Top 10 big responsibilities for 2017
There comes a time where a player or a coach has to lift to new heights for the sake of their club. The 2017 NRL Telstra Premiership season will see these next 10 men reach this point in their respective careers.
10. Scott Bolton (Cowboys)
The North Queensland prop is not only approaching 200 first grade games but also the biggest season of his decade-long career. Bolton has a huge breach to fill considering Ben Hannant's recent shock retirement and James Tamou's move to the Panthers. The 29-year-old played every game for the Cowboys last season but only started four times. North Queensland will be hoping Bolton can help carry the load in 2017.
9. Jarryd Hayne (Titans)
Hayne made an unprecedented comeback to the NRL for the Titans' final six games of last season. The former San Francisco 49er showed glimpses of his past self – including a match winning field goal - yet failed to reach the great heights of his Dally M winning seasons. Considering the experience he possesses and the big price tag, the Titans will be hoping for the Hayne of old to return in 2017.
8. Josh McGuire (Broncos)
With Corey Parker pulling the curtains on an illustrious 16-year career, it has opened the door for McGuire to take another step up at the Broncos. McGuire has been earmarked as a potential replacement for Parker's No. 13 jumper ahead of next season. The Queensland Origin and Australian representative has only officially been named at lock once in his career (back in 2012).
7. Daly Cherry-Evans (Sea Eagles)
Blake Green's arrival at the Sea Eagles has opened the door for Cherry-Evans to re-establish himself as a genuine representative-calibre playmaker. While the 27-year-old's 16 try assists in 19 games last year was a decent return, a consistent halves partner in Green will allow Cherry-Evans to concentrate on what's best for Manly.
6. Robbie Farah (Rabbitohs)
The Rabbitohs rake doesn't need any extra motivation for the year ahead. Farah will be out to prove 2016 was just a bump in the road after being restricted to nine games in his final year at the Wests Tigers. From a Redfern perspective, the Rabbitohs will be hopeful Farah can fill the void left behind by now Warrior Issac Luke.
5. Valentine Holmes and Jack Bird (Sharks)
Ben Barba's well-documented departure from Cronulla has opened the door for one of Holmes or Bird to shift to fullback next year. Holmes has never shied away from his desire to make a permanent move to fullback. That despite making his debut for Australia on the wing at the recent Four Nations tournament. Sharks coach Shane Flanagan has also mentioned Bird as a potential fullback candidate. Bird himself went on the record midway through the year and said he was "bored" playing in the centres.
4. Gareth Widdop (Dragons)
Widdop's first year as Dragons skipper was a tough initiation. With usual halves partner Benji Marshall in and out of the team due to injury, Widdop was forced to shoulder much more responsibility than desired. Things don't seem to be easing up on the England international in 2017 considering first-choice playmaker Drew Hutchison is likely out for the season with an ACL injury.
3. Mitchell Pearce (Roosters)
Pearce's ill-fated start to 2016 had dire consequences for the Roosters' entire season. Suspended for the Tricolours' first eight games, Pearce was forced to watch on as his side fell to a 1-7 record. By the time Pearce returned it was too little too late, the Roosters finishing 15th on the Telstra Premiership ladder. How Pearce combines with new recruit Luke Keary remains a huge factor in the Roosters' 2017 fortunes.
2. Corey Norman (Eels)
If the Eels are to make the finals for the first time since their grand final loss to the Storm back in 2009, it will come down to Norman. The 25-year-old was having the season of his life last year (15 try assists in 16 games) before an untimely eight-week suspension derailed his season. Kieran Foran's mid-season departure means the usual No. 6 will likely have to play halfback moving forward.
1. Stephen Kearney (Warriors)
As coach of New Zealand Kearney was able to turn the Kiwis from constant bridesmaids into the No.1 Test side in the world. Once it was announced he would become Warriors coach – and consequently left his post at the Kiwis – Australia jumped New Zealand in the rankings. Now it's Kearney's challenge to turn the Warriors into the premiership force they have longed to be.