Tuesday, 28 February 2017

NRL Ladder Prediction 2017

This is my third year attempting to predict at the start of the season how the NRL premiership ladder ends. So far I've got it horribly wrong each year, but at least I'm transparent about the results.

2016: 5/16 correct
2015: 6/16 correct

Anyway, I'm quite confident this is the season where I get everything correct. EVERYTHING!

Let's have a look at the predictions...

1. Melbourne Storm (Last year: 1)
I've given up thinking the Storm will experience a gradual decline as Smith and Cronk get older. It's now apparent those two will dominate footy until they choose to retire. The Storm have already proved they can play without Slater, so I'm pretty confident life will go on without Green and Proctor too. If they're not first, they'll be close. Should get at least 16 wins.

2. Penrith Panthers (6)
This is how you build a team in a salary cap competition. Between complaining about video refs and trolling Rabs, Gould gutted the club of veterans like Lewis and Jennings, had some cagey vets like Soward and Wallace run the show while the youth developed, then last year the young guns cut loose. Moylan, Mansour, Cleary, Cartwright, Peachey etc. were very good. This year add Martin, plus Tamou is a smart buy, and Whare and Hiku return from knee constructions to add more depth to the backs. This is a team with potential to win a premiership in the next few seasons, if not this year.

3. North Queensland Cowboys (4)
It's hard to keep a successful side together with the salary cap, but the Cowboys are doing pretty well to only lose Tamou since the 2015 title. With the same core, they should be top four again.

4. Parramatta Eels (14)
Last season the Eels were deducted 12 points for breaching the salary cap, had their star recruit go off the rails with betting scandals and a brothel owner, and their other playmaker stand down after a drug bust and associating with bike gangs. And they still won enough games where if you gave them the 12 points back they make the finals. I think they are legit.

5 Canberra Raiders (2)
It hasn't been a smooth start with star centre and goalkicker Croker injured, and two veterans (Fensom, Lee) offloaded just before the season starts, probably to stay under the cap because they are paying Tapine a half million each season to play 25 minutes off the bench. Will still go okay.

6. New Zealand Warriors (10)
With Tuivasa-Sheck back from knee reconstruction, and Foran a few weeks away from returning to the field, the Warriors should start strong and only improve. The hard thing for them is the travel. Three hours on a plane every second week makes it hard to think they can sustain form to finish top four, but in the finals they could threaten everyone.

7 South Sydney Rabbitohs (12)
Robbie Farah! Sam Burgess will get better, Inglis can't play worse. The outside backs look thin but centres and wingers don't win you games anyway.

8 Brisbane Broncos (5)
This seems low, but the State of Origin period is going to get them. I also think they will struggle to replace Parker - not the tackles and metres, but the underrated offloads and creativity. Hunt is already set for the Dragons in 2018, and that could also be a factor in team morale and cohesion.

9 Cronulla Sharks (3)
Last years premiers aren't making the finals, you heard it here first! They can't replace Ennis. They can't replace Barba. Gallen is old and injured prone, Lewis is old, Fifita is flighty. This team has got worse, it's just a question of how much worse.

10 Canterbury Bulldogs (7)
I do this every year, it will be right eventually.

11 Sydney Roosters (15)
From what I've read, they seem like a concensus finals pick, and I don't get it. Their dysfunctional last season is blamed on missing Pearce for the first eight weeks, but they still only went 5-11 when he returned from rehab. The rest of the spine is Friend (a good tackler), Keary (willingly let go by last club) and Gordon (probably the 3rd best fullback in his own team). I don't see how this is suddenly a great side again.

12 Gold Coast Titans (8)
I was keen on the Titans initially, but they have loads of injuries already and no depth. Hayne will return to form, but peak Hayne never helped the Eels to great heights anyway.

13 Manly Sea Eagles (13)
They've recruited a lot of quantity but not convinced about quality. The Sea Eagles probably regret convincing Cherry-Evans to stay for close to one million a season now, because then they could really use that cash for better players. Also their ground is now called Lottoland under a sponsorship arrangement.

14 Wests Tigers (9)
Tedesco is amazing but I think they struggle across the rest of the park.

15 St. George-ILLAWARRA Dragons (11) 
At least in 2018 Ben Hunt arrives.

16 Newcastle Knights (16)
I've had them as big improvers the last two years, where they finished last and historically-bad-last. I've now given up believing. It says a lot about your playing list when a coach leads you to one win and nobody thinks he deserves the sack. Since then, they've recruited a little, made some strides in the trials... I'm sure they will do better than one win. But still suck.

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