NRL pre-season power rankings

Josh Wye Roar Pro

By , 27 Jan 2014 Josh Wye is a Roar Pro

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    Jarryd Hayne - the slipperiest Eel in 2014. (AAP Image/Action Photographics, Robb Cox)

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    Only a few morning training sessions in the extreme heat and a small tournament in Auckland before the first Steeden is kicked off on a Thursday night.

    Before the season starts, let’s power rank the 16 teams.

    These power rankings are merely an opinion and a fun read, nothing more. So where would you rank the teams?

    1. Sydney Roosters
    The Roosters are the reigning premiers and the team to beat.

    They have retained the services of Sonny Bill Williams and are primed to win it all again.

    The halves combination of James Maloney and Mitchell Pearce will only get better in year two.

    No team has won consecutive titles since Brisbane in 1992 and 1993 (excluding Super League) so it is a tough ask.

    The key though is keeping Danny Weidler away from SBW’s locker. You’re creeping him out Danny.

    2. South Sydney Rabbitohs
    The Rabbitohs have lost plenty of depth through various player movements and retiring players but having four healthy Burgi (the plural of Burgess) gives them a monster pack.

    The addition of Joel Reddy should not go unnoticed either.

    Adam Reynolds will need to take that extra little step towards elite to give Souths their best chance of lifting that trophy.

    3. Melbourne Storm
    When a team has the big three in it they automatically deserve a top three position.

    The loss of Brett Finch is huge… sorry, scratch that, the loss of Gareth Widdop hurts but Melbourne has the ability to make it work with the personnel around the Queensland stars.

    Add in big Georgie Rose you might have the huge four.

    4. Manly Sea Eagles
    Manly have signed a bunch of fringe players and dead weight from other clubs but they did that last season and made the grand final.

    When you have two great young halves in Kieran Foran and Daly Cherry-Evans you will always be in finals contention come Round 26.

    I hate putting Manly this high because I hate Manly, doesn’t everyone?

    5. North Queensland Cowboys
    Two consecutive years the Cowboys have been duded by a poor referring decision in key moments in the final series and with Johnathan Thurston now into his 30s, that window of title glory is closing fast in North Queensland.

    The loss of Matt Bowen is huge but Lachlan Coote should fill that void.

    Neil Henry is gone finally as well, but the news of that might not have reached mainland Australia yet…

    6. Penrith Panthers
    Whaaaaat!? The Panthers have jumped to six after finishing tenth.

    Why? Well they have recruited very well and the latest signing in Jamal Idris may be the final piece of the puzzle.

    Add in Elijah Taylor, Brent Kite, Jamie Soward and Peter Wallace to an already impressive squad with players like Adam Docker and James Segeyaro and the Panthers will be pushing a top-four spot in 2014.

    Phil Gould might finally change his saying to “Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!”

    7. Cantebury Bankstown Bulldogs
    Any team coached by Des Hasler should be making the top eight every year.

    However the loss of troubled superstar Ben Barba leaves a gaping hole in the Bulldogs’ backline.

    We know what their pack can achieve but some help for Josh Reynolds is needed in attack.

    Doggies fans will really miss Kris Keating… please do not think I am serious about that in any way.

    8. New Zealand Warriors
    The Warriors got very hot in the back end of the 2013 but in typical New Zealand style they blew it with losses to St George and Penrith in late crucial rounds.

    Shaun Johnson is an excitement machine and with the addition of Sam Tomkins the Warriors should be one of the top scoring teams in the league.

    They just need to hang on to the bloody ball. Am I right Manu Vatuvei?

    9. Newcastle Knights
    After a ruthless offseason that was packed full of controversy, the Knights will turn their attention to the 2014 season.

    Danny Buderus has been and gone and Kurt Gidley will take the reins.

    How many games will he last before he aggravates his ankle, shoulder, groin, head or hamstring injury? I set the over/under for 14 games this season.

    It is that injury that and the Origin season that leaves the Knights one spot from making the eight.

    10. St George Illawarra Dragons
    The St George, despite losing some key playmakers and the sexiest man in league (there is still Dan Hunt right?) to retirement, the Dragons have recruited very well.

    The addition of Sam Williams and Gareth Widdop has formed a very young and impressive spine with Josh Dugan and Mitch Rein.

    This young spine may take a while to get going in 2014 leaving them just short by season’s end but in a great spot to challenge the top four in future seasons.

    11. Brisbane Broncos
    Brisbane have been blessed by Channel Nine with a favourable schedule.

    It seems Queensland get lucky with a lot of things *cough, Origin, cough*.

    The addition of Barba (Marmin, that is) should bolster the young and dynamic backline of the Broncos that are still trying to find their next Darren Lockyer.

    Who will step up and be like Locky?

    12. Gold Coast Titans
    The Gold Coast must have had the most boring offseason in recent memory, literally nothing has happened except the gave away Jamal Idris for Brad Tighe.

    Seriously?

    There is the usual ‘Dave Taylor has lost weight’ storyline but we all know that after a few preseason victories he will smash out a carton of XXXX Gold and a tonne of meat pies.

    Young halves Albert Kelly and Aidan Sezer are the future but they don’t have much fire power in that backline.

    13. Canberra Raiders
    The biggest highlight of the Canberra Raiders season was a pineapple cruiser on the roof of Josh Dugan’s place as the Raiders finished 13th.

    Having lost a few players and some contract disputes involving Anthony Milford they remain at 13th on the rankings.

    Canberra has been raving about Ricky Stuart’s return home but league fans will know Ricky has failed at Cronulla, Parramatta and NSW so I hope Canberra enjoy a few more seasons at the bottom of the ladder.

    14. Wests Tigers
    There is good news and there is bad news for the Tigers in 2014. Which one do you want first?

    I will start with the bad news – they took a Stephen Kearney approach to recruitment and signed a bunch of retirees; Pat Richards and Dene Halatau. Really guys?

    The good news is that 99% of the off-field/ego problems were solved when Benji Marshall made that Academy Award winning home movie announcing he signed to play for the Auckland Blues.

    15. Cronulla Sharks
    I wouldn’t look too much into Paul Gallen exploring other sporting options this year… Actually I would take that very seriously.

    All the dramas from last year showed the immense resilience of that football side but to do it again in 2014 without Shane Flanagan will be tough.

    I really hope I am wrong on this one.

    16. Parramatta Eels
    If bringing a guy that happens to be very close to the big man upstairs is their biggest hope, they have to be smack bang down the bottom in these rankings.

    Eels fans and players’ best tactic this year is to pray for a few wins and a full season out of Jarryd Hayne or maybe that Cronulla get their points stripped.

    Their first prayers were answered when the devil Ricky Stuart told Matt Keating to find a real job, Nathan Peats gives them a far better option from dummy half.

    Have I been to generous to some teams and harsh on others?

    Follow Josh on Twitter @joshwye

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