Grubbers crystal ball, Round 8 tips

Grubber Crystal BallThe Grubber has submitted his tips and expert opinion for the upcoming Round 8 of the NRL Premiership, with the likes of Paul Gallen and Michael Ennis now free to play with their respective teams;

Bulldogs v Wests (ANZ Stadium)

This one makes for an interesting match-up, the improving defence of the Bulldogs and their gritty, grinding forwards and the razzle dazzle attack of the plucky Wests Tigers. Both forward packs have been doing well so far in 2009, the return of Chris Heighington should see him fresher and more potent for Wests.

The key to this game is the battle of the halves. Kimmorley v Benji, along with the influence of John Morris for the Tigers and Benny Roberts for the Dogs. I see Kimmorley having the better more precise kicking game and the creativity of Roberts could carve the Tigers sometimes mis-firing defence.

Bulldogs to win.

Manly v Storm (Brookvale Oval)

The grand-final rematch just isn’t the same without the likes of Brett Stewart, Steve Menzies, Steve Bell, Mark Bryant for Manly and of course Issy Folau, Mick Crocker, Antonio Kafusi for the Storm. Manly disappointed a little against the Cows last week, bombing several chances but they face a real out of sorts Storm side.

Should be fairly physical, but the crowd and cauldron atmopshere of Brooky will get the locals home.

Manly to win.

Eels v Cowboys (Parramatta Stadium)

The Eels will be glad to get a home game in their current state of affairs, however the victory of the rebel party at the Leagues club may have them in lifted spirits. Without an experienced half however, they will struggle to get points.

The Cowboys have been played into form by Manly and if they can cope with the flight to the wild west of Parramatta, they should be fine. Expect to see their forwards doing plenty of work, with the Eels tipped to inject plenty of second phase to keep them working. No Hindmarsh for the Parramatta side spells real trouble here.

Cows could really turn it on here and notch up a cricket score.

Money is running strong to Cowboys on this one, around the 1.45 head to head mark.

Cows to win.

Titans v Souths (Skilled Park)

With the in-form Rogers returning and Luke Bailey arriving to stake claims for Origin, expect to see a fired up Titans side. Will be well prepared for this and are always strong at home. Showed good signs against Penrith last week, although it was always going to be a tough road trip for them.

Souths are doing it tough and their current state of affairs was hidden by a woeful Cronulla outfit last week. Need early points and bounce to go their way to be any chance. Improvement need in defence for Bunnies and their lineup seems to keep changing personnel wise and position wise – lacking stability.

Money heavily leaning to Titans of course. Hard to tip against.

Titans to win.

Cronulla v Roosters (Toyota Park)

Now this one will have some feeling. Shire v Bondi, Ricky v Gus and two forms certainly out of sorts. The Roosters forwards have really been disappointing of late, their efforts against the Dragons last week were well below par.

There is a sniff of upset here, the Sharks getting Gallen back will be feeling better and Stuart will have them in siege mode.  The bookies look to be unsure also, with the Roosters around 1.75 and Sharks around $2. Take the Sharks with a 1-12 margin in this one, their situation is more desperate than the Roosters and playing at home, they should upset the apple cart here.

Sharks to win.

Knights v Broncos (EnergyAustralia)

Probably the hardest one to pick of this Round. The Knights at home, but without Jarrod Mullen. They have a ready made replacement in Dureau and certainly won’t be overawed here. Loss of focus against the Tigers last week was concerning for Newcastle and they would have been worked hard this week by coach Smith.

Broncos had an easy hitout against the Eels last week and should be much fresher. While an away game, they should be OK here and get home. Bookies have Knights as biggest outsiders of the weekend.

Broncos to win.

Raiders v Penrith (Canberra Stadium)

They are exciting to watch the Raiders, and will be keen to re-establish their strong fortress home ground. The Panthers were flying high Monday night and have re-signed their once maligned coach – but can they back up quickly?

It will be tough for the Penny boys, they tend to lift much more at home / night games. This road trip could throw them out of sync and the Raiders are playing with nothing to lose most of the time.

Will be hard for Luke Walsh to do what he did or better this week, too many eyes on him. Raiders will relish conditions and the bookies agree, Canberra strong favourites in their eyes.

Raiders should get this one.

Dragons v Warriors (WIN Stadium)

High anticipated game this one, the battle of the forwards will be key here. Price the workhorse and rookie Packer has been in great form off the bench, they will certainly test the likes of Weyman, Smith and Poore.

While the return of Wade McKinnon is a massive boost for the Warriors, as is Stacey Jones’ form – the bench for the Dragons just offers too much impact. With Costigan, Nightingale and Saffy all able to be thrown in – thats big depth and should hurt NZ.

WIN is always a tough venue and the Dragons should continue their run here. Bookies have the Dragons at super slim odds, and this is one to just follow the money on.

Dragons to win.

Great escape, Gallen and Ennis walk free

Gallen judiciary recordCronulla’s hardman Paul Gallen and livewire Bulldogs hooker Michael Ennis have both pulled off massive escape acts tonight, walking free from the NRL Judiciary when many thought they were set to do time.

The situation has become increasingly frustrating for Gallen, a regular visitor to the judiciary and considered by some to be one of the dirtiest players in the NRL. Our very own commentator, the NRL News Grubber was suggesting that Gallen buy a unit close to the judiciary to save on regular travel costs.

Regardless, Gallen has walked – with coach Ricky Stuart obviously over the moon to get his star player back on deck. If Gallen was rubbed out for any amount of time, there was a hint from the Sharks they may look to fine the player – as he spends so much time on the sidelines from judiciary bans.

Apparently Stuart delivered a passionate defence plea to the judiciary, re-enacting the Gallen tackle and explaining that he felt the head of Wing ‘bounced’ off the chest of his player. Stuart also asked the judiciary to look at the reaction of Gallen after the tackle, explaining there was no look of guilt or concern from Gallen – he merely felt it was a regulation hit, that wouldn’t be spoken of again.

It seemed the emotional stance from Stuart worked, with Gallen thanking his coach after he was cleared of any wrong-doing.

The only problem for Gallen, is that his aggressive stance will continue to see him in the spotlight and any wrong moves will have him in hot water soon after. With every mention, replay and hearing – this guy becomes more and more on the outer with officials. His situation is not dissimilar to that of Craig Smith several years ago, the Dragons forward having to leave the NRL as his running style saw him in constant trouble with the judiciary.

For Ennis, the in-form hooker looked a shot duck – with his over zealous chicken wing attempt looking very bad on the tape.

But the hooker claimed he wasn’t attempting to wrestle or perform a chicken wing, he was apparently reacting to the arm of Dugan that was thrust into the throat of Ennis. The hooker suggesting it was more a protection or retaliation, rather than a deliberate wrestle or chicken wing attempt.

In another successful hearing, Ennis too strode safely from the room and is set to take his place on the field this weekend. The freedom for Ennis proving very timely, with the in-form rake set to face his arch nemisis Robbie Farah in what should be a classic battle on Sunday.

Catalans show big faith in Greg Bird

Greg Bird Catalans DragonsHe’s been found guilt of glassing his ex-girlfriend and covering it up, but as Greg Bird’s legal team appeal the decision – he must be thankful for strong support he is getting from his current club; French outfit – Catalans Dragons.

While the Catalans aren’t sitting too highly on the Super League ladder, with Greg Bird on the field they have shown enough to trouble most sides and that explains why they are sticking by their man.

With Bird still having visa problems entering the UK, his current position is extremely tricky and unlike the Sharks in the NRL, the Catalans outfit have stood by Bird unbelievably.

While there was talk of Bird returning to the NRL after his ban, much has changed since that time. The Cronulla side continues to bumble along badly, with pressure mounting on their coach Ricky Stuart, current CEO Tony Zappia who knows Bird well is a possible candidate to replace Denis Fitzgerald at Parramatta and the Sharks might not have room, or funds to accomodate their former star.

But besides all this, Bird may not want to ever re-join the mob that kicked him onto the street and left him in the cold.

If his form continues and visa issues can be sorted out, it looks more and more likely Greg Bird will repay the faith shown in him by the Catalans Dragons.

Playing for the French side allows Bird to avoid the media spotlight of the Australian Rugby League scene and earn greater dollars for many years to come.

Bird is being flown back to France, the Dragons in hope he is ready to face the Leeds Rhinos in a much hyped clash – however injury looks set to keep Bird off the field.

Bird is due back in Sydney on the 22nd of June for sentencing over his glassing.

What do you think of the Greg Bird situation? Should he remain in the UK Super League, will he return to the NRL and when? Will he rejoin the Sharks or another side? Comments below –

Ricardo: NRL Team of Week 7

NRL Team of the Week Round 7 2009Ricky Ricardo looks over the play from NRL Round 7 and names his best lineup of the week.

Ricky’s Team of the Week Round 7

Fullback: Karmichael Hunt: Tore the Eels defence to shreds with some solid runs from kick returns and dummy half runs scoring 3 tries. The favourite for the QLD fullback position.

Winger: Etu Uaisele: Had a very strong debut with some solid runs and half breaks as well as getting on the score sheet. Will be a player to watch over the coming weeks.

Centre: Daryl Millard: A player who has had limited opportunities proved he belongs in the NRL with a solid performance for the Bulldogs in their win over the Raiders. Also scored a try and was solid in defence.

Centre: Dean Collis: A relatively unknown player scored an incredible three tries in the Tigers win and was the best player on ground. Challenging his team-mate Chris Lawrence along with others for a NSW Origin spot in the centres.

Winger: Luke Covell: A player who appears to be on the outer at the Sharks proved what a valuable asset he is to the club despite their loss with two tries and 3 conversions. He will be a huge loss if the club lets him go.

Five-Eighth: Darren Lockyer: Took his game to another level following a few weeks of disappointment. Directed the Broncos attack and was instrumental in the lead-up to all of their tries.

Halfback: Peter Wallace: Along with his five-eighth Lockyer, Wallace took control of the game and had a strong kicking game as well as pulling off some great cut-out balls to put players through. The favourite for the NSW halfback.

Prop: Keith Galloway: The red-headed prop is having his best season to date with scintillating performances every week. Gaining huge metres and producing solid defensive efforts has only strengthened his chances for a NSW Origin berth.

Hooker: Glen Buttriss: The livewire hooker came up with some important plays and created a few half breaks that led to strong attacking raids for the Raiders.

Prop: FuiFui MoiMoi: Despite the Eels heavy loss, MoiMoi’s commitment was there the whole time. He was the Eels most destructive forward and gained huge metres. Highlight was a huge shot on Karmichael Hunt.

Second Row: Tom Learoyd-Lahrs: A young forward who has really worked on his game over the past year or two and it is showing in his form. The Raiders best forward by far producing huge metres and proving hard to tackle. Could be a bolter for NSW.

Second Row: Nate Myles: One of the Roosters best despite a very poor performance against the Dragons. Never gave up and carried the ball as hard and fast as he could every time. Should make the QLD side.

Lock: Michael Luck: Amassed an incredible 74 tackles setting a new NRL record. The previous best was 67 by Nathan Hindmarsh. A very strong defender and mobile for a forward. Will be unlucky if he misses out on Origin.

Reserve 1: Mitchell Pearce: Sent to hospital following an allergic reaction to a needle, the little halfback defied the odds and played for the Roosters showing true determination and courage. Despite their heavy loss and his sickness, Pearce was one of the Roosters best.

Reserve 2: Jarrod Sammut: Came off the bench and won the game for the Panthers. Regarded as a player who can’t kick and can’t run, he showed he can do both of those scoring two tries.

Reserve 3: Hazem El Masri: In what could potentially be his last season, Hazem El Masri is ensuring that he goes out with a bang. Scored 14 points (1 try and 5 conversions) in the Bulldogs win over the Raiders and was strong in defence out on the wing.

Reserve 4: Benji Marshall: The Tigers best player setting up three tries and having a hand in all attacking raids by the Tigers. Has to back up his performance this week, with some solid ones over the next few weeks.

NRL Teams Round 8, 2009

NRL Teams Round 9 2009NRL Teams and Squad lineups for Round 8 of the National Rugby League, commencing with the Manly/Storm and Eels/Cowboys on Friday Night Football;

FRIDAY

MANLY SEA EAGLES v MELBOURNE STORM at Brookvale Oval, 7.35pm

SEA EAGLES: Michael Robertson, David Williams, Jamie Lyon, Steve Matai, Michael Bani, Chris Bailey, Matt Orford (capt), Brent Kite, Matt Ballin, Josh Perry, Anthony Watmough, Glenn Hall, Glenn Stewart. Interchange: Heath L’Estrange, Jason King, Adam Cuthbertson, Shane Rodney, George Rose (one to be omitted)

STORM: Billy Slater, Steve Turner, Will Chambers, Greg Inglis, Joseph Tomane, Brett Finch, Cooper Cronk, Jeff Lima, Cameron Smith (capt), Adam Blair, Wairangi Koopu, Ryan Hoffman, Dallas Johnson. Interchange: Ryan Hinchcliffe, Matt Cross, Aiden Tolman, Brett White, Hep Cahill, Scott Anderson (two to be omitted)

Referees: Shayne Hayne, Tony De Las Heras

PARRAMATTA EELS v NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS at Parramatta Stadium, 7.35pm

EELS: Luke Burt, Etu Uaisele, Jarryd Hayne, Taulima Tautai, Joel Reddy, Feleti Mateo, Kris Keating, Nathan Cayless (capt), Matthew Keating, Fuifui Moimoi, Todd Lowrie, Ben Smith, Joe Galuvao. Interchange: Jeff Robson, Weller Hauraki, Tim Mannah, Brendan Oake.

COWBOYS: Matt Bowen, Ben Farrar, Ashley Graham, Willie Tonga, John Williams, Travis Burns, Johnathan Thurston (capt), Shane Tronc, Aaron Payne, Antonio Kaufusi, Carl Webb, Scott Bolton, Steve Southern. Interchange: Ben Harris, Steve Rapira, Matt Scott, James Tamou, Dayne Weston (one to be omitted)

Referees: Jason Robinson, Gerard Sutton

SATURDAY

GOLD COAST TITANS v SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS at Skilled Park, 3pm

TITANS: Preston Campbell, Kevin Gordon, Esi Tonga, Brett Delaney, Chris Walker, Mat Rogers, Scott Prince (capt), Luke Bailey (capt), Nathan Friend, Michael Henderson, Anthony Laffranchi, Mark Minichiello, Ashley Harrison. Interchange: Aaron Cannings, Will Matthews, Luke O’Dwyer, William Zillman, Josh Graham (one to be omitted)

RABBITOHS: Luke Capewell, Nathan Merritt, Colin Best, Beau Champion, Fetuli Talanoa, John Sutton, Chris Sandow, Luke Stuart, Issac Luke, Roy Asotasi (capt), David Kidwell, David Fa’alogo, Craig Wing. Interchange: Jamie Simpson, Eddy Pettybourne, Jaiman Lowe, Scott Geddes, Shannan McPherson, Ben Lowe. (two to be ommited)

Referees: Ashley Klein, Chris James

CRONULLA SHARKS v SYDNEY ROOSTERS at Toyota Stadium, 5.30pm

SHARKS: Mitch Brown, David Simmons, Ben Pomeroy, Matthew Wright, Luke Covell, Trent Barrett (capt), Brett Seymour, Kade Snowden, Corey Hughes, Luke Douglas, Reece Williams, Anthony Tupou, Paul Gallen. Interchange: Reni Maitua, Bryan Norrie, Ian Donnelly, Terence Seu Seu.

ROOSTERS: Jordan Tansey, Sam Perrett, Setaimata Sa, Ben Jones, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Braith Anasta (capt), Mitchell Pearce, Nate Myles, James Aubusson, Frank-Paul Nuuausala, Sia Soliola, Craig Fitzgibbon, Shane Shackleton. Interchange: Lopini Paea, Willie Mason, Stanley Waqa, Jake Friend.

Referees: Gavin Badger, Matt Cecchin

NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v BRISBANE BRONCOS at EnergyAustralia Stadium, 7.30pm

KNIGHTS: Kurt Gidley (capt), James McManus, Junior Sau, Adam MacDougall, Akuila Uate, Ben Rogers, Scott Dureau, Mark Taufua, Isaac De Gois, Chris Houston, Steve Simpson, Zeb Taia, Matt Hilder. Interchange: Marvin Karawana, Tim Natusch, Richie Fa’aoso, Danny Wicks, Keith Lulia (one to be omitted).

BRONCOS: Karmichael Hunt, Antonio Winterstein, Steve Michaels, Justin Hodges, Israel Folau, Darren Lockyer (capt), Peter Wallace, Nick Kenny, Andrew McCullough, Joel Clinton, Sam Thaiday, Ashton Sims, Corey Parker. Interchange: Aaron Gorrell, Palmer Wapau, Josh McGuire, Alex Glenn.

Referees: Tony Archer, Phil Haines

CANBERRA RAIDERS v PENRITH PANTHERS at Canberra Stadium, 7.30pm

RAIDERS: Josh Dugan, Adrian Purtell, Jarrod Croker, Joel Monaghan, Justin Carney, Terry Campese, Josh McCrone, David Shillington, Glen Buttriss, Scott Logan, Joe Picker, Bronson Harrison, Alan Tongue (capt). Interchange: Travis Waddell, Nigel Plum, Josh Miller, Dane Tilse

PANTHERS: Lachlan Coote, Michael Gordon, Michael Jennings, Gavin Cooper, Shane Elford, Wade Graham, Luke Walsh, Frank Puletua, Paul Aiton, Petero Civoniceva (capt), Trent Waterhouse, Frank Pritchard, Luke Lewis. Interchange: Jarrod Sammut, Tim Grant, Matthew Bell, Nathan Smith, Joel Romelo, Geoff Daniela, Adam Woolnough (three to be omitted)

Referees: Steve Lyons, Brett Suttor

SUNDAY

ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS v WARRIORS at WIN Stadium, 2pm

DRAGONS: Darius Boyd, Brett Morris, Beau Scott, Matt Cooper, Wendell Sailor, Jamie Soward, Ben Hornby (capt), Justin Poore, Dean Young, Michael Weyman, Matt Prior, Ben Creagh, Jeremy Smith. Interchange: Dan Hunt, Neville Costigan, Jason Nightingale, Jarrod Saffy, Mathew Head (one to be omitted)

WARRIORS: Wade McKinnon, Denan Kemp, Simon Mannering, Jerome Ropati, Manu Vatuvei, Joel Moon, Stacey Jones, Jesse Royal, Ian Henderson, Steve Price (capt), Ben Matulino, Jacob Lillyman, Micheal Luck. Interchange: Nathan Fien, Russell Packer, Lewis Brown, Patrick Ah Van, Lance Hohaia, Aidan Kirk (two to be omitted)

Referees: Ben Cummins, Jason Robinson

BULLDOGS v WESTS TIGERS at ANZ Stadium, 3pm

BULLDOGS: Luke Patten, Hazem El Masri, Daryl Millard, Jamal Idris, Bryson Goodwin, Ben Roberts, Brett Kimmorley, Ben Hannant, Michael Ennis, Michael Hodgson, Gary Warburton, Andrew Ryan (capt), David Stagg. Interchange: Chris Armit, Greg Eastwood, Yileen Gordon, Jarrad Hickey.

TIGERS: Tim Moltzen, Taniela Tuiaki, Dean Collis, Chris Lawrence, Beau Ryan, John Morris, Benji Marshall, Bryce Gibbs, Robbie Farah (capt), Keith Galloway, Gareth Ellis, Chris Heighington, Todd Payten. Interchange: Shannon Gallant, Dene Halatau, Danny Galea, Corey Payne.

Referees: Jared Maxwell, Tony De Las Heras

NRL Power Rankings – Round 7, 2009

NRL Power RankingsWhat a way to finish NRL Round for 2009, the Panthers turning it on over the Titans in a highly entertaining game as the consistent heavy-weights, Broncos, Dragons and Bulldogs remain atop the Grubbers Weekly NRL Power Rankings; this week the Grubber gets some expert tips from old friend and former referee Percy Le Blanc

1. Broncos – Faced a focus test against the lowly ranked Eels and we’re helped along by Karmichael Hunt returning to form in a big way. Still possess possibly the best backline in the NRL with Folau, Hodges, Hunt and also Winterstein able to slice teams to bits. Confidence returning to Lockyers game and forwards are starting to believe much more than the earlier rounds.

Grubbers Comment: Odds that Broncos officials are now camped outside Karmichael Hunt’s house, ensuring he only signs with them? 8/1

2. Dragons – A big occasion on Anzac Day and they didn’t flinch, Soward continues his blockbusting form with possibly the best kicking game in the comp at present. Jeremy Smith has grown enormously under Wayne Bennett and the relentless defence is now being aided by improving attack. Firming each week.

Grubbers Comment: What is it with Dragons goal-kickers; first it was ‘Chook-style’ Herron, then ‘Hittler-style’ Riddell and now ‘Drummer-boy’ Soward? 

3. Bulldogs – A highly entertaining side, that now has the ability to attack from anywhere but also win ugly when needed. Had some scares in defence, but are certainly good enough to blast their way out of trouble. Suspension of Ennis is a setback, but with the depth they have in 2009, shouldn’t be the end of the world. When Eastwood gets more fitness under his belt, the Dogs have potentially the best forward pack in the game.

Grubbers Comment: Odds of KFC wanting to sponsor the Bulldogs after being impressed by the Michael Ennis chicken wing? 4/1

4. Panthers – Have burst back onto the scene in recent weeks, have been unlucky in their losses but put it all together against the Titans. Addition of Luke Walsh looks to be the answer to structure, stability and composure. The man that Brian Smith once said was better than Jarrod Mullen proved his worth almost immediately. Sammut had a blinder at fullback and Waterhouse/Pritchard are reaching peak form. Will be hard to contain in the weeks ahead.

Grubbers Comment: Odds of the Panthers keeping a halves combination the same for more than 1 week? 25/1

5. Cowboys – Were played back into form by a woeful Manly side. The Cowboys still have some improvement and their forwards are a yard short in pace, but the sparkle of Bowen, Thurston and Tonga had them humming along at various stages in this match. The North Queensland side tend to play much better when the likes of O’Donnell and Webb get fired up, need a rocket under them more often.

Grubbers Comment: Chances that Luke O’Donnell was told to ‘go the biff’ to boost his Origin chances for 2009?

6. Rabbitohs – Played a game of touch football, but was a great chance to tweak their attack. Used the occasion well to enhance combinations and basically have a training run against the struggling Cronulla side. Have the talent to do the job, just need to select the right positions and win a few consistently to get the confidence back to 100%

Grubbers Comment: Odds of South Sydney ever getting their Crowe-promised trip to the Playboy Mansion? 15/1

7. Tigers – Heartstopping effort against the NRL form leading Knights. Early on were woeful in defence and very shaky under the high ball. Again used their attack to get themselves out of trouble. Were helped by injuries to Knights players along the way, but scoring several tries down the Collis edge was ideal for confidence and improvement. Most of their points come from Lawrence/Tuiaki and the change was a positive sign.

Grubbers Comment: Odds that Benji Marshall has had some coaching from David Copperfield in recent weeks? 15/1

8. NZ Warriors – Had the chance to snap a win in golden point against the Storm, but were out of luck. Are doing well considering the setbacks they’ve had in recent weeks, their attacking structure is still a little too adlib and reliant on Stacey Jones – but until they start losing consistently it’s hard to argue. Getting good service from Russell Packer and Manu Vatuvei. A solid away game showing from a team that used to travel poorly.

Grubbers Comment: Amount of field-goal practise to be done in Warriors training this week? Plenty.

9. Storm – With each week that goes by in 2009, they slip further back. Probably not getting the improvement rate that Craig Bellamy would like, although addition of Finch was a good sign. Were unlucky at times, but their forward back isn’t having the impact it should. Sorely missing Jeremy Smith it seems, along with Antonio Kafusi in some ways. Not only need a win, but need a big win to get them believing again.

Grubbers Comment: Chances that Bellamy will need anger management if losses continue? 6/1

10. Knights – From penthouse to outhouse in a week. They let this one slip and coach Brian Smith had every right to be furious. Jarrod Mullen’s form and ability to play injured was a real highlight, as was the consistent ability of James McMannus. Biggest worry in the next few weeks is niggling injuries and the upcoming loss of Kurt Gidley and possibly others to Origin.

Grubbers Comment: Odds that the Knights doctors ran out of needles during this game after injuries galore? 10/1

11. Titans – Were blown away in the opening stanza and sorely missed Luke Bailey and Mat Rogers, however not a massively worrying situation for coach John Cartwright. This was always shaping as a tough game and the positives came from Kevin Gordon who performed well and the consistent form of Preston Campbell in attack. Prince was guilty of trying too hard and frustration saw him try to milk too many penalties.

Grubbers Comment: Odds that the Scott Prince / Shane Elford cuddle rivalled the Benji Marshall / Scott Prince kiss? 10/1

12. Raiders – Were maybe guilty of trying to get too fancy against the Bulldogs. Their defence was very ordinary in the backend, however they did send a scare through the Bulldogs camp early on with some good play. Lack the ability to play a grinding set and kick style, seem to want to attack from every play. Highly entertaining, but not the kind of footy that can see them climb the ladder.

Grubbers Comment: Chances that Raiders players use ‘snow chains’ on their cars to get to and from home games? 15/1

13. Roosters – Were beaten in every department on Anzac Day and are guilty of not improving on a weekly basis. As mentioned yesterday, their forward pack is not allowing the likes of Anasta and Pearce to weave their magic with enough time. Mason and O’Meley need to lift a gear and similar to the Cowboys, these guys tend to go better when fired up or under the pump. Trick for Freddy is how does he motivate them? Apparently the grog is back on the agenda now after the blanket ban turned out to be getting them no where fast.

Grubbers Comment: Odds that by the look of Mitchell Pearce’s eyes, he’d gone 10 rounds with his girlfriend during the week? 12/1

14. Manly – Their own worst enemies at times, bombed so many tries in this match and missed plenty of tackles. Shane Rodney had a good game as did Chris Bailey who in the opinion of the Grubber, could be a good pick for NSW Origin pivot. He is tough and talented, just what the Blues need. Jamie Lyon had a shocker and bombed several chances, needs to learn to pass. Watmough too many arm grabs and the Ox was totally outclassed by JT. Bring back the snake, fast.

Grubbers Comment: When considering Manly, if there is no Brett, don’t place the bet.

15. Eels – Were totally outclassed, but the coach will be happy with improved effort on previous week. Let several chances slip that could have improved the score and made things look a little better. Only positives for this club are the changing of the guard at the Leagues club and the upcoming home game that may give them some tiny advantage against the improving Cowboys next week.

Grubbers Comment: Odds of coach Daniel Anderson quickly joining the likes of Denis Fitzgerald and Alan Overton? 4/1

16. Sharks – The no try for David Simmons typifies the Sharks at the moment, they simply can’t do anything right. Bottom line is this side is lacking confidence and needs a heart transplant quick smart. Only a win can help these guys and a victory doesn’t look likely anytime soon, unless their opposition miss the bus to the ground on matchday.

Grubbers Comment: Chances of Paul Gallen renting a unit right next door the NRL Judiciary Offices? 10/1

Panthers blitz Titans early 34-20

Panthers Titans NRL Round 7 2009If you followed the money in the NRL, then you would have made some decent pickings on the Panthers tonight – the Penrith side heavily backed to win, and boy did they produce a dynamic first half.

The Panthers slotting Luke Walsh into halfback with instant results, turning on the points in the first half and then weathering a strong Titans fightback to win 34-20 at CUA Stadium in Penrith.

From the outset, the Panthers looked to be playing with much better structure and Walsh seemed to integrate so well, you’d think he’d known the Panthers boys for years.

With Walsh combining well with the hard running Waterhouse and Luke Lewis – the Penrith side had cut through Titans in no time, racing to a 12-0 lead in just over 10 minutes of the game.

With possession running at near 60% in the first term, the Gold Coast side had little chance to make an impact and were fairly ill-disciplined for the most part. Scott Prince giving away a poor penalty, trying to milk it at the ruck as did others as his side struggled to contain the Panthers juggernaut. Most penalties the Titans gave away, were followed by Penrith tries.

Walsh scored on debut and was positioning his outside men very well.

Fullback Lachlan Coote was injured in a crusher tackle that saw him leave the field and allowed former fullback Jarrod Sammut to slot into his old spot.

The freedom afforded to Sammut at fullback produced immediate results, he was in everything in attack. Within minutes, Sammut had 2 tries for himself – the second a superb kick ahead for himself, to regather, beat Zillman and score a classic.

With the score 22-4 at half time to the Panthers, it looked like being a long night for the visitors.

But with some possession, the Gold Coast side stablised and mounted an impressive comback. Early in the second term, the Titans side experienced a period of 5 minutes with near 95% possession, allowing them to burn up some of the Panthers petrol in defence.

This allowed Prince to get himself into the game and involve his outside men much more, new face Kevin Gordon and William Zilmann combining well to score a tough try and the ever-calm hand of Nathan Friend continuing to terrorise the Panthers from dummy half.

It was immediately game-on.

With several rapid fire tries, the Titans were back within 8 points and looked every chance for the comeback win. The Panthers not helping themselves, gifting several penalties and losing focus for a period.

With the game in the balance, it took a split second of Michael Jennings brilliance near the hour mark to give his side the edge.

Jennings dashing from dummy half to expose a poor Ashley Harrison defensive effort, turning on his blistering pace to go 40m to score. The try never allowed the Titans to recover, winger Shane Elford scoring an intercept effort only minutes later to shut the game and send the locals into raptures.

When they’re on, the Panthers, much like the Tigers can really blow sides away. They do have their defensive problems and can lose focus at times, giving away poor penalties – but they do have the power to produce when they really want to.

The addition of Walsh added plenty to the structure of the side, with more options – they look more composed and comfortable when under the pump. The only problem for Matt Elliott now looks to be at fullback, with Sammut playing so well – you have the boom rookie Coote and Sammut to choose from.

For the Titans, it was always going to be a hard road trip. The betting plunge on them from so early in the week suggests their mental attitude was off-par from an early stage, the loss of Rogers and Bailey having a major effect.

Berlin Wall crashes down at Parramatta

Denis Fitzgerald Parramatta Eels CEOThe future of Parramatta Eels boss Denis Fitzgerald is in tatters, as his reign of 30 years at the Eels club has been shattered after a massive voting backlash against the current directors.

The new 3P ticket romping to victory and obtaining full control of the League’s club board.

All 7 nominees from the new ticket got home to secure seats on the board and they gained more than double the votes of their opposition. The overall vote attracting more than 2000 votes.

The final verdict of the vote came at around 10 pm last night.

When the result was announced last night at the club, the roar from the patrons was enormous as the previous regime was left shattered.

With the new board at the helm, they have announced they will immediately look to outst Fitzgerald from his position – however, shifting the former emperor from his throne won’t be easy. Fitzgerald has never been one to go quietly, so it seems the new board members may have to pay him out if they sack him or find a technicality to oust him without financial penalty.

Phil Gould fires back at Ricky Stuart

Ricky Stuart vs Phil GouldThe war of words between Phil Gould and Ricky Stuart seems to be just as interesting as the footy at the moment, with Gus firing back with some classic commentary after Stuart took the bait earlier in the week.

Gould’s column today quickly became one of the most read at the Sydney Morning Herald, with Gould opening the article with a firm salvo fired at Stuart –

“To be honest Ricky, you are the most pig-headed and ungrateful person I’ve met in football. I discontinued my association with you four years ago because I could no longer tolerate your petulance.” said Gould.

Bang. It’s game on.

Love him or hate him, Phil Gould is a straight shooter. In a day and age where most things are politically correct, watered down and sheltered – Gould tells it how it is. Thats always going to put some people off-side, but not only does Gould have an astute Rugby League brain – boy can he write an article. If there was a Grand Final for the most hard-hitting, witty and insightful Rugby League writing – then it’s gotta be Phil Gould and Paul Kent battling it out.

This was classic Gould, going after Stuart full-bore and giving everyone a little bit more insight into the battle at Bondi between the 2 of them a few years back.

“As for your childish comments I somehow cost you your position at the Roosters 18 months later, perhaps my lawyers should ask you to explain that rubbish in court. People are sick of your continually trying to rewrite history. These feeble attempts to erase the real factors behind your sacking and blame others for your demise are embarrassing.” said Gould.

It seems everyone is going legal in the Rugby League world, Gould threatening Stuart with his legal team, apparently Denis Fitzgerald also looking to do the same for Phil Rothfield over the Daily Telegraph – it’s all out war and this is off the field!

Gould goes on to discuss Ricky’s appointment at the Sharks, commenting on the fact that Stuart Raper was pushed aside to make way for Stuart;

“Stuart Raper must be scratching his head at why he was removed to make way for you, given your current position on the premiership ladder. Do you ever spare a thought for him?

It’s time you stop this ridiculous charade of being hard done by.” questioned Gould.

Gould then goes out to point out that Chris Anderson had a major task in trying to clean up the mess left at Bondi; the job eventually costing Anderson his health and coaching job;

“Roosters management did you a favour terminating your contract. It provided you with a perfect opportunity to start afresh at another club and save your reputation. Meanwhile, your replacement, Chris Anderson, had to come in and try to mop up the mess you left behind. Sadly, the enormity of the task cost him his health and his job.”

Gould finishes with talk of the Daily Telegraph approaching him for comment on Stuarts future. This must be the most concerning part for the current Cronulla coach. Forget the war of words for now, sure it makes interesting reading as the two go hammer and tong – but ultimately the pressure is starting to build around Ricky Stuart.

The Sharks have had well documented financial troubles in recent times, their recruitment has been highly questionable, their attendance numbers and very worrying and there has been street corner talk of them being possible relocation candidates.

The team isn’t winning football games, they have problems with injuries sure, but the buck must stop with the coach and for Stuart, if he can’t pull a rabbit out of the hat soon – things are only going to get worse.

He might be wise to resist a return serve to Gould, as every article and sensational headline draws more attention to Stuart and his role at the Sharks. In this case the Cronulla coach has much, much more to lose than just the war of words.

NRL Round Round 7 Early Wrap

NRL Round 7 2009Here come the Dogs, with NRL Round 7 almost completed, with only the Panthers and Titans due to meet tomorrow night – here is how things have panned out:

NRL Round 7

Broncos d Eels 40- 8

Always going to be a David and Golliath battle, the Broncos backline oozed class in front of their home crowd and Karmichael Hunt burst back to life with 3 tries. The Eels while trying hard, remain a little lost without an experienced halfback. Kris Keating warming and will be a future talent, but just needs time.

Souths d Sharks 32-26

Some concerning defence issues for both sides, however the Bunnies looked very sharp in attack. Paul Gallen remains a loose cannon with his play and the pressure seems to be building on Ricky Stuart after a poor season start. Souths’ will be happy to notch up another win, regardless.

Dragons d Roosters 29-0

The gritty Saints continued on their merry way, with no Dell show either. Soward continuing to grow, this time burning the side that let him leave so early – the Roosters. Jeremy Smith another stand out game and the Roosters look to have their work cut-out this year. Mark O’Meley seems a long way from his best and isn’t being helped much by other forwards at the club.

Cowboys d Manly 26-16

No Brett Stewart, another loss. Matt Orford and Manly might be trying to dodge the Stewart talk, but the bottom line is that he is always missed. Manly bombed several tries and Jamie Lyon made some poor decisions – hogging several times and costing his team. The Cowboys warmed up and turned on their vintage globe trotting best. Bowen getting back to best form, as is JT. Big cowboys forwards were a touch slow around the ruck however, might be an area that opposition sides target in the weeks ahead.

Storm dr Warriors 14-14

Another match where both teams missed several chances, however last ditch defence from both was impressive. Brett Finch felt is way into the side nicely and assisted the Storm cause, however the Melbourne team cannot hit the go button in attack like they used to. NZ Warriors getting good service from Manu Vatuvei; again at his barnstorming best. One that got away more so for NZ, Jones missing a simple field goal in golden point.

Bulldogs d Raiders 30-20

While the Dogs took a while to get going, they eventually overhauled the Raiders in close affair. Line defence from Canberra was a real worry, with Ennis piercing from close range and setting up another for Ben Hennant which made the home side look very ordinary. Ennis in trouble with a chicken wing tackle and will miss at least one week, the Raiders also showed some problems with the Dogs, singling out Hazem El Masri a few times in defence to get points

Wests d Knights 26-24

The Tigers eventually got home in this thriller, they were made to look ordinary early on – with some poor committment to the high ball in defence and some coach killing penalties that let the Knights run away to a good lead.  The Newcastle side were hurting with injuries to Mullen, Gidley and Rogers all reducing their fitness in the backend. The Tigers do have some issues, but their belief and attack was enough to get them home in the end. Tuiaki try probably should have been given benefit of doubt, so the Tigers did deserve to win this.