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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Qantas Wallabies v New Zealand All Blacks - Bledisloe Cup Sydney

Witness the ultimate rivalry in Australian sport when the Qantas Wallabies go head-to-head with the NewZealand All Blacks during the 2015 Bledisloe Cup.

2015 is a big year for Rugby with everything on offer and the players can’t do it alone. We’ll need all loud supporters and quiet believers, gold wig-wearers and badge grabbing jersey supporters.

The Rugby Championship sees the Qantas Wallabies go head-to-head with rivals; the Springboks, the Pumas and All Blacks over five gruelling weeks in the toughest Rugby tournament in the world.

We need you. Because together, the Wallabies are stronger.

Venue: ANZ Stadium, NSW
Date: Sat 8 Aug 2015 8:00pm - Bledisloe Cup
Juniors: 4-16 Years inclusive
Concessions: Full Time & Tertiary Students aged 17 and over (not International Students), Govt Pensioners (War, Aged). Does not apply to Seniors.
Family Tickets: 2 Adults + 2 Juniors OR 1 Adult and 3 Juniors

Please bring photo ID to the venue for proof of eligibility.


Are you a loud, passionate fan?
Are you the one who chants and sings for your Wallabies to win?
Are you up for a ridiculously awesome night with like-minded fanatics?

Gold Brigade is back, bigger and better in 2015!

Buy your Gold Brigade ticket to the #GOLDMINE and you’ll receive an official Supporters Pack including:
• T-Shirt
• All-Purpose-Scarf
• Thunder Clappers
• Pre & Post Game Functions + more

Find Sydney Hotel and Apartment Accommodation at Metro Hotels

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Holden State of Origin Series launched in Melbourne

Holden State of Origin Series launched in Melbourne

The Holden State of Origin series returns to Melbourne in June – 21 years after the two coaches, Laurie Daley (NSW) and Mal Meninga (Queensland), captained their sides in the first Origin match ever held at the MCG.
The 2015 Origin series was today launched in Melbourne by NRL CEO Dave Smith and Parliamentary Secretary for Tourism, Major Events and Regional Victoria, Danielle Green MP. They were accompanied by Daley and incumbent captains Cameron Smith and Paul Gallen.
Mr Smith said Origin had become the biggest sporting brand in Australia.
And he said the return to the MCG this year meant fans would be able to see Origin in three States – Queensland, NSW and Victoria. 
"State of Origin is one of sport's greatest rivalries. It played to massive crowds in all three matches last year and took out the top two television ratings spots for the year," he said.
"When Origin was first played at the MCG, it attracted a crowd of more than 87,000 fans in 1994 – which was the highest crowd for a Rugby League match in Australia.
"Origin now reaches more than eight million unique fans on social media – and that number is growing all the time.
"So the scene is set for an Origin series which will be taken to millions of fans across the country and around the globe."
Mr Smith said the decision to stage a match at the MCG was part of the NRL’s push to keep growing the game.
Victorian Minister for Tourism and Major Events, Minister for Sport and Minister for Veterans John Eren said: "It's fitting that one of our nation's most intense rivalries will be played at Australia's home of sport, the great MCG.
"The Andrews Labor Government is delighted that Victorians will get a chance to witness the passion and pride on the line when New South Wales and Queensland go to war.
"The MCG is as good a battleground as any renowned sports venue, and an event as significant as a State of Origin game promises to be an outstanding occasion with a memorable atmosphere."
Mr Eren said Origin was also another chance to showcase Victoria to the rest of Australia and beyond.
Laurie Daley and Mal Meninga said it would be a privilege for their teams to play in front of a massive crowd at the MCG.
"Last year was an incredible experience for our squad but this is a new series with new challenges," Daley said.
"We aim to show Melbourne why State of Origin is one of the greatest sporting events in the world."
Meninga said both teams would relish the prospect of playing to huge crowds at the MCG, ANZ Stadium and Suncorp Stadium.
"State of Origin series are always highlights of the year, but this year’s series is shaping up as something really special," he said.
NSW holds the Origin title after breaking eight years of Queensland dominance last year. 
Tickets for Game Three at Suncorp Stadium went on sale at 10am (AEDT) today. Tickets for Games One and Two are already on sale.
Today's launch comes ahead of Melbourne Storm's first home game of the season this Saturday night, against Cronulla.
2015 Holden State of Origin Series
Game I – ANZ Stadium, Sydney, Wednesday, 27 May
Game II – Melbourne Cricket Ground, Wednesday, 17 June
Game III – Suncorp Stadium, Wednesday, 8 July
Click here for tickets to all three games


Sunday, March 15, 2015

International Rugby League May 1-2 Queensland NRL Representative Round

International Rugby League will return to South-East Queensland this year with Brisbane and the Gold Coast set to host a blockbuster stand-alone weekend of representative rugby league in May.

In a huge coup for NRL fans in Queensland, Suncorp Stadium will host the traditional Trans-Tasman Test Match between Australia and New Zealand, supported by Tourism and Events Queensland (TEQ), on Friday May 1.

The Test is the only international match between the Kangaroos and the Kiwis in 2015. The Test Match will be a key game in rugby league's program of events to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the ANZAC landings at Gallipoli.

May 1 also sees the Australian Jillaroos take on the NZ Kiwi Ferns at Suncorp Stadium, while Pacific powerhouses Samoa, Fiji, Tonga and Papua New Guinea will be part of a triple-header at Gold Coast's Cbus Super Stadium on Saturday May 2.

The first match on Saturday night (May 2) will feature the Junior Kangaroos against the Junior Kiwis. The PNG Kumuls will then take on Fiji Bati, before Samoa return to the international stage following their successful Four Nations campaign against traditional rivals Tonga.

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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

NRL Season Preview: 10 Bold Predictions for 2015

1. Souths to go close

Given no team has won back to back premierships since the Brisbane Broncos in 1992 and 1993 the odds would seem to be against South Sydney retaining their crown in 2015. Then again, if they’ve managed to maintain an appetite for success despite last year’s bell-ringing buffet they are as well placed as anyone could be to go back for afters. Sam Burgess is a big loss, and Ben Te’o will be missed, but Glenn Stewart is a more than handy addition, George and Tom Burgess are not getting any smaller, and the likes of Greg Inglis, Adam Reynolds and Issac Luke are as dangerous as unexploded ordinance. Pre-season signs have been very encouraging for Souths fans with the Rabbitohs winning the Nines and running through St Helens like a razor sharp bayonet, but we should get an early hint of Souths’ disposition in the first six weeks when they have a testing start to their defence including a trip to Brisbane in Round 1, and games against competition threats the Roosters, Bulldogs and Cowboys. 

2. A Maroons backlash

For eight long years between 2006-2013 the Maroons subjugated NSW; tethered them, if you will, to a chain in the stubbie-strewn backyard of their big ole’ Queensland. But last year, on a Wednesday night in July, NSW slipped the chain, pissed in their beer (though being XXXX Gold, the Maroons may not have noticed) and flaunted their liberation on live TV. But the ruling class don’t cede power easily and Mal Meninga’s Maroons may yet have a sting in their tail. Regime change is coming — Cameron Smith, Johnathan Thurston, Greg Inglis and Billy Slater are closer to the end than the beginning— but we’re not there just yet.
NSW appear to have an edge in the forwards (and Blake Ferguson may appear in the backs if he keeps his nose clean) but they’ll have to make that count otherwise they’ll be back on the chain before they know it, forced to look on while the Maroons and FOGS whoop it up; Billy Moore screaming at the moon, Chris Close cracking walnuts between his thighs, and Allan Langer in his underpants eating ice cream straight out of the tub. NSW’s year of liberation could come to seem like a dream.

3. Your standard stuff from Channel Nine

League fans without Foxtel (either due to its cynical pricing system or an understandable unwillingness to not put any coin in Rupert Murdoch’s pockets) will again be relying on Channel Nine for their NRL fix. The good news is that Nine will show Sunday afternoon games live throughout the season (unless you live in curtain-fading country north of the Tweed, that is: such folk will have towait until daylight savings ends at which time your state rejoins modernity) a move that will save us having to watch a ton of car and fast food commercials and allow us to use the internet again on Sunday afternoons without fear of stumbling upon a score. The bad news is that the billion-dollar product will still be broadcast in standard definition, which is like looking like a million-dollar view through a rain-spattered pane of glass (unless you live in a league backwater like Victoria where, ironically, you can watch on GEM in high definition). As for Nine’s commentary, one doesn’t want to pass judgement before a squirrel has been gripped, but hopefully Phil Gould and Ray Warren will be less inclined to bicker, and Channel Nine’s blokey banter can be kept to a minimum.

4. A decline in international relations

Rugby league doesn’t exist in an NRL bubble and we got a wonderful sense of that during the 2013 World Cup and the 2014 Four Nations, tournaments which treated us to some of the most competitive and entertaining international rugby league we’ve seen in some time. ‘We must do this again some time,’ we said afterwards and we actually meant it. Yet in the coming year the Kangaroos will play just a single Test, that being the May 1 match against New Zealand in Brisbane (and look for a fully-fit Kangaroos side to avenge their Four Nations final loss). It just feels like a wasted opportunity. But what was I saying about rugby league not existing in an NRL bubble? A double header will be played on the Gold Coast in May: Papua New Guinea vs Fiji and Samoa vs Tonga. New Zealand will also play a three-Test series against England at the end of the season (with games in Hull, Wigan and at the Olympic Stadium in London), while there’s a host of league being played around the world, like a two-Test series between Belgium and the Czech Republic in October and an expanded domestic competition in Serbia.

5. The second coming of Andrew Fifita

By the end of 2013 Cronulla prop Andrew Fifita was arguably the best forward in the game and to see him on the burst was to be reminded of that kid you used to play against when you were in the under 10s —the kid with the five o’clock shadow who was twice as big as everyone else, who drove himself and his girlfriend to the game, and who could, and often did, carry five or six kids over the line as they clung to him like barnacles on the hull of a liner. But between injury, contract disputes and personal issues Fifita endured a sorry 2014 and he all but disappeared off our radars. But, in good news for Cronulla and NSW, Fifita is fit and looking to get back to where he was in 2013. If he does he’ll make both those teams decidedly more dangerous. 

6. Life in the old dogs yet

While youth will always beguile us, we can expect old timers like Willie Mason, Jeremy Smith, Jamie Lyon, and Brent Kite, to demand our attention this season, and hopefully for all the right reasons, not because they’ve become a train wreck so mangled and pitiful that we can’t tear our eyes away from them. Another such player is Benji Marshall who was once the brightest star in the NRL’s constellation. After a failed dalliance with rugby union Marshall signed with the Dragons after the start of 2014 and he played catch-up with his fitness and sharpness. But he improved as the 2014 went on and he now has a full pre-season behind him. His performance at the Nines was extremely encouraging and Dragons fans will be hoping his propensity to deliver rocks and diamonds will, as it used to do, lean more heavily to the latter. He’ll never be what he was, but he what he becomes may be no less enjoyable to watch. 

7. A wrestling with the rules

Late in January the NRL Rules Committee voted for ruck changes to limit wrestling. This season, if the referees stick to the brief, the call of held will come faster and defenders will be obliged to release a tackler at the same time rather than make like a banana and peel-off one by one to their attempt to delay the play the ball to such a point their defensive line has had time to dig a trench and erect razor wire. The idea, of course, is that this interpretation of an existing rule will limit the kind of wrestling we’ve been enduring for a decade now, and in that, it’s a change most fans will welcome. But what will the ramifications be once the season settles into a groove? Will it lead to even more boring one out running as the attacking team looks to take advantage of a defensive line struggling to get back the 10m? (Wouldn’t a 5m rule work better with the new interpretation?) Will it advantage attacking teams with monster forwards or will teams with more mobile forwards be better placed, particularly in getting a defensive line set? The only thing we know for sure is that as sure as water runs down hill, some coach will devise a way to make the interpretation work in their favour. 

8. The falling of the axe

It’s a cruel business, professional sport. For every champion that stands on a dais, every endless stream of confetti, and every token politician that some how photo bombs their head into the edge of a frame, there’s a headless corpse on the ground. The axe will surely fall this season but whose head will it take? How much patience will the Raiders have, for instance, if Ricky Stuart’s team becomes the competition’s whipping boy? What about Geoff Toovey? It’s crazy to consider it given what he’s already achieved at Manly but he’s already had to fight off rumours of dressing room unrest and what happens if his team begins the fade out they’ve been heroically delaying for many seasons? What about the game’s CEOs? Are they all safe, even those with their own fiefdom like the Dragons’ Peter Doust? Worst of all it would be a miracle if we get through the season without a player or two (or more) bringing themselves and the game into disrepute. We can but hope their inevitable crimes and misdemeanours harm nobody but themselves.

9. Discontent from the stands

It’s been a busy pre-season in terms of horse trading and only in the past week have the futures of a number of off-contract stars been settled. There’s no perfect way to do these things but it’s a shame we’re in a position where players announce they are leaving their current clubs before a ball has been kicked in their final season. As it is Kieran Foran and Trent Merrin, to name two players, will play out the season with Manly and St George lllawarra respectively before moving on to the Eels and Penrith. No doubt there will be fans of both Manly and the Dragons who would like them punished and to be made to play NSW Cup for the term of their natural life. But to demand loyalty from players in the current game is an anachronistic idea. Fans will just have to trust that players like Foran and Merrin are professional enough to give their all for the club whose jersey they are wearing at the time.

10. Bring the excitement

Cynicism and pessimism is easy, and like any other professional sport, the game we love is hardly perfect or free from criticism. But, at this stage of a season, when it’s laid out before us all shiny and new and still in it’s plastic wrapping, it’s time to shift to the edge of our seats. I for one eagerly await another year of bone-rattling collisions, breathtaking sleight of hand, and astonishingly athletic passages of play. As Thomas Keneally once said, “blow that whistle, ref”…

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

NRL Grand Final 2014 Preview: Rabbitohs v Bulldogs

 South Sydney Rabbitohs meet the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium on Sunday, October 5 
The South Sydney Rabbitohs meet the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium on Sunday, October 5 in the first NRL preliminary final. The match kicks off at 7.15pm (AEDT)

South Sydney hooker Issac Luke will miss Sunday's decider after he was found guilty of a grade one dangerous throw on Roosters star Sonny Bill Williams at the NRL judiciary on Tuesday night. 
He joins Melbourne hooker Cameron Smith and Roosters stalwart Luke Ricketson as players who have missed grand finals through suspension in the modern era. Apisai Koroisau, who filled in for Luke when he was sidelined with a shoulder injury mid-season is expected to come into the starting side. 
Ben Te'o has been elevated to the run-on side for Kyle Turner who'll start on the bench. Beau Champion (wrist) is the only Souths player missing through injury. 
The Bunnies backed up their 40-24 qualifying final win over Manly with a convincing 32-22 victory over reigning champs the Sydney Roosters to qualify for their first grand final since 1971. They trailed 12-0 early but piled on 32-unanswered points before the Chooks scored two late consolation tries.

Bulldogs skipper Michael Ennis was named at hooker on Tuesday but has all-but ruled himself out after suffering two fractures in his left foot against Penrith last Saturday. 
Five-eighth Josh Reynolds filled in at dummy-half against the Panthers when Ennis went down. However, Moses Mbye and Reni Maitua more likelye options at hooker while youngster Damien Cook filled in at hooker during Origin this season when Ennis shifted to half-back. 
The Bulldogs are missing Sam Kasiano (ankle), Pat O'Hanlon (ankle), Chase Stanley (shoulder), Jacob Loko (knee) and Lloyd Perrett (ankle). Des Hasler's Dogs lost six of their last eight regular season games and were given no hope of doing anything in the finals by most pundits. 
But they thumped the Storm 28-4 in the elimination final, edged Manly 18-17 in golden point and held off Penrith 18-12 to make their second grand final appearance in three years.

Reason To Watch

Sam Burgess v James Graham. The big Englishmen are the two premier forwards in the NRL. They both show a blatant disregard for their own bodies and have a mean streak but are also highly skilful. While they insist they don't seek each other out when these two clubs meet, you could be forgiven for thinking there's a magnetic attraction between the two because wherever one goes the other is there to greet them.

Reason To Turn Away 
Forty-three years is a long time. They handled the pressure last week but the Bunnies still have a massive mental hurdle to overcome and there'll be a lot of buttock clenching going on in the Burrow if the Bunnies fall behind again this week. 
And if you're a Dogs fan and Josh Reynolds plays dummy-half and repeats some of the shocking passes he dished up against the Panthers it might be time to go and turn a steak or head to the fridge for another cordial.

Say What ... 
"Just to play in the grand final's going to be great but to play against James who's a close friend and great competitor, it's going to be a great experience and I'm sure after the final whistle one of us will have a smile on the face and the other probably not. But we'll shake hands and I'm sure we'll get stuck in on the weekend," - Sam Burgess on his battle with fellow Englishman James Graham.

"To be honest, I need a miracle mate. I'm pretty disappointed at this stage so just going to do what I can and see how it all pans out to be honest," – Michael Ennis on the prospect of missing the NRL decider through injury.

Final Word 
The Rabbitohs carry the burden of 43 years without a premiership on their shoulders while the Bulldogs are trying to become the first team to win the grand final from outside the top four since the inception of the NRL in 1998. 
They split their two regular-season meetings, with both games not decided until the final minutes. Trent Hodkinson kicked a 78th minute field goal in Round 7 to give the Dogs a 15-14 win, while the Bunnies scored nine points in the final seven minutes to win 21-14 in Round 25. 
The likely loss of Ennis and Luke's suspension weakens both sides but the Bunnies are better equipped to cover Luke's loss. The Dogs have the edge in experience having played in the 2012 decider but the toll of three brutal finals fixtures in a row could hurt them in the final quarter. 
Michael Maguire's men won't have things all their own way but we agree with the bookies who are tipping South Sydney to end 43 years of misery on Sunday. Rabbitohs by 10.

Rabbitohs: Greg Inglis, Alex Johnston, Dylan Walker, Kirisome Auva'a, Lote Tuqiri, Luke Keary, Adam Reynolds, George Burgess, Dave Tyrrell, Ben Te'o, John Sutton (c), Sam Burgess.
Interchange: Jason Clark, Kyle Turner, Chris McQueen, Thomas Burgess, Ben Lowe, Luke Burgess, Bryson Goodwin (three to be omitted).

Bulldogs: Sam Perrett, Corey Thompson, Josh Morris, Tim Lafai, Mitch Brown, Josh Reynolds, Trent Hodkinson, Aiden Tolman, Michael Ennis (c), James Graham, Josh Jackson, Tony Williams, Greg Eastwood.
Interchange: Tim Browne, Dale Finucane, David Klemmer, Frank Pritchard, Moses Mbye, Reni Maitua (two to be omitted). 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

South Sydney Rabbitohs and Sydney Roosters Preliminary Final Should be a Classic

Roosters v Souths

All season most people would've expected these two teams to be squaring off against each other in the premiership decider on grand final day. 

Here it is, a week earlier than expected, but no less important. South Sydney were extremely impressive in their semi-final demolition of Manly in week one of the finals. "Powerful" is the word that keeps coming to mind. 

This huge, mobile forward pack just steamrolled their way upfield and had the result beyond doubt very early in proceedings. 

I have been super impressed with young Rabbitohs centres Kirisome Auva'a and Dylan Walker. Wow! Can't these two lads run the ball. 

They are very dangerous indeed. Once the forwards have cancelled each other out, it may come down to their battle with Roosters pair Michael Jennings and Shaun Kenny-Dowall to decide a winner. They also have the big guy, Greg Inglis, at the back who could bust the game open at any time. 

This club has been around the money for a couple of years now so the players have finals experience and they know what's at stake. 

They will leave nothing in the tank in search of victory. Similarly, the Roosters boast a forward pack that can dominate the best around on their day. Sonny Bill Williams turned last year's grand final on its head with a brilliant second-half display. He is due. 

Courageous hooker Jake Friend will be all the better for his game last weekend. Halves Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney have come solid at the right time of the year as well. I am expecting a spirited defence of the title they won almost twelve months ago.

I really can't separate these two teams. I sense the Roosters have more tries in them; however, I have great regard for what Inglis might produce on this big stage. This will come down to a field goal either way.

Bulldogs v Panthers

Melbourne and Manly have been two of the most dominant finals teams in the NRL over the past decade. Over the past fortnight, however, the Bulldogs - with scintillating performances - have blown away both these sides. That's outstanding form leading into a preliminary final. 

Coach Des Hasler is a master of the big game. The Dogs, as a club, are certainly no stranger to finals football either and the spike in their intensity once they hit play-off time has been there for all to see. They have been impeccable. The Bulldogs forwards have owned the advantage line in both their semi-final outings. Their unique style of chain-passing among the big boys to create space for the halves and outside backs down the edges has been very effective.

The Panthers have been tremendous. What a gutsy bunch they have become. They play the team game with every individual contributing what they can to the common cause. The one thing we do know about this team is that they will keep coming and they will never give up. 

This is a new experience for the vast majority of their players so their start to the game will be very important indeed. The Bulldogs smashed both the Storm and the Sea Eagles in the first half of those games and will be looking to do a similar job on the inexperienced Panthers. 

If the Panthers can withstand the early blitz and settle down into their own rhythm, they will give a good account of themselves. C'mon Panthers.

Sydney teams, take a bow

The last four left standing in the NRL premiership race are all Sydney teams. Actually, it's five Sydney teams left standing if we include the Sea Eagles, who will officially finish in fifth position after their narrow loss to the Bulldogs last Saturday night. 

That in itself is an extraordinary performance for all these clubs. In an age where so many of the interstate teams have huge geographical and corporate advantages over the Sydney-based teams, it is testimony to management and the resilience of these older traditional clubs that they have been able to maintain their competitiveness in the congested market in this city. It's not getting any easier either. 

The cost of running a professional rugby league program is increasing all the time. Sydney-based clubs will need added corporate and member support if they are all to survive into the future. So regardless of who wins this weekend, the 2014 grand final will be the fifth all-Sydney grand final of the NRL era. 

The previous four featured the Sydney Roosters. In 2003, it was the Roosters v Penrith. In 2004, we saw the Roosters v Bulldogs; 2010 - Dragons v Roosters; and last year it was the Roosters v Manly. Will the fifth follow that pattern?

We need to be far more proactive

The rule which enabled Canterbury to regain possession in the 73rd minute of their match against Manly after a Josh Reynolds' kick struck referee Gerard Sutton is anachronistic and will surely be changed in the off-season. I know it's an obscure rule and is rarely required, but every time it has happened, we have asked for changes. 

None have been forthcoming. In bygone years, packing a scrum and giving the feed to the team in their oppositions half was not a guarantee of possession for either side. 

However, the days of competitive scrums are long gone and it is such a shame that it took such an incident in a crucial moment of a sudden-death final for the league community to realise we had a rule that could be so unfair. I have written in this column previously about another anachronistic rule which prevents interchanges at scrums. 

One day a team will lose a match because an injured played couldn't be replaced at a scrum and the team is either reduced to 12 men or that injured player is unable to be effective. These are just two examples of rules not appropriate in today's game but left untouched by our administrators due to apathy and a lack of foresight. 

We shouldn't have to wait for instances like we had last Saturday for such antiquated rules to be placed under scrutiny. The game has to be far more proactive.

State cup grand finals

Minor premiers Penrith will meet Newcastle in the NSW Cup grand final at Allianz Stadium on Sunday. The Panthers will go into the match with 12 players unavailable due to injuries among their extended senior squad but have overcome a number of obstacles already this season to lose just four matches and win both of their finals matches. 

However, the Knights will provide the Panthers with their sternest test to date having also won both of their finals matches comfortably and boosting a team full of players with NRL experience. A significant number of the Panthers team were members of last year's winning Holden Cup team and have a unique opportunity to win a second title in a different competition in successive years. 

The successful club will not just win the coveted premiership cup but will represent NSW in the national final on NRL grand final day against the Queensland champions. The Queensland Cup grand final will be held at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday, featuring minor premiers Northern Pride from Cairns, one of the Cowboys feeder clubs, and last year's runners-up Easts Tigers, from Brisbane, featuring several Melbourne Storm contracted players. The two teams met a fortnight ago, the Pride won 8-7.

A word on the beaten sides

At this time of year all attention goes to the winning teams. I just feel that the performances of the Cowboys and Sea Eagles last weekend deserve recognition. Both were absolutely mighty in defeat and contributed to one of the best weekends of finals action I can ever remember. 

I don't know what happened to the Cowboys in the first 30 minutes of their clash with the Roosters, but I will say that no other team in the NRL could've mounted a comeback of those proportions against the defending premiers. It was simply stunning. They were so unlucky not to win. 

On the back of some real disappointments in the finals in the past two seasons it must feel like the world is against them, but I sense this will only make them stronger next season. I see good things ahead for the North Queensland team.

I have so much admiration for Manly. Their core group of senior players have been so good for so long. Despite the injuries and suspensions which weakened their side for the semi-final, they produced another whole-hearted effort. I hope the stories of unrest and disharmony are untrue. 

It would be a terrible shame if these guys didn't remain close friends for the rest of their days. It's been a very special era in the club's history. Well done.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Slash, Train to kick off NRL Grand Final

Slash will pump up the crowds at the NRL Grand Final on October 5

Former Guns N' Roses guitar god Slash and American pop-rock group Train - both of whom headline Australian music festivals in the next few months - have been picked to pump up the crowd before the NRL Grand Final on October 5.

Both acts also have new albums out in the next month. 

Slash will release World on Fire with his band Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators next month, while Train's seventh album, Bulletproof Picasso, is due out next week.

Train have a strong chart history here, scoring a No. 1 single in 2009 with Hey Soul Sister and a No. 5 with Drops of Jupiter in 2001. The band also has three top 10 albums.

What songs will they play? Slash (who is actually English and a fan of Stoke City football club) accompanying at least one Train song is a good bet (Hey Soul Sister is the obvious choice), while the top-hatted axeman is certain to turn out at least one classic Guns N' Roses number.

While the choice of entertainment won't entirely satisfy fans pining for the return of AC/DC or even Cold Chisel, Slash and Train seem a better fit for a big, expectant footy final crowd than Sir Tom Jones. 

The 74-year-old Welsh crooner will kick off procedings before the AFL Grand Final on September 27.

Slash is a headliner at the Soundwave festival next February and March while Train have already confirmed for Bluesfest next April 3.