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Could These Teams be Set to Break Into the Top 8 in 2020?

02 Feb 20, 1:14PM 0 Comments

Written by Oliver Kellner-Dunk

Photo by Getty Images

The 2020 NRL season is just around the corner, with many aside improving their roster in the off-season in the hope to better their their position from 2019.

Today we will be looking at a few teams who missed the top eight in 2019 that could be a real chance at making it in 2020.

WESTS TIGERS

We just couldn’t kick this list off with anyone other than the team that just missed the top eight in 2019 on the final day of the regular season.

The Tigers aren’t exactly equipped with Star players like many other sides, however to have a seemingly well balanced roster and have recruited well this off season.

The Tigers needed a bit of spark in their back five and certainly get that with new signing Joseph Leilua and Adam Doueihi.

We also can’t forget about the man coaching this side, Michael Maguire.

Maguire has proven we can take a side on the brink of being a consistent top eight side to the premiership when given time, as he did so at the Rabbitohs.

I’m not necessarily suggesting that Benji Marshall will be hoisting the Provan Summons trophy at season’s end, however I do believe the Tigers are a good chance at making the top eight.

New Arrivals:

Billy Walters (Storm), Luciano Leilua (Dragons), Joey Leilua (Raiders), Adam Doueihi (Rabbitohs), Zane Musgrove

PENRITH PANTHERS

For at least the past half decade the Panthers have largely become known as the side who either just makes or misses the top eight.

Unfortunately the latter may of hindered their destiny in 2019, however did generally manage to just make the top eight.

James Maloney is a sizeable loss, however this allows Nathan Cleary to take full control of the Panthers in attack, a role that he generally plays his best in, although Cleary didn’t have the best 2019, he tended to play really well when James Maloney was out or took a step back to allow the young halfback to lead.

The club have also recruited very well, signing former premiership winner Zane Tetevano and current Queensland 18th man Kurt Capewell in the hopes to lift the forward pack and getting them playing with more drive and intent, something that the Panthers were lacking in 2019 for the most part.

New Arrivals:

Apisai Koroisau (Sea Eagles), Dean Blore, Shawn Blore, Stephen Crichton, Braydon McGrady (upgraded from development contracts), Kurt Capewell (Sharks), Zane Tetevano (Roosters)

NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS

If everything goes right for the Cowboys in 2020 they should easily make the top eight, yes they’ve gotten possibly the buy of the season in Valentine Holmes, however there are other aspects of the team that must improve if they’re to make the top eight.

First of all, their forwards must find past form, as on paper the Cowboys’ forward pack is one of the most imposing in the NRL, however the past couple of seasons it’s just not played out that way.

While Jason Taumalolo has remained consistent, the likes of Corn Hess and Gavin Cooper will really need to lift in 2020 if the Cowboys are to make the top eight.

The other big concern for the Cowboys is Michael Morgan’s form and if he can find himself a permanent halves partner that he has good chemistry with, as this was not the case in 2019.

There’s a good chance young Scott Drinkwater will have first crack at five-eighth in 2020, giving Morgan a fresh combination to try and build a relationship with in the off-season.

New Arrivals:

Reece Robson (Dragons), Esan Marsters (Wests Tigers), Connelly Lemuelu (Bulldogs), Reuben Cotter, Thomas Gilbert, Daniel Russell (upgraded from development contracts), Valentine Holmes (NFL)

NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS

The Knights have underperformed over the past two seasons despite having a somewhat heavy player roster last season.

A big issue for the Knights, especially in 2019 was an over reliance on Mitchell Pearce, obviously as halfback and captain he is expected to perform to a certain level, however it was pushed too far in 2019.

It seemed that Pearce’s teammates would expect Pearce to almost single handily lead them to victory every week, meaning that whenever Pearce would have a bad game nobody else would step up, meaning the Knights generally lacked leadership in others areas.

What makes matters worse is the fact that Newcastle do have multiple representative players that should be more heavily involved on the field, taking some pressure off of Pearce in the process.

The Knights have just hired former Roosters and Storm assistant coach Adam O’Brien as their head coach who could oversee this change and lead the Knights to their first finals series in seven years.

New Arrivals:

Jayden Brailey (Sharks), Bradman Best, Star To’a, Jirah Momoisea (upgraded from development contracts), Enari Tuala (Cowboys), Gehamat Shibasaki (Broncos)

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