Newcastle Knights – Prediction 15th
Collected their second wooden spoon last season in as many years, and with their recruiting for this season it’s hard to see how they’ll get any better. But what they did do last year was blood a whole heap of youngsters, who should feel more comfortable playing in the NRL this season.
Nathan Brown has embarked on a long-term mission in the Hunter, and while it will probably still be slim pickings this year, I’d expect some improved performances and a couple more wins to come their way. The loss of Jarrod Mullen, Korbin Sims and Jeremy Smith leaves a monumental hole and how they fill those gaps will be some challenge.
On the way up the Knights, but won’t achieve much for a season or two yet.
North Queensland Cowboys – Prediction 7th
Have lost a little bit of depth across the park but have the right set-up in place for Queensland Cup players to filter into the first grade side. Kalyn Ponga will progress into the starting line-up and should bring a point of difference to their attack. How Paul Green accommodates him will be one of the stories of the year in Townsville.
Massive loss with James Tamou heading to the Penrith Panthers which will leave them light on up front, but with a tweak of playing style they will be a dangerous side with Johnathan Thurston in charge. JT is keen to finish his representative career at the World Cup this year, along with the Origin series throughout the season, so expect him to be rested at times but also have a big year.
Have the strike power to get the wins needed to make the Finals, but can’t see them setting the world on fire.
Parramatta Eels – Prediction 14th
Difficult to imagine how things could get any worse for the Eels after last year, but unfortunately, I think they’re facing a tough season. Hopefully they have the structures in place so their off-field dramas fall away and the club can return to being focussed on football.
Brad Arthur was unlucky to not receive the NRL Coach of the year award last season after he held that team together despite drama after drama, so no matter how difficult things get for the Eels this year, they must keep the faith and trust in Arthur. They cannot afford to get rid of another coach and go through a rebuilding cycle again.
Need to look to their juniors again and develop some younger players, hopefully uncovering a future Jarryd Hayne.
Penrith Panthers – Prediction 1st
Even though we’re heading into the colder months, it’s about to get hot out West, because Anthony Griffin’s side are ready to turn it on. They’re development as a squad across 2016 was seriously eye-catching. They’ve been labelled the best young side in the competition, but with most of their young players having a couple of years in the NRL, they’ll really shine from here on in.
They’ve entered a real premiership-window with a team secured on paper for the next year or two, and Gus Gould knows it. His fabled five-year plan that he kick-started in 2010 has become the eight-year plan but they’ll be looking to strike while the iron’s hot.
The addition of James Tamou to their forward pack is the missing link. He’ll lead that group week-to-week and I’m expecting them to blow the competition away with their depth. Their backline is arguably the best in the NRL.