Gower loses captaincy, fined

PENRITH halfback Craig Gower has been sacked as captain after the NRL club found him guilty of misconduct following a series of alcohol-fuelled incidents on the Sunshine Coast a fortnight ago.The 27-year-old has also received a $100,000 fine - $70,000 of which was suspended. The rest of the money will go into an NRL program covering responsible use of alcohol by rugby league players.Gower appeared before the Panthers board tonight after it was revealed he had groped the 18-year-old daughter of rugby league legend Wayne Pearce at a function during the Jack Newton Celebrity Golf Classic.Gower has apologised for his behaviour at the event.

Singo to sponsor Knights until 2010

STRUGGLING NRL club the Newcastle Knights have announced a major new sponsorship deal worth around $4 million over five years. Advertising guru John Singleton and merchant bank Carnegie Wylie have combined with local brewery Bluetongue to become the Knights' major sponsor until 2010. Knights CEO Ken Conway says the deal will draw a line under the financial woes that have historically dogged the club.Singleton expects the deal will create 50 jobs for the local community with the installation of beer tap lines at the club. It is the second major financial coup for the Newcastle club in recent weeks, with the announcement a month ago of a $1 million-a-year commercial partnership with local leagues club Wests.

Rhinos smash through 10,000 barrier

LEEDS Rhinos have received a massive boost ahead of the start of the new engage Super League season with the announcement that season ticket sales have gone through the 10,000 barrier and are in excess of last year's figures.The capacity at Headingley this season is restricted to 16,600 due to construction work on the new Carnegie Stand and with last season's average set at 17,011, fans have been quick to snap up their season tickets.The Early Bird offer deadline for purchasing season tickets was on 31st December and at the close of business the Rhinos had sold over 10,000 by the end of the year, more than this time last year when Leeds were heading towards the Carnegie World Club Challenge having won their first Championship in 32 years.Commenting on the rise Chief Executive Gary Hetherington said, ''This is a fantastic achievement for the club and we owe a big thank you to our supporters for backing the team for 2006. With our capacity restricted for the start of next season, fans have been keen to make sure they are here to show their support for Tony and the team and that is shown in these figures. Fans still have until the opening game of the season against Huddersfield on 12th February to purchase their season tickets if they have not already done so and get admission to two games free of charge. However, there are only 14,500 season tickets available for sale so they should purchase them as soon as possible to avoid disappointment."

Bradford warm-up result no reflection on World Club Challenge

BRADFORD flexed their muscles ahead of their World Club Challenge meeting with Wests Tigers but the Australian champions will not be fooled by the Bulls? 30-6 defeat in a friendly (trial) game by Warrington.The engage Super League champions were soundly beaten but they fielded just three members of October?s Grand Final-winning team and only five players who are likely to line up against the Tigers at Huddersfield on February 3.With up to eight regulars set to return for the World Club Challenge, plus newcomers Chris McKenna and Marcus Bai, Bradford left the door open for several youngsters to force their way into contention.Scrum-half Matty Brooks caught the eye, while assistant coach Steve McNamara singled out centre Ryan Atkins and full-back Dave Halley, but dual-code international Matt Cook?s hopes hinge on a hospital check-up today.The England schoolboy centre or second-rower, who made eight senior appearances last season, created a fine impression until being forced off with a suspected fractured thumb.?That was the only blight on the game,? said McNamara. ?It was a good, tough hit-out. We got out of it exactly what we wanted to get out of it.?Hooker Ian Henderson, one of the trio of survivors from Bradford?s Old Trafford triumph over Leeds, scored the Bulls? only try, which was converted by Brett Ferres.Architect of Warrington?s success was captain Lee Briers, who set up five of their six tries with pinpoint kicks, while new signing Michael Sullivan capped an impressive home debut with the other score.Ben Westwood (two), 16-year-old Matt Blythe, Richie Barnett and Chris Bridge were the beneficiaries of Briers? magnificent boot, with ex-Bradford half-back Bridge landing three conversions.Meanwhile a youthful Huddersfield were held to a 22-22 draw by National League One club Halifax in a friendly derby at the Shay.- - - - -Tickets for the Carnegie World Club Challenge can be purchased through www.superleague.co.uk, who we thank for this news.

Crusaders agree to opening fixtures switch

FOLLOWING a request from the board of directors at Hemel Hempstead Stags, the Celtic Crusaders have agreed to switch the scheduled opening Northern Rail Cup home fixture from the Brewery Field to Pennine Way, the Stags home ground, on Sunday 12th February at 2pm kick off.The Crusaders now play their first three fixtures away from home. Crusaders? Chief Executive Chris O?Callaghan said: "I?ve agreed to this change at the request of the Stags. Originally, we were planning a full day out at the club, with a 12pm kick off at The Brewery Field and then a big screen showing of the Wales v Scotland Six Nations game but we?ve agreed to switch to assist the Stags."I?ve always liked starting any campaign by playing away, it welds the team together. The coaches now have three away games to get their act together and get their team tight as a drum. When they make their first appearance at home against London Skolars on Sunday 5th March here at The Brewery Field (kick off 3pm), in front of our own supporters, I will be expecting a polished performance and more importantly a home win."The Crusaders are planning a spectacular home opener against the London Skolars. Further details can be obtained by visiting the website www.celtic-crusaders.com or by telephoning the club office on +44(0) 1656 658535/ 651515. To book your place on the bus, email [email protected] Revised Celtic Crusaders Northern Trains Cup FixturesSunday 12 February ? Hemel Hempstead Stags (a) 2pmSunday 19 February - London Skolars (a) 3pmSunday 26 February ? St Albans Centurions (a) 2:30pmSunday 05 March - London Skolars (h) 3pmSunday 19 March - Hemel Hempstead Stags (h) 3pmSunday 26 March - St Albans Centurions (h) 3pm- - - - -The Northern Trains Cup is a pre-season competition for clubs playing in UK National Leagues One Two and Three.

Legal tug of war looms over McGoldrick

A legal tug-of-war is looming over the services of rugby league player Ryan McGoldrick with NRL champions Wests Tigers and English Super League club Castleford both insisting the former Cronulla centre had signed contracts with them.Both clubs have dug in their heels over the 24-year-old after Castleford claimed McGoldrick had signed a one-year contract with the side three months after Wests Tigers signed him for 2006.Castleford chief executive Richard Wright has told the BBC McGoldrick was able to obtain a release from his contract to join a Super League club. But Wests Tigers recruitment manager Warren McDonnell says Castleford had overstepped the mark and the NRL club hoped to clear up the matter when McGoldrick returns from a New Year break and meets with Tigers chief executive Steve Noyce and coach Tim Sheens on January 9.NRL chief operating officer Graham Annesley says the matter may have to be decided legally if Wests Tigers refuse to grant a release.

Steve Rogers passes away, aged 51

FORMER Cronulla Sharks and Australian rugby league great Steve Rogers has been found dead in his unit in Sydney's southern suburbs.Sharks management confirmed that the 51-year-old had just returned from an overseas holiday with police saying there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding the death.Sharks football manager Greg Pierce said the news had come as a great shock."He was due back at work on Monday and I was due to go off for a couple of weeks ... he had been on holidays in Europe for a period and we were just going to (talk) about the state of the nation kind of thing - and it's just quite unbelievable the fact that he won't be there," Pierce said.Rogers, 51, was the chief executive of the Cronulla club and had an outstanding career as a player with the Sharks and the Australian rugby league team. The gifted centre played 199 Games for Cronulla between 1973 and 1982 with a farewell season in 1985.He scored 1255 points for the club during those years including 82 tries and 502 goals. In the intervening years Rogers played with St George, featuring in 25 games. His representative career was no less impressive, the skilful back featuring in 19 games for NSW and 21 Tests for the Kangaroos.Considered one of the greatest outside backs the game has seen, Rogers formed a devastating centre combination with Parramatta great Mick Cronin when they played for the national side. Rogers' son Mat was a former player with the Sharks, also representing at state and national level before making a successful move to rugby union in 2002.Leagueunlimited would like to pass on its condolences to the Rogers family at this time.

McGoldrick going nowhere ? Tigers

NRL club Wests Tigers has dismissed claims by English side Castleford that it has signed Ryan McGoldrick.The English club announced the signing of the former Shark last week but West Tigers say McGoldrick has an NRL conract for 2006 and won't be going anywhere. He's a strong chance to chime into Wests Tigers' side for the World Club Challenge against Bradford on February 3.

Eels stand by Smith

PARRAMATTA will stand by coach Brian Smith despite his success record having dropped alarmingly to 44 per cent since his $1.5 million contract extension three years ago.

Russia crush Otago

RUSSIA has ended its short tour to New Zealand, with a crushing 40-12 victory over Otago in Dunedin today. Russia lead 14-6 at halftime. The win sees the Bears leave New Zealand with two victories and 2 loses in which is a pleasing result for the nation, and now will take this confidence into next month Victory Cup. More information will follow soon.


LEICHHARDT Oval has been the Tigers home since 1934. There?s no better place to watch footy. But Leichhardt Oval is in urgent need of repair.

Thriller at Aussie Stadium for ANZAC Day

FOR such a low scoring game, the huge crowd of 26,246 at Aussie Stadium certainly had their money's worth as the Roosters narrowly defeated the Dragons by 11-8 in the traditional ANZAC Day clash between the two sides.

Tigers come back to defeat Sea Eagles

WESTS Tigers have come from behind to defeat the Manly Sea Eagles 30-22 at Leichhardt Oval today.

Storm too good for Cowboys

MELBOURNE Storm?s National Rugby League campaign continued to gain momentum at Olympic Park tonight following a tough 28-6 victory over the North Queensland Cowboys.

Round Seven: Sharks Den Survivor

ANOTHER week, another hard fought win to Cronulla. Sharks and Eels fans' hearts collectively went into meltdown as the game ticked into extra time, but thankfully Nigel Vagana was quick to score a golden point, preventing too much prolonged agony.

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