2013 NRL Season Preview: Sydney Roosters

By Brady Foray Writers

Out with the old and in with the new. 2013 will bring in a fresh outlook for the Sydney Roosters. New coach. New CEO. New captain. After the departures of coach Brian Smith and veteran Braith Anasta, the Roosters have welcomed back former assistant Trent Robinson. Alongside Robinson, the Roosters have named the well-deserving, all-time leading try scorer Anthony Minichiello as the captain of the Roosters. The club has signed Sonny-Bill Williams, James Maloney, Luke O’Donnell and James Maloney.

Starting off promisingly enough last year, the Roosters won four of their first six games. This unbuckled however, during their Round 7 clash against the Cowboys in Darwin they were thrashed 50-12 in ridiculous heat. From there, the club managed four more wins and a draw to finish 13th.

Signings: Jack Goodsell (Titans), James Maloney (Warriors), Michael Oldfield (Sea Eagles), Sam Moa (Hull FC), Sonny Bill Williams (Rugby Union), Michael Jennings (Panthers), Luke O’Donnell (Huddersfield), Ben Jones (Cowboys)

Departures: Joseph Leilua (Roosters), Braith Anasta (Tigers), Sam Perrett (Bulldogs, mid-season), Anthony Mitchell (Cowboys, mid-season), Justin Carney (Castleford), Curtis Rona (Cowboys), Peni Tagive (Retired), Mose Masoe (Panthers), Brad Takairangi (Titans), Anthony Cherrington (Roosters)

Key to Success:

New halves combination James Maloney and Mitchell Pearce must click straight away. On their individual days they can be your best player. Together though, their games could go to a whole new level. Pearce (pictured left) was outstanding in a losing team last season managing to score a club-high ten tries. Pearce averaged a whopping twenty tackles a week and assisted 23 of his team’s tries. With Maloney outside him, who managed to bust 71 tackles and set up 16 tries last season, the sky could be the limit for Pearce and the Sydney Roosters in 2013.

Player to Watch:

After re-signing with the Roosters until at least 2016 and being named in the Roosters vice-captain club, don’t expect Boyd Cordner to let all his talking be done off the field. Barely out of his teenage years, Cordner managed to play 22 games for the Roosters in 2012 where he averaged 26 tackles and 77 metres per game. His impact on the field has experts touting him as a future Roosters captain and representative player, something that could happen as soon as this season.

Erratic Eddy says:

“What’s the big deal about the return of the money hungry $BW anyway? I’m appalled that the greatest game of all is even bothering to finance his disloyalty circus. Give it this season or maybe next and he’ll head elsewhere.”

Strongest 17: 1-Anthony Minichiello (C) 2- Tautau Moga 3- Michael Jennings 4- Shaun Kenny-Dowell 5-Roger Tuivasa-Sheck 6- James Maloney 7- Mitchell Pearce 8- Jared Waerea-Hargraves 9- Jake Friend 10- Martin Kennedy 11- Aiden Guerra 12- Boyd Cordner 13- Sonny Bill-Williams. Interchange: 14- Nafe Seluini 15- Mitchell Aubusson 16- Frank Paul-Nuuausala 17- Luke O’Donnell. 18th Man: Lami Tasi.

Predicted Position: 9th

2013 NRL Season Preview: Brisbane Broncos

By Brady Foray Writers

Sometimes having too many stars in your team can become too much. Just ask Anthony Griffin, the coach of the Brisbane Broncos. The last couple of years the Broncos have followed a similar formula: start out with all guns blazing and when it comes to crunch time the team outwardly falters, doing just enough to make the top eight and be eliminated within the first week. 2012 was no different. By the time Justin Hodges, Matt Gillett, Ben Hannant, Corey Parker and captain Sam Thaiday were done with their Origin duties (alongside the recently departed Petero Civoniceva and Ben Te’o), the club lost all momentum, winning only three of their last twelve games.

While the major losses of Civoniceva, Te’o and utility back Gerard Beale are sure to shake the club, the signings of returning Broncos Scott Prince and David Stagg will only prove a positive for the Broncos. In the representative arena it is highly likely the Broncos will follow a similar path they have been leading for quite some time. Except this time, expect the Broncos to miss the top eight for only the fifth time in their 26-year history.

Signings: Joe Bond (Redcliffe), Jake Granville (Wynnum-Manly Seagulls), Scott Prince (Titans), David Stagg (Bulldogs), Denan Kemp (Dragons)

Departures: Gerard Beale (Dragons), Petero Civoniceva (Retired), Ben Te’o (Rabbitohs), Dane Gagai (Knights, mid-season), Lagi Setu (Melbourne), Mitchell Frei (Knights), Jacob Gagai (Knights)

Key to Success:

Unlike our good friend Eddy below, Scott Prince is the undeniable key to success for the Broncos in 2013. While he will knock the underdeveloped Corey Norman and Ben Hunt down the pecking order at the club, Prince’s experience and guidance will only make them better players. Prince (pictured left) was one of the only shining lights of the Titans’ campaign in 2012. The former Origin and Australian representative will bring leadership to the Broncos this year, something they lacked in 2012 without Darren Lockyer. If Prince clicks, the Broncos click.

Player to Watch:

With Dale Copley ruled out for the rest of season due to an unfortunate leg injury and Jharal Yow Yeh  being an unknown entity for the upcoming season due to his injury mishaps, the stage has been set for 20-year-old Lachlan Maranta to show his worth. Maranta, the inaugural fullback in the first ever Queensland Under 20’s State of Origin team, managed to play seven games of first grade last season.

Erratic Eddy says:

Eddy cannot believe the Broncos signed over-the-hill halfback Scott Prince, it truly is one step backwards for the Broncos. The whole point of Lockyer retiring was to further develop Corey Norman and Ben Hunt as the future playmakers of the club. Now Norman has seen the light and is off to the Eels in 2014.”

“Corey Parker, fantasy team certainty.”

“Expect Mr. Hodges to shift to fullback at some point during the season. He isn’t seeing enough ball as it stands. Expect an Inglis-esque impact.”

Strongest 17: 1- Corey Norman 2- Josh Hoffman 3-Jack Reed 4- Justin Hodges 5- Jharal Yow Yeh 6- Peter Wallace 7- Scott Prince 8- Ben Hannant 9- Andrew McCullough 10- Josh McGuire 11- Sam Thaiday (C) 12- Alex Glenn 13- Corey Parker. Interchange: 14- Ben Hunt 15- Matt Gillett 16- Mitchell Dodds 17- David Stagg. 18th Man: Ben Hunt.

Predicted Position: 10th

2013 NRL Season Preview: Penrith Panthers

By Brady Foray Writers

The Phil Gould-Ivan Cleary era at the Panthers last season was apparently the step backwards needed in order for the club to move forward together. I wonder if they expected team mainstays Luke Lewis, Michael Gordon, Travis Burns and Michael Jennings jumping ship while the team lingered at the bottom of the ladder.

The club had a tumultuous season in 2012. Managing only four wins in the first 19 games, the Panthers struggled last year. Their remaining six wins were against cellar-dwellers in a similar predicament to them, including the Roosters twice. If not for Parramatta’s terrible form the club would’ve finished with the wooden spoon.

Now 2013 has come around and the dust has seemingly settled, it’s business time for the Panthers. Many have already written off the club for this season but we at the Brady Foray aren’t so sure. Despite losing Lewis, Jennings and Gordon, the club has signed very well. Look for new recruits Lewis Brown, James Segeyaro, Sika Manu and Wes Naiqama (among many others) to help the club climb the ladder this season. A top eight berth would deem the Penrith Panthers 2013 season a success.

Signings: Lewis Brown (Warriors), Dean Whare (Sea Eagles), Sika Manu (Storm), James Segeyaro (Cowboys), Wes Naiqama (Knights), Kyle O’Donnell (Knights), Jeremy Latimore (Dragons), James Roberts (Rabbitohs), Moses Pangai (Cowboys), Sam Anderson (Knights), Ethan Cook (Knights), Maurice Kennedy (Redcliffe), Tom Humble (Wests Tigers), Mose Masoe (Roosters), Geordie Connelly (Maitland), Etonia Nabuli (Fiji), Anthony Cherrington (Roosters)

Departures: Jesse Sene-Lefao (Manly), Michael Gordon (Sharks), Masada Iosefa (Tigers, mid-season), Nafe Seluini (Roosters, mid-season), Sandor Earl (Raiders, mid-season), Luke Lewis (Sharks), Travis Burns (Hull KR), Mitch Achurch (Leeds), Harry Siejka (Warriors), Michael Jennings (Roosters), Sarafu Fatiaki (Redcliffe), Jake Galvin (sacked), Chris Armit (Retired), Etu Uaisele (Wyong Roos), Junior Tia-Kilifi (Released), Junior Vaivai (Illawarra Cutters), Shane Shackleton (released)

Key to Success:

With high turnover of players at the Panthers this season, the most important thing coach Cleary can do is make sure the combinations and plays are  efficient enough to be successful. With the inevitable presence of Manu, Naiqama, Segeyaro, Brown and former Manly utility Whare in first grade, striking up successful combinations within the team is the most important thing Penrith can do.

Player to Watch:

He is the brother of New South Wales and Australian forward Luke and in his lone first grade game to date, he was knocked out by Sam Burgess.But Kyle O’Donnell doesn’t want you to remember him by this (even though he can’t remember it). O’Donnell is on a mission to avenge his debut with the Panthers in 2013. O’Donnell’s move to the front row last season was an immediate success.

Erratic Eddy says:

Stop writing the Panthers off. Sure they’ve lost Luke Lewis but look at the quality they’ve signed! Lewis Brown can play anywhere. Pocket rocket Jimmy Segeyaro will be a positive out of dummy half and Sika Manu has won premierships and played for his country. The Panthers have signed for the future in 2013, give it a couple of years and they’ll be a force.”

“Mose Masoe is an animal. The Panthers have signed an absolute behemoth in Masoe. In his spare time he can check over the clubs books for salary cap loop holes as he is a certified accountant.”

Strongest 17: 1-Dean Whare 2 David Simmons-3- Brad Tighe 4- Wes Naiqama 5-Josh Mansour 6- Lachlan Coote 7- Luke Walsh 8-Tim Grant 9- Kevin Kingston (C) 10- Sam McKendry 11- Clint Newton 12- Sika Manu 13- Nathan Smith. Interchange: 14- James Segeyaro 15- Lewis Brown 16- Nigel Plum 17-Dayne Weston. 18th Man: Mose Masoe.

Predicted Position: 11th

2013 NRL Season Preview: Gold Coast Titans

By Brady Foray Writers

With the quality of players the Gold Coast Titans signed last season it was quite surprising how poorly they went. Jamal Idris, Luke Douglas, Nate Myles and Beau Champion were shipped up north last season with high expectations, expectations that were never quite reached. For instance, the club managed to win just two of their first nine games and finished the season with a lone win in the last five rounds. While the club somehow managed to enter the top eight at stages last year, they never really challenged the top clubs and ended the season at a justified 11th.

Now the Titans are faced with a conundrum in 2013. Having only signed Dave Taylor, Albert Kelly and Brad Takairangi for this season, the clubs depth will be tested severely thanks to the losses of Bodene Thompson, Brenton Lawrence, Dominique Peyroux, Michael Henderson, Beau Champion and Scott Prince. With Prince being the most influential player at the club since its inception, the man to fill the halfback position is no closer to being decided by coach John Cartwright. Prince’s shock defection to the Broncos leaves a massive hole. Take into account the poor form of the Titans’ Holden Cup side over previous years and it could well be a long season up on the Gold Coast.

Signings: Dave Taylor (Rabbitohs), Mark Ioane (Raiders), Matthew Russell (Wigan), Marmin Barba (Eels), Brad Takairangi (Roosters), Albert Kelly (Knights), Jordan Atkins (Eels)

Departures: Bodene Thompson (Tigers), Phil Graham (retired), Scott Prince (Broncos), Brenton Lawrence (Sea Eagles), Dominique Peyroux (Warriors), Michael Henderson (Dragons), Kayne Lawton (Sea Eagles), Beau Champion (Rabbitohs), Joe Vickery (Leeds), Jack Goodsell (Roosters)

Key to Success:

While it only took a couple of rounds for the Titans to find a suitable replacement in Aidan Sezer (pictured left) for the retired Preston Campbell last season, the search for Prince’s halfback replacement lingers.

In Kelly, Henry and the club’s youngest ever debutant Jordan Rankin within their ranks, the club is not short in candidates. It’s up to Cartwright to select who is the most appropriate for the club . Without a suitable and consistent halfback this season the club will find themselves in the bottom eight for the third consecutive year.

Player to Watch: 

The Gold Coast Titans have an abundance of world class forwards in their rank nowadays in Greg Bird, Luke Bailey, Nate Myles, Ashley Harrison and Dave Taylor. This influx of forwards may see some get lost among the shuffle. Say for instance foundational player Mark Minichiello, who may find himself struggle to find a place in the starting side for the first time since the club’s inaugural 2007 season. Minichiello (pictured right), who averaged 20.8 tackles and a tick under 100 metres per game, will be looking to solidify his place in the starting thirteen of the club he’s helped build from the ground up.

Erratic Eddy says:

“Eddy cannot believe the chances Albert Kelly has received of late. Released from the Knights for smashing a window at Newcastle’s finest and classiest establishment, Fannys (Rest in Peace, Fannys), the Gold Coast Titans swooped to buy the pesky playmaker straightaway. Why oh why, Titans?”

Strongest 17: 1-William Zillman 2-Kevin Gordon 3- Steve Michaels 4- Jamal Idris 5- David Mead 6- Aidan Sezer 7- Jordan Rankin 8- Luke Bailey 9-Matt Srama 10- Nate Myles (C) 11- Dave Taylor 12- Greg Bird (C) 13-Ashley Harrison Interchange: 14- Beau Falloon 15- Mark Minichiello 16- Luke Douglas 17- Ryan James. 18th Man: Ben Ridge.

Predicted Position: 12th

2013 NRL Season Preview: New Zealand Warriors

By Brady Foray Writers

The Warriors were an absolute debacle last season. The 2011 runners-up were expected to bounce back and threaten other premiership heavyweights.  Nope. Their coach was sacked. Key players left. Many went down with injuries early and never returned and now they go into the competition this year with an eight-game losing run to their name. Enter Matthew Elliot. The former Bradford, Raiders and Penrith coach is the man earmarked to get the Warriors out of their rut and maybe lead them to a maiden premiership.

All was not lost for some in the Warriors camp last season though. Take for example Ben Matulino, who won the Warriors’ Player of the Year. In his 22 games, Matulino averaged 18.3 tackles and 127 metres per game. The big man solidified his place in the New Zealand Test team and became the first ever Toyota Cup graduate to play 100 NRL games.

This season will be somewhat of a transitional year for the club with Lewis Brown, James Maloney and Ukuma Ta’ai moving elsewhere and tireless workhorse Michael Luck retiring. In their place, the Warriors signed former Storm players Todd Lowrie and Dane Neilson and experienced halfback Thomas Leuluai.

Signings: Thomas Leuluai (Wigan), Dane Nielsen (Storm), Todd Lowrie (Storm), Dominique Peyroux (Titans), Harry Siejka (Panthers)

Departures: Peta Hiku (Sea Eagles), Lewis Brown (Panthers), Krisnan Inu (Bulldogs, mid-season), Michael Luck (retired), James Maloney (Roosters), Toka Likiliki (Knights), Ligi Sao (Sea Eagles), Omar Slaimankhel (Japanese Rugby), Ukuma Ta’ai (Huddersfield), Jordan Meads (French RL)

Key to Success:

The Warriors’ key to success has nothing to do with their on the field performances. The club’s management, players and coach need to concentrate on club harmony before even considering their season prospects. As soon as Matthew Elliot was signed up as coach in October last year, several players spoke of the appointment with disdain. The Daily Telegraph’s Andrew Webster summed it up brilliantly, that Elliot had lost the dressing room before seeing inside of the dressing room.

Player to Watch:

In his three seasons at the Warriors, five-eighth James Maloney was the most influential player at the club. In his 75 games with the club he scored over 500 points. He is a Rooster now. His role now lies in the hands of halfback Thomas Leuluai who returns to the club that he debuted for as a fresh faced 18-year-old. Now 27, Leuluai returns with almost 200 games, a Challenge Cup trophy and Grand Final win at Wigan Warriors, a game where he won Man of the Match.  Leuluai (pictured left), a 30-Test veteran for New Zealand is an important figure for not only the team this season but one in the career of expected halves partner Shaun Johnson.

Erratic Eddy says:

“It wasn’t that long ago when Elijah Taylor (along with others) voiced their opinions that interim coach Tony Iro was the man for the Warriors coaching job AFTER Elliot was made coach. Confidence must be sky high at the Warriors. Elliot did come back later and say that most of the team are terrible trainers. Eye for an eye I suppose?”

“Good luck to Jerome Ropati too. An injury-free season in NSW Cup would be a success for him at this stage. A trifecta of season-ending injuries would see the end of him.”

Strongest 17: 1- Kevin Locke 2- Bill Tupou 3- Dane Nielson 4- Jerome Ropati 5- Manu Vatuvei 6- Thomas Leuluai 7-Shaun Johnson 8- Ben Matulino 9- Nathan Friend 10- Sam Rapira 11- Simon Mannering (C) 12- Feleti Mateo 13- Todd Lowrie Interchange: 14- Elijah Taylor 15- Ben Henry 16- Russell Packer 17- Jacob Lillyman. 18th Man: Sione Lousi.

Predicted Position: 13th

2013 NRL Season Preview: Wests Tigers

By Brady Foray Writers

Oh how the mighty have fallen. Installed as premiership favourites at the beginning of last season, the Tigers barely came up as a blip on the premiership radar in 2012. They never lived up to the hype at all.

The club was rocked by the death of influential captain Robbie Farah’s mother, a tragic incident the Tigers never recovered from. The poor form of Adam Blair and Benji Marshall and the impact that Gareth Ellis and Lote Tuquri injury ravaged season’s saw the club lose eight of their last eleven games.

Fast-forward to 2013 and the Tigers’ season could essentially be in shambles before it has begun. After a decade long tenure at the club, Tim Sheens was let go along with Chris Heighington, Beau Ryan and English superstar Gareth Ellis among others. In their place they have signed back-rowers Eddy Pettybourne and Bodene Thompson and NRL veteran, Braith Anasta. The question is: will this be enough to fill the gaps left by those departed?

Signings: Braith Anasta (Roosters), Eddy Pettybourne (Rabbitohs), Bodene Thompson (Titans), Jack Buchanan (Dragons), James Gavet (Bulldogs)

Departures: Gareth Ellis (Hull), Beau Ryan (Sharks), Chris Heighington (Sharks), Junior Moors (Storm), Tom Humble (Panthers), Dane Chisholm (Sea Eagles), John Grant (Rugby Union), Ray Cashmere (Shellharbour)

Key to Success:

Since Scott Prince left the club in 2006 the Tigers have struggled to find a partner for Benji Marshall. In Robert Lui, the Tigers had seemingly found their halfback replacement but indifferent circumstances would see him head north. For the Tigers to be successful this season, they need to find a suitable halfback or five-eighth for Benji Marshall (whom had eight scrumbase partners last season). Whether it is Curtis Sironen, Jacob Miller, Tim Moltzen or even new signing Anasta, the Tigers need a successful halves pairing to strike up a combination quickly.

Player to Watch:

Adam Blair left the 2012 season with a lot to be desired. The former Melbourne Storm premiership-winning forward and Kiwis vice-captain came to Tigers last year to help push the club towards the trophy which had eluded them for seven years. Let it be said that among the disappointments of the club’s abysmal year last season, Blair (pictured right) was definitely among them. Blair played all but one game last year but only averaged 72 metres per game. He only managed to break the line three times. Look for Blair to make amends this year and finally stamp his authority.

Erratic Eddy says:

“Eddy loves loyalty in the modern game. This is why Eddy loves Liam Fulton who re-signed with the club for a further three years. He’ll play anywhere Fulton and is a great re acquisition for the club.”

Strongest 17: 1- Tim Moltzen 2- Marika Koribete 3- Blake Ayshford 4- Chris Lawrence 5- Matthew Utai 6- Benji Marshall 7- Jacob Miller 8- Keith Galloway 9- Robbie Farah (C) 10- Aaron Woods 11- Braith Anasta 12- Eddy Pettybourne 13- Adam Blair Interchange: 14- Liam Fulton 15- Matthew Bell 16- Matthew Groat 17- Ben Murdoch-Masila. 18th Man: Lote Tuquri.

Predicted Position: 14th

2013 NRL Season Preview: St George Illawarra Dragons

By Brady Foray Writers

2012 was always going to be a tough season for St George Illawarra. With their coach and star player Wayne Bennett and Darius Boyd respectively leaving for Newcastle and the retirement of veteran Mark Gasnier, the Dragons were left with several holes in their team. While rookie coach Steve Price never lacked options to fill these positions, the team never clicked in 2012.

The losses of influential veterans Ben Hornby, Dean Young and Origin forward Beau Scott, the Dragons may be hard-pressed to plug the further holes that remain this upcoming season. All may not be lost though, as the signings of journeymen Bronson Harrison and Michael Henderson and up-and-comers Josh Drinkwater, Gerard Beale and Tyson Frizell will add much needed depth to the Dragons.

Unfortunately, the season is already over for Kyle Stanley, the heir apparent to Hornby as the club’s halfback this season. In a freak accident, the young Kiwi slipped over at the club’s training ground and re-injured his ACL. With recognised hooker Nathan Fien firming to become the club’s halfback this season, an experienced or generally recognised fullback and halfback within the club is essentially non-existent at this stage.

Signings: Gerard Beale (Broncos), Tyson Frizell (Sharks), Josh Drinkwater (Sea Eagles), Michael Henderson (Titans), Bronson Harrison (Raiders), Damian Cook (Illawarra Cutters), Shannon Wakeman (Illawarra Cutters)

Departures: Denan Kemp (Dragons), Beau Scott (Knights), Dean Young (retired), Jeremy Latimore (Panthers), Ben Hornby (retired), Jack Buchanan (Tigers), Ben Musolino (Sea Eagles), David Gower (Sea Eagles), Josh Miller (retired), Nick Emmett, Jake Marketo (released)

Key to Success:

If the Dragons are to be successful this season Jamie Soward (pictured right) needs to recapture the form he demonstrated in the club’s 2010 premiership-winning season. Soward had one of his poorer seasons last season, even finding himself playing for the club’s NSW Cup side Illawarra Cutters at one point. Soward managed 13 try-assists and four line-breaks last season, well below his impact of past years. With the retirement of captain and halfback Ben Hornby, and without an experienced halfback amongst the club, it has to be Jamie Soward’s season for the taking.

Player to Watch:

With the loss of Boyd last season, the Dragons struggled to find a suitable replacement. Jason Nightingale, Stanley and Brett Morris had their moments but none  did enough to secure the No. 1 jumper. Enter young New Zealand representative and former Bronco Gerard Beale (pictured left). While he was limited to the centres or wing with his time in Brisbane, it has been said that fullback is his preferred position. Beale averaged 96 metres per game last season and produced 46 tackle breaks, nine line breaks and four try assists.

Erratic Eddy says:

“Eddy wonders how Steve Price was feeling when the Dragons put a red line through his name after just one season while they chased and threw millions of dollars at Craig Bellamy. If I was Price, Eddy would be purposely selecting Bronx Goodwin and Daniel Vidot as props and throwing the club to wolves”

“If Josh Drinkwater isn’t one of the best young rookies in the NRL this season then I will eat my hat.”

Strongest 17: 1- Gerard Beale 2- Brett Morris 3- Chase Stanley 4- Matt Cooper 5- Jason Nightingale 6- Jamie Soward 7- Nathan Fien 8- Dan Hunt 9- Mitch Rein 10- Michael Weyman 11- Ben Creagh (C) 12- Bronson Harrison 13- Matt Prior Interchange: 14- Cameron King 15- Trent Merrin 16- Jack De Belin 17- Tyson Frizell. 18th Man: Lesson Ah Mau.

Predicted Position: 15th