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Garry Jack: What playing for the Tigers meant to me

Balmain Tigers fullback Garry Jack

One of the greatest ever players to don the Balmain Tigers jersey, Garry Jack has long been a fan favourite of the diehards. 

Speaking with Westslife Podcast, Garry Jack opened up on his playing career, what the club meant to him and what life has held post-footy.

Jack wears his heart on his sleeve when it comes to the Tigers and he gave his thoughts on where the current team is at.

“I think given that where things were at last year with Ivan Cleary, when I found out he was leaving, I was disappointed,” said Jack.

“When I found out we were getting Maguire [Michael] to come on board, I thought that was a better fit for the club.”

Looking to improve on previous years, Jack believes the Tigers can push for higher honours.

“They’ve got a good squad, I think he [Maguire] has a great brain for picking out talent and he will develop these players,” said Jack.

Wests Magpies Garry Jack

Jack’s rugby league career began far away from the black and white of the Magpies realm in Wollongong.

“I played for Wests Illawarra which is the Red Devils down there from U7’s all the way through to first-grade,” the Balmain legend continued.

“My father played down there, my grandfather played down there, so I’m from a football family.”

Jack played alongside another Balmain legend in Steve ‘Blocker’ Roach, one of the club’s greatest ever props.

“Blocker [Steve Roach] was the year behind me and we played U17’s together,” Jack said.

“We went to the same high school, Blocker and I.

“He went to Balmain as a junior and I stayed at Wests Illawarra.”

Balmain Tigers prop Steve Roach, long-time teammate of Garry Jack.

It was then a catch-up following a touch footy game that would change the trajectory of Jack’s rugby league career forever.

“I was offered a trial and a chance to get fit and so I drove up there every day,” Jack said, excited at the opportunity.

“Garry Dowling, Johnny Ribot, Terry Lamb, Allan Neale were all there.

“We all trained with the first-grade squad; I was just one of the young fellas coming through.

“I played the trials and Roy Masters pulled me aside and wanted to offer me a contract.”

Balmain Tigers legend Garry Jack playing against the Parramatta Eels

The decision at the time for a young Jack was not easy but the chance in Sydney was too hard to give up.

“My dad was with me and I said I didn’t want to come to Sydney, I wanted to stay in Wollongong,” Jack said, telling the story.

“He said it was a great opportunity to come up and I think you’re going to end up as a five-eighth, not as a fullback.

“That’s what his advice to me was. That was good advice from Roy, hehe.”

The move to Wests led to a move to Balmain where Jack truly hit his stride as a player.

“There were about four clubs interested in me [Canberra, Eastern Suburbs, Illawarra and Balmain],” said Jack of the interest in him at the time.

“I suppose the biggest factor was that Keith Barnes came to my house in Sydney and he was good mates with the recruitment officer back in those days.

“We had a chat for three hours and he told me wanted a fullback for the future.

The powerhouse 1989 Balmain team featuring Garry Jack, Paul Sironen, Steve Roach and Wayne Pearce.

“They had Wayne Pearce coming through, a guy called Benny Elias coming through.

“I took a couple of weeks to decide but then I called him back and said I’d love to join the club, so I did.”

Although Jack’s Balmain side made two grand finals and lost both, the former fullback has watched them back since and forgot just how good they were.

“We actually did sit together once at Fox Studios in 2005,” Jack reminisced.

“We sat in a nice big booth there and watched the game. I’d never seen the game from 89 in 2005.

“My recollection of it after watching was what a great game it actually was! I was just so disappointed that we had lost.”

Australian representative Garry Jack

Jack also played for both the Sheffield Eagles and the Salford Red Devils in England, and opened up on the English game and his experiences there.

“It was a lot of fun. I was there for three years,” said Jack.

“I went to Sheffield Eagles in 1992-93 and had a great time over there. They were a young team and we made the final of the Yorkshire Cup.”

“The following year I was approached by Salford as a player-coach for a year and then coach the next year.

“I loved being a full-time professional and loved my time as coach for Salford.”

That experience as player-coach at Salford fuelled Jack’s desire to look at long-term coaching back in Australia.

“I loved coaching at Salford and a personal goal of mine was to try and come back here and coach in Australia,” Jack said.

Garry Jack during his time at Salford

When his time in England came to an end, Jack still felt fit enough to play on.

As luck would have it, he would rejoin the Balmain side alongside former team-mate Ellery Hanley.

“I feel really good,” Jack said, who was 34 at the time.

“I trained hard for six weeks, spoke to the club and when I got back to Australia, the club and Wayne Pearce gave me an opportunity.

“I played 11 games to end the year and I like to think I helped them there to steady the ship.”

Balmain meant so much to Jack and he enjoyed his second stint as much as his first.

“I was very fortunate; Balmain fans gave me a great reception when  I left in 92,” he said.

“I loved all my time at Balmain. I just loved the club, the joint and made plenty of great mates and memories from that era.

Balmain Tigers utility Ellery Hanley, a team-mate of Garry Jack’s.

As most players do, you learn that life is not all about footy and that pre-planning for your life post retirement is more important than ever.

“For the last 12 months, I’ve worked for the TAB,” said Jack.

“The last six months, that has led me into the Digital Acquisitions which means when you go to a hotel or club and you’re on your phone, I help sign people up on the TAB app.

“I have a lot of younger people and students going around to hotels and that sort of stuff.

“I’m responsible for their training.”

To listen to the full Westslife podcast, click the link and follow the Westslife podcast on Twitter (@WestsLifePod).

Tigers fans and rugby league fans in general, if you do not do so already, you can also follow Garry Jack on twitter (@jimmyjack244).

Storm rattle the Eels back to 16th

The Melbourne Storm took to AAMI Park looking to break a rare losing streak and secure equal first place while Parramatta Eels were looking to continue a rare winning streak and avoid the wooden spoon.

The game went much more in the way of the home side as they rattled the bottom ladder team to secure a 20-4 win despite an injury to captain Cameron Smith. 

Melbourne were out to prove their dominance early in the game with 4 repeat sets forcing Parramatta to defend strong early on.

Will Chambers finally broke the Parramatta defense after beating George Jennings for the retrieval of a floating kick to score Melbourne’s first points.

The two teams fought hard for the remainder of the half, however, Parramatta’s lack of discipline secured a handy 10-point lead for the Storm with Smith kicking two penalty goals. 

With 10 minutes to go in the half, Cameron Smith left the field with a back injury after an awkward tackle from Parramatta enforcer Nathan Brown. 

The injury was deemed severe enough to keep Smith out for the remainder of the game and cement concern amongst the fans.

Parramatta came out firing in the second half, however, Melbourne’s defensive pressure managed to hold them out despite multiple repeat sets. 

The visitors were granted a prime opportunity when Cameron Munster was sin binned, although they were unable to capitalise on this advantage. 

With a player in the bin and their captain in the sheds, the Storm dug deep and found their next points through Nelson Asofa-Solomona who steamrolled over multiple Eels defenders to get the ball down.

Parramatta’s lack of composure and defensive pressure from the Storm kept them scoreless and obviously rattled.

The Storm strengthened their lead with a try to Curtis Scott who took on a tired, disheartened Parramatta defensive line.  

The home team were unable to keep the boys in blue and gold pointless however with Clinton Gutherson showing incredible acrobatic skills to put a Brad Takairangi ball down in the corner. 

A late no try to Mitchell Moses kept Parramatta’s final tally at 4 and the Melbourne Storm equal first. 

Eels coach Brad Arthur did not mince words. A lack of execution is what cost his side.

“We created some opportunities that we didn’t take – you can’t do that against close to the top side in the competition,” he said.

“We were our own worst enemy.

“We needed more patience at the try line.

“We don’t need to score off every play.

We needed to be more patient and build some pressure on the try line.”

The big talking point will be the Cameron Smith injury, though there was some positive news with it, for it could just be back spasms.

“Cameron [Smith] just had a spasm in joints in his back which he’s had before,” Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy said.

“I don’t know if there will be X-rays or anti-inflammatories.

I don’t think it’s anything too serious but how serious is, I don’t know, especially with backs.”

Player  of the Match:

3. Brodie Croft

2. Jesse Bromwich

1. Dale Finucane

The Surprise of the Sydney Roosters is Not a Surprise At All

Trent Robinson came into action for the Sydney Roosters 5 years ago in 2013. Since then, each season seems to have gone along the same path – aside from the 2016 season which many are still scratching their heads over.

In his debut season as coach for the tri coloured boys from Bondi, Robinson found himself with the minor premiership crown.

This accomplishment however, came very unexpected for many particularly the South Sydney Rabbitohs. This was a season in which the Rabbitohs dominated for a large portion of the season. They enjoyed a glorious 12 weeks on top of the ladder before the Roosters took over at the tail end of the season. From there, the most entertaining cat and mouse chase came alive as the two fought for the minor premiership. Eventually, with an incredibly point differential of +315 the Roosters were crowned minor premiers.

Four weeks later, they were holding the trophy high and mighty in front of a sold out ANZ stadium. Not a bad start for the new boy in town.

2014 came along and fans were feeling déjà vu.

The Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles were sitting nice and pretty on the top of the ladder for 10 weeks from round 15 onwards. They had one week where the Panthers took over due to point differential but the moment passed very quickly and the Sea Eagles enjoyed 8 weeks on top of the ladder looking like sure minor premiers.

They lost in round 26. The Roosters did not.

By point differential, the Roosters took home the minor premiership and finished the season in the preliminary finals after falling short to the Rabbitohs who went on to win the whole thing.

2015. Same deal.

The Brisbane Broncos led the competition for 11 weeks, until round 24 when the Roosters took over and won the minor premiership.

2016 is the dark year for Coach Robinson. A year that he definitely does not want to remember and would very happily bury it dead. Let’s call this year the exception to the rule.

2017 was dominated by the Melbourne Storm in every single way. They seemed to have won the premiership back in round 3 however, the Sydney Roosters still gave them a good run for their money. Recovering from a year from hell, Robinson kicked his team into action however the trend still followed. The run home didn’t fully take place until the tail end of the season.

Whether it’s the impact that State of Origin has on the competition or something else, I don’t know. History does not lie however.

Under the guidance of Trent Robinson, the Sydney Roosters have not been a long running, dominating team in the NRL.

They are not a poor team by any means.

They are a team however, that peaks late. They peak when it well and truly matters.

Can history repeat itself this year? With the way Cooper Cronk, James Tedesco, Luke Keary, Latrell Mitchell, Victor Radley etc etc are firing? Yes. It definitely can.

Reflecting on the past 5 years I find it incredibly fitting that the Sydney Roosters have an extremely high chance of winning the minor premiership and the NRL premiership come September.

Former NRL prop Mose Masoe re-signs with Hull KR

Hull KR prop Mose Masoe

Now making a name for himself in the Super League, former NRL prop Mose Masoe has re-signed with Hull KR.

The hulking prop has agreed to a three-year extension with the Rovers.

Since joining from the St George Illawarra Dragons,  Masoe has played 25 games for the Rovers, scoring three tries.

Ultimately, there was just one place he wanted to be at and that was Hull KR.

“I’m stoked with the new contract,” said Masoe.

“There’s a lot of great people at this club and I’m happy to be staying here.”

With family such a key part of Masoe’s culture, their wellbeing is important and they have settled in well.

“Off the field, my family have really settled into the area,” continued the prop.

“One of my kids is at school, the other is enjoying nursery and my missus is in a routine.

We’ve all been made to feel welcome and a happy family makes life easier for me.

Everything is going well and whilst that might not have always shown on the field, we’ve got a great group of boys here and that made this decision even easier.”

Masoe went on to praise the side for their tenacity and knows that they can become even better.

“It’s been a tough year for injuries but it’s good to have a lot of the lads back now because I see a lot of potential in this side,” continued Masoe.

“We’ve got some good older guys and some great young kids coming through.

“We’ve lost some real 50/50 matches this season where I don’t think we were mentally ready, but everybody across the club is working hard to get better.”

“We’ve beaten some top teams and come really close against some others.

“Putting that together consistently is key for us moving forward, but I don’t think we are far off.”

Masoe believes in the ability of his side and wants to do his part to help Hull KR finish the season well.

“I believe in that process and if we can keep working on those combinations and people stay healthy, then we can give it a good shot at the back end of the year,” continued Masoe.

“For me personally, I’ve been pretty happy with how I’ve been going but I’ve still got a lot of things to work on, which is good.

I know deep down that there’s still more I could be contributing to the team, but I’m just happy to be back playing footy week in, week out for a great club.”

Storm prove far too clinical for Warriors

Cameron Munster

The Melbourne Storm will tell you that whilst it might not have been their best performance, they will take the win as they cruised to a 26-10 win over the New Zealand Warriors in Auckland last night.

With torrential rain threatening to make conditions difficult for both sides, the Storm proved that they can adapt to any conditions, making just 7 errors.

Whilst it is not a long-term thing, the loss of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck due to concussion hurt the Warriors chances in a game that they failed to wrestle any momentum in.

Just seven minutes into the game, the Storm were on the board with Cronk and Kenny Bromwich combining and they could have had another one had the bunker not denied them a try.

The Warriors fought their way back into the contest at this point and scored two unanswered tries to take the lead before the Storm retook the lead through a Cheyse Blair try.

This marked a momentous occasion in the game for Storm captain Cameron Smith who became the first Queenslander and forward to score 2000 points.

As the second half began, the Warriors should have scored again but Solomone Kata dropped the ball over the line in a handling error that ended up costing the Warriors.

In the end, further tries to winger Suliasi Vunivalu and Cooper Cronk plus a penalty goal by Smith sealed the Storm’s second win of the season.

Smith praised his side’s defence and knew they had to play a certain way in light of the conditions.

“We tried to kick long early … a combination of controlling the footy and tackling well, I thought our defence was great tonight, had a lot of intensity and energy, ” Smith said.

“Nice to be able to get two wins away on the road.

“We chanced our arm a bit and I think the Warriors tonight too so I thought it was a high quality game for the conditions.”

Player of the Game:

3. Cameron Munster

2. Cooper Cronk

  1. Shaun Johnson

Melbourne Storm 26 (Kenny Bromwich, Cheyse Blair, Suliasi Vunivalu, Cooper Cronk tries; Cameron Smith 5 goals) defeated New Zealand Warriors 10 (Tuimoala Lolohea, Shaun Johnson tries; Johnson 1 goal) at Mt Smart Stadium. Half-time: 12-10. Crowd: 9,811.

Ricky’s NRL Previews Pt 8: North Queensland Cowboys

A team regarded by many as their second favourite, the North Queensland Cowboys captured their elusive premiership in 2015 and are on the hunt for another. With virtually the same team at their disposal yet again, you can bet your house that they will challenge for the title once again. That task is always made more comforting when you have the world’s best half in Johnathan Thurston at your disposal.

As for their team, as mentioned above, there has been little change. The one major change, however, and a big talking point among the fans is the prop rotation. With the departure of James Tamou, a spot has opened up on the bench for a talented Cowboys youngster to cement it, make an impression and convince Paul Green that they are the man for the job. Whilst it looks likely that Scott Bolton will move into the now vacant starting role, the battle for the last couple of bench spots heats up.

Last year, John Asiata and Patrick Kaufusi were both in and out of first-grade and it is expected that they will be the two that battle it out for the vacant spot. Both hard running forwards in their own right, they have a big task ahead of them to fill the shoes of the impact off the bench that was Bolton. Not beyond them, the pre-season trials will be indicative of just how well accustomed they will be to making the next step. A smokey for the spot and one that is perhaps less talked about than the aforementioned to is Sam Hoare. A talented forward in his own right, his opportunities have been somewhat limited but not due to ability, rather injury. Fully fit, he now has the chance to make a claim of his own, as the Cowboys so desperately search for an impact forward.

Without question, the biggest talking point out of the Cowboys camp and among their fans and NRL fans in general is, what will the club do with Kalyn Ponga in season 2017? The NRL world knows that he is off to the Knights in 2018 but what to do in the meantime is the thought on everyone’s mind. His talent has been on display since he made his NRL debut in the back end of the finals series last year and again during the recent NRL Auckland Nines tournament. However, with Ponga stating that he is not expecting to start Rd 1 and coach Paul Green saying that Ponga will not be starting, just how much of the talented rookie will we see in season 2017?
Is it worth the Cowboys playing him and helping him to gain the match fitness and the game time, knowing full well that in 2018, he will no longer be with the club? With their side full of experience and set in stone, fans may want Ponga in the team regardless but at present, you would have to imagine that he will only play if there are injuries or suspensions.

With a team like the Cowboys, much of their chances for premiership success hinge on the success, form and consistency of star playmaker Johnathan Thurston. However, much like the success of their 2015 premiership win, they have the right amount of balance to make a serious tilt at the title once again.
We saw that determination through the likes of Jason Taumalolo, who enjoyed a career-best season last year that saw him as the joint winner of the Dally M Award and the Lock of the Year.
His form will have to be much the same and the others will have to step up and play their role if the Cowboys are to emulate their 2015 success.

Best Buy: The Cowboys have not recruited too many new players but the one standout as best buy on their list is Ben Hampton. A genuine utility, Hampton is a nifty, crafty player that had flashes of brilliance to produce good form. With a bench utility spot for grabs, it is a chance for Hampton to gain some consistent form and cement a spot in the side for the majority of the season. That seems a mere formality if the reported sides are to be believed but the selections come Rd 1 will be the ultimate factor, once Paul Green decides on the precise make-up of his squad.

Best Emerging Talent: To date, we have only seen him at Nines games and trials but it is just a matter of time before Gideon Gela-Mosby makes an NRL debut. A quick, pacey winger, aptly referred to as GGM, many Cowboys fans see him as the club’s future on the wing. A gifted player, he make the most of the opportunities he does get, illustrating his desire and love for the game and for the Cowboys club to try and earn that spot. Whilst the winger spots at the Cowboys are set in stone at present, should an injury arise, he may well be first cab off the rank in light of Ponga’s departure next season. He has been highly rated by Cowboys fans for the last few seasons, ever since he broke the Holden Cup record for most tries in a season.

2016 gains: Ben Hampton, Shane Wright & Corey Jensen.

Our predicted Cowboys line-up at full strength:

  1. Lachlan Coote
  2. Kyle Feldt
  3. Justin O’Neill
  4. Kane Linnett
  5. Antonio Winterstein
  6. Michael Morgan
  7. Johnathan Thurston (C)
  8. Matt Scott (C)
  9. Jake Granville
  10. Scott Bolton
  11. Gavin Cooper
  12. Ethan Lowe
  13. Jason Taumalolo

14. Ben Hampton
15. Coen Hess
16. Patrick Kaufusi
17. John Asiata

Titans prop forced to retire due to back injury

David Shillington

In an ideal world, a player will be able to dictate and choose when they retire from the game but unfortunately, David Shillington has not had that opportunity. 

Today, he has been forced to retire from the NRL due to a number of chronic injuries. The 33-year old played in 215 NRL games.

The Brothers junior represented the Sydney Roosters, the Canberra Raiders and the Gold Coast Titans as well as playing in 14 games for Australia, 4 games for the Prime Minister’s XIII and 8 games for Queensland.

With a ninth bout of surgery in 12 years, Shillington knew that the time had come to close the curtain on an illustrious career.

“It’s not necessarily the way that you’d like to retire from the game but injuries are a part of it and it’s just all a bit much for me to continue putting my body through it,” Shillington said.

“I’ve had a great time in the game and it’s given me so much. The people I’ve met along the way and the fun I’ve had, has given me plenty of great memories.”

He was quick to thank the three clubs that he was involved in over his career as he looks forward to working with the NRL Ambassador Program.

“I’d like to thank the three clubs I played for over the years for allowing me to play the game that I love for a living and helping me achieve many of my goals,” said Shillington.

“I won’t be lost to the game though, I’m looking forward to my next chapter where I’ll do some work as part of the NRL Ambassador program.”

His contribution to the game and to the Titans organisation was praised by coach Neil Henry.

“David has been a quality rugby league player throughout his career but more importantly, he’s been a good role model,” Henry said.

“Even throughout a tough season in 2016, he continued to help the younger players in and around training with their development.

“He will be a great ambassador for the game moving forward.”

Those sentiments were echoed by club CEO, Graham Annesley.

“There are many quality people in our game and David Shillington is one of the best,” Annesley said.

“I’m so glad he won’t be lost to the game and I know he will make a very smooth transition into life after football and forge an equally successful non-playing career.

“I know everyone in Rugby League will join with me in wishing Dave, Sonia and their young family nothing but the best for the future,” Annesley concluded.

Barba agrees to new 1-year deal at the Sharks

Ben Barba

His recent off-field indiscretions were well-known and well-documented but after the Cronulla Sharks met with Barba and his management, they discussed a new contract proposal for consideration by the NRL.

The Cronulla Sharks released a statement of their own on the matter and it reads as follows:

“Sharks Grand Final winning fullback Ben Barba has agreed to a new one-year contract with the club for the 2017 season.

Barba, who featured in all 27 Sharks matches in 2016, scoring 15 tries and delivering a team-high 18 try assists, has worked diligently on making his return to the NRL a reality and is continuing his well-being program.

The club met with Barba and his management to discuss the new contract proposal for consideration by the NRL.

The contract will be submitted to the NRL for approval and registration.

Should his contract be ratified and accepted the club will work with the NRL Integrity Unit to determine a time frame for Barba’s integration back into the Sharks NRL program and in relation to his return to training.”

The flying French re-signs at the Eels

Bevan French

For some time now, Parramatta Eels fans have been raving about Bevan French. The talk was justified as he set the NRL alight with pace, speed and good plays.

An exciting player to watch, French has signed a new deal until the end of 2019 that will have Eels fans cheering.

Joining the Eels in 2013, the Tingha local was a strong performer in the Holden Cup before getting his chance in first grade in 2016.

The new contract is just rewards for French who has had a very solid debut season.

“Bevan’s development this year was a real positive for the club and I’m sure our members and fans are pleased that we have secured Bevan for another three seasons,” said head coach Brad Arthur.

“We have had a strategy over the last two years to retain our key players and provide strong additions for our squad going into 2017.

“We have made good progress so far and it’s our intention to continue this strategy as we head into the 2017 pre season.

Ricky’s View: Your team’s break-out star in 2016

Jason Taumalolo

Some players take time to build their form throughout a season or several for that matter, whereas others enter the first-grade frame and immediately excel. We thought we would cast our eye over one particular player from each team, that is destined for a break-out year in the NRL if selected by their coaches and in their teams.

Some will have already been more established than others in terms of games played, but have perhaps not kicked on as many fans and clubs would have wanted. Nevertheless, those players have the potential to succeed and 2016 could be that year for them with a full pre-season under their belts and more experience in their arsenal.

So, here we go. Our break-out stars of the 2016 season for each team:

Brisbane Broncos: Joe Ofahengaue.

A big bopper and a promising talent, Ofahengaue’s time in first-grade so far has been a bit stop-start. One of the Broncos elite performers in the Holden Cup a couple of years ago, the hulking forward has a chance to cement a spot and kick-on in first-grade. Rated by Brisbane fans across the board and by coach Wayne Bennett, Ofahengaue is learning the game and the ropes under some elite forwards at the Broncos in Sam Thaiday, Corey Parker and Adam Blair. Their knowledge and experience of the game will help Ofahengaue to develop his own game further and become an even better player, with the young forward eventually taking over their mantle as a leader of the pack.

Moses Mbye

Versatile and nifty, Bulldogs fans have long been aware of the talents that Moses Mbye possesses but 2016 is a big test for the young half. With the departure of Trent Hodkinson, it would seem that the weight of the world and the Bulldogs finals chances in 2016, hinge on the young half and where he can take his game and form. As talented as they come, Mbye has always been destined for first-grade and with the chance to take the reins of the side and make it his own, that may well be something he relishes and strives in. He will have support, though, with the adept Josh Reynolds by his side in the halves, as Mbye looks to become the man to lead the Bulldogs side – likely as halfback – around the paddock and towards both wins and potential premiership success.

Canberra Raiders: Paul Vaughan

Not one to shy away from the big hits or the hard runs, Paul Vaughan has some shoes to fill this year with the Raiders forward pack. Form wise, he has gotten better each year and has impressed many Raiders fans with this effort, commitment and work-ethic. But 2016 will mark a challenge of a different kind for Vaughan, as it becomes increasingly likely that he will start more often and play more minutes, in light of a relative lack of forward depth at the club. Most fans would expect Vaughan to relish that sort of responsibility given the way he has played in the past and we would not put it past him to do the same. Vaughan is a passionate player, though, and gets through the required work with much ease and grace. So a challenge of this kind, a new kind, is unlikely to phase him as he again excels for the Raiders.

Cronulla Sharks: Jesse Sene-Lefao

New to the Sharks in 2016, Sene-Lefao joins the club on the back of some good form with Manly where opportunity was rife due to injuries. And with the Sharks having some forwards of their own move on and with others nearing the end of their careers, the opportunity is rife for Sene-Lefao to make an impact. Big and powerful, his impact off the bench will be a welcome boost for the Sharks as they look to follow on from a solid overall year in 2015. Whilst the veteran forwards are the ones that will receive the plaudits, Sene-Lefao & others like him will help round out the solid Sharks pack.

Gold Coast Titans: Nene Macdonald

He joined mid-season and enjoyed some success but with some uncertainty over the centres at the Gold Coast Titans, Macdonald has a chance to cement a spot of his own for the season in its entirety. A versatile and powerful utility back, Macdonald proved that he can hold his own in the NRL and with a chance available to further showcase his abilities, he might be able to become a crucial part of the Titans back-line and potentially, if good enough, fill the void left by the departed James Roberts. Combinations will also be the key, with Macdonald able to again work alongside the likes of David Mead and Will Zillman.

Manly Sea Eagles Tim Moltzen

Once upon a time, the force was strong with Tim Moltzen. He was a solid player, performing well and could have gone onto bigger and better things but injuries galore struck. It cruelled his career and his progression but he now has a new chance and a new lease on life to potentially get it all back on track at Manly. A versatile player by nature, there is a strong chance that Moltzen could get a crack in Manly’s first-grade side and with a lot to prove and a keenness to illustrate that his previous form has not deserted him. If he gets that sort of form back, he could be the perfect foil alongside current boom half, Daly Cherry-Evans, once he is selected.

Melbourne Storm: Felise Kaufusi

A surprise packet last year in particular, Felise Kaufusi was given more opportunity than many were perhaps expecting at the Storm in 2015. He did not disappoint, though, as he ran hard, toiled and made the most of the chances that came his way. With the Storm losing some forward depth and not really replacing it, a further opportunity arises for Kaufusi’s minutes to increase as a result and for him to continue his rise to become a mainstay in the Storm’s 17.

Newcastle Knights: Jake Mamo

One of the most exciting young prospects the Knights have had come through their ranks in years, Mamo has talent galore and is keen to showcase that to the NRL world. Excelling in recent NRL Auckland Nines competitions and impressing further when given first-grade opportunities, there is no better chance for him to put his name on the NRL map than in 2016. With the fullback spot vacant and Mamo the front-runner to get it, it gives him a chance to play in his favoured position and a chance to prove his worth as a young player. Highly rated by many, his enthusiasm and x-factor could be the kick-start the Knights back-line needs in 2016.

North Queensland Cowboys: Jason Taumalolo

One of the most destructive ball-runners in the entire NRL competition, 2016 is a year where Taumalolo can take his game to even greater heights. A crucial piece of the puzzle that saw the Cowboys win their maiden NRL premiership in 2015, Taumalolo can go one step further and cement himself as an elite forward in the entire competition. To do that, he must achieve consistency in his game and make his presence known week in and week out. He can bulldoze opponents one week but then be quite lax the next week. Consistency is no easy feat for a lot of players but with Taumalolo’s destructive attacking nature and sheer size, if he can outmuscle and overpower his opponents every week, there may be no stopping him. At all.

Parramatta Eels: Tepai Moeroa

Yet another promising player to come through the Eels ranks, Moeroa burst onto the scene and made an impact that had all Eels fans licking their lips as they glimpsed what appeared to be a Hindmarsh-like clone. Strong in defence, a tremendous hole-runner and solid in attack, he made his presence known early, much like others. 2015 hit, though, and there were some struggles. A chronic shoulder injury that he bravely tried to battle on with affected his game and his performance, and as a result, he struggled throughout the year. He still made impact in his own way, but not as strong as he had been in the past. In 2016, though, playing under the likes of Anthony Watmough and Beau Scott, Moeroa can learn, develop and grow his game further, to become a top back-rower and eventually the leader of the back-row in years to come.

Penrith Panthers: James Segeyaro

Right on the cusp of the elite hookers in the NRL, Segeyaro is ever so close to reaching that threshold of players. On the back of some solid, consistent performances in 2014 and 2015, the live-wire hooker makes his mark for the Panthers on a regular basis. With the likelihood of Segeyaro playing 80 minutes in 2015 each week increasing, so too will his game-time, his stature in the game and the chance to reach that elite threshold should his form continue. In many ways, the 2016 season will perhaps be the most important season in his career to see if he can take his game and his form to the next level.

South Sydney Rabbitohs: Kirisome Auva’a

2015 was not the best year for Auva’a both on and off the field, as he was suspended for domestic violence late in the season and then when he did play, he struggled somewhat to find his form. 2016 beckons and he has a chance to recapture his 2014 form and become a focal point of the Souths attack. With the departure of Dylan Walker, a lot more traffic can be expected to come the way of Auva’a who will be expected to capitalise and make the most of the added responsibility. On talent alone, Auva’a has proven that he can play in the NRL but his off-field issues have put him offside with many fans and rightfully so. With a ban now complete and a full pre-season under his belt, Souths fans will hope Auva’a can emulate 2014 and excel once more.

St George Illawarra Dragons: Mose Masoe

Once upon a time, Masoe was in the NRL and performing at a decent level. Fast forward to 2016 and after a stint in the Super League with a couple of sides, Masoe has come back eager to make an impact and a difference at the Dragons side. Joining the club despite overtures from elsewhere, if selected, he will offer size and impact off the bench and may well be a key figure. With the recent success of other former players heading to Super League and returning as better players – Iosia Soliola as the most recent example – the Dragons and their fans will be hoping that he can emulate that sort of success and play solid, consistent footy.

Sydney Roosters: Jackson Hastings

He has a famous last name synonymous with the Roosters club but Jackson Hastings will be out to forge his own identity and the signs are there that he can perform efficiently on his own. With added responsibility in 2016 given the departure of James Maloney, Hastings will have to learn the ropes quickly and remain consistent in a halves pairing alongside Mitch Pearce. Versatile and talented, Hastings will have to adapt quickly but having a solid support base around him at the Roosters is something that will help him make the transition into a regular starter much easier. He & Pearce have the potential to continue the good foundations led by Roosters halves in the past.

Wests Tigers: Ava Seumanufagai

One of the surprise packets of the Tigers pack last year, Seumanufagai impressed many fans with his work-ethic, desire and committment, despite a lean year for the Tigers himself. With the Tigers overall forward depth still a bit lax, there is a good chance for the hulking forward to make an impression of his own and continue to impress the fans, the club and the coach. The change in interchange rules may also work in his favour, as he continues his on-field and off-field development as a player, constantly seeking ways to improve himself and to make the best possible impact to benefit the Tigers team.

New Zealand Warriors: Konrad Hurrell

There would be very few around the NRL that are not mindful of how destructive Hurrell can be when he is on song and firing, but he has come under criticism somewhat over the last couple of years. Eager to cement a spot in the Warriors back-line, keep it and then excel, the man they call the ‘Hurrellicane’ is a powerful player that is scintillating to watch in top form. Fans criticised his work-rate and defence and that has led to stints in and out of first-grade over the last 18 months but if he puts those pieces together and improves, he can be a destructive player once more. With all clubs needing raw power somewhere in their team, Hurrell could just be the man for the Warriors in that regard to help both the club and himself. After all, he can be regarded as an x-factor.