Home > Rugby League > NRL Season Preview Pt. 3- Competition Dark Horses

NRL Season Preview Pt. 3- Competition Dark Horses

We’ve made it to the Top 8! In this one we take a look at the sides we think will finish 5th-8th. As per usual, no exact place is given, but these are the sides we think will be in the bottom half of the 8 come the end of Round 26.

 

Adrian


Canberra Raiders

Ins: Nathan Massey (Canterbury-Bankstown), Brett White (Melbourne Storm), Blake Ferguson (Cronulla), Mark Ioane (Warriors).

Outs: Justin Carney (Sydney Roosters), Scott Logan (retired), Troy Thompson (Melbourne Storm), Adam Mogg (retired), Marc Herbert (Bradford Bulls – Super League), Joel Monaghan (released).

Dream Team gun: Shaun Fensom– when not injuring himself riding a bush bike, Fensom is another fantastic dream team player. Despite his age and injuries, he is seemingly favoured as the club’s top Lock, so his job security is good. He won’t come cheap (like he was last year), so selecting him is a bit of a gamble. Could be a unique pick, and definitely worth it if he strings some games together.

Who will star: Josh Dugan– showed plenty in the NRL All Stars game, and is set for a big year. There’s talk he could take the No. 1 jersey for NSW, so he’s got plenty to play for. A match winner and one of the best young talents going around.

Look out for: Blake Ferguson- not a happy player while at Cronulla, Ferguson stated that he wanted to be with a club that could win trophies. He’s got his wish, so he better start putting some decent performances on the pitch- there’s plenty of young wingers ready to take his spot.

 

The Raiders have assembled a formidable squad for season 2011. Bolstering their already huge forward pack is Brett White, and the missing link (a halfback) came in the form of Matt Orford. When Campese returns from injury, those two could form one of the best halves pairing in the game, and a late charge towards premiership glory could be on the cards.

 

Melbourne Storm

Ins: Adam Woolnough (out of retirement), Beau Champion (South Sydney), Elijah Niko (Warriors), Jaiman Lowe (South Sydney), Maurice Blair (Penrith), Troy Thompson (Canberra).

Outs: Aiden Tolman (Canterbury-Bankstown), Jeff Lima (Wigan Warriors – Super League), Ryan Hoffman (Wigan Warriors – Super League), Brett Finch (Wigan Warriors – Super League), Brett White (Canberra), Greg Inglis (South Sydney).

Dream Team gun: Cameron Smith- not only the club captain, but the man who consistently scores huge DT scores. Kicking game adds some decent points, while his tackles aren’t too shabby either. Will definitely miss time for representative duties, but you’ll want him in your squad at some point in the year… Why not from the start?

Who will star: Adam Blair- for some weird reason, it seems that the Storm needs to have an elite group of four players… The Fab Four, if you will. Blair has seemingly taken the spot vacated by Inglis, elevating himself to superstar status in the process. He’ll need to seriously step up this year and lead by example, especially during the Origin period. I don’t doubt that he will.

Look out for: Gareth Widdop– taking over from Brett Finch, the young Fullback/Centre/Five-eighth has claimed the No. 6 jersey for Round 1. Strangely, he’s played more tests for England (four) than he has first grade games (three). No matter, now that the club is salary cap compliant, he’s going to be getting a lot of game time and might just be the success story of the rebuilding Storm side.

 

Rocked by controversy last year, the Storm are finally back and ready to play for points. After an understandably huge turnover of players, it’s now time for Slater, Smith and Cronk to come to the party and lead a side with a mixture of journeymen and young talent. Having said that, there’s some other really decent players still remaining at the club, and I can see them making the Top 8 on the back of real hunger and desire. Depth may be tested at times, but Craig Bellamy has a point to prove. They’ll use last year as motivation, don’t you worry about that.

 

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– the man tackles anything that moves. That’s all that needs to be said, really.

Who will star: Tim Mannah- selected for Origin in 2010, this man was used off the bench quite successfully. With Fui Fui Moi Moi and Justin Poore out of the side currently, Mannah needs to have a strong start to the season and lead the young props forward. Could return to Origin as well if his good form continues.

Look out for: Shane Shackleton- After injuring himself in Round 1 last year on debut for the Eels, the former Rooster definitely has a point to prove in 2011. Certainly deserves to be in the Eels squad every week, and could finally deliver the club the potential that was anticipated when he made the move across town.

 

Phenomenal one year, disappointing the next. After being an unstoppable force in their run to the ’09 Grand Final, the Eels failed to cash in on their success, finishing in 12th spot in 2010. Now with a new coach and a team bolstered by experienced campaigners and a few young players, Parra might just turn things around and have a good showing in the home and away season. And from there… who knows? All I know is, they should make the Top 8. Just.

 

South Sydney Rabbitohs

Ins: George Burgess (Bradford Bulls – Super League), Greg Inglis (Melbourne Storm).

Outs: Colin Best (Cronulla), Luke Capewell (Gold Coast Titans), Jaiman Lowe (Melbourne Storm), Beau Champion (Melbourne Storm), Jamie Simpson (Huddersfield Giants – Super League).

Dream Team gun: Ben Lowe- surrounded by superstar signings, this man really stood up and was counted in 2010. He made the No. 13 jumper his own, but sadly, his season ended prematurely through injury. Now that he’s back, should be consistent again. Unfortunately no longer available as an Outside back, if you choose him he’ll provide something a bit different for your 2nd Row.

Who will star: Fetuli Talanoa- While the Rabbitohs’ backline has been very settled the last few years, competition will be hot, especially for spots in the centres and on the wing. If Talanoa does not deliver, he could easily be replaced, so I’m feeling that he’ll give more sustained performances. Especially playing outside Inglis… he should score thousands of tries!

Look out for: Ben Ross- I don’t think I need to explain this one. Quite an inspirational comeback for a man that was dangerously close to never walking again. It takes a lot to get back from where he was, and he will give plenty to the side which showed so much faith in him.

 

After all the hype, all the signings, all the promise, 2011 is the year South Sydney have to deliver. While I’m not already predicting a Premiership like some are, I think that at the very least they should make the Top 8, finishing at around 6th or 7th. For this to happen though, Sandow and Sutton need to bring it in a big way. Last tackle options are crucial- far too many opportunities are squandered through a poor kick or misplaced pass. Injuries as well will be an important factor- hopefully there will be no need to sign retired players mid-season this time around! I’m cautiously optimistic about their chances.

 

———

 

Matt


Canberra Raiders

Ins: Nathan Massey (Canterbury-Bankstown), Brett White (Melbourne Storm), Blake Ferguson (Cronulla), Mark Ioane (Warriors).

Outs: Justin Carney (Sydney Roosters), Scott Logan (retired), Troy Thompson (Melbourne Storm), Adam Mogg (retired), Marc Herbert (Bradford Bulls – Super League), Joel Monaghan (released).

Dream Team gun: Bronson Harrison– has been a revelation since moving from the Tigers in 2009, the back-rower scores big-time through big metres and a ton of offloads. He has just re-signed with the club, a major boost for the Raiders who are building a strong foundation for the future. A must in any serious player’s Dream Team.

Who will star: Josh Dugan– the bolter for NSW in this year’s Origin series, Dugan is an excitement machine. He plays much in the same vein as AFL defector Karmichael Hunt, constantly putting his body on the line and breaking through the defence. His man-of-the-match performance in the NRL All-Stars game this year signals big things to come for Dugan.

Look out for: Joel Thompson– a young, bustling centre who has had his previous attempts at NRL stardom cut down cruelly by injury. At 22 his time to shine has come, and after a solid performance for the Aboriginal All-Stars, the former Australian Schoolboy will be ready to go in 2011.

 

The Raiders have recruited wisely in 2011, adding even more size to the biggest pack in the competition with Brett White, and the experience of Matt Orford to lead the team around. With Campese a little while away, Orford will need to take a little more responsibility in the side, but upon Campese’s return, the Green Machine will be a force to be reckoned with. They also have gun youngsters Josh Dugan, Blake Ferguson and have gained impressive Bulldogs junior Nathan Massey.

 

Melbourne Storm

Ins: Adam Woolnough (out of retirement), Beau Champion (South Sydney), Elijah Niko (Warriors), Jaiman Lowe (South Sydney), Maurice Blair (Penrith), Troy Thompson (Canberra).

Outs: Aiden Tolman (Canterbury-Bankstown), Jeff Lima (Wigan Warriors – Super League), Ryan Hoffman (Wigan Warriors – Super League), Brett Finch (Wigan Warriors – Super League), Brett White (Canberra), Greg Inglis (South Sydney).

Dream Team gun: Cameron Smith- the skipper will be out for revenge in 2011, and his limited performances in 2010 could make him somewhat of a ‘value buy’ this year. He will play 80 mins, and switch in with the halves, assisting his try-assist and line-break assist numbers. Also a quality goal-kicker.

Who will star: Billy Slater- formerly the best player in the world, Slater will be keen to reclaim some of his former glory after a quiet season both at the Storm, and in representative football. He is quick, elusive and can read the game as good as anyone. In my opinion still the best fullback in the game at the moment.

Look out for: Luke Kelly– a young half out of the Northern Territory, Kelly joined the Storm following a stint at Western Suburbs, where he attended noted Rugby League school St Gregorys College at Campbelltown. Has had some limited exposure to first grade, but the Toyota Cup premiership winning skipper will be eager for more. He will battle it out with Englishman Gareth Widdop for the 5/8th role vacated by Brett Finch.

 

The Storm are back and playing for points again. They will be the most enthusiastic and energetic team in the competition, even if they did lose one of the ‘Big Four’ in Greg Inglis. They have some good recruits, notably centre Beau Champion, and the exposure which last year’s turmoil gave to their young outside backs will only be of great assistance to them successfully moving on. This season could give an answer as to how good a coach Craig Bellamy really is.

 

Gold Coast Titans

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

Outs: Jordan Atkins (Parramatta), Mat Rogers (retired), Ryan Tongia (Cronulla), Selasi Berdie (released), Aaron Cannings (released), Marshall Chalk (released), Josh Graham (released).

Dream Team gun: Anthony Laffranchi– He was once the most prized possession in Dream Team circles, but now has fallen away with injury and decreased game time limiting his scoring ability. ‘Boof’ will be out to change that in 2011, and try to reclaim the lost representative jerseys which were once a lock at this time of the year.

Who will star: Scott Prince- the one reason the Titans have been successful as a club so far is all wrapped up in this man. If not for two of the great halves of this generation being ahead of him, he would have led Queensland to many a victory over their winning streak. His body is starting to give way, but Prince is still as valuable as the day the Titans stole him away from the Tigers.

Look out for: Ryan James- another youngster whose exposure to big-time footy through the All Stars concept will make him a much better player. This young forward has the power and size to create big problems, but needs to work onhis fitness to play more minutes. Another former Toyota Cup Team of the Year member from 2010.

 

The Titans will again be very tough to beat at home, but unfortunately the loss of Mat Rogers could prove fatal to their premiership chances. They have a hard working pack, and one of the best halfbacks going around, but their failure to win the big games has cost them dearly in the last two seasons. They may have missed their best chance. A home final is not out of reach, but if injuries strike, they could be in danger of missing the eight.

 

South Sydney Rabbitohs

Ins: George Burgess (Bradford Bulls – Super League), Greg Inglis (Melbourne Storm).

Outs: Colin Best (Cronulla), Luke Capewell (Gold Coast Titans), Jaiman Lowe (Melbourne Storm), Beau Champion (Melbourne Storm), Jamie Simpson (Huddersfield Giants – Super League).

Dream Team gun: Isaac Luke- the form player of the competition in the early rounds of 2010, Luke’s injury coincided with the fall from grace for the Rabbitohs. Although he doesn’t play 80 mins, he makes the most of his time on the field, and is a hand goal-kicker to boot.

Who will star: Sam Burgess- Came to the NRL last year with a massive reputation, and although he really didn’t live up to full expectations last year, he showed more than enough signs to say that 2011 will be a big one for the second-best Englishman in the competition. If Burgess can continue to hit hard, run hard, offload with ease and break through the line, Souths will most definitely be a force this year.

Look out for: Dylan Farrell- made almost the perfect debut in a controversial golden-point victory over the Tigers last year, scoring a hat-trick, including the winner after the siren. With Inglis taking the left centre position, Farrell’s experience on the right side could see him win the race to partner the former Golden Boot in a potent combination. Yet another graduate of the Toyota Cup Team of the Year in 2010.

 

Souths have the most important gain of 2011 in Greg Inglis, even if it took some hustling from Rusty, and cost them local boy Beau Champion. Whilst their pack is among the best in the competition on paper, they constantly under-performed in 2010, and will need to step up to make the eight in 2011. There are still some question marks about their halves combination, but if John Sutton can control his play and take the pressure of Chris Sandow, they could prove to be the difference for the Bunnies.

 

— — — —

So that’s it for our dark horses in 2011. Do you think any of these sides are genuine contenders this year, or are they all just smoke and mirrors? Let us know!

Also, stay tuned to Who’s Playing Who.net for the final season preview, where we look at the final four teams deserving favouritism for this year.


Advertisements
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: