Grand Final Breakfast time, and yet another chance for the rival coaches to put a different spin on their answers to the same questions they were asked the last three days. Today the referee issue got another work out, as Graham Murray and Tim Sheens were asked to shed light on whether they have or would talk to Tim Mander prior to the game on Sunday. Sheens wants to talk to Mander, while Murray thinks Mander should be left alone to do his job with no interference. You�ve gotta love these two cagey old coaches doing their best to make a very uninteresting subject front page news for the press who are starved for a good story in the middle of Grand Final week.
It emerged today that Tim Sheens could well have been masterminding the New Zealand All Blacks 2003 World Cup assault had he not been approached by the Wests Tigers before the 2003 NRL season. Current Crusaders coach Robbie Deans wanted Sheens on board in a skills/development role with the All Blacks. Raising the question of whether the vaunted New Zealand attacking game that fell apart so badly in the semi final against Australia, could have avoided that fatal implosion. Fortunately for Wests Tigers, NRL and Australian Rugby he decided to return to the coaching ranks in Rugby League.
The Footy Show put together a great video tribute to the retiring and departing players of 2005. Heading the list of retirees are Luke Ricketson, Jason Stevens, Terry Hill and Robbie Kearns, while veterans like Stacey Jones, Bryan Fletcher, David Peachey, Paul Rauhihi and Ian Hindmarsh (Terry you remember Ian don�t you?) are off to the English Super League to continue their careers. Of the Grand Finalists only Mark O�Neill appears to be on the verge of retirement (he has been told by the Tigers he will not be offered a contract for 2006), while Pat Richards (Wigan), Rauhihi (Warrington), David Myles and John Wilson (both UTC) will be leaving the NRL. Jones in particular will be missed, not only because he was one of the best players New Zealand and the NRL has seen in the last decade and is leaving while still in his prime, but because he gave us one of the great Grand Final moments with his brilliant individual try in the 2002 decider. All Wests Tigers fans hope O�Neill can deliver his own memorable moment in a Grand Final by carrying the premiership trophy around Telstra Stadium with the rest of his teammates Sunday night.
Telstra Stadium announced today that those Cowboys fans who wished to wear the big oversized cowboy hats at the Grand Final would be asked to take them off if they were deemed to have been on too long. While the barrier they present to viewing the field for spectators stuck behind the wearer is considerable, it is hard to imagine getting the Cowboys fans to place them neatly next to their seat while the game is progressing. Telstra Stadium really has little choice but to allow the hats to be worn for the entire match, as maintaining any form of genuine control over the �hat wearing time� would be impossible and would serve as a greater distraction to other supporters who were trying to watch the match than the hats themselves. Ideally the only spectators inconvenienced by the obstruction are Cowboys fans so at the very least they can take up the issue with their own. For the sake of fan relations let us all hope there are no Wests Tigers fans stuck behind the hats, otherwise scenes may get ugly and take the focus away from the field in more ways than one.
Stat of the Day
During the regular season the Tigers and Cowboys were involved in 16 �close� games. And in one �close� game each during the Finals so far. A �close� game is any match decided by a margin of 1-10 points, win or lose.
Wests Tigers 2005 �Close� Games Regular Season R3 Won 37-36 v BUL +1 R4 Won 32-26 v SYD +6 R7 Lost 16-26 v PAR -10 R8 Lost 32-40 v STI -8 R9 Lost 26-34 v MAN -8 R16 Won 32-24 v STI +8 R18 Won 26-16 v SYD +10 R22 Won 22-14 v CAN +8 Finals PF1 Won 20-12 v STI +8
Record 6 Wins, 3 Losses, Differential: +15
North Queensland Cowboys 2005 �Close� Games Regular Season R3 Won 32-22 v WAR +10 R16 Lost 22-23 v CAN -1 R17 Won 24-16 v WAR +8 R18 Lost 18-22 v NEW -4 R19 Lost 14-16 v STH -2 R21 Won 26-24 v MAN +2 R24 Won 31-28 v CAN +3 R26 Won 30-24 v MEL +6 Finals SF1 Won 24-16 v MEL +8
Record 6 Wins, 3 Losses, Differential: +30
Like most stats these look impressive, but in point of fact they show very little difference between the two sides when it comes to �statistically� close games.
�It is a shame that he�ll (Carl Webb) be missing out because he�s definitely a very important part of our club, but I�ll definitely be keeping mine.� Johnathan Thurston indicates he won�t be giving up his premiership ring like he did last year with Steve Price
"It's frustrating to miss training in a week like this but I'm just trying to do all the right things. I am pretty confident if I treat it properly and don't try to overdo things in my preparation, then I should be right by Sunday." Travis Norton spelling out the fact he�s nowhere near fit, won�t be by Sunday but will play. Hey it�s the Grand Final did you expect anything else?
�If he�s (Skandalis) not as good as the current blokes going around for Australia, I�ll run down George Street in the raw.� Tommy Raudonikis putting his �proverbials� on the line literally, should John Skandalis miss out on the Kangaroos squad.
"The trend for the tiger to be the symbol of the club is frustrating for everyone at Wests. It does conjure up a lack of recognition.". Magpies chairman and joint venture director Kevin Hammond unfortunately getting a little sidetracked from what the focus should be on this weekend. The WESTS TIGERS are in the Grand Final, not the Balmain Tigers or Western Suburbs Magpies.
Grand Final Trivia Question Four
During the span of which years did the all conquering St. George Dragons win their 11 straight premierships? A. 1954-1964 B. 1955-1965 C. 1956-1966 D. 1957-1967 E. 1958-1968
Yesterday�s Answer: C. 3 Scott Sattler 2004, Shane Elford 2004-2005 and Paul Whatuira 2004-2005.