If you like your rugby action hard and fast then brace yourself for the return of the NRL, starting on March 6th. Comprising of sixteen teams from Australia and New Zealand, the NRL is highly regarded as the world’s elite rugby league championship so what better way to prepare you for the season ahead than by reminding you of the action from last season along with our predictions and a handy infographic.
In what promises to be another exciting season, just in case you are in any doubt as to the quality on show then bare this in mind – Australia are the rugby league World Champions whilst the Sydney Roosters have recently claimed the World Club Challenge title.
With the Sydney Roosters having claimed the Premiership and minor Premiership in 2013, as well as now being World Club Champions, then the pressure will be on to deliver again in 2014. Having scored the most and conceded the least through the regular season, the Roosters face a tough opening encounter in round one as they visit neighbours the South Sydney Rabbitohs who themselves finished as runners-up on the ladder in 2013. With title number thirteen achieved last year, many experts pick the Roosters to add another title this season and make history by becoming the first side to do so since the NRL league began in 1998.
Wherever there is a winner and a team at the top of their game then you will always find a side at the opposite end of the spectrum and in the NRL the Parramatta Eels have propped up the ladder for the last two seasons. Having conceded 740 points in 2013, averaging over 28 against per game, funnily enough they actually won their opening game but it all went downhill from there. Spare a thought for their loyal away following as the team didn’t even win a single match on their travels and recorded just five victories at home.
Whilst there is undoubted dominance of Australian teams in the NRL, fifteen in total, the league also compromises of a sole representative from across the Tasman Sea as the New Zealand Warriors complete the sixteen team line-up. Having finished runners-up in 2011, the Auckland based side have yet to claim an outright Premiership but could well be considered a serious contender with the arrival of Sam Tomkins (see below) from Wigan Warriors.
So what of the trophy itself which all sixteen NRL sides will be dreaming of holding aloft in October at the ANZ Stadium, Sydney. Based on an original photograph taken by John O’Gready in 1963 and aptly titled ‘The Gladiators’, the sculpture is a message of triumph, courage and sportsmanship on a muddied Sydney Cricket Ground pitch. Depicting an embrace between Norm Provan (St George) and Arthur Summons (Western Suburbs), last year the trophy was renamed the Provan-Summons Trophy as a testament to the iconic status the trophy holds in the proud history of the NRL.
For those of you who don’t know or need a quick reminder of how the NRL season plays out then it’s actually a pretty simple competition to follow. Through the course of the Premiership season, a round of fixtures is played every weekend (Friday – Monday) for 26 weeks, with teams receiving two points for a win and one for a draw. Come the end of the regular season and the top eight sides compete in the finals series, which culminates in the Grand Final from which the overall Premiership winner is determined.
Lovell Rugby’s Prediction
It’s hard to look beyond a similar outcome to last season as the Sydney Roosters aim for historic back-to-back titles. Similar to 2013, the biggest threat could well come from the South Sydney Rabbitohs whilst the Manly Sea Eagles and Melbourne Storm are also considered potential winners. With round one throwing up fixtures between the two Sydney sides and their afor mentioned rivals, then expect plenty of hard-hitting action right from the start.
Players to Look Out For
Sam Tomkins (New Zealand Warriors) – now labelled as the world’s most expensive rugby league player, fans and media eyes will be focused on the 24 year old to see if he lives up to the price tag. Having previously spent five years with his only other club Wigan, winning Super League and Challenge Cup honours, the England international arrives in New Zealand on a three year deal and hoping to make a big impression in the Southern Hemisphere.
Anthony Milford (Canberra Raiders) – the 19 year old is in his final season for the Raiders and has already signed a deal with the Broncos for 2015. With such talent on show, it remains to be seen whether he will show commitment to the cause with no doubt one eye on the lucrative move. Should Milford show the sort of play that impressed last season then Canberra could prove an outside bet for the NRL play-offs.
Dave Taylor (Gold Coast Titans) – having a nickname like the ‘coal train’ then you would expect big and powerful play from the 19st prop. With just a single Test cap to his name, Queensland captain Cameron Smith declared that the giant forward could be one of the greatest players in the game but currently lacked the maturity to make that step. A big season for Taylor then as the Titans have missed out on the finals by just two points for the last two years.
Remember to stay with Lovell Rugby throughout the NRL action as we bring you the latest rugby shirts to show your support in. We will also be offering some great prizes through our Facebook and Twitter pages, so be sure to visit them.