Almanac Rugby League – Certainties, contenders and chumps

We’re only three weeks into the season yet you can’t help but get the feeling that some harsh reality is about the be visited upon a few clubs. As intriguing as it’s been so far, the odd injury, a notable positional change here and there, as well as a suggestion of inevitability gives you the feeling that a winnowing is about to happen.


At the top of the ladder, both the Storm and the Rabbitohs seem destined to top four positions. Bellamy’s bulldozers and Benny’s Bunnies appear to have the strength, depth of reserves and positive mentality to keep battering their opponents into submission. The Roosters likewise – their physicality and across the board talent will see them with the double chance come September.


It’s a tough call to write a team off before the end of April, but can you really see the Titans anywhere but bottom four? It’s not that they don’t have talented players – they just don’t have enough of them who are certified NRL top shelf. Even with Big Mal in the background, it will take another season or two to get them up to fully competitive challengers. (I really do hope I’m wrong on this one.)


As for the rest of the clubs, all 12 of them, there are five spots available in September. And here’s where injuries, the representative season, the rub of the green and internal club issues will sort out the contenders from the also rans. Consider the following for just a few of this group:

  • Can the Dragons compensate for the loss of Gareth Widdop, their organiser-in-chief, leader and brains? Their forwards are potentially formidable, their halves showed last week that they are capable (but can Hunt and Norman be consistent?) and their outside backs don’t lack flash and dash. But can they weather a long, hard season’s haul? We’ll see.


  • The Knights have moved Kalyn Ponga to fullback, his natural position. Will this spark ‘Newcastle’s’ rag-tag collection of ex-pats? Can their ‘spare parts’ combine to become a new model capable of mixing it with the heavy hitters?


  • The Bulldogs showed a lot of their traditional grit last weekend. Another capable list, they’ve now lost key ‘hard-head’ Kieran Foran to injury for a couple of months. Do they have the depth? This week’s clash with the Storm will tell us a lot.


  • Which version of the Broncos will roll up this week? The bullies who bashed the Cowboys or the bunglers who blew it against the Dragons? Consistency is a wonderful thing and worth a whole lot more on the footy field than an inflated ego.


  • The Tigers excited us for two weeks before looking ordinary against the Bulldogs. Now Benji is missing, replaced by ‘Grub’ Reynolds. Their clash with the Panthers will be a revelation for both clubs given that the latter also copped a towelling last week.


  • I’d love to see the Raiders go places this year. They play a good brand of footy and have a great coach in ‘Sticky’. But, again, have they got both the class and the depth? An away clash up north will see if they can rise up and wipe the 1300SMILES off the faces of the Cowboys.


With a bit more evidence available after Round 4, we’ll have a look at some of the other ‘maybe’ clubs next week.


I scored four in the tipping last week. For what it’s worth, here are my picks for this week: Roosters, Warriors, Panthers, Rabbitohs, Cowboys, Sharks, Storm and Dragons.



About Ian Hauser

A relaxed, Noosa-based retiree with a (very) modest sporting CV. A Queenslander through and through, especially when it comes to cricket and rugby league. I enjoy travel, good coffee and cake, reading, and have been known to appreciate a glass or three of wine. As well as being one of Footy Almanac's online editors, I moonlight as an editor for hire - check me out at

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