Ricky Stuart didn’t pull any punches after his Raiders’ 35-10 loss to the Eels.
These are the two teams that I reckon will finish fourth and fifth this NRL season.
5. Paramatta Eels (third last season)
“This is our year.”
Every Paramatta fan has said coming into each new season since the 1986 grand final. This season will be no different as the Eels are competing with a strong side once again.
They have acquired some notable names during the off-season with Michael Oldfield, Tom Opacic, Bryce Cartwright, Keegan Hipgrave, and Isaiah Papali’i. Apart from Tom Opacic who is replacing the provisionally suspended Michael Jennings and Papali’i who will be taking Marata Niukore’s place after Niukore has one game left on his crusher tackle suspension, the rest of the new recruits do not look like cracking the 17.
However, if Bryce Cartwright can prove to coach Brad Arthur that he is NRL ready before Round 1 after he suffered a freak accident, he could be in the 17. As most of us know, Cartwright was absolutely scrutinised for most of his time at the Gold Coast Titans as he was playing like a kid from under-12 rugby league as he was just missing tackle after tackle and just being plain lazy. To be honest with you, I do not like to criticise players, however, Cartwright well and truly deserved the criticism that he was getting because you just cannot play like that in professional rugby league.
Cartwright did marginally improve in his 2020 season, although that was just to be released in September and he will be looking for a fresh start after signing a one-year deal with the Eels.
Overall, this season will once again not be the Eels’ year, however, they will almost certainly make the finals and possibly be in contention for a top-four spot.
4. Sydney Roosters (fourth last season)
After another year where the Sydney Roosters were once again a contender for the premiership and even threatened to have a three-peat, they look to try and win their third title in four years this upcoming season.
They lost some mentionable names in their system this off-season as they gave up Kyle Flanagan, Ryan Hall who will return home to the United Kingdom to play for the Hull Kingston Rovers, Sonny Bill Williams who will be having a quick second departure from the NRL as he is moving back to union and Mitchell Aubusson to retirement.
The Roosters’ biggest loss was obviously Kyle Flanagan, and I might get criticised a lot for saying this, but he was one of the most underrated players in 2020. He was a great partner alongside Luke Keary and was also a superb goal kicker as he kicked 81 per cent of his goals and kicked the second greatest number of goals in 2020 behind Adam Reynolds with 91. Flanagan could have easily been at the number one spot if he did not sit out for some games as he played three fewer games than Reynolds did.
Most of us can agree Sonny Bill Williams was well overhyped when it was announced he would be playing the back end of the year for Sydney. He did not live up to it as he did not bring much to the team. Williams is (not talking about his first stint in the NRL) better suited for rugby union right now.
The injury news for the Roosters is that Boyd Cordner is set to miss the start of the season with a number of head knocks and Sitili Tupouniua is most likely to kick off the season replacing Cordner in the second-row position. I am just going to be brutally honest and say that Boyd Cordner needs to have an early retirement or something that will stop him from getting a head knock every damm game this man plays.
Because that is exactly how it felt in Boyd’s 2020 season as he was receiving head knocks and head concussions about every game he came back from the past head injuries.
You can probably tell I hate or dislike the Roosters. If you are a Roosters fan and you have somehow kept reading this article, the hate is over and here are some positive things about your team.
Sam Walker shapes as a long-term halves option but may not be NRL-ready as Lachlan Lamb should be in the number six jumper to start the season according to NRL.com. The Roosters’ full list shows their great depth.
When the Roosters are fit 1-17, they are at least in the top two for the best team in the comp on paper.