The 2020 NRL Grand Final capped off what was another fantastic year in the National Rugby League. Melbourne Storm won their 4th title after defeating Penrith Panthers 26-20 in the finale of the season at AZN Stadium in Sydney.
All 16 teams in the NRL will now be preparing for the new campaign in 2021 which begins on the 11th March, with the Grand Final scheduled to take place on the 3rd October. Here is everything you need to know about the new season.
Storm Looking to Become Only Second Repeat Winners In NRL
Defending the NRL title has not been easy since the league was rebranded in 1998, as only one team has been able to defend their crown. Sydney Roosters were able to win back-to-back titles in 2018 and 2019, so that will be fresh in the memory of the current crop of Storm players.
At the time of writing, Storm were still waiting to see if their captain Cameron Smith will sign to play in 2021. This is going to be significant, as losing their skipper would be a big blow to the defending champions.
George Jennings and Reimis Smith both join Storm from Parramatta Eels and Canterbury Bulldogs respectively. More additions are likely to follow as head coach Craig Bellamy will be keen to add some fresh faces to his squad.
Melbourne are third-best at 6/1 in the NRL outright betting in 2021. Penrith and Sydney are above them in that market, which suggests those three teams are the most likely to be fighting for the two Grand Final spaces between them.
Four players from England have signed deals to play in the NRL in 2021. One of them is Warrington Wolves’ Ben Murdoch-Masila, who is moving to New Zealand Warriors. The Tonga international has played 68 times for Warrington since 2018, scoring 20 tries in that period. He won the Challenge Cup with the Merseyside club in 2019 at Wembley Stadium.
Joey Lussick is another player who is set to feature in the NRL next year. The Australian knows the league very well as he played for the Manly Sea Eagles in 2017. For the past three seasons, he has been excellent for the Salford Red Devils. The 24-year-old played in the Grand Final in 2019 where his side fell 23-6 to St Helens at Old Trafford. It will be great to see the young player back in Australia.
Warriors Set to Be Based in Australia For First Four Weeks
New Zealand Warriors, the Auckland-based team in the NRL, will play their opening four rounds of their season in Australia. Their first two home games against the Titans and Newcastle will take place at the Central Coast Stadium.
The Warriors are planning to return to New Zealand later in the campaign. If not, they are likely to remain at Central Coast Stadium. Given they played in Australia for the whole of their season in 2020, it should not impact the club too much. They finished 10th in the standings this year, winning eight of their 20 matches.
Head coach Nathan Brown will begin his first full season with the Warriors next season. The Australian has a lot of experience in the NRL as he has held coaching roles with St George Illawarra and Newcastle Knights, while he had spells in England with St Helens and Huddersfield Giants.
The Warriors have had just one winning record season in the last nine in the NRL, therefore, Brown has been brought in to help the team progress in the right direction on the field. New additions are expected to arrive in the off-season to give them a better chance of success in 2021.
Next season’s fixtures have already been released by the NRL. Notable games in round one are Melbourne Storm’s home tie with South Sydney Rabbitohs, Brisbane Broncos take on Parramatta Eels at Suncorp Stadium, while the New Zealand Warriors are home to the Gold Coast Titans.