March 2, 2024


Funky Sport

Long-range fearless predictions for 2023 NRL season

Long-range fearless predictions for 2023 NRL season

Just as the dust settles on the 2022 NRL premiership, let’s get cracking and start talking about next season!

Will the Panthers make it three in a row? How will The Dolphins go in their inaugural season? Who is under the most pressure and who will be the superstar for their side?

I have taken the liberty of putting together my predictions for the 2023 season. Get ready for some shocks on who won’t make the top eight!

Penrith Panthers

Best case scenario: Time to build a bigger trophy cabinet!

This side is just phenomenal, with stars right across the park and still to come through. They are on track to make their fourth consecutive grand final and take out the title three years running. Nothing can get in their way….

Worst case scenario: 3rd/4th

….except themselves. Will cockiness and overconfidence be their undoing? No Viliame Kikau, no Api Koroisau, and will it finally be revealed that departing assistant coach Cameron Ciraldo was the brains behind their success all along?

Under pressure: Jarome Luai

Word has it Powderfinger’s lead singer Bernard Fanning dedicates the song ‘Passenger’ to him at their concerts. You know you have been riding on Nathan Cleary’s coattails for a while if that’s true!

Jarome Luai of the Panthers celebrates winning the NRL premiership.

Jarome Luai of the Panthers celebrates winning the NRL premiership. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Ready to rise: Mitch Kenny.

With Api over at Belmore, Kenny will step into the number nine and make it his own. Nicknamed Kamikaze, he has already shown what he can do when he starts a match, and I’m predicting a big year from him when the role is his. 

Early prediction: Runners Up

Is the old saying true? What goes up must come down?

Parramatta Eels

Best case scenario: 3rd/4th

Sorry Parra fans, I think the best for you guys in 2023 are the prelims. Which is still great, but I’m sure not what you want to hear.

Worst case scenario: 10th

Yes, they had a good year, are a great side and made the Grand Final. But they could miss the finals all together. Some big shoes to fill with Reed Mahoney and Isaiah Papali’I leaving among others, but their inconsistency could be their biggest undoing.

Under pressure: Brad Arthur

Nine years at the helm with no premiership? You can say they made the GF all you want; this guy is well and truly under the microscope.

Ready to rise: Shaun Lane

Mr Reliable is turning into a superstar and one of the best back-rowers in the game. He will step up in the absence Papali’i, maybe even earn an Origin spot.

Early prediction: 5th

Doors locked, curtains drawn, lights off, premiership window closed.

North Queensland Cowboys

Best case scenario: Premiers

The biggest surprise packet of 2022. Unlucky not to make the grand final, can go all the way in 2023.

Worst case scenario:  3rd/4th

They will make it to the premils again, but as we saw this season have the potential to let opportunity slip through their fingers.

Under pressure:  Kyle Feldt

With the Cowboys releasing The Hammer, this guy better clean up his act a bit and show why he was worth keeping.

Ready to rise:  My Mate Reece Robson

One of the best number nines in the game and I who believe should have been hooker for NSW. He will have another tremendous year and show everyone what I already know – this guy is a champion.

Reece Robson of the Cowboys (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Early prediction: Premiers.

Lock it in Eddie.

South Sydney Rabbitohs

Best case scenario: 5th/6th

Everyone thought they would crumble without Adam Reynolds, and they ended up just shy of back-to-back grand finals. They can easily make the eight but won’t go as far as 2022.

Worst case scenario:  7th/8th

When all results seem to revolve around a fullback that can be both unbelievably amazing and super lazy, success may be hard to come by.

Under pressure:  Cody Walker

His mouth keeps writing cheques that his body can’t cash. He needs to stop with the aggro and prove he can still play good footy.

Ready to rise:  Lachlan Ilias

This poor kid had so much pressure on him to take over as halfback for you know who and smashed it out of the park. Watch his confidence and ability skyrocket now.

Early prediction: 6th

It will be a good year for the Burrow, just not as good as this year.

Cronulla Sharks

Best case scenario: Runners Up

Another side that exceeded expectations this season. Both Craig Fitzgibbon and Nicho Hynes were breaths of fresh air and the side should learn from their finals campaign mistakes.

Worst case scenario:  5th/6th

But in case they don’t, they will still make the top four but bundle out in straight sets again.

Under pressure:  Nicho Hynes

How can the Dally M Player of the Year be under pressure? Because he needs to prove that it all wasn’t a big fluke, and that he is as good as we all think he is.

Nicho Hynes Dally M Winner 2022 (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

Ready to rise:  Lachlan Miller

If he can secure some time in the top grade, this speedster will make quite a name for himself.

Early prediction: 3rd

They made such an improvement from season 2021. They will have another solid year, but won’t go all the way just yet.

Canberra Raiders

Best case scenario: 3rd/4th

They showed at the backend of this season what they can do, especially their win against the Storm in the first week of the finals, and they could go one better in 2023.

Worst case scenario:  10th

They also showed at the start of the season winning only two from eight how the wheels can fall off very easily, and this could see them miss September footy.

Under pressure:  Ricky Stuart

Much like BA, Sticky has been in the hot seat for nine seasons with no trophy. And that ‘weak-gutted dog’ incident will long be in the board’s memories.

Ready to rise:  Hudson Young

Still can’t believe this guy didn’t get a rep jersey this year. One of the Green Machine’s best in 2022 and he will have an even bigger 2023.

Early prediction: 4th

I’m expecting big things from the Raiders, and they will go one better than 2022.

Melbourne Storm

Best case scenario: 5th/6th

They seem to have an endless supply of stars to jump in for departing or injured players and are one of those teams that are just so hard to write off.

Worst case scenario:  11th

I know, big call. Losing Brandon Smith, Felise Kaufusi and the Bromwich brothers will hurt, and they are still a while off from looking like real title threats again.

Under pressure:  Nelson Asofa-Solomona

Surely he can’t keep his ‘interesting’ tackling and running styles going without eventually earning a long stint on the sideline. The fans will be watching him like a hawk.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 25: Nelson Asofa-Solomona of the Storm looks on during the round seven NRL match between the Melbourne Storm and the New Zealand Warriors at AAMI Park, on April 25, 2022, in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

Nelson Asofa-Solomona. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

Ready to rise: Josh King

Has come on in leaps and bounds since leaving the Knights at the end of 2021. I’m expecting big things from this guy.

Early prediction: 10th

You read that right. I have a very bad feeling it won’t be the fairy tale finish for Craig Bellamy.

Sydney Roosters

Best case scenario: 3rd/4th

The Roosters are just one of those sides that you can never write off. A side full of superstars and one of the best coaches in the business.

Worst case scenario:  12th  

In saying that, they were a bit of a let down this season, and I can see them just as easily slipping further.

Under pressure:  Brandon Smith

Everyone is expecting big things out of their biggest recruit, and it will be interesting to see how he handles the move to Sydney and being out of the Melbourne bubble.

Ready to rise:  Joseph Suaalii

Yep, an easy one. The kid is a freak and will only get better. Will be a joy to watch again on the wing.

Early prediction: 9th

There was just something about the tricolours this year which I can’t put my finger on it, but I have them missing the finals in 2023.

Brisbane Broncos

Best case scenario: 5th/6th

We saw how good they can be, it was a massive turnaround from the previous seasons, and they were well on track to make the finals this year.

Worst case scenario:  12th

But we also saw them fall apart right in front of our eyes. And that wasn’t just because Pat Carrigan was suspended.

Under pressure:  Adam Reynolds

Not ‘his contract is in jeopardy’ pressure, but the same ‘he will fix everything’ pressure that he was under this year.

Adam Reynolds of the Broncos runs the ball.

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Ready to rise:  Ezra Mam

This guy has the potential for greatness. We saw glimmers of it this season, expect a lot more in 2023.

Early prediction: 7th

Fret not Broncos fans, I don’t think you will fall over again on the home straight. I see another mixed bag coming, but the boys should get their act together to make the finals.

St George Illawarra Dragons

Best case scenario: 8th

They are one of the most frustrating sides to watch because they can be so good one week and horrible the next. Came close to making the eight this year, and could just scrape in next year.

Worst case scenario:  13th

The side looks to Ben Hunt to do everything, and if they do that again they will miss the finals by a long way.

Under pressure:  Zac Lomax

I think 2022 was the first time Lomax realised he is not as good as his mum told him he was. Needs to keep his ego and attitude under control.

Ready to rise: Talatau Amone

This young gun will be looking to build on an impressive rookie year for the Red V.

Early prediction: 11th

Sorry Dragons fans, I think it’s another year of watching finals footy and not participating in it.

Manly Sea Eagles

Best case scenario: 12th

One lower than last season. I still can’t work out how they lost that game against the Cowboys leading by 16 with seven minutes to go.

Worst case scenario:  Last

Ha! Yeah, I know. Could you imagine? The pride jersey fiasco would look like a picnic. There is a lot of unrest at the club, so don’t rule it out.  

Under pressure:  Des Hasler

As I’m typing this I’m listening to his potential replacements being rattled off left, right and centre. If he survives the off-season and they start 2023 off poorly, he won’t make it until the end.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 26: Sea Eagles coach Des Hasler speaks to the media during a Manly Warringah Sea Eagles NRL media opportunity at 4 Pines Park on July 26, 2022 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

(Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Ready to rise:  Tommy Turbo

This might seem like a weird one, but because he missed so much footy he will be ready to put on his best season yet for his beloved Sea Eagles. Watch him come out of the gate red-hot and not slow down.

Early prediction: Last

It’s ok, I’ll wait for you to pick your jaw up off the floor.

Someone has to come last, these guys turned into an absolute basket case this season, so, I have them getting the spoon.

Canterbury Bulldogs

Best case scenario: 7th

When things clicked last year this side looked great. And when Matt Burton reunites with Kikau and Ciraldo, I only see good things happening.

Worst case scenario:  12th

They won’t finish lower than this season, but they could lose a few close matches to end up in the exact same spot.

Under pressure:  Tevita Pangai jnr

Someone who has always seemed destined for greatness but could just never quite reach it. The wrecking ball really needs to step up this year.

Ready to rise:  Jake Averillo

Found a home at fullback in the second half of the season and never looked back. Safe under the high ball and not afraid to put his body on the line.

Early prediction: 7th

Get ready Doggies fans! Finals footy is coming your way! It won’t be all the way to the Grand Final, but it’s a huge leap from previous seasons.

Gold Coast Titans

Best case scenario: 8th

In 2021 they were one bad pass from making week two of the finals. They have the potential to be a great side with players like Big Tino, Jayden Campbell and now Kieran Foran joining the ranks.  

Worst case scenario:  Last

When a player with the amount of talent like David Fifita isn’t motivated to play, it seems to spread throughout the whole side.

Under pressure:  David Fifita

I just don’t get this guy. He could be anything and seems to choose to be mediocre.

David Fifita of the Titans in action

David Fifita (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Ready to rise:  Jayden Campbell

This kid is so exciting to watch, just like his dad, and another who will be a standout if he can stay on the park.

Early prediction: 15th

I just can’t see them doing anything amazing next year. They should, but they won’t.

Newcastle Knights

Best case scenario: 10th

They were hit hard by injury in 2022 and just didn’t have the troops to get the job done. Will go a bit better if everyone is healthy.

Worst case scenario:  15th

But alas, they still have the potential to implode regardless of who is on the field.

Under pressure:  Adam O’Brien

While there are many players who played well below par like Bradman Best, The Saifiti brothers and Adam Clune, AOB will be the one under the most scrutiny if the team falls over again.

Ready to rise:  Adam Elliott

He had a sensational year at the Raiders and didn’t get to end it on his terms due to injury. A great buy for the Knights and he will thrive being in the same town as his Queen, Millie Boyle.

Early prediction: 12th

This one hurt to write, but my boys still have a long way to go to get back to the glory days.

NZ Warriors

Best case scenario: 9th

Being based back at home should bring a lot of confidence and stability to the side, and they have bought very well with the likes of Marata Niukore, Te Maire Martin, and Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad.

Worst case scenario:  Last

But as we know, the Warriors on paper never seem to match who we see on the field. Euan Aitken and Reece Walsh are big losses too.

Under pressure:  Shaun Johnson

The prodigal son returned to the Warriors and was meant to be their saviour. He was far from it, and went missing on more than one occasion.

Shaun Johnson. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Ready to rise:  Mitch Barnett

Another potentially good purchase for 2023, Barnett will be looking to put a shocking season that saw him earn the longest suspension for a horror high shot behind him and have a great year for his new club.

Early prediction: 14th

They show some promise but will still struggle for consistency. May take a little while to click under new coach Andrew Webster.

Wests Tigers

Best case scenario: Ninth, a familiar position

They have the potential to be a much better side than what we witnessed this season, especially with everyone fit. Koroisau and Papali’i are brilliant buys, and the Sheens/Benji/Farah coaching combo could prove magical.

Worst case scenario: Last

It could also crumble into a big heap. A lot needs to be done in the off-season to avoid another disaster.  

Under pressure:  Luke Brooks

Yep, it’s an obvious one, and I don’t like writing it. But the Tigers keep saying they fully support him being their halfback – he really needs to produce the goods.

Ready to rise:  Daine Laurie

If he can stay fit and healthy, young Laurie could be one of the Tigers’ best again next season.

Early prediction: 13th

Better than last year but it will take a few more seasons to climb higher up the ladder.

Redcliffe Dolphins

Best case scenario: Tenth

This is a tough one to predict. They have some good players, and they will have some wins, but I don’t think they will have a debut season like the Storm in 1998.

Worst case scenario:  Last

Again, shrugging my shoulders here. We just have no idea how everyone is going to gel in the first year.

Under pressure: The whole club

Can’t really pinpoint just one, it will be interesting to see it all come together.

Ready to rise:  Sean O’Sullivan

Out from behind the Nathan Cleary shadows and ready to shine, O’Sullivan will thrive in a regular number seven jersey

Early prediction: 16th

This one is just a shot in the dark. Knowing Wayne Bennett they will probably win the comp.