Everyone wants something from Santa at Christmas time. What is at the top of your Super franchise's list?
Queensland Reds - A clean bill of health
2015 was a long year for the Queensland Reds. A horror injury toll struck before they’d even played a competitive match and they never quite recovered. Quade Cooper’s absence was most telling but the backline roundabout they were churning through never helped their cause. Captain James Slipper is already going to miss a handful of games but his recovery is tracking quicker than expected. Keeping healthy will be the number one priority.
NSW Waratahs - Leaders
Michael Cheika has handed over the Waratahs’ reins to Daryl Gibson, with the former All Black centre to step up after two years as his assistant. On the field, they’ve lost some of their most experienced players to European Rugby. The void left by Sekope Kepu and Adam Ashley-Cooper will be keenly felt among others. This will be a test for the Waratahs’ system, which has been lauded for turning around some of the sport’s troubled stars, and it will be up to players like Bernard Foley, Nick Phipps and Kurtley Beale to steer the team and aid current captain Dave Dennis.
Melbourne Rebels – The bounce of the ball
The Rebels’ improvement was clear to see in 2015, as they finished with a 7-9 record. Five of those losses were decided by single figures and it’s an area the club wants to turn around. The recruitment of internationally capped players James Hanson and Adam Thomson should help in that regard, adding some cool heads in pivotal moments. The experience that Sean McMahon and Toby Smith gained from the World Cup should help too.
ACT Brumbies - Calm
It’s been a busy off-season for the Brumbies, and little has to do with the players. They have just recently settled an arrangement keeping them at GIO Stadium for five years and there has been public unrest between CEO Michael Jones and long-term partners the University of Canberra. Captain Stephen Moore’s impending departure, post-2016 season, did not help ease their pre-season stress. On field, they are looking the most threatening Aussie franchise but off the pitch, they’ll want a bit less noise.
Western Force - Improvement
The Force struggles in 2015 led to an aggressive off-season recruitment drive that landed them two former internationals, in Springbok Peter Grant and Wallaby Ben Tapuai. Michael Foley hasn’t hidden his keenness to inject pace into his backline and they are desperate to play some spectator-friendly rugby in 2016. No one will be expecting an earth-shattering rise up the competition but a handful more wins will give some optimism for a bright future.