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Opinion

What your NRL side needs to win it all

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Roar Guru
17th May, 2022
18

After a magical round of footy, some teams seem to be looking for an answer, and other teams are just going about their business and are marching on until September.

After being able to watch each team play live, I wanted to break down a position, a player, or even a coach that each team may need to take their side to the next level.

Fight it out in the comments if you agree or disagree, but let’s start from the top of the table to the bottom.

Penrith Panthers
They ran through the competition favourites quite easily. It’s hard to find something that they need.

If reports are true of Liam Martin, it leaves their second row super thin next year. They may want to develop a young back rower for next year. That’s all I can think of.

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Melbourne Storm
They need spine depth.

It is easy to agree that the Storm have the best spine in rugby league today. But their depth is severely tested, as we saw on the weekend.

Throwing in a half/hooker at fullback and a severely underdone halfback in Cooper Johns, the holes were there and definitely put on show.

To put it into context, the best Storm side was in 2017, when their spine back-up was Brandon Smith, Brodie Croft, Ryley Jacks and Jahrome Hughes. Depth is always important.

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Jahrome Hughes runs.

(Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

North Queensland Cowboys
A team that is playing well over their pre-season predictions, they tend to be well covered throughout their squad.

The only thing I’ll say here is they need to give Jason Taumalolo more minutes. Attention Todd Payten.

Sydney Roosters
Whether it’s a sombrero joke, or a Nick Politis joke, the Roosters are never short of star players. In 2023, this issue will be covered, but this year, they really need to settle on a hooker.

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They have Connor Watson, who plays too much like a lock, Drew Hutchinson, who is a better half, and Sam Verrills, who may be just too small. This year they need a hooker to be able to completely compete in 2022.

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Cronulla Sharks
One of the bright lights of 2022 under new head coach Craig Fitzgibbon, the Sharks are playing fun and entertaining footy.

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With Nicho Hynes running the show, they need a more direct halves partner with him. That is no knock on Matt Moylan, who has been substantial, but a stronger halves partner with Hynes would absolutely turn them up to the next level.

Parramatta Eels
As funny as it is to say, the Eels may lack a game-breaking outside back, for sure.

But what they need is whatever they do to get themselves up to play Melbourne and Penrith – they need that for 30 straight weeks! Imagine that, Parra fans…

Nelson Asofa-Solomona. (Photo by Kelly Defina/Getty Images)

(Photo by Kelly Defina/Getty Images)

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Brisbane Broncos
They may have found good plugs for the moment with Jake Turpin, Tyson Gamble and Te Maire Martin, but to compete in 2022, they really need to address their spine and put the best possible spine around Adam Reynolds while he’s in his prime.

Their pack is a great young pack and their outside backs are absolutely a pleasure to watch. But for the long term, they need to address the one, six and nine jerseys.

South Sydney Rabbitohs
As well as they perform, the Rabbitohs could do with a more damaging front row.

Thomas Burgess and Tevita Tatola do their jobs. With the best back row in footy, they tend to get let off because the back row are so prominent.

But I would love to see the Rabbitohs with a formidable front-row pairing, to play with Damien Cook and that back row. It could be a pack unrivalled, if possible.

Manly Sea Eagles
With the a lot of their money tied up in the Trbojevic brothers and Daly Cherry-Evans, it seems to be spread out sparingly among the others.

Their pack could definitely use an upgrade. With a pack made up of players past their prime, or somewhat journeymen, upgrading their pack for better go forward would allow Cherry-Evans and Trbojevic to create all kinds of havoc.

Their attack was good in 2021, but it is a mere shadow of that this season.

Jake Trbojevic and Tom Trbojevic react after losing the NRL Preliminary Final.

(Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Canberra Raiders
I love the depth in the Raiders’ pack. I have been on record saying that, only to be mocked for it, but I do rate their spine.

They are all steady players and Brad Schneider is a good young player. They still have Jamal Fogarty to come as well.

What I think they need, given all the talent in their pack, is an authoritative leader. It seems to be thrown on Elliott Whitehead to be that guy, but I don’t think he is.

Also, they could do with ditching Ricky Stuart (don’t curse me).

New Zealand Warriors
Where do I start?

A new coach, a strike outside back, and as handy as he is, Wayde Egan is not the key, so they need new hooker.

Relocating back to the comfort of their own homes could be a major component for them as well.

St George Illawarra Dragons
With the influx of new players in the attempts to create a Moneyball strategy, some recruits have definitely worked.

Players like Francis Molo, Jaydn Su’A (when not suspended) and Moses Mbye have given their all this season.

I would like to see them create a stable spine around key man Ben Hunt, instead of chopping and changing.

In addition to the stock of forwards they have, they could really provide more consistency.

Gold Coast Titans
They need a new recruitment team. Seriously.

They have invested so much money into forwards, they have forgotten about a dummy half, who is the key man in providing the ball to those forwards.

(Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Without a strong nine, it makes the quality of ball that much harder. As promising as Toby Sexton, AJ Brimson and Jayden Campbell are, they really needed an experienced nine to drive them around the park, and that is what they’re lacking.

Newcastle Knights
Halves. Halves. Halves.

Making Kalyn Ponga almost too involved hurts him. Ponga is like Cody Walker, he needs the ball in certain spots and in certain shapes to be at his best.

Players like Adam Clune, Chris Randall and Jake Clifford may seem substantial, but it really does not assist their key man moving forward.

Chase any half they can for 2023 to create a better spine, with already quite a formidable forward pack.

Wests Tigers
They really need to stop buying back rowers. They are constantly in the market for back rowers.

With the emergence of Jackson Hastings as a really good buy, Luke Brooks is a better second receiver.

Complementing them both with an experienced nine and an exciting one would be the ultimate complement. Putting the correct players around Brooks and Hastings could absolutely be the key.

Yes, their pack could do with some help. Yes, their outside backs have a makeshift second rower in there at the moment. But a strong spine could make a world of difference for Michael Maguire.

Tigers head coach Michael Maguire

(Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Canterbury Bulldogs
Well, I was beaten to the punch … I was going to suggest maybe a new coach. 

Look, there’s no denying Trent Barrett is passionate. He wears his heart on his sleeve for his side. Unfortunately, passion doesn’t always win premierships.

With a plethora of buys, and two handy players coming next year in Viliame Kikau and Reed Mahoney, the right coach to tweak this squad and make them click could be the key.

Names that really come to mind are Shane Flanagan (premiership-winning coach and father of the halfback), Kristian Woolf (multiple premierships in the Super League and the man behind the transformation of rugby league in Tonga), Jim Dymock (former Bulldogs player), and as farfetched as it sounds, Michael Ennis (former player, current commentator and analyst).

I really like Ennis’ insight to games and he is a coach in the making.

Did I cover your team correctly? Do you agree or disagree?

Let me know in the comments. Enjoy the rest of the 2022 NRL season.

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