Last week we covered the teams which missed by that much (9th to 12th) and the bottom feeders the week before (13th to 16th). This week we cover teams finishing 5th to 8th. Like last season, the margin for error is very small (and has been for some time). A key injury or a bad run of form through Origin could have a deleterious effect on their top 8 chances. Welcome to the new Millennium!
We can rebuild him
Odds – 22.50 – 11th
Predicted Finish – 8th
If this Team was a Superhero that Superhero would be – The Six Million Dollar Man
For those of you too young to remember, when NASA astronaut Steve Austin is severely injured in the crash of an experimental lifting body aircraft, he is “rebuilt” in an operation that costs six million dollars (per Wikipedia) which was a lot of money in those days (per me).
The Eels have been in rebuilding mode for a while now and were probably the most active team in the offseason (although most recruiting is done well before then). Kieran Foran was the jewel in the crown but they picked up some very decent players in Michael Gordon, Michael Jennings and Beau Scott on the back of the additions of Corey Norman and Nathan Peats in seasons gone by.
Big Question – Will they trend upwards? I certainly think so, or I wouldn’t have picked them to finish 8th. This is Brad Arthur’s third season in charge of the team, not including his brief stint as caretaker coach in 2012. By now he must have the players that suit his system. He doesn’t have a long leash and if they don’t make the Finals then he probably won’t be with the Eels in 2017. The recruitment of Kieran Foran is not to be underestimated. He still relatively young (25) and super talented. Along with Peats, Norman and Gordon, it is a spine built for success.
Top Gun – Kieran Foran – Foran is one of the best players in the competition and will make all the players around him better.
Young Gun – Bevan French – One of the stars of the Auckland 9s, it is difficult to see a place for him in first grade with a surplus of outside backs at the Eels, however, if he does get an opportunity, look for him to become the latest household name from Tingha.
X-Factor – Corey Norman – Norman has been steadily building over the seasons into a quality playmaker. Has started the pre-season on fire which augurs well for the season ahead.
The Big Leap – Tepai Moeroa – Made his debut in 2014 and consolidated his place in the side last year. Should have a monster season.
Coach – Brad Arthur
Gains – Mitch Cornish (Canberra Raiders, 2016), Kieran Foran (Manly Sea Eagles, 2019), Michael Gordon (Cronulla Sharks, 2016), Clinton Gutherson (Manly Sea Eagles, 2017), James Hasson (Manly Sea Eagles, 2016), Michael Jennings (Sydney Roosters, 2019), Cameron King (North Queensland Cowboys, 2016), Kieren Moss (Penrith Panthers, 2016), Rory O’Brien (St George Illawarra Dragons, 2016), Scott Schulte (North Queensland Cowboys, 2016), Beau Scott (Newcastle Knights, 2018), Kelepi Tanginoa (North Queensland Cowboys, 2016) and Matthew Woods (Wests Tigers, 2016)
Losses – Josh Aloiai (Wests Tigers), Beau Champion (Retired), Ben Crooks (Castleford Tigers), Zach Dockar-Clay (Penrith Panthers), Richie Fa’aoso (Retired), Fabian Goodall (Manly Sea Eagles), Will Hopoate (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Tui Kamikamica (Rugby Union), Halauafu Lavaka (Manly Sea Eagles), Darcy Lussick (Manly Sea Eagles), Ryan Matterson (Sydney Roosters), Eric Newbigging (NSW Cup), Pauli Pauli (Newcastle Knights), Joseph Paulo (Cronulla Sharks), Adam Quinlan (St George Illawarra Dragons), Reece Robinson (Rugby Union) and Chris Sandow (Warrington Wolves)
Starting Team – Michael Gordon, Semi Radradra, Michael Jennings, Brad Takairangi, Clinton Gutherson, Corey Norman, Kieran Foran, Tim Mannah, Nathan Peats, Junior Paulo, Beau Scott, Manu Ma’u and Tepai Moeroa
Interchange – David Gower, Peni Terepo, Danny Alvaro and Ken Edwards
Squad – Kelepi Tanginoa, Isaac De Gois, Danny Wicks, Mitchell Cornish, Bureta Faraimo, Bevan French, Tyrell Fuimaono, James Hasson, Luke Kelly, Cameron King, Ryan Morgan, Kieren Moss, Cody Nelson, Rory O’Brien, Kaysa Pritchard, Scott Schulte, Vai Toutai, Honeti Tuha, Alex Twal, Joseph Ualesi and Matthew Woods
Injury List – John Folau (hamstring, indefinite) and Anthony Watmough (knee, round two)
Sneaky good last year. Will be even better this year.
Odds – 27.50 – 12th
Predicted Finish – 7th
If this Team was a Superhero that Superhero would be – Spiderman
Finally getting to the Superheroes who need no introduction. Spiderman has always been sneaky good. Villains tend to underrate him (mainly because he looks a bit weedy) and the Raiders are much the same (apart from the weedy bit). The Raiders were obviously superb in the Laurie Daley/Bradley Clyde era but have been mediocre at best in the last 20 years with the exception of the occasional Terry Campese inspired moment of relevance.
The recruitment of Ricky Stuart after fading out at the Roosters and flaming out (big time) at the Eels only added to the languid feeling that had enveloped the club as did losing Anthony Milford. Last year’s performance was out of the blue and narrowly missing the eight has still left them under the radar. Their ‘outside the box’ recruitment targets like Blake Austin, Iosia Soliola, Sisa Waqa and Josh Hodgson grew in stature as the year progressed and the addition of Aidan Sezer, Elliott Whitehead and Joseph Tapine is another serious step in the right direction. One year ago they were stuck in wooden spoon purgatory with the Titans but they’ve done a 180 and should make the 8 this season.
Big Question – Is Elliott Whitehead the new Gareth Ellis? The early mail on this guy is that he is going to thrive in the NRL. One of a series of players heading over to the NRL from England in their prime, the Raiders should be the latest beneficiary of the trend having, already benefited from Josh Hodgson.
Top Gun – Blake Austin – Last year wasn’t a fluke. He is virtually unstoppable from 10m out and the addition of Aidan Sezer should only make his role as attacking savant even easier. Will be a bolter for Origin. Shocked to see him named on the bench in the first game. Hoping it is a one time thing because I love watching him play.
Young Gun – Brenko Lee – I’m working on the theory that if I keep picking the same guy every year, eventually I’ll get it right. Really thought Brenko Lee would burst on the scene in a very Mal Meninga way last year but added only 2 NRL games to his resume (6 all up now). Canberra are well stocked for outside backs but I expect Lee to continue to push for a place in the team.
X-Factor – Blake Austin – Austin is also the biggest spark in attack that Canberra has. Should be more of the same for him this year.
The Big Leap – Would have picked Elliot Whitehead until last week but Joseph Tapine is a late pick up for the team and is on the verge of great things. Big loss for the Knights.
Coach – Ricky Stuart
Gains – Adam Clydsdale (Newcastle Knights, 2016), Joey Leilua (Mid Season: Newcastle Knights, 2018), Jeff Lima (Catalan Dragons, 2016), Zac Santo (North Queensland Cowboys, 2016), Aidan Sezer (Gold Coast Titans, 2018), Elliot Whitehead (Catalan Dragons, 2017) and Joseph Tapine (Newcastle Knights, 2019)
Losses – Mitch Cornish (Parramatta Eels), Mitchell Cronin (QLD Cup), Joel Edwards (Wests Tigers), Jeremy Hawkins (Melbourne Storm), Andrew Heffernan (Penrith Panthers), Jeff Lynch (Gold Coast Titans), Patrick Mago (QLD Cup), Josh McCrone (St George Illawarra Dragons), Mark Nicholls (Melbourne Storm), Luke Page (QLD Cup), David Shillington (Gold Coast Titans), Dane Tilse (Hull Kingston Rovers) and Bill Tupou (Wakefield Wildcats)
Starting Team – Jack Wighton, Edrick Lee, Jarrod Croker, Joseph Leilua, Jordan Rapana, Sam Williams, Aidan Sezer, Shannon Boyd, Josh Hodgson, Frank-Paul Nuuausala, Josh Papalii, Elliot Whitehead and Shaun Fensom
Interchange – Blake Austin, Sia Soliola, Paul Vaughan and Jeff Lima
Squad – Joseph Tapine, Kurt Baptiste, Sisa Waqa, Mitchell Barnett, Luke Bateman, Lachlan Croker, Jarrad Kennedy, Rhys Kennedy, Brenko Lee, Kato Ottio and Zac Santo
Injury List – Adam Clydsdale (shoulder, round 4)
Down but not completely out
Odds – 7.75 – 3rd
Predicted Finish – 6th
If this Team was a Superhero that Superhero would be – Captain America
Another NRL/Marvel mash up with a timely Captain America: Civil War tie-in (spoiler alert – Captain America is on the side that refuses regulation from the political body of the day) which doesn’t entirely align with real life (the Roosters haven’t gone completely rogue, although it appears they may have misjudged the NRL with respect to Mitchell Pearce) but the Roosters are not entirely without their problems. The SKD situation was highly destabilising as is the Mitchell Pearce saga (which shows no sign of abating). Boyd Cordner and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves are out for the first half of the season and Michael Jennings, RTS and James Maloney are big, big losses. The Roosters should make the 8 but will struggle to win the minor premiership this year.
Big Question – Will Trent Robinson take a different approach this season or will he do a Michael Maguire and stick with Plan A no matter what? I expect Robinson to make some subtle changes. At the bottom line, a team is only as good as the players that are out on the field but I will still be interested to see what Robinson does.
Top Gun – Mitchell Pearce – The Roosters best player could be out of action for some time and the Roosters are a different side without him. Jayden Nikorima and Jackson Hastings put in very impressive performances in the World Club Series but NRL defences will not be as brittle. That is a fact. The Roosters will be needing Pearce back ASAP.
Young Gun – Latrell Mitchell – GI 2.0. Got a run during the World Club Series and didn’t disappoint. Jayden Nikorima could easily be the best young player for the Roosters this season but his opportunities will dry up once Pearce is back on deck, although I suspect Trent Robinson will use him as a bench utility much the same as Jackson Hastings last year.
X-Factor – Blake Ferguson – Was found out a little under the high ball against St Helens but should be fine once the season proper starts. Will relish chiming into the backline from Fullback and also the extra carries returning kicks.
The Big Leap – Jackson Hastings – Cemented himself as the replacement to James Maloney during the back half of last season, Hastings should further his reputation this year, especially in the early season absence of Mitchell Pearce.
Coach – Trent Robinson
Gains – Pakisonasi Afu (Point Chevalier Pirates, 2017), Joe Burgess (Wigan Warriors, 2018), Dale Copley (Brisbane Broncos, 2018), Mitchell Frei (Wynnum-Manly Seagulls, 2016), Ian Henderson (Catalan Dragons, 2016), Ryan Matterson (Parramatta Eels, 2017) and Jayden Nikorima (Brisbane Broncos, 2018)
Losses – Michael Jennings (Parramatta Eels), Nene Macdonald (Gold Coast Titans), James Maloney (Cronulla Sharks), Suaia Matagi (Penrith Panthers), Matt McIlwrick (Cronulla Sharks), Willis Meehan (Released), Taane Milne (St George Illawarra Dragons), Lagi Setu (Rugby Union), Nathan Stapleton (London Broncos) and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (New Zealand Warriors)
Starting Team – Blake Ferguson, Daniel Tupou, Dale Copley, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Latrell Mitchell, Jayden Nikorima, Jackson Hastings, Kane Evans, Jake Friend (c), Dylan Napa, Mitchell Aubusson, Aidan Guerra and Isaac Liu
Interchange – Sam Moa, Sio Siua Taukeiaho, Vincent Leuluai and Ian Henderson
Squad – Mitchell Frei, Joe Burgess, Pakisonasi Afu, Nat Butcher, Tyler Cornish, Brendan Elliot, Joey Lussick, Ryan Matterson, Abraham Papalii, Dominic Reardon, Nathan Smith, Charlie Taylor, Omar Slaimankhel and Eloni Vunakece
Injury List – Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (ACL, round eleven), Mitchell Pearce (disciplinary, indefinite) and Boyd Cordner (pectoral, round eleven)
Will be better than last year
Odds – 12.00 – 6th
Predicted Finish – 5th
If this Team was a Superhero that Superhero would be – Thor
Thor is one of those ‘not to be messed with characters’ and the Bulldogs are much the same. They were a little unsettled last year with Moses Mbye displacing Josh Reynolds for large portions of the season and Michael Lichaa picking up the occasional injury as well. The style of play favoured in previous seasons with James Graham and Sam Kasiano acting as de facto halves didn’t seem to work as well and a long term injury to Brett Morris didn’t help things either.
Given Des Hasler is an experienced coach, I assume that most of those issues have now been rectified. Hodkinson has moved on with Reynolds and Mbye the first choice halves. Mbye, Reynolds, Graham and Kasiano have had a whole off-season to work on combinations. Michael Lichaa is fit again. Unfortunately, Brett Morris is out for four months but there is plenty of depth in the outside backs this year.
Big Question – Will the real Tony Williams please stand up? Tony Williams is having a very David Taylor type career. He is big, fast and strong and at times unstoppable but unfortunately it is only ‘at times’ and not every single game. He is 27, started his career in the backs and has ended up in the forwards. Is this as good as it is going to get or does he have another burst in him?
Top Gun – James Graham – Didn’t seem to have the same impact last year. I always wonder whether a player is carrying injuries when they have an off year. If he can return to his best which is a combination of rugged runs into the teeth of the defence coupled with sublime play making and inspirational defence, the Dogs might be a premiership threat again.
Young Gun – Brad Abbey – The 19 year old star poached from the Warriors is on the verge of a breakout. There are opportunities in this team if he can take them.
X-Factor – Sam Kasiano – This is a tough one. All the changes implemented by the NRL (fewer interchanges and shorter stoppages) should dull his impact, however, in the absence of Frank Pritchard, Kasiano will be relied on for attacking spark. I think he can have a banner year.
The Big Leap – Moses Mbye – Consolidated his spot in the team last year and should build on that significantly in 2016.
Coach – Des Hasler
Gains – Brad Abbey (New Zealand Warriors, 2018), Graham Clark (Northern Pride, 2016), Craig Garvey (St George Illawarra Dragons, 2017), Kerrod Holland (Newcastle Knights, 2017) and Will Hopoate (Parramatta Eels, 2017)
Losses – Damien Cook (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Herman Ese’ese (Brisbane Broncos), Trent Hodkinson (Newcastle Knights), Antonio Kaufusi (Retired), Tim Lafai (St George Illawarra Dragons), Frank Pritchard (Hull FC) and Corey Thompson (Widnes Vikings)
Starting Team – Will Hopoate, Curtis Rona, Josh Morris, Chase Stanley, Sam Perrett, Josh Reynolds, Moses Mbye, James Graham, Michael Lichaa, Aiden Tolman, Josh Jackson, Tony Williams and Greg Eastwood
Interchange – Sam Kasiano, Danny Fualalo, Tim Browne and Adam Elliott
Squad – Shaun Lane, Pat O’Hanlon, Brad Abbey, Dane Chisolm, Craig Garvey, Kerrod Holland, Lindon McGrady, Jarrod McInally, Tyrone Phillips and Reimis Smith
Injury List – Brett Morris (knee, indefinite), Lloyd Perrett (ankle, indefinite) and David Klemmer (suspension, round 2)
What is sweeter than Jelly Bread?
- Some of the Intrust Super Cup teams are live streaming their games. Nice.
- Third season for the PNG Hunters. Important milestone for the club (and RL in PNG in general) as the Port Moresby Vipers only lasted 2 seasons in the Q Cup. Kato Ottio is the latest Hunter’s graduate to find himself on a NRL roster. SP Breweries also signed up for another 5 years to sponsor the club. Perhaps this will be the year they win their first premiership.
- GSW – Still setting records every week. Their form of Basketball is mesmerising. They are never out of the game.
- Still looking like Ben Simmons won’t ever play in the NCAA tournament. Very sad indeed. Even though they have won their last 2 games, folks that know keep saying they aren’t even on the bubble at the moment.
EPL Tips Match Week 29
Tottenham vs Arsenal – Draw 1-1
Chelsea vs Stoke – Chelsea 2-0
Everton vs West Ham – Everton 2-1
Man City vs Aston Villa – Man City 4-0
Newcastle vs Bournemouth – Newcastle 1-0
Southampton vs Sunderland – Southampton 2-0
Swansea vs Norwich – Swansea 2-1
Watford vs Leicester – Leicester 1-0
Crystal Palace vs Liverpool – Liverpool 2-1
West Brom vs Man U – Man U 2-1
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 – 40 (4 from 8 with no perfect scores) and Lawro – 50 (5 from 8 with no perfect scores)
Me – 40 (4 from 10 with no perfect scores) and Lawro – 50 (5 from 10 with no perfect scores)
Season so far
Me – 2010 and Lawro – 2010 (It doesn’t get any closer than this)
NRL Tips Round 1
This got super boring last year so I thought this year I might tip against the spread. Given I only tipped 62.9% correctly in 2015 and 58.21% in 2014, tipping against the spread is probably a terrible idea. I’m going to do it anyway.
Eels (+3.5) vs Broncos – Broncos
Sea Eagles vs Bulldogs (+3.5) – Sea Eagles
Raiders vs Panthers (+2.5) – Raiders
Tigers (+7.5) vs Warriors – Tigers
Cowboys vs Sharks (+8.0) – Cowboys
Roosters (+2.5) vs Rabbitohs – Roosters
Titans (+1.5) vs Knights – Titans
Storm vs Dragons (+7.5) – Storm
Stay tuned for the next exciting episode on Thursday, 17 March 2016 titled ‘2016 NRL Preview Part 4 – The Real Deal’