Khoder Nasser gangsters cause trouble for PI

Khoder NasserA private investigator last night trying to serve legal documents on Sonny Bill Williams’ manager Khoder Nasser at the Mundine fight in Newcastle, needed a Police escort from the venue after gang members supporting Nasser made threats against the PI.

Fearing for his own safety, the private investigator asked for his identity to be blocked – with his life in danger, his regular legal task turned into a terrifying ordeal..

The investigator, flanked by NSW Police members, said: “I was only trying to do my job, but at the end of the day it was just too dangerous.

“I had one fellow following me everywhere and there were all these threats being made.

“One of them said, ‘When you get him outside, you know what to do with him. Stick to him like s… to a blanket’.

“That’s when I had to call the police to escort me out of there.”

Things got real bad at the at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre when the investigator was hounded by several gang members claiming to be supporters of Khoder Nasser as the PI tried to gain access to the VIP section of the even.

In the end, it wasn’t worth placing his life at risk – as Nasser wasnt in attendance and is believed to be fleeing to the UK today to join Sonny Bill. By exiting Nasser now hopes to insulate himself from any legal action coming his way over the Sonny Bill Williams walk-out affair.

The incident is a major blow to the NRL and the Bulldogs, hoping court documents would make Nasser release the overseas location of the Sonny Bill Williams.

Legal reps for the NRL will try to serve documents again today, more thank likely at the Sydney airport before Nasser boards a plane for England.

Williams walked out on the NRL on Saturday to fly to England.

The court papers would have forced Nasser to hand over his mobile phone accounts and any other knowledge he may have had on Williams’ and his shock move to rugby outfit Toulon.

It is understood the papers were only valid until 10am Thursday.

The NRL is now bound to be forced to delay their court proceedings because of the events that erupted in Newcastle.

The investigator 2 police offers to escort him on the roads to his home when another car load of young men drove past him after leaving the venue.

Officers McDonald and Geerlof suggested it was best the investigator leave before the Mundine fight because there were no guarantees what might happen afterwards.

Newspaper journalists from the The Daily Telegraph also required a police escort when caught up in the middle of the pre-fight madness.

Outlets such as The Daily Telegraph – and other News Limited organisations – were banned from covering the Mundine stoush with Japan’s Crazy Kim, which Mundine won.

Mundine was spotted arriving at the venue by himself in a black Monaro just before 9pm – without his controversial manager. Nasser denied he was Williams’ agent on Sunday night.

But there has been suggestions Nasser will join the 22-year-old Williams in the coming days.

Rugby Union refuses to help NRL over SBW

Rugby Union wont help NRL over Sonny Bill WilliamsRugby Union power brokers have refused to assist NRL boss David Gallop with the Sonny Bill Williams saga, admitting there is nothing they can do to prevent Sonny Bill Williams from registering a French rugby union contract.

Williams is believed to have inked a two-year deal with Toulon on Tuesday night, despite pleas from the NRL for the International Rugby Board and Australian Rugby Board to intervene.

In a desperate attempt to enforce Williams’ contract, Gallop had written to the IRB for support.

“We’re still asking for the IRB to get involved,” Gallop told 2GB’s Jason Morrison on Tuesday.

“If they (IRB) don’t have jurisdiction over this, who does?

“It would seem that this club (Toulon) could just act in a way that no-one has control over.”

But ARU chief executive John O’Neill told Gallop the issue was out of his hands.

“John had seen the correspondence we had sent to the IRB and he was sympathetic to our position,” Gallop told News Limited.

“But we both acknowledge that Sonny Bill is a league player, not a rugby union player.

“That means he’s not subject to the normal clearance rules.”

IRB spokesman Greg Thomas said he supported Gallop’s stance but was powerless to step in.

“We are very sympathetic to this – totally. As a world governing body, we don’t condone anybody breaking a contract in any form of employment,” Thomas told News Limited.

“We have regulations for rugby union, which do not allow enticements for players to break contracts. But this player is not governed by our regulations.

“He has chosen as an individual to break a contract he has with his employer. We can only regulate for the game of rugby union. We have received the letter from David Gallop and will respond accordingly.”

It seems the only option available to the NRL will be legal action.

Cooper Cronk adds 4 years to Storm deal

Cooper Cronk has given the strongest indication yet that the NRL won’t lose all its top names to cashed-up European rugby clubs.

And true to the style of the gifted No.7, his actions have spoken louder than his words.

Cronk has today signed a mammoth four-year contract extension with the Storm – a deafening endorsement to his faith in the game’s future in Australia.

The deal will see Cronk at the Victorian capital until the end of the 2013 season.

The extension is all the more impressive considering Cronk had already been contracted to the Storm until the end of 2009.

“When a club wants someone who is loyal and happy in his environment, it makes it possible to do a deal that’s this long,” Cronk’s manager, Chris Orr, told Fairfax newspapers.

David Fa’alogo escapes NRL ban tonight

South Sydney’s David Fa’alogo has been found not guilty of striking after successfully challenging his charge at the NRL judiciary tonight.

Fa’alogo was set to miss two matches after receiving a grade one charge for using an elbow during the Rabbitohs’ 39-12 defeat to Newcastle on Sunday.

The base one-match ban would have been doubled because of the second-rower’s prior offences, but his successful not-guilty plea means he is free to play the Warriors this weekend.

Brad Fittler says move Sydney NRL clubs

Brad Fittler talks about the NRL Salary Cap and Sonny Bill WilliamsSydney Roosters boss Brad Fittler has called on the NRL to move Sydney NRL clubs to regional centres – such as remote Queensland and the Central Coast – moves that may prolong the lives of some struggling NRL clubs.

With the Sonny Bill Williams saga throwing more uncertainty around the NRLs future, such as finances and the enforcing of the salary cap, Fittler said NRL officials need to now make the “tough decisions” or risk promoting a dying product in the years ahead.

At the moment, the NRL format includes 9 clubs in the centre of Sydney, and many feel it’s these clubs that are most likely to feel the pinch should there be any increase in the playing salary cap.

“We’ve got to take a stronger stance,” Fittler said.

“I don’t know the logistics of relocating a team from Sydney (but) I’m sure it’s only going to be for the good.

“We have say 8 or 9 teams around Sydney and even TV ratings in Sydney aren’t doing as well as in Brisbane.

“We’ve got strong locations in Queensland where we get huge followings and I don’t think we enforce the hard plans.

“Newcastle are well followed and I’m sure the Central Coast would do really well with the platform of infrastructutre they have there, I’m sure the Sunshine Coast too would be a stand-out.”

Fittler also commented on the Sonny Bill Williams saga, saying the SBW decision to go to French rugby is OK, but breaking a contract was not OK.

He also angrily refuted Sonny Bill Williams’s counter legal challenge on the NRL salary cap.

“Its a joke. Isnt SBW the highest paid NRL Player?” Fittler remarked.

“It ridicules the system.

“It’s a shame we can’t pay these players that sort of money but our game doesn’t allow that.

NRL Teams Round 21 2008

NRL Teams and Squad Lineups for NRL Round 20 commencing on Friday night.

FRIDAY
Manly Sea Eagles v Penrith Panthers at Brookvale Oval, 7.35pm
Sea Eagles:
Brett Stewart, Michael Robertson, Steve Bell, Steve Matai, David Williams, Steve Menzies, Matt Orford (capt), Brent Kite, Matt Ballin, Josh Perry, Luke Williamson, Glenn Hall, Glenn Stewart. Interchange: Heath L’Estrange, Mark Bryant, Adam Cuthbertson, Jack Afamasaga, Jeff Robson, Phil Morwood (two to be omitted)
Panthers: Rhys Wesser, Brad Tighe, Michael Jennings, Maurice Blair, Michael Gordon, Wade Graham, Luke Lewis, Tony Puletua, Luke Priddis, Petero Civoniceva (capt), Frank Pritchard, Trent Waterhouse, Nathan Smith. Interchange: Matthew Bell, Junior Moors, Joseph Paulo, Masada Iosefa, Maurice Blair, Masada Iosefa, Luke Rooney (one to be omitted)
Referee: Shayne Hayne

Melbourne Storm v Gold Coast Titans at Olympic Park, 7.35pm
Storm:
Billy Slater, Steve Turner, Matt Geyer, Israel Folau, Anthony Quinn, Greg Inglis, Cooper Cronk, Jeff Lima, Cameron Smith (capt), Brett White, Michael Crocker, Ryan Hoffman, Dallas Johnson. Interchange: Jeremy Smith, Adam Blair, Sika Manu, Antonio Kafusi
Titans: Preston Campbell, Jordan Rapana, Gavin Cooper, Brett Delaney, Jordan Atkins, Ashley Harrison, Josh Lewis, Brad Meyers, Clint Amos, Michael Hodgson, Anthony Laffranchi, Daniel Conn, Josh Graham. Interchange: James Stosic, Will Matthews, Luke Swain, Luke O’Dwyer, Selasi Berdie (one to be omitted).
Referee: Tony De Las Heras

SATURDAY
Cronulla Sharks v St George Illawarra Dragons at Toyota Stadium, 5.30pm
Sharks:
Brett Kearney, Misi Taulapapa, Ben Pomeroy, David Simmons, Luke Covell, Brett Seymour, Brett Kimmorley, Ben Ross, Isaac De Gois, Luke Douglas, Paul Gallen (capt), Fraser Anderson, Greg Bird. Interchange: Danny Nutley, Kade Snowden, Adam Peek, Terence Seu Seu, Grant Millington (one to be omitted)
Dragons: Brett Morris, Jason Nightingale, Chase Stanley, Matt Cooper, Josh Morris, Jamie Soward, Ben Hornby (capt), Justin Poore, Dean Young, Jason Ryles, Beau Scott, Jarrod Saffy, Stuart Webb. Interchange: Matt Prior, Dan Hunt, Lagi Setu, Rangi Chase, Simon Woolford (one to be omitted)
Referee: Jared Maxwell

North Queensland Cowboys v Sydney Roosters at Dairy Farmers Stadium, 7.30pm
Cowboys:
Ashley Graham, Ty Williams, Mark Henry, Ben Harris, John Williams, Travis Burns, Aaron Payne (capt), Carl Webb, George Gatis, Shane Tronc, Luke O’Donnell, Sione Faumuina, Steve Southern. Interchange: Ben Farrar, Dayne Weston, Ben Vaeau, Ray Cashmere, Luke Harlen (one to be omitted)
Roosters: Brent Grose, Amos Roberts, Mitchell Aubusson, Sia Soliola, Sam Perrett, Braith Anasta, Mitchell Pearce, Mark O’Meley, Riley Brown, David Shillington, Willie Mason, Anthony Tupou, Craig Fitzgibbon (capt). Interchange: Lopini Paea, Shane Shackleton, Anthony Cherrington, Jake Friend, Mickey Paea (one to be omitted).
Referee: Sean Hampstead

South Sydney Rabbitohs v New Zealand Warriors at ANZ Stadium, 7.30pm
Rabbitohs:
Nathan Merritt, Luke Capewell, Jamie Simpson, Beau Champion, Fetuli Talanoa, Craig Wing, Chris Sandow, Scott Geddes, Issac Luke, Roy Asotasi (capt), Luke Stuart, David Fa’alogo, John Sutton. Interchange: Beau Falloon, Shannan McPherson, Manase Manuokafoa, Michael Greenfield, David Kidwell (one to be omitted)
Warriors: Lance Hohaia, Malo Solomona, Brent Tate, Sonny Fai, Aidan Kirk, Nathan Fien, Grant Rovelli, Ruben Wiki, Ian Henderson, Steve Price (capt), Simon Mannering, Logan Swann, Micheal Luck. Interchange: Jerome Ropati, Evarn Tuimavave, Sam Rapira, Ben Matulino.
Referee: Steve Lyons

SUNDAY
Wests Tigers v Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium, 2pm
Tigers:
Shannon Gallant, Taniela Tuiaki, Dene Halatau, Chris Lawrence, Peni Tagive, Benji Marshall, Robbie Farah (capt), Keith Galloway, John Morris, Bryce Gibbs, Todd Payten, Chris Heighington, Liam Fulton. Interchange: Tim Moltzen, Ben Te’o, Bronson Harrison, Daine Laurie
Bulldogs: Brent Crisp, Hazem El Masri, Daryl Millard, Andrew Emelio, Heka Nanai, Ben Roberts, Daniel Holdsworth, Jarrad Hickey, Aaron Groom, Chris Armit, Nick Kouparitsas, Andrew Ryan (capt), Reni Maitua. Interchange: Fred Briggs, Brad Morrin, Charlie Leaeno, Ben Barba, Lee Te Maari.
Referee: Ben Cummins

Brisbane Broncos v Canberra Raiders at Suncorp Stadium, 3pm
Broncos:
Karmichael Hunt, Denan Kemp, Darius Boyd, Justin Hodges, Kaine Manihera, Darren Lockyer (capt), Peter Wallace, Ben Hannant, Michael Ennis, Joel Clinton, Corey Parker, Sam Thaiday, Tonie Carroll. Interchange: Ashton Sims, Greg Eastwood, Nick Kenny, David Stagg
Raiders: David Milne, Colin Best, Adrian Purtell, Joel Monaghan, Justin Carney, Terry Campese, Marc Herbert, Troy Thompson, Ryan Hinchcliffe, Dane Tilse, Marshall Chalk, Joe Picker, Alan Tongue (capt). Interchange: Ben Jones, Trevor Thurling, Scott Logan, Glen Buttriss, Neville Costigan, Michael Weyman (two to be omitted).
Referee: Tony Archer

MONDAY
Newcastle Knights v Parramatta Eels at EnergyAustralia Stadium, 7pm
Knights:
Kurt Gidley, James McManus, Junior Sau, Adam MacDougall, Akuila Uate, Jarrod Mullen, Scott Dureau, Daniel Tolar, Danny Buderus (capt), Matthew White, Steve Simpson, Cory Paterson, Zeb Taia. Interchange: Chris Houston, Cameron Ciraldo, Richard Fa’aoso, Danny Wicks, Mark Taufua, Cooper Vuna, Marvin Karawana (three to be omitted).
Eels: Luke Burt, Taulima Tautai, Krisnan Inu, Jarryd Hayne, Tony Williams, Kristopher Keating, Brett Finch, Nathan Cayless (capt), Matthew Keating, Fuifui Moimoi, Nathan Hindmarsh, Daniel Wagon, Chad Robinson. Interchange: Mark Riddell, Josh Cordoba, Joe Galuvao, Todd Lowrie, Weller Hauraki (one to be omitted).
Referee: Jason Robinson

League Heavies must unite against SBW

Phil Gould David Gallop Radio Debate over Sonny Bill Williams on Triple MAs the fallout from the Sonny Bill Williams walk out affair continues; it seems the magnitude of the situation is starting to open up old Super League War wounds as the NRL and Rugby League heavy weights struggle to comprehend whats gone on with the Bulldogs and SBW.

While it’s widely known that the News Limited and Daily Telegraph camp do not like Phil Gould and regularly take pot shots at the Channel 9 and Fairfax commentator in their Rugby League columns, it seems that in this instance their targeting of Gould over his heated debate with David Gallop could be on the mark.

David Gallop and Phil Gould spoke on air during Triple M Radios coverage of Monday Night Football earlier this week and the discussion around Sonny Bill Williams developed into a slanging match between Gould and Gallop, with the NRL Chief Executive having to ask permission to speak several times as Phil Gould spoke over the top of him.

The bad blood between Gould and Gallop dates back to the Super League War with both men key players in the ARL and News Limited Camps.

As the debate rages over Sonny Bill Williams quitting without notice and in the middle of a binding contract with the Bulldogs; the likes of Gould and others have pointed to the fact that many contracts were treated with little respect during the Super League War and this latest case involving Sonny Bill Williams could have been prevented if the NRL had been more proactive in ensuring players were happy and contracts were more precisely constructed.

While the focus on the sanctity of the contract is ‘key’ in the Sonny Bill Williams case; it’s extremely important that the likes of David Gallop, Phil Gould and the whole range of NRL and Rugby League heavyweights bind together and show unity in this crucial period for the game. The target here is Sonny Bill Williams, forget dragging out the Super League talk or playing the News Limited vs ARL card.

Regardless of his reasons, Sonny Bill Williams has illegally and wrongfully walked out on a binding agreement with his club and his competition.

So Phil, David and the rest of the Rugby League front-liners take notice;  forget old wounds – lets put that aside for now while we deal with a crucial cross-road of the NRL’s future.

If Sonny Bill Williams is allowed to get off scott free, then we ultimately face the disintegration of the game we know and love.

You can listen to the Phil Gould vs David Gallop Audio by Clicking Here

Sonny Bill Williams law defence already in place

Sonny Bill Williams Challenges the Salary CapNRL and Bulldogs club traitor Sonny Bill Williams had already pre-arranged a legal defencee to the NRL’s expected legal challenge – the crux of his case set to take aim at the NRL and sporting salary cap, a legal defence that if successful could alter the fabric of Australia’s four football codes.

The NRL and Bulldogs set the wheels in motion for their court action against Sonny Bill Williams in NSW yesterday claiming they have an absolute “watertight” contract with the runaway player. But representatives for Sonny Bill Williams’s are expected to return serve with their belief that the salary cap quite simply a restraint of trade – with some legal top liners believing they have a chance of succeeding for SBW.

Williams at last check was in London, working through apparent visa problems which is holding up his relocation to France, but prior to flying out Sydney and leaving the Bulldogs in the lurch – SBW had arranged for a top line Sydney barrister to pre-prepare his defence for the expected repercussions that would eventually come through as expected from the NRL and Bulldogs officials.  SBW and his legal eagles will challenge the actual NRL salary cap, a cap which put simply limits the amount of cash clubs can pay their players.

If Williams, 22, manages to win this legal round -  it means the worst possible scenario for the NRL and also many other Australian sports, which all need salary caps to restrain player payments.

Former Bulldogs player Sonny Bill Williams has now been summonsed to a hearing of the NRL’s and Bulldogs’ request for an injunction to stop Williams taking the field in France or anywhere else in the world – provided lawyers are able to serve papers on him in person before 6pm on Sunday. Williams’s lawyers will argue that the Bulldogs can pay more than his existing $450,000-a-year contract but are stopped by the NRL rules that ensure salary mirroring at all NRL playing clubs. Williams apparently can earn around $3 million for 2 seasons with the French Rugby club Toulon.

If Australian courts find the New Zealand international is correct, it could open the door for even the AFL Players’ Association to fight the Australian rules salary cap, bringing a competitive balancing tool collapsing down across other football codes in this country.

The Australian Rugby Union also enforces “contracting protocols” which restrict payments four Super 14 clubs, a setup which is at ever higher risk because it was setup with no consultation of the ARU players’ association. Even Soccer’s A-League uses capping of clubs, with a special clause for signing marquee players for higher amounts.

Locally accredited player agent Steve Gillis confirmed that several more NRL stars could walk away, as this is a big test case for the code. “They’re looking for our very best players,” he said. “They’ll knock them off one by by one. I think you’ll find if there’s four or five this year. There could be up to thirty players walk out next year” If Sonny Bill Williams can get away with this without any penalty, I believe other players will copy him.”

The NRL CEO David Gallop and the Bulldogs CEO Todd Greenberg started the legal campaign and mentioned the possibility of Sonny Bill Williams’s assets being seized and the player possibly arrested and jailed.

“Ultimately, if these proceedings were to reach the end conclusion and he was to ignore them, then he’s facing criminal charges,” Mr Gallop said. “He’s liable to criminal charges which can involve arrest, can involve seizure of his assets in Australia.”

But their first challenge is to find him, with the Supreme Court rejecting their bid for “substituted service” and forcing lawyers to serve the documents to Williams in person. The club had asked the court to allow it to serve Khoder Nasser, who it had believed was Williams’s manager, or the Toulon club with the documents for Williams. But Justice Robert Austin, who said he had not heard Williams’s side of the story, rejected the application, arguing that informing the French club of the allegations could do “irreparable harm” to Williams.

Mr Gallop said: “The sanctity of his contract is one of the reasons why he has conducted himself in such a secretive and deceitful way. If his contract was not watertight, he could have gone to the Bulldogs and said, ‘I want out.’ The clear assumption is that he has received advice that his best chance is to secretly and furtively leave the country and avoid service of a summons.”

He admitted: “Of course the prospect of lucrative contracts being on offer overseas is a concern for us … It’s far more difficult to come up with a foolproof solution.”

The Supreme Court heard that Mr Nasser, who on Sunday told Channel Nine he was no longer Williams’s agent, had been involved in discussions with the club as late as Saturday. Even on the day Williams was leaving the country, Mr Nasser had assured the club that Williams would continue to play for the Bulldogs.

Arthur Moses, barrister for the Bulldogs, said Mr Nasser’s brother was travelling with Williams, and the boxer Anthony Mundine had taken him to the airport on Saturday. Mr Moses said the club had been deceived and hoodwinked by Mr Nasser.

Court proceedings started against SBW

Sonny Bill Williams Heathrow Airport July 2008The NRL and the Bulldogs club have today approached the the NSW Supreme Court in an attempt to curb runaway player Sonny Bill Williams as he arrives in London; expected to continue on to France. A massive test case for the NRL and possibly all sporting codes regarding sanctity of contracts, restraint of trade and international sporting rules – Sonny Bill Williams’ decision to flee while in the early stages of a long term contract is set to see a lengthy court battle.

Todays news comes as Sonny Bill Williams was sighted and photographed at London’s Heathrow Airport, many believing he is headed to southern France.

The Bulldogs, with the support of the NRL, today attempted to lodge an injunction with the Supreme Court, which, if passed successfully, will stop Williams being able to take part in the rival Rugby code for an estimated $3million.

“The injunction will seek to restrain him from training or playing other than in accordance with the Bulldogs contract,” NRL chief executive David Gallop said.

“The consequences of breaching an injunction when put in place are that he is liable to contempt of court proceedings that can involve everything from arrest to seizure of assets.”

Player manager Khoder Nasser has also been subpoenaed to provide documents relating to information on Williams’s whereabouts by Thursday.

Should Williams not front next week, or have a representative appear on his behalf, the hearing will be postponed.

This would be followed by legal arguments to show whether Williams is in contempt of court or whether in fact the Supreme Court has jurisdiction in the matter given Williams is now overseas.

Bulldogs lawyer Arthur Moses claimed the court should have jurisdiction given the breach of contract was committed in NSW.

Supreme Court judge Robert Austin admitted to Moses “you’ve got a bit of a burden on your shoulders” in reference to the Bulldogs bid to track down Williams.

“I’m concerned this is kind of a blitzkrieg strategy,” he said.

The Department of Immigration has also subpoenaed in a bid to help track down Williams, given he would have supplied them with a French address on his departure.

The Bulldogs attempted to have Nasser subpoenaed despite assertions from the controversial player manager yesterday that he was not representing the runaway star.

The Bulldogs claimed they had been operating under the assumption Nasser had been acting as Williams’s manger since earlier this year.

“I’ve been instructed to deal with Khoder Nasser over the last three months and that instruction has come from Sonny Bill Williams direct,” Greenberg said.

“Who we (deal with) going forward I’m not sure.”

Amid rumours Williams may actually be headed for Toulouse and not Toulon, a spokesperson from the Toulon club denied any knowledge of the Kiwi international having signed a deal.

“For me he is not coming to Toulon, and for the (club) president too,” Sandrine Nacci said.

“I have heard about the news this weekend, it was very crazy, but we have no information about that.

“The French union (requires) the French clubs to sign all the contracts before the 15th July … we have no contract signed by Sonny Bill Williams.

“Maybe the president has a contract with him before the 15th July, but for the moment, nothing.”

Gallop expressed dismay at claims from the IRB that they were powerless to stop Williams from signing with Toulon.

“If they don’t have jurisdiction, then who does? Can this rogue club simply operate without rules in their code?

“I find that very alarming, and alarming for rugby union as it is for rugby league.”

The NRL boss gave an insight into a possible reason for Williams’ covert departure from Australia, the Kiwi juggernaut only informing those closest to him of his intentions as he boarded a plane on Saturday.

With the Bulldogs having already stated their marquee talent would not be released from the remaining four years of is contract, Gallop suggested the club may have slapped on Williams to prevent his departure.

“I would have thought the Bulldogs would certainly have done that,” Gallop said.

NRL Power Rankings Round 20

NRL Power Rankings Round 20 20081. Canberra Raiders: White hot again, even without Todd Carney the Raiders have bollocking forwards laying a platform for lightning fast and skillful backs. Should make the Top 8 on this form. Collin Best in sublime touch and scoring some of the tries of the year, looking like a gazelle in full flight when the big man strides out.

Grubbers Comment: Odds of Craig Bellamy flying into the ACT to visit all the local pubs and clubs to discover secret of the new found Green Machine success? 15/1

2.Sydney Roosters: Bounced back in the best fashion, full of energy and getting the Manly monkey off their back. A great confidence booster should they face Manly in the NRL Top 8 play offs this year. Have the forwards to do damage in the NRL finals.

Grubbers Comment: Odds that Brad Fittler took the whole team to a yoga class during the week, in the hope some of his ‘relaxed’ vibe would rub off? 10/1

3. St George Illawarra Dragons: Have been going along better than most think, shaping as a real force for the lower Top 8. Jason Ryles pulled out game of the season and was backed up by plenty of team mates. Nathan Brown seems in a whole new world of confidence since securing a position for next year in the UK Super League.

Grubbers Comment: Chances of Nathan Brown ever having beers with the Melbourne coaching staff again any time soon? 100/1

4. Penrith Panthers: Even without Frank Pritchard, they muscled up and had too much for the Wests Tigers. Losing Lachlan Coote a concern, as his energy was contagious and their run home is a shocker. Could still throw up some surprises, must stick with the younger hookers for the remainder of the year to be a true chance. Priddis is solid without being creative, best he is achieving is the odd penalty play when he runs at the markers.

Grubbers Comment: Odds of Penrith scouts staking out local schools chasing more talent this week after losing high school star Lachlan Coote for 6 weeks? 20/1

5. NZ Warriors: Took the Brownie blueprint for how to beat the Melbourne Storm, get in their face, muscle up and niggle. A massive boost of confidence for the Kiwi’s who have a nice run home playing most games at home. Things coming good at the right time.

Grubbers Comment: Chances of Brent Tate winning the award for having the largest ‘Chin’ in the NRL, just ahead of Willie Mason and Mark Gasnier. Strong to Certain.

6. Brisbane Broncos: Were gutsy and fought through injury problems to beat the Cronulla Sharks, but probably should have won by more. Look a little disjointed at times and the magic from Darren Lockyer and Peter Wallace from early season is lacking, will make the Top 8 but will struggle for cohesion and depth.

Grubbers Comment: Odds that Wayne Bennett can leave the Broncos with a 2008 NRL Premiership? 150/1

7. Newcastle Knights: Defence is their motivation, Brian Smith has a bunch of no names, old timers and wanna-be’s playing out of their skin. Great formation and communication and their creative attack shone through against the Bunnies. Given a majority share of possession they can trouble any NRL team.

Grubbers Comment: Chances of the aging Adam McDougall playing Rugby League against his son soon? Strong to firm.

8. Melbourne Storm: A speed bump or a concern? A rare loss for the premiers, probably good to get it out of the way now but they are certainly a marked team. The opposition along with the NRL match officials are watching closely for their unique wrestling and subduing tactics. An interesting month ahead.

Grubbers Comment: Odds of Storm CEO Brian Waldron squaring off with Nathan Brown in a carpark soon? 25/1

9. Cronulla Sharks: Commendable defence again, repelled wave after wave of Brisbane Broncos attack – but they look shocking in attack. Were lucky to score any points and this could be a major hurdle for them. Are defending well enough to keep them in games, but just can’t put sides way – yet.

Grubbers Comment: Chances of Paul Gallen getting through an NRL game without being cited for something? Slim to None.

10. Manly Sea Eagles: Probably the loss they had to have. Were ambushed by the pumped up Roosters who simply had to win. Missing Jamie Lyon could prove to be a major problem for them, still have an element of ‘choke’ about them after last year. Can play so well, then just look soft and lost when on the big stage for a big match.

Grubbers Comment: Likelihood that Steve Matai has attended ‘anger management classes’ in recent weeks, after his niggling tactics have been in decline? 10/1

11. Parramatta Eels: A forgettable win, ugly and boring but it still got them 2 points. Had to defend a mammoth amount of tackles on their own line and while the Cowboys weren’t throwing everything at them – coach Michael Hagan would be happy with the tackling practise. Face a grand final this coming Round 21 against the Knights.

Grubbers Comment: Amount of fans the Eels still have left after playing some of the most boring NRL in 2008? 7000 and falling.

12. Gold Coast Titans: Were outclassed in the cold ACT, featured a stack of rookies who will be better for the run – but were never in the hunt. Many sides with more experienced personnel have suffered the same fate to Canberra at home – but sadly for the Titans their 2008 NRL season is grinding to a halt – depth getting the better of them.

Grubbers Comment: Chances of Titans officials expanding their Robina complex to include a private Hospital to diagnose and house an ever growing number of injured Gold Coast players? 5/1

13. Wests Tigers: Looked good in patches, but didn’t have the legs to go with Penrith for the long haul. Silly penalties killed them and like many other teams are missing experienced and key players during this critical time. Their entertaining attack flashed through in parts, but defence would really be worrying coach Tim Sheens after this poor showing. Have a favourable match up this week against the withering Bulldogs.

Grubbers Comment: Truth in the rumour that Tim Sheens was caught conducting ‘cloning’ experiments involving DNA from Robbie Farah; trying to duplicate his star for hooker and half? Strong to certain.

14. South Sydney Rabbitohs: The fairytale is officially over, the resurgent Bunnies were woeful in defence and some of the tries they let through were gobsmacking. Will want to end the year on a confident note, hoping new players won’t have the confidence sucked out of them by more poor results. Were lucky the Knights missed most of their conversions.

Grubbers Comment: Odds the NRL are checking to see if Souths actually had a full compliment of 13 players on the field after their defence was leaking like a siv for most of the game against Newcastle? 15/1

15. Bulldogs: Were dead men walked before the game started. A bunch of boys sent to do a mans job, have done the Dragons a massive favour and given them a massive dose of confidence. Ben Barba was solid and tried hard, needs a few years of growth before becoming a major force. Tough times at Belmore, makes previous media scandals look like childs play at the moment.

Grubbers Comment: Chances of the Bulldogs inviting Anthony Mundine into the Belmore camp to motivate and tutor young upcoming Bulldogs such as Ben Barba? 5000/1

16. North Queensland Cowboys: Not much to say about North Queensland. Didn’t look overly enthusiastic, with the Eels they turned on the poorest game of the NRL 2008 season. Steve Southern looked to be the only player really putting in, will be desperate to get Neil Henry into the joint after wrongly booting Graham Murray.

Grubbers Comment: Odds of any Cowboys player having the guts to steal Jarryd Haynes girlfriend anytime soon after he dished out the foot to the face treament? 100/1