SKINNY'S FOR ALL TEAMS UPDATED THURSDAY 2 APRIL 2009 Round 04 2009: BRONCOS v DRAGONS @ Suncorp ROOSTERS v EELS @ SFS PANTHERS v TIGERS @ CUA STORM v TITANS @ Olympic WARRIORS v RABBITOHS @ Mt Smart BULLDOGS v SHARKS @ ANZ KNIGHTS v SEA EAGLES @ EnergyAustralia RAIDERS v COWBOYS @ CanberraTHE TEAMS ROUND 4: BRISBANE BRONCOS (NAMED 30/3) Backs: Karmichael HUNT, Antonio WINTERSTEIN, Steven MICHAELS, Justin HODGES, Israel FOLAU, Darren LOCKYER (c), Peter WALLACE. Forwards: Nick KENNY, Aaron GORRELL, Joel CLINTON, Sam THAIDAY, Ben TE'O, Corey PARKER. Bench: Andrew McCULLOUGH, David TAYLOR, Lagi SETU, Alex GLENN, Ashton SIMS, Josh McGUIRE (Two to be omitted). Coach: Ivan HENJAK. IN: Nick KENNY, Justin HODGES, Lagi SETU. OUT: Jharal YOW YEH. Round 04 Vs DRAGONS on Friday. SKINNY: Although premierships are not won in March - Ivan Henjak and his Broncos sit at the top of the table with a perfect 3-0 start to 2009. Two home wins and a big away victory over the previously undefeated Warriors in Round 3 should have the confidence levels nice and high for the return of Wayne Bennett with his Dragons this Friday night. Justin Hodges is back from a one week holiday/suspension and should combine with Folau again on the right side to torment the Dragons left side defence. Andrew McCullough is quickly finding his feet at hooker and will be the catalyst to the Broncos eating up metres around the ruck. 3 WEEK OBSERVATION: Is it just me or is Joel Clinton finally playing well for the first time in years? BULLDOGS (NAMED 30/3) Backs: Luke PATTEN, Hazem EL MASRI, Josh MORRIS, Daryl MILLARD, Bryson GOODWIN, Ben ROBERTS, Brett KIMMORLEY. Forwards: Ben HANNANT, Michael ENNIS, Michael HODGSON, Gary WARBURTON, Andrew RYAN (c), David STAGG. Bench: Chris ARMIT, Greg EASTWOOD, John KITE, Yileen GORDON, Matt UTAI (One to be omitted). Coach: Kevin MOORE. IN: Michael HODGSON, Yileen GORDON, Matt UTAI, Daryl MILLARD. OUT: Ben BARBA, Lee TE MAARI, Jamal IDRIS (all in-club suspension). Round 04 Vs SHARKS on Sunday. SKINNY: Off-field punch-up sees the team makeup change with Idris, Barba and Te Maari all stood down for this week's games. Daryl 'The Caravan' Millard gets yet another chance which continues to amaze given he's never shown he's up to the NRL and Matt Utai who has made the bench looks to miss out again. Having Hodgson back up front is a bonus as Hannant and Stagg have been seemingly doing it all themselves in the past two rounds, while Ennis and Kimmorley should be primed for a big one after fading out of the game when it was on the line against the Titans. 3 WEEK OBSERVATION: Canterbury had struck gold with the Idris-Morris centre combination we'll see how much the Dogs miss it against the Sharks on Sunday. CANBERRA RAIDERS (NAMED 30/3) Backs: Josh DUGAN+, Adrian PURTELL, Jarrod CROKER, Joel MONAGHAN, Justin CARNEY, Terry CAMPESE, Marc HERBERT. Forwards: David SHILLINGTON, Stuart FLANAGAN, Josh MILLER, Joe PICKER, Bronson HARRISON, Alan TONGUE (c). Bench: Tom LEAROYD-LAHRS, Trevor THURLING, Glen TURNER, Nigel PLUM, Travis WADDELL (One to be omitted). Coach: David FURNER. IN: Josh DUGAN+, Adrian PURTELL. OUT: David MILNE, Brett KELLY. Round 04 Vs COWBOYS on Monday. SKINNY: The first year coach has hit the panic button already and sacked the kid who was a big part of the Raiders offensive system in 2008 after 3 games. So Milne is gone (harsh given he would've been fine on the wing) and young Toyota Cup standout Josh Dugan gets the start in the fullback jersey - he's got an extra dimension or two than Milne so it isn't a bad swap. The play of Stuart Flanagan is crucial this week with the Cowboys visiting - the Raiders look very one dimensional without a presence around the rucks and Terry Campese can't do it all. 3 WEEK OBSERVATION: Terry Campese has played some great football to open the season but unless the Raiders start winning and scoring points off the back of his kicking game - Campo won't be pushing for a NSW jumper in Game I. CRONULLA-SUTHERLAND SHARKS (NAMED 30/3) Backs: Mitch BROWN, 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: Reni MAITUA, Jack AFAMASAGA, Bryan NORRIE, Tony CAINE. Coach: Ricky STUART. IN: Misi TAULAPAPA, Jack AFAMASAGA, Brett SEYMOUR. OUT: David SIMMONS, Grant MILLINGTON, Blake GREEN. Round 04 Vs BULLDOGS on Sunday. SKINNY: Trent Barrett probably won't play this weekend which is actually a bonus for the returning Brett Seymour and his likely five-eighth Blake Green. Sometimes with the dominant play caller out the other ball players can do things they are naturally inclined to do and a team can find that offensive spark that spurs them towards points. I'm leaning towards the Sharks this week against the Dogs based on this theory... but reserve the right to go the safer 'home team pick option' when Friday rolls around. 3 WEEK OBSERVATION: Paul Gallen might like having big hitups counts at the end of each game but he picks up a lot of those from wasted one out running when the team simply must use their backline. His stats over-rate his impact on the Sharks ability to win for mine. GOLD COAST TITANS (NAMED 30/3) Backs: William ZILLMAN, Kevin GORDON, Esi TONGA, Brett DELANEY, Chris WALKER, Mat ROGERS, Preston CAMPBELL. Forwards: Luke BAILEY (c), Nathan FRIEND, Michael HENDERSON, Anthony LAFFRANCHI, Mark MINICHIELLO, Ashley HARRISON. Bench: Matthew WHITE, Brad MEYERS, Luke O'DWYER, Josh GRAHAM, Aaron CANNINGS, (One to be omitted). Coach: John CARTWRIGHT. IN: Josh GRAHAM. OUT: None. Round 04 Vs STORM on Saturday. SKINNY: Really really good win over the Dogs on Friday night without Scott Prince. Campbell proved that he's still got it when his team needs it in a playmaking role but backing it up this week with a visit to Melbourne might be pushing the friendship. The forwards have stood up in each game and Laffranchi had his best game of the season in Round 3 but the Storm will be much harder to beat than the Bulldogs were - and Prince won't be back. 3 WEEK OBSERVATION: Nathan Friend has been the standout in each game for the Titans and it is refreshing to see (or at least think I see) him cut out the grapple tackles that plagued his game from his time at the Storm. He's likable again. MANLY-WARRINGAH SEA EAGLES (NAMED 30/3) Backs: Michael ROBERTSON, Michael BANI, TBA, Steven MATAI, Shane NEUMANN, 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, George ROSE, Shane RODNEY (One to be omitted). Coach: Des HASLER. IN: Shane RODNEY. OUT: Jamie LYON (injured). Round 04 Vs KNIGHTS on Sunday. SKINNY: The loss of Jamie Lyon to a knee injury (2-4 weeks) rubbed salt into the wounds of their 12-10 MNF loss to the Panthers. Make no mistake the Sea Eagles desperately lack try-scoring potential without Brett Stewart and although the Knights are undermanned this Sunday - you just can't tip the Sea Eagles with any certainty (which makes me wonder why I thought they were such good things against the Panthers). Until Stewart is back this team will be nothing more than a solid forward pack with an above average halfback and a good team defence. But it will struggle to score tries - and now Lyon is out it gets even more difficult. Leaning towards the Knights now. 3 WEEK OBSERVATION: No Brett Stewart leaves the Sea Eagles resembling a big battleship without any ammunition - still looks impressive from a distance but get closer and it is fairly impotent. Other attacking players are out but Stewart is everything to Manly's up tempo attack - when he's not there they look devoid of options and intensity. Major concern this. MELBOURNE STORM (NAMED 30/3) Backs: Billy SLATER, Steve TURNER, Will CHAMBERS, Willie ISA, Anthony QUINN, Greg INGLIS, Cooper CRONK. Forwards: Jeff LIMA, Cameron SMITH (c), Adam BLAIR, Wairangi KOOPU, Ryan HOFFMAN, Dallas JOHNSON. Bench: Ryan HINCHCLIFFE, Kevin PROCTOR, Aiden TOLMAN, Scott ANDERSON, Joseph TOMANE, Matt CROSS (Two to be omitted). Coach: Craig BELLAMY. IN: Willie ISA, Matt CROSS. OUT: None. Round 04 Vs TITANS on Saturday. SKINNY: Resumed their swagger with a strong win over the Cowboys in Townsville. The Storm's tenacity and strikepower make them a tough opponent when your side is average defensively because they get on top early and you can never stem the tide unless you make a key defensive stop or two back to back. Cronk, Slater, Smith and Inglis are going to beat a lot of teams this season as long as they get solid support from the rest of the team - and it'll be win #3 this Saturday against the Titans. 3 WEEK OBSERVATION: Aiden Tolman isn't a huge kid but he has been excellent off the bench for the Storm providing consistent go-forward and defence. The Storm made a point of re-signing him last year when other teams really wanted him and you can see why. NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS (NAMED 30/3) Backs: Kurt GIDLEY (c), James McMANUS, Junior SAU, Adam MacDOUGALL, Akuila UATE, Ben ROGERS, Scott DUREAU. Forwards: Mark TAUFUA, Isaac DE GOIS, Ben CROSS, Chris HOUSTON, Zeb TAIA, Matt HILDER Bench: George NDAIRA, Marvan KARAWANA, Richard FA'AOSO, Danny WICKS. Coach: Brian SMITH. IN: Marvan KARAWANA, Danny WICKS. OUT: Corey PATERSON (Injured), Tim NATUSCH. Round 04 Vs SEA EAGLES on Sunday. SKINNY: Lost another key player with Paterson injuring himself in the loss to the Rabbitohs - a game the Knights could've won with a bit of luck but the Knights will take heart from the position they were in against the Rabbitohs after halftime. Now they need to show up in their first home game when Manly come to town and stay with it for the full 80 minutes. This is a very winnable game against the defending premiers who are reeling at 0-3 and still without their best player - Brett Stewart. Home team, Kurt Gidley and Manly w/o Brett Stewart - lean towards the Knights. 3 WEEK OBSERVATION: Kurt Gidley is firming as NSW fullback with his all-round game but he needs to focus on his running game in the opposition 20m zone rather than playmaking which isn't his strong point. COWBOYS (NAMED 30/3) Backs: Matt BOWEN, John WILLIAMS, Ashley GRAHAM, Ty WILLIAMS, Ben FARRAR, Travis BURNS, Johnathan THURSTON (c). Forwards: Shane TRONC, Aaron PAYNE, Antonio KAUFUSI, Carl WEBB, Ben HARRIS, Luke O'DONNELL. Bench: Clint AMOS, Scott BOLTON, Matthew SCOTT, Manase MANUOKAFOA, Steve RAPIRA+ (One to be omitted). Coach: Neil HENRY. IN: Steve RAPIRA+, Clint AMOS, Ashley GRAHAM. OUT: Grant ROVELLI, Shannon HEGARTY . Round 04 Vs RAIDERS on Monday. SKINNY: Would've fancied themselves with the Storm at home but were overcome by a team that remains superior to them defensively. If the Cowboys don't find a defensive backbone they won't get beyond the first week of the Finals in 2009 at best - and a visit to Canberra for a night game rests in the hands and feet of Thurston, Bowen and Payne who can make opportunities but the current 3/4 line is devoid of any strike weapons at the moment so you can't tip Nth Qld with any confidence even against an opponent that is 0-3 in Canberra. 3 WEEK OBSERVATION: It is good to see Carl Webb being used in a wider role than just up front as his effectiveness up the middle always looks limited. If he stays in the second row he'll be a big weapon come Origin time. PARRMATTA EELS (NAMED 30/3) Backs: Luke BURT, Joel REDDY, Ben SMITH, Krisnan INU, Eric GROTHE, Jarryd HAYNE, Brett FINCH. Forwards: Nathan CAYLESS (c), Matt KEATING, FuiFui MOIMOI, Nathan HINDMARSH, Weller HAURAKI, Feleti MATEO. Bench: Kris KEATING, Joe GALUVAO, Tim MANNAH, Broderick WRIGHT, Todd LOWRIE (One to be omitted). Coach: Daniel ANDERSON. IN: Weller HAURAKI. OUT: None. Round 04 Vs ROOSTERS on Friday. SKINNY: Parramatta fans shouldn't get carried away (to their credit I'm yet to see that happening) as the Eels are hardly playing super football yet. They did well to beat Souths but had some luck beating the Raiders in front of a very ordinary home crowd for their first game at Parramatta Stadium. Jarryd Hayne has copped some flack for his play at five-eighth but the kid has never looked like he loves the game for mine and that's a big factor in how hard he'll play each week. Roosters are very beatable but you never know when these two teams play as there's been big upsets before. 3 WEEK OBSERVATION: Nathan Hindmarsh simply has to get a chance in Origin I if the NSW selectors are watching the same games as I am. Having a defensive worker in your starting team is paramount to freeing up your running forwards at the elite level and last year NSW had too many runners and not enough plugs in defence. He's a must. PENRITH PANTHERS (NAMED 30/3) Backs: Lachlan COOTE, Michael GORDON, Michael JENNINGS, Brad TIGHE, Shane ELFORD, Wade GRAHAM, Jarrod SAMMUT. Forwards: Matthew BELL, Paul AITON, Petero CIVONICEVA (c), Trent WATERHOUSE, Nathan SMITH, Luke LEWIS. Bench: Masada IOSEFA, Frank PRITCHARD, Frank PULETUA, Gavin COOPER, Tim GRANT, Adam WOOLNOUGH, Joseph PAULO, Maurice BLAIR (Three to be omitted). Coach: Matthew ELLIOTT. IN: Adam WOOLNOUGH, Gavin COOPER, Joseph PAULO. OUT: None. Round 04 Vs TIGERS on Saturday. SKINNY: Gutsy win over the defending premiers at Brookvale on Monday night but don't get too excited. The Panthers have three avenues in attack - one is Petero running one out, the other is Luke Lewis running the ball or hitting a 2nd man wide on the right and the other is passing to Michael Jennings. Fortunately Frank Pritchard popped up with a contribution with a superb offload to Coote for a try on Monday but the Panthers need to find a halfback badly. Wade Graham was okay at first receiver but he is a five-eighth and can't be asked to run the whole show. At home helps their chances with the Tigers arriving on Saturday. 3 WEEK OBSERVATION: Petero Civoniceva is busting his gut trying to get the Panthers into decent field position but the lack of playmakers in the side is making it a case of one step forward, two steps back off the back of Petero's runs. ST.GEORGE-ILLAWARRA DRAGONS (Named 30/3) Backs: Ben HORNBY (c), Brett MORRIS, Beau SCOTT, Darius BOYD, Wendell SAILOR, Jamie SOWARD, Mathew HEAD. Forwards: Jarrod SAFFY, Dean YOUNG, Michael WEYMAN, Matt PRIOR, Ben CREAGH, Jeremy SMITH. Bench: Dan HUNT, Neville COSTIGAN, Luke PRIDDIS, Trent MERRIN+, Nick EMMETT. Coach: Wayne BENNETT. IN: Trent MERRIN+, Nick EMMETT. OUT: Matt COOPER (Injured). Round 04 Vs BRONCOS on Friday. SKINNY: Like the move of Matt Head to halfback but why did Hornby start at halfback in the first place Wayne? Still Bennett knows best and will be working out on a weekly basis what he's got to work with now the competition has started. Will miss Matt Cooper's defence this week out wide and the kicking game of Jamie Soward and Head must be top notch - the only downside of Head starting is just who is the go-to kicker in general play might be a disadvantage to the team's game plan rather than a bonus. 3 WEEK OBSERVATION: Michael Weyman and Matt Prior have been outstanding in the opening rounds and their emergence from injury and the rookie list respectively should be credited to Bennett's coaching as much as their own abilities and application. SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS (NAMED 30/3) Backs: Rhys WESSER, Nathan MERRITT, Colin BEST, Shaune CORRIGAN, Fetuli TALANOA, John SUTTON, Chris SANDOW. Forwards: Luke STUART, Issac LUKE, Roy ASOTASI (c), Ben LOWE, Shannan McPHERSON, David FA'ALOGO. Bench: Craig WING, Eddy PETTYBOURNE, Jaiman LOWE, David KIDWELL. Coach: Jason TAYLOR. IN: Nathan MERRITT. OUT: Beau CHAMPION. Round 04 Vs WARRIORS on Sunday. SKINNY: Can't believe they waited til the second half to start running the ball in attacking zones - after coming up with nothing with the kick against Parramatta and again in the opening half against the Knights. With a collection of good off-loaders in their side Jason Taylor has to be coaching them to run to the line and have their speedy backs running off their forwards instead of the kick and hope tactic that cost them the Eels game. Craig Wing is a superstar - and rotating between lock and hooker can work as long as it doesn't eat up too many minutes from Issac Luke. 3 WEEK OBSERVATION: John Sutton remains on the cusp of stardom but won't get there until he learns to put the kick away near the line and run the thing! If he starts running the ball on the 5th tackle he'll not only cause havoc out wide himself but open up opportunities for the 'to the line and pass' option as defences focus on his potential run. Just stop kicking Johnny! SYDNEY ROOSTERS (NAMED 30/3) Backs: Sam PERRETT, Sonny TUIGAMALA, Mitchell AUBUSSON, Iosia SOLIOLA, Shaun KENNY-DOWALL, Braith ANASTA, Mitchell PEARCE. Forwards: Mark O'MELEY, James AUBUSSON, Frank-Paul NUUAUSALA, Shane SHACKLETON, Craig FITZGIBBON (c), Setaimata SA. Bench: Lopini PAEA, Martin KENNEDY, Ben JONES, Jake FRIEND, Sisi WAQA (One to be omitted). Coach: Brad FITTLER. IN: Jake FRIEND, Martin KENNEDY, Sisi WAQA+. OUT: Nate MYLES, Willie MASON (both in-club suspension). Round 04 Vs EELS on Friday. SKINNY: Yikes... the Roosters not only fell away badly after a great start against the Tigers - they led 12-0 for crying out loud and had 40 points put on them! But have now lost their best two forwards in Mason and Myles for... guess what... drinking! Admittedly they did it at home but to me this reeks of a care-factor of zero on the part of Myles and Mason to the structure setup at the Roosters - towards both coach and management. What must their team-mates be thinking? At least Braith Anasta is in good form but Mitchell Pearce can't figure out what he's doing at halfback - he wants to kick all the time but when he chooses to run or pass instead he has gone with the wrong option. Fittler has some serious issues to work out beyond Friday night's game with the Eels - which ironically enough I think is very winnable. 3 WEEK OBSERVATION: Setaimata Sa's move to lock is going to really pay off in the long run for the Roosters but he needs to run the ball a lot more in attacking zones otherwise he'll run the risk of becoming another average lock. His ball skills are excellent so the Roosters outside men should be trailing him at every opportunity. WARRIORS (NAMED 30/3) Backs: Wade McKINNON, Denan KEMP, Patrick AH VAN, Jerome ROPATI, Aidan KIRK, Joel MOON, Stacey JONES. Forwards: Sam RAPIRA, Ian HENDERSON, Russell PACKER, Simon MANNERING, Jacob LILLYMAN, Micheal LUCK. Bench: Nathan FIEN, Jesse ROYAL, Ukuma TA'AI, Lewis BROWN+, Daniel O'REGAN+ (One to be omitted). Coach: Ivan CLEARY. IN: Patrick AH VAN, Lewis BROWN+, Daniel O'REGAN+. OUT: Brent TATE (Injured), Steven PRICE (Injured). Round 04 Vs RABBITOHS on Sunday. SKINNY: Have lost two of their most influential players to long and short term injury with Brent Tate and Steven Price out. Fell into bad habits in the loss to the Broncos and must make amends this weekend for the team confidence not to take too great a hit. Stacey Jones starting fills me with enough confidence to have them pencilled in as favourites against the visiting kick-happy Rabbitohs. A lot rests on the shoulders of young props Rapira and Packer with Price out, how they deal with Asotasi and Stuart could decide the game. 3 WEEK OBSERVATION: Wade McKinnon is the crucial piece of the Warriors attack because his support play is second to none and he can break the line running off a cut-out pass. Hasn't scored a try yet this year but watch him cross the stripe two or three times and get the Warriors home against the Rabbitohs this weekend. TIGERS (NAMED 30/3) 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, Todd PAYTEN. Bench: Corey PAYNE, Rhys HANBURY, Danny GALEA, Dene HALATAU, Rocky TRIMARCHI (One to be omitted). Coach: Tim SHEENS. IN: Rocky TRIMARCHI. OUT: No Changes. Round 04 Vs PANTHERS on Saturday. SKINNY: Loved watching Benji Marshall fire against the Roosters and alongside a fit Robbie Farah the Tigers will always be a chance in the game. Still some work to do out wider as the likes of Moltzen, Lawrence, Collis and Tuiaki are mixing their performances. I really like Todd Payten at lock, his ball playing ability just fits that position perfectly. Need to keep the roll on going by beating the Panthers at CUA this Saturday. 3 WEEK OBSERVATION: I'm still chuffed we've got a quality Englishman in the NRL with Gareth Ellis showing he's more than up to the standard but for almost single handedly getting the Tigers going forward when behind on Friday night - let me heap the praise on Keith Galloway for the best contribution by a prop this year. He made a bunch of huge runs to get the Tigers out of their own half when down 12-0 and the Tigers struck back swiftly because of those.