Five fearless predictions for the 2013 NRL season

Ryan O'Connell Columnist

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    It’s that time of year again, when I put my neck on the chopping block and dream up five fearless predictions for the 2013 NRL season.

    In 2011 I gave myself a score of 1.5, and last year I correctly predicted two, so hopefully I can ensure the trend of correct decisions keeps going up.

    Drumroll please. . .

    The Bulldogs won’t make the finals

    I have a formula for this prediction each year: I simply chose whoever the underdog grand finalist was the year before.

    My theory is that the underdog team struggles to live up to increased expectations the following year and subsequently fails to make the finals.

    For the last two seasons, the Roosters and the Warriors ensured I got at least one prediction correct.

    However, with the Bulldogs only slight underdogs last season, there was no real trend to follow for this season, nor a plausible reason to believe that the Dogs would miss the finals.

    That was, until the Ben Barba drama unfolded. Suddenly, with their best player sidelined indefinitely, there was a cause for concern at Belmore.

    As a Bulldogs fan, I hope I’m wrong on this prediction. However, for two reasons, I’m comfortable – if not personally concerned – with this prophecy.

    Firstly, I’m using a formula that’s two from two.

    And secondly, it can’t be overstated how much the Dogs rely on Barba’s brilliance.

    Remember, the team actually isn’t blessed with the most creative halves; therefore, a lot of their attacking magic is generated by the sublime talents of Barba.

    How long he sits out could well dictate the Bulldogs’ season.

    2013 will be the ‘year of the player’

    For the 2011 season, it seemed like the coaches were the main storyline in rugby league.

    The defending premiers, the St George Illawarra Dragons, completely fell apart after supercoach Wayne Bennett’s mid-season defection to the Knights.

    There was the bitter fall-out between Des Hasler and the Manly board, despite the Sea Eagles winning the premiership.

    We also had Mal Meninga’s infamous post-State of Origin series dummy spit, Ivan Cleary signing with Penrith before miraculously leading the Warriors to the grand final, and the Brisbane Broncos firing Ivan Henjak before the season had even started.

    Meanwhile, 2012 will be remembered as the year the referees took centre stage, but for all the wrong reasons as blunder after blunder was made by the game’s officials.

    For 2013, I’m forecasting that the real stars of the show will reclaim the spotlight, with the players and their amazing feats on the field being the focus of attention.

    It’s a fairly bold prediction considering the sensationalistic nature of some of rugby league’s journalists, but I get the feeling that the public is slowly getting over scandals, and would prefer that the actual sport is what dominates the media coverage.

    The Wests Tigers will make the top eight

    The Tigers stunk up the NRL last year.

    Injuries, off-field issues, questions about their coach Tim Sheens, the loss of key players to other clubs, the Tim Moltzen drama, and most importantly, their performances on the field, all added up to a season the club would like to forget.

    Such is the nature of the bandwagon, many people that predicted the Tigers to win last year are predicting them to be terrible again this year.

    I’m not buying it.

    This is a very good football team, and things appear a lot more settled this off-season.

    The addition of Braith Anasta has been criticised by a few people, but I think it’s a tremendous signing, as the Tigers were in need of a cool head and veteran leadership, two qualities Anasta certainly brings to the table.

    I also think the sacking of Sheens will help the club. No one doubts Sheens’ knowledge of the game, but every coach has a used-by date. No matter how loyal they are, players get tired of hearing the same voice, and can tune out.

    Mick Potter will bring fresh ideas, fresh eyes and a new voice to the changeroom. While Potter is a rookie coach, I expect the change will rejuvenate the Tigers.

    With their talent, they could even knock on the top four door.

    Jonathan Thurston will win the Dally M

    Thurston is arguably the best player in the league, so it’s not exactly daring to make this selection.

    My first inclination was to look towards Melbourne for a winner.

    However, the Storm’s terrific trio of Billy Slater, Cam Smith and Cooper Cronk have a tendency to steal points off each other. Additionally, the winning player is normally the focal point of their team, along with being a primary ball handler.

    Using that information, you can rule out quite a few players, and from the list of remaining names, Thurston’s jumped out at me. I think he’ll win his third Dally M player of the year award.

    Penrith will ‘win’ the wooden spoon

    I’m not sure this could be classified as ‘fearless’. Nor is it terribly original, as I predicted it last year.

    The Panthers finished 15th in 2012 season, yet rather than looking optimistically towards a change in fortunes this season, it would seem the club has actually gone backwards.

    Three of the Panthers’ best players have departed the club with Michael Gordon, Luke Lewis and Michael Jennings all leaving on bad terms and happily finding a home elsewhere.

    Most worryingly for Penrith fans, the talent walking out the door far exceeds that arriving.

    Looking at the Panthers roster, it’s hard to identify where they’ll score points from, nor is it easy to claim they have a lot of depth.

    I’ve always been a Gus Gould fan and will continue to bow to his knowledge of rugby league, but I don’t think I’m the only one wondering exactly what the plan is for the club at the foot of the Blue Mountains.

    Ryan O
    Ryan O'Connell

    Ryan is an ex-representative basketballer who shot too much, and a (very) medium pace bowler. He's been with The Roar as an expert since February 2011, has written for the Seven Network, and been a regular on ABC radio. Ryan tweets from @RyanOak.

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    The Crowd Says (85)

    • March 5th 2013 @ 4:22am
      Johnno said | March 5th 2013 @ 4:22am | ! Report

      Mine is England will win the World Cup, it will be good for rugby league if England win beating Australia at Old Trafford. For rugby league it will be great, the conspiracy theories already say it will be a stitch up as it will be fantastic for rugby league world wide and in the big UK market if England win, and it will flow over to France to Catalyn Dragons.

      SBW if fit will play in the World cup and for NZ not Samoa

      France will do well this year too.

      Big year for the bunnies will be good hope Ben T’eo stays fit.

      And the Blues will win origin, if they don’t , it will hurt tv ratings and ticket sales if QLD keep on winning.

      c’mon NSW you can win just hope the ref gives you the 50-50 calls, wink wink.

      • March 5th 2013 @ 7:26am
        A1 said | March 5th 2013 @ 7:26am | ! Report

        None of those are NRL predictions Johno.

        I predict Parra-don’t-matta will win the spoon.
        Storm the premiership.
        Adam Reynolds Dally M.
        Steve Price get sacked.
        SBW to get injured.

        • Columnist

          March 5th 2013 @ 10:10am
          Ryan O'Connell said | March 5th 2013 @ 10:10am | ! Report

          I think you would get pretty strong odds for Reynolds to get the Dally M! But the rest of your predictions are quite feasible.

          • March 5th 2013 @ 12:34pm
            A1 said | March 5th 2013 @ 12:34pm | ! Report

            What odds Barba last year though?

            • Columnist

              March 5th 2013 @ 9:02pm
              Ryan O'Connell said | March 5th 2013 @ 9:02pm | ! Report

              Point taken.

            • March 9th 2013 @ 3:39pm
              I'mastormtrooper2 said | March 9th 2013 @ 3:39pm | ! Report

              My opinion is that Ben Barba only won the Daily M because the other big name players, Slater, Smith, Cronk, Inglis and Thurston where unable to score DM points during representative duties … Slater was also out injured for 7 or so weeks … Perhaps consideration could be given to allocate DM points during state and country representative games.

      • Roar Guru

        March 5th 2013 @ 9:56am
        peeeko said | March 5th 2013 @ 9:56am | ! Report

        england are paying $8 to win it – get on them Johnno

        • March 5th 2013 @ 1:56pm
          Johnno said | March 5th 2013 @ 1:56pm | ! Report

          I might have a punt on them, England squad looks good, and at home will lift even more.

      • March 5th 2013 @ 10:53am
        WoobliesFan said | March 5th 2013 @ 10:53am | ! Report

        You forgot one more —> QLD to win 8 in a row.

        We arguably have the 5 top players in the league in JT, Cam, Cronk, Slater and Inglis…..HA!

        You talk about your forwards, yeh right, we’ll match you there too. Taylor and TEO to step up…..oh how they’ll smash you guys…Scott, Sammy, Myles …Ingy at wing…ouch! We got monsters and workhorses….this team is equal to the best QLD team of the last 7 years. Cronk in a groove….Melbourne coming of a premiership…IN THEIR PRIME

        Imagine if we had Barba to….lol …..insane how much talent and mongrel and experience we have.

        10 in a row coming up… you know it!

        And our biggest advantage —> Paul Gallen…you’ll never win a series under such a petulant “captain”

        • Columnist

          March 5th 2013 @ 11:07am
          Ryan O'Connell said | March 5th 2013 @ 11:07am | ! Report

          I guess it’s never too early to start the State of Origin banter, especially when you’ve won 7 in a row! Us New South Welshmen just have to take it on the chin.

          But considering Big Mal’s rants, it’s a bit rich to call the Blues captain ‘petulant’!

        • March 5th 2013 @ 12:20pm
          Ronald M said | March 5th 2013 @ 12:20pm | ! Report

          I agree though I wouldn’t have used the word petulant.

        • March 16th 2013 @ 1:30pm
          MadEagleFan72 said | March 16th 2013 @ 1:30pm | ! Report

          Inglis should be playing for NSW he’s originally from Bowraville!!!!

    • March 5th 2013 @ 7:29am
      Football Fan said | March 5th 2013 @ 7:29am | ! Report

      Raiders to lose a bunch of quality young players to the chequebooks of the roosters and others!

      • March 5th 2013 @ 8:22am
        Mushi said | March 5th 2013 @ 8:22am | ! Report

        The cheque books? Hey it is a prediction from 1983

        • March 5th 2013 @ 10:15am
          Renegade said | March 5th 2013 @ 10:15am | ! Report

          Haha πŸ™‚

          • March 5th 2013 @ 3:17pm
            Football Fan said | March 5th 2013 @ 3:17pm | ! Report

            And I expect handwritten invoices!

      • Roar Guru

        March 5th 2013 @ 9:43am
        peeeko said | March 5th 2013 @ 9:43am | ! Report

        dont they all have the same salary cap?

        • March 5th 2013 @ 10:06am
          Matt said | March 5th 2013 @ 10:06am | ! Report

          Apparently πŸ˜‰

    • March 5th 2013 @ 7:31am
      Matt said | March 5th 2013 @ 7:31am | ! Report

      Anyone know if Telstra have done anything with the mobile rights they purchased? Season starts this week and nothing announced I can find so far, their app is still the same as late year (live scores, no videos)

      • March 5th 2013 @ 8:05am
        iBoomshanka said | March 5th 2013 @ 8:05am | ! Report

        The same price as their AFL offering, however NRL fans are still hampered with non live feeds on the two Nine delayed matches.

        Why can’t we get the same as the kiwis (or even my AFL neighbours) who can watch every game live, in HD and no ads during play?

        • March 5th 2013 @ 8:55am
          Matt said | March 5th 2013 @ 8:55am | ! Report

          Thanks. Wow. Couldn’t find it in App Store, or their website, or google. And I’m a web dev so I’m used to finding obscure things! They’ll want to advertise it a bit better!

          $90/year is good assuming the feed is ok quality, and actually works. Does it use airplay?

          • March 5th 2013 @ 9:15am
            Boomshanka said | March 5th 2013 @ 9:15am | ! Report

            Not sure re airplay (I’m an android fan) but will be heading down to the local telstra shop for a look later today.

            This time last year I was having to use OPTUS TV (lying about my location – using the NRL headquarters address in Sydney) so I could get half decent cover through my phone (given I live in the supposed “world capital of sport” – Melbourne).

            Slowly, things are getting better!

            • March 5th 2013 @ 9:19am
              Matt said | March 5th 2013 @ 9:19am | ! Report

              Haha, rant below. No airplay.

              Can you post if it works at the shop – I installed, couldn’t even get the pass page to load it just error’d. Couldn’t buy if I wanted to, that’s a bit of a fail!

              I was trying to proxy the livestream last yr but a bit slow for live feed… Might give it a go again this year a this rate.

              • March 5th 2013 @ 9:29am
                Boomshanka said | March 5th 2013 @ 9:29am | ! Report

                I went down the proxy route a few years ago, but it was rubbish – like you say slowww.

                The Android link on the URL above just loops back to the same page (and I can’t locate it on Google play – hence the required trip to Telstra).

                Really peeved off that Foxtel want to charge me the same premium rate for only 5 live matches per round and lock me in for 12 months, so this telstra option may be for me. I’d love to pay for all matches live in HD and no ads, but thanks to the archaic anti siphoning legislation we’re stuck with the Nine / Foxtel cartel.

                IPTV is the way of the future, but not in this country!

              • March 5th 2013 @ 10:20am
                Matt said | March 5th 2013 @ 10:20am | ! Report

                Frustrating for sure.

                They haven’t figured out how to cash in on it yet, so they are resisting. They seem to think $100/year for an extremely sub par service (based on the hundreds of 1 star reviews in a row). I mean, do they honestly think anyone is going to sit there and hold their phone for 240 minutes on a Saturday to watch 3 games? πŸ™‚

                Heck, even offer brackets for low/med/high quality to cover the cost difference for people who want it at home vs out and about.

                Safe to say they have NFI what they’re doing. Eventually someone in a position of power will get it right, blow everyone out of the water, and everyone will scramble to copy them, even though ANYBODY could have done it in the first place but all sat on their hands.

                iPad anyone?

              • March 5th 2013 @ 1:55pm
                Boomshanka said | March 5th 2013 @ 1:55pm | ! Report

                Two days before kick off, and the mythical android app is nowhere to be seen.

                The AFL live 2013 app is up and running, and as Matt reports, the NRL one appears to be last years woeful effort.

                Just came out of the Telstra shop equally confused after the assistants couldn’t help me further.

                Disgraceful effort from a corporate entity that paid good money to be a partner – anyone would think they’re trying to run the competition into the ground at the moment.

              • March 5th 2013 @ 2:28pm
                Matt said | March 5th 2013 @ 2:28pm | ! Report

                The iPhone app is still 2012. At least AFL is 2013!

        • March 5th 2013 @ 9:13am
          Matt said | March 5th 2013 @ 9:13am | ! Report

          Oh wow, the app is terrible.

          It STILL says 2012 for starters.
          The mypass page errors that product isn’t on iTunes. I’ve never used any other Telstra app like this, so no idea why it’d be glitching. I couldn’t buy even if I wanted to (which I did, but now don’t)
          There are no in app purchases listed in iTunes, so not sure how you’re meant to pay
          Ratings on AFL app is nearly all 1 stars about drop outs
          They’ve disabled airplay so you have to watch on the phone only

          Only positive is that it doesn’t charge telstra customers data if you watch on 3G.

          Extremely disappointed. Some days I feel like its still the Stone Age in backwards Australia, the only way to watch the 2 biggest sports in the country live is fork out $800 odd a year for Foxtel, are you kidding me.

          Yet, they stream online for $100/yr as long as you aren’t in Australia or nz.

          First world problems πŸ™‚

          Cricket was $15 a season and dropped out maybe once a match, supported airplay. It’s biggest flaw was no background playing, so you had to leave it going and couldn’t use any other app while watching. Lazy/dumb dev more than anything. But at least it worked and was super cheap, I would be paid more if they ironed out the bugs (which I assume were budget related).

          It is NOT that hard.


          • Roar Guru

            March 5th 2013 @ 9:28am
            Adam Scroggy said | March 5th 2013 @ 9:28am | ! Report

            Not to mention that loads of people can’t even get Foxtel because they live in apartment buildings where the strata refuses to have it installed.

            I’m one of those people, so I’ve been looking forward to the digital version this year. Was planning to buy an iPad for that exact reason but I think I’ll hold off for a couple of weeks to make sure it’s worth it.

            • March 5th 2013 @ 11:08am
              soulranch said | March 5th 2013 @ 11:08am | ! Report

              Find a friend who has foxtel, give them $10 a month and get access to their foxtel go account to use on your ipad. They get 2 logins per foxtel account so they can still use one for themself. I’m in the same apartment block situation and have found that it is the best way to get around it.

              • Roar Guru

                March 5th 2013 @ 2:10pm
                Adam Scroggy said | March 5th 2013 @ 2:10pm | ! Report

                Cheers mate, will give that a try!

          • Roar Guru

            March 5th 2013 @ 9:53am
            peeeko said | March 5th 2013 @ 9:53am | ! Report

            i think the company that provided the internet service last year for 100 is no longer doing it

            • March 5th 2013 @ 10:05am
              Matt said | March 5th 2013 @ 10:05am | ! Report


              Telstra spend $100,000,000 on a service they aren’t even going to do properly, makes no sense!

              I mean, come on – I can find live feeds for cricket on some dodgy site that makes next to no money. If they can do it, what is Telstra’s excuse.

    • March 5th 2013 @ 7:47am
      Ronald M said | March 5th 2013 @ 7:47am | ! Report

      Not a bad set of predictions. My biggest worry would be the Dogs not making the Finals. I believe that the coach can have a massive influence on a team’s performance and in Hasler they have one of the best. I think he will be sufficient to keep them in the top half. The second reason is that I think Benny will be back by Origin time. I don’t expect him to be back at his devastating best but I do expet to see a positive impact. I am beginning to have sufficient doubt about the doggies now to concede no top 4 place but I still think they will be playing finals football come September.

      I think you are wrong about Thurston. Whilst he has been very good, I think he is beginning to decline. Concede your point about Melbourne players though.

      I agree with your Tigers prediction, I have had them as a mid table team for the last couple of years and I do so again but a new coach may be enough to push them to 7 or 8.

      Two Bold (or not) predictions from me would be

      1) Melbourne go back to back. They have the players, they have the stability and they have the coach. They will be there in September and we know that they don’t buckle under pressure. I think they can be the first team to do it.

      2) Sharks won’t make the finals. Like the Tigers last year, the sharks are being talked up as though they had already won this years premiership. I don’t buy it. They have bought a lot of ex Tigers (remember where they finished) players that just don’t seem to fit with the rest of the sharks team. I think they will be the big under-achievers of 2013.

      • March 5th 2013 @ 8:55am
        A1 said | March 5th 2013 @ 8:55am | ! Report

        Thurston is declining. That will do me. He finished third in the voting last year and was the best player in the comp across the last ten or so rounds.

        • March 5th 2013 @ 9:09am
          Ronald M said | March 5th 2013 @ 9:09am | ! Report

          But that was last year. Declining simply means less than last year which means he doesn’t win it.

          • March 5th 2013 @ 12:35pm
            A1 said | March 5th 2013 @ 12:35pm | ! Report

            Thurston ain’t declining. Even if he was he’s still better than everyone else.

      • Columnist

        March 5th 2013 @ 10:14am
        Ryan O'Connell said | March 5th 2013 @ 10:14am | ! Report

        I hope I’m wrong about the Dogs too! In fact, I might be employing a bit of reverse psychology on myself!

        I think I’ll be predicting the Storm to win it again too. It seems to be an annual tradition for me, as that is how highly I rate Smith, Cronk, Slater and Bellamy.

        Not sure I agree with the popular sentiment about the Sharks missing the 8. They’ve got a good side, and a fantastic off-season, signing some high quality players. I see them finishing around 6 or higher.

    • March 5th 2013 @ 8:34am
      eagleJack said | March 5th 2013 @ 8:34am | ! Report

      Storm to scrape into the Top 8 (6-8). And get knocked out in week 1 of the finals.

      I question their hunger this year after winning a premiership “cleanly” and proving so many doubters wrong. And they have lost a host of talent. They need huge years again from their Big 3 and wonder what an injury to one of them for an extended period will do to a squad with little depth.

      They won’t win as many games at the start of 2013 as they did last year, but a similar slump after Origin will hurt even more. Great side (brilliant coach) but the WCC will again have taken its toll on the champions and will be felt at the back end of the season.

      • Columnist

        March 5th 2013 @ 10:15am
        Ryan O'Connell said | March 5th 2013 @ 10:15am | ! Report

        I’d never question the hunger of a side led by Smith and Bellamy. Too professional, too smart, too ruthless. The Storm may not win it, but it won’t be due to complacency.

        • March 5th 2013 @ 10:23am
          eagleJack said | March 5th 2013 @ 10:23am | ! Report

          It’s funny though Ryan cause they will train just as hard, they will tell the media they are hungry, they’ll even convince themselves they are as hungry as ever but it’s that 1% which you only get from true desperation which you can’t manufacture.

          • Columnist

            March 5th 2013 @ 10:28am
            Ryan O'Connell said | March 5th 2013 @ 10:28am | ! Report

            I know what you’re saying, EagleJack, and at a holistic level, it rings true. But with the game on the line, the competitive juices flowing, and with the experience of knowing what to do in certain situations, I just don’t think the Storm will have any let-up.

            • March 5th 2013 @ 10:40am
              eagleJack said | March 5th 2013 @ 10:40am | ! Report

              True Ryan they do know how to win – and as they say winning is a habit. I guess part of my prediction is based on them losing one of the Big 3. No Cam Smith for an extended period would be very, very interesting.

      • March 9th 2013 @ 4:06pm
        I'mastormtrooper2 said | March 9th 2013 @ 4:06pm | ! Report

        Anyone who is a fan of the Storm know that they never think too far ahead of their next game … As expressed quite clearly by Slater on the link below.

        They never put pressure on themselves, by listening to or taking the media hype too seriously … They respect their opposition and they respect themselves and they’re all about their team and not individuals … What most forget is that Smith, Slater and Cronk, all 30 this year, have played together for 12 years and, although blessed with different talents are all natural leaders, who have gained the respect of their coach, their team mates, their peers and their fans around the world … As a fan since Melbourne Storm’s inception into the NRL competition, I have no expectation of my team, or individual players, except that they give of their best, and respectfully represent their sport, club, and fans … They have never let me down …

    • March 5th 2013 @ 8:35am
      sledgeross said | March 5th 2013 @ 8:35am | ! Report

      Wow Ronald, you can actually articlute valid points when you want to πŸ˜‰

      Liek your point about the Sharks, dont think the forwards they have bought have improved their pack by much, especially given most of teh Sharks backrowers are essentially 80 minute players. Gallen, Lewis, Tupou, Bukuya, Graham, Heighington, not sure how the coach will best utilise them. Signing of Ryan and especially Gordon were great moves though.

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