Will Evans Written on Thursday, 25 October 2012 14:26 A clutch of NRL stars will be approaching next season with a sense of apprehension, or raring to take the field with something to prove. This week Golden Points profiles the player from each club that is set to be thrust under the microscope in 2013. Melbourne â€“ Brett Finch: The veteran half was an immensely popular character during his two-season stay with Melbourne (2009-10), while his form for Wigan garnered a spot in the 2012 Super League Dream Team. But it's difficult to see where Finch fits into Craig Bellamy's 2013 plans. Cooper Cronk is immovable at halfback, Gareth Widdop is entrenched at five-eighth, and he probably lacks the size to transform himself into a ball-playing lock. Bench utility is the former NSW Origin No.7's most likely role, although he hasn't played hooker since making six appearances in the No.9 for the Sydney Roosters in 2006. Canterbury â€“ James Graham: The British workhorse was roundly lauded for a stellar maiden season in the NRL as a cornerstone of the minor premiers' pack. But that fanfare was largely eroded by one moment of madness in the Grand Final. Graham will be busting to repay the Bulldogs after sitting out the first couple of months of 2013 suspended. South Sydney â€“ Adam Reynolds: The rookie halfback's importance to the Rabbitohs was underlined by their capitulation after he limped off during the preliminary final loss to Canterbury. On top of his status as the key man in Souths' bid to end a 42-year grand final drought and warding off second-year syndrome, Reynolds has been promoted by several pundits as the answer for NSW in the No.7 jumper. But the 22-year-old boasts the talent and cool temperament to shoulder the expectations â€“ and exceed them. Manly â€“ Jorge Taufua: The young Manly winger was heralded as one of the NRL's hottest prospects after a superb rookie season and some extraordinary performances during the finals â€“ he has been a big favourite of this column. But now Taufua must contend with the stigma off-field atrocities bring, on top of the dreaded second-year syndrome. Spitting on a police officer is on the serious side of drunken indiscretions and has undone plenty of the goodwill his debut-season heroics created. North Queensland â€“ Johnathan Thurston: Arguably the code's most valuable player, Thurston's future beyond 2013 is destined to be the biggest ongoing news story of next season. The upcoming campaign represents the Cowboys linchpin's best remaining chance to win a premiership with the club, but the hurdle of their heart-wrenching and controversial semi-final exit this year could prove difficult to overcome. The 29-year-old will be thrust further under the microscope if he opts to sign on with one of his long line of suitors for 2014. Canberra â€“ Terry Campese: The injury-prone Campese was revered as one of the NRL's preeminent playmakers in 2010, but he has made just eight appearances since suffering a knee injury in that season's finals series. The Canberra captain's return in 2013 is lumbered by the extra burden of having to perform immediately if coach David Furner is to break up the outstanding young halves combination of Josh McCrone and Sam Williams, who were magnificent in steering the Raiders to an unlikely finals berth this year. Former Test and Origin five-eighth Campese has compiled just 103 first grade games in nine seasons and is running out of time to make his mark after turning 28 in August. Cronulla â€“ Michael Gordon: A much-hyped recruit from Penrith, sharpshooter Michael Gordon has played just 16 games in the past two seasons for the Panthers after enduring a wretched run with injury. Gordon has long had his sights set on a permanent shift to fullback â€“ it was a significant factor in his decision to leave Penrith â€“ but he faces stiff competition in the shape of livewire Nathan Gardner (who also spent most of this year on the sidelines) and 2012 surprise packet Matthew Wright. He is a frontline contender for the NSW backline regardless of which position Shane Flanagan slots him into, but Gordon's biggest hurdle will be regaining confidence in his body. Brisbane â€“ Sam Thaiday: Just the seventh captain of the Broncos, Thaiday has inherited the least impressive squad in the glamour club's history â€“ and it will be further weakened after some high profile departures coming off the back of a dismal end to 2012. Thaiday worked hard throughout the season, but was clearly hampered by injury. He lacked his trademark attacking punch and zing in defence. The short-on-confidence Broncos need their skipper back to his dynamic best, or risk sliding out of the finals picture for just the second time in 22 seasons. St.George Illawarra â€“ Jamie Soward: The 2012 season was Soward's most disappointing since joining the Dragons midway through 2007 â€“ he lost his NSW No.6 jumper, was rumoured to have been dropped in the second half of the year (although Soward and coach Steve Price maintained it was due to a back injury) and was surrounded by constant speculation about a move to English giants Wigan. Soward must be the Saints' saviour in 2013, or the joint venture is in real danger of collecting its first wooden spoon. The retirement of veterans Ben Hornby and Dean Young leaves Soward as one of the few genuine senior players in the Dragons' ranks, while untried halfback Josh Drinkwater shapes as his likely playmaking companion. Wests Tigers â€“ Benji Marshall: The five-eighth maestro's 2012 'form slump' has been blown out of all proportion â€“ he was easily the Tigers' most dangerous and consistent attacking threat. But it is the nature of his stature that the club's failures rest squarely on his shoulders, while his supposed role in coach Tim Sheens' departure has attracted the glare of the spotlight and the old 'his ego is out of control' line. This season could determine whether he goes down with the modern greats of the game, or is regarded as a sometimes superstar. New Zealand will be looking to its captain to spearhead its World Cup campaign at the end of the year â€“ and Marshall's Test performances since his 2010 Four Nations final masterpiece have been well below par. Gold Coast â€“ David Taylor: The dynamic man-mountain made his Test debut in April, played two Origin matches and unleashed his ever-expanding bag of tricks as a strike forward in South Sydney's best season in 23 years. But his inconsistency saw him dropped for the Origin decider, while he failed to retain his spot in the Australian side for the post-season Test in the wake of his anonymous finals performances. The general consensus is the Rabbitohs have landed on the positive side of the ledger by snaring Brisbane's Ben Te'o â€“ who took Taylor's spot on the Maroons' bench and was named 18th man for Australia â€“ as his replacement. The Titans will be expecting big things from Taylor in 2013. They already have one low-involvement, under-performing giant on huge money in Jamal Idris â€“ they don't need another. Newcastle â€“ Kurt Gidley: The Knights skipper lasted just five games in 2012 before injury ended his season, while he has made more than 21 appearances just once in his 12-season NRL career. With Darius Boyd entrenched at fullback, five-eighth or halfback is Gidley's most likely destination in Newcastle's line-up. But the acid will be on Gidley to perform following young No.7 Tyrone Roberts' mature displays in a breakthrough 2012 campaign. The 30-year-old Gidley faces an uphill battle to regain his bench utility role in the NSW squad. Sydney Roosters â€“ Sonny Bill Williams: No individual player will be placed under the microscope in 2013 more fervently than the code-hopping New Zealander. Scores of rugby league fans â€“ particularly those of the Canterbury variety â€“ will be waiting and hoping for Williams to fail, still unable to forgive his 2008 walkout on the Bulldogs. SBW has been a dominant force on the Super XV and Test rugby union scenes over the past two years, and if he is any less influential in his NRL return the critics will swarm. Protected somewhat as an inside centre in union, Williams' high-velocity approach for the Bulldogs resulted in frequent injury problems. Any time spent on the sidelines for the rebuilding Roosters will give the detractors more ammunition. New Zealand â€“ Simon Mannering: After controversially replacing Steve Price as the Warriors' captain at the start of 2010, Mannering has had a charmed run, leading the club to a finals return in his first season in charge and a grand final appearance in 2011. But the wheels fell off this year, and Mannering's importance to the side was underlined as the Warriors' season disintegrated during his five-week injury layoff. Mannering now faces the task of guiding a team with significant on-field personnel changes and their third coach in the space of 18 months. An unrelentingly consistent competitor, the 26-year-old Mannering's 2013 season could prove career-defining â€“ if he leads the Warriors to the finals he will be lauded as the finest captain in the club's history, but another failure could see Matthew Elliot searching for a new skipper. Penrith â€“ Lachlan Coote: With Luke Lewis gone and Michael Jennings on the outer, Coote is the closest thing the Panthers have to a marquee player. That doesn't say much for the club's roster, but it represents a huge opportunity for the talented 22-year-old. A two-time City Origin rep, Coote is set to be thrust into Penrith's troublesome five-eighth spot after being switched from fullback late in 2012. The Panthers will be relying on Coote to provide much of their attacking spark in 2013. It may be the season he stamps himself as a representative-quality star, or be recognised as simply a solid first grader for the remainder of his career. Parramatta â€“ Jarryd Hayne: At just 24 years old, Jarryd Hayne is all of a sudden the embattled Parramatta club's elder statesman. He is coming off an injury-ravaged 2012 season in which he played a career-low 12 NRL games. Hayne is a leading contender to take over the captaincy â€“ despite ongoing reservations over his attitude â€“ while the Eels' barren backline stocks could see him moved to centre or five-eighth by incoming coach Ricky Stuart. Parramatta needs Hayne to rediscover something close to his form of 2009 to stage a revival next season.