WE?VE scoured every game this week to come up with another robust mob that?s ready to run out bearing the standards of League Unlimited. The funny thing about the Round 4 League Unlimited Team of the Week is the number of senior players it contains. It adds up though, with most games this round tighter than Gary Larson?s vocal chords.
HERE?S what?s in store for this month?s feature stories in Rugby League Review:Who has the best Junior Nursery in the comp?Rugby League Review researched all the 375 players that are part of the 25-man squad for every one of the 25 NRL clubs, determining which club leads the way with the highest number of players from any Sydney Junior League playing in the elite competition.Who is the most successful side in the NRL?Rugby League Review assessed the winning performance ratio?s of all clubs since 1998 and can definitively answer the question of which club has been the most successful during that period of time.Canberra duo have the longest memoriesJason Smith and Jason Croker are the longest serving players still running around in the 2006 NRL premiership.Rugby League Review does a feature story on these two great veterans.World Cup 2008The road to the 2008 World Cup will commence later this month when Holland, Russia, Serbia and Georgia aim to win the European World Cup qualifying rounds.The top two sides will advance to the next stage where they will meet Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Lebanon. Those matches will commence in October 2006. Rugby League Review looks at all four sides, how they have developed and what is in store for them. The April issue of RUGBY LEAGUE REVIEW will be out on Tuesday, April 4 at all good newsagents for $3.50.The best way to guarantee your copy is to take out a subscription. It costs $35 for 10 issues or $65 for 20 issues to have RUGBY LEAGUE REVIEW sent out to your address. Check out www.rugbyleaguereview.com for more details.
THE much anticipated NRL return of Bulldogs superstar Sonny Bill Williams is likely to be delayed another week, with coach Steve Folkes unwilling to take any risks with the injury-prone Kiwi international.
MELBOURNE Storm five-eighth Scott Hill is facing at least a three-match ban for making contact with referee Jason Robinson during Sunday's NRL loss to Wests Tigers. And team mate Billy Slater is facing up to seven weeks on the sidelines after receiving a grade-five kicking charge for lashing out against Tigers forward John Skandalis during a tackle at Leichhardt Oval.
WITH Wembley not available, Twickenham will host this year?s Powergen Challenge Cup in August. This weekend the fourth round got underway with the 12 Super League clubs entering the fray. Widnes Vikings, led by influential ex-Cronulla Sharks fullback David Peachey produced the shock of the round when they disposed of the Castleford Tigers. Elsewhere Bradford Bulls overcame holders Hull FC at a muddy Odsal and the Wigan Warriors came back from 22-6 down to beat fellow strugglers Wakefield Wildcats at a wet Belle Vue. Leeds Rhinos disposed of a gritty Leigh Centurions at The Coliseum on a quagmire of a pitch.The rest of Super League big guns all made their way through to Tuesday night?s draw, which could possibly turn up some very interesting ties.Results:Barrow 40 v Oldham 8Batley 16 v Whitehaven 28Bradford 23 v Hull FC 12Featherstone 44 v Keighley 10Halifax 8 v Huddersfield 40Harlequins RL 48 v Toulouse 6Hunslet 0 v Hull KR 22Leigh 12 v Leeds 36Les Catalans 66 v Thornhill 0Rochdale 32 v Celtic Crusaders 8St Helens 56 v Doncaster 6Salford 32 v Dewsbury 4Swinton 18 v York 20Wakefield 22 v Wigan 32Warrington 52 v London Skolars 0Widnes 14 v Castleford 4
LAST year?s grand finalists the Cowboys are outright competition leaders after coming back to defeat the Eels 26-18 at Parramatta Stadium on Friday night. Five-eighth Johnathan Thurston again led the way as the North Queenslanders remain undefeated in season 2006.In a round of close score lines, the Sharks got their first win of the year on Saturday when they downed the hapless Rabbitohs 24-22. Even closer were the Raiders who came back in extra time to pip the Panthers 21-20. Saturday night also saw Manly looking impressive when they overcame the Roosters 30-22 at Brookvale.On Sunday the reigning premiers Wests Tigers held out the Melbourne Storm to post a narrow 30-28 victory. Meanwhile a young St George Illawarra Dragons pack got the better of Brisbane to down the Broncos 26-12 in Wollongong.But the Monday?s Expert pick of the round goes to the New Zealand Warriors who travelled across the Tasman with the hope of stopping Newcastle?s winning run and advancing to zero points on the competition ladder. With no Andrew Johns to worry about, Warriors halfback Nathan Fien directed his troops across the park to defeat the second-placed Knights 26-22. Newcastle grabbed an early 10-0 lead but fell away to trail 14-10 at half time, the Warriors eventually coming out on top to win.The big news for the Warriors is they have now wiped the slate clean on the competition ladder. After starting on -4 points, the New Zealand side have posted two wins. Although still in last position, the NZ lads look to have plenty of victories left in them for the season ahead.All match results and details are listed below.After four rounds, the LeagueUnlimited.com Player Awards sees Cowboys five-eighth Johnathan Thurston holding outright lead on 12 points, three points ahead of Newcastle halfback Andrew Johns and four points ahead of St George Illawarra centre Mark Gasnier.Not far away on six points are Craig Gower (Panthers), Darren Lockyer (Broncos), Clinton Schifcofske (Raiders) and Cameron Smith (Storm). Meanwhile Adam Dykes (Sharks) and Amos Roberts (Roosters) are well in contention on five 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.League Wrap: Round 4, 31 March ? 2 April 2006MATCH RESULTS:Parramatta Eels: 18Tries: Eric Grothe, Wade McKinnon (2)Goals: Mark Riddell 2/3, Brett Delaney 1/1North Queensland Cowboys: 26Tries: David Fauiumu, Matthew Scott, Matt Sing (2)Goals: Johnathan Thurston 5/6Half time: Eels 14-6Venue: Parramatta StadiumCrowd: 15,131Referee: Paul SimpkinsLeagueunlimited.com players of the match:3 - Johnathan Thurston (Cowboys)2 - Matt Sing (Cowboys)1 - Tim Smith (Eels)Cronulla Sutherland Sharks: 24Tries: Phil Bailey, Beau Scott, Lance Thompson, Luke Douglas, Tevita LatuGoals: Luke Covell 2/5South Sydney Rabbitohs: 22Tries: Todd Polglase, John Sutton, Nathan Merritt, Paul MellorGoals: Joe Williams 2/2, Nathan Merritt 1/2Half time: Sharks 20-6Venue: Toyota ParkCrowd: 12,274Referee: Shayne HayneLeagueunlimited.com players of the match:3 - Adam Dykes (Sharks)2 - Todd Polglase (Rabbitohs)1 - John Sutton (Rabbitohs)Manly Sea Eagles: 30Tries: Travis Burns, Brett Stewart, Matt Orford, Steve Matai, Steve BellGoals: Matt Orford 5/5Sydney Roosters: 22Tries: Anthony Minichiello, Adrian Morley, Jamie SowardGoals: Craig Fitzgibbon 3/3, Amos Roberts 2/2Half time: Roosters 20-12Venue: Brookvale OvalCrowd: 17,117Referee: Tony ArcherLeagueunlimited.com players of the match:3 - Matt Orford (Sea Eagles)2 - Steve Bell (Sea Eagles)1 - Steve Menzies (Sea Eagles)Canberra Raiders: 21Tries: Tom Learoyd-Lahrs, David Howell, Adam Mogg (2)Goals: Clinton Shifcofske 2/4Field Goals: Clinton ShifcofskePenrith Panthers: 20Tries: Luke Lewis, Frank Pritchard, Rhys Wesser, Lee HookeyGoals: Preston Campbell 2/5Half time: Raiders 10-8Venue: Canberra StadiumCrowd: 9,399Referee: Gavin BadgerLeagueunlimited.com players of the match:3 - Clinton Schifcofske (Raiders)2 - Luke Priddis (Panthers)1 - Simon Woolford (Raiders)Wests Tigers: 30Tries: Shane Elford (2), Daniel Fitzhenry (3), Anthony Laffranchi, Paul WhatuiraGoals: Brett Hodgson 1/7Melbourne Storm: 28Tries: Cooper Cronk, Ryan Hoffman, Greg Inglis, Billy Slater (2)Goals: Cameron Smith 4/5Half time: Tigers 18-4Venue: Leichhardt OvalCrowd: 17,803Referee: Jason RobinsonLeagueunlimited.com players of the match:3 - Paul Whatuira (Tigers)2 - Daniel Fitzhenry (Tigers)1 - Billy Slater (Storm)St George Illawarra Dragons: 26Tries: Aaron Gorrell, Ben Hornby, Sam Isemonger, Andrew PriceGoals: Mark Gasnier 1/1, Aaron Gorrell 4/4Brisbane Broncos: 12Tries: Shane Webcke, Darius BoydGoals: Michael Ennis 2/2Half time: Dragons 14-6Venue: WIN StadiumCrowd: 13,708Referee: Sean HampsteadLeagueunlimited.com players of the match:3 - Aaron Gorrell (Dragons)2 - Mark Gasnier (Dragons)1 - Michael Ennis (Broncos)Newcastle Knights: 22Tries: Matthew Gidley(2), Todd Lowrie, Steve SimpsonGoals: Kurt Gidley 3/4New Zealand Warriors: 26Tries: Nathan Fien, Grant Rovelli, Evarn Tuimavave, Manu VatuveiGoals: Tony Martin 5/5Half time: Warriors 14-10Venue: EnergyAustralia StadiumCrowd: 18,359Referee: Russell SmithLeagueunlimited.com players of the match:3 - Nathan Fien (Warriors)2 - Steve Price (Warriors)1 - Matthew Gidley (Knights)Canterbury Bulldogs - ByeFULL DRAW, RESULTS & LINKS TO LIVE SCORES ? CLICK HERENext weekend?s matches:Round 5, 7-9 April 2006Fri 7:30 - COWBOYS v TIGERS - Dairy Farmers StadiumSat 5:30 - BRONCOS v RABBITOHS - Suncorp StadiumSat 7:30 - SHARKS v ROOSTERS - Toyota ParkSat 7:30 - DRAGONS v KNIGHTS - WIN StadiumSun 2:00(NZ) 12:00(AEST) - WARRIORS SEA EAGLES - Ericsson StadiumSun 2:30 - BULLDOGS v RAIDERS - Telstra StadiumSun 3:00 - EELS v PANTHERS - Parramatta StadiumSTORM 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.12 pointsJohnathan Thurston (Cowboys)9 pointsAndrew Johns (Knights)8 pointsMark Gasnier (Dragons)6 pointsCraig Gower (Panthers), Darren Lockyer (Broncos), Clinton Schifcofske (Raiders), Cameron Smith (Storm)5 pointsAdam Dykes (Sharks), Amos Roberts (Roosters)4 pointsSteve Bell (Sea Eagles), Nathan Fien (Warriors), Aaron Gorrell (Dragons), Jamie Soward (Roosters), Paul Whatuira (Tigers)3 pointsHazem El Masri (Bulldogs), Nathan Hindmarsh (Eels), Ben Kennedy (Sea Eagles), Luke O'Donnell (Cowboys), Matt Orford (Sea Eagles), Steve Price (Warriors), Milton Thaiday (Knights), Ruben Wiki (Warriors)2 pointsPreston Campbell (Panthers), George Carmont (Knights), Cooper Cronk (Storm), Daniel Fitzhenry (Tigers), Karmichael Hunt (Broncos), Greg Inglis (Storm), Willie Mason (Bulldogs), Josh Perry (Knights), Wade McKinnon (Eels), Anthony Minichiello (Roosters), Mark O'Meley (Bulldogs), Aaron Payne (Cowboys), Todd Polglase (Rabbitohs), Luke Priddis (Panthers), Scott Prince (Tigers), Matt Sing (Cowboys), Jason Smith (Raiders), Steven Southern (Cowboys), John Sutton (Rabbitohs), Brad Thorn (Broncos), Clinton Toopi (Warriors), Dean Young (Dragons)1 pointsTrent Barrett (Dragons), Paul Bowman (Cowboys), Danny Buderus (Knights), Michael Ennis (Broncos), Matthew Gidley (Knights), Justin Hodges (Broncos), Wairangi Koopu (Warriors), Steve Menzies (Sea Eagles), Brent Sherwin (Bulldogs), Billy Slater (Storm), Tim Smith (Eels), Brett Stewart (Sea Eagles), Anthony Tupou (Roosters), Rhys Wesser (Panthers), Lincoln Withers (Raiders), Simon Woolford (Raiders), William Zillman (Raiders)
BALMAIN celebrated resounding victories in both the NSWRL matches played at Leichhardt oval today with Premier League Defeating the Knights and Jersey Flegg downing North Sydney entrenching positions in the top 4 for both grades.In Jersey Flegg North Sydney were the first to score in just the second minute when halfback James Maloney kicked a penalty goal from in front of the posts however just three minutes later Balmain took the lead when Winger Jono Freeman dived on a Dean Caldwell chop kick and Mark Russell converted and from that moment on Balmain never looked like losing the match.Ten minutes later Dean Jamison dived over from dummy half and soon after lock Jarrad Farlow put fullback Dean McGrath into space and McGrath ran 50m to score under the posts. Russell converted bringing the tigers to a 16-2 lead.There was plenty of drama to follow when Norths back rower Arnold Mano found himself sent to the bin after rushing across the field to join in a fight and just minutes later he was followed by teammates Daniel Phillips after continued infringements and captain Maloney for backchat.Down to ten men it was almost inevitable that Norths would concede points and right on halftime Balmain centre Gavin Cowen beat two defenders to score under the posts. Russell added the extras and the teams went into halftime with Balmain ahead by twenty-two points to two.Soon after halftime back rower Griffen barged over on the last tackle and Russell converted from the sideline putting the tigers ahead 28-2 as the binned Norths players returned to the field.In the 42nd minute Norths scored their sole try of the match when Jason Saliba exploited some poor Balmain defence and crossed untouched from dummy half but any hopes they may have had of launching a comeback were crushed just five minutes later when Balmain centre Robert Chauvet ran 45m to score and Russell converted.Balmain scored their final try of the match with just a minute to go when winger Chance Bunce stepped past the tired norths defence and raced 60m to score under the posts. Russell converted and at fulltime Balmain ran out winners by forty points to eight.Best for the tigers were halfback Russell, back rowers Stanfield and Griffen and Lock Farlow while halves Baird and Maloney and prop Tupo Peaua looked dangerous for the bears. In Premier League Balmain were the first to cross the line in the 4rh minute when 5/8th Jono Rolfe put centre Keith Eshman into space and Ben Reynolds converted.Twelve minutes later Lock Sam Harris picked up the ball from the scrum and ran with it, passing to Reynolds who offloaded to winger Tuiaki to score untouched under the posts. Minutes later Harris again broke the line and offloaded to Rolfe who ran ten metres with the ball before kicking for fullback Shannon McDonnell who scored about 20m out from the sideline. Yet another try followed immediately after when the knights players fumbled a Rolfe bomb and winger Michael Crockett picked up the ball to score beside the posts. Reynolds was unable to convert putting Balmain ahead by twenty points to nil after just 22 minutes of game time.Balmain scored again in the 28th minute when a Rangi Chase kick was picked up by Rolfe who passed on the inside to send Sam Moa racing 20m before carrying two defenders over the sideline. This was followed in the next set by a brilliant individual try to Shannon McDonnell who ran 30m to score under the posts and five minutes after that Corey Niwa crossed again after running 20m through a tired knights defence to score. Reynolds converted all three trys and Balmain ran out at halftime leading by 38 to nil.Newcastle looked a much better side in the second half and fullback Nathan Hinton scored their first try of the match when he crossed out wide in the 43rd minute. Centre Brad Tighe was able to convert bringing the score to 38-6. The knights backed up 11 minutes later when prop Kane Snowden barged through the defence and Tighe once again converted.It didn?t take long for Balmain to once again stamp their authority on the match and four minutes later prop Stacy Katu dived on a Ben Reynolds kick and scored under the posts, Reynolds was unable to convert but with twenty minutes left to play Balmain held a commanding 42 points to 12 lead.In the 67th minute Keith Galloway made a massive run and a quick play the ball saw Jamie Nowland take off from dummy half, pass to Reynolds who offloaded to Katu who raced 20m before offloading to Sam Harris who scored under the posts. With six minutes left of game time Newcastle scored their final try of the match when Matt Kennedy barged over next to the posts and Tighe converted to bring the final score to Forty Eight points to eight.Best for Balmain were lock Harris, 5/8th Rolfe and hooker Chase while McDonnell, Jeffrey, Katu and Metuisela also had strong games. For the knights centre Brad Tighe was the standout.
TO be honest, I found the first three rounds of this year?s NRL competition dull and boring because of the huge blowout scorelines being inflicted across the board. No game had caught my imagination and there haven?t been many grudge matches so far where the result is in doubt leading into the final stages.Being a Canberra fan certainly hasn?t helped matters but six out of seven games this weekend were decided by eight points or less with one golden point thriller between the Raiders and Panthers (praise the Lord) and only one game with a double digit victory with the Dragons prevailing 26-12 over the aging Broncos at WIN Stadium this afternoon.Apart from the Cowboys, Knights and Panthers, all the other teams have looked dreadful on occasions so far this season but my belief is we don?t start seeing the high quality footy until about round six. By then it?s cooler and teams have had time to work on combinations and players work themselves into match fitness ahead of the representative season.Most teams at the wrong end of the table showed some resolve this week apart from Souths and the Eels with teams like the Warriors and Raiders showing while many think they will be cannon fodder, the glimmer of hope flickers just that little bit brighter than it did last week. Let?s take the Warriors for example, you will never see a team more jubilant to be in the fourth week of the competition on 0 points. They have won two on the trot albeit against a depleted Tigers outfit and a Joey-less Knights this afternoon. However, in the modern game any coach will tell you that two points is worth more than the current price of gold and there are no easy beats (well Souths are the exception) and that anytime you can get two on the trot you are doing well. It gives you some breathing space and time to call off the dogs for a fleeting moment. Ivan Cleary must have felt like a West Papuan in sight of Arnhem Land when the hooter blew this afternoon.Then you have the Raiders, walloped by record margins two weeks running and then they come out last night in freezing conditions and get by the undefeated Panthers in golden point to breathe a little life back into their premiership campaign. Being a Raiders fan, I thought April fools had been extended about 9.5 hours past the usual deadline and this time I and all Raiders fans were the proverbial butt of a cruel hoax but alas, this was no prank. The Raiders won a golden point thriller to have this poor sod shaking his fists in front of the TV and it wasn?t because I was watching the adult channel, although the joy was relative and it did last a little longer.Sitting back in a relaxed mood this afternoon watching the Storm cop a hiding at the hands of the Premiers, I switched over to see what was happening during the formula one and to try and catch the action of the Liverpool? I mean Dragons and Broncos clash at Anfield? I mean WIN Stadium, only to learn the Storm finished within two points of the Tigers after holding a commanding lead midway through the second half. This proves one thing, whilst you may be beaten, for and against could decide your teams fate and your coaches fate so playing the full eighty minutes has never been so vital. Both the Storm and Bunnies showed this resolve and it may end up paying dividends down the track although with Souths I feel you may as well rip up your ticket right now and bet on something closer to a sure thing, like finding life on Mars or a Bulldogs fan not being named the next heavyweight champion of the world.Next week may well see a return to the blowout scores that have plagued the league in the opening rounds, but for today and the rest of the coming week, your author will believe in the Utopian ideal of an even competition and that the Raiders do actually have a chance to show they can be competitive for more than a week at a time. It?s a hard sell I know, but it?s not Amway folks, so cough up and refer me to your friends as we can all enjoy the pyramid scheme that is the NRL.
THE eye injury that forced Penrith forward Joe Galuvao to miss the majority of the club?s game against Brisbane last Sunday won?t keep the test second rower out of Friday?s vital game with the Wests Tigers.
THE classic ?he said, she said? scenario reached its ultimate climax today as Police investigating a young woman?s claims that she was sexually assaulted by a number of Bulldogs players confirmed that there was evidence to back up her story.
MELBOURNE Storm prop Alex Chan has taken an early guilty plea to a grade three careless high tackle charge today, ruling him out of Sunday?s clash with the New Zealand Warriors in Auckland.