Six fearless predictions for the 2013 season

shane Roar Guru

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    The Cowboys celebrate a convincing finals win over the Broncos (AAP Image/Action Photographics, Colin Whelan).

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    With the 2013 NRL Season just around the corner, I take a look into the crystal ball and outline my predictions for the coming year.

    Want the good news or bad news first?

    6. Wooden Spoon

    Sorry Titans fans, I think you’re in for a long season ahead.

    Your 2012 finals hopes were cruelled by an error rate (11.1 per match) that was the second worst in the league and your team also found it difficult to ‘stick’ to the opposition in tackles with an average missed tackle rate of 34.7 per match (fifth worst in the league).

    I simply don’t think a year is long enough to learn how to catch and tackle.

    But my biggest concern for the Titans though is their halves.

    While he didn’t play some of his best football in the Titans’ jersey, losing Scott Prince to rivals Brisbane Broncos is a bitter blow, although Aidan Sezer did prove to be a competent five-eighth in his first year in the NRL.

    In saying that Sezer was the perfect foil for halfback Scott Prince 2012, and he is going to have to raise his game to whole new level in 2013 for Titans to compete week in week out. A tough ask for a young half still learning his trade.

    Individually, several of the Titans squad performed well, in particular Luke Douglas and Nate Myles.

    Douglas, a former Cronulla Shark, toiled admirably, playing all 24 matches and averaging 105 metres per match.

    Nate Myles showed why Queensland selectors have valued him so highly for so long, with a great effort in his first year on the Gold Coast. In 2012, the burly prop ran for a career-best 2642 metres, cracking the line five times and scoring three times in the process.

    Despite all of these potential positives, John Cartwright has his work cut out if the Titans are going to be competitive in 2013.

    5. Buys of the year – South Sydney

    South Sydney’s pack will become even stronger with the addition of premiership-winning prop Jeff Lima and former Bronco Ben Te’o.

    With just 26 players used in 2012, South Sydney enjoyed a pretty decent run when it came to injuries, although it wasn’t always smooth sailing for the Rabbitohs in 2013.

    Suffering up front for a large chunk of the season, both Roy Asotasi (missed 15 games) and Scott Geddes (played only 12 games – now retired) left the Rabbitohs short of troops.

    Add a lack of finals experience and the Rabbitohs season came to a disappointing end.

    The Rabbitohs have taken some big strides forward in recent years and these two signings will only enhance that.

    Lima will return to the NRL following a successful stint with English Super League giants Wigan where he won the 2011 Challenge Cup under the guidance of now Rabbitohs coach Michael Maguire.

    Te’o, previously from Wests Tigers and Brisbane will replace departing second-rower David Taylor.

    Although Taylor left his mark, Te’o is the disciplined type of player coach Maguire is looking for.

    I expect both Lima and Te’o to make a serious impact on the competition this season.

    4. The Blues to finally beat the Cane toads

    This is the year. It simply has to be. No Lockyer, no Civoniceva; the Maroons have nothing or no one to play for, or so hope long-suffering Blues fans like myself.

    NSW made giant strides under outgoing coach Ricky Stuart over the last two years and will be hoping to continue the momentum with new boss Laurie Daley.

    With inspirational skipper Paul Gallen leading the way and dummy-half Robbie Farah finally finding his feet at Origin level, the Blues will be aiming to stop a gut-wrenching run of seven straight series defeats when the highly anticipated series gets underway in Sydney in May.

    3. John Cartwright to be first coach sacked

    It will come as no great surprise that I nominate John Cartwright as the first coach to get the punt in 2013.

    Losing Scott Prince to the Broncos causes massive headaches for Cartwright considering the Titans have a distinct lack of depth in their halves.

    Although Sezer went well last season, you simply can’t expect him to carry a team that has underperformed for several seasons now.

    Watch for Greg Bird to be shifted to 5/8. Once this occurs, Cartwright is as good as gone.

    A lack of experience and overall quality in their spine will be cripple Cartwright and his push for success in 2013.

    2. Young guns to look out for in 2013

    Michael Lichaa (Cronulla Sharks) – Keep an eye out for the name Michael Lichaa. One of the most creative and skilful hookers coming through the ranks at the Sharks.

    Having been compared to Tigers and Blues rake, Robbie Farah, Lichaa is a strong defender, and his left-foot kicking game is developing nicely too.

    He is unlikely to see any first grade action early on in the season, with a pair of useful players in De Gois and John Morris in front of him.

    But Lichaa is highly rated in the Shire and will see some first grade action in 2013.

    Jack Stockwell (St George Illawarra Dragons) – Continuing his development in the under-20s and NSW Cup, Stockwell towers over many at six foot and 100+ kilograms.

    He got a taste of first-grade in 2012 having come off the bench on three occasions; Stockwell can secure a regular position on the pine with a consistent, injury-free start to 2013.

    Stockwell who selected in Junior Kangaroos squad last season has real potential and should make his mark at some point this season.

    Caleb Timu (Brisbane Broncos) – He has been dubbed as the Maroons’ next superstar.

    Timu was one of the most destructive forwards in Queensland, which saw him earn selection in last year’s under-20s team of the year.

    Scoring a match winning double to secure victory for the Maroons in the under-20s Origin match, Timu is 190cm tall and weighs 108 kilograms.

    Following the retirement of Petero Civoniceva and the departure of Ben Te’o, the Broncos forward pack is crying out for new talent to stand up. Look for Timu to feature for the Broncos during the Origin period.

    1. North Queensland to win the premiership

    The Cowboys are due. They have the most settled line-up heading into 2013.

    The loss of Aaron Payne (retirement) and James Segeyaro (Panthers) was offset with the addition of talented rake Scott Moore (Huddersfield) who many think could have the same devastating impact as other Englishmen who have and continue to make their mark in the NRL.

    Their forward pack is quality, led by Matt Scott and James Tamou, and with Tariq Sims, Jason Taumalolo and the underrated Gavin Cooper in the backrow, the Cowboys have a nice blend of attack and defence.

    Clint Greenshields, acquired from Catalans, is another talented addition that could make an impact in 2013.

    As always, how they navigate the Origin period without Thurston will go a long way to deciding where the Cowboys are placed heading into the all-important back-end of the season.

    In saying that, they have plenty of depth in the halves with Robert Lui, Ray Thompson and Michael Morgan.

    The Cowboys have the best squad on paper, and although this doesn’t always prove to be the catalyst for a successful season, I’m convinced this is the year of the North Queensland Cowboys.

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    The Crowd Says (35)

    • February 5th 2013 @ 8:11am
      Ronald M said | February 5th 2013 @ 8:11am | ! Report

      A mixed bag there, I agree with your comments on South Sydney. If any club has recruited well this last couple of years it has been the bunnies. They have recruited quality not quantity and are building an elite squad not replacing one. Lamding a top class coach in McGuire is exactly what they need to pull it all together.

      I don’t think the Cowboys will win it. I think they will make the top 4 but Dogs, Souths and Storm will have a lot to say about who appears in the big one.

      I am both excited and fearful for young Michael Lichaa. He is an exciting prospect but in the wrong place. I hope he can find another club to develop him properly.

      As for the blues winning Origin, there will have to be some substantial changes to the blues leadership before they are going to win anything. Not enough strength in the squad, not enough skill and poorly led.

      You surprised me with your choice of Titans for the spoon. Could be wrong but I don’t think they are that bad.

      • Roar Guru

        February 5th 2013 @ 5:20pm
        peeeko said | February 5th 2013 @ 5:20pm | ! Report

        Why is Michael lichaa in the wrong place?

    • February 5th 2013 @ 8:13am
      oikee said | February 5th 2013 @ 8:13am | ! Report

      Teo played in the last origin game. Really enjoyed the read, i think you have it pretty spot-on.
      I am not sure if you have it in for the Titans, but hey, who cares, let’s both sink the boot in and cheer for Cartwright’s demise. 🙂 hehe

      p.s,,,,that picture of Tatty (Brent Tate) is absultely awesome .

    • February 5th 2013 @ 8:27am
      Pot Stirrer said | February 5th 2013 @ 8:27am | ! Report

      I picked the cowboys to win last year and while i think they will be there abouts im leaning towards the dogs this year, I think they will improve this year. My fairy tale pick is the Bunnies.

    • February 5th 2013 @ 9:30am
      planko said | February 5th 2013 @ 9:30am | ! Report

      North Queensland to win need to things to go their way both of which are not in their control. Penrith and Canterbury will be putting in signicant offer for Thurston this needs to be sorted out ASAP. He is not any other player. He is the Andrew Johns of North QLD. His signing or not affects so many other players it has alot of ramications so if this does not get sorted early I dont think they have a hope and presuming he does not get injured.

      So in sumary if the Thurston signing eitherway gets sorted and he does not get injured they have a chance otherwise no.

      Cartwright is not a special to get sacked IMO as their is no expectation of performance. Steve Price is my pick. The big V expect big things and no one will tolerate a second year in the Wilderness.

      NSW/QLD coin toss.

      I am not getting involved with picking young guns it is like trying to pick the winner of the golden slipper in August.

      Good luck all cant wait for GOD’s OWN EAGLES Vs Friday Night NRMA Suncorp XXXX Broncos first up.

    • February 5th 2013 @ 10:31am
      Dean - Surry Hills said | February 5th 2013 @ 10:31am | ! Report

      Wooden Spoon – Penrith – unless another team has points stripped from them for bending the rules.
      Premiers – Newcastle. Wayne Bennett’s squad will acquire the same stinginess in conceding points that the Dragons displayed in the 3 years he was at the helm. They also have the firepower in attack this year to rack up some huge scores on opponents.
      Buy of the year – T Rex – back under Hasler’s guidance, the human wrecking ball will have his best year to date and prove to be unstoppable when running off deft passes from Kasiano and co.
      GO THE BLUES !!!!!
      Geoff Toovey to be the first coach sacked – after he looses his lollies and smashes up the coaches box. He’s an angry little man just waiting to explode. You’ve been warned !
      Young gun to look out for, and one for the Dream Team – Josh Drinkwater, He will be thrust into the role of chief playmaker at St George Illawarra. Was itching for a crack at first grade with Manly, but held back due to Cherry-Evans stellar achievements.

      • February 5th 2013 @ 10:57am
        planko said | February 5th 2013 @ 10:57am | ! Report

        I can’t agree with Tony Williams he could end up ok but he is risky at the price that is rumoured at Dean. A stellar season from Drinkwater will be only thing stopping Price being the first coach gone.

        Sorry Dean I have many Newcastle friends and I hope you are right but players are people with mortgages and if Whitehaven’s share price keeps dropping Tinkler is a big worry. If I was a Newcastle player I would be keeping an eye on the price and share register of Whitehaven. It will be a good indicator of whether a pay cheque is coming.

        Good luck to all cant wait for the start.

      • February 5th 2013 @ 11:01am
        eagleJack said | February 5th 2013 @ 11:01am | ! Report

        Manly would have to run dead last by a considerable margin for Toovey to be sacked. And I can’t see the Panthers, Titans, Eels, Tigers and Dragons not filling the bottom 5 so Toovs is safe.

        Ill agree with you on Josh Drinkwater – Manly CAN produce a halfback and this kid is good.

      • February 5th 2013 @ 11:25am
        Ronald M said | February 5th 2013 @ 11:25am | ! Report

        “unless another team has points stripped from them for bending the rules” ….. Gallop has gone, there won’t be any repeat of this.

        • February 5th 2013 @ 12:45pm
          planko said | February 5th 2013 @ 12:45pm | ! Report

          Do you think that if systematic salary cap rorting is discovered that the next guy has a choice … Precedent is now set …

          • February 5th 2013 @ 4:18pm
            Ronald M said | February 5th 2013 @ 4:18pm | ! Report

            I think Gallop’s handling of the Storm affair showed just how incompetent this muppet really was, He loved getting involved in minutia and doling out punishments. I think he regretted not pursuing his legal career and compensated by punishing players and clubs. He also liked being in the media spot light and his hatred of the storm resulted in the debacle we all witnessed

            I think that if a similar thing happened today

            1) The press would be kept out of it
            2) Punishments would be undisclosed as in the case of the Warriors a few years back
            3) Punishments would be mainly financial although you might see key players benched for no apparent reason

            Remember that the NRL is a big entertainment business and it is a business that is constantly in the public eye. The NRL is like a company that consists of 16 independent affiliates and it is in the interest of the business as a whole to ensure that every affiliate thrives (though in one particular case one wonders why). For that reason dishing out punishments to an affiliate (club) for breaking internal rules that drives away customers, sponsors and nearly sends that affiliate to the wall is just plain stupid. Do it in public so that the media can have a field day is just plain suicide.

            Gallop was incompetent but thankfully he has gone and I cannot see Smith or the commission making the same amateurish mistakes that he did and hence my comment that this will never happen again.

            • Roar Guru

              February 5th 2013 @ 5:24pm
              peeeko said | February 5th 2013 @ 5:24pm | ! Report

              I thought the punishment was deserved and fully entitled to be transparent to the paying public

            • February 5th 2013 @ 10:46pm
              AndyMack said | February 5th 2013 @ 10:46pm | ! Report

              Why keep the press out of it?? Surely we all have a right to know.

              Thought the whole Storm thing was treated well. I have zero tolerance for cheats and liars (both in sport and in life) and have no sympathy for them, like you seem to.

            • February 6th 2013 @ 9:31am
              Ken said | February 6th 2013 @ 9:31am | ! Report

              You’re kidding yourself

              ‘dishing out punishments to an affiliate (club) for breaking internal rules’

              Breaking those internal rules removed the integrity of the entire competition, and when you are selling sport that’s a very big deal. The Storm got off easy, as the Dogs did before them, if it weren’t for financial realities their licences would have been stripped and given to one of the multitude of eager expansion bids waiting in the wings.

              The NRL (Gallop if you must), gave the bare minimum penalties they could without appearing weak.

            • Roar Guru

              February 7th 2013 @ 2:59pm
              apaway said | February 7th 2013 @ 2:59pm | ! Report

              Ronald

              I disagree. The Storm got what they deserved and it needed to be done publicly. It took a brave administrator to do that, not an incompetent one.

            • February 7th 2013 @ 3:51pm
              Mango Jack said | February 7th 2013 @ 3:51pm | ! Report

              So are you saying they should have got away with it? If Gallop had done less he would have been panned for being soft, and quite rightly so. They cheated and got what they deserved.

    • February 5th 2013 @ 10:56am
      rl said | February 5th 2013 @ 10:56am | ! Report

      Good read Shane.

      Wasn’t aware the Titans basic error rates were quite so high, very interesting (or troubling if you are a Titans fan). Throw in the absence of any real halves, and that spells trouble. The model for success today would seem to be a super-talented “spine” complemented by error-free role players. The Titans seems to be trying the opposite. And they were chasing Jennings to boot. Hmmmm. Pity, because a successful Gold Coast team is good for the NRL.

      The Blues fortunes in 2013 come down to the halves. I reckon the teams are basically evenly matched everwhere else. Todd Carney hasn’t really stamped himself on an Origin match yet, maybe this is his year?

      Be great for the Cowboys fans to get across the line this year. If Robert Lui plays anywhere near his potential, that might be enough to put them over the top.

      • February 5th 2013 @ 1:25pm
        planko said | February 5th 2013 @ 1:25pm | ! Report

        You bring up Lui and everyone is thinking the same … One more time Lui for the fans. You say Michael Monaghan and what do you think, John Hopoate what do you think ? Robert Lui …… This is last chance saloon for Lui hopefully he give North QLD some service.

        • February 5th 2013 @ 4:29pm
          B.A Sports said | February 5th 2013 @ 4:29pm | ! Report

          You’re not comparing what Lui did to what Hoppa and Monaghan did are you?!
          And Lui had already had two chances, for the same thing. He should be long gone.

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