Paul Crawley is already making predictions for the 2019 NRL season.
Paul Crawley is already making predictions for the 2019 NRL season.

And the NRL’s 2019 wooden spoon will go to...

So what will be considered a pass mark for your NRL team in 2019?

PAUL CRAWLEY delivers his early predictions on what impact the coaching merry-go-round will have on next year's title race.



Let's assume the coaching swap goes ahead and Anthony Seibold is at Brisbane in 2019. The challenge is not to see if Seibold knows his footy, but how he handles the expectation that comes with coaching the game's biggest club. As we've seen in the past, the Broncos judge success on titles won. The fact is this is the NRL's most promising young roster that will be strengthened by the return from injury of Matt Gillett and Jack Bird.

Pass: Top four

Prediction: 3rd


Don't take this personally Bulldogs fans but someone has to finish last. And if Dean Pay loses David Klemmer to Newcastle it's the type of setback that could ultimately kill a coaching career. They have also lost the Morris brothers, Brett and Josh, who were among Pay's best this year. But they will get Kieran Foran back and have some handy youngsters arriving in Nick Meaney, Jack Cogger, Christian Crichton, Corey Harawira-Naera and Sauaso Sue.

Pass mark: Improvement

Prediction: 16th


Come off a stinker of a season and no longer have Johnathan Thurston to look to for inspiration. The question now is can Michael Morgan reproduce the form he showed on the Cowboys' phenomenal run to the 2017 grand final? If he does the Cowboys can be contenders and the latest speculation is they might yet have Valentine Holmes for next season. I tipped them to win it this year but I can't find a spot for them in my eight now.

Pass mark: Top eight

Prediction: 9th


Ben Hunt has shown he can have an impact for the Dragons. (AAP Image/Craig Golding)
Ben Hunt has shown he can have an impact for the Dragons. (AAP Image/Craig Golding)



Had a terrific 2018 minus post-Origin form but they will learn from that. I truly believe the Dragons players who made Origin this year will grow from their experiences, especially Ben Hunt. Paul McGregor and his teammates have shown Hunt tremendous support. Now Hunt has to believe in himself. If he can own the big games this is a squad capable of going all the way. Still need to pick up a quality winger/fullback.

Pass mark: Top six

Prediction: 4th



Blake Ferguson will be a terrific acquisition as will Junior Paulo up front. But the problem for Parra last year wasn't a lack of talent, it was discipline on and off the field and that came back to a lack of leadership at every level. Brad Arthur has made no secret that the Eels have to work on that this pre-season but the players need to back it up through their actions next year.

Pass mark: Top eight

Prediction: 13th


David Klemmer would give Newcastle some real bite. (AAP Image/Darren England)
David Klemmer would give Newcastle some real bite. (AAP Image/Darren England)



Nathan Brown is coming into his fourth season at Newcastle and time for excuses is over. The arrival of Klemmer and Tim Glasby gives Brown a squad capable of challenging for the top eight, if not top four. That's not overstating it, either. Have also added Jesse Ramien and could still get Michael Jennings. There is no better young player in the game than Kalyn Ponga and Mitchell Pearce was outstanding when he wasn't injured.

Pass mark: Top eight

Prediction: 10th



Ivan Cleary can spin it anyway he wants but how he handled his exit from Wests Tigers was appalling. Still, what's done is done. Cleary has always sold himself as a rebuild coach but the job now is to prove he can win a comp. The Panthers were fighting for a top four finish before Anthony Griffin was sacked so I reckon a preliminary final will be the pass mark for Cleary straight up. This is a squad that just doesn't have a weakness. Cleary's calmness and composure should suit them perfectly.

Pass mark: Top four

Prediction: 2nd


Nathan Cleary finally gets the chance to work under his dad. (Brett Costello)
Nathan Cleary finally gets the chance to work under his dad. (Brett Costello)



Like with Seibold, let's assume Wayne Bennett heads to Redfern. Bennett-coached teams are known for two things above all else: having good discipline and defending with high intensity. Souths lost their way a little bit at the end of this season but Bennett's arrival will really challenge the players to lift again. The loss of Angus Crighton is significant but I wouldn't be surprised if Bennett ends up dragging a few Broncos with him. Tevita Pangai would be a handy pick up.

Pass mark: Top eight

Prediction: 6th



Even allowing for the loss of Shannon Boyd and Junior Paulo, the Raiders still have an outstanding forward pack with the addition of Englishmen John Bateman and Ryan Sutton. And the strike in their backs means they should be challenging for the top eight at worst. But I can't put them in my top eight until they prove they can win close games. Don't worry, they had plenty of legitimate excuses this year with a rotten run with injuries, especially missing Josh Hodgson for half the season. But ultimately, the area they must improve is playing with more patience.

Pass mark: top eight

Prediction: 11th


The Roosters have the talent to go back-to-back. (Brett Costello)
The Roosters have the talent to go back-to-back. (Brett Costello)



That performance in the grand final was one of the great team efforts of the modern game. Every year we talk about how hard it is for a team to go back-to-back but I wouldn't put it past this Roosters squad. You just have to think about how long it took for their attack to click this year to understand why they can be an even better team in 2019. As always, injuries will be the key. While Blake Ferguson is a massive loss, they gain Brett Morris and Ryan Hall.

Pass: Top four

Prediction: 1st



Have the nucleus of a good side but still lack depth and I'm not sure Des can fix all Manly's problems in one pre-season. It still wouldn't surprise me to see Manly back playing finals footy in 2019. Hasler will have them fit and focused and they won't be anywhere near as erratic. With Tom and Jake Trbojevic, Daly Cherry-Evans and Api Koroisau as their spine, anything is possible.

Pass mark: Challenging for finals

Prediction: 12th


Cronulla must retain Valentine Holmes. (Brett Costello)
Cronulla must retain Valentine Holmes. (Brett Costello)



Still to be determined if Val Holmes stays or goes and while his loss would be huge it won't change the culture of this team. Cronulla don't go into a season to make up the numbers, they play to win. And you can bet come next September they will just find a way to have spot reserved in the top eight. No shortage of strike in the backs, classy halves and a forward pack brimming with experience and aggression.

Pass mark: Top eight

Prediction: 7th



Craig Bellamy faces his biggest challenge since the Storm's salary cap scandal. You don't lose Billy Slater and become a better team and it is just going to lump more pressure on Cameron Smith. Still, Bellamy is a great coach and if Smith stays fit the Storm will be thereabouts. Have also lost Ryan Hoffman (retired), Tim Glasby (Knights) and Ryley Jacks (Titans). Cameron Munster has a bit to prove after his grand final brain explosion(s).

Pass mark: Top eight

Prediction: 5th


The time has come for Ash Taylor to deliver. (Gold Coast Titans)
The time has come for Ash Taylor to deliver. (Gold Coast Titans)



It will be interesting to see what impact Mal Meninga's appointment has on all the Titans players but Ash Taylor in particular. Let's not beat around the bush here, Taylor has all the talent in the world and he turns 24 in March so it's about time he came of age. If he does Gold Coast could be a huge surprise packet in 2019. They already have a quality pack and have added Shannon Boyd along with Tyrone Peachey, Brian Kelly and Ryley Jacks to their list. Can't wait to see more of AJ Brimson.

Pass mark: Competing for finals

Prediction: 8th



Will be interesting to see what impact the Warriors telling Shaun Johnson he was free to test the market has on the halfback going forward. I'm thinking it might be exactly the kick in the bum Johnson desperately needed. Steve Kearney did a good job this year but that performance against the Panthers in week one of the finals was a major disappointment. Will be dangerous as always but I can't see them improving.

Pass: Top eight

Prediction: 14th



The one thing we know about Michael Maguire is that he will have the Tigers fit. But the problem this season wasn't fitness, it was scoring points. I hope I'm proven wrong but right now I just can't see how this is going to improve under Maguire without some significant changes to the roster. The Tigers pretty much played to their absolute potential this year and still finished ninth. Now they have gained Paul Momirovski and Ryan Matterson from the Roosters. What they also need is more strike outside backs.

Pass mark: Competing for finals

Prediction: 15th


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