NRL Season Preview – Part 4

In the final part of the NRL season preview we look at the South Sydney Rabbitohs, Sydney Roosters, New Zealand Warriors and Wests Tigers.

 South Sydney Rabbitohs

 South Sydney have undergone some major changes both on and off the field and it will be interesting to see if they can return to the glory days. The new ownership has revitalized the team with some great signings as well as some innovative ideas off the field. The club is certainly heading into the right direction.

 The Rabbits have been boosted with some great signings which should certainly help them rise from the cellar. Roy Asotasi, Dean Widders, David Kidwell and Nigel Vagana will all improve this team from the outset, possibly propelling them into finals calculations. They along with some good young players have the ability to go a long way.

 One problem for South Sydney remains, and that is the lack of a quality halfback. The current options aren’t good enough at this stage and this will halt their progress to a certain extent. If the halves can fire there are good enough players around them to capitalize, but they will be the key to the team’s success. The Rabbitohs will improve this year but it remains to be seen by how much.

 Star Player: Roy Asotasi – He was publicly stated that he wants to be the best prop in the game, and wouldn’t bee too far off achieving that. His form has been superb and he is a huge signing for South Sydney. The perfect player to have leading your pack.

 Player to Watch: Fetuli Talanoa – A talented back who can play a number of positions. Talanoa has progressed through the South Sydney ranks and had his first taste of first grade in 2006


Sydney Roosters

 The Roosters will be looking to bounce back after a disastrous 2006 season. Due to injuries and poor form, they stumbled and ended up finishing in second last place on the ladder. It was a far cry from the team that made three consecutive grand final appearances just a few short years ago.

 The tough decision was made to look for a new coach and Ricky Stuart made way for Chris Anderson. Anderson has been criticized previously for being too one-dimensional and it will be interesting to see if has a fresh approach which is needed in the modern game. The Roosters have already suffered a casualty during the off-season with an injury to utility Chris Flannery. This will be a major blow as the team really could have used his experience.

 It is difficult to predict how this team will fair in 2007. The forward pack is experienced and there are quality outside backs, most notably Anthony Minichiello who returns from injury. One area that is a concern is the halves combination. There are three or four players battling for these positions and they are all relatively in-experienced. If the Roosters can settle on a good halves combination early in the season they are a finals chance. If not, it could be another season of inconsistency ahead.

 Star Player: Anthony Minichiello – Prior to his injury he was the best fullback in the game and the Roosters sorely missed him. His kick returns are sensational and he has the ability to chime in the backline during attacking plays. They need him on the park this season.

 Player to Watch: Shaun Kenny-Dowall – He has been given first crack at a spot on the wing for 2007. An absolute giant of a kid considering his position and what is especially frightening for opposition players is that he has exceptional speed to go along with his size.


New Zealand Warriors

 The Warriors are always one of the more exciting teams to watch in the NRL. They play an expansive style of football which makes them unpredictable and often brilliant. Inconsistency is always a problem that has plagued the side, however their progress in 2006 was encouraging. Unfortunately, they started the season on -4 points due to a salary cap breach and were never going to threaten for the finals. Despite the handicap, there were promising signs and a few quality juniors began to come through.

 A major blow for New Zealand is the loss of fullback Brent Webb who made a move to the UK. He was brilliant in 2006, constantly involved in the attack and solid in defence. Fortunately, the Warriors signed a capable replacement in Wade McKinnon. He is a quality player and won’t let down his new team.

 With a bit of luck the Warriors can make the finals. They are one of those teams that are a nightmare to tip as a new team runs onto the field every weekend. Some days they are brilliant, some days they are horrible. You get the feeling though that those brilliant days are going to outnumber the bad ones. The team has some good leaders in its forward pack and there are a stack of quality young players eager to have a go. This team will be a surprise packet in 2007.

 Star Player: Steve Price – He along with Ruben Wiki are the leaders of this team and will be looking for another strong season. Price is a hard-working, honest prop who will always get the job. He’s the type of player every team needs and the Warriors will look to him to lead the way once again.

 Player to Watch: Grant Rovelli – Rovelli made his first grade debut in 2006 and was very impressive, leading him to play all 24 games. He is versatile and very creative and will be given first crack at the five-eighth position. He can also cover hooker and will be a big part of the Warriors’ campaign.


Wests Tigers

 The Tigers were particularly disappointing last season in their title defence. After the remarkable 2005 season when they shocked everyone, they came crashing down back to earth. A large part of this was due to the injury to Benji Marshall. He along with fullback Brett Hodgson missed most of the season and the Tigers never really had a chance.

 The squad remains fairly similar to last season. The most notable change is that Scott Prince is no longer with the club, replaced with the reliable John Morris. Morris is a solid player, but probably doesn’t have the creativity that Prince brought to the team. The squad is still relatively young and the struggles of last season would have probably provided a good lesson

 There are three key players that the Tigers need on the field in order to succeed. Benji Marshall, Brett Hodgson and Robbie Farrah are all exceptional players and the team is built around them. The Tigers really struggled in 2006 when these players were out injured. If they stay fit, the Tigers have the ability to regain some of that magical 2005 form and may just make a finals appearance.

Star Player: Benji Marshall – He is the key for the Tigers. He has worked hard during the off-season and is stronger than ever before. His creativity and footwork is brilliant and will provide many thrills for fans throughout the season.

 Player to Watch: Ben Te’o – He is a former Junior Kiwi who played in both the Jersey Flegg and Premier League Tigers teams in 2006. A good second rower who is highly rated in the club and might get a first grade opportunity this season.

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