SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 30: Josh Addo-Carr of the Storm runs away to score after taking an intercept during the 2018 NRL Grand Final match between the Melbourne Storm and the Sydney Roosters at ANZ Stadium on September 30, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

This has been one of the craziest NRL off-seasons in memory.

We have rep players switching clubs almost weekly, we’ve had the mother of all coaching merry-go-rounds, and of course the usual copy and paste “so and so is training the house down” stories.

To say I’m excited for the 2019 season is an understatement. I love my cricket and nightly Big Bash makes my heart happy, but weekends just aren’t the same without the greatest game of all.

I’m looking forward to seeing if the Roosters can cope with the huge pressure that goes along with being premiers. I can’t wait to see how the Storm rebound from their Grand Final loss.

Josh Morris at the Sharks mentoring the hugely exciting Bronson Xerri has me, as a Sharks fan, counting down the days to the trials.

Can the Eels overcome a horror 2018 season and return to finals footy? Have the Titans recruited well enough to feature in September? How will the Panthers and Tigers react to the coaching switch? Can the Bunnies and Broncos cope under the regular media scrutiny?

All that has me rushing to bed to be one sleep closer to the big day, kick off in round one, but two potential positional switches make it seem like the season is five years off.

News coming out of the Hunter indicates that the supremely talented Kalyn Ponga will be moved into the halves to partner Mitchell Pearce.

Josh Addo-Carr was also quoted recently as throwing his name in the hat to take over Billy Slater’s number one role for the Melbourne Storm.

Ponga and Addo-Carr more involved, touching the ball every set? SIGN ME UP!!!

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Ponga’s shift seems natural. He had a wow of a 2018 season and was only one game away from claiming the Dally M medal despite missing plenty of games through injury.

The Knights struggled to find a play-maker to partner former Origin representative Mitchell Pearce, with the club struggling in Pearce’s absence, again through injury.

Conor Watson did a decent job, but he seems more of a fullback type player for mine. With Ponga moving into the five-eighth position, Watson is freed up to play at the back.

Suddenly the Knights have two world class play-makers, with Watson injecting himself when called upon. I like it.

The move does come with great risk, and could potentially stunt the incredible development of Ponga. He will have to learn a new position, and defend more, but given his efforts in Origin in defence, I can’t see it being a problem at all.

His play at fullback has five-eighth written all over it. His ball-playing abilities are on par with more than a few full-time number sixes across the company.

The Knights should obviously take every chance to get their star playmaker more involved.

The upside here is huge. A Pearce/Ponga halves combination has the potential to deliver a return to finals footy for fans of the Knights.

I’ll go so far, right now, to predict that they will take the Knights to a return to finals footy.

He’ll have to develop a more varied kicking game, and it’ll take time to get used to making 20-30 tackles each and every week, but I’m looking forward to the shift into the halves.

Further south, the aforementioned Josh Addo-Carr has thrown up the possibility of a shift into the fullback role following the retirement of Billy Slater.

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Honestly I hadn’t even thought about the possibility, but now that I’ve heard it, it’s all I can think about.

Can you imagine Addo-Carr with all that open space? I guarantee he’ll split sides apart if they get lazy on kick returns.

That said, he’s a natural winger. He played centre in his junior days with the Sharks, but he has developed into one of the game’s elite wingers.

A move from wing to fullback brings with it a much steeper learning curve than it would probably seem at first.

The man Addo-Carr is hoping to replace, Slater, revolutionalised the custodian role.

Fullbacks are now the third playmaker, and I’d argue the most important position on the field.

Ben Barba was the Sharks’ best player in their 2016 Premiership winning season. Slater is the reigning player of the series in Origin. RTS is the Dally M medallist and many would argue James Tedesco should have won the Golden Boot.

Addo-Carr would need to develop a passing game, but based on how quickly he seems to pick up every other aspect of the game, I wouldn’t bet against him.

I’d sure be betting on Addo-Carr making 15+ line breaks from fullback. I can’t see many defenders catching him if he’s the one in support after a break up the middle.

Imagine him in space after the ‘out the back to the fullback’ play?

I’d say a Ponga-to-six move is more likely than not. I can’t see Addo-Carr as favourite to take over from Slater, but in terms of excitement, I’d put both potential positional switches at the top of reasons I can’t wait for the 2019 season to kick off.

13 COMMENTS

  1. It seems the word “possibility” just like “could” is a blind shot in the dark. Have any of these positional changes been confirmed Dan or is this just speculation?

    Because there is a “possibility” that Addo-Carr “could” also make quite a stir and “split sides apart” playing in the cardinal and myrtle “if” he suddenly decides to join Bennett at Souths in 2019 where Souths “might” then win the premiership. Anything CAN happen after all. 😉

  2. My lineup for Melbourne
    1 Drinkwater
    2 Vunivalu
    3 Chambers
    4 Scott
    5 Addo-Carr
    6 Munster
    7 Croft
    8 Bromwich
    9 Smith
    10 Asofa-Solomona
    11 Kaufusi
    12 Stimson
    13 Finucane

    14 B Smith
    15 K Bromwich
    16 Pangai-Junior
    17 Welch

    • Drinkwater over Hughes? And we are not really close to getting Pangai-Junior, are we?? (Kasiano/P Kaufusi/Vete/Kamikamica if not?)

    • Seen addo carr fill in at fullback in a trial game against warriors two years ago in Sunshine Coast. Looked super dangerous every time he touched the ball.

  3. It took a great player like Lockyer at least one season to get the hang of 5/8. Ponga is not in that class yet. He did most of his ballplaying this year in the outside backs, chiming in from fullback. At 5/8 he will be forced to play closer to the ruck and will be more heavily marked. I’m not convinced this is a good move for the team – more like what Kalyn wants Kalyn gets or he’ll go play rugby union.

  4. Addo-Carr is no chance at fullback. Not cause he couldnt do it or it wouldnt be exciting but because of how much the Storm would need to change their playing structure to accomodate him. AND, they already have two class players who fit the current Storm structure.

  5. I’m not sold on Addo-Carr at fullback. Not because I don’t think he would make a fist of it but because the Storm have an excellent replacement in Jahrome Hughes.

    After letting go of Young Tonomapia, not sure who would play wing if they moved The Fox.

    After how well Ponga went this year, not sure why you’d want to move him.

  6. Reg Reagan
    November 21, 2018 at 10:01 pm
    Big news for Souths. Sutton signed for 2019 and… New coaches in Redfern and Red Hill after Friday.

    This was penso’s scoop!

    chalky will be relieved and I need several drinks 🍺🍺🍺🍺 to come to terms with this AND for beating the ridiculous filter of censorship that prevents me posting anything meaningful.

  7. You’d think Connor Watson went to Newcastle expecting to be the regular 5/8th. I suppose he may still be lock regularly? He certainly gets paid more & more first grade time than at the Roosters. However, if the Knights promised him the 5/8th position & Ponga is now there , will Watson be happy at Newcastle?

  8. Knights 2019
    1. Connor Watson
    2. Edrick Lee
    3. Jesse Ramien
    4. Hymel Hunt / Tau Tau Moga
    5. Shaun Kenny-Dowall
    6. Kalyn Ponga
    7. Mitchell Pearce
    8. Herman Ese’Ese
    9. Danny Levi / Zac Woolford
    10. David Klemmer *
    11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon
    12. Aidan Guerra
    13. Tim Glasby

    14. James Gavet
    15. Daniel Saifiti
    16. Sione Mata’utia
    17. Jamie Buhrer

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