Don’t believe the hype – NRL 2018 preview

Ron Swanson Roar Guru

By Ron Swanson, Ron Swanson is a Roar Guru

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    Ray and I have returned from our 12-month sabbatical from all things media with renewed vigour, ideas and inspiration. Let’s gaze into the crystal ball for NRL 2018

    The Contenders

    Sydney Roosters
    Nick Politis has somehow convinced the NRL auditors that brown paper bags carrying hundreds of thousands in cash and EFTPOS debit cards are now part of third party agreements. With the squad at Trent Robinson’s disposal, it’s hard to see them missing out on the grand final.

    The forwards look a little light on after the departures of Aiden Guerra and Kane Evans. Swapping Mitchell Pearce for Cooper Cronk and Michael Gordon for James Tedesco is like upgrading from a ’94 Hyundai Excel to a 2009 Proton Persona. The I’m a Celebrity diet that coach Robinson puts his players on should also give them an edge in 2018.

    James Tedesco running during Origin

    (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)

    Melbourne Storm
    With another title under his belt, Craig Bellamy will have a tough time replacing starting forwards Tohu Harris (Warriors) and Jordan McLean (Cowboys). Ryan Hoffman returns from over the ditch and will immediately return to form while Harris will drop the pill from Shaun Johnson’s hospital passes and miss more tackles in a week at Mount Smart than he did in the entire 2017 season.

    Without Cronk, the Storm won’t suffer greatly thanks to the form of Cameron Munster and the emergence of Cronk-clone Brodie Croft. With those two in the halves, they should still be there or thereabouts at the pointy end of the season.

    They will unearth the usual bargain buy from left field – Sandor Earl was a contender until he broke down. Sam Kasiano may well turn out to be the world’s largest No.7 if Croft struggles defensively and could stake a claim for buy of the year.

    North Queensland Cowboys
    With Johnathan Thurston and co-captain Matt Scott back on deck, the Cowboys will give the finals a fair shake again. The Cows’ brave charge to the decider last season with a depleted squad will give fans and, more importantly, the players hope they can go one better.

    The recruitment of Jordan McLean is a masterstroke by Peter Parr and the brains trust up Townsville way. The only weakness still appears to be a mediocre three-quarter line, though JT and Michael Morgan can find a way to make them look like world beaters.

    Johnathon Thurston North Queensland Cowboys Rugby League NRL Finals 2016

    (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    Expect a big return to form from players such as Justin O’Neill, who will appreciate the return of the mercurial Thurston. 2018 is make-or-break for O’Neill – his spot in the Maroons backline looks a hell of a mountain to climb given the form of Munster and Morgan in last year. To use a ping pong term, it’s “hustle, hit and never quit” for the former Maroons centre.

    Brisbane Broncos (aka The Friday Nights)
    With a seven-day turnaround and free-to-air revenue seemingly every week, it’s hard to leave out Wayne Bennett’s wild horses. The addition of Jack Bird could be a masterstroke by the oldest coach in world sport.

    Not since Chris Johns have the horse and carts possessed a quality New South Welshmen. James Roberts has the potential but, until he reaches it, he’s still more Terry Matterson than Johns.

    The forwards look a little thin with the departure of Adam Blair (Warriors), Herman Ese’ese (Knights) and young Jai Arrow (Titans). Expect a breakout year from Matt Lodge, who should be willing to burst through brick walls for coach Bennett, the coach handing him a lifeline after an alcohol-fuelled rampage in New York. He trained with Brisbane last year and will be raring to go.

    UK signing Andre Savelio could prove to be an unpolished gem like James Graham, or simply unpolished like Sam Tomkins. Either way, fans have a long wait to find out after Savelio suffered a knee injury in the recent trial game against the Central Queensland Capras.

    Parramatta Eels
    The return of an overweight and unmotivated Jarryd Hayne won’t derail the Eels’ premiership tilt in 2018. The emergence of bit-part players such as Corey Norman, Clint Gutherson and Nathan Brown shows what a fantastic mentor Brad Arthur is.

    The big factor this season will be managing the ego of a fading Hayne Plane, having spent two seasons grounded in the hanger. Gold Coast fans were glad to see the back of him and 2018 will decide whether he’s still the player who lit up the NRL prior to his departure to the states.

    Have the Eels done the right thing bringing him back into the fold?

    Which teams do you see challenging for the title in 2018?

    The New South Wales State of Origin team for the 2018 series remains a mystery, with new coach Brad Fittler facing plenty of selection headaches. So we want you to tell us - and all your mates - who should start for Blues in Game 1 with our team picker.

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    The Crowd Says (13)

    • February 13th 2018 @ 6:43am
      madmax said | February 13th 2018 @ 6:43am | ! Report

      I honestly cannot see what all the hype is about Parramatta…………their roster is OK but fail to see what is so good about them. I can see them struggling to make the 8.

      • February 13th 2018 @ 6:48am
        Peter Phelps said | February 13th 2018 @ 6:48am | ! Report

        I agree

        I see them in the eight but only just.

        • Roar Guru

          February 14th 2018 @ 1:55pm
          Ron Swanson said | February 14th 2018 @ 1:55pm | ! Report

          Peter Phelps are you the fella who starred in my fave Aussie drama Stingers?

      • Roar Guru

        February 14th 2018 @ 1:54pm
        Ron Swanson said | February 14th 2018 @ 1:54pm | ! Report

        The halves, they have a very tough hard working pack and are well coached. Semi is a big loss if Hayne get’s his head in the game they will be up around the top 4-5 mark.

        Not an Eels fan but since Wayne Arthurs has taken over they are a tough uncompromising football side and he has the proof on his side in players such as Gutherson, Norman, Nathan Brown etc. who have improved out of sight under his watch.

    • February 13th 2018 @ 10:40am
      Roy said | February 13th 2018 @ 10:40am | ! Report

      Another stupid article claiming the Roosters are cheats, you just have to look at how many players they’ve released to see that not only are they not over the cap, they still have money left to spend.

      • February 13th 2018 @ 8:48pm
        Brian said | February 13th 2018 @ 8:48pm | ! Report

        I disagree with them having money to spend, but they’re extremely top heavy with terrible depth. One injury could condemn them to the depths of the ladder.

        • Roar Guru

          February 14th 2018 @ 2:17pm
          Ron Swanson said | February 14th 2018 @ 2:17pm | ! Report

          Fair assumption Brian, Watson or young Hastings would come in if either of the halves were injured on rep duty etc season’s past.

          They won’t miss SKD’s blooper reel each and every week though which is a bonus.

      • Roar Guru

        February 14th 2018 @ 2:15pm
        Ron Swanson said | February 14th 2018 @ 2:15pm | ! Report

        Add young Crichton next season Roy, yeah you are bang on mate, they are way under the cap, not even close to being over. I never mentioned them over going over the cap, I mean how could they with old club legend Ian Schubert running the salary cap auditing for 15 years prior to his departure on 2013.

        They’d be all over the loop holes would they not? Ex CEO is now the head of football at the NRL. Mates in high places, nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more.

    • February 13th 2018 @ 12:17pm
      14-12 said | February 13th 2018 @ 12:17pm | ! Report

      Raiders vs Panthers GF…. Ooops I thought it was 2017 for a second there….

    • February 13th 2018 @ 2:29pm
      sean said | February 13th 2018 @ 2:29pm | ! Report

      The parramatta side are too light on forwards that make over 100m. Kane Evans is ok but not that flash. Brown is the only one that consistently goes over the 100 metre mark. Cant win premierships like that. 1-2 injuries and the roosters are in trouble. They have no depth after the first 17. Winning two in a row hasnt been done and even though the storm are a good side I dont thnk they repeat it. Cowboys are my tip even though as you say there backline isnt world beaters.They said that about the maroons backline often too and look at what happened there. Cowboys should beat Roosters in the final

      • Roar Guru

        February 14th 2018 @ 2:21pm
        Ron Swanson said | February 14th 2018 @ 2:21pm | ! Report

        I think the Cows look the most likely, again it’s fraught with danger making a prediction this early when it’s still summer.

        I think the Eels are under rated, particularly their forwards. No point have 2-3 running over 100 metres per game when the other starters and bench run for less than 30-40 metre’s per week. If that’s your theory the Storm are in trouble now they only have Bromwich and McLean has departed.

        Gallen and Fifita make up for the other forwards at the Sharks, then again they also demand the ball more and one of that duo does a lot less in defence.

    • February 15th 2018 @ 12:33pm
      Gray-Hand said | February 15th 2018 @ 12:33pm | ! Report

      Glen Lazarus was a pretty decent New South Welshman who played for the Broncos.

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