Bold predictions, 23, Victor Radley, Brandon Smith, Jeremiah Nanai, Paul Gallen, SBW, Dolphins, Wayne Bennett, Origin, Same Walker, DCE

The NRL returns in just two months and foxsports.com.au has looked into the crystal ball to bring you 23 bold predictions for 2023.

There are some big calls on this list and no doubt there will be plenty of swings and misses, but others will prove prophetic.

We’ll report back at the end of the year on how we fared!!

Adam Reynolds, Tim Sheens and Sam Walker.  Getty
Adam Reynolds, Tim Sheens and Sam Walker. GettySource: Getty Images

Origin rules to change

Under the current rules, players who have resided in New South Wales or Queensland prior to their 13th birthday are eligible – unless they’ve represented England or New Zealand.

It means the likes of Victory Radley and Jordan Rapana cannot play despite going to primary school in Sydney and on the Gold Coast respectively.

The pressure is mounting on head office and we’re tipping them to change the rules ahead of the series opener this year.

Dolphins to play finals

Almost everyone is writing off the Dolphins because they haven’t signed a marquee man but Wayne Bennett has still assembled a quality squad.

Star forwards Kenny and Jesse Bromwich, Felise Kaufusi and Tom Gilbert will set the platform for Anthony Milford to return to his best.

Bennett has an incredible win record in his 35 years of first-grade coaching and if his squad can stay healthy they’ll sneak into the top eight.

Sam Walker to replace DCE as Maroons No. 7

If the Blues wrap up the series in the opening two games – which we expect they will – DCE will be dropped.

That will see Billy Slater hand Walker his Queensland debut in the dead rubber, following in the footsteps of his uncle Chris.

Cherry-Evans will be 35 by the time the 2024 series rolls around and the baton will be passed to Walker permanently.

Latrell Mitchell wins the Dally M Medal

Mitchell has always had the talent to be crowned the best player in the game and in 2023 he’ll match his skill set with consistency.

The Rabbitohs superstar wins games off his own back and is learning to control his aggression.

On the back of signing a long-term extension, Mitchell will play with not only freedom but maturity next season that will see him win the Dally M Medal.

Bateman signs 4 years with Tigers | 00:31

Tim Sheens to guide Tigers back to finals

Tim Sheens is back baby – and so is Benji Marshall – and so are the Wests Tigers.

The Tigers haven’t played since 2011 back when – you guessed it – Sheens was coaching Marshall was the star playmaker.

We’re tipping Sheens and Marshall to get Luke Brooks back to his best and the halfback will end his streak as the most experienced player in the NRL without featuring in finals.

Jarrod Croker plays 300th NRL game

The heart and soul of the Canberra Raiders has been stranded in the nervous 290s for over 18 months now.

Croker played just one NRL game in 2022 as multiple injuries saw him struggle to find his form and crack back into first grade.

But we’re backing Ricky Stuart to find eight games for the club legend in 2023 to ensure he reaches the 300 mark.

Nicho Hynes top points scorer

Everybody loves the reigning Dally M Medalist, everyone except opposition sides as Hynes has one of the highest individual winning records in the NRL.

Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon recruiting Hynes to play halfback proved a masterstroke in 2022 and we’re tipping him to pile on even more points next year.

Hynes finished with 194 points in 2022 and we’re expecting him to pass the 220 mark as Cronulla kick on next year.

2023 NRL salary cap announced as $12.1M | 01:00

Storm to win minor premiership despite exodus

Craig Bellamy’s illustrious head coaching career in Melbourne will draw to a close next year and we’re backing him to go out with a bang.

The Storm have lost helped their forward pack in Brandon Smith (Roosters), the Bromwich brothers and Felise Kaufusi (Dolphins).

But Bellamy and his superstar five-eighth Cameron Munster will still find a way to deliver an incredible fifth minor premiership in eight years.

Parramatta to miss the top eight

The Eels have lost six players from their 2022 strongest 17 and will struggle to make finals, let alone return to the grand final.

Reed Mahoney (Bulldogs), Isaiah Papalii (Tigers), Marata Niukore (Warriors), Oregon Kaufusi (Sharks), Tom Opacic (Hul) and Ray Stone (Dolphins) all departed.

They haven’t exactly replaced them with like-for-like players, with Josh Hodgson (Raiders), J’maine Hopgood (Panthers), Jirah Momoisea (Knights), Jack Murchie (Warriors), Daejarn Asi (Warriors) joining.

Blues win Origin in first two games

The Maroons produced one of the greatest series upsets in State of Origin history this year that left Queenslanders partying for months.

But we’re tipping a hangover and Nathan Cleary to take full advantage on the back of leading the Kangaroos to World Cup glory.

There will be no choke this year from the Blues and they’ll wrap up the series in the first two games.

Kalyn Ponga makes permanent switch to halves

This looked inevitable after Mitchell Pearce abruptly left the club last summer but the Knights kept Ponga at fullback in 2022.

That will change now star halfback Jackson Hastings has joined the club, with Ponga set to partner him at five-eighth.

This does hinge however on Newcastle signing either Tesi Niu from the Broncos or Lachie Miller from the Sharks to be their fullback.

David Fifita leaves Gold Coast

The highest-paid forward to ever play the game will leave the club and Queensland to go join Ricky Stuart’s Raiders.

To get back to his devastating best, Fifita needs to get out of the spotlight and there’s no better place to do that than in the nation’s capital.

Jack Wighton is the main man in town so Fifita – whose salary will drop from $1.2 million to $900,000 – won’t have to worry about being the star.

Turbo jetting to USA for hammy treatment | 01:32

Paul Gallen to finally fight SBW

It’s the fight rugby league fans have been waiting a decade to see and in 2023 they will finally give the people what they want.

Gallen wouldn’t be anywhere near the first boxer to come out of retirement for the right price and this bout will earn both a massive payday.

SBW’s body may be a temple but the temple will come crashing down when Gallen knocks him out in the sixth round.

Bulldogs to miss the top eight

The best administrator in the game, the best young coach in the game and some of the highest-profile recruits in the game.

Unfortunately for Phil Gould, Cameron Ciraldo and Viliame Kikau, expectation brings pressure and we’re tipping it all becomes too much in 2023.

There’s plenty of hype but it’s tough enough for veteran coaches to make finals let alone rookie and we’re expecting Dogs to finish about 10th.

Anthony Seibold to struggle

If you told someone six months ago that Anthony Seibold was going to replace Manly legend Des Hasler at Brookvale, they would have laughed you out of the room.

But Seibold – and credit to him – has resurrected his NRL career just two years after one of the most dramatic sackings in rugby league history.

The Sea Eagles lost their final seven games of the season to miss finals and we expect the struggles will continue in 2023.

Jeremiah Nanai to sign record deal

The Cowboys backrower is the brightest young talent in the game and he’s about to be paid accordingly.

Nanai showed he’s just as sharp off the field by signing a one-year extension in 2022 before going on to make his Maroons and Kangaroos debut.

Now the salary cap has increased to $12.1 million, this teenager will pen one of the biggest deals in rugby league history in 2023.

Brandon Smith to fire at Roosters

It was an ugly exit at the Storm as Roosters coach Trent Robinson got his man and we think they’re going to be a match made in heaven.

Smith is a larrikin off the field but a fierce competitor on it and Robinson will harness his talent to perfection.

Expect the Roosters to be up to their eyeballs in the premiership race and Smith to be named in the Dally M Team of the year.

Broncos win first finals game since 2017

The Broncos lost five of their final six games to inexplicably miss the top eight despite sitting fourth after Round 19.

But there’s too much talent for Kevin Walter’s men to miss out again and we’re tipping they make it to the second week of finals.

That means the Broncos will win their first finals game since 2017 when Wayne Bennett was still at the helm.

Panthers to miss the top four

This is probably the boldest prediction on this list considering Penrith have played in the past three grand finals and won the past two premierships.

But all dynasties fall at some point and we’re not tipping a full-blown collapse but they won’t be the same side without Viliame Kikau and Api Koroisau.

We’re expecting the Panthers to still play finals but they won’t earn the double chance they’ve enjoyed for the past three years.

Dragons get the wooden spoon

St George Illawarra haven’t had much to cheer about since their premiership in 2010 and things aren’t looking great on the horizon.

They have an aging list and several young guns requested released this summer, while coach Anthony Griffin has been accused of playing favourites.

The only positive is when Hook is inevitably sacked the new coach will likely clean out the roster and 2024 might have some promise.

Api Koroisau to be buy of the year

The star drunkenly joked about the Tigers’ struggles during Penrith’s grand final celebrations and he’ll help turn the tide at Concord.

Koroisau has a full pre-season under his belt after being an unlucky omission from the Kangaroos World Cup squad.

The crafty hooker oozes skill and has one of the best rugby league IQs in the competition, expect him to bring back the Tigers.

Justin Holbrook first coach sacked

Things got so bad for the Titans in 2022 that at one stage Holbrook was playing David Fifita in the centers and admitted he was out of answers.

Holbrook’s men won just one game between rounds 5-21 and they only avoided finishing second-last on points difference.

The Gold Coast haven’t won a finals game since 2010 and that doesn’t look like changing anytime soon, expect Holbrook to be axed by July.

Kaeo Weekes to be NRL’s breakout player

The only problem here is that Reuben Garrick has been the preferred option to replace Tom Trbojevic in the fullback jumper when the 26-year-old has either been injured or on Origin duty.

With an extra pre-season under his belt though, Weekes shapes as a breakout star for the Sea Eagle if injuries strike.

The 20-year-old is versatile, capable of also playing at five-eighth, and made a name for himself as a try-scoring machine while coming through the grades at Manly. Expect fireworks.

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