2016 NRL Preview Part 1 – Over before it starts

These teams (teams finishing 13th to 16th) should be planning for 2017 because 2016 will be bleak indeed.

CBus Super Stadium - Photo by Brad Hosking - CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0

CBus Super Stadium – Photo by Brad HoskingCC-BY-NC-ND-2.0

Titans

The only way is up – or is it?

Odds – 176.00 – 16th

Predicted Finish – 16th

If this Team was a Superhero that Superhero would be – Antman

Armed with a super-suit with the astonishing ability to shrink in scale but increase in strength, cat burglar Scott Lang must embrace his inner hero and help his mentor, Dr. Hank Pym, plan and pull off a heist that will save the world (per IMDB). That pretty much sums up what the Titans need to do to get off the foot of the ladder.

I just can’t see much light at the end of the tunnel. The Titans are the longest standing national competition team in the history of the Gold Coast and they must be losing money by the bucket loads. Their brand has been repeatedly besmirched and to add injury to insult, they lost their most promising half (Kane Elgey) before the season even started. Then they lost James Roberts, their most promising outside back to a self imposed contract fiasco.

The one thing they have got going for them is that the NRL owns the licence and it desperately wants its national footprint to grow bigger than Sydney and Brisbane. To do that it needs viable teams in regional NSW and Queensland before it starts to expand any further. Until Newcastle and the Gold Coast get on their feet again I can see the NRL paying the bills for the foreseeable future. But the bucket of money is not bottomless by any stretch of the imagination. Unless good things start happening soon the Titans will be the latest defunct franchise on the Gold Coast.

Big Question – Where will the wins come from? The Titans aren’t devoid of good players but some of their younger players will have to play out of their skins for the Titans to finish anywhere other than the bottom of the table.

Top Gun – Greg Bird – For the Titans to do anything this year Greg Bird needs to stay on the field. Injury and suspension have blunted his effect in years gone by but he is going to have to avoid both and have an awesome season to make the Titans relevant. They need someone who leads by example and if he can do that maybe they won’t finish last. Every rung up the ladder will be a bonus.

Young Gun – Ashley Taylor – Moved down from the Broncos to get an opportunity and should get plenty of game time because of lack of depth in the halves. Hopefully he uses this opportunity.

X-Factor – Tyrone Roberts – He flashed brilliance from time to time with the Knights but never really cemented a spot in the halves. Should provide spark in attack.

The Big Leap – Ryan James – Ashley Taylor should show considerable improvement just by being on the field and I would have given this to Kierran Moseley but the Titans always seem to have an oversupply of hookers. Ryan James has threatened to become a premium forward for a number of years. This is the year. Rep jerseys beckon.

Coach – Neil Henry

Gains – Nathan Friend (New Zealand Warriors, 2016), Jeff Lynch (Canberra Raiders, 2016), Nene Macdonald (Mid Season: Sydney Roosters, 2017), Chris McQueen (South Sydney Rabbitohs, 2017), Nathaniel Peteru (Mid Season: New Zealand Warriors, 2016), Leivaha Pulu (Wyong Kangaroos, 2016), Tyrone Roberts (Newcastle Knights, 2017), David Shillington (Canberra Raiders, 2017), Zeb Taia (Catalan Dragons, 2017) and Ashley Taylor (Brisbane Broncos, 2017)

Losses – Caleb Binge (QLD Cup), Jamie Dowling (QLD Cup), Kalifa Faifai Loa (St George Illawarra Dragons), Beau Falloon (Leeds Rhinos), Jamal Fogarty (QLD Cup), Kevin Gordon (Retired), Shaun Hudson (North Queensland Cowboys), Mark Ioane (London Broncos), Nate Myles (Manly Sea Eagles), Chad Redman (QLD Cup), Ben Ridge (Retired), James Roberts (Brisbane Broncos), Aidan Sezer (Canberra Raiders), Dave Taylor (Catalan Dragons), Brad Tighe (Retired) and Matt White (Melbourne Storm)

Starting Team – Josh Hoffman, Anthony Don, Will Zillman, Nene Macdonald, David Mead, Ashley Taylor, Tyrone Roberts, Ryan James, Nathan Friend, David Shillington, Chris McQueen, Agnatius Paasi and Greg Bird

Interchange – Luke Douglas, Eddy Pettybourne, Zeb Taia and Kierran Moseley

Squad – Lachlan Burr, David Hala, Leva Li, Jeff Lynch, Daniel Mortimer, Nathaniel Peteru, Leivaha Pulu, Matt Robinson, Ryan Simpkins, Matt Srama, Karl Lawton, Cameron Cullen and Oshae Tuiasau

Injury List – Kane Elgey (ACL, season)

Knights

Treading water

Odds – 67.00 – 15th

Predicted Finish – 15th

If this Team was a Superhero that Superhero would be – Aquaman

I can never figure out what Aquaman contributes. Wikipedia tells me the following:

Although he can remain underwater indefinitely without suffering any ill effects, Aquaman grows weak if he remains on land for extended periods. However, when Batman invented Aquaman’s water suit he was able to walk on land for an indefinite amount of time and was no longer vulnerable to a “dehumidifier”.

Adequately describes where the Knights are currently headed. They are still recovering post-Wayne Bennett and the instability left by Nathan Tinkler’s era. So this makes it the third coach in three years with further turnover of the playing list. Will they start trending upwards?

Big Question – How will Nathan Brown go? He will surely take a few seasons to shape the Knights according to his own plans. Brown has an English CV but we are yet to see whether his ideas will translate to the NRL or whether he is able to recruit adequately to see his strategy come to fruition. The NRL as current owners of the Knights will be hoping he adequately answers both questions.

Top Gun – Jarrod Mullen – Trent Hodkinson is a half of high quality who will probably take over the kicking and general organisational duties which will in theory enable Mullen to play make either with his ability to take on the line or set up the players outside him. Cruelled by injuries in recent seasons he is only 28 so still plenty of time to go.

Young Gun – Jaelen Feeney – Forced to wait behind Kurt Gidley, Tyrone Roberts and Jarrod Mullen all last season, Feeney appears to have beaten Jake Mamo for first crack at Fullback.

X-Factor – Dane Gagai – Really leapt to the next level in 2015 and probably has another gear or two to go. Will need to get the ball early and often from Mullen and Hodkinson. He is the real deal.

The Big Leap – I could easily see this being Danny Levi or Joseph Tapine (if Nathan Brown will play him) who put themselves in the conversation with solid introductions in 2015 but I’ve been waiting for Tariq Sims to take the next step for a few years now. Injury and suspension have conspired against him but the next level beckons.

Coach – Nathan Brown

Gains – David Bhana (New Zealand Warriors, 2017), Krys Freeman (Norths Devils, 2016), Trent Hodkinson (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, 2018), Mickey Paea (Hull FC, 2017), Pauli Pauli (Parramatta Eels, 2017) and Will Pearsall (Manly Sea Eagles, 2017)

Losses – Adam Clydsdale (Canberra Raiders), David Fa’alogo (Retired), Kurt Gidley (Warrington Wolves), Kerrod Holland (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Chris Houston (Widnes Vikings), Joey Leilua (Canberra Raiders), Clint Newton (Retired), Chad Redman (QLD Cup), Tyrone Roberts (Gold Coast Titans), Beau Scott (Parramatta Eels) and Carlos Tuimavave (Hull FC)

Starting Team – Jaelen Feeney, Jake Mamo, Chanel Mata’utia, Dane Gagai, Akuila Uate, Jarrod Mullen, Trent Hodkinson, Kade Snowden, Danny Levi, Jack Stockwell, Robbie Rochow, Korbin Sims and Jeremy Smith

Interchange – Tyler Randell, Pauli Pauli, Sam Mataora and Mickey Paea

Squad – Joseph Tapine, Tekina Vailea, Krys Freeman, Bradie Smith, Jacob Saifiti, Daniel Saifiti, Will Pearsall, Tama Koopu, David Bhana, Jack Cogger, Bryce Donovan, Josh King, Brock Lamb, Pat Mata’utai, Nathan Ross, Lachlan Fitzgibbon, James Taylor and Luke Yates

Injury List – Sione Mata’utia (suspension, round two), Tariq Sims (suspension, round six) and James McManus (concussion, season)

Tigers

Chris Lawrence - Photo by Naparazzi - CC-BY-SA-2.0

Chris Lawrence – Photo by NaparazziCC-BY-SA-2.0

The future is now…or is it?

Odds – 57.50 – 14th

Predicted Finish – 14th

If this Team was a Superhero that Superhero would be – Daredevil

Blinded in an accident as a child, Murdock uses his heightened senses as Daredevil, fighting crime on the streets of New York after the sun goes down (per Netflix). For years they have been talking about this young crop of superstars coming through the ranks at the Tigers. Well through lack of foresight (the pun is deliberate) the current administration may have squandered that opportunity. Benji Marshall, Blake Austin, Martin Taupau, Andrew Fifita and Te Maire Martin have found other clubs and depth in the forwards is looking very scarce. Robbie Farah’s contract issues could’ve been handled much better (that’s an understatement) and now Mitch Moses and Luke Brooks are balking at activating their player-favoured extensions. Talk about selling the farm and having the rest walk away.

Big Question – Will the Tigers have to blow it up and start again? The Tigers have pinned their hopes on a new generation centred around Luke Brooks, Mitch Moses, Aaron Woods and James Tedesco. Jason Taylor was brought on to nurse them through. They under-performed last year with some strong showings coupled with weak losses. If they don’t start showing improvement there is a very real chance Brooks and Moses walk out the door and the Tigers have to start all over again.

Top Gun – Luke Brooks – Robbie Farah has been the man since Benji left town but now is the time for Brooks. Brooks and Moses combined to miss 2,000 tackles in the last few years (slight exaggeration) but it is their attack which puts food on the table. Brooks is still a young man but the Tigers need him to be a star in the worst possible way. Right now.

Young Gun – Manaia Cherrington – Going to bend the rules again. Not as bad as last year. I usually try and pick a player either yet to make his NRL debut or only having played a game or two the season before but Cherrington has played 11 already in 2015. Can’t really see another of the Tiger’s prospects getting a run in first grade, although Josh Addo-Carr is getting some early mail. They have a team full of young veterans. What they are short on these days, apart from Robbie Farah, is experience.

X-Factor – James Tedesco – Will figure strongly in Origin discussions along with Matt Moylan. Tedesco will be a star for the Tigers this year and if Brooks and Moses can leverage off their ability look to Tedesco being the primary beneficiary.

The Big Leap – Really should be Brooks, Moses and Tedesco jumping to the next level but Tim Simona is the one I’ll tab. He is unbelievably talented and with speed to burn, only injuries have slowed him down. If he can stay on the field for the majority of the season I see him being one of the best centres in the competition.

Coach – Jason Taylor

Gains – Josh Addo-Carr (Cronulla Sharks, 2016), Josh Aloiai (Parramatta Eels, 2016), Matt Ballin (Manly Sea Eagles, 2017), Michael Chee-Kam (Manly Sea Eagles, 2016), Joel Edwards (Canberra Raiders, 2017), Tim Grant (South Sydney Rabbitohs, 2017), Rod Griffin (Ipswich Jets, 2016), Justin Hunt (St George Illawarra Dragons, 2016), Jack Littlejohn (Manly Sea Eagles, 2016), Billy McConnachie (Ipswich Jets, 2016), Jesse Parahi (Rugby Union, 2016) and Jordan Rankin (Hull FC, 2017)

Losses –  Sitaleki Akauola (Penrith Panthers), Salesi Funaki (Brisbane Broncos), Keith Galloway (Leeds Rhinos), Matthew Lodge (Released), Te Maire Martin (Penrith Panthers), Shannon McDonnell (St Helens RLFC), Tim Moltzen (Manly Sea Eagles), Pat Richards (Catalan Dragons), Kurtis Rowe (QLD Cup), Marion Seve (Brisbane Broncos), Martin Taupau (Manly Sea Eagles) and Matthew Woods (Parramatta Eels)

Starting Team – James Tedesco, David Nofoaluma, Kevin Naiqama, Tim Simona, Justin Hunt, Mitch Moses, Jack Littlejohn, Aaron Woods, Robbie Farah, Tim Grant, Curtis Sironen, Chris Lawrence and Sauaso Sue

Interchange – Jordan Rankin, Manaia Cherrington, Ava Seumanufagai and Kyle Lovett

Squad – Jack Buchanan, Josh Addo-Carr, Josh Aloiai, Tyler Cassel, Michael Chee-Kam, Josh Drinkwater, Dallas Graham, Jordan Grant, Rod Griffin, Watson Heleta, Lamar Liolevave, Billy McConnachie, Nathon Milone, Jesse Parahi, Chance Peni and Bayley Sironen

Injury List – Luke Brooks (suspension, round two), Dene Halatau (suspension, round two), Joel Edwards (hamstring, round three) and Matt Ballin (ACL, round six)

Panthers

When will the best catchment for juniors in Sydney start cashing in?

Odds – 20.00 – 10th

Predicted Finish – 13th

If this Team was a Superhero that Superhero would be – Thing

Thing (AKA Ben Grimm) is known for his trademark rocky orange appearance, sense of humor, blue eyes and famous battle cry, “It’s clobberin’ time!”. In the last few years the Panthers have been a poor man’s Warriors. Mind you, the way the Warriors played last year probably means they are a poor man’s Panthers. They (the Panthers) are big, fast and skillful but fairly inconsistent. They have a never ending supply of young players coming through the ranks and this season have turned over a bevy of players searching for the right combinations. Phil Gould started off some time ago with a 5 year plan (turn over the bad contracts, trust in the young talent and supplement with experienced players where necessary) and it was on track until last season which was a significant step backwards and ultimately cost Ivan Cleary his job. This year there is a new coach in Anthony Griffin and in a way it is a new era. Like the Tigers they seem to have plenty of potential but we are yet to see it fully manifested.

Big Question – Can they stay on the field? Back to back horror years with injury have left them mid-table and out of the Finals. Will this year be a better one?

Top Gun – Matt Moylan – This could easily be Jamie Soward if he has a bounce back year but Moylan was the Panther’s best last year. If Moylan can play most of the season the Panthers have a chance to make the Finals.

Young Gun – Te Maire Martin – Given the age of Peter Wallace and Jamie Soward, picking up Martin from the Tigers was a real coup. Problem is, he could be stuck behind Wallace and Soward all season. Leilani Latu might end up playing more games.

X-Factor – Could easily be Matt Moylan again but James Segeyaro will also be key with his skirmishes from dummy half. Honourable mention to Bryce Cartwright.

The Big Leap – This is a toss up between Bryce Cartwright and Tyrone Peachey but I will go with the mercurial Cartwright. He should nail down a starting role this season.

Coach – Anthony Griffin

Gains – Sitaleki Akauola (Wests Tigers, 2016), Zach Dockar-Clay (Parramatta Eels, 2017), Ben Garcia (Catalan Dragons, 2017), Josh Hall (Australian Rules Football, 2017), Andrew Heffernan (Canberra Raiders, 2017), Peta Hiku (Manly Sea Eagles, 2018), Viliame Kikau (North Queensland Cowboys, 2017), Te Maire Martin (Wests Tigers, 2018), Suaia Matagi (Mid Season: New Zealand Warriors, 2017) and Trent Merrin (St George Illawarra Dragons, 2018)

Losses – Lewis Brown (Manly Sea Eagles), Adam Docker (Retired), Jamal Idris (Released), Isaac John (Manly Sea Eagles), Brent Kite (Retired), Apisai Koroisau (Manly Sea Eagles), Sika Manu (Hull FC), Kieren Moss (Parramatta Eels), Ben Murdoch-Masila (Salford Red Devils), Nigel Plum (Retired), David Simmons (Retired) and Shaun Spence (Retired)

Starting Team – Matt Moylan, Josh Mansour, Dean Whare, Peta Hiku, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Jamie Soward, Peter Wallace, Reagan Campbell-Gillard, James Segeyaro, Sam McKendry, Bryce Cartwright, Elijah Taylor and Trent Merrin

Interchange – Tyrone Peachey, Jeremy Latimore, Isaah Yeo and Suaia Matagi

Squad – Josh Hall, Soni Luke, Oliver Clark, Dylan Edwards, Tyrone May, Waqa Blake, Ben Garcia, Robert Jennings, George Jennings, Leilani Latu, Te Maire Martin, Chris Smith and Will Smith

Injury List – Viliame Kikau (ankle, indefinite) and Sione Katao (knee, round three) 

What is sweeter than Jelly Bread?

  • Wayne Bennett coaching England. As an avowed internationalist I’m always barracking for teams other than Australia in Rugby League. For Rugby League to have a viable international game it is essential for England and New Zealand to be competitive against Australia and for the second tier nations to continue to close the gap.
  • B Mac going out in style with the fastest ever Test century. Australia still on top.

What isn’t?

  • Contract issues between Joseph Tapine and Newcastle. The NRL need a sanctioned trade/transfer window ASAP like the EPL and various other American sports. Sometimes an amicable split would be on the cards but the current club needs an incentive.
  • World Club Series. I’m still a supporter of the concept but the one sided games are not doing the game any good.

Stay Tuned

Stay tuned for the next exciting episode on Thursday, 25 February 2016 titled ‘2016 NRL Preview Part 2 – Somebody has to miss out’

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4 thoughts on “2016 NRL Preview Part 1 – Over before it starts

  1. Pingback: 2016 NRL Preview Part 3 – There or Thereabouts | The Game of Sport

  2. Pingback: 2016 NRL Preview Part 4 – The Real Deal | The Game of Sport

  3. Pingback: 2016 NRL Final Trimester Report Part 3 – Just happy to be there | The Game of Sport

  4. Pingback: 2016 NRL Season Review – this is the last time I talk about it, I promise | The Game of Sport

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