SPORTbible writers make their predictions for the 2023 NRL season
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Oh, what a time it is to be alive.
We are so close to the kick-off of the 2023 NRL season and the excitement is palpable.
Like any fan, we’re chomping at the bit for the action to unload and have our weekends filled with footy back.
It’s a long and exhilarating season ahead but we think we’ve got some pretty tight predictions for where some teams will sit at the end of the season.
So we’ve gone ahead and given our picks for who will lift the Provan-Summons trophy, who will come oh-so-close, who will drive their team forward, and who will take home the unfortunate accolade of the wooden spoon.
Don’t come for us at the end of the season when we’re all incredibly wrong with our predictions.
Sydney Roosters - As a Souths fan, you have no idea how incredibly painful this is. But hey, there’s no denying how stacked the Chooks are this year. Thanks to more Bondi brunches with Uncle Nick Politis, the Tri-Colours have recruited well in the off-season, adding the likes of Corey Allan, Jaxson Paulo, Jake Turpin and - of course - Brandon Smith to their ranks. Oh, and it looks like they’re about to sign Dominic Young too. Yep, great news.
Penrith Panthers - Is this a boring prediction? Likely, but as back-to-back Grand Finalists, it’s hard to go past the Panthers. They may have lost Apisai Koroisau and Vilame Kikiau, but they’ve proven in recent years that their junior development is the best in the league. With players like Nathan Cleary, Brian To’o, and Dylan Edwards in tow it’s still a star-studded team.
Melbourne Storm - Every year the Storm is a force to be reckoned with but they haven’t won the Premiership in a few years. Craig Bellamy is arguably the GOAT of coaches and it would be great to see him lift that trophy one last time.
Cronulla Sharks - A full year under Fitzy and Nicho Hynes coming off the Dally M player of the year will make the Sharks hard to beat. They’ll be burning to get back and seek retribution for their straight sets defeat last finals series. I’m expecting an attack with flare, a stout defence and an ability to win ugly along their way to Premiership glory.
Sydney Roosters - Granted, the Panthers will be strong, but I think the Chooks simply have too much firepower and will be crowned minor Premiers before going on to lift the Provan-Summons trophy.
Penrith Panthers - In search of back-to-back-to-back premierships, I reckon the Panthers will fall short in their quest. In fact, despite a strong regular season showing, I actually see them getting knocked out of the finals early doors too. Bold, I know.
North Queensland Cowboys - Boy, can these lads play. In 2022 they absolutely lit up the competition and you can expect they’ll do the same this season – perhaps going even further in the finals. Who knows.
South Sydney Rabbitohs - Gotta put my team in here somewhere. Am I confident? Not really. Do I think the Cronulla Sharks, Melbourne Storm or Parramatta Eels have more chance of squeezing into the top four over Souths? If truth be told, absolutely.
Cronulla Sharks - After the season they had, they really should’ve gone all the way to the Grand Final in 2022. I actually expect them to finish top of the ladder come season’s end - especially with Dally M medalist Nicho Hynes leading the way.
Penrith Panthers - They’ll be knocked off their top porch in the regular season, but expect them to come screaming through with a winner’s mentality in the final’s series. They’ll prove once again why they’re a juggernaut of the game.
Sydney Roosters - With Brandon Smith joining the ranks, it could very well be the last piece of the puzzle for the Roosters. They underperformed in 2022 despite finishing in the top eight, but if players such as Luke Keary and James Tedesco can perform to their brilliant best this could be a tough side to beat.
Brisbane Broncos - A wildcard here. The Broncos fell off in the final couple of months of the 2022 season, however, they were slated for a top-four finish before then. If they can remain consistent I can see them sneaking into the four.
Melbourne Storm - With Cam Munster re-signing and still at the peak of his powers, he ought to lift this team to a Premiership in 2023.
Penrith Panthers - This team looks unstoppable but with the pressure of going three in a row I think they’ll narrowly miss out, and will likely lack the same hunger and motivation as previous years.
South Sydney Rabbitohs - They’ve lost three players but most of their spine remains. This is a strong side that will no doubt be reeling from not making the Grand Final last year and will look again to push for a Premiership.
Sydney Roosters - This team arguably has the best backline in the competition and with the acquisition of Brandon Smith is in a prime position to make the top four.
Cronulla Sharks - I see them going all the way, Fitzy has built an enviable team culture.
Penrith Panthers - Will go close, but won’t get that elusive three-peat
Melbourne Storm - Bellache offers so much to this young team. Everyone knows their roles so well.
South Sydney Rabbitohs - They’ve developed their style post-Bennett era. They’re physical and attacking with flare. Trell Mit is in for a big year.
Dally M winner
Latrell Mitchell - Yes, I know I haven’t even technically got the Bunnies in my top four, but that doesn’t mean Trell Mit won’t have a colossal regular season. Despite missing the start of the 2022 campaign, Mitchell dragged Souths kicking and screaming to the finals thanks to his individual performances. This year, with a full pre-season under his belt, it’s hard to look past the fullback as Dally M favourite. His aggression in defence and tenacity in attack is enough to win a game single-handedly – as long as it’s legal, of course, and doesn’t result in yet more suspensions.
Nathan Cleary - He’s been one of, if not the best in the league for many seasons now and he’ll finally get his recognition with his maiden Dally M trophy at the end of the year.
Josh Addo-Carr - This man is pure lightning and can single-handedly win matches. If he finds his form in 2023 he’ll for sure give himself a chance to win the Dally M for the first time.
Cameron Munster - The Storm just won’t go away, and it won’t be any different this year. Munster, with a newly appointed leadership role will play a critical role in the Storm’s success this year. He’ll likely play a number of roles across the year, but that won’t change his impact on the game.
Newcastle Knights - Not to point out the bleeding obvious, but any successful rugby league team needs a solid halves partnership. And, for me, this one is just too fresh and untested to get instant results. The Kalyn Ponga project, in moving him into five-eight from fullback, won’t work wonders in my eyes. And by the time head coach, Adam O’Brien moves him back into the No.1 jersey, it’ll be too little too late.
Dolphins - The new boys on the block will have a sorry debut season, unfortunately. Even with Wayne Bennett at the helm, the recruitment of the side has been suboptimal, and I can see this coming back to bite the boys from Redcliffe. Don’t expect this to be a common occurrence in seasons to come, but it’ll be a rough start to their NRL life regardless.
Dolphins - New teams in any competition usually do not do so well in their opening year, as they need time to gel and create a culture at the club. Whilst Wayne Bennett is a phenomenal coach, he needs time and patience which won’t come quickly. As well as this they missed out on too many big-name recruits.
Wests Tigers - Being a boy from Western Sydney, people will no doubt curse me for this pick. I love that Sheens & Benji are reunited, and the team has made some really strong acquisitions but I don’t know if they’ve got their full house in order. I suspect the battle for the spoon will be much more contested this season than in previous years.
Featured Image Credit: NRL/Supplied.
Topics: NRL, Rugby League, Australia