The young kiwi, Benji Marshall is again the talk of the town in NRL Rugby League circles, as he has broken his collarbone and will sit out until late in the NRL season.

Surprisingly the Tigers grew a leg when Benji Marshall left the field last week and even more surprising was the fact that Brett Hodgson was missing in action too. The Tigers, who were big outsiders in this match up – kept up the pace and raced away for a nice win against the fancied Melbourne Storm.

As NRL news reported, Tigers hooker Robbie Farrah continues his climb to the top of the rake ranks as he puts his classy stamp on the modern game. Insightful, energetic and choc full of guile – he is a dynamic meter eater and sets such a good platform for the Tigers outside backs and makes the task of those mobile forwards so much easier.

The Tigers have found form in the last few weeks and knocked off some decent scalps. The thing that impresses me about the Tigers is the fact that the players in the top squad are of the ideal age for competing in the NRL competition.

Rugby League internationally and more specifically the NRL have moved towards younger players and certainly blooding them much earlier. The Tigers were sprinkled with youngsters when they took the title in 2005 and so many of the mob are now at their peak.

Guys like Bryce Gibbs, Bronson Harrison, Dean Collis and also Liam Fulton – who gets his time to shine in the big boots of Benji at five eighth. The Tigers are littered with these kinds of guys who have the physical ability to perform and the mental strength and experience which will allow them to compete and win the big matches.

A perfect example of the opposite is St George Illawarra. Currently fielding a young side due to massive injury woes, the current squad is certainly not low on talent – guys like Chase Stanley and Richie ‘Rich’ Williams will certainly be future stars, but simply haven’t had enough time in first grade to compete week in, week out.

Back to the Tigers, in addition to these players in their prime – you have seasoned campaigners in the mix who just know how to get the job done and rarely lose their heads. Guys like Todd Payten, Jason Moodie and Ben Galea. Sure, these boys might be a yard slower than the youngsters – but don’t doubt their value every week. Knowing where to position themselves in defence, knowing the habits of regular opposing players and more importantly knowing when the slow the game down or lift the tempo to grab a penalty.

Time will tell us soon enough, but I think the Wests Tigers will continue their upward spiral in form and won’t suffer too much without Benji Marshall. They are fortunate to be able to inject Fulton into pivot and now have the boom rookie Chris Lawrence who slots in out wide and yet again he showed how talented he is in finding that try line.

NRL News predicted the West Tigers to snatch a top 8 spot this year, and yes we copped a lot of criticism. This latest Benji Marshall saga is still only a minor setback for the Tiggers – and I believe they will continue to go from strength to strength.

NRL News

State of Origin NSW Halfback

The forgotten man – Monaghan

As debate rages over who should be the NSW half back for this years Origin – one man who hasn’t been mentioned, the form half of the first 5 rounds Michael Monagahan.

Talk has revolved around Brett Kimmorley, Matt Orford, Craig Gower and even young gun Jarrod Mullen. NSW needs to get the decision 100% right as they face the might of Queensland’s Lockyer and Thurston.

Monaghan’s form this year in the absence of Ox Orford has simply been stunning. Deft kicks, superb organisational play and an uncanny knack of deciding the best time to run to the line or pass – has been his trademark. Who could forget his classy chip and chase to setup the Manly win over the Bulldog’s earlier this season.

Monaghan is a tough, durable player who would cope with the pressure of the big game. He has been in spotlight since leaving Canberra several years ago and has handled himself very well since.

Give the journey man a chance I say, he wouldn’t let anyone down.

Who should be the NSW no. 7 ? We’d love to hear your feedback.

NRL News Monday Night Football

No Sideshow for Bob as Titans fail
Cowboys 24 def Titans 10

A forgettable game for Titans winger Matt Petersen was one of many lowlights for the Titans as they went down badly to a high flying Cowboys side tonight on the Gold Coast.

Big Carl Webb was back for the Cowboys and stamped his authority on the match, firing up at Mark Minichiello at one stage and giving the former Rabbit a nice facial and don’t argue towards the end of the game.

The Cowboys led by a dominant Thurston were never really going to lose after a confident start in wet conditions. Old man Smith was again at his scheming best; as was Cowboy old timer Paul Bowman who was rock solid in defence and scored a nice try from a delightful Thurston hold, pump and pass.

The North Queensland boys have their confidence back and needed the win close to Origin time as they lose their contingent of stars and it sees them move to 12 points and the Titans stuck on 8.

Titans centre Matt Rogers continued his good form, him and Bailey the only real stars for a very flat Titans side. Tonight showed how much they really miss Preston’s spark in attack, they looked lost and 1 dimensional. Prince also missed the chance to dominate rival Thurston, after failing to impress with attack and kicking in play – the 2 halfbacks actually coming together for argey bargey in the 2nd half – ending in a slap across the face for each other.

The game completes Round 8 of the NRL with the following outcomes for your team:

Broncos: Building on form, the win for premiers really helps their cause close to Origin time. Look to have turned the corner.

Souths: Have lost the last 2 games by very small margins. Jeremy Smith out of form at present – team will not be affected by Origin.

Saints: Extremely lucky to sneak a win, playing poorly and no end in sight. Dean Young helped but can’t do it on his own. Face the Tigers this week and should be nervous.

Penrith: Nothing nice to say here, so won’t say anything at all.

Warriors: Slipped up at home, lost players to suspension from it. Out coached by Ricky Stuarts side. Looks to only be a minor speed hump for Cleary’s men. Seem to be ok.

Cronulla: Jeckyl and Hyde – consistency a real issue. Got the points, on the back of smart coaching and good kicking. Need to perform at home, Dykes may be the answer at half.

Parramatta: Strong win at home, when half Smith plays well the Eels win. Finch still not pulling his weight. Look to only be in 3rd gear, if can find spark will stay in top 8.

Roosters: No enthusiasm, simple errors cost them dearly. Simply not winning the play the ball battle. Long Long year continues. Chris Anderson needs to keep taking his heart pills or he might suffer another stroke!

Tigers: Sweating on the outcome of Benji tests. Look to have built nicely with wins over Dogs and Storm. Showed they are a true force. Farrah is hitting the top of his game. Impressive.

Storm: Speed bump only. The slap in the face they needed to get angry and motivated. Bellamy won’t worry too much.

Manly: Sloppy start, but clicked into gear late. Attack needs more polish and defence was shown up a touch. Expect them to be hot this Friday night against the Eels at home.

Canberra: Showed signs they can compete, but lacked the experience to put the Eagles away. Should improve on this, won’t get the spoon this year – that’s for sure.

Bulldogs: Won ugly, and had help from Steve Clark. Need to find the problems, or might drop some games. Sherwin going well and Patten kept the opposition out.

Knights: Too many kids to be competitive – put in a massive effort in the circumstances. Miss Mullen. Tough few weeks ahead. McMannus is a star in the making – nice replacement for Brian Carney.

Cowboys: Look the goods again, confident and streamlined. Forwards back on top with Webb on deck. Look out opposition in weeks ahead.

Titans: Woeful effort from the new boys. Missed Presto and need to be cautious not to get down heartened. Home ground loss is a concern. Unknown how they will respond.

NRL Toyota Cup to have a NSWRL Rival Comp

With the NRL’s National under-20 competition, the Toyota Cup, being introduced in 2008, the Newtown Jets are planning to throw their support behind a new independent open-aged competition run by NSW Rugby League (NSWRL).

The NRL’s streamlined under-20s competition will run parallel to the main competition. The under-20s matches are set to be the main curtain raisers to NRL fixtures, which will leave the current Premier League competition and clubs such as Newtown, Balmain and Western Suburbs in the lurch.

NSWRL is currently taking submissions from clubs about the new stand-alone competition, and will allow the clubs a period of time to complete negotiations regarding joint ventures before it makes a final decision.

Newtown director Glen Dwyer said the Jets were confident the club would remain a viable entity in the new competition, and maintain their links with the Roosters.

“It is the firm opinion of the Jets that we will participate at the highest level NSWRL competition – whatever form of competition that may be and we will be maintaining our current relationship with the Roosters,” Dwyer said.

With clubs such as the Jets, Balmain, Wests, Norths and Auckland already indicating their desire to be involved in the competition, Dwyer said there was a need for the competition to support players over the age of 20.

“There has to be a comp because where do those guys play that are over 20? We will have a connection to the NRL through the Roosters and I imagine that most of the NRL teams would want to have that link for their older players.”

Dwyer said the Jets’ main concerns were the make-up of the competition and the fact that the competition would no longer be the curtain raiser for NRL matches.

“The first problem is will the comp be big enough because if there is less than 12 teams, will the spread of teams be enough for a strong competition? And what will the make-up of the teams be? We generate a lot of interest because we can market matches against teams like Parramatta, Balmain and Wests who we have an old rivalry with. If there are joint ventures and new teams that are part of the competition, it will be harder for us to get people interested.

“We already play all of our home games at Henson Park but when we play away most of the time we are on before first grade and people who get out to watch the lower grades still see the royal blue jumper running around. It looks like we won’t have that anymore and we will be relying on the games with our old rivals to get people to the games,” he said.

NSWRL general manager Geoff Carr said the new competition would give NSWRL a chance to streamline all its competitions.

“We’ve been given a chance to streamline our competitions and further improve the pathways we already have for kids wanting to progress through to the elite level of football,” Mr Carr said.

NRL News Sunday Rugby League

Steve Clark the Terminator stamped his mark on the Bulldogs vs Knights clash today at Telstra Stadium – with the Bulldogs running out comfortable winners 30-16.

The Bulldogs came to play and deserved to win the match, their class a cut above the Knights who were again fielding a brigade of youngsters.

Steve Clark was ever present in the match, blowing a stack of penalties of which on 3 occasions – penalties awarded to the Bulldogs immediately led to a try on the following play. The presence of Clark was amplified when the sin binned Newcastle’s Kade Snowden after a desperate cover tackle the prevented a Utai breakway try. Snowden had dominant position and at worst should have been penalised for a hold down – but instead his binning made things almost impossible for the Knights.

Injury concerns for the Dogs, with Willie Mason sustaning an ankle injury and a more serious knee injury to returning winger Matt Utai. Sonny Bill Williams continues to be nursed along on first grade, with several stints on the bench and only average play from the star with a sprinkling of errors creeping into his game.

Sherwin looks to have won his spot back for good, with impressive kicking and smart organisation for the Dogs and big prop Jarrod Hickey I thought had a good game with brutal defence from the big unit.

The Knights will be better for the run today, with Smith’s decision to blood youngsters – something that will pay dividends for the Knights as the season progresses. Gidley was a little off with his kicking game today, but Buderus continues to build fitness and find good form close to State of Origin time – and was easily best player for his team today.

In the Canberra vs Manly game today – a points scoring spree in the ACT saw the Eagles come from behind to put on a try scoring clinic and put the plucky Raiders away 40-36. Orford after starting slowly, ran hot in the 2nd half and off the back of his kicking game the Eagles won good field position and scored some freakish tries. The win allows Manly to stay on level terms with the Storm, but the Raiders have shown that the Eagles lack a completely fault free game and early on the Manly boys didn’t play as well as their ladder position suggests. On Friday night the Eagles play the Eels at Brookvale Oval in what should be a top clash between the old foes.

NRL News Saturday Night Rugby League

Parramatta Eels snap a 2 game losing streak with a comprehensive win over the hapless Roosters at Parramatta stadium. The Eels showed that last week’s virus did have an affect on their game, and it was business as usual as the boys from the Golden West returned to form.

The Roosters can really only look forward to playing the Panthers – as they are realistically the only team they could compete with. Both sides looking more like premier league squads with their current form.

Even the Roosters man strike weapons: Anasta and Mini were hampered by errors and disorganised play all night.

For the Eels, a dynamic start and impressive showing from boom rookie Kris Inu who replaced Tahu and quickly bagged a try scoring double within 8 minutes of kick off – 2 nice tries which were finished superbly.

Wests Tigers upset the much fancied Melbourne Storm in Gosford with their one off Blue Tounge Stadium game. The Tigers hit the lead early and were never headed. On the back of an overall 91% completion rate – the Tigers missing Brett Hodgeson and who also lost Benjii early in the match were dynamic. Led by creative hooker Robbie Farrah – the Tigers on current form should have no trouble cementing a spot in the top 8 and will have other teams looking over their shoulder as they build form impressively.

The Storm won’t be overly worried, this being their first and only loss this year and Bellamy said it’s a slap in the face we needed to spark up in the weeks ahead.

Cronulla Sharks caused an upset in New Zealand, with the Warriors losing by 2 points in their home match. Amazingly the Sharks had no Kimmorley and frustrated the Warriors into errors and illegal play. The Warriors having 4 players placed on report and missing the chance to secure a top 4 spot. The Sharks injected stalward half Adam Dykes to replace Kimmorley and he organised well for the Cronulla boys all night. Sadly for the Warriors they let down a good crowd of just under 14,000 with a rare home game loss.

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.

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