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NRL 2023 season preview: Panthers eye third successive title

The 2023 NRL season is nearly here, and history will be made next month when 17 teams compete for a chance to win the Provan-Summons Trophy in October.

In October 2021, the NRL and ARLC confirmed the competition would expand to 17 teams, and the Dolphins will now compete at the highest level under veteran coach Wayne Bennett.

The Penrith Panthers remain the team to beat after they won their second successive title in October 2022, but with plenty of off-season activity, it promises to be another fascinating battle Down Under.

WhenThursday 2nd March - Sunday 3rd September 2023
How to watchSky Sports
OddsPenrith Panthers 3/1, Sydney Roosters 5/1, Melbourne Storm 15/2, North Queensland Cowboys 10/1, South Sydney Rabbitohs 10/1

Can anyone halt the Panthers' charge?

The Penrith Panthers have dominated the NRL for the last two seasons, although they proved they are not invincible earlier this month when they lost the World Club Challenge to Super League side St Helens.

Coach Ivan Cleary still has some of the competition's best players at his disposal, including his son Nathan Cleary. Jarome Luai, Dylan Edwards, and Isaah Yeo are also still part of the squad, but Cameron Ciraldo moved on to join the Canterbury Bulldogs in the off-season.

Spencer Leniu will soon join him, with the Panthers confirming before their opening fixture that he will leave the club at the end of the season.

However, Cleary was able to add Luke Garner, Zac Hosking and Jack Cogger to his squad as they try to make it three on the spin.

The Panthers have won at least 20 games in both of their last two campaigns, so it comes as no surprise to see them listed as 3/1 favourites this season.

Roosters the pick of the challengers

The Sydney Roosters have not reached a Grand Final since 2019, but like the Panthers, they won two on the spin.

Roosters coach Trent Robinson has a wealth of options available to him, with James Tedesco one of the best full-backs in the world of rugby league, if not the best. Joseph Manu and Joseph Sua'ali'i remain contracted to the club, but the Roosters managed to snap up Brandon Smith from Melbourne over the winter, and that could change their entire attack.

The Roosters lost in the opening round of the playoffs to neighbours South Sydney Rabbitohs, but with some minor tweaks to their squad, they could go all the way at 5/1.

Melbourne are classed as the third favourites for the Grand Final at 15/2, but they will need to prove they can handle the loss of Smith, Felise Kaufusi, Jesse Bromwich and Kenny Bromwich.

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Can the Dolphins compete at the highest level?

With Bennett at the helm, the Dolphins have someone who is vastly experienced, and he is also the most successful coach in NRL history.

Bennett has seen it all in rugby league, but strength in depth could be an issue for the new club that will play out of Brisbane.

Ahead of their debut campaign, the Dolphins failed in their bid to sign any of the likes of Kalyn Ponga, Cameron Munster and Harry Grant, but they did sign Kaufusi and both Bromwich brothers. 

Experience will not be an issue for the Dolphins, but that should only get them so far in their debut campaign.

They are as big as 8/1 to finish in the top eight, and those odds suggest 2023 is a development year for the club.

What to expect from the rest?

The spotlight will be on several teams in 2023, and on the Gold Coast, Justin Holbrook will need to impress the Titans' board.

The former St Helens boss helped his team reach the finals in 2021, but 12 months later, they only won six matches.

Halfback Kieran Foran has joined the club in the offseason, and it will be up to Holbrook to get the best out of his team, and they are 3/1 to finish in the top eight.

Last year's surprise package, the North Queensland Cowboys, shocked the division when they finished third, and they have added James Tamou and Jack Gosiewski to their ranks for the 2023 campaign.

Tamou started his career with the Cowboys, and his experience through the middle might be the boost they need to go all the way.

2022 wooden spoon collectors, the Wests Tigers, have added eight new players to their ranks.

The addition of John Bateman and David Klemmer should give them some real power in the pack, and with former players Benji Marshall and Robbie Farah part of their coaching team for 2023, they should be able to start afresh and push towards the playoffs in the next few years.

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