The NRL continues to go from strength to strength. Could this be the best season yet?
Sometimes it pays to stop and smell the roses. It’s good every now and then to pause for a second, enjoy the moment and appreciate the good times. For NRL fans, this could be somewhat of a golden age. The product on the field is thrilling, fascinating and consistently hard to predict. Attendances have been growing in recent years, despite a tiny dip in 2019 compared to the year before. State of Origin was an awesome, nail-biting series while drama, on and off the pitch, continues unabated as ever in the regular season.
The international game continues to grow, while exotic foreign talent from Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and England keeps emerging in first-grade. While the likes of superstars Cooper Cronk, Greg Inglis, Sam Burgess and Paul Gallen might have sadly hung up their boots, a new brigade of stars is ready to replace them such as Ryan Papenhuyzen, Payne Haas and Bronson Xerri.
Rugby league supporters often look on the negative side with a cynical and tribal nature, but now is a time to celebrate, to savour. The NRL is cashed-up, standards are improving and it is possibly in its strongest position in more than 20 years, since before the Super League war.
The experimentation in the Western Australian market continues, following the successful staging of Origin Game II there in 2019 and the Perth Nines this year. Expansion remains a hot talking point on the competition’s agenda.
With a new Australian Rugby League Commission chairman in place, with horse racing boss Peter V’landys taking over from former Queensland Premier Peter Beattie, the NRL is heading towards an interesting time. Beattie copped flak for numerous media mistakes and getting the names of clubs and players wrong.
V’landys is known as an innovative sports administrator who has helped rejuvenate the racing industry in NSW. The Wollongong native is a footy tragic who has had great success on the track, but how he navigates the much tougher world of rugby league will be fascinating.
On the field in 2020 the storylines and questions are endless. Will the Roosters be able to become the first team since the Eels of 1983 to win three straight titles? Can Trent Robinson mastermind another year of stunning success in Bondi?
Or will it be Wayne’s world at Redfern? The Bunnies might have lost Burgess and Inglis, but they have snared Latrell Mitchell from their bitter rivals. Will Mitchell fire for Souths and help the Rabbitohs secure their second title in six years?
Canberra were arguably the story of 2019, their fairytale rise capturing the imagination of Raiders fans and neutrals alike. Can the ‘Green Machine’ back it up? Will George Williams be this season’s version of John Bateman and take the NRL by storm?
At the bottom of the table the battle is just as fierce. Both the Titans and Knights have new coaches, both who learned off master coach Robinson. Will Justin Holbrook be the savior on the Gold Coast, and can Adam O’Brien turn the once-mighty Newcastle into a force again?
Will the Storm finally fall away, or will Cameron Smith finish with his stellar career with more silverware? Can Des Hasler, DCE and the Trbojevics conjure another miracle at Manly? Will the Saints go marching once again at Kogorah, or will Paul McGregor get the sack?
At every club, the plot twists and turns are abundant and ready to unfold. Everywhere you look there are stories and themes to engage with.
Strap yourself end enjoy the spectacle.
2020 is going to be one hell of a ride.