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!!!
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.
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.