AFTER an off season of uncertainty the dust has finally settled as the season kicks off. There is still plenty of doubt over some key players returning, but SIRU in 2015 shapes as very even affair.
Most teams have been strengthened since August and the fight for the top six will come down to the wire.
Teams who play well away from home will gain plenty of advantage, but expect plenty of surprises as the season progresses.
Coach: Mick Raynes (second year)
Last year: Runner up
Gains: James Olds, Dave Coyle
Losses: Nathan Bright, James Kora, Tom Rowan, Lucas Boyes, Col Hogan, Tom Sullivan, Kell McDougall
Verdict: Just like last year Albury has lost a number of experienced players from the grand final, but the responded well last year to make another decider. The return of James Olds is a big plus and once again they’ll be pushing for the premiership.
Coach: Liam Ward (second year) and Seru Rogo (first year)
Last year: Last
Gains: Dan Patu, Farrel Moata, Marika Vunibaka, Max Ravouvou, Andrew Qio, Stuart Dyer
Losses: Corey Williams
Verdict: It was a year to forget for the Phantoms last year, but the club has been on the front foot ahead of 2015. Player numbers were a big problem last season, but recruitment has been boasted this year. The biggest move could be on the coaching front with Seru Rogo joining the club. Will be big improvers.
Coach: Ben Carter (first year)
Last year: Eighth
Losses: Slim Niumataiwalu, Rafa Niumataiwalu, Mosese Niumataiwalu, Adam Manning, Niko Degei, Bill McCrone, Tim Curry, Jack Teuveu, Casey Jordan, Alex Heinrich
Verdict: Went backwards last season after winning the second division title and things have only gotten worse this off-season. Have lost of the majority of their players from last season and haven’t brought any new faces to the club. Shapes as another hard year for the club.
Coach: Shane Botham (first year)
Last year: Tenth
Gains: Dan Maher, Frank Cooney, Brandon Ford
Verdict: Cootamundra are another team that have had a raft of players leave the club and will boast a very different looking line-up in 2015. Struggled for any momentum last year, but put a few wins together in the second tier of the competition. Expected to have a different style this season but the rebuild will take time.
Coach: Nick Gleeson and Matt Vitucci (first year)
Last year: Premier
Gains: Sonny Sami, Jason Nalawa, Nabou Ilatia, Dan Bozic, Andrew Madden, Matt Vitucci, Don Hassan, Angelo Piccolo
Losses: Dan Rawaqa, Leon Tiere, Marika Vunibaka, Max Ravouvou, Johnny Brown, Sione Sale, Semisi Rogoyawa, Vaea Mateo
Verdict: Have made massive changes after storming to the premiership last year, with the backs losing plenty of potent weapons. Have also lost coach Seru Rogo to Leeton and are struggling for numbers across the club, but still has plenty of forward power. Have a strong pack but won’t be the team from last season.
Coach: Will Mitchell (first year)
Last year: Third
Gains: Sam Palmer, Peter Hill, James Daley, Liam Epps, Joe Mullany, Tyson Crown, Tim Coulter, Guy McAlister
Losses: Jake Eaglesham, Matt Binks, Dan Selmes
Verdict: Where the team to beat for the majority before injuries curtailed the season. Have lost Bill Castle Medalist Jake Eaglesham, but have a number of new faces coming into the club. The powerhouse hasn’t won the premiership for a number of seasons now, but this could be there year to strike back.
Coach: Nick McCarthy (first year)
Last year: Eighth
Gains: Ben Leaper, Tom Dunstan, Ben Brooke, Sam Scarlett, Jack McIntosh, Hamish Pennington, Sam Hobbs, Andrew Manna
Losses: Jack Burey, Andrew Madden, Andrew Lean, James Kanaley
Verdict: Scrapped into the top division last season before an early exit in the finals. Have had a strong off season which started early for the university club. Have a number of new faces and a new coach and there is plenty of buzz surrounding the club.
Prediction: Runner up
Coach: James Shannon and Aaron Seaman (second year)
Last year: Ninth
Gains: Ben Smith, Gus Woods
Verdict: Showed promise last season and caused a couple of upsets before losing a number of key players at the wrong time of the year. Have bolstered their team from the end of last year and if luck goes there way could figure come the end of the season.
Coach: Tim Graham (fourth year)
Last year: Sixth
Gains: Joe Reynolds, George Cummins
Losses: Liam Murphy, Scott Gibson
Prediction: Continued to progress last season before falling short in the second division grand final. Are mostly unchanged this year, but most of the teams around them have made a lot of changes which could work either way. Formidable at home, but need to improve on the road.
Coach: Paul Spain (first year)
Last year: Fourth
Gains: Kieren Reid, Joel McMahon, Cameron Donoghue, Joe Cracknell
Losses: Orisi Qilai, Dugald Robertson, Sterling Ross (possibly)
Verdict: Look like Reddies will struggle to start the season with the majority of their forwards unavailable, but possess a quick backline capable of scoring plenty of points. Will get a big boost if Sterling Ross decides to stay and when the rest of the forwards return and can be dangerous on their day.
Coach: Michael Small (second stint)
Last year: Fifth
Gains: John Sutcliffe, Seth Stoltenberg
Losses: Zac Archer, Jason Lagaali
Verdict: A slow start cost them the chance to make the top division, but made the most of their situation by winning the second tier. Have a much more settled line up with key man James Curvengen in his second year in the country. Question marks remain on a number of key players, but if they return it will be a much needed boost.
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