Hape inspires Bulls to victory

ENGAGE Super League champions Bradford Bulls warmed up for their World Club Challenge clash in impressive fashion with a comfortable 28-10 victory at new-look Huddersfield. The Bulls, who will return to the Galpharm Stadium for their meeting with the Australian champions on Friday week, were superbly led by new captain Iestyn Harris in their first major pre-season friendly. Even without the rested Paul Deacon, Lesley Vainikolo and new signing Stanley Gene, the champions were too strong for a generally disappointing Giants team, for whom ex-Bradford favourite Robbie Paul made a quiet debut. Former Leeds winger Marcus Bai marked his first appearance for the Bulls with a try but the star performer with a try in each half was New Zealand Test centre Shontayne Hape, who picked up from where he left off in November?s Tri-Nations triumph.Bradford had the game sewn up at half-time when they led 22-0 thanks to tries from Bai, Hape, hooker Ian Henderson and substitute Brett Ferres, with Harris kicking four conversions. Huddersfield, who also had Albert Torrens, Martin Aspinwall, Stephen Wilde, Steve Snitch and Matt Gardner making their first appearances, suffered from a chronic shortage of ideas near the visitors? line. Centre Chris Nero touched down a neat kick from Paul 14 minutes into the second half to enable his side to avoid being whitewashed, but the Bulls increased their lead when the forceful Hape crossed at the corner for his second try and Harris landed a fourth goal. The home side at least had the final say when Torrens, who was the pick of their new signings, followed up a kick from England international Chris Thorman to score his side?s second try and Thorman added the goal.

Weakened Wildcats defeated by Tigers

CASTLEFORD geared up for their return to engage Super League with a satisfying 33-20 triumph over a depleted Wakefield Wildcats team.Australian Luke Dyer, winger Waine Pryce and Michael Shenton all crossed twice for the Tigers, who handed debuts to seven off-season recruits in a spicy pre-season clash.Dyer and Pryce opened their accounts inside eight minutes as Wakefield, who rested all four of their new signings, crumbled under early pressure.Winger Semi Tadulala put the Wildcats on the board before Dyer streaked over to make it 16-4.A try double from Wakefield three-quarter Jason Demetriou in the final two minutes of the first half, allied to two conversions from hooker David March, squared it up at the break.Pryce completed his brace, courtesy of a fine pass from debutant Richard Fa?aoso, only for Wakefield to again hit back as lucky winger Austin Buchanan climbed highest to touch down off Ben Jeffries? pinpoint kick.But Cas finished with a flourish, running in three tries in the final 10 minutes, including a superb double from Shenton.On 70 minutes the teenager evaded a posse of defenders to plunge over the line and four minutes later showed good strength to barge his way past two would-be tacklers.Former Wakefield half-back Paul Handforth landed a drop-goal to make the game safe and Australian winger Damien Blanch put the icing on the cake by twisting his way over the whitewash in the final minute.

Harlequins on a high

HARLEQUINS began their new life on a high note with a resounding 46-6 victory over engage Super League new boys Catalans Dragons in Perpignan.The Londoners, who have traded in their old Broncos tag for the new glitzy Quins look, ran in nine tries to one in a pre-season friendly at Stade Municipal St Esteve watched by a crowd of around 4,000. New signing Mark Gafa was the top scorer with two tries and five conversions while fellow centre Tyrone Smith also bagged a brace of touchdowns.Scrum-half Thomas Leuluai, out for six months with a broken ankle, marked his comeback with the game?s first try and Quins also gave a run-out to Duncan James, one of three youngsters from Harlequins rugby union team. The match marked the culmination of a fortnight?s training camp for Harlequins, who fly back to London on Sunday to continue their preparations for the new campaign. The Catalans, who chose not to play New Zealand scrum-half Stacey Jones, have a second friendly against Hull at the KC Stadium next Sunday as they build up to their opening League match against Wigan at Stade Aime Giral on February 11.

Redcliffe Dolphins Flashback - Steve Cherry

REDCLIFFE rugby league centre, Steve Cherry, said he had decided to keep "plugging away" after breaking his cheekbone in the July 5 third grade match against Norths.Cherry's persistence and his devotion to Redcliffe could earn him one last crack at a Brisbane premiership which has eluded him since he joined the Dolphins from Roma in 1978.The former Brisbane representative centre was the secret weapon employed by Redcliffe coach Darryl Van de Velde in yesterday's 30-7 Winfield Cup knockout semi-final win over Wynnum-Manly at Lang Park.Experience Cherry provided the experience in a youthful Redcliffe three-quarter line and formed a top centre partnership with another former Darling Downs boy Rohan Teevan.Teevan originally was named alongside the equally youthful Jeff Doyle whose comments about Wynnum Test centre Gene Miles' age made him a marked man.Doyle remained on the bench for the full 80 minutes yesterday and at one stage it looked like Miles had chosen Teevan as the target of his anger.A cruel chest high tackle early in the match had Teevan on shaky legs but the youngster showed a lot of character to come back and score a fine try.Teevan and Cherry supported a fine break by Test forward Bryan Niebling with Niebling finding Teevan with a pass which sent the youngster between the posts unopposed.When it was suggested Niebling had chosen Teevan because of his superior pace Cherry replied that he was "just idling.""Besides I knew Bryan wasn't going to pass it to me. I was on his weak side," Cherry quipped.Cherry said three weeks ago he had resigned himself to playing in the lower grades in the finals."If you had said to me after I broke my cheekbone against Norths that I would ber playing in the first grade knockout semi-final I would have said "no way'."But I never thought of tossing it in. I decided to keep plugging away in the hope something would happen to make the season worthwhile."Redcliffe's Test hooker Greg Conescu said the performance of captain and lock, Steve Bleakley yesterday emphasised the folly of Sydney talent scouts in not making an offer to the rugged Caboolture banana farmer."There is something wrong with Sydney scouts if they don't snap up Steve quickly after that performance," Conescu said.Bleakley scored two tries and and worked tirelessly in defence.He may not have the build of many Sydney backrowers but he is as tough as any of them.By Steve Ricketts August 31 1987Redcliffe's former Brisbane rugby league centre Steve Cherry hopes to carve a new representative career in the forwards.Cherry says he believes his days in the backline are over and he wants to concentrate on becoming a specialist second-rower."I couldn't wish for a better group to learn from than the Redcliffe pack," he said.Redcliffe coach Ian Pearce switched Cherry from the centres to second-row after some disappointing displays by his star-studded pack in the Woolies pre-season.But it's not the first time the switch has been made. Former Australian coach Frank Stanton played Cherry at lock when he was in charge of the Dolphins in 1980."Steve has the strength, speed and build to be a top class backrower," Stanton said in Sydney this week."He was one of my favorite players when I was in Brisbane."Cherry, at 25, still has plenty of years in front of him as a forward and he is aiming to make the representative teams.He is keen to impress this Sunday when Redcliffe play Toowoomba at his home town, Roma, in a third round Winfield State League match.The last time Cherry played at Roma was in 1982 when Redcliffe easily defeated Toowoomba. Cherry marked current Wynnum-Manly winger Warren Green.Another Roma boy who will be making his debut for Redcliffe is centre Robin Thorne."I think playing in his home town will bring out the best in Robin," said Redcliffe coach "Bunny" Pearce.By Steve Ricketts April 19 1985Redcliffe's former Brisbane representative rugby league centre Steve Cherry hit the lowest point of his career in the Dolphins inglorious loss to Brothers at Lang Park on July 29.Cherry was one of the worst of an uncommitted Redcliffe 13, which lost to a 12 man Brothers outfit.He was dropped for the following match, but earned a reprieve when his replacement, Steve Bleakley, was ruled out through injury.That was the turning point. Since then, Cherry has improved steadily and now he is back to his peak and ready for revenge against Brothers in the semi-finals play-off on Wednesday night."I won't need to be geed up for the match. None of us will. We've had nothing but a hard time from work-mates and supporters ever since our loss to Brothers," Cherry said.Poor form The former Roma star attributed his poor form earlier in the year to a lack of confidence.On Saturday night in Redcliffe's 24-16 win over Valleys at Dolphin Oval Cherry and his team-mates oozed confidence, particularly in the first half when they established a 20-0 lead.And besides Cherry, one of the most confident was former Test winger, John Ribot, who roamed all over the field looking for work."In these crunch games it's the experienced players who have to show the way," he said.Forwards, Shane Bernardin and Dave Trewhella with 35 and 34 tackles respectively, were inspirations in the pack.Cherry registered an incredible 21 tackles in the centres.It was a big night for the Dolphins with the Bob Jones' coached third grade side sealing the Pacific Land Cup third grade minor premiership. By Steve Ricketts September 3 1984

Redcliffe Dolphins Flashback - Cam Cherry

A dedicated approach to injury treatment, including long sessions in the Roma municipal pool, has paid dividends for youthful prop, Cam Cherry. Cherry broke an ankle in the first Woolies pre-season match of the year against Souths at Dolphin Oval.The injury undoubtedly prevented him from making any of the Winfield State League squads although he was back playing before the revolutionary competition was finished. That itself was a tribute to his hard work.While the ankle was still in plaster Cherry was swimming in the Roma baths trying to speed up the healing. ?I tried a plastic bag around the plaster to ensure it wasn?t damaged and the pool manager helped me with my swimming exercises?, Cherry said. ?When the plaster did come off I walked underwater and swam as much as I could to strengthen the ankle. Since I have resumed playing I have not had any problems with the ankle?.Like his older brothers (and Redcliffe stalwarts) Mark and Steve, Cam gets back to his home town, Roma whenever he is able. Although not selected in the squad, he did not miss Redcliffe?s final State League match against Toowoomba at Roma on May 2. The Cherrys began their league with the Cities club in Roma and like Cities favourite son, Arthur Beetson, signed with Redcliffe when it was time try ?city? football.Cam (short for Cameron) made his first grade debut against Brothers at Lang Park last Sunday and impressed with solid front on defence, hard running and good hands. And to top off a memorable debut he scored a try in the 11th minute of the second half after lead up work by fullback, Trevor Benson and half Colin Part. Steve Cherry also scored a try in Redcliffe?s 16-0 win.With Brisbane prop, Peter Griffiths suspended for two more weeks, Cherry has a strong chance to consolidate his grip on a first grade jersey. Still only 20, he forms a youthful front row with 22 year-old hooker, George Trudgett and 21 year-old fellow prop Tony Kajewski.This story is from a Brisbane Rugby League News in 1982.

Robbo Reckons

G?DAY everyone can you smell it in the air, before you say have you gone nuts Robbo what I am talking about is some footy action it seems like 12 months since there has been a game and I?m chomping at the bit to get down to the pig pen and see some action. I hear the boys will be sporting a new look and it?ll be great. Well when I played I was always up for a challenge and I had one thrown to me by big Rob from the spare parts section here at Keystar, he challenged me to come up with an A to Z of the Dolphins and more importantly we have a carton on the result and as I said I can?t knock back a challenge so here I go.A. Action, there is no better action than a day on the hill at Dolphin Oval.B. Beetson , Big Arthur Rugby League Immortal who began and finished his career with the Dolphins.C. Cherry there has been about 500 of them play for the Dolphins over the years from under 7?s to first grade. D. Dolphin the emblem every one of us who ever played for the club is so proud of and well worth fighting for.E. Eight first grade grand finals we have won 1965, 1994, 1996, 1997 BRL and Qld Cup, 2000, 2002, 2003F. Fullerton-Smith, Wally represented Queensland and Australia from our club.G. Gehrke, Bob our first Australian rep.H. Holloway, Henry. Big H was captain coach of our 1965 premiership winning side.I. Internationals we?ve 8 represent Australia from our club Gehrke, Oliphant, Close, F-Smith, Niebling, Conescu, Ribot and Murray.J. Juniors the future of our club. At present we have over 800 players and are the biggest junior club in Queensland.K. Keystar major sponsors of the junior Dolphins.L. Legends Peter Leis and Troy Lindsay between them they have racked up a massive 508 games in first grade for the Club.M. Murray, Mark represented Qld and Australia from the Dolphins he was also our first grade captain, first grade coach and the Club CEO. N. Nine the amount of first grade grand finals we have lost 1973, 1975, 1977, 1981, 1983, 1987, 1996 Qld Cup, 1999, 2001 Ouch???O. O?Brien,Clinton our first local junior to play State of Origin.P. Pearce, Bunny Club legend. His point scoring record of 281 points from 1978 still stands today as the most points scored in a season.Q. Queensland Reps we?ve had 66 since we entered the BRL in 1960.R. Robinson, Me of course the best halfback to play for Reddy just ask me. Mmm might get a few arguments over that one but what the heck it?s my column.S. Shellgrit the Club?s first unofficial nickname.T. Tighe and Thinee two club legends that both played over 150 first grade games for the club.U. Ultimate Prize the Queensland Cup lets hope the boys can bring it back to Dolphin Oval in 2006.V. Van de Velde former first grade player and Coach Darryl, a highly intelligent man who knows potential when he sees it, he got me down from Mackay.W. Webb. Big Dessy the heartbeat of the club. Player, Manager, Administrator, President, there isn?t much Des hasn?t done around the place.X. XXXX drop into the pig pen and get a cool treat off the Old Boys while you watch the boys play. Y. Yow Yeh, Kevin Yow Yeh an excitement machine who brought crowds to their feet everytime he touched the ball..Z. Zero the number of times the mighty Dolphins have come last in first grade.Until next monthCheers Robbo

Turning Out For The Best

IT looks like a direct swap. Off to Penrith goes youngster Wayne Bond and in comes experienced half Marty Turner from England.Of course, it's not that simple as numerous players will come into calculations before the first Queensland Cup match is staged.Skipper Shane Perry is a constant in Dolphins halves with 19 appearances last season and Mick Roberts raking up 20 at half and hooker.Bond played only six Queensland Cup matches in 2005, however his impact at half and five-eighth was dramatic and his spot will be keenly contested.Turner, 24, has already arrived at Dolphin Oval and slotted in well at training in the humid Queensland conditions.What a change from chilly Oldham Roughyeds in northern England where he spent last season. Known simply as Oldham RLFC until 1995 when they adopted the name Oldham Bears to coincide with the start of Super League, they went bankrupt in 1997 and a new team with the current name was formed to play at a lower level. The Roughyeds tag had been a long-accepted nickname for the old club."I had a good time in England even though we struggled into seventh out of 10 teams in League One of the National leagues, which is a level below Super League," the New Zealand-born Turner said. "I don't know whether I'd go back. Maybe for a holiday."Although Oldham had several other Kiwis on its books, Turner was treated as its quota player and lived up to expectations."I played about 30 games at halfback during the season and only missed one through injury," he said. Turner comes to the Dolphins with a wealth of experience through the Storm-Brisbane Norths tie-up.It was through that link that Redcliffe coach Anthony Griffin knew of Turner's capabilities and sought a replacement for Bond."Anthony was my coach in Colts in my first year at Norths in 2000 and then was assistant coach at the Storm," Turner said. "He contacted me when I was in England and asked if I was interested in coming back home."As it was, I was looking at returning to Australia and had told Pat Gardner, who's now at Redcliffe, that very fact. Maybe the word filtered around."Turner spent five seasons with the Storm set-up and played a number of NRL matches, although he is perhaps best known for a near-fatal car accident in April 2002 after he had deputised for Matt Orford in the NRL."I missed the rest of 2002 and it took me the best part of a year to get over the accident," he said. "I'm pretty lucky that I'm now back to 100 percent."The training so far at Redcliffe has been tough and good. It's a good club and I'm fitting in well at training and with the guys."I know Clint Fraser and Adam Fletcher form my days at Norths, but I have to admit it will be a bit strange to run out in Redcliffe's colours after regarding them as the team to beat for seasons."Turner is not allowing the grass to grow under his feet back in Australia. While he is doing landscaping work with a mate at present, he is keen to start an apprenticeship as an electrician.

Redcliffe Dolphins Appoint Junior Coaches

THE Dolphins aim to ensure a highly competitive and sportsmanlike performance across all teams that represent Redcliffe Junior Rugby League.Volunteers who have been appointed to coach our juniors are well qualified and enthusiastic to take on the challenges of the 2006 season.Coaches of our Dolphin junior teams are: Under 18 age group Lee Munt; 17s Doug Kellaway, Paul Bateman; 16s Adam Chapman, Kevin Muir; 15s Don Gailer, Russell Lahiff, Adam Maller, Darren Smallhorne, John Durston; 14s Kevin Maund, Jason Warr, Neil Fursey, Cam Cherry; 13s Brett Morris, Stuart Huiarangi, Nathan Wallace; 12s Troy Best, Mark Thacker, Adrian Beaven, Matt Tomlinson; 11s John Boxsell, Steve Peoples; 10s Arron Lambourn, Patrick Murphy; 9s Mark Charlton, David McDonald, Darryn Watts; 8s Bruce Castle, Greg Gray, Mark Payne, Tony Vidler; 7s Shane Jackson, Jamie McDonald, Duane Scott.Congratulations are extended to the coaches and we thank them for their commitment to promote the skills, fitness, activities and sportsmanship to our Dolphin juniors.Coaching positions remain available in some age groups with the Dolphins management keen to encourage applicants for assistant coach and trainer roles.It is also recommended that each side includes a first aid officer as part of its management team and courses to qualify applicants for all of these positions will be conducted locally by the Queensland Rugby League-South East Division development staff in the pre-season period of 2006.For inquiries and nomination forms for any of these courses, contact Grant Cleal on 3203 7333 or email [email protected] further prepare our Dolphins junior teams for competition in 2006, there is a planning and strategy camp organised for coaches of the under 11 to 18 age groups. This camp will take place on the Sunshine Coast on January 21-22 and coaches will gain the benefit of our newly formed association with the Brisbane Broncos, with coaching personnel from the NRL club addressing our group.There also will be a modified footy coaching clinic conducted this month to offer specific instruction for our under seven to under 10 team coaches.Make it fun for everyone with the Dolphins.

Kangaroos camp squad announced

THE Australian Rugby League has announced a 44-man squad to go into camp this weekend with new coach Ricky Stuart.The squad will meet to begin advance preparations for the Kangaroos' bid to win back the Tri Nations crown they lost to New Zealand last year. Andrew Johns, Ben Kennedy, Brent Tate, Craig Gower, Danny Duderus, Darren Lockyer, Petero Civoniceva, Shaun Berrigan, as well as players from the Wests Tigers side preparing to meet Bradford in the World Club Challenge, were not considered due to prior commitments.Bolters for the squad include Melbourne youngster Greg Inglis and Parramatta halfback Tim Smith.The full squad by club is: Bulldogs: Andrew Ryan, Mark O'Meley, Willie Mason, Willie TongaCronulla: Ben Ross, Brett KimmorleyManly: Brent Kite, Steve MenziesMelbourne: Billy Slater, Cameron Smith, Greg Inglis, Matt King, Michael CrockerNewcastle: Clint Newton, Steve SimpsonNew Zealand Warriors: Steve PriceNorth Queensland: Carl Webb, Johnathan Thurston, Luke O'Donnell, Matt BowenParramatta: Eric Grothe, Nathan Hindmarsh, Tim Smith, Timana TahuPenrith: Rhys Wesser, Trent Waterhouse, Luke LewisSt George Illawarra: Ashston Sims, Ben Creagh, Ben Hornby, Dean Young, Jason Ryles, Luke Bailey, Mark Gasnier, Matt Cooper, Trent BarrettSouth Sydney: John SuttonSydney Roosters: Anthony Tupou, Ashley Harrison, Braith Anasta, Craig Fitzgibbon, Craig Wing, Ryan Cross, Anthony Minichiello

Fitzhenry wins Benji's No.6 jumper

PREMIERSHIP winger Daniel Fitzhenry has won the first round in the battle to wear injured superstar Benji Marshall's No.6 jumper for the Wests Tigers.Marshall's off-season shoulder surgery had led to speculation about who will partner Scott Prince in the halves for the NRL premiers when they take on Bradford in the World Club Challenge next month.Fitzhenry, who joined the Tigers from Parramatta as a five-eighth but played on the right wing in last year's grand final win over North Queensland, beat rivals Ben Reynolds and Liam Fulton for the job for the joint venture's trial against a combined Group Four side in Gunnedah on Friday.The squad will be trimmed to 17 before the team departs for England on Sunday.Squad: Brett Hodgson, Shannon McDonnell, Paul Whatuira, Dean Collis, Jamaal Lolesi, Daniel Fitzhenry, Scott Prince, Bryce Gibbs, Robbie Farah, John Skandalis, Chris Heighington, Anthony Laffranchi, Ben Galea. Interchange: Liam Fulton, Bronson Harrison, Sam Harris, Ryan O'Hara, Ben Reynolds, Shane Elford, Keith Galloway.

Hagan?s legacy forever linked with Johns

WITH the news this week that current Newcastle coach Michael Hagan will leave the club and take the reigns at Parramatta from 2007, it seems the claws have come out regarding the legacy Hagan will leave behind in Newcastle. This week internet forums have sprung to life over the decision by Parramatta to appoint Hagan as their replacement for Brian Smith following the Newcastle board electing not to renew Hagan?s current contract which expires at the end of 2006. Teaming with Andrew Johns for the 2001 NRL season brought immediate success with the Novocastrians overcoming the favoured Eels in the Grand Final. But reaching that level of success has been beyond Newcastle ever since. The naysayers pinpoint Hagan as the culprit; the facts however suggest a far more logical answer. Those who have written off the Knights this season because of Hagan's impending departure and 'conflict of interest' during 2006 conveniently forget the fact that every year Hagan and Newcastle?s record has lived and died by the availability of one Andrew Johns. Evaluating a coach inevitably comes back to wins on the board and premierships won. While club, player and league-wide profile development are often advertised as critical areas for a coach to improve once given the job ? the fact is no matter how much success a coach has with the club off the field - only Premiership victory and sustained success delivers job security. Having your best player available generally has a lot to do with satisfying the latter. Since taking charge of the Knights in 2001 Hagan has won a premiership (2001), reached the Finals on three occasions (2001-03) and won 53.1% of premiership games coached. The Knights may have taken the Wooden Spoon home in 2005, but the long term injury to Johns and a weakened playing roster (no Ben Kennedy, Timana Tahu, Robbie O?Davis or Matt Parsons) were at the forefront of the reasons they were awarded the infamous kitchen utensil for the first time. Without Johns the Knights don?t win - that has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt (thanks Matthew Johns for making that saying fashionable again) and reading opinion criticising Hagan for not delivering success without Johns is bewildering. Let's look at the facts ? examining Newcastle?s fortunes with and without Andrew Johns during Michael Hagan?s tenure. 2001 ? PREMIERS.Johns available for most of season (bar knee injury that keeps him out 10 weeks but that is mid-year so Knights get good start with him in the side) and in brilliant form come finals time. Rolling past the Roosters and edging the Sharks in the lead up games they blow the Eels off the park in the Grand Final?s opening 40 minutes and take the title from 3rd position. Johns wins the Clive Churchill Medal and definitively establishes himself as the best in the game. 2002 - Knocked out of the Finals with consecutive losses after finishing 2nd on table.Johns and the Knights look set to repeat as champions with a great regular season. But when Luke Bailey's knees collide with Joey's spine in the qualifying final - it is all over bar the shouting. The Knights lose that game to the Dragons and despite pushing the Roosters in the elimination semi final bow out of the race. The first question of 'what if Johns was fit' arises. 2003 - Knocked out of the Finals in week one by Roosters.Johns leads the NSW Blues in their victorious State of Origin campaign and dominates the NRL once again. Late in the season Johns injures his neck despite playing on for a few weeks finally succumbs to the pain after leading the Knights to a 48 point first half romp against the Cowboys. He doesn't play again and the Knights limp into the Finals where they are easily defeated by the Roosters in the qualifying final. 'What Ifs' abound around Newcastle for a second year running. 2004 - 10th place missed Finals by two points.The Joey led Knights beat Panthers in Round 1, Melbourne in Round 2 and just get pipped by the Eels in Round 3 - the round Joey does his knee. In case you're wondering Penrith won the comp in 2003, Melbourne got knocked out in the semi final stage and Parramatta had just beaten the Broncos in the previous round of the 2004 premiership. A decent start to the season but without Johns in the side there is no realistic hope of a title challenge. Despite having no Joey for almost the entire season the Knights only just miss the Finals. 2005 - Wooden Spoon.A vastly weaker side than any of the Knights teams that ran around from 2002-04 and a bad start having lost their first four games is compounded when Johns breaks his jaw against the Warriors in Round 6 (a game they looked set to win before his injury). By the time Joey returns the Knights are rock bottom and no chance of making the Finals. They win 8 of their last 11 and one Andrew Johns has an awful lot to do about it. Now if Andrew Johns is fit in the 2002 and 2003 campaigns - Newcastle probably make at least one Grand Final. And you can?t deny them the possibility of making it three titles on the trot. In 2004 - he's injured for the whole season and in 2005 his relatively short term injury occurs at the wrong time for the Knights to be able to salvage their season upon his return. So is it fair to say that Hagan is a ?dud? coach because Newcastle didn't win anything in 2002 and 2003 without Johns? And is it fair to expect Hagan to have led the Knights to the Finals without the injured Johns in 2004 and 2005? Whether or not you like Hagan and Johns - surely there must be a general understanding amongst fans that when the coach of an NRL side structures his game plan he does so around his best and most influential player. That game plan only backfires if that player gets hurt at Finals time and your chances of winning the title go out the window, or if you lose him during the season which makes a playoff spot a tough, tough ask. Still whether you agree or not the above are I believe pretty much factual summations of each Newcastle season since 2001. 2006 could be another year of 'What Ifs' for the Knights but I cannot rule them out simply because their coach is leaving in 2007 as has been suggested. The fact is with Andrew Johns back in the side and a very, very good pack assembled for 2006, the Knights can and probably will challenge the more fancied teams this season. And if Joey is fit come Finals time I certainly don't want to bet against the guy. So if Michael Hagan walks away from the Knights with 2 premierships in 5 seasons at the helm - really who are any of us to say that he's not got any credibility as a coach? Not to mention the fact he would leave Newcastle as the club?s most successful premiership coach. And while I've just stated Andrew Johns is the reason for the rise and fall of the Knights in recent seasons, surely everyone doesn?t think Jack Gibson, Wayne Bennett, Tim Sheens, Clive Churchill, Ken Kearney and Norm Provan (all with at least four premierships) won simply because of their own coaching ability? The players you have, the luck you get and yes, the ability of your coach, win premierships (plus many other factors). Coaches need players like players need coaches - and if I had to pick the most important factor it would be the health of your number one player, but that hardly guarantees success. Michael Hagan will leave Newcastle with I believe a legacy of success that may have been tied to the fitness of Andrew Johns but that legacy will have been well earned for backing his number one player to lead the Knights to victory.

Hagan signs three year deal with Eels

PARRAMATTA has signed Newcastle coach Michael Hagan to a three-year contract from the beginning of the 2007 NRL season.One of the NRL's worst kept secret, Parramatta chief executive Denis Fitzgerald has confirmed the deal is done and says talks with Hagan had been going on for some time. Current Parramatta coach Brian Smith was told in November that his 10 years at the Eels' helm would not be extended beyond the 2006 season.Hagan got the same news from the Knights less than two weeks ago after informing Newcastle he had received an offer from another NRL club.

Iestyn Harris to lead the Bulls in WCC

FORMER Leeds captain Iestyn Harris has been chosen to succeed Jamie Peacock as captain of Super League Champions, Bradford Bulls. The Bulls will have a new Captain and Vice Captain when they take on NRL Champions West Tigers in next Friday?s Carnegie World Club Challenge at the Galpharm Stadium.The Bulls have appointed Iestyn Harris as Captain with Paul Deacon being made Vice Captain. Stuart Fielden will take over the role of Club Captain.The Bulls made the announcement today at the Marks & Spencer store in the Owlcotes Centre, Pudsey when they unveiled their sponsorship with the leading retailer.Speaking about the announcement of the M & S sponsorship, Bulls Chief Executive, Gareth Davies said: ?We are really pleased to have the support of the staff at the Marks & Spencer Pudsey store and look forward to developing a long-term relationship with them.?Bulls Coach Brian Noble said:?The three people I have chosen for the roles are all natural leaders and can take the club forward. Iestyn proved last year, during the difficult first part of the season that he had leadership qualities and he will show them this year. Iestyn is the Captain but we have several players within the squad who can all lead by example and I am expecting them to do just that.Iestyn Harris said today:?I am absolutely delighted to be given the role of Bradford Bulls skipper. Captaincy is something I have always enjoyed doing and I hope I can bring something new for the side and bring more success to the club over the next few years. It is a great honour and I am looking forward to the challenge.?For further information about the Bradford Bulls, contact:Stuart Duffy Tel: 01274 762315M: 07966 171991

Bulls name squad for Giants clash

ENGAGE Super League Champions, Bradford Bulls, have named a strong squad for their pre Carnegie World Club Challenge Trial game against Huddersfield Giants on Sunday at the Galpharm Stadium.Coach Brian Noble said today:?We have just returned from an intense week of training in Lanzarote and the players are looking forward to the game. It will be the first opportunity for some of the new players to impress and stake a claim for the WCC game.It is a very important game for us ahead of what will be a difficult game against Wests Tigers. My information from Australia is that Wests Tigers are taking the game very seriously, so this will give us a chance to see where we are against a very good Huddersfield side.?Squad: Michael Withers, Marcus Bai, Shontayne Hape, Ben Harris, Dave Halley, Andy Smith, Karl Pryce, Iestyn Harris, Joe Vagana, Ian Henderson, Stuart Fielden, Brad Meyers, Chris McKenna, Paul Johnson, Adam Watene, Andy Lynch, Janie Langley, Brett Ferres, Matt Cook, Matty Brooks, Ryan Atkins.For further information contact:Stuart Duffy Tel: 01274 762315M 07966 171991

Paul To Make Giants Debut V Bradford

HEAD Coach Jon Sharp has confirmed that major pre season signing Robbie Paul will partner England captain Chris Thorman in the halves on Sunday for the big pre season warm up game versus the Bulls (kick off 3pm). Sharp has named a 19 man squad but has confirmed the starting half back partners.Sharp commented "I am sure that our fans want to see Robbie in action along with the other new boys and after a great week in camp I can confirm that he starts the game alongside Chris Thorman. I have picked 19 players for this game including five of our new signings. I know that the Bulls will be strong too and am sure Stanley Gene is looking forward to his return so I'd echo the clubs views earlier in the week and say to all the supporters get down to the Galpharm on Sunday as it is a game which is very important to us in our build up to Super League XI"19 man squad to face BradfordSunday 22nd Feb, KO 3pmPaul ReillyStuart DonlanMartin AspinwallAlbert TorrensMichael De VereJames EvansChris ThormanRobbie PaulPaul MarchEorl CrabtreeWayne McDonaldPaul JacksonJon GrayshonBrad DrewSteve SnitchChris NeroPaul SmithStuart JonesStephen WildMembers of the press are reminded that Robbie Paul will be available for interview at the Powergen Challenge Cup Launch Event this lunch time at The Royal Armouries in Leeds.For any further media information please contact Stuart Sheard on 07702 023004.

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