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It's crunch time, from any point of view


Adrian Proszenko

Souths are genuine NRL contenders, the ACC report hasn't shaken confidence in the game and the Western Sydney Wanderers are gaining a solid foothold, according to Nathan Cayless, Luke Patten and Mark Coyne, who delved into league's burning issues.

Out .. shoulder charges.

Out .. shoulder charges. Photo: Getty Images

Which team will win the competition?

NATHAN CAYLESS: I'd love to say the Eels, they've trained really hard. But if it's not them I reckon Souths are in with a good show. They went fairly well last year and they were unlucky to lose their halfback in that final against the Dogs. They've been playing really well and added some strength and experience to their roster having already gone deep into the finals. They will be a real threat to the competition this year.

LUKE PATTEN: It's got to be someone from the top four from last year. My gut is saying Souths at the moment. I know they've lost Dave Taylor but they've bought well, Ben Te'o is a really good signing. Greg Inglis has got an off-season under his belt, he's had that one year playing at fullback and he will come into this season really confident. Adam Reynolds showed what he can do last year. He's coming into his second year and that can get players, but it could have been a different story last year in that semi against the Dogs if he didn't do his hammy, they were coming back. The same teams will be up there but I'll go with Souths.

MARK COYNE: The Storm or Bulldogs. I'd probably pick the Storm with Bellamy settled there now and those three guns there they will be hard to knock over again.

2. Who will win the Dally M medal?

NC: The way Ben Barba started off last weekend, it will be hard to go past him. If the Bulldogs play a similar style of football, which I'm sure they will off the back of their big forwards, I can see them scoring plenty of tries. And Ben Barba will be in the thick of the action.

LP: It will be the usual suspects, but if Souths have a good year then I'd say Greg Inglis will be up there.

MC: I'm a big fan of Cameron Smith. To me, he's the player of the year because of the stuff he does behind the scenes, the way he controls the ruck and speed of the game. He doesn't tend to get picked for the big awards but he's the most valuable player in my point of view.

3. Will NSW finally win an Origin series?

NC: It's going to be pretty tough, they're probably going to have to wait until guys like Greg Inglis, Justin Hodges and Johnathan Thurston all retire. It's going to be tough for them to win it.

LP: They've got two games at home but my concern is that Laurie Daley won't be sure if he can do a similar thing to what Ricky Stuart did in the past two years. It's a bit of an unknown and I hope he can. We'll go in as underdogs but it would be great for Origin if they could. It's certainly a tough ask.

MC: Put down a resounding no! NSW are certainly getting closer and Laurie Daley will be excellent for them and continue the good work which Ricky did. But they've got superstars in key positions and do what needs to be done when the game is on the line.

4. Will Sonny Bill Williams live up to the hype?

NC: For sure, I can't wait to see him play. He's an outstanding athlete, I watched him fight last week. I'm never one that's been interested in rugby but I'm watching it when he was playing. That's what he does, people want to see him play. He's going to bring a lot to our game. People might say this and that about Sonny Bill but he can certainly draw a crowd … It would be great to have Sonny Bill playing in the World Cup for New Zealand.

LP: I'm not sure what level of Japanese rugby he's coming in from. He's coming in without a pre-season and that might tell later when he's getting a few whacks, he may get a few injuries. Like everyone else, I'm interested to see how he goes and if he can come back to the level he was at. There's no reason why he can't, he looks after himself well and the Roosters will improve, so that will help him.

MC: Yes, he's going to be fantastic for the game. Hopefully he will stay long term and he will be an absolute standout for the Roosters this year.

5. Is David Smith the right man to take the NRL forward?

NC: He's obviously very experienced in what he's done and held some high positions. Like anything, you need to wait and see how he goes. Ask David Gallop, it's not an easy job. There are a lot of things that will get thrown up that he will have to deal with.

LP: We haven't seen that much of him. He's come in at a tough time with all this drugs stuff going on, so only time will tell. I hope he is, that he does a great job and leads the game to greater things.

MC: It's too hard to answer. We need to see how he goes. He's been OK around the drug stuff, he's been thrust into it. But I'll reserve my decision until he goes through a whole year.

6. Has the Australia Crime Commission's report changed your perception of the NRL?

NC: No, because at the moment it's all hearsay, Until there's some hard evidence and names, nothing has been proven. Until it all comes out it will be business as usual. Rugby league has dealt with so many of these things in the past and it continues to get stronger and stronger. I can see this being any different.

LP: No, not at all. It's very vague at the moment until they name players and what they have done. I'll wait 'til then. This is a huge year for league, we've just done a huge TV deal and fans are so looking forward to the footy starting. This has put a bit of a dampener on it but hopefully the games will be of a very high standard and they sort all of that other stuff out. For me, 99 per cent of players are clean and work hard to do what they do. It's not an issue for me.

MC: Not at all. I believe the vast majority are doing the right thing.

7. Will Ricky Stuart lift the Eels into the top eight?

NC: Yes. We're going to need some luck with injury, especially with Nathan Hindmarsh and Luke Burt retiring and Justin Poore going overseas. We've lost a fair bit of experience but based on the way the guys have been training, and having regular chats with Ricky Stuart, they're passionate and working very hard.

LP: I think they will improve, Ricky always gets the best out of his players and I'm sure they have had a very hard off-season. They will improve but I'm not sure they have the quality of player across the board to get into the finals. They still might be a couple of years off hitting their peak.

MC: I don't think they have overly built up a lot of strength in their playing roster and they will take a while to warm up to Ricky's approach.

8. Should the shoulder charge be brought back into the game?

NC: Yes. You love seeing that first big hit of the game, it's a shoulder charge. It's been a big part of the game for so long and it's a tough call to get rid of it.

LP: They should have made it that if you make a shoulder charge that contacts the head, you get a minimum of six weeks. Then you wouldn't see guys doing it. For me, watching George Rose the other night in the All Stars getting penalised for a shoulder charge doesn't sit right. No one got injured and fans like seeing that sort of contact. I appreciate they are worried about player welfare and brain damage. There are numerous ways you can get injured, it could be a swinging arm or something like that. I'd like to see it changed but we'll have to wait and see.

MC: Yes, it's been a good part of the game and if it's policed properly it is an entertaining part of the game.

9. Which is the bigger threat to western Sydney: GWS or the Wanderers?

NC: Occupying the same stadium as us, it's definitely the Wanderers. They are going great guns and a lot of our fans are going to the games and many corporate partners are getting involved as well. They are definitely a massive threat, but in saying that we've got a lot of people who are interested in being members of both clubs. It's a win-win for everyone.

LP: You would never have said that a few months ago but they are going really well. But there's not much crossover [with the league season] so it's not that much of a threat. When GWS are playing at the same time, if they become successful, they could take some fans. We should just worry about what we're doing and if our western clubs are strong and put out a good product, I'm sure the fans will follow.

MC: The Wanderers. Soccer has had really good exposure this year and a lot of kids start off with it. With Premier League teams coming out it will make a lot of kids stay in soccer rather than moving across to league.

Twitter -@proshenks

HuffPost Australia

NRL Season 2015

Round 1
Thu, 05 MarTimes shown AEDT
BRI 6vs SOU 36 Report Stats
Fri, 06 MarTimes shown AEDT
PAR 42vs MAN 12 Report Report Stats
Sat, 07 MarTimes shown AEDT
NEW 24vs NZW 14 Report Stats
GCT 18vs WST 19 Report Stats
NQL 4vs SYD 28 Report Stats
Sun, 08 MarTimes shown AEDT
PEN 24vs CBY 18 Report Stats
CRO 20vs CBR 24 Report Stats
Mon, 09 MarTimes shown AEDT
STG 4vs MEL 12 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 13 MarTimes shown AEDT
CBY 32vs PAR 12 Report Stats
CRO 2vs BRI 10 Report Stats
Sat, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
PEN 40vs GCT 0 Report Stats
MAN 24vs MEL 22 Stats
NQL 14vs NEW 16 Report Stats
Sun, 15 MarTimes shown AEDT
SOU 34vs SYD 26 Stats
CBR 6vs NZW 18 Report Stats
Mon, 16 MarTimes shown AEDT
WST 22vs STG 4 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
MAN 12vs CBY 16 Report Stats
BRI 44vs NQL 22 Report Stats
Sat, 21 MarTimes shown AEDT
NZW 29vs PAR 16 Report Stats
CBR 20vs STG 22 Report Stats
MEL 36vs CRO 18 Report Stats
Sun, 22 MarTimes shown AEDT
SOU 20vs WST 6 Report Stats
GCT 18vs NEW 20 Report Stats
Mon, 23 MarTimes shown AEDT
SYD 20vs PEN 12 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
PAR 29vs SOU 16 Report Stats
WST 24vs CBY 25 Report Stats
Sat, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
NEW 26vs PEN 14 Report Stats
CRO 22vs GCT 24 Report Stats
STG 12vs MAN 4 Report Stats
Sun, 29 MarTimes shown AEDT
NZW 16vs BRI 24 Report Stats
SYD 34vs CBR 6 Report Stats
Mon, 30 MarTimes shown AEDT
NQL 18vs MEL 17 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 03 AprTimes shown AEDT
CBY 17vs SOU 18 Report Stats
GCT 16vs BRI 26 Report Stats
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
MAN 16vs CBR 29 Report Stats
NEW 0vs STG 13 Report Stats
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEST
SYD 12vs CRO 20 Report Stats
Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
PAR 6vs WST 22 Report Stats
MEL 30vs NZW 14 Report Stats
PEN 10vs NQL 30 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
BRI 22vs SYD 18 Report Stats
CRO 22vs NEW 6 Report Stats
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
PAR 16vs GCT 38 Report Stats
NZW 32vs WST 22 Report Stats
PEN 22vs MAN 12 Report Stats
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
CBR 10vs MEL 14 Report Stats
STG 31vs CBY 6 Report Stats
Mon, 13 AprTimes shown AEST
SOU 12vs NQL 30 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
CBY 28vs MAN 16 Report Stats
STG 12vs BRI 10 Report Stats
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
GCT 32vs PEN 6 Report Stats
NQL 28vs NZW 24 Report Stats
MEL 17vs SYD 16 Report Stats
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
WST 22vs CBR 30 Report Stats
NEW 22vs PAR 28 Report Stats
Mon, 20 AprTimes shown AEST
CRO 18vs SOU 10 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
CBY 14vs WST 38 Stats
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
NZW 28vs GCT 32 Report Stats
NEW 24vs NQL 26 Report Stats
SYD 12vs STG 14 Report Stats
MEL 10vs MAN 12 Stats
BRI 28vs PAR 16 Stats
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
PEN 26vs CRO 18 Stats
SOU 22vs CBR 30 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI 8vs PEN 5 Report Stats
SYD 36vs WST 4 Stats
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
CBR 56vs GCT 16 Stats
CRO 16vs NZW 20 Stats
NQL 23vs CBY 16 Stats
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
MAN 30vs NEW 10 Stats
PAR 10vs MEL 28 Stats
Mon, 11 MayTimes shown AEST
SOU 16vs STG 10 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
CBY 10vs SYD 24 Stats
NQL 31vs BRI 20 Stats
Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
PAR 13vs NZW 17 Report Stats
GCT 22vs CRO 23 Report Stats
MEL 16vs SOU 12 Stats
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
STG 32vs CBR 18 Report Stats
NEW 22vs WST 12 Stats
Mon, 18 MayTimes shown AEST
MAN 10vs PEN 11 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
SOU 14vs PAR 12 Report Stats
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
WST 0vs NQL 8 Stats
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
CBR 34vs CBY 41 Stats
Mon, 25 MayTimes shown AEST
NEW 18vs BRI 31 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
PEN 20vs PAR 26 Stats
Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
GCT 16vs SOU 22 Report Stats
CBR 12vs BRI 24 Stats
NQL 18vs MAN 14 Report Stats
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
NZW 24vs NEW 20 Stats
STG 42vs CRO 6 Stats
Mon, 01 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD 24vs MEL 2 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
BRI 44vs MAN 10 Report Stats
WST 20vs GCT 27 Report Stats
Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
NEW 22vs CBR 44 Stats
SOU 36vs NZW 4 Stats
PEN 0vs MEL 20 Report Stats
Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
CRO 10vs SYD 4 Stats
Mon, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
CBY 29vs STG 16 Stats
PAR 30vs NQL 36 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
WST 34vs SOU 6 Report Stats
Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
NZW 21vs SYD 25 Report Stats
Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
GCT 28vs CBY 14 Stats
Mon, 15 JunTimes shown AEST
MEL 22vs PAR 26 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
MAN 30vs WST 20 Report Stats
Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
CBR 20vs NQL 21 Report Stats
GCT 14vs NZW 36 Report Stats
CBY 24vs PEN 12 Report Stats
Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
NEW 28vs CRO 30 Report Stats
MEL 12vs BRI 14 Report Stats
Mon, 22 JunTimes shown AEST
STG 14vs SYD 19 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
BRI 44vs NEW 22 Stats
SOU 20vs MAN 8 Report Stats
Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
NZW 30vs CBR 8 Stats
NQL 18vs CRO 24 Report Stats
PAR 16vs STG 12 Report Stats
Sun, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD 20vs GCT 10 Stats
WST 12vs PEN 35 Stats
Mon, 29 JunTimes shown AEST
CBY 20vs MEL 4 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
PEN 20vs SOU 6 Report Stats
Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
STG 12vs NQL 18 Report Stats
Sun, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
MAN 28vs CRO 16 Report Stats
Mon, 06 JulTimes shown AEST
WST 16vs PAR 28 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
CBR 36vs NEW 22 Stats
Sat, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
PEN 4vs SYD 24 Stats
CBY 8vs BRI 16 Stats
Sun, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
NZW 28vs MEL 14 Report Stats
CRO 28vs STG 8 Report Stats
Mon, 13 JulTimes shown AEST
GCT 6vs MAN 38 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
PAR 4vs CBY 28 Report Stats
MEL 52vs PEN 10 Report Stats
Sat, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
CBR 20vs CRO 21 Report Stats
NEW 30vs GCT 2 Report Stats
STG 8vs SOU 24 Report Stats
Sun, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD 24vs NZW 0 Report Stats
BRI 42vs WST 16 Stats
Mon, 20 JulTimes shown AEST
MAN 12vs NQL 30 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
BRI 34vs GCT 0 Report Stats
WST 8vs SYD 33 Stats
Sat, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
NZW 12vs MAN 32 Stats
MEL 22vs STG 4 Stats
SOU 52vs NEW 6 Stats
Sun, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
PEN 24vs CBR 34 Report Stats
CBY 16vs CRO 18 Report Stats
Mon, 27 JulTimes shown AEST
NQL 46vs PAR 4 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD 38vs CBY 28 Report Stats
WST 34vs MEL 16 Report Stats
Sat, 01 AugTimes shown AEST
NZW 14vs CRO 18 Stats
NQL 32vs CBR 24 Stats
MAN 44vs BRI 14 Stats
Sun, 02 AugTimes shown AEST
STG 46vs NEW 24 Stats
SOU 20vs PEN 16 Report Stats
Mon, 03 AugTimes shown AEST
GCT 24vs PAR 14 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 22
Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
BRI 16vs CBY 18 Report Stats
MAN 28vs SOU 8 Stats
Sat, 08 AugTimes shown AEST
NZW 0vs STG 36 Stats
CRO 30vs NQL 18 Stats
PAR 10vs PEN 4 Stats
Sun, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
MEL 36vs GCT 14 Report Stats
NEW 22vs SYD 38 Report Stats
Mon, 10 AugTimes shown AEST
CBR 18vs WST 20 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Thu, 13 AugTimes shown AEST
NQL 18vs SOU 31 Stats
Fri, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
BRI 32vs STG 6 Report Stats
Sat, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
WST 18vs NEW 24 Stats
PEN 24vs NZW 10 Stats
SYD 28vs PAR 18 Stats
Sun, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
CBR 24vs MAN 26 Stats
CBY 36vs GCT 14 Report Stats
Mon, 17 AugTimes shown AEST
CRO 2vs MEL 30 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 24
Thu, 20 AugTimes shown AEST
STG 19vs PEN 12 Report Stats
Fri, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
SOU 18vs CBY 32 Report Stats
Sat, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
CRO 40vs WST 18 Report Stats
NZW 16vs NQL 50 Report Stats
SYD 12vs BRI 10 Report Stats
Sun, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
GCT 28vs CBR 12 Stats
MAN 16vs PAR 20 Report Stats
Mon, 24 AugTimes shown AEST
MEL 6vs NEW 20 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 25
Thu, 27 AugTimes shown AEST
SOU 12vs BRI 47 Report Stats
Fri, 28 AugTimes shown AEST
MAN 10vs SYD 46 Report Stats
Sat, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
PAR 28vs CRO 35 Stats
NEW 18vs CBY 20 Stats
MEL 14vs NQL 6 Report Stats
Sun, 30 AugTimes shown AEST
WST 50vs NZW 16 Report Stats
GCT 28vs STG 26 Stats
Mon, 31 AugTimes shown AEST
CBR 34vs PEN 18 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 26
Thu, 03 SepTimes shown AEST
BRI 8vs MEL 15 Report Stats
Fri, 04 SepTimes shown AEST
SYD 30vs SOU 0 Report Stats
Sat, 05 SepTimes shown AEST
PEN 30vs NEW 12 Stats
STG 32vs WST 30 Stats
NQL 42vs GCT 12 Stats
Sun, 06 SepTimes shown AEST
PAR 24vs CBR 28 Stats
CRO 12vs MAN 14 Stats
CBY 26vs NZW 22 Stats
View All Fixtures
Telstra Premiership Finals Round 1
Fri, 11 SepTimes shown AEST
SYD 18vs MEL 20 Report Stats
Sat, 12 SepTimes shown AEST
CBY 11vs STG 10 Report Stats
BRI 16vs NQL 12 Report Stats
Sun, 13 SepTimes shown AEST
CRO 28vs SOU 12 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Telstra Premiership Finals Round 2
Fri, 18 SepTimes shown AEST
SYD 38vs CBY 12 Report Stats
Sat, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
NQL 39vs CRO 0 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Telstra Premiership Finals Round 3
Fri, 25 SepTimes shown AEST
BRI 31vs SYD 12 Stats
Sat, 26 SepTimes shown AEST
MEL 12vs NQL 32 Stats
View All Fixtures
Telstra Premiership Finals Round 4
Sun, 04 OctTimes shown AEDT
BRI ($1.94)vs NQL ($1.98) 19:15ANZ
View All Fixtures
NRL Ladder 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D Pts
Sydney Roosters 24 18 6 0 40
Brisbane Broncos 24 17 7 0 38
North Queensland Cowboys 24 17 7 0 38
Melbourne Storm 24 14 10 0 32
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 24 14 10 0 32
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 24 14 10 0 32
South Sydney Rabbitohs 24 13 11 0 30
St George-Illawarra Dragons 24 12 12 0 28
View all

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