Right before we get to the season it’s only just to cover the remaining four clubs and shine the spotlight on their players looking to shine, never mind the article delay over the Nines!
Damien Cook was able to impress fans and pundits alike in a few games for Canterbury, before moving to a new club before you could say “unsightly moustache”. Michael Maguire has given Cameron McInnes a chance to impress for this round but don’t be surprised if “Cookie” is given a chance to do his thing at the top level if McInnes so much as slips once: it is a luxury to have two players competing for the hooker position, especially those of such high calibre.
Russell Packer is out to prove to himself and critics he’s a rehabilitated man: now that the stint in prison is done, he says that he’s more determined than ever to make his mark on the league. When nobody else would take him, the men in the Big Red V decided they’d take the punt: it remains to be seen whether or not he can meet expectations, but even if he takes a while to get back in to the groove he’s sure to do everything in his power to resurrect a career filled with potential.
Jackston Hastings has quite the similar story to Damien Cook: impressive filling in for an injured spine player in the 2015 finals, but still hasn’t proven he can be consistent over time. Expectations weigh on the rookie half after James Maloney’s departure, and it was expected he would learn from Mitchell Pearce and mature as a player throughout the year – cue antics on New Year and suddenly the man in the hot seat is Hastings, now needing to juggle the weight of being the “experienced” half as well as mentor rookie Jayden Nikorima.
Manaia Cherrington was but a bench hooker for the Tigers last year, and with the signing of Matt Ballin, expectations were that his game time would decrease. But injuries to both Ballin and Robbie Farah, as well as suspension to utility Dene Halatau have opened the door for the rookie rake to play his cards in the Tigers hooker sweepstake: the chances of cementing the starting spot are low but if he impresses the coach, Jason Taylor, it’s well within reach to overtake Halatau or even Ballin to appear on the bench week in week out.
That’s it for this series of articles: here’s hoping for the sake of the game (and for my personal bragging rights) that most or all of these players can break through in season 2016!