To be true premiership contenders in 2012, the Rabbitohs must get more football to Greg Inglis. The positives for Greg are that the young man from Bowraville comes into the season fully fit after enjoying a solid pre-season, hampered only by a minor ankle strain. Coach Michael McGuire’s decision to move Greg to fullback in the Round 3 match against Penrith proved a master-stroke, and fullback could well become the big fella’s permanent position in 2012.
Arguably the biggest signing for the 2012 season was Parramatta’s acquisition of Chris Sandow from Souths. 2011 was a career defining season for Chris that saw him develop into one of the NRL’s most dominating playmakers, capable of turning, and winning games through his individual brilliance. He finished the season as the NRL’s leading points scorer and comes to the Eels with a ton of expectation on his shoulders.
2011 was a milestone year for Jamie that saw him make his State of Origin debut for New South Wales, and his performance in Game II was a career highlight. He finished the season once more as the Dragons’ top points scorer and has already broke the club record for most points scored by a player. He remains one of the NRL’s best kickers in general play and his kicking will once more be a defining factor for the Dragons’ chances in 2012.
Now a Broncos’ Captain, Sam is a major catalyst of his club’s go forward, running for a total of 2305 metres over 21 games at an impressive average of 109 metres per game in 2011. He was named Dally M Second Rower of the Year for the second year running. Also an integral member of the Queensland Origin squad, he will play a huge role in both teams’ chances of success in 2012.
When fit and free from injury, Justin has for many seasons been among the NRL’s best strike centres. Possessing size, power, great agility and speed, he is one of the most difficult players to tackle one-on-one in the competition and is a top class finisher. 2011 was a comeback season for the 30 year-old after he missed the entire 2010 season through injury. While missing the first two Origin games in 2011 through injury, he returned to play in the decider, won by the Maroons, and finished the year with 17 games and eight tries.
Ben Barba is the NRL’s new human highlight reel. In much the same mould as Matt Bowen, he can electrify fans like few other players with his speed and attacking talent. Extremely elusive and possessing a knack for scoring freakish tries – his 23 four-pointers in 2011 made him joint leading try scorer at season’s end. 2012 will be only his fourth full season in the top grade, and the potential of just how good he’ll be in years to come should be a tantalising thought for Bulldogs’ fans as the young man has just re-signed with the club until the year 2015.
Big Jamal burst onto the NRL scene in barnstorming fashion in 2008 playing for the Bulldogs. 2010 was a breakthrough season for the big fella when he was named on the NSW bench for Game One of the Origin series. In 2011 Jamal made his debut for Australia and at just 21 years of age is already considered among the game’s top centres. In 2012 Jamal will play with the Gold Coast Titans after becoming arguably the club’s biggest signing in its six-year history. His size, power and speed make him a mighty handful for tacklers, and he will provide plenty of strike power out wide for his new club as they strive to climb out of the NRL cellar this season.
The NRL has sorely missed the electrifying talents of Matt Bowen over the past few years. The live-wire fullback from Hopevale in Far North Queensland has undergone two major knee constructions in quick succession, but with as much electrifying pace as any player we’ve seen grace the NRL paddock, there’s no way you could write this little dynamo off yet. Staying injury free is the key – if Matt can do that, Cowboys fans are in for a thrilling ride this season as there are few more lethal combinations in the NRL than the one that exists between him and Johnathan Thurston.
Considered by many to be the best rugby league player in the world today, JT’s list of achievements and accolades over the past five years have been prolific. He’s won the Dally M twice, the Wally Lewis Medal, The Golden Boot and multiple State of Origin series. The only thing interrupting his domination over the code has been injury, including two shoulder reconstructions and a knee injury that kept him off the paddock for six rounds in 2011. Among all that accomplishment – there’s just one glaring omission, the fact that the fiercely competitive half has yet to taste premiership success at the Cowboys since joining the club in 2006.