There has never been a round quite like it in NRL history.
Rugby league played through the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1919 and it may be the only comparable situation to what we face this weekend.
But that was 100 years ago, so how do we forecast what teams will face when the 2020 NRL Premiership resumes this week?
Many have said this competition will have an asterisk next to it, but it feels like a question mark is the more appropriate punctuation mark.
Broncos vs Eels
The planets seemed to be aligning for Parramatta to end their 34-year premiership drought, but what does the suspension do to their season? It could well do nothing, but 10 weeks is an eternity in footy. Did their players train properly away from their coaches? Do they leave themselves vulnerable to injuries after the shutdown? All 16 teams face questions like this, but you can bet Parra’s long-suffering fan base will be riddled with nerves when they take on Brisbane this Thursday.
Cowboys vs Titans
It feels like the Titans will fall to a 0-3 start, but the answer the Cowboys need to find is how they fare without captain Michael Morgan. The Gold Coast have deeper questions to ask as they look towards becoming a relevant franchise in the future. New coach Justin Holbrook will want quick answers from guys on his roster if they want to be a part of the rebirth.
Rabbitohs vs Roosters
With no Cody Walker, what do Souths do with their spine? Does Troy Dargan come in as a straight replacement, or do they take a risk and move Latrell Mitchell to five-eighth and Alex Johnston to fullback?
What about the Roosters? They gave up a two-game start to the competition and don’t have Cooper Cronk or Mitchell anymore. Can they mount another premiership defence?
Warriors vs Dragons
How do the Warriors galvanise a list short on top-tier talent who are spending potentially an entire season away from their families? St George Illawarra need guys to stand up and be counted quickly if they are to save Paul McGregor from the sack. A loss will bring huge pressure quickly.
Sharks vs Tigers
Cronulla get big names back, but will that breed consistency? They’ve struggled to put their best form together in consecutive weeks under John Morris. The same can be said for the Tigers. Two years in a row they should have made the top eight but have found ways to avoid playing in September.
Storm vs Raiders
The Raiders seemed settled and primed for another run at a grand final until John Bateman’s contract situation popped up. How does Ricky Stuart handle a delicate situation for one of his star players without it impacting his team’s performances?
Melbourne never lose round one games under Craig Bellamy and after a 10-week suspension it almost feels like the start of a new season. He will have them ready to fire, but will it be enough to hold out the Green Machine?
Panther vs Knights
Nathan Cleary, Jayden Brailey and Kalyn Ponga will all be missing when their teams take the field for round three. It is a question of which club handles the loss of a superstar best. After years of mediocrity, are Newcastle poised to make a run at the top four? Can the talented Panthers put their past problems to rest and start delivering the goods?
Sea Eagles vs Bulldogs
It looks an easy game to restart the Sea Eagles’ season, but nothing in rugby league is ever straightforward. While Canterbury are limited as a football team, they squeeze the orange dry with effort each week. Manly only need to be slightly off the pace and they’ll be in a dogfight.
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