Time of upheaval for the league’s also-rans
THE 2015 NRL season is done and dusted, although the partying in north Queensland will no doubt go on for a while yet.
For every other team, the season must be regarded as a failure, whether or not they had a realistic chance of winning the competition at the start of the year.
Not one of the coaches would have accepted they were happy just to be making up the numbers.
The degree of disappointment may have varied, however, depending on the expectation.
For Manly, it was enough to see favourite son Geoff Toovey sacked, while at Parramatta and Penrith, injuries played a major part in the teams not making the finals.
We continue our review of the 2015 season, looking at the clubs that filled positions nine to 12.
MANLY (11-13 9th): Rookie coach Trent Barrett will take over at Brookvale after a stormy season on and off the field for the club. While Manly managed to hang on to star halfback Daly Cherry-Evans, he will be without halves partner Kieran Foran who has gone to Parramatta. Securing Queensland and Australian forward Nate Myles from the Titans is a huge plus. Barrett's performance will be dissected from every angle, but he inherits a side that was excellent in the final 10 rounds. The Sea Eagles won seven of their last 10 games - and thumped the Broncos, 44-14.
CANBERRA (10-14 10th): The Raiders were again a nightmare team for tipsters in 2015, but at least coach Ricky Stuart avoided another wooden spoon. Playmaker Blake Austin was an excellent pick-up, the former Shark named Dally M five-eighth of the year. The addition of former Titans organiser Aidan Sezer should be a big plus next season, while star fullback Jack Wighton looks an Origin player in the making. The club has plenty of talent, but needs to find some consistency.
PENRITH ( 9-15 11th): Coach Ivan Clearly spent more time talking to his medical staff about injured players than preparing his team last season. The straw that broke the camel's back for the 2013 prelim finalists was losing brilliant fullback Matt Moylan (ankle) for the season in round 12. Cleary has recruited Dragons representative forward Trent Merrin, but has lost big hitting Nigel Plum, utilities Lewis Brown and Apisai Koroisau to Manly, and winger Dave Simmons to the Anglican ministry. The Panthers still have a talented squad and are due for some luck on the injury front.
PARRAMATTA (9-15 12th): When the coach and his star playmaker aren't on the same page, it is always going to end badly. The Eels were very good at times last season, but very bad at others, and enigmatic halfback Chris Sandow eventually paid the price, punted to Super League club Warrington by coach Brad Arthur. The positives were the great form of Corey Norman and Semi Radradra. With Kieran Foran and Beau Scott joining in 2016, plus a fit Anthony Watmough, the Eels could be huge improvers.