MANLY and Newcastle open round 17 of the NRL tonight with both clubs desperate for a win to stay on track for a finals berth. The Knights have lost four games in a row to slump from first to sixth on the NRL ladder, while the Sea Eagles are seventh after back-to-back losses.
MELBOURNE centre Jake Webster has signed a three-year deal with new NRL club the Gold Coast Titans. The New Zealand international becomes the 17th player to join the Titans and the third Storm player behind hooker Nathan Friend and fullback Steve Turner.Webster, 22, rejected an offer from Cronulla to head to south-east Queensland where his family is based. Queensland Origin forward Jacob Lillyman has agreed to re-sign with battling NRL club North Queensland for an additional two seasons. The 22-year-old debuted for the Maroons in their 30-6 thumping of New South Wales in Origin II but has been replaced by Brisbane hardman Tonie Carroll for Wednesday night's decider in Melbourne.Coach Graham Murray has named Lillyman on the bench for North Queensland's match against South Sydney in Townsville where the desperate Cowboys hope to halt a six-match losing streak.Catalans Dragons have signed Australian utility back Clint Greenshields on a three-year contract from St George Illawarra. The 24-year-old will join the French club next season and complete their overseas quota following the recent signings of Adam Mogg and Casey McGuire.
OFF to the Market to pick up a bargain
THIS time of year is very critical in determining the fate of each team as we approach the Origin decider in Melbourne next Wednesday. After trying to get their players into a rhythm all year, coaches will no doubt be chewing the corner off their clipboard as the prospect of being able to pick from their entire squad, injuries and suspension aside, for the remainder of the season becomes a reality.A deadly battle for top 8 positions is underway and I?m giving everyone down to the Warriors a shot at making the finals although I?m worried about both the Tigers and Panthers. With rep players suited up in the stands this weekend, tips will rely heavily on who their replacements are, but there?s only six games this round and that?s one less to get wrong than usual.The judges gave me 5 from 7 last week and I?ve put a couple of decent rounds back-to-back furnishing a cumulative total of 71/111 (64%) but I?m still doing it tough to make an impact. It reminds me of the time Little Miss Muffett tried to invade Turkey ? she had Kurds in her way.Sea Eagles v KnightsStraight off the bat we?ve got a tough one and it shapes as another in our recent line of outstanding Friday night games.For large parts of last week?s game I thought Manly were the better team and if Matai keeps running right at the end there, perhaps they would have got the result. Hodges took an intercept from a poor pass and some individual brilliance by Tate also got them over the line. It has punched a few holes in Fortress Brooky?s reputation but Newcastle haven?t won there since 1998 and that?s the only time in their history that they have.Manly are without Burns through suspension and Menzies through rep duty, which does weaken them a bit. Kite was dropped from NSW so he is starting at prop and Michael Witt gets his first crack in the top grade this season. Moving on to Newcastle, Hinton hasn?t impressed me at the back and they are really missing Thaiday. Kurt Gidley is injured with Buderus and Simpson out on NSW duty and recently the Knights have struggled without Bedsy in particular. There?s not too many holes in the rest of the team though.This is a hard pick with Newcastle sustaining four consecutive losses and the Sea Eagles two. In cases like this you tend to go with the home side but I?m going to lean against that this week. Whilst Newcastle are out of form I think the forwards cancel themselves out and the Knights have the better looking backline and will win the game there. I?m very disappointed that Carmont cut his hair as I was salivating at the potential clash of the pony-tails when he lines up against Matai.Warriors v PanthersSuper Saturday takes off in the Shaky Isle as the Panthers travel to Auckland to tackle a resurgent Warriors outfit.Penrith?s card isn?t looking too flash (6/14) but they were back in the winners circle last week after a three match losing streak and seven losses from their previous nine starts. Gower is lost to the club again after he was called up for NSW. Wesser is also out after jagging a wing spot for the Maroons. This forces Lewis to pull on the no.6 (sound vaguely familiar?), Youngquest goes to fullback and the rest of the backline sorts itself out. The pack is still pretty good.I don?t think they?re going to be any match for the Warriors at home though, and fair dinkum you Kiwi?s better show up this week! You deserted them against Newcastle and had free entry last week, so fair?s fair, get out to Ericsson Stadium and cheer them on. The backrow is playing unreal footy right now and even with Price out they still look imposing. The week before the last Origin game Wiki lifted, as he tends to do when Price is unavailable, so I think we can expect more of the same on Saturday. With Rovelli in the groove and Webb, Martin and Mannering all playing well I think they?ll get the chocolates here. I just hope they realise the Panthers will put up a bit more resistance than Souths.Raiders v EelsNext the Eels slither down the Hume Highway to play the red-hot Raiders outfit.Parramatta are coming off the bye and suffering from several internal dysfunctions that have cruelled their season. The team they?re fielding is as good as it gets for the visitors but I?m not sure they can?t take the Raiders if they put their minds to it. The likes of McKinnon, Morris, Smith, Moimoi and Morrison should see that they put up a good fight, but I don?t think they can win.Canberra are at near full-strength and despite the loss of Schifcofske, still boast an excellent backline. Learoyd-Lahrs, Tilse and Tongue played well last week and will back up again in fine fashion. My money is on the Raiders here and with their good form, coupled with Parra coming off the bye, I think they?re a good thing. Cowboys v Rabbitohs Finally, we travel to FNQ where the Rabbitohs look to recover from their worst loss ever. Somehow I don?t think Townsville is the place to do it.After a six game losing streak things are looking pretty grim for the Cowboys. They are outside the top 8 after leading for the first six weeks and playmaker Johnathan Thurston is on rep duty this week. But Williams makes a return as will a couple of rookies.As for the Rabbitohs, well this is the sort of game they could win from time to time. After being on the receiving end of a shellacking last week they really have nothing to lose this week. Their record at Dairy Farmers isn?t an overwhelming one, but with the changes they?ve made they could be competitive.But I?m going to stick with the home team to win here, I just think the Cowboys will have too much class. Broncos v SharksIf there?s one thing we?ve learnt over the past few weeks, it?s that we need to respect the Sharks.Personally, I don?t think I?ve paid as much respect to them as I should have; case in point last week v Newcastle. Anyhow, this week is a different matter. They have won their last four games in a row, but they?ve also lost their last four games against the Broncos. Home ground seems to be little advantage, but it slightly favours the Broncos.This week it will be a different case as the Sharkies catch a budget flight to Brisbane to meet the under strength Broncos. With a few injuries and their contribution to Origin, it?s hard to see anything but a victory to the visitors here, as they possess a superior backline and forward pack.Also, I thought that the Broncos were a bit fortunate against the Sea Eagles last week and look due for a loss. Similarly, Cronulla should have won by more and they?ll probably scrape home in this one and make it look like they weren?t really trying.Tigers v BulldogsI lost a bit of respect for the Tigers after last week?s defeat at the hands of Penrith. I think the loss suggests they may have forgotten how to win tight games, similar to the Manly game in round 14. And with Benji out they don?t have a ?go to? man at the moment. I?m sorry, but here I go again telling Tim Sheens how to pick teams. I?m no supercoach, but in the past the only bloke who?s done any good as a replacement five-eighth has been Ben Galea. I know, he?s a bit slow but he?s got a football brain on him. So by moving Farah to halfback you weaken an important position at hooker and also take the running of the game out of Prince?s hands. If Galea were to play 5/8 you could use him as an extra forward and let Prince roam free whilst not affecting the backrow considering the depth of talent they have there. At least Lolesi is back in the three-quarters again, so look for him to have a big game against his former club.The Bulldogs are missing Mason, O?Meley and Myles from their line-up but the exclusion of Ryan from the Blues outfit left a few people mystified, myself included. He?ll no doubt look to have a strong game just to remind everyone he can still play. Looking at their pack it?s still pretty impressive with Asotasi, Sonny Billy, Maitua and aforementioned Ryan. Tonga is back from injury and Utai from suspension so that adds to their firepower in the backs.A significant difference between the two teams is their respective benches. Whilst the Tigers? interchange players appear much stronger they haven?t had a lot of footy in them this year. Overall the Tigers have won 5 of the last 8 games between the clubs, but they were touched up 47-12 earlier in the year and I think the Doggies will get them again.The Dragons, Roosters and the Storm have the bye in Round 17. Given all their individual circumstances it?s probably a great time for each club to have a week off. The Dragons and Storm are riding high on the table and have a few people involved in State of Origin meaning they would have been under strength. Neither team can go backwards on the ladder, so that?s a good thing. The Roosters are in strife though, and look to have ?Jumped the Shark? for 2006. Blokes are swearing at each other on the field and the coach reckons it?s a good thing?whatever.
THE Giants have signed Kevin Brown from Wigan Warriors, on loan, until the end of the season. The 22 year old outside back goes straight into the Giants squad for Sunday?s game against Leeds Rhinos at the Galpharm Stadium. Brown who stands at 178cm and weights 87kgs has made over 50 Super League appearances for Wigan and was a member of the Great Britain 40 named for the 2005 Tri Nations
SAINTS and Great Britain captain Paul Sculthorpe has been ruled out for six to eight weeks after limping off early in Tuesday's 'XXXX' Test at Knowsley Road.
Sculthorpe, who retired after 16 minutes, has suffered a 90% tear of the medial ligament in his left knee (defined as a Grade 2+ injury), a significant and severe injury that could see him sidelined until September.
Sculthorpe was making his 26th Great Britain appearance, but his first as captain, against New Zealand. He had been appointed captain in May 2005, but missed the Gillette Tri-Nations tournament following an unrelated injury to his right knee.
BURLEIGH v REDCLIFFEPizzey Park, Saturday July 1, 2.00pm *Live on ABC TVReferee: Justin EastwoodTHE STORY: Redcliffe will field one of its most inexperienced sides ever in the Wizard Cup, with four players ? Ryan Cullen, Michael Roberts, Troy Lindsay and Adam Starr ? missing due to Queensland Residents commitments. Furthermore centre Nick Emmett will miss his second game due to a tripping charge, while Pat Gardner has a knee injury. Burleigh could possibly jump into the top five if results go its way.THE STAT: Defying the common Wizard Cup trend, Burleigh holds a significant head-to-head advantage over Redcliffe, winning 15 of 24 encounters. The Bears also knocked the Dolphins out of last year?s finals.THE STAR: Just 17, Matt Gillett will debut for the Dolphins on the wing. Originally from Bribie Island, the young fencer scored four tries in a recent Colts match.CHANGES: BURLEIGH ? In: Wayne Phillis, James Griffiths, Aseri Laing, Adam Hayden. Out: Dimitri Pelo, Clay Harris, Shane O?Flanagan, Jordan Atkins. REDCLIFFE ? In: Pat McGill, Matt Gillett, Dominic Fallini, Nick Walker, Danny Green, Chris Jelich. Out: Ryan Cullen, Nick Emmett, Pat Gardner, Michael Roberts, Troy Lindsay, Adam Starr.CHARGES: None.Burleigh Bears Players: 1. Reggie CRESSBROOK 2. Trent PURDON 3. Chris BARNES 4. Jamie RUSSO 5. Aseri LAING 6. Adam HAYDEN 7. Ryan GUNDRY13. Robert APANUI12. Adam HUTCHISON11. Martin GRIESE10. Josh BLATCH 9. Matthew DOEG 8. Ali BROWNInterchange: 14. James GRIFFITHS15. Travis SIMPSON16. Wayne PHILLIS17. Marty MITCHELLCoach: Jimmy LENIHANRedcliffe Dolphins Players: 1. Kaine MANIHERA 2. Tim YEE 3. Pat McGILL 4. Greg BOURKE 5. Matt GILLETT 6. Rory BROMLEY 7. Chris FOX13. Gerard PARLE12. Danny BURKE11. Grant FLUGGE10. Dominic FALLINI 9. Shannon FISH 8. Damian JENTZInterchange: 14. Nick WALKER15. Richie RUSSELL16. Danny GREEN17. Chris JELICHCoach: Anthony GRIFFIN EASTS v WYNNUM MANLYLanglands Park, Saturday July 1, 3.00pm.Referee: Gavin MorrisTHE STORY: Easts has delivered big news this week, appointing Des Morris as its new chief executive and formalising ties with South Sydney. The Rabbitohs will not have a reserve grade side in 2006 and will dual register players with Easts and Norths Sydney. In a record 224 first grade games for Easts, Morris captained the Tigers to three premierships. Significantly, he later coached Wynnum to two titles.THE STAT: Easts halfback Brett McPherson becomes just the second player to record 200 Wizard Cup games this weekend. The agile veteran has played the bulk of his games with the Tigers, but also spent time with Wynnum. Redcliffe?s Troy Lindsay is the only other player to have reached the milestone.THE STAR: Despite seven tries in the last three weeks in FOGS Cup, Aaron Barba has still been overlooked for Wizard Cup duties. Even with Simon Phillips away on Residents duty, Wynnum coach Neil Wharton has opted for Aaron?s older brother Rodney out wide.CHANGES: EASTS ? In: Mike Hobbs, Cameron Durnford, Damian Durnford. Out: Matt Lockyer, Luke Branighan, Alec Fata. WYNNUM MANLY ? In: Chris Currie, Sam Crabb, Zac Chisholm. Out: Justin Loewe, Simon Phillips, Bart Masters.CHARGES: NoneEasts Tigers Players: 1. Kevin STEPHENSEN 2. John TAMANIKA 3. Shane NEUMANN 4. Donald MALONE 5. David TYRRELL 6. Mike HOBBS 7. Brett McPHERSON13. Mark CANTONI12. Steele RETCHLESS11. Marty ALLEN10. Trevor EXTON 9. Jamie TOMLINSON 8. Scott SIPPLEInterchange: 14. Cameron DURNFORD15. Damian PETRIE16. Steve GOODHEW17. Damian DURNFORDCoach: Michael BOOTH Wynnum Manly Seagulls Players: 1. Bill WYATT 2. Rodney BARBA 3. Chris CURRIE 4. Steve IRWIN 5. Tangi ROPATI 6. Jimmy AHMAT 7. Daniel EVANS13. Luke DALZIEL DON12. Darren BAIN11. John BRUCE10. Josh ROVELLI 9. Albert TALIPEAU 8. Fili SOFAInterchange: 14. Sam CRABB15. Gary WINTER16. Zac CHISHOLM17. Kerry SMITHCoach: Neil WHARTON CENTRAL v TOOWOOMBABrowne Park, Saturday July 1, 7.30pm.Referee: Justin DavisTHE STORY: The Toowoomba team which took apart Ipswich 70-10 a fornight ago has been dismantled itself, with five players out due to conflicting commitments. Central isn?t resting on its laurels after beating Wynnum last-up. The Comets have called Anthony Toby, McConkie Tauasa and Michael Esdale back into the side, aiming to keep pace with the finals contenders.THE STAT: Sixteen games in the Queensland Wizard Cup. That?s all Ben Vaeau has had to endue to convince Brisbane Broncos staff he is ready for the step up to NRL. The Kiwi junior has featured in five games this year since returning from a badly shattered kneecap.THE STAR: Debutant Brynjar Ragnarsson has one of the more unusual backgrounds in rugby league, coming from Icelandic stock. Just a teenager, the young prop played for South East at the QRL Open Age Championships at Kawana earlier this year.CHANGES: CENTRAL ? In: Anthony Toby, McConkie Tauasa, Michael Esdale. Out: Marty Hatfield, Dallas Williams, Mark Siniula. TOOWOOMBA ? In: Charlie Fetoai, Brynjar Ragnarsson, Jason Moon, Lachlan Morgan, Todd Parnell. Out: Joel Moon, Brett Seymour, David Taylor, Neville Costigan, Ben Vaeau.CHARGES: NoneCentral Comets Players: 1. Jimmy McCONACHY 2. Anthony TOBY 3. Shannon STITT 4. Misi TUALAPAPA 5. McConkie TAUASA 6. Scott PORTER 7. Denny LAMBERT13. Matt RUA12. Wayne BARNETT11. Tyron HAYNES10. Pete PENAIA 9. Jade WOGAND 8. Aaron SWEENEYInterchange: 14. Kristian MENE15. Mick ESDALE16. Andrew DALE17. Herewini RANGICoach: Matt PARISHToowoomba Clydesdales Players: 1. Nick PARFITT 2. Gideon MZEMBE 3. Charlie FETOAI 4. Leon BOTT 5. Denan KEMP 6. Jamie SIMPSON 7. Ben GREEN13. John TE REO12. Joe CLARKE11. Derricke WATKINS10. Lynden MURPHY 9. Michael GREEN 8. Chris MUCKERTInterchange: 14. Brynjar RAGNARSSON15. Jason MOON16. Lachlan MORGAN17. Todd PARNELLCoach: Mark GEE NORTHS v TWEED HEADSBishop Park, Sunday July 2, 3.00pmReferee: Clayton SharpeTHE STORY: You don?t get many bigger drawcards in rugby league than speed sensation Billy Slater. A State of Origin hero in 2004, Slater will be back where his NRL dream began, at Bishop Park. From Innisfail Slater drove for 20 hours so he could trial with Norths as a teenager, recommended by Mark Murray?s good friend Greg Bandiera.THE STAT: Tweed?s Dean Allen needs just eight more games to reach 150 in the Wizard Cup. Last week he escaped suspension for a careless high tackle charge, entering an early plea. Teammate Josh Vaughan is welcomed back from a two-week stint for a similar offence.THE STAR: Aside from Slater, Norths welcomes back another old boy in Glen Turner. Turner has played 56 NRL games since debuting in season 2000.CHANGES: NORTHS ? In: Billy Slater, Ryan Shortland, Sam Tagataese, Matthew Bartlett, Glen Turner, Troy Hansen. Out: Will Chambers, Jackson Nicolau, Anthony Boyd, Adam Blair, Nathan Turner, Scott Anderson. TWEED HEADS ? In: Ryan Milligan, Ryan O?Connell, Josh Vaughan, Daniel Molenaar. Out: Nathan Small, Chris Enahoro, Luke Kelly, Jay McDermott.CHARGES: None.Norths Devils Players: 1. Billy SLATER 2. Aaron MORGAN 3. Smith SAMAU 4. Ryan SHORTLAND 5. Chad LEACH 6. James AUBUSSON 7. Isaac KAUFMANN13. Sam TAGATAESE12. Matthew BARTLETT11. Aaron BULOW10. Will SCANLON 9. Brenton STONIER 8. Glen TURNERInterchange: 14. Trent HENRICK15. Brendan AFITU16. Troy HANSEN17. Steve FRANCISCUSCoach: Wayne TRELEAVENTweed Heads Players: 1. Ryan MILLIGAN 2. Ryan O'CONNELL 3. David STRACHAN 4. Josh VAUGHAN 5. Nat BARNES 6. Brad DAVIS 7. Tim MACCAN13. Matt POW12. Dean ALLEN11. Selasi BERDIE10. Roy FRIEND 9. Matt KING 8. Tom PRICHARDInterchange: 14. Cory BOND15. James WOOD16. Josh PEACOCK17. Daniel MOLENAARCoach: Steve MURPHY NORTH QLD ? ByeCHARGES: None.ROUND 15 (Wk 1) ResultSOUTHS LOGAN 44 (Chris Sandow 2, Tyrone Coppedge 2, Tanu Wulf 2, Mase Laulu Togagae, Stanley Fau tries; Mase Laulu-Togagae 6 goals) d IPSWICH 34 (Joel Reithmuller, Geoff Holcombe, Daniel Fullarton, Travis Baker, Ben McFadgean, Matthew Cameron tries; Travis Baker 5 goals) at QLD Group Stadium.
QUINS and Wigan have announced their squads for Saturday?s clash in the engage Super League.
SALFORD City Reds and Bradford Bulls have named their 20-man squads for the engage Super League match at The Willows.Salford City Reds v Bradford Bulls, The Willows, Fri June 30Salford 20-man squad: Hodgson, McGuinness, Moule, Dunemann, Robinson, Coley, Alker, Rutgerson, Finnigan, Sibbit, Charles, Highton, Langi, Haggerty, Littler, Myler, Clayton, Adamson, Lima, Williams.Bradford 20-man squad: Vainikolo, Smith, Meyers, Kopczak, I. Harris, Withers, Pryce, St Hilaire, B. Harris, Burgess, Newton, Ferres, Deacon, Vagana, Langley, Hape, McKenna, James, Lynch, Henderson.Ref : B Robinson
THE NRL have today advised of changes to ticketing for all 2006 Finals Series matches. Week 1 of the Finals Series will remain the same as 2005, with each of the top four teams earning a home final. Season Ticket Holders from each participating Club will be able to purchase tickets on Monday 4th September, 2006 during an exclusive priority period, with tickets available to the general public from Tuesday 5th September, 2006Week 2 is provisionally scheduled for Aussie Stadium on Friday and Saturday night. However, the venues for these games are subject to change at the option of the NRL if two non-NSW teams are participating. Season ticket holders of each participating club will be allocated specific bays to purchase into on Monday 11th September 2006. Any unsold tickets in these bays will be made available for general sale on Tuesday 12th September, 2006. Week 3 games are provisionally scheduled for Aussie Stadium on Friday night and Telstra Stadium on Saturday night. The venues for these games are also subject to change at the option of the NRL if two non-NSW teams are participating. The NRL will decide which game is played in which Stadium at the completion of the Week 2 matches. Week 3 will operate as for Week 2 with specific bays available for season ticket holders of the participating teams to purchase into on Monday 18th September 2006. Any unsold tickets in these bays will be made available for general sale on Tuesday 12th September 2006. Season ticket holders will be limited to 4 tickets per season pass with a transaction limit of 8 (must have 2 season passes). The general public will be limited to 8 tickets per transaction. Ticket limits are subject to venue capacity in Week 1 and at alternate venues in weeks 2 and 3.It is a condition of sale that tickets may not, without the prior consent of the NRL, be resold at a premium or used for advertising, promotion or other commercial purposes. If any ticket is sold or used in breach of this condition, the bearer of the ticket will be denied admission.
VETERAN forward Jason Croker will lead the Raiders into battle on Saturday night, after he was named as Captain for the Raiders important match against the Eels at Canberra Stadium.The 308 match veteran will lead the Raiders in regular skipper Clinton Schifcofske's absence, after Schifcofske joined teammate Adam Mogg in Melbourne this week for Queensland?s State of Origin team.Croker has proven his durability again this season with an unbroken run of matches for the Raiders, playing in all 16 of the clubs NRL fixtures so far this season.Leading the side is something Croker is not unfamiliar with, after taking the Raiders out several times in the past, including a significant stretch last season when Simon Woolford was out with suspension.Croker said although it is always an honour to lead the Raiders out onto Canberra Stadium, a win against the Eels is still the most important part of the day.?I was captain a few times last year and I?m looking forward to it,? Croker said. ?Hopefully we can get the two points in what is an important game for us.?With Schifcofske and Mogg missing from the line-up the Raiders have turned to Marshall Chalk and Craig Frawley to fill in for the missing pair, but Croker said experience will not be an issue for the Raiders on Saturday.?We?ve got a fair bit of experience there still so we won?t change things much,? he said. ?Jason Smith, Alan Tongue and I have all played a lot of footy so it won?t be an issue.?Raiders Coach Matt Elliott said the decision to make Croker captain in Schifcofske?s absence was not a hard one, and said he knows the amount of respect Croker demands within the team.?Jason was the logical choice to lead the side and has done a great job in the past,? Elliott said. ?The boys love playing for Toots and I?m sure Saturday will be no exception.?
TOYOTA Young Guns half Brent McConnell will make his debut in the NRL for the Cowboys this Saturday night when they take on South Sydney at Dairy farmers Stadium.
THE Ergon Energy Broncos today announced that 19-year-old fullback, Karmichael Hunt, had agreed to a new three-year deal with the club.
A fitness test tomorrow morning will determine the availability of NSW interchange utility Ben Hornby for Wednesday night's State of Origin decider.
WE are just past the halfway mark of the NRL season and it is time to announce the inaugural TV Commentator Awards for 2006.