If your club did not qualify for the finals, who would you like to see win the 2019 NRL premiership?
With the regular home-and-away season complete, many supporters of the bottom-eight clubs will be looking to jump on a bandwagon for this year’s finals series.
Some fans of the bottom-eight clubs may choose to remain neutral and may not have any interest as to which team goes on to claim the premiership, let me make a case for each of the top eight clubs as to why you should choose them as your bandwagon team.
This year’s minor premiers, the Melbourne Storm are once again the benchmark. We continue to be in awe of the Storm’s system, their ability to continue developing young superstars, their long-term success and their professionalism.
Losing the likes of Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk, it shows how great their coach Craig Bellamy and captain Cameron Smith are as leaders of this club. Another Storm premiership would raise the bar even higher for every other club in the competition to strive for.
A foundation club with a long, proud history. The eastern suburbs-based team is arguably one of the best run clubs with one of the top playing rosters in the competition. They’re the reigning premiers and have a chance to become the first team in 26 years to win back-to-back titles.
This is the last hurrah for one of the game’s modern greats, halfback Cooper Cronk, who has the opportunity to win a third straight premiership.
South Sydney Rabbitohs
South Sydney are the most successful club in Australian rugby league history, with 21 premierships, but they’ve won only one title in the past 48 years. Sustained success is very important for a foundation club with a long, proud history, and history is very important for rugby league.
A second consecutive top-four finish, but this time with master coach Wayne Bennett at the helm to guide them through the finals. A fairytale premiership would be a fitting end for the retiring John Sutton, the Rabbitohs’ most-capped player in the club’s history.
A club that’s teased with so much potential over the past few years but haven’t turned that potential into premierships. Always an attacking threat, their defensive resolve this year has seen them return to the finals for the first time since 2016.
Winning this year’s competition would be a dream-come-true for long suffering fans from the nation’s capital, ending a 25-year premiership drought for the Raiders.
Speaking of premiership droughts and long-suffering fans, the Eels haven’t won anything since 1986 – the longest run without a premiership of all current NRL clubs, besides the Warriors and Titans, who have never lifted the trophy.
There’s an entire generation of Eels supporters who are yet to experience the feeling of watching their team win a premiership.
From wooden-spooners to finalists, it’s been an admirable turn around. Coach Brad Arthur deserves much credit for what he’s done with the team, especially getting the best out of his halfback Mitchell Moses.
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
It’s hard not to be impressed with Manly in 2019, after a couple of seasons of turmoil both on and off the field. Their unexpected finals appearance comes down to the Des effect.
Widely tipped to finish near the bottom of the ladder, coach Des Hasler has instilled a belief in his team both individually and collectively and has them playing to their potential. With the injury to fullback Tom Trbojevic and some key players missing, they’ll go into the finals series with the underdog tag.
Scraping into the top eight by winning their last game of the season, the Sharks qualify for their fifth consecutive finals appearance. It’s been an up-and-down, controversial and injury-riddled season for the Shire-based club, so they’ve done well to get this far.
However, with the amount of talent and big match experience in their side, they have what it takes to replicate what the Cowboys did in 2017 and make the grand final from outside the top four, which would be a fitting end for retiring great and one-club stalwart Paul Gallen.
The NRL’s glamour club, with six premierships since their inception in 1988, have a prestigious and proud history and are the most supported club in the competition. It’s hard to fathom that a club of such ilk hasn’t won a competition in 13 years.
They possess one of the youngest and most potent forward packs in the competition, but many would believe they’re simply making up the numbers this finals series. It would be a hell of a fairytale if they can make it to the grand final.
Whichever club goes on to win this year’s premiership, there will be a fairytale, feel-good or an in-awe story attached to it.
If you’re a supporter of a club that won’t be featuring in this year’s finals series or if your finals-bound club is eliminated before the grand final, it’s up to you which story appeals to you most when deciding which bandwagon you wish to jump on.