Can Boom Rookies help North-Queensland to a maiden NRL title?
What a useless summer of sport we just witnessed. The cricket was more boring than a christening, the tennis wasn’t what it used to be and well soccer, is soccer. Nah to be fair, there were some highlights over summer, but you can feel the days getting shorter and the temperature slightly dropping, and this means only one thing... *Rock voice* - “Finally... the footy, is coming back...... to your lives!!” A new season brings hopeful predictions, increased banter in the workplace and a whole heap of unknowns. In what is sure to be another crazy season of Rugby League in Australia, I’ll begin with the ‘Jewell in the crown’ of origin.
At the conclusion of last year’s decider, we went to leave the slowly-emptying ANZ Stadium, I turned to my mate and said in my voice which now resembled a chain smoker of 40 years, make sure you remember this, take a look around, don’t forget this feeling. Smug Queenslanders chanting there catch-cry from the other end of the field, the distance between us and them somewhat resembling how far away the last blues win was. For the love of god, please win blues, end the rort. And if you don’t, sack Laurie and bring back the only bloke who could save our state from a decade of torment, the messiah of NSW origin, Gus.Now for the clubs, Firstly, the Roosters, their brand all of a sudden feels like the strongest and coolest in the comp. Look at their logo, go ahead, it's bold and bright. But will their rookie coach be able to win two titles, in just two seasons? If there is one thing they have, its depth. How are they under the cap? My favourite part of the 2013 season was seeing Sam Burgess steam-roll Sonny-Bill Williams in round 1, what a moment. Finally Burgess might truly become a great, notching premierships rather than perfect tens. Roosters, Souths, Thursday night... Ohhhhhh sometimes, I get a good feeling.
Although grudge match of the year, that belongs to round 22, Sunday 6:30 pm. Eels vs. Raiders, at TIO Stadium, in... Darwin. Who the hell scheduled that one? Parramatta are in their best position in 12 months, that is, without Ricky Stuart. No matter his reasons for going to Canberra, Stuart, who is a self-proclaimed ‘Players Coach’, let everyone associated at Parramatta down by walking out. Or did he do them the ultimate favour, saving them from 2 more years under Ricky Stuart.
The team I most want to see play this year, are the “Let’s gone Warriors”. Honestly, I have no idea what that sign was about, something to do with their horror run before a mid-season fight back last year, or Russel Packer’s fertilization of Suncorp Stadium. You would have seen Sam Tomkins in the nines, but seriously find some vision of the bloke from Super League, CAN get across the line. He reminds me of Dugan when he first came into the NRL with his slightly-lanky agile running and ability to get through a gap. Johnson-Tomkins combo please, with a side of kiss-blowing Konrad and the Manu ‘The Beast’ Vatuvai.
The Storm, The Dogs, The Eagles. All roll with passionate leaders and their Authoritative management styles. Will the Storm’s veterans continue to dominate, or will one of them fall to a season-ending injury which never seems to have happened. What will Des Hasler bring to the NRL buffet without Ben Barba? Surely to fly ‘under-the-radar’ but carry the siege mentality. Who blew more gaskets last year? The V8 supercars or Geoff Toovey. Manly fell short at the last hurrah in October but with Tony Abbot as their number 1 ticket holder, SPC beans might not be the only organisation the PM ensures stays at the top. I predict one of these authoritarian-led army’s to miss the eight, by injury, luck or form, one of the giants will fall.
Ah, the Queensland trio. Where to start... Will the Cowboys fire under a new coach? The fresh and exciting roll out of youngsters Felt, Bowen & co was an appetiser that left me searching for the main. If they can put it together with the mix of experience and youth, look out. Anthony Griffin’s made more changes at the Broncos than the missus would outfits before a Saturday night out. His decision to axe Thaiday as captain is ballsy. Justin Hodges won’t be back for a while, so Corey Parker is going to have to prove his worth alone. The Titans seemed to have a solid, but on/off year last season, and unless they’ve made significant improvement over the off-season, they may have some déjà-vu.Dragons = Goneskies, Steve Price should be using his spare time to see if Mt Ousley or Bulli Pass is a quicker exit out of the Gong. Dugan does everything for them, someone else have a crack. The Tigers will be the most-quoted team to be having a ‘re-building year’ this season. Hopefully Potter holds Board-Voldemort at bay and casts up some wins from his book of spells e.g. Brooks, Simona, Sironen, Richards, Farah. The Sharkies were lucky beating the Cowboys in the finals last year and could have beat manly, but without their figurehead of Flanno, they might struggle this year.
The Knights and Panthers play each other in Round 1 and both have had interesting summers. Oldcastle, sorry... Newcastle have lost legend Danny Buderus and criminal Russel Packer. Bennet appears to be trying to buy a premiership with experience rather than digging in and developing talent. The Panthers couldn’t be more different, citing a five-year plan to develop their title-winning youth. Will Jamie Soward find that confidence that brought him a premiership ring, or have a holiday with the Windsor Wolves.
Thank the lord, religion is back on folks, The religion of Rugby League. Clear your schedules, fill your fridge, sign-up to your tipping comps, run your errands. Thursday night your year begins. 26 beautifully packed weekends, 3 Wednesdays each with more hype than a turn of a century and a finals series sprinkled on top where if your team makes the eight, anything truly is possible.