By Stephen Gallagher
If not now, when? Fans are sick to death of “It’s the Warriors year”. Fans are sick to death of slow starts. This is arguably the greatest Warriors squad they’ve ever formed. So the only options is on-field results.
The entire Kiwis spine playing a full season together in a World Cup year will pay dividends too.
These players have to show they are capable. They have to deliver on the field every week.
Their forward pack isn’t as scary as it has been, but there are plenty of hungry youngsters in there willing to roll up their sleeves and get dirty. Unlike years gone by.
2017 Losses: Raymond Faitala-Mariner (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Ben Henry (retired), Konrad Hurrell (Gold Coast Titans), Shaun Lane (Manly Sea Eagles), Ali Lauitiiti (retired), Thomas Leuluai (Wigan Warriors), Sione Lousi (released), Marata Niukore (Parramatta Eels), John Palavi (released), Jeff Robson (Parramatta Eels), Henare Wells (released), Jonathan Wright (Manly Sea Eagles)
5: Brisbane Broncos.
Another finals appearance for the strong Broncos.
Their forwards are just animals. Really. They put absolutely everything in to contact. They’re a hard team to get in the trenches with.
Expect more from Anthony Milford this year, as he zoned in and out last season.
Bennett will be working hard to make sure his team are primed and ready to go round one. They’ve got another strong side, with a good draw on their side too.
There’s experience in all the right places, and players who can do some exceptionally freakish things on the footy field. A very balanced Brisbane side.
2017 Gains: Mitchell Dodds (Warrington Wolves, 2017), Benji Marshall (St George Illawarra Dragons, 2017), David Mead (Gold Coast Titans, 2017), Tautau Moga (North Queensland Cowboys, 2018), Moses Pangai (2018), Tevita Pangai (Mid Season: Canberra Raiders, 2018), Korbin Sims (Newcastle Knights, 2018)
2017 Losses: Carlin Anderson (TSV Blackhawks), Greg Eden (Castleford Tigers), Brett Greinke (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Lachlan Maranta (rugby union), Darren Nicholls (Penrith Panthers), Corey Parker (retired), Jack Reed (retired), Jarrod Wallace (Gold Coast Titans)
4: South Sydney Rabbitohs
The Rabbitohs are back this season, and with a vengeance. They looked dangerous at the end of last season, with a forgettable first half ruining what could have seem them make the finals and stun some opponents.
There’s so much attacking prowess in this side, it’s actually hard to fit them all in. Walker, Hunt, Inglis, Reynolds, Farah, Johnston, Kelly. It’s going to be hard to shut their backs down. Even in their own half, you know they’ve got something up their sleeves.
The forward pack will be solid, but it relies on just a couple of guys. If they can be a unit, they will be steam-rolling the defence.
The Bunnies will bite this year.
2017 Gains: Braidon Burns (Penrith Panthers, 2018), Anthony Cherrington (2017), Robbie Farah (Wests Tigers, 2018), Tyrell Fuimaono (Parramatta Eels, 2018), Campbell Graham (2019), Brett Greinke (Mid Season: Brisbane Broncos, 2017), Mawene Hiroti (2019), Robert Jennings (Penrith Panthers, 2018), Luke Kelly (Parramatta Eels, 2017), Robbie Rochow (Newcastle Knights, 2017), Connor Tracey (Cronulla Sharks, 2018)
2017 Losses: Kirisome Auva’a (Parramatta Eels), Nathan Brown (Parramatta Eels), Joe Burgess (Wigan Warriors), Paul Carter (Sydney Roosters), Brock Gray (Sydney Roosters), Chris Grevsmuhl (Penrith Panthers), Tom Hughes, Luke Keary (Sydney Roosters), Samisoni Langi (Penrith Panthers), Cameron McInnes (St George Illawarra Dragons), Michael Oldfield (Penrith Panthers)
3: Penrith Panthers
The thing about the Panthers is they have this never-say-die attitude which will take them far this year.
We learnt a lot about the young kids who guided them to the finals last season, and will that under their belts – they have to focus on what they can bring, and what they can do differently to get them over the line again in 2017.
A strong forward pack which carries that fierce Panthers nature will only do good things on their way to successful season.
A backline which is almost too stacked is also a wonderful thing. There’s going to be players fighting to do their best every week to retain their spot. Not one player (other than captain Matt Moylan) is safe.
You will see this attitude hard at work in 2017. They won’t want to let each other down, and they know among themselves they have the skills and experience to get it done.
There’s great things brewing at the foot of the Blue Mountains.
2: Canberra Raiders
Expect more of the same from the Raiders which saw their season sky rocket in 2017.
There’s no doubts Ricky Stuart is a great coach, and he’s doing brilliant things in the ACT.
There will be hard running rugby league, there will be unstoppable second phase play, there will be tries from 100 metres, there will be a green machine that won’t lie down.
The competitive nature being bred in Canberra is showing that they are going to be brutal this season.
No player wants to cop a Stuart spray, or worse – one from their leadership group.
Things are very green in Canberra. They will have learnt a lot from their campaign last year, and will only build on it this year.
1: Gold Coast Titans
The Titans have it all laid out in front of them. I do think they will finish Minor Premiers in 2017.
Their strongest ever squad is ready to go further than any other Titans team has done before. They think they can win this thing, and they have the plans and players to do it.
There’s no mucking around. Hayne, Elgey, Taylor, Hurrell, Proctor, Peats. All these players have big shoulders needed to carry this side throughout the season.
And it’s not just those names. They’re strong 1-17 on paper, and that just needs to carry on to the field.
They are genuine contenders, and I don’t think anyone will take that away from them. There’s plenty of work ahead, but this is a side that will punish you on attack and defence. They will be feared.
2017 Gains: Joe Greenwood (St Helens RLFC, 2019), Konrad Hurrell (Mid Season: New Zealand Warriors, 2017), Nathan Peats (Mid Season: Parramatta Eels, 2017), Kevin Proctor (Melbourne Storm, 2020), Dan Sarginson (Wigan Warriors, 2018), Daniel Vidot (Salford Red Devils, 2018), Jarrod Wallace (Brisbane Broncos, 2019)
2017 Losses: Greg Bird (Catalan Dragons / Hell), Lachlan Burr (Leigh Centurions), Jed Cartwright (Penrith Panthers), Cameron Cullen (Manly Sea Eagles), Luke Douglas (St Helens RLFC), Nathan Friend (retired), David Hala (released), Josh Hoffman (Parramatta Eels), Brian Kelly (Manly Sea Eagles), Nene Macdonald (St George Illawarra Dragons), David Mead (Brisbane Broncos), Daniel Mortimer (Cronulla Sharks), David Shillington (retired), Matt Srama (retired), Zeb Taia (St Helens RLFC), Shane Wright (North Queensland Cowboys)
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Also, positions 7-11