2018 National Rugby League Premiership
By W D Nicolson - March 7, 2018
The Postman is back with another 16 dart throws for the 2018 NRL Premiership - we got 6 of the 8 teams in the Top 8 last year and had the Cowboys in the Grand Final... but also had them winning it all.
My Round 1 Tips will follow and for the record 2017 was tipped at a 65% success rate... just average enough to warrant giving me another chance in 2018 yeah?
Before you get into the predictions - huge shout out to the Warriors for showing how you do a membership call to arms... it's just so much better than the same old same old 'be part of the team' stuff that players get asked to trot out every off-season - do yourself a favour and watch it.
— Vodafone Warriors (@NZWarriors) March 7, 2018
Predicted NRL Ladder 2018
I just can't put them any lower and why would you even with Cooper Cronk's departure? Brodie Croft looks the goods and that backline around him is superb. Tohu Harris leaves a gap in the backrow but he did miss a lot of last year anyway. Team to beat... funny that given they are the reigning premiers.
Tedesco and Cronk. Cronk and Tedesco. Yes it cost them Mitchell Pearce and co but the ins outweigh the outs. They are going to be really really good.
JT and Matt Scott come back and Jordan McLean is a fine addition. Thing is their forward pack did a wonderful job without them during the Finals last year and their opportunistic attack won them games. But make no mistake that backline isn't as dangerous as it could be - Coote in particular needs a big bounce back year to make them better - even if JT is JT again.
Jarryd Hayne comes in, Mitch Moses gets a whole off-season with Corey Norman and Clinton Gutherson will return from injury... the Eels are stacked for this campaign. Still a question mark over their front row - and Kane Evans could be anything... he just hasn't been much of anything yet. Brad Arthur's game plan rocks when he lets his team play footy... they look joe average when he asks them to grind.
Anthony Milford and Darius Boyd will carry them as far as they can in 2018 - it won't be enough for a title challenge I don't think but they will make the Finals. How Andrew McCullough fares returning from an ACL injury dictates how high they finish ahead of September but they aren't quite on the level of the best sides in this competition.
I really don't think they are that good but that applies to the rest of the teams below them even more. Chad Townsend needs to be better than he was in 2016 and feed the backline which is brimming with talent but the key will be James Segeyaro being the player we remember, not the one we saw in a cameo role last season. Fringe contenders - a ways off the Top 5 for mine.
Too high but see above as to why no one else is higher - no Josh Hodgson til July (at best you'd think) means the pressure on the 6 and 7 is more than just a little significant. Sam Williams better be the player Ricky Stuart thinks he can be because Austin off the bench is a head-scratcher... but Aidan Sezer not being below average again is the biggest variable that has to turn around for this talented team, in order for them to be a threat at all by the time Hodgson returns.
Hate myself but they have a really really good starting 13. It's cost me putting Penrith in the Top 8 but 1-13 the Dragons have some quality pieces and Matt Dufty could be anything sniffing around this forward pack. Only question is depth up front if they get any injuries but this team will be as good as how flexible Paul McGregor allows their game plan to be. Let them play footy Mary!
Sorry Panther fans - James Maloney in for Bryce Cartwright and Matt Moylan is a negative transaction. Don't get me wrong - Maloney is a quality player and Nathan Cleary will benefit from him but the Panthers just lost two uber creative individuals that made the sum of their parts a lot more dangerous. Trent Merrin and RCG need to be unbelievable for their pack to match their opposition each week and the three-quarter line is somewhat overrated. Good enough to put egg on my face but they regressed badly last year and only turned it around over a 6 week period to make the Finals... not this year.
- SEA EAGLES
A good team but not a great one. Fell away sharply at the end of 2017 after playing above themselves for much of the season and I'm not sold on them being better this time around. That said watching Tommy Trbojevic, Marty Taupau and DCE run around each week isn't a hard thing to do - they'll be there or thereabouts for most of the year but on the outside looking in after 25 Rounds.
Reaching? Maybe but they have a sneaky good roster with some game-breaking talent and a new coach who won't play it safe in the situation he is in. Cartwright, Taylor, Hurrell, James, Proctor, Wallace, Gordon and Peats is a very handy core - not Top 8 bound this year but I'm expecting about 6 points to seperate 6th and 14th this year so this is a good landing spot for the Titans.
They won't make the Top 8 like some are being tricked into believing (remember for a team to jump from 16th to 8th means more than one current Top 8 team needs to fall by the wayside and probably two. That said - great job assembling the new roster and Kalyn Ponga is the business. Mitchell Pearce and Connor Watson could be a great combo as well plus they've bought really well but they've gotta win like 13 games to make the Top 8 and they won 5 last year. It's a tall order.
Greg Inglis being Greg Inglis could get them to that 8-10 range but no higher. They've freshened up their bench which is great to see but this team just doesn't do it for me. George Burgess returning to the form of old would be fantastic to see but this seems the right place for South Sydney to land.
Sorry Doggies fans - there's some good players on this roster but no out and out star and that's a problem. I'm a massive fan of Kieran Foran but he's an outstanding #2 guy - he's not the #1 playmaker the Dogs need him to be. Aaron Woods and David Klemmer will start games superbly for the Dogs but won't win games by themselves. Also have a bad feeling Dean Pay might play it safe with the game plan and not let this unit play footy... which was the crime that Des Hasler kept repeating during his tenure.
Every year people ask if this is the year the Warriors put it altogether... short answer: it isn't this year. They recruited Tohu Harris which was a great move and have re-signed RTS but Blake Green, Adam Blair and Gerard Beale are ho hum moves... had they kept Foran and picked up Harris I'd be bullish about them taking a forward step. But Stephen Kearney seems unwilling to be adventurous with his style and they've recruited to be more safe in their style so 15th it is. And I love what RTS and Shaun Johnson are capable of but they won't be enough.
It is the worst roster in the comp... and it's not really Ivan Cleary's fault. The Tigers had to spend their fortune of cap space once James Tedesco, Aaron Woods and Mitchell Moses left but it was on mostly bit-parts not top end quality. Ben Matulino is their best pickup and Tui Lolohea was great for them late last year but the rest of the signings are underwhelming... and the Tigers only won 7 games last year. Spoon favourites unfortunately.
Grand Final Prediction:
Cowboys v Roosters.
(Cowboys beat Melbourne and the Chooks beat Parra in the Prelims)
Premiers: North Queensland Cowboys.
JT does it again.
Dally M: Cameron Smith and James Tedesco.
It's another tie! The NRL loves it when there's a tie!
Top Try-Scorer: Suliasi Vunivalu.
Josh Addo-Carr and James Tedesco to be his main threats.
Rookie of the Year: Sione Katoa, Victor Radley, Enari Tuala or Tom Wright
From what is very slim pickings at this stage.
Brodie Croft has two seasons of appearances (5 games) so I believe he is ineligible and a few others people may think are eligible aren't because they played NRL in 2016 (and not in 2017) like Luciano Leilua, and Lachlan Croker.
But the beauty of the NRL is youngsters come through all the time - so watch this space.
Good luck to your team in 2018 - for your sake I hope I'm way off!
We are back again in 2018!
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