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Tuesday, 3 November 2009

2010 NRL Premiership Preview & Primer: October 30 Edition

NRL 2010 Premiership Preview & Primer:

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Our Season Preview covers all 16 NRL Premiership clubs and you can view every part via the Playlist below.



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The preview below was created in October 2009 for the 2010 NRL Season - obviously injuries/player signings/other factors have happened since (Justin Hodges out for season, Mason goes to Cowboys, Todd Carney staying sober etc) - so this is only a preliminary guide of where we think each team will finish. Our picks WILL change - but this is how we saw the teams a month after the 2009 Season ended.

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The original Preview & Primer by The NRL Tweet:

Although the 2009 National Rugby League Premiership season was only completed earlier this month and the international Four Nations Tournament has just begun, fans across the league are keen to see where their team stacks up against the competition for next year.

The Melbourne Storm deserved their 2009 title with their 23-16 win over the Parramatta Eels in the Grand Final, capping off a season in which they had to find a new way to play to make themselves a genuine premiership contender. Things didn't look great for them midway through the season but once superstar centre Greg Inglis was allowed to play again following an off-field incident - the Storm found their rhythym very quickly and no team could withstand them in the Finals.

So who are the big improvers, the teams on the slide and the genuine contenders for 2010?

All teams listed in a tentative prediction of their regular season finish for 2010 - not where the teams will be ranked after the Finals are played.

2010 NRL PREDICTED LADDER - 30/10/2009
1st> MELBOURNE STORM
Certainly capable of returning to the Grand Final for a 5th straight season with their stable of super stars. Have two premierships from the past four seasons and their young brigade (particularly up front) stepped up to the plate in the Finals in 2009. Sika Manu, Aiden Tolman and Chase Stanley to get plenty of press as they leap into rep calcuations in 2010. The elite four of Inglis, Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk to be near on irrepressible once more - a Minor Premiership is there for the taking.
Best Signing: Chase Stanley.
Early Tip: Greg Inglis to score over a try per game (possibly cracking the 25 try mark).
2nd> BRISBANE BRONCOS
Still have question marks surrounding their forward pack (and have since the loss of Petero Civoniceva) and losing Dave Taylor to Souths doesn't help. Plus the backline no longer features Karmichael Hunt, so there's opportunities in Brisbane for 2010. But Darren Lockyer remains and new signing Tim Smith is a true x-factor if Ivan Henjak can find him a place in the side. As for the season, I have a feeling they are going to be better than the sum of their parts with the best of Israel Folau coming in 2010.
Best Signing: Denan Kemp.
Early Tip: Denan Kemp and Lockyer to rotate at fullback to allow Tim Smith to start at halfback.
3rd> WESTS TIGERS
This ranking of third hinges on the acquisition of Lote Tuqiri and Jeff Lima. They may get both, one or none of those internationals but if they do sign for 2010 - the Tigers have a delicious mix for a premiership assault. Yes they haven't been back to the Finals since their title in 2005 but they still have two of the best in the game in Robbie Farah and Benji Marshall and that's enough to back them to win more than they lose. Plus their forward pack finally has some serious depth - and that is spun gold during the regular season.
Best Signing: Jason Cayless (but if Jeff Lima or Lote Tuqiri if they sign).
Early Tip: Gareth Ellis to unleash his ball playing skills and become the dominant backrower in the NRL.
4th> SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS
Russell Crowe's touches on the team are starting to become clearer. He made the Sam Burgess signing happen when possibly no other league 'heavy' could have convinced the youngster to defect to the NRL at just 20 years of age - and he's got the veteran coach he and CEO Shane Richardson wanted in John Lang. Add boom forward Dave Taylor and experienced front rower Ben Ross to the mix and the Rabbitohs strength will be up front. May have lost Craig Wing but it is time for John Sutton to stand up and make the team his - like he did for a short period in 2009 when he was dominant.
Best Signing: Dave Taylor & Sam Burgess (Tie)
Early Tip: Souths to be 5-0 entering their Round 6 clash with Parramatta. 
5th> CANTERBURY-BANKSTOWN BULLDOGS
Made gigantic strides in 2009 to almost claim the Minor Premiership a season after collecting the Wooden Spoon and were always going to be tested in the Finals when another level was required. The effort was certainly there against the Eels in their epic Preliminary Final but they looked short of attacking options when it mattered most. The backline just got quicker with El Masri's retirement (but there's drawbacks to his loss) and the Josh Morris-Bryson Goodwin combination is as good as any in the game. However this team must get more from Ben Roberts at five-eighth - he's capable on his day but with Brett Kimmorley as the organiser of the team - Roberts must be the go-to man in the 20m zone.
Best Signing: Mickey Paea.Early Tip: The Bulldogs will miss Hazem El Masri's goalkicking immensely. Goodwin, Ennis & Turner all to have a crack at the job during 2010.
6th> ST.GEORGE-ILLAWARRA DRAGONS
Flaming out in the Finals was not what the majority of Dragons fans expected heading into September but the reality was this side had to find another gear to keep winning at the pointy end of the season. They were fantastic during the regular season and defensively were superb but relying on defence come Finals time is dangerous if your attack isn't capable of digging you out of a hole when your defence fails. St.George-Illawarra were opportunists in attack for much of 2009 and come Finals time those opportunistic tries dry up - and we all saw what happened. But don't you dare blame Wayne Bennett for that - he focused on their defensive mindset in year one for a reason - get the team competitive and then work on the attack in years two and three.
Best Signing: Wendell Sailor if he comes back, otherwise Michael Greenfield.
Early Tip: Wendell Sailor to return for one more season... and we'll all wish he'd play forever.
7th> PARRAMATTA EELS
As painful as it was to watch the Parramatta bandwagon overflow in September - the Eels played out of their skins and deserved to make the Grand Final in this Top 8 era that rewards mediocrity during the season. The Jarryd Hayne Show was captivating and the only downside to their Grand Final defeat was the denial of a premiership for Nathan Hindmarsh and Nathan Cayless who have been great servants of the game during their careers. Still - if you believe the bookies and delusional Parramatta fans who want to blame the referee for their Grand Final defeat - the Eels will be amongst it yet again in 2010. Hence what I think probably doesn't mean a great deal... but for the record Feleti Mateo could form a lethal combination with Hayne next season and get them back into the Final Four.
Best Signing: Justin Poore.
Early Tip: Daniel Mortimer or Kris Keating to displace halfback Jeff Robson by Round 6.
8th> MANLY-WARRINGAH SEA EAGLES
May never have been able to field their best team for most of 2009 due to Brett Stewart's injury (amongst other things) but their inept performance in their qualifying final loss to the Storm was embarrassing for the 2008 champions. Apart from Brett Stewart who had a dig, their best players Matt Orford, Anthony Watmough, Jamie Lyon and Glenn Stewart were poor in the semi final and a team that should have been able to defend their title was out on their ear straight away. Coach Des Hasler needs to assess how his team can get back to their best and convince Anthony Watmough to re-sign as quickly as possible to avoid his status becoming a distraction. They'll contend again but it is hard to say how good they'll be in the regular season.
Best Signing: Joe Galuvao.
Early Tip: Steven Matai to get penalised regularly for shoving the marker after playing the ball (we hope!).
9th> GOLD COAST TITANS
Made the Finals for the first time after their re-admission to the competition in 2007 but blew a golden opportunity to take a run at the title by losing both semi finals meekly. The Titans (along with the Dragons and Bulldogs) had built their regular season success around a certain style and decided to stick with that when the game's lifted in intensity in September - all three clubs were then bounced out of the competition before the Grand Final. Their elimination final loss to the Eels was a classic case of trying to score points from one source and one source only - the last tackle kick from Scott Prince. They scored 2 points in 80 minutes and looked a very ordinary outfit playing out of their league in the Finals. Still have yet to settle on their favoured combination for William Zillman, Mat Rogers and Preston Campbell and it showed their attack up badly in September. They won't repeat their 2009 regular season success next year, despite how rounded their squad looks on paper.
Best Signing: Joseph Tomane.
Early Tip: The backline to start the season will be: 1. Zillman 2. Gordon 3. Rogers 4. Tomane 5. Mead 6. Campbell 7. Prince - but given John Cartwright's tinkering habit I guarantee that will not be the combination all year though.    
10th> CANBERRA RAIDERS
This high purely on the Terry Campese factor. He was hamstrung in a poor attacking system introduced by Coach David Furner in 2009 but has been promised more freedom next year as Furner realised his style needs tweaking. Have invested the majority of their cap room in local juniors and will live and die by their success. They could be great to watch or just as painful as 2009 when they were a very ordinary unit in attack. If hooker Travis Waddell is given the keys to the #9 jumper (after key 2009 signing Stuart Flanagan was black listed by Furner early in the season) then the Raiders might improve remarkably - if only because Alan Tongue at lock makes the team better because he's not at hooker. And let me clarify - Tongue is very good at lock for the team.
Best Signing: No signings for 2010... stumped as you are.
Early Tip: Terry Campese to carry the team on his back for a period during the season ala Jarryd Hayne and get the Raiders into playoff contention... 
11th> PENRITH PANTHERS
Have only a handful of quality players (Petero Civoniceva, Michael Jennings, Luke Lewis & Trent Waterhouse) and a lot of averageness. Luke Walsh was ordinary in the final few weeks of the season and the team's issue at halfback doesn't look solved quite yet, as the Panthers threw away a Top 8 spot in the last month. A number of youngsters have big roles to play in the team in 2010 including Wade Graham, Lachlan Coote, Masada Iosefa at five-eighth, fullback and hooker - and of course underachieving second rower Frank Pritchard. Coach Matthew Elliott has brought in some fringe first graders to round out the squad but this side will live and die on its core group.
Best Signing: Daine Laurie.
Early Tip: Frank Pritchard to finally put a season together showcasing his ability week in week out.
12th> NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS
Were poor in 2009 and failed to make the Finals by quite a distance in the end. The loss to the Knights in Round 24 when they led 22-8 at halftime in a game they had to win. With that in mind you can only think that even if Matthew Bowen was healthy the Cowboys recent history of mental fragility is a massive barrier to success. The other is Johnathan Thurston is unlikely to re-sign and an early defection for 2011 might be a huge distraction for the team if they struggle out of the gate. They have a roster with enough talent to play Finals Football but they have serious issues chasing points in must-win games and Thurston is as much to blame as anyone for dropping his bundle when they are getting smacked. No confidence in them returning to the top level of the league in 2010.
Best Signing: Shannon Gallant.
Early Tip: Johnathan Thurston to announce he is leaving the club by May.

13th> NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS
Won three of their last four to make the Finals in 7th spot but were promptly dispatched by a better Bulldogs team in their Qualifying Final. Injuries hurt the Knights in that game with two of their best (Isaac De Gois & Zeb Taia) non-factors but the team's loss to lowly Canberra in Round 25 when they could've secured a Finals spot, told you they were pretending in 2009. The players gave up on former Coach Brian Smith when it was announced he was taking the Roosters job for 2010 and incoming Coach Rick Stone managed to cuddle up to them for the final few weeks to get the team back on track. There's a lot riding on the ability of Jarrod Mullen in 2010 to get the Knights back to the dance but even with Kurt Gidley alongside him - their competitive fortunes probably rest on the return of big Ben Cross up front.
Best Signing: Evarn Tuimavave.
Early Tip: Jarrod Mullen to be the NSW Halfback for Game I... beyond that... Knights to start well but struggle for the majority of the season.
14th> SYDNEY ROOSTERS
If the Roosters let Willie Mason go they are not going to be a factor in 2010 but if they do get Jason Ryles alongside reformed (cough) bad boy Todd Carney, Braith Anasta, Mitchell Pearce and a fully fit Anthony Minichiello... they'll still be also-rans. That's not to say that new Coach Brian Smith isn't going to be a positive for the club - they need a fresh start and a new game plan to move forward. But without Mason the club won't have a significant presence up front alongside the highly under-rated Nate Myles. Ryles (has he signed? We're still trying to figure that out) is a good buy and young forward Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and speedy outside back Phil Graham improve the squad - but they need Mason.
Best Signing: Brian Smith & Jason Ryles.
Early Tip: He'd be foolish to go play Rugby in Japan because he's got a lot to offer the game but Willie Mason might be as good as gone... very sad.
15th> CRONULLA-SUTHERLAND SHARKS
This was an awful football team for most of 2009. They had built their 2008 success on a strong defence and good kick chase - and upon their return from the off-season they forgot how to tackle. Well that's a stretch - they still put in the effort but the team looked spent from 2008 and Trent Barrett was not the playmaking factor Coach Ricky Stuart needed him to be after Brett Kimmorley was let go. Losing Brett Kearney to injury in Round 1 was also a big blow but the team just looked devoid of points for most of the season and Stuart has to try something different for 2010 for the sake of their fans. Cronulla won't get off the bottom of the ladder by tackling alone - they need some spark in attack. Adam Cuthbertson, Paul Aiton and rookie Albert Kelly all have the potential to help in that area but the style has to open up first.
Best Signing: Paul Aiton.
Early Tip: Ricky Stuart needs to open up the offensive game plan to give the Sharks a realistic shot at getting off the bottom rung of the ladder - but I fear he won't until it's too late.
16th> WARRIORS
The Sharks were bad in 2009 but at times the Warriors were even worse. Coach Ivan Cleary clearly was making it up as he went along once the team's hot start cooled off and they looked like a reserve grade outfit at times when Steven Price wasn't playing. If Brent Tate comes back from injury and can contribute they can probably win half their home games but with their 85th halves combination in three seasons - winning on the road will be a massive challenge. I tipped them to win the comp in 2009 when every team was fully fit and you only had their 2008 performance to judge them on... so putting them here at the foot of the table entering 2009 is only fair.
Best Signing: Brett Seymour.
Early Tip: If the Warriors lose 4 of their first 5 - Cleary won't have a job beyond Round 5.


Who do you think will win the competition?

Rugby League fans - get excited, Slammin' Sam Burgess is here where he belongs. (click to view full article published February 8, 2010)

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4 comments:

Boxhead_86 said...

Summer talk. Lets see if Souths can live up to our unrealistic summer predictions. Its easy to make such statements when they are playing well below their potential. John Lang isnt the man for the job. Top 8: Dragons, Bulldogs, Eels, Storm, Tigers, Titans, Panthers and Sea Eagles.

Broncos struggled this season and they have lost Hunt and Taylor two major weapons. Henjak will get the boot and the Broncos will miss the 8. Canberra are the smokies with huge potential whether they live up to it will remain to be seen. A heap of young players who can push the Raiders to a title.

Souths look the best paper side, but paper doesnt win trophies, and they dont have a halfback. Sandow is rubbish. Outside backs and fullbacks are also a concern, can they finish in big games? I doubt it.

W D Nicolson said...

Some good points there Boxhead. The thing is Summer Talk is based on what's on paper a lot of the time and what happened the year before. Like I said - I thought the Warriors could take another big step in 2009 based on the way then ended 2008 and had added Stacey Jones. Didn't pan out that way and now they are dead last on my first look at 2010.

On Souths - I think John Lang is the best available coach for that team (given that Phil Gould isn't interested in coaching full time) and will be a big influence on us seeing John Sutton play a season full of performances like he showed in that month long period when he finally woke up midway through 2009.

The Raiders - lots of responsibilty on Campese and the young brigade. They have some weapons but their style in 2009 looked nothing like the attacking one of 2008 that was so successful - can Furner change his spots?

Broncos - I have a lot of faith in the Darren Lockyer factor 2 years following knee recon. He is primed for an Andrew Johns 2006-like season when he took teams apart by himself and rocketed the Knights to the Finals.

Titans probably have the best team on paper that I have out of the Top 8 but I can't get their Finals campaign out of my head when they looked nothing short of shambolic.

Tigers are the big movers if they get Tuqiri and or Lima. Lot to like about them entering 2010.

Thanks for the comment, feel free to keep the discussion going.

Anonymous said...

well there are some big predictions about the broncos way up there with souths and tigers in top 4. i agree tigers and souths will do better and make the 8. they have promised so much in the past. souths buys and an experienced coach should show their potential. tigers have bought well and can never underestimate the influence of marshall and sheens. but i think the broncos will struggle without the dominate players they lost and hodges out plus henjack is no wayne bennet. sea eagles wont be the same and the gloss has been going from their team of 2008. storm have built upon 2009 win but i think will struggle a bit to stay at the top and defend their crown under weekly pressure. bennet still has a good team to work with and will get the best out of saints. dogs have recruited well but their season relies on kimorely bing on the field and his fitness. parra will be there but will also find it hard living up to the expections of 2009. titans should still be in the mix as the sole qld side in the top 8. my top 8
1. bulldogs
2. titans
3. storm
4. parra
5. saints
6. souths
7. tigers
8. this is the hardest one as some teams like easts and sharks have recruited a lot of players and are going into a rebuilding phase and could do well and raiders are so unpredictable.i think the sharks will have the most to prove.
8. sharks.

W D Nicolson said...

Anon (your real name?)... these predictions were done in November so clearly a few things have changed across the 16 NRL Teams.

Am close to uploading a January edition of the 2010 NRL Preview... the Broncos have dropped with the Hodges injury that's for sure.

Look for it on wdnicolson.blogspot.com or a link via @NRLTweet on Twitter soon.

Thanks for the feedback - great read.