SUPER League strugglers Wigan have the opportunity to cast aside their relegation worries when they take on Salford in the fifth round of the Powergen Challenge Cup at The Willows on Friday night.
LEGS eleven rolls around amid some uncertainty as rep players are stood down over the weekend for the opening State of Origin match. This often proves to be a fatal cocktail for tipping aspirants as key players are removed from clubs and all of a sudden myriad possibilities come into calculations.I?ll be honest though, I?m not tipping real well at the moment and I was paid a visit last week by some guys in white coats after selecting the Bunnies for the second time this season. The Cowboys are a frustrating team as are the Raiders with consistency a thing of the past.Another Saturday meatloaf saw me carry 3 from 4 into Sunday where I carded a bogey and ended up three under par for the round. I?m sitting on 43/70 (61%) and it?s not as pretty as it could be.Panthers v EelsFriday night starts with an awkward clash out at the foot of the mountains between the Eels and the Panthers. This game is a tough one to pick with both sides missing regular first graders for a variety of reasons.The Panthers? linchpin Craig Gower is on rep duty for the Blues with Luke Lewis taking the field after Mark Gasnier was passed fit. He?ll form an unlikely halves combination with regular dynamo Preston Campbell but the backline isn?t what it used to be. The forwards shape up pretty well though with Clinton, Priddis, Pritchard and Puletua and it is a home game for the Mountain Men.Beware the sacked coach hoodoo however. With Brian Smith gone and caretaker coach Jason Taylor assuming the reigns at the club, the players generally turn around their underlying poor form for at least one week. But there are extenuating circumstances. Taylor isn?t a permanent solution and with Tim Smith and Mark Riddell in reggies, plus Hindmarsh, Tahu and Grothe out for the Blues, it?s not as cut and dry as you?d think.I?m going to stick with the theory and tip the Eels, but they will struggle to have any serious penetration in the comp going forward.Warriors v TigersSuper Saturday kicks off in Auckland as the Tigers visit the Warriors with a view to collecting two points after they were arguably robbed last week at home.The Tigers have lost Brett Hodgson to the NSW camp but that?s all at this stage with McDonnell deputising for the enigmatic custodian as he has done several times before. I thought the Tigers were pretty good last week and showed that they will still be a force come semi-finals time.The Warriors are pretty disappointing of late but each week they don?t lose by big margins. Against the Dragons they took an early lead only to get pegged back in a fairly ugly struggle and they will do it tough without captain and chief yard-maker Steve Price.I have to stick with form here and I?m tipping a Tigers victory.Sea Eagles v StormNext we head back across the Tasman to where two under-strength side go head to head at Fortress Brookvale.Manly are without the reliable Steve Bell plus prop Brent Kite and gun lock Ben Kennedy is still missing in action. Normally that would be enough reason to pick against the Sea Eagles but they are playing at home and they face a club who are fielding a side with a few holes.Melbourne have Mick Crocker and Billy Slater suspended. They?ve also lost their best player in Greg Inglis to QLD along with hooker Cameron Smith and let?s not forget big centre Matt King. All these players have been in form for the Storm and will prove vital in the teams chances this week.I?m backing Manly after a disappointing performance against Brisbane with Orford to send a message to the NSW selectors. Stewart is back as well and he goes pretty well.Knights v RaidersOur final Saturday stoush is up in Newcastle where the Knights play host to Canberra at what?s sure to be a packed EnergyAustralia Stadium. There?s only so many games Joey will play before he retires and if I was a Knights fan I?d be pretty keen to see them.The Raiders jump in the Firefly bus and head up the highway for a difficult game. With Buderus out and Simpson also on rep duty, two of the form Newcastle players are taken out of the equation. Still, Johns is there and they win most of their game with him whilst Carney, Smith, Perry and Davico will all go hard throughout. They won?t be easy-beats.The Raiders slumped to a shattering loss last week and once again reinforced themselves as one of my un-tippable sides. With a full squad and a decent bench you?d think they could get close and with last week?s trouncing at the hands of Cronulla still ringing in their ears, I?d expect them to at least show up. They have the type of game to aggravate Newcastle but it depends how well they do that.As a punter, the Knights are the only tip here, but it wouldn?t shock me if the Raiders jagged a win. Bulldogs v SharksSunday footy kicks off with the first of our each-way bets when the Sharks get their passports out and head up to Homebush for what?s sure to be cracking contest.Straight up you have to go for Canterbury; they?re at home, they?re a traditionally strong club and they disposed of the Eels last week despite only putting 2 penalty goals on the board in the second half. In short, they have the ability to score points and stay in a game regardless of their current circumstances. They do, however, have Willie Mason, Mark O?Meley, Nate Myles and captain Andrew Ryan missing from the team thanks to the Blues. This could be a real issue.The Sharks have been in form lately though and it?s hard to ignore. They travelled to Canberra last week and gave it to the Raiders just for something to do. Kimmorley is on the bench and I haven?t spoken to anyone who thinks that?s actually a bonus given their form of late. And with Villa the Gorilla lining up, their team looks strong.Whilst Cronulla has a mixed record at Telstra Stadium, with Lance Thompson and Paul Gallen playing exceptionally well lately, I have my doubts over whether they can keep it up and I expect the Bulldogs to take the chocolates here. Both benches are lacking in any real impact and I expect Sonny Bill and Hazem to enjoy the return of Brent Sherwin.Roosters v RabbitohsThe final game of the round pits arch rivals Easts and Souths in a good old-fashioned tussle at the Sydney Football Stadium. I?ve picked Souths twice this year for zero return and after last week I?ve vowed to never take them again. But it?s not stopping me from thinking they can win.The Bunnies have a great back line and some tradesman-like forwards who will cart it up all day long. And they always lift against the Roosters as a sign of their eternal hatred for the Bondi Junction club. I even hope they win, but I?m just not willing to bet they will anymore.Easts are without Zoolander, who was plucked from some diabolical form to represent the Blues at pivot, and the versatile Craig Wing who they?ll probably miss more. Strange that Jamie Soward isn?t getting a run this week as well.Again, it wouldn?t surprise me to see the Bunnies jag a win and I hope they do for themselves more than anything, but I can?t give this one away again and I?m sticking with the Roosters as they still have some good personnel in the team.The Cowboys, Broncos and Dragons have the bye this week. Whilst Brisbane and North Queensland have contributed in a large way, the Dragons find themselves in a bit of a lucky situation this week. Only one player is on duty for the Blues and they should be pretty fresh to take on Knights next week. They have been decimated around this time of the season in year?s gone bye though, so it?s probably a bit of payback.
ST George Illawarra Dragons centre Matt Cooper has been ruled out of the NSW Blues lineup for next Wednesday's State of Origin encounter. Parramatta Eels winger Eric Grothe has been confirmed as his replacement with Eels team mate Timana Tahu shifting to the centres.Cooper had been training lightly with the Blues after suffering a hamstring strain in last weekend's Dragons vs Warriors clash. But he was unable to recover from a fitness test yesterday. Meanwhile Dragons centre Mark Gasnier will play in Wednesday night's opening State of Origin match after passing a fitness test on his injured hip this afternoon. Gasnier was also recovering from a virus that prevented him from training on Tuesday.
PREVIEW: Round 10 of the 2006 Queensland Wizard CupBURLEIGH v TWEED HEADSPizzey Park, Saturday May 20, 2.00pm *Live on ABC TVReferee: Michael WiseTHE STORY: Burleigh has sprung a surprise for the Gold Coast derby by naming captain Ryan Gundry at halfback instead of hooker. Tweed?s interchange hooker Cory Bond has been suspended for a month for a Grade 2 dangerous throw.THE STAT: A total of 68 players in the Wizard Cup come from Gold Coast or Northern Rivers junior clubs, a phenomenal show of strength for the region. Latest league statistics also show Gold Coast and Ipswich competitions as the fastest growing in the state.THE STAR: Reggie Cressbrook will play his 100th Wizard Cup game for Burleigh, having also featured for Townsville and Ipswich. Meanwhile, Dean Allen captained Burleigh in the 2003 grand final against Redcliffe and was a long-time campaigner for the Bears. He can expect plenty of attention from former teammates when he turns out for the Seagulls. A fiery pre-season trial between the clubs saw Tweed win 16-10. CHANGES: BURLEIGH ? In: Matt Doeg, Trent Leis. Out: Clay Harris, Phil Ramage. TWEED HEADS ? In: Ryan Milligan, Matt Pow. Out: Cory Bond, Nathan Small.CHARGES: TWEED HEADS ? Cory Bond (Grade 2 Dangerous Throw + 93 carry-overs, Early Plea, 4wks + 9pts).Burleigh Bears Players: 1. Reggie CRESSBROOK 2. Trent PURDON 3. Chris BARNES 4. Jordan ATKINS 5. Dimitri PELO 6. Adam HAYDEN 7. Ryan GUNDRY ?13. Robert APANUI12. Adam HUTCHISON11. Martin GRIESE10. Shane O'FLANAGAN 9. Matt DOEG 8. Brett O'FARRELLInterchange: 14. Josh BLATCH15. James GRIFFITHS16. Trent LEIS17. Marty MITCHELLCoach: Jimmy LENIHAN Tweed Heads Players: 1. Ryan MILLIGAN 2. Scott ELLA 3. Jay McDERMOTT 4. Josh VAUGHAN 5. Nat BARNES 6. Brad DAVIS 7. Tim MACCAN13. Matt POW12. Tom PRICHARD11. Eddie HARRISON10. Roy FRIEND 9. Matt KING (c) 8. Matt AUSTINInterchange: 14. Jeff MOATE15. Selasi BERDIE16. Dean ALLEN17. James WOODCoach: Steve MURPHYIPSWICH v CENTRALQLD Group Stadium, Saturday May 20, 6.15pm.Referee: Justin EastwoodTHE STORY: A huge day of football at Ipswich will see games played from 9.30am to 9.30pm, with the Ipswich schoolboy final, Ipswich v Brisbane Second Division, the Jets v Comets and a Legends of League extravaganza. Beaconsfield Miner Brant Webb has yet to decide whether he will accept an invitation to play for Queensland alongside Allan Langer. John Hopoate will play for New South Wales.THE STAT: Last year a crowd of 8000 showed up to watch the Wizard Cup on Legends of League night. However the Jets lost a narrow battle with Tweed Heads 24-22. This year?s clash with Central should be a cracker, with only one point separating them on the table. THE STAR: Joe Sang-Yum has the potential to become a cult figure for the Jets, having earned QANTAS Player of the Year votes in his debut last week. Colts star Mananui Te Heu Heu will also play just his second game of State League.CHANGES: IPSWICH- In: Travis Baker. Out: Danny Coburn. CENTRAL ? In: Odell Manuel. Out: Wade Rothery.CHARGES: IPSWICH ? Danny Coburn (Grade 1 Dangerous Throw + 93 carry-overs, Early Plea, 1wk + 86pts)Ipswich Jets Players: 1. Aaron WERTH 2. Ben McFADGEAN 3. Geoff CHALK 4. Chris SCANLAN 5. Jarrod BIGGS 6. Brendon MARSHALL 7. Ricky BIRD13. Travis BAKER12. Joel REITHMULLER11. Matthew McPHEE10. Isaak AH MAU 9. Chris PORTER 8. Matthew CAMERONInterchange: 14. Mananui TE HEU HEU15. Joe SANG-YUM16. Lachlan SIPPEL17. Andy POYNTERCoach: Trveor GILLMEISTER Central Comets Players: 1. Jimmy McCONACHY 2. Dallas WILLIAMS 3. Anthony TOBY 4. Odell MANUEL 5. McConkie TAUASA 6. Scott PORTER 7. Denny LAMBERT13. Mick ESDALE12. Tyrone HAYNES11. Andrew DALE10. Marty OBORN 9. Herewini RANGI 8. Aaron SWEENEYInterchange: 14. Kristian MENE15. Mark SINIULA16. Wayne BARNETT17. Jade WOGANDCoach: Matt PARISH REDCLIFFE v NORTH QUEENSLANDDolphin Oval, Sunday May 21, 3.00pm.Referee: Phil HainesTHE STORY: The most anticipated battle of the year, with the Dolphins and Young Guns tied on top of the ladder. Redcliffe has lost hooker Michael Roberts with an elbow injury, while half Marty Turner (foot, hamstring) is in doubt. North Queensland is without Scott Bolton, away on Queensland Under 19 duty.THE STAT: Rory Bromley is the only member of last year?s premiership-winning Young Guns side to be playing for another Wizard Cup club this year. He was forced to earn his stripes in FOGS Cup for the Dolphins, but is now holding down a wing spot in A Grade.THE STAR: Josh Hannay had his best game of the year for North Queensland against Burleigh last weekend. He and Redcliffe?s Greg Bourke are leading the race to become the competition?s highest point-scorer in 2006. Bourke has 112 points and Hannay has 84 so far.CHANGES: REDCLIFFE ? In: Richie Russell. Out: Michael Roberts NORTH QUEENSLAND ? In: Shane Muspratt, Robert Tanielu, Greg Byrnes, Daniel Strickland. Out: Scott Smith, Scott Bolton, Sam Faust, Dean Limpus.CHARGES: None.Redcliffe Dolphins Players: 1. Alwyn SIMPSON 2. Kaine MANIHERA 3. Greg BOURKE 4. Nick EMMETT 5. Rory BROMLEY 6. Chris FOX 7. Marty TURNER13. Gerard PARLE12. Danny BURKE11. Grant FLUGGE10. Pat GARDNER 9. Shannon FISH 8. Troy LINDSAY (c)Interchange: 14. Mark SHIPWAY15. Damian JENTZ16. Richie RUSSELL17. Adam STARRCoach: Anthony GRIFFIN North Qld Young GunsPlayers: 1. Jason BARSLEY 2. Neil SWEENEY 3. Josh HANNAY 4. Mark HENRY 5. Jamie FRIZZO 6. Shane MUSPRATT 7. Brett FIRMAN13. Jacob LILLYMAN12. Mark DALLE CORT11. Daniel STRICKLAND (c)10. Ray CASHMERE 9. Clint AMOS 8. Robert TANIELUInterchange: 14. Brent McCONNELL15. James ANDERSEN16. Greg BYRNES17. Ben LOWECoach: Mick CRAWLEY WYNNUM MANLY v SOUTHS LOGANBMD Kougari Oval, Sunday May 21, 3.00pmReferee: Clayton SharpeTHE STORY: Bay FM 100.3 will broadcast the ?Battle of the Birds? live from BMD Kougari Oval, with previews and interviews kicking off at 1pm. The station can be received throughout the Gold Coast, greater Brisbane region and the Sunshine Coast, meaning Maroons coach and Souths Logan legend Mal Meninga may be able to listen in on his beloved Maggies during Origin camp.THE STAT: The Magpies have only ever beaten Wynnum Manly twice at Kougari since the Wizard Cup began. Their last success at the ground was way back in 1999.THE STAR: Former Queensland Residents player Matt Ross finds himself back in the Wizard Cup FOR Wynnum after several weeks in the FOGS Cup. Luckless Brian Jellick is out for a month with a broken hand. CHANGES: WYNNUM MANLY ? In: Bill Wyatt, Matt Ross. Out: Brian Jellick, Jimmy O?Brien.SOUTHS LOGAN ? In: Derek Fletcher, Phil Dennis, Cameron Joyce. Out: John Andrews, James Pritchard, Ashley Lanfranchi.CHARGES: WYNNUM MANLY ? Brian Jellick (Grade 1 Dangerous Throw, Early Plea, 0wks + 93pts), Gary Winter (Grade 1 Dangerous Throw, Early Plea, 0wks + 93pts).Wynnum Manly Seagulls Players: 1. Bill WYATT 2. Rodney BARBA 3. Simon PHILLIPS 4. Steve IRWIN 5. Tangi ROPATI 6. Jimmy AHMAT (c) 7. Daniel SORBELLO13. John BRUCE12. Gary WINTER11. Darren BAIN10. Mark LEAFA 9. Albert TALIPEAU 8. Fili SOFAInterchange: 14. Josh ROVELLI15. Matt ROSS16. Luke DALZIEL-DON17. Kerry SMITHCoach: Neil WHARTON Souths Logan MagpiesPlayers: 1. Quentin LAULU TOGAGAE 2. Tyrone COPPEDGE 3. Michael ANSCHAU 4. Damian WILLIS 5. Derek FLETCHER 6. Brandon COSTIN 7. Phil DENNIS13. Josh ESSEX12. Tim CANNARD11. Angus MARTIN10. Josh GRIFFITH 9. Cameron JOYCE 8. Stanley FAUInterchange: 14. Geno COSTIN15. Jason MITCHELL16. Tanu WULF17. Chris McGURKCoach: Mark GLIDDON NORTHS v TOOWOOMBABishop Park, Sunday May 21, 3.00pmReferee: Justin DavisTHE STORY: Norths coach Wayne Treleaven has been left to trawl the lower grades with his side beset by injuries and junior representative duties. The Devils are also on a four-game losing streak and come up against a Toowoomba side that boasts Neville Costigan, Brett Seymour and Greg Eastwood. Asked about the challenge he faced, typically defiant Treleaven said, somewhat tongue-in-cheek: ?We?ll smash them?.THE STAT: Colin Wilkie and Steve Franciscus are the latest casualties for Norths. They both have knee cartilage trouble and are expected to be sidelined for lengthy periods. The Devils have endured knee reconstructions to six of their players in a freakish year. THE STAR: Dead-eye kicker Todd Parnell will debut at fullback for Toowoomba in place of Nick Parfitt (hamstring).CHANGES: NORTHS ? In: Josh Tatupu, Nathan Turner, Sika Manu, Daniel Isaac. Out: Will Chambers, Steve Franciscus, Jackson Nicolau, Smith Samau. TOOWOOMBA ? In: Todd Parnell, Greg Eastwood, Neville Costigan, Brett Seymour, Chris Muckert, Nick Kenny. Out: Nick Parfitt, Lachlan Morgan, Shane Eastwood, Joel Moon, Joe Clarke, Denan Kemp.CHARGES: NoneNorths Devils Players: 1. Chad LEACH 2. Aaron MORGAN 3. Daniel ISAAC 4. Josh TATUPU 5. Nathan TURNER 6. Anthony BOYD (c) 7. Isaac KAUFMANN13. Trent HENRICK12. Sika MANU11. Aaron BULOW10. Willie SCANLON 9. Brenton STONIER 8. Scott ANDERSONInterchange: 14. Troy HANSEN15. Michael LAMBERT16. Brendan AFITU17. Cody HERRINGTONCoach: Wayne TRELEAVEN Toowoomba ClydesdalesPlayers: 1. Todd PARNELL 2. Gideon MZEMBE 3. Jamie SIMPSON 4. Jason MOON 5. Leon BOTT 6. Brett SEYMOUR 7. Ben GREEN13. Greg EASTWOOD12. Fraser ANDERSON11. Neville COSTIGAN10. Chris MUCKERT 9. John TE REO 8. Nick KENNYInterchange: 14. Lynden MURPHY15. Ben VAEAU16. Derricke WATKINS17. Michael GREENCoach: Mark GEEEASTS ? ByeCHARGES: Scott Sipple (Grade 1 Reckless High Tackle, Downgrade + Early Plea, 0wks +56pts).
EACH week our trusted statistician Warrick Nicolson combs every game of NRL and compiles an assessment on each player based off a unique ranking system called the League Player Ratings. Normally you?d only get this if you?ve subscribed to Warrick?s Almanac, but this week we?ve decided to give away the LPR for the recent Anzac Test Match.Please click here: http://nsc.leagueunlimited.com/download/AnzacLPR.pdfWant the LPR for EVERY NRL Player each week?Get a subscription today: The NSC Almanac and Weekly League Player Ratings are available via League Unlimited for a one off purchase of $22 AUD.Included in the subscription you get the 2006 Almanac featuring the definitive guide to over 700 NRL players from all 15 NRL Clubs. And each week you will receive NSC Exclusive League Player Ratings of the 238 individual performances from each Round. Follow your favourite team and your favourite players throughout 2006.NSC League Player Ratings are the most comprehensive individual player ratings available on the internet ? delivered straight to your Inbox. You can order your subscription here: http://www.leagueunlimited.com/static/nsc.asp If you subscribe late don?t worry you won?t miss out as all preceding rounds will be sent to you with your first copy of LPR.
NSW centre Mark Gasnier will play in Wednesday night's opening State of Origin match after passing a fitness test on his injured hip this afternoon.
THE fifth Round of the 2006 Powergen Challenge Cup takes place this weekend. Superleague and National League One competitions have the weekend off while the final 16 teams battle for places in the Quarter Finals of this prestigous knock-out cup competition.
LOCAL Councillors voice support for Jubilee St.George Councillors have voiced their concern over the prospect of the Dragons shifting their round 24 St.George heritage match against the Wests Tigers from OKI Jubilee Stadium to the SCG.
ROUND 10 provided some exciting results and hard to pick matches. With the rep season in full swing several players put their hands up for the much coveted LU jersey. There are a few surprises and then there?s the regular performers who turn up each week and continue to play well. And there was no shortage of Merkin?s in the Round 10 League Unlimited Team of the Week.
SENIOR prop Petero Civoniceva says Queensland can overcome its abysmal Telstra Stadium record by feeding off the big Sydney crowd next Wednesday night. Civoniceva says he and fellow veteran front-rower Steve Price will have to lead the way for a forward pack that includes five rookies - two of them Nate Myles and Sam Thaiday - coming off the bench.
FORMER Kangaroo forward Richard Villasanti says he is ready to revive his NRL career after what he describes as two years in the wilderness at the New Zealand Warriors. Villasanti will make his Cronulla debut this weekend after being named to start on the bench for Sunday's clash against the Bulldogs at Telstra Stadium.
WIGAN have signed Cronulla and Australian Test Centre Phil Bailey on a three-year contract.
NSW centre Mark Gasnier says a decision on whether he will play in next week's opening State Of Origin match will be made within the next 24-hours.
ERIC Grothe has been called into the NSW side to replace injured centre Matt Cooper for the opening State of Origin rugby league game at Telstra Stadium next Wednesday.St George Illawarra star Cooper has been ruled out after failing to recover from a fitness test at training yesterday. Grothe will start on the wing with his Parramatta team mate Timana Tahu shifting to the centres.Cooper's Dragons team mate Mark Gasnier will undertake a fitness assessment on his hip today after recovering from a virus that prevented him from training yesterday.
ERIC Grothe has been called into the NSW side to replace injured centre Matt Cooper for the opening State of Origin rugby league game at Telstra Stadium next Wednesday.