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.
From the winner to last place, the highs and lows and everything between, here’s Blythy’s 50 Fearless Predictions ahead of the 2021 NRL season.
40. Pearce Off!
Recent rumours of some Mitchell Pearce infidelity has reportedly split the Knights squad in two, and at the worst possible time for the veteran half. Off contract after 2021, Pearce has been deep in negotiations for an extension - but it won't come. The offer will be pulled, and Pearce will be stranded between a move to the Super League, or a return to Sydney, but not former club the Roosters.
39. WADA wreaks havoc
A rule change from WADA that states a player who tests positive to a drug will only miss 1-3 months if they can prove it was taken recreationally will see a spike in off-field dramas. At least five players, not including Brent Naden, will be found guilty by the end of 2021, putting a spotlight on player's off-field lives even further.
38. A Hughes new pay packet
They don't lose many they want to keep, but Melbourne Storm will lose halfback Jahrome Hughes to the highest bidder, with the Warriors and the Titans both throwing $800,000 at the Kiwi international. Melbourne will throw a decent contract his way, but after winning a premiership and the imminent departure of Craig Bellamy, Hughes will hit the exit door.
37. Storm's Bellyache over
It's the year Melbourne Storm fans have dreaded for nearly two decades - Craig Bellamy's final season at the club. After19 years at the helm, Bellamy will depart Victoria for a sunnier life as part of the Brisbane Bronco's fold in Red Hill, and the results will show.
36. Indigenous All Stars win once more
A shock loss to the Maori All Stars in the 2019 matchup will be a distant memory, as will Latrell Mitchell's poor debut at fullback. After not playing since late August, Mitchell will stand tall and star as the Indigenous All Stars win their sixth match from ten starts.
35. New Smith on the block
Will Cameron return? Will Brandon leave in 2022? While those Smith's rule headlines in the pre-season, it'll be new recruit Reimis who rules them during the season. He'll be Melbourne's top try-scorer with 17, beating out George Jennings for the right wing spot, and Addo-Carr in the try-scorers race.
34. Johns follows footsteps
We saw both Jack and Cooper Johns debut in 2020 for South Sydney and Melbourne respectively, playing two matches each, but it'll be Jack who makes the biggest mark in 2021 when he becomes the third member of the Johns family to play for Newcastle. Following the departure of Aiden Guerra and Sione Mata'utia, Johns will feature in at least half a dozen games in 2021, proving he's more than a surname.
33. New Walker on the block
Everyone is talking about Joseph Suaalii, but it'll be young halfback Sam Walker who snares the Dally M Rookie of the Year award. He might not start Round 1 but he'll be the big talking point of the trials, competing with Lachlan Lam and Drew Hutchison for the seven jersey. But once he gets it he won't let go, while Suaalii won't be a regular starter until 2022.
32. St Helens deliver threepeat
After sending off James Graham in style with their second consecutive premiership, St Helens will make it a trifecta after recruiting star back-rowers Joel Thompson and Sione Mata'utia, who'll join former NRL players Kevin Naiqama and Lachlan Coote at the club.
31. Tom the last man standing
A powerhouse quartet at their peak, Thomas Burgess will be the final member of the famous four still in rugby league by the end of 2021. With brothers Luke and Sam gone, twin brother George will be medically retired in 2021, despite turning 29 in April. The big man has carried a hip issue since 2016, only managing eight appearances for the Wigan Warriors last season.