Roundtable: The best recruit of 2017?
In this week's 2017 season predictions one question we asked ourselves was who would be the best recruits of the 2017 season. All up, eight players were mentioned in answers to that question, while nine more were thrown out as contenders for the year's most underrated signing.
The Cronulla Sharks proved last year how valuable new signings can be – with James Maloney and Chad Townsend forming a premiership-winning halves combination – so which team will get the most out of a new face this season?
Dominic Brock (NRL.com Production Editor): One of the questions in this week's season predictions articles asked who would be the recruit of the year, so let's get into that question with a bit more depth. For starters, guessing how new recruits will fare isn't easy. This time last year we named Kieran Foran, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, James Maloney, Sam Burgess, Martin Taupau and Damien Cook as the men most likely to have a big impact on their team's chances, but in the end only Maloney was a major success. This time around Kieran Foran was the most popular pick for the best recruit of 2017… but how confident are we that he'll be a quality buy for the Warriors?
Tony Webeck (Chief Queensland Correspondent): There's no doubt that providing his contract is registered by the NRL and his shoulders are good to go then he's an excellent buy for the Warriors. Exactly what Shaun Johnson needs to be Shaun Johnson more often than not.
Chris Kennedy (National Correspondent): Well, having tipped Foran as buy of the season last year, I'm reluctant to go in all guns blazing again. Obviously we're still not 100% sure where his contract is at, if/when it will be registered and so on. But let's assume for a second it will be and he's good to go by Round 1. He was actually very, very good for Parramatta in the games where he played and wasn't majorly hampered by injury. He was great for Corey Norman and I imagine would also be so alongside Shaun Johnson – a man with whom he has combined brilliantly at Test level in the past.
Martin Gabor (National Correspondent): If Foran plays in 2017, it'll be Shaun Johnson who grabs all the headlines for the Warriors, but Foran will be the one who has the biggest impact. His ability to straighten an attack is unrivalled and is exactly what they need to take pressure off SJ. For too long the Warriors have done most of their damage on one side of the field. With Foran, they'll become a multi-pronged unit, and most likely a top eight side.
CK: Yep. A fit, healthy, focused Foran would fix a huge amount of what was wrong with the Warriors in 2016.
Andy Bryan (Deputy Editor): If and when he is approved by the NRL he will certainly bring a lot of composure, direction and steal to the Warriors. Hopefully he is in a good head space and healthy.
DB: Aside from Foran, who will be the best buy of 2017?
AB: Care to elaborate?
CK: Sure. He's an elite player, proven at Test and Origin level. Penrith are excellent across the park but could arguably use a big, mobile, experienced prop forward to round out what is a great pack. Tamou was good in 2016 but not as good as he has been – a bit like Trent Merrin was in 2015 before he moved across to Penrith and absolutely blitzed it last year. I'm tipping similar things for big Jimmy T. And Penrith for top four.
MG: Panthers coach Anthony Griffin spoke highly of 'JT' this morning on radio, highlighting his leadership and work ethic.
TW: He won't allow the price tag he reportedly went to Penrith for to bring him down. Expecting him fit and focused and very much leading the Panther pack in 2017.
CK: And the value he can add to young forwards like James Fisher Harris and Reagan Campbell-Gillard with his leadership will have flow-on benefits for the rest of the pack.
AB: I still think he won the Cowboys that famous grand final with his unbelievable quick play-the-ball in extra time. No doubting his quality.
DB: The only one of us who didn't name Foran or Tamou as our best recruit of 2017 was Tony, who nominated Robbie Farah. Do we agree the NSW hooker's still got it, and can make Souths contenders again?
CK: I agree Robbie still has a lot to offer. Things got a bit unhappy for him at the end there at the Tigers but he was still good in Origin. The question for me is if Souths' overly structured style will suit him much better than what Jason Taylor was asking of him ("just pass it to the halves", basically). But potentially, yes, he certainly could be.
TW: That pack needs a No.9 who plays forward and Farah gives them that. And a kicking game to take the pressure off Adam Reynolds.
MG: He's definitely still got it. And I daresay he will play Origin again in 2017. Whether he suits Souths' system remains unclear. Put it this way, I'd rather have him in my team than play against him.
A left-footed kicking option out of dummy half doesn't hurt either.
DB: To me, considering Farah's into his final few years in the NRL the signing is a sign the Rabbitohs are really chasing another premiership sooner rather than later – ie. signing a veteran star rather than giving more experience to young hookers already at the club with an eye on the future. It's a bold decision coming from where they finished last year but it should at least improve their chances in the short term.
TW: Sooner! Sooner! Sooner!
CK: Shall we talk about Blake Green going to Manly? As with Foran, on paper he's a guy that fixes a lot of what was wrong with the club last year. Manly basically had one half in 2016, Dylan Walker was certainly not the answer at five-eighth and they tried a few fill-ins but a seasoned playmaker like Green could prove a useful foil in looking to fill what has been a massive Foran-sized hole in their roster.
TW: Agreed. Not the sexiest signing of the summer but could prove to be the most prudent come September.
DB: I reckon Green should be great. Although their new faces didn't quite live up to expectations generally speaking last season.
CK: You are the master of controlled understatement DB.
DB: Cheers mate.
AB: Agreed. Green looks to answer a lot of problems on the Northern Beaches. Has a great running game and more than held his own at Melbourne. He'll provide consistency and take a lot of pressure off DCE. Manly will probably still struggle in 2017 – but Green is definitely a great pick-up.
CK: Yeah they'll still be bottom four but that's a different roundtable.
MG: People assume that a star playmaker will step up a gear when they are the sole/dominant half. That is incorrect. It didn't work with DCE last year, and Green's arrival on the northern beaches is a huge relief for the star halfback. Not even JT could get it done without a reliable deputy. But once Michael Morgan came along, things quickly changed for the better. I thought Green was great at the Storm, and it certainly had a positive influence on Cooper Cronk's game last year as he won the Dally M award and helped the Storm reach the GF.
CK: Good areas MG.
TW: Very good argument.
AB: There is no doubt player roster and management is a huge part of NRL success. When viewed in the microcosm of one season it doesn't always tell the whole story. It is not often one player will totally change a club overnight and deliver a premiership.
I actually like the Knights picking up Jamie Buhrer (27) and Rory Kostjasyn (29). It's a massive step in the right direction for a club that has struggled recently. If they can attract more players like this, they'll build nicely over the next few seasons. Just look at what the Titans were able to achieve by investing wisely. It won't change the Knights overnight, but will definitely start to put them back on track.
CK: Speaking of Titans – Proctor? Neil Henry got great mileage out of lesser lights such as Paasi and Pulu in 2016 but the arrival of a high-calibre Kiwi international back-rower has to help, right? Especially given Greg Bird's departure.
TW: Given what I've seen at training in his first two days his influence off the field will be as important as that on the field. Sets a great tone at training with his intensity and makes their forward pack look instantly more formidable.
CK: No doubt that experience will be invaluable to the up and coming forwards and will help Ryan James out in a leadership capacity. Not unlike Tamou at Panthers. I've probably got Proctor in my top five recruits of 2017, if not top three.
TW: Expect to hear, "Taylor plays short to Proctor" plenty in 2017, which will be amazing for a kid who has grown up idolising Cooper Cronk.
MG: He will also make Konrad Hurrell more of a threat in 2017. We saw how effective the Cronk-Proctor-Chambers edge was at the Storm, and I'm tipping the Titans to create some headaches on that side of the field in the coming months.
DB: Any other players you're expecting big things from at a new club in 2017?
CK: Yeah, heaps. Jarrod Wallace, David Mead, Josh Hoffman, Josh Addo-Carr. I think Nathan Brown could have a seriously damaging year at Parra with assistance from fellow new boys Vave and Matagi.
AB: Josh Addo-Carr should be a great signing for Melbourne to replace Koroibete.
MG: Addo-Carr could easily finish as the competition's leading try-scorer next year.
TW: Be interesting to see what Luke Keary's presence at the Roosters has on Mitchell Pearce. Do we think they complement each other like Foran-Johnson and Green-Cherry-Evans?
CK: I'm actually really interested to see what happens with Jackson Hastings at Manly. He's a wonderful talent. Green and DCE will be the starting halves and I kind of hope they don't shoe-horn him into a hooking role. He could make a great bench utility though and provides good playmaking depth for the club.
TW: How about the crowd favourite Jamal Idris? How does he fare in his NRL return?
DB: I would love to see him succeed, I just don't know how he's going to get much game time in that Tigers side unless there are injuries in the backline. Is he a bench forward now?
CK: Yeah. Really well, I hope. Would love to see him fit and firing. It's been a while though, I guess we'll find out as we go. Such a great player on his day, would be great to see him enjoying footy and causing headaches for defences again.
TW: I concur.
DB: OK I think that will do us for today, cheers guys.