According to Rugby League great and Channel 9 reporter Peter Sterling, this year could be one of the most ‘winnable’ seasons in years; with teams such as Manly and the Storm coming back to the pack in recent times as players are traded and forced out under the salary cap.
There has been major reshuffles at several clubs, so culture shocks and new playing styles could be evident in the new season that is only 2 weeks away.
Storm – Strong system, rookie talent replacing lost stars in most cases. May not be as motivated after years at the top?
Manly – Riding the crest of their wave, plenty of talent and a large squad of quality players to rotate if injuries pop up. In-fighting the only worry.
Sharks – Smart recruiting, good blend of experience and youth. Hungry, but may not have the infrastructure to keep them consistent.
Broncos – Roster remains very impressive, some injury worries to key men but coaching remains the big uncertainty.
Dragons – New outlook, good vibe under top level coach. Tough forwards, but will injuries and finals scars return to haunt them?
Titans – Well settled after a few years in the league. Great roster, strong combinations but seem to struggle away from home.
Roosters – Still yet to prove themselves with an expensive roster. Mitchell Pearce better for the experience, but side needs more speed.
NZ Warriors – Dark horse, often forgotten – but have several superstars and strong desire. Manu Vatuvei seems to be the key – heaven or hell?
Wests Tigers – Faster ruck speed should help their style, attack remains impressive. Lack size and muscle in the engine room.
Parramatta – Successful hard line coach should help ease internal tension, poor recruitment may cost them this year if injuries appear.
Panthers – Have talented individuals, but lack overall cohesion. Coaching pressure and team tension remain a real concern.
Raiders – Always fly under the radar, which helps. Terry Campese set to reach new heights, depth and new coach the worries here.
Bulldogs – Total clean-out, seemingly bought very well. Kimmorley the key, appearance of Kevin Moore shouldn’t change things too much.
Rabbitohs – Good roster, great infrastructure. Need to remain out of headlines to keep pressure off. Public eye is their biggest enemy.
Cowboys – Aquired possibly the NRL’s best coach, possess strong attacking talent but defence and injuries always seem to kill them off.
Knights – Remain on the rise, which might see them sneak into 8. Need more superstars and require regular ‘full house’ crowds to keep them winning.
Here at NRL News, we’ve always found the best way to come up with Top 8 predictions is to start by ‘excluding’ the teams that you feel cannot make the grade – it’s always easier to eliminate teams from the Top 8 to make your predictions. Here’s how the NRL News team see things in 2009:
Peter Roy’s Top 8:
Manly, Cronulla, Titans, Knights, Storm, Broncos, St George Illawarra, Cowboys. (Bottom 8 – Warriors, Wests, Parra, Bulldogs, Raiders, Penrith, Rabbits, Roosters)
Gavin Fox’s Top 8:
Manly, St George Illawarra, Broncos, Warriors, Knights, Bulldogs, Wests, Titans. (Bottom 8 – Storm, Eels, Panthers, Raiders, Rabbits, Roosters, Sharks, Cowboys)
John Chelsea’s Top 8:
Storm, Manly, Sharks, Broncos, St George Illawarra, Titans, Roosters, Warriors. (Bottom 8 – Wests, Eels, Knights, Cowboys, Rabbits, Bulldogs, Raiders, Panthers)