Even though Hayne’s departure is a big win for the club, it’s hard to see this inexperienced Titans side making much noise. Bringing in Cartwright, Arrow, Gordon and Latu is beneficial, but the weakness of their edges will still leave them exposed throughout the season.
New coach Garth Brennan will learn a lot about his side this season and will likely make progress next season. For now, last year’s second worst defensive team has much work to do to get out of the bottom of the pile.
Another year, another disappointment is expected from the Warriors. The forward stocks are looking thin this season which is an area the Warriors are usually strong in. With Shaun Johnson having off-season eye surgery and learning to form a new partnership with Blake Green, there is a strong sense the Warriors main focus will be avoiding the spoon.
Some are tipping the Tigers to get the spoon but when you look closely you can see why there’s a good chance they won’t. There’s too many names in this line-up to allow them to fall below the Warriors and Titans. Packer, Matulino, Reynolds, Brooks, Naigama and Nofoaluma are just some of the stars still here after Tedesco’s and Moses’ departures. Ivan Cleary is no scrub and with him at the helm, the Tigers won’t be getting the spoon.
I almost put the Knights above the Sea Eagles but I’m not convinced by the team’s spine. Pearce is an experienced head, but Ponga has yet to prove himself on the big stage. A clever recruitment drive and the expected improvement from Newcastle’s young squad will finally, get them off the foot of the ladder.
The Loss of Blake Green will hit Manly harder than they know this season. Cherry-Evans will have a lot of responsibility on his shoulders to lead his team around the park. The Trbojevic’s are guns, but Manly’s shallow talent pool will come back to bite them, especially if the opposition targets DCE and makes them one-dimensional.
The Bulldogs significantly underachieved last year. With all the talent on their roster, more is expected in this season. The change of coach to Dean Pay will breathe new life into the proud club. The issues I have with this team is that their reputation outshines their talent. Last year we saw a decline in the performances of the Morris brothers, Moses M’Bye, Will Hopoate and found that Canterbury doesn’t have a decent half to partner Foran. The loss of Kasiano from the bench will also hurt the Dogs. Too many question marks on highly paid stars for me to really bank on the Dogs making the 8.
Even a semi-fit Inglis playing at centre will be an improvement for the Rabbitohs’ backline. The Bunnies had a necessary change to their coach and made the face-palmingly obvious shift from Farah to Cook as a starting Hooker. The Rabbitohs will definitely improve from last year, the only issue is that most of the league has as well.
The Raiders have a good chance of making the top 8 this season. Unfortunately for the Green machine, the injury to Josh Hodgson for at least the first third of the season will hurt their chances of competing in September. The underwhelming performances of Sezer and Austin won’t help as well. This forward pack will always keep this team competitive and if the spine finds its form, the Raiders could finish as high as 5th come season’s end.
The Dragons have strong potential to impress this season. The addition of Hunt is vital to helping Widdop share the load of the attack especially given the Dragons weak backline. Even though the Dragons have lost the likes of Packer and Thompson, having Vaughn, Frizzell and De Belin in the side will keep their forwards moving down the field.
What we like and dislike. Well, we like James Maloney, and the fact they got rid of Moylan. We don’t like the loss of Mitch Rein and Coach Anthony Griffin. If the Panthers settle the drama that surrounds the club they could make a run as a dark horse. As long as Griffin is at the helm and Peter Wallace is your Hooker I find that highly unlikely.
The Sharks are a headscratcher. My gut is telling me that Townsend is a ‘Robin’ not a ‘Batman’ and he and Moylan in the halves will be exposed. Dugan at centre can be a defensive liability as well as the imminent off-field issues that are likely to take place given the type of players the Sharks now have. They’re a talented bunch, but missing a half that can take over a game. Clever coaching and gritty determination keeps the sharks in the hunt.
What really needs to be said? The Broncos have quality players across the park with Bird and Roberts their key strike weapons. They’ve got an all-time head coach in Bennett and although their forwards aren’t the best in the league, they are more than capable of leading a Top 8 side. Big strides are needed by the halves which could heavily influence the season.
Parramatta surprised many last year with their brand of physical yet potent football. The same should be seen from the Eels this season. The Addition of Moses reflected an added dimension to the attack and adding Hayne who won’t be as distracting as he was in the Gold Coast will further improve their options. Brad Arthur has proven he’s a great coach. If he can keep the personalities in check, they could be destined for great things.
The Cowboys are here solely due to Thurston’s potential for re-injury. He’s a thin, old player now, which doesn’t bode well for him making it through the season. Nonetheless, the Cowboys with Morgan, Taumalolo and Scott leading the way will be primed to go one better than last year. They should be better in August than they are at the start of the season.
If you tell me Craig Bellamy was deported to Malaysia and Cameron Smith was locked in a Western Australian mine, I’d consider putting the Storm lower than second. If both these chaps are still turning up for work every day, the Storm will be contenders barring injury. The Storm system lives to fight another year.
They finished second last year, then went on to add James Tedesco and Cooper Cronk. These guys have to finish first to justify their expert ‘bending’ of the salary cap and the embarrassment of riches they have at their disposal. Oh and did I mention they have the easiest schedule on the board, with nine of their games being against Top 8 teams from last year?