"WATCH THAT MAN"
Written by Mark Geyer
Thank you St George Illawarra. Thank you Souths.
Never before has one game and a trial at that, caught the imagination of all league supporters nation wide.
LEAGUE IS BACK and all thanks to the Charity Shield game that proved once and for all, that Souths reinstatement back into the NRL is the best thing to happen to rugby league since……since…..Penrith won the comp in 1991 ha ha ha.
But seriously, if that game was a sign of things to come, hold onto your hats and sit back and enjoy the ride, because we’re in for one bumper season.
While Souths presence is contagious, St George Illawarra’s form this early on also brung a smile to the dial. Barratt, Ryles , Hookey, Thompson and co. all showed great enthusiasm for a team so young, especially after all the big name exits from the Club in the off season.
Looking carefully over all Clubs this season I thought I would nominate a player whose stature is essential in his teams premiership aspirations. A player who when on, so is his team.
It’s going to be very hard for the Knights to match their feats of last year. But saying that if Matt Gidley is switched on, I can see the Knights really pushing for a repeat. Obviously Joey’s presence is a must, but I also feel Matt Gidley has certainly shown when he’s hot so are the Newcastle backline.
Considered a veteran, at such a young age, in the Newcastle camp Gidley’s freakish one hand off loads have become part and parcel of a Novacastrian victory.
The old saying "You’ve got to lose one, to win one" certainly applies to the young Eels this year. After last year’s Grand Final loss I feel they are the team to toss this time around. Added with the recruitment of Dykes and McFadden, this team really looks the goods. But when Nathan Hindmarsh clicks so do the other baby Eels.
Becoming more and more of a game breaker each year he absolutely holds the key that will unlock the Grand Final door.
Certainly coming off the back of a sensational season last year, have lost some big names but also have gained some mighty big ones, ie. Kimmorley, Johns.
But the player, in my eyes, who greases this well-oiled machine, is Nick Graham. Combining with the two above-mentioned names should see this fiery red head really push for an Origin birth this year. (Why do we always call red heads "fiery"?)
Another essential cog in this chain is the acquisition of Australian coach Chris Anderson.
Apart from the spectacular emergence of Braith Anasta the Bulldogs always seem to perform better when Travis Norton is fit and healthy. Injuries have plagued the talented Norton, but I really hope he has overcome these hurdles and is primed for a blockbuster.
Mark O’Mealy’s signing is also a very big plus.
As mentioned early in this story, Barrett and Ryles will be essential in establishing the Dragons come semi time. I also feel Mark Gasnier has the speed and skill to become one of the NRL’s marquee players.
Showing early glimpses of his ability in the Charity Shield, this could spell big time headaches for his rivals.
Having all eyes on big Gordie could mean that Shaun Berrigan becomes Brisbane’s new golden boy. A shocking injury cut short a potential MVP season for this halfback with a ticker the size of a T-Rex. I’m sure Berrigan’s, along with Gordie’s comeback to the fold will see the Broncos especially hard to dislodge come September.
You can still hear the Bondi brigade celebrating "Brad Fittler retires from rep footy". While it’s an end to an unbelievable chapter, it also sees the Roosters with their best chance of winning the comp since Dally M hit town.
New South Wales and Australia’s loss is Sydney City’s gain. It has probably also added 2 to 3 years to Freddies career. Thrust into rep footy at a very early age Freddy will certainly benefit, as will the Roosters from an uninterrupted season. Look for him to play some of his best Club football of his life this year.
Undoubtedly the Cinderella story of last year. With a filtration of Aussie players, combined with rookie coach Daniel Anderson’s no nonsense tactics, the once easy beat Warriors, transformed themselves into a serious title contender.
Obviously it remains to be seen if they can emulate last years glory, but if they are to do so they will need Ali Lauititi taking off where he left last year.
A certainly gifted ball player, it was his bone crunching defence that saw him transform into one of the comp’s premier forwards. The appointment of Monty Beatham as captain is also an inspirational move.
Although a team filled with Internationals the Storm were somewhat disappointing last year. More so finishing out of the eight for the first time in their brief history.
One significant point to emerge from their substandard season was the change of home grounds. From the fanatical Olympic Park to the eerie echo of Colonial Stadium, this in hindsight was not one of their best moves.
Recruiting wisely in the off season they have potentially the buy of the year in Willy Leyshon whose injury riddled career has been both at times frustrating and agonising. But for the Storm to really roar back into thoroughbred status the one player they need up and running is Scott Hill. Hill on his day would walk into any rep team. Together with seasoned hard men in Kearns, Howe and Kearney he should shove the Melbournians right back into premiership calculations.
Enough has been said and written about the Tigers hellish season last year. While they have made little ripples in the recruitment ocean, they have acquired experienced go forward man Steve Trindall from the Eagles. Relying on youth and enthusiasm Terry Lamb seems to have settled the Tigers to a point where their late season form of last year was promising. But the man the Tigers will rest a lot of their hopes on is Luke O’Donnell. "Adonis", as big Blocker likes to call him burst onto the Rugby League scene only to have treaded water last year. But like Nathan Hindmarsh, has the potential to be an absolute game breaker.
Lets hope the Tigers woes are behind them and one L O’Donnell makes damn sure of it.
Again, another team whose only way is up. Like the Warriors, have a rookie coach in Matt Elliott that brings to the table a wealth of fresh and innovative ideas. One such innovation is bringing his Bradford Bulls trainer all the way out from England. And if Mark McClinden is anything to go by, he’s certainly doing his job.
Recent Raiders advertisement campaigns have a pumped and ready for action McClinden saying, "I’m still here". Well with one half of the "Mac" double act gone (McFadden – Parra) this remaining "Mac" will have to shoulder a lot more responsibility of which I know he’s certainly capable of. Lets hope we hear "And the Raiders score again, thanks to McClinden" or should we say "McFlurry"!!!!!
They have nothing to lose this year the Eagles. With early season predictions already putting them way out of calculation. In a team a lot different to years gone by I feel the new breed of Eagle will have to nest on the likes of veterans Menzies and a fit Kosef.
Their season hinges on their go forward and with blonde bomber, Nathan Long leading the charge I really feel he will spark the zest lost in the Eagles. Long will certainly become a Brookvale favourite. David Westley also brings muscle to the rookie Eagles.
Could this be a Warrior type year for the Cowboys? I think so.
Brasher’s back, Sing’s up, Buttergieg’s tougher, Bowman’s craftier and Morrison’s on fire.
Probably the most improved player in the comp last year, Glen Morrison is exactly what the Cowboys need to be major force. Go with him boys and who knows what will happen.
I firmly believe the Cowboys are about to turn the corner. God knows their ardent fans deserve it, and just quietly, so does the league.
It goes without saying that the Panthers hopes rest on the "G" Factor, Girdler and Gower, plus player of the year Scott Sattler, times by the influx of the Shark (players, coach, trainers and CEO), the new look "Penrulla Parks" have the nucleous of what could be a complete form reversal of last season.
But the one "sleeping giant" who holds all the aces in the deck is Tony Puletua. Never have I witnessed a more devastating human being on the footy field. Has the potential to be bigger and badder than Olsen and the Sorensen brothers put together. Secret is, he must remain focused and intent on being a human wrecking machine and then watch the pins scatter.
First of all "Welcome back".
Second of all "Keep the juggernaut rolling"
A competitive South Sydney spells big things for this years NRL. With not only good corporate and "rich and famous" support the Rabbitohs also have the support of all disillusioned fans Nation, if not worldwide.
Big shoulders indeed will be needed to carry such high hopes of so many. With their first season back from their hiatus Adam Muir is just the man to lead the Rabbitohs into wonderland.
With an uncanny ability to off load in extreme traffic Muir was a fantastic choice as captain and it is he who will carry the Rabbitohs hopes along with his ready and willing "GLADIATORS".
..................... MG J