I didn’t think I was ready for the NRL to start, but I was wrong.
Last year’s NRL Preview was a tome. I’m talking 432,000 words and 4200 pictures (only slightly exaggerating) but it near killed me to write it across a week so I’m breaking this one down into 4 parts.
Part 1 covered teams I’ve predicted to finish in positions 13 to 16. The ‘Wishing there was a Draft but happy there’s no Relegation Teams’.
This week, Part 2 covers teams 9 to 12. The ‘Missed by that Much Teams’, a homage to Maxwell Smart. Google it if your under 35.
Part 3 will be teams 5 to 8. The ‘There and Thereabouts Teams’. Could get hot and make the GF like the Bulldogs last season but unlikely to win the whole thing.
Part 4 will be teams 1 to 4. The Contenders.
MISSED BY THAT MUCH TEAMS
Anything will be better than last season
Odds – 26.00 – 11th
Predicted Finish – 12th
If this Team was a Movie that Movie would be – Reign of Fire – It had to be a post-apocalyptic movie after the season the Knights had. They lost their owner, their coach and there was a career ending injury to a popular young player. This will be a treading water season for them too. Their backs are looking better with a whole raft of young players starting to trickle through the system, although Darius Boyd is a big loss for them. I still see a real weakness in their forward pack, especially in the engine room. Badly need some consistent go forward.
Big Question – Where will their go forward come from? Just can’t see them making enough ground in the middle third with Kade Snowden, Korbin Sims and Jack Stockwell as their props. They have a surplus of edge runners. Thought they would have eked another year out of Willie Mason.
Top Gun – Jarrod Mullen – This was a close call between Mullen, Gidley and Roberts. Given Kurt Gidley’s recent injury history and ability to play fullback (in the absence of Boyd), I’m pretty sure Mullen and Roberts will be the halves again. Mullen, while not cashing in on all of his promise has improved steadily over the years. He is an incisive runner and playmaker on his day. The major issue he has had is consistency. I suspect playing behind a patchwork pack hasn’t helped things for him either.
Young Gun – Jake Mamo – When he put the afterburners on to flash past Josh Dugan during the 9s I thought this might be his breakthrough year. The major issue of course is being stuck behind Uate and McManus, both representative level wingers but injury may take care of things for him. He is certainly next cab off the rank. Alex Johnston was in a similar position last year and look how that turned out.
X-Factor – Akuila Uate – I think it is about time Aku had another stellar season. His try statistics have been steadily declining (2010 – 21, 2011 – 20, 2012 – 18, 2013 – 15 and 2014 – 12), although last year he only played 15 games so that is a pretty handy strike rate. Last year was a bad season for most of the team but I think he will bounce back. After all, he is only 27.
The Big Leap – Tariq Sims – Touted by many as a future representative player, injuries have cruelled him on a number of occasions but he has been injury free for a while now. After catastrophic injuries it usually takes a season or two to regain confidence and strength. I think he will certainly figure in representative discussions this year.
Coach – Rick Stone
Gains – Jack Cogger (2016), Brock Lamb (2017), Sam Mataora (Mid Season: Canberra Raiders, 2017), Tariq Sims (North Queensland Cowboys, 2016), Jack Stockwell (St George Illawarra Dragons, 2017), James Taylor (Mid Season: New Zealand Warriors, 2016) and Carlos Tuimavave (New Zealand Warriors, 2016).
Losses – Darius Boyd (Brisbane Broncos), Adam Cuthbertson (Leeds Rhinos), Michael Dobson (Salford Red Devils), Matt Hilder (retired), Josh Mantellato (Hull Kingston Rovers), Willie Mason (Manly Sea Eagles), Matt Minto (QLD Cup), Chance Peni (Wests Tigers), Timana Tahu (retired), Travis Waddell (Brisbane Broncos) and Brayden Wiliame (Manly Sea Eagles).
Starting Team – 1. Kurt Gidley (c), 2. Akuila Uate, 3. Sione Mata’utia, 4. Dane Gagai, 5. James McManus, 6. Jarrod Mullen, 7. Tyrone Roberts, 8. Kade Snowden, 9. Adam Clydsdale, 10. Korbin Sims, 11. Tariq Sims, 12. Beau Scott, 13. Jeremy Smith.
Interchange – 14. Chris Houston, 15. Jack Stockwell, 16. Robbie Rochow, 17. Joseph Leilua.
Squad – Tuiala Togiatasie, James Elias, David Fa’alogo, Jaelen Feeney, Marvin Filipo, Lachlan Fitzgibbon, Jake Mamo, Chanel Mata’utia, Pat Mata’uatia, Sam Mataora, Clint Newton, Jah Pakau, Tyler Randell, Chad Redman, Nathan Ross, Michael Steele, Joseph Tapine, James Taylor, Carlos Tuimavave and Paterika Vaivai.
Injury List – None.
Two steps forward and one step back
Odds – 25.50 – 10th
Predicted Finish – 11th
If this Team was a Movie that Movie would be – The Day After Tomorrow – Unless the Eels leverage off some serious Ewing Theory potential, I just can’t see them doing better than last year. This team has some very serviceable players but Jarryd Hayne was the heart and soul of this team and now he is gone.
Big Question – I think I just asked the big question. How are the Eels going to replace Jarryd Hayne? I was reading in Rugby League Week that Brian Smith was rating the Eels recruiting strategy as a big step in the right direction. Personally, I can’t see it. I think their recruiting for the 2014 season was a million times better. Last year they snaffled Will Hopoate, Corey Norman and Nathan Peats. This year they got Anthony Watmough. Don’t get me wrong, he is a great player but they effectively traded a 27 year old back in the Inglis class for a 31 year old forward with a big motor. It isn’t a straight swap. I get the feeling that Watmough is perpetually playing hurt these days too.
Top Gun – Chris Sandow – The keys to the family car are his now. Norman, Hopoate and Peats have a key role to play but Sandow is the man the Eels are relying on to be a game winner. He will feel the loss of Jarryd Hayne the most because Hayne’s playmaking ability from fullback took some of the pressure off him. He certainly has returned with the right attitude. Time will tell whether he can carry the Eels on his back.
Young Gun – Tepai Moeroa – This man mountain will continue his upward trend this year after a bright start in 2014. Up next, eligibility dispute between Australia (likely winner on the back of Origin), New Zealand (brave second unless they pick him for the ANZAC test) and Cook Islands (distant third unless we were in a World Cup year). For the record, Moeroa was born in the Cook Islands moved to NZ with his family at a young age and then on to Australia where he has played most of his football (Rugby League and Rugby Union).
X-Factor – Nathan Peats – I tossed up whether to give this to Corey Norman because he had a great season last year but Peats is the X-Factor for the Eels. Their end of season fade was more related to Nathan Peats’ injury than for any other reason. He is a classy playmaker and must surely come into representative calculations as Robbie Farah and Michael Ennis wind down their careers.
The Big Leap – Will Hopoate – Hopoate was a superstar when he left the game to complete his Mormon mission but the time away from the game was certainly detrimental for his development. He will be much better this season. He will be stronger, faster and more involved from Fullback. People will remember why the Eels paid so much money for him.
Coach – Brad Arthur
Gains – Beau Champion (South Sydney Rabbitohs, 2015), Ben Crooks (Hull FC, 2016), Isaac De Gois (Mid Season: Cronulla Sharks, 2016), Richie Fa’aoso (2015), Cody Nelson (Gold Coast Titans, 2016), Adam Quinlan (St George Illawarra Dragons, 2015), Reece Robinson (Canberra Raiders, 2015), Brad Takairangi (Gold Coast Titans, 2015), Anthony Watmough (Manly Sea Eagles, 2018) and Danny Wicks (2015).
Losses – Mitchell Allgood (Hull Kingston Rovers), Evander Cummins (QLD Cup), Liam Foran (London Broncos), Daniel Harrison (London Broncos), Jarryd Hayne (NFL), Justin Hunt (St George Illawarra Dragons), Jacob Loko (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Lorenzo Ma’afu (QLD Cup), Fuifui Moimoi (Leigh Centurions), Lee Mossop (Wigan Warriors), Api Pewhairangi (New Zealand Warriors), Brenden Santi (Wests Tigers), Ken Sio (Hull Kingston Rovers), Ben Smith (retired), Kelepi Tanginoa (North Queensland Cowboys) and Willie Tonga (Catalan Dragons).
Starting Team – 1. Will Hopoate, 2. Semi Radradra, 3. Brad Takairangi, 4. Beau Champion, 5. Reece Robinson, 6. Corey Norman, 7. Chris Sandow, 8. Tim Mannah (c), 9. Nathan Peats, 10. Junior Paulo, 11. Manu Ma’u, 12. Anthony Watmough, 13. Joseph Paulo.
Interchange – 14. Isaac De Gois, 15. Pauli Pauli, 16. Darcy Lussick, 17. Tepai Moeroa.
Squad – Daniel Alvaro, Ben Crooks, Zach Dockar-Clay, Richie Fa’aoso, Bureta Faraimo, John Folau, Fabian Goodall, David Gower, Tui Kamikamica, Luke Kelly, Halauafu Lavaka, Ryan Matterson, Ryan Morgan, Cody Nelson, Eric Newbigging, Adam Quinlan, Peni Terepo, Vai Toutai, Joseph Ualesi and Danny Wicks.
Injury List – Kaysa Pritchard (Pectoral – Indefinite) and Kenny Edwards (ACL – Indefinite)
It is the recession that we had to have
Odds – 12.00 – 7th
Predicted Finish – 10th
If this Team was a Movie that Movie would be – The Bucket List – I don’t think this is going to end well. The Big Three have kept the Storm as title contenders for 11 consecutive seasons. Durability has been a hallmark of their time together but cracks are starting to show. All north of 30 now, this team has a Chappell, Lillee and Marsh circa 1984 vibe.
Big Question – Can the Storm roll back the clock San Antonio Spurs style? Much will depend on their supporting cast and the ability of the Big Three to stay on the field. They are going to miss Ryan Hoffman but the growth of Bromwich, Proctor and Harris should offset that loss (all Kiwis all the time). Craig Bellamy excels in getting the best out of players, especially players who aren’t reaching their potential at other clubs. Dale Finucane is a good buy as is Tom Learoyd-Lahrs. Did you know he was in the 2003 Australian Schoolboys side with Benji Marshall and Karmichael Hunt? I saw all 3 playing in a QLD vs NSW Schoolboys game in Cairns. Marshall and Hunt were unbelievably good that night. Incidentally that Australian Schoolboys side included Feleti Mateo, Ben Roberts and Sam Perrett as well.
Top Gun – This could be a three way tie but I’m giving this to Cooper Cronk. How well did QLD do without him in the State of Origin? Cooper Cronk is still a world class player. He reminds me of Matty Hayden, forced for a long time to be patient behind other players for representative honours. If he can stay on the field, I can see the Storm eking out enough results to scrape into the 8 but I think ultimately they will fall short.
Young Gun – Ben Hampton – Hampton showed a lot of promise in his first year of top grade and will have plenty of competition to play beside Cooper Cronk. If he can make the spot his own, look for him to have a big season.
X-Factor – Super Billy Slater – Still a game changer after all these years. Every team knows what’s coming but they still can’t stop him.
The Big Leap – Jordan McLean – Obviously the tackle on Alex McKinnon had a huge impact on his season last year. Apart from the long suspension it had to have affected his confidence. I think he is a special player and will cash in on some of that potential this year.
Coach – Craig Bellamy
Gains – Billy Brittain (2015), Dale Finucane (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, 2017), Blake Green (Wigan Warriors, 2016), Marika Koroibete (Mid Season: Wests Tigers, 2016), Tom Learoyd-Lahrs (Canberra Raiders, 2015) and Shaun Nona (2015).
Losses – Mitch Garbutt (Brisbane Broncos), Ryan Hoffman (New Zealand Warriors), Rhys Kennedy (Canberra Raiders), Matthew Lodge (Wests Tigers), Junior Moors (Castleford Tigers), Bryan Norrie (retired), Justin O’Neill (North Queensland Cowboys), Ben Roberts (Castleford Tigers), Joel Romelo (QLD Cup), George Rose (St George Illawarra Dragons), Cody Walker (South Sydney Rabbitohs) and Sisa Waqa (Canberra Raiders).
Starting Team – 1. Billy Slater, 2. Marika Koroibete, 3. Will Chambers, 4. Mahe Fonua, 5. Justin O’Neill, 6. Ben Hampton, 7. Cooper Cronk, 8. Jesse Bromwich, 9. Ryan Hinchcliffe, 10. Tom Learoyd-Lahrs, 11. Kevin Proctor, 12. Tohu Harris, 13. Jordan McLean.
Interchange – 14. Tim Glasby, 15. Dale Finucane, 16. Dayne Weston, 17. Kenny Bromwich.
Squad – Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Dean Britt, Billy Brittain, Matt Duffie, Blake Green, Slade Griffin, Hymel Hunt, Felise Kaufisi, Richard Kennar, Kurt Mann, Cameron Munster, Shaun Nona, Travis Robinson, Young Tonumaipea, Suliasi Vunivalu, Christian Welch and Dayne Weston.
Injury List – Cameron Smith (Ankle surgery – Round 4)
Couldn’t find a place for them in the 8
Odds – 10.50 – 5th
Predicted Finish – 9th
If this Team was a Movie that Movie would be – Interstellar – This only seems like a post-apocalyptic story. It is really about the love of a Father for his children. Penrith are generally trending upwards under Gus and this season will be a blip. Like Wests they are stocked with young talent and it will continue to find a place in first grade in the next few years. The reasons I couldn’t find a place for them in the 8 are manifold. They overachieved last year. They finished in 4th place but their for and against ranked 7th. They had a lot of injuries last year but continued to play well because of depth. Unfortunately, they lost a stack of experience in the off season. The real reason I can’t find them a place in the 8 though is many of the teams I placed above them improved significantly in the off season or did enough to stay better than Penrith.
Big Question – Who will be the next star from their nursery? Bryce Cartwright, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and Matt Moylan have graded now. Losing Kierran Moseley was a big blow but I can understand why he moved on given Segeyaro (24) and Koroisau (22) are ahead of him the pecking order with long careers ahead of them.
Top Gun – Jamie Soward – A bit of a comeback season for him last year although I didn’t think he was playing that badly at St George before he left for England anyways. I think he was getting blamed for how badly they were playing but the blame should have been shared a bit more evenly. At any rate he is the key player for the Panthers with Wallace a close second.
Young Gun – Bryce Cartwright – Has been slowly integrated into the first grade team but will be a big part of what they do this year. Always a question of translating potential into performance but he should start making a mark this year.
X-Factor – Matt Moylan – He was electric for the NRL Allstars a few weeks ago and last season he played exceptionally well when not injured. Along with James Tedesco, he is one of the best young fullbacks in the game. He is a smokey for the NSW fullback position and Penrith will rely on him for spark in attack.
The Big Leap – Tyrone Peachey – Get your Tyrone Peachey stock while you still can. He is fast, elusive, strong and can ball play. Further rep jerseys are just a matter of time.
Coach – Ivan Cleary
Gains – Rodney Coates (2015), Adrian Davis (2015), Apisai Koroisau (South Sydney Rabbitohs, 2016), Ben Murdoch-Masila (Mid Season: Wests Tigers, 2015) and Tupou Sopoaga (Cronulla Sharks, 2016).
Losses – Luke Capewell (QLD Cup), Anthony Cherrington (QLD Cup), Ethan Cook (Central Newcastle), Tim Grant (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Tom Humble (QLD Cup), Kevin Kingston (retired), Kierran Moseley (Gold Coast Titans), Eto Nabuli (St George Illawarra Dragons), Kevin Naiqama (Wests Tigers), Wes Naiqama (London Broncos), James Roberts (Gold Coast Titans), Matt Robinson (Gold Coast Titans), Ryan Simpkins (Gold Coast Titans) and Vaipuna Tia Kilifi (QLD Cup).
Starting Team – 1. Matt Moylan, 2. David Simmons, 3. Dean Whare, 4. Isaah Yeo, 5. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, 6. Jamie Soward, 7. Peter Wallace (c), 8. Brent Kite, 9. James Segeyaro, 10. Sam McKendry, 11. Bryce Cartwright, 12. Tyrone Peachey, 13. Elijah Taylor.
Interchange – 14. Adam Docker, 15. Jeremy Latimore, 16. Nigel Plum, 17. Lewis Brown.
Squad – Sika Manu, Isaac John, Apisai Koroisau and Tupou Sopoaga.
Injury List – Jamal Idris (Spinal surgery – Round 2) and Josh Mansour (Shoulder – Round 3)
What was sweeter than Jelly Bread?
- Cricket World Cup has been awesome.
- Ireland have sprung the first upset.
- NZ and Australia looking very strong.
- Associate nations are showing they want to be a part of World Cups moving forward.
- I’m liking the new promotion/relegation system in Superleague. Even checking the Championship scores to see how things are going for the London Broncos.
- England were poleaxed by NZ. That barrage from McCullum was relentless. Ditto Southee.
- I’m not loving the free to air coverage of the Cricket World Cup either. That is the non-existent free to air coverage.
- West Indies – The decline of the once proud Cricket power continues.
- Karmichael Hunt, Jamie Dowling and Beau Falloon, innocent until proven guilty but not a good look at all.
EPL Tips Match Day 26
Aston Villa vs Stoke – Draw 1-1 (Desperate times for Villa but Stoke will also be looking to bounce back from that thrashing at the hands of City. I think the draw a likely outcome along with another Peter Crouch headed goal)
Chelsea vs Burnley – Chelsea 3-0 (Burnley have had their moments this season but this weekend won’t be one of them)
Crystal Palace vs Arsenal – Arsenal 2-1 (Palace greatly improved under Pardew but Arsenal are on the cusp of the Top 4 and will be looking to take all 3 points this week to keep pace)
Hull vs QPR – Hull 2-1 (Hull are standing by Steve Bruce at this stage and I think the match against QPR will give him some breathing space this weekend. This will be a scrap but QPR will again be missing Austin and that spells bad news as far as goals are concerned)
Sunderland vs WBA – Draw 1-1 (Sunderland aren’t having a good week with losses to QPR and Bradford but should at least salvage a draw at home this weekend. Every point counts at this end of the season)
Swansea vs Man U – Man U 3-1 (Pressure is relentless at Man U but I expect they will continue Swansea’s recent downward trend)
Man City vs Newcastle – Man City 3-1 (City should take the points this week but can’t see them closing an 8 point gap on Chelsea before the end of the season. It isn’t over yet but it almost is)
Tottenham vs West Ham – Tottenham 2-0 (Harry Kane is carrying Spurs on his shoulders at the moment and I think he will be the difference again this week)
Everton vs Leicester – Everton 2-0 (Leicester are quickly falling out the back door and Everton are finally heading in the other direction)
Southampton vs Liverpool – Draw 2-2 (This will be a game worth watching and I think it will be dreadfully close. Liverpool haven’t lost in the League since 14 December 2014 and Southampton have only lost twice in the same period of time)
I’ve adopted the scoring system utilised by Mark Lawrenson on the BBC (a correct result (picking a win, draw or defeat) is worth ONE point and picking an exact score THREE points) and even though he wouldn’t know me from Adam we are going head to head all season long. It’s on like Donkey Kong (unless I get a letter from his lawyer or Donkey Kong’s lawyer and then I’m tipping against myself again).
Last week – Me – 6 (6 from 10 with no perfect scores) and Lawro – (7 from 10 with no perfect scores)
Season so far – Me – 179 and Lawro – 164 (Lawro chipping away at my lead)
Fantasy Premier League
Transfer of the week
Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal) for Jonathan Walters (Stoke) – Injury
Danny Ings (Burnley) for Sergio Aguero – Ditto
My team this week
Forster (Southampton), Clyne (Southampton), Ivanovic (Chelsea), Terry (Chelsea), Sanchez (Arsenal), Eriksen (Spurs), Downing (West Ham), Hazard (Chelsea), Cazorla (Arsenal), Kane (Spurs) and Ings (Burnley) with Hamer (Leicester), Austin (QPR), Wasilewski (Leicester) and Wisdom (WBA) on the bench.
97,619 from 3,456,056
Stay tuned for the next exciting episode on Tuesday, 24 February 2015 titled ‘2015 NRL Season Preview Part 3’