The Fixtures Round 01 2009: STORM v DRAGONS @ Olympic BRONCOS v COWBOYS @ Suncorp WARRIORS v EELS @ Mt Smart SHARKS v PANTHERS @ Toyota BULLDOGS v SEA EAGLES @ ANZ TITANS v KNIGHTS @ Skilled ROOSTERS v RABBITOHS @ SFS TIGERS v RAIDERS @ Campbelltown THE TEAMS:
SEA EAGLES (NAMED 10/3) Backs: Brett STEWART, Michael ROBERTSON, Jamie LYON, Steven MATAI, Andrew SUNIULA+, Chris BAILEY, Matt ORFORD (c). Forwards: Brent KITE, Matt BALLIN, Josh PERRY, Anthony WATMOUGH, Glenn HALL, Glenn STEWART. Bench: Heath L'ESTRANGE, Jason KING, Adam CUTHBERTSON, Shane RODNEY, Shane NEUMANN (One to be omitted). Coach: Des HASLER. Round 01 Vs BULLDOGS on Saturday. SKINNY: The defending premiers have had a horror week leading into the first game and to compound the pain of dealing with the Brett Stewart/Watmough situations - they won't have David Williams, Tony Williams or Steven Menzies in the lineup. Okay Menzies has gone to England but new winger Andrew Suniula is an absolutely nobody at this stage and had to be at best the club's 5th best winger. But wingers don't win you games so let's not dwell on it. Watmough and Stewart will play and that's all Manly fans need to know to be confident they have the Bulldogs number in Round 1. PANTHERS (NAMED 10/3) Backs: Lachlan COOTE, Michael GORDON, Michael JENNINGS, Brad TIGHE, Shane ELFORD, Luke LEWIS, Jarrod SAMMUT. Forwards: Tim GRANT, Paul AITON, Petero CIVONICEVA (c), Trent WATERHOUSE, Gavin COOPER, Nathan SMITH. Bench: Frank PRITCHARD, Adam WOOLNOUGH, Frank PULETUA, Masada IOSEFA, Matthew BELL, Wade GRAHAM (Two to be omitted). Coach: Matthew ELLIOTT Round 01 Vs SHARKS on Saturday. SKINNY: For some reason Matthew Elliott abandons the Wade Graham-Jarrod Sammut halves combination after the trials and goes back to Luke Lewis at five-eighth. Lewis was a real find at halfback last year in a lost season but why play him at lock all pre-season only to go back to him in the halves in Round 1 and leave Graham on an extended bench? It is perplexing. Still the pack looks relatively competitive with Civoniceva and Waterhouse starting and Pritchard on the bench, but the likes of Grant, Cooper, Smith, Woolnough and the hooker tandem of Aiton and Iosefa must step up for the Panthers to start the year well. COWBOYS (NAMED 10/3) Backs: Matt BOWEN, Ty WILLIAMS, Ashley GRAHAM, Willie TONGA, Ben FARRAR, Travis BURNS, Johnathan THURSTON (c). Forwards: Carl WEBB, Aaron PAYNE, Antonio KAUFUSI, Manase MANUOKAFOA, Ben HARRIS, Luke O'DONNELL. Bench: Clint AMOS, Matthew SCOTT, Shane TRONC, Scott BOLTON, James TAMOU+ (One to be omitted). Coach: Neil HENRY. Round 01 Vs BRONCOS on Friday. SKINNY: The man in the #1 jersey instantly fills Cowboys fans everywhere with confidence that the 2009 season will not reflect the atrocious 2008 the team delivered without Bowen at fullback. Thurston couldn't stand up and take the team above mediocrity so it'll be up to Bowen to inject some much needed self belief into the squad that leaked points like dodgy guttering. If the revamped forward pack (which has their leader Luke O'Donnell healthy once again) can remember how to defend on their line - this Cowboys team has every chance of being a side that can win the title, let alone make the Top 8. TITANS (NAMED 10/3) Backs: Preston CAMPBELL, Esi TONGA, Josh GRAHAM, Brett DELANEY, Jordan ATKINS, Mat ROGERS, Scott PRINCE (c). Forwards: Luke BAILEY, Nathan FRIEND, Matt WHITE, Anthony LAFFRANCHI, Mark MINICHIELLO, Ashley HARRISON. Bench: Aaron CANNINGS, Brad MEYERS, Luke O'DWYER, William ZILLMAN, Michael HENDERSON (One to be omitted). Coach: John CARTWRIGHT. Round 01 Vs KNIGHTS on Sunday. SKINNY: Nearly full strength as I'm not convinced that three-quarter line is the best that the Titans have to offer in 2009. Campbell straight in at fullback which must make William Zillman question why the Titans brought him to the Gold Coast... it wasn't to be the utility on the bench... wait that's Luke O'Dwyer's job, so Zillman may not even play if 18th man Michael Henderson pushes in front of him on game day. Still the Big Three of Prince, Bailey and Laffranchi start the year fit... if they finish the year fit the Titans will probably be in the bottom half of the Top 8 such is their quality and influence on the team. Good to see Matt White get a starting spot after some impressive performances for the Knights at the end of 2008. The Knights visit on Sunday. STORM (NAMED 10/3) Backs: Billy SLATER, Steve TURNER, Will CHAMBERS, Willie ISA+, Anthony QUINN, Greg INGLIS, Cooper CRONK. Forwards: Jeff LIMA, Cameron SMITH (c), Adam BLAIR, Sika MANU, Ryan HOFFMAN, Dallas JOHNSON. Bench: Ryan HINCHCLIFFE, Kevin PROCTOR, Aiden TOLMAN, Brett WHITE. Coach: Craig BELLAMY. Round 01 Vs DRAGONS on Friday. SKINNY: The three-time defending Minor Premiers (doesn't have the same ring to it since they only converted one of those titles into a Premiership) return with a roster still full of top end talent but without the depth they've had in recent seasons. The new kids on the block (NKOTB) include Willie Isa at centre, Kevin (we dub thee 'The Proctologist') Proctor and Aiden Tolman who all seem to be given the first crack at establishing themselves in the team long term. The top end talent of Slater, Smith, Inglis, Cronk and Hoffman still have this team as viable premiership contenders but the cupboard is a little barer than it has been for a long time. Storm play the Dragons on Friday Night at Olympic.
RABBITOHS (NAMED 10/3) Backs: Rhys WESSER, Nathan MERRITT, Fetuli TALANOA, Colin BEST, Shaune CORRIGAN+, John SUTTON, Chris SANDOW. Forwards: Luke STUART, Issac LUKE, Roy ASOTASI (c), David KIDWELL, Shannan McPHERSON, David FA'ALOGO. Bench: Ben LOWE, Eddy PETTYBOURNE, Jaiman LOWE, Garret CROSSMAN, Jamie SIMPSON (One to be omitted). Coach: Jason TAYLOR. Round 01 Vs ROOSTERS on Sunday. SKINNY: Craig Wing isn't healthy apparently so Taylor gets another week to figure out where to play their marquee signing of 2008. Wing needs to play and he needs more than a role off the bench so looking at the Round 1 lineup perhaps centre is the place he'll ply his trade until Beau Champion returns... then maybe to lock? Still it's a better question to face than no Wing at all so the side Taylor picked for the clash with the Roosters has some questionable guys like McPherson, the Lowes and Pettybourne but all four might step up to the challenge this season - especially Pettybourne who is a wrecking ball. Debutant Shaune Corrigan gets a run which is a nice reward for repaying Taylor's faith in the trials. BRONCOS (NAMED 10/3) Backs: Karmichael HUNT, Antonio WINTERSTEIN+, Alex GLENN+, Israel FOLAU, Jharal YOW YEH+, Darren LOCKYER (c), Peter WALLACE. Forwards: Nick KENNY, Aaron GORRELL, Joel CLINTON, Sam THAIDAY, Ben TE'O, Corey PARKER. Bench: Andrew McCULLOUGH, Lagi SETU, David TAYLOR, Steven MICHAELS, Ashton SIMS, Aaron SWEENEY+, Josh McGUIRE+ (Two to be omitted). Coach: Ivan HENJAK+. Round 01 Vs COWBOYS on Friday. SKINNY: Time for the next generation of coaching at the Broncos - well sort of. Ivan Henjak has gone extremely young out wide with Winterstein, Glenn and Greg Matthews' love child Jharal Yow Yeh making their debuts. Lockyer should be fit to start the year which will make a big difference to the team (even though they smashed the Panthers with him in Round 1 last year - he wasn't fit). New faces at hooker - Gorrell and McCullough - and in the backrow where new buys Te'o and Setu look set to play important roles in the attack of the team from the forwards. A lot rides on the shoulders of starting props Kenny and Clinton for this team's strike weapons to be a factor regularly. Cowboys on Friday night to start at home. RAIDERS (NAMED 10/3) Backs: David MILNE, Phillip GRAHAM, Adrian PURTELL, Joel MONAGHAN, Justin CARNEY, Terry CAMPESE, Marc HERBERT. Forwards: David SHILLINGTON, Glen BUTTRISS, Josh MILLER, Glen TURNER, Bronson HARRISON, Alan TONGUE (c). Bench: Stuart FLANAGAN, Trevor THURLING, Joe PICKER, Nigel PLUM, Brett KELLY (One to be omitted). Coach: David FURNER+. Round 01 Vs TIGERS on Monday. SKINNY: David Furner was dealt a number of key injuries at prop in the last trial but has managed to name another solid forward pack for the Tigers clash. The backline is boosted by the return of Graham from long term injury but have lost Colin Best to the Bunnies - so they lose nothing in terms of speed. New buy Stuart Flanagan couldn't dislodge incumbent hooker Buttriss but to start the season a tag team may be a good ploy to get Flanagan into the offence. But the fortunes of the team rest on Terry Campese staying in the form he showed in the second half of last year. TIGERS (NAMED 10/3) Backs: Tim MOLTZEN, Taniela TUIAKI, Dean COLLIS, Chris LAWRENCE, Beau RYAN, John MORRIS, Benji MARSHALL. Forwards: Bryce GIBBS, Robbie FARAH (c), Keith GALLOWAY, Gareth ELLIS, Chris HEIGHINGTON, Dene HALATAU. Bench: Rhys HANBURY, Rocky TRIMARCHI, Todd PAYTEN, Daine LAURIE. Coach: Tim SHEENS. Round 01 Vs RAIDERS on Monday. SKINNY: Sheens has rolled the dice in two key positions with Marshall moving to halfback permanently and youngster Moltzen given the #1 job after Brett Hodgson's departure. Rhys Hanbury an outside back/five-eighth has secured the bench utility spot which probably means John Morris would move into a roving lock or hooker role if Hanbury came on. The pack has a fine starting six and Todd Payten is better than a benchy alongside the exciting Daine Laurie. Marshall's ability to run the team outside Farah will obviously be crucial but the addition of Englishman Gareth Ellis should not be underestimated - he is a quality forward. Open Monday night with the Raiders. WARRIORS (NAMED 10/3) Backs: Wade McKINNON, Denan KEMP, Brent TATE, Jerome ROPATI, Joel MOON, Nathan FIEN. Forwards: Sam RAPIRA, Ian HENDERSON, Steven PRICE (c), Simon MANNERING, Ben MATULINO, Micheal LUCK. Bench: Lance HOHAIA, Russell PACKER, Jacob LILLYMAN, Leeson AH MAU+. Coach: Ivan CLEARY. Round 01 Vs EELS on Saturday. SKINNY: Ivan Cleary had some decisions to make with so many signings in the off-season to compete in the halves and he had to find a replacement for the retired Ruben Wiki up front. His Round 1 answers are Joel Moon partnering Nathan Fiend in the halves and Russell Packer and Leeson Ah Mau to fill the hole Wiki leaves at prop. Both Packer and Ah Mau dominated Toyota Cup last year so Cleary clearly has reason to believe they might be up to the job. The collection of outside backs is as good as any in the league with a fit McKinnon and the addition of Denan Kemp who was probably the top pure winger in the game in 2008. Eels come to visit Saturday. KNIGHTS (NAMED 10/3) Backs: Kurt GIDLEY (c), James McMANUS, Junior SAU, Adam MacDOUGALL, Akuila UATE, Ben ROGERS, Jarrod MULLEN. Forwards: Daniel TOLAR, Isaac DE GOIS, Ben CROSS, Steven SIMPSON, Corey PATERSON, Zeb TAIA. Bench: Matt HILDER, Chris HOUSTON, Richard FA'AOSO, Cameron CIRALDO. Coach: Brian SMITH. Round 01 Vs TITANS on Sunday. SKINNY: The ingredients Brian Smith was putting together in 2008 has been mixed again for Round 1 with only Wes Naiqama and Danny Wicks possibly missing from a full-strength 17. Not sold on Rogers at 5/8 but the best half in the club is Jarrod Mullen so the right man is in the #7. The pack has a strong go-forward look to it and the bench is littered with backrowers. They will give the Titans a shake at Skilled. EELS (NAMED 9/3) Backs: Luke BURT, Joel REDDY, Ben SMITH, Krisnan INU, Eric GROTHE, Jarryd HAYNE, Brett FINCH. Forwards: Nathan CAYLESS (c), Matt KEATING, Josh CORDOBA, Nathan HINDMARSH, Weller HAURAKI, Feleti MATEO. Bench: Kris KEATING, Todd LOWRIE, Tim MANNAH+, FuiFui MOIMOI, Taulima TAUTAI, Joe GALUVAO (Two to be omitted). Coach: Daniel ANDERSON. Round 01 Vs WARRIORS on Saturday. SKINNY: Well Eric Grothe is back and is joined on the wing by Joel Reddy as the team seems to have moved on from the Taulima Tautai experiment. Ben Smith is also back so there is quite a 2007 look to the backline. Brett Finch will run the show obviously now Hayne is in at 5/8 but expect Mateo to do most of the secondary ball playing. The pack - which looks the Eels big weakness this season - has question marks especially with the yet-to-be-tested-in-key-roles (YTBTIK from here on) Hauraki, Cordoba and debutant Mannah in the side. Young Matt Keating also has a big role to play at hooker with Riddell having moved on for good. Tough ask away to the Warriors first up. ROOSTERS (NAMED 9/3) Backs: Anthony MINICHIELLO, Sam PERRETT, Mitchell AUBUSSON, Iosia SOLIOLA, Shaun KENNY-DOWALL, Braith ANASTA, Mitchell PEARCE. Forwards: Mark O'MELEY, James AUBUSSON, Nate MYLES, Lopini PAEA, Craig FITZGIBBON (c), Setaimata SA. Bench: Frank-Paul NUUASUALA, Shane SHACKLETON, Sisa WAQA, Jake FRIEND, Martin KENNEDY (One to be omitted). Coach: Brad FITTLER. Round 01 Vs RABBITOHS on Sunday.
SKINNY: Similar lineup to last season's vanquished finals side... in other words no Willie Mason. An awful lot of responsibility rests on Fitzgibbon, O'Meley and Myles up front and if they falter the Chooks backline won't see enough good field position to worry the Bunnies in this one. Setaimata Sa at lock and Anasta at 5/8 makes total sense but the performance of Minichiello is the biggest key to beating the Rabbitohs for the Roosters. BULLDOGS (NAMED 9/3) Backs: Luke PATTEN, Hazem EL MASRI, Josh MORRIS, Jamal IDRIS, Bryson GOODWIN, Ben ROBERTS, Brett KIMMORLEY. Forwards: Ben HANNANT, Michael ENNIS, Michael HODGSON, Gary WARBURTON, Andrew RYAN (c), David STAGG. Bench: Lee TE MAARI, Chris ARMIT, John KITE, Ben BARBA. Coach: Kevin MOORE. Round 01 Vs SEA EAGLES on Saturday. SKINNY: The big shock is the omission of Matt Utai for young Bryson Goodwin. New coach Kevin Moore has clearly gone with the theory long held by critics that the Dogs didn't have enough speed on the flanks and only El Masri has survived the cull. Josh Morris and a healthy Luke Patten are the strike-weapons for the Dogs playmakers Kimmorley and Ennis who need an average looking forward pack to make inroads for them to create opportunities. Ben Barba on the bench is a smart choice as the Dogs need him in the lineup as much as possible in 2009. SHARKS (NAMED 9/3) Backs: Brett KEARNEY, Misi TAULAPAPA, Ben POMEROY, Blake FERGUSON, Luke COVELL, Trent BARRETT, Brett SEYMOUR. Forwards: Kade SNOWDEN, Corey HUGHES, Luke DOUGLAS, Reece WILLIAMS, Anthony TUPOU, Paul GALLEN (c). Bench: Ben ROSS, Bryan NORRIE, Grant MILLINGTON, Blake GREEN, David SIMMONS, Reni MAITUA (two to be omitted). Coach: Ricky STUART. Round 01 Vs PANTHERS on Saturday. SKINNY: Who the heck is Blake Ferguson? Apparently Ricky Stuart knows who and what he offers so he comes into the lineup for David Simmons as the bolter of Round 1 across the league. Brett Seymour also makes his return a month earlier than expected from a knee-reconstruction so if he's fit - Barrett gets his long term partner from Round 1 in the halves. Reni Maitua also might play - just days after being ruled out for 3 months. Also nice to see Kade Snowden get a starting spot after working hard in the off-season on his fitness. DRAGONS (Named 9/3) Backs: Darius BOYD, Jason NIGHTINGALE, Chase STANLEY, Matt COOPER, Wendell SAILOR, Jamie SOWARD, Ben HORNBY (c). Forwards: Justin POORE, Dean YOUNG, Michael WEYMAN, Beau SCOTT, Ben CREAGH, Jeremy SMITH. Bench: Dan HUNT, Matt PRIOR, Luke PRIDDIS, Jarrod SAFFY. Coach: Wayne BENNETT. Round 01 Vs STORM on Friday. SKINNY: The first team named had a few surprises. Brett Morris couldn't even get a start on the bench let alone the run on side and could face a long stint in reggies, as Chase Stanley seems to be Bennett's choice to fill the 'open' slot in the three-quarter line. Darius Boyd gets the fullback spot and Ben Hornby is skipper and halfback. The forwards now feature two new starters in Weyman and Jeremy Smith and Luke Priddis will backup Dean Young at hooker. All in all the side looks okay on paper - but there was no room for Neville Costigan or Mathew Head -but I just can't see them being a premiership threat in 2009 even with Bennett at the helm. Still to be Named: None - all named.