BEFORE I get started with today?s rant, I?d just like to make it clear that Sunday?s feature article - which included my Test teams - was based on the teams which I thought would be named, as opposed to the teams I thought should be named. Hence, the reason I picked Matt Cooper ahead of Justin Hodges.Usually when a representative coach makes a nepotism-based selection, they generally put it down to discretion alone. But in one of the more blatant cases with the selection of Australia?s team for Friday night?s Test, coach Ricky Stuart has made no secret of his intentions.Usually we?d be saying; ?we all know the real reason why Justin Hodges wasn?t selected.? However, this time, no assumptions were required. Stuart already made his reasoning quite clear.The reasons are as follows:1. It appears as though he dislikes Justin Hodges personally.2. He doesn?t want to convey that former Test coach, Wayne Bennett, has any selection authority over him whatsoever ? although I guess this point has taken a slight twist with the naming of Karmichael Hunt at fullback for Australia, but we?ll keep that powder dry for now.The first reason could possibly be justified, given that Hodges was more of a paid spectator than a player during his time at the Roosters. But is it right that Hodges? past indiscretions should cost him an Australian jumper simply because of his history with the current Test coach? That in itself is blight on Stuart?s coaching ability ? Bennett?s expertise enabled him to get the best football out of Hodges, whereas Stuart was unable to realise Hodges? potential.They say you know when you?re being effective by the strength of your enemy?s tricks. I think Bennett may be one up on Stuart here ? but that?s only round one completed, the games will continue. You could argue that Hodges may have matured as a footballer and his sudden form surge has nothing to do with his mentors, but this issue seems to stem further than that.The second reason just illustrates the ongoing agendas and egos which exist in our game. For now though, I?d rather not dwell on that. Let?s try to focus on what potentially could be one of the best Test matches of all-time. For starters, yes, I won?t hide from the fact that Karmichael Hunt?s selection at fullback in place of the injured Anthony Minichiello, and ahead of other more capable fullbacks, was one of the most political of all-time. But I?ve had enough whining about selections, and enough has been said about Hunt?s selection already, so let?s get straight to the game itself.Looking at the two sides on paper, I?m going with the Kiwis. They were clinical in the Tri-Nations final and with the addition of Benji Marshall and Sonny Bill Williams, the Kiwis look all the more formidable. Australia on the other hand hasn?t changed all that much since November last year. They have strangely decided to stick with loyalty, despite the fact that those policies brought them unstuck last year. Willie Mason?s selection at prop is a litigious one; he would have been more pertinent as an impact player off the bench for mine. The Kiwis look as though they?ll be able to dominate up front, and with the added spark of Marshall and Williams, I think they will get over the line here.I know Andrew Johns and Darren Lockyer will have different ideas, but with the pressure of the New Zealand forwards, I can?t see those players having it all their own way on Friday night.I?ll stick my neck out and say the Kiwis to win by six.Now to a few more significant issues this week:- I honestly thought the Warriors were certainties in Sunday's game against the Bulldogs. But what happened? Yep, you guessed it ? they displayed an absolute shocker ? failing to string back to back performances together. They know the difference between right and wrong, they just decide to choose the latter for some reason.- The surface at Telstra Stadium is an absolute joke. After seeing both NRL and AFL fixtures there in the last couple of weeks, that turf will be lucky to hold out for another month. Time for a complete removal of the current turf and a complete replacement to occur.- Surprise surprise. A Bulldogs player caught drink driving once again. It?s time for that club to make a stand and sack Maitua, which may be the only way to save face after another embarrassing week for the Canterbury club.- Congratulations Brett Finch! He played a great game on Saturday night and full credit to him. But do you think the following response was warranted? ?All those critics, especially some of the Roosters fans, so-called fans, they can kiss our arse.? Come on Finchy, surely your footy can do the talking. That one lacked class.That?s all for this week. I?ll catch you at the same time next week with a full round-up of the test match and round nine which promises to be a cracker. I?m particularly looking forward to the Roosters/Bulldogs clash at Aussie Stadium on Sunday. Those two clubs generally dislike each other and have built up a bitter rivalry over the last few years. Given that both of those sides notched up wins last round, I have a feeling that match could be something special. Until next week, enjoy your footy!
THE inclusion of no less than seven Melbourne Storm players in the Bears line up has helped Norths defeat the Bulldogs at North Sydney Oval on Saturday. Scott Hill, Jamie Feeney, Ryan Shortland, Chris Walker, Adam Blair, Ben Scott and Mathew Bartlett all made an appearance in the famous red and black.
THE Newtown Jets registered good wins in both grades on the weekend, setting the scene for a big crowd at the first home games double-header for the season at Henson Park next Saturday (May 6th).In the VB Premier League match played at Campbelltown on Friday night, the Jets were too strong for last-placed Western Suburbs, winning this match 42-6 after leading by 22-0 at half-time. The Magpies offered plenty of resistance in the first half, with Newtown asserting their ascendancy in the ten minutes prior to the break.Jets half-back Jamie Soward turned in the game?s standout performance, with five of Newtown?s nine tries coming directly from his broad repertoire of accurate kicking options. Newtown?s forward pack, spearheaded by Glenn Hall, Danny Williams, Mickey Paea and Lopini Paea took control early in the match and laid the basis for the Jets? nine tries to one victory. Fullback Aidan Kirk and winger Troy Malcolm collected two tries apiece, as did five-eighth Josh Lewis, prior to his leaving the field midway through the second half after being on the receiving end of a dangerous head-high tackle.In the third round of the Jim Beam Cup competition on Saturday, the Jets completed their Central Coast travelling requirements with an away game to The Entrance and would have reason to be pleased with the quality and character of their 34-18 win. Newtown had led by 16-14 at the break, but things looked ominous when The Entrance grabbed the lead early in the second half. Newtown Director John Lynch reports that superior fitness, physical strength and team spirit saw the Jets surge home for a very useful win. Ritchie Parker, Billy Baleilomaloma, Khalid Deeb and Rimini Reweti were Newtown?s best forwards, with Toufic Nicolas and Anton La Vin giving strong performances in the backline. The Parkes Spacemen disappointed their Pioneer Oval home crowd when they crashed out badly in the Group 11 first grade match against Dubbo CYMS to the tune of 42-12. The Newtown Jets return to Henson Park next Saturday (May 6th) for the first competition games double-header for this season. Action gets underway at 12 noon when the Newtown Jetettes face off with the Windsor She-Wolves in the Sydney Women?s Rugby League. The Jets clash with Wentworthville in the Jim Beam Cup at 1.15pm, while in the VB Premier League main game, Newtown take on the Bulldogs at 3.00pm.[Pic: Newtown winger Troy Malcolm has been a prolific try-scorer for the Jets this season. Photo courtesy of Gary Sutherland Photography.]
ANOTHER big weekend of football began on Friday night with the Cronulla Sharks surging back into contention following their 40-12 victory over the Panthers in Penrith. The Sharks join a number of teams, including the Panthers, in the middle of the competition ladder on eight points.Saturday footy saw the Sydney Roosters bounce back with a victory over competition front runners the North Queensland Cowboys. After leading 10-6 at half time, the Roosters held on to win by 22-18. The result sees the Roosters join the log jam on eight points while the Cowboys share a chunk of the top spot on 12 points.Meanwhile in Melbourne, the Storm played excellent wet weather football to outclass the St George IIlawarra Dragons by 24-12. Saints are battling for form on eight points while the win elevates the Storm into 12 points and equal with the competition leaders.The Brisbane Broncos are also on 12 points after they came from behind to defeat the Canberra Raiders at old Lang Park. Amazingly, the 12th-placed Raiders led 18-0 at half time, only to be chased down in the second half.Sunday Rugby League kicked off with the Canterbury Bulldogs proving too good for the New Zealand Warriors with a 30-16 victory in Auckland. The Bulldogs are now firming into the top eight on 10 points while the Warriors are still trying to kick clear of the last-placed Souths.Talking of which, the South Sydney Rabbitohs continue their run of losses going down 24-18 to the fourth-placed Newcastle Knights at Telstra Stadium. The round wrapped up at the SCG with a thrilling 23-22 win to the Manly Sea Eagles over the Parramatta Eels. A field goal in 78th minute snatched victory, elevating Manly to 10 points and into fifth spot on the ladder. The luckless Eels continue to stumble in 2006 and remain in 13th position.All match results and details are listed below.LeagueUnlimited.com Player AwardsThe LeagueUnlimited.com Player Awards still has Cowboys five-eighth Johnathan Thurston leading on 16 points and Knights half back Andrew Johns is still in second place on 12 points. But the challenge is being thrown down by half back Matt Orford (Sea Eagles) and hooker Cameron Smith (Storm) who have both moved into third position on 11 points.Meanwhile Adam Dykes (Sharks) is on 10 points while Ben Kennedy (Sea Eagles) and Greg Inglis (Storm) are not far away on nine points.The full leader board is below.The Leagueunlimited.com players of the match are decided by our live score updaters and tallied here each week on Monday?s Expert League wrap.Want to be a live score updater? For further enquiries, email us.League Wrap: Round 8, 28 ? 30 April 2006MATCH RESULTS:Penrith Panthers: 12Tries: Rhys Wesser, Matthew CrossGoals: Preston Campbell 2/2Cronulla Sutherland Sharks: 40Tries: Luke Covell (2), Adam Dykes, Paul Gallen, Darren Albert (2), Luke DouglasGoals: Luke Covell 6/7Half time: Sharks 22-12Venue: CUA Stadium PenrithCrowd: 16,268Referee: Sean HampsteadLeagueunlimited.com players of the match:3 - Lance Thompson (Sharks)2 - Adam Dykes (Sharks)1 - Luke Covell (Sharks)North Queensland Cowboys: 18Tries: Aaron Payne, Johnathan Thurston, Neil SweeneyGoals: Johnathan Thurston 3/3Sydney Roosters: 22Tries: Sam Perrett, Amos Roberts, Anthony Tupou, Vince MellarsGoals: Craig Fitzgibbon 3/4Half time: Roosters 10-6Venue: Dairy Farmers StadiumCrowd: 21,175Referee: Shayne HayneLeagueunlimited.com players of the match:3 - Brett Finch (Roosters)2 - Matthew Bowen (Cowboys)1 - Ashley Harrison (Roosters)Melbourne Storm: 24Tries: Ian Donnelly, Steve Turner, Jake Webster (2)Goals: Cameron Smith 4/6St George Illawarra Dragons: 10Tries: Colin Best, Reece SimmondsGoals: Aaron Gorrell 1/1, Mathew Head 0/1Half time: Storm 14-4Venue: Olympic Park MelbourneCrowd: 8,694Referee: Tony ArcherLeagueunlimited.com players of the match:3 - Greg Inglis (Storm)2 - Cooper Cronk (Storm)1 - Cameron Smith (Storm)Brisbane Broncos: 30Tries: Justin Hodges, Karmichael Hunt(2), Darren Lockyer, David StaggGoals: Darren Lockyer 1/1, Corey Parker 4/4Canberra Raiders: 28Tries: Jason Croker, Adam Mogg(2), Clinton Schifcofske, Alan TongueGoals: Clinton Schifcofske 4/5Half time: Raiders 18-0Venue: Suncorp StadiumCrowd: 23,582Referee: Russell SmithLeagueunlimited.com players of the match:3 - Corey Parker (Broncos)2 - Alan Tongue (Raiders)1 - Karmichael Hunt (Broncos)New Zealand Warriors: 16Tries: Sione Faumuina, Wairangi KoopuGoals: Tony Martin 4/4Canterbury Bulldogs: 30Tries: Roy Asotasi, Hazem El Masri(2), Willie Tonga, Daniel HoldsworthGoals: Hazem El Masri 5/6Half time: Bulldogs 16-8Venue: Ericsson StadiumCrowd: 11,604Referee: Gavin BadgerLeagueunlimited.com players of the match:3 - Roy Asotasi (Bulldogs)2 - Hazem El Masri (Bulldogs)1 - Nathan Fien (Warriors)South Sydney Rabbitohs: 18Tries: David Fa'alogo, Adam MacDougall, Joe GaluvaoGoals: Nathan Merritt 3/3Newcastle Knights: 24Tries: Danny Buderus(2), George Carmont, Milton ThaidayGoals: Andrew Johns 4/4Half time: Knights 12-6Venue: Telstra StadiumCrowd: 8,649Referee: Jason RobinsonLeagueunlimited.com players of the match:3 - Adam MacDougall (Rabbitohs)2 - Danny Buderus (Knights)1 - Steve Simpson (Knights)Manly Sea Eagles: 23Tries: Chris Hicks, Brent Kite, Brett Stewart, Steve BellGoals: Matt Orford 3/4Field Goals: Matt OrfordParramatta Eels: 22Tries: Glenn Morrison, Matthew Petersen, Brett DelaneyGoals: Brett Delaney 5/5Half time: Eels 16-12Venue: Sydney Cricket GroundCrowd: 19,208Referee: Steven ClarkLeagueunlimited.com players of the match:3 - Matt Orford (Sea Eagles)2 - Ben Kennedy (Sea Eagles)1 - Steve Menzies (Sea Eagles)Wests Tigers - ByeFULL DRAW, RESULTS & LINKS TO LIVE SCORES ? CLICK HERENext weekend?s matches:Fri 7:30, 5 May 2006 ? AUSTRALIA v NEW ZEALAND TEST MATCH ? Suncorp StadiumRound 9, 6-7 May 2006Sat 5:30 EELS v RAIDERS - Parramatta StadiumSat 7:30 COWBOYS v PANTHERS - Dairy Farmers StadiumSat 7:30 RABBITOHS v STORM - Telstra StadiumSun 2:30 KNIGHTS v BRONCOS - EnergyAustralia StadiumSun 3:00 TIGERS v SEA EAGLES - Leichhardt OvalSun 3:00 ROOSTERS v BULLDOGS - Aussie StadiumSun 3:00 SHARKS v DRAGONS - Toyota ParkWARRIORS v BYEFOR LATEST CENTREBET ODDSCLICK HERELEAGUEUNLIMITED.COM PLAYER AWARDS 2006LEADER BOARDThe Leagueunlimited.com players awards are decided by our live score updaters.Want to be a live score updater? For further enquiries, email us.16 pointsJohnathan Thurston (Cowboys)12 pointsAndrew Johns (Knights)11 pointsMatt Orford (Sea Eagles), Cameron Smith (Storm)10 pointsAdam Dykes (Sharks)9 pointsBen Kennedy (Sea Eagles), Greg Inglis (Storm)8 pointsHazem El Masri (Bulldogs), Mark Gasnier (Dragons), Clinton Schifcofske (Raiders)7 pointsSteve Bell (Sea Eagles), Matthew Bowen (Cowboys), Danny Buderus (Knights), Karmichael Hunt (Broncos)6 pointsCraig Gower (Panthers), Mathew Head (Dragons), Nathan Hindmarsh (Eels), Darren Lockyer (Broncos), Willie Mason (Bulldogs), Corey Parker (Broncos), Ruben Wiki (Warriors)5 pointsPetero Civoniceva (Broncos), Nathan Fien (Warriors), Luke O'Donnell (Cowboys), Amos Roberts (Roosters), Alan Tongue (Raiders)4 pointsPreston Campbell (Panthers), Cooper Cronk (Storm), Aaron Gorrell (Dragons), Justin Hodges (Broncos), Mark O?Meley (Bulldogs), Steve Price (Warriors), Jamie Soward (Roosters), Rhys Wesser (Panthers), Paul Whatuira (Tigers)3 pointsRoy Asotasi (Bulldogs), Luke Covell (Sharks), Michael Crocker (Storm), Brett Finch (Roosters), Craig Fitzgibbon (Roosters), Brett Hodgson (Tigers), Adam MacDougall (Rabbitohs), Steve Menzies (Sea Eagles), Scott Prince (Tigers), Milton Thaiday (Knights), Lance Thompson (Sharks), Tame Tupou (Broncos)2 pointsLuke Bailey (Dragons), George Carmont (Knights), Peter Cusack (Rabbitohs), Robert Farah (Tigers), Daniel Fitzhenry (Tigers), Awen Guttenbeil (Warriors), Ashley Harrison (Roosters), Josh Perry (Knights), Wade McKinnon (Eels), Anthony Minichiello (Roosters), Mark O'Meley (Bulldogs), Aaron Payne (Cowboys), Todd Polglase (Rabbitohs), Luke Priddis (Panthers), John Skandalis (Tigers), Matt Sing (Cowboys), Jason Smith (Raiders), Steven Southern (Cowboys), John Sutton (Rabbitohs), Brad Thorn (Broncos), Clinton Toopi (Warriors), Lincoln Withers (Raiders), Dean Young (Dragons)1 pointsDarren Albert (Sharks), Trent Barrett (Dragons), Paul Bowman (Cowboys), Nathan Cayless (Eels), Matt Cooper (Dragons), Michael Ennis (Broncos), Kurt Gidley (Knights), Matthew Gidley (Knights), Lee Hookey (Panthers), Wairangi Koopu (Warriors), Tony Martin (Warriors), Luke Patten (Bulldogs), Brent Sherwin (Bulldogs), Steve Simpson (Knights), Billy Slater (Storm), Tim Smith (Eels), Brett Stewart (Sea Eagles), Shane Tronc (Cowboys), Anthony Tupou (Roosters), Trent Waterhouse (Panthers), Simon Woolford (Raiders), Craig Wing (Roosters), William Zillman (Raiders)