Melbourne Storm – Predicted Finish; Minor Premiers
Coach: Craig Bellamy
Star Player: Billy Slater
It’s difficult not to pick the Storm as minor premiers, especially considering their stranglehold on the J J Giltinan Shield in recent years. The Storm have won the award in four of the past six seasons, an astonishing statistic considering the heavily contested competition. Despite all the hype surrounding Wayne Bennett I still maintain that Craig Bellamy is the number one coach of this decade. He has built a dynasty down in Melbourne and never looked back. He is great for the game, especially in the battle against Aussie Rules football. The only thing I see weighing the Storm down is ANOTHER overhall of their forward pack. They have lost the likes of Simon Woolford, Troy Thompson and Adam Blair with the only notable signings of Jason Ryles and Ryan Hoffman set to re-bolster their ranks. But Bellamy does have a knack of making a nobody forward pack into something special.
Newcastle Knights – Predicted Finish; 2nd
Coach: Wayne Bennett
Star Player: Kurt Gidley
Everybody is going nuts about the ‘Bennett factor’ at the Knights but little do they know they’ve had the team to do it for several seasons now. Attacking prowess of Gidley, Uate, Sau and Mullen with a mean forward pack consisting of Tuimavave, Fa’aoso and De Gois, with a team like that I don’t see how they didn’t finish atleast the top six last season! But Wayne will make sure his new men won’t underachieve again this season. With the inclusion of Boyd (as much as I hate him), Buderus, Tahu, Snowden, Laurie and one of my favourite forwards in the NRL Adam Cuthbertson the Knights are going to put a big dent in the competition this season.
West Tigers – Predicted Finish; 3rd
Coach: Tim Sheens
Star Player: Benji Marshall
What is with everybody choosing the Tigers at the top of their 2012 ladder?? Okay they have a great squad and come finals time they will be most likely to take the crown however I just can’t tip the Tigers to be consistent enough to keep the minor premiership. They’ve only made the one marquee signing this season with Adam Blair, but have lost promising youngster Andrew Fifita, workhorse Bryce Gibbs and playmaker Robert Lui. They should cover for Lui’s absence easily with Moltzen and exciting speedster Tedesco at fullabk however the forward pack will be under emmense pressure this year. Youngsters Woods and Groat will see a lot more of first grade this season and I expect that they will shine in 2012. This is also the last season in Tigers colours for Ellis as well so expect the Tigers player of the year for the past three seasons to give us one more superhero season.
Brisbane Broncos – Predicted Finish; 4th
Coach: Andy Griffin
Star Player: Sam Thaiday
Bronco fans can look forward to a great next couple of seasons. They will host some of the best names in the modern game which we have seen get their first grade berth in the past two or three seasons. Blokes like Alex Glenn, Justin Hoffman, Corey Norman, Andrew McCollough, Dunamis Lui and David Hala are the group of players that will rebuild the Broncos in their post-Lockyer stage. Coach Griffin will be counting his lucky stars he has this new crop of players to make his job so much easier. Only major dilemma for him however, is ensuring that Corey Norman warms to the number six role with as little discomfort as possible. He needs to stick with Norman for the long haul and not look for a quick fix.
Sydney Roosters – Predicted Finish 5th
Coach: Brian Smith
Star Player: Shaun Kenny-Dowel
Beware the post-Carney resurgence of the Sydney Roosters. With a disrupted campaign last season due to the ill discipline of Carney, Watts and Myles and injuries to key players such as SKD and Mitchell Aubusson the Roosters (just like any team would have) didn’t stand a chance last season. But with a new look squad after the release of their bad boys, the Roosters are primed for another big five year period like we saw from 2000 to 2005. Their entire forward pack is brimmed with youngsters. Veterans Frank-Paul Nuuasala and Mitchell Aubusson are guaranteed berths in the pack however young guns Jared Warea-Hargreaves, Mose Masoe, Lama Tasi, Tom Symonds Tinirau Arona, Martin Kennedy, Boyd Cordner, Jake Bosden and Willie Mataka lead a huge contingent of players with first grade experience hungry for spots. Brian Smith has the most pleasing headache in the NRL. I am also looking forward to the return to stardom of Shaun Kenny-Dowell and BJ Leilua who both disappeared for the Roosters last season and the inclusion of exciting centre TauTau Moga who is reportedly the clubs next big thing. The only thing I think the Roosters would benefit from is releasing Braith Anasta next season to make room for 2013 recruit James Maloney.
Manly Sea Eagles – Predicted Finish 6th
Coach: Geoff Toovey
Star Player: Keiran Foran
The 2011 Premiers are in for a tough campaign in 2012. However as much as we all hate them we can’t rule them out of the premiership race. With a young halves partnership and solid pack Manly certainly have the team capable of making an impact again in 2012 but a lot rides on whether or not new coach Geoff Toovey can keep his cool. Already cracking under the pressure, Toovey did not respond well to the move of Des Hasler and many other coaching staff to the Bulldogs. He accused Hasler of destroying the clubs dynasty. Off-field nuances such as this will not be beneficial to the Sea Eagles campaign. When it comes down to pressure games for Manly, coach Toovey will not be able to deliver the goods or guidance that his players need. They will coincidentally suffer this season.
Canterbury Bulldogs – Predicted Finish; 7th
Coach: Des Hasler
Star Player: Frank Pritchard
The Bulldogs recruited well for the 2011 season, bringing in Hodkinson, Keating and most notably Frank Pritchrad, however their results on the field slumped as they crawled to 9th position on the season ladder at the completion of the regular season. Hasler and the Bulldogs new coaching staff will be out to reverse this result. Expect to see a far leaner and fitter Bulldogs outfit in 2012 as Des’ renowned punishment throughout the pre-season whips his boys into shape. It is for this reason alone that I would back the Doggies to close out tight games and possibly crawl their way into the top eight. However, I see a big struggle on the hands of Hasler if he is to turn the Bankstown boys into a top four team. New recruit James Graham has been a standout in the Super League and on an International scale for England however I don’t believe he will make as big an impact in the NRL as everybody has hyped him up to. Des may have realised this too as he is starting off the bench for the Bulldogs in their round one clash against Penrith.
Saint George Illawarra Dragons – Predicted Finish; 8th
Coach: Steve Price
Star Player: Ben Creagh
So the post-Bennett era has finally dawned on the Dragons. They’ve lost their coach, conditioning staff and half the players in their squad, where do they go from here? If the Broncos are any indication of how they are to fare then the Dragons are in for a torrid next few seasons until they finally pluck a great new coach out of thin air and magically conjure some amazing young guns to carry them into finals contention once again. But somehow I don’t see that happening. The only thing that can save the Dragons at the moment is their player contingent. With the wealth of experience that the squad has gained playing under Bennett has got to amount to something and so massive emphasis is on the senior players like Hornby, Young, Cooper and Fein to ensure the Dragons to fade into the bottom eight. I also predict a huge fall from grace by Jamie Soward. Without his mentor Bennett to guide him he will loose his way and wont be able to attribute to a game plan, that is of course if Price doesn’t keep him under tight raps.
New Zealand Warriors – Predicted Finish; 9th
Coach: Brian McLennan
Star Player: Shaun Johnson
Remember what happened to the Roosters in 2010? They made the grand final on a huge rush of adrenaline and then lost rather poorly in the final. Fast forward twelve months to the 2011 grand final and you find yourself in the exact same position. I’m expecting a repeat of the Roosters 2011 season for the Warriors in 2012, without of course the off-field dramas. However, new coach Brian McLennan seems to be one step ahead. After studying the Roosters fall from grace he has gone straight to what will make them such a force in 2012 by cutting loose his senior and ageing players and promoting his very successful youngsters to first grade. I’m tipping big seasons from Sione Lousi, a har-running front rower, and Konrad Hurrell a tackle-breaking machine in the centres for the Warriors. Although I don’t believe they are capable of making the top eight in 2012. But expect big things from the Warriors in the next two to three years.
Cronulla Sharks – Predicted Finish 10th
Coach: Shane Flanagan
Star Player: Todd Carney
The Shire is looking promising on the NRL scene. The best pack in the league has been bolstered again in 2012 with two new recruits Bryce Gibbs, Ben Ross and Andrew Fifita. They also finally have their playmaking roles brimming with the right men, new recruits Isaac DeGois and Todd Carney will do the club a world of good. Providing them with the go forward they really need. Two things however, I would change if I wore the coach’s hat at the Shire. Number 1; the inclusion of strike players in the outside backs. I don’t know where they would find them, maybe Toyota cup or perhaps overseas I don’t know but the Sharks really lack try scoring ability DeGois and Carney cant do it all. Seasoned veterans Pomeroy and Best may have been good players in their time but they aren’t doing anything for the Sharks at the moment and would benefit by being dropped. The second thing is coach Shane Flanagan should put Albert Kelly in the halves. Yes he did have a disrupted season in 2011 but the man is an amazingly talented footballer and if he were to pair with Carney in the halves, opposing teams would have no idea where to look as they got ripped to shreds.
North Queensland Cowboys – Predicted Finish 11th
Coach: Neil Henry
Star Player: Jonathon Thurston
What war coach Neil Henry thinking getting rid of Willie Tonga? Not only that but he also bought Brent Tate last season, the man is far too unreliable and low and behold he is stuck with a selection headache in the centres for 2012. The acquisition of Kane Linnet is the best buy for the Cowboys this season as Tigers recruit Lui again is too unreliable. When looking to bolster your ranks for a new season, consistency is the number priority and Henry will now feel the error of his ways. The only thing that can ensure the Cowboys season is not a complete disaster will be the ever reliable pairing of Johnathon Thurston and Matt Bowen.
South Sydney Rabbitohs – Predicted Finish 12th
Coach: Michael McGuire
Star Player: Sam Burgess
There is a lot of hype surrounding the Rabbitohs this season with a new coach and the inclusion of Matt King to their player ranks. The loss of Chris Sandow to Parramatta wont hurt them at all, his inconstancy can be easily replaced by a consistent halfback (like Adam Reynolds) with only half the talent. The biggest issue however is the attitude of new coach Michael McGuire. In the Super League the way to coach a team well is to get the best players and throw them on the field, see Leeds Warrington or Catalans. There is little player development and thus they poach our NRL stars. This simply wont cut it. McGuire has the team capable of winning a premiership it is just whether or not he can do what Johnny Lang couldn’t and create a winning culture.
Parramatta Eels – Predicted Finish 13th
Coach: Stephen Kearney
Star Player: Jarryd Hayne
The Eels have recruited an immensely talented new halfback Chris Sandow, Ben Roberts and veteran Queensland centre Willie Tonga for their 2012 campaign. Stephen Kearney, however, will still need to put a lot of effort into establishing new combinations especially Sandow with Roberts and Hayne with Tonga. They certainly have the backline to make an impact in the competition but without a pack that can rival its opposition the Eels wont be able to do so. Fui Fui Moi Moi, Ben Smith and Nathan Hindmarsh are proven performers however they don’t receive enough support from their fellow forwards. It was obvious last season that Hindmarsh was trying to do too much and as a result his usually high standard of football diminished to below par. Kearney needs to find a way to get the best out of his pack.
Canberra Raiders – Predicted Finish 14th
Coach: David Furner
Star Player: Josh Dugan
I cant see the Raiders making an impact in the competition this year or for the next two or three seasons for that matter. Canberra were meant to be the next big thing when blokes like Dugan, Croker, Fensom, Vidot and Sam Williams were making their way into the top grade. The Raiders will not win a premiership with their current squad, that’s granted but what they should be looking at doing is developing a squad that can win the title in four or maybe five years. The recruitment or White, Berrigan, Orford, Bani etc show the club’s stupidity in trying to find a quick fix to their premiership drought. Keep and develop your young guns and build a team for the next era, thats my tip to David Furner. Stop looking for the quick fix because it just never happens and it starts with dropping Josh McCrone for Sam Williams.
Penrith Panthers – Predicted Finish 15th
Coach: Ivan Cleary
Star Player: Luke Lewis
You only need to read my rant about the Raiders need to develop an up and coming squad to know exactly what Phil Gould is doing with the Penrith Panthers. He has recruited the competitions best nursery caretaker in Ivan Cleary who has brought to stardom many of the Warriors new stars (Russell Packer, Shaun Johnson, Kevin Locke, Sione Lousi, Konrad Hurrell and the list goes on). Although by the end of 2012 the papers will be writing about Gould’s ‘failure’ to turn the Panthers around he will be sitting grinning in his office. He has already started recruiting for the future with the acquisition of Etu Uaisele, Junior Tia-Kilifi and Junior Vaivai for 2012. So beware the sleeping Panther come the 2014-15 seasons.
Gold Coast Titans – Predicted Finish 16th
Coach: John Cartwright
Star Player: Jamal Idris
You look at their recruitment drive, Idris, Douglas, Myles, Graham, Champion and then look to their already impressive host of stars Prince, Bailey, Minichiello, Bird, Mead, Zillman and you think to yourself how is this team tipped to finish at the bottom o f the ladder. Complacency is the answer. Way back in 2010 the Gold Coast Titans offered Scott Prince a life-time contract to play for them assuring him that they will keep playing him to play footy so long as he was willing and ever since we haven’t seen the same man. During 2010 Prince was close to edging out Thurston as the Queensland number 7 and now he isn’t even in contention falling behind both Cronk and Sandow for the jersey. He felt too comfortable in his jersey and as a result his game failed to ignite and as a result a lot of blame has been thrust onto whoever was playing inside of him in the five-eight role. I have used Prince as an example but much is the same for many of the Titans players that were such a force in the 2009-10 seasons. Good luck to John Cartwright because he is in a very big mess.