What your team needs in 2017: Part 1
With most NRL clubs looking ahead to next season we look at where your team could improve heading into the 2017 Telstra Premiership campaign.
Key 2016 stats: Attack 16th, Defence 16th, Run Metres 16th, Line Breaks 16th
What they've got: A young, largely inexperienced team that isn't too familiar with winning yet. Major improvements are needed across the board in order to transform the Knights into a finals contender, but at this stage the focus is on overhauling the club's salary cap situation in order to bring in quality new talent.
What they need: The Knights have a couple of quality, experienced halves and some promising outside backs, but need some major improvements in the forward pack in order to be competitive. Improved depth across the board wouldn't go astray. The club could do worse than making a move for a defensive workhorse like Mounties lock Shaun Fensom and Warriors young gun Tui Lolohea, who may be squeezed out of the Warriors' first grade side by new signing Kieran Foran.
What they're getting: No big names of note just yet, but with Tariq Sims, Jeremy Smith, James McManus, Kade Snowden and Robbie Rochow having made way there is certainly some money to spend at Newcastle now. They've been linked to the likes of Greg Bird, Paul Vaughan, Rory Kostjasyn, and Chris Heighington, who would all be welcome signings.
UPDATE: Newcastle have recruited Jamie Buhrer from the Sea Eagles, with Akuila Uate departing the club for Manly. Considering Buhrer's experience, defensive ability and utility value, it looks like a good bit of business for a Knights side that was spending a large chunk of their salary cap on Uate.
Key 2016 stats: Attack 14th, Defence 13th, Offloads 3rd, Ball Control 16th, Tackle Breaks 2nd
What they've got: A team with a lot of talent that underperformed badly in 2016, albeit after losing three big stars for the first two months of the campaign. Their defence was bad and their attack was worse over the course of the season, with no team making more handling errors than the Tricolours.
What they need: To keep their stars on the field next season. It took a long time for the Roosters to get their act together this year but when they finally did they showed they could match it with the league's best, beating Brisbane and North Queensland in the space of three weeks. No players have made the fullback and five-eighth positions their own yet after the departures of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and James Maloney a year ago.
What they're getting: Michael Gordon and Luke Keary are a couple of fairly high profile recruits, and while they aren't quite like-for-like replacements for Tuivasa-Sheck and Maloney they do at least add some crucial depth to the spine. Former Knight Zane Tetevano and ex-Manly forward Liam Knight add some depth to the pack, while former Rabbitoh Paul Carter is also expected to join the Tricolours.
Key 2016 stats: Attack 13th, Defence 7th, Tackle Breaks 6th
What they've got: A promising team coming off a hell of a year. Just about everything went wrong off the field for the Eels in 2016 but Brad Arthur's side kept competing until the end, with several young guns impressing and Corey Norman stepping up a level in the playmaker role. Kieran Foran and Nathan Peats may be gone but Bevan French has made the fullback spot his own while Clint Gutherson was surprisingly effective at five-eighth after Foran's exit.
What they need: A bit more star power and experience. Foran, Peats, Michael Gordon and Anthony Watmough are all big names to lose – even if Foran and Watmough weren't around long enough to make much of an impact – and it remains to be seen whether the young side now at Arthur's disposal can perform consistently next season against the league's more experienced teams.
What they're getting: Not a lot on the way yet, although with Foran gone the club should have a bit of spending power despite their salary cap constraints. Intrust Super Cup-winning Burleigh Bears captain Jamal Fogerty adds some handy depth in the halves while Nathan Brown, George Jennings and Siosia Vave all bring NRL experience.
UPDATE: The Eels have snapped up Gold Coast Titans outside back Josh Hoffman on a three-year deal.
MANLY-WARRINGAH SEA EAGLES
Key 2016 stats: Attack 12th, Defence 12th, Tackle Breaks 15th, Completion Rate =6th
What they've got: A team that continues to be on the wane despite a big turnaround of playing talent (and coach) at the start of the year. Jamie Lyon's retirement marks an end of an era for the Sea Eagles, with the Trbojevic brothers looking like the most exciting part of the club's future. Recent recruits like Dylan Walker, Martin Taupau and Matt Parcell have made decent starts to their Manly careers but haven't quite made the impact the club would have hoped – and the same can be said of coach Trent Barrett.
What they need: A specialist half to partner with Daly Cherry-Evans, with Lyon, Walker and Apisai Koroisau having all been tried at five-eighth in 2016. The team also lacked attacking spark this year to be ranked second last in tackle breaks despite featuring some gifted ball-runners in Taupau and Tom Trobejevic. They've had a big clean-out of playing talent at the end of 2016 so will be looking to add some depth.
What they're getting: Melbourne's Blake Green and Titans young gun Cameron Cullen fit the bill as a couple of halves options to cover both the short and long term.
UPDATE: The Sea Eagles have brought in Knights winger Akuila Uate, a gifted attacking weapon albeit one who has had an erratic past few seasons. Jamie Buhrer left the club for Newcastle as part of the deal.