Here is my guide to this years NRL, which starts this weekend.
A new coach for the first time in twenty years. Will the loss of Wayne Bennett effect them? Probably. Expect them to miss the finals this year, despite the recruitment of Israel Folau, and having some genuinely talented backs in Lockyer and Hodges. Don't have the forwards as in the past, to do any damage at the back end of the season.
Another club with a new coach. They can't get much worse than last season, so expect improvement. Have recruited strongly, bringing in players such as Hannett and Kimmorley. Won't be enough to get them to the top eight, however.
Have built a team from scratch over the last few years, and are now solid performers. Will be again this season. But lack the star quality to push up into the top eight. Have lost Neil Henry to North Queensland. No star quality and a new inexperienced coach, means no top eight.
Their third season in the NRL and have been solid since their inception. Have lacked depth to make it to the eight in the past and i fear the same fate may await them this year. A clever play maker in Scott Prince, but they struggle without him. Opposition sides know this and will target him. A very good coach in John Cartwright. They will push hard for the eight, but miss by one place.
Oh yeah, it just had to happen. A new season just about to kick-off and a sexual assault scandal breaks out. Want to know when the season is starting, you know what to look for in the papers! And this year it is Manly that have to deal with the problems associated with this type of behaviour. Will the media attention hamper their campaign? Will their boardroom battles take it's toll on the players. Disenchantment at the top, must surely filter it's way down the ladder eventually. Manly are in a muddle, as what to do with Brett Stewart. On one hand he is yet to be found guilty, on the other hand it is not a good look keeping a player on the park that has been accused of this type of crime. They will still be better than most. I had them number one, until this controversy happened. Not now.
I keep mentioning coach's, and for very good reason. Good coaches get good results, poor coaches do not. Luckily for Melbourne, they have one of the very best in the game, which in turn helps to get great players to shift to an unpopular rugby league destination.And with the like of Inglis, Smith, Slater and Cooper Cronk, they certainly do not lack for firepower. Will be somewhere near the top of the table, but have lost Folau, Geyer and Crockett, which may bring them back to the pack slightly. Got caught out by the grapple tackle last year, with a concerted campaign against them by rivals. Will have to find new ways to bend the rules this year and reinvent themselves.
A club on the rise. Life after Andrew Johns started with a clean out last year, with recruitment aimed at building for the future. Only just missed out on the eight. Will sneak in this year, despite loosing Buderus. Alot hangs on Kurt Gidleys young shoulders, but he is a class player.
Canberra's loss is North Queensland's gain. Neil Henry is a class coach and just watch this mob with a flair for attack, dazzle this year. Down at the bottom last year, expect them to ease into the eight reasonably comfortably this time around.
No major recruitment which means same players as last season. Will this mean same attitude? Jarred Hayne has been moved to stand-off. A good move, allowing new coach,Daniel Anderson to exploit Haynes's size, footwork and attacking talent. Will definitely improve under Anderson's tutelage. The guy can coach.
So much talent and so little to show for it.One of the best props going around in Cinecevoa, but one man can only do so much. Does Matthew Elliot have the full support of his board, and for that matter, the players as well. He hung onto his job at the end of last season. They should have either, got rid of the coach or clean out the playing personnel. Too often player power means it is the former. A pity, that.
So often great players don't make it as coaches at the highest level. Brad filter did a mighty job last season trying to disprove this. He has made the transition with ease. Much will depend on halfback, Mitchell Pearce.
One of the best defences going around. Will be the same this season. Have bolstered their attack, with the acquisition of Trent Barrett. He has individual brilliance, but does he have the nous to organises an attack as a team? They have lost Kimmorley. A major blow, due to his organisational skills and kicking game. An abrasive coach in Stuart. How many seasons until the players tire of his intensity?
Thirty-seven years since they have won a premiership. Expect that to be extended to thirty-eight. I have them slated for thirteenth, and maybe I'm being a bit harsh, as they do have genuine talents in Sandow and Sutton. They have recruited speed in Wesser as well. Just cannot see them getting to the eight with the forward pack they possess.
Who the hell would know what's going to happen with this lot! They have to be watched, because of the Wayne Bennett factor. Though, rumour has it, that he hasn't smiled since June 5Th 1975 at 4.38pm. Well, with this bunch it could be another thirty-three and a bit years before we finally see him smile. What, with the mistakes they are capable of and the just plain dumb football at times. Then, just when you give up on them as a force, they do something brilliant. I have them to finish 6th. They could go higher because of bennett or they could miss the eight. who really knows!
Brilliant halfback in Marshall. Can win a match single handidly, or set the backline alight. Problem is though, they have the smallest pack in the comp. Which means, take them on up the middle of the ruck and they are going to struggle, despite their attacking brilliance.
Another former player making a good fist of the coaching gig, in Ivan Cleary. And he has built a team that is finally poised to give the premiership one hell of a rattle. A top class leader in Price, and he is ably backed up in the front row by Rapira and tuamavavei. Second rowers and backrowers that can play eighty minutes if required. Means more flexibility with interchange. In Mautilino, a player that can break the line. And if the British immigration just cooperate a little and deny Greg Eastwood a work visa, then they may just have found the extra attacking ability to go with Mautilino. And this is where it gets good for the Warriors. Wait for it...... they have a game breaker in the halves finally, in Stacey Jones. The backline has endless possibilities in attack. McKinnon needs to stay injury free. He is the teams x-factor. And, there is depth in all positions. There will be no resting on their laurels. I had The Warriors at two, with them playing Manly in the grand-final. But, with recent developments, i think they are ready to go one better, with manly slipping back down the ladder a touch.