NRL Auckland Nines Day 1 Wrap

The tournament is fast becoming a fan favourite and one that any can appreciate and you can bet that the 2015 Auckland Nines is living up to expectations on Day 1.

There have been some thrilling finishes, some scintillating plays and some lacklustre moments, with the tournament proving to be a good sign to see the next big talents.

So far, the only teams still undefeated after two rounds are the Parramatta Eels, the Cronulla Sharks, the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the Wests Tigers, as they set the tone early in blistering fashion.

The news was not so good for the Penrith Panthers, Brisbane Broncos, Canterbury Bulldogs, Manly Sea Eagles and Gold Coast Titans, who lost both of their first two games, thus ruling them out of the Auckland Nines finals unless the cards fall in their favour.

As it stands, after the first day of the tournament, Jake Mamo, Justin O’Neill and Eto Nabuli have all scored three tries – Mamo’s tries coming courtesy of a hat-trick in the Knights first game.

The day also featured an entertaining contest between the Australian Jillaroos and the New Zealand Kiwi Ferns, the female rugby league teams for Australia and New Zealand.

With some particularly slow, dour affairs before that game, the female battle reinvigorated the crowd and had them wanting more.

The full results were as follows:

Rangitoto Pool Rd 1

Eels 22 (Robinson 2, Takairangi, Folau, Lavaka; Goals: Sandow 1/3) def. Manly 17 (Trbojevic bonus try, Satini, Starling; Goals: Starling 1/1 & Foran 1/1).

Knights 18 (Mamo 3, Gagai; Goals: Mullen 1/3) def. Dragons 7 (Nabuli bonus try; Goals: Dugan 1/1).

Waiheke Pool Rd 1

Cowboys 17 (Lowe bonus try, O’Neill, Wright; Goals: Wright 2/3) def. Storm 8 (Mann, Hunt).

Rabbitohs 11 (Clark bonus try, McQueen; Goals: Reynolds 1/1) def. Panthers 4 (Sopoaga).

Hunua Pool Rd 1

Tigers 16 (Lovett 2, Buchanan; Goals: Richards 2/3) def. Raiders 10 (Ahearn, Croker; Goals: Ahearn 1/2).

Warriors 17 (Hoffman, Kata, Lolohea; Goals: Johnson 2/3) def. Titans 10 (Hoffman, Sezer; Goals: Mortimer 1/1).

Piha Pool Rd 1

Roosters 6 (Tuivasa-Sheck; Goals: Tuivasa-Sheck 1/1) def. Broncos 4 (Nicholls).

Sharks 17 (Politoni bonus try, Brown, Gardner; Goals: Gardner 1/1 & Holmes 1/2) def. Bulldogs 4 (Rona).

Women’s Game 1

Kiwi Ferns 8 (Woodman, Vaughan) def. Jillaroos 4 (Hoepper).

Rangitoto Pool Rd 2

Eels 21 (Radradra bonus try, Sandow, Norman, Moeroa; Goals: Kelly 1/1 & Sandow 1/2) def. Knights 15 (Houston bonus try, Tapine, Ross; Goals: Roberts 1/3).

Dragons 25 (Nabuli 2, Dugan bonus try, Kiti Glymin, Thompson; Goals: Dugan 1/2 & Marshall 1/2) def. Manly 21 (Lui bonus try, Hiku, Trbojevic, Hodges; Goals: Cherry-Evans 2).

Waiheke Pool Rd 2

Storm 20 (Tonumaipea 2, Koroibete, Chambers; Goals: Mann 2) def. Panthers 4 (Jay).

Rabbitohs 19 (Burgess bonus try, Grevsmuhl, King; Goals: Reynolds 3/3) def. Cowboys 12 (O’Neill 2, Cooper).

Hunua Pool Rd 2

Tigers 26 (Drinkwater, Cherrington bonus tries, Simona, Fine, Funaki; Goals: Richards 2/2) def. Titans 0.

Raiders 23 (Ahearn bonus try, Edwards, Pangai, Lee; Goals: Buttriss 1/1, Williams 1/1 & Ahearn 1/1) def. Warriors 19 (Johnson bonus try, Maumalo, Lolohea, Allwood; Goals: Johnson 1/4).

Piha Pool Rd 2

Roosters 10 (Langi, Elliott; Goals: Maloney 1) def. Bulldogs 6 (Lane; Goals: Graham 1).

Sharks 31 (Bird 2, Sauiluma 2, Ayshford 2; Goals: Holmes 3/6) def. Broncos 4 (Whitchurch).

Now for some player reactions across the day’s entertaining play:

Parramatta Eels Tepai Moeroa on his game-winning try:

“I saw an opportunity and I took it,” said Moeroa.

“It was good that it paid off.”

Manly Sea Eagles Peta Hiku on Round 2 loss:

“Always disappointing having a loss,” said Hiku.

“We gotta deal with and hopefully the luck goes our way tomorrow.”

Newcastle Knights stand-in captain Chris Houston on Round 2 loss:

“Yeah, that’s what Nines is all about if a guy gets some space on you,” said Houston.

“It’s so quick compared to normal footy and the Eels got a big roll-on with their big boys.”

North Queensland Cowboys Jason Taumalolo on good things to take out of their Round 2 loss:

“Not a bad start. Unfortunately we couldn’t back it up v Souths,” said Taumalolo.

“We can take some good things out of the loss, come back better and stronger and win the game.”

Melbourne Storm captain Will Chambers on his side’s Round 2 win:

“No-one expected us to win the whole tournament and we have a win now,” said Chambers.

“I think the young boys were nervous and overawed by it all, so we spoke about being composed and enjoying it.”

Penrith Panthers Issac John on 1st round loss:

“We got off to a good start but they put pressure on defence and put us under the pump,” said John.

“Yeah, very quick. Fewer players so you have to cover more of the field. We just weren’t able to execute.”

Canberra Raiders Sam Williams after shock Round 2 win over the Warriors:

“Was pretty exciting. Don’t have a lot of time and when you’re down, you’re in trouble,” said Williams.

“Bit of a weird silence after scored. Stadium was a bit different to what we expected.”

Cronulla Sharks Nathan Gardner discusses the Round 1 win:

“Get off the mark straight away. We played well as a team, so it’s a good start,” said Gardner.

“It’s not all about winning. As long as we’re competing.”

New Zealand Warriors Shaun Johnson after Rd 1 win:

“Our defence held on and the boys came good,” said Johnson.

“Whoever steps in has to their job and we were able to do that just then.”

Canterbury Bulldogs veteran Sam Perrett on the Round 2 loss against the Roosters:

“It was a bit of fun out there and the boys enjoyed it,” said Perrett.

“You always gotta enjoy it and have fun.”

Sydney Roosters Mitch Aubusson after Rd 1 win:

“We backed our defence and got the points in the end,” said Aubusson.

“Both teams played well in defence and they were a tough team to crack.”

Mick’s View: 2015 Player Movement Analysis

Passionate Eels fan Mick joins us for his first article on NRL News, casting his eye over the player movements ahead of the 2015 season, the best buys and the dodgy buys. Who will succeed and do you agree?

As the season fast approaches, you may be wondering what has been happening since the Rabbitohs held aloft the 2014 Premiership. We’ve had the Four Nations, Jarryd flying the coop, more urination issues, stolen trophies and player movements galore!

It can always be a bit of a surprise when Round 1 comes around and your team looks nothing like it did the season before, so here is a cheat sheet as to the comings and goings of your teams’ players as well the signings to watch!

Brisbane Broncos

Gains

Anthony Milford (Raiders)
Mitch Garbutt (Storm)
Adam Blair (Tigers)
Greg Eden (Hull KR)
Travis Waddell (Knights)
Darius Boyd (Knights)
James Gavet (Wests Tigers)

Losses

Josh Hoffman (Titans)
Jake Granville (Cowboys)
Ben Hannant (Cowboys)
Jharal Yow Yeh (retired)
Martin Kennedy (Roosters)
David Hala (Titans)
Ben Barba (Sharks)
Stewart Mills (Released)

Anthony Milford is the big news at the Broncos as they managed to entice him away from the Raiders. Will he be a better signing than Barba, who lasted just one season north of the border? Coupled with that, Darius Boyd has followed his mentor Bennett back to the Broncos, but after a freshly ruptured achilles he’ll miss the majority of the season.
With Hoffman leaving to the Titans, all of a sudden the fullback stocks are limited, especially if we listen to Hodges who would rather not play at the back. Greg Eden arrives from the UK as another possible option on the wing or fullback, but I daresay Vidot and Maranta will get the nod for Round 1.
In positive news however, Brisbane have picked up James Gavet from the Tigers, a rollickingly good buy along with Mitch Garbutt from the Storm. 115kg of power up front. Martin Kennedy and David Hala make way for these props, heading to the Roosters and Titans.

Best Buy: Anthony Milford. So much potential and one can only imagine that Bennett will bring out his best.
Dodgy Buy: Darius Boyd. Bennett’s puppy is surely past his use-by date and his achilles tendon agrees.

Grade: A

Canberra Raiders

Gains

Sisa Waqa (Storm)
Iosia Soliola (St Helens)
Frank-Paul Nuuausala (Roosters)
Josh Hodgson (Hull KR)
Blake Austin (Wests Tigers)
Rhys Kennedy (Storm)
Sam Williams (Dragons)

Losses

Anthony Milford (Broncos)
Reece Robinson (Eels)
Brett White (retired)
Tom Learoyd-Lahrs (Storm)
Sami Sauiluma (Sharks)
Matt Allwood (Warriors)
Lagi Setu (Roosters)
Matt McIlwrick (Roosters)
Terry Campese (Hull KR)
Sam Mataora (Knights)
Matt Frawley (Bulldogs)
Mosese Pangai (Q Cup)
Jake Foster (Q Cup)

What can Ricky Stuart do in his second season at his home club? The question also has to be asked, how long can he claim to rebuild every club he goes to? With the departure of big names like Milford, Robinson, Learoyd-Lahrs and Campese, the Raiders haven’t exactly set the transfer market alight. Sisa Waqa joins the club from the Storm along with a pair of ex-Super League Players, Soliola and Hodgson. In other frequent flyer news, local junior, Sam Williams returns to the club that he left just 12 months earlier. Perhaps he thinks that this time he will stick around?
It looks like it could be a tough season for the Raiders unless their contracted youngsters can really step it up.

Best Buy: Sisa Waqa. A flying proven finisher from the Storm. He could set Canberra Stadium alight.

Dodgy Buy: Sam Williams. 2nd time lucky or clutching at straws?

Grade: C

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs

Gains

Michael Lichaa (Sharks)
Curtis Rona (Cowboys)
Brett Morris (Dragons)
Jarrod McInally (Easts Tigers)
Jacob Loko (Eels)
Antonio Kaufusi (Huddersfield, ESL)
Matt Frawley (Raiders)

Losses

Michael Ennis (Sharks)
Mitch Brown (Sharks)
Reni Maitua (Featherstone Rovers)
Krisnan Inu (French rugby)
Lachlan Burr (Titans)
John Sila (Tigers)
Dale Finucane (Storm)
Drury Low (Released)
Tom Murphy (Q Cup)
Pat Templeman (Q Cup)

Whilst it’s been a relatively quiet off-season for the 2014 runners-up, they have made some very astute signings. They have swapped one Michael for another, as Ennis ends his long association with the club and young Lichaa comes in.
The Morris brothers’ team up again for one of the more heart-warming signings and winger, Rona looks to be a clever signing for the future from the Cowboys and Kaufusi returns to the NRL to add some experience up front.
Jacob Loko was announced mid last year as a new signing but has started out with a rocky path, If he can stay injury free, he has the potential to perform at the top level. The Bulldogs will run out this season without Mitch Brown, Maitua, Inu and Finucane, but they have enough depth a quality to be a force again this season.

Best Buy: Michael Lichaa. This 21 year old has big shoes to fill, but has shown enough promise to be worthy.

Dodgy Buy: Jacob Loko. Signed when injured and now in the news for the wrong reasons. It will take a lot for Loko to prove himself again.

Grade: B+

Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks

Gains

Ben Barba (Broncos)
Michael Ennis (Bulldogs)
Mitch Brown (Bulldogs)
Sami Sauiluma (Raiders)
Jack Bird (Dragons)
Gerard Beale (Dragons)
Saulala Houma (Newtown Jets)
Jayson Bukuya (Warriors)
Kyle Stanley (Dragons)

Losses

Todd Carney (Catalans)
Michael Lichaa (Bulldogs)
Sosaia Vave (Sea Eagles)
John Morris (retired)
Beau Ryan (retired)
Bryce Gibbs (retired)
Jonathan Wright (Warriors)
Tupou Sopoaga (Panthers)
Sione Masima (Rabbitohs)
Mark Mexico (PNG)

It could be the start of a new era for the Sharks as they look to move forward from the ASADA scandal and rebuild towards an inaugural premiership (fans will be hoping!) Ennis arrives in a hooker swap with Lichaa and will add his wealth of experience (and grub) to the Sharks pack. Ben Barba returns to Sydney and everyone will be hoping he can return to his best as he slots into the halves with Jeff Robson this season. Bukuya also returns to the club that built him after a season at the Warriors.
Young ex-Dragons trio, Stanley, Beale and Bird arrive at the Sharks looking to form new combinations. It’s a promising time for the Sharks who may still lack the firepower to give the big times a shake, but are definitely headed in the right direction, as long as they can stay out of the news for the wrong reasons.

Best Buy: Ben Barba. Let’s ignore the past season and bank in the knowledge that Barba has the skills to return to the highlight reels.

Dodgy Buy: Ben Barba. If you can’t forget last season you’ll be worried about the halves combination this year.
Grade: B

Gold Coast Titans

Gains

Josh Hoffman (Broncos)
Matt Robinson (Panthers)
Ryan Simpkins (Panthers)
James Roberts (Panthers)
Lachlan Burr (Bulldogs)
David Hala (Broncos)
Kierran Moseley (Panthers)
Eddy Pettybourne (Wigan)

Losses

Davin Crampton (Northern Pride)
Brad Takairangi (Eels)
Albert Kelly (Hull KR)
Maurice Blair (Hull KR)
Luke Bailey (retired)
Ashley Harrison (retired)
Mark Minichiello (Hull FC)
Cody Nelson (Eels)
Sam Irwin (Featherstone)
Steve Michaels (Hull FC)
Paul Carter (sacked)
Beau Henry (Dragons)
Tom Kingston (Army)

The Titans have not had a good run, missing out on the finals for the last four seasons and struggling to compete against the better teams. Josh Hoffman is a great buy at the back, along with bulking David Hala up front. Kierran Moseley will add depth to the rake position, whilst Matt Robinson will be hoping for an injury free year.
To be honest, it’s not a great list of signings for the Titans. Having lost four good players to Hull (Kelly, Blair, Minichiello and Michaels) along with the retirements of Bailey and Harrison it will be a tough year.

Best Buy: Josh Hoffman. He is a class player and should make the No. 1 position his own.

Dodgy Buy: Eddy Pettybourne. His struggles at the Tigers and leaving Wigan for personal reasons make him a risky
buy, but he will gets chances to bounce back.

Grade: D

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles

Gains

Blake Leary (Cowboys)
Sosaia Vave (Sharks)
Feleti Mateo (Warriors)
Brayden Williame (Knights)
Willie Mason (Knights)
Luke Burgess (Rabbitohs)

Losses

Anthony Watmough (Eels)
Richie Fa’aoso (Eels)
Glenn Stewart (Rabbitohs)
Jason King (retired)
Daniel Harrison (London Broncos)
Epalahame Lauaki (Bradford Bulls)
Zane Tetevano (sacked)

Manly come into the 2015 season without three of their stalwarts. A back-row without Watmough and Stewart looks strange and local junior, Jason King, will be sorely missed. The arrival of Feleti Mateo will be a god-send for the Sea Eagles, his off-loading style sure to work well, whilst Mason’s experience up front will cover for King’s departure. The late pickup of Luke Burgess from the Bunnies is huge and adjusts the recruiting grade up a notch.
The contract negotiations that continues to rumble around Foran and Cherry-Evans will be an interesting distraction for the Sea Eagles, but the core of their team remains as-is for this season.

Best Buy: Feleti Mateo. Still a force to be reckoned with and should provide many an offload for ‘The Snake’

Dodgy Buy: Willie Mason. As much as he has given to the game, I think it’s time for this 34 year old to hang up the boots. Two seasons too long?

Grade: B+

Melbourne Storm

Gains

Tom Learoyd-Lahrs (Raiders)
Shaun Nona (Northern Pride)
Blake Green (Wigan Warriors)
Dale Finucane (Bulldogs)

Losses

Ryan Hoffman (Warriors)
Sisa Waqa (Raiders)
Justin O’Neill (Cowboys)
Bryan Norrie (retired)
Rhys Kennedy (Raiders)
George Rose (Dragons)
Ben Roberts (Castleford Tigers)
Mitch Garbutt (Broncos)
Junior Moors (Castleford Tigers)
Cody Walker (Rabbitohs)
Joel Romelo (Q Cup)

The Melbourne star is fading. Slater and Smith are hitting the twilight of their careers and players are moving on quickly. Hoffman, Waqa, O’Neill, Garbutt and Norrie are all big losses. The return of Blake Green to the NRL is a good replacement for Roberts, but there are definitely a few question marks around the park.
Knowing Bellamy, he will be able to polish stones into diamonds along the way, but one gets the feeling that would be getting tougher and tougher to do. Finucane is a decent signing after getting limited game time at the Bulldogs and Learoyd-Lahrs could return to his form of old, but it seems that this season could be a tough one for the once great team.

Best Buy: Blake Green. A dark-horse for signing of the year. Solid performances at Wigan and loads of potential.

Dodgy Buy: Tom Learoy-Lahrs. His star has faded over the last season and heading into his 30’s he may struggle to replicate his best.

Grade: C-

Newcastle Knights

Coming

Tariq Sims (Cowboys)
Jack Stockwell (Dragons)
Carlos Tuimavave (Warriors)

Losses

Adam Cuthbertson (Leeds Rhinos)
Michael Dobson (Salford Red Devils)
Matt Hilder (retired)
Travis Waddell (Broncos)
Matt Minto (CQ Capras)
Josh Mantellato (Hull Kingston Rovers)
Willie Mason (Sea Eagles)
Brayden Williame (Sea Eagles)
Zane Tetavano (sacked)
Darius Boyd (Broncos)
Chance Peni (Wests Tigers)
Timana Tahu (retired)

Tariq Sims returns to NSW and is one of the buys of the season. Despite the fact he’ll be missing the first month of the competition, he will slot straight into a forward line-up already bristling with talent giving the Knights a formidable pack. On the other hand, the Knights lose a load of players, like Cuthbertson, Mason, Hilder, Dobson and Boyd as well as, of course, their ‘super’ coach, Wayne Bennett.
A lack of signing means the Knights will be relying on their current stars to see them through 2015, but Stockwell and Tuimavave are clever signings.

Best Buy: Tariq Sims. Will be a force to behold on the Central Coast. One of the buys of the year.

Dodgy Buy: Only 3 signing makes it hard to pick a dodgy one, but Tuimavave has a lot to prove.

Grade: B-

North Queensland Cowboys

Gains

Jake Granville (Broncos)
Ben Hannant (Broncos)
Kelepi Tanginoa (Eels)
Justin O’Neill (Storm)
Ben Spina (Northern Pride)

Losses

Brent Tate (retired)
Tariq Sims (Knights)
Ashton Sims (Warrington Wolves)
Curtis Rona (Bulldogs)
Joel Riethmuller (released)
Anthony Mitchell (released)
Ricky Thorby (released)

He may have signed up for the Cowboys over a year ago, but Lachlan Coote is still a key for the Cowboys. Being the unfortunate victim of a shocking knee injury in the 9’s last year, he is yet to debut for the Cowboys and fans eagerly await his injection from the back. The Cows have picked up decent signings this year in Broncos, Granville and Hannant whilst Tanginoa has showed enough promise at the Eels to be a worthwhile signing.
On the flip side, the Cowboys lose Tate to old age, the Sims brothers as well as Curtis Rona. It should be good year for the Cowboys, but they are relying on young players with a history of injuries to get them through.

Best Buy: Jake Granville. A very handy utility that has performed well at QLD cup level. Will push to start.

Dodgy Buy: Kelepi Tanginoa. It’s always a risk, buying a player under an injury cloud. Tanginoa has played just 13 games for the Eels over 2 years and the Cowboys will be hoping for a lot more.

Grade: C+

Parramatta Eels

Gains

Anthony Watmough (Sea Eagles)
Richie Fa’aoso (Sea Eagles)
Brad Takairangi (Titans)
Reece Robinson (Raiders)
Danny Wicks (unsigned)
Beau Champion (Rabbitohs)
Adam Quinlan (Dragons)
Cody Nelson (Titans)
Ben Crooks (Hull FC)
Shannan McPherson (Salford Red Devils)

Losses

Jarryd Hayne (NFL)
Willie Tonga (Catalan Dragons)
Ken Sio (Hull Kingston Rovers)
Ben Smith (retired)
Kelepi Tanginoa (Cowboys)
Liam Foran (London Broncos)
Lee Mossop (Wigan Warriors)
Fuifui Moimoi (Leigh Centurions)
Jacob Loko (Bulldogs)
Api Pewhairangi (New Zealand Warriors)
Lorenzo Ma’Afu (QLD Cup)

The Eels have been very active on the market as they enter the 2nd year of the Brad Arthur era. While obviously Hayne is a massive loss for the game as a whole, the Eels have also lost name players such as Sio, Tonga, Smith, Moimoi and Tanginoa. Whilst some of these players may not have been standouts, they have certainly contributed positively to the team in the past.
Watmough is the biggest signing the Eels have grabbed, but don’t underestimate Brad Takairangi and Reece Robinson, who will give some options at the back. Fans will be intrigued to see how Wicks fits back in to the NRL after serving his sentence for drug dealing. Similarly, the Eels have thrown a lifeline to Fa’aoso after his horror neck injury.

Best Buy: Anthony Watmough. As divisive as he is, the Eels’ fans will embrace him and his experience will be invaluable to a young pack.

Dodgy Buy: Danny Wicks. Although he would not have cost a lot, it is a risk to buy someone who has been out of the game for so long.

Grade: B

Penrith Panthers

Gains

Apisai Koroisau (Rabbitohs)
Tupou Sopoaga (Sharks)

Losses

Tim Grant (Rabbitohs)
Kevin Kingston (retired)
Eto Nabuli (Dragons)
Ryan Simpkins (Titans)
Matt Robinson (Titans)
Kierran Moseley (Titans)
James Roberts (Titans)
Wes Naiqama (London Broncos)
Luke Capewell (QLD Cup)
Anthony Cherrington (QLD Cup)
Ethan Cook (Central Newcastle)
Tom Humble (QLD Cup)
Vaipuna Tia Kilifi (QLD Cup)

The Panthers have been re-building around their current team and that’s quite noticeable when you look at the lack of purchases for this season. The pickup of Koroisau from the Rabbitohs is a solid replacement for retiring Kingston, whilst young Sopoage can play back row and may get a bench spot later in the year.
Tim Grant moves to the Premiers, whilst Simpkins, Naiqama, Robinson and Nabuli are all noticeable losses. The Panthers are banking on their established players this season and it will make or break them.

Best Buy: Apisai Koroisau. He showed some excellent touch when filling in for the premiership winning Bunnies, but will he get much gametime behind Segeyaro?

Dodgy Buy: Not buying anyone. The lack of action in the market may come back to haunt the Panthers.

Grade: D

South Sydney Rabbitohs

Gains

Glenn Stewart (Sea Eagles)
Tim Grant (Panthers)
Cody Walker (Storm)
Angus Crichton (Schoolboys Rugby)
Sione Masima (Sharks)

Loses

Sam Burgess (rugby union)
Ben Te’o (rugby union)
Beau Champion (Eels)
Luke Burgess (Sea-Eagles)
Apisai Koroisau (Panthers)
Nathan Merritt (retired)
Matt Hyland (NSW Cup)
Joe Picker (retired)
Lote Tuqiri (released)

Some might say that the Bunnies won their premiership around Sam Burgess, so there is no bigger loss to any team this season than him. His brother, Luke, has moved North across the Spit and now the Bunnies will be looking to go back to back with a couple of new faces. After much media hype, Glenn Stewart arrives at Redfern to show what he has left, whilst former rep player (maybe again?), Tim Grant joins the pack. Angus Crichton has been stolen away from Rugby Union and has the potential to be a damaging centre or second-rower.

The ‘Going’ list is long, however, and as well as Burgess, the Bunnies will miss Te’o, Champion, Koroisau and Merritt. Cody Walker is already in trouble, although there is speculation that he will remain with the club.
Best Buy: Tim Grant. He has huge shoes to fill, but he has the potential if he can re-capture his form of 2012.

Dodgy Buy: Cody Walker. With a domestic assault charge hanging in the air, Walker may still controversially run out with the Rabbitohs this season, unless the NRL intervene.

Grade: C+

St. George-Illawarra Dragons

Gains

Eto Nabuli (Panthers)
George Rose (Storm)
Adam Tuimavave-Gerrard (Warriors)
Dane Nielsen (Warriors)
Heath L’Estrange (Roosters)
Beau Henry (Titans)
Kris Keating (Hull KR)
Rulon Nutira (Gundagai Tigers)
Jake Marketo (Redcliffe)
Shannon Wakeman (Cutters)
Rory O’Brien (Cutters)

Losses

Brett Morris (Bulldogs)
Sam Williams (Raiders)
Michael Witt (retired)
Jack Bird (Sharks)
Gerard Beale (Sharks)
Adam Quinlan (Eels)
Josh Ailaomai (QLD Cup)
Bronson Harrison (released)
Willie Mataka (released)
Shane Pumipi (released)
Matt Groat (Salford Red Devils)
Jack Stockwell (Knights)
Kyle Stanley (Sharks)

Action aplenty at the Dragons as they look to re-invest in youth down south. The loss of Brett Morris will definitely hurt, but Eto Nabuli is a handy pickup from the Panthers. Promising fullback, Adam Quinlan, is a late departure, whilst Sam Williams returns to the Raiders.

The return of Kris Keating to the NRL will be interesting, but where will he fit in with Benji and Widdop in the halves? Bustling George Rose will be a welcome addition to the pack.

Best Buy: Dane Nielsen. Whilst the quality of the buys are thin, ex-Maroon Nielsen should slot straight in the ¾ line and is a tried and tested player.

Dodgy Buy: Kris Keating. The ex-Eel and Bulldog seems to be a nothing buy on a one year contract. If he can get a run at hooker, maybe we’ll see glimpses of his old form.

Grade: C-

Sydney Roosters

Gains

Martin Kennedy (Broncos)
Abraham Papalii (Warriors)
Lagi Setu (Raiders)
Matt McIlwrick (Raiders)
Blake Ferguson (Contract registered)

Losses

Sonny Bill Williams (rugby union)
Anthony Minichiello (retired)
Frank-Paul Nuuausala (Raiders)
Remi Casty (Catalan Dragons)
Tautau Moga (Cowboys)
Saulala Houma (Sharks)
Kurt Kara (NSW Cup)
Heath L’Estrange (Dragons)
Rhyse Martin (QLD Cup)
Curtis Naughton (Hull FC)

The Roosters will be smarting after the losses of Sonny-Bill, Minichiello and Nuuausala. None of which will be easy to replace. Blake Ferguson’s arrival in the team is sure to raise question marks, but Martin Kennedy makes a welcome return from the Broncos and Matt McIlwrick could slot straight into hooker with Jake Friend’s fitness cloud.

Abraham Papalii arrives from the Warriors with big wraps as a ball running forward, whilst Lagi Setu tries his luck at a new club following his mission of 2012-13.

Best Buy: Abraham Papalii. “Big, Fast & Skilful” is how he has been described. Has all the makings of a young superstar.

Dodgy Buy: Blake Ferguson. Is it just a matter of time before we find out how dodgy this buy is? Of course, spots can change…

Grade: B-

New Zealand Warriors

Gains

Ryan Hoffman (Storm)
Matt Allwood (Raiders)
Bodene Thompson (Wests Tigers)
Jonathan Wright (Sharks)
Api Pewhairangi (Wentworthville/Eels)

Losses

Kevin Locke (Salford Red Devils)
Carlos Tuimavave (Knights)
Feleti Mateo (Sea Eagles)
Adam Tuimavave-Gerrard (Dragons)
Abraham Papalii (Roosters)
Jerome Ropati (retired)
Jayson Bukuya (Sharks)
Sam Lousi (rugby union)
Michael Sio (QLD Cup),

New Zealand have always had a habit of signing big names and this year is no different. Ryan Hoffman leaves the Storm to strengthen the Warriors and could well be the signing of the year. There have been other smart buys in Bodene Thompson and Matt Allwood, whilst Jon Wright will attempt to resurrect his career.

Unfortunately they lose other big names like Mateo, Bukuya, Locke, Tuimavave and Ropati, so it’s fair to say that they’ve lost more than they’ve gained.
Best Buy: Ryan Hoffman. Will be a great buy for the club and a more than capable replacement for Mateo.

Dodgy Buy: Jonathan Wright. He has been jumping clubs every two years, which is never a good sign. Consistency seems to plague him, but maybe he’ll see better fortunes across the ditch.

Grade: B-

Wests Tigers

Gains

Chance Peni (Knights)
Josh Drinkwater (London Broncos)
Kevin Naiqama (Panthers)

Losses

Braith Anasta (retired)
Liam Fulton (retired)
Cory Paterson (Salford)
James Gavet (Broncos)
Adam Blair (Broncos)
Bodene Thompson (Warriors)
Blake Austin (Raiders)
Jy Hitchcox (Featherstone Rovers)
Jarred Farlow (French rugby)

The Tigers fans would be fair in wondering why they haven’t been more active on the player marker. With just 3 new faces for 2015 and Naiqama the only one to have solid NRL experience, it could lead to a tough season for the Tigers. However, youth is what the Tigers are banking on, having retained the services of several promising youngsters. This means that Paterson, Gavet, Blair and Thompson have all been let go to make room for Farah and his young team.

Will this backfire on the Tigers? Their forward stocks look seriously depleted and with Matthew Lodge in trouble with the law, their cause is even more in danger. Could be a long season for Tigers’ fans.

Best Buy: Kevin Naiqama. With Nofoaluma uncertain to start the season, Naiqama could get a perfect chance to impress.

Dodgy Buy: Hard to say. Both Drinkwater and Peni are youngsters with promise, but mid-season buy, Matthew Lodge, has proven to be dodgy already.
Grade: F

Supercoach Analysis: 2015 AUCKLAND NINES SC PREVIEW

Every site needs fantasy articles and courtesy of fantasy gurus NRL Supercoach Talk, their articles will now feature on our site. With in-depth analysis and guys who knows what they are talking about, these articles will help all budding and experienced supercoach players to succeed.

This particular article of theirs focuses on the promising players to keep an eye from a supercoach perspective for the NRL Auckland Nines competition coming up this weekend.

So, without further adieu, here is their article written by user Chestbrah is Gospel:

Brisbane Broncos

SQUAD: Andrew McCullough (captain), Ajuma Adams, Elijah Alick, Joe Boyce, Greg Eden, James Gavet, Alex Glenn, Todd Lowrie, Lachlan Maranta, Anthony Milford, Francis Molo, Darren Nicholls, Jayden Nikorima, Kodi Nikorima, Joe Ofahengaue, Tom Opacic, Matt Parcell, Aaron Whitchurch

ANALYSIS: Andrew McCullough will captain the nines squad, and is pushing to start 2015 as an 80 minute player like he did last year. However, I wouldn’t bet on it due to the presence of Bennett favourite Travis Waddell and the Nikorima brothers. The Nikorima Brothers are aiming for a utility spot off the bench. There are reports that Kodi is pretty much out of the race for the fullback spot at this stage, and instead focusing on a utility spot. Fullback contenders Greg Eden and Lachlan Maranta will get a chance to impress in the absence of Jordan Kahu, who in my opinion is the favourite so far. Anthony Milford is a popular selection for SC and will make his Nines debut. The format should suit his play.

Canberra Raiders

SQUAD: Sam Williams, Mitch Cornish, Jarrod Croker (c), Lachlan Croker, Sisa Waqa, Joel Edwards, Josh McCrone, Rhys Kennedy, Glen Buttriss, Brenko Lee, Bill Tupou, Jack Ahearn, Luke Bateman, Haydon Hodge, Mark Nicholls, Kyle O’Donnell, Tevita Pangai Jnr, Ken Nagas.

ANALYSIS: Sam Williams and Mitch Cornish will start to battle it out for the vacant halfback spot, assuming Blake Austin (who isn’t named for the nines) has already nailed down the five-eighth spot. 18-year old half Lachlan Croker has big wraps on him and is worth keeping an eye on, but most likely won’t play first grade this year. Tevita Pangai Jr apparently would have made his first grade debut last year if it wasn’t for 2nd tier salary cap constraints. The 18-year old is a giant and an outside chance of claiming a bench spot.

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs

SQUAD: Tim Browne, Damien Cook, Levi Dodd, Adam Elliott, Herman Ese’ese, Antonio Kaufusi, Shaun Lane, Michael Lichaa, Moses Mbye, Josh Morris, Sam Perrett, Lloyd Perrett, Tyrone Phillips, Frank Pritchard, Curtis Rona, Corey Thompson, Aiden Tolman, Tony Williams.

ANALYSIS: Michael Lichaa will make his Bulldogs debut. He is aiming to be an 80 minute player by round 1 but I highly doubt it given he played 45-55 minutes per game in NSW cup. Moses Mbye would be the frontrunner for a utility spot if Lichaa isn’t an 80 minute player by round 1. Tyrone Phillips, Sam Perrett, Corey Thompson and Curtis Rona have all been named. They will fight it out for 2 backline spots assuming that Josh Morris, Tim Lafai and Brett Morris are nailed on. Contrary to popular belief, I do not think Brett Morris will play fullback, and am hoping Tyrone Phillips jags a spot.

Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks

SQUAD: Valentine Holmes, Sosaia Feki, Gerard Beale, Ricky Leutele, Jack Bird, Nu Brown, Kyle Stanley, Sam Tagataese, Pat Politoni, Tinirau Arona, Matt Prior, Chris Heighington, Blake Ayshford, Nathan Gardner, Todd Murphy, Sami Sauiluma, Junior Roqica, Wade Graham (c), Saulala Houma

ANALYSIS: Popular rookie Jack Bird has been named for the nines and will be aiming to have a spot in the back line come round 1. His main competition Gerard Beale and Ricky Leutele have also been named. Kyle Stanley starts at rookie price in SuperCoach, but he would be relying on injuries to be playing in round 1.

Gold Coast Titans

SQUAD: Will Zillman, James Roberts, Anthony Don, David Mead, Josh Hoffman, Brad Tighe, Kalifa Faifai Loa, Aidan Sezer, Daniel Mortimer, Christian Hazard, Kierran Moseley, Ryan James, Mark Ioane, Luke Douglas, Lachlan Burr, Davin Crampton, Dave Taylor, Matt Robinson

ANALYSIS: Josh Hoffman has not been guaranteed the Titans no.1 jersey and will have to contend for it with William Zillman and David Mead, who have also been named. Potential rookies Christian Hazard and Kane Elgey have big wraps on them, but I can’t see them displacing incumbents Daniel Mortimer and Aidan Sezer who have been named as well. Popular pick Ryan James is definitely one to keep an eye on, as he looks to bounce back from an injury-filled season.

Manly Sea Eagles

SQUAD: Daly Cherry-Evans (c), Manaia Rudolph, Jayden Hodges, Brayden Wiliame, Tony Satini, Kieran Foran, Clinton Gutherson, Tom Trbojevic, Peta Hiku, Tom Symonds, Cheyse Blair, James Hasson, Feleti Mateo, Jesse Sene-Lefao, Josh Starling, Michael Chee Kam, Blake Leary, Dunamis Lui

ANALYSIS: There are rumours that a Kieran Foran transfer to the warriors will be announced, but it’s just speculation at this stage. Youngsters Clint Gutherson and Tom Trbojevic will get a run at the nines. Cheyse Blair is also in the mix for a CTW spot if the rumours are true that Steve Matai is on his way out. Feleti Mateo makes his Manly debut at the nines, and is priced reasonably for round 1 in SC. James Hasson, Michael Chee-Kam, Blake Leary and Dunamis Lui are competing for bench spots in the forward rotation. However, as we know from last year, it is unlikely that they will offer much Supercoach value even as cash cows.

Melbourne Storm

SQUAD: Young Tonumaipea, Kenny Bromwich, Will Chambers (c), Kurt Mann, Richie Kennar, Dayne Weston, Cameron Munster, Hymel Hunt, Tim Glasby, Marika Koroibete, Travis Robinson, Christian Welch, Ben Hampton, Billy Brittain, Francis Tualau, Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Suliasi Vunivalu, Shaun Nona.

ANALYSIS: Shaun Nona and Ben Hampton are contenders for the five-eighth role this season, but Blake Green (who hasn’t been named for the nines) would have to be the favourite at this stage. Tohu Harris gets a chance to impress and offers plenty of upside in SC this year. There is even a chance he may kick goals if Smith misses the first few games of the regular season. Highly-rated rookie Nelson Asofa-Solomona is an outside chance of claiming a bench spot, and has been dubbed the next Sonny Bill.

Newcastle Knights

SQUAD: Sione Mata’utia, Jake Mamo, Dane Gagai, Chanel Mata’utia, Carlos Tuimavave, Jarrod Mullen (c), Tyrone Roberts, Pat Mata’utia, Adam Clydsdale, Paterika Vaivai, Tyler Randell, Chris Houston, Robbie Rochow, Nathan Ross, Korbin Sims, Joseph Tapine, Jack Stockwell, Danny Levi.

ANALYSIS: There is plenty of competition for backline spots with the Knights. Mata’utia brothers Chanel, Pat and Sione have all been named in addition to Jake Mamo and Carlos Tuimavave. James Mcmanus and Akuila Uate are also in the mix, but haven’t been named for the nines. Jarrod Mullen will play in the nines this year, despite injuring his hamstring there last year. Popular FRF selection Jack Stockwell is a good chance of starting in round 1 and gets a chance to cement his spot going forward from the Nines.

North Queensland Cowboys

SQUAD: Michael Morgan, Justin O’Neill, Tautau Moga, Kyle Feldt, Matthew Wright, Ray Thompson, Robert Lui, John Asiata, Rory Kostjasyn, Kelepi Tanginoa, Gavin Cooper (c), Ethan Lowe, Jason Taumalolo, Jake Granville, Zac Santo, Coen Hess, Javid Bowen, Ben Spina

ANALYSIS: Lachlan Coote apparently ‘lost his passport’ and won’t make it there this year (I have my doubts). Plenty of backline competition starting with the 9s as Justin O’Neill, Tautau Moga, Matthew Wright, Kyle Feldt, Zac Santo and Javid Bowen are all named. Jake Granville gets an opportunity at hooker, but Rory Kostjasyn and Ray Thompson are also there. Keep an eye on rookie giant Coen Hess.

St.George-Illawarra Dragons

SQUAD: Euan Aitken, Mike Cooper, Shannon Crook, Josh Dugan, Tyson Frizell, Craig Garvey, Nathan Green, Yaw Kiti Glymin, Beau Henry, Dan Hunt, Benji Marshall (c), Peter Mata’utia, Will Matthews, Eto Nabuli, Jason Nightingale, Adam Quinlan, Joel Thompson, Shannon Wakeman.

ANALYSIS: Euan Aitken is a popular cheapie and has been named for the 9s. Fellow backline contenders Peter Mata’utia and Eto Nabuli also have a chance to stake their claim. Shannon Wakeman is a good chance of claiming a spot in the Dragon’s FRF rotation in round 1, but is named in the 2RF in SC.

Parramatta Eels

SQUAD: Bureta Faraimo, Semi Radradra, John Folau, Brad Takairangi, Reece Robinson, Corey Norman, Chris Sandow (c), Junior Paulo, Kaysa Pritchard, Peni Terepo, Manu Ma’u, Tepai Moeroa, Joseph Paulo, David Gower, Kenny Edwards, Halauafu Lavaka, Pauli Pauli, Luke Kelly

ANALYSIS: The Eels have conveniently named their side in what appears to be by position. Will Hopoate is expected to play fullback this season and was name in the 1 jersey for the nines, however he has just withdrawn today with a groin injury. He played most of his junior footy there and was a fantasy weapon playing wing and FB at Manly. Chris Sandow will captain the Nines squad. Laugh if you must, but he will be the biggest beneficiary of the new kick and regather points and the Eels should lean on him more in the absence of Hayne. John Folau has been named in the 3 jersey and appears to be an outside chance of snaring a backline spot, but faces stiff competition from the likes of Champion, Morgan and Toutai as well as others who are not playing in the Nines.

Sydney Roosters

SQUAD: Mitchell Aubusson, Brendan Elliot, Kane Evans, Jackson Hastings, Samisoni Langi, Nene Macdonald, James Maloney, Willie Manu, Sam Moa, Taane Milne, Dylan Napa, Mitchell Pearce (c), Lagi Setu, Nathan Stapleton, Siosiua Taukeiaho, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (c), Mitchell Williams

ANALYSIS: Star halves pairing Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney will be playing in the Nines, giving us an early scouting opportunity. Maloney is in a contract year so there may be pressure on him to perform in the season ahead. We should get a glimpse of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck in his new fullback role, assuming he gets first crack.

Penrith Panthers

SQUAD: Brendan Attwood, Christian Crichton, Joshua Jay, Isaac John, Apisai Koroisau, Kieran Moss, Andy Aunders, Nathan Smith, Tupou Sopoaga, Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Adrian Davis, George Jennings, Kevin Kingston, Sika Manu, Ben Murdoch-Masila, Chris Smith, Will Smith, Isaah Yeo.

ANALYSIS: Not much doing for the Panthers as Ivan has rested several key players, but still a few to keep an eye on. George Jennings and Isaah Yeo are candidates for a centre spot that may be vacant in round 1 due to Idris’ injury. Waqa Blake is a contender for this role as well but he has not been named for the nines. Api Koroisau gets an opportunity to make his claim for a place in the 17, as James Segeyaro has not been named.

South Sydney Rabbitohs

SQUAD: Joel Reddy, Bryson Goodwin, Dylan Walker, Matt King, Chris McQueen, Issac Luke (c), Adam Reynolds, George Burgess, Angus Crichton, Ben Lowe, Jason Clark, Tom Hughes, David Tyrrell, Aaron Gray, Kyle Turner, Cameron McInnes, Chris Grevsmuhl, Setefano Taukafa.

ANALYSIS: Bryson Goodwin, Joel Reddy and rookie Aaron Gray are presumed to battle it out for a backline spot left vacant by Kirisome Auva’a. Highly rated rookie forward Chris Grevsmuhl will be pushing for a bench spot.

New Zealand Warriors

SQUAD: Shaun Johnson (c), Matthew Allwood, Nathan Friend, Ben Henry, Ryan Hoffman, Solomone Kata, Ngani Laumape, Sam Lisone, Tuimoala Lolohea, Sione Lousi, Suaia Matagi, Ben Matulino, Ken Maumalo, Nathaniel Roache, Bodene Thompson, Sam Tomkins, Chad Townsend, Manu Vatuvei.

ANALYSIS: SC gun Shaun Johnson will be hoping for another huge performance at the 9s to start the year. Solomone Kata is a chance of playing in the centres round 1 if Konrad Hurrell is not fit in time. Tuimoala Lolohea is breathing down Chad Townsend’s neck as both players battle it out for the 5/8th spot.

Wests Tigers

SQUAD: Sitaleki Akauola, Nathan Brown, Jack Buchanan, Manaia Cherrington, Josh Drinkwater, Asipeli Fine, Salesi Funaki, Delouise Hoeter, Chris Lawrence (c), Lamar Liolevave, Kyle Lovett, Joel Luani, Kevin Naiqama, Pat Richards, Brenden Santi, Ava Seumanufagai, Tim Simona, Sauaso Sue

ANALYSIS: Kevin Naiqama is hoping to finally earn a first grade spot at his 3rd club in 3 years, and will get a run at the Nines. Tim Simona offers some upside in SC as a bounce-back candidate this year. Junior Kiwi rep Lamar Liolevave is pushing for a spot in the Tigers’ back row rotation.

Former rugby league player becomes new CEO of the Northern Pride

Rod Jensen

Rod Jensen. His name may sound familiar and you may remember him as a former rugby league player in both the NRL and the Super League. Now, in 2015, he has a new role and a big one at that.

Jensen has been named as the new CEO of Intrust Super Cup side, the Northern Pride. With close to 150 professional rugby league games to his name and a further 68 for the Pride as a player, Jensen retired from playing duties in 2012.

Life after football saw Jensen become a qualified teacher and the leader of the Pride’s Take Pride program and the Learn Earn Legend! Program supported by the Federal Government.

Jensen will begin in the role due to current CEO Brock Schaefer moving to Sydney to take up a role with the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

Also occupying himself as a player-coach of a team in the Cairns rugby league competition, Jensen is thrilled to have this new opportunity.

“It’s a rare privilege to have the chance to lead such a club and I thank the Northern Pride Board for appointing me to the position,” Jensen said.

“It is a special time for this footy club with a record-breaking treble-winning season in 2014, and the excitement of a new season ahead of us with a new head coach and a thrilling squad of players.

“It’s no secret that I have a massive passion for rugby league, particularly the Northern Pride and the sport in general in North Queensland, and I aim to continue the great work of my predecessors.”

Jensen knows the team and the area well, perhaps more than most, as he looks forward to all the thrills and challenges that come with the role.

“I’m a local guy who has been at the club for six years now, first as a player and more recently as part of the administrative and business management team, and I’m really excited about the future,” said Jensen.

“The great successes of this club are a reflection of the aspiration, commitment and passion of our players, our corporate partners, and our season members.

“I look forward to spending the next few weeks and months speaking to as many of our supporters, sponsors and volunteers as possible.”

The Pride are confident that Jensen is the right man for the job.

“Since his playing career ended, Rod has displayed all the attributes necessary in handling administration and business management duties through his work with the Pride’s community engagement programs,” said Northern Pride Chairman, Mr Bob Fowler said.

“I think it’s another example of the excellent career pathways our great club provides for not only our players, but also our staff, and we’ve no doubt Rod will continue to steer the club in the right direction.

“We’ve all been impressed by Rod’s views to transform and strengthen our organisation and look forward to supporting him, our staff and players to have our club recognised as the most professional and successful state league sporting club in Australia.”

In addition to Jensen being made CEO, the Pride have also inaugural former Pride CEO Denis O’Keeffe in a consultancy role to assist Jensen.

“Denis has more than 25 years of senior management experience in professional rugby league, basketball and has an impressive contact list in Far North Queensland,” Mr Fowler added.

“He will assist the club in delivering our sales and sponsorship functions.”

Young Tigers prop in trouble after police incident

Matt Lodge

Another bad look for the NRL and a potential nail in the coffin for budding Wests Tigers prop, Matt Lodge, who has been charged by police after an altercation on the morning of Sunday January 11.

In a blow for the Tigers and the NRL, the club have acted swiftly and have released the following statement on the matter:

“Wests Tigers can confirm that Matthew Lodge has been charged by the NSW Police following an altercation in the early hours of Sunday 11 January 2015.

The Club finds Lodge’s actions unacceptable and is cooperating fully with the NRL Integrity Unit.

Lodge was stood down from training for one week due to a breach of Club protocol and further punishment will be considered once the NRL Integrity Unit has concluded investigating the matter.

Wests Tigers will make no further comment at this time.”

Ricky’s View: Players set to bounce back in 2015

Glenn Stewart

The life of an NRL player is often quite demanding and so, at times, their form is not up to scratch, waning in such a way that can potentially result in a demotion for a player. With some new recruits seeking a new opportunity and a fresh start to players that were established but now have to fight their way back into a side, there is improvement in many players across the board.

This particular piece will focus on those players that have nothing to lose and a lot to prove, as they look to bounce back from horror years either through injury and/or poor form. Some might be new recruits, whilst others will have been at their current clubs for some years now.

All in all, improvement is prevalent in all their games and 2015 is the year that they can potentially do it. So, without further adieu, here are the 16 players that can potentially bounce back for their clubs in 2015:

1. Jordan Kahu (Brisbane Broncos): Injuries. They have not been kind to Kahu in the past, as has been forced to spend a lot of times on the sidelines recovering and working his way back into the Broncos side. He achieved that last year and played in a few games but with an opportunity at fullback arising after the unfortunate injury to Darius Boyd, this is a chance for Kahu to show the Broncos fans and the NRL what he can do. He has always had the talent to start and if injuries were not as frequent for him, he probably would have been a mainstay of the Broncos side by now.

2. Edrick Lee (Canberra Raiders): Another player that was hit hard by the injury bug, especially last season. When it looked like Lee was firing on all cylinders and providing great speed and height for the Raiders on the wing, injury struck. Now at full fitness and back into the training grind for the pre-season, the chance is there for Lee to work hard and play hard, in a bid to show that he once again deserves that wing spot. His talent is also well known and with the Raiders looking to have an improved year, the raw power and determination of Lee, could be a handy asset on the wing.

3. Josh Morris (Canterbury Bulldogs): Renowned for his try-scoring and game-breaking ability, something was missing for Morris in 2014. Scoring just 3 tries for the entire season – compared to 17 in 2012 – Morris had some tough times on the field and was not his usual self. Whatever it was that might have been restricting him, with a full pre-season under his belt and a new year fast approaching, Morris is sure to get back to where he belongs. The top. When on song, Morris is one of the best centres in the game and the Bulldogs will be relying on him to recapture that 2012 form where it seemed like he was scoring tries for fun.

4. Ben Barba (Cronulla Sharks): Barba’s 2014 season was heavily scrutinised by many and although his time in Brisbane did not quite work out, he has a chance to start anew and work within an organisation that has the potential to go places. The live-wire and enigmatic utility is likely to start at five-eighth for the Sharks – his favoured position – after some inconsistencies last year in Brisbane, the only way is up. His support play and nippiness will be two factors to watch out for, with the new Sharks recruit set to feature as one of the club’s most important players in 2015.

5. Ryan James (Gold Coast Titans): So much promise over the years that has been ruined by either injuries or poor form. James is a player that was once linked with an Origin appearance for NSW, such was the form he was in. That seems like an age ago now, with injuries and poor form limiting his time in first-grade in recent years. The young prop has no better chance to make his mark than now, especially with an abundance of forwards departing the club, as they revamp their side ahead of 2015. James is a powerful, bruising enforcer and if he can get going and perform to his potential, he could shape to be one of the Titans best forwards over the entire season.

6. Justin Horo (Manly Sea Eagles): His first year with Manly, Horo turned out to be a revelation. Bordering on 80 minutes game and outperforming players on the fringes almost for fun. A real keeper for Manly. In 2014, though, that form waned and dipped and it was not the same Horo that blitzed the field in 2013. With some recent player turnover that has shaken up the Manly forward pack, Horo has a chance to start from scratch and help the Manly pack rebuild. He is a talented player and if he can get his head back in the game and work well with the likes of Jamie Buhrer and Feleti Mateo – his back-row partners – it could be another very good year for the back-rower.

7. Tom Learoyd-Lahrs (Storm): His end at the Canberra Raiders was not the flashiest of affairs nor the prettiest and as a result, it brought about a new challenge for the former Origin prop. A few years ago, he was putting in the hard yards and impressing for the Raiders before he too was hit by the poor form and injury bug. After months of recovery and several stop-and-start attempts to return, Learoyd-Lahrs made a decision to move away from the nation’s capital to further his career. With spots open in the Storm front-row, he has a great chance to make a spot his own and prove to his new club and their fans, that he still has what it takes to play NRL consistently.

8. Carlos Tuimavave (Knights): Things were looking good for Tuimavave early in 2014. A try in rd 1 and a good performance but that was when injury struck. After that, there was no return to the first-grade line-up for him last year. A top-notch utility that has proven he is far too good for the NSW Cup, Tuimavave sought greener pastures to further his career and ended up in Newcastle. With a potential utility spot up for grabs, Tuimavave is bound to work hard, play hard and impress Knights fans who may not have seen a lot of him. Should he get the opportunity, he certainly will not disappoint.

9. Lachlan Coote (Cowboys): The talent is evident but so too, is the injury history. For Coote, he has been on the cusp of succeeding and going to the next level when injury has struck. With an ACL injury in last years’ Nines tournament, 2015 is hopefully the injury-free season for Coote and one that can see him claw his way back into first-grade. It certainly will not be easy given the emergence of Morgan at fullback and the halves depth but pre-season and the Nines competition will be telling. If he gets a crack again and does play first-grade, the only way is forwards for the talented utility.

10. Danny Wicks (Eels): His past was well-documented and according to some, he should still be out of the game. But with any first indiscretion, comes a chance for redemption. For Wicks, the Eels have given that chance and so far, he is making the most of it. Wicks appears fitter, faster and stronger – physically and mentally – and primed for a surprise first-grade spot, such has been the nature of the way he has performed in training. A big, mobile unit, Wicks offers the Eels pack some punch up-front and with his past now seemingly behind him, the opportunity is there for Wicks to not only excel but to be rewarded with a new contract at some point during the season.

11. Matt Moylan (Panthers): Some might say Moylan does not belong on a list like this but he’s on it for one very simple reason. The kid can get even better. He was good in 2014 and did some brilliant things but such is his talent and awareness of the game, that he can go to the next level and prove himself. With a solid 2015 season, Moylan can put his mark and stamp on the game and move very close to the upper echelon of current NRL fullbacks. He is a crucial player for the Panthers in 2015 and if he fires, you can bet the Panthers are going to rack up the points for fun.

12. Glenn Stewart (Souths): He might not be a spring chicken anymore but Glenn Stewart will be out to prove that his old legs can still produce the goods, as the Bunnies look to utilise him efficiently. A tremendous passer of the ball and the epitome of the ball-playing lock role, Stewart has a chance to start afresh and make his mark at a new club. The injuries caught up with him during his time at Manly and ultimately, led to his departure from the club. In a new system under a superb coach in Michael Maguire, Stewart has all the makings to succeed and regain at least some of the form that saw him play Origin a few years ago.

13. George Rose (Dragons): Last-chance saloon? Some certainly think so and with Rose changing clubs a fair bit of late, perhaps this opportunity at the Dragons does present itself as the last chance for him to make a mark in the NRL. He has the fans behind him and the cult hero status but will that transcend into his on-field play? The work-rate has always been the criticism but Rose is a determined player and is expected to feature somewhere in the side’s 17 come Rd 1 so if he can knuckle down and make inroads, he could be a handy player for the Dragons either starting or off the bench.

14. Aidan Guerra (Roosters): Set to fill the shoes of the departed Sonny Bill Williams, Guerra has an important role out Roosters way in 2015 and beyond. To hold down his side of the field and exploit the fringes. Good form saw Guerra rewarded with a maiden Queensland appearance and retaining that form is the key for him individually and the key for the club. Knowing what SBW brought to the table in terms of dynamism and unpredictability is hard to replicate but with a player like Guerra to replace him – who, mind you, is only getting better and better each year – is something that has many Roosters fans cheering.

15. Ryan Hoffman (Warriors): In search of a new challenge, Hoffman crossed the Tasman and signed with the Warriors. 2014 was not his best year, though, as the former Origin forward was at times overshadowed by his younger team-mates. With a new challenge comes a chance to help guide the Warriors younger forwards towards the right direction, as he looks to make the most of the move. His experience will be crucial for the Warriors pack, especially playing alongside captain Simon Mannering. 2015 should be a season of bounce back to form for Hoffman.

16. Tim Simona (Tigers): You know when a player has that special something and Tigers wonderkid Tim Simona, he has got it. He burst onto the scene with some scintillating plays and great solo tries and put the NRL and Tigers fans on notice. Since then, though, some injuries and poor form – mind you, collective poor team form as well, thus limiting his individual chances – saw Simona slip a little bit and struggle. Though with the new year ahead of us and Simona likely to play in the centres, he has a chance to redeem himself and get back to that ripper form that had everyone clapping and cheering.

Rabbitohs halves duo re-sign in huge boost for the club

Adam Reynolds

It was a long time coming but the speculation can finally cease, with the South Sydney Rabbitohs confirming that both Adam Reynolds and Luke Keary have signed new deals with the club.

The duo, who were linked with moves away at differing times, will play together in the halves from 2015. Reynolds re-signed until 2017 and Keary until 2016, with the duo set to excite fans with some enticing play.

The move is one that has coach Michael Maguire pleased, who is looking forward to seeing the duo playing alongside each other in the halves over the next few seasons.

“Adam and Luke have grown together as players in our halves and have become an integral part of our team over the past two seasons that they have been playing together,” Coach Maguire said.

“It’s exciting for us and our Members to see two of the brightest young halves prospects commit to the Club and show that they see their future in the red and green, so I couldn’t be happier about these agreements.

“They can now concentrate on preparing themselves for the season ahead which promises to be an exciting one for everyone in the Rabbitohs family.”

The red and green colours are all Reynolds has ever known and he could not be happier to keep on playing for the club he loves.

“I’m really happy to have my contract situation sorted out before the season starts and I’m really excited about the year ahead, as well as the next three seasons,” Reynolds said.

“It’s great to know that Luke has also extended his contract and I’m looking forward to continuing to build on the combination we’ve developed over the past two years.

“I love running out in front of our Members and fans each week and to know I’ll be doing that for the next three years is fantastic.”

Equally excited is his expected halves partner Luke Keary, who also loves the club.

“I love playing here at Souths, with the boys we’ve got in the squad, so it was a fairly straight forward decision for me in the end,” Keary said.

“We have a great group here, we’re focused on our job and know that if we work hard we can achieve great things.

“I’m glad the contract situation is sorted out before the season starts and I can’t wait to get back into the footy and representing the Rabbitohs.”

Luke Keary

Communications company GMEA renew sponsorship with the Lebanon rugby league

Still developing and growing as a rugby league nation, hearing of their successes and developments is good news and for Lebanese rugby league, they have a sponsorship renewal.

Multi-national communications company GMEA and the Lebanese rugby league came to an agreement, that will see the two organisations linked together for their fourth year.

Mohamed Habbous, the Lebanese Rugby League Federation President, is happy to see the deal agreed upon to help the youths in school.

“We are extremely happy to announce the extended partnership,” said Habbous.

“GMEA’s continued support and help during these difficult times in Lebanon is so important for the youth and sport here.”

The re-branded GMEA schools rugby league competition will cover two regions of the country – North Lebanon and Mount Lebanon, as well as hosting U16 & U18 teams.

The competition will kick off on February 1. The teams involved in the tournament are: Antonine International School, International College, St Joseph’s School, Amchit School (all part of the Mount Lebanon conference) and Balamand, Malaab, Jadida and Namouzaj (all in the North Lebanon conference).

Charles Chedrawi, GMEA’s Chairman, believe that supporting Lebanese rugby league is the right thing to do, as they encourage the next generation of kids to get involved with the sport.

“We continue to support the LRLF because we believe in what they do,” said Chedrawi.

“They continue to encourage the country’s next generation to embrace and enjoy sport and establish camaraderie.”

Broncos prop commits to club despite persistent speculation

Josh McGuire

Keen to test himself on the open market, the rumours began and continued for some time regarding the future of Brisbane Broncos prop, Josh McGuire.

Making one of the front-row spots his own in 2014 and with international kudos to boot, he is a fan favourite at the club and Broncos fans will be pleased to know that he has re-signed for the next two years.

For McGuire himself, it is an exciting move and one that he feels comfortable with knowing that his Broncos future is secure.

“Mate, I’m very excited. I’ve got my future sewn up for the next couple of years,” said McGuire.

“It’s very exciting to stay here at the club that I love and I’m very excited about the future.”

2014 was a good year for McGuire and with that in mind, he knows that he has to maintain the consistency come the 2015 season.

“Hopefully there’s good things to come and I can concentrate on the season,” said McGuire.

“I feel like this is home and I don’t want to be anywhere else.”

Time under supercoach Wayne Bennett has gone well so far and McGuire looks forward to what lies ahead.

“It’s been a different experience but you can see straight away why he is who he is,” said McGuire.

“The boys are responding well, it’s been very intense but training has been very good.”

Burgess trio at Souths no more as Luke heads to Manly

Luke Burgess

To date, the Burgess brothers have only been associated with the South Sydney Rabbitohs but not anymore. That is because Luke Burgess will join the Manly Sea Eagles for the 2015 and 2016 NRL seasons.

With 135 NRL and Super League games to his name for the South Sydney Rabbitohs, London Harlequins & the Leeds Rhinos, the move allows Burgess to explore new options and look for a chance at more footy.

Burgess has tasted premiership success on two occasions – once in 2009 with the Leeds Rhinos and last year with the South Sydney Rabbitohs – and looks forward to his new opportunity at Manly.

“I’ve had a wonderful time at the South Sydney Rabbitohs and I’d like to thank them for the wonderful memories over the years,” Burgess said.

“I really appreciate them granting me this release. I’m really looking forward to the next few seasons at the Sea Eagles and can’t wait to get stuck in with the boys tomorrow,” Burgess added.

With the club’s need for further prop depth given the release of several forwards, signing Burgess gives them that with coach Geoff Toovey pleased to have the Englishman on board.

“Luke is really coming into his prime as a front-rower and we’re pleased to have added more experience, power and depth to our forward pack with his late addition to the squad,” said Toovey.

“He’s an experienced footballer and comes with a winning mentality, so I’m sure he’ll fit right in to what we have got going here at the Club already.”

Also pleased to have the Englishman on board was new CEO Joe Kelly, who praised the club’s ability to get a quality forward so close to the start of the season.

“Luke signing with the Club is a fantastic result and I’d like to thank the South Sydney Rabbitohs for their willingness to grant him a release and join us here on the Northern Beaches,” said Kelly.