Revisiting my five fearless predictions for the 2017 NRL season

Ryan O'Connell Columnist

By , Ryan O'Connell is a Roar Expert

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    With the 2017 NRL season now completed, it’s time to rewind all the way back to the pre-season, and revisit my fearless predictions for the year.

    As ever, this is an exercise that’s excruciatingly embarrassing, but nonetheless fun, as we determine just how much rugby league egg I should have on my face.

    Let’s rip this off like a Band-Aid.

    1. The Sharks won’t make the eight
    Well, you could argue that Cronulla were bundled out in the first weekend of the finals series, so it’s not that bad of a prediction. Unfortunately, there’s the pesky data point that they actually finished fifth on the ladder, a full six points ahead of the ninth-placed Dragons, so the prediction was a considerable way off.

    There was some slight method to my madness though, as no NRL team has ever won back-to-back premierships, and with the Sharks also losing Michael Ennis and Ben Barba, I thought their premiership hangover might extend all the way to missing out on a finals berth.

    However, I was wrong. Very wrong. So we’ll just move along rather sharply, shall we?

    2. Des Hasler will depart the Dogs before season’s end
    Obviously, I was referring to the rugby league season, not the NRL season. Since we still have the World Cup to go, and Hasler is long departed from the Dogs, I’m giving myself a tick here.

    No?

    Half a tick then?

    Hasler was under pressure before a football was even kicked this year, and after a rocky start, he was all but gone. Yet after a gutsy win against Brisbane in the rain, the Bulldogs announced they were extending Hasler’s contract by a further two years.

    It was a decision that looked silly almost straight away, as the Dogs went on to play some of the insipid footy in the club’s proud history, and finished well out of the top eight.

    It was clear something was not right at Belmore, and Hasler paid the price once the season ended, with an acrimonious split that looks headed to the courts.

    3. Souths will win the premiership
    I’ve been making these season predictions for a few years now, and this may be one of the worst I’ve ever made.

    Unlike some other predictions, it’s not just because of how bad it looks in hindsight either; this was a dodgy one the minute it was made.

    The Bunnies were listed at $17 to win the premiership, so they were ‘roughies’ anyway, but a spine of Greg Inglis, Adam Reynolds and Robbie Farah should have rivalled almost anyone in the competition. And if Sam Burgess and the rest of the pack could provide some go-forward, my feeling was that Souths would surprise a lot of teams.

    Sadly, Inglis was lost for the season to injury, Reynolds battled his own health concerns, the Farah signing was a borderline disaster, and one of rugby league’s great mysteries is how and why Sam Burgess has fallen so far from elite status in the game.

    The Bunnies had a poor year, finished 12th on the ladder, and fired their coach. So, needless to say, they did not win the premiership, and this prediction was just a little bit off.

    4. Blake Austin will win the Dally M
    And you thought the Souths pick was bad?

    Goodness gracious me, this is enough to get me fired by The Roar.

    To put into context just how bad of a prediction this ended up being, Austin wasn’t even in the top five vote-getters… at his own club!

    I thought Austin was a chance because he’d have few teammates stealing points from him. It’s a logic that makes even less sense when you consider Cameron Smith won, and he’s got a load of talented players around him.

    There is no defence for this selection. Time to just jog along, nothing to see here.

    Canberra Raiders player Blake Austin

    Photo: NRL images

    5. The Knights won’t win the wooden spoon
    After a valiant late-season attempt by the Tigers, Titans and Warriors to steal Newcastle’s wooden spoon, the Knights held on to win rugby league’s booby prize, and rob me of the one prediction I was the most bullish about.

    The Knights were a better team than their record showed this season, with a number of close losses, and gutsy performances. Though you never want to finish on the bottom of the ladder, fans should be proud of their team and their effort in 2017.

    It may not feel like it just yet, but there is plenty of cause for optimism, and with some much-needed talent on the way in 2018, things are looking up for Newcastle.

    Sadly, things aren’t quite as bright for my season predictions, as I finish with a paltry half a mark, and even that is extremely generous.

    Onwards and upwards! Already looking forward to the 2018 NRL season, and my embarrassing prognostications.

    Ryan O
    Ryan O'Connell

    Ryan is an ex-representative basketballer who shot too much, and a (very) medium pace bowler. He's been with The Roar as an expert since February 2011, has written for the Seven Network, and been a regular on ABC radio. Ryan tweets from @RyanOak.