It’s a great time of year. Early March is that time just before the NRL season kicks off when all supporters give their team some chance of premiership glory.
In a few weeks from now, some of those premiership dreams will become nightmares. But, for now, our hopes are still alive.
So, before it’s too late, it’s time to read why your team can win the premiership. Most of these articles have a ‘why your team can win, why your team can’t win’ angle to them. I’m just concentrating on the positives. Most team supporters will have enough negatives to deal with throughout the course of the season.
We are going to start with the 2020 wooden spooners and work our way through to the Storm.
We kept expecting the Broncos to come good last year. Instead, they were consistent duds. The roster remains strong with a host of talented youngsters coming through the system.
Kevin Walters gets his chance as an NRL coach and while he is no miracle worker, he may be able to revitalise Brisbane’s culture and attitude. If he can achieve that, they could be the big improver in 2021.
Bulldogs fans escaped the spoon last year. But they shouldn’t feel overly smug, they got there on for-and-against only. There is a whiff of hope out at Belmore this year with new coach Trent Barrett hiring a bunch of new recruits.
Kyle Flanagan, Nick Cotric, Corey Allan, Jack Hetherington and Corey Waddell will all walk into the first-grade line-up. Only a supreme optimist would think this team could go all the way from 15th to first. But, we are being positive here. So, Bulldogs fans, you’re a chance.
North Queensland Cowboys
The Cowboys were undoubtedly one of the big disappointments last year, but the long term loss of Michael Morgan and injuries to other key players did hamper their progress.
They did need a shake-up and new coach Todd Payten will provide that. He’s talking about cutting back on structure and playing more “eyes up” football. With Morgan, Valentine Holmes and Jason Taumalolo in the team, this may just work.
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
Tom Trbojevic is key to the Sea Eagles. If he can overcome his hamstring injury and stay away from the Corso, the Eagles will come home with a wet sail.
Kieran Foran is an astute purchase and Manly fans will be looking forward to seeing Foran and DCE in the halves again. Josh Aloiai comes in to replace Addin Fonua-Blake and Jason Saab should get plenty of first-grade chances in the outside backs.
St George Illawarra Dragons
Apologies, Dragons fans, this may have come a week too late. But, repeat after me: it was just a trial.
Apart from bolstering their forward depth, Jack Bird returns to play for the Dragons, and if fit, could prove damaging in attack and defence.
But, it’s the youth coming through that should have Dragons fans most excited. Zac Lomax is an established first-grader, Cody Ramsey will start on the wing and it’s only a matter of time before Jayden Sullivan makes his debut in the halves.
Whilst we are not bitter in the least, it may have been premature of Tigers fans to give their team a standing ovation at halftime in a trial. But, who could really blame them? Is this the year that the promised land of the finals becomes a reality?
Michael Maguire has undertaken a cleanout and among a whole bunch of new Tigers, James Tamou, James Roberts and Joe Ofahengaue have all played rep football. Luke Brooks needs a big year but the Tigers can definitely play September footy this year.
New Zealand Warriors
The Warriors did remarkably well last year to finish as high as they did in 2020, given they were based in Australia. Unfortunately for them, it looks to be more of the same this year, to June at least.
The purchase of Addin Fonua-Blake and Ben Murdoch-Masila will strengthen their pack and could provide that bit of difference to move the Warriors well inside the top eight. From there, it’s anyone’s premiership.
Gold Coast Titans
The Titans are a real smoky this year. Clearly, don’t put your house on it, but at 15/1 to win the grand final, it may be worth a bet.
The Titans were the big improvers last year and with David Fifita and Tino Fa’asuamaleaui the key signings, Gold Coast are in for a big year.
AJ Brimson is a future Kangaroos fullback while Jamal Fogarty is the ideal foil for Ash Taylor in the halves.
For the Sharks to win this year, defence is the key. The word out of the Shire is that, with the assistance of Paul Gallen and Luke Lewis, John Morris has undertaken a defensive upheaval and hopes are high.
If Matt Moylan, Andrew Fifita and Josh Dugan stay fit, Shaun Johnson successfully returns from injury and the young squad continues to improve, the Sharks will surprise this year.
After a strong start to 2020, the Knights limped home to finish seventh and were cannon fodder for the Rabbits in the first week of the finals.
But there are plenty of reasons why they can go better this year. First, Tyson Frizell is a massive pick up. Second, Knights fans are about to see just how good Jayden Brailey is. And third, when Blake Green returns he will provide the stability in the halves that the Knights need.
A top-four finish in 2020 was quickly undone by a straight-sets finals defeat. But if they can rediscover their form from the first nine weeks of the season, they can go close.
Whilst the roster has undergone an overhaul, the top 17 will be largely unchanged, with ex-Warrior Isaiah Papali’i certain to add plenty of creativity to the pack.
It’s a big year for Brad Arthur. He has the squad. Can he deliver a premiership to long-suffering Eels fans?
The Roosters will have been brooding all offseason about their early finals departure last year. Maybe it was their lack of desire after plenty of premiership success. Whatever it was, I can’t see it happening again next year.
Victor Radley went down early in 2020 and he is clearly critical to this Roosters outfit. Uncertainty regarding the return of Boyd Cordner is a real worry for the Roosters, but any side with Luke Keary and James Tedesco is a good chance to go all the way.
South Sydney Rabbitohs
It’s Wayne Bennett’s last year at the Rabbits and well, Benny tends to deliver. They are just about favourites to win in 2021, and that tag is well deserved.
Jai Arrow and Josh Mansour head the recruitments, with Benji Marshall able to step if any of the halves get injured.
However, all eyes will be on Latrell Mitchell and whether he can deliver on that unlimited potential at fullback. He could be that missing piece between finals contender and premiership winner.
To finish one week from the grand final after a horrific injury toll throughout the year was definitely a passing grade for the Raiders in 2020. However, you get the feeling that if they are to win one in their premiership window, it needs to be now.
Josh Papalii is without doubt the best prop in the game and if Jack Wighton and Josh Hodgson stay sit, the Raiders’ premiership drought could finally be over.
The Panthers broke all sorts of records last year, only to fall at the last hurdle. However, Ivan Cleary doesn’t have to do much to change this team. They will only benefit from last year’s experience.
Salary cap pressure has forced them to let go of some experience, but there is star power all across the line-up. Jarome Luai, Stephen Crichton and Viliame Kikau will all go up a level in 2021. It may be enough to win the premiership they got so close to last year.
Whilst Cameron Smith simply can’t make his mind up, he definitely won’t be at the Storm in 2021. Can they win without him? Well, with Brandon Smith and Harry Grant ready to replace him, the answer is yes.
If there are any lessons from past years, it is never write off Craig Bellamy sides. With Jahrome Hughes, Cameron Munster, Josh Addo-Carr and Ryan Papenhuyzen set to light up the backline, a back-to-back premiership for the Storm is firmly within their sights.
So, there you have it, why every team can win in 2021. Of course, that is impossible, so we will systematically start writing them off as soon as the season starts. For now though, on the cusp of a new season, dream big – this year could be the year.