Penrith versus Gold Coast in the 2013 NRL grand final

MG Burbank Roar Guru

By MG Burbank, MG Burbank is a Roar Guru

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    Phil Gould and the Penrith Panthers need a rethink (AAP Image/Action Photographics, Colin Whelan)

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    Fellow Roarer Greg Pritchard has made his January predictions for the NRL this year.

    Can’t disagree with most of what he said, so I’m going to focus on the coming season’s dark horses.

    I’ve selected two teams and rated their chances of being a major surprise in 2013.

    Really, most ‘predictions’ aren’t really predictions at all – just rather obvious statements of fact. The vast majority of the time, teams perform to expectations based on their talent level.

    That’s why any sane person will say last year’s top four will be up there again, with Manly possibly sliding a game or three. The Dragons will probably be worse. Cronulla might be one or three wins better.

    Great. Got that out of the way. Now let’s see if we can find anything else in our NRL tea leaves.

    The two teams I’ve nominated to surprise everyone and win the title next year are Gold Coast Titans and Penrith Panthers.

    (I hear you saying two teams can’t win the premiership in one season. Wrong. 1997, anyone? Alright, not fair. I know that two can’t win it, but it’s not fun to nominate dark horses if you’re not tipping them to go all the way.)

    I have a feeling about the Coast. Scott Prince is not a big loss – his form has been mediocre in recent years when he’s gotten on the field. I don’t know who the new halfback is going to be – maybe Albert Kelly – but Aiden Sezer is going to be a tremendous player and, as Canterbury and Souths showed last year, with enough talent elsewhere it is possible to contend without an absolutely dominant halves combination.

    Gold Coast have good talent spread across the park. Greg Bird, Dave Taylor, Jamal Idris (who may even be training this pre-season), William Zillmann finally started to show signs of fulfilling some potential last season. Matt Srama is a future rep hooker. Then you have quality workers in Nate Myles and Ashley Harrison.

    In this situation, you only need a couple more things to go right to contend.

    Kelly or Jordan Rankin stepping up at halfback (I’d consider moving Bird to five-eighth with Sezer at halfback as well). One of their prospects having a breakout year. Maybe another acquisition – Michael Jennings is making a fool of me by not yet signing with the Roosters; he would be a huge addition for the Titans.

    So that’s dark horse number one: Gold Coast will win the title in 2013.

    The Panthers’ case has weakened in recent weeks, given the fact they’re going to lose one of the best attacking centres in the game.

    Except that in recent times, if you watched their games, Penrith haven’t really had Michael Jennings anyway. Not the way NSW had him last year, probing out of dummy half and looking dangerous with every possession.

    So he may not be a loss but in some ways it might help, forcing Ivan Cleary to re-orient his attack.

    Penrith have not added outstanding talent, but they have added a lot of useful talent and, once again, if some of their prospects pan out, they will move up a lot of notches in 2013.

    Dean Whare, Lewis Brown, James Segeyaro, Wes Naiqama, Mose Masoe and Sika Manu are all players that will make a team better.

    Segeyaro can give them a weapon at dummy half, and I like Penrith’s pack – Dayne Weston, Sam McKendry, Tim Grant, Masoe and Manu could be a handful and provide a terrific platform.

    Although Luke Lewis has been a fantastic player, I agree with Phil Gould and Ivan Cleary’s decision to start over and get younger and, by extension, hungrier.

    Okay, so the forwards might set a good platform – but for what?

    This is where it might get tricky, but Lachlan Coote and Luke Walsh gave me hope toward the end of 2012 – especially Coote, who seemed more relaxed at five-eighth, without the pressures of being an attacking force from the back, a mantle he didn’t quite live up to.

    Josh Mansour, when healthy, could be outstanding for Penrith at fullback. Naiqama and Dean Whare could be a decent centre combination, and….

    Yeah. I know. I’m essentially banking on Mansour and Coote breaking out, with strong support from the halfback, an okay three-quarter line and a surprise from the under-20s.

    But something niggling at me says that Penrith’s whole will be a lot better than its parts. At least I hope so, because it would make me look really smart (and lucky).

    So there it is. Penrith and Gold Coast to battle it out in the grand final. With both winning. Place your bets.

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    The Crowd Says (30)

    • January 10th 2013 @ 1:28pm
      Nathan of Perth said | January 10th 2013 @ 1:28pm | ! Report

      Well, it’s a brave call, I’ll give you that.

      • January 10th 2013 @ 3:56pm
        Jez said | January 10th 2013 @ 3:56pm | ! Report

        The Titans are an internal disgrace. Coach that is floundering and does not instil discipline & the players find it hard to communicate with him. Lunatics run the asylum. They have so much class out wide but unfortunately no class inside closer to the ruck to deliver & transfer smart ball at critical times. Although Prince was not at his sharp self he did know when to idenitfy potential opportunities to his speed men.

    • January 10th 2013 @ 1:29pm
      Will Sinclair said | January 10th 2013 @ 1:29pm | ! Report

      “I hear you saying two teams can’t win the premiership in one season. Wrong. 1997, anyone?”

      Newcastle won the 1997 Premiership. They beat Manly in the Grand Final. There were no other Premiership winners, or Grand Finals played, in that year.

      I understand that Brisbane and Cronulla (along with some other clubs) played in some sort of exhibition tournament that year. But surely no-one takes that seriously?

      • January 10th 2013 @ 8:53pm
        JCVD said | January 10th 2013 @ 8:53pm | ! Report

        Brisbane won the inaugral 1998 NRL premiership. And were Cronulla the Minor premiers in 1999?? So to say their 1997 Super League GF was an exhibition is a bit harsh.

        • January 14th 2013 @ 12:39pm
          josh said | January 14th 2013 @ 12:39pm | ! Report

          I’m a Cronulla supporter and would agree that that super league game was nothing more than an exhibition match.

    • Roar Rookie

      January 10th 2013 @ 1:33pm
      Nik0 said | January 10th 2013 @ 1:33pm | ! Report

      Josh Mansour has a lot of errors in his game…. He’s a very good runner of the ball but drops the ball far to often and gets caught out in defence… As for Coote… A very raw talent, that needs a few seasons in the NRL injury-free before he can go any further.

    • January 10th 2013 @ 1:36pm
      Will Sinclair said | January 10th 2013 @ 1:36pm | ! Report

      I really like this article, MG!

      Nothing annoys me more than all the “experts” naming the same contenders, based on the most recent season’s results, seemingly with no real analysis of the squads or draw or changes to coaching structures. If the NRL has taught us anything – it’s to expect the unexpected.

      Was it really only 12 months ago that every “expert” and his dog was calling the Tigers favourites, without properly considering how the loss of a half-back and a lack of depth up front could hurt them?

      And there was no-one calling the Bulldogs as winners of the Minor Premiership, with Ben Barba to light up the competition.

      For what it’s worth, I like the Tigers and Warriors to shock a few – with both clubs unveiling a handful of superstars from the NYC.

      But I’ll probably be wrong. And that’s what’s so great about the NRL!

      • January 11th 2013 @ 8:04am
        Patrick D said | January 11th 2013 @ 8:04am | ! Report

        One of the main problems was not having a super star no1. Look at the top 5 teams after the regular season last year and their fullbacks….

        Storm – Slater
        Bulldogs – Barba
        Souths – Inglis
        Sea Eagles – B Stewart
        Cowboys – Bowen

        The other teams tended to have had a merry go round with injuries and selection (panthers, raiders, Tigers) or stars out of form (Boyd) injured (Hayne) or others arguably not offering enough ball playing as a modern no1 needs (Hoffman, Mini, Locke)

        While it is simplistic to point to this only as you obviously need a balanced team and good coaching, i would be loathe to favor any team that didnt have a gun at 1.

        • January 11th 2013 @ 12:43pm
          Scott Minto said | January 11th 2013 @ 12:43pm | ! Report

          I wonder how long the Golden Age of the Fullback will last? I cant wait to see the Golden Age of the Prop come in – where having dominant Props mean that your team does well.

          • January 11th 2013 @ 8:15pm
            Patrick D said | January 11th 2013 @ 8:15pm | ! Report

            that will be a great age. A time where players like Mark Tookey command the headlines, the footy show spots, and $500,000 a year salaries.

    • January 10th 2013 @ 1:48pm
      oikee said | January 10th 2013 @ 1:48pm | ! Report

      Mate, you have lost the plot MG. Everyone knows Scotty Prince had to carry the backs last year, now they have rookies running the show. Warriors anyone. ??
      Panthers, ?? mate, come-on,. They are a fragmented mess at the moment, i would even put Parra ahead of them at this time.
      They need another year to sort out some senior players. You will never go far in this comp without experienced senior players.
      Cronulla have the deck stacked with seniors, they will finish ahead of both these teams as will the warriors under Elliot.

      • Roar Rookie

        January 10th 2013 @ 1:55pm
        Nik0 said | January 10th 2013 @ 1:55pm | ! Report

        I’d even put the Raiders ahead of the Panthers and Titans… A re-building year for both teams.

        • Roar Rookie

          January 13th 2013 @ 3:07pm
          Hez said | January 13th 2013 @ 3:07pm | ! Report

          The Raiders to fold under the immense presure of being named last years bolters.
          The Titans will go ok if:
          A) Bailey stays fit
          B) Idris gets fit
          C) Bird doesn’t become complacent after signing a life contract.
          The Panthers have as much chance as any other fringe club that is rebuilding and trying to climb out of the cellar. There is too much turmoil at the club stoked by Ivan and Guss for me to put them into the eight.

          • Roar Rookie

            January 22nd 2013 @ 5:25pm
            Wilson Flatley said | January 22nd 2013 @ 5:25pm | ! Report

            the whole GC team is complacent. losing is a habit and they are now firmly in the habit, you’re making a motza having a bludge up at surfers why bother to dig yourself out of such a hole.

      • Roar Guru

        January 11th 2013 @ 3:27am
        MG Burbank said | January 11th 2013 @ 3:27am | ! Report

        Oikee, did you read the article big fella? I said that I can’t disagree with Pritchard’s predictions and that I was only “tipping” these two teams to make the GF for fun.

        I’d be willing to bet against both the Warriors and Sharks finishing ahead of both these teams in 2013.

        • January 11th 2013 @ 10:49am
          Spiritfree said | January 11th 2013 @ 10:49am | ! Report

          “I’d be willing to bet against both the Warriors and Sharks finishing ahead of both these teams in 2013.”

          As it’s tennis season again, can I be the first to say:


    • Roar Guru

      January 10th 2013 @ 2:14pm
      DingoGray said | January 10th 2013 @ 2:14pm | ! Report

      The article is clearly missing the HA tag!

      The author is clearly taking the piss out of everyone! Surely….Panthers and Titans…they’ve cleared more chairs from the deck than a sinking Titanic!

      • Roar Guru

        January 11th 2013 @ 3:26am
        MG Burbank said | January 11th 2013 @ 3:26am | ! Report

        Correct, Dingo- if people read the article attentively they’ll notice that I’m essentially picking the same top 4 from last year- which means no Penrith or GC in the GF. But I do think these two teams have the most room for improvement in 2013.

        • January 11th 2013 @ 8:19am
          oikee said | January 11th 2013 @ 8:19am | ! Report

          Well dont overcomplicate things MG, you know us league fans only read the first words in large letters. 🙂

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