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Experts view: Which team will be surprise packets?

Now that the rescheduled NRL draw is out and we know who's playing who for the rest of 2020, it's time to figure out who'll be the surprise packets this season.

Some teams have a slightly harder draw than others but most clubs are close to full strength after more than two months waiting for the season to get back underway.

Experts view

Steve Renouf (Maroons legend)

Parramatta: They will press further into the finals this year. With a great start prior to the break, they have made some good signings and their draw seems to be easier compared to others.

Jamie Soward (former Dragons five-eighth)

Manly: They have some of the best players in the competition in their positions. Now with all those guys that excelled last year and the players that had surgery have had the extra rest, they can take the comp and make it their own.

Everything you need to know about the 2020 draw

Their style of play last year caused teams trouble and with Des Hasler having more time to look at the other teams and have a fully fit rested squad, they are the team to watch. 

Chris Kennedy (NRL.com reporter)

The Bulldogs: They won’t be as bad as people think. While they won't make the eight, the view that only the Titans can save Dean Pay’s men from the spoon seems wide of the mark.

They’ve flattered to deceive towards the end of the past two seasons but if they can find that defensive steel earlier in the year and get Kieran Foran on deck sooner than later they should keep their names in the finals conversation until late in the year.

Club captains grateful to be back

Margie McDonald (NRL.com senior reporter)

The likes of Harry Grant linking with Luke Brooks is exciting for the Wests Tigers. Two energetic, highly-skilled young players as the main ball-handlers manoeuvring around the Wests Tigers mobile pack before bringing the likes of centres Joey Leilua, Moses Mbye and new fullback Adam Doueihi into action. Michael Maguire’s recruits can now really let their hair down and show us what they can do.

Troy Whittaker (NRL.com reporter)

Don’t underestimate the impact a fit and firing Kieran Foran can have on the Bulldogs. Canterbury demonstrated their rugged defensive ability in the first two rounds and Foran’s expected return could provide enough attacking spark for them to recapture the giant-killing form they were in at the end of last year.

Paul Suttor (NRL.com editor)

Newcastle will go better than expected - they've started the season strongly with a 2-0 start and with Origin at the end of the season, the likes of David Klemmer, Kalyn Ponga and even Mitchell Pearce can focus on club commitments and take the Knights into the playoffs and help them cause a few upsets thereafter.

It's game on

Alicia Newton (NRL.com reporter)

They weren't in my top eight prediction at the start of the season but now the Sharks are back to full strength and with a supposedly easier draw, they’re every chance of being the “surprise” of the year. Taking away the rep period only helps their cause but their key men staying on the park is key.

Martin Lenehan (NRL.com senior journalist)

Way back on March 1 when NRL.com's experts gave their top-eight predictions, less than half of those polled had the Cowboys playing finals footy. My prediction was for Paul Green's men finishing eighth but they can take down plenty of high-profile rivals in Townsville and push for a top-four berth on the back of Jason Taumalolo's brute force and Valentine Holmes's brilliance.

Mary Konstantopoulos (Ladies Who League)

In making my predictions for the top eight, one team that just missed out was the Sharks. But the revised draw has plenty of positives for them given that they do not have to play any of last year's finalists twice. 

The Sharks may be starting the competition win no wins, but should take plenty of confidence from their narrow defeats against title contenders the Rabbitohs and the Storm the following week.

Brad Walter (NRL.com senior reporter)

St George Illawarra are in better shape before the competition restart than before it shut down, with captain Cameron McInnes, forward Korbin Sims and winger Mikaele Ravalawa now fully fit.  The Dragons were in a position to win both their opening games against Wests Tigers and Penrith but now have good depth across most positions.

The best are coming back

Joel Gould (NRL.com reporter)

The Broncos may have been in many pundits' top eight at the start of the season but a top-two position is not beyond them. A perfect start to the year has helped as has the rapid development of young forwards Pat Carrigan and Thomas Flegler.

Matt Lodge’s return from injury will be a massive boost while the halves combination of Anthony Milford and Brodie Croft appears to be a winner. 

Kenny Scott (NRL.com podcaster)

The Warriors will go better than expected. That doesn’t mean they’ll go well but emotion should get them some early wins. Anything could happen after that but it’s bound to be better than what was predicted for them prior to round one all those months ago.

Five key match-ups of the Warriors' revised 2020 draw

Lone Scout (NRL Fantasy guru)

At the start of the season many tipped Cronulla to fall out of the top eight, and an 0-2 start to the year didn’t help. But the coronavirus-forced hiatus has helped their prospects on a couple of fronts, with key players getting back from injury and a generous draw likely to help their finals prospects.

They’ve got quality, experienced playmakers and a lot of young guns coming through the ranks - they should play finals footy.

 

The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.