There’s 55 days until the NRL season kicks off and Matt Attard has made 10 bold predictions for 2023.
PENRITH TO ACHIEVE GLORY YET AGAIN
You’d be a fool to think what the Penrith Panthers have built over the past five to ten years is about to crumble. They are a team with the best juniors in the league, the best spine and a mighty forward pack, not to mention the bast coach. I’m tipping they will again dominate the competition and take out the title for a third straight year, although perhaps not as easily as 2022.Embed from Getty Images
ROOSTERS AND RABBITOHS HOT ON THEIR HEELS
I’m predicting both the tri-colours and the Bunnies to have huge seasons and push Penrith for the minor premiership. It may be so close that it’s decided in the final round. Both teams boast superstars and I think Joey Manu and Latrell Mitchell will be gunning for best player in the competition by seasons end. Lachlan Ilias will be better for last season and will boost the games of his halves partner.
SPENCER LENIU TO WIN PROP OF THE YEAR
Big Samoan powerhouse Leniu is, I believe, the game’s next best prop. He is an absolute weapon and I’m tipping he will come from the bench to earn a starting role at Penrith and collect the prop of the year as he takes out top meter-eater for season 2023.Embed from Getty Images
JUSTIN HOLBROOK TO JOIN A LIST OF PLAYERS TO DEPART THE TITANS
I can’t see Holbrook lasting another season the Titans. When I look at their roster, they’re missing many key ingredients to a top eight side. Foran will bring experience but much like he did at the Bulldogs I can’t see him making enough of an impact to take them off the bottom of the ladder. Holbrook will depart mid-season and David Fifita will join him in leaving the club, as will several others as they begin a rebuild.
PAYNE HAAS TO LEAVE BRONCOS
Drama seems to follow Haas unfortunately and I believe Kevin Walters and Ben Ikin will identify that he’s more trouble than he’s worth. I think he will earn a big contract with a Sydney based club and attempt to rejuvenate his career elsewhere in 2024, perhaps earlier if he can gain a release. A change is as good as a holiday, and I think both Haas and the Broncos need it.
BULLDOGS TO MISS THE EIGHT BY A WHISKER WHILE TIGERS FALL SHORT
For all the hype surrounding the Bulldogs and their efforts to rebuild over the past 24 months, I think they’ll just fall short as they still look to build a balanced squad. The addition of Reed Mahoney and Viliame Kikau will give them a huge boost as will the soon-to-be-announced re-signing of Matt Burton. They have some incredible juniors ready to make their mark but they’re still lacking a class fullback and halfback. Similarly, the Tigers have recruited well as they start their re-build journey, but they have a long way to go and will finish 12th.Embed from Getty Images
ELIESA KATOA TO BE THE BUY OF THE SEASON
Warriors had a good one on their hands with this 22-year-old backrower but for some reason he never clicked in his 46 games with the club. Craig Bellamy and the Storm signed him for season 2023 and it has flown under the radar. This monster Tongan has all the attributes needed to fill a starting backrow spot and take the competition by storm (excuse the pun) much like Jeremiah Nanai did in 2022. I think he’ll be the Dally M second rower of the year and one of the NRL’s best forwards by seasons end.
NEWCOMERS THE DOLPHINS TO BATTLE THE TITANS FOR THE WOODEN SPOON
Wayne Bennett may be a master coach, but his roster is weak. It’s a hard task with a new team and although they’ve bought well in some areas, they haven’t been able to recruit any superstars. They lack in many areas and I can’t see them getting many more wins than the Titans. If I had to choose, I’d say the Dolphins will be the wooden spooners but it’ll be a hard fought race against the Titans.
NSW TO CLEAN SWEEP ORIGIN
Brad Fittler and his selection team made some poor decisions in 2022. It won’t happen again in 2023 and the Blues will win in a series sweep. Latrell Mitchell and Tom Trjboevic will combine with Josh Addo-Carr for at least 6 tries combined in the series as Yeo takes out player of the series.Embed from Getty Images
RAIDERS TO FALL OUT OF THE EIGHT
It seems they’re always favoured to do well since their grand final appearance a short few seasons ago. But Ricky Stuart’s men have not bought well for 2023 and their roster seems weaker than in previous years. While they still have a strong squad it just seems to be lacking in several areas. Hudson Young is one of the game’s best young players, but it can’t all be up to him and Jamal Fogarty. I think they will miss the top eight and look to buy big for 2024.
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