Where will your side finish in 2018? (Part 1)

Mr X Roar Guru

By Mr X, Mr X is a Roar Guru

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47 Have your say

    2017 has passed and the 2018 NRL Season is now within sight. If you have not noticed by now, every year two things are almost always guaranteed.

    1. The Melbourne Storm will continue to irritate all other supporter bases with their consistent success.

    2. The New Zealand Warriors will disappoint.

    However, other than that, the 2018 season is shaping as one of the closest in history. You only have to look at the masses of people foreseeing a Top Eight finish for the previously cellar-dwelling Newcastle Knights to realise this.

    So, without any further delay, here are my most probably incorrect predictions for the 2018 season.

    16th – New Zealand Warriors
    The losses of Kieran Foran, Ben Matulino, Ryan Hoffman and Jacob Lillyman have left significant holes in the Warriors’ playing roster. The purchases of premiership-winning edge forward Tohu Harris and former Bronco Adam Blair have somewhat addressed the departures up front while the arrivals of Gerard Beale and Peta Hiku add further depth to an already potent backline.

    The signing of Blake Green, however, could prove the most important. It is undeniable that Shaun Johnson has the potential to be one of the best players in the competition. Yet consistency has too often eluded the New Zealand halfback.

    Green’s game management and experience should ease Johnson and allow him to embrace his natural talent and ability. In spite of this, much like the Tigers, the Warriors will need to address key flaws within their game from last year in order to be truly competitive in season 2018.

    In previous seasons, the Warriors have been branded as the most exciting team in the league. In 2017, however, this amounted for little as Stephen Kearney’s men averaged the fourth-least points in the competition.

    Meanwhile, their lack of commitment in defence remains a serious issue, with the Warriors conceding the third-most points on average last year. Will the league’s perennial underachievers finally break the drought and return to the finals for the first time since 2011?

    Well it’s the Warriors, so no. Unfortunately, given the quality of this year’s competition, 2018 may be coach Stephen Kearney’s final year at the helm as frustrations grow across the ditch.

    15th – Gold Coast Titans
    New Gold Coast Titans coach Garth Brennan has enjoyed a wealth of success in the lower grades, mentoring the Penrith Panthers NSW Cup side to two premierships in the past four years.

    He also coached their NYC team to grand final victory in 2013. However, Brennan’s introduction to first grade coaching does not get much tougher than the prospect facing him on the Gold Coast.

    The enigmatic Jarryd Hayne may have departed, yet Brennan is still left with a side coming off a devastating 15th place finish in 2017 – a result made even more disappointing given that only a year prior the Titans had reached Week 1 of the Finals.

    Of particular concern was the Gold Coast’s defence. The Titans averaged conceding 26.5 points a game, placing them as the second-worst defensive team in the competition last year.

    With Hayne gone, the recently re-signed Ash Taylor will likely be given the responsibility to direct his side’s attack.

    Taylor was highly impressive in 2017, finishing with 18 try-assists from 23 games. Hayne’s absence has also allowed Brennan to make astute purchases which have transformed the Titans into a better-rounded outfit heading into 2018.

    The acquisitions of Leilani Latu and Jai Arrow will bolster the Gold Coast’s already strong forward pack while Michael Gordon and Brenko Lee replace Hayne and William Zillman respectively.

    Mitch Rein should also offer speed and energy off the bench after solid showings for the Penrith Panthers in 2017.

    In 2018, the Titans appear a better team on paper. However, almost every team in the competition seems an improved prospect this year and that unfortunately should see the Titans claim back-to-back finishes in the bottom four.

    Konrad Hurrell Gold Coast Titans NRL Rugby League 2017

    (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    14th – Wests Tigers
    It is no coincidence that the Tigers of 2018 appear similar to the Panthers of 2013-2014. Both sides share one, obvious similarity – a coach by the name of Ivan Cleary. Back in 2013, Cleary was at the helm of a Panthers side who were coming off a disappointing 15th place finish the year prior.

    The club was in a rebuilding phase following the decision to let go of key men such as Luke Lewis, Michael Gordon and Michael Jennings. Yet, in 2013, the Panthers finished 10th and only a year later, they came within one game of a stunning grand final berth.

    Cleary’s success in his short period in Penrith was a credit to his own recruitment.

    Cleary did not target big-name players with large price tags. Rather, he opted for men such as Dean Whare, Jeremy Latimore, James Segeyaro, Sika Manu and Lewis Brown – players who were committed to the club and willing to work hard for success.

    Fast-forward five years and the Wests Tigers enter 2018 in a rebuilding phase after a 14th place finish and the departure of big names such as James Tedesco and Aaron Woods.

    Their recruits for 2018 include Chris McQueen, Josh Reynolds, Benji Marshall and Ben Matulino – players who have not arrived on big dollars but rather bring a passion and dedication that Cleary looks for. Unfortunately, the Tigers will still struggle to improve if they cannot get the fundamentals right.

    In 2017, Cleary’s side finished with the second-least amount of points scored, second-most tries conceded, third-most errors and second-most missed tackles – numbers which would hardly fill any coach with confidence. While Cleary’s bus appears to be going in the right direction, patience is needed as it may take a while before it reaches its destination.

    13th – Canberra Raiders
    After a disappointing year, 2018 looks even dimmer for Ricky Stuart’s men after a devastating injury to hooker Josh Hodgson.

    Hodgson’s ACL injury suffered in England’s 20-18 win over Tonga effectively ruled him out from Canberra’s 2018 campaign – a cruel blow given that the Raiders had recently released back-up hookers Adam Clydesdale and Kurt Baptiste.

    While their issue has temporarily been fixed by the signing of former Warrior Siliva Havili, the Raiders will still be without one of their most important players in 2018.

    Hodgson finished 2017 with a club high nine try-assists while his long-range kicking game was an added bonus. Without him, much of the responsibility for Canberra’s attack will fall on the shoulders of halves Aidan Sezer and Blake Austin.

    Canberra Raiders player Blake Austin

    (Photo: NRL images)

    Both players had an underwhelming season last year and Coach Stuart will be hoping the return of former Raider Sam Williams will be enough pressure to get the best out of the duo. The Raiders struggled to close out games in 2017, losing seven games by six points or less.

    The Green Machine’s hopes of a Top Eight finish appear slim if Sezer and Austin cannot step up and take charge.

    What do you think Roarers? Have I got the Bottom Four right? Stay tuned for Part Two of my 2018 Preview where I will look at the sides set to finish from ninth to 12th position.

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    The Crowd Says (47)

    • Roar Rookie

      January 2nd 2018 @ 7:29am
      3_Hats SSTID 2014 said | January 2nd 2018 @ 7:29am | ! Report

      I would have the Bulldogs in the bottom 4 for sure!
      I just can’t see how they will improve.
      Their “Losses” outweigh their “Gains”

      FOR:
      Mbye to Fullback is a plus.
      Lichaa, a good solid dummy half “If he is allowed to play”

      CONS:
      Graham or Sharon?
      The pussy who “backs into the defensive line” OR…
      The one who will crash right through it!
      I know which one I would prefer.

      Foran or Reynolds?
      I just can’t see Foran escaping his drugs and gambling demons.
      He has been useless since he left Manly 3 seasons ago.

      Josh Reynolds, love him or hate him, he knows how to win.
      I know which one I would prefer.

      Matt Frawley is not a first grader.

      Morris Twins, NOT WANTED by the club they will both breakdown again.
      You can count on it!

      David Klemmer, PASS the bloody ball you fool!

      Bottom 4? Definitely!

      • January 2nd 2018 @ 9:29am
        Duncan Smith said | January 2nd 2018 @ 9:29am | ! Report

        Harsh but fair … but I’m an optimist and Dean Pay will make a big difference.

      • January 2nd 2018 @ 9:34am
        Oingo Boingo said | January 2nd 2018 @ 9:34am | ! Report

        Will 2018 be the year that the Sharon Woods myth is exposed?
        I dunno if the dogs will be bottom four , but I’d comfortably predict them outside the eight.
        They would still appear to have issues off the field, and until that goes away I think they’ll struggle.
        The Foran prediction will be interesting.

        • January 2nd 2018 @ 10:23am
          BA Sports said | January 2nd 2018 @ 10:23am | ! Report

          Is the myth that Woods is good, or the myth that Woods is bad? It seems many keyboard warriors seem to think he is useless, yet multiple club coaches and multiple representative coaches at State and and National level – all of whom have better credentials for identifying talent – seem to think he is one of the best props in the game.

          Keyboard warriors are entitled to their opinion, but most of it is getting a bit tiring watching people pile on with the easy whinge.

          • January 2nd 2018 @ 3:21pm
            sean said | January 2nd 2018 @ 3:21pm | ! Report

            Im a Tigers supporter so I can vouch Woods is not one of the best props in the game. Hes above average sure. But too many issues in his game. The main problem with him is when he runs on the 4th tackle with that style of his where he backs into the defence upright, he creates a very slow play the ball which effects the kicker on the next play. Brooks got caught out plenty of times by this.

            • January 2nd 2018 @ 4:50pm
              BA Sports said | January 2nd 2018 @ 4:50pm | ! Report

              You have the stats to back that up obviously. Because 2 different sets of state selectors and a set of National selectors – who do have access to play the ball analytics – obviously disagree with you.

              Maybe Brookes gets caught with the ball because he is indecisive or slow.
              Or maybe because the opposition know he is going to get the ball on the last because the former coach got rid of the other two kicking options – the gun five eighth and the representative hooker, opting instead to often throw the right winger into hooker.. So this year they sign an okay hooker and had bits and pieces filling in for the 35 minutes he was off the field every match. Perhaps that had something to do with poor last play situations, and not just Aaron Woods…?
              Or maybe Woods play the balls are slower on the fourth tackle – because he is having to work hard because he is averaging 5 hit ups more per game than any other forward in his team…

              Maybe… But you enjoy what Robbie Rochow gives you on the final hit up of the set this year while Russell Packer is counting his money and sucking in deep breaths behind the play…

              • January 2nd 2018 @ 6:42pm
                Oingo Boingo said | January 2nd 2018 @ 6:42pm | ! Report

                Geez Sharon , just use ya real name hey .

              • January 2nd 2018 @ 7:45pm
                Sean said | January 2nd 2018 @ 7:45pm | ! Report

                Did i say Russell Packer was better? No. Ive watched most of the Tigers games. WhenWoods runs hes standing up right looking for the offload which is all well and good. But if he doesnt get that 2nd phase play his play the balls are slower.He was still the best forward we had. But not even close to the best front rower around. The bulldogs will get go forward. But im notsold on there spine at all.

      • Roar Guru

        January 2nd 2018 @ 9:35am
        Mr X said | January 2nd 2018 @ 9:35am | ! Report

        The Bulldogs are certainly an interesting one – I did consider dropping them into the Bottom Four at one point. I agree that I can’t see the signing of Foran working. I mean it could work, but given his past two seasons at Parra and NZ I just can’t trust him to do anything special at Canterbury. Meanwhile, the loss of Reynolds means the Dogs have lost a player whose heart and soul was committed to the club… it will be interesting to see if Foran can finally overcome his issues and show the same sort of commitment he needs to. As for Woods, I think the amount of criticism he gets is a tad unfair. What he will need to discover, however, is a similar passion for the club that Graham had – the type of passion which made Graham one of the most hard-working forwards defensively in the comp. Frawley definitely will need to step up. Too many question marks there for me over the Dogs but given their recent history of success I just couldn’t put them in the Bottom Four. However, if Pay doesn’t lift the players like some expect he will and Foran fails to contribute, sure it could happen.

        • Roar Guru

          January 2nd 2018 @ 11:01am
          Nat said | January 2nd 2018 @ 11:01am | ! Report

          I’ll go on record to say the Dogs will make the finals in 2018. Yes Graham was passionate but that is his way and he will bring the same to the Dragons. However, with the Klemmer is (arguably) the best prop in the game and he doesn’t need to pass the ball. Another cultural loss is Reynolds but for all his energy came dumb plays or penalties. It is a quality pack and every spine needs that to succeed. Lichaa is very good given the oppo to play naturally and the same with Mbye. Foran failed last year because the Warriors had soft forwards, at the Dogs he will have time and space plus he can take pressure off a young Frawley. If you believe the reports, Des was the stats man and I noted a few times he was coaching them away from natural ability and I hope Pay will bring the mongrel back to the Dogs.

      • January 2nd 2018 @ 3:10pm
        Big Daddy said | January 2nd 2018 @ 3:10pm | ! Report

        As opposed to the Burgess twins with the dropsy hands

    • Roar Guru

      January 2nd 2018 @ 7:38am
      Dutski said | January 2nd 2018 @ 7:38am | ! Report

      Morning mr x. Agree that Hodgson is a massive loss for the Raiders. The Sezer / Austin combo hasn’t really clicked the way it should – is Sam Williams a chance of pushing Sezer out?
      Also, been wondering… do you get frustrated with people faking your signature all the time?

      • Roar Guru

        January 2nd 2018 @ 9:43am
        Mr X said | January 2nd 2018 @ 9:43am | ! Report

        Morning Dutski, yep. Hodgson is a massive loss creatively more than anything else because his long range kicking game and general creativity in attack sometimes disguised the fact that Sezer and Austin were struggling to take control of the team. Both Sezer and Austin can be great players and should really complement each other perfectly – Sezer as the organiser and Austin as the one who takes the line on etc. Austin will need to rediscover his running game more as he was very dangerous when doing so. Unfortunately, this halves combo just does not fill me with confidence that they can really take charge of Canberra’s attack. As to Sam Williams – possibly. I know some Canberra fans who were glad he left in 2016. If things could ugly in the hooking position, Williams could also be an outside chance of grabbing the No. 9 jersey – his kicking game would be handy.

        And yeah I do – on a side note… my driver’s license actually has the wrong signature (someone else’s) printed on it!

        • January 2nd 2018 @ 12:06pm
          Larry1950 said | January 2nd 2018 @ 12:06pm | ! Report

          On the Raiders, the loss of Hodgson & release of Baptiste completely throws out the balance of their attack as they used them for speed bursts from dummy half to great advantage whilst Hodgson’s kicking game was a bonus. Sezer is solid without being a match winner but Austin is an overrated flake from what I’ve seen of his whole career. Also, Ricky’s ‘big is beautiful’ mantra has worked against them, there has to be a balance between size and mobility in every team. If Josh Papali gets any wider, they’ll be able to use him as the entire Raiders front row in the scrum.
          Can’t see the Warriors finishing absolutely last as they get a huge advantage during the origin period, generally drawing vastly weakened teams. That said, they’re a frustrating bunch to follow & I sympathise with their supporters.
          The Titans are another frustrating lot, as a Broncos supporter I’d back my lot to win the 2018 premiership if Taylor & James moved up the M1. They’ve got the basis of a good squad but they need more out of Elgey, Hurrell to be more disciplined & fitter plus one or two outside backs to have break out seasons for them to be a challenger to the better clubs.

          • Roar Guru

            January 2nd 2018 @ 12:27pm
            Mr X said | January 2nd 2018 @ 12:27pm | ! Report

            I agree with all your thoughts here Larry – all great points. Hodgson’s speed out of dummy half is something I forgot to include which is definitely important. As I said earlier, Austin’s best skill is his running game and he really needs to use this to his advantage more. Johnson really holds the key for the Warriors. He hasn’t been able to find consistency. Once he does, the Warriors may just realise their potential. It must be frustrating for their fans given their roster. As for the Titans, I agree that Elgey needs to step up more, Taylor is great but he can’t do it all.

            • Roar Rookie

              January 5th 2018 @ 2:44pm
              Bunney said | January 5th 2018 @ 2:44pm | ! Report

              I think people are forgetting Elgey’s story. He had a great first year, then does his knee in pre-season. Last year was both his return from an ACL, which often take a full year of playing again to regain prior form, AND it was only his second year – a case of second year blues??

              He will be better this year.

    • January 2nd 2018 @ 7:41am
      Duncan Smith said | January 2nd 2018 @ 7:41am | ! Report

      For once the cliche may be true – I’m expecting the closest comp for years.

      • Roar Guru

        January 2nd 2018 @ 9:49am
        Mr X said | January 2nd 2018 @ 9:49am | ! Report

        100% right. Almost every team appears better on paper in 2018 and to be honest, could all compete for a Top 8 spot. Only three teams are locks for the eight in my opinion too… but you will find out which teams those are soon.

    • January 2nd 2018 @ 8:06am
      PanthertillIdie said | January 2nd 2018 @ 8:06am | ! Report

      I don’t disagree with the authors predictions so far but the Raiders are the ones that leave me apprehensive to back against. Yes, they deserve to be backed towards the bottom. This is specifically due to the loss of Hodgson. He is their best player and if he were fit I could see them challenging a top 4 position or …. bottom 4 position. Without him I feel that it is only the latter that is likely. But as a fan of another club they do frighten me if they get on a roll.

      • Roar Guru

        January 2nd 2018 @ 9:56am
        Mr X said | January 2nd 2018 @ 9:56am | ! Report

        The Raiders are unpredictable at times… maybe without any expecting them to do well (unlike in 2017 when people were predicting them to win a Premiership) they could ease up and surprise everyone. My prediction is based off:
        a) As you said, Hodgson’s injury will dent their attack.
        b) The fact that Sezer and Austin will need to step up big time without Hodgson – I haven’t seen signs they are ready to yet from past seasons.

        It will be very interesting to see if 2018 is the year Sezer and or Austin finally step up. They have been playing together since mid-2015. Something has to give soon…

    • Roar Guru

      January 2nd 2018 @ 8:27am
      BigJ said | January 2nd 2018 @ 8:27am | ! Report

      I dont think the Titans are going to go as low as 15th, nor do i think that the Knights will rise out of the bottom four. But i look forward to the next article. Happy new year kid!!!

      • Roar Guru

        January 2nd 2018 @ 9:59am
        Mr X said | January 2nd 2018 @ 9:59am | ! Report

        The Titans don’t have a bad roster on paper but my first issue with them is their defence. Secondly, as alluded to, every team seems to have a better side this year so it’s not a matter of the Gold Coast getting worse and finishing 15th, but all other teams getting better. I did have the Knights in the bottom four for some time until Hodgson’s injury. That pushed the Raiders down and Newcastle up. Their recruitment has been quite something I must admit, but I still have issues with them that are holding them back as I will explain in one of my future articles… Happy New Year Big J!

        • January 2nd 2018 @ 12:15pm
          Larry1950 said | January 2nd 2018 @ 12:15pm | ! Report

          Looking forward to the assessment of Newcastle, I recall there was a really good article done about 12-18 months ago on the failure of clubs that had a major overhaul in player personnel. Can’t recall the author but it had all the stats and was really informative. I think the Knights will take a year to settle into a rhythm but they’ll cause a few boil overs in 2018, although consistency will be an issue.
          Not sure about the Tigers this year, they definitely seem to be lacking that X factor player who can get you the crunch wins. Addressed the other 3 teams mentioned before.

          • Roar Guru

            January 2nd 2018 @ 12:23pm
            Mr X said | January 2nd 2018 @ 12:23pm | ! Report

            Hey Larry! My thoughts on Newcastle are more addressing how their issues cannot be so easily fixed by their personnel overhaul. The Tigers probably are missing an X factor player like Tedesco, but I think the team itself and new recruits will gel together well. Unfortunately given the quality of all sides this year it won’t mean much in terms of their finals prospects.

    • January 2nd 2018 @ 8:41am
      Peter Phelps said | January 2nd 2018 @ 8:41am | ! Report

      Think you have pretty much nailed these 4 positions. I would like to think the Warriors would move up a few positions but ….. The Raiders could end up contesting for the spoon. Hodgson is a big loss and that will knock them. A few big losses early on could knock confidence and cause stuart to have one of his moments. Not good news there.

      I would like to see the Titans move up but I cannot see any reasons why they would. I Simply cannot argue any of this.

      • Roar Guru

        January 2nd 2018 @ 10:02am
        Mr X said | January 2nd 2018 @ 10:02am | ! Report

        Thanks Pete! It’s quite hard to be confident in predicting anything for this year’s competition. You are definitely right there – the Raiders need to start fast in 2018 or their season could slip away quickly. The Warriors can move up a thousand positions if they wanted to but they simply cannot be trusted after years of mediocrity. It is a sin that they are the team with the longest finals drought in the competition given their roster. Something is seriously wrong across the ditch.

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