Who are the NRL’s biggest hitters this season? Part 2

NRL's biggest hitters: Parramatta Eels player Reed Mahoney passes the ball on February 26, 2022
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The NRL’s biggest hitters in this article look at the Parramatta Eels, South Sydney Rabbitohs, and Manley Warringah Sea Eagles With the NRL 2022 season kicking off this week we run through the teams shaping up to be the league’s title contenders that could be crowned premiers come October. Does your team look like one of the NRL’s big hitters heading into Round One? Here are the final three teams that are in contention for the title.

The NRL’s Biggest Hitters This Year

Parramatta Eels

From a team whose premiership window never seems too close to one whose window is almost certainly ending. Parramatta has one of the best squads in the competition but has failed to deliver in recent years. The worry now is that with lots of their stars being squeezed out of the squad because of the salary cap, this could be their last shot at the title before a potentially long rebuilding phase.

After the season, the Eels will lose Mahoney, Papalii, Stone and Niukore. In addition, star winger Mika Sivo may choose not to take up his player option for 2023. There are clubs in Rugby Union including Racing 92 already showing interest while any NRL team would want him. This means that fans will be desperate to see their side claim the title this season.

When playing well this forward pack will outmuscle any side in the competition, the issue though is the Eels never seem to be able to maintain the incredible starts they make to a season and eventually struggle to make an impact in the finals. Will this be the year the Eels end their 36-year title drought?

Key player:

Mitch Moses will need to have a big season if Parramatta is to go all the way. However, the key man for the Eels is Reed Mahoney (main photo above). When he was fit last year, he looked dead set on an Origin debut and the team sang around him.

However, when he was injured, the team struggled especially when Lussick also got injured. It was in the finals when his loss was felt most greatly. Ray Stone is a great utility but he is not an 80-minute hooker. He made some errors that just let the moment slide and he lacks the attacking spark of Mahoney.

South Sydney Rabbitohs

Last year’s Grand Finalists will be looking to go one better this season. They will have to do so though with talismanic halfback Adam Reynolds. He signed with the Broncos when Souths strangely refused to give him a long-term deal. Wayne Bennett has departed the team as well as he prepares to coach the NRL’s newest addition, The Dolphins, who will join the competition in 2023. Other losses include Gagai, Su’A and Marshall.

In Cody Walker, though South Sydney has one of the deadliest attacking threats in the game. His work in combination with Johnston and Mitchell on the left edge will continue to give defensive coaches nightmares. Cameron Murray is now the leader of this side. His abbrasive style of play will continue to bring a physical impact on both sides of the ball. There are question marks on the two rookies likely to fill the backline, Ilias and Taaffe, but this team will be expecting to bring the title home.

Key player:

With his halves partner gone, Cody Walker will be tasked with running the attacking game for the Bunnies. Added to this will be the task of guiding the inexperienced Ilias through life as an NRL half. If this was not enough pressure, Latrell Mitchell will be banned for the first week of the season and so there will be additional pressure to create chances for Walker with another of their star players from last season missing. His work last year saw him nominated for the Dally M Player of the Year award and he eventually came third. This time he will have far more responsibility. How he copes with that will go a long way to shaping his team’s season.

Manly Warringah Sea Eagles

They began last year looking like one of the worst teams in the competition but finished as everyone’s second favourite side. Garrick demolished the record for points scored in a season and his partners in the back three were equally impressive. Saab showed he had the attacking skill to go with his unbelievable speed and Trbojevic was simply unplayable.

Add a settled halves partnership featuring Daly Cherry-Evans and a forward pack containing Jake Trbojevic and Taupau and this is the team others will probably be most scared of facing. If given the opportunity, they will cut opposition defences to pieces and the scoreline could get very ugly very quickly. They will have to develop their attack though as we cannot expect Trbojevic to keep making magical plays.

Key player:

Only one man can be named here and that is Tom Trbojevic. He was the definition one of the NRL’s big hitters last season and will look to do the same again. The reigning Dally M Player of the Year could be the first to win back-to-back awards since  Thurston in 2014/15. Last year, when fit, there were no words adequate to describe his attacking talent. Manly’s change in form coincided with his return and he will once again prove critical to their chances this season.

Teams will have learnt from last season what a threat he can be. They will have attempted to come up with ways to prevent him from having such an impact so he may need to develop his game. Do not be surprised though if “Turbo” tops many of the attacking stats by the end of 2022. The NRL big hitters of teams like the Sydney Roosters, Penrith Panthers, and Melbourne Storm were discussed in a previous article.

 

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