With all eyes now on the 2012 season, we recap the gains and losses for your club in the player (and coach) market so far.
Leave a comment and tell us how you think your team has recruited for next season.
What they’ve gained: A very young Brisbane team will gain genuine experience up front with the arrival of Petero Civoniceva, even if the ex-Panthers skipper isn’t getting any younger. Titan Luke Capewell adds a bit of depth at five-eighth, where young gun Corey Norman is tipped to fill Darren Lockyer’s boots.
What they’ve lost: Their chief playmaker, hugely experienced leader and one of the most celebrated players in history. Darren Lockyer’s absence will take its toll, no matter how strong the youngsters have looked.
How they look for 2012: The task of replacing Lockyer with a new recruit is an impossible one, so the Broncos can be satisfied with keeping together the bulk of their impressive 2011 squad. Origin stars Justin Hodges, Sam Thaiday and Corey Parker are amongst those to re-sign with the club, which will benefit again in 2012 from the ever-improving young brigade. Finding the right No.6 to complement Peter Wallace in the halves will, of course, be the big question mark.
What they’ve gained: Impressive St Helens star and England international front-rower James Graham.
What they’ve lost: Andrew Ryan, a captain on the wane, and Jamal Idris, a star centre on the rise. Chris Armit, Gary Warburton and Ben Roberts have also exited, while Michael Hodgson and Brad Morrin have retired.
How they look for 2012: The Bulldogs had a big recruiting drive last year, which didn’t really pay off, but a season together should make the team a more cohesive outfit next time around. The brilliant but inconsistent Idris is a real loss, but the Dogs simply couldn’t match the Titans’ offer for the player. Graham could be a real secret weapon if he can live up to the standard of star English imports set by Adrian Morley and Sam Burgess. The big story is the recruiting of two-time premiership-winning Manly coach Des Hasler, who will arrive in 2013. It raises a few questions about the 2012 season under Jim Dymock, who led the team to five wins from their last eight games since taking over as caretaker coach. Dymock says he is fine with Hasler’s appointment, but it does give the impression next season could be a case of marking time until the star coach arrives.
What they’ve gained: Rooster Kane Linnett and Queensland residents prop Luke Harlen, while star Toyota Cup five-eighth Michael Parker-Walshe has been promoted to the first-grade squad.
What they’ve lost: Queensland Origin centre Willie Tonga, plus their 2010 rookie of the year Leeson Ah Mau and rugby union-bound utility Will Tupou.
How they look for 2012: Like the Bulldogs, the Cowboys did their big recruiting drive last season and it’s paid off nicely so far. Two of their best from 2011 – Matt Bowen and Tariq Sims – have both re-signed. The loss of Tupou may hurt, but they’ll again be aiming for a top-four spot next season.
What they’ve gained: A host of decent if middle-of-the-road players, including the promising Leeson Ah Mau, Raiders winger Daniel Vidot and exciting Wests Tigers utility Tim Moltzen.
What they’ve lost: Three very big names – Mark Gasnier, Darius Boyd, and Wayne Bennett. Promising youngsters Jack Bosden and Alex McKinnon have also departed, along with forward Jon Green and, potentially, Newcastle Knights target Adam Cuthbertson.
How they look for 2012: It’s an intriguing year coming up for St George Illawarra, with the worrying feeling that their best days are behind them. The Wayne Bennett era is over, with the Dragons losing their mantle of the NRL’s outstanding team midway through 2011. Gasnier and Boyd are class acts who will be tough to replace. New coach Steve Price has worked under Bennett for the past few years, which is a plus, but it’s hard to see the team being the same force in 2011. But Bennett has built a strong club spirit at the Dragons, and they will still be a finals contender without him.
What they’ve gained: A genuine match-winner in halfback Chris Sandow, whose form for Souths only improved in the back half of 2011 after he signed on with the Eels. Ben Roberts could take on the five-eighth role, while Willie Tonga is a class act in the centres. Jake Mullaney, Joseph Paulo, Esi Tonga and Taulima Tauti have also arrived.
What they’ve lost: Misfiring 2011 recruits Carl Webb and Chris Walker have both retired, along with Chris Hicks and Paul Whatuira, while Jeff Robson has moved to Cronulla and Tom Humble joined the Tigers. The unwanted Daniel Mortimer could also be on his way out.
How they look for 2012: A much better recruiting effort this season for the Eels, who have addressed some key weaknesses by bringing in a dangerous halves pairing plus an experienced centre. Sandow’s not the most consistent player in the NRL, and misses more tackles than any other, but his attacking ability should take the pressure off Jarryd Hayne – which could make the star fullback a more dangerous weapon. In another positive sign, the big-spending Eels will also have the arrival of Will Hopoate in 2014 to look forward to. Parramatta should be big improvers in Stephen Kearney’s second year at the club.
What they’ve gained: A helluva lot. Wayne Bennett rivals Craig Bellamy as the best coach in the business, and has an unrivalled seven premierships to his name. Kade Snowden and Darius Boyd are Test players, and Danny Buderus is a former Kangaroos and Knights skipper fresh from winning a grand final in the English Super League. Timana Tahu, like Snowden and Buderus, is a Newcastle junior and could regain some of his form of old at the club where he made his name. Bennett is also bringing Dragons young gun Alex McKinnon and – possibly – ball-playing forward Adam Cuthberston to the Knights with him.
What they’ve lost: There has been a big cleanout under Bennett’s orders, with Mark Taufua, Cory Paterson, Cameron Ciraldo, Isaac De Gois, Antonio Kaufusi, Dan Tolar, Shannon McDonnell and Steve Southern among those making way. Adam MacDougall has also retired after a very long career.
How they look for 2012: Huge expectations await Bennett’s Knights. There is still a big jump from mid-table battlers to genuine title contenders, but they should improve on – if not fix – all their key weaknesses. Snowden adds some much needed punch up front, Boyd and Buderus give the team an excellent spine alongside Kurt Gidley and Jarrod Mullen. There remain question marks over Buderus and Tahu, whose best is surely behind them, but their experience will boost a youngish side. Bennett’s ability to get the most out of his players will be the key. If the coach can tighten up their defence and develop Mullen into a first-class playmaker, they could be a genuine contender in the next few seasons.
What they’ve gained: An impressive new coach and a few solid workers – former Storm forward Clint Newton, Bulldog Chris Armit, Canberra’s Danny Galea, Tiger and former Panther Geoff Daniela and Newcastle’s Cameron Ciraldo.
What they’ve lost: Class and experience up front, with Petero Civoniceva returning to Brisbane and Trent Waterhouse off to England. Matthew Bell, Adrian Purtell, Timana Tahu and Shane Elford are also out.
How they look for 2012: The mid-season signing of Ivan Cleary as Penrith’s new coach looks like a masterstroke now after Cleary’s Warriors played their way into the grand final. He has helped turn the Warriors into a strong club in all three grades, something that Phil Gould wants at the Panthers. As a former player under Gould, Cleary is also one of the few experienced NRL coaches who could thrive in a working relationship with Penrith’s new football operations manager without bruising his ego. There has been nothing spectacular on the player move front, but the push will be to make the most of Penrith’s local young talent and mirror Cleary’s recent success in that area at the Warriors, rather than rely on big-name imports.
What they’ve gained: A title-winning coach (albeit from the UK Super League), and former Melbourne Storm and NSW Origin centre Matt King.
What they’ve lost: Playmaker Chris Sandow, retired duo Luke Stuart and Rhys Wesser and the departing Beau Falloon and Shannon McPherson.
How they look for 2012: They’ve got the talent, and new coach Michael Maguire (a former assistant to Craig Bellamy at the Storm) may be the man to make the most of it. King’s class and experience will help, forming a very strong centre pairing alongside fellow ex-Storm star Greg Inglis. But Sandow’s absence will hurt, particularly if no new halfback arrives. The pressure will be on mercurial pivot John Sutton – who was handed a new contract before Sandow left – to live up to his promise if Souths are to become a finals force.
What they’ve gained: Nothing at this stage. Terry Campese will feel like a new signing after an injury-wrecked season.
What they’ve lost: Captain Alan Tongue has retired, Josh Miller, Daniel Vidot and Danny Galea have made way, and Matt Orford’s time at the club is expected to come to a premature end.
How they look for 2012: Canberra may have been scared off the idea of “the big signing” after the Matt Orford debacle. On paper, everyone thought they had a strong team at the start of 2011, but something obviously needs changing at the Raiders after a horror season. The young guns will be better for the year’s experience, and Campese is an inspiration when fit, but it’s hard to see them being any better than middle-of-the-road. Coach David Furner could be the one most under pressure in 2012.
What they’ve gained: Dragons Peni Tagive and Jack Bosden, and youngsters Adam Henry from the Warriors and Josh Ailaomai from Newcastle.
What they’ve lost: Talented bad boys Todd Carney and Nate Myles, plus Phil Graham and Kane Linnett.
How they look for 2012: On paper it doesn’t look good, with former Dally M winner Carney and Queensland Origin forward Nate Myles both departing with no genuine replacements. But the end of the 2011 season brought plenty of hope, with the Roosters turning their form around to finish with four straight wins without either of those stars. Their absence could actually help bring a degree of stability that the club’s been lacking for some time. It’s worth remembering that injuries hit hard in 2011, and much of the side that reached the grand final a year earlier is still there.
What they’ve gained: Former outside back Ben Farrar returns from England.
What they’ve lost: The departure of rising star Will Hopoate to a Mormon mission is a big loss, while winger Michael Robertson and forward Shane Rodney are both UK-bound.
How they look for 2012: When you’ve got the strongest teams in the competition and rugby league’s best young halves combination, keeping your squad together is a plus in itself. They haven’t hit the player market, but they didn’t need to. Des Hasler will hang around as coach for at least another year, which is another good sign. It’s incredibly tough to win back-to-back titles these days, but Manly will still start premiership favourites.
What they’ve gained: Plenty of new names. Bryce Gibbs, Mark Taufua, Jon Green and Andrew Fifita provide added grunt up front, Jeff Robson is a decent if workmanlike playmaker, and former Shark Isaac De Gois is a crafty if injury-prone hooker.
What they’ve lost: Star props Luke Douglas and Kade Snowden. Douglas is among the toughest and hardest working front-rowers in the game and Snowden is a huge talent who has already played Test football. Both are big losses.
How they look for 2012: The recruits are unlikely to change the perception of Cronulla as a team of hard-working battlers. More notable, perhaps, are the youngsters they’ve re-signed – Albert Kelly, Chad Townsend, Stewart Mills and Jayson Bukuya all showed plenty of promise in 2011 and could carry the Sharks up the ladder in the years to come.
What they’ve gained: Former Melbourne back-rower Ryan Hoffman will be welcomed back home.
What they’ve lost: Star New Zealand forward Adam Blair has taken a big offer from the Tigers, while Beau Champion, Chase Stanley and Atelea Vea have made way and Adam Woolnough and Troy Thompson have retired.
How they look for 2012: Like Manly, the key thing is they’ve managed to keep a settled squad. Blair is the only significant loss, and Hoffman practically replaces him. Several impressive youngsters have re-signed, including Gareth Widdop, and while the Big Three of Smith, Slater and Cronk are there the Storm will always be a premiership threat.
What they’ve gained: Adam Blair, now the game’s most expensive forward, along with Panthers forward Matt Bell, Eels duo Joel Reddy and Tom Humble and former Eastwood rugby star John Grant.
What they’ve lost: Big men Bryce Gibbs, Todd Payton and Andrew Fifita, plus fullbacks Tim Moltzen and Wade McKinnon. Robert Lui’s time at the club could also be in doubt after his recent run-in with the law.
How they look for 2012: A lot of faith has been placed in the recruitment of Blair, whose arrival forced the exits of a few Tigers crowd favourites. He is a quality ball-playing back-rower, but it’s yet to be seen if he’s the missing piece of the puzzle for Wests. Capable of beating anyone on their day, they’ll need to learn how to consistently grind out the crucial wins if they are to be a genuine contender next season.
What they’ve gained: Plenty. Barnstorming centre Jamal Idris is on his way to being one of the game’s biggest stars. Luke Douglas and Nate Myles are both quality, hard-working forwards. Beau Champion and Phil Graham prove depth and experience in the centres. They’ve also offered a lifeline of a three-year contract to wayward ex-Roosters playmaker Todd Carney.
What they’ve lost: The ageing Gold Coast outfit has parted ways with experienced campaigners Preston Campbell, Nathan Friend, Anthoyn Laffranchi and Clinton Toopi, along with outside backs Esi Tonga and Joseph Tomane and forward Will Matthews.
How they look for 2012: Promising signs for the 2011 wooden-spooners. They’ve largely covered their losses, and now look stronger up front and more dangerous out wide. Douglas and Myles join a forward pack already featuring Luke Bailey, Mark Minichiello, Ashley Harrison and Greg Bird, while Idris has the ability to break open any defence – something the Titans were sorely missing this season. Todd Carney remains a big question mark. The Titans have confirmed they’ve offered him a deal, albeit a low one at around $70,000 a season. That makes his signing unlikely, but if Carney did accept a pay cut in a bid to get his career back on track he could be a bargain buy. Either way, big improvements are expected of the Gold Coast next year.
What they’ve gained: Quality Titans hooker Nathan Friend.
What they’ve lost: Fullback/impact player Lance Hohaia, hooker Aaron Heremaia, halfback Brett Seymour, centre Joel Moon, forward Jeremy Latimore, and a coach who has helped all three grades reach the grand final in 2011.
How they look for 2012: They’ve lost more than they’ve gained, but they seem to have all bases covered. The hard-working Friend more than makes up for the departure of Heremaia, while Kevin Locke had already unseated Hohaia as the team’s best fullback and Seymour was no more than a back-up option in the halves. Locke, James Maloney and Jacob Lillyman were amongst a host of players to re-sign with the club, while former New Zealand coach Brian McClennan is a popular appointment. Ivan Cleary has had a great impact on the Warriors as a club, but there’s no reason to believe they should drop off significantly after his exit to the Panthers. Promising signs for the Kiwis.