Home > Rugby League > NRL Season Preview Pt. 4 – The Favourites

NRL Season Preview Pt. 4 – The Favourites

The final instalment of the epic NRL season preview, and we have finally reached the top four. These are the sides who we believe will be the ones to beat in 2011 and be hanging around come September footy. Once again we don’t give a specific place, these sides should be hosting a game come week one of the finals. 

 

Note: Seeing as we both had the same Top 4, we decided to combine them this time around.

 

St George Illawarra Dragons

Ins: Adam Cuthbertson (Cronulla), Daniel Penese (Penrith), David Gower (Wests Tigers).

Outs: Jarrod Saffy (Melbourne Rebels – Super Rugby), Beau Henry (Newcastle Knights), Neville Costigan (Newcastle Knights), Kalifa Fai-Fai Loa (North Queensland Cowboys), Jeremy Smith (Cronulla), Michael Lett (Canterbury-Bankstown), Luke Priddis (Retired), Ricky Thorby (North Queensland Cowboys), Junior Paulo (Penrith).

Dream Team gun: Dan Hunt– While a ruptured Achilles he picked up during a shuttle run left him out of the game for most of last season, Hunt is back and ready to smash it. He missed out on a Grand Final win, so you know he’ll be hungry. With the depleted Dragons pack, he’ll have plenty of work to do, and while he’s not cheap, he’s worth a look at.

Who will star: Jamie Soward– Some love him, others hate him, regardless, Soward has really come on as a player. Fantastic kicking game and has built up some really good combinations with his outside backs. Should be another great year for the Dragons’ No. 6.

Look out for: Jack Bosden – The one the Sharks let get away! Very impressive in the Charity Shield, the former Cronulla juniour was scoring tries, and putting in some solid hits as well. He should get an opportunity at some point in the year, and wont let any Dragons fans down- could be a break out year.

 

The defending premiers return to the country to start the season as the World Champions after beating Wigan in the World Club Challenge a couple of weeks ago, and going off their trial form, they will again be the team to beat. Limited in the player market, they will rely again on their depth, which has been cut a little with the loss of representative back-rowers Neville Costigan and Jeremy Smith. Despite this, they still have a formidable back-line, and the confidence of losing the chokers tag last year.  The only thing that could derail their premiership chances is the contract situation of coach Wayne Bennett.

 

Sydney Roosters

Ins: Justin Carney (Canberra Raiders), Anthony Watts (North Queensland Cowboys), Lama Tasi (Manly), Mark Riddell (Wigan Warriors – Super League).

Outs: Lopini Paea (Catalans Dragons – Super League), Nick Kouparitsas (Harlequins – Super League), Ben Jones (North Queensland Cowboys), Brad Murray (Parramatta), Jacob Miller (Wests Tigers).

Dream Team gun: Nate Myles- a versatile forward, Myles can play pretty much everywhere in the pack. This means that his DT scores can fluctuate slightly, but he’ll be getting plenty of time at Lock and in the 2nd Row. Also handy is that he can be selected at Prop or 2nd Row, meaning he’ll give you options during Bye rounds or when your players are dropped/injured.

Who will star: Mitchell Pearce- can this be the long-term halfback NSW has been looking for? It certainly seems that way. His halves partner at club level should also be joining him if they continue the form shown last season. For all of this to happen though, he needs to put in each week for the Roosters, and we can’t see any reason why he wont.

Look out for: Joseph ‘BJ’ Leilua– the young winger, that can also play in the centres and 2nd Row, was pretty heavy on himself following the Grand Final loss last year. While he wasn’t entirely to blame, some of his work in defence was fairly ordinary, but to be fair, the Roosters pretty much collapsed after half time. We think he’ll have learnt from his mistakes, and will be a much better player in 2011.

 

Wests Tigers

Ins: Evander Waitoa (Wellington), Jacob Miller (Sydney Roosters), Marika Koroibete (Fiji), Mosese Fotuaika (Keebra Park), Ratu Tagive (Canterbury-Bankstown), Teqele Nayarvovo (Otahuhu Leopards – New Zealand), Matt Utai (Auburn Warriors).

Outs: David Gower (St George Illawarra), Daniel Fitzhenry (retired), Tame Tupou (Redcliffe), Taniela Tuiaki (retired).

Dream Team gun: Gareth Ellis– Who’s Playing Who’s own! Has been a revelation since moving out to Australia, running terrific lines in attack and being equally as impressive in defence. An 80 minute 2nd Rower who picks up the occasional try… If you’re after a unique pick for your back row, get him in your side.

Who will star: Benji Marshall- Need we say more? People tend to forget that he’s only 26, meaning he’s getting into his prime. Injuries seem to no longer be an issue. A great sign for the Tigers, ominous for the rest of the competition.

Look out for: Aaron Woods- While there’s a crop of promising young talent to choose from, we think Woods will be the one to watch. He’s caught the eye of NSW Origin coach Ricky Stuart, being selected in the ‘Blues in Waiting’ squad without yet making his competitive first grade debut. Should get a run at some point during the season, and as Andrew Fifita has shown, young props at this club aren’t too shabby.

 

After going painfully close in 2010, the Tigers are back and are looking to give this competition a red hot go. Key to this will be stability of the playing roster, which remains largely unchanged. Tim Moltzen makes a comeback from long term knee injury, bolstering the halfback and fullback spots. Depth in these positions is now greatly improved with his return. Benji Marshall has shown no signs of slowing down, and will no doubt continue to do what he does best this season. Add to this young guns like Dwyer, Fifita and Murdoch-Masilia who all got a taste of the top grade last year, and you’ve got a side many are predicting will go far this year. We’re inclined to agree.

 

New Zealand Warriors

Ins: Krisnan Inu (Parramatta), Feleti Mateo (Parramatta), Shaun Berrigan (Hull FC-Super League), Steve Rapira, (North Queensland Cowboys).

Outs: Brent Tate (North Queensland Cowboys), Siuatonga Likiliki (Newcastle Knights), Ian Henderson (Catalans Dragons – Super League), Elijah Niko (Melbourne Storm), Patrick Ah Van (Bradford Bulls – Super League), Mark Ioane (Canberra), Nafe Seluini (Penrith), Steve Price (retired), Jesse Royal (retired).

Dream Team gun: Michael Luck- Tough as guts, he’ll play pretty much every game , regardless of if he looses an arm or any other sort of more realistic injury. Also, in one game a few seasons back, he made 74 tackles. Enough said.

Who will star: Feliti Mateo- No longer required by the Eels, Mateo should really star as part of the Warriors side. It’s just what they’ve needed- a ball player in the back row. Unstoppable when at his best, we think that he’ll be far more consistent this year, and will be a threat all over the park.

Look out for: Glen Fisiiahi- beat out Inu, Locke and Bill Tupou for a spot on the Wing in the Warriors’ Round 1 team… How’s that for a wrap?! Starred as part of the Toyota Cup winning Warriors side last year, so great to see form rewarded with a crack in the first grade side. Hopefully now will celebrate well after he scores

 

 

The Warriors have recruited very smartly and 2011 could finally be their year. With Shaun Berrigan, Feliti Mateo, Rapira and Inu all jumping on board, they’re some handy additions, wouldn’t you agree? Berrigan will give them great stability out of dummy half, while Mateo will be causing all sorts of trouble as he links up with some of the exciting players the Warriors already posses. After making 5th spot last year with a huge chunk of their salary cup not playing the entire season, we see no reason why the Warriors can’t finish Top 4. From there?  You never know…

 

——

 

That’s it for our huge four-part preview of the NRL season. Thanks for reading! If you missed any of the other entries, here they are:

Pt. 1- The Also-Rans

Pt. 2- Just Missing Out

Pt. 3- Competition Dark Horses

 

Do you agree with us? Where did we put your team? Leave a comment and let us know. It’s going to be a fantastic season, one which we’re thoroughly looking forward to. Make sure you stick with Who’s Playing Who? throughout the year, we’ll have you covered!

 

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