Player news: Knights, Cowboys & Panthers

NEWCASTLE centre Matthew Gidley has announced his retirement from representative rugby league. The former Australian back, who played 11 Tests and 11 State of Origin games for NSW, says he wants to devote more time to his playing commitments with NRL club the Knights, and his family.

North Sydney visit Newcastle

THIS weekend the Mighty Red & Black travel to the land of the Red & Blue as they face the David Fairleigh coached Newcastle Knights. 'Daisy', was a tough Bear to beat in his day and the Norths team will be looking to back up their win against the Bulldogs in what is expected to be an evenly match contest.

Wigan confirm Barrett signing

WIGAN Warriors today confirmed the signing of Australian star Trent Barrett. Trent has agreed a three year contract covering 2007, 2008 and 2009.Commenting on the signing Head Coach Brian Noble said,"This is a great signing for the club Trent is a world class player with wonderful skills."His talent enables him to play anywhere on the field and he can cover both half back positions or even loose forward. Apart from his handling skills he has a great kicking game and tackles hard."Noble continued,"When I joined the club the first thing Maurice Lindsay asked me about was Trent Barrett. The club had been in long negotiations with Trent but Maurice wanted my view before the deal was concluded."It took me about one second to tell Maurice to get the contract signed. It is a terrific signing and a credit to Wigan that they can attract such star players even when the club is struggling."We have a big job on our hands this season but we are planning long term and we are determined to have a competitive side for the Wigan fans."Trent Barrett said,"I had a clause in my contract with St George that allowed me to leave before my contract was up but only if I was moving to Super League in England."I could not have joined another Australian club. I thought long and hard about the matter but I have always had the ambition to play in England and I wanted to do that whilst I was still in decent form. I did not want to leave it too late."Everyone in Australia knows the history of the Wigan club and we all consider it an honour to get the chance to play for such a great club."Brian Noble has a good reputation with players and I am looking forward to wearing the Wigan shirt."Craig Smith used to play for St George before he left for Wigan and he has told me what a great club it is with a great set of fans."- - - - -Trent Barrett fact file:DOB: 18 November 1977Starsign: ScorpioPlace of Birth (city/state): Temora NSWHeight (cm): 182cmWeight (kg): 93kgNickname: BazCurrent Club Stats: * App 141 * Tries 42 * Goals 0 * Drop Goals 5 * Points 173 Career Stats: * App 186 * Tries 72 * Goals 0 * Drop Goals 7 * Points 295 Rep Honours:2000-2002 & 2005 Australia1997, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005 NSW Origin2003 NSW Country

Round 13 Superleague Preview

FOUR Friday night games get us started in Round 13 of Superleague this weekend.

Carting it up with Stevo

WHEN is experience just age?

Round 9 NRL Preview

AFTER another round of footy that was tighter than a Hulk Hogan headlock, we now focus our attention on an even tougher set of match-ups, with the Test on Friday night set to dictate late changes, throwing in the odd wobbly result.I was my own worst enemy last week taking the Warriors to win at home. They?ve replaced the Raiders as my bogey team, and if the Cowboys lose again this week they?ll be on that list too. This reduced me to five out of seven with an overall total of 37/56 (66%) and I?m still searching for that elusive perfect score.One thing?s for sure, it?s not getting any easier?Australia v New ZealandWe begin the weekend with the first representative fixture of the season and one that hopefully lives up to expectations. There hasn?t been this much interest in International Rugby League for quite some time and rightly so as both teams are finally able to field their strongest line-ups.To begin with, the Kiwis are paying $4.50 for the win. I can?t say no to those odds given it?s a two horse race and the fact is that Australia needs to take the game away from New Zealand before they set about winning the contest.New Zealand have a strong forward pack that can not only keep up with the Aussies these days, they have the ability to dominate as well. Sure, I know it?s the last Test for Johns but he looked unfit and unhappy against the Bunnies last week. The Aussies are pretty strong across the park although I feel a Kiwi victory is well within the frame. BK, Big Willie and Petero are all in great form and will take the game to the opposition.I?m going to stick with the Aussies, but I?ll be happy either way as a lazy $20 on the other mob will provide me with a nice little emotional hedge.Eels v RaidersSuper Saturday gets underway out in League Heartland with Parra taking on the Raiders in a do-or-die clash. The loser of this contest has my permission to get really worried about their season. Last week both sides threw away seemingly un-losable leads to wind up excruciatingly short.Parra have Hindmarsh and Tahu backing up from the night before and I think the result hinges plenty on the availability of these two players, in particular Hindy. The Eels seem incapable of winning without him and the backline looks much more adept with Tahu.For the Raiders, they play their second game away from home in two weeks, making me think they will struggle to overcome Parra in whatever shape they take. I wouldn?t be resting Jason Smith at any stage during the game if I was Matt Elliott, as the veteran five-eighth?s brief 10min absence more or less cost them the game last weekend. I?m going to stick with Parra here in a tight one and with desperation the key player in both camps, this game could have plenty to offer the spectator.Cowboys v PanthersHands up who got caught out picking the Cowboys again? Well, straight up I?m going to tick their box this week as I don?t believe they can lose three in a row. All sorts of alarm bells and sirens will be sounding in FNQ if this happens.The Panthers were particularly disappointing against the Sharks last week as well, providing their fans with little to cheer about amid their return to a refurbished home ground. Priddis at halfback was never going to work and besides which the Sharks appeared to simply want it more. With the return of Gower, this game is within reach for the Panthers, providing they can foot it with the Cowboys in the forwards.Thurston should be fine to back-up from the Test match providing he doesn?t get injured, although I bet O?Donnell will be a bit sore. Pritchard for Penrith will be in the same boat. I?m going to stick with the Cowboys as it?s no surprise to see Smith back at five-eighth after Firman?s Barry Crocker last week has brought the curtain down on his travelling circus. If North Queensland can?t get over the line here, call for the defibrillator immediately.Rabbitohs v StormNormally you?d dismiss the Bunnies from the realms of victory fairly early on, but after last week?s effort against the Knights, I think they deserve some consideration. Besides, Jason Robinson?s performance in that match was the most reputation-based display of refereeing I?ve ever seen. The only reason he still has a job is because the NRL is short on whistle-blowers.Anyhoo, I thought the Storm were impressive against a Dragons outfit that should have been leading by a bit at halftime. Melbourne seemed to be the more patient team and were able to wait for opportunities to present themselves. Crocker, Inglis and Smith have been in stunning form and each week lay the foundation for the Storm.Whilst I cannot discount the slim chance South Sydney has of jagging a win, they need everything to go their way if they are to take home the chocolates. Their last outing against Newcastle would have had them banging the odd locker in the change rooms after the game, and rightly so ? Robinson was terrible. But they did show up to play and if they do that against Melbourne we will at least see a contest. The MacDougall?s and Walker?s went well, but with Fa?alogo backing up I think it?s too much for the Bunnies. Storm by plenty.Knights v BroncosAnother week, another betting suspension levelled against the Newcastle club. It is certainly a case of once bitten, twice shy for the bookies with their memories longer than an elephants as they still lick their wounds from the Warriors game. It?s fair to assume that Johns might not make it through the Test match, but either way I don?t think it will matter.The Knights were woeful last week against Souths and if they turn up in that frame of mind again they?ll get poleaxed. With Johns, Buderus and Simpson backing up plus the loss of Thaiday to injury, Newcastle is susceptible to a loss here.This is, of course, without even assessing the form of Brisbane. After a slow start against the Raiders last week the Broncos overcame an 18-point deficit to win at home in a gallop. Hodges is playing out of his skin as is the likes of Parker and Thaiday. The visitors pose a real threat to Newcastle in this one and I?m going to tip them here based off form and the possibility that the Knights? Test stars won?t back up too well.Roosters v BulldogsThis one should be a cracker. Both teams looked out of touch and a bit shabby leading into Round 8 but they hit form and overcame their opposition to record valuable wins. In the case of the Roosters it was particularly impressive, backing up after 4 days to knock over the Cowboys at home.The Bulldogs will do it tough in this one though. O?Meley, Mason, Asotasi and Sonny Bill are all backing up from the Test match, sapping Canterbury?s forward pack of its? usual sting. With no such issues facing the Roosters, fitness will play a big part. Another factor will be the halves with Finch leading Easts about very well last week. This pales in comparison to the Doggies who lacked spark and direction when they had the ball in attacking opportunities. Maitua?s off-field problems may also cause him to be a bit shy.I think the Roosters can get home in this one especially given that their forwards will be fresh. Wing and Fitzgibbon will be sure to put in big performances given their omission from the Test side. Tigers v Sea EaglesWe travel out to Leichhardt Oval for the next of our four Sunday matches. The Tigers are coming off the bye and this is never an easy thing to overcome. With Hodgson back from injury they should be a bit safer at the back but I?m really not sure what Sheensy is doing here.Shifting Farah to halfback is akin to what Penrith did with Priddis last week. Farah is an excellent hooker and his effectiveness will be dulled by the move. Likewise, Prince is the best halfback at the club, but now he?s playing five-eighth. I would have thought Lolesi could be an option at no.6 but he still finds himself in the unfamiliar position of lock.The Sea Eagles are playing well on the other hand, although BK and Beaver will be backing up. These two guys are the best players at the club but I think they?ll be able to overcome this hurdle. Orford has found his step and young Burns is a tearaway success so far this season. I?m getting behind Manly in this one as they continue to push their claims as genuine contenders.Sharks v DragonsOur final game of the round pits arch rivals the Sharks up against the Dragons in one of the last old-fashioned local derby?s. This time around there will be some extra spice to the clash with former Dragons stalwart Lance Thompson lining up against his old club after departing at the end of last season in controversial circumstances.The Dragons jump on the train down to the Shire to meet the Sharkies who are playing great footy at the moment. Last week Saints lost to Melbourne and were unimpressive for the most part. They can?t use the short turnaround as an excuse either, with the Roosters victory fixing that little red wagon. And with the loss of Head and Bailey I think they?ll do it tough.The Sharks are at home in this one and despite the loss of Ross they managed to win without him for most of the match last week. Villa the Gorilla could be a shock inclusion but regardless they look a little thin on the ground. Dykes is playing the house down and on form you?d pick the Sharks to win comfortably. But something tells me the Dragons will get up here. Barrett has his future sorted out now so look for a big game from him and whatever the result this game shapes as required viewing.The Warriors have the bye in Round 9 allowing them to rest their star players following Friday night?s Test match. It?s fair to say though that this treat is a little generous this season, with only 4 Auckland-based players taking part. Traditionally they have made up the bulk of the NZ squad and with the two points they?ll continue their incremental moves up the ladder.

Queensland Cup - Round 11 - Preview

WITHOUT doubt this is the most attractive round of Queensland Cup football this year. It all begins on Saturday afternoon with the ABC Televised clash between competition leaders Toowoomba and sixth placed North Queensland at Clive Berghofer Stadium in Toowoomba. These two clubs are the feeder teams for NRL sides Brisbane and North Queensland Cowboys and the quality of player on show should ensure a good crowd and a fine spectacle. Toowoomba grabbed first place on the ladder (on 16 points) with a 36-24 defeat of Wynnum at Kougari Oval last Sunday with Redcliffe dropping to third place on percentages from Easts after a surprise loss to the Tigers at Dolphin Oval. Easts play Norths at Bishop Park in the other Saturday afternoon clash this weekend with Norths on 12 points, the same as North Queensland. On Saturday night at Browne Park, Rockhampton the Central Comets (10 points) have a crucial match against Wynnum (13) with a loss possibly putting the Comets five points adrift of the top five at the halfway mark of the competition. There are three matches on Sunday, all at 3.00pm and all shape as even affairs. The highlight is the Burleigh v Redcliffe clash at Pizzey Park, Miami with Burleigh arguably the competition?s form side while premiers Redcliffe are in a mini form slump. The Dolphins have now suffered three losses in the last 4 weeks to teams in finals contention with two of these defeats inflicted at home. The Bears after their much publicised slow start to the season are in clear second spot on 15 points with Redcliffe one point behind and equal with Easts. Last placed Brothers Valleys give themselves a good chance of beating Tweed Heads Seagulls at O?Callaghan Park on Sunday with Tweed not having won since round three. In the other match Souths Logan Magpies (4) and Ipswich Jets (3) clash at Davies Park with the result too tough to call. After the Jets featured in the previous two finals series, losing the 2002 decider to the Dolphins, they will be keen for a win to spark a more satisfactory finish to this season.

Storm get the points as Knights fall short

THE Melbourne Storm have dominated the first half to defeat a gallant Newcastle Knights 28-18 at EnergyAustralia Stadium tonight.

Girdler and Campbell to spearhead Penrith attack

THE Penrith Panthers have opted to move Preston Campbell to halfback and Ryan Girdler to five-eighth in the absence of the injured Craig Gower.

Raiders demolish Manly in second half thrashing

THE Canberra Raiders have broken a four game losing streak defeating the Manly Sea Eagles 48-22 at Canberra Stadium tonight. In a sensational second half display, the Raiders piled on 32 points and completely outclassed the Sea Eagles.

Andrew Voss: going in boots n all

COMMENTATOR Andrew Voss is familiar to most League fans for his match calls and sideline updates. He?s also a regular on the Footy Show and the co-host of Channel Nine?s ?Boots n All? programme.

Deja vu as Souths fans are left wanting answers

IT?S become an all too familiar sight. A promising first half and then along comes a second half performance that even most junior football coaches would be fuming about it.

Bailey a Shark for three more

CRONULLA utility forward, Phil Bailey, has signed a deal which will see him remain at the Sutherland Shire club until the end of 2007. Rumours had circulated about his desire to link up with St George Illawarra or Manly, especially following the departure of former coach Chris Anderson, however this speculation amounted to nothing when his decision was announced yesterday.

Sacked Warriors Will Never Play Again

RISING Warriors star Shaun Metcalf and his two team-mates will probably never play professional rugby league after their criminal convictions.

Riddell, Kite invited to look elsewhere

ST George Illawarra Dragons have invited forward Brent Kite and hooker Mark Riddell to look elsewhere following speculation about the pair's future. Dragons chief executive Peter Doust last night confirmed that permission has been given for the two players to negotiate with rival clubs before the NRL's June 30 anti-tampering deadline.

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