By the end of 2016, the Sharks were premiers while the Raiders had finished second in the regular season with the best attacking record in the league. Things can change quickly in the NRL, particularly the fortunes of struggling teams.The massive turnarounds for Cronulla and Canberra weren’t even out of the ordinary. While those teams were slumping to the bottom of the ladder in 2014, the Penrith Panthers were playing their way into the NRL top four – two seasons after running 15th. In 2013 the Sydney Roosters were the major and minor premiers, a year after finishing well outside of the finals race in 13th.In 2012, five of the eight teams in the finals had missed the playoffs two years previously. That includes minor premiers Canterbury, grand final winners Melbourne and future premiership winners North Queensland and Cronulla – the teams that had occupied the bottom four places in the league in 2010. And in 2010, the Panthers and Warriors both jumped nine league places in a single season to finish inside the NRL’s top five, while the Roosters jumped 10 spots in a season to finish sixth after taking out the wooden spoon in 2009.The salary cap doesn’t just level out the playing field by making it tough for the top teams to successfully defend a premiership – something that hasn’t happened since the unified NRL competition began in 1998. The cap also makes it possible for struggling teams to climb up the ladder – and fast.So, how do they do it? Let’s look at recent success stories the Sharks and Raiders.Both clubs have had some key youngsters come through the ranks in the past few seasons – in particular rep players Valentine Holmes (who debuted for the Sharks in 2014), Jack Bird (Sharks debutant in 2015) and Shannon Boyd (Canberra debutant in 2014).But the recruiting drives of both clubs has been arguably more vital. Both the Sharks and Raiders have overhauled their playmaking spines in the past few seasons. None of the players who lined up at fullback, five-eighth, halfback and hooker at the start of 2014 were still in those roles in 2016.The Sharks’ premiership-winning spine of Ben Barba, James Maloney, Chad Townsend and Michael Ennis were all recruited within the previous two seasons. The Raiders brought in Blake Austin, Josh Hodgson and Aidan Sezer in the last couple of years, after switching Jack Wighton to fullback in the final rounds of 2014. Of course, they weren’t the only signings – the Raiders in particular strengthened their starting side with the likes of back-rowers Sia Soliola and Elliott Whitehead and lethal edge duo Jordan Rapana and Joey Leilua. The other notable factor for both those teams is that they blooded a lot of rookies in recent years – which meant they didn’t have to bring in untested players in 2016. For the Sharks this was a necessity in 2014, when 10 of their players made their NRL debuts after the peptides scandal hit the club. It’s meant they’ve only had to give debuts to a couple of players since then – Bird in 2015 and Luke Capewell last year.Last season’s results suggest teams who don’t use many debutants tend to win more games. In 2016, six clubs had no more than two players make their NRL debut – and four of those clubs finished in the NRL top four (the other two were Parramatta, who missed the finals after being stripped of competition points due to salary cap breaches, and Manly, who brought in a massive 13 recruits last season). By contrast, the three clubs with the most debutants last year – the Roosters, Knights and Rabbitohs – finished in the bottom four for the league in terms of wins. This isn’t a surprise (losing teams are more likely to drop players and look to the future) but on the positive side it could set them up for success in the future if the Sharks’ rapid rise since 2014 is any guide.The Rabbitohs and Roosters in particular could bounce back quickly considering the Rabbitohs had appeared in the past four finals series before 2016 and the Roosters were coming off three straight minor premierships. Both clubs boast several current rep players, while the Sea Eagles, who finished 13th in 2016, also have a few rep stars in their ranks and have already begun an overhaul of their roster under Trent Barrett.Will all the teams that struggled last year be finals contenders this season? Probably not. But don’t be surprised if at least a few of them aren’t back in the premiership race in a couple of years’ time.
Rayon are on two points picked from back to back draws against Gor and Yanga and a loss coupled with a Gor win will pull the gap between second and third to six points.This will mean that Gor will need only a point from the remaining two games; away to USM Alger and at home to Rayon to confirm their slot in the group stages of the continental showpiece for the first time ever.But first, they have to find a way past Yanga.“It is not easy as everybody thinks. We won 4-0 away and now all the people think it is going to be easy going to Dar. The expectations are very high on us and the pressure is massive. It is going to be a difficult game,” Gor Mahia head coach Dylan Kerr says.Gor Mahia head coach Dylan Kerr embraces winger Samuel Onyango during their CAF Confederation Cup Group D match against Tanzania’s Yanga at the Moi Sports Centre Kasarani on July 18, 2018. PHOTO/Raymond MakhayaHe adds; “I have been reading on all the problems Yanga have but I don’t believe anything. I know they are going to come tough at us and they are playing at home so that is an extra motivation with their fans behind them as well.”Financial problems, player revolt and an unsettled fan base are some of the things pressing down the multiple Tanzanian champions and their performance in the Confederations Cup after losing their domestic title to arch rivals Simba have not made it easy for them.Gor on the other hand have had a brilliant season despite a few blips with players staging go slows over unpaid allowances.The 16-time Kenyan Premier League champions are unbeaten in their league campaign after 20 matches and are in the quarter finals of the domestic cup, a tournament they have played using mostly second choice players.They come into the Yanga game on Sunday night beaming with confidence after beating arch rivals AFC Leopards 2-1 last Sunday before the second team edged out Posta Rangers’ first team 3-1 in the FKF Shield.“We have done really well I think. Rotating the players in midweek ensured some rest to everyone and I know we are fresh for this assignment. I just ask the players to pull up that green jersey with pride and go represent the team to their best ability,” added the coach.Yanga midfielder Papy Tshimbimbi controls the ball under pressure from Gor Mahia’s Humphrey Mieno during their CAF Confederation Cup Group D clash at the Moi Sports Centre Kasarani on July 18, 2018. PHOTO/Raymond MakhayaSkipper Harun Shakava meanwhile has rallied his teammates to rise up to the occasion and pick maximum points from Tanzania. Shakava was on the score-sheet the last time these two sides met in Dar during the 2015 CECAFA Kagame Cup, Gor winning 2-1.“It is a very tough match away from home but we know that there is the possibility of qualification if we win this game. That is what is driving us and we will go in to play for a win. As players we are ready and psyched up,” the defender noted.Apart from Ernest Wendo who is yet to recover from a hamstring strain picked up during their CECAFA Kagame Cup campaign, Kerr will have a full strength squad to pick his best 11 from.Defender Joash Onyango returns from suspension while George Odhiambo who missed the first leg tie will be available after returning, and scoring, in the Mashemeji Derby last weekend.0Shares0000(Visited 3 times, 1 visits today) 0Shares0000Gor Mahia head coach Dylan Kerr shouts instructions from the touchline during their CAF Confederation Cup Group D match against Tanzania’s Yanga at the Moi Sports Centre Kasarani on July 18, 2018. PHOTO/Raymond MakhayaNAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 25- Record Kenyan Premier League champions Gor Mahia will set one foot in the quarter finals of the CAF Confederations Cup with a win over Tanzania’s Young Africans (Yanga) in Dar es Salaam on Sunday night.Gor occupy second slot in Group D with five points, three behind leaders USM Alger who play third placed Rayon Sport in Algiers simultaneously.
One of Donegal’s best-known actors and writers will be honoured at a special reception in his home district tomorrow.Rann na Feirste native Niall Mac Eachmharcaigh will be honoured by the Glenties Municipal District of Donegal County Council at a reception in Dungloe on Friday 20th April. This special reception, which will be hosted by Cathaoirleach Cllr. Micheal Choilm MacGiolla Easbuig, is being held in recognition of Niall’s outstanding achievements in the arts and promotion of the Irish language. Speaking to Donegal Daily ahead of the event, Niall shared his delight with the recognition. “I got word about it a few months ago and got a bit scared. They normally do these things for people after they’re gone. I’m delighted with the honour, but I hope they don’t think I’m on the way out!”Niall isn’t going anywhere – he has been at the heart of some of Ireland’s most iconic TV programme on TG4. He has been a Ros na Rún stalwart for the past 16 years, starred in numerous dramas and comedies, as well as being a key writer and director of the much-loved Donegal comedy C.U. Burn, starring the late Seán Mac Fhionnghaile.Ros na Rún’s Donegal Daly family“I was always into drama. I used to say I was born acting. When the midwife was slapping me on the backside I knew I was to start crying. “I fell in love with the act of acting when I saw the first drama on stage in Rann na Feirste. I was about 13 or 14. I was hopeless at the beginning but it is something you learn if you have the interest. You learn something new every day,” he said.Even on the set of Ros na Rún, where Niall has played John Joe Daly for 16 years, he said he is always learning. Donegal is well-represented in the Irish-language soap, with Donegal women Máire Uí Rabhartaigh, Brídín Ní Mhaoldomhnaigh and Máirín Dé Buitléir co-starring in the Daly family alongside Pól Penrose as Colm and Seán Ó Baoil as Adam.Brídín Ní Mhaoldumhnaigh, Niall Mac Eamharcaigh and Máirín De Buitléir . Photo Martina Regan.Niall said: “I love Ros na Rún, I say it’s better than working. It’s like an extended family. One day we had seven Donegal people on set together – the more the merrier! One man came in and looked around and said, the Donegal people are like Japanese Knotweed. Once they get their roots in they’re going nowhere.”Image: Ros na Run, TG4Ros na Rún wrapped on Season 22 in February, giving the cast a six-month break. Niall has been spending time at home in Donegal ‘working on wee scripts here and there’ and taking part in local arts events including judging the Féile Scoil Dramaíochta. It’s a good time to be part of the Irish drama scene, Niall says. “If you can speak Irish it will broaden your horizons. Apart from Ros na Rún, TG4 do many drama programmes and it is so beneficial to have Irish. There are a lot more opportunities with the language, and it’s important to be out there in the public eye.”Being with TG4 from the early days means Niall is a very recognisable figure in the world of Irish TV and drama. This Friday’s council ceremony will give the Donegal man due recognition for his many achievements among family and friends – followed by a great home celebration. Featured image: Niall Mac Eachmharcaigh ar Comhra TG4. Image: TG4“I’m delighted with the honour, I hope they don’t think I’m on the way out!” was last modified: April 21st, 2018 by Rachel McLaughlinShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Tags:c.u. burndramaNiall Mac EachmharcaighRann na FeirsteRos na RúnTG4