Updated: Jun 5, 2020
Like you, I spent my weekend tucking into some drinks and carving out the arse cheeks into the couch. What a weekend of footy, a couple of lopsided games but also a couple of absolute belters! I might be overreacting, but I think there’s quite a divide in terms of the competition, more to the point, I think there’s a couple of teams (and they’re quite obvious) that are going to struggle to even win a meat tray this year.
With that in mind, I’ve put together this year’s Top 8 and provided a comment on where each team might land come October. See what you think and feel free to get really annoyed by my selections.
1. Canberra Raiders
The runners-up from last year’s grand final and the victims of the infamous Ben Cummins six-again call - or was it? It’s in the past now, for some. The Raiders looked very sharp beating Melbourne on Saturday night. George Williams coming in at halfback was arguably best on the ground, the green machine are a force to be reckoned with in 2020, not to mention the fact that playing in Canberra deep into winter is not easy, nor presumably that much fun for travelling sides. They’ll be the minor premiers, Sticky Stuart will be jumping around in his tracksuit on the sidelines all year I feel.
2. Sydney Roosters
Brett Morris was outstanding for the Roosters in Round 3!
Two losses prior to the COVID enforced break, but didn’t they come out humming on Friday night. I have to admit, I missed most of the game but caught the highlights, they looked very sharp. Tedesco is probably near enough to the Golden Boot winner this year and you just know the Roosters are going to be dominant.
3. Melbourne Storm
I’m nervous about this one. They’re too good with the brainstrust in Bellamy and Smith to not win plenty of games, but jeeeeeez I think they need a halfback and maybe some centres. Not overly impressed with what I saw from Jahrome Hughes but perhaps Bellamy will get the most of him? I thought FoxSports could have done a better job of showing the viewing audience the reaction of Craig Bellamy after Nelson Asofa-Solomona tried to grubber in behind on what was the 3rd tackle the other night, one of the all-time great brain explosions!
4. Brisbane Broncos
Started 2 from 2 but couldn’t catch Coronavirus on Thursday night. They were defending for the majority of the game and I actually don’t think it was too bad a performance, aside from the obvious catching issues. Young side, I think they’ll be better for the run, tough game against the Roosters in Sydney this week but think they’ll make a run in 2020.
5. Parramatta Eels
Very impressive against the Broncos in Round 3, but I just can’t trust Parramatta enough to get them into the Top 4. What they are, is they are the real winners in the NRL draw, with a majority of their games being played at Bank West stadium. I don’t see them challenging that seriously in 2020 and can see them dropping some games that many would expect they’ll win.
6. Newcastle Knights
The Knights were dropping like flies in the first 20 minutes against Penrith in Round 3, Mitch Pearce was one that was in la la land, they were already without superstar fullback Kalyn Ponga and trailing the Panthers 14-0. But jeez they fought, they showed some great resolve to get back to 14-14 and share the points in what can only be described as an epic match. The signing of Andrew McCullough is a good one, that helps sure up their spine and probably allows Ponga (when he's not suspended) and Pearce (when he’s not unconscious) to play with a little more freedom. I like the attitude of the Knights at the moment, Adam O’Brien is doing some good things in there at the moment, I think if they can limit their injuries, they’ll make the Top 8 and potentially finish higher than where I have got them.
7. Manly Sea Eagles
Manly are going to be strong this year, The Trbojevic brothers and DCE leading from the front. I don’t think they’ve got the pieces to make a serious run for the finals but I think they are thereabouts. They’ll claim some big scalps but I fear they are potentially too heavily reliant on those 3 key players, albeit they are outstanding. Dessy will steer the ship well but not sure they’re a serious contender.
8. West Tigers
The final spot was tough, I think it is between either the Tigers or the Cowboys. I think come August / September it might be fairly hot playing Rugby League (or Rugba Leeg if you’re Peter V’landys) up in Townsville which might favour the Cowboys. However, the Tigers forced my hand on Saturday night with a good victory over the Sharks. When their forward pack did their job, Luke Brooks and Benji Marshall took control, Brooks in particular really impressing me. I think there could be some good stuff to come out of Campbelltown in 2020, I think they’ll scrape into the 8.
Now, the rest. As I mentioned, I think the Cowboys will only just miss. For mine, the game speeding up plays into the hands of the best Hooker in the game, Damien Cook, but I am not sure he’s got the forward pack to lay the platform for him. Outside of Cameron Murray, I don’t see too much mobility in their pack, if they can’t get up off the deck quickly, that’ll make Cook less effective.
Scomo’s beloved Cronulla Sharks will be okay but I think they’re lacking important pieces in key positions. I could be wrong, I think Aaron Woods would be best running the water, he’s not up to it anymore. The Sharks probably pip the Warriors for 11th spot, whilst I’d love the fairytale and the Round 3 performance of 46/48 completed sets is an NRL record, it is going to be a real challenge to sustain that for the full year. Again, I’d love to see it and I appreciate what they’ve done in making sacrifices to get the season up and started but I can’t see them challenging the top sides.
Not a bad way to resume from the break for the Warriors!
That leaves us with 4 teams.
It may be some surprise but I think the Penrith Panthers are going to have a tough time of it this year, potentially they’ve been too focused on TikTok’ing during quarantine and granted they’ve started with 2 wins a draw, but I don’t see great depth in their squad. I’ll probably eat these words.
The remaining 3 teams are closely related, the Bulldogs, Titans and Dragons. It really is a race to see which coach will get fired first. If one of these three don’t get the wooden spoon in 2020, I’ll take out membership in all of them for 2021. Horrible performances by all 3 teams in Round 3 and I don’t see it getting any better. Probably the best of them is the Bulldogs, I can maybe see some light at the end of their tunnel, but the Dragons and Titans, wowee.
I’ll lock the Titans in for the spoon and I’d ask you all to make a note in your calendar for June 20. That’s the blockbuster clash between the Dragons and Titans, even if the crowds are allowed back then, I can see only a group of 20 getting along to that one.
There’s my thoughts, I think it will be a case of redemption for the Raiders and they’ll do the Minor Premiership and Grand Final double. What do you think?