SLID­ERS

Inside Sport - - HOT SHOT -

ST GE­ORGE-ILLAWARRA DRAGONS

As their 2015 early-sea­son win­ning streak took hold, in which they claimed eight scalps across nine games, the Drags were be­ing branded the big over­achiev­ers of the NRL. When they dropped their next seven, they were sud­denly billed as the league’s ma­jor un­der­achiev­ers. What­ever their cur­rent la­bel is, what they are is a club with plenty of depth, with the Red V clev­erly stock­pil­ing young tal­ent across the pad­dock. We may not know a great deal about Dragons de­vel­op­ment backs Kurt Mann, Kalifa Faifai Loa, Adam Quin­lan or Taane Milne, but we’re guess­ing Dragons in­cum­bents Ja­son Nightin­gale, re­cruit Tim Lafai, and Peter Mata’utia are all too aware of their po­ten­tial. In the en­gine room, Trent Mer­rin’s a Pan­ther now, but the Dragons have known about that for a while. Rus­sell Packer, re­turn­ing to the NRL af­ter a prison stint, has been brought in and joins an es­tab­lished and solid for­ward pack which in­cludes hooker Mitch Rein and club cap­tain Ben Creagh, who could launch off the bench across 2016. This will be the last sea­son we’ll be dar­ing to la­bel this club slid­ers at any­thing, though ...

CAN­TER­BURY BULL­DOGS

No halves pair­ing will be un­der as much pres­sure in 2016 as the Bull­dogs’ com­bi­na­tion of ex­pe­ri­enced num­ber-six Josh Reynolds and ris­ing star Moses Mbye. The big ques­tion marks hov­er­ing over Bel­more this year: can Reynolds re­turn to the elec­tri­fy­ing form which saw him win a State of Ori­gin se­ries with the Blues in 2014? And can Mbye, ar­guably the most tal­ented young­ster in the game, main­tain his scin­til­lat­ing form from last sea­son? Fol­low­ing the de­par­ture of Blues Ori­gin half­back Trent Hod­kin­son to the Gold Coast Ti­tans, Reynolds and Mbye must click from the open­ing week­end of the com­pe­ti­tion and take full ad­van­tage of the squad’s gi­ant, space-cre­at­ing for­ward pack. They also must start show­cas­ing their slick or­gan­i­sa­tional skills in or­der for their bril­liant back­line to frolic in space.

The loss of Su­per League-bound power for­ward Frank Pritchard will prob­a­bly be felt through­out the first half of the cam­paign, as will the de­par­ture of boom cen­tre Tim Lafai to the Dragons. At least for­mer Eel Will Hopoate will be able to fill that void. Oh, just one more ques­tion: is cap­taincy weigh­ing down the per­for­mance of Bri­tish fire­brand James Gra­ham? Many ar­gued it did last year. He is at his best when he’s an­gry.

Young gun Moses Mbye needs to click im­me­di­ately with halves part­ner Josh Reynolds at the Bull­dogs.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.