AFTER another round of footy that was tighter than a Hulk Hogan headlock, we now focus our attention on an even tougher set of match-ups, with the Test on Friday night set to dictate late changes, throwing in the odd wobbly result.I was my own worst enemy last week taking the Warriors to win at home. They?ve replaced the Raiders as my bogey team, and if the Cowboys lose again this week they?ll be on that list too. This reduced me to five out of seven with an overall total of 37/56 (66%) and I?m still searching for that elusive perfect score.One thing?s for sure, it?s not getting any easier?Australia v New ZealandWe begin the weekend with the first representative fixture of the season and one that hopefully lives up to expectations. There hasn?t been this much interest in International Rugby League for quite some time and rightly so as both teams are finally able to field their strongest line-ups.To begin with, the Kiwis are paying $4.50 for the win. I can?t say no to those odds given it?s a two horse race and the fact is that Australia needs to take the game away from New Zealand before they set about winning the contest.New Zealand have a strong forward pack that can not only keep up with the Aussies these days, they have the ability to dominate as well. Sure, I know it?s the last Test for Johns but he looked unfit and unhappy against the Bunnies last week. The Aussies are pretty strong across the park although I feel a Kiwi victory is well within the frame. BK, Big Willie and Petero are all in great form and will take the game to the opposition.I?m going to stick with the Aussies, but I?ll be happy either way as a lazy $20 on the other mob will provide me with a nice little emotional hedge.Eels v RaidersSuper Saturday gets underway out in League Heartland with Parra taking on the Raiders in a do-or-die clash. The loser of this contest has my permission to get really worried about their season. Last week both sides threw away seemingly un-losable leads to wind up excruciatingly short.Parra have Hindmarsh and Tahu backing up from the night before and I think the result hinges plenty on the availability of these two players, in particular Hindy. The Eels seem incapable of winning without him and the backline looks much more adept with Tahu.For the Raiders, they play their second game away from home in two weeks, making me think they will struggle to overcome Parra in whatever shape they take. I wouldn?t be resting Jason Smith at any stage during the game if I was Matt Elliott, as the veteran five-eighth?s brief 10min absence more or less cost them the game last weekend. I?m going to stick with Parra here in a tight one and with desperation the key player in both camps, this game could have plenty to offer the spectator.Cowboys v PanthersHands up who got caught out picking the Cowboys again? Well, straight up I?m going to tick their box this week as I don?t believe they can lose three in a row. All sorts of alarm bells and sirens will be sounding in FNQ if this happens.The Panthers were particularly disappointing against the Sharks last week as well, providing their fans with little to cheer about amid their return to a refurbished home ground. Priddis at halfback was never going to work and besides which the Sharks appeared to simply want it more. With the return of Gower, this game is within reach for the Panthers, providing they can foot it with the Cowboys in the forwards.Thurston should be fine to back-up from the Test match providing he doesn?t get injured, although I bet O?Donnell will be a bit sore. Pritchard for Penrith will be in the same boat. I?m going to stick with the Cowboys as it?s no surprise to see Smith back at five-eighth after Firman?s Barry Crocker last week has brought the curtain down on his travelling circus. If North Queensland can?t get over the line here, call for the defibrillator immediately.Rabbitohs v StormNormally you?d dismiss the Bunnies from the realms of victory fairly early on, but after last week?s effort against the Knights, I think they deserve some consideration. Besides, Jason Robinson?s performance in that match was the most reputation-based display of refereeing I?ve ever seen. The only reason he still has a job is because the NRL is short on whistle-blowers.Anyhoo, I thought the Storm were impressive against a Dragons outfit that should have been leading by a bit at halftime. Melbourne seemed to be the more patient team and were able to wait for opportunities to present themselves. Crocker, Inglis and Smith have been in stunning form and each week lay the foundation for the Storm.Whilst I cannot discount the slim chance South Sydney has of jagging a win, they need everything to go their way if they are to take home the chocolates. Their last outing against Newcastle would have had them banging the odd locker in the change rooms after the game, and rightly so ? Robinson was terrible. But they did show up to play and if they do that against Melbourne we will at least see a contest. The MacDougall?s and Walker?s went well, but with Fa?alogo backing up I think it?s too much for the Bunnies. Storm by plenty.Knights v BroncosAnother week, another betting suspension levelled against the Newcastle club. It is certainly a case of once bitten, twice shy for the bookies with their memories longer than an elephants as they still lick their wounds from the Warriors game. It?s fair to assume that Johns might not make it through the Test match, but either way I don?t think it will matter.The Knights were woeful last week against Souths and if they turn up in that frame of mind again they?ll get poleaxed. With Johns, Buderus and Simpson backing up plus the loss of Thaiday to injury, Newcastle is susceptible to a loss here.This is, of course, without even assessing the form of Brisbane. After a slow start against the Raiders last week the Broncos overcame an 18-point deficit to win at home in a gallop. Hodges is playing out of his skin as is the likes of Parker and Thaiday. The visitors pose a real threat to Newcastle in this one and I?m going to tip them here based off form and the possibility that the Knights? Test stars won?t back up too well.Roosters v BulldogsThis one should be a cracker. Both teams looked out of touch and a bit shabby leading into Round 8 but they hit form and overcame their opposition to record valuable wins. In the case of the Roosters it was particularly impressive, backing up after 4 days to knock over the Cowboys at home.The Bulldogs will do it tough in this one though. O?Meley, Mason, Asotasi and Sonny Bill are all backing up from the Test match, sapping Canterbury?s forward pack of its? usual sting. With no such issues facing the Roosters, fitness will play a big part. Another factor will be the halves with Finch leading Easts about very well last week. This pales in comparison to the Doggies who lacked spark and direction when they had the ball in attacking opportunities. Maitua?s off-field problems may also cause him to be a bit shy.I think the Roosters can get home in this one especially given that their forwards will be fresh. Wing and Fitzgibbon will be sure to put in big performances given their omission from the Test side. Tigers v Sea EaglesWe travel out to Leichhardt Oval for the next of our four Sunday matches. The Tigers are coming off the bye and this is never an easy thing to overcome. With Hodgson back from injury they should be a bit safer at the back but I?m really not sure what Sheensy is doing here.Shifting Farah to halfback is akin to what Penrith did with Priddis last week. Farah is an excellent hooker and his effectiveness will be dulled by the move. Likewise, Prince is the best halfback at the club, but now he?s playing five-eighth. I would have thought Lolesi could be an option at no.6 but he still finds himself in the unfamiliar position of lock.The Sea Eagles are playing well on the other hand, although BK and Beaver will be backing up. These two guys are the best players at the club but I think they?ll be able to overcome this hurdle. Orford has found his step and young Burns is a tearaway success so far this season. I?m getting behind Manly in this one as they continue to push their claims as genuine contenders.Sharks v DragonsOur final game of the round pits arch rivals the Sharks up against the Dragons in one of the last old-fashioned local derby?s. This time around there will be some extra spice to the clash with former Dragons stalwart Lance Thompson lining up against his old club after departing at the end of last season in controversial circumstances.The Dragons jump on the train down to the Shire to meet the Sharkies who are playing great footy at the moment. Last week Saints lost to Melbourne and were unimpressive for the most part. They can?t use the short turnaround as an excuse either, with the Roosters victory fixing that little red wagon. And with the loss of Head and Bailey I think they?ll do it tough.The Sharks are at home in this one and despite the loss of Ross they managed to win without him for most of the match last week. Villa the Gorilla could be a shock inclusion but regardless they look a little thin on the ground. Dykes is playing the house down and on form you?d pick the Sharks to win comfortably. But something tells me the Dragons will get up here. Barrett has his future sorted out now so look for a big game from him and whatever the result this game shapes as required viewing.The Warriors have the bye in Round 9 allowing them to rest their star players following Friday night?s Test match. It?s fair to say though that this treat is a little generous this season, with only 4 Auckland-based players taking part. Traditionally they have made up the bulk of the NZ squad and with the two points they?ll continue their incremental moves up the ladder.
THE lovely month of May will tell a lot about the Emerald Group Dolphins.We enter the month undefeated however with a string of tough matches to finish the first round.The Broncos' offshoot Toowoomba come to our home ground on Sunday, May 7 keen to show they should be replacements for any of their missing stars during the State of origin period.We then head off to Acacia Ridge to tackle the improving Souths Logan before finishing with the premiers, the NQ Young Guns, at home on Sunday, May 21.This match is at Dolphin Oval and should ensure a healthy turnout of local fans.We then finish off by crossing the border to tackle the Tweed Heads Seagulls, who have shown they will be in the firing line come finals time.OUR injury has been kept a respectable level, mainly because our replacements have coped well.Mark Shipway is back on deck while Daniel Green also has just returned. Clint Fraser and Duane O'Grady are long-term causalities but hope to be back soon while Nick Walker makes his comeback in the second round.MUCH has been made of Shane Perry's elevation to the Broncos as regards our team's situation.We are hoping for Shane's sake that we don't see him back at Dolphin Oval this season. From a selfish point of view, Shane is a bad loss for our side as he's our captain and halfback, but we are all ecstatic to watch him progress in the NRL.His elevation will be repaid in the long-term as young hopefuls realise they can achieve their NRL dreams by playing at Redcliffe.His promotion will do wonders for our recruitment program.We're fortunate that Kiwi Chris Fox has come on tremendously as a player. He has stepped into Shane's spot with Marty Turner also showing his experience to guide the side around and kick astutely.BOTH our lower grades are going great guns.The two sides are in the top five with the reggies showing great heart in particular.Their victory over Burleigh Bears last month summed up their enthusiasm and courage as they knocked off the comp leaders.The reggies really typify what we want at this club in that they showed great character despite being up against it.Our Colts are a young side, and despite a hiccup against Norths, they are one of the form sides. At present all sides have put themselves in a position to challenge in the finals.We're also leading the club championship points tally, a title we are keen to regain after an absence of a few years.WELCOME to a new face at the club in A grade assistant coach Matt Wood.Matt will be remembered as a member of the great Raiders sides and coach Grant Cleal is thrilled to have a player of his stature helping out.Matt runs a stationary business at Geebung and was involved with Souths Logan last season.Anthony Griffin
THE Junior Dolphins are heading into the finals of the Allan's Tiles Pre-Season Challenge competition held over the first five weeks of season 2006. Only the premiership age groups (under 11 to under 12) compete in this competition with many of our teams making it through to finals week of the round robin challenge. After the finals are played, the Luxury Paints Premiership begins for those age groups. Some very enjoyable games have been played in the younger age groups. Games in the under 7 to under 10s are a lot of fun and are great to watch. The enjoyment of our game by its players is paramount at this club and the boys and girls in these age groups make that very obvious with their big smiles and happy faces whenever they jog on to the field. If you have some spare time on a Sunday morning, it is worthwhile popping into Dolphin Oval and having a look at some of our future stars playing this great game for all the right reasons.The representative season is also under way for both schoolboy and the South East Division Juniors. Again the Redcliffe Dolphins will feature in both, in particular the Sunshine Coast under 15 schoolboys who will travel to Townsville this month to contest the state championships. Our very good friends and sponsor, the Redcliffe Leagues Club, is making it possible once again for those boys to make the trip north. Mr Tony Murphy and the Leagues Club board have agreed to meet over $500 in costs relating to that carnival for each of the players. Five of our juniors also have been selected for the Brisbane under 17 team. They are Asher Elemani, Dave Hala, Joel Romello, Dane Hogan and Matt Lennon. Four of those boys did the job for the Stingers under 16 team at the state championships in Rockhampton in 2005.This, coupled with some strong performances in 2006, has seen them picked again along with Hogan, who represented Wide Bay at the same carnival but has since returned to the Dolphins. Well done to all those boys who have been chosen to represent at any level so far. With many rep teams still to be named, I will keep all members up to date in the coming issues.A couple of fund-raising ventures are about to kick off with all proceeds going towards the purchase of training equipment and coaching aids to assist our team of junior coaches to get the very best out of each member of their team. 2006 is the first time for many years that sees this club provide an entrant in the Miss Junior Rugby League quest. Miss Andrea Chapman will represent the Redcliffe Dolphins Juniors and will conduct raffles to raise money for our teams along the way. All the best of luck Andrea. A chocolate drive is also planned for the coming weeks and we hope to raise upwards of $10,000 which will go towards an upgrade of spectator facilities around the Dolphin Oval complex, so please get behind these ventures as they will benefit every player, coach and spectator involved with this club.Thought for the month: Encourage your children to show respect towards their coach and other volunteers that help make this club what it is. Grant Cleal Development Manager
THEY were once fierce rivals on the field, both little generals directing their huge forward packs around the ground in the glory years of the 70s.
They both played for one of the world's greatest rugby league clubs and against some of the games best, yet had never spoken a word to each other.
It was fitting that they should shake hands for the first time at the Redcliffe Leagues Club at the official Dolphins season launch.
It wasn't until Des Webb announced that Paynter Dixon was to be the new short sponsor of the Dolphins and introduced Mark Shulman as their business development manager that long-time Dolphins junior official Brian Winney finally realised he was in the presence of an old sparring partner.
Mark said he was surprised to see Brian at the launch after so many years.
"Halfbacks are often serious students of the game, so it is great to see Brian getting involved not only with the Redcliffe juniors but also as a representative on the QRL coaching panel," he said.
"Paynter Dixon is very excited to be a major sponsor of the Dolphins. We believe we can help the club grow with our experience and expertise in project management."
Brian was equally surprised about the Paynter Dixon connection.
"It was funny to see Mark again. We both played for St George, we nearly played against each other in 1971 when I moved to Wests and a few years later, Mark bought my house when I moved to Queensland," Brian said.
"Over the past 20 years I have seen the Dolphins grow and become one of the most successful and recognisable clubs in Queensland. Speaking to Mark at the launch made me realise there is bigger and better things to come and I can tell you there is no one better than Mark or Paynter Dixon to have on board."
With these two great characters of the game supporting the club, it is no wonder the Dolphins can expect great things in season 2006.
Paynter Dixon, the official short sponsor of the Dolphins, brings with them the experience of an award-winning long-term Australian identity which has expertise in building and redevelopment in the club, hotel, commercial and industrial industries.
QUITE often it only takes that lucky break for a footballer to make a career breakthrough.
Forget all the blood, sweat and tears over many seasons ... a twist of fate sometimes dictates his future.
Although only 20, New Zealand Chris Fox knows something about the vagaries of rugby league.
A promising junior in Wellington, he was snapped up by the Auckland-based New Zealand Warriors as a member of their development squad.
Although his parents live in Auckland, Fox still calls Wellington home and Wainuiomata in Lower Hutt his junior club.
Current international Paul Whatuira and rising Cowboys star David Faiumu also hail from the same club.
While Fox played for Wellington in the national Bartercard Cup competition, he also trained one night a week with the Warriors development squad in Auckland.
Disillusioned by the departure of Warriors coach Daniel Anderson, Fox asked his manager to find him a new club at the start of last season.
"I asked him to get me somewhere and I ended up at Redcliffe," Fox said. "I didn't know anything about the Queensland Cup yet alone the Redcliffe club. I was told it was near Brisbane and that was it."
Fox turned up at Redcliffe in January last year, played a trial and found himself in the club's A grade.
"I found it tough at the start as I'm pretty quiet and I was meeting new players all the time," he said.
"And the heat was something else. Coming from Wellington I was used to it being cold and raining. I love it here now and won't go back home. My confidence picked up at the end of last season and I gained a good insight of what was needed to make the top grade."
Fox loved the conditions and competition so much that he ended up Redcliffe's player of the year in A grade, a fair achievement for any newcomer to a club as strong as the Dolphins.
"I was helped by the fact that I didn't miss any games during the season," he said. "A lot of players went back and forth to Premier League and I stayed in A grade.
"I started at five-eighth, then went to centre and then fullback. The position I quite like is five-eighth."
With his versatility, about the only position he can't play is front-row.
The 2006 season brought more rewards for the nuggetty Fox, even though club captain Shane Perry maintains a hold on the No. 6 jersey in Premier League.
Included in the top team's train-on squad for last year's finals, Fox was elevated to the Dolphins' top squad from the first fixture of the season.
"I've been getting about half a game," he said. "My job is to come on and help out when some of the boys are getting tired.
"I have been playing mainly hooker and some five-eighth. I love the tackling over here. The code is tougher back home but it's faster here and the skills are better. It's more of a bash-up at home."
No relation to famous All Blacks kicking machine Grant Fox, the younger version weighs in at 85 kilograms.
He keeps fit working as a paver/concreter with fellow Dolphin Richie Russell for the Redcliffe-based Redpine Paving.
He also has had more good news this season with the arrival of his girlfriend from New Zealand.
"She keeps me on track and it's all going well," he said. "My next goal is to try to get a crack at the NRL.
"It doesn't matter what club it is, I'd just like to have a shot at it. The opportunity is here at Redcliffe to impress the right people."
He is going about it the right way with his first Queensland Cup try against Easts in round 4.
"I wanted to get a try," he said. "I was playing five-eighth and it was the last play of the game."
He followed up with a try in the televised round 6 match against the Norths Devils, a fixture when he came into his own as Perry was on duty with the Broncos again.
Fox rode his luck in the week leading up to the Norths match as he had to appear before the judiciary on a kicking charge. Luckily for himself and the club he was cleared and took his place at the base of the scrum with Marty Turner.
THE 2008 World Cup will be played at the end of the 2008 season rather than at the start, as originally planned.
ST George Illawarra Dragons five-eighth Trent Barrett has announced he will leaving the Dragons at the conclusion of the current season.With his Club calling a media conference, the Dragons? captain confirmed he has exercised a clause in his contract which allows him to leave Australia to the end of 2006.Barrett, through his manager Wayne Beavis, has signed a three-year deal with English Super League club, Wigan.The 28-year-old signed a four-year contract with the Dragons in June 2004, but this contained an option to play in the English Super League after two years.In a statement isssued this afternoon, the Club indicated the process has been complex but Barrett and the Club are now free to apply all their energies to achieving the team goals for 2006.?To acknowledge Trent Barrett is leaving the Dragons and the game of rugby league in this country, is not easy to contemplate,? said Dragons Chief Executive Officer Peter Doust.?I can?t over-state the contributions he has made to our Clubs since the relationship began in 1993 when he was a 16 year old.?Trent is an outstanding athlete who has played the game of rugby league with commitment, style and skill at all levels, added Doust.?He is a quality person who has led our Club with distinction, both on and off the field and he certainly won?t be easy to replace?.Barrett explained it was the toughest decision of his life.?This was definitely the hardest decision I have ever made,? said Barrett.?I love the St George Illawarra Dragons and the Club has always been fantastic to me?.?My family and I have always had a desire to experience the ?other side of the world? and we felt it was now or never,? he said.?Wigan is a Club steeped in rugby league history and I am excited by the challenge that lies ahead.?This is a decision not based on money but one that simply provides a new adventure for me and my family.?I know I will leave behind some great mates, but we have this year to achieve what we all want,? he said.?I am really focused and my commitment to the Dragons will be such that I will be requesting to be excused from any representative football this year,? added Barrett.Dragons Coach Nathan Brown who has played alongside and coached Trent lamented a mate passing through.?Our Club is not only losing a fine player but a good guy and friend to all,? said Brown.?I understand his decision however I hope we will work together again.?He is a wonderful leader at our Club and will remain so for the rest of this year.?Barrett is St George Illawarra?s highest paid player and his departure, along with a possible rise in the NRL salary cap to $4 million, allows the Dragons firm up their offers to other high profile players in the Club. In particular, the Dragons are expected step up their efforts to re-sign centre Mark Gasnier who is currently considering offers from Rugby Union. Gasnier may accept a deal, reportedly worth about $500,000 per season, to stay in the NRL.Born in 1977 in Temora, NSW, Trent Barrett played his junior football with the Temora Dragons.In 1993, Barrett linked up with the Illawarra Steelers, debuting in first grade as a 19-year-old in 1996. The long serving player has represented Australia in 11 Tests, a World Cup and a Kangaroo tour. In 2000 he was named the Dally M and St George Illawarra ?Player of the Year?.Barrett suffered a season-ending ankle injury in May, 2003, but not before posting his 100th game with the Dragons' joint venture. He came back in 2004 and gained selection for NSW in State of Origin III. Barrett was selected in 2004 Tri-Nations Kangaroo squad but was forced to withdraw due to injury. He bounced back in 2005, representing NSW before playing four Tests in the 2005 Tri-Nations.Trent Barrett Fact File:Five eighth, Halfback.Illawarra Steelers:1996-98, 46 games. 30t, 2fg (122pts).St George Illawarra Dragons: 1999-2005, 134 games. 42t, 4fg (172pts).2006 stats for the Dragons (to date): 7 games. 1fg (1pt)TOTAL (to date): 1996-2006, 186 games. 72t, 7fg (295pts). Club captain of Dragons in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006. NSW rep (1997-2002 & 2004). Australian rep (1999-2002).Stats compiled by www.jubileeavenue.com.au
FULLBACK Brett Hodgson has been cleared to play for the Wests Tigers in Sunday's NRL match against Manly at Leichhardt Oval.
ST George Illawarra captain Trent Barrett has ruled himself out of the State of Origin series after announcing he'll join English club Wigan after the NRL season.Barrett has played seven times for NSW but says he'll step down from all representative football immediately as part of his agreement to sever his contract with the Dragons. The 28-year-old five-eighth has exercised an option in his contract to leave the NRL for a Super League club despite having two years remaining on his current deal.The veteran of 142 games for the Dragons, Barrett will join Wigan on a three-year contract.
DRAGONS Supporters, For those of us who only get to see the Dragons play live once a year, although we lost to Melbourne AGAIN, was certainly a great atmosphere at the ground and sounded a lot louder than the 8000 that attended. The Dragons started the match looking like they might rack up 50 points but an inability to put the ball over the line and 2 quick tries to the Storm at the end of the first half left the Dragons wondering what might have been. A lack of creativity in attack combined with handling errors, penalties and a determined Storm defence meant the Dragons were to leave the Southern capital empty handed once again. Thanks again to all the MBDS members who turned up at the Depot, was great to catch up and attend a live game with everyone. The memory of last weeks loss can be quickly erased with victory on Sunday over arch rivals The Sharks. The local derby is always a game played with great passion and will only be more eventful than usual with ex Dragon Lance Thompson lining up against the club he once stated he would bleed for. Should be a great match. The MBDS screening of this match will be at the Grosvenor Hotel at 7:30pm Sunday night. This is the earliest we can get the screening as Channel Nine are covering the other match at 3pm Sunday. Why not head into the Grosvenor a bit early to have dinner and enjoy the live entertainment they have on Sunday afternoons? WHAT: Dragons v SharksWHEN: Sunday 7th May, 7:30pmWHERE: Grosvenor Hotel, 10 Brighton Rd East St Kilda GO THE DRAGONS!!
NEWCASTLE Knights forward Steve Simpson says he feared his chances of playing for Australia were over after pulling out of last year's Tri Nations tour.
ST George Illawarra skipper Trent Barrett is expected to announce today that he will quit the NRL for the English Super League next season.
CRONULLA utility forward, Phil Bailey, has signed a deal which will see him remain at the Sutherland Shire club until the end of 2007. Rumours had circulated about his desire to link up with St George Illawarra or Manly, especially following the departure of former coach Chris Anderson, however this speculation amounted to nothing when his decision was announced yesterday.
RISING Warriors star Shaun Metcalf and his two team-mates will probably never play professional rugby league after their criminal convictions.
ST George Illawarra Dragons have invited forward Brent Kite and hooker Mark Riddell to look elsewhere following speculation about the pair's future. Dragons chief executive Peter Doust last night confirmed that permission has been given for the two players to negotiate with rival clubs before the NRL's June 30 anti-tampering deadline.