Home > Rugby League > NRL Season Preview Pt. 1- The Also-Rans

NRL Season Preview Pt. 1- The Also-Rans

NRL season 2011 is finally upon us, and just like every year, all 16 teams are talking up their chances. We’re ready to give predicting the final placings a crack, so read on to find out who we think will finish in the Bottom 4…

Note: We decided to split the preview into four articles. We’ll be going through the places four at a time. We wont be giving exact places, but rather a rough indication of where they’ll be on the ladder.

 

Adrian


Cronulla Sharks

Ins: Andrew Clayton (Brisbane Broncos), Colin Best (South Sydney), Jeremy Smith (St George Illawarra), John Williams (North Queensland Cowboys), Kose Lelei (Canterbury-Bankstown), Ryan Tongia (Gold Coast Titans), Wade Graham (Penrith).

Outs: Kyle O’Donnell (Newcastle Knights), Grant Millington (Canterbury-Bankstown), Blake Ferguson (Canberra), Adam Cuthbertson (St George Illawarra), Trent Barrett, Luke Covell, Reece Williams (retired), Josh Lewis (Tolouse), Lancen Joudo (North Queensland Cowboys), Luke Harlen (released).

Dream Team gun: Paul Gallen– a criticism of Gal has been that he does too much in a game. There is no such problem when it comes to dream team- the fact that he does everything equals huge points! He’s a bit pricey to begin with, so perhaps hold out for a price drop, but if he’s in your team, you won’t regret it.

Who will star: Anthony Tupou– I was going to say Gallen again, but I’ll share it around a bit. Let’s not beat around the bush- Tupou has been far from his best during his time at the Sharks. With the inclusion of Jeremy Smith, the Sharks have a very handy back row. It’s time for Tupou to recapture some of that form that saw him play 3 games of Origin and 6 tests in the green and gold.

Look out for: Albert Kelly– now that the Sharks have themselves a decent fullback again, a bulked up Kelly can concentrate on playing in the halves, and is well in contention to be part of the regular match day side. Tim Smith and Scott Porter both halfbacks… someone has to play 5/8, right?

The Sharks have been pretty shocking the past two seasons. Only one game away from the 2008 Grand Final (how quickly we forget), for some reason the wheels fell off and the Sharks have been average ever since. Despite some handy additions, I can’t see them doing any better this year. If the Snowden botch is anything to go by, this could be another long year for Sharks fans.

 

Newcastle Knights

Ins: Beau Henry (St George Illawarra), Chris Houston (Suspension), Korbin Sims (Brisbane Broncos), Kyle O’Donnell (Cronulla), Maipele Morseau (Melbourne Storm), Neville Costigan (St George Illawarra), Siuatonga Likiliki (Warriors), Steve Southern (North Queensland Cowboys).

Outs: Cooper Vuna (Melbourne Rebels – Super Rugby), Scott Dureau (Catalans Dragons – Super League), Ben Cross (Leeds Rhinos – Super League), Steve Simpson (Retired).

Dream Team gun: Kurt Gidley– not only the club’s captain, but a champion DT player as well. Fullbacks generally don’t score huge points, but Gids is the exception to the rule. You’ll pay a premium price, but expect a decent return, especially if he spends time in the halves.

Who will star: Akuila Uate– Dally M Winger of the Year in 2010, Uate is a star on the rise. What’s more, he’s eligible for State of Origin selection now. You can bet your bottom dollar that he’s going to be putting in 100% each week to get into that side.

Look out for: Chris Houston– before he found himself sacked and in an unfortunate situation, Houston was a very decent player, and touted to be the next leader of the club. Now that he’s back, he’ll be looking to repay the faith shown to him.

Finalists in ’09, the Knights didn’t really challenge last year. While they recruited well, can’t see them finishing higher this year. If I’m to be believed, they’ll slip back. Might have to take a step backwards to go forward. Too inconsistent for my liking.

 

North Queensland Cowboys

Ins: Antonio Winterstein (Brisbane Broncos), Brent Tate (Warriors), Tariq Sims (Brisbane Broncos), Kalifa Fai Fai Loa (St George Illawarra), Ashton Sims (Brisbane Broncos), Ricky Thorby (St George Illawarra), Gavin Cooper (Penrith), Dallas Johnson (Catalans Dragons – Super League), Ben Jones (Sydney Roosters), Blake Leary (Melbourne Storm), Lancen Joudo (Cronulla), Glen Hall (Bradford Bulls – Super League).

Outs: Steve Rapira (Warriors), Anthony Watts (Sydney Roosters), Luke O’Donnell (Huddersfield Giants – Super League), Ty Williams (retired), Carl Webb (Parramatta), Willie Mason (Hull Kingston Rovers – Super League), Steve Southern (Newcastle Knights), Arana Taumata (Penrith), John Williams (Cronulla), Dayne Weston (Penrith).

Dream Team gun: Dallas Johnson– the man is a tackling machine. A workhorse if there ever was one, he will get through an amazing amount of tackles in a game. Lock and load.

Who will star: Johnathan Thurston– He has to! I don’t know if the fortunes of one team have ever been so reliant on one man. He is a match winner, pure and simple. If the Cowboys are to do anything this year, then he has to step up.

Look out for: Ben Jones– Is looking likely to take the centre spot vacated by the injured Brent Tate. Is a versatile player and should fit in well, even in a utility role off the bench.

What a disappointing 2010 it was for the Cowboys. I don’t know what went wrong, but something did. With the continuous merry-go-round of players wearing the No. 6 jersey and long term injuries to the club’s top Fullback and Hooker, combinations and continuity was seemingly hard to come by. I don’t think they’ll play as poorly this year, and well, things can’t get much worse- the only reason they didn’t claim the wooden spoon was because of the Storm. Having said that though, I don’t think they’ll be making a massive charge towards the Top 8, but rather find themselves floating around 13th-14th.

 

Penrith Panthers

Ins: Yileen Gordon (Canterbury-Bankstown), Arana Taumata (North Queensland Cowboys), Coedi Towney (The Entrance – Bundaberg Red Cup), Dayne Weston (North Queensland Cowboys), Michael Worrincy (Bradford Bulls – Super League), Nafe Seluini (Warriors), Brendon Gibb (Norths Devils – Queensland Cup), Junior Paulo (St George Illawarra), Tim Winitana (Canterbury-Bankstown).

Outs: Wade Graham (Cronulla), Frank Pritchard (Canterbury-Bankstown), Gavin Cooper (North Queensland Cowboys), Josh Bateman (North Queensland Cowboys), Maurice Blair (Melbourne Storm), Daniel Penese (St George Illawarra).

Dream Team gun: Petero Civoniceva– what more can be said about this man? Still going strong (he’ll be 35 in April), he is highly consistent, and even though he won’t get a 60pt game every week, you know what you’re getting if you pick him up.

Who will star: Luke Lewis– winger turned 5/8 turned Lock, Lewis has really found himself a great position in the back row at Penrith and at representative level. He should star again this year, hopefully with less injury this time around.

Look out for: Arana Taumata– in what has been a troubled career thus far, reports are that he is settling in well at Penrith, and is shaping to start at 5/8, partnering Luke Walsh in the halves. He can play, so if he gets game time, he is certainly one to watch.

2nd on the ladder last year, bundled out of the finals in straight sets. Injuries definitely took their toll on the side last year, and losing both your first choice second rowers for the semi final really typified this. I can see the same thing happening again, but much earlier on. I’m not sold on the depth here, so when injuries set in (and they probably will), the Panthers might struggle.

 

Matt


Cronulla Sharks

Ins: Andrew Clayton (Brisbane Broncos), Colin Best (South Sydney), Jeremy Smith (St George Illawarra), John Williams (North Queensland Cowboys), Kose Lelei (Canterbury-Bankstown), Ryan Tongia (Gold Coast Titans), Wade Graham (Penrith).

Outs: Kyle O’Donnell (Newcastle Knights), Grant Millington (Canterbury-Bankstown), Blake Ferguson (Canberra), Adam Cuthbertson (St George Illawarra), Trent Barrett, Luke Covell, Reece Williams (retired), Josh Lewis (Tolouse), Lancen Joudo (North Queensland Cowboys), Luke Harlen (released).

Dream Team gun: Paul Gallen– without doubt, the hardest working forward in the competition. It has even got to the stage where new coach Shane Flannagan has told Gallen he isn’t to go looking for the ball and stick to his fringe. This may limit his DT points, but I can’t see Gallen sticking to this for too long.

Who will star: Jeremy Smith– A star in the Dragons premiership side last year, Smith was a major coup for the Sharks. A hard worker, and will probably play big minutes in an under performing Sharks side. Also has handy ball-playing skills, which is something the Sharks lack throughout the side, let alone the forwards. Could assist them to a higher place, but like Gallen, can only do so much.

Look out for: Wade Graham– Has all the talent in the world, but was stuck in a bit of a rut at Penrith. He was essentially stuck behind Luke Walsh at the Panthers, and with the Sharks yet to settle on a halves pairing, Graham has a big chance to cement a starting spot and finally fulfill all that talent that has been wasted at the foot of the mountains.

Its hard not to see the Sharks struggling this year, again with a decent roster, but nothing spectacular. The addition of Jeremy Smith will add to their impressive forward pack, but unfortunately they still lack any spark in the halves and the back-line. Should the Snowden affair go any longer, this could turn out to be a VERY long year for the Sharkies.

 

Parramatta Eels

Ins: Carl Webb (North Queensland Cowboys), Reni Maitua (suspension), Jordan Atkins (Gold Coast Titans), Chris Walker (Catalans Dragons – Super League), Eni Folau (Easts Tigers – Queensland Cup), Brad Murray (Sydney Roosters), Chris Hicks (Warrington Wolves – Super League), Paul Whatuira (Huddersfield Giants – Super League), Casey McGuire (Catalans Dragons – Super League).

Outs: Nathan Cayless (retired), Feleti Mateo (Warriors), Krisnan Inu (Warriors), Kris Keating (Canterbury-Bankstown), Jonathan Wright (Canterbury-Bankstown), Tim Robinson (Manly).

Dream Team gun: Nathan Hindmarsh– takes over the captain’s role from club legend Nathan Cayless, and carrying this extra weight will be no harm for Hindmarsh. Will probably play big minutes as per usual, and lead from the front even if they are struggling. A non-stop tackler, who will add plenty of carries to his game due to an impact forward pack.

Who will star: Jarayd Hayne– Dally M Player of the Year in 2009, the hope of the Eels supporters will again lie on his shoulders. Should the Hayne Train/Plane decide to start up the rest of the competition should watch out. He will also looking to prove himself to NSW selectors, who have been rumoured to be looking at replacing the Origin fullback with Raiders gun Josh Dugan.

Look out for: Casey McGuire– returning from France after a moderately successful stint with the Catalans Dragons, the former QLD Origin utility may just be the hooker that the Eels have been looking for. Will probably be battling for the role with fellow hookers Matt Keating and Anthony Mitchell, but his experience will count double and if trial form is anything to go by, he lost nothing from his European trip.

Grand-finalists in ’09, the Eels fell back into predictable form in 2010, starting slow with the Hayne Plane being delayed longer than a Jetstar flight. They need to take some of the pressure of him, but despite recruiting a quality coach in Stephen Kearney, their other recruits played their best football 5-10 years ago, and will lack the quality and consistency to be a threat.

 

North Queensland Cowboys

Ins: Antonio Winterstein (Brisbane Broncos), Brent Tate (Warriors), Tariq Sims (Brisbane Broncos), Kalifa Fai Fai Loa (St George Illawarra), Ashton Sims (Brisbane Broncos), Ricky Thorby (St George Illawarra), Gavin Cooper (Penrith), Dallas Johnson (Catalans Dragons – Super League), Ben Jones (Sydney Roosters), Blake Leary (Melbourne Storm), Lancen Joudo (Cronulla), Glen Hall (Bradford Bulls – Super League).

Outs: Steve Rapira (Warriors), Anthony Watts (Sydney Roosters), Luke O’Donnell (Huddersfield Giants – Super League), Ty Williams (retired), Carl Webb (Parramatta), Willie Mason (Hull Kingston Rovers – Super League), Steve Southern (Newcastle Knights), Arana Taumata (Penrith), John Williams (Cronulla), Dayne Weston (Penrith).

Dream Team gun: Dallas Johnson– their isn’t much that needs to be said about this man other than he tackles everything that moves. Left the Storm to ease Salary Cap pressures (HA!) a few years back, but returns to his native Queensland with the Cowboys, and that time away from the NRL could see him be a little cheaper than normal.

Who will star: Johnathan Thurston– Unless he does fire, the Cowboys could have the Wooden Spoon that they failed to claim last year only thanks to the Storm. No other team in the competition relies so much on one man, but with the Cowboys its justified. Until last year he was rated the best player in the world, now he has to live up to this mantle and carry the side who seemed to be carrying him last year.

Look out for: Tariq Sims – Joins the Cowboys with older brother Ashton from the Broncos, Sims was the Toyota Cup player of the year in 2010. A bustling back rower, he can also push up into the front row and will be a very valuable acquisition for the Cowboys this year, who have lost a large part of their big pack.

They will always be a threat at home, but until they can win consistently away from home, as they did in a good period from 2004-2006, they won’t challenge anyone. Their previously graveyard home ground in Townsville turned into a training run for most sides in 2010, and this desperately needs to change this year. They will also need to overcome off-field troubles and power struggles which I think could see coach Neil Henry gone before the end of the year.

 

Penrith Panthers

Ins: Yileen Gordon (Canterbury-Bankstown), Arana Taumata (North Queensland Cowboys), Coedi Towney (The Entrance – Bundaberg Red Cup), Dayne Weston (North Queensland Cowboys), Michael Worrincy (Bradford Bulls – Super League), Nafe Seluini (Warriors), Brendon Gibb (Norths Devils – Queensland Cup), Junior Paulo (St George Illawarra), Tim Winitana (Canterbury-Bankstown).

Outs: Wade Graham (Cronulla), Frank Pritchard (Canterbury-Bankstown), Gavin Cooper (North Queensland Cowboys), Josh Bateman (North Queensland Cowboys), Maurice Blair (Melbourne Storm), Daniel Penese (St George Illawarra).

Dream Team gun: Luke Lewis– A winger turned centre turned half turned lock turned back rower, Lewis is the ultimate utility player. He plays 80 mins every week, tackles his heart out, runs hard and long, and will get you some tries and assists along the way.

Who will star: Michael Jennings– He is the man that can create something from nothing, they just have to get him the ball. Made a switch from the right back to the left last year, and despite playing through injury for the early part of the season, was a key part of the Panthers run to second spot and the finals. Give him the ball and watch him go!

Look out for: Arana Taumata– at his 7th club in 6 years, Taumata makes Todd Carney look like a saint. Fortunately he left his last two clubs (reportedly) because he couldn’t get a look in behind some quality players. The Panthers have taken him on, and

2nd on the ladder last year, bundled out of the finals in straight sets. Injuries definitely took their toll on the side last year, and losing both your first choice second rowers for the semi final really typified this. I can see the same thing happening again, but much earlier on. I’m not sold on the depth here, so when injuries set in (and they probably will), the Panthers might struggle.

——–

That’s our Bottom 4- if your team is here, tell us why we’re wrong! Make sure you check back in the coming days for our next batch of teams- those just missing out on the Top 8.

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