Luke Keary, Wayne Bennett, Payne Haas, Tom Trbojevic.
Luke Keary, Wayne Bennett, Payne Haas, Tom Trbojevic.

Buzz’s 2020 predictions: Dark horse to challenge Roosters

The crystal ball foresees success in green 'n' gold in an Olympic year … and a few sideswipes.

Check out all the sports predictions for a huge 2020.

THE IMMORTAL ENDING

It would take a change to the rules, but Melbourne Storm captain Cameron Smith should be immediately announced as rugby league's 14th Immortal when he retires at the end of the season. You can mount a compelling case that he has had the greatest career in the game's history. He will be an Immortal, anyway, so this would be the perfect celebration of a player like no other.

BYE, BYE BENJI

He may not have quite the resumé of Cam Smith, but perhaps no player has had a greater influence on youngsters than Benji Marshall. So many have copied his sidestep and no-look passes. Marshall will retire as perhaps the greatest Kiwi player and a true trailblazer.

 

Benji Marshall has enjoyed a superb career. Picture: AAP
Benji Marshall has enjoyed a superb career. Picture: AAP

HERE'S TO YOU, MR ROBINSON

The original supercoach, Jack Gibson, was the last man to win three straight premierships, with Parramatta in 1981-83. Honestly, I can't see anyone stopping Trent Robinson and his Sydney Roosters from making it three in a row in 2020. They have the best administrator in Nick Politis, the best players and a remarkable coach.

IT'S A GAME OF NEW HALVES

Luke Keary will make his long-awaited Origin debut and lead NSW to another series victory over the fading Maroons. This is Freddy Fittler's era. And after Mitchell Pearce got King Kong off his back last series, we think Keary's halfback partner in 2020 will be Mitchell Moses - especially with Andrew Johns at Parramatta to guide him.

 

Luke Keary has more success to look forward to. Picture: Getty Images
Luke Keary has more success to look forward to. Picture: Getty Images

 

BRINGING BACK THE ORIGIN BIFF

Paul Gallen's one-two on the chin of Nate Myles in the Origin cauldron led to the NRL's punching ban but put himself on the map as a heavyweight boxer. We'll see more of Gal in 2020 in a rematch with Big Bad Barry Hall. If he wins that, we'll get the Sonny Bill Williams super fight around October, when SBW gets a break from the Super League. SBW will have a great sparring partner in Darcy Lussick at the Toronto Wolfpack.

BENNY'S SLIDE SHOW

Wayne Bennett took on a Souths side with two marquee stars in Greg Inglis and Sam Burgess. Now that the two champs have their feet up in retirement, I can't see the Bunnies making the finals. The premiership window is officially closed and the club needs a rebuild - and that

hasn't been Bennett's forte for some time. Souths are at the crossroads for the first time since 2011.

 

Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett has a job on his hands. Picture: Getty Images
Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett has a job on his hands. Picture: Getty Images

 

THAT'S THE WAY THE ROOKIE CRUMBLES

Poor Justin Holbrook has taken on footy's poisoned chalice at the Gold Coast Titans. I can't see the first-year coach lifting the Titans off the bottom of the ladder. Don't worry, Justin, life on the Gold Coast is a lot better than the north of England.

I'LL HAVE TRIES WITH THAT

After an incredible 2019, Parramatta winger Maika Sivo will be even better at the end of the Eels' backline and dominate the tryscoring charts again. Back him in now in the Dally M and try-scoring awards.

 

VALENTINE COMES UP ROSES

Despite Jarryd Hayne never quite being the same after his dalliance with the NFL, Valentine Holmes will be a hit on his return to the NRL with the Cowboys. It might take Val half a season to find his feet, but he's younger, faster and more agile than Hayne was when he returned. I've even got the Cowboys back in the finals.

 

Valentine Holmes will be a hit for the Cowboys. Picture: Evan Morgan
Valentine Holmes will be a hit for the Cowboys. Picture: Evan Morgan

 

FAIL SEZER

The Canberra Raiders had a brilliant 2019 to make the grand final, but I still struggle to see why they let Aidan Sezer go to the Super League. New Pom George Williams is a quality player, but he doesn't strike me as an organiser. Ricky Stuart will have to work his playmaking magic in the off-season, just like he did with Jack Wighton.

 

BRONCOS' SUN SHINES OUT OF THEIR HAAS

This is huge, but I think Payne Haas will take over from North Queensland's Jason Taumalolo as the game's best metre-eater. And young Haas will lead the embattled Broncos back to the finals. With a specialist halfback in Brodie Croft, they could be the dark horse to challenge the Roosters' supremacy.

 

Payne Haas can go to another level in 2020. Picture: AAP
Payne Haas can go to another level in 2020. Picture: AAP

 

BREAKOUT STAR

Newtown's NSW Cup grand final hero Billy Magoulias is likely to get some opportunities in the Sharks' pack after Paul Gallen's retirement. Magoulias is a highly skilled back-rower who has caught the attention of some influential people. It's his time.

 

ONE GIANT UPRISING

If it's true that you have to lose a grand final to win one, the GWS Giants will be the hungriest and most driven team in the AFL next season. The fact is they were embarrassed by Richmond on the game's biggest day last year. They have so much talent and new skipper Stephen Coniglio will be lifting the trophy in September.

GIVE THAT MAN A MEDAL

The Des Hasler-led resurgence at Manly was no fluke. With Tommy Trbojevic back and healthy, they will make the top four and the brilliant fullback will ride that momentum to his first Dally M Medal. The big fella deserves some luck with injuries. Here's hoping he stays on the field.

 

Tom Trbojevic is primed for a big 2020. Picture: Getty Images
Tom Trbojevic is primed for a big 2020. Picture: Getty Images

 

NEW YEAR'S BARTY

Perhaps we're leading with our heart here, but Ash Barty will become the first Aussie to win the Australian Open tennis title since Chris O'Neill in 1978. Ash is one of our favourite athletes and had a wonderful 2019 to become world No.1. If the pressure of playing at home doesn't get to her, she has a great chance to fly the Aussie flag in Melbourne.

OUR GREATEST NATIONAL TEAM

Our women cricketers are fantastic, with Ellyse Perry, Meg Lanning and Alyssa Healy leading the way. They will win the World Twenty20 tournament in Australia in February and March and set a standard that hopefully the guys can match later in the year.

 

Ellyse Perry can help power Australia to more glory. Picture: Getty Images
Ellyse Perry can help power Australia to more glory. Picture: Getty Images

 

CHRISTMAS JEER

Rugby Australia didn't send former Wallabies coach Michael Cheika or former star Israel Folau a Christmas card this festive season. Izzy will take off overseas because the NRL refuses to allow such hurtful and divisive people in its game.

THE GOLD STANDARD

The most anticipated race at the Tokyo Olympics will be the 400m freestyle when our new world champion Ariarne Titmus takes on American legend and the previously unbeatable Katie Ledecky. After beating Ledecky at this year's world titles, Ariarne will be the undoubted queen of the pool should she do it again.

 

Ariarne Titmus will tackle swim legend Katie Ledecky, left, again. Picture: Getty Images
Ariarne Titmus will tackle swim legend Katie Ledecky, left, again. Picture: Getty Images

 

ULTIMATE REVENGE

Chinese swimmer Sun Yang should be banned, but if he does make it to Tokyo, Mack Horton will beat him in the 400m freestyle to show that good guys can finish first.

CHAIR OF THE BOARD

I can't believe I'm writing about surfing at the Olympics. Our golden girls Sally Fitzgibbons and Steph Gilmore will be the last two standing - pity only one can claim the big prize.

SPEAR PRESSURE

Kelsey-Lee Barber, our world's best javelin thrower, enters 2020 as the target. Australia hasn't won a field gold medal since Steve Hooker's pole vault victory in 2008. Here's hoping Kelsey can break the hoodoo.

 

Kelsey-Lee Barber will be going for gold in 2020. Picture: Getty Images
Kelsey-Lee Barber will be going for gold in 2020. Picture: Getty Images

 

NEW LORD OF THE RINGS

Now that Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps have retired, a new king will emerge in Tokyo. At this early stage, American swimmer Caeleb Dressel looks like ruling the pool after winning seven golds at this year's world titles. But the biggest star at the Games will be gymnast Simone Biles. Despite all she has been through, her smile will light up the dais.

TAMPER CRISIS IS OVER

Steve Smith will be back in the leadership group as Australian cricket finally comes through the ball-tampering crisis that cast such a cloud over the team. The performances and behaviour of Smith and David Warner since their 12-month ban have been exemplary and it's time to forgive, if not forget.

BIG SHOW DOMINATES BIGGEST SHOW

After sitting out some games for mental health reasons, we're backing Glenn Maxwell to be back and leading Australia to its first world T20 title.

BUZZ'S 2020 NRL LADDER

1 Roosters

2 Raiders

3 Sea Eagles

4 Broncos

5 Cowboys

6 Sharks

7 Eels

8 Storm

9 Rabbitohs

10 Panthers

11 Dragons

12 Knights

13 Wests Tigers

14 Bulldogs

15 Warriors

16 Titans

 

Can anyone stop the Roosters in 2020? Picture: Phil Hillyard
Can anyone stop the Roosters in 2020? Picture: Phil Hillyard

 

HEADLINES YOU WON'T SEE IN 2020

* Maguire gives Tigers day off

* Mundine comeback

* Ivan: Bring back Gus

* Israel Folau NRL return

* Sam Burgess remarries

* Bennett-Seibold truce

* Ray Warren quits

* Swans make GF

* Mary McGregor coach of the year

 

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