NRL News Saturday Results

Generic NRL Super Saturday Results – More articles and in depth discussion to follow during the weekend.

Dragons 38 def Panthers 20

ST George-Illawarra capped Mark Gasnier’s long-awaited NRL return with a hard-fought 38-20 victory over Penrith at CUA Stadium.
The star five-eighth was solid in his first game of the season after suffering a ruptured pectoral muscle in the Dragons Charity Shield pre-season game in March.
His most telling moment came in the dying seconds when he sent Jason Nightingale over for his second and the Dragons’ seventh try of the night.
It was one of three late tries by the away team which ended a spirited fightback from the bottom-placed Panthers, and left the Dragons – temporarily at least – within two points of the top eight.
Gasnier admitted he was rusty in his comeback.
But after spending the past 18 rounds watching his teammates from the sidelines, the 26-year-old could hardly hide his joy of getting through his comeback match unscathed.
“It was just fun to be back with the guys,” Gasnier said.
“Now I can go back and surf tomorrow morning feeling guilt free, and get back to the way life used to be.
“I didn’t expect to set the world on fire tonight, there’s a lot of rust there, but it’s something that’s going to come with playing football.
“The good thing is I get to play next week, it’s something I’ve been looking forward to for about 18 weeks.
“I’ve missed a lot of football the past three or so years, so I don’t really take it for granted much more.
“I think the past two years I’ve enjoyed my football a lot more than what I did when I was younger.
“I probably took it a little bit for granted when I was younger, but I really appreciate it now.”
The Dragons rebounded well from their heavy defeat against the New Zealand Warriors last week to claim their third win from four games.
They looked to have the game in their keeping after charging to a 22-10 lead after two tries – to Josh Morris and Rangi Chase – within three minutes before and after half-time.
The Panthers, though, clawed back to 22-20 down with 20 minutes to play when Richie Williams scored against his former club and then Nick Youngquest touched down from a Peter Wallace kick – the fifth try on the night coming from a boot.
They had their chances to take the lead soon after, but came up short, allowing the Dragons to seal the result with tries to Matt Cooper, Ben Creagh and Nightingale in the final 12 minutes.
“We created enough opportunities to win that game quite easily,” said Panthers coach Matt Elliott after his side’s sixth loss in seven games left the club rooted to last place.
“And when we didn’t take those opportunities, the opposition went down the other end of the field and took theirs.”
Williams, who endured a rocky ride with the Dragons to start the year before joining Penrith mid-season, was “stoked” to get a try against his former club.
“To get the victory would have been sweet, obviously we didn’t, but oh well,” he said.
Adding further to the Panthers woes, Luke Lewis (groin) and fullback Michael Gordon (hamstring) both suffered injuries.
AAP


Melbourne Storm 34 def Raiders 6

SEETHING Canberra coach Neil Henry accused referee Jared Maxwell of having a “pre-conceived idea” about his team’s match with Melbourne Storm at Olympic Park.
Canberra lost 34-6 to the competition front-runner and while Henry admitted the better side had won, he said his team was hard done by around the ruck area.
“Did Jared Maxwell have a good game in my opinion? We got beat by a very good side but no he didn’t,” Henry said.
“In my opinion did he have a pre-conceived idea how this game should go? Yes he did.
“They got leap-frogged up the field a number of times.
“It’s hard enough to come here as it is but when well in the game (the penalty count is) 7-1 … I thought it was very lopsided.”
But Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy said Maxwell could have blown up more penalties and accused Canberra of repeatedly being offside as it pressured Storm’s kickers.
The final penalty count was 8-5 and Bellamy believed there should have been a greater disparity.
“He (Maxwell) could have gone a little further and blew the pea right out of the whistle but he didn’t.
“You don’t want a thousand penalties in a game but I thought they could have been penalised a little bit more.
“They went right to the edge there tonight.
“You have a look at the kick pressure, two or three of them were offside nearly every kick pressure.
“They get called offside but the referee should be penalising them.”
It provided an interesting end to an otherwise fairly standard match, during which Melbourne proved it could play below par and still win comfortably.
It was Storm’s seventh successive victory and maintained its four-point buffer over second-placed Manly, and kept the Raiders winless in Melbourne since 2000.
Backing up from the Monday night shellacking of Newcastle, Storm looked flat early on and put itself under pressure with a spate of uncharacteristic errors and only led 16-6 at the break.
Canberra, who is outside the eight, also deserved credit as it toiled hard and out-enthused the home side in the chilly seven degree conditions.
Melbourne scored six tries, with five-eighth Greg Inglis in his first game back from a knee injury suffered during Origin, collecting a double.
Halfback Cooper Cronk set up two through his kicks.
The first came five minutes into the match as he put a perfectly-weighted 40m kick through which sat up just over the try-line, with veteran winger Matt Geyer winning the race to the ball.
His second was similar, seven minutes into the second half, with fellow winger Steve Turner collecting the spoils which opened the lead out to 22-6.
One of the other tries of the night was scored by tearaway teen Israel Folau, who showed he has pace to match his power.
The giant 18-year-old ran on to a pass and palmed off one defender, stepped out of a tackle and then stepped around another defender in a 30m dash to the line.
Inglis’s knee flared again while fullback Billy Slater suffered a knock to the ankle however neither injury was rated seriously.
Bellamy said he was satisfied with his side’s performance.
“We got off to a good start but then we lost our way with some handling, we just couldn’t get out of our half.
“The second half ended up into a grind but I was happy with the way we grinded.”
AAP


Roosters 20 def Knights 17

SYDNEY Roosters continued Brad Fittler’s unbeaten record as coach with a late 20-17 win over a courageous Newcastle Knights at EnergyAustralia Stadium.
Centre Mitchell Aubusson stepped over the tryline with three minutes remaining to hand rookie coach Fittler his second win from as many games since taking over the duties from Chris Anderson.
“It’s good fun as a coach,” said a cheeky Fittler after the tense win.
“It was a great finish and great that they kept believing.
“I watched it (the game) a bit more closely, the first one I was a bit more excited.
“(But) there’s not much you can do up there (in the coach’s box), you can pass on the messages but no one listens.”
But as Fittler continued smiling his way through the coaching journey his Newcastle opposite Brian Smith had to put on a brave face as he fielded his most depleted Knights side of the season with injured New South Wales Origin stars Danny Buderus, Steve Simpson and Jarrod Mullen all sidelined and prop Adam Woolnough a late withdrawal due to a virus.
The news only gets worse too with talented young back rower Zeb Taia injuring the AC joint in his shoulder.
Newcastle led 12-10 at half-time but the Roosters struck early in the second half through Lopini Paea before Knights winger Cooper Vuna hit back to complete his double and level scores 16-all in the 55th minute.
Rookie Knights halfback Luke Walsh booted a 66th minute field goal to grab a 17-16 lead and raise hopes of an against-the-odds win but the Roosters – with seven Origin experienced players and a Kiwi international – had the nerve to rally at the death.
Smith felt his side deserved the victory but lacked the experience to dominate down the stretch and close out the result.
“We did not dominate enough to feel completely comfortable (with a one-point lead) but at the back end I thought we had done enough to win,” said Smith.
“If you don’t dominate the game you run the risk of losing it.
“We have a lot of young fellas in that team and guys who are not comfortable in first grade dealing with that sort of pressure down the stretch.
“We were a bit stiff not to get the cash tonight.”
The Roosters victory keeps alive slim finals hopes, moving to 16 competition points but remaining in 15th place due to an atrocious for and against record.
More importantly, with Penrith losing to St George-Illawarra, they hold a handy four-point gap over the last-placed Panthers to ease pressure of claiming the wooden spoon in their centenary season.
But Fittler is refusing to consider both finals and wooden spoon chances.
“It’s the one thing I’ve promised myself, not to look at the ladder,” said Fittler.
“Just keep plugging along.
“(I’ll look at the ladder) at the last round, or the week before that.”
Centre Sia Soliola is the Roosters’ only concern after he suffered a fractured eye socket late in the game and could miss four weeks.
AAP

Manly scrape home over spare parts Sharks

Manly Sea Eagles 29 def Cronulla Sharks 22

The 21 year hoodoo was finally broken by Manly at Shark Park tonight; but only just – as a young and enthusiastic Sharks outfit went within millimetres of taking the win.

From the onset, the Sharks looked like winning just through sheer enthusiasm as they drove Manly backwards with the ball and gang tackled effectively to make a game of it.

Manly missing Matt Orford and Travis Burns did lack their usual precision and direction around centre field, but Michael Monaghan again showed his worth – probing all night, laying on some fine passing and closing the match out with a long range field goal in the final minutes.

The nerves were evident from Manly in the beginning and it wasn’t until the inexperienced Sharks pack began to tire, that Manly found the gaps and grew in confidence. Similar to NSW in Origin 3 however, the Sea Eagles just couldn’t find the killer blow until the final minutes.

With the scores locked at 22 all and under 10 minutes remaining, fill-in half back Brett Seymour went for a 12 metre field goal – narrowly missing as he hit the right hand up right. From the return set, the Sea Eagles get a penalty and go on to score – that was the different in the end. A single penalty that turned the game.

While Ricky Stuart will be happy with the effort of a spare parts team; he will be frustrated with the one that got away – knowing the Sharks could have easily stolen that game.

Mitch Brown and Fraser Anderson were standouts for the Sharks, with Luke Douglas physical and effective centre field.

Manly would have enjoyed the test tonight, and the form of forwards Adam Cuthbertson and Glenn Hall will have Des Hasler breathing easier. Brett Stewart continues to be slick in attack, an effective Manly weapon with pure speed that opposition teams simply cannot plan for.

The negative for Manly was the amount of points they leaked tonight. The usually bulletproof Sea Eagles line was pierced several times tonight; with the Sharks possibly handing other Top 8 sides a blueprint for scoring against Manly.

Jamie Lyon continues to lack defensive technique suited to pivot, his sliding style and failure to read short second man plays proved a problem for Manly as did the continued aggression of Steve Matai on the left edge. The Sharks baited Matai and executed a quality trap play to suck Matai in and send the wide defender in for the try – something they obviously talked about and Ricky Stuart couldn’t hide his delight as the set play came off.

On the bright side, it’s much better for Manly to find these problems now and Des Hasler and the squad will work overtime to iron out the issues before they face the Eels at Parramatta Stadium next week.

Bulldogs find flair against Titans

Bulldogs 36 def Gold Coast Titans 12

The Bulldogs pulled together strongly tonight to polish off the Gold Coast Titans comfortably on the coast; most likely ending the NRL Top 8 Final hopes of the young Titans club.

While without Willie Mason and Mark O’Meley; the Dogs looked strong from early on and always looked like running away with the match. The Titans did well to stop the score from blowing out even further; as the Bulldogs were in a try scoring mood and switched the ball from left to right in damaging fashion.

Luke Patten was at his flawless best tonight; rock solid in his sweeper role and injecting well in attack – the General getting a double for his efforts. Sonny Bill Williams as he so often does, stepped up in the absence of the big names for the Bulldogs and was brutal in his defence throughout the game. SBW looked mean and eager; throwing his shoulder around with devastating effect. If only Sonny Bill could play at this level when the Bulldogs are full strength – they would be unstoppable.

SBW’s efforts were paying off for his team mates. As Williams attracted 3 and sometimes 4 players to stop him; Reni Maitua began running off SBW’s hip and it caused headaches all night for the Titans. This was easily Reni’s best match for some time and his form progression is good timing as the Dogs near the finals.

Hazem El Masri is back to his best with the boot, kicking 6 from 6 and gaining much needed confidence with his conversions after some forgettable weeks for the master.

The difference in the Bulldogs side this week was their ball control. They were prepared to build pressure and get repeat sets rather than force the issue in attack; something Brent Sherwin has been guilty of lately. Tonight they got it all right.

The Titans scrambled for much of the match; Luke Bailey and Nathan Friend both standouts. Bailey actually getting over the try line twice – in a rare double for the big man. Friend was tireless with 41 tackles, yet still was lively in attack. The Titans probably played a little too flat in attack – making it easy for the Dogs to get up an in, shutting plays down early.

Preston Campbell remains a shadow of his former self. The little fullback was cautious on most runs and didn’t look comfortable at times. The return of Chris Walker didn’t have a massive affect, Walker getting limited chances tonight – a little rusty from his time away from the top level, but valuable minutes on the field helped his cause.

The power of the penalty was again proved tonight; on two occasions when the Titans still had a sniff of coming back – they conceded a penalty and the Bulldogs scored from both the following sets.

With such a poor for and against record; it looks like tonight may have been the end of the Titans finals charge. The Bulldogs will breathe a little easier to get some more points in the bank, moving up safely into the Top 8.

Manly Lose Stars before Kick-off

Manly has officially lost Matt Orford and Travis Burns for tonights clash with the Cronulla Sharks. The missing halves might provide some relief for the Sharks; who themselves are missing 8 regular first graders.

Ricky Stuart has taken his team away for a 3 day closed camp this week and reports that the attitude and feeling amongst the Sharks team is impressive considering the situation.

NRL Kick-off in 60 minutes from now.

NRL Friday Night Final Thoughts

We are only hours away from two key match-ups in Friday NRL tonight – with the Cronulla Sharks hosting the Manly Sea Eagles and the Gold Coast Titans at home to the Bulldogs in Queensland. Here’s how NRL News sees the key match-ups:

Cronulla Sharks vs Manly Sea Eagles: Many NRL punters have written the Sharks off here; with so many players out who could blame them? However, Ricky Stuart will have spent the week building up the hopes of the young Sharks and a siege mentality would be embedded into the minds of the Shire boys for tonight.

Don’t forget the Sharks are most certainly playing for their lives in terms of the NRL Top 8 finals; they have plenty more to play for than the Sea Eagles. On top of their NRL table woes, the Sharks are also fielding players that were previously unwanted and a few young outsiders who get their chance to flex some muscle – surely they will want to show their wares and will be choc full of passion.

The Manly Sea Eagles report a few niggling injuries and have hinted that they may rest some stars for this game. The Eagles have revved up their form over the past few weeks and even without their stars, realistically should be able to comfortably overpower the Sharks.

While the hoodoo of Shark Park will be spoken about within the Sea Eagles camp, the obvious risk for them is the comfort factor. If the Manly boys take this lightly, it could be a long night.

Summary: Manly Sea Eagles must be tipped to win; however I feel this game will be closer than most people think. Both sides love defence, so depending on the mood of Shane Hayne – this could be a slugfest in the ruck.

Gold Coast Titans vs Bulldogs Another game and plenty of favoritism to the Bulldogs. Both sides hit hard by injury, certainly to some key players also. The loss of Scott Prince is huge for the Titans, who have struggled in attack to rack up points at times.

The suggested move of Preston Campbell from fullback to the halves should prove fruitful and the able Chris Walker coming into the fullback role is a smart one for John Cartwright. The Titans should be up for the challenge; as most NRL sides bounce back hard after a big loss – their Canberra fiasco will have them motivated surely.

The Titans still have plenty of punch in the starting forward pack of:

Luke Bailey, Nathan Friend, Ian Donelly, Gavin Cooper, Mark Minichiello, Luke Swain – its the reserve bench where the Bulldogs may have the edge, with form players ready to be injected by Steve Folkes.

The Bulldogs form is extremely hard to judge. They can literally change their form even during a match, a bad half then a stunning half. Sonny Bill Williams will be expected to perform tonight; as last time Willie Mason and Shrek were out – SBW had the game of his young life. Expect more of that tonight.

Summary: The Bulldogs have the bench power and SBW in a leadership role; which should be enough to get them home tonight. Expect a top forward battle tonight with the likes of Luke Bailey vs Andrew Ryan and expect a good showing from NRL bad boy Chris Walker as he tries to restake his claim as a top outside back for the Titans.

Karmichael Hunt Injured at Training

Brisbane Broncos fullback Karmichael Hunt has broken down this morning at Broncos training in a huge blow to the injury savaged Brisbane outfit.

It’s reported that a hamstring injury has affected the classy Kiwi fullback who left the training paddock with assistance and surely will now miss the Monday night clash with the Eels. Treatment began for Hunt immediately this morning; but he will surely miss this weekends NRL game and possibly more in the weeks ahead.

There was speculation last night that Wayne Bennett may be ready to bring Justin Hodges back early into the depleted Broncos lineup on Monday night to boost experience. This possibility of Hodges returning has surely grown legs with the loss of Karmichael Hunt.

If Karmichael Hunt misses Monday nights game, it virtually leaves the Broncos with a whole new backline; already missing are Brent Tate, Justin Hodges and Darren Lockyer.

Wests and Tigers Marriage Problems

It seems the minor marriage problems for the Wests and Tigers parties continue to simmer at low levels within the merged entity.

While the joint venture has achieved success early in their partnership and on the outside look to be a happy family – back room bickering over the premier league feeder club setup has forced Wests to look at partnering with the Canberra Raiders for next years premier league NRL season.

Problems arose for the Wests Tigers several years ago when the club chose to use the Balmain-Ryde premier league side to be the only feeder to the first grade Wests Tigers side. This decision was apparently made out of simplicity for coach Tim Sheens. When Sheens arrived at the Wests Tigers club – he stated he only wanted to deal with ‘one’ reserve grade team and not have to cover ‘two’ which makes sense.

Wests and the Tigers came to an agreement that each individual premier league team would take yearly turns at feeding the NRL Wests Tigers club. That started with the Balmain-Ryde team and made things much easier for Tim Sheens and the coaching staff to manage as players moved between a single premier league and first grade unit.

The problem was; Wests never got a turn. After the initial year of Balmain-Ryde feeding the NRL club – someone forgot or refused to change the system and the Western Suburbs Magpies reserve grade team remained in the cold. A team with little interaction with the Wests Tigers first grade side, much less exposure for the their players and a kick in the guts from their so called ‘partner’.

This problem has been simmering for years, as Balmain-Ryde continue to be the major feeder for the Wests Tigers. The Magpies haven’t pushed the issue too hard for fear of de-stabilizing the powerful joint venture – the Tigers probably know this and may be taking advantage of the situation.

Wests have now looked elsewhere and are in talks to link with the Canberra Raiders club to field Raiders reserve grade players in the Magpies team next year.

As Canberra aren’t entering a side in the premier league competition next year; they are looking for an alternative and the fit with Wests Magpies could be perfect for both parties.

Magpies CEO and Wests Tigers Chairman Kevin Hammond has said the relationship with Wests Tigers will not change. The Magpies will still be able to feed future first graders to the Wests Tigers NRL side – but with the Raiders partnership will get the reserve grade exposure and talent they deserve.

The situation has been tough for the Magpies at present; for example if a Wests Magpies player makes first grade and then gets dropped – he then becomes part of the Balmain-Ryde Club. Certainly unfair on the Wests side of the merger.

No deal has been done with the Raiders yet; but can you blame the Magpies for sleeping around given the current situation?

NRL Latemail: Manly may rest stars

Manly may be quietly ready to rest several stars tonight as they face the desperate Cronulla Sharks in a match where the Eagles are unbackable favourites to win.

While Manly may be up against a 21 year hoodoo in which they haven’t won at Shark Park; this time around its different – with the high flying Eagles sitting comfortably in 2nd spot on the NRL table and the Cronulla Sharks fielding a side only their mums would believe could win.

The Sharks are dealing with an injury and suspension crisis with; Adam Dykes, Brett Kimmorley, Paul Gallen, Greg Bird, Ben Ross, Anthony Watts and Misi Taulapapa all missing. Apparently Ricky Stuart will bring Luke Covell back tonight as captain (a week earlier than expected) due to the crisis.

Mail coming out of the Manly Sea Eagles camp suggests they may rest several stars in tonights match. Coach Des Hasler hinting that Matt Orford, Steve Bell, Jamie Lyon and Anthony Watmough are in doubt due to niggling injuries.

It makes sense for Manly; as the Eagles are comfortably in second spot and are at no risk of losing second spot on the table by the conclusion of the NRL 2007 regular season. They have a tricky run of games ahead, but simply no other side near them has enough consistency to trouble the Eagles on the ladder.

It certainly adds an another element of intrigue to the already hoodoo riddled match. Cronulla are fighting for their 2007 NRL finals lives. The Sharks have to win at least all of their remaining games to have a chance of Top 8 NRL football – so they’ll throw everything at whatever team the Eagles send out.

While Cronulla may breathe easy should the Eagles rest their stars; spare a thought for punters and tipsters who have already locked their tips in – neither job gets any easier as the NRL slips into total unpredictability on the back of plenty of injuries to star players.

Souths Cares Inaugural Night of Nights

South Sydney Media Release

MORE than $150,000 was raised at the inaugural Souths Cares fundraising event last night.

Hosted by Indigenous Rabbitohs star Dean Widders, the event was sold out two weeks in advance with more than 400 guests attending the Grand Ballroom at Luna Park, Sydney.

In keeping with the ideals of Souths Cares the night had a strong Indigenous theme from the food served through to the entertainment on show. Indigenous sports stars including world boxing champion Anthony Mundine, his father and trainer Australian boxing legend Tony Mundine, former Wallaby Gary Ella and the Rabbitohs own David Peachey took part in an all-stars sports panel that provided many of the highlights of the evening.

Singer Christine Anu put on a special guest performance while many were astounded by the talent of 12-year-old Indigenous entertainer Allara Laferia from Mt Druitt.

While the auction items on offer, tickets to the private match day box of Rabbitohs co-owners Russell Crowe and Peter Holmes a Court, a lunch with the 5 Cs of the Rabbitohs; Rabbitohs co-captains Peter Cusack and Roy Asotasi, Coach Jason Taylor, Executive Chairman Peter Holmes a Court and Chief Executive Shane Richardson, and two people to join Peter Holmes a Court and Rabbitohs players on the five-day NASCA ARM Tour to the Australian Outback on October, were the subject of fierce bidding.

“The evening was an unqualified success,” South Sydney Rabbitohs Chief Executive Shane Richardson said.

“We managed to raise a wonderful amount of money to help fund our Souths Cares programs and I want to thank everyone who was there on the night to help us achieve that level of success. Special thanks must go to Anthony and Tony Mundine, Gary Ella and Christine Anu for putting on a great show, one that I am sure everyone who attended thoroughly enjoyed.

“South Cares was established by the South Sydney Football Club to help those in need in the South Sydney district and in the wider community and this is a step along that path. Following the success of the night I’m sure next year’s event will be even bigger and better.”

The night was held to raise funds for Souths Cares community development and outreach programs.

Souths Cares is the community initiative and charitable arm of the South Sydney Rabbitohs It was established to assist disadvantaged young people and their families in the South Sydney area and Indigenous communities throughout Australia. Souths Cares does this by promoting the benefits of education, and healthy lifestyles through a wide-range of direct support programs and partnerships with established service providers, Government and the corporate sector.

Souths Cares’ projects also offer a genuine career path for Rabbitohs players should they wish to pursue a role in sustainable community development.

NRL Finals: The Top 8 Mix

With just 7 games remaining in the 2007 NRL season; the Top 8 teams are getting extremely close to being finalised – as NRL News examines who we think will make and miss the cut:

NRL Finals Top 8

1. Melbourne Storm – an easy one to start with, the Storm are miles ahead at the top of the ladder and will come in first past the post again in 2007 and take the NRL minor premiership. The only hurdle I can see for the Storm is similar to last year; they have won virtually every game they have played – when it comes to final or grand final time, it’s different physically and mentally. The Storm will have learnt lessons from 2006 but it is still tough in finals footy.

2. Manly Sea Eagles – have surely secured 2nd spot, a home final and a guaranteed second bite at the cherry in week 1 of the finals. The extra chance will help Manly who also seem to wobble a bit in the early weeks of the finals when they have reached them on occasion in the past decade. Look to have overcome the injury hurdle, have BK on standby which is good insurance.

3. North Queensland Cowboys – I see the Cowboys being able to lock into 3rd place. They’ve got their poor form out of the way and have a fair run home in the next 7 weeks. If they can recapture magic early season form, will time their finals run to perfection. JT will need to be kept in cotton wool in these next few weeks.

4. Parramatta Eels – a close finish with the Wests Tigers for 4th spot. Toss of the coin really. The Eels do have a tough run home, made slightly easier by the loss of Darren Lockyer for the Broncos – as the Eels face the Broncos twice in the next 7 weeks. They also face Manly, Storm and Bulldogs. A run while hard, will give Michael Hagan a decent gauge as to where the Eels really are at with their side.

5. Wests Tigers – the return of Brett Hodgson and Benji Marshall next week for the Tigers meant NRL News slotted the Tigers into 5th spot. They face a tough ask even at home against the in-form Warriros – but experience of Tim Sheens and a group of players that have climbed the mountain as recently as 2005 will do enough to get into 5th.

6. NZ Warriors – will be back in the NRL top 8 finals mix this year, as they have the best run home of any Top 8 hopeful. Facing plenty of lowly ranked teams, the Warriors on current form should coast in and will certainly have Australian sides looking over their shoulder come the money time.

7. Bulldogs – Similar to the Broncos, the Bulldogs are battered by injury and otherwise would have hoped for top 4. The return of SBW will assist, but no Shrek and no Willie Mason hurts these guys. Still the Dogs are one of the most hardened and feared packs; so don’t count them out just yet.

8. Brisbane Broncos – The loss of Darren Lockyer will be felt mentally; just as much as not having the fearless leader on the park. With some young players in the mix for the Broncos already covering Tate and Hodges – the loss of Locky will certainly make things hard for the Queenslanders. Bennett will need his finest hour to get them to back to back titles – if he does, it may just heal some of the deepest wounds left from his fallout after the failed Roosters switch.

Missing the Top 8 Finals in NRL 2007:

Newcastle Knights – another team hit by injury severely in 2007. After losing Andrew Johns, their finals aspirations dipped. Brian Smith has done a top job with the talent at hand, unearthed Luke Walsh and Jarrod Mullen makes Origin – so some positives came out of 2007. Showed glimpses of brilliance against Parra a few weeks ago, but couldn’t repeat it. Will be a force in maybe 2 years time.

Gold Coast Titans – put in a stellar first year, but will just fall short. Depth was always a concern and losing Mat Rogers and then Scott Prince recently has really made things too hard. Have purchased well for next year and have set themselves as a real powerhouse club.

South Sydney Rabbitohs – will class this season as a good one. Near enough the best defence in the NRL, the previous easy beats have re-established themselves as a genuine contender. Lost several games by 6 points or less and really could have snuck into the finals. Will be even stronger again next year with David Kidwell back, Craig Wing and some nice juniors coming through. Jason Taylor let his guard down against the Eels last week and this was probably the only blemish on his otherwise impressive coaching resume.

Cronulla Sharks – Ricky Stuart and his mob will be downright devastated with the outcome of this year. Flew under the radar early and set themselves as a darkhorse. Greg Bird and Paul Gallen came of age, but they couldn’t get any consistency and faded away. Another year, another fading Sharks team. Pity those poor Shire folk. The Sharks have also turned away some decent players in Josh Hannay and Brett Seymour. Hopefully Ricky has some young guns hidden away somewhere or things could get worse for the struggling Sharks.

Canberra Raiders – Neil Henry should be congratulated for he job he has done in the ACT. Again tipped to run last, the green machine has played some stunning football this year and spanked some fancied teams. Found it hard to win on the road, but will be happy with the future as some young talent comes through and Joel Monaghan might be a starter for next year. Overall a fairly impressive season.

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