Ricky Stuart is the only big-name recruit for an Eels team that needs to turn its fortunes around in 2013.
Photo: Getty Images
With the 2012 NRL season done and dusted, how is your club shaping up for 2013? We take a look at the players each of the bottom-eight teams from this season have recruited so far, and what other areas they need to improve in to become a finals force.
Last season's finish: 16th
Who they've lost: Nathan Hindmarsh (retirment), Luke Burt (retirement), Casey McGuire (retirement)
Who they've signed: Darcy Lussick (Sea Eagles), Daniel Harrison (Sea Eagles)
What they need: A lot of luck. It's an interesting time for the Eels, whose biggest recruit for 2013 is undoubtedly former NSW Origin coach Ricky Stuart. The only new players confirmed for next season are a couple of talented young fringe Manly forwards, who will add some depth next season but won't do much to replace the experience lost with the retirements of Nathan Hindmarsh and Luke Burt. Their next star signing will be former Manly gun Will Hopoate, but his return to the NRL won't come until 2014.
On paper, Parramatta do have the outline of a decent team – impressive youngsters in the outside backs, a star fullback in Jarryd Hayne, a talented if erratic halfback in Chris Sandow, a promising halves partner in Luke Kelly and some grunt up front with Fuifui Moimoi and Tim Mannah – but they simply didn't click in 2012. The hallmark of Stuart's success at the Roosters a decade ago was his team's intensity in defence, and he'll need to bring that to an Eels outfit who conceded the most points in the NRL this year.
Six games that shaped the Eels' season
Last season's finish: 15th
Who they've lost: Michael Gordon (Sharks), Luke Lewis (Sharks), Travis Burns (Hull KR), Mitch Achurch (Leeds)
Who they've signed: Lewis Brown (Warriors), Dean Whare (Sea Eagles), Sika Manu (Storm), James Segeyaro (Cowboys), Wes Naiqama (Knights), Kyle O'Donnell (Knights), Jeremy Latimore (Dragons), James Roberts (Rabbitohs), Moses Pangai (Cowboys), Sam Anderson (Knights)
What they need: Ivan Cleary and Phil Gould have obviously been working to overhaul the struggling Panthers, and the team's performance in 2012 suggests that's just what's needed. They're bringing in new faces all across the park, both players with plenty of NRL experience (Sika Manu, Wes Naiqama, NZ international Lewis Brown) and rising young guns (James Segeyaro, Dean Whare, James Roberts, Kyle O'Donnell, Jeremy Latimore, Moses Pangai). What they haven't got is genuine star power, apart from centre Michael Jennings (who's own future remains up in the air), with ex-captain Luke Lewis and star fullback Michael Gordon both departing for Cronulla. Whether Cleary can get his new-look team to gel is the big question – if not, the men in black will again rely heavily on Luke Walsh's boot and Lachlan Coote's running game to win them some games in 2013.
Six games that shaped the Panthers' season
Last season's finish: 14th
Who they've lost: Lewis Brown (Panthers), Michael Luck (retirement), James Maloney (Roosters), Ligia Sao (Sea Eagles), Toka Likiliki (Knights), Ukuma Ta'ai (Huddersfield), Omar Slaimankhel (Japanese rugby)
Who they've signed: Thomas Leuluai (Wigan), Dane Nielsen (Storm), Todd Lowrie (Storm)
What they need: A quality five-eighth, and a coach who can survive the season. James Maloney may not have been the most reliable defender but he was a quality playmaker and a great foil for Shaun Johnson in the halves, and he won't be an easy man to replace. Former Warrior Thomas Leuluai has returned from the UK and could fit the bill, although he doesn't quite appear to be in Maloney's class. Elsewhere, premiership-winning Storm duo Todd Lowrie and Dane Nielsen fill holes at lock and centre respectively, and a host of former Toyota Cup stars will be better for the run in 2012. This year's failed campaign will ease the expectations on whoever is hired as Brian McClennan's successor, with caretaker coach Tony Iro, dumped Tigers mentor Tim Sheens, Melbourne assistant David Kidwell and possibly even Storm supremo Craig Bellamy among those in the running.
Six games that shaped the Warriors' season
Last season's finish: 13th
Who they've lost: Braith Anasta (Tigers), Justin Carney (Castleford, UK), Curtis Rona (Cowboys), Peni Tagive (retirement)
Who they've signed: James Maloney (Warriors), Michael Oldfield (Sea Eagles), Sam Moa (Hull)
What they need: Sonny Bill Williams and Quade Cooper (just kidding). Williams of course has been strongly linked to the Roosters, and his size, power and experience would be a real boost for a team that ranked third worst in the NRL for run metres in 2012 and has one of the youngest packs in the competition. Cooper is a different story. Having replaced Braith Anasta with James Maloney, the Roosters now have one of the better attacking halves pairings in the league and they hardly need another playmaker. One thing they could do with is a few defensive specialists – only Parramatta conceded more points than the tricolours this season, and only Eels half Chris Sandow missed more tackles than new Rooster Maloney. If they're after experience and defensive toughness, Bulldogs veteran David Stagg is off contract and would fit the bill.
Six games that shaped the Roosters' season
Last season's finish: 12th
Who they've lost: Zeb Taia (Catalans Dragons), Richie Fa'aoso (Storm, mid-season), Wes Naiqama (Panthers), Kyle O'Donnell (Panthers), Joel Edwards (Raiders), Evarn Tuimavave (Hull KR), Junior Sa'u (Storm), Sam Anderson (Panthers)
Who they've signed: Beau Scott (Dragons), Toka Likiliki (Warriors), Jeremy Smith (Sharks), David Fa'alogo (Huddesfield)
What they need: A much stronger forward pack, and a fit Kurt Gidley. They were Newcastle's two big weaknesses in Wayne Bennett's first season at the club, and the master coach has already moved to address them. Another group of forwards have been offloaded, with no-frills rep players Beau Scott and Jeremy Smith as well as towering former Kiwi David Fa'alogo coming in to replace them. Eels prop Justin Poore is also a chance of joining Bennett's men. A back-up hooker (and successor) to the ageing Danny Buderus would be very welcome, while the Knights' chances again could hang on Gidley's troublesome shoulder – despite the improvement shown by young halfback Tyrone Roberts this season.
Six games that shaped the Knights' season
GOLD COAST TITANS
Last season's finish: 11th
Who they've lost: Bodene Thompson (Tigers), Phil Graham (retirement)
Who they've signed: David Taylor (Rabbitohs)
What they need: Despite missing the finals for the last two seasons, not much. Last year's recruiting spree means the Titans have one of the strongest forward packs in the competition, and the rise of youngsters Aidan Sezer and Matt Srama and the return to form of Scott Prince and William Zillman means they also boast a quality spine. The arrival of barnstorming back-rower Dave Taylor is a bonus, and the troubled but talented former Shark Albert Kelly is rumoured to be the next Titans signing. More will be expected of Jamal Idris after a quiet season, but the talent in the squad is there and the team should really start to gel in attack after 12 months together. Unless injuries hit hard, expect to see them playing finals football in 2013.
Six games that shaped the Titans' season
Last season's finish: 10th
Who they've lost: Gareth Ellis (Super League), Beau Ryan (Sharks), Chris Heighington (Sharks), Junior Moors (Storm)
Who they've signed: Braith Anasta (Roosters), Eddy Pettybourne (Rabbitohs), Bodene Thompson (Titans), Jack Buchanan (Dragons)
What they need: A coach, a reliable halves partner for Benji Marshall, and an improved forward pack. The dumping of Tim Sheens means the Tigers are heading into a period of transition, and that's probably needed after last season's failed recruiting drive which weakened an already-strong pack in order to make room for the under-performing Adam Blair. Braith Anasta will presumably slot into the halves alongside Marshall, adding experience and a decent long-kicking game in a position where the Tigers relied on a handful of makeshift options in 2012, although young half Curtis Sironen also impressed in his brief spell in the top grade. The loss of back-rowers Heighington and Ellis will hurt, but it could lead to more money spent on a front row that largely struggled this season – with the Tigers ranking second-worst in the NRL for metres gained. Manly prop Brent Kite and Penrith centre Michael Jennings have both been linked to the Tigers, while Blake Ayshford is expected to be the next man out.
Six games that shaped the Tigers' season
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS
Last season's finish: 9th
Who they've lost: Beau Scott (Knights), Dean Young (retirement), Jeremy Latimore (Panthers), Ben Hornby (retirement), Jack Buchanan (Tigers)
Who they've signed: Gerard Beale (Broncos), Tyson Frizell (Sharks), Josh Drinkwater (Sea Eagles)
What they need: A way to score tries. The Dragons' attack struggled badly in 2012 – they scored fewer points than any other team – and they've also lost their captain and halfback Ben Hornby to retirement. That means a lot of pressure will fall on whoever replaces him at halfback, expected to be either Kyle Stanley or former Manly young gun Josh Drinkwater, who arrives after leading the Toyota Cup for try assists in 2012. The likes of Daniel Mortimer, Robert Lui, Josh McCrone and Sam Williams had also been linked to a possible Dragons move in the future.
Six games that shaped the Dragons' season
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Stay tuned tomorrow for What your team needs for 2013: Part 2