As the 16 NRL clubs scramble to assemble a competitive roster for 2016, we’ve got a rundown on where each team stands at present, and how their squad is shaping up compared to this season.
Ins: Carlin Anderson (Ipswich Jets)
Outs: Justin Hodges (retirement), Todd Lowrie (Newcastle Knights), Ashley Taylor (Gold Coast Titans), Mitch Garbutt (Leeds Rhinos), Matt Parcell (Manly Sea Eagles), Mitchell Dodds (Warrington), Jayden Nikorima (Roosters), David Stagg (retirement)
The 2015 runners-up will retain all but two of their grand final 17, with Justin Hodges and Mitchell Dodds the only members departing. Exciting young winger/fullback Carlin Anderson will compete with the likes of Dale Copley and Lachlan Maranta to join the backline, with Jordan Kahu likely to replace Hodges.
Origin prop Josh McGuire will return from injury to shore up the loss of Dodds, while Daniel Vidot remains unsigned along with a handful of promising youngsters, including NRL-experienced Aaron Whitchurch and Jordan Drew.
Recruitment and retention rating: 7/10.
Ins: Aidan Sezer (Gold Coast Titans, 2018), Elliot Whitehead (Catalan Dragons), Adam Clydsdale (Newcastle Knights)
Outs: David Shillington (Gold Coast Titans), Andrew Heffernan (Penrith Panthers), Mark Nicholls (Storm), Joel Edwards (Wests Tigers), Josh McCrone (St George Illawarra Dragons), Mitch Cornish (Parramatta Eels)
Titans half Aidan Sezer is the big-name signing, but it’s difficult to see where he fits into the Raiders’ playmaking puzzle with Blake Austin and the rejuvenated Sam Williams. Snapped up early in 2015, the money on Sezer may have been better spent elsewhere – but few could have foreseen the outstanding campaigns Austin and Williams would enjoy. Austin is an option at fullback, with current No.1 Jack Wighton an experienced centre.
Adam Clydsdale arrives to add dummy-half depth, while Catalan forward Elliot Whitehead – selected in England’s squad to take on New Zealand later this month – should be another Super League success story in the capital. Encouragingly, David Shillington is the only 2015 first-choice departure; and the former Test prop was well past his best.
Mid-season flop Joey Leilua is off-contract but appears likely to re-sign with the Raiders.
Recruitment and retention rating: 7.5/10
Ins: Brad Abbey (Warriors)
Outs: Trent Hodkinson (Newcastle Knights), Frank Pritchard (Hull FC), Corey Thompson (Widnes Vikings)
The Bulldogs’ meek exit from the 2015 finals showed how much they will miss NSW No.7 Trent Hodkinson, so next season’s campaign largely hinges on the ability of Moses Mbye and Josh Reynolds to form a first-rate halves combination.
Frank Pritchard is a big loss, but Tony Williams will be back from a long injury layoff. Warriors NYC fullback gun Brad Abbey – also a five-eighth option – is the Bulldogs’ only purchase of note to date, and he could be an eventual No.1 solution that would allow Brett Morris to return to the wing. Des Hasler is likely to stick with a Morris-Perrett-Rona back-three in 2016, however.
Recruitment and retention rating: 4/10.
Ins: James Maloney (Sydney Roosters), Chad Townsend (New Zealand Warriors), Jesse Sene Lefao (Manly Sea Eagles)
Outs: Michael Gordon (Parramatta Eels), Blake Ayshford (New Zealand Warriors), Josh Addo-Carr (Wests Tigers), Jeff Robson (New Zealand Warriors), Kyle Stanley (retirement), Curtis Scott (Melbourne Storm)
One of the big movers in the 2016 player market, adding blue-chip playmaker James Maloney to their ranks, along with the return of the Sharks’ 2013 NSW Cup-winning captain Chad Townsend after two years at the Warriors. The make-up of the halves will depend on Shane Flanagan’s plans for versatile Dally M Rookie of the Year Jack Bird, who can play centre or backrow.
Michael Gordon’s departure will leave Valentine Holmes and Ben Barba to fight it out for the fullback spot, but a lack of a top-class wing replacement for Holmes may see Barba get the nod. Gordon and Warriors-bound Jeff Robson are the only members of the Sharks’ finals line-up that won’t be in the Shire in 2016.
Jesse Sene-Lefao could prove a handy engine-room pick-up after a disappointing year for Manly.
Recruitment and retention rating: 8/10.
GOLD COAST TITANS
Ins: David Shillington (Canberra Raiders), Nathan Friend (New Zealand Warriors), Zeb Taia (Catalan Dragons), Ashley Taylor (Brisbane Broncos), Tyrone Roberts (Knights)
Outs: Nate Myles (Manly Sea Eagles), Aidan Sezer (Canberra Raiders), Dave Taylor (Catalan Dragons), Shaun Hudson (North Queensland Cowboys), Ben Ridge (retirement), Matthew White (Storm), Brad Tighe (retirement), Kalifa Faifai Loa (St George Illawarra Dragons)
After Daly Cherry-Evans’ back-flip left the Titans’ roster in disarray, the club has done a fair job in rebuilding ahead of 2016 – but nowhere near enough to be a finals contender.
Boom Bronco Ashley Taylor and experienced Knight Tyrone Roberts will vie for a halves spot to accompany Kane Elgey, while David Shillington and Zeb Taia arrive to stiffen a forward pack weakened by the loss of captain Nate Myles and prop stalwart Matthew White.
Foundation Titan Nathan Friend still has plenty to offer after four impressive seasons in Auckland, despite turning 35 before the next season commences; his arrival may end the time of off-contract hookers Beau Falloon and Chad Redman at the club.
Recruitment and retention rating: 6/10
MANLY SEA EAGLES
Ins: Nate Myles (Gold Coast Titans), Lewis Brown (Penrith Panthers), Apisai Koroisau (Penrith Panthers), Darcy Lussick (Parramatta Eels), Tim Moltzen (Wests Tigers), Matt Parcell (Brisbane Broncos), Nathan Green (St George Illawarra Dragons), John Walker (rugby union), Tom Wright (schoolboy rugby union)
Outs: Kieran Foran (Parramatta Eels), James Hasson (Parramatta Eels), Justin Horo (Catalan Dragons), Jack Littlejohn (Wests Tigers), Ligi Sao (New Zealand Warriors), Michael Chee-Kam (Wests Tigers), Dunamis Lui (St George Illawarra Dragons), Clinton Gutherson (released), Cheyse Blair (Melbourne Storm), Jesse Sene Lefao (Cronulla Sharks)
Along with a new coach in Trent Barrett, the Sea Eagles have undergone a drastic roster overhaul. Their backline will remain almost totally intact – except for the gaping hole left by five-eighth Kieran Foran. Tim Moltzen, schoolboy rugby star Tom Wright and rumoured signing Isaac John will come into contention for the No.6 jumper, although moving Jamie Lyon to pivot would allow Barrett to promote Tom Trbojevic to a permanent backline role.
In the pack, Apisai Koroisau and Matt Parcell will duel for the hooker spot, with club veteran Matt Ballin effectively being pushed out of Brookvale – despite being re-signed for another two seasons earlier in 2015. Nate Myles and the returning Darcy Lussick add starch to the engine-room and Lewis Brown brings versatility to the mix. David Williams and Willie Mason are yet to be re-signed and are highly unlikely to be in maroon and white next year.
Managing to change Daly Cherry-Evans’ mind remains the most important achievement of the club’s retention committee in 2015, although the rumoured chase of Martin Taupau would be a major coup.
Recruitment and retention rating: 7/10.
Ins: Matthew White (Gold Coast Titans), Mark Nicholls (Canberra Raiders), Scott Drinkwater (Sydney Roosters), Curtis Scott (Cronulla Sharks), Cheyse Blair (Manly Sea Eagles)
Outs: Kurt Mann (St George Illawarra Dragons), Ryan Hinchcliffe (Huddersfield Giants), Mahe Fonua (Hull FC), Dayne Weston (Leigh Centurions), Matt Duffie (rugby union)
Craig Bellamy will look to work his customary magic by rejuvenating front-rowers Matthew White and Mark Nicholls, while Cheyse Blair’s arrival helps alleviate the departure of Matt Duffie and Mahe Fonua. Versatile duo Kurt Mann and Ryan Hinchcliffe are big losses, however, and the Storm will have to replace them from within.
How to accommodate boom fullback Cameron Munster when Billy Slater returns will be Bellamy’s trickiest task; he appears well-suited to five-eighth, but Blake Green was superb in 2015, and Munster may end up in the centres as a replacement for Mann.
Recruitment and retention rating: 5.5/10.
Ins: Trent Hodkinson (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Todd Lowrie (Brisbane Broncos), Mickey Paea (Hull FC)
Outs: Kurt Gidley (Warrington Wolves), Beau Scott (Parramatta Eels), Clint Newton (retirement), David Fa’alogo (retirement), Carlos Tuimavave (Hull FC), Tyrone Roberts (Titans), Adam Clydsdale (Canberra Raiders)
Trent Hodkinson is the club’s biggest signing since Wayne Bennett brought his Dragons posse to town in 2012, and should provide some much-needed halves stability and direction after several seasons of persevering with the enigmatic Mullen-Roberts combination.
Stacked for outside-back talent, incoming coach Nathan Brown has a job to do settling on the best back-five line-up: Jake Mamo or Sione Mata’utia at fullback; veteran wingers Akuila Uate and James McManus, or newer talents Nathan Ross, Chanel Mata’utia and Mamo.
But the most worrying area is in the forward pack with Beau Scott leaving; the Knights were already thin and the only addition so far is journeymen Mickey Paea. There is something of a leadership void with Kurt Gidley, Clint Newton, and David Fa’alogo joining Scott in the departure column.
Recruitment and retention rating: 6/10.
NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS
Ins: Shaun Hudson (Gold Coast Titans), Jahrome Hughes
Outs: Viliame Kikau (Penrith Panthers), Cameron King (Parramatta Eels), Glenn Hall (retirement), Robert Lui (Salford)
Very little coming or going, which can only be a positive for the defending premiers. Glenn Hall, Robert Lui and Cameron King made a combined nine NRL appearances in 2015.
There’s a bit of depth in Townsville, too, with forwards Coen Hess, Ben Spina, Sam Hoare, Patrick Kaufusi and Kelepi Tanginoa all filling in impressively at times, while Matt Wright and Tautau Moga are in the backline mix.
Recruitment and retention rating: 8/10.
Ins: Kieran Foran (Manly Sea Eagles), Beau Scott (Newcastle Knights), Michael Gordon (Cronulla Sharks), Mitch Cornish (Canberra Raiders), James Hasson (Manly Sea Eagles), Cameron King (North Queensland Cowboys), Kieran Moss (Penrith Panthers), Rory O’Brien (St George Illawarra Dragons)
Outs: Darcy Lussick (Manly Sea Eagles), Ryan Matterson (Sydney Roosters), Ben Crooks (Castleford Tigers), Zach Dockar-Clay (Penrith Panthers), Chris Sandow (Warrington Wolves), Beau Champion (retired)
Despite doing their best to bungle one of the biggest signings in the club’s history, the Eels have ultimately done a great job in shoring up some key areas of weakness. Kieran Foran will become the Parramatta’s hub and should strike up a great halves combination with Corey Norman.
Michael Gordon is coming off a top season for Cronulla and is an outstanding fullback pickup after the Eels floundered without Jarryd Hayne in 2015, while Beau Scott and James Hasson are great additions to a young, blockbusting pack badly in need of some grit.
Will Hopoate and Reece Robinson are unlikely to be at the club next year, however, which leaves the three-quarter line a bit short on top-shelf talent.
Recruitment and retention rating: 8.5/10.
Ins: Trent Merrin (St George Illawarra Dragons), Zach Dockar-Clay (Parramatta Eels), Benjamin Garcia (Catalan Dragons), Andrew Heffernan (Canberra Raiders), Viliame Kikau (North Queensland Cowboys), Te Maire Martin (Wests Tigers)
Outs: Lewis Brown (Manly Sea Eagles), Brent Kite (retirement), Apisai Koroisau (Manly Sea Eagles), Nigel Plum (retirement), Kieran Moss (Parramatta Eels), Sika Manu (Hull), David Simmons (retirement), Shaun Spence (retirement), Ben Murdoch-Masila (Salford), Adam Docker (released), Isaac John (released), Sam Anderson (released)
The Panthers’ aggressive recruitment of recent years has continued, but they’ve lost plenty this year. After breaking the bank to secure Trent Merrin’s services in the pre-season, the club has watched a slew of experienced campaigners depart – leaving their engine-room looking decidedly thin in particular.
Young Junior Kiwi halves Te Maire Martin and Zach Dockar-Clay arrive to provide cover for injury-hampered veterans Jamie Soward and Peter Wallace, but even with the addition of the dynamic Merrin, it appears the Panthers have finished on the debit side of the player movement ledger ahead of their make-or-break 2016 campaign.
Recruitment and retention rating: 5/10.
SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS
Ins: Michael Oldfield (Catalans Dragons)
Outs: Issac Luke (New Zealand Warriors), Ben Lowe (retirement), Glenn Stewart (Catalans Dragons)
Cameron McInnes is a handy replacement for big loss Issac Luke, while Canterbury’s breakout dummy-half star Damian Cook is rumoured to be heading to Redfern.
The front-row and backrow areas are of major concern, though, with the departure of Ben Lowe and Glenn Stewart adding to the mass exodus after the 2014 grand final success.
Michael Oldfield is a handy outside-back pick-up.
Recruitment and retention rating: 4.5/10.
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS
Ins: Kurt Mann (Melbourne Storm), Siliva Havili (New Zealand Warriors), Mose Masoe (St Helens RLFC), Dunamis Lui (Manly Sea Eagles), Tyrone McCarthy (Hull Kingston Rovers), Sebastine Ikahihifo (New Zealand Warriors), Kalifa Faifai Loa (Gold Coast Titans), Josh McCrone (Canberra Raiders)
Outs: Dan Hunt (retirement), Trent Merrin (Penrith Panthers), Charly Runciman (Widnes Vikings), Nathan Green (Manly Sea Eagles) Rory O’Brien (Parramatta Eels), Eto Nabuli (rugby union), Justin Hunt (Wests Tigers), Heath L’estrange (retirement)
The Saints have been among the busiest clubs on the player market, luring a stack of mid-range talent to the joint venture outfit. Outstanding utility Kurt Mann is the one most will be getting excited about, but big Mose Masoe, dummy-half Siliva Havili, the versatile Josh McCrone, ex-Manly and Brisbane forward Dunamis Lui, English forward Tyrone McCarthy and exciting finisher Kalifa Faifai Loa, who began his NRL career with the Dragons, shape as solid buys.
Trent Merrin is a big loss, and the St George Illawarra recruitment team must not have watched any of Sebastine Ikahihifo’s erratic displays for the Warriors in 2014-15 before convincing him to put pen to paper. Adam Docker may also arrive from Penrith before the year is out.
The three-quarter line is the most obvious area of weakness in the line-up, while there continues to be noise about a player-swap arrangement involving improving hooker Mitch Rein and out-of-favour Tigers captain Robbie Farah.
Recruitment and retention rating: 7.5/10.
Ins: Joe Burgess (Wigan Warriors), Mitchell Frei (Wynnum Manly Seagulls), Ian Henderson (Catalan Dragons), Ryan Matterson (Parramatta Eels), Jayden Nikorima (Broncos), Paki Afu
Outs: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (New Zealand Warriors), James Maloney (Cronulla Sharks), Nene Macdonald (Gold Coast Titans), Nathan Stapleton (London Broncos), Scott Drinkwater (Melbourne Storm)
Replacing outbound stars Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and James Maloney will be the focus for the Roosters heading into 2016. Jackson Hastings will partner Mitchell Pearce in the halves, while rangy Wigan flyer Joe Burgess, teenage sensation Latrell Mitchell and the impressive Brendan Elliott are in the frame to join the backline. Tuivasa-Sheck’s younger brother, Johnny, is also an option. But Mitchell is the only one with bankable fullback experience, so he looks like the best option unless Blake Ferguson gets retrenched to the custodian role.
Otherwise, the Roosters have done a good job keeping the vast majority of their squad together for 2016. Jayden Nikorima and Ian Henderson provide a big of versatility and depth around the dummy-half area.
Recruitment and retention rating: 6.5/10.
Ins: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (Sydney Roosters), Issac Luke (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Ligi Sao (Manly Sea Eagles), Blake Ayshford (Cronulla Sharks), Henare Wells (Burleigh Bears), Jeff Robson (Cronulla Sharks)
Outs: Nathan Friend (Gold Coast Titans), Siliva Havili (St George Illawarra Dragons), Nathaniel Peteru (Gold Coast Titans), Dominique Peyroux (St Helens RLFC), Sam Rapira (Huddersfield Giants), Sam Tomkins (Wigan Warriors), Chad Townsend (Cronulla Sharks), Sebastine Ikahihifo (St George Illawarra Dragons), Glen Fisiiahi (rugby union), Ngani Laumape (rugby union)
Desperately in need of an overhaul, the Warriors have jettisoned plenty of deadwood as well as picking up Kiwi superstars Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Issac Luke – arguably the two biggest signings in the club’s chequered history.
Ligi Sao, who started out with the Warriors Under-20s, is an underrated forward-pack recruit, while experienced Sharks duo Jeff Robson and Blake Ayshford provide depth and professionalism that the club is clearly lacking.
Robson will compete with Thomas Leuluai and Tuimoala Lolohea to partner Shaun Johnson in the halves. The ultra-versatile Lolohea may be slotted in at centre with the Warriors’ three-quarter-line looking sketchy. Manu Vatuvei is the only wing or centre guaranteed a spot, while they are reportedly looking to move on the blockbusting Konrad Hurrell, who is a game-breaker but has consistently let himself and the club down with his lack of dedication.
Recruitment and retention rating: 9/10.
Ins: Jack Littlejohn (Manly Sea Eagles), Michael Chee-Kam (Manly Sea Eagles), Jesse Parahi (rugby union), Justin Hunt (St George Illawarra Dragons), Jordan Rankin (Hull FC), Josh Addo-Carr (Cronulla Sharks), Joel Edwards (Canberra Raiders)
Outs: Pat Richards (Catalan Dragons), Keith Galloway (Leeds Rhinos), Shannon McDonnell (St Helens), Te Maire Martin (Penrith Panthers), Tim Moltzen (Manly Sea Eagles)
Veterans Pat Richards and Keith Galloway will be missed – particularly the latter as the Tigers have failed to lure enough forward strength, already an area of weakness, out west. Hard-hitting backrower Joel Edwards could be a handy buy, but Martin Taupau reportedly wants out of the club, which would be a disaster.
The Robbie Farah situation is the big unknown of the Tigers’ roster make-up.
Jack Littlejohn or Jordan Rankin may be a halves option if Mitchell Moses fails to improve, while Justin Hunt provides fullback and wing cover. Overall, pretty underwhelming for the cash-strapped Tigers.
Recruitment and retention rating: 5/10.