It has been a long time since the Eels have tasted glory, but it has been even longer since they had a roster that looked like it does in 2016. Half way through 2015 the Eels looked like they were digging a deeper grave and plummeting towards a third wooden spoon in four years. Their shining star, Jarryd Hayne, had left; their capricious halfback, Chris Sandow, had been booted over to the super league; and then it surfaced that they had breached the salary cap and would potentially lose 4 competition points in 2016. It did not look good.
Somehow they emerged from the rubble and have charged into the new year as serious contenders for the premiership. Their recruitment drive has been impressive after they shed some superfluous skin and freed up some room their cap to buy players who would have a positive impact on the team as a whole. Corey Norman seems to have a massive man-crush on his new halves partner, Keiran Foran, and if his form at the Auckland Nines is any indication it would seem this new love has put a spring in his step. Michael Gordon will provide some strength at back at a much cheaper price than his predecessor. Michael Jennings will make the left edge twice as deadly now that there are two monstrous weapons. All of the offseason recruits should provide significant strength to a team that has struggled in the past.
The right edge should be the biggest worry for the Eels. Whoever they decide to put out their will be an average prospect at best. The biggest hope is that the other players on the field will draw the defensive focus away from that side. Their bench is also a major weak point on the roster which could cause the team to collapse when they enter the field. The Eels’ minimal roster depth could be an issue if they concede injuries to any of their star players.
He has been one of the biggest stars in the competition for the past two years and any team that underestimates him for a second will get burnt. He will be even more potent now that he has a centre next to him who is just as dangerous. If Semi stays healthy he should be a shoo-in for highest try scorer.
Over his career he has shown flashes of brilliance but since leaving Darren Lockyer and the broncos he hasn’t looked like himself. This year that should change with a very accomplished and composed man to give him a hand. Keiran Foran should control the field and allow Corey Norman to play like a machine.
He cost a lot of money so the Eels will be hoping that he performs at his best. If he does so, the other players on the field are likely to play better as a result. He will be the kind of player that could turn this team around and bring back the power that the club had a decade ago.
Likely Round 1 Line Up:
1. Michael Gordon
2. Semi Radradra
3. Michael Jennings
4. Brad Takairangi
5. Clint Gutherson
6. Corey Norman
7. Kieran Foran
8. Tim Mannah
9. Nathan Peats
10. Junior Paulo
11. Manu Ma’u
12. Beau Scott
13. Tepai Moeroa
14. Isaac De Gois
15. Peni Terepo
16. David Gower
17. Danny Wicks
Predicted Ladder Position: 7th
Predicted Top Tryscorer: Semi Radradra
Predicted Top Pointscorer: Corey Norman
Predicted Player of the Year: Corey Norman
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