A punter’s guide to the 2013 Rugby League World Cup

It’s been five years since the Kiwis emerged triumphant at Suncorp Stadium with the World Cup in tow. Now, on the 26th October, the top nations in international rugby league do battle to determine who’s at the top of the pile. So, just who is representing their country and who will be the dark horses this year?

Australia:

The Kangaroos have won nine of the past thirteen world cups, having lost just one since 1975. They are the benchmark in International and club rugby league. They have an entire squad full of match winners and experience. The experts have already penciled them in for the final and are tossing up between England and New Zealand as their opposition. The Australians will be looking for revenge following their loss in the 2008 final to the Kiwis.

Squad: 

Greg Bird (Gold Coast Titans), Darius Boyd (Newcastle Knights), Daly Cherry-Evans (Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles), Boyd Cordner (Sydney Roosters), Cooper Cronk (Melbourne Storm), Robbie Farah (Wests Tigers), Andrew Fifita (Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks), Paul Gallen (Cronulla Sutherland-Sharks), Jarryd Hayne (Parramatta Eels), Greg Inglis (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Michael Jennings (Sydney Roosters), Luke Lewis (Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks), Brett Morris (St George Illawarra Dragons), Josh Morris (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Nate Myles (Gold Coast Titans), Josh Papalii (Canberra Raiders), Corey Parker (Brisbane Broncos), Matthew Scott (North Queensland Cowboys), Billy Slater (Melbourne Storm), Cameron Smith (Melbourne Storm), James Tamou (North Queensland Cowboys), Brent Tate (North Queensland Cowboys), Sam Thaiday (Brisbane Broncos), Johnathan Thurston (North Queensland Cowboys)

Head coach: Tim Sheens

Ones to watch: It goes without saying that Melbourne’s “Big 3” will be instrumental in the Kangaroos’ success. Further keys to the success of Australia will be Greg Inglis who can turn a game on it’s head as well as five-eighth Johnathan Thurston. “JT” was in terrific form to the back-end of this season so expect him to continue that form. Australia’s forward pack will be formidable no matter who they pick.

One dark horse to watch for Australia is Jarryd Hayne. Included in the squad, somewhat surprisingly, Hayne only played 15 club games this season however starred in the Prime Minister’s XIII against the PNG Kumuls recently. Hayne’s last appearance in a World Cup came with the Fiji Bati whom he led to the semi-finals before being defeated by the Kangaroos. He’ll be looking to impress early on so expect plenty of fireworks from the “Hayne Plane.”

Cook Islands:

One of the smallest nations involved in this years’ tournament, they made their first appearance in the World Cup in 2000. They have never won a match but you can bet they’ll be hungry to erase that stat. Boasting NRL experienced players such as Zeb Taia, Dylan Napa, Tinirau Arona and Brad Takairangi they’ll be looking to get one over either the United States or Wales.

Squad:

Tinirau Arona (Syndey Roosters), Sam Brunton (Mounties Bundy), Daniel Fepuleai (North Sydney Bears), Jonathon Ford (Toulouse Olympique XIII), Anthony Gelling (Wigan), Isaac John (Panthers), Drury Low (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Keith Lulia (Bradford Bulls), Lulia Lulia (Shell Harbour), Hikule’o Malu (Warriors), Sam Mataora (Canberra Raiders), Joseph Matapuku (North Sydney Bears), Dylan Napa (Sydney Roosters), Dominique Peyroux (Warriors), Rea Pittman (Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks), Jordan Rapana (Canberra Raiders), Tupou Sopoaga (Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks), Zeb Taia (Catalan Dragons), Brad Takairangi (Gold Coast Titans), Adam Tangata (Mounties Bundy), Chris Taripo (Sydney Roosters), Zane Tetavano (Newcastle Knights), Tyrone Viiga (Parramatta Eels)

Head coach: David Fairleigh

One’s to watch: Tinirau Arona and Dylan Napa forced their way into the Premiership winning Roosters side and made their names with bruising defence. Brad Takairangi has played for both the Roosters and Titans and at 6 foot 4 inches, 104kg is a difficult customer to handle.

England:

The English will be looking to capitalise on the experience of their forward pack who boast three of the Australian based Burgess brothers as well as the Parramatta bound Lee Mossop. England’s Kevin Sinfield is the current Golden Boot holder with fullback Sam Tomkins signed to the New Zealand Warriors for the 2014 season. The English haven’t won the world cup since 1972  and haven’t featured in a World Cup final since 1995.

Squad: 

Carl Ablett (Leeds Rhinos), Tom Briscoe (Hull FC), George Burgess (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Sam Burgess (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Thomas Burgess (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Rob Burrow (Leeds Rhinos), Josh Charnley (Wigan), Rangi Chase (Salford Red Devils), Leroy Cudjoe (Huddersfield Giants), Liam Farrell (Wigan), Brett Ferres (Huddersfield Giants), James Graham (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Ryan Hall (Leeds Rhinos), Zak Hardaker (Leeds Rhinos), Chris Hill (Warrington Wolves), Michael McIllorum (Wigan), Lee Mossop (Wigan), Sean O’Loughlin (Wigan), James Roby (St Helens), Kevin Sinfield (Leeds Rhinos), Sam Tomkins (Wigan), Kallum Watkins (Leeds Rhinos), Ben Westwood (Warrington Wolves), Gareth Widdop (Melbourne Storm)

Head coach: Steve McNamara

One’s to watch: Since the last world cup England have shifted more and more players to the NRL. Three of South Sydney’s Burgess Brothers will feature in the forward pack, providing plenty of go-forward in both defence and offence. Sam Tomkins has been electric in the Super League this season but has failed to deliver on the big stage in the past. If he wants to be considered as a genuine threat in the NRL he will have to perform against the star-studded Kangaroos.

Fiji:

The Bati will be looking to make an even bigger impact than they did in the 2008 World Cup when they do battle in the group of death. The Fijians rode off the back of an inspirational Jarryd Hayne in 2008 but will have to do without the fullback this year. However they will boast former Brisbane, Queensland and Australia prop, Petero Civoniceva as their captain. The tough, no nonsense prop has announced the World Cup will be his final series of competitive matches before retiring.

Squad: 

Peni Botiki (Saru Dragons), Jayson Bukuya (Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks), Petero Civoniceva (Redcliffe Dolphins), Kane Evans (Sydney Roosters), Aaron Groom (Asquith Magpies), Ilisavani Jegesa (Nabua Broncos), Marika Koroibete (Wests Tigers), Apisai Koroisau (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Daryl Millard (Catalans Dragons), Ryan Millard (Burwood United), Kevin Naiqama (Newcastle Knights), Wes Naiqama (Panthers), Alipate Noilea (Collegians Illawarra), Tikiko Noke (Lautoka Crushers), Vitale Junior (Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks), Ashton Sims (North Queensland Cowboys), Korbin Sims (Newcastle Knights), Tariq Sims (North Queensland Cowboys), James Storer (Collegians Illawarra), Kaliova Nauqe (Fassifern Queensland), Akuila Uate (Newcastle Knights), Eloni Tui Michael Vunakece (Wyong Roos), Sisa Waqa (Melbourne Storm), Semi Radradra (Parramatta Eels)

Head coach: Rick Stone

One’s to watch: Fiji boasts probably their best ever world cup squad with the likes of the Sims brothers, Naiqama brothers as well as Akuila Uate, Sisa Waqa and Semi Radradra include. The Sims will be the Fijian enforcers along with Civoniceva. Radradra made his NRL debut this season for Parramatta but has played for Fiji in the Rugby Sevens, boasting terrific speed and strength. Uate was overlooked for the Australian team and will be looking to prove to the Kangaroos he was worth a position in the Kangaroos’ squad.

France: 

Les Tricolores will be looking to make a further impression on the world cup. They have appeared in two world cup finals in 1954 and 1968 respectively. This year they will host the Kiwis at Avignon and the Samoans and Perpignan. Expect plenty of fireworks from the French as they look to impress at home.

Squad:

Jean Philippe Baile (Catalans Dragons), William Barthau (Catalans Dragons), Andrew Bentley (Toulouse Olympique XIII), Kane Bentley (Toulouse Olympique XIII), Thomas Bosc (Catalans Dragons), Damien Cardace (Catalans Dragons), Remi Casty (Catalans Dragons), Vincent Duport (Catalans Dragons), Olivier Elima (Catalans Dragons), Morgan Escare (Catalans Dragons), Theo Fages (Salford Red Devils), Jamal Fakir (Catalans Dragons), Benjamin Garcia (Catalan Dragons), Tony Gigot (Sporting Olympique Avignon XIII), Clint Greenshields (North Queensland Cowboys), Younes Khattabi (AS Carcassone XIII), Kevin Larroyer (Catalans Dragons), Antoni Maria (Catalans Dragons), Gregory Mounis (Catalans Dragons), Eloi Pelissier (Catalans Dragons), Sebastian Raguin (St Esteve XIII Catalan), Mickael Simon (Catalans Dragons), Cyril Stacul (FC Lezignan XIII), Frederic Vaccari (Catalans Dragons)

Head coach: Richard Agar

One’s to watch: The French boast former Dragon and current Cowboy Clint Greenshields. His incisive runs will be a key to the French attack. Eloi Pelissier will be hoping to carry his impressive domestic form into the International arena. The diminutive hooker has been a key ingredient in the Catalans Dragons’ campaign.

Italy:

The Azzurri are beginning to boast plenty of NRL experience. Their captain and fullback is none other than the former Australian and NSW custodian Anthony Minichello. Along with “Mini” is former Tiger and Titan Anthony Laffranchi, current Rooster Aiden Guerra, the Knights’ Kade Snowden and the Wests Tigers’ James Tedesco.

Squad:

Christophe Calegari (FC Lezignan XIII), Gioele Celerino (North West Roosters), Chris Centrone (North Sydney Bears), Fabrizio Ciaurro (Brescia RL), Cameron Ciraldo (Panthers), Ben Falcone (Souths Logan Magpies), Sam Gardel (Souths Logan Magpies), Ryan Ghetti (Northern Pride), Aidan Guerra (Sydney Roosters), Gavin Hiscox (Central Capras), Anthony Laffranchi (St Helens), Joshua Mantellato (Newcastle Knights), Vitaliano Mauro (Salford Red Devils), Anthony Minichiello (Sydney Roosters), Mark Minichiello (Gold Coast Titans), Raymond Nasso (Sporting Olympique Avignon XIII), Dean Parata (Parramatta Eels), Joel Riethmuller (North Queensland Cowboys), James Saltonstall (Warrington Wolves), Brendan Santi (Wests Tigers), Kade Snowden (Newcastle Knights), James Tedesco (Wests Tigers), Ryan Tramonte (Windsor Wolves), Paul Vaughan (Canberra Raiders)

Head coach: Carlo Napolitano

One’s to watch: Anthony Minichello goes without saying here. “The Count” is a former Golden Boot winner and Dally M Fullback of the Year winner. His experience will be invaluable for the Azzurri who are making their first appearance at the world cup.

Ireland:

Luck wasn’t on the side of the Irish when they landed in the group of death alongside Australia, England and Fiji but don’t count them out just yet. Included in their roster is current Raider Brett White, former Eels and Tigers winger Pat Richards, the Eels’ Api Pewhairangi (A Junior Kiwi) and the Cowboys’ Rory Kostjasyn.

Squad:

Dave Allen (Widnes Vikings), Luke Ambler (Halifax), Bob Beswick (Leigh Centurions), Damien Blanch (Catalans Dragons), Danny Bridge (Warrington Wolves), Ben Currie (Warrington Wolves), Liam Finn (Featherstone Rovers), Simon Finnigan (Leigh Centurions), Scott Grix (Huddersfield Giants), Simon Grix (Warrington Wolves), Kurt Haggerty (Barrow Raiders), James Hasson (Manly Sea Eagles), Rory Kostjayn (North Queensland Cowboys), Stuart Littler (Leigh Centurions), Tyrone McCarthy (Warrington Wolves), James Mendeika (Warrington Wolves), Anthony Mullally (Huddersfield Giants), Eamon O’Carroll (Widnes Vikings), Apirana Pewhairangi (Parramatta Eels), Pat Richards (Wigan), Colton Roche (Sheffield Eagles), Marc Sneyd (Castleford Tigers), Joshua Toole (St George Illawarra Dragons), Brett White (Canberra Raiders)

Head coach: Mark Aston

One’s to watch: Brett White is a former NSW and Australian representative who will provide plenty of back bone to the Irish forward pack. Pewhairangi debuted at centre for the Eels but is a handful at five-eighth. Kostjasyn was an important member of the Cowboys side which made the finals this season.

New Zealand:

Ahhh the Kiwis, can you hear that? The ghosts of 2008 are still singing the haka since their famous victory over the all-conquering Kangaroos. New Zealand are the current title holders but will face plenty of stiff opposition from the Australians who seek revenge against the Kiwis. The New Zealanders don’t perform well in one-off matches but regularly make the finals of long competitions. Boasting plenty of NRL talent they are highly considered to face off against the Kangaroos in the final.

Squad:

Jesse Bromwich (Melbourne Storm), Greg Eastwood (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Kieran Foran (Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles), Alex Glenn (Brisbane Broncos), Bryson Goodwin (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Josh Hoffman (Brisbane Broncos), Krisnan Inu (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Shaun Johnson (Warriors), Sam Kasiano (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Thomas Leuluai (Warriors), Kevin Locke (Warriors), Issac Luke (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Simon Mannering (Warriors), Ben Matulino (Warriors), Sam Moa (Sydney Roosters), Jason Nightingale (St George Illawarra Dragons), Frank-Paul Nuuausala (Sydney Roosters), Frank Pritchard (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Elijah Taylor (Warriors), Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (Sydney Roosters), Manu Vatuvei (Warriors), Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (Sydney Roosters), Dean Whare (Panthers), Sonny Bill Williams (Sydney Roosters)

Head coach: Stephen Kearney

 One’s to watch: Where to start with the Kiwis? They will be missing Benji Marshall after his defection to Rugby Union but there is still plenty of talent there. Sonny Bill Williams comes to mind. The cross code international was in fantastic form this season for the Roosters and will be an integral part of the Kiwis’ success this year. Kieran Foran has long been in the shadow of Benji Marshall but will fly solo this year. His calmness in attack and powerful defence will be needed by the Kiwis. The Kiwis definitely have the squad to make it back-to-back World Cups.

Papua New Guinea:

The bone jarring Kumuls may not reach the semi-finals but they’ll leave their opposition bruised and battered. The league loving nation will field Neville Costigan, Paul Aiton, James Segeyaro and David Mead. 

Squad:

osiah Abavu (Port Moresby Vipers), Paul Aiton (Wakefield Trinity Wildcats), Dion Aiye (Rabaul Gurias), Wellington Albert (Lae Tigers), Ase Boas (Rabaul Gurias), Jason Chan (Huddersfield Giants), Neville Costigan (Newcastle Knights), Israel Eliab (Port Moresby Vipers), Richard Kambo (Port Moresby Vipers), Roger Laka (Enga Mioks), Enoch Maki (Mendi Muruks), Larsen Marabe (Orange CYMS), Bosam McDonald (Sydney Roosters), David Mead (Gold Coast Titans), Mark Mexico (Lae Tigers), Jessie Joe Nandye (Whitehaven), Sebastien Pandia (Port Moresby Vipers), Francis Paniu (Rabaul Gurias), James Segeyaro (Panthers), Jason Tali (Mount Hagen Eagles), Ray Thompson (North Queensland Cowboys), Charlie Wabo (Mendi Muruks), Menzie Yere (Sheffield Eagles)

Head coach: Adrian Lam

One’s to watch: Menzi Yere, otherwise known as the juke box is one of the main enforcers for the Kumuls, if you see someone come reeling out of a collision expect Yere to be there. The experienced Neville Costigan regained terrific form this year with the Newcastle Knights his NRL experience and bone-jarring defence will be a key ingredient for the Kumuls.

Samoa:

The Samoans have become one of the most entertaining sides in recent years, preferring to play an ad-lib style of footy that gives their outside backs room. Boasting plenty of NRL experience they could provide an upset or two this year.

Squad:

David Fa’alogo (Newcastle Knights), Pita Godinet (Warriors), Harrison Hansen (Wigan), Masada Iosefa (Wests Tigers), Faleniu Iosi (Letava Bulldogs), Tim Lafai (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Joseph Leilua (Newcastle Knights), Teofilo Lepou (Marist Saints), Reni Maitua (Parramatta Eels), Penani Manumeasili (Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks), Mose Masoe (Panthers), Suaia Matagi (Warriors), Arden McCarthy (Point Chevalier Pirates), Anthony Milford (Canberra Raiders), Junior Moors (Melbourne Storm), Edward Purcell (Warriors), Ben Roberts (Parramatta Eels), Iosia Soliola (St Helens), Sauaso Sue (Wests Tigers), Mark Taufua (Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks), Ionatana Tino (Apia Barracudas), Daniel Vidot (St George Illawarra Dragons), Antonio Winterstein (North Queensland Cowboys)

Head coach: Matt Parish

One’s to watch: Penrith’s Mose Masoe made his name as a hard hitting prop and will be looking to leave his imprint on the opposition. Reni Maitua had a forgettable year with Parramatta but given some room to move his footwork and ball-playing ability can definitely open up the game. BJ Leilua was earmarked for a possible NSW position in late 2012 but had off-field issues. Signed by the Knights Leilua became a permanent fixture in Wayne Bennett’s team. The Samoans could definitely be the entertainers this year.

Scotland:

The bagpipe wielding, kilt wearing Scotsmen surprisingly have a number of NRL players at their disposal; even if one of them is Peter Wallace. They will be appearing in their third consecutive world cup and keen to do battle, even if it is without their blue war paint.

Squad:

Danny Addy (Bradford Bulls), Sam Barlow (Halifax), Danny Brough (Huddersfield Giants), Brett Carter (Workington Town), Luke Douglas (Gold Coast Titans), Dale Ferguson (Huddersfield Giants), Ben Fisher (London Broncos), Ben Hellewell (Featherstone Rovers), Andrew Henderson (Sheffield Eagles), Ian Henderson (Catalans Dragons), Alex Hurst (London Broncos), Ben Kavanagh (Widnes Vikings), Kane Linnett (North Queensland Cowboys), Rhys Lovegrove (Hull KR), Gareth Moore (Batley Bulldogs), Brett Phillips (Workington Town), Matthew Russell (Gold Coast Titans), David Scott (Featherstone Rovers), Mitchell Stringer (Sheffield Eagles), Alex Szostak (Sheffield Eagles), Adam Walker (Hull KR), Jonathan Walker (Hull KR), Peter Wallace (Brisbane Broncos), Oliver Wilkes (Wakefield Trinity Wildcats)

Head coach: Steve McCormack

One’s to watch: Peter Wallace may never feature in a Blues jersey again but he will provide much needed experience to the Bravehearts’ lineup. The former representative halfback will be keen to show he still has what it takes to match it with the best. Luke Douglas will be a threat on the fringes with his hard running game and stiff defence.

Tonga:

Running an eye over the Tongan side you’d be excused if you thought you were looking at an NRL squad. The Tongans boast plenty of size and flair. The forward pack will be led by Fuifui Moimoi and Brent Kite. The two props have been the best of enemies in the past having played for New Zealand and Australia respectively. The backline contains the likes of Daniel Tupou, Konrad Hurrell and Glen Fisi’iahi.

Squad:

Sosaia Feki (Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks), Glen Fisi’iahi (Warriors), Mahe Fonua (Melbourne Storm), Daniel Foster (Panthers), Sydney Havea (Liahona Old Boys), Siliva Havili (Warriors), Konrad Hurrell (Warriors), Brent Kite (Manly Sea Eagles), Samsoni Langi (Sydney Roosters), Siuatonga Likiliki (Newcastle Knights), Willie Manu (St Helens), Sika Manu (Panthers), Nesiasi Mataitonga (Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks), Fuifui Moimoi (Parramatta Eels), Ben Murdoch-Masila (Wests Tigers), Mickey Paea (Hull KR), Patrick Politini (Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks), Nafe Seluini (Sydney Roosters), Ukuma Ta’ai (Huddersfield Giants), Jorge Taufua (Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles), Jason Taumololo (North Queensland Cowboys), Peni Terepo (Parramatta Eels), Daniel Tupou (Sydney Roosters), Siosa Vave (Parramatta Eels)

Head coach: Charlie Tonga

One’s to watch: Fuifui Moimoi has been in terrific form and is still one of the most feared ball runners in the game. The steam train has combined bollocking runs with heavy hitting defence. He is a cult figure at Parramatta and will lead the Tongan pack. Glen Fisi’iahi, better known as “The Fish”, is an electrifying kick returner and deadly in broken play. Look for him skirting around the back-line in search of gaps.

U.S.A

The Tomahawks will make their World Cup debut yet boast NRL experienced players Clint Newton, Joseph Paulo, Matt Peterson and Eddy Pettybourne. The had an upset win in their warm-up matches against the French and will be looking to build on that. 

Squad:

Mark Cantoni (Dalby), Bureta Faramio (Mackay Cutters), Gabriel Farley (Southampton Dragons), Kristian Freed (Racing Club Lescure), Michael Garvey (Pennsylvania Bulls), Roman Hifo (Papakura Sea Eagles), Daniel Howard (Wentworthville Magpies), Stephen Howard (Tuggerong Bushrangers), Judah Lavulo (Cabramatta), Haveatama Luani (Wests Tigers), David Marando (Belrose Eagles), Ryan McGoldrick (Salford Red Devils), Clint Newton (Panthers), Mark Offerdahl (AS Carcassone XIII), Joseph Paulo (Parramatta Eels), Junior Paulo (Windsor Wolves), Matthew Petersen (Cudgen Hornets), Eddy Pettybourne (Wests Tigers), Craig Priestly (Southampton Dragons), Tuisegasega Samoa (Redcliffe Dolphins), Matthew Shipway (South Newcastle), Les Soloai (Featherstone Rovers), Lelauloto Tagaloa (Hawaii Chiefs), Taylor Welch (Chicago Griffins)

Head coach: Terry Matterson

One’s to watch: Captain Joseph Paulo had a mixed season with the Eels but can be a real spark in attack. An effective ball-player who can use his size and strength, he will look to attract as many defenders as possible before slipping away a late offload. Clint Newton has been a main stay in NRL and Super League lineups for over a decade. He will bring much needed experience to the young squad.

Wales:

Whilst not as successful as their Rugby Union counterparts, the Dragons will have a fair chance to make the semi-finals this year. With the majority of their squad home-grown there will be plenty of pride on the line for the team in red. The St George Illawarra Dragons’ Tyson Frizell has joined the squad and is the only NRL player in the team.

Squad: 

Neil Budworth (unattached), Ross Divorty (Halifax), Gil Dudson (Wigan), Jacob Emmitt (Salford Red Devils), Ben Evans (Bradford Bulls), Rhys Evans (Warrington Wolves), Daniel Fleming (Castleford Tigers), Ben Flower (Wigan), Tyson Frizzel (St George Illawarra Dragons), James Gurtjens (North Devils), Jordan James (Salford Red Devils), Danny Jones (Keighley Cougars), Elliot Kear (Bradford Bulls), Craig Kopczak (Huddersfield Giants), Rhodri Lloyd (Wigan), Peter Lupton (Workington Town), Rob Massam (North Wales Crusaders), Larne Patrick (Huddersfield Giants), Christiaan Roets (North Wales Crusaders), Matt Seamark (Wynnum Manly Seagulls), Anthony Walker (St Helens), Ian Webster (Central Queensland Capras), Lloyd White (Widnes Vikings), Rhys Williams (Warrington Wolves)

Head coach: Iestyn Harris

One’s to watch: Although he’s only young, Frizell has the experience of playing in the NRL and will be accustomed to tough matches. Leading the team forward will be prop Craig Kopczak. Playing for Huddersfield in the Super League, Kopczak brings 187 games of experience to the side and has represented Wales since 2007.

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Is Bailey ready for the Baggy Green?

Australia’s current T/20 and stand-in ODI skipper, George Bailey is perhaps the best credentialed man to fill a void in Australia’s middle order in the coming Ashes series.

I fear that Bailey will got the way of David Hussey. A more than solid middle order batsman who is consistent but is earmarked as a short form specialist by the selectors.

He has experience and a cool head which is missing in almost any batsman below Michael Clarke in the order. Steve Smith can play an anchor role when needed but is very fidgety at the crease.

Bailey’s First Class record would’ve seen him nowhere near the test team six years ago but now he’s looking a more than solid prospect. He has played 96 First Class matches, scored 5,936 runs with 14 centuries and 30 half centuries at an average of 38.29.

His International One Day record is more than solid; He has played 24 matches, scored 878 runs with one century and six half centuries at an average of 43.90. At the time of writing Bailey is currently 68 Not Out in an ODI against India and will be a big part of Australia’s total.

His time in the International scene has seen him captain both the One Day and T/20 sides. His style of captaincy is similar to that of Michael Clarke in that he is aggressive with his bowling changes and field placings. He reads the game very well.

With Australia lacking experience and a cool head in the middle order is it time to give Bailey a shot? His consistent innings mean that he can build on a good start by the top order, work with any of the top order who are building a big innings, bat with the tail and his experience in ODI’s and T/20’s means he can accelerate when needed.

As I have written before I’d be leaving Nic Maddinson and Jordan Silk in First Class cricket for at minimum another season before they see International duty. In the mean time Bailey could well be the glue in the middle order that Australia needs.

Bailey celebrating his maiden ODI ton against the West Indies in February 2013.

Tendulkar retires but where does he stand?

On the 10th October 2013 Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar announced he would retire from International cricket following his 200th Test match to be played in November. But where does the great man stand amongst the batsmen of the modern era?

Tendulkar’s career spanned those of Brian Lara, Ricky Ponting, Rahul Dravid and the majority of  Jacques Kallis’ career. Men who all dominated the cricket landscape at their respective peaks and come November only one will remain, that one being Jacques Kallis.

We’ll start with the swashbuckling man from the Caribbean. Brian Lara. The West Indian is revered in the West Indies in almost the same way Tendulkar is revered in India.

Debuting in 1990 Lara enjoyed playing the beginning of his career during the golden age of the West Indies. When men such as Curtley Ambrose, Malcolm Marshall and Joel Garner intimidated anyone and everyone.

Due to the longevity of his career he is seen to be the last of the golden West Indians when he retired in 2006. His time in Test cricket spanned 131 Test matches, included 11,953 runs, 34 centuries, 48 half centuries at an average of 52.88. That also includes a World Record 400 runs in one innings.

Ricky Ponting, the man named as the greatest Australian since Bradman, did more than fill the shoes of Steve Waugh when he ascended the ranks to become probably the greatest Number 3 batsman of all time.

Ponting truly led an unbelievable Australian team that dominated in all forms of International cricket. His own record is near unbelievable; 168 Tests, 13,378 runs, 41 centuries, 62 half centuries at an average of 51.85.

Rahul Dravid was a major part of India’s success in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. In fact if they weren’t facing an invincible Australian team led by Steve Waugh then they would’ve been known as the best in the world.

“The Wall” ground out 13,288 runs with 36 centuries and 63 half centuries at an average of 52.31. His rock solid defence meant you could see him walk out to the crease at the start of play and see him return to the dressing rooms at stumps.

Now Jacques Kallis is often overlooked as he’s listed as an all-rounder. He more than deserves his spot among this pantheon of greats. In his so far 162 Test career, Kallis has plundered 13,128 runs with 44 centuries and 58 half centuries at an average of 56.10.

Sachin’s own record means that many argument has been made to say he is the greatest of all time. He will play his 200th Test match before his retirement and that in itself is an achievement. 

Tendulkar has crafted 15,837 runs with 51 centuries and 67 fifties at an average of 53.86. He is the only man to score 100 International centuries and has the most number of Test, ODI and International runs.

On runs alone Tendulkar sits head and shoulders above anyone else. However in terms of batting average he isn’t at the top of the pile. That belongs to Jacques Kallis. His average of 56.10 puts him atop this group.

An average of nearly 54 runs per innings is nothing to sneeze at. To perform at that level for 24 years takes immense physical and mental power. Statistics are statistics and they give you the basic factual information.

So where does Tendulkar stand amongst the modern batsmen? Simply put, the man is a legend of cricket. His longevity and run scoring ability are testament to that. The fact he has virtually the weight of an entire nation of one billion people on his shoulders show how he is not only respected but revered in today’s world.

The debate of the greatest of all time will never be resolved as it is too hard to look across all the timeline of cricket. Too many advancements have occurred since the time of Don Bradman to the time of Tendulkar to say one is better than the other.

But I digress. Tendulkar is perhaps the greatest modern day batsman due to his sheer run scoring ability in a team that always finished up second best. When he debuted, the West Indians were number one, then along came the Australians and now the South Africans.

As the curtain falls on the career of “The Little Master” the cricketing world looks to when the next great player will appear on the scene. Who of the new generation of cricketers will stamp their authority as the best of the rest? Only time will tell.

Evans Unlikely to ride Le Tour

Australia’s only champion of the Tour de France, Cadel Evans, has said he may not ride the 2014 edition. The 36 year old has said he will look to purely contest the Giro d’Italia. 

Evans won the 2011 edition of the Tour de France, becoming the first Australian to do so in the process. Since then it appears age has caught up with the tenacious Aussie with Evans limping to the finish in the past two editions.

However he finished third this year at the Giro as Italian, Vincenzo Nibali took out his home race. Whispers were saying Evans would likely not contest the Tour next year and concentrate on the Giro, a race he has worn the Maglia Rosa at on three stages.

The Giro was the very first Grand Tour Evans rode when he came across to road cycling and he’s keen to carry on with some unfinished business at the race.

“It’s not 100 percent confirmed, but at this point it looks like I’ll probably do the Giro,” Evans said.

If Evans were to win the Giro next year he would join the illustrious company of Eddy Mercx, Fausto Coppi, Bernard Hinault and Greg LeMond having won 2 or more of the Grand Tours.

Cadel Evans sporting the Maillot Jaune on the Champs-Elysee in 2011.

Roosters 2013 Premiers

When it’s all said and done the Roosters were the best team all year and deserved the Premiership. They showed great resolve to fight back from 18-8 down to win 26-18.

Manly drew first blood when they went wide to the left and sent Jorge Taufua over in the corner. Manly were seemingly on top until the Roosters gained useful field position.

On tackle five they spun it to James Maloney who kicked for the right wing. The ball came bouncing away and ended up in the five-eighth’s hands again. This time he kicked to the left for a flying Daniel Tupou who opened the account for the tri-colours.

The Roosters led 8-6 at half time after a Maloney penalty goal.

Manly started the stronger of the two in the second half. A controversial penalty try ignited things for the team from the Northern beaches with Steve Matai extending the lead to 18-8.

With the game seemingly slipping away from the Roosters, Sonny Bill Williams stepped up. He took a fantastic ball in the middle of the field to put the Roosters on the attack. A couple of plays later and Aiden Guerra strolled through a gap that made the gashes in the Titanic look tiny.

Admittedly for Manly they looked like they’d hit an iceberg. Their cool, crisp play began to descend in one out running and their once bone jarring defence was sitting back.

The Roosters took full advantage. Once more Sonny Bill sliced through the line, handing the ball to James Maloney. Minichello loomed in support with Maloney’s pass looking more than forward to the fullback.

Play continued with Minichello delivering a cut-out ball to Shaun Kenny-Dowall who went over un-touched in the corner and the score stood at 20-18 to the Roosters.

However Manly seemed to recover from their slumber and began to pressure the Roosters more and more. The Roosters managed to get a set on the Manly line with Maloney stabbing a grubber into the in-goal.

The kick was seemingly going dead until a lightning quick Michael Jennings planted the ball just short of the dead-ball line. Up 26-18 it seemed the Roosters had the wind in their sales.

However Manly’s veterans began to step it up, giving a hint the match was far from over. The Roosters absorbed wave after wave of Sea Eagles attack but the Bondi wall stood firm.

As the minutes counted down it became clear that the Sea Eagles had nothing left. Their play became disjointed but still they would not give up. With two minutes remaining Daly Cherry-Evans kicked the ball from an optional restart, giving Manly a set 20 metres out from the Roosters’ line.

But it wasn’t to be for the men in maroon and white. They went wide, positioning Taufua outside his man but the cavalry arrived in time for the Roosters to pile him into touch. 

Then the celebrations began with it dawning on every person in red, white and blue that the Roosters had won the 2013 Premiership and that they would lift the Provan-Summons Trophy.

Roosters coach Trent Robinson has won a Premiership in his very first season as a head coach in the NRL. For some unknown reason though Daly Cherry-Evans was handed the Clive Churchill Medal as best on-field even though James Maloney was seemingly the man who marshaled the Roosters’ attack.

Congratulations to the Roosters, they were the best team all year and ensured they were the best team on the day that mattered most.

Welcome Home King Kenny

The man who called the Kop home for over 14 years is returning to Anfield. “King” Kenneth Dalglish played 355 matches for Liverpool and is widely regarded as the club’s greatest ever player. He formed a formidable combination with striker Ian Rush.

Dalglish has returned as a “non-executive” Director at the request of Fenway Sports Group. Current manager, Brendan Rodgers, has made a point of enlisting the help of former Liverpool players to assist in lifting Liverpool back to the pinnacle of European football.

Just last week Rodgers signed former Reds Robbie Fowler, Steve McManaman and Rob Jones as mentors at the Liverpool Academy. 

Dalglish said he has always held Liverpool close to his heart and was more than willing to return to the club, after leaving the club at the conclusion of the 2011/12 season.

“Liverpool has given me and my family so much since we came here just over 36 years ago and my priority is and will always be to have the Club’s best interests at heart.” Said Dalglish. 

Dalglish began his Liverpool career in 1977 and took over as player-manager in 1985. He ended his first stint as manager in 1991 with the Hillsborough disaster a contributing factor.

Dalglish answered an SOS from Liverpool in 2011 after the sacking of Roy Hodgson. He led the Reds to their first trophy in six years when they won the League Cup. However, Dalglish was dismissed when Liverpool were unable to return to the Champions League.

His return to Liverpool has been welcomed by owners, players, management and fans alike.

Back in town: Former manager Dalglish is to return to Liverpool as a director

 

This Is The End

Come Sunday evening it will all be over. 30 weeks of competition will come to an end with one team holding the Provan-Summons trophy aloft. For the other 15 teams it will be back to the drawing board to plan their assault on the 2014 Premiership.

The minor-premiership winning Sydney Roosters will face-off against the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles. They have faced each other three times this season with the Roosters running out victors on every occasion.

The two clubs have faced off only once before in a grand final. In 1972 Manly ran out winners over Eastern Suburbs 19-14. That grand final is now in the history books, committed to the yellowing pages of time.

41 years on and these teams do battle for the greatest rugby league prize on offer once more. Their last encounter pitted the Brookvale wall against the wall of Bondi Junction. The Roosters escaped with a narrow 4-0 win.

Some experts have already begun labeling this match as possibly one of the greatest of all time. Both teams contain scintillating attack. Manly boast the likes of Glenn Stewart, Kieran Foran, Daly Cherry-Evans, Jamie Lyon, Jorge Taufua and Brett Stewart.

The Roosters contain an equally impressive attacking ability with Sonny Bill Williams, James Maloney, Mitchell Pearce, Michael Jennings, Daniel Tupou and Anthony Minichello.

With each team boasting such great attacks one would have to pose the question, could we see another try-less grand final? Will each team be so hell bent on preventing the opposition from scoring that no one crosses the stripe?

The one and only try-less grand final was played between Parramatta and Canterbury in 1986 with Michael Cronin’s boot allowing the Eels to slip away with a 4-2 win and their last Premiership to date.

Or will it be a case of defence left at the door? Each team trying to out-score the other in what could be a try-fest. The only people that could answer those two previous questions though would be the players and coaches.

Manly have already shown that they’re tough and ready for a scrap. The ingrained us-vs-them mentality has allowed the Silvertails to develop the mental toughness needed to win the big matches.

However, their slow start against the Rabbitohs almost cost them an appearance on Sunday, trailing 14-0 early on. They must be sure not to make the same mistake against the Roosters, who will be sure to cash in on any early advantage.

Six Manly players; Jamie Lyon, Brett Stewart, Glenn Stewart, Brent Kite, Steve Matai and Anthony Watmough, will play in a record fourth grand final alongside each other. They are the first Manly players to achieve the feat.

In terms of experience, Manly appear to have the edge. Five of those players above have already played in three deciders with Jamie Lyon having an extra appearance in 2001 with the Eels. Whilst halves, Kieran Foran and Daly Cherry-Evans, will be playing in their second grand final.

The Roosters were forced to release a lot of their experience after the 2010 grand final but still boast plenty of big match players. Anthony Minichello has played five previous grand finals for the Roosters but has won just the one premiership.

The other Roosters to have grand final appearances in the tri-colour jersey are Mitchell Pearce, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Jake Friend,, Mitchell Aubusson, Frank-Paul Nu’uausala and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves.

Whilst five-eighth James Maloney has a grand final appearance for the Warriors against Manly and Daniel Mortimer has a grand final appearance for Parramatta. Both Michael Jennings and Sonny Bill Williams have Premierships to their names when playing for Penrith and Canterbury respectively. Both won their grand finals against the Roosters.

Manly will look to win by attrition. Carting the ball up strongly with heavy hits in defence. They’ll then go wide, using the Stewart brothers, Cherry-Evans, Jamie Lyon and Jorge Taufua. 

That right-side play for Manly has a number of variants with Cherry-Evans opting to run himself, Glenn Stewart kicking for his brother/winger, Brett Stewart taking the line on or Jamie Lyon trying to get outside his man and either score himself or put Taufua over in the corner.

The odd chip-kick from Cherry-Evans or Foran, for Brett Stewart wouldn’t be amiss either. The terrific kicking game of Manly’s halves goes without saying.

The Roosters will try to do what they’ve done all year and it worked especially well against the Knights. Both Friend and Mortimer have speed out of dummy-half. Friend will start the match and given any opportunity he’ll take full advantage of the space offered.

After an opening softening up period expect the ball to be spun to Sonny Bill with room to move. He wasn’t at full fitness last week but still caused plenty of problems for Newcastle, racking up six offloads. 

Jennings profited from SBW’s efforts, his strength and speed on the edges makes for a good battle between himself and Steve Matai. Expect Maloney and Pearce to try and pick out Daniel Tupou with cross-field bombs, the youngsters height makes him a big target and a handful for the Sea Eagles defence.

Shaun Kenny-Dowall will have his work cut-out for him given he lines up against the dangerous and experienced Jamie Lyon. Lyon was yesterday named the Dally M Centre of the Year and has been at his best this season.

If both teams turn up and prepared to stand toe-to-toe we’ll be in a for a terrific grand final. Hopefully we’ll see some scintillating attack, bone-crushing defence and some toughness from yesteryear. 

My tip? Well my tipping so far this finals series has been abysmal. I got nothing right last week. But I like the Roosters. I feel their speed in attack and the amount of superstars they have will be able to over-power Manly. 

The Sydney Roosters to claim the Premiership 22-16.

Team Line-Ups:

Roosters

1. Anthony Minichiello
2. Daniel Tupou
3. Michael Jennings
4. Shaun Kenny-Dowall
5. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
6. James Maloney
7. Mitchell Pearce
8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves
9. Jake Friend
10. Sam Moa
11. Aidan Guerra
12. Sonny Bill Williams
13. Frank-Paul Nuuausala

Interchange
14. Daniel Mortimer
15. Mitchell Aubusson
16. Isaac Liu
17. Dylan Napa

Coach: Trent Robinson

Sea Eagles

1. Brett Stewart
2. Jorge Taufua
3. Jamie Lyon (c)
4. Steve Matai
5. David Williams
6. Kieran Foran
7. Daly Cherry-Evans
8. Brenton Lawrence
9. Matt Ballin
10. Brent Kite
11. Anthony Watmough
12. Justin Horo
13. Glenn Stewart

Interchange
14. David Gower
15. Jamie Buhrer
16. Tom Symonds
17. George Rose
18. James Hasson
19. Peta Hiku

Coach:Geoff Toovey

Norm Provan and Arthur Summons deliver the trophy sporting their likeness to the 2012 Grand Final