Have you ever had that feeling where something feels like it’s DRAGGING on? That’s exactly what this off season felt like. But FINALLY, we’re back! Last year, the off season was filled with rumours and news about the impending NGL season kicking off around the country and then being postponed. This year? Yeah you know what, I’m not even going to bother, we all know the joke that the NGL is. It’s like the Australian Soccer scene; all the better games and talent are in the lower leagues, like the GNSW, GV, GQ, Gridiron SA and Gridiron West. But enough of my ranting, it’s time to look towards the 2017 GNSW Season. Below is my preview of each team in the order they finished season 2016.
But enough of my ranting, it’s time to look towards the 2017 GNSW Season. Below is my preview of each team in the order they finished season 2016.
Sydney University Lions (9-1-0):
Well, the dynasty lives on. Congratulations to Coach Ogborne and the rest of the Sydney University Lions organisation for continuing their dominance over the GNSW. This now puts their unprecedented championship reign at 14 titles in a row. Last time a different team won the league was in 2002… to put that into perspective, I was 10 years old and in year 4. Now last year the Lions dominated the league, you can’t argue with that. However, they were given a huge scare in the Waratah Bowl XXXII when the Pirates came to within 1 point of winning the game. If it wasn’t for Lions DB Nick Olive picking off a pass from Pirates QB David Ward, the Lions dynasty could have ended last year. This year, predictions are that the Lions will continue their dominance. But rumours out of the Lions camp is that the veterans of the team have finally hung it up and their team looks vastly different to the championship winning side last year. Only time will tell, but I’m interested to see how they square up against their arch rivals, the Pirates, in week 4.
West Sydney Pirates (8-1-1):
In my preview of the 2016 season, I spoke about how the Pirates were long perceived as the number 2 team in the league and they were desperate to break the Lions 13-year streak. I tell you what, they came bloody close last year. Closer than I’ve ever seen any team come. The thing that helps the Pirates exceed expectations and continue to dominate is the fact that, year in year out they always have close to 40+ players suited up on their side-line. Their depth is incredible and the difference in talent from the starters to the backups is not as big as other teams. I don’t want to call it just yet so I’ll wait and see how they go in week 4. But depending on that result, I may or may not make a prediction that the Pirates will finally break the streak.
UNSW Raiders (8-2)
Led by Australian Outback OC Paul Manera, the Raiders were able to significantly improve their results from the 2015 season. Ending their 2015 campaign 5-4 and being knocked out by UTS in the quarter finals, the Raiders recruited heavily in the 2016 off season and came back a much stronger team in 2016. With the addition of import QB Lukas Vojnar, the Raiders pummelled the rest of the league and fell just short of an appearance in the Waratah Bowl. They were JUST beat by the Pirates in their semi-final game (and a contender for game of the season) and I don’t think they were happy about this at all. With the return of LB Marcos Delana from Germany, my prediction is that the Raiders will come out hungry and pissed off and who knows… maybe they can topple the Pirates this year and make the finals. They line up against the Predators in week 1 so I’ll give my season prediction for them after we play the boys from Bondi.
Sutherland Seahawks (5-1-4):
Re-entering the league in 2016, the Seahawks had a lot of ground to make up. And boy did they. Getting good wins over the Cobras, Predators, UTS, Wollongong and the Ducks, the ‘Hawks cemented a place in the Semi’s and looked to continue the dominance of their Colts team into Division 1. Unfortunately, they were knocked out by a very hot North Sydney team (see below) but they have nothing to be ashamed of. Coach Lambropolous has done an extremely good job in getting the Seahawks back into the top tier of the Division 1 comp and nothing but credit should be given to their organisation and coaching staff. After all, this is a program who helped mould eventual Atlanta Falcon Blake Muir and Green Bay Packer Sean Muir. So they definitely shouldn’t be slept on.
North Sydney Rebels (5-1-4):
I’d just like to say that I called this. I said the Rebels would be my dark horse for the 2016 season and look what happened; they were able to get their first playoff berth since their club’s inception. Well done to everyone at the Rebels organisation, this is a testament to their training, coaching and commitment. The Rebels were able to stay competitive against the eventual champions Sydney University (who thumped the North Sydney outfit in the 2015 season by 70+ points) so if this isn’t a sign of how much they have progressed, I don’t know what is. With players like Stephen Armstrong moving from the O and D line to a FB position, it looks like the Rebels were able to experiment and find out what works. I think that was only the beginning, look to see the Rebels get a few more wins this season and enter the playoffs again.
Northwestern Predators (4-1-5):
After a 3rd place finish in 2015, the Preds had a disappointing season in 2016. The loss of some key players across both the O and D caused us to drop some points against teams that we should have beat. The return of Australian RB Jack Marton helped us dominate on the ground again but as all teams, we succumbed to injuries and lack of numbers. This year, we hope to turn it around. With a strong preseason behind us and good recruitment in the off season, we hope to get back to being a competitive force that we once were.
The Ducks were another team who significantly improved compared to their performance in the 2015 season. In 2015, they ended their season 2-7. Last season, they racked up a few more wins and fell just short of a playoff spot. A lot of credit should be given to HC Glen Bowes who has moulded his team into genuine playoff contenders. The Ducks fell short of the playoffs last season as they lost to the Predators during the regular season so look to see them challenge for a playoff spot this year again.
Central Coast Sharks (4-1-5):
With the return of injured QB Jordan Nikora, the Sharks played a below than average season last year. After appearing in the playoffs for the first time in 2015, the Central Coast lads fell just short after going down to both the Nepean Ducks and Northwestern Predators to fall just outside the playoff spot. Not to say the Sharks played poorly; just go back and look at my game recap when the Preds played the Sharks. They were in it right until the end when we scored a 2-point conversion to win the game. Here’s hoping the Sharks bounce back and get right back to where they were 2 years ago.
UTS Gators (2-1-7):
UTS had a disappointing season last year. A team that usually challenges for a playoff spot, the Gators were hampered by injuries to key players (like QB Jordan Rowland) and were forced to make do with what they had. And what they had you ask? This came in the form of former Canterbury Bulldog premiership winner, and former New Zealand Rugby League rep Matt Utai. Utai has since retired from the NRL and decided to find another niche. This came in breaking the ankles of pretty much everyone in the GNSW. Utai helped the Gators stay competitive last year and with backup QB (and the best-looking man in the GNSW) Ben Loudon slinging for them, they were able to rack up 2 wins. But this by no means is a sign of their talent, they honestly should have picked up a few more W’s. Let’s wait and see what happens this year…
Wollongong Mustangs (1-1-8):
It’s a recurring trend with all the teams outside of the top 4 to have disappointing seasons. The Mustangs are included in that group. Unfortunately, they worsened their 2016 record of 3-6, going 1-1-8 this year. Their only win came in a gutsy last minute win over the Newcastle Cobras. However, this isn’t a reflection on their talent. With some great players coming out of the ‘Gong (including the now-Rebel Mitch Kirk), they have been able to keep busy in the off-season, even hosting a pre-season friendly against the UNSW Raiders (I say this cause any pre-season friendlies are a rarity in GNSW); giving 26 of their Division 1 squad some experience before the league officially kicks off. I’m not going to sit here and say the Mustangs will challenge for a playoff spot, and I’m not going to sit here and say otherwise (mostly because the Mustangs keep their camp very quiet), so let’s wait and see after their performance in Round 1 against the Rebels at home.
Newcastle Cobras (0-1-9):
The Newcastle Cobras are no more! During the 2016 off season, the Cobras committee decided to change their look and name and have gone in a new direction for the club. The Newcastle outfit will now be known, from here on out, as the Newcastle Kings. An incredibly strong name for a team who is incredibly strong in heart. The Kings went winless last season but came ever so close in their game against the Wollongong Mustangs in the tail-end of the season. If there was one team that most people from the GNSW would be rooting for to get a win, it would be the Kings. However, with another successful Hunter Bowl in 2017, the Kings will be looking forward to another influx of rookies into their expanding outfit and hope to pick up their first win in a few seasons. Choc will make a call here and say that the Kings will end the season with AT LEAST 1 W on their record. Good luck lads!
Macarthur Rampage (DNP 2016 Season):
Now the Macarthur Rampage have been included in here, even though they will not field a team in the 2017 season. Located in the south-western suburbs of Sydney, the Rampage were formed by former UTS Coach, Australian Outback Coach and 2017 NSW Wolverines Head Coach Antonio Pisconeri. Unfortunately, due to lack of commitment, the club pulled their Division 1 team from the ’17 competition. Personally, I hope the Rampage hit the ground running next year as it’ll be good to have another team to face during the season.
Games to watch each week:
- Round 1: Sydney Uni Lions vs Newcastle Kings – How will a new look Newcastle outfit fair against the defending champions?
- Round 2 – Sydney Uni Lions vs UNSW Raiders – Coach Ogborne vs Coach Manera. Battle of the coaching heavyweights
- Round 3 – Newcastle Kings vs Central Coast Sharks – The F3 Derby
- Round 4 – West Sydney Pirates vs Sydney Uni Lions – Waratah Bowl XXXII rematch
- Round 4 (trust me, you’ll have to watch both these games!) – Wollongong Mustangs vs Newcastle Kings – The Mustangs won in the dying minutes last year, how will this one play out?
- Round 5 – Central Coast Sharks vs North Sydney Rebels – Will the Sharks get revenge for being knocked out of the playoffs?
- Round 6 – Central Coast Sharks vs Northwestern Predators – Sharks lost in the dying seconds to the Preds last year… will history repeat itself?
- Round 7 – North Sydney Rebels vs Nepean Ducks – Great battle for a playoff spot between these two teams last season, will there be fireworks again?
- Round 8 – Northwestern Predators vs Wollongong Mustangs – These two didn’t play each other due to a washed out round last year, how will it end up on Mustangs turf?
- Round 9 – Sydney University Lions vs Sutherland Seahawks – Can the Hawks avenge their only blowout loss last season?
- Round 10 – Sutherland Seahawks vs Wollongong Mustangs – The F7 Derby
- Round 11 – West Sydney Pirates vs Northwestern Predators – This showcase always has fireworks every year, will there be more this year?
Predicted Ladder for 2016
HAHAHA well last season, I copped some s*it for my predicted ladder so I’ll hold off this year (trying to take a page out of your book Jamie Stafford, being all diplomatic). My predicted Waratah Bowl XXIII winner?
West Sydney Pirates