By Stephen Gallagher
Back in to it! If you missed yesterday’s write up, here’s a recap:
…and now here we are…
TWELTH: SYDNEY ROOSTERS
Ins: Joe Burgess (Wigan Warriors), Dale Copley (Brisbane Broncos), Mitchell Frei (Wynnum Manly Seagulls), Ian Henderson (Catalan Dragons), Ryan Matterson (Parramatta Eels), Jayden Nikorima (Broncos), Paki Afu (Mormon mission)
Outs: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (New Zealand Warriors), James Maloney (Cronulla Sharks), Michael Jennings (Parramatta Eels), Nene Macdonald (Gold Coast Titans), Nathan Stapleton (London Broncos), Scott Drinkwater (Melbourne Storm), Taane Milne (St George Illawarra Dragons), Suaia Matagi (Penrith Panthers), Matt McIlwrick (Cronulla Sharks)
This is unusual reading for Roosters fans. After constant success over the last four seasons. They’re in for a tough season in Bondi.
Let me get to Mitchell Pearce shortly, but I will start with a few key players they’ve lost to other clubs in the off season. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and James Maloney have been the keys to success for this club. Both winning premierships at their stay. I wouldn’t say that the Roosters are rebuilding, but when you lose such stardom the players in this squad do have to take a look at themselves to see who will step up.
Now, Mitchell Pearce.. Yeah….. We all know what happened…. He’s sorry… blah blah blah…. Making the NRL look stupid, again. They think he won’t play until after round six – well he shouldn’t even have a contract at all. Too many slip ups on the big stage. That’s not good enough.
There’s a few injuries in their usual monster forward pack to start the season – so it will be tough from Round One for the Chooks. They do have some young stars on their squad so they will get a chance to flourish.
ELEVENTH: PENRITH PANTHERS
Ins: Trent Merrin (St George Illawarra Dragons), Zach Dockar-Clay (Parramatta Eels), Benjamin Garcia (Catalan Dragons), Andrew Heffernan (Canberra Raiders), Viliame Kikau (North Queensland Cowboys), Te Maire Martin (Wests Tigers), Sitaleki Akauola (Wests Tigers), Suaia Matagi (Sydney Roosters), Peta Hiku (Manly Sea Eagles)
Outs: Lewis Brown (Manly Sea Eagles), Brent Kite (retirement), Apisai Koroisau (Manly Sea Eagles), Nigel Plum (retirement), Kieran Moss (Parramatta Eels), Sika Manu (Hull), David Simmons (retirement), Shaun Spence (retirement), Ben Murdoch-Masila (Salford), Isaac John (released), Sam Anderson (released), Adam Docker (retirement), Jamal Idris (released)
Who is the wise guy that thought it would be a good idea to fire Ivan Cleary in the off-season and then hire a guy who is no where near at the level Cleary was in Anthony Griffin?
After a tough 2015, this season too will be tough for Penrith. They will have a lot of positives, if they can afford to stay injury free.
The talent on this roster is immense. Plenty of big signings in the off-season to make the club feel proud. I am not too sure if Gus Gould is right in thinking his five year plan is right on track, but he is damn near close (even if they finish eleventh as I predict this season).
I think their downfall will be combinations at the club. Plenty of fresh faces and it will take majority of the first ten rounds for them to settle on their top 17.
They’re a healthy squad, so there will be plenty of guys wanting to get a crack. I just don’t think Penrith will be able to get everything they want to out of this season, and run out of fire towards the end of their run.
TENTH: MELBOURNE STORM
Ins: Matthew White (Gold Coast Titans), Mark Nicholls (Canberra Raiders), Scott Drinkwater (Sydney Roosters), Curtis Scott (Cronulla Sharks), Cheyse Blair (Manly Sea Eagles), Jeremy Hawkins (Canberra Raiders)
Outs: Kurt Mann (St George Illawarra Dragons), Ryan Hinchcliffe (Huddersfield Giants), Mahe Fonua (Hull FC), Dayne Weston (Leigh Centurions), Matt Duffie (rugby union), Tom Learoyd-Lahrs (retirement), Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad (Warriors), Hymel Hunt (South Sydney Rabbitohs
The Storm have been one of the most successful sides since the turn of the millennium, which is credit to coach Craig Bellamy and the culture that this side has had since their inception.
Over the last two or so seasons, a lot of clubs are seemingly catching up to Melbourne. Their front offices are getting more organised, their rosters are getting more depth, and their players are getting stronger, fitter and faster. That’s the way the NRL is going – and the Storm are now sitting in the same boat as many other teams, rather than being on a boat by themselves.
They have formidable playmakers, skilled backs and forwards that deliver the meters. But teams now know how to beat the Storm, and how to win in Melbourne. It’s almost a copycat style, but unless the Victorians can re-invent the wheel and go another step up: I feel they will be a let down this season.
NINTH: CANTERBURY BANKSTOWN BULLDOGS
Ins: Bradley Abbey (New Zealand Warriors), Kerrod Holland (Newcastle Knights), Craig Garvey (St George Illawarra Dragons), Will Hopoate (Parramatta Eels)
Outs: Trent Hodkinson (Newcastle Knights), Frank Pritchard (Hull FC), Corey Thompson (Widnes Vikings), Damien Cook (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Tim Lafai (St George Illawarra Dragons)
A ninth placed finish will not be good enough for Des Hasler, but this will be a good year for the Bulldogs despite not making the finals.
Reynolds and Mybe will be fantastic in the halves, once again the forward pack everyone loves to talk about will be good – but I think overall the team will go missing in the first half of the season.
Traditionally they are a team who knows exactly when the time is to peak, a few close losses will let them down and put them just out of finals grasp. It will be interesting to see how they will go with a reduced interchange, a lot of their big men will be not as effective with longer minutes next to their names. Hasler may have to draft up a tactic that will be willing to experiment to get it right.
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