In 2019, the Sydney Roosters won their fifteenth Premiership, and in doing so they became the first side to claim back-to-back titles in the National Rugby League era. So, the question is, can they make it three-in-a-row in 2020? Or equally important, what other sides can stop them?
The leading Australian sports betting tipster has declared the Roosters will start the 2020 campaign as clear favourites despite the retirement of their talisman Cooper Cronk. It is hoped that high-profile signing Kyle Flanagan will fill Cronk’s boots and with the talented youngsters Nat Butcher and Sam Verrills, who both had stellar 2019 seasons, the Roosters continue to look a formidable force and the team to beat.
However, the NRL is one of the most competitive sporting leagues on the planet and there are several other teams looking to wrestle the crown away from the Roosters. City rivals, the South Sydney Rabbitohs, would dearly love to spoil the party. Having reached the Preliminary final in 2019, and with the legendary coach Wayne Bennett in charge, there’s certainly room for optimism.
Another side expected to make a strong challenge in 2020 is Melbourne Storm. This is one of the most successful sides in the modern National Rugby League with three Premiers to their name. They also had two titles (2007 and 2009) stripped from them when it was discovered they breached the strict rules on salary caps.
Storm won the Minor Premiership in 2019, so it’s impossible to imagine them not getting to the business end of the 2020 season. A lot will depend on their iconic hooker Cameron Smith. At 36 years of age, he’s in the twilight of his playing career. Storm also have the gifted Ryan Papenhuyzen pulling the strings at full-back, so they will be one to watch.
Furthermore, it’s difficult to discount last season’s runners-up the Canberra Raiders. With the majority of the squad remaining intact and now with the addition of blockbuster signing George Williams from Wigan Warriors, the Raiders will be there or thereabouts in the finals series.
For an outsider, it’s worth keeping an eye on the Parramatta Eels. The made it to the second week of the finals series in 2019 with some explosive victories. However, they were terribly inconsistent and one fantastic result was followed by a hammering the week after. If they can rectify this issue, the eels may just have enough to win their first NRL Grand Final.