|The Titans will make the 8; but the Sea Eagles will fall short.|
Gold Coast Titans – Prediction 10th
One of the hardest sides to place on the prediction list after their finish to 2016. With the inclusion of Jarryd Hayne at the end of last season, they looked like a side who had an extra man on the field. Robbed of progressing past week one of the finals by some of the worst refereeing in rugby league history, I’m expecting the Titans to explode out of the blocks.
They are a club on the comeback, on the rise, and with a point to prove. But how bad do they want to prove they can match it with the big guns? It was intriguing to hear the talk of Neil Henry looking to overlook Jarryd Hayne for a captaincy role, because the success of this team ultimately rests with him. Not to produce the winning plays and single-handedly take his side to a grand final like he did in 2009, but to inspire and lift those around him simply through his actions.
Hayne has previously been tagged as a poor-trainer but former Eels teammate Nathan Hindmarsh, and whether or not the 29-year-old has been pushing himself in his first full preseason in many years remains to be seen. After all his globe-trotting, you have to wonder what Hayne wants from his sporting career. Does he still desire an NRL title? His determination will determine the Titans 2017 season, let me give you the tip.
Manly Sea Eagles – Prediction 12th
Difficult year for Trent Barrett in his debut season as an NRL Head Coach in 2016, but I believe he’s got the qualities to make it a long coaching career.
Has made the 10-million-dollar man Daly Cherry-Evans captain which was a must if they’re to do anything this season. DCE must take control of this team and stamp his authority week-to-week in each and every game. There’s no excuses for him now; he’s a senior player, has won Grand Finals, and its time he took control of the result.
Have a reasonable forward pack but will need to find the right tactics to be able to harness their strengths e.g. Martin Taupau’s size and running game. Expect to see some more juniors get a run with Brett Stewart and Steve Matai retiring, but I don’t think they’ve got the quality across the park to make any serious impression this year.
Melbourne Storm – Prediction 3rd
A team that just keep producing year-after-year, and at the start of every season questions seem to be asked how they can maintain such consistency. The answer obviously lies in their big three, but it’s possibly because Craig Bellamy gets all the players around those leaders to play to the best of their ability.
Have a new kid on the scene ready to come through in Brodie Croft after a sensational appearance at the NRL Auckland Nines, and it will be interesting to see whether he fits into their top 17 every week, or bides his time in the Under 20s. Billy Slater will likely return with a point to prove, and I think you’ll see another outstanding season from the Storm barring injury to their stars.
With a World Cup at the end of the year, I can see Slater, Smith and Cronk wanting to have a big year. AAMI Park is nicknamed ‘The Graveyard’ for a reason and their impeccable home record will see them fit comfortably inside the top 9.
New Zealand Warriors – Prediction 8th
Will undoubtedly be one of the most watched teams this year with Kieran Foran entering the side alongside the rest of the Kiwi’s spine. But I don’t think it will be all sunshine for the Warriors this year after a dismal end to 2016, they’re going to have to work hard and earn every point on the ladder.
Stephen Kearney comes in as a Head Coach and with over a decade of experience at three NRL clubs and under some of the game’s biggest names, he looks ready to take a side to the next level. Has made RTS captain in what would appear to be a bold move and certainly a look to the future, but with little to no experience as a leader how that unfolds remains to be seen.
Without a shadow of a doubt the Warriors can make a serious impression on the competition this year, but how bad they want it is another thing. They are the league’s best underachievers and if you look at the side’s that have won the comp recently, they’ve had a burning desire to get their hands on the Provan-Summons trophy. Isaac Luke is the key for me, if he plays like a man possessed I believe they can be their on Grand Final day but consistency is the buzzword for him.