Predictions For The 2019 NRL Season
16. New Zealand Warriors
You would think the loss of Shaun Johnson would be a huge hole to fill for the Warriors but it is not the case. Shaun is an overrated player at best and shouldn't be hard to replace, waiting for him to reach his potential is more frustrating than the Australian Government. Unfortunately for the inconsistent Warriors their odds of winning the grand final will be about the same as me winning the lotto.
15. Gold Coast Titans
Big Mal Meninga reckons the Titans will win the premiership but I reckon "Big Mal" should get off the grog, or maybe get on the grog (not 100% sure if he even drinks alchohol) but the Gold Coast have about as much chance of getting in the top 8 this year as the Maroons beating the Blues in 2019.
14. Parramatta Eels
Brad Arthur must feel like ripping a door off it's hinges like Des Hasler did a few years back. Two years ago they nearly beat a red hot Melbourne in the finals which would have took them to a Grand Final qualifier. Now they loiter at the bottom of the table like the Cowboys use to in their first decade in the NRL.
You get the feeling that Mitchell Moses might have a cry and want out of his contract if the Eels don't succeed.
13. Newcastle Knights
Nathan Brown and his Newcastle Knights deserve to go well this season with a fantastic roster of game breakers like Kaylan Ponga, Mitchell Pearce and David Klemmer.
If they actually come thirteenth i think Andrew Johns might go surfing and do a Harold Holt!.
12. Canberra Raiders
Ricky Stuart is a top notch coach and he is where he belongs, it is just a shame that the Raiders are about as successful as the Channel 9 Footy Show was in 2018. Ricky needs to get the Green Machine to watch a few seasons of the History Channels "Vikings" to fire them up.
Jordan Rapana is Canberra's Ragnar Lothbrok.
11. Manly Sea Eagles
It is baffling that Des Hasler would be invited back to Manly after how he left the club in his first stint as head coach. Add the fact he left the Canterbury Bulldogs with salary cap problems and back-ended contracts that have them financially disadvantaged until 2020 and it is astonishing he got a job in Rugby League at all.
Manly have a strong roster but will more than likely end at the bottom of the ladder simply because of poor facilities and a far from harmonious playing group.
10. Brisbane Broncos
Even with successful former Rabbitohs coach Anthony Siebold the Broncos will struggle this year. The normally tight knit club has been in shambles ever since the announcement of Wayne Bennett not being wanted for the long haul.
If the Broncs do bow out early watch out if Mat Lodge goes overseas for a post season boozer!
9. North Queensland Cowboys
Needless to say the Cowboys have endured one of the biggest losses in league history in the retirement of Jonathan Thurston. Michael Morgan proved in 2017 that he is fully capable of steering the North Queensland ship without Thurston and with Jason Taumalolo the Cowboys will be hard to stop again.
The club should change their name to the North Queensland J.T's!.
8. Wests Tigers
With Benji Marshall and Robbie Farah returning in 2018 it looked like the fairytale was going to happen. Farah only returned mid-season and unfortunately the momentum the Tigers gathered from the return of the two past legends fell just short of getting into the finals and pulling off a miracle.
In 2019 Farah is on board from day one. Former premiership winning coach Michael McGuire has joined the club in the off-season. It is looking likely that Wests can go at least one step better than last year and at least acquire that eighth position on the ladder and challenge in the finals. They will be the sentimental favourites to pull of a nostalgic grand final win and if this does happen and Jason Taylor will be crying into his beer.
7. Canterbury Bulldogs
Thanks to the Des Hasler era the Dogs' salary cap was left in a shambles in 2018. They managed to shed themselves of some big money players that didn't really pay dividends for the club in Moses Mbye and Aaron Woods. This left the way for a hungry young club to string a few wins together late in the year to finish twelfth on the ladder. Uncovering stars like Wally Lewis' nephew Lachlan Lewis and amazing goal kicker Rhyse Martin.
If these young Dogs can get some early season wins they should finish in the Top 8 and Coach Dean Pay will be even happier that he actually has the face of a Bulldog!.
6. Cronulla Sharks
Although the Sharks are in hot water over salary cap breaches and have no coach, they still have a powerful roster with experience. Andrew Fifita and Paul Gallen may not be popular with fans of other clubs but their performances speak for themselves. Matt Moylan may be shifted back to fullback after a great display in the trial win over Newcastle which may be his best position.
If they have a crap year maybe the rumours of the NRL sending them to Perth permanently might come true?!.
5. Melbourne Storm
Champion dummy half Cameron Smith has signed on for 2019 and 2020. Even with his signature I think we will see Melbourne slide down the ladder this year. The Roosters' game plan embarassed the proud club in the 2018 Grand Final and exposed a few of the Storms weaknesses. Billy Slater will be a huge loss.
The purchase of Sam Kasiano from the Bulldogs last year has been a monumental failure so far.
Craig Bellamy will need windscreen wipers on the coaches box windows for all the spit that will fly from his outbursts.
4. South Sydney Rabbitohs
Brisbane and Souths have done a coach swap. Wayne Bennett is at Souths while the successful rookie coach Anthony Siebold has moved home to Queensland to take on the Broncos head coaching role. Bennett has done it all in coaching and has inherited quite a team with the Rabbitohs, but even Wayne won't be safe from "The Gladiator" if there is no premiership.
Magnificent hooker Damien Cooke was arguably the NRL's best player in 2018 and had a great Origin debut for the series winning Blues. As long as Cooke stays healthy Souths should go a long way in 2019.
3. Sydney Roosters
It was the awesome game plan that won the Roosters the 2018 premiership. The clearly injured Cooper Cronk was revealed to be playing, even running onto the field last to add to the soap opera. Being used as a decoy was a genius move by coach Trent Robinson and a very brave one from Cooper himself. Luke Keary took the game by the scruff of the neck and ripped the victory away from the Melbourne Storm. Craig Bellamy (Melbourne coach) doesn't get out-smarted like that very often.
Did the Roosters leave all their cards on the table after such an awesome display. I think so. It was all or nothing and I don't know if they can pull it off two years in a row. Securing Angus Crichton from rivals Souths was a huge play but won't make a significant difference.
I am looking forward to Cooper Cronk telling the media "We still have much improvement in us" every week until October.
2. St.George Illawarra Dragons
St.George have got to conquer their mid-season slumps to go further this year. With plenty of representative experience from 2018 and the acquisition of Corey Norman the Dragons look powerful.
Korbin Sims joining his brother Tariq at St.George will give the already gigantic forward pack a boost. One day in the future a St.George versus Souths game will actually be called the Sims family versus the Burgess family.
1. Penrith Panthers
Penrith could have given the 2018 premiership a much better shake if the General Manager Of Football Phil Gould didn't fire Head Coach Anthony Griffin six weeks out from the finals. Star halfback Nathan Cleary now has his dad Ivan with him at the club which guarantees both will have a happy future.
James Maloney has proven in the past he can deliver premierships with The Roosters and The Sharks but can be a weakness in defence. Phil Gould's ego could be a hindrance once again. If they don't win Gus will surely say it was all part of their twenty year plan!.