By Stephen Gallagher
The NRL season is just around the corner. It’s been too long and I missed it so much. I’ve had to resort to other things like socialising and knitting over the summer to get me through my withdrawal symptoms. Let’s just say I am bloody glad it’s back. I need you, NRL.
Below are my selections for the top eight this year. More than likely completely wrong like always, but from what’s gone on from last season all through the off season, this is how I see the year playing out.
8. New Zealand Warriors
The Warriors have a long road to redemption this season after what you could describe last season’s effort as ‘terribad’. With a new coach in Matt Elliott, and some quality players adding to the depth this club has already had for quite some time due to a successful Holden Cup side, there is really no reason not to succeed. Experience in key positions with Todd Lowrie at lock and Thomas Leuluai slotting in the halves. Always an exciting team to watch when they are on. A lot to prove.
7. Newcastle Knights
The Knights suffered some injuries to key players in 2012 which hampered their efforts in consistent footy. Recruitment for this season balances out the loss of plenty of players last year. This just means there are plenty more opportunities for the young guys to show their worth. The Knights need to perform as a team over the 26 rounds to get here. No relying on key players, because as season’s gone by have shown that this hasn’t done them any favours.
6. Brisbane Broncos
Brisbane are a team that are always competitive no matter what the circumstances. The professional ways the club is run from the ground up is one of the major reasons for success. With prodigal son Scott Prince returning to more than likely finish his career there, the odds are it will be another season for Broncos fans to enjoy. A fully fit team is a formidable one. Let’s hope for the good of the game we can see some great footy by the Broncos.
5. Sydney Roosters
Sonny Bill Williams. If I had to stop there, I would have. The fact is however the Roosters have built an ominous looking side for 2013 that just not include this superstar. James Maloney is only going to get better, and with the addition of Michael Jennings from Penrith in their ranks, the Roosters look the goods on paper under new coach Trent Robinson. Their forward pack with other year under their belts will only prove harder to bring down. The Roosters are really going to hit the ground running this season, I can feel it.
4. South Sydney Rabbitohs
The only surprise about the Rabbitohs is if they don’t make the top four. However it’s a bit silly to say they’ve already sewn up a finals spot for the season. There’s hardly any chinks in the armour of this tough side. Four Burgess brothers, a tickle of Ben Te’o, a lick of Jeff Lima and a great pinch of Bryson Goodwin and you’ve got a pretty good winning recipe.
3. Cronulla Sutherland Sharks
Last year was really the year Cronulla showed just how much of a force they can be after recruiting magnificently in the off season. Seemingly unbelievable, they’ve managed to build on their already stacked squad for 2013. Additions of work horses Luke Lewis and Chris Heighington and skilled funny man Beau Ryan tells me this is going to be a good year for the Shire. Could they break their 50 year Premiership duck?
2. Melbourne Storm
Reigning Premiers, need I say more? This is a magnificent team they have down in Victoria, despite the fact only one Victorian has ever represented the Storm. From the youth all the way through to the likes of Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith, there’s not a bad word you can say about the determination this squad has. Already showing that the NRL reigns supreme in the World Club Challenge, the Storm will not disappoint in the defence of their second title.
1. Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs
A disappointing end to the 2012 campaign is just added motivation to this team who have proven just how good they can be. Good is not good enough for Des Hasler, as striving for excellence will be the reason this team will be great. Tony Williams joins the club from Manly-Warringah who will only add emphasis in their already monster forward pack. The team with one full year under its belt will only be better for the upcoming season. The Bulldogs along side the Premiers Melbourne will be the bench mark of the competition. Catch these two in the marathon that is the NRL, and you will do okay. The team to beat for sure.
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