Bradford aiming for Rhinos win

BRADFORD aiming for Rhinos win Bradford have the chance to leapfrog arch-rivals Leeds into second place by completing an engage Super League double over the Rhinos at Odsal on Friday.The Bulls were three points behind the Rhinos until claiming a 20-18 victory at Headingley six weeks ago and can now stake a claim to be the biggest challengers to leaders St Helens, who visit Wigan on Saturday.Leeds have lost three of their last six league matches, all in the absence of their inspirational skipper Kevin Sinfield, but believe they got back in the groove with last week?s 66-0 Challenge Cup win over Rochdale.?We?ve been though a tough patch but we got the right sort of performance at the weekend and hopefully we can build on that,? said Sinfield, who made his comeback from ankle and knee injuries in the cup tie.Bradford, too, hope they are over the worst after losing three of their last five matches, including a poor performance in last Saturday?s cup tie at St Helens, since Steve McNamara took over as head coach from Brian Noble.?We had a tough couple of days after the defeat at Saints,? admitted McNamara. ?We have tried to address the problems that cropped up at Saints.?Any time you under-perform, you want to try and put it right in the next game.?Bradford Bulls v Leeds Rhinos, Odsal, Friday May 26 2006Bradford 18-man: Hape, Deacon, Vagana, Fielden, I. Harris, Johnson, Newton, Lynch, Meyers, Gene, James, Ferres, Vainikolo, Henderson, Langley, B. Harris, St Hilaire, Withers.Leeds 18-man: Donald, Walker, Senior, Smith, McGuire, Burrow, Bailey, Diskin, Peacock, Lauitiiti, Ellis, Sinfield, Millard, Poching, Jones-Buchanan, Feather, Scruton, Williams.Referee: S GansonCourtesy

Wigan sign Dobson, release Moran

WIGAN Warriors have signed scrum half Michael Dobson until the end of the season.

A night at the Opera

THE fans at Telstra Stadium on Wednesday night, including myself, were treated to an unbelievable spectacle of State of Origin football, as the Blues clinched a thrilling one-point victory.Prior to the 8pm kickoff, there was a resounding buzz in and around the ground as Blues fans flocked in numbers through the turnstiles, while Maroon guernseys were fairly seldom.To add to the unnerving anticipation of the big clash, two men, dressed in a Blues and Maroons jumper respectively jumped out of a plane and parachuted their way onto the sacred State of Origin turf.The match ball was placed in the centre of the ground with 10-minutes to kick-off. It was fittingly placed by a young boy named ?Bogan Campbell?. The name ?Bogan? truly epitomises the Australian culture that is entrenched within State of Origin football.With the loss of injured stars Matt Cooper and Craig Gower before the match, there was a certain aura around the ground, which encompassed lack of expectation from all NSW fans. When replacement half-back Brett Finch snuck over for the first four-pointer during the early stages of the match, the crowd were sent into raptures. The echoing roar was seemingly amplified as a result of the lack of expectation. The Blues forward pack continued to assert their dominance, before Matt King slid over in the corner to send the crowd into party mode.The roar from the crowd for the King try was equally as deafening as the Finch try, although as Willie Mason barged his way across the line in the 22nd minute the thunderous crowd of 72,773 seemed to lower their voice.The crowd, perhaps fearful of a one-sided affair, or the death of Origin, were in a state of shock, as the Blues had raced out to a 14-0 lead at the break, although it very well could have been 18-0 had Brett Hodgson slotted his first two conversions.The first try to Melbourne?s star winger Greg Inglis did little to quell the workings of the Mexican wave, as the four-pointer was seen purely as some sort of consolation for the Maroons.Inglis touched down for the second time with only eight minutes remaining to cut the deficit back to six points, which pushed the crowd to the edge of their seats.Steve Bell then slid over for the Maroons, and when Jonathon Thurstan slotted the conversion the small Queensland contingent within the crowd went wild.The dreaded, eerie feeling of a draw began to sink in, only before Finch booted a field goal to clinch a very memorable victory by one point, and to send the crowd into oblivion.Blues fans partied hard into the night at nearby pubs, while Maroons fans were left to ponder what could?ve been.

Round 12 NRL preview

WELCOME to Round 12 everyone, following on from our first interstate clash of the season. In years gone by rep fixtures have sapped the players taking part of their full powers at club level, resulting in clubs with fewer reps coming back to the field. But I think this factor is beginning to wane a little as athletes become more professional and their bodies adapt to the rigours of midweek footy.

Superleague Round 15 Preview

SUPERLEAGUE moves into the second half of the season on what is a Bank Holiday (long) weekend here in England. The battle for top six play-off places begins in earnest, as does the battle to avoid potential relegation at the other end of the table. Friday night?s televised game sees the Bradford Bulls host the Leeds Rhinos at Odsal. Bradford will be desperate to appease their home fans after putting in what could only be described as a poor showing in last weekend?s Challenge Cup tie against St Helens. Second rower Brett Ferres put pen to paper mid-week to remain at Bradford until the end of 2008. And Brian Smith is now on board for a short-term voluntary consultancy, so this game will show whether his presence can help the Bulls fortunes at all. Mid-week Leeds fans learned that fullback Richie Matthers is leaving the club to ply his trade for the Gold Coast, and there is also conjecture over the future of GB International Chev Walker next season. After a comfortable victory against lower division Rochdale last weekend, the Rhinos will be looking to increase the intensity in this clash to score a vital win.Saturday night?s televised game will be coming from the JJB Stadium where Wigan host St Helens. On current form this should be the greatest of mis-matches, pitting the competition leaders against the cellar-dwellers. There is talk that St Helens may rest International half Sean Long who has been unable to train with the side, and may go into the game with teenager Scott Moore at scrum half. Centre Willie Talau agreed to terms mid-week that will see him staying a Saint until the end of 2008. This is a derby game with a longstanding rivalry between the clubs, so if Wigan are ever going to lift this season you?d think it would be for this match. But after being knocked out of the Challenge Cup by Salford last weekend, Wigan?s confidence must be at an all time low and this clash probably won?t help matters.Also on Saturday evening, Les Catalans host Wakefield in Perpignan, in what should be Stacey Jones? comeback game for the Dragons. The French side were too good for lower division Widnes in their Challenge Cup tie last weekend, which also saw replacement halfback Michael Dobson leave the club with a Man of the Match award in his final game. It will be all systems go for Catalans with their main playmaker back on board, in front of what should be a healthy home crowd. But Wakefield will be fresh following their weekend off having already been knocked out of Cup competition, and have recent re-signed forward Duncan MacGillvray for another two seasons.In the first of Sunday?s games Warrington host Castleford, but will be without club captain Paul Rauhihi who has been ruled out for three months with a back injury. With forward Rob Parker also yet to return from injury the Wolves could be vulnerable up front. Castleford unsuccessfully tried to secure Michael Dobson after his stint with Catalans finished, but will be left to persist with 38-year old veteran Brad Davis as their scrum half. Castleford are another team that will be fresh after a weekend off, but Warrington have the in-from Lee Briers guiding their side around the park, and following a comfortable win over lower division Whitehaven will be looking to put these competition points in the bank.Also on Sunday, Hull host "giant-killers" Huddersfield ? the only team to beat St Helens so far this season. Hull have been slowly returning to form with six league wins on the trot, and will be fresh after not having played Challenge Cup last weekend. Huddersfield have also been more impressive of late, scoring wins over St Helens and Salford, as well as a Challenge Cup win over lower division York last start. This game should be a real tussle with the two points vital for both teams.Finally on Holiday Monday, Salford close the round hosting Harlequins at The Willows. The Londoners will be getting nervous as they are closest to relegation danger if Wigan suddenly regain some form. Mark McLinden has re-signed for another three seasons mid-week, and may make his return from injury in this game. Last weekend Harlequins put 82 points on lower division opposition to progress in the Challenge Cup, but this week will be a different story. Salford haven?t been true to their high-flying early season form of late, with losses to Castleford and Huddersfield in the past month. Other sides are waiting for the Reds to be the team to drop out of finals contention, leaving an opportunity for them to creep into the top six. But their destiny is in their own hands and the rest of their season starts here?Competition Table (after 14 rounds):St Helens 26 Leeds 20 Bradford 19 Hull 18 Warrington 16 Salford 16 Huddersfield 12 Wakefield 10 Castleford 10 Harlequins 9 Catalan 8 Wigan 4

Finch doesn't expect to be in Game 2

NEW South Wales half-back Brett Finch says he's still coming back down to earth following last night's thrilling one point victory over Queensland in the Origin Series opener at Telstra Stadium.Finch capped a wonderful performance with the match winning field goal in the dying minutes of the clash but doesn't hold out much hope of featuring in the return game in Brisbane on June 14. The Sydney Roosters playmaker says he expects Penrith half-back Craig Gower to come back into the side if he is fit.Gower underwent knee surgery yesterday and it is still uncertain if he will be available for the Suncorp Stadium match.

Medicos to assess Cowboys

NORTH Queensland medicos are expected to assess the club's State of Origin stars this afternoon in the lead-up to this weekend's home NRL clash against Canberra.

Robbo Reckons

ANOTHER month has flown by and the mighty Dolphins are still sitting top of the ladder as As I write this we are in the week of the top of the table clash with the Young Guns it should be a bottler, I hope a big crowd gets to Dolphin Oval and cheers the boys? home.

Redcliffe Dolphins News

WHAT a day football at Dolphin Oval last weekend with no more than 2 points being the winning margin in all 3 games. The Dolphins prevailed in Colts and Premier Grade but unfortunately were thwarted in the final 10 seconds of the A Grade game.The Colts again found themselves in a cliff-hanger and relied on a late Tim Benson field goal to hand them a 25 points to 24 win over a determined Sunshine Coast. The result strangely enough saw the Dolphins jump to the competition lead and the Coast slip back to last however given the closeness of the contest it was hard to believe these sides were at opposite ends of the ladder. Tim Yee had his best outing of the year and grabbed the LEADING EDGE SPORTS Player of the Match Award and was once again supported by the consistent Logan Sullivan.The A Grade side suffered a disappointing loss at the hands of competition newcomers Sunshine Coast. The Dolphins looked to have the game in hand however with just 10 seconds remaining on the clock the Coast team were able to conjure a try that was converted after the bell to assign the Dolphins to a 28-26 loss. Other results meant the side retained 3rd spot on the ladder although Coach Grant Cleal will be asking for a more enthusiastic showing from his side this weekend when they take on joint competition leaders Tweed. Best for the Dolphins in the Coast loss was hooker Scott Gillis who is stringing together some solid form, Scott received the HOGS BREATH CAFE Man of the Match Award and was well supported by Dom Fallini and Luke Boldery.The QLD Wizard Cup clash was a torrid affair and the closeness of the game did justice to its billing as a 1st versus 2nd contest. Although both sides would be disappointed with their respective ball control some of this can be attributed the ferocious defence witnessed through out the game. The Dolphins jumped out of the blocks the better of the 2 sides and went to the break 10 nil leaders, the second half saw a reversal of this trend with the Young Guns grinding away to lead 14-10 in the dying stages of the match. Ironically it was former Young Gun Rory Bromley who found his way over the try line for the Dolphins with just 1 minute to play, quick thinking by Rory saw him turn what would have been a difficult side line conversion in to a formality for Greg Bourke when he avoided a defender in the in-goal, he then bought the ball round under the posts and the conversion saw the Dolphins prevail 16-14. It must be said both sides squandered scoring opportunities in the match a fact that is sure to give hope to both coaches of their side?s ability to improve next time round. Michael Roberts had a corker of a game and at times was playing a lone hand in attack for the Dolphins, Mick was rewarded with the SEARLES GARDEN PRODUCTS Player of the Match award while Adam Starr received the KEYSTAR AUTOWORLD Players Player Award in his 100th 1st grade game, Danny Burke also deserves mention for his bruising approach in the forward exchanges.The Dolphins travel south to Tweeds Piggabeen Complex this weekend and will undoubtedly be tested through the grades. These games will have an impact on the Club Championship race with the Dolphins placed first and Tweed currently sitting second. This Weeks TeamsQueensland Wizard Cup1. Ryan Cullen 2. Kaine Manihera 3. Greg Bourke 4. Nick Emmett 5. Alwyn Simpson 6. Chris Fox 7. Marty Turner 8. Troy Lindsay (c) 9. Mick Roberts 10. Adam Starr 11. Grant Flugge 12. Danny Burke 13. Gerard Parle Intercange 14. Mark Shipway 15. Richie Russell 16. Shannon Fish 17. Pat GardnerCoach Anthony GriffinFOGS A Grade1. Mark Christensen 2. Luke Boldery 3. Pat McGill 4. Adam Fletcher 5. Adam Luchetti 6. Rory Bromley 7. Chris Kluft 8. Darren Glase 9. Scott Gillis 10. Damian Jentz 11. Sam Fillery 12. James Douglas 13. Matt Mannion Interchange 14. Mitchell Simpson 15. Mick Pares 16. Clint Frazer 17. Foisa Peni Coach Grant ClealFOGS Colts Challenge1.Phil Daisy 2. Andrew Rickert 3. Matt Gillett 4. Michael Wilson 5. Dion Porteous 6. Tim Yee 7. Joel Romelo 8. Greg Malenstein 9. Tim Benson (c) 10. Stuart May 11. Jon Broad 12. Jordan Brown 13. Logan Sullivan Interchange 14. Sam Schull 15. Angus Cameron 16. Anthony Tonkin 17. Jack WebbCoach Craig Ingebrigtsen

Falcons Savour Fairytale Finish

COURTESY of the Sunshine Coast Daily / By Mitchell Dale

Carting it up with Stevo

2006: A level playing fieldThe State of Origin has kicked off again on Wednesday, and, as usual, players, fans and administrators have stirred up some fresh controversies. The ARL got the ball rolling last year when they announced the third game of the 2006 series would be played in Melbourne. This was quite an announcement considering many commentators have suggested the southern capital doesn?t even deserve a team in the NRL, let alone one of the years highest profile fixtures.There seems to be two types of people north of the Murray: those who don?t understand the majority of Victorians, and those who don?t care. Those who don?t understand constantly wonder how a state can claim they are the headquarters of Australian sport yet struggle to pull a decent crowd to even the highest quality Storm game. Those who don?t care usually fall into the ?why don?t we chuck ?em out of the comp? basket. I?m happy to lay my cards on the table and state that I think it?s great that the Storm are in the competition, and that Game 3 is heading south this year. For a determined if not stubborn lot, Leaguies have given up on a lot of markets in the past ten years, no matter how poor the Storm?s crowds are, it?s surely better than surrendering another region to the AFL. And while their crowd average is small, the Storm fans seem less fickle than some other NRL teams. Pro-Victoria or not, all fans may benefit from taking an Origin game to Melbourne. As seen in Wednesday?s clash, State of Origin games are becoming so close that home ground advantage has often become the greatest factor in who will win. In fact since 2000 home teams have won 14 times compared with 3 away wins. This of course has a flow on effect because each state takes turns each year in hosting two games. Since 2000 the team with the most home games has won two thirds of the series. So with such a clear advantage, the team with two home games can always carry extra confidence into their Origin campaigns. This year however no team has such an advantage, meaning the chances of a close series, and a potential Game 3 decider, has increased. Importantly this scenario provides what all sporting fans yearn for, a level playing field.While I carry a high degree of optimism towards the remainder of the series the same couldn?t be said for the Queensland coach. Mal Meninga, who is not averse to the odd outlandish statement, claimed before Wednesday?s game that the Origin concept will be dead if the Maroons don?t win the series this year. While I understand he is only stirring up some controversy to rev up his players, he has placed a lot of pressure on their shoulders. Apart from that he has also insulted the fans of Rugby League at a time when their dedication and passion should be celebrated. Being from NSW I was always led to believe that Queenslanders live for State of Origin. Lang Park (I love calling it by its real name this time of year) is always sold out in minutes, and TV ratings reflect the fact that the far majority of Queenslanders love watching the series. Meanwhile, NSW doesn?t exactly seem bored with the concept either. In fact Origin receives the media exposure, ratings and crowds that other codes dream about. And that?s not to mention the exposure the Australian game receives in international markets such as the UK, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea (last year TV sales climbed in PNG during the Origin series due to many losing Queensland fans throwing their TV into the ocean!).So for Meninga to say the concept is one game from extinction is not just incorrect, but it?s an insulting and inappropriate comment for this time of year. If he truly believes the concept is on its last legs, he of all people has the influence to do something positive to ensure its long term survival. In fact if he feels that Queensland must win to ensure the survival of Origin, surely his time could be better spent coaching his team, rather than using the media to place unwanted pressure on them. Or maybe Meninga?s already worried he may be the next Origin coach to become extinct.

Stringer forced into retirement

PARRAMATTA Eels prop Paul Stringer has been forced into early retirement following a routine scan on Wednesday morning (24th May). In a Media Release issued this morning, Stringer was found to have a bulging disc in his back which is placing pressure on his spinal cord. He now faces surgery which will put a premature end to a career played over 9 seasons with 4 clubs, North Sydney, the Northern Eagles, South Sydney and Parramatta.Paul Stringer played a total of 143 NRL matches, scoring 14 tries.

Gasnier A Dragon For Life

INTERNATIONAL centre and local junior Mark Gasnier has today agreed to terms with the Dragons for five years until the end of 2011 then said he hopes to play his entire career with the Club.

Tate spends night in hospital

BATTERED Queensland State of Origin centre Brent Tate spent last night in a Sydney hospital. Tate was taken to hospital late last night after he began passing blood. He was kept in overnight and underwent a series of tests before being released this morning.

Gasnier a Dragon until 2011

TEST centre Mark Gasnier has announced he will stay with NRL side St George Illawarra Dragons for the next five years.Gasnier was recently courted by the Australian Rugby Union but has rejected a code switch to remain with the Dragons until the end of 2011.Its understood the deal will see Gasnier take over as five-eighth when current Dragons pivot Trent Barrett moves to England in 2007.

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