Your club's New Year's resolution
It's the time to look forward to what 2015 will bring, so we're taking a look at what your team will be hoping to improve on in the new year.
The Broncos would be well served in adopting the famous line from Dead Poets' Society and inscribing "Carpe Diem" on the locker room wall heading into 2015, as they were left to rue a number of games that got away in 2014. Brisbane lost seven games by fewer than 10 points last season, and only just scraped into the finals for the first time in three years courtesy of Canberra's upset of Parramatta and Penrith's win over the Warriors in the final round. Against the Roosters, Rabbitohs, Eels and Sharks they let golden opportunities slip through their fingers so when they present themselves for the upcoming season they have to be prepared to seize the moment.
Raiders fans would love for the excuses to stop. We're not sure what impact it has on a player's confidence when your coach announces your team won't start winning games until you can sign some rep players, but Ricky Stuart's infamous late season rant about not being able to recruit star players didn't sit well with plenty of Green Machine faithful. The easiest way to stop making excuses for losing is to start winning, but a commitment to do-or-die with the current roster instead of bemoaning a lack of recruits would be an excellent start.
No more upsetting James Graham, even more so now that he's probably going to be captain and given the freedom to call a personal meeting. No more suspensions for Josh Reynolds; someone needs to go buy a leash for that little terrier and tell him he's no good for the team off the park. And no more Origin meltdowns either – the Bulldogs could have up to eight players (Josh Morris, Brett Morris, Lafai, Reynolds, Hodkinson, Jackson, Williams, Klemmer) in NSW jumpers next season, which must be some kind of record.
Their New Year resolution is quite simple: "Stay out of trouble." After the club's ASADA dramas, the sacking of Todd Carney and Andrew Fifita's PR blunders, Cronulla would love to avoid another tumultuous year off the field. It is a resolution that is sure to be embraced by returning coach Shane Flanagan and a veteran recruit like Michael Ennis as they look to rebuild and reshape Cronulla's culture.
Gold Coast Titans
At the top of the Titans' resolutions should be a determination to not do stupid things in 2015, both on and off the field. As a result of their insistence on using offloads as their primary attacking weapon, no team made more errors per game than the Titans (12.7) in 2014 while their off-field record over the past 12 months has been similarly embarrassing. Five first-graders have caught the ire of the police and as the club seeks to repair any damage to the brand they cannot afford the mistakes of the past to be repeated.
Manly Sea Eagles
Find a way to hang with the big forward packs of the NRL. For a decade Manly's strength has been in their mobile but tough-as-nails forward pack. But with the loss of Glenn Stewart, Anthony Watmough, Brent Kite, Jason King and Joe Galuvao, the aura around Manly has been significantly weakened. There is no doubting the club's ever-present backline firepower, but if the forwards cannot stand up it could be a long year.
If Melbourne's New Year resolution isn't "Find a consistent five-eighth" then they're off to a poor start in 2015. Since Gareth Widdop left the club, the Storm have missed the pleasure of a consistent six to work alongside their famous 'Big Three'. There are plenty of options at the club with Blake Green, Ben Hampton, Shaun Nona and Kurt Mann all capable of playing in the halves, but coach Bellamy needs to pick one and stick with him to maximise the chances of the club's chances.
Newcastle finished off the year in a promising fashion, with eight wins from their final 11 fixtures at the end of a season they would otherwise like to forget. They were particularly strong at home, winning their last five games at Hunter Stadium to finish off the year. Their New Year's resolution then would be to continue making Hunter Stadium a fortress – a venue where opposition teams dread to play.
North Queensland Cowboys
Making their Sydney hoodoo a thing of the past is the only way the Cowboys can graduate from potential threat to premiership force. It took until Round 19 against the Sharks before the Cowboys had registered a win anywhere other than in North Queensland last season, while in 2013 their away record read an unfulfilling five wins from 13 games on the road. Wins against the Bulldogs and Rabbitohs (both at ANZ Stadium) late in 2014 went some way to dispelling the myth they couldn't win in Sydney, but the Cowboys must chalk up a couple of good away wins early to provide the platform they need for a top-four finish.
Repeat after me: We shalt not to expect a Jarryd Hayne season from a non-Jarryd Hayne player – to do so of Will Hopoate would be no good for the soul. We shalt not to expect Tepai Moeroa to be Nathan Hindmarsh either – that too is unhealthy for the body, as well as for the shorts manufacturers. But we shall totally expect a Brad Arthur-like season from Brad Arthur – he was far crankier than the previous coach (which is saying something), and word has it the second-year man is on a double dose of the angry pills this year. Everything else is just gravy, so long as the Eels manage to make the top eight.
To keep hiding more state level – and maybe even international level – secrets, like that of surprise packets Matt Moylan and Adam Docker. You can't hide everyone, particularly with names like Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, but the more surprises like that, the better the salary cap can stay in shape. Whatever sweet-somethings Ivan Cleary was whispering to Jamie Soward last season also needs to be continued from January onwards – 2014 was one of the most honest and open seasons of the playmaker's career. Lastly, there needs to be a missed tackle or penalty conceded jar in Ivan Cleary's office. The Panthers finished fifth-worst in the NRL in both those categories last season, and it's a time-honoured method of making players either ship up or pay out for the end of season trip to Hawaii.
South Sydney Rabbitohs
The South Sydney Rabbitohs must vow to look only forward and never backwards in 2015. It's a new year, with a new team, and memories of a drought-breaking premiership or thoughts of the crucial players who have now departed won't help anyone come the first week of March. The Rabbitohs scored the equal-most tries in 2014 and conceded the fewest, ran the second-most metres, were mid-table for penalties conceded and have continuity in all the playmaking positions going into 2015; if coach Michael Maguire can have them as switched on again as they were at the end of 2014 they'll be a force once again.
St George Illawarra Dragons
To muscle up in the middle. With some big bodies recruited in the likes of George Rose, Rulon Nutira and Rory O'Brien, as well as a (hopefully) fit-again Tyson Frizell and the still-improving Jack De Belin alongside captain Ben Creagh – and potentially a massive (in every sense of the word) signing in Kiwi Test prop Russell Packer, pending NRL approval – the Dragons need to turn what had been a weakness in 2014 into a strength. No backwards steps. Aggro. Mongrel. Aggression. The Dragons pack, to a man, needs to vow to bring it on in 2015.
To hear the referee's whistle less in 2015. No team was penalised more often, or dropped the ball more times, than the Roosters in 2014. And while playing on the edge of the line is part of what has made them so effective in recent years, the amount of penalties they give away does more harm than good, and the recent increase in handling errors is cause for concern. In a competition that is so even, constantly piggybacking teams down the field and having to defend repeat sets is asking for trouble. They need to stay on the right side of the men in pink if they want to climb back to the top of the NRL heap.
Don't waste your opportunities; win ugly. The Warriors have a talented roster and an intimidating home ground, but they have got to find a way to become consistent and win the games that matter. They have made two grand finals in their history, but so far haven't been able to go the next step. With an enviable roster chock-full of skill and attacking potency, the Warriors need to get the monkey off their back and start fulfilling their potential.
The Tigers must promise to score more points (14th in the NRL) and make more line breaks (15th) in attack. And also pledge to miss fewer tackles (15th), commit fewer errors (15th) and concede fewer penalties (14th), points (16th) and line breaks (16th) in defence. It's not too long a list, is it? It's true that the young team needs steady improvement across the board, but a new festive season brings new hope.