NEWS Unanimous: Broncos tipped to make Eight

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NRL experts believe the Brisbane Broncos are on the way to the top four under Anthony Seibold
Kyle Pollard, The Courier-Mail

Queensland’s best footy minds believe the Brisbane Broncos are glory bound.
Asked to predict their top eight for the 2019 NRL Season, nine of the 12 experts believed the Broncos would finish in the top four, with Darren Lockyer (fifth), Mal Meninga (sixth) and Gorden Tallis (fifth) the only predictors not to have Anthony Seibold’s men that high.

The Cowboys are predicted to leap back up the table after a horror 2018, with 11 of the 12 experts picking them to make the finals, while the Eels and the Bulldogs were the overwhelming selections for the wooden spoon.

And in a prediction that will warm Queensland Origin fans’ hearts, Kalyn Ponga’s rapidly rising star looks set to continue with four experts picking him as this year’s Dally M winner.
Check out all the expert selections below.


Darren Lockyer reckons Queensland will bounce back this year in Origin.

DARREN LOCKYER
THE COURIER-MAIL/CHANNEL 9
TOP EIGHT
1. Roosters
2. Storm
3. Rabbitohs
4. Panthers
5. Broncos
6. Cowboys
7. Dragons
8. Eeels

PREMIERS: Roosters. Angus Crichton is a superb addition and with Cooper Cronk steering the ship again, will be hard to beat.

WOODEN SPOON: Bulldogs. Struggled to score points last season and Kieran Foran will be under huge pressure to stay fit.

RISING: Parramatta. The only way is up and Brad Arthur will be hungry to get the Eels firing.

SLIDING: Sharks. Too many losses across the board. Rookie coach John Morris has a huge assignment rebuilding Cronulla.

NEXT BIG THING: Tino Fa’asuamaleaui (Storm). He is a hulking back-rower with good ball skills. Played for the Queensland under-20s last year and is tipped for NRL action in 2019.

DALLY M: Kalyn Ponga (Knights). The Maroons star will have taken huge confidence out of 2019.

ORIGIN: Queensland 2-1. The Maroons will be hard to beat in Game One at Suncorp and that will set them up perfectly.

HEADLINE I’D LIKE TO SEE: Magic Morgo — Michael Morgan back in full swing for Cowboys.
Smoke peace pipe or risk Origin downfall

Gorden Tallis reckons AJ Brimson is the man who can take the Titans up the ladder.

GORDEN TALLIS
THE SUNDAY MAIL/FOX LEAGUE
TOP EIGHT
1. Roosters
2. Panthers
3. Storm
4. Rabbitohs
5. Broncos
6. Knights
7. Titans
8. Raiders

PREMIERS: Roosters. They will be the first team to go back to back since the 1992-93 Broncos. Their defence against Souths and Melbourne in last year’s finals series — even with a bloke who didn’t have to make a tackle in the grand final — was incredible.

WOODEN SPOON: Eels. They don’t have the cattle after losing Corey Norman. A lot of pressure on Mitchell Moses.

RISING: Knights. Toughened up the forward pack with David Klemmer and Kalyn Ponga is fit. In 2018 many of their losses were a lot closer than the scoreboard showed.

SLIDING: Sharks. The loss of Val Holmes will be too much. Their window has closed. They need fresh blood and they don’t have it.

NEXT BIG THING: AJ Brimson (Titans). Fifteen impressive games last year, a genuine superstar in 2019. Don’t write him off for Origin.

DALLY M: Kalyn Ponga (Knights).

ORIGIN: Queensland 3-0.

HEADLINE I’D LIKE TO SEE: NRL cuts interchange from eight to six.

Mal Meninga reckons the Warriors are on the slide.

MAL MENINGA
THE COURIER-MAIL/KANGAROOS COACH
TOP EIGHT
1. Roosters
2. Storm
3. Panthers
4. Rabbitohs
5. Dragons
6. Broncos
7. Titans
8. Cowboys

PREMIERS: Titans. The Gold Coast have developed a sensational work ethic under coach Garth Brennan and have the deepest playing roster they’ve ever had. A lot will depend on the halves but the Titans can go all the way.

WOODEN SPOON: Bulldogs. Will be tough for them this season with their salary cap predicament.

RISING: Titans. Finished 14th last year with eight wins. The Titans will make the competition sit up and take notice in 2019.

SLIDING: Warriors. Teams need match winners, players in tight games who can step up. Not sure how the Warriors will go with Shaun Johnson leaving to join Cronulla, not only from a team spirit point of view but also losing his strike power.

NEXT BIG THING: Payne Haas (Broncos). Only played three games last year and was impressive before getting hurt. A big unit with a huge motor.

DALLY M: Luke Keary (Roosters). His confidence in his ability is exceptional, will go to another level.

ORIGIN: Queensland 2-1

HEADLINE I’D LIKE TO SEE: Titans triumph in tremendous grand final win.
Meninga: Brisbane expansion isn’t the answer

Fox League’s Yvonne Sampson reckons the Broncos can go all the way. Picture: Tara Croser

YVONNE SAMPSON
THE COURIER-MAIL/FOX LEAGUE
TOP EIGHT
1. Broncos
2. Roosters
3. Storm
4. Panthers
5. Dragons
6. Cowboys
7. Raiders
8. Titans

PREMIERS: Broncos. If it’s not the Broncos I’d love to see the Raiders win a premiership 30 years on from their famous 1989 grand final victory over the Wests Tigers.

WOODEN SPOON: I hate to see any team with the spoon.

RISING: Titans. The Gold Coast are on the rise. Terrific team, great coach and strengthening the rugby league culture through Mal Meninga on the Gold Coast.

SLIDING: Warriors. The loss of Kiwi Test halfback Shaun Johnson to the Cronulla Sharks might see the Kiwi side slide.

NEXT BIG THING: The Brisbane forward pack is laden with some of the game’s best young talent in the NRL and the league will need to watch out for a fully fit Jaydn Su’A (Broncos).

DALLY M: Nathan Cleary (Panthers).

ORIGIN: Queensland 2-1.

HEADLINE I’D LIKE TO SEE: No coaches sacked and referees celebrated for doing a good job!

The Courier-Mail team os Rikki-Lee Arnold, Paul Malone, Robert Craddock, Mike Colman, Peter Badel and Travis Meyn. Picture: Mark Cranitch

MIKE COLMAN
THE COURIER-MAIL
TOP EIGHT
1. Roosters
2. Rabbitohs
3. Storm
4. Broncos
5. Knights
6. Dragons
7. Panthers
8. Cowboys

PREMIERS: Roosters. They won the grand final playing one short last season so if Cooper Cronk can remain in one piece, there’s no reason they cannot go back to back.

WOODEN SPOON: Titans. Their biggest buy of the off-season was Mal Meninga and he might be a bit slow.
RISING: Knights. They continue to buy well. The brilliant Kalyn Ponga is a year older and a fit Mitchell Pearce should see them make some noise.

SLIDING: Sharks. New coach, no money, no hope.

NEXT BIG THING: Zac Lomax (Dragons). This St George Illawarra centre looks as if he’s ready to fire in 2019.

DALLY M: Gareth Widdop (Dragons). A parting gift as the Englishman heads home.
ORIGIN: NSW 2-1

HEADLINE I’D LIKE TO SEE: Back Door Benny — Wayne gives Sydney media the slip.

PAUL MALONE
THE COURIER-MAIL
TOP EIGHT
1. Rabbitohs
2. Roosters
3. Storm
4. Broncos
5. Dragons
6. Knights
7. Cowboys
8. Panthers

PREMIERS: Roosters. There are 26 reasons not to pick the 2018 premiers. It’s 26 years since the 1992-93 Broncos went back to back. But show me another team likely to improve enough.

WOODEN SPOON: Bulldogs. Their player losses due to bad salary-cap choices will take several seasons from which to rebuild.

RISING: Knights. The recruitment of David Klemmer and Tim Glasby further enhances the Hunter club’s patient improvement.

SLIDING: Sharks. John Morris has willingly thrown himself into the deep end but off-field drama, as well as losing Valentine Holmes means Cronulla will drop.

NEXT BIG THING: Cronulla have lost Valentine Holmes and Jesse Ramien from their 2018 backline, but scouts says Bronson Xerri is very good indeed.

DALLY M: James Tedesco (Roosters)

ORIGIN: Queensland 2-1.

HEADLINE I’D LIKE TO SEE: Fittler “I’ve got no idea how I won last year either.”


RIKKI-LEE ARNOLD
THE COURIER-MAIL
TOP EIGHT
1. Roosters
2. Broncos
3. Panthers
4. Cowboys
5. Rabbitohs
6. Storm
7. Knights
8. Titans

PREMIERS: Roosters. A big task to go back-to-back but the Tricolours may have the class to pull it off. Cooper Cronk won’t be satisfied with just one grand final ring outside of Melbourne.

WOODEN SPOON: Eels. I cannot see how they are going to improve upon 2018.

RISING: Knights. They have been in a rebuilding phase for a long time, but finally have the right mix in their playing group to play finals football.

SLIDING: Sharks. A turbulent off-season after losing their coach and star player Valentine Holmes. There is a big question mark over how Shaun Johnson will fare outside of New Zealand.

NEXT BIG THING: Tino Fa’asuamaleaui (Storm). A lot of excitement over this 19-year-old giant in the Intrust Super Cup last season. Could push for a shot at the NRL this year but regardless of when he gets his debut, he will impress.

DALLY M: Kalyn Ponga (Knights).

ORIGIN: Queensland 2-1

HEADLINE I’D LIKE TO SEE: Queensland women claim first Origin shield, defying the Blues on their home turf.

TRAVIS MEYN
THE COURIER-MAIL
TOP EIGHT
1. Storm
2. Dragons
3. Broncos
4. Roosters
5. Cowboys
6. Panthers
7. Sharks
8. Knights

PREMIERS: Storm. Billy Slater is a big loss and Cameron Smith is on the way out but they somehow keep on winning.

WOODEN SPOON: Bulldogs. Lacking quality players and could struggle to win games.

RISING: Cowboys. Last year was an aberration. They’ll bounce back to contend for the top four.

SLIDING: Rabbitohs. Greg Inglis has endured a shocking pre-season, Angus Crichton is a big loss and signing coach Wayne Bennett is a huge gamble at this stage of his career.

NEXT BIG THING: Corey Allan (Rabbitohs). The young gun is so highly rated that he represented the Prime Minister’s XIII before playing NRL.

DALLY M: Jason Taumalolo (Cowboys). Below his best last season and is determined to turn around his form to clinch a second Dally M.

ORIGIN: Queensland 2-1. The Maroons will bounce back as long as they get their selections right, unlike last year.

HEADLINE I’D LIKE TO SEE: Michael Morgan new king of the north as Cowboys clinch second NRL title.

Peter Badel reckons Broncos forward Pat Carrigan is the next big thing.

PETER BADEL
CHIEF RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
TOP EIGHT
1. Roosters
2. Rabbitohs
3. Storm
4. Broncos
5. Panthers
6. Cowboys
7. Knights
8. Dragons

PREMIERS: Roosters. Can defy history by going back-to-back. Angus Crichton is a superb buy and James Tedesco will get even better.

WOODEN SPOON: Parramatta. The Eels will need more than the signing of Blake Ferguson and will miss Dragons recruit Corey Norman.

RISING: Newcastle. If Kalyn Ponga stays fit at five-eighth, the Knights have the weapons to return to the playoffs.

SLIDING: Cronulla. Shaun Johnson is a good pick-up but they’ll miss Luke Lewis and Val Holmes.

NEXT BIG THING: Pat Carrigan (Broncos). The Queensland under-20s captain had a superb pre-season.

DALLY M: Anthony Milford (Broncos). The Broncos’ $1 million man will step up as a leader.

ORIGIN: New South Wales 2-1. The Blues are building a dynasty with the likes of Latrell Mitchell, James Tedesco and Tyson Frizell to get even better after tasting success last year.

HEADLINE I’D LIKE TO SEE: Flash of the Titans — Brennan steers Titans back into the playoffs.

Munster eyes Thurston-like consistency
Munster eyes Thurston-like consistency



Robert Craddock and Gorden Tallis together at The Courier-Mail NRL launch.

ROBERT CRADDOCK
CHIEF SPORTSWRITER
TOP EIGHT
1. Broncos
2. Panthers
3. Roosters
4. Cowboys
5. Rabbitohs
6. Sharks
7. Knights
8. Raiders

PREMIERS: Broncos. Finished two points off the top of the ladder last season and have an improving young forward pack who can take the competition by storm.

WOODEN SPOON: The Bulldogs. Still being strangled by salary cap woes, modest recruiting and off-field dramas but, most of all, just don’t look a happy team.

RISING: The Titans. The acquisition of Mal Meninga as a mentor could turn the tide.

SLIDING: The Storm. They prove me wrong every year by holding their ground but with Billy Slater gone and Cameron Smith near the end, they surely have to come off the boil.

NEXT BIG THING: AJ Brimson (Titans). He was terrific in a plodding team last year and the more the Titans improve, the more he’ll be able to play off the front foot.

DALLY M: Cameron Munster.

ORIGIN: Queensland 2-1.

HEADLINE I’D LIKE TO SEE: Dane Gagai returns to Queensland to play out his NRL career.

Rohan O’Neil has Shaun Johnson winning the Dally M.

ROHAN O’NEIL
NRL SEASON PREVIEW EDITOR
TOP EIGHT
1. Storm
2. Panthers
3. Broncos
4. Cowboys
5. Dragons
6. Rabbitohs
7. Knights
8. Sharks

PREMIERS: Dragons. Was impressed with their finals thumping of Brisbane last year. Ben Hunt and Co will be better for the experience and they’re capable of shocking the league.

WOODEN SPOON: Eels. Hard to see any signs of improvement for Parra.

RISING: Cowboys. After a 2018 horror show surely North Queensland can ring in the post-Thurston era with a return to finals

SLIDING: Sharks. New coach John Morris will feel the heat in his first season in charge.

NEXT BIG THING: Scott Drinkwater (Storm). Billy Slater leaves big boots to fill but the 21-year-old Drinkwater has had a rock solid pre-season and will come into his own*.
*Note: Written before Drinkwater’s injury

DALLY M: Shaun Johnson (Sharks). Will thrive in his new surroundings.

ORIGIN: Queensland 2-1. Kevvie Walters will lean on young talent to win back the shield.
HEADLINE I’D LIKE TO SEE: Valentine Holmes makes a happy homecoming to Townsville.


Kalyn Ponga is a favourite to win the Dally M.

LUKE TURGEON
THE COURIER-MAIL DIRECTOR OF SPORT
TOP EIGHT
1. Roosters
2. Broncos
3. Storm
4. Panthers
5. Rabbitohs
6. Cowboys
7. Titans
8. Sharks

PREMIERS: Roosters. Showed in the World Club Challenge that they’ll be a force to be reckoned with again in 2019. As long as star playmaker Cooper Cronk can stay healthy, the Chooks are the team everyone will have to beat.

WOODEN SPOON: Bulldogs. Salary cap dramas have created a lack of depth at the Dogs and they will struggle for consistency.

RISING: Titans. Good pack, some exciting emerging stars and coach Garth Brennan will have learned a lot from his rookie season.

SLIDING: Dragons. Off-field incidents often have a way of derailing a club’s season.

NEXT BIG THING: Moeaki Fotuaika (Titans). Will be a breakout year for the young prop.

DALLY M: Kalyn Ponga (Knights). Went close last year and I see no reason why he won’t continue his meteoric rise.

ORIGIN: Queensland 2-1.

HEADLINE I’D LIKE TO SEE: All-Queensland grand final shifted to Suncorp Stadium.
 
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