Newcastle v Warriors: KNIGHTS’ INJURY DRAMAS
PRE-SEASON hasn’t been kind to the Newcastle Knights with injuries meaning up to seven members of the club’s VB NSW Cup squad are unavailable for Saturday’s season opener against the Warriors.
Halfback Jaelan Feeney (elbow) and Marvin Filipo (knee) were both injured in trial games while former Warrior Carlos Tuimavave injured his ankle in pre-season training.
“Carlos obviously would have loved to play against his former team but he’s had an ankle problem for about for weeks,” said Knights coach Matt Lantry.
“It should be okay for round two. So while our top NRL squad’s 100 per cent we’ve seven players out of our VB NSW Cup squad.”
Despite the injuries, after finishing runners-up to Penrith last season, the Knights will still field an exciting side with plenty of strike out wide with the likes of promising winger Jake Mamo and young centre Chanel Mata’utia.
Sam Mataora, who represented the Cook Islands at the 2013 Rugby League World Cup, brings plenty of size to the pack with veteran back-rower Clint Newton on deck for another season as he looks to show the way for their younger forwards.
“I’ve been really impressed with young lock James Taylor,” said Lantry, of the Junior Kiwis representative who had a consistent season with the Knights in Under-20s last year.
“He’s trained with the full-time squad and hasn’t looked out of place.”
Taylor and the rest of the forwards will need to be firing from the start with Warriors coach Stacey Jones bringing a pack full of promise to Hunter Stadium.
Sione Lousi spent most of last season in the NRL but Jones also has at his disposal some of the talent that helped the club win the Under-20s title.
“You look at the success they’ve had in the -20s and they’re always big and physical. Our pack needs to hold up their gloves.”
Newcastle Knights v Warriors, Hunter Stadium, Saturday March 7. Kick-off: 2.10pm. Referee: Liam Nicholls
KNIGHTS: 1 NATHAN ROSS 2 JAKE MAMO 3 CHANEL MATA’UTIA 4 JOSH ALLISON 5 HONETI TUHA 6 SAM KEENAN 7 DANNY KERR 8 SAM MATAORA 9 CHAD REDMAN 10 PATERIKA VAIVAI 11 CLINT NEWTON 12 JOSEPH TAPINE 13 JAMES TAYLOR 14 THEERAN PEARSON 15 JAMES DE SAXE 16 BRETT JARRETT 17 TUIALA TOGITASI 18 MICHAEL STEELE 19 DYLAN HARTIN 20 JAKE FINN COACH MATT LANTRY
WARRIORS: 1 VILIAMI KAVEINGA 2 KEN MAUMALO 3 MATTHEW ALLWOOD 4 DOMINIQUE PEYROUX 5 JARROD TUA 6 API PEWHAIRANGI 7 SAM COOK 8 NATHANIEL PETERU 9 ZAC TIPPINS 10 SEBASTINE IKAHIHIFO 11 RAYMOND FAITALA-MARINER 12 SIONE LOUSI 13 DAVID BHANA 14 JAMES BELL 15 UPU POCHING 16 STEDMAN LEFAU 17 JOHN PALAVI 18 RAYMOND TALIMALIE COACH STACEY JONES
Newtown v Wests Tigers: NEW FACES EVERYWHERE
‘KEEP it simple’ will be the philosophy for all clubs with round 4 of the VB NSW Cup shaping up like an episode of ‘New Faces’ this weekend.
Look at the sides on paper and it’s hard not to get excited about the potential at every club. The problem in most cases is that expanded National Rugby League squads over the pre-season mean many players are yet to settle in at their VB NSW Cup clubs with the Newtown Jets a case in point.
They host Wests Tigers at Henson Park on Saturday afternoon with the Jets boosted by a large number of players from the Sharks as their feeder club but it’s all new to their five-eighth, former Dragons utility Kyle Stanley and hooker Pat Politoni.
“For Kyle Stanley it’ll be the first time he’s pulled on a Newtown jumper,” said Jets coach Greg Matterson.
“It’ll be a bit hard for him and Pat Politoni. Kyle hasn’t played a minute for us yet.
“It’s the same with a lot of the NRL clubs. They’ve had their players with them or wanted their full-timers off at half-time in trials with us.”
For an experienced coach like Matterson it comes with the territory. The full-timers train with the Sharks until Thursday when they join the Jets for a field session of anywhere from an hour to 90 minutes. It’s not much and definitely not ideal but their class will shine through the longer the season goes and for that reason these early rounds are a lottery.
“Hold the footy and get you ‘D’ right,” said Matterson.
“For rounds one to five you’ve just got to hold the footy and tackle well and you’ll win footy games.”
There’s been rocks and diamonds for the Jets in their three pre-season trials against Illawarra, North Sydney and Wests Tigers. They led the Tigers 22-6 at half-time before a mass change in personnel meant they were swamped in the second half.
“They ran over us in the second half,” said Matterson.
“We were a train wreck after the break. It was our own fault with dropped balls and penalties but it was actually a really good lesson for our blokes and I’m expecting a pretty tight game this weekend.”
Just like the Sharks, Wests Tigers have plenty of players with top-grade experience. Fullback Shannon McDonnell and journeyman centre Keith Lulia giving captain and halfback Josh Drinkwater some senior players to lean on in a backline which also includes exciting young winger Kurtis Rowe.
It means little now but last season they split their two clashes with the Tigers home 32-16 at Leichhardt Oval in round 15 and the Jets reversing the result 30-14 at Henson Park in round 21.
Newtown Jets v Wests Tigers, Henson Park, Saturday March 7. Kick-off: 3pm. Referee: Adam Cassidy
JETS: 1 NATHAN GARDNER 2 BLAKE JUDD 3 SAMI SAUILUMA 4 BLAKE AYSHFORD 5 DALLAS WELLS 6 KYLE STANLEY 7 TODD MURPHY 8 TIM ROBINSON 9 PAT POLITONI 10 ANDREW PEARN 11 JUNIOR ROQICA 12 PATRICE SIOLO 13 KURT KARA 14 NESIASI MATAITONGA 16 KURT DILLON 17 RAY MOUJALLI 20 JACK NOBLE 21 LEONARDI FETUANI 22 JORDAN GALLOWAY COACH GREG MATTERSON
WESTS TIGERS: 1 SHANNON MCDONELL 2 DELOUISE HOETER 3 KEITH LULIA 4 CHANCE PENI 5 KURTIS ROWE 6 SITALEKI AKAUOLA 7 JOSH DRINKWATER (C) 8 DALLAS GRAHAM 9 JOEL LUANI 10 JACK BUCHANAN 11 LAMAR LIOLEVAVE 12 ASIPELI FINE 13 ANDY FIAGATUSA 14 MANAIA CHERRINGTON 15 MICHAEL BULLOCK 16 SALESI FUNAKI 17 INNO INOSESIO COACH PAUL FLETCHER
Mounties v Illawarra: SAM READY FOR FRIENDLY FOES
MOUNTIES recruit Sam Duggan will be looking to land an early blow against some old mates when he comes up against his former club Illawarra on Saturday.
The match at Aubrey Keech Reserve on Saturday will see Duggan run out against many of the Cutters he played alongside when they were knocked out of the VB NSW Cup by Newcastle 34-10 in last year’s preliminary finals.
“Sam’s really fitted in well here at Mounties,” said club football manager Steve Litvensky.
“He brings a really professional attitude because he’s been through those type of systems and he’s proving a real leader here at the club.”
Duggan’s one of just three Sydney-based players who will run out for Mounties against the Cutters. Winger Gus Aiga and centre Dave Cahalane are in the same category with the majority of players coming from the Raiders.
In a big change for the club Mounties head coach Steve Antonelli is now based in Canberra with the Raiders before linking up with the club late in the week to oversee all their sides and coach the VB NSW Cup team.
“With so many of our players Canberra-based it was only common sense to go that way and have someone fulltime down there,” said Litvensky.
“With the Raiders ending their affiliation with Logan it also means there’s an increase in the number of players available to us.”
Illawarra have Scott Logan at the helm in 2015 with experienced first-graders Justin Hunt and former Bulldog Kris Keating adding an edge of class to their backline attack.
They’ll be hoping to keep their good record against Mounties having won both clashes last season. The Cutters triumphed 25-18 away in round 15 before a convincing 42-14 victory at home in round 22.
Mounties v Illawarra Cutters, Aubrey Keech Reserve, Saturday March 7. Kick-off: 3pm. Referee: Chris Treneman
MOUNTIES: 1 JACK AHEARN 2 BILL TUPOU 3 JEREMY HAWKINS 4 DAVE CAHALANE 5 GUS AIGA 6 SAM DUGGAN 7 SAM WILLIAMS 8 KYLE O’DONNELL 9 GLEN BUTTRISS 10 RHYS KENNEDY 11 PATRICK MAGO 12 JOEL EDWARDS 13 MARK NICHOLLS 14 KURT BAPTISTE 15 MITCH CRONIN 16 LUKE PAGE 17 JEFF LYNCH COACH STEPHEN ANTONELLI
CUTTERS: 1. JUSTIN HUNT 2. CHARLY RUNCIMAN 3. EUAN AITKEN 4. PETER MATA'UTIA 5. YAW KITI GLYMIN 6. KRIS KEATING 7. DREW HUTCHISON 8. JOKATAMA DOKONIVALU 9. CRAIG GARVEY 10. RULON NUTIRA 11. NATHAN GREEN 12. ADAM TUIMAVAVE-GERRARD 13. SHANNON WAKEMAN 14. ANDREW MCCARTHY 15. JACOB HIND 16. TAKINA VAILEA 20. SAM COSTER COACH SCOTT LOGAN
Wyong v Manly: ROOS SETTLE INTO NEW PARTNERSHIP
WYONG Roos coach Rip Taylor’s the man who’s had the task of bedding in the club’s new partnership with the Sydney Roosters and while they’ve been taking slow steps he says it’s a case of ‘so far, so good’ which augers well for 2015.
The Roos fell to Wentworthville 29-16 in week two of the VB NSW Cup play-offs last season. Since then they’ve replaced Newtown as the feeder club for the Roos with the change representing a mental challenge as much as anything for the players from both sides of the new partnership.
“I’ve been through these systems so there’s no real surprises jumping out at me,” said the experienced Taylor.
“For the players it’s a bit different and with some of those Roosters players they’ve had a fair attachment to the Jets. They’re obviously trying to also live their (NRL) dream but they’re under no illusions about the hard work it will take.
“It has been a little tough for me to know what to recruit. They (Roosters) have obviously given me a blueprint of roughly what we can expect but you know how it is in rugby league, you lose two players in a position and all of a sudden you’re short.”
Former Rooster and State of Origin and Test prop Mark O’Meley has retired again to assist in coaching the forwards at Wyong with Taylor noting: “I can see the nostrils flaring up every now and then when he smells the liniment.”
Whether there’ll be a mid-season comeback is anyone’s guess but now Taylor’s just worried about the Sea Eagles.
“We only really had the one trial versus Manly so hopefully the result (20-14 loss) will be a little bit different but I’m sure (Sea Eagles) coach Luke Williamson will be hoping it’s not,” said Taylor.
“They (Manly) are probably a little bit more settled but I think if you look through the whole competition and the quality of the teams that have been put out this week then it’s clear you are going to have to be on your game every week.”
Wyong clearly had the wood on the Sea Eagles last season winning their round 12 clash at Brookvale Oval 36-30 then backing it up with a 36-0 shutout at home in round 17.
Wyong Roos v Manly Sea Eagles, Morrie Breen Oval, Saturday March 7. Kick-off: 6pm. Referee: Jeff Hartup
ROOS: 1 ALEX LANGBRIDGE 2 KIEREN GALLAGHER 3 BRENDON ELLIOTT 4 YILEEN GORDON 5 MATT IKUVALU 6 BROCK MOLAN 7 TYLER CORNISH 8 MAGNUS STROMQUIST 9 MITCH WILLIAMS © 10 ELONI VUNAKECE 11 WILLIE MANU 12 LEIVAHA PULU 13 LAGI SETU 14 JACK SEIJKA 15 ABRAHAM PAPALII 16 SHAUN BOSS 17 JAKE LEWIS 20 BLAKE CARTER COACH RIP TAYLOR
SEA EAGLES: 1 DAVID WILLIAMS (C) 2 BEN FRITZ 3 BRAYDEN WILIAME 4 TONY SATINI 5 DOM REARDON 6 JACK LITTLEJOHN 7 MANAIA RUDOLPH 8 LIGI SAO 9 JAYDEN HODGES 10 JAKE TRBOJEVIC 11 JORDAN LATHAM 12 DYLAN KELLY 13 MICHAEL CHEE KAM INTERCHANGE 14 TYSON ANDREWS 15 TODD WILSON 16 UITI BAKER 17 SIOSAIA VAVE 19 VINNI NGARO 20 KURT ALDRIDGE COACH LUKE WILLIAMSON
Penrith v Canterbury: PREMIERS BEGIN TITLE DEFENCE
THE Panthers will kick off their title defence when they host Canterbury on Sunday knowing that everyone will be after them in 2015.
Fullback Kieran Moss grabbed a hat-trick in the grand final win against Newcastle and says their premiership win has only made them hungrier for more success.
“Obviously there’s quite a bit of pressure to try and keep up the standard from last year,” said Moss.
“We’re just focussing on what we have to do and we’re confident we can be there again in the finals.”
For Bulldogs coach Andrew Patmore it was a long season last year with just the six wins but he’ll be excited at the galaxy of stars at his disposal at this early stage.
Halfback Moses Mbye, who’s 18th man for the NRL squad this weekend, fullback Corey Thompson, centre Chase Stanley and veteran prop Antonio Kaufusi give the Bulldogs a nice blend.
“It’s gonna be a big game. The first round can’t get any tougher than playing the Panthers at home,” said Kaufusi.
“I’ll just focus on my performance and ultimately that will help the team performance.”
Penrith were the standout side in 2014, winning 20 of their 24 games during the regular season before taking out the grand final against the Knights at Allianz Stadium.
Twice they accounted for the Dogs, beating them 22-12 in round three before escaping Belmore with a 35-28 win in round 10.
Penrith v Canterbury, Pepper Stadium, Sunday March 8. Kick-off: 1.45pm. Referee: Daniel Olford
PANTHERS: 1. KIERAN MOSS 2. CHRISTIAN CRICHTON 3. WILL SMITH 4. WAQA BLAKE 5. ROBERT JENNINGS 6. ISAAC JOHN 7. ADRIAN DAVIS 8. ANDY SAUNDERS 9. LIAM AYOUB 10. BEN MURDOCH-MASILA 11. TUPOU SOPOAGA 12. JAMES FISHER-HARRIS 13. ADAM DOCKER 14. SAM ANDERSON 15. RODNEY COATES 16. LEILANI LATU 17. NU’U AKERIPA 19. CHRIS SMITH
BULLDOGS: 1 COREY THOMPSON 2 TYRONE PHILLIPS 3 LEVI DODD 4 CHASE STANLEY 5 JARROD MCINALLY 6 MATT FRAWLEY 7 MOSES MBYE 8 ANTONIO KAUFUSI 9 DAMIEN COOK 10 DANNY FUALALO 11 SHAUN LANE 12 ADAM ELLIOTT 13 LLOYD PERRETT 14 JALINE GRAHAM 15 MAKAHESI MAKATOA 16 DAVID MINUTE 17 HERMAN ESE’ESE 19 JASON SCHIRNACK 20 LINDON MCGRADY COACH ANDREW PATMORE
Wentworthville v Norths: WICKS OUT TO REPAY THE FAITH
FORMER Dragons and Knight Danny Wicks will be hoping to kick-start his return to the NRL when he runs out for Wentworthville against North Sydney at Ringrose Park on Sunday.
Wicks has said to fans ‘just give me an opportunity’ after being thrown a lifeline by the Eels after serving 18 months in jail for drugs supply. The former Dragon (29 games 2006-07) and Knight (40 games 2009-09) is hungry to make it back to the top grade but knows he’ll have to earn it with starring performances in VB NSW Cup if he’s to force his way into the NRL.
Alongside Wicks in the front row will be 2011 Eels’ NYC Players’ Player of the Year Peni Terepo while second rower Pauli Pauli will play for Wentworthville after 17 first grade games for the Eels last year.
Experienced halfback Luke Kelly will call the shots in attack and out wide the likes of Ryan Morgan and John Folau will ensure a busy day at the office for the Bears.
North Sydney lost both games to Wentworthville last season, 20-16 at North Sydney Oval in round eight and then 56-16 at Ringrose Park in round 17.
Having won just the two matches last year, the Bears will be rank outsiders for this clash but an early upset would be just the confidence builder needed for Wayne Lambkin’s side.
Wentworthville Magpies v North Sydney Bears, Ringrose Park, Sunday March 8. Kick-off: 3pm. Referee: Matt Noyen
MAGPIES: 1. ADAM QUINLAN 2. VAI TOUTAI 3. RYAN MORGAN 4. JOHN FOLAU 5. BURETA FARAIMO 6. RYAN MATTERSON 7. LUKE KELLY 8. PENI TEREPO 9. SAM GORMAN 10. DANNY WICKS 11. PAULI PAULI 12. JOSEPH UALESI 13. CODY NELSON 14. BEN CROOKS 15. NICK KASSIS 16. DANIEL ALVARO 20. FRED PAKUTOA
BEARS: 1 SETEFANO TAUKAFA 2 DANE CHANG 3 LATRELL SCHAUMKEL 4 AARON GRAY 5 SAM MANULELEUA 6 BRAD WALL 7 NIKKO ROBERTS 8 NATHAN BROWN 9 MATT HYLAND © 10 MICHAEL ROSS 11 JACK GOSIEWSKI 12 SCOTT SORENSEN 13 JESSE ROBERTS 14 NATHANIEL NEALE 15 DUNCAN LOW 16 BRAD CROAD 17 FRED JUNIOR MAUALA 18 WILL LAFOLAFO 19 DEAN MCGLINCHEY COACH WAYNE LAMBKIN