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7 players on their last NRL chance in 2016

Discussion in 'Rugby League Forum' started by mozgrame, Oct 29, 2015.

  1. mozgrame

    mozgrame Well-Known Member

    +5,118 /51
    RUGBY league is famous for giving out second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth chances, but no matter how good a player used to be there’s always a time when enough is enough and they get kicked to the curb.
    Be it because of big money contracts, age or injury, we’ve picked out seven players who are on their absolute last chance in 2016.

    Will Hopoate
    The fall for Will Hopoate has been as rapid as his rise when he burst onto the scene at Manly. From an Origin berth with the Blues and a fat contract with Parramatta, he finds himself on the very brink of the footballing wilderness after a two-year stint with the Eels that was deeply underwhelming. Hopoate is currently in dispute with the Eels over a contract extension that the 23-year old says the club revoked and seems unlikely to be at the club in 2016.

    Regardless of the outcome, seven tries in 37 matches is a terrible return for an investment, and despite his forays in Origin (his Blue career is surely on hold for a while after the 52-6 Suncorp massacre) his career is right on the brink.

    It’s a strange thing to say about a player who’s career should be entering its prime, but unless Hopoate can secure a new NRL deal — Canterbury are rumoured to be keen, as are Melbourne — his Australian career could be over incredibly quickly. He must show his best in 2016, or at least greatly improve, if he wants to remain in the NRL.

    Jarrod Mullen
    Jarrod Mullen is 28 years old. He’s just finished his 11th season in first grade and will play his 200th first grade game early in 2016. He’s been around longer than you think and should be in his prime right now. Instead, he’s still frustratingly inconsistent, a player who has all the skills you could ever want in a top class half but has never been able to put it all together.

    He’s a creator who can’t create all the time and an organiser who can’t organise all the time. There’s a lot of things he’s pretty good at, but nothing he’s great at.

    Part of the problem with Mullen is that he was always shackled with the tag of being The Next Andrew Johns and was subsequently expected to be both the creative force for the Knights as well as the on field general. Throw in complete merry-go-round of halves partners since Johns retired in 2007 and Mullen has never been in the right situation to develop his talents. That might change with the arrival of Trent Hodkinson, but it’s difficult to see Mullen turning it around at his age. After 10 years in the big leagues, you are who you are.

    Peter Wallace
    As they say out west, Peter Wallace is tough as guts. The red headed halfback has struggled with injury in the two seasons since he returned to Penrith, but he’s busted his ass trying to stay on the field, with the toughest/craziest moment coming against Canberra when he played over half the match with a ruptured ACL.

    They breed ‘em tough out in the Riff, and Wallace’s commitment to the Panther cause cannot be disputed. However, given his injury history and his age, questions need to be asked regarding Wallace’s first grade future.

    A calming veteran presence on a young side, Wallace provides more with intangibles and leadership than he does on the stat sheet, but one more bad injury might be all it takes to convince the 30-year old to hang up the boots.

    Tony Williams
    There is not a man in the NRL who is built to play rugby league more than Tony Williams. He is big and strong enough to play in the forwards, he’s quick enough to play in the backs and he’s skilful enough to play in the halves.

    On a football field, there is nothing he can’t do. But for reasons passing understanding, he just doesn’t put it all together anywhere near as often as he should. The bane of Bulldogs fans, Williams joined Canterbury on a massive contract in 2013 and has not come close to justifying the hype or his wage. Rumours that the former Origin and Test rep was set to leave the club came as no surprise.

    Williams’ impossible physical gifts have always been at odds with his less than stellar application, but Des Hasler has always backed himself to get the best of the big man. However, Hasler hasn’t been able to replicate the success Williams had at the Sea Eagles and with the 26-year old off contract in 2016 it seems unlikely he’ll be able to demand the same amount of dollars on his next contract.

    Given his less than stellar reputation, Super League may be his likely destination if he can’t produce the goods.

    Anthony Watmough
    The difference between Manly Anthony Watmough and Parramatta Anthony Watmough was staggering. Manly Watmough was a one man wrecking crew, a machine of a thing who single-handedly made Manly one of the most physical packs in the NRL and who set the tone with his athleticism, power, leg speed and toughness.

    Parramatta Watmough is an injury prone old man who drops the ball, crabs across the field and looks like he escaped from the retirement home and stashed his walking stick under the grandstand.

    The veteran backrower is on huge bank at the moment and missed the back end of 2015 with a knee injury. There’s two ways this can go — reinvigorated by a full pre-season, Watmough regains some of the fire and turns back into Throwback Watmough, or he continues to crab across field, throw suicidal passes and limp towards an inevitable early retirement. At 32 and with over 300 games under his belt, either a late renaissance or the end of his career awaits Watmough in 2016

    Ben Barba
    Do yourself a favour and open a new tab on your browser. Go to Youtube and type in “Ben Barba 2012”. A number of highlight videos will come up, and it won’t matter which one you click because all of them show the same thing — Ben Barba ripping off try after try after try for the Bulldogs and generally making rugby league look impossibly easy.

    People talk about Barba’s 2012 form all the time, but it’s only once you go back and watch it that you realise how dominant he was and how ludicrous it is that he’s devolved into a bench utility who’s lucky to be in first grade.

    Barba’s road since leaving the Bulldogs at the end of 2013 has been rockier than a slab of rocky road. A forgettable season in Brisbane precipitated his move to the Shire and despite his poor form he’s still on a contract that makes your eyes water — reportedly, up to $800,000 a season. He’s not off contract until 2017, but if he can’t make first grade consistently or at least show flashes of his former brilliance, a move overseas seems inevitable.

    Tellingly, Barba scored just three tries in 17 matches last season, with two of those tries involving him catching the ball with nobody within shouting distance and putting it down. The long breaks and scything runs of days past have all but abandoned the 26-year old.

    Jamal Idris
    It’s a damn shame that Jamal Idris blew his knee out early in the 2015 season. The big centre looked as though he was on the verge of his best season in some time, especially after his three try performance against the Titans in Round 2.

    Idris has endured a number of false starts over the past few years, hitting road blocks whenever he seems set to regain full fitness and form. Off contract at the end of 2016 and at 25 years of age, Idris has reached a crossroads in his rugby league career.

    An enigmatic, complex and deeply contemplative individual, Idris has questioned his own desire to play top grade football in the past. His physical gifts are so overwhelming and he started his first grade career so early that, relatively speaking, he still should have plenty of gas left in the tank.

    With a good pre season under his belt and a focused mindset, Idris can still be a force in this competition. However the question lingers, as it always has for Idris — does he want it?


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