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NRL 2012 - Outrights


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3pts Newcastle Knights to win the 2012 NRL Premiership @ 9.35 (Pinnacle) Newcastle have been in the news for a while now being talked up for this season, and I think it is all completely warranted. Not only have they recruited Wayne Bennett, but they have also made a number of astute signings in the playing ranks as well. Kade Snowden, Adam Cuthbertson and Danny Bederus will make their pack far more intimidating, and will be the keys to their winning a lot of their games this season. Add to that Darius Boyd and Timana Tahu, who are both experienced players in their back line, and there appears to be very few weaknesses in their side. Even the bench looks really strong. The only weakness I can see with the team is the halves pairing of Mullen and Gidley. Gidley will need to play well, and I fully expect him to do that. While I have never been a fan of Gidley at a representative level, he certainly is a valuable asset to any side at club level, with his versatility and skill allowing him to cover several positions if need be. Wayne Bennett is known for turning previously 'average' First Grade footballers into superstars. We all saw it when he coached the Dragons. An example that comes to mind is Michael Weyman. Weyman played for Canberra before Bennett got him to the Dragons in his first year there, and he went from being an error-prone prop who played relatively few minutes to a State of Origin enforcer seemingly within the space of one off-season! This Knights roster is full of quality and in my opinion, Bennett will only make them even better. I can't see them failing to make the top 4. This leads me onto my next point. With the new finals system in place (similar to that of the AFL), top 4 is far more important, as all the top 4 teams will be guaranteed a second chance in the finals. This is in comparison to previous seasons where only the top 2 would have that guaranteed safety net. This system really makes it even harder to win from outside the top 4, and teams like the Warriors, who tend to struggle their way into the top 8 before exploding during the finals might find it harder to find the success they have had in recent years. Consistent teams, such as the ones Wayne Bennett is notorious for creating, will surely benefit from this change. I also believe that many of the other teams considered as real challengers have had negative changes throughout the off-season, with the exception of the Tigers. Manly have lost their star coach, who has brought them so much success over the past 5 or so years. Melbourne have finally got a squad that looks rather thin in certain places (despite still having a world-class spine). Brisbane have lost their talismanic captain, Darren Lockyer and it is yet to be seen how they will react to that, and as I mentioned above, the Warriors are generally far too erratic during the regular season to flll me with any confidence that they will finish in a top 4 spot. Newcastle on the other hand seem to have nothing but positive news, with star signings and big expectations of support as a result. I expect a big season for the novacastrians.

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