ABC Grandstand expert and former NRL coach Daniel Anderson will dissect all the issues that matter in rugby league on NRL.com this season.
We waited for months for it to start and it did not disappoint. I cannot remember a more anticipated season and the reasons are all along the spectrum. Here’s a couple:
The 2012 NRL competition will see seven new coaches at clubs. A new coach gives rise to new hope for fans of teams that missed the play-offs and new concerns for fans of those hoping to stay in the play-offs.
The noisiest move was Des Hasler, a two-time premiership-winning coach with Manly being sacked a few days after holding aloft the Telstra Premiership trophy, joining the Canterbury Bulldogs. I know a few Bulldogs fans (as we all do), and they are adamant that Des will hold another premiership trophy in the next three years.
His replacement is Geoff Toovey, a Manly legend in his own right and long-time assistant, but still many will write them off because Des is gone.
Wayne Bennett leaving St George Illawarra for the Nathan Tinkler-backed Newcastle Knights has seen expectations for the Knights skyrocket, even though they have participated in only two play-off games (and lost both) in five years. What seems strange is the team that Wayne Bennett left after three straight seasons in the play-offs and a premiership ring on their finger is expected to fall apart because he has left the building.
Steve Price (not the ex-Bulldogs/Warriors player) has worked his way through the grades over many years as a coach but perceptions are that he could not possibly get this team to rise again. Hope rides with the Penrith Panthers (Ivan Cleary), South Sydney Rabbitohs (Michael Maguire) as well as the Bulldogs and Newcastle. Concerns are with Manly and the Dragons, while there's a little bit of each with the New Zealand Warriors and their new mentor Bluey McClennan.
Players switching clubs
When your club is languishing below the plimsoll line for September football and they announce a ‘big name signing’ for future years, you conveniently forget the current woes, write off the current season and wish the new year would start.
Chris Sandow is carrying the most weight, being the 28th halfback to be named in the Parramatta Eels no.7 jersey since club legend Peter Sterling retired. Confidently, everyone looking in expects the jersey to fit as snuggly as the ‘Johnny Bravo’ jacket fitted Greg Brady and for Sandow to lift the team where it has not been for nearly 30 years.
And Sandow's not the only big-name move this season.
Darius Boyd played under Wayne Bennett at the Brisbane Broncos and they won the comp. Darius Boyd played under Wayne Bennett at the St George Illawarra Dragons and they won the comp. Darius Boyd played under Wayne Bennett at the Newcastle Knights and they …
Jamal Idris has many monikers but my favourite is “the biggest human being”. I encourage rugby league commentators’ use of embellishment but with crowds normally linked with success, the Gold Coast Titans needed another way to sell jerseys, get turnstiles clicking, engage the community and attract attention. So why not use the “biggest human being” as your poster boy?