SMITHY: Breaking down your NRL team’s chances in 2013 (Pt 2)

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Rabbitohs fans - are they in danger of getting too overconfident? (AAP Image/Action Photographics, Robb Cox)

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Following on from Tuesday’s examination of your team’s chances, here is part two of the look at the prospects of the Rabbitohs, Roosters, Cowboys and Sea Eagles.

South Sydney Rabbitohs

Myths: you have to lose one first before you win a grand final. I reckon Souths not making last season’s grand final and losing it won’t stop them from winning it this time round.

Rookie to the rescue: they already did it last season! What a season Adam Reynolds had, and there is more fresh talent there to keep the list very competitive for spots on a weekly basis.

What can stop the train: losing Inglis might not stop this well-oiled machine but it could seriously affect their winning chances on the big-pressure days.

Why they can win it: Inglis is the most dynamic match winner in the NRL and has become a consistent performer, even on days where his magnificence is not required.

The number of threats they have in attack from Luke with speed and strength at dummy half to Burgess smashing runs off the ruck to combos of Sutton and Merritt and Inglis this attack is not only potent but all those players improved during last season and can do it again this time round – scary.

What I really like about them: this season they can think they can win the comp and haven’t felt the need to excite everyone in and around their club by talking about it.

Rating: maybe not favourites but could be on grand final day. Will be interesting to see if they move to the Storm’s level of solving problems and inventing new ways so as not to be as predictable or reliant on same ways of winning between now and September time.

Sydney Roosters

Myths: as per others who had poor seasons in 2012 – it can be done in a year and this team has been set up for 2013 for three or more years now.

Rookie to the rescue: so many red hot youngsters some of whom have already had some NRL experience – Toupou, Cordner, Moga, Tuivasa, Tasi and Henry – but don’t take your eyes off Brendan Tago an NYC front rower maturing there again in 2013.

A ruthless performer with the most wonderful rugby league fundamentals that need some harnessing, but when that happens the Roosters will have yet another top prospect on their books.

What can stop the train: emotion and either end of it – too excited too soon or too down too easily. Roosters just need to be there in the eight at end of season and keep improving as season wears on. Hard to do that if demands are you have to be red hot and carving every other team up in March.

Why they can win it: talent galore! And plenty in store for coming seasons too if the ship stays upright.

What I really like about them: Maloney has the talent and personality to fill in many of the question mark areas from his playing talent (support, awareness, crafty kicking and competitiveness) to his on-field fun loving pressure-breaking antics.

Rating: a real chance of capturing the headlines for all sorts of reasons in 2013. For all those who love the mighty Roosters and those who love watching top talent execute well I hope those headlines are for all the right reasons. Top four for sure – if they get the headlines right!

North Queensland Cowboys

Myths – Cows can’t win in Sydney. This needs to become a myth by end of season 2013. These issues always have a reason – the answer needs to found ASAP.

Rookie to the rescue: some really good prospects for the future in this area for Cows. Back-rower Grevsmuhl has some great carries in him. Ulugia and ex-NYC Rooster Curtis Rona have raps.

What can stop the train: Apart from the very obvious (A Thurston injury and away record) I am concerned about the replacement of all that Payne and Segayaro brought to the Cows’ attack in recent seasons.

Would love to see Ant Mitchell do well but not sure he can manage solo anything like those important aspects of dummy half play – structure and consistency and footy intelligence (Payne) and lightning pace and points (Segayaro).

Why they can win it (or at least have successful season): Thurston’s ongoing inspiration and competitiveness and class.

I hope he doesn’t lose it for any reason for the Cowboys’ sake. Some very good young players who can really grow and take the team with them if they follow the leader.

What I really like about them: Some great finishing players leading directly to points. The team’s ability to attack in so many parts of the field in so many different ways.

That’s why I am concerned about dummy-half situation – it may limit them this time round and their D would need to improve considerably to compensate.

Rating: possible comp winners. If the first few games show that they have sorted the travel bug look out as the confidence of youngsters could really grow. Without it – get off quick.

Manly Sea Eagles

Myths: they can’t win without Des. Or maybe? Lets see if his influence carried over for a season only.

Rookie to the rescue: – Alas I can’t find a Cherry-Evans or Foran. Another club where all resources have gone to top level and the long term is not far from the here and now!

What can stop the train: the continuous drain of the top squad depth as back-ended contracts for the superstars leaves lean pickings for players 11 to 25 instead of 21 to 25 for other clubs.

Why they can win it: still some fantastic matchwinners and genuinely tough guys who have that hunger to compete not only every week season on season but on every play!

And the key positions are covered by exactly those types of winners, team-oriented and physically fierce – Ballin, Foran, Cherry-Evans, the Stewarts and Jamie Lyon – wow.

What I really like about them: all of the previous point over and over again.

Rating: I suspect they will need a lot more of the luck factor to go well for them this season than they needed in the past.

Skinnier squad, perhaps the wear and tear of demanding training programmes and the physical domination required to win matches in the style they have employed for many seasons could be a little too much.

In any case, beware.

Brian Smith is a former player with St. George and South Sydney and first grade coach at Illawarra, St. George Dragons, Bradford Bulls, Parramatta, the Knights and the Roosters. He has taken teams to the NRL Grand Final on four occasions. He is a weekly columnist on The Roar, but to read more of his writing on rugby league, check out his website, Smithy Speaks.
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