By Stephen Gallagher
Another NRL season is upon us. There’ll be more ridiculous refereeing, there will be more bunker blunders, and more off-field fuck-ups, but if the footy on the field can be at another peak level; we will be in for a treat.
Below is how I see all 16 teams going, and who will be the biggest winners and losers over the next 26 regular season weeks. I’ll rank them from last place to minor premiers – and my reasonings for it.
16: Newcastle Knights
Oh yes, another stellar year lined up for the Knights.
While they’ve acquired the likes of Rory Kostjasyn and Jamie Buhrer for the 2017 season, this is still the weakest roster in the NRL.
What will be another ‘building year’ in the Hunter, the Knights do have plenty to offer in their backline. Ken Sio, The Mata’utai siblings, and Brendan Elliot will have plenty of pace and skill amongst them. I am just not sure their halves have what it takes to guide this team.
Newcastle will win a few games, but it won’t be enough to ever see them in contention.
2017 Gains: Mitchell Barnett (Mid Season: Canberra Raiders, 2017), Jamie Buhrer (Manly Sea Eagles, 2018), Brendan Elliot (Mid Season: Sydney Roosters, 2017), Jacob Gagan (Cronulla Sharks, 2017), Rory Kostjasyn (North Queensland Cowboys, 2018), Peter Mata’utia (Mid Season: St George Illawarra Dragons, 2017), Ken Sio (Hull Kingston Rovers, 2018), Josh Starling (Manly Sea Eagles, 2017), Anthony Tupou (Wakefield Trinity, 2017), Joe Wardle (Huddersfield Giants, 2019)
2017 Losses: Jake Mamo (Huddersfield Giants), James McManus (retired), Robbie Rochow (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Korbin Sims (Brisbane Broncos), Tariq Sims (St George Illawarra Dragons), Jeremy Smith (retired), Kade Snowden (retired), Akuila Uate (Manly Sea Eagles)
15: Saint George Illawarra Dragons
Oh when the Saints go marching down the table. It feels like they’re already looking at 2018 – with massive signing Ben Hunt coming down the country.
They’re more looking like a bunch of misfit park footballers, than a side who is dedicated to putting their bodies on the line week in, week out.
Perhaps this reflects on their shambles of a head office, but with Tyson Frizell, Jack De Belin, Josh Dugan and Gareth Widdop the only players who I would really consider in their prime – it might be a long and hard season for this famous club.
2017 Gains: Levi Dodd (2017), Jacob Hind (2017), Josh Kerr (Melbourne Storm, 2018), Chris Lewis (2017), Nene Macdonald (Gold Coast Titans, 2019), Cameron McInnes (South Sydney Rabbitohs, 2018), Tariq Sims (Mid Season: Newcastle Knights, 2019), Paul Vaughan (Canberra Raiders, 2019)
2017 Losses: Tom Carr (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Mike Cooper (Warrington Wolves), Ben Creagh (retired), Dylan Farrell (retired), Sebastine Ikahihifo (Huddersfield Giants), Dunamis Lui (Canberra Raiders), Benji Marshall (Brisbane Broncos), Peter Mata’utia (Newcastle Knights), Adam Quinlan (Hull Kingston Rovers), Mitch Rein (Penrith Panthers)
14: Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs
Probably hard to understand for most, but I think the Bulldogs are going to struggle this season.
With the uncertainty surrounding Des Hasler’s commitment to the club, and the lack of success over the last few years while making the eight I feel will take its toll.
The Bulldogs need a new direction, a new coach even, and some players need to be looked at to see if they’re there to win, or just there to play for themselves.
A strong season start will fizzle out before the Origin period even hits.
2017 Gains: Tom Carr (St George Illawarra Dragons, 2018), Josh Cleeland (Cronulla Sharks, 2018), Michael Doolan (2017), Raymond Faitala-Mariner (Mid Season: New Zealand Warriors, 2019), Asipeli Fine (Mid Season: Wests Tigers, 2018), Rod Griffin (Wests Tigers, 2017), Richard Kennar (Melbourne Storm, 2018), Brenko Lee (Canberra Raiders, 2018), Lachlan Lewis (Mid Season: Canberra Raiders, 2018), Rhyse Martin (2018), Andy Saunders (Penrith Panthers, 2017), Francis Tualau (Melbourne Storm, 2019), Zac Woolford (Canberra Raiders, 2018)
2017 Losses: Tim Browne (Penrith Panthers), Dane Chisholm (Bradford Bulls), Graham Clark (released), Shaun Lane (Manly Sea Eagles), Lamar Liolevave (released), Makahesi Makatoa (Canberra Raiders), Lyndon McGrady (released), Jarrod McInally (QLD Cup), Pat O’Hanlon (retired), Lloyd Perrett (Manly Sea Eagles), Sam Perrett (retired), Curtis Rona (rugby union), Tony Williams (Cronulla Sharks)
13: Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
You know when the fans are questioning the abilities of the signings for this team in 2017, then there’s something not quite right.
The Sea Eagles have recruited poorly, and with a ‘bad-boy’ roster, I feel like their performances on the field this season will let this club down.
Cherry-Evans needs a rocket up the ass, after an abysmal season in 2016. It’s clear to see he’s not playing up to his worth. I feel this has affected their ability to recruit. They’ll win a couple close games, but I think they won’t scare many people on the road.
2017 Gains: Cameron Cullen (Gold Coast Titans, 2018), Blake Green (Melbourne Storm, 2018), Jackson Hastings (Sydney Roosters, 2018), Brian Kelly (Gold Coast Titans, 2018), Jarrad Kennedy (Canberra Raiders, 2017), Shaun Lane (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, 2018), Joey Lussick (Sydney Roosters, 2017), Lloyd Perrett (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, 2019), Curtis Sironen (Wests Tigers, 2018), Akuila Uate (Newcastle Knights, 2018), Jonathan Wright (New Zealand Warriors, 2018), Matthew Wright (Mid Season: North Queensland Cowboys, 2019)
2017 Losses: Rhys Armstrong (released), Jamie Buhrer (Newcastle Knights), Luke Burgess (Catalan Dragons), Fabian Goodall (rugby union), Nathan Green (released), Nicholas Hynes (released), Isaac John (released), Dylan Kelly (released), Liam Knight (Sydney Roosters), Halauafu Lavaka (released), Blake Leary (released), Jamie Lyon (retired), Feleti Mateo (released), Tim Moltzen (retired), Matt Parcell (Leeds Rhinos), Hugh Pratt (released), Tony Satini (Penrith Panthers), Josh Starling (Newcastle Knights), Tom Symonds (Huddersfield Giants), Siosaia Vave (Parramatta Eels), Brayden Wiliame (Catalan Dragons)
12: Parramatta Eels
Is this club cursed? Or does it just feel like the whole organisation is an absolute mess? I am sure for a period of time, a day didn’t go by where the Eels didn’t feature in the headlines for one reason or another.
Parramatta need to get it right off the field first. I’d be making sure they keep their noses in line, and focus on the the ball game each and every week.
The Eels are quite hot and cold, and you can never really pick how they’re going to go. Plenty of potential among their ranks, and I think it might take them awhile to get it right.
Lets just hope Parramatta restore some pride to the jersey
2017 Gains: Kirisome Auva’a (South Sydney Rabbitohs, 2017), Nathan Brown (South Sydney Rabbitohs, 2018), Jamal Fogarty (2018), Josh Hoffman (Gold Coast Titans, 2019), George Jennings (Penrith Panthers, 2017), Suaia Matagi (Penrith Panthers, 2018), Marata Niukore (New Zealand Warriors, 2017), Frank Pritchard (Hull FC, 2017), Jeff Robson (Mid Season: New Zealand Warriors, 2017), Will Smith (Penrith Panthers, 2017), Siosaia Vave (Manly Sea Eagles, 2018)
2017 Losses: Mitch Cornish (Sydney Roosters), Kieran Foran (New Zealand Warriors), Tyrell Fuimaono (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Michael Gordon (Sydney Roosters), Luke Kelly (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Ryan Morgan (St Helens RLFC), Kieren Moss (Hull Kingston Rovers), Junior Paulo (Canberra Raiders), Nathan Peats (Gold Coast Titans), Vai Toutai (released), Anthony Watmough (retired), Danny Wicks (retired)
Follow Stephen Gallagher on Twitter