Who’s got a point to prove this NRL season (Part 2)

The Barry Roar Guru

By The Barry, The Barry is a Roar Guru


97 Have your say

    Every year, there are NRL teams that really need to prove a point, but who within each club is being scrutinised the closest?

    » Check out Part 1 of this series

    Jarryd Hayne is perhaps the most polarising player in the game. He’s copped a load of flack for supposedly giving up on his NFL dream, trying out for the Fiji Olympics sevens squad, not returning to Parramatta, not putting in for the Titans, and coming last in a fitness run back at Parramatta.

    It’s still not clear in what position Brad Arthur intends to use Hayne – centres look likely, however his defensive positioning there is poor.

    At his best, he’s one of the most enjoyable, entertaining players you could hope to see, but it’s now a long time since he’s delivered on that.

    No one has had more excuses in the last couple of years than Nathan Brown. He walked into a club that was a basket case off and on the field and was consistent in his message that it would take a while to rebuild.

    Knights fans have been extremely patient and extremely loyal, but now that Brown has had an off-season signing splurge, that patience is turning into expectation.

    Brown has added Mitchell Pearce, Kalyn Ponga, Connor Watson, Aiden Guerra, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Herman Ese’ese, Chris Heighington, Tautau Moga, Jacob Lillyman and Slade Griffen to a squad of promising youngsters.

    Some are tipping the Knights to make the eight off the back of these signings. While that’s a few steps too far, Brown has more pressure for the side to perform than any time previously.

    What is going on at Penrith? A couple of seasons ago they were pinning their futures on local juniors like Matt Moylan and Bryce Cartwright. A couple of cleanouts later and it’s a new-look side.

    Anthony Griffin seems to be shunning the talented but flighty type of player in favour of a more predictable line-up.

    The Panthers have looked the goods at various times over the past couple of seasons, but have been unable to kick on, putting Hook up in lights to deliver consistent results and success.

    Like Matt Scott, Greg Inglis is a big man on the wrong side of 30 attempting to come back from ACL surgery. At his best, he is as good a ball-runner as anyone who has played the game, but the last few seasons he has been playing on one leg.

    Hopefully, last season’s enforced downtime helped freshen him up physically and mentally.

    New coach Anthony Seibold should work out a system whereby Inglis and Cody Walker rotate between 1 and 6 to ease the workload on the bigger man.


    Greg Inglis (AAP Image/David Moir)

    Blake Austin, Aiden Sezer and Jack Wighton are all off contract at the end of this year and none have really taken their position by storm, making themselves indispensable.

    But really it can only be one man: Ricky Stuart.

    Many fans just out-and-out hate him, and he has a record of impressive starts with clubs before the wheels fall off. There is a school of thought that his intensity becomes too much for players.

    After such an impressive 2016, where they were a few minutes and an Edrick Lee fumble from a grand final berth, Canberra were well off the boil in 2017.

    The 2016 form is where the bar is set for this club, given their roster, but they still seem to struggle when the game is tight at the death. Even in 2016, they lost five games by six or less, winning only three by the same margin.

    The Roosters have finished in the top two for four of the past five seasons, but only have one premiership to show for it, so Cooper Cronk has been signed to get them over the line in the big, end-of-season games.

    Cronk has two premierships, a world club championship, two Dally Ms, a Churchill medal, a golden boot and has been the Dally M halfback of the year six times. He’s played 38 games for Australia and 22 for Queensland. He is an absolute champion.

    But he’s out of the Storm set up for the first time. Injuries aside, it will be the first time in who knows how long that he won’t have Cameron Smith inside him or Billy Slater outside him.

    How Cronk performs at the Roosters and how the Storm goes without Cronk will be two of the most fascinating narratives of the season. I’m looking forward to seeing Cronk work with guys like Boyd Cordner and Latrell Mitchell.

    As good as he is, anything less than a premiership heading to Bondi will be seen as a failure, which is a huge ask for anyone.

    Sea Eagles
    In 2014, Dylan Walker was the best young centre in the game. In 2015 he had an okay season in a slightly disappointing Souths side, then got into trouble mucking about with prescription medication. In 2016, he was a centre playing five-eighth and was selected in Origin as a bench utility.

    I wasn’t surprised it didn’t work out well and he’s carried a bit of baggage since.

    Last season, he was back into his best form since 2014 and shone in a Manly team bouncing back from a couple of disappointing seasons.

    Walker is likely to be having a late start to the season and still has some silliness in his game, but if he can back up his form from last season he could be pressing for a Blues jersey.

    The New South Wales State of Origin team for the 2018 series remains a mystery, with new coach Brad Fittler facing plenty of selection headaches. So we want you to tell us - and all your mates - who should start for Blues in Game 1 with our team picker.

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    The Crowd Says (97)

    • Roar Rookie

      February 8th 2018 @ 4:28am
      3_Hats SSTID 2014 said | February 8th 2018 @ 4:28am | ! Report

      Cody Walker will not be playing any Fullback this season
      The pecking order is GI, AJ then Jesse Arthars.
      Even Gagai would be chosen at Fullback before Walker.
      Walkers strength is at five-eighth and setting up the outside backs for trys.

      Madge moving Walker to FB was an error last season but given the injuries to 6 of our outside backs at that time, we can forgive him.
      The Rabbitohs will be playing Finals footy this season, despite what you so-called armchair experts think.

      Well Barry, would you like to have a wager on the Good Friday game?
      I will give you 12 and a half start and you will need all of it.

      • Roar Guru

        February 8th 2018 @ 7:36am
        The Barry said | February 8th 2018 @ 7:36am | ! Report

        Its not like you, but I think you’re being too conservative.

        Souths have by far the best team in the comp, not at all imbalanced with overpaid, underperforming players and rookies who are yet to kick on. You’ve also got an experienced coach with an amazing track record. Souths spine has clicked more effectively than any other team in the comp and your best players are coming off their best seasons ever.

        12.5 start? Let’s make it a million bucks on the Good Friday game, just to make it interesting.

        Whether it’s Walker or someone else, Inglis won’t spend the whole season at fullback.

        • Roar Rookie

          February 8th 2018 @ 9:40am
          JOHNY BULLDOG said | February 8th 2018 @ 9:40am | ! Report

          Ha ha,love your work Baz 🙂

        • February 8th 2018 @ 11:08am
          Big Daddy said | February 8th 2018 @ 11:08am | ! Report

          Take him on .
          What’s the old saying.
          Put up or shut up.
          He’s probably scurried down the Warren.

          • February 8th 2018 @ 8:42pm
            Mushi said | February 8th 2018 @ 8:42pm | ! Report

            He didn’t pay on any of my bets so good luck baz

      • February 8th 2018 @ 8:06am
        BA Sports said | February 8th 2018 @ 8:06am | ! Report

        He moved Walker to fullback 8 times in 2016 as well, so nothing new.

        Before they won their last four games of 2016 (which were meaningless as they were out of Finals contention), Souths had won just 5 of their last 24 games. Inglis played in 18 of those games – 10 as fullback and a mixture the other 8. In those 10 games at fullback he scored just twice. And those are the last meaningful games he played.

        6 tries in his last 21 games – Hayne scored 8 tries in 17 last year and apparently wasn’t putting in…

        Inglis is not the black and white answer for Souths at Fullback but will a rookie coach be willing to get a veteran star to play the best position for the team not just yield to GI’s wishes?

      • Roar Guru

        February 8th 2018 @ 8:59am
        Nat said | February 8th 2018 @ 8:59am | ! Report

        Can I get part of that 3 hats??

      • February 8th 2018 @ 9:16am
        jeff dustby said | February 8th 2018 @ 9:16am | ! Report

        are not you an armchair expert? a little bit of a hypocritical statement?

        • Roar Guru

          February 8th 2018 @ 10:31am
          The Barry said | February 8th 2018 @ 10:31am | ! Report

          He’s on the banana lounge…

        • February 8th 2018 @ 11:53am
          Oingo Boingo said | February 8th 2018 @ 11:53am | ! Report

          He can’t be coz ya , Can’t fit a lounge chair in a caravan .

      • Roar Rookie

        February 8th 2018 @ 3:15pm
        steveng said | February 8th 2018 @ 3:15pm | ! Report

        Need Walker at 5/8, for sure, he’s waisted at FB! Reno better pull his socks up in 2018n as the weakest link is him and yes I know, he’s a great kicker but, its time that Reno showed up for the whole season.

      • February 8th 2018 @ 4:25pm
        MAX said | February 8th 2018 @ 4:25pm | ! Report

        Strike me pink 3 Hats : We didn’t know you are / were in Real Estate.

        • February 8th 2018 @ 6:31pm
          Oingo Boingo said | February 8th 2018 @ 6:31pm | ! Report

          No shiitt , He’s go a whole one and one for spares MAX

      • February 8th 2018 @ 6:58pm
        Mike said | February 8th 2018 @ 6:58pm | ! Report

    • February 8th 2018 @ 6:57am
      BA Sports said | February 8th 2018 @ 6:57am | ! Report

      I am sure the story lines will ramp up around Cronk once the season starts, but since all of the noise about him signing, the focus seems to be more on Pearce (at a club that most probably won’t contend in 2018) vs Cronk – at a club that most likely will.
      He has been brought to the club to do one thing – win the comp – so come the back end of the season it will be really interesting to see how he performs to the expectation and how he does it without Smith. It’s a risk that will either strengthen or slightly diminish his legacy.

      • Roar Guru

        February 8th 2018 @ 7:47am
        The Barry said | February 8th 2018 @ 7:47am | ! Report

        There was a media frenzy when he signed which has died off. I’m sure once he pulls on the Roosters jersey it will ramp up again.

        The legacy question is an interesting one.

        If the Roosters win a comp his legacy is well and truly enhanced, especially if the Storm don’t win one in that period. Same if he wins a Dally M and the Roosters don’t win a comp.

        If he plays well over the next two years but the Roosters don’t win I think the impact is negligible.

        But if the worst happens, he doesn’t play well, doesn’t gel with the Roosters and they don’t have success do two crook Cronk seasons at age 34 and 35 really damage the legacy of a two time premier, two time Dally M winner, Churchill medal winner, 38 Australian caps, 22 Queensland caps, two time World Cup winner, multiple Origin series winner?

        I’m sure there will be people saying he was never any good and only successful because of Smith, Slater, Bellamy, etc but I won’t be one of them.

        • Roar Guru

          February 8th 2018 @ 8:06am
          Emcie said | February 8th 2018 @ 8:06am | ! Report

          I don’t think his legacy is in danger as long as he puts in, and he’s too professional not to. A premiership is still a team result rather than an individual one. It might be different if he was a highly hyped player with potential coming from a weaker club but he’s already proved what he can do in a professional outfit. I think any criticism would be aimed closer to the coach if he can’t get the team to work with a proven performer. I think the fact that clubs were chasing him rather then him “seeking a new challenge” sways the narrative in his favour.

        • February 8th 2018 @ 8:10am
          BA Sports said | February 8th 2018 @ 8:10am | ! Report

          Oh I agree. To me, all he can do is add to his legacy, not diminish it. But if they don’t succeed the Telegraph will start up a story line and there will be yokels and puppets who just jump on as it is the easy and controversial thing to say.

        • February 8th 2018 @ 1:19pm
          KenW said | February 8th 2018 @ 1:19pm | ! Report

          ‘I’m sure there will be people saying he was never any good and only successful because of Smith, Slater, Bellamy, etc but I won’t be one of them.’

          ‘and there will be yokels and puppets who just jump on as it is the easy and controversial thing to say.’

          Is there a middle ground? I don’t dislike the guy (actually there’s a lot to admire), and won’t be deathriding him or anything. I can’t deny though that I believe his career has been enhanced considerably by playing off the most consistently influential player I’ve ever seen in Cam Smith.

          Not for a moment do I think he will embarrass himself but if he just putts along at Bondi then it will inevitably back that up somewhat.

          I think his stint with the Roosters will define where he sits in the ‘Top Halfback lists’. When people talk about the best modern no.7s they might argue about the exact positioning of Johns, Thurston, Sterlo, Langer, Stuart but they are always at the pointy end – there’s far less consensus about Cronk despite that impressive list of achievements.

          Succeed with the Roosters as their main man and he clearly belongs in that group of names – plod along and he will probably be considered in the next class down (still a high quality field of course).

          • February 8th 2018 @ 2:49pm
            matth said | February 8th 2018 @ 2:49pm | ! Report

            I think you meant to say “Thurston, Langer, Sterlo, Johns, Stuart”.

            • February 8th 2018 @ 4:19pm
              KenW said | February 8th 2018 @ 4:19pm | ! Report

              Well, no. But my list wasn’t my exact order either.

              On a side note, your list is as Qld as it gets isn’t it? Both Maroon options on top, the NSWelshman who was a toddler from Toowoomba, then the Novacastrian who is closer to the promised land than the Queanbeyan(ian?)

          • Roar Guru

            February 8th 2018 @ 4:29pm
            The Barry said | February 8th 2018 @ 4:29pm | ! Report

            All really good points KenW

            Only the most reasonable and fair minded of footy fans operate in the middle ground though mate. The rest of us rail and rant about the best ever and the worst and the biggest shocker and biggest refs blunder…

      • February 8th 2018 @ 7:53am
        mushi said | February 8th 2018 @ 7:53am | ! Report

        I’m not sure his legacy is going to be changed.

        20 years from now is he going to be regarded more highly than Smith or Thurston by the general fan if the roosters win? No. He’s going to be in that next tier with Slaters etc and I think people have already used the last decade to make their minds up on their preferences in that tier.

        Now if he plays for three more years and the roosters win 2 of 3 and have all top four finishes and Melbourne slip from the top 4 then maybe there’s a chance he gets elevated but lets face it if that happens there is also a high likelihood that Tedesco has developed into head and shoulders the best fullback in the game and will get the credit.

        I don’t think there is anything that can happen this year that will change his legacy from being on the same level as a Daley or Fittler 20 years from now.

        • February 8th 2018 @ 12:44pm
          Duncan Smith said | February 8th 2018 @ 12:44pm | ! Report

          I think Slater is top tier, ahead of Cronk who’s a level or two below. This is the era of great fullbacks. In his career he’s had to compete with Lockyer, Inglis, Hayne, and I think he has bested them, all over a long period of time. To be a better fullback than those guys, as I think he is, you’ve got to be pretty close to top tier.

          • Roar Guru

            February 8th 2018 @ 1:13pm
            Emcie said | February 8th 2018 @ 1:13pm | ! Report

            I think Slater is definitely top tier now, but for a fair chunk of his career he was good but inconsistent. As for Cronk I think he gets elevated up a tier by fans due to association

          • Roar Rookie

            February 8th 2018 @ 2:30pm
            Joe said | February 8th 2018 @ 2:30pm | ! Report

            Definitely the era of great fullback…not forgetting Brett Stewart and Matty Bowen…even the short flameup of Ben Barba in 2012 and 2016.

            • February 8th 2018 @ 2:50pm
              matth said | February 8th 2018 @ 2:50pm | ! Report

              And it all started with The Count at the Roosters. A great fullback as well.

            • February 8th 2018 @ 3:02pm
              Duncan Smith said | February 8th 2018 @ 3:02pm | ! Report

              True. The 70s had Langland and Eadie, the 80s had Belcher and Jack, but there have never been more high quality fullbacks than the last 15 years.

          • February 8th 2018 @ 4:02pm
            Mushi said | February 8th 2018 @ 4:02pm | ! Report

            I hate debating the elite players because you always end up pointing out flaws rather than appreciating them.

            But when did he suddenly best Lockyer so convincingly it doesn’t even require supporting statements?

            I only have Smith and Thurston in the top tier of this generation. I can’t see an argument that has slater in the same tier as Smith that doesn’t involve fits of laughter or face palms.

            As for besting them over a long period it really depends on the measure. There were periods he was the third best during the shoulder of his peak. Remember when Hunt was better?

            I love slater but he’s in that “second” tier of absolutely sensational rather than someone potentially putting him forward as one of the best x players in the game ever.

            • Roar Guru

              February 8th 2018 @ 5:06pm
              The Barry said | February 8th 2018 @ 5:06pm | ! Report

              Couldn’t agree more with your first paragraph. When the Mal v Joey immortal debate was on, Mal fans were bagging Joey and vice versa rather than making a case for their man. It gets ugly and silly.

              I rate Slater as the best fullback I’ve seen, but I certainly wouldn’t try to change the mind of anyone that put Lockyer or Rod Silva forward…?

              But that raises an interesting question. I agree that Slater isn’t on the same level as Smith and Thurston. So what does that mean for the immortal debate? Is Lockyer on the same level as Smith and Thurston?

              While I think Joey was better, I wouldn’t really try to argue too hard if someone said they thought Lockyer was a superior player.

              So you could end up with a Gordian knot argument that Slater is better than Lockyer but not an immortal because he’s not in the same class as Smith or Thurston, but Lockyer should be an immortal because he’s in the same class as Joey but then make an argument that Joey is better than Smith and JT.

              Are the immortals the best players of their generation or simply the best of all time?

              I guess what it does tell me is that it confirms my ever growing suspicion that the immortal concept is well past it’s use by date, increasing in irrelevance and more divisive for the game than inclusive.

              • February 8th 2018 @ 5:57pm
                John said | February 8th 2018 @ 5:57pm | ! Report

                I think the immortal debates are the grown up version of the “my dad is bigger than your dad” schoolyard debates. At the end of the day no one really gains anything from debating the issues but it does provide a bit of lighthearted fun at work/pub.

                If the issue wasn’t divisive it wouldn’t be nearly as entertaining to debate.

              • February 8th 2018 @ 8:32pm
                Mushi said | February 8th 2018 @ 8:32pm | ! Report

                Different argument in my mind the tiers v immortal. But in defence of lockyer v slater I “like” slater and am indifferent towards lockyer. But the first two years after he shifted to 5/8 I thought he was legitimately the best player on the field and capable of subtly tearing a team apart. Every time I go to discredit lockyer I remember those times, at no point has slater ever made me feel like that.

                I think we should wait 15 years minimum for immortal. If people are still raving a generation and a half later then your in the conversation.

                Immortal for mine is for the mythical player. Deciding immortality when your career is still fresh is pointless.

              • February 8th 2018 @ 8:32pm
                Duncan Smith said | February 8th 2018 @ 8:32pm | ! Report

                Your paradox is easily answered. Although Slater was a better fullback, Lockyer seems more like an ‘immortal’ because he had that iconic status of having captained Brisbane, Queensland, and Australia, as well as being of course a great player. He was given the royal treatment in the press, and had added charisma as a result of all of the above, which leads us to perceive him as more like an immortal.

                All this may blind people to what seems obvious – that as a fullback, Slater is a more dangerous attacker. Fans of rival teams, ask yourself if you felt more nervous when your team was defending in their own quarter against Slater or Lockyer. Slater also is great at organising his teams defence, so he is highly influential. As Tim Sheens once said, ‘where Slater is, the game is.’

                Having said that, Lockyer did also master five-eighth, which Slater never did.

              • February 8th 2018 @ 8:41pm
                Mushi said | February 8th 2018 @ 8:41pm | ! Report

                On the immortal concept I think it’s one of the few things we’ve got right.

                Read big book of basketball and you’ll see how the US want a next tier to the hall of fame.

                The key to the immortal concept is keeping people out, not who we let in.

                If inclusion isn’t obvious it shouldn’t happen.

              • Roar Guru

                February 8th 2018 @ 10:18pm
                The Barry said | February 8th 2018 @ 10:18pm | ! Report

                That’s logical…but I don’t know that it’s an easy answer

              • February 9th 2018 @ 6:43am
                mushi said | February 9th 2018 @ 6:43am | ! Report

                “All this may blind people to what seems obvious – that as a fullback, Slater is a more dangerous attacker. Fans of rival teams, ask yourself if you felt more nervous when your team was defending in their own quarter against Slater or Lockyer. ”

                My answer would be Lockyer – his passing and kicking game were light years ahead of Slaters. Slater was a better ball runner but if I’m worried about defending I’m worried about the guy who brings 7 options on his side of the field into play more than the guy that really only brings 3 (that said I’m hardly resting easy if it’s slater given he would be playing outside smith and cronk)

    • February 8th 2018 @ 6:59am
      BA Sports said | February 8th 2018 @ 6:59am | ! Report

      Can I also make the quick point. Some Souths fans seem to think Adam Reynolds will just magically return to his 2014 form.
      If you think that, then you surely have to think Jarryd Hayne will have a blinder this year as well. Who was the 2014 Dally M winner?

      • Roar Guru

        February 8th 2018 @ 7:49am
        The Barry said | February 8th 2018 @ 7:49am | ! Report

        Happens every year doesn’t it?

        To me he looks rattled and anxious about taking the ball to the line. I thought he was good at that when he started and meant his running game was effective as well as his kicking game. But he just doesn’t seem interested any more.

      • February 8th 2018 @ 9:03pm
        Mushi said | February 8th 2018 @ 9:03pm | ! Report

        I disagree strongly… You said “south’s fans think”

        The century plus of evidence we have to had suggests this is highly improbable

    • February 8th 2018 @ 7:06am
      Greg Ambrose said | February 8th 2018 @ 7:06am | ! Report

      The young players in the game have a point to prove about their ability in comparison to the aging champions. I wonder how many thought they would be tormented by the same players who were tormenting the teams they followed more than 10 years ago. Just like the tennis it seems the current generation aren’t up to speed in the skill and mind power department.

      Surely it is time for a couple of champion halves to emerge particularly in NSW and really fire up. Do we just let Cronk. Thurston and Smith just retire without someone giving them a massive amount of cheek?

    • February 8th 2018 @ 7:06am
      Duncan Smith said | February 8th 2018 @ 7:06am | ! Report

      Cronk played without Slater for 18 months in the last 3 years.

      • Roar Guru

        February 8th 2018 @ 7:30am
        The Barry said | February 8th 2018 @ 7:30am | ! Report

        I did say “injuries aside” Dunc…?

    • Roar Guru

      February 8th 2018 @ 7:53am
      Emcie said | February 8th 2018 @ 7:53am | ! Report

      It’ll be interesting to see how Cronk adapts under a new system. He strikes me as the type of player that you have to build a game plan around rather then slot him into an existing one so does that mean a drastic shift in style for the Roosters or less of a dominant role for Cronk than people are expecting?