2017 season preview

Here it is folks. For those of you that don't want to know how this season ends...look away now:

1st - Penrith Panthers

Slowly but surely the enthusiasm around this exciting young Panthers line-up builds, and as round one nears, we have a new favourite for the 2017 premiership. Note that my top four this season are predominantly young teams on the rise that play an exciting version of the game. I for one would like to see exciting football rewarded, so let's hope I'm right. The Panthers have the right mix at the minute, and their premiership window is open right now. They just have to climb out before that window closes. An absolute lock for the top four this season and, as things stand currently, my top pick in season 2017.

Key addition – James Tamou

Rising star - Nathan Cleary

Player to watch - Matt Moylan

2nd - Canberra Raiders

For years the Canberra Raiders have been perennial overachievers – often making the top eight when most assumed they wouldn't. Now they face a new demon – expectation. Locals in the most baffling capital city in the world think they can win a premiership this season..and they can. A lot has to go right, and plenty can go wrong, but this is one cracking football team. How good would they be if Todd Carney, Josh Dugan and Blake Ferguson weren't battling imagined dragons as youngsters?

Key addition – Self Belief

Rising star - Makahesi Makatoa

Player to watch - Junior Paulo

3rd - Parramatta Eels

A standing ovation for the true believers out Parramatta way. If 2016 wasn't the worst season in the history of the club it would be right next door to it. Despite that, they're in the running for a podium finish when it comes to signed up members this season. As for my key addition to the Eels roster, some of you may be scratching your heads and wondering what position he plays. His position is CEO, and this club deserves a strong leader and some off-field stability. Gurr can deliver on that front, unless those around him are hellbent on destroying the Parramatta empire from within. They're young and they're great to watch, and I'm hopeful that somewhere inside Cameron King is a very good footballer. A top four finish may seem overly optimistic, but my glass is half full in this case.

Key addition – Bernie Gurr

Rising star - Jamal Fogerty

Player to watch - Corey Norman

4th - Sydney Roosters

Haven't you heard? It's the Year of the Rooster. We'll be hearing that a lot if the tricolours can convert their pre-season form into season form. No Australia Day dramas this year, and most of the engine room (minus Taukeiaho) is available for Round One. Gordon is the key inclusion for mine – stability, composure, speed and a goalkicker to boot. The Chooks underperformed in 2016 after three successive Minor Premierships. Top four is up where they belong, where the chickens fly, on a mountain high.

Key addition – Michael Gordon

Rising star - Bernard Lewis

Player to watch - Boyd Cordner

5th - Melbourne Storm

Last season most thought the Storm empire was on the decline, and most were wrong. This year most seem to think the Storm empire is stronger than ever. They're probably right. Their key men are showing no signs of slowing down, they've rebuilt Billy Slater and their forward pack looks like five front end loaders lined up in a row. The Storm prefer to build their own stars rather than pilfer them from other clubs, and with that in mind Ryley Jacks is a player to keep an eye on. He might sound like an American takeaway restaurant but he's impressed in Queensland with the Storm feeder club. He may get some opportunities this season with Blake Green out of the way. Slater is the X factor. If he's fit and well this team has more than enough talent to go all the way. They only just missed out last season without him.

Key addition – Josh Addo-Carr

Rising star - Ryley Jacks

Player to watch - Billy Slater

6th - Brisbane Broncos

Plenty of unanswered questions when it comes to the biggest team in the NRL. How the heck do they use Benji Marshall? Who steps up and does all the work Corey Parker used to do? Does Bennett extract every ounce of everything out of Ben Hunt before he heads to Wollongong? And what's with that performance against Warrington? I don't have answers to any of those, and because of that I've got a big question mark hanging over the Broncos this season. Of course they can answer those questions for me – this club usually does – but I need to see those answers. Most clubs would deem top six a success, but I expect the Broncos will be aiming higher. I have doubts.

Key addition – Benji Marshall

Rising star - Keegan Hipgrave (now that's a name you won't forget in a hurry)

Player to watch - Jai Arrow

7th - North Queensland Cowboys

Few would doubt that the Cowboys have some of the very best players in the NRL on their roster. Every club in the competition would find space for Thurston, Morgan, Taumololo and Scott in their sides (and they're all nice guys to boot). You can win a premiership with those four in your team, and the Cowboys can win this premiership, but I do worry a little about their depth. Many of the other real contenders this season appear to have a more even spread of talent across their roster. I could be wrong, and I must confess that I hope I am. Only injuries to key players would keep the Cowboys out of the top eight, but I can't find room for them in my top four.

Key addition – Ben Hampton

Rising star - Kalyn Ponga

Player to watch - JT (both of them)

8th - Cronulla Sharks

Paul Gallen was 12 years old the last time an NRL team won back-to-back premierships, so what hope have the Sharks got of a repeat performance after their long-awaited breakthrough? A few things fell their way last season but a win is a win and we can't take that away from them. Every dog has its day and these dogs have had theirs. I must give them some credit for one thing though – they've included their womens squad on their official player profiles webpage. Well done Sharkies, and as a reward for your good deed I've found a spot for you in my top eight.

Key addition – Jeremy Latimore

Rising star - Jack Bird

Player to watch - James Maloney

9th - South Sydney Rabbitohs

There will be plenty of eyes on Robbie Farah this season, and Robbie won't mind that one bit. He has a habit of performing when others are doubting him, and I'm expecting an improved showing this season. I am curious to know if he has plans to rename his restaurant (Tiger Tiger). It's the sort of silly question Brad Fittler will ask him on my behalf. Thanks Brad. I'm not shy about professing my affection for Greg Inglis when he's got his game on. With that in mind, I'll be watching most of the Bunnies fixtures this year, but with this roster a finals berth looks just beyond them.

Key addition – Robbie Farah

Rising star - Cody Walker

Player to watch - The Goanna

10th - Gold Coast Titans

Of all my predictions this season, it's this one that I'm most likely to get horribly wrong. If you're looking for an outsider when it comes to top four/top eight betting this is your team. Proctor and Wallace are handy editions in the middle. Perhaps they're one or two players short in the backline but if they unearth some youngsters that can plug those gaps they have a team that can compete with the best of them. Genuine top eight contenders, but I can't quite find a spot for them.

Key addition – Kevin Proctor

Rising star - Ashley Taylor

Player to watch - Jarryd Hayne

11th - New Zealand Warriors

Every year we expect more from the Warriors but they end up finishing just outside the top eight most seasons so I've plonked them there again. This line-up needs to do more, but we've been saying that since Stacey Jones was the lead singer with The Monkees. Great to watch and hard to watch...all at the same time. Like The Monkees actually.

Key addition – Nil

Rising star - Tuimoala Lolohea

Player to watch - Roger Tuivasa-Sheck

12th - Canterbury Bulldogs

This looks a poor result for the Bulldogs...and it would be, but I just cannot warm to this side. I couldn't warm to them in 2016 and I'm cold on them now. Hard to see them making an impression on the competition when it counts.

Key addition – Brenko Lee

Rising star - Moses Mbye

Player to watch - (insert first name here) Morris

13th - Wests Tigers

The unsettling influence of the great Robbie Farah is no longer, and what's left is a very young side with a lot of potential. There's a smattering of older wiser heads in the squad though in Lawrence and Ballin and the kids will probably enjoy having Jamal Idris around the joint. This is potentially a top four side, just not this season.

Key addition – Jamal Idris

Rising star - Bayley Sironen (no pressure)

Player to watch - James Tedesco

14th - Manly Sea Eagles

It feels like the end of an era for the Manly Sea Eagles. No Lyon. No Stewart. No Matai. With their departures, Daly Cherry-Evans (note that his nickname according to wikipedia is interesting) is the last remaining player from their 2011 premiership. Manly hoped they could build a team around Cherry-Evans, and perhaps they can. The two local brothers are a good start, and Blake Green looks a good fit in the halves. But something is missing. Soul perhaps.

Key addition – Blake Green

Rising star - Tom Trbojevic

Player to watch - Tom Trbojevic

15th - St George Illawarra Dragons

The song remains the same for the Red V. Their forward pack is one of the more productive units in the NRL, but it's the Dragons inability to turn that field advantage into points that continues to be their downfall. Has anything changed this season? Widdop tries hard but lacks support. Dugan is a more resilient footballer than ever and will give his all. Beyond that it's a struggle. There's a couple of youngsters working through the system in Field and Dufty but they will get limited opportunities this season unless Widdop and Dugan are unavailable. The rebuild continues.

Key addition – Nil

Rising star - Jai Field

Player to watch - Josh Dugan

16th - Newcastle Knights

This team lacked first grade depth in 2016, and this year they have said goodbye to Jarrod Mullen, Jeremy Smith, Kade Snowden, James McManus, Robbie Rochow, Akuila Uate and Korbin Sims. It's hard to name anyone that's left, but what they do have is local juniors and a region that will support them. But it's gonna take money. A whole lotta spending money. It's gonna take plenty of money. To do it right child. And it's gonna take time. A whole lot of precious time. It's gonna take patience and time. To do it. To do it. To do it. To do it. To do it. To do it right child.

Key addition – Ken Sio

Rising star - Daniel Saifiti

Player to watch - I honestly have no idea


JK's picture

Agreed in terms of top 8 ( maybe change the order around a bit) except swap titans in for Cronulla. Cant see sharkies having a good year without Ennis and Barba. Hard to see warriors missing the 8 with the spine they have but if any team can do it, its them. Souths are smokeys for finals footy

-'s picture

1) Storm
2) Cowboys
3) Raiders
4) Panthers
5) Roosters
6) Broncos
7) Eels
8) Titans

Coach Potato's picture

Jack Bird a rising star??
Personally I don't rate him as any grade of star.
He's enthusiastic, and tough. I give him that, and combined has taken him a long way, but I don't see him going to any next level.

Sure he has a Premiership ring, but does that mean he's top shelf?
Not necessarily.

a's picture

Here are my predictions
1st Cowboys
2nd Panthers
3rd Roosters
4rd Raiders
5th Broncos
6th West Tigers
7th Eels
8th Storm
9th Rabbitohs
10th Warriors
11th Titans
12th Sharks
13th Dragons
14th Bulldogs
15th Manly
16th Knights

TheMexican's picture

The Eels have plenty of demons to shed from 2016 before they make finals in 2017...no idea how they can be ahead of Storm.

And that is a mighty big improvement from the Roosters...

I do respect the Cowboys, JT is amazing to watch.

The Thinker's picture


Jack Bird is 21, he's won a premiership and he's played for the Blues twice. If you look at the rest of my rising stars there's a fair chance most of them won't rise to those heights in their entire careers.

Coach Potato's picture

Just hope that future of Qld Jake Friend keeps impressing Origin selectors.

Coach Potato's picture

Don't forget Gallen received a ring too.
Add 32 internationals, add 24 origins.
Doesn't stop people from not rating you.

christine forbes's picture

Mexican that is one thing we all would like to fix in this wonderful game of nrl , inconsistency has no place in our great game ...

christine 's picture

Wonder were newbie from peth is & johnny ray they should have resurfaced by now ?

christine's picture

Thinker or TLH every time I post a comment my name above the comments is gone so I have to re enter it & when I try to sign in it doesn't recognise my password for me to log in & if I try to register it says i'm already registered so can either of you Thinker or TLH please help me with this ?

Coach Potato's picture

Attention one and all, * regulars, * newcomers, and * first timers
Just 7 days to go to enter....

*******Last One On The Couch*********

# Pick just one team a week. Post your tip in the comments before game 1 of the round - usually a Friday night, but sometimes Thursday
# Win and you play again the next week.
# Lose and you're out (You're on the couch).
# You can't use the same team more than once throughout the comp
# No changing of minds allowed (no excuses). First tip you make is it.
# At the start of each round I will post a list of who's left and the teams they have used up. Refer to this before tipping each week.
So really no excuses, but if you still happen to tip a team you have already used you become disqualified.
# There will also be no updated list of tips until the start of each round
# The winner is the last one left
# The only time you can lose is if everyone that is left in the comp gets it wrong, then those people are all back in for the next week.
# Strategy is each to their own
# Winner gets a $25 NRL voucher from me, + whatever anyone else wants to offer Thinker. Here's hoping for a nice pot.

Good Luck.
- If the refs have anything to do with it, you will need it.

Redandgreenduck's picture

Hey Coach...Last One On The Couch....Dragons...cheers

Coach Potato's picture

I imagine the Round 1 "Thinkering" page will not be too far away.

christine forb 10's picture

Thinker or TLH I have managed to change my password so my username has returned now .

Thinker's Little Helper's picture

Hi christine - glad you were able to work out what's going on and get signed in. Good luck this year.

christine's picture

Coach put me in for your last one on the couch comp ...

a's picture

Coach put me down for Warriors

a's picture

And what happens if you used up all the teams and their is more than 1 person left what would happen

Coach Potato's picture

If more than one passes through 16 rounds with winners from all 16 teams, they would be crowned joint winners.

It is of course, the ultimate goal, but I highly doubt anyone can do it.

a's picture

Will the comp start again after the winner is announced

Coach Potato's picture

Thinker, you said you were cold on the Dogs last year but did you forget pencilling them in to the top 4 before Round 1 ?

Coach Potato's picture

Thinker, who are these players out at Parra who will deliver a top 4 that you speak about ?

Have they bought anyone new ? Or are you talking about the team that finished about 8th last year (add 12 points)?

They are a team continuing to lack leadership. Mannah is a nice person but he"s never been a leader. Is this being addressed? Not that I am aware.

Semi has a reprieve from court til sometime in May. Is this when his dad writes him a sick note, and he flies back to Fiji again ? Chances are high he gains a release and Australia never sees him again. Good riddance mostly, but take him out of the Parra team and they are a 10th placed team at best.

Baggy_Gee's picture

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, (big dramatic sigh). Coach its not about the leadership on the field that will get us over the line this year. As the Boss stated its the off the field dramas that have sunk us the last few years, and with a solid board that is not made up of the former factions within the leagues club we should be in a great position to perform to the standard we did last year until the idiots managing the books showed the wrong one to the wrong person. Fair cop now that we are a year removed from it. If the NRL would apply the same focus on all the other clubs we will have a fair comp. But with the on field leadership it seems to fall more to Norman, who with Clint and Jamal beside him should be able to concentrate more on the direction of the game instead of being Johnny on the spot with the winning effort. Take Sami out of the equation (I for one am happy to give him his request of release) as his head has already fled the country and is currently on the chilly French coast line, and replace him with French who has proven that he can make the breaks and be in the right spot at the right time. Need him to bulk up a bit as I was sh$%ting broken glass at the Nines every time someone ran at him. Out outside backs are solid and if the can lift their edge defence then we will be a good all round unit. I will be happy to get over 9th on the ladder, means we are getting our ducks in a row and moving forward as a club not individuals.
Tex-Mex apart from the worlds worst grub, why would the Storm be a better side than any of the younger teams listed above them?

Baggy_Gee's picture

Coach give me the Warriors for LOS please.

christine's picture

Coach warriors for me if that's okay with you coach .

Rick's picture

Hello everyone and welcome back for the 2017 Season and good luck to everybody's tips. Hi there Coach Cowboys please for me.

Rick's picture

Hi Thinker thank you for having us all back to have another go this year I like the new "The Lounge" section of your Website cheers.

Johnny Awesome's picture

Hello Mr Thinker, thank you for having me aboard again. Let me know if I can be part of the comp please. Many thanks for your consideration Mr Thinker. Cheers Mr Awesome

Coach Potato's picture

Looks like Bronco fans are still in hiding.
Desert your team when they're losing.
True Qlders.

Johnny Awesome's picture

I can't see the Dragons improving any this year under Mary. He virtually conceded his tenure was up at the end of the season. I felt last year my team was disjointed. The forwards actually did ok but it was like two teams n one. Forwards doing their stuff and the backs doing theirs. But very rarely did they gel. The most frustrating part was Mary did the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. Einstein said that was the first stage of insanity. Let's hope he gets a little more motivation in his last year as coach

Coach Potato's picture

Johnny Awesome, a team needs star power.
Remember when you had Gasnier, Boyd, Merrin, Cooper etc. ?
You don't have that now, and no matter how much you pray each night, nothing's gonna change until your team have stars back on the field. Widdop is probably holding the team back. He is out of ideas and does not look like thinking of something new, and a number 6 fixture for at least 2017.

Johnny Awesome's picture

This is true Mr Coach Potato,
However, I think if we had a Cleary or a Toovey as coach we would do better

The Thinker's picture

Johnny Awesome,

Welcome back sir....You are in.

For those I have not formally recognised yet, my Helper and I are compiling a list of candidates for the tipping competition.

We're getting there.

Johnny Awesome's picture

Thank you Mr Thinker, I'm looking forward to sparring against the best and believe me there are some really good analysts here including yourself. Cheers from Mr Awesome

Johnny Awesome's picture

Mr Thinker thanks for having me on board. I just have a few questions for you:
1. Is this the forum to place the tips? Please specify. Do I just post a message with my tips?
2. What is the cutoff time for the tips?
I'm planning to cook on the front burner this year. Good luck and cheers Mr Thinker

Rocket Ryan's picture

Panthers joint favourites to win the premiereship fools and their money as the old saying goes

Rocket Ryan's picture

Hope the salary cap is not a tight fit someone will check

Coach Potato's picture

Arhh old (B)uckhead.
Kick that barn door a bit harder.
Helps me sleep.

Baggy_Gee's picture

Where is the salary cap sketchy? Surely the first port of call is Redhill followed by Redfern and then Melbourne.

Johnny Awesome's picture

Just wondering, all home teams this year, what will be the percentage?

Jazzy's picture

Coach I would like to join the LOOTC comp. Warriors for me this week.
Looking forward to a great season. Enjoy,everyone. Go all QLD teams!!!!!

Coach Potato's picture

No worries Jazzy, you can play L.O.O.T-COUCH.
This could be the shortest comp ever if the Knights beat NZ.

Baggy_Gee's picture

Thats what I was thinking, Can I get a quick change Coach? Tigers to get up over the Rabbits.

Coach Potato's picture

Johnny Awesome, there is a mindless way of footy tipping which is to just take the home team 100% of the time. It does ok, but it won't be enough to win. Last year you would have scored 112, way way down the tipping ladder. What's the point of basically not participating, to end up in the bottom half ? Not much.

Coach Potato's picture

First rule invoked Baggy.
No changing of mind.
Not a minute later.
Warriors you picked.
Warriors you get.

Baggy_Gee's picture

Bugger, ah well if we go we all go together then. But I want my sketchy choices over and done with before the real tough decisions begin.

Baggy_Gee's picture

Thinker, are you going to tell us which game your going to be on the Lounge for?

Coach Potato's picture

No, a.
The comp won't start again once there's a winner.
Sorry to disappoint.

Coach Potato's picture

Thinker was out first round last year, so is facing two proverbial Golden Ducks in LOOT-Couch.

He has a lot of Thinkering to do over the next few days I imagine.


NRL tipping is easier if you follow the NRL news