WHY 2017 WILL BE BETTER FOR YOUR NRL TEAM
Halves Ben Hunt and Anthony Milford are one year more experienced, and theoretically one step closer to finding the consistency they lacked in 2016.
Main concern: A real shortage out wide. Lachlan Maranta and Jack Reed have both left the club and Benji Marshall could even figure in the centres.
Their attack was the best in the competition in 2016 and Ricky Stuart’s men appear to be building to something after finishing in the top four for the first time since 2000.
Main concern:: Their own hoodoo. The Raiders haven’t made back-to-back finals series since 2004 despite numerous signs of being a team on the rise.
Are firing fit after having limited involvement in the Four Nations, in stark contrast to the Morris twins’ injury concerns in recent years.
Main concern: After losing Trent Hodkinson, the Bulldogs spent plenty of time inside the opposition’s 20 last year but often failed to come away with points. That needs to change.
Valentine Holmes ran 219 metres in his first game at fullback two years ago. He should return to light up that key role full-time for the premiers following Ben Barba’s departure.
Main concern: No Michael Ennis. Daniel Mortimer, Matt McIllwrick and Manaia Cherrington loom as possible replacements but none are likely to provide the impetus of the veteran.
Their spine is one of the best in the competition. Jarryd Hayne, Kane Elgey, Ash Walker and Nathan Peats have the potential to put them in title contention.
Main concern: Konrad Hurrell missed a lot the pre-season through a knee injury just as he believed the heat could make him fitter than ever. They don’t have a lot of depth in the centres.
Blake Green should offer more options in attack at five-eighth, taking some pressure off Daly Cherry-Evans.
Main concern: Question marks over their recruitment. Akuila Uate, Jackson Hastings, Jonathan Wright and Curtis Sironen all spent time in reserve grade last year.
Last season’s losing grand finalists just keep defying the odds and are still a chance to welcome Billy Slater back at No.1 for a likely swansong.
Main concern: The loss of Blake Green as Cooper Cronk’s foil at five-eighth. Cameron Munster could shift there if Slater returns.
They’ll be better for their development in 2016, while Jamie Buhrer could help bring the culture the club needs to rise up the ladder.
Main concern: The dreadful memories of last year from the 22 losses which made for the worst regular season of any side in the NRL era.
It may be bittersweet, but youngster Kalyn Ponga showed in his two games last year that he could add even more to the premiership-contending Cowboys before he heads to Newcastle in 2018.
Main concern: The losses of James Tamou and Ben Hannant in the forwards leave some real concerns over grunt and depth.
Aside from the nightmare of 2016 finally being over, the prospect of the free-running Bevan French at fullback should have Eels fans excited after he scored six tries in his only two games there last year.
Main concern: It’s a new year but the scars still remain. The Eels could desperately do with departed duo Kieran Foran in the halves and Nathan Peats at hooker.
Te Marie Martin returns from a season-ending injury in the halves while Mitch Rein is free from the shackles he claimed restricted him at No.9 at St George Illawarra.
Main concern: A lack of control in attack that hurt their game in recent years. They finished sixth last year while making the fourth-most errors, but it’s hard to finish any higher with that sort of statistic.
The Rabbitohs desperately missed Issac Luke in 2016 and they’ll hope Robbie Farah can fill that gap.
Main concern: A horrid draw which sees them play all five of last year’s top eight twice and the Dragons and Knights just once and the most five-day turnarounds in the league with four.
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA
The Dragons have long had good edge second-rowers but the acquisition of Tariq Sims (mid-season) and Paul Vaughan in the middle will give added grunt.
Main concern: Benji Marshall’s heir-apparent Drew Hutchison has been ruled out for the season with a knee injury, leaving the Dragons without a top-line halfback.
They used seven halves combinations last season but recruit Luke Keary joining Mitchell Pearce should offer far more stability in 2017.
Main concern: The sloppiness that came into their game last year. They went from being three-time minor premiers to making the most errors in the NRL in 2016.
Shaun Johnson and newcomer Kieran Foran are potentially the best halves combination in the club’s history, while Roger Tuivasa-Sheck could be dynamite with a full season.
Main concern: Consistency issues as usual. New coach Stephen Kearney will hope Foran can help address those.
Coach Jason Taylor has the side he wants and after finishing fast last season he’ll know it’s make or break.
Main concern: James Tedesco, Mitch Moses, Luke Brooks and Aaron Woods are among the competition’s best and there will be distractions with the quartet all coming off contract.