Stephen’s Top 8 for 2011

Dragons tragic Stephen Gallagher writes his second article for NRL News, this time, talking about the top 8 that he sees at seasons end, with analysis, and player movements for the respective teams.

With 8 days out until the greatest competition on earth starts up again, I thought I would share with you my tips for the top eight this year.

It’ll be another physical, hard hitting year and each side will be out to take the title out of the Dragons hands. It’ll be 26 regular season weeks of bliss. I can’t wait!

Saint George Illawarra Dragons:

Gains: Adam Cuthbertson (Sharks), Daniel Penese (Panthers NYC), David Gower (Panthers).

Losses: Jeremy Smith (Sharks), Neville Costigan, Beau Henry (Knights), Jarrod Saffy (Melbourne Rebels rugby), Luke Priddis (Retired), Ricky Thorby, Kalifa Fai Fai Loa (Cowboys), Michael Lett (Bulldogs).

Re-signed: Jamie Soward, Michael Weyman, Matt Prior, Ben Hornby (2013), Trent Merrin (2012), Bronx Goodwin, Michael Greenfield, Jon Green (2011).

With the Charity Shield and the World Club Challenge under their belts this pre-season, the Dragons will once again be in the thick of things up the top end of the table. With the crucial loss of hard man Jeremy Smith, it’ll be hard to find anyone who offers such physical hard work on attack and defence. His work ethic will have to be shared among the rest of the forwards. Young gun Jack Bosden will be a face to look out for, after a strong showing in the Charity Shield match. If he can break into the top 17 he will be a very good prospect. The 21 year old has a hard-hitting forte as well as busting runs which is a must in every front rowers’ books. The Dragons will be hard to beat again in 2011 and another Minor Premiership could on the cards under Wayne Bennett.

Canberra Raiders:

Gains: Brett White (Storm), Blake Ferguson (Sharks), Nathan Massey (Bulldogs NYC), Mark Ioane (Warriors NYC).

Losses: Joel Monaghan (Warrington), Troy Thompson (Storm), Scott Logan (Collegians, Illawarra), Justin Carney (Roosters), Marc Herbert (Bradford), Brett Kelly (Avignon Bisons), Adam Mogg (retired), Cameron Bruest (Eels).

Re-signed: Trevor Thurling, Joel Thompson, Josh Papalli (2013), Alan Tongue, Josh Dugan, Josh McCrone, Michael Picker (2012), David Milne, Danny Galea, Glen Buttriss (2011).

The Canberra Raiders were very ominous in the second half of the 2010 season. With the loss of Terry Campese for what could be the entire year, there is no substitute in quality when ex-manly stalwart Matt Orford joins the Raiders ranks. Canberra will be the surprise of 2011 with a high finish in the top eight. Bolstering their forward pack this year is Brett White and NYC tough man Mark Ioane who won the Toyota Cup Premiership with the Warriors. On the back of a two year deal, Josh Dugan will be another stand out performer in a young Canberra side which will get better and better as the season progresses.

Predicted finish: 2nd

New Zealand Warriors:

Gains: Feleti Mateo, Krisnan Inu (Eels), Steve Rapira (Cowboys), Shaun Berrigan (Hull).

Losses: Steve Price, Jesse Royal (Retired), Brent Tate (Cowboys), Ian Henderson (Les Catalans), Patrick Ah Van (Bradford), Siuatonga Likiliki (Knights), Nafe Seluini (Panthers), Elijah Niko (Storm), Mark Ioane (Raiders).

Re-signed: Manu Vatuvei (2014), Ben Matulino (2013), Michael Luck, Lewis Brown (2012), Brett Seymour, Ukuma Ta’ai, Jeremy Latimore, Jacob Lillyman (2011)

The Warriors were unlucky to be knocked out of the top eight in the first weekend of the play-offs in 2010. Built around a solid halves pairing of Brett Seymour and James Maloney, the side who’ve always been good finishers will once again be knocking on the door again in 2011. Eels duo Krisnan Inu and Feleti Mateo will have a new lease on life at the club. Inu quoted as being “too comfortable” in the Eels side last year will be in a fight for the wing spot along side rising star Glenn Fisiiahi and Kevin Locke. With the loss of Steve Price to retirement and Brent Tate to North Queensland, it is a lot of experience gone missing which could mean a lot. Though this squad has the emerging talent and the maturity to go a long way.

Predicted Finish: 3rd

Wests Tigers:

Gains: Matt Utai (Auburn Warriors), Ratu Tagive (Bulldogs NYC), Teqele Naiyarvovo (NZ), Evander Waitoa (Wellington), Jacob Miller (Roosters NYC), Mosese Fotuiaka (Keebra Park), Marika Koroibete (Fiji).

Losses: David Gower (Dragons), Daniel Fitzhenry (Southcity, Group 9), Tame Tupou (Redcliffe), Taniela Tuiaki (Retired).

Re-signed: Benji Marshall (2015), Gareth Ellis, Liam Fulton (2013), Keith Galloway, Wade McKinnon, Robert Lui (2012).

Wests Tigers will once again throw the cat amongst the pigeons. This side has the makings for something special; 2011 could be that year. In the off season coach Tim Sheens has found some fresh talent from New Zealand and other Toyota Cup sides to bring some young passion and excitement into his Tigers team. Basically keeping the same team that finished sixth after 26 rounds last year, the Tigers will be pressing to go one more than their heart-wrenching exit against the Dragons in the preliminary final. Hard working hooker Robbie Farah will continue to lead the way for this Wests Tigers side who will need to be more consistent throughout the competition this year.

Predicted finish: 4th

Cronulla Sharks:

Gains:

Jeremy Smith (Dragons), Colin Best (Rabbitohs), Wade Graham (Panthers), John Williams (Cowboys), Ryan Tongia (Titans NYC). Andrew Clayton (Broncos NYC), Kose Lelei (Bulldogs).

Losses: Trent Barrett, Luke Covell, Reece Williams (Retired), Blake Fergusson (Raiders), Adam Cuthbertson (Dragons), Grant Millington (Bulldogs), Kyle O’Donnell (Knights), Josh Lewis (Toulouse Olympique), Lancen Judo, Luke Harlen (Released).

Re-signed: Paul Gallen (2013), Josh Cordoba, Isaac Gordon, Ricky Leutele, Tyson Fritzell, Luke Piccard (2012), Taulima Tautai, Stuart Flannagan, Matt Parata, Trent Grubb (2011).

One of the busiest teams this off season, acquiring the likes of warhorse Jeremy Smith from the Dragons and exciting talent Wade Graham from Penrith. It’s been all too long for Cronulla fans to have something to cheer about, but 2011 could be a lot different for the side who has failed to make the top eight in the last two years. Solid back-row trio of Anthony Tupou, captain Paul Gallen and new recruit Jeremy Smith will no doubt lay down a very strong platform for the side. If Tim Smith and Wade Graham can have some consistency, the side will be going strong and be tough to beat.

Predicted finish: 5th

Sydney Roosters:

Gains: Anthony Watts (Cowboys), Justin Carney (Raiders), Lama Tasi (Sea Eagles).

Losses: James Aubusson (Released), Nick Kouparitsis (Harlequins), Lopini Paea, Jason Baitieri (Les Catalans).

Re-signed: Anthony Minichello (2012), Mitchell Aubusson (2013).

The Roosters had a remarkable season in 2010. From easy beat Wooden Spooners to Grand Finalists, the Bondi boys will be looking to back up their stellar season this year. The roster stays rather the same and expect the Roosters to be fronting an experienced and enthusiastic side once again under Brian Smith. Smith will have his troops raring to go once again through the long season, and expect nothing short of strong, hard-hitting from the forwards and class and finesse in the backs. Keeping fresh and fit will be key for the Roosters in 2011 and if they manage to do so expect some quality football this season.

Predicted finish: 6th

Newcastle Knights:

Gains: Neville Costigan, Beau Henry (NYC) (Dragons), Steve Southern (Cowboys), Siuatonga Likiliki (Warriors NYC), Kyle O’Donnell (Sharks NYC), Maipele Morseau (Storm NYC), Korbin Sims (Broncos NYC).

Losses: Steve Simpson (Retired), Ben Cross (Leeds), Cooper Vuna (Melbourne Rebels rugby), Scott Dureau (Les Catalans).

Re-signed: Jarrod Mullen (2014), Ben Rogers, Joel Edwards (2012), Adam MacDougall (2011).

Newcastle have been busy in the off season, with some great purchases which will boost their chances of making the top eight. Wizz kid Beau Henry from the Dragons Toyota Cup side could be a bolter in the halves along side Jarrod Mullen this year proving a tough competitor in the trials so far for Newcastle. Queenslander Neville Costigan will be out to prove his weight in gold. The former Dragon played an “everywhere man” role in the successful premiership campaign last year and will be out to do his very best in the blue and red this season. Captain Kurt Gidley will be making sure his side are disciplined, something that has costed them dearly in the last few seasons. No one has really given Newcastle a chance since Cessnock’s favourite son Andrew Johns departed in 2007 but expect them to be the dark horse this season.

Predicted finish: 7th

South Sydney Rabbitohs:

Gains: Greg Inglis (Storm), George Burgess (Bradford).

Losses: Beau Champion, Jaiman Lowe (Storm), Colin Best (Sharks), Luke Capewell (Titans), Garrett Crossman, Craig Stapleton (Unsigned).

Re-signed: Fetuli Talanoa (2013), Ben Lowe, Scott Geddes, Jason Clark, Ben Ross, Eddy Pettybourne, Shannon McPherson (2012), Chris McQueen, Rhys Wesser, Shaune Corrigan (2011).

All the talk from October to January was about one man. Greg Inglis. After finally joining the club after blocked trades and changed minds, he will join the foundation club this season in hope of winning the 21st premiership for South Sydney. Though one man doesn’t make a team, he will add a lot for this Rabbitohs outfit. Also the return of Ben Ross from what appeared to be a career-ending neck injury. Veteran of 105 games will add much needed experience to the Rabbitohs forward pack this season and will be out to make the most of it. South Sydney have the personnel to make the eight this year, but will have to battle very hard to do so.

Predicted finish: 8th

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