THE PRE-SEA­SON COUNTS

What’s your NRL club’s sto­ry­line for the sum­mer?

The Gympie Times - - SPORT -

BRIS­BANE

All eyes will be on Wayne Ben­nett and whether he stays on af­ter be­ing told he’s not re­quired in 2020. Bris­bane must find a re­place­ment, and Ben­nett may walk sooner if he gets an of­fer else­where. Corey Oates is also still unsigned and has said Ben­nett is cru­cial in his fu­ture.

CAN­BERRA

The Raiders’ English im­ports ar­rive this sum­mer. For­wards John Bate­man and Ryan Sut­ton are Can­berra’s two big­gest sign­ings. Ricky Stu­art will look to them to repli­cate the feats of Josh Hodg­son and El­liott White­head.

CAN­TER­BURY

Kieran Fo­ran is ex­pected to be fit for the pre-sea­son but hasn’t been any­where near his best since leav­ing Manly in 2015. Can­ter­bury looked a team on the rise at the end of the past sea­son and Fo­ran, along­side Lach­lan Lewis, could take them to the next level.

CRONULLA

Valen­tine Holmes’ con­tract will be key. Cronulla will want to re-sign him be­fore Novem­ber 1 to stop North Queens­land from for­mally of­fer­ing him a deal. Holmes was Cronulla’s best this year at full­back as he scored 22 tries and led the NRL in line­breaks.

GOLD COAST

Ty­rone Peachey’s Kan­ga­roos se­lec­tion means he won’t ar­rive un­til af­ter the begin­ning of pre-sea­son, but just last month he in­di­cated he was hav­ing sec­ond thoughts. The Ti­tans in­sist he’ll have to hon­our his deal, but how happy will he be?

MANLY

Coach Trent Bar­rett’s fu­ture re­mains un­re­solved de­spite him hand­ing in his res­ig­na­tion in July. Manly must also find a way out of their salary cap mess. Kane El­gey is their only sign­ing and they have to cope with an­other $330,000 de­duc­tion to their player pay­ments.

MEL­BOURNE

Cameron Smith’s con­tract is yet to be fi­nalised de­spite him mak­ing his fu­ture a talk­ing point in grand fi­nal week. Mel­bourne will also want to lock Cameron Mun­ster up for be­yond 2019 be­fore Novem­ber 1.

NEW­CAS­TLE

Nathan Brown is still mulling over whether to move Ka­lyn Ponga to five-eighth and is set to leave the de­ci­sion with the young star. The club is still in the mar­ket for a big-name mid­dle for­ward and will be ready to swoop if any be­comes avail­able.

WAR­RIORS

Stephen Kear­ney will be hop­ing for the most sta­ble off­sea­son in years, with few changes at the club. The only chal­lenge could be a Kiwi tour of Eng­land, sure to fea­ture sev­eral War­riors.

NORTH QUEENS­LAND

Ben Barba will have his first NRL pre-sea­son since re­turn­ing a sec­ond pos­i­tive test to an il­licit sub­stance at Cronulla in 2016. Barba has been a stand-out player in the English Su­per League this year and he’ll look to repli­cate that for a Cow­boys side with­out Johnathan Thurston.

PARRAMATTA

The Eels need a pos­i­tive pre­sea­son and big start to 2019, oth­er­wise the heat will in­ten­sify on coach Brad Arthur. The find­ings from a foot­ball de­part­ment re­view are due and will be key to how they turn things around.

PEN­RITH

How the club fills it head­coach­ing role will be the big­gest story of the sum­mer, as the links to Ivan Cleary con­tinue. For now, care­taker Cameron Ci­raldo re­mains the fron­trun­ner to take over.

SOUTH SYD­NEY

Will An­thony Sei­bold re-sign in the sum­mer and put Bris­bane spec­u­la­tion to bed be­fore the sea­son starts? The 2018 coach of the year has the Rab­bitohs on the right path. Vet­eran John Sut­ton is also yet to sign a new deal.

ST GE­ORGE ILLAWARRA

Change is afoot off the field at the Drag­ons with new chief ex­ec­u­tive Brian John­ston tak­ing charge. Ques­tions will be asked about how they treat their pre-sea­son af­ter an­other late-sea­son fade-out.

SYD­NEY ROOST­ERS

The de­fend­ing pre­miers will start the sum­mer as 2019 favourites, but all eyes will be on the fit­ness of their big names. Cooper Cronk won’t be at train­ing un­til Jan­uary and English winger Ryan Hall will miss the start of next sea­son.

WESTS TIGERS

Will coach Ivan Cleary be there in March and how long will the saga roll on? There were re­ports as re­cently as this week the Tigers had ap­proached Pen­rith for a pay­out, with Cleary con­tracted un­til the end of 2020.

Photo: Brett Costello

IN DE­MAND: Cronulla will want to re-sign Valen­tine Holmes be­fore Novem­ber 1 to stop North Queens­land from for­mally of­fer­ing him a deal.

Photo: AAP

UNSIGNED: Corey Oates could leave the Bron­cos. Ty­rone Peachey. Photo: Phil Hill­yard

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