Eels mourn Billy Rayner

THE Parramatta National Rugby League Club has been deeply saddened by the passing of Club great Billy Rayner.He was 73.During his playing career, Billy played 203 First Grade games for Parramatta, making his First Grade debut in 1956.Billy was a Kangaroo, touring England and France with the 1960 World Cup team.He was granted life membership of the Parramatta District Rugby League Club in 1967 and of Parramatta Leagues Club in 1988. He was inducted into the Parramatta Eels Hall of Fame in 2004. He served as patron of the Parramatta Leagues Club until his passing, and he was made a Life Member of the New South Wales Rugby League in 1996."We've lost a great man and a great mate. His contribution to the Parramatta Club can never be under-estimated. I'm just really sad and my sympathies are with Marie and the family," Parramatta Eels Chairman Alan Overton said."It is a great loss to the Club. Billy had 50 years of continuous service since he arrived from Yass in 1956. He was a Parramatta man for 50 years, and was well liked and respected by everyone in Rugby League," Parramatta Eels Chief Executive Denis Fitzgerald said."The game has lost one of its true legends with the passing of Billy Rayner. He was an extraordinary character and to have 50 years service with one Club is quite remarkable," National Rugby League Chief Executive David Gallop said.As a mark of respect, Parramatta players will wear black armbands in Sunday's match against the Wests Tigers, and a moments silence will be observed prior to kick-off.Funeral details will be advised once confirmed.

Warriors put the bite on the NRL

ALTHOUGHTHE Warriors insist they are not begging for money from the NRL, they are after a more level playing field.

Thank God Its Thaiday

IN early 2005 the Newcastle Knights announced the signing of Milton Thaiday to a two year deal. Rugby fans were aware of who Milton was, and those that follow the tabloids were also aware of his long battle against alcohol. Thaiday, a former NSW Waratah star, had quit Union after a long battle with alcohol abuse.

Saturday, The Eighth Of July

I woke up today anticipating a huge night of fun and football. There were two games I was taking a specific interest in, Canberra versus Penrith, and the Knights playing the Eels. The All Blacks were also playing, but they were only of a casual interest to me.

Defining The Royal Flush Of Rugby League

Hear The Lonesome Train Whistle Blow

SOME will ask what has a train whistle to do with football?

My Top 11 Reasons Why I Love Rugby League

IN my last post I gave my top eleven things that annoyed me about Rugby League. Not to be seen as a pessimistic sourpuss, in this post I decided to write about all the things I enjoy and love most about this game. And yes there are eleven of them again.

Broncos will test us: Scott

NORTH Queensland prop Matthew Scott says Saturday night's local derby against Brisbane at Dairy Farmers Stadium will be a massive test for the Cowboys forwards.

Fitzgibbon backs Finch

SYDNEY Roosters captain Craig Fitzgibbon has gone into bat for Brett Finch following revelations the utility is unwanted at the NRL club next season.

Overnight wrap: Murray, Finch, Timmins

UNDER-FIRE North Queensland coach Graham Murray has lashed out at the media after a two month losing streak with the Cowboys and the New South Wales State of Origin side.Murray yesterday ordered journalists and cameramen to turn off their equipment before claiming he had been the victim of what he called a "cook-up". The veteran coach says, in future, he won't be responding to any questions about off-field issues.North Queensland has been in damage control after club officials were forced to defend Paul Bowman's involvement in a pub brawl and, last week, release a statement denying rumours of an alleged in-house sex scandal.Murray has not tasted victory as a coach since NSW beat Queensland in the series-opening State of Origin game on May 24. It comes amid his decision to axe five players in response to his side's one win from its last eight matches.Ty Williams, Brent McConnell, Ray Cashmere, Mitchell Sargent and Justin Smith have all been demoted for the match against Brisbane in Townsville on Saturday while former Queensland Origin centre Paul Bowman will play lock.Elsewhere, Parramatta is firming as Brett Finch's destination for the next NRL season after his manager confirmed yesterday the Sydney Roosters are trying to offload him.Despite being contracted for 2007 and constant denials from the Roosters, Finch has fallen out of favour at the club and is unlikely to be there next season. His manager Steve Gillis says Finch has permission to talk to other clubs provided he gets back to the Roosters with any offer he receives.Parramatta are looking for a five-eighth following the loss of John Morris to Wests Tigers, while Brisbane are also believed to be interested in the former NSW Origin representative.Meanwhile, Castleford has signed former Australian international Shaun Timmins on a two-year contract from the St George Illawarra Dragons.The 29-year-old utility player, who has made more than 200 appearances in Australia's National Rugby League, will join the Tigers for the start of the 2007 season. Castleford coach Terry Matterson says Timmins is a big signing for the club and he is looking forward to working with him.

Ding Dong The Witch is Dead

DING dong the witch is dead! After 22 years and a truly bizarre sequence of events at fulltime, Wynnum Manly has finally beaten Redcliffe at Dolphin Oval.

Round 20 Teams and Fixtures

FRIDAY, 21st July 2006

Around the Ground with Rosso

MICHAEL Crocker returns for the Melbourne Storm on Friday Night when they take on the Cronulla Sharks at Olympic Park. It will be his first appearance since being suspended against South Sydney in Round Nine at Telstra Stadium.

Referee's report - Round 20

GAVIN Badger, a product of the South Sydney District, makes his long awaited return to NRL Refereeing this weekend when he will control the Newcastle and South Sydney clash at Energy Australia Stadium in Newcastle. This will be Gavin?s first NRL fixture since Round 16 where he was in the middle when New Zealand obliviated Souths 66-0 in record fashion. Badger replaces young Ben Cummins, who has been dropped to running as a touch judge on Friday Night, because of not using the video referee when needed over the past couple of weeks.Shayne Hayne also returns to the middle this weekend after a week off when he will control the all important clash between the Tigers and Eels. Hayne, who was in charge of the Bulldogs? golden point victory of the Warriors, will be looking to continue his good form with the whistle as we lead in to the time when referees push for Semi Final positions.Jarred Maxwell has been rewarded for a good performance when in charge of the Rabbitohs and Sea Eagles fixture on Saturday night, and will be returning to Telstra Stadium to be in charge of the always fiery Bulldogs-Roosters encounter.Steve Clark will once again take the number one referee position in to round 20 when he will referee Friday night footy down in Melbourne between the Storm and the Sharks. Clark, who had a sound game when in charge of the Bulldogs-Dragons match, is the front runner to replace retired Tim Mander as the Grand Final referee.One of the men closely behind Clark in the race for the Grand Final position, Paul Simpkins, will be the man with the whistle when the Dragons travel down to the Nation?s Capital, to take on the Canberra Raiders. Simpkins, who is a member of the South Sydney District, was the frontrunner for the Grand Final last year before wasting it on a bad call in the Storm v Cowboys Semi Final.Tony Archer will be in charge of the all Queensland fixture when the Cowboys are at home to the Broncos this Saturday night in Townsville. Archer, who refereed his first finals match last year in Wollongong between the Dragons and Sharks, will be looking to have a sound game to improve his chances of an appearance once again in the finals.Jason Robinson, who was a junior referee in the Penrith District, will travel to Brookvale Oval on Sunday afternoon, where he will be the man in the middle for Manly?s first home match in three weeks when they take on the Penrith Panthers. Robinson has held his position for the last three weeks in First Grade although talented referees Tony De Las Heras and Gavin Badger have been pushing for his spot. Former State of Origin referee Sean Hampstead will have a week off this weekend after crossing the Tasman for the Warriors-Eels match. Hampstead who did not appear in the Finals last year, will be looking to repeat his good form of the first half of the season, which earned himself an Origin appearance.

Aus v GB Uni Test Preview

AUSTRALIA is preparing itself for a tough final Test against Great Britain in Brisbane on Wednesday night, following close results in the opening matches of the international Universities series.Although the Aussies have a 2-0 advantage, they will head into the the third encounter at Kev McKell Oval, Arana Hills expecting a hard-fought encounter.The First Test in Sydney last Wednesday brought a 24-16 win to the home side, while the Second Test in Coffs Harbour on Saturday also saw the green-and-gold triumph with a 26-18 victory.Kick-off in the Third Test is at 7pm. Kev McKell Oval can be accessed via Dawson Parade (off Samford Rd) and is the home ground of the Western Districts Panthers and Arana Hills Junior Rugby League.In recent years University Rugby League has provided a number of players who have gone on to impact at higher levels including Nick Kenny (Brisbane Broncos/Toowoomba Clydesdales), Jordan Atkins (Burleigh Bears), Gerard Parle (Redcliffe Dolphins) and Kev Stephensen (Easts Tigers).Following the Third Test, Great Britain will remain in the Sunshine State to play Queensland Tertiaries on Saturday, July 22 at Davis park. Kick-off is at 2pm.On Saturday, July 29 Queensland will play New Souths Wales, also at Davies Park with a 2pm kick-off.Wednesday July 19Australian Universities v Great Britain Universities, Kev McKell Oval, Arana Hills. Kick-off 7pm.Saturday July 22Queensland Tertiary v Great Britain Universities, Davies Park, West End. Kick-off 2pm.Saturday July 29Queensland Tertiary v New South Wales Tertiary, Davies Park, West End. Kick-off 2pm.

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