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.

Steve Matai Judicary Win

Manly’s Steve Matai has tonight pulled off an amazing win at the NRL judiciary – escaping suspension over a headbutt in last Friday nights game against the Wests Tigers.

Only days after the NRL threw the book at players from the Sharks / Roosters brawl, somehow Steve Matai has escaped penalty for a blatant physical offence.

Manly officials took the approach that ‘Matai didn’t intentionally headbutt Chris Heighington, but rather braced for close contact with the Wests Tigers forward.’ The victory made even more staggering by the fact that Matai has already faced a headbutt charge earlier in 2007.

This is real Shawshank Redemption stuff here, Matai may have just pulled off one of the biggest judiciary escapes in NRL history.

A noted hardman; Matai regularly flirts with the judicial boundaries of the game and after recent comments and suspensions from the NRL in attempts to totally clean up the game – this decision is mind boggling.

Matai was cross examined by Judiciary counsel Peter Kite within the hearing and when asked if he considered his actions to be a headbutt? Matai said: “If I was going to headbutt him, surely I would grab him.

“I know what a headbutt is. If that was a headbutt it was pretty embarrassing.”

Lets get real here, a headbutt is a headbutt – whether intentional or not; thats what Steve Matai did.

Paul Gallen must be kicking himself for not fighting his headbutt charge at the judiciary. He could have tried to convince the judiciary panel that he was merely trying to ‘kiss’ Shane Shackleton and even he may have got off at this rate.

So, the decision has been made, and Matai is now free to play for the Sea Eagles against Cronulla as Manly try to end a 21 year winless hoodoo at Shark Park. It will be interesting to see the level of aggression from Steve Matai as surely the Manly staff will have told him in no uncertain terms to curb his borderline style.

Richie Williams vs Mark Gasnier

Former Dragons super sledger Richie Williams will face his old club and former teammate Mark Gasnier at pivot this weekend in what should put some interest back into the NRL cellar affair between the Penrith Panthers and the St George Illawarra Dragons.

Richie Williams hit the headlines in a big way when he gave Braith Anasta a huge sledging and came off with a loss; plenty has changed since then – with Williams finding a home at Penrith and working his way into the first grade pivot role.

The young prospect learnt a harsh lesson pretty quickly after the Anasta affair and naturally is a little sheepish with the media these days.

Tonights video has a brief interview with Richie Williams, featuring Craig Gower and Nathan Brown and finishes with the Steve Matai incident.

Cowboys snap-up Ben Harris

Former NRL and Bulldog young gun Ben Harris has been lured home from the UK Super League by the North Queensland Cowboys.

The talented, stocky built centre was a sensation for the Bulldogs before he joined the UK Super League team Bradford after winning the comp with the Bulldogs in 2004. The following year he tasted success again as Bradford took out the 2005 Super League tournament.

At only 23 years old, Harris has plenty to offer the NRL and the Cowboys – with the North Queensland side looking like geniuses in the recruitment department. After already locking up pivot Travis Burns from Manly, the Cowboys now look unstoppable if Harris can reproduce his best form.

With Paul Bowman set to retire; the new ball playing brigade of Thurston, Burns and Harris combined with the muscle of Luke O’Donnell, Carl Webb and Steve Southern up front may see the Cowboys start as 2008 season favourites.

Ben Harris has chosen to sign a one year deal with the Cowboys through his manager Steve Gillis. Harris has said he is keen to return and prove his form in the NRL first and foremost; then look at what offers he can attract locally in 2009 and beyond.

With the Cowboys looking like title contenders this year; with the new additions coming next year – they could really have a dynasty on their hands.

Tigers move to lock-up Tim Sheens

Wests Tigers CEO Steve Noyce said recently that Tim Sheens has been the best recruit the joint-venture club ever signed. The 7 year old joint venture club kicked off in 2000, with Sheens taking over control in 2003 and guiding them to Premiership glory in 2005.

“Tim Sheens is the best signing this club has ever made” beamed Noyce. “Tim Sheens is contracted to the Tigers until the end of 2008 and we hope he is here for a lot longer than that” added Noyce.

Noyce said any talk of signing to extend the Tim Sheens contract immediately are a bit premature; as Sheens has stated he is keen to leave the contract business until after the 2007 NRL season is over. Naturally the Tigers will be waiting with pen in hand to keep the coach locked up.

Sheens has recruited well himself, hand picking a stack of juniors early in his time and playing a patient game until the players were ready enough to take on the NRL’s best in the years to follow.

Aside from impressive recruitment and nurturing; Sheens instilled plenty of belief. Not only was there marriage problems for the new young club; with Tigers and Wests officials bickering at each other – both clubs had previously been strapped to the NRL cellar and needed a whole new culture to achieve any form of success.

It was this cultural change that really was stunning; the images of Tommy Raudonikis smoking in the coaches box for Wests and the former Tigers team training at an Oval in Leichhardt where the Grandstand was collapsing due to white ants – all forgotten in a new era under Tim Sheens and assistant Royce Simmons.

As the Tigers bid for a return to the NRL finals in NRL 2007; word is that Benji Marshall and Brett Hodgson are ready to return from injury. Coach Sheens stating that if this weeks game against the Warriors was a semi final – then he could probably inject Marshall and Hodgson back into the lineup. However, the two stars will be rested for another week and return for the Tigers match at home against the Cowboys.

John Singleton steps into 2GB war

The on air warfare between 2GB continuous call members Bob Fulton and Darryl Brohman looks to have been ended by 2GB supremo John Singleton today.

Singleton became involved as the saga continued on; with Brohman awaiting a personal apology from Bob Fulton over being called a ‘coward’ in his years of NRL and how he handled the Les Boyd elbow incident.

John Singleton has asked Darryl Brohman to put the issue behind him after Bob Fulton apologised on the the Ray Hadlee morning show earlier this week. Singleton suggested that after spending so much time together each week; it was only a matter of time before some of the Continuous Call team had arguments with each other.

It seems the source of Bob Fultons emotion over the issue stemmed from a phone call on air between Brohman and the wife of Les Boyd – Judy. In his eyes, Fulton believed that Brohman had crossed the line and acted inappropriately towards Judy Boyd with comments over the elbow incident from over 20 years ago.

With Fulton himself admitting he got way too emotional about the whole issue and was wrong to call Brohman a coward over the situation.

The war between the two men has probably been a beautiful little publicity spinner for the smart Singleton and his 2GB station. John Singleton the master of PR, has had this little bit of gold fall into his lap.

Personally I find the Continuous Call team on 2GB spend too many of their hours talking about each other and not the quality NRL on show – a decent alternative being the ABC coverage featuring: David Morro / Warren Boland / Warren Ryan – a combination for a more serious and in-depth approach to NRL.

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