Doncaster coach St John Ellis passes away

RUGBY league was on Saturday mourning the loss of former Castleford and Great Britain winger St John Ellis, the Doncaster coach who collapsed and died following a training session.Ellis, 41, who was the longest-serving coach in the professional game, had just finished taking the National League One club for a pre-season training session in Castleford when he suffered a suspected heart attack.Attempts were made to resuscitate him and he was rushed to hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.He leaves a wife, Melanie, and two young daughters, India and Mia."It's a great shock to us all," said Doncaster chairman John Wright."He was training with the lads this morning when he had some sort of seizure."His heart stopped and he never recovered. We had the physio there and other trained people who tried to give him mouth to mouth straight away."He was taken to Pontefract hospital very quickly and given electric-shock treatment but it was no good."You wouldn't believe it. There wasn't a fitter coach in the game. He was a fitness fanatic who never asked any of his players to do something he couldn't do himself."Ellis played for Castleford, Bradford, Halifax, Keighley, Hunslet and Doncaster before taking over as coach of the South Yorkshire club towards the end of the 1999 season.He was a member of the Castleford side which lost to Wigan in the 1992 Challenge Cup final at Wembley and won three Great Britain caps from 1991-94.Doncaster Lakers (formerly Dragons) play in National League One, competing for potential promotion to Super League. Assistant coach Tony Miller has been placed in temporary charge.- - - - -Thanks to www.superleague.co.uk for this news.

Dave Highton announces retirement

FORMER London Broncos, Warrington and Salford hooker David Highton has been forced to retire from professional rugby league at the age of 25 due to a shoulder injury.Highton signed for Halifax in November as a direct replacement for Hull KR-bound Australian Ben Fisher but has succumbed to a chronic shoulder injury, which was unsuccessully operated on in the autumn."It's very disappointing, both for David and us," said Halifax football manager Paul Dixon."He'd had the operation when we signed him, but the initial feedback from the specialist was that things had gone well."But he went back for a second check a couple of weeks before Christmas and he was basically told that the only thing he could do was to retire." - - - - -Thanks to www.superleague.co.uk for this news.

Castleford signs ex-Shark McGoldrick

ENGLISH Super League club Castleford has completed its overseas quota with the signing of Australian centre Ryan McGoldrick from Cronulla.The 24-year-old Queenslander has spent the last six years in the NRL with the Sharks, apart from a one-year stint in rugby union with New South Wales in 2003 when he also played sevens for Australia.McGoldrick is the 10th new signing for the newly-promoted Tigers and joins former Huddersfield captain Ben Roarty and former Cronulla team-mate Danny Nutley on the club's quota.

Gower summoned before board

PENRITH Panthers National Rugby League team captain Craig Gower faces suspension or a substantial fine over allegations of misbehaviour at a Sunshine Coast charity event.Penrith football manager Mick Leary has investigated claims Gower groped Balmain great Wayne Pearce's 17-year-old daughter Tatum at last week's Jack Newton Celebrity Golf Classic after-party. Gower is also accused of chasing Pearce's 16-year-old son Mitchell with a bottle at the Classic held at the Twin Waters Resort.Penrith club chairman Barry Walsh says the board decided Gower has a case to answer and will be called before the board on January 4. Panthers chief executive Glenn Matthews says Gower faces a fine of up to a quarter of his annual salary - about $100,000 ? or suspension if the allegations are proved correct.Gower has apologised to the Pearce family for the incidents.

Leeds defeat Wakefield in Boxing Day clash

LEEDS Rhinos' preparations for Super League XI got off to a solid start with a 42-18 victory against Wakefield Trinity Wildcats.Youngsters Ashley Gibson and Jordan Tansey both crossed twice as a new-look Rhinos outfit made fewer errors than their Yorkshire rivals in this festive friendly.Leeds' assistant coach Brian McDermott handed debuts to overseas signings Scott Donald and Mark O'Neill while Nathan McAvoy and Shane Millard also made their first appearances for Leeds.But it was lively Wakefield hooker David March who shone during the early exchanges, scooting over from close range to give the visitors a brief lead and then threatening the line on two more occasions.The Rhinos, who will be determined to make up for both Challenge Cup and Grand Final disappointments in 2005, soon kicked into life.Danny McGuire, making his return from injury after missing Great Britain's Gillette Tri Nations campaign, combined with Willie Poching to send Ryan Bailey diving over to level the scores before the hosts cut loose with some inventive attacking rugby.The afternoon's biggest cheer came for O'Neill - captain of Australia's NRL champions Wests Tigers in 2005 - when he made his introduction from the bench midway through the first half.He lasted only four minutes but produced two huge tackles and created enough space to allow Donald to scorch down the right flank and send centre Gibson clear.Gibson got his second within five minutes when McGuire's bomb was fumbled before Donald registered his first touchdown on English soil when he squeezed over in the corner.McGuire's superb interplay with Lee Smith saw Tansey left with a clear route to the line and the Rhinos continued after the break when Danny Williams crossed after collecting Carl Ablett's smart ball.Former Leeds forward Jamie Field touched down for Wakefield before McAvoy and Tansey's second completed the Leeds rout and although Paul White grabbed a late consolation, this game was never about the result.Both clubs are less than a month into their pre-season training schedules and both will take heart from what they saw ahead of the new campaign. - - - - -Thanks to www.superleague.co.uk for this news.

Peachey debuts in Widnes surprise win

STEVE McCormack got his Widnes career off to a winning start as the relegated Vikings overcame their engage Super League neighbours Warrington Wolves 24-18 at Halton Stadium.Two tries from Vikings second row Paul Alcock put the seal on victory as a side featuring 11 debutants - including Australian full-back David Peachey - secured bragging rights over their arch-rivals.New signings Bob Beswick, Gavin Dodd and Mick Nanyn also got on the scoresheet for the Vikings in a competitive clash.Widnes' first try came after Wolves captain Lee Briers sent a loose pass to the ground on the left flank. Beswick was the quickest to react and outpaced the Warrington defenders to touch down.Wolves hit back 10 minutes later through former Vikings winger Richie Barnett, who finished off a smart Warrington counter-attack.Widnes replied straight away through pacey wing man Dodd, who latched onto another dropped ball from the Warrington backs to score and burly centre Nanyn added the extras.Barnett sneaked in in the corner for his second to bring the Wolves back within two points just before the break and they went ahead seven minutes into the second period with a well-worked try from Chris Riley.In a real see-saw affair, Nanyn got on the end of Mark Smith's neat cut-out pass to power over and swing the advantage once again. Nanyn converted to make the scoreline 16-12 but the Wolves put themselves back in the frame through Mike Wainwright's 61st-minute effort, with Chris Bridge converting.But resilient Widnes kept persevering and they got the try they were searching for through youngster Alcock, who then added another soon after to settle the match. - - - - -Thanks to www.superleague.co.uk for this news.

Matterson coaches Castleford to first win

NEWLY-PROMOTED Castleford overcame spirited resistance from local rivals Featherstone to comfortably secure a 28-4 win in Australian coach Terry Matterson's first match in charge.The Tigers, who fielded only seven first-team players, took a 12-0 lead with two tries shortly before half-time.Featherstone defended superbly to soak up pressure before Tigers stand-off Andy Kain darted over in the 30th minute.Featherstone's best first-half attacking moves were spoiled by handling errors and they fell further behind eight minutes later when scrum half Paul Handforth chased his own kick to score and Richard Fletcher added the second of his three goals.Featherstone, who were relegated to National League Two last season, continued to battle gamely but Castleford sealed victory with further touchdowns from Jack Goodacre, Michael Shenton and Kain, who kicked one goal.Featherstone's only reply was a late try from Wayne Sutcliffe.Castleford's Matt Whitaker and Featherstone's Jim Carlton were sin-binned after a 52nd-minute altercation. Featherstone's Gavin Swinson and Sutcliffe were sin-binned in other incidents.- - - - -Thanks to www.superleague.co.uk for this news.

Gower apologises

EMBATTLED Penrith skipper Craig Gower has "unreservedly" apologised to rugby league legend Wayne Pearce's family as his NRL club prepares to consider his immediate future.Gower has finally broken his silence over allegations that emerged after his appearance at last week's Jack Newton Celebrity Golf Classic at Peregian Waters. The most serious claim was that a drunk Gower groped Pearce's 17-year-old daughter Tatum at the event's after-party at the Twin Waters Resort.Penrith Chief Executive Glenn Matthews has confirmed Gower could be fined up to a quarter of his annual salary - around $100,000 - when his fate is decided at a Panthers board meeting.

League supporting national Harmony Day

THE NRL has announced that next year's March 17 clash between the Bulldogs and premiers Wests Tigers at Telstra Stadium will be league's Harmony Day game.The NRL joins the Australian Government, major businesses and other major Australian sports in asking all Australians to support the country's national diversity and to send a clear message against racism. While Harmony Day takes place on March 21, the NRL match will be played on March 17.NRL players will take part in promotions in the lead up to and during Harmony Day itself as well as staging a special children's coaching clinic on March 21 itself.

Top 25 players of 2005

SEASON 2005 saw the Wests Tigers win the first Premiership by a joint venture club in the history of the game, New Zealand knock Australia off their perch and become the new Tri Nations champions and NSW recovering from a heartbreaking Game I loss to dominate Queensland in the State of Origin series. So who are the Top 25 players from the season just past? NSC delivers the verdict based on NRL, Test and Origin performances in 2005*. Counting down from #25 to #1 26. Dallas JOHNSON, Storm & Cameron SMITH, Storm/QLD. Could not split the Melbourne pair. Johnson is a clone of defensive weapons Trevor Gillmeister and Dean Lance, while Smith proved in season 2005 he is the best Queensland hooker since Steve Walters. (Yes it is now a Top 26 but these two demanded selection) 25. Aaron PAYNE, Cowboys. Absolute bolter from the clouds on this list but every week he was vital to the style of football the Cowboys showed us in 2005. Rarely gets noticed but has tremendous attacking instincts from dummy half and has adapted to the workload in the centre of the ruck despite his smaller frame. 24. Ty WILLIAMS, Cowboys/QLD. Scored some of the most memorable (and controversial) tries of 2005 for the Cowboys and Queensland. Had a great year on the flank but could be even better if switched to the centres in 2006. 23. Benji MARSHALL, Tigers/New Zealand. Setting up That Try in the Grand Final alone is a good enough reason to make this list. But throw in his step/step/step/pass on That Other Try against Cronulla and his touch of genius for The Other Other Try in the Anzac Test and there are two more good ones. 22. Matthew KING, Storm/NSW/Australia. Few will forget his barnstorming State of Origin Series on the wing for NSW but his quality performances year round earned him this spot in the rankings and recognition as a fine attacking three-quarter. 21. Mark GASNIER, Dragons/NSW/Australia. When Gasnier brought his A Game there was no defender who could shut him down on his favoured right hand edge. Watching Gasnier in 2005 made it easy to believe his Uncle Reg more than lived up to the Immortal tag. 20. Robbie FARAH, Tigers. Came along in leaps and bounds during 2005 and is developing into an incredibly skillful hooker and accurately drawing comparisons with Benny Elias. 19. Nathan CAYLESS, Eels/New Zealand. Quietly put together his best season since making the grade in 1997. Shrugged off injuries and lead his Parramatta team to the Minor Premiership with superb go-forward each week. 18. Stacey JONES, Warriors/New Zealand. New Zealand would not have won the Tri Nations had the little halfback not come out of a premature international retirement and commit to play for New Zealand coach Brian McClennan. His NRL form was so good that his move to France is sadly just as premature as that International retirement was. 17. Matthew BOWEN, Cowboys/QLD. Dynamic for most of the season for the Cowboys but lacked the kind of consistency needed to force his way into the Top 10. Stole Origin I with a memorable intercept and thrilled crowds with his natural attacking skills and breakaway speed. 16. Luke BAILEY, Dragons/NSW. Bailey will take over from the next man on the list as the NRL's most consistent prop when the latter retires but he came very close to taking the crown in 2005. Arguably the finest front rower from the Illawarra region to play in the top grade since Craig Young. 15. Shane WEBCKE, Broncos. Focusing his efforts on club football had immediate results as he turned in another stellar season leading the way for the Brisbane pack. Will not be around for too much longer so seasons like his 2005 should be remembered fondly. 14. Ruben WIKI, Warriors/New Zealand. Wiki along with Steven Price formed the foundations that kept the Warriors out of the cellar in the NRL but his International performances stood out. Still one of the most feared players running around at 32 years of age and he could keep playing for a few more years yet. 13. Luke O'DONNELL, Cowboys/Australia. Deserved his Kangaroo jumper after a great regular season and impressive Finals Series. Delivered on the promise he showed with the Tigers earlier in his career and with Paul Rauhihi off to England O'Donnell becomes the leader of the North Queensland pack. 12. Ben HORNBY, Dragons. Having a season that showcased him as the best player on a great football team proved that Hornby has only got better since his surprising Origin debut in 2004. Played his best football at fullback (without the defensive chores of halfback), with his ability to join the backline at his leisure making him deadly in attack. 11. Nathan HINDMARSH, Eels/NSW/Australia. The what if's surrounding his injury during the Finals aside, Hindmarsh was at his workaholic best during 2005 giving the Eels quality and quantity for their investment. After a great defensive Origin series, smart coaching from Brian Smith gradually helped him rediscover his running game before injury struck. 10. Tim SMITH, Eels. Sure the tricks didn't work in the Preliminary Final but this kid was by far the best of a very good rookie bunch in 2005. His kicking game was pure genius for a 20 year old. As he matures and gains experience in the halfback role the Eels may well take that (evidently tough) next step with Smith at the helm. 9. Jason SMITH, Raiders. Age before beauty is a term that definitely applies to this ranking. The crafty veteran toyed with opposition defences on a weekly basis and his undoubted class was the backbone of the Raiders early season success. Convinced himself he could go around again in 2006 with a superb year. 8. Roy ASOTASI, Bulldogs/New Zealand. His development from bench boy to a leader of men as the cornerstone of the Bulldogs forward pack was nothing short of astounding. His consistency in an inconsistent side was a testament to his drive and determination to take his game to another level. 7. Darren LOCKYER, Broncos/QLD/Australia. Before the Broncos late season slide Lockyer was a class above his peers as he directed Brisbane to the top of the table. Even during their losing streak he still showed his class more often than not and Australia missed him dearly in the Tri Nations. 6. Scott PRINCE, Tigers/Australia. Thrived in his coach's halfback orientated system and the Tigers became an attacking team to be reckoned with. Prince was the driving force behind the Tigers playoff run capping off string of outstanding performances with the Clive Churchill Medal in the decider. 5. Ben KENNEDY, Sea Eagles/NSW/Australia. The most influential NRL forward of 2005 and made a significant impact at Origin level. Held the Sea Eagles together with his determination during a late season fade that threatened Manly’s first playoff appearance since 1997. 4. Brett HODGSON, Tigers. There is simply no better support player in the game and Hodgson turned many half chances into points during a prolific 2005. His all round play improved and he was simply brilliant week in week out for the Premiers. 3. Anthony MINICHIELLO, Roosters/NSW/Australia. Another blockbusting season from the NRL's best custodian. It has been a long while since we've seen a running fullback as powerful as the Count and his durability is remarkable given the workload he has carried over the past few seasons. 2. Johnathan THURSTON, Cowboys/QLD. Emerged as a magician with the football and fully deserved his Dally M Award as the best NRL player over the course of the season. His Grand Final performance proved he could lift for the big game despite the result going against the Cowboys. And the #1 player of 2005 is: 1. Andrew JOHNS, Knights/NSW/Australia. When fit there is no more dominant player in the game and his incredible Origin performance rivaled King Wally at his best. The exclamation point on his value to a side came when Newcastle were transformed from easy beats to world beaters post-Origin. Ten on the Cusp (in alphabetical order): Danny BUDERUS, Knights/NSW/Australia;Paul GALLEN, Sharks;Michael MONAGHAN, Sea Eagles;John MORRIS, Eels; Matt ORFORD, Storm; Steven PRICE, Warriors/QLD/Australia; Luke PRIDDIS, Panthers/Australia; John SKANDALIS, Tigers; John SUTTON, Rabbitohs; Dean WIDDERS, Eels. * Super League performances and UK based players exempt from this list.

You did it again...

I love a beer, and I love my League. But again there has been an incident in our game that helps drag the League community back towards comparisons with Cro-Magnon Man. Just when you thought we?d been through enough with Coffs Harbour, phone messages and broken doors in fast food ?restaurants? we are again confronted with an alcohol related incident.You do have to be careful when separating fact from fiction in these stories however. Sometimes those incorruptible media types get hold of it and beat it up a little. Trent Barrett?s little workout in his brief?s was a prime example of this. I couldn?t have cared less about that.But the Craig Gower incident is proving to be a thorn in the side. I have a problem with this one I?m afraid. And given what has come out about it, I doubt anyone in the media is smart enough to make it up themselves.A week or two after the National coach resigns, citing concerns over the drinking culture of our game, the Premiership winning captain of the Panthers and the current Australian halfback decides to tie one on for all to see.Not that I care if people drink. Or even if they decide to go a bit overboard with the grog on their buck?s weekend. I don?t care that he might have crashed a golf cart. Those things are hard to drive when you?re drunk and you can always pay for the damage later.The throwing cutlery bit seems a little dangerous, as does chasing someone with a bottle. But if it stops there you?d probably say: ?Well, things got a bit loose, but no one was hurt?.Unfortunately things didn?t stop there.I?ve never understood why blokes feel the urge to get their gear off and run about as though they?re Greek Gods parading their gifts to humanity, especially when they were thrown out of the Australian team six years ago for doing exactly that.Surely, a man who has already been out in the representative cold would be traumatised enough to know he doesn?t ever want to visit that place again. Surely, when you?re removing your pants, no matter what state of inebriation you are in, bad memories come flooding back and the voice in your head tells you to put them back on.But no, things get worse.Despite having rebuilt his credibility as a human being since his incident in 1999, and gaining the trust of a beautiful woman like Amanda Flynn, he decides to grope another woman. I don?t know about everyone else, but whenever I get caught looking at another woman I get daggers from the missus. Imagine how much fun Craig is having right now explaining things to his fianc? with their nuptials only three weeks away.It might actually be worse that Gower picked the daughter of Wayne Pearce considering the man has a conscience for the game and could be torn between exposing the situation in full and defending his daughter?s honour. If it were any other ordinary citizen I dare say all the gory details would have been fleshed out in our self-sacrificing newspapers by now.So, Junior?s commentary on Foxtel should be interesting next season when he?s covering Penrith games.But where does this leave Craig Gower the person? Well, all I could think of was an early episode of The Simpson?s when Lisa wires up a cupcake to give off an electric shock during an experiment. Her pet hamster tries it once and runs away. Bart has a go and also gets a shock. But he just keeps going back for more and more. Like Bart, Gower has now proved himself to be dumber than a hamster.Sure, people make mistakes. But fools make the same ones twice.

Fitzgibbon new Roosters captain

THE Sydney Roosters have named Test backrower Craig Fitzgibbon as their new captain and South Sydney recruit Ashley Harrison as his deputy.Fitzgibbon was handed the reins following skipper Luke Ricketson's retirement at the end of the 2005 season. But the big surprise was the elevation into the new role of vice-captain of backrower Harrison, one of the Roosters' prize signings for the 2006 season along with NSW Origin pivot Braith Anasta.The honour capped a dream year for ex-South Sydney skipper Harrison who earned his Queensland Origin debut in 2005.

Terry Hill turns back clock in Manly victory

FULLTIME score: Round 1 WARRIORS 20 v SEA EAGLES 26

Broncos win Queensland's local derby

FULLTIME score: Round 1 BRONCOS 29 v COWBOYS 16

Griffin Happy to be a Dolphin

ANTHONY Griffin has welcomed the responsibility commensurate with his new role as head coach of Redcliffe, enjoying a 36-16 first-up win against Burleigh.

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