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NRL 2019 predictions: ‘I don’t see them winning a premiership’

Well, after a summer full of off-season scandals it’s finally time for the NRL’s superstars to shrug off their tracksuits and get onto the field to do what they do best.

We’re just three days away from the season beginning with Melbourne taking on Brisbane on Thursday evening at AAMI Park for the season opener.

Each day this week in the lead up to the start of the season, Macquarie Sports Radio Halftime will take a look at four teams and how they will go in 2019.

Today, former Brisbane and Penrith coach Anthony Griffin joined us and gave his verdict on the likes of how the Broncos, Bulldogs, Canberra and the Panthers will fare in 2019.

BRISBANE BRONCOS

It was an eventful start to the off-season for the Brisbane Broncos as the worst kept secret in rugby league was confirmed – Anthony Seibold would be moving to Red Hill and Wayne Bennett would head to Redfern.

It almost didn’t happen as a stand-off between Bennett and the Broncos had the potential to create an untenable situation which would leave both coaches at their incumbent clubs awaiting a move.

However, both moves finally got done.

For Brisbane, they’ll also be looking forward to the returns of Jack Bird and Matt Gillett from long injury lay-offs which saw them miss most of the 2019 season.

Griffin says Brisbane have a strong forward pack, but question marks over their halves may prevent them from winning the competition.

“I don’t see them winning a premiership,” Griffin said.

“I think they’re still in a rebuilding phase.

“They’ve become a very young team again losing Sam Thaiday, Korbin Sims and Josh McGuire.

“They’ve lost a lot of experience in that forward pack.

“With a lot of people I also have a question mark over their halves when they’re against semi-final and top four defence.”

2018 FINISH: 6th

2019 MAJOR ROSTER CHANGES

IN: SHAUN FENSOM.

OUT: JORDAN KAHU, JOSH MCGUIRE, SAM THAIDAY, KORBIN SIMS, TOM OPACIC, JONUS PEARSON.

GRIFFIN’S 2019 PREDICTION: 3rd-6th

 

CANTERBURY BULLDOGS

It was a horror season on the field for Canterbury in 2018 and their fortunes didn’t get any better off the field with a dramatic Mad Monday which saw two players humiliated for poor behaviour.

Kieran Foran battled with form and injury, however after a strong pre-season the veteran playmaker looks to have found his mojo and could determine where Canterbury finish in 2019.

A number of off-season departures due to salary cap pressure will no doubt hurt the club with the likes of David Klemmer and the Morris brothers departing and Griffin says attack could be an issue for the Belmore based club.

“What I’m worried about is where their points are going to come from,” Griffin said.

“They’ve lost Klemmer, Aaron Woods during the year, they’ve lost the Morris brothers which is a massive loss.

“Their team looks totally different.

“I worry about the strike that they’re going to need to beat the competition’s best teams.

“Kieran Foran’s got to stay fit, I hear he’s had his best off-season yet which is great.”

2018 FINISH: 12th

2019 MAJOR ROSTER CHANGES

IN: DYLAN NAPA, COREY HARAWIRA-NAERA, NICK MEANEY, SAUASO SUE, JACK COGGER, CHRISTIAN CRICHTON.

OUT: GREG EASTWOOD, DAVID KLEMMER, JOSH MORRIS, BRETT MORRIS.

GRIFFIN’S 2019 PREDICTION: BOTTOM EIGHT.

 

CANBERRA RAIDERS

Expectations have long been on the Canberra Raiders to perform with an exciting side on paper, however two 10th placed finishes in the last two years has heaped pressure on coach Ricky Stuart.

A number of narrow losses have been the issue for the Raiders with the Canberra side unable to close out games on multiple occasions.

Despite Jordan Rapana out for a lengthy period, a fit Josh Hodgson means the Green Machine could change that pattern and be a finals contender according to Griffin.

“They’ve got some great strike with Wighton going to five-eighth,” Griffin said.

“My big question is the play the ball quality that Josh Hodgson is going to get to work off.

“They’ve got a great back-row, but I think they are a little thin in the front-row.

“Sia Soliola is a great player but he’s not a big man, Ryan Sutton is the prop they bought from England so he’s going to have to hit the ground running.”

2018 FINISH: 10th

2019 MAJOR ROSTER CHANGES

IN: JOHN BATEMAN, RYAN SUTTON.

OUT: BLAKE AUSTIN, SHANNON BOYD, JUNIOR PAULO.

GRIFFIN’S 2019 PREDICTION: FINALS.

 

PENRITH PANTHERS

Not all is well at Penrith in recent weeks with the leaking of several sex tapes which has threatened to derail the Panthers 2019 campaign.

Despite that, it is a roster that most clubs would envy with a strong forward pack, an exicting backline and two quality halves and with Ivan Cleary returning to the fray, anything is possible.

Griffin says if they can get it right they are a premiership contender.

“The Origin halves in (James) Maloney and (Nathan) Cleary are the key,” Griffin said.

“They have a great forward pack and outside backs – (Dean) Whare, (Waqa) Blake, (Josh) Mansour, (Dallin) Watene-Zelezniak – they’ve got plenty of strike there.

“They’re a top four team and if they can get themselves there and Maloney can stay fit, he knows what the back end of the year looks like.

“He’s a real winner wherever he’s gone, he’s won premierships or got teams near a grand final.”

2018 FINISH: 5th

2019 MAJOR ROSTER CHANGES

IN: TYRELL FUIMAONO, FRANK WINTERSTEIN, TIM GRANT, HAME SELE, MALAKAI WATENE-ZELEZNIAK.

OUT: TRENT MERRIN, TIM BROWNE, COREY HARAWIRA-NAERA, CHRISTIAN CRICHTON, TYRONE PEACHEY.

GRIFFIN’S 2019 PREDICTION: TOP FOUR.

 

HEAR ‘HOOK’S FULL PREDICTIONS BELOW:

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