Daniel Nichols 2013 National Rugby League Season Preview

With the kickoff to the 2013 National Rugby League season fast approaching all eyes now turn towards each team and how they are lined up as they look to become the Premiers. In this special presentation with bonus senza deposito immediato senza invio documenti, writer Daniel Nichols takes us through a thorough run down of each clubs chances and interviews supporters from each club.



After falling at the final hurdle, Bulldogs fans will be confident of going one better in 2013. Des Hasler has instilled a confidence in the team that has been missing for years. Fringe first grader became Sam Kasiano the focus of a trans-Tasman tug of war for his representative services. He was also part responsible for turning a promising youngster into the NRL’s hottest attraction in Dally M winning Ben Barba.

Despite ugly scenes in their post celebrations and of course the 8 match suspension to James Graham the Bulldogs should come into 2013 in extremely positive spirits. They’ve recruited arguably the biggest name during the off season and not so arguably the biggest physically in T-Rex Williams who very obviously played his best footy under Hasler at the Eagles. The Bulldogs pack led by T-Rex and Dogzilla shouldn’t lose too many battles this season leaving plenty of space for the likes of Reynolds and Barba.

Josh Morris had a massive 2012 scoring highlight reel tries almost at will and grabbed an Origin jersey after spending some of 2011 playing in the reserves. In Inu and Morris the Dogs have a quality centre pairing, with the former not only finding his feet under Hasler but proved to be an absolute revelation inside fellow mid season recruit Sam Perrett.

Young 5/8 Josh Reynolds polarized opinion with some predicting an Origin jersey on offer if he overcome second year syndrome, whilst others label him as an over aggressive youngster simply in the right place at the right time. Only Reynolds can convince people either way but one thing is for sure, Dogs players love playing with him and opposition players seem to hate the sight of him. A lot of the Dogs success this season will depend on their young halves combo not only playing up to their lofty 2012 standards but also in their ability to improve and guide their massive pack around.

The Dog’s haven’t sought out any big name recruits other than the previously mentioned Williams and they have only lost fringe first graders allowing Hasler to start 2013 with a settled and familiar squad, which is never a bad thing when you’re the reigning minor premiers.

Can Ben Barba continue to set the NRL alight? Can Sam Kasiano and Aiden Tolman continue to dominate from the front without the presence of James Graham? Can the Bulldogs continue to play free flowing football once again this season knowing expectations are through the roof? They have the players, the coach, the fans and the captain to do so and catastrophe aside there is no reason the Dogs can’t go one step further this season.

Earlier I have a few moments with Bulldog’s fan Chapo who shared this thoughts on the 2013 season, T-Rex, Ben Barba and much more:

 Will last year’s grand final have a negative effect on 2013 or will it be extra motivation?

In my opinion the loss to the Storm will be fuel for the Bulldogs to push that little bit harder to go one better than last year and bring the Premiership back to Belmore.

Has the club’s off-season recruitment surprised you?

To be honest yes it has surprised me quite a bit as I was expecting us to bring in a half back with a kicking game, as that’s one area in which we struggled during the season and at times our halves lacked creativity. To be honest we didn’t really lose any quality outside backs as Goodwin is getting slower by the season and Wright is a fringe player at best.

Ben Barba, surely he can’t repeat his 2012 form, or can he? If not, who can step up to provide the spark?

If Barba stays healthy I think he will be better than last season after a full season under Des’ guidance. If Barba loses his spark we have a couple of guys who could step up like Josh Morris who was on fire during parts of the season and or I think T – Rex could provide that spark that we need until such time as Barba comes back into form.

Who is the club’s most exciting young player?

Without a doubt I’d have to say David Klemmer. He was a machine in the under 20’s and Des has put him into the First Grade squad, I expect him to get quite a bit of game time while James Graham is suspended. But yeah Klemmer will be a rep player for NSW and Australia.

Is there a player you’d happily pay cab fare to ship to another club?

Steve Turner. He is on big money being a rep player but the money he is on would be better spent else-where extending the contracts of some of the juniors coming through.

What’s your prediction for side this season? What’s a pass mark for the club?

My prediction for season 2013 is for the Bulldogs to be Minor Premiers and Grand Final winners. If that doesn’t happen I think a pass mark for the club would be to finish in the top 4 and make the preliminary final.

South Sydney Rabbitohs


Ask nearly any Souths fan for their thoughts on 2013 and they’ll assure you they’ll win the premiership … whilst going undefeated. Confidence amongst Bunnies fans is sky high after a magnificent 2012. Coach McGuire had his side firing on all cylinders, has found a 10 year halfback in Adam Reynolds and has found a way to increase the impact of one of the NRL’s best in Greg Inglis.

Inglis, always known for injecting himself with impact at centre was shifted to fullback where his involvement has increased ten-fold, and as any opposition fan will tell you that is not a good thing for anyone other than South’s fans. 2012 was his best year at NRL level, and that is saying something.

Rookie of the year and NRL all star Reynolds will hope to duplicate a season that many believe, if not for his own injury, may have led to South’s first grand-final in decades. Reynold’s halves partnership with 2012’s most improved player John Sutton was instrumental in their top 4 finish and will be once again in 2013. Sutton’s ability to break the line and Reynolds ability to put players through gaps lead to tries galore, with Inglis, Merritt and Everingham the main benefactors.

In Sam Burgess Souths have one of the game’s premier forwards. Burgess has another year in the Australian conditions under his belt and will be joined by seemingly his entire family, which should ensure he is almost at home this season. Mick Crocker seemed to rediscover his youth and Roy Asotasi had his best season in years last season.

South’s weren’t overly active in the player market, although they did welcome back former Bunny Beau Champion and replaced enigmatic star Dave Taylor with the more consistent Ben Te’o. Although Te’o is unlikely to attract the attention of the damaging Taylor, he is likely to produce a much smaller gap between his good and bad performances. Jeff Lima, the Burgess clan and Bryson Goodwin round out a very well thought out recruitment effort.

Souths took steps to ensure their continued success by resigning key players Inglis, Everingham and Reynolds ensuring a bright future. Just how bright will 2013 be? I’ll let Souths fan Tanya and Jeff answer that question.

Is 2013 the year breaks it premiership drought?

T: Definitely the year to break the drought!!! We came so close last year but just weren’t quite there. The boys definitely got the taste for glory & this year I believe we stand in a great position to get there on GF Day. Bring on our 21st I say!!!!!!!!!!!

J: Is 2013 the year breaks it premiership drought? I would like to think so..many sides in 2013 that could win it..fingers crossed with injuries..answer yes..

Is the off field speculation about Russel Crowe’s attempting to sell the club going to have any effect? Will he sell?

T: Honestly the club is standing strong we have cracked the 20,000 members & still climbing. Russel has done a lot for the club & will always be a part of it I am sure every supporter would agree he has definitely made a difference to the Rabbitohs & the NRL awareness in other countries.

J: If anything players should be trying to win the comp in rusty’s final year as he has put so much in for the club and fans..answer yes..

Can Reynolds, Burgess and Inglis carry on their amazing 2012 form? What’s needed to go that one step further?

T: These guys definitely have what it takes. I think Adam is only going to get better as the year goes on. He is just an amazing player to watch. Every Rabbitohs supporter heart broke at the Semi final against the bulldogs when he left the field. He has so much passion for the sport he will go a long way. As for GI well he is our Million dollar man what more can you say.

The Burgess boys well I think we are in for some mighty football from them all this year. Just having them all in the team will just bring out more of the ONE family attitude that the Rabbitohs have.

I think Madge is doing a marvelous job with the guys. The are all driven to strive for excellence & this year I believe they will get that 21st that we all desire.

J: For sure..team should go better..have been together last year and the experience should get them if not win the GF..

Who is the club’s most exciting young player?

T: Well I do have a soft spot for Adam but you also can’t go past Evo. think this year we will see a lot of younger players stepping up & showing us all what they are capable of.

J: Andrew Everingham for me..try scoring machine..should have another great year..

Is there a player you’d happily pay cab fare to ship to another club?

T: Honestly I think all the guys are ready to step up this year. I am really happy with the team we have As all of us Rabbitohs supporters say “In Madge we Trust”

J: Years ago yes..but at this stage team is going well together..best we have done for years..answer no..

What’s your prediction for side this season? What’s a pass mark for the club?

T: I honestly think that we will remain in the top 8 for the season but definitely be in that top 4 but seasons end. Bring on Grand Final Day !!!!!!! The Mighty Red & Green will be there.

J: Make the GF in 2013..improve on last year is a pass..

Melbourne Storm


2012’s premiership victory will have gone a long way to exercise the salary cap demons of recent times. Craig Bellamy’s storm were clinical throughout the finals series and with the 3 three remaining and the young stars having another year under their belt, everything suggests it will be much of the same in 2013.

Former Storm star Brett Finch returns to the club and will provide valuable depth, especially come Origin time. Cooper Cronk turned down huge offers from rival clubs to resign with the club after his best season yet and perhaps the biggest news of all was the resigning of super coach Craig Bellamy.

The core of Melbourne’s 2012 premiership side remains, whilst additions of Brett Finch, Junior Sa’u and Legi Setu add aggression and depth to a side already brimming with talent. It’s hard to see anything other than a deep run into the finals for the Cameron Smith led storm.

With speculation about coach Craig Bellamy’s future gone and the resigning of Cooper Cronk, Melbourne have assured that their future will be one filled with success. It would take a brave person to predict anything less than a top 4 finish for the Storm this season and I for one can’t see a reason to go against the grain.

Ryan Hoffman returned from England an even better player than he left and proved to be the spark in the Storm forward pack, whilst Cameron Smith just reinforced his status as a future Immortal by lifting the NRL Premiership, the state of Origin shield and the Trans-Tasman trophy in 2012. Smith will be looking to lift the Premiership, Origin Shield and World Cup at the end of 2013 and once again, you’d be very brave to bet against it.

The big three remain, Craig Bellamy remains, Brett Finch returns, and only Neilson and Many of the Storm first grade side have left the club. Everything points to yet another successful season for the Storm and baring a catastrophic injury toll that is exactly what will happen. The World Club Challenge may prove a distraction for the Storm so they may start slow but come September they’ll be once again firing on all cylinders.

Your thoughts on the fact in the first few rounds the Storm would have faced trips to England and North Queensland, who’s climates couldn’t be any different. Unfair or just part of the territory of being champions?

England is the curse of success and i actually don’t see the real point of the WCC from an Australian POV. We are at a disadvantage before we even leave due to the timing of both seasons. The draw this year has a lot of teams at a perceived disadvantage with tough scheduling, short breaks etc. No one expects an easy run with the comp being so close but that means that the draw could have a real effect on some teams chances for finals this year.

Can the club survive if it loses Craig Bellamy? Will he stay? If not who can replace him?

The club will definitely survive.. albeit in a different form and maybe not as strong as we are straight away but the players and coaching staff will adapt and find a different way to win. I believe he will stay. I definitely hope he will stay then we can start preparing for the post Bellamy era with him around to hand over. I dont know who will or could replace him.. maybe Walters could be groomed. That should be possible, or possibly Cam Smith if he retires and wants to take up a coaching role… smart footy brains both of them.

Is there a plan B if one of the Big 3 get injured?

I think if coop gets injured we have Brett Finch to shoulder a lot of ball playing to cover him. Hinchcliffe would cover smitty. O’neil or duffy would slide into fb i reckon to cover billy

Who is the club’s most exciting young player?

Mahe Fonua out wide without doubt. He’s built like a “mini” Sika Manu if thats at all possible, strong and fast hard to tackle. Ive been a fan of his for years in the NYC

Is there a player you’d happily pay cab fare to ship to another club?

Hahaha all I will say is that the cab already arrived for him this year, just leave it at that.

What’s your prediction for side this season? What’s a pass mark for the club?

Definitely semi finals, depending on the origin period and some of the crazy fixturing we have got finishing top 3 would be a pass. I believe we can go back to back premiers this year and prob be up against Bulldogs or Manly.

Cronulla Sharks


Long suffering Sharks fans found some relief in the club’s first finest appearance since 2008. Whilst a red hot Canberra side ended their season, 2012 was a year that saw the club’s financial future secured with the passing of the club’s 300 million development proposal, the return to form of reformed bad boy Todd Carney and also the assembling of a squad that gives fans genuine belief that the Shire club can win its maiden premiership.

Panther’s legend Luke Lewis asked and was granted a release from the club and will play in the Black, White and Blue and will be joined by NSW representative and former Panther in Michael Gordon. Grand final winger Jonathan Wright gives the Sharks much needed height in the backline and the last minute recruits Chris Heington and the extremely positive Beau Ryan have joined the exodous from the Tigers to the Sharks. The Sharks have recruited extremely strongly but as we saw with the Titans last season, this does not always lead to immediate on field success.

As always captain Paul Gallen remains key to the Sharks chances of doing any damage come finals time but unlike previous seasons he has an impressive supporting cast. Lewis, Gallen and Heighington possess international experience. NSW hopeful Wade Graham, past NSW rep and fully fit Anthony Tupou along with Jason Bakuya combine to form perhaps the greatest back row in the competition.

The Sharks shouldn’t have too much trouble up front with either Paul Gallen expected to play plenty of footy in the middle of the pack joining Ben Ross, Andrew Fifita and 2012’s big improver Bryce Gibbs to form a formidable engine room.

The Sharks will be joining the additions of Wright, Gordon and Ryan will give their much maligned backline some bite in 2013. Todd Carney should be fully fit by round 2, if not round 1, and Jeff Robson played arguably his best season in 2012 so the outside backs should see plenty of quality ball.

Off field the Sharks have not only secured their financial future but they have turned the once damaged reputation of the club around to the point where current and future Origin players now sign happily for the club. On field the Sharks have put together a side that rated amongst the best but Sharks fans will not be totally happy until Paul Gallen raises that trophy for the first time.

Will 2013 be the year? Many Sharks fans have their porch lights turned on, although they might be a year and a quality centre short this season.

I spoke with 2 Sharks fans, Ryan and Wade about the Sharks chances of ending their premiership drought, the sponsorship situation and new recruits amongst other things:

First up the obvious question, is 2013 the year the Sharks break their premiership drought?

Ryan: Yes i think this is possibly the best lineup we have had ever, With Gallen, Lewis, Heighington, Carney, Graham, Gordon, Ryan, Gibbs, Fifita & Ross i cannot see a better line-up in any other team, the only one that comes close is maybe the Roosters and that’s only because they snagged Jennings.

#Premiers2013 #UpUp Cronulla

Wade: maybe not 2013 but this is the era of players to break the drought (within 4 yrs)

Are you at all worried that the club is currently without a major sponsor and has just lost Toyota as it’s ground name sponsor or is the club now in a good enough position to attract higher paid sponsorship opportunities?

Ryan: I think what the club has done is smart, most of those old sponsors were signed when we weren’t a premiership threat, we weren’t even a top 8 threat, now with the players we have recruited like Carney and Gallen they will get any company a lot of exposure, not to mention Beau Ryan with his efforts on the Footy Show is added Exposure,

i have no doubt we will secure a long term lucrative deal with a Global Company for the front of the jersey, and a great sponsor for our sleeve, and i for one am proud to be able to call it Shark Park again, it makes sense since we are the only club to own our Ground

Wade: not worried at all someone will want to come on board!

Todd Carney is currently injured and Paul Gallen is struggling with a staph infection that he admits has him feeling “not himself”. Do The Sharks have the players to start the year well without their two stars of 2012 being 100% fit?

Ryan: I think Gallen will be fit for round 1, and Carney can take the time he needs i think Chad Townsend will have a great start to the season which may see him earn the no7 jersey and maybe relegate Robbo to the bench or even NSW cup,

i am confident we will have a great start and Carney will come in when he is ready and Fire for the rest of the season

Wade: yeah we have real good depth in halves and back row so should be good

Who is the club’s most exciting young player?

Ryan: I am quite keen on Ratu Alipate Ratini, i think he could possibly earn himself a no5 Jersey this year. Also Michael Lichaa is also a gun who i think may get some time on the bench in 1st grade this year

Wade: Ricky Leutele or tyrone peachy

Is there a player you’d happily pay cab fare to ship to another club?

Ryan: I love every Sharks player we have but if there was one i think it would be Tupou, i dont think we have seen a return on investment on him at 420k a year, had we had his money this year we probably could have afforded Jennings which would turn our weak spot into one of our strongest (centre)

Wade: Ben Pomeroy

What’s your prediction for The Sharks this season? What’s a pass mark for the club?

Ryan: I predict Top 4 and a possible GF appearance and Trophy. I will give them a pass if we can make it to the final 4

Wade: Definitely top 4 and just playing good consistent footy all year round.

North Queensland Cowboys


The Cowboys had an amazing 2012, venturing into the second week of the finals where an experienced Manly side, and a few questionable decisions, ended their tilt at a maiden premiership. Matt Scott and James Tamou formed the best front row partnership in the game, allowing superstar 5/8 Thurston to produce of his best seasons yet.

A major key in 2012’s and future success lies in the club’s ability to kept the squad together. Tamou and Scott have resigned, the league’s most underrated centre Kane Linnett has also penned a new deal, however club captain Thurston is likely to be the focus of a multi club, cross code recruitment war.

Cowboy’s fans will hope the speculation does not derail their season, although Thurston is such a calm head the media etc should not affect his performances on field.

2013’s squad is extremely similar to that of 2012, only a few fringe first graders have exited or joined the club. Coach Neil Henry, who incredibly seems to face constant speculation over his future in the job, has a squad capable of outscoring any side in the competition on their day with Bowen, Linnett and especially Graham scoring tries for fun last season.

One event in the Cowboys future has the potential to distract the club from its premiership charge and that comes in the form of Robert Lui’s return to the NRL. Lui’s return, should it materialize will bring with it intense scrutiny and may see Henry spend just as much time talking to the media as he does talking to his players. Thurston once again is key, having reformed his image over the years. Under the guidance of Thurston, Lui will be given the best chance overcome the demons of his past.

Any fan would be happy to have a backline including Bowen, Tate, Linnett, Graham and Thurston, whilst Scott, Tamou and excitement machine Tariq Sims will lead the charge up front. It’s near impossible to see the Cowboys having a bad season, freak injuries or off field incidents aside, 2013 should be a good one for fans of the North Queensland side.

Cowboy’s fan @manxozee spoke on the Robert Lui situation, JT’s future and more:

What are your thoughts on a possible return to league by Robert Lui?

Re Robert lui, Tigers were right to sack him as violence against women must not be tolerated anywhere let alone in the NRL. I hope he has learnt his lesson, as I think he could be an asset to the Cowboys.

Can Ashley Graham continue his amazing try scoring form from 2012? If not, where are the tries going to come from?

Hopefully Ashley Graham will continue to score tries,he is a great player. I would love to see mango ( Bowen) get a few more. Brent Tate is always good for a try or two also. Looking forward to new signing Scotty Moore’s input too.

Will the expected speculation over JT’s future prove a distraction in 2012? How important is retaining Thurston? With Linnett and Scott also off contract, are you worried about a raid on the club?

I don’t think the JT debacle will impact too much,I just hope he stays!He and Bowen, I feel are the backbone of the team….. Other teams will always make offers for players, that’s something we have to live with.

Who is the club’s most exciting young player?

I’m unsure yet who I think is the clubs most exciting player,ask me again after a few games 🙂

Is there a player you’d happily pay cab fare to ship to another club?

There is no one I would happily pay the cab fare to another club, I love all my my team.

What’s your prediction for side this season? What’s a pass mark for the club?

I think we will get to the final this year ( video refs permitting)and a pass Mark for me would be ending up in top 3.

Sydney Roosters


Sonny Bill Williams!!! … All the talk during the off season has been about the return to rugby league of SBW. Whilst his return will no doubt generate increased membership and interest in the club, the Roosters are far from a one man team.

Last minute recruits in Michael Jennings and Luke O’Donnell round out an extremely successful off season for the Bondi Club. Trent Robinson has been appointed coach after the sacking of Bryan Smith who seemed to have lost the support of players, fans and club officials, giving the Roosters a fresh perspective and new ideas, something that should benefit them greatly.

Last season halfback Mitchell Pearce was relied on far too heavily and the addition of James Maloney should relieve some of the playmaking pressure from Pearce and allow him to be far more impactful this season. Maloney who had an up and down 2012 seemed to have one eye on the Roosters after signing for the club before a ball was kicked last season.

Robinson has added some much needed leadership to his pack in Luke O’Donnell. The former Cowboy will no doubt be looked upon as a mentor for younger players, especially considering the departure of Braith Anasta. JWH had a huge 2012 and will be looking to impress again with a world cup jersey on offer in October. Then … there is Sonny Bill.

Questions over Sonny’s on field impact remain. Has he healed up for his pectoral injury suffered whilst playing rugby in Japan? Will time away from the game impact on his early form? Is he becoming too distracted by other sporting commitments? Will he be targeted by opposition players? How will he respond to being targeted by opposition supporters?

You feel the answer to these questions will go a long way to determining the level of success this season. Just how rookie coach Robinson handles his big 4 signings will also prove to be key for the club. Although Jennings, O’Donnell and SBW bring tremendous football ability they also bring controversy and in SBW’s case, constant media scrutiny.

Plenty of questions need to be answered but one thing is for sure, a lot of eyes will be on the Roosters in 2013.

Earlier I had a quick chat with vocal Rooster’s fan Rick and asked him for his opinion on the club’s big name recruits, the rivalry with the Bulldogs and more;

Sonny Bill Williams, destructive superstar forward or media attraction distraction?

Destructive superstar forward. There will be people that hate him that will still enjoy watching him play.

Are you at all worried about rookie coach Trent Robinson, especially with the combustible elements within the squad in the form of Michael Jennings and Sonny Bill Williams?

No. Trent was a good influence when he was here back in 2010 & people more in the know than me have told me he was more responsible for making the GF than Smith.

Friday April 12, Round 6, Roosters vs Bulldogs. How big is that game for Roosters fans?

Bigger for dogs fans to go off their heads I’d say lol, but yeah it will be a big game like when Willie first played for us against them. Can’t wait!

Who is the club’s most exciting young player?

Boyd Cordner. As the cliche goes … “he could be anything”

Is there a player you’d happily pay cab fare to ship to another club?

Frank Paul Nuuasala.

What’s your prediction for The Roosters this season? What’s a pass mark for the club?

I predict a top four finish. Top 6 will be a pass mark for me, for others just a top 8 berth would be a pass.

Newcastle Knights


Opinions are divided amongst Newcastle fans about whether 2012 was a success, a failure or a pass mark. Super coach Wayne Bennett warned against those expecting instant success although a side boasting recruits in the form of former Kangaroo prop Kade Snowden, Clive Churchill medalist Darius Boyd and the most successful coach of all time would be disappointed to miss the 8.

Further boosted by Bennett favorites Beau Scott and Jeremy Smith as well as the return of captain Kurt Gidley, surely improvement on last season’s efforts will be delivered.

In Jarred Mullen and Kurt Gidley, The Knights have a halves combo with Origin experience and in Darius Boyd they have one of the best attacking fullbacks in the competition. Boyd had a poor 2012 by his own lofty standards but showed at times just how dangerous he can be.

Newcastle struggled to dominate games consistently last season but in Scott and Smith they have added much needed aggression. Smith was amongst the stand outs at Cronulla over the past 3 years and even captained the side in the absence of Paul Gallen. Beau Scott has been one of the Dragon’s best second rowers for years and no doubt played his best football under Bennett.

Newcastle’s backline looks a little thin outside of Boyd although the midseason recruitment of former Bronco’s bad boy Gagai proved a masterstroke. A lot will depend on the form of another former Origin player in Tahu. On his day he can dominate any centre battle but unfortunately for Knight’s fans those days were too few and far between in 2012.

You get the feeling a side containing Boyd, Mullen, Buderus and Gidley in its “spine’’ should have plenty of points in them, whilst the addition of Scott and Smith should add a defensive boost to a side that leaked far too many points last season. If Kurt Gidley can star fit and Bennett can continue to implement his winning culture at the club, no amount of speculation about owner Nathan Tinkler’s financial position should stop the club from improving on 2012.

Speaking with Knight’s fan Julie revealed her thoughts on the Nathan Tinkler situation, the club’s recruitment and much more:

Is the constant negative press regarding owner Nathan Tinkler’s financial position a distraction to players or worrying to fans?

Tinkler’s money issues have been of some concern to fans over summer but there have been plenty of reassurances re: the audit and Tinkler meeting his obligations under the ownership agreement. Obviously cannot speak for the Knights playing group, they’ll tell you it’s not an issue.

Was 2012 a success considering the arrival of Wayne Bennett, the return of international prop Kade Snowden and the recruitment of Clive Churchill medalist Darius Boyd?

2012 was disappointing from a Knights fan perspective. Darius Boyd never really got going until toward the end of the season and Kade Snowden was pretty similar however Wayne Bennett did warn before the season started not to expect a great deal from the Knights last season. Had some good wins and some really poor losses

With the additions of Smith, Scott and the return of Kurt Gidley, surely a considerable improvement in results is to be expected?

A big improvement in results is expected. Expect the Knights to be challenging for a spot inside top 4 or at least be inside the top 8 at the end of 26 rounds this season otherwise some serious questions will need to be asked about the playing group. Beau Scott and Jeremy Smith are great additions, Scott provides plenty of utility value given he can also play centre if needed.

Who is the club’s most exciting young player?

Very excited about a young hooker Adam Clydsdale, he is the grandson of Don “Bandy” Adams. Hoping to see him play some first grade this season but doesn’t appear likely with Travis Waddell seeming to be back up for Danny Buderus.

Is there a player you’d happily pay cab fare to ship to another club?

Adam Cuthbertson would have to be the player I’d like to see gone. Most games, he has hands like clapping seals.

What’s your prediction for side this season? What’s a pass mark for the club?

Prediction is 5th – 6th. Pass mark is making the finals. Nothing else will suffice this season.

Manly Sea Eagles


Technically the Eagles went backwards in 2012, having fallen one game short of having a chance to defend their 2011 title, but it’s hard to view a season in which the team played in a grand final qualifier whilst resigning its young superstar halves combo in a negative light.

Manly have managed to keep the majority of their squad together, with one giant exception, that being Tony Williams. Manly have failed to replace their damaging second rower but still boast a back row containing players of the quality of Watmough and Stewart. It must be said however that not all Manly fans are overly upset Williams has exited the club.

Out wide they fought off advances of the Titans to keep their number one strike weapon Jamie Lyon, who once again looms as the key to the Eagle’s chances of being there at the business end of the year. His centre pairing with Steve Matai has been a main stay of the successful last few seasons. Of course Brett Stewart remains meaning plenty of tries will be scored, especially at Brookevale Oval.

Rookie coach Geoff Toovey proved himself to be very capable at the NRL level and will look to further the good work of 2012. DCE and Foran proved that second year syndrome is not a foregone conclusion and considering what they have achieved at their young age, opposition teams would be frightened by just what these two can become.

Manly’s only concern is its aging side. Kite, King and co. are coming toward the end of their careers whilst younger players Lussick and Williams have moved on. Buhrer proved his worth as a utility last season, even earning a call up to the Blues Squad, however has been unable to nail down a starting position. Perhaps he will be called upon to step into the second row with the injury to Stewart.

It’s hard to see Manly continuing to be the force they have been in recent seasons however it is far from doom and gloom for the Manly club. A top 8 spot is very, VERY achievable however a top 4 finish might be beyond their reach in 2013.

Manly fan Tyler took the time to give us his thoughts on Geoff Toovey, Tony Williams and more:

Can the club continue to achieve success with an aging forward pack, and the loss of Tony Williams?

I believe we can, T-Rex really had minimal impact for manly last season, we’d practically lost him as soon as he signed and he missed a bucket load through injury.

Stewart is a big blow, but we have the youngsters to cover. Robertson is solid, Horo good and Buhrer a gun.

How do you rate Geoff Toovey’s 2012 as a coach? Can he get the best out of the players again in 2013?

This will be the year to rate him I believe. He took the reigns in tough circumstances last season. Did a good job but this is his year. He coaches as he played so that should make him a success.

Jamie Lyon’s off contract at the end of the season. Given his age and the reported huge offer from the Titans, should the club go all out to retain his services?

Club should push to keep him but Jamie shouldn’t break the bank. He is a genius and a star but without a cap increase we might have reached our limit with him.

Keep him but not at all costs. I’m confident he’ll want to stay.

Who is the club’s most exciting young player?

Huge raps on Michael Chee Kam. I’d like to see him succeed on the brilliant Brookvale turf!

Though we have a couple of talents coming through. Drinkwater to saints was a loss but with DCE and foz there wasn’t much for him to wait on.

Is there a player you’d happily pay cab fare to ship to another club?

Might make me unpopular but matai. Solid and cult fav – but liability at times and injuries and suspensions climbing.

What’s your prediction for side this season? What’s a pass mark for the club?

Injuries being kind (Gifty) out already for 10 weeks not helping,

I believe we can make 4/5th.

Pass would be into making the finals. I’d like to think the warhorses can make 6th or higher for a pass.

Canberra Raiders


If you ask 100 people before each season where the Raiders will end up the table, the majority will predict they’re going to win the wooden spoon, whilst others will confidently predict they’ll win the comp.

Each year Canberra start short price wooden spoon contenders, yet each year they smash expectations, even venturing deep into the finals.

Halfway through 2012 the Raiders were certain to miss the 8 and the club were lining up replacements for coach Dave Furner. Flash forward to week one of the finals and they’re putting The Sharks to the sword in front of a sold out vocal crowd at Canberra stadium. How will they fare in 2013?

Not a whole lot has changed in the off season squad wise with only Bronson Harrison of the established first graders leaving the club and with the absence of any big name signings. The return to the park of superstar Terry Campese should prove a huge bonus giving Furner the enviable headache of choosing a halves combination from Campese, Williams and McCrone.

Canberra have a young, quick and talented backline, and in Dugan and Ferguson especially they have the size and power to worry any opposing number. With youth sometimes comes errors, the latest being Blake Ferguson and co’s ejection from a music festival recently. Although many great players are not exactly angels off-field, Canberra need to ensure their players are fully focused on football if they’re to make an impact on the finals series in 2013.

In young gun Josh Papali the Raiders seem to have found an enforcer. Papali’s late season form, especially in his unsettling of the game’s premier forward Paul Gallen prompted both New Zealand and Queensland to seek his services.

Canberra’s two biggest stars in Dugan and Campese are both proven representative players but both have proven to be prone to injuries. The Raiders fortunes may very well lie in their ability to keep their star players fit for the majority of the season. If they are able to play the majority of games, with the development of young guns Papali, Ferguson and Earl, there is no reason the Raiders can’t be there fighting for a spot in the top 8.

Speaking with Raider’s fan Michael earlier, I got his opinion on the club’s discipline record, 2012’s amazing finals run and much more

Did the finals surge cover over problems within the club or did we not see the real Raiders until the final rounds of the season?

A bit of both I think. There were definitely some issues early in the season surrounding the future of David Furner and I think that may have and an affect. Campese and White sustaining serious injuries had a negative impact as they were part of the leadership group. But the potential was always there and I always knew what we were capable of. The late season surge was no surprise to me.

Are David Furner and the club tough enough on serial offenders Blake Ferguson and Josh Dugan?

No. I think serial offenders is a bit harsh. Josh has had a few issues with his driving but apart from that there hasn’t been any issues that i’m aware of. I thought the standing down of Duges and Fergo for a match last year was sufficient punishment, and the Fergo’s latest issue was dealt with in house.

Can David Campese and Josh Dugan stay fit this season? If not, is there a plan B?

I hope so. It’s been a long road back to fitness for Campo and it will take a while for him to regain his best but when he does we all know his quality. Duges has just had a bad run and hopefully he’s due some good luck. If 1 or both do go down, we proved last year we have more then enough depth to fill their roles. Sam Williams was outstanding at the back end of last year and is player with a massive future, while Josh McCrone may not be far away from a rep jumper. Reece Robinson showed last year he’s more then an adequate replacement for Duges, he was 1 of the form fullbacks in the comp when he had a go there, a player of freakish ability who would walk into most sides as 1st choice fullback.

Who is the club’s most exciting young player?

There’s a few. Big Edrick Lee made his 1st grade debut last season and showed he player of enormous potential. Anthony Milford who was instrumental in our toyota cup team’s charge to the GF is 1 to keep an eye on, reminds me of a young Benji Marshall. But for me the most exciting is Jack Wighton. Speed, ball playing ability and above all an outstanding defender.

Is there a player you’d happily pay cab fare to ship to another club?

Haha I’m happy with most of our squad but i’m not a huge Joe Picker fan. And Tommy Learoyd-Lahrs has been disappointing the last couple of years, his best may be behind him

What’s your prediction for side this season? What’s a pass mark for the club?

I think we can finish in the top 4. A pass mark would be the top 8, failure to miss the 8 would be huge disappointment after last season. We have had big seasons before and failed to follow up on it so that’s the challenge.

Brisbane Broncos


2012 saw the post Lockyer Broncos continue their amazing record of appearances at the business end of the season. Ultimately Brisbane went out to the Cowboys in week one but a finals appearance can be considered as a pass mark for a club dealing with the loss of possibly it’s best ever player. An inexperienced halves combination, a coach who is still well and truly learning and injuries to star backs Justin Hodges and Jiharal Yow Yet couldn’t keep the Brisbane club out of the finals.

Brisbane have lost and gained experience in the off season through the recruitment of Scott Prince and of course the retirement of Civoniceva.

Prince’s recruitment will surely add much needed direction to the side and Prince no doubt prove to play a mentor role for both Peter Wallace and Corey Norman. His kicking game will take pressure of Wallace who seemed to struggle at times in 2012.

Possibly the biggest shift to the line-up will come from star centre Justin Hodges who has said he is considering a switch to fullback. No doubt encouraged by the success of Greg Inglis’s positional change, Hodges will see much more ball at fullback. Brisbane’s post potent attacking weapon found himself out of the action quite a bit last season and a move to fullback would certainly bring him into the action if Prince and co cannot supply him with quality ball whilst playing in the centres.

Brisbane used 2012 to re-sign an extremely talented bunch of younger players, most notably Glen, Norman and MCullough, indicating that the post Lockyer era is a bright one.

The Broncos engine room still boasts an enviable mix of youth and experience, as well as size and ball playing ability. Sam Thaiday, Ben Hannant and Corey Parker only have to be fit to play Origin, and McGuire and Gillett may very well be right in the mix when the Queenslanders name their squad.

Scott Prince is back in Broncos colours after 8 years at the Tigers and Titans and will be looking to guide a talented bunch of players to big things in 2013. After only missing the finals once in the 15 years of the NRL, it’s hard to imagine the Broncos not being there or there abouts come round 26.

I spoke with Broncos fan sven86 about the post Lockyer era, Scott Prince and much more:

How did you rate 2012? Was there a post Lockyer slide?

Was definitely a transition year however I don’t think Thaiday as captain did as much as he’s capable of mainly due to playing through injury. We did miss the experience of Locky in some crunch games but on a whole I think the young guys did a pretty good job getting to the top 8! Injury hurt us as well as a lot of other teams though.

Is Scott Prince the man to lead the Broncos play making duties this season?

I personally rate Princey highly & a much better play maker than Wallace IMO! I think his experience will help the young boys find their feet & help gel the team as a whole.

Justin Hodges said he’d consider a move to fullback, is it worth moving the side’s best attacking weapon to maximize his involvement?

Hodgo could play anywhere & still fool the defense with that little shuffle step. As much as I’d love to give him more space at the back to run, I’m a little concerned with his injury record that he’ll be more of a target & possibly injured for the season. Hoping not though!

Who is the club’s most exciting young player?

We’ve got some awesome young talent coming through! Lachlan Maranta played a few games last season & is one to watch! Newbies on board this season are Jake Granville & Liam Georgetown with phenomenal skills! Both played in the Qcup final on opposing teams last season & have real talent!

Is there a player you’d happily pay cab fare to ship to another club?

Peter ‘run half a meter, short inside pass’ Wallace! I find him extremely predictable, boring & inconsistent!

What’s your prediction for The Broncos this season? What’s a pass mark for the club?

I think they’ll have a lot better defense with Stagg coming back & his experience along with Thaiday, who now has his shoulder fixed, Hannant & Parker will give our young guys a boost! I think Princey will add some unpredictability to our attack as well as an extra overlap for the centers & wingers with the way he runs the ball all over the field! I’m hoping he will actually cement the spot over Wallace with Corey Norman as his backup & with Macca as the main Hooker over Hunt! I don’t think anything below 4th is a pass mark for the Broncos after making the top 8 last season by the skin of their teeth!

Wests Tigers


The West Tigers look a far different club than in years gone by having said goodbye to premiership winning coach Tim Sheens as well as fan favorites Beau Ryan and Chris Heighnington.

Mick Potter has been given the job of proving Tigers management were correct to rap Sheens on the shoulder. Potter, who has literally hundreds of games less experience than the man he replaced has publically given superstar Benji Marshall more freedom in a move designed to take the pressure of his star half. Once again he and Farrah are absolutely key to the Tiger’s success in 2013 although Braith Anasta’s recruitment should add another experienced head and goes somewhere to replacing Gareth Ellis.

Much will be expected of Chris Lawrence, Lote Tiquiri and young Marika Koroibete in terms of finding the try line with 2012 stand out Beau Ryan moving on. In their Fijian wingers, the Tigers have one of the biggest wing pairings in the competition.

The Tiger’s recruitment has been solid, although only Anasta can be considered a “name” recruit. Balmain finished runner up in the NSW Cup and the NYC cup team belted Canberra to win the competition, proving depth should not be a problem at the joint venture club.

Big Keith Galloway and NSW 19th man Woods will be looking to stamp their authority on games to allow Marshall, Farrah, Miller, Moltzen and co. to run riot. Although they’ve lost Ellis, Heighnington and Ryaan, the Tigers side is still packed with talent both in attack and defense  Fans may have been upset with how 2012 ended but there should be plenty to cheer about in 2012 … Although the most realistic goal for Tigers fans is likely to be a lower top 8 finish.

It’s been a big off season for the Tigers. I spoke to @azsportza about the loss of crowd favorite Beau Ryan, the Tiger’s new coach and much more:

Were the Tigers correct in their decision to sack Tim Sheens? Is Mick Potter the man for the job?

Personally I think the Wests Tigers did make the right decision to “sack” Tim Sheens and then appoint Mick Potter. Wests Tigers were tipped to fail as a joint venture club, that is until they progressed and then won the 2005 NRL Grand Final. However, since then it’s been very mixed, and now 8 years on from that Grand Final, it was time for a fresh face at the helm.

Mick Potter worked his magic in the Super League and helped rebuild the Bradford Bulls and almost made the finals in 2012. Potter has a challenge on his hands, however in 2013, the side he has, the players he has aren’t really of his choosing. Tim Sheens and coaching staff would have had plans in place following the failure of the 2012 NRL season.

The loss of Beau Ryan and Chris Heighington, 2 popular players with players, fans and media alike, seemed to the majority of football fans, has the club made the correct decision there?

In an interview with the Footy Show, on Channel 9, Beau Ryan spoke about the top level management not being on the “same page” as himself and others. This of course was before Mick Potter was at the club. I think the club did make the correct call, if Beau Ryan was unhappy at the club, he rightly left when granted release. The worse thing the Tigers could have experienced is have an unhappy player who isn’t playing to his potential. Both players will hit good form at the Cronulla Sharks, a new coach, new system and a new club will help further their careers.

Do you think star players Benji Marshall and Robbie Farah have too much influence on the running of the club?

Firstly just a note, be careful spelling Robbie Farah’s surname, only one r in there.

It’s hard to comment as the Wests Tigers now have entered a new era under Mick Potter. However, like at every club there are senior players who the head coach and other staff will look to for advice or opinion on certain matters. At the end of the day, they are players playing for a club and not for themselves. I wouldn’t say they have too much influence, but they are stars and with that, comes power.

Who is the club’s most exciting young player?

After a horrible start to the 2012 season, I would have to say James Tedesco. He is a talented young fullback who showed his skills in the Toyota Cup in 2011 before training with the NRL squad in the 2012 pre-season. However, as history states, Tedesco injured his ACL in the round 1 match against the Sharks. He is recovered and will gain match fitness throughout the year. He is one to watch and he remains eligible for, the now, Holden Cup so I can see him getting confidence back, as well as in the NSW Cup before pushing up into the first grade side.

Is there a player you’d happily pay cab fare to ship to another club?

As in happily release from the club? If so, I don’t have any player on our current roster who I would be happy to see go to another club.

What’s your prediction for side this season? What’s a pass mark for the club?

We enter a new era at Wests Tigers now under head coach Mick Potter, 2013 will truly be a rebuilding season. Mick didn’t have too much say in the players currently under contract and he has been given these players to work with. It will be interesting to see the style of coaching he employs. It’s hard to say what the

pass mark would be, every support loves to see their club make the finals. But a pass mark for us this year would be consistency. Wests Tigers in recent years have hit a period of a season where the form would slump and we would go a losing streak before hitting form at the back end of the season heading into the finals. We can’t do that in 2013, we have the talent, if we play well all year with a poor middle patch, it will be a good year.

New Zealand Warriors


How can a side that contested the grand final in 2011 finish 3rd from bottom in the very next year? That is the question Warrior’s fans have been asking themselves. The once all conquering forward pack was bashed from pillar to post, the exciting outside backs became turnstiles in defense and the coach was shown the door before season’s end. Come to late rounds it looked as though the Warriors had given up.

Former Panthers coach Matthew Elliott has been given the challenge of rebuilding the club. His appointment was met with a mixed reaction from fans and players alike but he, at least publicly, has the support of his playing staff.

A small but successful recruitment drive was undertaken with QLD centre Dane Neilson, Storm premiership winning Todd Lowrie and the very experienced Thomas Leuluai joining the club. In Neilson the Warriors have an absolute weapon on the edges. He and Hurrell form a fearsome centre combo. Veteran Manu Vatuvei will be looking to atone for his disappointing 2012 and could be in for a damaging season if his venture into the boxing ring during the off season is any indication.

Halfback Shaun Johnson was a poster boy for second year syndrome in 2012 after his superb debut year. He and Leuluai will likely form the halves combo, one which will do so with high expectations. Mateo will play almost as a second 5/8 with his energetic running and clever offloads.

The 2013 Warriors side is almost bursting at the seams with talent, with the incredible NYC sides of recent years coming through, and a list of solid recruits joining the club, but this Warriors side will have to rediscover the heart and determination that took them so close to their maiden title in 2011.

James Maloney aside, the Warriors haven’t lost much in terms of regular NRL starters and have strengthened quite significantly. There really is no reason they shouldn’t improve on 2012’s results. If they aren’t able to produce the form of 2011, at least the press conferences should be fun.

2012 was a huge year for the Warriors for all the wrong reasons. I spoke with fans @thebenzed and @WellsNorthShore to get their thoughts on Matt Elliott, the moving of big games to Eden Park and more:

Is Matt Elliot the man to rebuild the Warriors after a disastrous 2012?

Wells: You could say this about most if not all teams in the NRL, but at the Warriors, talent clearly isn’t the issue. Many picked the Warriors to be amongst the elite of the competition in 2012, so what went wrong? we’ve heard plenty of reasons bandied about, but a lack of talent is never one of them. So can Elliot be the one to craft this talent into the force they have the potential to be? I really believe this is a difficult question to answer as an outsider. This group doesn’t need some sort of Rugby League genius to guide them to a championship, they need a coach who has the respect of the team and can utilize the immense talent he has at his disposal. If everyone is on the same page, then the team should be successful, we haven’t heard of any behind the scenes rifts, but then we aren’t likely to.

Benzed: Like many Warriors fans, Im uncertain about Elliot. I think many fans wanted a big name coach to be signed, and Im not sure Elliot has the pedigree to generate consistency in a young Warriors side. I want to see a mix of flare and composure that has taken the team to two grand finals.

How do you feel about the moving of the team’s first home game to Eden Park from Mount Smart stadium?

Wells: As much as Mount Smart may be considered the “home” of the Warriors, moving to Eden Park is clearly a good business decision, the Warriors at Eden Park for now still remains a novelty that attracts peoples interest. There’s an argument that the Warriors belong where they are because that’s where most of the Warriors fans are, but for me this raises a bit of a chicken or the egg situation, should the Warriors be out there because there are more League fans, or are there more League fans out there because of the Warriors? for me, I live nowhere near South Auckland and it’s a bit of a hike to get out there and many others are in the same boat because Auckland is so scattered out. Eden Park is a much more impressive stadium, from a spectator standpoint it’s far superior, for many Aucklander’s, aside from those in South Auckland, it’s easier to get to. If it brings in more money for the club to do the opener at Eden Park, if it brings more people to the game who wouldn’t normally attend and it makes it easier for me to get to the game, then I’m all for it.

Benzed: Moving games to Eden Park is a good idea to promote the game within Auckland. Traditionally, league is played mostly in South Auckland – with union dominating elsewhere in the city. Increased accessibility to games can only help the Warriors profile and fan base, and this is certainly the case at Eden Park. Eden Park is a far more modern facility too, so I am definitely in favour of it.

Does Sonny Bill hold that much star power to necessitate a move to a larger stadium

Wells: I don’t think Sonny Bill alone has that much star power, but Sonny Bill as part of a returning NRL season? that may necessitate a larger stadium. The NRL doesn’t need Sonny Bill, the competition is loaded with stars, Thurston, Inglis, Barba, Slater, Cronk, Hayne, Benji the list goes on and on. I’m excited for Sonny Bill’s return, I think the NRL is better for his return, but he’s just one of a plethora of names in a competition oozing with talent. Initially SBW’s return will no doubt generate a lot of curiosity, but once that curiosity is satisfied, SBW will just become another of the many talents the competition has to offer. The NRL is a big enough competition that it doesn’t need to latch on to SBW’s exploits in Rugby and Boxing, when it comes to Rugby League is SBW a bigger star than Inglis or Thurston? I don’t think so.

Benzed: SBW certainly is popular in NZ, and even those who dislike him are still interested. I would maintain the move to Eden Park is more about building more interest in central/northern suburbs. The Auckland Council has made it known that the future of Mt Smart Stadium is in doubt, so whilst SBW may increase attendance, its more a prelude for a likely venue shift down the road

Can Shaun Johnson rediscover his 2011 form? Who will partner him in the halves with Maloney moving to Bondi?

Wells: What I feel is often overlooked with Johnson is last year was his first full season in the NRL. Of course he came in during the 2011 season, but he didn’t actually debut until round 13, and of course they ended up making it to the final. 2012 was a more true taste of NRL reality for Johnson, enduring that 26 round schedule and not having a rosy season results wise, this will hopefully be a valuable lesson for him in his young career. A lot went wrong with the Warriors in 2012, and we can speculate about what happened behind the scenes and what players weren’t committed to the coaching and whether the coaching was bad until we go round and round in circles. Johnson clearly has the talent to be one of if not the best player in the competition, but he’ll need a platform to work from as well. For the most part I’m just writing off the entire 2012 season, it was a gigantic mess, come into 2013 with a clean slate and hopefully his talent will shine through again. I thought it was likely that Leuluai would partner Johnson in the halves, but the injury to Friend may change that. I’m still inclined to put Leuluai in with him, Tuimamave and Siejka both are young blokes with a lot of talent, but Johnson is still a young bloke himself. Leuluai in theory should be the perfect compliment to Johnson, the young, enigmatic superstar paired up with the more experienced, settled presence of Leuluai. Johnson puts on the show, while Leuluai does the hard work that so often goes unrecognized.

Benzed: Shaun Johnson is an exceptional talent, and theres no reason to expect he wont blossom in 2013. I expect Pita Godinet to partner him in the halves. He seems a solid player, but there will be more pressure on Shaun to deliver strong performances weekly. Maloney will be missed but the Warriors depth in the halves seems to be in exciting hands.

Who is the club’s most exciting young player?

Wells: The Warriors have been fortunate over the years to have a Kings ransom of young talent, which has lead to their great Under 20s success, however I don’t think there’s any debate that the crown jewel is Johnson. Hurrell made an emphatic entry into the NRL in his rookie year, people who follow the Juniors saw this guy just run straight over defenders like a tank but wondered if that could translate into the NRL. That question was answered fairly quickly as his destructive runs saw him immediately turn into one of the most prolific try scorers in the competition, but Johnson is on another level. The comparisons to Benji Marshall are more than worthy, he has all the talent to be the next Benji, if not better. The try on the Broncos in 2011 still stands out as one of the most outstanding tries in recent times, that’s the type of excitement we are talking about here. Will Johnson ever become the best player in the NRL? that’s a lofty goal, but there’s no denying that he’s one of the very elite few who have the potential to be that guy.

Benzed: Several obvious names are Shaun Johnson and Konrad Hurrell. However I think Glenn Fisiiahi could have a great season. Hes got electric speed and a real nose for the try line. 12 tries for the Fish! The club is in the hands of Shaun Johnson though, hes already one of the best in the game.

Is there a player you’d happily pay cab fare to ship to another club?

Wells: Like most fan bases, Warriors fans certainly have their whipping boys, if you move the guy out that everyone is lumping the blame on, then someone else will become the target. Last year Tupou seemed to be the one Warriors fans were wanting to see get the flick. For me, I can’t think of

anyone who I would actively want to see gone from the club entirely, but I do want to see the club take a hard stance on guys who aren’t performing, if you aren’t getting it done in top grade, we should have more than enough depth to have someone come in and take your place.

Benzed: No player I am dying for the Warriors to be rid of. I do feel the club overpays outside backs, of which we have great depth. I think bolstering the forward pack will be important to more constant success.

What’s your prediction for side this season? What’s a pass mark for the club?

Wells: The joke amongst Warriors fans for a long time has been that when you expect them to do well, they do poorly, when you expect them to do poorly, they do well. For a long time they were the type of team who’d lose to the bottom of the table, then turn around the next week and knock off the top team in the comp. It seems a lot of people are writing them off this year, so applying this warped logic, they should do pretty well. The NRL as a whole is so talented, every team on paper looks like they could make the top eight, injuries can ruin everything so quickly. Most worrying for me is that at present our half situation consists of a young Johnson who left a lot to be desired last year, and a question mark. Our starting hooker is already out for a while, as is one of our top props, but other teams have their problems also. I could see the team finishing anywhere between 6 and 10, and I’ll make a committed prediction by placing them at 8 and I think that will be a pass. The fans are over the inconsistency, they thought the 2011 final was a sign of a change in times, of a Warriors team that was ready to be a consistent competitor for a title and the 2012 season let them down. Anything less than a playoff spot is going to be a disappointment, even with the question marks, even with a new coach.If Warriors fans are accustomed to inconsistency, they are also accustomed to knowing that the Warriors can NEVER be counted out, so if they can squeak into the playoffs, even in the 8th spot, then Warriors fans will be feeling good about the teams chances in the playoffs.

Benzed: A pass season for me would be seeded between 5-8 in playoffs. There are too many good players and game changers to miss the post season again, but the young side requires more experience to knock off the likes of Canterbury, Souths, Melbourne and Brisbane. As long as we improve, I would envision a good chance at a title in the next 5 years.

Gold Coast Titans


2012 is a season Titans fans will want to soon forget. Off field they were put under the pump in regards to huge debts accumulated by the league’s club arm of the club and on field they suffered heavy defeats and were out of top 8 contention far too early for 2012 to be viewed in a positive light. Club captain Scott Prince headed north to join Brisbane, capping off a forgettable season for the Gold Coast side.

In amongst the doom and gloom came a shining light in the emergence of young half Aiden Sezer. The Titans were also able to bring local boy Dave Taylor back home for the next 4 years. The move should suit both player and club after Taylor’s mixed 2012, with the player himself admitting to the difficulty of being so far away from home.

Partnering the exciting Sezer this season will likely be Albert Kelly. Serious bad boy Kelly has shown incredible potential at more than one club but off field behavior has proven his undoing at three different clubs. John Cartwright is known for his high expectations in terms of player behavior and has surely provided Kelly with his last chance at the NRL level.

Whereas the Titans lack experience in the halves, they have no such problem up front with Origin representatives Luke Bailey, Ash Harrison, Greg Bird, Nate Myles and Dave Taylor. He Titans cannot rely on Nate Myles as much as they did in 2012 and Dave Taylor will be expected to take pressure off his fellow Queenslander.

Jamal Idris and Beau Champion failed to live up to expectations last season. Beau Champion has returned to South Sydney leaving Idris to ignite a stuttering Titans backline. At times he showed why the Titans were willing to outlay such a large amount of money on him but he will be expected to be far more consistent in 2013 and fans will look to him to create chances outside.

Youth in key positions in the form of Zillman, Sezer, Kelly and Srama means Titans fans can expect another tough yet exciting season ahead. These players will need to learn quickly if the Titans are to play finals football. In Myles, Bird, and Taylor they possess three attacking weapons capable of wreaking havoc on any opposition. This season could really go either way for the Titans but a lack of experience in key positions may prove too much to overcome. There are bright times ahead, but 2013 looks like a rebuilding season for the Gold Coast side.

How much will the loss of club captain Scott Prince hurt? Who will step up and take over leadership in terms of playmaking duties?

Aiden Sezer I don’t think the loss of prince has effected the titans in the off season got 3 good potential halfbacks to do the job!

Will Jamal Indris justify his price tag this season?

Yes he will hoping for a much better season than his debut season for the titans.

Is the club’s financial situation worrying to fans? Will it effect results?

Yes it has worried fans like me tbh also it hasn’t effected our on field performance

Who is the club’s most exciting young player?

Matt Russell & prop Oliver Percy both NYC

Is there a player you’d happily pay cab fare to ship to another club?

maybe ben ridge

What’s your prediction for side this season? What’s a pass mark for the club?

Anywhere in the top 8 would be an achievement

St George Dragons


2012 proved that life after Bennett may be tough. Dragons fans who have come to expect great success come September had to settle for just missing the top 8 whilst saying goodbye to club legends Ben Hornby and Dean Young as well as losing Beau Scott to the Newcastle.

Dragons officials chose to develop from within, adding only fringe first graders Bronson Harrison and Tyson Frizell, NYC prospect Drinkwater and the constantly improving Beale to their ranks.

Just who will join Jamie Soward in the halves could be of interest as Nathan Fien and young Drinkwater will likely battle it out for the halfback spot after the long-term injury to Stanley, Hornby’s likely replacement. Soward himself will be hoping for a far more consistent 2013 after struggling to re-find the form that earned him an Origin call up.

Mick Weyman returns from injury to lead the side up the middle with fellow Blue’s rep Trent Merrin. In Beau Scott the Dragons have lost an enforcer and a lot will be expected of new club captain Ben Creagh and former Raider Bronson Harrison.

The Dragons strength will surely come in the form of its back 3, Beale, Nightingale and 2012 stand out Brett Morris. Beale is likely to get first crack at fullback but all 3 can and have done the job in the past. Morris, without a doubt the Dragons best player in 2012 will again be the main man when it comes to 4 pointers. His ability to find the line even in a struggling Dragons outfit is outstanding.

Young hooker Mitch Rein will look to build on his solid 2012. Rein provided a bright light in the role of number 9, growing from a fringe player to the Dragon’s first choice at hooker. Although Fien may spend some time at number 9 to allow Drinkwater to play first grade, Rein looks like the man most likely to be the club’s long term solution.

Steve Price’s job has been the focus on speculation with the Dragons public attempts to lure Craig Bellamy from Melbourne, and he will likely need a positive start to the season to truly feel safe in his role. Dragons fans were spoilt under Bennett and they demand success. If the Dragons start slow, Steve Price may be a mid-season casualty and the Dragons may find themselves in a dreaded “rebuilding year”.

Dragon’s fan the codexmaster took some time out to answer a few questions regarding the post Bennett era, the loss of Young and Hornby and much more.

Are you worried about the loss of experienced players in the form of Scott, Young and Hornby?

Yes, we lose a bit of mongrel in Scott, a guy who will always give it his best but hopefully De Belin can make up for it and also that worker mentality that Dean Young had. Hornby is the biggest loss of the three, he could take pressure off Soward, use his running game to effect and was good defensively for a halfback. Its time to move on and let some young players into the main team.

Has there been a post Bennett hangover?

Yes, going from Champions three seasons ago to not making the finals is proof. It was expected though.

Does the fact home games are split between different home grounds help or hinder membership numbers?

I think it helps, we have the Sydney/Kogarah fanbase and the Gong/Illawarra fan base so two areas to draw from. Last I heard we have over 15,000 members, which is third behind the Bunnies and Broncos. I think success is the main drawcard.

Who is the club’s most exciting young player?

De Belin is an obvious choice, doesn’t mind doing the hard yards, a gutsy worker and can improve his offensive game. Im looking forward to see what young half Josh Drinkwater can do this season after coming over from Manly (stuck behind Cherry-Evans & Foran). He’s got a chance to earn a starting spot in the halves, he’s got big wraps from a lot of people so hopefully he can deliver the goods.

Is there a player you’d happily pay cab fare to ship to another club?

No, I would have said Latimore last season, I don’t know why any club signs this guy to be honest. Soward has to step up this season though as he could be in the cab if he goes through another poor season.

What’s your prediction for The side this season? What’s a pass mark for the club?

I wish I could say Top 4 but to make the finals will be a pass mark for the club, we have a young and new players in the key positions (the spine) so its going to be tough. Bringing in Beale and Harrison were good moves as well, if we can make the Top 6 we will be doing very well.

Parramatta Eels


2012’s wooden spooners Parramatta have turned to former NSW coach Ricky Stuart to guide them away from the NRL’s most unwanted “prize”. To say 2012 was a disappointment is a drastic understatement as a team featuring Hayne, Sandow and Hindmarsh would expect to at least make a run at the 8.

Stuart’s job won’t be made easier by the retirements of club legends Luke Burt and Nathan Hindmarsh, the latter being club captain and arguably the heart and soul of the club in recent seasons.

The Eels will need to rely on the troops they had in 2012 as only one recruit in Darcy Lussick could be considered an NRL regular.

So how does a club that came last in 2012 and has a very similar side, minus two club legends expect to improve on last year? Belief! Belief that Ricky Stuart can push the current roster to fulfill its potential. 3 of Hayne’s best games last season were under Stuart for NSW whilst Sandow will surely benefit from having a coach who understands the ins and outs of the halfback position.

Reni Matua aside, Parra’s forward pack were battered in 2012. A pack including Kiwi rep MoiMoi, Origin rep Tim Mannah and veteran Ben Smith will be extremely eager to right the wrongs of last year. Lussick should slot straight in and may prove to be one of the bargains of the year.

Stuart has a huge job ahead of him but Parra have the players to stay well clear of a second straight wooden spoon. Whether Stuart can succeed where Kearney and co couldn’t is one of 2013’s big talking points. One can’t help think that the Eel’s failure to lure Israel Folau may prove to be a “gigantic’ loss.

@Ricky_A1 – Ricardo was happy to share his thoughts on incoming coach Ricky Stuart, the Eels future and much more:

Is Ricky Stuart the man to lead the Eels from the wooden spoon to future glory?

The optimist in me as an Eels fan says that we can eventually get to future glory, but I think a lot will depend on how the players perform and the cohesion they play with under Stuart. Realistically, if all players play to their ability, they have a side on paper to at least challenge for the 8.

Can the Eels overcome the loss of Hindmarsh and Burt? Who will step up to fill the void?

Immediately, it won’t be easy to overcome their loss, but in time, it’s very possible. Backs wise, I can see Ken Sio stepping up on the wing and Matt Ryan as the man to fill the void left by Hindmarsh.

Jarryd Hayne, fullback or 5/8th? Has he got the support he needs to return to Dally M winning form?

At this stage, definitely fullback. I think he does, it’s a question of finding his feet once again and producing the footy we know he can, all whilst getting the right support from his team-mates. If he starts well especially, he’ll be a chance for the Dally M.

Who is the club’s most exciting young player?

Of those currently in first-grade, probably Ken Sio, I’d say. Outside of first-grade, Kelepi Tanginoa.

Is there a player you’d happily pay cab fare to ship to another club?

I’m often not overly critical of players (at least not to the point to ship them to another club), but at this stage, I can’t think of anyone that I would.

What’s your prediction for The Eels this season? What’s a pass mark for the club?

Optimistically, the premiership! Realistically, the potential is there to be a top 8 side if all things go well and there’s cohesion, confidence & a good attitude by the side. A pass mark under Stuart is anywhere from 8th to 10th for mine in his first year.

Penrith Panthers


Penrith have recruited a full run on side worth of players, but the most notable aspect of the Panthers comings and goings is the loss of Luke Lewis, Michael Gordon and Michael Jennings.

Gus Gould and Ivan Cleary have cleared the decks to allow themselves a big play at superstar Thurston and other superstars off contract at season’s end… But what about 2013?

Recruits such as Naiqama, Brown, Whare and co. are very capable NRL players but are unlikely to excite fans, although in Sika Manu the Panthers have recruited perhaps the most underrated player to be involved in Melbourne’s amazing run.

The feelings at the foot of the mountains is that greener pastures lie ahead but that 2012 could be a very long season. There is no doubt Gould is one of the best football minds in the business, and Cleary has proven his coaching pedigree by guiding the Warriors to a grand final before moving to Penrith. The plan is obviously in place. The club has a war chest to attract superstar signings for 2014 and beyond and the club’s junior player nursery is amongst the best in the country.

Do Panthers fans have the patience to sit through a lean year or two before these plans come to fruition? In Coote, Kingston, Tim Grant and Sika Manu the Panthers have players more than capable of winning games for the Panthers however the Penrith side is arguably the only side in the competition without a genuine world class superstar in their ranks.

For the Panthers to make a run at the 8 in 2013 someone is going to have to stand up and be that superstar. Kingston’s leadership will be put to the test as the Panthers put their pride in youngsters and fringe players from other clubs, but Kingston has never let anyone down in the past and it’s hard to see him doing so this season.

The future is bright at Penrith, however 2013 may not be Panthers fans look back on fondly. The true result of Gould’s plan probably won’t be seen for a year or two, but until then, avoiding the wooden spoon should be the Panthers first goal.

I was lucky enough to speak to the always forthcoming League Freak who was happy to share his opinion on the club’s recruitment, 5 year plan and more:

How do you feel about the loss of Luke Lewis, Michael Gordon and Michael Jennings? Is the club putting all of it’s eggs in the Jonathan Thurston basket?

I have no problems with losing Gordon. I think Lewis left because he could get a bigger deal elsewhere. I do have a problem losing Michael Jennings simply because in 2013 season tickets were sold with the idea that he would be part of the side and now he is playing for the Roosters. As for Thurston, I think spending over $1 million per season on a halfback the wrong side of 30 is a crazy idea. We might luck out, he might be well worth the money and play great for us. However halfbacks his age fall off a performance cliff, without exception. He is due to do that while being the highest paid player at the club by some way. I have a problem with that.

Are you happy to accept the clubs 5 year plan? An exciting bunch of youngsters and increasing salary cap space, is it going to work?

I personally don’t think it will take five years. The club can’t just promise success in five years time. They have to put a team out there worth watching. I think we are luckier than most clubs in that we have a history of producing top class talent of our own, but you have to supplement that talent with smart buys from outside the club as well.

In Lewis and Jennings the club lost it’s 2 “superstars” who is going to step up?

Its hard to say right now. Both Lewis and Jennings are top class players. Jennings in particular will be hard to replace. You’d have that we have some youngsters that can step up.

Who is the club’s most exciting young player?

I’d have to go with Josh Mansour. He showed a lot of promise last season on the wing. He is a hard ball runner and I have a feeling he will end up playing a fair few games at fullback this season.

Is there a player you’d happily pay cab fare to ship to another club?

Clint Newton. An average player that shouldn’t be anywhere near our first grade side.

What’s your prediction for side this season? What’s a pass mark for the club?

I tend to think we will finish around 12th place. We don’t have too many strike players, I think Luke Walsh is likely to struggle again this season and our depth may also be an issue. There isn’t a great deal to look forward to in 2013 if you are a Panthers fan. But hey, at least we are paying Michael Jennings a lot of money to play for the Roosters!

Liked it? Take a second to support League Freak on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!

Leave a Reply