Another NRL season is now over, and as the realisation dawns on many fans that they won’t get a chance to whinge about the refs for another six months, the only comfort I can offer is that it also means it’s time revisit my fearless predictions.
Last season, I registered a very impressive 4.5/4. If that maths seems a little wonky, you must be new around here, and I suggest you buckle up for the wild ride that can only be achieved when you allow someone to mark their own homework.
As Donald Trump would say, it’s time to revel in my “great and unmatched wisdom”.
1. The Roosters will become the NRL’s first back-to-back premiers
Heading into Sunday’s grand final, no team had won consecutive premierships since the NRL competition commenced in 1998. Which made the prediction that the Roosters would repeat as premiers a little more fearless than it probably appeared on the surface.
Well, that’s what I told myself anyway.
Picking a team to win the comp in March is fraught with danger, as any number of things may go wrong. Injuries, suspensions, form and luck all play their part.
The Tricolours certainly had their share of the latter on Sunday night. The 2019 grand final, fairly or not, will always be remembered for the incidents involving the Roosters’ trainer and the ‘six again’ call, both of which helped the Bondi boys score their two tries.
Yet to believe the Chooks won just because of luck belies the truth that they thoroughly deserved to win. They finished second on the ladder, smashed Souths in the first week of the finals, then beat minor premiers Melbourne to qualify for the grand final.
Once there, they dominated the first 20 minutes of play, and then defended until they were exhausted against a tough Canberra side that really rose to the occasion.
Yes they had luck, but great teams put themselves in a position to be lucky. The Roosters were a benchmark for greatness this year and thoroughly earned the premiership.
2. The NSW Blues will win the State of Origin series 3-0
I was going to attempt a narrative here that NSW won Game 2 so convincingly, it almost counted as a clean sweep victory.
Then I remembered how tense Game 3 was, and how convinced I was that Queensland were going to win, because I’d seen this movie before.
Throw in the Maroons’ impressive Game 1 victory, and even I can’t work an angle here to make this prediction correct.
3. The New Zealand Warriors will challenge… for the wooden spoon
If you re-read the copy under this prediction, I didn’t think New Zealand would actually ‘win’ the spoon. The prediction was “the Warriors will struggle this year and finish in the 12 to 14 range on the ladder.”
They finished 13th.
So that’s a big tick.
Who would have thought that a team would struggle after ditching its best player, but not replacing him? Granted, Shaun Johnson had an inconsistent year for the Sharks, which empowered many Warriors fans to feel vindicated in letting their half go.
Yet the fact remains you still have to replace the talent you lose, no matter how erratic that talent may be.
4. The Brisbane Broncos and St George Illawarra Dragons will miss the eight
I had a lot of success with my two-for-one prediction last season, so I doubled down and went again.
The Dragons had far too many question marks hanging over them as we headed into the season, suspicions that were confirmed early and often.
Injuries, off-field dramas, coaching speculation, and – to be blunt – bad play all added up to a year to forget for Saints fans, as the team shockingly finished in 15th place despite making the finals the year before.
Meanwhile, it was embarrassing for the competition that a team as bad as Brisbane qualified for the finals. The Broncos finished a mere point above the Tigers and Panthers, but had no right to be in the company of the other top-eight teams.
That opinion was vindicated when Brisbane lost 58-0 to Parramatta in the first week of the finals. The Eels then lost 32-0 to Melbourne, showing just how off the pace the Broncos really were.
While Brisbane made the eight, and the prediction was that they wouldn’t, I will strongly argue that it still counts, because so many people had Anthony Seibold’s team winning the comp. I thought that was insane, so I had them not even making the finals.
I think I know who was more accurate.
Perhaps the fairest score here is not taking double correct points like I did last year?
5. Trent Barrett will be coaching an NRL team by season’s end
Notice how I wrote “coaching”, keeping it vague as to whether I meant Barrett would return as a head coach, or just coaching in general? What a lovely each-way bet.
In August, it was announced that Barrett would join Ivan Cleary’s staff at Penrith as an assistant, confirming his return to the coaching ranks of the NRL.
There’s just one issue though: he doesn’t start his new role until next season. So technically, he’s not “coaching an NRL team by season’s end”. Considering it’s not a head role either, I’ll be magnanimous and gracious, and not claim this one.
An excellent score of three from five; and that’s with far less dodgy mathematics than last season! Thank you, judges – this won’t be forgotten at Christmas time.
Until next NRL season, Roarers!