With 2020 upon us, every NRL club has something they’d love to eventuate this season.
Each club dreams of winning the premiership, however there are smaller aspects for each that may just make that dream come true.
So what are they?
Super coach Trent Robinson and Uncle Nick Politis want nothing more than for Luke Keary and Kyle Flanagan to fill the void left by Cooper Cronk.
Further, they’d just love it if Sam Verrills turns out to be the star he is starting to look like.
In 1988, a young rugby player named Richard John Stuart took the Canberra Raiders’ No.7 jersey off Ivan Henjak, despite the latter being the playmaker in the club’s 1987 grand final loss to the Sea Eagles.
Englishman George Williams will replace Aidan Sezer as halfback in 2020 and now-coach Stuart is hoping that he proves to be the final piece in the puzzle that is necessary to take the Raiders back to premiership glory.
The hope is that Craig Bellamy can weave his magic and turn yet more meat-and-potatoes players into filet mignon with gratin de pomme de terre to cover the losses of Will Chambers, Joe Stimson, Curtis Scott, Brodie Croft and possibly Josh Addo-Carr.
And who would bet against Bellamy being able to do just that? Not me, that’s for sure.
South Sydney Rabbitohs
The Redfern team would love both Jai Arrow and Latrell Mitchell to take their places around Damien Cook, Cam Murray and Cody Walker. That would surely lessen the blow of losing Sam and George Burgess, and give Wayne Bennett some massive firepower.
Manly Sea Eagles
When Graham Annesley announced before the start of season 2019 that he had instructed the referees to blow fewer penalties in order to prioritise game flow, no one was more delighted than Des Hasler.
Apart from Trent Robinson, no coach prioritises defending the try line by any means necessary more than Hasler. Having just arrived back at Brookvale to a threadbare and demoralised squad that had only just avoided the 2018 wooden spoon, the news that his defensive line could cheat their arse off with little risk of incurring sin bins was music to his ears.
Had Tom Trbojevic not been injured in the finals, the Sea Eagles may just have won the whole thing.
You can bet your last dollar that what Des wants in 2020 is for Annesley to maintain that policy. Oh, and a hooker would also be nice…
Long-suffering Eels fans are dearly hoping that their 2019 resurgence was not yet another false dawn, and that the addition of Ryan Matterson and Reagan Campbell-Gillard will allow the dysfunctional club to break the NRL’s longest premiership drought.
If things go badly, Brad Arthur won’t last the season.
The Sharks will be playing away from the Shire in 2020 while the toxic swamp experiences a long-overdue redevelopment. While they’d love to see Jesse Ramien take to the light blue like he’d never left – and they’d love for captain Wade Graham not to get injured – what they really want is for Matt Moylan and Shaun Johnson to provide some return on investment.
There is a mass of pressure on young Brodie Croft to take the reins of this rudderless side and turn them into a real premiership threat. He could just do it, too.
While sides really want to win the premiership, the Wests Tigers just want to make the finals. In three of the last four seasons, they have come ninth. They haven’t even made the finals since 2011.
In 2016 and 2019 they had to win their final games of the season to make the finals and in both cases they got thumped 13-plus.
The losses of Ryan Matterson and Esan Marsters will hurt, but the pick-ups of Luciano Leilua and Billy Walters may prove shrewd.
Who knows? Maybe they’ll play finals in 2020.
If Ivan Cleary got nothing else in 2020, he would settle for no scandals and no distractions. Every time you turned around in 2019, something was going pear-shaped.
Phil Gould was leaving. Tyrone May was in strife. Viliame Kikau and Isaah Yeo were getting injured. Waqa Blake and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak wanted out.
If the Panthers can just get rid of the distractions and the misfortune in 2020 they’d really appreciate it.
Adam O’Brien has done a fine coaching apprenticeship under Craig Bellamy and Trent Robinson. Now he takes on a side that has not made the finals since 2013. And haven’t they been through the grinder since then?
Like the Wests Tigers, the Novocastrians just want to make the finals. With cattle like Kalyn Ponga, David Klemmer and Mitchell Pearce, they should have a good swing at it, too.
The Bulldogs showed their true grit in 2019 by winning seven of their last ten games to turn what looked like a certain wooden spoon in Round 14 into a 12th-place finish. They did it all under a weight of injuries and with an inexperienced squad.
They are a proud club and will be hoping for further improvement to bring more pride back to the jumper, as they inevitably rebuild towards another era of domination.
The arrival of tough players like Joe Stimson, Dean Britt and Sione Katoa see them well placed to do just that.
New Zealand Warriors
The Warriors faithful would settle for some consistency.
Outside of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Ken Maumalo, the 2019 Warriors were awful. If the fans could have anything, it would be a forward pack that provided real mongrel on a regular basis.
North Queensland Cowboys
Please, no more injuries – only three Cowboys played all 24 games in 2019. This squad has talent and if they were ever all on the field at the same time, it might show.
The pick-ups of Esan Marsters and Valentine Holmes bode well and will help counter the losses of Scott Bolton and Matt Scott. If they can just avoid injuries, they might have a chance.
St George Illawarra Dragons
All the Red V want in 2020 is a fair suck of the sav. Don’t stand down their star players who have yet to be convicted of anything and have pleaded not guilty. Don’t subject them to continual injuries – especially to key players – while a plethora of others get taken away for representative duty.
And please just give them some luck in those tight games so that they can get some momentum and good vibes going, leading to a season where the faithful aren’t calling for someone’s head.
Gold Coast Titans
The 2019 season was only the Titans’ second wooden spoon. However, they’ve only featured in three finals series since their inception in 2007.
The worst thing is that everyone expects failure from them. Everyone expects them to struggle. But that’s not a fair assessment.
Last season, Garth Brennan had a squad featuring Jai Arrow, Jarrod Wallace, Nathan Peats, Ryan James, Ash Taylor, Ryley Jacks, and Michael Gordon. Add to that the signings of Shannon Boyd and Tyrone Peachy, and it looked pretty good.
However, Taylor, James and Arrow missed 14, 18 and six games respectively. Further, Peats missed 11 games and veteran Gordon missed eight.
Any team that loses that many of their key players for considerable periods will struggle. Brennan never had a chance.
The Titans would just like new coach Justin Holbrook to have a fighting shot in 2020. Just some luck.