SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 05: Greg Inglis of the Rabbitohs looks on during a South Sydney Rabbitohs NRL training session at Redfern Oval on December 5, 2017 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

The NRL trials aren’t only the first taste of footy the rugby league calendar has to offer, but it answers a few of the off-season’s great questions as well.

1. Who will replace Cooper Cronk?

Brodie Croft appears the natural choice after some strong performances in limited opportunities, but it appears that isn’t the case. Half Ryley Jacks played with outstanding maturity in his stints last year, while Scott Drinkwater has had massive raps on his through his junior career. While Croft is the clear favourite, don’t count out Jacks just yet.

2. Will Trent Hodkinson begin the season in the NRL?

Trent Hodkinson’s signing is great for Cronulla, but it does pose a question to where he fits in, if he does at all. As it stands, recruit Matt Moylan will partner Chad Townsend in the halves.

But if ‘Hodko’ starts the season in first-grade, then he’ll partner Townsend, with Moylan moving to fullback, Valentine Holmes to the wing, most likely displacing Aaron Gray from the first-grade.

3. Where will Greg Inglis play?

Emerged reports over the pre-season have Inglis touted for a return to the centres after a twelve month lay off courtesy of an ACL tear.

But will he start the year there? GI has been training at both centre and fullback, and poses a tough question to the international star. Would he rather retire a year or two earlier and have more involvement in the games, or extend his career at the risk of seeing less ball in his hands? It’s a tricky conundrum for first-time coach Anthony Seibold to have.

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4. How will Newcastle fare against Top Four sides?

This question is already half answered after Newcastle played a closed off trial against Melbourne. With scheduled trials against the premiers and Parramatta, facing the top teams will be a great early test for the Knights, who saw 22 players depart the club after the 2017 season.

A 26-22 victory over Melbourne is an early indication of good things to come for the Novacastrians.

5. Who is the Roosters back-up half?

Luke Keary’s broken jaw poses an interesting question, who is the tricolours go to when a half is out?

To build such a strong starting side does mean the side needed to thin out their depth, with Mitch Cornish the likely replacement after the departures of Mitchell Pearce, Connor Watson and Jayden Nikorima.

6. Canberra’s Hooker

An ACL tear to Josh Hodgson has the Raiders season on the verge of tatters before a ball is kicked, but the trials will be a good indication as to who fills in the number nine jersey until June.

Sivila Havili had a stellar World Cup for Tonga, Craig Garvey is in career best shape but the early bolter is Blake Austin, with Sam Williams set to fill in the vacant halves spot.

7. Will Jonathan Thurston be the same again?

Thurston, no matter how good he is, is getting old. The former Kangaroo and Maroon half is coming back from a gruelling shoulder injury, with fears his best is behind him.

But at the same time, do the Cowboys really need his best? The emergence of Michael Morgan’s dominance came during last year’s Finals Series, giving Thurston that little extra rest he undoubtedly needs.

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8. Can Croker fill the void?

Blake Green has left Manly after a single season, but in that short year, managed to confirm something we’d long suspected – DCE needs a quality half alongside him if he’s to play his best footy.

We saw the best of Cherry-Evans when he was playing with Green or Kieran Foran, and struggled in 2016 without a decent half. A rookie of the game with less than a full game of NRL experience to his name, whether Croker can bring the best out of DCE is questionable.

9. Has Matt Lodge justified his return?

Many a voice in rugby league, specifically on social media, have sung for Matt Lodge to be banned for life. Following serious charges coming from his trip to the United States left his NRL career in shreds.

But Wayne Bennett, a man known for rebirthing rugby league’s badboys, has taken on the job of bringing Lodge back to the NRL. But will his form demand it, competing with the likes of Korbin Sims and Tevita Pangai Jnr?

10. Jarryd Hayne

I could nearly write ten questions simply about Jarryd Hayne. Where will he play? Can he leave his shocking Origin performance in the centres behind him if he is to flourish in the centres? Will he ever be the same player he left Parramatta as? The trials will give us a small taste of some answers, but it’s yet to be seen which Hayne Plane landed in Western Sydney.

10 COMMENTS

  1. For the Broncos sake I hope Lodge has genuinely turned a corner but if I had my way he would never be allowed anywhere near a Brisbane jumper.

  2. 1). Brodie Croft will edge out Ryley Jacks as Cooper Cronks replacement
    2). No, Trent Hodkinson will not start the season. He should though, but Holmes will not be willing to go to Wing in order for Moylan to go to Fullback
    3). Greg Inglis will play in the Centres, and kill it there. Just get the ball to him for 5-8 absolute highlights per game without the additional workload of Fullback.
    4). Newcastle will go better, but that ain’t hard compared to multiple wooden spoons. A long season will test their ability to compete, and even a small number of small injuries will hurt them. They will not be in the top-8.
    5). Mitch Cornish will fill in for Luke Keary. Is there anyone else of note?
    6). Canberra to chop and change #9 through the first half of the season (and be light-on with Sam Williams full-time in the halves) and will therefore struggle.
    7). JT will not be near as good, but will still be better than most. Cowboys looking good (especially with Scott back and adding McLean!!)
    8). Lachlan Croker to be mostly good, and Cherry-Evans will be pretty good, but not as good as last year, and therefore Manly won’t be great. Blake Green an unsung hero.
    9). Matt Lodge is an absolute disgrace, and should not be playing. Hopefully karma sees to him not being on the paddock or in the papers.
    10). Hmm, Jarryd Hayne to play in the centres, producing quality closer to when at the Titans (rocks and diamonds) instead of (almost 10 years ago in) 2009. With the way they were going last year and with Clint Gutterson back I am not so sure they need him?

    • Grabby, nice work. Good / logical summation.

      I found the following points particularly interesting:

      6). I assume from your comments you expect Austin to have a crack at hooker, making way for Williams in the halves. I’m not sure they’ll go down that path, but I’d give it a crack personally. They need to get the spine to fire, as a whole, and changing it up a bit may well be the solution.

      8) Croker. I haven’t seen anything of him, but he’s obviously got potential. I find it interesting he is seen as a more likely candidate than Hastings. I know Hastings is a talented player, but from most accounts seems to suffer from a “team player” perspective, but for Manly to run Croker over him indicates to me that he’s (Hastings) ruled himself out of contention, and in light of all their issues, which they’re not guilty of course (and if you want a second opinion, you can ask them again), Croker becomes their only option, so they “smile and wave”.

      10). I don’t know. Personally, I probably wouldn’t have signed him, but given we have, I’d run him on the wing (take Semi’s spot) to minimise disruption on the team, but he could also be the signing of the year, if he finds his previous form. Like you, I don’t know.

    • Grabby Point 7. I agree JT will be less effective especially but Scott will be struggling more than Thurston. Total knee reconstructions take more than the confidence out of a player especially when they are ground making forwards with three blokes coming in to tackle you. Scott will struggle big time and if he thinks he can play exactly the same before his knee reconstruction, then he will be retired through injury before the mid season mark.

  3. ZT Fantasy code 174796
    Super coach

    All welcome 👍👍👍

    Some people on this ZT page talk-it , like they know everything about footy . Well Fantasy is the way 2 prove it , he who has the best team knows the in’s and out’s of the game on picking the players that make good points consistently every week.

  4. ( number 9. ) Abit harsh , everyone makes mistakes , yea it was a pretty big one but there’s plany of players in the comp that probley shouldn’t b playing with the way they act . The likes of t.Carny ,j.Dugan ,d.Taylor, Ferguson, Inglis ,Greg Bird and even old JT has had he’s time in the Sun.

      • My informants indicated to me that Lodge was hired by Bennett mainly for a bodyguard as Bennett is anticipating a tap on the shoulder come round 6 or 7 to collect his retirement pension. When this act occurs Bennett will be skitching Hodge onto the messenger who brings the threatening news.

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