Newcastle Knights' Nathan Brown
Newcastle Knights' Nathan Brown

What NRL's cellar-dwellers need to do for 2016

SEVERAL months ago, APN previewed the 2015 NRL season, making some predictions and forecasts, including tipping North Queensland to win the premiership for Paul Green and the Broncos to improve considerably with Wayne Bennett back in the saddle.

Part of the reasoning for nominating the Cowboys as 2015 premiers was the recruitment of livewire hooker Jake Granville who played for Green in his 2012 Queensland Cup side Wynnum Manly and who was a player with explosive speed out of dummy half who could make things happen.

As it turned out, he and another Brisbane cast-off Ben Hannant, who joined the Cowboys, had the sweetest of all revenges last Sunday night.

So now it's time for our report cards on the performances of the 16 NRL clubs working our way from last to first.

NEWCASTLE: (16th wooden spoon): The Knights got off to a great start early under new coach Rick Stone who took over after Wayne Bennett returned to the Broncos.

But it was mostly downhill in the second half of 2015 with the board sacking Stone and former club legend Danny Buderus taking the helm of a sinking ship and squeezing out late-seasons wins over the Wests Tigers and a big upset over Melbourne.

Nathan Brown inherits some talent next season but has a huge task ahead in his first season.

WESTS TIGERS (15th): Talk about self-destructing. The fallout from the Robbie Farah affair will linger into 2016 so it is hard to see the Tigers having a smooth start to next season despite having so much talent.

The Tigers could not string more than two wins together.

While James Tedesco stood out like a beacon, young halves Luke Brooks and Mitch Moses have to offer a lot more in 2016.

Will struggle to make top eight with coach Jason Taylor wrestling with the Farah decision.

GOLD COAST TITANS (14th): After they got over the Daly Cherry-Evans back-flip, the Titans played enough good football to suggest, with young Kane Elgey and Newcastle recruit Tyrone Roberts, they could be a ladder climber in 2016.

The Titans were in the top eight mid-season but losing key organiser Aidan Sezer to injury, along with other injuries and suspensions, hurt them. They enter 2016 under Neil Henry with justified optimism.

WARRIORS (13th): The Warriors staggered to the finish line in 2015, wobbling more than a drunken sailor.

Losing brilliant halfback Shaun Johnson was a telling blow.

They dropped most of their last 10 games but if any side is going to surge in 2016 it will be the Warriors. Why?

Because they have recruited the most dangerous running back in the game in Roger Tuivasa-Sheck to complement Johnson and added the toughest hooker in the game, Issac Luke, to run their forwards, provided he escapes suspension.

Toss in a kid named Lolohea and the Warriors will be a big threat.


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