The Sydney Roosters reigned supreme in 2018. They outclassed, outlasted and definitely – all the way to grand final day – outwitted everyone. They’re the team to chase in 2019.
2019 seems so close, yet it is so far away. With arguably the most controversial offseason in the past decade, the season is brewing to be a big one.
With so many new coaches at the helms of certain clubs come 2019 kick-off – it’s crazy.
So many big names moving to new clubs and some even to new sports entirely. Shaun Johnson no longer a Warrior. David Klemmer a Knight. Valentine Holmes leaving the Sharks to make it to the NFL.
Benny Barba back and countless legends retiring in 2018. This season shapes up to be a great, yet controversial season.
At first, I struggled to actually knuckle down on which teams could potentially land in the top eight. There seem to be at least four teams you can lock in.
Other teams may be considered a lock, but more as an afterthought option.
Once I genuinely thought about it, I had to put all feelings aside and come up with the best and most honest top eight I could actually put together.
I will not predict the finals, I’ll simply put together my top eight teams in order and I’ll let the finals play out next September!
With no bias whatsoever, here are my prediction teams to make the top eight next season.
8th: St George-Illawarra Dragons
Barely scraping in purely on the talent alone on their squad, I have the Dragons.
They will edge out two major teams, in what could be a contentious call.
I believe based on their roster alone, they’ll make the eight. In what could be Gareth Widdop’s last season, they need to fire on all cylinders to keep out the other two teams who can squeeze in (who will be named at the end).
7th: North Queensland Cowboys
Coming back from the year of hell, I think they bounce back with a vengeance. No farewell tour for Johnathan Thurston, it’s Michael Morgan’s show to run.
If the addition of Josh McGuire is finalised, I can’t see them not making the eight. Add in the extra dynamic of adding a comfortable Ben Barba at fullback, with the best forward in the game in Jason Taumalolo, they will bounce back into the finals and be possibly the scariest seventh seed to face.
6th: Newcastle Knights
Yes. The Knights will be back in the top eight. They have recruited way too well to not make it.
Alongside with the return of Mitchell Pearce, the emergence of Kalyn Ponga, the resurgence of Tautau Moga, they have added two Origin players in David Klemmer and Tim Glasby.
Along with them, they picked up two great outside backs from the Sharks in Edrick Lee and Jesse Ramien.
Their depth is becoming envious and Nathan Brown will have all the tools to make an interesting push come finals time. I see big things brewing in Newy!
5th: Cronulla Sharks
I may be the only person who thinks this, but I think Shaun Johnson makes them less of a threat than previous years.
Is that crazy to say? I just don’t think he suits their gritty, hard nose style of footy.
Time will tell, but I assume moving Johnson into the halves with his old partner in Chad Townsend, Matt Moylan to fullback and Aaron Woods with a full pre-season with the club, the Sharks will always be a scary prospect.
Throw in Paul Gallen, Andrew Fifita and Wade Graham when he’s back from injury, the Sharks will pose an ever posing threat come finals time. To round it off, let’s just say, I would never trade Val for Johnson, if given the opportunity.
4th: Melbourne Storm
The loss of Billy Slater will prove to be a huge loss.
The only way I can see the Storm not really losing an edge is to play Cameron Munster at fullback – which they can’t due to lack of half options.
With Munster and Brodie Croft in the halves, I assume Jahrome Hughes or Scott Drinkwater gets the run at Slater’s jersey.
They will be steady, I just think they will lack the extra guidance Slater provided. As long as Cam is around, fourth to sixth is always achievable.
3rd: South Sydney Rabbitohs
With the addition of Wayne Bennett, as much as I think he is over the hill, I have a scary feeling he will bring out the best in the club.
The roster is there, the players are there, they just need that extra push to get over the hump. I think Bennett provides that, and the 2019 season looks to be a promising one for the Rabbitohs and their loyal fan base.
2nd: Penrith Panthers
If you want success, buy James Maloney. The man just knows how to win. His first year was a rocky one and, with the departure of a few big name forwards, his second may be just as tough.
This Panther side will be buzzing with excitement with a new coach and will make a serious push to contend in 2019. The international captaincy for Dallene Watene-Zelezniak in his Kiwi colours bought out a new player.
Dylan Edwards may be worried for his spot back and I think the Panthers will be better for all the competition within.
1st: Sydney Roosters
No surprises here. They lost a few rising, but small, household names.
They added NSW backrower Angus Crichton, England’s leading try scorer of all-time in Ryan Hall, and one of the best finishers in Brett Morris.
How this club has money to spend is beyond me, but they make it work. They’ll be hard to top.
I can’t see anyone topping them in my honest opinion. If any team in the last 20 years could go back to back, it’s this side.
I had a three-way tie for the eighth spot. It was a tough call, but someone had to make it.
You would’ve realised the Broncos and Warriors never got a mention.
For the Broncos, a new coach – who the players may not be interested in – will be their downfall.
The Warriors? Although I think they become a better team without Johnson, they completely shot themselves in the foot when they released Mason Lino to Newcastle.
He was the perfect replacement, and now they’re grasping at thin air. Blake Green can hold the fort down but, without a solid half option, that’ll be their demise.
The other sides? Not much interest in looking at their chances.
Like it? Hate it? Comment below. I tried to rank them as honestly as I could. If you agree with my eight, awesome!
If you then don’t agree with my placings – you try do it!
Enjoy. Prepare yourself for a great season ahead!