It is incredible to think that the 2019 NRL season is only a week away and excitement is already reaching fever pitch.
Last season was hotly contested, but this does look like being a particularly open edition of the NRL Premiership and there is a genuine case to be made for nearly every side. Nearly every side.
Below you can find our full 2019 NRL Season Preview in order of where teams will finish, that has in no way been influenced by the sponsorships that we have in place… at all.
1 – Neds Gold Coast Titans
I don’t want to come off as biased, but I think everyone would agree that orange on blue is a marriage stronger than Barrack and Michelle Obama.
The Gold Coast Titans certainly win the jersey and major sponsorship stakes in 2019, but I also think they’ll be winning games more often than not. On paper they have one of the league’s best forward packs and some legitimately good players are going to miss the cut.
Throw in your Tyrone Peacheys, Ash Taylors and everyone else in the backline and the Cavill Avenue faithful have every right to be excited. Ryan James would look great hoisting the Provan-Summons Trophy on the final day of the season, just sayin’.
2 – Wests Tigers (also sponsored by Neds)
If the Titans are an absolute lock for the six, then surely the Wests Tigers are also… a rugby league team.
In all seriousness, a spark was definitely re-injected into their stride when a couple of club legends returned last season and I simply cannot wait to see what the Tigers can do in 2019. I am a huge fan of Michael Maguire and there is no doubt that the Tigers will return to the competition the fittest they have been since 2005.
Brooks and Mbye are class, Grubby is as solid as they come, they’ve got some particularly exciting youngsters on the books and Mitchell Moses is a distant memory – things are really looking up for the Tigers.
3 – Sydney Roosters
The Sydney Roosters were better than Lego in 2018 and there’s no reason why they won’t be just as good, if not better this year.
I couldn’t have potted them more for spending so much money on Cooper Cronk but rightly so, he made me look like an absolute clown shoe and I’ve backflipped harder than Greg Louganis.
I’m not even a fan of the club and I simply cannot talk them up enough. They were the benchmark pretty much all season and turned it on when it mattered, and Trent Robinson’s coaching performance in the final is the stuff that dreams, and high-budget Hollywood sports movies are made of.
4 – Melbourne Storm
What is there to be said about the Melbourne Storm that hasn’t already been said? This is truly one of the league’s best-ever teams. The Storm is now bigger than the system itself. One star leaves and another is almost immediately unearthed.
Cam Smith has signed on for another year and will lead the charge once more. If he remains fit, he’ll become the first player to record 50,000 NRL appearances.
Ultimately, they probably make another Grand Final and will be extremely difficult to beat again.
5 – Penrith Panthers
Gus’ moronic 5-year plan did not work but despite the bloke, the pieces are starting to fall into place for the Penny Panthers. Before you jump the gun and suggest that it’s about to work, the five years has actually concluded, and I don’t think any sane person would purposely set into action that ludicrous coaching fiasco.
Now that everything has settled down a bit on that front, there’s an opportunity for the mountain men to do something special and as far as I can see, all the pieces of the puzzle are their disposal.
Ivan Cleary is one of the great minds of the NRL coaching ranks and he has a legitimately good side to work with in 2019. 5th place might even be too low for them.
6 – St George Illawarra Dragons
The Dragons went a bee’s you now what from making the semi-finals last season and if they have their minds on the job and can stay fit, they look capable of producing a similar result in 2019.
Their forward pack is brimming with big, talented players with plenty of rep experience, they have an extremely sturdy halves combo (I never thought I’d be saying that of Ben Hunt again) and they have a fast, skilful backline. Put it all together and you get a quality footy side.
I put Paul McGregor into the same category as Anthony Siebold and Ivan Cleary, and he could put together something special this season or next.
7 – Brisbane Broncos
Yeah, I guess? It’s starting to become really difficult to know what you’re going to get with the Broncos. They always have an impressive team on paper and they really do shape as a top four side most seasons, but they lack the stones to do anything in September.
“We get ruined at Origin time,” and all of those worn out excuses aside, they have been done by a couple of key injuries and underperforming players in recent seasons and they are reportedly an extremely fit side heading into season 2019.
You have to look all the way back to the year that the Titanic sank to find Brisbane’s most-recent premiership, but I’m happy to give them a shout with Siebold at the helm. A fresh perspective may be all that they need.
8 – Manly Sea Eagles
There’s an aura of optimism hanging around Brookvale Oval, and it is 100% to do with what the club could achieve in 2019, rather than the chances of the playing surface itself lasting the full 25 rounds of an NRL season.
The return of the lion-like mane of prodigal son Des Hasler has the Northern Beaches buzzing and given the Sea Eagles’ ability to still be ‘there abouts’ these last couple of seasons, a lot of people seem to be thinking a finals berth is on the radar.
They need both Trbojevics all season (a third would not go astray) and they need to start playing for a full 80 minutes but all in all, I am really starting to agree with the chorus. They look the value in outright premiership betting.
9 – South Sydney Rabbitohs
If ever a club copped a raw deal in a direct trade, it’s the South Sydney Rabbitohs. Here’s a team that really looked like building to something and who would not have looked out of place in last season’s decider.
With more potential than a Frankel x Winx foal, they have absolutely destroyed their chances by signing Wayne Bennett as coach. In 2010, this would have been an absolute coup and the Dragons proved that to be the case. There’s no denying that Bennett is one of, if not the best coach in NRL history, but those days are well and truly in the past and a ticket to the Super League would have been more appropriate.
To add insult to injury, they’ve also lost players to the calibre of Angus Crichton. They’ll be missing the eight.
10 – North Queensland Cowboys
The worst thing that the Cowboys and their fans could do is assume that they will immediately find a replacement for Johnathan Thurston. IT’S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. Remember when Shane Warne retired, and the Aussie selectors went through like 30 spinners before just picking and sticking with Nathan Lyon? Don’t do that.
I already think that the pressure they’re heaving on Michael Morgan will ruin him and if he doesn’t fire straight up, what’s the alternative? Te Maire Martin is good, but not nearly experienced enough to lead the team around. Plenty also hinges on Jason Taumalolo – if he goes down at any point, they’re in big strife.
The Cowboys really could go one of two ways, but I don’t think it’ll be the positive one. It’ll be an early mad Monday.
11 – Cronulla Sharks
2016 was a good shout but it’s all been pretty forgettable in the Shire since then.
Lewd behaviour this, salary cap that. I’m really starting to think that it’s never going to be about the football again, and that’s a particularly disappointing prospect given this incredible team that they’ve somehow been able to assemble. Oh yeah, the salary cap.
I must say that I’m pretty excited to see Shaun Johnson trotting about Shark Park this season. They clearly have the talent, I just wonder if everything that has and continues to happen off the field will prove too much for them?
12 – Newcastle Knights
Newcastle are club that will really need to be seen to do it before they are believed, but there probably hasn’t been a more impressive recruitment drive in world sport since Monty Burns put together the Softball City Championship team in 1992.
The Knights’ forward pack is another that is full of huge players that boast huge rep honours and they have a terrific spine that is bolstered by the league’s most exciting player, Kalyn Ponga.
The middle stages of the season is where it will become interesting for the Knights, because they do look like getting railed by Origin selections. I’ve got them just missing the eight again.
13 – New Zealand Warriors
I don’t think that a club has boasted so much talent and potential and delivered as little as what the New Zealand Warriors have, in any sport, anywhere, ever.
The Warriors typically harbour some big and powerful, yet still extremely mobile boys and should be leaving literally every other side quaking in their boots before and after their games but ultimately, they do not do that.
With the reigning Dally M winner in tow, they’ll either fly the gates and peter off by Round 15, or they’ll leave their run a week too late and finish ninth.
14 – Canberra Raiders
I’m never really that excited to preview the Canberra Raiders prior to any season and that hasn’t changed in 2019. They are a club that shows glimpses of brilliance and when they put it all together, it really is an impressive scene. Those moments really are few and far between, though.
Following the success of Josh Hodgson, Ricky has added a couple more English forwards his roster, so I guess we’ll get to see if lightning strikes more than once. There is enough talent across the paddock for the Raiders to win a finals berth, but I really need to see them do it before I can trust them.
In terms of betting on the Raiders, literally all of my focus will be on Jordan Rapana getting across the chalk first each week. I also don’t mind the bloke to top the ladder for most tries in the season.
15 – Parramatta Eels
The Eels could sign the best 13 players in the NRL, and they would still somehow miss the finals.
As it stands, there are some legitimately good players at their disposal, but they simply cannot put it together, even for half a season. I can’t make an excuse for them and while there is surely a bunch of people in the western suburbs that think ‘they’re a title shot mate’, I am not one of them.
In: Blake Ferguson. Yeah ok. Still In: Mitchell Moses. No thank you.
16 – Canterbury Bulldogs
Given that 100% of the focus has been on ‘what Dylan Napa did’ and he hasn’t even pulled on a jersey for them yet, I’m expecting literally nothing of the Bulldogs this season.
There doesn’t seem to be much depth, if any to their roster and the nicest way of putting their situation into words is that ‘they are going through a rebuilding phase.’
Dean Pay was thrown an absolute hospital pass with this team last season and I think it’s only going to get worse.