PRINTCAST (Part 1 of 2): NRL Preview — The Bottom Five ft @dr_nrl, @heighway_, @ItsMitchell180 and @26Rounds

We had some good feedback on the first printcast, which was a beast: something like 3,000 words. Well, the Printcast you are about to read only promises to be beastier.

Beastlier? More beastly? With a significant addition of beast?

Whatever the mangled adjective might be, we’ve got the band back together — Jake Jarmel (@26Rounds), @ItsMitchell180 and @dr_nrl — and added our resident Ringo, Ryan Heighway (@Heighway_).

Master Heighway is a Roosters fan who doesn’t eat cake and is adept at flipping a conversation on its head. He’s one of the lone Rooster fans representing in the outpost of Kogarah, often having to defend the merits of the Roosters on his own against a veritable army of Dragons fans. If anyone epitomises what Roosters fans go through on the daily, it’s Heighway.

He makes his long-awaited literary debut in this Printast as the four of us breakdown who we predict will be the five worst teams in season 2014.

Thank God this preview didn’t have to mention the Roosters. We’re in a  glory period at the moment and it’s discussing this type of stuff that makes you appreciate what you have. By that, I mean of course we are about to discuss at length the teams that don’t have much of anything.

Some choices may shock you, and towards the end we discuss the distressing injury to Jarrod Mullen, who was finally starting to fulfil the promise many expected back when he was breaking through to the NRL. Also, there’s a lot of doubt about Des Hasler’s team, but perhaps I’m getting ahead of the discussion.

Without further ado, his the first of two parts predicting the worst of the NRL competition this season. The second part of this “more beasty” printcast can be found here.

JARMEL: Let’s get the garbage out of the way — and by garbage, I mean obviously the teams we expect to bring up the rear of the NRL this season.

I’m going to kick this off with my predictions, but feel free as always to disgaree. We know you will, Mitch.

Spoon: Wests Tigers.I love this team’s potential, but they are just too raw across the board. They already have an injury cloud hanging over the great white hope, Luke Brooks, heading into the season, and even when he does play he’ll be paired with Braith Anasta. It’s the biggest age discrepancy among halves in the competition, by a fair margin.

Source: News.

They still have Adam Blair chewing up the majority of their salary cap, and the next time I hear of Robbie Farah getting along with his halves will be the first.

They have a shitload of talent coming through the ranks, and their fans should be excited. But like us, they just need some time to get experience. The Roosters showed how to rebuild quickly: a youth movement, then when they are on the cusp make a spending splurge and get some experienced star power into the squad. They’ll wait until Blair is off contract and make a move, but until then they’ll have to get by on promise.

15th: Eels.Their fans must find it hard to clap when they’re holding two spoons, and let’s be frank — they haven’t got much reason to clap in the first place. Their best player (Jarryd Hayne) can’t stay on the field and they’ll lose him during Origin anyway. Sandow has too many questions around him, and how he’ll blend with fellow off-the-cuffer Corey Norman isn’t entirely clear — normally you mix one with a stable half or five eighth; two just seems like a risk.

Plus, Will Hopoate has been not just out of the game, but out of SPORT for two years, and chews up more than 10 per cent of their cap.

Maybe losing Ricky Stuart will be addition by subtraction, but hard to see how far they can jump with so many question marks.

14th: Dragons.Yuck. I don’t know what the direction of this team is, but Merge fans must be hoping Widdop ends up pulling a Maloney and gets BETTER after leaving the Storm, something only a few players have done.

I’m a Trent Merrin fan, as many are, and I love their wingers, but their centres are a huge question mark and Mitch Rein will probably be forced to play 80, meaning their best (ish) player may fade towards the end of games.

Will they ever sack Steve Price? And how is Doust still in control?

13th: Raiders.Milford has a foot out the door while Campese’s foot/leg/arm/hairline is perpetually injured. They look like playing Cornish at halfback, a rookie with skill but still, a rookie, while they lost some depth in the offseason with Joel Thompson off and the departure of Ferguson — who was far and away their best player when he DID play.

Oh, and they have Ricky Stuart. He can seemingly make a very good team great with that intensity and focus, but he can wear pretty easily on others. Plus, his character was reportedly assassinated last year, so he’s probably still scarred from all the abuse hurled his way by fans who dared be upset after he made Parra more depressing than that fucking Blue Valentine movie.

12th: Broncos.  This is between the Broncos or Titans… and at least the Titans have their halves sorted. When your best player (Ben Barba) gets wrapped up by a 42-year-old in the Nines, you may be in trouble. Plus we have already heard the club has/had five potential halves this year: Zac Strasser, Barba, Jordan Kahu, Kodi Nikorima and Ben Hunt. They haven’t figured this out with a fortnight to go, which probably tells us all we need to know about Anthony Griffin.

Source: Daily Telegraph.

Their forwards, as always, will be great — and I LOVE Corey Parker. But the Josh Hoffman cloud is just another thing hanging over the club like a stale fart. Origin will kill them, as always, and they don’t have the class in the halves (unless Barba takes to five eighth like a junkie to methadone) to counteract it.

What do y’all think? and may I preface that with a stern STFU MITCH lol?

MITCH: Here we go, I’m sober as a judge so no laughing…

Spoon: Raiders.I feel bad giving the spoon to the Raiders, but the Stuart curse will hit them this season and once I saw the plans to play Campese at the seven and Wighton at six, that just about ensured the spoon is headed to the national capital.

Scandal-wise they should be all sweet this year with Fergs and Dugan gone, but I can’t see them coming close to many teams; even at home where they pride themselves on being tough to beat (the Storm destroyed the fear barrier for teams last year).

Their forwards will do a job but unless Milford can be first receiver and find a way to pass to himself, I think they’ll struggle in attack.

15th: Dragons.Widdop is a good player but he isn’t the match winner or breaker I think the Dragons think he is. He definitely did a decent job at the Storm, but then again he had Cronk and Smith next to him.

Source: Fox Sports.

The triumvirate of Sam Williams, Kyle Stanley and Mitch Rein are, to put it mildly, a fair few levels below them. Morris and Nightingale can score tries but the question is whether the halves can get it to them and whether the forwards can go forward (how good are cliches).

On this occasion I agree with Jake in that I like Merrin, he is a great worker, and Mitch Rein has a HUGE job. And if Ben Creagh goes good in the front row, then who knows…

14th: Wests Tigers.I’ll put it out there early in saying I’m a Mick Potter fan. He was given the rough end of the stick last year and while this year will be a tough season again, the Tigers are building nicely.

I don’t want to put more pressure on Luke Brooks but the kid has some real talent. Having Braith Anasta alongside him will be good for his development but I do hope we see Mitch Moses – Tigers fans rave about him.

James Tedesco had a ripper nines tournament and even though he suffered an ACL injury in 2012 he seems to have regained his pace. They have some of the most exciting young backs in the comp in Tim Simona and David Nofoaluma — who scored the best try on 2013.

JARMEL: No he didn’t, Michael Jennings did. But please, continue.

MITCH: Woods is solid but needs to go to the next level, and I like what I saw of Martin Taupau in the Nines too. They’ll have some good wins but as a young side they’ll have some bad losses.

I just hope the board doesn’t panic and pull a Parramatta and blame the coach. Speaking of the Eels…

13th: Eels.My biggest call ever. I know its only words but I have been impressed in every interview I have seen of Brad Arthur. He coached them towards the end of 2012 before Eels board gave the job to Ricky Stuart and he did well before the club went for the “big name”.

Sandow looked as fit as I’ve ever seen him and his combination with Corey Norman (albeit in the nines) seemed quite good. Nathan Peats is a good pick up and Hayne is coming off a tremendous World Cup (albeit at centre).

Wing spots could be up for grabs, and I wouldn’t mind seeing a little more of Semi Radradra, I must say. They have a workman-like pack with Tim Mannah and English import Mossop, and with Arthur coming from Manly last year, we know what he’ll tell them.

12th: Bulldogs.The slide is on at Canterbury this year and even finishing 12th might be optimistic. I struggle to see where their points will come from and they lack depth in most positions in the backline.

Source: Zimbio.

The forward pack also seems to have been worked out by opposition teams, but if Tony Williams can capture his form of 2012 he might be able to carry them on his back alone. Jokes were made about less back-chat from captains towards the refs, but in all honesty it will hurt the influence Ennis has; like Jamie Lyon, he knows EXACTLY when to seek clarification about a referee decision.

It’s an impending crisis for the NRL with all four western Sydney clubs in the bottom 4.

JARMEL: Wow, Bulldogs, 12th? Huge call!

I just can’t see a team coached by Des Hasler being bad two years in a row, let alone getting worse!

Granted, fullback will be an issue; but I still think they somehow snag Hoffman before the season.

On the Eels, I rate Peats and Arthur seems fine, but the forwards are largely a mess, like a Pro Hart painting.

The Raiders, wooden spoon? Massive call but not out of the realm. The Milford situation worries me too…

MITCH: I honestly struggle to see Dogs scoring points. No depth in the halves, and I think Hasler might have thought he had a few more Eagles players joining him by now. But Hoffman would be a good pick up, definitely!

Lussick could  be anything, and Arthur might be able to get the best out of him. Fui Fui Moi Moi off the bench will provide a good spark.

I feel for the Raiders and I hope I’m wrong, but Campese at halfback is a weird selection for me when you could blood Mitch Cornish next to him. Who knows how Milford will go, but even him at seven might have been a better option.

HEIGHWAY: I shall preface my submission with an old adage: I shall endeavour to leave my personal biases at the door… no guarantees though.

To the crux of the matter then.

Spoon: Tigpies. I agree with Jake on this one, but for different reasons. My main reasoning is defence. The Tigers will field essentially a 20’s side and with it will come the associated problems. The 20’s comp frequently post match scores up around the triple figures mark and this showed in the Tigers’ defence last year.

Granted, they will all be better for the run, but I don’t think this will be the year they step up. That being said, there is a lot of attacking talent in the youth and they can be one of the most dangerous teams in the comp if it all clicks together.

I also believe they made a step in the right direction cutting Benji loose; his ‘bigger than the club’ attitude was only hurting the team and his standard of play didn’t justify his retention.

It’s really a toss of a coin for the tigers as to whether everything clicks, but I just get the feeling it will come up ‘heads’ when Braith has called ‘tails’. When Braith is no longer the one calling the toss is when the Tigers will come into their own.

15th: Broncos. Halves are a big issue for the Broncos. Who will they be? I don’t know and I’m not sure the Broncos do either, which is a worry.

Source: Fox Sports.

Barba is being paraded as a potential saving grace, though I am tempted to throw his name up as an early nomination for “worst signing of 2014”. There is too much confusion around who is playing where.

They are also very susceptible to injury with no real blooded depth coming through. Their forward pack will be strong as it always is, though I think Kennedy will be a detriment to the pack. He will try his heart out but is prone to brain explosions, giving away penalties and dropping the ball when you can least afford it – mistakes that can cost teams two competition points.

14th: Dogs. The Dogs have a strong forward pack, like they did last year. I know they had more than their share of injuries early in the season, but when their full pack returned by the end of the season they seemed to lack the cohesion and impact they had in 2012 – which may have just been momentum carrying them forward to the final.

Bulldogs fans will lament the loss of Martin Taupau who looked to be finding his feet in first grade in 2014. I can’t see them scoring many points this year; their back-line just seems to be missing that x-factor due in a large part to their lack of a logical successor to the mantle of fullback. Des is a great coach, but he just seems to be lacking in talent to work with this year.

13th: Penrith. I just don’t understand Gus’ logic in his signings. At the risk of sounding like Buzz, I question where he is going with a halves pairing of Soward and Wallace. Both are just so… mediocre.

Penrith, like mountain men are wont to do, set out hunting, a buck no less, the prize scalp to hang on the mantle. They found its tracks but lost its trail and instead set sights on the doe, only for the doe to also evade them. Dejected, Penrith turn towards home from their hunt with empty hands. Upon the return journey they lay sights on two crippled hares. Acting quickly to salvage what they can from their trip, they trap the hares and return home victorious with the scalps of Soward and Wallace.

Now we all saw in 2010 how dangerous Soward can be when his confidence is up and his ego is stroked in the right place. In 2012 we saw the counterpoint to this: a spoilt brat who sulks on the field when things aren’t going his way. This begs the question of whether Gus and Cleary can get the best out of Soward and if they can, is it worth it?

The discord was evident in the Dragons’ squad in the post-Bennett years, where players got sick of pampering the milkman only to receive empty bottles. Players like that cause rifts among the team; is it a fair trade?

Wallace is a solid player, but not much more than that. When I saw they signed him, I questioned why, and were they not better off with Luke Walsh? Penrith showed sparks of their potential throughout the middle of last season, though they lost a few players that I liked in Coote, Walsh, Robinson and Ciraldo.

A big plus for the Pink Panthers is the signing of Tyrone Peachey, who looks the goods. Idris, Naiqama, Soward and Wallace could either be inspired signings or a waste of cash. It all depends on whether Gus and Cleary can get the best out of them. There are too many question marks on key players for Penrith for me to confidently say where they will place, but I hold little faith in Soward which is why I have put them near the bottom of the ladder.

12th: Eels. What’s the matter Parramatta? Significantly less since the removal of one former Origin coach-shaped tumour. I think Parra will surprise a few teams this year. They have cut a lot of dead weight (coach inclusive) and made some quality signings to shore up their line-up from its previous rating of ‘shambles’ to ‘coherent’.

I think they now possess a much more balanced team, no longer putting all of their eggs in the one basket with Hopoate to assuage the pressure placed on Hayne to not only perform consistently but to pull tries out of a hat by himself.

Source: News.

Radradra looked an exciting prospect in the Nines, and if he can bring that form to the longer format of the game he will make a good addition to the Parra backline. Sandow looks to have shifted all his pre-season weight and looked quite fit in the Nines, and if Arthur can coax some semblance of consistency from him then they should have the strike power to trouble most teams in the competition – especially if the combination displayed with Norman in the Nines is expanded on.

Their defence definitely needs work, but if Arthur brings anything from Manly, then you know he will set to fixing that quick smart. Parra fans will be hoping that Mossop adds some starch to the forward pack, because that is definitely their weak link.

Regardless of whatever happens in this season, Parra fans have this silver lining to look forward to; 2014 can’t be any worse than 2013 was.

For part two of the preview of the also-rans, including the Doctor’s predictions, discussions on the Dogs and the injury to Jarrod Mullen, click here. 


One response to “PRINTCAST (Part 1 of 2): NRL Preview — The Bottom Five ft @dr_nrl, @heighway_, @ItsMitchell180 and @26Rounds

  1. Pingback: NRL Preview: Hangin’ round the 8 ft @dr_nrl, @ItsMitchell180, @heighway_ and @26Rounds | 26 Rounds·

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