History tells us that we will have another slow start to the year. But from what I can see, we should be sitting well within the top 8 by the origin round with a top 4 place not out of sight if things go right in the final rounds of the year. The first 2 rounds have to be wins (We can't lose to parra round 1 2 years in a row, and the dragons are still a work in progress). After that there are a few tough games but if we can be within the 8 before origin, the origin period will help us entrench our position in the 8 and maybe knock on the door of the top 4. The start is the key, a strong start (which historically hasn't really happened in my memory) will open up opportunities in the dying stages instead of forcing us to play catch up with the top 8 till the end.
Initial thoughts are we got a similar draw to what Penrith got this year; hopefully we take advantage of it.
We got screwed playing the Eels in round 1 this year; first round where they would be motivated and Stuart pretty much coaches all off season treating round 1 like a test match. I was expecting an ambush; just annoying every other team got the easy win when the Eels fell apart and we got no repeat. 2014 they will be a stronger unit so round 1 will be a good effort if we get 2 points.
I don't see any horrendously short turn a rounds which is good with the travelling the side has to do.
Roosters and Manly only once but those games are at home.
Dragons and Raiders at Eden Park hopefully our first wins at that stadium. These are two home games we would usually lock in so they need to be won.
Hopefully the Bulldogs sell out in Hamilton and it tempts other sides to bring games over here thinking they will get a good crowd. It would be good for us to be able to travel to an away game by bus like the other teams do instead of a 3 hour flight.
Top 8 is definitely a must this year. Elliot seemed to shake the laziness out of us by the midpoint, so will be glad to get a full season from scratch (looking at performances vs the Raiders, Storm, Roosters etc). Top 4 is definitely a huge prospect if Tomkins fires.
Missing the 8 with a draw like this (barring season ending injuries to Tomkins, Johnson, Mannering etc etc) is inexcusable, and will mean a new coach. Hopefully it won't come to that.
As a few posters have said the start is the key. Historically we have been very bad starters but when we have got a good start being a confidence team we seem to kick on 2002 and 2003 spring to mind. Would be great to see the now traditional mid-late season revival at the start of the season for a change (without the collapse )