Denis Fitzgerald: Can he get any worse?

nrl-news-logo.jpgThe players should take a paycut says Denis Fitzgerald, coming out with his usual monthly outburst that is beyond belief. Parramatta’s bumbling CEO is at it again as the NRL and Rugby League world sits back and laughs at his mindless comments.  

Meanwhile, Fitzgerald sits back on his annual $400,000 salary and has the front to ask players to take a paycut?

Fitzgerald tried to quickly cover his trails by revealing he had cancelled a Las Vegas junket in November because of Parramatta’s struggling financial position. How decent of him?

Fitzgerald went in search of headlines yesterday and called on the NRL to cut the game’s salary cap from $4 million back to $3.5 million. The only parties happy about his thoughtless outbust were the folks over at Souths who got a rest from the constant media headlines and probably the UK Super League, who would be rubbing their hands with glee as they could target NRL players for a cheaper price if the cap was cut.

The reduction in the NRL salary cap, Fitzgerald said, would ensure all clubs survive during recent financial hardships.

The Fitzgerald master plan involved the cap being dropped by $100,000 a year over 5 years to ease the burden on NRL outfits.

When asked if would take a pay cut himself to ease the financial strains, Fitzgerald said: “No. My salary didn’t treble when Super League hit 12 years ago.

“My salary is commensurate with the responsibilities of a business this size. I am CEO of both the Parramatta Eels and also the Parramatta Leagues Club.”

Well how sad for Fitzgerald, still holding a grudge that he couldn’t personally receive some of the lucrative money being thrown around during the Super League War. So as times get tough and belts need to be tightened, he’ll simply hit the players between the eyes and sit back on his leather chair and continue to lurch from one brainless outburst to the next; all on a salary of $400,000 a year.

Parramatta’s 7 directors have a yearly subsidy of $100,000 agreed by members for meals, drinks, accommodation, entertainment, transport, admission charges, conferences and conventions.

That grant will also remain in place for the likes of Fitzgerald.

With Parramatta Leagues Club another outfit being hampered by the NSW Government pokie tax and anti-smoking rules, Fitzgerald confirmed he will not visit the United States later this year for a proposed gaming convention.

“I have a clause in my contract that allows me to attend the Global Gaming Conference in Las Vegas,” Fitzgerald said.

“But because of our financial position, I won’t be attending the conference this November.”

Fitzgerald said a salary cap reduction may not automatically mean current players are hit financially.

“Reducing the salary cap doesn’t necessarily means individual players have to take a pay cut,” he said.

“We would honour all (existing) contracts but, in time, players leave, retire and younger players come through. We would keep within our means.”

Heighington finally secured by Wests Tigers

Chris Heighington Wests Tigers Contract Agreement deal 2009 NRLWESTS Tigers in form backrower Chris Heighington was finally secured by the club after extended negotiations that almost saw the talented forward lost to St George Illawarra of the UK Super League.

Heighington will now spend 3 more years with the improving Wests Tigers. It’s a big coup for the Tigers, already packing the punch of the impressive Keith Galloway and boom forward Ben Teo, by securing workhorse Heighington – the Tigers ensure their solid pack continues to progress.

When you consider Bronson Harrison and Bryce Gibbs are also members of this mobile pack, the signs continue to look good for the merged club.

Playing his take no prisoners style, the tough Heighington was this year a New South Wales Country representative and with the guidance of Tim Sheens until 2011 he should see more representative duties come his way.

The interest in the form backrower came from from St George Illawarra after a direct phone call from incoming 2009 coach Wayne Bennett and two lucrative offers to move to the English Super League.

Michael Crocker signs with Hull

MELBOURNE Storm forward Michael Crocker will link with prominent UK club Hull in 2009 after agreeing to terms in a 3 year contract with the UK Super League outfit.

Only 27, the Queensland and Australian forward has seemingly been on the NRL for a long time and was part of the Storm’s 2007 premiership winning team. Crocker said he owed a lot to his time in Melbourne and his experience there had greatly helped his career move forward, but the offer tabled from Hull was too good to walk away from.

“My 3 years in Melbourne have quite possibly been the most enjoyable of my career and I couldn’t have dreamed I would have achieved as much as I have since moving here,” Crocker said.

“I’ve won an NRL premiership, played in the Queensland Origin Squad and Kangaroo line-ups, and loved every minute of football basically.”

Crocker, who remains a lucky charm with the Storm – the forward never losing a game in 29 matches with the Storm will be sorely missed by his club who are going through a period of transition as the younger generation step up.

Storm chief executive Brian Waldron said while the club was disappointed to lose such an integral player, they understood the move could set him up financially and had agreed to release him from the final year of his contract.

“We’ll always appreciate the hard work he has put in,” Waldron said.

Bellamy said Crocker was the sort of player who raised the level of the players around him and had been vital to turning the club into a premiership side.

“He brought a certain hardness to the team when he joined the club from the Roosters in 2006, and that took us to the next level,” Bellamy said

“While it may be quite freakish the record he has of never losing in a Storm jersey, it just goes to show the talent he has and the qualities he brings to our footy team.

“We’ll be sad to see Michael leave the club, but it now gives an opportunity to one of the young backrowers we have here to stand up and make that spot their own in 2009.”

Faster Anthony Minichiello set for recall

Anthony Minichiello improved sprinting style Roger Fabri NRL 2008Sydney Roosters no. 1 Anthony Minichiello may have been fighting a back injury on and off for over 24 months, but after weeks of training with a new sprint coach and some improved technique, the Bondi-flyer is set to return to the NRL quicker than ever before.

It’s been widely reported that Minichiello has suffered back problems since 2006 and the NSW and Australian fullback has undergone back operations on bulging spinal discs at least twice, but ironically a forced change in sprinting style has seen the 28 year old improve his running times out of sight.

Renowned sprint coach Roger Fabri has worked closely with Mini over the past few weeks to put his back problems behind him, and through an improved running technique Minichiello has been running at least 10 per cent faster.

“When I first saw Anthony run, I was shocked. He had terrible style,” Fabri said.

“He would finish the acceleration phase then arch his back and throw his head backwards. All too upright.

“So when the weight should be over his hips it was actually behind them. His lower back copping way too much stress.

Minichiello is expected to be ready to return in only a couple of weeks, but will have a new explosion of pace to his already damaging running style.

“He has played for NSW and Australia but his sprinting technique has been anything but what I would teach my athletes,” Fabri said.

“But now, with the improvements we’ve made, I honestly believe he can run faster than ever before.

“I mean, we’ve only been working together three weeks and already he’s shaved three metres off his 30m times. So in a few more weeks… well, he could make improvements some sprinters wait a whole lifetime for.”

The return of Minichiello will be an awesome prospect for the Roosters who are remaining in hot form in the NRL. With all the new recruits for 2008 starting to build good combinations and responding well to the style of Brad Fittler, the injection of Minichiello as the business end of the season approaches adds even more potency for the Sydney side.

Luke Lewis to turn his back on Souths

Even after meeting high-profile Souths owner Russell Crowe yesterday, Penrith Panther Luke Lewis looks set to turn his back on a previously accepted 4-year contract to link with the Bunnies next year. It seems Lewis is adamant his decision to go back on the agreement and stay with the Panthers has nothing to do with the turmoil engulfing Souths at present.

“I dont want to share the details but a family situation has arisen, which is tough,” Lewis said. “What’s going on at Souths has nothing to do with it. If it wasn’t for a family issue, I would be heading there for sure. Catching up with Russell was a great experience and we didn’t really talk about football. NRL is the least of my worries at the moment.”

New Souths SEO Shane Richardson said he felt their was still a chance of keeping the former Kangaroos and NSW back line star with Souths, however Panthers power broker Greg Alexander said last night he was “fairly confident” Lewis would remain at the foot of the mountains.

Penrith still have until round 13 to mirror Souths’ offer, but Lewis confirmed: “I expect a decision by Thursday at the latest.”

This latest problem was something Souths simply didn’t need, given the current problems at the club. The addition of Lewis would have added confidence and attacking prowes; something they desperately need at the moment.
Jeremy Smith, who was a virtual hero for the Bunnies last year has not been picked in the top grade since Round 6 and he is expected to sign with another NRL outfit or possibly head to the UK Super League after being told he will not be needed at the Rabbitohs in 2009. An interesting situation given that Jeremy Smith along with Dean Widders both left Parramatta with their coach and now seem to have been left high and dry. Halves partner Ben Rogers is also believed to be on the outer.

Souths sources also hinted that a player clean-out could be on the cards, with veterans David Kidwell, Dean Widders, Nigel Vagana and Shannon Hegarty all seemingly under pressure to keep their deals for future seasons. Vagana is unsure if he wants to remain at Redfern, while Kidwell, Widders and Hegarty have a single year remaining on their deals. It’s certainly a long way from around this time last year, when Russell Crowe declared his feelings for Dean Widders; saying “I love you Dean Widders” in a Souths ‘bonding session’.

Observers at a Darlinghurst cafe yesterday revealed that coach Jason Taylor had an intense meeting with Russell Crowe at according to the bystander, Taylor remain adamant that several of the players had let him down and he reinforced this to Crowe.

CEO Shane Richardson totally denied a player clean-out was coming. “There’s no truth in that at all. It’s quite amazing some of the stuff that goes around.”

Another veteran Souths player, speaking anonymously, said it was frustrating not to have been consulted on the decision to appoint John Lang as a coaching director at the Bunnies..

“It is hard, it’s a bit frustrating. I think this will be cleared up pretty soon as long as they don’t keep us in the dark too long,” he said. “JT was saying that [Lang] would not have that much to do with what we do on the field. I’m not too sure what John Lang will actually do but I don’t think he is going to be involved in the footy side of things.”

Richardson said Lang would not specifically have a hands-on position and would more likely be looking after “football matters, not coaching”. However it’s hard not to see the experienced Lang getting involved more directly with Taylor and the team; Lang had an unflappable style and he would be a big help to the struggling Bunnies squad who are seriously down on confidence at present.

Asked was the John Lang appointment a case of ‘jobs for the boys’ – given the two mates have been side by side at Brisbane Easts, Cronulla and Penrith – Richardson said: “It’s not a case of jobs for the boys. John Lang is one of the most successful coaches in the game. We’re not in a good enough position to ignore someone of his ability and experience.”

“John won’t be working with the day-to-day running of the team but putting in place the best possible systems to make sure we succeed.”

In other Redfern talk, former power broker George Piggins remains vocal – the outspoken Souths man is now constantly in the news as his team struggles. It is amazing how Piggins was so quiet while things were going well for Souths; now you can’t turn on the TV without seeing Piggins on every channel ready to put the boot into his beloved club. This time Souths were forced to seriously refute claims by former chairman George Piggins on broadcaster Alan Jones’s radio program yesterday morning that its charity arm, Souths Cares, has not accounted for $2 million of Federal Government funding to find jobs for indigenous people.

Bulldogs building well for 2009

Ben Hannant Joins Bulldogs for 2009 NRLThe Bulldogs are slowly starting to stop the talent drain from their club and have added another impressive player to their 2009 roster by snaring Queensland Origin front rower Ben Hannant on a 3 year contract.

The robust and talented Hannant has grown in stature since leaving the Roosters and linking with the Brisbane Broncos.  His form this year has been dynamic and he was rewarded with a call-up to the Queensland Maroons Origin Squad.

After developing well under Wayne Bennett, Hannant has chosen to leave the club at the same time as his coach and return to Sydney with the Dogs until the end of the 2011 NRL season.

Only 23, Hannant made his first grade debut with the Roosters in 2005 before linking with the Broncos and earning himself a premiership in 2006.

The Bulldogs went after Hannant due to their lack of prop depth after veterans Willie Mason, Mark O’Meley and Nate Myles walked away to join the Roosters in recent times.

“This is a huge signing for us, Ben is a first rate prop and a big part of our plans for the future,” said Bulldogs CEO Todd Greenberg.

“We’ve been really specific in our desire to recruit players who are an asset to the club by the way they carry themselves on and off the field and Ben certainly fits that requirement.

“Signing players of his calibre is a great vote of confidence in the direction the Bulldogs are heading.”

Hannant is the 3rd big name NRL player to join the Bulldogs for next season. Already snared by the Bulldogs aggressive recruitment team are Dragons centre Josh Morris and Cronulla half-back Brett Kimmorley.

NRL Power Rankings Round 11

NRL Power Rankings Round 12 2008After another weekend of byes in NRL Round 11, the Grubbers job was made slightly easier by having less games to view and review. Amongst the excitement at Liechhardt Oval on Sunday, the form of Keith Galloway continues to seriously impress. Very few punters are singing Galloway’s praises, but put simply his form could have him poised as an Origin bolter.

1. Sydney Roosters: The Chooks played out of their skins in Auckland, again turning on the air assault to blow the Warriors away. Probably require Minichiello at fullback and more from Riley Brown at hooker to go all the way, but are certainly the early pacesetters and growing in confidence weekly.

Grubbers Comment: Odds of the Roosters hatching a plan to bring Sonny Bill Williams to Bondi after already securing a host of ex-Dogs. 10/1

2. Wests Tigers: Timmy’s men marched home at Liechhardt and look to have a host of gamebreakers in the vital positions; at fullback, halfback, pivot and hooker. Matt Head is warming to career best form and Benji Marshall looks to have improved his defence on the week before. Keith Galloway remains the most unsung hero in the NRL, with blistering form and a creative off-load.

Grubbers Comment: Odds that former teammates Benji Marshall and Scott Prince actually kissed after the game this weekend, a la 2005 or was that a lick? 5/1

3. Bulldogs: Showed a desire not yet seen from them in 2008, were eager and totally out-enthused the toothless Sharks. Daniel Holdsworth performed well and the outside backs finally packed some punch for the Bulldogs for the first time. El Masri is finding his magic conversion form again and with Luke Patten still to come back and some key signings this week – the future might not be so bleak at Belmore.

Grubbers Comment: Odds that Sonny Bill Williams has added a few boxing classes with stablemate Anthony Mundine to his training ritual, after lashing out at Ben Ross and Greg Bird? 3/1

4. St George Illawarra Dragons: Are proving to be giant killers after now having beaten most of the NRL’s Top 4 sides. Even after dropping a stack of ball, the Dragons had enough to overpower the Sea Eagles at Fortress Brookvale. With big Wendell Sailor lurking in reserves and some favourable fixtures, the Dragons could get a roll on during the next few weeks. Hard to pick, but regardless they are still capable of champagne attack on their day.

Grubbers Comment: Likelihood of the Dragons improving their ladder position rapidly if Jason Ryles was to depart mid-season? Strong to Certain

5. Melbourne Storm: The machine that is Melbourne still managed to roll on despite having a stack of players backing up and facing a plucky Souths outfit, that defended well. The Storm did enough to win, however after Craig Bellamy has helped NSW disect the aura of guys like Billy Slater, Israel Folau and Cameron Smith – there is no doubt NRL teams will use this to advantage as Souths did in certain areas this Round. Not a lay-down certainy for the Premiership.

Grubbers Comment: Odds that Melbourne are running an illegal back room breeding program; with the likes of Israel Folau, Greg Inglis, Will Chambers and Billy Slater forced to provide ‘donations’ to waiting hosts – in the hope of creating a next generation of Storm stars. 5/1

6. Gold Coast Titans: Weren’t on their game, but still came within a whisker of stealing the chocolates at Liechhardt. Didn’t get a decent bounce of the ball or any favourable calls from the referee, yet still kept themselves in the contest even with shocking possession percentages. Preston Campbell is playing every bit as well as his 2003 Premiership year with the Penrith Panthers. Titans forwards are highly impressive.

Grubbers Comment: Odds that Scott Prince will have his mobile number stitched on to the back of his jersey next week so that Queensland Selectors know how to get in touch with him. 2/1

7. Cronulla Sharks: Were out of sorts and ended up being ambushed by the unassuming Bulldogs. Always going to be tough when they let so many points in, as they simply cannot score enough to dig themselves out of situations such as they faced on Monday night. Brett Kimmorley is in fine form and will be sorely missed by the Sharks, Ricky Stuart will whip the squad at training this week and they should bounce back in their usual gritty style.

Grubbers Comment: Chances of the Cronulla Sharks winning a premiership any time soon? 150/1

8. Manly Sea Eagles: Basically looked to be pretenders on Friday night as they went down to a St George Illawarra side that still dropped a fair bit of ball. Don’t look willing enough to roll their sleeves up and still lack that spark on the fringes they had last year. The likes of Matt Orford and Anthony Watmough are either game breakers or heart breakers as they seem unable to play consistently.

Grubbers Comment: Odds that Anthony Watmough got lost driving home on Friday night after ‘that’ headclash that knocked him out? 2/1

9. NZ Warriors: Were beaten by a red hot Roosters side, weren’t disgraced as they really didn’t get a look in. Confidence may have taken a dent as their home ground win streak was torn up, however with Steve Price getting valuable game time the future remains hopeful. Need to start winning soon or risk missing the boat.

Grubbers Comment: Likelihood of the Warriors rushing Manu Vatuvei back into the run-on side to curb the downward spiral? Slim to none.

10. South Sydney Rabbitohs: Had their best chance this year to ram-raid a win over the fancied Melbourne Storm. The advantage of Bluetongue Stadium, a stack of possession and a weary, tired Melbourne Storm squad still weren’t enough to get Rusty’s Rabbitohs home. Looked slick at times with some deep backline plays, but their final tackle options were the worst I have seen in recent memory. Issac Luke should not be at halfback and Dean Widders is still only a bench player at best. Coach Jason Taylor needs to stop changing squad members and positions all too often.

Grubbers Comment: Odds of John Lang’s health insurance premiums rising, after jumping on board the Titanic? 5/1

NRL Teams Round 12

NRL Teams Round 12 2008All the NRL Rugby league teams, lineups and squad listings for Round 12, 2008 of the NRL first game kicking off Friday night (all times listed in local zones):

FRIDAY

BRISBANE BRONCOS v PARRAMATTA EELS at Suncorp Stadium, 7.45pm

BRONCOS: Karmichael Hunt, Denan Kemp, Darius Boyd, Justin Hodges (capt), Reece Robinson, David Stagg, Peter Wallace, Ben Hannant, Michael Ennis, Joel Clinton, Sam Thaiday, Corey Parker, Tonie Carroll. Interchange: PJ Marsh, Ashton Sims, Greg Eastwood, Nick Kenny, David Taylor (one to be omitted)

EELS: Luke Burt, Krisnan Inu, Joel Reddy, Jarryd Hayne, Eric Grothe, Feleti Mateo, Brett Finch, Nathan Cayless (capt), Mark Riddell, Fuifui Moimoi, Nathan Hindmarsh, Daniel Wagon, Chad Robinson. Interchange: Matthew Keating, Brendan Oake, Weller Hauraki, Junior Paulo.

Referee: Jason Robinson

CANBERRA RAIDERS v MANLY SEA EAGLES at Canberra Stadium, 7.45pm

RAIDERS: Bronx Goodwin, Colin Best, Adrian Purtell, Joel Monaghan, David Milne, Terry Campese, Todd Carney, Scott Logan, Alan Tongue (capt), Dane Tilse, Glen Turner, Nigel Plum, Joe Picker. Interchange: Josh Miller, Glen Buttriss, Trevor Thurling, Troy Thompson, Ben Jones (one to be omitted)

SEA EAGLES: Brett Stewart, Michael Robertson, Jamie Lyon, Steve Matai, David Williams, Steve Menzies, Matt Orford (capt), Brent Kite, Matt Ballin, Josh Perry, Anthony Watmough, Glenn Stewart, Luke Williamson. Interchange: Heath L’Estrange, Glenn Hall, Adam Cuthbertson, Mark Bryant, Vic Mauro (one to be omitted).

Referee: Sean Hampstead

SATURDAY

MELBOURNE STORM v BULLDOGS at Olympic Park, 5.30pm

STORM: Billy Slater, Steve Turner, Will Chambers, Israel Folau, Anthony Quinn, Greg Inglis, Cooper Cronk, Jeff Lima, Cameron Smith (capt), Brett White, Michael Crocker, Ryan Hoffman, Dallas Johnson. Interchange: Matt Geyer, Antonio Kaufusi, Jeremy Smith, Adam Blair, Aiden Tolman (one to be omitted).

BULLDOGS: Nick Youngquest, Hazem El Masri, Daryl Millard, Tim Winitana, Matt Utai, Daniel Holdsworth, Ben Roberts, Jarrad Hickey, Corey Hughes, Chris Armit, Sonny Bill Williams, Andrew Ryan (capt), Reni Maitua. Interchange: Lee Te Maari, Nick Kouparitsas, Michael Sullivan, Bradley Morrin.

Referee: Shayne Hayne

NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS at EnergyAustralia Stadium, 7.30pm

KNIGHTS: Wes Naiqama, James McManus, Keith Lulia, Adam MacDougall, Cooper Vuna, Jarrod Mullen, Scott Dureau, Jesse Royal, Danny Buderus (capt), Steve Simpson, Chris Houston, Cory Paterson, Zeb Taia. Interchange: Chris Bailey, Cameron Ciraldo, Danny Wicks, Richard Fa’aoso, Mitchell Sargent.

WARRIORS: Lance Hohaia, Michael Crockett, Brent Tate, Jerome Ropati, Aidan Kirk, Nathan Fien, Grant Rovelli, Sam Rapira, Ian Henderson, Steve Price (capt), Simon Mannering, Sonny Fai, Micheal Luck. Interchange: Evarn Tuimavave, Epalahame Lauaki, Logan Swann, Russell Packer, Ben Matulino (one to be omitted)

Referee: Jared Maxwell

NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS v PENRITH PANTHERS at Dairy Farmers Stadium, 7.30pm

COWBOYS: Ashley Graham, Mark Henry, Ben Harris, Ben Farrar, John Williams, Travis Burns, Johnathan Thurston (capt), Ray Cashmere, Aaron Payne, Carl Webb, Steve Southern, Daniel Abraham, Luke O’Donnell. Interchange: Justin Smith, Sam Faust, Jacob Lillyman, Shane Tronc

PANTHERS: Rhys Wesser, Luke Rooney, Michael Jennings, Brad Tighe, Jarrod Sammut, Maurice Blair, Luke Lewis, Tony Puletua, Luke Priddis, Petero Civoniceva (capt), Frank Pritchard, Trent Waterhouse, Nathan Smith. Interchange: Paul Aiton, Joseph Paulo, Matthew Bell, Josh Bateman, Brendan Worth (one to be omitted)

Referee: Alan Shortall

SUNDAY

SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS v ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS at ANZ Stadium, 2pm

RABBITOHS: Nathan Merritt, John Tamanika, Nigel Vagana, Fetuli Talanoa, Shannon Hegarty, Dean Widders, George Ndaira, Manase Manuokafoa, Issac Luke, Roy Asotasi (capt), David Kidwell, David Faalogo, John Sutton. Interchange: Beau Falloon, Shannan McPherson, Manase Manuokafoa, Michael Greenfield

DRAGONS: Brett Morris, Jason Nightingale, Mark Gasnier (capt), Matt Cooper, Josh Morris, Jamie Soward, Ben Hornby, Justin Poore, Dean Young, Jason Ryles, Beau Scott, Ben Creagh, Stuart Webb. Interchange: Kirk Reynoldson, Dan Hunt, Chase Stanley, Rangi Chase, Lagi Setu, Ricky Thorby (two to be omitted)

Referee: Gavin Badger

CRONULLA SHARKS v GOLD COAST TITANS at Toyota Stadium, 3pm

SHARKS: Brett Kearney, David Simmons, Ben Pomeroy, Fraser Anderson, Mitch Brown, Brett Seymour, Brett Kimmorley, Adam Peek, Isaac De Gois, Kade Snowden, Paul Gallen, Luke Douglas, Greg Bird. Interchange: Danny Nutley, Ben Ross, Jayson Bukuya, Terence Seu Seu

TITANS: Preston Campbell, Jordan Atkins, Luke O’Dwyer, Brett Delaney, Brenton Bowen, Mat Rogers, Scott Prince (capt), Luke Bailey (capt), Nathan Friend, Brad Meyers, Anthony Laffranchi, Mark Minichiello, Ashley Harrison. Interchange: Aaron Cannings, Michael Hodgson, Josh Graham, Ben Jeffery, Michael Henderson (one to be omitted)

Referee: Ben Cummins

MONDAY

SYDNEY ROOSTERS v WESTS TIGERS at SFS, 7pm

ROOSTERS: Amos Roberts, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Mitchell Aubusson, Sia Soliola, Sam Perrett, Braith Anasta, Mitchell Pearce, Mark O’Meley, Riley Brown, Nate Myles, Willie Mason, Setaimata Sa, Craig Fitzgibbon (capt). Interchange: Lopini Paea, Frank-Paul Nuuausala, Anthony Tupou, James Aubusson, David Shillington (one to be omitted)

TIGERS: Brett Hodgson (capt), Taniela Tuiaki, Dean Collis, Chris Lawrence, Shannon McDonnell, Benji Marshall, Mathew Head, Bryce Gibbs, Robbie Farah, Keith Galloway, Ben Te’o, Chris Heighington, Dene Halatau. Interchange: John Morris, Danny Galea, Corey Payne, Bronson Harrison

Referee: Tony Archer

George Piggins awakes from slumber

george piggins returns to slam south sydney rabbitohs 2008We have hardly heard from the man in the past 12 months writes John Chelsea, but as the South Sydney Rabbitohs slump to 1 win from 10 starts on the field and also cop a beating in the press – out comes George Piggins to slam the club management and the internal factions that ousted the popular former Souths boss.After George Piggins cut ties with the club after losing a vote for control of Souths he went to ground. Piggins refused to attend games or check on the progress of his beloved team. He remained quiet for the majority of 2007 as the South Sydney Rabbitohs under new coach Jason Taylor and operators Russell Crowe and Peter Holmes a Court charged into their first semi-finals birth in over a decade.

There was no congratulations from George Piggins. As the olive branch was continually extended from the new owners of South Sydney, George remained distant and refused to drop the past.

South Sydney is a club that almost every NRL Rugby League supporter has a soft spot for. Australians love an underdog and maybe this is why we have all riden Souths so hard and wished them well at every turn. If you’re team isn’t playing, you’ll generally find most League fans will root for the Bunnies.

The problem for Souths is that the club gets torn apart from within all too often. We’ve heard the media reports of Russell Crowe and Peter Holmes a Court not seeing eye to eye, then George Piggins awakes from his slumber to slam the club and stick the boot in while he has the chance and everything goes back to square one.

While tradition is such an important part of Rugby League and we must cherish it especially in our Centenary Year; the long and distinguished history for South Sydney is probably killing the club and not allowing it to move forward. It seems Crowe and Holmes a Court have the right idea and have tried to bring in new mentalities and systems to forge ahead, but there is always a voice from the past or a comparison to the ‘old days’ that flares up another disagreement at the club and sends everyone in a different direction.

The relocation offer of $8 million from the NRL to any club who moves their homebase away from Sydney should seriously be considered by South Sydney.

While the money would be a handy boost for the club, the biggest advantage would be a fresh start. While Redfern holds such deep roots and memories for the foundation Rugby League club, what is the benefit of staying there now? Clover Moore and the local Council scrapped all plans for a purpose built home ground in Redfern and the compromise was a ‘training facility’ that is being constructed right near the pokie-less Leagues club.

So this means that Souths will still play their games from the distant ANZ Stadium and not only is their Leagues club over 40km from the playing venue, but their chances of making any additional money at their base are thwarted by the fact there are no pokie machines to bring in additional revenue.

Souths need to cut ties with the disgruntled past and forge ahead into a new era. With respect, too many of yesterdays heros are hurting South Sydney. Sometimes we all need to bury the past and put up with some angst just for the good of the NRL team.

George, South Sydney need your support right now. Stop holding the club back, get on board and let the club be re-born. The alternatives are a lot worse, because you risk either losing your team forever or worse still – not being a part of the celebrations when they finally secure the NRL Premiership.

Bulldogs find form; Sharks implode 30-22

bulldogs cronulla sharks nrl round 11 2008The Bulldogs showed what they are capable of tonight; turning on some sublime attack at various stages to take themselves to a 30-22 victory over an ill-disciplined Cronulla Sharks team at ANZ Stadium tonight. With Sonny Bill Williams in an unusually firey mood, the Bulldogs rode on the back of his new found passion and threw early tries got themselves into a unassailable position.It was a welcome return to form for the struggling Bulldogs outfit of season ’08, scoring five tries to four in an otherwise scrappy encounter.

It was a fitting send-off for Canterbury fullback Cameron Phelps who leaves for Wigan this week to take up a lucrative contract with the UK-based glamour club, with the skilful utility’s last gasp defence shutting down numerous Sharks attacking raids.

Cronulla were their own worst enemies, failing to control possession and given away silly penalties to allow the Bulldogs to storm out to a match-winning 18-4 lead.

The Sharks showed that they were ready to play by opening their account in the fifth minute; utility Fraser Anderson crashing through a Daryl Millard attempted tackle off the back of a sweeping Sharks backline movement.Canterbury were quick to reply with their own free-flowing attacking raid, this time the ball travelling through five sets of hands before rookie centre Tim Winitana flashed over in the 14th minute.

In his first game back from injury, goal-kicking winger Hazem El Masri converted magnificently from the sideline to hand the Bulldogs a 6-4 advantage.

The home side extended their lead just six minutes later thanks to a brilliant solo effort from Daniel Holdsworth, the makeshift five-eight brushing aside two defenders on a damaging thirty metre burst.

Another El Masri conversion from a wide angle saw the home side push out to a surprise 12-4 lead, with the Sharks finding the going tough due to injuries to fullback Brett Seymour and hooker Isaac De Gois.

With Cronulla failing to control the football, the Bulldogs took full advantage with their third try inside the opening half hour, with backrower Sonny Bill Williams stepping through three tiring Sharks defenders to score a crucial try given the context of the match.And the accuracy of El Masri’s kicking boot wasn’t helping Cronulla’s comeback chances, with the plucky Bulldogs wingers third conversion making it 18-4 at the break.

Canterbury started where they left off early in the second half, Winitana crossing for his second try off some quick hands from his inside support to push the home side out to a handy 24-4 lead after 46 minutes.

Sharks prop Danny Nutley gave the visitor’s some hope when he charged onto a short ball from Paul Gallen to barge over, with Brett Seymour’s conversion making it 24-10 in the 50th minute.

With the match threatening to erupt thanks to some niggle between Sonny Bill and Greg Bird, the Sharks composed themselves long enough to allow Brett Kimmorley to score off a majestic Bird grubber kick.

Seymour’s second conversion made it game on at 24-16 inside the final 20 minutes.

But the Sharks poor ball control and discipline looked to have cost them their third straight victory when Andrew Ryan stormed onto a precision Reni Maitua pass to stumble thirty metres and score, with El Masri’s perfect record continuing to make it 30-16 in the 62nd minute.

A 68th minute try to Cronulla centre Ben Pomeroy kept the Sharks within reach at 30-22, but again their lack of discipline prevented them from adding further points.

Canterbury Bulldogs 30
Tries: Tim Winitana 2, Daniel Holdsworth, Sonny Bill Williams, Andrew Ryan
Goals: Hazem El Masri 5
defeated
Cronulla Sharks 22

Tries: Fraser Anderson, Danny Nutley, Brett Kimmorley, Ben Pomeroy
Goals: Brett Seymour 3

At ANZ Stadium

Referee – Tony Archer