Rugby League’s crystal ball never fails to unearth surprises.
Last season the big surprise was the Warriors with a top four finish and while the Cowboys (11th), Eels (10th), and Rabbitohs (9th) all performed well under expectations, no team was more disappointing than the highly rated Roosters, who came home strongly after shocking mid-season form to grab 7th.
With the doubleheader in Las Vegas and the Premiers Panthers having to endure huge frequent flyer miles, we have a fascinating outlier for 2024 Predictions. Here’s some thoughts…
The Raiders played Finals last season but are predicted to finish 15th this season. Two major outs include their best player in Jack Wighton and the significant coaching influence of Michael Maguire. Three teams that missed the Finals last season – the Roosters, Cowboys and Eels are predicted to make it this year.
The Dragons will be a Wooden Spoon contender. They have had nothing but bad luck with recruits and while they have an abundance of young talent in the wings 2024 will be too soon.
An injury-free Tom Trbojevic to win the Brad Fittler Medal as he stars in the NSW Blues claiming the Origin Series. In 2021 “Turbos” was off the charts and the highest of any player I have rated this century. Since then, he has been plagued with multiple injuries. We have never seen the best of him at rep level.
If the NRL are to satisfy their base before they expand into new territories then another team in NZ and Brisbane is the logical strategic move, but if a new team in PNG will prevent a China military stronghold, then sport must take a back seat. Welcome Kumuls.
Except for Nathan Cleary, Kalyn Ponga is arguably the best player in the game, but he is predicted to not make Billy Slater’s starting 17 in Origin Game 1 this year. AJ Brimson, with the ability to play more positions, especially Centre would be better suited to 14 but that would mean dropping coach fav Ben Hunt. Highly unlikely despite being 34 come kickoff time.
Champion Coach Craig Bellamy is again predicted to be in no rush to announce his 2025 plans. Even though he has stated that 2024 will be his last as a Head Coach, he is that good and so highly respected that he has the latitude to change his mind. With talent like Jason Ryles and Michael Maguire both without an NRL gig, the Storm are sitting comfortably.
Jason Cayless and Stacey Jones are expected to be the new Coaching Heads for the Kiwis to defend their 30 to-nil drubbing of the Kangaroos.
The five teams – Panthers, Roosters, Sea Eagles, Broncos the Rabbitohs – all must return from an overseas match after ‘going to the well’ and then back up again to complete 27 Rounds. Overwhelming data dictates that it is very difficult to do and a burden on teams. Jury out.
Jack Wighton is predicted to make a return to rep footy after his shock resignation.
Ezra Mam is predicted to be groomed by Billy Slater as part of his Maroons squad. Mam and Tom Dearden will be in a shoot-out to succeed skipper Dally Cherry-Evans who turns 25 next month.