2016 NRL Season Preview

The following is a team-by-team preview for the 2016 NRL season with suggested bets at the end of the article.



The 2016 season of the NRL will be another exciting year for the Brisbane Broncos as they look to have recovered well from their Grand Final loss against the Cowboys. After their steep ascent to the ultimate stage, the Broncos look set to continue their fantastic form as they managed to replace retiring Queensland and Australian centre Justin Hodges with 2015 Dally M Centre of the Year James Roberts after the embarrassment of a forged signature by the Titans staff forced the young centre to look elsewhere.

With the departure of newly anointed Queensland Coach Kevin Walters from Brisbane’s assistant coaching staff, the Broncos will look to build on the foundation they laid last year with the continued development of their formidable Hunt-Milford halves combination, as well as a promising group of young forwards including Corey Oates, Joe Ofahengaue, Francis Molo and Jarrod Wallace.

The Broncos will largely have the same lineup for 2016 as they had last season with the addition of James Roberts and also exciting young rookie Carlin Anderson, who will be looking for a spot in the outside backs if injuries should knock out any of the regular first-graders.

The Broncos failed to take home the premiership last year but their success in 2015 would be considered a bonus by coach Wayne Bennett. Bennett himself said the Broncos wouldn’t be in the Premiership frame until 2017 and the Broncos surprised many with the meteoric rise last year, but expect the club to improve even further for 2016. Much of that improvement will lie around particular players, including Darius Boyd – who was quiet for much of 2015 – and also around Brisbane’s inexperience bench in Jarrod Wallace, Joe Ofahengaue and Kodi Nikorima who went a long way towards establishing themselves as dependable first-graders in the latter half of the season.

2016 Gains: Carlin Anderson (2016), Herman Ese’ese (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, 2016), Salesi Funaki (Wests Tigers, 2017), Darren Nicholls (Mid Season: South Sydney Rabbitohs, 2016), James Roberts (Gold Coast Titans, 2017), Marion Seve (Wests Tigers, 2016), Caleb Timu (2017)

2016 Losses: Dale Copley (Sydney Roosters), Mitchell Dodds (Warrington Wolves), Jordan Drew (Cronulla Sharks), Mitch Garbutt (Leeds Rhinos), Jon Green (retired), Justin Hodges (retired), Todd Lowrie (retired), Darren Nicholls (released), Jayden Nikorima (Sydney Roosters), Matt Parcell (Manly Sea Eagles), David Stagg (retired), Ashley Taylor (Gold Coast Titans), Daniel Vidot (Salford Red Devils)

Re-Signed: George Fai (2016), Alex Glenn (2017), Brett Greinke (2016), Jordan Kahu (2017), Andrew McCullough (2017), Josh McGuire (2017), Francis Molo (2016), Kodi Nikorima (2016), Joe Ofahengaue (2017), Tom Opacic (2016), Sam Thaiday (2018)

Off Contract 2015: Ajuma Adams, Joe Boyce, James Gavet, Zach Strasser, Aaron Whitchurch

2016 Coach: Wayne Bennett

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The Sydney Roosters will be looking for redemption in the 2016 season after their disappointing exit from the finals last year and with the departure of James Maloney, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Michael Jennings to the Sharks, Warriors and Eels respectively, the ‘Chooks have their work cut out for them in 2016.

Redeemed bad-boy Blake Fergusson looks set to take the No. 1 jersey for the Chooks, while impressive rookie Jackson Hastings will finally get the starting halves spot he’s been fighting for. Despite the loss of a Premiership winning centre and fullback, the Roosters have recruited well in their outside backs with an exciting prospect in Joe Burgess from the UK and Dale Copley and Jayden Nikorima from the Brisbane Broncos.

A candid conversation with Roosters coach Trent Robinson would likely reveal that the club considers seasons 2014 and 2015 failures after a disappointing exit from the finals in both years. Despite the loss of Premiership winning trio Maloney, Jennings and Tuivasa-Sheck, the absence of James Maloney as a stabilizing force will be felt most starkly as pressure will mount on Mitchell Pearce as the Roosters primary shot-caller and on rookie Jackson Hastings, particularly in the wake of yet another alcohol related controversy from Pearce.

Despite their losses, the Roosters go into the 2016 season with a fantastic roster capable of winning a Premiership. It will be up to coach Trent Robinson to combat the absence of internal pressure and desire at the club after winning a Premiership in 2013 and get the Sydney club back on track and hungry for more success.

2016 Gains: Pakisonasi Afu (2017), Joe Burgess (Wigan Warriors, 2018), Dale Copley (Brisbane Broncos, 2018), Mitchell Frei (2016), Ian Henderson (Catalan Dragons, 2016), Ryan Matterson (Parramatta Eels, 2017), Jayden Nikorima (Brisbane Broncos, 2018)

2016 Losses: Michael Jennings (Parramatta Eels), Nene Macdonald (Gold Coast Titans), James Maloney (Cronulla Sharks), Suaia Matagi (Penrith Panthers), Matt McIlwrick (Cronulla Sharks), Willis Meehan (released), Taane Milne (St George Illawarra Dragons), Lagi Setu (rugby union), Nathan Stapleton (London Broncos), Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (New Zealand Warriors)

Re-Signed: Brendan Elliot (2017), Blake Ferguson (2017), Aidan Guerra (2017), Shaun Kenny-Dowall (2017), Joseph Manu (2017), Latrell Mitchell (2019), Shaquai Mitchell (2019), Dylan Napa (2017), Sio Siua Taukeiaho (2017), Daniel Tupou (2017), Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (2017)

Off Contract 2015: Samisoni Langi, Willie Manu, Lopini Paea, Jack Siejka

2016 Coach: Trent Robinson

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The Parramatta Eels have had a fantastic recruitment drive leading into the 2016 season headlined by key signing Kieran Foran, as well as Michael Gordon, Michael Jennings, Beau Scott and Clint Gutherson.

Initial signs for the Eels in 2016 look promising after claiming victory of the Auckland Nines tournament, joining recent NRL premiers the Cowboys and Rabbitohs in the achievement. Despite facing potential sanctions from the NRL regarding minor salary cap breaches – which could have them starting the season with reduced premiership points – the Eels will hope to turn a new leaf in 2016 putting their reputation of inconsistency, at both a corporate and player level, behind them.

The presence of the former Manly five-eighth Foran alongside Corey Norman in the halves will bring a consistency that has been missing for the Parramatta club in recent seasons. Michael Gordon also shapes to be a significant signing as the first specialist fullback for the club since the departure of Jarryd Hayne to the NFL, while the addition of incumbent NSW pairing Michael Jennings and Beau Scott will add further starch to an already formidable roster.

Beyond the immediate benefit of such a high quality recruitment drive, the new Eels recruits will benefit the team as a whole in two different ways. First, the addition of Kieran Foran and Michael Gordon will bring a stability to the Eels’ spine they have not had in years, allowing Brad Arthur to place more trust in his playing group that they will execute his game-plan. Second, the addition of representative trio Foran, Jennings and Scott and also NRL veteran Michael Gordon will bring professionalism and solidarity to the playing group the Parramatta club has missed of late. No longer will the playing group accept a player stepping out of line ala Chris Sandow in 2015.

There is no doubt the Eels are on an upward trend of improvement and Brad Arthur has been successful in his time as head coach at removing the obstacles preventing him from doing his job. But now that Arthur has the freedom to coach his own football team, the onus will now be on him to get consistent performances out of an undoubtedly talented roster.

2016 Gains: Mitch Cornish (Canberra Raiders, 2016), Kieran Foran (Manly Sea Eagles, 2019), Michael Gordon (Cronulla Sharks, 2016), Clinton Gutherson (Manly Sea Eagles, 2017), James Hasson (Manly Sea Eagles, 2016), Michael Jennings (Sydney Roosters, 2019), Cameron King (North Queensland Cowboys, 2016), Kieren Moss (Penrith Panthers, 2016), Rory O’Brien (St George Illawarra Dragons, 2016), Scott Schulte (North Queensland Cowboys, 2016), Beau Scott (Newcastle Knights, 2018), Kelepi Tanginoa (North Queensland Cowboys, 2016), Matthew Woods (Wests Tigers, 2016)

2016 Losses: Josh Aloiai (Wests Tigers), Beau Champion (retired), Ben Crooks (Castleford Tigers), Zach Dockar-Clay (Penrith Panthers), Richie Fa’aoso (retired), Fabian Goodall (Manly Sea Eagles), Will Hopoate (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Tui Kamikamica (rugby union), Halauafu Lavaka (Manly Sea Eagles), Darcy Lussick (Manly Sea Eagles), Ryan Matterson (Sydney Roosters), Eric Newbigging (NSW Cup), Pauli Pauli (Newcastle Knights), Joseph Paulo (Cronulla Sharks), Adam Quinlan (St George Illawarra Dragons), Reece Robinson (rugby union), Chris Sandow (Warrington Wolves)

Re-Signed: Daniel Alvaro (2016), Bureta Faraimo (2016), John Folau (2017), Bevan French (2018), David Gower (2017), Luke Kelly (2016), Ryan Morgan (2017), Kaysa Pritchard (2016), Brad Takairangi (2017), Peni Terepo (2017), Vai Toutai (2016), Joseph Ualesi (2016), Danny Wicks (2016)

2016 Coach: Brad Arthur

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The Canberra Raiders have continued their solid recruitment under Ricky Stuart with astute signings in Adam Clydesdale, Aiden Sezer and Joey Leilua heading into the 2016 season. The Raiders built their season last year on attack, impressively becoming one of the highest scoring teams in the competition in 2015 but the club sorely lacked in defense. With their solid recruitment, coach Ricky Stuart now has all the tools he needs within his team to take his club to the finals.

The addition of former Titans’ five-eighth Aiden Sezer to the Raiders halves will give the team a lot more control as Sezer shapes to step into a similar organising Halfback role to Cooper Cronk for the Melbourne Storm, which will give talented ball-runner and 2015 revelation Blake Austin free reign to play what he sees.

The Raiders continue to benefit from their traditionally strong rookie development and the additions for the 2016 season will only add to their strong roster. The success at the club in 2016, however, is more in the hands of the coaching staff. The Raiders were a strong attacking side in 2015 on the back of talented players, but finding a solution to the defensive weaknesses of the Raiders squad should be Ricky Stuart’s number one priority heading into the new year.

They say defence wins premierships, so if the Raiders can’t fix their defensive deficiencies this year they are a long way out from the Premiership race. The Canberra club conceded almost double the amount of points as the best defensive side in 2015, the Sydney Roosters and until they can find a way to put a significant dent in that deficit, they will struggle to play finals football.

2016 Gains: Adam Clydsdale (Newcastle Knights, 2016), Joey Leilua (Mid Season: Newcastle Knights, 2018), Jeff Lima (Catalan Dragons, 2016), Zac Santo (North Queensland Cowboys, 2016), Aidan Sezer (Gold Coast Titans, 2018), Elliot Whitehead (Catalan Dragons, 2017)

2016 Losses: Mitch Cornish (Parramatta Eels), Mitchell Cronin (QLD Cup), Joel Edwards (Wests Tigers), Jeremy Hawkins (Melbourne Storm), Andrew Heffernan (Penrith Panthers), Jeff Lynch (Gold Coast Titans), Patrick Mago (QLD Cup), Josh McCrone (St George Illawarra Dragons), Mark Nicholls (Melbourne Storm), Luke Page (QLD Cup), David Shillington (Gold Coast Titans), Dane Tilse (Hull Kingston Rovers), Bill Tupou (Wakefield Wildcats)

Re-Signed: Blake Austin (2018), Mitchell Barnett (2017), Shannon Boyd (2018), Lachlan Croker (2017), Jarrad Kennedy (2017), Joey Leilua (2018), Josh Papalii (2018), Jordan Rapana (2017), Jack Wighton (2018)

Off Contract 2015: Jack Ahearn, Glen Buttriss, Kyle O’Donnell

2016 Coach: Ricky Stuart

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The Gold Coast Titans had a nightmare year in 2015, beginning in controversy with a number of first grade players stood down for drug related offences, the eventual loss of Daly Cherry Evans after his signing came at the expense of club stalwarts Aiden Sezer and Nate Myles. The club also lost star centre James Roberts to the Broncos in the off-season after a forged signature rendered the star’s contract extension void. These issues, compounded by a terrible run of injuries throughout the year to key players, conspired bring the club to 14th position overall with the worst defensive record in the competition.

Despite their horror 2015, things are looking up for the Gold Coast club. The unenviable task of rebuilding has been left to veteran coach Neil Henry, who has already overseen an encouraging recruitment drive to snare Chris McQueen, David Shillington, Ashley Taylor and Tyrone Roberts. Despite a season ending injury to boom Titans halfback Kane Elgey, Henry will look to capitalise on the quality of his new recruits and that already present in his 2015 roster.

The Titans won’t aim to reinvent the wheel for the 2016 season, nor should they. The club made an astute decision in recruiting Neil Henry, who will competently go about bringing the club back from the brink.

Expect the Titans to play messy football this year, but in only his second year at the helm of the club, Neil Henry will need more time to assemble a roster capable of winning a premiership. But with the steps Henry has already taken, Titans fans can rest easy knowing their club is back on track.

2016 Gains: Nathan Friend (New Zealand Warriors, 2016), Jeff Lynch (Canberra Raiders, 2016), Nene Macdonald (Mid Season: Sydney Roosters, 2017), Chris McQueen (South Sydney Rabbitohs, 2017), Nathaniel Peteru (Mid Season: New Zealand Warriors, 2016), Leivaha Pulu (2016), Tyrone Roberts (Newcastle Knights, 2017), David Shillington (Canberra Raiders, 2017), Zeb Taia (Catalan Dragons, 2017), Ashley Taylor (Brisbane Broncos, 2017)

2016 Losses: Caleb Binge (QLD Cup), Jamie Dowling (QLD Cup), Kalifa Faifai Loa (St George Illawarra Dragons), Beau Falloon (Leeds Rhinos), Jamal Fogarty (QLD Cup), Kevin Gordon (retired), Shaun Hudson (North Queensland Cowboys), Mark Ioane (London Broncos), Nate Myles (Manly Sea Eagles), Chad Redman (QLD Cup), Ben Ridge (retired), James Roberts (Brisbane Broncos), Aidan Sezer (Canberra Raiders), Dave Taylor (Catalan Dragons), Brad Tighe (retired), Matt White (Melbourne Storm)

Re-Signed: Jed Cartwright (2017), Kane Elgey (2017), Brian Kelly (2017), Karl Lawton (2017), Agnatius Paasi (2017), Eddy Pettybourne (2017), Oshae Tuiasau (2017)

Off Contract 2015: Davin Crampton, Christian Hazard, Jai Ingram

2016 Coach: Neil Henry

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The South Sydney Rabbitohs had a poor year by the lofty standards set by club coach Michael Maguire. Roster management is a balancing act, and after their premiership victory in 2014, they were bound to lose some members of that squad. Heading into the 2016 season the club lost a number of key players which ultimately lead to a lack of depth and talent in the forward rotation.

The club looks to again lose quite a bit of talent in Dylan Walker, Issac Luke and Chris McQueen, but has a small yet effective recruitment drive to cover these key losses. Damien Cook was a revelation at Hooker for the Bulldogs in the back end of 2015 after a major injury to Michael Lichaa, and the pocket rocket Cook looks to set to give the club the same energy out of Dummy-Half as New Zealand International Luke.

Similarly, the re-signing of 2014 premiership legend Sam Burgess is a major coup for the club, and despite losing a number of talented forwards, Burgess will step right back into his role as the Rabbitohs’ forward leader and give the club to drive they missed last year.

Similar to the Roosters, the Rabbitohs have a roster capable of threatening for the 2016 premiership, but it will be up to coach Michael Maguire to cultivate a hunger and passion in his troops after winning a premiership, but with the return of Sam Burgess, the Bunnies should find their passion again.

2016 Gains: Sam Burgess (2018), Damien Cook (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, 2017), Hymel Hunt (Melbourne Storm, 2016), Dane Nielsen (St George Illawarra Dragons, 2017), Michael Oldfield (Catalan Dragons, 2016)

2016 Losses: Tim Grant (Wests Tigers), Ben Lowe (retired), Issac Luke (New Zealand Warriors), Chris McQueen (Gold Coast Titans), Darren Nicholls (Brisbane Broncos), Glenn Stewart (Catalan Dragons), Dylan Walker (Manly Sea Eagles)

Re-Signed: Kirisome Auva’a (2018), George Burgess (2018), Thomas Burgess (2018), Angus Crichton (2018), Bryson Goodwin (2017), Aaron Gray (2017), Chris Grevsmuhl (2018), Alex Johnston (2017), Luke Keary (2016), Cameron McInnes (2017), Cameron Murray (2019), Adam Reynolds (2017), Kyle Turner (2017), David Tyrrell (2017)

Off Contract 2015: Sam Manuleleua, Sione Masima, Daryl Millard, Wartovo Puara, Joel Reddy, Scott Sorensen, Setefano Taukafa, Thompson Teteh

2016 Coach: Michael Maguire

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The Cronulla Sharks go into the 2016 season on the back of an impressive campaign last year that saw them place equal 4th on premiership points. In only his first year back as head coaching role since his suspension following the ASADA scandal, Shane Flanagan proved his coaching mettle with the club’s success in 2015.

Flanagan has also recruited very strongly to cover the weaknesses in his roster from last year. The acquisition of Chad Townsend and James Maloney from the Warriors and Roosters respectively looks to give the team far more direction, particularly in comparison to the rag-tag combination of Jeff Robson and Jack Bird the club fielded most of 2015.

The Sharks now look to be heading into this season with an extremely strong roster, with rookie half Jack Bird set for a switch to fullback, the Sharks powerful pack and exciting backline will benefit from the stability provided by Maloney and Townsend.

Other notable signings for the Sharks coming into this season are Jospeh Paulo from the Eels and Matt MckIlwrick from the Roosters and Jesse-Sene Lefao, who will all provide good injury cover, something the Sharks have struggled with in the past.

One of the rarest qualities in a coach is the ability to extract passion from players in the face of adversity. Despite difficult circumstances for the club in the last few years, the Sharks continue to play with an intent that is often their point of difference to other teams. If the Cronulla club continues their trajectory of improvement, expect Shane Flanagan’s men to go deep into the finals.

2016 Gains: Kurt Capewell (2016), Josh Cleeland (2016), Jordan Drew (Brisbane Broncos, 2017), James Maloney (Sydney Roosters, 2018), Matt McIlwrick (Sydney Roosters, 2016), Joseph Paulo (Parramatta Eels, 2017), Jesse Sene-Lefao (Manly Sea Eagles, 2017), Chad Townsend (New Zealand Warriors, 2017)

2016 Losses: Josh Addo-Carr (Wests Tigers), Tinirau Arona (Wakefield Wildcats), Blake Ayshford (New Zealand Warriors), Michael Gordon (Parramatta Eels), Jeff Robson (New Zealand Warriors), Kyle Stanley (retired), Anthony Tupou (Wakefield Wildcats)

Re-Signed: Jack Bird (2017), Jayden Brailey (2017), Paul Gallen (2016), Chris Heighington (2016), Ricky Leutele (2018), Anthony Moraitis (2016), Matt Prior (2017), Junior Roqica (2016), Sam Tagataese (2016)

Off Contract 2015: Nathan Gardner, Saulala Houma, Todd Murphy, Pat Politoni, Tim Robinson, Sami Sauiluma, Dallas Wells

2016 Coach: Shane Flanagan

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The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs head into the 2016 season after a frustrating 2015 campaign saw them just miss the top four. Persistent injuries and suspension to key players stunted the ‘Dogs momentum for much of the year and they now head into the season with a number of players leaving the club. Notable departures include Damien Cook, Trent Hodkinson, Tim Lafai, Frank Pritchard and Corey Thompson, though this won’t heavily impact the Bulldogs’ 17.

Notable signings for the club include talented rookie Brad Abbey from the Warriors and Will Hopoate from the Eels. Hopoate will be reuniting with Bulldogs coach Des Hasler, under whom he won a premiership. Both Hopoate and Hasler will hope the incumbent NSW representative can recapture his electric form from his days with the Sea Eagles.

The Bulldogs campaign last season was hampered heavily by injury but unless it is a similar story this year, the players they lost in the off-season won’t impact the team heavily. With Moses Mbye ready to take on the full time halfback role and the likes of Michael Lichaa and James Graham returning fresh in the new year, the ‘Dogs should be set for a finals berth, though it remains unclear whether the interchange reductions going into 2016 will impact their monster forward rotation.

2016 Gains: Brad Abbey (New Zealand Warriors, 2018), Graham Clark (2016), Craig Garvey (St George Illawarra Dragons, 2017), Kerrod Holland (Newcastle Knights, 2017), Will Hopoate (Parramatta Eels, 2017)

2016 Losses: Damien Cook (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Herman Ese’ese (Brisbane Broncos), Trent Hodkinson (Newcastle Knights), Antonio Kaufusi (retired), Tim Lafai (St George Illawarra Dragons), Frank Pritchard (Hull FC), Corey Thompson (Widnes Vikings)

Re-Signed: Adam Elliott (2017), Sam Kasiano (2018), Pat O’Hanlon (2016), Sam Perrett (2017), Tyrone Phillips (2017), Chase Stanley (2017)
Off Contract 2015: Jacob Loko, Tautalatasi Tasi

2016 Coach: Des Hasler

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The Melbourne Storm will go into 2016 after a fantastic 2015 campaign that saw them place 4th on the ladder by seasons end and fall one game short of the Grand Final in their Preliminary final loss against the Cowboys.

Often written off for their reliance on the ageing ‘big three’ triplet of Queensland and Australian representatives Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk, the three will benefit immensely from a full pre-season with no representative football scheduled for the Kangaroos between seasons 2015 and 2016.

Billy Slater in particular will benefit from the extended break but while he spent much of the 2015 season injured, Storm fans were granted a glimpse of the future as exciting youngster Cameron Munster performed extremely well at fullback in the absence of Slater.

The Storm continue their recruitment strategy of picking up undervalued players and going into the 2016 season Jeremy Hawkins, Cheyse Blair and Matt White will undoubtedly perform well under Craig Bellamy in the Melbourne system.

The Storm have been written off for many years, but their performance last season in the face of major injuries to key players should give Storm fans hope. The big three will go into 2016 fresh from their extended break and should lead the team to the finals.

2016 Gains: Cheyse Blair (Manly Sea Eagles, 2016), Jeremy Hawkins (Canberra Raiders, 2017), Mark Nicholls (Canberra Raiders, 2016), Matt White (Gold Coast Titans, 2016)

2016 Losses: Matt Duffie (rugby union), Mahe Fonua (Hull FC), Ryan Hinchcliffe (Huddersfield Giants), Hymel Hunt (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Tom Learoyd-Lahrs (retired), Kurt Mann (St George Illawarra Dragons), Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad (New Zealand Warriors), Shaun Nona (St George Illawarra Dragons), Dayne Weston (Leigh Centurions)

Re-Signed: Dean Britt (2017), Felise Kaufusi (2017), Richard Kennar (2016), Jordan McLean (2017), Billy Slater (2017), Joe Stimson (2017), Tony Tumusa (2016)

Off Contract 2015: Billy Brittain, Travis Robinson

2016 Coach: Craig Bellamy

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The Warriors go into 2016 on the back of yet another disappointing campaign last year that was affected by a significant injury toll. The club looked to be building strongly throughout the year until a season ending injury to halfback Shaun Johnson derailed their efforts, but this was as much a reflection as the New Zealand club’s lack of depth and balance in their squad as anything else.

In response, the Warriors have signed NRL superstars and New Zealand representatives Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Isaac Luke, who will combine with Shaun Johnson to form three quarters of the Kiwi national team’s spine in a massive coup for the club.

Andrew McFadden also secured the signature of Jeff Robson from the Sharks, who will partner Shaun Johnson in the halves as well as Blake Ayshford and Ligi Sao.

The Warriors weakness in the past has been a lack of direction and composure within the team, which ultimately comes down to their spine. With three major acquisitions in their most important positions, the New Zealand club should turn their past weaknesses into major strengths.

Jeff Robson is the even handed foil Shaun Johnson has needed for years. Robson is a veteran of the NRL and a competent game manager. He will be a reliable organiser for the Warriors attack that will give the livewire Johnson room to play what he sees. Similarly, Luke and Tuivasa-Sheck will also demand much of the ball, and the Warriors will go into 2016 with a revolutionised attacking game of which Johnson is not the only focal point.

Expect the New Zealand club to do well, but don’t expect the established stars that are new to the club to explode immediately, but if coach Andrew McFadden can get the best from his squad, his team should go deep into the finals.

2016 Gains: Blake Ayshford (Cronulla Sharks, 2017), Ali Lauitiiti (Wakefield Wildcats, 2016), Issac Luke (South Sydney Rabbitohs, 2018), Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad (Melbourne Storm, 2017), Jeff Robson (Cronulla Sharks, 2016), Ligi Sao (Manly Sea Eagles, 2017), Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (Sydney Roosters, 2018), Henare Wells (2016)

2016 Losses: Brad Abbey (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), David Bhana (Newcastle Knights), Glen Fisiiahi (rugby union), Nathan Friend (Gold Coast Titans), Siliva Havili (St George Illawarra Dragons), Sebastine Ikahihifo (St George Illawarra Dragons), Ngani Laumape (released), Suaia Matagi (Penrith Panthers), Nathaniel Peteru (Gold Coast Titans), Api Pewhairangi (rugby union), Dominique Peyroux (St Helens RLFC), Sam Rapira (Huddersfield Giants), Sam Tomkins (Wigan Warriors), Chad Townsend (Cronulla Sharks)

Re-Signed: Raymond Faitala-Mariner (2016), David Fusitu’a (2017), Ben Henry (2016), Konrad Hurrell (2018), Solomone Kata (2018), Mason Lino (2017), Sam Lisone (2018), Tuimoala Lolohea (2018), Ben Matulino (2017), Ken Maumalo (2016), Marata Niukore (2016), Nathaniel Roache (2017), Toafofoa Sipley (2017), Manu Vatuvei (2018), Albert Vete (2017), Jonathan Wright (2016)

Off Contract 2015:

2016 Coach: Andrew McFadden

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Sea Eagles

Sea Eagles

The Manly Sea Eagles endured a horror 2015 campaign that saw the club miss the finals for the first time in a decade. The highly publicised contract negotiations of Daly Cherry-Evans and the departed Kieran Foran kept the club in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons as a stagnant roster impacted on team performance. The 2015 season culminated in the questionable decision from the club to sack coach Geoff Toovey, reportedly for his performance as head coach, though many indicate the decision to sack Toovey was more down to politics than performance.

The club will look to turn a new leaf in the 2016 season with newly appointed coach Trent Barrett overseeing a massive recruitment drive that looks set to revitalise Manly’s squad.

Representative trio Nate Myles, Martin Tapau and Lewis Brown will form the core of the Sea Eagles’ new look pack as well as Darcy Lussick, while exciting rakes Apisai Koroisau and Matt Parcell will vie for the starting hooker position. Dylan Walker come from the Rabbitohs and looks set for a positional switch to five-eighth to partner Daly Cherry Evans in the halves. The Sea Eagles have also acquired Isaac John, Tim Moltzen, Tom Wright, who will all vie for positions in the backline.

While the Sea Eagles recruitment drive has been a massive success, question marks remain over Trent Barrett. It was a bold move from the Manly board to sack the extremely successful Geoff Toovey in favour of a rookie yet to coach first grade, and while there is nothing to indicate Barrett won’t be a success in the NRL, the pressure will be on for the first year coach.

2016 Gains: Lewis Brown (Penrith Panthers, 2018), Fabian Goodall (Parramatta Eels, 2016), Nathan Green (St George Illawarra Dragons, 2016), Isaac John (Penrith Panthers, 2016), Apisai Koroisau (Penrith Panthers, 2018), Halauafu Lavaka (Parramatta Eels, 2016), Darcy Lussick (Parramatta Eels, 2018), Tim Moltzen (Wests Tigers, 2016), Nate Myles (Gold Coast Titans, 2018), Matt Parcell (Brisbane Broncos, 2018), Martin Taupau (Wests Tigers, 2019), Dylan Walker (South Sydney Rabbitohs, 2019), John Walker (2017), Tom Wright (2018)

2016 Losses: Matt Ballin (Wests Tigers), Cheyse Blair (Melbourne Storm), Michael Chee-Kam (Wests Tigers), Kieran Foran (Parramatta Eels), Clinton Gutherson (Parramatta Eels), James Hasson (Parramatta Eels), Peta Hiku (Penrith Panthers), Justin Horo (Catalan Dragons), Jack Littlejohn (Wests Tigers), Dunamis Lui (St George Illawarra Dragons), Willie Mason (Catalan Dragons), Will Pearsall (Newcastle Knights), Ligi Sao (New Zealand Warriors), Jesse Sene-Lefao (Cronulla Sharks), David Williams (released)

Re-Signed: Billy Bainbridge (2017), Daly Cherry-Evans (2023), Steve Matai (2017), Brad Parker (2017), Tony Satini (2016), Brett Stewart (2017), Jake Trbojevic (2017), Tom Trbojevic (2017)

Off Contract 2015: Tyson Andrews, Uiti Baker, Delroy Berryman, Jordan Latham, Manaia Rudolph

2016 Coach: Trent Barrett

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The Newcastle Knights had a forgettable 2015 season during which new coach and club-man Rick Stone was sacked. Tasked with rebuilding the struggling club after a difficult period under Wayne Bennett, Stone was unable to extract any passion from his squad as the players’ motivation was questioned throughout the 2015 season.

After Stone’s sacking, former captain Danny Buderus took the reins as interim coach as the club now looked to Nathan Brown as a more permanent solution. With both NRL and Super League experience, Brown comes to Newcastle with an impressive coaching resume including a Super League Grand Final victory in 2014.

In Brown, the Knights will hope they have found a long term coach and with the club placing dead last in 2015, Brown will have to institute massive changes to bring the Newcastle club back to their glory days.

Rebuilding the Knights from the ground up is no easy task, but Brown should be given plenty of time and space to implement the necessary changes in the club. He should first look to consolidate the current playing group and instill a winning culture, before looking beyond the club to build a roster that can make a tilt for a premiership. With Trent Hodkinson being the only significant signing in the off-season, the Knights face a difficult year with Adam Clydsdale, Kurt Gidley, Chris Houston, Joey Leilua, Tyrone Roberts and Beau Scott leaving the club.

The task before Brown is one that will take more than one season. Don’t expect the Knights to make a finals tilt in 2016, but with a number of talented rookies coming into grade, there are positive signs for the club in a few years time.

2016 Gains: David Bhana (New Zealand Warriors, 2017), Krys Freeman (2016), Trent Hodkinson (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, 2018), Mickey Paea (Hull FC, 2017), Pauli Pauli (Parramatta Eels, 2017), Will Pearsall (Manly Sea Eagles, 2017)

2016 Losses: Adam Clydsdale (Canberra Raiders), David Fa’alogo (retired), Kurt Gidley (Warrington Wolves), Kerrod Holland (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Chris Houston (Widnes Vikings), Joey Leilua (Canberra Raiders), Clint Newton (retired), Chad Redman (QLD Cup), Tyrone Roberts (Gold Coast Titans), Beau Scott (Parramatta Eels), Carlos Tuimavave (Hull FC)

Re-Signed: Jack Cogger (2018), Jaelen Feeney (2017), Lachlan Fitzgibbon (2017), Dane Gagai (2017), Danny Levi (2018), Jake Mamo (2017), Chanel Mata’utia (2018), Pat Mata’utia (2018), Sione Mata’utia (2018), Tyler Randell (2017), Nathan Ross (2016), Korbin Sims (2017), Jeremy Smith (2016), Kade Snowden (2017), Luke Yates (2017)

Off Contract 2015: James Elias, Marvin Filipo, Jah Pakau, Damian Sironen, Michael Steele, Tuiala Togiatasi

2016 Coach: Nathan Brown

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The Penrith Panthers have undergone major changes since the 2015 season. Coach Ivan Cleary was let go by the club in favour of former Broncos boss Anthony Griffin after being described by general manager Phil Gould as ‘tired’. Cleary’s frustration is certainly understandable after Penrith’s extremely promising campaigns in the past few years have been severely hampered by horror injury tolls.

Despite such talent as Lewis Brown, Adam Docker, Jamal Idris, Isaac John, Brent Kite, Apisai Koroisau, Sika Manu and Nigel Plum departing the club, the Panthers still have a fantastic roster if their squad is fully fit. The significant additions for the 2016 season include NSW Origin forward Trent Merrin and New Zealand representative Peta Hiku as well as talented young half Te Maire Martin, who looks set to succeed either of the veteran halves combination of Peter Wallace or Jamie Soward.

Much of the Panthers’ success in 2016 will go down to how long they can field the same 17 but with an injury prone spine, the core of their team can not go through rigorous change through the season if the Penrith club wants success.

Question marks also remain over the appointment of Anthony Griffin, who struggled in his time at Brisbane to extract good form from his players. The appointment of Griffin was certainly not a part of Phil Gould’s plan for Penrith, but expect the shrewd administrator in Gould to oversee the coaching closely and compensate where necessary.

2016 Gains: Sitaleki Akauola (Wests Tigers, 2016), Oliver Clark (2018), Zach Dockar-Clay (Parramatta Eels, 2017), Dylan Edwards (2018), Ben Garcia (Catalan Dragons, 2017), Josh Hall (2017), Andrew Heffernan (Canberra Raiders, 2017), Peta Hiku (Manly Sea Eagles, 2018), Viliame Kikau (North Queensland Cowboys, 2017), Soni Luke (2018), Te Maire Martin (Wests Tigers, 2018), Suaia Matagi (Mid Season: New Zealand Warriors, 2017), Tyrone May (2018), Trent Merrin (St George Illawarra Dragons, 2018)

2016 Losses: Lewis Brown (Manly Sea Eagles), Adam Docker (retired), Jamal Idris (released), Isaac John (Manly Sea Eagles), Brent Kite (retired), Apisai Koroisau (Manly Sea Eagles), Sika Manu (Hull FC), Kieren Moss (Parramatta Eels), Ben Murdoch-Masila (Salford Red Devils), Nigel Plum (retired), David Simmons (retired), Shaun Spence (retired)

Re-Signed: Waqa Blake (2017), Reagan Campbell-Gillard (2019), Nathan Cleary (2018), James Fisher-Harris (2018), Sione Katoa (2017), Jeremy Latimore (2017), Leilani Latu (2017), Tyrone Peachey (2017), Will Smith (2016), Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (2017)
Off Contract 2015: Sam Anderson, Rodney Coates, Adrian Davis

2016 Coach: Anthony Griffin

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The Wests Tigers will look to recover this year from an extremely poor 2015 campaign in which the club came second last on the competition ladder. Hounded by controversy both on the field and at board level, the team’s performances were impacted heavily by the drawn out drama between senior player Robbie Farah and coach Jason Taylor.

Despite reports in the off-season that Farah would not play first grade in 2016, the controversy has seemingly been resolved as Farah relinquished the club captaincy in favour of NSW Origin forward Aaron Woods. If the club has moved on from off-field controversy, then the joint-venture should see less inconsistency in their on field performance.

Despite losing such talent as Te Maire Martin, Keith Galloway, Matthew Lodge, Martin Tapau, Tim Moltzen and Pat Richards, acquisitions such as Tim Grant, Matt Ballin, Michael Chee-Kam, Joel Edwards, Justin Hunt and Jack Littlejohn will give the club good depth going into 2016 on top of their already talented roster.

The most important thing for the Tigers is consistency. With extremely talented but inexperienced spine players Mitchell Moses, Luke Brooks and James Tedesco, the ingredients for long term success are already present at the club but in order to build momentum heading into the finals, the Tigers’ rookie trio must perform if the club is to succeed.

The talented trio of Tedesco, Moses and Brooks are integral to the Tigers’ on-field performance, but the time for them to stand up and shake off the rookie tag is fast approaching.

2016 Gains: Josh Addo-Carr (Cronulla Sharks, 2016), Josh Aloiai (Parramatta Eels, 2016), Matt Ballin (Manly Sea Eagles, 2017), Michael Chee-Kam (Manly Sea Eagles, 2016), Joel Edwards (Canberra Raiders, 2017), Tim Grant (South Sydney Rabbitohs, 2017), Rod Griffin (2016), Justin Hunt (St George Illawarra Dragons, 2016), Jack Littlejohn (Manly Sea Eagles, 2016), Billy McConnachie (2016), Jesse Parahi (2016), Jordan Rankin (Hull FC, 2017)

2016 Losses: Sitaleki Akauola (Penrith Panthers), Salesi Funaki (Brisbane Broncos), Keith Galloway (Leeds Rhinos), Matthew Lodge (released), Te Maire Martin (Penrith Panthers), Shannon McDonnell (St Helens RLFC), Tim Moltzen (Manly Sea Eagles), Pat Richards (Catalan Dragons), Kurtis Rowe (QLD Cup), Marion Seve (Brisbane Broncos), Martin Taupau (Manly Sea Eagles), Matthew Woods (Parramatta Eels)

Re-Signed: Jack Buchanan (2016), Dene Halatau (2016), Watson Heleta (2017), Kyle Lovett (2017), Kevin Naiqama (2017), Ava Seumanufagai (2017), Tim Simona (2017)
Off Contract 2015: Michael Bullock, Andy Fiagatusa, Joel Luani, Keith Lulia, Penani Manumalealii, Brenden Santi, John Sila

2016 Coach: Jason Taylor

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The St George Illawarra Dragons had an encouraging year in 2015 that saw the club return to the finals for the first time since 2011. With coach Paul McGregor coming into only his second year as the Dragons’ head coach, the team looks to be developing well under his tutelage.

The Dragons led the competition at times throughout last season, and their defence was a noted strength they will take into 2016. Significant signings for the club include Kalifa Faifai Loa, Siliva Havili, Tim Lafai, Kurt Mann, Russell Packer and Adam Quinlan, all of whom will add welcome depth with Mann, Lafai and Packer all likely to play significant large roles in the Dragons’ 17.

The Dragons showed a lot of improvement under Paul McGregor last year and expect further improvement as McGregor continues to work with his squad. NSW Origin representative Josh Dugan looks set for a positional switch to the centres, with recruit Kurt Mann likely to take the fullback position in a significant change for the club’s spine.

The Dragons came 8th on the NRL ladder at the conclusion in 2015, but the club can hold its head high after going down to the Bulldogs in a brutal extra-time affair. After wearing criticism for being soft, Paul McGregor’s men look to have responded well to criticism and with a good recruitment drive, the Dragons certainly have a squad capable of making a premiership tilt. There is still a lot of improvement left to go but they look to be on the right track for 2016.

2016 Gains: Kalifa Faifai Loa (Gold Coast Titans, 2017), Siliva Havili (New Zealand Warriors, 2017), Sebastine Ikahihifo (New Zealand Warriors, 2017), Tim Lafai (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, 2017), Dunamis Lui (Manly Sea Eagles, 2017), Kurt Mann (Melbourne Storm, 2017), Mose Masoe (St Helens RLFC, 2017), Tyrone McCarthy (Hull Kingston Rovers, 2017), Josh McCrone (Canberra Raiders, 2017), Taane Milne (Sydney Roosters, 2017), Shaun Nona (Melbourne Storm, 2016), Russell Packer (2017), Adam Quinlan (Mid Season: Parramatta Eels, 2016)

2016 Losses: Shannon Crook (released), Addin Fonua-Blake (released), Craig Garvey (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Nathan Green (Manly Sea Eagles), Dan Hunt (retired), Justin Hunt (Wests Tigers), Mark Ioane (London Broncos), Jack Kavanagh (released), Kris Keating (released), Heath L’Estrange (retired), Trent Merrin (Penrith Panthers), Eto Nabuli (rugby union), Dane Nielsen (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Rory O’Brien (Parramatta Eels), Luke Page (QLD Cup), Charly Runciman (Widnes Vikings), Adam Tuimavave-Gerrard (released), Shannon Wakeman (released)

Re-Signed: Leeson Ah Mau (2018), Euan Aitken (2017), Tom Carr (2016), Mike Cooper (2017), Ben Creagh (2016), Yaw Kiti Glymin (2017), Patrick Herbert (2017), Jake Marketo (2016), Peter Mata’utia (2017), Will Matthews (2017), Jason Nightingale (2017)

Off Contract 2015: Fraser Alcock, Beau Henry, Rulon Nutira, George Rose

2016 Coach: Paul McGregor

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The North Queensland Cowboys head into the 2016 season on the back of their maiden premiership victory last year that was the culmination of a fantastic season of football. In a rare occurrence, coach Paul Green has managed to keep his premiership winning team completely intact, with the Grand Final winning side the same side likely to take the field in round one, barring injuries. The Queensland club will also reap the benefits of the continued development of the inexperience Jason Taumololo, Ethan Lowe, Michael Morgan and John Asiata.

The biggest challenge for the Cowboys in 2016 is the classic second-year-syndrome. Winning a premiership absorbs a lot of the passion and desire from the playing group, but with one of the best lineups in the competition, Green will be confident of his side’s chances this year.

The only signings for the Cowboys were Shaun Hudson and Jahrome Hughes, who will provide solid injury cover in the backs.

The Cowboys biggest enemy this year will be themselves, if they can remain secure a finals berth and bring momentum into the finals series, they could be the first back-to-back premiers since the Broncos in the super-league era. Signs are good for the Cowboys in 2016 after their fantastic performance against the Leeds Rhinos in the World Cup Challenge, but it would be a monumental effort from Paul Green’s men to threaten for the premiership in two consecutive years.

2016 Gains: Shaun Hudson (Gold Coast Titans, 2017), Jahrome Hughes (2016)

2016 Losses: Glenn Hall (retired), Viliame Kikau (Penrith Panthers), Cameron King (Parramatta Eels), Robert Lui (Salford Red Devils), Zac Santo (Canberra Raiders), Scott Schulte (Parramatta Eels), Kelepi Tanginoa (Parramatta Eels)

Re-Signed: John Asiata (2017), Scott Bolton (2017), Josh Chudleigh (2016), Jake Granville (2018), Ben Hannant (2016), Coen Hess (2018), Kyle Laybutt (2017), Ethan Lowe (2016), Michael Morgan (2018), Gideon Mosby-Gela (2017), Ben Spina (2017), Jason Taumalolo (2017), Ray Thompson (2017)
Off Contract 2015: Hezron Murgha

2016 Coach: Paul Green

Player movements provided by Zero Tackle.



Broncos to Win the Premiership @ $4.75 (Sportsbet)

Manly to make Top 8 @ $1.50 (William Hill)

Rabbitohs to miss the Top 8 @ $2.20 (Sportsbet)


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