We name Round 1 teams for 2015
The competition for spots has already begun throughout the NRL and with little more than 100 days until the start of the 2015 NRL season, potential teams are starting to take shape.
New recruits are settling in, veterans are putting their bodies through what is perhaps their final pre-season and teammates are vigorously fighting for spots, whether they realise it or not.
So, when the competition kicks off in early March, how will your team look and how will it be different from this season? Read on to find out.
1. Justin Hodges, 2. Lachlan Maranta, 3. Jack Reed, 4. Dale Copley, 5. Daniel Vidot, 6. Anthony Milford, 7. Ben Hunt, 8. Josh McGuire, 9. Andrew McCullough, 10. Adam Blair, 11. Matt Gillett, 12. Sam Thaiday, 13. Corey Parker. Interchange: 14. Jarrod Wallace, 15. Alex Glenn, 16. James Gavet, 17. Corey Oates.
Brisbane were struck a blow after releasing fullbacks Josh Hoffman and Ben Barba when Darius Boyd injured his Achilles, putting him out until at least mid-year. In the reshuffle Justin Hodges is likely to return to fullback, with Dale Copley going to centre and Lachland Maranta starting on the wing with the other big 2015 recruit, Anthony Milford, to partner Ben Hunt in the halves. Matt Gillett, Dale Copley and Justin Hodges all had off-season surgery but are expected to be fit for Round 1 while fears James Gavet would require a shoulder reconstruction have been put to bed. Travis Waddell will also begin the year injured which allows Alex Glenn to fill the utility role off the bench.
1. Jack Wighton, 2. Sisa Waqa, 3. Jarrod Croker, 4. Jeremy Hawkins, 5. Edrick Lee, 6. Blake Austin, 7. Mitch Cornish, 8. Dane Tilse, 9. Josh Hodgson, 10. David Shillington (c), 11. Josh Papalii, 12. Joel Edwards, 13. Frank-Paul Nuuausala. Interchange: 14. Josh McCrone, 15. Shannon Boyd, 16. Jarrad Kennedy, 17. Paul Vaughan.
There are a few options for Ricky Stuart in key playmaking roles next year but we reckon he'd be mad not to give Jack Wighton an extended run at fullback after the youngster's scintillating form there in the latter stages of 2014. It's a vexed position with Milford having set sail for Brisbane but with plenty of quality three-quarters at the club the time could be right. Speaking of – Storm winger Sisa Waqa slots straight in on the wing and Jeremy Hawkins edges out Brenko Lee for first crack at centre. We've given England Test hooker Josh Hodgson first start despite a stack of dummy-half options in a tough call on Glen Buttriss. With Terry Campese reportedly on the outer in his last year, talented recruit Blake Austin partners junior Kangaroo Mitch Cornish in the halves. Shaun Fensom is set to miss the start of the season as he recovers from a major knee injury, with new signing Frank-Paul Nuuausala set to start at lock. Others on the radar include halfback Sam Williams, fullback Jordan Rapana and forwards such as Kyle O'Donnell and Iosia Soliola.
1. Brett Morris, 2. Corey Thompson, 3. Josh Morris, 4. Tim Lafai, 5. Sam Perrett, 6. Josh Reynolds, 7. Trent Hodkinson, 8. Aiden Tolman, 9. Michael Lichaa, 10. James Graham, 11. Tony Williams, 12. Josh Jackson, 13. Greg Eastwood. Interchange: 14. Dale Finucane, 15. David Klemmer, 16. Frank Pritchard, 17. Tim Browne/Sam Kasiano.
Star signing Brett Morris is a big chance of bumping Sam Perrett back out to the flank, a position the veteran flyer will have no problems excelling in as replacement for the departed Mitch Brown. Should that occur, it'll double the number of key positional changes for coach Des Hasler given they switched the heart of Michael Ennis with the more dynamic young Michael Lichaa out of the Shire. The only other improvements to the side come in the form of green-and-gold makeovers to Kangaroo pair David Klemmer and Josh Jackson.
1. Michael Gordon, 2. Sosaia Feki, 3. Ricky Leutele, 4. Gerard Beale, 5. Mitch Brown, 6. Ben Barba, 7. Jeff Robson, 8. Andrew Fifita, 9. Michael Ennis, 10. Sam Tagataese, 11. Luke Lewis, 12. Wade Graham, 13. Paul Gallen (c). Interchange: 14. Anthony Tupou, 15. Chris Heighington, 16. Jayson Bukuya, 17. Tinirau Arona.
Ben Barba is the big signing, with Cronulla hoping Todd Carney's replacement can rediscover his Dally M-winning form of 2012 after a quiet 2014 campaign with Brisbane. The other main arrivals are former Bulldogs skipper Michael Ennis, who slots in at hooker, and the return of Jayson Bukuya from the Warriors. Elsewhere, Sharks coach Shane Flanagan has an abundance of options to choose from in 2015 with plenty of men handed their debuts last season. While Blake Ayshford remains at the club, Dragons recruit and New Zealand international Gerard Beale is set to slot into the centres. Jacob Gagan and Valentine Holmes should consider themselves unlucky too with former Bulldogs winger Mitch Brown first in line for a wing spot. Tinirau Arona should jag a bench spot, with Tim Robinson or Matt Prior next in line to fill any void.
1. Josh Hoffman, 2. Anthony Don, 3. William Zillman, 4. James Roberts, 5. David Mead, 6. Aidan Sezer, 7. Daniel Mortimer, 8. Luke Douglas, 9. Beau Falloon, 10. Ryan James, 11. David Taylor, 12. Greg Bird (c), 13. Nate Myles (c). Interchange: 14. Paul Carter, 15. Matthew White, 16. Ben Ridge, 17. Matt Robinson.
The race to be Titans fullback in 2015 is by no means run and won but coach Neil Henry made it clear that if new recruit Josh Hoffman is the best option, that's where he will play. Anthony Don is likely to get the nod ahead of Kevin Gordon on the wing having been preferred at the back-end of 2014, with David Mead to cover the other flank. Prop forward Ryan James has started the pre-season well and is due to fill the void left by the departure of Luke Bailey. The centre position continues to be a contentious one while the back row – traditionally a strength of the Titans – is an all-Origin triumvirate. New recruits Lachlan Burr, Ryan Simpkins and David Hala could force Henry's hand with some big showings in the trial games.
MANLY WARRINGAH SEA EAGLES
1. Brett Stewart, 2. Peta Hiku, 3. Jamie Lyon (c), 4. Steve Matai, 5. Jorge Taufua, 6. Kieran Foran, 7. Daly Cherry-Evans, 8. Willie Mason, 9. Matt Ballin, 10. Brenton Lawrence, 11. Justin Horo, 12. Feleti Mateo, 13. Jamie Buhrer. Interchange: 14. Tom Symonds, 15. Josh Starling, 16. Jesse Sene-Lefao, 17. Dunamis Lui.
There is no doubting Manly's class backline which remains intact and has long been the envy of the competition, but it is the changes to the forward pack that will have their fans and rivals raising eyebrows in 2015. Gone are premiership-winning mainstays Jason King, Anthony Watmough and Glenn Stewart, and in their place are polarising 34-year-old Willie Mason and renowned enigma Feleti Mateo. The Sea Eagles look a little light in the engine room and the big question mark for season 2015 will be how Geoff Toovey manages his forward rotation. Can Manly still go toe-to-toe with the monster forward packs in 2015?
1. Billy Slater, 2. Marika Koroibete, 3. Will Chambers, 4. Mahe Fonua, 5. Justin O'Neill, 6. Blake Green, 7. Cooper Cronk, 8. Jesse Bromwich, 9. Ryan Hinchcliffe, 10. Tom Learoyd-Lahrs, 11. Kevin Proctor, 12. Tohu Harris, 13. Jordan McLean. Interchange: 14. Tim Glasby, 15. Kurt Mann, 16. Dayne Weston, 17. Kenny Bromwich.
After a sixth-placed finish that ranks as their worst season in almost a decade – with the exception of 2010 when they played for no competition points due to salary cap breaches – the Melbourne Storm head into 2015 with a lot of question marks hanging over them. Billy Slater is due back to join the 'big three' after undergoing off-season shoulder surgery while Blake Green is tipped to get the nod to partner Cooper Cronk in the halves, although he faces opposition from youngsters Kurt Mann and Ben Hampton though the former may earn a spot on the bench with Cameron Smith likely to miss the first few rounds of the season. New recruit Tom Learoyd-Lahrs will be looking to join the long list of Craig Bellamy acquisitions to have their rugby league career reborn in Victoria.
1. Sione Mata'utia, 2. Akuila Uate, 3. Joseph Leilua, 4. Dane Gagai, 5. James McManus, 6. Jarrod Mullen, 7. Kurt Gidley (c), 8. Kade Snowden, 9. Adam Clydsdale, 10. Jack Stockwell, 11. Robbie Rochow, 12. Beau Scott, 13. Jeremy Smith. Interchange: 14. Chris Houston, 15. Korbin Sims, 16. David Fa'alogo, 17. Tyrone Roberts.
The big question for the Knights is where to put Kurt Gidley – and, to a lesser extent, Sione "youngest ever Kangaroo" Mata'utia. It seems absurd to send an international back to NSW Cup or NYC but Uate and McManus are settled on the flanks for now. We've opted to move Gidley back to the halves to use Tyrone Roberts as a utility and give junior fullback Mata'utia a chance to show his wares in Darius Boyd's vacated No.1 jersey. Also, since this is our side for Round 1, there's no Tariq Sims, who will be serving his shoulder charge suspension for the first month of the competition, but expect him to be a walk-up starter when he is available for selection. Others on the radar are talented youngsters Jake Mamo, Joe Tapine, Carlos Tuimavave and Chanel Mata'utia.
NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS
1. Michael Morgan, 2. Antonio Winterstein, 3. Tautau Moga, 4. Kane Linnett, 5. Matthew Wright, 6. Robert Lui, 7. Johnathan Thurston (c), 8. Matt Scott (c), 9. Rory Kostjasyn, 10. James Tamou, 11. Gavin Cooper, 12. Jason Taumalolo, 13. Glenn Hall. Interchange: 14. Jake Granville, 15. Scott Bolton, 16. Ben Hannant, 17. Ethan Lowe.
Lachlan Coote is back but it is hard to see him forcing his way into the fullback spot given the success Michael Morgan made of his first season there in 2014. Morgan made a major impact on the Cowboys' attack and with Johnathan Thurston and Robert Lui now seemingly settled in the halves, Coote's task of breaking into the side becomes a difficult one. The departure of the Sims boys leaves some spots open in the forwards with Broncos recruits Ben Hannant and Jake Granville likely to figure early, with former Eel Kelepi Tanginoa waiting in the wings. The hooker position is perhaps the most hotly contested in North Queensland with Ray Thompson and Cameron King both trying to unseat Rory Kostjasyn who performed so admirably in 2014.
1. Will Hopoate, 2. Semi Radradra, 3. Brad Takairangi, 4. Ryan Morgan, 5. Vai Toutai, 6. Corey Norman, 7. Chris Sandow, 8. Tim Mannah (c), 9. Nathan Peats, 10. Junior Paulo, 11. Kenny Edwards, 12. Anthony Watmough, 13. Joseph Paulo. Interchange: 14. Isaac De Gois, 15. Manu Ma'u, 16. Darcy Lussick, 17. Tepai Moeroa.
The Eels look slightly different without one Jarryd Hayne playing centre stage at Pirtek, but who can blame a Minto kid for chasing his dreams? They'll give their highest-paid quick man Will Hopoate first crack in the No.1, opening a centre spot for someone such as big Brad Takairangi or an older head like Beau Champion. The return of an aggressive Nathan Peats brings a bit of relief in terms of firepower, but most of the spotlight will be on Manly renegade Anthony Watmough and how quickly he can bring Parramatta's band of young hitmen up to speed. Keep in mind: Chris Sandow's in a contract year, too. The last time that happened, he played well enough to land one of the biggest contracts in the league.
1. Matt Moylan, 2. Josh Mansour, 3. Dean Whare, 4. Jamal Idris, 5. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, 6. Jamie Soward, 7. Peter Wallace (c), 8. Brent Kite, 9. James Segeyaro, 10. Sam McKendry, 11. Bryce Cartwright, 12. Tyrone Peachey, 13. Elijah Taylor. Interchange: 14. Adam Docker, 15. Jeremy Latimore, 16. Nigel Plum, 17. Lewis Brown.
Penrith's 2015 roster will have barely changed from the one that returned to NRL relevancy last season, with South Sydney grand final hooker Apisai Koroisau the only notable signing over the summer. But their Round 1 side could be far different from the one that bowed out from this year's finals. In fact, coach Ivan Cleary could have an all-new back row should he pull Bryce Cartwright, Tyrone Peachey and Elijah Taylor straight off the injured shelf for Round 1. Halfback Peter Wallace will resume captaincy of the team, too. Veteran Sika Manu could be the odd man out.
SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS
1. Greg Inglis, 2. Alex Johnston, 3. Dylan Walker, 4. Bryson Goodwin, 5. Joel Reddy, 6. Luke Keary, 7. Adam Reynolds, 8. George Burgess, 9. Issac Luke, 10. David Tyrrell, 11. Chris McQueen, 12. John Sutton (c), 13. Glenn Stewart. Interchange: 14. Jason Clark, 15. Kyle Turner, 16. Tim Grant, 17. Tom Burgess.
The absence of Lote Tuqiri on the Rabbitohs' updated player profiles page would suggest the decorated winger will finish his career with a grand final triumph and Kirisome Auva'a now won't be seen until Round 22 at the earliest due to his NRL-imposed suspension. The departures of Sam Burgess and Ben Te'o leave two sizeable holes in the Rabbitohs' forward pack, although the signings of Tim Grant and Glenn Stewart should help soften the blow. Grant and Tom Burgess will likely start off the bench with coach Michael Maguire starting Dave Tyrrell up front in every single game in 2014. Kyle Turner and Chris McQueen may swap between starting and bench spots but experience should win out over youth.
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS
1. Josh Dugan, 2. Charly Runciman, 3. Dane Nielsen, 4. Dylan Farrell, 5. Jason Nightingale, 6. Gareth Widdop, 7. Benji Marshall, 8. Ben Creagh (c), 9. Mitch Rein, 10. Tyson Frizell, 11. Leeson Ah Mau, 12. Joel Thompson, 13. Trent Merrin. Interchange: 14. Jack De Belin, 15. Dan Hunt, 16. Mike Cooper, 17. George Rose.
A large slab of the Red V forward pack appears close to settled even this far out from 2015, with new signing George Rose a chance to force his way into the 17 on pure size alone. Possibly the biggest question is whether Dugan will stick it out at centre – where he was impressive without quite having the impact he can have at fullback. If he reverts to fullback it means no Adam Quinlan, but there are also questions over the three-quarter line. We've tipped promising youngster Charly Runciman to finally nail down a first-grade spot on the wing in the absence of Brett Morris, with Dylan Farrell to get first crack at centre (subject to fitness) after a 2014 ruined by injury ahead of the likes of Peter Mata'utia, Nathan Green and Yaw Kiti Glymin, and Warriors recruit Dane Nielsen to grab the other spot following Gerard Beale's departure to Cronulla. At this stage the bench has four forwards but expect the likes of Craig Garvey and Heath L'Estrange to feature at some point.
1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, 2. Nene Macdonald, 3. Michael Jennings, 4. Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 5. Daniel Tupou, 6. James Maloney, 7. Mitchell Pearce, 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, 9. Matt McIlwrick. 10. Sam Moa, 11. Mitchell Aubusson, 12. Boyd Cordner, 13. Aidan Guerra. Interchange: 14. Martin Kennedy, 15. Dylan Napa, 16. Isaac Liu, 17. Kane Evans.
Anthony Minichiello's retirement leaves Roger Tuivasa-Sheck primed for the biggest year of his career at fullback. Nene Macdonald will be next in line to take over Tuivasa-Sheck's on the flank but this is dependent on whether Blake Ferguson returns to the NRL with the Tricolours in 2015. The Roosters have lost some depth in the back row with Sonny Bill Williams and Frank-Paul Nuuausala leaving the club. Doubt remains over Jake Friend's fitness for Round 1 with the hooker contracting an infection delaying his off-season shoulder surgery. Friend's doubt paves the way for new recruit Matt McIlwrick to start at hooker, although Mitch Aubusson can slot in at hooker and rookie Jackson Hastings could come on to the bench and is even a smoky for fullback.
1. Sam Tomkins, 2. Glen Fisiiahi, 3. Ngani Laumape, 4. Konrad Hurrell, 5. Manu Vatuvei, 6. Chad Townsend, 7. Shaun Johnson, 8. Jacob Lillyman, 9. Nathan Friend, 10. Ben Matulino, 11. Ryan Hoffman, 12. Simon Mannering (c), 13. Sebastine Ikahihifo. Interchange: 14. Suaia Matagi, 15. Sam Rapira, 16. Ben Henry, 17. Thomas Leuluai.
On paper, this Warriors side could do anything in 2015. The signing of premiership winner and Australian Test forward Ryan Hoffman looks a shrewd investment to replace outgoing Feleti Mateo. Matt Allwood, Jono Wright and Api Pewhairangi are all a chance of claiming a centre spot at some stage, while Bodene Thompson joins the club from the Wests Tigers and will be pushing for a place in the starting 17. We've named Ben Henry as a bench forward but he could start in the back row or at lock, or play in the centres or at hooker if needed.
1. James Tedesco, 2. David Nofoaluma, 3. Chris Lawrence, 4. Tim Simona, 5. Pat Richards, 6. Mitchell Moses, 7. Luke Brooks, 8. Aaron Woods, 9. Robbie Farah (c), 10. Keith Galloway, 11. Curtis Sironen, 12. Sitaleki Akauola, 13. Dene Halatau. Interchange: 14. Martin Taupau, 15. Ava Seumanufagai, 16. Sauaso Sue, 17. Matthew Lodge.
A healthy back three would be a good start for Wests with James Tedesco, David Nofoaluma and Pat Richards – and centre-turned Samoa fullback Tim Simona – all failing to finish the 2014 season. The back-up playmaker role is now a concern given the exits of Braith Anasta and Blake Austin, as is the back row, where there is no longer Liam Fulton, Bodene Thompson, Adam Blair and Cory Paterson. Fringe first-graders Kevin Naiqama and Josh Drinkwater might jag a spot somewhere, but neither of them are second-rowers. For now, we've shifted Sitaleki Akauola and included veteran Dene Halatau at lock but there are plenty of blokes on the bench that will push for a starting spot.