It fair to say that at this point of the season, we know enough about every team in the National Rugby League to be able to make some pretty good educated guesses on where teams will finish the season.
When I look back at my 2013 National Rugby League Season Preview, I feel like I got most of it right! Outside of the Sharks issues with ASADA which have had a huge effect on the club and the devastating effect Matthew Elliott has had on the New Zealand Warriors, I think I’m on track to hit the mark with most teams.
The only team I really missed the mark with has been the Gold Coast Titans, who are much better up from than I gave them credit for at the beggining of the season.
Over the last few weeks I’ve had people asking me two questions over and over again…
Who do I think will play in the Grand Final?
Who do I think will win the Wooden Spoon?
I tipped the Melbourne Storm to beat the South Sydney Rabbitohs in the 2013 NRL Grand Final, and not once this season have I seen anything that has made me think of changing my mind.
The Manly Sea Eagles have had a very good start to the season but I really do think we are going to see them struggling with form and injuries when the finals roll around. Even early in this season we have seen the Sea Eagles having to manage injuries. To their credit, they’ve done well so far. They need to get through the State Of Origin series yet, and then the run into the finals. For the Sea Eagles, I think 2013 is going to end almost the same way that 2012 did. A good team, that will be run down by finals time and won’t be able to lift to that next level you need to win finals games.
A lot of the media are creaming themselves over the form of the Sydney Roosters. When they beat a decent team, then I’ll start to pay attention! One thing I will say about the Roosters is that Mitchell Pearce is easily having the worst season of his career. This is now James Maloney’s team. Pearce used to play well in games that the Roosters ran away with and he would struggle in the close ones. Now, he is just flat out struggling week to week! I still think that at the end of the day the Roosters forwards will be their undoing.
The Rabbitohs have been playing better than I expected. Their depth in the forwards has been sensation and Michael Maguire has shown he is willing to drop anyone from the forward rotation at any time no matter what they’ve achieved in the past. It has really given the Bunnies a steely edge, and that is going to serve them well by seasons end. You also have to give credit to John Sutton who has been playing sensations football so far this season. Sutton is really the guage of where this team is at. If he is playing well, the Rabbitohs are almost unstoppable.
The Storm are still the team to beat though. I think they are not anywhere near their best, and that is just where they want to be. They have improvement left in them. Craig Bellamy isn’t about to have the Storm kill themselves at this point of the season. They have their eyes on the Grand Final. That is when they want to be at their best. The good news so far for the Storm is that their forward pack is playing better than they have for years, and they have unearthed a few decent players this season that have just added an extra bit of starch to their running game. I still find it hard to think that anyone will beat the Storm in the Grand Final this season.
As for the Wooden Spoon, I tipped the Wests Tigers to struggle this season but I never expected them to find themselves in this type of trouble so early in the season. Injuries have added to their poor recruitment and have just killed them so far this season. In a way it might help them long term. They have been forced to blood a number of youngsters, and over the next few seasons hopefully these young players will force out some of their more established players who have become stale and ineffective. I think the Wests Tigers will win the win the Wooden Spoon in 2013. That is, unless Matthew Elliott can keep weaving his “magic” with the Warriors….