Just in case you’ve been living under a rock, Josh McGuire is now a Cowboy. It came initially as a shock, but it now feels like a distant memory given the influx of player transfers in the NRL over the past few weeks.
In the second of our player transfer series, Wilfred Zee and JT have cast their eyes over the potential SuperCoach winners following the Queensland representative forward’s shift north.
But first, how do we assess the transfer for the man himself?
McGuire has been a base stat monster for years, demonstrating a willingness to get his hands dirty, whether that’s a tough carry coming out of his own end of the field, or a handful of his opponent’s (ridiculous-looking) hair. He has consistently commanded big minutes in the Broncos pack, averaging 59, 51, 58 and 59 minutes from 2014 to 2017 respectively, and registering average SuperCoach scores of 60, 57, 58 and 60 in that time. In line with these minutes and scores, he scored at a respectable 1.02, 1.12, 1.01 and 1.01 PPM across the four seasons as well.
You knew what you were getting from him, basically. However, 2018 brought with it a spike in minutes (for a career-high average of 66 MPG) but also a drastic drop in his PPM (down to 0.77) and a disappointing 51 points per game for the season. This could partially be explained due to several games where he was used at hooker given mid-game injuries to Macca throughout the year, but also some Bennett specials where he would start the game for 20-30 minutes at hooker before moving into his usual role in the middle for the remainder of the game.
It’s not unthinkable that one of the major reasons for McGuire’s appetite for a switch was driven by the inconsistent role that he played for the Broncos week-in-week-out. In fact, reports of late have quoted McGuire stating that he is really happy to being playing in a stable environment going forward… With this being said, it’s hard to see the SuperCoach upside for McGuire in 2019 with Jason Taumalolo sure to command significant minutes at lock and then a plethora of representative forwards in the pack already.
Tevita Pangai Jnr
Freshly re-signed for the 2019 season, TPJ was never going to leave the Broncos to follow Wayne Bennett, despite the ongoing rumours. With McGuire’s departure, he looms as the frontrunner to replace him in the #13 given the fact he started there in the games where McGuire started at #9 or missed the game entirely (that is, when TPJ was healthy too). However, Joe O was also a candidate to start in the #13 and in fact did so in Round 25 when McGuire was a late swap to the starting hooker position, and TPJ was required to play on the left edge in lieu of an injured Alex Glenn.
In any event, more minutes are on offer for the PPM beast and while he lacks the motor (for now) to play the type of minutes McGuire could at lock, a season-long PPM of 1.05 (in spite of plenty of minutes spent on an edge) means TPJ is going to be undervalued if he increases his MPG from the 50 he played in 2018.
Rookie / Cheap Cowboy Front Row Forwards
Another Origin forward into the mix for the Cowboys (with McGuire joining the likes of Matt Scott (?), Coen Hess, Gavin Cooper and Jordan McLean) will open up a starting spot during representative rounds for a potential short term cow / nuff.
Payne Haas / David Fifita
The easy suggestion would have been to look at Matt Lodge and Joe O as the other benefactors of the McGuire move (given the extra 60ish minutes per week on offer which will be divided amongst the middle forwards) but the two of them actually benefited a lot in 2018 already, so there is limited additional value to be gained.
Rather, I believe in the future of these two teenage superstars-in-waiting. The Broncos rarely commit long term to forwards – especially such young ones – but the promise, maturity and commitment to defence and the “one-percenters” shown by these two despite their inexperience was seriously impressive.
Haas’ debut season was cut short due to injury, but Seibold showed a willingness to give more minutes to a rookie (Junior Tatola) who was outperforming some of his more experienced teammates (Mark Nicholls, Jason Clark) so another strong preseason from Haas and his talent and natural physical attributes could see him breakout similarly to how Matt Lodge did in 2018 (SuperCoach-wise at least, if not also in terms of on-field performance).
Fifita might be in the less favourable situation given he is an edge backrower who also has to contend with the returns from injury of Matt Gillett, Jaydn Su’A and (for now) also the ongoing presence of Alex Glenn in the squad, however his performances this year as an 18 year old rookie were just ridiculously good – on and off the ball. If TPJ stays away from the edge in 2018 and sticks more to the middle, then there will be minutes on offer there as well. Although unlikely, I would not in any way be surprised if Fifita was the starting edge backrower over the likes of Su’A and possibly even a not-100% fit Gillett come end of the 2019 season.
Also in the mix depending on a variety of factors – Tom Flegler (I am a BIG fan), Patrick Carrigan (prop who was also the Queensland U20s captain)
This is even assuming he is in the team come Round 1, 2019, as the rumours continue to persist that the Titans are after him for next season. In any case, as much as Glenn has been a loyal and dependable servant for many years (and played very well for half of 2018 too), this younger and hungrier group of forwards consisting of TPJ, Su’A, Joe O, Lodge, Fifita and Haas are banging down that door for more minutes and it’s hard to imagine the older Glenn being able to keep up with them for much longer.
Each were probably not on your radar before the transfer and they definitely shouldn’t be now with the addition McGuire. There is the possibility of extended bench time and an increased timeshare with a big-minute forward added into the mix.
This is somewhat of a left-field reason, but with McGuire, Thaiday and potentially even Glenn gone, the “forwards who can sometimes throw a decent pass” brigade can no longer be called upon so sub in for a mid-game or a 1-2 week injury for McCullough. Turpin was serviceable but may not be trusted by Seibold (who knows – plus he’s not in the top 30 at the moment) and Nikorima shapes as the best possible replacement hooker. This could be all that’s required to shunt him back to the #14 jersey as utility off the bench…
He shared the minutes with the rest of the big-name pack all of 2018 and it did nothing to stifle his output. He will take on a big role during representative rounds again (think Manly game where he went absolutely ballistic) and he will be one of the most own fantasy forwards in 2019.
THE BIG UNKNOWNS
There are a few here, to say the least.
Seibold – arguably everything is up in the air with a new, relatively unproven coach. However, we saw an exciting, attacking style of play. We saw innovative ball movement and set plays. We saw him reward good performances with continued selection with the ongoing choice of Sutton (who we thought might have been on his way out in last year’s preseason!) and the willingness to gamble on the rookie Tatola. Although, we also saw curious (limited) usage of the gun lock/backrower in Cam Murray too…
Jack Bird – big money, plenty of talent, but also plenty of question marks about his mental application, his fitness, the Seibold factor and what position he plays.
Matt Gillett – is he going to be the Gillett of old? If he looks like a fraction of the player that he was (and I don’t just mean his playing weight).
Andre Savelio – the forgotten signing from last preseason, the “English SBW” will be coming off an ACL injury but he is still going to have his shot to prove that he deserves to be in the 17 come Round 1 (if fit).
The halfback – obviously the controller of the team often orders the forwards around and determines (at times) who is going to step up and take a settler in the middle of the field to set up an attacking play in the opposition 20. What’s that? You didn’t realise that? Well, if you only watched Broncos games last year, you’d probably be forgiven for not being aware, given the lack of direction offered by Nikorima and anybody else who wore the #7 last year. If an actual traditional halfback is given the job for 2019 we might see more of that happening and obviously that impacts run numbers for the forward pack overall.