The Canberra Vikings head into 2017 with a number of changes both on and off the field. The Vikings group have taken over the licence and the running of the Vikings and in addition to that, have a new head coach on board with Tim Sampson stepping up from the assistant role in 2016.
Joining him on the coaching panel are former Brumbies player Ruaidhri Murphy and Dan Hooper, current first grade coach of Uni-Norths in the local John I Dent cup. Dan Palmer has been retained to oversee the scrums.
There’s also a new captain after Jarrad Butler signed to play with Connacht with Brumbies player and 2017 joint Macdougall medallist Tom Cusack getting the nod.
The Vikings will be looking to improve on their 2016 season where they finished outside the finals spots in fifth after an indifferent season where they won some good matches but also lost by some big margins, including conceding 60 points twice at home against the Eagles and Rising.
The Vikings squad has been bolstered by large number of Brumbies contracted players and they will be looking to use their experience to help the number of club players assembled from the seven John I Dent Cup clubs.
The forwards stocks look very solid with some big units in there and will probably be a key aspect of their play in 2017. Sam Carter will be looking to make up for his Wallabies squad omission and put his name back in the mix and will more than likely team up with fellow Brumby, Blake Enever, but might have up and comer, Darcy Swain, breathing down his neck for a start.
The backrow is well served with at least seven players able to fill those spots and with Tom Cusack named as captain, will get the nod with any of the remainder able to fill in. Rob Valetini has a newly inked two year contract extension and if given the chance to get on the field, will make opposition players nervous with his big hits able to rearrange a rib cage or two.
The backline also has a good mix of Brumbies and local players with the outside backs spots to be hotly contested with a few names possession some quick feet, including George Morseau. Tom Banks seemed to have found his preferred position at fullback in Brumbies colours and will be looking to build on that heading towards 2018.
Lausii Taliauli is coming back from a serious knee injury sustained in the pre-season and will be looking to build up his match fitness as he competes with the likes of Andy Muirhead, Ben Johnston and James Dargaville in the back three positions.
Joe Powell has been released from the Wallabies squad for the first round and will be resuming his Brumbies combination with Wharenui Hawera with the flyhalf spot a bit thin in senior experience although Mack Hansen will be looking to show what he can do after recently being signed by the Brumbies.
With the squad at their disposal, the Vikings should be making the finals. There are a few new faces to the squad so it will be interesting to see how they are utilised and fit in around the contracted players.
Angus Wagner, Sione Taula, Faalelei Sione, Harry Lloyd,Leslie Leulua’iali’i-Makin, Max Bode
Robbie Abel, Folau Fainga’a, TP Luteru, Sam Thomas
Sam Carter, Blake Enever, Liam Rasch, Darcy Swain
Tom Cusack (c), Angus Allen, Lolo Fakaosilea, Ben Hyne, Rob Valetini, Dean Oakman-Hunt, Michael Oakman-Hunt
Ryan Lonergan, Joe Powell, Pedro Rolando (not Ronaldo), Josh White
Wharenui Hawera, Mack Hansen, Fred Dorrough, Liam Mosely
Andrew Robinson, Jordan Jackson-Hope, Brodie Leber
Tom Banks, Andrew Muirhead, Len Ikitau, Ben Johnston, George Morseau, James Dargaville, Ernest Suavai, Lausii Taliauli,
Round 1 – Saturday 2 September vs Qld Country – Viking Park 3pm
Round 2 – Sunday 10 September vs Perth Sprit – Viking Park 3pm
Round 3 – Saturday 16 September vs Brisbane City – Uni of Qld 1pm
Round 4 – Saturday 23 September vs NSW Country Eagles – Armidale 3pm
Round 5 – Friday 29 September vs Fijian Drua – Viking Park 7:30pm
Round 6 – Sunday 8 October vs Melbourne Rising – Harlequin Oval 1pm
Round 7 – Sunday 15 October vs Sydney Rays – Viking Park 3pm
Round 8 – Bye
Round 9 – Sunday 29 October vs Western Sydney Rams – TG Millner 1pm