Too Early Predictions: Fearless predictions just a quarter of the season in:
BRISBANE: Anthony Seibold is sacked at the end of the season as he refuses to learn from his mistakes or get away from his petty grudges.
CANBERRA: George Williams becomes the best halfback in the competition. He doesn’t have a lot to beat and the early signs are tremendous.
CANTERBURY: Jake Averillo becomes a cult hero at Canterbury. The Bulldogs have nobody fast. Speed can be alluring.
CRONULLA: Shaun Johnson gets dropped from first grade. The Sharks fans are looking for a scapegoat and Johnson looks the, albeit, expensive one.
GOLD COAST: Tanah Boyd becomes the next great hope of the Titans. He has looked solid as the backup No.9 and will get more game time in an awful team in the coming weeks.
MANLY: Manly will finish in the Top 4 and are legitimate title contenders. They have made the leap. They are built like Melbourne … top heavy with genuine talent and a very good coach.
MELBOURNE: Ryan Papenhuyzen emerges as the next great Storm start. Cameron Munster is already the centrepiece of the next era. Papenhuyzen is on the verge of joining him.
NEW ZEALAND: The Warriors fade. They have won two of their three since moving to Australia but they are highly unlikely to keep that up.
NEWCASTLE: Bradman Best plays State of Origin this year. A blockbusting centre, he can absolutely replace Jack Wighton on the left with the Raider likely to fill the void left by James Maloney.
NORTH QUEENSLAND: Esarn Masters is never heard from again. He will be run past every game. It is hard to believe he ever played representative football.
PARRAMATTA: The Eels will capitulate. They will make the finals but their hot early season form will not continue. The signs are already there.
PENRITH: The Panthers miss the top eight. They have lost just once in the opening five rounds but their success looks fragile and they are far too reliant on Api Koroisau for their attack.
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA: Paul McGregor will not see the season out. The Dragons already have no choice but to sack him. The more he keeps fiddling while Wollongong burns, the most ostracised he will become.
SOUTH SYDNEY: The pack will cost the Bunnies big time. Damien Cook and Cody Walker have no platform to work from with one of the worst packs in the game.
SYDNEY ROOSTERS: James Tedesco wins another Dally M Medal. He is unstoppable on his day and will have an even bigger role this year with no Cooper Cronk.
WESTS TIGERS: The Tigers finish ninth. They are showing all the hallmarks of another ninth-placed finish. Big wins. Horrific losses. Zero consistency.
PVL Flies High: PVL has hit another winner with his desire to purchase NRL Air. The NRL is in need of a private jet. This is the new world game and PVL has yet to pull the wrong rein. V’landys is not known for his excess. If he believes this is viable, he should be trusted.
Expansion Another PVL Win: There are plenty death-riding expansion – and they are wrong. If they were right, PVL would not be pursuing it. PVL is not wrong. The time is right for expansion because the right leadership of the game is now in place. Brisbane is the obvious spot. It would be prudent to build on an existing club so favouring the Redcliffe Dolphins or Ipswich Jets or Easts Tigers bids seem a better proposition than the Broncos. Perth needs to be the second area. If it is done in conjunction with the North Sydney Bears, that would be tremendous. The game is more than capable of handling 18 clubs.
Not the Masters of His Domain: Esarn Masters burst onto the scene a few years back but such has been the sharpness of his fall that the Wests Tigers released him short of his contract expiry. They have clearly made the right call. Not only does he have the lateral movement of a three-legged hippopotamus after a session on the bucket bongs, he puts in the effort as some News Limited journalists do in getting the full story. His performance was completely abhorrent and an embarrassment to both the Cowboys and, one would hope, himself.
Smart and Smart: The Broncos and Bulldogs have hit winners with the immediate signings of Issac Luke and Luke Thompson. Luke is an experienced rake the Brisbane are in desperate need of – since releasing experienced rake Andrew McCullough three weeks back. And Thompson will be a star in the NRL, the next coming of Sam Burgess.
Vale, Arthur Summons: It was remiss of me not to acknowledge the passing of Arthur Summons a month back. Summons was a true giant of the game even if just small in stature. A former rugby union international – when that may have actually meant something – Summons became immortalised in rugby league when he was placed on the statue of the premiership trophy. Remarkably though Summons played just four seasons in the premiership with Wests. He played for Australia in all four seasons and Western Suburbs made the grand final in three of those seasons, losing to the famous Saints in each. Summons maintained his position in the game though until the end, coaching in Wagga and then Australia while continually pushing the great game. A gentleman to the end, Summons will forever personify the ideal that Rugby League is as much for the little man as it is for the big brute.
2020 Field Goal Update – 6: Kodi Nikorima slotted one just before halftime in the Warriors’ 37-26 win against the Cowboys.
Fun Fact #1: St George Illawarra are a perfect 10-0 under Henry Perenara since 2013.
Fun Fact #2: Corey Norman is 15-32 the last three seasons.
Fun Fact #3: This Monday will (probably) be the first Monday night game in NRL history without Mr Monday Night Andy Raymond.
Betting Market of the Week: Who will have the most games in the NRL:
$1.04 – Matt Dufty as a player
$17.00 – Paul McGregor as a head coach
Rumour Mill: The drums are beating that Canterbury are set to announce former Wigan coach Shaun Wane as their next boss from 2021. Wane was highly rated in the UK. There is strong speculation that Josh Reynolds is considering legal action against the News Limited reporter who completely misconstrued his incident with police last week. Wayne Bennett is rumoured to be strongly in the Warriors’ future plans.
Moronic Coaching Decision of the Week: Wests Tigers coach Michael Maguire wanted to make a statement to his team by dropping five players after the loss to the Titans but he pulled the wrong rein in recalling Russell Packer. In a short stint Packer let in a try, got sent to the sin bin and laid on a high tackle that will get him a three-week suspension. He arguably cost the Tigers a major upset. Dropping Benji would have made Maguire’s point. Playing Packer was just reckless.
The Coaching Crosshairs: Only the St George Illawarra board will ever know or be able to answer how Paul McGregor survived after last Monday’s Queen’s Birthday loss to Canterbury. It was a horrific low-point for the once-proud club. McGregor was on thin ice before the game. A special board meeting was called for the next day. He was a dead man walking. The fans were outraged. The players were not responding. He has had ample opportunity to turn this time in the right direction and has proven himself to be nothing more than a conservative fiddler. Excuses were used regarding the Dragons’ payout and potential counting against the football department cap but this opportunity had to be taken. He will not be their coach going forward. A line in the sand needed to be drawn.
Beard Watch: Anthony Don has produced one of the great beards during isolation. It hasn’t helped him. But a tremendous bit of facial follicle fabulousness.
Watch It: One of the great promotions in Rugby League history. Channel 10’s Friday On My Mind. Just wonderful stuff and so reminiscent of a better time when Nine did not have the rights. Watch it here.