While the Sharks are busy celebrating their time at the top we here at the Sportress will take a look back at all 16 teams – nothing deep, just a quick assessment of how each outfit fared in 2016.
Can you honestly imagine a worse season? The under-developed Novocastrian side where the whipping boys of the league, receiving thrashings on a near fortnightly basis. Devoid of mid-career talent, with a few waning veterans in charge of what was ostensibly a young NSWCup side, the Knights never really stood a chance of obtaining finals glory, but even the faithful of the Hunter region couldn’t have predicted 2016. Really the Knights should be grateful the NRL isn’t big enough for relegation.
BEST: Their lone win over an equally struggling Wests Tigers outfit, 18-16 in round 6. They also managed to threaten the Raiders not once, but twice. They signed young Canberra forward Mitch Barnett mid year, which should improve things greatly in 2017.
WORST: Any of the 7 games where they conceded 40 or more points. Or the 3 games where they scored none.
2017: Spend, spend, spend! Call Fensom!
The Roosters plunged down the NRL Ladder like a rock in 2016. A poor start to the season hampered by injury, suspension and scandal meant they were constantly forced to field a young and ragged squad, which made them reasonably easy pickings for stronger teams.
They found their groove in the back end of the season, but it was only enough to help them avoid the dreaded spoon.
BEST: Held the hapless Knights to zero. Occasionally managed to rival top 8 teams (although they invariably lost).
WORST: Copped not one but two 0-40+ bashings from the Cowboys and the Storm.
2017: Avoid injuries and scandal, train, train, train.
If you strip away the cap cheating, the loss of players and points, and the turmoil of the board, it turns out that the Eels had an ok season (On field). Even after they had bled talent left right and centre they still managed to win a few games through pure will and courage. Brad Arthur should be commended for keeping his remaining squad intact.
BEST: The redemptive feeling of round 26 when they beat the Warriors 40-18 in NZ.
WORST: 2016 in general.
2017: Strong oversight and clear channels for the new board.
A Sydney heavyweight brought low by generational change across the squad and coaching staff – Injuries and poor form conspired against the Eagles at every turn. DCE was well below his massive asking price in terms of form, and although they have some good youngsters Manly struggled to fill in some key gaps left by departing veterans.
BEST: Toppling future Premiers Cronulla 22-12 in round 3.
WORST: The 5 game losing streak to end the season. After easily beating the Knights they lost a close match to the Eels. After that the flood gates opened and they were swamped by the Storm, Raiders and Panthers.
2017: Junior development and 2 year signings to plug gaps.
From 2014 Premiers to 12th in two years, Souths are proof that the NRL is an ever-changing landscape. They opened their 2016 account with two floggings of the Roosters and Knights, but after that the Bunnies quickly fell from grace, losing more than winning. Injuries, the average form of players such as Inglis and internal spats didn’t help.
BEST: Their two first games gave them a +74 for & against (90-16).
WORST: In round 21 the Bunnies ran afoul of the Raiders, recording their worst club loss 54-4. Signed Robbie Farah.
2017: Inglis and Burgess need to have a sublime year to drive their team forward.
Amazingly did better than Souths, Eels, Manly and the Roosters. Unfortunately for the Dragons they now play a unique brand of low scoring, poor defending football which means they can win games but not by huge margins. Tyson Frizell was pretty much their standout player of the year, unlike Josh “ArrgghhMyShinNoWaitIt’sOkay” Dugan. Coach MacGregor is reviled by fans.
BEST: Managed to beat the Storm and the Cowboys in low scoring affairs, and spring a last gasp win on the Raiders.
WORST: Got mugged by the Roosters 42-6. Two consecutive rounds of zero points against the Cowboys and Broncos. 2nd worst differential after the Knights (-197)
2017: No idea. Score more points?
The Warriors were heavily favoured for a finals appearance in 2016, mostly off their signing of RTS and Isaac Luke. Things were going relatively well until both these two got injured, but it’s fair to say that at no point in 2016 did the Warriors ever really find any rhythm. The axe finally fell for McFadden at season’s end.
BEST: Handily beating the Broncos, and backing it up with a thrashing for the Knights.
WORST: ending the season with 4 straight losses, letting in 30+ points in all 4 games.
2017: Don’t get injured!
The Tigers built themselves a half decent platform for 2017. This year was comprised of some gritty wins and some mystifying losses. The biggest news out of Wests was the departure of Farah, which should provide some clear air for coach Taylor next year Development of Brooks & Moses is key for the next few years, as is raising a new #9.
BEST: Strong wins over the Warriors and Eagles in the first two rounds.
WORST: In three straight rounds lost to the Knights, came agonisingly close against the Storm and then got cleaned up by the Raiders. The Raiders continued the torment in round 26 (Across two games 112-16)
2017: NO FARAH!
Started year tagged as potential spooners, ended year in the finals. A truly mixed bag of a season, with everything from get-out-of-jail wins to shocking capitulations. Signed serial dreamer Jarryd Hayne at the back end and began the process of clearing out the deadwood on the roster. Bowed out of finals in week 1.
BEST: Signing Hayne, holding the Sharks to an 18 all draw (this solitary point got them into the 8).
WORST: Losing 38-0 to the Storm, or being cleaned up by their Queensland siblings in the last two rounds.
2017: A quiet off season, Hayne, and a revitalised roster look promising.
A reasonably consistent season for the Dogs, even if they never really showed true premiership credentials. Struggled to string wins together (3 in a row, twice) but managed to get the requisite 14 wins to secure a proper spot in the finals. Promising young players and a good forward pack mean the Dogs can be contenders again next year.
BEST: Beat the Storm 18-12 early on, strung together two good mini streaks.
WORST: Went down to the Panthers in the final round, and then lost to them again in week 1 to be knocked out.
2017: Try harder.
The Mountain Men had a respectable campaign, winning and losing games by close margins over the first 20 rounds.
Only in the backend of the season did the floodgates truly open, allowing the Panthers to ratchet up their for & against.
Still considered a young side, they managed to make it to week 2 where the Raiders knocked them out.
BEST: Tight games where they triumphed by a single point, over the Broncos, Raiders and Titans.
WORST: Losing a lot of close games by 2-4 points, which isn’t that bad.
2017: Development of Cartwright is key. Finals experience this year should translate to next campaign.
The original Queenslanders tried their best in 2016, and they got off to a steady start which culminated over rounds 6-8 as they kept two teams scoreless and crushed the third.
Origin saw the harness come loose, and they started foundering through the mid-season before righting the wagon and securing 5th spot heading into the finals.
BEST: Rounds 6 (26-0 over the Dragons), 7 (53-0 over the Knights) and 8 (30-8 over Souths) gave them a massive +101 boost on differential. Derailed the Cowboys finals tilt with a massive encounter in Townsville.
WORST: Over 6 games they lost two clutch matches (Cowboys & Tigers), got roughed up by the Warriors, managed to beat (but inspire) the Raiders and then got flogged by both the Bulldogs and Storm.
2017: Consistency of form over the Origin period.
Defending premiers always face a massive amount of pressure to repeat their winning ways, and the Cowboys had a fair go at it this year. They went on a five game rampage starting in round 5, only to be taken down by the Storm in round 10 by 1 point.
Minor injuries and the toll of Origin cost them some wins, but they still did enough to secure a crucial top 4 spot.
Made it 3 weeks into finals to lose to the Sharks, although you can argue that they were done the week before against the Broncos.
BEST: Kept the Roosters, Dragons, Souths and the Bulldogs all to zero while amassing 132 points.
WORST: Couldn’t put the Storm to bed in 3 games, two season matches and week 1 of the finals.
2017: Business as usual, with extra emphasis on avoiding injuries.
Up until now we’ve been climbing the regular season ladder, but we’ll switch it around for the last three teams. Derided by most commentators pre-season, the Green Machine roared into life in the back half of 2016 and went on a 10 game winning streak, scoring points like there was no tomorrow. A marked improvement in team based defence made the Raiders sudden contenders come finals, and they managed to make it as far as week 3 where they bowed out in a tough tussle with the Storm.
BEST: Attack wise, the thrashings of the Tigers (60-6) and the Bunnies (54-4) stand out. Defensively, the Raiders managed to roll both grand finalists in successive weeks, downing the Sharks (30-14) and the Storm (22-8).
WORST: Drawing with the Knights in round 3, and only just escaping defeat against them in round 17.
2017: Reinforcement of defensive discipline will be key next year for the Raiders.
Finished as minor premiers, losing only 5 games across the entire season. Still playing their ruthless, clinical brand of football the Storm simply ground down strong teams and crushed the cellar dwellers. Won their way through to the Grand Final in straight sets, but couldn’t match the fervour of the Sharks in the final 80 minutes of the year.
BEST: Kept the Warriors, Titans and Roosters all scoreless while piling on 126 points. Won a lot of clutch/grind games.
WORST: The Storm got a nasty shock when the Raiders ambushed them in Canberra. Also came dangerously close to losing to the Knights (the benchmark of shame in 2016)
2017: Have a few years left with current squad, but the shadows grow longer for Smith, Cronk and Slater.
Everyone bar the Titans and Warriors have that most desirable piece of silverware – a premiership. 2016 will be remembered as the year the Sharks got theirs and lifted a decades-long curse. From round 4 to round 20 they crushed all in their way, racking up a club record 15 game win streak. Wobbled a bit in the last rounds before rediscovering their aggressive style to win straight through to the Grand Final and best the Storm in a bruising and close game.
BEST: The 15 game win streak, which sampled every style of winning from clutch 1 point games through to a 62-0 bashing of the Knights (seriously, the Knights get more mentions in this piece because everyone took turns inflicting misery on them). Oh, and winning their first ever premiership.
WORST: Round 21 saw the draw against the Titans, which proceeded the loss to the Raiders, which heralded the end of season wobbles. Small fry, really.
2017: Back-to-back premierships, anyone?