Kick-off for the 2023 Season is not too far away!!! Who’s winning it all? Who will be the big improver? Who will be the seasons biggest disappointment?
We see the return of the Geelong Buccaneers to the senior men’s competition, after a season off. Unfortunately, we have officially lost the Melbourne University Royals for good. This brings the men’s competition back to a total of 8 clubs, with 9 teams playing off (Crusaders have 2 sides again). We will be seeing a different format with Division 1 only having 3 teams competing. They are the reigning champions the Western Crusaders, runners up Croydon Rangers and the South Eastern Predators. Division 2 will consist of the Melton Wolves, Bendigo Dragons, Warriors Gridiron, Northern Raiders and Geelong Buccaneers. The Crusaders 2nd side will be considered a development side but I think will be still competing for the DIV 2 title. The predictions will be done as if it is ONE complete competition. All teams play each other at least once. Except Cru v Cru 2.
With the Junior season currently unknown. I will only be doing a prediction for the men’s competition.
Having won the past 5 VicBowls and losing a total of just 2 games in that period. I really don’t see them failing to win a 6th championship. Again, they will go undefeated in doing so. The only loss was seeing WR Rustum Todd return to NSW to play. Other than that, they have gained players from other clubs. Everyone wants to win a championship, don’t they?
They keep pushing to be number 1, but continually fall short. They have talented players at WR in Jacob Kerin, James Cleaver and the return of James Fountain. The running game isn’t filled with bruising runners and the defense seems to allow a lot of points. QB will be interesting, with veteran journey man James Avia (Warriors and Predators) heading to the Rangers for 2023, putting pressure on 2nd year QB David Nilsson.
SOUTH EASTERN PREDATORS
The Predators have a Canadian coach and are unknown at QB, with the departure of Brad Ferguson to South Australia. They have a strong O and D line, but the pass defense has been susceptible to giving up big plays. They can score, but can they score enough to compete with the Crusaders? They proved last year they could match it with the Rangers.
A year away from football but their juniors are strong. Not sure how many under 19’s are making a move into this side. Some veterans returning and no real idea on how they will fair this season. After a completely wrong prediction 2 seasons ago. I can see them being competitive and winning the DIV 2 title.
Challenging for the DIV 2 title (If that is the case) this side will have a number of young guns mixed in with veterans who just want to go out and have a bit of fun. They will be strong on both sides of the ball. QB James Stephens could easily be QB1 of any other side in this comp. Unfortunately, he won’t see much time in the 1’s with Matthew Krul firmly in that role. He can lead this side to a few wins. They do not play against their number 1 side.
The Wolves will be the big improver in 2023. A number of ex Royals coming across, a new QB and some monsters on the O and D line. This side should get a few more wins on the board and challenge for the DIV 2 title. They are still very weak in pass defense. Something that has been an issue since they entered the league (yup, that includes me). I expect to see an MVP type season from 2nd year Defensive Lineman, Demetrix Brown #56.
It is pleasing to see the Dragons with better numbers this season. A few extra lIneman, a couple of imports and the return of DPOY Harrison Luke. Their biggest question would be at the QB position but there is no doubting they play bigger than their numbers on the sideline would show. They will be very competitive. Pulling off an upset here and there.
They are definitely in a rebuild. After being a dominant force from the mid 2000’s until around 2018. They have slowly been on the decline. This season sees more veterans moving on to other sides and different states/countries, or hanging up the boots completely. Club President and Head Coach, Luke Jackson, has a huge job ahead of him.
A changing of the guard at QB with Michael Neubauer hanging up the boots. We will see ex Predators James Phillips as QB1 this season, after a season with the Preds at WR. He’s an American, so his knowledge of the game will be valuable.
There is a very talented receiving corps with Jackson Jensen (#99) and Julian Cauchi (#5). They also have a number of rookies taking the field for the first time. I think this will be a learning year for them. They will be competitive but they might not win too many along the way.
So, what’s your prediction for 2023?