8 Headlines Leading into the 2019 NRL Season
Season 2019 is around the corner and a number of headlines have made the rounds this offseason. Some headlines were based on what would affect the product on the field; some headlines were based on what took place off it. Overall it was an eventful and at times tumultuous off-season for the NRL. We’ve compiled the 8 biggest headlines for you to revisit in preparation for the 2019 NRL season.
Can the Roosters go back-to-back?
No team since the ‘92/’93 Brisbane Broncos have been able to pull off the coveted back-to-back feat. However, with this Roosters side, public perception and the betting odds suggest they are in the driver’s seat yet again. The Chooks head into 2019 as short-priced favourites of $4.50* with Sportsbet and it isn’t hard to see why. The best team in 2018 returns almost a full complement of their title-winning side, with the additions of Angus Crichton and Brett Morris. Crichton, a NSW back-rower has proven pedigree from his time in South Sydney. With a stacked side, a clever coach, and a seemingly limitless salary cap expect the Roosters to be there come finals time.
How will Father and son fare in Penrith?
Sacked in 2015, Ivan Cleary is back in Penrith colours. With son Nathan firmly positioned in the Panthers’ leadership team, Ivan is looking to fulfil the potential of this young studded roster. The drama surrounding Cleary kicked-off when he was publicly poached by the Penrith brass. The Tigers thought they had staved off the competition, but Cleary ultimately caved to the pressure and moved over to rival Penrith to fulfil that family connection.
Will major losses derail the Sharks?
The Sharks head into an era without their talismanic coach and key strike weapon Valentine Holmes. Flanagan has unceremoniously been deregistered by the NRL due salary cap breaches and his involvement in player transfers while being away from the game (against the conditions of his reinstatement) being uncovered, whilst Valentine Holmes has explored an opportunity in the NFL. A gun athlete, Holmes has the ability to morph his game to suit the conditions of the American game. To add to these losses, the Sharks will also incur a salary cap fine of $353.000.
The Sharks have brought in Shaun Johnson to bolster John Morris’ offensive weapons.
No-Fault Stand Down Policy
The NRL was brought into disrepute with the allegations levelled at Dragon Jack de Belin and Sea Eagle Dylan Walker. ARL Commission chairman Peter Beattie and NRL CEO Todd Greenberg announced that players charged with serious criminal offences will be stood down under the ‘No-fault stand down’ policy. Criminal offences applying to this rule are those that carry a maximum jail sentence of 11 years or more. De Belin, facing sexual assault allegations, is the first player stood down pending the completion of his legal matter. De Belin has pleaded not guilty. Dylan Walker has similarly pleaded not guilty for his domestic violence charge.
What started as a rumour quite quickly turned into full-blown headline material. Anthony Seibold impressed the Broncos in his debut season as South Sydney’s head coach. Wayne Bennett, on the other hand, struggled at points in 2018 due to inconsistent form. The Broncos knew they wouldn’t be resigning him so they orchestrated a swap with a reluctant South Sydney. Souths fans are quite disappointed with the result given Seibold’s offensive flair. Both coaches will be under mighty scrutiny in 2019. Can’t wait to see them match up in round 8
The Off-Season from Hell
A picture tells a thousand words and a video tells a story like no other. Bulldogs recruit Dylan Napa had a series of lewd videos circulated in a month-long period depicting Napa performing sexual acts on a female and onto himself. Napa has since been fined 10% of his annual salary by the NRL. Penrith has also been caught up in their own sex scandal. Similar videos depicting Tyrone May, Tyrone Phillips and Liam Coleman have emerged. Each of the players was seen in a video with a female performing sexual acts and with an aggressive bordering on violent undertone. Safe to say the NRL has truly witnessed the offseason from hell as it investigates the leaks of the videos.
Barba blows shot at Redemption
The drama continues north of the border as the North Queensland Cowboys have had their hands full with bans and suspensions. The Cowboys made the brash decision of bringing in former Dally M medal winner Ben Barba back into the league. Barba exemplified his poor judgment as he was caught on CCTV footage having a physical altercation with partner Ainslie Currie in a Townsville Casino. The NRL has swiftly banned Barba for life. Existing player Scott Bolton plead guilty to common assault in January, which earned him five weeks on the sidelines. The Cowboys “reluctantly accepted” the punishment in a public statement.
State of Origin goes West
The NRL will continue its experiment of farming a State of Origin game to a non-competing state each year. This year will see Perth host Game Two of the series at Optus stadium. This is a necessary move for the NRL to try and grow the game within different markets. With a Perth team being spoken of as a possible expansion franchise this is a natural experiment to assess how viable the Western market will be.