ST George Illawarra Dragons centre Matt Cooper has been ruled out of this Sunday's game against the Penrith Panthers. Its understood the NSW and Australian centre has suffered a hamstring injury. His replacement Daryl Millard is expected to make his first grade debut.Cooper's omission comes after captain and five-eighth Trent Barrett was also ruled out after being hospitalised early in the week with a virus.In other news utility Shaun Timmins - who will also miss the match - has been cleared of serious injury following knee surgery on Wednesday. The Dragons will also be without winger Wes Naiqama who suffered an ankle injury last weekend and injured second rower Ben Creagh (knee) has yet to play in 2006.Meanwhile half back Mathew Head's recovery continues to remain on hold. Head suffered a season-ending knee injury in June 2005 (round 14). He was scheduled for a return in early April (round 5) but there is speculation this has been put back until round 9.The Dragons will be blooding two rookies in Millard and hooker George Ndaira this Sunday as well as forward Andrew Price who has played just one first grade game.The revised Dragons NRL team for Sunday's match in Wollongong is:1. Clint GREENSHIELDS2. Reece SIMMONDS3. Mark GASNIER4. Darryl MILLARD5. Colin BEST6. Dean YOUNG7. Ben HORNBY (c)8. Luke BAILEY9. Aaron GORRELL10. Jason RYLES11. Corey PAYNE12. Ashton SIMS13. Andrew PRICE14. Justin POORE15. Michael HENDERSON16. Matt BICKERSTAFF17. George NDAIRA
WIN CORPORATION, owner of Australia?s largest and leading regional television network, has covered a substantial amount of the Illawarra Steelers debts to joint venture partner St George, which will enable the Dragons to continue playing home matches in Wollongong.WIN Corporation Executive Chairman, Mr Andrew Gordon made the announcement today saying his media company?s investment of $6.5m in the Steelers would enable the repayment of most of the club?s debt to St George Leagues Club.?WIN Corporation originated in the Illawarra and proudly it is still based here today.WIN has always prided itself on showing strong support for locally based, national sporting teams,? said Mr Gordon. ?We believe the Steelers are a fundamental thread in the fabric of this region and I do not intend for this district to lose hosting NRL matches at WIN Stadium.?The deal is conditional on the Dragons arranging a new license agreement with the NRL until 2011 and negotiating a similar term arrangement with Wollongong Sportsground Trust ? allowing the St George Illawarra Dragons to play half of their home matches at WIN Stadium, plus a NRL pre-season fixture annually.?Mr Gordon said that besides providing the funding, which will be used solely to discharge the majority of the Steelers debt to St George Leagues Club; WIN Corporation will also receive 24 per cent of the Steelers share in the joint venture.?We will also provide business opportunities and management to improve the performance of the Steelers Club and ensure long-term continuation in the NRL by way of the joint venture,? he added.Steelers Chairman, Mr Peter Newell said his directors and members were indebted to Andrew Gordon, WIN Corporation and of course Bruce Gordon for their support of the club and the benefits NRL participation brings to the Illawarra region?s economy. ?The amount of money WIN Corporation has made available is one of the biggest investments that I can recall involving sport in the Illawarra,? said Mr Newell. ?The Steelers will still carry a level of debt, but WIN have given us the chance to not only survive, but will work with us on our future.?Mr Newell said that Andrew Gordon would be appointed to the St George Illawarra Dragons Board as one of the Steelers representatives.?WIN Corporation CEO, Mr George Papadopoulos will also be invited to join the Illawarra Steelers Board in an ex-officio capacity. Both these appointments will add strength and business experience to the respective boards.?The Steelers debts will not only be substantially reduced, but WIN?s involvement will enable the club to continue the propagation and development of the game of rugby league in the Illawarra and South Coast region,? Mr Newell said.St George Leagues Club and Dragons Chairman Warren Lockwood, who welcomed the involvement of WIN Corporation with the Dragons explains its impacts for the Dragons and St George Leagues Club.?A commitment from a corporate partner of the quality of WIN Corporation is a major coup for rugby league across the region and the game itself,? said Mr Lockwood.?In times when there is continuing pressure being mounted on the Licensed Clubs, debt reduction programs are essential.?The St George Leagues Club has always understood and supported the strategy of the St George Illawarra Dragons from the beginning. An essential component of this strategy, was sustaining viability of the Steelers and their contributions to the Dragons.?The repayment of capital and interest on loans extended by the St George Leagues Club will enable the Licensed Club to plan for its next phase of refurbishment and better cope with the pressure from increasing poker machine tax.?
GREAT Britain hooker Matt Diskin has agreed a new four-year contract with Leeds Rhinos which will keep him at Headingley until at least the end of the 2010 engage Super League season.
THURSDAY - 16th March 2006
CATALANS Dragons forward Alex Chan has escaped a suspension despite being found guilty of punching at a Rugby Football League disciplinary hearing.
STRUGGLING Wigan have suffered a major injury blow with the loss of prop forward Iafeta Paleaaesina for six weeks with a torn calf muscle.
CASTLEFORD coach Terry Matterson made a dream return to the capital as the Tigers overturned an early 14-point deficit to move above Harlequins at the bottom of the table with a 34-20 over the London side.
ST Helens held off a spirited Huddersfield by 18-16 to maintain the only 100% record and return to the top of the engage Super League.
LEEDS picked up where arch-rivals Bradford had left off seven days earlier as the Stade Aime Giral witnessed a beating of the engage Super League rookies Catalan Dragons by 58-10.The Rhinos led 18-0 after just seven minutes, dishing out a triple whammy before the home side had even had possession of the football.After displaying a distinct lack of enthusiasm at times during their hammering by the Bulls last week it was anticipated that Tony Smith's team would feel the Catalans backlash but the reality was far from it.The Rhinos were on the board after just 63 seconds, when stand-off Danny McGuire was in support to take Ali Lauitiiti's pass and go on from close range.Before the Dragons could draw breath they went further behind after Leeds won a scrum against the head - a real rarity in rugby league - and Rob Burrow picked up the loose ball to stroll over from five metres.The visitors then extended their advantage immediately from the restart when McGuire took the kick-off on the full to exchange passes with Lee Smith and then race in from halfway.The home side hit back on their first attack when debutant Michael Dobson crossed for Laurent Frayssinous to convert, but Leeds were at it again when Scott Donald benefited from a brilliant Kevin Sinfield break to touch down.Keith Senior then made the most of some good fortune to get his name on the sheet while centre Chev Walker plus five Sinfield goals put the Rhinos 34-6 in front at the break.Catalan prop Alex Chan felt the wrath of referee Ian Smith when he was sent off for fighting, Walker taking 10 minutes for his part in the fracas, though the home side did reduce their deficit when Justin Murphy crossed with half an hour remaining.Leeds then put coachless Dragons firmly back in their place when Matt Diskin regained some momentum with their seventh score and the Rhinos cruised home after Lauitiiti, debutant Jordan Tansey and winger Lee Smith all joined in the scoring spree.Sinfield finished with seven goals and Burrow added a further two.Catalans Dragons: Frayssinous, Murphy, Wilson, Sadaoui, Verges, Rudder, Dobson, Chan, Rinaldi, Beattie, Hindmarsh, Guisset, Mounis.Replacements: Fellous, Teixido, Bosc, Fakir.Leeds: Mathers, Donald, Walker, Senior, Smith, McGuire, Burrow, Bailey, Diskin, Peacock, Lauitiiti, Poching, Sinfield.Replacements: Feather, Millard, Kirke, Tansey.Catalans Dragons (6) 10.Tries: Dobson, Murphy. Goals: Frayssinous.Leeds (34) 58.Tries: McGuire 2, Burrow, Donald, Senior, Walker, Diskin, Lauitiiti, Tansey, Smith. Goals: Sinfield 7, Burrow 2.Referee: I Smith (Oldham)Att: 5,783
SIMON Finnigan scored a hat-trick for Salford as they continued their fine start to the engage Super League season by outclassing a dismal Wakefield at the Willows by 48-10.The Reds? fourth win in five games was founded on a thrilling first-half performance in which Paul Highton (2), Finnigan (2), John Fitzpatrick and Andrew Brocklehurst all touched down to secure a 36-0 interval lead.Finnigan then wrapped up his hat-trick before Jamie Field and Jason Demetriou restored some pride to the visitors in the final quarter, and Luke Robinson added another late on for Salford.The in-form Reds burst into the lead from their first set following a high kick from Andrew Dunemann.Wakefield's Paul White appeared to lose sight of the ball, which bounced in the in goal area and back over his head for Highton to touch down.Wakefield then twice came within five metres of the Salford line but their New Zealand forward David Solomona then spilled the ball in his own half to hand the initiative back to the hosts.Scrum-half Luke Robinson lobbed the ball behind Wakefield's defence and Finnigan pounced on the ball - barely breaking his stride - to ease over with 11 minutes gone.Wakefield's scrum-half Sam Obst, back from a one-game suspension, was held out as he attempted to find an opening moments later.But then Salford hammered home their superiority, forcing the Wildcats back for Fitzpatrick inside in the 19th minute to touch down under the posts.Four minutes later, the Wildcats were again on the back foot, and Brocklehurst found a gap following Robinson's pass to go over.The Willows crowd were then expecting a cricket score after Finnigan charged over from close range for his second try in the 28th minute. Highton also added a second from close range a minute before the interval.Although Wakefield briefly stemmed the flow Finnigan registered his hat-trick within six minutes of the restart.The Reds loose forward strolled over after being fed by Dunemann, with David Hodgson making it seven from seven with the kick.Ryan Clayton, a close-season signing from Huddersfield, then came on for his debut, while hooker John Clough and prop Gareth Haggerty also came on for Salford at half-time.On the hour mark, Wakefield finally got themselves on the score sheet when Jamie Field bundled over on the right, and David March added the extras to make it 42-6.Demetriou further cut the gap five minutes later after breaking clear just inside his own half, and the Australian centre could have added another score moments later but knocked on with the try line at his mercy.Aaron Moule was denied a late try by the video referee but Robinson gained some reward for his endeavour by forcing his way over in the final minute, and Hodgson scored after the hooter for a 100% record with the boot.Salford: Fitzpatrick, Hodgson, Moule, Littler, Wilshere, Dunemann, Robinson, Baldwin, Alker, Highton, Coley, Brocklehurst, Finnigan.Replacements: Clough, Haggerty, Clayton, Langi.Wakefield: Halpenny, White, Demetriou, Henderson, Tadulala, Obst, Jeffries, MacGillivray, Betham, Elima, Solomona, J. Field, Applegarth.Replacements: Griffin, Korkidas, March, Saxton.Salford (36) 48.Tries: Highton 2, Finnigan 3, Fitzpatrick, Brocklehurst, Robinson. Goals: Hodgson 8.Wakefield (0) 10.Tries: J. Field, Demetriou. Goals: March.Referee: P Bentham (Warrington)Att: 4,060
MARCUS St Hilaire scored the match-winning try on his debut to send champions Bradford to the top of the engage Super League with a 18-12 win over Hull.Lesley Vainikolo, who destroyed Hull with 10 tries in two games against them last season, tormented them again at Odsal with a try in each half, taking his remarkable tally to 114 in 108 appearances for the Bulls.But injury-hit Hull made the champions work for their victory, which extended their unbeaten run to 18 matches and enabled them to leapfrog St Helens into pole position ahead of Saints? game at Huddersfield on Sunday.Vainikolo, making only his second league appearance of the season, was a lurking menace throughout the first half but had to wait until seven minutes from the break to claim his first try.Bradford had scored the first try after just 68 seconds but in between Hull enjoyed much of the play and deservedly got on the scoreboard just before the interval.Without five regulars through injury, Hull gave a debut to 20-year-old forward Scott Wheeldon but, with experienced half-backs Paul Cooke and Richard Horne leading the way, they caused all sorts of problems for the champions.Bradford, who brought in St Hilaire following the withdrawal of full-back Michael Withers with a shoulder injury, made a dream start after Hull?s Great Britain forward Jamie Thackray lost the ball inside his own half.Skipper Iestyn Harris, influential throughout, sensibly worked the ball out wide, where centre Karl Pryce, a player with the physical presence to match Vainikolo, barged his way over the line.It looked like being the only score of the half as defences dominated but the Bulls broke away for Pryce to take another cut-out pass from Harris and feed his winger, who was unstoppable from such close range.Paul Deacon kicked his first goal to make it 10-0 but Hull struck back immediately, courtesy of some smart work from substitute Peter Lupton.First he palmed down a pass from Pryce to break up a dangerous attack and then produced a half-break which enabled Horne to put in a clever kick for centre Sid Domic to collect and touch down.Danny Brough?s touchline conversion cut the gap to just four points and keep the match finely balanced.It took Vainikolo just four minutes of the second half to add to his phenomenal tally, taking another long pass from Harris to bounce off opposite number Motu Tony and claim his second try of the match.But the ?Volcano? turned from hero to villain five minutes later when a fumble on his own line allowed Kirk Dixon to score Hull?s second try.The ending might be considered fortuitous but some magnificent build-up justified the score, with Brough, Horne and Cooke handling superbly to give full-back Shaun Briscoe the position to put in the grubber kick.Brough?s second goal cut Bradford?s lead to just 14-12 and set up a tense final quarter.St Hilaire and substitute Matt Cook both spilled possession inside their own half to keep Hull on top and the Bulls were twice forced to drop out from their own posts.The decisive score came 10 minutes from the end when St Hilaire, a surprise eve-of-season signing from Halifax, took Ben Harris? pass to crash over for the all-important try.Even then, Hull had a chance to snatch a draw, with Briscoe spilling a pass from Lupton with the line beckoning and then knocking on in another promising position.Bradford: St Hilaire, Bai, B. Harris, Pryce, Vainikolo, I. Harris, Deacon, Fielden, Henderson, Lynch, McKenna, Hape, Langley.Replacements: Vagana, Cook, Gene, Ferres.Hull: Briscoe, Dixon, Domic, Yeaman, Tony, Cooke, R. Horne,Thackray, Brough, King, Radford, Hill, Whiting.Replacements: Carvell, Wheeldon, Chester, Lupton.Bradford (10) 18.Tries: Pryce, Vainikolo 2, St Hilaire. Goals: Deacon.Hull (6) 12.Tries: Domic, Briscoe. Goals: Brough 2.Referee: K Kirkpatrick (Warrington)Att: 10,700
A determined Warrington side ground out a memorable victory over Wigan by 24-12 at the JJB Stadium which continues the Warriors? poor start to the engage Super League campaign.Wigan had opened the scoring through new signing Bryan Fletcher, making his debut after recovering from bowel surgery, but despite seeing little of the ball in the Wigan half, Warrington hit back through Richie Barnett and Chris Bridge to lead at the halfway mark.And scrum-half Lee Briers took over in the second period with four drop goals, a penalty and a conversion to Henry Fa?afili?s try to increase the pressure on Wigan and their coach Ian Millward.The Warriors had welcomed back captain Sean O?Loughlin, who missed last week?s defeat at Salford with a groin strain, with Paul Prescott handed his first start in a year following a serious knee injury.There was also a huge reshuffle in the backs with Brett Dallas switching to full-back to replace Chris Ashton, Pat Richards moving to the left wing and Kevin Brown named at right centre.Warrington had Logan Swann and Rob Parker back in the squad after injury, with Danny Lima dropping out of the 17 after 50 successive appearances.The Warriors signalled their attacking intentions very early by kicking to the wing of Barnett at every opportunity, and it almost paid dividends twice in the opening quarter of an hour.On the first occasion, Barnett fumbled into the hands of Brown, who was penalised for offside as he touched the ball down.Shortly afterwards, Barnett needed two attempts to mop up the danger, at the expense of a drop out, with Brown again sniffing around.The Wolves were seeing very little of the ball, but Martin Gleeson came close to holding onto an interception with only open space ahead of him.Wigan introduced Fletcher for his debut on the 20-minute mark, and he took just three minutes to register his first try for the club, taking a beautiful short ball from Danny Orr to cross the line.Danny Tickle added the extras for a 6-0 lead, but the Wolves hit back within four minutes to the delight of their vocal away following.On virtually their first time in possession in Wigan territory, a super long ball from Briers allowed Toa Kohe-Love to put Barnett in at the corner, with Briers? touchline conversion tying the scores.And the Wolves went in front on the stroke of half-time, when Bridge took advantage of hesitancy in the home defence to kick ahead twice and beat Dallas to the ball, with Briers? second goal making it 12-6.Warrington started the second half determined to add to their score, and it took very good defence from the Warriors to hold them out.Briers saw an attempted drop goal charged down, and the Welsh international was hauled down inches short from the repeat set.The half-back did land a one-pointer moments later to extend the advantage to seven points, and he tagged on a penalty goal after he was taken out late by Wayne Godwin, an offence which saw the young hooker despatched to the sin bin for 10 minutes.Dennis Moran then saved the Warriors when he won the race to Briers kick at the expense of a drop out, but Briers added his second drop goal to make the score 16-6 on the hour.Ben Westwood then squandered a gilt-edged chance to seal the points when he ignored a two-man overlap only to succumb to the cover defence, only for Briers to add his third drop goal moments later to push the lead out to 17-6 with time running out.The Warriors were finding it increasingly difficult to break out of their own half, though, and quick hands by Briers and Gleeson put Fa?afili in for his side?s third try of the night, which Briers converted to make it 23-6.Godwin?s late score, converted by Moran, was scant consolation for the home side, with a sizeable portion of the 16,640 crowd already making their way home, with Briers? fourth drop goal in the dying seconds wrapping up two deserved points.Wigan: Dallas, Calderwood, Brown, Vaealiki, Richards, Orr, Moran, Logan, Higham, Paleaaesina, Hansen, Prescott, O?Loughlin.Replacements: Tickle, Fletcher, Hargreaves, Godwin.Warrington: Grose, Fa?afili, Martin Gleeson, Kohe-Love, Barnett, Briers, Bridge, Leikvoll, Clarke, Wood, Swann, Wainwright, Westwood.Replacements: Noone, Hilton, Mark Gleeson, Parker.Wigan (6) 12.Tries: Fletcher, Godwin. Goals: Tickle, Moran.Warrington (12) 24.Tries: Barnett, Bridge, Fa?afili. Goals: Briers 4. Drop Goals: Briers 4.Referee: A Klein (London)Att: 16,640
REDCLIFFE coach Anthony Griffin has anointed youngster Chris Fox as a player to watch by having him play understudy to veteran five-eighth Shane Perry for the Dolphins' Queensland Wizard Cup match against Ipswich this Saturday. Following a first-round bye, the Dolphins kick off their season with a trip west, where 20-year-old Fox will be looking to out-fox Jets playmakers Ricky Bird and Brendon Marshall. With Perry returning from National Rugby League with the Brisbane Broncos, Fox will narrowly miss out on filling the Dolphins' No.6 jersey on debut and partnering half Marty Turner. Fox, the Dolphins' FOGS Cup best and fairest winner last year, and Turner, formerly of NRL side Melbourne Storm, are part of an 18-man Redcliffe squad that features established names and fresh faces. The squad was announced at the club's season launch last Friday. Big-hitting Mark Shipway has been named in FOGS Cup, but is expected to force his way back into the Wizard Cup squad before too long."Mark brings a lot of experience to our pack. He's been away and has played NRL and in England, so there's no doubt that he'll add something," Griffin said. Two other players with NRL experience former Canberra Raider and Wests Tiger Alwyn Simpson and fellow ex-Tiger Adam Fletcher are the Dolphins' new wingers. Up front, Norths recruit Pat Gardner will look to ground the Jets' rugged forward pack alongside new Redcliffe skipper Adam Starr. ?I think the Young Guns are definitely the standouts and everyone else is a good chance of making the top five," Griffin said. After tackling Ipswich at Queensland Group Stadium on Saturday at 4pm the Dolphins host the Central Comets at home the following week.This article is courtesy of the Redcliffe and Bayside Herald
ROUND 2 has come upon us in the NRL with some great clashes lined up. Last week was a tough one, and I came away relatively unscathed with 5 from 7, but was caught eating plenty of humble pie as the Raiders made short work of a Manly outfit sadly lacking in cohesion. Other than that, I thought Penrith played some gutsy footy to overcome the supposed might of the Bulldogs pack, whom I had my hard-earned on.Anyhooo, let?s sink our teeth into these ones?Bulldogs v TigersPlease all stand to attention for Harmony Day, and what better was to celebrate something peaceful than for 26 blokes to run into each other at speed for 80 minutes.The Tigers have the wood over Canterbury a bit lately, beating them at Homebush twice last year in two very different matches. The first was a breath taking one-point victory thanks to a Scott Prince field goal in the final minute. The other was an absolute smash-up with the Tigers winning 54-2, preventing the Bulldogs from even crossing the stripe.Things will be different out here this time though. The Bulldogs have lost 7 games in a row now and are entering some scary territory with regards to consecutive loss records. Last week they seemed to control the game for a fair while and then lost their way before Penrith took over and came away with victory. As such I think Steve Folkes will have them pretty revved up for the game this week and keen to tear Wests apart.For the Tigers, the loss of Marshall is a critical blow to their penetration of the defensive line. They are using Daniel Fitzhenry at 5/8 outside Scott Prince who did look pretty good last week. Their victory over the Dragons was probably understated given how many tries they bombed, but plenty of that attacking flair was being generated by Benji. But I think the Bulldogs will be too desperate on Friday night and will come away with the points, but they?ll do it tough. The Tigers bench these days is a pretty awesome sight.Eels v WarriorsNext we travel to the Isle of the Long White Cloud where Parramatta are playing a ?home? game against the Warriors in Waikato. New Zealand was a happy hunting ground for the Eels last year, defeating the Warriors at both Ericsson and Waikato Stadiums with relative ease.This year both teams meet after suffering first round losses in matches they were perhaps expected to win. The Warriors especially need to begin their climb up the ladder from -4 as it will only become a steeper hill with every week they lose. Last week against the Storm there were some encouraging signs for New Zealand, but too many handling mistakes let them down. They brought the reliable Todd Byrne back onto the wing and kept Grant Rovelli on the bench. He made for a great impact weapon last week and really got the team moving.Out at Parra, coach Smith has decided to include Mark Riddell in the team at starting hooker this week after dropping the portly rake to Premier League in round 1. Other than that the team is pretty much as it was last week with Daniel Wagon a likely omission from the five man bench.Looking at Parramatta?s start over the past few years suggests that they rarely drop two games early in the season. Plus their team looks more formidable and with Riddell back I think he will add the spark that was missing from last week?s feeble surrender to Newcastle. Parra by a few.Sharks v BroncosThe second instalment of Super Saturday comes to us from Cronulla where the Sharks play their first game of the year with a new look team against first round whipping boys the Broncos. Ben Ross, Lance Thompson, Darren Albert, Darren Mapp and Tevita Latu have all been named in a new look Sharks line-up. David Simmons assumes the fullback duties with Peachey over in the UK somewhere and Phil Bailey is in the centres, which I?m not entirely comfortable with.Brisbane arrives in the Shire with their bums still a bit sore after the Cowboys showed them what-for last week. Wayne Bennett has been copping it from all angles and the Broncos have now lost eight in a row, their equal worst ever losing streak. But, they have won the past three encounters between these two sides, including two held down at Endeavour Field.I think the Broncos can hit back here to take the win, but in part I think it will be Cronulla?s preparation that helps them. It?s always tough having the bye in the first round and with so many new faces at the club it?s going to be hard to get rhythm so early in the season ? just look at Manly last week. Despite the fact I think they?ll lose, Cronulla do have the forward pack and a pretty clever no.7 to take the game to Brisbane, but I think the Broncos will be out to prove to the world that last week was an unsightly aberration.Cowboys v Sea EaglesWith stubbie in hand you should now be relaxing comfortably in the lounge room as the third game of the night kicks-off in our beloved FNQ.The white-hot Cowboys are the new premiership favourites after Johnathan Thurston delivered a 9.5/10 performance last week against the Broncos (sorry, he did miss a goal). Their first game was reminiscent of Melbourne?s blockbusting start to 2005 where they towelled up a few highly fancied sides and they look set to continue emulating them. North Queensland certainly have all the hallmarks of a great team this year ? fitness, speed, size, flamboyance and their depth is astonishing. Hannay and Webb are still playing Queensland Cup and the signs aren?t good that they?ll be making a return to first grade anytime soon. It comes as no surprise that the Cowboys have made no changes to their line-up and go into this one against the Sea Eagles as raging hot favourites.Manly must be gritting their teeth at the prospect of this game. They took Canberra too lightly last week and got shown up by a more committed team. Now they face an uphill battle to get new combinations happening in a cauldron atmosphere at Dairy Farmers Stadium. I?m not going to say they can?t do it but this round I?m going to stick with the Cowboys who, if they get on a roll early again, could make things really ugly for Des and his boys.Roosters v StormSunday kick?s off with what?s sure to be a free-flowing game of footy. Michael Crocker returns to his previous home to tackle a Roosters outfit minus controversial Englishman Adrian Morley. As expected Shillington steps in to fill the void which should see Tupou start the game this week.But I?m not a huge fan of their new hooker policy. Looking around the NRL these days there are so many good hookers in the more traditional mould ? Buderus, Priddis, Smith, Woolford, Riddell and Farah. I?m afraid to say that the Roosters have one sitting on the bench in Wing and instead decide to recycle their disused halfback Finch instead of just biting the bullet and dropping him.The Storm were impressive in short spells last week against the Warriors and I think if the Roosters allow them the kind of latitude they afforded to Souths in their game last week then there could be some feathers ruffled out at Bondi. Melbourne are the type of team who can feed of the uncertainty of their opponents and once they smell blood in the air it can get ugly. I thought King and Inglis were outstanding last week and looking out wide at the Roosters three-quarter line, I think they?ll struggle to contain them.I?m taking the Storm here in what may or may not be an upset.Dragons v PanthersThe Panthers travel down to Wollongong to face the newly privatised off-field juggernaut that is the St George Illawarra Dragons. It?s a shame they?re not so all-conquering on the field though.WIN Stadium is somewhat of a graveyard for Penrith however ? the last time they won there was in Round 1 1991 against the Steelers. Over the last three years they?ve been a regular visitor there and each time have put up a good show, but they?ve ultimately come away empty handed on each occasion.There?s little else in my mind than the word peculiar to describe the team Nathan Brown named on Tuesday afternoon. Whilst I like and respect Dean Young as a player, I tend to prefer him at hooker mostly or in the back row. I?m very uncertain of his ability to play five-eighth or whether he will in fact do so on game day. Nevertheless, Brown has decided that not one, not two, but three hookers will be playing for the Dragons this week, with Aaron Gorrell wearing the number nine and young gun George Ndaira coming off the bench to make his first grade debut. This must send a terrific vote of confidence to Chris Sheppard who would have been the obvious choice to come in at halfback for the ill Barrett with Hornby moving to 5/8.The Panthers must fancy themselves in this one and I have to admit I?m leaning in their direction. Rhys Wesser looks pretty sharp this year as does their halves combination. Penrith certainly displayed a clever and also tough brand of footy last start against Canterbury. So what will they produce here? I think they can get away with the win based off the fact that the Dragons have an unsettled line-up at the moment and I?m not confident Gasnier will see enough ball to make the sort of impact he did last week.Raiders v KnightsThe last game of the round kicks-off in the Nation?s Capital where it?s sure to be a little crisp. Lucky for the folk down there it happens to be ?Canberra Day? on Monday and it?s no small coincidence that they scheduled a rugby league match the day prior so every one can have a good night out at the pub afterwards. Smart people them Canberrans.Back to the footy, and the Raiders beguiled everyone last week including me whose mouth was agape for most of the match as so many green jersey?s were in motion for a good portion of the game. There must have been many happy Raiders fans last Saturday and the relinquishing of the captaincy seems to have given Simon Woolford a new lease on life. He had a top game as did a number of other players, the only sour note being the season-ending injury to Josh miller.Newcastle was likewise rather impressive as they dispatched Parramatta to the boundary in their first outing. But I fear there is much improvement in the Knights line-up. Mr Carney will probably want to forget about his little incident at the Steyne last Monday night and the attention could possibly put him off a bit. They have a solid pack and the best halfback running around but I just have this feeling about the Raiders again.Last year you would have said if you target Jason Smith then you can shut them down. But this year it?s a different story, they have a few other playmakers who have stepped up, judging by last week anyway. However, I think this theory can actually apply to the Knights, whereby if you target Johns then you go a long way to stopping the team and everyone knows Canberra are hard to beat at home.I?m going to tip the Green Machine, because it just wouldn?t be fair on Canberra Day if the local boys don?t get a win.The Rabbitohs have the bye this week and it?s probably just as well. On Sunday they?ll finally work out who owns the club and the week off could provide a type of release to the impasse which has dogged them of late.
OWNERS need to tow the line.Season 2006 has kicked off and it?s worth reflecting on what has been a busy off season. One of the lasting controversies has been the issue of team ownership. For most of us ownership is a fickle concept. Anyone with money (or a decent credit rating) can buy a car, but ownership is useless without a licence. Lose your licence and your vehicle might as well be scrap metal. As untouchable as we felt when we bought our first cars, most of us have learnt that we are all answerable for our actions. That is unless we own a Rugby League team.Much like player managers were in the ?90s, team owners are the new untouchables of the NRL, enjoying this freedom because they are answerable to no-one but themselves. While players, officials and even David Gallop has a boss or bosses, owners by definition run their own race. And it?s this freedom that is making fans and administrators of other codes nervous. A classic example of this is being played out at Manchester United this season. When new team owner Malcolm Glazier bought a majority share in the English Premier League club, fans became concerned that he would move the team away from their spiritual home of Old Trafford. While rumours of Glaziers planned move were false, the thought that the new owner could move the team on a moments notice has made the Red Devil?s fanbase uneasy. Man U fans now spend more time fighting the intentions of their team owner (through movements such as ?Stop Malcolm Glazier?) than barracking for their football team.The untold power of team owners was undoubtedly considered when the NRL handed out punishment to the Warriors for salary cap breaches. During the numerous interviews David Gallop conducted following the announcement, the NRL chief was careful not to tread on the toes of Warriors majority owner Eric Watson. And with good reason, Watson has made a significant financial investment in Rugby League over many years. Gallop understands if the Kiwi millionaire feels like he has been treated unjustly he has every right to take his money elsewhere, or even declare the Warriors bankrupt (as we have seen previous Warriors owners do). This is the modern day challenge for Rugby League administrators: maintaining a balance between the interests of private investors in the game and ensuring the integrity of the competition is maintained. It is ironic that, as South?s members vote for or against privitisation on Sunday, their ownership model could answer the NRL difficulties. Thanks to determined members, Peter Holmes a Court?s proposal has been adjusted to include several non- negotiable guarantees that must be adhered to by the new owners. Such guarantees could form the basis for the NRL to establish a team?s owners register. Registration could involve provisions ensuring any changes to team colours, playing venues and mascots are under the control of members. These provisions could even be decided by each individual clubs fanbase through a ballot. This would also provide an opportunity for the NRL to include negotiated criteria as to how owners are answerable and punishable if their club breaches NRL laws. Private investors are now accustomed to regulation. By far the majority of industries are regulated in some way, and major shareholders understand they are answerable if something goes awry. In the NRL, such regulation would ensure investors would think twice about any underhand dealings, or at least ensure their staff aren?t tempted to bend the laws. But the greatest benefit this form of regulation would provide for the NRL is that it would weed out any investors with questionable intentions. Just like on the field, Rugby League needs it?s money men to be first class.