Looking at the performances of each team this year in the NRL, every team showed the ability to convert their opportunities and each club had their ups and downs throughout 2012.
With preseason training under way and club transfers completed, which team will dominate in 2013?
North Queensland Cowboys
I’m a bit biased as I’m a diehard Cowboys supporter but, even so, I don’t see a premiership heading north in 2013. The Cowboys have a good roster, but struggle to travel and, unless they can win seven to eight away games, they will not threaten teams like Manly and Canterbury come finals time.
The ever-persistent Broncos need someone to take charge if they are to string a consistent season together in 2013. Scott Prince may be that man, but he isn’t guaranteed a spot says coach Anthony Griffin.
If the Broncos can push all season, they must be at top form come finals and will be desperate for a top-four finish.
Gold Coast Titans
The financially troubled Titans need to keep their head in the game if they want to play finals in 2013. They may have the strongest back row in the competition (or at least a close second to the Sharks) but without Prince they will struggle to score points.
The opportunity for Albert Kelly to become a top class halfback may work, but his inexperience won’t get them there in 2013 without some help from the forward back.
With the super-coach in-charge in 2012, the Knights couldn’t trouble the top eight until it was too late.
Jarrod Mullen was tested in trying to provide room for star backs Uate and Boyd with no luck, but the return of Kurt Gidley in 2013 may just give the Knights that edge to be in the fight for the premiership. Still, they strike me as finishing just outside the top four in 2013.
Manly Sea Eagles
No Des Hasler, no worries. The Sea Eagles have shown they can win when needed, no matter who is coach. With the addition of Andrew Johns to the coaching staff, Manly are set to continue improving in 2013.
The loss of Tony Williams among others will hurt Manly, but the Northern Beaches will be up there again if their halves of Daly Cherry-Evans and Kieran Foran can stay fit.
New coach, new season will be the focus for the boys from Bondi.
Young halfback Mitchell Pierce can lead the charge back to the finals but, like the Manly halves, the Roosters need him to stay fit. An injury to Pierce could create a hole in the Roosters, who only have an inconsistent Daniel Mortimer to replace him.
If James Maloney finds the form of 2010 and Pierce finds his of 2009, the Roosters will be the team to beat in 2013.
2012′s grand finalists will be hoping to go one better. With the purchase of Tony Williams and the brilliance of Ben Barba, the Bulldogs for me go in pre-season favourites.
Des Hasler will create the new competition standard and will pressure other clubs to copy their style of play.
South Sydney Rabbitohs
South Sydney showed in 2012 they can play finals football. One of the oldest clubs in the NRL, Souths supporters were pleased with 2012, but they didn’t win enough games against top eight teams to be competitive come finals time.
Souths came out of their shell after moving Inglis to fullback and if he can play the way he did in 2012, the Bunnies are in there to break their premiership drought.
Sheens gone, Potter in. The Tigers will need to lift if they want to play finals again in 2013. At the start of the year they were favourites but they failed to capitalize on the chances they got, resulting in them missing the eight and action was required to sort out the mess.
Sheens still being involved may hurt the Tigers, but with Potter in charge they must focus on the future and if Marshall fires, 2013 may be the year of the Orange and Black.
Lucky to miss out on last place, Penrith should have done better in 2012. Ivan Cleary and Phil Gould wouldn’t be pleased with the team’s performance.
The move from fullback to five-eighth by Lachlan Coote may have been the best decision for the Panthers, allowing Cootes’ kicking game to be used more often and gave them a more competitive edge at the end of the season.
The outside backs at the Panthers can change a game in a blink. If the team plays with confidence in 2013, they should push for a finals berth.
The wooden spoon may be what saves the Eels from total disaster. 2012 forced the Eels board into action and on the receiving end was Steven Kearney, but brought the end result of the return of Ricky Stuart to the NRL.
After seeing a confident Blues squad in 2012, my opinion of Stuart has changed. He has great determination for success and if he pushes the Eels for results, I believe within the next three years Parramatta will be premiership contenders.
The Shire had a great year in 2012, Todd Carney finally held himself together and got away from the pressures of Sydney and focused on his football.
The purchases of Chris Heighington and Luke Lewis will provide a stand in the back row, creating spaces for their quick outside backs. Paul Gallen continues to grow as a captain and in 2013 will only improve more as a leader.
The Raiders flew under the radar in 2012. An injury to captain Terry Campese looked to knock them out of contention but the never say die attitude of a younger halves pairing of Sam Williams and Josh McCrone got them through to the finals.
With the return of their captain, the Raiders will need more consistency and a top-four spot to win the premiership in 2013.
New Zealand Warriors
Across the ditch sees a team that needs to focus on football and not on other things. The Warriors potential was left in the past in 2012, with the team finding ways to throw away wins. In 2011 they were grand finalists, in 2012 they fell apart leading to a sacking of their coach and a change at the club.
In 2013, with Matt Elliot in charge, the Warriors will need their players to keep fit, and look at purchasing a half to lead the team after the loss of James Maloney.
To me they won’t be far off the top eight but won’t be there until they sort out the halves and spend some money on more top class players.
The premiers. After being stripped of the ‘07 and ‘09 premierships, Melbourne finally got one back. The big three will yet again be the key for Melbourne in 2013 and if they fire and stay fit, the trophy cabinet will be a little bit fuller again.