NRL Season 2020 | Free Preview | Reading The Play

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2020 Table Forecast and Team Analysis


What’s an NRL Coach worth? And why Defence matters!

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 15 out of 16 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 have now won the comp these last two years (and broken the back to back hoodoo) on the back of some outstanding defence across both seasons.

Coach Years Finals Premierships
Bennett 33 28 7
Bellamy 16 15 4
Stuart 16 6 1
Hasler 15 13 2
Cleary 12 5 0
Robinson 7 6 3

Why Defence Matters!

Most coaches get it, but in my opinion most can’t actually coach it. Even in today’s structured at times robot like game of physical chess (especially when those at the top of the table are matched up) the obvious begins to stand out with those who get it, and can coach it.

As already noted Bellamy’s long term record is just something else. Robinson fast becoming another stand out. Hasler’s long term record is very good and you only have to look and appreciate what he has done in his first stint at the Sea Eagles, then then defensive impact he had at the Bulldogs and then in returning to the Sea Eagles last season he dropped near 6 points per game off their defence and rocketed them up the table. The penny finally dropped in Canberra that being attacking superstars was only half the battle and after some key coaching staff changes and 4 months of intensive off season focus they to dropped near 6 pts a week off their defence and bingo – made a Grand Final.

It is also very clear to note on the following table that the top 7 sides in the competition last year were also the top 7 defensive teams week in week out.

NRL Av last 3 seasons
Av # wins Av D per game D/game 2019 After 26 Rds.
1 Storm 18.6 13.8 12.5 1
2 Roosters 16.6 15.9 15.1 2
3 Raiders 12 19.5 15.5 4
4 Rabbits 13.6 19.6 17.3 3
5 Sea Eagles 11.6 21.9 18.5 6
6 Sharks 14.3 17.9 19.3 7
7 Eels 12 20.5 19.7 5
8 Panthers 13 19.3 19.7 10
9 Bulldogs 9.3 19.5 19.8 12
10 Tigers 10 21.0 20.2 9
11 Broncos 14 19.7 20.3 8
12 Cowboys 10 20.3 20.8 14
13 Knights 8 24.6 21.7 11
14 Dragons 11.6 20.7 23.9 15
15 Warriors 10.3 22.1 23.9 13
16 Titans 6.3 25.9 27.1 16
rating order based on D/game av. 2019

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 8 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 off field indiscretions, but in the final 8 weeks prior to the new season start 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. These ratings also then form a critical part of our weekly and longer term betting strategy and recommendations which over time has delivered 100 units of profit return, in 2019 a profit of 28 units.

2019
The top rated team was the #1 Roosters (premiers) with the Storm at #4 (minor premiers) and during the season we made recommended longer term bets on Storm (minor premiers) and Roosters (to win the comp). Initial longer term bets were the Broncos and Panthers (prior to sex tape scandal) both performing poorly.

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 or key positional play maker (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. Of note through recent seasons the unknown impact of key off field issues like those that have beset the Dragons and Panthers.

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. This season the top 6 sides are closer together than they have been through recent years and they certainly look the benchmark around where the winning form and top of the table will unfold. As far down the table to 10th or 12th all look competitive for the top 8 but if the top 6 perform to expectation then we then only have 2 further spots open..

From the top to the bottom I have all 16 teams rated far closer together and a much tighter spread than it has been through recent seasons suggesting a much closer competition with teh majority of teams able to compete with those around their level most weeks – pending the obvious run of (yet unknown) key injury outs or as has unfortunately been teh case through recent seasons off field issues that has also then led to player stand downs or under performing player lists (Dragons, Panthers).

2020 Table Forecast

This is how I have the table rated to start the season, and overall how I think it looks likely longer term.

NRL rating change size of
since end 2019 change
1 Roosters down big Cronk, Mitchell key outs
2 Storm down small good draw, top few again, same old..
3 Raiders same none need to get halves combo right
4 Eels up small on up, stability a plus
5 Sea Eagles down small #9 an issue, good draw, thin depth
6 Rabbits down a bit major outs in Fwds, Mitchell at #1?
7 Cowboys up big quality list changes, on the up
8 Broncos same none is Croft the answer, Coach?
9 Knights up small Coach a plus, list stability (finally)
10 Panthers down a bit Maloney huge out
11 Dragons same none treading water, still, again
12 Tigers same none likely performance improvements
13 Bulldogs same none gritty, still depth & quality questions
14 Titans up big Coach big plus
15 Sharks down biggest going backwards
16 Warriors down a bit looks weak questionable list


Long Term Suggested Bets

For anyone looking to bet long term into the season I think the working around teams in the top 6 is the obvious play with the Storm my choice for interests toward the minor premiership ($5.50) and premiership ($6.50). I also have significant concern at where the Sharks season may end, as noted in greater detail below they have significant list change and loss of quality and will play all home games at Kogarah, I have them marked as a potential bottom 4 side and have had a speculator interest in them to finish with most losses (16th) at $21. For a throw at the stumps on the back of the Storm having a good season I thought Ryan Papenhuyzen looked worth an interest as possible top season try scorer @ $67.


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Individual Team Previews

Rate = 2019 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) and now more recently (as noted above) we have seen this same impact from the Roosters and last year the Raiders. 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
2020  1
2019 1 2 17 363 15.1 264
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: Kyle Flanagan

Out: Cooper Cronk, Latrell Mitchell, Zane Tetevano

Draw Overview

Teams they play twice: Broncos, Raiders, Rabbitohs, Storm, Sea Eagles, Sharks, Dragons, Warriors, Cowboys

Teams they play once: Knights, Panthers, Wests Tigers, Eels, Bulldogs, Titans

Day-by-day breakdown: Thursday x 2, Friday x 7, Saturday x 11, Sunday x 4

Five-day turnarounds: 2

Preview Thoughts

The Roosters are clearly the benchmark but I have re rated them down a fair margin to start the season on the back of two significant outs in Cronk and Mitchell. Cronk is a rare game breaker who all but won them a title (aside from Luke Keary) playing in a dinner suit (and busted shoulder) and is one of those outstanding leaders who is a winner and just so sharp between the ears. He’ll be a significant influence around the club, but a big out on the park. Mitchell is a rare talent who can turn a game on a dime, while the Roosters may well be better off without all the disruption that had surrounded him through recent months there’s no doubt his game winning ability and moments represent a sizeable out.

Trent Robinson is clearly an outstanding coach now building a very significant record at the club, and a system very much like that at the Storm, and so I have tempered slightly the level of adjustment. In Robinson’s last seven years he has now delivered 4 minor premierships, 3 premierships and a top 2 spot in 6 of those 7 seasons, an outstanding record. He has also shown himself a quality coach of defence, and that in itself should still take them a long way into this competition.

Young Flanagan is going to have a lot to aim up to, and I’m sure there will be some bumps in the road. He started less than 10 games in top grade last season so it becomes somewhat an ask to now step straight into the shoes of Cronk, and certainly I think his kicking game still requires a lot of polish. They still have two of the best in the game at #1 and #6, quality and versatility at #9 and a mid level draw. A quality and very professional outfit from end to end but right now not at the same level they have been. I have them starting the season top 3.


Storm

Storm Forecast Finished Won D Against D Av. Differential
 2020  2
2019 4 1 20 300 12.5 +331
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: Ryley Jacks

Out: Brodie Croft, Will Chambers, Curtis Scott, Joe Stimson

Draw Overview

Teams they play twice: Sharks, Rabbitohs, Titans, Cowboys, Warriors, Roosters, Eels, Raiders, Broncos

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

Day-by-day breakdown: Thursday x 4, Friday x 6, Saturday x 12, Sunday x 2

Five-day turnarounds: 3

Preview Thoughts

Just when you think it might be the rebuild and regenerate season for the Storm they come out and win 20 games and clean up the minor premiership by a margin.. Bellamy is just a master coach and has put in place and runs the best system of any club in the comp – year after year after year.

As noted in greater detail above no one coaches defence better than Bellamy, nor their fast starts to a new season, nor more often than not the quality of home ground advantage or their professional approach to road games, and so they just build week after week into a new season and before we know it its Rd 10 and there they sit top 2 on the table and gradually building momentum into the second half of the season.

The obvious hole looks the key outs in the centres with Chambers and Scott moving on. And while not yet at that same level Justin Olam and Marion Seve did a good job last season – and who do we now question what else this system now has coming through?

A few pluses, I think the coach has worked out what he wants with his spine with Hughes at #7, Papenhuyzen looks one out of the box (top season try scorer @ $67?) and on paper they look to have a very favourable draw.

Good enough to win the comp? While they don’t look a stand out they do again look like last year, running somewhere around the top 4 and then possibly building toward a top 2 spot and then before we know it giving the minor premiership a shake and playing into September with the advantage of home semi finals. It doesn’t always work out that easy, or with a title in the end, but I’m with them from the outset this season to once again be there and abouts (top2 to top 4), and in the end I have made only slight adjustment to their rating position.


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Raiders

Raiders Forecast Finished Won D Against D Av. Differential
2020  3
2019 7 4 15 374 15.5 +150
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: George Williams, Curtis Scott, Matt Frawley

Out: Jordan Rapana, Aidan Sezer, Joe Leilua

Draw Overview

Teams they play twice: Titans, Warriors, Dragons, Sea Eagles, Panthers, Rabbitohs, Tigers, Roosters, Storm

Teams they play once: Knights, Bulldogs, Sharks, Broncos, Eels, Cowboys

Day-by-day breakdown: Thursday x 1, Friday x 2, Saturday x 12, Sunday x 9

Five-day turnarounds x 1

Preview Thoughts

The Raiders were big improvers last season, improving their rating as the season unfolded approx. 8% to place them right in the mix as a top 4 side and then an eventual Grand Final spot. A number of things contributed to this, added quality that aimed up notably Bateman, stability with their playing and a pretty healthy run without major long term injury but the biggest was the dramatic improvement in their defence dropping 7 pts per week off and making them a very tough nut to crack (and winning 5 more games).

The other big impact this improved resolve had was the Raiders then finished in 8 close games, winning 5 of them. Once again defence is the cornerstone to a good season.

While there a few points for discussion in the end I have left the Raiders pretty much with the same rating position o start this new season (and longer term forecast) as where they finished off last season.

There are some notable key changes, George Williams comes in in the halves, potentially Scott into the centres and Rapana will be replaced on an edge but I think the replacements look (on paper) equal or slight improvements. They have overall depth (and stability in their list) and competition for spots which served them well last season, a healthy home ground advantage and an ok draw. Williams in the halves will be an interesting watch, he has made his name as a running #6 in the UK so I’d expect some adjustments to his game and likely role, but the upside it this works well could well be two quality big strong running halves off the back of a smart organising captain at #9.

They have not been great in recent years in putting in good back to back years but on the back of the positive experience of last season, that belief and the obvious depth across their list that shouldn’t be an issue into this season.

Certainly looks no reason why they should not be a top 4 contender.


Eels

Eels Forecast Finished Won D Against D Av. Differential
2020  4
2019 16 5 14 473 19.7 +60
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: Ryan Matterson, Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Brock Lamb

Out: Manu Ma’u, Bevan French, Tepai Moeroa, Tim Mannah

Draw Overview

Teams they play twice: Bulldogs, Cowboys, Dragons, Wests Tigers, Broncos, Sea Eagles, Storm, Panthers, Rabbitohs

Teams they play once: Titans, Warriors, Sharks, Raiders, Roosters, Knights

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

Five-day turnarounds: 3

Preview Thoughts

The Eels have been some what like wrestling with a black snake through recent seasons, winning 16 then 6 then 14 games and somewhat all over the shop but it appears safe to say that list stability, positive signings, growth in experience and an outstanding home ground advantage should see them look a potential contender this season. Over all I have marked them up a small positive on where they finished 2019.

Moses may well finally offer the brilliance and consistency he has shown moments of. Brown can only continue to improve playing beside him and maturing into a top grade half. Waqa Blake was a good pick up late last year, Matterson at his best can play, if Campbell-Gillard regained some confidence and got back to anything like his best then he can also be a very good pick up. Unlike some of recent years they have added a few with some quality while also retaining some stability (and not a major list churn).

Their new home ground has now become a fortress. Winning 80% of your home games will take any team to close to a semi final appearance and they now look to have a real asset to go with a strong and developing list.

There is every reason to think that they maintain their improvement. I have them top 6, barking at the heels of what could be a top 4 spot.


Sea Eagles

Sea Eagles Forecast Finished Won D Against D Av. Differential
 2020  5
2019 13 6 14 446 18.5 +50
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

Coach: Des Hasler

Player List

In: Danny Levi

Out: Api Koroisau, Kane Elgey, Trent Hodkinson

Draw Overview

Teams they play twice: Roosters, Warriors, Raiders, Knights, Titans, Sharks, Eels, Bulldogs, Panthers

Teams they play once: Storm, Broncos, Tigers, Dragons, Rabbitohs, Cowboys

Day-by-day breakdown: Thursday x 2, Friday x 7, Saturday x 8, Sunday x 7

Five-day turnarounds: 1

Preview Thoughts

My opening lines in looking at the Sea Eagles this time 12 months ago was –

“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.”

And so it came to pass. Hasler went back to the Hasler coaching style of his earlier days at the Eagles, coupled with “experience” he put some belief back into the list and most importantly some defensive nous back into defence dropping near 8 points a week off their game and lifting them from 7 wins to 14.

Add to this that Tom Trbojevic only played 13 games.. Clearly he is a superstar and just a stand out when he plays at Brookvale if he can add near 20 games a season in output then we have a team going places.

Dummy half #9 is a worry, the potential loss of Fainu after letting Koroisau go presents some major issues and I’m not convinced that Levi is the answer. They are also likely to start the season without Jake Trbojevic and Addin Fonua-Blake for at least 4 weeks and have Pesaka missing for likely 8, so this certainly thins their middle and quality and will test their depth.

The Sea Eagles / Hasler improved their rating by some 8% across last season. I have penalised them slightly with the concern over #9 and in having to start the year on the backfoot in the middle. But their best is top 4 material, if they can get through the first 4 weeks ok and get a few things in the middle right and get 15 or more games from Turbo they are somewhere into September.


Rabbitohs

Rabbitohs Forecast Finished Won D Against D Av. Differential
 2020  6
2019 5 3 16 417 17.3 +104
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

Coach: Wayne Bennett

Player List

In: Latrell Mitchell, Bryson Goodwin

Out: Sam Burgess, George Burgess, John Sutton, Dean Britt

Draw Overview

Teams they play twice: Broncos, Roosters, Storm, Bulldogs, Dragons, Raiders, Knights, Tigers, Eels

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

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

Five-day turnarounds: 3

Preview Thoughts

The Rabbits look a work in progress and were not easy to finalise. They have lost 4 players who played 87 top grade games between them last year, that punches a big hole in your depth and experience but none more than the retirement of Sam Burgess who has been outstanding for them long term and is now a major out. Latrell Mitchell is clearly a quality gain, but behind this their overall list could well be quite reliant on some of their promising youngsters stepping in and stepping up in the top grade.

Some of the likely changes will be an interesting watch. Latrell at #1. Murray to the left edge – and what does this do to their agility and footwork through the middle which Murray has been such a stand out at (and at times game changing). While Adam Reynolds and Cody Walker have had some bright moments through the last 12 months I’m sure Bennett would have liked more, and more consistency, 2020 shapes as big years for their leadership.

Overall I have marked them down slightly, but they do look to have the benefit of some quality youth coming through. Bennett knows his job and he’s surrounded by quality staff, their best and a soft run with injuries they look top 6, if they stay healthy and Latrell sets things alight from the back, well, look out!


Love your work MrG. Not only a real Rugby League mind, but also so well spoken and cliché free!

I’d buy you a beer to talk footy any day mate! S Francis


Cowboys

Cowboys Forecast Finished Won D Against D Av. Differential
2020  7
2019 9 14 9 500 20.8 -122
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: Valentine Holmes, Esan Masters, Reece Robson

Out: Matthew Scott, Jordan Kahu, Scott Bolton, Te Maire Martin, Enari Tuala

Draw Overview

Teams they play twice: Broncos, Bulldogs, Eels, Knights, Storm, Roosters, Titans, Sharks, Warriors

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

Day-by-day breakdown: Thursday x 5, Friday x 7, Saturday x 11, Sunday x 1

Five-day turnarounds: 1

Preview Thoughts

Off two poor years, life beyond Thurston, some questionable list management and then poor run with injuries there does look some potential sun shining for the Cowboys.

They have made some key changes across their list notably off what looked a top heavy forward line up and questionable back 5 and now add some quality additions in Holmes, Masters and Robson on the back of the mid 2019 pick up of Drinkwater.

There is no doubting the talent of Holmes but he now needs to stamp himself in his chosen role at #1. Drinkwater can play #1 or likely #6 and looks an obvious talent, but these two importantly look to give them something for Morgan to play with and then off the back of some of the obvious strengths in the middle. Hess looked very fit in the recent 9’s, likely playing for a new contract and or upgrade there’s no doubt his best can be very good.

With these key additions and changes it was not hard to mark them up to start this season. Coach Green has had a bit of heat on him, and building over the last 12 months, how this all comes together will be an interesting watch. Their team line up looks to have attack and points in them, lets hope so, there’s some quality ability and skill across their best line up.


Broncos

Broncos Forecast Finished Won D Against D Av. Differential
2020  8
2019 2 8 11 489 20.3 -57
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

Coach: Anthony Seibold

Player List

In: Brodie Croft, Jesse Arthars, Jordan Kahu

Out – Matt Gillett, Gehamat Shibasaki

Draw Overview

Teams they play twice: Cowboys, Rabbitohs, Storm, Eels, Roosters, Titans, Panthers, Warriors, Knights

Teams they play once: Sharks, Sea Eagles, Dragons, Bulldogs, Raiders, Tigers

Day-by-day breakdown: Thursday x 4, Friday x 11, Saturday x 5, Sunday x 4

Five-day turnarounds x 0

Preview Thoughts

One of the more difficult assignments working through a review and assessment for the Broncos. I got them very wrong last year, way to bullish on the likely change from Bennett out and what looked Seibold’s potential but it all went horribly wrong.

And despite the likely potential I’m just not convinced if it all can come together this season. Yes they have some quality young forwards, but without Lodge for any long period they lack a dominate hard big man. This talented (attacking) forward list has also been very very loose in defence.

Who plays #9, who plays #6, who plays #1 and how does this work? I hope Croft makes it, but Bellamy doesn’t let many of the real good ones go and or not many that then leave that system then shine elsewhere. Its also no secret that the Broncos made major plays to get Ash Taylor back, and then went strongly after Cherry-Evans to then end up signing Croft. Jack Bird despite his ability has had considerable doubt on whether his body can now stand up to the rigors of 20 something games while despite trying to move them on they now still have Boyd and McCullough on their list. Yet out of all of what looks all this dislocation Seibold needs to build, mould and combine a winning team.

And don’t think for a minute that there is no heat in the kitchen. 2020 now makes it 14 long years since the Broncos last won a title. Last year they went 11-12 with a losing year, fell into the finals to then be embarrassingly flogged by 50. In 5 seasons their defence has gone through the toilet from 15.7 a week to 20. Something a week under both Bennett and now Seibold.

During the course of last season I marked the Broncos down heavily month on month, and I now have them at about that same mark that they finished the season (poorly). I have them borderline top 8, their best could see them top 6 (I strongly doubt it), if it all turns to custard then they miss the 8. My gut feel suggests the later, and another season of turmoil.


Knights

Knights Forecast Finished Won D Against D Av. Differential
2020  9
2019 8 11 10 522 21.7 -37
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: Jayden Brailey, Gehamat Shibasaki, Enari Tuala

Out: Jesse Ramien, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Nathan Ross, Jamie Buhrer, James Gavet

Draw Overview

Teams they play twice: Warriors, Tigers, Sharks, Cowboys, Sea Eagles, Panthers, Rabbitohs, Broncos, Bulldogs

Teams they play once: Raiders, Dragons, Roosters, Storm, Titans, Eels

Day-by-day breakdown: Thursday x 2, Friday x 2, Saturday x 10, Sunday x 10

Five-day turnarounds: 1

Preview Thoughts

It should be a year on the up where it all starts to come together. The Knights rating declined in the second half of last year as things started to unravel and we then saw the obvious bust ups with Brown and his exit. Putting all of that aside I think they sit in a very healthy position for this new season and starting them with the same rating position as 12 months ago.

Over the last 3 years there has been a lot of churn and buying into their list but heading into this season they now remain stable, and the continuity of having had majority of these players together across the last 12 months should be a strong plus. Brailey looks an excellent addition at #9 and should sure up a weakness. What and how they resolve and make #6 work remains a concern. But overall as they showed when at their best mid last season they can now compete with the top of the table teams they now need the ongoing polish of a good coach.

Adam O’Brien looks the making of the right man in the right place at the right time. I like assistants who have had a long grounding in good club systems, and better still if they’ve had to coach their own team for a number of years. O’Brien had 10+ years in the best system there is (Storm) and then 12 months at the next best (Roosters). A strong focus on defence, tightening up some of their structure and discipline as a cornerstone I would expect key outcomes of his influence.

In addition the Knights have some promising youth coming through which we should start to see more of this year. They have a huge fan base, what should be a major home ground advantage especially if they can get on a winning run. The upside appears obvious. I have they somewhere in that clump of teams around mid table, I expect the O’Brien influence to be significant, further improvement and they are somewhere well into the top 8.


I’ve followed MrG and his rugby league work for the last 5 years, across numerous free forums and now on this website. I love his insight, his pre game opinions and the fact that more often than not he gets it right.  – Grant W, Brisbane


Panthers

Panthers Forecast Finished Won D Against D Av. Differential
2020  10
2019 3 10 11 474 19.7 -61
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

Coach: Ivan Cleary

Player List

In: Api Koroisau, Kurt Capewell, Zane Tetevano

Out: James Maloney, Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Wayde Egan, Sione Katoa, Tim Grant

Draw Overview

Teams they play twice: Dragons, Broncos, Raiders, Tigers, Knights, Titans, Sharks, Eels, Sea Eagles

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

Day-by-day breakdown: Thursday x 3, Friday x 7, Saturday x 3, Sunday x 11

Five-day turnarounds: 1

Preview Thoughts

Weeks prior to the start of last season when publishing my initial thoughts on the Panthers I had they as big improvers and sitting in the top 4 and a likely contender. And then it all started to unravel and turn to custard as the sex video tape crisis began to explode, week after week and eventually all but derail their season.

Now 12 months later what a changed landscape it is. Gould has moved on and so have some 11 players who had first grade experience. It’s certainly a new, clean slate..

There can be no excuse for Ivan now, with Gould out of the way and his reshaping of his list and coaching staff this is now all of his doing. Maloney for mine is a major loss, sooner or later these things have to happen but they guy has been a winner on and off the field and played a very positive role at the Panthers in his time there. Koroisau looks a very good get, and within weeks into the season they will have Tyrone May back which will add depth and strength to their halves play.

One stand out in their development through the last 3 to 4 years has been the quality of youth coming through so while they have had quite a bit of change they have also had quality depth for the most part coming through so their list for the most part still looks very competitive.

I have marked them down a little with the loss of Maloney and the large rotation of players but they still look a squad of significant potential and upside and are another that look to sit in the clump of sides mid table. I’m sure we’d like to think their best is now in front of them.


Dragons

Dragons Forecast Finished Won D Against D Av. Differential
 2020  11
2019 6 15 8 575 23.9 -148
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: Trent Merrin, Issac Luke, Brayden Williame

Out: Gareth Widdop, Luciano Leilua, Reece Robson, Jonus Pearson

Draw Overview

Teams they play twice: Wests Tigers, Titans, Sharks, Bulldogs, Roosters, Panthers, Raiders, Eels, Rabbitohs

Teams they play once: Knights, Warriors, Storm, Broncos, Sea Eagles, Cowboys

Day-by-day breakdown: Thursday x 4, Friday x 4, Saturday x 6, Sunday x 9, Monday x 1

Five-day turnarounds: 2

Preview Thoughts

A good friend said to me recently when accessing the Dragons – “just still looks a bloody mess?”

I can’t but agree. Clearly some things you can control and some you can’t and the events off the field that they couldn’t clearly had a massive all over impact on their season and such poor results. But in addition for mine we have seen some very poor if not questionable list management decisions and then the knee jerk early season resigning of a coach who had had just 1 winning season in his 6 at the helm..

They lose Widdop, have a halves combination that has done all but zero to date together to stand up or stand out, a weak back 5 and indecision over who might now be the right #1 and now the loss for 2 to 3 months to start their season of their best player last season in McInnes.

I have no confidence in the coach or his direction. I have similar confidence in the overall list quality and depth.

I have the Dragons off a rating similar to about where they finished last year, right now with the facts that are known I have them somewhere in the bottom 6 find it hard to see how it all comes together that they might then move up the table. Looks another year of disappointment and frustration.


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Tigers

Tigers Forecast Finished Won D Against D Av. Differential
2020  12
2019 12 9 11 486 20.2 -11
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

Coach: Michael Maguire

Player List

In: Luciano Leilua, Billy Walters, Zane Musgrove, Joe Leilua, Adam Doueihi

Out: Robbie Farah, Esan Masters, Ryan Matterson, Ben Matulino, Mahe Fonua

Draw Overview

Teams they play twice: Dragons, Knights, Bulldogs, Eels, Panthers, Titans, Sharks, Raiders, Rabbitohs

Teams they play once: Warriors, Sea Eagles, Storm, Roosters, Broncos, Cowboys

Day-by-day breakdown: Thursday x 1, Friday x 6, Saturday x 5, Sunday x 11, Monday x 1

Five-day turnarounds: 1

Preview Thoughts

The Tigers looked a work in progress with Maguire’s arrival at the start of last season, and that looks at least a 2 to 3 year period of development before making any major climb up the table. The end result for season one was above my expectation, I thought Madge squeezed more out of them than was possibly there especially through the final third of the season and so that should give them more of a foundation on which to build.

Matterson and Masters and outs, we could argue how major but both played a lot of top grade last year and Matterson is on the verge of playing rep footy. Farah while being at the end of his career was for the most part great at #9. They look to have recruited well, the Leilua brothers, Billy Walters, Zane Musgrove and Adam Doueihi all add something and when given his chance Walters might well be very good at either #9 or off the bench.

I have them pegged somewhere similar to where they were for most of last season, they also look to have a favourable draw. The middle 10 teams in the comp all look close together so its hard to place them any higher than the 9 to 12 band but the overall I think the path forward is positive and building a strong base into these next few years ahead.


Bulldogs

Bulldogs Forecast Finished Won D Against D Av. Differential
2020  13
2019 15 12 10 477 19.8 -151
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: Joe Stimson, Dean Britt

Out: Michael Lichaa, Danny Fualalo, Fa’amanu Brown

Draw Overview

Teams they play twice: Eels, Cowboys, Tigers, Sharks, Rabbitohs, Warriors, Sea Eagles, Dragons, Knights

Teams they play once: Raiders, Broncos, Titans, Storm, Roosters, Panthers

Day-by-day breakdown: Thursday x 4, Friday x 5, Saturday x 11, Sunday x 3, Monday x 1

Five-day turnarounds: 1

Preview Thoughts

Seems a bit more of the same for the Bulldogs. Gritty, plucky and slowly trying the rebuild their position while reshaping their cap and list.

Dallin Watene-Zelezniak during last season and now Joe Stimson and Dean Britt are positive additions to their list, but once again they lose Foran for an extended period and start the season behind the eight ball.

The Bulldogs / Pay’s game plan in attack was a bit mystifying at times through the first 10 to 12 weeks of last season, reverting back to low ball movement, low risk, high percentage pattern which seemed strange after finishing the year prior with a preparedness to attack and challenge opponents with points. Once again in the latter point of 2019 we saw them loosen the reins and as a result start to play with more confidence and finish the season with a far more positive run. I hope that’s the approach into this new season.

I have the Bulldogs rating at a similar mark to where they finished 2019, and up or down a point or two that is pretty much where they sat all season long, which again pegs them somewhere around the bottom 4. While they have been through some difficult recent seasons as they try to reshape and rebuild their season and had some key injury setbacks they have at least not dropped their bundle and fallen apart, and importantly put some time and games into some youth. It looks more of the same.


Titans

Titans Forecast Finished Won D Against D Av. Differential
2020  14
2019 14 16 4 651 27.1 -281
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: Jonus Pearson, Tanah Boyd

Out: Michael Gordon, Jesse Arthars, Ryley Jacks

Draw Overview

Teams they play twice: Raiders, Broncos, Storm, Sea Eagles, Tigers, Panthers, Cowboys, Warriors, Dragons

Teams they play once: Eels, Roosters, Bulldogs, Sharks, Knights, Rabbitohs

Day-by-day breakdown: Thursday – 1, Friday – 8, Saturday – 7, Sunday – 8

Five-day turnarounds: 0

Preview Thoughts

The Titans finished a dismal 16th last year including sacking their coach so one would have to think it can only be upside into 2020.

Justin Holbrook like Adam O’Brien is another coach who has done a long apprenticeship with good grounding in good company to now finally get a top line gig, and certainly the early signs and noises out of the Gold Coast appear that he has made a positive impact replacing noise and bravado with effort, discipline and direction. At both the 9’s and then in their recent trial against the Broncos they looked very fit, in particular a number of key players who may well not have been on this page through the last 12 months and there has seemed a coordinated and joint effort in their work.

Holbrook’s problem like most teams who spend extended periods in the bottom 4 is his list and past list and recruitment mismanagement. Some of the players signed through recent seasons, and indeed on the money they were beggars belief, and it will now take him a year of two to start to try and fix this and hopefully sign and develop the right people.

The top 15 to 17 still look competitive, Ryan James a big loss, if Ash Taylor and Peachy are fit and focused then that potentially puts them in front of last year. But overall quality across their list and depth have to be obvious problems when you sit at the bottom of the table. Expecting better than a 16th, but it would be very unlikely to see them much above the bottom 4.


Sharks

Sharks Forecast Finished Won D Against D Av. Differential
2020  15
2019 10 7 12 464 19.3 +50
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

Coach: John Morris

Player List

In: Jesse Ramien

Out: Paul Gallen, Kyle Flanagan, Jayden Brailey, Kurt, Capewell, Sosaia Feki, Matt Prior

Draw Overview

Teams they play twice: Dragons, Cowboys, Storm, Sea Eagles, Knights, Bulldogs, Roosters, Tigers, Panthers

Teams they play once: Rabbitohs, Broncos, Titans, Eels, Raiders, Warriors

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

Five-day turnarounds: 3

Preview Thoughts

It seems obvious to me that the Sharks look in for a very tough season. They have lost 5 if not 6 forwards who between them just last season alone played 138 games of 1st grade, they also lose Flanagan, at some stage now appear likely to lose Morris and who knows of what benefit if any Dugan will be to them. That then is 9 players missing from last season, let alone some of the longer term experience through all of that – that punches a big hole in your top grade list.

Johnson and Moylan are yet to really shine month in month out for the club, and yes they do have what appears a very good crop of young ones coming through but they might well be being asked to find their feet in the top grade under difficult circumstances.

They then lose their traditional home ground advantage for 2020 and 2021 (while ongoing construction occurs at Shark Park) and so will now play all home games at Kogarah.

The Sharks have been the biggest adjustment on my ratings of any team into the start of 2020 be that up or down, and clearly it is down. I can’t but position them bottom 4, that could well be 15th, sometimes when it all goes south at a rate of knots who knows how hard the crash is. I backed them in late January as a speculator at $21 for most losses.


Warriors

Warriors Forecast Finished Won D Against D Av. Differential
 2020  16
2019 11 13 9 574 23.9 -122
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: Wayde Egan

Out: Issac Luke, Blake Ayshford, Ligi Sao, Chris Satae

Draw Overview

Teams they play twice: Knights, Raiders, Sea Eagles, Roosters, Storm, Bulldogs, Titans, Broncos, Cowboys

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

Day-by-day breakdown: Friday x 7, Saturday x 13, Sunday x 4

Five-day turnarounds: 1

Preview Thoughts

It’s hard to make sense of what a mess the Warriors seem to have become over the last 5 to 8 years, continually treading water and I can’t have them anywhere other than bottom 4 into this new season.

They are another where the list seems to change and churn, as do the support staff and management. They have an unsettled if not inexperienced spine at #9 and #7 and now so much reliance on the outstanding skills of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.

Last season they finished 13th, their attack going backwards while their defence blew out to the 3rd worst in the competition. Under Kearney their attack now just seems so over structured and unless they crack a high kick to a corner or some of Rogers brilliance then what?

I had them pegged bottom 4 last year, I’ve been kind and left them at the same mark.



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