Home > Rugby League > NRL Season Preview Pt. 2- Just Missing Out

NRL Season Preview Pt. 2- Just Missing Out

Welcome to the second instalment of our NRL Season Preview- this time around, we take a look at the sides who we think will just miss out on the Top 8, finishing positions 9-12. Remember, no specific number is given, but we feel these teams will be around this spot when September rolls around.

 

Adrian


Brisbane Broncos

Ins: Ben Hannant (Canterbury Bulldogs), Dane Carlaw (Catalans Dragons, ESL), John Te Reo (Wynnum Manly, Queensland Cup)

Outs: Israel Folau (GWS Giants, AFL), Lagi Setu (Mormon Mission), Antonio Winterstein (North Queensland Cowboys), Tariq Sims (North Queensland Cowboys), Ashton Sims (North Queensland Cowboys), Korbin Sims (Newcastle Knights).

Dream Team gun: Corey Parker- a Lock who kicks goals. Ask any Dream Team player and they will tell you that type of player is someone you must have in your team. Parker fits the mould, and quite rightly is the most expensive player in the game. He’ll get you a mountain of points each week, and when the Broncos are winning, it only gets better.

Who will star: Ben Hannant- returning to the club where he became a star, I’ve got a good feeling that ‘The Polar Bear’ will be back at his best.

Look out for: Corey Norman- As a Five-eighth at Brisbane, you’re not going to get a run unless the Kangaroos are playing, its Origin week, or Lockyer is injured. Norman also covers fullback, but Josh Hoffman has seemingly filled the void left by Karmichael. When given the chance last year, he showed he has plenty to offer. If he can get a run, he’s definitely one to keep an eye on.

 

When G.I. signed on to become a Bronco in 2011 and beyond, they suddenly rocketed to serious premiership contenders with various bookmakers across the board. Now that he’s at Redfern instead, things have cooled down a bit, and I have to think that they won’t be making the eight again. They initially were in my personal Top 8, but with the sacking of Henjak, I can’t back a team confidently when they ditch their head coach a few weeks before the start of a new season, even if it is a side with the quality that Brisbane have. I’m willing to be proven wrong, however.

 

 

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs

Ins: Aiden Tolman (Melbourne Storm), Greg Eastwood (Leeds Rhinos – Super League), Trent Hodkinson (Manly), Kris Keating (Parramatta), Frank Pritchard (Penrith), Grant Millington (Cronulla), Jonathan Wright (Parramatta), Michael Lett (St George Illawarra).

Outs: Ben Hannant (Brisbane Broncos), Nathan Massey (Canberra), Daniel Harrison (Manly), Luke Patten (Salford City Reds – Super League), Brett Kimmorley (retired), Blake Green (Hull Kingston Rovers – Super League).

Dream Team gun: David Stagg– without doubt, one of the most consistent performers in Dream Team over the past few years after moving to Lock. Gets through a mountain of work, but his scoring dropped at times through last year, with his minutes being reduced. It all depends how he’ll be used, but he could be a very handy upgrade option around Origin.

Who will star: Greg Eastwood– Dogs fans will be very pleased to see Eastwood return to the club after a year over in the UK. While he might not be at his best early on (had off-season surgery on both wrists), he showed in 2009 what a damaging player he can be. Will certainly bolster a Bulldogs pack that was very lacking during 2010.

Look out for: Ben Barba– after being eased into First Grade off the bench last season, this could be the breakout year for one of the most exciting attacking players the league has to offer. He’ll be getting first crack at the Fullback spot vacated by Luke Patten, so look for him to play in a similar way to Todd Carney in this position, giving the Dogs more last play options in the opposition’s half.

 

The last time the Dogs were this active in the player market, they went on to finish a close second at the end of 26 rounds, and lost out to a fast finishing Parramatta in the Preliminary Final. Can they do it all again? Initially, I thought so, but then reconsidered when I looked at who they’d bought in. Is Hodkinson at the same level as Kimmorley? Perhaps in the future, but I wouldn’t say so at the moment. Pritchard- brilliant one game, horrible the next. Can he finally live up to his potential and get some consistent performances under his belt? How will the forwards be used? How will some of the 80 minute players fair after having their minutes reduced? There’s too many questions that need answering here, so I can’t put the Dogs in my Top 8. I think they’ll go close, but not close enough.

 

 

Gold Coast Titans

Ins: Joe Vickery (St George Illawarra), Luke Capewell (South Sydney), Richie Williams (Burleigh Bears – Queensland Cup).

Outs: Jordan Atkins (Eels), Selesi Berdie (released), Marshall Chalk (released), Aaron Cannings (released), Josh Graham (released), Mat Rogers (retired), Ryan Tongia (Sharks), Dayne Weston (Panthers).

Dream Team gun: Nathan Friend- this man makes plenty of tackles, gets great metres out of dummy half, proving to be a very unique pick should you chose him for your side. While most others will be looking to Farah or Smith as their starting hookers, Friend is one to keep in mind. Unfortunately he’ll be missing the first few weeks of the season due to shoulder dislocation, but when he’s back, should return ready to fire.

Who will star: Scott Prince- I don’t think I need to qualify this one- Prince is key to the Titans, and doesn’t look to be slowing down at all. Set for another stellar season, I’ll be interested to see who partners him in the halves after the retirement of Mat Rogers.

Look out for: Bodene Thompson- not only does he have a killer name, he’s also a pretty handy player. Had a great run towards the end of the season, nailing a spot on the bench and providing great cover and balance to the Titans’ pack. I have no doubt that he’ll be in the 17 selected each week.

 

You’re probably surprised to see that I’ve put the Titans here when it seems that they are well backed to make the Top 8 again this year. I’ve got a question mark over depth in key positions. I don’t know if Riley Brown, remembered for putting Craig Wing on the shelf, is suitable cover at Hooker, and if Prince is out, then a lot of guys have to move around to cover him. I’m not saying that the Titans are going to be shocking this year. Far from it. I just think that there will be other sides that will surpass them in 2011.

 

 

Manly Warringah Sea Eagles

Ins: Daniel Harrison (Canterbury-Bankstown), Liam Foran (Newtown Jets), Tim Robinson (Parramatta).

Outs: Chris Bailey (Harlequins – Super League), Josh Perry (St Helens – Super League), Trent Hodkinson (Canterbury-Bankstown), Ben Farrar (Catalans Dragons – Super League), Lama Tasi (Sydney Roosters).

Dream Team gun: Matt Ballin- see ‘Nathan Friend’ but ignore the part about injury.

Who will star: Brett Stewart- after all the off field troubles and months spent with injury, it finally looks like Stewart will be back to regular footy, which is a great thing for not only the man himself, but the club as well. I’m picking he might have a bit of slow start to the season, but will return to great form, resuming the lethal combination he formed with WATMOUGH~! that terrorised opposition defence in previous years.

Look out for: Daly Cherry-Evans- another year, another rookie halves pairing for the Eagles. Trent Hodkinson went on to represent City and scored himself a decent contract at the Dogs… This year, its Cherry-Evans joining Kieran Foran- can they be the men to steer this side around the park? It looks like DCE will get the nod to start Round 1, and if the hype is to be believed, then he’ll go quite alright.

 

The Sea Eagles limped into the finals last year, and were promptly dealt with by the eventual premiers. No major off season signings, coupled with a few key exits… Stewart and David Williams will be back, but when injuries come a callin’, I’m not convinced the depth is there to stick with the Top 8. Their monster forward pack will keep them competitive, but if I’m to be believed, it won’t be enough.

 

 

Matt


Brisbane Broncos

Ins: Ben Hannant (Canterbury Bulldogs), Dane Carlaw (Catalans Dragons, ESL), John Te Reo (Wynnum Manly, Queensland Cup)

Outs: Israel Folau (GWS Giants, AFL), Lagi Setu (Mormon Mission), Antonio Winterstein (North Queensland Cowboys), Tariq Sims (North Queensland Cowboys), Ashton Sims (North Queensland Cowboys), Korbin Sims (Newcastle Knights).

Dream Team gun: Corey Parker- the highest point scoring player in Dream Team in 2010, and this could be repeated again in 2011. Parker is an 80 minute second-rower (a Dream Team player’s first love), a goal-kicker (which every team needs), who tackles his heart out and runs hard. He also comes up with the odd try which is handy.

Who will star: Sam Thaiday- Seen by many last year as the form player in the competition in the early rounds, his drop in form coincided with the fall in fortunes for the Broncos. His major attitude change after being dropped in the 2009 Four Nations has turned him into a major commodity for the Broncos, so look for him to lead their pack in 2011, as well as the Queensland and Australian packs.

Look out for: – Ben Hunt – A former Toyota Cup Player of the Year, Hunt has had a small taste of the top grade, but will be eager to get more time in 2011. A half/five-eighth, he will probably gain a bench spot at some time during the year, providing back-up for likely starting hooker Andrew McCullough, and fill in Lockyer’s spot around Origin time. Quick and elusive, Hunt also has a strong kicking game which may see him take over Lockyer’s spot upon retirement.

 

The Broncos off-field dramas have made their chances of a return to the top eight even slimmer, although they can never be written off with a player like Lockyer in the side. They have a quality pack, including Thaiday, Parker, Ben Hannant, Nick Kenny, Ben Te’o and rookie Matt Gillett. and they will provide the time and space for Lockyer to weave his magic. There are some questions over their backs, with Hodges returning after a long stint on the sidelines, but this lack of experience could cost them dearly.

 

 

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs

Ins: Aiden Tolman (Melbourne Storm), Greg Eastwood (Leeds Rhinos – Super League), Trent Hodkinson (Manly), Kris Keating (Parramatta), Frank Pritchard (Penrith), Grant Millington (Cronulla), Jonathan Wright (Parramatta), Michael Lett (St George Illawarra).

Outs: Ben Hannant (Brisbane Broncos), Nathan Massey (Canberra), Daniel Harrison (Manly), Luke Patten (Salford City Reds – Super League), Brett Kimmorley (retired), Blake Green (Hull Kingston Rovers – Super League).

Dream Team gun: David Stagg– up there with the best Dream Team players going around, Stagg works his backside off, defending in the centre of the ruck, and providing good go forward. Had some reduced minutes last year, but with the look of the Bulldogs pack in 2011, Stagg will need to step up and play 80 mins every week.

Who will star: Aiden Tolman– could turn out to be the buy of the season. Tolman was one of the players forced out of the Storm last year, but he will perfectly fit the hole left by fellow blonde prop Ben Hannant. He is also on the verge of NSW Origin selection, and a strong start to the season will not only see the Dogs going well, but Origin just around the corner.

Look out for: Josh Reynolds– Has played the last two years in the Bulldogs NSW Cup side, and starring in back-to-back premiership wins for the club. The 22 year old will be looking to force his way onto the bench to play the utility role, but could step up to the mark should young halves Kris Keating or Trent Hodkinson fail to fire in the opening rounds.

 

Can the Bulldogs make the eight? Yes. Will they? Probably not. Their high turnover of players, particularly in key positions at halfback, five-eighth and fullback, will probably mean a slow start to the season, but at least their new halves paring of Keating and Hodkinson have a natural chemistry having starred as local juniors at Cabramatta and played City Origin together last year. Whilst many people see Pritchard as an inspired signing, his inconsistency could cost the Bulldogs when it comes to the big games.

 

 

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: – Matt Hilder – the ultimate utility player, Hilder may start on the bench this year, but his impact and work rate won’t be affected at all. He scores big points by doing the hard yards for the Knights and by covering multiple positions he will be scoring in multiple disciplines. Also possesses the second best nickname in rugby league (‘Waltzing’), a close second to Justin Poore (‘China’).

Who will star: Kurt Gidley- Without doubt the heart and soul of the Knights club, Gidley has led from the front for the past 3 years. Could start in his old fullback, but the inside word is that he is likely to partner Jarred Mullen in the halves to start the season. This will get him closer to the action, and that can only be a good thing for the Knights. Will also be looking to retain his bench place with the Blues and prove some doubters wrong.

Look out for: – Siuatonga Likiliki – in my opinion takes out the best name in the comp award, but he is also a handy footballer. Comes off a massive season in the Warriors premiership-winning Toyota Cup team, Likiliki has been twice named in the Toyota Cup Team of the Year, and will be searching for a start in the centres, or in Cooper Vuna’s vacated wing spot. A dangerous ball-runner with an eye for the line.

 

The Knights are heavily underrated and have been for some time. Coach Rick Stone has a year under his belt now, and with the hard lessons learnt about consistency and intensity throughout the season from 2010, he will only be better for it. A lot will depend on Gidley’s form and fitness, but if Jarred Mullen finally steps up, they could be a surprise packed in the competition. Also look out for some great youngsters coming through the ranks up north, including former Tiger Shannon McDonnell, and some big buys for season 2012 as Nathan Tinkler takes over the reigns.

 

 

Manly Warringah Sea Eagles

Ins: Daniel Harrison (Canterbury-Bankstown), Liam Foran (Newtown Jets), Tim Robinson (Parramatta).

Outs: Chris Bailey (Harlequins – Super League), Josh Perry (St Helens – Super League), Trent Hodkinson (Canterbury-Bankstown), Ben Farrar (Catalans Dragons – Super League), Lama Tasi (Sydney Roosters).

Dream Team gun: Matt Ballin- Not only the modelling face of the code, but also a very hard working hooker. Ballin got a taste of Origin football in 2010, and will only be hungry for more should Cameron Smith drop out again. Look out for his tackling numbers and meters out of dummy half, which are not only handy for Manly, but could also be for your team as well.

Who will star: Anthony Watmough- he may not be the smartest footballer going around, in fact he is far from it. He may not be the most attractive footballer around. Again, far from it. But by God can this bloke play footy. He may have been blunted slightly since the loss of Matt Orford, but with Brett Stewart set to return, Watmough could become amazingly potent again. With Stewart backing him up in the middle, look out for the Cherry-Evans/Watmough/Stewart try-scoring combination.

Look out for: Daly Cherry-Evans- The young halfback has been brought down from their Queensland Cup feeder team after a fairly successful time in 2010. A youngster with plenty to learn, Cherry-Evans was named in the Queensland Emerging Origin squad in 2010. He will need to step up if the Eagles are to be successful, but with only youngster Keiran Foran to help him it will be a massive task. Finished third in the NRL’s best names competition behind Likiliki and Thompson.

 

Manly are probably back in a rebuilding period after a few years straight in the semi-finals, and a premiership in between. The loss of Hodkinson to the Bulldogs was a telling blow last year, as he left after finding his way alongside Foran. Although Brett Stewart is set to return, I don’t think they have the experience or depth to properly challenge for the finals in 2011. In saying that, Des Hasler will certainly have them competing each and every week.

 

— — —

Those are our sides just missing out on the finals. Check back through the week as we go through our dark-horses for the 2011 season. Where will your side be?

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