NRL Rd 6 - Panthers v Storm
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 19: Cameron Smith of the Storm passes Nathan Cleary of the Panthers after the round six NRL match between the Penrith Panthers and the Melbourne Storm at Campbelltown Stadium on June 19, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

As we get ready to farewell 2020, we begin to look forward on the horizon to next year, and all the ups and downs that are tied to it.

We prepare for some normality in and outside rugby league, and while even Nostradamus couldn’t have predicted what 2020 would deliver, I’ll give 2021 it a crack.

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From the winner to last place, the highs and lows and everything between here is Blythy’s 50 Fearless Predictions ahead of the 2021 NRL season.

Click here for Part 1 of our 50 Fearless Predictions for 2021 (50-41)
Click here for Part 2 of our 50 Fearless Predictions for 2021 (40-31)
Click here for Part 3 of our 50 Fearless Predictions for 2021 (30-21)
Click here for Part 4 of our 50 Fearless Predictions for 2021 (20-11)

10. Up and Upton

She had a breakout 2020, but Brisbane’s NRLW fullback Tamika Upton will cement herself as one of the game’s best when she wins the Dally M Medal, beating out the usual suspects in Jessica Sergis, Kezzie Apps and Brisbane teammate Ali Brigginshaw.

9. Top try-scorer

Alex Johnston scored five in the last round to overtake Kyle Feldt, but a potential move to the right will hinder his scoring in 2021. It’ll be Penrith centre Stephen Crichton who takes it out, playing on a lethal left edge, he’ll score 20+.

NRL Rd 11 - Titans v Panthers
GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA – JULY 26: Stephen Crichton of the Panthers scores a try during the round 11 NRL match between the Gold Coast Titans and the Penrith Panthers at Cbus Super Stadium on July 26, 2020 in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)

8. Top point-scorer

Nathan Cleary fell 13 points short last year but he’ll clinch the top point-scorers award after another stellar season for Penrith. Adam Reynolds snared the gong last season though the Rabbitohs half managed his second-highest try scoring season. Cleary will miss minimal games, and score some points along the way.

7. 20/40 out does two-pointers

We didn’t see a single one in its maiden season, but we’ll see some 20/40s in 2021 – and we’ll see more of them than the new ‘two-point field goals’. The NRL introduced a new rule, any field goals landed outside the 40-metre line is worth two points, which led to backlash. We’ll see under three of those this season.

6. Maroons name uncapped coach

Queensland will shock many by naming a new head coach – with no coaching history. Paul Green is favoured by many but will turn down the role in chase of a gig with an NRL team (which he’ll get mid-season).

While he hasn’t announced his 2021 plans, Cam Smith’s playing days are done, and he’ll step up to the plate alongside assistant coach Billy Slater before Smith walks away in 2023 to assist the new Queensland side.

5. End of an era

While we’re in the midst of a new generation taking over the league, we’ll bid farewell to some superstars in 2021. Brett and Josh Morris, Andrew Fifita, Alex Glenn, Benji Marshall, Jordan Rapana and Russell Packer will hang up the boots, carrying nearly 2,000 NRL games of experience, close to 1,000 tries, and nine Grand Final appearances between them.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – JULY 14: Benji Marshall of the Tigers thanks the crowd after playing his 300th game during the round 17 NRL match between the Wests Tigers and the Parramatta Eels at Bankwest Stadium on July 14, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

4. Wooden Spoon

The poor Wests Tigers, not only will they miss the finals for a tenth consecutive year, but they’ll pick up the wooden spoon along the way. They have some big salaries in Moses Mbye and Russell Packer clogging their cap, a highly rated young brigade with few NRL games between them, a half with 148 games and zero finals appearances, and a lot of inconsistency in the squad. They’ll be the big improvers of 2022, but this will not be their year.

3. Minor Premiers

Melbourne, in Craig Bellamy’s final season, will once again dominate the regular season. Harry Grant returns to form a new big three, alongside Cameron Munster and Ryan Papenhuyzen and will finish at least four points clear at the top. It will come undone in the finals without the leadership of Cameron Smith, but Bellamy will leave them in a good way.

2. Runners Up

Penrith Panthers will go oh so close yet oh so far again, losing back-to-back Grand Finals. The side has already begun to be picked apart, losing Matt Burton and Daine Laurie for 2022, Zane Tetevano to the Super League, James Tamou to the Tigers, and being forced by rival interest to pay their youngsters big money. Their depth has taken a hit and will make the Grand Final, though exhausted. Their opponents? Well, they’ll be…

1. Premiers

South Sydney Rabbitohs

The fairytale seems set. Wayne Bennett’s last year at rugby league’s oldest club. Jai Arrow arrives as a forward leader, Latrell has a pre-season at fullback, there’s plenty to be excited about at Redfern. They’ve lost Corey Allan and Bailey Sironen from their prelim side, and add Campbell Graham, Mitchell, Arrow and Josh Mansour to that side. And for the Clive Churchill medal? Cameron Murray is special in a narrow affair, 20-18 to the Rabbits.

NRL Rd 20 - Rabbitohs v Roosters
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – SEPTEMBER 25: Alex Johnston of the Rabbitohs celebrates with team mates after scoring a try during the round 20 NRL match between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the Sydney Roosters at ANZ Stadium on September 25, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Click here for Part 1 of our 50 Fearless Predictions for 2021 (50-41)
Click here for Part 2 of our 50 Fearless Predictions for 2021 (40-31)
Click here for Part 3 of our 50 Fearless Predictions for 2021 (30-21)
Click here for Part 4 of our 50 Fearless Predictions for 2021 (20-11)


  1. Not so sure about a lot of those predictions again.
    The comment about Penrith being forced to pay top dollar , to keep their own players isn’t exactly spot on. Leniu & Staines both rejected other clubs much higher offers to stay at Penrith.
    Daine Laurie wasn’t actually given an offer to stay at Penrith. It would have been a good idea to give him an offer, as he would have stayed.
    The big money that they didn’t pay for Burton, Mansour, Tahmou . Plus the money not spent in Tetevano & a host of others that have left. Must be available to spend on keeping those that they’d now like to keep there.
    However, it’s true to say that they are being picked apart. As unfair as that is.
    Not sure that they’ll make the grand final again? Then again, are you so sure about South’s will win it?
    It seems to be a theme amongst people who write stories for this site , to push
    The South Sydney Bandwagon!

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