FULLTIME: Round 1Penrith Panthers 24 def. Canterbury Bulldogs 22Match summary:The Penrith Panthers have run out 24-22 winners over the Canterbury Bulldogs this evening at Telstra Stadium.In an error filled match, the Panthers held on to outlast the Bulldogs to register their first victory of 2006.The Bulldogs will have to go back to basics as they were poor in almost all aspects of their game, but their unforced errors at crucial stages throughout the match cost the Bulldogs dearly.For the Panthers, both Craig Gower and Preston Campbell had strong games while Rhys Wesser was always a threat from the back.Tony Puletua led well up front and his brother Frank followed suit while Joel Clinton set his sights on Willie Mason and they eventually came to blows midway through the second half.It?s too early in the season to write any team off and injuries are always a factor but the Bulldogs have now lost seven straight matches dating back to last year and that is a dubious 51 year record they have matched.Round 1 - FULL TIMETelstra StadiumReferee: Sean HamptsteadScorersCanterbury Bulldogs: 22Tries: Hazem El Masri, Mark O'Meley, Luke Patten, Willie TongaGoals: Hazem El Masri 3/4Penrith Panthers: 24Tries: Craig Gower, Matthew Cross, Nick Youngquest, Lee HookeyGoals: Preston Campbell 4/5Match commentary 1 min: NEWS Kickoff! We are underway at Telstra Stadium.4 min: TRY Canterbury BulldogsWillie Tonga opens the Bulldogs account as the Bulldogs spread the ball wide and it was too easy in the end. Bulldogs 4-010 min: TRY Penrith PanthersNick Youngquest scores out wide off the back off a very simple backline movement. The Bulldogs defence out wide was paper thin. Panthers 6-414 min: PENALTY GOAL Penrith PanthersPreston Campbell converts a penalty to extend the Panthers lead. Panthers 8-418 min: TRY Canterbury BulldogsThe Bulldogs hit back with a try to Luke Patten out wide. Defene hasn't been a high priority for either side so far tonight. Bulldogs 10-823 min: NEWS Both teams playing poorly with a lot of lost possession and poor defence making the game a wide open affair.30 min: NEWS Rhys Wesser drops the ball with the line wide open off a Craig Gower grubber. A lost opportunity to give the Panthers the lead.35 min: NEWS Penrith with repeat sets of six starting to apply the pressure to the Dogs defence.36 min: TRY Penrith PanthersGoer crosses under the sticks as the Dogs defence again goes to water with the Panthers putting players in motion. Panthers 14-1044 min: NEWS Bulldogs not showing the ball enough respect and are yet to make an impact in the second half.51 min: NEWS Grimaldi spills the ball on his own 30 metre line to add more pressure to the Dogs defence.53 min: NEWS Penrith on the attack on metres out from the Bulldogs line55 min: NEWS Priddis throws the ball to Andrew Ryan to give the Bulldogs a stay of execution.58 min: NEWS Possible try to the Panthers. Video ref decision pending.58 min: TRY Penrith PanthersLee Hookey scores in the corner to extend the Panthers lead. Panthers 18-1067 min: TRY Canterbury BulldogsEl Masri scores to get the Dogs back into the game. Bulldogs 22-1875 min: TRY Penrith PanthersCross scores to put the result beyond doubt to give the Panthers a hard fought first up victory in 2006 Panthers 24-1680 min: TRY Canterbury BulldogsO'Meley scores to give the final scoreline some respectability. Panthers 24-22 -----------------------------------------Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:3 - Craig Gower (Panthers)2 - Willie Mason (Bulldogs)1 - Rhys Wesser (Panthers)-----------------------------------------
FULLTIME: Round 1Newcastle Knights 25 def. Parramatta Eels 6Match summary:The Newcastle Knights have run out convincing 25-6 winners over an underdone and ill-disciplined Parramatta Eels team at Energy Australia Stadium this afternoon.The first half was very close with the Knights holding a slender two point lead at the break but the second half was all Newcastle, with Andrew Johns coming into his own after taking some heavy hits in the early stages of the first half.With Johns leading the way, Milton Thaiday, Danny Buderus and Brian Carney all having mighty games in attack with all three giving the Eels defence headaches for the entire eighty minutes.The Eels have a lot of work to do with fifteen errors in the game and last years rookie Tim Smith having a game easily forgotten.With the coaches of tonight?s game trading places next year, it would be a bitter sweet feeling for both coaches knowing one got the victory but the loser has a lot to work with and vice versa.With such an impressive performance first up, the Knights look keen to offload the dreaded wooden spoon by posting a great first up victory.Round 1 - FULL TIMEEnergy Australia StadiumReferee: Russell SmithScorersNewcastle Knights: 25Tries: Matthew Gidley, Adam Woolnough, Milton Thaiday, Brian Carney, Riley BrownGoals: Kurt Gidley 1/3, Andrew Johns 1/2Field Goals: Andrew JohnsParramatta Eels: 6Tries: Micheal VellaGoals: Luke Burt 1/1Match commentary We are underway in Newcastle in front of a full house.2 min: NEWS Possible try to the Knights with Milton Thaiday proving to be more than a handful in the opening minutes.2 min: TRY Newcastle KnightsVideo ref awards the try to Milton Thaiday after he split the Eels defence on the previous tackle. Newcastle looking good early. Knights 4-05 min: NEWS Penalty to the Eels after Perry and Craig Smith refused to release the tacked player.12 min: NEWS Andrew Johns is being worked over by the Eels with two big hits on the Knights captain in the first ten minutes.17 min: NEWS Craig Smith penalised for a high shot.21 min: NEWS Eels starting to apply the pressure with a repeat set of six. Errors are creeping into the games ofboth teams due to the heat.23 min: TRY Parramatta EelsMichael Vella crashes over under the posts after sustained pressure within the Knights half. The Knights used up a lot of juice in the last five minutes. Eels 6-433 min: NEWS Milton Thaiday takes a great spiral bomb to take the pressure off the Knights.35 min: TRY Newcastle KnightsBrian Carney scores in the corner five minutes out from half time and the Irishman crosses in the corner to take the lead once again Knights 8-640 min: NEWS Newcaslte go to the break with a slender two point lead and the match is very wide open.45 min: TRY Newcastle KnightsNewcastle extend their lead through some excellent support play from the Knights with Riley Brown scoring under the posts. Knights 14-650 min: NEWS Newcastle controlling things nicely with the Eels self destructing inside the Knights red zone but poor ball handling has cost them any chance at closing the gap.54 min: TRY Newcastle KnightsMatt Gidley scores in the corner to extend the Knights lead and make the road back for the Eels a very long one. Knights 18-660 min: NEWS The Eels not doing much to get back into the game as enter the final quarter of the match.61 min: FIELD GOAL Newcastle KnightsAndrew Johns puts the result almost beyond doubt with a field goal with less than twenty minutes left on the clock. Knights 19-671 min: NEWS The Knights doing it comfortably at the moment with the Eels looking very pedestrian in both attack and defence. They look to be suffering a hangover from the 2005 semi final loss to the Cowboys.72 min: NEWS 26,198 crowd attendance.72 min: TRY Newcastle KnightsAdam Woolnough rubs salt into the wound for the Eels to put the result well and truly beyond doubt. Knights 25-6 -----------------------------------------Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:3 - Andrew Johns (Knights)2 - Milton Thaiday (Knights)1 - Danny Buderus (Knights)-----------------------------------------
BALMAIN Jersey Flegg defeated Cronulla 28-6 in a strong display at Leichhardt Oval this afternoon.The opening minutes of the match saw both teams struggle to get on top of each other while committing the sort of silly errors you would expect this early in the season. Balmain were the first to cross the line in the 18th minute when halfback Mark Russell stepped past the Cronulla defence and darted over to score before his try was converted by fullback Ben Jeffrey. Cronulla leveled the scores one minute from halftime when Tu?u Maori dived on a kick to score out wide, his try was converted from the sideline by Quincy To?o.Shortly after half-time Balmain were boosted by the return to the field of their starting front row - props Moa and Cameron and hooker Rangi Chase. It wasn?t long before these players started to make a real impact and in the 50th minute a barnstorming run from Moa saw Chase get the ball from dummy half, step past the marker before kicking and chasing to score out wide. Jeffrey converted from the sideline giving Balmain a 12-6 lead. Chase scored again just five minutes later when he stepped past the Cronulla defence and dived over the try line and Jeffery again converted from out wide.Minutes later winger Chance Bunce scored after 5/8th Dean Caldwell chipped the ball over the first line of defence and Jeffrey collected on the first bounce and ran 25m before passing to Bunce. Jeffrey then converted to bring the scores to 28-6Balmain topped off a terrific effort with a beautiful individual try right on fulltime when Bunce collected the ball from a kick about 60m out and beat several defenders to run across field and eventually score in the opposite corner. Jeffrey missed the final conversion and the tigers ran out with a much deserved 28-6 win.Best for Balmain were prop Sam Moa, Hooker Rangi Chase and Fullback Ben Jeffrey while Ewen Cameron, Backrower Mitch Stanfield and winger Bunce were also strong. While Cronulla halfback Quincy To?o and hooker Craig Priestly both looked good in a Sharks team that still appeared dangerous despite the score against them.
THIS weekend's games are the last before Superleague clubs join for the next round of this prestigious knockout competition. At the moment we have teams from National League 1, National League 2, National League 3 and the Conference, as well as teams from France and Russia facing off to stay alive...Batley Bulldogs v Limoux (France)Limoux currently are in second place in the French Championship under the guidance of former French international Eric Van Brussel.Limoux made their mark in the 2004 Powergen Challenge Cup with a 19-18 Fourth Round win over Halifax thanks to a field goal from present half back Mikael Murcia, before being beaten 80-20 by Wigan Warriors in France. Brothers Bastien and Matthieu Almarcha are strong finishers with 17-year-old winger Vincent Dupont also strong. Stand off Justin Mackay is one of several overseas players in their ranks.Batley beat another French side, St.Gaudens, 40-14 last season before going out 25-8 at home to Leigh Centurions.Blackpool Panthers v Toulouse (France)This is a repeat of last year?s Third-Round draw when Toulouse won 58-18 on the Lancashire coast and that proved to be the start of a sparkling Powergen Challenge Cup run for the French club.After beating the Panthers the Spacers went on to beat Cumbrian amateurs Wath Brow Hornets 60-12 in the fourth round and Doncaster Dragons 32-18 in Round Five. They gained a stunning 40-24 Quarter Final success against engage Super League Widnes Vikings and, although they were then beaten 56-18 by Leeds Rhinos in the Semi-Finals, they were far from disgraced. Toulouse coach Justin Morgan then took over as team boss at Hull KR.Toulouse, now coached by last season?s loose forward Trent Robinson and captained by scrum half James Wynne, have strengthened their playing staff by the signing offour Australian players: full back Trent Clayton, stand off David Myles, loose forward Michael Howell and prop Jamie McDonald.They also have former Wakefield centre Sylvan Houles in their side and will present a formidable hurdle for the Panthers who are still developing under new management.Celtic Crusaders v Locomotiv Moscow (Russia)Locomotiv Moscow have been included in the Powergen Challenge Cup for the fourth successive season. Last year they went down 70-10 at Swinton Lions where their tries were scored by centre Andrey Cherevichny and loose forward Evgeny Bouzhukov.In 2004 Chorley Lynx halted their progress with a 54-6 defeat and in 2003 Leigh Centurions romped to a 62-0 victory over Locomotiv.Celtic Crusaders are undertaking their first Powergen Challenge Cup campaign and have high hopes of progressing through to a potentially massive PR opportunity of a game against an engage Super League club in Round Four.Dewsbury Rams v Bradford Dudley Hill DemonsBradford Dudley Hill Demons, currently the top summer side outside the professional ranks after their thrilling 28-26 success in last season?s LHF Healthplan National League Three Grand Final, have exciting young scrum half Tony Williams attracting a great deal of attention.Williams was one of three Demons to be accorded a place in the ?2005 All Stars? alongside top hooker Gareth Walker and stalwart Richard Bingley. The Hill are one of the proudest names in amateur Rugby League; they were founder members of the National Conference League and have previously beaten professional clubs York and Keighley in the Challenge Cup. They also made the Quarter Final qualifiers of last season?s Northern Rail League Cup, before going down at Hull KR.Doncaster Lakers v Shaw Cross SharksShaw Cross Sharks are coached by former BARLA International Coach, Mick Turner, and are chasing a top-six spot in the Premier Division of the National Conference League after winning promotion last season.The Sharks are a good, young side with promising players Richard Squires at full-back, centre Jamie Spence and loose forward Dominic Byrne and they ended the aspirations of Bramley Buffaloes with a Second Round victory. They lost 46-0 to professional club Swinton Lions in 2003, but they are delighted to take on a club with whom professional neighbours Dewsbury Rams have a traditional strong rivalry.East Hull v Hunslet HawksEast Hull are leading championship contenders in the National Conference League Premier Division, and they are coached by Hull FC?s newly-acquired forward Lee Radford, who was a winner with Bradford Bulls in the 2003 Powergen Challenge Cup Final and his new team mate, Paul Cooke, who picked up the Cup so memorably with Hull at Cardiff last season.East Hull?s leading players include brothers Paul and Lee Roberts, former Hull prop Mike Docherty and one-time Hull Academy player, Jordan Precious who is outstanding in a lively three quarter line. They also boast former BARLA ?Player-of- the-Year? Terry Lynn, one of the best ever amateur half backs who joined them from West Hull.East Hull enjoyed an incredible Powergen Challenge Cup run in 2004. They beat Swinton Lions at Park Lane 26-14 before narrowly losing to then National League leaders Whitehaven, 14-4 in Round Four. Last year they lost 42-22 at Barrow Raiders and will certainly be up for another Cup upset if the Hawks are not on their guard.Hull KR v York AcornFormer York half back Darren Callaghan and Yorkshire County open-age coach, Alfie Hill are the coaches in charge of a York Acorn side enjoying their best ever season in the National Conference League as they push for promotion from Division One.Cousins Matt and Michael Embleton are impressive young players with brothers Gary and Adam Endersby also to the fore. Jon Waldron the prolific winger is one to watch having scored 41 tries last season. Jon is the current BARLA ?Player-of-the-Year?, and is once again on target to score more than one try per game.Hunslet Warriors v Widnes VikingsHunslet Warriors, coached by Tony Caunce, have former Dewsbury prop Carl Saville and ex-Doncaster, Hunslet and Leeds player Martin Rouse in their side, along with Micky Lyons, who played for Bradford and Wigan?s Under 21 teams.Half back Scott Walker is a prolific goal kicker for the Warriors with hooker Jim Baker always a threat to their opposition. Hunslet were the amateur Yorkshire Cup winners in 1999, are currently holding their own in the National Conference League Division one and are unbeaten at home this season. The Warriors lost 44-4 at Leigh in 1998 but they will be determined to give LHF League One promotion chasers Widnes a run for their money.Kells v HalifaxKells are coached by Whitehaven assistant coach and former player, Peter Smith, and they are known as the ?Cumberland Cup Kings? because of the significant amount of silverware they win each year. The Whitehaven-based team are a cracking side and currently lying in second place in the Cumberland League.Former Workington man Steve McGrady plays in the Kells back division while ex-Whitehaven forward Graham Morton plays in their massive pack. BARLA Under 21?s internationals: Dave Agnew, Scott Lofthouse, Scott Farmer and Craig Brown are in an impressive line up that have seen off Drighlington, Wigan St.Judes and Barrow Island to reach this stage of the competition.In 1986-87, they drew 4-4 with Fulham, precursors of current engage Super League club Harlequins RL, and then lost the replay 22-14 in the capital.Leigh Centurions v Strela Kazan Arrows (Russia)Two seasons ago Leigh hammered Locomotiv Moscow 62-0 and will expect to see off Strela Kazan in a similar fashion. The Russian side lost 62-14 at Keighley last season in their first appearance in the Powergen Challenge Cup when winger Maxim Keller raced in for two tries and hooker Alexander Napalkov added a third. Stand off Rinat Chamsoutdinov kicked the goal.Leigh Miners Rangers v Rochdale HornetsThis is the draw that Rochdale Hornets loose forward Tommy Goulden didn?t want because it paired his new professional side against the club he led to the amateur National Conference League Grand Final and Championship victory last season.The Miners have former stand-off, Winston Sarsfield as the man in charge and he is doing an excellent job keeping them in second place in the National Conference League Premier Division and on course to retain their championship crown.Experience in what is a young Miners side comes from BARLA internationals Dave Patterson and Simon Warhurst together with former Warrington player Alan Redicliffe - a prolific try scorer at this level - and much travelled ex Barrow, Wigan and Leigh half back, Anthony Murray.In the centre for Miners is John Woods, son of the Leigh legend of the same name who, incidentally, also holds the Hornets scoring record.Miners were the toast of the amateur game when they beat then professional club Bramley 18-12 in 1998, only to then lose to Hull KR. They lost 36-14 at Chorley Lynx in 2003 and gave Mark Aston?s Sheffield Eagles a scare in 2004 before going down 14-12.One-time Wigan international forward Denis Betts, the Lance Todd Trophy winner in 1991, is a former Leigh Rangers old boy while 1997 Lance Todd Trophy winner Tommy Martyn of St Helens is an ex-Miners youth team player.London Skolars v Gateshead ThunderThis is an all-LHF League Two clash with the Skolars no doubt eager to see off the challenge of their fellow pioneers.The Skolars were beaten 58-14 at home by French club Pia last year while Gateshead went down 56-6 to St Esteve-based UTC. This season the Skolars have won two of their Northern Rail Cup games but Gateshead are still seeking their first win.The Skolars are fired by half backs Frank Reid and Nathan Meischke, with Matt Pittman and Gareth Honor strong in the pack. Second row Dave Ellis has been running in the tries.Gateshead?s Neil Thorman and Tabua Cakacaka are key players as the Tynesiders look for wins with prop Rob Line leading the pack.Last season, the Storm won both League clashes; they won 52-18 in Gateshead and 54-24 in London. It looks set to be an interesting tie.Oldham v Saddleworth RangersSaddleworth Rangers are coached by former Oldham half back and coach, Paddy Kirwan, and this is very definitely the tie that the National Conference League second division outfit wanted because it sees the local amateur club taking on their professional neighbours.Eight years ago Paddy made a name for himself as the last player to score a winning try against the then all-conquering Challenge Cup winning Wigan side in February 1987. He was playing for Oldham who won 10-8 and he could virtually dine out for free on that achievement until that famous Wigan cup run ended eight years later.Paddy?s young sons, Neil and Adam, feature prominently for Oldham area amateur side Rangers as do the veteran former BARLA internationals, Emerson Jackman, Gareth Davies and Jimmy Rogers.Saddleworth defeated Sharslton Rovers, Cup giant killers of a couple of seasons ago 28-22 after extra time in the preliminary round, then saw off Conference Premier Division side Hull Dockers 33-32 and first division Walney Central 28-0.Beaten 66-16 at Keighley in 1998 and 22-6 at Whitehaven in 1999, Rangers will have their work cut out to tame Oldham.Ovenden v York City KnightsLast year was Ovenden?s first in the National Conference League after a four-year absence and already coach Steven Taylor has them pushing for promotion to Division One with stand off Danny Jones and his half back partner Chris Hartley in top form.Jones has been absolutely outstanding and, along with brother Gareth, has proved to be a prolific point scorer.Ovenden beat Egremont Rangers 32-14 in the Preliminary Round, before defeating two North West Counties League clubs, Bank Quay Bulls of Warrington and Blackbrook from St Helens.In 1998 the Halifax club was paired with Huddersfield neighbours Moldgreen in the Third Round and won 20-10, but they were subsequently beaten by Salford City Reds 74-0.Skirlaugh v Featherstone RoversRichard Gotts and Colin Brown have taken over the coaching reins at Hull amateur club Skirlaugh while former Bradford Bulls loose forward Steve McNamara also has a role in their set-up too. Steve was on the losing team for Bradford Bulls in the 1996 and 1997 Wembley Finals and in the 1999 Grand Final at Old Trafford.Skirlaugh, one of Hull?s leading amateur clubs, are a talented side that includes former Hull KR men, Andy Dearlove and brothers Gary and Kevin Smith, plus a whole host of BARLA internationals including second rows Phil Crane, Simon Kilby and winger Phil Thacker. They will be out to give the Rovers a tough time. One of their players Rob Wilson played for Rovers in the Challenge Plate Final in 1997.Skirlaugh were drawn at Workington in 1999 and 2000 losing 12-2 last time out, but in 2002 they took Swinton to extra time before being beaten 32-24. In 2003 they were beaten 20-8 by York City Knights.Swinton Lions v Sheffield EaglesSwinton Lions and Sheffield Eagles will far be happier playing LHF League Two opposition than an amateur club if their Cup results in recent seasons are anything to go by and this Powergen Challenge Cup Third Round clash promises to be a cracker.The Lions have recruited well through the close season and, with Ian Watson and Martin Moana hitting a perfect partnership in midfield and a powerful pack, they look like roaring all the way into LHF League One.But Sheffield are not a side to be taken lightly and they possess a pack of forwards that includes useful performers like Sean Dickinson, Paul Pickering and Simon Morton. They are currently playing well and likely to present problems for any team they come up against.For the record Swinton lost 26-14 to East Hull in 2004 and Sheffield Eagles went down 16-14 to Dewsbury amateurs Thornhill Trojans in 2000.Thornhill Trojans v Workington TownThornhill Trojans from Dewsbury are the current National Conference League leaders and that could mean problems for Workington Town in this Powergen Challenge Cup meeting.Town have crashed to Cumbrian amateur opposition Egremont Rangers and Wath Brow Hornets in the Challenge Cup in recent years and will be taking on a Trojans side that is well coached by former Hunslet Hawk Jason Firth. The Trojans certainly represent a potential ?banana skin? game for re-emerging Workington.Firth is also a dynamic leader on the field and has able assistants in experienced former Dewsbury Rams hooker Scott Dyson and second-row forward Matty Roberts. They are also able to call upon the current BARLA international captain and loose forward Anthony Broadhead and a host of other skilled players.Thornhill beat professionals Sheffield Eagles 16-14 in 2000 and reached the Fourth Round that year when they were defeated at York. They lost 38-6 to Hunslet Hawks 2001, 33-10 at Keighley in 2003 and 48-10 to Featherstone Rovers last year.West Bowling v Keighley CougarsBradford amateur club West Bowling are battling for promotion back to the top flight after relegation from the National Conference League Premier Division last season.Their home ground is next door to Odsal, the home of Bradford Bulls and their player coach is former BARLA international captain, Nigel Halmshaw.Beaten 34-12 by Batley Bulldogs in 2003, West Bowling must be delighted with this local derby against LHF League Two neighbours Cougars in a tie that will be played at Odsal Stadium.Whitehaven v Pia (France)Pia have long lived in the shadow of their more illustrious neighbours Catalan XIII but they have never been afraid to spend money in recruiting players in a bid to upstage their rivals. Former French international Luc Mendez is their coach, and they have former NRL front rower Dean Bosnich leading a rugged pack.Full back Craig West and centre Aaron Smith (formerly Carcassonne and Catalan) are two overseas players that give Pia a strong strike force while French international half back Maxime Greseque has played for Featherstone Rovers which gives him an insight into British conditions.Last year Pia beat London Skolars 58-14 and then crushed Keighley Cougars 53-26 before the Fifth Round draw sent them to Leeds Rhinos where they lost 70-0. In 2004 they beat Barrow and then lost to Huddersfield Giants 50-16Widnes St.Maries v Barrow RaidersWidnes St.Maries coach, Barrie Quinn, had a tough act to follow after the departure of favourite son, Bobbie Goulding to Rochdale Hornets 18 months ago. But he has succeeded and the Widnes amateur club are currently lying second in the National Conference League Second Division.Hooker Anthony Hollins and 20-year-old loose forward Adam Flanagan are real livewires for St Maries while Tongan forward Sione Polutela is a real handful for the Merseysiders as they look to upset a vulnerable looking Barrow side.St.Maries won 22-18 at Millom in the Preliminary Round and then saw off St.Albans Centurions and East Leeds to reach this stage. Saints? chairman Will Tileke is also a Tongan and the late Alan Prescott, a former winner of the Lance Todd Trophy at Wembley in 1956, was a former St.Maries Old boy.
THE St George Illawarra Dragons Premier League side has got its 2006 Premiership campaign off to a flyer with a convincing 32-4 win over Western Suburbs at Telstra Stadium tonight.Boasting no less than nine members of last years Jersey Flegg winning side, the Dragons played like 2005 never finished crossing for 6 tries.With former Flegg coach Steve Price at the helm, the likes of George Ndaira, Lee Te Maari and Tom Hewitt ran riot, clearly showing that a first grade call up may not be too far away.The Dragons night got off to the best possible start when 2005 Jersey Flegg player of the year Tom Haberecht crossed out wide after just four minutes. With thanks to some quality second phase play, the strapping back rower was too strong from close range. Sharks import Reece Blayney converted from touch.The red and white wall was called upon for the first time in ?05 a short time later. Much to the delight of Coach Price, the wall refused to yield. The Magpies enjoyed four consecutive sets of six but came away empty handed.Flush on the 20 minute mark, the Dragons extended their lead to ten after Tom Hewitt finished off some crafty lead up work from Ndaira. The little number 9, seemingly at home at the next level.Two sets of six later the Dragons form was resembling that of last September. After some razzle dazzle football, Aaron Wheatley crossed adjacent to the sticks. This time it was Te Maari who took the line on and popped the final ball onto the lock forwards chest. Blayney made no mistakes with the conversion, taking his sides tally to 14.With just minutes remaining in the first half, Ndaira all but put the match beyond doubt after crossing for a well deserved four pointer. Only 20 metres out from the line, the hooker threw a plethora of dummies, put on some footwork and found his way to the stripe, despite the attention of five defenders. The ingenious effort put the Dragons convincing 20-0 leaders at the break.Picking up from where they left off, St George Illawarra crossed for try number five.Once again it was TeMaari who made the initial bust. The impressive number 12 brushed defenders on his own 40 and took off downfield. Drawing the fullback to perfection TeMaari offloaded to a flying Hewitt who crossed for his second. Blayney converted for match winning 26 point lead.Wests hooker Isaac De Gois put one back on his opposite number by scoring his sides only four pointer.With the match over, handling errors became somewhat of a concern for the red and whites. Playing with such confidence, the odd pass began to miss the mark. With ten minutes to go, the Dragons managed one more smooth passage of play which resulted in Brett Morris diving over. Blayney converted from next to the posts to seal the 32-4 win.ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS 32 (T HEWITT 2, T HABERECHT, A WHEATLEY, G NDAIRA, B MORRIS TRIES ; R BLAYNEY 4 GOALS) d. WESTERN SUBURBS MAGPIES 4 ( I DE GOIS TRY)Caption: George Ndaira ? Dangerous at dummy half.
FULLTIME: Round 1Wests Tigers 24 def. St George Illawarra Dragons 15Match summary:The NRL season opener lived up to all of the hype as the Wests Tigers defeated the St George Illawarra Dragons 24-15 at Telstra Stadium in an enthralling game.The Tigers took an early 4-0 lead as Paul Whatuira scored the first of his three tries after six minutes, when the Tigers created great space. Mark Gasnier and the Dragons responded very quickly, scoring the first of his three after 11 minutes, to level the game at 4-all. Following on from the opening exchanges, the Tigers squandered a few chances but went ahead again with a powerful try to Anthony Laffranchi. After 35 minutes the Dragons took an unlikely lead that they carried into half time with another Gasnier try, and a 10-8 half time lead.With some great end to end play, 18 minutes into the second half the Dragons extended their lead to 14-8 as Gasnier collected his third try, showing very skilled hands to juggle a kick and still dot down. The Tigers tied the match up on 66 minutes as Whatuira scored after a miracle Scott Prince offload. Trent Barrett broke the deadlock to give the Dragons a 15-14 lead with just seven minutes to go, when he nailed a picture perfect field goal. But the Tigers showed they had guts, as the kick-off hit the goal posts, and Barrett was hit very hard allowing the Tigers to come up with the ball 10 metres out. A Benji Marshall miracle ball put rookie Michael Crockett in the corner with mere minutes to go. Whatuira grabbed his third following frantic Dragons play to try and get the ball back, and sealed a very exciting and brave 24-15 win for the defending Premiers.Scorers:Wests Tigers: 24Tries: Anthony Laffranchi, Paul Whatuira(3), Michael CrockettGoals: Brett Hodgson 3/5St George Illawarra Dragons: 15Tries: Mark Gasnier(3)Goals: Wes Naiqama 1/3Field Goals: Trent BarrettVenue: Telstra StadiumCrowd: 25,000 (estimate)Referee: Paul SimpkinsHalf time: Dragons 10-8Live commentary:Put the stress ball away, stop shaking and turn off that inferior Friday television. The NRL is back for 2006!0 min: NEWS The Dragons kick the 2006 season off!3 min: NEWS Liam Fulton is taken off the field on the golf cart with an apparent shoulder injury. Mark Gasnier also down injured briefly.4 min: NEWS Dragons have given away two penalties already, both sides have made one mistake each.4 min: NEWS The Tigers make huge metres on attack and force a goal line drop out.6 min: TRY Wests TigersThe Tigers create space as the Dragons bounce off tackles creating an overlap, and Paul Whatuira scores out wide. Hodgson misses the kick. Tigers 4-09 min: NEWS The Dragons gain repeat sets as Benji Marshall spills a Trent Barrett cross field kick.10 min: NEWS The Tigers give away two very quick penalties as the Dragons are hot on attack.11 min: TRY St George Illawarra DragonsAfter some pressure on the goal line Gasnier slips through some tackles and scores out wide. Naiqama misses the conversion. Both teams very enterprising in attack.4 all.15 min: NEWS Dean Collis can't quite pull in a Scott Prince chip kick, Dragons gift possession almost straight back, and some players start waving their handbags at each other. Liam Fulton out of the rest of the game due to a dislocated shoulder.17 min: NEWS Daniel Fitzhenry bombs a certain try out wide as he drops the ball after great Tigers buildup.18 min: NEWS A decent fist fight is on the cards after the players come together for another bit of push and shove.20 min: TRY Wests TigersAnthony Laffranchi bursts across after a powerful attacking set. Hodgson just misses the conversion. Tigers 8-422 min: NEWS The Tigers are keeping the Dragons trapped down at the wrong end of the field, Prince finds touch mere feet from the corner post.20 min: TRY Wests TigersAnthong Laffranchi bursts across after a powerful attacking set. Hodgson just misses the conversion. Tigers 8-428 min: NEWS Tigers still have the running of the play. No idea why the score says 12-4.31 min: NEWS Video referee for a potential Dragons try.31 min: NEWS Try not awarded, ruled a knock on by Greenshields.33 min: NEWS Dragons hot on attack, putting immense pressure on the Tigers.35 min: TRY St George Illawarra DragonsGasnier scores off a kick, Naiqama converts. Dragons 10-839 min: NEWS Ryles is sent to the sin bin for dissent. Marshall carefully checking his jaw.40 min: NEWS Half time. The Tigers have had the run of the first half and are unlucky to be down 10-8.To be clear, the score is 10-8 to the Dragons at half time. Apologies for the slight updating issues in the first half. Everything should be all right now.40 min: NEWS The second half is underway!43 min: NEWS The Dragons have the early running in the second half, but can't finish.45 min: NEWS Fitzhenry returns a kick 30 metres to get the Tigers out of a tight situation, but the Tigers get run into touch.49 min: NEWS Ryles returns to the field, the Tigers unable to take advantage of the Dragons being a man down.50 min: NEWS The Tigers are making a plenty of mistakes and are gifting the Dragons good field position. Luckily for the Tigers, the Dragons are making enough mistakes too.54 min: NEWS The Tigers drop the ball as they are hot on attack.55 min: NEWS Ryles busts up the middle but throws the last pass to Galloway, who knocks on. Dragons on attack.57 min: TRY St George Illawarra DragonsGasnier collects a bomb, bobbles the ball and dots down for his third try out wide. Naiqama hits the posts. Dragons 14-862 min: NEWS Gasnier is going to give Marshall nightmares. He has him totally beaten. The Dragons are looking much fitter than the Tigers.66 min: NEWS Video referee for a potential Whatuira double.66 min: TRY Wests TigersWhatuira scores off a miracle Prince offload. Hodgson finally connects to lock the match up with just over 14 minutes to go. 14 all.68 min: NEWS Tigers hot on attack, Naiqama cooly lets the ball go dead in goal.71 min: NEWS The Dragons make a bad mistake and gift the Tigers the ball inside the 40.72 min: NEWS Hodgson loses the ball as he dives from dummy half at the line.73 min: FIELD GOAL St George Illawarra DragonsBarrett kicks the go-ahead point from 30 metres out. Dragons 15-1475 min: NEWS The kickoff hits the posts, Tigers recover. 77 min: TRY Wests TigersNewcomer Crockett shows his worth to the team with a handy try close to fulltime to snatch victory. Hodgson converts to extend the leadTigers 20-1579 min: TRY Wests TigersKiwi centre Paul Whatuira bags a treble for the night and puts the game beyond doubt. Hodgson fails to convert. Tigers 24-1580 min: NEWS Fulltime has sounded and the Tigers begin their 2006 campaign on the right foot, downing premiership favourites the Dragons by 24-15.-----------------------------------------Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:3 - Mark Gasnier (Dragons)2 - Scott Prince (Tigers)1 - Paul Whatuira (Tigers)-----------------------------------------
A consortium that was set to challenge Russell Crowe and Peter Holmes A Court's privatisation bid for South Sydney has decided not to go ahead.The consortium, which was headed by Champion Australasia CEO Vaughan Richards, was expected to be launched as early as today. Holmes A Court, whose proposal requires the backing of 75 per cent of Rabbitohs members at an extraordinary meeting on March 19, welcomed the decision by Vaughan not to proceed.
SEASON 2006 is here at last. The reigning premiers may have little respect with the bookies and their punters but no one can take away the Wests Tigers 2005 title.But who will fight tooth and nail for the 2006 premiership?NSC will release the 2006 Rugby League Players Almanac on the weekend through the League Unlimited Online Shop but here is a look at the predictions for the NRL season.NRL 2006Premiers:BulldogsRunner Up: Sydney RoostersTop 8 (in order of regular season finish):BulldogsRoostersCowboysKnightsBroncosEelsTigersRaiders Also Rans (in order):DragonsSea EaglesStormSharksPanthersWarriorsWooden Spoon:RabbitohsDally M Winner:Andrew Johns ? NewcastleRookie of the Year:Sam Perrett ? SydneyCoach of the Year:Michael Hagan ? NewcastleTop Tryscorer:Ty Williams ? North QueenslandTop Pointscorer:Hazem El Masri ? BulldogsState of Origin:NSW 2-1Anzac Test:AustraliaCity-Country:City OriginTri-Nations:Australia * And for the record: Round 1 TipsTigers Eels Bulldogs Raiders Warriors Roosters Cowboys And Wests Tigers winger Jamaal Lolesi to score the first try of the season from a Scott Prince cross kick.Regards,Warrick NicolsonNicolson Sports [email protected]: 0402 851 485 Fax: 02 9653 1483
THE New Zealand Warriors will go into their opening round encounter against Melbourne on minus-four competition points after the NRL today confirmed the penalty for salary cap breaches would stand.Earlier this week the Warriors provided the NRL with a written submission contesting the breach notice which penalised the club four competition points and $430,000 for salary cap breaches in 2004 and 2005. The Warriors had argued against the severity of the four-point penalty and confirmed the efforts they had undertaken to remedy all breaches.But after considering the Warriors' written submissions, the NRL decided to proceed with the penalties as outlined to the club last week. The club, which now complies with the salary cap following a final audit of all existing contracts and projections, will not lodge any further appeal.
IT?S finally that time of year again, round 1 in the greatest game of all. Season 2006 begins for the North Sydney Bears Premier League and Jersey Flegg teams.The Steve Carter Coached Jersey Flegg team will be the main match when they take on the Central Coast RIP at the Bears alternate home ground, T G Milner Field in Eastwood, on Sunday 12th March at 3:00pm. The Bears Junior Rep teams will play their round 3 fixtures prior to the Flegg with the Harold Matthews starting at midday.Meanwhile the Premier League Coach, Josh White, is hoping his Bears can hammerhead the Sharks into oblivion when they travel to Toyota Park on Saturday afternoon at 3:30pm.?I?m very excited, it all starts this weekend. I?ve told the boys we want to be consistent week in week out. I think we are a competitive team and our goal is to reach the finals?.On Thursday night as part of the lead up to the season the Premier League team will view specially edited highlights from their pre-season training and trial matches by New Zealand production company ButoBase.PHOTO: Bears fullback John Russell is expected to turn many a head this season with his passionate brand of attack and defence. Photo: Steve LittleTeam Lists for this WeekendNorth Sydney Premier League vs. Cronulla Sat March 11th at 3.30pm at ToyotaPark1. John Russell2. Andrew Moodie3. Karl Johnson4. Daniel Watkins5. Richard Retimana6. Daniel Russell (C)7. Ben Black8. Aaron Trinder9. Ben Ellis10. Eddie Sua11. Chris Saab12. Scott Perrin13. Luke Fatnowna14. Brendon Crabb15. Ryan Russell16. Reihana Peters22. John Kagi25. Michael HarperCoach ? Josh WhiteNorth Sydney Jersey Flegg vs. Rip, Sun March 12th at 3pm at TG Milner Field1. Joel Bennett (VC)2. Chris Heasman3. Daniel Phillips4. Paddy Kilmurray5. Rhyce Williams6. Jason Saliba7. Anthony Delaivuna8. Mitch Erickson9. Sean Bovis10. Tupou Peaua11. Mick Morris (C)12. Arnold Mano13. Chris Dears14. Blayden Baird15. Blayne Davis16. Blake McLean17. James Maloney19. Pio Rokomaqisa20. Martin Field21. James VainakoloCoach ? Steve Carter
ST George Illawarra halfback Ben Hornby believes ordinary trial form will count for nothing when his side meets Wests Tigers in the NRL season opener at Telstra Stadium tonight.Both clubs have struggled in the pre-season, with the defending premiers losing the World Club Challenge to Bradford in England and then copping a 42-18 flogging from Manly in their last trial game.The Dragons were overrun in their traditional Charity Shield encounter against South Sydney before succumbing to the Sydney Roosters in their last hit-out.
THE New Zealand Warriors will today learn if they'll go into their opening NRL match against Melbourne at Ericsson Stadium on less than zero points.Earlier this week the Warriors provided the NRL with a written submission contesting the breach notice which penalised the club four competition points and $430,000 for salary cap breaches in 2004 and 2005. The NRL is expected to announce today that the points penalty will stand.
HULL have suffered a double blow as they prepare for their engage Super League match against champions Bradford, with the loss of hooker Richard Swain and prop Ewan Dowes. Swain, Hull?s captain, is likely to be sidelined for at least six weeks with a torn bicep - while Dowes suffered a recurrence of a hamstring injury in Friday?s 10-6 home defeat by Harlequins. ?Richard?s injury and loss puts pressure on us - but it also opens a door for someone else to step up to the plate and take their chance,? said coach John Kear.Hull, who have lost their last two matches, crashed to a club record 71-0 on their last visit to Odsal in the play-offs last October.Meanwhile, Bradford, who have the chance to leapfrog St Helens into top spot, are enjoying a 17-match unbeaten run stretching back to last July - but coach Brian Noble believes Hull represent dangerous opposition. ?There will be a lot of emotional issues in their thinking for this game,? he said. ?The last time they were here they lost 71-0, and it will have been in their minds during the close season. They have an early opportunity to put the record straight. ?They also started the season very well but have now lost two games in a row, and that is something they will want to put right.?New Zealand Test winger Lesley Vainikolo, who has played only one of the Bulls? opening four League matches because of an ankle injury, is included in the squad. Bradford Bulls v Hull FC, Odsal, Friday March 10 2006Bradford 18-man squad: Hape, Deacon, Vagana, Fielden, I. Harris, B. Harris, St Hilaire, Lynch, Bai, Gene, Pryce, Ferres, Vainikolo, Henderson, Langley, McKenna, Withers, Cook.Hull 18-man squad: Briscoe, Brough, Carvell, Chester, Cooke, Domic, Dixon, Hill, R. Horne, King, Lupton, Radford, Raynor, Thackray, Tony, Wheeldon, Yeaman, Whiting.Referee: K Kirkpatrick
WIGAN and Warrington meet at the JJB Stadium on Friday night desperate for points, having found themselves in the wrong half of the table after the first four rounds. While the Wolves have shown a gradual improvement since their opening-round defeat by Salford, Wigan are fresh from a crushing 28-10 defeat at Salford - a result coach Ian Millward is confident was a one-off. ?I?m disappointed that we?ve not got more than one win,? he said.?But if you look at the three games we lost the only one that has really upset me was the poor performance at Salford. ?I?d like to think it was a minor setback; I?m very confident that it was. ?We?ve made some mistakes but we?re working hard to rectify them, and I think people will see how hard we?ve been working on Friday night. ?I know where we?re going. Nothing has been lost, but we have a lot to gain. Twenty-four games is a lot of games.?Millward is boosted by the return of his captain Sean O?Loughlin and he will make a late decision on whether to play Australian Test forward Bryan Fletcher or give him another run-out with the Under-21s as he continues his rehabilitation from major stomach surgery. Warrington coach Paul Cullen, with virtually a full-strength pack to choose from, has dropped prop Danny Lima after a run of 50 successive appearances. ?Rob Parker?s recovery from injury gives me the opportunity to rotate the pack,? said Cullen, who is delighted with his side?s improved form. ?We have improved with every outing since round one. Unfortunately we came up against the best side in the competition last week - and we were one score off them. ?It is a mark of our progress that we were very disappointed we didn?t win. The mood in the camp is positive.?Wigan Warriors v Warrington Wolves, JJB Stadium, Friday March 10 2006Wigan 18-man squad: Ashton, Brown, Calderwood, Dallas, Godwin, Hargreaves, Hansen, Higham, Paleaaesina, Logan, Moran, O'Loughlin, Orr, Prescott, Richards, Seu Seu, Tickle, Vaealiki.Warrington 18-man squad: Grose, Fa'afili, M. Gleeson, Kohe-Love, Briers, Sullivan, Leikvoll, Clarke, Hilton, Swann, Wainwright, Noone, M. Gleeson, Westwood, Wood, Barnett, Parker, Bridge.Referee: A Klein
WELCOME back League fans. You may now refrain from cupping your hand towards your forehead and screaming ?C?mon!??yes, the season has arrived. And not before time either! Whilst I was going to impart some wise and philosophical thoughts on the eve of a new season, we've all been waiting so long that I thought it might be better to wipe the foam from our collective mouths and just to get stuck in straight away.Tigers v DragonsFor Dragons fans 2006 begins with the same team that ended their 2005 title aspirations. The reigning premiers take on the pride of Kogarah, and Wollongong, in the first match of the year which promises to be a real ripsnorter.A healthy rivalry is developing between these two joint venture clubs and this game should crystalise its? credentials as a grudge match. The Tigers are missing a few players from their all-conquering Premiership team, namely Pat Richards, Mark O?Neill and Shane Elford, who have either left the club or are injured. In Elford?s case, he tried to leave, then came back and is now injured. The backline has been boosted with the acquisition of Jamaal Lolesi and the earlier than expected return of Benji Marshall reuniting with Scott Prince in the halves.The Tigers forward pack has never looked so good. Last year all the talk was on their smallish stature but that won?t be a problem for them in ?06. My only concern is they may lose a little mobility, which was one of their best assets. In contrast, the Dragons pack is pretty much the same except for the omission of club stalwart Lance Thompson (Sharks) and the injury to Shaun Timmins. Newcomer Andrew Price finds himself locking the scrum containing two Australian props and a couple of other handy forwards in Young, Payne and Simms.The backline is also much the same, with regulars in Gasnier, Cooper, Naiqama with Greenshields taking the field. Reece Simmonds finds himself on the other wing after being given a chance by coach Brown. He appears to be the only weak link in the backs, with Captain Barrett leading the charge at five-eighth and Hornby subbing for the injured Head.This game is a hard one for punters to start with as the Tigers have been good starters over the past few years and the Dragons notoriously slow. Strangely, I think all the pressure is on the Dragons, who are favourites to win the comp, whereas the Tigers are the longest priced Premiers in history. I give it to the Tigers by a few.Knights v EelsA truly bizarre set of circumstances waits to unfold before us at the opener of Super Saturday for 2006. With Smith and Hagan set to complete the unprecedented coach swap at the end of the year, it got me thinking about what might happen at halftime. Will Smith get a bit edgy and try to find his way to the home team?s locker room at the break just to find out what it will be like? Maybe Hagan will see something in a player at Parramatta he doesn?t like and sneak in to the away side?s change room to correct it? Whatever the case, it couldn?t be more ironic or well-timed that these two teams take the field.Thaiday for Newcastle is under a bit of a fitness cloud, but otherwise both teams should take the field as announced. Once again neither team has gone through any drastic makeovers during the off-season and they are sporting pretty much their strongest outfits. Newcastle?s strength lies in their halfback (obviously) and also their back-row. Big, mobile and skilful, they?ll be looking to exploit Parra on the fringe of the rucks and get a roll-on for Johns to take advantage of. If they succeed they will be hard to stop in front of a home crowd that love their team.Parra are a little different. Whilst they have Hindmarsh to counter Newcastle?s back-row, it?s their three-quarters that will have the edge on their opponents. Burt, Smith, Tahu and Grothe are frenzied attackers and McKinnon is superb in bringing the ball back. Along with the boisterous nature of Smith at half, they could really cause Newcastle some headaches.It?s a tough one to pick, but I?m going to take the home side. Johns will have to dust off a few cobwebs, but I think he can get them home. Their transient winger from Ireland should be an interesting one to watch as well.Bulldogs v PanthersThe 2004 Premiers meet the 2003 Premiers after both of them failed to even make the semi?s last year. Each of these sides have undergone some upheaval in their player ranks with the ?Dogs losing long-time five-eighth Braith Anasta to the Chooks backline mainstay Lolesi to the Tigers. For Penrith, it might be easier to name who?s still there.Galuvao, Ross, Rogers, Pomeroy, Crossman, Donato and Franze have all moved on with the only notable purchases being Hookey, Youngquest, Norrie and Stapleton, none of which saw regular first grade in the NRL last year. I?d be a bit worried if I were a Panthers fan and the Gower issue hasn?t exactly helped their off season preparation. It could take this team a few weeks to gel and in the meantime they need some of the senior players to stand up.The Bulldogs are probably a happier camp though with the only off field dramas being the injury to wonderboy Sonny Bill Williams. It?s a bit of a mystery what?s going on with his knee, but they?ve got to take the field without him on Saturday night and looking at their forward pack, they certainly have some grunt. Asotasi and Mason starting with O?Meley set to continue his impersonation of a wrecking ball from the bench. Andrew Ryan, as captain, needs to put in a lot more this season and the new combination of Sherwin and Holdsworth with provide some interesting viewing.I?m backing the Bulldogs here.Sea Eagles v RaidersA great stoush to finish off the weekend awaits us at Fortress Brookvale where the Raiders will travel north to do battle with the folk from the peninsula.Manly have a pretty new-look about them with Storm players Orford and Bell joining the team. These guys will have a big impact upon proceedings on Saturday night with Bell scooping the centre spot vacated by Terry Hill and Orford pushing former halfback and captain Monaghan to the five-eighth role. I?m glad they?ve stuck him there instead of hooker though as I prefer Shane Dunley in the no.9 uniform. The Sea Eagles back-row is terrific and if Kennedy, Menzies and Watmough can get the upper hand in the forwards, then Manly will dominate.For the Raiders, well I?m not getting caught in this trap again. For the past two years I?ve feared for their safety on the football field and they seem to come up with gutsy victories when you least expect it. But this week you?ve really got to wonder. No Schifcofske is the big factor, but injuries throughout the forwards and backs have decimated their line-up. Jason Smith is going to need one hell of a game if he?s to pull off a victory here.I can?t see it happening though, Manly by plenty.Warriors v StormSunday?s first game sees us travel across the ditch to New Zealand where the Warriors take on the Storm in a must win game for the home team. The beginning of a new season is hard enough without having four points stripped from you before a ball is even kicked in anger. But that?s the situation the Warriors find themselves in and they need to get back to square as soon as possible. When you look at it, they?re effectively being stripped of their byes, so when their first week off comes around they won?t be able to slouch about.The Storm have some new blood in their side with the inclusion of Cooper Cronk at halfback and hothead Michael Crocker. He?s got a bit of mongrel in him though and they could use a bit of it. The backline looks sensational, with current, former and future State of Origin reps popping out everywhere. They?ll be very hard to contain over in Auckland and have the size to match it with some of the bigger Kiwi guys.But both these teams have some new combinations to work out after losing their established halfbacks at the close of ?05. Jones will be sorely missed at New Zealand and it remains to be seen if Cronk can fill Orford?s boots sufficiently. All this points to a potentially scrappy affair, especially if there?s bad weather.I?m going to take the Storm as they tend to get out of the block pretty quick each year thanks to their coach?s tough fitness standards.Broncos v CowboysNext we move on to our all Queensland affair, with last year?s runners-up facing off against a Broncos outfit with a few question marks floating around it.Big Gordie doesn?t seem to need an invitation to bag his old club these days and one must wonder what sort of an effect that might have on his former team mates. It?s funny though how players can?t say anything about the NRL without a neat $10,000 fine, but it?s perfectly acceptable for a current NRL director to give his thoughts on the coaching situation and specific players whenever he has a microphone stuck under his nose.Anyway, back to the footy. The Cowboys lost the big one last year and I bet it?s still stinging. I?m sure they want to get in there and erase the memory of their last game pretty quickly. They?ve lost Rauhihi from the engine room and dropped Webb and Hannay, but the side they put on the field is still a very good looking one.I?m backing the Cowboys in this one as I think they enjoy playing at Suncorp and I really don?t think it poses much of a threat to visiting teams. I think the Broncos will take a little while to get into the swing of things this year.Rabbitohs v RoostersOur third game this week at Telstra Stadium sees the Roosters travel to their next-door neighbours new home ground. The Rabbits have taken up residence in Homebush and will be keen to notch their second victory there after taking home the Charity Shield in their first trial game.Anasta and Harrison both turn out in their new clubs colours for the first time but the unfortunate injury to Joel Monaghan weakens the backline somewhat. In the forwards it will be interesting to see how Fitzgibbon goes at prop. Morley and Tupou will pitch in where needed but they are far from imposing. The Bunnies look like they have the forwards to match them in this one. Geddes and Cusack up front with Fa?alogo and Stuart in the back-row are tradesmen and will get the job done. Their backs look a little skinny though. Mad Dog is in the mix with Hegarty, but I?m not sure why Buddy Gordon got the brush. Merritt on the wing could pose a risk in defense being so small.Although I think the Bunnies will have a bright year, my money?s on the Roosters this week.