I don?t think any sports analysis or Rugby League fan would disagree come October last year the 2004 Rugby League season was looking like it could be the best ever. The news only just continued to get better, Carlton and United and Gatorade came on board to support the lower levels of the game, AAMI linked up with the bush, and the each club was recording increased level of sponsors and members for the new competition.
DRAGONS 26 (Tries: B Creagh 3; A Frew 1; M Gasnier 1. Goals: A Gorrell 2; L Russell 1.)
SYDNEY AIRPORT JETS 14 (Tries: N Leon 1; T Barnes 1; A Duncan 1. Goals: T Barnes 1)
EELS 26 (Tries: W McKinnon 1; M Lantry 1; C Thorman 1; S Muspratt 1. Goals: M Witt 5)
KNIGHTS 26 (Tries: J Smith 1; R Brown 2; B Tighe 1; N McLoughlin 1. Goals: B Tighe 3)
THE Pepsi Dolphins award winners for round 3 are
Searles Garden Products Man of the Match
Keystar Motors Players Player
Hogs Breath Cafe Man of the Match
Leading Edge Sports Man of the Match
THE A grade 'Match of the Day' at Hindmarsh Stadium on Sunday 28th March between the Eels Rugby League Club and South Adelaide was a great contest decided in the final 40 seconds of the game with a 35m field goal.
SUCH is the state London's injury crisis, that on Tony Rea's substitutes' bench on Sunday, there was just one player with senior rugby league experience this season.
And that was Joe Mbu, a Londoner who only made his Super League bow last season, and who has just entered double figures in the appearance column for London.
So with a squad of just 24 players, and with more than half a dozen regular starters sidelined through injury, that left Tony Rea with just 15 fit players available for the Super League clash with Salford.
Currently on the injured list are Mat Toshack, Rob Purdham, John Kirpatrick, Nigel Roy, Jon Wells, Rob Jackson, Francis Stephenson and Lee Sanderson.
And it was a game of paramount importance for the Broncos who had yet to taste success in this new Super League campaign.
Just three days before the game Rea called on the services of Leeds' rookie Scott Murrell, who ultimately answered the call with a match winning try on debut.
And just one day before the game, Rea brought in junior academy star, Jonnie Williams - a speedy winger from London's southeast, to occupy the other vacant seat on the bench.
When asked after the win on Sunday about the increasing pressure his team was under, and whether that pressure was intensified by the lack of fit bodies, Rea refused to call for sympathy.
He said: "What pressure? We had seventeen players out there all ready to a job and they did just that."
Every one of them wears that shirt with pride and as a team they showed great character to come away with the win."
We knew we had to bounce back from a disappointing performance the week before and I thought we started the match with very good intensity, and we were then patient to grind out the win."
But surely it must have been difficult having so many rookies on your bench?
"I wouldn't say that. I would say that we have players who accept the job that is given to them, whether it be as a sub, or as captain, or whoever...and our job on Sunday was to play well as a team and improve in a number of areas."
So what about this Sunday when London face the Cup semi final bound Warrington Wolves? Will Rea have any players back on deck?
The answer is likely to be no. And if that IS the case, Rea is more than happy with the seventeen he's got.
Kick off is at 3pm at Griffin Park against Warrington Wolves. It is the fourth round of the 28 round Tetley's Super League competition.
Book tickets in advance and save - 0871 222 1567
STATE of Origin star Shaun Berrigan has been recalled to the Broncos side for this Sunday's clash with the Melbourne Storm at Suncorp Stadium (kick-off 2.30pm).
THE Bulldogs will be stripped of four competition points if there is another major incident directly involving their fans, the NRL said today.
THE South Sydney Rabbitohs is pleased to announce its teams for Round 4 to take on the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks this Saturday, April 3 at Aussie Stadium.
VETERAN winger John Hopoate has won a starting spot in the second row for Sunday's Brookvale Oval clash with the New Zealand Warriors.
NORTH Queensland Cowboys coach, Graham Murray has named his side to take on the Wests Tigers at Dairy Farmers Stadium on Saturday, 3rd April, kick off at 7.30pm local time.
WESTS Tigers Head Coach, Tim Sheens has announced his squad for the game against the Cowboys, on Saturday 3rd April 2004 at Dairy Farmers Stadium. Kick off is at 7.30pm.
THE National Rugby League is expected to introduce penalties against clubs who can't control their fans in a board meeting phone conference tomorrow.
KANGAROO front-rower Richard Villasanti has been cleared to return to action in the Vodafone Warriors team named today by Daniel Anderson to take on the Manly Sea Eagles at Brookvale Oval this Sunday afternoon.
RAIDERS coach Matthew Elliott has a tough job on his hands for this weekend's National Rugby League clash against Parramatta at Canberra Stadium.
THERE will be no legal action over the Owen Craigie affair at South Sydney, with the club today announcing that Craigie and coach Paul Langmack had settled the matter privately.