Fringe finals sides in the past few years, South Sydney and Wests Tigers have their best chance in years to not only secure finals spots but have the potential to nail down a Top 4 NRL finish given their impressive recruiting for 2010.
Apart from the fairytale Wests experienced in 2005, both sides have been also-rans in recent seasons and could use that to their advantage as they sneak up on other sides in 2010.
For Souths, their transformation has been highly impressive. Under the control of Crowe and Holmes a Court, the Bunnies have built training facilities the envy of the League, recruited top flight players and combined it with depth from lcoal talent.
With experienced and well-respected coach John Lang at the helm, along with big names Sam Burgess, Dave Taylor and Ben Ross all rolling in – they look might solid in the forwards.
For the Wests Tigers, while they have recruited smartly with the likes of big names Lote Tiquiri and Jason Cayless coming on-board, joining with the Tigers’ great buy from 09 Gareth Ellis.
But other former proven players have also been welcomed back into the club, with their original departure being forced through salary cap pressures – the club was always keen to bring them back, the likes of Liam Fulton and Daniel Fitzhenry will rejoin their old teammates as they form a solid unit that also includes Tame Tupou of Brisbane Broncos fame.
The pieces of the puzzle look to have really come together for both these sides, and if you take the example of the Bulldogs in 2009 – a genuine team rebuild and culture can be achieved in record periods.
The change required for both the Tigers and Bunnies isn’t anywhere near as great, so only small areas of improvements will see these sides ensure Finals security in 2010.
For Wests the confidence factor alone that comes with Tiquiri is worth its weight in gold. In a similar fashion that Wendell Sailor achieved for Saints, big Lote regardless of his form – will instill massive confidence in his younger less experienced teammates.
Just having a player of that caliber will lift others in the side no-doubt.
For Souths, it’s all about depth and new coach John Lang.
The Bunnies have such good depth across the park, they have aces up their sleeves should injuries start to occur consistently. As with so many sides these days, injuries can literally halt a mid-season charge at the finals.
Topping this off, Lang has the ability to get the best out of all forms of players. Respected, players all want to play for this coach and this will be a great asset for the South Sydney outfit brimming with talent.