Super League preview part two

In part two of our 2020 Super League preview we examine Salford, St. Helens, Toronto, Wakefield, Warrington and Wigan.


Salford Red Devils

2019 finish: 3rd

Ground: AJ Bell Stadium

Coach: Ian Watson

Captain(s): Lee Mossop and Mark Flanagan

Salford Red Devils captain Lee Mossop

After one of the most surprising seasons in recent history Ian Watson’s men defied the odds to finish 3rd and make their way to their first ever Super League Grand Final.

However, as a new season dawns, the Red Devils see plenty of big departures with the inspirational Jackson Hastings, Josh Jones, George Griffin, Darell Olpherts and Robert Lui all making an exit.

This year may just be a transitional year for Watson’s men, meaning both Joey Lussick and Niall Evalds will be pivotal as the season goes on.

They have been able to fill some voids though, adding Kevin Brown, James Greenwood, Dan Sarginson and Sebastine Ikahihifo in the hope of following on from a sensational 2019.

Salford Red Devils utility back Tuimoala Lolohea

Player to watch

Even though it did not work out for him at Leeds, Tuimoala Lolohea has seemingly found a new lease of life with Salford.

If his performances for Tonga towards the end of the year are anything to go by, then it will be interesting to see where this side goes from here with the halfback in tow.

Prediction: 9th


St. Helens

2019 season finish: 1st  (Champions)

Ground: Totally Wicked Stadium

Coach: Kristian Woolf

Captain: James Roby

St Helens hooker James Roby

Unlike other teams around them, the 2019 Super League Champions have decided against adding any extra talent to the side that dominated most of last year.

Well, they do say why mess with a winning formula and again the Saints still look an unfathomable unit with James Roby leading the way once again.

It is possible to think though that the Red Vee will not always have it their own way this year especially with how other teams have added over the off season.

Though when you have Lachlan Coote, Regan Grace, Kevin Naiqama, Tommy Makinson and Jonny Lomax in the backline and a front row consisting of Luke Thompson and Alex Walmsley, then you will still be brave to bet against them.

St Helens prop Luke Thompson

Player to watch

In a team that has its fair share of impact players, Jonny Lomax has been one of the most consistent performers over the last couple of years.

His versatility and ability to unlock an opponent’s defence saw him claim 16 tries and 21 try assists last year. Man of Steel 2020 anyone?

Prediction: 2nd

St Helens utility back Jonny Lomax

Toronto Wolfpack

2019 season finish: N/A (recently promoted from Championship)

Ground: Lampert Stadium

Coach: Brian McDermott

Captain: Josh McCrone

Toronto Wolfpack captain Josh McCrone

The first ever transatlantic rugby league team make their highly anticipated debut in Super League this year.

In the process, they bring with them one of the biggest acquisitions in the sport’s history, if not the biggest in Sonny Bill Williams.

The 34-year-old will make his return to rugby league for the first time since 2014 and will provide a huge boost in the back row.

Alongside SBW, Toronto have the coaching of McDermott and Super League experience of Joe Mellor, Gareth O’Brian, Matty Russell and Jon Wilkin.

Together, that should seemingly be enough to steer them to safety with a play-off spot maybe too much too soon for the North American side.

Newly signed Toronto Wolfpack back-rower Sonny Bill Williams

Player to watch

Even though all eyes will be on SBW, the key man for McDermott’s side may just be the talented Andy Ackers at dummy half.

The 26-year-old has spent time with Swinton and London before joining Toronto in 2018 and has developed a reputation as one of the best hookers in the country outside of Super League.

Prediction: 10th


Wakefield Trinity Wildcats

2019 season finish: 9th

Ground: Belle Vue (Mobile Rocket Stadium)

Coach: Chris Chester

Captain: Jacob Miller

Wakefield captain Jacob Miller

The West Yorkshire side should be quietly confident they can challenge some of the leading contenders ahead of them this season.

They face a fight in the middle table with the likes of Leeds, Castleford and Catalan looks to be much likelier.

The Wildcats have brought in Joe Westerman, Chris Green and Jay Pitts to bolster the forwards.

They still have influential players in Bill Tupou, Reece Lyne and Danny Brough to create opportunities going forward.

Wakefield player Reece Lyne

Also, the additions of the young and exceptionally talented Alex Walker and veteran Ryan Atkins certainly bolster the backline.

Player to watch

There is no question that Tom Johnstone is the one to watch for Wakefield this year.

Over the last two years he has had his career curtailed after a pair of serious injuries saw him miss a substantial amount of time.

Wakefield utility back Tom Johnstone

However, if he stays healthy, he remains one of the most exciting talents out there with his electric speed and finishing ability.

Prediction: 8th


Warrington Wolves

2019 season finish: 4th

Ground: Halliwell Jones Stadium

Coach: Steve Price

Captain(s): Chris Hill and Jack Hughes

Warrington Wolves captain Chris Hill

In the duo of Blake Austin and Gareth Widdop. the Wire have two of the most lethal halves in the league to get them in to the top two this year.

The departure of Ryan Atkins and Bryson Goodwin have left a gap in the centres.

The trio of Toby King, Jake Mamo and Keenan Brand alongside new signing Anthony Gelling show there are plenty of options for Steve Price there.

Even out wide, they have two exceptional try scorers in Josh Charnley and Tom Lineham.

Warrington Wolves utility back Tom Lineham

There are huge presences in the forward pack with Chris Hill, Jack Hughes, Joe Philbin, Ben Currie, Ben Murdoch-Masila and Sitaleki Akauola.

Not to mention catalyst Daryl Clark flying around at dummy half.

All the ingredients are there, it is up to the Wolves now as to whether they can finally put the pieces together and finally achieve the big one.

Warrington Wolves player Josh Charnley

Player to watch

We already know what the likes of Austin, Widdop and Charnley so for Warrington, I decided to look at more youthful prospect and that is Matty Ashton.

The 21-year-old arrived from Swinton Lions recently and comes into Super League as the second tier’s top try scorer and Young Player of the Year in 2019.

Prediction: 3rd


Wigan Warriors

2019 season finish: 2nd

Ground: DW Stadium

Coach: Adrian Lam

Captain: Sean O’Loughlin

Wigan Warriors captain Sean O’Loughlin

Alongside Hull FC, Wigan have probably made some of the best signings over the course of the post season.

2019 Man of Steel winner Jackson Hastings has joining the fray to go with the inclusions of George Burgess, Mitch Clark and Jake Bibby.

The Warriors have a team filled with a great blend of youth and experience and that was certainly evident last year.

Youngsters Morgan Smithies and Oliver Partington gained valuable first team minutes and showed why they are potential stars in the making.

Wigan Warriors youngster Morgan Smithies

If you combine all this with the leadership of Sean O’Loughlin, Liam Farrell and Thomas Leuluai and the skill and talent of Zak Hardaker, Oliver Gildart, Bevan French and Joe Burgess, then Wigan have it all to go better than 2nd this year.

Player to watch

Although you can point to either Smithies or Partington or the fact that Gildart is set to miss the start of the season due to injury, the stage is set for Bevan French.

He has a chance to announce himself in his first full year with the Warriors.

Wigan Warriors fullback Bevan French

The 24-year-old certainly has all the skills and creativity to be one Adrian Lam’s best attacking weapons this coming season.

Prediction: 1st


 

Super League 2020 team guide part one

As the 2020 Super League season gets underway on Thursday night, I put each team under the microscope with part one looking at Castleford, Catalans, Huddersfield, Hull FC, Hull KR and Leeds.


Castleford Tigers

2019 season finish: 5th

Ground: Mend-a-hose Jungle

Coach: Daryl Powell

Captain: Michael Shenton

The biggest change for Castleford sees the departure of Luke Gale to Leeds and the acquisition of the young and talented Danny Richardson from St. Helens.

He will now partner the equally young and exceptional Jake Trueman in the halves. 

Castleford Tigers half Jake Trueman

A duo that will be pivotal to their play-off aspirations this season and one that will be worth paying close attention to. 

Daryl Powell has also been able to partly solve the nagging issue of squad depth.

The signings of Sosaia Feki from Cronulla and Derell Olpherts from Salford add strength on the flanks.

The big additions of George Griffin and Tyla Hepi will also be a huge plus in the forward pack as the Tigers look to push their way into the top 5.

Player to watch

After making his professional debut in 2017, Jake Trueman has gone from strength to strength and established himself as a regular starter last season with Luke Gale out through injury.

As we come into 2020, the now Gale less Tigers will now look to their new star to run the ship in the middle of the park alongside Richardson.

Prediction: 5th


Catalan Dragons

2019 season finish: 7th

Ground: Stade Gilbert Brutus

Coach: Steve McNamara

Captain: Remi Casty

The 2018 Challenge Cup winners have been one of those sides that has floated around mid-table for some time now.

The emerging Perpignan side are still sneakily building a side that has the ability to make life difficult for some of the league’s top sides.

Newly signed Catalans Dragons half James Maloney

The huge signing of James Maloney solidifies the halves as he could look to partner the returning Josh Drinkwater.

Drinkwater was somewhat of a difference maker during his first stint with the Dragons as well as with Hull KR.

This new partnership opens the door for Sam Tomkins to move to the fullback role with 2018 Lance Todd Trophy winner, Tony Gigot opting not to resign with the club.

This trio of quality talent alongside the likes of David Mead, Lewis Tierney and Fouad Yaha in the backline is potent.

Impact players like Michael McIlorum, Remi Casty and Sam Moa in the forward pack will also be out to impress.

Catalans Dragons captain Remi Casty

There is no question the Dragons have all the necessary ingredients to make the playoffs but again it comes down to them being able to perform on a consistent basis and not just at home.

Player to watch

It probably will not come as a shock to many but undoubtedly the key man for the French side will be James Maloney whose experience, knowledge of the game and winning mentality are all huge pluses.

Prediction: 7th


Huddersfield Giants

2019 season finish: 10th

Ground: John Smith’s Stadium

Coach: Simon Woolford

Captain: Aidan Sezer

New Huddersfield Giants half Aidan Sezer

The Giants received a huge boost by bringing in Aidan Sezer from Canberra but even with such a noteworthy signing.

Unfortunately, Huddersfield may just find themselves in a relegation battle once again.

Despite the additions of Sezer, Ashton Golding, Kenny Edwards and James Gavet, Huddersfield still lack the depth and quality.

Compared to other teams around them, in the end, it could prove to be another tough battle for Simon Woolford’s men.

Player to watch

If the West Yorkshire side are to make anything of the season, then the premise will certainly be on Aidan Sezer to be the catalyst that sparks something.

The 28-year-old is quite possibly the Giants biggest NRL coup since acquiring Brett Hodgson in 2009.

Fans will be hoping that the former Canberra halfback will have a similar impact as that of the former Parramatta and West Tigers star.

Prediction: 12th


Hull FC

2019 season finish: 6th

Ground: KCOM Stadium

Coach: Lee Radford

Captain: Danny Houghton

Hull FC fan favourite Mahe Fonua

The Airlie Birds are probably one of the most frustrating teams to watch in recent years.

Although they won back to back Challenge Cups in 2016 and 2017, Hull FC have failed to translate the same success into the league.

This is despite running with a team that already boasts plenty of elite talent in the likes of Albert Kelly, Marc Sneyd, Jake Connor and Danny Houghton.

Hull FC’s Jake Connor

However, Hull have been very forward in terms player recruitment with the returning Mahe Fonua and Adam Swift providing huge upgrades out on the flanks.

Also, the additions of a Tongan powerhouse in Manu Ma’u and Great Britain international Josh Jones add to an already huge forward pack.

With the right guidance, this could see Hull fielding a team that makes a decent run to the play-offs this year.

Hull FC captain Danny Houghton

Player to watch

You can certainly look to players such as Kelly and Sneyd to be integral to the team’s chances this season but from what we have seen in recent seasons then Jake Connor will be the man.

He will be expect to make things happen offensively with his elusive ball carrying and slick passing a real danger for any side.

Prediction: 4th


Hull KR

2019 season finish: 11th

Ground: Craven Park

Coach: Tony Smith

Captain: Weller Hauraki

Hull KR captain Weller Hauraki

Hull KR certainly have not been quiet in terms of recruitment this off season either bringing in a host of talent at a variety of spots.

The Robins were able to bring in more players than any other team.

They went on a signing spree that was headlined by names such as Shaun Kenny Dowall, Greg Minikin, Harvey Livett and Jordan Abdull.

Tony Smith’s side could face another battle to avoid relegation.

Newly signed Hull KR centre Shaun Kenny-Dowall

However, evidence suggests they have a decent blend of youth and experience to guarantee themselves safety.

The combination of Kane Linnett and the newly recruited Kenny Dowall in the centres provide a great deal of experience that could prove beneficial to the younger players.

Additionally, when you have someone like Smith in the head coaching role, it all adds up to something positive.

Newly signed Hull KR winger Greg Minikin

Player to watch

The one player for Hull KR this season might just have to be Greg Minikin, who made a reputation at Castleford as a savvy and productive try scorer with 43 in 95 appearances for the Tigers.

Prediction: 11th


Leeds Rhinos

2019 season finish: 8th

Ground: Headingley

Coach: Richard Agar

Captain: Stevie Ward

Leeds Rhinos utility back Ash Handley

After another season of struggles, Leeds have been quite tactful in terms of player additions.

They have brought in Luke Gale, Kruise Leeming and NRL prop Matt Prior from Cronulla to provide huge boosts in their retrospective positions.

The duo of Ash Handley and Harry Newman are two of the league’s brightest young talents.

The duo will be called upon once again to take their game to another level this year.

Newly signed Leeds Rhinos half Robert Lui

Since the departures of Danny McGuire, Rob Burrow and Kevin Sinfield Leeds have been unable a rock solid partnership in the halves.

Fast forward to this year and there is a fresh sense of optimism as Robert Lui and Luke Gale will take up the six and seven spots.

The hope is that the new duo can re-energise the Rhinos attack and have them threatening the play-offs once more.

Newly signed Leeds Rhinos half Luke Gale

Player to watch

His name has been mentioned already but if Leeds want to breathe some new life into this attack then Luke Gale will definitely have to be that man.

His ability to make things happen offensively with his passing and in game kicking remain second to none.

The former Castleford and Bradford man also brings with him a firm accuracy with the boot in terms of goal kicking, an aspect that Leeds have struggled with in recent seasons.

Prediction: 6th


 

Which bottom eight team from 2019 can become a top eight team in 2020?

North Queensland Cowboys enforcer Jason Taumalolo

When looking back at the teams dwelling in the cellar of the 2019 ladder, the team that I think will definitely be pushing their way into the top 8 will be the North Queensland Cowboys.

The obvious change for the 2020 roster is the arrival of former Queensland and Kangaroo’s representative Valentine Holmes.

After what was an unsuccessful attempt at making his way into the NFL, I believe Holmes will pick up where he left off in Cronulla a few years ago.

His dynamism at the fullback position will give the Cowboys an x-factor they have been lacking since the retirement of future immortal Johnathan Thurston.

The current crop of stars will be in for a big year.

We all know the damage that Tongan international Jason Taumalolo inflicts on a weekly basis.

Returning North Queensland Cowboys fullback Valentine Holmes

Add the match winning and game breaking ability of Holmes to the mix and the results could favour the Cowboys.

Anything but pushing for a finals spot this season will be deemed a failure for North Queensland and Paul Green’s spot may be on the line.

Michael Morgan and Jake Granville will also need to play a part in steering this team around the park this season.

Can the Cowboys reach their full potential in season 2020? Or will it be another year of underachievement?

North Queensland Cowboys play-maker Michael Morgan

Folau returns to rugby league with the Catalans Dragons

Newly signed Catalans Dragons player Israel Folau

The NRL said no but the RFL has made it happen; Israel Folau is back playing rugby league with French-based Super League side, the Catalans Dragons.

Folau, still only 30 and a dual international has signed a 1-year deal.

Heavily religious, Folau is no stranger to controversy with some of his comments angering the masses.

Folau opened up briefly about it and says he will not make further comments surrounding his views.

“I acknowledge the views expressed by Super League and the Rugby Football League,” said Folau.

I’m a proud Christian, my beliefs are personal, my intention is not to hurt anyone and I will not be making further public comment about them.

I look forward to my return to the great game of Rugby League with the Catalans Dragons.”

Catalan Dragons Chairman Bernard Guasch made it clear the side wants to give Folau a chance but they do not support his views.

“We want to give Israel a new opportunity to shine on the pitch,” Guasch said.

“We do not support or agree with Israel’s previously expressed and controversial views which are based upon his sincerely held religious belief.

“We do not share or condone those views and we are totally committed to our club and our sport being open and welcoming to everyone.”

Guasch went on to continue that Folau’s views should not be expressed by anyone, let alone someone like Folau.

“We do not believe that those views should be publicly expressed, especially by a high-profile sports person,” Guasch continued.

“We have a signed agreement with the RFL.

Any transgression will trigger an immediate termination of Israel’s contract and a substantial fine for the club.”

Leilua joins brother Luciano at Tigers after Raiders release

Newly signed Wests Tigers centre Joey Leilua

They have missed out on a few targets for 2020 but the Wests Tigers got one man they wanted in Joey Leilua.

Leilua, who was granted a release by the Canberra Raiders, will link up with brother Luciano at the Tigers.

Leilua was twice named Dally M Centre of the Year and played in 91 NRL games for the Raiders.

The three year deal for Leilua at the Tigers starts effective immediately in 2020 and runs until 2022.

With 204 NRL games total to his name, the Tigers are pleased with the pedigree that he will bring to the club.

“As a club, we’re delighted to have secured a talented player such as Joseph,” Wests Tigers CEO Justin Pascoe said.

“He is a player who is of the highest calibre and has already proven to be a remarkable contributor on and off the field to his club and country.”

Just as pleased is Tigers coach Michael Maguire, who knows of the quality that Leilua possesses.

“I’m extremely pleased to welcome Joseph to Wests Tigers and start working with him,” Maguire said.

“He is without doubt one of the most dangerous attacking players in the competition and will take this team’s potency to a new level going forward.

“To secure a player of his class and talent for the season ahead is a huge boost for the club and one that will lift this team right across the park.”

Maguire also believes Leilua’s best is yet to come.

“I’m extremely confident that the best is also still to come for Joseph,” Maguire continued.

“He brings a wealth of on-field experience to our team, and we’re extremely excited to watch him play in Wests Tigers colours for many years to come.”

Raiders recruit Scott reportedly spends night in Sydney jail after Moore Park incident

New Canberra Raiders recruit Curtis Scott

The off-season and calamity in NRL always continue; this time new Canberra Raiders recruit Curtis Scott being arrested in Sydney.

In a NSW Police statement in the early hours of Monday morning, police were notified of an incident in Moore Park.

Scott allegedly kicked and punched an officer in the face, before he was arrested after being tasered.

The rap sheet does not read well for Scott who faces numerous charges as a result of the incident.

He was charged with two counts of assaulting an officer, resisting an officer, behaving in an offensive or indecent manner and entering trust lands are being requested to leave.

It continues another off-season of off-field ruckus, as the NRL reels from yet another incident.

Scott has been granted conditional bail and will face court again on February 20.

The Raiders released a small statement on Scott regarding the incident:

“The Canberra Raiders have been made aware of an incident involving Curtis Scott.

The club has informed the NRL integrity unit and will work with them on the investigation.

The club will be making no further comment.”

Is this the year we see the Melbourne Storm fall from grace?

Melbourne Storm hooker and captain Cameron Smith

Ever since entering the competition, the Melbourne Storm have been a major threat in the NRL. Is 2020 finally the year we see the team from south of the border fall from grace?

Backs:

Key departures in their squad leaves the Storm lacking a fair bit of experience.

The exciting Ryan Papenhuyzen only has 22 games experience in the top grade to his name and only a handful of them have been as a starting fullback.

Marion Seve and Justin Olam have only 27 games between them in the centres.

All three are still learning the way the Storm wants them to play.

Melbourne Storm utility back Jahrome Hughes

Also in the backs, you have Jahrome Hughes at half back; a very capable player that’s not a natural half back.

A player who is still trying to fill the big shoes of Cooper Cronk.

With all this inexperience in the backs, are the Storm able to generate enough points while also managing a game against good opposition for 80 minutes.

Forwards:

The starting pack is one of the best in the comp.

When they have to be rotated that’s when teams will pounce on the Storm. Brandon Smith is a quality player but when you look at the rest of the bench that’s when you can say they are lacking.

They start losing some go forward and that’s where sides have been able to beat Melbourne over the last couple of seasons.

Melbourne Storm forward Tui Kamikamica

For Melbourne to continue on this long run of finals success, they need to get the most out of the likes of Tui Kamikamica, Albert Vete, Tom Eisenhuth and Tino Fa’asuamaleaui every time they play.

Unlike other years, the Storm have so much uncertainty around different positions, which is sure to test them throughout the year.

They will be relying heavily on the two Cam’s (Smith & Munster) to have a big impact week in week out along with their starting forward pack.

If sides can limit the impact of Smith and Munster each week and match it with their starting forwards, they might just be able to derail the storms campaign.

Melbourne Storm five-eighth Cameron Munster

 

Sea Eagles confirm signing of Levi

Newly signed Manly Sea Eagles hooker Danny Levi

In another world, he may have stayed on, but with opportunity likely to be lacking in 2020, Danny Levi was granted a release by the Newcastle Knights to sign with the Manly Sea Eagles.

Levi, who made his debut in the game back in 2015, has played in 83 games to date, all with the Knights.

The hooker has also represented the Kiwis at the international level, and officially joins the Sea Eagles for one season.

Levi has also represented Samoa and provides the Sea Eagles with a boost in the hooking department.

With uncertainty over the future of Manase Fainu, Levi’s addition will be a welcome sight for Manly fans.

SC Playbook – George Williams

Newly signed Canberra Raiders halfback George Williams

Canberra’s latest star English recruit George Williams is set to be a highly popular inclusion into a multitude of SuperCoach outfits for the season opener.

Entering his debut season in the NRL with a wealth of experience that includes 11 Test caps, Williams’ seemingly SuperCoach friendly game should make him an absolute steal as a dual position 5/8, HFB at just $330,800.

That starting price has been assessed on what would be an average of just 35.9PPG, but delving into his 2019 Super League stats with Wigan suggests the livewire playmaker has plenty more in store and the all important early season price rises.

Williams notched some serious numbers in a year capped by a nomination for the five-man Man of Steel shortlist for the competition’s best player, eventually taken out by NRL exile Jackson Hastings.

Williams starred during his time with Wigan.

According to his stats across 29 regular season games, Williams would have accumulated an estimated 2170 SuperCoach points for a stunning average of 74.8PPG.

He ticked just about every box you want from an attacking player, most importantly his consistent base stats.

Newly signed Canberra Raiders halfback George Williams

Promisingly, Williams absolutely loves to run the ball.

During 2019, he had 408 carries equating to 14 per game.

He scored 14 tries, assisted a further 21, had 122 tackle breaks, 18 linebreaks, 46 offloads and 488 tackles at 16.8 per game.

Several SuperCoach relevant stats weren’t available, so estimations were made to achieve his predicted average.

Of his 46 offloads, 40 were awarded as effective (4 points), while six were deemed non-effective (2 points).

Of his 408 runs, 204 were awarded as hit ups over 8m (2 points), while the other 204 were hit ups under 8m (1 point).

Linebreak assists weren’t available, so we gave the star playmaker an estimated 15.

New Canberra Raiders half George Williams

If Williams can emulate even half of his predicted average, he’d still see a rise on his starting price.

If he can notch an average of approximately 50PPG, he’d rise to around $470k and with it provide coaches with an additional $167k value in their salary caps.

However, there is a degree of risk in the seemingly safe purchase.

While English forwards have thrived in the NRL, their backline counterparts, namely playmakers, haven’t had much success.

Sam Tomkins won the Man of Steel award in 2012 as a fullback, then had mixed success on his venture to Australia in 2014.

Sam Tomkins had mixed fortunes during his NRL stint.

His NRL form was patchy at best, but promisingly averaged 59 SuperCoach points in his debut season, then just 30PPG in 2015.

 

Injury an

New Canberra Raiders half George Williams

d homesickness forced his return to the UK the following season.

Fullback Zak Hardaker was named Man of Steel in 2015, but managed to play just a handful of NRL for Penrith primarily off the bench when joining the club in 2016.

In 11 games, Hardaker averaged 25PPG in 33 minutes at .74PPM.

The likes of Joe Burgess, Dan Sarginson, Greg Eden, Ryan Hall and Kallum Watkins are among more recent backline UK imports that came to the NRL and failed to deliver (with respects to the latter two who have been respectable without translating to serious SuperCoach scores in limited stints thus far).

The bigger issue for George Williams is this.

While at stages proving capable of playing an organisational role as a halfback, he’s primarily a ball-running five-eighth as his stats suggest.

This isn’t to say he can’t evolve into his new halves role, but it’ll be essential to his success alongside Clive Churchill medal winner Jack Wighton at five-eighth.

Canberra Raiders five-eighth Jack Wighton

Furthermore, it’s extremely difficult for new halves to gel as a combination early on in their relationship, so don’t expect fireworks in the opening rounds.

He’ll take on more ownership of the side than he has in the past, which will likely limit his attacking output.

The upside is that he comes into a raging hot side who score points for fun and should feature late into September again in 2020.

Get on from round one, but don’t expect monster scores from the outset.

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SuperCoach team analysis: One man’s view

As of 2 days ago, the 2019 NRL SuperCoach began and this is a rundown of who I believe will do well and who I have gone with on my team.

1. Hookers

To start off, I’ll take a look at the hookers.

You have one starting hooker and one benched hooker so I’ve picked Jayden Brailey and Jake Turpin.

In his 2 games where he played the full 80 minutes as starting hooker, he averaged 62 with a high of 81.

With a price of 336k, if he keeps up those performances at the start of the season, he would be a great cash cow to eventually upgrade to a much more expensive hooker (e.g. Damien Cook).

I would be having Jake Turpin as one of my scoring bench players.

Newly signed Newcastle Knights recruit Jayden Brailey

Jayden Brailey is a new recruit to the knights after leaving the Sharks last year.

He is the clear favourite to replace the recently departed Danny Levi.

Newcastle start with what is predicted to be some relatively easy games with the Warriors, Tigers and Sharks.

With a quite small starting price of 424k, this could be an opening for Brailey to become a cash cow for the start of the season and allow for upgrades going into round 6-7.

2. Front Rowers

For the front rowers, we are allowed 2 starting and 2 on the bench.

I usually find that the front row forwards are the most consistent players on the field every week so this would be a good place to splurge a bit of money.

For starters, on the bench, I’ve selected Stefano Utoikamanu and Tom Flegler.

Utoikamanu is a cheapie (171k) from the Eels and could be a possibility to get a small bit of game time.

Parramatta Eels prop Stefano Utoikamanu

Either way, it’s a way to just fill a spot with as least money as possible.

Tom Flegler is only 294k and a good chance to be a regular starter. He’ll be a great option to be a cash cow to get a big upgrade later.

For my first starter, I’ve picked Sio Siua Taukeiaho.

Taukeiaho is a consistently consistent forward and usually racks up a decent score.

A finalist for the golden boot in 2019, he averaged 58 throughout the NRL season with a high score of 99.

Also, he has the advantage of being a goal kicker.

With Latrell Mitchell now a Rabbitoh, the two goal kicking options at the Roosters are Kyle Flanagan and Taukeiaho.

Flanagan’s goal kicking was sporadic during the year which means Taukeiaho could get the call up to kick for the Chooks.

Brisbane Broncos prop Payne Haas

Secondly, I’ve added Payne Haas.

After missing the first 4 games of the year in 2019, he still went on to be the Rookie of the Year and almost won the Dally M medal.

Haas averaged a whopping 78 points per game in 2019 which is brilliant for a SuperCoach player.

This was just in his rookie season and as long as we don’t have any more second year syndrome, we’ll be fine with him in 2020.

3. 2nd Row Forwards

In the second row, we have 3 starters and 3 bench players.

On the bench, I’ve picked cheapies who probably won’t play. They are there to fill positions for little money. I’ve picked Kelma Tuilagi, Ben Trbojevic and Teig Wilton.

For my first starter, I’ve picked Brandon Smith.

Smith was interchange player of the year in 2019 and could possibly get a bigger role in the Storm side going into 2020.

In 2019, he averaged 49 off the bench with an absolutely massive high score of 100 wearing the 14 jumper. He could end up being a great cash cow for the start of the season.

Sydney Roosters utility Victor Radley

Secondly, I’ve got Victor Radley. Radley has shown to be a great utility being strong, fast and having some playmaking skills.

He played hooker and lock during the 2019 season and had some very impressive performances, mainly at lock.

He averaged 52 in 2019 and with that score, could have a decent price rise at the start of the season.

Also, the Roosters first round opponent is the Panthers and against them, he averages 62 which would be a great score for round 1.

Brisbane Broncos back-rower David Fifita

Finally, I’ve got David Fifita. The 19-year old tyro dominated defences throughout 2019 totalling Over 100 Tackle busts.

Also a great try-scorer for a second rower, it’s no wonder he averaged 54 during the NRL season.

Only being priced at 501k means he could easily undergo a massive price rise early in the season and even be used as a cash cow.

4. Halfbacks

Now, onto the halfbacks. We get 1 starter and 1 bench player for our Halfback position.

On the bench, I’ve got Jarome Luai. He impressed a lot during his limited game time in 2019, showing a lot of great playmaking skills.

In his final game of season, playing 80 minutes, he got 73 which is a very decent score.

However, his first game is against the Roosters, the only team he’s never been fielded against so we don’t know how well he will go.

I’ve still got him as a scoring reserve though.

Canberra Raiders halfback George Williams

For our starter, I’ve picked George Williams.

Coming from the English Super League this year, he is set to be the replacement for the departing, Aidan Sezer.

Williams impressed this year for the Wigan Warriors, scoring 14 tries in 29 games.

He is also a backup goal kicking option if something happened to Jarrod Croker.

However, a lot of promising Englishmen come to the NRL and underperform which could be the fate for Williams.

He is a risky pick but it’s worth it considering he is only 333k.

5. 5/8s

For our 5/8 position, we again get 1 starter and 1 bench player. For my benched player, I’ve chosen Benji Marshall.

Benji showed class in his play in 2019, getting his highest average in over 5 years, 51.

Also, in round 1, Marshall takes on his former team, the Dragons, which he averages 57 points against in his entire career.

He is 469k which means he may be able to get a bit of a price rise as the season advances.

However, he may not be able to climb for very long, so if you are using him as a cash cow, you may have to cash out early. I have selected him as a scoring reserve.

Brisbane Broncos five-eighth Anthony Milford

For my starter, I’ve gone with Anthony Milford.

“The Milf” had a lacklustre season in 2019, with a lacklustre side around him but in 2020, the pressure won’t be on him as much to run an entire team.

With the addition of Brodie Croft, Milford will be able to be the running half he likes to be.

I’m tipping a return to form, even if it may take a few rounds. If you want Milford, you’ll have to be patient but it could pay off by about Round 6-10.

6. Wings/Centres

The wings and centres are the most common positions on the team, with 4 starters and 3 on the bench.

I’ve started with 2 cheapies on the bench in the form of Semi Valemei and Ilikena Vudogo.

My only actual bench player in this position is Xavier Coates.

Coates is extremely cheap, only coming in at 205k but he is a chance to get a starting spot.

In his 2 starts at wing, he averaged 30, and these 2 games were the first of his career.

This will be his official rookie season if he plays a game and if he starts regularly, could be a threat to defences. Coates possibly might be a good cash cow option.

Canberra Raiders centre Curtis Scott

For my first starter, I’ve got Curtis Scott. Scott moved from Melbourne to Canberra this off-season and is now fighting with Joey Leilua for a Spot at centre.

He is a risky pick as you might need to trade him out if Leilua wins but could definitely rack up some good scores if he starts.

He had an injury-riddled 2019 but in his final game before injuring his foot in the 60th minute, he got 100 points.

This is a massive score and if he can stay in that form, be a massive boost to all SuperCoach teams. Especially with a price tag of 406k, he could definitely be a cash cow as well.

Secondly, I’ve gone with his centre counterpart, Jarrod Croker.

Being a try-scoring and goal-kicking Centre, he is a points machine and starts the season at a low 496k.

He could end up as a good cash cow to end up upgrading to someone like a Latrell Mitchell.

Also, for the last 3 seasons straight, Croker has averaged 50+ points per game which shows how consistent he is in his performances.

Cronulla Sharks centre Bronson Xerri

Thirdly, I’ve gone for Bronson Xerri.

The young speedster from the shire has shown incredible promise and talent at such a young age. Oh yeah, and he’s also got blistering pace.

Xerri was brought in in round 4 and has not disappointed since, averaging 56 points per game.

This is brilliant for a centre. Xerri is also almost guaranteed a starting spot at the Sharks and could get a lot of points.

He is priced at 523k which is a little high so he might not be a cash cow but he could be worth it points-wise.

Parramatta Eels winger Maika Sivo

Lastly, I’ve gone for Maika Sivo. The young Fijian for Parra.

Topping the try-scorers list in his rookie season.

He went from no one knowing his name, to the whole BankWest Stadium crowd chanting “Sivo” after every try, and there sure were plenty.

Sivo possesses the speed and strength to be a beast of a winger and he sure is.

He averaged 59 points, ending the season with a absolutely stunning 152 score against Manly.

He may be priced high but I doubt he will let anyone who picks him down.

7. Fullbacks

To finish of the team, we have our fullbacks. I’ve splurged a lot of money on my fullbacks.

Firstly, on the bench, the young gun playing for the Storm, Ryan Papenhuyzen.

He’s one of the fastest players in the game and even debuted for Australia in the World 9s in his rookie season!

Papenhuyzen averaged 52 with a high score of 123 against the Titans late in the season.

Melbourne Storm custodian Ryan Papenhuyzen

Also, he scored a try in each one of his first five starts for the team. If he keeps up his form, he will be not only a great cash cow from 508k, but a great point-scorer.

For the final player, I’ve gone with the most obvious pick, James Tedesco.

Teddy led the league in Linebreaks, tackle busts and run metres in 2019.

He destroyed defences and averaged a gigantic total of 84 points per game. The only problem is his price tag.

Because he is a great player, he is priced at 781k. He would be great for points but it would also be smart if you waited until about round 4-6 to get him because his price will be a bit lower and will probably start rising again soon after.

Sydney Roosters fullback James Tedesco

Teddy is a must-have in my opinion, whether you get him now or wait for a few rounds.

These are my picks for my SuperCoach team going into the 2020 season.

Remember, these are just predictions, anyone in this team could go into the year and be a bust, but that’s the fun of playing SuperCoach/NRL fantasy.

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