Wednesday, 29 February 2012

The 'Mark It Down' NRL Season Preview

Well folks it's that time of year again, the beginning of the NRL season so I thought I'd share with you my vision for the season ahead. You're all very lucky and I'll tell you why. Back in October 1991 my then housemate and I were experimenting with chili's. We were making a chili con carne, using way too many habaneros. After throwing caution to the wind and consuming a bowl next thing I knew I had been transported to October 2012, where I didn't think to write down any Lottery numbers but while there I did make note of the Rugby League ladder for the season just completed. Back in 1991 there were no teams from North Queensland or New Zealand or Melbourne so imagine my surprise to read their names as I scanned the results, and I was shocked to see no Norths, and that Wests and Balmain had merged, as had St George and Illawarra. On returning to the present I filed away the information I had recorded whilst in the future and now here in 2012 I have opened up the vault and now that I have completed placing all my bets for the season, am now prepared to share with everyone what I know.

So here they are sports fans, my vision from the future here now in the present....Once you have read this I suggest you start contacting your bookies.....

                                                        Brisbane Broncos

The Broncs will have to face up to life without Darren Lockyer pretty quickly if they are to be any hope, not only for the crown but also to show the rest of the rugby league world they are not just one-trick ponies. Although with almost the entire state of Queensland to acquire talented youth, and gnarly old veterans like Hodges and Thaiday chances are they will go alright. Top 8 will be a minimum but if they haven't won by round 5 look for a return of the Messiah on a token contract, ratified by the league. My Prediction: 6th

                                                         Canberra Raiders

Canberra Raiders were once the best club in the league filled to the brim of International Superstars. But that was 20 years ago and since the greatest ever Raider Ric Stuart left for less Greener jerseys, it's been a big slide back to the ordinary team they were back in their formative years. Their star these days is Terry Campese, a bloke who played a whole 11 minutes for the entire 2011 season. If he can get past 12 minutes in this game the Faiders will think they are a chance at winning the comp. They do have an up and coming star in Josh Duggan, but his apparent 'Big head' and penchant for tattoos will ensure he spends most of the season in pain from all the tattooists needles and beatings from annoyed locals. My Prediction:11th

                                  Canterbury Bulldogs

Have been major disappointments to their fans the last couple of years, which is good news for everyone else because generally Canterbury fans are the worst in the league, just ask CityRail maintenance staff. The acquisition of last years premiership winning coach Des Hasler won't change much this year although it will bring improvement, albeit slight. No real star players I can think of although Ben Barba will probably top the tryscorers list. Look for them in 2013 when Des can bring all the manly players over. My Prediction:9th

                                       Cronulla Sharks

The long suffering fans of the competitions least successful club ever have reason to believe they will come out of the doldrums this year on the strength of Todd 'Schooners' Carney's arrival in the shire. It's a 50/50 chance he'll either fly high or crash and burn. He at least has the advantage of not having the Daily Telecrap stalking his every move like last season. But despite having 'Schooners' and the born again saviour of NSW football Paul Gallen, the old saying, 'You can't polish a turd' rings true here. Hurry up and die you sad club. My Prediction:12th

      Eastern Suburbs District Rugby League Football Club           

                         Sydney Roosters (as registered with NSWRL)

The proudest, greatest and longest serving club in the NRL had an underwhelming season last year after being beaten Grand Finalists the year before. The major reasons for last years fall from grace have now been removed from the club and a new generation featuring the youngest squad in the NRL, with only 3 players over the age of 25, has a chance to show their wares and do this great club proud. Led ably by former Captain of the year Braith Anasta, the atrocities and big headed arrogance of certain players will be a thing of the past. A decent season will see finals football, but the reliance on youth will become too much at the later end of the season. Watch for TauTau Moga in the centres. An 18yo kid the size of Mal Meninga, if Mal Meninga was bigger! My Prediction:7th

The legendary Captain Charger, former Gold Coast mascot.

                                       Gold Coast Titans

Last years wooden spooners Gold Coast have decided to recruit every bad-ass and miscreant they could get their hands on. They made a play for Todd 'Schooners' Carney but missed out. So with every other party animal in the NRL now residing on the glitter strip, expect the Tits to start the slow descent into the realms haunted by their predecessors the Gold Coast Giants/Seagulls/Chargers. Which makes me think I really miss Captain Charger, the greatest mascot in NRL history. Did you know he used to put socks in the front of his undies and golf balls in the back? Sorry I digress, but talking about Captain Charger is way more interesting than talking about this mob. Watch the fickle Coastie crowds dwindle as the losses pile up too. Not one sporting team of any code has succeeded on the Gold Coast long term, something to think about.  My Prediction:15th

                                Manly Warringah Sea Eagles

Deserved premiers in 2011 the club started to implode not long after leaving the presentation, much to the joy of most rugby league fans, who have always loved to hate the team from the Insular Peninsular. It all began with the sacking of club Godfather Peter 'Zorba' Peters, and culminated with the loss of coaching staff including Noel Cleal and head coach Des Hasler to Canterbury. Fortunately for them the crux of the playing roster has remained and new coach Geoff Toovey probably spent more time on the field last season than most players anyway, and should know exactly what to do. Won't win it, but still top 4. Watch for the Stewart brothers to be obnoxious twits.  My Prediction:3rd

                                        Melbourne Storm

Remember the movie in the 80's Stand and Deliver? Based on the true story of maths teacher at Garfield high Mr Escalante, who took a class filled with rogues, miscreants and the general worst of society and helped them succeed and get to college, when truth is in the real world they cheated their way through. Well Craig Bellamy reminds me of Mr Escalante, he knew it was only cheating if you lose, if you cheat and win you are savvy, and if you are caught, deny responsibility and offer the excuse "I misinterpreted the rules". Cam Smith, Billy Slater and co have learnt well from Coach Escalante and get away with plenty as they are from an under-privileged rugby league area. This situation will continue in order to keep the Storm competitive and therefore continue to garner small amounts of interest in the AFL state. 'How do I reach these Kidzzz?' My Prediction:4th

                                        Newcastle Knights

From the aging Excalibur club to the incredibly aged Knights Nanna's, fans of Lord Tinklers plaything honestly believe they are going to win the comp this year, solely on the strength of new coach Wayne Bennett's arrival from St Merge. While Mr Bennett has an unenviable record as a head coach in the NRL, he is not Jesus Christ performing miracles, he is an experienced coach taking over a team of solid scrappers with a superstar winger and a fullback he brought with him, and teams whose best player is on the wing do not win titles. Purchasing old club legends for a last hurrah may be fun and fulfilling for Billionaire owners but it won't bring joy to the fans. With a bunch of old boys now also running the front office it's hard to see anything but trouble ahead. The real interest is in how long it takes for Wayne and Tinks to fall out over players. Tinks does love to sack coaches and trainers.  My Prediction:8th

                                   New Zealand Warriors

Last seasons losing Grand Finalists may have lost their coach, but this will turn out to be a blessing as virtually the same roster, plus the inclusion of some incredible talent from their Youth team and a local successful and respected new coach will go one better this year and take out the trophy. The only lingering issue that could stop them is the mind of the man who more than any other took them to the heights of last year, James Maloney. Homesick and already signed with another club for 2013, how he copes with one last year in the Shakey Isles will determine their hopes. My Prediction:1st

                               North Queensland Cowboys

With a squad of solid players rounded out with superstar Jonathon Thurston they are destined to go at least as far as 2011 if not further. Thurston had a sensational year last year and there seems no reason he won't do the same this year as he is doing well at staying out of trouble. Tariq Sims is another future star and the ageless Matt Bowen at the back playing without injury means they'll be hard to contain. Injury is their main demon, and Thurston and Bowen have been victims in the past. Will roll along quietly and will surprise many, without exactly exciting anyone. My Prediction:5th

                                       Parramatta Eels

Perennial underachievers for over 60 years with one golden era to their name. Between this mob and Penrith, no wonder the AFL believe the West of Sydney is ripe for the picking. Victims in recent seasons of poor recruiting (see Carl Webb, Paul Whatuira, Chris Walker et al) and total reliance on the Hayne Train. At least this year they have bought a quality yet enigmatic half in Chris Sandow, they have a swag of injuries from the trials and a really ordinalry playing roster. Expect nothing from them and you won't be disappointed with their position at the end of the season. My Prediction:13th

                                      Penrith Panthers

Penrith have a lot of flaws. Boring to watch and even read about, have always had the ugliest jerseys, failures for the majority of their history, come from the mountains and you know what they say about mountain folk. Phil Gould has become a sad parody of himself in recent years and will continue to embarrass the club and the league in the push for the hearts and wallets of the people of Western Sydney. Their players are crap and their prospects even more so. I would rather an Adam Sandler movie than this pack of losers. My Prediction:14th

                                 South Sydney Rabbitohs 

The perennial March champions have once again talked up their chances but this year they have one ace up their sleeve that has been missing every year since about 1989. They actually have a young progressive coach with a good CV showing success at the highest level in England. The fact he has already told owner Russell Crowe to but out is also a good sign. I can see them going on a decent run after they lose their first couple of games, then just as their long suffering and deluded faithful start to print up T shirts to celebrate making the finals, salary cap auditor and Rooster legend Ian Schubert will discover anomalies in the Rabbitohs salary cap and the ensuing breach notice being upheld will claim any points accrued during the season, consigning the club to its 9th Wooden Spoon and further shame. My Prediction:16th 

                               St George/Illawarra Steelers

A club that is entering it's fourteenth season, with one title that was gifted to them by officials with a string of dodgy calls throughout the season, yet the Woolongong power base continue to try and cash in on the past history of their club partner. Fact is they are now without the messianic influence of Wayne Bennett, and are now coached by a radio shock jock for all we know, with a bunch of old and over-rated players no other club would take they are the anonymous team with little appeal. The slide in the fortunes of this young club will commence now. My Prediction:10th

                                           Wests Tigers 

Now they have all but removed those pesky Wests Magpie types from the club, the way has been paved to go back to the name Balmain in the near future, promising a better chance of success in the minds of the big wigs out Leichardt way, seeing as Wests have hardly been shining lights over the league's history. Truth is Balmain has always been synonymous with mediocrity and long term that is where this club is destined to be entrenched. But for now they have a chance to add to the title they fluked back when Touch Footy rules applied with their gun Benji at the peak of his powers back in 2005. They'll be thereabouts again, but I just don't see them having the mental strength or actual talent to take the big prize. My Prediction:2nd

So there you have it folks, my unbiased opinion on how the season will end up based on my chili time travel experience.Of course if the season doesn't pan out as I predict, put the whole experience down to being just a dream.. If you have for any reason taken offense at my predictions for your team, I'm sorry you support a reprehensible club. You should start following the Roosters..... :)

Good luck in your respective Tipping Comps and Fantasy Leagues and remember on Grand Final day to shout out "Easts To Win!" Just like the great Ray Stehr did.

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