Thursday, 14 February 2013

Season Preview - Toyota Cup (2012)

Brisbane Broncos
2011 Review – The Broncos were one of the most inconsistent teams of 2011. Only Grand finalists North Queensland and Warriors scored more points than the Broncos, yet their patchy form saw them miss the finals by just one win. The Broncos form could be put down partly to the fact that star players Kurt Baptiste, Dane Gagai and Corey Norman all had to play in the NRL during the year and Jordan Kahu suffered a season ending knee injury in Round 2.
2012 Preview – The Broncos team has maintained a strong core group of players from the previous season, most importantly in the halves. With the experience of last year, the Broncos will be expecting a top 4 finish in 2012.

Canberra Raiders
2011 Review – Canberra would have been somewhat disappointed with their performance in 2011. Ranked 4th in attack, the Raiders finished a dismal 13th on the ladder. The Green machine scored points freely and were looking a strong finals contender mid-season, but 6 straight losses pushed them out of the race and down the ladder. The loss of Sam Williams to the NRL side was the biggest factor behind this downturn in form.
2012 Preview – The Raiders have a lot of players from 2011 returning this year. Their ability to score points is their major concern, as they will be without playmaker Williams. They have enough classy players to still score points if given quality opportunities, however their defence still has a question mark over it. They are capable of improving on 2011 and scraping into the finals.

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
2011 Review – The Bulldogs were a defensively powerful unit in 2011, thanks somewhat to being one of the few teams that avoided disruptions during the year to their pack. They strung together 7 consecutive victories during the mid-season to entrench them in the top 5, where they stayed for the rest of the season. They lost in week 1 of the finals to Cronulla, before keeping out a resurgent Melbourne team in week 2. Their dream of a Grand Final berth was obliterated when belted 64-0 by eventual premiers Warriors in the Grand Final qualifier.
2012 Preview – The Bulldogs pack has lost its star forward Dale Finucane, centre Tim Lafai and prop Sam Kasiano to the NRL side. This will have a massive impact on the teams ability to score points, so the new players will have a lot of pressure on them right from Round 1. Defensively they will still be a dominant force. They should make the finals if they gel in attack early on. Look for them to come home with a wet sail.

Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks
2011 Review – The Sharks finished third in 2011 and after showing great defence in the finals to topple the Bulldogs and the Roosters, they looked set for a spirited contest in the Grand Final qualifier against the Cowboys. The Cowboys though ran rampant, winning 38-14. The Sharks however were far from disgraced. They had a slow start, but quickly got on track via a 7 game winning streak towards the end of the season which saw them secure third place.
2012 Preview – As strong as the Sharks were in 2011, it will be a challenge for the team to better that performance in 2011. So many integral players have moved into the NRL side, most notably Chad Townsend, Tyson Frizzell, Tyrone Peachey and Stewart Mills. Their defence was also questionable at times and this coupled with their key attacking weapons moving to the NRL, it leaves the Sharks with a new squad and they may slip into the bottom half of the ladder in 2012.

Gold Coast Titans
2011 Review – The Titans struggled through 2011 to finish 14th in attack, defence and on the ladder. This was mostly due to the new squad and the loss of hooker Matt Srama to the top grade after 11 games. Their wins were sporadic and rare throughout the season, but they always managed to never be disgraced by losing by large margins.
2012 Preview – A full season of learning and experiences will see the Titans improve dramatically on 2011. They will push close to the top 8, however they may lack the strike power in defence and attack to win the close games they need to scrape into the finals.

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 
2011 Review – Debacle, that's the only way to describe it. Admittedly, Manly may have been hoping that star half Daly Cherry-Evans would play more regularly, but as it turns out, he played every NRL game, won a Premiership and became a Test player in his debut season. Given his achievements in the NRL side, it makes one wonder just how dominant the NYC team would have been with him at the scrumbase all season. Their lack of a quality replacement showed throughout the season.
2012 Preview – Manly has seen Darcy Lussick, Daniel Harrison and Tim Robinson all step up to the NRL team, leaving big shoes to fill for the incoming players. Manly will be an improved team in 2012, but whether if it's by enough to get them off the cellar floor is to be seen. But if they produce another player to have as dynamic a debut NRL season as Cherry-Evans, then the Sea-Eagles may not be too concerned.

Melbourne Storm
2011 Review – Melbourne were a consistent and tough opponent all year long, stringing together groups of wins throughout the year. They finished the season 4th and beat 5th placed Roosters in the first week of the finals, coming from behind at half time to win by a comfortable margin. They lost in week 2 to the Bulldogs after yet another spirited second half comeback, but they ran out of time and went down by 2 points.
2012 Preview – Melbourne will be one of the top teams of the competition in 2012. They had minimal losses to their very successful squad and will be a much stronger unit this time around. The loss of the brilliant and elusive Dane Chisholm to the Tigers, Kenneath Bromwich and Mahe Fonua to the NRL squad will be sorely missed, but will not cause too much disruption to the squad.

Newcastle Knights
2011 Review – The Knights NYC team, only just squeezed into the top 8 in 2011, before being belted 54-6 by the eventual premiers, Warriors. The loss of half Ryan Stig mid-season to the NRL side hampered the Knights in attack, but they managed to regroup enough to make it to the finals.
2012 Preview – With a relatively strong backline, the Knights could be a more potent attacking machine in 2012. If they can work on their defence a bit more, they can see themselves in the top 8 again this year.

North Queensland Cowboys
2011 Review – 2011 was a two horse race for almost the entirety of the year between Warriors and the Cowboys. It was only fitting that they both played in the Grand Final. A Grand Final that had to go into extra time to find who the better team was. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, a Jordan Meads field goal after 82 minutes and 42 seconds saw them fall agonisingly short of a victory. The Cowboys weren't a team surrounded by a star player, they were a solid unit playing as a team. The fact that they continued winning after giant Jason Taumololo moved into the NRL very early in the year is evidence of this.
2012 Preview – The Cowboys will again one of the benchmark teams. Kyle Feldt will be a key player in the Cowboys backline. With the NRL team well looked after in depth in key positions, it should see the NYC team suffer minimal interruptions and a chance to go one better, literally, in 2012.

Parramatta Eels
2011 Review – The Eels were a solid defensive unit in 2012, but at times they lacked the strike power in attack when they needed it most. They finished the year just 2 wins out of the finals race and in 12th on the ladder. They had a few disruptions to their team during the year with Jacob Loko and Pat O'Hanlon most notably, moving up to NRL and back to NYC. This prevented the Eels from stringing wins together often enough to push themselves into the top 8.
2012 Preview – Parramatta's halves are going to be a year wiser and it will show. Whether it will be enough to catapault them into finals contention is another issue. Defensively, the Eels will still be strong, but their attack is still going to be a problem. They have some talented players in the three-quarter line, but they need quality service from the halves if they are to be as effective as they could be.

Penrith Panthers
2011 Review – The Panthers finished outside of the eight by just one point, yet even if they did make the finals, its not sure if they would have performed any better than the Knights did against the Warriors in Week 1. The Panthers lost strike players Blake Austin, Harry Siejka and Nafe Seluini during the year which contributed to a downfall in form.
2012 Preview – With the NRL side lacking in depth in most positions, it's expected that the void will be filled by NYC players this year which sould see the team slip down the ladder further in 2012. If they have an uninterrupted year however, they could finish eighth.

St.George-Illawarra Dragons
2011 Review – The Dragons unveiled the player of the year in Jack de Belin (Grandson of 1940's Test played Fred de Belin). He, along with Alex McKinnon, formed the best back row in the competition in 2011. However they were eventually called up to the NRL side, which had a devastating effect on the teams go forward and defence in the latter half of the year. This saw the Dragons slowly drift out of finals contention.
2012 Preview – The Dragons backs are a relatively good unit, however they struggled when de Belin moved into the NRL. With a new back row raring to go from Round 1, they could be back to their best and become a genuine finals contender in 2012.
 South Sydney Rabbitohs
2011 Review – There was very little that separated Souths from a wooden spoon in 2011. They were never really in the hunt from early on in the season. They lost 6 straight games from Round 7 to Round 13 and then lost 8 straight from Round 19 to Round 26. There was one shining light, winger James Roberts (nephew of Amos Roberts) who scored 15 tries in 11 NYC games before being elevated to the NRL side.
2012 Preview – Things aren't looking much better in 2012 for the Rabbitohs. Their players will be stronger and better in 2012, but so will every other teams. The Rabbitohs lacked the x-factor required to win, or even turn the momentum, in games last year. This will be an issue for them again this season.

Sydney Roosters
2011 Review – The Roosters finished 5th at season end and were one of the strongest defensive teams for the year. Their finals campaign wasn't the best as they bowed out in straight sets, losing 26-10 to Melbourne in week 1 and then 14-4 to Cronulla in week 2. These scorelines were quite a shock as the Roosters had won 11 straight games leading into the finals, including a 50-8 win over the best defensive team Bulldogs, a 44-6 win over Cronulla and a 28-14 win over Melbourne.
2012 Preview – The Roosters backline has remained virtually intact from 2011, with only some minor reshuffling to the engine room. Given their end of season form, prior to the finals, the Roosters should be a top 4 finisher in 2012. Whether they can stay focussed when the pressure increases though, that's another question.

2011 Review – The Minor Premiers lost just 4 games in a dominating season which saw them rack up big scorelines all season long, most impressively, a 64-0 whitewash of the Bulldogs in the Grand Final qualifier. The Warriors faced second placed North Queensland in the final, where the won by one point in extra time.
2012 Preview – The Warriors 2012 tilt is looking very ominous. They look likely to repeat their achievements of 2011 again this year. Their spine has remained virtually intact from last season and their forward pack still looks very menacing. Strongest bet to be premiers in 2012.

Wests Tigers
2011 Review – The Tigers were a strong defensive unit in 2011, however they have lost that brilliant attacking edge they had in years past. This saw them drop down to 7th on the ladder and on the receiving end of a 48-26 hiding in the first week of the finals to the Cowboys.
2012 Preview - They may have lost halfback of the year Jacob Miller to the NRL squad, but his replacement is likely to be Jordan Marshall, younger brother of NRL star Benji. This could be the very spark the Tigers need to reignite their attack and see them back in the title hunt once again. The loss of Matt Groat from the pack is going to be hard to overcome. The Tigers should finish in the top 6.

***This article appeared on (in 4 parts)****

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