NRL Season 2019 | Free Preview | Reading The Play

NRL Season 2019 | Free Preview | Reading The Play

MrG provides our NRL Tips Previews and content each week for our Reading The Play NRL subscribers. Further details on our NRL offering here

2019 Table Forecast and Team Analysis


What’s an NRL Coach worth?

Season 2019 presents us with a rare year where we have a staggering 6 Head Coach changes with Panthers, Tigers, Broncos, Rabbits, Sea Eagles and Sharks all now having changed their leadership master. What is less surprising is that 5 of the 6 new appointees have already been in this role as a NRL Head Coach elsewhere (while one of them actually returns to his old club), with just the one fresh new face in the ranks in John Morris at the Sharks.

So what is a quality Coach worth? Experience, expertise and more often than not with longevity comes a successful record. For mine another key factor for success and longer term survival is an ability to understand and be able to coach defence, in my opinion the toughest thing to do in this role. The stand out here is Craig Bellamy, not only has his sides played finals 14 out of 15 seasons his teams every season are either top 2 or top 4 in defence. Season after season of player list rotation over 15 seasons he gets it right. The Roosters won the comp last year with the best defence, a game average of just 15 pts, they played the Storm in the decider who had the next best D with a game average of 15.1.

2019 looks a very even, very competitive season, now even more so with such significant change across the head coaching roles of near 40% of the competition! Experience and proven success counts, and here is an example of the 5 head coaches who have coached 10 seasons or more NRL and their longer term record plus Trent Robinson who now has 2 premierships and marked himself as an astute long term master.

Coach Years Finals Premierships
Bennett 32 27 7
Bellamy 15 14 4
Stuart 15 5 1
Hasler 14 12 2
Cleary 12 5 0
Robinson 6 5 2

Team Ratings

These ratings are finalised using a whole range of performance data across recent seasons, team list changes (ins and outs), home and away advantage/records, MrG’s personal feel and opinion and then a forecast simulation of all weekly results for this coming seasons based on all of this criteria to finalise and forecast the likely final table positions. I have used this method for the past 7 seasons with it then normally providing an accurate forecast of those expected to perform well (top 2, top 4, top 8) and those who look at significant risk and likely in the bottom half or bottom 4 of the final table. The obvious longer term unknown now is the impact of a new coach, list overhauls and or new major signings, luck with the draw and the obvious unknown impact of key injuries (or last season we had lag and impact post World Cup), but over the last 8 weeks I have worked through as much of this as possible to then piece together a ratings assessment .

Past accuracy? A question is asked a lot through February and March each year, clearly a lot can happen between now and the first weekend in October but more often than not MrG has been very close to the mark with his long term assessments.

2018
Top three rated teams were #1 Cowboys, #2 Storm and #3 Roosters, with the Roosters winning over the Storm in the title decider. The Storm were our long term bet.

2017
The Storm were rated #1 and a somewhat clear pick and nominated as the pre season bet at $8, they won the GF over the Cowboys who were rated #3

2016
We had the eventual Grand Finalists the Storm rated #4 and the Sharks #5 with the Sharks then making history with their first title win

2015
Top two rated teams #1 Broncos then #2 Cowboys who then played out the Grand Final, the Cowboys were nominated as a pre season bet at $15 and won the comp

Clearly the one thing we don’t know looking forward is the impact of key injury outs, in particular a highly rated rep player like a Cameron Smith or Cooper Cronk (or alike). These ratings are then reviewed and re rated each Monday based on current form, key ins or outs and ongoing changes to then support the weekly assessments prior to the next NRL round.

I have also set out the 16 teams here below to show a visual representation of how the table ratings look pre season, and how close some of these sides look (in rating and likely longer term performance) to each other. The Roosters are clearly the benchmark but we are yet to see a team be able to go back to back in the recent modern era of salary cap list management, but the markets have had them a clear short priced fav since November. With new head coaches and the likely quality and depth that the Broncos and Panthers have they sit rated 2nd and 3rd (on an equal rating). The Storm on paper look in a year of transition, not as strong as they once were (Slater, Cronk, and others all having moved on through the last 2 seasons) but Bellamy’s long term record is staggering, he can almost turn water into wine and seems to have a knack at always regenerating a very competitive side. I certainly have these 4 as those most likely and the teams around which we’ll judge the form quality and results as the season unfolds.

The Rabbits and Dragons each look well placed, they have been competitive through most of recent seasons and again look so in 2019. We then get to a clump of sides who are all rated side by side and preparation, luck and injury will have a lot to do with who rises out of this and into a potential top 8 spot. I have a slight edge with the Raiders and Knights, but equally the Cowboys, Sharks, Warriors and Tigers could all challenge. As already noted above this is also a very rare season where we have 6 new head coaches stepping in, so new influence, new ways and likely new patters of play or defence certainly look to make this a very even competitive season, especially for 12 to 13 teams chasing the top of the table.

But it’s a top 8 not a top 11 or 12 and so a line, rating and opinion is drawn as it is!

2019 Table ForecastNRL Sports Betting Tips

# Team Rating Out Of 20
1 Roosters 18.1
2 Broncos 17.6
3 Panthers 17.6
4 Storm 17.5
5 Rabbits 17.4
6 Dragons 17.0
7 Raiders 16.7
8 Knights 16.7
9 Cowboys 16.0
10 Sharks 16.0
11 Warriors 15.7
12 Tigers 15.7
13 Sea Eagles 15.5
14 Titans 15.0
15 Bulldogs 14.8
16 Eels 14.0


NRL Premiership Winner?

I’m confident that the top 5 rated teams make up the pointy end of the table and ongoing winning form reference for this season, from which we’ll see the eventual winner come from the top 3. Like the Storm did at this stage last season it’s hard to find too much fault with the Roosters and they are very well found by the markets as a decided favourite at $4.50, but it’s a long hard season being the defending premiers and often the hunger doesn’t burn quite as strongly week after week when you have already recently climbed the mountain.

# Team Rating Out Of 20
1 Roosters 18.1
2 Broncos 17.6
3 Panthers 17.6
4 Storm 17.5
5 Rabbits 17.4

The Broncos and Panthers have what many would like, development and depth riches and top 30 squads that look very strong and ready to fire. In my opinion both have key positive head coach changes, have rep player quality sprinkled across their list and each carry a significant Home ground advantage. I have each rated to succeed this season and they look the obvious challengers.

The Storm are now rated down 3 to 4 spots on where they have been through recent seasons but they are such a professional operation with an outstanding coach and development program plus they win 8 out of 10 games at Home most seasons they’ll be somewhere in and around the top 6. With the loss of some of their stand out stars over the last 2 seasons they look in transition and a year or two away from being another GF challenger, but as always a contender. The Rabbits are an interesting proposition, top 3 last season where their best was as good as anyone and now with the old fox at the helm they again look set for a promising season. Longer term I think they likely round out the contenders.

Long Term Suggested Bets

For anyone looking to bet long term into the season I think the value and two teams to back are the Broncos $9 and Panthers $11 to win the competition (as nominated to last years subscribers on 15th Feb). The Roosters are well exposed at $4.50, happy to work around them right now. For premiership bets I’m looking for teams who I think are a) serious contenders and b) likely now to be at the top of their price, and should these two (Broncos and Panthers) start well through the opening 4 to 6 weeks we are unlikely to see them priced anywhere near this mark again.


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Individual Team Previews

Rate = 2018 Rating; Table = table position after all rounds prior to finals series; Won = Games Won; Against = Points Conceded; Av = Average points conceded per game; Differential = points difference between points for and points against across the season.

I rate very highly in my final team ratings a coach/teams ability to defend, their average points against each week longer term and then the comparison defence to attack. It’s no coincidence that the Storm have long term been a consistent top 8 team, let alone a top 4 team when you consider that year after year they concede 12 to 14 points a week (and this is year after year with a changing team list). In the 2017 finals series for example the Storm in winning the Comp across 3 finals games conceded just 7.3 points a game, the Cowboys and Roosters their two main rivals averaged 25 pts against in their finals games. Last season the Roosters across their 3 finals games conceded just 12 (wk 1), 4 (wk 3) and 6 points (Grand Final). Coaching quality defence is one of the hardest parts of the game, and one of the most important!


Roosters

Roosters Forecast Finished Won D Against D Av. Differential
2019 1
2018 3 1 16 361 15.0 +181
2017 8 2 17 428 17.8 +72
2016 9 15 6 576 24.0 -133
2015 1 1 18 300 12.5 +291

Player List

In: Angus Crichton (Rabbitohs), Ryan Hall (Leeds), Brett Morris (Bulldogs), Brock Lamb (Knights), Craig Garvey (Raiders)

Out: Blake Ferguson (Eels), Paul Momirovski, Ryan Matterson (Wests Tigers), Sean O’Sullivan (Broncos), Kurt Baptiste (Cowboys), Dylan Napa (Bulldogs)

Draw Overview

Teams they play twice: Rabbitohs, Broncos, Storm, Dragons, Wests Tigers, Raiders, Knights, Panthers, Bulldogs

Teams they play once: Sea Eagles, Eels, Sharks, Cowboys, Titans, Warriors

Day-by-day breakdown: Thursday x 3, Friday x 7, Saturday x 6, Sunday x 8

2 x Five-day turnarounds: Rd 10, Rd 25

Preview Thoughts

Clear the benchmark and rated all but the same rating they finished 2018 with. A few changes to their list but also some suitable gains, they have also shown longer term to have a strong development or acquisition plan and so a strong list, overseen by a very astute coach. Over the last 3 seasons Robinson has improved their game average D from 24.0 to 17.8 to 15.0 and another title, they are certainly going to be there and abouts again this season. The one potential negative is Home ground advantage, with the rebuild of the Footy Stadium they lose this and will now have to try and make do out of next door at the SCG. Highly rated at the top of the table, certainly look a major top 4 contender, like them or not they are a very professional operation with an outstanding coach, hard to rate them any differently or suggest they won’t be in the think of things at the pointy end of the table again.


Broncos

Broncos Forecast Finished Won D Against D Av. Differential
2019 2
2018 4 6 15 500 20.8 +56
2017 7 3 16 433 18.0 +164
2016 1 5 15 434 18.0 +120
2015 9 2 17 379 15.7 +195

New Coach: Anthony Seibold

Player List

In: Sean O’Sullivan (Roosters), Shaun Fensom (Cowboys)

Out – Korbin Sims, Jonus Pearson (Dragons), Tom Opacic, Josh McGuire, Jordan Kahu (Cowboys), Marion Seve (Storm), Corey Allan (Rabbitohs), Sam Thaiday (retired)

Draw Overview

Teams they play twice: Storm, Cowboys, Roosters, Sharks, Rabbitohs, Warriors, Titans, Eels, Bulldogs

Teams they play once: Dragons, Wests Tigers, Raiders, Sea Eagles, Knights, Panthers

Day-by-day breakdown: Thursday x 7, Friday x 7, Saturday x 7, Sunday x 3

2 x 5 day turn arounds: Rd 8, Rd 18

Preview Thoughts

Very interesting profile here with the departure of Bennett, the arrival of Seibold with a massive longer term deal and what looks a talented list ready to succeed. I think the whole Bennett saga of 2018 impeded their performance, their best was very good and should have taken them deep into September but their inconsistent worst offerings were terrible, no more so than week 1 of the finals series when heavy favs at home yet completely thumped by a 30 point margin by a limping (injuries) Dragons. Seibold improved the Rabbits in his first season from 12th to 3rd and notably improved their defence (down 6 pts per game) and attack (up 5 pts per game) and he has now brought with him his key staff for an overall makeover in approach and output at his new club. They need to get their halves pairing and performance right, but they also now have some depth behind the obvious and I’m sure Seibold won’t muck around in getting what he wants done. They have a wealth of riches and quality in their edge back row and or at #13, get Jack Bird fit into a new season and have a back 5 as capable as any in hurting you with points. Importantly they have a significant advantage with Home ground and draw rotation. I have them on the up and I expect they are a key challenger this season and one of my longer term premiership bets, if I was to just back one team the Broncos would be it.


Panthers

Panthers Forecast Finished Won D Against D Av. Differential
2019 3
2018 9 5 15 461 19.2 +56
2017 2 7 13 459 19.1 +39
2016 12 6 14 463 19.2 +100
2015 5 11 9 477 19.8 -78

New Coach: Ivan Cleary

Player List

In: Tim Grant, Malakai Watene-Zelezniak (Wests Tigers), Tyrell Fuimaono (Rabbitohs), Hame Sele (Dragons)

Out: Christian Crichton, Corey Harawira-Naera (Bulldogs), Tyrone Peachey (Titans), Maika Sivo (Eels), Corey Waddell (Sea Eagles), Trent Merrin (Leeds)

Draw Overview

Teams they play twice: Eels, Knights, Wests Tigers, Titans, Sharks, Rabbitohs, Raiders, Warriors, Roosters

Teams they play once: Storm, Sea Eagles, Dragons, Bulldogs, Broncos, Cowboys

Day-by-day breakdown: Thursday x 3, Friday x 10, Saturday x 6, Sunday x 5

0 x Five-day turnarounds

Preview Thoughts

Another with a key head coach change with Ivan Cleary returning. Much like the Broncos I think the issues surrounding their last coach has been an impediment to success, in particular in attack where they appeared (and played) without clue as to how to set up a set to open a hole, create a decoy or overlap or effectively score points. Of note through the last 2 seasons their attack – defence differential per game has sat at 2.3 pts and 1.9 pts, no margin for error yet they have played semi final footy, the only way under a good coach can be up! Their junior development through the last 5 or more years has been outstanding, they have a wealth of riches in talent and depth with the right direction, improvement of red zone attack and in general their defence they now look a top 4 contender and are the other team I want to back long term to win the title. While they have played finals footy through recent seasons I think the missing ingredients top top 2 seasons has been some broader seasoned experience and a quality coach, I think now look ready to aim up.


Storm

Storm Forecast Finished Won D Against D Av. Differential
2019 4
2018 2 2 16 363 15.1 +173
2017 1 1 20 336 14.0 +297
2016 4 1 19 302 12.5 +261
2015 7 4 14 348 14.5 +119

Player List

In: Marion Seve (Broncos)

Out: Tim Glasby (Knights), Ryley Jacks (Titans), Lachlan Timm (Dragons), Billy Slater

Draw Overview

Teams they play twice: Broncos, Raiders, Bulldogs, Cowboys, Roosters, Warriors, Sharks, Titans, Sea Eagles

Teams they play once: Panthers, Eels, Wests Tigers, Knights, Dragons, Rabbitohs

Day-by-day breakdown: Thursday x 4, Friday x 7, Saturday x 8, Sunday x 5

2 x Five-day turnarounds: Rd 5, Rd 10

Preview Thoughts

This looks a rebuild and regenerate season for the Storm, but their quality and that of their coach and his key staff still has them somewhere mid top 8, and as always a competitive team. Through this off season and the last they have now lost either stand out class or notable top graders in Slater, Glasby then Cronk, Tohu Harris and McLean the year prior, that’s 5 top line players plus a number on the fringe, it all starts to bite into your up front quality and then depth. The obvious big pluses are stability of coach and staff, Bellamy’s ability to coach defence and always have them competitive and an outstanding long term Home ground advantage. Top 6 side, don’t look at the level they have been through the last 3 to 5 years but again I expect we will see a typical Bellamy side, always competitive and hard to beat.


Rabbitohs

Rabbitohs Forecast Finished Won D Against D Av. Differential
2019 5
2018 11 3 16 437 18.2 +145
2017 11 12 9 564 23.5 -100
2016 3 12 9 549 22.8 -76
2015 2 7 13 467 19.4 -7

New Coach: Wayne Bennett

Player List

In: Kurt Dillon (Sharks), Bayley Sironen (Wests Tigers), Corey Allan (Broncos), Cory Dennis (Knights), Liam Knight (Raiders), Tom Amone (Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles), Ethan Lowe (Cowboys)

Out: Jason Clark (Warrington), Angus Crichton (Roosters), Jesse Arthars (Titans), Tyrell Fuimaono (Panthers), Hymel Hunt (Knights), Robert Jennings, Zane Musgrove (Wests Tigers), Vincent Leuluai (North Sydney)

Draw Overview

Teams they play twice: Roosters, Dragons, Sea Eagles, Warriors, Bulldogs, Panthers, Broncos, Cowboys, Wests Tigers

Teams they play once: Titans, Raiders, Eels, Knights, Sharks, Storm

Day-by-day breakdown: Thursday x 4, Friday x 8, Saturday x 9, Sunday x 3

0 x Five-day turnarounds

Preview Thoughts

What an interesting set up here? Wayne Bennett now into his 33rd season as a head coach in this competition, 27 times of those 32 years he has had his team in the semi finals now steps into his 5th club and the role at South Sydney! Even more intriguing is that he does a role and club swap with Anthony Seibold! He takes over a list that was top 4 last season and only but a few seasons prior the title holders. Clearly as a top 4 list last season they are competitive, they made a significant improvement with the defence last season which Bennett will be strong on while he and his assistant Jason Demetriou are unlikely to change too much to what was clearly working with their attacking set ups. Possible questions are strength and depth across their back 5 and can and is Inglis able to play out a major impact at the back end of his career, but they also look to have a few promising kids about to make the grade. Look a top 6 contender, their best would again put them in top 4 contention, lets hope they play attacking footy to their strengths.


Dragons

Dragons Forecast Finished Won D Against D Av. Differential
2019 6
2018 6 7 15 472 19.7 +47
2017 14 9 12 450 18.7 +83
2016 13 11 10 538 22.4 -197
2015 13 8 12 408 17.0 +27

Player List

In: Korbin Sims, Jonus Pearson (Broncos), Mikaele Ravalawa (Raiders/Mounties), Lachlan Timm (Storm), Lachlan Maranta (rugby union), Corey Norman (Eels)

Out: Leeson Ah Mau, Patrick Herbert (Warriors), Nene Macdonald (Cowboys), Reuben Garrick (Sea Eagles), Hame Sele (Panthers), Kurt Mann (Knights)

Draw Overview

Teams they play twice: Cowboys, Rabbitohs, Knights, Bulldogs, Sea Eagles, Roosters, Eels, Sharks, Titans

Teams they play once: Broncos, Warriors, Storm, Raiders, Panthers, Wests Tigers

Day-by-day breakdown: Thursday x 4, Friday x 3, Saturday x 6, Sunday x 10, Monday x 1

3 x Five-day turnarounds: Rd 2, Rd 7, Rd 18

Preview Thoughts

Numerous questions around the Dragons into this season but they still rate a likely top 8 list and performer. Who owns the team and calls the shots? Is it Hunt, Norman or Widdop, and how does this work. With the new NRL ruling how long are they with out key Origin forward in de Belin, and what impact does this have overall, both on and off the field. As they have shown through the last few seasons their top 17 is a strong performing team but next level depth and the coach’s preparedness to blood and use them has been a major issue when key injuries have hit. They’ll welcome back Paul Vaughan who played little footy last season after being outstanding the year prior, while Zac Lomax looks an outstanding prospect. They have appeared to keep learning and improving through recent seasons, on paper again look a likely top 6 / top 8 contender but certainly carry an * with a few key questions to be resolved. I’ve kept them positive and positioned 6th to 8th.


Raiders

Raiders Forecast Finished Won D Against D Av. Differential
2019 7
2018 8 10 10 540 22.5 +23
2017 4 10 11 497 20.7 +61
2016 8 2 17 456 19.0 +232
2015 15 10 10 569 23.7 +8

Player List

In: Ryan Sutton, John Bateman (Wigan), JJ Felise (Knights), Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad (Warriors)

Out: Shannon Boyd (Titans), Junior Paulo (Eels), Blake Austin (Warrington), Charlie Gubb (Widnes), Mikaele Ravalawa (Dragons), Liam Knight (Rabbitohs), Craig Garvey (Roosters)

Draw Overview

Teams they play twice: Storm, Cowboys, Eels, Sea Eagles, Panthers, Roosters, Wests Tigers, Sharks, Warriors

Teams they play once: Titans, Knights, Broncos, Rabbitohs, Bulldogs, Dragons

Day-by-day breakdown: Thursday x 1, Friday x 4, Saturday x 9, Sunday x 10

2 x Five-day turnarounds: Rd 2, Rd 20

Preview Thoughts

Raiders another team who have looked to promise much after their top 2 role in 2016 yet in both seasons since have missed the finals and finished 10th. The changes to their list look positive and with the signing of the two Wigan forwards looks to be both tightening up their middle defence but also go for a far more mobile middle and forward line up. Defence is the key issue, the one season they made the finals was the same season as their best defensive offering. With the likely move of Wighton to #6 and the key mid term out of Rapana with injury some questions exist over who and the quality of their back 3. They also missed their captain Hodgson for a big slice of 2018, his direction and ball play instrumental in what they have done through recent seasons, wit ha full off season and return they are much stronger. They have points in them, with the two Wigan rep forwards they look stronger in the middle, Hodgson back and the likely positives of Wighton at #6 I’ve marked them up, but Stuart needs to get the necessary improvements in defence right.


Knights

Knights Forecast Finished Won D Against D Av. Differential
2019 8
2018 15 11 9 607 25.3 -193
2017 16 16 5 648 27.0 -220
2016 14 16 1 800 33.3 -495
2015 11 16 8 612 25.5 -154

Player List

In: Tim Glasby (Storm), Jesse Ramien, Edrick Lee (Sharks), Mason Lino, James Gavet (Warriors), David Klemmer, Zac Woolford (Bulldogs), Hymel Hunt (Rabbitohs), Kurt Mann (Dragons)

Out: Jack Cogger, Nick Meaney (Bulldogs), Brock Lamb (Roosters), Ken Sio (Salford), JJ Felise (Raiders), Cory Denniss (Rabbitohs), Luke Yates (London), Dylan Phythian (Burleigh), Pat Mata’utia (Wests Newcastle)

Draw Overview

Teams they play twice: Panthers, Dragons, Sea Eagles, Titans, Eels, Warriors, Bulldogs, Roosters, Wests Tigers

Teams they play once: Sharks, Raiders, Rabbitohs, Storm, Broncos, Cowboys

Day-by-day breakdown: Thursday x 0, Friday x 6, Saturday x 12, Sunday x 6

1 x Five-day turnarounds: Rd 11

Preview Thoughts

Off the back of a very busy 6 months of recruitment 2019 looks of much promise for the Knights. Nathan Brown looks to have made key signings in each of the required areas, Klemmer, Glasby and Gavet muscle up their middle and go forward; Ramien (in particular) and Hunt add punch and top grade quality to their centre starting line up and depth, while Mann, Lino, Lee, Mann and Woolford all add further depth and versatility. Over the last 3 seasons they have gone 16th, 16th then 11th while in that same period their defence has gone from 33.3 pts per game to 25.3 as they reload and rebuild their list. But the Knights are another where defence is the key factor of what becomes of 2019, they need to get to a 18 to 19 per game average for them to make the top 8 and now with this remodeled list it’s a target that is certainly achievable. Playing at Home should again be to advantage, the best of what this list looks capable of they should certainly be fighting for a spot somewhere around 8th to 6th but the turning point is Brown has to improve their defence.


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Cowboys

Cowboys Forecast Finished Won D Against D Av. Differential
2019 9
2018 1 13 8 521 21.7 -72
2017 2 8 13 443 18.4 +24
2016 2 4 15 355 14.8 +229
2015 3 3 17 454 18.9 +133

Player List

In: Tom Opacic, Josh McGuire, Jordan Kahu (Broncos), Nene Macdonald (Dragons), Kurt Baptiste (Roosters)

Out: Lachlan Coote (St Helens), Kane Linnett (Hull KR), Shaun Fensom (Broncos), Sam Hoare Josh Chudleigh, Kyle Laybutt, Shaun Hudson (all Townsville), Ethan Lowe (Rabbitohs)

Draw Overview

Teams they play twice: Dragons, Broncos, Sharks, Raiders, Storm, Bulldogs, Titans, Rabbitohs, Wests Tigers

Teams they play once: Warriors, Eels, Sea Eagles, Roosters, Knights, Panthers

Day-by-day breakdown: Thursday x 4, Friday x 8, Saturday x 9, Sunday x 3

1 x Five-day turnarounds: Rd 19

Preview Thoughts

After promising so much into 2018 the Cowboys were certainly a massive disappointment fading dramatically to finish 13th. They were one team who had big number representation in the World Cup at the end of 2017 and so had a much shorter and disjointed pre season prep, and then lost Morgan (and others) for more than half the season with injury and fell into a losing disjointed offering. What is now more obvious is the across the last 3 seasons their attack has gone from 24.3 to 18.7 per game while in defence they have gone 14.8 to 18.5 to 21.7 pts per game. Thurston’s retirement is clearly significant, they also lose Coote and now his replacement Barba and for mine have a few aging forwards in Scott and Bolton at the wrong end of their career. They finished 13th last year, lose one of the all time best – this all now looks much like a period of rebuild, a list that can compete but they’ll need to remain fit in key areas and likely over achieve to be a major top 8 contender, lots of questions for me, I think they look at least a year away and a side missing the 8.


Sharks

Sharks Forecast Finished Won D Against D Av. Differential
2019 10
2018 6 4 16 423 17.6 +96
2017 5 5 15 407 16.9 +69
2016 5 3 17 404 16.8 +176
2015 10 6 14 476 19.8 -7

New Coach: John Morris

Player List

In: Josh Morris (Bulldogs), Shaun Johnson (Sharks)

Out: Jesse Ramien, Edrick Lee (Knights), Ricky Leutele (Toronto), Kurt Dillon (Rabbitohs), Joseph Paulo (St Helens), Valentine Holmes (NFL opportunity)

Draw Overview

Teams they play twice: Titans, Cowboys, Eels, Panthers, Broncos, Storm, Dragons, Raiders, Warriors

Teams they play once: Knights, Roosters, Sea Eagles, Bulldogs, Rabbitohs, Wests Tigers

Day-by-day breakdown: Thursday x 4, Friday x 4, Saturday x 9, Sunday x 7

2 x Five-day turnarounds: Rd 6, Rd 14

Preview Thoughts

Lots of change, lots of questions and a major watch on what now unfolds. A new head coach, some key list changes (both in and out) and a key mid term injury (Wade Graham) to start the season all make for an interesting offering and assessment. The retirement loss of Luke Lewis for me is very significant, he’s added class, brains and grunt to this forward line up for many years and will be a major miss, with Graham also missing for a major chunk of the start of season they have some key holes and roles to fill. Holmes has been an X factor and Ramien a player of major potential, further key outs, but the addition of Johnson could well prove a major play. We then have a head coach change, and while John Morris is thought of very highly and could well bring a very fresh approach Flanagan has clearly had a leading influence with the majority of this playing group and may well leave some big shoes to fill. They other key indicator of them sliding a few levels since their premiership win is the high number of close wins and losses through recent seasons, and the diminishing gap in wins, on their day they are very good but they have certainly come back to the field. Overall I have them marked down a number of spots on last season and an overall major question mark on how 2019 unfolds for them. Their best would see them in the bottom of the 8, but they might well need a lot to go right for them to make that happen – I have them missing the 8.


Warriors

Warriors Forecast Finished Won D Against D Av. Differential
2019 11
2018 14 8 15 447 18.6 25
2017 6 13 7 575 23.9 -131
2016 11 10 10 601 25.0 -88
2015 8 13 9 588 24.5 -143

Player List

In: Leeson Ah Mau (Dragons), Lachlan Burr (Bulldogs), Adam Keighran (Panthers ISP)

Out: Anthony Gelling (Widnes), Mason Lino, James Gavet (Knights), Shaun Johnson (Sharks), Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad (Raiders)

Draw Overview

Teams they play twice: Sea Eagles, Titans, Rabbitohs, Storm, Knights, Panthers, Broncos, Sharks, Raiders

Teams they play once: Bulldogs, Wests Tigers, Cowboys, Dragons, Eels, Roosters

Day-by-day breakdown: Thursday x 1, Friday x 7, Saturday x 12, Sunday x 4

1 x Five-day turnarounds: Rd 7

Preview Thoughts

Like much of their on field offering through recent seasons the Warriors are very tricky to try and assess into this season. Johnson, Lino and Nicoll-Klokstad appear key attacking players now lost, and more so who now replaces them or is this a season of transition? They made major improvements to their defence last season (18.6 per game) but still only just fell into the top 8 to then back door in week one. Experience, quality and performance at #9, #7 and #6 look the key questions, one can mark them down on list quality, experience and strength, there looks to be a rebuild and reshape agenda going on here and I have them rated somewhere around 10 to 12, a further slide south would not surprise.


Tigers

Tigers Forecast Finished Won D Against D Av. Differential
2019 12
2018 16 9 12 460 19.2 -83
2017 15 14 7 571 23.7 -158
2016 15 9 11 607 25.2 -108
2015 14 15 8 562 23.4 -75

New Coach: Michael Maguire

Player List

In: Paul Momirovski, Ryan Matterson (Roosters), Robert Jennings, Zane Musgrove (Rabbitohs)

Out: Tui Lolohea (Leeds), Kevin Naiqama (St Helens), Sauaso Sue (Bulldogs), Bayley Sironen (Rabbitohs), Tim Grant, Malakai Watene-Zelezniak (Panthers), Pita Godinet (Villeneuve)

Draw Overview

Teams they play twice: Sea Eagles, Bulldogs, Panthers, Eels, Roosters, Rabbitohs, Raiders, Cowboys, Knights

Teams they play once: Warriors, Broncos, Titans, Storm, Dragons, Sharks

Day-by-day breakdown: Thursday x 5, Friday x 6, Saturday x 7, Sunday x 5, Monday x 1

3 x Five-day turnarounds: Rd 4, Rd 7, Rd 22

Preview Thoughts

The Tigers are tricky. Again they have a head coach change, but much like Cleary I expect Maguire’s experience, process and winning ways will be good for them. Momirovski, Matterson and Robert Jennings look positive buys that add to their 1st grade strength, while the return of Farah helped reshape their forward play. One of their key issues appears sorting out are a quality result at #6 while depth when injuries strike has also hurt them, and overall on list, depth and recent years overall performance (full season) its hard to rate or position them any higher than 12 to 10. They were very plucky last year and really had a dig, I hope we see something of the same and if they can keep the majority of their best list on the park most of the time potentially challenge the middle of the table.


Sea Eagles

Sea Eagles Forecast Finished Won D Against D Av. Differential
2019 13
2018 10 15 7 622 25.9 -122
2017 13 6 14 512 21.3 +40
2016 6 13 8 563 23.4 -109
2015 6 9 11 492 20.5 -34

New Coach: Des Hasler

Player List

In: Kane Elgey, Brendan Elliot (Titans), Corey Waddell (Panthers), Reuben Garrick (Dragons)

Out: Aku Uate (Huddersfield), Shaun Lane (Eels), Tom Wright (rugby union), Brian Kelly (Titans), Matt Wright (CQ Capras)

Draw Overview

Teams they play twice: Wests Tigers, Warriors, Rabbitohs, Knights, Dragons, Raiders, Titans, Eels, Storm

Teams they play once: Roosters, Bulldogs, Broncos, Sharks, Panthers, Cowboys

Day-by-day breakdown: Thursday x 2, Friday x 4, Saturday x 13, Sunday x 5

1 x Five-day turnarounds: Rd 11

Preview Thoughts

So does Hasler put a bit of Manly  DNA back into the Eagles? I expect so. In many ways this looks like a Hasler reboot similar to when he first stepped into the role, some professional leadership and experience might be required, some defensive nous and a 1 to 3 year rebuild of the player list. Think what ever you like about some of Hasler’s history but he’s been a long term winner making the finals 12 times out of 14 years and for the majority of those years coaching a team that could defend. The loss of Kelly, Lane and potentially for an indefinite period Walker weakens what appears a thin list and likely very short on depth, but they have some key 5 star talent around which to work and rebuild. They have been leaking 22 to 26 points a week across the last 3 seasons so clearly this needs to be a major area of improvement and while like recent seasons I expect they will have some peak periods it’s very hard to see that they have the list depth and overall quality to last the wear and tear of a long NRL season and be a finals chance. But Rome wasn’t build in a day, and if someone is going to rebuild and fire back up the Eagles then Hasler looks the right choice.


Titans

Titans Forecast Finished Won D Against D Av. Differential
2019 14
2018 13 14 8 582 24.3 -110
2017 9 15 7 638 26.5 -190
2016 16 8 11 497 20.7 +11
2015 16 14 9 636 26.5 -197

 Player List

In: Tyrone Peachey (Panthers), Shannon Boyd (Raiders), Tyrone Roberts (Warrington), Jesse Arthars (Rabbitohs), Ryley Jacks (Storm), Brian Kelly (Sea Eagles)

Out: Kane Elgey, Brendan Elliot (Sea Eagles), Konrad Hurrell (Leeds)

Draw Overview

Teams they play twice: Sharks, Warriors, Panthers, Knights, Cowboys, Sea Eagles, Broncos, Storm, Dragons

Teams they play once: Raiders, Rabbitohs, Tigers, Bulldogs, Roosters, Eels

Day-by-day breakdown: Thursday x 1, Friday x 1, Saturday x 8, Sunday 8

2 x Five-day turnarounds: Rd 4, Rd 14

Preview Thoughts

Much of what I probably say here now is what we typically say about the Titans most seasons. They’ve made a few key or potential signings, trained the house down all off season, installed a new work ethic, have a few new key staff onboard and are on the climb up the ladder. They have finished 14th, 14th and 15th in 3 of the last 4 seasons, and given all of the “new” change into last season I’m yet to be convinced that the new coach can coach at this level. I have marked them up slightly for list changes but have some questions over back row, and wouldn’t have thought moving your best proven forward (Ryan James) to an edge was a smart move, but clearly defence and depth are their issues, and a coach showing us what he is made of. I had them bottom 4 last season, I see no reason that that will change.


Bulldogs

Bulldogs Forecast Finished Won D Against D Av. Differential
2019 15
2018 12 12 8 474 19.8 -46
2017 10 11 10 455 18.9 -95
2016 7 7 14 448 18.6 +58
2015 4 5 14 480 20.0 +42

Player List

In: Jack Cogger, Nick Meaney (Knights), Christian Crichton, Corey Harawira-Naera (Panthers), Sauaso Sue (Wests Tigers), Dylan Napa (Roosters)

Out: Josh Morris (Sharks), Brett Morris (Roosters), David Klemmer, Zac Woolford (Knights), Matt Frawley (Huddersfield), Lachlan Burr (Warriors), Greg Eastwood (Newtown)

Draw Overview

Teams they play twice: Eels, Wests Tigers, Storm, Dragons, Rabbitohs, Cowboys, Knights, Roosters, Broncos.

Teams they play once: Warriors, Sea Eagles, Titans, Raiders, Sharks, Panthers.

Day-by-day breakdown: Thursday x 3, Friday x 3, Saturday x 9, Sunday x 8, Monday x 1

2 x Five-day turnarounds (Rd 6, Rd 23).

Preview Thoughts

For all of the plucky effort that the Bulldogs did apply for much of last season again it’s strength and experience of their list that has to weigh them down toward the bottom quarter of the table. To Dean Pay’s credit only once did they put in a bad day and get touched up but in the end they only won 8 games and finished 12th. As they move through this period of player list and salary cap reshape and rebuild over the last 18 months they have obviously had a major loss of quality and experience and are relying on many younger players keen for a chance to aim up. They also have a big chunk of $’s tied up in Foran and desperately need him fit and at his best to direct and lead them forward (which I highly doubt given his run through recent years of multiple key injuries). I expect more of what we saw last year, plucky efforts most weeks but by seasons end a likely 8 to 9 wins and a bottom 4 spot.


Eels

Eels Forecast Finished Won D Against D Av. Differential
2019 16
2018 5 16 6 550 22.9 -176
2017 12 4 16 457 19.0 +39
2016 10 14 13 324 13.5* -26
2015 12 12 9 573 23.8 -125

Player List

In: Junior Paulo (Raiders), Blake Ferguson (Roosters), Shaun Lane (Sea Eagles), Andrew Davey (Townsville Blackhawks), Maika Sivo (Panthers)

Out: Suaia Matagi (Huddersfield), Corey Norman (Dragons), Cameron King (Featherstone), Jarryd Hayne

Draw Overview

Teams they play twice: Panthers, Bulldogs, Sharks, Raiders, Wests Tigers, Knights, Dragons, Broncos, Sea Eagles

Teams they play once: Roosters, Storm, Cowboys, Rabbitohs, Warriors, Titans

Day-by-day breakdown: Thursday x 2, Friday x 5, Saturday x 8, Sunday x 8, Monday x 1

2 x Five-day turnarounds: Rd 3, Rd 11

Preview Thoughts

I understand that it is easy to pot teams that look likely to struggle and finish bottom 4 but unless they have a young talent or two ready to quickly set this team on fire I can only find reason to mark them down further on last season, and they finished 16th. Multiple name players have been up for sale or trade across the last 6 months which has to say there is an undercurrent of unhappiness from all concerned (coach and player), they have been successful in moving Norman on but have potential glaring inexperience at #9 and #6 and the question mark remains over Moses being the person who can run and lead this team week in week out across 26 round of if Gutherson can do the same (return to full fitness and skill off some horrendous injuries). Personally I think the coach has done a terrible job across his tenure with their recruitment and list management always looking to go for the expensive quick fix and short term result (Foran, Watmough, Scott, Pritchard, Hayne) as opposed to building strong foundations and a long term preforming list off the back of what once was the junior powerhouse of Sydney. If in prime fitness and attitude Ferguson and Paulo could be good buys but with major questions over #9, #6, Front Row and Centre (both quality and depth) I have them marked down and a bottom two side.



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