Billy Slater of the Melbourne Storm.
Billy Slater of the Melbourne Storm. TRACEY NEARMY

The headlines your club doesn't want to see this season

RUGBY league's always been a game of season-defining headlines.

There'll be good and bad ones about every club but these are the humdingers fans will be praying they don't see in 2017.

SEA EAGLES

'Disaster! DCE out for the season'

Blake Green's arrival has given Manly's halves a more stable look going into this season but without Daly Cherry-Evans in the line-up the Sea Eagles would be devoid of the attacking spark needed to unpick opposition defences. With a relatively thin roster talent-wise, Manly needs a good year with injuries across the board but if DCE goes down it will be curtains for their finals hopes.

STORM

'Bye bye Billy: Slater forced to retire'

Probably the greatest fullback of all time is teetering somewhere between a triumphant comeback and retirement. After missing the best part of the past two years of football, we are likely to see Billy Slater back on the park some time early in the season. If his shoulder's strong and reliable again it will give the club a huge boost and keep them in premiership calculations. If the comeback goes pear-shaped, Slater is likely to retire, bringing a sad day for the Storm faithful and badly hurting his side's title hopes.

WARRIORS

'NRL pumps brakes on Foran return'

The NRL has made a ruling on Kieran Foran's return, with the star playmaker all set to debut for the Warriors in round three. However, that decision has been met with discontent by some people in high places and the NRL is under some pressure to revisit it. If there's an about-face and Foran's return is put on ice it could burst the bubble of hope flying high in Auckland at the moment.

 

Cowboys forward Jason Taumalolo.
Cowboys forward Jason Taumalolo. MICHAEL CHAMBERS

COWBOYS

'Ta ta Taumalolo: Dally M star's big-money move'

After winning a premiership and a Dally M Medal in the past two years, Jason Taumalolo is widely thought of as the premier forward in the NRL. Naturally in an off-contract year, there's plenty of interest in luring him away from Townsville, with some big-money offers landing on his doorstep. After losing James Tamou and with no certainty over Matt Scott's future, the loss of Taumalolo would likely bring a sudden end to the Cowboys' premiership chances for the foreseeable future.

TIGERS

'Robbie's redemption: Farah tips Tigers out of finals'

It would be the ultimate poetic justice. After being forced out of the club he led for the best part of a decade, Farah will get two chances to put one over Wests Tigers coach Jason Taylor in the opening 10 rounds of the season. But wouldn't he crave a third chance in an elimination game, either a week out from the finals or once September rolls around.

RAIDERS

'Green Machine falters at final hurdle'

Canberra coach Ricky Stuart used to lament the lack of representative players he had. Now his side is chock full of them, so there can be no excuses in that department. The Raiders got agonisingly close to a grand final berth last season, and with virtually the same 17, many are tipping them to go all the way in 2017. While there wasn't much expectation on them back then, there definitely is now.

SHARKS

'Sorry! Segeyaro contract rejected'

It was clearly evident in the World Club Challenge that Cronulla is missing an experienced head in the No.9 jersey. So far in the pre-season, none of their hooker contenders in Daniel Mortimer, Jayden Brailey and Manaia Cherrington have stood out. An addition like former Cowboy and Panther James Segeyaro would be a huge plus, but it's yet to be seen whether his legal battles with Leeds can be sorted out sooner rather than later.

 

Brisbane Broncos player Ben Hunt.
Brisbane Broncos player Ben Hunt. DAVE HUNT

BRONCOS

'Hunt ships south mid-season'

Ben Hunt has already signed with St George Illawarra for 2018 and beyond. What the Broncos don't need is their star halfback packing his bags and beginning his life at the Dragons prematurely. Brisbane doesn't have a whole lot of depth to play with.

BULLDOGS

'Des dumped! Veteran coach feels Dogs' bite'

Des Hasler rode out a bumpy post-season period following a disappointing finals exit but many of his staff weren't so lucky as Canterbury's board and management chipped away at the veteran coach's power base. For Hasler there's no doubt the 2016 review read as a warning: "Make some fundamental changes or you're out." In 2017, more than any other season since he first tasted success at Manly, Hasler will be at the mercy of results. So if he wakes up to this headline, you can guarantee it hasn't been a happy season for Bulldogs fans.

PANTHERS

'Cursed: Another ACL ends star's season'

They are probably the three letters no Penrith fan wants to hear ever again. Last season the club lost three players to anterior cruciate ligament ruptures in Dean Whare, Peta Hiku and Sam McKendry. Now they've got superstar flyer Josh Mansour on the sidelines after he did the same injury while in Four Nations camp. With an overhauled coaching department, the club will be crossing its fingers and toes that it can avoid another horror casualty ward.

DRAGONS

'Red V wins first-ever wooden spoon'

The heat is well and truly on Dragons coach Paul McGregor and his squad after a poor 2016 season, in which they narrowly outscored wooden-spooners Newcastle. While their forward pack looks marginally stronger than last season, it's the attack that continues to drive fans crazy and their worries didn't subside after the recent Charity Shield. The club's round-one halves pairing is still a mystery with none of the contenders for the No.7 jersey really seizing their opportunity in the pre-season. Should the Dragons end up at the bottom of the ladder, it'll be the joint venture's first wooden spoon since their first season as a merged entity in 1999.

TITANS

'Latest dream makes Hayne Plane take flight'

To play in the NRL. To play for NSW. To play for Australia. To play in the NFL. To represent Fiji in rugby sevens. Jarryd Hayne isn't scared to follow his dreams and the Titans better hope his whim doesn't drag him away from the sunshine strip mid-season. He'll be integral to the club's charge towards another finals appearance.

EELS

'Foran's comeback complete with stunning Dally M win'

It's no secret most Parramatta fans - and reportedly the club itself - are not happy about Kieran Foran's walkout mid-2016 and subsequent signing with the Warriors. Of course the rugby league community wants to see the playmaker recover from his personal issues and get back to the paddock, but no doubt Eels fans would rather it be with them than another NRL club. The ultimate insult would be watching the man who should be wearing blue and gold steering the Warriors to a title, and even winning the league's medal.

RABBITOHS

'Madge falls out with star recruit'

South Sydney was forced to deal with constant questions surrounding a pre-season blow-up between players and the club's owner Russell Crowe last year. Meanwhile at Wests Tigers, Robbie Farah's feud with coach Jason Taylor overshadowed the entire season. Neither Farah nor the Bunnies will be keen to repeat that. The last thing either party wants is more headlines about unrest.

 

Connor Watson of the Roosters.
Connor Watson of the Roosters. PAUL MILLER

ROOSTERS

'Young gun reneges on contract extension'

Young playmaker Connor Watson has just extended his contract with the Chooks, but there's no guarantee he will be in the starting 17 this year. And, if he isn't, there's always the danger he'll want to go somewhere he can get an opportunity at NRL level. Roosters fans don't want to lose a youngster with as much potential as him.

KNIGHTS

'Gagai says bye bye'

Newcastle has lost a bunch of talent over a tough two years and the last thing fans want to see is Origin centre Dane Gagai follow suit. Knights supporters haven't had much to cheer about in recent times but Gagai committing long-term would certainly be cause for celebration. Still, there will be plenty of outside interest in the talented back and he should have a few options on the table.

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