1. Bulldogs

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Season 2012
Summary after finishing the regular season with only six loses the Bulldogs won the minor premiership and were only 80 minutes away from a fairytale result which not many saw coming prior to mastercoach Des Hasler’s arrival. Ben Barba joined the NRL’s elite playing group on the way to winning the 2012 Dally M medal. With contributions from Josh Morris, Josh Reynolds and a monster forward pack the Bulldogs were unstoppable at times. The Bulldogs forward pack were crucial in laying the foundation of success for the quick men out wide, they were first for offloads made and second most amount of metres made for 2012.

Gains & Loses
Gains – Tony Williams (Manly)
Loses – David Stagg (Broncos), Jake Foster (Raiders), Bryson Goodwin (Rabbitohs)

Key Players
The Hasler factor will be huge with the Bulldogs new signing for 2013. Tony Williams was an unstoppable giant on the way to Manly’s 2011 title run and with Des delivering the fitness instructions expect T-Rex to again be a force in 2013. His ability to play wide of the ruck and target opposition play makers with ball in hand can not be underrated.

Player To Watch
After an injury plagued two seasons with the Bulldogs 2013 will be a break out year for Trent Hodkinson. There is no doubt during the grand final last year the Bulldogs lacked direction and creativity to penetrate the Storms defence. With Hodkinson expected to get first shot at the number 7 jersey in season 2013 he is a must include for any supercoach side.

Best Possible Line Up
1. Ben Barba (Drury Low)
2. Steve Turner
3. Josh Morris
4. Krisnan Inu
5. Sam Perrett
6. Josh Reynolds
7. Trent Hodkinson
8. Aiden Tolman
9. Michael Ennis
10. Sam Kasiano
11. Tony Williams
12. Frank Pritchard
13. Greg Eastwood

14. James Graham (post suspension)
15. Josh Jackson
16. Dene Halatau
17. Kris Keating

Others – Mitch Brown, Tim Lafai, Corey Payne, Martin Taupau, Dale Finucane, David Klemmer

A fairly well balanced squad for the Bulldogs, with good links with their reserve grade squad which
always finishes top 2 so depth generally isn’t a concern.

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2013 preview
The Bulldogs were well disilplinced under Hasler last year and expect nothing to change in 2013. Hasler demands success and the Bulldogs have got slight improvements in their squad to raise their performance another 10%. Hodkinson will be key to their success.

Ben Barba's omission from the side will hurt in the short term but Hasler's record of bringing teams closer together through adversities is second to none. The dogs still have the speed outwide to hurt teams from anywhere on the field and although Barba will be missed he can be covered. Drury Low looks to have secured first shot at the vacant spot and as a player who dominated the NYC competition for many years Low shouldn't be 


 
Best Bets
A second successive minor premiership awaits the Bulldogs, the loss in last years decider will provide
the necessary motivation (similar to Manly in 2008). Take the $4.75 on offer about them being minor
premiers and look to back them for the title if they drift to $8.00+ at any stage during the
year.

You can also back the Bulldogs at $3.50 to be the top place NSW team at the end of the season. With
North QLD & Melbourne obviously no threat that bet looks a good option.

 
 

2. Cowboys

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With the squad coach Neil Henry has slowly and quietly assembled over the past couple of season in Townsville it looks as though North Qld have a better chance then ever to grab their first NRL Premiership. Building form in the back half of 2012, leading into the finals  they won 7 of their last 9 confidence was at an all time high, however a lackluster first half coupled with some poor refereeing decisions saw them knocked out 2 weeks short of the grand final by Manly. This will have the North Qld players more fired up than ever for the start of the 2013 season.
 
New Signings – With the retirement of Aaron Payne and loss of exciting hooker James Segeyaro, the North Qld coaching staff looked abroad for a replacement with England international Scott Moore. The youngest player to represent England has had some off field troubles the past couple of  years however he is a player whom many believe has the potential to fit in at  NRL level. Rory Kostjacyn has made the move North from the Melbourne Storm  while young gun Curtis Rona (Sydney Roosters) will help with depth in the  outside backs. 

Key Players- Only a couple of seasons ago the whole North Qld campaign sat on the back of the Australian Half Johnathon Thurston. These days with a representative laden forward pack and an outstanding backline, Thurston has been able to take somewhat of a back seat. While the cowboys would still be strong enough to make the top 8 without Thurston it is doubtful they could make a run at the top 4 or contend for the premiership without him. 

Best side
1. Matt Bowen
2. Ash graham
3. Brent Tate
4. Kane linnet
5. Antonio winterstein
6. Johnathon thurston
7. Robert lui/Michael Morgan
8. Matt Scott
9. Scott Moore
10. James tamou
11. Gavin cooper
12. Tarim sims
13. Dallas Johnson

14. Anthony Mitchell/Rory kostjacyn
15. Jason taumololo
16. Glenn hall
17. Ashton sims

Back up hooker and who will be half seem like only real debate. Bench could change depending on the trials with thorby, Bolton, Leary and Thompson all options. Solid squad, hopefully a good year. 

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Players to watch- With an amazing amount of young talent coming through it is hard to pinpoint one player whom could make an impact for the Cowboys in 2013. Coming through a development program that has seen James Segeyaro, Michael Morgan and James Taumololo transform into NRL standard players, possibly the best of the bunch is yet to debut at NRL level. Chris Grevsmuhl, former Junior Kangaroo captain, has stepped up to the NRL top squad for 2013 and the tough Lock Forward is expected to push many of the experienced back rowers for a regular spot.

Coach- Neil Henry’s fifth season in charge of the North Queensland could be his most vital. Off contract at seasons end the Cowboys management will be expecting results by way of a top 4 finish and preliminary final spot.

Overall- Behind one of the best forward packs in the NRL, including and all Australian front row, North Qld fans will be expecting nothing short of a top 4 finish. In a competition as tight as this though all will hang on the fitness of the duo of Thurston and Bowen. If they remain fit Cowboys fans will have plenty to cheer about come September.

Bet - Looking at last seasons ladder, 15 wins equalled a top 4 spot and with the over/under being at 14.5 wins, you would think if you can back them for that they would be a good chance of jagging a top 4 spot.
To make top 4 @ $2.50

 
 

3. Storm

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Melbourne Storm
The 2012 Premiership winners had great mix of experience and talented youth combined with an outstanding coaching display which brought the best out of the players. The new year brings a few new additions and current squad members looking to step up to the mark to achieve the one thing no side has achieve in the NRL era, the back to back premierships.


New Signings – Junior Sau (Knights), Junior Moors (Tigers), Lagi Setu, Brett Finch (Wigan),

Losses - Dane Nielsen (Warriors), Sika Manu (Panthers), Luke Kelly - mid-season (Eels), Richie Fa'aoso (Sea Eagles), Rory Kostjaysn (Cowboys), Todd Lowrie (Warriors), Jaiman Lowe (retirement), Anthony Quinn (Knights)

The storm lose major depth in their side in both the forwards and backs, the addition of Brett Finch allows the storm to have depth in their halves and also cover if Slater/Fullback has any potential injuries. Lagi Setu is an interesting signing but if we know anything about Bellamy it's that he gets the best out of used products (see Jaiman Lowe, Bryan Norrie, Adam Woolnough).

Most Likely line up
1. Billy Slater
2. Matt Duffie - Injured - Fonua will start for now.
3. Justin O'Neil
4. Will Chambers
5. Sisa Waqa
6. Gareth Widdop
7. Cooper Cronk
8. Jesse Bromwich
9. Cameron Smith
10. Bryan Norrie
11. Ryan Hoffman
12. Kevin Proctor - Injured - Harris will take his place.
13. Ryan Hinchcliffe

Bench
14. Jason Ryles
15. Lagi Setu
16. Tohu Harris - Will start with Proctor out injured for eight weeks.
17. Brett Finch - Will likely fill a bench spot but will cover for Slater/Cronk/Widdop in the injury department
18. Siosaia Vave - will have to earn the spot, but played in patches throughout 2012 and hopefully some improvement comes from it.

Additional Squad members
Mahe Fonua - was outstanding for the storm in the breif opportunities he was able to get in the 2012 season, will be in the battle for the storm outside back positions throughout the year.
Maurice Blair - has shown on field promise, but has been a loose cannon off the field, potentially a solid center contributor for the storm will likely get game time due to injuries and origin.
Junior Sau - joins from the Knights and if Bellamy works his usual magic will improve with the storm, will likely get a start due to injury and throughout the origin period, will push Mahe Fonua for a wing/center spot which would move O'neill to the wing.
Junior Moors - unable to get a spot at the tigers, Junior joins the storm looking to gain a potential bench spot in 2013, the storm are lacking in depth in the forwards for the 2013 season and depending how Lagi Setu goes he will get every chance at becoming a full time player this year

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Key Players - We all know the big three are the engine that drives the Melbourne Storm, as these three age the challenge is to make sure they can stay fit for the entire season to have another chance for the premiership, we saw last year their mid season drop in performance was through the key injury of Billy Slater. One thing that will help these three is that for the first time in many years they have had a decent off season as there was only one international game played between Australia and New Zealand, the additional rest and pre season prepation time will prove valuable as these players get older.

Players to watch - Outside of the big three look for Justin O'neill to push for origin contention this year, O'neill has been improving rapidly and finally last year got his chance to play in the center's where he plays his best. Kevin Proctor is also another player who will be looking for a big season with Sika Manu leaving the club at the end of 2012, Proctor should get first opportunity at the starting back row position and looks set to fill the impact mould Adam Blair had at the club for many seasons.

Rookie Tohu Harris was very impressive in the World Club Challenge and will be the rookie player to watch this season, Harris plays very similair to Kevin Proctor and will likely start in the back row whilst Proctor is out injured, every man and his dog will have Harris on their fantasy team.

Coach - Arguably one of the best coaches in the last 25 years, Bellamy without fail every year gets the best out of his troops and often works his best magic on players that have been discarded from other clubs to make them become genuine contributors to a side that is always in premiership contention.

Overall - Whilst the big three are still playing at a high level and permitting injuries the storm will always be competitive. History says that the Melbourne Storm won't repeat their premiership success in 2013, especially when you factor that the club couldn't do it in 2007/2008 when they were caught cheating the salary cap.

Regardless you can lock Melbourne in for September, they won't finish lower than 5th and are a genuine threat for the minor premiership.

Bet - There's no real value on betting on the Melbourne Storm as they are a model of consistence, the only markets that appeal for the punters would be 2013 NRL Halfway Leader (Completion 13 Rounds) Melbourne are paying $6 and before the origin period are in the top 2 every year.

Justin ONeill [MEL] @ $51 dollars looks great value for NRL top try scorer

 
 

4th Souths

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South Sydney Rabbitohs - The Bunnies returned to the promise land that their storied history was once about, when they made the preliminary finals in 2012. The addition of Reynolds having a break out rookie year combined with Inglis finally returning to the fullback position where he was always meant to be has put this club on a path of continued success and multiple finals appearances in the coming years.

2012 also saw a coaching change with John Lang finally removed from the job and he took with him his outdated skills which weren't good enough for modern era football. Maguire changed the clubs attitude both on and off the field incorporating a Melbourne Storm like approach which he learned from his time under Bellamy.

New SigningsAdditions: Jeff Lima (Wigan), Ben Te'o (Broncos), Mitchell Bucket (Sunshine Coast Sea Eagles), Thomas Burgess (Bradford), Bryson Goodwin (Bulldogs), Beau Champion (Titans)
Losses: Eddy Pettybourne (Tigers), Dave Taylor (Titans), Scott Geddes (retirement), James Roberts (released). Adrian Ha'angana (released)

In moving with Maguire's new attitude and position he's is taking on the club, it didn't take long to get rid of the overpaid and lazy David Taylor who's role will be well covered with Ben Teo showing some great form in 2012 and will play more minutes. The rest of the additions will bring solid depth to the side with the fourth Burgess looking to break his way into the top 17 and Jeff Lima returning from a brief stint in England. Beau Champion returns to Souths which adds some backs depth but will only likely play on the wing as he can be a ball hogging center.

Best Line Up
1. Greg Inglis
2. Andrew Everingham/Bryson Goodwin/Beau Champion/Justin Hunt
3. Matt King
4. Dylan Farrell
5. Andrew Everingham/Bryson Goodwin/Beau Champion/Justin Hunt
6. John Sutton
7. Adam Reynolds
8. Roy Asotasi
9. Isaac Luke
10. Jeff Lima
11. Micheal Crocker
12. Ben Teo
13. Sam Burgess

Bench
14. Chris McQueen
15. David Tyrrell
16. Luke Burgess
17. Nathan Peats - Covers injuries but if anything I would like to see him played less as it gives Isaac Luke more game.

Additional Squad Members
Nathan Merrit - Prolific try scorer but a liability in defense his lack of size is an issue against a lot of the current wingers in the NRL, He will most likely start on the wing due to his status but is not the best option.

George & Thomas Burgess - The young brothers of the Burgess clan add additional pack depth for 2013 whether they are ready for the NRL is another thing.

Luke Keary - The youngster has impressed through trials and adds the option of going back to a traditional five eight/Half back combination if John Sutton ever makes the move to lock.

Ben Lowe - the Dallas Johnson of Souths, Outstanding defender and will chalk up the hit ups whilst going unnoticed.

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Key Players - The emphasis for Souths as mentioned before is taking the Melbourne Storm approach with their key players being hooker Isaac Luke, halfback Adam Reynolds and fullback Greg Inglis, we saw when these three players were at there best Souths were competitive with every team in the competition, you only need to consider the fact that back in the preliminary final they were in front of the Bulldogs before Adam Reynolds was injured and unable to finish the game. Souths will have to keep all three fit with a long season ahead and as well keep Luke and Inglis out of Judiciary problems.

Players to watch - Ben Teo will be an interesting player to watch this year, his form in the late rounds of 2012 was outstanding for the broncos and if he can hold that up Souths will be a lot stronger on both sides of the ball,  David Taylor was too slow defensively and getting off the ground. Chris Mcqueen will also be an intriguing player this year and expect him to get more game time, Mcqueen started his career out wide but has improved remarkably in recent seasons and also bulked up to become a force in the back row for the bunnies.

Coach - Maguire has quickly risen the coaching ranks after only a year as the head coach of a NRL side by being the first man to take Souths to a preliminary final in many years and as mentioned before Maguire has turned the culture of Souths around by trying to make sure the players have a good attitude and work ethic on the field.

Overall - Souths will be an interesting team to watch this year, they are no certainties to make the top 4 but I would suggest they are a lock for the eight and more likely no lower than 6th. This is one team though I would give a legitimate chance of winning the competition, due to the nature of having big name players that rise for the big occasions.

Bet - $1.40 for the to 8 looks like easy money but consistency could cost a top 4 spot with a predicted finish between 3-6 they are a wait and see betting team.

 
 

5th - Cronulla Sharks

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Cronulla Sharks - The cellar dwellers of rugby league finally made an impact last year on the back of some great player recruitment and improvement out of young players. The sharks were a model of consistency throughout 2012 but dropped off late in the season and lacked the killer punch needed to be a competitive premiership contender. One thing to note is that the sharks in particular coach Shane Flanagan has built a fantastic club culture and work ethic which will hold them in a good position for the upcoming 2013 season.

New Signings
Additions: Michael Gordon (Panthers), Luke Lewis (Panthers), Jonathan Wright (Bulldogs), Beau Ryan (Tigers), Chris Heighington (Tigers), Tupou Sopoaga (Bulldogs)
Losses: Tyson Frizell (Dragons), Colin Best (retirement), John Williams (retirement), Josh Cordoba (retirement), Jeremy Smith (Knights)

Jeremy Smith is a big loss for the club heading into the 2013 season, Smith is a proven winner who brings success regardless of where he goes. His absence will be filled well with the combination of Luke Lewis the experience campaigner and Chris Heighington who will be in pissed off mode after his exit from the Tigers. In the backs department Cronulla fans can rejoice that they finally have added two competent players in Beau Ryan who had a fantastic 2012 and Micheal Gordon who at his best looks to be one of the best fullback in the competition.

Key Players - Todd Carney is the most obvious key player the Sharks have as there premiership hopes will go as far as he can take them, history says after a good year Carney will take another backwards step and fail to produce for consecutive years but with a future playing contract on the line Carney will need to keep his mind on the job if Cronulla and himself have any hope in the future. Isaac De Gois is another key player and often floats under the radar but he was outstanding last year where he was a crucial component in getting this Cronulla forward pack over the advantage line.

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Players to watch - Wade Graham had a breakout year in 2012 and with the addition of more forwards at the club it will be interesting to see how much game time he will get. His versatility may push Gallen to a prop role at times as with Graham on the field it gives the Sharks more options offensively as Jeff Robson doesn't provide much attacking threat.

Coach - Shane Flanagan looks to be a coach on the improve as each year he has made the right calls in taking this team from cellar dwellers to legitimate contenders, from the outside looking in it would seem Flanagan is well respected within his playing group and has all the players wanting to play for him.

Overall - You would have to say heading into a season Cronulla have never been better placed to win their inaugural premiership, they will have a strong regular season which will make sure they have another post season appearance in 2013, but whether they can take down the big guns in September is another question that has yet to be answered.

Bet - $2.75 to make the top 4 is value, but the $1.55 to make the top 8 looks too good to be true.

 
 

6th - Sydney roosters

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Season 2012
While the last 2 years may have been forgetful ones for the tri-colours after their Grand Final appearance in 2010, in true Roosters yo-yo fashion, their fans are hoping for a strong comeback in 2013. With a plethora of high profile new signings, with any luck this will be a year for silverware rather than latte sipping at Bondi.

2012 (and 2011 for that matter) were years to forget, with a disappointing 13th place for the Roosters. The only positive is that the board used this as a transitional season, shedding captain Braith Anasta and coach Brian Smith along with Justin Carney, Peni Tagive, Mose Masoe, BJ Leilua, Curtis Rona and in more recent times Brad Takarangi. They have recruited very well, bringing James Maloney home to play in the 6, and picking up high profile signings $onny Bill William$ and Michael Jennings. They’ve also picked up a few handy additions in the likes of Michael Oldfield, Sam Moa and Samisoni Langi.

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The 2013 new signings aren’t the only thing causing a buzz
around the Eastern beaches, with exciting young talent on display in 2012 through the likes of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Dylan Napa (2012 Toyota Cup team of the year), Kane Evans (2011 Toyota Cup team of the year and Roosers NYC player of the year) and Tautua Moga (2012 Junior Kangaroo – however he is recovering from an ACL done in the off-season and may not feature until well into 2013).

Along with the addition of new astute coach Trent Robinson who was the Roosters defensive coach in the 2010 Grand Final season and has completed a great appreciated with Super league club Catalan Dragons. Robinson has a strong work ethic and importance on a strong club culture whilst with the Dragons he even
learnt French and put his foreign players through language lessons to fit in with the locals.

Key Player

There are a number of players to watch in 2013, however keep an eye out for James Maloney to have a big 2013 and put some pressure on State of Origin selectors.

Players to watch

Also look for young Kane Evans to make his NRL debut early in the season with a bang and hold onto a first league spot for the rest of the year. Also watch for Roger Tuivasa-Sheck to usurp club captain Anthony
Minichellos fullback spot at some point and show his skills at his best position.

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2013 Preview
with a good off-season removing their issues of the past 2 years, and improving significantly on their squad through young talent and strong recruiting, the Roosters won’t be planning their Mad Monday celebrations after Rd 24, and could be anything this year if they perform well in September.


Best betting for the Roosters - There is plenty of value in the Roosters to make the 8 at $1.80. With a well disiplined side combined with experienced leaders and youthful talent the Roosters will return to September action this year.

With what is shaping to be one of the most potent back lines in the competition in 2013 there are some great betting options in the Top Tryscorers market with Jennings likely to miss a few games through origin take Kenny-Dowall at $51 and young flyer Roger Tuivasa-Sheck at $61.

Best Bet

James Maloney is also worth a look at $10 for the overall points.

 
 

7th - Brisbane Broncos

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Season 2012 Summary

2012 was a mixed season for the Brisbane Broncos being 2nd
at the halfway point life without Darren Lockyer was going along smoothly. As the season went on injuries to key forward leaders Thaiday & Parker were the catalyst for a post origin decline. The young backs struggled with length of a full season and thus Brisbane limped into 8th spot and were easy pickings for the Cowboys.

Positive of 2012 was the rise of dummy half & player of the year Andrew McCullough as he looked to take on the challenge leadership in a key position. McCullough has always been a tough defender however in
2012 he took the line on with ball in hand and got the forwards over the advantage line continuously. In a side which lacked creativity it will be important McCullough improves his attacking skills further in 2013.

Gains & Losses
Gains - David Stagg (Bulldogs), Scott Prince (Titans), Denam Kemp (Dragons)
Losses – Petero Civoniceva (Redcliffe Q.Cup), Ben Te’o (Souths)
 

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Key Players
Scott Prince & Peter Wallace, it’s no secret when the tough got going last year the Broncos lacked direction. Too many times in 2012 the fifth tackle options were poor and gave field position to opposition teams. The Broncos will also be hopeful of Jharal Yow Yeh returning to the line up at some stage. Yow Yeh will provide an attacking target on the fifth tackle for Prince and adds power to the young backline.

Player To Watch

Jordan Kahu a 22 yr old fullback who has been spoken about as a young Darren Lockyer for the last 3 seasons has finally got over his unlucky run with injuries and could put some massive heat on Norman & Hoffman for the Fullback Battle. Now with Copley out of the side for the season Kahu could be set for a round 1 birth.

Best Line Up


1. Corey Norman
2.Josh Hoffman
3.Jack Reed
4.Justin Hodges
5.Jharal Yow Yeh
6. Peter Wallace
7.Scott Prince
8.Ben Hannant
9.Andrew McCullough
10. Josh McGuire
11.Alex Glenn
12.Sam Thaiday
13.Corey Parker 

14.Matt Gillett
15.David Hala
16.Scott Anderson
17.Ben Hunt

2013 preview

With Anthony Griffin heading into his 3rd season as coach the heat will be on to deliver results. The addition of new assistant and kiwi mentor Stephen Kearney is an interesting one which is designed to bring knowledge learnt under Craig Bellamy and good defensive formats. The emergence and continual development of some good young front rowers in McGuire & Hala will be pivotal to the Broncos success.

The Broncos continue to be favoured by the NRL with scheduling and will receive most games on a Friday
night with a seven days break in between each fixture. There is no reason why the Broncos can’t make the top 8 having done so 20 of the last 21 years. A top 4 birth is not out of the question however bottom half of the 8 is more likely.

Best Bets

Brisbane Top 8 $1.90

Value
Scott Prince Dally M Medal $67

 
 

8th - Newcastle Knights

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Season 2012
2012 can only be described as a failure for the Wayne Bennett coached Newcastle knights. After coming into the season with renewed confidence with support and belief from supporters at an
all-time high the knights failed to deliver on the field. Bennett’s game plan often lacked the ability to cater for the players he had on the field and it will be interesting to see if the player’s belief in his vision will continue into 2013. The knights certainly dropped off after Kurt Gidley was ruled out for the season in round 8 with only six wins from their next 16 games with a bit of luck the side will be greatly improved by his presence in 2013.


Gains & Losses
Gains – David Faálogo (Huddersfield), Beau Scott (Dragons), Jeremy Smith (Sharks), BJ Leilua (Roosters)
Losses – Wes Naiqama (Panthers), Joel Edwards (Canberra), Junior Sau (Storm), Zeb Taia (Catalan),
Evarn Tuimavave (Hull KR)



Key Player
Key player for the Knights in 2013 will no doubt be the biggest disappointment of 2012 Darius Boyd. For the first two-thirds of the season Boyd failed to inject himself into any of the knights play of often displayed
an attitude like he didn’t want to be part of the squad. No doubt Bennett will persist with his favourite player and Boyd will be in the number one jersey all season so it is imperative his form improves and he can bring the outside backs into the game.


Player to watch
The knights will need some big output from the front rowers this year. After being outmuscled in most
games of 2012 Bennett has recruited reinforcements from the Dragons Jeremy Smith and Beau Scott.
The player  to watch is Robbie Rochow who only turns 23 this year won a Toyota Cup premiership with
the Storm and has steadily improved each year. After playing eight games at the back end of last year
expect more game time for this Newcastle junior.


Best Line Up
1. Darius Boyd
2. Akuila Uate
3. Dane Gagai
4. Timana Tahu
5. James McManus
6. Jarrad Mullen
7. Kurt Gidley
8. Kade Snowden
9. Danny Buderus
10. Willie Mason
11. Chris Houston
12. Jeremy Smith
13. Beau Scott
14. Adam Cuthbertson
15. Neville Costigan
16. Alex Mckinnon
17. Tyronne Roberts/Matt Hilder

Others – BJ Leilua, Chris Adams, Travis Waddell, Zane Tetevano, Robbie Rochow, Matt
Hilder, Anthony Quinn, David Faálogo

Biggest concern in this squad is the lack of front row quality with Mason not able to play long minutes
and back up players Cuthbertson and Costigan  not having much quality Kade Snowden will need to have a big year. Backline depth is quite strong and with Tyronne Roberts and Ryan Stig waiting in the wings the halves should be covered all year.


2013 preview
The Knights have a favourable draw to start the season, four games at home from their first six and with no
travel further then Sydney during that time expect the Knights to get off to a flyer. The concern for the Knights is an aging first choice squad with too many players which are one dimensional. Bennett signing Scott and
Smith is obviously a sign that defence will be the first priority of the side and the offloads and attacking game
play will be put away. This will ensure the Knights will be hard to beat most weeks however when the big
games come will they be able to raise their game to the next level?

The other concern for the Knights is if the Nathan Tinkler story develops even more. At present the pressure has seemed to ease on Tinkler however the longer he stays in Singapore with cash flow issues the bigger effect it may have on the teams on field performances.

Best Bets

Playing the Knights this year via betting, Back them early to make the 8 at  around $1.90 as they will
start the season red hot, look to lay them back after the round 7 representative weekend.

Value
Kurt Gidley looks good value for the Dally M Medal. A proven vote getter who may be overlooked for state of origin this year 20-1 odds look worth a bet.

 
 

9th - West Tigers

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Season 2012
Any team that starts the season as competition favourite and
fails to make the finals is going to experience an emotion charged finale. That is exactly what the Tigers got in 2012, starting with the passing of Robbie Farah’s mother mid season and ending with the departures of Chris Heighington, Beau Ryan, Gareth Ellis choosing to return home and the unceremonious departure of coach Tim Sheens.

The season didn’t exactly start well either losing promising fullback Tedesco to a season ending knee injury in the first round and losing five out of their first six games. Benji Marshall had a quiet season by his standards and injuries to key players ensured that Tigers rarely fielded their strongest line-up. That didn’t stop a mid-season resurgence from the Tigers though as at one point they won seven straight. Robbie Farah did the club proud in his efforts for New South Wales during the origin series however overall in season 2012 the West Tigers were clearly the big underachievers.


Gains
Braith Anasta (Sydney Roosters), Bodene Thompson (GC Titans), Eddy Pettybourne (South Sydney),

Losses
Chris Heighington, Beau Ryan, Pat Politoni (Sharks), Gareth Ellis (Hull), Junior Moors (Melbourne),
Tom  Humble (Penrith Panthers), Dane Chisholm (Sea Eagles), John Grant (Union).

Likely Line Up
1. Tim Moltzen
2. Lote Tuqiri
3. Blake Ayshford
4. Chris Lawrence
5. Marika Koroibete
6. Benji Marshall
7. Jacob Miller
8. Aaron Woods
9. Robbie Farah
10. Keith Galloway
11. Liam Fulton
12. Adam Blair
13. Braith Anasta

Reserves
14. Ben Murdoch-Masila
15. Bodene Thompson
16. Matt Groat
17. Eddy Pettybourne


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Key Players
Eddy Pettybourne, Bodene Thompson and Braith Anasta

The three main signings are the key players for 2013. With
the loss of quality backrowers Ellis and Heighington, these three players must fill the void. Bodene Thompson threatened to become a star early on in the piece at the Titans but then struggled to gain a first grade spot in 2012 with the addition of Myles in the backrow. Eddy Pettybourne suffered injury setbacks at the Rabbitohs and also found himself competing with Sam Burgess, Dave Taylor and Michael Crocker for game time. Pettybourne now gets his
chance to show his worth. Braith Anasta will again find himself playing the Mr Fix It role swapping between five-eigth and backrow where the club sees fit. Braith Anasta’s time at pivot will play a key role in easing
youngsters Sironen and Miller into first grade.

Player To Watch

Jacob Miller
If Jacob Miller is a success at halfback he will allow Braith Anasta to bolster the backrow and create
room for Benji to showcase his skills at five- eighth. Having already tasted first grade, this Junior Kangaroo and U20 origin rep will be keen to cement his spot in the run on thirteen. Plain and simple, if this bloke
has a break-out year it takes the Tigers a long way to making the finals. His goal kicking abilities will also surely be an asset to the side relieving the erratic Marshall of the duties. 
 

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2013

Despite not making the top 8 in 2012, the Tigers still managed 6th in points scored however only Parramatta, Roosters, Warriors and Panthers conceded more points. With the loss of workhorse Chris Heighington it is difficult to support the notion that their defensive structures will improve.

New coaches however bring new styles and techniques and it will interesting to see what Mick Potter brings to the West Tigers table. Benji Marshall only knows one way and that is attack and only a foolish man would curb the vast array of skills that Marshall has to showcase. New signings Anasta, Pettybourne, Thompson and youngsters SIronen, Tedesco, Miller, Gavet will all prove to be vital in the success derived from the club in 2013.

It is difficult to know where to place the Tigers this year but one thing is for sure they will not have the pressure of being competition favourites. Maybe that release of pressure is the catalyst they need to return a confident showing in 2013.

 
 

10th - Canberra Raiders

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Season 2012
The Raiders finished their season off in remarkable fashion when they won 8 out of their last 10 games to make the finals and even managed to win their qualifying final game against the sharks. Prior to this it seemed destined that David Furner was a dead man walking with Ricky Stuart a potential replacement.

The Raiders have been one of the unluckiest clubs throughout the last 3 years with injuries to key players such as Campese in the early rounds of the year and the continuing battle to have Josh Dugan fit has put them on the back foot straightaway.

New Signings
Additions:
Joel Edwards (Knights), Jake Foster (Bulldogs)
Losses:
Michael Chee Kam (Sea Eagles), Drury Low (Bulldogs, mid-season), Mark Ioane (Titans), Bronson Harrison (Dragons)

Relatively minor player movement for the Raiders this year, the biggest change will be Campese returning from injury and how effective can he be? Edwards adds some additional depth too a Raiders forward pack that is already blessed with size.

1. Josh Dugan 
2. Reece Robinson
3. Jarrod Croker
4. Blake Ferguson
5. Sandor Earl
6.Terry Campese
7. Sam Williams
8. David Shillington
9. Glen Buttriss
10. Brett White
11. Josh Papalii
12. Joel Thompson
13. Shaun Fensom 

14.Tom Learoyd Lahrs
15. Dane Tilse
16. Mark Nicholls
17. Josh McCrone

Much more depth in this Raiders squad this year with Edwards, Berrigan and the talented Edrick Lee all ready to push into the top 17 they seem to have quality cover if injuries hit. Josh McCrone may be a victim of his versatility this year as I suspect at some stage Sam Williams will be the halfback and McCrone used as a back up and replacement hooker.

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Key Players 
It's time for Dugan to show his worth, arguably in 2012 Reece Robinson looked like the number one option for the Raiders fullback position as he was out performing the star player. Dugan's inability to stay healthy and play a full season is a major problem for the Raiders as they struggle to attract other big name players to play in a city like Canberra. 


Players to watch - Edrick Lee has to be the most exciting young center/wing prospect in the league right now, his big frame and long strides make it hard for his opposite number on defense. It will be interesting to see if Lee can crack the starting side on a permanent basis this year as the Raiders already have decent depth within their backs at the club.

Coach 
It's hard to consider David Furner a top line coach in the NRL, his job was spared last year due to his father and a late season revival from the Raiders. Expect the pressure to mount at some stage during the year for Furner to lose his job but in reality he will be spared again because of his surname and lack of quality replacements willing to move to Canberra.

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Overall
Canberra are one of the hardest teams to asses every year due
to their lack of consistency, for mine they are no legitimate threat to the premiership as at their best they only look capable of a 7th/8th finish. I don’t believe this side wants to play for David Furner and with a few egomaniacs in the side that will be a concern. It has been twenty years since a Raiders side made the finals two years running and thus I would lock them in as a bottom
eight team this year with a fair bit of confidence.

Betting
At stages in 2012 Jarrod Crocker deserved no place in the Canberra side but as Furner loves him he is always a great choice for highest point scorer for the year with a nice quote of $6.50