|TOYOTA CUP GETTIN READY TO RUMBLE
Officials, coaches and players have today backed the Toyota Cup, declaring it one of the most important strategic initiatives since the formation of the National Rugby League.
The strong support came as NRL Chief Executive David Gallop launched the Toyota Cup for 2008 and with it national television coverage through Fox Sports.
The Toyota Cup is already gaining recognition as a ground-breaking initiative in Australian sport, providing a blueprint on how to prepare players for the demands of professional sport and for life after football.
Importantly, it also gives fans the chance to watch the game’s next generation of players, coaches and referees hone their skills in a unified competition that will precede each Telstra Premiership game.
“This will become the elite youth competition of any code in Australasia,” said Eels CEO Denis Fitzgerald, one of the architects of the national youth competition.
“It will grow in stature and I think it will be such a success that other sports will look at something similar.”
Dragons CEO Peter Doust, another member of the sub-committee that developed the Toyota Cup, added:
“We are involving players at younger and younger ages these days and we think this competition will be very positive for the development of their Rugby League careers as well as representing a commitment by all clubs to these players to give them the opportunities that will help them succeed off the field.”
Israel Folau, the Dally M Rookie of the Year who is still eligible to play in the Toyota Cup, said the competition would provide players with an important stepping stone to the NRL.
“The boys here are really excited about playing in it and getting the chance to impress the coach and try to get into first grade,” Folau said.
Dual Dally M Medal winner Johnathan Thurston said the competition would also benefit regional areas.
“The Toyota Cup will give young country players another pathway to the NRL,” Thurston said.
“It also safeguards the future of these young guys by ensuring that there is life employment for them after football.
“I know how excited the fans are to have another Cowboys team to cheer for each week they come to watch us play.”
Gold Coast Titans coach John Cartwright said the Toyota Cup would “further strengthen the game here on the Gold Coast”.
“This competition will provide more opportunities for young players to pursue their NRL dream,” Cartwright said.
“It provides the game’s best junior players with a direct pathway to first grade, it provides leadership, vocational training and a range of educational opportunities that will benefit players on and off the field.”
Toyota Cup Manager Michael Buettner said the emphasis the competition places on education and work-place training is unique in Australian sport.
“It’s an unbelievable opportunity for these kids to be involved in such an exciting time in the game’s history,” Mr Buettner said.
“They should be proud to have the opportunity and I think fans will be just as excited with the quality of football these talented players will produce each week.”
The Toyota Cup provides another development pathway for players striving to play in the NRL in conjunction with the Queensland Cup, NSW Cup (formerly NSW Premier League) and the Jim Beam Cup.
“We are launching a new-look NSW Cup this season, which has created enormous interest in that competition, a Perth team has joined the Jim Beam Cup, and with the Toyota Cup they provide more opportunities than ever for players to progress to the NRL,” NSW Rugby League General Manager, Mr Geoff Carr, said.
The restructured 12-team NSW Cup kicks off on March 14 – the same day as the Telstra Premiership – with Central Newcastle Knights, Cronulla Cobras, Wentworthville Magpies, Central Coast Storm and Windsor Wolves joining the competition alongside Auckland Vulcans (formerly Lions), Balmain-Ryde Eastwood, Bulldogs, Manly, Newtown, North Sydney and Western Suburbs Magpies, while this season’s Jim Beam Cup features a team from Perth – the WA Reds.
The Toyota Cup, meanwhile, has already won significant media and corporate support.
Fox Sports will broadcast an average of two matches per week and Sky TV in New Zealand will televise Warriors’ Toyota Cup home matches.
As well as Toyota being the naming rights sponsor for the competition, each club has attracted strong sponsorship support for their under 20s teams.
| TOYOTA CUP’S GROUND BREAKING TV DEAL
The NRL’s newest competition – the Toyota Cup – will be televised live nationally as part of a ground-breaking new TV deal.
Fox Sports Chief Executive, Mr David Malone, announced the one-year deal that will broadcast live, on average, two games per week, as well as all the Toyota Cup finals and a simulcast of the Toyota Cup Grand Final with Channel Nine.
Sky TV in New Zealand will also broadcast the Warriors’ home Toyota Cup matches to their New Zealand audience.
“This broadcast partnership highlights the excitement the Toyota Cup is generating among the players, clubs, fans and our media partners,” NRL Chief Executive, Mr David Gallop, said today.
“The Toyota Cup will feature the future stars of our game and we thank Fox Sports for their efforts in ensuring as many fans as possible are able to enjoy watching this competition.”
The TV deal, which has provisions for a four-year extension, is another positive boost to the inaugural national youth competition, which will revolutionise the game’s development pathways.
“NRL coverage on Fox Sports has been an incredible success and to be able to announce that we will also be broadcasting two Toyota Cup games live each week, showcasing the future stars of the NRL, is another exciting step in our partnership with the NRL," Mr Malone said.
"The broadcast of the Toyota Cup on Fox Sports will give our viewers even greater coverage of Rugby League and is also a further example of our commitment to this great game.”
The Toyota Cup provides a blueprint on how to prepare players for the demands of professional sport and for life after football, as well as giving fans the chance to watch the game’s next generation of players, coaches and referees hone their skills in a unified competition.
“The Toyota Cup is the first competition of its kind in Australian sport and the broadcast partnership with Fox Sports highlights the significant role it will play in developing Rugby League’s future stars,” Toyota Manager of Promotion and Events, National Marketing, Wayne Gabriel, said today.
“This competition will showcase the best young footballers in Australia and offer an exciting pathway to the NRL, and Toyota is proud to be part of that development.
“Toyota’s commitment to the national youth competition builds on our already strong partnership with Rugby League as the official vehicle sponsor of the NRL and a sponsor of the North Queensland Cowboys, Cronulla Sharks and Brisbane Broncos.”
LIGHTNING STRIKES SHARKS AGAIN
| Matty's Cup : Sharks' Ryan Jenkins makes sure he puts the ball down right (Photo : ourfooty media)
Lightning struck the Cronulla Sharks SG Ball side at Blaxland Oval again this week.
For the second week in a row the Sharks have come from behind only to go home with a another draw, this time 24 - all draw against the Central Coast Storm.
The Sharks also scored more tries than their opposition for the second week and should be able to solve the kicking thing soon.
It was an impressive game with both sides backing teammates with some big, loud hits. ( More later & heaps of photo's from both games)
The Sharks Matthew's Cup side continued the start of their season with a covincing 42 - 8 victory over the Storm.
The Sharks are improving with each game and are well organised in defence and play for each other in attack.
Sharks half back Sam Clune was in the middle of the action again with a try and even converted about 7 goals for the boyz today.
Big Joel, Aaron, James, Steve and the forwards were getting across the advantage line at will which gave the back line plenty of running opportunities to put points on the board, and they did too. ( More Later )
In other scores so far : The Bulldogs Matty's Cup team also had their second draw of the season against the dragons in round 2 with a 18 - all draw. The Panthers Mattys boys out muscled the Wests Magpies 42 - 12
The Panthers SG Ball squad continue to prove they are going to be hard to beat this year with a hard fought 34 - 16 win against the Magpies.
The Rabbitohs went to bleek city to take home the 2 competition points against the Raiders to win 46 - 26. | HAROLD MATTHEWS RESULTS & LADDER | - | SG BALL RESULTS & LADDER |
THE NEXT NRL SUPERSTARS?
|Talent . . . Parramatta prop Tim Mannah. Photo: Jacky Ghossein
|Tim Mannah thanks the Welsh Mayor after the schoolboys thump Wales '06 (Photo : ourfooty media)
|Tim Mannah ripper in his schooldays (Photo : ourfooty media)
A hulking young forward with strict religious beliefs and an early-morning milk run is a star of the future.
If you get up early to greet your milkman, there's a good chance you've seen the next big thing in rugby league.
With the first match of the NRL season just 19 days away, the search is already on to find the next Israel Folau, Krisnan Inu and David Taylor.
And we reckon we've found them. The Sun-Herald has cast an eye over the best young talent at all 16 clubs to find the game's next superstars.
And at Parramatta, the hot tip is Tim Mannah.
Milk run and Lebanese background aside, Jason Stevens sees a lot of himself in Parramatta prop Mannah. Both are big. Both study at NIDA. Both are abstaining from sex until they get married.
And they both believe they're God's gift. "He reminds me a bit of myself - he refers to himself as good looking," laughed former Super League Test forward Stevens, who met Mannah at a church conference.
"I thought, 'I like this bloke', we hit it off straight away. He said to me one of his aims is to be the best-looking Christian footballer going around.
"I told him that would be quite easy, I didn't set a high standard there."
But of all the similarities, the most important common trait for Eels fans is their playing talent.
Mannah is one of the most promising props in the game and is likely to earn a first-grade berth this season. The Australian Schoolboys star will start in the National Youth Competition alongside his younger brother, John, although good judges believe higher honours beckon.
"He's been really impressive in pre-season in a full-time environment," Eels coach Michael Hagan said. "He's been a quality kid at the club for a number of years. I watched him play a fair bit of footy last year in [Jersey] Flegg. He's a quality kid and he's somebody we see has a big future at the club."
Like Stevens, Mannah is a devout Christian and an active member of his church.
The 20-year-old is also a virgin and doesn't believe in premarital sex.
"I believe I'll get a lot more out of a relationship that way and that the relationship with my wife will be better if I know I've waited for her," Mannah said, who was born in Australia but qualifies for Lebanon through his father. "It makes it a bit more special. The boys, especially the ones I've grown up with, rip me to shreds about [being a virgin] but it's all good fun, they respect my beliefs.
"Everyone who knows me knows about it, it's not something I'm shy about. I'm fortunate to have a good family background, I grew up in church and they are the morals I grew up with. I'm 20 years old now, I may as well wait till I'm married."
There's another major difference between Mannah and the majority of the Eels' top-grade squad - his milk run. While their big-name teammates are still tucked in bed, Tim and John wake up at 5am three times a week do the delivery run.
"You get to meet a few strange people doing that," Mannah said.
"It reminds you not to get too big for your boots and that there are people out there working really hard.
"We're fortunate to be in the position we're in [playing football]."
The siblings are hoping to follow in the footsteps of the Hindmarsh brothers - Nathan and Ian - by playing in the NRL together for the Eels.
"Playing first grade together would be awesome, it would be a dream come true for us," he said.
The 107 kilogram forward wants to be a big star, on and off the field.
Following in the footsteps of Ian Roberts and Stevens, Mannah has enrolled in NIDA with a view to a post-football career in the media.
His presenting skills have already been put to good use recording segments on the club's website Parra TV, a behind-the-scenes insight into the players. But not all shoots he's been involved with have gone well.
As if being a milk-delivering virgin wasn't already enough ammunition for his teammates, he became the butt of all jokes when the Eels visited James Packer's property recently.
"He professed he knew how to shoot and had done it all before," said Eels under 20s coach Matt Cameron of an incident at the shooting range.
"He brought the rifle up, pulled the trigger and the recoil of the gun forced the scope into his forehead.
"That was after bragging how he knew what he was doing."
MEET THE ABORIGINAL CARROT TOP WHO HAS THE ROOSTERS RAVING ALERT
Story & Photo By :
When Arthur Beetson compares this 17-year-old to Brad Fittler and Johnathan Thurston, you know the kid could be special, writes Will Swanton.
The NRL recently organised for a photo to be taken of every Aboriginal player in the premiership and this red-headed guy who looked more like Ralph Malph than Lionel Rose had the temerity to join in. Given that Brett Finch had just been booted out for gatecrashing a picture of the Polynesians, Carrot Top was about to be marched out of the joint.
But Ben Jones was allowed to stay. Because he's as Aboriginal as they come.
"No idea what the red hair is about," he says. "No one else in the family has it."
The 17-year-old Roosters prodigy is a descendant on both sides of the family of the Kamilaroi tribe. His mother, Sonia, admits it was "a bit of a surprise" when he was born and laughs at the place of his birth: Orange. His father, Stefan, says he gets a bit of a red tinge when he grows a beard, but that's about it.
"Raised in Coonabarabran, two Aboriginal parents, Aboriginal brothers and sisters - he's Aboriginal," Stefan says. "It's rare, but it happens. There are more red-headed Aborigines around the place than a lot of people realise.
"I knew when he was four he was going to be good. You could kick a ball as high as you could, and he'd never drop it. At five, he was glued to the television. He watched every game, knew every player. He's an honest kid and a hard worker. Footy is his life."
Jones was chosen for his first taste of first grade last night against Wests Tigers in the Foundation Cup. He's such a talent that the Roosters are already paying him $100,000 for this year.
The club's former recruitment officer and Test player, Arthur Beetson, first signed him to a scholarship at the age of 13 and if the Roosters want to keep him beyond 2008, they'll want to come up with another contract fast. His family is in Brisbane, mum and dad are acting as his managers, and the Broncos and Titans will start circling soon enough.
Beetson says he doesn't want to talk Jones up too much - then talks him right up by saying he's as good as Johnathan Thurston and Brad Fittler at the same age.
"He's just a pure footy player," Beetson says. "You know what I mean? Some players are just out-and-out footballers, and he's one of them."
Jones has done a Talobilla Dreaming program to study indigenous language, sacred sites, traditional land owners, food and cultural awareness. He's played for indigenous junior representative sides and every time he does, the stadium is filled with questions about his right to be playing. He's grown used to it. There's been curiosity since his school days at Redcliffe High in Brisbane.
"My schoolteacher was a scout for the Roosters," Jones says. "He got on to Arthur Beetson. Arthur came up to watch me and signed me up. I was 13, and I got a scholarship. As soon as he asked me I said, 'Yep'. It took me two seconds.
"The Roosters were the team I followed and Arthur was a bit of a hero. I wasn't going to say no. Now Freddie [Brad Fittler] is the first-grade coach, and he was another hero of mine when I was growing up. I'm in the halves so I couldn't get someone better to help me out. I can't really say too much else than that."
Beetson says the rugby league world is his oyster.
"He's an exceptional talent, one of a kind. The worry with Thurston as a kid was his size, and it was the same with Ben. But he's getting very solid. He is one of those rare breeds."
BACK TO BUSH FOR NRL DUO
|COUNTRY CONNECTION: Tamworth’s Alan Tongue (left) and Forbes’ Josh Miller and Joel Thompson relax yesterday in Orange before Saturday’s NRL trials.
|Joel in action for the Australian Schoolboys '06 (Photo : ourfooty media)
There is no doubt Canberra Raiders Joel Thompson and Josh Miller will feel comfortable in Orange this week - they’re not far from home.
The duo originally hail from Forbes but are in Orange this week with the Raiders for the NRL trial against the Brisbane Broncos.
This is Thompson’s first year with the Raiders after moving from the Melbourne Storm.
The 19-year-old is keen to make his presence felt at Wade Park on Saturday night.
“It’s good to start 2008 out here playing my first trial game against the Broncos,” Thompson said.
“Hopefully I’ll get a few family and friends to the game.”
The former Australian Schoolboy is one of a handful of under-20 players who have been training with the first grade squad.
The former Red Bend College student said he had settled in well at Canberra and had enjoyed a challenging pre-season under coach Neil Henry.
Thompson has impressed Miller in the pre-season.
“He’s very switched on for a young bloke,” Miller said of Thompson.
“I think he’s going to have a good year and be really successful at the Raiders.”
Miller, who made his first grade debut for the Raiders in 2004, is looking forward to playing a game so close to home.
The 25-year-old said he remembers how excited he was when league stars would visit Forbes and Parkes when he was young and he’s glad the Raiders can do that now.
“I always enjoy coming out here and bringing the NRL out to places where a lot of people don’t get to see it,” he said.
“They don’t get to see the stars they watch on television very often.
“It’s good to bring the game to them.”
They might be here for a trial match but Miller said the Raiders were still keen to win.
Miller knows it won’t be easy coming up against the Broncos.
“You want to go away with the win but we’re mainly out there to work on combinations and everyone getting a run under their belt,” he said.
“We’d like a good first hit-out and hopefully come out injury-free.”
PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM JUNIOR
|Decision … Sam Stewart jnr will play in the National Youth Competition for the Gold Coast while finishing his medical studies. Photo: Steve Holland
TAKE this in the best possible way, but Sam Stewart - son of Sam, but we'll get to that later - found his own vision the same day his older brother lost his.
Zarn Stewart was just out of school and a promising Newcastle league player, as Brett Finch's halves partner, when both of their lives were irreversibly altered.
"He was working with this high-pressure hose, and he opened the cap and it burst straight into his eye," Sam Stewart recalled. "It had all this acid in it. It burnt the first seven layers in his eye. It pretty much melted."
Zarn suffered third-degree chemical burns, and the burning continued for six months. Ultimately, he lost 80 per cent vision in his right eye.
Sam was 12 years old then. Now the son of the first Newcastle Knights captain of the same name is playing halfback for the Gold Coast Titans' National Youth Competition under-20 side. And this playmaker is juggling much more than a football.
The 19-year-old is in his third year of an undergraduate Bachelor of Medical Sciences degree, and is hoping to embark on a postgraduate degree in medicine as early as next year.
"He's always thought he might have been able to fix his brother up," his father said yesterday. "That's very romantic when you're a 12-year-old, but he's in his third year now and it's in the forefront of his mind a long way down the track. I'm very proud of him."
Like Zarn, and like Sam junior, Stewart senior was also a promising footballer. But unlike Zarn, fate allowed him to live out that promise, becoming a legend in Newcastle not to mention a New Zealand international.
Young Sam, who still watches tapes of his father, has also followed in a few of his dad's footsteps, having been on a scholarship at Newcastle and part of the Junior Kiwis last season.
Born the year his father was made Knights captain, he carved a handy career at halfback with Newcastle, and now the Titans, and is someone who has been schooled not only by one Knights legend (father) but also biggest of all in Andrew Johns.
But whether he'll continue treading his father's path is open for debate. He admits he is approaching a fork in the road. The new Toyota Cup competition, with its professionalism and frequent flyer miles, will make life easier and harder at the same time. For while the pathway to the NRL is clearer, those swinging doors of the emergency ward are suddenly further away.
"It's going to be pretty tough," he said. Up at 5am for gym training, then breakfast, then to university until 4pm, then training, then study. It's enough to make you want to, well, sleep. And he still does, he insists - in lecture theatres.
"I could always cut down to part-time at uni, but that's just going to make it longer and longer," he said. "I might be at the crossroads. At the end of this 20s comp, I'll be going into the postgraduate or looking to push onto the NRL. I still haven't decided." But his father has.
"It's not like football," Sam snr said of his degree. "It's a matter of doing the work and it'll fall into place. Footy - there's too many variables. I'd prefer him to play with his mates, kick a football around, and concentrate on his study - a lot more doors open internationally. But it's hard to tell a 19-year-old that when all he wants to do is play footy."
BEALE HAS BIG FUTURE
|Gerard Beale makes a break for against England '07 (Photo : ourfooty media)
BRISBANE officials last night tipped teenager Gerard Beale to become the first 17-year-old to make his debut for the Broncos since Karmichael Hunt in 2003.
Beale (pictured) joins a star-studded squad for Saturday night's trip to Orange, with Wayne Bennett keen to see the teen prodigy first hand against the Raiders.
The shock inclusion comes after the Logan product's impressive tryscoring effort against the Cowboys in Rockhampton last weekend.
Broncos assistant coach Ivan Henjak said the versatile outside back would now be road-tested to gauge whether he was ready for an NRL berth in 2008.
``The kid's good, I'm not going to hide it,' Henjak said.
``He's handled every challenge so far and he can handle a few positions. Physically it didn't seem to bother him (against the Cowboys). He handled himself well but it goes up another notch again this weekend.'
Brisbane will roll out its available big guns against Canberra, with Beale the only player in the 20-man squad yet to make his NRL debut.
Beale takes his place on an extended seven-man bench that includes Tonie Carroll, Greg Eastwood and P. J. Marsh, while Test fullback Hunt will don the No. 1 jumper.
Panthers recruits Joel Clinton -- who has overcome a calf strain -- and Peter Wallace will suit up for their first games in Broncos colours.
Regular NRL stars Sam Thaiday, Corey Parker, David Stagg, Steve Michaels, Darius Boyd and Michael Ennis will also be dusted off.
Test star Justin Hodges is one of nine players backing up from last Saturday night.
FIRST NATIONAL YOUTH COMPETITION (NYC) TEAM EVER NAMED
|Martin Kennedy at the 2008 NRL Rookie Camp (Photo : ourfooty media) SEE THE TEAM LIST
The first Sydney Roosters team of the National Youth Competition has been announced today with Adrian Lam naming an extended bench of 12 players to ensure his squad has a good run against quality competition.
This Saturday marks the first game that the NYC team will play with much anticipation surrounding the new look competition.
Roosters forward Marty Kennedy has seen the transition between the Jersey Flegg Competition and National Youth Competition and is looking make the most of his opportunities.
“This will be the start of something good for 2008. It gives us the opportunity to turn around our form last year on a new slate”.
Kennedy played in last week’s trial against the combined group two sides in Port Macquarie and was happy to have been given that opportunity.
“The game last weekend was good to get your timing right and this week we build the intensity as we head into the season”.
Marty has also enjoyed working under the tutelage of Adrian Lam who brings a wealth of experience to the role of Head Coach.
“Adrian is an unbelievable coach and it is amazing how much I have learnt off him in such a short time.
I believe he will be one of the best coaches in the NYC and we can wait to start the season.”
BIG WET HURTS CUTTERS
|Anthony Coulton help with the mop up (Photo : Mackay Daily Mercury )
ROOKIE coach Shane Muspratt spends hours mopping up four inches of water from his home, CEO Greg Sutherland races around town cooking sausages for battling locals and young centre Anthony Caulton (pictured) works himself to a standstill in the big clean up at Super A-Mart.
These are just a few of the amazing stories which have gripped the Mackay Cutters rugby league team over the last week.
The dramatic hardship caused by the severe flooding has rocked the Cutters’ preparations ahead of their first season in the tough Wizard Cup competition.
But the setbacks haven’t broken the squad’s spirit, with Cutters Operations Manager Jamie McDonald describing the experience as character building.
Remarkably, the Cutters players haven’t touched a football for a group ball session in a week and a half.
“It has been really hard to find a ground,” McDonald says.
“Every ground has been closed because they’re waterlogged. It’s been raining for a good month now – solid.”
The downpour forced the cancellation of Mackay’s opening trial against the Northern Pride last weekend.
But with the sun finally breaking through today, McDonald is confident this Saturday’s trial against Wynnum Manly at Sarina will be the perfect tonic for the Cutters.
The Cutters have been restricted to indoor sessions, but desperate to get some “miles in their legs”, headed for the hills for a series of grueling sprints this week.
“It has been frustrating, but at the end of the day there is not much you can do about it,” McDonald says.
“We’re looking at it from the point of view that it could be character building for us.”
The Cutters open their premiership season with an intriguing first round clash against the Northern Pride on March 15.
FEATHERS WILL FLY AT SFS
|From sideline to scrum...Roosters mascot Stanley Waqa is getting ready to swap his costume boots for real ones. Picture: Graham Crouch.
COACH Brad Fittler will unleash a secret weapon with 20 minutes left in Saturday night's Foundation Cup clash with Wests Tigers - the Sydney Roosters' 2m mascot.
Representative stars Anthony Minichiello, Craig Fitzgibbon, Robbie Farah and Brett Hodgson were all snubbed at yesterday's launch of the annual pre-season clash - with most attention on the man inside a giant chook outfit.
Fijian 19-year-old Stanley Waqa - 190cm and 118kg - will swap the feathers for football boots at the weekend when he comes off the bench.
"He's got a bit of Arthur Beetson about him," raved Roosters chief executive Brian Canavan.
The father of a seven-month-old daughter, Trish, Waqa was born in Fiji and moved to Sydney with his preacher father Simon and mother, also called Trish.
"They were looking for someone to wear the mascot suit and I was the only trainee in the office at the time," Waqa said with a grin.
Fittler said: "He's a big kid and he has really good delicate skills.
"He's going to have a run with the under-20s and then we'll give him a run at the back end of the first grade game some time."
The Roosters side also includes, for the first time, star off-season recruit Willie Mason while Benji Marshall will be back on deck for Wests Tigers.
"The boys are looking forward to playing against Willie," Wests Tigers coach Tim Sheens said.
For Wests Tigers, Dene Halatau returns to the centres although Dean Collis could take the spot instead.
CRONULLA'S $600,000 junior signing Karl Filiga has been selected to play South Sydney at Bluetongue Stadium on Saturday night. Craig Wing starts off the bench for the Rabbitohs.
CHARLIE Leaeno and Kane Cleal will fill the breach left by departed Mark O'Meley and Willie Mason when the Bulldogs take on St George Illawarra at WIN Stadium on Saturday night.
NORTH Queensland will field a new halves combination, Travis Burns and Anthony Watts, against Gold Coast in Cairns on Saturday night.
EX-AUSTRALIAN UNIVERSITIES STAR JORDAN ATKINS DOING OK
|LEADING the way . . . Jordan Atkins has impressed with his speed and gym work during the off-season.
JORDAN Atkins's transformation from training-field shirker to fitness freak has helped the former Australian Universities star leap the queue and earn first crack at a Gold Coast wing spot.
Atkins, 25, has beaten Brenton Bowen, Smith Samau, Ben Jeffery and Shannon Walker for a place in the starting side to play North Queensland in a trial at Cairns on Saturday.
Matthew Peterson is the other winger in a top 13 made up entirely of players from the Titans' 2007 roster, with imports Bowen, Jeffery, Ashley Harrison and Aaron Cannings on the bench along with whiz-kid Walker.
Titans coach John Cartwright said yesterday the players who did the job last year deserved a show of loyalty.
"Before injuries hit last year we were competitive with every club so it's only fair that with a healthy roster we give those blokes a go," Cartwright said.
"There are still some spots that are very competitive including the outside backs, front row and halves. Mat Rogers will get first crack at five-eighth but Ash Harrison will get a run there too."
Cartwright said Atkins, who rejected a contract offer from Newcastle, deserved a chance after an injury-disrupted 2007 when he played in the Queensland Cup for Burleigh.
"He has led the way in the off-season with his speed and gym work," Cartwright said.
Atkins yesterday confessed he previously had a reputation as a lazy trainer.
"In the Queensland Cup with Toowoomba and Burleigh I had no confidence and I was always at the back of the pack," he said.
"At the Titans (performance director) Billy Johnstone is so tough if you can't do it he tells you to piss off. My coach from Toowoomba wouldn't believe it if he saw me now."
Atkins is a product of Stanthorpe Gremlins club which also produced Broncos Test winger Michael Hancock.
"I haven't played on the wing before and centre is my preferred position," Atkins said.
"I have been doing a lot of training on the wing and Matt Peterson has helped me a lot.
"I was tempted by the Newcastle offer but the Titans showed faith in me and I thought I owed them loyalty."
Titans winger Kingi Aka'Oula should know tonight whether he faces a ban after he was sent off in last Saturday's 34-28 loss to Canberra at Ipswich. | |
ROOKIE TITAN QUICK TO MAKE HIS MARK AT TRAINING, NOW BRING ON THE OTHER SPEED DEMONS
|Shannon Walker Vs Wales U19's - soon to be NRL star (Photo : ourfooty media)
WE already knew Shannon Walker was fast. Anyone who can clock 10.55 seconds for 100 metres as a 16-year-old has got some toe.
But just how fast can he go? And will the added size he gains in the weight room slow him down? The Gold Coast flyer, tipped to be the fastest man in league when he makes his NRL debut this season, answered at least one of those questions during the off-season.
In his first timed 40-metre run with the Titans in November he posted a sizzling 4.79, a time which would have been quicker had Walker not been ploughing through grass in his footy boots.
The Kyogle teenager recently ran a 4.80 over the same distance, despite the fact he's added five kilograms of muscle to his wiry body, which now tips the scales at 79kg.
"He's faster than anyone I've dealt with in rugby league. He's the quickest we've had," Titans strength and conditioning coach Chris McLellan says.
Walker is set to become one of league's genuine speedsters, alongside Penrith's Michael Jennings, Canberra's William Zillman, Manly's Brett Stewart and Cowboys fullback Matt Bowen. Although Jennings hasn't officially been clocked over 40 metres, the following story should put his speed into perspective.
"I watched him do 40-metre sprints, which I wasn't timing," Panthers strength and conditioning coach Carl Jennings (no relation) says.
"He slipped, fell down, got up and still won the race by three metres. There were a few quick guys in that race, including Rhys Wesser and Jarrod Sammut.
"He'd be the type of player you could get on to a track and in six months he'd be doing some fast times. Deadset, he could be a world-class sprinter. He's awesome."
Raiders back Zillman is yet another speed merchant who has posted the exceptional 40-metre time of 4.40.
RAIDERS IN SCORING SPREE
|Daniel vidot during a trail game vs the Sharks on Australia Day (Photo : ourfooty media)
The Canberra Raiders amassed over 80 points in the round 1 Matty's & SG Ball games this weekend.
The Matthews Cup side were beaten by a kick with the Central Coast storm raking up an amazing 42 to points to open the season in style.
The Raiders SG Ball side were winners by defeating the CC Storm 44 - 18.
Raiders fullback & AIS tourist Daneil Vidot led the way with 3 tries in the scoring spree at Seiffert Oval. Daniel will be looking to force his way into the raiders Toyota Cup Under 20's side at some stage this year, we may even see him running around with the senior NRL side soon.
44 - 18
|TRIES : (D Vidot 3, S Williams, M Day, J Croker, P
Vaughan, M McIlwick
GOALS :J Croker 6
|TRIES : G Nelson 2, R Chamberlain, B Latour
GOALS : B Latour goal
40 - 42
|TRIES : C Salway, S Fulavai, M Bray, B Picker, A
Reeves, N Close, A Costuna
GOALS : B Picker 6
|TRIES : M Hingano 2, R Pooley 2, T Cheal, J Drinkwater, M O'Neil tries; N Killick 3
GOALS : M O'Neil 4
HALFBACK WATTS PUTS UP HIS HAND
|Anthony Watt and Cowboys rising stars at this years NRL Rookie Camp (Photo : ourfooty media)
STAND-IN coach Ian Millward has praised the first-up effort of deputising halfback Anthony Watts, admitting the Cowboys' new recruit has put himself squarely in the mix for first grade selection.
Watts will again play in the No. 7 jumper against the Titans this weekend and appears to have the inside running to replace injured skipper Johnathan Thurston during the opening month of the NRL season after an eye-catching performance against the Broncos on Saturday night.
The 21-year-old, who made his NRL debut with Cronulla before linking with the Cowboys during the off-season, took strong control of his side against the Broncos during stints both as first receiver and dummy-half.
"I was very happy (with his game)," said Millward, who coached the side in the absence of coach Graham Murray.
"We wanted to see him at both seven and nine, and he showed some good stuff in both positions. He's got some skill, he's just got to harness his energy in the right direction at the moment."
Watts will have another opportunity to gain invaluable game time with his new teammates on Saturday night in Cairns against a Gold Coast side expected to begin rolling out its big guns after fielding a youthful squad against Canberra on Saturday.
The match is a dress rehearsal for their round 1 match-up at Skilled Park.
"He (Watts) didn't go backwards tonight, he certainly put his hand up," Millward said. "It's not easy in a new club either, he's trying to get used to everyone, and it's very hard for a half to dominate when he's just come to a club. He's only a young halfback too."
While beaten 20-10 in Rockhampton, the Cowboys showed glimpses of their renowned attacking flair – despite being without headline acts Thurston, Matt Bowen and Ash Graham.
UNDER-20S PUSH PRIDE TO THE LIMIT
|FLICK PASS ... Cowboys under-20 player Leo Faagutu offloads against the Pride
COACH Grant Bell left Cairns a satisfied man following the under-20 Cowboys' first competitive hit-out on Saturday night.
North Queensland went down 26-20 to Queensland Cup team the Northern Pride, overcoming a stilted preparation to come within a whisker of a draw.
After their originally scheduled match in Charters Towers was washed out on Friday night, the Cowboys quickly made alternate plans for the team to fly to the Far North.
With that in mind Bell said he was extremely happy with the efforts of his players.
"For our guys it was quite an experience and a good first trial as a unit," he said.
"We had our first training session with that side as a side (on Friday) night.
"I thought they came together really well for a side that weren't too familiar with each other."
26 - 20
|TRIES : H Murgha 2, C Bird, B Laity, E Warria, D Campbell
GOALS : S Sheppard
|TRIES : B Payne, R Griffiths 2, B Boor
GOALS : C Riesen 2
The junior Cowboys put a fright into the Pride, who will play a senior Cowboys team on Saturday night.
North Queensland led 10-8 at halftime and then 20-8 eight minutes into the second half.
However four tries in 16 minutes for the Pride – the NRL Cowboys' feeder team – turned the game on its head.
Bell said the experience within the teams was the difference.
"For a few of the guys, they'd never played an 80-minute game of footy before, so there's some learning coming out of that – there's also perhaps a bit of learning that you`ve got to keep yourself in the game," he said.
"There's no doubt that the experienced players in the Pride played a little better at the back end of the game and possession didn't roll our way in the last quarter.
"It was a tough game to play in the last quarter and without the ball I thought they defended well, they stood up well."
The Cowboys had a chance to snatch a draw in the dying seconds when they chased through a kick into the in-goal, but the Pride scrambled and knocked the ball out of play.
Bell said both teams had cause for optimism following their first-up showings.
"Both sides had some players that really stood up and showed the coaches that they're really ready for the next level of footy," he said.
Cowboys front-rower Scott Idec suffered a grade-one medial tear to his knee and will miss at least one week.
The other half of the under-20 Cowboys' 40-man squad had been scheduled to play in Ayr on Saturday but that match was also a victim of the weather.
An effort to relocate the game to James Cook University yesterday also ended unsuccessfully due to the rain.
|NEWTOWN JETS SCRAPE HOME AGAINST THE SCORPIONS.
The Newtown Jets grabbed a last-minute win against the Newcastle club Macquarie United in the trial match played at the Matraville High Sports Ground on Saturday afternoon.
The Jets scored a converted try in the last sixty seconds of play to claim the lead for the first time in the match, ultimately winning by 38-32.
Macquarie United, known throughout the Hunter as the Scorpions, led by 10-4 after twenty minutes, 20-16 at half-time and 32-22 at the end of the third quarter.
Newtown’s speed out wide and a surplus of possession in the final quarter enabled the Jets to sneak home in what was a very even contest.
This was an excellent trial match for both clubs and Mal Graham’s Scorpions are to be commended for their advanced levels of fitness and finesse.
The match gave Newtown’s coaching staff an invaluable opportunity to assess the quality of their 2008 triallists under full-blooded match conditions against well-drilled and determined opponents.
Among Newtown’s better performers were Byron Ford (formerly with South Sydney and Hull Kingston Rovers), Luke Branighan and Ben Green (who have both been with NRL clubs), Jimmy Andersen (ex-Cowboys), Luke Gordon and Hep Cahill.
The surprise packet of the afternoon for Newtown was back-rower Trevor Richardson who was playing in his first-ever match of Rugby League football.
Richardson hails from County Sligo in the Republic of Ireland and represented Ireland in the 2005 Under 21 Rugby Union World Cup in Argentina, as well as Connaught in Irish provincial representative Rugby Union.
The Newtown club would like to thank Scott Murray and his fellow staff members at Matraville Sports High for making their oval and the school’s excellent facilities available at such short notice.
Newtown’s next assignment is a trial game against Balmain at the Sydney Football Stadium next Saturday afternoon (February 23rd) at 3.20pm. This match is an early curtain-raiser to the Sydney Roosters v Wests-Tigers Foundation Cup NRL trial match.
SHARKS BIG 1 ST UP WIN IN MATTHEWS CUP
|Sharks Steve Berkley attacks
|Sam Clune Sharks half on his way to 2 tries
|Joel Tubbs Charging up Kirkham Field
|Sam Clune dives in for a try (Photo's : ourfooty media)
The 2008 NSWRL Matthews Cup kicked off with great excitement today when the South West Sydney Academy of Sports hosted the Cronulla Sharks at Kirkham Field.
Kirkham Field is also home to the local Rams who were having their sign up day, what a great day to get your club together, sign up with your teammates and get to see the opening Matthews Cup Game for the season.
In the Opening game, the SWSAS took on the Cronulla Junior League Development Under 15's in a tough game of good footy, the Academy boyz out scored the Sharks this time which is a good come back from the game last year at Endeavour Field next to Sharks Park at Cronulla.
The Academy managed to put on 6 tries to the Sharks 2 tries, as with all development games that is not the important thing in these games, it's to develop our junior club players.
The Cronulla lads will learn from today's game s as will the Academy squad, many guys on both teams had good games, well done to all. Reece Davidson's try was a beauty that comes to memory at 2 am.
A crowd of a few hundred saw a tight opening 15 minutes with both sets of forwards making up for five months with out footy. It was great to see Rugby League played again.
The Sharks crossed the line when Sam Clune ran straight over from about 10 meters out for the first score of the season.
From the kick off the Sharks forwards led by big Joel Tubbs had the Sharks up to the Academy's 40, a slight fumble the academy had the ball only to kick it back the the Sharks, who just kept on attacking until they when over again thanks to some tricky running by the winger in the right corner.
SWSAS scored when their fullback made a mad dash and scored under the black dot, the kick was a good one, then they were in again to make the score 12 all at half time.
Cronulla came out after the break and continued on from the first half with Steve Lemone and his pack barged their way up the field to force the scores to grab their pencils again.
As the light faded and the Kirkham Field light came on the Shark attack continued with some good defence and great attacking play the Cronulla Sharks took the two points home with a good first up score of 34 - 12
The Sharks SG Ball side traveled to the Gold Coast to come away with a 30 - all draw, the Sharks first half was a shocker and the second half was very good to bring the Sharks back into the game.
In other junior rep's news the Bulldogs SG Ball team flogged the North Sydney Bears 50 to 4 with help of a three try haul to young Jamal.
The Bulldogs Matty's Cup boyz were lucky to get away with a 22 - all draw after some lackluster performances.
Parramatta proved too good for the Dragons winning both the Matty's Cup (48 - 0) and the SG Ball 22 - 12 respectively. | | |
|COWBOYS GO DOWN IN TRIAL
Story By : tony e (cairns shs)
The NQ cowboys under 20s started strongly in the hot and humid conditions and were well led around the park by Kirwin High product halfback Brady Payne.
Strong performances in the 2nd row by another 2 Kirwin SHS products Leo Faagutu and Chris Faust who ran strongly all evening.
The team were given great 2nd phase play through the offloading of Atherton product Chris Reisen at lock.
The Cowboys shot out to a 20-8 lead, with the highlight a thrilling 70m solo try from former local lad and St Augustines student Brandon Boor.
In the second half the Pride slowly gained some dominance through thier big men and were led very well by Prop Ben Laity(another former Kirwin product).
Eventually overwealming the Cowboys 26-20.
Learn More about the Toyota Cup Under 20's Comp | TOYOTA CUP DRAW |
CAN YOU HELP WITH TRAINEESHIPS / WORK?
|My boss, my friend...Wests Tigers Toyota Cup player Noa Fotu with employer Daniel Buckley.
Wests Tigers players Will Mataka and Noa Fotu have been making a positive impact off the field through their association with club sponsor, Waratah Environmental Services.
Mataka and Fotu are employed by Waratah Environmental Services as part of their requirements for the Toyota Cup competition.
The new Toyota Cup competition has mandated non-training hours on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, where clubs must allow for an eight hour continous block where players are not permitted to train as a squad.
Wests Tigers have a ‘No Work, No Study, No Play’ policy in the Toyota Cup whereby players are required to work or study outside of training.
Darren Mooney, Wests Tigers Welfare Manager and Toyota Cup manager, ensures the under-20 players have enough time to pursue educational and employment opportunities.
It is through the support of committed sponsor and Waratah Environmental Services managing director Daniel Buckley that Mataka and Fotu have found work. Their duties range from mowing lawns to general property maintenance.
Fotu is undertaking a traineeship with Waratah Environmental Services and is studying a Certificate III in Horticulture.
Mataka works Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays for Waratah Environmental Services and is looking to study a computer engineering course this year in 2008.
“Through my sponsorship with the Wests Tigers, I have been able to use the services of the younger players in my business,’’ Mr Buckley said.
“Will and Noa are fine young men who work very hard and are very supportive of my business. They have a great work ethic.
“Their loyalty has allowed me to give them time off for training and club commitments.
“I am very happy with the working relationship I have with the Wests Tigers players and management. I would encourage other businesses looking for employees to contact Wests Tigers as they are very flexible in arranging the players to work.’’
Mooney said it was important for Wests Tigers to have flexible employers like Daniel Buckley who understand demands of young rugby league players.
“Wests Tigers place a very high importance on the balance between work, study and training,’’ Mooney said.
“The club is constantly on the look out for prospective employers for Toyota Cup players.’’
Companies wishing to offer employment/traineeships to Wests Tigers Toyota Cup players should call Darren Mooney on (02) 8741 3300.)
|I'M A KIWI, SAYS CARROLL
VETERAN Bronco Tonie Carroll says he will not be available for New Zealand this year despite saying he wants to play for the Kiwis again.
Carroll, who turns 32 this weekend, had announced he was retiring from representative football after appearing in 18 State of Origin matches for Queensland and seven Tests for Australia.
He also played five Tests for New Zealand under a special dispensation for the 2000 World Cup.
Now Carroll has told NZTV he wants to be part of the New Zealand World Cup campaign again.
"I've always said I'm a Kiwi," the Christchurch-born Carroll says in the interview. "I love being a Kiwi."
This afternoon, Carroll told The Courier-Mail he was standing by his decision to stand down from all rep football. He said he had told the NZTV interviewer he would ''love'' to play for New Zealand but was ''too old''.
|TRADITION IMPORTANT TODAY
In the 100th year of Rugby League let us all remember the importance of tradition in the game.
The North Sydney Bears were very unlucky and unfairly excluded from the NRL competition due only to an interim cash flow issue and the slow construction of the Central Coast Stadium.
The Bears were not only one of the first clubs to ever play the game but one of the first with the innovation and knowledge to expand to new territory.
As the league continues to grow and look further to expansion let it be reminded that tradition counts and that thousands of supporters remain lost across the country without their beloved team in the 1st Grade competition.
The whole league community would benefit with the return of the foundation club to 1st Grade as they would be satisfied that NRL truely values the tradition.
The Australian community would be reminded that the Aussie battler does have a fighting chance and when you get knock down you can get up again.
Just as the success of the South Melbourne AFL team that moved north to form the Swans was a success so too would the association of the Bears with a new team to the NRL.
COROWA PREDICTS TITANS TEEN SENSATION TO PLAY FOR AUSTRALIA
|Shannon Walker in action against the Welsh U19 '06 (Photo : ourfooty media)
|Shannon Walker in action Vs Aspley '07
FORMER Australian winger Larry Corowa yesterday compared Gold Coast Titans teenager Shannon Walker to Cowboys fullback Matt Bowen and predicted he would play Test football.
Corowa, who played for Australia in his first season of top grade at Balmain in 1978, said he believed the Titans had systems in place to ensure Walker realised his potential.
Walker, The Courier-Mail's 2007 Queensland Cup player of the year, has been chosen at fullback for the Titans' trial against Canberra at Briggs Rd, Ipswich on Saturday night. The Kyogle product played for Titans feeder Tweed Seagulls last year, the same club where Corowa began his career when growing up on the Tweed.
"I compare Shannon to a young Matt Bowen," Corowa said.
"If Shannon can keep his feet on the ground and do all the right things he'll go a long way and in three to five years we could see him wearing the green and gold."
Titans managing director Michael Searle said it was important the club supported Walker and let him develop. .
"The challenge he has in front of him is to handle the hype," Searle said.
"We don't want this to be driven by fan expectations and the good thing about (coach) John Cartwright is he won't allow that to happen."
The Titans are hoping for a full house at their new stadium Skilled Park on March 1 when they host Wests Tigers in the inaugural Larry Corowa Shield clash. Corowa played for Balmain Tigers from 1978-83.
He then made a comeback for Gold Coast Seagulls in 1991 when Wally Lewis was captain and Searle a teammate.
Queensland forward Neville Costigan and fellow top grade regulars Colin Best, Michael Dobson and Michael Weyman have been named in a 23-man Canberra squad for Saturday's trial in Ipswich.