MELBOURNE STORM – $5.50
GAINS: Junior Sau (Knights), Junior Moors (Tigers), Lagi Setu (Broncos), Brett Finch (Wigan), Tim Glasby, Kurt Mann (Knights)
LOSSES: Dane Nielsen (Warriors), Sika Manu (Panthers), Richie Fa’aoso (Sea Eagles), Rory Kostjaysn (Cowboys), Todd Lowrie (Warriors), Michael Greenfield (retired), Jaiman Lowe (retired), Anthony Quinn (Knights)
The Storm will begin their bid to become the first team to win back to back NRL premierships since the Broncos in ‘92/’93. The opening to a title defence can be difficult following an arduous trip to the UK for the World Club challenge and the Storm have returned home ready to face the Dragons in round 1. Then it’s a long trip to Townsville in round 2 to face the much fancied Cowboys after which they have only a 5 day rest before facing the monstrous Bulldogs pack. Not an ideal start to the season and we saw how badly the State of Origin period affected the side last year. Whilst the Storm possess one of, if not the most, star studded line up, a difficult home and away season might see them enter the finals series no higher than 4th or 5th.
BEST BETS for Storm fans: The Melbourne side has as good a chance as any to win the 2013 premiership but the $5.50 on offer represents little value and is almost half of what they were paying this time last year. Storm fans may do well to look towards Dally M Medallist betting and have a throw at Cooper Cronk ($10), Billy Slater ($15), or Cameron Smith ($17).
CANTERBURY BULLDOGS – $7.00
GAINS: Tony Williams (Sea Eagles)
LOSSES: Sione Kite (Widnes, mid-season), Jonathan Wright (Sharks), Jake Foster (Raiders), Luke MacDougall (retired), Tupou Sopoaga (Sharks), Bryson Goodwin (Rabbitohs), David Stagg (Broncos), James Gavet (Tigers)
The Bulldogs showed all in sundry where a massive pack of forwards can take a team as they charged their way into the 2012 Grand Final, only to fall short at the final hurdle. This time around it’s the same grandiose pack of men bolstered by the addition of one grandiose individual in Tony “T-Rex” Williams. Whilst the Bulldogs’ halves combination is far from the best, it’s one that delivers the goods week in, week out with the help of those aforementioned forwards who, under the coaching of Des Hasler, have added a handy lateral element to their offensive game.
But of course, all of these elements will need to be complimented by star fullback Ben Barba who was recently stood down indefinitely by the club due to ‘behavioural issues’
BEST BETS for Bulldogs fans: I had been wagering on the Bulldogs to win the premiership at $7.00 with the express hope of watching those odds fall at finals time before laying it off for a handy profit. Since the Barba suspension the Bulldogs’ odds have drifted and we now have to wait and see what part Barba will play, if any, in the 2013 season.
PRE BARBA SUSPENSION: For those interested in exotics, there is no reason why Ben Barba can’t finish at the top of the try scorers list for the 3rd year in a row.
SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS – $9.00
GAINS: Jeff Lima (Wigan), Ben Te’o (Broncos), Mitchell Bucket (QLD Cup), Thomas Burgess (Bradford), Bryson Goodwin (Bulldogs), Beau Champion (Titans)
LOSSES: Eddy Pettybourne (Tigers), Dave Taylor (Titans), Scott Geddes (retired)
I saw the Rabbitohs as over achievers in 2012 thanks to a soft draw that included lots of opponents that were in the bottom 8 of the ladder coupled with home games at ideal times. Throughout the season the South Sydney team struggled to beat any team that finished in the top 8. When push came to shove at finals time, the bunnies didn’t stand a chance. I’m worried for that in 2013 they will be riding high on the achievements of 2012 and will be expecting to simply cruise their way into the finals.
On the plus side, Adam Reynolds has his rookie year under his belt and will be playing hard every single game in a bid to attract NSW Coach Laurie Daley’s attention for a call up to State of Origin. Success elsewhere won’t come down to the big name players such as Inglis, Luke and Burgess, but rather the fringe players that will need to lift their games a notch from last year if they are to advance to the Grand Final.
BEST BET for Rabbitohs fans: This should be an easy one for Souths and NRL fans in general. Nathan Merritt is a prolific try scorer and it’s hard to say no to the $16 on offer in the top tryscorer markets.
CRONULLA SHARKS – $11.00
GAINS: Michael Gordon (Panthers), Luke Lewis (Panthers), Jonathan Wright (Bulldogs), Beau Ryan (Tigers), Chris Heighington (Tigers), Tupou Sopoaga (Bulldogs)
LOSSES: Tyson Frizell (Dragons), Colin Best (retired), John Williams (retired), Josh Cordoba (retired), Jeremy Smith (Knights)
Recruitment of some fine players will be one of the reasons the Sharks make the top 8 in 2013. Nathan Gardner will return to the side from injury and add to the fullback depth behind the newly acquired point scoring machine Michael Gordon. From the Tigers comes Beau Ryan onto the wing and Chris Heighington into the back row next to the juggernaut Paul Gallen and another recent addition in Luke Lewis, although I’d prefer to see Gallen play as a prop with Lewis at lock and Heighington in the second row.
The number one key to success however will be Todd Carney. If Carney doesn’t fire and run a smooth operation in linking up with the Cronulla backline, then the Sharks will find it hard to function optimally as a unit. Carney is still battling an Achilles injury he sustained in the finals last year and may miss some of the opening matches of the season.
BEST BETS for Sharks fans: The Sharks are currently out to $1.60 to make the top 8 which is worthwhile given the extra depth the side now possesses. For Sharks fans and exotic lovers, you can do a lot worse than backing Michael Gordon as top point scorer at $6.00.
MANLY-WARRINGAH SEA EAGLES – $12.00
GAINS: Michael Chee Kam (Raiders), Richie Fa’aoso (Melbourne Storm), Ligi Sao (Warriors), James Hasson (Sharks), Ben Musolino (Dragons), Brenton Lawrence (Titans), Dane Chisholm (Wests Tigers), Jacob Gagan (Eels NYC), David Gower (Dragons), Peta Hiku (Warriors NYC), Jesse Sene-Lefao (Panthers), Kayne Lawton (Titans), Esi Tonga (Eels), Justin Horo (Eels)
LOSSES: Dean Whare (Panthers), Tony Williams (Bulldogs), Darcy Lussick (Eels), Daniel Harrison (Eels), Michael Oldfield (Roosters), Josh Drinkwater (Dragons)
Manly would have to win the award for best player recruitment/ retention this year having signed a plethora of new players without losing any stars. Another particularly excellent buy is that of Andrew Johns as the assistant coach to Geoff Toovey would be thrilled to have one of the 8 immortals at his side to help steer the Sea Eagles to another finals campaign.
The Sea Eagles enjoy creating that certain ‘siege mentality’ in their camp and it once again worked well for them in 2012 when Toovey took over from Hasler as coach and few gave them a chance at success. At $12 for the premiership it appears they have been written off again. It’s just the way they like it!
BEST BET for Sea Eagles fans: Manly essentially still possess the same key players that have seen them finish in the top 4 for the last two years and logic says Manly are good value to make the top 4 at $3.25.
NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS – $12.00
GAINS: Anthony Mitchell (Roosters), Rory Kostjaysn (Storm), Curtis Rona (Roosters), Clint Greenshields (Catalans), Scott Moore (Huddersfield)
LOSSES: James Segeyaro (Panthers), Cory Paterson (Hull KR), Aaron Payne (retired), Moses Pangai (Panthers), Dane Hogan (QLD Cup)
The Cowboys finished an impressive 5th in 2012 and have retained their key players this time around for another tilt at the premiership. There is plenty of talent throughout this team but one of the major hurdles the Cowboys seem to face year in, year out is their failure to consistently win away from home. Coach Neil Henry will need to lift his own game and get his players to overcome any mental setbacks they suffer when travelling away from Townsville.
This is the Cowboys time to shine. Are they up to it?
BEST BET for Cowboys fans: As mentioned, the Cowboys have a great shot at taking down the premiership at decent odds. If I was a Cowboys supporter I’d snap up the $12 on offer for your team to take out the 2013 title.
SYDNEY ROOSTERS – $12.00
GAINS: James Maloney (Warriors), Michael Oldfield (Sea Eagles), Nafe Seluini (Panthers), Samisoni Langi (Bulldogs), Sam Moa (Hull FC), Sonny Bill Williams (Rugby Union), Michael Jennings (Panthers)
LOSSES: Braith Anasta (Tigers), Justin Carney (Castleford, UK), Curtis Rona (Cowboys) Peni Tagive (retired), Mose Masoe (Panthers), Joseph ‘BJ’ Leilua (Released)
You may well know by now that Sonny Bill Williams is returning to the NRL with the Roosters but many are already questioning whether or not the Kiwi code hopper has the body to cope with the stresses of first class Rugby League after being away from the game for 4 years. Time will tell but I think it would be in rookie coach Trent Robinson’s best interests to start Sonny Bill off the bench. Former Warriors five-eighth James Maloney joins Mitchell Pearce in the halves but I have my doubts as to how well this combination will work considering that they both have a similar style of play.
Another major boost to the Roosters is the addition of Michael Jennings to the outside backs and the switch to a new team may reignite the fire in Jennings’ belly that has been lacking in recent times. Overall there is plenty of skill and brute force amongst this lineup but it will be up to Trent Robinson and his play makers to get everyone working together.
BEST BET for Roosters fans: If plenty of tries are scored this year then James Maloney will be there collecting the 2 conversion points 4 out of 5 times. Take Maloney for top point scorer at $10.
NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS – $14.00
GAINS: Beau Scott (Dragons), Toka Likiliki (Warriors), David Fa’alogo (Huddesfield), Jeremy Smith (Sharks), Mitchell Frei (Broncos), Anthony Quinn (Storm)
LOSSES: Zeb Taia (Catalans Dragons), Wes Naiqama (Panthers), Kyle O’Donnell (Panthers), Joel Edwards (Raiders), Evarn Tuimavave (Hull KR), Junior Sau (Storm), Sam Anderson (Panthers), Ethan Cook (Panthers), Kurt Mann (Storm)
Wayne Bennett’s Knights were surprisingly disappointing last year. So what does the master coach have up his sleeve for 2013? Whatever his plan may be I’m sure he will keep his cards close to his chest. But there is no doubt Bennett would be hoping that Kurt Gidley can stay fit for the majority of the season as he makes up such a crucial part of the Knights team. Especially now when it is likely that Gidley will be picked to play halfback again and without him the Knights are left with Mullen and Roberts who together don’t have the capabilities to steer the team towards the tryline.
In the grand scheme of things the Knights will be a hard team to assess until about round 8 and unless some premiership winning abilities manifest themselves as wins early in the season, then my money won’t be anywhere near this side.
BEST BETS for Knights fans: Obviously we didn’t see much of Kurt Gidley last year due to injury but if this Knights side rises to success in 2013 then you can be sure that Gidley will be right in the thick of it. You can get $26 for Gidley to win the Dally M Player of the year.
BRISBANE BRONCOS – $15.00
GAINS: Joe Bond (Redcliffe), Jake Granville, Scott Prince (Titans), David Stagg (Bulldogs), Denan Kemp.
LOSSES: Gerard Beale (Dragons), Petero Civoniceva (retired), Ben Te’o (Rabbitohs), Lagi Setu (Storm), Mitchell Frei (Knights)
Life goes on for the Broncos’ star studded line up as the boys from Brisbane look to build on life without Darren Lockyer which saw them struggle through the back half of last season and ultimately bomb out in the first week of finals. Anthony Griffin has proven so far that he is an astute coach and will have learnt from the lessons of last year when the representative period took a heavy toll on his troops. Overall the Broncos have one of the more consistently talented looking line ups right across the park and anything short of a top 4 finish will be deemed a failure.
Scott Prince joins the fray and I think he will operate well in a side where he is not one of the ‘marquee’ recruits. Plus he will give the side more variety on 5th tackle options which is something that is a weakness in Peter Wallace’s game.
BEST BET for Broncos fans:
If you believe that the Broncos will be less affected by the representative season, as it is likely they will have fewer players representing them in State of Origin, then you may feel confident enough to back them to make the top 4 at $3.75. If not, play it safe and take the $1.75 on offer for a top 8 finish.
WESTS TIGERS – $17.00
GAINS: Braith Anasta (Roosters), Masada Iosefa – (Panthers), Eddy Pettybourne (Rabbitohs), Bodene Thompson (Titans), Jack Buchanan (Dragons), James Gavet (Bulldogs)
LOSSES: Gareth Ellis (Super League), Beau Ryan (Sharks), Chris Heighington (Sharks), Junior Moors (Storm), Tom Humble (Panthers), Dane Chisholm (Sea Eagles)
2012 will be quickly forgotten by the Tigers. Touted as preseason favourites, the Tigers fell victim to a fair share of injuries and their own hype. The ultimate result was an inept 10th placing on the ladder. In 2013 Mick Potter takes up the coaching reigns which will no doubt please some big egos in the team who have spent a good portion of their energy in the last few years engaged in clandestine feuding with now ‘ex-coach’ Tim Sheens. But Sheen’s departure won’t be the cure to all the Tiger’s problems as they still have unproven players in certain positions; namely fullback and halfback. With no expectations looming over their heads, Farah and Marshall will bring the goods but it will be in vane if James Tedesco (Fullback) and Jacob Miller (Halfback?) don’t back them up. Tough task ahead.
BEST BET for Tigers fans:
Fijian sensation Marika Koroibete blazed his way onto the scene at the end of 2012 when he was taken from the NYC and put into first grade to replace an injured Lote Tuqiri. Koroibete went on to play 6 games and nabbed 7 tries in the process thanks to his explosive speed with strength to boot. Koroibete opened in the top tryscoring markets at $41 and has since been backed as far in as $17 with some bookies. Be sure to shop around and jump on the best price!
CANBERRA RAIDERS – $21.00
GAINS: Joel Edwards (Knights), Jake Foster (Bulldogs)
LOSSES: Michael Chee Kam (Sea Eagles), Drury Low (Bulldogs, mid-season), Mark Ioane (Titans), Bronson Harrison (Dragons)
There’s no questioning the absolute talent that this team possesses but success will depend on Terry Campese who returns following a season ending injury in 2012 which brought the side undone. I would love to see Campese play more first receiver and I wish for this team’s sake that Coach David Furner would slap the no. 7 on his back.
Furner has never impressed me as a coach but I’m open to being proven wrong if it means the Raiders can find some finals success they have been desperate to earn. Having the same team as last year with the additions of Campese and the newly signed Joel Edwards will be the boost that they need and if they can keep the majority of their playing roster fit throughout the season then the Raiders could soon prove to be the dark horse of the NRL.
BEST BET for Raiders fans: As mentioned, Terry Campese will hold the key to success and if it comes off the back of a great season from the five-eighth then a Dally M medal could be on the cards. The $51 on offer should attract some attention. Otherwise the $2.25 on offer for a top 8 finish for the Raiders should suffice.
NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS – $21.00
GAINS: Thomas Leuluai (Wigan), Dane Nielsen (Storm), Todd Lowrie (Storm), Dominique Peyroux (Titans), Harry Siejka (Panthers)
LOSSES: Lewis Brown (Panthers), Michael Luck (retired), James Maloney (Roosters), Toka Likiliki (Knights), Ligi Sao (Sea Eagles), Omar Slaimankhel (Rugby), Ukuma Ta’ai (Huddersfield)
The Warrior’s shortcomings in 2012 were no surprise to me but what was a surprise was the signing of an ‘average at best’ coach in Matt Elliott.
A couple of good buys have been made for the New Zealand side in Dane Nielsen and Todd Lowrie but above all, this crew still lacks a star that can perform consistently and change games in their favour. Shaun Johnson clearly has talent but leaves massive holes in defence and is rarely consistent.
You can never really tell what the Warriors are going to offer in terms of competitiveness throughout 2013 and I’m not ashamed to say I find them hard to predict. But with what is on paper in front of me, I have to lean towards a bottom 8 finish for New Zealand.
BEST BETS for Warriors fans: Given my aforementioned inability to confidently predict where the Warriors might finish, I would hold nothing against a fan that possessed the utmost optimism of a top 8 finish for their team. If that’s you, jump on the $2.50 available for a top 8 finish.
PARRAMATTA EELS – $26.00
GAINS: Darcy Lussick (Sea Eagles), Daniel Harrison (Sea Eagles)
LOSSES: Nathan Hindmarsh (retired), Luke Burt (retired), Casey McGuire (retired), Justin Poore (Wakefield), Shane Shackleton (Panthers), Esi Tonga (Sea Eagles), Justin Horo (Sea Eagles)
I’m not sure if Parramatta’s odds would be as short as $26 if Ricky Stuart wasn’t the coach, but for the life of me I can’t understand why considering his coaching record.
Stuart could get his Eels heading in the right direction towards rebuilding if he can bring Chris Sandow up to speed with other halfbacks in the NRL. But alas, I fear he will already be on the back foot if he opts to play Jarryd Hayne at five-eighth. Hayne was voted the Dally M and International player of the year in 2009 playing fullback but was later experimented with in the five-eighth position and the results were rather ignominious.
Stuart would be unhappy at missing out on signing Israel Folau and with other big names such as Hindmarsh and Burt departing to the retired list; it could be another arduous year for the Eels. I can’t see anyone in this club turning the nightmares of 2012 around in one season.
BEST BETS for Eels Fans: If you’re of an opposing belief that the Eels can actually turn this season onto gold then the $3.00 on offer for a top 8 finish is for you.
ST. GEORGE-ILLAWARRA DRAGONS – $34.00
GAINS: Gerard Beale (Broncos), Tyson Frizell (Sharks), Josh Drinkwater (Sea Eagles), Michael Henderson (Titans), Bronson Harrison (Raiders)
LOSSES: Beau Scott (Knights), Dean Young (retired), Jeremy Latimore (Panthers), Ben Hornby (retired), Jack Buchanan (Tigers), Ben Musulino (Sea Eagles), David Gower (Sea Eagles), Josh Miller (retired)
It was always going to be tough for Coach Steve Price to take up the reins at the Dragons in the year after Wayne Bennett left the club but he managed to make some odd positional selections throughout 2012 all on his own. This issue will need to be rectified in 2013 and I don’t think he is off to a great start if he decides to play Nathan Fien at halfback. I would prefer to see him as the hooker or interchange hooker with young Josh Drinkwater to be experimented with in the no. 7 jersey.
Another piece of the puzzle I’m unsure of is Ben Creagh as the captain but we’ll have to wait and see how he proves himself as a leader.
In a nutshell the side will go nowhere if Coach Price doesn’t get into Jamie Soward’s head and get the best out of him mentally. If the two have any differences they will need to be put aside.
This side has too many question marks and I can’t see where the point scoring is going to come from under Price’s attacking structures.
BEST BET for Dragons fans: I can’t say that my money will be anywhere near the Dragons but if you’re keen to invest some interest in this team then your best bet would be the $3.50 on offer for a top 8 finish.
GOLD COAST TITANS – $41.00
GAINS: Dave Taylor (Rabbitohs),Mark Ioane (Raiders), Matthew Russell (Wigan)
LOSSES: Boden Thompson (Tigers), Phil Graham (retired), Scott Prince (Broncos), Brenton Lawrence (Sea Eagles), Dominique Peyroux (Warriors), Michael Henderson (Dragons), Kayne Lawton (Sea Eagles), Beau Champion (Rabbitohs)
The Titans were inconsistent and overall terrible last year and in 2013 they have to try and do it without Scott Prince. Their current halves options, which will most likely be Aiden Sezer and Albert Kelly to start the season off, are inexperienced and Coach John Cartwright will be hoping he has uncovered some hidden talent there in order to prove bookies wrong for posting his side as $41 outsiders for the premiership. If they are to shake the ‘outsiders’ tag then the halves will need to be able to direct their men to about an extra 4 points per game in comparison to last year.
On the plus side the side still possesses strike forwards in Ash Harrison, Nate Myles, Luke Bailey, Matt Srama, Greg Bird and we can now add man mountain Dave Taylor to the list, although it’s likely that at least 3 of them might be representing their states come State of Origin time. Hard to stick by this year.
BEST BETS for Titans fans: Being rather unfancied in betting markets means there are some high prices in Titans wagers. Why not have a lash at some top try scorer bets? David Mead is fetching $34 and Kevin Gordon is at $51.
PENRITH PANTHERS – $51.00
GAINS: Lewis Brown (Warriors) Dean Whare (Sea Eagles), Sika Manu (Storm), James Segeyaro (Cowboys), Wes Naiqama (Knights), Kyle O’Donnell (Knights), Jeremy Latimore (Dragons), James Roberts (Rabbitohs), Moses Pangai (Cowboys), Sam Anderson (Knights), Ethan Cook (Knights), Tom Humble (Wests Tigers), Shane Shackleton (Eels), Mose Masoe (Roosters)
LOSSES: Michael Gordon (Sharks), Luke Lewis (Sharks), Travis Burns (Hull KR), Mitch Achurch (Leeds), Harry Siejka (Warriors), Michael Jennings (Roosters)
Last but not least are the Panthers who are the pre-season favourites to claim the wooden spoon. The Panther’s admin have been busy signing players to join the squad for this season but at this early stage, losses such as NSW reps Luke Lewis and Michael Jenning along with perennial points scorer Michael Gordon, appear to outweigh the gains.
With plenty of cattle at his dispoal it will come down to how well Coach Ivan Cleary positions his men. For the opening round of the season it looks likely that Lachlan Coote will play five-eighth and new recruit Dean Whare will play fullback. Whilst many are hopeful that the Panthers can begin to turn recent misfortune around, they may need a year of rebuilding under their belts before they become genuinely competitive.
BEST BET for Panthers fans: If this side is to flourish on this campaign then they will be relying on a big season from Lachlan Coote in the halves. Penrith fans, you can back your man to win the Dally M Player of the year at $101.