History suggests Dragons are on the rise

ST George Illawarra has arrived at a critical juncture in their joint venture history, with 2006 shaping as one of the most important in the club?s short existence. Constantly touted as pre-season favourites, you can?t accuse the Dragons of pursuing the even tenor of one?s way. This may have something to do with the engrossment of the club?s fans whose persistent demands for on-field infallibility are oft met with equally capricious protests toward the club?s hierarchy.Since 1999 the Dragons have failed to win more than 50% of their first 10 matches, with that pattern again unavoidable in 2006 after they stumbled to a disappointing Round 9 loss at the hands little brother the Cronulla Sharks, finding themselves in 11th position on the premiership table.Like lemmings jumping off a cliff, their legion of supporters prematurely paint apocalyptic estimations, writing-off the season after a few early defeats and ignoring the simple fact that they compete in a 26 round competition which requires slightly better than a 50% winning ratio to make the semi-finals.Whilst it?s not a perfect picture by any means, they proved last year that a poor start isn?t necessarily indicative of their overall season?s fortunes. It?s not a habit you want to get into but old habits die hard.There is some good news in all this for those who like to keep an eye on history and it?s fair to say most Dragons fans do. Just over a month ago they re-signed Nathan Brown as head coach for another two seasons, creating a new slice of history providing he sees out the full extent of his contract, which in today?s world is about as watertight as tea-bag. It will take Brown?s tenure at the club to six years, making him the longest serving coach in the joint-venture club?s history and equalling Roy Master?s record of six consecutive years as first grade coach (1982-87) from the St George side of the equation.Only Ken Kearney (1954-55 & 1957-61) has carried the clipboard longer, directing the players either side of Norm Tipping in 1956. From the Illawarra contingent, Graham Murray stands out as their longest serving coach with 5 consecutive years from 1991-95, with Brown?s appointment set to eclipse both of these from 2008. Murray was the first Illawarra coach to reach the semi-finals ? ironically they were knocked out in the Grand Final qualifier by St George in 1992.But exactly how does Brown?s coaching record stack up against the others? Firstly, it?s only fair to remove ?Killer? Ken Kearney?s record from comparisons, as the five year stint from ?57-?61 all yielded premierships during the Golden Era of the proud St George club that spanned from 1956-66. Likewise, Norm Provan?s stretch from 1962-65 was inside this epoch.If you take a benchmark of four consecutive years as coach then a pattern begins to emerge from the St George half of the equation. All coaches since Kearney and Provan who were at the helm for this period of time were able to reach a Grand Final.Graham Langlands (1972-76) helped the Dragons to a Grand Final appearance in 1975 against the Roosters. Unfortunately things didn?t quite turn out the way Saints would have like that day, going down 38-0.Harry Bath (1977-81) had instant success, winning the ?77 Grand Final in a replay against Parramatta, before taking them to a second in 1979 over Canterbury, the last premiership the club has won.Bath handed the duties over to Roy Masters in 1982, who guided them to a Grand Final appearance in 1985, narrowly going down to Canterbury by 7-6. That day all three grades contested Grand Finals at the SCG, with a lack of fresh players being attributed as one of the factors in the loss.Masters stood down at the end of 1987, with Ted Glossop coaching in 1988 before Craig Young tried his hand for two seasons. In 1991, former Illawarra coach Brian Smith assumed control and it wasn?t long before he continued the trend, steering the club to back-to-back Grand Finals in 1992/93. Smith left for England at the end of 1995 with the Super League war in full swing. Enter David Waite, the former Newcastle mentor, who was like a breath of fresh air to sweep through the club bringing no baggage with him and getting on with the job. He reached the 1996 Grand Final in his first season, losing to Manly in disappointing circumstances. His occupancy of the top job remained constant into the first two seasons of the joint venture and in 1999 he again led them to a berth in the big one. Once more the club failed at the final hurdle, going down to Melbourne in controversial circumstances after a penalty try in the dying minutes of the game.In 2001, Waite was deposed in favour of his assistant Andrew Farrar, who coached the team for two years before suffering a similar fate and relinquishing the job to Nathan Brown.To some, history is a guide to the future, and if that saying holds true then Brown?s Dragons will be lining up at Telstra Stadium in the first weekend of October this year. But by the same token, if he fails to reach this year?s Grand Final, will Brown be ridiculed as a failure? It?s a tough question to answer.Most Rugby League observers would agree that the Dragons have had the best team in the competition on paper since 2003. The names Gasnier, Barrett, Cooper, Bailey, Ryles and Timmins are amongst the most illustrious of this competition and with support in Hornby, Creagh, Head and Young there would seem to be little in the way of this team being united with their maiden premiership.However they have come up short time and again. Why? Is it the attitudes of the players? Do they possess this elusive ?winning culture? that everyone speaks of? Ultimately, questions are raised of the coach?s ability: Can he coach at all? Does he have the respect of his players? I?m of the belief that Nathan Brown is developing as a coach but has yet to fully grasp his potential and imprint that onto the face of his team. But given the unique circumstances the club finds itself in at present, is Brown the man to guide them into the future?Gun centre Mark Gasnier is weighing up a big money offer from rugby union, whilst Trent Barrett is headed for UK club Wigan. Along with the impending departure to the Gold Coast Titans of prop Luke Bailey, arguably the best in the game, does this place the Dragons in a ?Now or Never? situation?It certainly seemed to be the unofficial catchcry of the club as people assessed the pre-season form guide. And with the added pressure of re-signing several other up-and-coming-players who find themselves off-contract at season?s end, the Dragons are facing an uphill battle to retain the quality squad that they have consistently assembled over the past 4 seasons.Unfortunately, there are some things you just can?t argue with. Excusing the Illawarra connection in the club, if the Dragons don?t reach the Grand Final in 2006, Nathan Brown will become the first coach that has controlled the club for four consecutive seasons to fail to do so.I?m sure there?s plenty of Dragons fans? out there hoping that history repeats itself.St George Illawarra coaches: Nathan Brown (2003-07?), Andrew Farrar (2000-02), David Waite (1999-2000).St George Coaches: David Waite (1996-98), Brian Smith (1991-95), Craig Young (1989-90), Ted Glossop (1988), Roy Masters (1982-87), Harry Bath (1977-81), Graeme Langlands (1972-76), Jack Gibson (1970-71), Johnny Raper (1969), Norm Provan (1962-65, 1968), Ian Walsh (1966-67), Ken Kearney (1954-55, 1957-61), Norm Tipping (1953, 1956), John Hawke (1951-52), Jim Duckworth (1948-50), Doug McRitchie (1947), Arthur Justice (1936, 1947), Charlie Lynch (1947), Herb Narvo (1946), Percy Williams (1945), Bill Kelly (1944), Neville Smith (1939-41, 1943), Len Kelly (1942), Norm Pope (1938), Frank Burge (1927-30, 1937), Peter Burge (1937), Eddie Root (1936), Albert Johnston (1933-35), Harry Kadwell (1931-32), Herb Gilbert (1921-24).Illawarra coaches: Andrew Farrar (1997-98), Allan McMahon (1996), Graham Murray (1991-95), Ron Hilditch (1989-90), Terry Fearnley (1988), Brian Smith (1984-87), Allan Fitzgibbon (1982-83 and 1995).

Dragons injury toll worsens

THE St George Illawarra Dragons will be without Ashton Sims for 8-10 weeks after the utility forward suffered a fractured wrist in last Sunday's 30-12 loss to the Sharks. The 21-year-old had been selected in the Country side for this Friday's annual clash following the withdrawal of Knights forward Clint Newton (fractured eye socket), but the weekend injury has forced Sims out of representative contention.Meanwhile, centre Mark Gasnier, who left the field in the first half of the Dragons v Sharks match, will miss one week with a corked hip.Injured halfback Mathew Head will be out for at least another six weeks due to ongoing knee problems.Winger Wes Naiqama has undergone surgery and will be out for the rest of the season after having a screw inserted into his ankle.The Dragons injury toll continues to rise with forwards Corey Payne (eye socket), Sam Isemonger (knee), Jason Ryles (hand) and Luke Bailey (knee and ribs) also sidelined but all should be available in the coming weeks.

Rugby League = Escapism?

ARTICLE writing can be easy at times but sometimes things just don?t seem to fit. It?s like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Ideas come, ideas go. Circumstances change and sometimes you got to write from the heart.

We Are The Champions

WE are the champions, my friendsAnd we'll keep on fighting till the endWhen Freddie Mercury, lead singer of iconic English rock band Queen, first penned the lyrics to this 1977 anthemic classic, the last thing on his mind would have been the then poor quality of international rugby league. But now, it seems, the message of his song is ringing loudly, if not so clearly.There can be no denying that New Zealand?s victory in the Tri-Nations final in Leeds last year was an historic one. It broke records and set a new standard for international football. It was the first time Australia had been kept scoreless since they lost 18-0 to the Kiwis in Wellington in 1985; the first time Australia had lost a series since they were beaten 2-1 by France in 1978; the first time New Zealand had beaten Australia in a test series since 1953; and the equal largest winning margin by New Zealand over Australia in rugby league test history, after having previously beaten them 49-25 in Brisbane in 1952.But to claim the Kiwis are now the team to beat is probably going one step too far. After all, they don?t hold the World Cup in their trophy cabinet, and they haven?t won the annual Anzac test match since 2003. So only those unfortunate enough to not be involved with rugby league on any level ? be it coaching, playing, or supporting ? would suggest New Zealand are the best rugby league nation in the world.Unless, that is, you happen to listen to the words of a certain individual by the name of Andrew Johns.The Newcastle halfback commented on the Anzac test in his regular column in the Sunday Telegraph newspaper at a time when he was nursing an ankle injury from a previous match: ?If I miss that [Souths] game, I?ve just got to hope the selectors will consider me for the test.? He then went on to say: ?I?m really passionate about the clash with the Kiwis and not just because it will be my final representative game. In my eyes, the Kiwis are the number one league nation after they won the Tri-Nations series in England last year.? We are the champions, my friendsAnd we'll keep on fighting till the endWe are the championsWe are the championsJohns? comments reflect a shift in the perception of international rugby league that has caught the attention of both fans and players alike. This resurgence ? or rebirth, some might call it ? of popularity has been a breath of fresh air for the sport on an international level not seen since New Zealand last dominated Australia in the mid-1950s. The amount of interest in the upcoming Anzac test among the fans, but in the media particularly, has surpassed that of any rugby league even in recent history. In New Zealand, a nation dominated by rugby union, newspapers and television news programs have been focusing on the test match on their front pages and first articles respectively.In short, the buildup has caught the attention of even the most disinterested rugby league armchair critic. The so-called ?bandwagon? fans are actually sitting up and taking notice.And the Kiwis are showing prematch confidence for the first time in a long time.No longer is the attitude in the New Zealand camp one of trying to concede as few points as possible, and hopefully not get beaten by too large a margin, but one of actually going out there to win. And, truth be told, the result of the Anzac test almost doesn?t matter.Not at all, you insist? Perish the thought, you cry? Certainly. But first, recognise that international rugby league is back, regardless of the result on Friday night. Competitiveness at the highest level ? something that has been lacking in the sport for so many excruciating years ? has finally returned and is hopefully here to stay.It has been six months since the Kiwis and Kangaroos have done battle, but if Andrew Johns? comments regarding the Kiwis are to be taken seriously, the upcoming Anzac test, intended to be the last for both him and lock Ben Kennedy, should be well worth the wait.We are the champions, my friendsAnd we'll keep on fighting till the endWe are the championsWe are the championsNo time for losers'Cause we are the championsOf the world!

How The Mighty Have Fallen

IT seems like eons ago now when the New Zealand Warriors were at the pinnacle of the proverbial rugby league mountain. Yet you only have to hark back four seasons to the clubs halcyon days of 2002 - 2003 when they seemingly had the rugby league world at their feet.

The Debutant

A ringing bell smashes you back to reality from your trance like state. Once again you begin to notice noise around you. Clapping, hooting, hollering and shouts of instructions. You quickly think to yourself "the bell has gone, two minutes till I go out there and give my all for my country".

Crocker faces lengthy stint on the sidelines

MELBOURNE Storm forward Michael Crocker has been charged with a grade four dangerous throw on Souths lock Shane Rigon. Crocker faces a minimum of nine weeks on the sidelines if he takes the early guilty plea.

Changes to City v Country

PENRITH winger Luke Rooney has been called into the NSW City rugby league team to play NSW Country on Friday night after Eric Grothe was ruled out.

Monday?s Expert League Wrap - Round 9, 2006

INTERNATIONAL Rugby League came to Brisbane on Friday night with 44,191 people on hand to see Australia run over the top of New Zealand by 50-12. Saturday football saw the Canberra Raiders travel to Parramatta and outclass last year?s minor premiers the Eels by 30-10. Later that night, the North Queensland Cowboys were too good for the Penrith Panthers, downing their southern visitors by 22-10. Meanwhile the Melbourne Storm were ripping into the South Sydney Rabbitohs, running away in the second half to win 38-12 at Sydney?s Telstra Stadium.On Sunday, the NRL hosted four matches starting with the Newcastle Knights v Brisbane Broncos. In a close encounter, the Knights came away with a 32-30 victory in front vocal Newcastle crowd of 21,252. Soon afterwards, the Canterbury Bulldogs clobbered the Sydney Roosters 30-14 after the Roosters led 12-6 at half time. Meanwhile Wests Tigers were too good for the Manly Sea Eagles, the home side winning 24-18 in front a huge Leichhardt Oval crowd. The round wrapped up with the Sharks putting together a solid second half display to smash the Dragons by 30-12 after the scores were locked up 12-all at half time.All match results and details are listed below.LeagueUnlimited.com Player AwardsThe LeagueUnlimited.com Player Awards still has Cowboys five-eighth Johnathan Thurston leading on 16 points. But new pressure is emerging from Storm hooker Cameron Smith (14 points) and Sharks playmaker Adam Dykes (13 points). Smith and Dykes have leapfrogged Knights half back Andrew Johns who appears anchored on 12 points.Not far away are Greg Inglis (Storm) and Matt Orford (Sea Eagles) on 11 points while Matthew Bowen (Cowboys) and Danny Buderus (Knights) are on 10 points. ForwardsBen Kennedy (Sea Eagles) and Willie Mason (Bulldogs) are still well in contention on nine points.The full leader board is below.The Leagueunlimited.com players of the match are decided by our live score updaters and tallied here each week on Monday?s Expert League wrap.Want to be a live score updater? For further enquiries, email us.League Wrap: Round 9, 5 ? 7 May 2006MATCH RESULTS:Australia: 50Tries: Darren Lockyer(2), Nathan Hindmarsh, Mark Gasnier, Matt Cooper, Timana Tahu(2), Danny BuderusGoals: Ben Kennedy 1/1, Andrew Johns 8/9New Zealand: 12Tries: David Kidwell, Sonny Bill WilliamsGoals: Brent Webb 2/4Half time: Australia 14-6Venue: Suncorp StadiumCrowd: 44,191Referee: Ashley KleinParramatta Eels: 10Tries: Glenn Morrison, Matthew PetersenGoals: Brett Delaney 1/2Canberra Raiders: 30Tries: Craig Frawley, Lincoln Withers, Simon Woolford, Adrian Purtell (2)Goals: Clinton Schifcofske 5/5Half time: Raiders 18-4Venue: Parramatta StadiumCrowd: 10,146Referee: Jason RobinsonLeagueunlimited.com players of the match:3 - Jason Smith (Raiders)2 - Tom Learoyd-Lahrs (Raiders)1 - Lincoln Withers (Raiders)North Queensland Cowboys: 22Tries: Brenton Bowen, Aaron Payne, Johnathan Thurston, Shane TroncGoals: Johnathan Thurston 3/4Penrith Panthers: 6Tries: Shane RodneyGoals: Preston Campbell 1/1Half time: Cowboys 10-0Venue: Dairy Farmers StadiumCrowd: 16,808Referee: Ben CumminsLeagueunlimited.com players of the match:3 - Matthew Bowen (Cowboys)2 - Brenton Bowen (Cowboys)1 - Shane Rodney (Panthers)South Sydney Rabbitohs: 14Tries: David Fa'alogo, Luke MacDougall, Nathan MerrittGoals: Nathan Merritt 1/3Melbourne Storm: 38Tries: Michael Crocker, Chris Walker, Matt Geyer, Greg Inglis, Cameron Smith, Jeremy SmithGoals: Cameron Smith 7/8Half time: Storm 8-6Venue: Telstra StadiumCrowd: 8,083Referee: Gavin BadgerLeagueunlimited.com players of the match:3 - Cameron Smith (Storm)2 - Greg Inglis (Storm)1 - Luke MacDougall (Rabbitohs)Newcastle Knights: 32Tries: Todd Lowrie, David Seage, Steve Simpson, Brian Carney(2), Riley BrownGoals: Andrew Johns 4/7Brisbane Broncos: 30Tries: Darren Lockyer, Tame Tupou(2), Darius Boyd, Greg EastwoodGoals: Corey Parker 5/6Half time: Knights 20-14Venue: EnergyAustralia StadiumCrowd: 21,252Referee: Tony ArcherLeagueunlimited.com players of the match:3 - Danny Buderus (Knights)2 - Brian Carney (Knights)1 - Darren Lockyer (Broncos)Sydney Roosters: 14Tries: Nigel Plum, Amos RobertsGoals: Craig Fitzgibbon 3/3Canterbury Bulldogs: 30Tries: Tony Grimaldi, Willie Mason, Brad Morrin, Sonny Bill Williams, Daniel HoldsworthGoals: Hazem El Masri 5/5Half time: Roosters 12-6Venue: Aussie StadiumCrowd: 16,121Referee: Sean HampsteadLeagueunlimited.com players of the match:3 - Willie Mason (Bulldogs)2 - Roy Asotasi (Bulldogs)1 - Tony Grimaldi (Bulldogs)Wests Tigers: 24Tries: Dean Collis, Daniel Fitzhenry, Todd Payten, Scott PrinceGoals: Brett Hodgson 4/5Manly Sea Eagles: 18Tries: Steve Menzies, Michael Monaghan, Paul Stephenson, Steve BellGoals: Matt Orford 1/4Half time: Tigers 16-14Venue: Leichhardt OvalCrowd: 20,231Referee: Russell SmithLeagueunlimited.com players of the match:3 - Robert Farah (Tigers)2 - Steve Menzies (Sea Eagles)1 - Brett Hodgson (Tigers)Cronulla Sutherland Sharks: 30Tries: Luke Covell, David Simmons, Nigel Vagana, Lance Thompson, Darren AlbertGoals: Luke Covell 4/5, Lance Thompson 1/1St George Illawarra Dragons: 12Tries: Charles Leaneo(2)Goals: Aaron Gorrell 1/1, Ben Hornby 1/1Half time: 12 allVenue: Toyota ParkCrowd: 18,845Referee: Steven ClarkLeagueunlimited.com players of the match:3 - Adam Dykes (Sharks)2 - Paul Gallen (Sharks)1 - David Simmons (Sharks)NZ Warriors - ByeFULL DRAW, RESULTS & LINKS TO LIVE SCORES ? CLICK HERENext weekend?s matches:Fri 7:30 COUNTRY ORIGIN v CITY ORIGIN - DubboRound 9, 6-7 May 2006Sat 5:30 DRAGONS v WARRIORS - WIN StadiumSat 7:30 STORM v COWBOYS - Olympic Park Sat 7:30 BRONCOS v SEA EAGLES - Suncorp Stadium Sun 2:30 BULLDOGS v EELS - Telstra StadiumSun 3:00 TIGERS v KNIGHTS - Campbelltown StadiumSun 3:00 RAIDERS v SHARKS - Canberra StadiumSun 3:00 PANTHERS v RABBITOHS - CUA Stadium ROOSTERS v BYEFOR LATEST CENTREBET ODDSCLICK HERELEAGUEUNLIMITED.COM PLAYER AWARDS 2006LEADER BOARDThe Leagueunlimited.com players awards are decided by our live score updaters.Want to be a live score updater? For further enquiries, email us.16 pointsJohnathan Thurston (Cowboys)14 pointsCameron Smith (Storm)13 pointsAdam Dykes (Sharks)12 pointsAndrew Johns (Knights)11 pointsGreg Inglis (Storm), Matt Orford (Sea Eagles)10 pointsMatthew Bowen (Cowboys), Danny Buderus (Knights)9 pointsBen Kennedy (Sea Eagles), Willie Mason (Bulldogs)8 pointsHazem El Masri (Bulldogs), Mark Gasnier (Dragons), Clinton Schifcofske (Raiders)7 pointsSteve Bell (Sea Eagles), Karmichael Hunt (Broncos), Darren Lockyer (Broncos)6 pointsCraig Gower (Panthers), Mathew Head (Dragons), Nathan Hindmarsh (Eels), Corey Parker (Broncos), Ruben Wiki (Warriors)5 pointsRoy Asotasi (Bulldogs), Petero Civoniceva (Broncos), Robert Farah (Tigers), Nathan Fien (Warriors), Steve Menzies (Sea Eagles), Luke O'Donnell (Cowboys), Amos Roberts (Roosters), Jason Smith (Raiders), Alan Tongue (Raiders)4 pointsPreston Campbell (Panthers), Cooper Cronk (Storm), Aaron Gorrell (Dragons), Justin Hodges (Broncos), Brett Hodgson (Tigers), Mark O?Meley (Bulldogs), Steve Price (Warriors), Jamie Soward (Roosters), Rhys Wesser (Panthers), Paul Whatuira (Tigers)3 pointsLuke Covell (Sharks), Michael Crocker (Storm), Brett Finch (Roosters), Craig Fitzgibbon (Roosters), Adam MacDougall (Rabbitohs), Scott Prince (Tigers), Milton Thaiday (Knights), Lance Thompson (Sharks), Tame Tupou (Broncos), Lincoln Withers (Raiders),2 pointsLuke Bailey (Dragons), Brenton Bowen (Cowboys), George Carmont (Knights), Brian Carney (Knights), Peter Cusack (Rabbitohs), Daniel Fitzhenry (Tigers), Paul Gallen (Sharks), Awen Guttenbeil (Warriors), Ashley Harrison (Roosters), Tom Learoyd-Lahrs (Raiders), Josh Perry (Knights), Wade McKinnon (Eels), Anthony Minichiello (Roosters), Mark O'Meley (Bulldogs), Aaron Payne (Cowboys), Todd Polglase (Rabbitohs), Luke Priddis (Panthers), John Skandalis (Tigers), Matt Sing (Cowboys), Steven Southern (Cowboys), John Sutton (Rabbitohs), Brad Thorn (Broncos), Clinton Toopi (Warriors), Dean Young (Dragons)1 pointsDarren Albert (Sharks), Trent Barrett (Dragons), Paul Bowman (Cowboys), Nathan Cayless (Eels), Matt Cooper (Dragons), Michael Ennis (Broncos), Kurt Gidley (Knights), Matthew Gidley (Knights), Tony Grimaldi (Bulldogs), Lee Hookey (Panthers), Wairangi Koopu (Warriors), Luke MacDougall (Rabbitohs), Tony Martin (Warriors), Luke Patten (Bulldogs), Shane Rodney (Panthers), Brent Sherwin (Bulldogs), David Simmons (Sharks), Steve Simpson (Knights), Billy Slater (Storm), Tim Smith (Eels), Brett Stewart (Sea Eagles), Shane Tronc (Cowboys), Anthony Tupou (Roosters), Trent Waterhouse (Panthers), Simon Woolford (Raiders), Craig Wing (Roosters), William Zillman (Raiders)

Injury update: Roosters & Panthers

SYDNEY Roosters fullback Anthony Minichiello is facing back surgery which is expected to rule him out of this year's State of Origin series.

Weekend wrap

MELBOURNE backrower Michael Crocker will be hoping for some leniency from the NRL match review committee when it hands down its findings later today.

Engage Super League Rd 13 Review

HULL F.C. 28 (Yeaman 2, R Horne 2, Radford tries; Cook 4 goals) def. Bradford Bulls 12 (Pryce, Withers tries; I. Harris, B. Harris goals). Att: 12,180

Taylor Made For The Hard Yards

THE REPUTATION of David Taylor continues to grow, with the schoolboy front-rower helping Toowoomba to overcome arguably the most dominant pack in the competition and ending Redcliffe?s unbeaten start to the season.

City v Country sides named

BRAITH Anasta has been named at lock for City in the annual City Origin v Country Origin to be played next Friday night at Dubbo's Apex Oval.The former Bulldogs five-eighth and Kangaroo rep was recently overlooked for Australian selection and has been struggling find form in 2006.As the incumbent NSW five-eighth, Anasta is hoping to retain that position in the upcoming State of Origin series. Meanwhile Penrith's Craig Gower will be the City captain and has been named at five-eighth. Manly's Matt Orford has been named at halfback. Coach Tim Sheens believes Anasta's move to lock forward will better suit his style of play."We've got three quality players in the seven, six and 13 (jumpers). It's just a matter of finding spots for the three of them," he said."And what I'd like to see is him [Anasta] run a bit more, which I think from 13 he can do and from six he probably doesn't do enough."Seven new faces will be making their representative debut next Friday.Wests Tigers hooker Robbie Farah, Sharks lock Paul Gallen and Melbourne Storm forward Ryan Hoffman will be making their representative debut in the City side and will both start from the interchange bench.North Queensland Cowboys forward Mitchell Sargent and Newcastle Knights winger Anthony Quinn have been named for Country. Parramatta Eels utility Dean Widders and Melbourne forward Brett White have been named on the Country bench.Storm coach Craig Bellamy is the Country Origin coach.We've got a few new blokes who haven't played rep footy. That's always exciting," said Bellamy."We've got a few older guys as well, so we think it's a good mix."Canterbury Bulldogs backrower Andrew Ryan has been named Country captain. South Sydney back Adam MacDougall has also earned a place in the centres for Country. Under new Australian Rugby League guidelines, a number of players are unavailable including those who played in last Friday's Australia vs New Zealand Anzac Test match.TeamsCity: Brett Hodgson (Wests Tigers), Hazem El Masri (Bulldogs), Luke Lewis (Penrith), Matt Geyer (Melbourne) Eric Grothe (Parramatta), Craig Gower (Penrith, capt), Matt Orford (Manly), Braith Anasta (Sydney Roosters), Trent Waterhouse (Penrith), Lance Thompson (Cronulla), Joel Clinton (Penrith), Robbie Farah (Wests Tigers), Jason King (Manly). Interchange: Craig Wing (Sydney Roosters), John Skandalis (Wests Tigers), Paul Gallen (Cronulla), Ryan Hoffman (Melbourne).Country: Ben Hornby (St George Illawarra), Amos Roberts (Sydney Roosters), Chris Hicks (Manly), Adam MacDougall (South Sydney), Anthony Quinn (Newcastle), Kurt Gidley (Newcastle), Brett Finch (Sydney Roosters), Craig Fitzgibbon (Sydney Roosters), Andrew Ryan (Bulldogs, capt), Ben Creagh (St George Illawarra), Mitchell Sargent (North Queensland), Luke Priddis (Penrith), Brent Kite (Manly). Interchange: Preston Campbell (Penrith), Dean Widders (Parramatta), Clint Newton (Newcastle), Brett White (Melbourne).

West Tigers defeat Manly amidst referee controversy

TIGERS 24 vs Sea Eagles 18Round 9 - NRLLeichhardt Oval. Crowd: 20,231Referee: Russell SmithWests Tigers have held on to defeat the Manly Sea Eagles 24-18 amidst numerous controversial referee decisions at Leichhardt Oval today.In the 72nd minute, referee Russell Smith penalised Manly's Paul Stephenson for an incorrect play-the-ball despite the winger receiving interference from Tigers lock Jamaal Lolesi. The resulting penalty goal gave Wests Tigers a six point lead and the winning edge. It was one of several controversial referee decisions in a thrilling encounter, which saw a number of disallowed tries with breaches from both sides being missed by the referee and touch judges. After the match, Wests Tigers assistant coach Royce Simmonds was prompted to criticise the decisions in saying he "felt sorry" for the officials who he believed were "out of their depth" on a number of occasions.It was disappointing afternoon for Manly captain Ben Kennedy who was forced from the field with a calf strain in the 15th minute, Kennedy was backing up from Friday night's Test match. Half back Matt Orford then assumed the skipper role.Robbie Farah, wearing the No.7 jersey, played at hooker and looked in tremendous form in setting up two tries for Wests Tigers in the opening 10 minutes.With Australian rep Steve Menzies leading the way, Manly fought their way back into the match. Soon after, Manly's Michael Monaghan got the benefit of the doubt from video ref Chris Ward to take the score to 10-8 in favour of the Tigers.Manly's third try brought howls from the huge crowd when referee Smith missed a blatant knock-on in the lead-up to Steve Bell's four-pointer. The try and conversion gave Manly a 14-10 lead.But the Tigers struck back through Dean Collis and at half time the home side held a narrow 16-14 lead.In the 47th minute halfback Scott Prince brilliantly intercepted to score and put the Tigers further ahead. Menzies then setup play and replied through Stephenson who scored in the 56th minute to put the visitors back into the contest.With time running out, Hodgson kicked a penalty goal to put the Tigers six points in front.Wests Tigers: 24Tries: Dean Collis, Daniel Fitzhenry, Todd Payten, Scott PrinceGoals: Brett Hodgson 4/5Manly Sea Eagles: 18Tries: Steve Menzies, Michael Monaghan, Paul Stephenson, Steve BellGoals: Matt Orford 1/4By the clock:Plenty of players backing up from Friday's Test match but both teams pretty close to sides named. Kick off..!5 min: Still 0-0. Wests Tigers getting the early run of possession.6 min: TRY Wests TigersTodd Payten scores out wide for the Tigers. Brett Hodgson unable to convert Tigers 4-09 min: TRY Wests TigersDaniel Fitzhenry scores for Wests Tigers. Hodgson converts. Tigers 10-013 min: TRY Manly Sea EaglesSteve Menzies strikes back for Manly. Matt Orford unsuccessful with conversion attempt. Tigers 10-419 min: TRY Manly Sea EaglesMichael Monaghan scores for Manly. Conversion unsuccessful. Tigers 10-830 min: TRY Manly Sea EaglesSteve Bell continues his good form with a try as Manly hit the front. Conversion from Oford is successful. Sea Eagles 14-1038 min: TRY Wests TigersDean Collis scores to level the scores. Hodgson's conversion puts the home side back in front! Tigers 16-14Half time: Tigers 16-14A tight first half possession-wise with Wests Tigers getting early breaks only to see Manly get the better share as the half progressed. Too close to call.Second half underway...47 min: TRY Wests TigersScott Prince gets a try and Wests Tigers go further ahead. Hodgson converts. Tigers 22-1456 min: TRY Manly Sea EaglesPaul Stephenson scores to bring Manly back into contention. Orford unsuccessful with the conversion. Tigers 22-1860 min: Possible try to Benji Marshall for the Tigers - video ref checking...VERDICT: NO TRY.70 min: Still Wests Tigers in front 22-18.72 min: PENALTY GOAL Wests TigersHodsgon slots a penalty goal. Tigers 24-1878 min: NEWS Tigers have the ball as the clock wounds down. Crowd: 20,231Full tme: Wests Tigers win 24-18. A thriller with the goal kicking being the difference. -----------------------------------------Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:3 - Robert Farah (Tigers)2 - Steve Menzies (Sea Eagles)1 - Brett Hodgson (Tigers)-----------------------------------------

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