NRL 2017 Season Preview and Bets

The wait for the impending NRL season has felt like an eternity, but thankfully we’re just days away from the first kick off!

Our resident preview writer and tipster Ben Jenkins is back for another stint in 2017 to help us find some winners laden with value amongst every run, kick and tackle.

There’s no better way to start than with a preview of every team, their lineups and prospective chances in the new season. Good luck punters!


Raiders to win the Premiership @ $9.00 (William Hill)

Warriors to make the Top 8 @ $1.70 (Luxbet)

Roosters to make the Top 8 @ $1.66 (Bet365)




The 2016 season was a disappointment to fans and players alike for the Broncos – particularly after the lofty heights of the 2015 grand final – and with star halfback Ben Hunt set to join the Dragons for the 2018 season, Brisbane’s premiership window is closing fast.

Despite the loss of Hunt, the Broncos have overseen a superb off-season recruitment drive which should provide insurance against the lack of depth that sabotaged Brisbane during the Origin period last year. The shortage of depth in the outside backs has been remedied by the inclusion of Tatau Moga, David Mead, Moses Pangai and Benji Marshall, while the front-row stocks will be bolstered by the signing of Korbin Sims and Mitchell Dodds.

In addition to this recruitment drive, coach Wayne Bennett looks set to benefit from the development of promising stars Jaydn Su’a, Jai Arrow, Tom Opacic, Tevita Pangai Jr, Kodi Nikorima, Jonus Pearson and Joe Ofahengaue, whose recent development has them well placed to become NRL regulars.

With better depth across their squad, the Broncos’ recruitment will ensure State of Origin representation and injury do not impact the team as severely as last year. However, question marks remain over the Broncos’ pack. With the retirement of Corey Parker and Jarrod Wallace’s move to the Titans, young forwards such as Joe Ofahengaue, Tevita Pangai Jr, Francis Molo and Jai Arrow must go to another level and prove worthy of big minutes in the middle. If they don’t, coach Wayne Bennett will find himself with a talented roster, but a forward pack with very few established front-rowers.

The overarching linchpin of the 2017 season for the Broncos is their rookies. There are enormous amounts of talent in the Broncos’ less experienced players, but it will be Wayne Bennett’s ability to convert this talent to success in the NRL that decides the direction of the Broncos’ season.

2017 Gains: Mitchell Dodds (Warrington Wolves, 2017), Benji Marshall (St George Illawarra Dragons, 2017), David Mead (Gold Coast Titans, 2017), Tautau Moga (North Queensland Cowboys, 2018), Moses Pangai (2018), Tevita Pangai (Mid Season: Canberra Raiders, 2018), Korbin Sims (Newcastle Knights, 2018)
2017 Losses: Carlin Anderson (TSV Blackhawks), Greg Eden (Castleford Tigers), Brett Greinke (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Lachlan Maranta (rugby union), Darren Nicholls (Penrith Panthers), Corey Parker (retired), Jack Reed (retired), Jarrod Wallace (Gold Coast Titans)

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The Cronulla Sutherland Sharks reached premiership glory in 2016 for the first time in their 50-year history and the Shire club look set for another big year with coach Shane Flanagan managing his roster well in the off-season. While most premiership-winning clubs are usually desperate to retain their talent, the departure of Ben Barba and Paul Gallen’s imminent retirement leaves the Sharks in a very comfortable salary-cap position going forward.

The recruitment of Manaia Cherrington, Jeremy Latimore, Daniel Mortimer and Tony Williams are solid pickups for the Sharks to cover the retirement of Michael Ennis and departure of David Fifita and Mitch Brown to the super league, however there is still a lack of depth at dummy-half for the Cronulla club.

In 2016, the Sharks played with a physicality that was rarely matched by their opposition, but with their squad’s premiership dreams realized, second year syndrome may impact in their on-field intensity. The retirement of dominant dummy-half Michael Ennis also has the potential to impact the Sharks’ pack enormously, but persistent rumours the Sharks are looking to pursue James Segeyaro – who is available to sign but still registered with Leeds Rhinos of the Super League – should give Sharks faithful some hope.

Whether the Sharks can find a solution for their lack of hooking options will be an important factor in the success of their season. But the Cronulla club still has a roster brimming with talent and after a wonderful season last year expect the Sharks to go deep into the finals.

2017 Gains: Manaia Cherrington (Wests Tigers, 2017), Jeremy Latimore (Penrith Panthers, 2017), Daniel Mortimer (Gold Coast Titans, 2017), Tony Williams (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, 2017)
2017 Losses: Ben Barba (French Rugby), Mitch Brown (Leigh Centurions), Josh Cleeland (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Michael Ennis (retired), David Fifita (Wakefield Trinity), Jacob Gagan (Newcastle Knights), Matt McIlwrick (Wests Tigers), Anthony Moraitis (released), Junior Roqica (London Broncos), Jesse Sene-Lefao (Castleford Tigers), Connor Tracey (South Sydney Rabbitohs)

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The Wests Tigers have been a struggling club for many years now, but coach Jason Taylor’s work looks to be paying dividends as he continues to offload a number of under-performing players and develop his roster.

Wests will go into the 2017 season with a renewed sense of purpose and hope that hasn’t been present at the club for many years. With Robbie Farah’s drawn-out departure from the club finalised, fans will hope the in-fighting in the Tigers administration falls to the wayside as a number of upcoming stars make their mark. The 2016 form of James Tedesco, Mitchell Moses, Luke Brooks, Elijah Taylor and captain Aaron Woods has laid the foundation for a squad that can threaten for the premiership and the results of last year showed great potential.

The recent signing of Elijah Taylor and Jamal Idris are good indications the club is making sound recruitment decisions going forward, with Matt McIlwrick and Moses Suli also set to provide good depth and value.

The Tigers have a long way to go to before they will be able to threaten for a premiership, but the club looks to be making the right moves as the administration becomes more settled and focused on long term outcomes. While the improvements made may not necessarily translate to a finals berth for the 2017 season, the Tigers outfit certainly have the potential to make the top eight.

2017 Gains: Jamal Idris (2017), Matt McIlwrick (Cronulla Sharks, 2017), Moses Suli (2020), Elijah Taylor (Mid Season: Penrith Panthers, 2018)
2017 Losses: Josh Addo-Carr (Melbourne Storm), Jack Buchanan (Widnes Vikings), Tyler Cassel (released), Manaia Cherrington (Cronulla Sharks), Josh Drinkwater (Leigh Centurions), Robbie Farah (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Asipeli Fine (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Dallas Graham (released), Rod Griffin (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Dene Halatau (retired), Lamar Liolevave (released), Billy McConnachie (released), Nathan Milone (released), Jesse Parahi (Rugby Sevens), Chance Peni (rugby union), Curtis Sironen (Manly Sea Eagles)

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The Gold Coast Titans will go into the 2017 season with enormous potential and after a long period of controversy for the club, coach Neil Henry has developed his team into a dangerous outfit. From the low-point of a drug controversy and contract debacle with Daly-Cherry Evans in early 2016, Henry led his outfit to an unlikely finals berth and has continued to make improvements during the off-season.

In addition to 2016 mid-season recruits Jarryd Hayne, Konrad Hurrell and Nathan Peats the Titans will add Jarrod Wallace, Kevin Proctor, Dan Sarginson and Daniel Vidot to their squad in an enormous boost to their roster, particularly given the departure of veterans Greg Bird, Nathan Friend, David Mead and David Shillington.

The Titans are also set to put together an extremely potent halves combination with upcoming star Kane Elgey to combine with 2016 rookie of the year Ashley Taylor for the first time after Elgey was scratched out of 2016 with a knee injury.

In his short time at the club, Neil Henry has developed his roster into one of the best in the competition. With both halves Ashley Taylor and Kane Elgey possessing the potential to be representative staples of the future, the Titans should expect to go deep into the finals in 2017. While there may yet be work to balance their team to threaten for the premiership, Titans fans should go into the new season comfortable in the knowledge that their team is capable of winning the competition.

2017 Gains: Konrad Hurrell (Mid Season: New Zealand Warriors, 2017), Nathan Peats (Mid Season: Parramatta Eels, 2017), Kevin Proctor (Melbourne Storm, 2020), Dan Sarginson (Wigan Warriors, 2018), Daniel Vidot (Salford Red Devils, 2018), Jarrod Wallace (Brisbane Broncos, 2019)
2017 Losses: Greg Bird (Catalan Dragons), Lachlan Burr (Leigh Centurions), Jed Cartwright (Penrith Panthers), Cameron Cullen (Manly Sea Eagles), Luke Douglas (St Helens RLFC), Nathan Friend (retired), David Hala (released), Josh Hoffman (Parramatta Eels), Brian Kelly (Manly Sea Eagles), Nene Macdonald (St George Illawarra Dragons), David Mead (Brisbane Broncos), Daniel Mortimer (Cronulla Sharks), David Shillington (retired), Matt Srama (retired), Shane Wright (North Queensland Cowboys)

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The Canberra Raiders performance last year was one of the biggest surprises of the season and after falling just one game short of the grand final in 2016, Raiders fans will be hoping their team can go one better this year.

Coach Ricky Stuart has been extremely active in the development of his roster in the past, but with the Raiders signing only journeyman Dunamis Lui, Makahesi Makatoa, Scott Sorensen and Jordan Turner, the former NSW mentor clearly believes his squad can win the competition. Dave Taylor also joined the club in the off-season on a train and trial deal but has yet to be offered a first-grade contract, however the former QLD representative looks likely to sign before round one.

Punters will be inclined to agree with Ricky Stuart’s assessment of his squad with the Raiders’ backline led by surprise powerhouse performances last season from the likes of Blake Austin and Joey Leilua, while Josh Hodgson and recent Kangaroos debutant Shannon Boyd impressed in the forwards.

With another season to develop combinations the Raiders’ squad looks extremely dangerous, and it is hard to see any weaknesses in Ricky Stuart’s squad. While a lot can change over the course of 26 rounds, expect the Raiders to go deep into the play-offs.

2017 Gains: Dunamis Lui (St George Illawarra Dragons, 2018), Makahesi Makatoa (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, 2017), Junior Paulo (Mid Season: Parramatta Eels, 2018), Scott Sorensen (2017), Jordan Turner (St Helens RLFC, 2018)
2017 Losses: Mitchell Barnett (Newcastle Knights), Jarrad Kennedy (Manly Sea Eagles), Brenko Lee (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Lachlan Lewis (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Frank-Paul Nu’uausala (Wigan Warriors), Tevita Pangai (Brisbane Broncos), Paul Vaughan (St George Illawarra Dragons), Sisa Waqa (rugby union), Sam Williams (Wakefield Trinity), Zac Woolford (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs)

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The New Zealand Warriors will go into 2017 looking to shake-up their struggling club after five successive years of missing the finals. New coach Stephen Kearney has headlined the arrivals with the former New Zealand mentor bringing years of experience under Wayne Bennett to the club as Kearney looks to guide his talented squad to the finals for the first time in years.

The sole signing of the Warriors for 2017 is Kieran Foran – who the NRL have recently cleared to make his club debut in round three – in a massive coup that will give Stephen Kearney the New Zealand international spine at his disposal.

With a large number of players departing the club – many of whom have been with the Warriors for years – Kearney will be looking to put his players on notice and keep the pressure on his whole roster. He has made a massive change to the leadership group as Roger Tuivasa-Sheck takes over from Ryan Hoffman as club captain and with an enormous amount of talent at the club, it remains to be seen if Kearney will look externally to balance his playing roster further.

The Warriors have an extremely talented roster and are one of the best teams in the competition at their best. But with a tumultuous history of change, the New Zealand club is a graveyard for ambitious coaches. Warriors fans will hope Stephen Kearney will be the secret ingredient to success as the Kiwi’s push for their first finals berth in years. Kieran Foran will be a key signing for the Warriors and if he reaches top form, expect the Kiwi’s to have a successful 2017 season.

2017 Gains: Kieran Foran (Parramatta Eels, 2017)
2017 Losses: Raymond Faitala-Mariner (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Ben Henry (retired), Konrad Hurrell (Gold Coast Titans), Shaun Lane (Manly Sea Eagles), Ali Lauitiiti (retired), Thomas Leuluai (Wigan Warriors), Sione Lousi (released), Marata Niukore (Parramatta Eels), John Palavi (released), Jeff Robson (Parramatta Eels), Henare Wells (released), Jonathan Wright (Manly Sea Eagles)

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The Melbourne Storm once again proved to be a dark-horse in 2016 after the loss of Billy Slater early in the year had many critics writing the Victoria club off. Cameron Munster proved his fantastic debut season in 2015 was no fluke and has again emerged as a genuine long term custodian option for the Storm. Despite the grand final loss against the Sharks, Melbourne fans should rest easy in the knowledge they have one of the best coaches and best rosters in the competition.

As usual, Craig Bellamy has overseen a solid recruitment drive. Having overseen the development of players such as Suliasi Vunivalu, Jordan McLean, Christian Welch and Tim Glasby in recent years, Bellamy has added another raft of journeyman to his side with Jahrome Hughes, Ryley Jacks, Justin Olam and Brandon Smith joining the club for the 2017 season. Talented winger Josh Addo-Carr will be the Storm’s biggest recruit for this season and looks to be a ready-made replacement for Marika Koroibete after impressing at the Auckland Nines.

With Bellamy still coy on a return date for the Billy Slater, rookie half Brodie Croft looks a chance to debut in the halves alongside Cooper Cronk in round one. Cameron Munster has trained for much of the pre-season at five-eighth, but expect both Croft and Slater to challenge the young custodian.

Coached by Craig Bellamy, the Storm have been one of the most consistently dangerous teams in the competition and their grand final pain from last season should motivate the club to go one better this year. Expect to see the Storm go deep into the finals.

2017 Gains: Josh Addo-Carr (Wests Tigers, 2019), Jahrome Hughes (North Queensland Cowboys, 2018), Ryley Jacks (2017), Vincent Leuluai (Mid Season: Sydney Roosters, 2018), Justin Olam (2018), Brandon Smith (North Queensland Cowboys, 2019)
2017 Losses: Blake Green (Manly Sea Eagles), Ben Hampton (North Queensland Cowboys), Richard Kennar (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Josh Kerr (St George Illawarra Dragons), Marika Koroibete (rugby union), Ryan Morgan (St Helens RLFC), Kevin Proctor (Gold Coast Titans), Francis Tualau (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs)

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The 2016 season was a difficult one for the Newcastle Knights but there are certainly signs the club is making the right moves going forward. Heading into coach Nathan Brown’s second season at the helm of the Hunter Valley club, the former Dragons and St Helen’s coach has made an enormous improvement to his still inexperienced roster and looks to have his club on track to improve on their season last year.

Brown has overseen a massive recruitment drive that has snared the likes of Jamie Buhrer, Ken Sio, Josh Starling, Rory Kostjasyn and Anthony Tupou in a massive injection of experience into his young squad. Further, the development of talented rookies Sione Mata’utia, Danny Levi, Brock Lamb, Daniel and Jacob Saifiti, Jaelen Feeney and Jack Stockwell has the club in good stead to make major improvements to their on-field performances this season.

With news the club signed rookie sensation Kalyn Ponga during the off-season largely overshadowed by veteran half Jarrod Mullen doping suspension, 2016 will be another difficult year for Newcastle, but the club has added a raft of talent and experience to their roster for the upcoming season and should improve their on-field results. While a finals appearance looks very unlikely from the Knights, the rebuilding of the once great club is well underway and 2017 should be a good step forward struggling club.

2017 Gains: Mitchell Barnett (Mid Season: Canberra Raiders, 2017), Jamie Buhrer (Manly Sea Eagles, 2018), Brendan Elliot (Mid Season: Sydney Roosters, 2017), Jacob Gagan (Cronulla Sharks, 2017), Rory Kostjasyn (North Queensland Cowboys, 2018), Peter Mata’utia (Mid Season: St George Illawarra Dragons, 2017), Ken Sio (Hull Kingston Rovers, 2018), Josh Starling (Manly Sea Eagles, 2017), Anthony Tupou (Wakefield Trinity, 2017), Joe Wardle (Huddersfield Giants, 2019)
2017 Losses: Jake Mamo (Huddersfield Giants), James McManus (retired), Robbie Rochow (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Korbin Sims (Brisbane Broncos), Tariq Sims (St George Illawarra Dragons), Jeremy Smith (retired), Kade Snowden (retired), Akuila Uate (Manly Sea Eagles)

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The Parramatta Eels are a club that is no stranger to controversy. In 2016 they were stripped of 12 competition points for breaches to their salary cap, star five-eighth Corey Norman was suspended for the last eight matches of the year due to a drug conviction and superstar winger Semi Radradra recently announcing he has signed for French Super Rugby club Toulon as he faces accusations of domestic violence in court. These are just some of the many dramas faced by the Eels, yet in 2016 coach Brad Arthur’s squad still managed to win 13 games and would have certainly made the finals if they had not been stripped of 12 competition points.

Heading into the 2017 season, there are many positives to take out of 2016. Rookie Bevan French looked very promising at fullback at the back-end of last season, while Clinton Gutherson also impressed playing out of position in the halves. Eels’ coach Brad Arthur’s chief concern should be his lack of depth in the halves and hooker positions, so don’t be surprised if an otherwise talented roster looks lost at times.

The club will benefit from a solid recruitment drive with Kirisome Auva’a, Nathan Brown, Josh Hoffman and Frank Pritchard head-lining the additions to the roster. Expect talented coach Brad Arthur to get the best from his new recruits after leading the Eels wonderfully under difficult circumstances.

The Eels performed extremely well under tough conditions last year, but with a full pre-season to put controversy behind them, expect the Parramatta club to produce good form on-field provided they steer clear of controversy. A lack of depth in their spine may prevent them from playing the football they are capable of, but the finals is still a very realistic goal for the Parramatta club this season.

2017 Gains: Kirisome Auva’a (South Sydney Rabbitohs, 2017), Nathan Brown (South Sydney Rabbitohs, 2018), Jamal Fogarty (2018), Josh Hoffman (Gold Coast Titans, 2019), George Jennings (Penrith Panthers, 2017), Suaia Matagi (Penrith Panthers, 2018), Marata Niukore (New Zealand Warriors, 2017), Frank Pritchard (Hull FC, 2017), Jeff Robson (Mid Season: New Zealand Warriors, 2017), Will Smith (Penrith Panthers, 2017), Siosaia Vave (Manly Sea Eagles, 2018)
2017 Losses: Mitch Cornish (Sydney Roosters), Kieran Foran (New Zealand Warriors), Tyrell Fuimaono (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Michael Gordon (Sydney Roosters), Luke Kelly (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Ryan Morgan (St Helens RLFC), Kieren Moss (Hull Kingston Rovers), Junior Paulo (Canberra Raiders), Nathan Peats (Gold Coast Titans), Vai Toutai (released), Anthony Watmough (retired), Danny Wicks (retired)

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After a relatively disappointing 2016 campaign in which the Cowboys failed to reach the heights of their premiership winning season of 2015, the North Queensland club face the difficulty of keeping together a premiership winning roster. With a distinct lack of depth in their forwards following the departure of James Tamou and retirement of Ben Hannant and the impending departure of rookie-sensation Kalyn Ponga, coach Paul Green will have his work cut out for him going into season 2017.

The Cowboys have added just three players to their roster with journeyman Ben Hampton, Corey Jensen and Shane Wright joining the club. While limited depth in the forwards could be a huge issue for 2017, young forwards Coen Hess, Ben Spina, Sam Hoare look well placed to go to another level and shore-up the front-row rotation from the bench.

After placing 4th in 2016, the Cowboys still have the ingredients to threaten for the premiership with superstar Jonathan Thurston leading a roster bursting with talent. But after the premiership hangover of 2016, expect the Queensland club to once again be sapped by representative selection. The Cowboys recent success has made them a target going forward, but if Paul Green can get the best from his big men, the Cowboys should be well placed to go deep into the finals.

2017 Gains: Ben Hampton (Melbourne Storm, 2019), Corey Jensen (2017), Shane Wright (Gold Coast Titans, 2018)
2017 Losses: Ben Hannant (retired), Jahrome Hughes (Melbourne Storm), Rory Kostjasyn (Newcastle Knights), Tautau Moga (Brisbane Broncos), Brandon Smith (Melbourne Storm), James Tamou (Penrith Panthers), Matthew Wright (Manly Sea Eagles)

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While many viewed the signing of Anthony Griffin as the Penrith Panthers’ coach for 2016 as a downgrade from Ivan Cleary, the former Broncos’ mentor has proven his critics wrong with a bold coaching style that payed dividends at the back-end of last season. Last year, Griffin released established players Jamie Soward and James Segeyaro mid-season in favour of rookie Nathan Cleary at halfback and usual halfback Peter Wallace at hooker to great effect.

The additions to the Panthers roster are headlined by Tim Browne, James Tamou and Mitch Rein with a number of other journeyman players joining the club. With these additions set to improve the depth of an already dangerous forward rotation, Griffin will also benefit from the return of representative backs Peta Hiku and Dean Whare from long term injury. Griffin’s roster-management has the club well placed for a good 2017 season, and the imminent return of talented rookie Te Maire Martin in the halves will be another boost for the Penrith club this year.

In 2016, Penrith’s chief concern was a lack of consistency, but if the team can avoid injuries in their key positions, their rookie halves pairing of Te Maire Martin and Nathan Cleary have enormous potential. With a roster bursting with talent and depth across all positions, Anthony Griffin did a wonderful job in his first season in charge of Penrith, so expect the Panthers to improve on their sixth placed finish last season and potentially go deep into the play-offs.

2017 Gains: Tim Browne (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, 2019), Jed Cartwright (Gold Coast Titans, 2019), Chris Grevsmuhl (Mid Season: South Sydney Rabbitohs, 2017), Samisoni Langi (South Sydney Rabbitohs, 2017), Darren Nicholls (Brisbane Broncos, 2017), Michael Oldfield (South Sydney Rabbitohs, 2017), Mitch Rein (St George Illawarra Dragons, 2018), Tony Satini (Manly Sea Eagles, 2017), James Tamou (North Queensland Cowboys, 2020)
2017 Losses: Braidon Burns (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Ben Garcia (Catalan Dragons), Josh Hall (released), Zak Hardaker (Castleford Tigers), Andrew Heffernan (Hull Kingston Rovers), George Jennings (Parramatta Eels), Robert Jennings (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Jeremy Latimore (Cronulla Sharks), Suaia Matagi (Parramatta Eels), Andy Saunders (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), James Segeyaro (Leeds Rhinos), Chris Smith (Sydney Roosters), Will Smith (Parramatta Eels), Jamie Soward (retired), Elijah Taylor (Wests Tigers)

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Under the tutelage of master coach Des Hasler, the Bulldogs have had much success with multiple grand final appearances in recent years. This success has yet to be translated into a grand-final victory and despite Hasler’s wonderful coaching record, many of the Bulldogs faithful grow restless. The ‘Dogs attack was heavily criticized toward the back-end of 2016 and with no star signings heading into the new season, Hasler will have to make do with his current roster.

A raft of players will join the club with talented yet unwanted outside back Brenko Lee headlining the club’s recruitment. Journeyman Tom Carr, Josh Cleeland, Michael Doolan, Richard Kennar are a handful of players who have joined the club, with the full list included below.

With no major-shakeup to the Bulldogs spine on the cards, Hasler will look to develop a more structured and controlled attack from halves Moses Mbye and Josh Reynolds. The Bulldogs chief strategy in recent times has been dominating the middle with an enormous forward rotation, but with the reduced number of interchanges, the Bulldogs will have to find a more flexible style to ensure they can keep their on-field intensity high.

The Bulldogs success will come down to their halves. Their forward pack remains one of the biggest and most talented in the competition, while the form of many outside backs is also an encouraging sign. If Reynolds and Mbye can play to their potential and compensate for their inherent lack of structured play, the Bulldogs may overcome the stagnation of 2016 but with limited depth in their halves, their season depends largely on the form of just two players.

2017 Gains: Tom Carr (St George Illawarra Dragons, 2018), Josh Cleeland (Cronulla Sharks, 2018), Michael Doolan (2017), Raymond Faitala-Mariner (Mid Season: New Zealand Warriors, 2019), Asipeli Fine (Mid Season: Wests Tigers, 2018), Rod Griffin (Wests Tigers, 2017), Richard Kennar (Melbourne Storm, 2018), Brenko Lee (Canberra Raiders, 2018), Lachlan Lewis (Mid Season: Canberra Raiders, 2018), Rhyse Martin (2018), Andy Saunders (Penrith Panthers, 2017), Francis Tualau (Melbourne Storm, 2019), Zac Woolford (Canberra Raiders, 2018)
2017 Losses: Tim Browne (Penrith Panthers), Dane Chisholm (Bradford Bulls), Graham Clark (released), Shaun Lane (Manly Sea Eagles), Lamar Liolevave (released), Makahesi Makatoa (Canberra Raiders), Lyndon McGrady (released), Jarrod McInally (QLD Cup), Pat O’Hanlon (retired), Lloyd Perrett (Manly Sea Eagles), Sam Perrett (retired), Curtis Rona (rugby union), Tony Williams (Cronulla Sharks)

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The St George Illawarra Dragons had a difficult 2016 campaign in which their lack of attacking flair was heavily criticized. In response, under-pressure coach Paul McGregor has placed a pre-season emphasis on unstructured attack for the 2017 season, but with a lack of depth in key spine positions, expect the Dragons’ attack to struggle again this year.

With a recruitment drive headlined by signings Cameron McInnes and Paul Vaughan as well as 2016 mid-season additions Nene Macdonald and Tariq Sims, the Dragons recruitment has been solid if unspectacular and with a glaring lack of depth in the halves after Drew Hutchinson’s ACL injury, no player has stood up to demand selection to partner Gareth Widdop at Halfback. The likely options are journeyman Josh MCrone, former Melbourne utility Kurt Mann or rookies Shaun Nona and Jai Field.

While the Dragon’s roster certainly has some glaring flaws, the signing of Vaughan and McInnes will go a long way to bolster a forward pack led by representative star Tyson Frizell. Talented hooker McInnes in particular should give the Dragons pack some direction after the departed Mitch Rein’s drop in form last year.

With very limited depth in the halves, coach Paul McGregor will wish the signing of star Broncos halfback Ben Hunt had come a year early. The Dragons desperately need someone to spearhead their offensive football and until Hunt arrives at the club, expect the Dragons to struggle.

2017 Gains: Levi Dodd (2017), Jacob Hind (2017), Josh Kerr (Melbourne Storm, 2018), Chris Lewis (2017), Nene Macdonald (Gold Coast Titans, 2019), Cameron McInnes (South Sydney Rabbitohs, 2018), Tariq Sims (Mid Season: Newcastle Knights, 2019), Paul Vaughan (Canberra Raiders, 2019)
2017 Losses: Tom Carr (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Mike Cooper (Warrington Wolves), Ben Creagh (retired), Dylan Farrell (retired), Sebastine Ikahihifo (Huddersfield Giants), Dunamis Lui (Canberra Raiders), Benji Marshall (Brisbane Broncos), Peter Mata’utia (Newcastle Knights), Adam Quinlan (Hull Kingston Rovers), Mitch Rein (Penrith Panthers)

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Sea Eagles


The Manly Sea Eagles struggled in 2016 in a difficult debut season for rookie coach Trent Barrett. A lot went against the Manly club last year including a long-term injury to star halfback and now captain Daly Cherry Evans and continued injuries to many other players. Barrett was handed a difficult task and after years of over-achieving in the NRL, an ageing roster lacking balance came back to sting Manly.

As with last pre-season, Trent Barrett has overseen an enormous recruitment drive that has snared former Melbourne and Roosters pivots Blake Green and Jackson Hastings, Shaun Lane, Lloyd Perrett, Curtis Sironen, Jonathan Wright and Akuila Uate. With a raft of other journeyman joining the club, Barrett is clearly banking on his ability to get the best from underperforming players and he will look to get the best possible value from his squad.

Manly look set to field a strong squad with Blake Green to partner Daly Cherry-Evans in the halves and rookie Tom Trbojevic set to start at fullback. Further, players such as recent Kangaroos debutant Jake Trbojevic and Dylan Walker look set for big years as they look to make their mark on the game.

There is no doubt the Sea Eagles’ roster has improved, but with a number of under-performing players amongst their recruits, the pressure will be on Trent Barrett to get the best from his squad. If the additions of Trbojevic and Green to the Sea Eagles’ spine gel, the team could be set for a big year, but a finals appearance is no guarantee for the Manly club.

2017 Gains: Cameron Cullen (Gold Coast Titans, 2018), Blake Green (Melbourne Storm, 2018), Jackson Hastings (Sydney Roosters, 2018), Brian Kelly (Gold Coast Titans, 2018), Jarrad Kennedy (Canberra Raiders, 2017), Shaun Lane (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, 2018), Joey Lussick (Sydney Roosters, 2017), Lloyd Perrett (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, 2019), Curtis Sironen (Wests Tigers, 2018), Akuila Uate (Newcastle Knights, 2018), Jonathan Wright (New Zealand Warriors, 2018), Matthew Wright (Mid Season: North Queensland Cowboys, 2019)
2017 Losses: Rhys Armstrong (released), Jamie Buhrer (Newcastle Knights), Luke Burgess (Catalan Dragons), Fabian Goodall (rugby union), Nathan Green (released), Nicholas Hynes (released), Isaac John (released), Dylan Kelly (released), Liam Knight (Sydney Roosters), Halauafu Lavaka (released), Blake Leary (released), Jamie Lyon (retired), Feleti Mateo (released), Tim Moltzen (retired), Matt Parcell (Leeds Rhinos), Hugh Pratt (released), Tony Satini (Penrith Panthers), Josh Starling (Newcastle Knights), Tom Symonds (Huddersfield Giants), Siosaia Vave (Parramatta Eels), Brayden Wiliame (Catalan Dragons)

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After claiming victory at the Auckland Nines and having displayed some wonderful form at the back end of 2016, the Roosters look set for a big year after their under-achieving 2016 campaign. With key players Boyd Cordner, Mitchell Pearce and Jarred Warea-Hargreaves missing for the first two months of last season, fans will hope the 2017 squads’ healthy roster will get the club back on track.

The club suffered enormously after the loss of spine players Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and James Maloney last year, but with signings of the experienced Michael Gordon and Luke Keary, coach Trent Robinson has plugged the holes in his roster, if only temporarily. Paul Carter and Mitch Cornish as well as a number of other players will also join the club for the 2017 season in a good boost for the ‘Chooks depth.

The depth at the Roosters will allow Trent Robinson to develop talented rookies Connor Watson and Latrell Mitchell at his own pace after they showed enormous potential last year, while the leadership of NSW and Kangaroos backrower and newly anointed co-captain Boyd Cordner should give the team momentum going forward. While it is doubtful Trent Robinson will bank on Michael Gordon or Luke Keary as long term options in his spine, it will be crucial for the development of Watson and Mitchell. The Roosters look set to improve enormously on their 2016 campaign and with their long-term future looking bright, don’t be surprised to see them playing finals football in 2016.

2017 Gains: Paul Carter (South Sydney Rabbitohs, 2017), Mitch Cornish (Parramatta Eels, 2017), Michael Gordon (Parramatta Eels, 2017), Brock Gray (South Sydney Rabbitohs, 2018), Luke Keary (South Sydney Rabbitohs, 2018), Liam Knight (Manly Sea Eagles, 2019), Brenden Santi (2017), Chris Smith (Mid Season: Penrith Panthers, 2017), Zane Tetevano (2017)
2017 Losses: Pakisonasi Afu (released), Joe Burgess (Wigan Warriors), Tyler Cornish (QLD Cup), Brendan Elliot (Newcastle Knights), Jackson Hastings (Manly Sea Eagles), Ian Henderson (retired), Vincent Leuluai (Melbourne Storm), Joey Lussick (Manly Sea Eagles), Sam Moa (Catalan Dragons), Charlie Taylor (released)

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The South Sydney Rabbitohs had a woeful 2016 season by the undoubtedly high standards of Michael Maguire but the experienced coach looks set to improve his teams’ performance after showing promising form at the back end of last year and a solid recruitment drive heading into the 2017 season.

Robbie Rochow and Robbie Farah will headline the new signings for the club, with Farah in particular to give the club some much needed experience at dummy half. The club was impacted heavily by the loss of Isaac Luke, and while Damien Cooke performed well at hooker for Souths last year, Farah will bring a lot of structure to the Rabbitohs’ pack.

Joining Rochow and Farah are a number of journeyman players that will give the club good depth for the season.

Souths struggled to maintain their high standards on-field last year and with a number of players departing the club, it was always going to take time for Maguire to rebuild a roster that can threaten for the premiership. While there is undoubtedly much work to do to reach that level, the club’s recruitment drive as well as their form from 2016 should hold the club in good stead to improve this year. While a finals appearance is no guarantee, it’s certainly within reach for the men in red and green.

2017 Gains: Braidon Burns (Penrith Panthers, 2018), Anthony Cherrington (2017), Robbie Farah (Wests Tigers, 2018), Tyrell Fuimaono (Parramatta Eels, 2018), Campbell Graham (2019), Brett Greinke (Mid Season: Brisbane Broncos, 2017), Mawene Hiroti (2019), Robert Jennings (Penrith Panthers, 2018), Luke Kelly (Parramatta Eels, 2017), Robbie Rochow (Newcastle Knights, 2017), Connor Tracey (Cronulla Sharks, 2018)
2017 Losses: Kirisome Auva’a (Parramatta Eels), Nathan Brown (Parramatta Eels), Joe Burgess (Wigan Warriors), Paul Carter (Sydney Roosters), Brock Gray (Sydney Roosters), Chris Grevsmuhl (Penrith Panthers), Tom HughesLuke Keary (Sydney Roosters), Samisoni Langi (Penrith Panthers), Cameron McInnes (St George Illawarra Dragons), Michael Oldfield (Penrith Panthers)

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