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NRL: The big 2023 season preview

The 2023 NRL season gets underway on Thursday night and everything is pointing towards a huge campaign full of excitement.

The NRL rarely disappoints when it comes to exciting rugby league, week in, week out and over the next 27 weeks of the regular season plus finals, we will be treated to the very best that the game has to offer. There are no dead certainties heading into the season, apart from the fact it will be exciting.

Penrith have been the stand-out team over the last couple of seasons and have been the hot fancies heading in. Not so in 2023 and many believe it could be time for the Sydney Roosters to return to the top. Who else can challenge? The Rabbitohs, Storm or Cowboys?

We also have a new team in the form of the Dolphins and it will be very interesting to see how they go. So with the season about to get underway let’s take a closer look at who could shine and who is in for a tough 2023.

Roosters out to end Panthers dominance

Penrith are priced at 4.00 to make it three grand finals on the bounce and there is no doubt they will be in the mix. Once again they look to have the players and know-how to go all the way. Nathan Cleary, Jarome Luai, Dylan Edwards, Isaah Yeo, the list goes on. While coach Ivan Cleary remains on board to steer the ship.

There are one or two questions marks though. The biggest being how will they cope without two big players from last season, Api Koroisau and Viliami Kikau. They were both sorely missed in the World Club Championship loss to St Helens and it could be a huge void to fill.

Ivan Cleary has also lost his right-hand man Cameron Ciraldo, who has moved on to coach the Canterbury Bulldogs. The Sydney Roosters are seen as the team to stop them in the season ahead. The Roosters won the Premiership in both 2018 and 2019 and many believe 2023 could be their year to return to the top.

Already blessed with the likes of James Tedesco, Joseph Manu and Joseph Sua’ali’i the Bondi outfit have also snapped star hooker Brandon Smith from the Melbourne Storm. Trent Robinson is an outstanding coach and has lead the Roosters to glory already so he knows how to get the job done.

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The Tricolours will now be keeping their fingers crossed for a clean bill of health on the injury front. If they can keep everyone fit and on the field, the Roosters could be the team to stop the Panthers. They are priced at 6.00 to win the Premiership.

The Melbourne Storm can never be written off heading into a new season. Especially when coach Craig Bellamy remains at the helm and arguably the NRL’s best player, Cameron Munster, remains on the pitch.

They still have a roster packed with quality that will have them in the hunt throughout the season but there have been some big departures that could hurt them. Brandon Smith, Felise Kaufusi and the Bromwich brothers Kenny and Jesse could leave a gaping hole and it remains to be seen if the Storm can fill that void. The Storm can be backed at 8.50.

The Cowboys were one of the surprise packages of 2022 and one of the top sides of the season when finishing third on the ladder at the end of the regular season. Now it just remains to be seen if they can go on and build on that season and take the next step up in 2023. They are priced at 11.50 to win the Grand Final.

Again they have plenty of quality on the roster with the likes of Jeremiah Nanai, Reuben Cotter, Valentine Holmes and Chad Townsend among their ranks. The Rabbitohs proved there is life after Wayne Bennett and Adam Reynolds when making it all the way to the 2022 Grand Final before losing to the Panthers.

They will be out to go one better in 2023 and with the likes of Latrell Mitchell in the side anything can happen. Five-eighth Cody Walker is one of the best, while winger Alex Johnston is the NRL’s leading try-scorer. Throw in Cameron Murray and there is a lot to like about the Bunnies who are priced at 11.00.

The Sharks moved their game to another level in 2022 when finishing second on the ladder under the leadership of first-year coach Craig Fitzgibbon who made a huge difference after arriving from the Roosters. It will take some effort to progress again but they do have star players such as Nicho Hynes, Siosifa Talakai and the experienced Dale Finucane.

The top six rather than the Premiership looks more likely and they can be backed at 1.40 to play finals.

As for the wrong end of the ladder, it is no surprise that the Dolphins are the hot fancies for the wooden spoon in their inaugural NRL campaign. They are priced at 2.62 to suffer most losses. However it is by no means certain.

With Wayne Bennett as coach anything can happen and there are other teams who could struggle, including the New Zealand Warriors, Newcastle Knights and St George Illawarra Dragons. Wests Tigers and Gold Coast Titans will be expecting to pull away from the lower reaches, as will the Bulldogs who could be top-eight contenders with Ciraldo now at the helm. 

Their roster looks very strong indeed and they are priced at 2.00 to make the top eight. Manly have had a great pre-season under new coach Anthony Seibold and will be looking to play finals as will the Canberra Raiders and Brisbane Broncos. The race to make the eight is going to be fierce.

For one of them to get in, it means someone will have to drop out from last season and it will be interesting to see how Parramatta Eels go after losing a number of top players in the off-season.

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