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The Rock-itt : October 2010
greatly due to Akulia 'The Thriller' Uate. The Fijian flyer was an excitement machine this season and even more exciting is the fact he has pledged his allegiance to NSW and Australia as he vows for a spot on the Kangaroos 4- Nations squad. Newcastle have bolstered their forward pack for next season picking up Maroons hard man Neville Costigan who will replace club stalwart Steve Simpson. The Knights also got the prized signing of NYC standout Beau Henry who will play halfback next season. Cowboys The Cowboys aren't in the finals but are still getting unwanted media attention with halfback Jonathan Thurston arrested and charged after a drunken night has the Australian rep in danger of losing the club's captaincy. This unfortunate incident comes at a time when Cowboys fans should be licking their lips at the team's potential next season. They have farewelled bustling forwards, Luke O'Donnell, Carl Webb, and Willie Mason, but now club stars Thurston and Bowen will be joined by names such as Dallas Johnson, Brent Tate, Antonio Winterstein, Ashton Sims and Dragons Toyota Cup star Kalifa Fai Fai Loa. EelsParramatta didn't get the signing of Wallabies fly- half Quade Cooper (not yet anyway, Cooper only signed a 1-year deal with the ARU), but do welcome Carl Webb and Reni Matiua who should bring some steel into what at times was a timid forward pack this season. There are still some major questions surrounding the Eels halves combination with Kris Keating departing and both Trent Barrett and Brett Kimmorley turning down offers as well as how they will cope without the club's longest serving captain, Nathan Cayless and playmakers Feleti Mateo and Krisnan Inu next season. Panthers The team from Sydney's West finished 2nd in this year's competition but a round 1 fault against the Raiders leaves the prospect of the Panthers making the grand final a tough one. They will have to knock off the Sydney Roosters and the Gold Coast in consecutive weeks before taking on the grand finalists. Despite the predicament they are in you can't do anything but applaud the Panthers' efforts this season. They don't have the most star- studded line-up, in fact have one of the youngest teams in the NRL, yet continually beat the odds to topple more fancied opposition. The future looks good for Matt Elliott and his team. Dragons After a premature exit in last year's finals the Dragons were branded 'chokers'. All season opposition fans claimed they didn't fear the Dragons, as they were 'chokers'. The Red V have been using this as their motivation as they search for their first title since 1977, and with just weeks remaining this season it's going to take a mighty effort from another team to get in their way. St. George also has the Wayne Bennett factor. Bennett has been to 7 grand finals, winning 6, his last loss on the first Sunday of October being in 1987. Rabbitohs Souths went into their round 26 clash with the Dragons aware of the fact that an 8-point victory would see the Bunnies make the finals for this first time since 2005. But up until then the Dragons had only lost 7 games all year and were determined not to make it 8, producing a first half performance that was nothing less than awesome, putting an end to Souths season. Coach John Lang has showed faith in his troops, as the Rabbitohs have not recruited anyone for next year instead relying on the same roster to produce the goods. Roosters Brian Smith made the bold statement a few weeks ago that his team could win the grand final, it had people divided, was it a show of confidence or arrogance. They have the roster to win the comp: Pearce, Anasta, Minichello, Warea-Hargraves, Myles and Dally M winner, Todd Carney. They have shown they can win the big games prevailing 19-15 after 100 minutes in one of the greatest playoff games of all time over the Tigers in week 1, and they've shown they can match it with the benchmark St. George. I'm inclined to think that Brian Smith is confident, and he has every right to be. Tigers Wests take on Canberra in week 2 of the finals, and will go into the match bruised and battered. Their 100 minutes finals loss to the Roosters took a toll on the players, especially star five- eighth Benji Marshall exited the game early with a knee injury, which will hamper him for the remainder of the season. Much like the Panthers it will take a monumental effort from the merger club to collect their second premiership but if Marshall can still produce his magic and set up attacking threats Lote Tuquiri and Robbie Farah, Wests could repeat their 05 miracle.