NRL 2008: Will Dragons fly?

They have been a notably quiet NRL club during the 2007/2008 Rugby League off-season. A proud club that has misfired poorly in recent years, will the centenary of Rugby League be their season to go all the way in NRL 2008?

The man at the helm of the St George Illawarra Dragons, Nathan Brown seems so have certainly copped his share of criticism – however the former Dragons hooker has done well to hang in there, at a time when coaches are hung out to dry so quickly.

The burning question for every NRL fan has been why have the Dragons continued to fail with virtually an Australian Rugby League Representative Team at their disposal? The likes of Trent Barrett, Matt Head, Brett Firman all now lost to the once unstoppable club. Looking further back, even the likes of Paul McGregor, Rod Wishart and Brad McKay had the talent but never got the goodies come end of season NRL.

Is it the pressure of being one of the most heavily followed NRL clubs? Even before the Saints merged with the Steelers, the Dragons boasted the biggest club memberships and a huge following amongst NRL faithful. Their merchandise out sold everyone else, ever since they won 11 premierships straight in the good old days they have had an army of fans and that has continued the thrive. Does this huge following create more expectation? Coupled with the fact that the Red Vee hasn’t won the major prize in over 25 years?

Personally, I think the creativity and player talent at the Dragons disposal has been the root of the problem over the past 15 years. Having so many talented players might be thought the only ingredient to win at the highest level of NRL, however the old saying “Too many cooks, spoil the broth” rings true.

Just like NSW Origin problems in previous years, having so many talented players running their own plays, going solo and most of the time not following coaches instructions can wreak havoc on the best of sides.

Too many times the Dragons get into top gear during an NRL game, then sign off and start coasting. Other times they simply turn up and some of the players tend to rely on the superstars to get them home. A big no-no.

And more recently, injury has been a disaster for this Rugby League club. Possibly the best player in the world on his day, Mark Gasnier unfortunately seems to get injured when he trips over a blade of grass and former Australian forward Jason Ryles gets injured and rarely plays to his ability that can be oh so damaging when he puts his mind to it.

Certainly its time the Dragons deserved some luck with injury and they will be hard to stop in NRL 2008 featuring the likes of: Dean Young, Matt Cooper, Ben Creagh, Jason Ryles and of course Gaz – however another of the old sayings keeps ringing in my ears and that is “Give me enthusiasm over talent anyday of the week” and maybe that is the key to the Dragons taking the title in NRL 2008.

NRL 2008 the first 5 Rounds

How’s does your NRL team fare in the first few rounds of 2008 look? Here’s a sneak peak at the first 5 rounds of NRL Rugby League draw in 2008 – In the weeks ahead we will start moving into predictions and how your NRL team should be looking after 5 rounds.

Round 1, March 14-17
Titans v Cowboys, Skilled Park, Fri 7.30pm.
Rabbitohs v Roosters, Telstra Stadium, Fri 7.30pm
Eels v Bulldogs, Telstra Stadium, Sat 5.30pm
Sea Eagles v Sharks, Brookvale Oval, Sat 7.30pm.
Knights v Raiders, Energy Australia Stadium, Sat 7.30pm
Broncos v Panthers, Suncorp Stadium, Sun 2.00pm
Wests Tigers v Dragons, Sydney Cricket Ground, Sun 3.00pm
Storm v Warriors, Telstra Dome, Mon 7.00pm

Round 2, March 21-24
Roosters v Broncos, Sydney Football Stadium, Fri 7.30pm
Rabbitohs v Bulldogs, Telstra Stadium, Fri 7.30pm
Panthers v Raiders, CUA Stadium, Sat 5.30pm
Knights v Sea Eagles, Energy Australia Stadium, Sat 7.30pm
Cowboys v Wests Tigers, Dairy Farmers Stadium, Sat 8.30pm
Warriors v Eels, Mt Smart Stadium, Sun 4.00pm
Storm v Sharks, Olympic Park, Sun 3.00pm
Dragons v Titans, WIN Stadium, Mon 7.00pm

Round 3, March 28-31
Broncos v Cowboys, Suncorp Stadium, Fri 7.30pm
Eels v Knights, Parramatta Stadium, Fri 7.30pm
Roosters v Storm, Sydney Football Stadium, Sat 5.30pm
Raiders v Dragons, Canberra Stadium, Sat 7.30pm
Titans v Sharks Skilled Park, Sat 8.30pm
Panthers v Rabbitohs, CUA Stadium, Sun 2.00pm
Bulldogs v Wests Tigers, Telstra Stadium, Sun 3.00pm
Sea Eagles v Warriors, Brookvale Oval, Mon 7.00pm

Round 4, April 4-7 (Aust and NZ Daylight Savings ends at 2am Sun 6th)
Storm v Broncos, Olympic Park, Fri 7.30pm
Bulldogs v Roosters, Telstra Stadium, Fri 7.30pm
Dragons v Sharks, Telstra Stadium, Sat 5.30pm
Titans v Raiders, Skilled Park, Sat 6.30pm
Cowboys v Eels, Dairy Farmers Stadium, Sat 8.30pm
Warriors V Knights, Mt Smart Stadium, Sun 4.00pm
Sea Eagles v Rabbitohs, Brookvale Oval, Sun 3.00pm
Wests Tigers v Panthers, Campbelltown Sports Stadium, Mon 7.00pm

Round 5, April 11-14
Storm v Sea Eagles, Olympic Park, Fri 7.30pm
Eels v Titans, Parramatta Stadium, Fri 7.30pm
Dragons v Cowboys, WIN Stadium, Sat 5.30pm
Panthers v Roosters CUA Stadium, Sat 7.30pm
Warriors v Bulldogs, Mt Smart Stadium, Sun 2.00pm
Raiders v Wests Tigers, Canberra Stadium, Sun 2.00pm
Knights v Broncos, Energy Australia Stadium, Sun 3.00pm
Rabbitohs v Sharks Telstra Stadium, Mon 7.00pm.

Manly Sea Eagles; No sign of wounds from 07

Deep into pre-season training, the Manly Sea Eagles don’t seem to be showing any ill effects from their punishing 2007 Grand Final loss.

While many say “You need to lose one before you win one!” – There has been many NRL teams that have gone within a whisker of winning the Grand Final and then disappear into the cellar in the years to follow.

Regardless of the talent on display at Manly in 2007, the crushing Grand Final defeat must have been hard for the squad to have forgotten. The Eagles have also lost some quality players from their 2007 squad; the likes of Michael Monaghan; easily the Eagles best player last year and livewire pivot Travis Burns have now moved on – but balancing the scales is some impressive recruits; the likes of which weren’t burnt by the heavy NRL Grand Final loss the Eagles received.

Josh Perry, Heath L’Estrange and former NRL flyer David Vaealiki all come on board with the Eagles for this coming NRL season and the depth across the squad looks impressive for Manly.

Will Manly be a force in NRL 2008? Well, they will certainly be a Top 8 team – however the loss of Michael Monaghan will severely hurt Manly. The creative and passionate Monaghan was an attacking genius for the Eagles; he was able to graft wins out on occasions and could always spark their impressive backline.

The other problem hindering Manly is the lack of a true pivot. In the loss of Burns, Manly will have to continue to use Jamie Lyon in the halves and while Lyon possess skills and ability – his dynamics simply don’t suit pivot in the modern day NRL game.

Having said all that, Manly will remain a power in 2008 NRL – however, they won’t repeat the 2007 feat of making the Grand Final.

South Sydney Rabbitohs 2008 comes early

As the majority of NRL teams move their pre-season Rugby League training into full swing; the South Sydney Rabbitohs have had to be in top gear earlier than most.

After achieving success in 2007 on the back of their first NRL finals berth in nearly 15 years, the Bunnies plan for 2008 starts with a mission to Florida, USA on January 26th where they will take on the Leeds Rhinos in a Rugby League exhibition match.

The journey to the United States shows how advanced the South Sydney team have become in their back office and marketing mindset; a result of astute management from the likes of Peter Holmes a Court and Russell Crowe.

Coach Jason Taylor has also worked hard in the off-season reviewing hours of NRL footage with his assistants; focusing not only on Souths’ success and failures of the year – but totally reviewing the seasons of NRL front runners Melbourne Storm and Manly Sea Eagles to see exactly how those teams achieved what they did in 2007 NRL.

Taylor and the rest of the Rugby League world know that the Bunnies only needed to score more tries in 2007. Similar to Cronulla, the South Sydney outfit boasted rock solid defence but regularly struggled to put on regular points in attack.

The acquisition of Craig Wing who joins South Sydney from the Roosters was based squarely around Wing’s attacking ability. And coach Jason Taylor has made no secret of the fact he wants Wing to play at halfback, a position that Wing made his own later in the year for the Sydney Roosters.

2008 promises so much yet again for the South Sydney. With leading administrators, coaching staff and player roster – Souths continue to be injected with new talent through their North Sydney feeder club. The Bears only narrowly losing the Premier League Grand Final in 2007, but producing a bundle of talent that the Bunnies can tap into at any stage.

Their depth was a revelation in 2007, digging up the likes of Issac Luke who I believe is a future rep player and throwing someone like Fetuli Talanoa into the fray in their late season charge and seeing impressive results.

Our prediction for 2008? Their impressive buildup and strategic methodolgy will most certainly see South Sydney join the NRL Top 8 finalists again in the centenary year of Rugby League.

Benji Marshall: Gambles with Tigers over career

By John Chelsea

Wests Tigers pivot Benji Marshall looks to be playing russian roulette with his young career after rejecting approaches from the Tigers to resign for a fixed period.

After Wests coach Tim Sheens inked a deal with the Rugby League club until 2010; Sheens immediately set about locking Benji Marshall up with the Tigers for as long as possible. Following advice of Sheens; Tigers club officials attempted to negotiate a deal with Marshall’s manager Martin Tauber.

Tauber has rejected the Tigers advances stating that he has advised Benji Marshall at only 22 years of age and suffering recent injury and form lapses – that he again needs to prove himself on the Rugby League field for his own confidence and of course boosting his market worth.

With Marshall sidelined for long periods with shoulder problems and more recently being found out in defence on many occasions as the Tigers faltered in their late season charge for the finals – the stakes are extremely high.

If Benji Marshall reaches the end of 2008 and hasn’t performed on the NRL field or continues to experience injury woes and remains sidelined; he could seriously find himself signing a minute deal or worse still – forced into early retirement.

The gamble is a big one. But so often is the case, when Rugby League players have contracts on the line – they tend to avoid or play through injury and usually come up on top. It’s a simple, yet daunting equation for Marshall; perform or perish.

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Cronulla Sharks: Paul Gallen captain in 2008

By John Chelsea

It’s an interesting move by Ricky Stuart to name Paul Gallen as the captain of the Cronulla Sharks for 2008.

While there is no questioning the ability, workrate and passion from Paul Gallen – is he really the best man for the job? The case against Gallen, stems from his hot headed interactions with referees and his ‘play dead’ actions that often get him into embarrassing trouble.

Maybe it might be the best thing for Paul Gallen. The added responsibility on the Rugby League field might just stop him from taking a swan dive or make him think twice before giving the ref a spray. Gallen is also known to ‘go the biff’ on occasion, and surely Ricky Stuart would have had a long talk about these kinds of antics.

The Sharks really do need to make something happen in NRL 2008; and it’s going to be a tough gig for Gallen and his colleagues.

Suffering from reduced crowds, limited playing talent and a fairly new back office and coaching infrastructure – the Cronulla boys do face an uphill battle. Their defence was their best asset in 2007 and their season was built around this. If they can continue this impressive stat, it will give them a nice leg up in 2008.

Their problems have been mainly out wide; lack of speed and creativity rarely saw them cross the try line this season. Many of their points came through set plays and creative half work; the brainchildren of Ricky Stuart and his talented halves Brett Kimmorley and Adam Dykes.

As pre-season training gets back into full swing after Christmas; Paul Gallen will need to pour everything into his new role as Cronulla Sharks captain. Personally, the likes of Lance Thompson or Greg Bird may have been a more suitable choice. But if Paul Gallen sticks to NRL Rugby League and stops his ‘soccer-like’ diving – he may just go on to be a top notch skipper.

Timana Tahu wanted to be an All Black

It was revealed today that former Newcastle Knights and Parramatta Eels flyer Timana Tahu harbored plans to become an All Black with his transition to the Rugby Union game this year.

The classy outside back revealed on New Zealand TV tonight that he personally approached former Kiwi Rugby Union man, and now Wallabies coach Robbie Deans and discussed a possible move to Super 14 team the Canterbury Crusaders with a view to moving into the famous All Black Rugby Union side.

Such is the lure of the All Black side that several Rugby League stars have become virtual traitors and have crossed country borders to play in the world renowned NZ rep side. The last in recent times was Brisbane Broncos and Australian Rep Brad Thorn who left Rugby League for Union and donned the All Black strip for several matches.

While Timana Tahu eventually signed with the NSW Warratahs, he has hinted that after his professional Rugby Union days are finished he is keen to represent the NZ Maori team; a fitting role for Tahu, himself a son of Maori father and a Aboriginal mother.

As Rugby League diehards ponder a lost star to Rugby Union, the concern shouldn’t last long. Each time an NRL or League star has crossed code borders a new, improved and younger version appears. As Tahu leaves the Eels, the talented junior pool at Parramatta consisting of Kris Inu, Jarryd Hayne and Taulima Tautai are quickly ready to take up the slack. The Eels also bolstered by the 2007 off-season signing of Joe Galuvao who joins Parramatta for the 2008 NRL campaign.

* The Parramatta Eels have also followed in the footsteps of South Sydney for 2008; launching their own ‘ParraTV’ service. Launched at this is a service available to subscribers only – where they can watch behind the scenes TV footage of the Parramatta Eels team; footage shot by Eels insiders during the 2008 season. At smart move by the Eels, who obviously saw potential revenue streams from the program developed by Russell Crowe at South Sydney.

The John Chow Experiment

This an internet promotional experiment only relating to John Chow.

Regular NRL News readers please disregard this post as it is purely for experimental and promotional requirements during the NRL off-season.

Regular NRL daily posting will resume in the early pre-season and leading up to the pre-season our posts and articles will be slightly less frequent. We thank you for your understanding.

The John Chow Experiment:
It’s underway. The SEO test to see if the keyword of ‘John Chow’ can be steered in a different direction. Internet mogul and gatekeeper of sorts, with traffic over the 300,000 page view mark each month John Chow is an internet success story without doubt.

John Chow kicked off his personal blog in mid 2006 and after humble beginnings the Canadian resident now earns in the region’s of $30,000 USD each month from his efforts to monetize his site. Interestingly enough, John Chow has many competitors who actually receive more traffic – however Chow is unmatched in his ability to make money online and squeeze every advertising dollar he can from his personal blog.

As the power of John Chow grew, his noted participation in link trading become more noticeable. You see in the world of website and blog promotion a Google PageRanking is critical to listing position in the search engine and also denotes how much you can charge advertisers who are keen to cash in on a link back from the higher Page Ranked sites, as they receive a ‘vote’ of sorts in Googles eyes which in turn adds to their Page Rank.

Chows ability to negotiate and trade links soon saw him being watched closely by Google. The big search engine giant frowns on link trading and soon John Chow was totally at loggerheads with the search giant. The first step was Google removing John Chows site from their directory and when his name ‘John Chow’ is searched the results returned from Google don’t show the *actual* John Chow site anywhere.

As a personal test in SEO (Search Engine Optimization) I set about chasing a top spot under the keyword of John Chow. After creating a personal blog post based on John Chow – I now set about raising awareness and improving the popularity of this post in the form of link backs. The more backlinks to this post on John Chow – the higher the chances of sitting in Google’s top 10 for the search term ‘John Chow’.

Time will tell.

NRL Player Movement 2008

By Peter Roy

NRL Player movement and signings for 2008 are continuing. Most recently former Bulldogs outside back Trent Cutler has agreed to terms with the Tigers for 2008.

The son of former Bulldogs first grader Stan Cutler, youngster Trent burst on to the scene with some confident showings in first grade when called upon. After securing a regular spot in first grade, the small standing Cutler began to struggle when fully tested under the high ball. Rival NRL teams were regularly seeking Cutler out in attack and having plenty of success.

After some horror outings, Cutler lost all confidence and was relegated to reserve grade. It seems the Bulldogs have lost all confidence in Trent Cutler too, as they continue to clean out their ranks, the young back recently snapped up by the Wests Tigers.

For the Tigers its an interesting move. Cutler certainly needs some fine tuning and confidence more than anything, if anyone can mould the boy its Tim Sheens – one of the top 5 coaches in todays NRL Rugby League climate.

The attacking and carefree Rugby League played by the Wests Tigers might just be suitable to Trent Cutler and the once promising finisher could rise to stardom again. The Wests Tigers have opened the cheque book several times in the past few weeks, more recently signing former St George Illawarra Dragon Matt Head and journeyman outside back Nick Youngquest from the Penrith Panthers.

As 2008 draws closer be sure and visit NRL News for your early season guide including commentary videos and predictions and a return to regular daily posting as trial games get closer. The team at NRL News made some bold predictions in 2007, when we made our predictions in March of 2007, we successfully picked Manly to run 2nd and were equally successful in picking South Sydney to run 8th and make the finals.

We also encourage supporters to join us next year and send in their articles, questions, comments and predictions on all things NRL.