Old faces; New places

Every NRL offseason sees a litany of player movement, with season 2020 being no different. And it can be really hard to keep track of all the comings and goings. We’ve seen 39 players join new clubs, 40 leave our game via retirement or to international competitions, and one return to the game after a stint in the NFL. Below is just a small list of guys who will be donning new colours this year to garner some discussion, the SuperCoach relevant ones anyway.

Latrell Mitchell

He’s widely regarded as the best center in the world, but Latrell has had aspirations of playing fullback which led to his eventual signing with the Bunnies. I won’t go any more into it. We all know the story.

Pros: The move to Redfern comes with the promise of the number 1 jersey, which means plenty of more time with the ball for one of the games most damaging runners. You only have to look at the man who many compare Latrell to, Greg Inglis, to see how he may benefit. Playing primarily center and 5/8 for one of the comp’s heavyweights who had one of the best fullbacks in the NRL, GI went to play fullback at Souths and averaged 59 or above for 5 straight seasons (with dual FB/CW eligibility). Sound familiar?

Cons: Mitchell averaged 70.3 last year, of which, 13.9 PPG came off the boot. This is a problem for two reasons. First, Souths surprisingly aren’t as strong as the reigning premiers. The Chooks scored 26.1 PPG in 2019 to the Rabbitohs 21.7, and since then Souths have lost Sam Burgess, John Sutton and George Burgess whilst not boosting their forward depth. Secondly, the Bunnies have a first-class goal kicker in Adam Reynolds. Latrell has said he wants the tee, but I don’t know that I see ARey giving it up. The good news is that Reynolds has earnt the nickname “The Glassman” for a reason. The bad news is that he played 22 games last season anyway.

Valentine Holmes

From Shark to Jet to Cowboy. It’s been a wild 18 months for Val Holmes. But he’s now returned home and looks to continue on from his insane 2018 that saw him score 79 PPG from fullback.

Pros: Val will be the man in NQ, second only to Lolo in importance to the club. His class is a massive upgrade to the Cowboys and will create a more fluid and dangerous attack. His 2018 season was a bit of an exploration of fullback for Val and it started slow but finished next level good once he hit his straps. He’s also been given a small discount on his 2018 season and is priced at approximately a 60 average.

Cons: He’s been out of the game for over a year and not just that, he’s been training and conditioning for the NFL. It’s a different game (obviously). We saw what happened with Jarryd Hayne when he came back. He wasn’t the same as when he left. I’m not suggesting Holmes will be the same but it’s the best comparison I have. It just may take Val some time to get NRL fit again.

Ryan Matterson

It was a pretty ugly end to Matto’s Tigers tenure, but he’s found his way to the Eels as a readymade Manu Ma’u replacement.

Pros: Matto entered premium territory last season and is now at a better attacking team with better offensive playmakers. His lowest score for 2019 was 50 points. He’s not known as a proficient try scorer but did only cross the stripe five times for the year and had just four assists. He still managed to average 67 points. If he can grab a couple more attack stats, he could crack 70 PPG.

Cons: Matterson enters a team chock-full of attacking players. So, he might find it difficult to get the extra stats with such potent outside players. Also, now that he’s got his upgraded contract, does he ease off a little? It wouldn’t be the first time we’ve seen it happen.

Esan Marsters

Esan was granted a release from the final year of his Tigers contract and heads north to join the Cowboys on a three-year deal.

Pros: Esan is an international and should add a bit quality into the Cowboys backline that consisted of names like Feldt, Macdonald, O’Neill, Bowen, Kahu, Opacic, Tuala. Esan’s presence doesn’t alter the meter dramatically, but he does join Val Holmes in the backline. Those two are a huge upgrade.

Cons: The one that jumps out is that he’ll lose the goal-kicking duties, but I think we all know that it’s not a major deal as he wasn’t the sharpest of shooters. For me, it’s his almost $500k price tag that’s turning me off. For only a little bit more, you could start with Jarrod Croker, Blake Ferguson or save money and get a Joey Manu, Ramien or Jamayne Isaako.

Apisai Koroisau

Api has gone from Manly beaches to the foot of the mountain. One could argue that it’s a backwards move. The teams are relatively comparable as far as strength goes, but the location….

Pros: Api is a bit of a preseason darling in 2020. I’ve seen his name mentioned in about 1000 teams on the PMT thread. And I get why. He’s very cheap ($339k) due to a 36 average. He’d averaged 50+ over the previous four years. The reason for the drop was a time share with Fainu which saw his mins drop from around 70 per game to roughly 45. At Penrith, he’ll be competing for time with Mitch Kenny.

Cons: I don’t have a lot to go with here if I’m being honest. Writing the above has left me considering how I can get him into my team along with Cook and BBrailey. He’s 27 but that’s not even NRL old. The biggest con is for Manly considering what’s gone on since they let Api go.

Jesse Ramien

After a failed excursion through the Hunter, Ramien returns to his debut club where he was much (MUCH) better.

Pros: Ramien returns to the Sharks where he averaged 53 in 2018. The problem with his Knights tenure was that he played on the wrong side of the field. It’s hard to score points when you’re standing on the sideline watching Ponga run away from you all day. KP loves to go left and has a great right-to-left pass. But it means Ramien was limited to finding the pill himself or tackling. Now he’ll be playing outside of SJ who is just the opposite. He loves playing to the right.

Cons: I think Ramien has more pros than cons, but there is the fact that the right side also consists of Briton Nikora who loves a bit of attack himself. The ball may not see the outside too much. In saying that, Josh Morris scored 14 tries last year (did he play right center?)

Luciano Leilua

Lucy Lua has consistently upped his average in his three NRL seasons. He jumped his season score up to 47 in 2019 and really came into his own as the season wore on.

Pros: Leilua averaged 32 minutes over the Tigers first 15 rounds last season and clocked 31 PPG. After that, he played 10 games at 53 minutes per while averaging 65. It was obviously a huge improvement and showed what he can do when let off the leash. The Tigers don’t have the NRL’s best pack so it’s not hard to see Lucy bumping his game time in 2020.

Cons: NRL.com has Lucy starting in jersey 17. They’ve got Twal and Mikaele at prop, Eisenhuth at lock, Chee-Kam and Garner on the edges, and ET, Aloiai and Lawrence on the bench. If that’s how team list Tuesday plays out, then he’s not a great option to start the year. It will be one of the storylines I’ll be keeping an eye on as season start draws closer.

BJ Leilua

At time of writing, I’m just pre-empting this signing actually taking place, but it seems more likely he does join his brother at Leichhardt than doesn’t. Nevermind. He’s signed now. And pretty much becomes the Tigers best outside back instantly. Definitely top 2 along with Nofo.

Pros: As the biggest threat in the Tigers backline, BJ should see plenty of the ball. And he’ll form a formidable Leipana-like tandem with Nofo on the right wing, in attack anyway. It may not mean much for Leilua but it could be a boost to Nofo from the suddenly offload-deficient Esan Marsters of 2019. Although BJ wasn’t offloading much more if I’m honest.

Cons: The major potential con is what this recruitment means for 2020 cheapie Tommy Talau. The kid played one game last year, in round 22 when the Sea Eagles demolished Wests, and he simply played his part for 32 points. It looked like he was going to be one of our better CTW cheapies. He still might though with Marsters having left, Mbye rumoured to be training at hooker and now Momirovski being transferred. So, don’t give up all hope. He’s definitely…..”one to watch”.

Brenko Lee

Brenko got dropped by Garth Brennan after the Titans round 2 loss, missed most of the team’s horror season and then not re-signed. So, he signed to play for Brisbane Easts in the Queensland Intrust Super Cup, which just so happens to be the Melbourne Storm feeder club. Cut to: he’s now got a Storm 1-year contract.

Pros: Brenko may have only played six games, three of which were off the bench, but we still scored at 0.69 PPG. That’s a top 25 strike-rate for CTW’s last year and behind duals including 2RF’s Bateman, Nikora, CHN and Ma’u and FB’s Gutherson and CNK. His attacking prowess has never been an issue. It was just two seasons ago when he averaged 57 and 53 over consecutive seasons at the Gold Coast and Canterbury. Newsflash: Melbourne are just a little bit better.

Cons: Brenko has been a defensive liability in his career. It doesn’t really affect SuperCoach scoring except that he needs to be on the field to score the points. If you think Brennan dropped him quickly because of the issues, wait until he gets under Bellamy. He’s also in that awkward $300k price range.

Paul Momirovski

In big news, the Tigers and Storm are in negotiations for a player swap in 2020. Momirovski would be making the move down to sunny Melbourne in exchange for Harry Grant.  

Pros: Mommy (Nick) is obviously going to a much better side. From Farah, Brooks, Benji and Mbye to Smith, Munster, Hughes and Papy. There’s a huge chance that he’d see a lot more room to work on the edges while those guns are attracting attention. His job would become a lot easier and up his attacking stats.

Cons: That backline depth is getting extremely crowded now. JAC and Vunivalu are incumbents and won’t be going anywhere this year (provided there’s no early release of the Fox). Seve and Olam performed well enough in their opportunities last year. Sandor Earl is also waiting in the wings and Brenko Lee just joined (as per above). Maybe the Storm are prepping for losing their wingers next year but that doesn’t help this year. Also, Mommy will lose his kicking tee with this move.

Danny Levi

From a Knights fan, this one doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Levi is an international representative and played some very good football for the club when he was allowed to but for some reason, never got the respect. We’re now paying $150k for him to play for arch-rivals Manly.

Pros: Levi averaged minimal time on field in 2019. He played 58 MPG, including a 13-minute injury-game in round 11. He still had a 0.71 PPM clip across the year. Levi played just two 80-minute games and had 49 PPG in those. The good news for Danny is that the Eagles let Koroisau walk in the offseason because of the breakout of Fainu, who subsequently went crazy.

Cons: Levi’s career best average is just 44. He’s not a prolific scorer. Nor is he going to break records in cash generation but there’s still scope for an increase just with the minutes mentioned above. He does also get to play with the Turbro’s, a huge front row pack, DCE etc which could mean more room to operate, or could mean shuffling the ball out to Manly’s studs and just tackling his butt off.

Jayden Brailey

And then there’s the guy who Newcastle signed over the top of Levi. Not that Brailey isn’t a decent football player, but he’s more a defensive hooker. I know that Newcastle need a defensive edge desperately, but Brailey’s approximate 3 extra tackles per game whilst averaging 9 more minutes doesn’t feel like it’s it. Anyway, that’s my rant.

Pros: Like the man he’s replacing, Brailey comes to a team with the potential to play 80 minutes per week. Griffin is retired. Levi released. Buhrer and Woolford remain unsigned. Both Watson and Mann remain but are being slated to play Lock and 5/8 respectively (if you can believe it). It would be an instant rise of 13 MPG and obviously, a chance for more points.

Cons: It appears Brailey’s ceiling is around 45-48. His top three scores last season were 102, 85 and 61 and despite this he finished with an average of 46 for the year. As I said, he’s a defensive minded player. He only scored two tries and had four assists all year but made 820 tackles while missing 31 (according to SuperCoach anyway). There’s not a lot of growth potential in my opinion. It’s his brother at the Sharks that should be in your team.

Brodie Croft

Broncos fans are hoping he’s more Lara Croft than Mary Jane Croft (US actress known for her role on I Love Lucy). It’s a stretch, just go with it.

Pros: For me, there are two big pros’ in the Brodie Croft move. The first is that the Broncos get a more game-controlling halfback once more which should, in theory, allow Milford to go back to his natural running and attacking game which saw him averaging at least 65 over five straight seasons. The second is that it frees up a spot in the Melbourne spine which means it’s Papy time.

Cons: It’s not a huge con, but Croft seems to be right in that 45 PPG wheelhouse. It’s what he’s averaged in each of the last two seasons as the Storms primary halfback. There’s a chance he may see some more responsibility at Brisbane without Smith and Munster running the show, but it remains to be seen.

Jordan Kahu

The intense Cowboys and Broncos rivalry continues, this time in the form of a game of Kahu contract ping-pong.

Pros: If you’re a Cowboys fan.

Cons: If you’re a Broncos fan.

Curtis Scott

As I was piecing this article together, Curtis Scott went ballistic and provided me with some great writing points. He got plastered, assaulted a cop and had to be tasered in order to be restrained and arrested. It’s also been reported that the Raiders were unable to get in contact with him during the whole ordeal because at some point he’d thrown his phone at a passing car.

Pros: He’s back at training but there’s a better than good chance that the NRL take some further disciplinary action against Scott. Which means it opens the door just a little bit wider for young gun Harley Smith-Shields. The 20-year-old is the reigning Jersey Flegg player of the year. He scored six tries, broke 30 tackles and averaged 108 meters last year in seven games for the Mounties in the NSW Canterbury Cup. Best of all, he’s basement priced.

Cons: He’s a nutcase. He can play but there’s no way you can take a chance on Scott because you don’t know when he’s going to lose the plot and get suspended. I bet Canberra are already regretting this whole Scott/Leilua situation.

Joe Stimson

Stimson has been looking for an expanded role which didn’t appear to be coming with the Storm’s locked in starting trio of Kenny Bromwich, Felise Kaufusi and Dale Finucane.

Pros: Joe is entering his 4th season of NRL. He averaged 31 (in 41 minutes) his rookie campaign and upped it to 38 (53) in 2018 which led to high hopes for last year. Instead he missed the first 10 weeks and ultimately barely played when he did get back. Averaged 34 (30) at a PPM of 1.13 so potential is there if he gets his shot, but….

Cons: He joins the Dogs and their entire 30-man squad of 2nd rowers. Who knows where/how much he ends up playing.

Wayde Egan

JT’s favourite hooker (which is saying a lot) travels across the ditch to be the Warriors biggest off season signing so far. That’s a sad realization for Warriors fans I’m afraid.

Pros: Egan is pretty much the only hooker on the Warriors roster now. Jazz Tevaga is out for a few rounds through injury. Both Nathaniel Roache and Karl Lawton are recovering from offseason surgeries. Issac Luke wasn’t re-signed. So, there’s not a whole lot of competition for the spot to start with. He’ll likely start as the #9 by default.

Cons: Egan averaged 32 points in 45 minutes last year. There should be some sort of natural improvement with another year of experience and an increase in minutes but even still, it’s not overly worthwhile getting him in your side. Especially when you can get Api for another $40k.

Issac Luke

Luke looked just about ready to hang up the boots at the conclusion of 2019 when the Warriors decided they’d move on from the former Kiwi and premiership rake. But he’s grasped a lifeline in Wollongong. 

Pros: Not much from a SuperCoach POV, but if nothing else it’s good to see Bully go around once more. He showed last year that he’s still got it with a 3RA of 90.3 between round 17-19.

Cons: Luke himself isn’t super relevant but his presence could have ramifications for (captain) Cam McInnes. The Dragons newly appointed leader broke his leg in a round 24 loss to the Tigers which ended his year, and just may mean a bit of a slower start to the season depending on how his recovery is going (anyone care to weigh in with an update?). He said back in August that he’d still be aiming for 80 mins despite Bully’s arrival, but it remains to be seen how the mastermind that is Mary McGregor plays this out.

Greg Leleisiuao

Greg L was on SuperCoach radars this time last year as a potential cheapie prospect with Parramatta. Unfortunately (or fortunately) for us, he was never able to crack the Eels star-studded backline. He’s since moved up to the glitter strip and has a far greater chance to crack an NRL debut this year.

Pros: That’s the pro. We’ve got a bargain basement priced rookie who could get a debut. Coach Holbrook has reportedly been impressed with the kid too.

Cons: The debut probably won’t come from round 1. While the Titans aren’t really stacked with prodigious talent, they do have Anthony Don, Kallum Watkins, Brian Kelly and Philip Sami in front of him right now.

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JJJonny (@jjjonny)
8 months ago

Great write up again Semi. Good start of articles thanks again for your time and effort mate much appreciated.

Pool Man
Pool Man (@paulo)
8 months ago

Thanks Semisonic, a great read.

OnTheBus (@samardo)
8 months ago

welcome back and nice write up

TurkeySnow (@turkeysnow)
8 months ago

Nice write up! I am starting to think Croft is the pick out of him and milf

perrin_07 (@perrin_07)
8 months ago

Great write up mate!

Eric Cartman
Eric Cartman (@eric-cartman)
8 months ago

thanks matee. keep em coming

The Riff
The Riff (@the-riff)
8 months ago

Great read, Semi. Thanks

Dravid (@dravid)
8 months ago

Nice write up Semi!

Just on Morris, he may have played the occasional game on the right, but from memory the bulk was played on the left (centre and wing).

Rooters (@rooters)
8 months ago

Thanks, how about Grant? Anyone want to take a stab at his minutes?
Pros – much closer to basement price than any other HKR likely to get mins. Learning from one of the best ever. Decent stats in the lower grades. Not much competition except for a bloke not currently in the top 30 squad (if I remember correctly).
Cons – plays for the Tigers (sorry OTB), could split mins with the likes of Mbye, not much first grade experience.

CoG (@sandworm)
8 months ago

Great opener for the season. Thanks Semi.

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