SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 01: Cameron Smith of the Storm celebrates and holds aloft the NRL Premiership trophy after winning the 2017 NRL Grand Final match between the Melbourne Storm and the North Queensland Cowboys at ANZ Stadium on October 1, 2017 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

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.

10 Way-Too-Early Predictions for the 2020 NRL Season

However, I have formulated a ladder consisting of the 16 teams in an order I can agree with.

And here it is:

  1. Melbourne Storm
  2. Parramatta Eels
  3. South Sydney Rabbitohs
  4. Sydney Roosters
  5. Manly Sea Eagles
  6. Brisbane Broncos
  7. North Queensland Cowboys
  8. Cronulla Sharks
  9. Newcastle Knights
  10. Canberra Raiders
  11. Penrith Panthers
  12. Gold Coast Titans
  13. St George Illawarra Dragons
  14. Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
  15. New Zealand Warriors
  16. 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.

11 COMMENTS

  1. You are asking for it with a blog like this 😂
    Ok. I agree with a lot of it but there are a few I don’t agree on.
    I don’t think the storm will be premier’s.
    There is something lacking with them but I can’t quite put my finger on it.
    The loss of Mitchell and Cronk will be to much for the Roosters and I see them finishing 5th-8th.
    Raiders have lost to much strike power and I don’t have them in my top 8.
    I think this year will be a 4 horse race between the Eels, Manly, Bunnies and the Storm a distant 4th.
    I don’t think the tigers roster is weak enough for the spoon and think that will be a 3 way battle between the Titans, Dogs and Warriors.

  2. That is not such a bad ladder.

    I am surprised you have Canberra that low. I do think they will fall but I think they make the eight. Would not argue with your top 4. Broncs are too high in that list. I agree the Titans will move up and maybe even more than you show. Marshall will be brilliant for Souths in the early part of the season but will wane at the back end. I see the Cowboys lower and will be fighting out with Cronulla for a place in the eight. I would put the Knights in the eight at about sixth.

  3. I don’t know what vitamins yr on but I’d change them real quick 😂. How u don’t have Raiders in top 4 is beyond me n doesn’t need explanation. Storm to get gold is another Mystery considering what’s happened there plus smith is another year older n is well over due for an injury or injuries. it’s not personal he’s a champion, however it’s a mathematical fact. If that happens n I hope it doesn’t, the Storm r gone. My final view is, none or very few tipping experts consider taking in the critical stat from the last few years where teams that have a 80% + goal kicker which win tight games n there will be lots of those this year. take The sharks n tigers for instance. Tigers make the 8 n sharks go close To 4th, again the stats also state that a tactical kicker is a huge advantage especially with the new 20/40 option. I invite u review yr forecasts based these proven facts n I’m sure u will come up with a different rating. I’m not a raider supporter or a storm hater just an objective observer with No biases. I’m enjoying all of the articles so ZT we’ll done n keep it up.

  4. Don’t know about the owner of this blog but my reasoning for the Raiders not making the top 8 are as follows.
    They lost Sezer and replaced him with a half who is untried in the NRL.
    Yes he is a star in ESL but that’s a different kettle of fish. Also Sezer is a playmaker while the new guy is a running half.
    Also they have lost Rapana and Leilua who were two of their biggest strike weapons.
    I have the Raiders finishing no higher than 9th and as low as 12th.

  5. Ok, how about the correct list…

    Parramatta Eels
    Sydney Roosters
    Melbourne Storm
    Canberra Raiders
    South Sydney Rabbitohs
    Manly Sea Eagles
    Brisbane Broncos
    Wests Tigers
    Newcastle Knights
    Penrith Panthers
    North Queensland Cowboys
    Cronulla Sharks
    St George Illawarra Dragons
    New Zealand Warriors
    Gold Coast Titans
    Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs

  6. South Sydney have enough…Billionaire and Hollywood star owners, the greatest coach in history along with the Roosters top point scorer… as well as being bridesmaids for the last few years..
    They should be premiers in 2020… Anything less will be a dismal failure to go along with 50 years of failure

  7. I agree soufths on Paper have purchased a backline worthy of Sydney Roosters back to back crowns, with Rusties big Nana Glen Farm cash in hand handouts to various new transit.lounge. Signings.

    However undoubtedly they will falter when the run into the semis warms up. To many bighead walk-about duds with huge egos will confirm this fact of life. Soufths 1 purchased premiership win in 50 years was thanks to the big white Englishmen and in particular the Facebook Flasher got them over the line that night way back 6 seasons ago and nearly 70 (George Burgarse) full Moons have gone by since.

  8. For what it’s worth ….I believe the raiders will regress a touch but still be good. I’m worried about the south’s forward depth ( no really worried but you catch my drift)
    Tigers , dogs and dragons will be better than expected. Sharks,broncos and cowboys to miss 8 again whilst the eels , manly and Knights to go north on the ladder. Titans for spoon again

  9. My top 8

    1: Souths
    2: Roosters
    3: Eels
    4: Storm
    5: Manly
    6: Sharks
    7: Raiders
    8: Dogs ( dark horse )

    9: Cowboys
    10: Broncos
    11: Tigers
    12: Knights
    13: Dragons
    14: Warriors
    15: Penrith
    16: Titans

    It’s a 4 horse race this year, it’s out of eels, Souths, roosters, Storm.
    I think Raiders will slip the ladder the ladder a bit, the dark horse is bulldogs, I know dean pay he’s a very smart coach, I think he can get the best out of he’s young squad and make the 8

  10. I feel Manly are too high. I understand they had a great year last year but feel they overachieved a bit (everyone was predicting them to miss the 8 at the start of the season) and don’t have the depth to compete with the top teams. As for the Broncos, I’ve seen them placed anywhere between 3rd and 13th and am struggling to figure out where they will fit

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