TRANS-TASMAN PREVIEWS | We've got a look over and made our picks for the opening night of the rep ro...
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The Thirroul Butchers signing of Craig Smith from Wigan has ensured plenty of interest in the approching kickoff of the 2005 season.
Andrew Hart has also joined Thirroul and the Butchers will field a formidable pack of forwards in their quest to wrestle the premiership back from the Gavin Clinch-led Collies outfit. They face Port Kembla in what should be an opening round blockbuster before 1500 fans at Noel Mulligan Oval.
The Collie Dogs have again spent up big in an attempt to win back-to-back titles and will have to overcome rivals such as Dapto who have added depth to their ranks.
Fans are keenly awaiting the 2005 season, with good crowds and a high standard of play expected throughout the year.
A brief look at the teams standings below.
COLLIES: The Dogs will again be in the finals in 2005. It is impossible to see any other alternative. They have signed a classy leader in Gavin Clinch and will be strong everywhere.
THIRROUL: The Butchers look most likely to threaten Collies for the 2005 title at the moment. They have snapped up an array of huge signings and Gibson Park will be packed watching them.
PORT KEMBLA: The Blacks do not seem to have covered their losses. Although they have signed some good players, they have lost better ones and will probably be in a battle for fourth spot.
WESTS: The Devils have been quiet since their semi final loss and will probably field a similar line up to 2004. This may not be enough to compete come finals time.
DAPTO: Justin Holbrook will probably lead the Canaries back into the four this year if they have signed some decent props. Unless they get some grunt up front they may miss out again.
CORRIMAL: The Cougars will again look to the Tweddle brothers to lead them in 2005. They have Brian Walsh back, but seem to have lost groud to all their strengthened rivals.
HELENSBURGH: The return of many players led by gifted half Brad Streeting has the Tigers primed for their first charge at the finals for a few years. Expect them to win quite a few games.
UNIVERSITY: The Books will showcase a new look side in 2005 and the mail is still out on what sort of standard they will be. They have signed a very good halfback and are chasing a couple of Fijian forwards.
WOLLONGONG: The Bulls looked confident at their season launch his week with former Wests hardman Kon Demos taking the reins at the 2004 wooden spooners. Should win more than two games.
BERKELEY: The Eagles have got some good players to help them in the reserve grade this year and should be a genuine threat to make the finals in 2005.
TOOHEYS CUP: The second division welcomes the Bulli Bushrangers this year. They will join premiers Berkeley, Avondale, Mt Kembla, Windang and Norths in the 2005 premiership.