After an offseason of talk about 6 more tackles, inaccurate Tina Turner and Jimmy Barnes advertising throwbacks, Tonga beating the Kangaroos and nobody feeling mad, Latrell Mitchell marching into Redfern and demanding to play at fullback, and preparation for crap uses of the captain’s challenge, the National Rugby League is here.
After my expert tipping performance in 2019, apparently about 4 people are interested in my thoughts on who will win, but let me tell you, the only way is down.
And now to get things underway, here’s Michael Buffer..
Parramatta vs Canterbury @ Bankwest Stadium, 8:05pm AEDT
A superb way to begin the season/decade – A sold-out fight between two sets of Westies that doesn’t involve fighting over toilet paper at Woolworths.
With the new stadium at their disposal and some good recruiting, the 2019 Eels realised they actually had some decent talent in the line-up, which really shone through in the back half of last season, leading to them opening up a record 58-0 can of whoop arse on the Broncos in the Elimination Final, before the carriage turned back into a pumpkin, and they lost 32-0 to the Storm 6 days later.
The core of the team returns, including leading tryscorer Maika Sivo, who was cleared to play by the NRL after a Boxing Day incident in Fiji, and major signings include Ryan Matterson from Wests, and Reagan ‘Two Dads’ Campbell-Gillard from Penrith.
After some big signs of improvement in the final months of 2019, the Doggies are dreaming of bringing back the glory years of the mid-2000s…
So, Corey Harawira-Naera and Jayden Okunbor had a big consensual night with a pair of high school girls during a recent Doggies trip to Port Macquarie for a trial game.
Imagine how the conversation went that night between Corey and Jayden.
Pfft, schoolgirl sex scandals – St Kilda beat them by 9 years.
Based on today, the NewsCorp cabal aren’t done drip feeding us simpletons news of this latest act of brilliance -Apparently there was also a teacher from another school having a good time, most likely making sure the girls did their homework before things took off.
Deadset, who else was in that room – The lollipop lady, the tuck shop staff?
Considering it’s cost the Dogs a $2,000,000 sponsorship with Rashays, and given the NRL another public black eye, it better have been a good night for all of them.
The other massive problem for the Dogs is the loss of Kieran Foran for a huge chunk of the year, following his serious shoulder injury playing for New Zealand during the 2019 international season.
They did get $350,000 in salary cap relief, but, considering he was on north of $1,000,000 a season, that’s still a big chunk of the cap going to waste.
With Foran not there, the playmaking has been left to Lachie Lewis, nephew of former ruler of Queensland King Wally, which should instill the blue & white faithful with plenty of faith that they can fly blind through the year and take down a few cocky teams.
So all of that said, apparently there’s a game on – I can see the Eels eeking the 2 points.
Canberra vs Gold Coast @ GIO Stadium, 6pm AEDT
After an offseason of everyone feeling pissed off that they were possibly robbed of a drought breaking premiership, The Green Machine have knuckled down over the summer, with the words “6 again, 6 again!” haunting their dreams and spurring them on.
I don’t know if machines actually have dreams, but that’s probably what happened.
The Raiders will look very different to start the year – Jordan Rapana and Joey Leilua are both gone, while the leader of the Pommy Pack John Bateman is out injured for another 2 months, and Ryan Sutton and Hudson Young are both suspended.
The boom recruits this year are yet another Soap Dodger in George ‘Pinocchio’ Williams to wear the No.7, and centre Curtis Scott has crossed over from the Storm, and fair to say he wasted no time making an impact… mainly on a police officer around Australia Day, if the NSW fuzz are to be believed.
Still, the NRL haven’t enforce the no-fault stand down policy, and he’ll be free to play.
If the Raiders’ recent history has taught us anything, they’ll follow up a fantastic season with a 6 month long fart of a campaign.
That’s still nothing compared to the Titans, who have been the equivalent of 13 year long fart.
The new man at the helm at Robina is Justin Holbrook, after a successful 3 year stint with St Helens, which ended with the Merseysiders reducing the Super League to a pile of ash in a dominant championship win.
The climate may be slightly better on the Gold Coast, but the footy team certainly isn’t.
Kevin Proctor will once again take over as captain, after Ryan James suffered another torn ACL in January, following his original tear on Easter Sunday 2019.
The Persuaders once declared that some guys have all the luck… Ryan definitely isn’t one of them, especially if you include him forgetting the Welcome To Country at last year’s Grand Final.
In fairness to Ryan, that isn’t even the worst Welcome To Country I’ve ever seen.
This is the third consecutive year that the Raiders and Tits will face each other in Round 1, with the major difference being that the Raiders will play host for once.
It wouldn’t matter if they played this on Uranus, I’d still pick the Raiders.
Quick note – Jarrod Croker needs 4 points to become the 7th player in the 2,000 points club… It’s only the Titans.
North Queensland vs Brisbane @ North Queensland Stadium, 7:05pm AEST
A Queensland Derby on Friday the 13th, and based on Jack Bird going down with a serious ACL tear at training on Wednesday morning, the horror start to 2020 has kept on coming for the Broncos.
Once again, some guys have all the luck, and based on his Broncos tenure, the Birdman has none.
Further north of Red Hill, a new dawn has arrived for the Cows, as they finally get a proper, modern stadium, fulfilling JT’s dream after the 2015 Premiership.
It may be known as Queensland Country Bank Stadium, but to the enlightened individual, it’s The House That Thurston Built.
It’s certainly an improvement on something built on a trotting track.
The recent years in Katter Country have been defined by piss poor performance and the retirement of legends
JT called time after 2018, and Scotty Bolton and Matt Scott after 2019 – Matt didn’t get a proper farewell after that mild stroke,
In this the Cows’ 25th anniversary, Michael Morgan is definitely the big dog, and the big signing is none other than Valentine Holmes, back from the US and A after failing to make the New York Jets’ practice squad.
Jets of course, is an acronym for Just End The Season, so good on you Val, coming home and sticking to what you’re good at, before the Jets sucked you into the 18th layer of hell.
In other news for the Broncos, after giving up the captaincy and training the house down over the summer, Darius Boyd has decided this is the best possible chance to end his career on a high note, with the last remaining Broncos premiership player in the league to hang up the boots after 2020.
After the Broncs injury-riddled offseason, they’ll need his experience more than ever – Matt Lodge is also gone with a knee injury (Watch out to all apartment owners of New York), and as previously mentioned, Bird was clipped before he’d even had the chance to play his customary 5 games followed by a freak injury.
With new captain Alex Glenn also out with a hammy pull, Anthony Seibold has split the captaincy to a pair of 22-year-olds… Gun halfback signing Brodie Croft (Former whipping boy of the Storm) and Patrick Carrigan.
What the hell is a Patrick Carrigan?
Did he live at 3 Highview Crescent, Coolaroo?
Anyway, with no confidence at all given it is a derby, I’ll take the Cowboys to rise to the occasion of christening the new stadium, which was already christened by Elton John.
Newcastle vs New Zealand @ McDonald Jones Stadium, 3pm AEDT
After successfully running Nathan Brown out of the Hunter (To Auckland, ironically) for having the Knights in position to break their finals drought at midseason, the blowtorch will soon be applied firmly on Adam O’Brien, who arrives in the Coalfields and jumps in the boiling vat, having been apart of Premiership-winning setups at the Storm & Roosters.
He’ll need all the help he can get, given the Knights haven’t played Finals since 2013.
Due to an injury to Bradman Best (He’s certainly better than Sachin), former Bronco Gehamat Shibasaki and ex-Cowboy Enari Tuala have been lumped as the new centre pairing,
On paper, it looks like a great matchup between the full-backs – Queensland incumbent and soon-to-be All Black Kalyn Ponga, and former Dally M Medalist Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, who did have to overcome a foot injury, so don’t be shocked if he’s a bit quiet.
I kid you not, the only story I even saw involving the Warriors this off-season was at the Perth Nines, when the women’s team left their kits at the hotel, forcing them to play in the men’s kits.
Despite the slight size difference, the Warrior ladies beat the Roosters 13-8.
Other than that, with the lack of coverage about them, you’d be forgiven for forgetting the Warriors actually existed… Almost certainly the result of being based on the other side of the pond.
I can’t lie on this one folks, I’ll probably be watching the meeting at Rosehill – So I’ll tip the home team.
Souths vs Cronulla @ ANZ Stadium, 3pm AEDT
Time for the Final Season of Wayne’s World at Redfern, and this one looks even better than 2019, despite the retirement of Slammin’ Sam Burgess.
Despite becoming a 2-time Premiership player, Latrell Mitchell became involved in the weirdest set of contract negotiations ever seen with the Roosters, reaching a conclusion after various discussions about North Queensland, 6-figure contracts, and members of the Mundine family – The end result, the NRL’s twice leading pointscorer signed with the Rabbits on January 10, in possibly the greatest defection between the eternal enemies since……
Geez, I dunno, Ron Coote? Brian Fletcher? Craig Wing?
Speaking of Ron Coote, hope he and his family are going okay after they got caught up in the Lake Conjola fires.
Back on topic, and Souths’ backline was already a talent smorgasbord before Latrell got there – And he managed to get his wish and play at fullback.
Another interesting dimension to the Rabbits’ season is how they’ll perform after being displaced in June, after Stadium Australia gets shut down for renovation following Origin II.
On the flip side, the Sharks are already up against it in 2020.
First, Chief Brody (Diguised as the NRL Commission) is still shooting at them, second, they have to play their games at bloody Kogarah because the Cronulla Leagues Club and Shark Park are getting a paint job, third, Paul Gallen finally retired, and fourth, to the detriment of everyone, Cronulla decided to let Josh Morris cross over to Bondi to join Brett and allow Easts to unleash the two-headed Morris Monster, although in a seldom seen situation, the Sharks will have Josh play the first 2 games of 2020, then officially release him.
Funnily enough, assuming Josh does play Round 3, his first game for the Roosters would be against Souths.
That might be his best hope of beating the Bunnies, because I see them winning here.
Penrith vs Easts @ Panthers Stadium, 7:35pm AEDT
Because of Cricket Australia getting bent over by their supposed comrades at the ICC, the 2-time defending premier Roosters are starting 2020 like Willie Nelson.
Dodging the taxman On the road again.
The obvious departures from Bondi are Cooper Cronk into retirement, and Latrell Mitchell to the Rabbits, while former dodgy character Zane Tetevano crossed over to the Mountains,
Skipper Boyd Cordner missed the World Club Challenge because of a mysterious old man’s injury, which has taken him out of at least Round 1.
You know you’re in trouble when Jake Friend starts a season fitter than you.
Moving across to fill Cooper’s boots and partner Luke Keary is Kyle Flanagan, son of Silly Shane, and the Roosters have completed their goal of combining the Morris brothers and unlocking the supposed ancient power that comes with it.
Other than that, it appears it’s the same old team for Robbo.
The Panthers took a bad step backwards in 2019 after poaching Ivan Cleary as coach, missing the finals for the first time since 2015, with the only highlight being that massive run they went on during June & July, which very nearly got them back on track.
The big change for 2020 is James Maloney leaving our shores to play for Catalans Dragons in the Super League (Although I doubt they’ll be playing anything in about 10 days), while Tim Grant is gone, as are about 400 other deadweights who were fed to the black cats in the mountains over the summer.
The only major signing I see (Besides Zane) is Apisai Koroisau, back in black after 3 years at Manly.
Anyway, I think the Chooks will win.
Manly vs Melbourne @ Brookvale Oval, 4:05pm AEDT
When the Sea Eagles and Storm get together, something usually happens…. Especially at Brooky.
Sometimes it’s a punch-up, sometimes it’s a footy game, sometimes it can be both.
There’s only one question on our minds – Can Jorge Taufua manage to remake of THAT hit on Cam Munster?
Fair effort from Cam to get straight to his feet after copping a 30G hit – The NSW Coroner was 5 seconds away from declaring a homicide.
2019 for the Northern Beaches was marked by 2 major events – Tony Abbott being thrown into the pit of political oblivion after 25 years, and Des Hasler returning to Brooky like Christ riding into town on a mule.
If you ask me, given where Manly were after that hilariously bad 2018, Des should’ve been beatified and regarded alongside Mary MacKillop for helping out the less fortunate.
That said, Mary never coached 2 premierships.
Going into 2020, the big concern for the Silvertails is the fitness of both the Turbo brothers (Tommy’s pec and Jake’s shoulder) and Addin Fonua-Blake, although it appears they’ve all been named to start in the 13.
Meantime, I’ve done some digging, and apparently this is 100% true.
The last time the Storm lost in Round 1 was in 2001, which was a 14-10 defeat to Canterbury.
The last time they didn’t win in Round 1 was 2004, when they had the bye.
There are kids getting hammered this week (Obviously not after 8pm) who have never seen the Storm lose in Round 1.
Deadset, Cameron Smith was only in his mid-50s when the Storm last got beaten in Round 1.
On the balance of probabilities, I would say that streak will continue, and the Storm, despite seemingly losing everyone except Old Man Cam, will sprinkle the bullcrap fairy dust and win it with a drop goal.
St George-Illawarra vs Wests Tigers @ WIN Stadium, 6:15pm AEDT
So the Sunday evening slot sees a clash of the joint ventures that aren’t really joint ventures anymore.
The only thing Illawarra about the Dragons is WIN Corportation (Who bought out the Steelers), and Wests Ashfield are just keeping Balmain around to scrub the crappers at the leagues club.
Amazingly, this is the first time Wests have played the Dragons in Wollongong since Round 22, 2008 – They beat the Dragons 18-10 that night , and won their only meeting of 2019 (Round 24) by a lazy 42-14, running in 5 tries in the 2nd Half – 4 in the last 20 minutes.
Paul Momirovski scored a hat-trick in a 26 point haul, but he’s only been named as a reserve after an ankle injury in the Nines.
The other facet is that Momirovski was also involved in a would-be loan swap with Harry Grant of Melbourne, which ended up getting scrapped by the NRL, because the Storm would have been $16,000 over the salary cap.
Pfft, like that’s ever stopped Melbourne before.
Another facet of player recruitment involving Wests and Melbourne is Kevvie’s son Billy Walters, who slots straight into the No.9 jersey for the Tigers, with Josh Reynolds coming off the bench, and also joining the Tigers is both Leilua brothers – Joey reading the tea leaves in Canberra after Curtis Scott came to town.
As for their opponents, of all the coaches currently staring down the sacking barrel in 2020, Paul McGregor is regarded as the first potential victim of the firing squad, after the Dragons had their worst ever season as a joint venture – 15th, thanks horror year of key injuries and just all round crapness, after such a promising 2018.
It got even worse at the Perth Nines -Saints should have celebrated a best-ever runner-up finish… but it was only soured by injuries to skipper Cameron McInnes (MCL strain), to go with Korbin Sims re-fracturing his arm, and Matt Dufty fracturing his cheekbone.
Thanks for coming, Mary.
If we reach June and the Red V are languishing in the Bottom 8, it’s not impossible that he could be cast out on a raft to sink to the bottom of Lake Illawarra.
Still, in a bid to improve the support structure around Mary, the Dragons have picked up the likes of Isaac Luke, and in the coaching ranks, they got the clearance to sign former Sharks coach & notorious rule-breaker Shane Flanagan as an assistant (Replacing Ben Hornby), with his head coaching ban running through to the end of 2021.
This is just ripe for a dismissal, then the Dragons appoint a puppet, while Flanno steers the Datsun.
To be honest, the key injuries make me want to tip Wests.