The NRL’s much-loved pre-season Nines competition will make its return next season, with the 2020 NRL Nines to be played at Perth’s HBF Park on February 14 and 15.
Eight teams didn’t make the finals in 2019, so what went wrong? Read on for my thoughts on how these teams can play finals football in 2020.
9th: Wests Tigers
It came down to the final match of the season and the Tigers needed to beat the Sharks to play finals for the first time since 2011. Unfortunately, a mediocre display saw them finish ninth. They need a player clean out starting with the likes of Russell Packer, Ben Matulino, Josh Reynolds and even Moses Mbye, who is pedestrian at best. Their forwards are average and they lack flair out wide.
10th: Penrith Panthers
They were hot and cold all season so they need some consistency in their game. Have some good young players in Brent Naden, Dylan Edwards and Brian To’o. The side will be Nathan Cleary’s side moving on and he needs plenty of support at five-eighth.
11th: Newcastle Knights
Fell away badly in 2019 and need to show more resilience. Too often players like Kalyn Ponga would do something brilliant, but then go missing for the rest of the game. Leaked over 20 points a game in defence which won’t get you into the finals.
12th: Canterbury Bulldogs
Only came alive when the season was over, and actually finished the year in great form. With Dallin Watene-Zelezniak at the back, they have much needed potency at fullback but are still lacking in the halves and at hooker. Still have an average roster overall and until this changes it’s hard to see them playing finals.
13th: New Zealand Warriors
They have the roster to be a top four team but are mentally very weak. Unwilling to roll up their sleeves and do the hard yards, they too often rely on individual brilliance which won’t win you too many games in the NRL. Time for a new approach that focuses on defence and they will succeed.
14th: North Queensland Cowboys
They haven’t really evolved their game from the successful years of 2015-2017 and, without Jonathan Thurston, that was never going to work. They seem to be an ageing team, or a stagnant one that needs a fresh look. I like the look of Jake Clifford and he needs to start every week at five eighth.
15th: St George Illawarra Dragons
Never really got going and, under the tutelage of a coach that refuses to hold players to account, the Dragons won’t improve unless Paul McGregor goes. Centres Tim Lafai and Euan Aitken seem to have a mortgage on the centre positions despite underwhelming performances in recent seasons, while players like Lachlan Timm and Joe Lovodua aren’t even considered for NRL.
16th: Gold Coast Titans
Not a lot went right in 2019 and incoming coach Justin Holbrook has his hands full. Ash Taylor is an overpaid, underperforming flop and, outside Jai Arrow, their forwards offer little. The best thing Holbrook could do is punt both Tyrone Peachey and Bryce Cartwright, who are both on good coin but are very ordinary players.