The NRL season is fast approaching and Before You Bet has looked into the crystal ball for our 2020 Season Predictions. We’ll look at the contending teams for the Premiership and a couple of our best future bets.
After back to back Premierships, it will certainly be a tougher challenge to reach a 3rd straight Grand Final without the influence of the retired Cooper Cronk. However, with Trent Robinson at the helm, the Roosters should be comfortable top 4 finishers again. They have a strong forward pack, arguably the best fullback in the game and Luke Keary is a quality playmaker. Their draw also looks favourable and their dominance at the SCG last season makes them a hard team to back against.
This could be Cameron Smith’s last season in the NRL and we believe the Storm will be highly motivated to send Smith out with another title. While they’ve lost experience in the centres from 2019, the emergence of Ryan Papenhazen has given Bellamy plenty of speed in the backline to work with the playmaking ability of Munster. The forward pack has also taken a hit in the offseason but Bellamy has proven that he can adapt very quickly with cheaper options. This includes the likes of Tui Kamikamica and Tino Faasuamaleaui that could be primed for a breakout season. After shipping Croft to the Broncos, they’ll look to continue Hughes at halfback and also brought back Jacks from the Titans. All in all, with Bellamy and Smith at the helm for the Storm, they’ll be thereabouts in the finals this season.
The disappointment of the 2019 Grand Final defeat may just drive the Raiders to another GF appearance in 2020. Ricky Stuart found the defensive formula last season and if the Raiders can continue to win the close games with their defence, there’s no reason they can’t finish top 4. They’ve also added a good young centre in Curtis Scott and that’ll help offset the loss of Leilua. Their draw does look favourable considering they play just 1 Thursday game and play a few potential bottom 4 sides twice (Warriors, Dragons, Tigers).
The Eels turned Bankwest Stadium into their fortress last year and their dominance at the venue makes them a tough team to beat. The question mark is whether they can win games away from Bankwest and they don’t have a consistent year by year record. As such, they finished 5th last season after collecting the spoon in 2018. So the early rounds will likely say a lot about the Eels 2020 fortunes.
South Sydney Rabbitohs
The Rabbitohs secured the prized signature of Latrell Mitchell and his transition to fullback will be very interesting in the early rounds. Souths have lost a wealth of experience in their forward pack so that could limit the effectiveness of Cook around the ruck. Adding to our concerns is they’ll have to play the Storm, Roosters and Raiders all twice this season. In saying that, a top 8 position is likely considering the talent in this squad and behind the experience of Wayne Bennett.
North Queensland Cowboys
The Cowboys look like the best smokey team in 2020 based on a few factors. Firstly, they’ll open their new stadium this season and that could have a Parramatta/Bankwest type of feel to it. The trip to North QLD isn’t an easy one already so it’s something to factor in as the season progresses. They’ve also recruited Valentine Holmes after his NFL experiment and have added some experience in Esan Masters/Reece Robson. They have lost plenty of NRL experience in the forward pack with Scott and Bolton leaving the fold. But unless Jason Taumalolo gets injured, they should be ok to make the top 8.
The Broncos massively underachieved in 2019 by scraping into the finals and it’s hard to forget the embarrassing 58-0 finals loss to the Eels. The 2020 offseason hasn’t been kind either with plenty of storylines. Matt Lodge has a knee issue and he’s an important piece in their go forward. There’s no doubt the combination of David Fifita and Payne Haas will improve this season but their scoring potential is the real question mark. Darius Boyd is well past his best and they’ve only really recruited Brodie Croft to fix their problems. Croft struggled defensively at Melbourne so teams will be running plenty of traffic his way. Adding to our concerns is their draw. They have to play the Storm, Roosters and Eels all twice which will be tough. So it’s looking like another average season for the Broncos and Anthony Seibold will be under the pump from the Brisbane media if they start slowly again.
As mentioned, we love the storyline of the new stadium providing the North Queenslanders will plenty of promise in season 2020. They showed their range of talent in the Nines competition recently and the addition of Valentine Holmes along with Scotty Drinkwater could be a lethal combination. Taumalolo is simply a beast in the middle of the park and hopefully, they can win the close games in 2020 to make the top 8.
The Green Machine look good value in the race for a top 4 spot considering last season’s performance that just doesn’t look like a fluke. They can count themselves as unlucky in the Grand Final against the Roosters where experience probably counted against them and a few calls didn’t fall their way. Their defence was a major improvement in 2019 and they just need to continue the same gameplan this season. Their halves situation was a concern last year but the addition of Englishman George Williams will be an interesting development and how he plays in combination with Wighton. Looking at their draw, they can really start 2020 with a bang as they face a few teams that we believe can finish bottom 4 and they also play 3 of 4 at GIO Stadium from Round 1-4.
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