WIZ: Cleary rebuilds, Sonny Bill reloads, Sharks resurge
New Zealand's Sonny Bill Williams celebrates after scoring a try against Ireland(AP Photo/SNPA, John Cowpland)
The two big talking points in rugby league this week were around player movements: Luke Lewis and Sonny Bill Williams, two high profile players whose next clubs will benefit immeasurably from their services next season.
Luke Lewis announced that, after 11 years, he feels he needs a clean break from the Panthers.
Obviously there’s a lot more to the story, but whatever the real reasons he’s leaving Penrith, one of 15 other clubs are going to pick up a player that is a real seasoned veteran.
And they’re not easy to find these days.
So Penrith will lose another player.
The club is going through a rebuilding process this year, under the direction of Ivan and Gus. But it had to happen, and there will be short term pain for what should be long term gain.
With Ivan coming over from the Warriors, he’s bringing his experience in getting the balance at a club right, rebuilding the Panthers with an emphasis on developing the local talent they have at their disposal in the area.
He did the same thing at the Warriors, who have reaped the rewards of Clearly’s far-sighted vision.
And now he’s blooding a lot of these young players who haven’t played first grade before.
There are also strong whispers that Jonathan Thurston may end up at the Panthers once his deal is done with the Cowboys, in the process perhaps becoming one of the first players to crack the million dollar a season mark.
That remains to be seen, but I do see a lot of positive signs in what Ivan and Gus and trying to do at Penrith.
As for Sonny Bill, well he’ll slip straight back into the NRL and will be a devastating addition to what is already shaping as a powerful Roosters outfit in 2013. I’d be playing him at lock. But he could play a number of different positions.
And if I was scheduling the draw for 2013, I’d put the Roosters up against the Bulldogs in the season opener at the Football Stadium. They would pack the joint out.
Finally, Cronulla fans, let it be known that the Wizard is onboard. He’s a true believer. You will be right up there at the end of ths season and you could well win it this year.
The year of the Shark? Has a nice ring to it.
Gary 'Wiz' Freeman is one of the great halfbacks in New Zealand rugby league history. Now an outspoken and popular media personality, he joined The Roar in 2012 as an expert rugby league columnist, and continues in 2013.
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