sXe Maverick’s NRL Season Preview
- Pacesetters. Bennett will immediately turn the culture around. Buderus and Tahu will recapture close to career best form, and provide a steady flow of attack for the side. Bennett will need to get more out of the erratic Mullen, but I see Gidley as a probable first receiver during some stage of the season. Most of the attack will flow through Boyd, as a third receiver. I do, however, see the side capitulating come finals, almost a carbon copy of Bennett's first season in charge of St George.
- I wouldn't be too concerned with Bennett's departure. They have a similar squad, and are defensively sound right across the park with Cooper, Creagh, Scott, Young, Prior, Weyman, Hunt etc. Soward will need to provide the spark.
3. Sea Eagles
- Best halves combination in the game, bar none. Again, a change of coach shouldn't faze a side with a winning culture so soon. Add Lyon and the Stewarts to the teams attack, and they should be putting sides away on a regular basis. They’re my tip to be the first back-to-back winners since the Broncos.
- After last season's failure, I think Bellamy will once again take the foot off the pedal to assure the side is peaking come finals time (exactly as he did after they were obliterated by the Sea Eagles in the 2008 final, then came back to win it from fourth a year later). Ryles will be one of the buys of the season.
- I think Graham and Tolman will become the premier front row in the game. They'll need to rebuild the back row, but they definitely have a team that can push for a GF next year, particularly with Hasler at the helm. The fact that they've scrapped the McIntyre system will really hurt an unpredictable team like the 'Dogs.
- They have underachieved the last couple of seasons, and I see them making the finals but no more. I don't like the move of Thurston from 7 to 6. No team that Dallas Johnson has been a part of has ever missed the finals. He's a reliable workhorse that'll do the defensive job of three men.
(my team) - We'll win one, lose one. It'll take at least a season to get the halves consistently in sync with the team sans Lockyer. I personally would have liked to have seen what Beale can do at 6, with a full offseason there behind him. I expect McGuire to really come on, if given the opportunity.
- I think Cleary + Gould will get them in. They did finish 2nd in 2010. Management has the team that they wanted for next season (discarding Civoniceva, Waterhouse) etc. I see Walsh being more consistent.
- They'll still need new halves. Reynolds + Sutton will not be the answer. They'll have a chance, but I see them roaring late and falling a game short of claiming a place in the 8 without a decent pair. Watch for another slow start.
- Sheens preferred squads have largely failed since winning the premiership (Blair doesn't change things). I expect calls for his head again during the year. The media seemed to be playing up a Sheens/Marshall/Farah rift, I don't know if anything will materialise, but they'll get restless if they underperform.
- I expect them to be fluctuated out. Maloney's decision to leave will prove a distraction. They'll struggle away.
- This is a tough one. They have quite a good side, but I don't know if it'll be enough to turn around their bad play of last season. Prince is probably past it.
- No matter how bad they play, they're never too far from the 8 at any given time. I think if they drop off a bit; they'll probably wait for Maloney and maybe SBW, while putting Anasta and Minichiello out to pasture.
- They've recruited fairly well. I just don't know if they'll have the steel to cut it with the top sides, having done so poorly in recent seasons (despite obvious effort). Hopefully, Carney puts a full season on the park.
- Where do I start? Their recruitment has been horrible over the last couple of seasons. Sandow can't be trusted to run a bath. Hayne and Smith are already injured. It'll take years to turn it around, considering they've also thrown a lot of money at Hopoate for when he returns.
- They have a good young team, but so much will depend on Campese. Who will they partner him with, McCrone or Williams? Will he get his form? Will he play out the season? Will their two great defenders, Buttriss and Fensom, be installed as two of their first picks, every week? They'll struggle away from home. Furner will be the first incumbent coach to get the boot.
Broncos won't finish that low, knights/cowboys, both will be pushing for those spots with dragons (who won't slide down that far but will still be hard pressed to make the 8)
My top 8
The last time we made the top four prior to last season? 2006.