Next year can't come too soon for also-rans
Nathan Hindmarsh of the Eels signs off in style. Photo: Getty Images
After farewelling Nathan Hindmarsh and Luke Burt on Sunday night, Parramatta players will have this week off and then return to training for the rest of the month under new coach Ricky Stuart. While Stuart wants to use the time to assess the players he has inherited, it is in effect their punishment for a disastrous season that cost coach Stephen Kearney his job six weeks ago but still resulted in the club winning the wooden spoon. The Eels weren't this season's only disappointment, and if your team didn't make the finals here are a few reasons:
Ivan Cleary was appointed with a charter to get the Panthers in a position to win the 2015 premiership, and it is clear that is what he is working towards. Cleary has shown in his first season as Penrith coach that he isn't afraid to shake things up, and that hasn't gone down well with everyone but Luke Lewis and Michael Gordon will be nearing the end of their careers in 2015, and their departures have enabled the Panthers to recruit strongly for next season.
The Warriors are undergoing a review that is expected to find that the club should not only make better use of their NSW Cup team to develop players but also invest more in sports science. While the Warriors boast the best young talent in the NRL, having 11 players from the teams that won the past two under-20s premierships in their top squad proved to be too many.
Fielding the youngest squad in the NRL, the Roosters were always likely to endure a tough year. But they have unearthed some great talent in Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Tautau Moga, while the likes of Boyd Cordner, B.J. Leilua and Mose Masoe have shown glimpses of their potential. Brian Smith's detractors have the knives out for him but this column has been told he will get the chance to work with prized signings Sonny Bill Williams and James Maloney next season before a decision is made on his coaching future.
Many fans expected Wayne Bennett to have almost immediate success like he did at St George Illawarra, but the Knights don't have the roster that he inherited at the Dragons. Forwards depth was a major problem, and appears likely to be again next season.
Early-season injuries cruelled the Titans' finals hopes, with prop Luke Douglas the only player to feature in every game. The addition of Dave Taylor next season will give Gold Coast one of the best packs in the competition but depth in their back line remains a problem.
The pre-season favourites were hit hard by injuries but the reality is that they just didn't have enough points of attack to threaten the top teams. When hooker Robbie Farah was sidelined at various stages late in the season rivals knew they only had to shut down Benji Marshall as everything revolved around the star playmaker.
The Dragons talked a lot about changes to their attack under new coach Steve Price but they scored fewer points than any other team in the NRL. Clearly, they missed Darius Boyd, but the real problem seemed to be a lack of creativity. On the plus side, Mitch Rein emerged as the next NSW hooker and Kyle Stanley is a future superstar, but the Dragons needs to recruit rather than just rely on local juniors.