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Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Breaking down the 2009 NHL Entry Draft – by name

The 2009 National Hockey League Entry Draft was conducted from Montreal, Canada June 26-28 and for many young men childhood dreams are closer to being realised now as property of the 30 NHL franchises. If talent and potential are the main measures by which we judge the future stars of the NHL – then the importance of a great hockey name should not be far behind. Here is a detailed look at the names you should be keeping an eye on in the seasons to come, with talent and potential taking a backseat to the mockability of their name. Beware: Irreverent and appalling comedic attempts ahead. First Round 2. Victor Hedman, D, Lightning – We’re all hoping he scores his first NHL goal with a diving header. 6. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, D, Coyotes & 10. Magnus Paajarvi-Svennson, F, Oilers – After making their picks both Phoenix and Edmonton began lobbying the NHL to increase the size of jerseys across the shoulders, or failing they will have to invests in binoculars for every seat at their arenas just so people can identify these two youngsters. 12. Calvin de Haan, D, Islanders – A Calf in the hand is worth two in the bush… 27. Philippe Paradis, F, Hurricanes – This kid just gave Carolina a one way ticket to paradise… Second Round 33. Ryan O’Reilly, F, Avalanche – When told that the Avalanche had mispronounced his name when making their selection his response was ‘Oh Really?’ 43. William Wrenn, F, Sharks – A little birdie tells me this kid is going to be good. 44. Drew Shore, F, Panthers – Florida drew up a strategy to make sure they got this kid. 52. Richard Panik, F, Lightning –Tampa Bay lost their nerve here… 59. Brandon Pirri, F, Blackhawks – I hear this kid goes great with chicken. 60. Tomas Tatar, F, Red Wings – Detroit like their prospects raw. 61. Philip Samuelsson, D, Penguins – Kinda disappointing we’re not literally getting Ulf the Second here... Philip is a nice name sure but if this kid makes the Pens you'd like to think he'll be referred to as little Ulf or Ulf Junior instead of plain old Philip. Third Round 64. Tyson Barrie, D, Avalanche – Colorado have drafted on potential here… inheritance that is. 69. Reilly Smith, F, Stars – Dallas really wanted Reilly, really. 72. Alexander Urbom, D, Devils – Changed his name from Alexander Urbutt a few years back and finally got drafted. 76. Igor Bobkov, G, Ducks – Sounds more like a fancy dessert rather than a goaltender. 77. Matthew Hackett, G, Wild – His uncle Jeff could, but can Matthew? 81. Adam Morrison, G, Flyers – Turns out winning a NBA Championship super glued to the bench couldn't keep him away from his true love – hockey. 86. Ryan Button, D, Bruins – In his pre-draft interview with Boston, Ryan must've pushed all the right buttons. Fourth Round 112. Lane Macdermid, F, Bruins – The Emperor had a son after all… watch out Luke Skywalker! 113. Jeremy Price, D, Canucks – It’s too easy but… the Price was Right for Vancouver! 115. Patrick Wey, D, Capitals – Washington found a way to get young Patrick on the books. Fifth Round 133. Olivier Roy, G, Oilers – Never heard of a goaltending enforcer but the Oilers are happy to scrape the bottom of the barrel for one with this heritage... wait you mean this isn't the pugilist son of Roy? Sixth Round 158. Jerry D’Amigo, F, Maple Leafs – So which one is he most like? Lucky Day? Ned Nederlander? or my favourite Dusty Bottoms? 164. Connor Knapp, G, Sabres – 29 other teams must've been asleep on the job to let Connor slip this far down the draft board. 166. Scott Valentine, D, Ducks – Anaheim fell in love with this kid around February 14th. 167. Anton Blomqvist, D, Blue Jackets – Columbus GM Scott Howson must be a huge Scrabble fan because Blomqvist is a triple word score sensation. 172. Eric Wellwood, F, Flyers – Well would you pick anyone else? Seventh Round 183. Kirill Gotovets, D, Lightning – First things first for young Kirill, before he joins the Lighting he has to take his dog somewhere. 193. Anthony Hamburg, F, Wild – Hey Minnesota do you want Fries with that? 200. Mihail Pashnin, D, Rangers – The kid may not have any talent but he's got passion. 202. Maxwell Tardy, F, Blues – It makes sense that Maxwell had to wait this long for someone to get their act together and draft him. 206. Ben Sexton, F, Bruins – The sexiest 206th overall pick you’ll ever see. 211. Petteri Simila, G, Canadiens - Didn't Montreal make a similar pick last year? If you made it all the way through that - congratulations you truly deserve a medal - or a start in the Tour de France with that kind of staying power. For the record the First Overall Pick was John Tavares who went to the New York Islanders but his name was just a little hard to take the mickey out of and disappointingly didn't make the list. Having said that - he does have a good sounding 'hockey' name, and remember as you've read above - the name means everything.

Friday, 26 June 2009

NRL Tips Round 16 2009 - AFL Tips Round 13 2009 - Wallabies Test Schedule 2009

This is an archived story - so check the main page - www.wdnicolson.blogspot.com for the current round of tipping for NRL, AFL and Super 14. The site is also regularly updated with opinion, news and features on sport, entertainment and life.
NRL Tips & Previews Round 16 2009 - AFL Tips & Previews Round 13 2009 - Wallabies Test Schedule 2009 Origin was disgraceful but another Round of the NRL will hopefully produce at least six games that are of a better standard this weekend. Round 13 of the AFL begins after the split round break and the big question is will St.Kilda or Geelong fall before their epic clash next week? The Wallabies begin their winter Tests in earnest with the visiting French facing off at ANZ Stadium Saturday. As is kicking a goal from the sideline just 1.5 metres from the tryline - interested in giving it a go? Go to http://wdnicolson.blogspot.com/2009/05/kick-off-2009-are-you-up-to-challenge.html for more information on Kick-Off 2009! NRL & AFL Match Previews below. NRL ROUND 16 - 2009 Quick hit Previews today. BULLDOGS over COWBOYS > Thurston firing after a very quiet Origin II becomes the wild card with Ben Hannant injured - he's the leader of the Dogs pack. But I'm picking the Dogs at home. DRAGONS over TIGERS > Benji Marshall played perhaps the best 25 mins of a player this year but the Tigers still lost to the Storm. Dragons should win but Farah and Marshall may make it interesting. TITANS over WARRIORS > I give the Warriors every chance in this one but having been burnt far too many times by a road team in a similar matchup to this one - I'm taking the Titans even without Harrison and Bailey. Update 2:31pm - Having tipped all the favourites I'm leaning heavily towards the Warriors right now. SHARKS over ROOSTERS > Braith Anasta out is the biggest omission in this one - not Barrett or probably Gallen. The Roosters have enough trouble scoring points as it is - and without their best playmaker and the Sharks winning 4 straight - it is Cronulla for mine. STORM over RAIDERS > This might be in Canberra but unless David Furner loosens the shackles for the entire 80 minutes - the Raiders won't feature in this contest. Even then the Storm will be too good. BRONCOS over EELS > Recent club form suggests the Eels at home isn't a bad bet here. But the Broncos will lift with their Origin stars back in action and Lockyer to have a stormer. KNIGHTS over RABBITOHS > South Sydney are always a chance with their forward pack but the Knights are coming off their first break of the season and the only Origin reps Kurt Gidley and Michael Crocker will have almost a normal break between games. Knights at home. AFL ROUND 13 - 2009 The only thing people care about in Round 13 of the AFL is whether or not Geelong or St.Kilda will hold onto their unbeaten records for their Round 14 clash. BLUES over BOMBERS Bombers don't have McPhee and McVeigh, so I'm tipping the McBlues. MAGPIES over WHARFIES Freo will beat a few more teams before the season is out and even with this game in Melbourne they are a chance here... just not enough of a chance to waste a pick on. SWANS over CROWS Call me biased but something tells me Sydney have a good month of football in them over the remaining half of the season and I'm tipping this game to be the start of that month of victories. LIONS over DEMONS Demons have gone backwards (if that was possible) in the last couple of weeks and the Lions are at home - no brainer here. HAWKS over EAGLES Dean Cox is almost certainly out so the Hawks get instant big time favouritism - even though they aren't flying all that much higher than the Eagles. CATS over POWER You shouldn't expect Geelong or St.Kilda to get done this round so don't go tipping just because you think it's ridiculous that two teams are undefeated after 13 rounds. BULLDOGS over KANGAROOS Kangas are gornskies for 2009 and the Bulldogs will run rings around them in this one - even with Brent Harvey back for the Roos. SAINTS over TIGERS See the Geelong-Port preview - a loss this week shouldn't happen for the two premiership favourites... but the Tigers - maybe a monumental upset on the cards? WALLABIES TEST SERIES WINTER 2009 France and Australia go at it in the first serious Test of the 2009 season at ANZ Stadium. I actually like the French in this one - because I'm not convinced Australia are actually that good despite Robbie Deans doing a great job restructuring the team - we're still totally reliant on Matt Giteau to worry the top sides in the world. Here is the Test Schedule for Winter 2009: June 6 Sydney 7:30pm (EST) Bundaberg Rum Series v Barbarians Won 55-7 June 13 Canberra 7.30pm (EST) Bundaberg Rum Series v Italy Won 31-8 June 20 Melbourne 8.00pm (EST) Bundaberg Rum Series v Italy Won 34-12 June 27 Sydney 8.00pm (EST) Bundaberg Rum Series v France July 18 Auckland 5.35pm (EST) Tri-Nations v New Zealand August 8 Cape Town 11.00pm (EST) Tri-Nations v South Africa August 22 Sydney 8.05pm (EST) Tri-Nations v New Zealand August 29 Perth 8.05pm (EST) Tri-Nations v South Africa September 5 Brisbane 8.05pm (EST) Tri-Nations v South Africa September 19 Wellington 5.35pm (EST) Tri-Nations v New Zealand Good luck with your tips this weekend!

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

State of Origin Game Two Final Score: QLD 24 def NSW 14. Queensland claim record 4th straight State of Origin Series win!

DISGRACEFUL! Origin Football reaches new low.
QUEENSLAND have defeated NEW SOUTH WALES 24-14 in Game TWO - to claim a 4th successive State of Origin Series win! Congratulations to the Maroons - simply a better side than the tripe NSW keep putting on the field the last few years. Man of the Match was Sam Thaiday - still dumbfounded as to how - on a night when no Queenslander really shone above the rest and only two New South Welshmen stood up to be counted. QUEENSLAND 24 (G Inglis, I Folau, D Lockyer, C Smith tries; J Thurston 4/4 Goals) defeated NEW SOUTH WALES 14 (J Hayne 2, D Williams tries; K Gidley 1/3 Goals) @ ANZ STADIUM SYDNEY JUNE 24 2009

The first try to Inglis put the writing on the wall for NSW with its Kleenex Tissue Softness

To get a full Origin Two Video Review check back on THURSDAY 25 JUNE on the www.wdnicolson.blogspot.com front page. The question that has to be asked is how can Rugby League be considered to be 'better than ever' when this year's State of Origin has produced two of the most abysmal games of football seen in memory?
The biff between Poore and Crocker was the highlight of the night... by a stretch.
I will be exploring that and focus especially on how a mediocre competition has finally caught up with representative football's 'elite standard' and what we now see is pathetic unimaginative football at the game's highest level. Again full credit to Queensland for their achievement but as I'll discuss tomorrow - the product and players NSW are putting on the field - should leave no doubt as to which state has the classiest talent and can cover over the falling standard of footballer currently being produced by the modern game.

Jarryd Hayne was all on his own carrying the Blues in this disgraceful Origin encounter. Although Anthony Watmough at least tried hard to make Queensland know they were in a contest. VIDEO REVIEW COMING THURSDAY 25 JUNE

Monday, 22 June 2009

State of Origin Game Two 2009 Video Preview

QUEENSLAND have defeated NEW SOUTH WALES 24-14 in Game TWO - to claim a 4th successive State of Origin Series win! Congratulations to the Maroons - simply a better side than the tripe NSW keep putting on the field. Man of the Match was Sam Thaiday - still dumbfounded as to how - on a night when no Queenslander really shone above the rest and only two New South Welshmen stood up to be counted. To get a full Origin Two Video Review check out this site on THURSDAY 25 JUNE on the www.wdnicolson.blogspot.com front page.
Video Previews of GAME TWO - TUESDAY 23 JUNE 2009. video IN DEPTH VIDEO PREVIEW OF GAME TWO video QUEENSLAND LEAD SERIES 1-0 after a 28-18 win in Game One on June 4. Check out the Video Previews above for a comprehensive look at Game II. Team News Update: Tuesday 23 June 2009: Peter Wallace the player NSW got absolutely nothing good from in Game I could find himself benched for most of Game II with the addition of Josh Morris to the bench for Craig Wing. Before the DT ran a story on this today I'd been considering the option of moving Jarryd Hayne to fullback and having Kurt Gidley play in the halves with Wallace dropping back to the bench. Wallace was borderline useless in Game I and the less he has to do with running the team the better in my opinion but the bigger question his possible demotion raises is why didn't NSW Selectors have the foresight to see that Wallace was expendable and useless off the bench and retain Campese instead. One thing Campese would've given was some impact off the bench but alas... the Blues are still a chance in the Series. But how much of a chance? Check out the Video Previews Above. Game KICKS-OFF around 8-8:10pm AEST from ANZ Stadium Sydney. QUEENSLAND MAROONS - GAME II 2009 Backs: B Slater, D Boyd, G Inglis, W Tonga, I Folau, D Lockyer (c), J Thurston. Forwards: S Price, C Smith, P Civoniceva, A Harrison, S Thaiday, D Johnson. Bench: K Hunt, B Hannant, N Myles, M Crocker. Extras: N Costigan. VERSUS
NEW SOUTH WALES BLUES - GAME II 2009
Backs: K Gidley (c), J Hayne, J Lyon, J Monaghan, D Williams, T Barrett, P Wallace. Forwards: B Kite, R Farah, M Weyman, B Creagh, L O'Donnell, P Gallen. Bench: J Morris, J Poore, G Stewart, A Watmough.
PREDICTIONS GAME TWO: SCORE: NSW 23 def. QLD 22 FIRST TRY SCORER: Ben Creagh (NSW) LAST TRY SCORER: Israel Folau (QLD) MAN OF THE MATCH: Trent Barrett (NSW) How it may play out: First Half. NSW 6-0 NSW open the scoring with Ben Creagh barging over from a Trent Barrett offload on the left side next to the posts, Gidley converts. NSW 6-4 Israel Folau goes over from a Lockyer cut out pass across the face of whichever QLD centre plays on the right side, NSW defence can't stop the big fella but Thurston cannot convert from the right touchline. NSW 12-4 Jamie Lyon does something at Origin level racing through to touch down a Robbie Farah grubber kick from dummy half. Gidley converts. NSW 12-10 Queensland strike back just before half-time in typical fashion with a Jarryd Hayne dropped bomb spilling to Willie Tonga who goes over untouched. Thurston converts and there's only two points in it at the break. Second Half. QLD 16-12 Ben Hannant runs all over Anthony Watmough to score a simple try by Origin standards from 10m out and Thurston extends Queensland's first lead of the match to 4 points by converting. NSW 18-16 Some Farah magic running behind some tired Queensland markers about 40m out from the line creates an untouched run to the line for Josh Morris who looms up in support as Farah draws Slater perfectly. Gidley from in front restores NSW's advantage. NSW 22-16 A stunning kick-return from Jarryd Hayne (now playing fullback) puts NSW into the QLD 20m zone and from a spread across field Morris grabs his second in the space of a few minutes to score out wide. Gidley who could ice the game by converting with under 10 minutes left but he misses the conversion and QLD still have life. NSW 22-22 With just two minutes left Queensland do it AGAIN! Folau gathers a cross field kick from Thurston outleaping the NSW defenders to score in the corner. And Thurston obliges by kicking the goal from touch and we are all tied up with 90 seconds left. NSW 23-22 Inexplicably Steven Price knocks on in a big Michael Weyman tackle as QLD bring the ball back from their first set after scoring and it takes just two tackles for Trent Barrett to size up the opportunity and pot a field goal to win the game for NSW with just 3 seconds left on the clock from 25m out. GLORIOUS - we now have a decider in Brisbane! Predicted Scorers: NSW 23 (J Morris 2, B Creagh, J Lyon tries; K Gidley 3/4 goals, T Barrett 1 Field Goal) Defeated QLD 22 (I Folau 2, D Boyd, B Hannant tries; J Thurston 3/4 Goals) @ ANZ Stadium Sydney. Series tied 1-1 with Game 3 to be played at Suncorp Stadium July 15 2009. VIDEO REVIEW COMING THURSDAY 25 JUNE

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Bulldogs 19 def. Panthers 12 - NRL Round 15 Video Review

The Bulldogs have defeated the Penrith Panthers 19-12 to kick-off Round 15 of the 2009 NRL Premiership and here is a Video Review of the match with analysis of the tactics and performances of both teams. As posed in the Video - Behind Marcus Bai - who is the best product of the PNG system to make it in the NRL? Remember Adrian Lam doesn't count... apparently he was a Queenslander.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

NRL Tips Round 15 2009 - AFL Tips Round 12 2009 - Wallabies Test Schedule 2009

If you're looking for Round 15 AFL Tips Click Here This is an archived story - so check the main page - www.wdnicolson.blogspot.com for the current round of tipping for NRL, AFL and Super 14. The site is also regularly updated with opinion, news and features on sport, entertainment and life. NRL Tips & Previews Round 15 2009 - AFL Tips & Previews Round 12 2009 - Wallabies Test Schedule 2009 Swine Flu is taking over! Well that's far from the truth but considering what we were being told this time last week - isn't it amazing to observe how wrong the mainstream media got it? Young Ben Hannant here still looks just the same as he did last week - no enlarged nostrils or wiggly tail on this Bulldogs prop. Anyhoo - lame satire aside - on to the footy! As is kicking a goal from the sideline just 1.5 metres from the tryline - interested in giving it a go? Go to http://wdnicolson.blogspot.com/2009/05/kick-off-2009-are-you-up-to-challenge.html for more information on Kick-Off 2009! NRL & AFL Match Previews below. NRL ROUND 15 - 2009 Previews below and with just five games on the sched it should be (yet again) - another perfect opportunity to get that perfect round. Sadly we all know the odds of that happening are as good as Brett Lee ever becoming the number one bowler in the world again but be that as it may - here's a crack for Round 15. BULLDOGS over PANTHERS > With only Ben Hannant out of their full strength team how can you pick anyone but the Bulldogs this weekend? Especially when you look at the omissions for the Panthers - Lewis, Jennings, Civoniceva & Coote. What this game should highlight is how improved the Dogs are in 2009 and how truly ordinary the Panthers supporting cast is without their top players. Only chance Penrith have is if Trent Waterhouse and Frank Pritchard have 25 runs each, 2 tries each and make 60 tackles each... even then the Dogs probably win 30-28. ROOSTERS over COWBOYS > May change this pack later today but something tells me that the Cowboys without Thurston, Bowen and O'Donnell are coming back to reality quick smart... The fortunate thing for North Queensland is they are playing the Roosters and at least can replace Thurston with a halfback with considerable NRL experience in Grant Rovelli. The key to this game is up front as the Cowboys will have their wrecking balls available (bar O'Donnell) and Aaron Payne to run them around the park. If the Roosters can match the Cowboys in the middle of the field then this is the week their halves Anasta and Pearce wake up and win the game for the Roosters. RAIDERS over SEA EAGLES > Canberra's season officially died last Sunday when they blew a 20-10 lead with 20 to go over the Sharks in Canberra but Origin selections have been kind to them and they are a big chance to topple Manly at Brookvale. Note this does not mean I think they are still alive and kicking for a Finals birth - they're gone - but this is a winnable game with only Matt Orford, Josh Perry and Jason King standing between the Raiders and 2 points here. If Perry and King can get the Sea Eagles going forward into the large Raiders pack - then Orford and his recent run of great form come into play. If they fail and the Raiders forwards get on top then I think the Raiders are special fried rice in this one. STORM over TIGERS > Cooper Cronk, Brett Finch and Ryan Hoffman beat Benji Marshall, Chris Heighington and John Morris in the matchup of what star power is in this contest. Then the reserves for Melbourne and the current first grade squad fillers of the Tigers cancel each other out. That leads me to a selection of Melbourne (although they are way too short betting wise) at home to beat Benji and his own bunch of reserve graders. SHARKS over BRONCOS > This game will either be incredibly boring or only entertaining because we get a good look at the Next Generation of Brisbane Broncos. Although Trent Barrett and Paul Gallen are out for the Sharks they still have Scott Porter who has been nothing short of excellent for Cronulla since being called up from park football and they should have enough confidence in their skills to overcome a Broncos side devoid of their top 6 attacking weapons (Lockyer, Hodges, Hunt, Folau, Thaiday and Wallace). Would like to tip the Baby Broncos but scoring points at NRL level is so much tougher than in the Toyota Cup touch footy comp. AFL ROUND 12 - 2009 I re-iterate my comment from last week: Split Round time - and a smarter idea there could not be in the middle of a gruelling 22 game schedule. The AFL make time for a bye when it counts - mid-season but the NRL hides behind the rep game schedule as a reason they can't take weeks off... Eight of the teams played last week and will have this weekend off to rest their bumps and bruises - or in Dean Laidley's case cash his payout cheque - while the Swans, Demons, Cats, Magpies, Dockers and Bombers play on two weeks break. It just makes so much sense and the fantatical AFL fan still gets to watch at least 3 games each weekend of the split round - now that's enough footy for any appetite let alone as a by-product of the Split Round. BOMBERS over DEMONS Is this the week the Demons break through? Well it wasn't a few weeks back when I tipped them to beat yet another superior side... don't remind me which as I think they've won like 4 straight over that period. The Bombers play attacking footy which may give the Demons a reason to like their chances on the counter-attack but it is hard to pick Melbourne at the best of times, so Essendon here. SWANS over MAGPIES I'm sure I didn't hear Eddie McGuire say the other day this was the biggest game in Collingwood history... so because I didn't I'll pick the Swans at home. If this was in fact the biggest game in Collingwood history we'd be in a Grand Final and even then I'd pick against Collingwood. So really how can I take anyone but the Swans here? Eddie? CATS over WHARFIES With basically two weeks to rest up the Cats will be Catastic once again and pile on the pain for the Wharfies - who might be competitive early but I can't see them getting within 8 goals of the Cats. Odds on Gary Ablett Jr cracking 50 disposals? WALLABIES TEST SERIES WINTER 2009 Australia kept Italy at bay in the First Test in Canberra and to be honest I saw about 90 seconds total of the performance. It looked cold and uninteresting - and the latter wasn't due to the game actually being in Canberra. The Second Test is this Saturday Night in Melbourne. Here is the Test Schedule for Winter 2009: June 6 Sydney 7:30pm (EST) Bundaberg Rum Series v Barbarians Won 55-7 June 13 Canberra 7.30pm (EST) Bundaberg Rum Series v Italy Won 31-8 June 20 Melbourne 8.00pm (EST) Bundaberg Rum Series v Italy June 27 Sydney 8.00pm (EST) Bundaberg Rum Series v France July 18 Auckland 5.35pm (EST) Tri-Nations v New Zealand August 8 Cape Town 11.00pm (EST) Tri-Nations v South Africa August 22 Sydney 8.05pm (EST) Tri-Nations v New Zealand August 29 Perth 8.05pm (EST) Tri-Nations v South Africa September 5 Brisbane 8.05pm (EST) Tri-Nations v South Africa September 19 Wellington 5.35pm (EST) Tri-Nations v New Zealand Good luck with your tips this weekend!

Monday, 15 June 2009

2009 State of Origin Game Two Teams: NSW v QLD

State of Origin Teams Game 3 on main page - www.wdnicolson.blogspot.com ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
QUEENSLAND have defeated NEW SOUTH WALES 24-14 in Game TWO - to claim a 4th successive State of Origin Series win! Congratulations to the Maroons - simply a better side than the tripe NSW keep putting on the field. Man of the Match was Sam Thaiday - still dumbfounded as to how - on a night when no Queenslander really shone above the rest and only two New South Welshmen stood up to be counted. To get a full Origin Two Video Review check out this site on THURSDAY 25 JUNE on the www.wdnicolson.blogspot.com front page.
Brand New State of Origin Video Preview for GAME TWO - CLICK HERE.
Video Previews of GAME TWO - TUESDAY 23 JUNE 2009. video IN DEPTH VIDEO PREVIEW OF GAME TWO The New South Wales selectors have done it again! Just when it seemed they were committed to building a side that could challenge Queensland's established combinations, a Game One loss has triggered the re-introduction of 31 year old Trent Barrett into the 2009 Series. It's goodbye to Terry Campese who actually wasn't as ineffective as his Game One halves partner Peter Wallace and hello Mr Barrett who was outplayed by Campese for 60 minutes in Canberra on Sunday but that was conveniently forgotten by the Sydney papers pushing the Barrett cause. The most frustrating thing here is that NSW can make a bunch of gutsy selections for Game One - be within a converted try with 15 seconds left - and then decide to push the panic button at the selection table in a key position they obviously HAD believed Campese was the right man for a few weeks ago. Boggles the mind, but then again this is the same group of selectors who have presided over three straight Origin Series defeats so why do we expect anything more? There are a total of 5 changes for the Blues with injured trio Luke Lewis, James McManus and Luke Bailey all out along with the dropped Campese and Anthony Laffranchi. Into the side come Barrett, Anthony Watmough, Glenn Stewart, Paul Gallen and David Williams. Shadow players include Joel Monaghan and potential Origin rookies in Tom Learoyd-Lahrs and Josh Morris. For Queensland just the once injury enforced change with Willie Tonga coming in for Justin Hodges and Neville Costigan named as the 18th man. UPDATE 20 JUNE 2009: NSW and Queensland have confirmed their line ups as of Saturday the 20th June with Michael Jennings being ruled out and shadow player Joel Monaghan coming in to the centres. Robbie Farah, Paul Gallen, Craig Wing and Trent Barrett are under injury clouds but are expected to play. Queensland are expected to be as named. The SQUADS (Player profiles from Game One HERE Game Two New Players to be added): QUEENSLAND LEAD SERIES 1-0 after a 28-18 win in Game One on June 4. QUEENSLAND MAROONS - GAME II 2009 Backs: B Slater, D Boyd, G Inglis, W Tonga, I Folau, D Lockyer (c), J Thurston. Forwards: S Price, C Smith, P Civoniceva, A Harrison, S Thaiday, D Johnson. Bench: K Hunt, B Hannant, N Myles, M Crocker. Extras: N Costigan. VERSUS
NEW SOUTH WALES BLUES - GAME II 2009 Backs: K Gidley (c), J Hayne, J Lyon, J Monaghan, D Williams, T Barrett, P Wallace. Forwards: B Kite, R Farah, M Weyman, B Creagh, L O'Donnell, P Gallen. Bench: C Wing, J Poore, G Stewart, A Watmough. Extras: T Learoyd-Lahrs, M Ennis, J Morris. GAME TWO PREVIEW TO COME MONDAY.

NRL Contenders Or Pretenders in 2009?

CONTENDERS OR PRETENDERS?

So here we are, halfway through the 2009 NRL Regular Season and we've all seen enough football to begin the annual sorting of contenders from pretenders for the premiership. Fourteen Premiership Rounds are in the books and each side has now played at least half their schedule, resulting in a premiership table that looks like this with both byes included. Table Updated: 16/6/2009 2:36pm PRETENDERS & POSSIBLES & CONTENDERS LISTED BELOW. What we have is a difference of 14 points between first and last with the Top 8 cut-off current standing at 18 points. But the ladder only tells us who can or cannot make the Finals. What it doesn't always divulge is which teams can actually contend for the premiership. So here is the lowdown on which teams can and which teams can't win the premiership in 2009. PRETENDERS - absolutely no hope of winning the title in 2009. WARRIORS - My pre-season pick for the title (remember that was when everyone was healthy and we only had last year's form to reflect on as well as how influential new players and coaching staff would be - you can't predict for injuries) are running 11th but haven't looked like a team that can win the comp since way back in Round 2 when they beat the Sea Eagles to start the year 2-0. Losing Brent Tate and taking too long to realise that Joel Moon isn't a strong playmaker in the number six put this team into a downward spiral that has seen them lose 7 of their last 10 games. Ivan Cleary has put Lance Hohaia in at pivot finally but a serious crack at the title bolted when Tate got hurt. To be fair to the Warriors they could find themselves in the 'middle/possibles' category by the end of the season but I still don't believe that they have a hope in 2009. Premiership Odds: $18.00 TIGERS - The biggest disappointment with writing these guys off, is that a team with Robbie Farah, Benji Marshall and Englishman Gareth Ellis won't be playing September football. Yes they could turn it all around and go on a 4 or 5 match winning streak to sneak into playoff contention but a title challenge is beyond this group that still features too many below average footballers in the 17 each week. Tim Sheens can't work miracles every year and until the club spends big on another forward and outside back they will remain on the outside looking in for a Grand Final birth. Premiership Odds: $67.00 RABBITOHS - The signing of Michael Crocker certainly added some quality to their backrow but this team doesn't have the class to compete in the Finals - if they make it that is. Craig Wing at lock works and John Sutton is starting to add some touches of quality to his ball playing game but the game plan in attack is unimaginative and defensively they've been found out too many times to suggest they have anything in reserve to mount a challenge later in the year. Premiership Odds: 67.00 RAIDERS - Went away from their 2008 game plan of ball movement after just one half of football in Round 1 (where they looked a million bucks in the opening half versus the Tigers only to shut up shop in the second and get beaten) and despite some suggestions in recent weeks that David Furner has gone back to that style - it has only been in the first half yet again before Furner's edict of playing big up the middle takes over and the attacking fluency disappears as they search for the miracle play on the last tackle. The premiership dream is over in Canberra after flirting with greatness at the back end of 2008 - and with a mediocre competition this was an opportunity the Raiders will regret for years. Premiership Odds: $67.00 PANTHERS - At their best they will only beat teams who don't play expansive football to expose Penrith's fragility on the edges in defence. If a team tries to play the Panthers up the middle they will invite Penrith into a game they want to play, but if sides hold Penrith's go-forward and target their edge defence - Penrith are very beatable. A side that has the likes of Petero Civonicea, Michael Jennings, Trent Waterhouse and Luke Lewis could contend if they didn't have a supporting cast that included Brad Tighe, Maurice Blair, Jarrod Sammut, Frank Pritchard (yes he's chronically over-rated), Frank Puletua, Nathan Smith and Matt Bell in their regular 17 man squad. In other words the top end quality is there but the supporting cast is very average - you can't win with that combination. Premiership Odds: $21.00 SHARKS - Based on their 2008 placing you have to scratch your head as to why it took until Round 14 to notch up their 4th win of the season. But their finish to 2008 was a choke in the Preliminary Final and probably showed a truer indication of their inability to put teams away when they had a glut of possession and field position. They are a team that defensively should turn up each week but don't have the strike-power out wide to worry good teams. There is some hope with the likes of Nathan Stapleton and Blake Ferguson getting a run lately but when their go to play in attack is a Corey Hughes inside ball to Paul Gallen (something the Raiders fell for yesterday) - Trent Barrett can't be that confident his outside men can do the job. And neither are we. Premiership Odds: $101.00 EELS - The good news is they've signed some new blood for 2009, the bad news is they aren't arriving until next year. The 2009 Eels are a work in progress and although the loss to injury of Feleti Mateo has been devastating in Daniel Anderson's rebuilding process - at least it opened the door to give Daniel Mortimer a taste of First Grade. But let's be honest - a title in 2009 is way beyond teams with more firepower than the Eels this year but who knows about 2010 - the Dogs recruited well this year and became contenders so don't be discouraged Eels fans by looking towards next season. Premiership Odds: $81.00 ROOSTERS - A team that relied on points from kicks in 2008 has found life is extraordinarily tough when that avenue to points fails you. The Roosters are a struggling football team in every sense of the word this year and the only hope on the horizon is that there are only twelve rounds left until the playing roster and coaching staff can start playing golf to help forget about 2009. The only key player on the roster not to regress from their 2008 performances is Nate Myles - although you could argue Braith Anasta is trying harder than ever - he's still not playing well enough to win games of football for his team. The upcoming off-season can make or break the next five years at Bondi. Premiership Odds: $501.00 POSSIBLES - it will take an unbelievable run in September to win in 2009. KNIGHTS - There is no doubt the Knights can play some entertaining and more importantly - effective football under Brian Smith but there are two things that will stop them making a serious dent in the Finals. The biggest drawback is despite a first half of 2009 that has them sporting 8 wins from 14 games - the likes of Kurt Gidley, Jarrod Mullen and Isaac De Gois (their 3 most influential players) can't play any better than they have so far and the Knights still don't have a premiership feel about them. The supporting cast is more than solid (even without Ben Cross and Adam MacDougall who are injured) but the second aspect that raises concern over the Knights ability to contend is Brian Smith's insistence to tinker with the starting line up to 'expose' his fringe first graders to starting football. This idea has some merit certainly but something noticeable from Smith's tenure at the Eels where this practice was an almost weekly occurrence is that the Eels couldn't put it altogether on the day they had to win. Resting key players is one thing but taking them out of their comfort zone in a game plan and messing with their roles to accommodate inferior players hasn't resulted in Smith getting the best from his key men on what turns out to be his sides last game of the year. Just an observation but it is just one of many key factors weighing against the Knights in 2009. Premiership Odds: $15.00 TITANS - This is the year they qualify for the Finals for only the second time (Doesn't matter what you believe Gold Coast CEO Michael Searle - the Titans are the continuation of the Giants/Seagulls/Chargers and their 1997 qualification and their wooden spoons count) and the first time since they re-entered the comp in 2007. They currently sit in second place on the amended table and barring another late season collapse like in 07 and 08 - they'll be playing in September. But for how long remains to be seen, they have a few top shelf stars in Scott Prince, Luke Bailey, Anthony Laffranchi and Preston Campbell and the supporting cast is offering more than they have in three seasons but the Titans just don't have a premiership smell about them. They lack attacking potency in the centres unless Mat Rogers is moved wider and their attacking game plan overuses second rowers Laffranchi and Mark Minichiello to the point where their effectiveness wanes as the season goes on. No premiership assault this year despite their ladder position. Premiership Odds: $11.00 COWBOYS - Sunday's loss to the Dragons has my opinion of Johnathan Thurston and the Cowboys unchanged. Thurston is a great front-runner - and thus so are the Cowboys - but if they sport a team a significant lead, then Thurston/Nth Qld simply aren't good enough to beat the team that gets that lead. I rate Thurston very highly but his abilities are made for a front-running team and despite a couple of Dally Ms, Test and Origin jerseys and two extended playoff runs with the Cowboys (yes he won a premiership with the Dogs in 2004 but that wasn't as a starter) - I'm still to put him in the elite category of a Langer, Daley, Stuart, Fittler, Lockyer or Johns - all players who could win games from anywhere. We won't see the best of Matt Bowen again til next year coming off his knee surgery and despite the forward pack regaining an edge it lost in 2008 - the Cowboys will need a sensational month before the Finals to gain momentum and then have a better side fall over in September for them to seriously have a chance at the premiership. Premiership Odds: $11.00 CONTENDERS - In a mediocre NRL these sides have the quality to take advantage and one side will win the 2009 Premiership. SEA EAGLES - The defending premiers have struggled mightily without their best player Brett Stewart this season but in the last month their second best player Matt Orford has stepped up his game and led Manly to wins in four of their last five games and he has 10 Try Assists in that period. His influence on the game had to lift if Manly was going to start making a serious comeback into playoff calculations and Manly now only sit two points out of the Top 8 with all byes factored in. The promotion of Shane Rodney to the run on team has added some mobility that the team lost when Steven Menzies left and the play of Matt Ballin – which goes largely un-noticed – has risen to a new level in the past month. But as always with Manly they need Brett Stewart back by August the Sea Eagles to truly be a contender in 2009. Premiership Odds: $8.00 BRONCOS - Losing Justin Hodges for an extended period exposes a real weakness in the Broncos backline. Their feared right hand side becomes average with Israel Folau heavily marked at centre and the averageness of their left combination – Steven Michaels and Antonio Winterstein is truly exposed. But with Brisbane the question marks their forward pack had surrounding them entering the season appear to be unanswered halfway through 2009. Sam Thaiday has run out of gas after a sensational start to the season and apart from Nick Kenny and Corey Parker – the rest of the pack is finding life tough. Ben Te’o is being exposed badly as Darren Lockyer’s ‘minder’ without Hodges also lining up and the likes of Lagi Setu, Josh McGuire, Ashton Sims and of late – ‘bad boy’ Joel Clinton are having little impact in the middle of the field. Then there is the turnstile defence of Lockyer and the realisation that Peter Wallace actually isn’t very good. But in this competition mediocrity reigns and the Broncos have time on their side to get it altogether by August/September and the quality in Lockyer, Hodges, Folau and Karmichael Hunt to well and truly contend. Premiership Odds: $8.00 DRAGONS - Those fans who believed Wayne Bennett was a product of great players can’t be happy. It appears that you have no idea about football. That being said the Dragons rise to such a consistent level is still quite a shock given how much quality left the roster over the past few seasons. Bennett has instilled self belief into his players and given Jamie Soward the kind of free reign you wish other coaches would give their most gifted playmakers. The strangest thing about Soward is even with a free reign to run he’s never been and never will be a great ball player but his role is to kick long, link his outside men and know when to run. None of this structured game plan of repetition that kills all natural footballing instincts in the freakishly talented, just a directive from Bennett to Soward that he is to play smart football and seize the opportunity to try something when it arises. The maturation of Michael Weyman should also be heavily attributed to Bennett’s commitment to bettering the person as much (if not more than) as the player – as the kid we saw struggle with injuries and a role in Canberra is now the undisputed leader of the Dragons pack. The backline is gelling nicely as the season goes on but the key to this is edict from Bennett that they get ball. It’s not rocket science but the Dragons philosophy to improve by doing under Bennett has them well and truly in contention in 2009. Premiership Odds: $5.50 BULLDOGS - The rise and rise of the Bulldogs has continued throughout 2009 as a new coach, new players and a new attitude has the Canterbury club smelling a Minor Premiership just a season removed from the Wooden Spoon. As previously stated in this feature – the NRL competition is mediocre compared to even six years ago – but full credit must go to the Bulldogs who have rebuilt their team in key positions and have tasted defeat just 3 times in their first 12 matches. The Brett Kimmorley-Michael Ennis combination is moving the team around the park beautifully and the addition of some strike power out wide has made the Bulldogs a genuine premiership threat. There are concerns about the depth and quality the Bulldogs have on their bench but their starting backline and forward pack are producing the goods as they build towards a title charge later this year. Premiership Odds: $6.50 STORM - Adding Brett Finch made so much sense when hit the market and the Storm are still a premiership threat because of it. He’s freed up Cooper Cronk to return to his running/scheming best and given Ryan Hoffman a new lease on life after a poor start in 2009. Greg Inglis in the centres was desperately needed and if Cameron Smith hits a purple patch coming out of the State of Origin series then no team can run with the Storm offensively. But Melbourne’s deficiencies in attack to start the year aren’t the only concern. The edge defence that was the cornerstone of the Storm’s three consecutive Grand Final appearances has to be rebuilt and is still a work in progress. Positive signs up front is the emergence of Aiden Tolman and the return to form of Jeff Lima and Adam Blair after slow starts. Melbourne should be favourites for the title but their current combinations remain a work in progress. The good news for the Storm is if the combinations work they’ll win the comp. Premiership Odds: $6.00