Ten Fearless Predictions for the NRL season

With the NRL season fast approaching and the trials in full swing, it is time to delve into some fearless predictions for the upcoming season.

With most of the attention is on Shaun Johnson, Corey Norman, Dave Klemmer and Dylan Napa, there is a name many are forgetting…John Bateman. The Canberra Raiders have a very good addition to their squad, with Bateman coming off a premiership win and placing second in the ‘Man of Steel’ in the Super League. Bateman will give the Green Machine some more mobility in the forwards and will add some mongrel in a lacking defence. Expect the Englishman to surprise many and push for a spot in the Dally M side of the year come the end of the season, very smart business by Ricky Stuart.

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Much has been said of Johnson’s departure from the New Zealand Warriors and how they will fare this season: step up Adam Keighran. The young pivot was snapped up by the Warriors after scoring an impressive 202 points in the Intrust Super Premiership side for Penrith last season. An Australian schoolboy, Keighran has massive shoes to fill but has all the talent to help the Warriors push for a finals berth; he can be something special in the league.

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The Brisbane Broncos had a lacklustre season by their standards in 2018 and having not been active in the transfer market, it could spell a dip in 2019. Brisbane parted ways with super coach Wayne Bennett in a messy saga where they picked up South Sydney coach Anthony Seibold, who had a great season with Souths in 2018, however they have not bolstered where they needed to and have lost some key personnel in Josh McGuire (Cowboys), Jordan Kahu (Cowboys), Korbin Sims (Dragons) and Sam Thaiday (retirement). They will struggle to make the top eight this season.

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Newcastle finally have a reason to smile again, the Knights are on the right road to play finals footy in 2019. A vastly-improved Newcastle outfit, lead by teenage sensation Kalyn Ponga, gave many fans hope for the future and an impressive recruitment drive where they added two representative props in Dave Klemmer and Tim Glasby; it will see the Knights improve on their 11th place finish last season. Ponga and Mitchell Pearce had a great partnership last season and will only improve this year; their defence was their main concern in 2018 and much has been said about how they have trained to fix it. Newcastle, you are September bound!

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If Tedesco stays injury free, he will win the Dally M in 2019. He was simply brilliant for the premiership-winning Roosters last season and he claimed a number off accolades while doing so. No-one else boasted more tackle-breaks in 2018 and he finished second in total run metres, a total threat every time the ball is in his hands. Tedesco represented NSW and was pinnacle for the Blues in their emphatic series win where he was awarded the Brad Fittler Medal for player of the series, and that lead to a debut for Australia late in 2018. The sky is the limit for Tedesco, he is your 2019 Dally M medallist.

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The Sydney Roosters, Melbourne Storm, South Sydney Rabbitohs and Penrith Panthers are all set for a top four finish. It is hard to argue that the Roosters and Storm will be there or thereabouts again this season, leaving two spots for the taking – which the Rabbitohs and Panthers should pounce on. Penrith sensationally sacked coach Anthony Griffin just before the finals last year and they have replaced him with club legend Ivan Cleary, who left the Wests Tigers to have the chance to coach his son, NSW halfback Nathan Cleary. The Rabbitohs also had a change of personnel, swapping Anthony Seibold for arguably the greatest coach of all time in Wayne Bennett. Both Penrith and South Sydney have some cracking talent in their squad and played very good footy last season; it’s easy to see both sides replicating last year’s heroics.

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The Parramatta Eels, Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, Manly Sea Eagles and Gold Coast Titans are all set to be the cellar dwellers this year. Parramatta will be a better side this season but are a quality fullback and hooker away from competing for the finals. The Bulldogs are too inexperienced and too raw to think about September, they will be in the battle for the spoon. Manly have endured too much off-field turmoil and don’t boast a suitable pairing for their star halfback Daly Cherry-Evans. The Gold Coast are a side with so much potential but always fail to deliver, they have a great young spine in Ash Taylor, AJ Brimson, Tyrone Roberts and Nathan Peats and are the most likely of these sides to be pushing outside of the bottom four.

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The Blues will go back-to-back and this year it won’t even be close. NSW have finally found their long-term halfback and fullback in Nathan Cleary and Tedesco. They were comprehensive in victory last year and with Queensland losing more players to retirement, their dynasty which saw them win 11 of the last 13 series is over. NSW have not had a series whitewash since 2000, but this year there is a big chance they break that drought.

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Hard to see the Roosters not repeating last year’s heroics. They are a class above and with the addition of talented backrower Angus Crichton, it gives them more strikepower in an already stacked line-up. Cooper Cronk will call it quits at the end of the season, and with that on his mind, he will be eager to give it his all to end things on the right note. Tedesco is in for another huge season; alongside Luke Keary, Cooper Cronk and Jake Friend, they have the best spine in the competition and are very hard to beat. Melbourne and South Sydney will come close, but it’s the Roosters’ year again as they will be the first side since the Broncos in 1992 and 1993 (excluding Super League) to go back-to-back.

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1. Sydney Roosters
2. Melbourne Storm
3. Penrith Panthers
4. South Sydney Rabbitohs
5. Newcastle Knights
6. St George-Illawarra Dragons
7. Canberra Raiders
8. Brisbane Broncos
9. Wests Tigers
10. Cronulla Sharks
11. North Queensland Cowboys
12. New Zealand Warriors
13. Gold Coast Titans
14. Parramatta Eels
15. Manly Sea Eagles
16. Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs


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