What your team needs in 2016: Part 4
We analyse each NRL club's strengths and weaknesses in 2015, what ingredients they should be chasing next season and who they have recruited already for 2016.
Key 2015 stats: Completions – 2nd; Ball Control – 2nd; Defence – 2nd; Attack – 8th
What they've got: A very solid, professional team, led by one of the most astute coaches in the game and the superstar 'Big Three' of Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater. They also have arguably the game's best prop in Jesse Bromwich, the most underrated five-eighth in the league in Blake Green and one of the NRL's best back-up fullbacks in rookie sensation Cameron Munster. They may have been hit with a 'boring' tag by critics, but the Storm's solid defence and relatively mistake-free attack simply gets the job done.
What they need: It seems every year the Storm lose more names than they gain, and it looks like going that way again next season. Promising youngster Kurt Mann is on his way to the Dragons, club favourite Ryan Hinchcliffe and powerhouse centre Mahe Fonua are off to England, Tom Learoyd-Lahrs has retired, while veteran Dayne Weston and injury-troubled winger Matt Duffie are also departing. But Melbourne's chief recruiting task is filling out a decent squad around their four superstars, and Craig Bellamy tends to get the best out of even the least glamorous of signings.
What they're getting: Matthew White is just the type of experienced prop with a relatively low asking price that the Storm loves to recruit, while they've also added depth in the form of Canberra forward Mark Nicholls and Manly centre/winger Cheyse Blair.
Key 2015 stats: Attack – 1st; Defence – 1st; Tackle Breaks – 1st; Line Breaks – 1st; Run Metres – 2nd;
What they've got: Statistically, the Roosters were the best team in the competition in 2015. Apart from a tendency to give away penalties, something that has been a common trend for the club in the past few seasons, the Roosters were just about flawless this year and have star players all over the paddock. It was no surprise that they took out a third straight minor premiership – but a couple of key exits will have some predicting their premiership window may have come and gone.
What they need: To make up for the loss of superstar fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, who is bound for the Warriors after a single season wearing the No.1 jersey. Young gun Latrell Mitchell is waiting in the wings, while Blake Ferguson is one of several talented outside backs who could make the shift to the custodian role, but the Roosters have relied on RTS for a lot of metres this season and it'll be interesting to see how they cope without him. Five-eighth James Maloney is also gone, and he's another attacking weapon that the Tricolours have a talented but not overly experienced replacement for in Jackson Hastings.
What they're getting: Very promising Wigan speedster Joe Burgess will go some way towards making up for the departure of Tuivasa-Sheck. Jayden Nikorima could fill the bench utility/dummy-half role that brother Kodi does for the Broncos, while Scotland international hooker Ian Henderson arrives from Catalans Dragons.
Key 2015 stats: Defence – 3rd; Attack – 4th; Ball Control – 5th; Offloads – 12th
What they've got: A team that is once again a powerhouse in the NRL, with the return of their legendary coach Wayne Bennett and the arrival of several stars (Anthony Milford, Darius Boyd, Adam Blair) complimenting an already star-studded team this season.
What they need: To replace departing captain and star centre Justin Hodges. Hodges leaves the game still at the peak of his powers, playing a part in Queensland's Origin series win and the Broncos' rise up the ladder, and he won't be easy to replace.
What they're getting: Not much has been confirmed at this stage, with the recruitment of Carlin Anderson from the Ipswich Jets the only addition thus far. Several fringe players are departing, along with Hodges, but the fact that the bulk of Bennett's first-choice team will still be there in 2016 is a victory in itself. Expect the Broncos to challenge again next season.
Key 2015 stats: Completions – 1st; Run Metres – 1st; Attack – 2nd; Defence – 5th; Offloads – 15th
What they've got: A team that has finally broken its premiership drought, and will now face the burden of defending their title next season. They boast a great pack with two Kangaroos props and human wrecking ball Jason Taumalolo, plus arguably the best spine in the league with breakout stars Jake Granville and Lachlan Coote supporting Maroons super sub Michael Morgan and the best player in the world, Johnathan Thurston.
What they need: Not much. That forward pack earned the Cowboys more run metres than any other club during the 2015 regular season, ignoring offloads in favour of getting the hard yards done up the middle. And with Granville, Morgan and Coote having outstanding seasons, Thurston no longer feels the need to carry the team on his shoulders in attack – a factor which has somehow made the freakish halfback even better.
What they're getting: No big ins or outs for North Queensland at this stage, with Glen Hall's retirement the only expected change to the Cowboys' best 17. Like the other top teams, the key priority for North Queensland will be the retention of their big names over the next few years.