Population 2.1M. Number of teams in Brisbane – one. Number of 3rd party agreements – infinity. Number of wily old coaches with unlimited funds to lure unsuspecting young talented centres – I think you know where I’m going with it. My brother will call it jealousy. I call it manipulation of an imperfect system. That’s another topic for another day. Put it this way. If they don’t win it this year, then something is terribly wrong. Strike power across the park. Plenty of depth. Just need to make sure Ben Hunt doesn’t choke when it matters most (Ouch!). Young talent that is the envy of all NRL clubs. I believe Joe Ofahengaue will develop into one hec of a player. Kodi Nikorima is good enough to make any other first grade side, yet, he will probably start off the bench. Enough said.
Where do they finish? Top 3.
If pre-season form is anything to go by, then the Eels are across the line as far as the NRL competition is concerned. That’s it folks! Let’s just save our energy and a whole bunch of heartache and just hand them the Provan-Summons trophy, right now! Wait. Do we have a CEO that can hand them the trophy? After swiping the Auckland Nines and an impressive trial v the Panthers, the success-starved Eels fans (they’ve gone without a premiership trophy since 1986) are beating to a different kind of drum. Is this the renaissance of the Blue and Gold Army? I know one thing’s for sure. Ray Warren’s voice goes up a couple of decibels when the “mighty Eels” have that sense of premiership clout about them. Jarryd Who? Who needs him when you’ve got Keiran Foran! Or Beau Scott. Or Michael Jennings. Or Michael Gordon. Or the greatest winger since the Guru himself. Settle down Rabbits! You don’t win anything in March! Put your drums away Eels fans. It’s a long, long season. Will Keiran be as effective without a DCE on his inside? Will Jennings actually pass the ball to Radradra? I still think they’re a bit thin up front. The pressure is on. Let’s see how they deal with it.
Where do they finish? 7th to 9th.
Just like the Sharks, they’re going to break me in the tipping comp. They have the capacity to beat any team on their day. Littered with young brilliance in the form of Matt Moylan, Bryce Cartwright (who I think will play Origin this year), Te Maire Martin, Tyrone Peachy, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and Leilani Latu, I believe their weakness is the old brigade – Halves Peter Wallace and Jamie Soward. I also see a lack of intimidation in their front row. Will the front row lay a foundation for their brilliant edge runners and backline? Do the halves have the speed, strength and nous to co-ordinate the team? Enter Coach Anthony Griffin – one of the very few Brisbane coaches to miss the eight. Does he have the strength to make tough decisions? He’d better. Otherwise Godfather Gus won’t be very happy…
Where do they finish? 8th to 10th.
South Sydney Rabbitohs
Sammy’s back! “Glory, Glory to…..” hang on! Does this mean we see more of Mrs Burgess again? Surely not! Surely the loss of Issac Luke, Glenn Stewart, Dylan Walker and Chris McQueen can’t be substituted by one man?! Apparently this hasn’t gone down to well with his team-mates if you believe some of the pre-season goss. Luke Keary wants out. Adam Reynolds wants out. Greg Inglis wants to move to the Broncos (yeah, like they’ve got cap space right?). OK, there’s their first hurdle. Harmony. C’mon boys, group hug! Can they repeat their feat from 2 years ago? Anything’s possible with big Summy.
Where do they finish? 5th to 8th.
St George Illawarra Dragons
The surprise packet from last year. At various stages, their defence looked impregnable. They’ll need every bit of that and more. Much more in attack as well. As brilliant a player as Josh Dugan is, he also suffers from Jennings-itis in that he has a reluctance to let that ball go! If he plays in the centres, I do NOT want to be the winger outside him! Their strengths? Gareth Widdop and Tyson Frizell. Full stop. Losing Trent Merrin is a big loss as far as second phase play goes. There goes another attacking option. Honest team with honest players. Not sure if they can repeat last year’s performance.
Where do they finish? 11th to 13th.
Top 3 certainties until Mitchell Pearce…well…did his thing. Throw in the fact that James Maloney, Michael Jennings and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck are gone, as well as long term injuries to Boyd Cordner and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and the pending litigation for Shaun Kenny-Dowall (bloody hell, how many hyphenated names can you have??!! Surely there must be a cap on hyphenated names??!!) and suddenly their mortgage on the top 3 position appears somewhat tenuous, to say the least. Notwithstanding their issues, they still have an imposing roster. In Dylan Napa, Jake Friend and Kane Evans, they have a young and exciting front row. Jackson Hastings and Jayden Nikorima looked ultra impressive against St Helens a few days ago. They didn’t over play their hand and gave their backline every opportunity to shine. The Roosters also happen to have the best of the young coaches in the competition. Don’t be too hasty writing them off.
Where do they finish? 3rd to 5th.
Surely! Surely this is their year?! You can’t have a team with Shaun Johnson (the 2nd best player in the competition), Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Issac Luke, Tuimoala Lolohea (who I rate very highly), Simon Mannering, Ben Matulino, Ryan Hoffman and big Manu Vatuvei and NOT make the top 4?!! Tell me that can’t happen. They just need a good coach and a team structure that works for their brand of football. Therein lies the big question – Will coach Andrew McFadden last the first 6 rounds? Ivan Cleary beckons. If Cleary (who understands the Warriors culture) gets the nod AND Shaun Johnson stays healthy, then anything is possible.
Where do they finish? Top 3.
Do they have a CEO? Or was it COO that resigned? Is Robbie Farah still playing despite what happened in the off-season? It’s like your wife asking for a divorce yet you insist on living under the same roof. Very uncomfortable. There’s a time bomb waiting to happen. Who goes first? Taylor v Farah? Surely there’s a soap opera in that? Man, there’s more hookers in this team than Porky’s nightclub! Robbie, Ballin, Cherrington, Halatau. Why? As for the team. They’re everyone’s second favourite team (including mine). I REALLY want them to do well. James Tedesco MUST play origin this year. Please Loz, take heed. Can Mitch Moses and Luke Brooks miss fewer tackles this year and focus on running a more positive style in attack? They’ve got the most exciting young spine. Sadly, lacking punch up front. Losing Taupau won’t help. So much is hinging on Aaron Woods’ broad shoulders. Can he carry them?
Where do they finish? 12th to 14th (I say that with apologies to my good mate Simon)
Surprise Packet: Raiders
Rookie of the Year: Te Maire Martin
State of Origin bolters (NSW): Matt Moylan to five-eighth and Bryce Cartwright + Paul Vaughan on the bench
Wooden Spoon: Titans
First Coach sacked: Mcfadden
Origin Series: NSW 2 QLD 1 (I live in hope)
Grand Final: Warriors v Broncos
Grand Final Winners: (drum roll..) BRONCOS!!