Kiwis stick with McClennan

NZRL Executive Chairman, Selwyn Pearson is delighted to confirm that Brian McClennan has signed on as Kiwi coach through to the 2008 Rugby League World Cup.The announcement regarding the Kiwi coaching position follows a media session at Rugby League House, Auckland yesterday.

Bartercard Cup ? round 2 team lists

WAICOA BAY STALLIONS vs WELLINGTON ORCAS Davies Park, Huntly, New Zealand Saturday 1 April 2006 ? 2.30pm Kick Off

Flanagan's time in the sun

HE is the fun loving, pig shooting country cowboy who will be out to hunt down bigger opposition than normal this Sunday.

New Canberra coach could start immediately

CANBERRA is considering pitching Matthew Elliott's successor immediately into a hands-on coaching role at the Raiders this season.

Players "insulted" by NRL salary cap offer

PLAYERS association president Simon Woolford says players feel "insulted" by the NRL's offer to lift the salary cap by just $130,000 for next season.

Don't leave it all to Benji

WESTS Tigers' medical staff will today make a final decision on whether to clear star five-eighth Benji Marshall to take on Melbourne in their NRL encounter at Leichhardt Oval tomorrow.

Slow start not a surprise to Smith

PARRAMATTA coach Brian Smith says he has seen enough in the Eels opening three NRL games to suggest a win over a red-hot North Queensland side is achievable tonight.

Piggins headed for court over Souths

SOUTH Sydney Leagues Club chairman George Piggins has confirmed he will take his opponents to court in order to get a recount of the club's privatisation vote.

C.Cup final to move as Wembley faces delay

AFTER initial delays, work on the new stadium was set to be finished in time for soccer's Community Shield on August 13.But that game, along with an England soccer friendly in August and two Euro 2008 qualifiers in September and October, will now be played at other venues.The completion delay means that rugby league's Challenge Cup final on 26 August will also be held elsewhere.The official deadline for the handover of the stadium was due to take place on Friday, but the FA is still waiting to hear exactly when the builders will finish the stadium.Multiplex are due to make an announcement to the Australian stock exchange on what progress they have made.Wembley was originally supposed to stage the FA Cup final on 13 May as well as the Football League play-offs, but the decision was made to move them to Cardiff in February.Meanwhile, it has been reported that the Challenge Cup final will be moved to Twickenham, the HQ of rugby union in England."We have contingency plans in place," an RFL spokesman told BBC Sport."We have a contract with Wembley, but we have not yet been told that there is a problem or that we won't be able to hold the game there."An RFU spokeswoman confirmed the Twickenham stadium was available on 26 August, but refused to comment on whether the organisation had been in talks with the RFL."There has been a lot of speculation and we don't want to add to that at the moment," said the spokeswoman.About 35,000 Challenge Cup final tickets have been sold, with many fans travelling to London from rugby league's heartland in the north of England - meaning another venue in the capital is the most likely destination if Wembley is not ready in time.The BBC has also learned that the delay has also affected four music concerts scheduled for this year.The building of the stadium has suffered numerous problems, with a roof beam collapsing last week, resulting in building work being cancelled for a day.There have also been problems with underground sewer pipes at the stadium and workers were sent home on Tuesday after disputes over pay and threats of redundancy.

Round 4 NRL Preview

NEARING the end of another hard week at work, we turn our focus to Rugby League once more as the 4th round of NRL action is set to unfold. I was caught napping last week after trying to decipher the complex equation that is the Canberra Raiders as well as backing the Eels in what I thought would have been a team hell-bent on avenging the drubbing they suffered last year at Lang Park.But with 5/7 I can?t complain too much although the elusive perfect round is always a welcome bonus early in the year. I?m sitting on 16 from 21 picks and I?m pretty happy with that looking at this week?s games. The stakes are now higher and the teams are more desperate, so as a man once said to me on the hill at WIN Stadium whilst watching Albert Torrens line up a conversion from the sideline: ?This one could go anywhere!?Eels v CowboysRound 4 gets underway with the Cowboys visiting Sydney for the first time this season, taking on the smoked Eels at Parramatta Stadium.The Cowboys are the form team of the comp after three rounds, displaying not only a devastating attack but some stiff defence when called upon. They?ve lost Ty Williams with a broken ankle but simply call-up Origin centre Josh Hannay to take his place. They are still missing the services of Aaron Payne but the big news is Rockin? Rod Jensen has found his way to the bench for the first time this year.Parramatta?s line-up looks good on paper but it?s time for them to dominate matches through the forwards. Similarly, they had a great excuse for revenge last week but were ordinary against the Broncos and will need a big improvement if they are to get anywhere near the Cowboys this week. It?s also an important one for playmaker Tim Smith, who needs a big game to lift the spirits of the Parramatta faithful, and what better way to do it than in front of a parochial home crowd.But this game is one of those ones where you have to take the favourite, in this case the Cowboys, given their form and start to the year. I wouldn?t mind watching Parra win, but the Eels haven?t shown me enough to suggest they?re on the right path just yet and we know just what the Cowboys are capable of at the moment.Sharks v RabbitohsSuper Saturday kicks off down in the Shire where two desperate teams are facing up against one another, both so far possessing the stamina of a two-stroke engine.You get the feeling that if Cronulla could have overcome Manly last weekend we wouldn?t be entertaining thoughts of a possible Souths victory in this game. Don?t get me wrong, the Bunnies were woeful against the Dragons after what was a promising start, but the Sharks were real heart attack material last week and again displayed that they can lose a game from a position of ascendancy.It?s fair to say that Souths are a fickle mob when it comes to playing footy. After a terrific opening 30 minutes where they had it all their way, a few simple dropped balls and turnover?s sees an 8-6 lead blown out of the water by an opportunistic attack resulting in a 26-8 deficit at the break. They simply need to concentrate more and learn to dig in when the going?s a bit tough.The Bunnies took the points in a bit of a shock at Endeavour field last year and it wouldn?t surprise me if it happened again. Ross for the Sharks has a bit of a bruised head and a couple of the Cronulla boys have some injury concerns. With Mad Dog back for Souths they could really press hard, but I?m going to stay with the home team on this one.Sea Eagles v RoostersThis is another tough game with both teams sure to reflect on their last performances with some confidence. Despite the fact that Manly won by 2 and the Roosters won by 36, they would have been just as content with their respective results.Firstly, the Chooks had to wait 50 minutes before systematically tearing the Raiders apart in a precise and indiscriminate manner, finally showcasing some of the talent they have at the club. For Manly, I bet they were just pleased to record their first victory of the season after two losses.Neither team has made any major changes but the Roosters have Adrian Morley coming back from suspension to bolster their forward pack and Manly have discharged Kane Cleal to the Bunnies in what came as a bit of a shock. Last week will have inflated the balloon of self-belief for both clubs and it?s hard to choose a winner. I?m going to tip the Roosters as they remember how to score all of a sudden whereas the Sea Eagles were still a bit scrappy against the Sharks last week. And Brookvale Oval is representing more of a sand castle than a fortress these days.Raiders v PanthersI don?t know that it can get any lower for the Raiders or that it can get any better for the Panthers right now. Normally you?d be able to rely on the home ground advantage to a certain extent when Canberra play at home, but the wolves have separated the weak buffalo from the pack and are licking their lips.Penrith must be thinking that there?s never been a better time to come off the bye. Whilst their attack was a little blunt against the Bulldogs and Dragons they still managed to win and victory in tight games can give a team the confidence and patience to keep winning footy games even when they haven?t reached their potential.Matt Elliott has put the broom through the line-up and made quite a few changes in the forwards and bench. He?s also up against the club he?ll be coaching next year, with the man he?s deposing still without a job in ?07. That could add a bit of spice to proceedings.It remains to be seen how the bye affects the Panthers, and although no team this year has won coming off it, it?s very early days. Penrith must really fancy their chances here after a great start to the year which will allow them to play their natural game on Saturday night. I?m going to tip them against a Canberra team who are searching for a base to work from and will require a huge turnaround to secure victory.Tigers v StormSunday at Leichhardt Oval is a great tradition and one that the Balmain fans love, but they?re sure to have a nasty taste in their mouth after the last game these two clubs played here.Melbourne ran riot that day and scored a comprehensive 30-14 victory in what was an embarrassing day for Tigers. This year things will be a bit different, with injuries playing a key role. Benji Marshall and Shane Elford are back in the fold and should help correct a backline that has lacked direction and been impotent in their last two outings. But Farah and Fulton are still missing, and they?re absence is not to be taken lightly.The Storm have a terrific backline with the firepower to really put Wests under the pump. Cronk looks to have what it takes with good support from Hill, but I?ve got my concerns over the forwards, who are lacking a bit of mongrel with Crocker and Kafusi out. Both sides are last start losers and coincidentally got rolled by better packs who dominated them. This game will be more of a skilful encounter than a bash and barge affair. With Benji back the Tigers have more options, but I?m going to pick the Storm who have been good travellers in their enforced nomadic existence this season. I still don?t know what Lolesi is doing at lock though?Dragons v BroncosGame of the Day on Sunday where two bitter rivals take the field in what shapes as a rugged encounter in beachside Wollongong. The Dragons are reeling from an injury toll that has claimed their two international front rowers, lock, halfback and promising winger. Brisbane are more or less at full strength with Tate the only player of note missing from the line-up.The Broncos outclassed Parra last week and showed that they are a team on the improve, ignoring the dooms-dayer?s that were floating about after their round 1 lesson by the Cowboys. They have more options in attack these days and it?s encouraging to see Karmichael Hunt getting more involved. He was knocked out in this game last year by Shaun Timmins, who is out injured.The Dragons may or may not be buoyed by the news their coach has re-signed for a further two years. They?ve probably got other things on their minds, like trying to keep Barrett and Gasnier at the club. With Brown issuing a challenge to his young forwards to step up and make a fist of things whilst they have this opportunity, it?s easier said than done. One bloke who?ll probably have a fair bit to do with proceedings on Sunday is Shane Webcke and I?ve got a feeling he?ll be primed to teach the young kids a few tricks.The Dragons backline is looking better with Cooper back but I don?t think they have the forwards to lay a platform to work with. The Broncos will take the points with them back to Bris Vegas.Knights v WarriorsThe final game of the weekend sees the Warriors travel out of New Zealand for the first time this season, straight to rugby league?s latest graveyard. The Knights have won the past six games in a row at home but conceded the last contest here between the two clubs after Johns broke his jaw late in the first half. It?s sure to bring back a few bad memories for Joey who will be looking to put that behind him. The Warriors were a much improved team last week and finally recorded their first victory in New Zealand outside Auckland. I?m glad they got on the board as their season was in jeopardy had the folded for a third straight week.But there?s not much that can really help them in this one, unless Johns gets injured again. The Knights are like a bull in a china store at the moment and things don?t look like settling down. They could make a real mess of the Warriors, but whilst I expect the visitors will lose, I think they?ll fare a little better than most would have you believe.The Canterbury Bulldogs get a week off with the bye in round 4. They?ll need it to have a think about how they?re going to tackle the Raiders next week after a pretty disappointing start to the season.

First Time

SO the long wait is finally over. Summer has passed in a haze of sunshine and insect repellent; sight of sunbathers like so many rotisserie swine rotating for maximum UV exposure; smell of barbequed beast blending with the pungent smoke wafting off mosquito coils; sound of double-pluggers flapping against the pavement, a thin veneer of protection against the burning asphalt. All are going the way of our hard-earned tans; fading to memory.

For the Love of the Game

WHEN it comes to rugby league I strongly believed that I had felt it all. I thought I knew what it was all about. The power, the passion, the crowds and the tribalism.

Dolphins vs Tigers Preview

EASTS v REDCLIFFE Langlands Park, Saturday April 1, 3.00pm Referee: Michael Wise

You Can't Always Get What You Want

THE lyrics to the chorus of this classic song by The Rolling Stones were reverberating through my head as I sat down to write aboard a Qantas flight bound for Auckland. I had spent the past four days in Melbourne, attending the Australian Game Development Conference. This was the first time I had visited any Australian city for longer than a stopover period, and I felt it prudent to explore the home of so many of my transtasman cousins. In all, my time in the Victorian city left me with many positive experiences, and a desire to return at some time in the future.

Breakfast With Jason Smith

IT is a classic Canberra morning on the shores of Lake Burley-Griffin; brilliant sunshine illuminates the sky, yet there is enough chill to keep women?s nipples firm and erect. I?m enjoying breakfast waiting for my interviewee to arrive.In the distance I see an instantly recognisable figure. Solid but athletic, his spiky grey hair glistens in the sunshine like the sole natural snowflake at Perisher. With a characteristic swagger and confident air, he is unmistakeable.It is Jason Smith.He is so different to the other interviewees. The week beforehand, Clinton Schifcofske arrived in stonewashed jeans and a white t-shirt, accentuating his effortless good looks. Sunglasses possibly masked a massive night where he must have hopped from one nightclub to, well, the other one. Todd Carney arrived with spiked hair, no less than six sweatbands on his forearms (obviously masking some profuse perspiration problem) and designer boxers emerging from dangerously low shorts.Jason provided such a contrast to that over-rated look. In flannelette and no-nonsense blue denim, he struck an incongruent juxtaposition; in the artificial surrounds of Canberra, Jason Smith was so real.I rise and he grabs my hand, possibly breaking a finger with his vice-like grip. With a Winfield Red dangling from his lips, he motions towards outside. ?We?ll sit over there,? he croaks, ?and don?t bring that crap with you,? referring to my toasted focaccia. ?I wouldn?t feed that nancy garbage to my dog.?Now with a T-bone for breakfast (despite my pleadings that a cow didn?t deserve to die so early in the day), Jason relaxes. He takes a long, soothing drag on ?Winnie,? his exhale slow and fulfilling. He smokes just like he plays, I thought. Never in a rush, always with so much time. No longer hungry, I move to the first question of the morning.?So Jason, how did you enjoy your first season back in the NRL??My question draws a blank response, yet there is a latent anger. His seemingly emotionless face is filled with disdain. It is the same look Matt Gafa received when he misread the play ? he can?t tolerate fools.?Mate, how do you think I enjoyed it? We ran second last and broke the clubs? biggest losing streak twice. Had a friggin? ball.?I was stunned by his truthful severity. Here was a man who could have filled my morning with clich?, yet he chose not to. Intrigued, I pressed on, feeling much like his team-mates ? I had no idea what was coming next.?You?re 34 and played most of 2005 with injury, and you?re going round again. How are you so tough??Like his magical on-field ability, he quickens the pace. ?Mate I?m not tough. I earn a good clip playing footy. It?s not tough. Being a labourer, a cop ? that?s tough.?I nod agreeingly, now in more awe of the man. In his self-deprecating style, he proved how tough he was instantly. He finishes a vegemite soldier and adds,?Plus the money?s good ? why wouldn?t I sign on again.?I laugh, and the tension hanging over us like a Canberra fog is lifted. He cracks a weary smile, and I am accepted. The interview has just begun.Like Lincoln Withers, I am the link-man while Jason runs the show. There are no questions, just conversation over breakfast between a poor journalist and a footballing legend. A quick glance to his watch ends our meeting; he probably has a sponsor?s commitment to attend or teaching Adam Mogg to tackle. I put a final question to him.?Jason, what odds you take Canberra to a premiership in 2006??He smiles and grabs my trembling hand. ?Mate, I won?t be taking the Raiders to a title ? I?m past it. The kids here will win you one, no sweat. I?m just here to help ?em along a bit, win the odd game or two.?His honesty shocks me, yet his truth speaks volumes. He is the teacher of the clubs? future, not the man to pin hopes on. With Matt Elliott leaving, I throw him a final question:?Why don?t you become our coach when you?re finished??He turns, winks in a completely non-sexual fashion, and walks away. ?In a way mate, I already am.?I smile; he nods understandingly. I depart ecstatic, knowing that the future of the Raiders is in unconventional, yet safe hands.

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