RLW prediction: Bottom third
2016 finish: Wooden spoon
Coach Stephen Shepperd: Last year he coached the Cowboys’ Holden Cup side to the semis. Now Shepperd, a North Queensland local, has a huge job in front of him — but he’s optimistic, stating at the time of his hiring: “I can see a healthy backbone in the club.” They’ve since added to that backbone with some quality signings who should make an immediate difference. “We can’t go anywhere else but up, but to do that it is important we improve in the little things rather than look at the big picture. We’ve had a big turnover but we’ve tried to recruit people who have been in NYC and NRL systems with a really good work ethic. I thought that was something they might have lacked here in the last couple of years. There are a few boys here who are untapped and I hope they can show their wares.”
Player to watch: “I was with the Cowboys 20s for a few years and I’ve had my eye on [former Manly 20s star] Nicho Hynes for a while. He’s a bigger, taller five-eighth with a lovely pass and kick, and he’s a really good communicator. There’s a bit of DCE about him. If he fills out and does all the right things, he’s got a big future in the game.”
KEY GAINS: Jack Joass (Souths Logan), Setaimata Sa (Widnes Vikings), Cooper Bambling (North Queensland Cowboys), Nicho Hynes (Manly Sea Eagles)
KEY LOSSES: Steve Rapira (Wests Mackay), Liam Taylor (Wests Mackay), Jack Creith (Easts Tigers), Ryan Kinlyside (Souths Mackay)
KICKING ON Nicho Hynes comes from Manly with some big raps.