NRL News
Cronulla Sharks at home too good

Sharks 26 def Raiders 0

The Cronulla Sharks have proved too strong at Toyota Park for the scoreless Raiders last night – as they posted a comfy 26 to 0 win.

A blazing first half effort by Sharks centre Ben Pommeroy – scoring 3 tries and proving a menace out wide, allowed the Sharks to lay a good platform.

For the Raiders, more injuries in the forwards – with big man Michael Weymann picking up an ankle injury. The Raiders certainly missed the muscle and aggression of Neville Costigan and will need to lift for their big trip to Panthers town next week.

Cronulla Sharks 26 (B Pomeroy 3, I De Gois tries; L Covell 3 conversions, penalty goal) Canberra Raiders 0

NRL News
Storm slip past Panthers
Storm 30 def Panthers 20

Melbourne have held off a late Panthers fight back to win in slippery conditions at Olympic Park tonight. The Storm were out to 24 – 8 at one stage until the ‘never say die’ Panthers strung some tries togther and gave the undefeated NRL comp leaders a scare.

A big game from the Melbourne forwards really helped the speed men over come the opposition. An agressive showing from Storm forwards; featuring Crossman up against his old club – really stung the Panther pack.

Penrith were killed by their mistackle stats – 31 in total – simply too much arm grabbing and poor reads in defence to win the game. The penalities were in the Panthers favour for once, but this didn’t help overall with other areas lacking.

An injury cloud hangs over Luke Priddis who seemed to be playing hurt after an ankle problem in the first half.

For the Storm, it was a top shelf showing from hooker Smith after backing up and halfback Cronk – both scoring tries and laying on some fine attacking movements for their team mates. Cronk showing good awareness in attack and great footspeed to exploit the tired Penrith forwards.

NRL news looks forward to the Storm v Cowboys and Storm v Manly as these games should be classic’s for this year.

NRL News Team

Australia vs NZ Rugby League Test Match

Broncos connection clicks to bury the Kiwi’s

The Kangaroos put the cleaners through the Kiwis last night – as they put on five tries to one to give New Zealand a 24-point lesson in the Anzac Test match.

Leading 6-0 at the break, the Kangaroos came out firing in the second period as halves combination Johnathan Thurston and Darren Lockyer engineered a lively attacking display to finish off the tiring Kiwis 30-6.

Melbourne Storm centre Matt King, playing out on the Kangaroos wing, scooped up the football after Kiwis number seven Ben Roberts spilt a high bomb from Lockyer to score seven minutes into the second half, before Brent Tate (52nd minute), and Karmichael Hunt (76) shot the Kangaroos out to an unassailable 24-6 lead.

Tate, close to best on ground, then finished off the evening with a brilliant break on the right-hand edge before putting in a cheeky in-field kick to find skipper and Broncos team-mate Lockyer at the try-line as the champion five-eighth put the finishing touches on a dominant performance from Australia.

New Zealand managed to score a consolation try when Manu Vatuvei pounced on a grubber from Simon Mannering on the left-hand edge in the 68th minute, but it was little more than academic as the Kangaroos coasted to victory.

Earlier, tireless back rower Nathan Hindmarsh burst onto a sublimely-timed short-ball from Thurston in the 19th minute to score the only try of the half, with Thurston’s conversion making it 6-0.

Thurston took the ball to the line on the fifth play and passed selectively from a host of options to pick up Hindmarsh running back towards the ruck on a dangerous angle, before the Parramatta Eels big man crashed over to score close to the goal-posts.

Thurston shot at goal in the final minute of the first half after Australia were awarded a penalty for a high shot on Lockyer, but his effort drifted short and wide of the goal-posts.

The Kiwis muscled up early with a hammering tackle to flatten Broncos full-back Hunt on his first ball-carry, with Penrith back rower Tony Puletua in the thick of the action in the opening sets.

Man-of-the-match Hunt starred for the Kangaroos with a crafty all-round performance combining strength and footwork from the back with his sharp playmaking ability in combination with Lockyer threatening the New Zealand defence on numerous occasions.

Hunt’s opposite, one-game Parramatta custodian Krisnan Inu, was tested heavily by Australia’s kicking raids but stood up to the challenge consistently and demonstrated plenty of courage, taking a horrendous high ball from Lockyer under pressure with aplomb.

Bulldogs team-mates Willie Mason and Sonny Bill Williams were involved in a minor scuffle as tempers flared in the opening period but the incident was nothing more than a friendly exchange.

New Zealand were imposing in defence and drove the ball forward with plenty of purpose and passion, but were ultimately outclassed by Australia’s superior attacking ability.

The Kiwis had numerous opportunities to hit back with dynamic five-eighth Benji Marshall an ever-present for his side, but poor handling cost them dearly close to the try-line as they were stymied time and time again by the Kangaroos.

Australia 30 (N Hindmarsh, M King, B Tate, K Hunt, D Lockyer tries; J Thurston 5 conversions)
New Zealand 6 (M Vatuvei try; B Marshall conversion)

NRL waits as Rugby Union timebomb ticks
John Chelsea

Debate rages in Rugby Union ranks this week after Stirling Mortlock goes public with frustration over Rugby Union’s poaching of Rugby League players.

The ARU has been grabbing headlines and telling anyone who cared how happy they were about snaring more Rugby League wingers. From the big raid years ago of Wendell Sailor, Lote Tiqiri and Matt Rogers – to recent raids on backs such as Timana Tahu and Clinton Schifcovske.

It seems NRL officials have made the right move by not entering into bidding wars for the wingers.

“Enough is enough,” Mortlock told a business luncheon on the eve of the Brumbies’ Super 14 derby with the Western Force .

“It’s pretty frustrating for a lot of the guys this year.

“There’s a few guys in our team who are coming off contract and being told that they’re not worth as much as they were worth last time they signed and then, in the same sentence, the ARU are looking at signing up league wingers.

“It just doesn’t make sense.” Mortlock said.

Rugby Union players certainly have the right to be angry, as they see pay cuts and reduced opportunities within their ranks – while the top end of town chases mainly high profile wingers from NRL Rugby League.

We really are only talking and wing positions and outside backs – surely the ARU has enough talent in these departments. The poaching does give the ARU valuable headlines which they don’t regularly get and does inject a household player name into stale ARU sides, but after the initial hit – the side effects must be quite concerning.

With Stirling Mortlock going public this week over ARU player anger, he is only saying what many ARU players have been feeling privately for some time. Reducing wages for the mid-tier players will only build frustration and see potential star players walk away from Union at some stage.

David Gallop and his team at the NRL are to be congratulated on their handling of the poaching. The NRL refused to buy into any bidding wars, and apart from a few clubs trying to pull togher a war chest – the NRL executives must have sensed the ARU would eventually be bitten by the snarings. The NRL also must have felt comfortable in the fact that they have such a talent pool at junior levels – that a new star is injecting into the fray.

When Lote decided not to return to League or when Timana decided to jump ship – the NRL simply unearths someone like Israel Folau, Chase Stanley or Krisnan Inu – who after only one game of NRL was able to earn a place in the star studded Kiwi Test side.

Tick….. Tick…… Tick…..Tick……Tick…..

NRL Predictions for Round 6

Melbourne Storm vs Penrith Panthers:
The Storm have only been average in the first few rounds, but their average is a class above the rest. I have a feeling they will fire on all cylinders in this game and put the blow torch on Penrith. Penrith will need to improve discipline to ensure they don’t lose by a truck load. After Burt cut the Panthers to pieces last week, expect Billy Slater to do more of the same. Melbourne comfortably.

Cronulla Sharks vs Canberra Raiders:
Both these teams are so much better at home, this time Cronulla get the home ground – and have shown improvement each week. Canberra on the other hand have been inconsistent and face some injury concerns. The Sharks will be too strong at home.

Manly Sea Eagles vs Gold Coast Titans:
Brookvale is the home of this anticipated clash – with the flamboyant Titans facing the gutsy and brick wall like Manly team. I think this might go the Titans way, as it’s very hard to defend against the likes of Presto and Prince – and Manly might get hurt with the second phase play. Titans in a close one.

Parramatta Eels vs Bulldogs:
Typically a fierce clash between these old foes. The Eels have found some rhythm and will be right in this one with a shot, but I feel the Bulldogs will be hurting with the Manly loss and will be ready to come out of their shell firing after the SBW saga and Willie reporter annoyance. Bulldogs should be too strong in the forwards here, even though the game is at Parra Stadium. Bulldogs.

Newcastle Knights vs Brisbane Broncos:
Knights at home and in the game to salute Joey – will be too strong for the tired Broncos – who lose too many stars to the Australia test team. The Knights should be too good here, and tough competition for spots sees Macdougall on the extended bench – the Knights to win.

North Queensland Cowboys vs South Sydney Rabbitts:
Souths now trying to stop the rot after two losses, have a tough journey up north to Cowboyville. The Cowboys will also be keen to avenge the away loss to the Warriors and I think will have too much at home for the Bunnies. The forwards from Nth Queensland will win this battle with the Kiwi contingent from Souths backing up from the test. Souths missing Kidwell. Cowboys to win.

NRL Coaches

Should NRL teams KISS or RISK?

The margin between wining and losing NRL Rugby League games these days is extremely thin. Coaches know all to well – that an incorrect play the ball, a marginally forward dummy half pass or a penalty swings the momentum and throws out many game plans intended from the outset of the game.

KISS Method – Keep it simple stupid. No disrespect intended to NRL players here, this is a well known business mentality and can be applied to modern day NRL. The idea of simple, error free football – such as one out plays, only kicking on tackle 5 or limiting long or extended passing movements reduces the chance of errors.

Ok, so this style isn’t going to get you 30+ points in a game – but what it does mean, that through more possession and hopefully with a good kicking game; a team should have better field position and will reduce the other teams chances of scoring, through lack of ball.

Apply this theory to say the Roosters. If the Chooks were facing Melbourne, their chances of winning on current form are next to none. If the Roosters employ a KISS style of game, so they hit it up from dummy half and employ one out hit-ups and secure the ball on every attacking play. And then if they are lucky enough to receive some dropped ball, penalties or poor kicks from Melbourne – they have such a better chance of winning.

Its not for all teams and it’s certainly hard to prevent all players from giving away penalties, or dropping the ball or pushing the miracle pass – but it makes sense and the simple equation means less chance of errors and thus more possession.

An example of this method was employed by the Parramatta Eels in Round 3 against the Tigers. The Eels coming off two losses and struggling for confidence, played a very simple style of Rugby League. Every tackle, another forward would hit it up, then a dummy half run, another hit up and then a kick on play 5. Sure, it’s dour, grinding football – but it allowed Parramatta to retain possession and build confidence after 2 heavy losses in Round 1 and 2. On the flip side, you had the Tigers – throwing flick passess, throwing long passes that got intercepted and chipping and chancing their arm on various tackles within the set. Parramatta on this night scored tries from a Wests dropped ball and an intercept – they did the basics and were in a position to capitalize on the errors from Wests Tigers.

Result – on this occasion the simple style won out. Parramatta then increased their tempo and style in Round 4 against Canberra and upped it again in Round 5 resulting in some nice length of the field plays against Penrith; as they moved away from the basic KISS style of play.

RISK Method – this style of football was pioneered by Penrith in 2003 and perfected by the Tigers team of 2005. Put simply, throwing plenty of passes and keeping the ball alive at all costs and hoping to outscore the competitor no matter how many points conceded.

While very exciting to watch – exactly as the name says its ‘risky’ – the failure of fancy or long passes can sometimes mean an intercept and instantly conceding points. While there are certain times to employ this style, such as when playing a team with tightly compressed defence, where it makes sense to swing it wide and roll the dice. It makes even more sense to employ this style; when a team is high on confidence.

So here you have a high level explanation of the two contrasting styles, but this is only the tip of the iceberg. Today’s coaching teams and strategists get even more granular with their planning.

In the KISS style of play, the coach must ensure the team employing the tactic is careful not to concede penalties and hence roll away from the tackled player safely, their marker defence must be directly square and testing the referee on the 10m is a big no-no. To keep this up for 80m takes intense fitness and high bench rotation.

For the RISK method the opposite is true, tacklers will test the referee early and see how long they can pin the attacker down or trim a few meteres in defence as Steve Clark looks the other way.

This leads to the referee factor. The tactical analysis and planning in todays NRL is so wide ranging that coaches know which referees they can push the boundaries with and which referees that are much more strict and will punish quickly for infringements.

This is why Bill Harrigan was such a decorated referee, because coaches never knew what they were going to get – some days you got ‘Entertainment Bill’ who let games flow and ensured the crowd saw free flowing football; but on other days you got ‘Policeman Bill’ who would come down hard on anything illegal and have the sin-bin full of naughty boys.

We see games won by every week now by a field goal, or lost by a conceded penalty or even lost by an incorrect video decision? Who would have thought with the aid of a video – it could still go wrong?

As you go crazy over your tips each week, one things for sure: The Roosters really should – KISS – KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID.

NRL Teams Round 6 named

SATURDAY

MELBOURNE STORM v PENRITH PANTHERS at Olympic Park, 5.30pm
STORM:
Billy Slater, Steve Turner, Matt King, Anthony Quinn, Israel Folau, Matt Geyer, Cooper Cronk, Garret Crossman, Cameron Smith, Brett White, Antonio Kaufusi, Ryan Hoffman, Dallas Johnson. Interchange: Sam Tagataese, Jeff Lima, Ben Cross, Russell Aitken. PANTHERS: Rhys Wesser, Michael Gordon, Michael Jennings, Luke Lewis, Luke Rooney, Peter Wallace, Craig Gower (c), Joel Clinton, Luke Priddis, Frank Puletua, Frank Pritchard, Tony Puletua, Nathan Smith. Interchange: Junior Moors, Matthew Cross, Mark O’Halloran, Paul Aiton, Bryan Norrie, Tim Grant (two to be omitted). Referee: Steve Clark

THE SHARKS v CANBERRA RAIDERS at Toyota Park, 7.30pm
SHARKS:
Brett Kearney, David Simmons, Ben Pomeroy, Fraser Anderson, Luke Covell, Adam Dykes, Brett Kimmorley (c), Phil Leuluai, Kevin Kingston, Luke Douglas, Paul Gallen, Lance Thompson, Greg Bird. Interchange: Craig Stapleton, Ben Ross, Reece Williams, Isaac De Gois, Brett Seymour (one to be omitted). RAIDERS: William Zillman, Colin Best, Phil Graham, Adrian Purtell, Brett Kelly, Todd Carney, Michael Dobson, Scott Logan, Lincoln Withers, Dane Tilse, Neville Costigan, Glen Turner, Alan Tongue (c). Interchange: Ben Jones, Michael Weyman, Tom Learoyd-Lahrs, Trevor Thurling. Referee: Jason Robinson

SUNDAY
MANLY SEA EAGLES v GOLD COAST TITANS at Brookvale Oval, 2pm
SEA EAGLES:
Brett Stewart, Michael Robertson, Steve Bell, Jamie Lyon, Chris Hicks, Travis Burns, Michael Monaghan, Jason King, Matt Ballin, Brent Kite (c), Anthony Watmough, Glenn Stewart, Luke Williamson. Interchange: Clint Halden, Glenn Hall, George Rose, Mark Bryant. TITANS: Preston Campbell, Lelea Paea, Mat Rogers, Brett Delaney, Jake Webster, Matt Hilder, Scott Prince (c), Luke Bailey (c), Clint Amos, Brad Meyers, Anthony Laffranchi, Mark Minichello, Josh Graham. Interchange: Kris Kahler, Michael Hodgson, Gavin Cooper, Nathan Friend. Referee: Tony Archer

PARRAMATTA EELS v BULLDOGS at Parramatta Stadium, 3pm
EELS:
Luke Burt, Jarryd Hayne, Ben Smith, Timana Tahu, Eric Grothe, Brett Finch, Tim Smith, Nathan Cayless (c), PJ Marsh, Fuifui Moimoi, Nathan Hindmarsh, Ian Hindmarsh, Daniel Wagon. Interchange: Blake Green, Josh Cordoba, Aaron Cannings, Feleti Mateo. BULLDOGS: Luke Patten, Hazem El Masri, Daryl Millard, Willie Tonga, Trent Cutler, Daniel Holdsworth, Ben Roberts, Mark O’Meley, Corey Hughes, Willie Mason, Sonny Bill Williams, Andrew Ryan (c), Reni Maitua. Interchange: Dallas McIlwain, Chris Armit, Kane Cleal, Lee Te Maari. Referee: Sean Hampstead

NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v BRISBANE BRONCOS at EnergyAustralia Stadium, 7pm
KNIGHTS:
Kurt Gidley, James McManus, George Carmont, Brad Tighe, Todd Polglase, Daniel Abraham, Jarrod Mullen, Josh Perry, Danny Buderus (c), Clint Newton, Steve Simpson, Cory Paterson, Daniel Tolar. Interchange: Riley Brown, Adam Woolnough, Matthew White, Kirk Reynoldson, Reegan Tanner, Adam MacDougall (two to be omitted). Note: Jarrod Mullen to wear No.18 jersey with the No.7 jersey ‘retired’ for the round in honour of Andrew Johns. BRONCOS: Karmichael Hunt, Steve Michaels, Tonie Carroll, Justin Hodges, Brent Tate, Darren Lockyer (c), Shane Perry, Dane Carlaw, Shaun Berrigan, Petero Civoniceva, David Stagg, Brad Thorn, Greg Eastwood. Interchange: Nick Kenny, Ben Hannant, Ian Lacey, Sam Thaiday, Mick Ennis (one to be omitted) Referee: Shayne Hayne

MONDAY
NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS v SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS at Dairy Farmers Stadium, 7pm
COWBOYS: Matt Bowen, Brenton Bowen, Ashley Graham, Paul Bowman, Neil Sweeney, Jason Smith, Johnathan Thurston (c), Matthew Scott, Aaron Payne, Shane Tronc, Steve Southern, Jacob Lillyman, Justin Smith. Interchange: David Faiumu, Scott Bolton, Sione Faumuina, Ray Cashmere. RABBITOHS: David Peachey, Nathan Merritt, Nigel Vagana, Shannon Hegarty, Reece Simmonds, Jeremy Smith, Joe Williams, Peter Cusack (c), Daniel Irvine, Roy Asotasi, Luke Stuart, David Fa’alogo, Dean Widders. Interchange: Shane Rigon, John Sutton, Manase Manuokafoa, Jaiman Lowe. Referee: Ben Cummins

BYE: New Zealand Warriors, St George Illawarra Dragons, Sydney Roosters, Wests Tigers.

Pressure on Craig Gower Mounting

As the men from Penrith struggle with 2 back to back lossess – the Penrith Panthers supporters have turned nasty on the teams website. It seems fans are unhappy with the form of Gower at the start of 2007 and believe the talented Penrith halfback’s heart may not really be in it for his club anymore. The Panthers Interactive website has had many posts specifically about Gower, his current form and the halfbacks approach to NRL in the past season.

After an off field incident earlier this year and last years Pearce family disaster – Craig Gower had the Penrith captaincy taken away from him and many believe this has seen the drop in form and subsequent loss of interest from the no. 7

It’s never easy for the headline players to constantly face the scrutiny of fans and media when their team is losing, but Craig Gower can thank the Roosters for taking the limelight away from him and the Panthers. The winless Roosters again came up without the goods in Canberra, after being torn apart by the boom youngster Todd Carney.

Gower has faced all this before, and it may be a case of water off a ducks back – but Penrith must be flush with cash to spend under the salary cap and it will be interesting to follow developments in this area as the year progresses. If Craig really isn’t happy doing what he is doing, we may see some mid season movement at Penrith, which only a few weeks ago seemed a happy and cheerful place under Matt Elliot after some nice wins. Once again, just a week of football can change it all – as it really is such a long time.

Stay tuned later tonight, as NRL News examines the team line ups and reports on who’s in and who’s out.

NRL News

NRL News
No substitute for Brute Strength

By Peter Roy

Rugby League has evolved a lot in the last ten years with fitness and athleticism more valuable than anything else. Sometimes a good footballer can take a backrow seat to a highly tuned athlete who can play more minutes, make more tackles and be fit for the following week.
Looking at some of the skill and flair of players like Karmicheal Hunt, with his huge step or Benji’s hop skip and jump – these are certainly crowd favourites.

As much as this is exciting to watch, nothing gets fans more pumped up or vocal than a massive defensive hit. Even todays fans, who see a more policed game and less physical intent – still love to see the big hits and rough stuff come into play. (Who can forget Ray Warren’s famous words “Awwwwww CRUNCH”) – it’s not just heavy hitting in defence – but also brutal front on aggressive attack is also loved by the NRL fans. A Grothe style run where the tackler gets flattened or Carl Webb running like a wild mad man and knocking defenders over like ten pins.

In the Monday night game in Canberra, as Todd Carney stepped the defence and scored his team’s first try – he actually had a teammate push him and tail him over the line. While Carney did well to score a nice try, NRL these days see’s a lot of softer stuff such as team mates pushing and driving in offence to help their own player make ground. Sure, they want to help the team in every play – but really, I would be embarrassed if a team mate had to help push me to gain metres? Imagine big Mark Geyer having Steve Carter PUSH him up the field? No way.

Take for example Anthony Watmough. A very talented player and an asset to Manly who pushes through the line well. Compare this to – Anthony Tupou who will smash, fend and bash his way through the defence and lay on an offload for a team mate. Always intense and exciting and much preferred by the NRL faithful.

Well in Round 5 it seems we may have unearthed a player with the bash and barge of yesteryear. Surely it has to be the Tigers new boy Taniela Tuiaki. His run in the second half taking it up the outside and beating 4 or 5 defenders was inspirational. He was like the incredible hulk as he fended half the Cronulla team off like rag dolls. The roar from the 17,500 Campbelltown fans was proof of its popularity, the way this guy is going – they’ll need an ambulance to cleanup the aftermath of one of his runs. I didn’t expect half the Cronulla team to get up after they were flattened by the runaway train.

Another example is the exciting backs, such as Bowen or Wade McKinnon – these guys have pure speed and quick stepping talent and regularly beat their defenders. When you compare to a Nathan Hindmarsh bash and barge line break, Piggy or Sonny Bill Williams – the heavy, intensive stuff gets the juices of NRL followers flowing.

Guys built like Mack Trucks, Shane Webcke – simply irreplaceable – his loss is being heavily felt by the Broncos as they battle away at the NRL cellar in 2007. And love him or hate him – on his day big Willie Mason has the ability to run over the top of opposite players like a steam roller.

So while the backs are pretty to watch and get the accolades, we all know “the forwards have to lay the platform ” so the bacline can look slick.

Imagine being a player, you have the ball in your hand ready to attack, you look up and two metres in front of you is Rueben Wiki charging at you to take yo down, he has steam coming out of his ears and looks like a wild animal. This is the difference between beautiful backs and heavy hitting forwards. The fear factor!

Now I’d be thinking about staying alive , rather take my chances with a beast such as Wiki.

As we make rule changes and try our best to keep the game clean, exciting and fair – we must never forgot – the game cannot be without ‘Brute Strength’

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