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SMH TEAM PREVIEWS

Discussion in 'Rugby League Forum' started by Berkeley_Eagle, Feb 26, 2008.

  1. Berkeley_Eagle

    Berkeley_Eagle Current Status: 24/7 Manly Fan 2016 Tipping Competitor

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    SHARKS

    Stuart's Cronulla close to being very scary

    February 26, 2008
    http://www.leaguehq.com.au/news/news/stuar...3788247606.html



    WHO'S NEW: Karl Filiga (Bulldogs), Blake Green (Eels), Grant Millington (Roosters), Bryan Norrie (Panthers), Kade Snowden (Knights), Adam Peek (Dragons), James Storer (Eels), Sam Moa (Balmain Tigers).

    WHO'S GONE: Adam Dykes (Hull FC), Phil Leuluai (Salford), Craig Stapleton (Salford), Cameron Ciraldo (Knights), Josh Hannay (Celtic Crusaders), Dane Nielsen (Storm), Henry Perenara (retired), Anthony Watts (Cowboys), Dayne Weston (Cowboys).

    BIGGEST QUESTION: When the going got tough last year, the Sharks got going, but not in a good sense. The Sharks lost nine matches by four points or less - a win in just one of those games would have given them a spot in the finals. If they can turn around that statistic, they will be well in contention when the going gets really tough, in the finals. How halfback Brett Kimmorley handles life without the little "c" next to his name will also have some bearing on whether 2008 is another season of missed opportunity for the club which makes a living out of it. "Noddy" likes to run the show on the field, and won't enjoy having the title taken from him.

    JOB SEEKERS: Blake Green has guided Parramatta to two consecutive Premier League titles, and in the future it is hoped he will be able to help the Sharks break through in first grade. Green is still green, but he was signed up last year with a fair amount of pomp for a player with just six first-grade games to his name. Brett Kimmorley and Greg Bird will be Ricky Stuart's first-choice halves combination. Green, however, could easily break them up at some stage.

    KEEP YOUR EYE ON: Karl Filiga has all the trademarks of Sonny Bill Williams except the trademarked name. That's because some would know him as Karl Filiga and others would know him as Karl McNichol. Filiga was signed from the Bulldogs as McNichol last May on a contract which could see him earn $200,000 a season over three years. He has since switched to his mother's maiden name - his father left the family home when Karl was just four. The 19-year-old centre/back-rower played his first game for the Sharks in the 44-0 drubbing by South Sydney and failed to impress, however the Sharks did not expect much out of him after he missed most of last year because of chest and foot injuries. Stuart is treating Filiga as a project player, although he is certain to be given time in first grade. Nathan Stapleton is a little further behind in terms of development, and in promise, but he has also been tagged as one to watch. Stapleton, an 18-year-old centre who will be part of the Sharks' National Youth Competition squad, comes from a northern NSW town called Deepwater, and Stuart is likely to throw him, ahem, into the deep end, this season. Some onlookers rated him the best on field in the Gosford trial, although as the scoreline suggested, he didn't have a lot of opposition.

    REASONS TO BE EXCITED: The nine-games-by-four-points-or-less stat might haunt Stuart in the dead of night. However, it is also a reason to be positive about the Sharks' prospects. It showed they were within touching distance of being genuine title contenders. Greg Bird and Paul Gallen are both within touching distance of becoming regular representatives players, and as long as they stay fit, the Sharks will be difficult to topple in the week-to-week grind. If they do get to the finals, Stuart is one of the best in the business at whisking his players into a finals frenzy. You know he will have them peaking at the right time.

    REASONS TO BE WORRIED: They are the team that has never won a premiership. Whenever we have become excited about a Cronulla side, they invariably disappoint, ensuring the game's longest premiership drought continues. Still, with the amount of rain that has been dumped on Sydney recently, Sharks fans will be hoping it's some sort of sign. Rain dance, please.

    Glenn Jackson
     
  2. Berkeley_Eagle

    Berkeley_Eagle Current Status: 24/7 Manly Fan 2016 Tipping Competitor

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    Tigers set to roar

      February 23, 2008

          The Herald will preview each club in the countdown to the 2008 kick-off.
    WHO'S NEW: Halfback Mathew Head (Hull), winger Nick Youngquest (Penrith) and back-rower Corey Payne (St George Illawarra).
    WHO'S GONE: Winger Daniel Fitzhenry (Hull KR), back-rower Ben Galea (Hull KR), centre Paul Whatuira (Huddersfield) and winger Jason Moodie (retired).
    BIGGEST QUESTION: Can that complicated little joint in Benji Marshall's shoulder hold? Marshall needs to be firing if the Tigers are to compete at the top end of town. While fullback Brett Hodgson does an able job as captain and chairman, Marshall is the CEO, the man who runs the company and makes the big calls. When Marshall was on the field and in charge, the Tigers won the premiership. Ever since, as he has struggled with his ongoing shoulder problems, his side has followed suit.
    JOB SEEKERS: Head is the X-factor for the Tigers. While John Morris provides steadiness at halfback, Head could provide spark - providing he, like Marshall, is able to shrug some hefty injury loads off his shoulders. Head has had enormous problems with his knees, and recent shoulder trouble will prevent his starting the season. At his peak, he is a representative-quality halfback who could take a huge amount of pressure off Marshall and Hodgson, the go-to men of the Tigers' attack. Payne has also wilted under the heat of one-too-many injuries, although he also has promise. Youngquest will score a few tries, provided he is given good service.
    KEEP YOUR EYE ON: Ever since Chris Lawrence burst into first grade as a 17-year-old against Brisbane in 2006, he has been one to watch. But with a full season and a full off-season under his burgeoning belt - and we mean that in the best possible way for a former skinny kid who's bound for the back row - he'll be giving more of an education this year than taking it. Peni Tagive may be the next off the Tigers' back-line production line. In fact, he could be in Lawrence's shoes now, having been a schoolmate of his at St Gregory's at Campbelltown and playing alongside him in the Australian schoolboys outfit of 2006. A shoulder reconstruction last year ruined his season before it even began. But he will start on the wing against the Roosters in the Foundation Cup trial tonight, and at 192cm and 98kg he will prove a handful.
    REASONS TO BE EXCITED: The new interchange laws should take the impact out of some of the bigger teams and give smaller sides such as the Tigers - despite some big boppers, they are still relatively small - more time and space. That's when you want Marshall, as well as Robbie Farah, who should be a NSW player this season. Ben Te'o should be a revelation this, while high hopes are similarly held for Tim Moltzen and Blake Ayshford.
    REASONS TO BE WORRIED: They were off the pace a little in terms of recruitment last year, even though they do have some talented kids. Their new faces could be astute bargain-basement buys, but they still have more holes in them than the skin around Marshall's shoulders.
    Glenn Jackson


    http://www.leaguehq.com.au/news/news/wests...3467386215.html
     
  3. Berkeley_Eagle

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    Murray will be Cows' question mark to JT's exclamation points

      February 22, 2008

      WHO'S NEW: Five-eighth Travis Burns (Manly), centre Ben Harris (Bradford Bulls), halfback Anthony Watts (Sharks), prop Dayne Weston (Cronulla), second row Daniel Backo (Mackay) winger John Williams (Roosters) and winger Anthony Perkins (Brisbane Norths).
    WHO'S GONE: Centre Paul Bowman (retired), five-eighth Jason Smith (retired), winger Scott Minto (retired), winger Brenton Bowen (Titans) and Rod Jensen (Huddersfield Giants).
    BIGGEST QUESTION: Can they stay in one piece - on and off the field? In 2006 the club was torn apart by off-field feuding and last year it was injuries that wreaked havoc. By the time the Cowboys flew south to play off for a grand final spot, too many big forwards were in shirts and ties sitting on the bench - a lot of excess baggage to fly from Townsville and a lot of grunt missing from the field. Equally, star halfback Johnathan Thurston was a wounded duck. He'll be late back on the field after going under the knife in the off-season. If he stays fit, the Cowboys are contenders; he's that good.
    JOB SEEKERS: After a sterling 2006 season with Manly, Travis Burns was squeezed out by the Sea Eagles' 2007 big-name signing, Jamie Lyon. Injuries didn't help but the tough little five-eighth has a great chance to ignite his career by playing the straight man to Thurston. Pound-for-pound Burns might well be the game's strongest defender. Ben Harris makes a welcome return to the NRL and will add plenty of starch in defence. Dayne Weston and Daniel "Son of Sam" Backo are big units ready to stake their claims. John Williams is fast enough to take advantage of attacking opportunities - if he can sort out his defensive deficiencies.
    KEEP YOUR EYE ON: JT. Watch him like a hawk when he has ball in hand - every NRL defender does, and they seem to pay for it. Will it be the dummy, the cut-out pass, the grubber kick or the lay-off to big Carl Webb? This guy has all the options covered, pushing the boundaries of quality each time he plays and already threatening to retire an Immortal. Watch him each time he tackles or gets hit: if you've got money riding on the Cows this year, the thorny question is going to be how well JT jumps up from the deck. His uncanny knack of finding Matt Bowen with the right ball makes the Cows worth watching. It also makes life hell for five-eighths, so pity poor Burns as he tries to play himself into the side.
    REASONS TO BE EXCITED: At their best the Cowboys offer the perfect balance of brute force and guile. The forwards roster, with the intimidating Webb and Origin players Luke O'Donnell, Jacob Lillyman and Matthew Scott, can hold its own against any side, and the backs love to run. The forwards will be even better if Sione Faumuina can fulfil his potential. Throw in one of the game's best home-ground advantages - a parochial crowd and year-round humidity to undermine visiting sides - and the Cowboys are always going to be there or thereabouts.
    REASONS TO BE WORRIED: Coach Graham Murray has been punted as many times as an old football. He's off again at year's end. What will the impact be? Will he have the players' confidence if he doesn't have the club's? Does he have his own, after the Origin debacle last season? Then there's the obvious, in the first four rounds when Watts starts as half: Can the Cows beat time if JT doesn't play?

    http://www.leaguehq.com.au/news/news/north...3467279178.html
     
  4. Berkeley_Eagle

    Berkeley_Eagle Current Status: 24/7 Manly Fan 2016 Tipping Competitor

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    Frontline potential undercut by loss of McKinnon

      February 21, 2008

      WHO'S NEW: Centre Brent Tate (Broncos), hooker Ian Henderson (Bradford) and winger Ryan Shortland.
    WHO'S GONE: Back-rower Louis Anderson (Warrington), winger Todd Byrne (Hull FC), hooker George Gatis (Huddersfield) and centre Tony Martin (Wakefield).
    BIGGEST QUESTION: Can anyone fill the boots of the injured Wade McKinnon? There was no one at the Warriors under more pressure to perform last season than McKinnon, after he left Parramatta to replace star fullback Brent Webb. But within weeks, McKinnon proved himself one of the buys of the season.
    McKinnon's superb individual try against Penrith in round 15 was widely regarded as the best four-pointer of 2007. McKinnon may be out for the season with a knee injury, and if replacement Aidan Kirk fails or is injured, coach Ivan Cleary will have to decide whether to hand the No.1 jersey to Patrick Ah Van, Lance Hohaia or 18-year-old Kevin Locke.
    JOB SEEKERS: After missing most of the 2007 season with a knee injury, Kirk is yet to play an NRL game but now gets his big chance at fullback. Jerome Ropati would have been considered for the role but, with Simon Mannering moving into the forwards full-time, he will remain in the centres alongside star recruit Brent Tate.
    Ian Henderson is vying with Nathan Fien for the hooking role after stints with the Roosters and Bradford, while Ryan Shortland - a Kiwi returning home after time with Melbourne - will challenge Manu Vatuvei, Ah Van and Michael Crockett for a wing berth.
    KEEP YOUR EYE ON: In the midst of the Warriors' six-game losing streak last season, former New Zealand coach Graham Lowe wrote a column calling for the promotion of Locke after just two matches in premier league - and by the end of the season rival clubs were well aware of the 18-year-old, 79-kilogram flyweight's potential.
    The Warriors wisely held Locke back - selecting him in their under-20s squad - but it is considered only a matter of time before he makes his NRL debut. Locke is ranked just behind Vatuvei as the fastest player at the Warriors and was named yesterday in the squad to play the Auckland Vulcans this weekend.
    REASONS TO BE EXCITED: Tate's arrival gives the Warriors the strike centre they have been missing since Clinton Toopi went off the boil and eventually left to play for Leeds.
    Tate's arrival also allows Mannering to move into the back row and more than covers for the departure of Louis Anderson. Two years ago former Kiwis coach Brian McClennan decided Mannering was best suited to the forwards.
    With Micheal Luck and Ruben Wiki also in the back row, Steve Price and boom prop Sam Rapira in the front row and the likes of Epalahame Lauaki, Wairangi Koopu, Evarn Tuimavave and Logan Swann on the bench, the Warriors boast perhaps the best pack in the NRL.
    REASONS TO BE WORRIED: Halves Grant Rovelli and Michael Witt exceeded expectations last season and were consistent throughout, however, when it came to the finals the Warriors didn't have the attacking spark to get over Parramatta and the Cowboys.
    The loss of McKinnon leaves a hole at fullback and it is unlikely Kirk will prove as threatening from the back.



    http://www.leaguehq.com.au/news/news/front...3467180834.html
     
  5. Berkeley_Eagle

    Berkeley_Eagle Current Status: 24/7 Manly Fan 2016 Tipping Competitor

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    Heat is on - Brown and his players know it's time for Dragons to start breathing fire

        Jacquelin Magnay  |  February 25, 2008

      Who's New: Kirk Reynoldson (from Newcastle), Stuart Webb (South Sydney), Jarrod Saffy (Wests Tigers), Jardine Bobongie (North Sydney Bears), Joe Falemaka (North Sydney Bears), Mark Hendy (Western Suburbs), Jon Green (Bulldogs), Alex Ranieri (Penrith).
    Who's gone: Corey Payne (to Wests Tigers), Danny Wicks (Newcastle), Chris Houston (Newcastle), Wes Naiqama (Newcastle), Keith Lulia (Newcastle), Ashton Sims (Brisbane Broncos), Tom Hewitt (Brisbane), Charlie Leaeno (Bulldogs), Adam Peek (Cronulla Sutherland).
    Biggest Question: How long before coach Nathan Brown gets punted by his close mate Peter Doust? Brown is in his sixth year of coaching and despite his team having stellar talent it has disappointed each September. Brown won't be able to rely on his rookie stature, which explained the lacklustre first couple of years, or blame the loss of key players, which extended his honeymoon run for a further year. He knows it is crunch time, despite his friendship with chief executive Doust, who is under pressure for results. The joint-venture board is expecting a quick turnaround, and Brown will have to deliver if he is to have any hope that his contract, which expires at the end of the season, will be renewed.
    Job Seekers: Former Waratahs bad-boy Wendell Sailor will finish his two-year suspension for testing positive to cocaine in May and looks certain to join the Dragons on match payments only if he is fit enough to slot into the back row ahead of Beau Scott and Ben Creagh.
    Keep Your Eye On: Dean Whare, an Arncliffe Scots local junior with exciting footwork, has been promoted to the first grade squad but will have to sidestep around the team's star pairing of Mark Gasnier and Matt Cooper.
    Reasons to Be Excited: Dean Young, who has had a most frustrating time recovering from his knee injury, should be back for the start of the season to give Brown a few more options around the ruck. Gasnier will be back to his preferred role out wide and, providing he gets his hands on the ball, should be one of the club's top tryscorers. Last year the club made much of the inexperience of players such as Rangi Chase and Chase Stanley, but those rookies have now had a taste of first grade and should be able to step up the intensity. Flashy winger Brett Morris and the big man Justin Poore have recovered from their shoulder injuries and will add some experience to the line-up. Last season the club finished 13th after a dreadful win/loss record of 9/15, so there is significant room for improvement.
    Reasons to Be Worried: The switch of home games from Oki Jubilee Stadium to ANZ stadium (Homebush Bay), a rival to the club's faithful sponsor St George Bank, has created friction, and fiercely loyal local fans in the St George area are furious at club management. It is understood the football club will receive about $800,000 for switching the games when the leagues club has cut its grant to the football club by $2 million. The decision has prompted, in part, for a local supporters group R2K to contest the next election of the St George board. How the players cope with the switch to the soulless big stadium will be critical to the year's results.



    http://www.leaguehq.com.au/news/news/heat-...3788145615.html
     
  6. Berkeley_Eagle

    Berkeley_Eagle Current Status: 24/7 Manly Fan 2016 Tipping Competitor

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    BULLDOGS


    Style police put pressure on Folkes to teach young pups new tricks

    February 27, 2008

    http://www.leaguehq.com.au/news/news/style-police-put-pressure-on-folkes-to-teach-young-pups-new-tricks/2008/02/26/1203788347442.html

    WHO'S NEW: Charlie Leaneo (Dragons), Justin Tsoulos (Eels), Aaron Groom (Sea Eagles), Michael Sullivan (Warrington), Danny Williams (Roosters).

    WHO'S GONE:
    Mark O'Meley (Roosters), Karl Filiga (Sharks), Willie Mason (Roosters), Trent Cutler (Wests Tigers), Jon Green (Dragons), Billy Ngawini (Titans), Adam Perry (retired), Brent Sherwin (Castleford).

    BIGGEST QUESTION: This joint has endured too much in the off-season to boil their plight down to one burning issue. The most pressing, of course, is whether coach Steve Folkes will have a job beyond the start of winter. We're told his tenure won't hang on wins and losses but the Bulldogs' style of play. But let's theorise for a second and say they start getting regularly lapped by 30 points. Who, then, would replace him? Wayne Bennett? Steve Kearney? Mick Potter? Graham Murray? Other relevant questions include: Who will replace departing chief executive Malcolm Noad? Will Graeme Hughes place his bottom in the big chair he's always coveted? Or will it be Noad's boardroom nemesis, Ray Dib? And how many will actually turn up to Noad's farewell drinks? Seriously, the biggest question facing the Doggies in 2008 is whether the players can turn a blind eye to the bunfight in the front office. Noad asked superstar Sonny Bill Williams a few weeks ago if the off-field drama was playing on his mind. "I just play football, bruz," was his simple response. This season, SBW and his teammates will need to play football with more spirit and resilience like never before at a time of crisis.

    JOB SEEKERS: Michael Sullivan escaped the NRL to play in England because he was battling a gambling addiction. With those demons exorcised after two seasons at Warrington, he has taken another punt by coming to Belmore. But he has the ability to provide some cunningness to a forward pack sans Mason and O'Meley. While Daniel Holdsworth looks to fill Sherwin's shoes at halfback, recruit Aaron Groom will push Ben Roberts for the No.6 jumper.

    KEEP YOUR EYE ON: Young halfback Ben Barba has been compared to none less than Johnathan Thurston. (Is that why they snapped up the unproven playmaker until the end of 2010?) Bulldogs recruitment guru Keith Onslow heard about the 18-year-old working wonders in Mackay, brought him down last June, and he scored so many points in Jersey Flegg the jaws of those in attendance for those 11 matches remain on the floor. Perhaps the biggest show of faith is this: when Sherwin departed for the old Dart, they turned their eyes to Barba.

    REASONS TO BE EXCITED:
    Well, life cannot possibly get any worse on the field than it has been off it. And hell hath no fury like a Bulldog scorned. As they have shown before at Belmore, they revel when the excrement is hitting the fan the most.

    REASONS TO BE WORRIED:
    Make no mistake, Mason and O'Meley are huge holes to fill in a pack renowned for grinding its opposition backwards. There will be untold pressure on Chris Armit and Jarrad Hickey.

    Andrew Webster
     
  7. Berkeley_Eagle

    Berkeley_Eagle Current Status: 24/7 Manly Fan 2016 Tipping Competitor

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    EELS


    A land of milk and honey if Smith sticks to milk and cookies

    Andrew Stevenson | February 28, 2008

    WHO'S NEW: Joe Galuvao (Souths).

    WHO'S GONE: Aaron Cannings (Titans) Richard Fa'aoso (Knights) Blake Green (Cronulla) PJ Marsh (Broncos), Timana Tahu (union, Waratahs), Justin Tsoulos (Bulldogs) and Ian Hindmarsh (retired).

    BIGGEST QUESTION:
    We all know who runs the Eels around the paddock. Tim Smith, simple. The big question is who's driving Smith around the paddock. In fact it's not so much on the paddock but off it that will decide the Eels' fate this season. Sure, Smith has the odd brain explosion when faced with a crowded defensive line. Sure, he can go missing in the trenches or butcher the crucial last-tackle play. But he's still Parramatta's best option behind the steering wheel if he can exorcise his demons, start listening to the milk-and-cookies voices in his head and shut out the one whispering, "It's beer o'clock".

    JOB SEEKERS: With former coach Brian Smith a long way away, Feleti Mateo holds his own future in his hand - just the same way as he mitts the footy. Mateo has the talent and the frame to be anything. We've seen his stride, his reach and his ability to beat a tackle on the outside. There's more to come and, with Tim Smith not due back on the pitch until a few weeks into the competition, Mateo will start at five-eighth and get his chance. Souths couldn't get their money worth out of big Joe: if coach Michael Hagan can, Galuvao can cause plenty of problems.

    KEEP YOUR EYE ON:
    Jarryd Hayne and Krisnan Inu. Hayne, rookie of the year in 2006, and Inu, runner-up for the same award last season, will find the going a little tougher when they start 2008 closer to the action. Picked in the centres, these two have enough talent to star anywhere, although they may miss the space the flanks offered. Another to watch is Mark Riddell, with the burly hooker now a svelte 98kg, down from 107 kg last season.

    REASONS TO BE EXCITED:
    Manly might be the club thinking, 'Let's go one better this year', but if truth be told, the Eels pushed Melbourne a lot harder - in both their final and round 23 clash, despite losing both. With big forwards able to bash the pill over the line (Fuifui Moimoi and Nathan Cayless), backed by workhorses such as Josh Cordoba, Chad Robinson and Nathan Hindmarsh, Parramatta can lay the requisite platform for the show-offs in the back line to do what they do best.

    REASONS TO BE WORRIED:
    Apart from Smith, the other designated driver is Brett Finch, just about the most maligned half in the game. Hagan picked him up after Ricky Stuart had played havoc with his mental state at the Roosters and the softly, softly approach worked wonders. There's a lot on his shoulders, a burden that could become unbearable should Smith not stick to the warm milk.
     
  8. Berkeley_Eagle

    Berkeley_Eagle Current Status: 24/7 Manly Fan 2016 Tipping Competitor

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    TITANS



    Baby boy is up and walking but can he avoid the terrible twos?


      March 1, 2008

    http://www.leaguehq.com.au/news/news/gold-coast-titans/2008/02/29/1204226992982.html

          SEASON PREVIEW - GOLD COAST TITANS
    WHO'S NEW: Brenton Bowen (Cowboys), Aaron Cannings (Eels), Matthew Cross (Panthers), Ashley Harrison (Roosters), Ben Jeffery (Wests Tigers), Billy Ngawini (Bulldogs).
    WHO'S GONE: Jake Webster (Hull), Matt Hilder (Knights), Richie Mathers (Wigan), David Myles (retired), Lelea Paea (rugby union).
    BIGGEST QUESTION: Players get second-year syndrome, but do clubs get it too? We'll soon find out. The Titans were riding a wave straight out of the breaks off the Gold Coast last year, but they are just a club now, albeit still an infant one. Time will tell whether they suffer the terrible twos.
    JOB SEEKERS: Brenton Bowen will be interesting to watch. He wasn't even the best Bowen at his former club, North Queensland, although it would have taken a fair bit to outshine his cousin Matt. A fresh start might give this speedster a fresh spark.
    KEEP YOUR EYE ON: While Shannon Walker's flashy feet have been attracting hype quicker than, well, he, his good mate Will Matthews is the player Titans officials believe could make even more of an impact. Both players have treaded the same path, hailing from the northern NSW town of Kyogle, being schooled at Palm Beach Currumbin before starring together with Australian Schoolboys and Junior Kangaroos sides. Both helped Queensland Cup side Tweed Heads Seagulls to the premiership last year, and both are in the process of negotiating long-term deals at the club, which may see them in Titans jumpers until 2012. Matthews is expected to play NRL football before Walker, having looked even more impressive than Brisbane giant David Taylor with the Junior Kangaroos.
    REASONS TO BE EXCITED: With the logistical problems of being a first-year entity over, the footballers can get on with simply playing football. Co-captains Luke Bailey and Scott Prince were impressive last year, and Mat Rogers, like his whole team, will be better for the run. The players ignored the distractions well last year, so without them they should improve again. The club also has a new stadium to christen, and if they can build up some early momentum at Skilled Park, they can ensure that, like the Terminator series, the sequel is better than the original.
    REASONS TO BE WORRIED: How many sequels do you know that are better than the original? The Titans performed admirably in their first season, finishing just one win out of the eight. However, the club found out the hard way that having a good side on paper does not necessarily mean good results, especially when the players get injured. The Titans' biggest hurdle last year was depth. Although they are in a slightly better position now, it only takes one injury to knock a side around. Every one of the Titans' key players have had more than their fair share during their careers.
    Glenn Jackson
     
  9. Berkeley_Eagle

    Berkeley_Eagle Current Status: 24/7 Manly Fan 2016 Tipping Competitor

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    SOUTH SYDNEY

    Wing beats weight of expectation

    February 29, 2008

    WHO'S NEW:
    Nathanael Barnes (Tweed Heads Seagulls), George Ndaira (Sydney Roosters), Jamie Simpson (Brisbane Norths), John Tamanika (Brisbane Easts), Craig Wing (Sydney Roosters).

    WHO'S GONE: Joe Williams (Penrith), Paul Mellor (retired), David Peachey (retired), Joe Galuvao (Parramatta), Peter Cusack (Hull), Shane Rigon (retired), Reece Simmonds (retired), Stuart Webb (Dragons).

    BIGGEST QUESTION: After winning Test and NSW jerseys as a hooker, can Craig Wing re-establish himself in the halves this season? While he wore the No.7 jersey for the Roosters in their 2002 grand final win, he has spent most of the past five seasons playing hooker.

    JOB SEEKERS: With Peter Cusack released to join Hull, Jaiman Lowe, Manase Manuokafoa, Scott Geddes, Michael Greenfield, Eddie Pettybourne and Luke Stuart are locked in a six-way battle to be Roy Asotasi's starting front-row partner. After bulking up 10kg during the off-season to 100kg, Lowe's brother Ben is also in contention for a place in the forwards. Most interest will revolve around the identity of Wing's halves partner - between Jeremy Smith, Eddie Paea and Ben Rogers.

    KEEP YOUR EYE ON: Nathanael Barnes was recommended to Souths by John Lang after starring in the Queensland Cup and is now within sight of his NRL debut. While flashy Titans recruit Shannon Walker stole the headlines at Tweed Heads Seagulls, 25-year-old Barnes was the competition's equal leading try-scorer with Brisbane Easts winger John Tamanika, another Rabbitohs signing.

    REASONS TO BE EXCITED: The return of Wing gives the Rabbitohs a premiership-winning halfback, while second-rower David Kidwell is like another signing after missing all but three games last year through injury. In addition, Souths last season unearthed a group of youngsters with bright futures, and there are more to come. The under-20s scrumbase trio of Chris Sandow, Luke Capewell and Jason Clarke are tipped as stars of the future.

    REASONS TO BE WORRIED: After securing a place in the top eight for the first time in 18 years a week before last season's finals, the Rabbitohs seemed to drop off in intensity. The expectations will be greater this season, and with their success generating resentment from rival clubs they will have to be at the top of their games every week.
     
  10. Berkeley_Eagle

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    ROOSTERS

    http://www.leaguehq.com.au/news/news/clubbyclub-previews/2008/03/03/1204402364901.html

    Big names bring burden of expectation

      March 4, 2008

      WHO'S NEW: Mark O'Meley, Willie Mason (Bulldogs), James Aubusson (Storm), Riley Brown (Knights), Albert Hopoate (religious duties), Jai Ayoub (Balmain Ryde Eastwood), Matt Hands (Junee), Mose Masoe (Wellington, NZ).
    WHO'S GONE: Craig Wing (Rabbitohs), Ashley Harrison (Titans), Heath L'Estrange (Sea Eagles), Joel Monaghan (Raiders), Chris Beattie (Lezignan), Willie Brown (released), Jarryd Hogan (Sharks), John Williams (Cowboys), Danny Williams (Bulldogs).
    BIGGEST QUESTION: Brad Fittler had nothing to lose when he took over as caretaker coach from Chris Anderson last year, but how will he cope with the acid placed upon him for the entire season? The players say Fittler has installed the warm-and-fuzzy vibe - something they needed at Bondi Junction after 2½ seasons of darkness. But nothing furrows a coach's brow and gives him a sweat moustache more than a side struggling to find the next loss. Fittler hasn't one grey hair yet but it will be in times of relative crisis that he will know if he's cut out for this clipboard-carrying caper. And chairman Nick Politis is never one to keep his thoughts to himself when things are heading south, regardless of whether you're a favourite son.
    JOB SEEKERS: The best way for the Roosters to offset the departure of Craig Wing to arch rivals South Sydney - apart from smacking their behinds in round one - is for James Aubusson to shine in the No.9. Wing wasn't too happy when they signed Aubusson from the Storm ahead of him, but the Roosters clearly have faith in their new hooker. But Aubusson showed as Cameron Smith's understudy last year that he's a handy prospect - and he can help cover at halfback where the Roosters are lacking some depth. Australian and Origin lock Anthony Tupou isn't after a job - he's got the lock position locked up - but he is also trying to ensure a contract extension beyond this season.
    KEEP YOUR EYE ON: Setaimata Sa has been afforded lofty praise for some time but this season he looms as an everywhere man. He's best suited to lock and the Roosters believe this is where he will eventually find his feet but he has an ability to cover halfback, five-eighth, centre and possibly No.9. No word yet on whether he can fit into the Roosters' mascot outfit.
    REASONS TO BE EXCITED: O'Meley and Mason are enormous assets, not least because they have won a premiership at the Bulldogs alongside five-eighth Braith Anasta, who finished last season as arguably the in-form pivot in the competition. Mason, in particular, has shown in the Roosters' trials that he wants to play plenty of minutes. He also has the ability to hit the line, spin and off-load - something they've been lacking for some time.
    REASONS TO BE WORRIED: While there is talent to burn in the pack, how much cover do they have in the back line?
    Andrew Webster
     
  11. Berkeley_Eagle

    Berkeley_Eagle Current Status: 24/7 Manly Fan 2016 Tipping Competitor

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    Eagles up there again if Monners isn't missed

        Greg Prichard  |  March 5, 2008


    http://www.leaguehq.com.au/news/news/eagles-up-there-again-if-monners-isnt-missed/2008/03/04/1204402453525.html


          WHO'S NEW: Tim Browne (South Sydney), Heath L'Estrange (Sydney Roosters), Josh Perry (Newcastle), Lui Toimoana (Auckland Lions), David Vaealiki (Wigan), Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (NSWRU), David Williams (Parramatta).
    WHO'S GONE: Travis Burns (North Queensland), Shayne Dunley (retired), Sione Finefeuiaki (Newcastle), Aaron Groom (Bulldogs), Chris Hicks (Warrington), Michael Monaghan (Warrington).
    BIGGEST QUESTION: How will they cope with the loss of the Monaghan? He was one of the toughest players in the NRL and he had plenty of skill, too. When he was forced off the field with concussion during the preliminary final against the Cowboys last season, Manly lost their way. When he came back on, they got into gear again. That said it all about how important Monaghan was to the team. Matt Ballin will get a shot at starting hooker now and off-season signing L'Estrange will put the heat on him for that role.
    JOB SEEKERS: Out of left field comes David Williams, the younger brother of North Queensland and former Parramatta and Sydney Roosters winger John. Williams has come from the Eels, where injuries slowed his development, and the Sea Eagles rate him highly. He can play fullback, wing or centre. Fullback is out of the question, with Brett Stewart on fire, but he may see some action this season in the back line.
    KEEP YOUR EYE ON: Sometimes, a player just looks like he needs a change of clubs and Perry fitted into that category towards the end of his time at Newcastle. He is only 27, so a new lease on life is certainly possible for him. Motivation shouldn't be a problem - Perry has landed at a club that has improved considerably each season over the past few years and was second in 2007. He hasn't been as fit as he could have been at times over the years but that is unlikely to happen under a physical fitness guru of a coach like Des Hasler. At his best, Perry is a powerful physical presence in the middle of the field.
    REASONS TO BE EXCITED: Manly were disappointing in last year's grand final, when the Storm beat them easily, but there was no doubt they deserved to be there on the last day of the season. Manly will begin this season as arguably one of the two biggest threats - along with Parramatta - to the Storm and if they are not up near the top going into the finals it would be a shock. The Sea Eagles have got a terrific blend of youth, experience, speed and power. They can blow teams away but they can also tough out a win, too. Perhaps the old saying that you've got to lose a grand final before you can win one will turn out to be true in their case.
    REASONS TO BE WORRIED: The Sea Eagles are trying hard to sign five-eighth Todd Carney from Canberra for next season. They know Jamie Lyon isn't the long-term answer at five-eighth. Lyon is a terrific player, but as a centre. He can do a job at five-eighth but if the Sea Eagles had a genuine, star No.6, he wouldn't have to play there. It doesn't mean they can't win the premiership but it could hurt them when it comes to the crunch.
     
  12. Berkeley_Eagle

    Berkeley_Eagle Current Status: 24/7 Manly Fan 2016 Tipping Competitor

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    Brisbane



    Bennett way too wily to let his departure become a distraction

    http://www.leaguehq.com.au/news/news/clubbyclub-previews/2008/03/05/1204402557463.html


      March 6, 2008

      WHO'S NEW: Joel Clinton (Penrith), Tom Hewitt (St George Illawarra), PJ Marsh (Parramatta), Reece Robinson (Cronulla), Ashton Sims (St George Illawarra), Peter Wallace (Penrith).
    WHO'S GONE: Shaun Berrigan (Hull), Dane Carlaw (Catalans), Petero Civoniceva (Penrith), Ian Lacey (Ipswich), Brent Tate (Warriors), John Te Reo (Wynnum-Manly), Brad Thorn (Crusaders).
    BIGGEST QUESTION: Will Wayne Bennett's final year as coach be a positive or a negative? Brisbane have the ability to rise above drama. If the Broncos fire from the start, then the players could use the coach's pending exit as motivation, to send him out the right way. If they struggle early, there will be speculation that the players are struggling to get themselves up because they know the coach is leaving. But we can be sure Bennett will do all he can to make the season a success, because he's both proud and a professional.
    JOB SEEKERS: Wallace and Marsh. When the Broncos identify an opposition player for recruitment, with the aim of filling a key role, they usually get it right. Bennett identified Wallace as he was making an impression at five-eighth for Penrith. He'll be a halfback with Brisbane and he has the confidence to call the plays. The great thing for Wallace is that he'll be paired with five-eighth Darren Lockyer. If you can't learn from playing alongside Lockyer - playing under Bennett - there is something wrong with you.
    KEEP YOUR EYE ON: Lockyer. He turns 31 later this month and is coming back from a knee reconstruction. No one would be silly enough to say a champion like him can't regain his best form, but it won't be easy.
    REASONS TO BE EXCITED: The Broncos were making a big run in the second half of last season before Lockyer got hurt. The Australian captain's season-ending injury, and the unavailability of several other big-name players for extended periods, signalled the end of their charge, but Brisbane are always a threat. There was considerable player turnover at the end of last season, but there has been major turnover before and it hasn't hurt them. Bennett has long since proved his ability to reinvent the team.
    REASONS TO BE WORRIED: This will be the first time in more than a decade that the Broncos have begun a season without Shane Webcke or Petero Civoniceva up front. Dave Taylor is a magnificent prospect as a prop but he is still a teenager. They have signed a good prop in Joel Clinton, but the jury is still out on whether he is the answer.
     
  13. Berkeley_Eagle

    Berkeley_Eagle Current Status: 24/7 Manly Fan 2016 Tipping Competitor

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    RAIDERS

    Canberra set for chilly season with Carney future to be meted out

    Jacquelin Magnay | March 7, 2008

    http://www.leaguehq.com.au/news/news/clubbyclub-previews/2008/03/06/1204779964152.html

    WHO'S NEW:
    Joel Monaghan (Roosters).

    WHO'S GONE:

    David Howell (Harlequins, London), Andrew Dunemann (Northern Pride), Matt Bickerstaff (retired), Jason Williams (Wynnum-Manly).

    THE BIG QUESTION:

    Will Todd Carney stick with the Raiders beyond this year? It's almost inevitable that Carney, the club's best player since Laurie Daley, will head north next season with big four-year offers on the table from Manly, Penrith and the Bulldogs. The former Goulburn Stockmen junior has been the centre of the Raiders' rebuilding of local strength, and if he departs it will tear a hole in the club. It will also be a season of instability if he signs with a rival while playing with the Raiders. A decision should be made within the next couple of weeks.

    JOB SEEKERS:


    Coach Neil Henry has quickly consolidated his spot in the top NRL coaching ranks while at the Raiders and is not off contract, but he has been linked to the vacant Brisbane Broncos and North Queensland Cowboys spots for next season because of his previous work with the Queensland State of Origin side. Other clubs such as St George Illawarra and the Bulldogs would also love to get their hands on Henry, who has a proven record of being able to improve a team.

    KEEP YOUR EYE ON:


    William Zillman. Apart from having the happy knack of being able to score tries from the most innocuous spots, Zillman stripped off to be the cover model for a fund-raising project with a women's magazine late last year. The pivot, who can also slot in at fullback, has been recovering from knee surgery after twisting his knee in a freak tackle last August.

    REASONS TO BE EXCITED:


    The green rookies of 2007 over-achieved beyond everyone's initial expectations but now, with that initial year of experience under the astute coaching of Henry, there are lofty finals ambitions for the team. The recruitment of Joel Monaghan back to his home town will provide some speed to the back line. Canberra Stadium has long been a hoodoo for visiting teams, and the plunging temperatures in the La Nina weather cycle can only benefit the locals.

    REASONS TO BE WORRIED:
    The Raiders have struggled away from home. Last season they won fewer than a handful of away games, which cost them dearly on the premiership table. Establishing a comfortable routine while travelling is essential to their success. As well there could be uncertainty off the paddock with 14 of their top players coming off contract. Obviously, a strong start to the season will help with retention of the key personnel. Boom second-rower Tom Learoyd-Lahrs is still out with a niggling knee problem. When he fires, the team fires.

    Jacquelin Magnay
     

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