Ride with the Cowboys

  • By: Ian Millward
  • Last Updated: March 7 2014, 16:19 GMT

Ian Millward expects the Sydney Roosters and North Queensland Cowboys to have big years in the NRL.

Jonathan Thurston: Can lead North Queensland to huge season
Jonathan Thurston: Can lead North Queensland to huge season

The NRL is expecting a bumper season. They've just signed a $1.5billion dollar TV deal, club membership numbers are up and everyone is expecting big crowds. It's an exciting season, starting Thursday with a blockbuster between South Sydney and the Roosters. 30,00 spectators will be in the staidum and I expect one of these two sides to go all the way to the Grand Final to face the North Queensland Cowboys.

Souths always attract plenty of attention having the Burgess brothers in their ranks and last week they fell at the last hurdle, one game away from a Grand Final.

With owner Russell Crowe they're a glamour team, a lot is expected of them and Greg Inglis at full-back is one of the best in the world. Without injuries they'll be in top four and potential finalists.

The Roosters are looking to be the first team in a long time to go back to back and win successive championships. In recent history some teams have blamed the World Club challenge in England for disrupting their preparations - that's not an excuse for the Roosters.

The boast the biggest pack in the NRL and in Michael Jennings and one or two other three quarters, speed to burn. This is a team that's only going to get better and they set a very high standard in 2014.

That said the Cowboys have to make the Grand Final this year. They have the best half back in the world in Jonathan Thurston who also the two best front-rowers in Matt Scott and James Tamau. I expect new coach Paul Green to guide them to the top four which they didn't manage last year.

These three are the major contenders for the title. The Cowboys are terrific odds, and should be backed to make the top eight at the very least. It's also worth chancing them at 25/1 to meet the Roosters in the Grand Final.

A team who could struggle are the West Tigers. They have some outstanding youngsters and are a team who could go well early, but the long season will take a lot out of these players who aren't hardened to the season-long demands of the NRL.

They probably lack experience in the front row, too, and they could be vulnerable as the season unfolds.

In the Daily M Player of year, Thurston has won it twice but is still the man to beat as he will steer a great season for the Cowboys.

Inglis will also go very close. He's an excitement machine with the size of a front-rower and I expect him to have a fantastic season.

Roosters' Roger Tuivasa-Sheck could be the leading tryscorer. He won't be involved in the State of Origin as he's a New Zealander and with the Roosters' style of play he'll switch between wing and full-back and get plenty of opportunities.

  • Posted at 1545 GMT on 04/03/2014.