BBC Grand Final Review

TWO tries in four minutes earned St Helens a Challenge Cup, minor Premiership and Grand Final treble but only after brave resistance from Hull.

Super Saints shoot down Airlie Birds

ST Helens completed a clean sweep in 2006 as they defeated Hull 26-4 in the Grand Final at Old Trafford.

Pryce is right for Saints' prize glory

ST Helens' dominant performance ensures Hull's bravery is unrewarded in Grand Final debut. St Helens 26 Hull 4.

Trans Tasman results from Mt Smart stadium

TRANS Tasman rivalry was in full flight on Saturday at Mt Smart stadium in Auckland.Three games between the two countries had the vocal crowd entertained for most of the late afternoon and evening.Game 1NZ Universities vs Australian Tertiary Students Australian Tertiary Students 26 Tries: Tim Martin, Dan Smith, Scott Morton, Jamen McCleod, Pat Williamson (2) Goals: Shane BeldhamNZ Universities 22 Tries: Ben Hurrell, Hone Patrick, Ollie Needham Goals: Scott Hurrell (5)Halftime Score: 14 ? 8 To Australian Tertiary StudentsGame 2Junior Kiwis vs NSW Under 18?s Junior Kiwis 15 Tries: Meli Koliavu, Isaac John, Scott Jones Goals: Scott Jones Field Goal: Isaac JohnNSW Under 18?s 6 Tries: Taulima Tautai Goals: Trent HodgkinsonHalftime Score: 10 ? 6 To Junior KiwisMain GameNZ Kiwis vs Australian Kangaroos Australian Kangaroos 30 Tries: Mark Gasnier, Greg Inglis, Mark O?Meley, Karmichael Hunt (2) Goals: Johnathan Thurston (5)NZ Kiwis 18 Tries: Manu Vatuvei, Nigel Vagana, Jerome Ropati Goals: Stacey Jones (3)Halftime Score: 20 ? 6 To Australian Kangaroos

North Sydney Jersey Flegg trials postponed

DUE to the extremely hot conditions forecast for this Saturday the Jersey Flegg trials have been postponed. The trials will now be held on Saturday 21st October at TG Milner Field with an 8:30am start.Players to be invited back for further trial matches on Saturday 14th and 21st of October are listed on the Norths website: http://www.northsydneybears.com.au/Information/trials2007.htmTo all of those players who attended North Sydney's open trials in the Harold Matthews, SG Ball and Jersey Flegg age groups - thankyou. Players can be proud of their efforts and the spirit in which the games were played.We return to TG Milner Field this Saturday 14th October to further refine the squads, with Harold Matthews and SG Ball players required at 8.30am, and the following Saturday 21st October for the Jersey Flegg with players required at 8.30am. If you do not find your name in the squad, once again thankyou for your efforts and good luck for season 2007. To those players who are required, please ensure you arrive on time.For any further inquiries, please call Greg Florimo on 0421695594.Players are asked once again to print the indemnity form [on the Norths website above], sign it and bring the form with you on the day.

Big Mal extends his reign

GLADSTONE?S reputation as a rugby league stronghold has been further enhanced, with the board of the Queensland Rugby League today making several key announcements at the central port city.

Kangaroos make a winning start

TRI-NATIONS Game 1 New Zealand 18 v Australia 30at Mt Smart StadiumReferee: Ashley KleinMatch Summary:The Australian Kangaroos have won their opening Tri-Nations match for the first time in three years tonight, showing too much class in defeating the New Zealand Kiwis 30-18 in front of a vocal crowd at Mount Smart Stadium in Auckland.The Kiwis started strongly, and posted first points through their makeshift five-eighth Nigel Vagana. A 6-0 lead was quickly turned into a 6-12 defecit though, following two quick tries from Karmichael Hunt - much to the disapproval of the parochial home fans.A punch-up erupted in the 21st minute after Matt King was shoved over the sideline following a Kangaroo mistake, and a cameraman found himself right in the thick of the action as players swarmed in to add their ten cents worth. Shortly afterwards, David Kidwell delivered an absolute bell-ringer of a tackle on Willie Mason - some will see it as sweet justice against Mason after he was spotted swearing at the Kiwis during the haka before the match.A 30th-minute penalty goal extended the Kangaroos lead to 8 points before a piece of Mark Gasnier brilliance right on half-time saw the Kangaroos leap out to a 20-6 lead. After holding 61% of the ball in the first half, the Kangaroos took a well-deserved 14 point lead into the second forty.The second half developed into a bit of an arm-wrestle with plenty of chances and half-chances on for both sides. Greg Inglis was unlucky to be denied his first Test try in the 49th minute, called back after the video referee ruled Karmichael Hunt had obstructed the Kiwi defenders.Kiwi interchange player Jerome Ropati broke the second half deadlock with a well-taken try in the 60th minute to give the Kiwis a sniff, but their spark was quickly extinguished by further Kangaroo tries to Mark O'Meley (67th minute) and Greg Inglis (75th minute). Manu Vatuvei capped off the night for the Kiwis with a try in the final minutes, but the race had well and truly been won by then.Both teams left nothing in the tank, and at the end of the day it was simply the class of the Australians that proved the telling factor. Both sets of forwards went strongly all night, and it was the backline stars - notably Lockyer and Thurston for the Kangaroos - that proved the difference. Karmichael Hunt also chimed in with some valuable contributions.The Kiwis tried all night long, but just couldn't crack the Kangaroos when it counted most. Adam Blair produced an eye-catching debut from the bench, providing plenty of strong runs and looking likely to break the line on many occasions. Brent Webb gave a typically strong performance from the back, but the saviour of the Kiwis in 2005 - Stacey Jones - was heavily targeted, and didn't get much of a chance to shine.Scorers:New Zealand: 18Tries: Jerome Ropati, Nigel Vagana, Manu VatuveiGoals: Stacey Jones 3/3Australia: 30Tries: Karmichael Hunt (2), Mark O'Meley, Mark Gasnier, Greg InglisGoals: Johnathan Thurston 5/6By the Clock:Good evening everyone! The 2006 Tri-Nations kicks off tonight with the defending champions on their own turf, up against an Australian team that will start as solid favourites.It's a cool, clear night in Auckland - no sign of rain, and it should be a dry track. A good looking crowd in so far.The anthems have been sung, and the Kiwis are lining up for the haka ... Willie Mason does his bit for international relations by mouthing obscenities as the Kiwis are doing their thing.KICK OFF - We're underway! Mark O'Meley has started for the Kangaroos in place of Willie Mason.4 min: A solid start from both teams. Nigel Vagana finds half a gap down the blindside on the last tackle, but his kick ahead is well claimed by Karmichael Hunt.5 min: A forward pass from the Kangaroos gives the Kiwis a scrum win 40 metres out - and it's followed up by a penalty against Nathan Hindmarsh for a high tackle.6 min: TRY New ZealandA quick play-the-ball from David Kidwell allows Nigel Vagana to catch the Aussie markers on the hop - from ten metres out, he squeezes his way through the defence and only JUST gets the ball down, the try awarded by benefit of the doubt.Stacey Jones adds the extras. New Zealand 6-010 min: Johnathan Thurston puts in a cross-field kick that is easily claimed by Tame Tupou, but he's pushed into touch while trying to evade the Aussie defence up the blindside. Kangaroos on attack, 20 metres out.11 min: Karmichael Hunt is smashed (legally) by Tame Tupou, forcing an error as the Kangaroo backline was looking dangerous.13 min: Johnathan Thurston snaffles an intercept and races 40 metres downfield before being caught.14 min: TRY AustraliaKarmichael Hunt crosses the line untouched following some quick hands from Thurston and Lockyer to get the ball out wide.Johnathan Thurston, despite the instructions of the vocal crowd, adds the extra two. 6 all.15 min: Australia get their first penalty of the night from Ashley Klein. Tame Tupou nearly manages to reel in the kick for touch, but he was touching the chalk.17 min: TRY AustraliaA second try for Karmichael Hunt - this time he followed Johnathan Thurston to the line and took a neat short pass that opened up a huge gap in the Kiwis defence. Worrying signs for the Kiwis here.Thurston adds the extras from right in front. Australia 12-619 min: It's deja-vu all over again - a Kiwi kick-off is quickly followed by a penalty to the Kangaroos. Aussies on attack, 30 metres out.21 min: A grubber from Thurston bounces off a thousand legs before being claimed by the Kiwis - but an accidental offside is ruled, and the Kangaroos will have another attacking set.21 min: BIFF - Mark Gasnier throws a wild pass that Matt King misses, and the ball sails over the touchline. King is then pushed into the advertising boards, and gets up swinging at Manu Vatuvei. Plenty of others rush in to get involved, and the cameraman finds himself right in the middle of it.Eventually referee Klein awards a penalty to the Kiwis, against Matt King. Considering he was up against Vatuvei, he's lucky that's all he got!25 min: JUSTICE - David Kidwell comes in with a beautiful shoulder charge on Willie Mason, and big Willie drops like a sack of spuds. He gets up eventually sporting a nice shiner.26 min: The Kiwis begin to build some pressure on the Kangaroo tryline, but Manu Vatuvei loses the ball in a Mark Gasnier tackle.27 min: Cameron Smith, looking for a 40/20, ends up putting the kick into the Kiwis in-goal. A great chase from Justin Hodges forces a goal-line drop out.28 min: With his first touch of the night, Brent Kite is penalised while in possession for an incorrect play-the-ball.29 min: David Kidwell and Iosia Soliola create some space out wide, but Tame Tupou drops the ball with a fair bit of open space in front of him.30 min: PENALTY GOAL AustraliaBrent Kite makes a huge bust up the middle that ends with Greg Inglis being tackled 10 metres out. On the next play, Stacey Jones is penalised for being offside - but at least it prevented a try.Johnathan Thurston extends the lead with a penalty kick. Australia 14-634 min: Consecutive penalties against Ruben Wiki for stripping the ball hands the Kangaroos more attacking possession ...36 min: Justin Hodges is penalised for an obstruction play, and the Kiwis hang on - somehow.37 min: Karmichael Hunt is picked up and dragged back into the Kangaroo in-goal.39 min: TRY AustraliaA loose pass from Stacey Jones is swooped on by Mark Gasnier, and he tears upfield with only Simon Mannering chasing. Mannering sticks with him and makes a desperate attempted tackle ten metres out from the tryline, but Gasnier skips through and dots down.Johnathan Thurston slots a beautiful conversion from out wide. Australia 20-6HALFTIME: New Zealand 6 Australia 20It's been one heck of a first half, but some crucial lapses from the Kiwis have been ruthlessly siezed by a classy Kangaroos outfit. It'll take a fair effort from the boys in black to get themselves back into this one.Possession: Kiwis 39% Kangaroos 61%Completion: Kiwis 68% Kangaroos 72%Offloads: Kiwis 4 Kangaroos 1Missed tackles: Kiwis 15 Kangaroos 5The second half is underway!42 min: Simon Mannering is penalised for getting Brent Kite into a dangerous position in a tackle. Nothing in it really ...43 min: Johnathan Thurston makes a meal of a play-the-ball as the Kangaroos were looking dangerous once more. A lucky let-off for the Kiwis.45 min: Matt King makes a break down the touchline and puts a kick in-field - Tame Tupou claims it in his own in-goal and puts in a great effort to get back into the field of play, but promptly drops the ball.46 min: A fumble from Karmichael Hunt lets the Kiwis off the hook. Steve Matai may have suffered a knee injury, but he's staying on the field (for now).48 min: Another silly penalty conceded by the Kiwis, this time Nigel Vagana nearly falls asleep on Andrew Ryan.49 min: VIDEO REF - possible Kangaroos try ...49 min: NO TRY - Greg Inglis had stepped through the line and past Brent Webb to score, but the Video Ref rules an obstruction play against Karmichael Hunt. The Kangaroos don't look pleased as they wander back from halfway.50 min: The Kiwis burst into life - a cross-field kick from Stacey Jones is allowed to bounce into the in-goal, and Darren Lockyer just wins the race to the ball ahead of Manu Vatuvei.52 min: The Kangaroos defuse a second Jones bomb, but Karmichael Hunt loses the ball as they look to work it out of their own territory.54 min: Some promising attack from the Kiwis is undone by a fumble close to the Kangaroo line.58 min: A solid tackle from Manu Vatuvei forces an error from Johnathan Thurston, ending a promising Kangaroo break up-field.60 min: TRY New ZealandFrom five metres out, Jerome Ropati spins out of dummy-half and reaches out to score under the posts, finally cracking some strong Australian defence.Stacey Jones adds the extras. Australia 20-1264 min: Matt King flies high to claim another Stacey Jones bomb out wide. The Kiwis have fired up, but the Kangaroos are proving tough to crack.65 min: Johnathan Thurston combines with Reni Maitua to make a half-bust out wide, but the referee calls them back for a forward pass.67 min: TRY AustraliaA strong run from Willie Mason sets up a good chance, and on the next play Mark O'Meley takes a short pass from Cameron Smith and crashes across the line. That should wrap things up for the Kangaroos here.Johnathan Thurston converts. Australia 26-1273 min: The Kiwis throw the ball around - Roy Asotasi combines with Tony Puletua to make a break up-field, but the movement is stopped when Ruben Wiki throws a no-look pass straight to Greg Inglis.75 min: TRY AustraliaThe Kiwis rush up in defence, leaving plenty of holes out wide. Darren Lockyer gets the ball out to Greg Inglis, and he dances down the touchline before scoring the try. The Video Ref takes a look, and awards it on benefit of the doubt.Thurston misses for the first time tonight. Australia 30-1279 min: Some razzle-dazzle football from the Kangaroos, but Cameron Smith throws a forward pass as Matt King was looking at some wide open spaces in front of him. Reni Maitua is limping off the field.80 min: TRY New ZealandStacey Jones gets a nice off-load away to Dene Halatau, who races 25 metres upfield before being caught by the Kangaroo defence. On the next play, the ball is thrown wide to Manu Vatuvei and he claims a try just before the siren sounds.Stacey Jones converts from right on the chalk. Australia 30-18FULLTIME: New Zealand 18 Australia 30A convincing victory for the Kangaroos tonight - on this showing, they'll prove hard to beat in this tournament. The Kiwis will need to re-group quickly to have any chance of defending their 2005 title.Possession: Kiwis 44% Kangaroos 56%Completion: Kiwis 69% Kangaroos 64%Offloads: Kiwis 14 Kangaroos 10Missed tackles: Kiwis 28 Kangaroos 14-----------------------------------------Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:3 - Darren Lockyer (Kangaroos)2 - Johnathan Thurston (Kangaroos)1 - Adam Blair (Kiwis)-----------------------------------------

Tonga to face Cumbria

THE touring Tongan team will face Cumbria in a representative fixture at Derwent Park, Workington on Wednesday, October 25 (Kick off 7.30pm).It is the latest fixture for the revived Cumbrian county team that has previously played against New Zealand ?A?, Anzac Rugby League and Ireland. Cumbria is a county in the very North West of England with a rich history and participation in rugby league.Tonga will be in the country as they are participating in the Federation Shield tournament against England, France and Samoa. The Federation Shield is international Rugby League?s newest competition.Simon Malcolm, the RFL?s Director of Marketing, said: ?Cumbria is one of the key areas in Rugby League?s heartlands and the Cumbrians have a fierce pride in their county team.?Tonga should provide Cumbria with serious opposition as they will have just played in the Oceania Group of the World Cup Qualifying Competition and the opening round of the Federation Shield.?This is a wonderful opportunity for Cumbrian fans to see a top-class international team as well as players who ply their trade in Australia?s prestigious National Rugby League.?The Cumbrian team will be coached by Barrow Raiders? Head Coach Paul Crarey, who takes over the role from Warrington?s Gary Chambers.The Cumbria County squad for the game is:- Liam Harrison, Liam Finch, Brett McDermott, Mike Whitehead (All Barrow Raiders), Ade Gardner (St Helens), Matt Gardner (Huddersfield Giants), Gary Broadbent, Craig Calvert, Derrie Eilbeck, Carl Rudd, Scott McAvoy, Howard Hill, Marc Jackson, Carl Sice (all Whitehaven), Dean Burgess, Sean Lunt, Dean Vaughan, Jamie Beaumont (all Workington Town).Source: www.therfl.co.uk

Superleague Grand Final Preview

SECOND row Graeme Horne is Hull's only injury concern ahead of Saturday's Super League Grand Final against St Helens at Old Trafford.Horne, 21, hurt his ankle during his side's win over Bradford in last Friday's final eliminator.Older brother Richard Horne has shaken off an Achilles strain and will start.St Helens are set to field the team that beat Hull 12-8 in the qualifying semi-final, with captain Paul Sculthorpe their sole injury absentee.International duo Vinnie Anderson and Nick Fozzard, who were also left out of their victorious Challenge Cup final team, are expected to miss out again.Coach Daniel Anderson's only dilemma appears to be whether to start with Lee Gilmour or Mike Bennett in the second row.Anderson said: "Everyone is fit and there are no issues. There are no prizes for guessing what our 17 run-on will be."It's still a tough choice and there is still disappointment in the squad."Anderson added that his treble-chasing team are raring to go after sitting out two of the last three weekends."They're finely-tuned athletes who enjoy confrontation - that's our sport - so when there is no confrontation, they do get wound up," he said."But it's been a very long year. We haven't had any real time off. The two weeks we've had off in the play-off series have been a blessing for us because it's our 35th game this week."Hull coach Peter Sharp said: "We've a few bumps and bruises but we should be OK."Graeme Horne has a little bit of an ankle injury but we think he should be OK."Richard Horne had a bit of a sharp pain in his Achilles and he had to come off and it was a bit worrying for a while, but he seems to be fine."Utility back Richard Whiting, who was on the bench for Hull's qualifying semi-final defeat at St Helens, is the likely replacement if Horne fails to recover.Saturday's game is expected to be a 73,000 sell-out, with Old Trafford's increased capacity already ensuring a record attendance for a Grand Final. For St Helens Vinnie Anderson and Ian Hardman have been left out of the final 18-man squad, while for Hull youngsters Matty Dale and Tommy Lee are the players that drop out for the season's final game.St Helens v Hull - Super League Grand FinalSaturday, 14 October 2006Old Trafford, ManchesterKick-off: 1800 BSTSt Helens 18-man squad: Wellens, Gardner, Lyon, Talau, Meli, Pryce, Long, Fozzard, Cunningham, Cayless, Gilmour, Wilkin, Roby, Bennett, Hooper, P. Anderson, Graham, Fa'asavalu.Hull FC 18-man squad: Briscoe, Carvell, Chester, Cooke, Domic, Dowes, G. Horne, R. Horne, King, McMenemy, Radford, Raynor, Swain, Tony, Washbrook, Wheeldon, Whiting, Yeaman.Referee: Karl KirkpatrickSource: bbc.co.uk

Dragons axe Jersey Flegg

THE St George Illawarra Dragons have unveiled plans to scrap their third grade Jersey Flegg side from the NSWRL competition.The move is reportedly in anticipation of the introduction of an elite national under-20s competition in 2008. The Dragons have an agreement with Illawarra-based Shellharbour Marlins with the Jim Beam Cup side now set to be the club's 'third tier' team. The Dragons will field a second grade premier league team in 2007 comprising of juniors and some senior players.Reports indicate that the arrangement may be extended should the premier league competition be axed."In 2008 we contemplate that there will be a national youth competition and an NRL competition so we're preparing for that in 2007," Dragons Chief Executive Peter Doust is reported as saying in the Sydney Morning Herald."The reason we are having a premier league team [instead of Jersey Flegg] is that we still have some players that are on contract that would be over age but the majority of our side will be under 20s, which is what we had this year anyway."We prefer that structure because we think it prepares them for first grade more readily than playing in a Jersey Flegg competition and in fact a number of our players that played first grade this year and a lot of our premier league players could have played Jersey Flegg."A national youth competition was first discussed over a year ago with Parramatta chief executive Denis Fitzgerald being chairman of a committee to investigate various competition models.The proposal would see all NRL teams with an under-20s side that would play as a curtain raiser to the first grade (NRL) fixture each week. The plan extends to scrapping the premier league fixture with a NSW league similar to the Queensland Cup."I think there needs to be a restructure of NSW competitions as well, which I think will be contemplated on the back of this national youth competition being introduced," Doust added.

Kiwis Go Back To Their Roots

THE Kiwis have had an in-depth lesson about the importance and history of the haka.

Evermore Headline Pre-Match Entertainment

KIWI league fans are in for a huge night of entertainment on Saturday at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland.

Gorrell to join Dragons in Perpignan

THE St George Illawarra Dragons today extended best wishes to Aaron Gorrell with his decision to take-up a contract for three years with the Catalan Dragons in the English Super League.Gorrell will join Clint Greenshields at the Catalans Dragons under the guidance of his former Dragons Coach Mick Potter in their French base at Perpignan.?We don?t like to see local juniors move on from the Club however, the opportunity is very positive for Aaron in many respects and we wish him well,? said Dragons Chief Executive Officer Peter Doust.?Aaron has been a great contributor to our Club both on and off the field over a number of years and we are very thankful and grateful for his efforts.?He progressed very well under Mick Potter here in Premier League and we are sure he will do the same again in France,? added Doust.

Game I Preview: New Zealand v Australia

THE first Tri-Nations game for the 2006 season gets underway this Saturday night at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland, where the New Zealand Kiwis play host to the Australian Kangaroos in a highly anticipated clash that will surely have the locals drooling over the prospect of a boilover right about now.This is the fourth official Tri-Nations tournament, with the inaugural competition in 1999 being claimed by the Aussies, although it only consisted of three games and a final. Australia also won the 2004 series but the Kiwis are the current holders of the title, taking out the 2005 tournament with a convincing 24-0 victory over Australia at Elland Road, Leeds.Overall the two nations have played 95 times, Australia has won 66, New Zealand 27 and there have been 2 draws. The tournament proper returns to the southern hemisphere for the first time since the 1999 series, with the past 2 series kicking-off in the south pacific before heading to the north of England to be played out.New Zealand do have a bit of a knack at winning on home soil and the opening contests present yet another opportunity for them to get one up on the Aussies. Whilst they have won a few in Auckland over the past few years, the general trend has been for a close game. Plus, with the replay set for a Kiwi-sympathetic crowd in Melbourne, the Aussies might not have it all their own way.Let?s take a look at some recent games in the Land of the Long White Cloud:Game II 2005: Australia 28 def New Zealand 26 (Mt Smart, Auckland)Game I 2004: New Zealand 16 drew with Australia 16 (North Harbour, Auckland)Centenary Test 2003: New Zealand 30 def Australia 16 (North Harbour, Auckland)International 2002: Australia 32 def New Zealand 24 (WestpacTrust, Wellington)International 2001: Australia 28 def New Zealand 10 (WestpacTrust, Wellington)Tri-Nations Final 1999: Australia 22 def New Zealand 20 (Mt Smart, Auckland)Game I 1999: New Zealand 24 def Australia 22 (Mt Smart, Auckland)The most recent contest between the two Nations resulted in a 50-12 thumping of the Kiwis by Australia, but since then there has been many changes to both sides. The other relevant statistics prior to that are the 2005 New Zealand victory (38-28 in Sydney) and five years earlier when the Kiwi?s capitulated 52-0, also in Sydney.You probably can?t read too much into the two thrashings as the Kiwis have traditionally struggled in the ANZAC Tests which are usually played on Aussie turf and geared towards the home team. And the recent Australian victory in New Zealand was coming off their shock loss in Sydney, a game that ultimately kept the 2005 series alive.Looking at the two teams there are some interesting changes, notably the retirement of Andrew Johns and Ben Kennedy for Australia and the return of Stacey Jones for the Kiwis.Firstly, the Aussies?Australian Team: Karmichael Hunt, Matt King, Mark Gasnier, Justin Hodges, Greg Inglis, Darren Lockyer (c), Johnathan Thurston, Willie Mason, Cameron Smith, Petero Civoniceva, Luke O'Donnell, Nathan Hindmarsh, Reni MaituaInterchange: Mark O'Meley, Shaun Berrigan, Andrew Ryan, Brent KiteInglis, Hodges, Smith, Maitua and Kite are all making their debuts for the Aussies, with Hunt likely to be feeling as though he is too, after getting poleaxed by Pritchard back in May and spending the night in hospital.Tahu has succumbed to injury throughout the year, as has Cooper giving Inglis and Hodges their opportunities. Thurston moves from the bench into the halfback?s role, with Maitua replacing Kennedy at the base of the scrum. Buderus will sit the tournament out with the imminent birth of his first child, allowing Dally M Player of the Year Smith to debut at hooker.The bench has changed around a bit with O?Meley the only survivor from the ANZAC clash. Menzies has since retired and Simpson has decided to sit this one out. It?s a bit of a worry here I think with Berrigan, Ryan and Kite unlikely to provide much impact.Now for the Kiwis?New Zealand Team: Brent Webb, Tame Tupou, Iosia Soliola, Steve Matai, Manu Vatuvei, Nigel Vagana, Stacey Jones, Ruben Wiki (c), Dene Halatau, Roy Asotasi, David Kidwell, Tony Puletua, Simon ManneringInterchange: Jerome Ropati, Nathan Cayless, Adam Blair, Frank PritchardThere?s been some significant changes here, firstly in the backline with Webb, Tupou and Vagana the only remaining players to have taken part in the ANZAC Test. Matai, who was named in the original 19-man squad for the ANZAC Test gets his chance in the centres after a very impressive semi-finals campaign for Manly. Likewise Soliola, one of the few Roosters players who can hold his head high this season, gets his first shot for his country.Vagana is again at five-eighth, a ploy that has had mixed success, with Jones returning from the south of France to provide to team with direction. In the forwards, Asotasi takes the spot of Jason Cayless with Wiki again captaining the side ? his 52nd appearance - and Halatau replaces Faiumu as rake in an interesting selection. The backrow has lost some steam however, with incumbent Kidwell now being partnered by Tony Puletua and Mannering (also his first cap). Anderson and SBW are no longer there leaving some aggression behind.The bench is interesting though with two debutants (Ropati and Blair) and only Pritchard remaining from earlier in the year. Nathan Cayless should provide a steady hand with Blair and Pritchard offering plenty of impact. Ropati is a lively one as well and had an exuberant finish to the season for the Warriors.The DecisionInitially I favour Australia as they are fielding a very strong backline but you should never write the Kiwis off when they?re playing at home. Recent victories in Sydney and last year?s Tri-Nations final will give them plenty of self belief, and given the result earlier in the year, there is probably less expectation on the shoulders of New Zealand to defend their crown than there is for Australia reclaiming it.The area New Zealand should be looking to exploit is the forwards. Wiki and Asotasi are fantastic props who are the equal of Mason and Civoniceva. Smith is a much better hooker than Halatau though, who I already have questions marks over after a stunted season where he only played 14 games. Perhaps McClennan is looking to use him as an extra forward, a ploy that could help them gain field advantage but could hinder direction out of dummy half.New Zealand does have an experience edge, with 100 more Test caps in their side than Australia. And when they take the field on Saturday night, the Kangaroos will have blooded 11 debutants in the Test arena this year. That?s significant, but when you look at the five guys making their debut (Hodges, Inglis, Smith, Maitua and Kite) they are by no means rookies in the game.Weather permitting, I think the Aussies will win. If the forwards cancel one another out I think the Aussie backs will overpower their counterparts. Providing Gasnier is injury free, he and Hodges should make a mean pairing with Inglis and King no slouches either. It will be interesting to see how Matai and Soliola go as if they do get some room to move they can be destructive players. Vatuvei and Tupou are enormous fellas as well, ensuring a physical contest in the backs.A Kiwi victory with throw the entire tournament open and if they can win the contest in the middle of the park and frustrate the Aussies, they may well do so. But I?m going to stick with Australia as it is simply one of the best backlines we?ve ever seen them field.A further factor will be the motivation behind Ricky Stuart to win this tournament. Following on from his dumping at the Roosters, the Australian coach will be very keen to finish the year on a high note.

Anti-siphoning laws in action, the CH9 way

THE utter futility of the anti-siphoning laws will be on full view on Saturday night when Channel Nine begins its telecast of the tri-nations match between the Kangaroos and the Kiwis at 6.30pm ? at about the exact time the game being played in Auckland will end.And it is worth comparing Nine?s attitude with that of Seven. When the Wallabies play the All Blacks in New Zealand, Seven shows the game live, and adjusts its evening news timing to do so.But not Channel Nine, which has a long history of taking rugby league fans for granted, as well as the game?s administrators who have an equally long history of doing absolutely nothing to prevent Nine doing so!But maybe fans in Sydney and Brisbane should be thankful for small mercies. In Melbourne, the game ? which will feature at least two Storm players making their test debut (Greg Inglis and Cameron Smith) ? will be shown at 11.45pm on Saturday night.Just two weeks ago, we were told by a Nine executive that Eddie McGuire was the new saint of rugby league in Melbourne. The halo has not just slipped ? it has evaporated.And what pressing television commitment ? other than the nightly news ? has pushed the test telecast back by an hour and a half? While the game is actually being played, Nine will be showing Australia?s Funniest Home Videos. Pathetic!But don?t blame Nine entirely. The Federal Government has done absolutely nothing to make the anti-siphoning laws effective, and the Australian Rugby League has again proven itself to be the most impotent sporting body in the land.This is what the ARL Chairman, Colin Love, had to say last night:"Naturally we would prefer the game to be shown live but you have to be realistic. Nine has its news at 6pm and they can?t run the risk of interfering with that."In Crikey?s letters a couple of days ago, Ten?s business manager of network sport, Gerard Patane, wrote about how all three commercial networks are behind a campaign to protect the anti-siphoning rules, savemysport, preaching concern for fans of major sporting events.But Nine has shown us the reality. The rules should be simple ? if the free-to-air channels won?t show events on the anti-siphoning list live, pay television should be allowed to.And Foxtel ? which won?t be able to show the game until 10pm ? would grab the chance to do so.

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