2015 NRL Season Review

Last time I am going to talk about the 2015 NRL season. I promise.

The Raiders - Photo by reepy_au - CC-BY-SA-2.0

The Raiders – Photo by reepy_auCC-BY-SA-2.0

It is the day of reckoning where I open that time capsule I’ve buried in the ground called my 2015 NRL Preview (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4) and marvel at how far off I was on some things and Nostradamus-like on others.

The Ladder

What I thought would happen

  1. South Sydney Rabbitohs
  2. Brisbane Broncos
  3. Sydney Roosters
  4. North Queensland Cowboys
  5. Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
  6. Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
  7. New Zealand Warriors
  8. Wests Tigers
  9. Penrith Panthers
  10. Melbourne Storm
  11. Parramatta Eels
  12. Newcastle Knights
  13. Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks
  14. Gold Coast Titans
  15. St George Illawarra Dragons
  16. Canberra Raiders

What actually happened

  1. Sydney Roosters
  2. Brisbane Broncos
  3. North Queensland Cowboys
  4. Melbourne Storm
  5. Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
  6. Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks
  7. South Sydney Rabbitohs
  8. St George Illawarra Dragons
  9. Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
  10. Canberra Raiders
  11. Penrith Panthers
  12. Parramatta Eels
  13. New Zealand Warriors
  14. Gold Coast Titans
  15. Wests Tigers
  16. Newcastle Knights

Comment

Underestimated the Storm, Sharks, Dragons and Raiders. Overrated the Rabbitohs, Sea Eagles, Warriors, Tigers and Knights. Nailed the rest. 

Finals 

What I thought would happen

Qualifying Finals

Rabbitohs vs Cowboys – Cowboys

Broncos vs Roosters – Broncos

Sea Eagles vs Tigers – Sea Eagles

Bulldogs vs Warriors – Warriors

Semi-finals

Rabbitohs vs Sea Eagles – Rabbitohs

Roosters vs Warriors – Warriors

Preliminary Finals

Cowboys vs Warriors – Cowboys

Broncos vs Rabbitohs – Rabbitohs

GF

Rabbitohs vs Cowboys – Cowboys

What actually happened

Qualifying Finals

Storm vs Roosters – Storm

Broncos vs Cowboys – Broncos

Bulldogs vs Dragons – Bulldogs

Sharks vs Rabbitohs – Sharks

Semi-finals

Roosters vs Bulldogs – Roosters

Cowboys vs Sharks – Cowboys

Preliminary Finals

Broncos vs Roosters – Broncos

Cowboys vs Storm – Cowboys

GF

Broncos vs Cowboys – Cowboys

Comment

Go the Cows. Cracker game. Cracker season. At least I got one thing right.

Top Gun

What I thought would happen

South Sydney Rabbitohs – Greg Inglis

Brisbane Broncos – Ben Hunt

Sydney Roosters – Mitchell Pearce

North Queensland Cowboys – JT

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles – DCE

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs – James Graham

New Zealand Warriors – Shaun Johnson

Wests Tigers – Luke Brooks

Penrith Panthers – Jamie Soward

Melbourne Storm – Cooper Cronk

Parramatta Eels – Chris Sandow

Newcastle Knights – Jarrod Mullen

Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks – Paul Gallen

Gold Coast Titans – Greg Bird

St George Illawarra Dragons – Gareth Widdop

Canberra Raiders – Josh Papalii

What actually happened

South Sydney Rabbitohs – Greg Inglis is South’s best player but I think George Burgess played better this season and the Dally M final points tally backs this up.

Brisbane Broncos – Ben Hunt had a wonderful season minus the last 5 minutes and Queensland must find a place on the field for him, Michael Morgan and Anthony Milford in the near future.

Sydney Roosters – Pearce started the season slowly and was injured during the back end so the award goes to Jared Waerea-Hargreaves who dominated up front in defence and attack. It was a close run thing with Roger Tuivasa-Scheck, James Maloney and Boyd Cordner all having solid seasons as well.

North Queensland Cowboys – This was pretty easy. JT was Top Gun of the World so he was definitely Top Gun of the Cows.

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles – I must have written this a thousand times but I’ve flipped the script on my opinion regarding DCE and Kieran Foran. I started the season thinking DCE was Batman and Kieran Foran was Robin but I now think it is the other way round. It will be interesting to see how each of them goes in 2016.

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs – This was very hard to pick. Brett Morris started the season on fire but was out for ages with a torn hamstring. James Graham was out suspended and didn’t seem to have the impact he had last year. Josh Reynolds, Moses Mbye and Trent Hodkinson all played well in patches but at other times not so well. Ditto Sam Kasiano. In the end I settled on Frankie Pritchard. Still showed he had plenty in the tank and was a constant danger on the edge of the rucks. He has been doing the same thing for a long time now and I’m sure he would be rated more highly if he played State of Origin.

New Zealand Warriors – Shaun Johnson definitely was the Warrior’s Top Gun and when he went down for the season, so did the Warriors.

Wests Tigers – Aaron Woods led from the front in 2015. It was lonely at times as the Tigers suffered through more growing pains and internal divisions (at least administratively) but he was one consistent part of their game.

Penrith Panthers – Matt Moylan. Despite being injured for half the season, he was still the Panther’s best player.

Melbourne Storm – Toss up between Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith but I’m going to give this to Cronk. Still playing outstanding football.

Parramatta Eels – Chris Sandow’s mid-season exit from the Eels put paid to him winning this award but Corey Norman was consistently the Eel’s best player.

Newcastle Knights – Jarrod Mullen spent the majority of the season on the sidelines. Kurt Gidley made his last season at the Knights a memorable one and was their best once again.

Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks – Gal was the bedrock upon much of their success in 2015 but Michael Ennis had a season to remember and was Cronulla’s best.

Gold Coast Titans – Greg Bird spent a lengthy period of time on the sidelines due to suspension and Aiden Sezer also spent a lengthy period of time on the sidelines through injury but I’m voting for him as Gold Coast’s best player.

St George Illawarra Dragons – 2015 was all Benji, all the time. Great return to form for him. Written off during his Rugby sojourn, many thought the tread on his tyres was too worn down but he proved the doubters wrong.

Canberra Raiders – Papa Bear did have a return to form of sorts but Blake Austin stole the show for the Raiders.

Young Gun 

What I thought would happen

South Sydney Rabbitohs – Alex Johnston

Brisbane Broncos – Kodi Nikorima

Sydney Roosters – Roger Tuivasa-Scheck

North Queensland Cowboys – Jason Taumalolo

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles – Peta Hiku

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs – Michael Lichaa

New Zealand Warriors – Solomone Kata

Wests Tigers – Mitchell Moses

Penrith Panthers – Bryce Cartwright

Melbourne Storm – Ben Hampton

Parramatta Eels – Tepai Moeroa

Newcastle Knights – Jake Mamo

Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks – Valentine Holmes

Gold Coast Titans – Kierran Moseley

St George Illawarra Dragons – Eto Nabuli

Canberra Raiders – Brenko Lee

What actually happened

South Sydney Rabbitohs – Alex Johnston had a relatively quiet year compared to his rookie season but Chris Grevsmuhl made the most of his move from the Cowboys.

Brisbane Broncos – I trumpeted the arrival of Kodi Nikorima in 2014, which proved premature but 2015 was the year. He was a great injection from the bench and earned a call up for the Kiwis end of season tour of England. Honourable mention to Joe Ofahengaue.

Sydney Roosters – I’m not sure what I was thinking when I nominated RTS for the Young Gun award. He is young but 2015 was his 4th season in first grade so ordinarily I wouldn’t describe him as a Young Gun (even though it is just an imaginary award). After revision, I’m going to give this to Jackson Hastings. Spent most of the season riding the bench and getting the odd cameo appearance, however, when Pearce went down at the back end of the season, showed why he is so highly rated.

North Queensland Cowboys – Ditto what I said about RTS. I’m looking at my choice of Jason Taumalolo with revisionist historical perspective, especially given he is technically in his 6th season of NRL. Taumalolo was awesome but I’m giving this to Ethan Lowe for finally nailing down a spot in first grade.

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles – Apparently I was in a daze when I did my NRL preview. Peta Hiku while being on the young side was in his third season of NRL (much like RTS and Jason Taumalolo). I’m giving this one to Jake Trbojevic. He is turning out to be quite the player, as is his brother Tom.

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs – Probably going to give this to Moses Mbye. Michael Lichaa was good but Mbye was better.

New Zealand Warriors – Solomone Kata managed to hang on to his centre spot but faded towards the back end of the season. Tui Lolohea probably showed more in terms of his whole body of work.

Wests Tigers – Bit of a toss up between Luke Brooks and Mitchell Moses, however, given both were already in their 2nd full season (and I was obviously thinking about something else when writing my season preview) I’m going to give this to Manaia Cherrington who definitely showed he has a future in first grade.

Penrith Panthers – First full season for Bryce Cartwright and started to cash in on his prodigious talent. I really don’t think I can say the word talent without putting prodigious in front of it.

Melbourne Storm – Ben Hampton was supplanted by Blake Green in the halves and didn’t really feature for the Storm this year. When Billy Slater went down for the season, Cameron Munster used the opportunity to show why he is so highly rated.

Parramatta Eels – Tepai Moeroa had a solid season for the Eels playing in 19 matches. He has significant upside and will be a force for some years if the Eels can hold on to him.

Newcastle Knights – Jake Mamo is a star of the future, however, Danny Levi caught my eye as the best young player in 2015. Honourable mention to Joseph Tapine. Honourable mention number 2 for the NZ commentators for showing us how to pronounce his name properly. If someone could let Ray Warren now I’d be much obliged.

Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks – Valentine Holmes continued to impress but Jack Bird came from the clouds to nail down a first grade spot for the whole season.

Gold Coast Titans – Moseley gained significant game time and his move to the Titans has been a success so far but Kane Elgey was the breakout star of 2015.

St George Illawarra Dragons – Eto did take a step up playing 12 games in first grade but had trouble nailing a permanent wing position down. Euan Aitken had no such trouble playing 22 times for the big red V proving himself a very servicable centre option.

Canberra Raiders – I thought this would be the break out year for Brenko Lee but it will have to be next year. He cracked first grade but only twice. In the absence of anyone younger I’m going to give this to Edrick Lee instead.

X-Factor 

What I thought would happen

South Sydney Rabbitohs – Isaac Luke

Brisbane Broncos – Anthony Milford

Sydney Roosters – Blake Ferguson

North Queensland Cowboys – Michael Morgan

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles – Brett Stewart

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs – Sam Kasiano

New Zealand Warriors – Sam Tomkins

Wests Tigers – James Tedesco

Penrith Panthers – Matt Moylan

Melbourne Storm – Billy Slater

Parramatta Eels – Nathan Peats

Newcastle Knights – Akuila Uate

Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks – Andrew Fifita

Gold Coast Titans – James Roberts

St George Illawarra Dragons – Josh Dugan

Canberra Raiders – Jack Wighton

What actually happened 

South Sydney Rabbitohs – Isaac Luke didn’t really have a season befitting of his high standards. Suspensions and injury probably didn’t help and neither did the inconsistent form of his team. In the end I gave this one to Greg Inglis. He provided the most X-Factor for the Bunnies.

Brisbane Broncos – Anthony Milford had a slow start to the season, which some attributed to the position shift but probably related more to forming combinations, but became lethal as the season wore on. Long range tries became a common sight.

Sydney Roosters – RTS should have won this in a canter and he was one of the Roosters best players and gained an otherworldly 6,517 metres, a whopping 2,399 metres ahead of the second place getter (Jesse Bromwich – 4,118 metres) but there is the rub. I think all those metres took the edge off his attack a little and consequently I thought Blake Ferguson shaded him narrowly.

North Queensland Cowboys – Michael Morgan was every bit the X-Factor the Cows needed providing the last pass to keep the Grand Final alive. He is big for a half which works in his favour but he is also fast for a half which equally works in his favour. He was awesome this year. Has to be in the QLD SOO team next year.

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles – Brett Stewart had a slow start to the season (much like the whole Sea Eagles squad) but came home with a wet sail to once again provide the strike power Manly needed.

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs – Going to give this to Frank Pritchard again with an honourable mention to David Klemmer. Klemmer was a revelation in 2015 and although he tailed off considerably towards the end of the season he was a weapon leading up to and during Origin.

New Zealand Warriors – Disappointing season for Sam Tomkins really. Injured during the first half of the season and played most of his football after the Warriors dropped off a cliff post-Shaun Johnson’s injury. He is a class player but didn’t really kick on in the NRL to the degree he could have. Accordingly, this award is going to Shaun Johnson almost by default.

Wests Tigers – James Tedesco hands down. He is a tackle breaking savant.

Penrith Panthers – Matt Moylan definitely has the X-Factor as well. Honourable mention to Tyrone Peachey.

Melbourne Storm – Billy Slater for the first half of the season and then Cameron Munster. Fitting really.

Parramatta Eels – Nathan Peats is a special player and will be a key cog for the Eels in 2016 but Semi Radradra was sensational.

Newcastle Knights – Aku had a good season but I thought Dane Gagai really put himself forward as a strike weapon for the Knights.

Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks – Andrew Fifita had a good season and produced the goods in attack and defence but Luke Lewis was the X-Factor that the Sharks came to rely upon (11 tries, 3 try assists, 9 line breaks and 4 line break assists), especially in combination with Micheal Ennis.

Gold Coast Titans – James Roberts provided pretty much all of Gold Coast’s X-Factor, in spades.

St George Illawarra Dragons – Josh Dugan had a great season but Benji really got it going (tries – 3, try assists – 22, line breaks – 6 and line break assists – 18)

Canberra Raiders – This would have to be Blake Austin again. He was unstoppable at times.

The Big Leap 

What I thought would happen

South Sydney Rabbitohs – George Burgess

Brisbane Broncos – James Gavet

Sydney Roosters – Dylan Napa

North Queensland Cowboys – Jake Granville

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles – Feleti Mateo

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs – Michael Lichaa

New Zealand Warriors – Konrad Hurrell

Wests Tigers – Aaron Woods

Penrith Panthers – Tyrone Peachey

Melbourne Storm – Jordan McLean

Parramatta Eels – Will Hopoate

Newcastle Knights – Tariq Sims

Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks – Wade Graham

Gold Coast Titans – Aidan Sezer

St George Illawarra Dragons – Mitch Rein

Canberra Raiders – Mitch Cornish

What actually happened

South Sydney Rabbitohs – Pretty much everyone treaded water or went backwards on the roster except the Burgess twins and Chris Grevsmuhl. George Burgess emerged as the forward leader for Souths and will benefit from the return of Sam immeasurably. I’m giving George the Big Leap award.

Brisbane Broncos – Was really disappointed that James Gavet was injured so early in the season. He is an old school forward who would have really helped the Broncos. The award goes to Jordan Kahu who put injury behind him to ably deputise for Darius Boyd at Fullback. He soon made himself indispensable. Just reward for a player who has fought back after repeated knee injuries. Honourable mention to Matt Parcell for showing enough to earn a contract with Manly.

Sydney Roosters – Dylan Napa did improve but Sio Siua Taukeiaho improved the most coming from reserve grade to play every game for the Roosters in 2015. His hard running style and solid defence resulted in a Kiwis callup for their end of season tour.

North Queensland Cowboys – Jake Granville took the biggest leap of them all. He went from fringe first grader to key cog in a premiership winning side. After banging around forever in the Intrust Super Cup he has finally shown his worth.

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles – I keep expecting players like Feleti Mateo and Dave Taylor to finally cash in on their prodigious talent (told you I can’t say talent by itself) each year but maybe what we are getting is all there really is. Jake Trbojevic showed the most improvement of all the Sea Eagles and gets the nod.

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs – Going to give this to Damien Cook. No one knew who he was at the start of the season but he earned a new contract with the Bunnies by the end of it. Late bloomer.

New Zealand Warriors – I’m tempted to say anyone who played the Warriors took the Big Leap in the absence of any Warrior really putting their hand up. Bodene Thompson is probably the best candidate, nailing down a first grade position after floating around the NRL for 7 seasons.

Wests Tigers – Martin Taupau went from strength to strength in terms of his impact. Unfortunately, another one that got away for the Tigers.

Penrith Panthers – This is a tough one to pick for the Panthers because no-one really took a massive step forward. Incremental improvement all round. In the absence of any more obvious candidates I’m giving this to Bryce Cartwright. Honourable mention to Reagan Campbell-Gillard.

Melbourne Storm – Cameron Munster again with an honourable mention to Blake Green for resurrecting his NRL career at the Storm.

Parramatta Eels – Will Hopate didn’t take the leap forward many expected him to take in 2015 but unfortunately for the Eels no-one took a significant step forward. In the absence of any stronger contenders, Tepai Moeroa gets the nod.

Newcastle Knights – Tariq Sims continued to improve, however, Dane Gagai took the biggest step forward in 2015.

Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks – Wade Graham continued to improve incrementally and must surely be considered for the NSW State of Origin side in 2016, however, Jack Bird shaded him narrowly for this award.

Gold Coast Titans – Sadly the DCE debacle, consequent move to the Raiders and injury overshadowed Aidan Sezer’s season but James Roberts took the Big Leap.

St George Illawarra Dragons – No real stand out candidates for this award at the Dragons and Mitch Rein wins on the basis of steady improvement.

Canberra Raiders – I remember seeing Mitch Cornish play in the Holden Cup (it was probably the Toyota Cup back then) and he looked a class above most of the players on the field. It just hasn’t translated consistently to first grade yet. This is getting monotonous but Blake Austin clearly took the biggest step forward. Honourable mention to Josh Hodgson for making the transition from Superleague to NRL seamlessly.

Final Word 

It’s been emotional. 

What is sweeter than Jelly Bread?

  •  Ben Simmons. More on him next week.

What isn’t?

  • And the news just keeps getting better and better for the Titans. Now they have lost Kane Elgey with a season ending knee injury. Elgey and James Roberts were probably the highlights of 2015 and now both won’t be sighted for the Titans in 2016.

EPL Tips Match Week 21

Aston Villa vs Crystal Palace – Draw 1-1

Bournemouth vs West Ham – Bournemouth 2-1

Newcastle vs Man U – Man U 2-0

Chelsea vs West Brom – Chelsea 3-0

Man City vs Everton – Man City 2-0

Southampton vs Watford – Southampton 2-0

Stoke vs Norwich – Stoke 2-1

Swansea vs Sunderland – Swansea 2-0

Liverpool vs Arsenal – Draw 2-2

Tottenham vs Leicester – Tottenham 2-0

BTW I’m going head to head with Lawro (Mark Lawrenson of the BBC) again this year. He has gone and changed his scoring system (a correct result (picking a win, draw or defeat) is worth TEN points and picking an exact score FORTY points).

Week 17

Me – 80 (2 from 10 with 2 perfect scores) and Lawro – 50 (2 from 10 with 1 perfect score)

Week 18

Me – 50 (5 from 10 with no perfect scores) and Lawro – 80 (5 from 10 with 1 perfect score)

Week 19

Me – 120 (6 from 10 with 2 perfect scores) and Lawro – 160 (7 from 10 with 3 perfect scores)

Week 20

Me – 90 (6 from 10 with 1 perfect score) and Lawro – 70 (7 from 10 with no perfect scores)

Season so far

Me – 1490 and Lawro – 1590 (Lawro is having a season for the ages)

Stay Tuned

Stay tuned for the next exciting episode on Thursday, 21 January 2016 titled ‘Ben Simmons vs Jarryd Hayne, a study in perspective’

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