NRL 2023 season preview: Rabbitohs to shine, Dolphins set for brutal initiation
Can the Dolphins defy expectations in their inaugural NRL season?
It's that time of the year when necks are put on the line and we bravely – foolishly? – attempt to predict what night unfold during the 2023 NRL season. The same rules apply – if we're right on most of these then this story will be republished in October.
If not, you can expect to see a 404 error in its place. Here are the predicted winners and losers of the 2023 season.
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Grand finalists (South Sydney v Roosters): Who doesn’t want to see a grand final between these fiercest of rivals? Okay, probably most of us, but that doesn’t mean it won't happen. Two great rosters with match-winners everywhere, coached by two blokes who know their stuff. You could touch the hatred in Sydney's eastern suburbs if these two get it on in the last game of the season.
Winner (South Sydney): The Rabbitohs will finally get the job done after nearly a decade of frustration, with one Latrell Mitchell leading them to the promised land.
Wooden spooners (Dolphins): Some of these Dolphins forwards will need Nana naps during a set of six as they attempt to defy Father Time and turn the NRL's newest franchise into instant winners. Jesse and Kenny Bromwich, Felise Kaufusi are all quality players but won’t see 30 again.
It's a long season for old legs, especially at a club lacking depth. Wayne Bennett may be a master coach but this is arguably his biggest challenge. The Dragons will flirt with 17th spot but unfortunately the Phins will mark their first season with a wooden kitchen utensil.
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Dally M winner (Cameron Munster): This is always a tricky one to pick because the best player doesn't always win it for a variety of reasons. Fullbacks, five-eighths and halfback usually dominate and for that reason we're going for a number six in Cameron Munster.
If the Storm have a good season, Munster will be the main reason. Expect Harry Grant, Mitchell Moses, Ben Hunt, Nathan Cleary and Dylan Edwards to also figure heavily.
First coach sacked (Anthony Griffin): Expect Hook to get the hook by about round eight unless the Dragons can buy him some time with a few early wins. An average roster combined with a culture one fan jokingly compared to a bikie club does not augur well for the Red V.
Messiah returns (Des Hasler): The old Manly coach is back annoying people in a sure sign he is growing increasingly fidgety as the season kicks off without him. But don’t expect him to be idle for long. Hasler will be first Uber off the rank when a coaching vacancy opens up, probably by June.
Messiah goes (Peter V'Landys): After failing to convince the powers that be he needs the 24/7 week increased to 25/8 to fit it all in, we predict PVL finally concedes he can’t be in two places at once and steps out of rugby league to fully regain the reins at Racing NSW.
Big movers (Manly): Sea Eagles fans celebrated the club's pre-season challenge win like it actually meant something, but we can forgive them their sins after a forgettable 2022 campaign. There's no doubt there's something in the air on the northern beaches and they will threaten the eight.
Big sliders (Dragons): The red and whites finished 10th last year, so given we're predicted them to finish just in front of the Dolphins after they sack Griffin by June, it's hard to ignore them for this category.
State of Origin winners (NSW): Word is Freddy Fittler spent most of the summer on his alpaca farm, trying to work out where it all went wrong last year. The alpacas couldn’t provide the answers but the NRL360 panel did – stop with the fancy stuff and just pick the right players for the job. Freddy does as told and wins his third series.
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