Here’s the second of our series of Intrust Super Cup previews starting with Northern Pride, Townsville Blackhawks (from Dan White) and Easts Tigers (from Matt Crowhurst).

Northern Pride

Last Year: 8th

2017 Premiership Odds $17.00

TEAM INS AND OUTS

Gains: Graham Clark – 2nd Row (Canterbury Bulldogs), William Bugden – Prop (Tweed Seagulls), Brad Lupi – Prop (Mackay Cutters), Troy Kapea – Prop (Townsville Blackhawks), Bradley Stephen – Centre (Innisfail Leprechauns), Shawn Bowen – Back (Mossman Sharks), Connor Jones – Half back/Five Eighth (Canterbury Bulldogs), Marvin Toko – Lock (Ivanhoe Knights), Darryn Schonig – Prop (North Queensland Cowboys)

Losses: David Murphy (Easts Tigers), Jack Svendsen (Easts Tigers), Linc Port (Easts Tigers), Brayden Torpy (Easts Tigers), Menmuny Murgha (Norths Devils), Rajan Opetaia-Halls (Norths Devils), Greg Miglio (Norths Devils), Luke La Rosa (Mackay Cutters), Vaipuna Tia Kilifi (Mounties)

FIRST THREE GAMES

Away v Mackay Cutters – Saturday 4th March 6:00pm
Away v Wynnum Manly Seagulls – Saturday 11th 6:00pm
Home v SC Falcons – Saturday 18th 5:30pm

2017 SEASON PREDICTION

Regular Season hoping to finish above tenth.

PLAYER TO WATCH

The ability of winger Khan Ahwang to both finish of a successful raid and convert the four onto six makes his contribution to the Pride as valuable as any player pulling on the jersey. He has kept his name on or near the top of point scores for the ISC and will once again be a core component under a new coach

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN 2017

The Pride has not been the same since the introduction of the Blackhawks in 2015. The 2014 Champs have struggled in the previous seasons and now with former Cowboy wing Ty Williams in charge, they are looking to turn the tables on their southern cousins.

The question is: Can They? The loss of Linc Port to the Tigers will hurt, and while they will benefit with their two signings from the Bulldogs, they have not brought in the level of signings of many of the ISC team as they push towards closing the gap in quality between the NRL and the second-best competition in Australia.

When looking through the line-up you will ask who can be a game breaker. Ty Williams has a tough job in front of him, but for this season I do not see them as a major threat.

Townsville Blackhawks

Last Year: Lost 2nd round of Finals

2017 Premiership Odds $5.00

TEAM INS AND OUTS

Gains: Lee Jewitt – Prop (Castleford, UK Super League), Sione Lousi – 2nd Row/Prop (NZ Warriors), Blake Leary – Lock (Manly Sea Eagles), Kierran Moseley – Hooker (Gold Coast Titans), Oshae Tuiasau – Prop (Gold Coast Titans), Carlin Anderson – Fullback/Wing (Brisbane Broncos / Ipswich Jets), Paul Byrnes – Fullback (Redcliffe Dolphins), Josh Hall – Wing (Penrith), Jordan Kenworthy – Lock (NQ Cowboys NYC), Ross Bella – Prop (NQ Cowboys NYC), Ty Carucci – Five-Eighth/ Centre  (NQ Cowboys NYC), Taha Tutavake – 2nd Row (NQ Cowboys NYC)

Losses: Moses Pangai (Brisbane Broncos), Rhyse Martin (Canterbury Bulldogs), Corey Jensen (NQ Cowboys), Brenden Santi (Sydney Roosters), Lorenzo Ma’afu (Burleigh Bears), Delouise Hoeter (Norths Devils), Nathan Norford (year off), Conor Carey (Easts Tigers), Lenny Magey (Souths Logan Magpies), Lona Kaifoto (Mackay Cutters) Noel Underwood (retired), Glenn Hall (retired), Matt Bowen (retired)

FIRST THREE GAMES

Away v Norths – Sunday 5th March 3:00pm
Away v Ipswich Jets – Sunday 12th 1:40pm (TV Game)
Home v Mackay Cutters – Saturday 18th 4pm

2017 SEASON PREDICTION

Regular Season 1st, Victorious Grand Finalists (finally).

PLAYER TO WATCH

The Blackhawks fortunes for the last couple of seasons have ridden on the shoulders of Michael Parker-Walshe. Whilst the side has many dangerous players, it is been the gameplay of MPW that has been the catalyst for the performance of the Blackhawks. Games missed due to injury often resulted in key losses and his influence and vision is subtle but extremely valuable.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN 2017

After a strong start to the season, the Blackhawks season was interrupted by players being borrowed by the Cowboys during the Origin season. The replacements listed show a clear desire to replace those players most likely to be borrowed once again as the season rolls on.

The inclusion of players such as Townsville local Josh Hall, a former AFL player who returned to the game he played growing up will be interesting after two seasons in the NSW ISC. That combined with a team with a number of years’ experience in the NRL will make for a strong squad. The inclusion of a number of young forwards is also looking good for both the Blackhawks and the Cowboys as most young forwards take a few more years of experience and training to be able to cut it in the NRL.

The Blackhawks have a tough season ahead, the two away games for the start of the season with a total of four away games from the first six may have a lot of influence on how they finish on the table. Combined with having the bye rounds late (rounds 18 and 24) make for one of the toughest draws considering the travelling demands. Two away games to the Jets also raises the odd eyebrow on how the games are scheduled.

If the Blackhawks can handle the tough early start, they will be in a strong position to take maximum advantage of having the bulk of remaining games at home. The questions how they will handle the Origin period as well as how the now experienced team handles their third season will be a testimony to the team and Coach Kristian Woolf

 

Easts Tigers

Last Year: Beaten Semi Finalists

2017 Premiership Odds $11.00

TEAM INS AND OUTS

Gains: Maele Seve (Norths Devils), Stephen Thorpe (UK), Jarrod McInally (Canterbury Bulldogs), Brayden Torpy (Northern Pride), David Murphy (Northern Pride), Jack Svendsen (Northern Pride), Linc Port (Northern Pride), Conor Carey (Townsville Blackhawks), Jack Creith (Mackay Cutters), Gerard McCallum (Hills District), Shawn Anderson (Gold Coast), Andrew Thompson (Wynnum Manly Seagulls), Sione Faumuina (Retirement); Tenika Vailea (Newcastle Knights), Timothy Lomai (PNG Hunters).

Losses: Dane Hogan (Sunshine Coast Falcons), Liam McDonald (Sunshine Coast Falcons), Guy Hamilton (Sunshine Coast Falcons), Whetu Austin (Sunshine Coast Falcons), Dane Chang (Norths Devils), Jacob Paul (France), Sam Bielefeld (Toowoomba), Javarn White (Norths Devils).

FIRST THREE GAMES

Away v Falcons – Saturday 4th
Away v Hunters – Saturday 11th
Home v Redcliffe – Saturday 18th

2017 SEASON PREDICTION

6th place.

PLAYER TO WATCH

The Tigers have recruited very well in 2017 and depending on their Storm player allocations many of the new recruits could feature regularly in the Intrust Super Cup. Any of the Northern Pride quartet could justify the title of ‘Player to Watch.’ Linc Port had a fantastic preseason with the Storm, culminating in his inclusion in their Auckland Nines squad. He turned down a Storm contract last year and the fact that they are still looking at him shows how highly they regard him. Both he and Jack Svendsen played in the Storms last preseason trial against the New Zealand Warriors.

We all understand that halfback is a key position in any team, former Easts junior Brayden Torpy returns to the Tigers having previously spent time in the Titans NYC system. With a full year of Intrust Super Cup football under his belt he has emerged as a player ready to take his play to the next level. He is likely, barring injury, to start every game for the club at halfback and how he guides the team around the park and jells with his new halves partner (candidates include Billy Walters, Brodie Croft and Scott Drinkwater) will go a long way to determining how the Tigers fare in 2017.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN 2017

With so many new players and so many departures and with Storm allocated players to work in to the squad, this is going to be a very different Tigers team to 2017. Coach Scott Sipple will be better for a full year in the top job and having been involved in the recruitment and retention decisions now has a chance to create his own team. The Tigers used 42 players last year and will be hoping that number is a lot smaller this year.