NRL Season Preview: Dragons

INS:  Nene Macdonald (Titans), Cameron McInnes (Rabbitohs), Josh Kerr (Storm), Paul Vaughan (Raiders)

OUTS: Mike Cooper (Warrington), Ben Creagh (Retired), Adam Quinlan (not re-signed), Benji Marshall (Broncos), Mitch Rein (Panthers), Dylan Farrell (Retired), Tom Carr (Bulldogs)

The headline for 2017- “There’s Something About Mary”

On the surface, the Dragons enter 2017 with a squad almost exactly as talented as they were in 2016. That won’t be great news for Dragons fans who really suffered at times last season watching their side splutter around the field failing to show any real attacking flair. With halfback Ben Hunt already signed for 2018, we can expect a spending spree for the Red V, and to land the biggest names they will need a big coach. If he doesn’t win big and early, expect Paul MacGregor’s job to be on the line.

Team Preview

Let’s be honest, the 2016 Dragons were close to the worst attacking unit in the league. A side with the likes of Josh Dugan, Jason Nightingale, Gareth Widdop and Benji Marshall struggled to string passes together at times, let alone score tries.

The good news for Dragons fans is that Ben Hunt should solve many of those issues. The bad news is they will have to suffer through this season before he arrives. And it might be a very painful season at that.

Former Raider Paul Vaughan headlines a list of signings which are actually quite good and potentially very underrated. Vaughan is a potential Origin standard player, Nene Macdonald is a walk-up starter, and Cameron McInnes has the potential to cement a first grade position. They all look quite shrewd and fill out many positions nicely.

But there’s just something about the Dragons. Despite looking like a handy side man-for-man, the club has just seemed a little off since the departure of Wayne Bennett. The just don’t seem to click as a unit and seem to be a team of misfits who have been rejected from their previous clubs. They are all talented, but why are they here?

This won’t be helped by the fact someone will be keeping the number seven jumper warm for the season until the arrival of Hunt. The job is likely to be handed to veteran Josh McCrone, who can fill the role, but isn’t a game breaker.

The Early Crow's Prediction: 15th

A major restructure in how they play aside, there doesn’t look a lot of improvement in the Dragons for 2017. There’s every chance they will provide some nuisance value throughout the season, but you can’t help but feel the eyes are more on next season.

Current Odds: $21

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NRL Season Preview: Souths

INS:  Tyrell Fuimaono (Eels), Robert Jennings (Panthers), Braidon Burns (Panthers), Connor Tracey (Sharks), Robbie Rochow (Knights), Robbie Farah (Tigers), Luke Kelly (Eels)

OUTS: Luke Keary (Roosters), Joe Burgess (Wigan), Nathan Brown (Eels), Cameron McInnes (Dragons), Michael Oldfield (Panthers)

The headline for 2017- “Robbie Farah”

He almost can’t help himself, so much so you can guarantee that Robbie will once again be on the back page at least once during the season. The odds of the Rabbits driving deep into September are next to zero this season, and inevitably that will mean fans and the media will go looking for answers. Farah – who may not even win the starting hooker role – will be the likely scapegoat. And we all know how well he handled that last time.

Team Preview

It feels weird to say it, but a team with the likes of Adam Reynolds, Greg Inglis and Sam Burgess just doesn’t look up to the task this season. After bursting out of the gates to start 2016, Souths looked like a side uninterested in playing for their coach for most of last season. You have to wonder how much of an impact the loss of Luke Keary was due to player-coach tension, and whether his departure will ease it in any way.

Robbie Farah headlines the signings for this season which also include the talented Robbie Rochow. However, you have to wonder why both were so easily let go by their previous clubs, and whether Farah is the right type of player which looks in turmoil from the outside.

Farah will lead one of the better packs in the competition which includes Sam Burgess. The former Clive Churchill medallist should only be better for his return to rugby league last season and should be back to his destructive best.

The backs also look quite good on paper, with Reynolds and Inglis obvious stars joined by more than capable deputies across the park. Last year’s breakout player Cody Walker looks set to replace Luke Keary in the halves, although new signing Luke Kelly is also first grade standard if coach McGuire decides to shuffle the decks around Inglis once again. 

The Early Crow's Prediction: 13th

Souths have the potential to be the big improvers of 2017 given their roster, but it’s more likely they will hover around the bottom of the eight. Robbie Farah’s signing potentially plugs the enormous hole left by Isaac Luke, and if that’s the case, there are finals bound.

Current Odds: $31

Quaddie Racing Tips

Sandown

Good race meeting for this time of year

LEG

RACE

RUNNERS

KEEP IN MIND

First

5

1. Cambodian Prince, 3. Good Host, You Want

These look the play. Open race however.

Second

6

1. King’s Command, 2. Bassett, Weather The Storm

Be surprised if anything other than this lot saluted.

Third

7

2. War Legend, 3. Elite Tiger, 4. Castelo, 5. Spirit Or Lager.

Yet another even affair. Great contest coming up.

Fourth

8

3. Mr Journeyman, 4. Bradman, 8. Atlantic City

Looks a battle between this lot. Many chances though.

NRL Season Preview: Tigers

INS: Matt McIlwrick (Sharks), Jamal Idris (Unsigned)

OUTS: Josh Addo-Carr (Storm), Dene Halatau (Retired), Manaia Cherrington (Sharks), Robbie Farah (Rabbitohs)

The headline for 2017- “The Big Four”

With the human headline, Robbie Farah leaving, this year will be all about “the big four”, and whether they will stay together as the future of the club. For a playing group yet to even make the finals, the pressure to keep Brooks, Tedesco, Moses and Woods together is immense. But there’s no doubt it will be keeping the pressure on internally, and if one does leave, what will it do to the playing group for the remainder of their campaign?

Team Preview

The young Tigers played some very good football at times last season, and enter 2017 with largely the same squad. As a unit, they will be much better for the experience together, and the year of development for their young halves Luke Brooks and Mitchell Moses.

By far and away their best player, James Tedesco, came into his own last season and cemented himself a sky blue Origin jumper. He is the key to a successful 2017 for the Tigers and must stay fit if they are any chance of making the finals. He is joined in the backline by a very handy unit of genuine first graders. Jamal Idris will attract a lot of attention, but could be a fixture in the centres if he returns to his best.

Brooks and Moses form a very solid halves pairing who seem to be improving every week. Moses, in particular, came of age in 2016 and has the potential to be one of the most dangerous players in the competition this season.

It’s at the top of their spine where things get a little iffy for the Tigers. Matt Ballin is a premiership winner, but was hardly sighted last year with injury and is getting on in years. He is joined in the forwards by Origin prop Aaron Woods, who is their main man in the middle. Backrower Elijah Taylor is one of the most underrated players in the competition, but outside of that, they Tigers look very light up front.

The Early Crow's Prediction: 10th   

Assuming Tedesco and Woods remain fit and play most of the season, the Tigers will always be an outside chance of making the finals. But you really have to wonder about the squad’s depth overall, and their forward pack looks extremely suspect. They will be thereabouts and provide serious nuisance value.

Current Odds: $31.00

Wednesday Racing Preview – Doomben

The main racing on Wednesday in Queensland will be at Doomben. Plenty of winners this time around and races will be conducted upon a track that has been bathed in sunshine of late.

Rail Position:  is out 2.5m the entire track
Track Condition: rates a Good 4

 

Race 1- Males Mdn 1200m

Date: 1/3
Time: 12:25pm
Location: Doomben

ALSEEYA should win, but boy he’s taking his time. Is now six year old and has placed this grade 10 times without a win. All the mapping said he would just bolt in. Gets chance to atone here as field is easier. HEAT SHIELD has not started yet, but top jock, top trainer top gate suggest she can show up. This could be a bit short for SANCTUARY COVE but he will be getting to the line hard final stages….and this is easier than recent starts.

The Early Crows Top TipSANCTUARY COVE

 

Race 2 – Superhero Females Class 2 1110m

Date: 1/3
Time: 1:15pm
Location: Doomben

TICKLED PINK has placed past 4 this grade and one suspects he will go very close again.  Watch market. Is resuming here. SHE’S RIGHT has won 2 from 2 this time up. Is clearly in career best shape. Up in grade here but winning form is best.  ALLENA is engaged in a few races so may not start. Is fast on her day and rates a good show.  

The Early Crows Top TipSHE’S RIGHT

 

Race 3- 3YO Males Mdn Plate 1350m

Date: 1/3
Time: 1:40pm
Location: Doomben

DOT PAINTING was disappointing last start following an eye-catching run this grade start prior. Worth another chance. MONTANA PIUNES is working towards a win with past 3 this grade all just behind placegetters. OUR RED JET disappointed in tougher race last start but previous form was outstanding for this type of race.

The Early Crows Top TipDOT PAINTING  

 

Race 4- Females  Mdn Hcp 1200m

Date: 1/3
Time: 2:15pm
Location: Doomben

SCORCHA might be pretty handy. Showed talent last campaign and is ready to run big race here. BONSHO has been placed once from 2 goes this company and more significantly, has had a good rest and is ready to run boldly.  CLASSAY placed first start and gets great weight relief.  Watch market.

The Early Crows Top TipSCORCHA

 

Race 5- Graham Turner QTIS 3YO Mdn 1200m

Date: 1/3
Time: 2:50pm
Location: Doomben

BAGGIO is considerably smarter than these when he’s right and two runs from a spell should have him perfectly tuned. Looks hard to beat. I’M A RIPPA is longing to be just that – and is close. Showed up this company last campaign with two wins toward back end. Resuming here but is drawn perfectly here. GOOD TO BE GREAT is up in grade and can be considered a good chance to be in the finish.

The Early Crows Top TipBAGGIO

 

Race 6- Suez Class 3 Plate 2020m

Date: 1/3
Time: 3:25pm
Location: Doomben

KARAKABEEL is the class in the race and is coming off a great run last start. Form prior would win this, and has a 2kg claim here too. FIRST CRUSH is as honest as a Queensland day is hot – and on that basis must be considered. Should get a good run throughout. LIGHTNING BELL ran boldly last start to win similar grade. Has been up a long while but retains form and can be in the finish.

The Early Crows Top TipKARAKABEEL

 

Race 7- Sky Racing Class 1 1615m

Date: 1/2
Time: 3:40pm
Location: Doomben

Very strong Class 1 field this. SON OF A BRUT is a money-spinner and raced away last start. Has enough fitness now 3rd up to be in the frame here over longer trip. ZOFF OF THE WORLD  is extremely honest this grade and deserved to win last week. Bound to be in the finish. DAME VAN WINKLE is from strong stable and has been disappointing but at same time knocking on door past few. Top rider here. Big show.

The Early Crows Top TipSON OF A BRUT

 

Race 8- Class 5 Hcp 1200m

Date: 1/3
Time: 4:45pm
Location: Doomben

MANA MANU was at the limit of his powers when last in work and it was just short of being profitable. Easier here and is ready. MAKEADANE is honest this company when right and honest horses are always worth backing. ALWAYS SACRED is in well at the weights and despite not winning for some time, can finish off well enough to place.

The Early Crows Top TipMAKEADANE

Wednesday Racing Preview – Sandown

The main racing on Wednesday in Victoria will be held at the Sandown (Lakeside) race track. Track’s in great order and worth punting on.

Rail Position: is true entire course
Track Condition: rates a good 4

 

Race 1- Open Mdn Plate 1200m

Date: 1/3
Time: 1:30pm
Location: Sandown

FAST STRYKE met similar fields when last in work and placed 4 times Fresh here so match market. LIMESZTONE COWBOY is forever battling away on the fringes this grade, placing and showing up. Big show again. MACARIA is 2nd up here after a terrific debut run to place this grade – all that helps and seems pretty hot!

The Early Crows Top TipMACARIA

 

Race 2- BM 78 2100m

Date: 1/3
Time: 2:00pm
Location: Sandown

SURVIVED is very fit and ran a bold race tougher grade for 2nd 2 starts ago. Great show. Weight relief is a great step forward. RED SHIFT resuming from spell last start, in this grade, and ran a bottler. Is capable of winning this. GAZENGIGGLE won a much easier race last start leading all way so step up in grade but does have northing on his back.

The Early Crows Top TipSURVIVED

 

Race 3- Dream Thoroughbreds BM 64 1200m

Date: 1/3
Time: 2:30pm
Location: Sandown

EL RADA has developed into a reliable bet this grade. Just puts in each time. Big show. BASTILLE only one start, which he led and one with consummate ease so appears to have talent. Chance. INVINCIBLE JOY resumed with solid 3rd this grade last start. Can place again off that performance.

The Early Crows Top TipBASTILLE

 

Race 4- Mitavite Challenge Heat 6 1600m

Date: 1/3
Time: 3:00 pm
Location: Sandown

AURORA GLOW seems to be getting better with racing in Victoria. Was game winner BM 78 here a few weeks back. MA JONES doesn’t seem to be going all that well, but horses from this stable can improve. TYPHOON MONACO showed improvement to win weaker grade last start. Seems to be in great form. Chance again.

The Early Crows Top TipAURORA GLOW

 

Race 5- BM 70 1600m

Date: 1/3
Time: 3:30pm
Location: Sandown

CAMBODIAN PRINCE got to the wire well last start this grade. Two wins past three starts makes him something to wager upon here. GOOD HOST has come up this time around in terrific form. Should be right in the fray again. CASSADEE is game and consistent in this grade. Harder here but on pace runner and will take catching.

The Early Crows Top TipCAMBODIAN PRINCE

 

Race 6- BM 78 1200m

Date: 1/3
Time: 4:00pm
Location: Sandown

KING’S COMMAND has drawn perfectly and weight relief is a tremendous help. Placed past two this grade and can again. BASSETT is all class and if he’s come back to his best he looks the one to hold out. WEATHER THE STORM is racing in great heart and that quality will show up again here.

The Early Crows Top TipBASSETT

 

Race 7- Mitavite Challenge Heat 5 1400m

Date: 1/3
Time: 4:30pm
Location: Sandown

CASTELO has found brilliant form this grade past few months. 4 placings and 1 win past 7 starts. Can go on to win this also. CRAVEN IMAGE lightly raced but has talent. Works alongside some real stars so some of that must rub off on him. WAR LEGEND is resuming here but has the race track cred to be one of the major chances. Sure to be in the finish.

The Early Crows Top TipCASTELO

 

Race 8- Le Pine Funerals BM 84 1400m

Date: 1/3
Time: 5:00pm
Location: Sandown

BRADMAN is a disappointing racehorse in the sense you always think today is the day – but places are nearly always all you get. Same could happen here. MR JOURNEYMAN won easier race during last campaign. Resuming here but can place. HERE TO THERE is also resuming but showed he was up to this grade last campaign. Looks very hard to beat again.

The Early Crows Top TipBRADMAN