CRL Player Ban: Update

In an unexpected turn of events Group 6 management has today produced copies of the ‘Senior Player Availability Agreement’ with the signatures of Picton Magpies players Jack Twist and Anthony Provost.

In Thursday nights’ story it was revealed that Group 6 Chairman Graeme Andrews believed both players signed the form stating they were aware of the two game suspension that accompanies withdrawing from any representative team. Both players claimed to have no recollection of signing the agreements. Group 6 Executive Officer Steve Hazleton, who was unable to produce the documents for the original story, was able to locate them today.

When presented with this new evidence dated 13/04/16 Twist declared “I got there late that session. I was certain I didn’t (sign), but there’s the proof I guess”. He went on, however “Provo (fellow suspended player Anthony Provost) thought we might’ve signed something in the carpark in the dark after Group 6 training one of those nights. Neither of us remember real well, but obviously we assumed it only applied to the Group 6 team because that’s what we were playing at the time. Looking at the document (pictured below) now, it does say the Country Bulls, but it doesn’t mention when they (the Bulls) were playing or how long the camp was for.”

3-09-2016 12-04-49 AM3-09-2016 12-05-27 AM

Twist continued to voice his objections “if we’d have realised it conflicted with our holiday to Europe we wouldn’t have signed. But, then what? If we don’t sign that we’re refusing to play for Group 6 which means we get stood down from our club games as long as Group 6 are playing. Now, we go away on our holiday to Europe, which was booked and paid for, and a couple months later when we get back we get stood down by CRL. Is that fair? Looking back, did we ever have any possible way of not being suspended? Because, apart from cancelling a $20k holiday with no refund, I don’t see an alternative. It’s lose, lose.”

Provost, when contacted about the new information earlier was equally discouraged “I don’t know. I remember signing some documents in the dark after Group training. That must have been it”. He went on to express his disappointment “I wasn’t even going to play in the Group team. I didn’t want to risk injury before an 8 week trip to Europe. I told Russ (Group 6 coach Russell Lewis), but he talked me around. I only played because I respect him and being mates with a lot of the guys made it easier. But now, if I could turn the clock back….”

Provost went on to express his mixed emotions at being picked for the Country Bulls “Graeme Andrews called us to congratulate us and even said “it’s a shame you can’t play because you’re off to Europe”. We called them (CRL) up to say we couldn’t make it and they said it was understandable. Now, to get this sort of treatment 10 weeks later, it’s just not right”.

Picton Magpies secretary Karl Klein considered the signed documents under a different perspective. “Where do I start with those documents? First of all, they’re not signed by Kevin Felgate (CRL Regional Manager – Greater Southern) where they’re supposed to be, so they’re not binding. Have they just been stuffed in a drawer until today?”

Klein went on “second of all, it states ‘at the discretion of the Country Rugby League’. That means they (the CRL Board of Directors) could’ve chosen not to apply this punishment, considering how grossly unfair and harsh it is.”

Klein then invoked the League’s highest document: the CRL Constitution. “I’ve been doing a fair bit of research in the last day or two and it says right there in the Constitution that one of the primary objects of the association is to act in the best interests of the game. Now I ask you, is this in the best interests of the game?”

He concluded by expressing his disappointment for the players. “Forget about the club, I just feel for these players who busted their arse for the Group and then for (Greater) Southern. This isn’t the NRL. It’s park footy. These are just young men that work for a living and play footy in the town they grew up in because that’s what all their best mates do.”

The CRL is yet to issue a comment on the matter.

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CRL Bans Country Reps for Going on European Holiday

The Picton Magpies have been dealt a savage blow on their quest for a record fourth premiership in a row with the Country Rugby League banning two of their star players.

Jack Twist and Anthony Provost, both local juniors of the club, have each been handed 2 game suspensions for going ahead with a planned tour of Europe rather than play in the Country Bulls representative team in June.

Twist (front left) and Provost (front right) with the Picton Magpies.

Twist (front left) and Provost (front right) with the Picton Magpies.

Group 6 Executive Officer Steve Hazleton, who advised the club of the ban, stated that the suspension was issued via a directive from the CRL. According to Hazleton, the directive states that the ban only applies once the players have been selected again by their club and they were not to advise the club of the suspensions until that time.
The Picton club are yet to see anything in writing from the CRL because, according to Hazleton, the directive came via phone call from Bert Lowrie, Operations Manager of CRL.
Hazleton declared that he would’ve preferred to have received the directive via email, but “what was I going to do, tell the CRL that, no I won’t be doing that unless I have it in writing?”
The news is especially bad for Provost since the club has been told that the suspension applies only once the players are available and named in a first grade team sheet again. Provost, whose European holiday extended a further week, now requires his team to lose this weekends’ major semi-final against the Camden Rams in order to play in the grand final and potentially win a fourth consecutive premiership.
Should Picton lose to arch-rivals Camden this weekend and win in the following weeks final against the winner of Thirlmere and The Oaks, then Provost can play in the decider. Twist, whose first game being suspended was the final round of competition, will be free to play after this weekend, regardless.
The players are predictably distraught. “We were both honoured to be named in the CRL team and would’ve loved to have played” said Twist. “We even priced up what it would’ve cost to change the holiday around to play in the ‘Bulls’ side, but we couldn’t afford it”.
Twist went on “It (the CRL commitment) was a week in Perth and we were never told when that was until we got the letter saying we were selected. What were we supposed to do, cancel our trip to Europe that we booked and paid for almost a year earlier?
When asked for his thoughts, Picton Secretary Karl Klein, responded “first of all, I don’t know where they’re (CRL) getting this two weeks from. Their own manual states that it (the suspension) only lasts until rep duties are finished.”
Klein was referring to the CRL Governance and Management Manual, point 1.15.2, which states that if a player ‘withdraws without approval’ the player ‘shall be ineligible to play for his club in any team until such time as the commitments of the relevant representative team in which he was selected have been completed’ (Pictured below).

CRL Manual 1
When advised of the above clause, Chairman of Group 6 Graham Andrews responded that a policy declaring the 2 game suspension does exist. “It’s a policy” Andrews said. “The players signed a document prior to playing for Group 6 and they signed another one prior to representing the region (Greater Southern). If you’re selected for Country and you withdraw and the reason’s not sound it’s a mandatory two competition match suspension.”
Interestingly, both Picton players deny having ever signed such a document and, as yet, no one from CRL has been able to produce a copy with their signatures.
When asked for a copy of the policy that states the mandatory two game suspension Andrews replied that Hazleton would be able to send that along with a copy of the meeting minutes showing when the decision was handed down.
I later received a phone call from Mr Hazleton to say that he couldn’t send me the minutes, but could only show me in person. Earlier today I caught up with Mr Hazleton who produced a printed photograph of a single undated page of what was evidently the minutes from the meeting showing the action item.
The policy declaring the mandatory two game suspension which applies once a player declares themselves able to play again is also yet to be seen.
The CRL were unavailable for comment today but a representative did make contact to say that they will be responding to the issues reported in this story tomorrow.

Twist (front left) and Provost (front right) with the Picton Magpies.
More to follow.

Spoiler Free review: Star Wars Ep VII The Force Awakens

JJ Abrams. The man’s a saint. He has retroactively rescued my childhood.

George Lucas, creator of the Star Wars franchise, is the Deadbeat Dad in this scenario. He created something beautiful decades ago, but as the years passed he twisted and perverted it into something disturbing for the fulfilment of his own ego, and then left.

Abrams, however, he’s the heroic Stepfather that stepped in to pick up the shattered pieces and mould it into something we can love again.

Truly, Star Wars episode VII: The Force Awakens is a triumphant return to all that we love about the Galaxy far far away.

The visuals are spectacular. There is a real focus on practical effects and actual landscapes rather than the green screen backgrounds and CGI everything that Lucas became so dependent on in the prequels and various re-releases over the years.

The script is refreshingly upbeat and has a distinct lack of Lucas-esque awkwardness. The new characters bring a vibrancy desperately needed for this new trilogy to work and our returning favourites are all in stellar form. There are no potential trilogy killers of ‘Jar Jar’ level proportions and BB8 may actually be a cuter droid than even R2D2.

When Han and Chewie turn up, assuming you’re familiar with the original trilogy, you will squeal like a giddy school girl. You’ll even smile like smiling’s your favourite when C3PO shows his golden droid face.

If you’re a Star Wars virgin and you’re thinking of ending your drought, or you have kids that are begging to go, fear not! You do not need to have seen any of the previous films.

The Force Awakens has a similar feel to the original Star Wars. You could easily treat this as the start of your star wars experience. If you wanted to do some research, however, I’d recommend watching the original episodes IV to VI because this picks up from there. And, if you have time, you could start with the prequels to see just how great this is in comparison.

Either way, just go. This film will be a phenomenon to rival that of 1977.

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens – 9/10.Latest-The-Force-Awakens-Trailer-Description

Macarthur Rugby League Wrap All Stars 2015

Macarthur Rugby League Wrap Team of the Year

Firstly, let me thank everyone that took part in voting for the Facebook Fans team of the year. Your involvement really gave this concept legs. Some positions were hotly contested. There were a total of 637,987 votes tallied (estimate only, it’s not like I counted them all, but seriously, there was a whole bunch).

Secondly, let’s make a few things clear. There is no real point to this. It’s all just for fun. If nothing else, this showed that the Picton Magpies supporters are the most active on Facebook! Even I was surprised how much the ‘Pies’ dominated in the fans team*. Pick up your game everyone else!!

(*Disclaimer. I am a biased Picton guy, having played, coached, and been on the committee for the best part of 2 decades. But, I try to keep that bias out of my reporting.)

Now, on to my team. Here’s the criteria:

Must’ve played either in Group 6, for East Campbelltown in the Sydney Shield or for Wests in Shield or Ron Massey Cup. Why? Because that made up 90% of what I spoke about on the Macarthur Rugby League Wrap on C91.3fm. The station already had some guy called Tedesco to talk about the Wests Tigers, so my job was to promote the other local footy.

There’s been plenty of debate all year about how certain teams would go playing in the other competitions (especially Picton or Camden against the Eagles, or Picton and Camden in the RMC). My thoughts? Well, I saw plenty of footy in all three comps this year, so I think I’m qualified to answer, but…… I won’t. That’s a story for another day. Might make a great podcast topic though!!

Anyway, I digress. Back to my team. Basically, I picked it as if I were assembling a squad to represent the area against a touring English side or Intergalactic team of Aliens. Again, only from the teams/comps listed above.

In some cases I’ve relied heavily on what the player has done in their career. In others I relied more on what they’ve achieved in 2015. And, I have the luxury of picking players out of position to fit them all in. I can do that because it’s my team and I’m picking it to represent the Macarthur, Earth, and The Milky Way Galaxy, remember?!

Without further ado, here it is:

The fan voted team and my team.

The fan voted team and my team.

  1. Shannon Gallant – Western Suburbs Magpies
    Mighty Mouse had a mighty season for Wests in the Ron Massey Cup this year. While the black and whites fell agonisingly short of a semi-final birth, Gallant led by example, playing a huge part in their late season charge of five wins in a row. He was also 2nd highest point scorer in the RM Cup.
  2. Ben Baker – East Campbelltown Eagles
    A player who has always polarised opinion, but there can be no doubting his ability or the amazing season he had in 2015. His electrifying attacking game and goal kicking saw him win both the top point scorer and player of the year awards in NSWRL’s Sydney Shield.
  3. Michael Lett – Picton Magpies
    Lett, NSW Cup Preier 2011.

    Lett, after winning the 2011 NSW Cup Premiership with Canterbury.

    The class of Lett was never in question, but just in case it was, the former Dragon, Rooster & Bulldog really stood up, being Group 6’s leading try scorer with 26 (from 12 games) and captaining the Magpies to their 3rd straight premiership.

  4. Dean Collis – Camden Rams
    If the Camden side had a perceived weakness early in the season, it was a lack of top class talent out wide. The mid-season signing of Collis immediately rectified that. The 29 year old veteran of 104 NRL games and 53 in the UK Super League was rock solid in defence and provided plenty of potency out wide.
  5. Drury Low – Narellan Jets
    Former Raider and Bulldog, Low.

    Former Raider and Bulldog, Low.

    If anything, Low’s season for Narellan may’ve been a tad disappointing when compared to the massive expectations that arrived with the news of his signing. The speedster missed a number of games due to injury, but his record and his selection for the Cook Islands test team ensures his selection here.

  6. Donny Thompson – Picton Magpies
    I was tempted to opt for Wests Blake Lazurus, but it was just impossible to leave Thompson out. The Group 6 player of the year was dynamic in the black and white. His class in attack and rock solid defence was an integral part of the Magpies premiership. He was amongst the top try scorers, also, with 22 to his name.
  7. Scott Borg – Camden Rams
    Possibly the hardest position to pick. With Tim Dengate at Picton and Wade Dunley at Wests the other obvious contenders. I finally went with Borg due mainly to the many occasions I have seen him single-handedly win a game for the Rams and his previous club the Mittagong Lions. Has a long career playing at a higher level. All class.
  8. Bryce Gibbs – Appin Dogs
    Gibbs in his days with Cronulla

    Gibbs in his days with Cronulla

    Missed a large portion of the season due to injury and suspension, but you can bet that the Dogs would’ve come a lot closer to a maiden premiership if he’d been there when it counted. 197 NRL games, 4 city origin games and an NRL premiership in ’05 ensures he gets a run here.

  9. Stuart Flanagan – Appin Dogs
    See above. Flanagans selection here is due largely to his record and his undeniable talent. I believe that, on his day, he is the best hooker in any competition based in and around the Macarthur, outside of the NRL.
  10. Ray Cashmere – Camden Rams
    Much like Gibbs, big Rays record speaks for itself. An 80 minute machine, his tireless efforts for the Rams provided the foundation for their charge to the minor premiership. His effort in the 2nd round win over the eventual premiers, Picton, had to be seen to be believed. 80 minutes, 40 odd tackles, 20 odd hit ups, half a dozen offloads. Standard weekly stats for him.
  11. Jakiel Mariner – Picton Magpies
    Mariner playin for NSW U20's in 2014

    Mariner playin for NSW U20’s in 2014

    Amongst a squad full of NRL ‘has beens’ and ‘almost made its’ (I use both terms as a compliment) Mariner is the exception. The 21 year old had no business running around in Group 6 this year. After playing for the NSW U20’s in 2014 and being a part of Trent Robinson’s top 25 at the Roosters in pre-season, circumstances saw him divide his time between making music and winning a G6 premiership instead. He picked his moments, but when he did he showed he is simply too good to be playing park footy. Hopefully we’ll see him on TV in 2016.

  12. Mason Talolua – East Campbelltown Eagles
    The other back row spot was outrageously hard to pick. With Contenders like Peters and Twist at Picton, Campbell and Innosesio at Camden, and Tom Morrison at Wests to mention but a few, I went for Talolua due largely to the memories of him terrorising opposition sides in Group 6. The former Wests Tiger and Wests Magpie gave the Eagles pack extra grunt in 2015.
  13. David Harris – Western Suburbs Magpies
    Talk to the Wests Magpies Fanatics and they would not swap Harris for any forward in the RM Cup. Harris picked up the Magpies best & Fairest award as he was a model of consistency for them. He was also selected in the RMC rep team and has previously been selected in the NSW Cup team of the year and been runner up as NSW Cup player of the year (2011).
  14. Wade Dunley – Western Suburbs Magpies
    Along with Borg is among the best playmakers I’ve ever seen in Group 6. Was a huge loss for the Wests Magpies when injured at seasons end. Edged out his partner in crime in Lazurus, Mittagong’s Matt Thorp, and Picton’s Anthony Provost for this bench spot.
  15. Benson Tupou – Picton Magpies
    Tupou, being his own harshest critic, believed his season was below par leading into the Grand Final, so he proceeded to dominate the more fancied Rams pack, especially in the opening 40. Super impressive forward who represented Greater Southern Stars and has previously played for the Country rep team and the Wests Tigers in U20’s and NSW Cup.
  16. Neil Begovich – The Oaks Tigers
    Another quality forward who has played for the Wests Tigers U20’s. Consistently among the best front rowers in Group 6 and was a huge part of the Tigers’ impressive late season form.
  17. Jack Twist – Picton Magpies
    As mentioned earlier, the back row was the most hotly contested. The former Panther and Illawarra Cutter managed to edge out a super impressive field due largely to the fact that he is just as effective in the 3 or 4. Is equally at home hitting a hole, make the tough metres, or putting a team mate into space and loves nothing more than jamming an opponent right under the ribs.

Honourable mentions:

  • Chris Browne, Camden. Browne took his game to a new level this year scoring a ridiculous 336 points for the Rams. Electrifying in attack.
  • Alex Peters, Picton. Was his usual wrecking machine self all year, putting fear into opposition ball runners everywhere. Cruelly missed the GF after breaking himself on Cashmere.
  • Blake Lazurus, Wests Magpies. Was crucial for the Magpies, and really stepped up when Dunley went down late in the year.
  • Josh Goulton, Camden. Super impressive on the wing for the Rams all year. Very nearly got a spot on the picket here.
  • Matt Thorpe, Mittagong. Consistently among the best players in Group 6 for the last 3 years. Showed his class this year by playing plenty at 7, as well as his favoured 9.
  • John Da Silva, East Campbelltown. Has led the Eagles with distinction for many years and showed his versatility playing hooker when required.
  • Josh McIlvenny, Picton. Not many had heard of him before this year, but no opponent ever got the better of the former Cabramatta Two Blue.
  • Josh Burke, Campbelltown City. Outstanding year in the centres scoring 20+ tries and representing Group 6 from a team that struggled.
  • Tom Morrison, Wests. The towering back rower/centre impressed all year for the Magpies, being rewarded with selection in the RMC rep team.
  • Anthony Provost, Picton. Improves every year and is now considered one of the best players in the comp. Outstanding dummy half and amazing goal kicker.
  • Sam Campbell, Camden. Giant back rower with superb skills. Any team around would love to have him on board.
  • Mitch Brasington, The Oaks. Out of four Brasington brothers at The Oaks Mitch received the most accolades playing and starring at 5/8, but they’re all great players.
  • Ray Stone, Moss Vale, Wests. This 18 year old kid is going to be a star. Ripped into much older forwards when playing for Mossy. Went on to play U20’s for the Tigers and Australian Schoolboys for the 2nd year running. Watch this space.
  • Matt White, Picton. The stiffest man in Group 6 who truly believes that stepping is for cowards.
  • Ryan Borg, Camden. Doesn’t get the accolades his brother does, but is a brilliant playmaker with a superb kicking game.
  • Tim Dengate, Picton. Pocket rocket that loves the rough stuff. Outstanding in defence, especially front on, and great organiser.
  • Nick Taylor, Picton. Only started late in the year, but the Picton jr and NSW Cup premiership winner was enormous for the black and whites in the GF.
  • Bart Masters, Appin. I didn’t see much of Masters this year, but can honestly say he’s one of the best I ever played against, being equally at home at halfback or back row.

I’ve reached the stage now where I simply must stop writing. Every name that pops in to my head reminds me of another. It’s a constant loop. I’m a snake trying to eat its’ own tail.

I shall conclude by saying that the amount of talent on display across the Campbelltown, Camden, Wollondilly and Southern Highlands areas every weekend is extraordinary. I am already looking forward to 2016 and can’t wait to update you all on C91.3 every Monday and Friday morning.

Thank you so much to everyone that has tuned into my segment during the year or read something that I’ve written. I truly love the game and believe that we have such a great product in this area. If I can do anything to help promote it, then it is my great pleasure to do so. I have been humbled by the feedback I have received.  The Facebook page has recently ticked over 1,000 likes so thank you for giving me this platform.

Lastly, special thanks to Ben and Julie at League Zone Sports, the fantastic sponsor of my segment, and especially Josh Webster from the Fresh Breakfast show who gave me the leg up with C91.3. I am eternally grateful.

If you made it this far, I congratulate you on your stamina. I’d like to shout you a beer.*

*By shout, I mean drink one with you. You’ll have to pay. For both. Thanks again.

Bennett haters gonna hate

Question for all the Bennett bashers on social media:

Did you actually watch his post game press conference? How about, have you actually read any of the stories that accompany the sensational misleading headlines on social media where you are commenting and calling him a ‘sore loser’?

Bennett keeps it real

Bennett keeps it real

Let’s clear a couple of things up:

– Bennett did not “call for an introduction of Grand Final replays” as the headline on Brisbanetimes.com.au would lead you to believe. If you read the article you’d know that he merely suggested that a replay was preferable to losing in golden point. A position which should not surprise given his vocal opposition to golden point ever since its introduction.
His actual quote was: “I’ve never been a fan of golden point…. It’s a lottery. It’s unfair on everybody. Most unfair here tonight. I’m happy to come back next week and play. I don’t see what’s wrong with the draw…. You’re talking about a grand final, everything on the line. It’s not the way I want it decided.”

– He did not express ‘sour grapes’. On the contrary, he praised the quality of the game and the tremendous efforts of all players involved. “I’m not bitter. We had a wonderful grand final. It takes two teams to do that. The glory goes to the winners, I’m happy with that.”
He went on to attempt to explain the lack of closure that such a loss delivers: “Bottom line is it was an outstanding game of football. The game is designed for you to lose. We got beaten by a field goal. Do we feel beaten? No we don’t. It’s not about winning or losing all the time. They’ve been brave all season.”

– The Cowboys won the Premiership on the back of a pressure field goal from one of the all time greats. In order to kick that field goal, Thurston had to rely on the sheer luck of a coin toss, the poor fortune of the Broncos in the momentary lapse in concentration from Ben Hunt, and the fact that Hunt was not afforded 20 minutes of extra time to attempt to make up for his blunder. Does that mean the Cowboys did not deserve the win? No, of course not. Which is why Bennett did NOT say anything of the sort. Does that mean that it is an extraordinarily harsh way to lose a Grand Final? Absolutely. Which may explain why Bennett said the following:
“The Cowboys weren’t better than us. The end result at full-time was 16-all. It was decided in golden point.” A factual statement, completely lacking in hysteria. Something which unfortunately can not be said for the masses glancing at click-bait headlines and making outlandish assumptions from there.

So, Bennett haters. You can hate. That’s fine. Just, please try to be an informed hater. Actually read the story you’re commenting on. And for the record, I’m not a Broncos supporter. I just have no patience for the ill-informed.

Ahh, who am I kidding. The people I’m addressing would not have read this far anyway.

Sorry Kim and Kanye, Group 6 has more hype right now

If anticipation was a unit of currency the Group 6 rugby league could be insured for more than Kim Kardashian’s arse right now.

Sorry, Kanye.

“Imma let you finish, but this is the biggest grand final of all time”

Kanye Picton

In the most eagerly awaited clash in decades in Group 6, if not the entire CRL, the Camden Rams will meet arch rivals the Picton Magpies in a real life clash of the Titans at Campbelltown Stadium on Sunday at 3:15pm.

This is a battle akin to Ali vs Frazier or Kenobi vs Vader in terms of sheer expectation.

Considering the seasons they’ve had it’s easy to see why this game has such a buzz surrounding it. I wrote a story here a couple weeks back, showing why these teams are, statistically, the two best in all of CRL.

Now, forget about the stats. Looking at these two squads, on paper alone, they would be at least competitive in any competition across rural NSW, not to mention the NSWRL’s Ron Massey Cup.

G6 GF teams

After getting the better of the Magpies by 38-30 to qualify for the Grand Final two weeks ago, it’s fair to say that Camden have form on their side. To counter that, Picton are a seasoned squad who’ve proven time and again that they lift on the big occasions.

The combatants have met on three occasions this season with Camden leading on that front 2-1. Back in May Picton handed the Rams an astonishing 52-0 drubbing, to have most punters tipping the black and whites would not be pushed by anyone on their way to three premierships in a row. To their credit however, Camden used that disappointment as a catalyst to not only sweep all other teams aside, but to get the better of their fierce rivals on their two subsequent meetings.

Opinions are closely divided amongst those in the know when quizzed on who will stand triumphant at the conclusion of this battle of the behemoths. I spoke with seven local coaches and Rugby League identities earlier, with four of them tipping Camden, but all predicting a tight and epic battle.

Moss Vale Dragons coach and co-coach of the Group 6 rep team, Robbie Payne was leaning towards the Rams. “Obviously it’s going to be a cracking game” Payne said. “I’ve just got a feeling that Camden are gonna get there. They’re fresh. And, with Alex Peters missing for Picton, that’s a big factor. If you look at the Grand Finals in the last two years, he’s changed the course of the games with his defence”.

Similarly, Payne’s co-coach of the rep team, Russell Lewis was putting his hard earned on the Rams. “Camden, I think, will have the edge on them” he declared. “They play a bit more direct, especially their front rowers. Weir and Cashmere run hard and straight. Then they’ve got two quality halves who can finish the game off for them.”

Mitch Brassington, captain-coach of The Oaks Tigers, fresh from winning the Group 6 coach of the year award last night with his brother Matt, was another who picked the boys in blue, red, and white. “I think Camden might just have them in the end. Picton are pretty big and Camdens quick guys might just get them home” he said, before adding “it wouldn’t shock me at all if Picton won though.”

Dane Wooden from the Appin Dogs didn’t see it that way however, alluding to the Magpies history of lifting when it counts: “Picton in a close one. I think they know how to perform on the big day.”

Journalist and commentator Curtis Woodward from the81stminute.com was another backing the Magpies: “Camden are just starting their dynasty, which should continue for the next five years, but Picton have done it together for the last couple of seasons and they should do it again tomorrow.”

Campbelltown City Kangaroos guru Alex Melville referred to the Camden sides experience at higher levels when nominating them as his tip. “Camden by 8” he declared. “They have an advantage in NRL & NSW Cup experience that will prove vital in the games pivotal moments. The pressure is all on Camden and the Borg brothers to deliver, though. Somehow Picton, going for three straight to emulate 85-87, are the underdogs. Just how they like it.”

Group 6 media manager and the man behind the Group 6 NRL Commentary Facebook page, Mike Shean had to be forcibly removed from the fence he was sitting on before eventually tipping the Magpies. “If I’ve got to put it on the line, I’m tipping Picton. They’ve got the experience. They’ve won the last two. But Camden are so in this. It might be one play from a Michael Lett or a Don Thompson from Picton, or a Borg or Browne from Camden that decides this in the end.”

Whatever the result, one thing is assured here. This will be a colossal battle of the ages. The earth will shake. The heavens will crumble. Campbelltown Stadium may well be annihilated from the tumult and turmoil. I believe Group 6 have enlisted the help of both Ronda Rousey and a shirtless Vladimir Putin on horseback for crowd control.

It is somewhat tragic that both of these sides will not be remembered for their astonishing success in 2015. The winner will, likely, go on to be hailed as the greatest side in Group 6 history. The loser will be shadowed in a veil of relative obscurity, remembered by only the keenest of rugby league tragics.

History can be brutal in that respect. Much like the action will be tomorrow.

Some interesting tidbits surrounding the teams and the big game:
– Picton 5/8 Donny Thompson was last night crowned Group 6 player of the year.
– Picton fullback and captain Michael Lett was the season highest try scorer with 27 from 12 games.
– Camden fullback Chris Browne easily topped the points scorers list with 336 points.
– Camden’s 17 year old Will Kerr was named the Rising Star for the Group and will play with the Canterbury Bulldogs in 2016.
– Camden have a combined 172 games NRL experience between Dean Collis and Ray Cashmere alone (plus an additional 125 UK Super League games).
– Picton’s Michael Lett was named in the NSW Cup team of the year 3 years running from 2010 – 12.
– Camden’s Scott and Ryan Borg lost Grand Finals to Picton in 2013 & 14 while playing for the Mittagong Lions.
– Picton’s Jakiel Mariner played for NSW U20’s last year. You can catch the highlights here. He is also a talented musician. His band Fourtunate has more than 140,000 Facebook followers and featured on the 2011 series of ‘X-Factor’.

Jakiel Mariner (2nd from right) and 'Fourtunate'

Jakiel Mariner (2nd from right) and ‘Fourtunate’

Tune in to C91.3FM for all of the news on the big game on Monday morning, and keep an eye on my Macarthur Rugby League Wrap Facebook page for the interviews and opinions that matter.

You can hear my interview with Picton coach Gary Dowse here:

You can hear my interview with Camden captain-coach Scott Borg here:

Why Picton & Camden are statistically the best teams in all CRL

If ever the Claytons Cup, the most prestigious team award in all of Country Rugby League, was to be jointly granted to two clubs from the same competition, it would be this year.

This Sunday at Victoria Park, Picton the Camden Rams and Picton Magpies will do battle in the major semi-final, to determine who will progress straight to the Grand Final in 2 weeks’ time. Without being disrespectful to the other two teams left, the Narellan Jets and The Oaks Tigers, it’s nigh on impossible to imagine this weekends’ clash of the Titans being anything but a dress rehearsal for the main game of the season.

It’s doubtful that anyone around Group 6 has ever seen a single team dominate the local competition the way these two heavyweights have this season.
A quick look at the competition ladder shows the magnitude of the gulf between teams 1 and 2 and the rest.

Group 6 Rugby League ladder at completion of 2015 regular season

Group 6 Rugby League ladder at completion of 2015 regular season

Having finished the season with only 1 loss each (to each other) and with a for and against more than 500 points better than the 3rd placed Narellan Jets (the only other team to finish with a positive +/-), the two sides shared top billing at Seasons end. Camden claimed the minor premiership due to a slightly more impressive for and against, giving them week 1 of the semi-finals off, last weekend.

If there was any doubt as to the dominance of these two it was quickly disregarded when Picton trounced Narellan in the qualifying semi-final last weekend by 66-24 (after leading 40-0 at half time), at Kirkham Park, Camden.

There’s little doubt that if, hypothetically, either of these sides were not present this season the other would stand alone atop of the contenders for the CRL’s major prize, usually awarded to an undefeated premier.

This got me thinking about the leading contenders around the other competitions in country NSW. When I started to research them I came to a startling realisation: Not only are both of Picton and Camden still in contention for the Claytons Cup, but they are statistically the two best teams across the CRL at the conclusion of all regular seasons.

The only club that appears to better them is the ‘South West Rocks Marlins’ of the Hastings League. I have disregarded them, however, because according to the official website their competition stats only go up to round 10 and have not been updated in two months, making it impossible to accurately compare them. It has been confirmed, however, that they were recently beaten by the Kendall Blues, ending their undefeated status.

The table below compiles all of the major stats from the minor premiers of each senior first grade competition across CRL for 2015 as well as the 2nd placed Picton side. The data has been sorted by the ratio of ‘points for’ to ‘points against’ measured as a percentage. This is the most precise way to compare competitions with seasons of varying lengths.

Table comparing Picton and Camden with Minor Premiers from all 1st grade comps in CRL

Table comparing Picton and Camden with Minor Premiers from all 1st grade comps in CRL

Some key stats include:
– In percentage terms, Picton are number 1 (398.48%), with Camden number 2 (352.89%).
– Picton have the 2nd best average defence (11) behind the Entrance Tigers (9), with Camden in third (13.44).
– Camden have the fourth best average attack (47.44) behind Coonabarabran (52.36), West Tamworth Lions (51.25), & Inverell Hawks (49.53).
– Camden have scored the most total points (854) ahead of Inverell (842) and Picton (789).
– Camden have the greatest total differential (+ 612) with Picton 2nd (+ 591).
– And possibly most notably, of the 9 competitions with 18 round seasons only Camden (612) and Picton (591) have differentials in excess of (+500). The next closest is the Shellharbour Sharks (487) in Group 7 who are a whopping 104 points in arrears. This gives an indication of the two sides continued dominance over a long period.

Picton co-coach Bryce Poisel was pleased by the stats but remained focussed on the job at hand. “It’s pretty impressive” he said. “Well done to both sides. It’s something that we haven’t really thought about, since we lost that game to Camden. Our main goal is just winning the comp and if we can do that, anything else is a bonus”.

Camden captain-coach and halfback, Scott Borg also gave credit to the quality of competition in general. “It’s great for the group as well” he declared. “We do have some quality players out here and if we eventually got everyone on the same field in the rep games I think we (Group 6) could compete against some of the bigger areas.”

Borgs’ assessment is a valid one, considering the vast array of players with NRL experience appearing in the competition in season 2015. Camden have Ray Cashmere and Dean Collis, Picton have Michael Lett. Add to that Bryce Gibbs and Stuart Flanagan at the Appin Dogs, Drury Low (Narellan Jets), and Sione Kite, Eddie Paea, & Matt Groat (Thirlmere Roosters).

Regardless of any claims on the Claytons Cup, one thing is for certain: In years to come these two will be the benchmark that fans measure future successes against. I hope local viewers take the time to acknowledge the extraordinary talent on display.

Catch all the rugby league news from the Macarthur region at Macarthur Rugby League Wrap.

Hear the full interview with Bryce Poisel here:
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Hear the full interview with Scott Borg here: