Published by Staff writers, 15th November 2018 on foxsports.com.au
The Roosters have come out on top in the recruitment stakes, after foxsports.com.au took a closer inspection at the incoming players for each club ahead of the 2019 season.
The Tricolours are always thereabouts, but the addition of NSW back-rower Angus Crichton to the roster as well as English international Ryan Hall and former rep flyer Brett Morris earned them a grading of A+ edging them ahead of the Cowboys, Titans and Knights, who all received a mark of A- or higher with some astute buys.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Broncos and Storm were both hit with an F, and the Panthers, Rabbitohs and Dragons didn’t fare much better.
To see how your club did and why, check out the full list below!
ROOSTERS — A+
Forwards: Angus Crichton, Jake Friend, Poasa Faamausili, Boyd Cordner, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Shaquai Mitchell, Sio Siua Taukeiaho, Josh Curran, Sitili Tupouniua, Victor Radley, Lindsay Collins, Zane Tetevano, Dylan Napa, Mitchell Aubusson (utility), Egan Butcher, Isaac Liu, Nat Butcher
Backs: Bernard Lewis, James Tedesco, Ryan Hall, Brett Morris, Joseph Manu, Brock Lamb, Cooper Cronk, Latrell Mitchell, Daniel Tupou, Luke Keary, Mitchell Aubusson (utility)
Incoming: Angus Crichton, Brett Morris, Ryan Hall
Best recruit: Angus Crichton. By pinching one of the Rabbitohs’ best players after he developed into a NSW Blues representative, the Chooks now have arguably the best back row pairing in the competition — Boyd Cordner and Crichton.
He is a weapon in attack and reliable in defence, a huge asset for the Tricolours.
What do they need?: The only thing possibly missing from this star-studded squad is a back-up half. Sean O’Sullivan and Ryan Matterson have left, so if Luke Keary or Cooper Cronk are struck down by injury, Trent Robinson will most likely have to turn to Mitchell Aubusson.
COWBOYS — A
Forwards: Matt Scott, Jake Granville, Mitchell Dunn, Coen Hess, Jason Taumalolo, Corey Jensen, Scott Bolton, Emry Pere, John Asiata, Shane Wright, Jordan McLean, Ethan Lowe, Francis Molo, Kurt Baptiste, Gavin Cooper,
Backs: Ben Barba, Gideon Mosby, Ben Hampton, Jake Clifford, Michael Morgan, Nene Macdonald, Murray Taulagi, Javid Bowen, Enari Tuala, Te Maire Martin, Justin O’Neill, Tom Opacic, Kyle Feldt
Incoming: Ben Barba, Nene Macdonald, Tom Opacic, Kurt Baptiste, Dan Russell
Best recruit: Ben Barba. Luring the exciting fullback home to North Queensland on a one-year deal was a masterstroke. He was integral to the Sharks’ 2016 premiership and is coming off a Man of Steel season in the Super League with St Helens.
The Cowboys needed a quality No.1 after moving on Lachlan Coote, and by throwing Barba a 12-month lifeline he’ll need to prove himself this season.
What do they need?: With reports Broncos lock Josh McGuire is set to make an immediate swap to the club, the Cowboys’ pack could be the best in the competition in 2019. Their forward pack is chock-full of representative players, they’ve got plenty of depth in the halves, and their back three of Barba, Kyle Feldt and Nene Macdonald is class. Really the only concern is in the centres, where there’s an obvious lack of depth, even with the addition of Tom Opacic to the squad.
TITANS — A
Forwards: Keegan Hipgrave, Ryan James, Kevin Proctor, Leilani Latu, Shannon Boyd, Bryce Cartwright (utility), Maxwell King, Tyrone Peachey (utility), Jack Stockwell, Mitch Rein, Will Matthews, Jai Arrow, Moeaki Fotuaika, Jai Whitbread, Morgan Boyle, Jarrod Wallace, Nathan Peats
Backs: AJ Brimson, Jesse Arthars, Phillip Sami, Anthony Don, Ash Taylor, Ryley Jacks, Brenko Lee, Bryce Cartwright (utility), Tyrone Peachey (utility), Dale Copley, Michael Gordon, Tyrone Roberts, Brian Kelly
Incoming: Tyrone Peachey, Shannon Boyd, Tyrone Roberts, Jesse Arthars, Ryley Jacks, Brian Kelly
Best recruit: Tyrone Peachey. Any time you pick up a current Origin star you’re smiling, but Peachey is a wonderful buy also because he is the ultimate utility player, in that he can excel in any position on the field, with the exception of prop.
He’ll want to nail down a starting centre spot no doubt, and that is probably where Garth Brennan will play him.
What do they need?: They have recruited exceptionally well gaining size, speed and playmakers. As a result they hardly want for anything, the one position that could use an injection of class is second-row, where Kevin Proctor is the one stand-out.
KNIGHTS — A- (but A+ if they net Klemmer)
Forwards: Aidan Guerra, Josh King, Sione Mata’utia, Brodie Jones, Slade Griffin, Lachlan Fitzgibbon, Daniel Saifiti, Tim Glasby, Danny Levi, Mitchell Barnett, Herman Ese’ese, Jacob Saifiti, Pasami Saulo, Jamie Buhrer, Sam Stone, James Gavet, Zac Woolford
Backs: Kalyn Ponga, Connor Watson, Tautau Moga, Mason Lino, Edrick Lee, Mitchell Pearce, Nathan Ross, Jesse Ramien, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Hymel Hunt
Incoming: Tim Glasby, Jesse Ramien, Edrick Lee, Mason Lino, Zac Woolford, Hymel Hunt, James Gavet
Best recruit: Jesse Ramien. This 21-year-old kid could be anything. He scored 10 tries in 20 games for Cronulla last season, and is equally strong in defence. The Knights needed a strike centre to give options to their classy playmakers.
What do they need?: They have a backline now the envy of any other team in the competition. And if they do sign David Klemmer their forward pack will be very well balanced too. Possibly the only ingredient missing is an experienced hooker to shore up the ruck.
BULLDOGS — B
Forwards: Adam Elliott, Aiden Tolman, Jayden Okunbor, Ofahiki Ogden, Brandon Wakeham, Chris Smith, Raymond Faitala-Mariner, Josh Jackson, Renouf To’omaga, Corey Harawira-Naera, Rhyse Martin, Danny Fualalo, Sauaso Sue, David Klemmer, Fa’amanu Brown (utility), Zac Saddler, Francis Tualau, Michael Lichaa
Backs: Jack Cogger, Nick Meaney, Jeremy Marshall-King, John Olive, Reimis Smith, Christian Crichton, Kerrod Holland, Kieran Foran, Lachlan Lewis, Will Hopoate, Fa’amanu Brown (utility), Marcelo Montoya
Incoming: Jack Cogger, Nick Meaney, Sauaso Sue, Corey Harawira-Naera, Christian Crichton
Best recruit: Corey Harawira-Naera. The Panthers edge back-rower will add plenty in attack, having scored 13 tries from his 46 games at the foot of the mountains.
What do they need?: Assuming they end up losing David Klemmer to the Knights, the Bulldogs desperately need some grunt up front. Their back row has a fair bit of depth but it’s hard to see where they’re going to get their go-forward from, with Aiden Tolman and Sauaso Sue the two notable big-boppers left.
WESTS TIGERS — C+
Forwards: Alex Twal, Jacob Liddle, Ben Matulino, Robbie Farah, Josh Aloiai, Robbie Rochow, Chris McQueen, Russell Packer, Chris Lawrence, Luke Garner, Ryan Matterson, Samuel McIntyre, Matthew Eisenhuth, Thomas Mikaele, Michael Chee Kam, Elijah Taylor, Oliver Clark
Backs: Paul Momirovski, Josh Reynolds, Benji Marshall, Luke Brooks, Corey Thompson, Mahe Fonua, David Nofoaluma, Dylan Smith, Tyson Gamble, Moses Mbye, Esan Marsters
Incoming: Paul Momirovski, Ryan Matterson
Best recruit: Ryan Matterson. The 24-year-old can play in the back row or in the halves, and already has premiership-winning experience with the Chooks. He’ll be an important addition, and is only starting to reach his prime as a footballer.
What do they need?: They are pretty well covered across the park, with a big forward pack, experienced back-rowers, good depth in the spine, and some exciting outside backs. They just need some luck with injuries.
RAIDERS — C
Forwards: Ryan Sutton, Joseph Tapine, Dunamis Lui, Josh Hodgson, Elliott Whitehead, Josh Papalii, Sia Soliola, Emre Guler, Liam Knight, Siliva Havili, Jack Murchie, Luke Bateman, John Bateman, Royce Hunt
Backs: Aidan Sezer, Joey Leilua, Brad Abbey, Sam Williams, Sebastian Kris, Jack Wighton, Ata Hingano, Jarrod Croker, Michael Oldfield, Nick Cotric, Jordan Rapana,
Incoming: Ryan Sutton, John Bateman
Best recruit: John Bateman. The 25-year-old English international and dual Super League-winning back-rower from Wigan seems to be hitting the nation’s capital at his peak.
He shouldn’t have too much trouble aclimatising with fellow Brits Josh Hodgson, Ryan Sutton and Elliott Whitehead in Canberra, and should hit the ground running coming off a tough series against the Kiwis.
What do they need?: A ball-running half. Talk has been heating up that Shaun Johnson could link up with the Green Machine and that would be just the ticket. Aidan Sezer and Sam Williams are both quality pivots, but they are organisers rather than ball runners, and the Raiders need someone willing to take the line on the way that Blake Austin did to keep opposition defences in two minds.
EELS — C
Forwards: Andrew Davey, Nathan Brown, Oregon Kaufusi, Junior Paulo, Peni Terepo, Kane Evans, Raymond Stone, Kaysa Pritchard, Shaun Lane, Tepai Moreoa, Daniel Alvaro, Manu Ma’u, Tim Mannah, David Gower, Marata Niukore, Reed Mahoney
Backs: Jaeman Salmon, Bevan French, Josh Hoffman, Blake Ferguson, Brad Takairangi, Clint Gutherson, Corey Norman, Maika Sivo, Will Smith, George Jennings, Michael Jennings, Greg Leleisiuao, Mitchell Moses
Incoming: Junior Paulo, Blake Ferguson, Shaun Lane
Best recruit: Blake Ferguson. When the Eels lost Semi Radradra they lost a strong ball carrier out of their own end, and struggled to get on the front foot and gain field position. Ferguson is a similar big body who can use his frame to get over the advantage line and take the pressure off the forwards. He’s also a quality finisher and brings big-game experience.
What do they need?: They’ve done what they needed to do by bolstering their forward pack with Junior Paulo and Shaun Lane. They need to recruit another quality half to put pressure on Corey Norman and Mitchell Moses, and their centre stocks are low.
SEA EAGLES — D
Forwards: Addin Fonua-Blake, Marty Taupau, Frank Winterstein, Api Koroisau, Jack Gosiewski, Jake Trbojevic, Taniela Paseka, Joel Thompson, Toafofoa Sipley, Corey Waddell, Kelepi Tanginoa, Curtis Sironen, Lloyd Perrett, Manase Fainu
Backs: Dylan Walker, Albert Hopoate, Mosese Suli, Reuben Garrick, Brad Parker, Brendan Elliot, Tevita Funa, Jorge Taufua, Cade Cust, Kane Elgey, Tom Trbojevic, Daly Cherry-Evans
Incoming: Kane Elgey, Corey Waddell, Brendan Elliot, Reuben Garrick, Sean Keppie
Best recruit: Kane Elgey. He needs to find his best form, but if he can the 24-year-old could be the perfect foil for the side’s skipper and current Kangaroos halfback Daly Cherry-Evans.
A strong kicking and passing game, the former Titan should be able to take some of the pressure off their No.7.
What do they need?: Their backline has very little depth, especially after releasing Brian Kelly to the Titans. They need a big-bodied centre to complement Dylan Walker.
They recruited Brendan Elliot but he hasn’t played a great deal of first-grade of late, and Moses Suli is still very raw.
SHARKS — D-
Forwards: Cruz Topai-Aveai, Paul Gallen, Aaron Woods, Jack Williams, Andrew Fifita, Jayden Brailey, Scott Sorensen, Ava Seumanufagai, Jayson Bukuya, Billy Magoulias, Blayke Brailey, Braden Uele, Kurt Capewell, Wade Graham, Briton Nikora, Matt Prior
Backs: Aaron Gray, Isaac Lumelume, Sione Katoa, Josh Dugan, Sosaia Feki, Josh Morris, Valentine Holmes, Kyle Flanagan, William Kennedy, Bronson Xerri, Chad Townsend, Matt Moylan
Incoming: Josh Morris
Best recruit: Josh Morris. Yes he wins by default, but it’s also a smart pick-up for the Sharks, whose experience around the young squad is already proving beneficial in the early days of pre-season training.
He still believes he has plenty to give, and if he thrives with the change of scenery, the Sharks will have a rep-quality centre pairing of Morris and Josh Dugan.
What do they need?: Stability on the edges could prove to be the Sharks’ downfall in 2019. Luke Lewis has retired and while Wade Graham is one of the premier second-rowers in the comp he suffered an ACL injury in the qualifying final last season and isn’t expected back until May/June.
Kurt Capewell is tipped to take over Lewis’ right edge, and Scott Sorensen is likely to fill in for Graham. Both are very capable, but the Sharks need to be looking at a class second-rower to complement Graham.
WARRIORS — D-
Forwards: Adam Blair, Issac Luke, Agnatius Paasi, Bunty Afoa, Sam Lisone, Tevita Satae, Leeson Ah Mau, Tohu Harris, Leivaha Pulu, Ligi Sao, Nathaniel Roache, Isaiah Papali’i
Backs: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Blake Ayshford, Shaun Johnson, Blake Green, Karl Lawton, Solomone Kata, Chanel Harris-Tavita, Ken Maumalo, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, David Fusitu’a, Gerard Beale, Hayze Perham, Peta Hiku
Incoming: Leeson Ah Mau, Taane Milne, Adam Keighran
Best recruit: Leeson Ah Mau. The big bopper was outstanding for the Dragons in 2018, stepping up to start in the place of injured rep star Paul Vaughan.
Indeed, he was so impressive he forced his way into the New Zealand Kiwis Test team.
With James Gavet moving across to Newcastle, Ah Mau is an astute buy.
What do they need?: They have recruited young Penrith half Adam Keighran and have Nathaniel Roache as cover too, which should be sufficient back-up if Shaun Johnson stays for the 2019 season. But if Johnson was to be released, and with Mason Lino already at the Knights, the Warriors would find themselves with only one specialist pivot with NRL experience.
DRAGONS — E (C if they get Hayne)
Forwards: Jeremy Latimore, Paul Vaughan, Blake Lawrie, Reece Robson, Cameron McInnes, Josh Kerr, Tariq Sims, Korbin Sims, Kurt Mann (utility), Jack de Belin, Lachlan Timm, Tyson Frizell, Jacob Host, Luciano Leilua, James Graham
Backs: Ben Hunt, Jonus Pearson, Jordan Pereira, Steven Marsters, Darren Nicholls, Euan Aitken, Tim Lafai, Gareth Widdop, Kurt Mann (utility), Tristan Sailor, Zac Lomax, Jai Field, Matt Dufty, Mikaele Ravalawa
Incoming: Korbin Sims, Mikaele Ravalawa, Jonus Pearson, Jason Saab
Best recruit: Korbin Sims. The former Broncos enforcer is linking up with his brother Tariq, and will add plenty of starch to the Red V pack.
What do they need?: Jarryd Hayne wouldn’t hurt. Speculation has been swirling that the Hayne Plane could be landing in Kogarah for the 2019 season, and that would certainly be a boost for the Dragons. At the back end of last season he was one of the best players in the competition, and he can play anywhere in the backline at a pinch, and break a game open at will.
It’s no secret the Eels would be keeping him in the blue and gold if they could afford him.
RABBITOHS — E
Forwards: Damien Cook, Rhys Kennedy, Dean Britt, Bayley Sironen, George Burgess, Sam Burgess, Tevita Tatola, Cameron Murray, Tom Burgess, Kurt Dillon, Billy Brittain, Kyle Turner, Zane Musgrove, Mark Nicholls, Matt McIlwrick
Backs: Adam Doueihi, Mawene Hiroti, Adam Reynolds, Dane Gagai, Alex Johnston, Richard Kennar, Braidon Burns, Greg Inglis, Jacob Gagan, Campbell Graham, Cody Walker, Connor Tracey, Corey Allan
Incoming: Corey Allan, Kurt Dillon, Bayley Sironen, Matt McIlwrick
Best recruit: On promise you’d say Corey Allan, the Junior Kangaroos fullback who represented the Prime Minister’s XIII in Port Moresby this year.
But on what the squad requires, you can’t go past Matt McIlwrick. The Bunnies needed an experienced rake for when Damien Cook is away on rep duty, and having lost Robbie Farah, McIlwrick is a very good option.
What do they need?: Souths desperately need a couple of back-rowers. They are still yet to re-sign John Sutton and that seemed like a no-brainer after Angus Crichton left for the Roosters. Now, they have no obvious starting second-rowers and pre-season has arrived.
PANTHERS — E-
Forwards: Sione Katoa, Tim Grant, Kaide Ellis, Trent Merrin, Liam Martin, Tyrell Fuimaono, Isaah Yeo, Jack Hetherington, Moses Leota, James Fisher-Harris, Viliame Kikau, Nick Lui-Toso, James Tamou, Paea Pua, Wayde Egan, Reagan Campbell-Gillard
Backs: Caleb Aekins, Jed Cartwright, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Josh Mansour, Dean Whare, Dylan Edwards, Malakai Watene-Zelezniak, Tyrone May, Tyrone Phillips, Nathan Cleary, James Maloney, Waqa Blake, Jarome Luai
Incoming: Tim Grant
Best recruit: Tim Grant returns home to Penrith for his farewell season. Whether he gets much of a run or not is another question, they have no shortage of quality bookends.
What do they need?: They could use another quality centre after losing Tyrone Peachey to the Titans. Waqa Blake and Dean Whare are the two clear starters in the squad, but there’s not much depth beyond those two.
BRONCOS — F
Forwards: Alex Glenn, Patrick Mago, Andre Savelio, Jaydn Su’a, Payne Haas, Andrew McCullough, Joseph Ofahengaue, Josh McGuire, Thomas Flegler, David Fifita, George Fai, Matt Gillett, Myles Taueli, Patrick Carrigan, Sam Tagataese
Backs: James Roberts, Jordan Kahu, Sean O’Sullivan, Anthony Milford, Thomas Dearden, Darius Boyd, Kodi Nikorima, Troy Dargan, Gehamat Shibasaki, Kotoni Staggs, Jack Bird, Jamayne Isaako
Incoming: Sean O’Sullivan
Best recruit: By process of elimination… Sean O’Sullivan.
The Broncos have spots to fill in their 30-man roster and may be waiting patiently for Corey Oates and Tevita Pangai Junior to re-sign.
O’Sullivan played his one and only NRL game last season, and is a replacement option for Anthony Milford or Kodi Nikorima.
What do they need?: A half with more experience than the 20-year-old O’Sullivan.
With one of the biggest and most destructive forward packs in the comp, and plenty of exciting backs, the big weakness last season was their playmaking.
How Milford and Nikorima develop between now and round one remains to be seen, but a proven performer in the six or seven would’ve done them the world of good.
STORM — F
Forwards: Felise Kaufusi, Sam Kasiano, Brandon Smith, Jesse Bromwich, Joe Stimson, Albert Vete, Tino Faasuamaleaui, Christian Welch, Kenny Bromwich, Dale Finucane, Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Tui Kamikamica, Patrick Kaufusi
Backs: Ryan Papenhuyzen, Billy Walters, Jahrome Hughes, Scott Drinkwater, Brodie Croft, Suliasi Vunivalu, Cameron Munster, Josh Addo-Carr, Thomas Eisenhuth, Cheyse Blair, Justin Olam, Will Chambers, Curtis Scott, Marion Seve
Best recruit: Nil
What do they need?: They have plenty of props but not too many second-rowers.
Obviously, their grand final back-row remains intact, and Felise Kaufusi is their big strike-weapon on that right edge. But if there are any injuries throughout the season, Craig Bellamy could find himself scratching around for capable replacements.