Pressure on Sydney NRL teams to be viable

Forget all the promotional talk of NRL expansion and for a moment forget the impressive success of the Rabbitohs and the Titans in the past 12 months, less than a week after chief executive David Gallop flagged possbile further expansion of the premiership – some Sydney based clubs are still doing it tough, fighting to make ends meet.

Several NRL club CEO’s have flagged concerns over the ability of all Sydney clubs to survive, given revelations that St George Illawarra may be forced to abandon Wollongong due to the impact of increased poker machine tax.

The Dragons have already had a $2 million cut in funding, prompting St George Leagues Club general manager Danny Robinson to contact New South Wales Premier Morris Iemma with his concerns.

Robinson has warned the Dragons could be forced to leave the Illawarra region because of the financial strain.

Penrith chief executive Glenn Matthews, part of a committee formed to lobby the State Government over the issue, believes natural attrition could claim Sydney clubs unless something is done.

“Things aren’t getting any easier,” Matthews said.

“We have tough times ahead. At the end of the day, what Super League was about was trying to decentralise and have a national competition, and not have too many teams in Sydney.

“There is going to be pressure.”

The issues facing Sydney clubs were put into perspective only last week when Brisbane released its financial statements for last year.

The Broncos generated more than $24 million in revenue.

By contrast, the vast majority of Sydney clubs are operating on less than half that after leagues club grants are taken out of the equation.

The NRL showed figures last year that suggested 12 clubs were losing money without the aid of their leagues clubs, including three that lost more than $4 million.

As if to further illustrate the game’s problems, the NRL showed its clubs where they stood in relation to other sports.

Two AFL clubs, Collingwood and West Coast, generated revenue of more than $40 million in 2006. Two Super 14 teams, New South Wales and Western Force, produced more than $20 million.

“From the outside it looks like there’s too many clubs (in Sydney),” Brisbane chief executive Bruno Cullen said.

North Queensland chief executive Peter Parr stressed he was unaware of rival clubs’ financial details, but said he believed it would be better if there were fewer teams in Sydney.

“I would suggest there’s too many but I don’t know the ins and outs of it,” Parr said.

Even Parramatta chief executive Denis Fitzgerald conceded Sydney clubs faced a testing future.

“Maybe it’s added pressure for amalgamation in Sydney or relocation for a Sydney team,” Fitzgerald said of the loss of revenue.

“Sydney clubs are under immense financial pressure. We have to get relief somewhere.”

South Sydney executive chairman Peter Holmes a Court believes the answer lies in increasing memberships, while Manly is among the clubs looking to expand its revenue base by exploring interstate markets.

The Sea Eagles are poised to play a game on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast next year at Stockland Park, a multi-purpose 15,000 seat stadium which is scheduled for completion in 2009.

The privately owned club is also looking at business opportunities in the region.

“I think it’s becoming tougher,” Mayer said.

“At the moment it’s a bit early to panic. Every club has to be well and truly aware that their traditional revenue streams are going to be tested.

“You have to be creative. We have found a second home on the Sunshine Coast.”

Can he or Carney be kept by Canberra?

Todd Carney Canberra Raiders Contract and Resigning talk for NRL 2009 and beyondAs the Raiders make a last ditch effort to retain in demand half Todd Carney, the Sea Eagles continue to firm as favourites for his signature for next season and beyond. Carney, who has only recently completed a stint of community service for his role in a Police persuit during his time at the Radiers – is set to be on par with the likes of Sonny Bill Williams and Matt Orford in terms of earnings.

While he hasn’t ever represented his state of country, at 22 years old – many have big wraps on the Canberra young gun who has proven his on field worth in only a few short years of Rugby League.

While it was initially thought Carney would stay in Canberra, the only alternative seemed to be Penrith where his former coach Matt Elliott was keen to link up with his former student and once again work their magic together. While Penrith still remain in the hunt for Carney with a lucrative offer already on the table – the Sea Eagles have waded into the signing war and have apparently offered big money to the sought after Carney.

Sources close to Carney say he is certainly ready to turn his back on Canberra, while the Raiders hoped their counter offer would help the casue – Carney is believed to still hold a grudge against the Green Machine for making him suffer after the very public Police Pursuit and punishment to follow. Carney spending a long period in reserve grade and having to start his career from scratch again, something he hasn’t forgotten.

While the Panthers were always keen for Carney to join them, even old coach Matt Elliott isn’t able to roll out the welcome mat like the Sea Eagles have. Manly currently possess a guaranteed Top 8 side that is buldging with talent across the park, for someone like Todd Carney to join their illustrious ranks – it could mean premierships, rep jerseys and consistent wins for the young gun who has always been in the background at the lowly ranked Canberra club.

So if you were a betting man, forget backing the odds of Carney staying in Canberra and at this stage the best money seems to be on him linking with the resurgent Manly Sea Eagles who are continuing to attract the best players in the NRL.

Craig Bellamy names starting 13 for WCC

Melbourne Storm 2008 World Club ChallengeMelbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy has trimmed his squad to 19 for the World Club Challenge clash against Leeds Rhinos at Elland Road on Friday night (England time). Of interest is Russell Aitken getting a starting spot at pivot along side Cooper Cronk, his performance obviously will go along way to determining the halves pairing in the 2008 NRL.

Starting Team:

1. Billy Slater
2. Steve Turner
3. Will Chambers
4. Israel Folau
5. Anthony Quinn
6. Russ Aitken
7. Cooper Cronk
8. Jeff Lima
9. Matt Geyer
10. Brett White
11. Jeremy Smith
12. Ryan Hoffman
13. Dallas Johnson

Interchange from:

Antonio Kaufusi, Adam Blair, Sam Tagataese, Sika Manu, Ben MacDougall, Aiden Tolman

Can the Warriors win on the road in 2008?

NZ Warriors 2008 NRLThey came home strong last year and managed to get themselves a coveted home semi final. However after surpassing all predictions last year – the New Zealand Warriors will be looking to improve on their respectable year of 2007. Continued improvement is evident under new coach Ivan Cleary and the previously erratic Warriors showcased a newfound confidence and structure,  finally regaining some respect after three disappointing years.

Confidence and consistency was instilled by the acquisition of workhorse prop  Steve Price and his steady, yet guiding influence remains the foundation to the Warriors continued success. The Warriors again possess a talented blend of size and skill, which should see them remain in contention to compete in semi-final football. However, the season ending knee injury to fullback Wade McKinnon will hamper the Warriors attacking game, as much of last season’s success can be attributed to the robust runs of the dynamic custodian. Only time will tell how the loss of McKinnon will affect the Warriors chances, with many bookmakers already slashing their prices on the Warriors ability to reach the semi-finals.

If the Warriors can rectify their traveling woes, and find a reliable replacement for McKinnon, then there is no reason why the New Zealander’s can’t again challenge for a top four position.

Advantages:

Aside from possessing the biggest forward pack in the competition, the Warriors real strength is their ability and instinct to switch to their exhilarating style of ad-lib, Polynesian attacking football at the drop of a hat. With their size, pace and skill, the Warriors have the ability to produce tries from anywhere on the paddock, and have proven in recent history that they are never dead and buried in tight contests.

Concerns:

Despite finishing the season in fourth spot, the Warriors still had trouble winning matches away from Mt Smart Stadium. Seven of their twelve season losses were recorded on the road, with the continuous traveling over the Tasman probably contributing to the New Zealander’s loss of focus midway through the season.

Expect a change in how the Warriors prepare and travel to away matches this season, as coach Cleary identified the amount of traveling as of his team’s main weaknesses last season.

Likely 2008 NRL Starting Team:

1- Patrick Ah Van
2- Michael Crockett
3- Brent Tate
4- Simon Mannering
5- Manu Vatuvei
6- Michael Witt
7- Grant Rovelli
8- Steve Price
9- Nathan Fien
10- Sam Rapira
11- Ruben Wiki
12- Logan Swann
13- Michael Luck

14- Epahalame Lauaki
15- Evarn Tuimavave
16- Wairangi Koopu
17– Ian Henderson

Pre-Season Trial Matches:

15/02/08 v Newcastle Knights @ North Harbour Stadium, Auckland
29/02/08 v Manly Sea-Eagles @ Kawana Waters

2008 Acquisitions and Departures:

Acquisitions:

Brent Tate (Brisbane), Ian Henderson (Bradford), Ryan Shortland (Melbourne)

Departures:
Tony Martin (Wakefield), Todd Byrne (Hull), Louis Anderson (Warrington), George Gatis (Huddersfield)

By Peter Roy

Charity Shield a Good Form Guide

2008 Charity ShieldWhile most NRL pre-season trial matches are used to test new combinations and upcoming players; the same cannot be said for the Charity Shield in 2008. With both Souths and the Dragons fielding squads of top line players, the match and result should go a long way in demonstrating the chances of both teams this year.

Souths are seemingly improving in every department as time ticks by. They are starting to possess the power and belief they craved only a short 18 months ago. Their recent trial outing against the Sharks once again reminded everyone, that Souths are the real deal these days. Big name players Roy Asotasi and David Kidwell both return for this game and will give South Sydney even more stability and thrust.

For the Dragons, this outing will really show us what 2008 holds for them. After finding a new halves combination that seems to work well, it’s the return of several injured stars this year that has a few punters thinking that the Saints could come marching in, right into the Top 8.

Mark Gasnier in particular was dynamic in his short stint against the Bulldogs last week. Looking at his elusive best, Gaz ran in a quick try and proved a handful everytime he touched the ball. His durability and return to the centres will be a keen spectacle. Every Dragons fan will cross their fingers when he touches the ball, hoping he doesn’t pickup an injury in some way.

Dean Young is another in this category. Unquestionably talented and extremely valuable to the St George Illawarra team – if Young comes through with a strong game and no injury worries, then Saints will quickly firm in the betting markets.

So in summary, we know South Sydney are going to be solid in the Charity Shield. They now have a few trial games under their belt, the early start in the USA helping them get things together more so than other teams. They are a team with solid defence and boast talent across the park and of course they made the Top 8 last year. Souths should at least achieve the same this year if not improve given current players, infrastructure, confidence and combinations growing with every game.

If the Dragons at full strength can compete consistently or overpower the Bunnies, it will certainly have the Saints camp quietly confident about the year ahead. It will show not only opposition teams, but also demonstrate to the Dragons themselves that they are truly back and ready to take on the big guns this year.

So forget about this game being just another trial. While there aren’t any NRL Results on offer, the winning side gains plenty. Confidence being the big reward and whoever wins has the best chance of taking that confidence and getting the snowball effect rolling into Round 1 and the early parts of the NRL season 2008.

Exclusive NRL Coverage in 2008

As we approach kick-off for the 2008 NRL season, the team at NRL News will continue to give you our opinion every single day – on how your team performed in each and every match they play. Our unique reviews, our personal videos hosted with YouTube which include commentary, TV News snippets and other highlights are not to be missed.

Here at NRL News we aim to be totally unique and provide our unbiased opinion on each and every NRL match and all the major breaking news stories around Rugby League. If you want to hear it straight, every single day – then keep tuning in to the ‘Largest Private Rugby League Source of Information Online’. Unlike the big media and newspaper outlets, we are able to speak freely and express our true opinion on all the issues that matter – so you get the whole story, every time.

To get the most up to date information on your team and the NRL in general, subscribe to our free email service which simply lets you know when a new article has been posted; so click the link to Subscribe to NRL News by Email

In addition you can visit our NRL Video Vault by clicking here and you can also subscribe to this for free, to be alerted whenever a new NRL video is added to the database – which is extremely handy if you have missed the 6pm news bulletins and were wanting to see how your team looked in their weekend match.

And finally, don’t forget our famous weekend wrap up reviewer – ‘The Grubber’ will be back in 2008 and will continue to post his weekly ‘NRL Power Rankings’. So in addition to the NRL Table and Ladder, you get to see how your team is ranking according to their performance each week.

Buckle up folks, it’s going to be another great year of NRL Rugby League action and we look forward to sharing everything with you here at NRL News. You can reach us at any time on the following email address:

Bennett not happy with Broncos line-up

Dave Taylor Brisbane BroncosBrisbane Broncos coach Wayne Bennett has seemingly been unimpressed with the trial form shown by the Broncos, demoting several players including boom prop Dave Taylor from the first grade squad. Such a bold move could only mean lack of focus at training or potentially even off-field incidents that have gone unreported.

Anticipation of the big clash between Dave Taylor and former Broncos mentor Petero Civoniceva in the round 1 blockbuster against Penrith have nosedived following the 19-year-old’s shock demotion to Rockhampton-based Central Comets.

Taylor has paid the price for a lacklustre display against Canberra at Orange last weekend, with Sydney imports Joel Clinton and Ashton Sims chosen in the front row for the club’s final trial against Redcliffe at Dolphin Oval on Saturday night.

Nick Kenny is the other prop in a 19-man squad that will be captained by second-rower Corey Parker in the absence of injured stars Darren Lockyer and Justin Hodges.

Another captaincy candidate, Karmichael Hunt, will start at five-eighth for the first time with Darius Boyd at fullback.

Taylor, who recently signed a 12-month contract extension with the Broncos, has been widely tipped to play State of Origin for Queensland as early as this year.

But the Broncos are not going to rush the 115kg Blackwater product, who can expect to play regularly for the Comets until he improves his consistency.

How far Taylor has fallen in the pecking order is highlighted by the fact Ben Hannant will miss the Redcliffe game with a sternum injury.

The Broncos’ lack of depth out wide has also been exposed by the naming of a three-quarter line that includes only one player with NRL experience – centre Steve Michaels.

The other centre is 17-year-old Gerard Beale, who is expected to play wing in the round 1 clash with Penrith at Suncorp Stadium. The wingers are Cronulla signing Reece Robinson, 20, and rugby union recruit William Tupou, 17.

Three members of the club’s NRL elite squad – Denan Kemp, Nick Emmett and Craig Frawley – were overlooked and are set to play Queensland Cup this weekend.

St George Illawarra wing recruit Tom Hewitt has been named on the Broncos bench which also includes Joel Moon who has been quiet in earlier trials.

Moon, 19, has been regarded as one of the most talented youngsters in the NRL but he could not find a place in the Broncos backline despite the absence of Lockyer, Hodges and halfback Peter Wallace (hip).

Test fullback Hunt said yesterday his selection at five-eighth could be a sign of things to come.

“I guess playing five-eighth is something that could happen down the track and I see this as a perfect chance to gain more experience at taking control of a game,” he said.

Corey Parker said it was a “big challenge” captaining the side and that he was keen to retain his goal-kicking role after finishing the club’s leading points scorer last year with 106 from 45 goals and four tries. Lockyer and Michael Ennis were the other kickers.

Mark O’Meley to make Roosters debut

Prop Mark O’Meley will make his debut for the Sydney Roosters this Saturday night against the Parramatta Eels at Bluetongue Stadium in Gosford. A regular site on the sidelines in recent times, the talented O’Meley and the Roosters would certainly hope that Shrek doesn’t remain a candidate for the most injured player of the year. 

O’Meley is excited at the prospect of playing his first game in the tricolours, especially in his home town.

“I’m from the Central Coast so I am really looking forward to this game,” he said after getting the nod to play from Brad Fittler.

“It’s been a big pre season and I am looking forward to having fun with the boys on the field. It’s a great coincidence that the game is in Gosford, it’s going to be good.”

After spending the majority of the pre season in the club’s injured group with head physio Tony Ayoub, O’Meley is confident that his problematic Achilles will be right to go on Saturday night.

“I’ve had the Achilles problem for a while but once it is warm it is fine. Being in the rehab group is mainly a preventative measure and I am still running several times a week with the boys.”

O’Meley’s addition will be the final piece in the puzzle for the for Roosters forward pack, with Danny Nutley also starting on the bench after missing out on last week’s Foundation Cup.

Penrith bet the farm on Jarrod Sammut

Jarrod Sammut Penrith PanthersThe Penrith Panthers have today re-signed rookie flyer Jarrod Sammut for the next 2 years, blocking any chance of the NZ Warriors snaring the fullback to replace the injured Wade McKinnon for 2008.

It’s a big compliment to the young Jarrod Sammut. Only 21 years of age and having all but a few games of NRL under his belt, while he impressed greatly during 2007 – are Penrith placing too much emphasis on a player that while talented hasn’t really been proven over a long period?

Ok, so what has Sammut shown us in 2007? Strong positional play, good speed of foot and a knack for backing up and finding the try line. All good credentials, sure. But moving from fullback to the halves is a huge jump, not only in the fact he will guiding the team around the park, but will take on a massive defensive role and have to posses a much higher tackle count each week.

Penrith were able to do something similar with Preston Campbell, the small livewire fullback turned half was able to use his creative flair to lay on tries and provide attacking impetus – but on the flip side, his size and defensive problems probably cost the same amount of tries as well. This is why the Gold Coast Titans have looked to move Campbell back to fullback to prevent any centre field defence leaks.

The Panthers may have been right to step in and stitch Sammut up before any poaching took place, but the move to the halves and the installment of Sammut as the ‘great white hope for Penrith’ will obviously place pressure on the kid and may see him carry too much on his shoulders this season. The halves have been a problem for Penrith for some time, while they were able to win the Premiership way back in 2003 – it was on the back of a polished all round squad with attacking flair. While Gower was always a solid halfback and tough competitor, he really was a hooker at heart and probably wasn’t the best halfback in the world – but was virtually the best available to Penrith and even NSW at times.

While Penrith have showed their hand and committed to Jarrod Sammut for at least the mid term, they would be wise not to change one of their only successes in 2007 and that was Sammut playing at the custodian role. Matt Elliott might be searching for a killer punch or a dynamic edge in the halves, but lets not forget they have a proven performer in Joe Williams of South Sydney fame waiting to take up the reigns in the middle.

Sometimes you don’t know what you have, even when you’re staring it in the face – lets hope the Panthers and their coaching staff don’t get too tricky and beat themselves in the NRL 2008 season.

By John Chelsea 

Greg Inglis in Brisbane Bar Brawl

Greg Inglis Melbourne Storm BrawlThe Melbourne Storm have this morning confirmed that high profile NRL five-eighth Greg Inglis was involved in an altercation outside the Normanby Hotel while in Brisbane on Sunday night. Apprently trying to play the role of a peacemaker, Inglis was struck and received minor injuries during the scuffle.

Since the incident Inglis has received medical treatment and it has been confirmed he has sustained no serious injuries. As a result he is expected back at training tomorrow.

The club has reviewed the incident with all relevant parties, including staff from the Normanby Hotel and the Queensland police.

Whilst it is clear Inglis attempted to play the role of peacemaker in the incident, the fact he was there has angered Storm CEO Brian Waldron.

The Melbourne Storm who usually run a tight ship in terms of player control, expressed their disappointment through CEO Brian Waldron that Greg has been involved in an incident like this.

“We continue to remind all of our players to act in a socially responsible manner and to refrain from placing themselves in potential high risk situations.”

“It is clear in this situation Greg has acted irresponsibly and outside the boundaries of what is expected from anyone associated with the Melbourne Storm.”

CCTV footage of the incident, which is in the hands of Queensland police, clearly shows Greg was not the instigator. However, he put himself in a situation he shouldn’t have been in and that is why we are so disappointed.”

Police have confirmed no charges will be laid against Inglis, and reports of serious injuries to anyone involved in the incident are false.