NRL 2024 preview and predictions

NRL 2024 preview and predictions

The NRL is finally back this weekend, and what a place to kick things off – Las Vegas!

Of course, not everyone will be in the US this week, but seeing as round one will be partly completed, there’s no time like the present to stick my neck out and make some terrible predictions.

So, let’s start with how I see the ladder shaping up after the regular season…

  1. Penrith Panthers
  2. Brisbane Broncos
  3. Sydney Roosters
  4. Melbourne Storm
  5. Cronulla Sharks
  6. Parramatta Eels
  7. South Sydney Rabbitohs
  8. Manly Sea Eagles
  9. Canterbury Bankstown-Bulldogs
  10. Newcastle Knights
  11. North Queensland Cowboys
  12. Canberra Raiders
  13. New Zealand Warriors
  14. St. George Illawarra Dragons
  15. Dolphins
  16. Gold Coast Titans
  17. Wests Tigers

The top eight

There’s nothing groundbreaking with my predictions for the top two, as I’m backing the Panthers and the Broncos to claim those spots again. Any team that finishes above Penrith will be first in my opinion, and although the Broncos may have been a flash in the pan last year, I’m expecting to see them right back up there again 2024.

In 3rd, I’m backing the Roosters to bounce back with a bang. For various reasons, they underperformed last year, but there’s too much quality in their side not to make the finals, and maybe even more. In 4th, I’m backing the Storm to be right up there again, although I can’t see them staying there long-term.

I’ve got the Sharks to finish 5th. They’re a solid top eight team now, and I can’t see them missing out, but I can’t see them winning a Premiership either with this current squad. As for 6th, I’m backing the Eels to bounce back from a disappointing 2023.

The Rabbitohs should be back in the eight this year as well, and I’m backing them to get 7th. They’re capable of more, but after last year, it’s difficult to back them for anything more than a place in the bottom half of the eight. As for 8th, any number of teams could grab it, but I’m backing Manly to squeeze their way back in.

The chasing pack

I’m expecting a much-improved Bulldogs side in 2024, and I think they’ll push for finals but ultimately come up just short in 9th.

The Knights played above themselves in 2023, and while there’s undoubted quality in their side, I can’t see them making finals again this year. On a similar note, I think the Cowboys stellar campaign in 2022 was a bit of a one-off, and I think they’ll miss out for a second straight year in 2024.

In 12th, I’ve gone for the Raiders. When I look at their team on paper, it amazes me how well they continue to do each year, so I’m not writing them off, but I just can’t see them getting top eight.

In 13th is probably my boldest prediction, and that’s the Warriors. They were outstanding in 2023 and claimed a top four finish, but I see that being the exception rather than the norm, and I’m expecting to see them come back own to earth with a bump this year.

I’ve gone for the Dragons in 14th and the Dolphins in 15th. Both sides could finish anywhere between 10th and 17th in my opinion, and for both clubs, they’re very much in the building stages in 2024, with a finals spot a distant possibility.

In 16th, I’ve gone with the Titans. Aside from a couple of big-name Origin forwards, they don’t have a team that can compete higher up in the ladder, while I’m backing the Tigers to collect another wooden spoon. Sure, it’s an easy call to make, given they’ve claimed it for the past two years, but there’s nothing about their recruitment that suggests to me that they’re in for a major improvement. Throw a rookie coach into the mix as well, and I’m not confident of their chances.

Grand Final Winners – Penrith Panthers

Last year I backed the Roosters and that blew up in my face, so this year I’m going with what should be the safer option. They won’t have it easy, but I just can’t see who will topple the Panthers. If they don’t win it, then I’m expecting them to finish runners-up in the Grand Final.

Dally M Winner – Nathan Cleary

It seems only a matter of time before Cleary wins this award, and it’s one of the few medals that he hasn’t collected. Strangely, if he wasn’t playing in such a great team, he may have already won one, such is the way the voting system works, but regardless, I think he’ll get it one day, and I’m backing it to come in 2024.

Rookie of the Year – Sualauvi Fa’alogo

Predicting the NRL’s rookie of the year is an absolute minefield, as there’s no way of knowing how the season will pan out in terms of injuries, suspensions and loss of form. However, I’m sticking my neck out and going for the Storm’s 20-year-old fullback/winger.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ryan Papenhuyzen suffer another big injury this year – although I really hope I’m wrong about that – but even if he doesn’t, there could be a spot open up on the wing for Fa’alogo in 2024. The fact he’s just signed a new five-year contract suggests to me that Craig Bellamy’s confident in his abilities too.

Dally M Coach of the Year – Ivan Cleary

With no big shocks in my top eight, it stands to reason that the head coach of the Minor Premiers and Premiership-winning team collects the coach of the year award as well. If another flyer shoots up the ladder this year like the Cowboys in 2022 and the Warriors in 2023, then their head coach will be a shoo-in for this award, but as I can’t see that happening, I’m going with the safe option again.

So, there we have it. Add your comments below or get in touch on social media to let me know how wrong I am and I’ll be sure to look back at this in October to see just how bad the predictions were!

Darren Notley

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