Can you feel it?
It’s March. Autumn. There’s a nip in the air.
The sound of leather on willow is fading into obscurity and instead there’s the sound of grunting men, the smell of deep heat and the crinkle of the Daily Telegraph.
Footy season is BACK BABY!
Can you believe that it’s been 5 months since that fateful and heartbreaking day in October last year?
We’ve endured one of the most boring summers of cricket ON RECORD and now the season is finally here.
Is there any game greater than Rugby League?
I think NOT.
And it all begins with a blockbuster tomorrow night. The Dragons take on the Eels at Parramatta Stadium.
And guess whose favourite blogger will be THERE. Yes indeedy. Me, my big inflatable finger, my 2009 Grand Finalist jersey and my Blue and Gold forever son will be front and centre (as long as on the try line and 3rd row in counts) for the big clash tomorrow night.
I am soooo pumped for this season and it seems that the pressure building for the Eels this season is almost unbearable. Will they crack under the pressure (again), or will they simply blow the opposition away like they did in those last 12 games in 2009?
I am nervous, excited and positively BUSTING to see what happens when it all kicks off.
Of course there are 15 other teams that the Eels will have to shrug off before October this season and here’s Mick’s Quick Guide to the 2010 NRL Season.
Listed in the order I think they will finish.
1. Parramatta Eels
Seriously, is there any doubt that the boys from the west can’t go all the way this season? There are 2 vital pieces to the success of the Eels. Confidence and Positivity. As soon as the Eels lose either of these their heads drop and the chance of beating any team goes down the drain.
We have to play like we know how to. Throw the ball around. Run with flair. Take that chance. Chip that kick and back your ability to catch the opposition off guard. It is one of the things the Eels are famous for.
Our team is almost intact from last year except for the noticeable loss of Todd Lowrie, Kevin Kingston and Joe Galuvao. Throw in Tahu, Poore and Shackleton and you have more than made up for it. A fit Hayne, Ben Smith and Eric Grothe will also keep us confident through the thick of the season. Injuries are inevitable but we have debutant Tom Humble in the wings, as well as Krisnan Inu, Anthony Mitchell and Jonathan Wright ready to make their impact. THIS is the year my friends. It has to be.
2. Melbourne Storm
They are still the most dangerous team in the league. They prove that year after year . In fact 4 consecutive years in the grand final proves that. When you have Slater, Inglis, Cronk and Smith running at you, you need to pull out the drop drawer performance. Ironically it was the Origin ravaged Storm team in 2009 that started the Eels roll, but you can’t bet on playing them when they’re down cause they quickly get back off the mat.
I think this might be one of their last years in the top ranks of the game, but whilst Slater and Inglis are there you can never write them off. Come finals time, it’s a different ball game. I hope they make way for another team this year. I think that team will be…
3. Canterbury Bulldogs
The rivallry of the Eels and Bulldogs in the 80’s is back. Judging by the most amazing game of football I’ve ever seen last year in the Preliminary Final. The Bulldogs have bounced back so fast from their disastrous 2008 season that the only way they can go is up and I think this year they will see an all Sydney Grand Final against the Mighty Eels.
Kimmorley continues to impress in his twilight years and along with a solid forward pack they’re ready to pounce.
Don’t get me wrong. I hate the Bulldogs with a passion, but I think they will have a big big year.
The Rabbitohs have been seemingly in a ‘re-building’ phase for a decade, but it’s about time for them to show everyone what they’ve got. I think this season will be a massive year for them to go along with their massive forward pack. They’ve recruited ex-Bronco Dave Taylor to add to Sam Burgess and the front row is ready to explode.
I still can’t get past the Rabbitohs being easy-beats. It seems that they have been for as long as I can remember, but it’d be nice to see them in front of the 8 ball for once and make the top 8 easily. I think the top 4 is a definite possibility.
5. Gold Coast Titans
They have a bit of a hodge-podge team. Players from all over the place that have taken a while to gel. They also can’t seem to play without Preston Campbell, but they’ve recruited bad-boy Bird and he could make a big difference to their confidence.
I like their never say die attitude and I think they’ll have another successful season. I just can’t see them getting past week 1 or 2 of the finals though.
6. Wests Tigers
They’ve bought Tuqiri and Jason Cayless. 2 excellent buys for what could be a turning point season for the Tiges. They really should have made a better fist of it last year but their run home was disappointing (to Parra’s glee!)
I am looking forward to a big season from Benji, as long as he doesn’t break his toe, lung or little finger. If Farah can actually perform week to week, it will help as well. Just look out for when they click. They could push for a top 4 spot.
7. St. George-Illawarra Dragons
The perennial chokers of the league must feel like they are starting again. They had a massive 2009 and finished minor premiers, only to hit the Eels juggernaut in Finals Week 1. They never recovered. I think they’ve got massive potential in their team, but sometimes they just don’t seem to know how to use it. You’d think Mr. Bennett would help with that and maybe this year he’ll lead them to the top again.
I have a feeling that a depleted forward pack and injuries will plague them, and is Soward goes down, so does the team.
8. Sydney Roosters
As much as I hate to say it, I think the Roosters will sneak into the 8. It will be a tight finish with the Panthers but I reckon Todd Carney will have a massive season. He always showed so much promise in Canberra, but too many trips to ‘All Bar Nun’ and the ‘Moose’ ruined what could have been a beautiful friendship. They landed the wooden spoon last year, probably due to coaching issues (see ya Freddy0, but I think hard nose Brian Smith will drag them off the bottom this year and give them a finals appearance straight away.
9. Penrith Panthers
They always seem to under-achieve, the Panthers. I compare them to the Eels a lot. They have a lot of talent, but somehow it just doesn’t seem to work sometimes. They also ride on confidence and if they win a couple, they’ll start to look promising.
They’ve got Jennings, Kingston (from Parra), Laurie (from Tiges) and Civoniceva in their roster. Jennings is clearly a freak and should be up there with the Hayne’s and Inglis’s of the league. He can only get better this season and they will surely upset some big teams, but I think they will just miss out again.
10. Manly Sea-Eagles
Seriously, who really cares about this team? This pack of highfaluting silvertails from the north shore seemed to think they just had to turn up in 2009. Then it all fell apart for them and not least for Brett Stewart. They still have the talent to make a finals tilt, but with their over-sized houses, wallets and heads I don’t think they’ll make it out of the tunnel in time.
11. Canberra Raiders
Yes, I have a soft spot for the Raiders having lived here for 20 odd years. The thing is they will never reach those lofty heights of the 80’s and 90’s when Daley, Meninga, Clyde, Walters and Stuart ruled this town. I wish they would, but can you see Tongue, Purtell, Duggin, Harrison and Herbert being household names? I don’t think so.
The other problem they have is that they just can’t win outside of Canberra. It seems to be their continual problem. Year after year they pull out big victories against quality teams in the frigid weather of Canberra, but then they head to Townsville and can’t spank the Cowboys in their backyard.
Hopefully this year will see some reversal of fortune because I would love League to be a buzz-word in this town again one day.
12. Brisbane Broncos
The mighty all fall eventually. The Broncos have had their day and no amount of Lockyer magic will save them this year. They will drop out of finals contention and Brisbane people won’t even notice.
Mind you, I’ve said this before and then somehow they manage to claw their way back into the race. They’ve still got Folau, they’ve bought Tim Smith and Corey Parker can play, but somehow, I just think they’re not going to have enough fire power.
13. North Queensland Cowboys
Another year and what could be the last chance for the Cowboys to hold onto Thurston. He may be a tool but he’s still a top footy player and the Cowgirls have been riding on his plaits for a few years now. They still have some decent players to give them hope though, with Sam Rapira looking the goods, as well as veteran Luke O’Donnell and Willie Tonga. Oh, and I guess we can’t forget the other Willie who has flipped the bird to Sydney and gone up North.
If Willie remembers how to play, Thurston stays off the drink and Ty Williams scores some tries they might have a chance, but somehow I reckon. No.
14. Newcastle Knights
Things just go from bad to worse for those keniggets. (Thank you Monty Python). First they lose the greatest player of all time (Joey Johns), then they lose a couple of coaches and then 2 players get done on drugs charges. All the while they just can’t seem to get any consistency on the paddock.
Oh, and let’s not forget that Gidley injured himself in the All-stars game and will miss 4-6 weeks from the start of the season! I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re looking at the wooden spoon early in the season, but I expect things to pick up as the season warms up.
If coming 14th means they pick up very much. I only expect they’ll win a handful of games.
15. New Zealand Warriors
Those players across the ditch never give up trying and you have to admire them for that. 2002 seems like such a long time ago for this team that is so desperate to win they’re willing to part with millions of dollars to get $onny Bill Williams back into League (please no). The bonus with a team like the Warriors is that they have a whole country of talent to pull from and they really should be able to find some great up and coming talent. Apparently there’s a guy called Kevin Locke that plays on the wing and he is toted to be the next big thing.
We shall see.
I don’t expect them to have much of a season though. Maybe you should be looking in your backyard for talent, rather than over in French Rugby.
16. Cronulla Sharks
It still puts a smile on my face to picture Ricky Stuart coaching such a shocker of a team as the Sharks. Maybe if the coach just shut up for long enough the team might be able to concentrate on playing, but as usual Stuart is too busy writing columns and complaining about everything to do with Rugby League.
The team itself has recruited wildly in the off season. Not that you would notice. None of them are particularly noticeable signings. Luke Douglas? Paul Aiton?
Sure, they have picked up a couple of younger players from my beloved Eels (Kelly, Gardner and Wright), but it will take a few years for these guys to make an impact in the top grade.
I actually want the Sharks to go better, for their players and their fans, but whilst Stuart is at the helm, they can languish with the spoon for as long as possible.
There we go.
THE definitive guide to the season.
Let’s not refer to this post in October though. No point looking to the past…