Last week we covered the bottom feeders (teams finishing 13th to 16th). This week we cover teams finishing 9th to 12th. By virtue of the closest competition in years (we say that every year) these teams will miss out on the Finals, or at least I think they will. There is a bit of the ‘changing of the guard’ feel as well.
Reduced to sidekick status
Odds – 9.50 – 4th
Predicted Finish – 12th
If this Team was a Superhero that Superhero would be – Robin
Everyone knows who the Boy Wonder is, so I won’t bore you with inane definitions I’ve found on the internet. Those of you who saw my 2015 NRL Season Preview will know that I started the season thinking DCE was the top gun and Kieran Foran his faithful sidekick but over the course of the season shifted my opinion completely. The Sea Eagles recycled most of their roster on the back of the massive contract they gave to DCE and while they don’t seem to be a seething hotbed of discontent, I just can’t see why the bookmakers are riding them for the top 4.
Big Question – Is the spine good enough? Brett Stewart, DCE, Dylan Walker and Matt Parcell/Api Koroisau have plenty of potential but will it all work out? How will DCE go without Kieran Foran? Brett Stewart is getting injured more often these days. Dylan Walker is a centre of high quality and may take some time getting used to the nuances of five-eight. Is he a ballplayer? Matt Parcell has potential but is untested at this level. Api Korisau has waited in line at both the Rabbitohs and the Panthers. Can he make the 9 jersey his own? Lots of questions. Not many answers.
Top Gun – DCE. He has the keys to the car now. Let’s see how he goes.
Young Gun – Addison Demetriou – Probably not going to land in first grade this year but Demetriou is too fascinating a prospect not to mention. His stats in the Holden Cup were as follows in 2015 – 4,431 metres, 197 tackle busts and 21 tries. He is a flat out star.
X-Factor – Martin Taupau – I’m interested to see what transpires for Taupau at the Sea Eagles. His impact for the Tigers and the Kiwis is undeniable but he often seems gassed after a shift (probably a product of effort) and with reduced interchange and quicker restarts on scrums and drop outs, he might become less of a factor. If he can overcome all of these challenges he could become the hero Gotham needs.
The Big Leap – Jake Trbojevic – Surprised many by becoming the linchpin of the Manly pack last year, which was ahead of schedule and he should continue to improve steadily. Wouldn’t surprise if he ends up playing rep footy this year.
Coach – Trent Barrett
Gains – Lewis Brown (Penrith Panthers, 2018), Fabian Goodall (Parramatta Eels, 2016), Nathan Green (St George Illawarra Dragons, 2016), Isaac John (Penrith Panthers, 2016), Apisai Koroisau (Penrith Panthers, 2018), Halauafu Lavaka (Parramatta Eels, 2016), Darcy Lussick (Parramatta Eels, 2018), Tim Moltzen (Wests Tigers, 2016), Nate Myles (Gold Coast Titans, 2018), Matt Parcell (Brisbane Broncos, 2018), Martin Taupau (Wests Tigers, 2019), Dylan Walker (South Sydney Rabbitohs, 2019), John Walker (Rugby Union, 2017) and Tom Wright (Rugby Union, 2018)
Losses – Matt Ballin (Wests Tigers), Cheyse Blair (Melbourne Storm), Michael Chee-Kam (Wests Tigers), Kieran Foran (Parramatta Eels), Clinton Gutherson (Parramatta Eels), James Hasson (Parramatta Eels), Peta Hiku (Penrith Panthers), Justin Horo (Catalan Dragons), Jack Littlejohn (Wests Tigers), Dunamis Lui (St George Illawarra Dragons), Will Pearsall (Newcastle Knights), Ligi Sao (New Zealand Warriors), Jesse Sene-Lefao (Cronulla Sharks) and David Williams (Released)
Starting Team – Brett Stewart, Jorge Taufua, Jamie Lyon, Steve Matai, Tom Trbojevic, Dylan Walker, Daly Cherry-Evans, Nate Myles, Matt Parcell, Jake Trbojevic, Tom Symonds, Lewis Brown and Martin Taupau
Interchange – Feleti Mateo, Brenton Lawrence, Darcy Lussick and Apisai Koroisau
Squad – Rhys Armstrong, Luke Burgess, Fabian Goodall, Nathan Green, Nicholas Hynes, Isaac John, Dylan Kelly, Liam Knight, Halauafu Lavaka, Blake Leary, Tim Moltzen, Hugh Pratt, Wellentony Tafua Satini, Josh Starling, Siosaia Vave, Brayden Wiliame and Tom Wright
Injury List – Jayden Hodges (ACL, season) and Jamie Buhrer (broken jaw, round four)
Something not quite right
Odds – 12.00 – 7th
Predicted Finish – 11th
If this Team was a Superhero that Superhero would be – Green Lantern
Sworn to preserve intergalactic order, the Green Lantern Corps has existed for centuries. Its newest recruit, Hal Jordan, is the first human to join the ranks (per Wikipedia…again). To me Green Lantern is a second tier superhero. The superhero you get when Superman, Batman and Spiderman aren’t available. 2015 wasn’t a great season for the Rabbitohs either. They had been progressively building towards something great which culminated in a premiership in 2014 but 2015 was a huge anti-climax and ended with a whimper. I spent the whole season asking what plan B was for the Rabbitohs but we didn’t ever see it. 2016 could potentially be worse.
Big Question – Do the Bunnies have chemistry problems? Losing Sam Burgess and Ben Te’o in 2015 wasn’t ideal but the Rabbitohs didn’t play very well at all, considering the talent they had at their disposal. Getting Sam Burgess back won’t cure all their ills either. They had to offload Chris McQueen and Dylan Walker. Glenn Stewart and Isaac Luke were already going. Each of those guys were important. Kirisome Auva’a had off field issues. Reports emerged that Luke Keary flew home early from a bonding session at Russell Crowe’s place (what the?). At the end of last season Dylan Walker and Aaron Gray had the prescription drug disaster. John Sutton and Luke Burgess were involved in a pre-season incident in 2015. It is all a bit Days of Our Lives. Will they be able to concentrate and play football?
Top Gun – Sam Burgess – Returned from his Rugby Union sojourn, Sam Burgess is the most important player for the Rabbitohs, the leader of their pack and fairly crucial to Michael Maguire’s bash up the middle game. He will pick up where he left off. I’m not so sure that the Rabbitohs will.
Young Gun – Angus Crichton – A former Australian Schoolboys Rugby Union star, Crichton is taking his time acclimating to Rugby League but should figure in first grade at some stage this season.
X-Factor – GI – As I’ve said many times before, GI looked like he was playing injured last season. He brings a different dimension to Souths when he is at full strength. Still World Class.
The Big Leap – Damien Cook – He really made an impact during the back half of the season for the Bulldogs when Michael Lichaa was injured and I expect he will either push Cameron McInnes all season or take the starting role from game 1. He is surprisingly quick, quite strong and a real threat out of dummy half, especially close to the line.
Coach – Michael Maguire
Gains – Sam Burgess (Rugby Union, 2018), Damien Cook (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, 2017), Hymel Hunt (Melbourne Storm, 2016), Dane Nielsen (St George Illawarra Dragons, 2017) and Michael Oldfield (Catalan Dragons, 2016)
Losses – Tim Grant (Wests Tigers), Ben Lowe (Retired), Issac Luke (New Zealand Warriors), Chris McQueen (Gold Coast Titans), Darren Nicholls (Brisbane Broncos), Glenn Stewart (Catalan Dragons) and Dylan Walker (Manly Sea Eagles)
Starting Team – Greg Inglis, Alex Johnston, Bryson Goodwin, Kirisome Auva’a, Aaron Gray, Cody Walker, Adam Reynolds, George Burgess, Damien Cook, Dave Tyrrell, Kyle Turner, John Sutton and Sam Burgess
Interchange – Cameron McInnes, Tom Burgess, Chris Grevsmuhl and Paul Carter
Squad – Nathan Brown, Jason Clark, Angus Crichton, Jack Gosiewski, Brock Gray, Tom Hughes, Hymel Hunt, Ed Murphy, Zane Musgrove, Dane Nielsen, Michael Oldfield, John Olive, Riley Travers and Cheyne Whitelaw
Injury List – Luke Keary (suspension, round two)
Reports of their death are greatly exaggerated but surely the end isn’t far away?
Odds – 13.50 – 8th
Predicted Finish – 10th
If this Team was a Superhero that Superhero would be – Professor X
For those of you who are from another planet, Professor Charles Francis Xavier (also known as Professor X) is the founder and leader of the X-Men. Xavier is an exceptionally powerful telepath who can read and control the minds of others (per Wikipedia, that bastion of accuracy).
The Storm have sustained a period of excellence that defies the laws of physics and they seem to have a great culture (salary rorting aside) which sees them field competitive teams year after year. Apart from Craig Bellamy and the Big Three™, they have been cultivating an underrated pack which is predominantly young, tough and Kiwi in nature and have a ready-made replacement for Billy Slater (Cameron Munster) but no‑one really in the pipeline for Cooper Cronk (some would argue Ben Hampton) or Cameron Smith which brings me to the next question.
Big Question – Can the Storm eke one more season out of the Big Three™? I picked them last year to fall out of the 8 (and I was really wrong) and I’m going to pick them to miss the 8 again (and I’m prepared to be really wrong again). I don’t think their skill or speed is noticeably diminishing but I think the wear and tear of playing a million times each year for thousands of seasons has to eventually have an impact. Billy Slater has succumbed to a number of injuries in the last few seasons and Cooper Cronk has accrued a few as well. Cameron Smith may well play till he is 100. I think he could be a cyborg. He is certainly the smartest Hooker I’ve ever seen play the game. I think if they put a GPS tracker on the man he might only move about 300m a game.
Top Gun – Cooper Cronk – I could pretty much write the same thing every year. It is always a toss up between Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk. Cronk is at the centre of most of the things they do right and is virtually irreplaceable. They never have to replace Cameron Smith so it is difficult to know how they would go without him.
Young Gun – Curtis Scott – This is probably a year too early (much like Brenko Lee in 2014 and 2015) but Melbourne picked him up from Cronulla in the off season, apparently beating out 11 other teams for his signature (how do they even know that?). An outside back who played in the centres during juniors, he is competing for a spot in first grade this year.
X-Factor – Billy Slater – Even though I keep harping on about the Storm dropping from the 8, if Billy Slater is on the field he is the original X-Factor. Enough said.
The Big Leap – Cameron Munster – Banned along with Valentine Holmes from representative duty this season, Munster will be able to focus on first grade and this will benefit the Storm.
Coach – Craig Bellamy
Gains – Cheyse Blair (Manly Sea Eagles, 2016), Jeremy Hawkins (Canberra Raiders, 2017), Mark Nicholls (Canberra Raiders, 2016) and Matt White (Gold Coast Titans, 2016)
Losses – Matt Duffie (Rugby Union), Mahe Fonua (Hull FC), Ryan Hinchcliffe (Huddersfield Giants), Hymel Hunt (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Tom Learoyd-Lahrs (Retired), Kurt Mann (St George Illawarra Dragons), Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad (New Zealand Warriors), Shaun Nona (St George Illawarra Dragons) and Dayne Weston (Leigh Centurions)
Starting Team – Billy Slater, Marika Koroibete, Will Chambers, Cameron Munster, Cheyse Blair, Blake Green, Cooper Cronk, Jesse Bromwich, Cameron Smith, Jordan McLean, Kevin Proctor, Tohu Harris and Dale Finucane
Interchange – Tim Glasby, Kenny Bromwich, Nelson Asofa-Solomona and Matt White
Squad – Felise Kaufusi, Dean Britt, Slade Griffin, Ben Hampton, Jeremy Hawkins, Richie Kennar, Mark Nicholls, Curtis Scott, Joe Stimson, Young Tonumaipea, Francis Tumusa, Suliasi Vunivalu and Christian Welch
Injury List – Nil
Just couldn’t leave anyone else out of the 8.
Odds – 31.50 – 13th
Predicted Finish – 9th
If this Team was a Superhero that Superhero would be – Iron Man
Iron Man = Tony Stark (per me). Ironically, after the Marvel/NRL jersey mash up, I was looking to match up all of the other teams with their Marvel mash up alter ego but struggled to draw the parallels required. Iron Man was easy when it came to the Dragons. For me Iron Man is pretty cool but just not as cool as Batman, Superman or a myriad of other superheroes. I like the Dragons, don’t get me wrong, but I just couldn’t find a place for them in the 8. They tick a lot of boxes but so do a lot of teams.
Big Question – Where will the points come from? Only Penrith (399) scored fewer points than the Dragons (435) in 2015 and the Dragons made the 8 primarily on the back of their defence and even that fell away towards the back end of the season. Kurt Mann and Tim Lafai are a step in the right direction as is Russell Packer. They will need to do much better to sneak into the 8 again.
Top Gun – Gareth Widdop – Benji is still a star and when on song can dominate a game but Widdop is really the heart and soul of the Dragons these days. Similar to Kieran Foran in a lot of ways, he is a bit underrated.
Young Gun – Drew Hutchison – Waiting in the wings behind Benji and Widdop, Hutchison will be keen to add to his 3 NRL games and will deputise in the event of injury. Most of the other positions are well covered so I don’t expect many other young guns to get a chance.
X-Factor – Benji Marshall – Will attack until the final play of the game and showing no real signs of abating, Benji will provide the X-Factor if the forwards can lay the platform.
The Big Leap – Kurt Mann – Good move for him. Always seemed to be a utility back at the Storm but will probably nail down a regular spot in the Dragons and benefit accordingly.
Coach – Paul McGregor
Gains – Kalifa Faifai Loa (Gold Coast Titans, 2017), Siliva Havili (New Zealand Warriors, 2017), Sebastine Ikahihifo (New Zealand Warriors, 2017), Tim Lafai (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, 2017), Dunamis Lui (Manly Sea Eagles, 2017), Kurt Mann (Melbourne Storm, 2017), Mose Masoe (St Helens RLFC, 2017), Tyrone McCarthy (Hull Kingston Rovers, 2017), Josh McCrone (Canberra Raiders, 2017), Taane Milne (Sydney Roosters, 2017), Shaun Nona (Melbourne Storm, 2016), Russell Packer (Illawarra Cutters, 2017) and Adam Quinlan (Mid Season: Parramatta Eels, 2016)
Losses – Shannon Crook (Released), Addin Fonua-Blake (Released), Craig Garvey (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Nathan Green (Manly Sea Eagles), Dan Hunt (Retired), Justin Hunt (Wests Tigers), Mark Ioane (London Broncos), Jack Kavanagh (Released), Kris Keating (Released), Heath L’Estrange (Retired), Trent Merrin (Penrith Panthers), Eto Nabuli (Rugby Union), Dane Nielsen (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Rory O’Brien (Parramatta Eels), Luke Page (QLD Cup), Charly Runciman (Widnes Vikings), Adam Tuimavave-Gerrard (Released) and Shannon Wakeman (Released)
Starting Team – Kurt Mann, Euan Aitken, Tim Lafai, Josh Dugan, Jason Nightingale, Gareth Widdop, Benji Marshall, Lesson Ah Mau, Mitch Rein, Russell Packer, Will Matthews, Joel Thompson and Mike Cooper
Interchange – Ben Creagh, Jack De Belin, Dunamis Lui and Josh McCrone
Squad – Peter Mata’utia, Tom Carr, Kalifa Faifai Loa, Siliva Havili, Drew Hutchison, Sebastine Ikahihifo, Jake Marketo, Tyrone McCarthy, Taane Milne and Adam Quinlan
Injury List – Tyson Frizell (back, round three), Dylan Farrell (back, indefinite), Mose Masoe (ACL, season) and Yaw Kiti Glymin (hamstring, indefinite)
What is sweeter than Jelly Bread?
- Australian Cricket team – Too big, too fast and too strong. Steve Smith carried himself well. Khawaja, Voges and Burns padded their resume. McCullum didn’t go out on a high but had one last great innings for us all to savour.
- LSU – Look headed for the NIT which would be a travesty given the talent on that roster.
- Injuries, injuries and more injuries in the pre-season. This is an argument that is raised every season in terms of the necessity of pre-season matches and not just in the NRL. If there is any solution I’m yet to hear it.
EPL Tips Match Week 27 and 28
West Ham vs Sunderland – West Ham 2-0
Leicester vs Norwich – Leicester 3-1
Southampton vs Chelsea – Draw 1-1
Stoke vs Aston Villa – Stoke 2-0
Watford vs Bournemouth – Watford 2-1
West Brom vs Crystal Palace – Draw 2-2
Man U vs Arsenal – Arsenal 2-1
Tottenham vs Swansea – Tottenham 3-0
Aston Villa vs Everton – Everton 2-1
Bournemouth vs Southampton – Southampton 1-0
Leicester vs West Brom – Leicester 2-0
Norwich vs Chelsea – Chelsea 1-0
Sunderland vs Crystal Palace – Sunderland 1-0
Arsenal vs Swansea – Arsenal 3-0
Stoke vs Newcastle – Stoke 2-1
West Ham vs Tottenham – Tottenham 2-1
Liverpool vs Man City – Draw 1-1
Man U vs Watford – Man U 3-0
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).
Me – 80 (5 from 10 with 1 perfect score) and Lawro – 30 (3 from 10 with no perfect scores)
Season so far
Me – 1930 and Lawro – 1910 (This is going down to the wire)
Stay tuned for the next exciting episode on Thursday, 3 March 2016 titled ‘2016 NRL Preview Part 3 – There or Thereabouts’