THE POSITIONAL PROBLEM AREA FOR EACH OF THE 16 NRL TEAMS AHEAD OF THE 2016 SEASON:
Following Justin Hodges’ retirement, right centre shapes as coach Wayne Bennett’s biggest headache. Jordan Kahu will likely get first shot at filling the huge shoes of Hodges out wide. Equally as pressing for Bennett is who will be Hodges’ successor as captain.
The loss of halfback Trent Hodkinson to Newcastle is still hard to fathom. Moses Mbye will have improve his skills as an organiser in the blue and white No.7 shirt if the Bulldogs are to threaten in 2016.
The loss of David Shillington and Dane Tilse leaves the Raiders vulnerable up front. 33-year-old Jeff Lima will be asked to carry much of that load.
Paul Gallen can only carry the Sharks forward pack for so long and Cronulla do look light on for props in 2016.
NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS
The Cowboys boast two of the best props in the game in Matt Scott and James Tamou, but it is their forward bench rotation where they could struggle under the new interchange laws. Ben Hannant will be 31 and in his 12th year of NRL next season, while the Cowboys have lost NYC prop of the year Viliame Kikau to Penrith.
GOLD COAST TITANS
Hooker has been a problem area for the Titans for several seasons now and 2016 looks no different. With Beau Falloon Super League-bound, Matt Srama will battle it out for coach Neil Henry’s no.9 spot with Daniel Mortimer, 35-year-old Nathan Friend and youngster Karl Lawton.
MANLY-WARRINGAH SEA EAGLES
Kieran Foran is gone and Daly Cherry-Evans needs a new halves partner, but it isn’t certain who will take over at five-eighth. Centre Jamie Lyon has been mentioned but that takes away from one of Manly’s great strengths. Tim Moltzen is another possibility, as are Isaac John, Feleti Mateo, Matt Parcell and even Brett Stewart.
The loss of Kurt Mann to the Dragons, Matt Duffie to rugby and Mahe Fonua to Hull leaves the Storm stretched out wide. Billy Slater’s return to fullback means Cameron Munster will likely be asked to play centre.
Fullback will be among one of new coach Nathan Brown’s biggest off-season headaches, after Kurt Gidley’s move to the Super League. Sione Mata’utia looked out of sorts at the back this year and will likely prefer to play centre. James McManus’ retirement due to concussion rules him out. Jake Mamo or even Dane Gagai are the most likely.
Anthony Watmough needs to significantly lift his efforts in 2016 and prove he isn’t a spent force in the NRL, otherwise the back-row shapes as a drama for coach Brad Arthur.
New coach Anthony Griffin didn’t shy away from making the hard decisions at Brisbane, promoting Ben Hunt at halfback over Peter Wallace among them. Te Maire Martin and Matt Moylan will likely put pressure on incumbent halves Wallace and Jamie Soward at some stage. How to manage that transition will be among Griffin’s biggest tests.
SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS
Dylan Walker looks set to exit Redfern to accommodate the return of Sam Burgess, so who will fill the former Kangaroo’s centre spot?
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS
Trent Merrin’s departure leaves a big hole in the back-row, without an an obvious replacement for the dynamic Penrith-bound NSW representative.
Fullback is again a problem area for the Roosters following the departure of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck to the Warriors after Anthony Minichiello’s retirement the year before. Blake Ferguson looms as the player most likely to assume the Tricolours No.1 shirt. Omar Slaimankhel is another possibility.
NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS
The Warriors have recruited as astutely as any other club, but still have problems out wide glaringly highlighted in their record eight-straight losses to end the year. Konrad Hurrell is one player fighting for his future.
Keith Galloway, Marty Taupau and Matt Lodge won’t be with the joint venture next season, so Aaron Woods aside the Tigers look very short on front-rowers.