2013 NRL Season Preview Part 2

Image courtesy of dailytelegraph.com.au
It could be another long season for the Eels. Image courtesy of dailytelegraph.com.au

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Manly Sea Eagles

Ins: Richie Fa’aoso (Storm), Justin Horo (Eels), Michael Chee Kam (Raiders)
Outs: Tony Williams (Bulldogs), Darcy Lussick (Eels), Daniel Harrison (Eels), Dean Whare (Sea Eagles)

Strengths: In Kieran Foran and Daly Cherry-Evans the Sea Eagles probably have the best young halves pairing in the competition. With rugby league immortal Andrew Johns on board at the club to work with the pair, they can be expected to be even smarter this season and will give opposition coaches all sorts of problems.

Weaknesses: The loss of Tony Williams is a huge blow to the Sea Eagles and has been compounded by the injury to his former backrow partner Glenn Stewart, who will miss the first six weeks of the season with a knee injury. Manly doesn’t have the depth of a lot of other clubs in the competition and could struggle if they lose any more key players for prolonged periods as the season goes on.

Prediction: Manly has consistently been one of the best teams in the competition over the past five or six seasons and finished fourth last year, but could struggle to make an impact in 2013. There is even a chance that they could miss the top eight.

Betting: Premiers    Top 4    Top 8     Miss Top 8   Most Season Losses

Brisbane Broncos

Ins: Scott Prince (Titans), David Stagg (Bulldogs), Denan Kemp (Dragons)
Outs: Gerard Beale (Dragons), Ben Te’o (Rabbitohs), Petero Civoniceva (retired)

Strengths: The Broncos ranked third in 2012 for metres gained (1406.1m per game) and their forward pack remains one of the best in the competition, even with the retirement of Petero Civoniceva. Ben Hannant is one of the best props in the game and Josh McGuire is a representative player in waiting. Corey Parker and David Stagg are two of the most reliable backrowers in the game and are the perfect foil for skipper Sam Thaiday, who will be determined to have a big year after letting his standards slip last year.

Weaknesses: Although Scott Prince brings some much needed experience to the Broncos backline, Brisbane still lacks the dynamic halves combination that a club needs to win the premiership. Prince has lost some of the cunning and guile that made him one of the most dangerous players in the competition a few years ago, while Peter Wallace is a solid, if not spectacular player.

Prediction: The Broncos only just snuck into the finals in eighth place last season and have lost a lot of experience from the squad that got them there. Brisbane invariably has new faces emerge every season, but if they don’t, they could struggle to finish in the top eight. 

Betting: Premiers    Top 4    Top 8     Miss Top 8   Most Season Losses

Canberra Raiders

Ins: Joel Edwards (Knights), Jake Foster (Bulldogs)
Outs: Bronson Harrison (Dragons), Michael Chee Kam (Sea Eagles)

Strengths: The Raiders probably boast the biggest front row in the NRL, with David Shillington, Tom Learoyd-Lahrs, Dane Tilse and Brett White in the ranks. All of them are capable of making big metres and forcing opposition defences to commit a lot of players to bring them down. If they play to their potential, Canberra’s backline will have plenty of space to move.

Weaknesses: Canberra has struggled to keep its best players on the park in recent seasons, with Terry Campese and Josh Dugan both plagued by injury problems. Campese has played just eight matches over the past two seasons, while Dugan missed nine matches last year and 11 the season before. If either of those two miss a big chunk of the season, it could be a long year in the nation’s capital.

Prediction: Despite making the finals last season with several important players missing a lot of footy, it is hard to see them finishing in the top half of the table at the end of this campaign given a number of clubs that finished below them in 2012 have recruited strongly in the off-season. 

Betting: Premiers    Top 4    Top 8     Miss Top 8   Most Season Losses

Source: Getty Images/heraldsun.com.au
The Raiders will be hoping Terry Campese's injuries worries are behind him. Source: Getty Images/heraldsun.com.au


Gold Coast Titans

Ins: Dave Taylor (Rabbitohs), Albert Kelly (free agent)
Outs: Bodene Thompson (Tigers), Scott Prince (Broncos), Michael Henderson (Dragons), Beau Champion (Rabbitohs)

Strengths: New recruit Dave Taylor is one of the most dangerous wide-running ball carriers in the NRL and he joins a backrow that already contains the likes of Ashley Harrison, Nate Myles and Greg Bird. Add to the mix promising youngsters Ryan James and Ben Ridge and it is obvious where the Titan’s strength lies.

Weaknesses: The loss of Scott Prince is likely to be one that has a profound effect on the Gold Coast. Not only will they miss the former skipper’s experience, but the Titans also have to find a new man to partner second season player Aidan Sezer in the halves. Albert Kelly could have first crack at the gig having impressed during the offseason, but it will be awfully hard for John Cartwright to get his side to finish in the top half of the table without an experienced head pulling the strings.

Prediction: The Titans had a year to forget in 2012 with the club embroiled in a series of off field problems that must have affected the side’s performance. In spite of that, the Gold Coast was just two wins out of the top eight and they will probably just miss the finals again this time around. 

Betting: Premiers    Top 4    Top 8     Miss Top 8   Most Season Losses

New Zealand Warriors

Ins: Thomas Leuluai (Wigan), Dane Nielsen (Storm), Todd Lowrie (Storm),
Outs: Lewis Brown (Panthers), James Maloney (Roosters), Michael Luck (retired)

Strengths: It was only two years ago that the Warriors got to the grand final so there is obviously plenty of talent at the club for coach Matthew Elliott to work with. Halfback Shaun Johnson and fullback Kevin Locke are capable of making something from nothing, while powerful centre Konrad Hurrell is just one of the young stars to come through the Warriors hugely successful NYC teams.

Weaknesses: Although they play three of their opening five matches at home, New Zealand has a tough start to the season. Shaun Johnson and Nathan Friend will miss the start of the campaign with respective arm and shoulder injuries, while there are other players likely to be sidelined as well. If they are behind the eight-ball from the start, it will be hard to make up ground.

Prediction: The Warriors could hardly have fallen any further last season when slipping from second to third from bottom and it could be another tough season for the team from across the ditch, who are most likely to miss the top eight. 

Betting: Premiers    Top 4    Top 8     Miss Top 8   Most Season Losses

St George Illawarra-Dragons

Ins: Gerard Beale (Broncos), Michael Henderson (Titans), Bronson Harrison (Dragons)
Outs: Ben Hornby (retired), Dean Young (retired), Beau Scott (Knights)

Strengths: The Dragons boast a formidable front row, with rising star Mitch Rein packing down between Michael Weyman, Dan Hunt and Michael Henderson. They made the fourth most metres of any club in the competition last season and have several promising young forwards coming through the ranks as well so will rely on taking plenty of ground in the middle of the park. The move of Origin prop Trent Merrin to lock shows just how much depth the St George has in the position.

Weaknesses: Scoring points was a big problem under Steve Price last year when they averaged the fewest points per game in the competition (16.9) and things might not be any better this campaign. Doubts remain over Jamie Soward’s ability at this level – let alone State of Origin – and he is likely to be partnered in the halves by either Nathan Fien (who has won the seven jersey just five times in three seasons), or rookie Josh Drinkwater.

Prediction: The Dragons missed the finals for just the second time in nine seasons last year and are likely to spend another season in the wilderness given that they couldn’t make the top eight last year and they have been weakened during the off-season. 

Betting: Premiers    Top 4    Top 8     Miss Top 8   Most Season Losses

Source: Brett Costello/foxsports.com.au

Jamie Soward has the responsibility of getting the Dragons back into the top eight. Source: Brett Costello/foxsports.com.au


Parramatta Eels

Ins: Darcy Lussick (Sea Eagles), Daniel Harrison (Sea Eagles)
Outs: Luke Burt (retired), Nathan Hindmarsh (retired), Justin Horo (Sea Eagles), Justin Poore (Wakefield), Casey McGuire (retired)

Strengths: Jarryd Hayne. The superstar fullback single handedly got the Eels to the 2009 NRL grand final and he is without a doubt one of the best players on the planet when at the top of his game. If he is on song, Parramatta could surprise everyone.

Weaknesses: Apart from Hayne, Parramatta lacks quality right across the field. The loss of Nathan Hindmarsh is one that they will struggle to overcome and the players signed to replace him are not in the same league. Not only will the Eels miss his hard work in the middle, but they will also miss his experience – and that of Luke Burt.

Prediction: Contrary to what some people want to believe, Ricky Stuart is not the messiah, and is unlikely to turn things around for the Eels. They were by far the worst team in the competition last year and haven’t shown many signs of improvement in the pre-season. They will miss the top eight and could well end up with another wooden spoon. 

Betting: Premiers    Top 4    Top 8     Miss Top 8   Most Season Losses

Penrith Panthers

Ins: Lewis Brown (Warriors), Sika Manu (Storm), Wes Naiqama (Knights), James Segeyaro (Cowboys), Mose Masoe (Roosters), Dean Whare (Sea Eagles)
Outs: Michael Jennings (Roosters), Travis Burns (Hull KR), Michael Gordon (Sharks), Luke Lewis (Sharks)

Strengths: With the recruitment of James Segeyaro from the Cowboys, Penrith has two very good dummy half options for this season. In skipper Kevin Kingston they have one of the hardest working and most honest players in the competition, while Segeyaro will come off the bench to give the side some impetus and look to take advantage of tiring defenders.

Weaknesses: There is no hiding the fact that the Panthers will be hit hard by the loss of their three star players in the off season. The loss of representative stars Jennings, Gordon and Lewis has not been covered (and probably can’t be) and with them gone, just nine of the 26 players that took the club to 2nd on the ladder in 2010.

Prediction: The Penrith Panthers are going through a rebuilding phase at the moment and things are unlikely to be any better than last season, when they finished second bottom. Without a real star in its ranks, Penrith could well finish at the foot of the table.

Betting: Premiers    Top 4    Top 8     Miss Top 8  Most Season Losses

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