The 2015 NRL Season once again showed that it is not only one of the premier competitions in the world, but one of the toughest and most evenly matched throughout the season. However as with every year, eight teams have to miss out on the finals, whether from injuries, bad luck or simply just flopping, but how can these sides reverse their fortunes in 2016? Hopefully their new signings will make a difference!
Key Signing: Incoming coach Nathan Brown (2018)
The Novocastrian’s had a season to forget in 2015 following the departure of super coach Wayne Bennett, winning the first four games of the season, only to win only four of their next 20 games, resulting in the sacking of coach Rick Stone.
Incoming coach Nathan Brown has had a pretty impressive coaching career, taking the Dragons to 2nd place in 2005 before moving to the English Super League where he took Huddersfield Giants to the Challenge Cup final in 2009, as well as coaching the St. Helens side, which won the Super League Grand Final in 2014.
Newcastle have a quality side still, despite losing some big names this season, most notably Kurt Gidley, Beau Scott and Tyrone Roberts, but have done well to pick up Trent Hodkinson. If Nathan Brown can get the best out of all his boys in 2016, they have a real chance of improving on the wooden spoon they picked up in 2015.
Key Signing: Michael Chee-Kam (2016) and Joel Edwards (2017)
Alarmingly, the West Tigers haven’t picked up any real big names in the off season, which, for a team that came second last, is not a good sign. The club has managed to pick up a few impressive young forwards in Michael Chee-Kam from Manly and Joel Edwards from Canberra, who should add some, needed enthusiasm and energy to the Tigers forward pack.
Outside of those two however, the club has not been overly active in the player market. Given that the club this year told Robbie Farah he was unwanted, speculation hovering over the future of Martin Taupau, as well as salary cap dramas, this could be another messy season.
Gold Coast Titans
Key Signing: The re-signing of James Roberts and Kane Elegy (2017)
2015 was another mixed season for the Titans, missing out on finals for the fifth year in a row, with financial stress, the cocaine scandal, Daly Cherry-Evans’ rejection and a horrible run of injuries hampering their season.
One of the only glimmers of light this season was not only the form of James Roberts and Kane Elegy, but also their re-signings. James Roberts has been a revelation for the club playing at Centre, being the clubs highest try scorer with 16, as well as picking up the Dally M Centre of the year.
With the club losing Aidan Sezer, as well as missing out on Daly Cherry-Evans, the good form from Kane Elegy, the Holden Cup player of the year in 2014, could not have come at a better time. Despite battling several injuries throughout the season, Kane Elegy was very impressive when he managed to stay fit, showing brilliant athleticism as well as an impressive kicking game.
New Zealand Warriors
Key Signing: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Isaac Luke (2018)
The Warriors actually didn’t have that bad of a season and, prior to Shaun Johnson’s horrific ankle break, looked on track to make their first finals appearance since 2011. However, once Johnson was out, the Warriors looked out of sorts and just awful, losing their last 8 games over which time they were outscored 260-90.
However, for 2016 the Warriors have arguably signed better than any other club, coming away with New Zealand internationals Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Isaac Luke, giving them one of the best spine’s in the game. Combined with already impressive players like Johnson, Ben Matulino, Ryan Hoffman and Simon Mannering, Warriors may be the team to beat in 2016.
Key Signing: Kieran Foran (2017-19)
Parramatta is another one of those sides that has consistently disappointed over the last few seasons, especially 2012/13 where they picked up back-to-back wooden spoons. However over the past two seasons Parramatta have done well with signing, picking up some experienced forwards to help their relatively inexperienced pack.
The signing of Kieran Foran is a huge coup for the club given he has established himself as one of the games premier halves during his time at Manly. Not only will he bring experience to the Parramatta side, he will also bring some much needed toughness, enthusiasm and leadership. Beside Foran, Beau Scott and Michael Gordon are both big pick-ups for the club.
Key Signing: Trent Merrin (2018)
After making the semi-finals in spectacular fashion in 2014, many had high hopes for the Panthers again this year, however the side had arguably the worst run of injuries and by the end of the season, were missing a whole team worth of talent.
For 2016, the sides biggest signing is Trent Merrin and he will bring rep experience to the side and will be a handy pick up given the side has lost several impressive forwards, including Lewis Brown, Nigel Plum and Adam Docker. The club has also picked up several young boom rookie halves including Zach Docker-Clay and Te Maire Martin, who could be in the clubs halves calculations in the near future.
Key Signing: Aiden Sezer (2018)
Canberra were one of the most improved sides of 2015 after some of the competitions best signings in Blake Austin and Josh Hodgson who both played out of their skins, resulting in Austin picking up the Dally M five-eighth of the year.
In 2016 the Raiders will welcome Aidan Sezer who will partner Austin in the halves and compliment him well, adding some extra control and a solid kicking game.
Manly Sea Eagles
Key Signing: Trent Barrett (2018)
Manly will be fielding an almost new look side in 2016 as the club is launching its biggest rebuilding phase since Des Hasler took over coaching in 2004. The side has a disappointing 2015, missing out on the finals for the first time in a decade with Geoff Toovey being made somewhat of a scapegoat for an unsuccessful season.
Trent Barrett has been impressive during his coaching stints for Country and Penrith and will bring a fresh start to the northern beaches that are in need of re-building after a decade of dominance. Barrett has already recruited well for the side with the likes of Nate Myles, Lewis Brown, Darcy Lussick and many others joining for 2016. With such a quality side at his disposal, the pressure will be on Barrett early to perform in 2016.