With 2023 underway calendar wise we now have approximately two months until the first whistle of round 1. This gives us plenty of time to engage in spectacularly trivial endeavours such as evaluating each teams chances over the opening four rounds. Rob has finally gotten off his digital butt and cooked up some visuals to ease the info into your brain, so without further ado, let’s crack on.
The Broncos have an opening run against the reigning champions the Panthers, then the Cowboys, the Dragons and finally new kids on the block the Dolphins.
First hurdle: Does it get any tougher than the Panthers in round 1!?
First Four Score: We reckon 2-2 to start the Broncos off.
The Raiders clash with the Cowboys, Dolphins, Sharks and Knights to start 2023.
First Hurdle: Like the Broncos the Raiders find themselves up against a heavyweight of the ’22 campaign for round 1.
First Four Score: The optimistic ones here reckon the Green Machine could be 3-1 in the opening stanza for ’23.
CANTERBURY BANKSTOWN BULLDOGS
A club desperate to improve on last year’s effort gets the Sea-eagles, Storm, Tigers and Warriors as the first cabs off the rank.
First Hurdle: the Storm in round 2 seem pretty insurmountable for the Dogs barring divine intervention.
First Four Score: If Canterbury can finish round 4 2-2 they should be pretty pleased with themselves.
CRONULLA SUTHERLAND SHARKS
The Sharks have a proper gauntlet across these four rounds – the Bunnies, Eels and Raiders are all tough tasks and even their local derby rivals the Dragons can spring the odd upset.
First Hurdle: Take your pick from rounds 1-3.
First Four Score: The Sharks will be enthused if they can manage 2-2 or better.
GOLD COAST TITANS
The Titans were definitely an “On Paper” team in 2022, and they’ll need to roll their sleeves up early in ’23 to extract maximum benefit from their first four encounters against the Tigers, Dragons, Storm and Cowboys.
First Hurdle: The Storm followed immediately by the Cowboys.
First Four Score: 2-2 would be an excellent start for the Titans.
The first expansion team since the Titans, the Dolphins certainly have a baptism of fire in 2023. The Roosters and Raiders will be tough jobs, but they may find some joy against the Knights and Broncos.
First Hurdle: Roosters, round 1.
First Four Score: Inaugural coach Bennett will be alright with 2-2 for this newly formed team.
MANLY WARRINGAH SEA-EAGLES
Manly completely derailed themselves with internal culture wars in 2022 and will no doubt be desperate to get the focus back on footy. The round 2 bye gives coach Seibold a chance to prepare them for a grudge match in round 3 against the Eels.
First Hurdle: The Eels match in round 3 will be a proper litmus test for Manly.
First Four Score: The benefit of a bye will inflate their standings, so if they find themselves 3-1 they’ll be cheering.
Every year quarters of the NRL media ecosystem predict the Storm diminishing, and every year they just keep on Storming. With a soft-ish draw after the Eels in round 1 they should be right near the top four games in.
First Hurdle: Down the Eels in round 1 and they’ll have the hard part out of the way.
First Four Score: Melbourne could well be 4-0 heading into round 5.
The Knights get a soft start, or at least they would if they were a good team. As it is they’ll have to scrap it out with fellow aspirants the Warriors, Tigers and Dolphins before coming up against Canberra.
First Hurdle: The Raiders present the toughest challenge to start the Novocastrian season.
First Four Score: If they really apply themselves they could be 3-1.
NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS
The poor Warriors have had rough few years and it looks like their early rounds may hold some more pain, notably the consecutive games against the Roosters and the Cowboys. Their best bet is toppling the Knights and Dogs.
First Hurdle: Roosters in round 2.
First Four Score: 2-2 would be sweet as for the trans-Tasman team.
NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS
The Cows came achingly close in ’22, and they’ll be hoping to go one better this year. They’re currently the strongest of the now four Queensland based sides and their opening four rounds almost play out like a mini Queensland derby.
First Hurdle: Call us biased but the Raiders should be their toughest test in the opening rounds.
First Four Score: If they can get past Canberra they could well be 4-0 to start the year.
The Eels dragged themselves into the GF last year only to find a Panthers outfit on another level. They’ve had one of the more pronounced roster changes in the break, but they should be able to account for the Sharks and Manly.
First Hurdle: Storm in round 1. The Eels have become something of a bogey team for Melbourne, but we need to see if their tweaked line-up can hang tough.
First Four Score: BA would be pretty happy with a 2-2 foundation.
Is there a hard draw for Penrith? They’ll almost certainly put the Broncos away, and will be fresh off a bye to face the Bunnies.
First Hurdle: Only the Bunnies or Eels have a chance of inflicting an early upset.
First Four Score: I’ll be amazed if it’s anything other than 4-0.
SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS
Souths are usually in the mix come seasons end, and it’s likely they’ll be in the right when the regular season stops in 2023. They do however have a rough start to the year with consecutive games against the Panthers and their arch rivals the Roosters.
First Hurdle: Panthers in round 2.
First Four Score: If they can out-grit the Roosters they could be 3-1.
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS
With the ’23 league being an uneven 17 someone has to sit that first week out, and that someone is St George. Arguably this should make their start easier, but like the Knights they have a habit of getting in their own way. If they can topple the two Queensland sides they’ll have confidence heading into their derby with the Sharks.
First Hurdle: Being a week behind everyone else.
First Four Score: If you count that bye as a win I think 2-2 is a fair hope.
The Roosters have the honour of introducing the Dolphins into the NRL. Given the newcomers will still be settling in the Tri-colours should take this one, and probably won’t break a sweat until round 3 against the Bunnies.
First Hurdle: The Rabbitohs derby.
First Four Score: 3 (bye included)-1.
Wests ended ’22 as a basket case, so it’s refreshing to see a mini-Sheens overhaul in swing. They’ve signed former Raiders firebrand John Bateman and are hoping to at least get away from the bottom of the ladder.
First Hurdle: Playing consistent footy against other rebuild teams before facing off against Melbourne in round 4.
First Four Score: Sheens and the squad would be buoyant at 2-2.
So there you have it. Expect to see the usual suspects at the top, followed by the traditional middle table logjam as this year’s no-hopers start to trickle down to the bottom rungs.
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