Diary of a win-deprived Blues fan

287300-5cbe5444-f6ed-11e3-8ea9-a081f3513119By Jack Brady

Nothing could wipe the smile off my face.

Sitting there with 80,000 others in ANZ Stadium watching Trent Hodkinson cross for the one and only try in the match I just couldn’t help myself.

No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t prevent myself celebrating the Blues success – notepad and pen in hand.

I looked to the left of me and watched the famous Blatchy’s Blues go deservingly crazy.

I watch grown men and women go bezerk and children not quite grasp the seriousness of what exactly was happening.

At this point in time everyone bled blue.

Mere minutes later,  Jarryd Hayne breaks down in tears, Beau Scott jumps into the crowd and Paul Gallen lifts both fists in the air and gives a glorious running hug to Laurie Daley.

The momentous occasion had become apparent. The win and series had been secured.

Victory thy name is New South Wales.

Yet who would have thought it would be Hodkinson that would win the series for the Blues?

I mean, I couldn’t even pronounce his name properly a month ago yet now he has etched his name in my heart forever.

Growing up in an era where Andrew Johns, Brad Fittler, Trent Barrett and Craig Gower reigned supreme who could’ve imagined that a man who was kept out of the Bulldogs run to the grand final two years ago (because of Kris Keating of all people) would win us the series?

Going through high school and university with zero Blues wins to boast about was bad enough especially with bandwagon Queensland supporters constantly reminding you about it every step of the way.

Just think if Mitchell Pearce decided to stay at home on that ill-fated night then who knows where we might be right now.

We might feel bad about the situation but happiness soon consumes us when we realise that victory is finally ours!

While a hint of sadness dawns on me that my beloved Newcastle Knights have won the same amount of games as the Blues this season, I’m happy to take any win I can get my hands on.

At the end of the day social media doesn’t know what has hit it and who can blame us?

It’s been a long, long time coming.

With a hint of irony and a major sense of relief we can finally boast as tongue-in-cheek as it may be – #oneinarow.

Go the Blues!

The Brady Foray: Top Five Players of the Auckland Nines

By Jack Brady

The inaugural NRL Auckland Nines was an undeniable success. No matter if you were lucky enough to be in attendance at Eden Park last weekend, like yours truly, or were one of the thousands watching from the comfort of your own home – everyone was absolutely treated to game play never before seen on a Rugby League field. Whether you were left stunned, mesmerised, happy or livid – the Auckland Nines had it all.

While the North Queensland Cowboys prevailed as champions with a 16-7 victory over the Brisbane Broncos in the final, the real winners were the fans. Whether it be the crowd going utterly crazy over the New Zealand Warriors or booing ‘Kiwi traitor’ James Tamou whenever he went near the ball, fans trying to work the abacus determining whether their team could still make the finals and front-rowers scoring long range tries – Rugby League well-and-truly shone in a new and exciting light.

Walking around Eden Park was a spectacle in itself. Those wearing their team’s jersey were left feeling underdressed with thousands using the Nines as a fancy dress extravaganza. From thousands of minions to the Pope, Jesus to Hulk Hogan, Egyptians to Crayons, Policemen without pants and banana suits – the Auckland Nines ticked most boxes of every party theme in the book.

On the field, the Rugby League community embraced the fact that there were only two scrums the entire tournament, the magnificent try-scoring ability of Cowboys winger Zac Feldt and the massive left hand ‘don’t argues’ delivered from Melbourne prop Mitchell Garbutt as he ambushed his opponents during a spectacular 40 metre run down the sideline to score. Throw in the rather successful returns of Steve Menzies and Brad Fittler, the latter scoring a 70-metre intercept try, the numerous injuries suffered and the fact that every club managed to win at least one game and you’ll soon realise that the Auckland Nines was a recipe for success.

It is by no accident that the ‘Brady Foray: Top Five Players of the Auckland Nines’ come from teams who managed to outlast most others in earning their way towards the semi-finals. Without further ado, these players are:

5. Corey Parker (Broncos)

While the newly appointed Brisbane captain may have only scored one try throughout the tournament, one cannot deny how influential Parker is for his side fortunes – an influence that has proven to be essential for his state and country in recent seasons. With the Broncos looking to gel together quickly following the departure of Peter Wallace and the retirement of Scott Prince – Parker was an absolute lynchpin for the Brisbane Nines squad consisting of Round One hopefuls and up-and-coming halves Ben Hunt and Kodi Nikorima. Parker’s consistent presence in the middle of the field allowed for Hunt and Nikorima to flaunt their stuff out wide. Parker’s ability to keep the ball alive under-pressure is a world-class attribute and it goes without saying that without him, Brisbane would not have gone as far as they did in the competition.

4. Sam Tomkins (Warriors)

Brilliant First Impressions: Sam Tomkins

When Sam Tomkins signed with the New Zealand Warriors late last year, many pointed out that perhaps he was being paid more than he deserved considering he was an unproven performer in the greatest rugby league competition in the world. Those who watched him saw him play for Wigan in the Super League and in this past weekend’s Nines competition now know that he has laid the platform for a big 2014 season.  While he didn’t cross the white stripe, kicking a lone conversation – Tomkins had a hand in two tries and was a contributing factor in several others. His reverse-hand, half-field cut-out pass earlier in the tournament to halfback Shaun Johnson lead to one of the tries of the tournament. Tomkins was essentially the Warriors yin to Johnson’s yang. Expect a big year from the Englishman.

3. Sam Tagataese (Sharks)

For those present at Eden Park this past weekend you may have noticed the performances of Sharks prop, Sam Tagataese. While his bigger name teammate, Andrew Fifita made the ‘official’ team of the tournament, Tagataese undoubtedly overshadowed him when it came to crunch for Cronulla. Fifita, who in the semi-final walked off the field after abusing his teammates only to be saved by the halftime siren and in the meantime avoid the embarrassment of the camera’s glance, was rather disappointing in the pool games.  Tagataese, who’s barnstorming hit ups laid the platform for the rest of the side, will be forever known as the first man to score a five point try in Rugby League. His third try of the tournament, a brilliant 40 metre dash down the sideline, kicked off Sunday’s proceedings in the very first minute of play and allowed the Sharks to take advantage of the game from the get-go. Tagataese’s star will only continue to rise.

2. Shaun Johnson (Warriors)

The ‘official’ MVP of the Nines tournament – Shaun Johnson created brilliance after brilliance throughout the tournament with relative ease. His four tries, ten goals and [surprisingly] lone try assist laid the platform for his Warriors Nines side. Captaining the side for the tournament, Johnson and the Warriors blissfully made it through to the quarters without a hitch – the halfback forcing the local crowd to fall even more in love with him in the meantime. By mid-Sunday, Johnson was trying too hard to spark a magnificent play, by attempting to do so every set. A failed chip-and-chase on his own goal line in their quarter final against the Rabbitohs, while winning 17-0 signified the beginning of the end for the Warriors. A semi-final shutout to the eventual winners, North Queensland, completed this fall from grace for Johnson and the Warriors in what was otherwise a brilliant tournament performance displayed by the halfback.

1. Antonio Winterstein (Cowboys)

ON FIRE: Antonio Winterstein

Who would’ve thought he had it in him? Antonio Winterstein, a man who has played over a hundred games in the top grade in what could only be described as a solid career, arrived at the Auckland Nines and displayed skills never before seen from the 25 year-old. Perhaps it could be the format of the game that allowed Winterstein to shine? Otherwise this could be Winterstein screaming from the rooftop, showcasing he is ready to take his game to the level. Scoring three tries and assisting in another, Winterstein blasted opponents with speed, his strength in busting and palming off tackles and a sidestep to die for. Winterstein kicked off proceedings in the Grand Final against the Broncos by turning Josh Hoffman inside-out with an absolute glorious sidestep. His performances were just as deserving for MVP status within the overall tournament – hopefully he can find solace in being awarded the Brady Foray ‘Player of the 2014 Auckland Nines’.

Think before you tweet

By Jack Brady

More often than not nowadays when you look at the back of a newspaper there is bound to be some sort of sporting controversy splashed across the page.

Sex, drugs, assaults, brawls, racism and common indecency – the National Rugby League specifically has faced it all in recent times.

A new phenomenon of controversy though has made itself prevalent lately in the form of the spoken word or the haphazard uploading of images on social media – where rugby league players are making a name for themselves for all the wrong reasons.

Instances like New South Wales and Wests Tigers captain Robbie Farah suggesting to former Prime Minister Julia Gillard that she should consider buying a noose for her birthday or Josh Dugan losing his Canberra Raiders contract and the punters respect for a myriad of reasons involving social media has essentially led to tweets, Instagram photos and Facebook statuses becoming news.

In an era where NRL clubs are continuously warn their players of the pitfalls of social media, the question is – is it fair that personal thoughts of individuals should be spun into back page news or should players, in their privileged positions as role models in society become accountable for their actions?

Retired Parramatta, New South Wales and Australian Kangaroos representative Eric Grothe Jr. believes at the end of the day it all comes down to the individual, believing those who use social media need to be accountable for their actions. Grothe, who has since signaled his intentions to return to the NRL next season, attributes his use of social media as a way to connect with the masses of people he never meets.

“I never put anything on social media that I’m not willing to back up. In case I put something up there and it got in newspaper the next day and people were saying, ‘why did you tweet that?’ Everything is pre-thought with me. I don’t just blindly tweet things,” Grothe said.

“It comes down to how the individual feels about what they put out there on Twitter. Personally, I probably look at more things than not and cringe about what people put out. I don’t think some people realise until they actually send it and see the reaction, and what big a mistake some of the things they tweet or put on Facebook can make.

“One of the best pieces of advice you could give someone I reckon is when you’ve had a few drinks – put your phone away. It’s probably the smartest thing to do. Try and ask yourself is this going to be regretted in the morning, if so, don’t do it. You have to be accountable… if you put things out there in the world for people to see you have to expect the repercussions.”

Grothe isn’t fazed about the current media landscape’s use of social media interactions as news either or as he puts it “off the back of something tweeted from a footballer that’s stuffed up”.

“[Back when he played] there were programs where people would come around and show you what to and what not to do on social media. It’s pretty much common sense with me – I just never get to personal or never get to deep on there, I don’t see it as diary for everyone to read,” Grothe said.

“With the Josh Dugan stuff, for example, he has to be open to it if he’s going to put photos up or if anyone is going to put photos up of them with their shirts off, drinking drinks and doing gang signs, they have to be ready for it to be in the newspaper nowadays – it’s just the way it is.”

So much of an influence that social media has had on the reporting of rugby league and the NRL in the media that up-and-coming and recently graduated journalists are beginning to add social media experience to their journalistic arsenal.

Ricardo Ascenso, for example, recently graduated from Sydney’s Macleay College, has racked up a social media repertoire that others can only dream off.  For those not savvy with his achievements, Ascenso runs the ever so popular @NRLNEWS Twitter handle. The most popular unofficial news account dedicated to the National Rugby League, an account followed by over 23,000 individuals.

“@NRL_NEWS was basically all part of that process I guess to just get involved in anything to do with the media and social media side being that’s what it is basically about these days. It was kind of the first step… to eventually go into more exciting things,” Ascenso said.

“To be honest, when I first started taking over it all I was expecting a couple of thousand [followers] tops if that. For it to get to 23000, I’m pretty sure it’s the single biggest amount of followers for an independent NRL news account on twitter and that’s awesome. It wasn’t really anything that I would’ve been expecting when it all started up.”

Boosting an impressive social media resume appears to be an important aspect to Ascenso’s future success considering his thoughts on social media in the realm of journalism.

“Nowadays media can’t exist without social media. I guess I sort of just started doing it [@NRLNEWS] because you could kind of see where things were heading,” Ascenso said.

“In some aspects, online media has probably and will continue to overtake the newspaper sort of stuff. There’s always a place for the written side of things when it comes to newspapers and magazines and I think in how they’re presented is basically down to interpretation and how someone sees the effect that one has on the other.

“Things break on social media quicker these days then they do on any other media because it’s right there and accessible so really if you wanted to you could say it is the fault of media these days because the minute something happens it’s on social media before anywhere else.”

With Twitter handles, like Ascenso’s and unofficial NRL blogs becoming increasingly common it appears in some instances it is up to the club to educate those they employ, the players. If ever a club was to be diligent in the face of controversies surrounding social media and the aftermath of it played out on a grander scale then the Newcastle Knights are trying their absolute hardest to avoid such things.

Former Newcastle Knights first-grade player, Marvin Karawana is proof that such lectures on social media etiquette are working. That accountability, in light of the ever present forms of online and social media’s continued growth, is a lesson that appears to have stuck solid with most players upon hearing what their club has to say about matters concerned with social media.

While he may have retired from the NRL back in 2011, Karawana, who played 34 games for the Newcastle Knights over five years, describes his social media use as casual thing to do but understands that it is just another aspect of being responsible in the public eye.

“We had people that the NRL had organised to come in and speak to us as a group on the dangers of social media. Personally, I think it’s just common sense that if you are going to be on a social networking platform then you should know that certain things you put out there could get you into trouble… the people who came in to speak to us reiterated all of the dangers and things not to do,” Karawana said.

“[Players] just need to think what they are about to post before they do it. If you think it is going to be something that could get you in trouble, then either don’t post it or ask somebody else before you do. I think it can be a good thing for a player [though], as long as they are responsible and think about things before they post.”

Ironically, Karawana, who noted that if he had a few spare minutes during the day he would read through his Twitter timeline to see if there is any news going on, isn’t a fan of news being produced from social media occurrences.

“People just have to accept how things are now, and that if they are saying things or posting pictures on a public forum, then anybody can see it and it could end up in the newspapers,” Karawana said.

On the same note, James Elias, a current reserve-grade player for the Knights, resonates with the same lessons learnt by Karawana during his time at the club. Elias, unlike a lot of players, is not on Twitter but still understands the pitfalls involved on other platforms of social media.

“They [Newcastle Knights] do social media sessions every year, one or two sessions just before pre-season. It’s more like a lecture, a lecture where they just hammer everything into you about what they expect from you and what not to put up in social media,” Elias said.

“They give you advice to obviously watch what you put up on Facebook and all that sort of stuff. Putting photos up of you in Knights clothing – you’re not allowed to do it. Make sure what you’re putting up isn’t rude or isn’t going to bring the club into disrepute.

“When they do have instances through the season, like the Josh Dugan stuff, they’ll bring us in and talk about it and highlight why it’s a good idea not to put stuff like that on social media.”

So what has Elias taking from his time in the lectures involving social media etiquette?

“I definitely try and keep everything I have on the internet at a minimum and write stuff that isn’t out there. I keep it generic. Even if I wasn’t a football player, I would definitely keep as much personal details as possible off social media,” Elias said.

“If you’re putting yourself out there by saying all that sort of crap like Josh Dugan was… well then you know he pretty much deserved it. I think there’s a certain line you cross. It comes back to an individual being accountable.”

Accountability is a word that has been mentioned a lot. As social media grows and expands into news media, such stories are going to come from these platforms if a rugby league player isn’t careful.  Nicholas Janzen, a journalist at Big League and NRL.com, believes that social media use is the same as driving a car or walking the streets or doing anything else that requires some level of responsibility in society.

“There’s a proper way to use it and there’s an improper way to use. Obviously some people take time to understand how to use it correctly… people have lived and learned and suffered consequences from what they’ve said on social media,” Janzen said.

“At the end of the day, you are essentially saying these things and they can still be used in a court of law, they’re still potentially defamatory these comments… and people need to think before they say things and type things.”

As for its role in journalism, Janzen believes that while it is useful it is not an imperative when it comes to the profession.

“It’s [Social Media] a great tool to undertake research because you can immediately delve into the thoughts and beliefs of your subject without even getting dressed. On the whole it is a supplementary tool that can help you shape your article and help you on the path to help you researching the subject… and educating your audience,” said Janzen.

While his tweets may be news-oriented, Janzen insists this is because of the privileged position he finds himself in within his role as a journalist.

“If on the off chance I receive a press release and I’m in front of a computer and having a look at Twitter and I know that I’m going to be one of the first few people to reveal something I’ll happily pop it up there. It’s just a way of giving people news first and allowing the pure facts to get out there straight away.”

We may have dismissed those who said social media was going to affect journalism but now no matter which way you look at, whether from a rugby league perspective or in a general news sense, social media is only going to continue its expansion into journalism – whether we like it or not.

As social media expands, accountability has perhaps become nothing but necessary.

A 2013 NRL Retrospective and Grand Final Preview

By Jack Brady

It’s the one we’ve all been waiting for.

Manly and Roosters fans nerves peak as their sides face off in the big one, fans of the 14 other clubs look forward to the season’s end – to the end the disappointment and heartache before looking towards 2014. While journalists are just happy they get their weekends back for the summer.

In one way or another, everyone is looking forward to today’s game, the 2013 NRL decider. Before we look at the game, the Brady Foray wanted to take a look back on the season that has been – in a retrospective look on our season previews.

How Brady Foray predicted it

How it actually finished

1st: Melbourne Storm

2nd: South Sydney Rabbitohs

3rd: Canterbury Bulldogs

4th: North Queensland Cowboys

5th: Manly-Waringah Sea Eagles

6th: Cronulla Sharks

7th: Newcastle Knights

8th: Canberra Raiders

9th: Sydney Roosters

10th: Brisbane Broncos

11th: Penrith Panthers

12th: Gold Coast Titans

13th: New Zealand Warriors

14th: Wests Tigers

15th: St. George Illawarra Dragons

16th: Parramatta Eels

1st: Sydney Roosters

2nd: South Sydney Rabbitohs

3rd: Melbourne Storm

4th: Manly-Waringah Sea Eagles

5th: Cronulla Sharks

6th: Canterbury Bulldogs

7th: Newcastle Knights

8th: North Queensland Cowboys

9th: Gold Coast Titans

10th: Penrith Panthers

11th: New Zealand Warriors

12th: Brisbane Broncos

13th: Canberra Raiders

14th: St. George Illawarra Dragons

15th: Wests Tigers

16th: Parramatta Eels

Let it be known that the Brady Foray correctly predicted the exact positions of South Sydney, Newcastle Knights and Parramatta Eels while managing to pick seven of the eight teams in the top eight. Otherwise, like most punters, we predicted pretty terribly.

Our main man and Brady Foray wildcard Erratic Eddy traveled a little better with his predictions however.

Eddy made the call that Lote Tuqiri should give it up, to not write the Panthers off in which they had a better than expected season and that Corey Parker would be a fantasy powerhouse (which is as easy as a prediction as saying Channel Nine love anything to do with Sonny-Bill Williams). Perhaps he is a psychic genius though, having told Blake Ferguson to pull his head in before a ball had even been kicked this season (obviously he didn’t) before stating that Manly’s exceptional signings in Horo, Gower and Lawrence were all brilliant – a proven fact with all three men playing in the NRL Grand Final today.

Yet Eddy can’t always be right. He stated that St. George’s Josh Drinkwater would be the rookie of the year, Albert Kelly would be a wasted signing and Tony Williams would be a one of the best signings of season 2013. All proved otherwise.

Above all this we have a Grand Final to talk about.

Grand Final Preview

The experienced and the entertainers, Watmough versus SBW, Cherry-Evans & Foran up against Pearce and Maloney, the old heads and captains Lyon and Minichiello contrast the livewires Jennings and the Stewart brothers – Manly versus the Roosters.

No matter what aspect you look at this game from, the mouthwatering possibilities are endless. It has been far too long since a Grand Final has lived up to expectations but today could prove the difference.

We are in for a cliffhanger from start to finish and at the end of 80 minutes one club will be lifting the Provan-Summons Trophy as the 2013 premiership winners.

How They Line Up:

Manly-Waringah Sea Eagles: 1- Brett Stewart, 2- Jorge Taufua, 3- Jamie Lyon (C), 4- Steve Matai, 5- David Williams, 6- Kieran Foran, 7- Daly Cherry-Evans, 8- Brenton Lawrence, 9- Matt Ballin, 10- Brent Kite, 11- Anthony Watmough, 12- Justin Horo, 13- Glenn Stewart. Interchange: 14- David Gower, 15- Jamie Buhrer, 16- Tom Symonds, 17- George Rose, 18- James Hasson, 19- Peta Hiku.

Sydney Roosters: 1- Anthony Minichiello (C), 2- Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, 3- Michael Jennings, 4- Shaun Kenny-Dowell, 5- Daniel Tupou, 6- James Maloney, 7- Mitchell Pearce, 8- Jared Warea-Hargreaves, 9- Jake Friend, 10- Sam Moa, 11- Aiden Guerra, 12- Sonny-Bill Williams, 13- Frank-Paul Nuuausala. Interchange: 14- Daniel Mortimer, 15- Mitchell Aubusson, 16- Issac Liu, 17- Dylan Napa.

Beauty and the Beast… Despite not being named, definitely expect young up starter and future Roosters captain, Boyd Cordner, and hardened veteran, Luke O’Donnell, to be playing on Sunday night. Cordner, who will be looking to cap off a stellar year that saw him play for New South Wales in State of Origin alongside being the recipient of Dally M Second Rower of the Year, will be an undoubtedly welcomed inclusion into a Roosters side searching for their first premiership since 2002. Moreover, what more could you want then former Australian and NSW forward Luke O’Donnell. When he’s not being suspended by the NRL judiciary, O’Donnell has proven his worth this season having come back from England. Expect Cordner and O’Donnell to leave their mark on this game once it is all said and done.

Brothers Unite… It was no surprise when Manly were down 14-0 last weekend against Souths with their backs against the wall that the Stewart brothers combined to put the first try on the board and instigate a comeback that brings us to today. Forget the Burgesses, the Stewart brothers are the best set of brothers in the modern day game, and daresay the best since the Johns brothers plied their worth for the Knights. Alongside the calming influence of Captain Jamie Lyon, the Stewart brothers will need to be on song if Manly are to secure their third premiership in six years.

One Man Show… The Roosters were a different side when Sonny Bill Williams went off against the Newcastle Knights last weekend. Up 34-4, the Roosters had no answer to a late Knights resurgence and a Joey Leulia brace of tries. Sonny-Bill needs to be on for the eighty minutes if the Roosters are going to outmuscle the big Manly forward-pack. Sonny Bill has made ridiculous inroads in most games he’s played this season. Sonny Bill Williams is that good and with him potentially leaving, this could be the Roosters last legitimate chance of premiership glory for quite a while.

All Cherries… Since Queensland won their eighth straight series one player has been playing like a man possessed. In a game where five surnames are hyphened, only one will stand tall in the maroon and white colours and potentially led Manly to premiership success. Something he did in his debut season. Daly Cherry-Evans is this man. Deservingly in the top two lines of betting for Clive Churchill Medal, Cherry-Evans has lead the side from the forefront the entire season and must continue to do so this game. Third in Dally M polling after 26 rounds, Cherry-Evans is the main man for Manly in their quest for another premiership.

Tip… Arguably, the Roosters have had the easiest road out of any club to a Grand Final in a long time. Regardless of their 4-0 victory over Manly three weeks ago, the Roosters have since had the week off and taken down an exhausted Newcastle Knights side coming out of two tough encounters. Alternatively, since the Roosters game, Manly have battled their way through draining games against Cronulla and a fast-starting South Sydney side. Roosters should win, if they don’t they would have well and truly choked. Manly are by far the more fatigued side coming into this game but don’t let it fool you into thinking that they will be easy pickings for the Roosters. Their experience will simply not allow it.

Manly by 4

Clive Churchill Medal: Daly Cherry-Evans

First Try Scorer: Brett Stewart or Aidan Guerra

Solace at Seven: Tyrone Roberts

By Jack Brady

Scott Dureau and Luke Walsh have come and gone while Jarrod Mullen and Kurt Gidley have positioned themselves elsewhere.

It has been seven years since now immortal Andrew Johns bid adieu to the NRL and the Newcastle Knights. Ironically it has been almost that long since the Newcastle Knights last won a finals game before this season.

Here we are faced with an almost unrecognisable prospect – the Newcastle Knights in the final four of an NRL competition and if it weren’t for the guidance of 22-year-old, Tyrone Roberts, who knows where the Knights would’ve ended up

Off the back of an inspirational man-of-the-match performance against Melbourne last weekend, Roberts has led the Knights to a mouthwatering showdown against minor-premiers, the Sydney Roosters this weekend.

However, this may not have been so if Knights coach Wayne Bennett had his way a couple of weeks ago.

From all accounts, Roberts was not a happy camper when Bennett decided to give 35 year-old New South Wales and Australian representative veteran Craig Gower a contract mid-season and former Canberra halfback Michael Dobson a lifeline for 2014.

In fact, if it weren’t for Gower’s currently injured back, Roberts may not have been even in the side at the moment – a ridiculous proposition in retrospect with Gower showing nothing but his age since returning to the NRL.

Roberts has proven since that he is the man for the job.

He is now leading premiership-winning forwards Willie Mason, Danny Buderus, Beau Scott, Jeremy Smith and Neville Costigan in scintillating fashion.

Tyrone Roberts may just be the x-factor that the Newcastle Knights have been seeking since Johns’ retirement.

A twelve-year premiership drought may be rained upon by success if Tyrone Roberts has anything to do with it.

2013 NRL Season Preview: Melbourne Storm

By Brady Foray Writers

If there’s one thing the Melbourne Storm proved in 2012 it was that they are in fact human…and they still won the competition. Starting the year all guns blazing, winning their first nine games, their year turned sour quickly following their second bye and the end of the State of Origin series. With Billy Slater injured the club lost five games in a row, something unheard from a Melbourne side over the past couple of years. Though as soon as their bearings were established, with a rampant performance over Penrith in Round 22, Melbourne wouldn’t lose again in 2012.

While Dane Nielson, Sika Manu, Richie Fa’aoso, Rory Kostjasyn, Todd Lowrie, Jaiman Lowe and Anthony Quinn have moved on, the club has a knack of filling these gaps quickly and moving past any deficit in the squad. This can be attributed to obviously the big three in Slater, Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk. These three are the reason Melbourne will finish with the minor premiership this season. No stats are needed, their class alone and the club’s ability to adapt to Craig Bellamy’s game plans quickly is the reason while you’ll see the Melbourne Storm perched on top of the table come the final whistle of round 26.

Signings: Junior Sau (Knights), Junior Moors (Tigers), Lagi Setu (Broncos), Brett Finch (Wigan), Tim Glasby (Central Queensland Capras), Kurt Mann (Knights)

Departures: Brayden Wiliame (Eels), Dane Nielsen (Warriors), Sika Manu (Panthers), Luke Kelly (Eels, mid-season),  Richie Fa’aoso (Sea Eagles), Rory Kostjasyn (Cowboys), Todd Lowrie (Warriors), Michael Greenfield (Retired), Jaiman Lowe (Retired), Anthony Quinn (Knights), Shea Moylan (Wynnum-Manly)

Key to Success:

When you hear the words “The Big Three” (pictured right) in Rugby League circles you automatically think of three men. Whether for Australia, QLD or Melbourne: Slater, Smith and Cronk are essential. When together on the paddock last season they won 90.5% of their games for Melbourne, contributing 28 tries and 65 try-assists. Without one of them on the field the whole team struggles. For the Storm to become the first team to go back-to-back for first time since 1993, they need this trio to be fit, firing and healthy for the seasons entire.

Player to Watch:

Not much was known about young back-rower Tohu Harris. A graduate of the Melbourne under 20’s competition, Harris (pictured left) strapped on the boots last week at Headingly to take down the Leeds Rhinos in the World Club Challenge, scoring a brilliant try in the process. Named to start for the Melbourne this week against the Dragons, most NRL fans will get their first proper look at Harris. Soon enough it will be known how much of an impact Harris will make in the NRL this season. Watch this space.

Erratic Eddy says:

“Eddy can’t stand Melbourne. Too many Queenslanders, however, if the Storm is to go back-to-back then Eddy won’t help but feel happy for veteran Jason Ryles. The former NSW and Australian representative missed out on the grand final last year. Let’s hope he can finally win that elusive premiership ring he’s been busting his arse for since the ‘choking’ era of the Dragons.”

Strongest 17: 1- Billy Slater 2- Matthew Duffie 3- Gareth Widdop 4-Will Chambers 5- Sisa Waqa 6- Brett Finch 7- Cooper Cronk 8-Jesse Bromwich 9- Cameron Smith (C) 10- Bryan Norrie 11- Ryan Hoffman 12-Tohu Harris 13- Ryan Hinchcliffe Interchange: 14- Kevin Proctor 15- Jason Ryles 16- Lagi Setu 17- Junior Moors 18th Man: Justin O’Neill.

Predicted Position: 1st

…and the clock has hit zero. The off-season is done for another year. The unpredictability of the NRL will leave fans guessing all year. Over the course of writing these previews the Ben Barba scandal has come to fruition and only today have ASADA seized control of the Cronulla Sharks 2013 fortunes with rumours rife that up to 14 players could be facing two-year suspensions. Rugby league is a controversial game and don’t we love it. Come that first whistle, all will be forgotten, everything will be on the line. The footy is back baby. Get Keen!

2013 NRL Season Preview: South Sydney Rabbitohs

By Brady Foray Writers

The South Sydney Rabbitohs have made the finals 49 times. They have won 20 premierships out of 33 grand final appearances. Last season was the first time Souths have made the semis since 2007. Before that, they hadn’t made the finals since their 1989 minor premiership success.

2012 was a turning point in the history of the South Sydney Rabbitohs and if it wasn’t for a torn hamstring to influential halfback Adam Reynolds in the first half of their preliminary final loss to the Bulldogs last season, the South Sydney Rabbitohs could’ve made it grand final number 34.

Under the tutelage of Michael McGuire, the Rabbitohs had their best season in decades, this including a six-game winning streak between Rounds 17 & 22. Souths would manage to win 17 of their 27 games last year. While the club have lost cruicial forwards Dave Taylor (Titans), Eddy Pettybourne (Tigers) and Scott Geddes (retired), the club have managed to entice Jeff Lima, Ben Te’o and Thomas Burgess to replace them. Beau Champion and Bryson Goodwin have also come to Redfern in hope of busting into an already explosive backline. It’s going to be a massive year for the Rabbitohs.

Signings: Jeff Lima (Wigan), Ben Te’o (Broncos), Mitchell Bucket (Sunshine Coast), Thomas Burgess (Bradford), Bryson Goodwin (Bulldogs), Beau Champion (Titans)

Departures: Eddy Pettybourne (Tigers), Dave Taylor (Titans), Scott Geddes (retired), James Roberts (Panthers), Adrian Ha’angana (Rugby Union), Fetuli Talanoa, Ryan Carr, Neccrom Areaiiti, Blake Judd, Brendan McKinnon, Curtis Johnston (all released)

Key to Success:

On first count, the South Sydney Rabbitohs first grade squad contains a minimum of seven internationals. None of these men are the key to the success that the Rabbitohs season hinges on. The man the club’s premiership hopes lay on is one with 27 games to his name, halfback Reynolds. 22-year-old Reynolds will look at season 2013 to dispel himself of any second-year-syndrome speculation and build on what the Bunnies started last year. The Indigenous All-Star representative managed 17 try assists last season while also contributing 208 points himself to the Rabbitohs’ cause.

Player to Watch:

Jeff Lima has done a lot in a short amount of time. Even before playing his 100th NRL game, Lima has won two NRL premierships with Melbourne, a Challenge Cup with the Wigan Warriors, the Brent Todd medal for Man of the Match in the same Challenge Cup final and six Tests for New Zealand. Lima returns to the NRL this season to reunite with his former Wigan mentor Michael McGuire at South Sydney. Look for Lima to add an abundance of grunt to an already brilliant forward pack. Lima is a brilliant pick-up for the Bunnies as they look to win the premiership for the first time in over forty years.

Erratic Eddy says:

“I wonder if Tom and George Burgess can even play footy or they’re just here to keep Sam Burgess happy. Having all four brothers at the club, while nice for family morale, may not be the smartest move when it comes to retaining up-and-coming talent. Time will tell.”

Strongest 17: 1- Greg Inglis 2- Nathan Merritt 3- Matt King 4- Beau Champion 5- Andrew Everingham 6- John Sutton 7- Adam Reynolds 8- Roy Asotasi 9- Issac Luke 10- Sam Burgess 11- Chris McQueen 12- Ben Te’o 13- Michael Crocker (C) Interchange: 14- Nathan Peats 15- Jason Clark 16- Luke Burgess 17- Jeff Lima 18th Man: Ben Lowe.

Predicted Position: 2nd