I know you’ve all been waiting for this blog, not that I’m particularly accurate in my yearly predictions, probably you were just hanging on to see who not to put your hard-earned cash on this year instead? Last year I got close on some, dead on with others and bloody miles off with the rest.
So here goes, and Super League first.
There’s been lots of movement and some amazing signing action over the close season, and I think that the clubs that have strengthened will be the ones to beat. I’m going for a top four of Saints, Warrington, Catalans and Leeds, with Hull FC finishing 6th or 7th unfortunately (this was wrote before our winning run). I just can’t see us sustaining a challenge, and I think our nostalgia heavy contract extensions will bite us half way through the season when fatigue and injury hits our older players.
Grand Final to be Saints v Leeds with Saints shading it. The Steve Prescott Man of Steel a toss-up between Blake Austin and Trent Merrin.
London will finish stone dead last, with Rovers either 8th or 9th. I think Wigan will struggle this year and Cas will miss Luke Gale badly and finish mid table.
Challenge Cup – I’m tipping one in the eye for the RFL and Le Catalans to retain the cup, beating Leeds in the final.
NRL – I can’t see past the Roosters going back to back. They were a class above last year, and although they’ve lost a bit of grunt with Dylan “Big Papi” Napa and a few others leaving, they still look a cut above most teams.
The top eight will be an interesting race, with last year only a handful of points separating 2nd to 9th. I’d say the Panthers, Storm, Bunnies, Broncos, Dragons, Tigers and Knights all sitting behind the Roosters.
I think the Sharks, Eels, Raiders, Warriors, Bulldogs, Cowboys, Titans and Manly will all miss out this year.
Grand Final to be Roosters v Panthers, and by way of revenge for 2003, the Chooks will take the men from the foot of the mountains apart.
Origin. Easy one this year I think – NSW will win 3-0 and it’s going to be the start of a multi-year run. The Blues look like they are uniting behind Brad Fittler nicely, and Queensland have had too many high profile retirees over the last couple of years. Kalyn Ponga is a step in the right direction, and they’ll build a team around him in the future. This year is far too soon though.
Sackings – This year is a tough one – There are a number of clubs with new men at the helm, and a load of people who I’ve predicted in the past to get the chop now looking fairly safe (Steve McNamara I’m looking at you here). I think Steve Kearney will go at the Warriors, although I’ve said that before, he’s really gone out on a limb this time by allowing favourite son Shaun Johnson to leave. My bolter to be “given the arse” is Eels coach Brad Arthur. That club is a basket case, and I can’t see them wanting to move into their shiny new stadium with a team that’s getting flogged each week.
In SL, I genuinely believe that Tim Sheens might go this year. Our Bin Dipping Neighbours have actually recruited fairly well so if they don’t fire, I can see Hudge cutting his losses and making a play for reigning coach of the year and job club member Shaun Wane. That’s a good point actually, The shadow of Wane sits above the head of many SL coaches this year, a few will be looking over their shoulder at the prospect of the toad faces schemer taking their job – Radders included I should think given that his contract runs out at the end of the season.
Random predictions – More scandals this year I feel – It seems a lot of RL players feel that they can dance and drink and screw (thanks Pulp for the lyric), and despite everyone these days carrying around a bloody camera, still seem to think that nobody will find out.
Elsewhere the Jarryd Hayne case will hit the headlines again very soon as his trail is scheduled to reconvene on Feb 13th. From what I’ve heard the injury he inflicted on the woman he’s accused of abusing was nothing short of horrific. Then there’s Dylan Napa asking the police to investigate who leaked his sex tape – and all fingers pointing to ex Roosters team-mates that he’s fallen out with, that’s a story that will run and run.
That’s before we get to the standard of refereeing, and the accusations of nepotism in the officiating ranks, the vast sums of money being spent on the new Sydney Football Stadium, at least three clubs being practically insolvent and in danger of being relocated interstate, this is going to be a season for the ages in regard to scandals.
For my sake, I’m hoping against hope that we win the cricket Ashes this year. A local radio station in Australia is no place to work when England are losing – it was insufferable last time, and I don’t want to repeat that.
Finally, what of Hull FC this year? Well I’m torn. Last year was horrific of course and whilst all of our injured players returning should see us improve – the problem is that the season hasn’t even started yet and we’re already under an injury cloud. We’ve a hell of a lot of players out of contract with could work for or against us, and the coaching staff are out of contract too……. Lets hope pride and a will to win triumph over apathy and bad luck this year.
Until next time, Up the Cream, Gerremonsard and Come on you ‘Ull.
Rich – Twitter @pommyrich