Peter Smith's rugby league predictions for 2019
THE PAST 12 months have been anything but predictable, so what does 2019 have in store? Here are seven rugby league predictions for the new year.
1: Leeds Rhinos will do better. They could hardly fare much worse after last term’s ninth-place finish and second spot in the Qualifiers, but new coach David Furner has raised spirits in the camp. Three overseas signings have added fresh blood and Rhinos have an exciting crop of youngsters waiting in the wings. They may not be title contenders, but another relegation battle doesn’t look to be on the cards.
2: Tom Johnstone will be Super League’s top try scorer. The Wakefield Trinity winger was second this year with 24 after missing the start of the campaign and - remarkably - being dropped for a spell. Johnstone is the most exciting finisher in the game and, at 23, isn’t yet near his peak.
3: Castleford Tigers’ Jacob Trueman will be the Dream Team stand-off. Trueman, 19, was Super League’s young player of the year in 2018 and is one of the most talented English playmakers to emerge in years. He made 28 senior appearances last term and has already shown he can run a game, despite his young age.
4: Toronto Wolfpack will be promoted. The Championship will be competitive and it’s possible the Canadian side won’t finish top. Toronto coach Brian McDermott’s record in league matches is patchy, but he knows how to win big games and will relish the return of a top-five play-offs format.
5: London Broncos will go down. Danny Ward did a sensational job this year in his debut season as a head coach and their plastic pitch will help them, but promotion had probably come a few years too soon and Broncos don’t have the resources to be competitive at the elite level.
6: When completed in May, Emerald Headingley will be the best ground in Super League. The uncovered Western Terrace may be a throwback to the 20th century, but the new South Stand is superb and the North Stand, which is still under construction, will offer unrivalled facilities.
7: Super League will continue to copy Australian and American sports. Scrapping draws, playing music during breaks in play – maybe 2019 will bring adverts breaks midway through halves.