This article first appeared on NRL.com http://bit.ly/1YZgnIK
While they don't provide the same grunt and gusto as the forwards provide, where would our great game be without the razzle dazzle of the backs? Here are the top five backlines in the NRL heading into the 2016, as voted by the writers at NRL.com.
Backline: Boyd, Kahu, Reed, Roberts, Oates, Milford, Hunt
The Broncos have filled the spot left by retired captain Justin Hodges in superb fashion by signing Dally M Centre of the Year James Roberts for the next two seasons. Ben Hunt is sure to bounce back from his disappointing grand final showing and his combination with Anthony Milford will only grow stronger. Test star Darius Boyd isn't one to overlook either.
Backline: Coote, Feldt, O'Neill, Linnett, Winterstein, Morgan, Thurston
The premiership-winning backline has a lot of expectations to live up to in 2016. Lachlan Coote was one of the game's most improved players in 2015 while Michael Morgan's move from fullback to five-eighth worked wonders. Johnathan Thurston was the glue which held it all together with unexpected stars such as Justin O'Neill and Antonio Winterstein starring under his leadership. Surprisingly Kane Linnett was one the game's top five metre eaters in 2015.
Backline: Ferguson, Burgess, Jennings, Kenny-Dowall, Tupou, Hastings, Pearce
Even with the losses of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and James Maloney the Roosters have one of the most respected backlines in the competition. Jackson Hastings showed, when filling in for his new halves partner Mitchell Pearce, that he has what it takes to be successful at first-grade level. Blake Ferguson's likely shift to fullback means Shaun Kenny-Dowall can move back to his preferred centre position, while England international Joe Burgess will be looking to show his worth in Australia on the wing.
Backline: Tuivasa-Sheck, Wright, Lolohea, Kata, Vatuvei, Leuluai, Johnson
A fully fit Shaun Johnson brings the Warriors' backline up a couple of notches. The losses of Sam Tomkins and Chad Townsend will be easily filled by a fully fit Thomas Leuluai and star recruit Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. Jonathan Wright will face the most competition for his wing spot with Konrad Hurrell choosing to remain at the club, while Manu Vatuvei remains arguably the best winger in the world.
1. Sea Eagles
Backline: Stewart, Taufua, Lyon, Matai, Trbojevic, Walker, Cherry-Evans
The departure of Peta Hiku to Penrith means Tom Trbojevic's path to consistent first grade football has been made a whole lot easier, while the arrival of South Sydney star Dylan Walker goes a long way to making up for the exit of Kieran Foran to the Eels. With Kangaroo Daly Cherry-Evans pulling the strings, Jamie Lyon and Steve Matai providing a mountain of experience in the centres, Jorge Taufua adding power out wide, Brett Stewart still a try-scoring weapon at the back and Walker and Trbojevic among the game's most natural ball-runners, the Sea Eagles have a backline that's the envy of the rest of the competition.
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