Sharks board to call special meeting

CRONULLA will consider calling a special board of directors meeting after the Mercury Grou presented chief executive Greg Pierce with its performance review.

Kennedy & RLPA, King injury

THE Rugby League Players Association says all players are eligible for its end of season awards regardless of their membership status.

The NRL's 'no Sunday' finals folly

WHEN the NRL CEO, David Gallop, tires of the politics of rugby league, he should follow his deputy, Graeme Annesley, into real politics. He will take to it like a duck to water given his capacity to explain the unexplainable.His latest explanation in response to anger from fans over the abandoning of Sunday afternoon finals matches (not to mention the grand final) would do Howard and Beazley proud.Last year, matches on the second and third weekends of the finals were held on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. This year they are on Friday night and Saturday night. Because that's how Channel Nine wanted it.David Gallop?s justification for the no Sunday afternoon finals is that the NRL believes it is fair to keep the two matches as close as possible, so one winning team does not get an undue advantage with a longer lead-up time to the grand final. Hmm, so which is closer: a Friday night and a Saturday night final, or a Saturday night and a Sunday afternoon final?Sunday matches have been a key part of the NRL for decades, yet you get the impression that the Eels' irrepressible CEO, Dennis Fitzgerald, might be close to the mark when he calls for the end of Sunday afternoon football full stop.Why? It?s all driven by television, or, more particularly by Channel Nine. The wishes of fans have been ignored, but that has never bothered Nine in the past.The switch from Sunday afternoon to Friday night finals is a happy coincidence (really?) with Nine?s decision to televise one match of each round live next year on a Friday night, to be followed by a second Friday night match on replay.So it is hardly surprising the second and third weekends of the finals this year feature Friday night live matches.Following a campaign by sections of the media, notably the Sydney Daily Telegraph, the NRL has promised to revisit the question of Sunday afternoon finals in the off season. If you expect there to be a change then you are more of an optimist than I am!Meanwhile this Friday night is going to be an interesting ratings battle in Sydney ? and to a lesser extent in Brisbane. The Bulldogs v Broncos game will be live on Nine, and the Swans v Fremantle game live on Ten.And wonders never cease ? on Saturday night, Nine in Melbourne will be showing the Melbourne Storm v St George-Illawarra Dragons live!

Matai Added To Kiwis Train On Squad

MANLY centre Steve Matai is the latest player to be added to the New Zealand Rugby League train-on squad.

It?s the Jetstar Gold Coast Titans

AN hour ago whilst cruising at just over 30000 ft en-route to the Gold Coast from Sydney, the Gold Coast Titans officially became the ?Jetstar Gold Coast Titans? with the announcement of a five year multi million dollar naming rights sponsorship.Gold Coast Titan?s Managing Director Michael Searle said announcing the club?s naming rights sponsor onboard a Jetstar flight was a tribute to the airline and to the thousands who benefit from the low fares offered every day by booking and flying with Jetstar.?This truly is a landmark day for the Jetstar Gold Coast Titans and to be able to make the announcement to 177 passengers on route to Titans Territory was too good an opportunity to miss?, said Searle.?Having an organisation of Jetstar?s quality as our Naming Rights? partner is a perfect brand alignment for the emerging Gold Coast Titans. As the NRL expansion licence we can learn a lot from the hugely successful strategies that Jetstar have employed to become a truly national and soon to be international airline carrier. We both have very similar target audiences and the benefits that Jetstar have brought to the Gold Coast have resulted in an outstanding fiscal result for this city. The opportunity to partner a brand with such strong recognition can only accelerate our own brand recognition in the highly competitive sporting market.??This partnership highlights the importance that the Gold Coast market presents to the national business community. This city has morphed into a growing youth market that is not only attractive to tourists but to businesses and permanent residents alike.?Searle said the naming rights sponsorship will be signified by the player?s jersey carrying the Jetstar logo on both home and away jumpers.Jetstar Gold Coast Titans Chairman Paul Broughton said, ?Jetstar is already the airline of choice for thousands of Gold Coasters and with Jetstar set to provide rugby league fans with low fares and attractive flight and accommodation packages, the Jetstar Gold Coast Titans and the National Rugby League will be even more accessible to more fans in the very near future..?Jetstar General Manager of Commercial Bruce Buchanan says having the Gold Coast return to the National Rugby League will ignite the entire region. ?With the Gold Coast being Jetstar?s most popular destination in our network - this partnership has all the potential to be a real winner. We are thrilled to be making such a significant commitment to the local community here on the Gold Coast,? Mr Buchanan said.The involvement of Jetstar will enable more rugby league fans to attend Gold Coast and interstate matches each year ? for less - and allows Jetstar to make a major direct investment in the game through the naming rights? sponsorship of the Titans.?By getting behind the Gold Coast Titans, we will allow people to take advantage of our every day low fares to travel to and from the Gold Coast to support the team from its kick-off in the NRL in 2007,? he said.?Since launching in May 2004, our airline has grown to now offer over 200 direct weekly flights between the Gold Coast and 5 other cities, including Christchurch in New Zealand, helping generate ongoing record passenger numbers for Gold Coast Airport.?Jetstar is thrilled to be associated with the Gold Coast Titans from their inaugural season,? Mr Buchanan said..NRL CEO David Gallop was onboard for the mid-air announcement and like his fellow passengers was impressed by the creative launch. Gallop said, ?This is another important step for the Gold Coast Titans and yet again they?ve shown an innovative approach in how they go about their business. We are pleased that a brand as strong and successful as Jetstar has formed a partnership with the Gold Coast Titans who continue to take all the right steps as they head towards kickoff. It?s ?win win? scenario for both organizations.??From the playing and coaching staff they have recruited to the way they are putting the business together behind the scenes, the Titans are already earning plenty of respect in the game,? said Gallop.?There?s a lot of work ahead but importantly they are giving the Gold Coast Community something to look forward to in 2007 and beyond,? said Gallop.

Kennedy, Sharks, Dragons

RETIRING Manly backrower Ben Kennedy has reportedly been stripped of the prestigious Rugby League Professionals Association player-of-the-year award because he did not pay his union fees.

Rammo's rant

WELL ladies and gents, get ready, what we?ve been waiting for has finally arrived ? NRL Season 2006 kicks off this Friday night. That?s right, four NRL sides will face off in a truncated knockout extravaganza. The Bulldogs will play Brisbane in the season opener, with the Melbourne Storm and St George Illawarra Dragons rounding out the weekend with a clash on Saturday night which is sure to silence a few demons for the successful club.This fortnight thriller will culminate with a Grand Final showdown between the two winners the following Sunday evening.Now you may think I?ve gone crazy here. But I think it has taken us 28 weeks to dispose of the deadwood in this competition. We now have a competition on our hands. Last weekend is a case in point. We supposedly had two classic finals matches but they were soured by the alarming difference in standard between teams three and four, and teams five and six. The winners clocked up a total of 78 points, whilst all the losers could provide was six points between them.I liken the NRL this year to a grand slam tennis tournament. There are 128 players in the draw but there?s really only eight or nine players battling for the title. And most of the spectators are waiting around for the second week of matches to see these far superior rivals face off.In comparison, the NRL has 15 players in the draw. But it?s really only the top four seeds with any realistic chance of taking the title. Although unlike tennis fans that only need to wait a week or so for the deadwood to be cut, as rugby league fans, we?ve needed to occupy ourselves for 28 weeks.Mouthwatering ? that?s the only phrase that could be justifiably used to describe this weekend?s clashes. The reason I?m excited at the prospect of these blockbusters is because the sides playing each other have styles which mirror those of their opponents. Friday?s night?s Preliminary Final between the Canterbury Bulldogs and the Brisbane Broncos will be a battle between the NRL?s two fiercest packs. The likes of Mark O?Meley, Willie Mason, Andrew Ryan and Roy Asotasi will go head to head with Broncos heavyweights Shane Webcke, Petero Civoniceva and Tonie Carroll in arguably the most anticipated finals forward battle in 20 years.I see trouble brewing for the Bulldogs here if they don?t win the battle up front early. While I feel they have the slightly better pack, bolstered by today?s announcement that Roy Asotasi and Reni Maitua will play, I have held similar feelings before clashes between these two sides in the past and the Broncos have seemingly managed to contain the Bulldogs? forwards. They then subsequently punch the ball out to their formidable backline and score points at will. A luxury the Bulldogs just don?t have.The first 20 minutes here is vital. The Dogs could shut the Broncos out of the game but if they don?t, and in recent times they have struggled to do, the Broncos will run over the top of them over the course of the 80 minutes. It will be an entertaining contest all the same and make sure you get out to Aussie Stadium on Friday night, regardless of who you support.The St George Illawarra Dragons and Melbourne Storm are very similar but for the opposite reasons to the Bulldogs and Broncos - they boast the two best backlines in the NRL.Players like Mark Gasnier and Matt Cooper taking on Matt King and Greg Inglis, among many other big names from both backlines, will be a feature of this match. Unlike the other match, I feel that if Melbourne is to be any chance they must stay with the Dragons for the early part of proceedings. The Dragons have a forward pack running into red-hot form and I?m not sure that the Storm can contain them. Having said that, pound-for-pound, these backlines cancel each other out. The Storm?s forwards will need to roll up their sleeves in the first 20 minutes and dig deep. If they can do that, it?s anyone?s game. But if the Dragons? big men maintain their recent dominance in the first 20 minutes of this game, it could be all over red rover. Adding further spice to this knockout qualifier is the fact that this is a 1999 Grand Final replay ? probably the most controversial on record. The bad blood has stuck between these two clubs and a crowd of any less than 50,000 wouldn?t do this match justice. Be sure to get out to Telstra on Saturday evening.Michael Crocker has lit the fuse by claiming that the Dragons have let their fans down in recent years. His statements may have merit, but if we have learned anything over the last few years or so, these sorts of comments can leave those who make them eat their words. I?m certain that Craig Bellamy would be privately fuming that Crocker has given the Dragons this added motivation.However, I guess all questions will be answered over the weekend.Game, set, match. Let the tournament begin.

Preliminary Finals Teams

FRIDAY, 22nd September 2006 Canterbury v Brisbane at Aussie Stadium, 7.45pm

Masters Carnival 2006

MASTERS of Rugby League Australia Inc, Masters of Rugby League New Zealand Inc, along with Club Helensvale, Nerang Roosters JRLC, Helensvale Hornets, and Helensvale Stingers RLC will create rugby league history in the Gold Coast, Queensland, when they host Masters of Rugby League Carnival/Tournament.This will be the biggest rugby league event for retired players 35 years of age and older.Fifty teams will take part ? 31 teams from New Zealand, 19 teams from Australia, plus 30 referees from both countries will officiate the games during the week of Saturday 23 September 2006 until Friday 29 September 2006.The final games will be representative international games to be held on Friday 29 September 2006 between New Zealand and Australia in their age groups: 35-39, 40-49, 50-59, 60+.Some of the famous clubs from New Zealand will be there, including Ponsonby Ponies, City Newton Dragons (both these clubs are foundation clubs of New Zealand Rugby League being formed in 1908), Otahuhu Leopards, Manukau Greenlane, Richmond Rovers, plus the Christchurch Hornby Panthers.Some of the noted New Zealand players who will be there include Kiwis? Keith Bell (71 years old), Nolan Tupaea, Bill Kells, Bryan Tracey, Clayton Friend, Oslen Filipana and Francis Leota.This carnival/tournament will be hosting 1200 players from the age of 35 through to 72, plus thousands of supporters.The Masters of Rugby League tournament has been an annual event for 13 years and is the only one of its kind in the world for retired rugby league players, officials, and referees.To find out more about the Masters of Rugby League go to the website: http://www.mastersrugbyleague.com

Dragons NSWRL sides named

THE St George Illawarra Dragons have named their NSWRL teams for this weekend's sudden death preliminary finals.Saturday's Premier League clash between Dragons and the Jets will take place prior to the Dragons v Storm NRL preliminary final at Telstra Stadium.The Jersey Flegg match between the Dragons and the Knights has been set down for this Sunday afternoon at Leichhardt Oval.The winners qualify for a grand final berth.Premier League Dragonsv Newtown Jets3.30pm Saturday 23 SeptTelstra StadiumCoach: Steven Price 1. Reece SIMMONDS 2. Josh MORRIS 3. Beau RYAN 4. Keith LULIA 5. Tom HEWITT 6. Reece BLAYNEY 7. Chris SHEPPARD 8. Willie TUPOU 9. George NDAIRA 10. Chris HOUSTON (c) 11. Tom HABERECHT 12. Lee TE MAARI 13. James JIMENEZ 14. Jamie DUNNING 15. Dan HUNT 16. Bryson GOODWIN 17. Jamie KEITH 18. Aaron WHEATLEY Jersey Flegg Dragonsv Newcastle Knights2.30pm Sunday 24 SeptemberLeichhardt OvalCoach: Corey Pearson1. Jason NIGHTINGALE2. Rota SETU3. Chase STANLEY4. Ryan MILLARD5. Luke IRWIN6. Richard WILLIAMS7. Nathan WYNN8. Chris FARRELL9. Brad DAVIDSON (c)10. Jhi TANNER11. James KEELAN12. Matt PRIOR13. Brian WEST (c)14. Peter WAKLEY15. James GREHAN16. Scott SABLOWSKI17. Blake DUREAU18. Jason WHITE19. Travis ROCHE

Gasnier Named for Storm Clash

DRAGONS Coach Nathan Brown has named Test Centre Mark Gasnier for Saturday?s Grand Final qualifier against the Storm at Telstra Stadium.

Melbourne Supporters Info - Dragons v Storm

THERE IS NOTHING LIKE RUGBY LEAGUE IN SEPTEMBER...... ...and aren't the Dragons standing up and being counted when it really matters. After 26 rounds of wins and losses, injuries and suspensions, unearthing exciting new talent and seeing other's lose their first grade positions, getting flogged and unlikely victories on the siren, here we are now 2 wins off a maiden premiership for the joint venture. The patience, composure and determination the 1-17 and the coaching staff are all showing at the moment augurs well for the next 2 assignments in our premiership dream. Last weekend's shut-out of Manly was a great achievement for the team and sets them up well for the big clash with the Storm this Saturday night at Telstra Stadium. The MBDS screening was another outstanding success at the Station Hotel with a crowd of just over 50 members in attendance. (See attachment) This represents our second biggest attendance ever, and we are looking to top that this Saturday night in what is a local derby for those of us in the Southern Capital. The Station Hotel will once again host the screening with 2 big screens and audio dedicated to the Greatest Game of All. As The Station is likely to attract a big number of Storm supporters we would love to get everyone out this Saturday night to watch the match and outnumber them in their own city. There is nothing like the passion of a Dragons supporter and the Storm fans will realise this on Saturday night. WHAT: Dragons v StormWHEN: Saturday 23rd September, 7:30pm, LIVE AND LOUD WHERE: The Station Hotel, 96 Greville St Prahran Let us know of you are thinking of attending and if you?re bringing anyone alongGO THE DRAGONS!!

Specialist clears Asotasi, Maitua

A knee specialist has given Bulldogs prop Roy Asotasi the all-clear to play in Friday night's preliminary final against Brisbane at Aussie Stadium. And in a further boost for the Belmore club, utility Reni Maitua has been cleared to play in the game after also overcoming a knee injury.

Big future for debutants - Mal

FORMER Test great Mal Meninga says the quartet of young debutants named in the Prime Minister's 13 side to play Papua New Guinea later this month will all become Test stars.Parramatta rookie of the year Jarryd Hayne, South Sydney's leading NRL tryscorer Nathan Merritt, Manly fullback Brett Stewart and Newcastle halfback revelation Jarrod Mullen were all handed their first senior representative honours with selection in Meninga's side to play the Kumuls on September 30.Hayne, aged 18, Merritt 23, Stewart 21, and Mullen 19, all enjoyed outstanding NRL seasons. North Queensland halfback Johnathan Thurston and forward Luke O'Donnell, Penrith's Craig Gower, New Zealand Warrior Steve Price and Wests Tiger Robbie Farah will push for Test selection for this year's Tri Nations series in the one-off match at Port Moresby.

Asotasi, Gasnier, Inglis & White

BULLDOGS prop Roy Asotasi will today learn if he'll be passed fit to play in Friday night's preliminary final against Brisbane at Aussie Stadium.

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