This weekend sees the start of festivities for the 2020 NRL Season.
The All-Star Game and the Perth Nines will soon make way for trials, the World Club Challenge, the Charity Shield, then oh boy, here comes the big day. NRL kickoff is better than any wedding, birthday and Christmas rolled into one. Maybe that is a stretch, but this is the first time in a long time I have been this excited for a season.
So many storylines write themselves, Latrell Mitchell crossing town from the Roosters to the Rabbitohs, the Titans and Knights beginning life under new coaches, the Dragons, Warriors and Bulldogs having coaches on the spotlight, and the first season since 2008 where we have not been graced by the presence of Jeremy Lattimore. Unless he comes out of retirement. Jeremy, if you’re reading this, please do.
However, I have formulated a ladder consisting of the 16 teams in an order I can agree with.
And here it is:
- Melbourne Storm
- Parramatta Eels
- South Sydney Rabbitohs
- Sydney Roosters
- Manly Sea Eagles
- Brisbane Broncos
- North Queensland Cowboys
- Cronulla Sharks
- Newcastle Knights
- Canberra Raiders
- Penrith Panthers
- Gold Coast Titans
- St George Illawarra Dragons
- Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
- New Zealand Warriors
- Wests Tigers
Yes. A whole lot of controversy. But hear me out for a second.
Let’s start at the top. I see 3 Premiership contenders this year. The Eels are (on paper) the best team in the competition. There are very few holes in their roster and have depth in all positions. The only thing stopping them from being minor premiers is one man: Craig Bellamy. Bellamy will coach the Storm to perfection once again, they may not win 20 games like they did last season, however, they will do enough to ensure they remain at the top of the pile.
Souths are the third team in contention, they have enough strike weapons to ward Iran away from war. However, the issue may rest with coaching. In no ways am I saying Wayne Bennett is a bad coach, his record speaks for himself, however, his coaching methods in the last few years has become more and more defensive. The results he attained as Great Britain coach last year shows what happens when attacking threats fail to fire in a Bennett, coached team. If one or more of Latrell, Cody Walker, Damien Cook, Cam Murray or Campbell Graham fail to fire on any given match, it may result in devastating defeats against much worse opposition.
The two wildcard teams for the Premiership are the Roosters and the Sea Eagles. The Roosters may be in the quickest rebuild in NRL History, I suspect that by this time next year I will be lauding them as a genuine premiership threat. However, this season will be a time of transition. Kyle Flanagan needs time to adjust not only to his new team but also to becoming an NRL level starting halfback. And that hole at centre isn’t going away any time soon, even signing a Josh Dugan or Josh Morris (are there any other Josh’s that play centre? Asking for Nick Politis) won’t fill the mark left by Latrell.
The Sea Eagles are a classic example of the salary cap, big players on big contracts, and much cheaper players filling in the blanks. If the youth develops properly, Manly will have a team to rival any in NRL history, however, that will not occur in 2020.
Onto the next 3 teams. The Broncos can make the top 4 if the stars align, however, the stars rarely listen to puny mortals like you, I and Anthony Siebold. The team has talent and depth, but not to the level of the premiership contenders, and face the same issues as both Manly and Sydney, inexperienced halfback and cap issues. They are effectively in NRL purgatory, however, the seeds have been sewn to allow them to escape.
The Cowboys are like the Sea Eagles, lots of cap dedicated to key players. Except their key players are Michael Morgan, Valentine Holmes and Jason Taumalolo. Remove Taumalolo and they are not at that same level.
The Sharks are a mixture of veterans and youth, but the youth is the oddity. Outside of Bronson Xerri of course. They will make the finals on experience, but experience doesn’t win titles in the NRL.
The Knights, Raiders and Panthers just miss the eight. And by just, I mean 4 points at most between the Panthers and the Sharks. I could’ve easily put any of those teams at eighth, but I didn’t. Why didn’t I? Because Newcastle has a new coach, Canberra relies too heavily on the form of individuals, and Penrith has too many holes in their roster. That covers just about everything.
Then we have the bottom 5. All genuine candidates for the wooden spoon. The Titans are the most promising of the teams, but even then there’s little to no chance of them making any sort of push for September football. The Dragons just lost their captain and will still be without De Bellin for the foreseeable future. The Bulldogs have talent in positions, but not enough overall. The Warriors and Tigers are both dramatically lacking in talent. It was a coin toss as to which team will be worse
So I’ve explained why I’ve put every team where they are. I’m sure that if you disagree with where I put your team, you’ll leave an angry comment either on here or on Facebook. And I will take great pride in reading through them, might even reply to a few.
But there are two more predictions I need to make. The first is the Dally M Medal. I believe this will go to Mitchell Moses. He is a brilliant playmaker on a team sure to win 17 or more matches this season. In the past, he wouldn’t be a candidate due to his erratic playstyle, however, he has grown beyond that now. He is an origin level player who deserves as much recognition as he can receive.
Now for my premiers. It’s the Melbourne Storm. There is no debate in my head for this. Bellamy will use the pain of last seasons loss to the Roosters as motivation to push this team further than ever before. They will beat the Roosters, Rabbits and Eels on the way to another premiership. Cameron Smith’s last act in the NRL will be hoisting the Provan, Summons trophy once again. It is only fitting.
Let the comments roll in.