SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 10: Andrew Fifita of the Sharks takes on the defence during the NRL Elimination Final match between the Cronulla Sharks and the North Queensland Cowboys at Allianz Stadium on September 10, 2017 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Each club’s key player in 2018 – Part 1

Every NRL club has a player that they rely on to deliver the results.

Whether it’s leading from the front, demonstrating brilliance or providing consistency every team needs a key player.

These are the players that will need to perform for each club, starting with the Brisbane Broncos through to the Newcastle Knights.

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Brisbane Broncos

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – APRIL 21: Anthony Milford of the Broncos celebrates kicking a field goal during the round eight NRL match between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the Brisbane Broncos at ANZ Stadium on April 21, 2017 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Anthony Milford 

With the loss of Ben Hunt to the Dragons, the Broncos will look to Anthony Milford to command the team on the field. The Broncos five-eighth possesses the speed and skill to strike at any time from anywhere and turn a game on its head.

Kodi Nikorima will likely partner with Milford in the halves and despite his international experience, he still needs to develop significantly before he is a game winner like Milford. Therefore a lot of the responsibility will fall on Milford’s shoulders and the Broncos will need him to be up to the task if they are to succeed.

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35 COMMENTS

  1. Can’t wait to see how the Knights go this year. If they play with as much heart as last year and depending on if the new combos click I’d say they make the 8. Spine of Ponga, Watson, Pearce, Levi looking deadly!

    • I think the Knights will improve but still struggle to leave the bottom 4 let alone the top 8. Their recruitment has been solid but not spectacular. Mitchel Pearce is a good club halfback but nothing more. Ponga is an overhyped rookie with less than a handful of first grade games. The rest are solid journeymen, on the decline veterans and fringe first graders. It is not as of they recruited a truly elite player.

      • The test tommy will be how Brown can mold and shape this new group of players into the existing side that won 3 in a row towards the back of the 2017 season. I am not expecting the Knights to jump out of the blocks early in 2018, there are just too many new faces and players in crucial positions that need to develop combinations. It will take time, which is only natural, but I can see the Knights shifting a gear by mid-season and if they click can go on a run in the back end of the year. I agree though that this will be a real test for Pearce and Ponga in particular to live up to the hype and expectations of their fans and so many others. I agree Pearce is a solid club player and not up to the standard required at rep level and it still remains to be seen if his form with the Roosters will carry across to the Knights. Having a familiar face in Watson along side of him should help but all the pressure will be on Pearce’s shoulders make no mistake.

        Ponga is a talented kid despite his overhyped status but missing time in first grade in 2017 has been a distinct disadvantage and he should feel the pressure even more because of this. The smart thing would be to start him on the wing and play Ross at FB to give Ponga time to adjust to his new team and to first grade again. Though I doubt that this will happen.

        If the Knights attack can press the opposition defence and the Knights pack can get the team rolling forward Pearce, Watson and Ponga running into space will be lethal combination once their understanding and timing develops. If the Knights cannot give Ponga time and space to move and they continually turn the ball over Ponga will be in for a long season unless he cracks early on. I still think Jamie Buhrer would be a far better option at hooker to complete the Knights spine but that is just my opinion.

        Overall though I think the Knights have recruited well but this may not be immediately evident in 2018. Like I said it could take some time for the Knights to hit top gear but I would be shocked if they finish in the bottom 4 by the end of the season. I think that the Tigers, the Warriors, the Titans and the Bulldogs have bigger problems and the Rabbitohs and the Dragons have work to do not to fall behind the rest of the remaining 10 teams. That said I honestly believe that Souths could be the sleeping giants of 2018. Write them off at your peril.

        • I think the Knights season will do a lot with what happens around SOO time.How many and if any play SOO.If the Knights arnt effected by SOO there combos should be geling nicely by the time SOO is over

  2. Excited for this season , alot of teams are all real contenders on paper , cant wait to see who performs with all the player swaps, new coaches, etc

  3. I wouldnt call Tom our key players more like key weapon. Cherry in my eyes is our key player when he is on we usually win.

    • I agree. Sometimes there is a difference between a clubs best player and key player. Tom is probably Manly’s best player but as a halfback and tactical kicker Cherry has the most influence on the outcome of games.

      • I think taupau is prob our most important player, he is our pack leader for metres his aggression and second phase play, without him we will struggle big time.
        Yes Jake is great but taupau offers something very different to Jake

        • Completely agree Crowy, whenever Tapau is contained Manly struggle. IMO their ’18 finals aspirations hinges on the ability for their other front rowers to step up. For all their brilliance DCE and Trbojevic cannot perform if the front row don’t lay the platform.

          On an unrelated note. Sorry I didn’t get back to you yesterday SSTID. Wouldn’t let me post in the morning, then was out on the drink all arvo/night. My distaste for most of your humour aside, I didn’t mean for it to become a personal attack against you. Can continue the conversation further if you like? But I’m happy to just move on.

        • Humour is a multi-headed beast gregjm. It is difficult to always know which mouth to feed. Distaste is a pretty strong word so I already understand how far at the opposite end of the spectrum you are starting at. Many here get a laugh and seem to share a similar sense of humour but to be fair I don’t actually get to hear the groans so I can never really be sure. I know the “angry eagle” gets a laugh and a few from this site that I am in touch with away from ZT seem to appreciate the jokes but they may also be being polite. In the end I make myself laugh and that is what makes me happy and keeps me interested.

          I am also here to discuss serious topics and issues as well but, “the silly season” as I have titled it, is upon us, that grey period that we have to survive and navigate from one season to the next. There is not much happening in the game or to talk about so the jokes and banter multiples at these times to combat the boredom. Perhaps if you engaged in a bit of banter or made a joke here or there I might be able to get an idea of your sense of humour. In any case I don’t really want to sit through a public critique of how appalling my jokes seem to you so thanks but no thanks. I think I have been through enough for one day keeping a pair of obsessed “groupies” at bay. Unfortunately, they will never remove the stain from that Austin story which is a pity, but hey it was not entirely my fault.

          Btw, great insight into the grassroots problems in developing quality hookers/dummy halves. I posted my under yours if you are interested.

  4. Being a football nut i watch about 5 games a week of NRL over a weekend.

    At the end of the year you can see a relatively common formula that has worked for the last two teams in the NRL Grand final – probably the top four to be true.

    I always look forward to the new season with a renewed hope for my team in the saints, Id like to believe that i dont have to much of a bias towards teams that year in year out seem to have an advantage in player retention or new player signings.

    For me a team needs the dynamics of a good coach with a strong club culture that breeds a desire to win within the playing group.

    Under this umbrella comes the individual players that dont allow any distractions into their game plan regardless of their playing position (forwards or backs). I also believe this to be the case in terms of club management.

    To start a season properly each team needs a solid preseason without off field distractions then play into the first 12 rounds with confidence.

    You can think back at where teams have crumbled from the start with many examples;

    Mitchel Pearce destroyed easts for the 2016 season with an 8 match ban.

    Cronulla drug scandal – 2014 season gone.

    Parra cap scandal – 2016 season gone

    Tim Simona betting and Robbie Farrah – rocked Wests Tigers 2016 / 2017 respectively.

    What does the Jarryd Hayne RE sexual assault allegation issue do to Parra – yet to be seen but i have a lot of faith in Brad Arthur (breeds Parra culture standing on his ear).

    In terms of rating teams the one issue that will always kill a team off midway during a season is the injury toll and no-one can predict this. Against this statement is the success of the Cowboys – unlucky in my view.

    Pre-season fitness is extremely important but it wont prevent the majority of “unlucky” injuries.

    So why do i feel this comp will be closer than last year…

    The list is not my prediction just thoughts on 2018 btw..

    So i leave that to you to decide.

    Storm – The dynamics of having the big 3 are over, does it reduce the impact of their attack>? I think it has too albeit the Storm have the two best finishers on each side of the park.
    Roosters – I cant argue against any Roosters fan that Cronk will be an orchestrated half for them next season. The difference is that Cronk doesn’t fold under pressure like Pearce when the big game plays are at stake.
    Cowboys – You would have to think that these guys were super brave in 17. They get Thurston and Scott back with the addition of Mclean – nearly the same formula they had in 2015 when Tamou was at his best.
    Broncs – the halves or half / hooker Dynamic has to be put back with Hunt moving on. Blair played beyond expectation and they will lose experience in the forwards – Is Wayne up to fixing / rebuilding again>?
    Parra – Radradra was their no 1 strike weapon – Moses seems to have re-found exceptional form so i dont think they have lost too much.. but Hayne worries me.
    Sharkies – get Moylan for Maloney, im not convinced … Get Dugan who i think will be better under Flanno as a coach and probably fits the Cronulla culture better than Saints however he is injury prone.
    Sea Eagles – came into their own for the 2nd half of the season but the halves pairing of Green and DCE is finished – in terms of team culture Joel Thompson is a plus.
    Pennies – I think will be a dark horse with Maloney on board, he takes the rattles out of the attack and steers the ship – a big pressure release for Cleary to play an expansive running game.
    Saints – would arguably have to say they have the potential with Hunt / Graham – lost Dugan but have the emergence of Matt Dufty at FB who is a saints junior.
    Raiders – They have a solid squad and Ricky bleeds green but Josh Hodgson was the standout for them in the last three seasons (albeit 2017 was a bit of a disaster). The injury for Hodgson is like 9 months side line – that leaves a massive gap for either Garvey or Havili to fill. Garvey has the potential
    Bulldogs – With all the drama of 2017 its hard to see where they will get there mojo early on in the piece. At least they have followed a common theme of getting a coach in Dean Pay that is respected by the playing group and supporters – he will belt Woods into the real shape of a prop but the loss of Graham / Reynolds / Kassiano is too much i feel for the 2018 season.
    Rabbitohs – surely have to be better with Inglis and the likes of Gagai in the team – Im not sure how the new coach is rated as their is not a lot of hype but i also think thats a good thing when starting in the NRL. Sad to see Goodwin move on – his efforts were some of the best.
    Warriors – there is not enough open script to write about this team, i look at the names and can only see success but yet to no avail – is it really just down to the coach and club culture? I mention Ivan Cleary as he was one of the most successful… Is Kearney really going to step up.
    Tigers – better stability with the new coach, some solid recruiting in Reynolds / Packer / lolohea just to name a few. I expect the fortunes of the Tigers to really pick up in 2018 with a rested experienced coach in Cleary as there were already some signs there in 2017.
    Titans – A new coach / new direction and hopefully a repaired squad from injuries. Like Souths the coach has a new play book and so it should be some fresh footy – lets see,
    Knights – If you were a supporter over the last 3 years then you must be a true blue supporter for life! Knights fans must be excited at the new roster with Pearce having some freedom to be a bit more creative. I feel for these guys being a westy country kid.

    Good luck to all my top 4 are;

    Storm / Roosters / Pennies / Parra. !

    • Top 5: Storm – Roosters – Broncos – Cowboys
      Bottom 4: Warriors – Titans – Rabbitohs – Tigers

      Was a good, read disagree on one or two small things couldn’t be bothered starting a debate (which I’ll probably get anyway with my bottom 4)

      • Hand on heart I honestly feel that the Dogs will finish below the Rabbitohs (even if they were to lose Inglis again and with Inglis, no chance). Whether Souths make the top 8 or not remains to be seen but if they are fortunate with injuries, the twins hold the ball and the new coach isn’t a total loss then I think the Rabbitohs will be a strong chance of a top 8 finish IMO.

        • Yer I was tossing up between rabbits, dogs and Canberra for me just in my opinion rabbits will edge them based on forward pack alone.

          I Like Chrichton, Murray and Fuimaono(he will probably get very little gam time) but the burgess twins who can potentially be up to top level forwards in our game are consistently letting themselves and Rabbitohs down. Aswell as poor bench options like Musgrove and Clark(was good2 years ago) there is very little go forward and a lot of errors.
          The only person who is consistently giving rabbits solid meters in the middle is Sam Burgess and even he can be error prone and those are just the forward problems for you guys.
          add in the fact Adam Reynolds can’t seem to stay on the field for more then 3 games and questions about if Greg Inglis can get a full 26 Rounds I would be abit concerned if I was you.

          But there are also a lot of unknowns about bulldogs aswell

        • Yes warriorsemg, Souths biggest injury concerns are Inglis, Reynolds and Sam Burgess. They are also the most crucial members of the team which is why it is vital to Souths chances that they remain injury free for the season. The Burgess twins have to lift there game in 2018 make not mistake. I think they will be cut loose if they fail again. I am sure mighty will be quite upset if that happens as it will mean he will have to go in search of new material. He has been dining out on “Tom and Jerry” reruns for some time now. LOL

        • I’ve already moved on from referring to them as Tom & Jerry, to the “baggage brothers” for now.
          If I’m not mistaken, Sam extended his contract already to the end of 2019, complete with luggage.
          That said, as much as I’ve taken the Mickey out them recently, I know they can play, and IF they fire the Bunnies will be a very strong side.,

          While we’re on the topic of the Bunnies, is Inglis playing FB or centre this year? Last I heard both he and the coach seemed to agree (in media reports at least) he would be playing FB, but weeks before it was reported (widely in the media) he would be centre. I know you disagree, but personally I’d run him at FB (take that risk) because that’s where he adds the most value.

        • If the Burgii are “the baggage brothers” then T-Rex is “the PICKLED fossil”. Both the Seibold and Inglis are adamant that GI will play at FB. I have seen photos/video though or Souths training with AJ at FB and Inglis in the centres so they “may” be foxing or AJ will be playing FB in the trials while GI is rested perhaps? I HOPE GI plays in the centres with AJ or Arthars at FB but I THINK Inglis will be playing FB.

    • I didn’ t have the opportunity to read this in full until now pedro, but great post. Well considered and insightful, losing Inglis in Round 1 really sent the Rabbitohs season into spiral. He is such an important cog in the machine as a leader as well as a player and it had a massive impact on how Souths started the year. So you are right, injuries are very important. From memory Souths did not have a bad run with injuries in 2014 which no doubt played an important role in them taking out the premiership.

      It’s a solid top 4 but I think but I would have the Cowboys in and the Eels just missing out in 5th or 6th place. The Panthers look like they have every opportunity in 2018 but everyone was saying the same thing about their chances in 2017 so nothing is ever certain. Quality post though at any rate.

    • Shot Pedro,
      This is the most ive been looking forward to an NRL season in years. Most of the top teams appear to regressing and most the bottom teams appear to be improving for the reasons you have touched on. Should make for an exciting season with any team capable of a win on their day, no matter the opposition.
      If we are all doing our top and bottom 4s mine are:
      Top: Cowboys, Roosters, Dragons, Eels. Bottom:, Bulldogs, Raiders, Tigers, Titans.

      • Dragons top 4??? Are you SURE? Well THAT certainly is a brave prediction. I certainly don’t think the Storm will fall in a heap without Cronk but they won’t get to the GF again in 2018 either IMO. I would still have them in the top 4 though. They have too much good young talent coming through. I’ve changed my mind about the Panthers though. I think Barney Rubble will be a boulder on the backs of the Panthers team and Fred will be looking for a new coach by the end of 2018.

        • Well no I’m not sure it is a prediction.
          On Storm: I don’t think they will fall into a heap but; they haven’t just lost Cronk they have also lost an Australian front rower and a NZ back rower. Take 3 internationals out of a club team and they have to decline. They also have a huge work load to get through, like half their team just played in the world cup, they have the WCC and the testimonial match in the preseason and a lot of players will have origin commitments. I think this workload will leave them flat at times. When you add this to so many other clubs improving and most teams lifting when they play the reigning premiers I just don’t think they will have the class they did in previous years to get through these flat periods without dropping matches.
          On Dragons: I just rate their forward pack extremely highly (IMO 2nd only to Cowboys). They will not only make metres but they have plenty of 2nd phase and quality passing before the line in them (as opposed to the rubbish and pointless passing before the line that Dogs served up last year). With the addition of Hunt and (I predict) the meteoric rise of Matt Dufty they will have the players to capitalise on this and finally improve their attack. Their defence has been pretty good for years now and with the likely improvements in their attack I think they will be a very strong side next year.

    • That was a good read Pedro.

      For me the top 4 will be Cowboys, Roosters, Panthers, Eels.

      Good luck to all teams.

    • Great read Pedro, cheers.

      I can’t settle on a top 4 yet. I see Roosters and Cowboys there. After that I would have Broncos, Storm, Panthers and Eels fighting it out. Then a big log jam for the final two spots. Sea Eagles, Rabbitohs, Sharks, Dragons…..

      Can’t wait for the season to start.

      • That is just about how I see it as well with the Panthers just missing the top 4 (5th) and the Dragons position depending on whether or not the Knights can stay in touch with the top 8 and have a run of form at the business end of the season. 1. Cowboys 2. Roosters 3. Storm 4. Broncos 5. Panthers 6. Eels 7. Sea Eagles 8. Rabbitohs/Sharks/Dragons/Knights

        If Souths remain injury free and everything clicks then Souths jump into 5. and the other teams move down one.

        • Souths are certainly a smokey that, on paper, can definitely be within shot of a top 4 birth.

          I think the knights are a year off top 8 though. But will definitely be big improvers.

        • Fair call on the Knights but I am more than happy to talk up their chances. I feel for the Knights fans, Souths struggled for a lot of years just prior to their 2 years in exile and for about 7 years following. Something like that needs to be shared around. I say the Storm, the Broncos, the Roosters and the Sea Eagles need to experience the depressing lows so that they can better appreciate the dizzying heights of success, wouldn’t you agree? 😉

          If Souths fire on ALL cylinders, the 2 Burgess twins remember how to catch and hold a ball and run like they did in 2014, and Souths don’t have any major injury concerns or dramas with sudden player departures I think they are a strong chance of finishing in the top 4 or only just missing out. That is a lot of IF’s but I grant you. Like I said there are at least 2 – 3 teams that get replaced in the top 8 each year so if history repeats that means 2 – 3 teams that made it last year will miss out so the door could be open for a few surprises.

      • IMO the Sharks won’t make the top 4 and the Dragons and Warriors won’t make the top 8. The Warriors will struggle to make it out of the bottom 4. Yes pedro, a very BIG call indeed but if it comes up think of the bragging rights for storm4life at the end of the regular season. 😉

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