BY CURTIS WOODWARD
State of Origin is finished for another year and that means it is time to turn all our focus back to the 2019 NRL premiership and the race for September.
We’ve taken a look at all 16 clubs and where they sit and where they might end up.
Who will rise and who will fade?
Current position: 1st
Predicted finish: 1st
The purple machine rolls on and sit six points clear of the chasing pack. Craig Bellamy’s team has a good run to the finals too playing Gold Coast twice, North Queensland and Brisbane among others.
Are they the benchmark of the NRL? Yes.
Are they beatable? Very.
This is an important period for young halfback Brodie Croft who is under pressure to deliver when it counts. There’s plenty of talent around him but Melbourne’s depth chart at halfback is deep and rich with talented rookies hungry to slide into the starting side alongside Cameron Smith and Cameron Munster.
Current position: 2nd
Predicted finish: 2nd
As expected, the Roosters have been patchy through the State of Origin period. Since May 17, the Tricolours are 2-4. They are, however, still sitting pretty in second position with a heap of footy to be played before the finals.
Superstars Boyd Cordner and James Tedesco are back from Origin duty and should be on a high after the Blues went back-to-back. This is where great players go to another level.
The Roosters have a soft draw so much will come down to coach Trent Robinson’s management of the side’s training workload. They play North QLD, Canterbury, Titans and Warriors with winnable games against rivals South Sydney, Panthers and Canberra.
South Sydney Rabbitohs
Current position: 3rd
Predicted finish: 4th
The Rabbitohs haven’t won since the 25th of May. In that time they have lost a few tight ones including away defeats to Wests Tigers, Penrith and the Eels. They aren’t that far from getting back into the winner’s circle but the hammer has to drop soon.
Souths have far too many good players to slide too far down the table.
Any Wayne Bennett-coached team that boasts Sam Burgess, Adam Reynolds, Cody Walker, Damien Cook and James Roberts is a dangerous proposition.
They just need to break the shackles and get a win.
Current position: 4th
Predicted finish: 3rd
Canberra received the bye exactly when they needed it. Parramatta rolled right over them in their last start up in Darwin. The Raiders have a legitimate chance to go 4-0 in the next month before a blockbuster showdown against the Roosters in round 21.
This period will also be a test for Blues sensation Jack Wighton.
We’ve seen good players come back to club level after the highs of Origin and flounder. Wighton doesn’t appear to be one of those types. His combination with Josh Hodgson, Aidan Sezer and the revelation that is Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad could see the Raiders make their first grand final since 1994.
Dare to dream!
Manly Sea Eagles
Current position: 5th
Predicted finish: 6th
Des Hasler would be close to the coach of the year with what he has done with the Sea Eagles. Not even their most avid fans would have predicted they’d be sitting equal 3rd on points after 16 rounds.
The next four weeks will challenge them with three matches against sides above them on the ladder and a home clash against the Eels. They’ll be happy for a 2-2 split before travelling to Auckland in round 21.
You have to give credit to their pack. Martin Taupau, Jake Trbojevic, Addin Fonua-Blake have been outstanding and have been mightily backed up by Joel Thompson, Manase Fainu and the resurgent Curtis Sironen.
Current position: 6th
Predicted finish: 5th
Time to get serious, Newcastle!
The Knights, without their stars, should have beaten the Warriors last weekend. Prior to that, they were chugging along nicely with impressive wins over South Sydney and Brisbane. They were choked to death by the Storm in Melbourne too.
They play the Bulldogs tonight and although Canterbury is running last, it will be a good measuring stick to see where the Knights are at mentally.
There’s a big score to be had but it will only come if they do the hard work early.
Current position: 7th
Predicted finish: 10th
You’d have no hair left supporting this side. One week they’re world beaters, the next they look like wooden spoon contenders. There’s question marks over their character and rightly so.
Until they prove otherwise, you can’t pick them to play finals.
Of all the top 8 contenders, the Eels are the most likely to slide out.
Current position: 8th
Predicted finish: 7th
What is happening down in the Shire at the moment?
Last weekend they appeared to have Brisbane all figured out. Then they crumbled. Did they have one eye on Cameron Smith’s 400th? Maybe. But that doesn’t take into account how poor they were against lowly Canterbury a week prior.
Star recruit Shaun Johnson has copped plenty of criticism recently but you can’t lump all the team’s issues on him.
The Sharks will be okay but they won’t go deep into September.
Current position: 9th
Predicted finish: 9th
Unfortunately for long suffering Wests Tigers fans, 2019 may be another season of ’near enough but not good enough’.
There’s so much to like about this football side and the way they play for each other. New coach Michael Maguire has done an amazing job. He’d be ecstatic at how much he’s gotten out of golden oldies Benji Marshall and Robbie Farah.
The very best sides have another gear or two.
Wests Tigers don’t.
Current position: 10th
Predicted finish: 8th
It’s unreal to think this club could be playing finals after the season they’ve had to overcome. From explicit videos going viral, GM Phil Gould’s exit, squad upheaval, form slumps and everything in between, Penrith now has serious momentum.
They’ve won five in a row and are coming off the bye.
They play the Titans and the Dragons in the next two weeks.
Good times ahead for the mountain men.
New Zealand Warriors
Current position: 11th
Predicted finish: 13th
Seriously… the Warriors could finish anywhere.
Anyone that tells you they know what’s next for the Warriors is flat out telling fibs.
They could put 40 on the Broncos in Brisbane this weekend and then lose by 40 to the Sharks the following week in Wellington against Cronulla.
St George Illawarra Dragons
Current position: 12th
Predicted finish: 11th
There is a good footy team in there somewhere but you just feel like they are too far behind the league’s best to come close to threatening anybody above them.
This three week stretch down in Wollongong could have been the making of them.
They spluttered home against the battling Cowboys and lost a very winnable game against the Storm last weekend. They now face the top four Raiders on Sunday night.
North Queensland Cowboys
Current position: 13th
Predicted finish: 14th
It has been a tough old season for the boys from Townsville and it doesn’t get any easier. They play the Roosters in Gosford on Sunday without Michael Morgan and then head home to host the Rabbitohs.
One positive has been the chance for the Cowboys to blood some of their youngsters who will be better for the run in 2020.
Current position: 14th
Predicted finish: 12th
They won’t win the wooden spoon but what a bludger of a year for one of the game’s most powerful organisations.
Coach Seibold still has work to do changing the systems that had been in place under his predecessor Wayne Bennett. It’s quite obvious some of these guys don’t have futures under Seibold either.
Let’s measure Seibold’s coaching ability this time next year.
Gold Coast Titans
Current position: 15th
Predicted finish: 16th
Garth Brennan has every right to be dirty on Gold Coast officials for the way they’ve handled things this year. Imagine, already being under immense pressure to produce results on a weekly basis and then having administration publicly announce a review of the football department.
Those in the know think Brennan will not see out the year.
A cop out for the under-performing players.
Current position: 16th
Predicted finish: 15th
These are dark time for the boys from Belmore but they haven’t stopped trying.
They’re also coming off the back of a win last start.
There’s more fight left in the Bulldogs.
Unfortunately, they just don’t have the man power.