Leeds sign promising young duo

LEEDS Rhinos have announced that young stars Danny Williams and Ashley Gibson, both 19, have signed new three-year contracts with the club and will be part of the Rhinos full-time squad for the 2006 engage Super League season.Gibson signed for the Rhinos from Stanningley ARLFC in 2003 and made his Super League debut last season, scoring a hat-trick in the win at Leigh.Winger Williams joined the Rhinos from Whinmoor Warriors ARLFC, trained with the first team squad during last season and, like Gibson, toured New Zealand and Australia with the England Academy team two years ago.Both players will feature for the Rhinos in the Tetley's Festive Challenge against Wakefield on Boxing Day at Headingley, kick off 11.30am.Commenting on the announcement Chief Executive, Gary Hetherington, said: "We have a policy of promoting players to the first team squad each season and Ashley and Danny are outstanding candidates to join the full-time squad?Both players impressed Tony Smith last season when they trained with the first team squad and this will allow them to continue their development. The fact that 70% of our first team squad have come through our academy system is something we are very proud of and it is important to us as an organisation."Both players will be awarded squad numbers in the New Year, outside of the top 20.- - - - -Thanks to www.superleague.co.uk for this news.

Bulls Chairman to stand down

CHRIS Caisley today announced his intention to step down as Chairman of the Bradford Bulls immediately following the Super League Champions' World Club Challenge game against Wests Tigers on 3 February. Caisley has been at the helm of the Bulls for over 16 years, since 1989, and during his stewardship the club has moved from relative obscurity to become the most successful club in the Super League era.Caisley said, "I have been Chairman since 1989 and 16 years is a long time, but it is the right time to stand down for many different reasons. Throughout the lengthy period of my Chairmanship I have always had in mind the best interests of the club and our fantastic supporters, and I firmly believe that the time is right for us to close this particular chapter in the club's history and move forward positively into the second decade of Super League.""My departure will present a fantastic opportunity for the Bulls to seek and attract the best possible replacement, someone with the necessary resources and business acumen, someone who can recognise the terrific opportunity which exists to build on our tremendous success and further develop the Bulls' brand, one of the most recognisable brands in UK professional sport."Caisley added, "In addition, my goal was always to get the Odsal Sporting Village development scheme off the "ground" and in conjunction with Bradford City Council we have got the scheme to the point where it is just about there, subject to planning. The sports village will deliver superb sports and leisure facilities for the whole of Bradford and the surrounding area and it will enable the city of Bradford to play a major role in the Olympic Games in 2012. It has the very positive and invaluable support of Sport England and it will play a major part in the ongoing regeneration of the Bradford. The new Chairman will have a major role to play in this very exciting scheme"During the period of Caisley's tenure as Chairman the Bulls won every major honour in Rugby League, being crowned Super League Champions in 1997, 2001, 2003 and 2005 and Minor Premiers in 1999, 2002 and 2004. They won the Challenge Cup in 2000 and 2003 and were beaten finalists in 1996, 1997 and 2001. The Bulls were crowned World Club Champions in 2002 and 2004 and are going for a hat trick of wins against the Australian champions, Wests Tigers, in February. Prior to the start of the Super League, in 1996, the Club also won the old Yorkshire Cup in 1989/90 and were beaten finalists in 1991/92 as well as being beaten finalists in the Regal Trophy in 1990/91 and 1992/93. In 2002 the Bulls even went to the home of English Rugby Union and won the Twickenham Sevens. The Club has appeared in 6 of the 8 Old Trafford Grand Finals that have taken place in the Super League era.As to his successor, Caisley said, "I hope that he or she enjoys the privilege of heading up this great club half as much as I have done over the past 16 years or so. The World Club game will be my last as Chairman and Director and I hear that Wests Tigers are really preparing themselves well, so it is going to be a real tough game. I hope we can post the "house full" signs; it would be terrific to see the Galpharm Stadium packed out and supporting the Bulls on 3 February. I will save my goodbyes to Brian Noble, the players, directors and staff and all Bulls' fans who have given me such fantastic support over the years until we have got that game out of the way".

Riddell, Hindmarsh will be fit for season opener

PARRAMATTA hooker Mark Riddell will be fit for next year's NRL kick-off despite sustaining an ankle injury which required surgery last week. Riddell tore ankle ligaments at training last Tuesday and had surgery on Friday to repair the damage.Meanwhile, Parramatta teammate Nathan Hindmarsh will return to full training on January 10 as he recovers from the knee injury which prevented him from playing in the Tri Nations series.

Ricky Stuart enters International inferno

GIVEN the current climate with the Australian coaching position, I thought I?d take a look at where it has all gone wrong for Australia following their defeat at the hands of New Zealand in the 2005 Tri-Nations campaign.It would be unfair to dump the whole bucket on the 2005 side, as there have been a few ongoing problems for the past 10 years. After going down in game one of the series 38-28, the Kangaroos hit back the next week in Auckland, winning 28-26. They began to look good on the British leg of the tour, with successive wins against Great Britain. However, they never got the better of a more passionate Kiwi outfit, minus superstars Sonny Bill Williams and Benji Marshall I might add. Admittedly Australia was minus their halves combination, the world?s two best players, Andrew Johns and Darren Lockyer. But given the depth that the Australian Rugby League has at its disposal this is no excuse. All Australian supporters, ex-players, players and coaching staff were stunned after being thrashed 24-0 by the Kiwis in the 2005 Tri-Nations Final, and we have a detailed look at the roots of the problem here.It has always been an argument of form versus loyalty, incumbency, or reputation. Former NSW State of Origin coach Phil Gould has consistently promoted the case for form in the Test arena, realising that Australia?s form side will always beat any opposition side that?s thrown onto the park. Coaches of Australian sides over the last 10 years have abused their powers at times, selecting players they favour personally, rather than the players who deserve the position on their merits. The Australian team?s failure in the 2005 Tri-Nations series has finally exposed these agendas which have been in place since the mid 1990s under the guidance of former Manly coach Bob Fulton. In the past, Australia has had enough depth to get away with it, not to mention the poor standard of the opposition. But Bennett?s side has been caught out, and it?s time to give the system a complete overhaul.During Fulton?s reign, he selected Manly players like Daniel Gartner, Nik Kosef, Danny Moore and John Hopoate in the Green and Gold. I would argue that these players didn?t really warrant selection, with the only deserved players from Manly was Geoff Toovey. Even Terry Hill had the odd lucky roll of the dice. Fulton even went to the extremes of selecting David Gillespie in the Kangaroo side in 1996, years after last playing for Australia and even without taking part in the State of Origin series earlier in the season. This can be taken within the context of the Super League War, but these sorts of decisions send a poor message to younger players aspiring to play for their country, but again, Fulton isn?t the only one.Let?s have a look at the two stalwarts of coaching over the past decade. Arch rivals Bennett and Anderson. Bennett coached Australia in 16 tests, winning 12, losing 3 and having the 1 draw. He took Australia to the 2004 Tri-Nations title, as well as winning a series in 1998. Unfortunately for Bennett, punters will remember him for losing the 2005 Tri-Nations Final, and so they should. Anderson on the other hand coached Australia in 18 tests between 1999 and 2003, winning 15 and losing 3. He managed to come away victorious in every series at the helm. The pair both held agendas by favouring certain players, making certain selections which can be described as contentious at best. In 2003, Cronulla finished well outside the top 8. Anderson selected club halfback Brett Kimmorley as the Australian no.7 ahead of Premiership winning halfback Craig Gower. Most would agree that Gower?s form was superior to Kimmorley?s at the time and it was widely rumoured that Gower was the winner of the Dally M Player of the Year, although the awards were cancelled. Anderson argued that Kimmorley had done the job before and therefore warranted selection. He then went on to play a starring role in the series and Anderson had got away with it, but that doesn?t make it right. He also selected utility Phil Bailey on the same tour. Most scribes would rate Bailey no better than an average NRL player. But it?s amazing how things can go your way if you know the right people. Luke Lewis was also picked in the squad, another Premiership winner with the Panthers. Australia led 2-0 in the series, and with a mounting injury toll, they struggled to field a team for the final game of the series, a dead rubber. It was thought that Anderson would give Lewis a game, but he strangely turned to the ageing Darren Smith, a mate of Anderson?s from his days of coaching Canterbury. Remembering that this game was a dead rubber makes it even more bewildering to bring in an outsider from the squad playing in the UK, particularly over a man who hadn?t even played a match previously on tour. Lewis hasn?t played a Test since, and if he never does, he can quite rightly feel very hard done by.Bennett showed loyalty to a group of players who were loyal to him, not necessarily from his side at Brisbane. Willie Mason is a classic example of this. He spoke out about how much he idolised Bennett as a coach, and Bennett repaid him with Australian selection. Willie himself would probably admit that his selection wasn?t warranted for this tour. He stated a case for Tigers prop John Skandalis to be selected ahead of himself, a decision which may have resulted in a better outcome for the Australian side. Brisbane prop Petero Civoniceva showed real signs of slowing down in the 2005 series, but was retained right throughout the tour without fuss from Bennett. This became evident in the final, with a younger, tougher more enthusiastic Kiwi pack proving too difficult for the Aussies to handle. Tonie Carroll is another player that Bennett has been loyal to in his time as Australian coach, allowing him to play for Australia despite the fact that he played previously for New Zealand.Now for the new man in the hot seat, Sydney Roosters coach Ricky Stuart. The Canberra great and former Bulldog has enjoyed a stellar start to his coaching career, which began at the Bulldogs with a Jersey Flegg Premiership in 2001. He then went on to coach the Roosters to a first grade premiership in 2002, and Grand Final appearances in both the 2003 and 2004 seasons. He has enjoyed representative success also, coaching Country Origin to victory in 2004, and a NSW Origin series win this year. Stuart is a much younger coach with new ideas, and wants the Australian side to have more passion. He does have a tendency to lose the plot on the sidelines though. When things aren?t going well for his side, he carries on like a baby without a lollie. Some say that it?s great that he wears his heart on his sleeve, but how are his players supposed to respond when seeing him behave in that way? A classic example in the 2004 Grand Final was when Justin Hodges and Chris Walker were making mistake after mistake, and Stuart was seen screaming and kicking chairs on the sidelines. This could work against Australia in the coming seasons if he doesn?t learn to keep his cool and stick to his strategic plans.With the job now Stuart?s, it remains to be seen whether these problems continue. A possible solution would have been to pick a coach who has no current affiliation with any NRL club, similar to what the Queensland Rugby League is doing with their State coach ? Mal Meninga. This would ensure that the Australian Team is chosen on merit, avoiding the continuous favouritism which has plagued representative rugby league for too long.

Deacon targets comeback for World Club Challenge

IT is just over four weeks since Paul Deacon overheard that his life was in danger as he lay on a treatment table at Huddersfield's Galpharm Stadium with blood pouring from his mouth after his upper jaw had been smashed by New Zealand's Nigel Vagana in the Tri-Nations. But already the Great Britain scrum-half has set his sights a February comeback at the same ground for Bradford in the World Club Challenge against Wests Tigers."I can't wait to get back playing again," said Deacon, speaking publicly for the first time since the controversial incident in Britain's 38-12 win against the Kiwis on November 12. "I can eat what I want now - I had my first steak last week. I go back to see the specialist on December 22 and hopefully he'll give me the all-clear to start full training again."Deacon had enjoyed his best half-hour as an international player before he was hit by Vagana's swinging arm. "I didn't realise what I'd done at first," he said. "It was only at half-time when Brian Noble [Britain's coach] came back into the changing room and I heard the doctor, who was treating me, tell him it could be life-threatening. That was a bit of a shock."Still, the 26-year-old insists he holds no grudge against Vagana. "I've seen a lot worse tackles do a lot less damage," he added, refusing to be drawn on how he felt watching Vagana play in the final two weeks later after serving only a one-match suspension. "I don't want to comment on that, but I'll talk to Nigel no problem."- - - - -Andy Wilson is the rugby league writer for The Guardian and The Observer newspapers in the UK. We thank them both in reproducing Andy's article here.

Doncaster sign ex-Bull Pratt

DONCASTER have signed Karl Pratt after the former Bradford Bulls player was forced to quit top-flight rugby because of persistent shoulder problems."This opportunity was unexpected, but I am thrilled to join a club with huge potential," said the 25-year-old Pratt."I can't play at the highest level anymore, but I feel I can contribute the knowledge I gained to the Lakers and be part of something special here."National League One side Doncaster are chasing promotion to Super League.Lakers coach St John Ellis added: "It all happened very quickly. I told Karl what we are all about and where we are going and how I felt he could help."Having played at the very top level under coaches such as Brian Noble, David Waite and Graham Murray, I believe Karl can be an integral part of our team and help us move forward."He has a wealth of experience and talent and will be a massive help in improving our young players."Pratt, who began his career with Featherstone Rovers before moving to Leeds Rhinos, joined the Bulls in 2002.He went on to claim winners medals in the Challenge Cup, Super League Grand Final and World Club Championship.He also represented Great Britain against New Zealand in 2003. - - - - -Thanks to www.bbc.co.uk for this news.

Castleford confirm two further signings

NEWLY-PROMOTED Castleford Tigers continue to strengthen their squad for 2006 with the capture of former Huddersfield Giants skipper Ben Roarty and former Widnes and St Helens centre Gray Viane.Huddersfield released Roarty after a neck injury prematurely ended his 2005 campaign but he has had a subsequent operation to repair the damage and this proved a complete success.A former Melbourne Storm and Penrith Panthers player, Roarty had lengthy experience in the NRL before switching to the Giants in 2003.The back row forward?s leadership qualities won him the captaincy at Huddersfield and his signing is likely to complete the Tigers forwards compliment for the 2006 season.The Australian will fill the second place on the Tigers overseas quota and has signed a one-year deal.Gray Viane is a Samoan centre who played with the Widnes Vikings after signing part way through the 2005 season from St Helens, who he joined in 2004.He starred for Widnes although they were relegated, scoring 12 tries in 14 Super league appearances.An Australian Schoolboy international, the 23-year-old centre joined Saints in 2004 from Wests Tigers club where he gained experience in the NRL.Castleford Head Coach Terry Matterson said: ?I?m very pleased to have got Ben on board at the club. He is a real professional who you can guarantee to give you 100% effort week in week out.?He is a very experienced player who sets a terrific example and I believe that these qualities will make him a very valuable player for us in Super League.?And it?s good to have Gray on board. He is a big strong guy who can play in a few different positions and he certainly knows the way to the line.?He gives us some depth, bolsters a few positions and compliments our forward signings.?- - - - -Thanks to www.superleague.co.uk for this news.

Harlequins RL announce two more signings

HARLEQUINS Rugby League have announced the signings of Daniel Heckenberg - from NRL club Many Sea Eagles - and Tim Hartley from Salford City Reds ahead of their inaugural season in the engage Super League.Heckenberg, an athletic prop forward was released by Manly after two seasons and will again pack down with fellow NRL teammate Chad Randall in the Harlequins pack, who play their first game on February 11 at the Twickenham Stoop against St Helens.Harlequins Head Coach Tony Rea said: ?He (Heckenberg) is powerful with the ball and that will be a big asset. He will also bring a lot of experience to our team in its first season as Harlequins.?Stand-off Tim Hartley has made the move from Salford City Reds, where his performance in the 2005 season established him as one of the exciting up and coming youngsters in the game.Hartley commented: ?I?m really appreciative to have been given the opportunity to play top flight rugby here in London."?So far everything has been going really well and I?m looking forward to getting to know the all lads a bit more. I have settled well and I think we will have some really good times ahead of us as a club.?Rea added: ?Tim has adapted to pre-season training really well and we are really happy to have him here.??He caught our eyes as being one of the boom youngsters in the engage Super League last season and I believe he has the attributes to make a big impact in 2006.?- - - - -Thanks to www.superleague.co.uk for this news.

Rhinos release Scott Murrell

LEEDS Rhinos have agreed to release promising stand-off Scott Murrell, who is poised to join leading National League club Hull Kingston Rovers.Murrell, 20, is in talks over personal terms on a two-year deal with Rovers, who are set to beat Castleford and York to his sought-after signature.It is thought Rovers will have to pay around ?15,000 for Murrell, who played six Super League matches on loan to London Broncos in 2004 and made his Leeds debut in July.- - - - -Thanks to www.superleague.co.uk for this news.

Hull derby gets go-ahead

HULL FC and Hull KR have announced that the Clive Sullivan Memorial Trophy between the two clubs will be now played at The KC Stadium on January 8 2006.The two clubs have come to an amicable agreement which is equitable to both parties, and includes an amount which will be given to Charities chosen by Hull FC, Hull KR and Ros Sullivan, the widow of Clive Sullivan.In order to donate a large amount of money to each charity, ticket prices have increased by ?1 for adults and 50p for concessions.Hull FC Chief Executive David Plummer said: "I think it is good news for the City of Hull that the Hull derby is to go ahead, and with it, three worthy causes will benefit."It has taken time to renegotiate but hopefully we can now all look forward to the 8th January."Hull KR Chief Executive Paul Lakin added: "I?m delighted that we have been able to reach a new agreement as Hull is the only place in English rugby league that can truly boast a ?one city? derby."I am particularly pleased for the supporters who can enjoy the occasion and the three charities who will benefit greatly from this unique game."- - - - -Thanks to www.superleague.co.uk for this news.

Maiava whacked with $10,000 fine and suspension

CRONULLA forward Hutch Maiava has been fined $10,000 by the N-R-L club for his involvement in a fight with team-mate Jacob Selmes at training.Maiava was also suspended from training until January 4 for his part in Thursday's incident when Selmes required stitches to his face. Sharks chairman Barry Pierce says the incident is totally out of character and the player has been an exceptional trainer and clubman in his time at the Sharks. Maiava has apologised for his actions, saying he is embarrassed with what has happened.

Maiava to remain a Shark

CRONULLA coach Stuart Raper says prop Hutch Maiava will remain a member of the Sharks squad in 2006 despite punching a team mate at training yesterday.Young forward Jacob Selmes required 12 stitches after being punched by Maiava during an altercation in a weights session at pre-season training. It is unclear what caused the scuffle.Maiava has been suspended from training while the board considers his punishment. He is unlikely to train again this year. Raper said Maiava had been very remorseful for his actions and had apologised to Selmes.The Sharks coach claimed there would be no issue with Maiava playing with the Sharks in 2006.

Bitter boardroom battle looms for Souths

SOUTH Sydney could have another ugly boardroom battle on its hands following reports George Piggins is backing a campaign to depose chairman Nick Pappas.Piggins has pledged to throw his support behind veteran powerbroker Henry Morris to take over from Pappas - the lawyer who masterminded the court victory to have the Rabbitohs reinstated to the NRL - according to reports in News Limited newspapers.Morris says he will stand for the board when elections take place in early March.

Redcliffe Dolphins Flashback Tony Murphy

Forwards Not The Only ProductGunnedah, the New South Wales northern tablelands town, has produced many fine rugby league players.It is particularly noted for it's forwards, including former Test props John O'Neill and John Donnelly and more recently state prop Lindsay Johnston. Redcliffe's consistant hooker, Bob Jones is another forward product of the town. But Gunnedah also has it's good backs, among them is Tony Murphy who is making his mark with Jones club, Redcliffe.Murphy joined the Dolphins last season and quickly established himself as a challenger for first grade. He was one of the Dolphins most consistant performers in reserve grade and late in the Winfield Cup premiership was given his chance in first grade. But Redcliffe stuck with a more experienced centre combination for proved to be a disastrous knockout semi-final against eventual premiers Wynnum-Manly.Murphy's consolation was his role in the Dolphins 11-10 reserve grade grand final victory over Valleys. He was of the Dolphins stars, scoring one of their three tries.This year he was used as a reserve in three Redcliffe Winfield State League squads before finally forcing his way into the first grade starting line-up for the June 26 Dolphin Oval match against Valleys.The Dolphins clicked in the heavy going and Murphy combined brilliantly with his state representative centre partner Mitch Brennan to often have the highly fancied Diehards at sixes and sevens. Unfortunately thye following week Murphy's form dropped to mediocre along with most of the other players on the field in the scrappy match of the day loss to Souths.Former Brisbane representative Steve Cherry was brought back into first grade after proving in reserve grade that he had recovered from a bad arm injury. But Murphy, at 21 has time on his side and with a little more confidence could soon become a regular first grader.Murphy lives at Redcliffe and is employedin the service division of the Dolphin's sponsor Village Motors. His reserve grade team-mate Bob Jones is one of his former junior coaches and New South Wales prop Lindsay Johnston (Who plays with North Sydney) is a former team-mate at Gunnedah.This article appeared in a match day programme in 1983.FootnoteAfter spending time as football manager of the Dolphins and then Operations Manager of the Redcliffe Leagues Club Tony took over the role as General Manager of the Football and Leagues Clubs earlier this year.

Wigan and Bradford fans plan Les Catalans trips

WIGAN Warriors will be chartering a second plane to take fans to the first game of the new season against Les Catalans Dragons on Saturday 11th February 2006. (7.05pm kick off CET).The first aircraft SOLD OUT and the club have experienced unprecedented interest from fans wanting to travel to this historic clash.We can confirm that the return flight (as with the first plane) will depart from Manchester airport and will be direct to Perpignan. Coach transfers to the game will be provided. The flight will depart on the morning of (Saturday) 11th February, and return the same day after the game (times to be confirmed). Match tickets will not be included in the price but will be guaranteed for all passengers travelling on this package. Ticket prices will be confirmed in due course.The cost of this package will be ?212.00 including meals, taxes and transfers. On booking confirmation we will require a ?50 non-refundable deposit with the balance due 4 weeks prior to the game.(There is a slight increase in cost for this second aircraft due to limited availability of aircraft on this day.)Anyone wishing to book, on a first come first served basis, should call our official travel partner Flight Options on 0207 8218112 (opening hours 9.00am - 6.00pm Monday-Friday, 10.00am - 2pm Saturday) and speak to Rachel, Mike, Nikki or Paul.Bookings made by credit card will incur a charge of 1.5%. You will be responsible for your own transport to Manchester Airport. The agent operating the flight on our behalf is ATOL registered, number 4233.- - - - -Bradford Bulls have an opportunity to charter a plane to take supporters to Perpignon for our game with Catalans Dragons on Saturday March 4th. This would be subject to there being enough supporters wanting to make the trip.The return flight would depart from Manchester airport and will be direct to Perpignon. Coach transfers to the game in Perpignon will be provided. The flight will depart on the morning of (Saturday) 4th March and return the same day after the game. Match tickets will not be included in the price but will be guaranteed for all passengers travelling on this package. Ticket prices for the game will be confirmed in due course.The cost of the package is ?199 including in flight meals, taxes and transfers. A non refundable deposit of ?50.00is payable on booking with the balance due four weeks prior to departure.Any supporter interested in taking advantage of this offer should contact Angeline Robinson as soon as possible on 01274 762313. Flight Options PLC ATOL Reg No 423

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