THE 2006 NZRL National season will kick off this Saturday 25 February 2006 with the Lion Foundation National Junior Competition (NJC) for both 16 and 18 year olds. Currently structured as an pre-season high performance programme throughout New Zealand as a pathway to the elite ranks of rugby league and in its fifth term it continues to go from strength to strength. The NJC is conducted over one full round followed by two weeks of playoffs (top four ? semi finals / top 2 ? grand finals) in each age group and teams to compete will include Auckland Crowns, Auckland Sea Lions, Canterbury Bulls, Central Falcons, Northern Alliance, Waicoa Bay Stallions and the Wellington Orcas. We are very excited that this year the competition will be extended with the inclusion of a Central team in both age groups. The catchment regions for the Central team consist of Taranaki, Manawatu, Hawkes Bay and Gisborne/East Coast but will see the 16?s based in New Plymouth and the 18?s based in Palmerston North. This competition has been extremely useful for talent identification, representative team selection, participation in elite competition, decision making under pressure and provides the experience to compete on a week by week basis therefore allowing each player to identify with the rigours of backing up and to have self discipline in game preparation. It has also proved imperative to the NZRL High Performance staff and selectors in the identification of, not only elite players, but also coaches, managers, trainers and match officials. In recent times both our Junior and Senior International teams have performed extremely well being very competitive and successful against our overseas allies, England and Australia and the NZRL can see the immense dividend that the NJC has attributed to this achievement. We can boast players such as Manu Vatuvei and Louie Anderson, with which this competition has provided a stepping stone to Bartercard Cup, NRL and Kiwi representation and looks to continue in this vain.
DRAGONS coach Nathan Brown has named a strong line-up to take on the Roosters this Sunday afternoon.Clint GreenshieldsReece SimmondsMark GasnierMatt CooperWes NaiqamaTrent Barrett (c)Chris SheppardLuke BaileyDean YoungJason RylesCorey PayneAshton SimsShaun TimminsReserves: Andrew Price, Justin Poore, Michael Henderson, Matt Bickerstaff, Aaron Gorrell, Daryl Millard, Ben Hornby
A broken arm and a move to France are not expected to stop champion New Zealand halfback Stacey Jones from adding to his glittering international rugby league career this year.Jones has been ruled out for up to two months after breaking his right arm playing for France-based English Super League newcomer Catalans Dragons on the weekend. The reigning ?International Player of the Year? had a pin inserted in his arm during surgery in Perpignan today (AEST) and has been ruled out for six to eight weeks.The injury and his relocation to the French club was expected to signal the end of Jones' international career which included leading the Kiwis to a remarkable Tri Nations final win over Australia late last year.However, NZRL chairman Selwyn Pearson says Jones is still available for Kiwi duty starting with the much-anticipated re-match against Australia, the Anzac Test on May 5. The 2006 Tri Nations tournament will kick off in Auckland on October 13 or 14.
THE Penrith Panthers have named a near full strength line-up for its trial match against the Parramatta Eels on Saturday.Rhys Wesser, Lee Hookey, Danny Galea, Luke Lewis, Nick Youngquest, Preston Campbell, Craig Gower, Joel Clinton, Luke Priddis, Matt Cross, Tony Puletua, Frank Pritchard, Trent Waterhouse.Reserves: Frank Puletua, Craig Stapleton, Shane Rodney, Luke Swain, Paul Aiton, Peter Wallace, Michael Gordon.
AUSTRALIAN Squad member Dean Young has today agreed to terms with the club for three years until the end of the 2009 season.Young is the first of the club's off-contracted players to make a formal commitment to the St George Illawarra Dragons for the next few seasons and will continue to be a key component in the side over the coming years.Young, 22, the 2005 St George Bank "Immortals Trophy" winner and Red V Member "Player of the Year" said he was pleased to be staying with the Club."It is a great club, one that has always looked after me and I am proud to be a part of it," said Young. "The Dragons have shown a lot of faith in me and other young juniors and given us so many opportunities from a young age. "We have a special group that I want to continue to be a part of," added Young. "Dad played his career out here and there's no reason why I can't do the same".Dragons Coach Nathan Brown believes Young's contributions both on and off the field are important for the Dragons and is pleased to see him resign."Dean is very professional," said Brown. "He is the type of player we want at the Dragons; he always puts the team before himself."He works extremely hard and sets a great example for everybody at training and in games as well as in our other off-field activities," added Brown. "Everybody here is happy to know that he has resigned with our club and I'm sure our fans will be too".Being announced in the 44-man Australian Squad at the start of the year was a nice surprise for Young but he is not getting ahead of himself."Being named in the Australian Squad wasn't something I expected but I was definitely happy to be involved," said Young. "Id love to play rep footy one day, it is something every player strives for."To get such an opportunity I need to keep working hard and perform consistently well for the Dragons each week which is my focus".
WESTS Tigers coach Tim Sheens has named his side to play Manly in a trial match at Brookvale Oval on Saturday, February 25, at 5.15pm.The team is:Brett Hodgson, Shannon McDonnell, Dean Collis, Paul Whatuira, Jamaal Lolesi, Daniel Fitzhenry, Scott Prince (c), Ryan O'Hara, Robbie Farah, John Skandalis, Anthony Laffranchi, Sam Harris, Ben GaleaInterchange: Liam Fulton, Bronson Harrison, Keith Galloway, Bryce Gibbs.
FORMER Canberra assistant coach Terry Matterson has ruled himself out of contention for the looming Raiders vacancy.The Raiders are on the lookout for a new coach for 2007 after Matthew Elliott signed a three-year deal with Penrith last week. Matterson, 38, was linked with the Canberra job along with ex-Test coach Chris Anderson, Kevin Walters, current Raiders assistant David Furner and Peter Sharp.Matterson has also been named as a possible replacement for Newcastle mentor Michael Hagan who departs for Parramatta in 2007. However, Matterson says he will not turn his back on a two-year deal that he has just started with newly promoted English Super League club Castleford.
MANLY halfback Travis Burns has been suspended for one match by the NRL judiciary after entering an early guilty plea for a grade one dangerous throw charge stemming from the trial match loss to the Roosters last Saturday.Burns will miss the Sea Eagles' final trial against Wests Tigers at Brookvale Saturday but will be available to play the first round of the NRL season. South Sydney's Beau Champion has also taken the early guilty plea option for a grade one careless high tackle against the Dragons but escaped suspension.
THE National Rugby League has confirmed its investigating the New Zealand Warriors' salary cap position.NRL chief executive David Gallop says the NRL and the club's management are examining a number of previously undisclosed issues relating to past seasons and possibly affecting the 2006 season. The Warriors underwent a significant restructure of senior management positions last year.Gallop says the club's current management is offering full cooperation and opted to make news of the investigation public in the interests of transparency. The NRL had raised with the previous management in November that it wished to conduct a pre-season audit with the club for 2006.Preparing for that audit, the current management raised a number of matters which have uncovered "potential salary cap issues".
FORMER Brisbane assistant Kevin Walters says he will apply for the head coaching position at Canberra following the unexpected departure of Matthew Elliott from next season.The Raiders are on the lookout for a new coach for 2007 after Elliott signed a three-year deal with Penrith late last week. Walters, who played 35 games at five-eighth for Canberra between 1987 and 1989, says he is keen for a return to the club.Also believed to be in the running for the Raiders top job is former Test coach Chris Anderson, Peter Sharp and Terry Matterson.
THE Newtown Jets won convincingly against Manly-Warringah in the VB Premier League trial match played at the Central Coast Stadium on Saturday evening. Newtown led by 34-6 at half-time and repelled a Manly second-half fightback to eventually win the game by 44-22.Newtown coach Paul Young took the opportunity for some positional experimentation in the second half, as well as having a closer look at a number of triallists who had impressed in the previous outing against North Sydney. There were also several Roosters-contracted players on show for the first time this season.Jets centre Lelea Paea was one of Saturday evening?s standout performers with three tries, while the abundantly-talented young lock-forward Setiamata Sa collected two tries and impressed with his strength and handling skills. Half-back Josh Lewis showed what a major asset he is going to be for both the Roosters and Newtown clubs in 2006, and added to the intriguing battle for scrum-base positional selections in the top grades in the next few weeks. Kiwi triallist Darren Lang stepped up in class on the weekend, and front-rower Lafi Manua?s solid display earned him a place on the Roosters bench for the NRL trial match. Roosters coach Ricky Stuart sent the giant Manua on in the fourth quarter of the main game, where the big fellow was promptly rewarded with an outsize ?shiner? for his trouble.The Jets Jim Beam Cup squad took on a strong Bulldog side at Henson Park on Sunday afternoon and although well beaten by 28-10 would take plenty of heart from their performance. Coach Greg Matterson reports that this was a quite satisfactory trial, and that it allowed him to assess some of the fringe members of the Jim Beam Cup trial squad playing under real pressure from a Bulldogs team that included several Premier League regulars.Next weekend the Newtown Jets have teams in action at both Henson Park and out of town. On Saturday (February 25th) a Jets VB Premier League-Jim Beam Cup combination takes on South Sydney?s Premier League aspirants in an all inner-city ?rumble? kicking off at 5.00pm. This main trial will be preceded by Roosters-Rabbitohs clashes in Harold Matthews (2.00pm) and SG Ball (3.30pm) junior representative trial games.On Sunday (February 26th) Newtown?s VB Premier League trial squad travels south to the WIN Stadium, Wollongong to take on St.George-Illawarra at 3.00pm, as a curtain-raiser to the Roosters-Dragons NRL trial match. This will be Newtown?s final VB Premier League trial game before the opening competition round on the weekend of 10/11/12th March.Caption: Creative Newtown Jets halfback Josh Lewis (formerly with St.George Illawarra) is going to be a class act with the Roosters-Jets alliance in 2006.Photo courtesy of Hugh Martel.
PENRITH coach John Lang has refused to concede that his career is over despite being replaced at the NRL club next season.Lang, who coached the Panthers to their second premiership in 2001, will be replaced by Canberra's Matthew Elliott from 2007. He says he will not apply for the vacant Newcastle and Canberra positions but would consider offers if he were to be approached.
SOUTH Sydney utility Beau Champion will escape suspension despite being charge with a careless high tackle on St George Illawarra fullback Clint Greenshields in their Charity Shield clash last Saturday night.Champion, who hit Greenshields in the 65th minute of the match, was charged with a grade one offence, but will escape suspension regardless of his plea due to his good record.Meanwhile, Manly's Travis Burns faces a one-match ban for a grade one dangerous throw during the Sea Eagles' trial loss to the Sydney Roosters.
WIGAN Warriors 16 v Leeds Rhinos 24, Att: 17,281Leeds Rhinos staged a dramatic second half comeback to leave the Warriors still looking for their first win of 2006. After withstanding a barrage of Leeds pressure, Wigan scored three unanswered first half tries by teenagers Joel Tomkins and Chris Ashton - who was on his home debut. The other scored by hooker Wayne Godwin.The Rhinos cut the deficit by scoring two early second half tries through Shane Millard and man of the match Danny McGuire. Wigan were finally worn down by relentless Leeds pressure. Tries in the last ten minutes by Skipper Kevin Sinfield and live wire scrum half Rob Burrow gave the Rhinos a hard earned victory before Wigan?s biggest ever attendance for an opening home game in the Super League.St Helens 44 v Castleford Tigers 8, Att: 13,528St Helens showed why they are going to be the team to beat in this year?s competition by demolishing the Castleford Tigers at Knowsley Road.Saints, who welcomed back Great Britain captain Paul Sculthorpe, ran in six first half tries to end the Tigers hopes of winning their first game on their return to the top flight.The Tigers must take some credit as they competed in the second half scoring two tries through scrum-half Andy Kain and Gray Viane. However former Dragons star Jason Hooper had the last say in the game by scoring the Saints eighth and final try. Jamie Lyon kicked six goals before another bumper Knowsley Road crowd.Salford City Reds 16 v Catalans Dragons 0, Att: 4,660The Dragons were brought back down to earth when the much-improved City Reds shut them out. Tragedy stuck early for Catalans when their influential Kiwi international scrum-half Stacey Jones left the field with a broken arm, which will sideline him for at least eight weeks.Salford took advantage of Jones? departure and despite dominating throughout, they only had two Stuart Littler tries to show until Andrew Brocklehurst went over in the last ten minutes. Former Rhinos half-back Andrew Dunemann - making his Reds debut - had a hand in all of his team?s tries and looks a very shrewd signing. Coach Karl Harrison was delighted with his team defence and especially their 100% start to this year?s campaign.Bradford Bulls 18 v Harlequins RL 18, Att: 11,097Injury-hit Harlequins pulled off a major upset when they twice came from behind to earn a point from a tough-tackling clash with Engage Super League champions Bradford Bulls.The Quins made a late change when Luke Dorn picked up a hamstring injury to keep him out of the game. The Bulls opened the scoring early on when former Eels hooker Ian Henderson jinked his way over the whitewash after Harlequins were reduced to 12 men, when new boy Matt Gafa was sin-binned for holding down in the tackle.Man of the match Thomas Leuluai put Quins on level terms with a close range try. Shortly after ex-Storm forward Danny Williams gave Harlequins a first half lead.Early in the second half, the Bulls stepped up the pace by scoring two tries through Shontayne Hape and Ben Harris. However, after weathering the storm, a Lee Hopkins try regained the lead for the Quins. With only minutes remaining a Paul Deacon penalty managed to rescue a point for the Bulls.Huddersfield Giants 26 v Warrington Wolves 20, Att: 8,104The Giants recorded their first victory in Engage Super league XI, when they defeated an injury-hit Warrington Wolves before an impressive 8,104 attendance at the Galpharm Stadium.Huddersfield twice came from behind after the Wolves scored two early tries through Chris Bridge, who was preferred in the starting line-up to Australian Michael Sullivan, and former Hull FC flyer Richie Barnett.Despite loosing the influential Brad Drew through injury, the Giants clawed their way back with tries from home debutant Albert Torrens and Australian centre Chris Nero to square the game up shortly before half time. After the break a Martin Aspinwall try gave the Giants the lead, but with Michael De Vere having an off day with his kicking, Warrington took the lead again through Bridge?s second try. Two quick Huddersfield tries, both converted, gave the Giants an unassailable lead. Warrington did mange a late Henry Fa'afili consolation try though.Hull FC 40 v Wakefield Wildcats 14, Att: 11,860Hull kept up their 100% record by thrashing the hapless Wakefield Wildcats in front of another big KC Stadium crowd. In-form centre Kirk Yeaman scored a hat-trick of tries as the Black and Whites produced a fluent attacking display by scoring seven tries.Coach John Kear must have been happy with his teams defence as they managed to hold out early Wildcats pressure by defending five consecutive sets of six.Wakefield dug deep in the second half, but their mini revival ? with tries from Kiwi international David Solomona and winger Paul White - came to nothing as the KC Stadium side managed to hold on to record an emphatic victory over their Yorkshire rivals.
REDCLIFFE has held on for 26-20 win against the Brisbane Broncos Emerging Squad, played before another healthy pre-season crowd at Dolphin Oval.On an evening when the Broncos? top squad faced Canberra in Port Macqaurie, their younger brigade learned some lessons off a few old heads.Despite it being the Dolphins first run of the season, the home side appeared more composed and comfortable from the outset, establishing a 16-4 halftime lead.Indeed, without a hint of sentiment, veterans Troy Lindsay and Greg Bourke only seemed to have grown better with another offseason under their belts.The most capped player in Queensland Wizard Cup history, Lindsay was sharper than anyone in the opening exchanges, launching his 32-year-old body at the line with speed and gusto.After hauling hay on his Dayboro property all day, Lindsay has reportedly trained like a teenager and has even bought a rowing machine for his rare days off.His hard work showed.Damien Jentz?s try in the 17th minute came the very next play after a Lindsay hit-up, with Trent Callaghan slow to get across after making the tackle.The Broncos didn?t take long to respond via Gideon Mzembe, pouncing on a chip in-goal by former Wavell High halfback Jacob Fauid.Malawi-raised Mzembe certainly didn?t have things all his own way however and was met with force on a number of kick returns, much to the delight of the crowd.His opposite man, Dolphins debutant Kaine Manihera, was gifted a try in the 32nd minute, with journeyman Bourke laying the groundwork.Although bulked-up, Bourke surprised teammates and onlookers with a blistering turn of speed to break into the clear, timing his pass to Manihera to perfection.Not long after, Nick Emmett was put across in the corner by artful dummy-half Michael Roberts, who frog-stepped his way behind the markers before creating the gap.Twelve points down at the break, the fresh-faced Broncos had an uphill task.Fullback Denan Kemp momentarily raised hope of a fightback when he scooped up a loose ball and outpaced a horde of defenders over 80m to score in the 48th minute.Earlier the one-time soccer prodigy ran 45m off his own line to defuse a potentially threatening grubber kick.Another Broncos hopeful with a big future, utility Jamie Simpson, scored one of his signature pin-ball tries, bouncing off the defence in the 62nd minute.However experience shone through at important times, Bourke mixing skill, speed and guile to twice grubber ahead and outpace Mzembe to the ball in the 67th minute.Fellow three-quarter Emmett completed a brace when he took a spectacular bomb from Marty Turner on the fly.An eventful final few minutes saw prop Lynden Murphy score for the Broncos, having tried in earnest throughout.Redcliffe prop Pat Gardner was placed on report on the final play of the game for a late tackle on Fauid.Dolphin Mark Shipway wore jersey number 18 in his return to the club he last represented a decade ago, but was included in the starting line-up.In lower grades Redcliffe won both encounters, with a 34-12 try in Colts and a 24-20 win in FOGS Cup, secured by a last minute try to Chris Jelich.Main GameREDCLIFFE 26 (Nick Emmett 2, Damien Jentz, Kaine Manihera, Greg Bourke tries; Greg Bourke 3 goals) beat TOOWOOMBA 20 (Gideon Mzembe, Denan Kemp, Jamie Simpson, Lynden Murphy tries; Jacob Fauid, Todd Parnell goals).FOGS CupREDCLIFFE 24 (Matt Mannion, Mick Pares, Mitchell Simpson, Adam Luchetti, Chris Jelich tries; Alwayn Simpson 2 goals) beat ASPLEY 20 (Ben Coleman, Todd Parnell, Scott Millar, TBC tries; Pat Dall 2 goals)FOGS Colts ChallengeREDCLIFFE 34 (Dion Porteus, Michael Wilson, Matt Handcock, Tim Yee, Jon Broad, Tom Donnelly, Jordan Brown tries; Tim Benson 3 goals) beat ASPLEY 12 (Brynjar Ragnarsson, Troydan Edwards tries; Scott Millar 2 goals).