during the round 24 NRL match between the Newcastle Knights and the Melbourne Storm at McDonald Jones Stadium on August 19, 2017 in Newcastle, Australia.

In Rugby League, much like other avenues of life, sometimes taking a big risk can lead to an even bigger reward. That is the thinking undertaken by four of the NRL’s Premiership Heavyweights as we head into the 2018 season.

While the North Queensland Cowboys will take a very similar side into the new season, four other title-contenders have opted to take huge risks in order to launch a title assault.

Obviously, every recruitment or retention decision carries some deal of risk but the four sides below have really monumental risks that with help either make or break their upcoming campaigns.

Sydney Roosters

Signing Cooper Cronk

That felt ridiculous to type as how could there be any risk in signing one of the game’s top two halfbacks of the modern generation?

In reality, the Roosters have taken a monster gamble in signing a player who is 34 years of age at the expense of a club legend who had already delivered a premiership title who was only 28 years old.

Although there were suggestions that Cronk and Pearce could play in the same side, that was surely never going to happen. Pearce was never going to allow himself to be relegated to a bench position and you have to believe the Roosters brass knew this.

The Roosters really need to win a title in the next two years to justify their decision. If the Roosters come up short then fans will be lining up to ask why Pearce was pushed aside for a man who has never played in a side without Cameron Smith and Billy Slater.

Ultimately I can’t see how Cooper Cronk can do anything other than achieve at Bondi such is his talents but if the Roosters don’t lift the Provan-Summons trophy in early October questions will be asked.

Have the Roosters sacrificed six to eight years of success with Pearce at the helm for a shot at a title or two? Only time will tell whether this massive punt pays off.

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Melbourne Storm

Gambling on rookie halfback

Cooper Cronk announced that he would be leaving the Melbourne Storm back in April 2017. That allowed Craig Bellamy and co literally six months to find a ready-made replacement if they saw fit. Although the Storm was occasionally linked in the media to experienced halfbacks, the Storm has chosen to go with 20-year-old Brodie Croft in 2018.

Croft has only played the five NRL games, mainly during the Origin period when Cronk was representing the Queensland state side. He has impressed in those outings but considering his halves partner, Cameron Munster, at 23 has only played 65 NRL games the risk is very real.

To be honest you’d be silly to doubt any decision made by Craig Bellamy due to his incredible track record. This is a man who let Marika Koroibete change codes only to replace him with a Tigers reserve grader who went on to score 19 regular season tries and light up the competition. He also handed a debut to a QLD cup grade hooker by the name of Cameron Smith. That also turned out pretty well.

That said, this could be his biggest gamble yet. The Storm very easily could have used their recent success and Bellamy’s unmatched track record to attract a more experienced playmaker. They chose not to.

That faith, along with arguably the best outside backs in the competition, will arm young Croft with extreme confidence from the get-go.

The Storm starts as third favourites to win the competition despite the loss of Cronk (and also Jordan McLean) showing that the wider Rugby League community has confidence in Bellamy’s decision.

Cronulla Sharks

Maloney/Moylan Switch

On paper, the Sharks have perhaps taken the biggest gamble of all. They allowed a multiple time Premiership winning five-eighth and current Kangaroo squad member James Maloney to leave the club to be replaced by someone who has played 98% of his career in the fullback position.

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Although in reality Maloney wanted out and Moylan’s talents are far more suited to playing in the halves, the risk is still a big one, to say the least.

The Sharks entire title charge in 2018 is dependent on Moylan’s ability to adapt to the play-making role quickly. If he fails to shine then the club’s other options are only a rookie and a Newcastle reserve grader.

The upside here is very high with all reports indicating Moylan is shining in his new role but you never know until the premiership rounds kick off.

This was a gamble that the Sharks really needed to take following their sad exit from the 2017 finals series.

Penrith Panthers

Allowing Moylan and Cartwright to leave the side

The other team involved in the Moylan/Maloney swap was the Panthers. Penrith themselves have taken a big gamble in that they allowed their 26-year-old skipper to leave in return for a 31-year-old.

Ultimately the deal looks a good one for the Panthers as they needed a mentor of sorts to take the pressure off Nathan Cleary. Maloney brings with him a history of great success but ultimately time waits for no man, and Jimmy is now the ‘wrong’ side of 30.

Maloney didn’t have a great 2017 and gave away a mass of penalties. The Panthers will be hoping a change of scenery will help the two-time title-winning number six return to his top form.

The Panthers also allowed ridiculously talented Bryce Cartwright to take up a deal with the Titans. Cartwright who had a break out 2016 season struggled with distractions in 2017 and didn’t perform to the levels expected.

Have the Panthers let a short-term problem cloud their long-term judgement or will the distraction-free Panthers fire in 2018?


  1. The biggest risk the roosters made was to sacrifice their depth to sign some big names. If they have no injuries, it will pay off.

  2. Don’t the media every year rate panthers somewhere in the top 5 positions, only to let every single prediction down and end somewhere between 6th and 12th

  3. Can’t see the Panthers making the eight at all. The playing group there will be upset , dismayed by the players Phil allowed to just walk . Despite all of them having contracts . All of Moylan, Cartwright, Rein, Latu are good attacking players. It’s just craziness Phil & you didn’t buy any other top grade players to replace them. With the exception of Maloney.
    I think Gould’s 5 year plan was to let all of best coaches & attacking players at Penrith go. Almost done in fact. Peachey at the Gold Coast in 2019 & maybe Cleary at the Tigers .

    • Matt Moylan had a dummy spit, of mass proportions when he was disciplined for a bender in Melbourne, while the others involved copped their punishment like men. By all reports, Bryce Cartwright was receiving death threats, so did his partner, and son. After what happened last year, it is understandable he had to move out of Sydney. As for Nathan, who knows?

  4. Everyone’s welcome to there opinion.
    That’s not all of the players to go of course. Young Hala, Australian/ New South Wales junior rep player. Gone..
    All the Hookers with talent over the last few years. Segeyaro, Koroisau ( Probably one of the top hookers around now ), Rein . All those good hookers gone. Keep Wallace , who has zero running game & his passes aren’t the slickest.
    Add Martin from 5/8th, looked good for the Cowboys end of last year.
    Let the young centres get away to South’s.
    Good coaches in Brennan & Barrett go. Keep the doubtful one in Griffin.
    The list goes on & on..
    Add to that the doubtful centres defence. Whare.. Ranks 42 in defence out of all centres last year. So let’s re-sign him. Plus he’s slow. Centes have been a problem for a while there. That problem will continue.
    How’s Phil doing so far?
    Surely no Panthers supporter could help but be disappointed with the player retention there & lack of good signings.

  5. Off topic but went to get tickets for parra vs newi trial today an a week out its sold out.7k stadium not bad should move it up the road to newi from maitland

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