The NRL, where the off-season is more dramatic than the actual games. This week alone we’ve seen Cronulla Sharks coach Shane Flanagan get deregistered, banned and the club fined $800,000; Wests Tigers CEO Justin Pascoe get the same and his club fined $750,000; and we’ve seen Corey Norman go to the Dragons, back to the Eels and then back to the Dragons once more.
It’s been an eventful time for rugby league, and since work is a lot less eventful at the moment, I decided to see what potential affects this latest player transfer might have.
After the false start, Norman was eventually released from his Eels contract and has joined St George on a three-year deal. The early mail is that Widdop will give up his halves spot to take up the fullback position, while Norman will slot in at five-eighth next to Ben Hunt, his ex-Broncos teammate from seasons 2010-2013. That familiarity will likely help Corey settle into his new surroundings quickly and give the merger-club every chance to hit the ground running in the new year.
Obviously. Norman joins a premiership contender from the reigning wooden spoon holders (damn it feels great to write that and not mean Newcastle. Let me just bask in that for a moment…….. Nice).
As for his Supercoach prowess, Norman has never been a real stud of the game. He’s had patches of brilliance that have usually suckered thousands into a trade in, only to return to Norman programming and a few sub 40 scores. But this is just about the best scenario he’s been in in the NRL. In his Bronco’s stint, Norman averaged 38, 30, 47 and 46 to start his career. After the move south, he went on the average 37, 49, 55, 53 and 48 whilst with one of the worst teams in the competition. The Dragons talent far outweighs that of the Eels and should provide Norman with the grunt and firepower he needs to elevate his game. But is it enough to warrant selection?
Dylan Brown is my pick to be the new Eels halfback in 2019. This young kid is an Eels junior, played halfback for the Australian Schoolboys team and was offered a monster six-year, multimillion dollar contract by the Warriors to replace Shaun Johnson. The Eels responded with a very polite “Hell No”. They want him around.
Brown is yet to step onto an NRL field, but the teenager is a potential star-in-the-making. As with all young halves, it might take him some time to find his feet on the big stage, but if he’s gifted the #7 jersey in round 1, Supercoaches will have one less headache.
The Eels have now given up Corey Norman and there’s some murmurs about Mitchell Moses being on the trade table as well. Jarryd Hayne has…..well his latest dream has become a nightmare, so he’s all but gone too. And Nathan Brown hurt his knee at training and is out for the next six weeks at least. What that tells me is: Rebuild. And with a rebuild comes a clearing out of old heads and youngsters getting chances they probably wouldn’t have otherwise. It’s great news for us as we search for cheapies to fill out our benches. My pick (apart from Brown), is Greg Leleisiuao. He’s a previous 20s team of the year winger who was being touted for an NRL debut at this time last year. It didn’t happen but there’s probably a spot available for him this year should he take his shot.
Poor Matt Dufty. I don’t think you can say he did too much wrong in 2018, but just gets shoved to the side in order to fit in the more experienced heads. He came out strong, averaging 63 Supercoach points over the opening six weeks of the season, but was up and down over the entire 25 rounds. For instance, Dufty averaged 79 points between rounds 16 and 19, but from 20 through to 24 he averaged just 21.8, a total of 109 points. Still, he’s just 22 years old and showed enough in my opinion to prove he’ll be a solid fullback in the long-term. But now he’ll have to wait until Widdop heads back home in order to get that chance again.
I’m a bit torn on this, but I think it negatively impacts the Eels main (and only?) big signing for the new season. Coming to the Eels from last year’s premiers, the Roosters, Fergo is going all the way from the penthouse to the sh…er…outhouse in the space of one off season. At the same time, he’s losing all the quality NRL players around him that made that club so strong and probably made his job far easier than he’s about to experience. And then, to turn up at the club, only for them to lose key members of the side that claimed a wooden spoon? They must have given him a big pay day.
Conventional wisdom tells me that Widdop will be far more involved from fullback than he was in the halves. But truth is, I’d be guessing as to how he’ll go there. He started his career with stints at the back and played well, but those were in his days at the Melbourne Storm and everyone who plays fullback there goes pretty well. I’m not sure I’ve seen Gareth in the number 1 jersey while a Dragon, but I’m do know this: one of you will be able to tell me. Another issue is that Norman can kick goals and has before. I doubt Widdop relinquishes his role, but the fact is there. And finally, will he take time to gel with his new teammate and in his new position? Does that mean a slow start initially? I don’t have the answers unfortunately.
What are your thoughts?