Trial recap part two: SuperCoach weekend analysis

2019 runner-up Walson Carlos takes a look at the second set of fixtures in his recap of the weekend's trial action.

Expert Analysis Pre-season

Following on from his preview of the weekend’s trial action, 2019 NRL SuperCoach runner-up Walson Carlos answers the burning questions from the key clashes.

In part one of the recap, he analyses the stars, flops and players to keep an eye out for from our final look at teams before teams drop on Tuesday.

Sign up to SC Playbook for detailed pre-season analysis of every top 17 player from every club in the competition and more + over 200 additional articles once the season kicks off.

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Saturday 7.00pm at Central Coast Stadium

Minutes Check: Newcastle’s David Klemmer looks set to deliver on his value. I doubt his minutes will rise or fall much from 2019. 

Herman Ese’ese was explosive in parts, but I highly doubt he plays much more than a 40-45 minute role, and Mitch Barnett looks set to play 65-80 minutes on the right edge. 

Positional battle: Kurt Mann was pretty poor by my observations. He looked uncomfortable playing almost exclusively on the left side of the ruck in attack. 

He looks like more of a right side player to me, and he struggled to connect with ball runners on more than a couple of times. 

It sounds strange because it was a 58-0 final score line, but the young Roosters side actually exposed the Knights left side defence on numerous occasions early in the game. 

Tex Hoy looked sharp playing fullback in the second half for Ponga, and might be a cheapie to keep an eye on if Mann struggles early in the season. 

Mason Lino seems to be out of favour, but again keep a close watch on him mainly because Kurt Mann has anything but a stranglehold on the position and Lino’s non-selection probably puts pay to Ponga’s goal-kicking for SC. If Lino does earn a start, I think he kicks ahead of Ponga.

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Burning Question answered: Can the Newcastle Knights show the discipline and class to put a score on a Roosters reserve grade side? 

The answer is yes, but unimpressively. The 58-0 score line that people might read in a report would suggest that the Knights had a good hit out, and blowing out some cobwebs to be ready for Round 1 v the Warriors. 

While this is partially true, it showed up some worrying signs like the left side edge defence as well as some pretty ordinary combinations on the edge when attacking out wide, which may come down to the Knights outside back injury issues. 

What surprised me though was that Ponga played a lot in sweeping plays on the right side of the ruck, but to be fair he struggled to accurately pass the ball from left to right when in that motion, and I’m his biggest fan. 

Similarly, Kurt Mann played on the left side of the ruck and didn’t look at home at all. 

Other key SC observations 

  • Paolo Faamausili was impressive for the Roosters. Other than him, it’s unlikely any other player in that team will play more than one or two first grade games this year.
  • The Roosters got run over the top of because they gave away an inordinate amount of penalties and had a heap of drop balls also, so weight of possession told in the end. 
  • Jayden Brailey was pretty sound and took some good runs at the right times. 
  • Connor Watson’s best position is hooker and he can play big minutes. If Brailey goes down or even if Watson jags the lock spot at some stage throughout the year he is SC gold. 
  • Starford Toa hasn’t been spoken about much in the preseason as a starter, but if he can jag a spot on the wing he will be a decent cheapie. 


Sunday 12.00pm at Rotorua International Stadium 

Minutes Check: For the Warriors, Isaiah Papali’i looked good in the minutes he played against the Tigers. He is 100% suited to a lock role, which will be intriguing when Tevaga returns. My gut feel tells me he would hold out Tevaga because he can replicate the workload and is a stronger defender with similar offloading skills.

Jamayne Taunoa-Brown will play 35-45 minutes off the bench and with the Warriors forwards problems he looks a good cheapie for the FRF position. 

Some mail is suggesting that Josh Curran will get the left edge 2RF role. Personally, I’ve been unimpressed by him and would go with young star of the future Eliesa Katoa. 

For the Tigers, Thomas Mikaele looks set for increased minutes in his starting role and his PPM makes him somewhat interesting, but there are better options in FRF. 

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Billy Walters and Josh Reynolds looks set to split minutes which puts me off both of them somewhat, however there’s still money to be made from Walters if you go that way. 

Oliver Clark and Zane Musgrove may fight it out for a bench spot. Luciano Leilua looks set to get 60 minutes in a similar set up as Villiame Kikau – for mine that’s all he needs. 

He’s way better priced than Kikau, so his potential volatility will be easier to cop as even an off-day should see him reach his value. Leilua has massive upside in my opinion. 

Positional battle: Corey Thompson v Adam Doueihi – Your guess is as good as mine with this one – I’d assume it’s Doueihi, or why was he signed from Souths? He probably could have played as a 14 there in a much better side. 

Burning Question answered: So many! What is the make-up of both team’s top 13 and benches for Round 1? These answers could shape a lot of SC teams with possible cheapies. 

The burning question around the make-up of both these teams won’t fully be answered until team list Tuesday, so a lot of questions still remain over both sides make-up and benches. 

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Other key SC observations 

  • The new scrum rules where you get to choose to pack in the middle of the field or on a 10m in line either side are significant for sides, particularly the Warriors and Souths. Both look very dangerous with this tactic – no doubt other teams will utilise it also.  
  • Paasi and Papali’i look good and had a licence to offload.
  • The Warriors have clearly changed their game style with additional width in attack, particularly the pass from dummy half to the first receiver. This is a clear indication Kearney is happy for players to back their skill and I think it will be a positive for the Warriors. 
  • The right edge for Warriors of Tohu Harris and David Fusitu’a looks dangerous. Fusitu’a looked good in the centres – explosive and great hands 
  • RTS looked very good and busy contrary to reports he was going to have a lesser role – he’s still a viable POD option in the stacked FLB position. 
  • The SC selection of Walters will be minutes dependant, but he appears a low-risk option who at worst will be a slow-burn money-maker. 
  • Unimpressed with Curran. Katoa looks a better option in my opinion. He is the future and he is special. I hope Kearney takes a chance and puts him in the left 2RF run-on spot for Round 1.  
  • Wayde Egan’s service with width of pass is good, but I’m not sure he is a long-term option. Actually, I believe Nate Roache is the best hooker at the club by a margin, but he is injury riddled. 
  • Tohu Harris looks a solid POD option. 
  • Nofoaluma is a flyer POD – you’ll pay up for him but they are going to give the Leilua brothers every chance to earn their money, so Nofo will be amongst it.
  • Musgrove was again impressive – he should jag a starting or bench spot and play 40mins
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Sunday 6.00pm at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium

Minutes Check: For the Sharks, Andrew Fifita actually looked pretty good fitness wise and looks set to play similar minutes to last year. 

He’ll possibly see a slight uptick with no Matt Prior and Paul Gallen, although Jack Williams and Braden Hamlin-Uele will also stake claim to those minutes. 

Williams looks super fit and explosive and if coach John Morris carries a utility like Connor Tracey on the bench, Williams is a real SC option. 

Blayke Brailey may split minutes with Tracey, but should get at least 50 minutes a game, enough to see him go up in price. 

Aaron Woods is another Sharks middle forward in the battle for minutes and looked good in his time on the field. 

For the Sea Eagles, Zac Sadler unfortunately got injured before he got going.

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Positional battle: Jack Williams seemingly has a mortgage on the 13 that for so long has been worn by Paul Gallen. 

Billy Magoulias may struggle to sneak into the 17 for Round 1.  

Burning Questions answered: How fit and healthy is Andrew Fifita and is he SC relevant this year? 

Fifita actually does look fit as does the whole Cronulla side – their conditioning program over the pre-season looks on point. 

What does Ramien look like running outside Shaun Johnson?  

Unfortunately, SJ pulled out with a virus. Ramien is not for me though. Others interest me more. 

Other key SC observations

  • Marty Taupau was strong and looked to offload.
  • Jack Williams looks very sharp in attack and solid in defence. Looks a lock for me with his extended minutes, does he definitely get extended minutes though? Sharks bench rotation is a close watch.
  • I’m starting to see what all the hype has been about Blayke Brailey as a footy player – he’s very smart out of dummy half. He identifies play-the-ball wins very well and gets out and runs. It should equate to a decent SC season. It’s a tough ask for a young lad to punch out 80-minutes week-in week-out though with a frame like that.  
  • The Sharks look like they will be a formidable side. They appear to have a free license to offload which sets up their attack really well and helps opens things up.
  • Toby Rudolph was impressive. He might jag a bench spot.
  • Sean Keppie is like a Shaun Lane look-a-like but smaller. He has a high work rate in the middle.
  • Manly are worse off without Api Koroisau and Manaise Fainu – I’m not sold on Danny Levi as an NRL player. Limited. 
  • Braden Hamlin-Uele looks explosive 
  • Connor Tracey is an exciting player. He can break tackles and is lightning fast in attack – has a very SC friendly game. I’m not sure where he fits in, but I think he’s in the mix for a bench utility spot. 
  • Brayden Trindall is a chip off the old block – he took me back to watching his dad Tricky Trindall play for Souths – same mannerisms and running style – fair player too. 
  • Manly’s depth is better than what it has been – some good young forwards are coming through and Josh Schuster looks up to NRL level as a classy ball player 
  • Zach Docker-Clay also looked pretty good in dummy-half and may challenge for a spot if Levi gets injured or doesn’t deliver. 
  • Haumole Olakau’atu looks really exciting – he’d have to be in line for a bench spot.


Saturday 4.30pm at Port Macquarie Regional Stadium

Minutes Check: For the Bulldogs, Corey Harawira-Naera’s minutes were split on the edge and even if he gets the 2RF job you can’t risk him in my opinion. 

Dallin Watene-Zelezniak was rested, Joe Stimson I didn’t notice to be honest and I don’t think he will push out CHN for a starting spot, therefore will be irrelevant.

At the Raiders, Corey Horsburgh and Joe Tapine look set for increased minutes. Whoever wins that right 2RF spot looks set to play 80-minutes.

Positional battle: CHN v Adam Elliott – this one might have been wishful thinking after CHN played lock in the All Stars, I thought Dean Pay might follow suit but not to be. 

Burning Question answered: Is George Williams the mid-range gold all Supercoaches need in the halves? 

That’s a ……… wait and see on that one. There’s a big decision to make whether to get him in or downgrade him to a cheapie and free up some cash for elsewhere. 

Sign up to SC Playbook for detailed pre-season analysis of every top 17 player from every club in the competition and more + over 200 additional articles once the season kicks off.

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Other key SC observations

  • Emre Guler had plenty of strong carries and tackle breaks – he looks set to establish himself as regular NRL player. 
  • George Williams looked like he needed the run, but has good running ability and tackle breaks. By nature, English players generally play more open style. He looks like a really good ball player who just needs to form combinations. He has a skip to the outside and draws in outside men, a little bit like SJ. He could benefit Tapine if he gets the start at right 2RF. 
  • Will Hopoate – as solid and industrious as ever. Could easily be the Bulldogs fullback and do a great job. 
  • Jayden Okunbur – set to match his value I feel. 
  • Sione Katoa – looked good at hooker, but he was splitting time with Kerrod Holland and Jeremy Marshall-King will return too. 
  • Tapine looks the goods at his price – I’m going to seriously consider him.


  • MPG = Minutes per game
  • PPG = Points per game
  • PPM= Points per minute
  • BPG = Base per game (point accrued in tackles + runs + missed tackles)
  • POD = Point of difference

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