St George Illawarra will come last. Sorry Dragons fans, but the Dragons’ 2013 campaign will be one to forget, with the retiriment of leaders Ben Hornby and Dean Young not helping their cause.
The Dragons will lack veteran leadership and stand out players with Soward, Creagh, Cooper, Scott and Nightingale playing mediocre footy. None of these guys are likely to play at representative level this season.
Josh Drinkwater, the Stanley brothers, Jack de Belin and Daniel Vidot won’t have the young legs to get St George anywhere but last place this season.
2. Parramatta will make the top eight
The acquisition of star coach Ricky Stuart and Jarryd Hayne returning from injury will be a big boost to the Eels’ chances of making the top eight this season.
However, Chris Sandow, Reni Maitua, Jarryd Hayne, Fui Fui Moi Moi, Tim Mannah and Ken Sio must all play to their allstar/representative level to be able to compete with the top-tier sides in the NRL.
The Eels have recently lost long time key sponser Pirtek, but there are rumours going around that the Eels may acquire young five-eighth Corey Norman from the Brisbane Broncos, which would be welcome good news in Parramatta.
3. 2013: Year of the rookies
Its always exciting to see what talent comes through from the National Youth Competition, and NRL fans should look no further then Wests Tigers’ winger, Marika Koroibete.
Koroibete is a strong, fast guy who can be devastating in attack and equally as scary in defence. In a handful of games he’s played that he’s a try scoring machine.
Other rookies to watch out for are: Kane Evans, Josh Drinkwater, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, David Klemmer, Tyson Fritzel, John Polavi and Mitch Cornish.
4. The pressure’s on for Mitchell Pearce and Todd Carney
With NSW losing streak tallying up to seven series in a row, the standout mismatch in productivity as well as consistency is between the halves.
Now not only is the pressure on for NSW to finally win a series, but Pearce and Carney’s positions are in jeprody with the likes of Adam Reynolds, Josh Reynolds, Sam Williams and James Maloney all maturing into genuine stars.
Not only is Adam Reynolds the current Rookie of the Year, but he’s a sharshooter, (88 percent from 73 attempts).
Josh Reynolds has a lot of guts in attack as well as defence and was one of the few bright sparks in what was a dull grandfinal campaign for the Bulldogs last year.
Sam Williams has only played a handful of games and his game has already been compared to Thurston’s. He has shown great vision, good kicking, and always looks dangerous with the ball, putting the defence in two minds.
James Maloney (now Mitchell Pearce’s partner in crime) was one of the Warriors’ best players for the last two years and with better talent around him at the Roosters he will improve.
This is why I feel NSW should not fear because they have, or will have, many more strong options to select to play those two very improtant roles.
After the Cronk/Thurston era there aren’t two indivituals who can fill the gaps and make the same impact other than Manly’s Daly Cherry-Evans.
5. Sam Perrett will be the Bulldogs’ fullback
With star player Ben Barba now out indefinitely, the question yet to be answered by the people at The Bulldogs HQ is who will fill Ben Barbas almost unfillable shoes?
There is a big chance that answer will be Sam Perrett.
Perrett came to The Bulldogs last season after leaving the Roosters and showed fans everywhere why he is one of the most reliable, safe and consistent players in the league with his ability to catch high balls, his decision making and performing to his Kiwi international standards.
6. The Raiders or the Cowboys make the grand final
Both teams made a deep finals run last year and will be just as dominant this season.
The Green Machine and the Cowboys both have incredible forward packs.
The Raiders have Josh Pappali, Dane Tilse, David Shillington and Tom Learoyd-Lahrs.
The Cowboys have James Tamou, Matt Scott, Dallas Johnson, Jason Taumololo, Gavin Cooper and Tariq Sims.
Both also have some dangerous backs, the Raiders with Josh Dugan, Sam Williams, Jarrod Croker, Sandor Earl, Edrick Lee and the Cowboys with Johnathan Thurston, Matt Bowen, Antonio Winterstein, Ashley Graham, Kane Linnett and Brent Tate, a good mix of youth and veterens to balance both squads out.