Three possible 2013 NRL finals bolters I didn’t see coming

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Dane Gagai - just one rugby league story screaming out for the celluloid treatment. (AAP Image/Action Photographics, Colin Whelan)

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Round one of the NRL hit me with an old fashioned coat-hanger tackle and I am groggy to say the least.

A few performances took the legs from under me – and I have already changed my tipping strategy.

Three teams I originally thought would be merely making up the numbers in 2013 greatly impressed, and I reckon they will be serious challengers for the finals at the expense of some highly-fancied, or at least media-touted rivals.

Gold Coast, Newcastle and Penrith were not in my ‘March’ top eight teams. Seriously, were they in yours?

The Titans looked terrific against Cronulla team that was pumped up for obvious reasons. They could have won that game comfortably but the fate gods conspired for an emotional and popular home team result.

I really liked the Titans’ overall structure, their unpredictable attack and their steely resolve in defence. It was a tough assignment facing a fired-up Sharks team, away, but they could easily have won.

Sure, their halves combination of Sezer and Kelly is greener than Kermit The Frog, but they did some really clever stuff against the Sharkies that good judges cannot ignore.

These guys can both play and when they gel – lookout NRL 2013!

No shortage of gun players here – Idris, Mead, Srama, Myles, Taylor, Bird, Bailey and Harrison – if Carty can’t fire up this lot, he needs to get a new job.

On Monday night Newcastle had a spectacular opening against the Wests Tigers.

The Knights’ backs did untold damage throughout – there were several multiple try-scorers – but the Knights’ forwards were really
exceptional. Take an early bow Messrs Mason, Houston, Smith, Waddell, Snowden and Scott.

I like your outfit, after seeing you in action for the first time.

Dad’s Army? No, this is the The Hunter Hurt.

They smash you, smash you again. And then spin the ball wide. And smash you again. And score.

The Tigers were abysmal.

Is the wooden spoon a reality for these guys? Possibly. This team lacks authority and if Farah and Marshall aren’t effective, Wests are nothing less than sterile.

The Penrith Panthers tackled Canberra at home and I honestly thought they’d get a hiding.

Many big name player losses – Panther superstar Luke Lewis their biggest – but the new school of Penrith players went straight to the top of the class.

They embarrassed the Raiders and, in my view, showed that Canberra won’t make the finals this year.

Why? The Raiders are not hungry enough.

If the Green Machine were serious about 2013, this game would have been dog-eat-dog, tooth and nail.

Instead, we saw meek stuff in defence, and a lack of imagination in attack: pretty much nothing.

Anyway, from my original top eight teams, I am including the Panthers, Titans and Knights.

Who goes out after round one is only my guesswork, so please take this on board.

OUT: Raiders, Broncos and Tigers. No (original) title prospects for mine.

My top eight now?

Cowboys, Storm, Roosters, Bulldogs, Titans, Panthers, Knights and the Rabbitohs.

Am I on the wrong train Roarers? Did you change your assessment in any way after round one?

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