You know that the season opener is just a few sleeps away when The Cumberland Throw publishes its annual instalment of “The Crystal Ball”.
It’s the one time of the year when you’ll find the opinion of all contributors in the same post.
Just like previous years, we offer our bold predictions for the Top 8 (in order) and the wooden spoon. We also nominate a bolter (a team we think will go better than most expect) and a falter (a team we think will go worse than most expect).
Season 2023 is about to commence, so get set for another wild ride.
Arrogant, obnoxious, bad winners. I despise their behaviour and that of their fans. But they are some sort of footy team.
Parra will again threaten for the title and will narrow the gap. Hodgo and Hoppo are game changing recruits. That window remains open.
There are limitations in their attack, but they are one of the most consistently competitive teams in the NRL and have a blessed draw. They’ll go top 4 off that.
I’m not sold on my own judgement here. But, a quality coach and sound defensive systems place them ahead of many other teams.
Got under everyone’s guard in 2023, bu that won’t happen in 2023.
Massive home ground advantage, which will get them more than half of their wins.
Slipping’ and a slidin’, Peepin’ and a hidin’… Won’t be your fool no more. The coach is top notch but ready to retire. The roster isn’t as strong. Will just make the 8.
Shoosh – don’t tell anyone that I rate their chances. They’ve got a couple of blokes that can play. Manly needed change. Moving Des on was big.
I can feel the bile rising as I type this. They’ve got flaws but those teams not yet listed are worse off. I want to be wrong people, I really do.
Manly will improve. Schuster is a talent and now looks fit. Haumole Olakau’atu is a weapon, Turbo if fit is a freak. DCE is due. Throw in pace and some rising stars.
Souths are a team that I’ve been death riding for too many years – damn that left edge. Certain players are getting a bit old in the tooth.
The Dragons will compete with the Knights and Dolphins for this honour and “win”. The culture seems diabolical. The whispers about those wanting out are a good barometer of their prospects.
In my opinion the only team in the comp other than the Dogs and the Tigers whose roster has improved from 2022 to 2023. In my less than stellar opinion, the Sydney Roosters will win the comp if they are healthy come September.
I know a lot of you have torpedoed the chances of a certain western Sydney powerhouse after losing both their starting hooker AND damaging second rower this offseason, but I still think Penrith will go ok without Api and Kikau in 2023.
My only hope for their downfall are the ever-growing ages of Cody Walker and Damien Cook.
Shout out to my good friend, Jimmy. I really dislike your team.
A soft draw probably oversold their impact in 2022, but I think a similar result on the ladder this season will indicate a huge step up for Nicho and the rest of those pretty boys from the Shire.
As an aside, now the Tigers have made a much needed update, the Sharks now have the worst logo in the NRL.
The early season injuries are making me nervous. Thankfully the injury bug is yet to bite the porcelain knees of Joshua Hodgson. Regardless, the acquisition of J’Maine Hopgood from the Penrith Panthers is absolute robbery. It’s almost criminal he wasn’t a mainstay feature of their NRL side, even if it was off the bench.
Every time the Storm come up, I feel I am failing my duty as an Eels fan – I just never found a reason to hate them like my Eels membership requires me to. The myth that every player that Craig Bellamy touches turns to gold still needs to be shut down, but Elisea Katoa will flourish in the fertile soil of AAMI Park.
Jason Taumalolo remains a juggernaut and Val Holmes is the most impactful centre in the NRL. With that said, they were remarkably fortunate to unearth both Jeremiah Nanai and Rueben Cotter in one season. Now I think about it, I bet they’re all still filthy up north about that Mitch Moses forward pass.
This could be Manly or the Dogs, but I’m going the Raiders because if it wasn’t for Ricky Stuart, I really feel like I could get around them. They also have maybe the easiest draw in the history of the NRL, their away jersey looks surprisingly slick.
Thought for the day: Despite already having both a Top 30 and players on their cap, the Bulldogs have had a significantly better recruitment drive than the clean slate Dolphins.
The Dragons are an absolute basketcase and I am very much here for it. Bet the person who writes their player misbehaviour statements wishes they were getting paid by the word.
Up the Phins. This unwanted piece of cutlery was secured for the NRL’s newest team somewhere between their decision to make themselves invisible on a map and their refusal to make #EEE their official team hashtag.
Yeah they lost genuine quality in Api Koroisau and Viliame Kikau but the Panthers honestly own this spot until someone else can prove otherwise. They finished a full two wins clear of the pack in 2022 and showed they have the drive to win consecutive titles. The benchmark.
The rise of Lachlan Illias keeps them firmly entrenched in the upper bracket of the ladder. A solid pack is balanced by a dynamic backline and an explosive, if mercurial at times, spine. The fact they remain Parramatta’s kryptonite keeps them above the Eels as it stands.
Despite all the paper talk about windows closing and player retention the Eels keep on keeping on with another Top 4 finish in 2023. Their free agent class might lack a superstar pickup but it is ripe for value with Josh Hodgson, J’maine Hopgood and Jack Murchie among quality recruits who will make a difference.
The massive overachievers of 2022. Todd Payten did a tremendous job whipping the Cowboys into shape – quite literally. Their superior conditioning carried them to plenty of wins last year and while the sceptics could be justified in waiting to see if last year was an outlier I will back them to compete strongly again.
Craig Fitzgibbon and Nicho Hynes did wonders for the Sharks last year and they very much will be in the hunt for a high finish in a heavily contested top end of the ladder. Very solid team but we still aren’t sure if they have an extra gear in the finals.
Am I harsh marker? Perhaps. The Tri-Colours could as easily be minor premiers as 6th place given their star studded roster but they have been treading water in the premiership race over the last two seasons. Injuries were a fair excuse in 2021 but they lacked the hunger last year.
Say it often enough and eventually you will be right I guess? For all those who who insisted annually that [current year] is when the Storm will slide, 2022 marked the first year they finished outside of the Top 4 since 2014. An exodus of aging but experienced forwards compounded by a bizarelly long rehabiltation prcoess for star fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen leaves them to consecutive finishes outside the Top 4.
It isn’t quite King of Shit Mountain but I have the Broncos winning the final spot inside the Top 8 this year. A host of teams are viable contenders here from the Raiders to the Sea Eagles, Bulldogs and perhaps more but it is hard to see any of them putting a dent into the contenders above.
I will run against the grain here and tip 2023 to be a season without any real bolters. The emergence of the Cowboys and Sharks helped consolidate a more defined upper bracket in the premiership race. While teams in the chasing pack have made some splashy signings there is are mountains of evidence they each need to overcome to prove they can hang with the proven contenders.
The St George Illawarra Dragons somehow finished 10th in 2022 but…
The Dragons are a trainwreck and honestly deserve the spoon given they are careening from one off-field drama to the next. All that before you even consider they simply aren’t a very good team. They get the top billing as the biggest sliders and the spooners as a result.
They are a red hot team, playing with an NFL salary cap. I have them in the Betr special.
Will miss some players but are still as solid as
But I hate them and their supporters more than I can rationally explain
I actually hate them even more than Rabbits but I have learned about the folly of death riding them for the last 20 years
I’m worried about them being undermanned at the start of the season, but they will make CommBank Stadium a fortress again
By virtue of the easiest draw by far
Nicho is good, the forward pack solid, they like playing at home, but depth in the backs is an issue
They would be minor premiers if points were awarded for off field dramas
I hope that the Warriors do better and fall into this category but I actually have no idea how they would or could
The Dragons are the biggest joke. That is all.
The Dolphins could even make a run for QLD Cup wooden spooners
My pick might surprise some but Penrith are an outstanding team with strong depth. Not even I can deny that.
It promises to be an exciting and somewhat unpredictable year for our team. The key players remain and I will back our coaches to develop the talent found in our new and young players
The Rabbits could finish first or finish outside the eight, but any team with that much strike power must be considered a genuine threat.
I can find reasons why the Storm will finally fall and stop being a powerhouse but until that happens I won’t make the mistake of predicting their demise.
Once we see what Brandon Smith they get it will tell plenty about the Chooks. That said, they are too well coached and have too many true superstars to dismiss.
That home ground advantage should hold the Cowboys in good stead. How their young players back up such a massive break out year is the unknown.
Without being disrespectful I expect much the same from the Sharks as last year. The draw almost guarantees them a top 8 but that won’t help come the big finals games.
Give the Raiders the same draw as the top teams and they miss the 8 easily. If they can’t make the 8 with the draw they have they need to blow it up and start again.
The Bulldogs have a tough draw and questionable depth but with luck around injuries they will improve.
Everyone expects the Sea Eagles to improve dramatically but I think they may miss Foran a lot. I reckon they are one argument away from the fractures reopening in the squad.
Tigers/ Dragons/ Dolphins Flip a coin. I will go with the Dragons as I feel out of the three they will be the club dealing with the greatest pressure on their coach.
It wouldn’t surprise me if the Todd Payten magic isn’t as bewitching this season, but the Cowboys look strong across the park and have another friendly draw. Will they win it all? I’m not convinced, but they’ll be regular season champions.
Key player losses and coaches across the NRL mimicking their aggressive defensive style will blunt some of the Panthers’ effectiveness, but they were so far ahead last year that they’ll jump favourites even off the handicap. More beatable, but still the benchmark.
The monkey’s paw that grants them any player they choose to pursue may come with an injury curse for the ages, but the Roosters will be there or abouts at the business end and that’s all they will need. They’ll be fearsome come September.
The leadership of Josh Hodgson feels like the missing piece of the puzzle for Parramatta, let’s just hope other player losses and an injury bug biting early don’t toss a few other pieces under the lounge. I’m feeling good about our chances.
With few player movements and an ageless spine pairing of Walker and Cook, it won’t take much going right for the Rabbitohs to be there at the business end once more. At least we only play them once this year.
Whoever makes the NRL draw clearly doesn’t believe in regression to the mean, as the Sharks were also blessed with another friendly schedule. I’m backing that clubs figure out Nico Hynes a bit and the “good but not great” nature of the remaining members of the spine sees them fall just a touch.
Rumour has it the impending recession is being led by punters doing their dough once again writing off the Melbourne Storm. The pack still holds plenty of strike despite losing four starters, which shouldn’t be possible, and the elite spine will win plenty of games regardless of middle performance.
This spot could go to any of eight teams, but I’m going with the one that raises the fewest red flags for me. A soft draw and room for improvement by having a halfback for a whole season is enough for me. I don’t believe in the Raiders a whole lot, but believing in Ricky is better than believing in Seibold, Walters, Gus or the Tigers.
The Gold Coast Titans have recruited well in terms of massive upgrades in important positions of need. If David Fifita plays like he cares, Tino keeps improving and those new backs are as good long term as they looked in the pre-season, the Titans will cause some upsets.
The St George-Illawarra Dragons have been good in recent years at winning the games they should and being there or abouts at the business end. That first part might remain true in 2023, but the “games they should win” will be few and far between as everybody else stepped up and the Dragons, well, did not.
The “player whisperer” Wayne Bennett is going to need a megaphone to get through to some of his ragtag The Dolphins roster, which combines the least impressive spine in the NRL with the worst backline and oldest forward pack. They might compete for a while, but the talent gap here is too much to overcome.
Cook, Murray, Walker, Mitchell, try. It’s so predictable, yet so hard to stop. Souths are my pick for the minor premiership this year. With a starting 13 that’s played plenty of footy together, they will be hard for most teams to stop.
Coming off a second-place regular season finish and entering 2023 with one of the least disrupted rosters, a favourable draw will see the Sharks pick up where they left off. Hynes will continue to make things look effortless.
The back-to-back premiers might find the early-going tough following the departures of key attacking threats – and no one will feel this more than Jarome Luai. They’ll steady themselves though and come home with a wet sail and will be right amongst it again come finals time.
Despite the external forces claiming otherwise, the protagonists maintain the key elements that led them all the way to the 2022 Grand Final.The good guys have always been a sum-of-their-parts team, and those sums still remain. There’ll be some changes and we will ultimately fit anywhere between 3rd-6th, but with a bit of finals luck, there’s no reason we can’t position ourselves to go one better than last year (we hope!)
A lot of noise is being made about the Roosters premiership credentials for 2023, and they’ll be a strong side. However, I like to believe I’m an ever-evolving, ever-growing being – and the Roosters pulled this trick on me last year (see 2022 predictions). They have some of the games best game-breakers, but their spine isn’t as fluid or in-sync as the teams above them. They’ll be better than most, but not all.
Like the Sharks, they surprised many with their 2022 performances to finish 3rd – and like the Sharks they have a largely unchanged roster. Their draw, however, is a little more challenging and they won’t have the element of surprise this year. They’ll still do well, but teams will be aiming up for them.
Further departures, especially in the forwards, brings the Storm back a little further in 2023. They maintain one of the games best spines, but a lot will depend on the regular fitness and availability of their first 13 – particularly their middles. If they play most games, they’ll likely finish higher than this prediction, but the spine can only play behind a good forward foundation, and that foundation isn’t what it used to be.
The Raiders round out the 8, but I honestly could have put any one of three other teams here. Their favourable draw and years of footy together is what swayed me to include them, but there’ll be plenty of teams knocking down the door for the bottom part of the 8.
One of the teams in the logger-jam for 8th – 12th the Tigers have recruited well, and Tim Sheens is a quality coach. Api Koroisau could be the buy of the season and with a forward pack boasting the likes of Klemmer, Papali’I and Bateman, Brooks will finally have that foundation and differing points of attack that frees him up. History suggests that 1-2 teams drop out of the 8 from the previous year, and if that trend continues, don’t be surprised if the reigning spoon holders take that spot from them.
They’ve brought the old boys back into the fold, Ponga has made the shift to 5/8 -and that may well galvanise them. However, Newcastle just don’t seem to have much spirit about them these days. I fear Adam O’Brien is on borrowed time.
Something is rotten at the Dragons right now, and although they may claim coincidence or a series of unfortunate events, it indirectly communicates that there are leadership and accountability challenges present. A well-oiled machine asks and expects more than what the Dragons have delivered on and off the field the past 12-months, and without a turnaround, this result almost feels fait accompli.
Will anybody go remotely close to tipping the top 8? Close maybe, but definitely not in order.
But you can put the TCT crew to shame. All it takes is for you to have a crack at your top 8 in the reply space.
You’ll win nothing but the satisfaction of knowing your footy IQ ranks above ours.
Go you Eels!
The Cumberland Throw.
If you liked this article, you might consider supporting The Cumberland Throw.
I tipped them but no Bulldogs will make me happy
Interesting, tks team. I thought the signing of Bateman was the key to the Tigers being a real nuisance in 2023.He came from the clouds and lifted the Raiders, then disappeared and so did the Raiders. His manic energy might be enough to galvanise a pack that reads OK on paper, plus Api K won’t lose his craft in a new jumper.
They’ll finish 9th.
Great stuff guys, can’t wait for the season to get started. I think we will take a bit of time to settle into the season and click into gear, but will be in the mix at the end of the season, with a squad that can definitely take home the chocolates. I think the Chooks have a better roster than the team will play. I think Tedesco gets in the way as much as he helps (as funny as that might sound). Tigers and Dogs can both make the 8, the Tigers maybe more likely given the Dogs have a… Read more »
Mick, I just can’t tip the Tigers. It’s the coaching set up that the media love but I don’t.
If the Eels can be as good a The Cumberland Throw Team then 2023 will be a top shelf year. Love these insights from each TCT team member. “That window remains open.” “The early season injuries are making me nervous.” “Despite all the paper talk about windows closing and player retention the Eels keep on keeping on with another Top 4 finish in 2023.” “…but they will make CommBank Stadium a fortress again.” “The key players remain and I will back our coaches to develop the talent.“ “The leadership of Josh Hodgson feels like the missing piece of the puzzle… Read more »
Hi mate. Keen to see your top 8
Bunbuns Rorters Panthers Eels Cowboys Sharkies Storm Sea Beagles Interesting year as most of the top teams have some significant line up changes. The Bunnies worry me as do the Chooks as competition for the comp. Both teams are very strong. Panthers and Parra will be there as well. Out of the eight, the Doggies could get up but still a few players short of a great side. Depending on Ricky the Raiders could also just make the eight or miss out. The Knights, Dragons and Tigers are basket cases for varying reasons and that does not bode well. Titans… Read more »
When you need an easy run to obtain 16th position – classic!
The Dolphins will have reached a high! I’m always wary of a team imploding that no-one expects too (ahem 2018) but the Dragons seem to be really is a bad shape. Hook won’t last and the players seems divided.
Interesting picks guys, this is my prediction and small reasons why Roosters- I think there best squad is the best in the competition teddy, keary, walker, smith with manu sualii radley is a weapon side Sharks- there coach the dally m winner and there draw enuf said Parra- we lost some quality players but we gained some experience in hodgo and some hard workers in Hopgood and doorey I think if we can go to the next level in defence and consistency I think the class of Moses brown gutho lane will still flourish South’s- I’d have these guys higher… Read more »
Hard to argue with your logic Brodie.
I have divided the teams into top eight, average and bad. Bad. Knights. Dolphins. Saints. Warriors. Average. Broncos. Raiders. Tigers. Bulldogs. Too eight but not necessarily in finishing order. Roosters. Souths. Panthers. Eels. Cowboys. Storm. Sea Eagles. Sharks. Minor premiers Roosters. Top four. Roosters. Eels. Souths. Panthers. Second top four Manly. Cowboys. Sharks. Storm. Bolters. Manly. Spoon. Knights. Can’t coach – can’t play. The spine will be the deciding factor with the top eight. There are a few good spines out there. Defence yes but do not overlook goal kicking as the difference between winning and losing. Parra will again… Read more »
1. Parra – Undefeated.
The rest can fight it out for 2nd to 13th spots.
I’m going all in!
With the massive amount of assistance that the Roosters get every single year, it’s just amazing that they don’t win the competition, time and time again. From Golf games to car washes to property deals and financial advice, it’s a wonder they ever miss out on a target. They lost last year due to a horrendous injury toll. This year, they will probably have all back on deck. The Panthers are an absolute marvel. One leaves and there are clones ready to take his place. It’s for this reason the top two will be interchangeable between the Roosters and the… Read more »
like me, you think Manly can get there. Hope you feel as upset as I did in tipping them.
Yes good blog; I don’t think there will be much change from the 8; maybe Canberra will not make the 8 and I also think Cronulla may also miss out – yes they could. Second yr syndrome.
Titans may improve but their defence is avg but I too think Manly will be better; and don’t care abt the rest tbh.
Saints for Spoon.
Wests and Knights to be a falter;
Geez Milo, If Wests and Knights fall any lower they’ll be playing Ron Massey Cup
Yeah nice blog,
17.St. George Illawarra
I should have stuck to my guns and left the Dogs out of my 8 too. They are still short of a couple of spine players.
For me South’s, sharks and Cowboys will be at the same strength as last year and it will take a big effort by their coaches to repeat last year’s form. Manly will also be in a similar position roster wise but presumably will have Tommy Turbo for the full season. The bottom of the table in no particular order will be Dolphins, Knights, Dragons and Warriors. Fighting for a spot in the eight will be Dogs, Tigers, Brisbane, Titans and Canberra. My picks for the top four will come from Penrith, Eels, Roosters,Bunnies, Cowboys, Sharks Storm and Manly in that… Read more »
It’s interesting that you’ve thrown the Warriors into the battle for the bottom four spots. I have the feeling that playing at home will provide a huge fillip for their season.
I hope you are correct Sixties. The NRL is a better competition with a competitive Warriors.
They used to be a scary proposition at home. That is a while ago now.
I reckon they’ll finish somewhere in the 10-12th ladder spot.
6. Sea Eagles
Raiders in by default? Fortunate draw and other teams not up to being in finals?
Great read and always a great topic for discussion. Depending on injuries, the easy draw that some clubs got over others (don’t mention salary cap) etc.
It’s always anyone’s guess lol.
My guess is as follows;
Roosters I mean Suallii, Manu, Tedesco, Keary, JWH, Lodge, Radley, Smith, Crichton….All on unders?
Knights Dragons and Dolphins bottom 3.
Cheers Pete. And the Roosters seem in the box seat for Lenui after securing Young. If they get Young for this season, man will they be tough to beat. It’s got to the stage where we need transparency on contract deals there.
You’re brave tipping the Titans to play finals footy 😁
It’s clear that players go to the Roosters due to the extraordinary amount of financial assistance that those connections give them. whilst it’s always 17 on 17, it’s not a level playing field. Who could blame a player taking those riches offered? If you have a desire to continue in the media either whilst playing or post football, you aren’t going to play for the lesser teams, when the Roosters come calling. When Brandon Smith went to market and the media stating that the Roosters were interested, it was all over, same with Suuali, Young and now young Spenser. In… Read more »
That’s a blunt but accurate assessment Spark.
I agree if all teams could do what Roosters do then fine. But because only one club (in NSW) is able to do it. It is not a fair system. The TPA system is just corruption by another name.
Yes, brave putting Titans at 8 lol.
The only way you can police it is to get rid of third party deals and have a seperate body value the worth of every player and appropriate that against the salary cap. It would do wonders for the game and suddenly there would be a chance for every team, every year to be in the mix to win the premiership. it’s just a pipe dream though – never happen. At the moment we are becoming more and more like English soccer. There will be outliers every now and then but in the next 20 years, 99% of the premierships… Read more »
Id wipe third party deals in a heart beat, but as you say it’s a pipe dream. Players will always fight for the right to be able to earn beyond their salary. There are privately owned clubs and rich benefactors. It’s a recipe for the current landscape.
I agree. It basically condones titles being won by club connections. Now it doesn’t happen every year, and it is probably a natural consequence of professional sport. It doesn’t mean that it’s right.
Third Party Payments are as unfair as it gets. Imagine being a Gold Coast or a Tigers fan, and competing for the signature of one gun player against Nick Politis. Basically, the teams with less Third Party connections get whomever Nick Politis doesn’t bother with. It sustains that winning culture and the powerful teams have sealed it shut for the weaker teams. It is the worst and the most gutwrenching thing about our game. GO THE EELS
And to make matters worse, it won’t change. Those powerful board members of the clubs mentioned, well and truly have the NRL by the short and curlys. If they tried to clamp down and somehow erode the influence of third party deals thereby making it a level playing field, those business people would just rip the bottom out of the game. Massive money to be made by those connections and the game of league is just a distraction for them. How do you combat this ? You can’t. The very best thing that the Eels could do is attract a… Read more »