State of Origin 2007 – Rugby League
John Chelsea

Well it’s nearly that time of year when the best Rugby League players in the world battle it out for State of Origin honours. Queensland and NSW are the two combatants and it’s realistically the ultimate test in League. More highly rated than even International Rugby League – it’s the best of the best.

This year it’s Queensland’s turn to host 2 of the 3 games with only 1 game in NSW at Telstra Stadium.

Queensland will also field arguably their most dominant team ever. With the halves combination likely to be Jonathan Thurston and Darren Lockyer, this duo alone will strike fear into the NSW men. Queensland have such talent this year, that in form no. 7 Scott Prince looks likely to miss out on a spot. Not since the days of Lewis and Langer have Queensland looked so good to take out the State of Origin tournament. As NSW usually starts favourites given their large player pool to pick from.

Out wide, the Queensland backs such as Hodges, Slater, Inglis and Tate are simply game breakers. Surely the Queenslanders will be hot favorites in 2007 State of Origin.

For NSW, their forwards will really need to dominate to nullify the power of Queenslands strike weapons. As NSW will field make shift halves in probably Anasta and Orford, the big men such as Bailey, Mason and O’Meley will need to totally dominate as this is possibly NSW’s only advantage.

In the backs, NSW will go with their usual larger frame players to combat the Queensland talent. The likes of Cooper, King, Grothe and maybe new boy Hayne will have the big ask of stopping the Queensland big guns.

It’s sure to be a brilliant series and this weekend of NRL will see which stars are in form and ultimately who will make the State of Origin teams.

We’d like to hear your feedback, who should be in the Origin teams?

NRL News Friday Night Football

Dragons 28 def Panthers 16

It was park football at it’s worst. Two seriously out of form teams slugging it out at Oki Jubilee Stadium tonight.

The ugly war was won by the Dragons. Penrith were probably slightly more deserving of the win, but the Dragons pushed away at the death and recorded only their 2nd win of the season.

The Dragons had their stars back: Head, Ryles, Young and Coopes were all their – but their stylish form of yesteryear was still no where to be seen. Dropped balls, failed passing movements and general loss of focus were regular events for the Dragons tonight.

For the Panthers, they can’t go much lower. Totally devoid of structure – they bombed several certain tries and will severely lack confidence moving forward. Elliott was trying to be upbeat at the press conference, but admits the pressure from the media is eating at him.

Creagh and Young were the standouts for the Dragons, for the Panthers only Luke Lewis could hold his head up high. Gordon did put in some nice movements in attack and kicked well, but had a few slight errors in defence. Surely the promised personnel changes at Penrith will be followed through this week, with threats to drop several stars not implemented tonight – and the last chance provided by Elliott to some senior players has been thrown back in his face.

NRL News Friday Night Football

Brisbane Broncos 8 def South Sydney 6

How close was John Sutton to winning it for Souths? After 70 minutes and no tries scored, the crowd at Suncorp was treated to a flurry a points in the final 10 minutes. After the Broncos scored and went up 8 nil, the Bunnies scored with 2 minutes to go and threw the ball around on the last play with John Sutton nearly stealing an amazing win – just failing to ground the ball properly.

Overall both teams played only average footy, with basic attack – generally one out stuff and not too creative. The comment from Ben Ikin on the Channel 9 commentary team summed the teams up well “Both teams were playing to avoid a loss, not to actually win the game.”

For the Broncos, Lockyer and Hodges starred and overall they badly need a strong no. 7 – this has been their problem all year.

For Souths, young fullback Beau Champion had an unhappy night – with several bombs coming his way and spilling free, and the Broncos continued to pepper him with success. Merritt on the wing was always dangerous, but he surprised with his agressive and fault free defence – missing rep honours has surely spurred him on.

Souths were probably a little bit too kick happy close to the Broncos line, but the long kicking game from Joe Williams was sparkling. A 40/20 and pin point accuracy must have him and his coach happy. Smith at pivot wasn’t highly involved and needs some form.

The Broncos will gladly take the 2 points, but really can’t take any confidence from the win – both teams were below par and need freshening for next week.

NRL News City vs Country

Mini the man, as City win
City 12 def Country 6

A vintage performance from Anthony Minichiello allowed City see off a dour Country side tonight in Coffs Harbour.

Mini was the absolute standout player from both teams and has surely won the battle for the NSW fullback role. Brett Stewart for country had limited chances to impress, while Mini shone with every touch of the ball.

Country were without Kimmorley after a heavy knock early on, and lacked direction for the remainder of the match. The halfback spot for NSW is still wide open, but Braith Anasta put his hand up with a stylish and gutsy performance at pivot.

It will be interesting to see who fills the wing positions for NSW, Jarryd Hayne didn’t put a foot wrong, nor did El Masri – however his lack of size and speed will go against him. If Cooper and King fill the centre spots – it leaves the wings open for discussion. Lewis went well, what about the forgotton Luke Rooney? Will Grothe be fit? Many question marks remain.

NSW will need to get it right, as they will face the one of the toughest Queensland line-ups ever – with Lockyer, Thurston, Bowen, Tate, Hodges, Webb and Co set to breathe fire – with two games in Qld this year.

While a boring and dour affair tonight, the jostling for NSW spots always makes things interesting. In the forwards Hoffman looks the goods, as was the agressive Brett White.

It will be interesting to see how players back up – moving into the weekends round of football.

In other news Parramatta’s PJ Marsh has been given 3 weeks of free negotiation with other clubs as he looks to secure a deal that would allow him a starting hooker spot.

NRL Round 8 Teams

A few changes for some teams this week, noteably Penrith and the Dragons have chopped some heads. Full teams listed below:

FRIDAY
ST GEORGE-ILLAWARRA v PENRITH at Oki Jubilee Stadium (7.30pm AEST).
DRAGONS:
Josh Morris, Brett Morris, Chase Stanley, Keith Lulia, Wes Naiqama, Dean Young, Ben Hornby (captain), Justin Poore, Ben Ellis, Jason Ryles (c), Ashton Sims, Chris Houston, Ben Creagh. Interchange: Adam Peek, Dan Hunt, Danny Wicks, Rangi Chase, Lagi Setu (one to be omitted).
PANTHERS: Rhys Wesser, Michael Gordon, Michael Jennings, Luke Lewis, Luke Rooney, Peter Wallace, Craig Gower (c), Frank Puletua, Luke Priddis, Brendan Worth, Frank Pritchard, Junior Moors, Nathan Smith. Interchange: Tim Grant, Tony Puletua, Mark O’Halloran, Keith Peters, Joel Clinton, Bob Blair (two to be omitted).
Referee: Sean Hampstead.

BRISBANE v SOUTH SYDNEY at Suncorp Stadium (7.30pm AEST).
BRONCOS:
Karmichael Hunt, Steve Michaels, Nick Emmett, Justin Hodges, Darius Boyd, Darren Lockyer (captain), Joel Moon, Dane Carlaw, Shaun Berrigan, Petero Civoniceva, David Stagg, Brad Thorn, Greg Eastwood. Interchange: Tonie Carroll, Ben Hannant, Mick Ennis, Sam Thaiday.
RABBITOHS: David Peachey, Nathan Merritt, Nigel Vagana, Shannon Hegarty, Reece Simmonds, Jeremy Smith, Joe Williams, Peter Cusack (captain), Daniel Irvine, Roy Asotasi (captain), Luke Stuart, David Fa’alogo, Dean Widders. Interchange: Shane Rigon, John Sutton, Manase Manuokafoa, Jaiman Lowe, Scott Geddes, Joe Galuvao (two to be omitted).
Referee: Paul Simpkins.

SATURDAY
NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS v SHARKS at Mt Smart Stadium (5.30pm AEST).
WARRIORS:
Patrick Ah Van, Todd Byrne, Tony Martin, Simon Mannering, Manu Vatuvei, Michael Witt, Grant Rovelli, Evarn Tuimavave, Nathan Fien, Steve Price (captain), Ruben Wiki, Logan Swann, Micheal Luck. Interchange: George Gatis, Sam Rapira, Epalahame Lauaki, Corey Lawrie.
SHARKS: Brett Kearney, David Simmons, Ben Pomeroy, Fraser Anderson, Luke Covell, Brett Seymour, Brett Kimmorley (captain), Ben Ross, Kevin Kingston, Luke Douglas, Paul Gallen, Lance Thompson, Greg Bird. Interchange: Craig Stapleton, Dayne Weston, Reece Williams, Isaac De Gois.
Referee: Gavin Badger.

WESTS TIGERS v MELBOURNE at Bluetongue Stadium, Gosford (7.30pm AEST).
TIGERS:
Brett Hodgson (captain), Daniel Fitzhenry, Dean Collis, Paul Whatuira, Taniela Tuiaki, Benji Marshall, John Morris, Todd Payten, Robbie Farah, Bryce Gibbs, Ben Galea, Chris Heighington, Dene Halatau. Interchange: Danny Galea, Chris Lawrence, Bronson Harrison, Ryan O’Hara, Jason Moodie, Liam Fulton, Stuart Flanagan (three to be omitted).
STORM: Billy Slater, Steve Turner, Matt King, Matt Geyer, Israel Folau, Greg Inglis, Cooper Cronk, Antonio Kaufusi, Cameron Smith, Brett White, Michael Crocker, Ryan Hoffman, Dallas Johnson. Interchange: Sam Tagataese, Jeff Lima, Ian Donnelly, Anthony Quinn, Ben Cross, Will Chambers (two to be omitted).
Referee: Tony Archer.

PARRAMATTA v SYDNEY ROOSTERS at Parramatta Stadium (7.30pm AEST).
EELS:
Luke Burt, Jarryd Hayne, Ben Smith, Krisnan Inu, Eric Grothe, Brett Finch, Tim Smith, Nathan Cayless (captain), P.J. Marsh, Aaron Cannings, Nathan Hindmarsh, Ian Hindmarsh, Daniel Wagon. Interchange: Blake Green, Josh Cordoba, Zeb Taia, Feleti Mateo, Junior Paulo (one to be omitted).
ROOSTERS: Anthony Minichiello, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Sam Perrett, Sia Soliola, Amos Roberts, Braith Anasta, Mitchell Pearce, David Shillington, Craig Wing, Danny Nutley, Shane Shackleton, Craig Fitzgibbon (captain), Anthony Tupou. Interchange: Chris Beattie, Frank Paul-Nuuausala, Lopini Paea, Ashley Harrison, Heath L’Estrange, John Williams, Shaun Foley, Mitchell Aubusson, Joel Monaghan (five to be omitted).
Referee: Tony De Las Heras.

SUNDAY
CANBERRA v MANLY at Canberra Stadium (2pm AEST).
RAIDERS:
William Zillman, Colin Best, Phil Graham, Adrian Purtell, David Howell, Terry Campese, Michael Dobson, Dane Tilse, Lincoln Withers, Troy Thompson, Neville Costigan, Josh Miller, Alan Tongue (captain). Interchange: Ben Jones, Trevor Thurling, Tom Learoyd-Lahrs, Ryan Hinchcliffe.
SEA EAGLES: Brett Stewart, Michael Robertson, Steve Bell, Jamie Lyon, Chris Hicks, Michael Monaghan, Matt Orford (captain), Jason King, Matt Ballin, Brent Kite, Anthony Watmough, Glenn Stewart, Luke Williamson. Interchange: Clint Halden, Glenn Hall, George Rose, Mark Bryant, Adam Cuthbertson (one to be omitted).
Referee: Jared Maxwell.

BULLDOGS v NEWCASTLE at Telstra Stadium (3pm AEST).
BULLDOGS:
Luke Patten, Hazem El Masri, Daryl Millard, Willie Tonga, Matt Utai, Daniel Holdsworth, Brent Sherwin, Chris Armit, Corey Hughes, Willie Mason, Sonny Bill Williams, Andrew Ryan (captain), Reni Maitua. Interchange: Adam Perry, Lee Te Maari, Kane Cleal, Jarrad Hickey.
KNIGHTS: Kurt Gidley, James McManus, Adam MacDougall, Brad Tighe, Todd Polglase, Daniel Abraham, Jarrod Mullen, Josh Perry, Danny Buderus (captain), Adam Woolnough, Steve Simpson, Clint Newton, Kirk Reynoldson. Interchange: Riley Brown, Matthew White, Cory Paterson, Kade Snowden, Jesse Royal, Michael Young (two to be omitted).
Referee: Steve Clark.

MONDAY
GOLD COAST v NORTH QUEENSLAND at Carrara Stadium (7pm AEST).
TITANS:
Preston Campbell, Matt Petersen, Mat Rogers, Brett Delaney, Jake Webster, Matt Hilder, Scott Prince (captain), Luke Bailey (captain), Clint Amos, Brad Meyers, Anthony Laffranchi, Mark Minichello, Luke Swain. Interchange: Kris Kahler, Michael Hodgson, Josh Graham, Nathan Friend, Gavin Cooper, Lelea Paea, Richie Mathers (three to be omitted).
COWBOYS: Matt Bowen, Brenton Bowen, Ben Farrar, Paul Bowman, Scott Minto, Jason Smith, Johnathan Thurston (captain), Matthew Scott, Aaron Payne, Ray Cashmere, Steve Southern, Jacob Lillyman, Justin Smith. Interchange: Rod Jensen, Sione Faumuina, Carl Webb, Shane Tronc.
Referee: Ben Cummins.

NRL News Review Round 7

Roosters – Got their first win, and must be hoping for confidence from it. A grinding win full of enthusiasm. Not sure if they have turned the corner just yet.

Dragons – In a hole still, too many injuries and Richie Rich has compounded things with his Mundine like spray.

Wests Tigers – Back on track, a very impressive performance over the Bulldogs. Week off help cleared their heads. Look good. Back to 6 points after horror start.

Bulldogs – Totally inconsistent, only limped home against Parra the week before and failed to improve. Players look to be clocking off and relying on others to perform. SBW not his brilliant best and Ogre was quiet against his arch enemy Bryce Gibbs.

Broncos – Another case of the dropsies. A really poor effort from Brisbane – need a quality halfback urgently as only getting punch from Lockyer and Hunt – need direction and confidence.

Melbourne – Their first impressive win, the machine rolls on. Slater was explosive in some of his tries and showed his pure speed on several occasions to burn the Broncos. Too good.

Panthers – Worst game by any team this year. Simply woeful. Hard to imagine them playing this bad again. No effort and butterfingers disease. Matt Elliott must have concerns after this performance. Maybe it’s not a harmonious camp at the Panthers right now?

Canberra – Surprised all, and jagged a nice away win. A team that plays for each other and put in a massive effort this week. Costigan was back and tough in the forwards and Carney again carved up the opposition. Could be a nice springboard for them – getting the away win.

Cowboys – Reinvigorated! Back to their old selves and dynamic in attack and defence. Frustrated Manly and had the game sown up with 20 mins to go. Confirmed they can win without Webb and O’Donnell.

Manly – Stiffled in attack as they have been for most of this year, defence was good considering the skill of North Queensland. Probably only a speed hump for the Manly boys, Ox needs more game time and will improve combinations in the weeks ahead.

Rabbits – Were set to win another game, but snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. An old Rabbit habit. Hopefully Taylor will nip that in the bud. A mediocre performance from the Bunnies and the Warriors probably deserved to win. Passion of Kidwell was missed in this game.

Warriors – Getting an away win is huge for these guys. They will really take confidence from this win. A gritty fight back after many, many video ref knock backs. The Warriors should have have 20+ points on the board had in not been for mystifying Video Calls. Witt played a great game and the forwards as always – dominated. Look the goods this year.

Eels – Smacked badly, hard to read too much into it – as the Eels had 8 players infected by a virus and lost several players to injury and virus hours before kick off. Will dent their confidence and injuries from this game will be a worry. Moi Moi hurting the knee may see him out for a few weeks. Finch was below par this week and needs to find form fast for himself and the team.

Titans – Preston had the game of his life and his team-mates followed. A dynamic attacking force and limited errors saw the Gold Coast rack up near 65% possession in period 1. A fluid effort that saw Rogers find form, with Webster and Petersen cementing their spots in the side.

Cronulla – Have been impressive in defence all year, but dropped their bundle last night. Went missing and got touched up by a young Knights side. Inconsistency hurting them, as is their ability to win away from home. Jury still out on this Ricky Stuart coached side

Knights – A gutsy win and showed they can do the job without Johns. Brian Smith seems to be fitting in well and the youngsters are gunning for spots. As Smith said, I think they are a few weeks off their very best – but should be winning the close ones in the weeks ahead. Watch this space.

Newcastle Knights Young Brigade see off Sharks

A determined Knights outfit survived a late flurry from the Sharks to win by 4 points in Newcastle last night. Newcastle Knights 20 def Cronulla Sharks 16.

It was an impressive Mullen doing the damage for the Knights, slick passing and selective running saw him create and setup several tries. Mullen was aided by Knights new stars, Jesse Royal and Mark Taufua – who put in an impressive physical effort.

The press conference was just an interesting as the game, with Brian Smith giving the media a hard time – when they commented on the Sharks nearly stealing the win (comparing it to similar efforts of Smith during his time at Parra). Smith unloaded at the media, most of it directed at Fox Sports Commentator Andy Raymond.

Then it was Ricky Stuarts turn, he was noticably filthy about his teams effort – and he told the world. He felt players weren’t committed due to the City / Country selections and held fears through the week that his team might put in a below par performance.

The win sees the Johns-less Knights move to 8 points and keeps them in striking distance of the top 4.

On Sunday, a sick and sorry Eels outfit was pummelled by the Gold Coast Titans 38-12 – Preston firing in attack for the Titans club and leaving the Eels in his wake. 8 Eels players were apparently infected with a virus – and were noticably flat in the game.

Souths lost their Aussie Stadium game to the Warriors in a last second try to Todd Byrne. The Bunnies led by 10 points with 4 minutes remaining, but a try to Wade McKinnon put the Warriors in with a chance and after a superb Witt grubber with only seconds on the clock – Byrne chased it down and scored out wide. Breaking Bunny hearts everywhere. Warriors 18 def Souths 16.

NRL News from Townsville

Cowboys end Manly Streak
North Queensland 30 def Manly 26

The score doesn’t really reflect how the Cowboys dominated this match – skill, guile and unrelenting passion from the Cowboys saw them stop Manly in their tracks and provide the Eagles with their first loss this year.

The Cowboys unleashed some sensational set plays involving the Bowen boys and JT – but it was the unbreakable defence that ultimately won them the match. Early possession favoured the Manly boys, but forced kicks from Monaghan caused by frustration from the Cowboys defence saw Manly come away empty handed each time.

Its the first time an opposition pack has dominated the Manly forwards and Tronc, Southern and Cashmere deserve praise for a big effort. More respectable considering they were without Webb and O’Donnell.

Manly had some nice patches, mostly in broken play – but Stewart was thawted everytime he got room and scrambling from the Cowboys was desperate. Manly got close midway through the second half, but dropped ball and ill-discipline saw the Cowboys grab the momentum back and run away with the game.

The other exciting part for the Cowboys was the try results from set pieces. Scrum moves involving Jason Smith and limited tries from kicks – always makes the team and coach much more satisfied with the victory. For Manly – the opposite. Apart from the late consolation tries, several tries from kicks and some luck – aren’t ideal in attack and they’ll need to work on this area for better results moving forward.

NRL News Results
Another major upset:
Raiders demolish Penrith 34 – 18

The unpredictable results of NRL in 2007 continues, with the Raiders travelling to Penrith and putting the Panthers to the sword. Matt Elliot will have nightmares about his old side coming to town and putting the blow torch on; Penrith quite simply put in the worst effort of any team this year.

After playing so poorly, Penrith didn’t even win the fight in the last 5 minutes. Thurling and Priddis got into a fight after a scrum, and after Priddis dished out a face slap – Thurling unloaded with a flurry of punches and smashed Priddis directly with at least two hits.

Priddis was stunned and tried to laugh it off – but the truth of the matter was he and his side were never in the hunt or fight.

Elliot will have a tough week of soul searching with club – confidence will be shot to pieces after this one. The Raiders meanwhile keep chipping away. Neil Henry while trying to find consistency – must be congratulated for finding the right tactics and having his players employ them to the letter.

NRL News Storm v Broncos

Melboure Storm 28 def Broncos 18

The Storm remains undefeated at Round 7 after a comfortable win over the Broncos in Brisbane. In a match which had plenty of errors early – the class of the Storm and passion to get revenge from the grand final loss last year, saw the Southerners storm home with Slater blistering in his pace. Brisbane have continued their poor run of form and remain in the NRL 2007 cellar at round 7. Some consistency is needed or the Broncos will fall shy of the top 8 this year.

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