THIS weekend's sole Wizard Cup fixture could produce any result, with exciting newcomers filling in for experienced campaigners and two teams hungry for victory on live TV.
A 36-YEAR rugby league tradition continues next week when the Zone 5 Under 10 years (35kg) Junior Rugby League Carnival kicks off at the Charleville Showgrounds.
SYDNEY Roosters fullback Anthony Minichiello has re-signed with the NRL club for another three seasons.
BULLDOGS fullback Luke Patten has re-signed with the NRL club for a further two years.
GOOD Guys shouldn?t come last
ST George Illawarra has re-signed halfback Mathew Head for a further two years, keeping him at the club until the end of 2008.
OUR regular feature writer and match reporter Daniel Ramus took on stats guru David Middleton on the Footy Show tonight and came out on top, pocketing a lazy $575 for his trouble.
IT?S a funny game Rugby League. Last week all but one of the home teams won and the only away team victory went to the Dragons in a nail-biter. The comp is very close right now which is reflected in the differentials of each club.I managed to jag 6 from 7 for the week in a much better effort. It puts me at 66/104 (63%) and I?m back in the game. Looking at this week?s clashes I?m leaning towards most of the home teams again, which admittedly is a bit of a safety option, but there?s a couple of coaches out there playing ducks and drakes.As happens so often in League tipping, as soon as you think you?ve got everything worked out, the Game sneaks up on you and knocks you over just for the fun of it. Similarly, most people are ready to write-off the Panthers and those sides below from making the finals. Whilst I admit it?s looking grim, you can never be too sure.Storm v BulldogsThe weekend kicks-off in grand fashion with the Storm hosting Canterbury in a doozey down at the Graveyard in Melbourne.Canterbury disposed of the Cowboys last week but you wouldn?t call it comprehensive by any means. They?re been a bit off in recent weeks with losses to Canberra and Brisbane either side of a good effort against Newcastle. On paper they possess the more fancied pack of forwards but I?m not sure that they?ll be suited to this game as Olympic Park is a narrow corridor of grass. Their backs are also looking a little skinny with Phelps and Cutler sure to have their work cut out for them. Sonny Bill and O?Meley are also in a bit of doubt.The Storm are missing a few players in Inglis and Crocker but this team is capable of putting the Doggies away. Bellamy has stuck Slater in reserve grade because he knows the Queensland selectors will pick him for Game III if he plays against the Dogs and Inglis is still out for a little while so he will need a fullback next week. Kidwell is having a bonanza lately and Hoffman is also in splendid touch. Melbourne?s halves and backs are in better form right now and this is where I think they?ll win the game. I?m hoping King and Sonny Bill (if he plays) will drift towards one another at some point as there will be heavy contact. With the Storm?s dominance at home lately you simply can?t go past them even though I think the Dogs will give them a fair run for their money and the visitors are paying $2.35 just quietly.Knights v SharksNext the Sharks pack the car and head north in the first of our satellite city Super Saturday clashes. This is a game dripping with individual contests across the park.Cronulla have a fair record when heading up the Hunter, but the last time they visited Marathon Stadium they were given a proper hiding (44-14). Still, they?re in good form and injuries (Ross & Bailey) and stupidity (Latu) aside, Cronulla are putting their best 17 out this week. They?ve won 3 in a row and 7 of their last 8 with playmaker Adam Dykes returning to the five-eighth role for this one. They possess one of, if not the, best backrows in the comp. The three of them have been in blue-chip form of late and their backline?s not too shabby either. I am a bit worried how Dykes will fare though, as he and Kimmorley sometimes seem to work against one another.Newcastle?s a different kettle of fish. Facing their fourth loss in a row and with their position on the ladder starting to look a little shaky, the Knights need to fire here in front of their fans or they might end up chasing the pack rather than jostling for a top 4 position. Buderus is back which is a huge boost for the club ? I?m sure they missed him last week. They also have a very strong backrow and the meeting of the two will be a highlight. Then of course there?s Kimmorley v Johns. These two guys are natural competitors and will relish the opportunity to go head to head. Again though, I?m going to have to stick with the home ground advantage. Cronulla looked a little flat against Manly and whilst the Knights were disgraceful against the Warriors I don?t think you?ll see that sort of performance from them again this week.Panthers v TigersWe head west to the foot of the mountains for the next game as the Tigers book a ticket on the XPT to Penrith. Both teams will no doubt be intimately aware of the importance of this game.Penrith are coming off the bye and haven?t won in their last three starts. They?ve also managed to lose seven of their last nine games and you could say they?ve been a bit unlucky in a few instances. Wesser will want to press his claims for an Origin gig as will Gower who?s making his return from a knee injury that?s been forcing him out of the game over the past few weeks. And their pack looks a little weak with Waterhouse and Pritchard both missing.Wests on the other hand have a vibrant pack led by old stager Skandalis and complimented by Payten, Galea, Farah and the very in-form Laffranchi. Their backs have hit their straps too, with Prince in particular running the ball a lot more and creating opportunities for his outside men in Marshall, Collis, Hodgson and Tuiaki. I think the Tigers have too much for the Panthers in this one, despite an imposing home ground advantage held by the former chocolate soldiers.Dragons v CowboysAnd finally Saturday winds up in the windy surrounds of Wollongong with the Cowboys taking a very long, difficult road to end up at Steeler Stadium.North Queensland have lost their last five matches in a row and find themselves in the peculiar position of 8th on the ladder considering how well they were doing at the beginning of the season. Murray has made some changes to this week?s line-up and in some cases they?re good. Smith at five-eighth works well with Thurston but I think Cashmere is a bit untested and Faiumu will be missed. Without Southern in the forwards and Williams in the backs they don?t have the same feel about them. But they need to win and perhaps desperation will get them over the line.The Dragons are coming off a heart-stopping win over Brisbane at home last week and are near full-strength. Hornby and Head are running the show well and I think they?re getting more out of Ryles off the bench than they do when he starts. Bailey, Young and Bickerstaff are all churning out quality performances and even Creagh is getting away with some dubious passes. They won?t win if they turn over the ball as often as they did last start, but I?m sure Brown has drummed that into them throughout the week. They should be the Cowboys at home and continue their quiet climb up the ladder.Raiders v RoostersSunday begins with the Roosters packing their thermos?s full of latte and chugging off down the Hume for a cool Sunday afternoon against the Raiders.Coach Stuart revisits his old stomping ground as he attempts to arrest the fairly worrying lack of form the Roosters have right now. Since round nine?s loss to the Bulldogs they?ve managed a two-point win over the Rabbitohs and a draw to keep them on the outer reaches of the top eight. They do have quality players there but I don?t think they?re being used in the right way. Stuart has decided to pull a few changes which I suppose was needed to shock them out of this slump but I don?t think they?re good ones nor do I believe they?ll actually transpire. The selection of winger Mellars on the bench is a dead give-away. Stuart will either start with him and push Cross back to the centres and Wing to hooker or the bench. Finch?s role is a bit uncertain but again Stuart isn?t doing new halfback Lewis any justice if Finch plays rake, similar to Soward earlier in the year.Elliott at the Raiders must think all this is a bit amusing considering the bits and pieces team he?s put on the field over the past few weeks purely out of necessity instead of experimentation. The Raiders have a few players coming back, most importantly Jason Smith. Carney has been doing well in his absence but this week will wear the number 7 and Withers will move to hooker for the injured Woolford. Learoyd-Lars is back which will boost the Lime Green and their bench is looking as good as it has for a while. I think they?re specials here and the home ground advantage will assist them in toppling the Chooks.Sea Eagles v BroncosBrisbane travel to Fortress Brookvale to take on the Sea Eagles in another bell-ringer this Sunday arvo. Both last start losers, each side will be looking to come away with the two points as they try to keep pace with the Storm.Manly succumbed to their demons last week against the Sharks down in the Shire and a return home will do them some good. They seem to grow an extra leg out at Brookvale but their recent form against Brisbane isn?t flattering. No Bell is a setback but his replacement in Hicks is no stranger to first grade. They have been a tad lacklustre since the bye in round 12 with three close games.Brisbane have had nine days to recover from this one and I think that will assist in them being very fresh and prepared for this contest. Hodges is back in the centres with Tupou on the wing and Parker is also back in the forwards. These players are important for them in different ways but I think they can be excused for losing last week after injuries reduced them to effectively a one-man bench. Even without Hunt I think they?ll get the chocolates here at Brooky and at $2.25 I think they?re an irresistible bet.Rabbitohs v WarriorsThe final game of the weekend sees the Warriors travel across the ditch to face the Bunnies at Homebush. Obviously someone?s a bit worried about the crowd as anyone turning up at the ground with a Kiwi passport can get in for free.Souths did it tough against Parra last week and I think they let themselves down in a big way. They had a good opportunity to notch up another victory and even scored the first try, but they simply never looked in the frame from that moment on. Still, they?re fielding a solid line-up and the bench looks stronger than ever. The absence of Mad Dog does hurt them and I wouldn?t say their halves are in form.If you?re a Warriors fan in Sydney surely you can do better than the paltry 6,000 people who turned up in Auckland last week to see them upset the Knights. What a disappointing sight that was. Nevertheless, the New Zealanders are on a two-game winning streak and have a great opportunity to add to it. Their forwards really took the game to Newcastle last week and I was very impressed with Faumuina and Price in particular. Plus their victory over Easts a fortnight ago at the SFS will give them the confidence they need to put another two points on the competition table. They should get the Bunnies, who are the highest priced home ground team this week at $2.60 for the win.The Eels have the bye in Round 16 and could probably do with the break. Timmy Smith is in strife again and it?s not a good look for the club. Hopefully they can stay off the sauce for a week and get ready for a tough road trip to Canberra in Round 17. The Eels have the ability to become one of those teams that thwart clubs bordering on the top 8 heading into the semis.
THE National Rugby League has moved to diminish the power of the video referee with on-field officials told not to reverse general play decisions unless foul play is involved.
EIGHT members of the South Sydney community, experienced business people and strong Rabbitohs supporters will today outline plans to refinance and renovate the South Sydney Leagues Club that has traded unprofitably for over 10 years, and has not made grants to the Football Club or community groups in over 15 years.The group includes former Rabbitohs captain Jason Death, former directors of the Leagues Club Denis Morrissey and Jim Hatfield (also a current director of the Football Club), Macquarie Bank financial analyst and son of former Leagues Club chairman Matt Riordan, chartered accountant Frank Vrachas, customs broker and company director Bill Alexiou-Hucker and lawyer and accountant Martin Dubler.The Redfern 2008 Unity group?s proposal has been prepared with leading consultants including Graeme Watson of International Sports Facility Management and Rolfe Latimer of Altis Architecture, who specialise in club renovations, including Canterbury, Newcastle, Cronulla and South Sydney Graphic Arts Club.Executive Chairman of the South Sydney Rabbitohs, Peter Holmes ? Court, fully supports the group?s proposal and is prepared to assist and, if necessary, finance the redevelopment.The proposal ensures the Leagues Club Members retain full ownership of the building and will derive a strong rental income from the previously unlet 7,000 square metres of prime commercial space.?The Leagues Club has lost an average of $95,000 per month in the first three months of 2006. Since May of last year, the Leagues Club has funded losses by selling down its poker machines from 157 to less than 60 as of last week. Total revenue for the period from 1990 to 2006 is $110 million, from which no profits were distributed to the community,? said Matt Riordan.Former Leagues Club director and General Manager of Commercial (Broker & Agency) at Allianz Australia, Denis Morrissey said "whilst I am extremely respectful of our heritage and the contributions of all of the great men who have represented this mighty club, I genuinely believe we have a wonderful opportunity to ensure the future of the South Sydney Leagues Club and at the same time deliver on our charter to provide financial support to the Football Club. For the first time in a long while we have a chance to have the Football Club and Leagues Club working in partnership. I am tremendously excited about the prospect of again joining the Board of the South Sydney Leagues Club".Former Leagues Club director Jim Hatfield said ?In my previous years on the Leagues Club Board many proposals came forward or were announced to the media ? the likes of the Melbourne Consortium, John Alexander and Jerry Schwartz and most recently the alleged billionaire Dogan Gunes ? yet little progress has been made and the losses have increased.?The Football Club and the Leagues Club have not worked together for 15 years ? now as the future of Souths looks brighter than any time since 1989 it is critical to get the Leagues Club and the Football Club working together again for the benefit of both parties.?We are prepared to do this because our experience suggests that the current board are not reviewing bona fide proposals appropriately, as I saw when Peter Holmes ? Court?s November 2005 proposal which in my view was dismissed because of a disagreement with Peter?s stance on Redfern Oval.?Mr Holmes ? Court said ?This is not about personalities. The Leagues Club is a community asset, and it must be brought back to a state of health where it can help community groups and the Football Club. As I have said to the members of this group, if they wish me to join their ticket I am prepared to do so.??George Piggins himself said it best in his letter to members in 2001: ?My major concerns are firstly that the district football club receives guaranteed funding from [its] licensed clubs, which was the reason these clubs were formed for, and the reason they still exist. Secondly, I believe there should be a strong attempt to put a business plan into place to retain our club at Redfern.?? South Sydney Leagues Club Board CandidatesRedfern 2008 Unity TicketBill Alexiou-Hucker Bill is a Licensed Customs Broker and a Company Director of three companies. He also works as a consultant to companies looking at ways to build their business. Bill has held marketing roles with varying Chambers of Commerce and the Logistics Association of Australia. Bill is confident that he can bring marketing and entrepreneurial skills to help the Leagues Club once again become an asset for the community, its Members and South Sydney Football Club. His company, GPSM, has been a financial sponsor of Souths for the past three years.Jason DeathJason played over 200 first grade games in the National Rugby League competition and 45 first grade games for South Sydney from 2002 through to the end of the 2004 season. A highlight of his playing days for the Rabbitohs was captaining the team for its first win after being reinstated back into the NRL. Jason was also voted Club Captain 2002 and 2003. Jason is now the Managing Director of his own successful print brokerage company. He feels that his experience as a first grade player will help the Board. Jim HatfieldJim is an automotive engineer who since the age of 19 has run his own successful businesses that have risen to be the leaders in their field. He has served NSW on the national committee of the Robert Bosch Automotive Service dealers. Jim is a current board member of the Football Club and has previously served on the Leagues Club board. He believes he understands the issues that need to be addressed to allow the Leagues Club to be financially successful to fulfil its charter.Denis MorrisseyDenis is currently the General Manager of the Commercial Broking Operations for Global Insurer Allianz. Generating income of over $500 million for the Australian arm of the business and managing over 250 staff has provided Denis with an excellent background in financial, operational and people management skills, which will be an asset to the new Leagues Club Board.Matt RiordanAfter working as a lawyer for five years, Matt returned to university full-time and obtained an MBA from the Australian Graduate School of Management and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Matt currently works in Risk Management with Macquarie Bank, reviewing the Bank?s investments and deals it does in Australia and overseas. Matt?s risk management experience puts him in good stead to help the new Board with its decisions on the financial viability of any project the Board takes on. Frank VrachasFrank is the senior partner of a firm of Chartered Accountants and also sits on the Board of six companies. He is a Member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants, Australian Society of CPA?s and Fellow of the Taxation Institute, amongst others. Frank believes that the major asset of the Leagues Club is the property, which has been underutilised for many years and that proper utilisation means a sound financial future for the Club.Martin DublerMartin is a lawyer and qualified to be a chartered accountant. He has worked extensively with a number of large financial organisations, including KPMG, Price Waterhouse (as it then was) and Deutsche Bank. Martin currently has his own consulting business, Roscat Enterprises, which he has run for the last four years. Roscat has been a financial sponsor of Souths since their return to the NRL. Re-development Planning Consultants:Graeme WatsonGraeme is a former Australian Test Cricketer and VFL player for Melbourne. His company, International Sports Facility Management, has project managed many facilities for sporting bodies across Australia. Graeme?s work includes the Sydney Swans Football Club and Training Facilities, Fremantle Dockers training centre, Cricket Australia Centre of Excellence, Bangladesh Cricket Board?s new 60,000 seat stadium and Cricket Academy. Altis ArchitectureRolfe Latimer of Altis Architecture has prepared the floor plate designs, drawing from their previous experience in club and hotel renovations. Altis specialise in Leagues Club redevelopments and some of their recent projects include Canterbury, Newcastle, North Sydney, Easts, Cronulla, Canberra Raiders and South Sydney Graphic Arts Club.
THE Sharks face another test of their premiership credentials this weekend when they travel to Newcastle to take on the Knights in a match scheduled for 5.30pm on Saturday night.
QUEENSLAND State of Origin selectors will request a detailed medical update on dynamic Storm teenager Greg Inglis before settling on their 17-man squad for the Melbourne series decider.The Maroons are desperate for the 19-year-old, who scored two tries in his Origin debut, to be available, especially after losing second game rookie fullback Karmichael Hunt (broken foot) and centre Steve Bell (fractured cheekbone).Inglis was ruled out of Origin 2 with stress fractures in his back.Storm coach Craig Bellamy has already written off Inglis's Origin comeback saying it would be 'two or three weeks' before he is back training. But Queensland selectors will get their doctor, Roy Saunders, to contact the Storm's medical staff for a full update on the chances of Inglis playing in 14 days time.The Queensland Rugby League clashed with the Storm before the second game after naming Inglis in its 17-man squad and ruling him out a few hours later.Melbourne refused to allow Inglis to travel to Brisbane to be assessed.Queensland chairman of selectors Des Morris was non committal whether Inglis would be named on Monday to keep the door open in case his back injury improved dramatically."He's not playing this weekend which makes it tough," said Morris."We'll have our medical people check it all out with Melbourne's medical people closer to the weekend."We don't want to go getting everyone's hopes up too soon."Once we pick the side, and he's not in it, he's missed the boat."Obviously he is a rare talent and I suppose you make exceptions but if he's not picked..."
THE New Zealand Residents rugby league team produced strength on defence and flair on attack to take Queensland Country right out of the game at Rotorua's International Stadium last night.The opening round of the inaugural transtasman tournament saw the Kiwis accelerate out of the starting blocks, posting a point a minute for the first 20 minutes, before speeding to a 52-4 win over the visitors.On a chilly winter night the Cane Toads were reptilian in nature and failed to get the blood pumping until the closing moves when prop Janes Baira crashed over with three minutes to go. The Maroons threatened the Kiwi line at different stages during the game but were unable to deliver the ball safely over.Conversely, the Kiwis put on a solid team effort with the forwards carrying the ball upfield and the backs crossing the line.And while Residents captain Steve Buckingham was pleased with the win, he said there was still plenty to work on before Saturday's game against the Jim Beam Cup side from Sydney."We need to tighten up on our defence around the rucks but overall I think we all put our hands up for this game and it was a good team effort."Buckingham was expecting more of a challenge from the Queenslanders and said the win was an excellent way to blood new players and build a positive platform. "There was plenty of pride and passion out there and this is a real boost," he said.Playing at standoff, Buckingham was in fine form, booting eight goals, with just two kicks missing their target.The New Zealand centre duo of David Fisi' iahi and Miguel Start had an outstanding game with both bagging a hat trick.A Junior Kiwi last year, 18-year-old Miguel Start made a big impression in his first senior representative game.His three tries came in the second stanza, with two of them in quick succession after the half time whistle blew."It was just the environment with the team eh ... I was just getting amped up and went out there to score."But following the sublime start to his senior career the teenager is keeping his feet on the ground."I have to be consistent and prepare well this week and stick to the basics."Other Kiwi try scorers were Sala Fa'alogo, Paletasala Ale and Tui Samoa.Used to temperatures between 25C and 30C year round Queensland captain Philip Wuersching said while it wasn't an excuse, the cold Rotorua weather was taking some getting used to."We're starting to acclimatise but geez it's cold."Wuersching said the New Zealanders were too big and strong, and were a well drilled side.He was confident his side would bounce back for their next game as they had only trained three times together prior to last night's game. "We could have stood up to them a bit better but hopefully we will get another crack at them in the final."In the other match NSW Country beat The Jim Beam cup, formerly the Metropolitan Cup- Sydney, by 28-10. The second round of the competition kicks off on Saturday at 6pm with Queensland playing NSW Country followed by NZ Residents against Jim Beam Cup at 7.30pm.SCORERS: NZ Residents 52, tries David Fisi'iahi x 3, Miguel Start x 3, Tui Samoa, Sala Fa'alogo, Paletasala Ale, goals Steve Buckingham x 8; Queensland Country 4, try, Janes Baira.
WAKEFIELD captain Monty Betham is poised to make a return to the test arena after being called into New Zealand's rugby league squad to face Great Britain.The 28-year-old former Warriors hooker and former test captain hasn't played for his country for three years, but has joined the 19-man squad as a replacement for injured Warrington back-rower Logan Swann.From the original 22, uncapped NRL players Fuifui Moimoi (Parramatta), Iosia Soliola (Sydney Roosters), and Greg Eastwood (Brisbane Broncos) did not travel. Moimoi and Soliola were not released by their clubs, and Eastwood was initially cleared by the Broncos but suffered a hamstring tear last Friday night. Although Swann, with 29 test appearances, was the most experienced of the forwards and Fa'afili is the only Kiwi to score three tries against Great Britain during 99 years of test rivalry, they were no certainties to make the starting line-up. David Kidwell, Ali Lauitiiti, David Solomona, and Vinnie Anderson might all have rated ahead of Swann for back-row positions. Fa'afili was competing for wing selection with Lesley Vainikolo and Francis Meli. Veteran utility back Robbie Paul holds the key to the final team selection. Paul and Clinton Toopi are options for the fullback position, while Paul and Canterbury Bulldogs reserve grader Ben Roberts are vying to partner Stacey Jones in the halves. Brian McClennan has also placed Hull KR's former Castleford prop or second rower Michael Smith, who won his only cap against France in 2004, on standby.Possible line-up: Clinton Toopi, Francis Meli, Willie Talau, Shontayne Hape, Lesley Vainikolo, Ben Roberts, Stacey Jones (c), Iafeta Paleaaesina, Motu Tony, Jason Cayless, David Kidwell, Ali Lauitiiti, Vinnie Anderson. Interchange: Robbie Paul, David Solomona, Alex Chan, Monty Betham. 18th man: Harrison Hansen.
DRAGONS Supporters, Last Friday night saw a remarkable victory for the mighty Red and Whites, with the Dragons stealing victory from the Bronco's with a converted try in the final minutes of the match. With a less than impressive performance that saw the Dragons complete roughly1/3 of their sets, they were lucky to hang in there until the death when a soaring Brett Morris took a Matthew Head bomb to score out wide. After some confusion over who would take the kick Aaron Gorrell stepped up and nailed the conversion to put the Dragons 2 points up. After Mark Riddells effort a few years back the Bronco's will be happy they don't have to face us up there again until next year...... This week we take on the Cowboys at WIN stadium on Saturday night. The Cowboys form of late hasn't been up to the standard they have set in the past few years, and I would expect them to come out firing hoping to turn their slump around. Hopefully the Dragons will continue their winning ways and notch up another win before we enjoy the bye next round. We will once again be at the Grosvenor Hotel this week, always a great venue for the Saturday night clashes. Why not enjoy dinner in the restaurant before the match, and/or stick around for a few celebratory drinks afterwards? WHAT: Dragons v CowboysWHEN: Saturday 24th June, 7:30pmWHERE: Grosvenor Hotel, 10 Brighton Road, East St Kilda PS: No street sweeper parking is available at the venue.......