The 2019 NRL season kicks off tonight, so I thought I’d review the teams and assess their chances this year.
I’ve listed teams in the order they finished last year’s regular season.
Last year’s minor and major premiers. They have improved their roster and have avoided drama. I expect they will once again win the minor premiership, but the curse of going back to back will hit once again.
Finished second on the ladder and lost the grand final last year. Billy Slater has retired, and Cameron Smith has a clause that allows him to retire whenever he wants. Don’t be surprised if Smith retires mid-season. I watched Smith go off “injured” in a game against Souths last year. Despite a supposed ankle injury, he didn’t limp off. The game was getting out of reach of the Storm, and it reeked to me of someone who wasn’t interested in playing a game he couldn’t win. They will finish 6th.
Finished 3rd last year. Lost Angus Crichton (big loss) but picked up Ethan Lowe to fill a bench spot, allowing Cameron Murray to start. Murray will play Origin within a couple of years. New coach Bennett will change the attitudes of many of the players. They will finish 4th.
Finished 4th last year. Have lost a few players to retirement and have the drama of salary cap breaches hanging over their heads. It seems as though the team from the shire thrive on drama, so I expect the Sharks to finish 3rd.
Finished 5th last year. They have a strong roster and a new coach in Ivan Cleary. There is a lot of drama with one player stood down and rumours of more sex videos to come. Panthers will drop to 8th.
Finished 6th last year. Also lost a lot of experience to retirement, but they always seem to have unlimited access to all the young talent in Queensland. Throw in a new coach who lifted Souths from 12th in 17 to 3rd place last year, and I expect the Broncos to improve to 2nd on the ladder.
Finished 7th last year and have major off field dramas with Jack de Belin being stood down, pending criminal charges. They will finish 7th again.
Finished 8th last year and have the reigning Dally M Medalist in Roger Tuivasa-Scheck, so you expect them to improve this year — but I expect they will drop out of the finals and finish 9th.
Finished 9th last year, and have strengthened their roster, and picked up a premiership winning coach. The Tigers will be one of the big movers this year and I predict they will finish 5th.
Finished 10th last year. They have relied heavily on a monster pack in recent years, but have lost two of their big boppers. In recent years, the Raiders have had a habit of losing the close games. I don’t see that changing this year and they will finish 11th.
Finished 11th last year after winning a whole drawer full of spoons in recent years. Coach Nathan Brown has built up a quality squad and they will be competitive this year. They will improve slightly to 10th place
Finished 12th last year, and have not strengthened their squad at all. They will fight it out for the wooden spoon with the Cowboys. 15th.
Finished 13th last year after being grand finalists the year before. Thurston has retired. Without Thurston last year, they would have probably picked up the spoon. Throw in the off season drama of signing Ben Barba, before having to sack him for domestic violence issues — and they will finish 16th.
Finished 14th last year. They have bulked up their forward pack and will improve slightly to 13th
Finished 15th last year. No great recruitment and lots of drama surrounding Dylan Walker. Normally I would pick them for the spoon, but despite this, I think the Bulldogs and Cowboys will finish lower, so Manly will finish 14th.
Added to their wooden spoon collection last year having finished 4th in 2017. They have made some tough decisions in the off season, and I think they will improve to 14th. This may not be enough to save Brad Arthur.
So, my tips for 2019:
Premiers – Brisbane
Wooden Spoon – Cowboys
Dally M – Luke Keary
Top Try scorer – Dane Gagai
Top scorer – James Maloney
State of Origin – NSW
And remember, there’s no such thing as too much sport!