A new year brings a new season of NRL to look forward to (and hopefully some luck with my predictions).
Like last year, I will be writing my ladder predictions with reasoning behind the places, then will go through my finals predictions.
Once again these are just my predictions and feel free to voice your opinions in the comments section below.
Lets just say I don’t have this going one versus two like last year’s grand final, nevertheless, here is my ladder after 25 rounds.
1. Sydney Roosters
Where to even begin with this team? I don’t think I have seen a team win a premiership before, and then add further depth and quality to their line-up.
Seriously, how is it they lose Blake Ferguson, who was a star for them last year, and replace him with not one but two international rep wingers in Brett Morris and Ryan Hall?
Add in Angus Crichton and you have one team that should really get to around the 40=point mark for the season and win the minor premiership with a few games to spare.
2. South Sydney Rabbitohs
If there is one team you relate to a “never say die” attitude, it’s the Rabbits. They always seem to find a way to win games late from out of nowhere.
They have relatively the same team as they did last year in terms of squad list. However, the acquisition of Wayne Bennett should bring better defence to Redfern and add that to their attack which has multiple stars such as Damien Cook, Adam Reynolds and Dane Gagai as well as a strong forward pack led by Sam Burgess and you have a solid unit who should be up there come the end of the season.
3. St George Illawarra Dragons
My first ‘surprise’ of the predictions. I have the annual ‘May premiers’ doing a lot better at the back end of the season than last year.
I really feel Paul McGregor has learnt from his mistakes not resting players during the Origin period and will do so this year.
The depth the Dragons have is strong, especially in their forward pack, which I think is the strongest in the comp.
I also think the acquisition of Corey Norman will prove great for the Red V as they add another attacking option to the attack that during the first half of the year last year was unstoppable. Hence why I have them in the top four.
4. Melbourne Storm
The first team to drop down the ladder in the predictions. The main reason for this, is of course losing Billy Slater, meaning they now have just one of the three future immortals left in Cameron Smith.
While they still do have plenty of attacking options, I feel that they aren’t building as much as other teams around them and hence why the drop.
I still however think they make top four due to the fact they’ve still got Cameron Smith’s leadership, as well as the best coach in the game at the moment in Craig Bellamy, who won’t let his team drop off.
5. Penrith Panthers
Honestly I struggled with my teams finishing number five and six as both I believe are dark horses to win it this year.
Reason I have Penrith finishing fifth however is due to the fact they do have that little bit more experience throughout their team.
I also feel the re-signing of Ivan Cleary will prove beneficial as they’ll be no rift between him and Phil Gould, meaning the team will be focused on their footy.
I feel Nathan Cleary will also have a bigger role this year and would’ve learnt from the heartbreak against the Sharks in the finals last year.
James Maloney is one of the best winners in the game at the moment and with their depth I think they are capable of finally hitting some of the goals in the 5,10,15, whatever year plan it is.
6. Brisbane Broncos
As said previously, I did struggle with my number five and number six. Reason I have Brisbane finishing sixth however is due to the fact they did lose a fair bit of experience in Josh McGuire moving to the Cowboys and Sam Thaiday retiring.
I feel the young forward pack need a couple more years to fully develop and reach their potential. As well as this, a new coach in Anthony Seibold means it may take this young time a little bit to gel to a new system.
The halves combo of Brisbane also need to show a little bit more “clutch”, especially against tougher opposition in bigger games.
7. Newcastle Knights
Gee, haven’t seen you here in a while! Yep, I think this year is the year the Knights finally crack the eight in their rebuild.
The acquisition of David Klemmer as well as names such as Tim Glasby, Kurt Mann and Edrick Lee means they have filled up some spots which were previously holes in their squad list.
For Newcastle’s sake, I hope Kayln Ponga is played t fullback, however I trust Nathan Brown, whose one of the smarter coaches in the NRL.
Reason I don’t have them too high? I think if any key players get injured, like Mitchell Pearce last year, they don’t have the depth to challenge for a top four spot.
8. North Queensland Cowboys
Other big movers are the Cowboys. Let’s just write off last year, it was a disaster to say the least.
Once they got their full team back at the end of the season however, they were winning a couple of games. I think with their squad, if fit, they should be making finals easy.
I think they’ll be slow starters again this year however, as it’ll take the new spine of the team time to gel (even more now cause of the muppet Ben Barba’s exit).
Their forward pack however is one of the strongest in the comp and add Josh McGuire to it and you got one competitive team who’ll make everyone struggle to beat them
9. Cronulla Sharks
The biggest loser of my predictions. The Sharks just can’t escape drama with the new allegations of salary cap cheating and the de-registering of their former coach Shane Flannagan.
Also will struggle in attack, losing their best attacker Valentine Holmes to the NFL. I just can’t see who will score their points.
Also take away 300+ games experience in Luke Lewis and their roster is really looking thinner. With that being said, the additions of Shaun Johnson (is he stays) and Josh Morris should make the losses a little less and they do still have stars in Andrew Fifita and Josh Dugan.
Good luck in your new coaching job John Morris.
10. Manly Warringah Sea Eagles
A team that’ll relatively be the same as last year. The re-signing of Des Hasler as coach should prove massive and should see a more disciplined, hard-working team.
When you have the attacking flair like Tom Trbojevic and Daly Cherry-Evans as well as forwards such as Jake Trbojevic and Marty Taupau anything is possible.
For Manly to succeed, they need to make Brookvale Oval a fortress again, losing quite a few games there recently. Once again not many additions besides Kane Elgey from the Titans and in such a competitive league, you really need to do more to make it to September.
11. New Zealand Warriors
A big drop for team across the Tasman. I just see the Warriors doing a traditional fall down the ladder after one year in the finals for them.
They lost both quality and experience in Shaun Johnson and Simon Mannering. The addition of Lesson Ah Mau from the Dragons is a good one and should improve an already decent forward pack.
Just can’t see them scoring without a sufficient replacement for Shaun Johnson. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is there, however if he gets injured, I see this team turning to dust like they did in last year’s elimination final versus Penrith.
12. Parramatta Eels
A big improvement for the team with a new home. Usually when any team get a new stadium, they make their new home a fortress for at least one year.
I see Parramatta doing this and having a great win-loss record at home. Problem is away from home I expect them to still be shocking, something as a fan of the side, I have experienced too much.
The addition of Junior Paulo is great as the forward pack struggled to move last year and got smashed by other teams. The addition of Blake Ferguson will also bring both attack and experience to the team who were so predictable to watch.
Brad Arthur is a great coach, however, Parramatta need a quicker start to the year than previous years, which with so many away games to start off the year, will be hard to do.
13. Wests Tigers
The last team I could think of a place for. I think the Tigers are a team that can produce one or two upsets, however will struggle for consistency.
A new coach in Michael Maguire should produce a hot start to the year, however I just don’t think the Tigers have any players that are “elite”.
The lack of size in the forwards has me worried they could be run over and steamrolled by teams and can experience a couple of floggings throughout the year.
Luke Brooks has another year of experience up his sleeve so should produce further quality, however I am not sure if he will – and he could be exposed.
14. Canberra Raiders
A huge drop for one of the better attacking teams in the league. The reason for this is they lost a lot of quality in Blake Austin to the Super League, as well as both starting front rowers in Shannon Boyd and Junior Paulo.
They have not replaced them at all. Rumours have Jack Wighton starting in the five-eighth role, something which I think is a risk that won’t work. If they do not make Canberra Stadium a fortress, they will struggle big time.
One good thing for the raiders is Josh Hodgson starting this year and they still have ‘LEI-PANA” to score points. The problem is their defence, which watching, feels like they concede more points in a rugby league match than AFL/basketball teams can score.
15. Gold Coast Titans
Just something that confuses me about this team. I am not sure what it is. Is it the climate? The poor crowds? The culture?
The Titans have a decent roster in terms of list, however once they put on a jersey they seem to turn into NSW Cup quality players.
They’ve made great signings in Tyrone Peachey and Shannon Boyd. They have got a great forward pack, decent halves and decent back, the Titans now must do something with it. Will they?
Probably not. They need fans behind them cheering them on otherwise it’ll be the same old easy-beats in the Gold Coast.
16. Canterbury Bulldogs
The wooden spooners of 2019 are the Bulldogs. I think they’ve lost too much quality In David Klemmer and Brett Morris and replaced them with a guy that is suspended more than he plays in Dylan Napa.
Besides Napa, Josh Jackson and Kieran Foran, you’d struggle to find a recognisable name in this line-up and hence why I think it’s the worst line-up in the NRL in 2019.
Add the off-field drama with their tight salary cap and its going to be a struggle for Dean Pay’s men.
So that is my predictions for the ladder this upcoming season. Now onto the finals
NRL finals predictions
Roosters beat Storm
Dragons beat Rabbitohs
Panthers beat Cowboys
Broncos beat Knights
Week 2 (semis)
Rabbitohs beat Broncos
Panthers beat Storm
Week 3 (prelims)
Rabbitohs beat Roosters
Dragons beat Panthers
Dragons beat Rabbitohs
Yes you are reading it correctly! I have the Dragons winning it all this year and the Roosters choking in the prelims.
I have to go optimistic and can’t stick to boring. But you just don’t know how the season will go until it comes along, something I am eagerly anticipating.
P.S. Go the Eels!