NRL PREDICTIONS FOR 2020
LATRELL MITCHELL TO JOIN RABBITOHS
It will be one of the biggest transfers between the two archrivals in their long and bitter history. Although Wayne Bennett has denied interest, the rumour will not dissipate. Under Bennett, Kangaroos star Mitchell will go to another level at fullback in 2020.
COACH GETS THE CHOP
Two coaches were replaced in 2019 and we are likely to see more heads roll in the fickle business of rugby league in 2020. Most under pressure are Paul McGregor at St George Illawarra, Paul Green at North Queensland and Stephen Kearney at the Warriors.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Billy Magoulias will replace Paul Gallen in Cronulla's No.13 jersey and prove a star. The 22-year-old has played only two NRL games and qualifies for rookie status, and has already shown match-winning abilities in Newtown's NSW Cup grand final as well as the State Championship win on grand final day.
MANLY v PARRAMATTA GRAND FINAL AT SCG
The last grand final held at the hallowed Sydney Cricket Ground was in 1987 between Manly and Canberra. In 2020 the Sea Eagles can return under the steady guidance of Des Hasler, against their old rivals Parramatta in an epic flashback to the good old days.
CAPTAIN'S CHALLENGE TO CAUSE A FUSS
The Captain's Challenge rule was ushered in by the ARLC without consulting the competition committee, with guidelines to be decided next month. However, it's already clear the rule is open to exploitation by smart coaches and captains. It's easy to predict it will cause furore in 2020.
BLUES CLAIM THREE-PEAT
Brad Fittler's unorthodox training techniques, passion and high standards have revived NSW, and in turn, the State of Origin concept. While Queensland will again put up a mighty fight, the Blues will win three series in a row for the first time since 2003-05.
CAMERON SMITH DALLY M
In the final year of his unassailable NRL career Cameron Smith will retire with another Dally M Medal and the most wins for a player in rugby league history, adding to a list of records that may never be broken.
BATTLE FOR THE SPOON
Under a new coach Gold Coast will show signs of improvement, but it won't be enough to avoid the bottom four. In another tight competition, the wooden spoon will be decided in the final rounds between Penrith, Warriors and the Titans.
Back in September NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg said he was compiling a report on the optimum number of teams in the competition: 16, 17 or 18. In 2020, expect there to be an announcement of his findings and where the league plans to expand in time for the new broadcast deal.
ROOSTERS KNOCKED OUT IN PRELIM
Either Sydney Roosters or Melbourne has won the minor premiership for the past seven seasons and 2020 will be no different. Premiers Roosters will again finish first after a spluttery start to the season, but will be knocked out of the preliminary finals, ending the quest for a third consecutive title.
Australian Associated Press