee you there!!
AS part of the association between the Sydney Roosters and the Newtown Jets (two of Rugby League?s 1908 foundation clubs), the Jets recently hosted several Roosters officials and a large number of the Roosters Premier League squad to dinner at Newtown?s licensed club, the Jets Sports Club in Tempe. Many of the Roosters Premier League players will of course be turning out in Newtown?s famous royal blue colours this season, under the terms of the new partnership between the two clubs.The evening was a very happy occasion, with the Roosters and Jets players mixing together on a friendly social basis, while Jets officials took the opportunity to make it a "get to know you night" for everyone involved. Roosters CEO Brian Canavan was in attendance, along with operations staff Tony Vella, Louis Lopes and Bobby Jones. Brian Canavan made reference to the fact that correspondence between the two clubs went back as far as 2001 concerning the possibility of a partnership, so the new agreement was most certainly a case of an idea whose time had come.The night ended with the Roosters and Jets players (about 45 in total) giving rousing renditions of the Newtown Jets official club song "Thirteen Men All Dressed in Blue" (written by the late Ricky May) and also the Jets dressing room victory song. Prominent Roosters songsters included Charles Tonga, Lelea Paea, Mickey Paea, Daniel Dumas, Aidan Kirk and Nigel Plum. The entire evening was voted a great success in terms of further cementing good working relations between the officials and players of both clubs.The Newtown Jets make their first appearance as part of this historic association next Sunday (March 12th) at Telstra Stadium, in the opening competition round of the VB Premier League against South Sydney kicking off at 12:30pm. Photo caption:Former Queensland State of Origin representative John Doyle makes his debut for the Newtown Jets this Sunday against South Sydney at Telstra Stadium.Photo courtesy of Hugh Martel.
THE North Sydney Bears S. G. Ball team have produced an enthusiastic and gallant display in a narrow loss to an in form Bulldogs outfit.In a big improvement from their last hit out, the Bears faced the Dogs toe to toe, matching their opponents in the first half to finish 16 all. A strong running Nathan Searle scored the first of three tries for the bears in the first half. The next try was a sensational effort, with Liam Foran kicking on the first tackle and centre Ryan Oldfield out sprinting his Bulldogs? opponents to claim a try. The third try was a ?captains special?, Liam Foran breaking through the line off a dummy pass to score and convert.In the first 15 min of the second half the Bears dominated the Dogs scoring two further tries, a strong run from Samuel Talanoa to score and again from the scrum Judah Wikeepa scored out wide.However the Bulldogs finished the stronger, running in three more tries to take the win 34 to 24.The coaching staff were unanimous in their praise for back Kimon Tellidis, while Mitch Williams put in a good, strong, solid display. While disappointed with the last quarter Coach Michael Pobjie claimed ?the talk was enthusiastic out there and it was a fantastic effort for the most part?.In the other match played at Belmore the Bears Harold Matthews suffered a loss to the Bulldogs 44-0.PHOTO: Jake Foster and Kimon Tellidis take on a Bulldogs attacker. Kimon was the stand out performer on Saturday. Photo: Steve LittleNext weekend the Bears will play three grades against the Central Coast at Norths second home ground, T G Milner Field in Eastwood on Sunday 12th March. The day begins at 12:00pm with the Harold Matthews followed by the S G Ball at 1:30pm. The final match will be the Jersey Flegg?s first competition match of the season at 3pm. The Premier League will play their round one match against the Sharks on Saturday 11th March at Toyota Park from 3:30.
LOCAL Dragon and international centre Matt Cooper will play his 100th first grade game for St George Illawarra against the defending Premiers at Telstra Stadium this Friday night in the opening match of the 2006 season.New re-cruits Andrew Price and Matt Bickerstaff will make their Dragons NRL debuts and Reece Simmonds has been given an opportunity on the wing having played just five NRL games last season.Unavailable Dragons due to injury are: Ben Creagh (Knee - Rnd 2), Shaun Timmins (Knee - Rnd 2), Sam Isemonger (Hamstring ? Rnd 2) and Mathew Head (Knee ? Rnd 5).DRAGONS NRL TEAM LIST v Wests Tigers7:30pm Friday 10 MarchTelstra Stadium Coach: Nathan Brown 1. Clint GREENSHIELDS2. Reece SIMMONDS3. Mark GASNIER4. Matt COOPER5. Wes NAIQAMA6. Trent BARRETT (c)7. Ben HORNBY8. Luke BAILEY9. Dean YOUNG10. Jason RYLES11. Corey PAYNE12. Ashton SIMS13. Andrew PRICE14. Justin POORE15. Michael HENDERSON16. Matt BICKERSTAFF17. Aaron GORRELLDRAGONS PREMIER LEAGUE TEAM LIST v Western Suburbs Magpies5:20pm Friday 10 MarchTelstra Stadium Coach: Steven Price 1. Brett MORRIS2. Colin BEST3. Beau MUNDINE4. Daryl MILLARD5. Tom HEWITT6. Reece BLAYNEY7. Chris SHEPPARD (c)8. Charlie LEAENO9. George NDAIRA10. Chris HOUSTON (c)11. Tom HABERECHT12. Lee TE MAARI13. Aaron WHEATLEY14. Jhi TANNER15. Jamie DUNNING16. Willie TUPOU17. Willie PETERS18. Beau RYAN19. Bryson GOODWINDRAGONS JERSEY FLEGG TEAM LIST v Western Suburbs Magpies3:00pm Saturday 11 MarchCampbelltown Sports Ground Coach: Corey Pearson 1. Jason NIGHTINGALE2. Josh MORRIS3. Junior SEUMANUTAFA4. Keith LULIA5. Rota SETU6. Richard WILLIAMS7. Matt SEAMARK (c)8. Dan HUNT9. Brad DAVIDSON10. Chris FARRELL11. Lagi SETU12. James GREHAN13. Nathan WYNN14. Matt PRIOR15. Luke YOUNG17. Blake DUREAU18. Shannon STITT19. James KEELAN20. Luke IRWIN21. Scott SABLOWSKI22. Francis LANGIFISI
COWBOYS enforcer Carl Webb will join fellow Maroons Brad Thorn and Corey Parker and Josh Hannay in the Queensland Wizard Cup for this weekend's opening round.Webb and Hannay have been left out of North Queensland's NRL squad for its clash against Brisbane on Sunday, while Thorn and Parker were dropped by Broncos coach Wayne Bennett yesterday.Webb has been plagued by a quad strain during the pre-season with Hannay recovering from a shoulder reconstruction in the off-season. Ty Williams has taken Hannay's place in the centres while young gun Jacob Lillyman will start in the second row with Steve Southern to come on from the bench.
NORTH Queensland coach Graham Murray has named a strong team to face Brisbane in the Queensland NRL derby at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday.Team: Matt Bowen, Neil Sweeney, Ty Williams, Paul Bowman, Matt Sing, Johnathan Thurston, Brett Firman, Mitchell Sargent, Aaron Payne, Shane Tronc, Jacob Lillyman, Luke O'Donnell, Travis Norton.Interchange: David Faiumu, Steve Southern, Justin Smith, Matthew Scott.
WESTS Tigers coach Tim Sheens has named his team to play St George-Illawarra Dragons at Telstra Stadium on Friday, March 10. Kick-off is 7.30pm.1: Brett Hodgson ?2: Daniel Fitzhenry3: Dean Collis4: Paul Whatuira5: Jamaal Lolesi6: Benji Marshall7: Scott Prince8: Bryce Gibbs9: Robbie Farah10: John Skandalis11: Anthony Laffranchi12: Ben Galea13: Liam FultonInterchange:14: Michael Crockett15: Keith Galloway16: Ryan O?Hara17: Todd PaytenUnavailable: Dene Halatau (shoulder, rd 4), Shane Elford (knee, rd 4), Chris Heighington (fractured eye, rd 3), Shannon McDonnell (hamstring, rd 2).
STORM coach Craig Bellamy has named his team for this weekend?s clash with New Zealand. David Kidwell has the ?c? next to his name this week, after Bellamy considered a Sydney Swan?s-like leadership group as he approaches this year?s premiership.The squad is:1. Billy Slater2. Matt Geyer3. Matt King4. Greg Inglis5. Jake Webster6. Scott Hill7. Cooper Cronk8. Garret Crossman9. Cameron Smith10. Antonio Kaufusi11. David Kidwell (c)12. Michael Crocker13. Dallas JohnsonInterchange:14. Brett White15. Ryan Hoffman16. Ian Donnelly17. Steve Turner18. Jamie Feeney(one to be omitted)
NEW coach Ivan Cleary has named his first NRL line-up for the year, with all his stars on deck to take on the Storm at home.The team is:Brent Webb, Tony Martin, Jerome Ropati, Clinton Toopi, Manu Vatuvei, Sione Faumuina, Nathan Fien, Ruben Wiki, Lance Hohaia, Steve Price (c), Awen Guttenbeil, Wairangi Koopu, Louis AndersonInterchange: Grant Rovelli, Micheal Luck, Epalahame Lauaki, Evarn Tuimavave.18th man: Todd Byrne
BULLDOGS Coach Steve Folkes has made a surprise selection in the team that will take on the Panthers at Telstra Stadium in the opening round of the 2006 NRL Premiership. Andrew Emilio will make his first grade debut for the Bulldogs off the bench.Emelio is a Bulldogs junior who won three Jersey Flegg Grand Finals (1999, 2000, 2001) and one Premier League Grand Final (2002) for the Club. In 2003 and 2004 he played for the Sharks before having a stint in the UK in 2005 with the Widnes Vikings. He plays centre and wing.The full team is:1. Luke Patten2. Hazem El Masri3. Reni Maitua4. Willie Tonga5. Matt Utai6. Daniel Holdsworth7. Brent Sherwin8. Chris Armit 9. Corey Hughes10. Roy Asotasi11. Willie Mason12. Andrew Ryan (C)13. Tony GrimaldiInterchange:14. Adam Perry15. Mark O'Meley 16. Nate Myles17. Andrew Emilio
BULLDOGS winger Matt Utai will make his long-awaited return from injury in his side's round one NRL match against Penrith at Telstra Stadium on Saturday. Utai has not played in any of the trial matches, but will take his place on the wing after overcoming a shoulder injury. Meanwhile, Nowra junior Michael Crockett will make his debut for the Wests Tigers from the interchange bench against St George Illawarra at Telstra Stadium on Friday night. Dene Halatau (shoulder), Shane Elford (knee) and Chris Heighington (fractured eye) are unavailable for the defending Premiers due to injury.
BABY BunniesJohn Sutton, Beau Champion and Yileen Gordon are the new breed of Rabbitohs which the club hopes will become future stars. Both youngsters have shown that they have what it takes to be champions in their chosen sport and hold the key if South Sydney is to bounce back to their glory days which saw them net 20 premierships.NRL Clubs vote for Salary Cap to stay the sameNational Rugby League Chief Executives supported the ongoing importance of the current Salary Cap regulations.As the game prepares for a season launch that celebrates the competitiveness of the 15 teams and as the CEO?s had their first view of the advertising campaign which supports this theme, they underlined the role the salary cap was playing in the Telstra Premiership.World Cup finally startsThe countdown to the 2008 World Cup will commence on April 28 when Holland hosts Russia in the Dutch town of Den Haag.Serbia and Georgia will also be involved in the four-team European qualifying tournament. Each side will play each other nation once for a total of three matches.NRL 2006We preview every NRL club and look at their chances for the upcoming season. Find out all about your club in the latest issue of Rugby League Review.RUGBY LEAGUE REVIEW is out Tuesday, March 7 at all good newsagents for $3.50. Guarantee your copy by subscribing. Check out www.rugbyleaguereview.com for more details.
LIKELY squad: Ben Hornby, Colin Best, Mark Gasnier, Matt Cooper, Wes Naiqama, Trent Barrett, Mathew Head, Jason Ryles, Dean Young, Luke Bailey, Ashton Sims, Ben Creagh, Shaun Timmins,Interchange: Michael Henderson, Justin Poore, Corey Payne, Matt BickerstaffStrengths:The Dragons once again have a top platform to build on. They have a strong balanced side which contains pace, strength and raw ability. The team has gone through a bit of a tough time at the moment but the starting side is still rather young and will continue to develop.The Dragons? backline is their most dangerous asset. Australian centres Matt Cooper and Mark Gasnier combine for the best centre partnership in the competition while their outside men possess enough strength and pace to finish off anything they set up. Colin Best?s try scoring tally last season was enough to signify this.Ben Hornby is one of the best talents in rugby league today. The reason is largely attributed to his versatility. He is equally accustomed to fullback as he is to five-eighth or halfback. He did a stellar job in the absence of Mathew Head last season, and one would expect to see him carry the ball in hand as often as possible to give the Dragons another dimension in attack.The forwards are once again strong with the inclusion of young guns Ashton Sims and Ben Creagh to the starting team. Ryles and Bailey are two of the best props in the game and the pack which is mixed with youthful exuberance and valuable experience will be one of the best in the competition.Weaknesses:The Dragons? bench is not as solid as it once was. It may be time to promote some younger blood that has the potential to have greater impact. The Dragons have tremendous forward depth and always have had the ability to produce great forwards, but its time for Nathan Brown to eliminate guys like Payne and Henderson and give guys like Habercecht a go, who have the potential to make an impact on a game.The Dragons? mental state is shaky to say the least. While they have had the talent to win the competition for the last five years, they just can?t put it together when it counts. They are labelled the perennial chokers and for good reason. They are once again the favourites for the competition, so could they choke?Physical fitness is also a concern for the Dragons. The Dragons always have a tendency to get injuries to big names at the worst times. This is a weakness for the Dragons, but something that is beyond their control. Hopefully their physios are amongst the best in the country, because they will need to be.One to Watch:2005 Dragons Jersey Flegg player of the year Tom Haberecht is the Dragon?s youngster to watch this season. The Dragons purchased Haberecht from the Bulldogs in 2005 and he made an instant impression on the Dragons, becoming a vital player in the premiership winning Jersey Flegg team.The 20 year old, 95kg and 185 cm Haberecht has made a huge impression on coach Nathan Brown in the pre-season, enough for him to be considered for First Grade this early in his career. While Haberecht only has modest goals to cement a place in Premier League this season before getting a shot at First Grade, it is definitely conceivable that with Lance Thompson?s departure from the Dragons that this young gun will get his shot to impress sooner rather than later. The Dragons have always managed to bring in great forwards into the club and this is just another example. Haberecht is a devastating ball runner and a hard defender. He is definitely one of those classy players that a team is usually built around and the Dragons will be looking for him to continue his progression through Premier League and eventually to take on a leadership role in the First Grade squad. Gains and Losses:Gains: Bryson Goodwin, Matt Bickerstaff, Damon Alley-Tovio, Sam Isemonger, Lagi Setu, Andrew Price.Losses: Lance Thompson, Michael Ennis, Albert Torrens, Daniel Holdsworth, Willie Manu, Bryan Norrie, Nick Youngquest, Shane MarteeneAssessment:The Dragons once again are in with a shot to take out the competition, but will they have the mental preparation to win it? Only time will tell. Based on their top 17 it?s hard to conceive they will be outside the top 8, but I don?t feel they will be minor premiers. I think they?ll push the top 4 but fall just short. I believe the Dragons will finish in between 3rd and 6th.
RICKY Stuart has named his team to play the Bunnies with the surprise selection of Jamie Soward at halfback alongside new five eighth Braith Anasta. Brett Finch finds himself at hooker and Craig Wing has been shunted to a five man bench.The full team is:1 Anthony Minichiello 2 Amos Roberts 3 Ryan Cross 4 Iosia Soliola 5 Sam Perrett 6 Braith Anasta 7 Jamie Soward 8 Craig Fitzgibbon (c) 9 Brett Finch 10 Adrian Morley 11 Anthony Tupou 12 Chris Flannery 13 Ashley Harrison Interchange: 14 Craig Wing 15 Shane Shackleton 16 Lopini Paea 17 David Shillington 18 Steve Meredith(one to be omitted)