The 2017 sporting season delivered fairytale comebacks, mixed results and disappointments. Will there be more of the same or a radical shift in 2018?
CANBERRA RAIDERS RETURNS TO FINALS THEN CRUMBLE
Canberra captain Jarrod Croker will lead the Raiders to finals football in 2018. Photo: AAP
Predicted regular season finish: Sixth.
The Raiders learned close enough was not good enough after losing eight games by six points or less last season, but in 2018 Ricky Stuart will find a way to win the tight ones.
Losing Josh Hodgson to a knee reconstruction is a major blow but this year will be the making of Jarrod Croker as the inspirational skipper leads Canberra’s revival.
With more afternoon games in the capital the Green Machine faithful will remain loyal and cheer their side into the finals, but that’s where the excitement will stop.
The Raiders simply don’t have the depth to be genuine premiership contenders and Stuart will have to be extremely lucky with injuries to push deep in September.
There will be no second-year blues for Nick Cotric with the teenager set to build on his 16-try return in his Dally M rookie of the year campaign and break into Brad Fittler’s NSW Blues squad.
The winger won’t be the only Raider to make his State of Origin debut, with Croker finally given his chance in a game three dead rubber.
Explosive second-rower Josh Papalii will lead the Canberra forward pack and regain his Kangaroos jersey, while Jordan Rapana will be forced to get a pilot licence as his aerobatics continue.
ACT BRUMBIES WILL WIN AGAIN, BUT ONLY IN AUSTRALIA
The prodigal son returns with David Pocock set to deliver the Brumbies another n title. Photo: Rohan Thomson
Predicted regular season finish: First (n conference), third (overall).
The ACT Brumbies welcome back prodigal David Pocock after his sabbatical and Christian Lealiifano fresh from a stint in Ireland, and together the duo will secure another n conference title.
First-year coach Dan McKellar would have been thanking his lucky stars when the Super Rugby draw was released and the Brumbies were handed the easiest schedule based on where teams finished last season.
The Brumbies will waltz to the conference title but they don’t face New Zealand opposition until round nine and that’s when their problems will begin.
The Western Force getting axed will deepen the n talent pool but don’t be fooled by the Wallabies breakthrough Bledisloe Cup win in October, the trans-Tasman gap remains enormous.
The Brumbies will win one of four Kiwi clashes and only finish above the Auckland Blues who are the only New Zealand side they don’t play.
Joe Powell will build on his Wallabies debut but Waratahs recruit Matt Lucas will be nipping at his heels, while you can expect big things from Force signing Isi Naisarani.
The fans won’t have to brave as many cold nights at Canberra Stadium with two Sunday afternoon fixtures, but those games are against the Jaguars and Sunwolves so don’t expect any attendance records.
NICK KYRGIOS GRAND SLAM SLUMP TO CONTINUE
Until Nick Kyrgios gets a coach he won’t be making any inroads at the grand slams in 2018. Photo: AP
The lights shine brightest on the world stage but when the heat is on Nick Kyrgios simply can’t take a take a trick and his poor form at the major will continue in 2018.
Kyrgios failed to advance past the second round in any of the four grand slams in 2017 and without a permanent coach or a genuine attitude change, he’ll continue to flounder.
The 22-year-old is the definition of a confidence player and while he’ll produce some new trick shots for the highlights reel and beat some top 10 players, it’ll only happen at ATP tournaments.
However, Kyrgios could finally deliver the goods at the Davis Cup and secure ‘s first title in 14 years. Kyrgios genuinely bleeds for the n cause and is a different beast in the green and gold team environment.
CANBERRANS TO THRIVE AT COMMONWEALTH GAMES
n captain Sharni Williams will add a Commonwealth Games gold to her already impressive resume. Photo: PA
At least five Canberrans will bask in the Queensland sunshine and Commonwealth Games glory on the Gold Coast in April.
The women’s sevens will press on from their Rio Olympics gold with skipper Sharni Williams leading the charge at the inaugural event, while Lewis Holland’s Olympic heartbreak will be redeemed with a medal.
Swimmer Ben Treffers will look to defend his Commonwealth Games title in the 50 metre backstroke, while Hockeyroos stars Emily Smith and Edwina Bone will secure another gold.
Mountain bike couple Bec Henderson and Dan McConnell are medal contenders, while Bec Wiasak, Gracie Elvin and Nathan Hart will make waves in the velodrome and on the road.
Lauren Wells will retire as the 400m hurdles Commonwealth Games champion, sprinter Mel Breen and 1500m young gun Zoe Buckman will get on the podium, while Brett Robinson is a sneaky chance in the 10,000m.
In the para-athletics Cameron Crombie will break his own shot put world record ahead of Jayden Sawyer and Scott Reardon will once again salute in the 100m.
GWS GIANTS TO PLAY FINALS FOOTBALL AT MANUKA OVAL
Manuka Oval will host its first AFL final when the GWS Giants bring September action to the capital. Photo: Jay Cronan / Fairfax Media
The GWS Giants may play some red-hot footy but nobody in western Sydney seems to care and for that reason Manuka Oval will host a historic AFL final in September.
The Giants claimed an unwanted AFL record after posting the lowest crowd to a final since WWI when just 14,865 people watched them pummel West Coast in week one of the finals.
Manuka can house more than that and after all three of the Giants’ regular season games in the capital sell out, the GWS board will look to Canberra for one of their two home finals.
The Giants won’t be the only team selling out Manuka because it will be standing room only on day one of Canberra’s historic first Test when host Sri Lanka in the cricket.
QUICK SINGLESThe Heather Garriock era at Canberra United will begin with grand final heartbreak but you’ve got to lose one to win one and next summer they’ll be crowned W-League champions.The Canberra Capitals will be staring down the barrell of another WNBL wooden spoon unless the club opens the cheque book and starts investing in high profile recruits.The Canberra Cavalry will charge into the n Baseball League championship series but they’ll fall short against the Brisbane Bandits.After back-to-back grand final losses the Canberra Brave will finally breakthrough for their second n Ice Hockey League title and lift the Goodall Cup.