NRL – Season Preview 2014
Gains: Barba, Kennedy, Lowrie, Mills, Vidot
Losses: Anderson, Baptiste, Capewell, Lui, Norman, Prince, Tasi, Wallace
Massive issues in the halves, Hunt’s first year in the top grade and God only knows who will play #6 (and this will prove to be a significant ongoing problem all year). No Hodges for the first third of the season, reshuffle of the captaincy and now the Coach finally comes to his senses that Thaiday is not a front rower. Quality (international) back row, but that’s about as far as it goes with only Hodges and Barba as stand outs across their back 7. Long season ahead, filled with turmoil and negative media focus they’ll miss the 8 again and I have no doubt the Coach will get the bullet.
Gains: Maitua, C. Stanley
Losses: Barba, Halatau, Keating, Romelo, Taupau, Turner
Key injuries and internal issues surrounding the ongoing Barba saga derailed their 2013 season, yet they still limped into the semis. Have a quality forward list; a clever attack pattern; are advantaged by a soft draw (14 games at Homebush and 7 back to back home games) and have one of the best coaches in the business, I expect them to bounce back as a real top 6 contender in 2014.
Top 8 and could well challenge the top 6
Gains: Coote, King
Losses: Bowen, Faifai-Loa, Graham, Greenshields, Johnson
I expect to be a mover and shaker this season. Their existing list has significant potential yet although playing semi finals footy has under delivered through recent seasons. They’ve had a complete overhaul of their coaching and fitness staff and Paul Green will bring a renewed attitude and enthusiasm to their play and approach into 2014. Green has learnt his craft well under Bennett and Robinson while also winning two Qld Cup titles in his own right, he’s big on quality defence and I believe will lift this list into being a major top 6 player this season. They have questions over #6 and #1 to resolve longer term and have already lost Coote for much of the year but they have a quality forward list including two of the most promising young stars in Tariq Sims and Taumalolo in the competition.
Top 6 with a flashing red light
Gains: Mike Cooper, Farrell, Thompson, Widdop, S. Williams
Losses: Matt Cooper, Fien, King, Prior, C. Stanley, Soward, Vidot, Weyman
Regardless of their off season signings I’ve been happy to pot the Dragons for the last 12 months and certainly nothing has changed. I have little confidence in their coach, and less in their list management and it would appear they now find themselves in a real mess. They have slid to 15th and then 16th across the last two seasons in attack and are now but a shadow of their former defensive capabilities let alone the fact that they could only win 3 from 11 games at home last season when gifted with two of the more advantaged Home tracks in the competition (which they’ll weaken even further in 2014 by now only playing 8 ‘true’ home games). A bottom 6 side and another who’ll say goodbye to their Coach before the season gets too long.
Bottom 6, with little surprise of them finishing amongst the final few.
Gains: L. Foran, Gower, Hunt, Hopoate, Mossop, Norman, Peats
Losses: Blair, Keating, Maitua, Mullaney
The key signing here is the new coach Arthur who comes from a solid grounding under Bellamy and Toovey – importantly two coaches who understand and can coach Defence (and notably this was Arthur’s role last year at the Sea Eagles). I still expect a bottom 6 finish but I do expect significant improvement from the mess they became last season. Hopoate and Norman are key inclusions, Hayne is a superstar when ‘on’ and they grow a leg when playing at their true home track of Parra Stadium (yet have been hopeless on the ‘road’). A slow work in progress, but on the improve.
Losses: Buderus, Costigan, Gower, K. Naiqama
Mullen is a massive loss for them to start the season and I’ve adjusted their longer term prospects from a potential top 6 side to challenging for the bottom of the top 8. Mullen’s play making role, width attack and quality kicking game will be sorely missed. The other key change is the retirement of Buderus, his experience and read of the play instrumental in any of their positive winning form last season. They do have attack and points in them across their back 5 and enjoy a strong home ground advantage. Bennett has made positive progression with them through the last two seasons, they’ll be competitive again and challenge the final 8 but how they overcome the key absence of Mullen and Buderus is the money question.
Mid table, at best can challenge the top 8
Gains: Capewell, Idris, K. Naiqama, Peachey, Soward, Taylor, Wallace
Losses: Austin, Ciraldo, Coote, Galea, Masoe, Newton, T, Robinson, Tighe, Walsh
Have recruited very well plus now have quality growing through their junior ranks, 2014 should see a further positive step forward. For mine blending their list into becoming a consistent challenger and resolving their key play making roles at #7 and #6 are the questions around just how far that improvement evolves this season. They’ll also need to improve their away / road record (38%) but this will be helped somewhat in 2014 with them having only 3 distant / interstate games. They have the coach and list potential to figure as a bottom of the 8 contender but I have just as many questions as to how it gels and if and where their key marquee game breakers are.
Mid table, for mine likely to miss the 8
Gains: Picker, Reddy
Losses: Asotasi, Crocker, Everingham, Farrell, Hunt, King, Lima, Peats, Phillips, Starling, Talanoa
A strong list driven by a huge forward roster with the rare class of GI it’s hard not to place them as a top 4 contender again this season. Like the Bulldogs Homebush has become a fortress (11 games) and they have improved markedly their Away results. Whether they have what it takes longer term in the final games that matter is another discussion but I can’t see them doing anything other than steamrolling their way through much of this season into another top 4 finals berth.
Gains: Baptiste, Setu
Losses: Berrigan, Earl, Ferguson, Picker, Tupou, Thompson, S. Williams
On the back of their controversial change of head coach I just can’t see where the quality is across their list to be a major player in 2014. They have now lost two key game breakers in Dugan and Ferguson; Campese looks to be playing on busted legs and a shadow of his former self ; Milford is second yr up and clearly doesn’t want to be there, they lack class and direction at #9 and won only two games Away last season. They have consistently managed a quality junior development program so once again they’ll be banking on some of their next generation stepping up but for mine it looks a few tough years ahead of rebuilding their list.
Losses: Kennedy, O’Donnell
It’s hard not to argue that the Roosters should well be stronger into 2014. Off the back of a sterling premiership season they’ll have confidence, combination and experience, clearly the key will be how deep the fire burns. Casty (French prop from Catlans) from all reports can play and looks a handy acquisition, Cordner is a future superstar, Origin rep halves and the SBW factor it’s difficult to find anything but positives or class across their list. If they stay fit and the hunger remains they are the team to once again beat.
Gains: C. Blair, Lui, Starling
Losses: Galuvao, Gower, Kite, Rose
On the back of a core group of stars continue to do an amazing job of competing amongst the top 4 each season. Like the Roosters they have a long list of marquee game breakers, international halves, probably the best 9, 7, 6 and 1 combination in the competition a smart coach and a significant Home ground advantage. Once again they have made some necessary rotations across their list but have proven to have bought astutely through recent seasons, keep an eye on Lui a young front rower who has come through the Broncos system and has significant potential. Yet to show signs of aging or lack of hunger, look a top 4 side once again.
Gains: Ayshford, Grothe, Holdsworth, Prior
Losses: Bukuya, Mills, Peachey, Pomeroy, Ross, Townsend
It’s a nightmare trying to access the Sharks longer term prospects due to no one really knowing what, if when or how the pathetic ASADA investigation may unfold and or penalize them in any further way. The direct loss of their coach has to be a factor of some sort, but if they retain their existing list longer term then once again they are likely to be a competitive top 8 chance. Key injuries look to hamper their season start with the loss of Robson, Lewis and Tupou and Carney carrying a nagging hamstring issue. Their best list is strong and they’ve some quality wins over top 4 sides through the last 18 months. I have them marked as a bottom of the top 8 contender, at their best certainly a semi final contender.
Mid table, could well contend for 6th through to 8th spot.
Gains: T. Robinson, Rose, Weston
Losses: M. Blair, Finch, Ryles, Sau, Setu, Widdop
Widdop is a key loss, as is the size and up front work Ryles offered. Slater now looks to be carrying ongoing leg injuries and his, Smith and Cronks longer term work load off the back of a World Cup campaign has to be some sort of issue. To his credit Bellamy continues to reinvent their list around their key 3 stars and year in year out their defence is amongst the top 3 teams in the comp, throw in their enviable Home ground advantage. With wear and tear, a rookie #6 and questions over their up front size and grunt I have them rated at the next level behind this year’s likely top few sides but they never go missing do they!
Gains: M. Blair, Faifai-Loa, Tighe
Losses: Idris, O’Dwyer, Rankin
Another player list that looks weaker than its offering last year. Cartwright’s approach appears methodical with a game plan centered around their middle 8 with their outside 4 there just to make up the numbers. Such an approach will win them a few footy games along the way but it won’t compete with those that matter. Look bottom 6 for mine with the heat likely to build on their Coach’s long term future.
Gains: Bukuya, Tomkins, Townsend
Losses: Godinet, Lowrie, Packer, Rapira, E. Taylor, Tupou
Another likely mover and shaker this season. There were arguable excuses for their poor start last yr, a late head coach appointment then a significant injury toll at the season’s start once but they began to aim up they rattled home winning 9 of their last 14 games to just miss the finals. Their recent trail vs the Broncos showed numerous signs of further change and development with each of their new buys in Tompkins, Townsend and Bukuya playing major roles. They have size, skill, depth and a rare talent in Johnson. The key to their season will be starting well and winning through the opening two months where they’ll play the majority of their games on the road, not returning to Mt Smart until Round 12. I have them marked as a top 6 contender with their size, off load game, hint of structure and individual brilliance to trouble most on their path to the finals.
Top 6 with a flashing red light
Gains: Austin, Halatua, Paterson, Taupau
Losses: Ayshford, Marshall, Pettybourne, Reddy, Tuqiri
I rate Mick Potter as a coach but gee he looks to have a task ahead of him with what looks a very thin list and the need for a few promising kids to be able to stand up and shine. Aside from Farah they have no marquee or class Origin or International star, in particular at 7, 6 or 1. They also play with the disadvantage of only 8 ‘true’ home games compounded with a poor Away record (winning 2 road games last season). Potter will at least have now had 12 months to try and get a handle on his squad and the benefit of a full off season preparation, but for mine if they are to improve and compete then the likes of Brooks, Sironen and other youngsters will need to rapidly step up and star.
My Top 8
Roosters, Rabbits, Eagles, Storm, Cowboys, Warriors, Bulldogs, Knights
Should there be a slider or failure across this list I see the next two contenders (and could well be bottom 8 finalists) as the Sharks and Panthers.
I think the Wests Tigers unfortunately look near morals for the Most Losses (wooden spoon). The current $4.00 on offer is double where I have them rated.
I expect the Broncos to be the biggest under achievers (again), and Griffin along with Price (Dragons) as coaches who won’t last the season. I also expect Potter (Wests Tigers) and Cartwright (Titans) to come under significant pressure for their longer term positions.
Round 1 Ratings
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Round 1 Tips
Roosters, Bulldogs, Panthers, Eagles, Cowboys, Tigers, Warriors, Sharks
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